Inside Pulse 12

Encore Extra Stage: The FINAL

Greetings all. I’m Alex Williams, and damn, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Outside of the occasional review, I’ve been pretty scarce from this column section. You can pretty much thank a long stream of school and other life-related happenings for this. Grades ARE more important then columns, after all. And I’d like to think that an “A” grade, three “B” grades, and the earning of an actual diploma this semester is worth all the silence, right?

…Right?

Right. Of course I’m right! Moving on…

Considering my extended absence from the good ol’ EES, a lot has gone by that would take WAY too long for in-depth coverage. So I’ll go the condensed route with a “year in review” type of thing. That way, a whole mess of stuff gets touched on! Aren’t you EXCITED?!?!?

Oh, and for those who are curious, YES I’ll talk about dancing games in here. Feel free to skip the hate mail and scroll down past it if it offends you so much.


GAMES OF THE YEAR

Of course it wouldn’t be a year-end column without some uber-cheesy “GAME OF THE YEAR” shtick thrown in for good measure, now would it? So for this piece of work, I’ll be listing the games of 2005 that I played and loved. Now for the record, this list is not meant to be a “best games ever” type of deal, nor will most of them be at the top of most lists. (That’s why The Con is in here somewhere!) These are simply my personal favorites, and why they’ve made a good impact on me. You may agree, you may not. That’s life, after all!

The following is listed in no particular order:

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (NGC): This gem came out early this year, but nothing has really matched it in terms of unique gameplay and addictiveness. I reviewed this title myself, and ended up giving it an 8.5 when all was said and done. For those who may have missed it, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat made extensive use of the infamous Donkey Konga bongos as the main control method. Hitting the bongos allows you to walk, jump, kill things, and collect bananas. But the real beauty comes in the way it’s presented. There are 32 individual stages to go through, with an additional eighteen boss fights, all organized into three-stage “courses”. It does get somewhat repetitive, but the unique control scheme allows the replay value to skyrocket. The game also gave you clues as to how you can increase your score, and pull off some incredibly awesome moves in the process. DKJB proved that when Nintendo doesn’t hand their game development to others, they can produce some incredibly memorable games. This is one of them. Guaranteed.

Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix (NGC): Hey guys! It’s a DDR game! WHO WOULD’VE THUNK IT?!?!? In all seriousness, when the game was first announced, I didn’t know quite what to think. Sure I looked on the positive side of “Nintendo + Konami can do no wrong!”, but I knew that the game would either be a success or a failure. There was no middle ground. What we ended up with was an decent hybrid of both franchises. What really shines in this game is the music. There are only 29 songs, but most are dance remixes of Mario tunes from the past. And each one is SPECTACULAR to listen to, and fun to dance to. Being a Mario fan along with being a dance game freak, I know I’m someone who will welcome a game like this with open arms faster than others. And I know that the game’s Story Mode is super cheesy, and the really hard step patterns can only be unlocked by playing through easier settings. But in regards to the music itself, the game is a masterpiece. Give the soundtrack a listenin’ to to see why I’m raving over it. I’ll take these songs over the new material that debuted on the PS2 and XBox ANY day.

Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 (PS2): After last year’s bugged filled Extreme, a lot of fans I knew were up in arms. While the song content was top notch, and new modes were abundant, the lack of decent controller options and the inability to unlock the entire songlist really pissed people off. Luckily, Konami answered their concerns and MUCH more with Extreme 2. The game’s engine is perhaps the most polished I’ve ever seen it, with the basic removed features from the last game returning once more. The songlist is the largest PS2 mix we’ve had in the states, and contains a LARGE amount of fan favorites and brand new material. The Dance Master Mode takes the missions from the previous game and turns them into the main focus. The new Advance Mode lumps together all that is super-challenging and expertly adds to it. Its easily the best release on the US PS2, and one of my favorite versions of all time.

WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2006 (PS2): I must say, I was pleasantly surprised with this game. I haven’t played wrestling titles in two years, but this game really impressed me. The game’s Season Mode is one of my favorite features, as it almost perfectly replicates the television experience. The voice acting could have been a tad better in regards to some characters, but there was some genuinely good stuff in there. The promos are just amazing, and some are even better than what I’ve seen on TV lately. There’s an extensive list of matches to choose from, and there’s nothing like creating and defending your own custom-made belt. (Go, Rob Van Dam! Defend the ECW title like there’s no tomorrow!) While I didn’t really get into GM Mode that much, the actual wrestling is fun and solid. Perfect for multiplayer and online play.

We Love Katamari (PS2): This is easily one of the top titles of the year for any system. While its still a sequel, it took what was so loveable and great from the first game and magnified it tenfold. The King Of All Cosmos is a big time celebrity now, and he’s telling you his life story through The Prince and his cousins rolling Katamaris for his fans. (It’s his world, baby. You just happen to inhabit it.) The gameplay has seen a great expansion from the previous game, allowing you to go on much more varied missions than before. And of course, one cannot forget the mission found at the very end, where you must roll up 1,000,000 roses. It took me THREE MONTHS to complete that mission, proving the replay value of WLK was tremendous. And while some may say the music isn’t as good as the original, I disagree. The soundtrack is perhaps one of the most perfect I’ve heard this year, and perhaps of all time. (With the exception of “Katamari On The Rocks (Arrangement)”. My only real gripe is the price, as Namco figured out they can make MONEY off of this game. But it’s only an extra $10, and it pays itself off in spades.

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (XB): What happens when you put The Hulk in a Spiderman 2-like environment? Magic, baby! If you ever needed a good excuse to go on a mindlessly destructive rampage, this game is for you. The game gives you quite a lot of cool an interesting ways to kill things, as well as manipulating objects in your environment to cause further destruction. (Making gauntlets out of cars is hilarious.) The story is also fairly cohesive, and can easily serve as a further sequel to the recent Hulk movie. (Even more so than the previous Hulk game.) Its just another one of those games that’s there to have fun in. Nothing’s a better stress reliever than rampaging an entire town with a big green freak, am I right?

Burnout: Revenge (XB): Okay, its a game published by Electronic Arts, and had no hint of Madden in sight. I caved and narrowed my EA boycott to only their sports titles. I went on the hunch that not ALL games published by the evil organization are super deadly, and it USED to be under Akklaim’s jurisdiction, so I gave this one a rent. And you know, it’s really not that bad. Racing is a genre I truly enjoy when the conditions are right, and the formula used here is awesome. You earn points and unlockables by completing various missions. Most are raced based, and doing well involves you needing to crash into everything that’s not nailed down. (Opponents, innocent bystandards, etc.) Then there are the missions where you need to create the most spectacular crash you can. The game even accommodates this by allowing your car to BLOW UP and cause more damage when the accident reaches a certain peak. (Gotta love them Crash Breakers!) So yeah, it says EA on the box, but it ONLY says EA because they purchased it. I can’t fault a more-than-decent series for that. And its a nice game besides.

Trauma Center: Under The Knife (NDS): If I had to pick a 2005 Game Of The Year, this would be it. Everything about it just screams greatness. To begin with, you play a doctor that SAVES LIVES. You don’t win by killing everything that moves. You win by performing operations and eradicating tumors and diseases. The game’s story is also top notch. You begin as a rookie surgeon, but soon your talents land you in the most prestigious medical center in the world, being on the front lines in treating disease. The moral questions brought up along the way really help punctuate the story and flesh out all the characters involved. The actual gameplay is tough, and borders on the nightmarish as you get closer to the end. But something about the game tells you to press on, no matter how tedious and cheap things get. It forces you to become better, faster, and more precise. And when all is said and done, your skill using the DS touch screen will improve in nearly every game that uses it. That’s how powerful the learning curve is. NOTHING matches this level of intensity while still being fun. This is 2005’s Game Of The Year, and an instant classic on the Nintendo DS.

