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Tycho / on Fri, Mar 22 2002 at 10:15 am

How Could I Forget?

Blade II is out today.  God willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll be watching the Blade movies in order today.

(CW)TB

Tycho / on Fri, Mar 22 2002 at 4:24 am

Linksville:  5 Miles

We’ve switched this site’s usual links with Folgers crystals.  Let’s see if anyone notices.

  • The Underdogs:  Four score and seven people asked me what had become of their beloved Underdogs, that modern museum of abandonware classics.  Initially, I feared the forces that conspire against this kind of thing had claimed victory - but the truth, as usual, is wholly bereft of drama.  They just got a new domain, that’s all.

  • Steam:  By now, you’ve probably heard about Valve’s “Content Delivery” wangamabob.  I had to read the article on it a couple times to understand (even remotely) what the fuck was going on, but it seems to me the best way to really get it is to try it out.  It asked me for my Credit Card number, so I got scared and ran away.  Somebody else can try it, that’s my thinking.

  • MechAssault:  This game’s Mechwarrior heritage probably could have been made clearer, but if you see even a frame of this video you’ll see that it can’t be anything else.  I wondered (absentmindedly) if it would support the Xbox voice thingy and/or full online play, and with a little digging I was able to verify both.  In fact, the same article that set me straight also had some info about Crimson Skies coming over to the Xbox - I can’t tell you how pleased that makes me.  I know exactly how many pages into my CD Binder the original Crimson Skies is - who would have thought we’d be lucky enough to get another?

  • GBA Flood Light:  You can’t see it, because they aren’t ready for you to go and get them - but the Flood Light is the only GBA light worth buying.  Just a heads up.

(CW)TB

Tycho / on Fri, Mar 22 2002 at 4:23 am

The last couple weeks on this site have been really screwed up on the network tip.  I could talk about stupid router crap for the whole post, and wouldn’t that be fun, but I’m afraid I’ll jinx it if I go into it.  I’m not even going to say it’s fixed - I’m just going to go about my business, router, and if you want to service my packets, well, I think we’re all very grateful.

Today’s strip deals with Virtua Fighter 4 tangentially, but its primary focus is the selection of characters.  Maybe when you go pro (or something) you’re like some kind of Renaissance Fighter Man, and you can kick ass irrespective of the foot you kick it with.  For the casual to moderate player, I’m sure that the process we describe here is of crucial significance - especially when I end up with this kick-ass monk guy and Gabe ends up with a veterinary assistant or some shit.  The Stone of the Ages (featured in Panel 2) catalogs six of our selections from previous games, from the obvious to the sort of obscure.  Recalling the games in question can be thought of as this afternoon’s quiet activity.

Virtua Fighter 4 is marvelous.  It’s intricate.  More talented people have said so for more pages than I’m interested in producing myself.  When I look at what makes this game up - moves, counters, reversals, stances, and whatnot - it’s like I can trace back, through these decisions, into synapses, and see a portion of its creator’s cleverness laid bare.  The parameters, the hard laws that establish each experience.  The immoral, illicit exceptions to those rules.  The intangible quality, inspiration, that creates a system wide enough to contain innumerable creative interpretations - i.e., play.  It’s something I think about quite a lot, so you’d think I might be better able to articulate it.       

I don’t even know where to start.  The real issue is that I’ve played some really intriguing games recently, the last two days let’s say, and it’s really energized me about the passtime in general.  I think I’ll lead off with Gunvalkyrie.

