Hump Day Otaku News Report 08.20.03

Hey yo. I’m back with another fun-filled edition of the News Report. If anybody is reading that hasn’t read me before, I’ll give you a rundown of what I do here. I’m what many would consider a geek, because I typically cover games that aren’t considered mainstream games. I’m talking about RPGs, because they are my lifeblood. Typically, if a game doesn’t have a story, I don’t bother. I’m also going to broaden my horizons some and play more genres that I enjoy. Other types of games I like are Rhythm (DDR, Amplitude), Driving (Gran Turismo), and the occasional sports game, (Madden, NHL). I’ll still focus on RPGs, for the most part though. I also cover anime, since there isn’t a spot on the site for it, and that’s actually where the title came from. So to all the newcomers, welcome! I love receiving email too, so please write if you want.

Now that that’s out of the way, I just wanted to say that I picked the wrong week to promise a whole bunch of extra stuff. I promised an anime review, a game review, and my fantasy game-making skillz with my idea of the perfect RPG. I don’t know what I came down with, but I’m hoping it’s just a sinus infection, because if it’s strep, I don’t know what I’m gonna do. Anyway, I will stay true to my word and at the very least produce 2 of the 3 items I promised. Hey, I even did a full review of Madden, so I’m excused, somewhat.

As I write this (it’s Sunday currently), I’m listening to the Castlevania: Symphony of the Night soundtrack, which is easily one of the best game soundtracks out there. And to prove that I’m not Lucard’s little bitch, I even like it a little bit more than Persona 2’s soundtrack. Not much, but some. And my wife is currently doing probably the most frustrating mission in Tony Hawk 4 (getting 33 supplies for the prisoner in Alcatraz), so I’m hearing a lot of profanity right now. It’s just making up for when I was getting killed in a game on Madden. Anyway, let’s get this party started right. Let’s get this party started quickly, right?

Gaming News

3D0 Auction Revealed
Credit: GamesAreFun and Gameforms
The results of the auction for 3D0’s game assets have been revealed. Namco nabbed Street Racing Syndicate, a game about illegal street racing. Microsoft got High Heat Baseball and Ubi Soft got Might and Magic and Heroes of Might and Magic. It was not revealed if anybody got the game I want to see released most, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Somebody better release it or there will be hell to pay! I mean, look at the people in this game. Simon Bizley (Lobo, only my most favorite comic ever) and Dave Devries (X-men covers) are on the design side, and voicing some of the main characters are Lance Henrickson, Traci Lords, and Tim Curry. OMMFGLOL!! Tim Curry is the biggety bomb! This game HAS to be finished and HAS to be released or I’m going to kill 3D0 for going bankrupt!!!!

Phantom Online Video
The overly hyped online video “displaying” the Phantom has arrived. And what is it exactly? A press release with CGI and music, that’s what it is. Really, it didn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know. It’s basically a computer with a modified version of Windows XP. There is no disc drives to speak of, so all games are downloaded to the 100GB hard drive. The base system is a processor with up to 3GHz (didn’t say what the base actually WAS) with 256MB RAM, and is upgradeable.

So really, this video was a waste of time and money. And I think the Phantom will be too. But Infinium Labs will have to do a lot more to convince me. I’m one of the 30,000 or so that offered to be a Beta Tester, and I’d be a good person to test it. If they’re confident about their product, they would give me a chance to play it, because if they can convince me, then I could convince YOU. In reality, this system could be very, VERY cool, but like with every other system, it all comes down to the games. If they have good games at launch, then people WILL spend $400 for it, especially if it can access the web.

GameCube Successor Delay
Credit: GamesAreFun
It has been said by Nintendo executives that the GameCube follow-up may not actually be ready by 2005, like they had previously promised. This is very bad news for Nintendo, since not only because the PS3 and XBox Next will be out by then, but they also SAID it would be out to compete. It’s especially bad if the whispers of the PS3 being out at the end of 2004 are true, then that will give Sony another big head start. So, for the next Nintendo system to be successful, they need to a) come out before one of the other two (probably XBox Next) AND b) have a KILLER launch game or two. Having both a Mario and Zelda or Metroid game, or hell, a new mascot, at launch would guarantee them success in the beginning, and if and only if they have better third party support, they WILL succeed. That’s how Microsoft has stayed in the game, by selling a really good piece of hardware at a loss, and by throwing their money at third parties to get games. Nintendo has name recognition, but they have a bad habit of treating third parties like shit. Take making demands of Square, for example. They should feel blessed to have Square back in their corner. So Nintendo CAN do this, but they have to do it RIGHT this time.

