Thursday, January 28, 2010

New format: Weekly Comic Report

As you have probably noticed if you are an avid reader of this blog, the format for posts has changed since the New Year. As such, the old weekly "Buy Pile Report" is no more. Instead, I'll focus my attention on one or two topics which are of special interest each week in the "Weekly Comic Report." (I know, creative name).

There will always be spoilers, so be warned.

First and foremost, what a week this was to be a comic fan, eh? DC delivers several of the more important "Blackest Night" tie-ins plus a couple of big Superman-family books and Marvel gives us more "Necrosha" and the finale to "Captain America: Reborn."

Which leads us to our first topic: Was "Cap Rebirth" -- er... sorry -- "Cap Reborn" the most anticlimactic story in the history of comics? Probably not. After all, us comic geeks have a penchant for hyperbole.

But, oh, let me count the anticlimactic ways: 1) This story did not need to be an over-priced mini-series, it could have simply been the next story in "Captain America" proper, kicking off with issue #600 to make it special. 2) Wasn't "Lost in time" one of the first widely-spread Internet explanations for how Steve Rogers would come back to life? 3) The outcome was spoiled by COUNTLESS other Marvel books before even issue #5 of 6 was released, including the epilogue chapter "Who Will Wield the Shield?" 4) After 50 issues or so of brilliant plotting -- both by the Red Skull and writer Ed Brubaker -- Skull's master plan to inhabit Steve Rogers' body was undone because Skull didn't count on Rogers having the will to fight back?

And that last point is where I find the most disappointment, because we spent four issues hemming and hawing, one issue watching Skull take control of Rogers and then in the space of mere pages, all those issues of plotting and scheming are undone before the reader even gets a chance to be afraid of Skull. Thanks to all the plot spoilers in other books, we didn't even get a moment to wonder if Brubaker was planning on keeping Skull in control of Rogers for a couple of story arcs.

And that brings me back to my first point of anti-climax -- if this story were carefully plotted and slow-roasted like the rest of Brubaker's run, we might have gotten to read the incredible tale of Skull doing some real damage as Steve Rogers for a while. How fantastic a few story arcs like that would have been! And wouldn't Bucky's eventual victory feel all the more rewarding?

Instead, to get in line with all the rest of the happenings with "Siege" and such, "Cap: Reborn" felt like it could not rush us to the finish line fast enough. And really, that's my problem with most of what Marvel has done over the past five years or so, and why I have been reading so much less from the "House of Ideas."

Secondly -- and I won't take as long on this rant, I promise. There have been PLENTY of "Blackest Night" tie-ins (I know, I've been buying most of them). And, I'm sure many of you have gotten so sick of reading the same old stories of "Character A has to watch Character B come back to life and deal with those emotions!" to the point where you've turned off to any of the tie-ins at all.

Well, you should know this: 1) "Green Lantern" and "Green Lantern Corps." are almost always required reading. 2) This week's "Atom and Hawkman" tie-in is very worth your cash, so go buy it.

The Atom's story, which focuses on Ray Palmer much more than his feathered friend, serves as a vehicle to flesh out the powers of Indigo light and allow the reader to understand how it works. Granted, it doesn't give us that highly-desired Rosetta Stone for the Indigo Tribe's language, but the most mysterious of all the lantern powers is now pretty well defined.

'God of War III' dated for March 16

Dear readers,

If you own a PlayStation 3, you may want to schedule a sick day for March 16.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

iPad: Gaming device?

So, it's finally official. Apple's iPad.

Ignoring most of its capabilities for a moment (this is a gaming blog, after all), my question hinges on Apple's assertion that this could be an online gaming juggernaut.

Obviously, given the growing success of the iPhone in the gaming world, Apple has some credibility to make these claims. My own brain won't let that credibility mesh with logic, though.

Here's my knee-jerk take: The iPhone works as a handheld gaming device because of it's size. It's just as convenient as a Nintendo DS or Sony PSP, and the size allows the gamer to make use of the motion-sensing capabilities.

The iPad is just too big to be convenient as a portable gaming device. It's not big enough to be convenient as a mainstream gaming device, since the touchscreen surface cannot support both a touch keyboard and a big enough screen.

I don't know what kind of games can really be used on a device like this, since most of the games that work best on the iPhone would not gain anything by being larger. This strikes me as an instance when being in between two successful genres doesn't equate to being the best of both worlds.

Am I alone on this? I guess we'll all just have to wait to get our hands on it to make a final judgement.

No 'NBA Jam' news, afterall

My interview scheduled to happen today was canceled and cannot happen until Monday. I know, I'm as bummed as you are.

What I did find out is that the game will definitely be released in the fall as a physical disc, it won't be WiiWare. I asked about price and about the possibility of the currently-Wii-exclusive game making it to Xbox or PlayStation, but could not get an answer to either.

When I know more, I will pass it along.

Boom-Shakalaka (in a sad voice).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

News on new 'NBA Jam' on the way...

Big news, sports fans!

...Well, it could be big news. I don't really know for sure yet. What I do know for sure is that I will be speaking with a representative for EA Sports on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming Wii remake "NBA Jam."

Boom Shakalaka indeed.

I shouldn't have to tell you, "NBA Jam" is a game near and dear to my heart. Just recently I was playing "NBA Jam Tournament Edition" on my old Sega Genesis — and yes, I was on fire. Hopefully I find out some good info on Wednesday, including the answer to my biggest question: When can we expect to hear about the game for Xbox Live or PlayStation Network?

For now, you can visit the game's official Web site at THIS LINK and vote for which players you want to see in the game.

Razzle Dazzle!

