September 2004 Archives
You can expect a game to be good, but sometimes you're taken aback by just how good. Katamari Damacy is such a game.
I'm glad I preordered it. My local EB scored exactly two copies. I bought one and the sales clerk bought the other one. I find it highly unlikely that I'll see many of these warming the racks.
Seeing games like this reminds me that video games are not a dying medium, that they're not stagnating like many suggest, and that there will always be those who take the effort to come up with something really different. And given generous publishers like Namco, some of them will actually reach the US market.
This weekend was another tedious motorcycle-related tourist event in York, so Rhon and I skedaddled down to see Mike and Noelle's new place... and Katamari Damacy was along for the trip. We all played it quite a bit. Multiplayer mode is weak (I'm sure I'll hit that in my inevitable review) but this is one of those times when watching somebody else play a 20 minute level is perfectly acceptable entertainment. Even the soundtrack is awesome. I've already ordered it from play-asia.com.
This game should be in your PS2 collection. Good luck finding it.
With the Snorlax blocking the way and the route into Saffron City closed (which is something the Kanto Transportation Authority really ought to look into) there's still a lot of walking to be done. Today's diary entry is going to cover the most maudlin area in a Pokemon game before or since: Lavender Town.
Lavender Town covers a topic rarely broached in modern poke-literature, the deaths of pokemon. Apparently pokemon can die, and this is where they go when they do. Or, at least, this is where we bury them. Lavender Tower is a multi-storied building packed with gravestones and mourning trainers. I'm not sure what can kill a pokemon, other than the town's gossip about Team Rocket. Old age? Advanced Pokerus?
The Tower is currently reset by evil spirits and a squad of psychic channellers are in there trying to Ghostbust the place. It's not working. I had to battle all the channellers instead, while avoiding random attacks by unnamed ghosts. However, it was easy. My Meowth's Bite attack is super-effective against all the Gastlys and Haunters fielded by the trainers, and my Raticate's Run Away ability guaranteed that I would not get caught offguard by the "ghosts." I'll have to come back to clean out the tower, since you need the Silph Scope to battle the spirits, and those come from Saffron if I recall correctly. I also ran into Liquid again.
I can't stop loving my Meowth. Pay Day is making me rich, and Pickup is amazing. I had Lavender's Name Rater change his name to Katamari. I have cancelled his evolution several times because becoming a Persian erases his Pickup ability.
The other exciting news is I stopped by for yesterday's Trade and Battle Day at my local Toys R Us. Which was only barely being operated. Although Nintendo's email promised free stuff and game demos and the titular trading and battling, there was nothing on display, no special table, no banners, and no demo monkey. We figured it was another example of the local franchise just not having the staff to support these nationally-based special events, but then Rhonda noticed a fellow patron clutching a Pokemon poster. Turns out you had to go to the customer service desk and make an ass of yourself begging to see the free Pokemon stuff.
So I did. The counter woman, harried and missing someone in electronics, called over her shoulder to someone else "They want to demo the Pokemon game." Then "Red or Green" to me. Uh, Red?
OK, so this is sort of what was promised. I feigned interest and fired up FireRed. The game's PC has about 10 boxes filled with one type each. Like, a box of Ekans, a box of Slowpokes, a box of Haunters. Nothing I would classify as awesome, like the unattainable starters or a Moltres or even a damn Kingdra (which I would immediately transfer over to Sapphire.) Of course I had my SP with me, so I had Rhon pretend to play while I turned my LeafGreen on and hooked up the link cable. Stupidly, Toys R Us had no mention of the wireless adapter, which is probably one of the big reasons Nintendo tried to orchestrate these little events: show off the new tech.
With Rhon manning the demo copy, we traded over a Haunter, Machoke and Shellder to my game. I gave up some extra lowlies... a Zubat, Meowth and Geodude. Bye, guys! Naturally, the Haunter and Machoke evolved on transit, so my pokedex got a +5 boost after all was done and powered down. I'm sure the counter women weren't impressed, but I'm happy to have a Gengar.
After handing over the demo unit, we got a free poster, promo card (the same Beldums they were handing out at Origins), and a coupon for $5 off $20 of Pokemon merchandise. Done.
Pokedex: 33 (Seen: 70)
Party: Geodude lv20, Gengar lv26, Katamari (Meowth) lv29, Wartortle lv25, Mankey lv25, Raticate lv26
Nintendo is now completely serious about the DS. It's set to launch November 21 for $150, with IM software PictoChat built-in and (maybe) bundled with a Metroid game. Head here for details. Great price: although Sony's PSP price is still pure conjecture, this could be undercutting it by as much as $100... which will rock sales, especially in the kid-friendly portable market.
Now where's the launch games list? That's what will make or break it, in these days where every business move is watched by a thousand magazines, a million websites, and a billion fanboys. Nobody can pull off a weak launch like the N64 ever again.
