It's the end of the world and I feel fine

In both movies and video games, the end of the world is an extremely popular and overused setting. Two releases in both mediums take a rather interesting approach to it this week. First up is the long-awaited release of a film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy. If you don't know the story, this is a based on a book that is considered by most a cult classic where the Earth is destoryed at the beginning. Although it looks like a really solid cast with high production values, I'm worried that the traditional Disney treatement will butcher it horribly, since they have a very low success rate with live-action films. Also out in theatres is the new XXX, but considering how horrendously pathetic the last film was, this has to be an improvement but that's not saying much.

Stella Deus would be the other end of the world title-The world is coming to end end with the land being consumed by a deadly mist-The answer, just let it happen! That's the attitude of most of the world in this game-we're all doomed, so let's just wallow in apathy! Of course, not for your intrepid adventurers, or else there wouldn;t be much of a game. This is a strategy-rpg much in the veins of FF tactics & Disgaea. It's nothing revolutionary (literally every little idea and gimmick has been done before, but this game mixes them nicely, which is pretty rare anyways), but any srpg nut will find this a good way to kill many hours.

I did catch Kung Fu Hustle on sunday, and while I highly reccomed it, I was somewhat suprised by the high level of violence. Director Stepehen Chow's previous effort, Shaolin Soccer, was mostly a family-friendly affair, Hustle is pretty brutal at some points, so be prepared if you are going in just expecting a harmless goofy film you can take the kids to as well.

After remaking the Texas Chainsaw Massacre into a complete joke and forcing a mediocre remake of the mediocre Amityville Horror on us, Michael Bay is set to update (meaning destroy) another "classic" horror film-The Birds. It may have be scary for it's time, but the film hasn't aged well, and there's actually been several really bad horror movies with birds as the villains since then. Can't Bay just stick to making cheesy over the top action films? At least those were enjoyable guilty pleasures, these are just embarassingly painful.

The saga will NEVER end, apparently. At a big Star Wars convention, Lucas made a rare appearance and announced that two new series based on the Star Wars saga are being developed (assuming Clone Wars keeps going, this means 3 Star Wars TV shows). One will be live action, and the other CG. They will both supposedly take place between episodes III & IV in order to truly bridge the gap between the trilogies. While I love the idea of being able to see Star Wars on my TV on a regular basis, I think an entirely new setting would be a much better idea. You wouldn't have to deal with so many continuity issues, for one (which all series in a franchise have major issues with), and it would be a clean slate for all of us that have been so badly burned by the last two films (and especially if the 3rd doesn't measure up).

And finally, the trailer for Serenity went up on quicktime yesterday-This is based on the criminally ignored series Firefly from genius Joss Whedon. It's telling that before the first movie is out that a 3-picture deal has already been signed by Whedon and the main cast members. This could easily be the next Star Wars, so I can't wait till it's out in about 5 months. And on that note, I'm finally going to pick up Firefly on DVD, and I suggest you do the same as well and show Fox that they were complete idiots (course they are backing the film, so maybe complete is too harsh)....


It's a virtual sale-everything must go!!!

Although enterprising gamers have been doing it in some form for almost as long as online games have been around, Sony has officially made a site where you can pay actual cash for special virtual items in Everquest II. This is not exactly a big surprise, as it's not only an evolution of what's been going on between individuals for years, but a sort of inbetween step for the future, because it's already been heavily hinted that online services for future MMOGs will feature some sort of official marketplace system where you can soup up your character or get some tricked out items for the right price. And hey, most of us gamers are people who have jobs and some semblance of a social life, so I certainly see the advantage to buying some kickass armor or sword since you just don't have the time to spend endless hours questing for it. But at the same time, any real gamer will tell you that any item they gained through tons of hours of questing and hard work has a special sentimental value too them. It definitely would feel hollow to just buy some super-powerful item. I last thing I want is to be playing the next big mmorpg and listen to some jackass brag about how he just laid out a few hundred bucks so he could start out with the best equipment in the game while I'm still busy trying to survive with my cardboard armor and stick +2.

And Sony and Toshiba have finally pulled their heads out of their collective asses and decided that it would be a good idea to come up with just one format for the next generation of dvds rather than risk pissing off the consumer public. Supposedly this may lead to some issues with the PS3 since their previous hardline devotion to blu-ray may need some adjustment, but I bet Sony had some plan in place before they called for a truce anyways, so this probably won't cause any unknown delays (and I know there already has been many rumblings about exactly what we are going to see at E3, but that's still a month away, so I don't want to waste a good blog on that yet, especially before any concrete details surface).

