Bigredcoat

Videogames, politics, science, all the important things in life.

Archive for November, 2009

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 12-2-03

Posted by nfinit on November 29, 2009

MX vs ATV:  Reflex (PS360, Wii, DS, PSPLOL)

The highest mullet-per-perchase ratio of any franchise in gaming.

But I kid.  The MX vs ATV series is one of those that I wish I had more time and/or money to pay attention to, as the games in the series tends to do some very interesting stuff– this year for instance, the rider have physics independent of their rides and can be used to shift weight and momentum for turns.  Stuff like that and loading screen minigames and being able to perform tricks while on the back of a bike seem really insanely cool, even if the target audience are the sort of guys who hang around in trailers drinking Coors and complaining about Mexicans.

One thing that’s always bothered me about this series though– the whole MX vs ATV thing.  I mean sure, for certain segments of the population

ATVs might be cool, but they’ve not really been relevant since that time DMX inexplicably bought a fleet of the silly things.  Insofar as this game, why would you bother with a four-wheeler when you can do this:

Unless there’s some wierd gameplay reason such as attaching rocket launchers to your ATV?

James Cameron’s Avatar:  The Game (PS360, Wii, PSPLOL)

Everything about Avatar has “clusterfuck” written all over it, and the game is no exception.  Remember what I was saying a couple weeks back about being wary of games where no one’s received early review copies?  Yeah, Avatar’s so under the radar with the gaming press that the latest news update from 1up dates back to September 2007. Combined with the post-Black Friday release and it becomes obvious that Ubisoft’s scared to death of this game.

As far as the game itself it’s main hook– aside from being anchored to a movie with a quarter billion dollar budget yet somehow looks like something produced by Dreamwork’s b-team– is that it’ll use stereoscopic 3d.  Which sounds interesting until you remember we did that already

and if Sega couldn’t get it to work I’m pretty sure the geniuses responsible for Lost:  Via Domos won’t fare much better.

Rogue Warrior (PS360)

Aside from the bit where this game dropped off the face of the earth after being in development for nearly four years and resurfaced at E3, this might not be an awful game– gameplay videos reveal something of a combination of a single-player Modern Warfare combined with a spectacularly violent Splinter Cell game, neither of which are bad things at all.  In fact, if the stealth elements are done right, it may even be a decent game.  And it’s being done by Rebellion, so ultra-nationalistic military stuff is right up their alley.

Might and Magic:  Clash of Heroes (DS)

You have to be wary about any game that releases after Black Friday; but there’s the very real possibility that Clash of Heroes might turn out to be something special.  Of course, the late release may represent trepidation on Ubisoft’s part– it’s not really a Might and Magic as per previous games in the series, it’s more of a bejeweled/strategy game hybrid where the player re-arranges the ranks of their army  in order to defeat whatever baddie they’re currently up against; combined with a faux-JRPG overworld– here, it makes more sense if you just watch the video:

The only thing that bugs me is the clearly manufactured Anime style which winds up making the game look like something licensed from Nicktoons.  I dunno, maybe I’m not being rational here, but it just feels “off” to me when western developers try to ape the manga style.  I can understand why they’re doing it, they want Clash of Heroes to be as far removed from the mainline M&M series as possible while still banking on the name, but it’s not like the M&M series didn’t already have a compelling art style to draw from:

Oh, and there’s no quicksave.  So that’s not so good.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (Wii DS)


The Squeakquel to what, exactly? What happened to Alvin and the Chipmunks where the word “sequel” became applicable? The fucking rodents have been around for fifty years now, was there a reboot I wasn’t aware of?  The gameplay trailer was infuriatingly unclear as to what exactly happened in the Chipmunk universe (Alvinverse?  Chimpmunk Omnibus?) that the supposed sequel references.  However, this trailer did make two things fairly clear.

1:  Alvin is high as a lord:

2:  This movie/game/event/whatever is going to lead to lead us into a new generation of deeply troubled Furries:

Rec Room Games (Wii)


I can only respect a rec room if it contains wood veneer panelling and/or a keg stand.  As this lacks either, I cannot respect this game.  Also I’m pretty sure the original Rec Room Games starred Peter North and Jenna Fine and at any rate was certainly not fit for the typical Wii audience.

Storybook Workshop

Well that’s adorable.  Also this is being published by Konami so presumably you’ll be able to press up up down down left right left right B, A, Start to access a secret hard mode and fight Old Mother Hubbard using nothing but the Vampire Killer with no sub weapons to access the real ending.

7 Wonders II (DS)

So is this 14 wonders or 49 wonders?  Things like this bother me.

Also this is a bog standard Bejewled ripoff.  But in Egypt!  Maybe.  There are no screens, so I’m just assuming at this point.  This could be the sequel to Panzer Dragoon Saga for all I know.

Safecracker (DS)



Thirty five different safes to crack!  That seems like a lot of safes, right?


Wait just a moment here!  40 rooms yet only 35 safes?

There are clearly more rooms than safes!  Is this Room Walk Around Guy or Safecracker?  This is a substandard safecracking game and I will not stand for your chicanery, Dreamcatcher Interactive!  This and your outlandish claims of therapeutic health benefits through Wii Yoga have cast a terrible shadow upon your other fine, respectable efforts, such as:

Just what are we learning from you now, Dreamcatcher?  Lies and chicanery!  And possibly how to break into secure military installations.

Dreamer: Zoo Keeper


All I have to say here is that if your dream is to be a zookeeper then you either come from a long line of zookeeping nobility or have appallingly low standards.

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Dragon Age is Really Darned Good

Posted by nfinit on November 28, 2009

So I don’t know if Dragon Age: Origins is my game of the year or yet, but I do know that I never ignored hunger and personal hygiene for ten straight hours of Arkham Asylum, much less repeat that process four days straight.  Admittedly, that’s largely because Arkham would have ended about six hours into the first day.

Still, Dragon Age: Origins does that one very rare thing that instantly tells me I’m dealing with a spectacularly good videogame– while playing it, I lose track of time.  I’m not perusing messageboards, I’m not paying attention to instant messenger, I’m not listening to a podcast in the meantime– I’m just playing that damned game, and usually when I look outside again it’s turned dark and I realize I probably should have spent the day writing or buying groceries or maybe have taken a shower.  Still, I shrug, turn back to the screen and bang out one more dungeon before I succumb to my need for self-preservation.

Also, there’s stuff like this:

Cool werewolves hang out with naked wood elf chicks and have nothing to do with Mormon vampire porn.

Just all over the place.

That said, Dragon Age carries with it some of the baggage Bioware seems unable to leave behind.  The game is rife with wierd graphical glitches, for instance– While this is nowhere near as bad as Mass Effect’s constant, jarring texture pop, it does make you wonder if Bioware’s been using the same graphics engine since the first Knights of the Old Republic.  And while the inventory management is miles better than anything in KOTOR or Mass Effect; Bioware has yet to gain a firm grasp on the concepts of  “elegant interfaces” or “hey it’s nearly 2010 maybe limited bag space is a bad idea”.   I mean, this is stuff the guys making Torchlight got right on their very first game; Bioware’s been doing this for the better part  fifteen years now.  Also if I run into a single goddamned Tower of Hanoi puzzle in this game I’m going to kidnap Bioware CEO Dr. Ray Muzyk, ram a sliding picture puzzle up a cat’s lubricated ass, then hold him at gunpoint until he solves the stupid thing and see how he likes it.

Still, the combat is fantastic (If brutally harsh at times, I shudder to think of the prospect of playing this game with Friendly Fire on); the dungeon design is top-notch and the writing, as usual, can’t be beat.  And really, you can’t ask for more than that in a western RPG.

