Thursday, June 28, 2007

Shadow of the Colossus Review

    I'm going to be frank- when I first started Shadow of the Colossus, I hated it. I hated how the character, Wander, was so very awkward as opposed to the normal badass I'm used to controlling in a videogame. I hated how the controls felt needlessly unconventional. I hated the horse, Agro, because he was so stubborn and hard to control.

    But then, something changed. I started to appreciate how Wander was so different and felt more...real. I started to appreciate that the strange controls only added to that feeling of awkwardly trying to find a way to fell a massive beast hundreds of times my size. I still hate that goddamn horse though, but I'll get to him later.

    In most games, you fight hordes of mindless drones, maybe a sub-boss or two, then take on the main attraction, the big boss. And when you're done, you move on, no big deal- you've slain plenty of baddies before, so why should he be any different? In Shadow, that doesn't really apply, and thank God for that.

    At first, I was pretty skeptical at how it all would work. I mean, 16 boss fights and no grunt enemies? Didn't really make a lot of sense to me. But, as with a lot of Shadow's unique qualities, they take some time to fully appreciate. Each boss fight felt absolutely creative and epic. You're just a scrawny teenager facing off against a huge and daunting creature, and you actually win. It's a feeling of accomplishment that is severely lacking in most games- when you finally fell a's a rush. It's one of the few moments where a videogame has made me feel literally proud of something I've done, something I've accomplished.

    But Shadow did something else as well: It made me feel guilty. Some of the Colossi will just outright attack you the moment they lay eyes on you, and I took an admittedly morbid pleasure in slaying those few. But some of the Colossi ignore you until you attack them. Some of the Colossi refuse to attack you, even when you're stabbing them to death. They'll cry out in pain, writhing around, trying with all their might just to save themselves from this little parasite that's killing them.

    And that's what you are to them- a mere parasite. Imagine if you saw an ant crawling on your toe. Do you honestly consider it to be any sort of threat? Of course not. But what if that ant just kept crawling? Soon it's on your leg, now your back, and now it's on the back of your neck at your brain stem. Now it bit you, and you're in searing pain, trying in vain to shake and claw and do whatever it takes to get that ant the fuck off of you. That's what the Colossi are going through.

    One of the best moments I've ever had in gaming to date actually came from Shadow of the Colossus for that specific reason: One of the Colossi has you dangling from his hand, examining you as though you were a fairly amusing insect. It's just an utterly captivating moment. And the game's story, while minimalistic, is actually pretty moving, something rare in videogames. Without giving too much away, I've never been a big fan of happy endings where everything just conveniently all works out in the end, so I loved this one.

    It'd be a crime not to at least mention some of the sweeping and powerful melodies that play as you deal with each Colossi. To be perfectly honest, they made me feel like a hero- here I am, hanging on for dear life on top of a beast hundreds of feet tall, stabbing it in the head with a shining sword, trumpets blaring and drums pounding. It's truly amazing. I'm proud to say that I own that soundtrack. And the land, characters, and environment all share a gorgeous art style that really accentuates those feelings I just mentioned.

    But let's go over some of the negatives now. Yeah, those graphics I just talked about? The PS2...has a bit of a hard time keeping up. The frame rate suffers, though never enough to significantly affect your enjoyment, but you will notice it at the very least. And the limitations of your character? Yeah, those can get a little annoying at times. Also, one Colossi is like a bull and just a really poorly designed fight- I got knocked down almost immediately, then the moment I got up... BOOM! Knocked down again. Rinse and repeat for about half an hour. Yeah, not fun. (The two bull Colossi in the game were the ones I took morbid pleasure in killing, by the way.)

