Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 10.09.03

Welcome to the Thank God It’s Thursday News Report! Much to discuss, so settle in and enjoy!!



ESRB
In an effort to help parents decide what games are appropriate for purchase come Christmas (and, of course, avoid liability for any future incidents involving teen violence and video games), the ESRB is launching an ad campaign to tell parents what games are “OK to Play”. The ads are targeted toward women aged 30-49 and will appear with the intention of raising parental awareness not only of what games are out there, but of the ESRB rating system as well.

It’s hard to tell what the ESRB’s motives are here. Is this a truly altruistic attempt by the Board to get parents to know that they shouldn’t be buying some of the games that are the hottest items this holiday season? Or is it simply an attempt for the ESRB to look good so that nobody can accuse them of not having the public’s best interests in mind? Either way, you could argue that the ads are welcome, as it’s a good sign that someone’s actually doing SOMETHING to nip this problem in the bud.

Then again, if the ESRB has been putting ratings on games for 10 years now and they still need ads to clarify what the ratings mean, that doesn’t say a whole lot for the ratings. The same could be said for the ESRB, who should have been monitoring this from the start and placing these ads all along.

Mario Kart Bonus Disc
Nintendo has finally announced the contents of the bonus disc that it will be giving away with Mario Kart: Double Dash! The disc contains five playable demos (Mario Party 5, F-Zero GX, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, and Sonic Heroes) as well as bonus content for Fire Emblem, the Game Boy Advance game.

Nintendo was probably smart not to go the Zelda route and provide a port of an N64 game. By putting five demos on the disc, Nintendo gives itself a chance for greater business around the holidays, as people will be playing these demos just before the season begins. By including third-party titles, the disc is a better representation of what the GameCube does than it would have been by simply throwing Mario Kart 64 on a disc and selling it for $5.

PSX
Longtime TGIT readers may remember mention of a system called the PSX in these pages. Not quite a PS2, the PSX is a more upscale home entertainment device that contains a hard drive and a DVD burner. With all of these features, the PSX is obviously a more expensive proposition than anything else out on the market.

The system was unveiled in Japan recently, and lots of jaws dropped in regard to the PSX’s ability to record a TV show onto a DVD while the show is in progress. The PSX’s 24X DVD burner is by far the fastest on the market. In fact, the specs on the PSX are so impressive that, according to gamespot.com, Sony plans to market this device primarily based on these attributes. That the PSX can play both PS One and PS2 games is a secondary factor, albeit one that can help Sony move some units.

As stated earlier, this system was just unveiled in Japan, so its timetable for a US release is unclear. By the time it’s ready to come overseas, the technology may be in need of an upgrade – as anybody who’s bought a computer recently knows, technology moves at such a fast pace that anything you buy today may be obsolete next month. Nevertheless, the system may be out of most gamers’ budgets, as MSRP’s are $725 for a PSX with a 160GB hard drive and $906 for one with a 250GB hard drive.

Half-Life 2
As most of you know, hackers have stolen one-third of the source code for the upcoming game Half-Life 2. This has forced VU games to delay the release of this title until April 2004.

With VU Games having lost $61 million already this year, the Half-Life 2 fiasco is the worst news imaginable for the company. The sad part of this news is that it shouldn’t have even been news, because the people responsible for this hacking should have kept to themselves and not done such a stupid thing. Their selfish desire to do something “cool” has robbed all of us of the ability to play this highly-anticipated game (at least for the time being) and has put another company in financial jeopardy. Good job, guys.

Zelda
As 411’s own Bebito Jackson reported earlier this week, Nintendo will be releasing a collection of Zelda titles which will be known as the Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition. Included will be The Legend of Zelda (NES), Zelda II: The Adventures of Link (NES), Ocarina of Time (N64), Majora’s Mask (N64), and a demo of The Wind Waker (GC). In other words, basically everything except for A Link to the Past, which was just released for Game Boy Advance in the past year.