Meteos (NDS): If Trauma Center is the very best game of ’05 on the DS, this is easily the second best. Q Entertainment proved that it could do no wrong, releasing two of the most addictive platformers of all time on both the new portables in one year. The PSP got Lumines (covered later), and the DS got Meteos. The goal of this game is to unite three of the same blocks in order to “launch” them off of the screen. This leads to lots of pieces falling into the play area at once, and having to perform huge combos in order to keep up. Plus each stage takes place on a different “planet”, which employs different physics as to how the blocks move, and in turn, different strategies. But perhaps the most unique feature of the game is how you unlock items. Every time you launch a specific color off the screen, it gets added to a “bank”. You use the items in your bank to “fuse” new planets and items. Thus the game gets tremendous replay value just for filling your bank with the component materials. And even afterwards, every stage has a high score you need to beat. The game is addicting, and nearly impossible to put down. Another DS classic.

Lumines (PSP): Best game on the PSP. Hands down. Even nine months after the initial launch, its still one of the most highly addictive experiences you’ll ever encounter on the handheld. The premise is simple: the blocks are two-tone, and you have to make squares in order to advance. But the addition of going with a musical beat (hence “music/puzzle fusion” adds so much to the experience. Every stage has a unique song associated with it, and a different strategy depending on the song’s speed. Stages also have their own unique look and background animations, adding to the surrealism of the experience. Everything is combined so effectively, that the result equaled the PSP’s first ever classic. Consider it my choice for PSP game of the year.

The Con (PSP): Most of you are probably thinking that I’m crazy for liking this game. The fighting system isn’t that great, the loading times are abysmal, and the “time limit” on the costume unlocks is really dumb. Nevertheless, The Con serves its purpose completely: a quick-and-dirty fighting game that can be enjoyed in short spurts on a portable system. The “Quick Play” modes are perfect time killers for road trips and such. And the Story Mode’s gambling elements add a new dimension I’ve never seen before in brawler games. Sure it could use a few tweaks and shorter load times. But for a handheld game, it delivers a good experience all its own.

WarioWare Twisted (GBA): I was quite surprised this year to find that the GBA version of WarioWare blew the DS version out of the water. It’s not because of the gimmicks used, I don’t think. The touch-screen games from Touched are just as fun and creative as the tilting games found in Twisted. But it seems that a lot more effort was put into the GBA sequel. There were more games, for starters. And the bonus features were much more extensive, including quite a lot more “mini-games” to go with the “micro-games”. The tilting mechanic gave us yet another new way to play games, as it soon followed in Yoshi Topsy Turvy and Donkey Kong King of Swing. But of course, this worked the best for the WarioWare formula, and I simply had a ball with this game. Anyone with a GBA NEEDS this, no questions asked.

And these are the games that have reached the tops of my personal lists. Granted there are others that were great, including God of War, Guitar Hero, Pokemon XD, Animal Crossing: Wild World, Sonic Rush, and a host of others, but the ones described above truly went above and beyond the call of duty in my eyes.

As a final reflection, I’ve noticed that the MAJOR influx of excellent games came during the second half of the year. Especially in regards to the DS and the PSP. Once Nintendogs was released, the software hits just kept on coming, with TONS of quality titles hitting the shelves not to long afterward. PSP-wise, the games started really picking up in November. And really, the system was DEAD software-wise after the launch for about six months. Which is the same thing that happened with the DS after its launch. But now both systems have tons of support and AAA games, time will only tell which will truly lead the pack. The DS is leading now, but anything can happen.


DISAPPOINTMENTS OF THE YEAR

Now we’ll look at the other side of the coin: the games I found disappointing. The list is small, and some disappointments are larger than others, but these are instances where I really felt I was “let down”.

Ratchet: Deadlocked (PS2): Ratchet: Deadlocked continued a trend that I found depressing in the series’ third game: removing platforming elements to make way for the multiplayer aspects. As a result, stages ended up small, flat, and paled in comparison to levels featured in the past. There’s barely even any “platforming” left, outside of one freakin’ arena, and even then, I could count the number of classic stages on one hand. I still managed to have fun with the game, as the weapons and RPG elements once again failed to disappoint. But it just didn’t feel like a Ratchet game, especially since Clank had to stay behind on all the adventures.