    Finally, Agro, the horse, is just DUMB. I get that it's supposed to be more realistic that he doesn't come to you all the time because that's apparently what real horses do, but dammit! This is supposed to be a game first and a horse simulator never. So out in the field when we're just chilling, that's fine, I don't really mind. But when I'm about to become nothing more than a small splat on the bottom of a Colossus' fat foot? Not so fine. And the last thing I feel it's necessary to mention about Agro is that he tends to pull one way or another, guiding himself (like a real horse would I guess), which is actually great on narrow, windy bridges because you don't have to steer him at all, but going through areas full of trees is a different story- the idiot heads straight for a tree, rears back and turns around, so I'll try to take over, but with him pulling every which way, I'm still going to end up with nostrils full of bark.

    All in all, Shadow of the Colossus is a fantastic and moving game that is one of the rare few to give you a sense of accomplishment and question your actions.
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Sunday, June 24, 2007

In The News (6/17-6/23)

The Road to Manhunt 2
    Even if you never played it, like me, you've probably at least heard of Rockstar's Manhunt. It was one of the most violent, savage games around, and didn't exactly get the support of politicians and angry white-haired lawyers. Many wondered how Rockstar could top itself if/when a sequel would be made. Well, they have. Manhunt 2 was just banned in Britain, in America, and in Ireland.
     I find it completely ridiculous that the movie industry practically has free reign to do whatever they please, releasing unrated movies and having X-rated theaters, but the videogame industry isn't even allowed to have games made specifically for adults.
    So now Rockstar has to rework Manhunt 2 to get a Mature rating so that it can actually be published, considering Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft's policy that forbids an AO-rated game to even be made for their respective consoles.
    The whole thing is absolutely ludicrous. I'm not disputing the legality of the situation, since Sony and Nintendo have every right to ban it from their consoles, but I just don't understand why we can't have games that aren't appropriate for minors. But you know what the kicker is in all of this? 1UP and GameSpot both agree that Manhunt 2 isn't even the most gruesome game they've ever played.

Microsoft Is Suing Immersion
    Immersion, the guys who put the "shock" in "Dual Shock 2," had just wrapped up their little $90 million legal matter, but now they're back in court, but this time, they're the defendants.
    Apparently, Microsoft made Immersion sign a deal that Immersion would pay Microsoft a certain amount of money in the event that Immersion and Sony settled. Immersion doesn't feel like that's necessary since they never technically settled with Sony; they've just got a new business deal. Microsoft obviously feels otherwise.
    Immersion doesn't really have much of a defense, and they know it considering how uncertain they sound in whether or not they'll win. So what does any of this mean for us gamers? Potentially nothing, potentially everything. On one hand, we as gamers realistically won't be too affected. This is a business thing- something that probably won't affect us, the end-users.
    But I'm just saying... If I were Sony, I would wait until Immersion loses the case, then buy them up and refuse to continue licensing rumble out to Microsoft. It'd be poetic irony.

Blacksite: Area 51 Gets Political
    Most games don't bother trying to convey a message, especially a political one. Most games would rather not offend anyone or have that sort of controversy. But occasionally, a game comes along and tries to deliver that message. Generally these are received with mixed results- sometimes it's too heavy with its message, sometimes too deep, and sometimes so incredibly convoluted that you almost didn't even know there was a political message like Killer7.
    But that's not to say that games should just avoid political messages. I mean, movies, books, and TV shows have plenty of themes to influence the audience. So why not games? Well, it's hard, to be frank. Games have to worry about sacrificing gameplay to have a message. A game can have something incredibly to say, but at the end of the day, if it isn't fun, gamers aren't going to be listening.
    Therefore, it's nice to see Blacksite: Area 51 trying to incorporate a political message. Hopefully, this will be one of the first games in recent years to say something about politics, and still be a successful game underneath.

