Mid-Week Mid-Boss v2.15

Hey yo. It’s only three full days until Christmas. I’m getting excited. Are you? I’m not really sure what I’m getting for Christmas, but I suspect it will involve a lot of DVDs…some with Bats, some with Vampire Slaying, some set in a Prison. And hopefully one will even contain a Guitar! We’ll see.

I’ve already bought myself some Christmas presents as well. I got myself a brand new DVD player, for one. It was only $60 at Best Buy, but it will play burned DVDs with DivX encoded movies on it. Sweet! I have only tested with some fansubbed anime, and some of the subs were cut off at the bottom, but I’m sure there’s a way around it. The Xbox 360 simply didn’t cut it as a DVD player. I would notice interlacing for a split second occasionally, and it was getting on my nerves. But the DivX sold me on it, really. Plus it was just $60! It’s a Philips DVP642 player, in case you’re wondering. I’m not saying it’s the greatest thing, but it’s certainly worth the cost.

I also got myself some anime, which I’ll list in the Anime section, and a movie, which will be in the Movie section. (I gotta tease, ya know?). So read on and see what’s going on this week in the realm of games and other stuff.

Grandia III Officially coming to America
While it was pretty much a foregone conclusion, Grandia III has officially been announced for release in America. It will span 2 discs and should be released sometime in February, which is a month before I thought it would be released (unless they do something sneaky and release it on February 28).
(Credit: RPGFan)

New Dragon Quest Title for the PS2
No, it’s not Dragon Quest IX. They’re working on what is called Dragon Quest Yangus, which features the lovable bandit from DQVIII, except as a child. Not much else is known, other than that it has an anime style and it’ll be debuted at JUMP Festa 2006.
(Credit: RPGFan)

Games are Fun Scan Goodness
I like Games are Fun, as you’re probably aware if you read this column weekly. It’s one of my favorite game sites, as far as news goes. Sure their writers can sometimes be asshats (whereas I am ALWAYS an asshat), and their readers even worse (whereas our site’s readers are typically well spoken and intelligent, even when disagreeing with what we have to say), but they put out some of the best news, from both sides of the ocean. This week, they’ve posted some great scans. In fact, if I quantified gaming news with sex, I’d say some of these scans gave me a boner. They didn’t, in fact, give me a boner, but you know what I mean.

First and foremost, one of my favorite topics over the past few weeks, Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria. These shots show two things very well: the game will look great (with the same beautiful character designs), and the battle system that we all know and love has returned. Oops, now I DO have a boner. Silly me.

Next is some screens from Xenosaga Episode III. I honestly don’t know what to think of this. Xenosaga Episode I is one of my favorite games of all time due to the incredible story, voice acting, and graphics. The gameplay was somewhat flawed, but I love the game anyway. I haven’t played Episode II yet (which I REALLY need to to get my YUKI LOVE! But, I don’t know, I’m not sure I like the direction the art style has taken. I was very disappointed that they had changed from the anime look to more realistic, now they have given them weird clothes. I’m sure I’ll get it, though. After playing Episode II of course.

And lastly, some scans from Kingdom Hearts II. One of them shows Kairi, and I have to say, she looks kinda cute. It also shows one with Cloud vs. Sephiroth and Cloud and Aerith. Umm, what’s that meeting gonna be like. “Hey, aren’t you dead? If you’re alive, then why the hell am I fighting Sephiroth?” For anyone who played Kingdom Hearts, can you let me know if they actually explained the huge Final Fantasy continuity errors? Or am I just supposed to suspend disbelief even more? *sigh* Suspending disbelief in a Square game. Like I’ve never had to do that before.
(Credit: Games are Fun)

Mistwalker Announces a New Title
Mistwalker has announced that they will be publishing a new game called Cry On. Not a whole lot is known about the game, other than that it will be developed for the Xbox 360, produced by Sakaguchi Hironobu-sama, the music will be composed by Uematsu Nobuo-sama, and development will be handled by a company called Cavia, who is developing another 360 title called Bullet Witch. Other than that, it’s pretty hush hush. With Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon also being developed for the 360, and ASH on the Nintendo DS, Mistwalker certainly has a full plate, and hopefully they can bring a breath of fresh air to the RPG genre.
(Credit: Games are Fun)

Ugh. Thanks to either Gamefly or the mail being slow, I’m not playing anything. I’m supposed to be playing either Call of Duty 2 or Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, but neither has come in yet, so both reviews of those won’t be out until next week (unless some miracle occurs).

I did play Condemned again though. I gave it a fair shot, almost as if I was playing it new. I have a greater appreciation for the graphics, but I still think they look off. Too plastic looking, to me. The level designs also leave a lot to be desired. They are SO incredibly linear. I know that’s common in most shooters, but they don’t usually FEEL so linear, like you have your hand held every step of the way.

