March 2003

[floatleft][/floatleft]As one of the most anticipated games of the GameCube library I feel almost an honor to be the one to get to give my thoughts on the current generation Zelda game. The angle that I will take when reviewing this game is probably much different from what you might expect if you are to read any other reviews of The Wind Waker. The reason I say this is directly related to my experience with the Zelda series of games. If you have spent any amount of time reading our site then you know that I have a deep loathe for turn based RPGs and an absolute love for action RPGs. I would consider playing the original Zelda as my first experience into the foray of the RPG world. While I consider myself to be a fan of Zelda, my enjoyment never grew into an obsession. I never owned a Super NES and thus never played the A link to the past. I also was not very fond of the style of game used for Zelda 2 and thus I never experienced it. My N64 was bought purely for WCW vs NWO and Flying Dragon. You could say that I have been on a Zelda hiatus. I have been waiting for the game that would combine the style of gameplay and level of enjoyment that I felt with the original Zelda. I feel that the release of The Wind Waker ends this wait.

One of the more controversial aspects of The Wind Waker has been the graphical element of the game. There was a pretty even split of people that were very excited to see what Nintendo would do with cel shading and there was another camp of people that were very vocal about the fact that cel shading would somehow destroy the legacy of a game that began way back in many of our childhoods. I tried to maintain an open mind about cel shading and I did a fairly good job of not allowing either group of people sway my opinion in either direction. It should also be noted that this is my first experience with cel shading aside from playing the demo of JSRF and an hour or so of Dark Cloud 2, neither of which made me think twice about the use of cel shading. My thoughts on the graphics of the game are that Nintendo took a fairly unexposed technology and did some very amazing things with it. One of the most notable aspects of cel shading are the facial expressions that Link uses. The expressions convey more feeling and allow you to immerse yourself into the story. The lighting in the game is also superb. I toyed around w/ the camera and positioning it facing the sun in a myriad of different ways and I couldn’t find any flaws, clipping, or improper shading. This is not to say that it doesn’t exist, just that Nintendo made sure that it wouldn’t be common. Rest assured that Nintendo did a complete job on the graphics and you will be very impressed with just how good the game looks.

[floatright][/floatright]Being a fan of the original, it brought me great joy to hear some updated versions of the old school music. The music in the game never seemed to annoy me or actually cause me to take notice that it was there. It seems to perfectly complement the overall game experience without standing out in a bad way. The sound effects were right on and even just using the speakers on my TV I felt like they did a good job on giving you that A

[floatleft][/floatleft]While playing 007 Nightfire the only thing I can say about this game is that it is the most entertaining game I have ever played. Now what I mean by entertaining is that there are so many fun factors about this game that keep you on the edge of your seat. There are many games out today that are cool to play and are semi fun but this one really has so many different aspects in the mission mode that it’s just pure fun. Now because I am a FPS (first person shooter) fan this automatically makes my A-list, but oddly enough if this game was in a different category, I would still put it on my A-list as a fun game. Now before I begin to explain the different factors and aspects of this game, I will make it a point to not compare it to its predecessors N64’s Goldeneye and Playstation 2’s Agent Under Fire. Although we all enjoyed N64’s Goldeneye, lets give the next generation of Bond games a chance.

To begin, let’s talk about the game’s storyline and its gameplay. Of course it goes without saying you are an MI6 operative known as 007 James Bond. Phoenix International Corporation is helping the world in its destruction of nuclear warheads. Phoenix Int. Corp led by Raphael Drake, is known to have stolen some of the warheads and MI6 Intelligence has sent 007 to infiltrate Drake’s domain and gather intelligence. Along the way you meet many hot women spies, and encounter the obvious enemies that will try and stop you from your progress.

