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10:45 AM on 12.03.2008  

Windows 7 = 100% Recycled Vista

Microsoft is trying to put Vista behind them as quickly as possible. Or are they?

The Redmond, Washington-based megacorp just announced that the first beta for Windows 7 will begin on January 13, 2009. This would seem to indicate that soon V**** will be merely an unhappy memory, like Windows Me. But what is really under the hood of this “new” operating system?

According to the Computerworld blogosphere, not much. The current build runs as slowly as Vista - that is to say 40% slower than Windows XP. It is just as much as a resource hog, if not worse. Finally, 7 has a freshly muddled Graphical User Interface, as if you hadn’t just come to terms with the GUI-upending Vista. And don’t give the “it’s still a beta” story. From a kernel perspective, it’s not. What it is Vista Mk 2.

Bottom Line: absolutely dying for a new OS? Consider getting yourself a nice pretty Snow Leopard.   read


5:32 PM on 12.01.2008  

Oh Boy, More Sonic B.S.

Continuing their cavalcade of “We Don’t Care If You Like It, We’re Just Going To Put Out A New Game Every Month Instead of Doing What The Fans Want And Doing An Actual Retro Game”, Sonic Team has released new screenshots from the upcoming Wii game Sonic and the Black Knight. You can check those shots out over at Kotaku if you like, I’m not wasting space with them here.



In the last few years Sonic has gone to Pseudo-Arabia to make it with a human chick, spun off a gun-toting Shadow, searched deep into his RPG roots, and become a freakin’ werewolf - excuse me, werehog. In fact, he’s done everything but run around really damn fast for 4 hours and collect rings while freeing cute bunnies and saving Chaos Emeralds! For the love of Ceiling Cat and all that is HOLY, Team Sonic, make a damned SONIC game!


Thank you. That is all.   read


5:31 PM on 12.01.2008  

Weiner Review: Snoopy v. The Red Baron

If you’ve been waiting for the sequel to Crimson Skies, your wait may be over. Don’t be discouraged by the adorability of the title character - this is timeless dogfighting from an era long before Michael Vick.



Theme:

You are World War I flying ace Snoopy, and you are flying approximately 20 missions to defeat the evil Red Baron and defend freedom. Look for mostly well-done cameos from Snoopy’s owner Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally and more. Along the way you get to collect upgrades to your flyer, like the potato gun and the Woodstock missile. The game is mostly aerial combat with a just a little Sim Flyer in the mix.



Art:



Peanuts creator Charles Schulz would be pleased with the way his most popular character has been rendered on the PC, PS2 and PSP. The game looks a lot like the holiday specials we remember from childhood, only now in 3-D! It is bold, colorful and will make you smile.



Gameplay:



The game play is simple, but solid. Fly, barrel roll, strafe, and bomb to your heart’s content. Of the three systems, the PSP version seems to be the players’ choice for the most solid controls, and that’s saying something for Sony’s red-headed stepchild of a handheld.



The difficulty is mixed, though. Some missions are so simple that you’ll feel like this is a kiddie game, while others will have you tearing your hair out in frustration. It would be nice if the difficulty scaled over time, but after the first couple of missions if seems that annoyance can strike at any time.



Overall:



Snoopy v. The Red Baron is is a solid air combat game and the rare licensed game that doesn’t make me want to try and revoke the developers’ license. It’s a nice addition to a genre that has been pretty quiet of late, and it would be neat to see a longer, slightly smoother sequel, perhaps for PSN.



For being fun and nostalgic, if somewhat uneven, Snoopy v. The Red Baron gets 4 Weiners out of 5.   read


5:30 PM on 12.01.2008  

Worst RPGs Ever?

This week's Weinercast will discuss the Top 5 (or more) Worst Role Playing Games ever to disgrace a system of any sort (including PCs). I have my own opinions, but I'd like more input. What do you think? What are the worst RPGs evar, and why?   read


12:37 PM on 11.29.2008  

Weiner Review: Chrono Trigger DS

In the Year of Our Ceiling Cat Nineteen and Ninety-Five, Square released a little game called Chrono Trigger. The story is simple - young adventurers save the world - but with a twist - by porting through time. Due to its epic nature, branching storyline, and multiple endings, Chrono Trigger is widely considered to be one of the best RPGs of all time.