Shadow The Hedgehog (NGC): Now for the record, I’m NOT MAD BECAUSE SHADOW HAS A GUN. I’d be mad if SONIC had a gun, but it was firmed up in the game that he’d NEVER have a gun. So, I’m at peace for Sega’s decision to try something new. I’m also not mad at the story. With the branching paths leading Shadow to believe any one of ten different realities, I’d say the story was handled rather well. What I AM mad about is that the gameplay feels largely unfinished. There’s no real targeting system to speak of in STH, meaning I could be shooting at any number of things while aiming my gun towards one friggin’ target. The boss battles are annoying as hell, as the camera simply doesn’t want to work with me. The partners are annoying, as you constantly have to switch to the one you want in the Pause menu, as they will constantly CHANGE on you during the course of the mission. And the “true” ending of the game is nice, but kills all the “open ended” gameplay that was advertised. Ten different endings, yet only one true ending that happens afterwards? And didn’t Shadow kill at least ONE of the opposing sides when the real ending begins? Ugh. In short, the purpose of the game is a good one, but the execution of which feels like an unfinished beta. Luckily Sonic Rush came along not too long after and washed this bad taste out of my mouth.

Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3 (XB): I’m sure you’re all shocked at this. A DDR game ended up on the DISAPPOINTMENT LIST?!?!? Is Alex Williams on CRACK???? No I’m not, and I’ll tell you why. As a game all its own, DDR UM3 is a decent game with a decent selection of songs. It has some brand new modes, and its pretty fun. But when compared to other games in the franchise, especially to the near godliness that is UM2, I can’t help to feel incredibly let down. The interface is merely a shell of the UM2 interface, and doesn’t function as well. The new announcer just gets on my nerves. The graphical flaws are much more apparent. Many of the new licensed content seemed to be pulled out at random and thrown against the wall to see what sticks. Some work, some don’t. I can’t remember a DDR before this one that contained more songs I DIDN’T like. The core gameplay is still there, and again, some songs and steps are spectacular, but the game could have been a LOT better. (Sigh) At least the song packs are proving to be fun.

Soul Calibur III (PS2): This is by far the worst offender in this category. Why is this, you ask? Well, picture this. You enjoyed the second game in this particular series. A third is announced, and things look to be very interesting. You were never the best player, but you never needed to be in order to see all the game had to offer. Pretty graphics, entertaining fighting engine (despite various broken characters), new Create-A-Character options, tons of unlockables…yeah, you can see yourself playing this game for quite a long time. Now when you fire it up, and you go through the main Story Mode, you notice the AI is turned up to 11 out of 10. And you have no option to turn it down! Sure, you can muddle your way through all the individual story paths in order to unlock all the cool stuff, but in order to see EVERYTHING, you need to beat all opponents in a specific path without losing. And this proves to be damned impossible. Not NEAR impossible, ACTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE. Playing non-cheaply doesn’t work, as the AI counters most of your moves. Playing CHEAPLY doesn’t work, as the AI sees through you. Using the ONE MOVE discovered by the faithful that apparently worked 99% of the time against the AI proves useless, as the characters will COUNTER THAT, and won’t allow you to get up in order to try it again! “Special” fights in the middle of the mode won’t even allow you to DAMAGE your opponent. This intensifies frustration to a whole new level. And this, my friends, is Soul Calibur III. I’ve never been ultra-good at the game, but with no option to turn down the AI difficulty, I’ll never get a chance to freakin’ LEARN HOW. And it SUCKS, as there seems to be a fully playable game in here somewhere! But yet again, without the knob to reduce the difficulty, it becomes tedious at BEST. I rented the game with full intentions of purchasing it later, but it ended back in its GameFly envelop later the same day. And yes, this complaint is stemmed mainly from a “LOL I SUKC” standpoint, but I don’t feel like I should have to be PUNISHED for that by Namco! Here’s a hint guys: if this thing ever becomes a Greatest Hits title, do us all a favor and ADD A DIFFICULTY KNOB that turns it down a few notches for the reprinting!

