Video Game Blog
November - December 2005

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12/25/2005
Happy Holidays to everyone!  Been a bit since I posted on here but I was having major problems with the website.  Since I switched service providers, I was having problems with error messages and taking forever to save a page.  So I erased everything and loaded up a backup of the website.  It fixed many of the problems but parts of the website did not come over, so I had to bring them over individually.  Large parts of the website were down.  Almost all of it is back up but I still have a bunch of stuff to do to get it back to where it was.  But now I can update much faster (it now takes seconds to save a page instead of up to five minutes as before).

Saw an old friend yesterday.  I can still remember going over his house when I was young to play the Intellivision.  He had the Intellivision, I had the Odyssey 2 and later the Colecovision and my one cousin had an Atari 2600.  Out of the systems, I think the Intellivision was played the most.  Utopia tournaments, Dungeons and Dragons marathons, countless boxing matches and even a few games of Dracula.  We were all teens at the time and it had the games that appealed most to our age group.  I can still remember a ten mile bike ride to buy Dungeons and Dragons for the Intellivision from Sears.

I remember one of my first encounters with clearance video games.  There was a store that was going out of business and was clearing out all their video games as well as other stuff.  I had the Odyssey 2 at the time and went and bought some games for $10.00 each.  Remember buying Monkeyshines, Pick Axe Pete, KC's Krazy Chase and another one.  When I was young, we would usually get one game and it would last us for months.  But this was an opportunity to get multiple games for the price of one game.  It was great to have all these extra games to play.  Pick Axe Pete was a great game and the voice in KC's Krazy Chase was cool.  Monkeyshines was also a fun game.  Those were good times.

12/16/2005
Was at a retail store today (finishing Christmas shopping) and I saw that the plug & plays like Ms. Pacman have keys that can unlock more games. Odd but a neat idea. My guess is that since the software is there, it is easy to add more roms. What a novel way to get people to add more games and not have to buy a whole new unit. I did not see the keys separate, just one added with Ms. Pacman controller. It was a large package. I was tempted to buy it, but I really had no need for it. Still pretty cool.

It is sad to think this is the last major Christmas for the XBOX, Gamecube and PS2. Next year the new software will be minimal and mostly sports games and computer ports. Still it was a long run for the systems, at least when you consider the average lifespan of video game systems.

Read some reviews of the King Kong game and it seems that it also is quite short. 7- 8 hours is how long it takes to complete. Like Gun, it is a very good 7- 8, but still that is short for a $50.00 game. Oh well, I guess everyone cannot give us a ton of gameplay like Rockstar. People can say whatever they want about how Rockstar games may not look the best, but when it comes to the most bang for your buck, they top the list.

I still remember when I picked up a Microvision at a thrift store years ago. I was collecting systems and it was cool to get the system with three games for like $8.00. Then I played it. Sure it was the first handheld system, but it is not much fun. It was on ebay within a few months. Guess the handheld industry had to start somewhere.

12/12/2005
The Dreamcast is going to be re-released in Japan! Here is a link with the information:

http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000790071989/

I do not expect this to be more than a novelty. Anyone expecting this to spur a release of new Dreamcast games will be disappointed. But it is better than the Jaguar's that became dentist equipment.

I still remember years ago when I went to the mall to a game store on Halloween. I just went to take a look but ended up with a free game. They were giving away the computer game, Witchhaven to the first so many people who went to the store. I was one of them and ended up with a free game. It was a Doom clone with hand weapons and magic instead of guns. It was pretty decent and well worth the price. It was one of those things I thought about as I was playing Doom 2 on the Doom 3 Limited Edition for the XBOX. I was thinking about all those clones that came out and how I enjoyed some like Witchhaven and others like the Island of Dr. Sudeki or whatever it was called were pretty bad. It was one of those games that came in a combo package. If you remember back in the early 1990's, those compilations were all the rage. You would get 10 programs for like $20.00 with one decent game, some shareware crap and it always seemed to be one recipe program. I remember thinking "That is like $2.00 a program, what a deal!" Then I would get home and find out that one or two programs were worth playing and the rest were garbage. So my great deal would end up being $10.00 a program for substandard software. After about two of those, I never bothered again.

12/11/2005
Saw a commercial for Gametap while watching football today. Was surprised to see a commercial during a major sporting event. Shows that they are serious about it. I wish them all the luck and who knows, it may be a hit. I have my doubts as I find it hard to believe people will pay $15.00 a month to play old games, but what do I know.

