Update

April 24, 2008

I posted the link on Quarter To Three, but just in case people don’t see the things I talk about over there, my review of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is now live at Crispy Gamer. Not sure what’s up with the soccer reviews. I hoped to see those by now. I’ll have to ask around again. Don’t like feeling like a nag, but those especially took me a lot of time and effort so I’d like to see them available.

Prologue just isn’t that great. As a time trial racing game, it’s perfectly fine. As a game where you race against the AI or against people online, it’s not. For me, racing games are about the racing, not the tuning. I want to have thrilling battles on the track, not with gear ratios. There’s nothing thrilling about those battles in the garage. Check out the review if you have time and unless you’re a huge fan of the series, I think you can safely skip it.

Free time gaming has been schizo since I turned that in. I’m playing Patapon on PSP which is just maddeningly difficult after the first hour. I progressed so smoothly through the demo version and when I got the full game the whole thing ground to a halt. This is one situation where GameFAQs is my next stop. I almost have to be doing something horribly wrong but I don’t have any idea what that is?

Other stuff I’ve been playing includes the Xbox Live Arcade release of Ikaruga last week and this week I pulled out Sin & Punishment on the Virtual Console. I’m really in a shooter mood right now and Sony apparently knew this because today they released R-Types on the PlayStation Network Store. That’s a great little compilation of R-Type and R-Type II direct from the arcade. They are supposedly “pixel perfect”. I’ve never owned R-Types for the PlayStation so I’ll probably have to download it for the superb price of $6.99. Before I do that, though, I may pull out R-Type Delta which I’ve had for years and just never got around to playing for some reason.

That’s actually been weighing heavily on me this week. I bought Persona 3 FES simply because I know it will be super scarce within a year and I’ll wish I had bought it when it was new. That game has now gone on top of a massive pile of games that I’ve never even put in a console or PC. It’s gotta stop. So many great games in my house and yet I buy more? Why? Why?!

Nothing on the review plate for about a week or two, so I plan to update here more regularly and maybe, just maybe, I’ll play some of these games I’ve had kicking around for years.

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GT5 Preview

April 15, 2008

It’s almost too late, but my preview of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue finally made it onto Crispy Gamer.

The most enlightening part of putting that together was the fact it’s been ten years since Gran Turismo created the “Real Driving Simulator” genre of console games. That’s also how long we’ve been using a DualShock controller on Sony consoles as it shipped right alongside GT if I recall correctly.

As if attempting to recreate that same synergy ten years later, DualShock 3 is now available only a week before the ship date for Gran Turismo 5 Prologue and Sony’s popular racing series is there to show off rumble once again.

It certainly can’t hurt to have an extra feature on the PS3 controller. Some people really dig the shaking. I usually can live without it, but occasionally it’s put to good use. I’m not too sure that $54.99 is the price I want to pay for a videogame controller, but at $39.99 for a Wii Remote and $19.99 for a Nunchuk, Nintendo isn’t exactly cutting us a deal on peripherals either. Hopefully as SIXAXIS fades away, I can pick up a couple on the cheap to have four players in Calling All Cars.  It might be the only game I ever play with more than two on a PS3, but having played it before, I think it’s definitely worth it.

Anyway, on to the final shipping version of GT5 Prologue. You’ll hopefully see that review on CG soon.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just got back from the Flyers game and I’m bushed.


Black and White

April 10, 2008

I didn’t spend $20 on World in Conflict yesterday but today I threw $12.50 at some Microsoft Points to get Ikaruga from Xbox Live Arcade. I’m hopeless.

Treasure has made some of my favorite games, one of them being the game I call my all-time favorite in the list we were forced to supply for our profiles at Crispy Gamer. Ikaruga isn’t at the top of my list of Treasure video games, but it’s close.

The basics of gameplay are simple. It’s a shooter where enemies and bullets are colored either white or black. Your ship can change polarity to one of those same two colors. Shoot a black enemy while your ship is black and it will spew out more black bullets as it explodes. Shoot it while your ship is white and it won’t. You also get a bonus to firepower when you shoot things with the opposite color, and collecting bullets of the same color will power up a possible 12-beam super shot. You die if you crash into something or are hit by a bullet of the opposite color.

