January 2003

You have to love a busy week in the gaming world. I’ve read so
many press releases this week I think my brain is going to explode
with information. In addition to all the happenings this week, I’ve
been devoting most of my free time to Final Fantasy VII. For those
of you who are new or don’t know why I’m playing an old PSone game
I’ll fill you in. I’ve never been a fan of RPGs. I picked up Wild
Arms 3 for the PS2 a few weeks ago and actually did enjoy it for
a while. Pickle seems to have made it his life goal to get me to
agree with him that Final Fantasy is the greatest game series ever.
Never having played a FF game before, Pickle took it upon himself
to force me to play VII. So I’m being a sport and giving it a shot,
he’s convinced it is the greatest game of all time. It remains to
be seen if this will be the game that converts me in to an RPG fan.

We hit 1,000 posts on the forums this week.
I have to say that I’m pretty blown away by that since we’re still
less than a month old. I also want to invite everyone to get involved
in the forums that currently are not. We have been getting a ton
of traffic to the site and the majority of our visitors haven’t
gotten involved in the forums. We’re here to provide a gaming community,
not just a news and reviews site. This site is only going to be
as good as our users make it. So get involved!

Metal Gear Solid for the PSone is one of the greatest games I’ve
ever played. Yeah it was a little short, but it was damn fun and
had a great story line. Metal Gear Solid 2 was a different story.
I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something just not right
about that game. I own it, I played it a lot, and yet I never had
the endurance to finish it. I think that part of the problem was
that they tried so hard to recapture the success of MGS and neglected
the story a bit. When I played MGS I was so involved in the story
that I couldn’t sleep because I had to know what was going to happen
next. While I don’t have anything extremely positive to say about
MGS2, I don’t have anything extremely negative to say about it either.
The reason I’m giving you a brief history of my feelings toward
the MGS series is to give you a little background before I start
talking about MGS3. I read a brief interview with Konami producer
Hideo Kojima over at Xengamers.
Konami has already begun work on MGS3 and Kojima is heading up the
project again. After reading the three-paragraph interview I gained
a lot of respect for Kojima. Gamers everywhere are probably thinking
that Konami is beating a dead horse with the MGS series after MGS2
and MGS: Substance. I don’t blame Kojima for trying to recapture
the early success of MGS and releasing another entry in the series,
he’s just doing his job. I really got the feel from his interview
that he understands that many gamers were let down by MGS2 and that
MGS3 is really going to have to be something special. When asked
what we should know
about MGS3 so far Kojima replied, “To be
honest though, I didn’t want to do a third installment. I don’t
like how companies feed off the popularity of a series and continually
release sequels. In this case however, the outcry from the fans
has been overwhelming and I’m convinced there’s enough new ideas
for another Metal Gear.”

Kojima also went on to discuss the visual and technological leap
that they were able to make from the PSone to the PS2, and the difficulties
that they were going to encounter making another game on the PS2
without the same jump in technology they had last time. “Developing
another installment on the PlayStation2 will force us to maximize
the capabilities of the hardware. That’s one of the reasons why
I originally wanted to develop Metal Gear Solid 3 on PlayStation3.”

I, for one, feel extremely positive about MGS3 and I think that
everyone who is interested should definitely take a chance to read
the entire interview. It’s good to see a game producer who doesn’t
just answer the typical pre-programmed responses when asked about
a game. I think that Kojima really has a desire to please the fans
of the series, and that type of devotion to the fans usually spells
out quality results.

