Starting this month, the team comes together and discusses the games that bind their time (and wallets). Of course, we're not always looking for new gaming acquisitions as you'll find some of the staff shares a deep passion for the classics. So without furhter ado...
You know, I can’t help but feel a little envious that most of the team has been actively gaming more than me. I’ve actually been so fixated on the site’s development that pretty much any of my recent time picking up a controller (or a handheld system) was ultimately to fulfill an editorial assignment. Hm, would I likely be playing more games if I wasn’t the head gamer in charge? Possibly.
In retrospect, my most productive period playing games took place during the pre-holiday season. At first, the Nintendo DS kept me somewhat preoccupied, but I must admit the current launch library hasn’t compelled me to keep playing. During Christmas, I got back into playing Sega’s Feel the Magic and unlocked some new levels (man, how much further to I have to go?) I know some of you think this isn’t exactly the most innovative game, but c’mon, let’s be honest – it’s actually the best game to showcase all of the system’s capabilities. I can’t tell you how silly I felt when I was with my girlfriend and her family yelling at the handheld in order to complete a particular level where I had to get my virtual girlfriend’s attention.
“What? No…I am not upset – you’re supposed to talk in the mic. Really…”
Moving on, I can’t wait until next month rolls, marking the long-awaited release of Street Fighter Anniversary Collection for Xbox. Some of you will recall that I imported the “region free” edition, which to date, still suffers from relatively sparse online activity. It’s a miracle to actually find more than 2 or 3 players during any given time to throw down with. Sadly, none of my forum buddies (or anyone on the team for that matter) have the game – leaving yours truly a very bored Street Fighter.
Anyways, I recently bumped into one of my old tourney friends who manages the East Coast Championship events, who in our last bout, basically stomped me a dozen times before I picked up a second wind. I tell ya, half of those matches weren’t my fault – it’s the shitty Xbox D-Pad…it just feels so unresponsive. I am told that EB is currently selling the Street Fighter Anniversary stick, developed by NubyTech. Although their reputation isn’t exactly on par with MAS, this product is manufactured by actual arcade parts – HAPP to be exact. I am still skeptical though, especially after my last experience with Pelican. DON’T BUY PELICAN PRODUCTS. They’re just downright awful and the manufacturers should be beat over the head for being allowed to ship such garbage to retailers.
While Japan's prowess in the industry has waned in the past couple of years due to the U.S. and Europe playing some major hardball with several quality titles, I'm still enjoying my stay here, although I have to admit that my love for video games has decreased significantly since leaving Canada. It's not due to a lack of quality games either; in the past two months I've purchased a Nintendo DS with Feel the Magic, Mario 64 and Sawaru! Made in Wario as well as a PSP with Lumines and Ridge Racers. And that's not even including the console games that I've bought too! Oh, and it's not the language barrier either. Even though my Japanese is terrible at the moment, I can get by just fine on most games (RPGs are still off-limits, sadly), and if I ever wanted some games from the US, I could always go to Akihabara and pick them up, for $5 more than what I would pay back home.
No, what seems to be the problem is that I must be growing up. Scary thought, eh? While I enjoy playing games, it seems to be holding less importance to me because I'd rather go out and be social with others. If I do stay at home, I'm usually snuggling up with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as well as Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. Since the arcades in Japan are still pretty popular, I also visit them once or twice a week to get my Tekken 5 fix.
Speaking of Tekken 5, I'm amazed that the rest of the world has seemingly got a better card system than Japan, despite the advanced technology we have for the game in this country. For those who haven't played the game yet, Tekken 5 uses something called an IC card (similar to a credit card) to hold your win/loss record as well as your customized character. Because arcades worldwide are on the decline, Namco decided to change the system outside of Japan. You can now enter your name and purchase your items while playing the game, although you only have 30 seconds to do so. In Japan, the system is quite different. You can't change your information at the machine itself; instead you have to access Tekken.net's login page via your cellphone, which is totally different from Virtua Fighter's VF.net, where you could do it via cellphone or PC, which made things infinitely easier. Of course, with so many cellphone models in Japan, it's inevitable that there would be some compatability issues, and there are tons of them. Only a handful of models can access the site and even then, some of the features available on the site are only accessible by the higher end phones. To make a long story short, even though I've purchased my Tekken.net card and I'm more than willing to pay the $3 per month for all the goodies that comes along with it, I can't, simply because my cellphone is not a high end model.