Finally, I did play some of Unreal Championship II, and what I really like about the game is that the story mode trains you well for the online mode, because it's the same stuff. It sounds stupid, but neither Halo 2's or Time Splitters 3's story mode gives you any sort of preperation for the multi-player because it's such a vastly different experience. In UC: II, you are a competitor in a tournament, and it helps more naturally prepare you to go online rather than feeling like you have to go and practice offline against some bots to get better. My only major complaint is that you have to either jump into an already started game or create your own, which can lead to a lot of frustarting losses for you or opponents. There's no reason this shouldn't have a match system similar to Halo 2 and many other games where you get everybody in a room first and then go. Chaos Theory sort of has this issue, but you can also see if the game has been started yet.

That's really all for today, till next time...

PSP-Your latest source for porn

So, the newest headline grabber is that playboy has made some exclusive gallery just for lucky PSP owners that you can get online. Now, this isn't that surprisng since the porn industry is usually one of the earliest adopters of new technology, but it's just sort of suprising to see it hit this quickly and this is really the first time a video game console has offered cactual porn. Sure, there's been porn thinly disguised as a game, but not actual straight out porn. I can see lazy parents being outraged right now.

The othe big news is the merger of EB Games & Gamestop, making one big mega chain for gamers everywhere. Now, normally I'd decry this as a monopoly, but these two chains have been interchangeable for so many years I don't think anybody will notice or even if there will be any real changes anyways. Now if they buy out Fry's, that's the sign of an apocalypse.

As I talked about last week, Wrestlemania 21 is out, and the news is not good so far. Not only have the reviews been less than kind, but gamers can't even get online due to some bug. I won't pass final judgement till my copy comes from gamefly (probably next week), but looks like us wrestling fans will have to wait a long while before the next truly great wrestling game comes along.

Namco has nabbed the rights to make Peanuts-based video games. Now, I'd love to see some decidely brilliant games starring Snoopy and the gang that manage to keep the spirit of the strip, but like most licenses (especially family friendly ones) the games will most likely make Charles Schultz turn in his grave.

On the movie front, Kung Fu Hustle expands nationwide this weekend, and I'm very excited, because it's the same team that made Shaolin Soccer, which was easily one of the most fun movies I've ever seen, And I'm sure just like that movie, Hustle will be silly, over the top, and make little, if any sense. And if that's what the wirting team is aiming for, it's always magic.
If you are in the mood for something more serious, The Interpreter starring Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman opens this weekend, And while the previews look interesting enough, I've never really liked Sean Penn, and the last good movie Nicole Kidman did was Moulin Rouge, so I'll probably only check it out when it comes to video.

That's really all I want to cover today. But plenty of topics to to discuss, so I'll definitely be back tommorow or friday.


Knights of the Jade Republic

Ok, after playing through Jade Empire in a mere day and half (roughly 20 hours, what can I say, I sort of go into a zone when it comes to rpgs, at least if they are paced well like bioware's are) I have to say anyone expecting a huge leap from KOTOR will be dissapointed. The whole philosophy instead of morality angle they've been pushing is complete BS. It's still light side vs. darkside, good vs. evil, yin vs. yang, whatever you want to call it, and it's easily seen in the dialgoue choices. There are a lot of thinly veiled references to both KOTOR games and the Star Wars movies in general (although possibly not completely intentional on some levels). It's KOTOR in ancient China. And that's a great thing. I had a great time going through it so quickly and much like both KOTOR titles, I'll probably go through it at least a couple more times thanks to the variety of styles if nothing else. But even if I don't, thank god for xbox live so I don't go and waste my money on some underwhelming title to fill the void.

I also played Lego Star Wars on monday, and it was a suprisingly decent title, with it being very cool seing every aspect of Star Wars Legoized and the game really taking advantage of that. My only beef is that you have unlmited lives so it'll be too easy for older gamers, but probably just right for the younger SW fans out there.

The only major film opening this weekend is the new version of the Amityville Horror, apparently from the same people who unleashed the atrociously laughable Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. It's been repeatedly proven over the last decade that hollywood can't make good horror movies anymore (at least ones that aren't campy jokes like Jeepers Creepers 2), so I might check this out on video since I like Ryan Reynolds, but I'm not wasting any of this weekend on it. I live in a fairly small town, but hopefully when Kung Fu Hustle releases wide next week, it'll come here so I have a reason to go to the multiplex.

Nex week, two potentially huge Xbox live titles are out-Unreal Championship 2 & WWE Wrestlemania 21. Now, I've said my piece about UC 2 awhile ago, but I'll reiterate here-It's a unique idea and brings some much needed freshness to the FPS genre, but it's also unblanced and the melee combat can be kinda sloppy. And I can only have so many live games on my plate at once. I'm at five right now, and I pretty much think that's my limit. Meaning it probably won't be a serious consideration until I get bored of Halo 2, which may happen down the road, but not anytime relatively soon.
And then there's Wrestlemania 21. I haven't talked about it much here, but I'm a fairly avid wrestling fan, and this could potentially be the deifnitive online experience I've been waiting for (so much so that I'm already part of a fantasy league for he game before it's even out). But I'm still being very cautious. And that's essentially because there has yet to be anything more than a couple of halfway decent wrestling titles this console generation, and saying the two xbox titles were embarassments worthy of putting the development teams responsible on double secret probation would be far too kind. So I'm taking an approach of cautious optimism, I'm expecting it to be good, but I'm just waiting for my gamefly copy rather than going right out and buying so I didn't feel like I just wasted $50. Course, If WM 21 dissapoints, then I may actually pick up Unreal 2 anyways because it's yet another title that offers something unique. That's it for now, until next time...


