The Daily Pulse 09.27.04

I hate column openers. I don’t want to share my life with you. That’s why I have a blog. Go read that if you’re looking for some insight as to who I am. Right, let’s begin this week’s column.

Games

In case you missed AJ’s post about it, yesterday was Pokemon Day at Toys R Us. They were giving away posters and cards and most importantly to me, they were giving you Pokemon for your Fire Red or Leaf Green games. So I headed over at 9:30 AM because I was hoping to get a Celebi or Mewtwo or Lugia or Deoxys or god knows what, but I KNEW it was going to be awesone. Why else would they have such a publicized event, right?

Well it was a bit of a letdown for me. All the Pokemon were not rare, but merely cart specific. You could get one of every Pokemon that was only on one cart but not on the other. Pokemon like Vulpix, Ekans, Growlithe, Sandshrew and so on. You also could get the Pokemon that could only evolve once traded. Haunter, Graveller, Kadabra, and Machoke. Not a great deal at all actually. However, for people with only one cart or without friends that also play Pokemon this was a good deal. Yes, it wasn’t for hardcore Pokemon fans at all. It was for casual gamers and younger players.

The catch was that no one at Toys R Us that was working there knew how to play Pokemon. They didn’t know how to trade or what else to do. There were restless children wanting new Pokemon and well, I stepped up and agreed to help out. I took the NoA cart with all the special Pokemon and helped gets the kids what they wanted. I planned to be there for fifteen minutes and ended up sticking around until noon when the event was over. It was a lot of fun, and most importantly, I saw what it was like to be a young gamer again.

See, everything has changed. We, the early gamers who grew up with Nintendo and Atari and CollecoVision, we’ve all grown up. And the gaming industry has grown with us. Games back in the days of the NES and Master System weren’t ‘kiddee.’ Why? Because all games appealed to all ages back then. River Raid could be played by a three year old, or a 64 year old. Super Mario? Who didn’t play that! Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star weren’t considered part of a niche genre. RPG’s were as mainstream as any other type of game because there were no labels or definitions of “platformer” or “FPS” or “Tactical RPG.” Games were just fun and addictive and something to do alone or with friends. Graphics didn’t matter. Gameplay did. It was a simpler time that we all miss.

And as I said, the Gaming industry has aged with us. Games are more violent and detailed in terms of plot, graphics, and all the things you can do in a game. And it feels like developers and publishers are still developing solely for the generation that gaming really began with. They continued to be aimed as those people growing older, now in their late twenties to early thirties. Look at games today. How often do you hear of ones that are geared for all ages? On my PS2 I own Gradius III & IV, Gradius V, R-Type Final, Skygunner and Activision Anthology that have a rating of “E.”1 of the five games is a collection of old Atari games. The other 4 are shooters. And hey, I was able to beat Gradius when I was in Grade School, but you know, the newer games are a lot tougher and I can’t see 9-11 year olds being able to actually enjoy these games like I did when I was there age due to the increase in difficultly and complexity. Again, here’s a problem. Games are rating by what happens on the screen or by naughty words. Not whether all ages would actually enjoy the game in question.

On my Xbox, EVERY game I own is rated Teen or Mature. Don’t you see? We’ve stopped caring about the younger gamers! The only games young kids can play nowadays are horrible games that demean their intelligence like Barbie or the Olsen Twins games. And the worst part about it is the developers were playing games like Contra or Legend of Zelda at that age. They should remember how important it was to have wonderful games at that age. Games that captured the hearts and imaginations of youth. Super Mario 3! Remember that? Who didn’t love that game? Or Mega Man 2? Age didn’t matter. Developers made games for everyone, not just young me ages 13-31 like today. Developers, publishers, reviewers, writers, journalists, we’ve all turned a blind eye to the age group the matters most. The age group we once were and the time when we all became gamers for life because of quality games we could play as easily as our parents or older siblings. Shame on us all. Every last one of us for the invention of the phrase ‘kiddee’ and scorning anything that could appeal to a young gamer and trying to act macho with our need for blood and guts and tits. If that attitude had been around when we were that age, there would be non Playstation or Xbox or Game Cube. There’d be no gaming at all.