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Bigredcoat’s Way Better Top 15 Part 2

Posted by nfinit on November 27, 2009

10:  Forza Motorsport 3

I was hesitant to place something I’d recently played on this list, as I think a game needs time to be judged correctly–  but let’s be honest, the Forza games have outclassed Gran Truismo 4 since the day Forza 1 was released, and there’s just no good reason to go back to Forza 2 thanks to unlimited rewinds.  Forza 3 is simply the best (if not the most comprehensive) sim console racer ever made, at least until GT5 is released.  This is the height of the art form.

9:  Ikaruga

The past decade has been terrible for console shooters.  Virtually everything new and interesting to come out of the genre has been a direct result of ZUN’s PC-only Touhou Project.  It seems like the actual commercial games industry has moved on; the genre itself hasn’t been relevant on a mass market scale since the SNES.  And not without good reason; shooter devs did a very through job of drilling down into their core fan base to the point where the genre became an indecipherable mess to anyone new to games.

So to be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure if a shooter belongs on the list, save for the fact that shooters were and remain my first love in gaming and I wanted one here.  On the console side there have been maybe three relevant shooters released in the past decade– Ikaruga, Gradius V and Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved.  I happen to love all three of these games, but Ikaruga is the more inventive and interesting of the three.

All that being said– Ikaruga is an outstanding game and is itself one of the best shmups ever made.  It’s polarity shot mechanic makes it almost as much of a puzzle game as it is a shooter, and on top of that involves nascent elements of rythm-based gameplay with its combo system.  But sadly it’s still too difficult and too frustrating to ever be enjoyed by anyone who’s not a hardcore gamer who isn’t already familiar with and willing to put up with the various bullshit involved in playing shooters.

Indeed, Ikaruga is so inscrutable to anyone not in the core audience that I’m having a hard time justifying its position here at all.  If you’re not into traditional console shooters and/or into having your teeth kicked in and trying to rationalize that as “having a good time”, put something more casual friendly here instead, like a nice friendly Sly Cooper game.

8:  Soul Calibur 2

Speaking of dead genres–

Well that’s not entirely fair.  Despite Capcom’s best efforts to kill the genre in the late 90’s, the fighting game has somehow inexplicably hung around, even occasionally managing to produce the occasional standout title– indeed, despite the genre being cluttered with stuff that’s inscrutable to anyone from the outside looking in, it’s managed to remain relevant, and I think Namco’s Soul Calibur series takes a lot of the credit for that.  Simply put, the Soul Calibur games are the sort of games where any idiot can feel like they’re making good progress by randomly slapping buttons; yet there’s enough meaty game there to satisfy hardcore gamers as well.

If it wasn’t for the fact that it was released in 1999– and thus ineligible for the whole “decade” thing, I’d put the first Soul Calibur here instead.  But while it’s not as important as Soul Calibur 1 was, Soul Calibur 2 has Ivy, and that more than makes up for Soul Calibur 1 providing the entire reason for the Dreamcast to exist.

(also, this over Street Fighter IV?  Well, yeah.  The Soul Calibur games are inherently more fun than Street Fighter games.  Street Fighters are only really enjoyable at a high competitive level and are generally unplayable using a standard gamepad.  Not only do you not need a $120 accessory to get full enjoyment from a Soul Calibur game; Namco’s actually went thier way to provide something resembling a compelling single-player action RPG with SC2.  Plus, you don’t feel the need to put in 80 hours of work with a single player before you feel like you know what you’re doing with SC2.  The Soul Calibur games are the most accessable fighting games ever made, and as a result may well be the most fun you can have in a 1-on-1 fighter regardless of skill level.  If you’re playing vide0games as a job, Street Fighter 4 cant’ be touched.)

7:  Grand Theft Auto IV

I never got around to playing any of the Playstation 3 GTA games, and thus I’m full well welling to accept that GTA3 or Vice City or San Andreas may be better games; but GTA IV achieved something wholly remarkable for the realm of console games as far as I’m concerned, and that’s provide actual character development.  Rockstar made you care about protagonist Niko Bellic;  That’s something most television shows and even movies screw up with most of the time.  Even most authors have a hard time showing a character grow and change through the arc of a story; Rockstar’s writers managed to do this in an action-oriented videogame with hardly a scrap of text to be found.

The game itself ain’t too bad, either, provided you don’t mind being bugged by a litany of bored, lonely acquaintances wanting to hit you up for a game of darts when you’re in the middle of tearing through Central Park on a motorcycle while trying to get away from the police.

6:  Knights of the Old Republic

I’ve only recently started playing Dragon Age, and I may well have to adjust this ranking once I’m done with it, but right now I think KOTOR represents the best game Bioware’s ever put out, and on top of that may well be the best Star Wars-related property to be released since Lucasart’s holy trinity of Tie Fighter/Xwing/Xwing vs Tie Fighter.

But beyond that, KOTOR represents the point where it became possible to take console western RPGs seriously.  Yes, there was a  PC version, and yes the PC version is probably the definitive version of the game– but at the same, Xbox KOTOR wasn’t a regrettable experience.  Indeed, Xbox KOTOR felt decidedly like a console game, albeit a console game with the richness and depth of the very best Bioware RPGs.  It’s an ability Bioware was able to expand upon in Jade Empire, Mass Effect and most recently Dragon Age.  Thanks to KOTOR, console gamers are able to enjoy “grown up” RPGs without any compromise made to controls or immersion– the fact that it’s a damned fine game and one of the best scifi RPG games ever crafted is just gravy.

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Bigredcoat’s Way Better Top 15 Games of the Decade

Posted by nfinit on November 26, 2009

So earlier this week, The Onion AV Club released their Top 15 Games of the Decade, which broke down thusly:

15. SSX 3 (EA Sports BIG, 2003)
14. The Sims (Electronic Arts, 2000)
13. Ninja Gaiden (Tecmo, 2004)
12. Braid (Microsoft Game Studios, 2008)
11. Advance Wars (Nintendo, 2001)
10. Left 4 Dead (Valve, 2008)
9. Final Fantasy XII (Square Enix, 2006)
8. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Rockstar Games, 2002)
7. Ico (Sony, 2001)
6. World Of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 2004)
5. Portal (Valve, 2007)
4. Rock Band (MTV Games/Electronic Arts, 2007)
3. Fallout 3 (Bethesda Softworks, 2008)
2. Katamari Damacy (Namco, 2004)
1. BioShock (2K Games, 2007)

Which isn’t a bad list, even if it does veer randomly between artsy high concept stuff (like Braid) and stuff that clearly exists only because of its importance and/or wild popularity (The Sims).  But as a guy who thinks about stuff like this way too much, I couldn’t help but notice some strange choices.  For instance, I don’t know why Ico is on the list when Shadow of the Colossus is sitting right there.  If they just had to put a JRPG on the list, why was it Final Fantasy XII?  I’m not even sure if XII was the best Final Fantasy of the decade, much less the best game of the decade of its particular genre.  World of Warcraft belongs there because of importance, but if that’s a defining criteria why is Rock Band on the list over the original Guitar Hero?  And is Vice City really the absolute apex of Rockstar’s art?  Furthermore why Portal over Orange Box?

“But Nfinit”, you may say, holding a hand over your eyes as you shield your gaze from my divine manliness, “what games would you have picked as the top 15 games of the decade, and more importantly, why?”  I’m glad you asked!  Also I can easily stretch this out into three updates and play Dragon Age instead of spending time coming up with things to write about.

(Note:  I’ve only had access to the PS3 for like eight months total and I have a blind seething rage for Nintendo.  Otherwise this will be perfectly fair and accurate.  Also this will be mainly console stuff, as the last relevant game my PC is capable of playing is Half-Life 2.)

