RETROGRADING Mailbag 05.02.05

Well, no Nyogtha this week. No time to research considering Friday-Monday are going to involve me being two time zones away from my laptop. Hey, I’m at Coachella. But I’ll be damned if I give up my “Only writer on IP who hasn’t missed a column yet” award Instead I’m just going to clean out my in-box of Wrestlemania and Jade Empire emails.

First let’s look at WM. My first impressions via the Macho Man Randy Savage going through story mode was pretty popular, but there were two detractors.

Absolutely unreadable

-Gary Sanceverino

and

Yikes.

I read the intro to the post, and then MAYBE three or four of Savage’s paragraphs. I can’t believe you did an entire gimmick post, reviewing a wrestling game. I was looking for a detailed review, showing why you think the game sucks so much. Instead, I get “treated” to rehashed Macho Man jokes every other line? Please drop the idea, it’s lame.

~ Jim

Jim needs to learn the difference between something marked “Column” and something marked “Review” I think. ;-)

But other than that, you all seemed to mark out for Randy Savage’s return to the squared circle, even if it was in digital form. I happen to think you’re all insane for enjoying it though. :-P

Dear Mr. Lucard,
I will enjoy seeing more adventures of the Macho Man in the magnificent world of Wrestlemania XXI for the XBox game console.

Sincerely,
Steven

Macho Man thanks you Steven.

Doing a first impression as Savage=GENIUS.

You really should do more first impressions in character form.

-The Dude

That might be hard to do outside of wrestling if only because too many of the games I play are shooters and RPG’s and thus I might not get the character “right.” With Savage, he’s been around for 30 years now, so it’s a lot easier.

Dude, you have GOT to keep this going. I am at work, four on a Friday, and had to leave the office because I was laughing too hard. Classic stuff!!!

-Rick Tym

I am glad I could make you chuckle. I am not glad you had to miss part of your job because of me. What happened to companies smacking down their employees’ free will until they are naught but a cog in the wheel of capitalism?

Macho Man is friggin hillarious. Keep it up!

– Brian Krilich

Keep going. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH YEAAAAAAAAH!

Jeff, Randy has advised me not to use his trademark slogan or he will internet sue you with his internet lawyer.

ey there, how ya doin’?

First off, for the love of God YES!!! MORE MACHO MAN DIARIES!!!! That was the funniest thing to come off this site in ages, and from you since the I-Ninja review! Man, the part where Macho broke into the Digimon theme song had me in stiches!!! Who would’ve thought Macho Man was a fan of the little digital creatures? I know it would be a burden to play through the game some more and to take the time to write more of these, so it’s your call… If you don’t have the time for more diaries you think a Macho
Man review would work? I’m not sure, given the format, but what do I know…

-Serge Levesque

I had to actually cut Serge’s letter down as he went into the COLUMN THAT SHOULD NOT BE. And we already did a mailbag on that. :-P

I NEED Randy to Live!

BL Anderson

Short and Sweet, no?

Now for actually letters about my REVIEW. And guess what? It is unanimous! You all f*cking loathed WMXXI!

Hey man, you know, as the former Syx Factor, I’ve never agreed with many of your reviews. However, I will say, I TOTALLY agree on WMXXI. The game is a pile of horsesh!t, and it’s an outrage and an insult to wrestling game fans. I enjoy the Hell out of Smackdown!, and I loved No Mercy and all those other games. I do not look into niche titles – I like the license. I will admit that the allure of potential online play made me think twice and I looked into this game, and even brought my poor friend along for the proverbial ride. I will tell you this though, bro; we just got home from Gamsepot, where we demanded something in exchange for our pain. The guy there tried to give us new copies (as if they wouldn’t have been bugged, too) but we ended up getting a new, different game (I got Timesplitters 3, my friend got that new Star Wars squad shooter), and I couldn’t be happier. Hopefulyl it’ll work out that way for you, too.

– Chase

Thanks Chase! I am really glad you got the chance to exchange the game in for something else. It seems a lot of gaming stores have been very liberal about refunding money for this game due to its being utter crap.

