Mid-Week Mid-Boss

First of all, this is going to be a short column. To put it simply, the past few days have been hell, and since I write this only at work, it can’t be helped. Hopefully what IS in here is all good.

Why have the past few days been hell? Well, has anyone ever tried to set up a dual-boot system to run Windows ME and Windows XP, when Windows XP is already installed? Don’t ask why, it was just necessary for me to do this. The Windows XP install used NTFS, and I couldn’t find anyway to install ME separately. Oh, and it was an ME upgrade, so I needed to install 98 first. Well, I decided it would be easiest to wipe both drives, install 98/ME first and then XP after. Well, 8 hours later, I had 98 and ME installed, but it couldn’t see the DVD drive. The drive worked fine when booting into DOS, but Windows didn’t see it. And the motherboard manufacturer neglected to include 98/ME drivers for the board on their site, and I can’t find anything that says it’s not supported. *sigh* For anyone who has trudged through this so far, I implore you, do not buy an ASUS SK8N. I love ASUS video cards, but this motherboard has been nothing but trouble for me. I would have gone Intel like normal, because I never have problems there, but it IS an AMD processor. So today (Tuesday) I get to hunt down Windows 98/ME nForce3 drivers. Not on Nvidia’s site of course, that I can find. This is not my idea of fun.

In better news, by the time you read this, I will have pre-ordered Fable and Star Ocean 3. I’m excited about both since they are going to be released soon. Star Ocean is next week, and Fable is a couple of weeks after that. SWEET. I would do a review of Star Ocean, but I won’t be playing it for a while, since it’s going to be for my girlfriend. She’s the one who has been frothing at the mouth for it for a year and a half. It was supposed to be released around the same time that Xenosaga was, which was her birthday, and it never happened. Fable is the one I’m most excited about though. It sounds so cool that I can’t help but piss all over myself with anticipation!

With that mental image out of the way…

Game Analysis

One thing that a lot of games have, and HAVE to have, is a hook, something that makes it fun or addictive to play. Really, to be a good seller, there has to be something that sets a game apart from every other game out there. It is difficult, for example, to sell a generic first person shooter, but if you have one with a deep and engrossing story, (take Men of Valor for example (damn, I can shill like there’s no tomorrow)), it sets itself apart from every other FPS out there. Early FPS titles used to be able to get away with not having much of a story, because they could go on unique gameplay alone. Nowadays, it’s hard to make an FPS unique as far as gameplay is concerned, but Doom 3 has done so relatively well. While the PDA system in the game was somewhat unique, it quickly became old because it simply turned into a “find the key” situation, like many older FPS titles.

On the other side of the coin is the things that make you want to throw the game down in frustration. Something that is included in a game simply to extend the playtime, yet doesn’t increase the amount of fun you have playing it. Usually, these types of things are tedious. Take for example one of the staples of RPGs. The deep, dark dungeon that is 100 levels, and the enemies get progressively harder the deeper you go. Oh, and typically, you can’t leave, or if you do you have to start over. Quite a few games have variations of the “super evil side dungeon thingy” like Arc the Lad, Wild Arms 3, and to some extent Star Ocean 2. In decent versions of it, like Star Ocean 2’s, you get great rewards for traversing the dungeon. In not so great versions, you get only minimal rewards, or even worse, no reward. In Arc the Lad, the reward was a new character that was awesome, but she could only be used in certain stages, and not during boss battles.

Stages like this can sometimes beneficial. But more often than not, they are a waste. They take many hours to complete and aren’t fun at all. Of course, there are other frustrations than that, but it’s just an example of one. Of course, most people will say “just don’t do them!” but it’s not that easy. I’m a very anal gamer, and I like to have everything in a game. Much like Pokemon, I have a “gotta catch em all” mentality with any game I play. If I miss something, it pisses me off. And this brings me to what made me think of this column to begin with. Dark Cloud 2.

I have played Dark Cloud 2 in the past, but it was basically just a cursory play for the purposes of a review. This time I’m getting much deeper and I’m going to play through as much as I can because quite honestly, I’ll probably never play it again. I may have explained my “never play again” philosophy, but here it is again. See, I own and play a lot of games, and 95% of them are RPGs that take an excess of 40 hours to complete. So obviously, since I work 40 hours a week, and like to sleep some, I can’t play and replay every game I own. Sure, some of them are easy, like the Suffering. You can finish it 3 times in a weekend easy, which I did. And I probably won’t play it again simply because I got as much out of it as I could. So there are games that I have completed multiple times that I enjoy, but simply don’t want to waste more time to play again. Take Final Fantasy 7 for example (I know, I know, everybody else here thinks it sucks, but I rather enjoyed the gameplay. The materia system was the hook for me.), which I have finished at least 3 times and after the third time, I will never play it again. Anyway, I’m trying to finish Dark Cloud 2 so I won’t ever play it again.

I’m very torn on this game, because there are parts that I dearly love, and there are parts that are extremely frustrating. The hook for the game for me is the ability to take pictures of various objects (a tree, or a lamp post for example) and use those pictures to invent items that you can then make. The main character is able to ride in a robot called a Ridepod, and you can make new weapons, bodies and legs and such for it. It’s a lot of fun to play around with the different inventions and especially the Ridepod.

Another hook for me is the ability to level up your weapons. Each weapon has certain elemental stats that you can raise by synthesizing crystals and other items with the weapons. Basically, the weapons get experience instead of you, so after they get a level up, it not only raises the attack and weapon hp stats (yes, they can break, but not permanently like in the original Dark Cloud), but you also get synthesis points to be used to raise the other stats. And each weapon can be built up into an entirely new weapon if stat requirements are met. It’s really a blast and it’s probably my favorite part about the game.