WEEKLY SAMPLER: Shock Market / 380 Games / The Stratocaster / Mini-Master Chief

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Difficulty Issues, Part II

    Yeah, so... I'm lazy. I think that's pretty obvious considering Part II of my Difficulty Issues feature is dropping 23 days after the first one when I meant to write it a mere week after. Oh well. Let's just skip any more theatrics and just get started:

    Let's cover the merits (and demerits) of a challenging game with no shortage of "GAME OVER" screens compared to a game that strives to be more story and character-driven. In the last Difficulty Issues, we explored this a little bit. On one hand, you've got a game that's trying to just be a game- it challenges the player to try harder, punishes a lack of skill, and offers a very real reward (that feeling of accomplishment) at the end. Those kinds of games typically don't place too much emphasis on story elements.

    Then you've got your other kind of game: The game that doesn't push the player too hard or worries too much about skill because the experience is all about being story and character-driven. This type of games strives to tell a tale that can capture the player's imagination and immerse the player in the experiences of the character on-screen.

    Each side has a valid argument. Most games fail to offer any sort of reasonable compromise: By trying to appeal to the folks who want motivation and character-development and a powerful story, the mechanics probably aren't going to be as good as they should be. By trying to appeal to the folks who like a challenge and just want to skip the pointless cut scenes and play the damn game already since it's not a movie, the story is probably going to appear forced and unnatural.

    But for those games that try to appeal to both, what are they to do? Challenging the gamer interrupts the story, but making it too easy to promote the story removes any challenge. It's a tricky thing to do.

    For times like this, I like to call upon my favorite game franchise, God of War, to settle things. God of War offers both experiences: Easy and Normal modes if you just want to blaze through the gameplay and have an amazing and cinematic story experience, and both a Hard and unlockable Very Hard mode if you don't mind a lot of those "GAME OVER" screens.

    Something I think I haven't done so well in the past on my blog is that I've tried to be impartial on these features, very much unlike my reviews. That's going to change: I'll tell you straight up, when it comes to choosing between a difficult, but rewarding gameplay experience with little to no story elements and a game that has a badass story that captivates me throughout, even if it is a little too easy... Well, I'm going with the story.

    Truly great videogame stories are hard to come by, but offer so much more than a typical movie experience- you can connect and relate with a character much better than when you're simply watching that character. Videogames truly are amazing in that respect.

    Again I'll bring up God of War- I absolutely loved the story. It was dark, violent, compelling, and epic in scope. It may not be as deep as a true Ancient Greek mythology tale, but I'll be damned if it isn't more entertaining. Kratos is such a badass in that game that it's not even funny. For Christ's sake, he's already died and crawled out of Hades twice, killed his god half-brother Ares, taken Ares' place as the God of War, and now he's trying to kill his father Zeus, the King of the freaking Gods! Can it get more badass than that? NO.

    Now, the gameplay itself is amazing, but on that Very Hard mode, I simply couldn't stand it. After hours of frustration, I'd finally get to a part that sets up a big, dramatic moment, but it's simply too hard and I've got to do it over and over again. Any dramatic, "holy shit that was awesome!" feeling you get is diminished after seeing it six times in a row.

    That's just me, and I'm unapologetic in that view. I value a good story over a lot of things in a game, even though I can't bring myself to skip cut scenes, even if the story is terrible. For instance, read Reverend Anthony of's quasi-review of Call of Juarez and tell me you wouldn't sacrifice a little gameplay finesse for that story.

    You know that moment when you first see a kickass boss, right? Maybe he used to be your friend, maybe he's fucking huge, maybe he just looks awesome; it doesn't matter- seeing him the first time is awesome in the truest sense of the word. After he kicks your ass sideways about eight times, is it still as dramatic and "no way!" when you see the "big reveal" again? In my experience, never.

