Friday, December 29, 2006

Merry Christmas Penguins!

If you haven't seen this, you owe it to yourself...

Merry Christmas & Happy New Years All! Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Incognito!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Game of the Year?

Hey Everyone!

As you all have probably noticed the blog has slowed down some for the holidays, but I want to encourage everyone to keep reading/writing, and so with the new year approaching it seems like a good time to discuss the best games of 2006. So I will open up the floor for all nominations, what do you think is the best game of 2006 and why?

My nomination should come as no surprise (and may be met with disdain from one of our writers), I nominate Final Fantasy XII for game of the year. It has a great storyline, fun gameplay, interesting characters, beautiful visuals, and enough content to keep you busy for a LONG time. It's probably the most enjoyable RPG I have played in some time and one of the best Final Fantasies ever, two thumbs way up.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Which is the better game?

This will probably be the first of many similar posts in the life of this blog, but last night I decided to play Rainbow Six: Vegas and I thought to myself, "man this game is really good," and I also thought, "man this game reminds me a lot of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter." So I will pose this debate/discussion/question: Which is the better game G.R.A.W. or R.S.: Vegas?

My personal opinion is that R.S.: Vegas because it takes the already successful G.R.A.W. formula, puts it in a far more entertaining locale, improves how cover is implemented, and adds fun room-clearing tactics and equipment into the mix. When you add in the fun "save the hostage(s)" scenarios that crop up pretty regularly, you get an experience that is overall better than its predecessor (recognizing that the games are not actually in the same series). Thoughts?

Re: An Interesting Question

Seriously, Man of the Year: You? Did they stick a little mirror on the front cover of the magazine too? I'm glad that the blog was able to inform me of this little story because I probably would have completely missed it otherwise. Now for more important news what game is most important to me...

As I think both Incongito and Sidious have addressed, this is a very loaded question with a ton of great answers: Final Fantasy VII, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye, Chrono Trigger, among many, many others. For me I think the answer would have to be Starcraft. I think that in a lot of ways it changed the way that the industry thought about real-time strategy. It pioneered the concept of multiple different sides with actual appreciable differences in how they played and it also included one of the first RTS storylines that was actually character driven. Zeratul, Tassadar, Kerrigan, the guy who runs the Terran Imperium that I can't remember the name of, these characters still resonate with RTS players to this day and the storyline was engrossing to a point that I don't think any RTS has been able to match. Add to that one of the first expansion packs to actually build on the storyline of its predecessor and you have probably one of the finest real-time strategy experiences ever created.

I mean the thing still randomly pops up as a top seller even today, and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Starcraft should be blushing like a schoolgirl with a crush. Countless attempts have been made to downright copy that formula that made Starcraft such a success, but none have been able to truly recapture the experience that made it so unique, and with Blizzard basically pulling out of the single player market due to the overwhelming success of its WoW franchise, it is unlikely we will see such a sublime RTS experience for some time. Though Relic's Dawn of War is close...very, very close...

Re: An interesting question

Incognito, I would have to say that my vote for most important game is actually a pair (a cop-out I know, but I am appealing to your magnanimity as the newly crowned man of the year) of 3do games which really altered my perceptions of what games could be: Star Control 2 and Shock Wave 2. What these games did that very few, if any, games did before them, was to apply a deep and interesting story to genres that hadn't really utilized story in such a way before.

In Star Control, the basic gameplay consists of rotating your two dimensional space ship around an oppoisng two dimensional space ship until you can blow said other ship up. But what Star Control 2 added was a point. All of a sudden, you were the sole free human being in the universe and it was your job to stop those other two dimensional space ships from enslaving the remainder of humanity. Add the fact that you could finish the game while only discovering roughly half its secrets, and you have what may be my favorite game of all time.

In Shock Wave 2, you pilot a fighter craft against an alien horde seeking to enslave humanity. I know, I know, "Wow what an original story!" But the reason it was so influential to me, is that it, like Star Control 2, raised the notion of applying story to areas where it had not been present before. Both Shock Wave games are essentially mock-up first person flight games in the vain of the old Empire Strikes Back arcade machine. But in Shock Wave 2 there are characters and plot lines that give impact to the missions you play, and for the first time in my memory playing the game was like participating in a science fiction movie come to life.