15: F-Zero GX

I knew I wanted to put a sim racer in this list, but I also knew that if I did that I’d need to include a racing game that a normal person would want to play.  It was either this or Burnout 3, and F-Zero GX wins due to it’s excellent rival racer system and because Sega.  It’s probably the best arcade racer to appear over the past two console generations; and all the more legitimate as it actually was an arcade game at one point. Burnout is more chaotic fun and probably better for pick up and play, but the rubberbanding makes racing against the AI an exercise in futility.

14: Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Collectively Splinter Cell represents the only time the console industry got stealth gaming right, and Chaos Theory is the best (and least infuriating) of the lot.  This is also by far the best thing to ever come out of Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy properties; and if Ubisoft were smart they’d have used the break between this game and Splinter Cell: Conviction to re-release the Xbox 1 Splinter Cell games for modern consoles and remind everyone why Splinter Cell matters.  The Splinter Cell games are some of the few games to ever successfully convey a true sense of tension– Yeah, Sam is capable of getting himself out of a jam, but it’s far better not to get into that jam in the first place and the whole process of covering up your mistakes means you’re actually invested in being careful, and dare I say it– stealthy.  You’re a spy, not some sort of unstoppable force of nature who’s best off just wiping out the entire military installation on your way to the MacGuffin.

Chaos Theory also represents one of the very few times a western developer has managed to bring together the whole Hollywood-storyline-multiplayer-focus thing that has become de rigueur this console generation without forgetting to include a compelling and worthwhile single player component.  Despite Chaos Theory’s outstanding multiplayer modes you won’t feel cheated if you ignore multi and only play the “real” game.  Indeed, the two parts of the game are treated almost as equals.  This is something we probably won’t see very often ever again thanks to mounting game development costs forcing developers into focusing on one side or the other.

13: Persona 3 FES

I had to put one JRPG up here, and I figured it may as well be the only JRPG of the past ten years that I actually enjoyed playing.  That’s largely because Persona 3 took everything we knew about the JRPG genre and tossed them out the window.  The game isn’t based on some sort of high-magic version of pre-industrial Europe, for instance.  It’s based in and around a modern-day Japanese high school.  There’s only one real dungeon in the entire game and you’re only allowed in there maybe a third of the time you play, if you try to go in there too often you’ll get sick and screw up progress in the main part of P3 FES– which is a dating sim.  In a genre where Squeenix is constantly trying to out-epic itself in an orgy of overwrought angst, P3 FES brings us a story of a bunch of awkward high school kids trying to figure out the whole social network thing while fighting demons and Japan’s terrifying high school examination schedule.  If The World Ends With You is any indication, maybe the rest of the industry is taking Atlus’ cue.

12: Resident Evil 4

By this I mean the Good Version, not the muddied PS2 port or the muddied PS2 port with waggle that appeared on the Wii, I mean the original interpretation as it appeared on the Gamecube.  To say RE4 is the best Resident Evil game made is true, but also a little unfair to previous RE games.  It’s like saying Dogma is the best Kevin Smith movie.  Technically it’s true; but it’s also not in the same genre as anything else Kevin Smith ever did.  Resident Evil 4 is not survival horror, nor does it ever intend to be.  It’s simply one of the finest action games ever crafted and may well be the single best game to ever appear on the Gamecube.  With the departure of Shinji Mikami from Capcom it’s uncertain if we’ll ever see another Resident Evil game live up to RE4’s level of excellence– judging from Capcom’s desperate efforts to ape RE4 with Resident Evil 5, likely not.  This could be the last great RE game made until such time as Capcom finally reboots the series.

11:  Katamari Damacy

I don’t know if any game I’ve played before or sense has managed to exude the same feeling of unbound joy as the first Katamari game produced.  Producer Keita Takahashi blended everything together perfectly– the controls, the art style, the dialog, the music, the universe itself– to convey a singular, pure concept of a game that wanted to be played and to be experienced and enjoyed by as many people as possible.  Of course, Namco would take this pure, unfettered concept and attempt to make it into yet another stale franchise, with predictable results– but the first two Playstation 2 Katamari games remain true to thier core.  You start small, roll things up, become bigger, roll bigger things up, until eventually you’re carving great gouts out from the continental shelves.  And you can do that in mere minutes using nothing more than two thumbsticks and controls so simple they make later attempts such as the Wiimote feel like a contrivance.

The only thing keeping me from placing this higher is that there’s not a whole lot of actual game to be had in Katamari.  You can easily knock out the main portion of the game in an afternoon.  It’ll be a throughly enjoyable afternoon, but it’s over all too soon nonetheless.  Which is good, in it’s way– the first two Katamari games never had a chance to outstay their welcome.

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 11-25-09

Posted by nfinit on November 24, 2009

Man, I don’t even know where to begin this week.  I mean, just look at this pile of shit:

Foto Frenzy
Hello Kitty Party
Fighting Fantasy
Karoke Revolution
Yourshape Featuring Jenny McCarthy
Yoga
Rogue Trooper
Reader Rabbit Kindergarten
Tekken 6 PSP

These are the games that are coming out this week.  All of the games that are coming out this week.  Now admittedly, you can’t expect any blockbusters on Thanksgiving week, what with shipping schedules blown all to hell and there being no time at all to build hype prior to Black Friday, but c’mon.  With the possible exception of Tekken 6 PSP, there’s not a single game there that I would not ordinarily shove into the shovelware pile while I talked about some bullshit retro DS game that released that week that’d sell maybe fifty copies.
But it occurs to me that that pile o’ crap above represents the very backbone of the gaming industry.  Without mainstream friendly palp like Karoke Revolution paying the bills for Konami you don’t get new Suikoden games.  Plus, I’ve been looking for a platform to make fun of Jenny McCarthy for a long time now.
So with nose pinched firmly shut I present to you the first ever all shovelware edition of Wallet Abuse.
Foto Frenzy (DS)

At some point a couple years ago those “spot the difference” puzzles that were relegated to the section of Highlights reserved for very special children became something you could make videogames out of.  I’d like to blame this on Nintendo allowing the DS to prey on the lowest common denominator and imposing no quality control whatsoever on whatever is shat out for their systems, but the honest truth is something like this was bound to happen when you’re dealing with a society dumb enough to turn Stephanie Meyer into a wealthy woman.  We didn’t just create the situation that allowed Foto Frenzy onto our shelves and sell more copies than Contra 4; we deserve Foto Frenzy.
What’s worse, you can’t even look to Foto Frenzy to fund something interesting.  No, this is being excreted by Storm City Games via some Beijing-based development studio, these are the same guys who gave us System Flaw last week– you remember, these guys:
Yeah.  This is just a pile of the worst possible things related to gaming right now, the only thing it’s missing is Facebook integration.  And it’ll probably sell more copies than Chinatown Wars.
Hello Kitty Party (DS)

A party game for the DS?  What is this, a party game for shut-ins?
Looking at the press release on IGN, it’s not even a proper party game, it’s a game where you’re getting ready for a party.  I’m not kidding, you play Hello Kitty and have her preparing stuff for a party full of her creepy hydrocephalus-stricken friends.
Let me make this clear– Writing about this game creeps me out.  Typing in the words “Hello Kitty Party” into google as it results in birthday party decorations for 9 year olds.  Three black vans just pulled to the curb outside my apartment while I was typing this.  I downloaded 4 gigs of Umineko hentai over the weekend and now I’ve gotta go throw my hdd into a pail of magnesium after this update is done.
Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountian (DS)

Wait.  Wait.  Warlock of Firetop Mountian?  Hang on– if that game   is based on:
then this game might be…

Oh man just look at that mace! I bet it's just full of stats!

