Super Mario Galaxy 2: A Lesson in Gaming Ecstasy and Frustration

You can argue the merits of its review scores until the end of time but there is no arguing that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a wonderfully polished gaming experience.  Despite only being two hours in, I feel comfortable stating that it is an amazing title. It is a beautiful looking game and just watching it in motion brings a smile to my face.  However playing it is where the game becomes even more amazing. 

On one hand finishing a level and rescuing the star is one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever gotten from a game.  Be it defeating a boss by using a drill and angling yourself to hit its underbelly to traversing a maze of deathtraps that can only be traversed with some tricky jumps and waggles, the game knows how to make the gamer feel good about themselves.  One of the biggest complaints about Super Mario Galaxy was that it was too easy, Super Mario Galaxy 2 kicks up the difficulty and most of the levels can be quite challenging.  This added level of challenge really helps to garner the player a sense of accomplishment when reaching the end of a level.  In short it is gaming ecstasy.
However not everything is fine and dandy in the Mushroom Kingdom and as high as the game has been able to take me, there have been parts where I want to hurl my Wii remote, crawl into a ball under my table and shake in frustration.  A lot of this I blame on the “new” addition to the galaxy, Yoshi.  Personally I have never been a very big fan of the spastic green dinosaur and my short time with him in Super Mario Galaxy has not been a happy reunion.  Some are going to argue with me but I feel that Yoshi handles like crap.  He feels clunky and unresponsive when compared to Mario being controlled by himself.  Last night for instance, in a very early level, I was trying to get Yoshi to pull out a platform with his tongue, eat a spiny and promptly jump onto the platform before it all resets and all I was met with was a dinosaur who seemingly kept hitting an invisible ceiling and a death grip on my Wii remote.  Still despite my dislike of Yoshi and some aspects of the game that require me cry out in frustration, I feel the game is something quite special. 
It is rare that a game can completely frustrate you, yet reward you in such a fulfilling manner.  It is a trait that some of the best games ever have accomplished and one that many of today’s games don’t come anywhere close to fulfilling.  Super Mario Galaxy 2, at least in the short amount of time I have spent with it, is shaping up to be one of those games that transcends to a higher plane of gaming existence. 
Is it worth a 10?  That’s not for me to decide unless I am writing a review but its score, be it a 10, or a six has no bearing on my enjoyment of the game.  I am going to enjoy it for what it is, a lesson in ecstasy and frustration balanced out with an annoying green dinosaur.


Searching for the Crystals: My 20 Years With Final Fantasy

  20 Years is a long time. Things change a lot over the course of two decades and Final Fantasy, the series I began following in previews of gaming magazines in early 1990, has hanged quite a bit since its American debut on the Nintendo Entertainment System and I have been there every step of the way. I don't tell you that to imply that my love of the franchise is any more than yours, nor is it to imply that I know every little nugget and detail of the series but rather just to give you a point of reference for things I will say.

My first experience with the series dates back to my time in the sixth grade and leaching off of Mike Flannigan for any sliver of gaming news, who had a subscription to Nintendo Power. The two of us had similar tastes, mostly sword and sorcery type stuff, and we both latched onto what, at the the time, we thought was going to be the coolest gaming experience ever, Final Fantasy. The game had been out in Japan for a couple years by that time but we had no idea about imports (or how to read Japanese) so instead we waited for its release, sometimes not so patiently. I remember quite clearly that the game was still not out yet but we took our bicycles to the local Toys 'R Us and pestered the clerk who would go back and get the games from the back for a good long hour about it until management finally threw us out under threat of calling our parents.

Of course being in sixth grade meant that we had a serious cash flow problem and we would need to come up with a way to secure the money for it once it came out. Mike had an easy way of securing money because he had a lawn and as a result owned a lawn mower however I had no such luck and I was going to be seriously short on funds when this game came out and I would be missing out on it. Turned out that Mike was somewhat short on funds when it released as well and as a compromise to allow us both to get it, I ponied up half the money (which turned out to be $35) for the game under the stipulation that I got to take it home first.

