Mid-Week Mid-Boss

Welcome back to the world famous Mid-Week Mid-Boss! Ok, yea, sure, it’s not world famous. But that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome!

A word of warning for this week: this column is pretty long. With the Tokyo Game Show happening this past weekend, there was quite a bit of news that I care about coming out. There was some news about some sort of dense reptile guy that I personally don’t give two shits about, so I’m not talk about it. But there has been lots of good RPG news coming out this past week. Not to mention the biggest news of the week, which you all know about. This is why this issue is longer that many normal amount of jibber jabber. I pity da fool who don’t like my jibba jabba!

Oh, and just so some of you know, my columns have very little continuity. I write most of my column on the weekend, but sometimes I write some parts on some days and some parts other days. For example, this intro is being written during Monday Night Football. Half the news was written last Wednesday and most of the rest of the column was written this weekend. So don’t be surprised if some of the dates are weird. It’s just the way I work. I do proofread my stuff (usually), but it doesn’t mean I’m gonna be real anal about time.

So with that out of the way, hope you enjoy the column. If you don’t, well, then I’m gonna cry like a little bitch. You don’t want to see that, do you? You do? Ok, then I WON’T cry! HAH, TAKE THAT!


The Big News: The Revolution Controller
This is the biggest topic of video game discussion to come out recently. It’s been something that has been speculated on and theorized to no end. And the end result is rather anticlimactic in my opinion.

Nintendo has finally let the cat out of the bag and has finally revealed exactly what the Revolution controller is. And it’s pretty much what gives the Revolution its name (if they end up keeping the name, that is).

There are tons of pictures on the web, but I’ll give a basic description. The “controller” resembles a simple remote control for your TV or DVD player. It has a standard D-pad, a large A button, Start, Select, Home, and two smaller A and B buttons on it, and on the bottom is a B trigger. It has the ability to detect not only where exactly on the screen you are pointing it, but which way you tilt and move the controller, and it also includes vibration. This is the base controller, but there are also peripheral controllers you can connect to the base controller. The one demonstrated is a single analog joystick and a trigger button, which will primarly be used for first person shooter type games. Another reported addon is one that essentially turns the controller into Gamecube style controller for use on older and cross platform games. You can see some mockups and theories of these peripherals on Games are Fun.

Gamers as a whole are very divided on this topic. The first impression is very telling. If you show someone a picture of the controller without any information, they will most likely say “what the f*ck?!” because it LOOKS LIKE A REMOTE. It was supposedly designed this way to be more appealing to women and children, or some such nonsense. Regardless, once people get past the initial shock and learn about what this thing can do is when it becomes more interesting.

The biggest features have nothing to do with the shape or buttons, but what it can do. The pinpoint accuracy and the movement/tilt detection are the big selling points. Examples they gave were swinging it like a bat in a baseball game or using it like you’d really use a rod in a fishing game. They also demonstrated playing a first person shooter with it, where you point the controller at who you’re shooting at and fire. They say the play is much more intuitive, and I think that in some cases, that would be true.

Admittedly, the approach they are taking is very innovative. Controller design hasn’t changed all that much from back in the day when Nintendo released their standard NES controllers. The number of buttons has grown dramatically, and the shape certainly has changed, but overall they’re the same. This new controller could possibly be a revolution and turn gaming into a much more tactile experience. This could be the first step to true virtual reality. Or maybe not.

Innovation is all well and good, but it is VERY risky. Nintendo isn’t “ailing”, but their company hasn’t been close to winning the console wars since the SNES days. Thanks to alienating third party developers, they have been struggling, and many will agree that the vast majority of good games on any of their recent systems have been first party titles.

I’m afraid that this new controller will only make that worse. Companies are businesses, and businesses want to make money. Most companies want to bet on a sure thing. That’s why sequels are so popular. That’s why EA makes so much f*cking money. They release a football game every year that’s almost exactly the same year after year and charge $50, while making a single minor addition or two, and monkeys go out and buy it. Hello, it’s the SAME AS LAST YEAR. At least with the ESPN games, that fact was acknowledged and prices were lowered accordingly.