411Games Newsbits
-THQ has gotten the rights to distribute games that are owned by Rare, which is owned by Microsoft. This is odd, because it means Microsoft will have games on the GBA. How does THQ get into positions like this, because they also produce most of Sega’s GBA titles as well. I’m not complaining though, because Rare makes decently good stuff, and I’m sure they’ll make the game and just slap THQ’s name on it.
-ATI is going to develop the graphics processor for the XBox Next, which will likely be out in 2005 or 2006. This is not surprising, considering the fact that Microsoft and nVidia butted heads on the chips for the XBox. This also means that ATI makes the graphics chips for not only Microsoft, but also Nintendo. Poor nVidia. Oh, and Jeff Ayers still works here?

New Game Releases
* Ship Date – 8/18-19/03
Alter Echo (XBox, PS2), Mark Davis Pro Bass Fishing (PS2), Rescue Heroes: Billy Blazes (GBA)

Now, don’t all of you run out immediately and get these games! Seriously, though, Alter Echo sounds pretty interesting, almost like a combination of several different types of games by the sounds of your metamorph main character. The other two are only on here because they can be. Not to offend you fishing fans or Rescue Heroes lovers, but this is one of the most pathetic weeks in recent memory.

Hump Day Special: The Perfect RPG
Everybody has their own ideas for the perfect SOMETHING. People often say what they think the perfect movie would be, or that they thought they could do something or other better than it was done. Just look at fantasy booking in wrestling.

So I’m going to do the same thing. I’m not going to say that these things would be in the perfect RPG for everyone, but these are things that MY perfect RPG would contain. Keep in mind that some of these are serious, and some are very silly, but still, these are all things I am very fond of from various games, so having them all in one game would be GREAT.

Some things I won’t cover in this are graphics and sound, because it’s simple. Both should be GOOD. I’m not necessarily saying Squaresoft good, but they shouldn’t detract from the gameplay.

The story should also be unique and not seem like it was swiped from any other title. I’m not going to write out a story, but I think that something involving “saving the princess” or “saving the world” should be avoided. Sure, you’ll need a final boss, but it could be something more personal for the main character. It doesn’t need to be as grandiose as most games. Just a good story that’s fun and interesting.

Now for the real guts of the game: the gameplay. Since this is the majority of what a game is about, it should be of the highest quality. And since I’m a whore for unique stuff, I like that too, but for the most part, I haven’t seen anything unique in a long time. So what do you do? Throw in everything but the kitchen sink, of course!

-CASINO. Many good games have a casino thrown in that doesn’t really play into the story, but you can usually get pretty good weapons from it. Plus it’s just a fun diversion. Games I’ve seen that have good casinos are Dragon Quest VII, Persona and Xenosaga. All use mainly a token-based system, where you convert money into tokens, spend those on games, and then convert the tokens into prizes. DQ7 also has a memory game that gives good prizes as well. Plus my wife LOVES casinos, and she thinks that if a game is missing it, it sucks. Well, not really, but we both agree that they add a lot of fun to a game.

-LEVEL UP EVERYTHING. When I play a game and have to go out and level up, it becomes tedious just to level up just my characters’ levels. But on games where there are multiple things to level up (like Materia in FF7 and Weapons in FF9), it was a lot more fun. So here’s what we’ll put in our perfect RPG. You can level up your characters, weapons, armor, summons (a la Persona), and anything else that can be attached to a character. This will make leveling up fun!

-PAPERDOLLS. I don’t know a better way to describe this. Many RPGs show a different sword in your hand when you change weapons, but few show your armor changing as well. I usually like it when games do this, and I think I’d like that in my RPG as well.