[floatright][/floatright]As 007, you are given an insane amount of Q gadgets to work with throughout the length of your missions. For example you are given thermal imaging glasses, a zippo that turns into a micro camera, a palm pilot that’s also a decryptor, a cell phone that’s a grapple, a shaver that’s a grenade, the keys to your car give an electric stunner, and your watch is a laser. Not only do you get crazy gadgets, but you get some really deadly weapons to help you out on the missions. Your arsenal consists of your standard golden PP7 and other pistols, your sub-machine guns, laser guns, sniper rifles, grenade and rocket launchers, sentinels, and a crossbow. As far as explosives go, you can choose, flash grenades, smoke grenades, frag grenades, satchel charges, remote mines, and laser trip bombs. All weapons have modifications during the missions as well as during multiplayer mode. Let me take you on a detour here for a second. The multiplayer mode is really fun to play. Since this game is not Live enabled, or link play enabled, Nightfire is only limited to four players. There are several games that you can choose from, i.e. CTF, deathmatch, etc. Customizable weapons, bots, and mods are given to you as an extra bonus as well. Now back to weapon mods. You can switch from fully automatic to burst, or grenade launcher to rapid fire. All weapons have their own characteristics that make the options to this game very unique. Needless to say anywhere you go throughout the game, you will be massively packing. And finally, you are given the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish to roll in during mission mode. This bad boy is filled with massive Q gadgets that do some real damage on the road and under water as well.

Since I have just mentioned the serious amount of weaponry you will be carrying throughout the missions, you are probably wondering how you are going to manage your equipment and use it effectively. Well don’t fret, Nightfire has nine different controller set-ups, and a special self customizable set-up if you don’t like any of the games default settings. The control management in this game is very easy, slick, and extremely helpful. I personally cannot stand inverted controls; therefore I use the Goldeneye set-up for my controller. I found it very helpful to have your mod buttons be the white and black buttons, while your D-pad is used for you Q-gadgets and switching weapons. Your B button is also used to cycle through your weapons a little faster during a shootout. You have your standard reload, jump and crouch buttons, while your left trigger is for aiming and your right trigger is for shooting. Your D-pad is also used for zooming in while using sniper rifles and the such. Overall I find the controls in this game to be very flexible and extremely simple.

[floatleft][/floatleft]Nightfire’s AI seems to flow very smoothly throughout, given the games simplicity. Although stealth is not a major factor to complete the missions, it still gives you some sense of challenge. During mission mode on certain levels, it won’t matter if you come out guns blazing and shooting up the entire population. Every mission has its objectives, and each objective is automatically carried out in order. Only when it’s necessary for a mission you can blow out lights and other small details that could aid in your mission. Headshots are very effective but any other shots to the body seem just as effective. Some of the dialogue is repeated when encountering the enemy, at the same time their movements seem to be very limited on some levels. The enemy characters seem to be running within an invisible box when tracking you down. The graphics in Nightfire don’t seem to play an intricate role as it seems to me that many of the characteristics from N64’s Goldeneye and Agent Under Fire are very present in Nightfire. Shadows are cut and straight edged, along with many of the buildings and structures that surround you. Colors and scenery in all levels are very appealing. Considering the amount of traveling you’re going to be doing, you will discover the amount of change in color and depth. Unfortunately, the details of the characters faces and bodies are very rigid, squared, and edgy. The games cinematics are pretty entertaining, but the graphics are no different than game play.

This is where things start getting a little hairy. I was not pleased with the amount of annoying music this game has. Some of the music that is in this game just does not fit the environment and the game play what so ever. Sound was not a major factor in Nightfire’s agenda, and personally I was not impressed by the game’s sound at all.

I believe Nightfire is one of the most entertaining Bond games that I have played since N64’s Goldeneye. I love FPS and I love Bond, so playing this game was a total enjoyment for me. Many of the different aspects of this game were totally mind blowing, which made things a lot more interesting. If you love Bond games I think you will really enjoy this game. I would suggest everyone give this game a chance, if you’re not interested in buying it then at least rent it.

[floatleft][/floatleft]It seems that baseball games have started to get worse and worse as times goes on. Back in the glory days of the NES it seemed like every game broke new ground. Personally I invested many hours of my youth into games like Baseball Stars, Baseball and Basewars. Then came the Genesis. Great baseball games were plentiful. Games like RBI Baseball ’94 and the first induction in the Triple Play Baseball series were my obsession during this time. To a lesser extent I enjoyed the Triple Play Baseball games on the PSOne. So then we enter the present. Both Triple Play games on the PS2 have been total crap. Instead of building on the foundation that EA had built with the PSOne series they half-assed their way through two games. The games were so bad that it eventually led to EA scrapping the series and starting over with MVP Baseball. The All Star Baseball series on PS2 had a lot of potential, but the downside outweighed the upside way too much. For the past few years I’ve been left without a baseball game that I considered adequate and it’s been a big frustration in my life. Sadly I’ll admit that this is the first time I have given any of the games in the High Heat series a chance. In the past I’ve never really been impressed with anything that 3DO has done. Finally Pickle got me to cave one day and give this game a chance.

