Encore Extra Stage #08

Encore Extra Stage #08

Teaser: Okay, next time I decide to not do a column for a few weeks, I’ll let you know.

Hello, I’m Alex Williams. Yes, there have been several weeks without a column. Yes, there is a reason for this.

The simple fact is that as I remarked before in EES, my time has become increasingly limited, with college being the main factor. I may be taking only four classes this semester, but the collective workload of these classes is incredibly large. In one class alone, I just got finished with a gigantic group research presentation, and am now just starting ANOTHER gigantic group research presentation. Add to that a steady stream of tests in the other three classes, as well as presentations and computer projects, and you have a full plate. This doesn’t even BEGIN to account for my duties here at Inside Pulse.

So a few weeks ago, I had a choice. Do I continue to do a column each week on top of all the crap I already have to do? Or do I take an unannounced break and concentrate on reviews and Tribunal segments? The obvious answer to that was the latter, as more reviews for this site make us look infinitely cooler. So that’s why you’ve seen me everywhere else and not the column section.

Now just because I’m finally back NOW does not mean that I’ll be back every week. After all, life goes on, and so does my school work. So I can’t promise you guys a column every single week. It may be bi-weekly, or even tri-weekly from this point until mid-December. I WILL promise you, however, that I’ll make every conceivable effort to put out a column as often as I can during this time frame. If the time is there, the column will be there as well. So to my loyal readers, I’m sorry. This is the way it has to be for right now.

But as long as I’m here, lets get started with something I promised at the end of Issue #07, that being THIS:


DDR FESTIVAL: AMERICAN PARTY COLLECTION

For every game series, there is a hardcore group of loyalists that are very hard to please for one reason or another. As I explained before in this space, Dance Dance Revolution is no exception to this rule.

This particular group of hardcore loyalists will stop at nothing to preach to the world the superiority of the Japanese games. Mainly the arcade games, actually, never mind there hasn’t been a new Japanese arcade game in close to two years now. They whine and whine at how America is ruining DDR by not putting in music that appeals to the Japanese gamer and instead including music that appeals to…you know…Americans. They shout as us that records obtained in arcade games are the only ones that “count”, even though there are a good 40 songs right now you can’t play in arcades, with even more being hard to find. They say there are no difficult songs in America, and yet they have played scores of difficult songs for years, to the point where they are not so difficult to them anymore. They are the ones complaining that America has not received songs such as Sakura and Paranoia Survivor, yet can play them RIGHT NOW on the Japanese mixes they imported.

I think the sentence I’m looking for is: “These guys are full of shit.”

Despite these “asiaphile” ramblings, the truth is that DDR is no longer the super-cool fad it once was in Japan. Ever since DDR 3rd Mix let the series reach its Japanese pinnacle, the Japanese fan base was slowly decreasing. Subsequent arcade releases helped prolong the series, but the fan base didn’t increase. In fact, the JP arcade versions of MAX2 and Extreme served more to be fan service for the existing players and Bemani, rather than trying to suck brand new people into the fray. But the fan base kept leaving in the long run. And the arcade scene has nearly bottomed out.

Yet the loyalists welcomed every single Japanese arcade mix with open arms, accepting each and every song, along with each and every play mode. These guys think each and every mix that comes out of Japan is tailored especially for them, and them alone. They end up pissing on the American games for not being Japanese enough, and believe that our exclusive content is simply unsuitable for such a Japanese game.

Yep. They’ll denounce songs like Y.M.C.A and Go West in America., yet readily accept In The Navy ’99 and It’s Raining Men in Japan. Figure that one out.

In any case, most of these loyalists can’t accept the fact that the JAPANESE mixes are developed for JAPAN, and with the same holding true for America and their games. KCET develops the Japanese games to cater to a very specific group of fans these days, while the SAME company develops the American games to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. And apparently, this is bad. The loyalists see brand new stuff for America, and proclaim the mix to be terrible. Never mind that many songs were included from the JP mixes to try and please them. Never mind that there are many new and existing gameplay modes to take advantage of. Never mind anything GOOD that can be said about the game. They’ll just focus on the things they don’t like, pass the game off, and go back to the JP mixes that have been old and stale for years.

Which leads into what this commentary is about.

Recently, Konami announced that a new PS2 mix was going to be released November 18th: DDR Festival: Dance Dance Revolution. This is the first JP mix to be released in almost a year, and has no arcade mix to be a port of. Naturally, all DDR fans expected big things of this mix. After all, mixes from Japan are supposed to be MILES better, right?

Well, then the initial song list was released. I took one look at it…and laughed my ass off.

THIS MIX IS MOSTLY AMERICAN.