Guild Wars - Add another weekend lost to this online experience. Didn't enjoy it as much this time around though. One thing is they made some changes to the interface. Not only do these clash with the sections they haven't altered, but these additions weren't for the better. Instead of having a locked window that I can pull out and collapse at will with tabs to easily go through things like equipment and skills, it's now all chopped up into a dozen floating windows that are tedious to open up during a mission and making selling items harder since windows sometimes get stuck behind other windows. There was also more lag this time around, which was odd considering there were less people, and many of those left had no idea how to play the game properly. I have a feeling the more talented players were lured away by World of Warcraft. At its heart, Guild Wars is still a fantastic game, and I hope they'll take the time to iron out some of these problems, as well as add content to the more vacant areas, before the final release. Seems slightly unlikely when it's hitting next month in Europe.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - Why is the talk radio station almost complete garbage? That was my favorite station in the previous two games in the series, but here I was tired of it after a few listens, and instead stuck to the soul and old school hip hop. Forthright MC gets my vote as best DJ to fight off alien invaders. Why do some missions, and nearly all of the sub-missions like taxi driver, feel more like work than anything else? Why are most sub-missions identical to what they were in GTA3? Why are the on foot controls still so awkward? Why are the plane controls even more uncoordinated? Why does a tree materialize when I'm flying only after I've hit it? Why does CJ take so long to shop for anything? Why are the girlfriends not home even at the hours they're supposed to be? Why do they make some missions so strict that they leave you only one way to do them? Why do I still play this game? That's at least a question I can answer, since wading through the dull or tedious missions can sometimes lead to crazy fun experiences like Green Goo. I'm glad this wasn't considered GTA4, since it still feels like an extension of GTA3 than a true evolution of the series. I don't even care if they don't improve the visuals, though I'm sure they will, but for the next game Rockstar North should focus on rethinking the series from the ground up, because the concepts here are sometimes brilliant, but the execution is sometimes retarded.
Devil May Cry and Shinobi - What do they have in common, other than being third person action games with mediocre sequels (if Nightshade counts)? They're both games I played and enjoyed when they originally came out, but never owned, until finally purchasing them in a recent buying spree. There's been a number of other action games I've burned my retinas on since, most notably Ninja Gaiden and the Otogi series. Shinobi now comes off a little stiff in movement and more than a little bland in the environments where the action takes place, but the gameplay still draws me in. TATE might be a gimmick, but if I've learned anything from Outrun 2, is that Sega has a skill of turning gimmicks into great games. Devil May Cry on the other hand... Dante is still cool, but he deserves a better game than this. The major problems I have with it are all due to the Resident Evil baggage it takes along with it, everything from the game interface, to fixed camera angles, to lame puzzle elements. At least the tank-like movement scheme that kept me from enjoying Onimusha isn't present, but when I get whacked by an enemy because of a bad camera angle it's a small consolation.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 - I’m a couple of hours into this and coming off of playing Hot Shots Golf Fore! and Links, for the PS2 and Xbox respectively, have played three out of four of the “big” golf games out there for consoles (exception being Mario Golf for Gamecube). Tiger, so far, seems to be a technically sound golf game with a myriad of features that aren’t available elsewhere. You have the ability to design your character from the ground up with an absolutely unbelievable amount of detail paid to every characteristic that a human being can possess. It’s mind-numbing. Tiger uses the same type of swing system that’s present in Links and takes it a bit further with a few more options during the swing process. I’ve said previously that Hot Shots Golf Fore! is by far the most challenging console golf game that I’ve yet come across and Tiger is somewhere in between it and the very easy to beat Links. Yet, something is amiss here. The announcers are decent and offer up some truly humorous commentary along the way, yet it’s somehow stale. Equally, the detailed courses are somehow devoid of personality, it all seems very bland. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 seems very feature rich and detailed orientated, but somehow feels wooden and manufactured instead of being genuinely fun.
Bard’s Tale (PS2) - Wow. If you’re going to buy any game this year for the sake of voice acting and story, then this is your ticket to paradise. Sure, it’s a game running on an older engine that doesn’t take that to any level higher than its forefathers. Typically featuring the bottomless inventory bag, sparse RPG elements, and hack n’ slash game play, the Bard’s Tale is the rare video game that is somehow more than the sum of its parts. Without question, it’s among the best acted games of all time and the sarcasm, cynicism, and sheer attention paid to its plot are unparalleled. Great stuff. Sure, the game play has its detractions and if you played the game with the volume turned to “0”, you wouldn’t be terribly impressed. Turn it to “7” and have fun.