    So, if you think I'm wrong, convince me. Which is more important to you, story or a challenge? And is it worth it to give up that "holy shit!" moment to get that challenge?
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Sunday, June 17, 2007

In The News (6/10-6/16)

GTA IV Episodic Content Exclusive to 360
    GTA IV is probably going to be the biggest selling game this holiday season, especially since it's being released from day one on both PS3 and XBOX 360. Many gamers have wondered which will be crowned the superior of the two, with the PS3-loyalists arguing that the lack of a standard hard drive or "next-gen" disc format on the 360 will make the PS3 version superior. Well, it appears that XBOX 360 loyalists have the ammunition they need: GTA IV on 360 is going to have exclusive episodic content.
    Apparently Microsoft paid Rockstar a cool $50 million for two episodic releases, one in March '08, and the other later that year. That's great for 360 gamers, but what incentive can there possibly be now for on-the-fence gamers to side with the PlayStation 3 version? Will they get their own exclusive episodic content or other extras?
    Sony's going to need to pony up the dough if they want GTA IV to help them sell some systems, period. If they leave this unchecked, then Microsoft's small army of AAA exclusives, (Halo 3, Bioshock (for now), Mass Effect, Too Human, Ace Combat 6, etc), and bevy of multi-platform titles, (GTA IV, Blacksite: Area 51, Half-Life 2: Orange Box, Guitar Hero 3, Rock Band, Kane & Lynch, etc), could just overshadow the PS3 this holiday season.

SIXAXIS With Rumble In Development
    Finally. After the messy lawsuit Sony had with Immersion cleared up, everyone predicted that the PS3 would be getting the spring in its step back; even Cory Barlog, director of God of War II, unofficially announced it months prior. But now there are whispers, rumbles if you will, of a new SIXAXIS controller being in development, with added rumble.
    That's excellent news, even if it can't be verified (we'll have to wait until E3 in July for that). Now, two good points that blog points out are how Sony can re-introduce rumble back after declaring it to be not a "next-gen" feature, and the best way for Sony to go about replacing the old SIXAXIS controllers.
    As for the first issue, I think all they need to do is just trot Phil Harrison out there- I remember watching an interview between's former news editor Luke Smith and Sony's Phil Harrison where Luke asked specifically about that. Phil smiled smugly and replied with something to the effect of "well what did you expect us to say?" Marvelously put.
    And for the latter issue, that blog outlined their plan, where they would pull the old SIXAXIS controllers from shelves and offer consumers a free upgrade. While I completely agree with the first sentiment, and appreciate the second from a purely consumer's point-of-view, that could get extremely costly for Sony, who already went through something similar with laptop batteries. Charging consumers $10 a pop to upgrade would be more reasonable.

XBOX 360 vs. PS3 Graphics Comparison Round 2
    One of the reasons why I've been gravitating away from GameSpot and towards over the years is that doesn't do stupid stuff like that. GameSpot is obviously just trying to stir up some controversy by sicking the 360 and PS3 fanboys on one another.
    First of all, these games aren't going to push either platform all that much- they're multi-platform, after all. The real test is between games that have been built from the ground up for their respective console.
    Second, the XBOX 360 is on its second-generation of games. It's been out for a year and a half now, whereas the PS3 only has half a year under its belt and was only released very recently in Europe and Korea. So the fact that the PS3's graphics look almost as good or better than the 360's graphics is a testament to the system, no thanks to the increasingly irrelevant GameSpot.
    Finally, who honestly cares? Do you buy a system because the games look marginally better on that system? No, of course not; you buy a system for the exclusives. This comparison is completely moot since these games have to be compared frame-by-frame (and sometimes zoomed in) just so you can pick out the most minute little differences.
    Again, who cares?

WEEKLY SAMPLER: Halo DS? / Wii = XBOX / L.A. Noire PS3 Only / Guile HD Remix

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Friday, June 15, 2007

God of War: Betrayal Speculation/Significance

    Honestly, what gamer seriously plays games on their cell phones nowadays? Do you? I don't.

    That could be set to change when God of War: Betrayal is available within the next few months- this is a AAA franchise branching out to grace cell phones with its presence, and that could just be enough to get people to take cell phone gaming a little more seriously. Betrayal could just be the catalyst in popularizing the cell phone as a true gaming platform.