Good & Evil is SOOO 2003!!!

I meant to update friday but I just didn't feel like it :) Plus Doom 3 came in the mail so I spent quite a few hours testing out both the online and offline gameplay. It may be much prettier, but it's still the Doom you remember, for better or worse, meaning cheap attacks from enemies that spawn out of nowhere and use nothing more than brute force combined with lots of key finding. And I honestly did find the whole flashlight gimmick I referred to in my last post my annoying than ontributing to any kind of scare factor. The FPS genre has moved on and evolved from this style of gameplay and while plenty will probably enjoy the nostalgic trip back I will happily move foward with Halo 2 and the upcoming Unreal Championship.

Two fairly underwhelming movies opened this weekend, First up is Sahara. Now, I don't mind brainless knockoffs of adventure classics like Romancing the Stone & Indiana Jones, but this really seems like a brainless knockoff of brainless knockoffs like The Mummy & The Rundown, so I'll probably wait for video. And then there's Drew Barrymore in her latest attempt to land yet another man-child type (Adam Sandler must've been busy) with Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch. There's nothing wrong with an enjoyable formulaic romantic comedy (i.e. Hitch), but this seems like it was assembled in some hollywood movie-making factory. Sadly, this is hardly an original script either, it's an adaption of a novel that was about a soccer fanatic that was already made into a movie starring Colin Firth.

And this week what many are already calling the greatest rpg in the history of xbox (and given the small but spectacular selection, that's saying plenty) hits stores-Jade Empire. From the makers of the original Knights of The Old Republic. And while KOTOR obivously had plenty of source material to go on, Jade Empire is a completely original creation, which is poentially a much bigger risk if everything doesn't gel together well. But it's real hook is an evolution the whole light vs. dark side, as Jade Empire features Open Palm (think Buddhist) vs. Closed Fist (think Darwinian). It's philosophy rather than straight morals. It'll probably considerably lessen my Xbox live time for awhile, which is also saying a lot. I'll be focusing my chi until next time....


Newsflash: I SUCK!!!

I did see Sin City on sunday, and it's easily a front runner for best movie of this year so far and easily has become one of my all time favorite films. It's that damn good. I'd place it in my top 10 (although I've only ever really thought about my top 3-Bravehart, Spaceballs & Robin Hood: Prine of Thieves, I honestly haven't given that much thought to an official list, maybe I will someday).

Doom 3 is out this week, I am a huge fan of the series, but I've previously stated that I have a slight problem with the whole gimmick that this newest entry is based around-being blind or being able to fight, because the game literally has you choosing between having your flashlight so you can actually see twisted demons of hell coming to rip you apart, or your weapon so youy can't see anything, but you can still shoot in the direction you think you heard something before it gets you. I'm sure this creates a scary atmosphere quite succesfully, which is rare, but every single game in history that gives you guns, flashlight and lots of dark space lets you use the light and the gun at the same time. It just strikes me as gimmicky and unrealistic.

Now onto today's main topic: My video game skills, or lack thereof. I always thought I was at best a decent player even though I have about twenty years experience (probably because I play games to have fun, which seems like a foreign concept to some people). It's a big reason I mainly like RPGs-you don't really have to have much skill to beat them if you don't want to-enough power leveling and you'll barrel through any enemy. I'm honestly not willing to put in the insane amount of hours and deal with the frustration of beating incredibly hardcore games like Ninja Gaiden (I like a chellenge, but games like that are ridiculous) Unfortunately, this makes it hard to get in with hardcore gamers, most of which I've seem to be running into in Splinter Cell:CT online. The multi-player is actually pretty complicated, especially the modes where your goal is to steal or defend targets but most gamers don't seem to be willing to cut you some slack (and I'm talking about my own teammates here), especially if it's a "ranked" game.Now, I like winning, and on just about every game there's a ranking board for I check the boards, but honestly as long as I'm not the worst (which I haven't been yet), I'm pretty statisfied. I'm willing to stick it out a bit longer, but if I just keep running into these anal-retentive assholes who don't realize that it's just a game, I'll probably be selling Splinter Cell pretty soon, because I don't need to deal with these pathetic morons, who seem to be around in Chaos Theory in a higher volume than literally any other game I own.

Ok, I finally have my computer back up and running, so I'll be posting again on friday, until then, check out this sign of the apocalypse