Encore Extra Stage #03

Hello again, and welcome to the third edition of Encore Extra Stage. As always, I’m Alex Williams, and as always, I’m here to liven up your dreary Friday morning. Or afternoon. Or evening. Just take your pick. I don’t watch you guys 24/7.

Much…

If this column seems a bit rushed to some, you can blame my impending trip back to dorm room life for that. About five minutes after this column is published, I’ll be packing this computer up, along with my XBox, and truckin’ back to Towson University, where I’ll live a good 4-5 days out of the week. This means classes, classes, and more classes starting next Monday. These classes will probably lead to another one of my “semi-breakdowns”, causing another three-month absence from my web work. Or not. Depends on how well I handle my time this semester.

Or, you could blame Spider-Man 2 on the XBox, if you like. I picked it up last Sunday as my “new going back to school” game to play back at Towson, but ended up playing the hell out of it instead of doing…well, pretty much everything else this week. I got sucked in, and haven’t been released yet. I mean DAMN…how does a game use the Grand Theft Auto premise better than Grand Theft Auto?

Anyway, to start this week’s offering, I’m going to talk about…LAST WEEK’S OFFERING! Hey, if it worked once…


I’LL GIVE YOU A COOKIE: THE AFTERMATH

This past week has been one of the most surreal weeks I’ve experienced in my life. From the moment last week’s column was posted on Inside Pulse, things started happening. All for the good.

In regards to the column, I’ve received nothing but positive response to it. My colleagues in the Games staff RAVED all week about it. Posters on the DDRFreak boards raved about it. Even my fiancÃÆ’Æ‘?ÃÆ’‚ÃÆ'”šÃ‚© raved about it, and she’s as far out of the Games loop as you can get. I put a lot of work into that column, and it turned out to be as good as I made it out to be.

Plus, Chris Hyatte indirectly mentioned it in the latest Midnight News. That fact alone means I’m moving up in the world. I mean HE? Plug ME? Even a tiny BIT? Hell, if he did indeed read the thing, I’d be honored. I’ve been reading him since 2000, after all. I’d never thought the tables would turn. Or maybe they haven’t. I’ve got no clue. The point is that he mentioned DDR, he didn’t overly make fun of it, and I think I had something to do with that. *cough*

Seriously, the response has been fantastic. Maybe not in the quantity or responses, but of who responded, and who liked it. The column was about a subject I was most passionate about, and I managed to let it shine through without sounding like a drooling Konami fanboy. Believe you me, I may not have the best self-esteem in the world, but when I publish an awesome column, I KNOW I publish an awesome column. So today, I get to toot my horn a little. Deal with it, or scroll down to the next section.

However, it’s not the column that I’m most excited about. In fact, it’s the main subject of the column that’s been the talk of the DDR town for the last few days: the cookie package.

Well, the cookies made it to Konami’s offices that Friday afternoon. (It’s also the last time I’ll use UPS, considering I paid good money for Priority Mail, and it arrived four days later than promised.) And with it came the thank-you letter. And by the end of the day, I was instantly propelled to the tops of Konami’s “like list”. I received a PM from one of the Konami reps posting on DDR Freak thanking me on behalf of the whole staff, as well as some other comments that I’d care to keep private. I’d rather not piss off one of my favorite companies, ESPECIALLY one who now knows my name.

Two days later, I headed over to Orange Lounge Radio, which is a weekly Internet radio show dedicated to Bemani and randomness. (And even if you don’t play Bemani games, you HAVE to listen to this at least once. It’s one of the most hilarious shows I’ve ever listened to.) And wouldn’t you know it, the one I sent the cookies to (he goes by the screen name “Sigurd”) was making an appearance. So I decided to tune in, and I entered the site’s chat client before the show went live. The host of Orange Lounge PMed me to ask if they could read portions of my Konami letter on air. To which I said “okay,” if only to help spread the word that being positive can reap much better rewards than being negative. And so, Sigurd talked about the cookies and my letter, and the Orange Lounge staff helped by embarrassing me slightly. It was fun, I had my 15 minutes of fame, and everyone laughed.

However, after my letter was read, Sigurd launched into the idiocy that goes on with the DDRFreak message boards. He touched on all the complaining the Japanese elitists were taking part in, and about how DEMANDING the people were in wanting game information, or hints on game information. (The major guilty party belongs to the DDR Extreme thread, in this case.) He then confirmed what I was talking about all along, saying how their arguments are dumbfounded, their information and theories are mostly false, and best of all, they have no idea what they are talking about.