    I don't think so though. I think that this is an amazing achievement and it looks surprisingly faithful (and fun) to its console roots, but I don't see it helping cell phones that much. There are simply too many problems with cell phones as a viable platform. It's not like the console or handheld market, where every system is the same. It's not even like the PC market, where they're all different, but not so radically that games can't be produced. Many cell phones are capable of playing games, but their owners are either confused as to whether or not their phone is capable, or they're simply not interested.

    I don't see Betrayal changing that, though I'm still excited for it.

    The game looks great- the graphics themselves aren't fantastic, but the animation is excellent, especially for a cell phone. It's still as incredibly brutal and over-the-top as ever, and this might just be me, but the simpler, more to-the-point graphics actually make the game seem more violent. I know that probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but seeing someone get ripped in half when the graphics are more basic just shows you exactly what's happening in a clearer picture. I just feel like if I play this on a public bus, someone's going to look over my shoulder and go, "did he just... just rip that guy's... BLARGH!" and just throw up all over me. By no means should they tone that down though.

    Now, on the story, I've heard a rumor that it takes place between the first and second games, and involves Kratos being framed for killing the goddess Hera's favorite pet. I suppose at that point, once the gods turn their back on him, Kratos has to go on a lengthy journey to find the real killer or something. Apparently the gameplay is sort of shallow, yet still fun (it looked to me like there would be only one, maybe two attack buttons), so the story is supposed to be the real selling point.

    I really need to find out if my phone can play this.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wii Deficiency Editorial

There was a reason why my most recent WEEKLY SAMPLER included those particular three Wii stories. The Wii is unfortunately plagued with bad design choices from Nintendo executives with flawed ideas on what makes a good videogame console. Let's go over what those flawed ideas have wrought:

The Friend Codes Blight
    You know you've messed up when outside parties need to step in to solve your console's inadequacies. The site,, makes a valiant effort to remedy the hassle of the friend code system Nintendo has put in place, and even elaborates on the idea.

    Basically the premise of the site is that you can create an account that will house your friend codes and allow you to search for other people, as well as issue game challenges to people, and if they put up a good fight, give them an "Achievement Coin." So pretty much everything the actual friend code system should've been.

    It just seems like whomever at Nintendo thought the friend code system was a good idea had gotten all their knowledge of the Internet and online gaming from Dateline NBC's To Catch A Predator show. It's absolutely ridiculous to base your friend system around keeping kids safe from child molesters.

    For God's sake, when your console is outclassed by AOL Instant Messenger in terms of ease of use and functionality, you (should) know that somewhere along the line, you really fucked up.

Out of Control
    You can argue that the Wii's control scheme is innovative and clever until you turn blue, but it won't change the fact that developers are having trouble getting "traditional" games to work on it. It's gotten so bad that many games, like Metal Slug Anthology, have to offer multiple control schemes, some variations with the Wii Remote, and others just abandoning it for the Classic or GameCube controller.

    Well, add Super Smash Bros. Brawl to that list. It's going to offer four control schemes for players to stumble through. It's completely unprecedented that a console rely on the previous controller for a backup so that games can just work properly.

    More troublesome, though, is that it begs the question, "What's the point of the Wii then?" It's a valid question. If you're playing a game on Wii that has GameCube graphics and uses the GameCube controller, then what the fuck is the point?

You Ain't Got No Alibi
    Check out the video comparison between the GameCube and Wii versions of Resident Evil 4. If it weren't for the Wii/GameCube logos in their respective corners, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

    I mean, really. This is just the GameCube's Resident Evil 4 + the PlayStation 2's Resident Evil 4's extras + motion controls. But it gets better. You can use the GameCube controller with the Wii edition, whose chief feature is the new controls. Irony huh? What a way to undermine the Wii motion controls.

    But most games on the Wii are like that. You know? UGLY. Sure, they would've looked great last generation, but instead of PS2s and XBOXs to stack up against, they've got the PS3 and 360, and as a result they just look horrendous by comparison. And the Wii is only eight months old. Imagine two years from now, when developers will have learned how to make Gears of War look ugly with the PS3 and 360.