Wikipedia rightly describes the Chrono Trigger developers as the “dream team” - Hironobu Sakaguchi, Kazuhiko Aoki, Kazuhiko Aoki, and composer Nobuo Uematsu. Yuuji Horii and artist Akira Toriyama. Masato Kato wrote most of the plot, while composer Yasunori Mitsuda score with Uematsu finishing it when Mitsuda became ill.


Art:

The art is classic Horii and Toryiama - anime figures, large foreheads, and bright colors. The DS version includes the well-received anime cutscenes from the 2001 North American PlayStation release, now without load times! Unlike the recent Final Fantasy remakes, however, the art hasn’t been given a total 3-D makeover. Instead, the sprites have been polished up a bit and given more fluid animation, but the original distinctive art style is there.


Gameplay:


Like the original, Chrono Trigger DS uses an Active Time battle system, meaning that each character may only act when their timer is up. Different characters have different physical and magical attacks, including advanced physical attacks called “techs”. What Chrono Trigger added to the RPG genre was the concept of cooperative techs - combining up to three characters’ techs to create double or triple attacks. Notably, there is no apparent slowdown when using even the flashiest of techs.



The DS version has two play modes - “DS Mode” and “Classic Mode”. DS mode allows you to use both the touchscreen buttons for controls, and Classic mode is a play setup identical to the original SNES version. There are other features exclusive to each mode, such as a DS Mode option to toggle between ‘Walk’ and ‘Run’.



The DS version adds some new dungeons, including the Dimensional Vortex and Lost Sanctum. The first of these is only available when player’s complete the game, and leads to a new, fourteenth different ending. The second is another endgame dungeon for folks who love to grind their way up as high as they can.



Finally, the DS version offers an unneccessary arena system. Apparently believing that all JRPGs must have a Monster Hunter element to them, Squeenix makes this feature available the first time you save the game. When you enter the arena, you get the option of controlling a small malleable creature known as a Smidge. You can send your Smidge to any of the seven periods of time to train them, and then you can battle other trainers, er, players, via DS wireless.



Overall:

Useless arena aside, this is a very faithful translation of a beloved original. Like Dragon Quest IV, the source material still holds up over a decade later, and the DS developers respected that fact. As a result, like Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger on DS is an excellent game with everything you remember and nothing substantially screwed up by modernization.



For being an amazing RPG now available in pocket-size, Chrono Trigger DS gets 5 Weiners out of 5.   read


1:13 PM on 11.27.2008  

Thanksgiving Reflections

This originally appeared on PlayingWithMyWeiner.com, but I wanted to share it with more folks. So here go are:

By the time you are a fully-grown adult, with your own home and your own grown-up concerns, chances are you will have lost somebody. If you are “lucky” it is a “normal” loss in the passage of time - a grandmother has passed on or a dear friend has moved very far away. Alternatively, you may have lost a parent at a young age, or a near-age sibling unexpectedly. In any case, today is a holiday, and as you go about your grown-up preparations for your own take on whatever traditions you hold dear, you probably feel a sense of loss.



If you are like me, you probably try to push this sense out of your mind, concentrating instead on the turkey before you or the gaggle of friends who will be arriving any minute. But try as you might, the melancholy will seep in. For me it was as I whisked the Locatelli Romano cheese into the broth to create the base for my grandmother’s meatball soup. She was 84 when she died, two years ago, and had been “gone” a long time due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Her passing was sad, but natural, and I haven’t dwelled on it. Today, though, while making her soup, which she made every Thanksgiving in a pot that was as big as I was as a tot, I felt the urge to tell her that I was making it, or, alternatively, to call my grandfather (still living and healthy as ever, Praise Ceiling Cat) and tell him that his wife of 55 years was not forgotten.



I didn’t make that call, though. No, I did what most of us do when struck by such feelings and ideas - I kept doing what I was doing. The soup is simmering in the pot right now, and I’m writing this. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe I don’t want to get caught up in an hourlong conversation with my grandfather on a busy day. Maybe I don’t want to go down the emotional rabbit hole. Or maybe, and this is probably the real answer - it isn’t easy.



If my grandfather used e-mail, I’d probably shoot him a copy of this and his heart would be warmed. He doesn’t, though. Neither do plenty of your older relatives, I bet. And even though your friends and family that are geographically distant would enjoy a quick call, you aren’t inclined to dial and neither are they. That’s the real sadness right there.