But as I’m sure you’re aware by now, this game also has it’s “anti-hook” if you will. It does have an optional dungeon, but I’m not that far yet so I can’t comment on it. What it has is called Spheda, which is basically golf. You even have Spheda clubs that can be wielded and leveled up like a weapon. The problem is that to play Spheda, you must clear off every enemy on a floor of a dungeon. This isn’t that big a deal usually, but still, I’d prefer you didn’t have to. Whenever you play spheda, your ball only has a limited amount of shots to get into the hole, or a Par if you will. The problem comes from the fact that if you hit the ball out of bounds, you have to start back at where you hit it, and it’s VERY easy to knock it out of bounds. I’ve since grown more forgiving of the game for spheda, but it’s still really frustrating, because most shots are very hard, and the ones I have completed have been luck alone, and personally, very few things should be based on luck.

So what do you get for spheda? Well, every level has several medals you can earn, and every stage has a game of spheda as one of those. If you collect enough medals, you can trade them in for new outfits. Some are pretty cool, but are they worth the pain and suffering caused my trying to attain them? Probably not, but I’m going to try to make the best out of it.

At least it IS something that if I get TOO fed up with I can bypass it, because there ARE games out there that require you to do stupidly annoying things. I quit playing Wild Arms 3 because you HAD to play through 10 floors of their “super evil deep and dark waste of time dungeon” and it just got so dull and boring, because each floor was big and the enemies are a pain and you COULDN’T SAVE. So I said f*ck it. But always look for the hooks, and try to make the best out of the anti-hooks, and if a game sucks, it sucks. Don’t do what I’ve been known to do, and get so pissed that I break a controller or punch the wall (yes, I’ve done both, but many years ago). If a game sucks too bad to continue, put it down. Or punch your brother or something.

*Note: Neither Lee Baxley nor Inside Pulse are responsible for the consequences of punching your brother in his big fat mouth. Don’t complain to us if he runs and gets mommy, or worse, calls the cops. Should you get the cops called on you, Lee Baxley will disavow any knowledge of your existence and you will self destruct. Have a nice day.

Lee’s Game Crazy Adventure

Ok, so maybe it’s not quite that grandiose, but it sounds cooler than “Lee Pays a Visit to Game Crazy.” Like I said last week, we got a few Game Crazy’s in town finally, and one was right down the street. Like all of them, it’s connected to Hollywood video. So my girlfriend and I decided to pay a visit to it just to see. Not looking at games so much as selection and the store itself.

My first impression: the entire store seemed to be wrapped (on the inside) by a steel cage. It was bizarre, but also kinda cool.

The selection of used games was excellent. They packed as many used games as the local used game store, except into half or 1/3 the space. And they had good prices as well. On top of that, they had an MVP card you could get (for $12 a year I think) that would give you 10% off used games and add 10% to any game you sell them. It’s a great deal.

In addition, they have a deal where if you preorder a game, you pay $5 down, and when the game comes in, you get a free game rental at Hollywood, in addition to any promos with the preorder (like the Fable DVD for example).

The people there were real nice as well. When we came in, they were having to deal with an irate customer (we’ll call her The Bitch) who was demanding her money back. She sounds like people I’ve had to deal with over the phone, but it’s different when you’re face to face. On the phone, if they’re being too abusive, you always have the right to hang up. But they handled her very well. I guess they knew that if it came to blows, they had the f*ckin steel cage all set up!

Anyway, it was just a trip to a new store, but both my girlfriend and I agreed that we now had a good place to go for used games, whether we wanted to buy or sell. My only disappointment was the lack of strategy guides, but considering their focus isn’t on new games, I can understand why. Besides, the guides take up more space than the game does, so it’s all good.

Christian’s Crazy Game Releases

Keep in mind, these are ship dates and are not set in stone. Game companies LOVE to push stuff back at the last minute, so don’t blame us if it’s not right. Also, since it is a ship date, it may take several days to arrive at your favorite store, depending on what it is, so please call before rushing over to pick up a game that may or may not have arrived.

Aug 22
Alida (PC)
Marine Heavy Gunner (PC)

Aug 24
Amazing Island (GC)
Digimon Racing Wireless (GBA)
Maximum Underworld (PC)
Phantasy Star Online 1 & 2 Plus (GC)
Test Drive – Eve of Destruction (P2, XB)

Aug 25
Dogs Life (P2)

Release dates courtesy of Christian at Game Crazy. This Saturday, head to your local Game Crazy for some Double Dashing. It’s this month’s Ultimate Saturday Series tournament, Mario Kart Double Dash. Hurry in and bring those blue sparks! See your local Game Crazy for details.

Christian’s Comments: Congrats to Lee for finally having a local Game Crazy. Now he can take advantage of the Game Crazy Goodness like all his readers. I kinda screwed up last week stating that this week had a glut of good releases. It’s actually next week that the glut of good new releases comes in. Looking at this week, it’s just kinda there. September is usually the start of the holiday releasing schedule, with stuff building up from there. My own personal opinion, unless there’s something on this week that you’ve been dying to pick up, wait until next week for Pikmin, WWE Day of Reckoning, ESPN NHL, Phantom Brave, or Star Ocean

Lee’s Comments: None of the titles this week really spark my interest. I’ve got Star Ocean preordered for next week though. The PSO 1 and 2 Plus might be good if you’re one of the ones who got the first one, but on the other hand, it may be a waste if it’s just a minor upgrade. Either way, the releases are gonna start picking up very soon.

Links (No God, No More Golf/Spheda!!!)

Quickie version time. I’d leave them out altogether, but then you’ll hate me and I’ll want to cry.


And last, but certainly not least.

Eric S.

Ok, another slacktastical week has passed, and it was fun, in a sleep deprived sort of way. Read everybody else, and play some games or something.