Thank God It’s FRIDAY News Report 11.28.03

Hey. If you were wondering where TGIT was yesterday, here’s your answer. Basically, considering that I was already committed to doing the Friday news report, I figured there wouldn’t be a point in writing two reports when there would only be one day’s worth of news to report on. That and ShopRite being insanely busy due to Thanksgiving means no Thursday, but definitely a Friday. Hope that’s okay with you guys.

So in the post-win euphoria after my Fantasy game last weekend, I found out that Warrick Dunn would be out for the rest of the year. Figures. He finally gets it going, and now this happens. Good thing I traded for Michael “I get 10 touches a game” Pittman, eh? This weekend’s a must-win to stay in the playoff hunt, so wish me luck!

Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving! It was a good Turkey Day over here in Hicksville, New York. The annual football game was a bit of a disappointment, as we lost 7-5. I batted down a sure interception on 4th down (which I had a decent chance at taking to the house) for the field position and it backfired, and it helped cost us the game. Final (estimated) stat line: 6 catches for approximately 60 yards, no TD’s, no INT’s. Very weak, especially compared to last year. Still, it was one for the ages, cutting way into dinner time. We’ll get ’em next year!

Much to discuss today, so let’s get started. On with the news!

Vice City
What is it about the Grand Theft Auto series that attracts such negative emotion from so many people? Could it be the gratuitous violence? Perhaps the violence toward women? Maybe even the just-a-little-too-realistic nature of the game?

We have a new entry to the list now – racism. A group of Haitian-Americans have begun to protest the game, more than a year after its initial release. Evidently, some Haitians were offended by the game’s ethnic stereotypes, as well as the prevailing mission to, in the words of the Haitian Centers Council, “kill all Haitians”.

You’ve heard this before if you’ve read this column for a while – when a protest or lawsuit takes this long to get going, it’s usually not for entirely altruistic reasons. I’m not saying that the Haitian-American groups don’t have an argument here, as it’s pretty obvious that some of the GTA characterizations border on stereotyping. But it sounds like this group is more worried about publicity for its greater cause than anything else.

Now, here’s where this might bite Rockstar where the sun doesn’t shine. It’s already battling lawsuits and the growing parental movement against violent games, which GTA has singlehandedly started. Now, it’s facing an accusation of race, which is always a good way to get really bad publicity. Again, it’s going to be awful hard to move as many units of the GTA Double Pack as Rockstar would like with all of this negative publicity going around. Hopefully, this accusation won’t get blown out of proportion. But don’t be surprised if it does.

Remember the PS2 price cuts in Japan? Well, they’ve succeeded in increasing business for Sony, which really shouldn’t surprise anybody. Sales over the last two weeks are up 193 percent over last year’s totals for the same time period, which will, according to Sony Computer Entertainment’s VP, ensure that more people will get to play Sony games this holiday season. Yeah, I’m sure that’s the REAL reason behind the price cut.

Anyway, this all but refutes last week’s study that stated that console sales will be on the decline. Then again, this is all based on price cuts, which isn’t a real indicator of how a truly competitive market works, because you can’t really sustain any gains made via a price cut. Nevertheless, console sales are NOT as bad off as some people are claiming. It’s ridiculous to think otherwise. Just look at the sales you’re seeing for the holidays, and notice how prominently consoles are featured. That’s an awesome thing, and one that’s pretty unprecedented, especially with three consoles in the market. Some people have no eye for the present and how it relates to the future, I guess.

So if console sales are supposed to be going down the tubes, then handhelds have to pick up the slack, right? Who knows the real answer, but the handheld market appears to be in excellent shape. The GBA has put up some ridiculous numbers in its time, and these numbers are increasing all the time.

The latest reports have Nintendo expecting 9 million Game Boy Advances to be sold in 2003. That’s 2 million more than the 7 million GBA’s that were sold in 2002. Sure, a good portion of the boost in popularity has to lie in the launch of the GBA SP, but you can’t argue with the power of the system, both in terms of hardware and marketability.

Want more proof? Consider this: 400,000 GBA’s were sold in October, which is 100,000 more than the highest-selling console. The GBA has an insane 38 percent of the overall gaming market share. Last number for today: Nintendo expects the revenue for GBA hardware/software sales in 2003 to exceed $1.5 billion. This number is higher than the domestic gross for any major Hollywood studio. Yes, the comparison between games and movies lives on. And it’s more valid than ever. The GBA is a force unlike any other we’ve seen since the original NES, and it’s getting bigger all the time. Who knows where Nintendo can take the handheld market?

Hyper Street Fighter
By now, you’ve probably heard about the 15th anniversary Hyper Street Fighter game to be released on the PS2. Word out of Japan states that there will be an arcade version as well! This is such a fitting place for the new SF2 game – as most people remember, the original SF2 made a name for itself in the arcades, only hitting the home consoles at the peak of its arcade popularity. It’s very appropriate that the game returns to the site of its greatest glory.

More than the prospect of a new Street Fighter game in arcades, this is a sign that the arcades aren’t dead after all. Yes, they’re not doing so well. But this is the kind of game that could get people into an arcade and maybe, just maybe, they’ll like the idea of playing at arcades. Then, it’s up to the game companies to take the initiative. Still, it could be the shot in the arm that we’ve been waiting for when it comes to arcade games.

Ninja Gaiden
The new Ninja Gaiden game for X-Box is one of the most hotly anticipated games scheduled for release in the holiday season. Unfortunately, it’s looking like it might not make it in time for Christmas.

