Tuesday, January 30, 2007

You Know What? I'm Lazy.

That's the truth, ladies and gents. I can't say that I've been "really busy," but it's just more of a laziness factor. I say I'm going to update, but I'm usually just tired and I don't feel like it. Well, a blog is an extension of yourself, so if your blog is lazy, YOU are lazy. Since I'm still in denial, I'm going to try and be more religious about updating.
But that's enough whining -- or is it?

I've discovered that I have the most fun on this blog when I'm tearing something a new asshole.
So, that having been said, here are the three WORST games (that I have played) I can think of at this precise second. And I'm making it a little more challenging by ruling out all the easy bad games (think Superman 64 and my personal favorite, Greendog).

#1. Atomic Robo Kid (Sega Genesis, Arcade, TurboGrafix-16, 1990)
Oh dear lord, why was this monstrosity of a game ever ported to home systems? Let's take a look at the gameplay mechanics -- you control a robot that looks like VICI from Small Wonder if she had down's syndrome.
And was a robotic monstrosity.

As an arcade game, it's probably OK that one hit kills you. If you assume that some moron is going to put money into a game that promotes genetic diseases in robots, then you deserve to lose that quarter. However, back then, it was $50 for this steaming pile of shitake.

What magical improvements did they make for the home version? Well, they remove
d the points, so there's NO motivation to continue playing, and then in order to compensate one hit killing you (and sending you back to the beginning of the level), they give you an absurd number of lives. That way the frustration mounts, making you want to hurl your controller even FURTHER on your next death.

Seriously -- the only thing even remotely cool about this game is that you can buy weapon upgrades from some black market robot (yeah, they have black market goods in the future. I just wish that the guy wore a trenchcoat). But it's a secret -- not intended to be a normal part of the game.

#2. Shaq Fu (Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, 1994)
The box art says it all: "Come Get Yours!"
Come get my what? My pile of suck? My waste of money? Oh, I am SO there!

Let's see how many "coincidences" we have here:
#1. Micahel Jordan creates basketball game that only mostly sucks.
#2. Shaq, having opted out of NBA Jam, claims he has no involvement with games.
#3. "Shaq Diesel," an epic CD, needs a promotional tool.
#4. Shaq has yet to ruin his acting career with movies "Steel" and "Kazaam."

Well, when the price is right, a lousy game awaits. Shaq puts his loveable mug on what is probably the worst fighting game I have ever played. Unsurprisingly, Shaq has the best reach in this game, which makes him the best player. See, no hit registers unless you hit them RIGHT IN THE CENTER OF THE BODY. Punch some guy in the face? Too bad -- didn't hit him. As a result, you rarely FINISH a goddamned fight because you'd run out of time in the match from TRYING to hit eachother.

To add insult to injury, the music CD "Shaq Diesel" was packaged in with the game. That way, while your eyes are bleeding from the misery onscreen, your ears can bleed too! If they had packaged in the "Shaq Roto Rooter Suppository," I think they would have gone for the clean sweep.

Shoulda retired after "Blue Chips," Shaq.

#3. Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure (Gamecube, 2001)
Why was this game allowed to exist?
I originally came across this game when my roomate brought his Gamecube for the first time. By the end of our lease, we were using it as an air-hockey puck.
Let's see -- you play as a child who wanders around the Universal Studios Theme Park talking to Woody Woodpecker and going on rides. At least, that's what they want you to think.
There are SO many things wrong with this game: first of all, where the hell are this kid's parents? He wanders around a vacant theme park being hounded by some rapist in a Woody Woodpecker costume that obviously has a fetish. Not only that, but when I played (I chose a black child to be PC), my character spent the majority of his theme park time picking up trash. I believe that this is SOLELY because I chose a non-caucasian character, and that one of the later minigames would have involved the cotton gin.
The other main problem with the game is that it's geared towards kids...so why the hell is it so damned hard?! There's this kiddy atmosphere, but to get points, you have to answer some ridiculous trivia, like "When Michael J Fox contracted Parkinson's after "Back To The Future," how many times did he attempt suicide?" Jesus Christ! I don't know, and I don't want to know! All I know about those movies is that Doc wants me to buy DirectTV!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Line Is Dead To Me!

So here's a thought:
I understand the basic logic of how a company should work. You stick with what you know, and then you reap the benefits of improvements over time. Much like staffing, you don't bring in some nobody and trust him with an entire project based on what he says he can do, but rather, based on what he has done.

