Gaming Zen 2-14-06

Yikes! Where did this weekend go? Hey all, I’m Tom Pandich, and I am feeling the love today. Why am I feeling the love? Well I’m a loving person. My usual Sunday mid-afternoon/evening column writing has been forced more to the earlier part of the day because of me covering That Phil Collins Song last night. Let’s say I was impressed and filled with love so my good mood continued. As you can see though, the column got bumped back though to Tuesday. That’s ok. It gives you something to do during the week.

Why am I in such a good mood? Well let me break it down for you. After my experience in MOVIE HELL, I decided to kick around Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach and did a bit of game shopping. So I got Lego Star Wars, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects from Circuit City, Lunar Legend from a local game store that rocks my socks, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney! I was kicking myself for not buying it off of Gamefly when I reviewed it way back when. It’s a great game that may be getting reprinted come the end of this month along with Lost in Blue. Between those games and Trace Memory which I got off of Ebay and Pokemon Leaf Green (forgive me Lucard for I have sinned) and f*cking Animal Crossing: Wild World, I’ve been a busy little gamer.

I promise you fine folks, I will get at least one game review out this week. I just never get anything done during the weekdays it seems because of work and college (10am-8:45 pm every Tuesday and Thursday with an hour and a half break in between folks). I am a busy little beaver.

Why else am I happy? Well let’s see…the Olympics are here. I’m a fan of niche sports. I love the skeleton, the luge, and most of all, curling. Curling forever! There still isn’t a solid curling sim out there. Can’t EA buy that exclusive license? That’s why I love the Olympics. It’s a celebration of the silliest collection of sports ever. If only they could figure out a way to incorporate curling into the Great Outdoor Games, I’d be set for life.

Plugs

Yes I’m doing plugs now. Sadly, three of my usual plugs didn’t have a column that I would usually plug. Also, since I’m writing this earlier then usual, I can’t plug Lucard directly. So here’s the plugs:

*space reserved for Mark B’s Playing the Lame*

Eric S talks about pretty much everything besides wrestling in the incredibly inaccurately named Double Team “Short” Form.

*space reserved for O’Reilly’s Pulse Cannon*

Lucard starts his Top 30 Horror Game Countdown. I must say, I’ve never played Night Trap which fills me with an infinite sadness.
Boss PK has some pretty damn cool stuff from this year’s Toyfair. I heard he got an exclusive Bobby Heenan figure from “The Brain” himself. Bastard gets all the cool stuff.

Batesman does a comprehensive look at McFarlane Toys’ Movie Maniacs line. This is one freaking cool feature that actually made me go to EBay to start buying these damn things. I forgot how cool I thought this line was. Hop over and read this article as its one of the most interesting articles on the Pulse I’ve ever read.

Speaking of interesting articles, Mr. Mathan wrote yet another great DC column on Legions with his own personal Bucky, Robin, Cheese, Tim Stevens who writes a pretty great column himself.

Final plug of the week goes to Mr. Cameron who gives us the last Bootleg. Take care man.

Gaming News

Well there’s a few big pieces of news. Let’s start with Nintendo news, finish up with Sony, and sandwich Microsoft and the 3rd parties in between. So let’s see…. what’s my favorite system right now? What system announced we’re getting voice chat with the game that is never coming out? Why it’s the Nintendo DS!

That’s right, voice chat was confirmed for Metroid Prime Hunters which is pretty cool. Granted, the voice chat can only be used in the lobby before and after matches, but still it’s nice to see the mic being used for something other then shouting sit at your puppy so you can get it stand still to through a rock at it. Also download kiosks will be available at major retailers starting at the end of March. As soon as your DS turns off, the demo goes away which is kind of disappointing but expected. The game selection includes Mario Kart, Tetris, True Swing Golf, Meteos, Pokemon Trozei, Brain Training (Brain Age, the official US name, is not as fun as the Japanese title), and Metroid Prime Hunters in video form. I’m a bit surprised it took so long for this to happen.