So, since companies like EA and THQ (two companies who touted how innovative the controller is) don’t like to spend too much money actually doing anything innovative, chances are that they won’t welcome this new controller with open arms. The sad fact of the matter is that most developers won’t want to deal with it. Their way of thinking is that the time and money it takes to do R&D on something new like this would be better spent on actually developing a game. It’s an easy out for them to just NOT put any games on the Revolution. The PS3 and Xbox 360 will be widespread enough so they won’t miss out on many sales that way. Many people will be using the argument of the “Classic” controller being available for third parties to develop for, but I say bullshit to that, unless that peripheral is included out of the box. Which it almost certainly WON’T be.

As for my own personal opinions, well, it’s hard to say. I think there is a whole lot of potential in this controller. There is so much that can be done, so many good ideas. But ideas are just on paper. Fable was the greatest game ever on paper, but as reality set in and it actually started getting made, it wasn’t near as good as it was supposed to be. The same is true here. For this controller to be truly special, these great ideas have to become great games.

That leads me to my next point. Say a company goes out and makes a game for the system, and it just totally sucks. The game isn’t fun to play at all, after so much work researching and thinking about how to best use this new controller. If the execution is flawed, then it’s a failure. And if a company f*cks up like that, chances are they won’t bother trying to make a Revolution game again. They’ll cut their losses and move on to another console.

So in my honest opinion, I think this controller is a very good idea and a very bad idea. But it should NOT be the base controller for the system. They should have released a more traditional controller as the default. They should have made the “remote control” an optional controller that you could buy and slowly release big name games for it (Metroid Prime 3, for example). I think it could be very fun for a shooting game. It’s simply too much of a change so sudden. They went for the shock value of it all rather than intelligence and being well thought out. And how well will it work for other games? How useful will it be for an RPG? I’ve heard that you will actually be able to swing a sword or some shit like that. Well, I’d rather hit a button to swing a sword.

What it really boils down to is that when I play a game, the controller is my method for playing the game. I use my imagination to “be” in the game. I don’t really have any desire to actively participate in the game. I don’t want to swing a bat. I don’t want to swing a sword or throw a rod or any of that stuff. If the controller facilitates my game play (like how playing an FPS would be more intuitive) then that’s fine, but most of the other stuff probably isn’t for me.

So I’m going to wait and see how this all plays out. I’m going to see what games are produced. I’m gonna take a look at which third party companies are actually serious about producing games for the console. Then I’ll figure out what I’m gonna do. In all actuality, I’ll probably end up getting a Revolution, but I don’t see this whole idea panning out all that well for Nintendo.

They just didn’t think it out very well. And some gamers are the same way. They think this is a perfect world. But it’s not. Many developers will simply stay back and wait for others to embrace this “innovation”, and if all developers sit and wait, then the only developer will be Nintendo. And mark my words, Nintendo will be the only company that makes any good games for the system, and when this generation is drawing to a close, they will have to seriously evaluate whether or not to stay in the game. That is, unless they throw in the towel early like Sega did with the Dreamcast.

Matt Hardin mentioned a few things that I didn’t even really think about, but are definitely a knock against this controller:
– Since it will use the pointing aspect greatly, it limits your play positioning. For example, you probably need to be directly in front of the TV and not too far away. Again, this isn’t a perfect world, and most of us can’t have perfect positioning for gaming.
– Several times before, motion control devices have been attempted, but were not popular in the least and were deemed failures (Power Glove, U-Force). In addition, the last time Nintendo really went out on a limb to create something innovative, it was the Virtual Boy. ‘Nuff said.
– What happens to people who have wrist problems and can’t do any of the wrist movements needed to play the games? Because presumably there will be plenty of games that require frequent wrist movements. This controller certainly won’t help your wrist any, and will likely exacerbate any sort of injury or pain to the wrist.