As I’ve learned from the forums recently that the second I mention
the words “Playstation 2” I get bombarded with people
telling me how much the PS2 sucks and so on. So immediately a lot
of gamers are going to be disgusted that MGS3 is going to be on
the PS2. Since I have the luxury of spewing my opinion in a format
other than the forums I am going to do so now. I own a PS2, if I
had the money I would probably have an Xbox as well. I consider
the Xbox to be the superior console on the market right now, but
PS2 did beat it to the market. I’ve noticed that people seem to
have forgotten that PS2 beat the Xbox and the GameCube to the market.
Yes, PS2 has flaws. Yes, it is not the best console on the market.
But it is leading console as far as game sales go. PS2 is not a
“bad” console. I like my PS2 and I still think it is best
console for sports games. And why do you people keep bitching about
the controller? If you’ve ever played SSX than you know that the
PS2 controller is perfect for this type of game. I have played the
GameCube enough to know that with the exception of Animal Crossing
the games are crap. Crap! If it weren’t for Animal Crossing and
the up-coming Zelda I would be in a total fit about the GameCube.
Personally I do not like the GameCube controller at all! The buttons
aren’t in the right positions and I don’t feel like it’s very designed
very ergonomically. Unfortunately I don’t have anything bad to say
about the Xbox, I don’t think it’s fair to even try and compare
it to the Cube and PS2. With all that said, I just want people to
calm down on the PS2 ripping a bit. It has its advantages and drawbacks,
just like everything else in the world.

Now that I’ve defended the PS2 I’m going to take my shots at it
as well. I was one of the poor suckers that bought this thing off
Ebay the day it came out. I paid way too damn much money for it.
Now every time I put a damn game or DVD in my PS2 I get that “Disk

Read Error.” Every god damned time! I have to sit there and
fidget with it for 15 minutes just to put on a movie. And where
are all the damn upgrades I was promised when I bought this thing?
It’s two years later and the online capabilities still don’t seem
as popular as they made it seem they were going to be. I sold my
damn DreamCast to get enough money to pay for the PS2. I’ve got
Sony’s back for now, but I would jump ship to Xbox at any given
time if I had the money. PS3 better kick some royal ass or Sony
is going to get buried. My relationship with my PS2 is basically
love-hate as you can probably tell. It’s like having a girlfriend
that you’ve been dating for forever and kind of want to dump but
it’s still hard to let go. I think my PS2 and I need to see a relationship
counselor.

The news that spurred this kind of pissed off state I’m in about
my PS2 is that Sony is releasing components to try and turn the
PS2 into some sort of all inclusive home entertainment system. They
are calling it a “digital hub.” Sony is releasing some
sort of add-on for the PS2 so that you can store, edit and save
digital photos. Gee Sony, that would be fucking fantastic if I knew
that it wasn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg and that every
time I try to work with a photo I got a “Photo Read Error.”
Following this component is a harddisk and Internet software. You
know what, I’ve just changed my mind, I hate the PS2 now. How much
do you think I could get towards and Xbox if I traded it in? One
of you EB guys let me know.

In movie news, Nintendo reportedly sold off the movie rights for
Metroid to Variety. If the movie is half as bad as Metroid Prime
the game then this will be another game turned movie flop. In the
“who gives a flying fuck department”, Angel of Darkness
got pushed back. I’ve never played a Tomb Raider game, never seen
the movie, and I never intend to do any of the aforementioned. News
on F-Zero GC is starting to heat up. I am pumped, I love F-Zero.
The screens look absolutely fantastic. All the news about the Warcraft
III expansion pack came out this week. All the details have pretty
much been covered in the news section and the forums so I don’t
have to go in depth. If any of you follow my articles than you know
that I am obsessed with Warcraft III. This expansion pack could
be the thing that pushes me over the edge of failing out of school.

Ok, that covers anything that I deem important for this week.
Pickle may be out of commission for a while because he played the
Zelda demo. He has been known to vanish for weeks at a time whenever
he gets into an RPG. Snackbar t-shirts are being designed right
now and will be on sale sometime soon. Time for my usual shout-outs;
EBgames Hueber Oaks guys kick ass. They do more for our site than
anyone. Paladin IT Services kick ass as well. They are helping us
get our hosting problems fixed and they are great contributors to
the site as well. Google is dangerously close to getting the official
SB middle finger because their stupid spider won’t go through our
site correctly. That’s all, Soda out.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4

January 21, 2003

My only real experience with the Tony Hawk series has been with this game. I know many people that have long since been burned out on the repetitive nature of this game, which is actually why I dislike the Grand Theft Auto series so much. I have seen my brother play Tony Hawk 2 on PS2 and briefly played Tony Hawk 3 on Pickle’s Cube when he still had the game, but that was the extent of my experience with this series of games. I simply bought this game for Christmas without even playing it, which is not a practice that I generally engage in. It’s generally wise to rent games that may get old or boring after extended amounts of playing, but I felt confident that I would enjoy it.