-NOT TOO MANY, BUT NOT TO FEW. I’ve never been a fan of games where you have to stick with the same party for the entire game (with exceptions, of course), and I’d rather not have so many characters that you can’t use them all at some point (Suikoden comes to mind), so I think the perfect amount would be about 10 characters, and you could have 4 playable at a time.

-CUSTOMIZING. I’ve grown fond of games that allow you to customize one singular weapon rather than buying new ones (like Legaia 2 and Thousand Arms, to some extent). In fact, Legaia 2 did it REALLY well by letting you not only buy weapons but also customize them into better ones. I think they did it really nicely with that aspect of the game.

And that’s all that I can think of at the moment. I’m sure I’ll add on later, but I’m tired right now and I can’t think straight.

Survey Time
I was going to include some emails from the last survey, but honestly, I got so many that I couldn’t pick between them. I appreciate each and every letter you all sent me, but suffice it to say, they were all very much in agreement with what us staff members feel. Everybody who wrote in wants us to stick to what we’ve been doing and keep producing like we have been. We’re going to cover wrestling games, but we won’t put them over other games we like. Take me for example. I won’t touch a wrestling game until I hear from others (Bebito, Lucard, etc) that it’s good. I take their opinions to heart with a lot of things. Look at me and Persona and Lovecraft. I like trying new things and I like it when other people are right about good things. Anyway, that’s one more”¦.for the bad guys!

Our next survey won’t be so easy. It’ll be an extension of my Perfect RPG section. Tell me what you think the perfect RPG would contain. There won’t be any winners on this except for everybody. I’ll try to post everyone’s ideas for this next week. Please write in.

Links to the Past

Thank God It’s Thursday News Report – Bryan Berg
This week, we get very little news (Nintendo’s marketing strategy and Madden 2004 info), but as always, Bryan makes it good. His commentary is even better. His commentaries are always one of the best reads on the site, and I highly recommend it to all.

Retrograding – Alex Lucard
All I can say is about f*ckin time! This is part 5 of 5 of the history (and for us Gaijin, partially the future) of Shining Force. It’s been a long time coming, and even though I haven’t really played any of the SF games, these are a good read. The games sound like a lot of fun. It’s too bad I was a Nintendo whore when a lot of the games came out, and didn’t appreciate Sega until after the Dreamcast was basically dead.

Gamer’s Hangover News Report – Cory Laflin
Mah main man Cory is the shiznit and the most happening dawg in the hizouse! I know, people as incredibly white as myself shouldn’t use such lingo, but he deserves it. Week in and week out he produces some of the best shit on the site. And I mean shit in a good way. For the name of his MST3K homage, I think GHI5B, or Gamer’s Hangover Internet 5 Billion has a pretty good ring. Oh, and Cory’s Quasi-Random thoughts are always great. The whole thing is highly recommended.

Rumor Down-Lo – Bebito Jackson
I went and visited Uncle Bebito once. He’s frightening, especially to a 10 year old. But he introduced me to one of the best things in the world. How else do you think I got started on drinking at such an early age? No, really, it was actually my dad was holding me when I was three, and told me to hold his beer once when he was smoking or something, so I did. When he reached for it a few minutes later, it was empty. TRUE STORY.

Cheat! – Alex Williams
Not only does Alex 2 give you some of the best cheats around, but he also has an excellent “preview” of the Nokia N-gage. Let it be noted that I agree with him completely and hope the N-gage dies a very quick and painful death so Sega can put use their talents elsewhere.

The Angry Gamer – Liquidcross
In the 2D vs. 3D argument, LC thinks that 2D is better, and I agree for the most part. Yes, there are many games that use 3D well, but there was a lot of stuff that was done very well with 2D that has gone unnoticed. I think 3D is finally starting to get GOOD, but in the early days (take FFVII for example, and no, cinemas don’t count) 3D was pretty bad. Also add to that the fact that some companies (*coughsquarecough*) like to focus more on graphics than story, which never seemed the case in the age of 2D gaming. Maybe I’m just getting old.