The only bad part about this deal is that it looks like this will only be available as a pack-in with new GameCubes. To which I ask, how exactly does this help sell GameCubes? Yes, it’s a nice little throw-in that costs Nintendo very little to make, as they have the rights to all of these games and do not have to touch them up at all. And gamers will certainly appreciate this disc as something to mess around with and learn the GameCube controller with. However, to think that way is to miss the entire point of bundling a game with a system. Generally, you want to include something that shows off the finer points of your system. Of course, given Nintendo’s current situation (they just lowered the price of the Cube to $99 and can’t afford to give anything else away with it), that’s not exactly feasible. A Zelda disc does succeed in giving gamers a little extra, and that’s what Nintendo is going for here. It’s simply a way of giving people what they want, even if they ha!
ve to buy a Cube to get it.

Here’s hoping Nintendo makes this disc available to everybody, and soon! Who wouldn’t pay $50 for this?



Plugs
Folks, the staple of a rushed column is a half-assed, incomplete, rushed plugs section. Yes, this column is being written in a very expedited manner. But not plugging people just because you don’t have time is a really dickish thing to do, and it makes everybody on the site look bad. So what’s my point? These plugs are here for a reason, so CLICK THEM!!!!!!!!

(sorry)

You may notice the lack of “medals”. To be honest, I think they’re getting to be kind of corny and contrived. If you think otherwise, please let me know.

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. This week, LC continues to bash Nintendo. This time, he goes after the GameCube controller, which is totally fine by me, since it’s total crap. And don’t forget the Sega CD!
So I wonder what the Big N’s got in store for their next console’s controllers? I’m thinking maybe a box, with one big orange button in the upper left, and a perfectly straight stick coming out of the center. Nice and ergonomic, and oh-so-functional!

Jeff Watson – Friday’s Slice O’ News. If Rush isn’t racist, then he just doesn’t know football. Any NFL fan could name at least 7-10 black quarterbacks who have been legitimate stars in the past ten or so years. Hence, the media doesn’t pine for a successful black quarterback.
I just think that presidential candidates should have more important things to concern themselves with then a sports show.

The 411 Games Staff – The Ratings Drive-By: October ’03. The games get ‘capped in this new feature that we’re all quite proud of. Definitely check it out!
Since we’re giving you quick succinct shots at games with at least two reviewers at time, it’s sort of like of a drive by shooting only with videogames…

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Cory, when the Mets suck as bad as they do, don’t I get an allowance for a legitimate second team? Please?!?
Cory: Yet more proof that nice guys get the chicks.
Tom: Yeah, Cory. Especially when they’re nice NBA All-Stars with championship rings on their fingers and millions in the bank.
Cory: So he’s got some help…

Frederick Badlissi – The Gamer’s Conscience. Fred provides an interesting take on re-releases. Methinks that the reason why the second group is so great is that they’re so rare. These games are OURS, sort of like a cult movie or a band that’s just starting to get big.
However, when you think about it, the video game market itself isn’t so unique in this respect. A lot of consumer goods fall into this line of production; all of the digital media, from albums to movies go in limited runs. Cars do too, as well as wine, and… well, other stuff I’m sure.

Chuck Platt – A Thumb to the Eye. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. This article is SO funny. Seriously.
“It was great while it lasted but I was happy to see it end when it did. They were talking about TacoTime and PitaTime and GyroTime. The producers stopped seeing what made the original such a hit: the burgers. No one wants to play a game where they make bobaganuce, do they?

Alex Williams – 411MAX: News News Revolution. It’s not an Alex Williams column without a well-placed shot at the N-Gage. This one is no different.
So, what would you rather get for $350 this holiday season? An N-Gage and a game? Or a GameCube, Memory Card, Controller, and up to SIX games? Hmmmm, let me think on that for a second…

Alex Lucard – Retrograding. This is basically a summary of all the behind-the-scenes stuff that we’ve been doing at 411 Games. It’s kinda cool to read about it, actually, even if you’ve been immersed in it for the past while like we all have.
FOUR OF THE SIX who were actually trying to be entertained by the horror and kick to the balls of video gaming that is the N-Gage walked up to the counter and wanted a Neo Geo of their own. See, the realized they could get nigh a dozen games AND a system that could have competed with the GBA had people only stopped being stupid f*cking sheep and actually purchased the NGPC after years and years of whining about Nintendo dominating the handheld scene only to be revealed as the poseurs they actually were when a better product came along.