In The News

Microsoft has announced that the Xbox 360 will be released in America on November 22nd, Europe on December 2nd, and Japan on December 10th. In addition, the only version of the console available in Japan will be the Premium version we are getting, except they will get it for roughly $50 cheaper than Americans.
Finally, something concrete. I wish it would be released sooner, but I have to actually EARN the money I’m going to be spending on it, so I guess it’s not so bad to wait. Yes it sucks that the Japanese will be getting the console for $50 less, but it’s understandable. The Xbox 360 NEEDS to be accepted in Japan for it to be a success. Will it happen? I honestly don’t know. I definitely think it has a better chance than the original Xbox did though. (Source: Games Are Fun, New York Times)

Next up, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

Good News: Namco has announced that they will be releasing Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Bad News: Xenosaga Episode III will be the last in the series.

*in his best Darth Vader voice* NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Seriously, I’m incredibly happy that they are going to release a third Xenosaga. I still haven’t played II yet, but it’s on my list, and when things cool down new-game wise, I’m gonna get it. But why are they ending the series here? Hopefully it is just the end of the story arc, but I tend to think that the series as a whole wasn’t all that profitable. At least they are going to end it instead of leaving it hanging with II.

The character designs for 3 look…ummm…interesting. Certainly different. Unfortunately, they are still going with the “realistic” style rather than the “anime” style that was employed in the original. I don’t who will be composing the music though. Episode I featured Yosunori Mitsuda, best known for Chrono Trigger/Cross and Xenogears, while Episode II was composed by Yuki Kajiura, who is best known for her anime work on Noir and .hack//SIGN. I’m leaning towards the latter because she’s my favorite anime composer and I’m in love with her and all. Mmmm…me and Yuki making sweet, sweet love to Salva Nos. Ummm, anyway, forget I said that….(Source: Games are Fun, Famitsu)

And now on to the regular news.

Namco also announced that they will be releasing Baten Kaitos 2 for the PS2 and Xenosaga I and II for the Nintendo DS. Not much is known about Baten Kaitos 2 except that it will be based 20 years prior to the events in Baten Kaitos, and involve a new cast of characters. Xenosaga I and II appears to be a retelling of SURPRISE, Xenosagas I and II. The graphics appear to be 2D sprites, and the game reportedly was designed specifically so people can play it, then jump to Episode III.
Good news all around. Monolith Soft is one of the biggest up and coming developers. Baten Kaitos was fun to play and had great graphics, and only really suffered from a kinda irritating story and poor voice acting. A sequel will be good. And I’ll probably get Xenosaga I and II, simply because it’s Xenosaga. Though it probably wouldn’t be recommended except for fans and people who don’t want to go through two games. (Source: Games are Fun, Famitsu)

You can find scans of the Monolith material from the Famitsu issue at Games Are Fun.

Nintendo has announced that there will be a port of Final Fantasy IV released in December (probably only in Japan for now).
This is cool news and all, but seriously, where the f*ck is Final Fantasy III? They’ve announced it for the DS, and they’ve been dragging their asses on it for so long. It’s the only one we haven’t gotten in America yet, so they should hurry up and release it dammit! And hopefully GBA version of FFIV won’t suck like the PSX version did (meaning buggy with slow down and stuff). (Source: Evil Avatar, Gamespot)

Staying in the realm of RPGs, NIS America has sent out word that they are going to localize Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana 2 for American consumption. It will be released in the Spring of 2006.
This is good news for RPG fans. The original Eternal Mana is one of those games that proves that you can still have excellent graphics and it not be 3D. In addition, it was just fun, and the alchemy system was a total blast. (Source: NIS America Newsletter)