What I got when I opened the package was pure magic. Inside my box was the game cart, a fold out map/bestiary, a fold out dungeon map/magic chart, and an 80 page Explorer's Handbook. Games just don't release with the flair they had back then. Tossing all the cool stuff to the side though, I popped the cart into my NES and started up an experience that I still cherish to this day. I played the game for hours on end, stopping only to answer my mother's call of dinner. My parents politely asked me to go to bed, and then not so politely after I ignored them, and I paused the game, turned out the lights and pretended to go to sleep until I was able to sneak out of bed, grab the controller and play the game in the dark.

To keep this long story from getting longer, I loved it and it remains, to this day, one of my all time favorite games. Some people that have come into the series later believe that the game does not hold up well. I disagree, especially if you are playing the game on the PSP or the recently released iPhone version as the ability to save anywhere and the mobility of those platforms plays well into the level grinding gameplay that it requires. But I digress. I like it. Some don't. End of story.

Square continued to work on the series and I continued to stand behind it. Little did I know that my Final Fantasy II was actually Final Fantasy IV and my Final Fantasy III was actually Final Fantasy VI. Imagine my shock when I finally got the internet and found out that I had missed out on half of what I considered to be my favorite series.

I needed to play these games somehow. Enter emulation and fan translations. I scoured the seedy parts of the internet for emulators and ROMs, eventually finding fan translated versions of the games. To this day I think the fan translation of Final Fantasy II and III were actually better than the official translations Square has provided to English speaking fans. I also fell in love with Final Fantasy V and the gameplay changes the title brought to the series, the story maybe not so much but that is a tale for another day. By the time I was done with my “catching” up on the series Final Fantasy VII was getting hype in North America and I was all aboard that train.

Final Fantasy VII was something different, at least on the surface. It was something shiny and new and everyone, including those that had never played an RPG before, wanted a piece of it. I would be lying if I said that I did not act like a bit of a Final Fantasy snob when VII was released. Of course after VII everything changed and the genre became a cultural phenomenon that not only giant geeks like me loved but seemingly everyone did. Looking back Final Fantasy VII gets an awful lot of shit for not being such a “great” game. Honestly, it is all in the eye of the beholder and no one can dispute what Final Fantasy VII did for the Sony Playstation and the JRPG genre of games.

With the release of VIII, I finally ran into a core game in the series that I did not love. VIII had a lot of quirks that just did not stick with me at the time. I hated the draw system. I hated Squall. I hated the pseudo-political goings on in the game. And despite spending an awful lot of time with the game, getting all the way up until the final disc, I ended up hating the game for the fact that my memory card glitched as I was nearing the end. As I have matured Squall still annoys me but I do appreciate the story more and the draw system is not quite as bad as I remember it being so I may one day through my PSP go back and finish it all the way.

My disappointment in VIII was completely turned around by what I consider to be the best entry in the series on the PSOne, Final Fantasy IX. IX was a throw back to all the old games in the series. I loved the characters, particularly Vivi in his black mage outfit I loved the art style. I loved the fact that the game revolved around crystals for the first time in a long time. I tend to believe that if you don't love Final Fantasy IX, you don't really love Final Fantasy because it combines everything that was great about thee previous eight entries in the series and delivers one fantastic title. (By the way Square and Sony, where is FF IX on the PSN?)

Final Fantasy IX marked a distinct end to an era of the Final Fantasy games though because since then, nothing in the series has been anywhere near as playful. In fact I feel the spirit of the series has been adopted by the Kingdom Hearts franchise but I'm getting off track. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed Final Fantasy X immensely but there was something different about it. It just didn't have the same magic for me.

After X, I started to drift away from games. It was not a long hiatus but it was a hiatus and as such I missed out on the release of XI and X-2. XI held no interest for me because it was online and I wasn't really equipped to set it up. X-2 was a game featuring characters from X that I did not really care much about. Something drew me back though, possibly the impending release of XII but I don't think so and I did eventually play X-2.

