Review – Contact

A game is like a meal. An excellent one both pleases your palette and assuages your hunger. Resident Evil 4 was a full plate of filet mignon. Extremely filling, but not excessive, and delectable (this is getting creepy). A Nippon Ichi game is more like three plates of macaroni and cheese. Decent, but if you eat it all you’ll feel sick. And then there are games that are so bad you look forward to them ending. Eating less vomit or dog shit is preferable.

Enough of something decent can make an average game more satisfying than it should be. Dragon Quest Rocket Slime is by no means gourmet, but there is enough of it to really fill the player. The play mechanics aren’t spectacular, but the game is long enough to both build and expand on them. →  Sounds mildly entertaining, I guess.

News I Care About: Beta

Don’t worry folks, this is not a replacement of the actual VL weekly news. Its just a blog entry with a clever twist. There have been a few stories I’ve been meaning to discuss, without actually discussing them. So why not just lump them together into one MEGATON (copyright IGN) batch?

– Tekken 6 has finally been announced with some actual screenshots and videos of the game in action. Not long ago I wrote an article about the Tekken series and my attempt to come to grips with it. Part of that article involved reconciling the fact that Namco can’t seem to make an original character design, not with so many other franchises to steal from. I thought I had made my peace, but Namco couldn’t leave well enough alone, and now I’m having my doubts after seeing new character Leo in action. →  When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a game.

Best Game Ever – Master of Magic

Back when Microprose was still making games, they came out with a bunch of ideas for similarly themed titles spanning multiple universes. Although Master of Orion, Civilization, and X-Com were all well and good (that is to say, well, very good), my favorite was always Master of Magic. Master of Magic took the best parts of Civilization and being a wizard and put them together.

You play a wizard starting with control of one city, and your goal is simply the annihilation of all other wizards. You pick a difficulty, pick which spell types and special enhancements you want, and go. A randomly generated map is created, and you get to start playing.

Red Creek. What a depressing name for a hamlet.

The elements of Civilization come into play with city management. →  NiGHTS into REaDS

Review – Sam & Max Episode 4: Abe Lincoln Must Die

Something tells me I will be in the minority with this one, but Sam and Max Episode 4 is perhaps the weakest entry yet (or close behind the first one). This seems odd at first, because this time Telltale worked on many of the issues that fans (and reviewers like myself) brought up with the last few episodes, namely length and difficulty. I appreciate and respect this, however their solutions to the problems do more harm than good, while the formerly sound humor of past episodes gets less attention and falls flat. I started playing these episodes with excitement and praise. Now I’m starting to get genuinely worried.

The previous three episodes were indeed easy to complete and on the short side time wise. This never really bothered me because the settings were fun, the scripts sharp, and the puzzles weren’t damningly hard. →  Nobody puts article in a corner.

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 2.23.07

New Virtual Console consoles
It looks like Wii owners will now have the chance to download Neo Geo and MSX games. I’d like to see the original Metal Gear, which is supposed to be significantly cooler than the NES port, and Master System favorites (that were ports from the MSX) Miracle Warriors and Golvellius. Of course the West may never get the MSX emulator because most (or all) of the system’s games are in Japanese. Maybe after Nintendo translates Fire Emblem 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 I will believe there’s a possibility they translate super obscure Japanese computer games on a system 99.8% of Americans have never heard of.

Speaking of Master System, why not give us a Wii emulator for Phantasy Star, Wonder Boy, Zillion, Alex Kidd and company? →  A reader is you.

Record-Setting Win Gone Unnoticed

I usually don’t like doing this, as it seems a bit selfish of me, but I felt compelled to reveal my dirty little secret to the world. I, Matt, am the owner of the World Record for Mario Kart 64’s Choco Mountain Time Trial, with an amazing time of 1:46:400. This picture is my sole proof of the record in question. I apologize for the blurriness, but I only have a cell-phone camera.

If you search Twin Galaxies’ site, which is THE source for video game records, you’ll see the top record of 1:46:840, which is the Japanese National Record. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news Japan, but it appears that your record has now been broken. In fact, it has been broken for about seven years.

Sad thing is, Twin Galaxy will not approve of the record because I never taped the record-setting run, and it wasn’t done under any referee supervision. →  Lame is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

The current state of fighting games

At the time of this writing, Dead or Alive and Virtua Fighter have released new entries on next generation consoles. Tekken 6 was just announced, and I’m sure it is only a matter of time before we hear something about Soul Calibur 4. It seems that fighting games are doing A-okay on the next gen systems. And yet I still get a sinking feeling about one of my favorite genres. I’m not going to go and make an assertion about fighters being doomed to become as niche as the schmup, but I still can’t shake a feeling of worry. Let’s break it down by companies and see why:

Namco/Sega: These two are responsible for the three (Tekken, VF, and Soul Calibur) most popular and powerful 3d fighting franchises. All three have dedicated fanbases that will ensure they do well enough in terms of sales. →  Game is dead. Game remains dead. And we have killed it.