WM21, Oh gawd! I should say stinking pile of rotting corpses. Heh I have to side with you on the game. I have never played anything so bad before. Check out gamefaqs.com’s forum. THQ hasnt said shit except they are working with microsoft to fix the broken xbox live shit.

What happens to us suckers that dont use live? I want the game to NOT frickin lockup every match , or make the counter system work? , or how about those atrocious menus? I think one of the developers 5 year old kid made them in photoshop.

I wonder if there would be a recall?

-Bill Shall

Sorry Bill, it’s just going to be a patch and not a single hint of an apology or explanation for why THQ released a complete pile of crap like this.


Hey Alex first off awsome reviews for the most part, just wanted to know have you downloaded the patch for WM21??? It actually fixed a lot of the glitches and bugs for me and made it a playable game…I really dont think with this patch its any worse then WCW thunder…

let me know whats up.

-Dorian Brown

Like I told Dorian, I reviewed the game before the patch came out, and that I didn’t feel the patch was a good enough fix because online is still damn unplayable and the game is still awful. And that whole shitty precedent thing it sets. You know, the whole, “Let’s release crappy games and promise a patch!” that will not fill the industry.

Good evening, Mr. Lucard,
I certainly think Randy Savage should continue rambling, in addition to your real review on WM XXI. The game is so insanely bad and the online problem irritated me GREATLY, so your Randy Savage impressions are about the only entertainment value I’ve had from the game so far. Thankfully Gamestop accepted my copy as a defective return, due to the bug that made online unplayable.

Good work!

Jordan Eichem

Yes, it appears Macho Man has truly been the light in the overwhelming darkness that has been WMXXI. Sadly, this has gone to Randy’s head and he’s demanding a Goldberg-esque push. And Dove Bars before and after every match.

I’m sure you’ve gotten this email a billion times, but:

You realize on Friday, THQ released a patch that fixed pretty much all aspects of the glitches and freezing, right? and the online has absolutely zero lag (from my personal experience.)

Thanks.

-Jamal

As I told Jamal, the review was written before the patch came out, and that the game is still heavily glitch and bug ridden. Online is awful and I’ve yet to meet more than a handful of people that can get on and actually do a match without massive lag. Plus I was reviewing the game that the majority of gamers will have to play due to not having Xbox Live, not a patch.

“There has not been a single good wrestling game for the Cube or Xbox,
and the PS2 games have all been below average to average at best.”

Haven’t you played the Ultimate MUSCLE games?

-DiRT

Yes, it was boring and average. Next!

You said it! AMEN!

How you managed to even play it long enough to write a full review is beyond me. The one I got froze up while I was trying to create a character just to try the career mode, and when it didn’t freeze up, it was skipping like a little girl. RAW 2 wasn’t too hot, but at least the CAW mode was fun to mess with. (What I did to Big Show was hilarious.)
Luckily, I managed to get my money back from the store for this piece of crap.
I’ve written to THQ (To Hell with Quality), WWE, and even Xbox.com about this fiasco. They should all be ashamed of themselves. God forbid they dump such a turd sandwich on the gaming public again.

-John (no last name given)

John, I love that. I have a feeling all of the Kliq will be referring to THQ as “To Hell With Quality” from now on.

Alex,

I can’t thank you enough for having the balls to review WM21 the way you did. As an obviously pissed of wrestling gamer I’ve got two sites you’ll be happy to know about:

www.ProWrestlingX.com
www.WrestlingGamersUnited.com

We got tired of bitching and we’re going to do something about it. This isn’t some part time hobby either. It’s a full time crusade for a crew of great people.

Thanks again,

Dave Wishnowski

Even DEVELOPERS hate this game people. And for me, it wasn’t as much being pissed off as it was me realizing that IP has a very large wrasslin’ audience and I would hate for them to spend money on this turkey.

Actually given the god-awful state of WWE programming for the past…4-5 years this game seems like it was pretty much perfect.

Katie Vick is avenged.

-Todd McCracken

She’ll only be well and truly avenged when HHH goes down to midcarder.


It continues to make me sick how THQ blatantly screw the customer over. Did you know they won’t even accept calls to their customer service call center anymore over WM21? Nice guys, eh?
Cheers,
Dave

It’s true. Call THQ and watch the madness.