IT’S (maybe) A GOOD GAME!  SWEET MOTHER OF MERCY IT’S (possibly) A GOOD GAME (maybe)!  Or at least an interesting game; and with the dreck we’re being served this week I’m willing to take what I can get right.
Actually it sounds downright cool.  Fighting Fantasy was a series of prot0-rpg choose-your-own-adventure books co-created by the legendary Stephen Jackson that eventually morphed into an old school pen-and-paper RPG dungeon crawler , and this is the DS game based on that.  So we have a western-style DS a single-player real-time dungeon crawler, something like a portable Oblivion, or at the very least a new look Eye of the Beholder.  It’s decidedly niche, but those people who would be interested in the game were sold at the words “Portable Oblivion”.
Karaoke Revolution (PS360, Wii)


Look.  This is asking too much of me.  I’m taking a mulligan on this.

Yourshape Featuring Jenny McCarthy (Wii)

You remember Jenny McCarthy, right?  Playboy model, cute, huge boobs, picks her nose, co-habithing with Jim Carrey?  You remember, this chick:

It's my theory that her breast reduction surgery negatively impacted her already-questionable IQ score

Yeah, her!  What’s she been up to besides sticking her name on godawful EA Sports Active ripoffs?  Oh, just killing kids by discrediting vaccination.

A few years back Jenny disclosed that she believed her little boy, Evan, was an “indigo child”, one of the breed of the next step of human evolution.  The whole “Indigo Children” movement was, of course, new-age hippie claptrap and a short while later she revealed that Evan was just autistic.  Whats more Evan wasn’t just autistic, but it was the mean evil vaccinations forced (forced!) upon her child that “turned” him autisitic, Jenny claimed she could “see the lights go off in his eyes” or some such nonsense.

Jenny and her ilk like to point to a spike in autism rates and tie them, for reasons as yet unclear, to vaccinations for diseases that we had all but wiped out– smallpox, measles, polio, mumps, diseases that killed hundreds of thousands of children every year at their height.  Yet you don’t see a correlating “spike” in autism rates as compared to populations that have had more or fewer vaccinations– for instance, if vaccinations were causing a spike in autism rates you’d expect fewer new cases of autism diagnosed in the elderly than you do to people of my generation or to kids being vaccinated today.  You simply don’t– the increase in diagnosis has held steady across all ages.

The problem isn’t that there are more cases of autism, it’s that we’re now capable of diagnosing it better, in combination with a broader definition of the word “autism”.  It’s quite possible that if I were a kid today that I could have been diagnosed with a variation myself, or if not that at the very least with some form of ADHD.  I can point to maybe a dozen other kids I grew up with that would have been diagnosed as well, and they were never considered “special ed” kids.

But Jenny McCarthy and others like her– Generation Rescue, Dan Burton, even Oprah Winfrey, for fuck’s sake– have convinced themselves that there’s an autism epidemic at work an that there’s a vague, nebulous cause for that epidemic that’s somehow related to vaccinations that have kept childhood diseases at bay for decades.  Mercury and Thiomersal have been missing from our nation’s vaccination stores for years.  There has been no change in the rate of autism diagnosis.  But as with anyone who’s wedded themselves to a conspiracy theory, no amount of evidence, proof, or hard science will convince them– either your research is wrong or your part of the conspiracy or it’s Something Else that’s not been discovered yet.

In the 20th century alone, smallpox killed nearly half a billion human souls.  Today, smallpox is all but eradicated.  We are on the verge of doing the same to polio.  Thanks to vaccinations, your children and your children’s children will never have to worry about those horrors.

Think about that for a while.  Polio, eliminated from the ranks of human misery forever.  As your parents or grandparens about polio. What they remember of it.  My momma could tell you about polio.  She never lived through it, but she remebers.  Twisted limbs, iron lungs, humans living in constant misery– We can get rid of that.  We’re almost there.

We could do the same to measles, to rubella, to Hepatitis B and A, to Chickenpox– we can do that.  All that’s required is time, vigiliance, and a basic understanding of science.  The only thing stopping us is fear and uncertainty and doubt.  Jenny McCarthy and Operation Rescue are killing children. There’s no two ways around that.

Yoga (Bullshit Practitioners of Alternative Medicine; Wii)


Speaking of new age clap-trap…

I guess spending thirty bucks on this is better than joining some creepy Dahn Yoga cult and at least someone’s making use of the Wii Fit Balance Board; but the developers claim this helps cure the common cold, headaches and arthritis, so fuck those guys.  It’s digital snake oil.  If you need something to cure your headache and cold and need something to play on your Wii, buy a bottle of grape ‘tussin and buy Mad World instead.  You’ll feel better and experience some awesomely fucked up fever dreams.

Before I go though, I’d like to point out the Wii’s remarkable streak of sexy young barefoot women in spandex on game boxes with any hint of sex appeal completely stripped from the proceedings.  I can’t remember if I’ve made this joke already, but it’s sorta like if John Harvey Kellogg were trying to produce porn.  It’s uncanny.  Also I’ve gone entirely too far into any sort of detail about my sick fetishes.  Moving on.

Rogue Trooper (Wii, Xbox 1 circa 2006.  No, seriously)

Rogue Trooper, Rogue Trooper, why does that sound so familiar…

Wait. this is that game  based on Richard Marcinko’s hilariously jingoistic Rogue Warrior series!

Richard Marcinko poses for the covers of all his books. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP

No wait, this is a Wii game.  Also, I’d actually like to talk about that game one day so I can make fun of Marcinko’s horrible, horrible writing, so that can’t be it.

Wait, I know!  Sarah Palin commissioned a videogame based on hunting wild game from a helicopter!

Note: Miss Palin did not actually kill the crab in the photograph; Alaska's gubernatorial seat lies 20 meters underwater.

No that can’t be it, she’d fire the development team three months before beta–oh you have to be shitting me:

Not to be mistaken for the Dolly Parton-sponsored Rouge Trooper

They remade this?

and it still looks like that?!

It would have cost you five bucks to buy the rights to Psi-Ops: The Mindscape Conspiracy from whatever mail catalog company owns Midway, and you chose to remake Rogue Trooper?  It got 71% at Metacritic!  No one liked this game!  Who greenlights shit like this when Winter by N-Space gets stuck in development hell?

If you’re that eager to relive the parts of 2006 better left forgotten, dowload Superman Returns and buy a box of Jimmy Dean Pancakes on a Stick.

Reader Rabbit Kindergarten (DS)


Somehow still more compelling than Tony Hawk Ride.

Tekken 6 (PSP)

Do I really need to come up with something to dissuade or encourage you to spend money on this?  Chances are if you’re the sort of person in the market for a PSP game you’re not the sort of person in the market to buy a PSP game, if you catch my drift.  It’s Tekken 6 for the PSP and it looks suspiciously decent.  Chances are if you were going to play this game you’re already playing it.

Instead I’m going to take this moment to point out that due to Disney’s laughably archaic views on digital distribution, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep will be completly shut out to *ahem* legitimate PSP Go consumers as Disney refuses to allow the game to be distributed digitally.  You know, because keeping a game on physical media is the only possible way of making sure it’s never ever pirated.  Also I’d be much obliged if someone could point me to a working torrent for Assassin’s Creed Bloodline.

Posted in Science all up ins, Wallet Abuse, Whoops he went political | Leave a Comment »

Greatest Games Ever– Magician Lord

Posted by nfinit on November 21, 2009

This pretty much encapsulates everything I've ever wanted to do with my life

Chances are you’ve never heard of Magician Lord, much less ever actually run across the game– It was an early 90’s SNK arcade release, one of the very first wave of games released to America using the Neo-Geo hardware, and to be honest the only time ever encountered the game in the wild was in a little laundromat arcade back in Conover, North Carolina, back when you could count on laundromats and Pizza Huts and even convenience stores to have at least one good arcade cabinet hiding somewhere, usually with some forborne store manager muttering under his breath why he just doesn’t get rid of that stupid machine.