That's all well and good, but you've gotta start making some changes in the biz if you want to see improvement.

Unless your first name is Shigeru, odds are that every game idea that comes out of someone's head is very much in line with the last one. Electronic Arts and THQ, for example, took risks way back in 1996 establishing core franchises (Madden, WWE...etc). As such, they have gotten away with 10 years of "and here's our next improvement on _____"

We don't want an upgrade. We want something new.

I can't even say "we" like I'm speaking for the general population, but come on now. Name the last ORIGINAL title (i.e. NOT a sequel to something else) to come out from Electonic Arts. I dare you. Nay, I CHALLENGE you. I think the last one was the first Medal of Honor game, back in 1999. And you know how many of those there have been since.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of seeing new numbers posted after a franchise. Or, worse yet, when you've already exceeded the #3, you just add a new subtitle and pretend you've done something new. Not true.

Before anyone out there says, "Oh, but no such company exists like that," take a look at UbiSoft. Yes, UbiSoft milks their core franchises (Splinter Cell ____, anyone?), but for every Tom Clancy/Rayman game they churn out, they try something new like Assasin's Creed. See that EA? They're maintaining their core profits, while trying to rope in new players!

Actually, scary enough, I think that EA has noticed. UbiSoft, after all, is their primary competition as a third party developer, which is why EA has purchased stock in UbiSoft.

Lord help us all if EA buys majority stock.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Birth of a Franchise 4: Grand Theft Auto

Now, before I hear people saying, "Oh, there are only so few GTA games," let it be known that there are over 6 GTA games that are currently out, and that there are others in production. But we're not here to talk about that.

Grand Theft Auto is probably the bane of Jack Thompson's existance (or perhaps his lifeblood...I'm not sure yet), as it promotes all the things that are bad about society. Let's see how Rockstar/TakeTwo created the monstrosity that we all play today:

Grand Theft Auto (PC, PS1, 1997/1998)
I remember that I was so eager to play this game that I traded some chubby kid (named Chris Katz...odd that I remember that) a copy of Metallica's "...And Justice For All" album for the disc of this game. The main draw being, of course, that you can steal cars and kill people. That was pretty much it. The structure of the game, if any, was to get cars and kill people. TakeTwo knows what works, and the game was almost banned because of it.
Some noteable changes to gaming (other than the ability to break the law), were the fact that this game was open-ended (you decide what to do next), and that there was no "lives" system -- if you died, you had to have the cash to survive. If you didn't, THEN it was game over. This was also the beginning of the "holy shit that car goes fast, too bad as soon as I touch something with it, it explodes and kills me" phase in GTA.

Grand Theft Auto 2 (PC, PS1, Dreamcast, 1999)
It was a tough call here between listing this game or listing San Andreas, but all hot coffee aside, I think this game did more for the series.
In a "less-than-bold" move, TakeTwo decided to add a storyline that was shaped as you went along. The introduction of the three gangs, in addition to the street-cred that went with the missions, added a strategic element as to which missions you were going to do, and which would put you on a gang's shit list.
In addition to slightly improved graphics (ooh! lighting!), GTA 2 also added on to the level of violence, complete with the addition of Molotov Cocktails, greater police involvement, and even more violence.
A noticeable problem was the lack of swimming. This guy can take having a bomb strapped to him, can eat bullets, and can shoot up cars like it's nothing, but one trip to the water and he's dead!? Other continued gripes were the usual "absurdly fast vehicle = death" problems.

Grand Theft Auto III (PS2, PC, XBOX, 2001)
Bring on the violence! In what is probably one of the most inflential videogames after Mario 64, Rockstar helped push GTAIII to the limits of social decency. Not only can you pick up hookers, use a sniper rifle, do police missions, and just plain blow shit up, but now you can do it IN 3D! As usual, it takes a 3D game to really get people's attention (hence why the Sonic series has busted its ass over the last decade trying to do 3D and failing miserably), and Rockstar did it here. A solid story mixed in with a sandbox environment make this game a must-play.
As usual, as soon as the good lawmakers of the world found out you could kill cops, this game got more press than Jesus (which is strange, because both GTA and Jesus had been around for a while. Makes you wonder what 3D would do for the Old Testament, eh?).
Even with all these changes and advancements...for some reason, you still can't swim! It took them all the way through San Andreas to fix that!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Time Keeps On Slippin'

Sorry about last week -- kinda vanished after Tuesday. Long story short, I actually have some pseudo exciting news.