A lot of people hate on X-2 and say it is not a real RPG. I contend that argument could be made about a lot of JRPGs but no one ever seems to want to listen. Anyway, I did not hate X-2. Sure it was silly and the story made little sense but I found the battle system to be fun in a weird I like to play with Barbie's kind of way.

Then XII came out and I was pumped for it. XII was to take place in one of my favorite video game worlds ever, Ivalice. I do not love Ivalice because of the wonderful tactical strategy game, Final Fantasy Tactics but rather because of a little title known as Vagrant Story. Being as I loved the setting and the idea of a more mature and somewhat political Final Fantasy I was all set to love the hell out of this game. I made it two hours and set it down for nearly three and a half years. I am enjoying it more on this current playthrough but I still don't love it, especially this back half that I am currently in.

In between FF XII's release and now I played through Crisis Core, the DS versions of Final Fantasy III and IV, watched the strange Advent Children film, thought about playing Dirge of Cerberus and bought Dissidia. I have mixed feelings about that lot but that is for another post.

All of this of course brings me to this week. Final Fantasy XIII. Excited is not really the proper term for what I am. It transcends excitement and enters into a whole different realm. My history with the title grants that to me. Its like seeing a loved one for the first time in a long time. You know they've changed but you can't help but smile when they come down the runway.

That is not to say that I am looking upon Final Fantasy XIII with blind faith though. You may still love that loved one that you haven't seen in a long time but maybe you don't love them in the same way anymore. The early reviews are not great, although they are not exactly in bad or mediocre territory either, so we will see what happens when I get my hands on it myself. (It gets delivered Tuesday but it may wait for me to finish XII first) 


Is It So Hard to Ask...

  ...that people play a game properly.

I've been playing online games long enough that I understand there are a select group of "special" individuals who make it their life's goal to make other people's leisure time a giant pain in the ass. Be it homophobic racists in Halo, assholes who leave the map in Gears of War, or even people who take advantage of the ever present blue-line glitch in the NHL series, they are out there and all of us have to accept it.

I've recently developed a strong addiction to Battlefield 1943 and while I can't stand the asshole in the game who is standing on the aircraft carrier in Air Superiority waiting for planes to spawn so he can blow them up with a rocket launcher I've come to accept his stupidity. What I can't stand is his/her moronic counterpart. You all know the guy (or girl), the one who gets in a plane and has no idea how to fly it, treating it more like a flying bulldozer than a fighter jet.

News flash to players of Battlefield 1943, the blue team is yours so it behooves you to maybe not try and run them out of the sky as you pursue a kill because all you are going to do is get yourself and your teammate killed. I myself am not the greatest pilot and still generally get more kills in a plane by running it head on into my opponent but I do know to avoid running into my own team members for both our sakes. Oh and in the game proper when you choose the sniper class please find yourself a nice bunker or grove of tress to hang out in, you aren't meant to be front line troops and trying to back up regular infantry with your bolt action rifle generally just means you and your squad mates are going to die. Really its OK to camp if you want to be a sniper.


When Can You Say You've Beaten a Multiplayer Game?

Growing up beating a game was a big deal. Completing Super Mario Bros., Castlevania or Metal Gear was like a badge of honor and you wanted everyone to know. Games have changed since then but somewhere in the back of my head I still keep a small running tally of what is going on. Halo, Gears, Call of Duty, Killzone 2, Resistance, etc... all have something in common, they are great multiplayer shooters that have a single player component. You can easily say I beat (or finished) Halo 3 because there is a campaign that you can play through but what about games like Shadowrun, Team Fortress 2 or the recently released Battlefield 1943?