More RPG News?! Konami has announced that they will be releasing Suikoden I and II (as one disc) for the PSP. No other information (date, price, American availablity) has been released. In addition, they have announced Suikoden V, which will bring a return to battles with 6 characters.
First off, great news about Suikoden I and II. Those two games are hands down the best in the series, and are pretty hard to come by. The second routinely goes for about $80 used on eBay. It’s a pity that it’s going to be on the PSP, but by the time it’s released in America, maybe there will be another couple of games that are worth buying. In regards to Suikoden V, well, they really aren’t wasting any time are they. They released IV last year, then Suikoden Tactics (aka Rhapsodia), and now V is in the works. I just hope it’s better than the previous two titles have been. (Source: RPGFan)

As if there wasn’t enough RPG news….*sigh*. New publisher XSEED Games has announced that they have won the rights to publish two new RPGs in America. They are Wild ARMS 4 and Shadow Hearts: To the New World. These two titles will be their first published games and both will be released in the first quarter of 2006. XSEED was founded by some ex-members of Square Enix.
This is good, good, good news. While I personally hated Wild ARMS 3, I liked the previous 2 in the series. And I love the Shadow Hearts games. So that game at least will probably find its way into my collection. Hopefully XSEED does a good job with these puppies, because if they don’t, they won’t hear the end of it! (Source: Games are Fun)

Last week, I reported that Sega was teaming up with Petroglyph to make a new RTS franchise. Now they’ve announced they’re teaming up with Bizarre Creations, the developers behind Project Gotham Racing 3, to create an entirely new game.
My gut says that it’ll be a racing game, but I’m not betting all my money on that. Maybe an update to Sega GT or a new Outrun or something? Square needs to do an update to Rad Racer, something like Driving Emotion Type S, except not shitty. (Source: Games Are Fun)

Speaking of Racing, Polyphony Digital, makers of the coolestest racing game in the world, Gran Turismo, have announced their next title! And it’s not a Gran Turismo game! Oh noes! It’s actually going to be a motorcylce racing game called Tourist Trophy: The Real Riding Simulator.
If it’s by Polyphony, then chances are that it’ll be good. I’ll certainly check it out since I haven’t played any motorcycle games that have been worth their while lately. In fact, the best ones I can think of are Excitebike and Road Rash. (Source: IGN)


Xbox Demos
I went out and picked up the October issue of the Official Xbox Magazine, and was pleasantly surprised at how many good demos it had on the disc. Normally, there is one or two good demos and the rest are crap. This time, all 7 demos could be considered to be good, depending on what your tastes are.

The first two demos I did not play. They are Far Cry Instincts and Brothers In Arms: Earned in Blood. As for why, well, I’m not the biggest shooter fan, and didn’t really care for the original Far Cry. And I think that World War II games are overplayed, and it pisses me off that people are still spending money on making them. I’ll admit, I’m kind of biased in that regard, but please, just move on with the times. With the Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, and Brothers In Arms series having shitloads of games each, can’t they make something new?!

Anyway, if you are into either of those two types of games, then you’re in luck.

The first demo I played was The Suffering: The Ties That Bind. You start out in a theater and you’re reunited with the Doctor from the first one, as you’re given your “tutorial”. If you liked the original, then this is pretty much the same, except you’re on the streets of Baltimore instead of in a prison. My only problem was that it seemed too shootery. Like whenever you’d fight no less than 3 enemies at a time usually, which was something that was somewhat rare in the first game, if I remember correctly. It looks like there will be more chances for bad points though. There were a total of like 4 killable humans in the 15-20 minutes of the demo. Overall, it was pretty fun and looks to be a worthy sequel.

The next demo was for Burnout Revenge. It was just one race, but it demonstrated the new gameplay very well. One difference is the ability to smack a non-racing car from behind and send them careening into another racer. Another chance is the ability to do a crashbreaker during a race. From what I played, it looks to be just as fun as the original, and I’m almost definitely getting it, but I’ll be getting it for the 360 early next year, or whenever it comes out.