But thank god for Nintendo and the Game Cube. Out of the twenty games I own, ten are rated E. Let’s look at the list shall we?

Pokemon Colosseum
Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition
Ribbit King
Animal Crossing
Pokemon Channel
Mega Man Collection
Ikaruga
Super Monkey Ball
Pac Man World 2/Pac Man Vs
Pokemon Box.

And you know what? Even with two of those being retro 8 bit collections, a lot of those games are fun no matter how young you are. Who can fault Animal Crossing for being anything less that mind blowing and addicting? Or Ribbit King for being as bizarre as it is enjoyable? Pokemon Channel got Game Cube GOTY from the Kliq in 2003 because it was not only silly and fun and had a ton of mini games, but because it was for everyone. Only the most hardened craptastical gamer who has forgotten the whole point of gaming as a pastime, not a way of life, can actually hate Pokemon Channel. Or those just try to be ‘cool’ around other gamers, forgetting that being into video games is geeky at best. It was beautiful to watch, fun to play, you got a Pokemon mini system to do all sorts of mini games with, and it wasn’t something you would love and play every day all day, but it was the kind of game that the majority of we adult gamers have forgotten how to love. More the pity for us.

See, Nintendo has been smart. Where Sony and Microsoft has been targeted the wrong demographic in the aging gamers, Nintendo has a monopoly on the young gamers. The ones that will grow up and be loyal Nintendo zombies. Ones that will remember, like the kids I was with Saturday, that the Playstation 2 and Xbox didn’t have games for them and that’s why they preferred the GBA and Cube. The other systems didn’t have games that interested them, because Sony and Microsoft weren’t smart enough to start the grounds of a new fan base, instead they went after existing video game fans. In ten years, Nintendo, if they don’t f*ck this up, are going to be back on top in the console wars while Sony and Microsoft will be appealing to an audience hitting middle age or at least losing their hand-eye co-ordination and reflexes.

12 year olds could care less about a system having the ability to play DVD’s or TIVO capability or any of the extra crap put into consoles nowadays. They just want to have fun. And Nintendo is giving them just that.

Mark my words, a decade from now, the generation that will then have the most disposable income will have their revenge.

And on a nice note, because I helped out and spent that time with young gamers, I got a free copy of Guilty Gear X2 # Reload for the Xbox. Didn’t ask for it. They were just being nice back. So Toys R Us got some loyalty out of me, and I’m sure I’ll be back for the next Pokemon day, not only to get more Pokemon, but also because I don’t ever want to take the next generation of gamers for granted. After all, someone has to warn them about how crappy other web site and gaming magazines are. ;-)

COMICS

As you might have read already, In Avengers #502, Brian Bendis kills off Hawkeye.

As a guy who grew up and owned all 102 issues of West Coast Avengers, and the four part mini-series that started it all, this bothers me a lot. I don’t read comics anymore, but I do flitter through the new ones from time to time so I know what the hell Morse and Daron and their scrub patrol are talking about.

I have to admit I think Bendis is a hack in terms of his writing style. The plots are terrible, the characters are mockeries of how they are supposed to be and there’s just no discernable talent behind his pen. It’s sad to see what passing for a gripping comic arc these days.

Hawkeye was the heart and soul of the Avengers. Not Captain America. Yes, Capt is my favorite super hero in the Marvel Universe, but Hawkeye was the Avengers. Capt is great as the leader and focus of the team, but that’s because he’s Captain F’N America. Steve Rogers is the penultimate leader in the Marvel Universe. If you put Steve and Reed Richards on the same team, Capt would still get the leadership spot. Capt and Professor X? Ditto. Read the very first issue of Secret Wars to see that no matter what, every super hero is submissive to Captain America. It’s what he is. A symbol of excellence and leadership and optimism.

But Hawkeye? He’s the spirit of the Avengers and has been since issue 16 when he, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch joined up with Captain America to form the New Avengers. Hawkeye evolved from a bad guy with a heart of gold to a rebellious young super hero with an attitude. He went from being the obnoxious anti-hero always undermining Capt’s authority to the essence of what an Avenger is. He was an Avenger first and Clint Barton second. He was always on the team, and eventually became the leader of the West Coast branch. Hawkeye proved himself to be every bit the equal to Captain America, and eventually surpassed Capt as a capable leader when Steve Rogers was limited by being Steve Rogers.