A Thumb to the Eye – Chuck Platt
In a more serious column this week, Chuck lambasts Sony and Microsoft for their online games, and how they will be outdated years from now. I agree, and also consider most MMORPGs to be in the same boat as these. When I pay $50 for a game, I don’t want to have to pay more (I’m talking to you SQUARE) to be able to play it. I don’t play well with others, and I want my RPGs to be OFFLINE. I’m very set in my ways, and this is one thing I will always be stubborn about.

Review of Madden NFL 2004 (PS2) – Lee Baxley
Yes, I get to start Madden Week here at 411 off big with the PS2 review of the most popular football game in the world. Read to see if I liked the game. Just for the note, this review scored about 5 times the amount of hits that I regularly get, but the funny thing is that I got nary a single email from it! So either people liked it, or were so disgusted with it, they didn’t feel like it was worth their time to write me. I’ll hope for the former.

Review of Madden NFL 2004 (PC) – Eric Szulczewski
Eric S. proves, yet again, why he’s my favorite writer (and patron saint of how to find PC games) on the wrestling side of things with this review, which I admit is MUCH better than my own. The PC game looks much better than the PS2 version, and I expect the XBox version will be about the same so check out Cory’s review today for that, and Chuck’s review of the GameCube version tomorrow. Madden Week 4 Li, er, the Week!

To take a page from Bryan’s book, here’s a non-411 link for you, but not entirely non-411. The site is which is by Flea, who wrote for 411mania/wrestling. It features not only Flea’s own look at news, but also has some of the most talented writers on the web (that don’t come from our games area here. There is Hyatte, who writes an advice column of all things. You’ve got Eric S., who writes about whatever strikes his fancy (which has been things computer related, as of late). You also have Dave Gagnon who has returned from his Internet hiatus to grace us lowly mortals with his presence once again. And lastly, you have Joshua Grut, who has proven yet again just how talented a writer he is. He listens to a song and writes a play INSPIRED BY it, hence the name. He’s only written one thus far, but let me say that it is one of the greatest things I’ve ever written. This guy is headed for big things, so like Flea says, make friends with him now.

New Anime Releases
* Release Date – 8/19/03
Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. 4, Banner of the Stars II Vol. 1, Najica Blitz Tactics Vol. 1 (also w/ artbox), Neoranga Vol. 4, Ranma Forever Vol. 8, Saber Marionette J Ultimate Collection, Sakura Wars TV Vol. 3

*sigh* This is a pretty big week for stuff I want. Ai Yori Aoshi is most important to me, but I only have disc 1, so this will make me 3 behind. I’m behind on Crest/Banner of the Stars, since I have all of Crest but none of Banner. Najica is a pantyfest, pure and simple, but it’s by ADV and has a box. Neoranga and Sakura Wars are also by ADV and have boxes too. Ranma Forever is finished with this disc, which is the last Ranma until they finally decide to make an OAV based on the last issue of the manga. Hint: it involves a wedding. And Saber Marionette looks silly so I want it.

Mini Anime Reviews
I recently bought two box sets from the good people at TSRI, and here is the first of those two. The other is Gasaraki, so I may watch it next weekend, or if I end up having to stay at home this week (hopefully won’t) I’ll watch it then.

