Friday, September 30, 2005

Reviews for the week

I'd have had these up earlier, but Blogger was down for a while last night and today. So, without further ado ... here's what I wrote up this week so far over at GameSpy:
Okay ... y'know, I had a lot more to say. Really I did. But since Blogger went down, I couldn't put it all up when it was fresh in my mind. Anyway, I'll come back it it later.

Until then ... ciao all.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The greatest DS game you'll never play

Tokyo Game Show has come and gone, but the meories will last forever ... or at least until next year's show. That having been said, I got a nice little care package from Phil Theobald over at GameSpy. It had all sorts of fun little goodies he picked up while in Japan. And in buried amongst the mix of other fun stuff, Phil had managed to find me a copy of the Nintendo DS game Jump Super Stars. And now I'm hooked ...

If you've never heard of Jump Super Stars, it's basically a Super Smash Bros. styled fighting game designed specifically for the DS. Instead of having a bunch of Nintendo characters battling it out though, Nintendo picked up the rights to use the huge library of characters from the popular manga magazine Shonen Jump. This includes characters from Yu-Gi-Oh!, One Piece, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Shaman King, and many other popular manga titles. Players pit their own custom team of characters characters against opposing teams in wild survival of the fittest matches. It successfully combines the most addictive qualities of fighting games and collectible card games. The game even supports Wi-Fi play for 2-4 players off of a single card.

Jump Super Stars is an amazing game ... easily one of, if not THE best game to ever hit Nintendo's dual screened handheld. The controls are easy to pick up, the game has a huge amount of depth, and it's simply a hell of a lot of fun to play. These's just one hitch ... the game will likely never see the light of day stateside. Due to licensing issues for all of the different characters (Atari has the rights to DBZ, Bandai controls One Piece, Konami has Yu-Gi-Oh! ... etc.), there's just no feesible way for Nintendo to get the rights to publish the game over here.

So what does this mean for DS owners anxious to experience the game? Well, you'll have to check with a video game importer or talk to someone in Japan to try and get yourself a copy. The game runs fine on a DS system from the US, but keep in mind that the game IS a Japanese title. This means that all of the menus, instructions, and other text from the game is all in Japanese. And unlike some Japanese games, there is no option to change the language to English. The gameplay is simple enough to overcome any sort of language barrier you come up against in battles, and the only real problem will come in figuring out what the goals are for each of the stages in the Adventure mode. Luckily, there are plenty of resources online that provide English language guides for Jump Super Stars.

If it ends up that Nintendo can't wrangle up some sort of agreement to bring Jump Super Stars to the US, it's definitely a game you might want to think about importing. Also, I'd hope that Nintendo doesn't just abandon the great engine that it developed for Jump Super Stars. There's no reason that the company couldn't take the same mechanics presented here, and incorporate them into a new Super Smash Bros. game for the DS.

I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Word Verification

Just a quick note. I turned on the Blogger Word Verification feature for Comments today. All it means is you guys will have to type in a fun little jibberish code when you post a comment. I didn't want to do it, but there's a ridiculous number of bots adding comments as soon as I put up a new post.

A soapbox moment on "Respect"

It's been a hell of a weekend for me. I've learned a few things and am re-evaluating a couple of them. Generally speaking though, for all my talk of not being jaded about people as a whole ... I've realized that over time things can wear down even the best of us.

I've always considered all of you friends ... it's just the type of person I am. Yes, I'm a smart ass. Yes, I've got my geeky quirks ... hell, I write about video games for a living and I'm close friends with a lot of people in the comic industry. I epitomize the term "fanboy" in a lot of way ways. And most importantly, I'm a pretty damned good guy ta boot.

Here's the rub ... I know I'm not perfect. Far from it. I don't expect everyone to like me. There are plenty of people who don't (though I'm so damned adorable it's hard to figure out why they don't). What I DO expect from people, however, it some modicum of respect. I am honest and upfront with people ... and whether I like you or not, I have enough respect for you to treat you as a person regardless of my personal feelings ... though I will still be honest with you about those feelings.

Oddly enough, it's like when I review a video game. I don't expect everyone to agree or disagree with me, to like or hate my review ... but I simply expect people to have enough respect for me as a person to read it thoroughly, think it over, and eventually accept it as my opinion on the matter. In return, I always give the utmost respect to my readers as a whole, will always explain my reasoning in a review in an honest and forthright manner, and continue to give the best I can. And if you do agree or disagree, I'm always available to discuss things. For me, what most people consider a "common courtesy" is not only becoming less than common, but is more about a sense of genuine respect for a fellow person than a real "courtesy".

