Review – Mass Effect

I am an RPG player. It is worth mentioning this up front as something relevant to the review which is to follow. I enjoy the genre of RPG’s enough to call it my favorite. Now, I say this because I realize that not everyone is like me. One of my best friends confessed to me recently that while he used to be an ardent RPG player in his younger days (when his life generally consisted of boredom and peer hatred in high school instead of daily responsibilities and peer hatred at work) now he simply has no time for serious gaming commitments that last for more than a few hours. Well, apparently, despite having a full and satisfying life, not much has changed for me. Somehow, I am still able to get into, enjoy and complete plot heavy games. →  Look upon my works, ye mighty, and read!

Where Gamers go? No…

There’s this great little electronics shop near me. I used to loathe them, and I still do for some things, but lately they’ve been picking up the pace in the games department. In the stores near my home and my job, I have found fresh copies of No More Heroes and Zak and Wiki. Back in the summer there were multiple copies of Persona 3 (despite its obscurity and its odd box shape). I have seen Every Extend Extra and King of Fighters XI in $10 bargain bins, and if you really want to get crazy, I can grab you a copy of Metropolismania 2. Today I picked up a copy of Patapon on its release date, though if I ordered it online I could have had free shipping (after watching a lovely trailer on their store website). →  Now you’re reading with power.

Review – Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

Sequels are usually a bad thing. For every one that changes game mechanics enough to make the new series entry fresh, there are five that tweak the graphics slightly, add a new combo counter and a new character or two. A sequel should not replace the original game; simple expansions of themes and mechanics should not cost full retail price. Instead, gamers deserve sequels that coexist with the originals. Super Mario 2 did not replace Super Mario 1, nor did 3 replace 2 – all of them were different enough to warrant keeping the older titles around. This is how sequels should be handled (someone inform EA, please).

By “somewhat powerful” it means “very weak”.

Luckily for me, my ludicrous idealism is not applied uniformly. Certain series are built on such solid foundations that to demand they entirely reinvent themselves with each entry is unreasonable. →  SNK Article Classics Vol. 1

Review – Final Fantasy: Revenant Wings

Like many gamers, I yearn for the mighty games of yore. In my case, I’ve been craving a strategy RPG. Tactics Advance, Shining Force on the GBA–I was hunting around for these games in hopes of something that would occupy my time and fill me full of tactical goodness during my daily commute.

Of course, this led me to ignore NEW games that I could be searching for. So it was by complete accident that I got a copy of Final Fantasy: Revenant Wings. I was about to travel, and needed a new DS game. I saw FF: RW, and decided “I’m a Square fanboy, and it’s an FF game… I should get it!”

Great, a chocobo. Square’s creativity truly knows no bounds.

Imagine my surprise when I found that FF: RW is a real time strategy RPG, and a good one at that. →  The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Read

Better Late Than Never — Tyson Reviews the Xbox 360

I showed up a couple of years late to the party that has been the Xbox 360. Thanks to my cheapness and the joys of region encoding, I held off getting Microsoft’s newest system while I was in Japan, vowing to grab one mere minutes upon my return to the United States. Over the past two years I have had bouts of jealousy, smug satisfaction, and concern as I watched the trials and tribulations of the Xbox 360 owner. From red rings of death to the release of Halo 3, I have quietly observed from the sidelines and bided my time. Well, that time has come. Holding true to my promise, I picked up a 360 Elite two days after landing in the US and since then I have been sampling the many facets of the console. →  Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing memory cards.

Assassins Creed – A fifty eight thousandth perspective

Spoiler Alert!

Contrary to its sweet box depicting a stealthy, medieval assassin decked out in (incongruously clanky) ninja-type gear, this is not a game about a medieval assassin. Instead, it is a game about — buckle up, my friend — some guy in the present day who is kidnapped by a mysterious corporation…and forced to repeatedly hook himself up to a machine…that not only can access the stored ancestral memories that lie dormant in his DNA, but can turn these ancient memories into a virtual reality world…that he can interact with in order to unlock additional memories; in his case, the memories of his awesome assassin predecessor…who apparently carried the same gene for white hoodies that he does. Got that? No? Well, through the magic of the printed word, you can read it again. →  Now bear my arctic post.

PSP Demo Roundup

Two noteworthy demos have hit the PSP in the last two weeks. Here are some impressions from yours truly:

Patapon: The guys behind locoroco are at it again, this time with their own take on both strategy and music games. Made in a similar, gorgeous 2d style as LocoRoco, Patapon has you lead armies of little Patapons towards victory and freedom. This is done by banging magic, godly drums in order to issue orders to your army. It is a very interesting setup; while the demo only allows you to move and attack, these two commands alone offer quite some depth. Since play alternates between you banging the drums and the Patapon singing and acting in response, you have to time commands while not screwing them up. This is part strategy game after all, so issuing a move command while in attack range is a waste that will cause damage to your units. →  The fuck does Cuno care about reading?