The other Nintendo news is that our friends at GAF posted a glut of Revolution promotional stuff. All I know is that some of the handheld analog stick pictures look like rotting bananas. So that’s that.

In other news, how can you piss off PC gamers more then you usually do, Microsoft? Well the release of Halo was pretty piss poor for the PC port. Halo 2 will be even piss poorer as it is only compatible with Windows Vista. Ick… Besides that, the Microsoft gaming front was pretty quiet this week.

As for the 3rd party gaming front, it was a pretty bleak week. Electronic Arts had a weaker then expected year which led to around 1000 employees being laid off. My thoughts on this are this. They had quite a few “hits” flop. SSX On Tour dropped in price like a rock. Marvel Nemesis was a bomb. Burnout Revenge had lower then expected sales. Their secondary licensed games (the NCAA games) came out and didn’t sell that well. Plus the Bond game didn’t do too well. THQ had similar problems with King Kong, The Incredibles 2, and the flop of some of the WWE games (I’m looking more at DOR 2 and Wrestlemania 21 more then Smackdown vs Raw 06). It was a weak year for game sales and we’re at the end of the generation. If sales are significantly down at the end of next year, it may be time to hit the panic button. They will be, by the way, considering the higher price of games and the consumer being more savvy, 50 Cent: Bulletproof aside. Plus there was no “big game” for either the current consoles or for the Xbox 360.

Alright, enough bitching about the industry. Let’s get some new games out of the way rapid fire style. Lego Star Wars 2 was announced, based on the original trilogy. The first game rocked my socks, the second will do the same. Kingdom Hearts 2 is officially announced for March 28th. I’ll be there. Will you? Sega is rumored to be developing PSO for the 360, a PSO that would be compatible with the Playstation 2 and PC versions of the game. Lastly, Blizzard squashed rumors that World of Warcraft will be getting an Xbox 360 port any time soon.

Let’s finish with some Sony news to close out this report. Sony plans to continue to release UMD/DVD bundles trying to boost sales of both. Expect Mad Max, Underworld, the Terminator and Snatch to be a part of those. Also in movie news, Blu-Ray discs will be under $25 bucks. Yay for that. Lastly, the PS3 will be on display in a big way at the Taipei Game Show this week in Taiwan. That’ll give me a bit more stuff to right about next week though.

Deal of the Week

Nothing really screams out buy me this week in the deal department. Gamecrazy has a Buy 2, Get 1 Free on all used games under $30. The best deal this week though goes to Target for having a nice 2 for $30 sale on some good games including Lego Star Wars, GTA SA, and Super Mario Sunshine. Also if you buy a DS from them this week, they’ll toss in a copy of Wario Ware Touched, Kirby Canvas Curse, or Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time for free. All three are pretty splendid games.

Game of the Week

It’s another solid week for gaming. The DS has a new strategy game based on Age of Empires hitting the system. Full Auto crashes on to the Xbox 360. Plus Marc Ecko’s gets up on the PS2. There’s no question what I give GOTW though. This week’s Game of the Week is *drumroll*…….. Grandia 3!

Grandia 2 is my favorite RPG on the Dreamcast and probably in the top five of my favorite RPGs of all time. It finally gets a true sequel. I’m happy. It gets Game of the Week for that reason and that reason alone.

Feedback

Two letters this week. One is very nice. The other is a piece of hate mail I received in my personal life. I’ll share both with you and my response to the hate mail. Let’s go nice first. Scott J writes:

Once again, a great GZ. I have to say I’m fast becoming a fan of your work.
Your RAW Recap was hilarious, your reviews are awesome, and the Zen….
well, do I really have to say it?

Anyways, sorry about the Seahawks. I do agree with you about some bullshit
calls, but even still, a good game all the way through, minus that
horrendous half time show.

Notice that since the Justin/Janet shit, we haven’t had a really good
Superbowl halftime show? The Stones really need to pack it in. I half
expected Jagger to drop halfway through Satisfaction, and the meds running
out with cardiac zappers.

Well, get back to if you got the time, and keep writing your great shit!!

