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. →  A reader is you.

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). →  Sounds mildly entertaining, I guess.

Retrospective – Metroid Prime 2

Continuing our look at the fabled Metroid Prime series, we now delve into Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. It’s a common occurrence in the video game medium that a franchise peaked early in its life time. When a game is as stellar as the first Metroid Prime, it’s going to be very hard to create something better. And this is an apt description of Echoes. It’s definitely a good game, but sadly, with nothing new to show, and a few problems introduced, Echoes doesn’t live up to expectations.

In this installment, Samus has accepted a request to find a missing Galactic Federation starship that was last heard from while hunting down a Space Pirate frigate above the planet Aether. All communications with the GF starship have been lost since then. Not one to pass up easy money, Samus accepts the mission and travels to Aether, but as she enters the atmosphere, a virulent electrical storm damages her gunship, leaving her stranded on Aether until her ship repairs itself. →  They’re reading her… and then they’re going to read me!

What happened to competition? From arcades to gamerscores

Remember high scores. You don’t see them around very much, though they still pop up in some of my favorite new games. But why exactly did they begin to disappear? We generally hear explanations involving the rise of story based games and other such nonsense, but when three of the most popular games of the decade are Halo, Madden and World of Warcraft, it is tough to accept this as an era of Single Player. There must be another reason.

Before we look for that reason, we should start from the beginning and look at the nature of the high score. There were surely hacks and exploits available in some classic games (as any Street Fighter fan will know), but I would like to think they weren’t commonplace, and that more often than not the list of high scores in an arcade cabinet was the honest work of skilled players. →  You had me at read more.

Review – God of War 2

Here is a checklist of some of the highlights from the original God of War: challenge a god, escape from Hades after being killed, defeat numerous figures from Greek mythology, murder a soldier in order to solve a puzzle, travel to a variety of shiny temples, hunt down ancient treasures in order to face your foes, obtain mythical powers from the gods. Like it or not, the pieces came together to make a game that was more than merely successful.

But what happens when the sequel does the exact same thing? The story, gameplay, pacing and visual style of God of War 2 is almost identical, as if they took the old checklist from the drawer, rearranged a few things, and got right to work on making enough behind the scenes features to span their own disc, which I suppose proves how much more work they did compared to the first time. →  Oops, I did it again.

Stop making it so hard to say I love you: A list of gamer’s demands

Look, we know each other pretty well and I think it’s time I talk to you about some of your bad habits. In the course of many years of gaming, I’ve found myself infuriated (in-fucking-furiated!) by problems that should have disappeared long ago. I think if you take an honsest look at yourself, you’ll see that you do these things just to get on my last nerve. Let’s resolve you’ll fix them once and for all.

Let me pause. Every game, any time. Sometimes I need space. I don’t care if I’m in the final boss fight. I might have to pee. Let me pause during all cutscenes. Yes, it’s engrossing to hear some big-eyed character finally confess his love to another big-eyed character or watch my current action hero do some bad-ass moves that I can’t actually do in the game, but I might still want to pause. →  Oops, I did it again.

Rumor Factory: Music Downloads on Wii?

If you’ve been keeping up to date with your voting on the Everybody Votes Channel on the Wii (which you should be, btw), then you have seen a particularly interesting question that Nintendo is asking all of its American users:

“How do you prefer to buy music?”

The possible choices Nintendo has supplied are a) download or b) CD. Now, this can just be labeled as a seemingly innocuous question that tries to get more users to vote on the channel, but what if this were the first indication that Nintendo might be in the planning phases for a Music Download Channel, something akin to Apple’s iTunes store?

The Everybody Votes Channel is the perfect venue for Nintendo to better understand its customers, as well as to test out any ideas it has up its sleeve for the future. →  Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Authors, Nine Articles

Miyamoto could make Halo, but doesn’t wanna

In a pretty enlightening interview on EW.com, Shigeru Miyamoto openly says that he could design a game like Halo for the American market, but that it’s just not what he wants to do.

Miyamoto says he tries to bring something new to the end-user experience, something that fans didn’t even know they wanted. That may sound a bit egotistical, but it makes perfect sense. Most people want a game that they’ve played before because they know it was fun, like someone saying they want a sci-fi FPS. But if developers always followed what the consumer wants, we would never get something like Katamari Damacy or the Wii.