I am sure that other games have accomplished the integration of game play and story better than these two, at least by now, but for opening my eyes to what video games can be, these two games get my vote as most influential. Good question, Incognito.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

1 in a million

From The Magic Box:

"Capcom announced the single player and multi-player demos of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition have been downloaded more than 1 million times combined; and over 300,000 hours of play time on Xbox Live."

Looks like I'm not the only one that's excited.

An interesting question

Geez, I'm without internet for two days and you Chatty Cathys post like six times.

Anyways, before I get to my original post, I had 3 comments:
1. If you want Master Chief to be robotic in his acting, that screams Keanu.
2. If you had put "Veronica Mars" in parentheses after Kristin Bell's name you could have saved me a google trip.
3. I really didn't expect to be Man of the Year of the year this soon. Now I can work on being 3-time Man of the Year, since at this point 2-time Man of Year goes without saying.

Now on to the real post.

I would like to pose this question to you all: what game is the most important to you. By this, I mean what game either changed your perception on what games of that genre (or games in general) should be, or changed the industry's views on the same.

It would not surprise me in the least if at least 3 of us have the same answer.

For me, the most important game is Final Fantasy VII, for what it did to the industry. What Goldeneye did for console FPSs, FF 7 did for console RPGs. FF 7 put console RPGs on the map. Not only that, but that development team spread out over the entire industry. Nowadays, you're hard pressed to find an RPG development team that doesn't have ties to the FF 7 staff.

Also, FF 7 did something that hasn't been duplicated since: profanity. For me, that was the most eye-opening aspect of FF 7. It was something that you just didn't see in videogames at that time (even though it was all censored, it was still unprecedented), and it's something that you haven't seen in console RPGs before or since. That's what makes me sad, that no one has had the stones to make an RPG character that swears all the time. However, this only adds to the legacy of FF 7. If we never see another Barret or Cid again, it makes them all the more endearing to us knowing that they are on-of-a-kind.

Time keeps on tickin'...

According to Gamespot:
When the New York Times said the PlayStation 3 "just isn't that great" in November, many Sony fans were up in arms. However, those words were relatively kind compared to what Time had to say. In naming its "5 Things That Went From Buzz to Bust" for 2006, the magazine put the PS3 right up there with Snakes on a Plane, O.J. Simpson's If I Did It book proposal, and Bode Miller's goose egg at the Winter Olympics. The piece begins harshly ("The big story in computer games this year was HOW TO BLOW A HUGE LEAD, by Sony." (capitals in original)), continues brutally ("The PS3 is hideously expensive," "the launch titles were lame"), and ends with a schoolyard insult ("You know you're in trouble when you get beat by something called a Wii"). Time's disdain for the PS3 isn't unprecedented. For the console's launch, the magazine also ran an article titled "Sony's PlayStation 3 Is Not Worth the Hype."
Me: While I don't disagree with the premise that the PS3 launch could have been a lot better, comparing it to OJ Simpson's writing a book explaining how he committed murder is a bit of a low blow, don't you think. Of course I guess we should expect no less from a magazine that, when faced with the daunting prospect of choosing a man/woman of the year, laid this particular egg. I dare say that the choice is a bit of a bust itself, but hey at least I can finally put that man of the year plaque up.

Stars and Videogames

Well, Avenger, I don't think that any portion of the Halo movie has been cast, especially since they seem to throw out whatever script their working on every other day. That being said, I'm fairly certain that Samuel L. would be too emotive to be the chief. You would need to cast someone who could be a bit more robotic in their performance.

Edit: Oh and I just thought of this, but does Ms. Bell's description of Assassin's Creed seem to send itself pretty naturally to a certain theme song. "A long time ago, we used to be friends..."

Monday, December 18, 2006

We gotta kill them Covenant motherf@#ers!!!

Denzel's set to play Master Chief in the movie isn't he?

