Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 10.30.03

Hey! Welcome to Thank God It’s Thursday, or TGIT as it’s sometimes called. Thanks for stopping by 411 to get your gaming news fix – we hope you’re satisfied.

I got some REALLY good e-mail from last week’s column. It was really rewarding for me. I hope to put some of these in a mailbag sort of thing in the future, because I think everybody can get something out of these letters. Keep up the e-mailing!

Some sad news… this is the last time you will see this column as it is now. The reason for this is that Monday is my birthday, which means I will not be a young, ambitious 21-year old next Thursday. Instead, I will be a more boring 22-year old. I’m having trouble with this whole age thing, but I now relinquish my share of the 411 Kliq Young Hot-Shot Writer to Alex Williams, who is now in sole possession of the title. AW – the Redskins suck.

Bad football weekend – Jets lost in a truly bad fashion, my Sportsline team lost because of injuries/bye weeks, my 411 team lost by 2 points because Miami couldn’t simply fall on the ball in the SD end zone (instead, they scored a safety), and I only got 6/14 in my Pick ‘Em league. I suck!!!

Hopefully, this column fares better than any of that. Enjoy!

In a flurry of promotional moves, Nintendo announced Club Nintendo over the summer. This Club is a point-based promotion where gamers could work toward getting some free goodies. The Club has just launched in Japan, where the first prizes have been announced.

The big prize is 3,000 specially designed Game Boy Advance SP’s. The SP’s offered here are designed to resemble the Famicom (the Japanese version of the NES). Now, here’s where it gets really interesting. Rumor has it that the Famicom-style SP’s will include Super Mario Bros. as well!

This is a pretty big deal. First of all, you’ve got to wonder why Nintendo would want to do this when they already have Super Mario Advance 1 out on the market. Even though it’s technically not a Game Boy ADVANCE game, it still has a pretty good audience out there. This lends credence to the belief that the included game will be a direct port of the original game, which hit stores in 1985.

The second piece to this news is that Nintendo is clearly going to be taking Club Nintendo seriously. How many fan clubs have you joined where you didn’t get your quarterly newsletter or autographed picture? It looks like Nintendo will avoid the fate of every other fan club you’ve ever joined, if the first promotion is any indication. 3,000 SP’s isn’t cheap by any means, nor is the process of packaging an entire new game for the sole purpose of giving it away for free. This shows dedication on Nintendo’s part to getting to know its market, which is huge if they’re going to sustain the growth they’ve made this year.

Still, we’re seeing a trend with Nintendo. Just a few weeks ago, we all heard about the upcoming Zelda compilation disc that will be given away for free with new GameCubes. Now, Nintendo will be giving away the original Super Mario Bros. as part of a promotion. We can gather two things from these announcements:
1)Nintendo is still living in the past, using its old reliables to appease gamers instead of creating new stars.
2)Nintendo could probably make some serious cash from releasing these games to the general public, but is instead choosing to give them away for free.
It’s hard to tell what to make of all this, but you can’t argue with Nintendo’s commitment to making their gamers happy. That goes a long way in today’s market.

And then we have Sony, the heartless corporation. So heartless, in fact, that it’s axing 20,000 workers due to lagging sales.

Before you go crazy spouting facts like “The PS2 is number one!”, realize that it’s not all the PS2’s fault. It’s part of it, but not as much as the poor performance of Trinitron TV’s, which is the main culprit here. Together, the struggles of the two electronics devices have caused Sony to slash 13 percent of its workforce.

Just a quick observation: I honestly don’t see this lack of Trinitron sales. My brother has a Sony Trinitron TV. So does my girlfriend’s sister. So does my best friend. So does a friend from work. Granted, (other) people around here have money, but can sales be THAT bad? Flat-screen TV is the future!

Nevertheless, Sony will pass this off as “reorganization”, but nobody’s that stupid. Anytime you have to lay off 1 in ever 8 workers, something’s wrong. It’s hard to get a good read on the situation with Sony preaching about not needing to cut price because they’re doing fine without one. But can that really be true if they are forced to undergo this massive “reorganization”?
And, if Sony does cut price, will it help their bottom line all that much? Even with their new, cheaper production module, lopping 25 percent off the price of your system won’t do much for short-term profits.

With the holiday season right around the corner, this is not the news Sony needed the public to see. If sales are really as bad as indicated, Sony might want to consider that price cut one more time. Because evidently, their insistence on their current Network Adapter bundle isn’t getting it done.

A much-discussed rumor has been confirmed by Take-Two Interactive regarding the next game in the Grand Theft Auto series. The game will be released toward the end of 4th quarter 2004. No other details, such as a potential site for the game, have been announced as of yet.

There’s not a lot to this announcement, but it does come at a pretty good time with the repackaged GTA3/Vice City creating a buzz for the series. While Vice City was a blast, this writer hopes that the next Grand Theft Auto game will be a return to the dark, gloomy vibe of GTA3. The question is, how can they top the killer soundtrack of Vice City?

