It’s the DLC, stupid!

Recently details came out about Guitar Hero: World Tour. It will have a fancy drum kit with faux cymbals. It will allow for music composition (sweet on paper). It may or may not be backwards compatible with DLC to date (depends on what article you read). It will feature approximately 85 master track songs, and will have a stronger downloadable content stream. It will also feature improved peripherals. Pricing will be “competitive” with Rock Band.

Rock Band 2 was just announced. It will feature improved peripherals, as well as support for third party peripherals. This is a great idea, because the equipment business sucks, and if Harmonix can find someone else to make better equipment, they can focus on their core competency: the music (we’ll get into that later). DLC songs will not only be forwards compatible, they will be backwards compatible: even if you choose not to upgrade to Rock Band 2, you will be able to continue to purchase new DLC and use it. →  I’m gonna take you for a read.

Best Game Ever – Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition

Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition (hereafter referred to as JP:RE) is truly a one of a kind game. In my decades of playing games, I have never come across anything quite like it.

Whee!

Back in the early nineties some developer released the movie tie-in game Jurassic Park for the Sega Genesis. The game used digitized sprites, similar to those of Mortal Kombat. You moved a photorealistic (for the time) Dr. Grant around, shooting tranquilizer darts at spitters and compies so you could make it through very slow paced and quite challenging platforming levels. Any drop over 10 feet tended to kill you. Most dinosaurs would kill you with a few hits. 90% of your arsenal was tranquilizers and gas grenades, forcing you to save your concussion grenades and Quake lightning gun (no seriously, it’s in there) for the raptor encounters. →  We have the best words.

Tales From Behind the Counter – The Walking Dead

I love zombies. I love zombies so much that I would be lying if I said there weren’t nights that I have gone to bed hoping to wake up the following morning in a full-blown zombacalypse. In many ways this column and my video game store are in a state of zombie purgatory, not quite dead but not completely living either. Let me explain:

About two or three weeks ago a series of events transpired that granted me the magical power of telepathy. In the subsequent moments of enlightenment, I learned that the people who own my video game store were running into some serious financial issues in terms of the stores and keeping them running. We are not talking a missed phone bill payment, we are discussing a shambling, fetid, corpse of over $10k debt. →  Final Post VII

Review – The World Ends with You

Set in present-day Shibuya, a Tokyo ward is famous for its fashion, The World Ends with You (TWEWY) is an RPG that follows the story of Neku Sakuraba as he wakes up in a busy intersection with no memories. A text message informs him that for the next week he will be a participant in the Reaper’s Game; failure to participate risks erasure. Players follow Neku’s journey of self-discovery (turning from emo-punk to… less of an emo-punk) as he meets other players of the Reaper’s Game and tries to discover the stakes of the game, why he’s playing, and how to win.

Now, I may be a bit biased since I can sing along to an unfortunate amount of Utada Hikaru and Rachel Yamagata tunes, but the aesthetic of TWEWY is delicious and expertly executed. →  Theme Postital

My Life as a Hermitic King

Around day 100 or so it starts to become painfully clear that playing My Life as a King consists of little more than assigning spreadsheet characters to spreadsheet dungeons. As this understanding of the game mechanics slowly dawned on me, I began to go to bed earlier each day (virtual king me, not real me).

Calling Chime in every morning to put me back to sleep after I had finished running to the sign post and assigning every adventurer to the open behest I was met with the question, “Are you tired already, sire?” At first I felt like an emperor who had come down with mononucleosis.

This gave way to my recitation of the few lines of Macbeth’s soliloquy I still recall. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow… The days had blended into each other and none of them seemed to matter at all. →  Lords of the Read 2

Review – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Ahh yes, Metal Gear Solid! We come to it at last! If the blithering of pungent otaku hermits is to be believed this legendary video game franchise will act like a combination of Viagra and powdered rhinoceros horn on the superfluous appendage of the fanboy elite. Crafted over the course of years by the very kensai of console gaming; Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear Solid 4 — Guns of the Patriots is said to be the conclusion and crowning achievement of this twenty year old epic. The game’s protagonist; Solid Snake, nears the end of his life and with his last remaining days he will battle all adversaries, both old and new, for the freedom of the entire planet!

Not bad, eh? So after all that let me just come out and tell you what you want to know right off the bat: Guns of the Patriots is a must-have PS3 title for two reasons. →  Jesus: Readful Bio Monster

Review – Persona 3 FES

Atlus used to be rather stingy about bringing games over. We received the first Persona, sure, but it was missing a large sidequest and the story was changed to make it take place in the US. We didn’t receive the first half of Persona 2, although the second half came introduced us to Atlus par: a good translation, but a small release that could not match demand. They are finally making up for their earlier slacking with Persona 3: FES.