Okay ... I'm stepping off my soapbox now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"Evil fears the badge"

So, how many of you out there have checked out Darkwatch for either the Xbox or PS2? If you missed it the first time around, you can check out my GameSpy review of the game over here.

As you can tell from my review, I've become a HUGE fan of the game. And not just for the game itself, but for the rich universe that High Moon Studios has developed. So I've got a couple of questions for you guys. First off, how important do you guys think the story is to a game? And second, for those of you familiar with Darkwatch, what do you think of the game? Tell me your thoughts ...

Comic game stuff

I had a couple of new reviews go up yesterday at GameSpy:
The Marvel Nemesis review was a difficult one for me. I really liked the game, and think it was a great start. The comic fanboy in me wanted to give it a 4 or 4 1/2 star rating, but the realist in me ... the actual gamer in me ... realized that the game still had some areas to polish up just a bit. Don't get me wrong though. The game is fun, and it's a solid debut for EA's new franchise. Keep in mind, a 3 1/2 out of 5 for GameSpy is still a good score. I sent a copy of the review to EA, and one of the PR reps did get back to me and said, "It’s a fair review. Thanks for the heads-up and the good coverage."

Speaking of comic-based video games, next week marks the release of Ultimate Spider-Man. I've been real curious about how this game is going to turn out. I should be getting my review copy next week as well, and I'll be writing up a review for the Electric Playground website. I'll let you know my thoughts when I get it in.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Say you want a Revolution?

I mentioned the Tokyo Game Show unveiling of the Nintendo Revolution and its super secret controller in my last post, so I figured I'd update all of you with some news and pictures straight from the desk of Nintendo. First, from the official press release:
Nintendo Reveals 'Revolution'-ary Controller In Keynote Speech

TOKYO, Sept. 16, 2005 – Every gamer who plays. Every one who used to play. Even those who have yet to play, Nintendo is your bet.

As the cornerstone of his speech today at the Tokyo Game Show's annual event, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata elaborated on the theme of the company's aim and proven ability to broaden the population of video game players. Two shining examples highlighted in his keynote include the smash-hit sales of the highly innovative Nintendogs game for the portable Nintendo DS system, and the new controller that will be central to the company's upcoming console system, code-named Revolution.

Nintendo breaks with more than 20 years of video game history by abandoning the traditional controller held with two hands and introducing an all-new freehand-style unit held with one hand.

The intuitive, pioneering interface allows players to run, jump, spin, slide, shoot, steer, accelerate, bank, dive, kick, throw and score in a way never experienced in the history of gaming.

"The feeling is so natural and real, as soon as players use the controller, their minds will spin with the possibilities of how this will change gaming as we know it today," explains Satoru Iwata, Nintendo president. "This is an extremely exciting innovation – one that will thrill current players and entice new ones."

When picked up and pointed at the screen, the controller gives a lightning-quick element of interaction, sensing motion, depth, positioning and targeting dictated by movement of the controller itself.

The controller also allows for a variety of expansions, including a "nunchuk" style analog unit offering the enhanced game-play control hard-core gamers demand.

The response from all major publishers worldwide has been extremely positive. Beyond its other innovations, the new controller gives third parties flexibility, allowing them the option to use as many or as few of the controller features as they desire. In addition, incorporated technology will easily allow games from the NES, SNES, N64, and Nintendo GameCube generations to be controlled in familiar fashion.
And now, for all of you wondering just what in the hell this little piece of gaming technology will look like, it's time to toss out all those oddball Photoshop fakes and take a gander at the real deal. Here it is ... the "Revolution" in video game control:

So ... what are your thoughts on all of this?

An update and a couple of reviews

Hey everyone. I know I'm late doing any sort of update, but your friendly neighborhood journalist has been a busy busy bee as of late. First off, I had a couple of new reviews go up this week at GameSpy:
One interesting note about Urban Reign. Doing a quick search of a few other review sites shows that some people didn't really like the game as much as I have. Now, I've always said that as a reviewer, all I'm doing is giving my personal opinion of a game, and the reasons I feel that way. It's just funny to see other people have so many different opinions. One person (besides me) says this game has excellent graphics, while another says those same graphics are barely up to standards. One place says the combat has a surprising number of options, and another complains that the controls are weak. Regardless, the one thing we ALL seem to agree on with Urban Reign is that the AI is brutal and unforgiving. But here's where I think things get really odd. I personally didn't take off TOO much for the AI being such a pain because I remember the old school arcade fighters that sucked the quarters out of my pockets because they were just so damned hard. The thing was (and still is in Urban Reign) eventually I got better than the CPU. Sure, it was frustrating as hell, but I did make progress none the less. What I think is so funny is that some places took a sizeable chunk out of the game's score based mostly on the difficulty of the AI. So, my question to all of you is simply, "At what point do YOU think a game should be considered TOO difficult?" For me, I can deal with a little frustration from time to time, as long as I see progress. What about all of you?