The sound effects weren’t quite as annoying, but the voice acting was. Most of the voice actors just weren’t good at all, and the only decent one, Rosa, portrayed a character that was so completely different than how I pictured her. Regardless, the biggest flaw in the game is easily the gameplay. Fighting every enemy is a chore. Some are easy and die in one hit, but others take many hits, and you have to hope you can block enough of their attacks to make it matter. Once you get the upgraded taser, it makes things a lot easier, but depending on it too much screws you over, because you may not keep it forever.

If I could go back in time, would I change my score? Nope. Well, I might lower it more, because I really and truly did not have much fun in the game. Most of the fun occurs during the latter half of the game, and that’s not the way to make a game. You want to make it fun from the start, and fun throughout, but thanks to the totally flawed combat, story that is good at points, but is utterly predictable and hackneyed, and “coulda been better” graphics, I still can’t recommend the game to anyone. It just was no fun to me at all.

I’ll be talking about the January 2006 issue of the OXM Demo Disc, which is issue 53. I seemed to have missed the Holiday 2005 issue, so I can’t comment on it.

First off, this month they revamped the disc. It works on both the regular Xbox and Xbox 360, but their emphasis is clearly on the 360, since there are more demos for it, and they’re arguably better anyway. They also added a new feature called Launch Points, where basically if you play all the demos and watch all the videos, you unlock certain things on the disc, and it keeps track of your points from month to month, and you can get levelups and stuff. I don’t know what the point of it all is, but I guess we’ll find out in due time.

There were 3 Xbox 360 demos on this disc: King Kong, Kameo, and Full Auto. Kameo is the same demo that you can download from Xbox Live Arcade for free. It’s basically the first part of the game, which serves as a tutorial section in the game as well. It gives you a good feel of how the rest of the game works. That being said, it’s not worth getting the magazine for this demo alone.

The other two are more interesting. King Kong lets you play two missions: one as Jack, Adrian Brody’s character, where you first must distract a V-Rex and stay alive, then make your way to try and save Ann from the V-Rex; and another where you play as Kong and must save Ann from the V-Rexes. I had several problems with the demo. First off, as Jack, there seemed to be no sort of direction. There were SOME verbal cues, but for the most part, you were expected to do something and weren’t given much information on how to do it. The controls were pretty good, though it was a lot of fun figuring them out since the demo gave you NO INFORMATION WHATSOEVER on them. Way to go Ubisoft. The Kong missions were torture though. It was like a fighting game, but rather than it being a GOOD fighting game, it was Button Masher Super Ultra 2. I hate to say it, but any interest I had in the game flew out the window. It just doesn’t seem up my alley at all. Some may like it, but I didn’t.

The last demo on the 360 side was Full Auto a car racing/combat game by Sega. Unfortunately, it just did nothing for me. I’ve never been big on car combat games anyway, and this one really didn’t seem to do anything to differentiate between them to me. I shot plenty of cars with my missiles and guns, and it didn’t effect the game in any real fashion that I could see. However, I crashed into a wall, and it took me 10-15 seconds to figure out how to reverse the car, and that sealed the deal. It’s still a racing game, so if you f*ck up, the race is over. The game does have a somewhat innovative technique (stolen from Prince of Persia?) where you can reverse time and “uncrash”. But like I said, it just didn’t do anything for me. If I want racing, I’ll play PGR3 or Gran Turismo, or if I want crashing, Burnout is my drug of choice. Sadly, this doesn’t bring enough to the table to interest me in it.

There was also several videos that were somewhat interesting. There were trailers for Gears of War and Mass Effect. Both games are very anticipated, but they should fire whoever made these trailers, because they don’t make the games look interesting at all. Then again, I’m usually not all that excited about game trailers. But still, they could have done a lot better. I will admit, they were a fair sight better than some anime trailers I’ve seen in my time.

Overall, the disc was pretty disappointing. The trailers sucked, the demos were blah, and overall, it just wasn’t up to snuff for what they have been doing in their discs. Though, I will admit, it is early and there is still time to improve, because the 360 did just come out, so I’m sure the content will only get better. I hope so anyway, because I think one of my Christmas presents is a sub to this magazine.

Oh, and does everyone else think that Uwe Boll will go three-for-three for shitty videogame movies with Bloodrayne?

This week, I’ll review two titles that are very similar in style, yet one is, in my opinion, vastly superior.

Geometry Wars Retro Evolved
I mentioned this game in my Project Gotham Racing 3 review, but I figured I’d go into a little bit more detail here. As I said before, the original Geometry Wars was made as a bonus with Project Gotham Racing 2. Then they made Retro Evolved specifically for Xbox Live Arcade, and included a “trial” version with PGR3. But the full version of Retro Evolved for XBL actually contains both the updated Evolved version of the game, as well as the original (Retro) version featured in PGR2.

