Saturday, November 6, 2010

We're Back Jack

After some time away Brian T. and I have felt the need for a comeback. Not like there was much to walk away from before, but everything has to start from somewhere. So after some discussion and contemplation we have both felt that the best approach to this blog would be if we went strictly retro. It isn't that we are against next gen gaming or anything like that, we just know that we do not have the resources to write reviews and give opinions on new releases. By the time we get our hands on a new game, play it, and review it; it is about 2 to 3 weeks after 100's of reviews of that same game have been written. At that point who would really want to read what we have to say, unless you just feel that we are amazing at what we have to say. That is why we think a retro blog is our best bet. Even though the games we will be talking about have long come and gone, they still hold that place in gaming history and for that should never be forgotten. Plus when it comes to retro gaming it is sometimes hard to find a game worth taking the time to play, so hopefully this blog can help with that matter.

Just in case anyone has that burning desire to know what happened and why we left the blog for almost a year, I will tell you. In December there was a major overhaul so to speak at the Mac (short for Maciano's where we work). Since then it has been continuing to get overhauled, but at least now it is a little more manageable. Brian T. has since moved back to Chicago. I guess to resume working as a male prostitute. He said that suburb cum just never tasted the same as it did back home. What that means I don't know but I'll just leave that one for you to ponder. Basically life just got in the way. We never stopped playing video games, its just that playing video games in the free time we had was more important then writing about video games. No offense to all 3 of our followers. Either way we have agreed to revisit this side project of ours and revamp it hopefully making it better than it was before.

-Brian R.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

infinity ward and activision

So the big news this week is the shake-up over at Activision with Infinity Ward. In case you haven't been keeping up, earlier this week the heads of Infinity Ward, Vince Zampella and Jason West, were fired for apparent "insubordination" and "breach of fiduciary duty." Yesterday, the two former Infinity Ward heads filled a lawsuit against Activision for breach of contract, among other claims. Chances are you already know what's going on, so let's move on.

Activision. Electronic Arts. Ubisoft. What do three of the biggest publishers in the world have in common? They are notorious for over-saturating their market and killing off their most successful franchises. Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk, Medal of Honor, Prince of Persia, Madden, etc...the list goes on and on. These companies force developers to churn out yearly installments of their most successful games, as well as tons of spin-offs and DLC. Consumers get sick of the same shit over and over again (Madden), or they can't afford to keep up with the massive amount of micro-transactions to keep their games fun (Guitar Hero), or the game quality eventually just suffers from a poor development cycle (Tony Hawk).

EA used to take most of the flak for this behavior when their sports and fps titles were dominating the market. Now that EA has milked most of their franchises dry and sales are slipping, they're no longer the dominating force they seemed to be 5 - 8 years ago. Activision, pardon me, Activision-Blizzard is a fucking powerhouse right now thanks mostly to Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, and World of Warcraft. Blizzard is fine...they've got WoW, they've got Diablo III coming out, and if all else fails, they can finally make a Starcraft sequel. But things aren't looking good on the Activision side of things. The Tony Hawk series is literally a joke at this point, people are finally starting to get burned out on Guitar Hero, and now they've lost Infinity Ward, the developer that FINALLY got the console FPS right (fuck you, Halo) with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. So what does this mean for Activision and the entire CoD franchise?

Well, for the time being, it means absolutely NOTHING. Treyarch is doing this year's installment of Call of Duty, and the map pack DLC for Modern Warfare 2 will still be developed by Infinity Ward for release this year. Next year, on the other hand, will probably see the downfall of CoD as Activision has stated that not only will they continue the main Call of Duty series, but they are going to start making non-FPS Call of Duty titles too, including an action/adventure title slated for 2011.

Basically Activision lost their best developer with IW...the guys who created Call of Duty, made it huge, re-invented it, then made it even bigger. Instead of slowing down and making sure they don't fuck up the series with sequels and offshoots, they are plowing right along sticking to their predictable release schedules. Right now Activision is just trying to push as many Call of Duty games out while the series is popular since they can sell titles based on the name alone. Inevitably, Activision will do what they do best and kill Call of Duty by over-saturating the market. In the mean time, Infinity Ward founders Zampalla and West will no-doubt move on and create a new FPS franchise under the umbrella of another major publisher. So fear not, you'll be back playing a new Infinity Ward title soon enough. Now, let's just hope that Treyarch can deliver a solid follow-up to World at War this fall, before Activision runs CoD into the ground.