You might recall my chagrin at seeing Gunvalkyrie reamed in an early review.  Since I’m betting that the IGN review I posted on Wednesday was actually Insider, let me hook you up with this review from MyGamer.com to counter the initial buzz I quoted.  I’ll weigh in on the issue myself:  I can understand why a man (or woman, or giraffe) would tear the Gunvalkyrie DVD out of their system in frustration and savage it with a pair of wire cutters or perhaps some other, less-specialized type of cutter.  It’s their loss - good luck trying to play it after that.  Yes, this is one of the hardest games I’ve played in recent memory, and not just because there appears to be a surplus of alien spiders.  As an index of its difficulty, it is like a drill sergeant compared to the invertebrates that share it’s shelf.  For those of you just joining the gaming community, Gunvalkyrie is a sci-fi action/platform game with extremely demanding controls and sensibilities that might be more at home in a mid-eighties arcade.  I glory in this game.  It feels like a Berserk or Robotron for the new millennium.  It’s the game you would have begged your mom for a quarter to play, back in the day.  It’s possible you asked for two up front.  You know perfectly well that she’s in the checkout line, and even though getting those quarters was contingent upon your assistance in a grocery-related context, you are weighing the fate of the world against a sack of vegetables - and you are making the obvious choice.   

Not sure if you’ve played the Freedom Force demo.  I was going to take a pass on this one initially - maybe change my demo policy altogether, after playing the Renegade demo which actually did a disservice to the full product.  That policy lasted about five minutes.  For the love of God, you need to get this installed.  Play through it.  Tell me that’s not great.  Tell me that the people who made it aren’t completely, totally, absolutely batshit about their game.  I make a tight fist just thinking about these reviewer-types, with their berets, and their stupid, playing it right now.  I hope they get by a truck that is hauling other trucks. 

Yeah, so I like Boston.  I hope that’s not going to be a problem.

(CW)TB out.

the sun was gone

Gabe / on Wed, Mar 20 2002 at 3:53 pm

Virtua Fighter 4!

Tycho and I hit our local EBX this morning over at the Redmond mall. I picked up Virtua Fighter 4 and he grabbed Gunvalkyrie.  We spent all afternoon playing VF4 and my official opinion of it is “Shit Damn!” This game is about as close to perfect as a fighting game can get. Like Tycho said, we are normally Tekken fans. We have been since Tekken 1 on the PSX. While our opinions differ on Tekken 4 (I think it’s great and he is an idiot) we still consider ourselves fans of the series. On the other hand we never really got into the VF games. I mean sure we played VF1 just like everyone else but when they dropped two on us Tycho and I where knee deep is Samurai Showdown two. We could look over and see the VF2 machine sitting there looking all cool but nothing was gonna pull us away from the glory that was SS2. Then three came out and our local arcade decided they should charge a $1.00 to play it. Needless to say it didn’t get much play. Rather than drop the price they decided to sell it and that was the last we ever saw of VF3. So we loaded up VF4 not really knowing what to expect. What we got was a fighting experience that totally blows everything else out of the water. We picked up the strategy guide along with the game and I have to say I highly recommend it. This game is fucking deep. You could spend weeks just trying to get good at one or two characters.

Like any other fighting game we messed around with all the players a bit then we each picked one that would be “our character.” I assume this is a common practice among fighting game players. Sure you may eventually get to the point where you are proficient with any character but it is that first one you pick that will always be “your character” So when some guy on the street says “Hey, who do you play as in Tekken 3?” You can be all like “I play as Paul man.” Anyway I decided on Pai Chan since I am a fan of small quick characters. Tycho picked Lei Fei since he is a fan of kicking my ass. Lei Fei is certainly the star of this show. His flashy Shaolin moves link together in ways that are truly amazing to watch. Fights in VF4 play out like well choreographed action sequences from some block buster martial arts flick staring that guy who did all those other movies. Evading, reversals, counters, deflecting, throws and throw escapes it’s all there. As if the multiplayer aspects weren’t enough VF4 has a single player mode called Kumite. This mode allows you to play through multiple computer controlled opponents as though you where fighting in a tournament. It keeps track of your win/loss record as well as your ranking and wins percentage.  Not only that but certain characters you fight will have special items that you can use to customize your character like rings, glasses or toys.