That’s what Miyamoto was trying to say. It’s not like he thinks Halo is a simple game that anyone can design. It’s just not his style to do something like that. →  Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Bore me and I sleep.

Mindlessness in games

I read a good article recently on the heavy use of the word “gameplay” in games journalism. Agree with it or not, the author makes a good point; there is no equivalent word in any other industry jargon. Most sentences that use the word gameplay can be rewritten in some form to create something more descriptive and authoritative. It got me thinking about another mainstay of the lingo that has been bothering me as of late – “mindless”.

The word is used all too often, so much so that I can’t even generalize about whether it is usually in a pejorative or positive sense. According to my scouring of IGN, reviewers and gamers find the following games to be “mindless”:

Tomb Raider Legend
Rainbow Six Vegas
Sonic Riders
Resident Evil 4
Trigger Man
Ninety Nine Nights
Both Half Lifes
Painkiller
Call of Duty 3
Tekken Tag Tournament

For the sake of discussion, let’s just say this (very partial) list is a mix of terrible, average, and a few Game of the Year winners. →  I'd rather die than not read this article!

Too Human Will Be Too Great

I’ve had just about enough of this Too Human bashing on the Internet. Everywhere I go, I read the same thing: because of last year’s horrid E3 showing, the game is going to flop harder than Granny’s flap jacks.

Need I remind you who is making Too Human? The ever-powerful and intelligent-sounding Silicon Knights. Yes, the same Silicon Knights that brought you the gift to gamers Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, my favorite GameCube game of all time.

Trying to figure out why these “journalists” say such harsh things is taking all my energy. Yes, the camera angles were weird, the frame-rate was all over the place, and the load times were long. But that was in May of 2006. The game isn’t due to be released until July of 2007. That’s more than a year to get everything in shape. →  Rayman Reading Rabbids

Review – Advent Rising

This is one of those times I’m sorry I listened to the reviews on a game and passed it up. I had been following Advent Rising mostly because its story was written by Orson Scott Card (author of the Ender’s Game series) and it was originally supposed to be an epic, three-part sci-fi adventure. From the screenshots and scraps of gameplay videos I saw, it looked quite promising.

However, upon its release Advent Rising got anywhere from mediocre to downright insulting reviews. Most complained of crippling bugs and game engine problems, making the game virtually unplayable. Others said the story was boring and then made worse by bad voice acting talent. I have no idea what game these people were playing.

You see this glowing orb of destruction … yeah, not many people can do this.

 →  Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Authors, Nine Articles

Series Retrospective: Tekken

When I left for college three years ago, I made the transition as smoothly as anyone could ask for. No horrible case of homesickness, no glaring social problems. Even made the Dean’s List for the first and only time. There really wasn’t anything to worry about, save for one major adjustment; there were no gamers on campus.

She is bending over with such force that her hair is blowing. Amazing.

Sure, there were people who played, but it was usually the stereotypical group of guys who got drunk and played a lot of Madden, GTA and Halo (I would later come to embrace and sometimes join these fellows, but that is for another day). That, or I found hipsters who continued to play Mario Kart 64, insisting that it was the pinnacle of gaming, even after it received a sequel with a stable framerate. →  Read it your way.

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 11.3.06

Halo movie indefinitely stalled
That a Peter Jackson backed Halo movie probably won’t get made despite the fact that Uwe Boll continually releases game based movies is beyond hilarious. Clearly, if there is a god he is evil, or maybe he just has a great sense of humor.

A scene from the upcoming Castlevania movie.

Castlevania movie coming
Odds are, this movie will be slightly better than Van Helsing. The problem is that Van Helsing is solidly on “so bad it’s good” ground, and so Castlevania, by being better, will be worse. Castlevania’s only hope is to be crappier than Van Helsing (or actually good, but let’s not get crazy) and therefore better. This all makes sense, right?