-Brian T.

Monday, February 22, 2010

super street fighter: the movie!!!

I have nothing to say that is more important/awesome than what Brian R. posted below right now so I figured I'd throw this video up. Amongst all the new character announcements for Super Street Fighter 4, this little gem was posted over at Event Hubs earlier today and I thought I'd share it:

Anyway, tomorrow is Heavy Rain's release and all of a sudden I'm not sure if I'm going to pick it up immediately. I only say this because I just finished Mass Effect last week and Mass Effect 2 is looking more than a little tempting right now. Decisions, decisions...

-Brian T.

Dreamcast How To

If you read my last blog entry I talked about being able to play burned games on the Dreamcast. Just in case anyone is interested in doing it themselves I thought I would post links for everyone to get the ROMs, the program to burn the games, and a video tutorial on how to use it. This way you too can burn games for your Dreamcast and have access to over 250 titles, both domestic and import for your Dreamcast.

First we should start with where to download the ROMS (games). I use two places, both equally. They are both good except EMU Paradise has faster download speeds. Both though are through servers which allow for a steady, consistent, and safe download. WARNING: Be careful where you download ROMS from. There are a lot of bogus websites out there that claim to be ROM sites that do nothing more than infect you with a virus. It has happened to me and it just happened to Brian T. recently. So be careful and just go to the 2 sites that I have listed here.


Once you have a game downloaded you will need to decompress the file. They come as a Rar file which is similar to a Zip file. There is a free program called WinRar which can be downloaded here. Just install it with the recommended settings.

After you have downloaded and installed WinRar you need to locate the ROM file in Window’s Explorer. Once you find it right click and pick “extract here”. Sometimes the CDI file will be directly extracted or sometimes it extracts sub RAR files that are numbered 01-?. If this is the case just right click on the first numbered RAR file and pick extract here again and then you will have your CDI file, which is the disc image of the game.

Now that you have the CDI file you need to burn it to a CD-R. Make sure it is a CD and not a DVD. There are several programs that you can use to burn disc images but the main one that I use is called Discjuggler, which only handles CDI files. It can be downloaded for free from here. Now this is only the demo version which gives you unlimited access to the program, but limits you to only being able to burn up to 700MB. This is fine because the CDI files never exceed that limit. When installing Discjuggler just do the recommended installation.

Now to setup and use Discjuggler you will need to watch this video tutorial. It will explain everything you need to know about burning the games to disc, which is relatively easy.

If you don’t like this video you can search youtube for a bunch of other videos with different ways to do it. I use this method because you change some settings under the advanced burn options, which is how I have always done it and haven’t had any problems with any games yet. But some people don’t change those options and say that the games work just fine too. I guess you can play around with it a little bit and figure out the method you like best.

Once that is complete you are ready to go. Sometimes if it does not self load you may need a boot disk. Just in case I placed the link here. I have never needed it yet but I have it just in case. Also you do need it to play imports. Enjoi.

-Brian R.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lost and Found Again

As of late I have been struggling to find a good topic to blog about. One reason is because we are in the first quarter of the year and all of the big titles were just released for the holiday season. I will say that there are some big titles coming out in the next couple of months such as FFXIII, SSFIV, and Heavy Rain next week; but these last few months have been rather slow, at least for me. So I found this awesome website called Racketboy, which is a retro game site. Going through there must haves and undiscovered gems section for the Dreamcast I found a game called Cannon Spike. Basically it is a shoot-em-up that uses Capcom characters. I haven’t played it yet but I am soon and will review it then. Getting back on track, my purpose for this entry is simple and I will get to the point soon enough.

Basically after I saw that game on Racketboy I went to go and download the ROM. FYI if you have a Dreamcast that was built before October of 1999 you can download any ROM off of the internet, burn it to a CD-R, and put it in your Dreamcast and play it. If you have a console with a later build date all you need is a boot disk to play the game, which can be downloaded at the same site that you get the ROMs from. Anyhow as I scrolling through all of the games for the Dreamcast I kept seeing game after game that looks awesome as hell. And I thought to myself here I am complaining that I have nothing to play, yet there is a whole library of games for the Dreamcast that I have access to.

Long story short I went on a downloading spree and grabbed about 10 new games to try out for the Dreamcast. Unfortunately I did not get any blank CD-R’s until yesterday so I have not had an opportunity to play any of them. But the time is coming soon enough. So the point of everything is this. I was forced to go through my collection of games to find something to play because I wanted to play a game that had real purpose other than just killing people like in Modern Warfare. After doing so I was more than excited. You will be surprised if you went through your collection and realized how many games you probably have that you never finished, or maybe never played because it is part of a retro collection.