The first thing I noticed about the graphics on High Heat was that they actually weren’t bad. That’s right a PS2 game with graphics that aren’t half bad! The player movements were pretty smooth and realistic; the batting stances looked pretty nice, players weren’t running through each other, all in all not too shabby. The areas I felt that lacked the most were the menus which were extremely hard to navigate and the end game victory celebration were it looked like the players played leap frog on the field from a blimp view; very bizarre. The lack of a more extravagant home run celebration was a little disappointing, but I can do without that. 3DO did such a good job with the graphics in this game that even the bean balls looked realistic. Afterwards the batter would get up and shake his fist at the pitcher; which immediately got me worked up into a frenzy hoping that he would charge the mound. Wouldn’t that be cool if they made a game where if you beaned a guy twice he would charge the mound? Damn that would be sweet.

[floatright][/floatright]Sometimes in a video game the phrase “Less is more” can be applied. The developers at 3DO really took this seriously when they programmed the sound for High Heat. The announcer’s commentary is actually pretty good, and they don’t go off on tangents like they used to in the Triple Play games. They keep it short and to the point, no complaints from me. Other than the announcers and some crowd chatter the game is pretty quiet. The music in this game is so off that I almost want to say it’s a glitch. Maybe one out of every ten batters that walk to the plate will get music played before their at bat, and it usually lasts about four seconds. On top of that, the menu music will mysteriously vanish for 20-30 minutes at a time. It’s not that the music is bad; it’s just never there. It leaves you scratching your head as to why they even put it in at all if it was going to be like that.

The control in High Heat Baseball is a bit simplistic. Instead of trying to line up a cursor with a pitch location indicator, like most baseball games have been doing lately, you just have to hit the button to swing and time it right. This works pretty well when you’re a video game baseball rookie and you just want to knock the crap out of the ball, but it gets frustrating in late inning clutch situations when you want to hit a sac fly or something like that, because you really have no idea where the ball is going. It’s also a bit difficult to pitch because you have no cursor either. You just have to hold down the directional pad and hope to god that the ball is going to go where you want it to, and not hang over the plate giving up a ninth inning, three run homer to Jim Edmonds sending the game into extra innings. That’s the other thing, the damn Cardinals in this game are the bane of my existence. For the life of me I can’t freaking beat them. The one time I actually had a lead on them they teed off on me in the ninth like I was throwing beach balls down the middle of the plate. But back to the topic at hand, even though the batting/pitching controls are a bit basic, they are still good enough to where you can get some enjoyment playing this game. The controls in the field are a bit more difficult to get the hang of. The buttons on the PS2 controller are arranged in a diamond pattern, and each button corresponds to the base you want to throw the ball to. If you want to hit the cut-off man you hit the R1 button. It gets a bit confusing sometimes and you’ll end up throwing the ball to the wrong base a lot in the beginning. On top of this, every runner in the base is as fast as a bullet, making it nearly impossible to turn a double play on the computer. Once again I reiterate that although the controls take a bit to master, it is well worth and you’ll be enjoying playing High Heat before you know it.

I made reference in the last paragraph to my on-going feud with the Cardinals. It’s that kind of challenge that makes this game fun. 3DO did an excellent job of adding realism into the game play. One time you’ll play and your pitcher will be off and you’ll have a 12-10 game. The next time you play you’ll win a 2-1 pitching duel. On the rookie mode the game turns into a home run derby, but so far the next level up has been perfect for me as far as challenge goes. Even if I get better I still have two more levels of difficultly on top of that. I really can’t say enough good things about the challenge on this game. I’ve had problems in the past where I get too good at a baseball game and it gets to be no fun anymore, but I don’t really see that happening with High Heat 2004.

[floatleft][/floatleft]High Heat 2004 is fun, really fun. The graphics are good, the controls are decent and the challenge level is perfect. Those three together are a good formula for a fun game of almost any genre. Those of you who follow the forums here know how Pickle and I have been begging and pleading for a quality franchise mode in a baseball game. I personally feel that building a franchise is one of the most fun parts of any sports game. I wasn’t quite expecting the depth that High Heat included in their franchise system. You have to manage your major league, AAA, AA and A rosters. On top of that you have to work within a budget that corresponds to what market your team is, manage injuries, draft rookies, negotiate with free agents. It really is a lot of work. Great job 3DO, but it really takes a die hard to have to patience to manage this one.