To put it simply, KONAMI SHAT ALL OVER THE IDIOT JAPANESE FANBOYS, AND PROCLAIMED THEM TO BE IGNORANT.

I have more respect for Konami now than I did when I wrote that letter.

And so the week went. I bought textbooks for college, started packing the small things, and eventually got into an argument with one of the Japanese elitists over stupid things that shouldn’t even be argued over. He offered bullshit theories, I countered with common sense logic. I eventually called a halt to it, considering I wasn’t getting anywhere. And really, when you get into an argument with a fanboy, do you HONESTLY expect to win?

Still, I went into the argument with a light heart. Applying what Sigurd said that awesome Sunday night, his logic was bullshit, his theories are bullshit, and anything that came out of his mouth? Pretty much bullshit. I now know not to take ANYTHING he says seriously. Oh, and score one for common sense.

However, something VERY interesting happened as of late. The Gamepro website did a feature on the game, and in the process, revealed several of the secret unlockable songs. Once this info was revealed…the complaining levels in the threads suddenly went down. A LOT. People were actually looking at the GOOD side of the game, rather than focusing on the little things that really don’t matter. Also, I could see this effect was spreading. Different message boards I went to also displayed a sudden new interest in the game that didn’t involve protests. Bemanistyle, a site dedicated to ALL Bemani games, had MUCH worse venom towards the US versions than found on DDRFreak. However, the complaining level went down there as well. Even on Aaron In Japan, a site run by perhaps the world’s best DDR players on the planet, had good things to say about the mix now. And believe me, when the mix was first announced, there were NO good words on that site. They are about as Japanese fanboyish as you could get.

So, in summary, the complaining rate has gone down, Japanese elitists have no leg to stand on, and Konami enjoyed the cookies. An excellent week if there ever was one, to be sure.


RUNNING OUT OF TIME

As I said at the beginning of the column, I’ll be heading back to college this weekend, and starting classes again the following Monday. Because of this, I’ll have a lot less free time to play my games, work on cool Inside Pulse stuff, and to just generally hang out. However, it hit me just a few short days ago. The issue of “time” may be a lot larger in regards to my gaming…

In my current situation, I have three more semesters of college to go before I graduate. And in those semesters, I’ll have tons of work I’ll need to complete, taking most of my time. In one of my last two semesters, I’ll need to set up an internship to fulfill my graduation requirements. And I’ll probably want to pursue a part time job after this semester is over to add to my resume and my pocketbook. And once I DO graduate, I’ll head directly into the world of full-time jobs, complete with 40-hour workweeks, and brand spankin’ new bills to pay.

Needless to say, my time to spend on games will now and forever be reduced drastically.

Now, this isn’t a complaint on the fact that I’m going back to school. In fact, far from it. As much as going back seems like a chore, I’m grateful for the fact that I’m learning the tools necessary to function in the real world. Even if I have to discard all my college knowledge at the door of my first real job, at least I’m learning SOMETHING now. Besides, school always, always, ALWAYS comes before games. No exceptions.

But when I finally DO have the time to sit down with my favorite games, the question has to be asked: will I be able to play them the way I’m supposed to?

Okay, to illustrate my point, I’m going to pull a random game out of a hat. Let’s pick…oh, let’s go with a classic one: Donkey Kong 64 on the N64. As you know, DK64 is a 3D platformer ripe with complexity. Between five different characters, you’ll need to collect tons of multi-colored bananas, golden bananas, multi-colored coins, N64 and Rare logo coins, orange grenades, pieces of blueprints, ammo for guns, energy for musical instruments, banana medals, film for your camera, and banana fairies. Other than that, you’re constantly switching characters to solve puzzles, obtain special moves, obtain upgrades for guns and instruments, beat enemies in battle arenas, beat bosses, play retro games, and, ultimately, beat the final boss in a climactic battle that takes quite a while to complete.

Okay, now lets fast forward a few years to…well, today, and look at Spiderman 2 in the same vein. In order to get a 100% complete rating in THIS game, not only do you have to finish all the main game missions, but also you have to finish pizza delivery missions, Mary Jane missions, and photo-op missions. You’ll also need to find 213 “hint markers”, and complete 150 Challenges…twice. Add to the fact that you need to collect a large amount of hideout tokens, skyscraper tokens, buoy tokens, and plain ol’ “secret tokens”, you’ll be playing this game for a LONG time to come.