I remember Avengers Annual #16 vividly. I was ten years old at the time, and this was one of the best Avengers stories I had ever seen, and still is to this day. The Grandmaster has captured Death and in a moment of total insanity plans to destroy the entire universe. The Avengers must play a game against him. The Grandmaster creates a Legion of the Unliving. Dead heroes and villains working for the Grandmaster now that he has the powers of death. The universe is divided into several sections. Various teams of Avengers are teleported to different arenas where they must get past the Legion of the Unliving and defuse the Endbombs. It was amazing to see how each Avenger handled themselves under such pressure, and even more so to see all but Two Avengers perish. Yes, that’s right. EVERYONE died but two. Their deaths scenes were great and realistic all at the same time. Silver Surfer sacrificed himself by going kamikaze into one of the bombs rather than face Michael Korvac. Tigra sacrificed herself at the hands of Dracula to give Tony Stark time to finish defusing a bomb. But he still died because, hey, he’s Dracula.

But there were two scenes that stand out more than any other. Two scenes that are burned into my psyche 17 years later. The first is Captain America having to kill Bucky to defuse a bomb. That was chilling. Captain America doesn’t kill. And Bucky? Well, if you read comics in the slightest, you’ll understand what that means. But Capt does it to save the Universe.

The second is when Captain America and Hawkeye realize they are the only ones left and the Grandmaster brings him before them to start Round 2. Hawkeye however, suggests a simple game of chance. He puts a sonic arrowhead on a shaft and then takes a headless arrow and puts them behind his back. Hawkeye challenges Grandmaster to pick the arrow with the head on it. If Grandmaster is correct, everything ceases to exist. If Hawkeye wins, everything goes back to the way it was. The Grandmaster, being the incarnation of games, accepts and guesses…the arrow without a head. Death escapes, and restores the Universe.

However before she does so, she carts away the Grandmaster for punishment and we see Capt chew out Hawkeye for risking the Universe so casually. Hawkeye then points out it was only a risk, if he had played by Cap’s version of the rules, and opens his hand to reveal Grandmaster had indeed picked the correct arrow, but Hawkeye, being an ex carnie and expert of slight of hand, removed the head and cupped it in his palm before showing the Grandmaster what he had chosen. In other words, HAWKEYE CHEATED. And the look on Steve Rogers’ face is priceless.

This is by far one of Tom Defalco’s crowning moments as a writer, and the moment where Hawkeye began being treated as an equal by Captain America and where Hawkeye really became the Avenger of all Avengers.

As well, the best story arc in the history of Avengers was “Lost in Space-Time” running in West Coast Avengers from issues 17-23, with issue 23 considered to be one of the most important issues in all of comics at the time it came out, when Hawkeye’s wife Mockingbird killed the Phantom Rider and it set into motion events that are still felt even today in the main Avengers comic. Good stuff, and it all revolved around Hawkeye.

I have to say, Bendis’ storyline is everything that is wrong with comics and why Marvel sells one-tenth of the number of comics is did a decade ago. It’s the Crash TV of the comic age. Back then you didn’t need to kill characters. You needed a good story. You didn’t need to swerve your readers, you needed amazing dialogue and wonderful well-written characters. It’s horrible to see what one of the biggest comic series of all time has degenerated into.

And that’s the problem. Most of the writers in the industry today simply CAN’T. They lack originality and creativity. But most importantly, they lack the ability to fully realize a character. And Hawkeye is not a character that could be in a title on his own. He’s not a solo kind of guy. He’s a group character. Best with other characters.

It saddens me to see our own Tim Sheridan (the IP staff member who reviewed Avengers #502) know less about the character and the Avengers in general than a guy like myself who stopped reading comics completely after Zero Hour. He makes also one of the worst statements I have ever read when he states, If people did like those characters, people like Wasp and Hawkeye would have had their own series like the popular Avengers do.