FES contains the original Persona 3 (called “The Journey” here) with tweaks and improvements as well as an epilogue in the form of “The Answer.” Between them, we get about 100 hours of solid, story-heavy JRPG, all for the wonderful price of $30.

For those who weren’t reading the first time around, Persona 3 is about a group of highschoolers who find themselves wielding a power, called Persona, that they don’t fully understand. →  All you need is read.

Bad Company, good reviews for EA?

Recently I played the single player demo of Battlefield: Bad Company. While opinions on the single player may be worthless for a game that everyone is anticipating for its multiplayer, such excuses don’t fly here at vl.

The fact is that Bad Company’s SP is the worst kind of worthless. It is a squad based military shooter with a four man group of cliches, and finicky aiming that comes nowhere near replicating Call of Duty 4’s smooth controls. It touts destructible environments, but my mortar rounds were never able to put a dent in any buildings, though running over a fence with a cargo truck makes it break apart in the most unrealistic, tech demo way.

Worse yet, in the demo level your squad won’t leave the truck you drive until you get to a destination marker, which places you in the middle of a town where every enemy can open fire on you. →  It was the best of games, it was the worst of games

Review – Ninja Gaiden II

Ninja Gaiden 2 is not an earth-shattering masterpiece. As much as the fan in me wants to spout absurd levels of hyperbole that put recent GTA4 and MGS4 reviews to shame, and devote five paragraphs to how this game’s Oscar-worthy story made me regret having even existed before its release date, I feel it’s more relevant to discuss why games like this are so important in the current landscape of the video game industry.

The game represents what I consider to be the “Nintendo Legacy.” Back in the Sega & Nintendo days, games were short. A combination of small development groups, limited resources, and hardware abilities of the time meant that games of the era were around 2-5 hours long. So how do you give a player lasting value to justify the price tag for such a short experience? →  Jet fuel can’t melt videolamer.

Review – Grand Theft Auto IV

When it comes to reviewing GTA IV, I am not even sure why we bother. We all know the game is going to sell more than anything else in 2008. We have all decided whether to buy it before reading reviews. Grand Theft Auto is such a part of our industry and pop culture in general that discussing it seems to be a waste of time, like discussions of each season of American Idol.

These discussions are also worthless because GTA IV just isn’t that good. Rockstar made a great game with GTA III, and managed to woo us yet again with the blue skies and 80’s schtick of Vice City. Since then they seem to have lost the point of it all, burrowing further and further into a hole of wrong ideas, all the while convincing most of the gaming world of their supposed genius. →  You lost me.

Playing catch up – River City Ransom

In my attempt to rectify my mostly Nintendo-less childhood I have been purchasing Virtual Console games at an unhealthy rate. Chrono Trigger and Super Mario World both lived up to their legendary reputations so I was excited to finally try River City Ransom (ignore that it’s slightly less popular and on a different console from the other two).

River City Ransom’s similarities to Double Dragon are obvious and I am proud to say it took about a second for me to figure out how to jump kick. (A and B at the same time for all you losers who haven’t played the exact same games as I have). The move set does seem somewhat pared down, though – is it actually possible to headbutt or elbow in River City Ransom? The action is ultimately very similar to earlier Technos games (such as Renegade) if a little less exciting. →  The post still burns.

Review – Eve Online Empyrean Age

Every so often, Eve does a major patch, introduces new goodies, and calls it an expansion. Normally I’d mock such marketing tactics, but since Eve doesn’t charge for these expansions, I will instead laud them. The last patch, Trinity, finally updated the ancient Eve graphics engine, setting the bar high for any future add-ons. Empyrean Age focuses around in-game content, specifically “faction warfare.” Faction warfare is one of those things that developers talk about for a long time but nothing ever comes of, sort of like World of Warcraft’s “Hero Classes,” which took two expansions (and the second isn’t out yet) for an underwhelming single class. Accordingly, the Eve community was skeptical of this mythical “faction warfare.”

Fortunately, the Empyrean Age brings one of the more seamless and thoroughly entertaining integrations of player vs. →  Welcome to read.

Tales From Behind The Counter – A Time of Loathing

When working in retail there is one time of year you dread above all others: the holidays. It means angry customers with no time and no money, pissed off that they have to brave ice covered roads and bumper car parking lots instead of being gleeful and warm in the comfort of their own homes. In video game retail land, there is one other time that I have come to regard in the same way I would a diagnosis of colon cancer: EA Sports Game Release season. Also called, the Unholidays, with a long e sound on that i.

During this time, Electronic Arts decides to rain shit from the sky in the form of a new NCAA everything, new Madden, new baseball whatever, and [shudder] Nascar 09. I would rather play most of these sports over having to deal with the people who come in to buy these games and that, my friends, should tell you something. →  Beyond Read & Evil

Peripheral Disdain

Hate Goes HERE

My girlfriend is pretty solid into Mario Kart. This was made clear to me when we started dating, that any attempt to usurp her Mario Kart dominance would be met with pure and unfettered force; the kind you would expect from the core of an exploding sun.