In order to complete EVERYTHING in these games, you’re going to need time. Lots of time. Time you could easily be spending playing other games in your library. Time you could be spending outside in fresh air. Time, quite possibly, you may not have.

This is why I’ll probably never “finish” Spider-Man 2. And probably why I’ll never be able to finish DK64 a second time through.

Games have seen a steady progress of evolution over the years. No longer are they the small experiences they used to be. These days, the quality of a good game lies in the fact that it is HUGE. That there are multiple quests, multiple characters, tons of modes, tons of options, and enough unlocks that make a player’s head explode. Games cannot be “simple” anymore. Games must be large, complex, and time consuming.

And time is something I have a lot less of.

Believe me, as much as I’m looking forward to Xenosaga II, I’ll never be able to finish it given my schedule. Hell, I haven’t even finished the first one. And that’s WITH time to spare. And there are plenty of other games that fall in the same category.

There’s no denying it. We of the 8Bit / 16 Bit generation are getting older. We’re are all virtually out of public school, and knee deep in college. Some of us have even graduated, and are out in the working world. No longer do we have the leisure time to idly sit around and play games all day. We have lives. We have responsibilities. Some of us are married with families. Games are not our first priority.

And yet, today’s game developers do not seem to realize this. Their games are becoming larger, and our time is becoming smaller. We, who have supported these giants for so long, are now being cast aside for the younger crowds. We are on the tail end of their key demographic, and some of us are literally days away from leaving it for good.

So what does this mean for us? Are we to be led away by the very game companies we loved ten years ago? Or will the game companies see this problem, and develop less user-intensive games for the soon-to-be 26-45 demographic?

I guess only time will tell.


I GOT MAIL?!?

I know, but it keeps happening! I’m just as mind boggled about it as you are.

Myles McNutt checks in again with some explanations on why Nintendo is doing what they are doing with the Classic NES Series:

Hey, Alex. Awesome Konami story. They’re a class act for coming through for you like that.

I’m writing, to I think the second columnist (Liquidcross got one of these as well, I think) to point out why Nintendo is releasing another series of NES Classic.

July Sales of the NES Classic Series

GBA SUPER MARIO CLASSIC $1,206,788 62157
GBA ZELDA CLASSIC $932,765 48013
GBA DONKEY KONG CLASSIC $650,041 35279
GBA EXCITEBIKE CLASSIC $281,685 15255
GBA PAC-MAN CLASSIC $303,601 15242
GBA ICE CLIMBER CLASSIC $70,378 3538
GBA BOMBERMAN CLASSIC $63,038 3173
GBA XEVIOUS CLASSIC $39,625 1994

Total for July: $3,547,921 184,651
Total for June: $6,485,394 334,068

Total: $10,033,315 518,719

That total is right. Having sold over 500,000 copies of the 8 opening titles in the first two months, Nintendo has brought in, gross, over $10,000,000 for 8-Bit ports over a decade and a half old. While I agree that they are gouging us, and have no plans to pick up any of these titles in the future, Nintendo is printing money.

Also of note; the Third Series of the Famicom Mini titles in Japan released this week, with Zelda 2 and Lost Levels, and they sold about 75k and 95k respectively in their first week. The series is a money-making machine for Nintendo, so despite any protests, I can’t see them stopping at any point in the near future.

Blame the people buying them, I guess. Maybe if you ask nicely and send them cookies, they’ll stop it. ;)

Myles McNutt

Now, the fact of the matter is that I DON’T think the Classic NES Series is that bad of an idea. I’m a nostalgic gamer, much like many gamers are these days, and seeing reprints of old games on collections is something I like to see. The CHOICES of what goes into the series, and the METHOD of how Nintendo gives them to us, is what I’m trying to get across.

As you know, Nintendo already released four out of the first eight games in the series. Zelda can be found on the Zelda Collector’s Edition disc, and Donkey Kong, Ice Climbers, and Excitebike could be found already as e-Card packs. I had already paid my money for these four games (or in the case of Zelda, received it for free), and I don’t find it necessary to shell out another $20 to buy them again. However, most people already have, and that’s why Nintendo is continuing the series here in America.