Now let me explain what I mean by this.

The majority of this mix contains songs that have already been made available on the American PS2 and XBox, but not any of the current generation systems in Japan. In fact, ALL BUT ONE of the KOs on this mix can be found on American mixes currently. Nine are from MAX US, three are from MAX2 US, five were lifted off of Extreme US, and a whopping THIRTEEN appeared on the American XBox, with eleven of them directly ported. There’s ONE brand new track I see by BeForU, but until the game officially comes out, that’s all I see that would be new to DDR fans.

Then we have the licensed music. Again, I laughed. Five of these tracks are OUR Karaoke Revolution licenses! Add Kids In America to that list, and we have six more songs we can already play here in America. One song is already appearing on Dancing Stage Fusion, which officially comes out today in Europe (I believe). That leaves a total of four more licensed tracks, some already appearing on the Japanese Karaoke Revolution games. Which leaves very few new songs that would even be CONSIDERED “new” for us importers.

Now I will admit that since this game is being released in Japan, it makes sense to include all of these past songs. They haven’t been released on the Japanese PS2 yet, and there are those who HAVE been waiting for them to appear. Plus, Japan wouldn’t be able to see the American XBox-exclusives otherwise. After all, it’s not all that profitable to release a separate mix on the XBox in Japan right now. (Otherwise, we would have probably been given something by KCET, almost identical to the PS2 counterparts.)

But for those in America, like myself, who already have played the American games 90% of the song list is seemingly based off of…the current song list looks incredibly sloppy. It looks like another “best of” mix (like Party Collection was), but with less of a song balance. The list looks to be a meshing of stuff that was already plugged into the American PS2 code, and cut/paste into this game. And several of those songs had already appeared in past Japanese PS2 mixes as well (Firefly, 5.1.1., D2R), seemingly being repeated for no reason. I’m all for old songs being brought back into a new interface, but did they HAVE to limit themselves to songs America got first? (PS2-wise, of course) I’ve noticed that neither territory has seen Jam Jam Reggae on the PS2 yet. Or Mr. T (Take Me Higher) for that matter. Hell, the original 20, November and 20, November (D.D.R. Edit) have been home version MIA since 2001. Most of these even appeared on the Extreme JP arcade game. There’s NOTHING that makes me think KCET thought of taking songs other than what already appeared in American games thus far.

This is especially true consider every KO from DDR Ultramix is appearing verbatim. All eleven songs have been lumped together without even considering how to balance them with the other songs included. Now these songs worked in Ultramix because there were other songs like them in order to balance things out. In this initial song list, they seem out of place, especially considering that some of them were NOT edited for time like many of the others.

If this game were released in America unchanged, I’d consider it a slap in the face to the fans. Hardly any of it is new to us. It simply repackages song code from other American games and repackages it into a compilation disc. Made from FOUR SEPARATE DISCS I already own. And unless we get a smattering of new material, this thing will most likely not warrant a purchase from me.

Yet the Japanese loyalists will herald this thing as a second coming, brush aside the “crappy” American mixes, and proclaim it the best mix EVER. All because it’s Japanese. They’ll take a sloppy song list made 90% from songs already playable in America, yet draped in a Japanese mask, and announce to the world its better than an American mix.

Damn, that is sad.


I GOT MAIL?!?

Remember that if you e-mail me, your e-mail will have a 95% chance of appearing in this column. This could be a GOOD thing, or a BAD thing. And both examples are documented here today. (These are almost a month old, so bear with me.)

We begin today with long-time reader Chad Smith, who writes me a NOVEL regarding some misconceptions I ran off of in last column’s outing. This puppy is long, so I’ll be breaking it down into sections:

re: wiping your genesis carts off your HD cuz of Nintendo’s legal stance

Just an FYI. Nintendo is full of it here. You ARE legally allowed to have copies of games that you own. Nintendo of America has lost court cases vs defendants where the defendants had ROM images of their own games, even though they did not possess the means to make backups of said games. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have the means to do the actual copying. It is analogous to copying a CD you own onto tape, even if you don’t have a CD-to-Tape recording device. Perfectly legal. It is against the US copyright law to forbid such actions, as it falls under the Fair Use laws.

So if you want to recollect your Genesis ROMs, you go right ahead, you’re totally legally (and morally) in the clear.

This is an interesting development. As I said last time, emulation is a complete gray area these days, with companies like Nintendo saying one thing and everyone else saying something else. I based my arguments on Nintendo’s side of the coin, looking at emulation from a business perspective. And by looking at it that way, OF COURSE owning copies of games not issued by the actual company is terrible and illegal. However, I also put forward the possibility that Nintendo is probably exaggerating a bit on piracy laws in order to cover their own asses. And if the Fair Use laws are correct, Nintendo is doing just that.