“From one of the guys who made Mortal Kombat” somehow didn’t make the box.
I’m surprised. I forwarded the review to an XB owner who was determined to buy the game. Now he says it was pretty much dead on. Luckily our EB took it back, but damn–this things are going to be clogging up the Xbox pre-played section soon.

Hate to sound like one of those nutty gamers who exclusively play imports, but I kind of expected that an American developer would churn out a poor game, considering that wrestling’s viewed as far less legitimate here, and more focus would be put on aesthetics than the in-ring product, but this pretty much seals that THQ is clueless on how to handle the license.

Even Yukes is only making an average game at this point. The first SDs were bad. SYM was okay. HCTP had a horrible stat system and gameplay balance (pick a cruiser, lose; get hit with 3 moves in story mode, lose; get in a strike combo by Taker, lose). SvR fixes some of HCTP’s problems, but same awful stat system is in place, the counters are poorly done, collision is wonky at times. It’s just not a good engine.

Ideally, EA would get the license (don’t like to say that either) and AKI would make the new games, but I seem to recall that AKI announced they were not going to make any more WWF games. You seemed to address that, but was it mainly because of THQ?

I’d heard Day of Reckoning was supposed to be a pretty decent game? Sure, WM19 was awful (Revenge Mode especially), but some claimed DoR was the best US wrestler since No Mercy.

I enjoyed the Savage bits quite a bit. Maybe best to leave it at one unless you’ve got plenty of good ideas for another one.

Oh, and BTW, hear of Sigma Star Saga? WayForward, developers of a quality Game Boy Color platformer named Shantae (that few heard of but those who played it love it) are making an odd-sounding shooter/action-RPG. Heard about it a few months ago, but coverage on it just starting now really. Since you’re apparently the RPG and portable guy around IP, thought I’d plug it.

— Andrew

Like I told Andrew, Aki and THQ’s deal with each other ended and they just went their separate ways. No idea why. I’m not that into wrestling games to know contract negotiation details.

And EA must never touch a wrestling license again. They gave us WCW Backstage Assault and WCW Mayhem, remember?

And I will try and review S3 if I can find it, as EB is not carrying the game for some reason.

Okay. Now let’s move on to Jade Empire. For some reason when said this game was merely GOOD and not GREAT, Bioware pitched a fit, both on their forums and in phone calls to FOUR different Inside Pulse staff members, hinting strongly that their game should have a higher score or at least a different review by someone who really loved the game. In other words yes, Bioware was pulling an Activision and trying to bully/bribe for a biased review in their favor. Unlike Activision though, who actually reads our reviews, Bioware obviously just looked at the score and thought “Good isn’t good enough”. Widro flat out said “What errors did Alex make in the review, because I’ll happily correct him.” Bioware changed the subject away from that and just kept saying “Different review! Different Review.” And so we gave them Chuck Platt with his 4.5 score for the game.

Anyway, let’s see some insane fan boys reaction when a game they like isn’t worshipped like they do. Ah to be part of the lowest common denominator of humanity. It must be simple.

I just read your review on game rankings, and I am really glad I did. The things you do not like about the game, are the very things that were keeping me from buying it, but because I thought the combat would be far too complicated. After reading your review, I now plan on getting the game. I sometimes write reviews for gamefaqs, and I know how much it means to be able to know that the review was valuable. Your review is the only one out there that is telling it as it is. Thank you. ( just in case you are curious about my reviews, though you probably aren’t, you can check them out under nabuch at gamefags.com)

-Neil Buchwald

Holy crap! Did I just open with a positive constructive letter? I’ll be damned! I did! Even though he liked what I didn’t. he showed maturity and intelligence. Although, as you’re about to see, he’s a rare exception… (Oh, and I didn’t even tease him about a certain typo he made…)

Your review of jade empire is terrible. You know something is wrong and it suck when every reviewer gives it a good score except 1 and that would be you. This review only goes to show how stupid you site is and that no one should take you seriously.

-Brian Schultz

When did 7 become a BAD score? Oh right, when other sites started sucking up to developers instead of maintaining a level of honesty and decided to power creep up their scores.

