Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 07.24.03

THIS, my friends, is why we write. And this is why feedback is so important.

Good review of Jet Grind Radio, man. I was never really a fan of the console JGR games. They just didn’t seem to click. However, after reading your review, I’ve decided I’ll go and give it JGR a shot on the GBA. You brought up a lot of positives and did an overall great job.

Thanks to Adam Matlock for sending that in. I was really happy that my review was able to sway someone’s feelings on the game. That definitely meant something to me. By all means, keep em coming!

There’s a lot to discuss this week, so let’s dig in. Enjoy!

NCAA Football 2004
I just rented this game and I wanted to give some quick thoughts on it. Being a relative newcomer to the series, I didn’t know what to expect. The final product was far beyond anything I might have imagined about the game.

NCAA Football 2004 has so many teams it’s scary. Even Hofstra (those bastards). But the real fun is in creating your own university. You can customize just about everything, from stadium capacity to your playbook to your school’s mascot. The Dynasty mode is VERY comprehensive, including Sports Illustrated covers that highlight the season’s main storylines. There’s so much to this mode that can’t be covered here. You just have to play it.

The gameplay itself is great, also. Running the option is made infinitely easier by the “Running the Option” tutorial. The passing game is tough because it’s not very difficult for a human defender to intercept your pass, and the running game is well-done as well. Playing as a good team, though, ensures that you’ll blow the opposition out of the water in almost every instance, just like the real game.

All in all, if you like football, this game is definitely worth a rental and will do more than just hold you over till Madden comes out. College football fans should go out and get this game – I can’t imagine a better college football game.

The original plan for the Phantom was to unveil it at the Ultimate Gamers Expo. Unfortunately, the Expo has been postponed. Instead of waiting around for the event to take place, Infinium Labs (makers of the Phantom) are taking matters into their own hands.

At midnight on August 17, Infinium Labs will be unveiling the Phantom online. and will be the two places where you can find the unveiling.

For months, gamers have speculated as to whether this system actually exists. We’ll find out on August 17. But what’s more important here is Infinium’s decision to do this online. Infinium Labs could have easily waited till the Ultimate Gamers Expo, but instead it’s doing something that will help itself. By doing the unveiling online, it will attract website visitors, who will most certainly browse around to get a list of titles that will be available for the system, a release date, and God knows what else. In effect, the Phantom is creating its own publicity, something it sorely needs given the sketchy nature of the entire project. Kudos to Infinium Labs for salvaging a potentially damaging situation.

It appears that Blockbuster’s efforts to increase its profile in the game sales world have paid off. Recent figures reflect that while rentals account for slightly less than last year’s percent of total revenue, game sales are now 21.3 percent of Blockbuster’s total merchandise revenue.

So, what does this mean? Obviously, it indicates that Blockbuster knows what it’s doing. The Gaming Freedom Pass program seems to be striking a chord with gamers, reflecting the minimal change in the rental numbers. If it didn’t cost $7 to rent a game, people might rent games more.

Instead, what’s happening is people are simply using common sense – why should I pay $7 to rent when I can buy a NEW game for $49? After all, the games to buy are only one rack over from the games to rent. Add used games to the equation, and it’s clear how Blockbuster’s in-house strategies are totally working.

The Blockbuster numbers may also show that gaming works as a viable form of entertainment. Blockbuster isn’t just movies anymore – games are now a large part of what they do. By extension, it’s a large part of what PEOPLE do. We’re seeing a number of video games being turned into movies, and now we’re also seeing gaming becoming mainstream, which is a really great thing.

You may have heard about a video game starring Eminem in these pages some time ago. Evidently, Eminem’s people wanted out of the deal with Conspiracy Entertainment because they felt they could get more money elsewhere. So the game is still being made (contrary to a recent Rolling Stone report), but not by Conspiracy.

The two sides never actually signed a formal agreement. But in today’s world, you don’t need it in writing! You can just sue! So Conspiracy Entertainment will be suing Eminem’s management (Cousins Entertainment) to the tune of $5 million to cover “damages”.

All this over a game everybody knew was going to suck! Why bother? Well, it’ll get Conspiracy Entertainment’s name in the papers, and nobody would really be surprised if this turned out to be a conspiracy (HA!) to get the company some publicity. Then again, they’re just one of the million groups suing Eminem right now, so it might take a while for a verdict. When it comes, you know where to find it.

Mired in an eternal game of catch-up, Sega has announced another feature that will be found in the absurdly-titled ESPN NFL Football.

“The Crib” will challenge gamers to unlock hidden items, a la EA’s new Bio feature. However, instead of something actually useful, Sega will be providing players an empty house that can be filled with gadgets such as pools, air-hockey tables, couches, and whatever else your imagination can think of. The idea is to encourage gamers to play more to unlock hidden items.

But what’s the use of a hidden item that will do absolutely NOTHING for your gameplay? Does Sega even CARE anymore? What will anybody do with a hot tub for their “Crib”? Why not make the hidden item a throwback jersey or an old championship team or something relevant to football? Why couldn’t they have just skipped this “Crib” crap and just put out the game ON TIME so that it might actually stand a chance against Madden?

People, I’ve been a die-hard NFL2K fan since the series came out. This year, I’m going with Madden. We’re seeing Sega’s franchise hit the downward spiral faster than anybody expected. The late release date is the ultimate sign of a beaten game, and the news that the extra features they’re putting in have nothing to do with the gameplay is a bucketful of salt for Sega’s wounds. I’d like to feel bad for Sega here, but they’re really becoming everything I despise in regard to their handling of the football situation. Hopefully, they’ll come out and prove me wrong, but that’s very doubtful right now. EA may have left yet another competitor completely in the dust.