How long should games be?

Early in the history of video games, one thing all games had in common was their length – they were all pretty short. Most games could be beaten in only a few hours. In contrast, games that we play today can exceed 80 hours. But do we always need our games to pass the coveted 40-hour mark? We weren’t having a bad time with them back then, so why fix something that may not have been broken?

Some developers will advertise the fact that their game takes 100 hours to complete, printing it as a bullet right on the back of the box. Remember when Nintendo was talking about Twilight Princess? 70+ hours was their estimated length of gameplay. But is this a good thing? The first Zelda could probably be beaten in a few hours, even without going all speed-runny on it. →  Think outside the post.

Virtual Console Grumblings

Not too long ago, news broke that Nintendo was offering an updated version of the VC title Military Madness, free for download to those who had purchased it. The new version fixed some horrible emulation problems, and all was good. Though in fact it really wasn’t – while people were glad to see them issue a fix, many more were worried and angry that TG16 emulation is so far less than perfect.

Then the shitstorm began – it was discovered that Mariokart 64 did not support ghost data saves, and some future n64 games would not support rumble. Then Kid Icarus was released without the ability to use certain cheat passwords that were available in the original. Soon everyone was after Nintendo’s head, their logic being “we pay exorbitant amounts for these downloads, and they can’t even give us perfect versions? →  Reading more, assemble!

Review – God Hand

When Clover Studio was ultimately closed by Capcom, they left us with two games; Okami and God Hand. The former gained quite a bit of attention, at least from the gamer press and enthusiasts, and it is not hard to see why. The game sported lush, unique visuals, safe Zelda style gameplay, and a universe steeped in Japanese mythology (which seems to be all the rage these days with the kids). While I can’t say anything of the sales numbers, it certainly left an impression with the community’s most critical.

This wasn’t at all the situation with God Hand. Here was a title with with crummy visuals, a strange sense of humor and style, “tank like controls” and seemingly outdated beat ’em up gameplay. How could this game have been made by the same people behind the lush and elegant Okami? →  Arc the Post: Twilight of the Spirits

Lame Debate: Twilight Princess or Wind Waker?

Now that most of us have had the chance to play (and hopefully beat) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, I think it’s time we had a debate. Having played both Twilight Princess and 2003’s Wind Waker, which one do you think is the best Zelda of last generation?

Wind Waker was a new take on the award-winning Zelda franchise with a unique visual look that some hated while others loved.

Twilight Princess brought back the same feeling we all had when we first played 1998’s seminal Ocarina of Time, but didn’t bring anything particularly new to the table.

Both are amazing games, but what’s your take on the two masterpieces? Did “Cel-da” leave a bad taste in your mouth? Did Midna annoy you too much with her rude and callous remarks while riding her lupine companion? →  Tony Hawk's Posting Ground

Review – Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators

It’s hard to find a recent game with a name more cheesy than Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators. It has all the classiness of a corny low-budget science fiction movie.

In fact, its name could be the main reason why nobody’s noticed the game, despite a lot of acclaim from reviewers. So much so that the publishing company is now asking users to suggest a better game name… possibly to re-release it.

In any case, Space Rangers 2 hails from Russia, courtesy of Cinemaware Marquee. Most of the game script feels pretty natural, but there’s just enough awkwardness to indicate it was not originally in English (other ships will ask your help to take out “this type”). That said, the script actually contains a lot of jokes. For example, the Faeyans discover a human toothbrush, and claim to have “improved” it to the point of also cleaning out the brain cavity. →  Read awhile, and listen.

WipEout for PS3: You Know You Want it

This will be the game that breaks the camel’s hump for me with the PS3. Metal Gear probably won’t do it, Final Fantasy definitely won’t do it, and I don’t really have to worry about Fumito Ueda’s next opus because it will probably come out when PS4 is released, judging from their track record. Nope, only WipEout will make me get that second job.

A few weeks ago Sony revealed that the series would be released at some point in the future on the PS3. Details are scant at the moment, but they did say the game would utilize the SIXAXIS motion controls, as well as a possible online mode, which we can assume is either multiplayer or downloadable tracks and vehicles, just like they did with WipEout Pure on the PSP. →  Ratchet & Read

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 2.16.07

Virtua Fighter 5 sells well in Japan despite reports to the contrary
Despite my rants about how shitty game journalism is, I am often too lazy to be the change I want to see in the world (paraphrased Gandhi quote FTW!). Last week, a little short on stories, I decided to post something that was both very specific to my tastes and not really news. The second part should’ve been blatantly obvious since the story was on kotaku.com.