'Mass Effect 2' Review

We have a review of "Mass Effect 2" up on the PoJo Web site (at THIS LINK), written by the Associated Press.

As you may have expected, the sequel was given a glowing recommendation.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Master Quest (Part 2)

Well, I've had a weekend to dig my teeth into "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Master Quest." What's the verdict, you ask?

Well, for any "Zelda" fan, this 2003 kinda-remake is a surprisingly rewarding experience. I recommend it, love it, and look forward to the day when our civil union will be recognized by the people of New York State. For anyone else, don't waste your time or money tracking this game down.

Here's the good: So far (I just turned adult and promptly won me a pretty Filly named Epona), the dungeons I've encountered are honest-to-goodness tougher and fresh, just as advertised. And, as advertised, the rest of the game is a spot-on recreation of the original "Ocarina of Time," no tougher, no easier.

The Deku Tree dungeon's layout is not changed too much, which initially left me worried I'd just spent $40 on a lemon of an experience. The main change here is an increased number of monsters, most of which take the form of the miniature Gohma pods.

But Dodongo's Cavern erased all of my fears, as the sequence of where you go in the level is completely altered, right from the beginning. In fact, if memory serves, the first place you have to go in the dungeon is to the walkways hanging overhead, a jarring and confusing change. The puzzles are not only tougher to figure out, but tougher to execute. Instead of simply needing to light every torch in a room to open a door (a classic "Zelda" cliche), this dungeon forces you to complete what I called a Torch Relay, in which you light a torch with your deku stick, but then have to put that stick away and light a new stick using the torch you just lit because the distance to reach the next torch you have to light is too great for one stick. On top of that, you'll have to fight monsters in-between torches.

Jabu-Jabu's belly is likewise turned on it's ear, but this time there is an even stranger twist: There are cows lodged in the walls which serve as switches. I could not make that up if I tried.

These new dungeon layouts also make it much harder to collect gold skultas. It seems the dungeons are filled with secret doors and ledges just out of reach of your current arsenal of weapons. And it also seems each time you encounter one of these rooms, there is that familiar skulta sound, letting you know you should remember to come back later in the game.

But, here's the bad: Despite the tougher dungeons, which are now tough enough to please any "Zelda" fan, the boss battles have not been made more difficult. The result is a slightly anti-climactic feeling for each dungeon, and a lack of any anticipation.

The main flaw, though? The GameCube controller. The familiar Z-Targeting is replaced by the "L" button, and while it may work very well for "Wind Waker" and "Twilight Princess," it just fails miserably here. Whereas "Ocarina of Time" boasted a fluid, natural camera and feel on the Nintendo 64, on the GameCube it almost feels like you are succeeding in spite of your limitations. Also, trying to play songs using the clunky GameCube C-button stick, or simply draw your side-weapons quickly, is sometimes difficult.

Still want to hear more? Well I plan on playing a little more tonight (after watching the Blazers/Hornets game, of course) so hopefully I'll have more to report soon.

P.S. Wasn't winning Epona difficult back in the day? I think Ingo has been getting rusty in the past decade.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Master Quest (Part 1)

My absence from this blog for a while was not without good reason. Following the restructuring of the PoJo and the restructuring of my job (which I explained a bit about when it happened), my schedule in all facets of life changed completely.

I'm not the same geek I once was... or, at least, I don't have the time to be the geek I once was. For instance, yesterday was my first chance to read the dozen or so new comics I purchased nine days ago. I still haven't picked up my buy pile for this Wednesday, believe it or not. And on the gaming side of things, I have a mile-high stack of recent games I still haven't had a chance to get to, like "Assassin's Creed II," "Shadow Complex," "Brutal Legend" and several others.

And all that makes it even stranger that the first video game I'm making time for in 2010 is almost a decade old. For the first time, I'm playing through the "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Master Quest," which was released as a GameCube disc as a promotional perk for pre-ordering "Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker."

If you haven't heard of it, the "Master Quest" is a recreation of the N64 Classic (same graphics and all, despite the GameCube platform), with the differences being each dungeon is now laid out differently and with tougher enemies.

How did it come to this, you ask? Well, it started on, where I read about Zelda Reorchestrated, where a loyal Zelda fan had just recreated all 82 songs (most of them very short jingles) and uploaded them all for free download.

As is the case with most video game music, the sounds make you remember all you loved about the game, and, with the good games, makes you want to go back and experience it all again.

I knew I had the urge to play "Ocarina of Time," again, for the first time in at least eight years, which is when it hit me:

I had always wanted to play the "Master Quest," but with so many other bright, shiny new games out there all the time, it was always hard for me to justify paying new-game prices to get a game I've already played through (the original version) several times. For a while, the best place to find the "Master Quest" disc was at GameStop used, and their prices generally ranged between $60-75, depending on which state you are in.

Last week, found a copy on ebay from a seemingly reliable seller for $40 after shipping. Knowing it would be tough to find a better price right now, and the game will only become more rare as the years roll on, I took the plunge.

I've carved out a little time in the schedule to play over the next two days, so check back real soon and I'll give you the very tardy inside scoop on whether or not the "Master Quest" is worth putting in the time and effort to give it a try.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

IGN uncovers the truth about Final Fantasy and Jersey Shore

Spotted this a couple of days ago and busted my sides laughing. If you've played plenty of Final Fantasy and have been subjected to the trash which is known as "Jersey Shore," then you must read THIS LINK.

Welcome to 2010

What? I'm only 19 days late! And it's ONLY been two months since my last post.

What do you mean you thought I died?!? That's a horrible thing to say!

Now that all that unpleasantness is over, get ready to start experiencing Gaming Geek Version 2.0. Or, as I'm calling it, Gaming Geek Vista.

No, wait ...