#1. I'm currently in talks with HowThingsWork, an educational software company, to do their lead-in/game over storyline. In other words, "why the hell am I going to play this game," followed by "I beat it. Why do I care?" Not going to be lucrative or long-term as far as I can tell, but at the very least, it looks good on my resume to be involved in a finished PC game.

#2. Also got picked up by insidepulse to do game reviews (which I will cross post in some way shape or form). Best part? I get free shit shipped to me. Nice.

Now on to getting a REAL jorb

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Real World

So, as you may have noticed from the written text at the bottom left corner of the blog (this is, of course, assuming that you can read. If you can, you've got a leg-up on a few people I know!), I'm trying to get a real job, here.
Ideally, a job in gaming, but I'll take any peripheral work I can get (that will push me towards my goal).

Here's the skinny so far:

#1. I established some great connections, including a designer from High-Voltage studios, and the recruiting agent for Electronic Arts Chicago.

#2. Applied for as many "shit-work" positions as I could, but unfortunately, Chicago doesn't really do beta-testing for some reason. Lots of programming, design, and marketing, but unfortunately for me, none of those are entry-level.

#3. Tried to take a side route by getting involved in game writing (hence this blog), and then making some more connections to move forward.

Here's what has happened in the last few weeks:

#1. Interviewed with WBBM/CBS radio (even the gamer guy has to pay the bills). I think it went well -- here's hoping.

#2. Applied to be a writer for HowThingsWork, an educational software group. Hey -- any software is good software, right? Haven't heard back from them yet :-(

#3. Just heard back from "another group involved in game writing" which is actually just getting started. We'll see how this turns out.

That's about it. Oh, and I'm going to push the "greatest games you've never played" segment to Wednesdays. It seemed like there was too much content in one small space. Besides -- now you can read inbetween the days!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Birth of a Franchise 3: Mortal Kombat

When you think of fighting games, what's the first thing that comes to mind? For me, I think of Street Fighter II, and Mortal Kombat. While Street Fighter changed the world with the "fireball" dynamic, I think that Mortal Kombat deserves some credit for a few other changes to the game...some you might not even have known (no, not Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero. That game sucked).

Let's have a look at the three most influential games:
#1. Mortal Kombat (Arcade, Genesis, SNES, 1992)

The series starts off my differentiating itself from any other game of its time. The first thing that people (especially Joe Lieberman) notice is the absurd quantities of blood that flow from every character. Every hit in this game drains the equivalent of 2 gallons of blood. The ability to do "fatalities," which essentially turned your opponent into a dismembered heap, were also well recieved.
Aside from the gore, though, MKI had a lot going for it. The "block" button was an interesting change from those of us that were used to holding "back" to block. That requitered some good dexterity to stay alive. The game used real actors, unlike the animated SFII, and looked much better than most games out there. Likewise, the special moves for each character were well thought out, and relatively well balanced (although I still think that Sub-Zero's freeze blast is the cheapest move to hit gaming).
The console releases of MKI were very close, but with one exception -- only the Genesis had blood. The Super Nintendo release could be Game Genied to turn the sweat red, but it just wasn't the same. In Mortal Kombat II, both console versions were given blood.
Speaking of MKII, it wasn't a huge leap over MKI. New characters, new moves, and an extra fatality for every character is hardly groundbreaking.

Mortal Kombat 3 (Arcade, Genesis, SNES, PC, Sega Saturn 1995)

Now we're getting somewhere. The third incarnation of the Mortal Kombat series tried to change the formula, and really succeeded. There were the expected changes (graphical boost, new moves, more characters, new bosses), and then there were the brilliant changes that defined the fighting genre. And I'm not talking about the "Animalities," a move that was likely introduced when Midway just couldn't think of any other ways to kill someone.
For one, MKIII introduced the run button. Running wasn't really all that common in fighting games. The idea of "dashing" had just started to form, but running the entire screen was pretty new. Needless to say, players that relied on defensive tactics were in for a surprise. However, this isn't the biggest change to hit the series. What is?
This is the first popularized game to feature a combo system. When you get in close and hammer on buttons, you actually have to think (only a little bit, though) as to which buttons to hammer on to inflict the most damage. This evolved into the same basic combo system that gets used in modern day fighters. Pay homage!