I am currently having a blast traversing the Pacific theater, taking over strategic points, killing people with my trusty SMG and crashing into trees whenever I try to fly a plane but the game got me thinking, how does one beat a game like Battlefield 1943? Can you claim superiority over the title once you max out your rank, reach prestige, achieve some other arbitrary factor or is it something else entirely? For that matter is it even possible to claim you've beaten a multiplayer game?

With no endgame the lines of understanding are not only blurred but completely invisible. Where and when can one actually claim they beat a multiplayer game or has gaming moved past such tangible badges of honor?

And can you ever really beat WoW? (outside of quitting the addiction that is)

Color Me Impressed

So today I got to watch the E3 press conferences from the comfort of my own home on my television. Here are some of my thoughts from this mornings / afternoons conferences.


Last year Nintendo kicked me in the balls with their press conference and it hurt. A lot. Since then I have been walking around with a special cup to protect against any spontaneous Nintendo attempts on my testicles. Needless to say I went into the Nintendo press conference with little to no expectations that Nintendo was going to announce anything remotely interesting to me. Surprisingly they did announce some things, although seemingly not what many of you wanted.

New Super Mario Bros Wii
- I like Mario. This game is old school Mario, thus it is awesome.

Wii Fit Plus
- I couldn't care less about this but my wife enjoys Wii Fit so if it is reasonably priced I'll probably pick it up.

Wii Sports Resort
- Wii Motion Plus, yay, I guess? It releases end of July so I guess that's a cool thing.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers
- I like Final Fantasy so this one could be fun.

Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
- The DS truly is the portable RPG machine. I've never been a huge Mario RPG fan but I might give this a go.

Golden Sun DS
- I don't know anything about this series other than it is an RPG. I'll probably pass.

James Patterson Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion
- ummm... OK, how did this make the cut into the presentation

C.O.P. The Recruit
- a GTA like game for the DS. Sounds cool. Could be fun.

Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again
- wow there sure are a lot of DS games.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
- a lot of them...

And the WTF moment of the show goes to Wii Vitality. I am not sure what the hell this thing is. Is the Wii really a piece of hospital equipment. I can't wait for Wii IV or Wii Defibrillator.

Super Mario Galaxy 2
- I was happy with New Super Mario Bros Wii, this is like the happy ending after a nice massage. Why didn't Miyamoto introduce this one? Anyway it should be great and maybe it will have a Wii hospital accessory to be used with it.

The Conduit
- not for me.

Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles
- Nice but is it another light gun game? I'm not sure I want one of those again.

Dead Space: Extraction
- Again nice but don't care.

Metroid: Other M
- Oh My God! This is awesome. Yes its made by the remnants of the Ninja Gaiden Team Ninja but then again Nintendo isn't going to let Metroid suck so this should be as great as it looks. I wasn't a fan of the 3D Metroids and this seems like a return to the old style (mixed with some new style as well). Yes this game is awesome, why do I have to wait until 2010 for it. Ugh..... Anyway awesome way to end the show.


Favorite announcements
: Metroid: Other M, Super Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Least Favorite announcements
: Wii Vitality and James Patterson Women's Murder Club - seriously what the fuck?

Overall grade to Nintendo: A

And then after coming down from my high I sat down to watch the Sony show. A lot had already leaked so I was expecting a rather boring conference from them even though the games were sure to rock.

Sony kicks off with a video montage of gameplay footage using Queen's One Vision as its song. Tretton on stage.... blah blah blah talking about the PS2 (nine years in, $99, huge value, blah... blah... blah) 100 new PS2 games this year.

Seriously do we need to spend that much time on the PS2? We get it, the thing is mad successful but can we get to the new stuff?

- already out....

Uncharted 2 - multiplayer beta starts tonight at Midnight. Demos single player story against a helicopter. Looks amazing. Nate is sarcastic as ever. awesome awesome looking. I am getting this.

- Still a stupid name. Live gameplay of 256 person match. Not the best looking game but.... its huge. I'm getting this. It's awesome.

Sony is 2 for 2 so far.