Just playing the game with those basics in mind is enough for most people to handle. In fact, some can’t even be bothered to get that far. Their loss. It’s a brilliant twist on the standard shooting game and plays all sorts of havoc with your mind as you navigate its tricky levels. Making your way to each boss is a difficult task, but Treasure never leaves it at just that. There’s always something else in the scoring that ratchets up the technique to legendary levels of gamer prowess. In Ikaruga, it’s all about the chains.

In order to send your score into the stratosphere, you must kill three enemies of a single color in a row over and over again. Each time you do this, you double the bonus for each chain up to a maximum of 25,600 for each link. The first bonus is 100, the second 200, the third 400, etc. until you’re earning MAX COMBO for each group of three. Of course the game is designed such that things come at you in multiples or combinations of threes, so after you’re comfortable just surviving, you become obsessed with continuing your chains!

I’m at the point now where I can play the entire first level without dying and maintain as high as a 33 combo from the start. Once I lose the combo, I rarely get back to Max ever again, but I change my fundamental play goal to survival instead of the chain after that first death. With only three lives, most folks aren’t going to get too far trying for combos until they really know the levels inside and out. But that’s ok! It’s part of the game’s longevity. Consider that I’ve been playing this since 2001 when it was first released on Dreamcast in Japan (I imported) and it’s still rare for me to get halfway through level two on one credit (three ships).

The Xbox Live Arcade port is very good, though it’s missing the awesome startup and menu screens of the Dreamcast original as well as some of the cool voice synth work that was done there.  The 360 version is hampered majorly by the awful d-pad on the 360’s controller, but the analog stick seems to have a very small dead zone for this title so you can get by with that if necessary. I don’t usually care about Achievements anymore, but these are the type that more games should have. Not many folks are going to get A rankings (or better) on any of the levels, so don’t expect to see many that have those Achievements on their Gamerscore. Graphically, this game has always been beautiful to my eyes. It’s a powerful statement of gameplay function juxtaposed with detailed artistic form. It’s a signature Treasure videogame trait and part of the reason the company endeared itself to me right from the first day I played Gunstar Heroes.

If you like shooters at all, this is one worth getting. At $10 (800 points), it’s about $40 less than I paid for the Dreamcast original behind me on the shelf. You can flip your TV on its side for some vertical scrolling gameplay done right, too. I’ve actually got a swivelling PC monitor so I plan to bring the 360 over here to try that out sometime after I get the proper cable for it. The HD upgrade to the visuals is noticeable and they even translated some of the on-screen text that wasn’t there before. I hope it sells well so we get some more Treasure oldies on Xbox Live Arcade. But even if it doesn’t, this one will last me a very long time.


Holding Back

April 9, 2008

Back when my blog was at 1UP, I talked about World in Conflict. I was in the beta for the game and it struck me as something that was worth playing when it finally shipped. Today at Amazon, you can order it for $18. That’s a great price, and I had the game in my basket all ready to check out when I stopped dead in my tracks.

Who am I kidding, really? When will I have time to play it?!

It was like a bolt from the heavens. I clicked away from the page and only went back just now to get the link for this post. I’m sure World in Conflict is a game I would enjoy playing. I might even find it to be among my favorites, but seriously, I don’t have time for it. I’ve got at least fifty games here in the house that I’ve either played once or twice or never played at all. Many are still in their shrinkwrap. (That’s a new tactic I’ve used, BTW. I don’t open them so they have more resale value later if I never get to them.) So why do I need to throw World in Conflict on the pile with them?

The answer is, I don’t.

I find it astonishing how many games I buy, and how many that I know other people buy and end up doing the same thing with them. The likelihood of us ever getting to them is next to nil. Even if I retired today, I doubt I’d ever run out of games to play between now and whenever I leave the earth. At 36, how many years do I really have left? Half my life? Hopefully that’s the case, but even so, I will never run out of games.

This is blasphemy to the games industry. They want us to keep on buying and buying. Guys like me are the reason three consoles are viable right now. Without the Dave Longs of the world, it’s likely that the 360 and PS3 would be a lot further behind the Wii. In an article I wrote for CGM a few years ago, I noted that the 3DO was ahead of its time. Not necessarily because of the hardware, but rather because this hardcore group of people who buy any new electronic games gadget regardless of utility and price didn’t yet exist. Clearly those people supported the PS3 launch in droves, and subsequently got bored of Resistance a month later and wondered where more games were?