Review – Age of Empires: Age of Kings (and Crashing)

I hate to lead with such a petty slam against Age of Empires on the DS, but the fact of the matter is, the game is crash-tastic. I experienced two irritating crashes during campaigns (if you watch animated battles, the game can crash. This is worked around by disabling animated battles, which you will eventually want to do anyway). Another crash came upon completing a particularly long scenario: the screen just went black and never loaded the victory page.

A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir to a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deni’st the least syllable of thy addition.
 →  [post launches in virtual reality]

Review – Superman Returns

As you are happily whiling away the hours on the great games that have come out in the past few months, allow me to darken your day with another reminders of how much shit last year’s flood of licensed games sucked.

As a child, I spent a fair amount of my time educating myself, to a very precise degree, on the capabilities of superheroes, should a need arise to discuss how such powers would fair in various hypothetical conflicts. For example, I know the powers of each superhero so well, I could tell, with scientific accuracy, who would win in a battle royal between Namor, Aquaman, Namorita, Black Manta, and Aqua Lad.*

The sound of dueling banjos plays in the distance...

Later in life I developed a deep resentment when I came upon two crushing realizations. The first, and perhaps the one that should have been foreseeable, was that no one ever got laid due to their wielding of such knowledge. →  Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 5: Golden Post

Review – No More Heroes

No More Heroes looks to be another feel good indie hit, which means it will be used as fodder in a growing debate in the entertainment world. These days, a surefire way of garnering critical acclaim and a small but fanatical following is to produce something that appears to have hipster/geek chic and indie cred. Do this, and watch people fawn over how “charming” your work is, while still containing a powerful message about something. Go far enough, and you will have something that goes beyond the rest, reaching a level of acclaim it has no right holding.

Examples of this are not too hard to find. On television there was Gilmore Girls, a show whose every DVD boxset had to include a booklet explaining every pop culture reference used in the season (making sure it looked like an old marble composition notebook for those who thrive on nostalgia). →  The Last Readment

Where to get gaming news

When it comes to my favorite places for gaming news, I seem to go in cycles. I find one or two sites that I use to learn general (and sometimes subtle) info, and then discover the really obscure stuff through favorite forums. It is a good system, so long as I keep refreshing it by ditching sites when they lose their potency (or just bug me) and finding new ones.

Folks, it has come time for some updates, and I’m looking for suggestions. I finally realized just how much I bitch about game blogs like Kotaku and Joystiq, and yet continued to visit them. Today was the breaking point. This morning Joystiq had seven separate posts about Spore. Any responsible news site would take such a media explosion and condense it into some sort of “Spore news section.” →  The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Read

What is a game, EGM?

It’s depressing to see prominent video game publications play the role of the conservative establishment. Edge magazine recently doubted that games should strive to be more than simply games. Thank god a modern day equivalent didn’t convince Disney or Groening that cartoons should be no more than children’s entertainment.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Electronic Gaming Monthly has begun reviewing what they call “non-games.” Try as I might, I cannot come up with a satisfactory definition of the word game. EGM must have, though, if they now dedicate a portion of their magazine to video games that are not games. EGM owes the entire community this definition because it may end many squabbles over which consoles are doing well, which games matter, and where the industry is heading.

Before they enlighten the world with a precise definition of game, they need to consider some of the difficulty others have had with the word. →  I’ll read you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!

Vic Ireland selling off all his games?

So it would seem. He will even sign them for you but they don’t come cheap. From the eBay auction for Popful Mail:

“Still cleaning out my closets, and I’ve found this brand-new, still sealed copy of Popful Mail for the SEGA CD. As the USA Director/Producer/Writer, I can even autograph it if you wish, making it truly collectible. It’s your choice, with or without the autograph.”

After seeing what a sealed copy of Chrono Trigger fetched on eBay recently, these sealed games may be a good investment. Popful Mail and the Lunar’s are solid titles, but Albert Odyssey, Sega Ages and Shining Wisdom are hard sells, and this is coming from a Sega/Camelot fanatic. Vic must’ve already sold off Vay to pay his electric bill.

This is not a good sign for Gaijin Works, the company he founded after closing niche jRPG house Working Designs. →  All you need is read.

School of Shmups: Gradius

Game: Gradius
Original Release: 1985
Developer: Konami

Platform: Gradius was released on a great number of systems. The most important of its original releases were the arcade version and the NES port, which was technically inferior but was the easiest way for most people to experience it.

How to play it: These days, your best bet for playing Gradius is probably the NES version offered on the Virtual Console. It has some small changes to the level design, and you can only carry two Options, but the rest of the port is very faithful and quite impressive for the NES hardware. If you are purist and need the arcade version, you will have to track down the excellent Gradius Collection on the PSP.