Stars in videogames is kinda cool, but not an altogether new idea. Still it should be interesting to see who else crosses over...

Oh, and your Kristen Bell-lust scares me (I understand that she is, in fact, wicked attractive, but seriously). Just go watch Reefer madness again or that one where the internet is trying to kill people...

Stars and Video Games

While it may be going to far to call Kristen Bell a bone fide star at this point, its not going to far to call her a video game star. According to IGN:
"GN TV: You also have a videogame you worked on for next year, right?

Bell: Yeah, I actually have one coming out for Ubisoft. I don't know what the date is; sometime next year. It's called Assassin's Creed. You can check it out at It's actually really interesting to me. It's sort of based on the research that's sort of happening now, about the fact that your genes might be able to hold memory. And you could argue semantics and say it's instinct, but how does a baby bird know to eat a worm, as opposed to a cockroach, if its parents don't show it? And it's about this science company trying to, Matrix-style, go into people's brains and find out an ancestor who used to be an assassin, and sort of locate who that person is. It's very, very cool, and I've seen all the graphics for it. We just recorded all the dialogue and did all the face scans and body scans, and I'm really excited about it.

IGN TV: So you're not just doing the voice, but you're actually going to be physically in the game?

Bell: Yeah. I think they'll probably have someone much more coordinated do any actions she has to do, but they did scan my face and body."
I don't know about you, but this news officially moves Assassin's Creed way up my list. Especially if Bell solves high school/college related crimes while in the Assassin's Creed world. That being said, the idea that stars can now so easily be incorporated into video games makes me wonder...what other stars would make good video game characters? Kiefer Sutherland teaming up with Sam Fisher? Samuel Jackson as a squad mate in Halo 3? Any thoughts?

Friday, December 15, 2006

FFXII and Incognito

Yeah, we probably could talk more about FFXII, seeing as it is one of the best Final Fantasies ever, but then you'd probably just pout about it by refusing to post for a month or something so I'll try to curtail our discussion and it will probably happen naturally if we ever beat the blasted thing...

The Mario Party 4 Drinking Game

As promised:

Blue Space: Drink 1
Red Space : Everyone Drinks 1
Happening Space: Drink 2
Mushroom Space: Everyone else Drink 1
Event Space : Drink 2
Warp Space: Drink 2
Fortune Space: Drink 3
Bowser Space : Waterfall ending with who landed on it
Get Item: Drink 2
Use Item : Drink 3
Roll Again : Next Drink is x2
Minigame Loser(s): Drink 1 for each winner
Minigame Winner(s): Drink 2 for each loser
Battle Game Everyone: Drink # of coins/10 (round up)
Battle GameWinner: Drink 2
Battle Game winner of “That other coin” = 1 Drink
Bowser Game Loser: 3 Drinks
Bowser Game non-losers: 2 Drinks
Star: Finish
Lottery Winner : Drink 3
Win Lucky Ticket: Drink 5
“Last 5 Spinner”: Drink 5
Hidden Block: Drink 10
Bonus Stars: Drink 5 each
Second Place: Finish
WINNER : Finish+1
Other rules can and will be added at owner’s discretion.

The game can handle as many people as needed, just have non-players "sponsor" players, and drink when they drink.

I'm nervous

So, I just read that Squeenix (that's what I've started calling Square Enix. I hope it catches on) is working on 2 titles for the 360. My worst fear is that they will pull a "Soul Caliber" with Kingdom Hearts 3: releasing the game on the PS3 and 360 with 1 or 2 minor differences. This terrifies me, because I know that I will have to play both versions. I don't have the time for that, nor do I will I have the strength to choose just one, knowing that I'm missing out on part of the Kingdom Hearts 3 experience.

God, I hope one of those two titles isn't KH 3. It will break me.

I saw your post first

First, don't call me Incog, it's creepy. It sounds like we're dating.

Second, Gears tonight is a no-go, since tonight is the glorious return of the MARIO PARTY DRINKING GAME!!!!!! I'll post the rules here later (after I give them a test run).