Major League Gaming
A new phenomenon in the gaming world is the DVD Strategy Guide. An alternative to the more conventional magazine-style strategy guide, these DVD’s have the ability to SHOW the gamer the solution, rather than a simple description of what to do. These DVD’s are available for some of the more popular and complex video games out there today.

Major League Gaming, looking to increase its profile, has jumped on the DVD Strategy Guide bandwagon, forming an alliance with GameTime Entertainment to feature MLG players in these strategy guides. The idea here is that the MLG player not only gets to show off his skills, but is also in the homes of countless gamers watching the DVD’s. The new guides will be called dvG’s, with the first commercial dvG being a strategy guide for Tom Clancy’s Rainbox Six 3 for X-Box.

While it’s early in the career of Major League Gaming, and the league is not all that well-known just yet, they’re going about this the right way. Start small, build alliances, create connections that will pay off. MLG is doing this, and it appears to be working. It’s going to take a while for the general public (and much of the gaming public) to buy the idea of professional video game players, but once they do, it’s looking like MLG will be at the forefront of this new industry.

Misha – We Want Our Tea Back!. Sure, this is technically from last week, but it’s always proper to plug the new guy. Misha’s a pretty cool cat and I welcome him to the 411 group of idiots… er, staff.
The word ‘Geek’ has been picked up, washed off, given some new clothes, and granted social acceptability.

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. It would appear that our own Liquidcross has some sort of fascination with monkeys, particularly ones in video games. Very interesting…
Diddy’s often throwing bananas at enemies. Shouldn’t he be flinging feces? That’s what monkeys do, after all.

Alex Williams – Encore Extra Stage News Report. This is Alex’s debut as Friday news reporter. How many weeks can AW pull double duty until he burns out? My guess is four. Though the haikus are maybe the most fun thing I’ve read on this site all month.
That was quite possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, now that I think about it. Which means, of course, that it will be featured AGAIN in some way, shape, or form.

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Everybody’s favorite Chiefs fan has some really bizarre, yet hilarious stuff for us this week.
I just saw the ad for PS2’s Eye Toy. Two words: Power Glove.

Frederick Badlissi – The Gamer’s Conscience. Fred examines a problem that I’ve often wondered about, and he does a wonderful job with the subject. BTW, Fred, I’m in the same boat as you here. It sucks, but you do what you can.
I have a whole nine unopened video games on my shelf, some sitting there for over a year; does that mean that I’m any less of a gamer? Just because I don’t put in as many hours as some others do, does that make me less worthy to game?

Alex Williams – 411MAX: News News Revolution. Alex’s bread and butter is the Wednesday news report, which contains a ton of N-Gage bashing and a large emphasis on the Eggplant Wizard! Hopefully Mr. Wizard won’t bludgeon me with insults anytime soon.
Man. I just LOVE producing proof that the N-Gage is better served as a doorstop than a gaming system.

Chuck Platt – A Thumb to the Eye. Get to know Chuck with this week’s A Thumb to the Eye! This is a view of the world through the eyes of Mr. Platt, which is always an exciting experience.
Want to make money while gaming? GET A JOB! It’s not like anyone works when they are at work.

Lee Baxley – Hump Day Otaku News Report. Lee, congrats on finally quitting your job! So NOW what are you going to complain about in your news reports and blog? For the record, though, I think you did the right thing.
Sorry, nothing really noteworthy happened this week, so check back next week! Sorry!

You know, I think just about every one of my Kliq comrades posted a review this week. Except for me, of course. NHL 2004 is on the way!

Bebito Jackson – Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. This game was created by the Sonic Team. Is there any doubt that this game should not be reviewed by anybody not named Bebito Jackson?
On my worst day I can beat Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Mario & Sunshine, Sly Cooper & The Somethingorother, Opei & Anthony, Sifl & Olly, and any other generic two bit platformer worth their salt while under the influence of hallucinogens, drunk, and half asleep without any problems whatsoever. But this game had me ready to throw my GameCube in my cat’s litter box and then feed the poor guy bean burritos.

Alex Williams – Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Brothers 3. Wow. What a good, consistent, FAIR review. Most reviewers will give this game a 9.5 because it was good for Nintendo back in 1990. Alex gives you a look at the total package and judges the game on how it stands up TODAY, not 1990.
I wanted to give this game a higher review. I really did. I wanted to praise this thing to the moon and back. I wanted to love again what I loved ten years ago. But I can’t. I just can’t.

Chuck Platt – Viewtiful Joe. One of the most anticipated games in recent memory hits as a third-party GameCube exclusive! See what Chuck has to say about this great game.
More likely than not, almost every person’s Viewtiful Joe experience will be different.

Lee Baxley – Demikids: Light. Lee does exactly what he set out to do here, and that is show that Demikids isn’t a Pokemon knockoff. It is its own entity, and it sounds pretty interesting, actually.
I love this game. It is truly the best game I’ve played on the Gameboy Advance thus far.