So what did I find? A fighter for the Saturn that I never played that Brian T. let me borrow, Knights of the Old Republic for the original Xbox that I started a long time ago and never finished, a booklet full of various Dreamcast games that I had downloaded and burned but never played, and Army of Two for the 360, which I borrowed from someone a long time ago and haven’t played yet. I guess it is just one of those out of sight out of mind things, because I keep all of my games in a cabinet, and usually the ones I am not playing are buried in the back behind the couple that I am playing and my controllers. What I need to do is convince my wife to let me build some media shelving so that way I can have everything out on display, which will hopefully keep it from going unforgotten. Take the time though to go through your collection of games and let me know if you find anything that you forgot about or never even finished or never played for that matter.

-Brian R.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

the sega channel

Who remembers the Sega Channel? Chances are, very few of you. It was a service that was offered through your cable provider that basically gave you an endless rotation of fully playable Sega Genesis games via an attachment that resembled the 32X. Here's a picture I found of it that a very awesome dude somewhere took:Oh Sega, and your crazy Frankenstein experiments of the mid 90' I miss you. But focusing on the Sega Channel, I had it and it was fucking awesome.

Every month, there would be an average of 70 games available that you would just download and within minutes be able to play. Here's another lifted image that shows the main menu:

This was the shit to have. The Test Drives section was where you could play demos of games before they were released. Sometimes the full games were even available. Not only were games available to play before their release, but you could play imports as well. For example, until the release of the Sega Genesis Collection (PS2), Golden Axe 3 was never available in America...except for the Sega Channel, of course. As you can see from the image, most genres were represented so no matter what mood you were in, you could find a game you would want to play. Toward the end of the service, games were rotated even more frequently, giving you well over 100 different titles to choose from per month. Popular titles. Obscure titles. Exclusive titles. Every awesome game you remember for the Genesis plus every awesome game you've never even heard of was at your disposal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There were a few downsides though. You could really only play one RPG at a time because you could only have a single save file for ALL of the RPGs. This meant that if you wanted to play through Shining Force II and Phantasy Star III, you would have to beat them one at a time and within a month in case they weren't carried over from month to month. Hell, it was almost pointless to start an RPG at the end of the month because you never knew if it was going to stick around for another 30 days. The other major annoyance was that Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Mortal Kombat 3 for whatever reason, were both split into two games. For example, Mortal Kombat 3A would have half of the characters while Mortal Kombat 3B would have the other half. You could never play with a full roster in either game which almost made them pointless. There was also a cheats section that would list cheats, tips, and codes for games available that month but there was no way to choose the cheats you wanted to view. Instead, you had to sit and wait as they slowly scrolled across the screen. And if you missed a particularly long password you would have to wait until the list reset and started scrolling over again. But all in all these are minor nitpicks considering what I'm about to tell you could blow your mind.

It was only $13 a month. Yep, around 100 games per month including imports, demos, and unreleased games for only $13. Clearly the biggest sign the industry has changed, the Sega Channel would never be allowed to happen now. Now that the industry seems to be moving more and more toward micro-transactions and dlc, this would be considered charity. The Sega Channel cost $13 per month and offered damn near every single Genesis game available on The Virtual Console, Playstation Store, and Xbox Live Arcade combined. Unfortunately, the Sega Channel launched nationally only about a year and a half away from the release of the Saturn and the announcement that the Genesis was to be discontinued in 1995. This basically sealed the fate of this wonderful service and it was labeled a failure with only 150,000 total subscribers by the time Sega pulled the plug in '97. The Sega Channel was apparently available to over 20 million Americans with cable, but only 150,000 households subscribed. Insanity.

It's interesting to note as well that the Sega Channel laid the groundwork for Xbox Live. Sega used their experience with the Sega Channel to create the Netlink for the Saturn (that's a whole blog by itself). After the Netlink failed, Sega used that groundwork to create SegaNet, which laid the groundwork for Xbox Live. Anyway, somebody please tell me I'm not the only one who got to experience this wonderful part of video game history...