Rumor has it that the game will be pushed back to a February release. Can’t say it’s very surprising, as we’ve almost come to expect delays when it comes to new games nowadays. Still, it’s rough. This is going to be one of the X-Box’s flagship games in 2004, and it might sell more than a few X-Boxes before 2003 is through – provided, of course, that the game is available.

Perfect example: My brother and I had this crazy idea to purchase an X-Box as a joint Christmas gift for each other. Looking at the holiday release schedule, Ninja Gaiden was a huge influence in turning the X-Box idea from pipe dream into what will likely become a reality very soon. We’ll still go through with it, but it’s a huge disappointment to have to wait for this game. And I would imagine that many other X-Box owners, current or potential, feel the same way.

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. Take a trip into Mega Man’s more current (and more bizarre) game history. And enjoy it.
Where did all these baddies come from? The World Three (WWW), a cyberterrorist organization headed by the nefarious Lord Wily. These guys want to take over the world, and we can’t have that!

Alex Williams – Encore Extra Stage News Report. Allow Alex to explain to you why I’m doing the Friday report instead of The Man himself…
Well, like I said earlier, I beat Bryan Berg’s prediction of burning out after four weeks. Instead, I’m burnt out after five.

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Cory’s been cool enough to give me the Pimp Stick a lot. I’m really flattered by that. More than anybody knows.
Every once in a while, I just get the feeling that every game has already been done.

Frederick Badlissi – The Gamer’s Conscience. Fred’s got me thinking about undertaking a very similar venture once I graduate. This could be fun!
This coming December 22nd, I will confine myself to my room, Dolby 5.1 ablaze, and begin to assimilate the zaniness and social depravity that will join itself to me. Nouns like “Chocobo,” “Tifa,” and “Sephiroth” will no longer have what I perceived as a random quality; my ignorance will finally be remedied.

Alex Williams – News News Revolution. Read Alex’s “Thankful” commentary. This is the kind of thing we all feel, but nobody has the guts to mention in public. Alex is a better man than I for doing this.
I’ve learned how to read stupid people and the huddled masses pretty well.

Lee Baxley – Hump Day Otaku News Report. Lee’s Gamer Freedom Pass has expired. It’s a sad day in the Baxley household and in houses everywhere. In time, though, it’ll be up and running, so hang tight, Lee!
Why do you think Sony has been ripping the competition? Because you can play all the original PS1 games on it! I know it made my decision to get one much easier knowing I wouldn’t have to have another extra console around to do it.

Lee Baxley – Gladius. When I first heard the name, I thought it was a Konami shooter game. Guess one letter changes some things.
I have to give credit where it’s due. And it’s due here. This is a very unique game.

Alex Williams – Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge. This is looking to be one of the sweetest-looking X-Box titles to come out this year. How does it play? Let Alex Williams tell you!
Crimson Skies is incredibly fun when going through the main mode, and has excellent staying power with the X-Box Live features. A definite buy for fans of the genre, and for X-Box Live users.

Chris Pankonin – Amped 2. I got a chance to play this game at Best Buy, and I was very impressed. Here’s the official 411 review for your enjoyment!
No problems for the Xbox Live gamers as I’ve already mentioned several times the Career Mode and Xbox Live go together like…(insert your favorite cliche here!)

Commentary of the Week
Any sports gamer worth their salt has heard the huge amount of praise placed on the shoulders of Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl. Still, I’d never experienced this phenomenon with a trained eye. So I went out and got myself a copy of the original Tecmo Bowl, and decided to give Bo the ball. What I found in doing this was a lot more than seeing one unstoppable player.

Tecmo Bowl is more than Bo Jackson’s coming out party on NES. In its current form, it’s a link to the past. It’s a way to visit the NFL of 15 years ago, see the players, and relive the days of our youth. Jack Trudeau quarterbacking Indianapolis? Tony Dorsett? The vaunted defensive line of the LA Raiders with Bill Pickel and Howie Long? Wow! It’s almost like a crash course in NFL history, without the blaring horns of the NFL Films soundtrack in the background.

This is how I think we should view older games today. These are games that are obsolete beyond belief in terms of technology, graphical, and audio quality. The controls are primitive when compared to today’s work, the games are shorter, and the goals tend to be less developed. Still, we can learn a lot from these games that time has passed by.

The first, and most obvious, point that we can appreciate is how far games have come since the days of the NES. It’s quite remarkable how fast the gaming world has evolved, and it’s something that we should keep tabs on. By that, I mean we should take a look back in time every once in a while to really see how advanced today’s games are. This is the only way we’ll appreciate what we have. The second and less obvious, but equally important, is that these games, despite their obvious shortcomings, are still very relevant today. Tecmo Bowl actually plays better than a lot of the football games we’ve seen in recent years. The original Ninja Gaiden is a timeless platformer that will always have a place in the hearts of gamers everywhere, even when the new game comes out. And I don’t need to tell you how many people still look back at Super Mario Brothers, which was released in 1985, as the greatest game of all-time.

So, what does all of this mean? Basically, with the holidays coming up, everybody’s going to want the latest in everything, and that includes game systems. Don’t underestimate the older systems in this desire for something new. Sure, you’ve seen everything on them before. But you can still learn something from playing an old favorite through one more time. You might enjoy your new Playstation 2, X-Box, or GameCube even more as a result.

This ends the very special Thank God It’s FRIDAY News Report. Who knows when you’ll get the opportunity to read a column that shares the name of a TV lineup that once sported Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, Step by Step, and Boy Meets World? This was a lot of fun. But the seat is kept warm for Alex Williams, who will resume his Friday workload next week. As for me, I’ll be back to the usual Thursday slot in just six days. Till then, have a great week!