Boogiepop Phantom: Ultra Limited Edition Box Set
They’re all sold out of this one, so if you want it, you’ll have to hunt it down on eBay or something. There’s a ton of extras with this, so I kind of feel like I’m ripping them off, since it’s only $80. But let’s go into detail why your $80 would be well worth spending on this, if you can find it that is.
Story: Since I’m reviewing the whole series as one set, I’ll skip the episode synopsis (since that would be an entire column itself) and just do a breakdown of the story. There are 12 episodes total, and each episode tells the overall story from one person’s (or sometimes multiple people’s) view. Basically, the story begins with a bright light that bursts out of the top of a building. After that event, quite a few school children undergo changes that are definitely not normal. On top of that, many of these students end up dead or missing. Some people think it has something to do with the rash of serial killings 5 years ago, and others think that it was the work of Boogiepop, the Angel of Death. Who is behind these disappearances and what exactly is going on here?
Animation: Nothing more can be said than spectacular. While the animation quality may not be on par with something like RahXephon, it doesn’t need to be. This show is a very gritty and stylized show that is very dark and spooky in nature. Every single aspect of the visual seems to be intentional and adds so much to the atmosphere. Never before have I seen such powerful visuals.
Voices: The voice work was very well done as well. While most of the people were relatively unknown to me, it did have two folks that I was happy to see. The first was Jessica Calvello, who also was the original voice of Excel. In this one, she plays much more sedate people, and due to the huge cast of characters, actually plays 3 entirely different people, and does an excellent job at it. The other person is your friend and mine, Crispin Freeman! He’s in EVERYTHING! He actually plays a bad guy in this one, which is a role he portrays as well as all his others. The rest of the cast is very good as well, and I didn’t catch many roles that seemed miscast.
Music: I don’t normally include this category, but it’s so important in this show that I can’t neglect mentioning it. The show features a wide variety of music, like spooky jazz and classical piano, but the style it has most is an almost ambient industrial feel. All the music is very good and extremely important in setting the mood. Fortunately, the box came with CDs, but more on that later.
Packaging (DVDs): Due to the massive amount of stuff in this box, I’ve split this up. All discs (4 in all) come in standard black keepcases, and each one contains four episodes. The covers portray characters from the show, and screenshots and episode synopses on the back. Unfortunately, none contain any inserts. The DVDs themselves all contain the standard stuff you expect, like English and Japanese language tracks and English subtitles. They also include not only the English Dolby 2.0 sound, but also Dolby 5.1 for those of you with good stereo systems. All also include directors commentaries, which is a really nice touch, but I haven’t listened to it yet because that would take another day of watching. Next time I will though. Each disc also contains some sort of bonuses, like character galleries and promos and the like. One complaint is that there was nary a trailer to be found, which I consider to be odd. I for one look forward to trailers, especially from companies I haven’t watched anything from yet. Also, inserts would have been nice since they could have had brief character rundowns, since there is such a large cast, and getting used to so many Japanese names so quickly kinda scrambles my brain. So there is really nothing special here, but nothing major to gripe about either.
Packaging/Extras (Box): This is what you’re here for, the main reason to buy this box over the single discs. First of all, we have the box, which is constructed of hard cardboard. The box is different than most because it has an enclosing lid that you lift up to gain access to the goodies. And what goodies they are. First and foremost, the box includes not one, but two jewel cases of musical goodness. The first is the actual Boogiepop Phantom OST, which is two discs. The other is entitled Boogiepop: Music Inspired by Boogiepop and Others, and is just one disc. I haven’t opened either up yet, but I will soon and I will love them both. I just know it. The box also includes a sealed pack of cards (not playing cards) that feature different scenes from the show. I haven’t opened this up either. And finally (as if that stuff wasn’t enough), there are two pencilboards with the box. Both contain pictures of Boogiepop and some other characters. It should be noted that all of this stuff fits into the box very snugly, so there isn’t anything really loose. The only set I’ve seen come close to the great stuff in this is .hack//SIGN Limited Edition box with Disc 1.
The Verdict:: A-
This show is an EXCELLENT watch. It’s definitely altogether one of the best shows I’ve seen lately. There is a definite end, and it wraps everything up without you needing more, while at the same time leaving it open somewhat just in case there is a sequel. The style is very moody and spooky, but never is it startling. The story is pretty confusing, which may turn off some people, but everything is answered in the end. There is a decent amount of blood, but it doesn’t get TOO gory. There is some vulgarity used, but not like in Hellsing or anything. Despite that, it’s relatively tame, but still is of a subject matter that may not be for (or appreciated by) all. Despite that, if you’re into gritty, moody, and complex shows that make you think, then this show is for you.

I had every intention of reviewing Persona this week and proving that I could go 3 for 3 on my promises, but I suck. I’ll get it done by next week. Maybe I’ll even watch Gasaraki (but that’s not a promise). I’m just tired, and the column is already long. Anyway, I’m off to bed. Read the other guys too, because they rock. This is the Bad Guy. Seeyas.