But that old SNK cabinet– an six-game MVS unit no less, capable of playing an entire arcade’s worth of games with a single button– played a huge role in my budding gaming obsession.  An inordinate chunk of my free time was spent hoarding quarters for the weekly Saturday afternoon trip to the laundromat, and I’d be heartbroken if my dad would decide on a whim that it’d be better to drive to a different one instead.   In that cabinet laid some of the greatest examples of classic sixteen bit arcade gameplay that could be found– Cyber-Lip, Sengoku, Baseball Stars, Crossed Swords, including a harbinger of a troubling obsession that’d drive SNK for the next twenty years– the very first Fatal Fury.

Ninja + Anything is a good shot for awesome, something the Wachowski brothers know well.

But the game that enchanted my heart in that old MVS cabinet, and the subject for today’s update is Magician Lord, a game you’ve probably never played, yet something I consider on of the greatest games ever made.

Magician Lord is as old-school Japanese as a game can be without involving 16-bit dithered hentai and Majong.  Take for instance the spiked balls that continually plague our hero– Now, in most games, you’ll get some sort of warning before something drops from the roof onto your head.  Maybe there will be a shadow on the ground, or maybe you’ll hear a distinctive clink-clink-clink from the chain holding the spiked ball aloft shortly before it dents your head in, or maybe the ball will simply fall slow enough for the quick-witted player to avoid a concussion.  Not Magician Lord!  You find out where the spiked balls have been hidden by having them land on your impudent little wizard skull.  Be more careful next time!

Magician’s Lord is an Arcade Game, and is not shy about its intentions.  It’s there to squeeze as much money out of you as possible while at the same time keeping you around with it’s stellar gameplay and enormous, gorgeously detailed sprites.  Dying  places you right back where you came from, with enemies, even bosses, having retained the same amount of damage as before, even after using a continue.  Bosses were quarter sponges– the art wasn’t in getting past them, it was doing so by spending as little money as possible.  Of course, that’s hard to convey in this day and age of emulators with save states and limitless continues, but if it makes you feel better you can add up the theoretical money  the first level skeleton miniboss would have deprived you from and then subtract that from how many theoretical copies of Todd McFarlane Spider-Man comics that’d have bought you instead.  There’s no small wonder I was never into comics in my formative years.

But back to those graphics.  I hate to talk about graphics when talking about older stuff , it seems like we should be above stuff like that at this point.  But there’s something about a huge, well-animated sprite that just doesn’t come across in a 3d model, no matter how much geometry you try to shove into it, and few developers have had the talent at drawing a sprite than SNK.  Magician Lord is a sadistic mistress who knows full well you’re there to gawk while being punished.  If you wanted to be treated with respect you’d be playing something sensible like After Burner.  Magician Lord’s spritework still hold up today, evoking stylistic hints that’d crop back up in SNK classics like the Metal Slug series.

This was about the exact moment I realized America could never be as cool as Japan

This was the exact moment I realized America could never be as cool as Japan

 

Of course, we’re talking about the 16 bit arcade era; and none of this would matter if the gameplay couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain.  And while there isn’t terrible much so far as controls– Walk left and right, fire and jump– what it has is spot on, and while you die often you’ll know full well the cause of your death was because your reflexes weren’t up to the task of avoiding the game’s many sadistic, credit-soaking traps.

Being an SNK game the story is delightfully incomprehensible.  At some arbitrary point in the level– quite often it felt like the designers just decided the current level had gone on long enough– You’ll be presented with some variation of a magical skeleton possessing a scimitar that will run back and forth trying to run you over or cleave your head open with a diving chop or at one point turning itself into a meteor– defeat this midboss and you’re berated by an evil wizard shortly before being forced to do battle with some variation of a face-in-a-wall mid-level boss.

"Impudent Human" was the original name for this blog.  True story.

Now that you see the butt chin you can't unsee it.

 

The levels themselves are not structured in a typical “run to the right and end” sort of way, they stroll as much vertically as they do horizontally and there’s no obvious path to which to find the end of any given level, and there’s a good amount of secret doors.  Every once in a while you’ll wander across a powerup that’ll transform your wizard into a dragon or a ninja, but they’re rare and honestly overpowered for the game proper, and as you’re nearly always losing health in this game you lose the transformations pretty quickly.

And that’s all there is to it, really.  A sprawling level that feels something like the town levels from Castlevania 2 and a couple bosses at the end that follow a rather predictable pattern.  Sometimes that’s all it takes, just doing one very simple thing and doing it exceptionally well.  Magician Lord is enjoyed for its gameplay and it’s art, and since it’s an arcade game, it never overstays it’s welcome– you can always just wander off to the next machine if you get bored.  That’s something that’s just not feasable for games today.  In Magician Lord you understand what you’re there to do in the first ten seconds of the game.  There’s not even a multiplayer mode, it’s strictly man vs stacks of expensive early 90’s ROM boards.  What you make of it past that point is entirely up to the player.  The only platform something like that is allowable on today is cell phone games,  and even they’re becoming mired in complexity thanks to the iPhone and Droid.

Perhaps "volume 1" was being a bit pretentious

 

Magician Lord encapsulates a history and a franchise all its own.  SNK stopped making platform shooters early in the Neo Geo’s life and focused on beat ’em ups and fighters up until Metal Slug, which may represent a sort of spiritual successor to Magician Lord, although it’s obvious the Metal Slug series owes more to Contra than anything else.  There was never a sequel and the game was largely forgotten until it popped back up with last year’s SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1, which is a solid retro purchase, encapsulating all the high notes of SNK’s early arcade work save for the lamentable exception of Cyber-Lip.

Posted in Retro Wankery, Sperging about games, The Greatest Games Ever | 8 Comments »

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 11-18-09

Posted by nfinit on November 17, 2009

Or as I like to call it:  Mario Brothers Fuck You Edition.  Observe:

1:  Fuck You, Wallet Abuse Wednesday:  Game releases on a Sunday, of all damned things, thus invalidating the very title of this blog post

2:  Fuck You, Prima!  With NSMBWii, Nintendo has incorporated an in-game Super Guide feature– basically, if you die too often, you can opt to allow Luigi to arrive and play through the level for you.  In addition, you can use coins you collect in the game to unlock videos showing you how to access the game’s secret areas.  This is a fantastic feature and wholly invalidates the Prima Guidebook business model.  Interestingly, the Prima Game Guide for SMBWii still exists, which must make for interesting conversation fodder when Gamestop clerks attempt to explain why it makes sense to pay twenty bucks for a hint book for a game that includes its own guide.

3:  Fuck You, Sanity!  At some point this happens

Lovingly stolen from Giant Bomb's NSMB Wii QuickLook.

4:  Fuck You, Friendship!  NSMBWii’s core gameplay mechanic involves finding new and creative ways to fuck over your friends.  Okay and I guess maybe you can use teamwork to achieve the same ends and all that touchy-feely crap, but the game’s main attraction is figuring out how to lead your friends into inescapable death traps.

5:  Fuck You, Hudsonsoft!  NSMBWii represents a better Mario Party game than any actual Marty Party game ever made.

6:  Fuck You, Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee!  No online component!  At all!  In a game built around the idea of four people playing Mario Brothers at once!

 

There’s a remarkable lack of trustworthy review scores floating about for a game whose release date was broken as early as Sunday, and we know full well Ubisoft wasn’t shy of handing out review copies to sites willing to give out good reviews.  So what’s up?  At the time of this writing (Sunday) Metacritic only list three reviews, two of them from official console PR rags.  And knowing what we know about Ubisoft’s policy on review copies, do Playstation: The Official Magazine, Playstation Official Magazine UK or Official Xbox Magazine UK have any credibility at all?