PSP Bundles out the ying yang. We are getting bundles for Rock Band Unplugged, Final Fantasy Dissidia, Assassin's Creed Bloodlines, and Hannah Montana?

Whatever? It all seems silly after Kaz Hirai (who seemed quite happy to be there) unveils Sony's newest piece of hardware called Called the Worst Kept Secret of E3 (Hirai is funny) or the PSP Go. Not replacing the PSP3000 and will be marketed along side it. Plays the same games. 50% smaller and 40% lighter than the original PSP. 16Gig and integrated wifi and bluetooth. MediaGo introduced, able to access the PS Store from your PC. PSP Sense Me (sounds like Apples Genius feature) 80% reduction in the cost of dev kits. All games will be distributed by the PS Store or by UMD. PS Store video service is available directly from the PSP starting today. PSP Go $249 on October 1.

I like it. I am going to get it, I think, maybe.... yeah I am going to get it.

Polyphony Digital takes the stage that can mean only one thing.....

Gran Turismo PSP
. Full Scale GT. 60FPS. 800 cars, 35 tracks with multiple layouts. I want. blah....blah.... blah... Just give me the date already....... blah..... blah.... blah..... Really just give me the trading.... blah.....

I'm going to strangle this guy....

Game looks great and best of all it hits October 1

Kojima takes the stage. It's Metal Gear time.

"PSP is getting really hotter and Snake is coming back on the PSP"

MGS: Peace Walker is announced, no surprise there. 10 years after MGS3, true sequel in the MGS franchise. Kojima kinds of looks like a bird. He's writing the script and the main MGS team is on this game. Man he really wants to stress that this is his game. What does that mean for Rising? Peace Walker will be tailored for the PSP.

Multiple Snakes!!! Outer Heaven!!!!!

I want!

Sony is now 4 for 4.

RE PSP, LBP, Motorstorm Arctic Something or other and a bunch of other PSP games I don't know are coming soon. The PSP is looking up.

PSN Time...

Final Fantasy VII !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

AVAILABLE NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


No need for me to buy a $200 sealed copy anymore, I can just download it. In fact as soon as this is over I am going to do that. (Accept it is still not there but Resident Evil: Director's Cut is....)

PS Home
.....I don't care. Evidently a lot of people do though.

- PS3 Exclusive from Rockstar North. Set in the 70s and is a spy game. It will probably play like GTA IV, which I didn't like, but I'll get it anyway because spys rule.

Assassins Creed 2
- the sequel to AC (duh?) quest for vengeance. Will interact with DaVinci. Looks amazing, I'll probably hate it but play through it anyway. Can connect the PSP game to the PS3 version for special unlockables to be used in AC2.

Final Fantasy XIII
- Looks pretty. I'll be getting it on both PS3 and 360 because I am insane.

Final Fantasy XIV
- WTF? Awesome. Seems like an MMO set in the "classic" (read not space shit FF universe). I might just have to start playing MMOs. Giant mounted chickens FTW! Oh and it is PS3 exclusive, nice grab Sony.

Uh oh.... motion control time. It's a magic wand. Its ridiculous. I want to crawl into a hole. I hate motion control.

five minutes later.....

I hate to say it but it is actually pretty impressive. Spring 2010. I'll be interested to see how it develops from this point forward, it has potential and Sony isn't just trying to show how we can have fun as a family they want to use it for "real" games. We'll see. I'm interested, against my better judgment.

LBP Disney costumes this fall. Cool I guess?

ModNation Racers
- LBP style racing game. It's like Mario Kart but with user created content. Tools look easy to use and tracks should be easy to make. I want it.

The Last Guardian
- Not really a surprise. Looks great, my wife thinks it looks stupid so it is bound to be awesome. What happened to the little fat Mexican kid though?

- Still looks awesome, evidently has NASCAR sponsorship but still no release date. I am beginning to think that this is vaporware too. At least GT PSP is coming.

God of War III
- It looks like more God of War, this time with nut snatching action. Awesome.