Mortal Kombat 4 (Arcade, PS1, N64, PC, 1997)

And this is where everything starts to go bad. Feeling pressure from successful 3D games of the time (Virtua Fighter, Tekken...etc), Mortal Kombat decided to venture into the third dimension. The result is that, well, it's the same damned game. The third dimension does almost nothing for the game. Rather, it seems to complicate things, especially when the computer can side-step attacks in an instant, and you can't figure out how.
Another noticeable change was the introduction of weapons. THESE GUYS SHOOT FIRE AND ICE OUT OF THEIR HANDS! What the hell do they need weapons for!? The weapons, while fun the first time around, actually complicated things from the "freeze you then uppercut you" gameplay that was needed to win.
MK 4 was the beginning of the end for the series, as future games have stayed in 3D, and not looked much better. While Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance did tinker with an interesting combo system, and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon looks fun, this is the game that pushed Midway in that direction to begin with.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


I cannot believe what sort of stupidity is going on in the minds of the CEOs and VPs. Don't know what I'm talking about? Here are a few examples:

-- Bill Gates bashes Sony, and mentions how much better it is to be the 360 right now due to the "Silicon cost reduction curve"

-- Microsoft bashes Sony for not having the right "DNA" to do online gaming

-- Sony fires back by listing total Playstation sales figures and estimates as proof that they can

Enough already!

If the world CARED about how great YOU think your systems are, we would have bought a Zune, a PSP, and an Atari Jaguar just for the hell of it!

All this does is make Nintendo look better. Unfortunately for the big wigs at MS and Sony, Nintendo doesn't do PR battles. Not only that, but they look good because of it. No one goes out of the way to bash them, and in return, they mind their own business and eat up profits.

Yes, Microsoft, you sold more Xboxes than Sony sold PS3's. I'm proud of you, really. Yes, Sony, you did make a shitload of money selling the Playstation name. Does this mean that the universe is going to suddenly agree with itself? Never.

Can't we all just get along? And let Bill Gates do what he does best.

Sexual Harassment in the workplace.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Greatest Games You've Never Played (Pt 2) + More

I technically "owe" the world another post. Got caught up in interviews yesterday, and missed my midnight deadline. As such, I'll take what I was going to post, and I'll give you something for today, too!

First of all, here are some more games that you may not have heard of, but you need to try them.

#1. Comix Zone (1995, Sega Genesis, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo Wii)

It's funny -- I was just remarking on how no one ever played this game, and then it showed up on the UK's Wii Virtual Console release schedule! For those of you that have never played this, give it a shot. You play as this guy named Sketch (who I think was modeled after a Gamepro contest winner, but I'm not sure) who gets sucked into his own comic book. Long story short, you side scroll, kicking the shit out of anyone/anything that dares come near you. What I like about it is the style. It really DOES feel like a comic book, and I think it was the first game (way before Killer 7 and XIII) to implement such a style. You can break panel barriers, tear of some paper to fold it into a paper airplane, and so on. It's really kind of creative. My one major (and I do mean major) gripe about this game is the fact that there are no lives. None. You die, and then you're on the path to the bad ending. That's a bad thing in a game that has a few bottomless pits. Still, for the likely $5 it'll cost on Wii, it's definitely worth it. Don't bother with the GBA release, though.

#2. Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy (2005, PS2, XBOX, PC)

So here's another game you can still play today. A fantastic art style (scenes within scenes), great music (original classic music done right! wow!), and multidimensional story really make this game stand out in my mind. You play as Lucas, the main character, but you also play as Carla and Tyler, two police officers out to stop a criminal. The way you play determines how depressed (?) your characters are...which can apparently kill them. As you progress through the game, you change how the story will end...90% of the time, it's because you died, and then Lucas chimes in with, "and that's how my story ends," along with an explanation. I actually had a lot of laughs with my old roommate about that: the game deliberately tries to kill you sometimes. See that milk in the fridge? You can drink it. Go on. (Button is pressed). "And that's how my story ends...I drank the milk, and suffocated due to my lactose intolerance..." what?! Needless to say, the game gets creative with you. Also, it incorporates a lot of things from Shenmue (miss those Quick Timer events? They're baaaaaaaaack), which is probably the only un-original thing about this game. Just goes to show that you can still have some innovation in the modern world.
Bonus: Indigo Prophecy was recently added to the XBOX 360 backwards compatibility list!