It would be difficult to compare this game to the last Xbox release of Tony Hawk, which was THPS 2x. There have been a significant amount of graphical updates not to mention being able to harness more of the available graphics power on the Xbox as Activision had more time to develop this game. From a fresh viewpoint, I was impressed with the overall look of the game. The character likeness of Tony Hawk and the other skaters was dead on. They also did a superb job in capturing the personalities of the featured skaters. I felt that they did a great job of creating realistic (for the most part) levels and maps that were very accurate graphically. Having been to the Fishermans Wharf area in San Fran and seeing pictures of the Kona Skatepark (here or here) that was featured, I can attest that they did a superb job accurately recreating these hot skating spots. None of the moves, aside from the nasty spills and falls, looked unnatural or choppy. Overall, I give the guys at Activision 02 two thumbs up for the graphics on the game.

I absolutely loved the soundtrack from this game. To me, it was a nice mixture of rap, hip hop, new and old rock. The list can be found here. Another plus for the realism in this game is the character voices, which are money, and the sound effects sound real as opposed to some digitized wanna-be effect. With the proliferation of home theatres and great sound systems being standard in many of today’s homes, it makes a lot of sense for game developers to really put a lot of thought and effort into having a great sounding game. There is nothing better than having a great looking game that is a whole lot of fun and then powering up your high end sound system and seeing that the game developer went the extra mile and put something in to utilize your sound system. Its apparent to me that Activision went the extra mile in regards to realism in their sound.

You may ask yourself at this point of the review if I actually have any negative thoughts on the game. I do and I am about to get to them. Up until this point, the only sports games I deemed worthy of purchasing was SSX and SSX Tricky for the PS2. Now, I hate the PS2 controller with a passion, but the L and R buttons made playing SSX very easy. It made it simple to not get confused about what buttons did what since you knew all the L and R buttons performed grabs. I was eager to see how a game of similar nature would be laid out on the Xbox controller. Most of my friends know that I prefer the layout of the original large Xbox controller over anything I have used to date, but in Tony Hawk I continually hit the wrong buttons for whatever reason. I can’t seen to remember which one is X and which one is B. I find myself peeking at the controller during challenges when I have to hit the tricks as they are called out. That is the one thing that frustrates me in this game. I will be doing great in a challenge and I will hit down and B instead of X to perform a certain trick… I have pretty much gotten used to it, but it still annoys me at times. I guess when a few of your flagship games are shooters then your control tends to be geared more towards that type of game. Since I am not a big sports game player, control layouts are seldom a negative point for me, this being the exception.

Let us now move on to game challenge. One of the features that they added in this game was the ability to free skate the levels and just mess around. This is not really what the game is all about, the game is about the goals or challenges, but it’s a welcome addition. You start out with a single level (The College) and 8 or so goals that you can do. Initially, you don’t know what the goals are. You must skate around and talk to various characters, denoted with a large blue arrow above their heads, and they will give you a challenge. After you talk to them the first time you can simply select the goal from the list in the start menu instead of finding that person and talking to them again. This is a great thing since sometimes the characters are in very hard to reach places and you don’t always complete a goal the first time you try it. These goals get harder and harder as the game progresses. The completion of a goal will give you money and possibly a stat point, which you use to improve the abilities of your skater, custom or standard. I currently have 80 of the 190 Pro Points (1 Pro Point per completed goal) and its almost to the point where I have given up. Some of these goals are so hard and frustrating that the thought of your precious console meeting its end out a window actually cross your mind. I think they did a great job of not making this game too easy, but I am not so sure that its easy enough for even the avid gamer to complete while maintaining sanity. I WILL finish this game if it is the last sports related game I ever play.

