Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 06.05.03

Hey all. Hope you all had a good week, and welcome to another edition (the 15th, if my math is accurate) of the Thank God It’s Thursday News Report. And after 14 times of writing it, “I’m Bryan Berg and I’ll be bringing you all the latest in video game news” is quite boring. So use your imagination, and maybe I’ll use mine from now on.

A note to the rest of the News Report staff – you guys rule so much. Everyone else – you’ll see what I mean next week.


The Violent Game Law
Some time ago, we discussed a proposed law that would prohibit the sale of violent video games to minors. Wednesday, the proposal was rejected by the US Court of Appeals on the grounds that video games are already protected as part of the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech”. The government felt that games need no further government intervention.

The FTC reports that in 83 percent of game sales to minors, the parents were involved in the purchase. But that’s a meaningless statistic because we don’t know the circumstances of these cases. In other words, were these parents aware of the choices they were making?

The Court of Appeals report mentions that there aren’t any direct correlations between violence in minors and the extensive playing of violent games. And for right now, with that information, they made the right decision. However, the government would do well to revisit this issue in five years. Games are becoming more real all the time, and it doesn’t require a major stretch of the imagination to see how tragedy could result if someone gets the wrong message.

NFL 2K4
Sega announced today that its 2004 version of its NFL2K franchise will not be known as NFL 2K4. Instead, it will be called ESPN NFL Football. In addition, the game won’t be available until September as opposed to its previously established August date.

As we all know, NFL 2K3 got murdered by Madden 2003 last year, and these moves are made in direct reaction to this. Sega could have done a better job handling this; i.e. having the new name around E3 time so people could get used to that name and build anticipation for it. Even just a few weeks after E3 is a bad time for a name change – people will still be looking for NFL 2K4 in September, not the incredibly generic “ESPN NFL Football”.

Metallica
Along the lines of the recent announcement of an Eminem game, Viviendi Universal games has announced a Metallica-based video game. It will be an action game which will allow players to utilize a “fully customizable vehicle”.

So the band that refused to make a music video will now be featured in a video game. And, like the Eminem game, it could be a game with any band, and has nothing really to do with Metallica except that Metallica will draw numbers.

I would like to challenge game developers to actually MAKE A GOOD GAME rather than produce shit with a high-profile name attached to it. Games are headed down the same path as movies, where everything’s a sequel and everything else sucks. Hopefully, we can avoid this horrible destination.


Plugs
Welcome back, Alex Lucard! Have a Gold Medal. Ending Lee’s ridiculous streak of Golds, Alex is back with a vengeance (and a new Retrograding) and we all benefit from his return. Read his column!

This week, the Big Boss Man himself, Chris Pankonin checks in with a review of The Hulk for X-Box. Sure, the Hulk movie is nothing more than an exploitative attempt at making money out of the whole superhero movie phenomenon, but who says the game can’t be good? Not Chris.

Not to be outdone, Lee Baxley pops in with the Hump Day Otaku News Report. In spite of his most glaring error yet (Thank God It’s FRIDAY?!?), the rest of his report is solid enough to warrant a Bronze. Good job, Lee. You da man.

Lee also posted a review of Enter the Matrix for PS2. His closing line is something along the lines of “”…unless you totally hate the Matrix, and I don’t know anybody like that”. Think again, bro. I HATE THE MATRIX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (sorry)

Non-411 Link of the Week
If you can’t get enough of the Sammy Sosa saga, check out Say It Ain’t Sosa at espn.com. It provides more analysis of the situation than you could ever want. But this is one of those rare cases when people aren’t overreacting – the situation totally warrants this kind of attention. Such a shame for Sammy, and hopefully his name will end up cleared.

CD of the Week
Winner – Van Halen: Best of – Volume 1. You’ll see why this CD is here in a little bit. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty good retrospective of Van Halen’s storied career. It paints the picture of two different bands – the ballsy David Lee Roth era and the ballady Sammy Hagar era.

However, the bands aren’t as different as you think. Basically, 1984 was the turning point for VH. That’s when they started with the keyboards and all the experimental stuff. In other words, the music was heading down the road it did regardless of who was singing. History says that Van Halen became wusses when Diamond Dave quit/got fired, but that’s not really true. It just so happens that the change was made in the process of everything else changing, so we end up with Sammy getting a bad rap and David Lee getting glorified in the process.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And for the record, while I prefer the David Lee Roth era of VH, “Dreams” is the best song they’ve ever done. And from the looks of it, the best they ever will do.

Commentary of the Week
I don’t have a game-specific commentary this week. Instead, a lot of different things merit mention, so I’ll go through each of the topics (many of which coincide with 411 Zones) and that’s this week’s Commentary.

Wrestling
If the angle with Goldberg is that he showed up out of nowhere to become a top guy, then what the hell is Kevin Nash’s deal? In Nash, we have a guy who sat out for a year, did nothing, came back and wound up with a title shot right away. How does that make sense?