Alex Lucard – Retrograding ADVANCE: Shining Soul Review. Funny story about this review – it was posted last Friday, then somehow disappeared from the site. Well, it’s back now, so read it!
Wussy Elven Mages aren’t going to be able to heft plate mail. Unless you’ve been bulking them up and neglecting their spells like a silly nutjob.

Lee Baxley – Disagea. I hear at least one of the 411 guys praising this game once per day, if not more. See what it’s all about in this review!
If you are a fan of strategy RPGs of any sort, then do yourself a favor and buy this game.

Chris McCarver – Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004. You can go on tour in this game! Finally!!!
Tiger 2004 is a great golf game that doesn’t feel as boring as its real-life counterpart can sometimes be.

Jeff Watson – Cabela’s Deer Hunt 2004 Season. I have to admit – I laughed when I saw this on the reviews board. At least it sounds more in-depth than Duck Hunt.
If you are looking for a game that lets you just run out and gun down some animals, this is your game.



Commentary of the Week
I’ve got the NHL Preview coming up. First, I’d like to brag about being right on 3 of the 4 Division Series. That’s pretty neat. And the one I got wrong, well, at least the series went 4 games!! I’m sticking by my picks for the LCS, only substituting Florida for the Giants as the Cubbies’ victims in 6.

Next, this is for all of you Fantasy Football owners out there. I need some serious help with my team! We suck!!!! I’m currently 1-2-2, yet I’m somehow tied for first. Don’t ask.

Anyway, here’s my team. Starters are in bold, reserves in plain text, IR guys in italics.

QB: Matt Hasselbeck, Trent Green
RB: Warrick Dunn, Troy Hambrick, Rudi Johnson, Marshall Faulk
WR: Anquan Boldin, Rod Gardner, Wayne Chrebet, Mushin Muhammad, Justin McCareins, Dez White, Jerry Porter
TE: Todd Heap
K: Mike Vanderjagt
DST: Chiefs, Panthers

This week, I’m playing the League Commissioner, aka the guy to whom I shrewdly traded Stephen Davis and the Giants’ D for Troy Hambrick and the Panthers’ D. GREAT move, Bry. I’m an idiot. Help me!!!

NHL Preview
This preview is done with one notion in mind – there is nothing that makes a sports fan sound smarter than adding the phrase “Don’t forget” before any sports-related tidbit.

Example: “Don’t forget, the Jets have started out slow the past two years under Herman Edwards.”

See? You give yourself a lot more credibility this way. So for most teams, you’ll be seeing a quote like that. And even if it doesn’t provide a lot of insight about the team, at least it’ll SOUND good. The other teams have more bland things written about them, things wich may or may not get you pumped for the season.

Here’s the format. We’ll do it by division. The number in parenthesis after each team is their predicted finish within the conference. This is completely bias-free, with one notable exception. Since every other publication has put the Rangers ahead of the Islanders with absolutely no rationale for doing so, I will take a stand and place the Islanders in front of the Rangers. Not only because the Isles are better, but because dammit, somebody needs to do this.

Enjoy!

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
1)Devils (1). These guys won the Cup last year and haven’t lost anybody significant from their roster. No reason why they shouldn’t be as dominating as they were last year.
2)Flyers (4). The Flyers have gotten the same crappy goaltending in the regular season as they’ve gotten in the playoffs. So why do they always choke in the playoffs, yet rule the regular season?
3)Islanders (6). The Isles have made the playoffs the past two years, believe it or not, despite a terrible season last year. Plus, it’s hard to ignore a 7-0 preseason record.
4)Rangers (9). They finally added a role player in Greg de Vries as opposed to some guy that led the league in scoring in 1995. They need more guys like de Vries, and then they may do some damage.
5)Penguins (15). This is a team that traded away everything they have, save for Mario Lemieux, and plans to start an 18-year old kid in net. Any questions?