Moving right along ...

*SIGH* ... This week marks the beginning of the Tokyo Game Show (TGS) in Japan. The damned thing just started and already news is making waves in the gaming community. Everything from the official Xbox 360 release date (Nov. 22 in the US), to Nintendo's official unveiling of the elusive Revolution controller. And lets not forget about the games ... from Metal Gear Solid 4 to the new Xbox 360 RPG (eM)-eNCHANT-arM, things are starting to look really interesting for the industry right now. Sadly, I didn't make it to Tokyo this year, but I've got some people out there keeping an eye on things for me. Plus, I've got all my standard press contacts, so I'll be bringing you news and info updated ASAP.

Speaking of news and info, a couple of interesting projects are in the works for me here. First, I'm in talks with GameSpy about helping to provide them with regular news updates for their site. Things are hectic at the moment due to TGS, but it still looks like I'll be helping out with the news over there soon. Also, I'm still writing regularly for Electric Playground, however the writing I'm doing is not up at this time. Apparently ever since Greedy moved into its new offices and updated the servers, they've been having problems accessing the database to add new articles. Tavis is working on the problem as we speak, and as soon as it's sorted out, my latest batch of reviews for them should be the first things going up.

I'm in the early EARLY stages of finally producing something I've been interested in for some time. I'm pulling triple and quadruple duty these days, as I'm not only continuing to focus on my freelance writing, but I've also started development of my own small magazine as well. The idea is for me to put together a new mag focusing on the worlds of video games, comic, and other various "pop culture" interests. Once I get things set up and plotted out, the magazine will be distributed online in what will most likely be a PDF format. Also, I'm working on a treatment/pitch for the comic news show (similar to what Electric PLayground is for gaming). AND I'm working with some guys I know from the comic and game industries to try and put together some interesting and entertaining intellectual properties to be used in both comic book and video game formats. I'm not sure where any of these projects will take me, but you're all welcome to join me on the ride.

I guess that'll wrap things up for now. Drop a line and let me know your thoughts, and also what you'd like to talk about next. C'mon guys (and gals), give me a little feedback.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Fox goes gaming

Now here's a little tidbit of information that's sure to make waves at the GameSpy water cooler. After a lot of speculation, rumour, and smokescreens, the word came down today that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (home of all things Fox) has officially announced that it will be aquiring IGN Entertainment for a price of around $650 million. IGN Entertainment is the home of IGN (naturally), GameSpy, and Rotten Tomatoes.

The move comes hot on the heels of News Corp.'s recent aquisition of Intermix, the owner of social networking site MySpace. Back in July, IGN had filed with the SEC to offer up shares of stock in an initial public offering. Obviously, that IPO is no longer an issue, as the deal with News Corp. is projected to be finalized before the end of the fourth financial quarter.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Recruitment drive

It's long past time for me to return to a subject that is sorely in need of some new focus. Simply put ... where in the hell are my groupies?

Okay people, this is a call to arms. I'm going to put together some kind of unofficial Groupie Recruitment Drive. I need some ideas. Membership cards? Random swag? Other oddball perks? Give me your thoughts and suggestions.

And as for why I'm doing this? It's some lighthearted fun, which is something we all need these days. And like I said before ... you don't think I got into this field for the money, do you? Fanclubs and groupies ... THAT'S the real reason I started writing.

A slightly delayed update

Well, I've been planning to update all weekend and list out the games I reviewed last week. Then I found out one of the reviews got misplaced and was going to be delayed until Tuesday. The review was for NASCAR 06: Total Team Control from Electronic Arts. I was reviewing the PS2 and Xbox versions. I reviewed last year's NASCAR game for GameSpy, and was impressed by how well the game was put together. This year though ... let's just say I was less than impressed. Anyway, it would seem that EA has been itching for a decent review of the game, and was riding GameSpy about seeing the review. There was some concern that my less than stellar view of this year's game versus my positive impressions of last year's game might be viewed with some skeptecism. So, my review got killed and the game is being reassigned. So, I guess I'll see whether or not someone else is just as unimpressed as I was. Either way, I've always said that reviews are simply one person's opinion. You can take it or leave it.

Anyway, I've retooled the NASCAR review and sent it off to Electric Playground, along with a handful of other new reviews. So, nce the EP site gets updated, you should see a host of new content from me. As for the other work I did last week at GameSpy, here's what went up:
I'll try to put together a longer update soon, including news from the industry, current projects, and other tidbits of info.