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. By far, Cory’s finest work.
My take: Kobe is an idiot.

Lee Baxley – Otaku Hump Day (?) News Report. Lee makes it SO easy.
Well, you know, I rather enjoyed putting those staples in my ballsack, but now that I’ve moved up to a nailgun, it’s just not as fun.

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer: Shooters vs. FPS. Welcome to the world of Liquidcross. Don’t “cross” (HA!) him. Instead, read his mailbag!
So if you’re easily offended, and not prepared to possibly have some of your favorite games torn apart, then get the hell out. Otherwise, read on!

Best of the Rest
Bebito Jackson – The Lo-Down: 411’s Most Disturbing Feedback. We had WAY too much fun helping Bebito with this one.
Most of the time I get sucked up to so much that I honestly wish I would get flamed more here and there just keep me grounded.

Rest of the Best
Alex Lucard – Retrograding/Retrograding Weekend News. The top ten EWR entries! Mine sucked.
But that’s Alex: Appeasing the 411 readers before repairing his social life.

Jeff Watson – Friday’s Slice O’ News. A fine job, except for this…
I question the use of Adam West as part of the voice talent.

Alex Williams – CHEAT! Win if you can, lose if you must… but always CHEAT!
Please explain to me why “card fighting” is so popular in video games

Polecat – Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
If there was ever a game that needed to be trashed and started from scratch, it is this one.

Alex Williams – Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II. Why do people love Dragon Ball Z so much?
Any game that has fluid animated openings on a friggin’ HANDHELD will impress me.

Bryan Berg – Jet Grind Radio. Please, PLEASE read this review!!!
Instead of quoting myself (a self-congratulatory gesture that’s way above me), I’ll explain why you should read. Well, the game was given to 411 by THQ and then from Chris to me to review. In the shipping of the game, the package was damaged (one hundred percent fault goes to the post office) and the actual cartridge was missing from the box, which somehow contained all the pamphlets and what not. The review still needed to be done, so I had to actually go out and buy the game. That doesn’t sound terrible, but it was really annoying. Now, the post office is giving me a hard time about reimbursing me. Bastards! So help to make this venture worthwhile and read my review… please?

Bebito Jackson – Preview: Beyond Good and Evil. Bebito Jackson is a really good writer. But not the savior of the universe.
Well if it were all up to me, then I’d say humankind was screwed.

Alex Williams – Preview: Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix. Alex, say it ain’t so!
You might think those guys are nuts to invest so much time in a simple arrow-smashing game. I have to say that I’m one of those guys.

Non-411 Link of the Week
Remember Batman Sucks Forever? I got an e-mail this week from one of the guys who worked on that and he writes for another site that I’d like to plug this week – Sports Fan Magazine. The site’s full of well-written, humorous articles that you’re sure to love.

CD of the Week
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here. 5 songs, 44 minutes. One of the best albums of all-time. You’ve probably already heard the middle three tracks (Welcome to the Machine, Have a Cigar, Wish You Were Here) and the bookends are actually two different sections of the same song. From start to finish, an amazing effort that exceeds even Dark Side of the Moon in terms of quality.

Commentary of the Week
Recently, Nintendo has received a good amount of praise for their GameCube accessory, the Game Boy Player. This tool allows people to play the very extensive Game Boy Advance catalog on the GameCube. The reasons why this is a good thing for Nintendo are obvious. First and foremost, it gives gamers a new use for their GameCube systems (or incentive to purchase one). Secondly, it gives us a chance to view some GBA games, particularly old SNES ports or graphically impressive games, on a big screen as nature intended. Lastly, it promotes the GBA-GameCube connectivity that Nintendo has been shoving down our throats over the past few months.

Therein lies the problem.

The GameCube, by many accounts, has failed as a competitor to Playstation 2 and X-Box. Desperate for an angle that will hook gamers, Nintendo has resorted to linking its weak system, GameCube, to its very strong system, Game Boy Advance, in an attempt to give the GameCube the rub. Whether or not the ploy works is irrelevant. Those who can read between the lines already know that the GameCube is essentially finished. Furthermore, they have known this to be true for some time now.

This is not to say that the Game Boy Player is not an excellent apparatus that even GBA owners should take interest in. Let’s face it, if you own a GameCube and you suddenly have access to a TON of games you couldn’t play yesterday on the system, you’d be very interested. While not a terribly original innovation, the Game Boy Player works on so many levels, and it’s obvious that Nintendo wants it to work. For all of these reasons, the Game Boy Player is more than welcome in any gamer’s household.

However, the cynic in all of us can see right through Nintendo’s plans. It’s almost like schoolyard basketball – you suck, but your brother’s really good. Usually, he doesn’t play with your group, but one day he comes and makes you look really good and everybody likes you. For a while, people see you in a better light because of who your brother is. But as time goes on, everything goes back to the way it was and people realize that you really do suck. That’s how it is now with Nintendo. Right now, people are higher on the GameCube than they’ve been in a while because of this new-found compatibility. Given time, though, people will realize that the GameCube hasn’t really changed any, and that’s when its swan song will play.

This was fun. Hopefully, you thought it was as well. So next week, we’ll try it again. Check out the rest of the guys this week, or else they’ll all commit suicide. Thanks for reading! See you next week.