The third, and most interesting demo to me, was Indigo Prophecy. Now, just two short weeks ago, I had no clue what this game was about. I hadn’t even heard of it. And then I read that it’s an adventure game, and was interested. Then I played this demo, and now I’m going to buy it and review it. It may be hard to fit it into the budget, but I’ll try. I’m going to be doing it for you, my adoring fans. Oh, who am I kidding, I was just looking for an excuse to buy the game, and now I have it.

This game is an adventure game somewhat like the old Sierra games (Kings Quest, Space Quest, etc), but it uses some unique control methods. You move around with the left analog like normal, but when you want to interact with something, you use the right analog. At the top of the screen, little icons appear that show you which way to move the analog for something to occur.

I’ll explain what happens in the demo to explain the rest better. See, around the city, people are being murdered by regular people who have no history of violent crime. Usually, the people who performed the murders end up crazy or killing themselves. And it just so happens that you wake up in a diner bathroom with blood all over you and a knife in your hand, and a dead body next to you. Oh, and there’s a cop outside in the diner who looks like he may have to go pee soon. What you do next is up to you.

Now there are several ways to approach this. Many people will just freak out and leave. The bathroom window is barred, so you have to leave by going out the door. But if you do, the waitress notices the blood and the cop notices and you either have to run or get thrown in the slammer. So a smart guy will go and try to tidy things up a bit. You can drag the corpse into a stall and shut the door. Oops, there’s a pool of blood where the guy died, so you gotta mop it up. And you look like shit, so it’d be a good idea to wash up. WAIT, killing is hard work, and you had drank a big gulp before you got…possessed. Better go drain the lizard. Ahh, that’s better. NOW go wash your hands. Your piss germs probably have more killing potential than that knife you hid does!

Now you can leave the bathroom. If you took care of business fast enough, you can leave before the cop notices anything. Oh, but before you leave, don’t forget to leave money for your bill. Then you can nonchalantly leave the diner and head home. That’s where the demo ends.

Now, at the beginning of the demo, the writer/director of the game explains (in-game, as a character in the diner, but as himself) that your actions play a big role in how the game goes. You can do other stuff like talking to the waitress at the diner, and have her comment on how white you look, or get in a confrontation with the cop, etc. It just sounds so cool how there’s different ways of going about things, and the unique system of going about them, makes it sound like fun, which is why I’m going to get this game! You can expect a review of it in a week or so.

Moving on, the fourth demo is one by Dreamcatcher, called Cold War. You are a Playboy photographer or something in the 60’s and you go to the USSR to do the Hawt Women of Chernobyl or something, but get caught and thrown into a cell or something. Some silly shit like that. The demo didn’t have any setup or anything, so I’m just making this up. But it seems to be another adventure/sneaky sneaky type game. You’re armed with some guns and a camera that has X-ray vision. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any womens to use it on. But you can sneak around or you can kill people, or whatever. It was pretty fun, but you just kinda get thrown into the demo without much info, so it wasn’t all that enjoyable for me. Could be cool though.

Lastly is Conflict: Global Terror. It’s another shooting game, and it’s squad based at that, and I couldn’t really get into it. I killed a few people and said “wow, this is like all the other squad based shooting games out there” and intentionally died. The end.

There are some other features too, like the Dead or Alive 4 trailer that everybody has probably seen, as well as an interesting looking game called Mark Ecko’s Getting Up which is about a young graffiti artist who is trying to “Get Up” in the graffiti world. It may be interesting, or it could suck.

Anyway, it was a great demo disc and well worth the price of the magazine. I think I’m gonna subscribe to Xbox Magazine. Wonder what’ll happen with the 360 comes out, if they’ll have separate magazines or what. Maybe I should hold off on the subscription then.


What I’ve Been Playing
In all honesty, I’m supposed to be playing Radiata Stories, but I’ve been having a hard time getting into it. I forced myself to play through it this weekend, which is good because I’m getting We Love Katamari and Indigo Prophecy this week.