The XBox 360: Okay, so its not an individual GAME, but this system’s launch spelled nothing but trouble from the word go. For one, the system was released when the original XBox was only celebrating its fourth birthday. This proved that Microsoft had no faith in its system, and needed the leg up on both Sony And Nintendo for the future. Then, in the months leading up to the 360’s release, all sorts of stuff came out that made me cringe. The original XBox would NOT be backwards compatible. None of the accessories for the XBox would be compatible. Then games WOULD be compatible, but only if you had a friggin’ hard drive. The good system bundle cost $100 more than the core bundle. A list of compatible titles were released, and would only be compatible in the most back asswards ways possible. And to make matters worse, ALL the interesting games pegged for a launch window berth were pushed back indefinitely. Dead Or Alive 4? Pushed back to…um…today. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? We’re looking at Q2 2006 for that one now. This left only ONE game I was remotely interested in for the launch to be available: Project Gotham Racing 3. I wasn’t going to buy a $400 system just so I could play 1/2 of my XBox titles and one 360 game for the next few months. And I’m SURE AS HELL NOT going to pay $60 a pop for games PERIOD. So I stayed as far away from the launch as I could, and I’m staying away from the system itself for at least six months. It just isn’t worth it have one now, with what looks to be Software Drought V3 on our hands. (V1 and V2 being the DS and PSP respectively.) Microsoft would be better to get my attention by the middle of next year, that is, unless the Revolution is close to launch. Then they just might have LOST A SALE!


A GRIM REALIZATION

This year in gaming, on the whole, was just a little above average. Both the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP were given the chance to show the world what the new generation of handhelds could do, and they did. (Well, really in the last 4-5 months.) Console games seemed to scale back a lot here in order to make room for these new tiny giants, as the amount of AAA titles on ALL consoles were much lower than what we’ve seen in ’04. We’ve come to an official end in one era in gaming, and 2006 will start to usher in a truly new one. The XBox 360 will start it, and Sony’s PS3 and Nintendo’s Revolution will see to continuing it.

But despite all this, the year had to come to a horrible close for me as I read the following news report:

Working Designs Has Closed Its Doors

And just like that, a part of my youth was shattered into a million pieces.

You see, Working Designs had been a rock for me during the past decade. I found their games when I first obtained a Sega CD back in 1995. I was a few days out of my Bar Mitzvah, and was browsing my local Video Game Exchange seeing what I could blow some of my money on. And there I found an interesting game called Lunar: The Silver Star. I purchased it with a slew of other titles simply on a whim. I didn’t know it until after I left the store that the main character was also my namesake. And when I popped the game into the Sega CD, it never left. This was my first real RPG. The story was brilliant. The animated cut scenes were new and inviting. I remember the game locking up during the major boss battles, and having to mess with the CD door to make it go again. But even so, I progressed to the end. And I knew then and there that I had experienced something truly special.

I later ended up purchasing all other games in Working Design’s Sega CD collection. Popful Mail was first, folled quickly by Vay. I never really got into Vay that much, but Popful Mail was too hilarious to put down. Once again, that game never left my Sega CD until I finished it. I remember my sister and I reciting portions of the game’s script for hours on end.

Then, after many delays, came Lunar 2: Eternal Blue. Despite having to “pay” to save my game, the story was once again top notch. Working Designs had proved themselves to be master translators, and I was proud to experience their masterwork firsthand once again.

I followed their work to the Sega Saturn once I found out that the original was being remade for it. I knew it was only a matter of time before Working Designs would pick it up and retranslate it. In the mean time, I experienced Shining Wisdom and Dragon Force. Two excellent games in my eyes, despite what others might have said on the contrary. Their games were being delayed left and right, but still, I knew it was only a matter of time.

Then came the public falling out of Working Designs and Sega. Not long after that, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete was moved to the Playstation. It wasn’t long after that announcement hit that I ended up making the biggest mistake of my LIFE and trading in my Saturn for a Playstation. You see, my devotion to the Lunar series was strong. VERY strong. This was my Final Fantasy VII before Final Fantasy VII existed. And back then, I was extremely fanboyish. I went where Working Designs went.