As far as the visuals are concerned it looks damn nice. It suffers from a mild case of the jaggies like any other PS2 game but it doesn’t detract from your enjoyment of the game. The backgrounds are all fantastic and environmental effects like moving snow and leaves are certainly a treat. I thought about how it might be cool to see it on another of the next generation systems but when I imagine playing it with the Game Cube or Xbox controllers my stomach turns. I think the PS2 is the right place for this title.

I am hesitant to compare it to Tekken 4 since my only experience with that game has been in the arcade. Once I have a chance to sit down with it at home with the strategy guide I’ll get a better feeling for how they compare. There is no question though that it is far superior to other games like Dead or Alive 3 or Bloody Roar.

I would love to write more about it but I think I’ll just go back and play it some more instead.

-Gabe out.

Tycho / on Wed, Mar 20 2002 at 3:31 am

I actually like Terminal Reality as a developer, so don’t take today’s strip to mean the opposite.  When I told Gabe that this “BloodRayne” was from the (quote) Nocturne Guys, he made a scrunchy face which said “I am eating an entire lemon.”  He was coming from an angry place.  Long ago, see, Gabe entered an art contest at a site - Kazi Wren’s “Spookhouse,” if memory serves - and won a copy of Nocturne for his trouble.  In reality, it was me that won it, because after playing it for around ten minutes he uninstalled it and tried to lose the box underneath a pile of stuff.  Developers, you will find that our Gabriel is not a patient man.  He takes your poor control scheme and fun-house camera angles as calculated acts of personal aggression.  Me, I’ll let you get by on raw style just so long as this style of yours > some massive pain in my ass.  Not so with my man Gabe.  Even when he gets your game for free, it would appear that you still owe him.

Anyhow, I have feeling that BloodRayne will play around with its admittedly ramshackle premise and have a good time.  When your new game makes such a brazen run on our nation’s Strategic Cliche Reserve, though, we can’t be expected to just leave it be.   

The Gaming Intelligence Agency‘s Zak McClendon leaves me precious little to discuss, after the robust product he delivered on Tecmo’s recent Fatal Frame.  Like absolutely everything else hosted on The GIA’s server, I demand that you read his review without delay, particularly if you find yourself enjoying the Survival Horror.  I’m within an inch of beating it, so I feel comfortable sounding a note of agreement with Zak’s overall assessment.  It’s real good.  The only part I’d like to perhaps draw some more attention to is the sound design, which makes me a little sick even remembering it.  I had no idea how potent the aural component of a game experience could be before Irrational‘s System Shock 2, and I have played every game since then via headphones to emphasize that fact.  Not all games succeed on this level of course, but Fatal Frame is one that does.  I’ve got a decent pair of Sony headphones I play all my console games through anymore, big, comfy, cover-your-whole-ear jobbies that leave no question as to the sound designer’s true intention.  You know by now the conceit of Fatal Frame - you must capture tormented ghosts on film, via what amounts to a fun, fast-paced minigame - so it’s clear that it taps into some of the modern folklore that surrounds spirits that wander.  Another notion, though perhaps not as widespread, is that audio tapes can capture evidence of paranormal events as well.  The back of my neck is tingling as I remember it, but they use this “audio tape” hook several times over the course of the game, in boss battles as well as the evidence one necessarily accrues in a survival horror game.  I don’t want to write about it anymore, it’s kind of creeping me out.  I mean, I know that stuff like this is more than likely complete bullshit.  But if you’ve got it in you to invest some suspension of disbelief in the game, take my advice:       

Don’t play it late. 

This is a very exciting day indeed:  Gunvalkyrie, the unforgiving Xbox shoot-‘em-up that set my heart ablaze at last year’s E3, is supposed to hit stores Wednesday.  Of paramount importance to Gabe (as well as many others, including Tiger Beat dreamboat Greg Kasavin) is the release of Virtua Fighter Four.  VF isn’t really our series, we’re really Namco men for the most part - but if even a tablespoon of what people say about this new one is true, it’s not something any enthusiast of the genre can be without.     

(CW)TB out.

and a compass wouldn’t help at all




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