Now see. I was really touched by this feedback. It really makes a writer smile when someone appreciates their work. *sniff* As far as the Stones are concerned, I give’em three years tops before the zombie curse that is keeping them from turning into ash wears off.

Next, the hate mail:

“THOMAS, aka dick sucker,

YOU LITTLE SLUT WHORE!!!! WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING WITH MY LITTLE BITCH, a.k.a. Eileen, I WILL STRAIGHT UP STICK MY RHINO DICK DOWN YOUR THROAT AND YOUR CHILDREN WILL KNOW MY WRATH!!!!!! YOU KEEP CALLING HER AND I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND RAPE YOUR ASS IN THE WOODS!!!!!! DONT FUCK WITH THIS NIGGER!!!!!! IF YOU RESPOND I WILL THINK YOU WANT ME AND I AM NOT GAY BUT YOU START MESSING WITH MY BITCH AND I WILL SO FUCKING HARD REEM YOUR ASS, SHIT UP YOUR URETHRA, AND FEED YOUR TESTES TO MY SNAPPING TURTLE!!!!! YOUR SCROTUM WILL BE FILLED WITH JELLY BEANS AND USED AS MY HACKY SACK!!!!! I WILL GOUGE YOUR EYES OUT WITH A TINY SPORK AND VOMIT MY INTESTIMNAL TRACT INTO YOUR BRAIN CAUSING SEIZURES AND THEN WATCH AS THE BABIES EAT YOUR FEET!!!!! I WILL FIST YOUR ASSHOLE AND CAUSE SO MUCH BLEEDING YOU DIE FROM BLOOD LOSS!!!!!! I DONT KNOW WHO YOU ARE BUT I THOUGHT THIS WOULD BE A NICE WAY TO TELL YOU THAT EILEEN IS NOT INTERESTED IN YOU, BUT THAT THIS IS HER BOYFRIEND!!!!!!! OH AND I LOVE YOUR HAIR THING, WANNA GO OUT SOMETIME!!!?!?!

LOVE,
YOUR NEW STALKER”

Lovely, no? For reference, I called the girl three times in a total of six weeks and left her three messages saying “Hey what’s up. Call me back.” Of course the Notorious TP would not let this stand. He track down who sent this e-mail, threatened them with his twelve inches of steel… and then a knife, and then watched them piss their mother’s panties that they were wearing. Just keep telling yourself that Tom. It makes me much happier then the very painful real outcome (no, not anal rape). I lost a friend… *sniff*

What I’m Playing

Fucking hell. Too many f*cking games. I went on Ebay spree for four DS games, three of which came over the weekend. I bought Phoenix Wright. I finally got a Pokemon game for the first time in years. I got a shitload of RPGs, more then I’ve ever bought in a week period ever. Here’s my one line gist of each game so far.

Ultimate Spider Man DS: I’m amazed by how much voice acting got crammed on to the itsy bitsy cart. Overall this is a pretty solid action title.

Yu Gi Oh! Nightmare Troubadour: I finally got a Yu Gi Oh game that goes by the real rules of Yu Gi Oh. Dueling is more balanced then I thought it would be. I’m still getting the hang of it though.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: I gave it a solid 7.0 but if it was just one or two cases longer, it would have easily been an 8. I don’t think I’ve had more fun with a game in a very long time.

Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects: A flawed game that still offers some of the most interactive stages ever. Shitty camera but for ten bucks, I think it’s worth picking up.

Pokemon: Leaf Green: I put in ten plus hours in a single day with this game. I never do that. Never ever. I blame the Inside Pulse games staff for giving me a love of Pokemon through osmosis. Pretty soon, I’ll enjoy Pokemon Channel…. *shudders*

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories: Another fun game. I haven’t really gotten that deep into it yet though.

Lunar Legend: See Kingdom Hearts 1.5.

Lunar: Dragon Song: See Lunar Legend.

Mario and Luigi: Superstar Sage: God damn, fifth RPG in a row. I also have the DS sequel sitting unopened waiting until I beat that.