While I mentioned how frustrating and insane you will feel at times in Tony Hawk 4, its only fair to mention that I wouldn’t have made it 80 points into the game had it not been very entertaining and fun. Let me say that of the games I got around Christmas (Nightfire, Splinter Cell, Mech Assault, and Bloodrayne) I have played Tony Hawk the most. I had heard nothing but negativity in general about the Tony Hawk series due to patience restraints I am guessing, so I went into this with a negative thought already on my mind. It wasn’t long before that was all changed. It took me a little while before I could fluidly perform tricks and I still wonder how I have completed half of the goals that I have because I still don’t consider myself to be great at this game by any stretch of the imagination. The point is that I really truly enjoy this game. Having been a skater in the past (inline), I have always wanted a cool skating game that was realistic. Somehow Street Sk8er for PS didn’t cut it.

All in all Tony Hawk 4 is a great game. I am not sure that I would agree with some other gaming sites and be so quick to give it Game of The Year recognition, but it is in fact worth playing. If you have played Tony Hawk in the past and you are burned out on the concept, then at least give this game a try and rent it for the weekend. I don’t regret the purchase of this game and I don’t think you will either. I may not be into many sports games, but aggressive sports like skating and snowboarding are definitely games I get hyped up to play.

 

A

The Nintendo 64 gaming system was thought up mostly as a “kiddie system”, as it relied heavily on Mario or Pokemon games, correct? Well, in most cases you could say yes, but when you refer to one game that RARE put out, a masterpiece, then you’ll do a double-take.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64 was one of the wildest games EVER released. It made every other Nintendo 64 game look like Disney movies in comparison, due to its foul language, filthy content, and loads of violence. It’s rated “Mature”, and it lives up to it very much.

The game is split into two separate games. First, you can play the single player mode, where you play as Conker in a role playing game. Conker has too many drinks one night at a bar in a far off land, and is too smashed to remember his way back home. Therefore, in trying to get home, he finds himself in a long journey of some of the most screwed up things. On his way there, Conker encounters the Great Mighty Poo, a gigantic singing turd who likes to thrown crap as his opponents. Or how about the little devils Conker’s encounters, whom his only line of defense against those bastards is to piss on them. The one player game also parodies several things like any World War 1 or 2 beach warfare, the Matrix, and even Alien at the end.

And then you can play the real “meat and potatoes” of this game, the Multiplayer mode. Of course, you don’t need a bunch of friends over to play this. You have many, and I mean many multiplayer games to choose from. For instance, you can play the game called Raptor, where you go and steal Raptor eggs to eat, while trying to survive the evil wrath of a Raptor. The Beach is my favorite, as the setting has gunners shooting at runners. It’s like the Allied forces storming the beaches of Normandy, in hopes of freedom. You can either run or shoot in this fantastic mode. In the Heist, you’re a bank robbing weasel, and you race to put money in your own fault before getting murdered by your opponents. Then, there’s a mode where you can select any boards to play on and just kill every person you see. You may also play a team mode, where you either capture a flag or fight to kill your opponents with poisonous gas. You may also play the Tank and Race modes, although they are probably weak points in my humble opinion.

The game’s playback ability is fantastic. The Multiplayer mode NEVER gets old, as if you’re having bad day, it’s always fun to simulate blowing someone’s head off or slicing off someone’s head with a samuri sword. Then, with the single player mode, for each part of the story you beat, you can go back and replay those sections for your own enjoyment in the “Chapters” mode. Also, there are plenty of cheats in this game, including unlocking some very wacky creatures to play in Multiplayer mode.

Graphics are detailed in this game, because it’s from RARE, but I highly recommend having a bright television to play some parts. The graphics seem too dark in some spots. The sound is top notch, as you can hear the shots clearly and the many voices of Conker’s, as well. Control is good, as well, although it takes a while to get good with the weapons.

Let me say this much: Conker’s Bad Fur Day is the BEST game that the Nintendo 64 has to offer. The Multiplayer mode can’t be beat. You have the chance to either fight individually or on teams, and the fighting invo
lves tons of strategy. The single player mode is something that N64 fans would love anyway, and that’s incredible 3D roleplaying. But for Conker’s, the roleplaying has lots of attitude, including scenes that will make you laugh for hours or wonder how sick the gaming developers were at RARE when they made this game.