I do miss playing Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast on their online network. It had flaws (especially when the PKs came around, that means player killers for people who are not familiar with the online terminology), but it was good fun. I know they have a version for the XBOX, but I don't want to pay a monthly fee. There is enough stuff that we pay for now that used to be free, to add any other expenses. You used to get television for free, but now you need to pay $30.00 a month if you want a worthwhile reception and more than four channels. In the past radio was free. Now they have a pay service for that as well. Everytime I turn around, I see another thing that we have to pay for. We have become a nation of fees and fines. No wonder no one can save any money.

Played some Bomberman on the Dreamcast with my boys. A simple and fun game. It is amazing at how such a simple game can still be so fun. I know they have made a dozen different versions with all kind of stuff, but give me basic Bomberman and a few players and I am having a blast. Ditto for Tetris, I don't need all these fancy add-ons and stuff. Just basic Tetris and a battle mode and I am happy. The Dreamcast had a great selection of quality two to four player games. Bomberman and Ooga Booga are two of my favorites. Powerstone and it's sequel are also big fun.

I have never been big into handhelds, but the more I play of the Nintendo DS, the more I want one. I was playing Metroid Pinball at a game store and it is really cool how the incorporated both screens. A very fun little game. And there are so many other great games for the system. It may not have the big screen like the PSP or have the ton of movies and stuff, but overall it has fun and unique games and for me that is a major selling point.

12/09/2005
Was at the used game store and they had two copies of Doom 3 for the XBOX. One was the normal version and cost $25.00. It was scratched up. The other was the limited edition and looked brand new and was $20.00. I broke down and bought the limited edition. I must say from the few hours of playing it that the game is awesome! Looks great with a ton of atmosphere. While alot of humor was made about the flashlight, it adds alot of atmosphere. Sure it would be better to be able to shoot and have a light source at the same time but it still is effective. It is the most fun I had playing a game in a long time and I did not have to spend a grand upgrading my computer to play it. Now I have to keep an eye out for Half Life 2 for the XBOX.

I am still amazed at what a big business the plug and play games have become. There has to be a minimum of fifty different ones out there. Just saw the Madden 95 plug and play to go with the rest of them. While I think they are pretty neat and offer a quick and easy way to play some classic games, I am still surprised by the sheer amount of them that have been made in the past few years. And I am sure there are a bunch more on the drawing board for next year.

12/07/2005
Heard some of the specs (not official but from the IGN website) for the Nintendo Revolution. It looks to be the game system for the people who don't have a High Definition TV and don't want to spend $400.00 on a new system. The emphasis is going to be on the controller instead of graphics. Seems like Nintendo is going for a niche market again. While they came in third in the last console race, they were profitable and that is all that matters to them.

Been playing alot on a website called Pogo. It has a bunch of games that you win tokens on and have a chance to win real money. The games are all variations of traditional games like Blackjack, Solitaire, Slots and stuff like that. It is alot of fun and it costs $20.00 a year for AOL members and something like $30.00 for non AOL members. Much better bargain than paying $15.00 a month at Gametap. Sure the games are better at Gametap, but are they $160.00 a year more better? If Gametap was one price like $50.00 to $60.00 for a year, I would really consider it. But it is hard for me to cough up $15.00 a month when for that price I can buy a compilation and by year's end, have more games to play. January - buy Atari compilation with 60+ games. February buy Activision Anthology with 50 games. March buy Namco Museum (the new one) with 20 games. Get the idea. I think Gametap has the right idea but needs to make it a price that will bring in more people. Who knows, maybe I am off and people are signing up in droves. Maybe I am just too cheap.

12/06/2005
Here is something you don't hear of everyday, a new game for the Atari 7800. Received an email from Atari Sales about Combat 1990, a new game for the Atari 7800. There are all kinds of new games made for the Atari 2600 and even a few for the Atari 5200, but this is the first I heard of for the forgotten Atari system. You can check it out at the following link http://www.atarisales.com.

Saw in the Target circular about a Williams stand alone system. It is about a 3/4 size arcade cabinet with a dozen Williams games built in. Sells for around $400.00. Looked neat but from reports that I read online, it is not well made. The word cheap was used quite often. Still looked pretty neat.