The same goes for the phenomenon of the Game of the Month on 360. It drives sales of one game, usually something very hardcore targeted, on that system each month. It’s rare to see something linger other than the occasional first-person shooter like Call of Duty 4. Everyone’s shilling for that new game via their Friends’ list, too. All your buddies see you playing Ikaruga, so you have to go download that one, too! After all, it’s only 800 Microsoft Points and it came out yesterday.

Peer pressure is a bitch, and before the Internet it was confined to your tight knit circle of geek friends. Now we’re all connected to each other and the geek talk flows like water across messageboards the world over. So when someone finds a good deal on another game everyone says is “pretty cool”, you can’t be left out!

I’ve often used the excuse of “research” for buying a title like this. Usually I do find them useful later on. But this time I’m saying “NO!” because I seriously cannot play it. I just rented Mass Effect the other night for heaven’s sake! Of course…. World in Conflict probably wouldn’t arrive until after I took that back… hmmmm…

NO!


A different kind of busy

April 6, 2008

Not a whole lot of gaming happened this weekend, unless you’re talking about the outdoor variety with kids in the starring roles.

My oldest son’s soccer team got pounded 6-1 on Saturday, though we played a lot better than the score shows. All coaches say that crap, right? At least this time it’s mostly true. We had a bunch of breakdowns that resulted in goals, but still had pressure on their net a number of times throughout the game. I was proud of my guys for playing hard the whole way through regardless of score. We’ll improve by next weekend again. It’s been an education now that we’ve moved up a level competition-wise. You just can’t make mistakes like we could in the fall.

His baseball team looks really good, though. Despite losing the exhibition game on Saturday, they made some great plays and gained confidence. The most surprising thing was our pitching, including my boy. The difference in his ability from last year to this year is immense. It helped that he took a two-day clinic, but it’s not all that. He’s put a lot of good work into his on-field performance. I don’t push him or my other boys like a lot of parents seem to do. We’re there to have a good time and just improve at the game. That said, he’s got a good school career ahead of him if he keeps this up.

The other two boys are settling into their coach pitch team. Not a lot to report there other than me being really worn out from all this coaching. I’m essentially a head coach (soccer) and an assistant (twice!) this spring so I’ve got very little time to breathe during those after work hours. With today being a completely off day, I just watched some auto racing (great IndyCar race… kind of dull Formula One event) and took my oldest for a bat and new glove. It was good to just relax for a change.

Back to the day job, coaching and video game reviewing this week. I should have final code for my next Crispy Gamer review any day now. I’m pretty excited about that and looking forward to the next one after it, too. I’ll have some time in between to play whatever I want so expect some updates then. C&C3: Kane’s Wrath did get some of my time this weekend and it’s still entertaining me. I need to get online with it, though. PS3 was a nice change of pace for some Internet browsing today. Don’t underestimate the utility of that device for regular old web browsing. It’s a lot better than you might think.

Kids keep on hammering on Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The Subspace Emissary is easily their favorite mode right now. Oh yeah, there’s a new Metal Gear Solid 4 wallpaper for PS3. Download it if you can. It’s cool.


April Fool

April 1, 2008

I suppose I could just post some ridiculous news you’d never believe here, but I’m not like that. The only April Fool I pulled today was claiming the bus was on its way before it really was, thus driving the kids crazy thinking they would miss it. You gotta do that kind of thing to kids once in awhile. It’s part of the reason for having them, to drive them as nuts as they drive you…

I also figured I owed people a post since Troy at Flash of Steel said he’s too busy this week. I know how that goes! While I don’t have nearly as many readers as him, I figure there’s a tiny bit of crossover. If you haven’t been checking out his series of articles on Roman computer games, you owe it to yourself to read them. Start with the most current entry right here.

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It’s been about a week since I last updated. Since then I’ve been mildly busy with game work while staying very busy with my day job, soccer coaching and baseball coaching. As for the game side of things, look for a preview of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue to appear at Crispy Gamer soon. Those soccer reviews should be available this week and the lost Dragon Quest Swords review will appear one day too. I know from experience that it’s hard to get a new site up and running efficiently so I don’t envy the staff at CG the tough job of making everything work just so.