#3. Lucky & Wild (Arcade, 1993)
Unfortunately, the odds of you getting to play this game are slim to nil. With the death of the arcade, in addition to the death of arcade games that don't let you gamble, Lucky and Wild was never ported to home systems due to its unique gun play.
Basically, it was a combination of an on-rails shooter...except that your partner controlled the rails.
With player one driving the car to avoid obstacles, and player two John Woo-ing the two guns, the gameplay was unique and remarkably fun for its time. Also, player one could shoot the gun and drive, allowing player two to make more accurate shots. It really was a neat idea. Throw in the classic 80's hair and a cartoony feel, and it really was fun.

Here's one more picture, just because I like this game so damned much:

That's better. Also, I promised the universe that I would give fair time to today's post too, so here goes:

I popped Greendog into the Sega Genesis again, just to see if I could find a good quality in the game. Something to enjoy...some reason not to hate it like I do.
Then I realized what it is -- Greendog represents everything wrong in the world today.
The fact that this game is terrible is only a cry against the things represented in this game. I know that sounds a little vague, so let me do a quick screenshot synopsis to help understand.

What's the first thing you see here? The man has no FACE. Look at the poor bastard! That man is a shirtless, faceless hobo that is forced to roam that jagged-rock island barefoot. That's just not right.

Also notice the can in the middle of the screen. That soft drink right there is your health. Also, you're supposed to eat as many hamburgers, hot dogs, donuts, and french fries as you possibly can to gain points. This teaches obesity in children! FOR SHAME.

Tie in the fact that he's clearly intruding on a rain forest (and the animals are letting him have it for it), and Greendog is really about pure unadulterated evil. He even wears bling! You know how much I hate bling, don't you!? I bet if he had a face, he'd have platinum teeth. Bet on it.

Notice also that Greendog possesses an old school alarm clock, and has seemingly sodomized that frog (which is now leaping in terror. Horny toad jokes unintended). I hate those alarm clocks -- they're really fucking loud.

Not pictured: Animals exploding after being hit with high-powered Frisbee blast.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Birth of a Franchise 2: Road Rash

I initially thought I was going to make this a Tuesday thing, but Mondays work just fine. Today's franchise is "Road Rash." Although the Road Rash series has taken a bit of a break lately (the last release was for the GBA in 2004), the influence that it has had on gaming cannot be ignored. So, without further ado, I give you the three most influential games for the Road Rash franchise.

Road Rash (Sega Genesis, 1991)
This is the game that started it all. Let me hop into the wayback machine and tell you all about it. Road Rash does a lot of things well: it is one of the first games to incorporate fighting into a functional racing engine (props to that), and is also one of the first racing games to feature traffic. Also, Road Rash is one of the few 16-bit games that manages to convey true speed. Try racing with some of the later bikes in this game, and you'll see what I mean: especially if you manage to survive getting wiped out long enough to really max out your speed. As for the fighting, you were limited to your fists (and kicking, but that really just pushes people away), or if you were good, you could steal a club away from one of the lead bikers (which let you do one-hit-knockdowns).
Also, this is the first game to feature music from Rob Hubbard that sounded like Japanese people struggling to play metal on a bass guitar with floppy strings (that was hooked up to a synth). You'll have to take my word for it, and know that it was awesome.
The main shortcoming of this game was the way that the difficulty played out -- in order to make you race well (and spend money on better bikes), the game upped the bikes of the competition at every level, and extended the length of the race. This works well for a few stages, but after the third level, when you're still poor because you could barely finish in 4th place to qualify, racing for 15 minutes without dying is a lot of work. And getting wrecked costs a LOT at that point. Needless to say, once you get mid-way through Road Rash, the novelty wears off, and the speed of the bikes (not to mention their flimsiness) make it impossible to finish races.