Speaking of mini cabinets, I did play one at BJ's Wholesale. It was for Taito games and had a nice selection. Jungle Hunt, Zoo Keeper, Bubble Bobble, Qix and Space Invaders were among the 20 games. The joystick was a little loose but worked fine. I was able to easily get over 100,000 on Zookeeper my first game. I got all the way through the first level on Jungle Hunt and back to the natives on the second level before the game ended. It was $800.00, a little steep but it felt well made and the emulation was pretty good.

12/03/2005
Went to Toys R Us and finally saw an XBOX 360 in action. Graphics were impressive. Was it enough to get me to cough up the money? No, nothing that made me must own. Still was quite pretty.

My kids are enamored with the game Sneak n Peak for the Atari 2600. The game is trash, but the kids love it. It is essentially playing hide and seek with about five places to hide. Guess I am too old to appreciate it.

Just got done watching "Finding Neverland" and it made me think, has there ever been a worthwhile game made about Peter Pan? There is a ton of great story there that could be incorporated into a great video game. Captain Hook and the pirates, the mermaids, the crocodile. The only game I can think of is the two lame ones for the NES - Peter Pan and the Pirates and Hook. Think of a game that would mix the flying sequences of Nights from the Saturn with exploration, sword fights and more. And it is a story that everyone knows. Someone should get on this.

11/29/2005
Saw a list of the games that are coming for the next six months and it does not look good for XBOX and Gamecube owners. The amount of games drops off severely after Christmas. Nintendo has a selection of their properties coming and a handful of third party games, but not much. XBOX has mostly games that are also coming to the PS2. Some good stuff but a definite drop-off. The PS2 on the other hand still has a big selection of games coming out. There are a half dozen quality RPGs coming out alone, not counting all the other genres.

Speaking of the PS2, it will be interesting to see how long after the PS3 comes out that games still are made for the PS2. The original Playstation had games come out for four years after the PS2 came out. Granted most of the games at the end were shovelware stuff but they were still new games. A big part of that was due to Sony changing the licensing fee to scale it to the retail price. If you are wondering what I am talking about, Sony and the rest of the hardware manufacturers charge a licensing fee per unit to publishers. This is for the right to publish games on the system. It was started by Nintendo with the NES. It is estimated that Sony charges $15.00 per unit (that means for each game sold. But what they did when the PS2 came out was to drop the fee for PS1 games. They scaled it to reflect what the publisher charged for a game. So a game that came out at full retail price of $49.99 may still have a $15.00 licensing fee where a game that came out at $9.99 may only have a $2.00 fee. This insured that games would keep coming out and they would keep getting licensing fees.

You may think that if companies would get rid of this licensing fee that the price of video games would come down. The problem with that thinking is that it would mean less companies would be willing to create new systems. Microsoft and Sony both lose alot of money selling their systems, but they make a killing on the licensing fees. It also helps to keep the crap games off the market as part of this licensing fee is that the games need to pass an inspection of sorts to insure the games are of quality. Remember the Nintendo Seal of Quality that was on all the NES boxes (well the licensed game boxes anyway)? That was the beginning of this. Makes you wonder how good it could be as Acclaim and 3DO games kept coming out and they were for the most part garbage.

11/25/2005
Must admit I was tempted to get up early and trudge out to Circuit City for Black Friday. They have Doom 3 for the XBOX for $9.99! But knowing the store, odds are they have about a half dozen copies and they will be gone before I had a chance. To really have a chance at door busters, you need to be there about an hour early, if not more. It is down to $29.95 new, so it is just a matter of time before it hits my $10.00 range used.

Watched part of the XBOX 360 countdown on G4. Made me wonder if Perfect Dark Zero will be the killer app they need. Yeah, the systems are selling out now, but what about next year when the holidays are over and the hype dies down? Will it be the Halo for this system? We all know Halo 3 is coming but when? Bill Gates says when the PS3 launches, but the programming team says they are not releasing it until it is ready. Will the two dates coincide?

Speaking of the XBOX 360, it will be interesting to see how the sales are in Europe and especially Japan in the coming weeks. This will go a long way towards determining what kind of lead they can build before the competition comes out. A healthy start in Japan will make this a more interesting race.

It still amazes how well the Activision titles hold up. Out of all the Atari 2600 games, those are the ones that are still the most playable today. I still enjoy a good game of Pitfall. H.E.R.O. is still fun. River Raid still beckons for one more game. And I always love Frostbite. Heck, Fishing Derby with two people is a fun game. Those guys really understood how to make a good playing game.

