Ok, So I Lied.|
I know, I know. I said in the last post that it was the last of 2006, but its 3 AM right now, I can't sleep, etc. I'm bored. So anywho, I thought I'd ramble about the podcast for a little bit. Of course, no discussion about the podcast can take place without centering around Mike.
Mike seems to be a bit of a dilemma to most people. Either they're ripping on him or they're ripping on myself and Stefan for ripping on Mike or they're ripping on him for ripping on the BDPE or they're ripping on myself and Stefan for not ripping on the BDPE when they rip on Mike. Phew.
I probably wouldn't have written this if somebody hadn't sent me an email questioning our "sensitivity" toward Mike. Seriously. Sensitivity. Here is the actual email:
I've listened to the podcasts that you and the others have put out for the Inside Mac Games website. I listen to them because they're funny and informative. However, as a child psychologist at a grade school I have some concerns about how an older person such as yourself is treating Mike, who is only a teenager. Your derogatory comments can really hurt a person's self-esteem, as well as your flippant attitude toward his remarks. You do nothing to help his self-confidence when you undercut him and laugh at his voice and other side effects of puberty. He can't help his situation and you should be supporting him, not getting laughs out of your audience at his expense. I think you owe Mike and your listeners an apology for your apalling behavior. I don't expect Stefan to apologize because he doesn't seem the type to apologize for anything and he is British, after all.
When I read this I about died with laughter. Expect muchos discussion on the next show, which I am actually looking forward to now with this little bit of gold in hand. Mike it or not, I'm reading this.
Posted on December 27, 2006 at 1:11 am
The Death of the PS3 -- Today|
I've always predicted doom and gloom for Sony's next-gen console, the Playstation 3. While I never expected the console to do particularly well, I never expected it to die this quickly.
This morning I went by Best Buy to do my customary Wii-check. Nothing. What they DID have, however, was an alottment of THIRTY Playstation 3's. THIRTY. I thought, "wow, Sony can actually manufacture a few at a time," and also found out that almost every Besty Buy had received a numerically similar shipment.
Tonight I went back, just out of curiosty. Only ten had been sold. I was AGHAST. Only TEN??? This is the PS3, the system that thieves have been shooting people for!!! I asked the employees and they told me that people had been ogling the nice pile of boxes all day, but very few had actually sprung to buy one. I went home and checked out eBay; the normally astronomical offerings for PS3's have all but disappeared, with the highest bids barely reaching the $640 mark.
PS3 demand has fizzled dry almost. I'm sure that the tidy little pile will sell out here in the next few days, but those thirty systems were on the floor for over EIGHT HOURS. I called several local Best Buys and they reported similar situations; out of the five I called only one had actually sold all their systems. I suppose the real challenge for Sony now isn't if they can MAKE a million systems by the end of the year but if they can SELL a million systems by the end of the year.
Last blog post of 2006, probably. But then, you never know.
Posted on December 22, 2006 at 8:00 pm
|Twilight Princess - Review
(I've tried to avoid any major spoilers in this review, but I do reference a few things that happen in the game. If you would rather play this game completely in the dark then do not read. If you don't mind hearing a few minor details then don't worry.)
I spent the last six days of my life shoved away in a dark room. Why, you may ask? Because I've been playing through Nintendo's latest installment of The Legend of Zelda, Twilight Princess. I've been waiting for this game for four years. You know what you can do in a four year time span? Learn to walk and talk. Get a new president. Graduate college. That means that almost every day for these past years I've been trudging my way along the virtual path to IGN and Gamespy in the vain hope that some trickle of news might be passed along. I wept aloud at the 2004 E3 trailer. I jumped around like a carnival fool in 2005. I fasted during the week leading up E3 2006 when the Wii controls were unveiled. All-in-all, its been a long, rough four years. Was it worth it?
Twilight Princess is a Gamecube game, both in graphics and in gameplay. Yeah, yeah, I know that the Wii-mote changes things up a bit, but when it comes right down to it the control scheme doesn't change much between the two versions. The Wii is more fun at times, but its still the same game. Graphically, Twilight Princess has achieved more than I dreamed possible on the Gamecube. While the game suffers from the traditional blurry textures (just take a look at the grass in Hyrule Field) you will see some truly amazing looking stuff, all in real time. I'm not talking about cut scenes here. The GSC (graphics, sound, controls) for Twilight Princess is a thing to behold.
The game starts off cheerfully enough, as most Zelda games do. You're given several menial tasks to carry out to familiarize you with controls and basic concepts that become an integral part of the story and level design later. You're taught to fish early on because you will need to fish later. I like the slow-paced early gameplay in Zelda, but don't get too worried: the game speeds up very quickly.