We need to make those calls. You want to talk about giving thanks today? Give thanks to those who are still with us, even if they are old or distant. Not “for” them, but to them. I can’t tell my grandmother I’m making her soup in my own home just as she did in hers, but I can tell my grandfather. I can’t spend time with my uncle or my friends in Vegas today, but I can let them know I’d like to. Because the truth is that someday not a single one of those people will be alive to be called. And what would we rather remember, should we be the ones still here - the story Grandpop told about the time Grandmom put sugar instead of salt in the soup, or the extra 20 minutes worrying about the turkey (or writing the Chrono Trigger review I promised)?



Yeah, I need to make a call. Besides, my grandfather will probably be at my uncle’s house already, so I’ll just leave a voicemail message.



Happy Thanksgiving, Gwyddia fans.   read


10:11 AM on 11.26.2008  

Weinercast Wednesday



The Weinercast is go at
PlayingWithMyWeiner.com.

This week: News, Roguecraft, and Heroic Ajzol-Nerub.

As always, the Weinercast is available on iTunes.

Please leave us a review or a comment/question, and we'll address it on air next week!   read


1:40 PM on 11.20.2008  

The Weiner Will Be At VGExpo This Weekend!

If anyone is going to VGExpo in Philly, The Weiner will be there. Leave a comment or a tweet and maybe we can meet up.   read


12:18 PM on 11.18.2008  

Two Years Ago...

I slept outside of a Vegas Target for a Wii. I passed up the PS3 until they threatened to take away my
backwards compatibility. I can't believe it's been two years. What a fine half dozen games they have been.

Wii: Twilight Princess, Rayman, WarioWare, Wii Sports, Galaxy, Wii Fit, VC Games

PS3: MGS4, LBP, a damn fine Blu-Ray player

How about you? When, if ever, did you pick up these consoles? How much use have they seen, and on what?   read


11:38 AM on 11.16.2008  

Amazon Shipping Inconsistencies Continue



You’d think they’d learn. As we discussed recently around the Fallout 3 release, Amazon has recently started offering Release Date Shipping for some hot items. With one notable exception that we’ll get to in a moment, however, that special shipping does not apply to things you may have pre-ordered months ago. The upshot is that people who pre-order things two days before release are getting it on Day One, and you’re stuck holding no box, because it won’t arrive for two days.



The notable exception is World of Warcraft:Wrath of the Lich King. Amazon realized that they had about seventy gajillion pre-orders for this one and automatically upgraded everyone who pre-ordered the game or its Collector’s Edition to Release Date Shipping. Even though I had a regular copy on November 12 from another source, I can say that my CE did arrive on Thursday afternoon as promised.



I can’t say the same for Mirror’s Edge, which, despite being pre-ordered about five seconds after PAX, did not arrive until Thursday. (Note: it is a miracle we’ve had time to look at this one with Lich King out, but check out the Weiner review of Mirror’s Edge tomorrow.)



But wait, there’s more! Our pre-order of the Pixar Blu-Ray of WALL-E arrived about an hour ago. Yes, on Sunday. Two days before its November 18 release date.



What the heck is going on over there? It’s a big company, sure, but a little consistency goes a long way, especially as the holidays approach. Here’s hoping that Amazon gets this all ironed out well in advance of the new year.   read


9:17 AM on 11.11.2008  

Fallout 3 Weiner Review



There is a Fallout fever in my house. The Weiner Daddy is playing on 360, I’m playing on the PC using both keyboard and mouse and the Microsoft game controller. We’ve been playing since the game was released on October 28th, and neither of us is anywhere near completing the game. I will also note that neither of us have encountered any of the nasty bugs reported by Kotaku, but these are known issues, so your mileage could vary.

Theme:

Welcome to post-apocalyptia, children! The theme and setting are the same no matter which version you choose. Fallout is set in an alternate history universe full of retro-futuristic kitsch and bombed-hell. Imagine the American 1950s, only with 22nd century laser and gene-mapping technology. By the time you are on the scene, the bomb has long since dropped, and 200 years later, you are ready to crawl out of a hole, known as a Vault, and see what’s what in the ruins of Washington, DC. This is a HUGE area, and the sidequests alone can take you hours upon hours. Unlike Bethesda’s Oblivion, however, you can and will want to get back on track with the main quest eventually.

Art:

Think bleak. As befits the setting, the Fallout 3 world is full of brown, grey, and yellow. Unlike the repetitive trash-strewn levels of Hellgate: London, the world of Fallout 3 is huge and fairly varied. When Bethesda reuses something in their game, they are doing it on purpose. Think all those tract-home shells look alike? That’s the point. All of that suburban sameness makes it much more powerful the first time you see the ruins of the Washington Monument or the Capitol Building.