Road Rash II (Sega Genesis, 1992)
This, in my personal opinion, is the Road Rash game that showed the most promise. Building on the first game, almost every aspect of the formula was maintained or improved. The courses, complete with traffic and obstacles, were mostly the same (albeit with different textures and backgrounds), but without the music telling you what course you were on, the race probably would have felt the same. Speaking of the music, for some reason, the music sucks in this one. I just don't know what happened!
However, the biggest change to this game was the introduction of two players. TWO PLAYERS! IN A ROAD RASH GAME!!! That's a big deal, ladies and gentlemen. The problem is not in the mechanics, but rather, in the execution of the idea. See, in order to put all those gauges and numbers on the screen for both players, the screen needs to be pretty damned big to be able to see what both players are doing. Since I'm not Scrooge McDuck, I'll have to be happy with a normal TV...which means that two players is impossible. Other notable changes are the introduction of the chain (as a weapon to make the club less powerful, but conversely, makes you reliant on having a weapon at all times), and the introduction of the Turbo system, which allowed certain bikes (the Wild Thing especially) to max out at absurd speeds....which usually caused you to wipe out and lose the race.
Other issues, such as increased racing length and monotony, were not resolved in this game. Road Rash III, unfortunately, would not address any of these issues, and tried to change the formula for the worse...

Road Rash (3DO, 1994)
Who else remembers the 3DO? Thankfully, I can say I never spent money on one (or the Atari Jaguar), but this game almost made me do it. This version of Road Rash did a lot of things right, so many that I really thought that they were going to go even further with the franchise (this game predates the fecal failure that was Road Rash III...boy was I wrong). First of all, Road Rash incorporates a real soundtrack (Tony Hawk, you need to pay homage). We're talking Soundgarden, people! Also, the graphics finally allowed you to see what was ahead of you (no need to take blind hills anymore), and made the driving much easier. Finally, with prettier graphics (yay for 3D buildings), videos, and an all around grittier feel, this Road Rash is actually rebuilt five more times (PS1, PC, Sega CD...etc).

Sadly, Road Rash took a bad turn after the 3DO version. The next Genesis iteration, Road Rash III, was the beginning of EA's mentality of "let's add X Y and Z, fix nothing, and call it a new game!" In this instance, EA added 5 (!) new weapons, including a cattle prod (because that's how I race), and changed little else. Granted, the 2 player split screen was improved slightly, but the new camera angle of the bike made those "jump out at you" cars even more frustrating. Finally, the N64 version of Road Rash incorporated 4-player madness, but very little else.

It would seem that after Road Rash: Jailbreak, things were finished. Slow sales, and the fact that the game looked like a ripoff of Full Throttle didn't help matters either. Supposedly, EA has decided to revive the franchise for the next gen systems. Here's hoping that they do it justice this time.

Side Note: The spiritual successor to Road Rash is "Skitchin," a title from EA that came out in 1994. If you haven't played it yet, I would definitely recommend it. It's probably the last original thing that EA has done in a long while.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

"It's In The Game"

Utah just put itself on the map again. Not because of the Mormons, or the olympics, but because of this.

Apparently, the Mahoney family had given their darling (and previously innocent) son a copy of Madden '07 for the holiday season. Unfortunately, upon putting the disc into his XBOX (I really wish it had been for the Wii so I could make some more lewd jokes), it turns out that the disc was rife with pornographic content.

After thanking his parents for buying the "Super Secret John Madden's Personal Collector's Edition" of Madden '07, the younger Mahoney's fantasies were ruined when his parents informed him that this was not the item that they had intended to purchase.

Worse still, there was no Madden on the disc -- just porn. So they took it away.

It's one thing to deprive a man of his football, but to take away his football and his porn? Well that's just the last straw!

Kidding aside, you've got to wonder how something like this could happen. The disc was a Madden '07 disc. It had the seal and everything. That means that the data contents were changed, and for how many discs? It's unknown. Also, those discs were shipped from the factory (in Cali somwhere), so where the rest of that shipment went is currently unknown.

Interestingly enough, the publicity of this story will determine what happens. If word of this gets around, EA may be forced to do a shelf recall. That would sting big in the wallets, especially since Madden is the heart and core of EA. However, if this story dies quietly (as I expect it will), look for a quick payoff/apology from EA, and some moron from LA getting fired from his job (although probably winning a bet that he had with the janitor).

All I have to say is, if you haven't opened your X-Mas Madden yet, you may get another present.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Emulate THIS

What is the main issue of emulation?



I'll tell you what the problem is: there's no payoff for the original game developers, and therefore, it is illegal.

But there should be a payoff.

Imagine this: instead of shelling out upwards of $4 for an NES game on a system that you don't likely have, and that has the selections that only NINTENDO deems acceptable, why don't you just download it? There's really no reason why you should pay XBOX Live $10 for Smash TV when you can put it on your computer for free.