BTW, I get asked a lot where Power creep comes from. People seem to think I invented the term. I didn’t. It’s from my days of working in tabletop RPG’ing. It’s where a game starts out with low powered characters, but with each edition or new development, things get more and more powerful. Case in point is Vampire: The Masquerade. At the start of second edition, adventures were designed for vampires in 13th to 8th generation. By the time Berlin by night came out, all the characters were 4th to 6th Generation and you were fighting Caine wanna-be’s.

Back to the letters now.

Hello there,
I just read your Jade Empire review. Needless to say I found it interesting. I shall be getting my copy of this game in a while and I shall see how it compares with your review. Expect my review soon see ya.

Lumzi

Never heard back from this person. Gasp shock horror, eh?

Your Jade Empire review is more objective than most

-bruinfan05

I have no idea if this is a compliment or not…

If you are dumb or bookworm, don’t review game anymore. You have no idea what jade empire has to offer. It was so much better than kotor2. Give it a fair debate with me and i am sure as hell i gona kick you ass.

-Private John

The hilarity here is I asked him point blank if he read the review or just the score. And how I never even mentioned KOTOR 2 or Compared JE to it. I freely told him if he could point out something that was incorrect about my review or that he disagreed with to email me back and tell me what he thought. That was a week ago. Guess who I haven’t heard from. Ah the Internet. Where else can you find these people?

Now for a very nice discussion I had with a reader and to show you why my stance is “Never get worked up about people who send you hate mail.” Because you can ALWAYS convert them to your side if you’re honest and respectful. Take a look.

Just a quick question. Someone pointed this out to me but not sure if you stand by this. I don’t generally go by scores but they pointed this out and had to investigate for myself since I don’t regularly read IP.

Dead Man’s Hand = 7.5
Jade Empire = 7.0

Quite odd if you ask me. I know IP has high standards but this one just amazes me that a lousy FPS such as DMH would receive a higher score than a company stepping out of their boundaries with JE. Maybe it’s just the high praising of DMH that gets to me. Well to each their own, just curious about why you though DMH is such a good game.

Dakota Grabowski

DMH was a game I reviewed like a year before. Talk about tracking down my entire review career, eh?

My response:

Different Genre. An FPS is not an Action RPG. I generally LOATHE FPS games, due to the monotony. But I had a lot of fun with Dead man’s hand. Instead of the same old same old there was in the genre, there was a lot of in jokes and everything from the horse/stagecoach action to an actual plot. Doom 3 for example was nice graphics and little else. Dead Man’s hand was a good game in all respects.

JE however was neither innovative nor deep and there’s literally dozens of games out there that do the things Jade Empire does, and does them better. It’s a good game, but for whatever reason there’s such a short attention span with gamer’s right now, people seem to forget that action RPG’s can actually have you know…challenging combat or being something more than button
mashing.

Really Jade Empire’s plot was transparent from Master Li being the eventual Big Bad (which the hit you over the head with in chapter 2) to all the other things that made the game a steriotypical game in plot.

JE is a good game and Liked it, but there’s nothing about the game deserving greatness, where Dead man’s hand is the only console FPS I’ve enjoyed in three system generations.

His response.

Hello Alex,
Thanks for the reply. I just hear so much negativity about IP’s reviews so just wanted to hear from a writer about a few of their reviews. Have you played Riddick? I’d recommend that any day over DMH. I personally coulnd’t stand DMH’s techincal problems. It felt rushed and could have used another 3-5 months of touching up. JE imo is great but I am sure there are many opinions on the game too. I’d like to hear your opinions on Beyond Good & Evil. I loved every part of the game besides the lame ending. I was told you didn’t find it interesting. Well it was nice conversing with you. Maybe we’ll cross paths at E3.

Dakota Grabowski

I hate Beyond Good and Evil. But long time readers know this all too well. Man, and that was a year and a half ago. Much like JE, BG&E was one of those games people clamored over, if only because they hadn’t played a lot of games out there that did the same thing, but better.