    Imagine four.

Late To The Party
    So what am I trying to say with all of this? What conclusions can be drawn? Well, the one I hastily jumped to was that the Wii was too early, that the innovation of motion control simply couldn't be fully realized just yet. That's certainly a conclusion you can come to, and maybe it's even valid. But that's not the real conclusion to all of this:

    The Wii wasn't too early; it was too late. If it had come out in 2001 instead of the GameCube, the graphics would be above the XBOX, it would have had an innovative new control scheme, and it would have at least had some sort of online.

    The Wii is what the GameCube should have been.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

In The News (6/3-6/9)

Street Fighter II HD - AKUMA
    I know it's probably not the most significant (or thought provoking) news, but holy crap- Capcom's new look for Street Fighter II is downright mind-blowing. It is awesome in the truest sense of the word (inspiring awe, not the slang). Now, the reason why these new character designs are so amazing is because these are the in-game sprites you'll see during normal gameplay. Incredible.
    It's really a demonstration of how far technology has gone- a triumph of new over old. Considering that the gameplay is going to stay exactly the same (good decision), this will be THE definitive version of Street Fighter II. The characters will be sharp, in HD, and HUGE on the screen. The only problem I have with these new designs is the same problem I had with the Street Fighter animated movie- the guys look like they're in Super Steroid Fighter II.
    But it does beg the question: Why don't more games do this? It absolutely outclasses almost anything they could do with 3D graphics. It just seems logical that developers should go with the kind of 2D graphics we've always wanted now that we've got the technology to produce it. People would eat that shit up.

PSP Slim Details Revealed
    So it looks as though Sony is finally going to do the PSP redesign that's been rumored for at least a year. Not only that, but the changes are actually really significant- even more so than the DS Lite.
    Think about it: The DS Lite gave brighter screens, a sleeker design, more battery life, and other very minor changes like moving the microphone and the stylus slot. Now look at what the PSP Slim would offer: New screen (probably brighter), 4 times the battery life, slimmer design, faster UMD drive, redesigned buttons, and 8GB internal flash memory, and they're still debating whether or not to include a camera with that. And it'll stay the same price.
    With the DS Lite, sure, you'll look cooler holding one, it'll fit better in your pocket, and your screens are much easier to see. With the PSP Slim (if the rumors are true) it'll fit better in your pocket, the load times for games will be shorter, the buttons easier to use, and you'll have 8GB to play around with. The DS Lite is all aesthetic; the PSP Slim is both more aesthetically and functionally appealing.
    So can this save the PSP? I say yes. The PSP has been getting better games and will only continue to, and remember, the PSP was outselling the DS in America until the DS Lite came out. If history should repeat, the PSP will still have a fighting chance.

Christmas 2007 to Change The Face of Gaming
    That site may be Australian, but we're facing the exact same situation here: There are too many blockbuster games coming out this holiday season. How are people going to choose? Many of these great (and expensive to develop) games are going to get left by the wayside; that's how.
    As we all know, gamers have money to spend, but not an endless supply. So that means that not every game is going to get purchased, and not every developer is going to recoup all the development costs just yet, even if they did make a fantastic game that would sell fine if it wasn't being released alongside so many other hard-hitters.
    I think that as a result of this, developers and publishers are going to start to take a good, long look at the concept of a "Summer blockbuster." People like playing games in Summer, especially those who just got out of school and have extra time and money to spend.
    Maybe not Summer 2008, but certainly Summer 2009 we're going to see one of the best Summer line-ups yet. Of course, that's only if things go as they likely will and many companies learn the hard way that releasing in that September-December window doesn't guarantee good sales, at least when every other developer is counting on the same thing.
    That's exactly why Halo 3 is September instead of November: Because November's a little crowded this year.