So what to do?

The answer is, those classic games need to be locked down. Here's an example: If Nintendo would sell an "Nintendo" deal -- basically, a Super-Nintendo controller knockoff (they have them at Best Buy for about $10, or if they really want to be nice, a USB-enabled classic controller), and access to the entire NES library for $1-$2 a game, I garauntee they would make some serious cash. For one, you appeal to that guy that's scared of getting busted for stealing ROMs for free. These are the sort of people that stopped stealing music when Napster went under, and have pretty much been waiting for something like this that would be accessible to the guy with only $40 (who doesn't want a Wii).
Also, you appeal to the super-nerd who has a hard on for games like Yo! Noid and Bad News Baseball -- games that are probably never coming to virtual console within our lifetimes. Also, that same nerd probably is going to buy up all the obscure crap he can.
In addition, you appeal to those classic "nostalgia" guys. These are the ones that want to play Super Mario Brothers 3, Metroid, and Mega Man when they want them. They don't want to wait for Nintendo of America to finalize a list of three games every month (and they certainly will space those three out as much as possible to maximize revenue). They want them NOW.
Finally, you appeal to those guys that are trying to play games that they never could -- like me! Imagine how many people would buy a prepiheral that would allow you to play Panzer Dragoon Saga, or Radiant Silvergun without shelling out the billions of dollars for a legit copy of the game? Hell, sign me up!

Maybe it's time that we reinvented the idea of Bleem! for the masses.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Best Games You've Never Played (Pt 1)

I'm still kinda searching for a direction for this blog. Maybe the fact that it has no direction is a good thing.

Anyways, I was thinking about what happens to all those games that "slip between the cracks." You know the ones I'm talking about -- the Katamari Damacy's of the world. The Chrono Triggers. The games that you keep hearing about how good they are, but you never get off your ass to look into it.

I'll save you the trouble.

These are three of my favorite games you've never played. Go and tell the people.

#1. Herzog Zwei (Sega Genesis, 1990)
This is the best Genesis game ever made. Don't let anyone else ever tell you otherwise. Have you ever heard of Warcraft? What about Command and Conquer? Well, none of those (or any other) RTS games would be possible if this hadn't come along.
Herzog Zwei was the first RTS game, let alone the first one for a console (I'm sorry to say that I have yet to play an RTS on a console that is even close to this ease of interface).
Basically, you control this transofmrers-esque ship (it can fly, carry units, or turn into a little dude with a gun) and try to destroy your opponent's main base. To do this, you create units (Tanks, Infantry, Medic...etc) each with a different purpose attributed to it (attack base, defend, patrol...etc) in order to achieve victory. A well planned attack usually has your opponent's ship somewhere far away while you have several tanks attacking his base. The single-player AI is sub-par (the CPU of harder levels just has more money to start...no really change to the thought processes), but the game truly shines in VS mode. Don't just listen to me -- try it for yourself!

#2. The Bible Game (PS2, XBOX, GBA, 2005)
Look -- before you say I'm crazy, hear me out. This game is basically a sick and twisted version of Mario Party. So what makes it so great?
First of all, look at the characters you have to use. You've got the stereotypically smart Asian kid, the stereotypically redneck southern kid, the token black kid, and some retarded kid with a sideways hat for "street cred." Apparently, the lord hates Arabic kids -- his chosen people. Who knew?

Next, there is the gameshow system. Basically, you either answer questions (which can be set from hard to ridiculously hard), play a quick minigame (that often completely screws up the religious event that it's based on), or harass the other players. There is an event called "Do Unto Others" where your character either is forced to give points (whereupon your player is noticably upset at helping others), or you take from other players.
Finally, just to mess with you, there is a random occurance called "Wrath of God" that takes away all of your points. All of them. Just like that!

If for some reason, this doesn't sound hillarious to you (and to some people, it doesn't), just add alchohol to the mix, and you've got yourself one of the best drinking games on the market. Just remember -- you didn't get that booze from me.