-Brian T.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

360 Gamer POV on Heavy Rain

Finally the PS3 has an exclusive that can actually rival the competition. At least that is what it seems from playing the demo for Heavy Rain the other day. I have never played a game like this and really all I can say is that I was hooked and left wanting more. I am not going to go in to much detail because I think Brian T. did a good job at doing that, but I just wanted to briefly touch on my feelings about what is to come.

Being a person who heavily favors the 360 over the PS3, I found the controls to be a little difficult. Not so much as to how they were set up, but since a lot of the game is controlled by timed button pushing, it becomes a little difficult if you do not have the layout of the controller memorized. So I found myself hitting the wrong button from time to time but it was never a devastating problem. It is a little weird with some of the other button combinations but after a couple of tries it was fairly easy to pick up on.

I played through the Detective Shelby scenario 2 times and both times were different. Each time it started and ended the same; it was the content in the middle that was different. The first time I played through I angered the hooker and she would not talk to me about her son. It wasn’t because I was trying to anger her; it was just my inability to push the correct button. The second time through I again pissed her off but was able to lay a guilt trip on her at the last second, which got her to talk. I am pretty sure that if I played through a third time I can make her talk without any anger or any form of guilt, therefore giving one single scenario three possible forms of gameplay. Not to mention that once you get her to talk you begin to ask different questions depending on which button you push. If this were to follow suite with the first half of the scene, then you are looking at up to 6 different ways to play one particular scene, hypothetically of course.

This seems to make the replay of value of this game very high. Talking with Brian T. he said that in order to get the full experience it is recommended by Quantic Dream to play through the game a few times due to the changing content depending on how the game is played and because of alternate endings. The big question for me is; is it a buyer or renter? Well I can say that I am going to rent it through Gamefly first and give it some good playing time. If I absolutely need to have it I will eventually buy it, but I think that playing through it a few times will be more than enough to satisfy me. Later on I most likely will pick it up when the price is down to $20 or $30.

From a heavy 360 gamer this is definitely a game to play even though it is exclusive to the PS3. It may be difficult to pick up on the controls at first, but once you do I think that there will be no disappointment. After almost losing my PS3 I think it is time that I blow the dust off of it and give it the fair shake it deserves. Besides Heavy Rain, I know that I am getting Super Street Fighter IV (solely to kick Brian T.’s ass) and Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 (only because the PS3 version is in 1080p and the 360 version is in 720p) this year. So at least I will have 3 games for the console compared to the many that I own for the 360. Comment and let us know what you all thought of the demo.

-Brian R.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Heavy Rain Demo Review

Heavy Rain has easily been one of the most anticipated games for the PS3 since it's debut showing at E3 in 2006. With it's release just 11 days away, Sony has finally released a demo to the general public on PSN. I just finished playing it, and I'm eager to write about it.First of all, this game is not going to appeal to a lot of people once they have a chance to sit down and play it. The game is essentially a playable movie where you control the most minute actions of whatever character you are playing as (there are four playable characters). Most games have you running and shooting things or flipping switches to advance the story and gameplay, but Heavy Rain instead has you do minor tasks like retrieve items from your pocket, knock on doors, and simply talk to people. It sounds silly, but the game does a good job at utilizing the controller to make you feel like somewhat of a puppeteer. Control can be especially disorienting at first since you have to hold R2 to walk while you guide yourself with the left analog stick. By the end of the demo I'd gotten a pretty solid grip on the controls, but I could still feel that they were going to take some getting used to...they're unique to say the least.

If you played Indigo Prophecy (PS2, XBOX), then you already have a good idea what this game is about. In fact, Heavy Rain already appears to almost be a sort of "re-imagining" of Indigo Prophecy. Besides the obvious gameplay and story/tone/theme similarities, there are smaller comparisons to be made like the measuring of rain (Heavy Rain) vs. snow (Indigo Prophecy) throughout the story. Those who played through Indigo Prophecy know that Quantic Dream dropped the ball with the second half, and it would appear as though they're trying to get it right this time around. And so far, I'd say they've succeeded. The entire point of this game is to get you wrapped up in an intense and completely bizarre story that consists of multiple entwining character paths. Don't bother trying to get an idea of what's going on from the trailers, this is a story so involved that playing through the two sequences available in the demo will still leave you with no real idea of what's happening. That's not a bad thing though, as things are interesting enough to keep you frantically curious as to what is going to happen next. Heavy Rain is a game that once you start, you're going to have no choice but to finish.