So perhaps I will recollect my Genesis ROMs…one day. Outside of maybe one or two, I don’t use the ROMs nearly as often as I do playing the actual carts/game discs.

re: Thus, not only does it not lead to more sales, it has the opposite effect and purpose. ROMs do lead to increased awareness of a product, but every ROM downloaded = one copy of the game not purchased by you, John Q. Gamer

This is also a false statement. Just because someone downloads a ROM, does not mean Nintendo has lost a sale. The equation of the 2 sides is logically inaccurate. To put it another way, I’ll use the following example: If a friend of mine has a CD containing music, and I go to his place and copy that CD to tape to take home with me, I have not comitted any crime, and I have not caused an “opposite effect” to the copyright owner of that CD (The RIAA.). By me copying the CD, I did not cause the RIAA to lose money. They didn’t MAKE money, but not making money and losing money are two entirely different things. Also, as you pointed out, this increases the awareness of the music, and thus makes it more likely that I will buy the CD myself.

Also, I consider myself an avid gamer. I play DDR every day, nowhere near as good as you are mind you, but I can pass most Standard songs with a B grade or higher. Not bad for a 200lb 6’1 white guy who’s almost 30 years old. Anyway, my point, I own a LOT of video games. Eight consoles, and own literally hundreds of games. I have played the majority of these games on emulators, and the experience is always a letdown. There’s just something about playing a game on the original hardware with the original controllers on a TV that you just don’t get by playing it on a PC via an emulator. Even if you output to a TV, use a hacked up USB controller based on an original, and play that way, in the back of your mind you still KNOW that it’s an emulator, and isn’t the real thing. It just isn’t the same. I’ve had this discussion with my friends, and every single one of them feels the same way. A good friend of mine, who is the manager of an EB Games (woo discounts!), brought it up to me and how emulators actually help the re-sale market. You would not believe how many people play a game on an emulator, then hit the stores in search of old, used games. A local store to me, called Microplay, has more sales in a month dealing with NES, SNES and Genesis carts than they do with Gamecube games. Wow, that was long winded.

Usually when I make a statement such as “one game pirated = lost money”, it’s an exaggeration to say the least. Of course every thing is a situation. Some people only collect the ROMs of games they already own. Some people download a ROM of a game they DON’T own, play the game for about 2 hours, and then go searching for the actual game. And there are still others who prefer to illegally download all their software, not buy the actual games, and therefore are the ones most feared by the game companies.

You also bring up a good point in how a company won’t “make” money, but won’t “lose” money in these practices. However, it’s only one way of looking at it. From the company’s point of view, they’ve spent X dollars developing and beta testing their game. They’ve also spent Y dollars in advertising and promotion. So when each game is released, they’re ((X Y)/# of games shipped) dollars in the hole. They expect us consumers to by that product in order to break even, and desirably make a profit. Piracy can become a problem if the game is copied illegally and made available, as it cuts into the company’s projected profits. Again, though, that’s just another way of looking at this situation.

re: the guy who said it’s technically illegal to make mix tapes

He’s out of his mind. It’s perfectly legal to make mix tapes, as it falls under the Personal Use laws. By his logic, it would be illegal to tape anything off the radio, or using a VCR.

Agreed. If making mix tapes is illegal, than we should ban all forms of VCRs, CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, and any other form of hardware/software that allows you to make copies of something you own. It’s your right.

re: hacking a DDR game to enable modes

This is morally questionable, but not illegal. Once someone buys software, it’s theirs to do with what they please, as long as they don’t make any profit by what they do. If I buy a video game cartridge, rip it apart, melt down the plastic and use it to make a nice keychain for my car keys, that’s completely up to me, and copyright holders don’t have ANY say. If I buy a piece of software, take it home and start examining it in order to get at its guts, using decompilers to figure out how it works, that’s just fine and dandy, because Reverse Engineering is not illegal. If it was illegal, the Game Shark, Game Genie etc lawsuits filed would have succeeded, but they didn’t, because they don’t change the *original* media. Just like any DDR game that has been altered, the ORIGINAL media was not altered. If it was, I’d like to know how any person changed a CD or DVD-ROM. Tthat stands for READ ONLY MEMORY, the data CAN’T be changed on the original disc without making a copy, which is perfectly legal under fair use laws.

The point I was trying to get across wasn’t the fact that simply hacking into the game is wrong. Hacking into the game, and MAKING IT AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC is. There are those who hate the US versions of DDR SO much, they’ll rip the game and post the ISO of it for anyone who wants to download for free. And they do this in order to let people play the game WITHOUT paying for it. The express purpose here is to not let Konami garner sales from the “hardcore” crowd.