Animal Crossing: Wild World: See the Satanic Bible. This game has eaten my soul.

Bubble Bobble: Old and New: The highest review Lucard gave a game in years. It’s solid, especially if you like Bubble Bobble, but it really isn’t for everyone. People who hate good games won’t get much play out of it. Same thing for people who need excessive violence or a complete lack of challenge in their games.

I’m officially through buying games. Except for maybe a couple import One Piece games. I suck. Long and hard.

The Top Ten

I currently own 28 DS games. Three imports (including Bubble Bobble DS which Misha is sending me). Here’s my ten favorite games for the system, in no particular order.

Jump Superstars: Sure this is a very text heavy import game, but damn. This is a crossover on the level of Super Smash Brothers with characters from over 20 + animes and mangas represented. The strategy of the game done through character classes (humor, power, and knowledge) and assembling decks (each character takes 1-7 spaces on a 20 space grid, with the 2-3 being support, 1 being helper, 4-7 being playable with compatible characters getting bonuses if they’re touching each other on the grid). It’s essentially the import game to own for the DS. It’s a total geek status symbol.

Animal Crossing: Wild World: Son of a bitch is this game fun. The sheer amount of stuff to do in this is really mind boggling. Coupled with filling out your museum, getting all the items, and creating the hippest pad on the block, this game has all of appeal of the Sims with twice the portability and four times the cuteness. Be careful though. This game is one of the biggest time suckers on the market.

Trauma Center: Under the Knife: Fast and furious. That’s the best way to describe this game. Once you’ve beaten this game, there’s not a lot of replay value in it, but it is one of the most nerve racking gaming experiences on the Nintendo DS. I have not played a game that gives me tunnel vision as much as this game does. Like an actual surgery, the tension in this game can be cut with a knife. The biological terrorism plot is silly, but makes the game even more fun.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: I’ve given this game as much praise as I possibly can. Of course it’s on the list.

Mario Kart DS: This really is the penultimate Mario Kart. It combines the best elements of the previous four Mario Karts into one nice package and then adds online play and doubles the amount of playable courses. Mamma mia.

Metroid Prime Pinball: This game looks pretty shallow on the surface, but it’s actually quite the deep game experience. The multiple tables, variety of boss battles, and sheer fun factor you can have in playing competitive pinball is what Mario Pinball Land should have been. The pinball bar has been set pretty high by the DS.

Advanced Wars DS: This is essentially an endless game. The turn based strategy game of choice for Nintendo fanboys offers a huge amount of gaming goodness. While the story is kind of goofy, the new units, the two front wars, the tag battles, the map editor, and the shooting game really make a comprehensive game experience.

Meteos: Some people didn’t like Meteos as time went on because you literally can’t play it forever like other puzzle games. It gets just too fast. Even taking that into consideration, I still can’t think of a puzzle game I like more on the DS. Meteos’ quirks make it endearing but the music of Meteos is what really adds depth to this game. Again, another great game worth picking up.

Ossu! Tatake! Ouedan!: This is a Japanese cheerleading game. In it, you have to tap the DS screen in a certain rhythm to add whistles and drums to whatever song is playing in the background. Ouedan is bizarre, yet it is also probably the best DS game we’ll never see stateside. The comedy of Japanese bad ass school kids cheerleading evokes feelings of Cromatie High School or GTO. It is really a challenging and fast paced game that every importer should try to get ahold of.

Kirby Canvas Curse: I was really split between putting this game or Castlevania on the list. I chose Kirby though because of how wildly different this game was compared to previous Kirby games. Both are strong, but Canvas Curse is Kirby hopped up on goof balls. This is a challenging yet satisfying experience with lots of replay value in getting every single one of those damn red coins. I likes it mucho. Mucho gusto.

And if that doesn’t tell you why I dropped out of Spanish back in college, I don’t think anything will. I’ll see you kids next week where I’ll write a column on time and maybe even I’ll debut a new part of the column. It could become a games feature though. We’ll see.