WEEKLY SAMPLER: Friend Codes Averted / Super Smash Controls / RE4 Wii vs. GCN

NOTE: I'd just like to make a note of this now before someone inevitably brings it up a couple weeks or months from now: I started these In The News response segments five weeks prior to's "Rewinding the Week" thing. Thank you.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Guitar Hero Editorial, Part II

Less Talk, More Rock
    I don't even understand why executives talk sometimes. They've got something good going for them, but then they open their mouths and blow it half the time. Don't you remember how much fun game journalists were having listening to Ken Kutaragi utter completely ridiculous statements about the PlayStation 3? Those were good times. These are stupid times.

    Where does Activision get off calling Rock Band an "imitator" of the Guitar Hero franchise? Today, (June 6, 2007), marks the one-year anniversary of Activision owning RedOctane, the true publisher of the Guitar Hero franchise. They didn't start the series, they just took it over halfway through, and in my opinion, they've been running it into the ground a little bit, but I'll withhold true judgment until Guitar Hero III.

    Besides, Rock Band is made by the people who started Guitar Hero, Harmonix, so it doesn't make sense to call them imitators. Not only that, but Rock Band isn't just some cheap knock-off trying to cash in on the fad (like Saint's Row cashing in on the GTA-craze). Rock Band is trying to elaborate on what Guitar Hero has been doing.

    Look at the premise of Guitar Hero: Feel like the lead guitarist in a band. That's awesome. Look at the premise of Rock Band: START A ROCK BAND. That's even better! A smarter argument to use against Rock Band would've been to accuse Harmonix of just combining games together, but that still doesn't really work.

    Anyway, like the 1UP article mentioned, Guitar Hero itself is just an imitator of the Guitar Freaks franchise, which I'm sure is an imitator of another videogame (if not, then an imitator of an actual guitar). It'd be like Vanilla Ice complaining that somebody ripped off his "Ice Ice Baby" song.

    I don't see the benefit of them speaking out at all though. If they bash Rock Band, then they get the confused, negative reaction that they're now getting. If they praise Rock Band, sure, they'll be noble, but that might create more hype for Rock Band, something Activision simply doesn't want.

    Really, all it shows is that they're scared. They're afraid that people are going to gravitate toward Rock Band since it offers more, and rightly so. But the way to go about fighting Rock Band is the smart way, by which I mean just get better songs than Rock Band could dream of. That's the only way to win, since the quality of games like this is contingent on the quality of the songs in the game.

    To make a long story short, Activision needs to just be quiet. Spend less time making stupid arguments that don't make sense and more time licensing songs that we'll like.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Guitar Hero Editorial, Part I

Rocks The 80s Is A Ripoff
    I've been a huge fan of the Guitar Hero series- they're fun, they've got some great music, and they give me all the benefits of years and years of practice with a guitar without, well... years and years of practice with a guitar.

    But when Activision bought Red Octane, the publisher of the series, I was a little worried, and it didn't help when the ludicrously priced downloadable packs of original Guitar Hero songs were released for the Xbox 360's version of Guitar Hero 2. But now they've just pushed a little too hard.

    The Guitar Hero Encore sub-franchise looks like it wants to be expansion packs, and that's cool. I encourage that. You can only play "Carry On Wayward Son" so many times before getting tired of it.

    But it becomes harder to justify its existence when you get into the details: With the jump from GH to GH2, you got tweaks to the formula, a Practice mode, new stages, new characters, 64 songs, and new multiplayer modes, one even offering the ability to play Lead, Bass, or Rhythm guitar.

    With Rocks The 80s, all you get is a new look for the stages and characters and 30 songs.

    That'd be fine if it was reasonably priced, and originally it was. According to GameStop's updated listing, though, the price has jumped up to $50, which is the price for Guitar Hero 2. Not only that, but read the editor's note (near the bottom) in GameSpy's preview and you'll see that one of the songs, "I Want Candy," has been removed, and with no plans to substitute in another song in its place.