Northeast Division
1)Senators (2). The Havlat holdout could hurt Ottawa in the early going, but they have too much talent to stay out of the top for long.
2)Maple Leafs (5). The Leafs got even tougher this year, adding Bryan Marchment. Still, they won’t get out of the second round.
3)Bruins (8). This is the year where Boston’s young D steps up and leads the Bruins into the playoffs.
4)Sabres (10). Buffalo’s still one year away, but there is a great core of guys and a new owner. This is going to be an exciting team to watch this year.
5)Canadiens (14). Remember two years ago when Theodore was MVP and there was hope around Montreal? What ever happened to that?

Southeast Division
1)Lightning (3). The Lightning will either crash and burn, a la last year’s Islanders, or will continue their winning ways. Bet on the latter.
2)Panthers (7). This team is ready to take the next step, and they will this year with a playoff berth. They’ll have to improve on last year’s abysmal home record, though.
3)Capitals (11). Washington throws around money like they’re the Rangers, and they have the same amount of success.
4)Thrashers (12). A month ago, this was a playoff team. What a sad situation in Atlanta.
5)Hurricanes (13). Quick – name me five guys on the Hurricanes. Exactly.

Western Conference
Central Division
1)Red Wings (2). Detroit’s goalie situation sounds like a Fantasy goaltending tandem. Though something tells me this situation could get ugly in a hurry.
2)Blues (6). Trust me – Osgood isn’t as bad of a goalie as everyone thinks. And with tough D-men like Al MacInnis and Barret Jackman, letting goals up won’t be the issue in St. Louis.
3)Blackhawks (10). They were going okay last year… until Crackhead Theo struck again. With no distractions this year, they could be a surprise team.
4)Nashville (12). These guys keep getting closer to a playoff berth. Unfortunately for them, the West is just too good.
5)Blue Jackets (13). Give them two or three years. Let their young guys develop at the proper pace. Then watch Columbus become a truly good team.

Northwest Division
1)Avalanche (1). Two of the best players in the world sign with your team, for far less than they’re worth, just to win a Cup with your team. THAT’S how you know you’ve got a good franchise.
2)Canucks (4). This could be their year… if they could just get by those dratted Avs!
3)Oilers (8). They’ve got a guy holding out, but Edmonton has always managed to stay competitive regardless of who’s out there.
4)Wild (9). They’ve got TWO guys holding out, and they just happen to be Minnesota’s top two scorers. In their system, they need someone to strike fear into the hearts of the opposition, and they don’t have that right now.
5)Flames (15). Jarome Iginla will be playing elsewhere by the trade deadline. Guaranteed.

Pacific Division
1)Stars (3). Derian Hatcher is gone, but a core of Mike Modano, scrappy vets, and promising young players remains. In other words, don’t worry about a thing.
2)Kings (5). Roman Cechmanek will get the Kings to the playoffs. From there, LA is on its own.
3)Mighty Ducks (7). Look for Anaheim to struggle in the first half, then turn it on in the second. They won’t miss Kariya as much as you might think, though it will be a huge adjustment at first.
4)Sharks (11). San Jose has gone from “Team of the Future” to “We Suck Again” in record time. How did this happen? And can anything be done about it?
5)Coyotes (14). Well, their new uniforms are pretty cool.

Playoff Predictions Made Entirely Too Early
EAST
Devils (1) over Bruins (8)
Senators (2) over Panthers (7)
Islanders (6) over Lightning (3)
Maple Leafs (5) over Flyers (4)

Devils (1) over Islanders (6)
Senators (2) over Maple Leafs (5)

Senators (2) over Devils (1)

WEST
Avalanche (1) over Oilers (8)
Red Wings (2) over Mighty Ducks (7)
Stars (3) over Blues (6)
Canucks (4) over Kings (5)

Canucks (4) over Avalanche (1)
Red Wings (2) over Stars (3)

Canucks (4) over Red Wings (2)

STANLEY CUP FINAL
Canucks 4, Ottawa 2

AWARDS
Hart: Paul Kariya, COL
Norris: Nicklas Lidstrom, DET
Adams: Mike Keenan, FLA
Art Ross: Markus Naslund, VAN
Vezina: Marty Turco, DAL


Bye
I really hope you enjoyed this week’s column. It was a lot of fun to write. I’ll be back next Thursday with more goodness, so make sure you come back as well. Have a great week!