PS3 launching in Hong Kong and Taiwan on November 17
As an American, it is my god given right to believe I am more important than any damn foreigner. →  Read or Alive 2: Hardcore

The Propaganda Project: J Allard

J Allard — Corporate Vice Presient, Microsoft

Empowerment to the next level, Allard is a PR guy who really loves clichés that push the envelope. Luckily, he seems to be grounded in what makes games good as he has said many times that graphics are a single component and not necessarily important. He also frequently says he wants to expand the market, mirroring Nintendo’s stated goal. Because dirt on Allard was significantly harder to find than on Harrison, some of the quote categories have been left out and I even added a new one: Inspirational.

(For an explanation of what this article is, please read this.)
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Bitchy Comments
Some people say the Xbox 360 looks the same as other systems. That it is just more of the same, just more powerful than the other systems. →  Go ahead, read my day.

Review – Ikaruga

Is the game really about black and white or red and blue? It really makes you think.

Old-school shooters are a dying genre. There are only a handful of franchises left today, but there used to be countless shooters at your local arcade. Were they too hard for the masses? Did the arcades take something with them when they were given the final blow? It’s probably a combination of a lot of things, but at least one thing is for sure: Treasure knows shooters and Ikaruga is testament to that. Filled with excruciatingly difficult gameplay, Ikaruga makes you work for your fun.

If you’ve ever played Gradius or Galaga, you essentially know how to play Ikaruga. It’s an old-school shooter that pits you against an entire army of ships wanting to decimate you. →  In all ages, hypocrites, called producers, have put crowns upon the heads of thieves, called publishers.

Review – Frequency

Tron? Rez? A seizure?

So here it is, Harmonix’s first console game, Frequency. The gameplay is essentially the same as playing DDR with a pad; notes cascade along the screen, and you hit buttons along to the beat. But Frequency isn’t about simulating dance steps — the angle here is on music generation and remixing. In this respect, the game manages to provide a unique experience that is only possible thanks to the nature of videogames. On the other hand, like DDR on a pad, there’s only so much fun that can be had with such basic gameplay. Harmonix tries to add some features to make it more like an arcade shooter, but ultimately Frequency walks a very fine line between being an actual game and just an interesting tool.

Frequency has the player float along through an octagonal cylinder (think Tempest) that sits in one of several neon, glowing Tron-worlds. →  Virtua Poster 4: Evolution

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 7.21.06

New Sony patent for motion sensing camera
We’ll have to wait and see if Sony releases a peripheral with this technology for the PS3. The patent refers to older similar technology Sony has designed so it provides a good defense to the claims that Sony is merely copying Nintendo. The question now becomes is Sony rushing these technologies to market in response to Nintendo.

Both Sony and Nintendo have advantages in how their products are being sold. If Sony’s new motion sensing technology sells well, games that make use of it will follow. But the product is statistically likely to be another throwaway peripheral with minimal support. If Nintendo’s gamble pays off their motion sensitive games will likely far outnumber the PS3’s and be superior in quality. Conversely, if the Wiimote concept doesn’t work then they have a much farther fall than Sony. →  Let’s get read-y.

Learning from Japanese Synergy

Synergy is not a word to be recklessly tossed about. It is a seriously proactive relationship between outside of the box marketing and paradigm shifting branding that can result in untold of revenue for your company. The video game market has created new opportunities for the realignment of business models in this post category killer Ted spread. Tracing this synergy to its roots leads us across the Pacific.

The Japanese consumer will buy anything. Despite saving more than Americans, the Japanese are extremely hardcore in their loyalty. People who follow an anime will buy any worthless product tie in, people who like school girls will spend money on used school girl underwear, and people who like a game series will buy food and drinks as long as it has the series logo on it. →  Can you read me now?

Review – Wario Ware, Inc.

Wario Ware, Inc.
Developed by Nintendo and Intelligent Systems
Published by Nintendo
Released 10.17.03

Jump rope game
The Daddy Mac will make you…

Nintendo gets a bad rap (from normal people, not losers like me). They practically invented the platform game, brought video games back after the crash of the early 80’s, showed us how a 3D platformer should look, perfected the action RPG, pioneered handheld gaming and released a headset game system after even Sega pulled the plug on their Virtual (or should I say Virtua) Reality system (although not doing what Sega does is generally good business practice). Well add another accomplishment to Nintendo’s long list, because Wario Ware Inc is incredibly different.

Most games made up of minigames are crappy, but if the games are good enough then the game as a whole can be excellent, like Pirates! →  Reading. Reading never changes.