The character models are straight out of Oblivion, albeit with different clothes. The facial mapping and details are improved from Bethesda’s RPG, but the idea is the same, with the PC having the edge over the 360 in detail. Enemies vary, from mutated critters to raider gangs to super mutants. The critters are pretty much all the same, but the raiders and mutants are varied. If you look closely you can see the attention to detail, as most of the humanoids’ armor is actually pieced together bits of the trash strewn across the Capitol Wasteland.


Gameplay:

It is here that the PC and 360 versions diverge. Fallout 3 is not a shooter and it is not a full-on action RPG, but is something of a chimera of the two. After fighting with the mouse and keyboard for over 20 hours, it is clear that Fallout 3 was designed for a controller. Even the lowest mouse sensitivity option will swing your view way wide of the enemy in front of you. Lockpicking is nearly impossible to do without failing a few times, due to the twitchy nature of the PC controls. My experience was vastly improved when I used a gamepad on my PC.


Combat is its own strange bird. On the shooter side you have the option to take a first-person view and use your weapons as you see fit. On the ARPG side you have the V.A.T.S. system; action points-based pause-and-play combat. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t really play Fallout 3 entirely as a shooter or entirely in V.A.T.S. Most of the time you’ll use V.A.T.S., then try and duck and cover while your AP recharges to use it again. Why? Because the FPS perspective doesn’t work that well. The target reticule is small and inaccurate, and there is no lock-on. This is true in both the PC and 360 versions.


Searching for and picking up items must almost always be done in first person view. The “target boxes” for small items, such as stimpaks, is ridiculously tiny, and unless you’re nose-to-nose with them, you may not be able to highlight them to grab them. This is a little better on the 360 version, but the PC version suffers from too-fast mouse controls again.


Overall:

Don’t let the control issues dissuade you. Fallout 3 is a fantastic game. It is engaging, fun, and deep. You will care about your character. You will care about some NPCs and want to kill others. You will make irrevocable choices early on that will truly affect your game path and the game world. Evil is as viable a choice as good, and your experience will differ greatly depending on which path you take. You can get through the main quest in about 10 hours, yes, but if you do, you’re missing the point. I didn’t miss it at all, and I’m wondering how I’m going to balance playing more Fallout 3 with the release of Wrath of the LIch King on Thursday.


Also available on PlayingWithMyWeiner.com   read


1:30 PM on 11.09.2008  

Guitar Hero v. Copyright Law

Some snags this week for users of Guitar Hero World Tour's Creation mode.



User-created versions of existing, copyrighted songs are disappearing. This comes as no surprise, as Blactivizzion warned that content would be monitored for infringement. That being said, I think there is a significant legal argument to be made that what people are creating in World Tour is not copyright infringement per se.



A little law first, from the U.S. Copyright Office:

One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the Copyright Act (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” Although fair use was not mentioned in the previous copyright law, the doctrine has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years. This doctrine has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

1.) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2.) the nature of the copyrighted work;

3.) amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4.) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.


Making your own version of the Green Hills Zone available for free download in GHWT is not "commercial", at least for users. You don't expect to realize a dime on it. Blactivizzion, however, may.



Kotaku is reporting that the company is considering a fee-for-service model for user-created content. That sounds like foul play, as users were not warned about this possibility before buying the game. Why should we create content for the company to sell and not realize a dividend? And what, then, is the effect of the use of these tunes on the potential market for the copyrighted work? I would think it would encourage people to enjoy the original, whether that be playing Sonic or picking up a song on iTunes. These three "instrument" versions of songs are NOT the original. The nature is substantially different. No one is going to mistake your lyrics-free version of Bohemian Rhapsody with Queen's magnum opus. And no one who wants to sing along with Freddie is going to miss their chance to do so with the actual song.



The implications for your own creations of original material are different, and possibly worse. If Blactivizzion does what they are proposing, you will be creating new music and handling them the licensing fees. Moreover, it is unclear how this structure would affect your own copyrights in the future. All in all, this seems bad bad bad bad and bad. Fun, fairly used tunes are being taken out of play and it seems that they are to be replaced by play-for-play wholesale acquisition of your music. It's enough to make me want to stick to Rock Band.   read







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