That said.  Assassin’s Creed 2 may yet be a good game.  The good parts of Assassin’s Creed 1 were very good indeed; the only parts where the game fell apart were the lack of compelling mission structures and the way the game strangely broke down into Devil May Cry 3/4s of the way through.  Ubisoft Montreal say they’ve fixed all these issues, and the trailer videos look stylish and intriguing, even if there’s a troubling lack of actual gameplay video.

But AC1 was infuriatingly incapable of living up to its hype– short of Mirror’s Edge, it may be the biggest disappointment of this console generation.  If Assassin’s Creed II is the game it wants to be, it could well be a Game of the Year candidate.  But judging from AC1 and what’s been happening behind the scenes with ACII, it becomes impossible to trust ACII sight unseen.

Leon Kennedy is getting way too cocky about this whole "zombie apocalypse" thing.

At some point the Wii became the go-to console for lightgun games, and while that makes sense considering the system’s strengths (and who doesn’t like lightgun games?) it has to be frustrating for Wii owners to see the PS360 receive “grown up” versions of mainline series such as Resident Evil and Dead Space while the Wii is relegated with obvious cash-in such as Dead Space Extraction and all three Resident Evil games that have appeared for the Wii.

All that said, Darkside Chronicles looks to be a very good lightgun game, if the trailers are to be believed.  But even in its not-really-a-RE-game gameplay it doesn’t even really tell a full Resident Evil story, instead going back to already established RE storylines and “fleshing out” events that have already occurred.

While we’re on the subject– if the Wii is going to be subject to lightgun games for the duration, can we at least get lightgun games that are supposed to be lightgun games?  House of the Dead Overkill was a good start, and apparently did well for Sega, but where’s Virtua Cop?  Namco keeps trying to convince people Time Crisis is relevant; why not put it on the one system released this console gen that should still have lightgun games?  Where in the name  of everything that’s good and right with the universe is a new Lucky and Wild?

Speaking of shit that should have been left to die on the Wii–

For those that are already aware of Tony Hawks’ Ride, the jokes have already been made, you may as well skip ahead to a game you may at some point want to actually purchase.  For everyone else, there’s this.

If the thoughts of dropping a hundred and twenty bucks on a peripheral that will see no support outside the one game it’s made for and (at best) represents a severely crippled Wii Balance Board, well fuck you, you’re part of the problem.  Stop giving Activision money!

Confession:  I’ve never actually played L4D, and until only very recently never played Team Fortress 2.  This is because my computer can barely run TF2 and L4D is out of the question, and it’s utterly indefensible to play either on the PS360.

Which leads us to the following conundrum:  There’s simply no good reason to play L4D2 on anything but the PC, and I only cover console games here.  So instead I’m going to use this platform to yell at Microsoft for being utter fucking twats for insisting that 360 owners should be paying a premium for online play when quite literally all the other available options– PC, Playstation 3, Wii, even the DS and PSP, for chrissake– are free to play.  On any multiplayer-focused multi-platform game, the 360, despite it’s superior online infrastructure, remains the least appealing platform.  This is all the more befuddling when you look at all the high-profile PC/360/PS3 releases that simply don’t work without multiplayer.

And that superior online infrastructure is wholly useless when the online community for any given Xbox Live game breaks apart roughly two weeks after the game’s release.  Microsoft wants to negate these problems by either stripping functionality from Silver users (lack of game demos) or by including features that, for whatever insane reason, are only open to Gold users despite these features being provided at no extra charge on PC and PS3 (Facebook integration, Netflix, Twitter).

Now maybe this strategy worked fine back when the Playstation 3’s exorbitant price tag meant that the 360 was the only real option for HD console gamers, but the PS3 has enjoyed price parity with the 360 for two months now, and for both of those months the 360 has been trounced in sales as compared to the PS3.  Admittedly, the PS3 will probably never catch up to the 360 in terms of overall sales– the lead is just too big– But Microsoft currently has no momentum whatsoever.

What’s worse, Microsoft probably doesn’t care.  They have market share over the PS3, and they’re actually making a profit.  But Sony wont’ make the mistakes it made with the Playstation 3 twice, and the longer Microsoft insists on gouging it’s customers with online connectivity, wifi, usable hard disc drive space and wireless controllers– all of which are standard features on the PS3, Wii and PC– the more goodwill it pisses away.

(The above may or may not count for the lack of a third update last week.)

Really, EA?  Chapel Hill and Basketball God Tyler Hansbrough dominates the Final Four and you put Blake Griffith on the cover for NCAA 2010?  Really?  This is what we’re doing here?  Fuck you, EA.  Fuck you.

(That said, all sins are forgiven if the “total broadcast immersion” thing they’re pushing this year means we get John Pilot Sports for the ACC tourney games.)

(Wait– the demo is UNC vs Duke in Cameron Indoor?  I take that back, EA. May the fleas from a thousand camels infest your tent.  Fuck you.)

At long last the Wii gets an actual grown-up racing ga–

Renault's 2009 campaign is brought to you by Blurry, Muddy, Indecipherable and Ing

Jesus Christ.  I’m sorry, guys.

If you’re a PS3 owner and you’ve somehow never played the PS2 God of War titles, there’s no good reason not to buy this.  If you already have played both– well, they’re good enough to be worth playing again, but remember at that point you’re basically paying $40 for the GoW3 demo.

So mating this game to the PS3 version of Assassin’s Creed II unlocks weapons in both this and ACII.  I now hate this game on general principle.

So this is either LBP didn’t do nearly as well as Sony was needing it to or this is one of Sony’s insane attempts at justifying 3rd party development for the PSP Go by putting a high-profile PS3 title to the system.

That said, I’ve not played LBP PS3 and thus am unable to tell how much stripping multiplayer from the title hurts the game as a whole, but it seems like a pretty damning omission.  Which is a shame, as the idea of an endlessly customizable 2d platformer seems much more suited for the PSP than a HD console.

Well it’s about time Sega did something with all those NAOMI arca–Wait.

Jambo Safari?   Not Jumbo! Safari?   Really?  More importantly, why?

I’ve spent the past 10 years calling this Jumbo Safari.  That’s it, I’m done for the week.

EVEN CONFUSED GRANDMOTHERS KNOW BETTER THAN TO BUY THESE GAMES FOR CHRISTMAS

Petz Hamzterz Zuperztarz
Discovery Kids Spider Quest
Planet 51
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Tag Force 4
Kamen Rider Dragon Knight
Just DAnce
Disney The Princess and the Frog
Petz Dogz Talent Zhow
Stoked: Big Air Edition
Foto Frenzy
Rec Room
Imagine:  Artist

Posted in Wallet Abuse | 1 Comment »

For your own good; redux.

Posted by nfinit on November 16, 2009

So remember back when Activision and their grovelling, hand-licking lackeys Infinity Ward announced that they were closing off private servers for all versions of Call of Duty 6: Modern Warfare 2, making it impossible to play online on anything other than Activision’s own authorized servers?  Remember how we were told it was for our own good and that Activision’s only goal was to improve the player experience and how dare you concoct paranoid conspiracy theories involving paid content and the further console-ification of the PC market?  Sure you remember that, I spent like two weeks posting this picture:

(Not pictured: impoverished; weeping child begging for his guitar controller)

Well, knowing what Infinity Ward had done, and knowing how deliciously evil Activision is, what would you assume would be the worst possible outcome for this scenario?  Wait, don’t answer that– If you’re reading this I’m going to assume you’re the smart, savvy reader who already has some idea of the ultimate outcome of Activision’s fiendish mechanization.  Instead I’m going to ask the sort of slack-jawed, reefer-addled doofus that mainstream media has taught us represents gaming culture.  Hang on a second–

(Remind me to tell you all how Time Magazine allowed this guy to shit all over Shigero Myamoto. It was fantastic.)

Hey kids, it’s professional gamer Johnathan Wendel!