Favorite announcements
: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Gran Turismo PSP, Final Fantasy VII, PSP Go, Final Fantasy XIV, ModNation Racers, The Last Guardian, Sony Motion Control

Least Favorite announcements
: I wasn't disappointed in any of their announcements, some of their non-announcements though could make a list of their own.

Overall grade to Sony: A+

Color Me Unimpressed

So today I watched the Microsoft E3 conference. Unlike most people who seemed to be relatively comfortable at their personal computers I was at work, doing work, while watching the press conference on my phone. Anyway here are the thoughts I had while watching the conference.

Rock Band Beatles
Songs are announced. yay, I guess? I'm not a Beatles fan but I'll probably get it anyway.

Tony Hawk: Ride
ummm hmmmm, I think not.

Modern Warfare 2 yep it’s Modern Warfare, in the snow. I’ll probably get it and probably lose interest less than six months later. You all probably think I am insane.

Final Fantasy XIII
first footage of FF XIII running on the 360 the game should be available Spring 2010 on PS3 and 360. I’ll be getting both versions because I am insane.

Shadow Complex
first game I hadn't previously heard about. Epic is behind it (kind of) I'm interested. It arrives this summer. Could be fun. I like Epic.

Joyride a cartoon based racer that uses Avatars? Ok.

Crackdown 2
Now things are rolling. This is the sweetness. I can't wait.

Left 4 Dead 2 Ugh, disappointed to say the least. These should have been maps in L4D, I guess that is going in the trade pile.

Splinter Cell Conviction
due this fall, I don’t like SC, so I don’t care about this.

Forza 3
due in October and has flips and rolls (ala GRID) as well as over 400 cars, coolest part seems to be that you will be able to save and upload videos (ala Halo 3).

Halo 3: ODST Seems like more Halo which is a good thing in my book. Available September 22

Halo: Reach
A prequel to the original Halo. I love Bungie. An invite into the beta for Halo: Reach will come with ODST. Have I mentioned I love Bungie?

Alan Wake
Vaporware. Arrives Spring 2010. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Other stuffs

XBOX Live makes a deal with (streaming music). A dedicated menu box (ala Netflix) will be available for to XBOX Live Gold members later this year. Not something I would use but if you are into streaming music it’s cool.

Netflix will receive an update to add movies and edit the queue which is long overdue.

XBOX Live video marketplace will be renamed Zune TV and will feature all movies in full 1080p.

Live Party also making a splash, able to listen and watch movies together MST3000 style with avatars (sounds a little like Home without the walking).

Facebook is coming to XBL, sounds stupid. As if Facebook wasn’t stupid enough, Twitter is also coming to XBL.

Metal Gear Solid Rising
I heard the hearts of millions of Sony fanboys crying out in anger while MS fanboys drown them out with their laughing and install base. It stars Raiden, now I hear the hearts of MS fanboys crying out in anger and Sony fanboys laughing, although the crying is louder. Seemingly not exclusive so everyone will probably get their cyborg ninja on in four years.

Project Natal
Microsoft officially unveils the long rumored Wii60 remote, although it is called something else and doesn't use a remote. Motion control for everyone. Maybe I am just old and set in my ways but I hate motion control. Ughh…. I knew it was coming and I am still disappointed.

Spielberg is talking about the Wii60 camera doohickey. At least he seems excited for it.

Evidently Kudo is in charge of the motion control, I was wondering what they did with him after he disappeared from the Gears 2 promotional run. Wii60 will evidently offer me a level of control I’ve never even imagined before. I have a pretty big imagination and I’ve never thought that something shaped like my cable box would be my key to the ultimate level of gaming, I guess I should think outside the box more. Yep, this is nothing like the Wii at all providing of course you live in a cave and have never heard of the Wii. At least it doesn't have three different controllers that need to be used to experience full body motion control, now I'll just look like a head case instead of a head case trying to use the Wii Remote. Waggle sucks and this just seems like full body waggle.