The adventure begins when Link's girlfriend (I suppose) and one of the children in the village are kidnapped by some evil looking creatures. Before I go on, let me comment on one little facet of the game here. Most Zelda games have stayed rather kid friendly; you'll rarely see any blood or disturbing images. But here we see the girl, Ilia, take an arrow in the back, and Link gets clubbed over the head. There's no blood but its hardly a gentle moment.
Upon waking from unconciousness, Link dashes off to find his beloved and the boy and is instead immediately confronted with a shimmering wall of darkness. He hesitates, but is sucked into this darkness. Thus you are introduced to the Twilight Realm, a curse of darkness that is spreading across Hyrule like a wave of evil and has now crept to the very doorstep of Link's little village. You are still in Hyrule, but think of the Twilight Realm as the real world's shadow. I love all of the Twilight Realm sequences. TR-encompassed lands take on a different coloring, with more dark yellows and browns visible. There are almost no warm colors whatsoever, and little black particles float by eerily. While the Twilight sounds depressing, it actually showcases some of the most brilliant graphical scenes in the game. There is bloom lighting effects everywhere, and you can tell that Nintendo really put some overtime into the lighting for this game. Truly, truly amazing. Zelda games have always been the crowning achievement of Nintendo consoles graphically, and Twilight Princess lives up to its brethren Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask.
I could rave about the Twilight Realm's beauty all day, but the coolest part is that whenever you grace the realm with your presence you turn into a wolf. Blessed as he is with the power of the gods, Link avoids becoming a mean spirit in the Twilight Realm and instead takes on this excellent canine form. Some people might grate at the change in gameplay but overall it delivers a new and exciting experience. Later in the game you'll gain the ability to turn into a wolf whether you're in the Twilight or not, and it presents some interesting strategy as to how you'll tackle certain puzzles and enemies. If you're getting torn apart by some creatures as Link, turn into a wolf and give it a go that way. And then there are certain spots that require you to be a wolf. Its a gameplay element that you have to keep in mind at all times to progress.
Some have commented that Twilight Princess is the offspring of Ocarina of Time, and in a way it is. There are nostalgic experiences everywhere. In fact, the first three temples are higly Ocarinish in nature, so much so that I found myself anticipating certain tricks by the temple. Remember having to nab the key in the front entrance of the Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time? You have to do the same thing here, and in much the same way.
If you're getting worried that this is just a glossed over Ocarina of Time, don't. While the first three dungeons are highly reminiscent of the timeless classic, the next seven are unlike anything you've ever played. That's right, ten temples. And then there is the whole host of other things you have to do: save a village via old western shootout, take down mounted enemies in Hyrule field, escort a wagon to Kakariko village, save a dying Zora, sled down a mountain, canoe down a river. I spent approximately 50 hours going through this game, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if it takes some people as many as 60 or 70 hours.
Dungeon-wise I was very pleased. While individual Zelda games offer a fairly diverse set of dungeons to play, you start to see some repeating ideas across games. For example, there's always a forest temple of some sort. Every game, without fail. Twilight has that also, but introduces a nice mix of old ideas and new ones. My favorite by far was the Sky Temple, which, in accordance with its name, takes place up in the sky. You can fall from some fanastic heights there.
My only real beef with the game are its bosses. Many of them are either over-simplified to the point of being newb-friendly or so complex that figuring out their weak point can take six attempts and a trip to GameFaqs. The easy ones, however, are scattered throughout the game, not in the first temple or two. The second-to-last dungeon has a ridulously easy boss. That said, there are several extremely fun ones, from a hideous water monster to a reanimated giant corpse to an extremely evil dragon. I know that I'm nitpicking with the easy bosses but after I spend two or three hours navigating my way through an intricate and difficult dungeon the last thing I want is to have the experience spoiled by a boss that you can take down with the same routine repeated three times. Onward!
One addition I liked was the introduction of "combos" to Link's aresnal. I call them that for lack of a better word. They aren't combos in the Prince of Persia vein but rather improvements to your fighting techniques. Learn a special move that lets you bash enemies with your shield. Then, learn another move that lets you leap into the air and slash their head. Learn another that reminds you of the parry attack from Wind Waker. There are seven (I think) in all, and each of them can really improve your fighting skills. And let me put it this way: if you don't perfect these techniques you're going to be spitted in the last boss battle.