The gameplay is very simple. You control a ship (which is just a simple shape) and try to destroy all the other shapes that come at you. The left thumbstick moves you in the direction you tilt it in, while the right thumbstick fires in the direction you move it. It really doesn’t get any simpler than that. Oh, and just in case you think you’re going to be overwhelmed, pull the right trigger to detonate a bomb that destroys all the enemies on your screen.

Though simple, the gameplay is incredibly fast and furious (not to be confused with the totally homoerotic car racing movie), and addictive at the same time. The way it works is that the game starts out slow, with only a few enemies coming at you at a time. As you kill more enemies and your score goes up, you start to get multipliers that increase the speed that your score raises. After you get a certain amount of points, you get other improvements, such as extra lives and bombs (you start out with 3 of each) as well as weapon upgrades. As you can probably tell, with the multipliers coming in, your score goes up very fast, and you start accumulating things at a quick rate. But the enemies start coming at you faster as well, and you have to be very quick on your toes to be able to take them out. And unfortunately, if you die, you pretty much lose your momentum and I personally always quit after my first death, because I typically end up losing the rest of my lives pretty quickly anyway.

While simple at its core, the game is a visual and audio feast. Though you and your enemies are all shapes (some are circles, some are diamonds), and you’re all enclosed in a big box, everything else is very vibrant and colorful. The main thing you’ll notice is the explosions, which are stunning to see. The music is really good too, and really gets you in the mood of shooting things. The only problem (and I guess it’s intentional) is that when you start killing a ton of enemies, their explosions are a big distraction. A beautiful distraction, but it’s almost like when you are driving and you see a pretty lady walking down the street and WHAM, you hit the car in front of you.

Overall, the game is pretty simple to learn and play, but very difficult to master. And is a lot of fun. The great thing is that it’s short and sweet, so you can play for a few minutes, then turn it off feeling like those few minutes were well spent. The game is a good buy too. It’s only 400 Microsoft points ($5) and is great for quick gaming jaunts. I highly recommend it to shooter fans, though don’t expect any complexity out of it.

Mutant Storm Reloaded
This is a game that is similar to, yet completely different than, Geometry Wars Retro Evolved. The gameplay is fundamentally the same. You pilot a spacecraft that looks like a bee. The left stick moves, and the right stick fires in the direction you point it. Unlike GWRE, your mission isn’t so much score based as it is objective based. You must defeat all the enemies on a level to go to the next level. There are several difficulty levels you can select, and there are over 80 stages. Several stages involve simple enemies that just come at you, while others have larger enemies, more like bosses. And in every stage, just defeat the enemies to move on. Also unlike GWRE, power-ups will randomly appear and float around a stage, and you must get it to get the power-up, which includes more powerful weapons, a shield, and spinners that fly around your ship that will damage enemies that get close.

Unfortunately, this game feels much slower than GWRE. Since there are so many levels, it is more of a game you would play on the long term. Sadly, the game itself just isn’t interesting enough for a long term of play. The graphics are good, and the levels are pretty, but it’s not a striking contrast as the basic shapes and pretty explosions in GWRE, and the graphics just aren’t that GREAT. And likewise, I can’t remember any music. However, it has several sound effects, and they are really annoying to me, like the sound effect it plays when you switch stages.

Overall, the game just isn’t that robust in my opinion. The slower style of play and the annoyances just outweigh the good things about the game. If that wasn’t bad enough, the game costs 800 Microsoft points ($10) and simply isn’t worth that to me. But you can always download a free trial that gives you a taste of several stages, so your opinion may be different.

Unfortunately, thanks to Blockbuster’s unfortunate habit of NOT sending me the discs in an order so I can watch all of them at once, I’m going to have to hold off on this. Currently, I’m waiting for Elfen Lied Volume 2, Divergence Eve Volume 1 and FLCL Volume 3.

But not all news is bad. For the rest of this week, ADV is having a huge sale on anime. The prices don’t seem to be as insanely low as last time, but the selection is much, much better.

My haul: Colorful $6, Eden’s Bowy set $24, King of Bandit Jing set $24, Happy Lesson set $24. Grand total, with shipping, $86. Not too shabby.

So needless to say, I’ll be able to fill this spot soon. I’ll probably end up reviewing two shows a week, or more, with all of these.

Oh, and The Right Stuf is having their annual 12 Days of Christmas sale, and they’ve got some good buys that I have my eye on, such has the Witch Hunter Robin box set for $60. You have until Christmas Eve to buy one of these so get a move on!

This week, I watched Sin City four times!

Frank Miller’s Sin City: Recut – Extended – Unrated
I don’t know if that’s the official title of the deluxe version, but that’s what I’m sticking to.