Also, could we discuss FF XII more? I really don't think we bring it up in enough posts. And since sarcasm doesn't come across very well in print, I'll just mention that that last sentence was sarcasm.

On FFXII's Length...

I think that Sidious overestimates the strength of the storyline fights. I just fought a storyline boss last night (after doing hunts for about the last 6-8 hours) and it was complete cakewalk. I mean he basically took away all my MP so he wasn't allowed to be too hard, but the hunt I did right before him was about 5 times harder. In addition, equipment in this game boosts your stats at least on par with leveling and since that is directly tied to your place in the storyline, your characters probably get stronger faster. Still 40 might be pushing it, there's a lot of walking (Lord of the Rings style), but I think you could do it a heck of a lot faster than we are. Still I don't think it's too long because I am constantly seeing new things, getting new stuff, fighting new monsters, and there are still plenty of areas I have encountered that I am nowhere near strong enough to traverse. As I said, as long as there is content and gameplay to back it up, length is a good thing.

Hey Incog, I'll probably call you about this, but if you see this post first, you up for some Gears Multiplayer tonight? Let me know!

I don't think we should add this to IDOG

For those of you who spent any time wacthing the Detroit Tigers go from having 13 consecutive losing seasons to being in the World Series this fall, you probably know about their rookie phenom closer, Joel Zumaya. "Zoom-Zoom Zumaya" was so good this season that when the Tigers needed to shut out the Yankees for the last three innings of only their second playoff game in over a decade, they went to the kid. Of course those of you who followed the Tigers also likely know that after his magnificent performance in that game, he was only sporadically available to the team do to an unknown hand injury. Well now we know what caused that injury. According to this article at Gamespot:
"Zumaya, who tops the 100mph mark on his fastball, was benched in the ALCS against the Oakland Athletics because of forearm inflammation. However, the Tigers training staff was confused because his injury seemed to be caused by the same motion of playing guitar--not from an overhand pitching motion.

The pitcher and trainers quickly realized that Zumaya's problem stemmed from his addiction to RedOctane's Guitar Hero, the PlayStation 2 rhythm game that uses a guitar-shaped controller, according to the Detroit Free Press."

So I guess Jack Thompson was right after all: Video Games Kill...playoff chances.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Re: On a Plethora of Topics

After thinking about Incognito's and Avenger's points. I have the following comments:
"RPG should be finishable (is that a word?) in 40 hours. Period."
Me: I couldn't agree with this point, and I don't think that Avenger would ever. If there is one thing I disagree with, however, is Avenger's notion that FF XII is "finishable" within 40 hours if you skip the side quests. Maybe I'm wrong (and I'm certainly trying to do everything), but since I'm struggling to keep my party alive even with all that extra experience and money, I don't see how anyone can rocket through the game by simply following the main quest. Perhaps the game is using some kind voodoo balancing system to compensate for my now 58 hours of play.
"Does anyone enjoy looking at Akira Toriyama's designs?"
Me: I have to say that I don't share Incognito's utter disdain for these character designs. At the same time, I don't think that they rise to the level of those contained in even DQ 8 much less FF XII.
"On the Lost Planet Online Demo"
Me: This sounds like fun, I like the concept of not having respawning weapons, and of having constantly changing maps. I don't know about the rest of you, but with constant maps it always felt like skill could be overcome through the simple act of memorization. Laser Swords anyone?
"I'd like to see Super Nintendo titles like Soulblazer, Illusion of Gaia, or Actraiser on the Virtual Console..."
Me: Oh yeah...the glory days of of the SNES. Did you see IGN's review of Alien Crush? They think that Nintendo is just "being nice" by holding on to their own juggernaut-type games until their partners get some of their stuff out. I don't know about that, but there is little doubt in my mind that the Virtual Console is going to be something truly special in the very near future.

Finally, as for the numbering debate, I admit that the problem is more psychological than anything else. By the time DQ 10 comes out on the PS3 we will just acknowledge DQ 9 as something like Rocket Slime, but I just don't understand why companies do this.