And of course, several things happened because of this move. One, I ended up missing out on both Albert Oddysey and Magic Knight Rayearth. Two, Lunar kept getting delayed AGAIN, and AGAIN. What was once February became April. Then May, then June. But as luck would have it, the game came out ON MY BIRTHDAY. It looked like a sign, if those things really existed. I forgave Working Designs for their constant tardiness, and tore into the remake like no tomorrow. Again, I was not disappointed. In fact, the remake was ten times better than the original! All was right with the world.

That is, until Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete was announced. Then I had to go through the same process over and over. Sure Vanguard Bandits kept the waiting down, especially with the freeLunar 2 demo included within it, but again I had to suffer through delay after unreasonable delay. But finally, in the December of 2000, the game came to me, special packaging and all. I again forgave Working Designs for their crimes against my sanity, and proceeded to go through another wonderful experience.

Arc The Lad Collection would be the last Working Designs-published game I would actually purchase at the time of the release. After that, and a couple of quickly released PS2 games, they disappeared for a while. It didn’t matter, though, as I knew they were still around and working on their latest creation.

That creation would later turn out to be Growlanser Generations, the last game we’d ever see published by Working Designs. As they had come to be known for, the compilation was released with special packaging that put most other companies to shame. Leather-bound manual, soundtrack, and other goodies had become the norm, and Working Designs gave it to us all. I personally never got the game, and I’m sorry that I hadn’t. I guess with my new love of music and rhythm games, I was slowly growing out of RPGs like that one.

But when the announcement of their closing made the Internet, it hit me like a ton of bricks. You know the saying “You never know what you had until its gone?” Boy, was I a living embodiment of that proverb. Working Designs was gone, and I kept them in the back of my mind for YEARS. I know it sounds silly, but I felt like I had betrayed them in some cosmic way. Of course I hadn’t, but the feeling was too strong to ignore.

Granted its true that Working Designs kinda shot themselves in the foot a few times during their existence. They were constantly backing the wrong pony. They published for the Turbo Graphix 16, the Sega CD, and the Sega Saturn. All systems are considered flops today by industry analysts. (Not be the system faithful, but still.) And when developing for Sony systems, the American division displayed their undying hatred of all things 2D by not approving Working Designs games. This really did them in as they would often receive the cash and resources to publish games for America before being approved at all. This is why we aren’t seeing PS2 renditions of Goemon over in the states, and why Growlanser: Generations is a compiliation of two games and not released separately. Thanks to Sony’s self-imposed brand image, they want to kill off animated 2D games as system sellers, and Working Designs suffered (arguably) the most for it.

It was after doing some thinking that I’ve come to a grim realization about the games and game companies I’ve come to know and love: they aren’t going to be around forever. Working Designs is gone now, but how long will it be before other game companies and currently successful franchises bottom out? How long will it be before Capcom finally goes bankrupt, or gets acquired by another company? How long will it be before Microsoft opens its wallet and buys out your favorite developer? It’s only a matter of time, folks.

Let’s face it. I’ve been around for SIX generations of gaming. The Atari generation, the 8-Bit Nintendo Generation, the 16-Bit wars, the 32-Bit Playstation slaughter, the current PS2/GC/XB generation, and starting next year, the PS3/360/Revolution generation. By industry standards, I’m old. VERY old. I was around when Sega still made game consoles. I was around when cartridges were still the main form of media. I paid $60 to play Sonic And Knuckles, as well as buying a USED copy of Phantasy Star IV back in 1995. I played MUTANT LEAGE FOOTBALL before EA became evil and twisted. I was a subscriber to Gamepro ten years ago. GAMEPRO. I actually TRUSTED them and SAVED every single publication! Holy COW am I old.