I’d love to see more games released in the series that I haven’t played in a while. I want to see the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles revived. I want to see Punch-Out. I want to see Super Mario Brothers 2 (The Lost Levels) in the US, where we never got to see them faithfully reproduced in the 8-Bit sense. (Okay, they were in Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, but in the chopped up GBC screen form.) However, they decided to reprint METROID, which has ALREADY been reprinted on Metroid: Zero Mission earlier this YEAR. It’s a sign that Nintendo will think that we are crazy enough to buy anything. And, of course, Nintendo is right given the sales figures.

But if a day ever comes where a TRUE Nintendo anthology is released, after reprinting each classic title separately over and over again, people are going to be pissed they shelled out $100 for five NES games when they could play the SAME ones for less than half the cost on another system. I guarantee it. But it won’t, so there’s no point in driving myself insane about it, it there?

Then again, if I DO send them cookies…maybe we can get Punch-Out and The Lost Levels on the same cart! BRILLIANT! Now all I need is an address…and an extra $50 to cover the cookies and shipping costs…


RECENT DDR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

My column, my space to gloat. Deal.

NEW AAA’s THIS WEEK:

(Number)(Difficulty)(Song Name)(Mix Name)
#851: 8 Heavy — SP-Trip Machine (Jungle Mix) [EXTREME JP CS]
#852: 7 Heavy — Sexy Planet [EXTREME JP CS]
#853: 7 Challenge — B4U (B4 Za Beat Mix) [MAX2 JP CS]
#854: 7 Heavy — Dynamite Rave -Down Bird Sota Mix [MAX2 JP CS]

I’m a happy boy!


PLUGS AND SHILLS THAT PAY THE BILLS

Inside Pulse has some of the best writers ever. Inside Pulse has some of the best writers ever. And Misha. (BADUM-CHING! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahaha…seriously, I kid…)

*Ahem*

Views You Can Use

The 10th ArtBen Parfitt
Ben asks game companies to remove region lockout on game systems in order to lower piracy. I wish that could happen. Then I could get my grubby little hands on Dancing Stage: Fusion. DARN EUROPE FOR OWNING A GOOD MIX FOR A CHANGE!

From A Gamer’s BasementA.J. Angeloni
A.J. says anime and video games are interrelated, and he’s not that far off the mark. Then he launches into talking about anime. A.J. is awesome now. More awesome than usual, anyway.

The Daily PulseAlex Lucard
Can I sit in a sombrero and play games on a sombrero controller while watching a TV with a sombrero on it? Sombrero? Pinata?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video GamesMisha
No, seriously, I was kidding! Misha, you ARE cool! Um…uh…Misha is short on commentary, but sticks with the current news. And now I’m the COOKIE MONSTER? Um…okay, kid. Stick with “AAAlex,” and we’ll get along fine.

Mid-Week Mid-BossLee Baxley
Lee goes into “hooks” that get you into the game, and “anti-hooks” that drive you away from it. He then sites Dark Cloud 2 as a prime example of both. I’ll have to take his word for it.

Pulse CannonMichael O’Reilly
Michael gives us another rousing rendition of what he played all this week. All because we didn’t e-mail him. QUICK! Send him a message before he keeps doing this week after week after week!

Rapid FireBryan Berg
Bryan talks about the fall of XSN sports, divulges the Catwoman sales figures thanks to Myles McNutt (Damn, he gets around, doesn’t he?), and gives us a good look at what we are focusing on for the next generation consoles. I’ll give you a hint: NONE of us are thinking of games, apparently…

The Angry GamerLiquidcross
A short piece this week offering outrage over the moronic combination of Bloodrayne 2 and Playboy. Believe me, Liquid, I was THIS CLOSE to ranting on that myself. Instead, I’ll just say digital and pixilated women can NEVER beat the real thing.

Outside The Box

Hyatte indirectly plugs me, so I’ll indirectly plug him. Or he’ll insult me in his next offering, claiming he never did that. I’m willing to take the risk.

Orange Lounge Radio
Go here Sunday night at 6:30 PST, and prepare to laugh your ass off. This is the funniest game related radio show ever, even though its mostly about Bemani. Trust me, this is KILLER.


FINAL WORDS

My last column for the 2004 summer break. Man, it was a good break. Now to pray the first four weeks of school go by quick so I can finally play DDR Extreme US. It’s going to be worth it. Trust me.

Alex Williams, The Norwegian Athlete