If you’re a fan of video game baseball I highly recommended making High Heat Baseball 2004 your next purchase. It is by far the best baseball game that I have played in a long while. Like I said earlier, the challenge and the franchise system are good enough to keep you coming back for more. This game defiantly has the replay value to make it a permanent part of you collection. Much props to 3DO for a job well done.

Since I got my Xbox pretty much every waking hour has been spent
playing Halo online. For those of you who don’t know, yes
you can play Halo online. Just go to GameSpy and download the arcade
software. I was surprised at how many people I met who played Halo
but had no knowledge of this. I am a capture the flag freak and
I usually don’t play anything other than that. My roommate
and two other guys from down the hall have been playing Halo with
me, almost religiously.

Once we started playing we learned very quickly that we’re
not very good. Quite frankly, we suck. Everyone on GameSpy for some
reason feels the need to tell us that we suck, as if you whipping
our ass didn’t clue us into this earlier. The worst part about
having all this shit talked towards us is that I know that it’s
just a bunch of twelve year old punks who don’t do anything
but sit around and play this game all the damn time. I swear to
god, next time I see a twelve year old I’m gonna kick his
ass just out of hatred for all you Halo shit talker’s.

After about eight straight hours playing on Saturday we were exhausted.
It was close to four in the morning and we had run into every spawn
camper, sniper bitch and rocket whore known to man that day. At
one point I got so frustrated that I threw a book at my desk and
broke one of the little legs off of my keyboard. After dropping
every explicative known to man on these little shits that kept kicking
our ass I was pretty much ready to give up.

It was at this point that my roommate, FemiNazi, came up with
the idea to just start messing with people. The original idea was
for us four to get into a capture the flag game and just go hide
from them in the mountains and never shoot at them for the entire
game and make the other team wonder what the hell was going on.
Unfortunately it was four am by this point and we couldn’t
find anyone playing CTF.

Just about when we were about to give up I found a game called

Soda Fizz is an idea that Pickle and I had a few months back. Regular visitors to the site know that I am easily annoyed and generally an irritable person. Something in the brain chemistry of dumb and annoying people in this world causes them to gravitate to a person such as myself. With that said you can imagine what a usual day in my life is like. So I’m starting this column as a way to vent some of my frustrations I encounter on a day-to-day basis. I’ll do my best to keep everything game related, but occasionally something will piss me off so much that I’ll have to share. Those of you who are visiting the site for the first time, I am usually not this disgruntled, but this is my forum to blow off steam. I hope everyone enjoys.

Late night trips to Wal-Mart are a Snackbar ritual. Cone and myself are two people infamous for never getting enough sleep and being up all night wasting time. Being awake and bored at 4 am usually calls for a trip to good ole Wal-Mart. I mean hell, where else can you buy a new video game, a DVD and underwear in the middle of the night? Unfortunately every other freak in the world has the same idea. The only thing more bizarre than the patrons of Wal-Mart at 4 am is the cashiers and stock-boys. Without fail some idiot always decides to try and strike up a conversation with the SB crew every time we go in there. Idiots! It’s 4 in the fucking morning and I’m looking at PC games, do I look like a person you would want to try and kick off a friendship with? Leave me the hell alone and go back to looking up Barbie’s skirt or whatever the hell it was you were doing in the girl’s toy aisle.

One night after several hours of getting our asses kicked while playing WarCraft III on Cone and I decided that we were never going to be any good at this game and it was time to head the Wal-Mart for a new one. To the Cone-mobile we go. Little did we know what awaited us at the store this particular evening.

When we first got there nothing seemed amiss. The cashiers all looked cracked out and pissed off. Several people in line were buying very strange items for this hour of the night, such as Windex. There was that family that thinks it’s a good idea to take their 5 year old and their 3 year old to the store at 4 am. Cone and I immediately passed all this and headed straight for electronics. Same overweight, shabbily dressed, toothless, white trash cashier was working in electronics. Nope, defiantly nothing out of the ordinary, typical late night Wal-Mart crowd.

We then proceeded to browse around some of the game display cases. We were having a pretty typical conversation that two friends would have when video game shopping; talking about games we’ve played, what we liked and didn’t like about them. We ended up stopped in front of the PS2 display case. I can’t even remember what game it was that Cone mentioned, but my immediate response was A