What it is: While not one of the very earliest shmups, Gradius is still something of a pioneer. →  Katamari Damaread

Video games as art: Passage

If there were any lingering doubt as to the status of video games as a viable art medium, Passage lays that argument to rest. I’m not saying Passage is the first inventive concept ever, nor am I denying the artistic merits of video games up to this point. However, Passage is undeniably one of the most original ideas in gaming today and, more importantly, it is executed with a minimalist perfection that you simply must experience for yourself. Oh, and did I mention it’s a free download?

So, video games are a legitimate art form? Of course, the debate is over (and has been for some time from my perspective). However, for all the skeptics, Passage is the final nail in the coffin; the fat lady singing Queen’s “We Are The Champions” right as she delivers a knockout punch…on Judgment Day (in the biblical sense, not Terminator). →  Hell is other gamers.

Hysteria Over Mass Effect and the Infantilization of America: On the Benefits of Exposing Children to Adult Material

Volumes have already been written regarding the recent clash between several conservative pundits and the gaming community over ‘objectionable’ material in BioWare’s newest addition to the RPG genre, Mass Effect. What the conservative pundits found abhorrent was that the game offers the option for the main character to develop a romantic involvement with a bi-sexual member of another species which culminates in a 40 second love scene somewhere around the 30 hour mark of game play. Yet another editorial in defense of the game would likely serve little to no purpose. (A forthcoming review of Mass Effect will hopefully provide all the defense the game needs from misinformed critics.) In this instance, my reason for setting finger to keyboard is to focus briefly on the detrimental effects of the rapidly escalating, conservatively rooted, child protection fetish. →  Lamers so loved the world that they gave their only article, so that everyone who believes in reading won’t perish but will have eternal lives.

The Trouble with Tactics

As I’m sure you can tell by my previous articles, I love RPGs and strategy games. It should follow, then, that I love the Strategy RPG genre. Just like peanut butter and pizza. Although I like some SRPGs, I have some issues with the genre, particularly the Tactical subgenre. By “Tactical”, I mean finer-scale games where you manage each individual taking part in battles.

For example, I started up Shining Force a couple months ago via the wonders of Virtual Console. I began noticing occasional oddities; enemies with low agility would move twice when my high-agility archers never got a move in, for example (Hans was useless anyways). Levels would either be quite useful or really suck.

You can’t tell from this picture, but the priest and thief are horribly under-leveled.
 →  Is that an article in your pants, or are you just happy to read me?

Gametap grows, but is it changing for the worse?

For the longest time, Gametap was a confident and persistent service that had a vision and, at least content wise, seemed to be making good on their promises. In the last year however, the service has changed considerably. They began supporting original projects, such as the critically loved Sam and Max episodes. They offered a select few games for free every week for anyone to play. Their community site exploded, and now rather than merely offering forums and commentary on their own games, the ‘tap has reviews and commentary about the industry as a whole. Blogs like Joystiq now cover the weekly releases with some semblance of seriousness. Not bad for an idea that no one thought would catch on. As for myself, I have been impressed with Gametap ever since I signed up in the summer of ’06. →  Read me now, believe me later.

Tales of Tactility

Remember H.A.L? That evil-genius-space-robot from Clarke/Kubrick’s 2001? It seems like most of the time I hear him mentioned it’s from some miniaturization fetishist from the Church of Jobs (Steve). Something along the lines of “can you believe how big they thought computers would be back in the 60’s?!?!” Nevermind that the ability to create a sentient AI is still far beyond our reach, and that supercomputers still take up entire rooms. Fans of the MacBook Air expect super-intelligent robots to get lost in a container of Tic-Tacs.

But H.A.L’s massiveness underscores a point about machines that gets lost nowadays: that they are composed real objects and are themselves physical as well as intellectual. David Bowman doesn’t defeat H.A.L. by uploading a virus or outrationalizing it until it “cannot compute.” He inserts himself into its innards and takes it apart circuit-board by circuit-board. →  Sounds mildly entertaining, I guess.

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 2.1.08

New game from Parappa masterminds
Well this sounds promising. A new Wii game from the creator and lead artist of Parappa the Rapper. What’s this, Majesco is publishing it? That’ll be ok, a good idea doesn’t need 10 million dollars to work. Err, it’s a marching band simulator? That… sounds cool. I mean, I’ve always despised parades and anyone who likes them and walking around while playing music makes as much sense as reading while performing ballet, but… Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind?

90% of American DS owners pirate games
This comes from the Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association and is wrong. It is so wrong it makes normally unbelievable things believable. If you told me the butter on my bagel was not actually butter right after telling me that 90% of DS owners pirate games, I wouldn’t think twice. →  A reader is you.