My Response:

No, I haven’t played Riddick. Like I said, i actively try and avoid FPS games because they’re just not a genre of choice for me. it’s that whole “I want to be fair” thing, and it’s not a genre I enjoy, so I don’t want to risk a game getting a biased score in either way. With DMH, no one on the staff else had time to review it, and so I agreed to, if only to step out of my box and I
enjoyed it. And the score reflected that. I’ve heard great things about Riddick though.

As for beyond Good and Evil, I just really hated the plot. There were mole holes in it than Swiss Cheese staring from the “Ooops. I didn’t pay my electric bill” to the “swerve! Now I’m good! SWERVE! Now I’m bad!” thing that consistently went on to the final horrid ending. The story would have been so much better had Jade just been a normal person like you or I persevering
against evil through willpower and a strong heart. Instead it was all shot to hell. I LOVED the chase scenes in that game, and wished there had been more of that. But over all I felt it was a slightly bellow average game with one of the worst stories I’ve seen in a video game in a long time. Cardcaptors and Pokemon Snap did the picture taking aspect better, I hated the Camera
angles, found the game to be distressingly easy (Like Jade Empire) and so on and so forth. There was nothing about the game save the textual models and the chase scenes I really enjoyed. other than that it was “typical 3D action game with stealth elements du jour” for me.

It’s funny, because so many companies prefer our review style, like Atlus, Microsoft, Nippon Ichi, Nintendo and so on, but every so often we get the people who are like “OH MY GOD! You gave a game a 7? That’s so horrible. You know, people looking at the numbers at not reading the reviews. It’s funny, because every single person who disliked the review has said, “I disagree
with the number, but didn’t read anything you said” and that worries me that the average gamer puts so much emphasis on a number rather than the textual content. I mean, have we really become that lazy and shallow that we’re going to base a video game on a numerical score rather than content and objective statements? It’s sad really. And the fact so many other sites have pushed the 5= average to 7=average just so a company can see a higher number for the review and thus will keep giving the mag or web site games is sad. We’ve gotten to the point where the gaming journalist is about helping the company suck money out of the gamers rather than actually informing and helping the audience to make a choice based on actual information and not verbal fellatio.

Again, for us a 7 = good, not average like so many other sites who have merely go to 5-10 for their scoring methods and never actually use 1-4. an 8-10 is almost unheard with us if only because 10 represents perfection, and we’ve had only one game ever get close to that with Valkyrie Profile earning a 9.8

Dakota’s Response:


Hey Alex,
I like IPs style of reviews with so many categories covered. I have an RPG website opening hopefully in the future and the reviews will be judged covering many areas if everything goes as planned. My goal is to have a site that would rate in these several areas in terms that an RPG should have. Something similar to how IP reviews games with several categories.

Graphics; Replay Value; Sound; Gameplay; Presentation; Story; Battle System; Originality; Fun Factor; Difficulty; Controls; those are all the categories that I believe an RPG should specialize in. I like how IP grades/scores in several areas so if the developer does indeed see the reviews, they could know what it could have used touch up work on.

I have read IP’s article about Activision and Doom 3. I even bookmarked it. I seen that it was deleted so had to find it cached on google. I agreed with most of it and wish most sites used different rating systems. With being a freelance writer, I can’t do much about their review systems and must adjust to their format.

Here is the cached link of that ‘Nyogtha Volume I, Issue XVIII’

http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:I11F3OAaR4cJ:www.insidepulse.com/articles/35776+Inside+Pulse+Corrupt+Reviewers&hl=en&start=1

Anyways, about Valkyrie Profile; the game was indeed superb. But I favor Vagrant Story in terms of the best PS1 RPG I have played. With being an RPG fanatic, I continue to play old PS1 RPGS and currently I am playing through FF7 once again to see if it still holds the same sentimental value to me.

Not sure if it was the atmosphere that had me hooked but in Beyond Good & Evil, I felt compelled to play it more and finish it. Can’t say that too many games can do that now of days when most concentrate on the technical side of video games with video/audio rather than story/gameplay. Only failure to me with BG&E like I mentioned was that the ending was horrible and it was way too short. I agree that the races and chases were a blast. The hoverboat was an interesting aspect. The camera within the game was used a ploy to keep me interested and it seemed to work due to that I wanted to take pictures of every creature and get paid for them.