CONCLUSION: If you have an N64, go buy this game somehow (try Ebay). If you don’t have an N64, go buy one and get Conker’s already! I will note, though, that RARE now has a deal with the X-Box, meaning that a long awaited sequel could be arriving there for Conker’s. If so, I recommend buying that system just for Conker’s, because if it’s even a fraction of what this game is, then it’s worth spending top dollar on an X-Box for its sake.

TITO STATS (0 to 5 Scale)
Graphics: 4.0
Sound: 4.5
Control: 4.5
Challenge: 5.0(single player mode is time consuming)
Fun Factor: 5

Highest possible recommendation!

Welcome back to the Weekly Retro Column. Sorry about the brief
absence, but with the holidays and the launch we’ve been swamped.
This week’s game is Baseball Stars for the NES. Released in 1989
and developed by SNK this game is a baseball classic.

Baseball Stars is my favorite game ever. I can’t believe that in
the past 14 years no one has managed to build upon the groundwork
that Baseball Stars laid for a baseball franchise. The control that
you have over your team including the hiring and firing is unparalleled
by any game to date. When I was younger I would spend hours beating
The Lovely Ladies over and over trying to save up enough cash to
upgrade my clean-up hitter. Occasionally I’ll still pick up this
game and get hooked for a week or so. Best baseball game ever, hands
down.

You have to wonder how a game of this quality came around so early.
It is obviously the most thought out and replayable NES game ever.
I remember getting deeply involved in this game trying to keep my
average around .400. Of course I made myself in the game as well
as my cousins, and together we would take on the computer or each other.
You may not know this, but Soda and I both grew up playing baseball
so there is special connection to this game that to this day I have
yet to feel with another baseball game.

I had my cousins and myself in this game as well. Eventually though
I ran out of cousin’s names and had my cat catching and my dog playing
right field. I’ll tell you what, my cat could freaking slug. For
this NES the graphics in this game were pretty sweet as well. The
pitching motions were pretty fluid and it was the first game that
I can remember that included different arm angles for the pitcher.
Additionally this was the first game that I can remember having
the ability to dive for a foul ball or climb the fence trying to
bring back a homerun ball. One thing that was lacking was the MLBPA
license though. There were no real teams included in the game and
what replaced them was a very odd cast of characters. Oc
casionally
a team would have one or two girls on it, but there was also the
all girl team, The Lovely Ladies. The girls were kind of funny.
You could bean them with the ball and they would fall down and cry.
When you’re nine that never gets old.

First of all the diving and leaping the game had was gold. I remember
bringing back homeruns with a leap at the wall. As far as game play
is concerned the game was smooth. The pitching and batting were
tight all the way around. The field however seemed like it was a
mile long, but your guys could run down the deep fly ball with relative
ease. The ladies teams were classic, but my favorite was the Ghastly
Monsters team. Everyone on the Ghastly Monsters had the name of
some old school horror flick. I mean how much does it suck to have
to pitch against Jason batting clean up. I would hate to be the
coach and have to post the starting line up for that team…shit
you will literally get a knife in you back.

No kidding I can see it now, “Allright Jason, we’re looking
to up the defense for today so we’re going with Cyclops for the
start.” Seconds later the sound of a chainsaw firing up fills
the clubhouse. Also cool in Baseball Stars was the team called the
American Dreams. They were the best team by a mile and were all
named after some baseball greats. Lou, Babe and Joe were all players
on this team. One thing about the game that really bothered me is
when the view switched from the batters box to the field. All the
girls would turn into boys. At nine years old I wasn’t quite prepared
for a subliminal sex-change lesson.

You want to know the best thing about this game…it was not
a home run derby, hell you were lucky to park one out the mile long
centerfield. The game was a true to form baseball sim. No crap to
deal with, just you and your team in a league. You were able to
raise your player’s stats and help bring you team home some jack.
I am so disappointed in the lack of any good baseball games now.
It really is frustrating to get a new baseball game it be some homerun
derby or a game that is so out of control you cant do jack crap.
I tell you what I really want for a change, Baseball stars repackaged
with a MLBPA license. I guarantee that it will sell like hotcakes
and be a damn good game. I suggest
to the new game developers to
build upon the foundation of Baseball Stars. Everything about the
game was great, from batting to pitching to fielding. Long live
SNK and Baseball Stars!