Alright, Mister Fatal1ty,  if we may begin by–

suuuuuuuup

Yeah, sup.  Johnathan, knowing what you know about Infinity Ward placing Call of Duty 6, Modern Warfare 2’s online component behind Activision’s own secure walls, what would you assume is the worst possible outcome Activision and Infinity Ward could then ultimately leverage this into?

Probably Activision using their immense pockets and PR skills to further justify the heartbreaking endemic of virgin rape currently ravaging Africa.

Okay.  Wow.  You’re much more savvy than I give you credit for, Johnathan Wendel.

Words hurt, you know.

Fair enough.  Okay, what’s the second worst possible thing to come about as a result of Activision making it impossible to play Call of Duty 6: Modern Warfare 2 on anything but Activision’s own severs?

Oh, that's easy. Activision charging money to play online for services that are traditionally free.

DING DING DING!

And there you have it.  We all suspected Activision would use the immense popularity of COD6:MW2 to shut out free maps and mods, but this is particularly brilliant– Activision plans on blending Call of Duty in with its other money cow, World of Warcraft, into a soul-crushing orgy of profit that EA, Ubisoft, THQ and Take 2 can only look on with lip-slavering envy.  Yea, for truly it the end of times, just buy a 360 already, yadda yadda.

So I guess maybe it's too late to talk you into buying a Zalman CNPS9700LED Fatal1ty FC-ZE1 Champ1on Series Gaming Tower?

Die in a fire, ratface


Posted in Oh God No, Our Industry Is Awful, Sperging about games | 3 Comments »

Why game reviews suck and why we’re stuck with them.

Posted by nfinit on November 12, 2009

The way we do game reviews right now is kinda fucked up.

As most people get their review information from websites instead of print media, there’s undue incentive for these sites to release their reviews as early as possible. Most games take upwards of 6-10 hours to complete; and that’s not taking time needed to learn the game itself. So for a game like Call of Duty 6: Modern Warfare 2, which may have a 12 hour long main story, you probably need to at least double that to actually complete the game proper.

The way game sites see it, having a game review for your site show up after the game itself is released is pretty much useless. Game sites are in competition with each other for your page views, and all it takes is one glowing or one damning review to convince your average reader either way. So review sites need review copies, and need those copies ASAP.

For the most part, review sites and print magazines are beholden to the publishers to get these review copies in reviewer’s hands in time for a review to come online. This is why the lead time for a game review is a pretty good indication of a game’s quality and/or marketing effort– if you don’t see reviews come out before the game’s release, chances are the publisher doesn’t have a lot of confidence in that game’s quality and refused to ship out review copies. This works a lot like Hollywood– If you don’t start seeing movie reviews the week before the movie’s actual release, there’s a pretty good chance you’re better off not watching that movie:

Columbia Pictures would rather you not be warned too soon

(A neat bit from the most recent Giant Bomb podcast that inspired this post in the first place– Giant Bomb’s Brad Shoemaker was visiting New York City for an EA press junket when he learned that the street date for CoD6: MW2 was broken worse than Carla Nash’s face. Shoemaker, being a game reviewer for Giant Bomb, knew that his site had not yet received their review copy went to Chinatown, bought a copy at considerable mark-up, shipped overnight said copy back to Sausalito, California. whereupon Jeff Gertsman spent the next two days feverishly playing through CoD6: MW2 in order to get their review up before the game’s actual street date.)

If a gaming site gets their review copy late– or worse, not at all– they’re sorta fucked.  Aside from the sudden expenditure of being forced to pay for games to review, they’ve lost valuable lead time.  If you put a game review up in the time it takes a game to be released, played, then reviewed, chances are your review is now largely meaningless.  You also have to consider that most games do 90% of their business within the first two weeks of release– it’s not like keeping a review score up on your site weeks or months after release is doing you any real good.

And as with anything involving the games industry and a potential abuse of power, publishers will make the most openly corrupt use of these review copies possible.  Take for instance the recent revelation that Ubisoft has threatened to withhold review copies from sites who do not give Assassin’s Creed 2 favorable scores.  Luckily, Ubisoft only makes about 2 worthwhile games a year, but what if this decree had come down from a company from whom people actually buy games from, like EA?

I mean, this is still totally going to be good, right? Right? ….shit

Of course, there’s a third option for review sites, but it’s a Faustinian bargain at best– reviewing pre-release builds.  This is fraught with danger, as best highlighted by Dave Halverson of Play magazine handing a 95 to Sonic 2k6 based on impressions from a pre-release build and promises from Sega that “the game would be fixed”.  The resulting scandal– the game’s Metacritic aggregate stands at 45%– resulted in Play magazine abandoning review scores altogether, although it’s unclear if Dave Halverson still reviews pre-release builds.  But you have to assume this still happens, there’s just no way for print media to get review scores out in time if they were playing release candidates for every game they review.

The simple truth is there’s no real way to trust a review score.  Early scores are likely based on unfinished code, or the game is finished but the review copy itself comes with strings attached from the publisher.  Even scores that come out closer to he review date aren’t entirely trustworthy– there’s just no way to make an informed judgment on a 20+ hour game that you’ve only been exposed to for 48 hours of nonstop gaming.

The whole system is fucked and there’s no good way of fixing it that doesn’t involve dumping Metacritic and it’s disproportionate influence upon publishers.  But there’s little chance of that– in many ways, Metacritic is shaped by the publisher’s themselves.  It provides the only reliable infodump for game reviews that gamers have access to, and at the same time publishers know how to game the Metacritic system to serve their own ends.  A review that doesn’t appear on Metacritic may not appear at all in the minds of mainstream gamers, and the publishers know how to manipulate Metacritic scores on a high level.  In the publisher’s minds, they have created the perfect tool– the one feedback source they will pay any attention to, while at the same time shaping it to their will.  It’s an echo chamber.

So we need another source for game reviews– and we need a source that the publishers can’t game.  The only way of keeping the publishers from manipulating review scores is by removing scores entirely.  If you sit and actually read a review instead of skimming over it until you get to the score, you can get a pretty good idea if the reviewer has formed an informed, unbiased, professional opinion.  That part’s not hard– it’s the second part to getting this working that’s going to kill us– we have to accept the idea that review scores released at or before release date are inherently untrustworthy.  And that means actually waiting a week or so to buy the game itself.

Of course, exceptions can be made for especially sweet pre-order bonuses.

And that may well prove impossible.  Publishers and retail have forced gamers into a mindset that they need games at release, that they need to be “part of the conversation” that they need to have these games in hand before the online community of said game dissipates entirely.  Which is madness.  I’m not sure how we get past that point with anything but sheer willpower.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 11-11-09

Posted by nfinit on November 10, 2009

Pop’N Music


Despite the plain-Jane name, this is actually the fifteenth Pop’n Music title for Konami, albeit the first to make its way to North America.  Sadly, it looks to continue Konami’s fine tradition of innovating games in the music genre while simultaneously wholly unable to capitalize on the success of rhythm games in North America– In Pop N’ Music Wii’s case, Konami’s taken this arcade proven, wildly successful control scheme:

and tried to make it work with this….
….with predictable results.  Instead gameplay based on frenetic button-slapping action, you wind up with ineffectual flailing about, which makes it virtually impossible to be sure which button you’re supposed to be activating at any given time.  The game adjusts for this by allowing you to just flail around and hit anything– which is fine, but the whole “waggle vaguely in time with music” thing has been done on the Wii already, by no less than Miyamoto himself-

And even  Nintendo couldn’t get it to make money.


At least Konami isn’t ditching the J-pop this time around, even if they are trying to shoehorn the gameplay into feel-good standards like ABC and Loveshack.  But on the whole it doesn’t feel like Konami’s learned anything at all from Rock Revolution.

The wierd part about this whole excercise is that they probably could have made this idea work outstandingly well on the DS.