Not one to back down to that sort of challenge, I wrapped up my attempt at her throne in a pretty bow and gave it to her, a shit eating grin slapped on, for her birthday along with Mario Kart Wii and an additional wheel. This additional wheel, it was for me. For me to use to kick her ass.

Before you lose your dork-load trying to tell me how amazing the GC controller is and how lame we are to be using the wheel it should be mentioned that her golden path of pwnership was swathed wide with a wavebird, and that these wheels we got – we got them for fun. →  God of War: Readnarok

Review of an Insecticide interview

Insecticide is a recently released adventure game featuring shooting levels. It was developed by a team composed of several of the people responsible for some of the great adventure games produced by LucasArts over the years.

And it got some pretty bad reviews. With a Metacritic score of 55/100, it’s looking less and less like an overlooked gem. Reviews so far have tended to enjoy the adventure aspects, and have almost universally panned the action/shooter sequences.

IGN offered Mike Levine (who worked on The Dig, Sam and Max Hit the Road, and The Curse of Monkey Island among others) a chance to respond to the negative reviews. The interview is available here, and reading it was one of the more disillusioning experiences of my gaming career.

Now I want to be clear. →  Are you ready for some readball?

….Metal Gear?

Folks, it’s that time of the month. No not that; the monthly blockbuster is out. Hot off the heels of GTA IV, Metal Gear Solid 4 gives PS3 users a reason to rejoice. It also makes a hell of an excuse for me to finally pick up a PS3. I’m not going to get into the story, but suffice to say it was a bit of a trial to save for and obtain the console, culminating in a fairly easy pickup at the local Walmart early Thursday morning.

It feels good to welcome a new console into the house, and it will mean vl can get more PS3 reviews on the site. Perhaps I will write a bit about the console’s user experience, though I doubt anyone cares.

In any case, MGS4 is now out, reviews are coming in, and the results are actually unsurprising. →  The Adventures of Cookie and Read

Review – Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles My Life as a King of the Jews

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is a simulation game. When I first saw the name, I thought it would be another delightfully (?) simple RPG. Instead, here we have a delightfully simple sim; in fact, MLAK is hands-off nearly to the point of annoyance.

In MLAK, you build your city structure by structure and converse with your citizens (when they are willing to talk to you, that is). That is just about it. The city is composed of empty green glowing spaces that mark where you can place buildings when you have the resources needed for their construction. These buildings range from houses to various shops for your citizens and adventurers. You commission these adventurers to explore the surrounding wilderness to get more resources and advance the plot, and occasionally they will actually do so. →  I am become game, destroyer of words.

Review – Call of Duty 2: Big Red One

I have a confession to make. Despite my general crankiness about the game industry, as well as my increasingly picky taste, I have a soft spot for a bane of the industry: World War 2 shooters. Chalk it up to the fact I am a history buff with a desire to compare in-game depictions of certain battles and weaponry to reality. This weakness has led me to play some of the worst Medal of Honor games, as well as to attempt to beat Call of Duty 3 on two different platforms (I finished neither). Finally the genre has provided a diamond in the rough.

When Call of Duty 2 was released on 360 and PC, someone decided to give gamers still using “old gen” consoles a consolation prize. A “bitch game” if you will. →  What is a post? A miserable little pile of secrets.

Translate your damn sites

Ever been to your favorite developer’s website only to find out you can’t read it (assuming your favorite developers are exactly the same as mine), not because of the onset of Sudden Illiteracy Syndrome (SIS) but because it’s in an entirely incomprehensible-scribble-based language?

Head over to Camelot’s official site and be in awe of how much cool content they have – little bios on each of the Takahashi brothers, a map to their office (or perhaps buried treasure), in-depth pages on the entire Shining series. Now realize it’s all in accursed Japanese and you will never, ever be able to read it (EVER). Staff interviews, questions and answers, and Golden Sun pages are all hidden behind abstruse kanji and katakana, hiding their secrets from us like a ninja with a secret…and a sword! →  Snap! Crackle! Read!

Review – Civilization Revolution Demo

As the name might imply, it’s hard to make a full judgment of Civilization Revolution based on the demo for a few reasons. The game is time limited, you can only play on “pussy” or “Jay” mode (we’ll let the readers decide which is worse), both giving you bonuses significant enough that it’s hard to get a flavor for real balance. The Civlopedia isn’t full, so you can’t analyze all the techs without playing countless times, and you are limited to two civilizations. Despite these limitations, what you can do is get a good feeling for how Firaxis dramatically changed the game-style of Civ while still keeping it Civ–a paraphrased sentence you’ve heard over and over again about the game which is an excellent way to open up this review.

This is unrealistic.

 →  Hell is other gamers.