#3. Guilty Gear X/XX/#Reload/Isuka/Accent Core (PS1, PS2, XBOX, Arcade, 1998-2006)

Unlike the other two games, you've probably heard of this one. The Guilty Gear series is incredibly fast-paced, and if you're good at it, rather deep. The combos can get to crazy proportions (although a BURST function is in place to prevent your opponent from locking you up in an infinite combo), and Roman Cancels (cancelling a move in mid-animation in exchange for some of your Special bar) make the game entertaining to watch. Espcially with those vibrant good looks -- I mean, LOOK AT IT!
Or, if you're like me and you suck at fighting games, you can still button mash and have a good time. Besides -- the tunes in this game are so kick-ass that you'll forget how much you suck at it. Also, how can you hate a game where everything makes reference to rock music from the 80's? For more on that, look here.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Birth of a Franchise 1: Shinobi

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays as much as this guy.

That having been said, I kinda like the idea of looking back at "Old-School" games. I'd originally planned to talk about the N64 a little bit today, but I actually got sidetracked. See, I happen to enjoy seeing how franchise games change and grow.

What is a "Franchise Game" you ask? Here are a few off the top of my head:
-- Final Fantasy
-- Mario
-- Sonic
-- Zelda
-- Bomberman

To qualify as a franchise, you have to have been around a while. My minimum cutoff is that you need at least FOUR games under the Franchise tag. This excludes games like Halo, Earthworm Jim, and even Gran Turismo.

I personally want to try and spend at least one day a week looking at the growth of a particular franchise, and seeing what changed. Maybe we'll make it a Tuesday thing?

For this week, I really want to talk about the Shinobi Franchise. Since 1987, Sega has fleshed out the character, making drastic innovations at each step along the way. To save you the time (and sometimes, the agony), I have picked the three games that I deem the most "influential" to the series:

Revenge of Shinobi (Sega Genesis, 1989):

Taking a big step from the popular arcade game, Revenge of Shinobi changed the formulaic gameplay. The first real change was the use of a lifebar: Finally, you can get hit by something and NOT DIE!!! Also, a "double-jump" move was added, complete with a somersaulting shuriken attack that basically hit everything on one side of the screen. In order to balance that, shurikens were no longer unlimited (so you really had to make sure you could use that attack).
Also, the ninjitsu attacks, which were previously pre-set screen-clearing attacks, were selectable. This allowed for a new level of depth ("should I use the shield ninjitsu, or should I attack?") in the game. Throw in a few "puzzles" and bosses, and you've got yourself a new game!
Granted, in order to keep the game difficult (you never really see an easy Shinobi game), Sega relied on a lot of "leap of faith" jumps that result in death, and a lot of frustrating platform hopping.

Shadow Dancer (Sega Genesis, 1990):

Whoa, whoa! What happened here! You had a great game going with Revenge of Shinobi! What the hell did you do!?
In a sick and twisted attempt to get back to the arcade roots, Sega scraps almost everything from Revenge of Shinobi in this Arcade port. In this game, it's back to rescuing hostages -- one hit kills you, and you're much less agile.
A new element to the game is the dog, Yamato. The dog can be sent to attack your enemies (and disable them for an easy kill), but 90% of the time, the damned dog just gets killed. And barks a lot.
This is the last game of the Shinobi series to incorporate a "one hit you're dead" mentality, and coincidentally, is the hardest of all the Shinobi games. The enemies come out of nowhere and jump upon you relentlessly (not to mention that the stupid dog is helpless in these situations). Oh, and did I mention that there are no checkpoints in these levels?!
This is certainly a game that could work if you're perpetually feeding in quarters, but not in a console setting. A huge step backwards for the series.

Shinobi III (Sega Genesis 1993):
Now we're talking! In what is my personal favorite game of the series, Sega returns to Revenge of Shinobi's formula and improves it.
In this iteration, everything is cleaned up -- the graphics, the sound, and especially the gameplay.
For one, this game is the fastest of the three: you can now run (complete with diving slash), do wall-jumps, and a diving jump-kick was added to allow a more diverse style of attack. In addition to being more agile, this game also uses different types of stages to keep the game well-paced. There is a stage where you're on a horse, on a speed-boat, and then just your good-ol'-fashioned platforming (less cheap this time).

Oh, and that fucking dog is nowhere in sight. Good riddance.

Now, this is not to say that the other Shinobi games (especially the one for PS2) were not influential to the series, but these three games laid down the ground rules for what every Shinobi game would have in the future. Even the abysmal Shinobi Legions (Saturn) followed in this formula.

And best of all, no game ever used the dog Yamato again.

I really fucking hate that dog.