As for review scores of the games, if you feel they are justified and stand by them, then you should have no doubts on if you graded it correctly. We all are critics and are allowed our own opinion. Some may just find that its threatening to hear about their favorite game being bashed which is disappointing. I don’t know too much about IP except for its either “too harsh” or just “too real” for some of the fanboys that want their favorite games to have perfect 100% to tip the scales at Gamerankings, Metacritic and Gamestats.

Well glad to know a little more from your personal experiences within the games. Helps me realize that there are still some actual honest reviewers on the net that stick by their judgement of a game. Not sure if you have played Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath but at one of my websites I publicize with, a writer wanted to rate it a 9.7 and I was just amazed at how someone could overrate such mediocrity. Glad also to see that IP rated Doom 3 like it should have been. Thanks for all your time, don’t let those PR agencies persuade you to higher a score. :)

Dakota Grabowski

My response:

Actually, it’s still there. The URL ended up getting changed due to a crash in the system.

http://www.insidepulse.com/article.php?contentid=35776

Every website has their strengths and weaknesses. One of ours is the fact we’re brutally honest to the point of coming off as jerks sometimes. Especially me. I’m a folklorist/cultural anthropologist and so my writing is normally geared more for people with PhDs or the scholarly bent. And so my video game fun stuff still has that tone of voice in it due to it just being my usual style of writing. I’m fully aware to those that don’t know that about me I can come off sounding condescending or arrogant. And to people who just click on a link and have never read my stuff or don’t know my background, that can be offsetting. Especially like with the megaten games where I go off on a tangent about Lovecraft or Jungian metaphysics. 90% get that I’m taking the review deeper than reviews normally go and really giving them info about the roots of the game, and 10% think I’m saying “I am the smartest! I am the smartest.” And so what long time readers and I have done have turned it into a game. A silly over the top thing. Better to turn a weakness into a strength. And sure people may read it and not get the joke, but hey, you can’t make everyone happy, you know?

The problem is that the readers have become mindless sheep. They don’t think and scan reviews only for a numeric value. Why else is EGM with their one paragraph reviews considered the standard bearers for our industry? Even if you only wake up one person at a time to honesty and ethics in publishing that’s still a few more than there were before and that’s what makes it
worth it.

And see, it’s totally cool you like Vagrant Story and I like Valkyre Profile. That’s what reviews are: objective commentary from ONE point of view. it’s sad to see how many people take these things as gospel. games are supposed to be fun. They’re supposed to be an escape and silly good time things to spend a 50 dollar bill on and reviews are supposed to just be someone saying “I liked/Didn’t like it.” But somewhere along the line it’s becomes psychotic. Where everyone’s a “stupid f*cker” for daring to have a different opinion from someone else. I miss the 16 bit era where Sega vs Nintendo was silly fun rivalry. Nowadays it is heated hatred and zealotry for a company. I miss when gaming wasn’t a hobby and not a way of life like it is becoming for so many people.

But now I’m a rambling nut.

Have a good night man.

-Alex

And Dakota’s final letter.

Thanks for all your input :). Glad to hear from you and wanted to know your view on if you still stood by your old review from the past. Some people don’t and I am happy to see that you are among the few that might actually stand by their old review scores. Look forward to reading your next article. E3 couldn’t be closer, it will give us video game junkies something to talk about rather than low Doom 3 scores lol. Thanks for your time.

Dakota

There were two other good long conversations I had. One with Mike Weyer, and the other with Teddy Bouchard where they disagreed with the score, but liked the review and the fact it was so much more in depth and detailed than any other three reviews of the game put together. Go me I guess.

Okay, that’s enough for this week. Hell, maybe I can do another of these and clear out even more inbox room. I haven’t even touched the insanity caused by my “Phantom Dust is mediocre” review.

I can’t do plugs as I’m writing this on a Wednesday so you’ll have something other than a blank page from me on Monday. And food is only in Nyogtha. Sorry. Not crossing genres.

I’ll be back next week with a Nyogtha!