December 2005

It looks like it has been confirmed by Satoru Iwata that the Revolution will be released for less than $299. We all assumed as much anyhow, so this really isn’t shocking news. Still, after Christmas, there’s little news even worth reporting, and given how much of a Nintendo fan that I am, it’s only appropriate that I spread this wealth of information to the masses.

I still think that the rumored $99 launch price is highly unlikely. My personal guess is $199, which is still a great deal for what the system will be capable of doing. Of course, they could charge $499.99 for it and I’d still buy it at launch. Don’t tell Nintendo that though. 😉

Source: [url=]Joystiq[/url]

Snowcone: Deadlocked

December 29, 2005

The Ratchet and Clank franchise is by far my favorite of the current generation. Dots was kind enough to pick up [i]Ratchet: Deadlocked[/i] for me for Christmas. Last night I opted to play it instead of [i]Burnout: Revenge[/i] and boy am I glad I did. The changes to the weapon mod aspect of the game still confuse me, but I am loving it. This should be an easy one to review since it is just that good.

[i]Final Fantasy IV Advance[/i], the latest in a series of remakes of the brick-and-mortar games in the classic series of JRPGs, provides an experience that scratches both the nostalgic and contemporary gaming itch. Originally released in the U.S. as [i]Final Fantasy II[/i] for the SNES, [i]FF IV[/i] has received some fantastic polish while maintainingA

In 1997, Tiger Woods won his first major championship, which happened to be the most prestigious championship in the golf world, The Masters. He began a stride of winning more championships by a wider spread than any other professional golfer the world has ever seen. Nine years later, and Tiger’s popularity has not yet begun to wane. He’s still playing in tournaments, still endorsing products, and the videogame series with his namesake is now in its fourth incarnation. But with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 on the Xbox 360, we’ve finally reached the next -eneration of console golfing simulation. Or have we?Obviously, the word of the day for games in a console’s launch line-up is graphics. A new generation means new shader techniques, improved polygon counts, anti-aliasing, and in this case, higher definition. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 looks great in 1080i, offering the best looking golf game around. But take away the expensive high definition TV set, and most gamers already experienced with the series will be significantly less impressed. The courses and environments have gone through a notable visual upgrade, offering great looking shadows and lighting on top of the already beautifully modeled courses, but the player models leave much to be desired. Most of them look like their Xbox or GameCube counterparts, with a slight texture upgrade. It’s no where near the kind of visual leaps we’ve seen in other sports franchises, such as NBA Live or Madden 06. Still, the visuals are improved, if not as breathtaking as we’d expect from a next generation game.

In golf, a “cut” refers to a shot where the ball moves from left to right during flight. In videogames, it refers to what EA has done with every game in their 360 lineup. Yes, Tiger Woods 06 was another victim of the feature loss in EA’s next-generation sports lineup. If you’ve played the game on the Xbox or PlayStation 2, you may have remembered the fourteen different and beautiful courses, tons of game modes, and intuitive controls. Well, in making the leap across the generational gap, the game lost the very things that made the series great. The fourteen courses were cut down to six, providing golfers with scenery from Pebble Beach, Riviera Country Club, TPC at Sawgrass, Turnberry, Pinehurst, and Carnoustie. Though these are excellent and challenging courses, it leaves much to be desired when compared to what is available in current-generation versions.

The game modes suffered the same fate, taking the various modes from the previous iterations and mashing them into one Career Mode. The idea of career is to take an amateur golfer and raise him through the ranks to become a major-winning PGA Tour Pro. The concept of Career Mode seems great, but it should have been offered alongside the other game modes, instead of replacing them entirely. Removing the option of going through the game the old way along with playing some mini-games along the way has removes a lot of the fun from the series. Another major problem with the Career Mode is the sheer repetitiveness of it. You’ll often end up playing the same courses over and over again, which, at the end of a 72-hole marathon, can exhaust any drive you may have previously had to keep playing the game.

Golf is a game of patience and attitude. Perhaps if EA had the right patience and attitude regarding Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 on the Xbox 360, it would have been the best golf game we’d seen to date. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a mere shadow of its current-generation brethren. Improved graphics are always great, but at the cost of features and fun, it just isn’t worth it. At ten dollars more than the PS2, GameCube and Xbox versions of Tiger Woods, there’s almost no reason to pick up Tiger Woods on the 360. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it managed to be overshadowed by itself.

Score: 70%

I do want to say from the beginning that [i]Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy[/i] (henceforth, known as [i]Sphinx[/i]) was not a bad game. It wasn’t a great game either, and I think that was the problem.

From a technical standpoint, [i]Sphinx[/i] was solid. Graphically, it was acceptable for a 3D platformer (again, not great, but not bad). The controls were good, and did exactly what the game needed to do. The story was adequate for a platforming title, but that’s about it. Sphinx is quite likely the king of mediocrity in the gaming world. Not great, and not bad.

As mentioned, I could only tolerate two hours or so of this game, and it’s not because it was bad. The problem, once again, is just that it’s not great. I’ve played some excellent platformers like [i]Sly Cooper[/i], [i]Ratchet and Clank[/i], [i]Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,[/i] and even [i]Mario Sunshine[/i] prior to this game. These games are excellent platforming titles, and having played them first was likely the primary reason I just couldn’t get into [i]Sphinx[/i].

The swordplay in the game could have been a bit more fluid. It was rather button-mashy, and after [i]Sands of Time[/i], having a swordfight with a little finesse is almost expected by me. Even if the swordplay was great though, enemies were few and far between, and for a while, you just throw rocks at them that you found on the ground.

Another problem the game had was with the voice acting. No, it wasn’t bad. It was non-existent. The characters’ lips moved with text on the screen, but that was it. All these other platformers (barring [i]Mario Sunshine[/i]) had some excellent voice acting that was very appropriate for the games. [i]Sphinx[/i] however was following the expression “It’s better to be silent and thought an idiot than to speak and remove all doubt.” The trouble is, I would have taken bad voice acting over nothing in this game.

I really wanted to like this game. It looked like it would be really fun. The puzzles were well thought out and required the use of your brain, but they were not frustrating. Overall the game could have been great, but it just feels like it wasn’t polished enough. Had it been a launch title this generation, it would have gone over much better. The trouble though is that there have been many far superior platforming titles on all the major consoles and Sphinx just couldn’t compete.

The only saving grace to [i]Sphinx[/i] was that I found it for $10 in the bargain bin. For $10, could I really go wrong? Well, yes, in retrospect, I think I did. Still, if you have never played any of the other great platformers of this generation, then perhaps the mediocrity of [i]Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy[/i] will not bother you. If you, however, have played [i]Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time[/i] or [i]Sly Cooper[/i], you will be severely disappointed in just how average this game is.

Most games I can force myself to suffer through to the end, but nothing was going to change even if I put ten hours into this game. There wasn’t going to magically be any voice acting. The swordplay wasn’t going to magically rival [i]Prince of Persia’s[/i], and the graphics weren’t going to magically be the best out there halfway through the game. This title truly is the king of mediocrity. It’s really not a bad game, but it’s not great either. After having been spoiled by greatness, mediocrity is now below me. I’m better than that.