Wii60 will have facial recognition and will scan player’s faces and sign us in instantly. Creepy but at least different from the Wii. I hope Nic Cage doesn’t steal my face and try to use my 360.

Oh god it is Paint Summoner. OK not really but I would drop some bones to play that game (because in my mind I am summoning paint with my ass and that is awesome), instead it is demoing Paint Party.

Good here comes Peter Molyneaux and he is here to unveil… my feed cut out at this point so I had to continue on without it.

Molyneaux is here to unveil the new Fable game called Fable III: Have Your Dog Fetch a Stick. In F3:HYDFaS, you will be able to have your dog fetch a stick in over 1,000,000 ways (you will probably only be able to have them fetch your stick in one way but you know how Peter over exaggerates things). You will also be able to train your dog to attack people trying to play on your console by using the nifty new facial recognition and real live animatronic dog peripheral all while being able to cook things involving butter.

I think that’s it, my feed was still out and honestly I stopped caring after Halo: Reach was announced anyway.


I understand that Molyneaux came out to unveil a creepy child molestation simulator. I think my game was a better idea.

Favorite announcements: Crackdown 2, Halo: Reach, and Shadow Complex

Least Favorite announcements:
Project Natal and Left 4 Dead 2 but I'll probably get both anyway.

Overall grade to Microsoft: B


The Perfectly Sane Show - Episode 4

In this episode we talk about what we’ve been up to gaming, movie and music wise as well as touch on J.J. Abrams involvement in a live action production of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series and realism in sports gaming before cutting it short rather abruptly. Listen to it at Vagary TV along with other great podcasts like Game Seers and The Game Over Podcast, or download it directly from iTunes (rate us).

Oh and we also try to give away a crappy game that may (or may not) have been responsible for my 360 breaking.

Music in this episode:

Alive and Kicking - Mr. Big
You’ve Got Another Thing Coming - Judas Priest
Fire Woman - The Cult

E-mail comments (or questions) to or friend us on the IGN Blogs.


How Tony Hawk Rode Off My Radar

Back in the early days of the Playstation 2 I jumped on the extreme sports bandwagon for a short bit, I had Tony Hawk 3 (and 4), SSX, some BMX game that promised me boobs but was really just lame instead. My fascination with extreme sports was short lived though and I haven't much paid attention to the genre in recent years. Then along came Tony Hawk: Ride and suddenly my interested was piqued, not exactly to the point where I was going to jump without a parachute back into the world of extreme sports video games but enough that I was keeping it on my radar. I mean at the very least the concept sounded cool and that was something to keep an eye on.

As I said in a recent blog post by JustSomeDude, entitled Tony Hawk goes casual to stay relevant, I said that if the game actually turned out to be fun I would possibly give it a shot. Of course all this relied completely on if Activision priced it in a price range I was willing to go to. Today 1UP is reporting that GameStop has priced Tony Hawk Ride at a staggering $120. Suddenly Tony Hawk: Ride, which was a small blip to begin with, is completely off my radar.

I don't know about you but for me that is about $40 too much. Some of you are probably scratching your heads right now going, "But Chris, didn't you spend $170 on Rock Band and $180 on Guitar Hero: World Tour?" I did but at that point I knew what I was getting out of the package. I knew I liked the basic, underlying gameplay of both Rock Band and Guitar Hero and come this fall, I won't be buying the bundles for their associated expansions. What I don't know about Tony Hawk: Ride is if it is any fun and at $120 I am much less inclined to try it out, especially with the influx of other games coming out this fall.

Am I going to forgo a pair of potentially better games in favor of one game with a ridiculously overpriced skateboard peripheral? I don't think so, and while I can't say for certain that it will stay this way, as of right now Tony Hawk: Ride won't be getting any more attention from me.