I realize that in the world of the WWE, things don’t have to make sense for them to happen. But at least Goldberg has done some pretty cool things (spearing that fat f*ck from 3 Minute Warning through the barricade chief among them) and has given a pretty good effort. Nash, on the other hand, has relegated himself to just interfering in the week’s main event, engaging in a ridiculous parking lot brawl, and talking about beating on Triple H in the tone of voice you talk to your grandmother in. Argh.

Music
I never thought I’d write the words I’m about to write”… Diamond Dave is God.

Sunday, my buddy Shaun and I went to see David Lee Roth at Westbury Music Fair. I had pretty low expectations for the evening, but I wanted to see how the so-called best frontman ever did his business. As it turns out, he has earned that moniker by being The Man. The Man simply put on an amazing show, the likes of which I’d not seen in my 21 years of existence. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Dave’s band, which did a hell of a job emulating Van Halen, capturing every nuance of that band’s greatness. Excellent show – highly recommended.

Mini-Review – Metallica: St. Anger
Picked up St. Anger a day before its official release date – thank God for the bootleggers! What we have here is Metallica returning to its roots. Would it prove successful?

This writer says “Yes”. At the very least, it’s a change of pace from what they’ve been doing since 1996. And more than that, it’s GOOD stuff! It sounds almost like a lost album that was done between “…And Justice For All and the Black Album. The lyrics are more personal than they’ve ever been on a Metallica record, and the production is kinda dirty – dirty being a good thing, giving the album a raw quality, not the crappy production you hear on Justice.

It’s really weird to hear Metallica without solos, but they pull it off here. However, it gives the impression that Metallica isn’t strictly a “guitar band” anymore. But back after a long absence are double bass rolls and fast tempos, not to mention METAL. Pick up this CD – actually 2 CD’s (there’s a DVD of live rehearsal performances of each song on St. Anger) and a link to more online content. All this could be had for under $10 at Best Buy, so don’t hesitate to pick it up.

Movies
So they’re making a movie of The Producers”… whoop-de-damn-do. The thing was originally a movie! Like I said earlier, it seems like people only want to do rehashes and sequels, and nothing else is worth making/seeing. How depressing.

Games
This week, I picked up a used copy of Street Fighter 2 for Super Nintendo. Playing it, I wondered if there could ever be a phenomenon like SF2 – that is, something that makes a name for itself in the arcades and, as a result, becomes a smash hit immediately upon release for the home systems.

It didn’t take me long to realize that this could never happen again – not to the magnitude SF2 took it, where it became as much a part of pop culture as GTA is today. It’s really a sad commentary on the state of arcade gaming, which was once our only option. We need the arcades to provide an alternative to the occasionally humdrum home systems, and a renaissance in arcade gaming can only be good for the industry.

Sports
The Islanders made a very bold move by firing Peter Laviolette after two consecutive playoff seasons, this after the Isles missed the postseason for eight straight years. What happened?

The official explanation from Mike Milbury was something along the lines of “Making the playoffs isn’t good enough.” And that’s awesome to hear. We on the Island have become accustomed to the Losing Culture our neighbors at the Garden know oh so well. Getting to the playoffs is a cause for celebration. This move by Milbury negates that and serves as the ultimate kick in the ass, as if to say “You’re SUPPOSED to make the playoffs”. And the Isles will remember this lesson next spring.

On the other hand, how the heck do you get rid of a young, popular coach like Laviolette? People will come out of the woodwork now and claim Laviolette “lost the team”. They’re probably right. But what coach doesn’t lose their team? Even Phil Jackson is losing his team now.

We’re seeing a very similar situation in the Detroit Pistons. Rick Carlisle had two very successful seasons in Detroit and was canned this week. At least the Pistons got Larry Brown, while all the Islanders have is their minor league affiliate’s coach. Some say it’s good that the Isles got this guy, because he knows a lot of the homegrown talent (and there’s a lot of good players down there, most people say), but I can’t help but feel it’s going to backfire in the end.

One last thing on the topic of sports: Remember a long time ago when I said something about little things overshadowing the whole? This will come into mind when we discuss Sammy Sosa’s legacy 20 years from now. Was he using cork when he hit 66 homers in 1998? Did cork have any impact on his emergence from a solid-hitting outfielder to the most potent power threat in the bigs? Never mind the creatine debate, the question will always be “Did Sammy cork all the time?” Baseball fans can only hope the answer is “No”.

Comics
I picked up a comic called “Arkham Asylum” a few weeks back, and I’m just getting to it now. Basically, Batman takes a stroll around Arkham Asylum and ends going insane himself. It’s considered a “mature” comic, and that might not be too far off. The stuff is pretty heavy and very much on the creepy side, which is always a good thing. The artwork is top-notch and it’s a great all-around read. Supposedly, it’s somewhat rare, so if you see it, get it.


Have Fun
This ends our time together for the week. Hope you enjoyed yourself. Have a great week and we’ll meet next week; same place, same time. Take care!