Alex Lucard – Shin Megami Tensei Devil Children: Darkness of Day. Also known as Demikids: Dark. Like Demikids: Light, but with a different story and, of course, the Lucard treatment. Read both reviews and get both games!
You’ll find those new to the series will give it a much higher rating than I have. And in truth, those are the eyes you should view Demikids through.

Lee Baxley – Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. Wow, Lee’s been cranking them out recently! He is a huge Castlevania fan, so make sure you see what he has to say about the latest 3D Castlevania adventure.
Though flawed somewhat, the game does accomplish what it set out to, and is the perfect starting point for a new generation of Castlevania titles.

Cory Laflin – Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds. I haven’t watched Buffy since it left the WB in 2000 or so. It was really good, though. Cory lets us know if the game matches the quality of the series.
How many movie/TV show games have you played where you felt like you were actually in the show? Not many, I wager; and that’s where this game shows its originality.

Commentary of the Week
You know, I was watching Psycho last night and in a Chuck Platt moment, I wondered to myself how a licensed game based on Psycho would be in 2003. Presumably, you’d control Norman Bates. You would have to do some Norman tasks such as act out the shower scene, clean up the mess in a certain, timed way, kill the detective, and kill Vera Miles’ character to end the game. It might be kind of fun… though it might be terrible, too.

Here’s today’s Commentary: what sport best translates to the video game arena?

Each year, we are inundated with sports games of all kinds. From basketball to football, from hockey to baseball, from deer hunting to bowling, the sports game market is saturated. So much so, in fact, that we don’t even get the chance to wonder about these games. By wonder, I mean consider whether, say, a sport like baseball could translate well into a video game. Instead of finding an answer to this question, we see four games released each year and we assume that baseball MUST translate well, or else they wouldn’t make so many games about it!

This is a pretty bad explanation. Particularly in baseball, one of the most important factors is atmosphere, and no video game could provide the atmosphere of baseball.

So, of the four major sports (baseball, basketball, football, hockey), we’ll go through what works for the video games and what doesn’t work, as well as memorable video franchises and games.
Ready? Let’s go!

Memorable Games: Baseball Stars, Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball, MLB Slugfest
Memorable Franchises: RBI Baseball, World Series Baseball, All-Star Baseball
Current Consensus Fave: All-Star Baseball

What Works: Enhanced stats and player models allow gamers to learn players better, ability to experience the game at various ballparks
What Doesn’t Work: Lack of that certain baseball atmosphere, pitching is often too easy, lack of true baseball strategy, lack of a true industry leader

Overall Summary: Baseball games are good, but no game has really put it all together yet. With such a cluttered and competitive market, the games themselves can only improve.
RANK: 4th

Memorable Games: Double Dribble, NBA Jam, NBA Street
Memorable Franchises: Lakers vs. Celtics, etc./NBA Live, NBA2K/ESPN NBA Basketball
Current Consensus Fave: NBA Live

What Works: Basketball strategy is easy to implement, ability to play arcade or simulation-style, controls are usually simple
What Doesn’t Work: No consistently challenging way to shoot free throws, too easy to turn any game into a fast-break fest, only two major competitors currently

Overall Summary: Everyone loves playing basketball games on some level, be they arcade-style romps or well-paced sims. Each of the Big 2 provide a different style of play, which gives you reason to devote time to both games.
RANK: 3rd

Memorable Games: Tecmo (Super) Bowl, NFL Quarterback Club, NFL Blitz
Memorable Franchises: Madden Football, Joe Montana Football, NFL GameDay, NFL2K/ESPN NFL Football
Current Consensus Fave: Madden/ESPN NFL Football

What Works: Perfect way for someone to truly understand the intricacies of football, learn plays, gain knowledge of the game, play in any situation
What Doesn’t Work: Only get to control skill position players, fan is somewhat removed from the game

Overall Summary: Believe it or not, the new football games keep finding new ways to get better.
You can’t really go wrong with Madden or ESPN today, and the game hasn’t changed all that much where older games are obsolete.
RANK: 1st

Memorable Games: Ice Hockey, Blades of Steel, NHL Open Ice
Memorable Franchises: NHL Hockey, NHL Hitz, NHL2K/ESPN NHL Hockey
Current Consensus Fave: ESPN NHL Hockey

What Works: Great introduction to hockey, addictive and fast-paced gameplay, fighting
What Doesn’t Work: Playing with NHL rules can be very frusturating and restrictive, goal-scoring tricks work way too well

Overall Summary: Let’s face it, there are two reasons why hockey is reasonably big in America – Wayne Grezky and EA NHL Hockey. Hockey games tend to be a very solid representation of the sport and will likely leave gamers wanting more.
RANK: 2nd

This list is obviously not very definitive, so I want to see what others are thinking. E-mail me (click the link on the bottom) and let me know what you think is the sport that translates the best to the video game environment.

Another TGIT in the books! Hope you enjoyed reading this one. See you next week!