Call of Duty 6:  Modern Warfare 2

Everything you need to know about this game you already know, and thanks to Gamestop’s rather liberal interpretation of the term “street date” there’s a goo chance that if you were going to buy this game you’ve already beaten it.
So I’m not going to change anyone’s mind on the subject when I say that while I can respect that CoD6:MW2 is no doubt a technically outstanding game, I don’t think there’s a bit of actual art involved anywhere in its development.  This goes beyond the obvious contempt Infinity Ward holds for its player base– I just think the entire endeavor is as corporate and soulless as the multibillion dollar behemoth that spawns each year’s iteration.  They’re a very cynical, formulaic type game from a very cynical, formulaic company.
All this said, I won’t hold it against anyone that does enjoy this sort of thing– I don’t get sports games or dating sims, either.  But I do believe that giving Activision money at this point actively harms gamers and gives the industry the wrong sort of idea.  So take that for what you will.
Spectral Force Genesis
Holy shit yes, Sega finally came to it’s senses and–
Well that’s nowhere near as fun.
Well wait, I take that back; Spectral Force Genesis actually looks like it might be interesting– There’s not a whole lot of info on the DS version of this traditionally Japanese-only strat series (most updates report befuddlement that the game was ever translated at all), but what little is out there makes this sound a lot like the classic Sega CD strategy RPG Dragon Force in that you pick a nation, build your army and take over the map while defending against other hostile nations and negotiating diplomatic treaties with whomever you’re not currently sacking or being sacked by.
Of course, the game might also be terrible; there’s just not a lot of information floating out there.  But it looks intriguing; and between this, Muramasa, Nostalgia and Fatal Fury 12, Ignition Entertainment is putting together a pretty nice string of quality niche Japanese imports.
Kenka Bancho:  Badass Rumble
When a game’s title translates to Wandering Badass:  Badass Rumble, I am duty-bound to report on it.  And as awesome as the name is, the concept is even better:  This is a surly teenage Japanese badass sim; sorta like what would happen if you crossed Godhand with Harvest Moon, but somehow even more insane and Japanese than that.
That said, it’s hard to tell if this game is going to be any good or not– Okay, chances are it’s going to be terrible– But you have to admit the premise is pretty fantastic.  Basically you spend your time wandering around a Generic Japanese City taking over school territories, beating up on local toughs, and macking with the ladies- all the while building up your badass skills to become the premiere badass in all the land.
Of course, it’s also clunky and largely incomprehensible and makes you wish the concept had been thought of by a developer with the wherewithal (and platform) to better flesh the idea out– bit now that the idea is out there, maybe someone like Rockstar will take the idea and use it for Bully 2.
Phantasy Star Zero

Phantasy Stars that are based on Phantasy Star Online and not the Master System/Genesis Phantasy Star games cause me to bleed out the eyes and black out from pure manifest rage, so I’m not capable of judging this correctly.  If you’re one of the sick, sick people who enjoyed PS Online and always wanted more, then you’ll love this as it removes PSO’s storyline and subscription system and basically gives you the straight MMO monster-hunting romp that’s become popular with… well, Monster Hunter.  And while I suppose it makes sense for Sega to build upon Monster Hunter’s popularity by tagging the concept wit Phantasy Star Online, I just can’t begin to care about this. I want Phantasy Star and Shining Force back and I’m tired of seeing whatever new flavor of the month psudo-RPG mechanic hijacking their good names.
I guess what I’m saying here is that this is worse than 10 Modern Warfare 2s.  If you buy this, I hate you.
Harvest Moon:  Animal Parade

Or as I like to call it, Harvest Moon:  Dirty Carney Edition.  This time around you’re tasked with rounding up escaped circus animals that broke loose from a traveling troupe and forcing them to breed– which seems excessively cruel.  Also presumably your town is now infested with dirty, dirty carnies.  Luckily, you’re also allowed to marry a wizard and/or a witch, which may allow you to use dark Romani majiks to cast out the carnies at the cost of filling your town full of Gypsies.  So to recap– Sex with pagans; persecution of carnies; riding around on elephants– if you buy one Harvest Moon in your entire life this is probably the Harvest Moon you should be buying.

Harvest Moon:  Sunshine Islands

The problem with the Harvest Moon games is that by this point they’ve become utterly incomprehensible from the outside looking in.  Even the media for upcoming Harvest Moon games has become a matter of “here’s a new Harvest Moon, buy it already” without a scrap of useful information outside of something about islands and a plush pig.

I mean, if you’re a Harvest Moon Person, you probably look at something like this:

And utter tiny little squeals of glee, but the rest of us just sorta shrug and make jokes about Julia’s boobs.

I can say one thing with utter conviction regarding tomorrow’s two Harvest Moon games– In terms of pre-order bonuses, Animal Parade is getting the shaft.  At Gamestop, pre-ordering Animal Parade gets you this handsome, albeit rather staid stuffed duck:

Prospective Sunshine Island owners however, get a pimp stuffed pig!

So I guess what I’m saying here is that if you were going to buy one of these it probably should have been Sunshine Islands and it should have been a week ago.  And also yes, these two count as my child friendly picks of the week, nonstop Pagan orgies aside.

Call of Duty 6: Modern Warfare 2 Part 2: Reflex


‘sup, Lithtech

Call of Duty 6: Modern Warfare 2 Part 3:  Mobilized

Which brings us to the rather embarrassing situation of a DS port of a PS360 game having comparable graphics to, if not better than, the Wii port of samesaid PS360 game.

While the complete and total lack of gameplay impressions doesn’t bode well, this is at least done by the same n-space guys that ported World at War to the DS, and that apparently turned out well enough, and this looks to be More Of That.  Also, hey:

They’re the Geist guys!

Dragononolgy
I’m trying to figure out how this works, and near as I can tell it’s Pokemon, but with a heavy Victorian England flavor and with dragons.  Which means it’s either fantastic if you have kids into this sort of thing, or a trainwreck.  I cannot begin to attest to the game’s quality, however.  No gameplay video exists as near as I can tell, and the only media that I can find is the official trailer:

It’s even unclear if you’ll be able to buy the game this week.  Gamestop, where I get release date information from, swears it’s coming out the 10th, whereas Amazon is convinced it’s not releasing until next June.

TMNT:  Arcade Attack

These guys managed to fuck up the SNES Turtles In Time remake for Xbox Live Arcade, there’s no reason to think that they’ll do a better job with a brand new game.  Also for some insane reason it’s using clunky DS 3d instead of hand-drawn sprites.  Pass.

(on another note, as long as we’re trying to do “serious” TMNT games again, isn’t it time someone tried a Devil May Cry-type game with this license?  That should work, right?)

Shaun White Snowboarding: World Stage

Remember when Shaun White was relevant?  That was a fun 3 days.  This, meanwhile, is what it is– If you’ve been craving SSX or 1080 (and really, why haven’t we had a new SSX or 1080?) then you’ll like this.  Also if you’re looking for the PS360 version of Shawn White this year you’re SOL.

System Flaw

Ordinarily this would just be another generic DS action title relegated to the pile of crap I don’t want to talk about this week, but there’s one thing that bears mention:

This represents North America’s first ever DSi-only game.  So thanks for that, Storm City.

Also, System Flaw Guy gets around a lot:

DONATING THE FOLLOWING GAMES TO CHILD’S PLAY MAKES YOU AN AWFUL, AWFUL PERSON

Ultimate Party Challenge
Wedding Dash
Hot Wheels: Battle Force Five
Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus
Chaotic:  Shadow Warriors
Style Lab:  Makeover
Petz Nursery
Jonas
Team Elimination Games
Style Lab:  Jewlery Design

Dragon Ball: Raging Blast

Dragon Ball:  Attack of the Saiyans

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