Then again, these same people will do the same for the Japanese releases, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what their TRUE motives are.

The only problem with all of this, as you’ve pointed out, is that some people SELL these copies and ROMs, and *THAT* is illegal. It’s not the equivalent of selling stolen property, and I swear if I hear one more person say that downloading music is stealing, I’ll rip someone’s head off. You’re not stealing, just like you’re not stealing from Nintendo or Sony or Sega or *insert company name*, you are breaking copyright laws, which is a totally different crime.

Good point. It’s not like you “stole” Sega’s plans to create the Sonic the Hedgehog character and put out a Sonic product before them. Instead, you are violating copyright laws.

re: that letter by Chad Smith

Wow, that guy is eloquent, funny and charming. Maybe he should have a
guest column or something ;)

…still haven’t found that damn top-loader NES…

Okay, you can only go so far without pushing your luck here, Chad. You want a spot on this staff? You apply like EVERYONE ELSE! ;)

Now on to something much more pressing, DDR.

WHAT THE FUCK MAN! DDR Extreme *STILL* hasn’t arrived in stores here!
I’ve had the thing preordered at EB Games for months, sand I’m STILL
waiting! Yes, I know, you can’t and don’t have anything to do with
shipping or release dates, but ARGH! I NEED TO PLAY THE GAME!!!

I finally passed Max 300 on DDR Max Standard last night. First time..
got a D grade.. but I passed, and I’m happy.

…kay I’m done now. There’s way more I could put in here, but I won’t
bother.

Are you living in Canada? If you are, I hate to break it to you, but US DDR games and Canada seem to be pretty incompatible as of late. What happens is that in order for a DDR game to sell in ANY country, Konami needs to have permission for all the licenses that appear in the game to…well, appear. Licensing procedures differ from country to country, which is partly why our DDR games are radically different from Japanese games, but I digress.

In any case, all the non-Konami music needs to be licensed for Canada as well. For the last couple of years, Konami has had some REAL hard times obtaining permission for these licenses in Canada, if they’ve tried at all. This results in the game getting pushed back, and pushed back, and sometimes ultimately cancelled. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it isn’t fair. Yes, it’s one of Konami’s faults. But there’s not much we can do about it.

So my advice to you would be to “import” the game online. Again, it REALLY shouldn’t be this way, but thems the brakes sometimes.

FYI, you and Hyatte are the reasons I come to the Pulse. Just thought you should know.

WOW. Ladies and gentlemen, we have our NEW FAVORITE FRIDAY FAN! Or NFFF, if you prefer.

Okay, moving OFF of emulation for a while (I’ll never bring up that I never owned an SNES again. Seriously.), we have THIS laughable entry from HelloSir:

Hey there,

I don’t know if you are the right person to ask this question to, but perhaps if not you could pass it on:

WHEN ARE YOU GUYS GONNA PULL YOUR HEADS OUT OF NINTENDO’S ASS AND REVIEW _GOOD_ GAMES ON PLATFORMS THAT ARE NOT MARIO-CENTRIC???

I mean, probably the best game I have played in a year is Star Wars Battlefront. I play it on the PC. I also have the demo that came with the Trilogy DVD’s for the Xbox. The game is also available for the PS2 (although not as good as Xbox and nowhere near the PC version, but its still there). When will you guys review THAT game?

That’s what the readers want. No more Mario Ass Party Sleepover Kart Kong Golf Adventure. Nintendo is dead, Mario sucks. The GBA is crap as are all known games for it.

Its time you Nindildo fan boys realized facts.

…Uh…yeah…

Look HelloSir, number #1, opinions are not fact. Let me say this again, just so things are clear: OPINIONS ARE NOT FACTS. If you don’t like Nintendo, that’s YOUR prerogative. It does not make it a universal truth. And this applies to ANY opinion EVER made that is not supported by facts. And no, “I HATE NINTENDO” is not a fact.

Keeping with the opinion theme, you have your opinions, and we have ours. It is the overall opinion of this staff that Nintendo has an incredible track record of developing and publishing fun, addicting games. It’s why they’ve hung in the video gaming business for over 20 years now (regarding arcades and consoles), and why they are still supporting hardware to this day.