So now I would both like to apologize for the lapse in quality journalism and for the story being just plain wrong. I have brought shame to videolamer and to my family. If my parents hadn’t stopped speaking to me years ago because I am a horrible disappointment of a son, I am sure they would be ashamed. →  Castle Readigami 2

Yay or Nay: Collector’s Editions

In the last few years, many companies have begun to sell a collector’s edition for some of their big games. Microsoft’s Halo 2 had one, as does the more current Lost Planet from Capcom. Usually they contain a nice metal case, a DVD filled with exclusive content and maybe another miscellaneous item. All of this comes with a $10 price increase over the regular version. So if you buy a Collector’s Edition PS3 or 360 game, you will most likely spend $70 for it.

So what say you, videolamerians? Are you excited that companies are doing this, supplying even more content with their games for a small price, or do you only see companies bleeding their customers’ wallets with useless “behind the scenes” footage that was probably edited in an hour? →  Lame is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

Review – Final Fantasy X

It’s not some startling revelation to say that jRPGs are a hotly debated topic among many gamers, as they struggle to figure out the present and future of the genre. I have absolutely no clue what the developers behind FFX were trying to do, but I know the result of their work is a game that fully embraces what these games have become. It has been streamlined and simplified so as to provide players with something easy, relaxing, and colorful. It’s like an anime Disney attraction where you get to play a part.

Take the combat. It is a system where mages have enough MP to cast plenty of spells, and tank characters can one-hit-kill. Enemies are designed so that you can tell just by looking at them what characters you will need in order to end the battle in three steps. →  Snap! Crackle! Read!

Our favorite game settings

If a game has a good setting, you don’t forget it. You may even end up referring to it as if it were a real place – “I wonder what the weather’s like in Midgar this time of year…” However, setting hasn’t really been a prevalent factor in our games until the modern consoles, both due to a loosening of size constrictions and the advent of 3D graphics. Most NES and SNES games had little setting to speak of outside the instruction manual. But developers have been getting better at creating alternate realities, showing us worlds that we swear are real. With more than enough amazing settings in games today, videolamer decided to list some of our favorite examples.

This list does not factor in level design. That topic is easily complex enough to warrant its own list. →  How many games must a gamer play before you call him a gamer?

Covert Wii Update: Everybody Votes Channel

In a surprise announcement, Nintendo has released a new channel for the Wii, called the Everybody Votes Channel. It’s essentially a worldwide polling station with cute little questions aimed to bring the Wii community closer. The channel is immediately available in the Wii Ware section of the Shop Channel, and is free of charge.

This is seriously out of the blue. I don’t think anyone expected to see something like this. When I first heard about it, I thought Nintendo was finally going to let me voice my concerns over the Virtual Console service (damn those prices), but it’s not exactly like that.

The polls are nothing that important. Take the first one, for example: “What is a more romantic Valentine’s gift?” with choices of “Chocolates” or Roses.” Not exactly what I was hoping for, but it seems that Nintendo is starting to create a community with the Wii. →  SaGa 3: Shadow or Write

Eve Update: Little fish in the Ocean

Have you ever looked at the food chain in the ocean? Take an anchovy, for example. The anchovy actually isn’t at the bottom, that job belongs to plankton. Anchovies are eaten by things such as the spotted sea trout. The spotted sea trout is eaten by tarpons, which in turn are eaten by bull sharks. Why am I boring you with the details of the food chain?

It’s been about a month since I started playing Eve. Ambition, combined with some purchased in-game currency (it’s so cheap I can’t help myself), led me and my merry band to try to go to “lowsec” space–where PvP begins. Our interest wasn’t in PvP, but rather in mining the more precious materials found in lowsec space. Accordingly, we attempted to arm ourselves–encouraged by some GTC supplemented ISK, we thought our fancy ships and fancy equipment would allow us to play with the big boys. →  Read Read Revolution: Disney Channel Edition

Color Me Tickled Pink

It’s becoming readily apparent to me that I need games with a lot of color in them. I’ve been putting a lot of time into Hotel Dusk, and with the black and white nature of the sprites, as well as the browns and grays found in the actual hotel, it’s making it hard for me to willingly jump into the game.

Right now I have the choice of playing either Hotel Dusk or Lumines II, and I always seem to go to the PSP game. It’s sad to say, but the realistic color palette is what kills me about Hotel Dusk. It’s all stylistic and definitely awesome and unique, but I guess my ADD or whatever flairs up, and it takes awhile for me to enjoy myself with the title. Both are amazing games, mind you, but my mind robotically draws to the one with the wider color spectrum, and Lumines has that front covered. →  Ring of Read