Sorry Tim, the fundamental importance of team comics is creating characters that don’t work in a solo title as well as they do in a group Dynamic. Guy Gardner, the best GL EVER is a perfect example. So many people clamoured for him to get his own book after JLI. And he finally did. But only one writer could do Gardner justice, Keith Geffen, and because he didn’t, the comic floundered, and so did the character. Same with Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. In the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, they were two of the most popular characters DC has. And people demanded a Blue N Gold title even after their respective solo titles died. Why? Because that’s the type of characters they were. They needed foils, teammates, chums, buddies, whatever in order to fully realize their potential. Hawkeye and the Wasp are the same way. Team comics should never be looked at as lesser than solo comics like Tim alludes to. Team comics are at their best when they are in fact made up of people that couldn’t be separated. Again, Teen Titans circa “The Judas Contract” era. DC’s biggest book at that time. And none of the characters, including Robin, could have been able to hold up a title on their own if given that opportunity. Yet as a team it was DC’s cash cow. Lesson to be learned here: don’t treat a team comic or look at the characters like you do Solo characters with their own books. That does a disservice to comics themselves, the characters, and most importantly the readers.

Thankfully this IS comics we’re talking about, and this means Hawkeye will be back in less than two years, and hopefully Bendis will be on the side of the road begging for nickels from passer-bys. It’s a shame to see Marvel let someone take their classic and beloved characters and ruin them like that. But this is why I stopped reading the crap that comics have become, and even though I know the state things are currently like in that medium, I have my West Coast Avengers of yesteryear to cherish like I do my JLI. I can read the adventures of Hawkeye when he was

Goodbye Clint Barton. I know I’ll see you again soon. And when they bring you back, I’ll actually buy that issue just to show support for someone at Marvel not having their head up their own ass.

FOOD

This week, we’re not using one of my dishes, but one that thegoodcook.com asked me to include in order to promote Emeril Lagasse’s new cookbook, “Emeril’s Potluck.”

I used to love Emeril Live when I was younger. Now I rarely watch it as I just don’t watch TV. But there’s something about Lagasse that just screams charisma. So I thought I’d put his meal in this week’s column for you all to try.

Decadent Angel Hair Pasta Alfredo with Lump Crabmeat and White Truffle Oil

Makes 6 servings as a main course; 8 servings as an appetizer.
Ingredients
1 lb. angel hair pasta
4 cups heavy cream
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
1 lb. jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
2 tbsp. white truffle oil, plus about 2 tbsp. for garnish
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus about 1/2 cup for serving
3 tbsp. snipped fresh chives

1. Bring a large heavy pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring to separate the strands of pasta, until just barely al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander.
2. Combine the cream, basil, garlic, salt, and white pepper in the same pot. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add the pasta, toss to coat, and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the crabmeat and truffle oil, stir gently so as not to break up the lumps of crabmeat, and cook for 1 minute. Add the cheese and stir gently to blend.
3. Divide the pasta among six or eight pasta bowls. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of truffle oil over each serving and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. Garnish with the chopped chives, and serve immediately.

PLUGS

I’m reviewing Fable and Second Sight this week, so look for those.
See why I think Gradius V is my pick for GOTY so far in 2004.

Liquidcross tackles the latest Mega Man game while Alex Williams reviews the newest in the Guilty Gear series.

Over in the TV Section, you can read columns by Amazing Race’s Chris, and Vecepia from Survivor. I guess if I watched TV, I’d know who these people are, right?

Gordi is proving to be a great wrestling journalist, but it does amuse me to see him comment in his latest column that he has “Anti-HBK bias,” and yet he reads me and trusts my judgment in video games. Irony, thy name is Mike Hickenbottom writing under a pen name so Vince doesn’t blow his wad in a non erotic manner for associating with the IWC. I mean…because Shawn is my favorite wrestler and I’m so biased towards him. Really.

Eric S talks about Smackdown and whatever show TNA has now. I don’t want wrestling nowadays either. I have my UWF tapes, and that keeps me happy.

Dammit, PK Make them call hi, Deathstoke, not just Slade!

FRAGGLE ROCK! WHOO!

And that’s it for this week. Next week will be an all mailbag issue as I’ll be busy with the move and putting together shelves and what not.