The fan boy comment is WAAAAY off the mark, however. Just because we (as a group) are fans of Nintendo franchises like Mario, Pokemon, and Zelda, it does NOT mean we are fan boys. Not every Nintendo game in existence has garnered high scores from us. If any of you remember, I gave Super Mario Advance 4 a 6.5 for being an overall mediocre port of Super Mario Brothers 3. (Widro STILL bitches at me to this day for taking the stand I took.) And if you’ve read my Mario Pinball Land review, you’ll KNOW that the “fan boy” argument is completely moot. Believe me, if any of us were true fan boys for ANYTHING, any and all games that would fall into a particular category would receive 10 after 10 after 10, without looking at any of the game’s flaws.

So long story short, if you don’t agree with us as far as what constitutes a “good” game, you can either (a) accept the fact that we have different views on gaming and let us run our site, or (b) leave and not come back. You won’t be missed if you choose the latter option.

Oh, and Star Wars: Battlefront was reviewed a while ago. Yeager gave it a 6.5, the in-between point of “above average” and “good”. Don’t agree? TOUGH!

And finally, we have an e-mail that’s exactly the OPPOSITE of the previous e-mail:

So true, man. I grew up on the original Nintendo playing at my friend’s house and spent many hours of my childhood with my Super Nintendo. Now at 18 while all my friends talk about their X-Box’s and PS2’s, I still only have a GameCube and still think Super Metroid and Donkey Kong Country some of the best games ever. Nintendo did me up right.

VA

You hear that, Lucard? Your theory is TRUE! It’s TRUE, TRUE, TRUE!

Seriously, this is exactly what I was talking about. Even though Sony and Microsoft rule the roost right now, our fondest gaming memories will always lie with the old school generation. Nintendo and Sega’s war will live forever in the annals of time.


RECENT DDR AAA ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Not as many as last week, but still a sizeable amount compared to other weeks.

#912 — Wonderland (UKS Mix) – Standard (5) [EXTREME US]
#913 — Wonderland (UKS Mix) – Heavy (7) [EXTREME US]
#914 — Wonderland (UKS Mix) – Beginner (1) [EXTREME US]
#915 — Don’t Clock Me – Heavy (6) [EXTREME US]
#916 — Don’t Clock Me – Beginner (1) [EXTREME US]
#917 — Never Ending Story (Power Vocal Club Mix) – Heavy (7) [EXTREME US]
#918 — Y.M.C.A. – Light (4) [EXTREME US]
#919 — Y.M.C.A. – Standard (6) [EXTREME US]
#920 — Kids In America – Light (4) [EXTREME US]
#921 — Kick The Can – Light (3) [EXTREME US]
#922 — Kick The Can – Standard (6) [EXTREME US]
#923 — Go West – Standard (5) [EXTREME US]
#924 — Firefly – Heavy (7) [EXTREME US]
#925 — Bizarre Love Triangle – Standard (5) [EXTREME US]
#926 — Believe – Standard (6) [EXTREME US]
#927 — Theme From Enter The Dragon (Notorious Mix) – Standard (6) [EXTREME US]
#928 — Diving – Heavy (6) [EXTREME US]
#929 — Simply Being Loved (Somnambulist) – Standard (6) [EXTREME US]
#930 — Never Ending Story (Power Vocal Club Mix) – Beginner (1) [EXTREME US]
#931 — Kick The Can – Beginner (1) [EXTREME US]
#932 — Firefly – Beginner (1) [EXTREME US]

And the “Road To 1,000” is shorter still. It’ll be even SHORTER when I Beginner-whore next week and end up pushing my total to over 960.


PLUGS & SHILLS THAT PAY THE BILLS

My fellow Games writers, I’m sorry, but plugs are short this week so I can get back into the swing of things. Believe me, EVERYONE here deserves to be read, even without me breaking down who wrote what, and why they rule so much. So go READ THEM NOW!

Eric S. nails it right on the head here. I really have nothing to add to this, though. I mean, what’s done is done, and we’re going to have to life with it four another four years. There’s nothing else I can do about it, other than whine and scream. And that accomplishes nothing.

However, what REALLY chafes me is the fact that SOME of you voted for Alan Keyes. ALAN F’N KEYES. Not all of you, but some of you actually checked the box next to his name. You should be hunted down, kidnapped, have the phrase “I Voted For Keyes” tattooed on your forehead, and dumped out into the street wearing only a pair of boxer shorts so people can laugh at you. You know who you are.

Orange Lounge Radio once again gets the auto-pimp for being so awesome. Sorry I’m late, guys!


FINAL WORDS

Well, that’s the end of this Friday. TIME TO TAKE ANOTHER MONTH OFF!

No, seriously, I should have something in this space next week. What about, I don’t know. But there should be something.

Until next week, attend to your wounds, stand on your two legs, and put one foot in front of the other. It’s how we keep going in times of near hopelessness. And that’s how we’ll continue on.


Alex Williams, The Norwegian Athlete