Inside Pulse 12

The Gamer’s Conscience 01.13.03

Conflicted.

Now there’s a word you won’t read or hear frequently, especially in the gaming world. When it comes to judgment on a particular game, it’s usually pretty damned clear-cut: it either rocks your world harder than Bad Religion’s The Process of Belief (as of time of writing, an unattainable feat), or it sucks ass, like Kelly Osborne’s cover of Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach with the guys from Incubus (as Mr. Lucard pointed out). The same holds for games. Superman for the NES was an absolutely horrible waste of ROM chips, while The Legend of Zelda continues to be a damned great game, giving Nintendo a future cash cow that to this day they milk like no one’s business. 99 percent of the time, the opinion of a product is absolute, and in the mind of the gamer irrefutable. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

As to any good argument, there’s supporting evidence to make the final opinion valid. Like when I say that the Saturn was the best platform to house a Capcom fighter, we all know it’s true. A 4 MEG cartridge that allows for arcade perfection on X-Men Vs Street Fighter gave to the Saturn version what the Playstation couldn’t handle: in-game character swap, with none of the assist’ crap. Seaman on the Dreamcast was pure innovation incarnated in the form of a GD-ROM with a microphone. You can’t wax with Leonard Nimoy introductions on nursing the development of a sarcastic frog. Now that’s brilliance!

But, since December 25th, I’ve been taken hostage to what should be an equally clear-cut judgment as those noted above. Not since playing Transformers: The Mystery of Convoy on NESticle for the first time have I been this conflicted about a given product. For me, it’s been rather easy to form an opinion on a game-related item after spending some time researching and playing with it. But on Christmas Day, with this direct imposition of confusion on anotherwise coherent head”¦ well, it’s no good regardless. And it’s a gift too. That doesn’t help at all.

Ladies and gentleman, enter the X-Box. Weighing in at, well, a lot heavier than other consoles, this hunk of plastic is perhaps the biggest single embodiment of opulence to enter the gaming realm since the original Neo Geo. Boasting 4 glorified USB ports in the front, a dual notched AC outlet with an Ethernet outlet in the back, a 10 GIG Hard Drive on the inside, and an ugly zirconium-quality gem on top, I was now the owner of arguably the world’s most powerful gaming machine. With developers sequestered in mob-like fashion by Micro$oft to churn out titles like US propaganda, and a pocketbook larger than the purchasing power of many African nations, there shouldn’t be any reason NOT to love this purchase!

But then reality hit. After some extensive (read: quick study) research, I found no more than 6 titles that are arguably quintessential to any X-Box owner- and this is saying much, since I’ve only been able to play three of them! I’ve had prior experience with Halo, and despite not being the biggest FPS fan I must deliver credit where it’s due. That brings the total to 1. On my fortunate visit to E3, I played a build of Panzer Dragoon Orta; a title that, if being as good as it was at that time, will no doubt be one for the X-Box cannon. That’s 2. Being able to support custom soundtracks, used in concert with the Controller S, the Box’s version Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 wins out over the others. That’s three. And after playing Jet Set Radio Future for a while, I can conclude the series does have a life after the Dreamcast. That’s 4. With the played games spoken for, I do expect big things from the new Ninja Gaiden and an oft-rumored Transformers RPG (I believe the credit goes to Game Informer magazine for that).

In this same reality, there are already numerous choices of quality titles to grab off the shelves. In Nintendo’s corner, the Gamecube plays home to a slew of damned great titles like the recently released Metroid Prime and Super Smash Bros Melee, not to mention the constant stream of silicon quality on the Game Boy Advance that I need not get into. Sony, despite being as responsive as a comatose worm to consumer demands, still has some great names out there like Devil May Cry, the Armored Core series, and Gran Tourismo 3: A-Spec. Choices abound across these platforms, but the same can’t be said for the Box in question.

But back to the dilemma.

Sure, it would be a rather easy fix to ignorantly adopt a favorable opinion on this Box, and thus giving into the ignorant “brand-loyalty” mentality. You know which mentality I type of. The same mentality that put Bush-43 into office. You read it in every newsgroup with those headers that are cross-posted into every group that has the word ‘games’ in it’s address, like “THE ATARI LYNX OWNZ” or “Why Nintendo SUX.” After everything of substance is stripped from this view, all you’ve got left is a cop-out option; an avenue of empty promises. Just because the system can do great things doesn’t necessarily mean that it will do great things. Brand loyalty here isn’t the viable path.

But on the equal extreme, I can’t just ignore the thing. After playing JSRF and Sega GT2002, I can’t help but be swayed by what this machine is beginning to offer. The allure of custom soundtracks for certain games is a damned cool feature that I for one would like to see deployed more widely than it is currently, so that I’ll not have to listen to DEL tha funkee homosapien one more agonizing time. With some more current offerings like Steel Battalion bringing with it controllers that have more controls than my car, there just might be a future for this thing. X-Box LIVE is now in effect too, allowing other people with other huge zirconium-encrusted Intel-powered Boxes to mask their voices in time-consuming online glee.

But all this glee can get very pricy very quickly. The LIVE kit goes for what, 50 dollars? Good for a year, perhaps, but what after that? And while ST looks cool, and might play cool, I definitely don’t find it remotely cool to spend an additional 150 bones to control a 50 dollar game! We could call it Samba De Amigo: Part 2!

And despite the fact that I do want to embrace this thing, full-on acceptance is still elusive. After weighing these opinions, reading the materials, and listening to hype & friends, I still don’t know what to make of my new machine. There’s so much potential stored in this thing, but skeptic I am. As for now, I view the X-Box a lot like Slipkont: a reasonably good act to follow, sporting some entertaining singles, but not so fully developed quality or technique-wise. JSRF will no doubt keep me partially satisfied until Panzer Dragoon hits the shelves, or if I can be brainwashed into holding MechAssult in high esteem. Ha ha- that’ll be the day.

Proving that there is a power greater than X: a confused sense of free will.

That’s the Gamers Conscience.


And with all of that in mind, I implore all of you to weigh in on the question via e-mail at the link below. To fellow Box owners and non-owners alike: if I get a healthy response, I’ll hand-pick some for posting here in the next edition of Conscience, complete with little replies and responses. All I ask is that whatever you type be coherent and at least adhere to some semblance of good grammar. Try to keep the Internet jargon, like “LOL” “IMAO,” etc out as well. You’re not being graded on structure, but you’ll appear just that much more intelligent if the text is intact.

Until next time!