On a plethora of topics

Plethora. Good word. Aaaaaaanyways.

On game length:
I'll chime in on my self-proclaimed area of expertise: a console RPG should be finishable (is that a word?) in 40 hours. Period. You can add on 500 hours of side-quests if you are so inclined, but I should be able to play the main storyline to completion in 40 hours.

On Blue Dragon:
The word on the street is that Blue Dragon will be displayed in 1080p. Fantastic. Now I can enjoy 1080 vertical lines of progressively scanned god-awful character design. Does anyone enjoy looking at Akira Toriyama's designs? Well, other than the Japanese? It was acceptable when they were on the SNES (see Chrono Trigger), since back then pretty much every artist's designs looked the same in 16-bit. Unfortunately, nowadays when someone designs ugly, uninteresting characters they are all too noticeable. This isn't to say that I don't think Blue Dragon won't be a great game. I have high hopes for it. However, I'm not looking forward to staring at this for hours on end.

On the Lost Planet Online Demo:
I have NEVER been this into the online aspect of the game. This is due to two main reasons:
1. The map is never the same. You won't find the same item in the same spot twice. Also, items don't re-spawn, so no one can camp the plasma rifle, or shotgun, or whatever their weapon of choice is.
2. 12-year-olds with headsets. Not only are they almost-free kills, they are the greatest source of comedy in the known universe. I played a match with not one, but two 12-year-olds with headsets. My friend and I were laughing so hard I almost didn't win. Almost.
January 12th is getting closer by the day.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Thank you, Sidious for your numerous posts as of late. Sorry if you've felt like a raving madman sitting out here musing to yourself, while the rest of us have been too busy with work/school to respond. I will take the onus of responding to all your debates though the rest of you can feel free to chime in...

Too Long ?
Perhaps FFXII is too long (moving into hour 70 on my end, still not sure how close I am to the ending), but there's a few things to say in its defense and the defense of long games in general. First, do you tend to involve yourself in the extra stuff (side quests, optional dungeons, ultimate weapons, etc.)? FFXII has these in spades and the hunts alone may be longer than the plot of the actual game itself. If you burn through the story alone without getting distracted by other things (as some gamers do) this one might be only 40-45 hours. Second, a game's length should be somewhat tailored to it's genre. RPGs are always going to be longer to give you that sense of accomplishment when you do something and also to see that gradual progression of your character. FPSs on the other hand should probably not be longer than 20 hours, there's just not that much you can do within a single FPS, and if you try to stretch it out too much if often comes off as feeling repetitive. Another thing to consider is that you add length because of a breadth of content you need/want to display not just so that you can have length to advertise about. There is a certain push from mainstream reviewers that longer=better, but somewhere along the way they forgot why: more content is better because there's more to see and do not just the same industrial hallway with the same bad guys jumping out and shooting at you over and over again. I mean the Matrix could be 10+ hours long but no one wants to see Trinity and Neo driving everywhere they want to see the lobby scene! Finally, I think you have to accept that there are different buying patterns out there. There are gamers that buy lots of different great games because they like having them, even if they know they probably won't get a chance to finish them (Sidious and myself for example). At the same time there are many gamers which buy only a few games a year and play them constantly. For them, they want a lot of time for their money so they can explore every nook and cranny and really get their money's worth out of the game. It really comes down to this: if at any point in a game you just want to finish it because you've put so much time into it, it's too long, and that is going to differ a lot from person to person depending on their spending and playing habits. For me that was Star Ocean: Til the End of Time, way too long and not enough happened, for you maybe it's FFXII or Doom 3...

Hybrid Games
Hybrid games can be cool, though I still don't understand your adoration of Final Lap Twin, but to each his own. A puzzle RPG would be cool and I'd like to hear more about it. Personally, (though I don't have a Wii) I'd like to see Super Nintendo titles like Soulblazer, Illusion of Gaia, or Actraiser on the Virtual Console, those games were sweet, though I suppose I could just emulate them...

Disclaimer: The writers of The Den and The Vampire Penguin do not condone or support the behavior of piracy in any way, shape, or form. Except for sky piracy...then it's cool.