Sports Games Realism

Sports Games Realism and Why Wii Motion Plus Might Not Be What We Really Want

I am a pretty big NHL fan, and as good as I am at playing hockey in real life I am never going to play through the Stanley Cup playoffs and hoist that Cup above my head. So in turn I play NHL because a) I love hockey and b) it lets me live out my fantasy. I would garner a guess that people that enjoy Tiger Woods because a) they love the sport and b) it enables them to live out their fantasy of winning The Masters or some other major tournament that they are never going to do. Now what makes the second part doable? Well it is a variety of things but it generally boils down to a handful of talking points.

  1. Realistic representation of the game on your screen – In a game like NHL, Madden, Tiger, or a number of other sports games we want to see the most realistic representation that the technology available can provide. Personally I remember playing Soccer on my Atari 2600, looking back the game is about as close to real soccer as Pluto is to the Sun but at the time it was a high point. We have progressed far beyond the simple graphical representation of Soccer though. I remember the first time my Dad watched me and my brother play NHL 2K on the Dreamcast, he thought we were watching a real game. In the nine years since that game came out the representation of sports on our screens has approached near broadcast like quality. This realism helps to immerse us in the game but doesn't detract from our enjoyment of it.

  2. Challenging yet fun presentation of the actual gameplay – Everyone likes to win. Some people (like me) more than others (like my wife) but I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who prefers to lose. The reason for this is because it is fun. Having fun makes people happy and happiness is one of the secrets to a long life (honestly I didn't just make that up...). In regards to sports titles people want to win but most people don't want to feel like the game just let the win, they want a challenge so that they feel like they have accomplished something, even if it just as simple as beating the computer in an imaginary basketball game.

  3. Allow for an escape from reality to live out our dreams – This is probably the reason most people play games, at least in one part or the other, but its still a very valid point. How many people are going to get a chance to pitch in Game 7 of the World Series, play in the NBA All-Star game or start their engines on race day on Daytona International Speedway? Not many, even those that are professionals in those sports may never get to do those things. These games are an escape from reality and the opportunity to do something that they would probably never get to do otherwise and it is all done with a few simple (relatively speaking) button presses.

And this is where my argument against realism comes in. Recently a lot of hoopla has been made about Tiger Woods 10 on the Wii taking advantage of Wii Motion Plus and how it will make Tiger Woods the most realistic golf game yet. I for one can't speak on how well it does this because I have yet, like most people due to the fact that it doesn't release for nearly a month, to get my hands on either Tiger or Wii Motion Plus but I can say that I don't see how a realistic golf game (or any game) is going to appeal to a mass audience.

To me the closer you get to realism the closer you come to losing your audience for two reasons. The first is that if I can beat Tiger Woods in a realistic sim of golf, I should probably just hit the real greens because there is money out there to be made. The second is that if I can't beat Tiger in the realistic sim because realistically I suck at golf, I am going to look for a game where I can win at, so that I can once again have fun playing my game.

There is a really fine line when it comes to realism in sports games and I hope EA knows what they are doing with the Wii Motion Plus because I see huge potential for it to backfire. After all don't we play games for fun? Sometimes when us gamers keep begging for more realism the developer has to come in like the parent and tell us that we don't need more realism because in the end it may just hurt our overall experience. More real doesn't always equal more fun, hopefully EA has found a way to strafe the fine line between real and fun. But until then its always fun to debate.


The Perfectly Sane Show - Episode 3

 Episode 3 of the Perfectly Sane Show is live and you can listen to it over at Vagary TV (which also hosts Game Seers and Game Over), or download it directly from iTunes (rate us).

In this episode we talk about my (Chris’s) XBOX Repair experience, the new Star Trek movie, the worshiping of Wookies, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Mr. T shooting Tupac, licensed games, Jon and voyeurism, all while disparaging old people, all of Asia*, American Indians, Germans, rappers and Andrew’s family.

Music in this episode:

You Brought A Knife to a Gunfight - Stone Gods
Mr. T - Logan Whitehurst & The Junior Science Club
I Get Off - Halestorm

*OK so Japan, China and maybe Korea but based on landmass that is a large portion of Asia.

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