    I don't see how that can be defended. Rocks The 80s is an expansion pack, with fewer than half the songs, no new stages or modes, and just a makeover, but nevertheless costing the same amount as Guitar Hero 2.

    Mind you, "I Want Candy" wasn't exactly the most compelling song on the list, but ask yourselves: Would you rather have a song you might only play a handful of times or just to mess with friends, or have the game without that song, but for the same price?

    An expansion pack is supposed to give developers the freedom to add a beefy amount of additional content without having to worry about reinventing the game mechanics the way a sequel does. An expansion pack is not supposed to be less than half the content as the original at the same price. It completely unprecedented.

    All I can say is that I hope that GameStop made a mistake and updates the price again, else I'm going to boycott buying Rocks The 80s on principle; I'm just upset that now I can't play "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls.

UPDATE: Don't count on GameStop updating that listing. Check out the official RedOctane listing- $49.99 as of right now.

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

In The News (5/27-6/2)

Wii Online To Use Mii-specific Friend Codes
      I've complained about the Wii's online service before. I've accused Nintendo of "not getting it." I've just generally had a bad taste in my mouth ever since I bought my Wii in January. But it looks as though Nintendo is trying to prove me wrong, little by little.
      Maybe Nintendo is starting to "get it." Maybe we'll have a decent online service for the Wii that doesn't force us to get out a pad and pencil to write down 16-digit Friend Codes. According to that story, you'll still have Friend Codes, but it looks as though they'll revolve around your Miis (customizable avatars built into the Wii).
      Hopefully this service will work the way I'd want it to, like being able to pull up a menu during an online game and clicking on a Mii face beside the person's name I want to friend request. It should send them a message with a picture of my Mii, my game name, and what game we played. That's how it should work, but I'm still wary of whether or not Nintendo can pull it off.
      I mean, for Christ's sake, you still can't just send a request to someone (you have to contact them directly, outside of the Wii, to exchange 16-digit Friend Codes).
      Nevertheless, get ready to find me online using my custom (and quite dashing) Tom Selleck Mii.

Wii Hard Drive Hinted
      Staying on topic with more Wii news, it looks as though Nintendo is prepping a version of the Wii with a hard drive, which is hardly unsurprising, but nonetheless another reason to have that bad taste in my mouth I talked about in my above news response.
      It was inevitable, I suppose, that a new Wii would be coming, one that represents a closer look at what the Wii should've been from the start. It's been rumored for a long time now that a Wii would appear later this year with the ability to play DVD movies, something I consider to be a standard feature of consoles today.
      But now a hard drive? Again, unsurprising, and it certainly does lend credence to the redesign I just talked about, but honestly... When was the Wii released? Like seven months ago? And know we're already talking about a substantial redesign? What a way to just spit in the faces of everyone who already bought a Wii, Nintendo.
      I know I certainly don't have the money to just buy a new Wii, so count me out.

ESRB Launches Awareness Campaign for Indie Shops
      The ESRB is dying a slow painful death. I think that's pretty much apparent at this point. Ever since they were founded to counter the original Mortal Kombat way back in the 1990s, they've been under attack on all fronts, from people like Joe Lieberman, Jack Thompson, Hilary Clinton, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger who just want to push their own political agendas, or in Jack Thompson's case, just be an asshole.
      Maybe I'm wrong and maybe they won't die, and that'll be fine and dandy, as long as they've reformed. I think that what they're doing now is a good first step, if a little cheesy (check the picture in the story).
      More stores need to be coaxed into actually enforcing the ESRB ratings for those ratings to actually have any real relevance. To defend their existence, the ESRB is going to have to fight to stay alive. Hopefully they'll do more than just get stores to enforce the ratings. Hopefully they'll actually change their ratings to offer more information, the way that the Common Sense Media rating system does (like giving a quality score for the game).

WEEKLY SAMPLER: Killer7 Wii? / Wii 3rd-Party Potential / Virtual Console Milestone / Nintendo Wi-Fi 5M

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