I probably shouldn’t have gotten Eternal Darkness, but I went to EBGames and it was only $13. And I’ve hard that it’s such a good game so I wanted to try it out. I’m not that far, but it is pretty cool so far.


What I’ve Been Watching
Well, it’s the time for Fall Premiere Season, and there are actually a few shows I’m interested in this year. I’ll go down the list by day. If I don’t list a day, that means I don’t have anything I want to see on that day.

Tuesday
First off, there’s Bones (FOX, 7pm Central), which I honestly don’t know if I’ll watch. I saw the first episode and was kind of put off and intrigued at the same time. I like the two main characters and the premise, but I don’t know about the rest of the show. The dialogue was pretty lame, and I REALLY f*cking hated the facial reconstruction girl. She just struck me as a really stupid person that I’d want to kick in the face. The second episode was a big improvement though, but I still hate that chick. I’ll keep watching though, for now anyway.

Next is My Name Is Earl (NBC, 8pm Central), which stars the incredible Jason Lee. It also has Ethan Suplee. Two Kevin Smith alums can’t go wrong. The premise of the show sounded good, which is why I decided to give it a shot. And boy was it great. Great writing, great actors and great characters. It was funnier than hell, especially the very end. I haven’t laughed that hard in a while.

Then is The Office (NBC, 8:30pm Central), which isn’t a premiere, but it’s new for me. A few guys at work said that the show is awesome, so I bought the whole first season on faith alone. It was only $20 so no biggie. And I really enjoyed it. Steve Carrell plays the part so well, and I’m sure that everybody knows or has known someone like all the people in the show. The first season, and the first episode of the year was a lot of fun and I’ll definitely be watching this all year. I just hope it has more than 6 episodes.

Wednesday
My family became hooked on Lost (ABC, 7pm Central) last year, but I didn’t see more than 3 episodes, and couldn’t really get into it because I missed so much of the story. Well, my mom bought the Season 1 DVDs and we watched it all the way through, and I really like the show. There are a few scenes where it was hard to suspend my disbelief, but that wasn’t that often. I’ll be watching this with my family all year I’m sure.

After that is Invasion (ABC, 8pm Central), which doesn’t look THAT interesting, but I may watch it just to see. It’s worth noting that Alias normally comes on this night, and if Alias comes on between Lost and Invasion, then Invasion is NOT going to be seen because I FUCKING HATE ALIAS.

Thursday
My mom is big fans of Survivor (CBS, 7pm Central) and I’ve watched it a few years with her, and I figured I would again. It’s too bad that that the guy who is from Tulsa (Blake) is a total pussy. “Ouch, a branch fell on my shoulder. Ouch, there was a single thorn that pierced my flesh. I’m gonna cry and puke and be a total f*cking waste.” He would have totally been voted out if Jim didn’t f*ck up his arm.

After that is CSI (CBS, 8pm Central), which I’ve always liked, and I may even watch Without a Trace (CBS, 9pm Central), but may not. Who knows.

Friday
On a whim, I decided to check out Threshold (CBS, 8pm) and thought it was really good. The story was neat, the characters gelled well, and Carla Gugino is cute (plus I saw her boobies on Sin City!). Oh, and it has a dwarf! That f*cking rules! So it’s got Sin City boobies chick, Data from Star Trek, and a dwarf. Damn, that sounds like a porno. But anyway, it was a surprisingly good show, and I think I’m gonna stick with it.

Sunday, Monday
Football!

That’s about it. Damn, that’s too much TV. I have a feeling that Invasion and Bones won’t make the cut though.


Linkage

Eric S. for the win. What? Eric’s gone this week? Shit.

HEVIA FOR THE LOSE!

Kaye for the block.

Lucard for the sick.

R0BTRAIN for the gore.

Pandich for the zen.


Well, that’s the column for this week. I hope you made it through and enjoyed it. I’ve got a busy game filled weekend ahead of me, and hopefully you do to! I’ll see you back here next week.