And as I grew, the industry grew, but shrank as well. Bye bye Sega, hello Sammy-owned Sega. So long long Akklaim. Adios Crystal Dynamics. No more console-making Atari, 3DO, Neo Geo, and Sega. And now, no more Working Designs. It breaks my heart that so many viable and fun companies have been swept under the rug for the money-grubbing corporations we see today. And it damn near kills me to see innovation and creativity stabbed in the back in favor of yet ANOTHER sequel. Even Dance Dance Revolution, my favorite game series of ALL TIME, will eventually be scrapped in a few years, if not sooner. The bottom of the music game market will fall out eventually, make no mistake about it.

Many of you old guys will agree with me that the 16-Bit era was the Golden Age of gaming. The balance between creativity and technology was at its peak then. Having the game as “real” as possible just didn’t matter. Games were colorful, vibrant, and were not afraid to take risks in terms of “weird” or “outrageous” content and premises. Go ahead and tell me that equivalents of Earthworm Jim, Boogerman, and Ducktales would be acceptable today on home consoles. Not portable systems. CONSOLES. You can’t, can you? At least we can thank the GBA for bringing back some of the innocence the 16-Bit era helped create. However, it never effectively duplicated it.

Now look around you. Old, classic games that used to cost so much separately are not being lumped together into collections and being sold for MUCH less than their actual worth. 2D games from Japan are only sold in America as low-key budget compilations. 3D realism is being pushed more and more down our throats, with FPS games and third-person action games about stopping global terrorism being at the forefront. Then there are the sports games that sacrifice being revolutionary and instead are re-released every single year with marginal improvements, a new roster list, and really unneeded “player life” modes. And exclusivity contracts are eliminating choices in this area completely. Plus, what happens when an original title sells well? SEQUELS! Hundreds upon HUNDREDS of SEQUELS that dilute the originality to a point of being laughable! It’s the same shit served on a steaming platter to us every year, and we’re accepting it bite by disgusting bite.

What really scares me is that in ten years, someone with my exact sentiments and the age I am now will sit at their computer and write about how the Playstation era was truly the last bastion of originality we’ve ever had. A freakin’ KID, who has never even HELD a Super NES or Genesis controller, will attempt to rewrite history. And I’ll have to pull him away from the keyboard by his neck and tell him otherwise. I’ll have to sit him on my knee (NO, not for that! PERVERTS!), and explain to him the WAR between Mario and Sonic. Between Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star. Between two titans who gave it their ALL for the hearts of millions. It wasn’t all about the money. It was about the games. And I know, because I WAS THERE!

This is a silly scenario, and probably won’t happen, but eventually the Golden Era of gaming will be forgotten. The Atari 2600 and NES eras will simply become glorified footnotes in gaming history, as the Super NES and Genesis become more forgotten, and the PS1 gains more reverence when backwards compatibility is eventually dropped by Sony for not being cost effective. It’s not going to be around forever, you know. Just like Super NES and Genesis. Just like some of your favorite game companies.

Just like Working Designs.

Just like me…

…so says the ramblings of an old man.


GOODBYE

And thus, we come to the end of Encore Extra Stage…permanently. As if you couldn’t tell by the “The FINAL” tagline at the top of this piece, this is my last column for Inside Pulse. I’m officially saying my goodbyes and heading out into the true work force. I’d stay if I could, but the pressures of the coming year are far too great in order for me to keep a steady presence here, even if its just a couple of reviews a month.

I want to say thank you to everyone who has read me in the past 2.5 years, even those who flamed me for no particular reason. I’ve enjoyed writing very much, and am so glad that I was given the opportunity. Your comments have all been great, and it has been quite the learning experience.

Now this doesn’t mean that I’ll be gone FOREVER. Perhaps if the wind is blowing a certain way, and if time permits, I might show up now and again to say hi, to review a DDR title, and simply to shoot the breeze with a one-shot deal. Until that day comes, you can read my opinions of my every day life in my LiveJournal. I’ll still be around, even if its not here specifically.

I have nothing but fond memories of this place. I was here since the beginning over a year ago, and it was quite a ride. And I wouldn’t trade my experiences here for the world.

Just all of you do me a favor and stay true to yourselves. Enjoy the games you enjoy, and respect the opinions of others. Nothing worse, or more pointless, than an Internet fanboy.

See you on the other side…


Alex Williams, The Norwegian Athlete