Anyway, with Sin City’s first release on DVD, pretty much anybody that had any common sense looked at the DVD and realized it’d be a waste to buy it. There was no commentary tracks and the documentaries were sparse. In fact, there was just one. So if you happened to get that version, you got screwed, because they just came out with the deluxe edition.

Now, this is probably going to become more and more common. See, the studios want to release their title as soon as possible after theatrical release, to make the most money, but the filmmakers don’t want that. They want to make the BEST DVD they can. I’m sure Dimension made the first DVD, but the second one is what Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller wanted.

For anyone who hasn’t seen Sin City yet, you HAVE to see it. It’s one of my favorite movies this year. The experience is so unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and you can tell everyone who worked on the movie, from the actors to the directors, simply loved what they were doing. The stories were great, the effects were great, and it was just an incredible movie.

Here’s what the deluxe edition contains. In addition to the theatrical movie, it contains an audio track with Rodriquez and Miller, which discusses the less technical aspects of making the film. There is also an audio track with Rodriguez and special guests Quentin Tarantino and Bruce Willis, which is more into the technical stuff. Both tracks are good and informative, but neither is really spectacular. Some of the stories they tell are really interesting though. The third bonus audio track is from the premiere screening of the movie, and is basically audience reaction. I don’t have any real desire to see that, but it’s there nonetheless.

One of the things they did, and which is what the title means, is that they took all 4 “chapters” of the movie, and split them up, and edited back in the scenes that were cut, so they are more faithful to the original comics. The movie as a whole was designed to be watched in one sitting, so some scenes were removed to cut down on time and to make things flow better, but this version is split into 4 parts, and you don’t miss anything that was filmed. It’s pretty neat, but ultimately doesn’t change THAT much. You just get more stuff fleshed out. It’s kind of like the LOTR extended versions.

There are some other really neat bonus features. There are, of course, several documentaries on the making of the movie, covering the cars and babes and guns, to what is called the 15 Minute Film School where Rodriquez gives some unique pointers to how he makes his films with digital. Another neat thing is the “All Green” version of the film, where they show it without any of the digital effects, and it’s all green screen stuff. It’s kind of boring, but kind of interesting to a movie geek like me who will never get into the film business.

Overall, this appears to be the DVD version we were supposed to get. I’m not a fan of the packaging, but the content is killer. It also comes with a mini-graphic novel (mini, because it’s small, but it contains the entire story) of The Hard Goodbye (Marv’s tale). I’ve already read the actual story, but it was a nice bonus. So if you’re a fan of Sin City, or think it looks cool from the ads, PICK THIS UP. It cost me like $30 at Best Buy and it was totally worth it. Excellent release of a great, great movie.

Sorry, Eric. Last week, I posted the column on Monday so it’d be sure to get posted on Wednesday. I’ll do better this week. And I hope you had a good trip to Oklahoma. It’s really not as bad as you’d think.

VOTE for this year’s Inside Pulse Gaming Awards! It’s the biggest event we have here every year, so you gotta do it!

Lucard shares the true meaning of Christmas. Some of you may not be happy with the truth. Unfortunately, the man we know as Jesus Christ was not born in December. He was born in the Springtime. And as with most religious holidays, Christmas was stolen from pagan beliefs. One piece of information that I had never heard before was the origin of the 12 Days of Christmas. Hmmmm….

Check out my review of Kameo, which was fun, but not as good as it could have been.

Tom N. reviews Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. I didn’t think of the Two Towers when I saw the title. I thought of two toilets. It’s like something out of Water Closet. *cringe*

O’Reilly (not to be confused with Bill) reviews King Kong. And he reviews it for the Xbox. Imagine if he reviewed it for the 360, where it’s like “OMG, IT’S SO DARK I CAN’T SEE!!!” or something. That kinda sucks when the president of a company bags on his own game.

Tom P. lives! And I don’t normally like lists, but his list is good. I say bring on more.

Some of the TV guys got together to share with us some Shows That Got Cancelled Before Their Time. Other than Firefly, I haven’t seen any of these shows, so I can’t really comment on them, other than to say: Poor Sin City Booby Chick. First Karen Sisco, then Threshold. That kinda sucks that she’s been in two shows that got canned to soon. I really like her too. Even with her hand cut off.

The movies section has damn Kong fever. Here’s the game section’s own Tom P. talking about the ape, and here is Super Fanboi Dude who gives it a 10. I know I may have a reputation for giving games high scores, but somebody is either easily impressed, or think there is a lot of perfection in the movie industry.

And Kubryk (not to be confused with Stanley) writes about The 40-Year Old Virgin. Steve Carell kicks all kinds of ass.

Well, that’s it for this week. Have a merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and enjoy yourself. And drive safe!