The weapons in Twilight Princess are a mixture of old weapons from Ocarina of Time and a couple of the handhelds balanced by new variations of old weapons and a few new ones. The boomerang from Wind Waker is back with a twist, as is the hookshot (my eyes POPPED when I saw the variation on this baby) and hero's bow. You'll have a lot of fun with these, especially with the ball and chain weapon. I'll leave it at that.
The cutscenes in Twilight Princess were amazingly well done. Since Wind Waker Nintendo has appeared to be putting a bit more effort into the cinematic qualities of games, as they really help to push the storyline and can contribute positively to the atmospheric elements that immerse you into the gameplay. The less I feel that I'm controlling Link the game character and more Link the person the better. You'll be happy to know that every character features a wide range of facial expressions from curiosity, love, hate, and sadness.
One topic that has been raging ceaselessly is the issue of whether or not its time for Zelda to move into the realm of voice acting. A couple of years ago I would have replied with a firm "no" but after playing Twilight Princess I'm a believer that Nintendo can pull it off. While you're playing the game and watching the cutscenes (the character's mouths move!) I just kept waiting and waiting for an actual word to come out. Occasionally Midna will say something in the Twilight language but its incomprehensible. I am firmly against Link ever speaking. He's a mute hero and he needs to stay that way. Part of the immersion of the game is distancing yourself from your own mind and being Link, so the last thing we need is to have that illusion shattered by an actor's voice. As for all the other characters, its time.
Twilight Princess is an epic game of epic proportions. If you own a Gamecube or Wii it would be sacrilege not to play through this title, even if you're not a fan of the franchise. From the underground freedom fighters storming Hyrule castle to the fierce battle in midair with a dragon to the haunting corridors of the Twilight Realm every detail of this game has been lovingly crafted. Not once will you experience a dull moment in this beautiful story that surrounds a myriad of enjoyable characters and loathsome enemies.
Blackshawk's GAME OF THE YEAR for 2006.
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 10:00 am
Last Blog Post For Awhile|
Why? Because I'm addicted to Twilight Princess. I'm 7 and a half hours into the game and I just finished the FIRST temple. Check back sometime next week to see if I'm still alive.
EDIT: I'm getting there! I just finished up the Arbiter temple and am now in the process of reaching Snowpeak. Expect a full Zelda review plus by blow-by-blow of this supreme marathon my brother and I are engaged in. Ever seen Man vs. Wild on the Discovery channel? This is something like that, except its my brother and I surviving our absolute siege on Zelda.
EDIT: Almost done with Snowpeak temple. Just need to figure a way to get a cannonball up onto one of the upper floors. I LOVE the weapon you get in this temple. Its just smashing.
EDIT: On the last Temple. I can feel all of Hyrule coming to a head........... The final confrontation is nearr. Who will emerge victorious? The Twilit Realm is upon us.
Posted on December 13, 2006 at 9:06 pm
A Few Little Tidbits|
Next week my hunt for a Wii will begin in earnest. My brother and I have already devised some pretty sneaky tactics, like trailing DHL trucks we see headed toward Toys R Us and things like that. After that you probably won't see me for awhile as I'll be holed up playing Zelda straight through.
There was some question as to how my ratings scale works. Well, one is the highest score, with 10 being lowest. Ha, other way around. Just wanted to scare some people. This is my ratings score for games and consoles, but you can lump other things (like my development engine reviews) in there with them.
10 - A truly magnificent product that excels in every way. Exemplifies great graphics and solid gameplay.
9 - Great game that is repeatedly fun to play and is in the upper tier of gaming. No major bugs or annoyances present.
8 - A good title that is at the top of its genre, albeit some minor problems with either graphics, sound, or whatnot.
7 - A fair product that is fun the first few times through. Occasionally exhibits some problems but does not detract from the gaming experience.
6 - So-so game with some significant problems but is still worth playing all the way through. Might have GSC (graphics, sound, controls) problems that are major or minor but still workable.
5 - A game not really worth buying right away, but out of a bargain bin sometime later down the road. Major GSC problems and frequent Aaarg! moments.
4 - Title with no hope of ever selling well. Combines boredom with GSC problems.
3 - A truly pitiful game that brings out the worst in a developer. Awful GSC coupled with terrible gameplay.
2 - A bare step above a 1, probably because the developer begged me not to give it the lowest score. If a game is at this point, I'll probably just go ahead and drop it to a 1.
1 - The epitome of sucking extraordinarily. This is not only the worst game in its genre but quite possibly the worst game EVER MADE. If I ever rate a game with a 1 it means I've repackaged the game, fumigated my computer to remove all trace of its infection, and sent the game back to the developer filled with cow excrement.
Posted on December 7, 2006 at 10:51 am