11/18/2005
Decided to do an issue of
Retrogaming Times. Yeah, it has been about a year and a half since the last issue. But what the hey, consider it an early holiday gift. Enjoy!

Word is that Gun is a very short game. Somewhere in the 5 to 8 hour range to finish it. It is supposed to be an enjoyable 5 to 8 hours, but still that is short. And I almost rushed out for it. Good thing my cheap side prevailed.

This is the time of year when 50-70% of the video games are released. What it means to vultures like myself is there will be lots of carrion next year. Too many games means many quality games get lost in the shuffle. It is too bad as there is always a few great games each year that get overlooked.

Black Friday is a week away and already the ads are appearing. Here is a great site for getting an early peek at the sales: http://www.bfads.net/.


11/16/2005
The XBOX 360 is almost upon us. Word is that it is all but sold out. The only chance you have is if you go to a place that did not have presales (Target, Walmart and places like that). It will be interesting to see how many units Microsoft can get out by the end of the year. I have been seeing numbers like a million units. Hopefully they will get more than that out there as their chance to build a lead is very short.

I was playing Smurfs on the Colecovision the other day and I forgot how much a wuss your Smurf is. Everything kills you. I can understand the birds and spiders, but fences and small steps? No wonder those creatures became extinct.

I still wish that Coleco had not bothered with the Adam computer and instead worked on their Colecovision console. While it was probably out of life with the crash, who knows. Maybe a successor to the system could have done really well. Guess we will never know.

How many of you out there wanted a Neo Geo when they came out? How many of you ever owned one? While I was impressed with it when it came out, I must say that I never really had a desire to own one. Was never a big fan of fighting games. I did enjoy Street Fighter II when it came out and some of the other games were fun, but I never was a big fan. Maybe because I never put the time in to be really good at it. Nothing was worse then getting your butt handed to you by some kid. That is enough to make you not want to play a game.

11/08/2005
It is funny that every time a new group of systems come out, people start predicting another video game crash. But to be honest, I do not see another crash ever happening. I can eventually see the popularity of video games slowing down, but I never see a crash like what happened in 1984.

One thing that may happen is as the graphics get to a point of realism and all the games look the same, you may see an interest wane. A big draw of video games has always been the graphics. Once they reached the peak, then it will be the gameplay and stories that will make or break the industry. And too many companies are not known for this but rather for great graphics. It is easier to make a game look great than to play great.

Somewhere along the line we need to come up with a more innovative way to get gamers into the game. Nintendo's new controller is a good start but we need more companies to think innovative. The last major stumbling block in video games is the controller. While it has come a long way from the Atari 2600 joystick, it still is too restrictive. Too many games still allow very limited movement. Most buttons are still just on or off (meaning if you push the button it is on and an action happens and if you don't push it, then it is off and no action) and do not take advantage of analog buttons that are available. Programmers need to make it so that you can control how hard a quarterback throws the ball or how hard you punch someone in a boxing game.

I thought the Eyetoy was a good step forward in video game control. Very primitive but a good step forward. Will be interesting to see if they build on it for the next generation. Controlling action with movements will eventually become a bigger part of video games. It is the next logical step towards total immersion. But they really need more innovative games than washing windows or bouncing a soccer ball on your head. It will take one really creative game to get it going. But when will that one game appear?

11/07/2005
Watched an episode of Icons on G4 about the Intellivision and learned something. The game Utopia was partially influenced by the movie "The Killer Shrews." That is one of those movies from my youth that I used to watch and enjoy on Superhost, a show that showed monster movies and had a host who did strange skits. I think that is pretty cool. Now if someone would make a Killer Shrews game (or at least a level in Resident Evil or something, a hidden level), that would be so cool.

You know how there are moments in movies that you never forget. They are part of your psyche. The shower scene in Psycho, the ending of Casablanca and Large Marge from Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Well, think about what video game moments you can think of that would fit that bill. What moment in a video game or computer game will you never forget? Was it when you found out Samus was a girl? The window scene from Resident Evil. Here are a few of mine:

-In the game Dungeon Master, when I got to the bottom and first came face to face with the dragon. It literally scared me out of my chair.

-When I was able to see the Easter Egg in the video game Adventure.

-The first time I hit an invisible block in Super Mario Bros.

-Getting to the Pie Factory for the first time in Donkey Kong.