Speaking of web sites, Andrew Bub announced that GamerDad.com will be going dark as he turns his attention to a more blog-like site and other projects including WhatTheyPlay.com. You can find the announcement right at the top of the main page there right now. As a going away present, he’s re-published the first review that ever appeared on the site, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. It’s hard for me to look at that one without noticing many of the mistakes in my writing back then. I think I’ve improved a heck of a lot in the last five years. Has it really been five years since the start of GamerDad? *sigh*

Wind Waker will always hold a special place for me. I played through the entire game with the help of my three boys and my youngest, Ben, became so attached to Link he still runs around here with swords shouting HAH HAH SHAAAAKKK!!! I think he’s been the little green elf on at least three Halloweens so far and probably a few more before he’s done. Link is a hero to him and that reminds me of just how much videogames need heroes kids can identify with to keep them coming back. I think a lot of the adults in the media and development part of this industry forget that we all became fans of this hobby as children and the games we were playing were nothing like the gun-laden realistic shooters that dominate the market today. I try to always keep that perspective when I’m reviewing current titles because I fear I’m one of the few that still has it thanks to my kids.

The game itself also has one of the most poignant moments in all of videogames when Link has to leave home to find his sister. I dare any of you not to get just a tiny bit heartsick as he waves to grandma from the deck of a ship. Few games have such an emotional scene in them and I think the expressive graphic style used in the game delivers that one with a realism that many “realistic” games never achieve.

Thanks to the GamerDad, Mr. Andrew Bub for the chance to write about some of my favorite games (and some not so favorite… just see the list) and help a few parents get a handle on what’s in them. Highlights of my time there include the Oblivion review, which along with The Long Shot column “Murderer’s Remorse” was, I believe, part of the reason the ESRB took a second look at Oblivion and re-rated the game to M. All The Long Shot columns in general are favorites of mine, and it’s a shame they won’t be available for me to link to anymore. Same goes for the reviews. I guess I better make sure I have an archive before it all goes away, eh?

This one’s kind of fun to read now. It’s my look at hardware at the end of 2005, right after the 360 had shipped and PS3 and “Revolution” still weren’t near manufacturing. I really need to scan through all those old columns for the “I told you so!” moments, though I’m sure I got it wrong as much as I got it right. I’ve always enjoyed evaluating industry trends, so hopefully I get to do more of that here on the blog or elsewhere soon. Anyway, once again, thanks to Bub for some great years. I’m sorry to see the GamerDad.com site go away, but I’m glad he’s landed on his feet elsewhere including Crispy Gamer.

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In addition to all the above, I’ve had a bit of a stomach virus bugging me since Sunday night. I think it’s finally at an end this evening but I guess I’ll find out in the morning. Illness at this time of year is tough for me with all the sports and day job junk that comes up in March/April.

It definitely kept me sitting on the couch or at the computer playing a few games. When it wasn’t GT5, it’s been Forza Motorsport 2 for later comparisons, Patapon on PSP, a tiny bit of Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 on the DS, a little Super Smash Bros. Brawl online and with the kids, and finally tonight I installed Command & Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath on the PC.

Regular readers will remember that C&C3 was my number four game of 2008 so I was pretty pumped to get back in Kane’s world tonight. I’ve played through a couple campaign missions so far and man, I really do love the full-motion video they went back to in these games. People moan about it being badly acted, but I think it’s great that they take it so seriously. That’s part of the entertainment! As for gameplay, infantry is definitely more powerful than it’s been in the past and I just love the speed of these games. It’s an action-RTS that never lets up and for me that’s a massive part of the appeal. You simply can’t sit still. Graphically, the game looks better than ever. I figure I’m going to put a bunch of time into it until my next review starts so expect more in depth impressions here. Tom Chick didn’t seem too thrilled by it in his Crispy review, but if he’s bagging on the campaign, then I’m already enjoying a piece of it he didn’t so who knows where my opinion will end up.

All I know is I’ve got too many games to play and too little time, as always. If it’s not Kane, then I’d like to play more Frontlines or finally play through the single-player part of Call of Duty 4 on the PC. I haven’t even touched multiplayer in that game yet. I barely scratched the surface of Sins of Solar Empire. Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts gets older by the day. Viking: Battle for Asgard seemed pretty cool and I’d like to get back to that. I really ought to spend some time with Universe At War on PC and oh I could go on for hours. Better to put an end to this 1300 word post right now and either play another game or go get some sleep so I can play again tomorrow night. Have a great day. Hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow With more.