Numbering in RPGs
Agreed, handheld games probably shouldn't qualify for numbers, neither should games that depart from the genre of the original. At that point they cease being part of a series and are considered spinoffs to that series: FF Tactics, DQ: Rocket Slime, etc. Does this mean we don't get a DQ IX outside of the DS? That's kind of lame, I mean DQ8 is a masterpiece and say what you will for the DS, it can't match that, it's just impossible to get to that level of polish on a handheld. Well, that bummed me out. Guess I'll have to go play more FFXII.

There that should fill my blog quota for a little while. Keep em comin!

Numbering in RPGs

Ok so according to this article, Dragon Quest IX, the sequel to one of the best games ever made, will be exclusive to, of all things, the Nintendo DS. Now, I don't have a problem with the DS having a Dragon Quest (or any other series) as a general rule, but I do have a problem with it being called "IX." I really think Square-Enix needs to reexamine its policy on game numbering conventions. An RPG on a handheld can no more be the "true sequel" to a world renowned RPG-series than an MMORPG can. And the fact that I have to explain to those around me why I consider FF XII to be the true sequel to FF X, still irks me. FF XI may be a great game, but the eleventh "true" Final Fantasy game it is not.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hybrids and Puzzles

As many of you may know, Monday is Wii Virtual Console Day in the Sidious household. Each Monday, the nice people at Nintendo release a few more games for their virtual console into the hands of their adoring fans. But the stream isn't quite fast enough. Everyone I know (with a Wii that is) is waiting for a different favorite game: Super Mario Bros., Zelda: Ocarina, Toe Jam and Earl...etc. I myself am hoping for a number of different games, mainly from that old stalwart of video game console-dom: The Turbographix 16. One such game is called Final Lap Twin. It was a racing game much like every other racing game on the planet, with one exception: an RPG. That's right, you needed to race "monsters" and earn upgrades to your car in order to work your way to the world championships, all the while talking to townsfolk and helping them with their problems. I loved this game. Well, I was scanning the web this morning and another interesting hybrid has popped up. They call it "Puzzle Quest" and this is what Gamespot has to say about it:

"The easiest way to imagine Puzzle Quest is as a mix of the challenging Bejeweled-like puzzles mixed with role-playing elements that would fit nicely in an older Final Fantasy game."

A Puzzle RPG...I mean come on, how can that go wrong? Any thoughts?

Monday, December 11, 2006

How Long is too Long?

So, I'm sitting there yesterday working on the 55th or 56th hour of Final Fantasy XII, with no discernable end in sight, and I think to myself: "Is this game officially too long at this point?" Now, don't get me wrong, I can think of few other games which I have enjoyed this immensely, but at this stage of my life (ie working, with a new house, and a soon-to-be new wife) I do want to have some hope of finishing the games that I start, and for games other than those with a "Final" and a "Fantasy" in the title, I know that I will not be able to devote this many hours. What do you all think? Are games too long? And as a corrolarry, do games get knocked too much by mainstream review sites for being "short' (8-15 hours)?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sequels ftw!

I love sequels! Some of my favorite all-time games are sequels, like Kingdom Hearts II and Shadow Hearts: Covenant. Sequels work when they take what you loved about the last game and make it even better, whether its the combat, or the story, or the characters, etc.

As for what constitutes a sequel, I think that it largely depends on the genre. For me, since the majority of the games that I play are console RPG's, a sequel to me is anything with storyline, or at least time-line carryover. For example, Shadow Hearts: Covenant is a sequel to Shadow Hearts because it starts (more or less) where the first game left off, and Shadow Hearts: From the New World is a sequel to that, even though it has none of the same playable characters, since it takes place in the same world at a different time. Conversely, Final Fantasy VIII is not a sequel to Final Fantasy VII, since it has new characters, a new world, a new story, and no time-based relationship (e.g. the FF VIII world is not the FF VII world 400 years in the future, it is a separate entity). A common name does not a sequel make.

As for other genres, perhaps my compatriots could provide their insight on the matter.