Of course the graphics are worth mentioning and yes, they are fantastic. You're not going to forget you're playing a video game, but the character models are very detailed. I must admit though, they're not as mind-blowing as I would have expected. The textures and character models are unbelievably detailed, but I honestly feel that facial movements, and hell most "movement" in the game, could have used a bit more work if they're really wanted to impress. I think that a more realistic physics engine would have complimented the realistic graphics better. Just a minor gripe, but those hoping that Heavy Rain would be a visual revolution for gaming are no doubt going to be a little let down. The rest of the production work is top-notch with a wonderfully subtle soundtrack and universally solid voice-work.

The demo lets you play as the grizzled, broken-down, asthma-inflicted detective Curt Shelby and drug-addicted FBI agent Norman Jayden as they pursue two completely separate paths while tracking a serial killer known as "The Origami Killer". Both characters offered very different experiences. Shelby's scenario has an action sequence that plays out very similarly to the action sequences from Indigo Prophecy. Fights mostly consist of attacking, blocking, and counterattacking via timed button presses and analog stick movements. It's definitely interesting and you can tell that the aim was for you to feel like you're "acting out" many of the actions through various controller uses. Jayden's scenario focused on the use of his special glasses and glove which give him the Terminator-style ability to analyze people and environmental objects while combing a murder scene for clues. For example, you can analyze DNA on an object and have full visual access to that person's "file" within the FBI's database. I actually enjoyed the investigating and exploring quite a bit, though pressing R1 constantly to scan the environment for clues will no doubt eventually get tiresome.

Unfortunately, the demo is fairly short, so that's about all there is to write about. If you can get into the controls, you'll get into Heavy Rain. Even if you don't get into the controls, you'll probably still be sucked in by the story and interesting cast of characters. This game is another definite try before you buy, so I recommend checking out the demo for yourself if you have the chance. I'm curious to hear what other people think about it, especially those who didn't know what to expect from Quantic Dream. As for me, I love story-driven games so this is a must-buy on the 23rd.

-Brian T.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sega's Back

Last Thursday Sega dropped a huge bomb with their most recent announcement. I know that I am super psyched about it and just in case you are still in the dark about what is going on; it pertains to a blue blur, rings, emeralds, and side scrolling. If you haven’t guessed by now Sega is going back to their roots with Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. Don’t reread the last sentence because you really read what you are thinking; a whole new Sonic in its original fun to play form. That’s right they finally realized that the Sonic franchise has been crap ever since they decided to venture into the world of 3D, so now we are getting a whole new classic Sonic game built from the ground up.

There is not a whole lot to go on yet. Everything I have found out is from the website for the game, which you can go to HERE. There is a short video with a blip of gameplay in it but other than that there is nothing more than some concept art and a news link. Other things that I do know are that it will be released in the summer and will be available on XBLA, PSN, and Wiiware. Also there is a 4th platform which is rumored to be the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad. The supposed story to this speculation is that there was an error on the website’s part that allowed you to see all of the platforms it will be available on, which now they only show the 3 consoles and a group of question marks. But if it is coming out on the PSN then most likely you will be able to play it on the PSP also, which is a bonus for me.

There is still a lot of time between now and summer, and already the anticipation is eating away at me. Growing up and still to this day Sonic the Hedgehog is one of my favorite games. Even though I know that most of the newer Sonic games are going to suck, I still get excited about them and usually get let down when I finally play them. Any newer Sonic game is no comparison to the enjoyment that I get with the first 3 Sonics and Sonic CD, and finally now we will have a chance to play a new Sonic game the way it is meant to be played.

-Brian R.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

no objections here...

I love the Ace Attorney series. The Phoenix Wright trilogy of games is one of my favorites ever, and although Apollo Justice wasn't quite as awesome as I'd hoped for, my excitement level is maxed out as Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is finally almost out on the DS. Like most of us in the U.S., I was first drawn to the series when the GBA Phoenix Wright titles were ported over to the DS. I thought it looked interesting and I really wanted to yell "Objection!" into the DS' mic (which I did once and then I immediately felt like an idiot). I grabbed the first game on a whim and quickly became a diehard fan of the series.

The new Edgeworth game coming out this month on the 16th completely changes the look and formula of the series and takes it in a new interesting direction. The problem with this series is that it's very difficult for me to recommend to people. As much as I find this style of game enjoyable, I know that anime-inspired courtroom drama/comedy adventure games aren't for everyone, especially when 90% of the gameplay is spent reading. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, it's a definite try before you buy. Apparently Capcom agrees and you can play a demo of the new game right here:

-Brian T.