I haven't seen much said about the DS's wireless setup, other than vague promises that you can have it search for games over your pre-existing wireless network. If that turns out solid, Nintendo will have back-doored their way right into the online world... and with a portable, no less. Hotwiring PictoChat directly into the system was absolutely necessary. Hopefully this means we'll be able to use PictoChat as a kind of lobby service, accessible from any game. Although given Nintendo's prior fear (excuse) of not being able to provide watchdogged online content for kids, embracing PictoChat means that assholes can not only swear at buddies, but also draw cocks and swastikas at buddies. Maybe it will come with cock-blocking filters.
I have no doubt that if this thing wins big, we'll see the end of the Game Boy line. Nintendo's "third pillar" marketing angle is simply to hedge their bets, plus keep people from abandoning the GBA SP too early. It's genius, actually. If it sells, the GBA quietly retires. If it tanks, the DS goes on the pile with the eReader and the Virtual Boy and everyone moves on.
Except for those of us with online / portable Animal Crossing, who will play it for years without pause.
Not to be forgotten, Sony announced the PStwo, a revised PS2 hardware model than we all should have seen coming. Built-in ethernet is great, but I don't like the slimmer design. They just made it flatter (and slightly less wide.) What they should have done is stack the components to give it a smaller footprint. Making it less tall doesn't really save anybody any space in their entertainment center. Although I guess you could now stack it on top of something else if that doesn't bother you. Like your Xbox.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has absolutely nothing to say, but they couldn't allow a press release war to go on unattended, so they announced that Xbox2 chip production is right on schedule (scroll down to find my comments). This is, of course, a fucking joke of non-news, but it's better than reminding current Xbox owners that v2.0 won't have a hard drive.
Between Gyms 2 and 3, the world starts opening up for you and the path becomes less linear. Now is when you can begin getting lost... which makes the startup flashback feature all the more helpful.
I boarded the S.S. Anne, docked at Vermilion's port. This venerable cruise ship is little more than a floating battleground, so I got plenty of fights in. Happily, the second room from the right on the ship's first floor lets you heal back up, so you're not stranded with an ailing party. The ship's seasick captain - don't look in his trash can! - hands over the CUT HM, which is really the main purpose for shoving aboard.
Liquid - who is perpetually one step ahead of me - challenged me to a fight on the Anne. His Bulbasaur still hasn't evolved up to an Ivysaur; he seems to be concentrating on his Pidgeotto. The fight was brief, and Liquid soon sauntered off to the tune of his personal theme music.
Armed now with the CUT move, I went back to clear out some CUTtable trees I had to pass before. Went through Diglett's Cave, found the blocked road with the sleeping Snorlax, and took down the third Gym Leader, Lt. Surge. And I went back through Mt. Moon to fight all the guys I avoided on the first pass.
Since when did Surge become the "lightning American"? The guy is a total cheeseball, but his third (and final) fighter - a Raichu - smacked me down a couple times. Surge leads with a Voltorb that I handily Mankeyed. Then a poor Pikachu that my Mankey can KO with one Karate Chop. Then that Raichu, who paralyzes opponents into submission. I hate status attacks.
I've changed my opinion on the Vs. Seeker. It looks like there are a lot more trainers to re-battle in LeafGreen then there was in Sapphire. So if you are near a bunch of available trainers, odds are the Vs. Seeker will snag one or two of them for an immediate battle. Sapphire's list of eager trainers changed over time, plus you had the inconvenience of finding them again. With the Vs. Seeker, you just have to use it where you stand.
However, I don't like LeafGreen's inventory organizating system. Instead of listing the TM holder and Berry Pouch at the root level, these items are buried inside the Key Items section of the bag. So you have to drill through extra lists to get down to them. It would be easier if they stayed at the top level of the bag. I'd also like a top level gadget list, so the Vs. Seeker and Fame Checker and stuff were easier to use. And speaking of that, it's high time Pokemon added more hotkeys for items. Right now, we're still stuck with a single hotkey (Select) even though there are tens of items that would be more usefully accessed on a single click.
Pokedex: 26 (Seen: 59)
Party: Meowth lv24, Wartortle lv25, Mankey lv24, Beedrill lv19, Pidgeotto lv23, Raticate lv21
This sort of thing is less impressive in the modern world of online game stats-tracking, but fun nonetheless. When you finish Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, you get an alphanumeric clear code... which ranks your accomplishment worldwide when entered into Konami's Twin Snakes website. (That link is for the english version of the website, which is oddly translated. One page says "METAL GEAR SOLID: THE TWIN SNAKES has finally been released, and we believe many people have played it.") So here's what my clear code indicates:
I'm sure that's not very good at all. All those "max" counts annoy me since I don't know what the max might be. The code doesn't seem to track your collected Dog Tags, which pretty much ought to be the first damn thing listed. I would judge the mark of a great MGS player by a low Alert Mode stat. I am clearly not that great an MGS player. That's one Alert every 12 minutes.
I went through Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty several times, and would like to go through Twin Snakes again, especially since Twin Snakes seemed to short in comparison. But with the run-up to holiday shopping sending new games into my home vitually every week, it's unlikely I'll circle around to it again in the near future.
Although I wasn't planning on it, I bought Sly Cooper 2 this weekend and started it tonight... which means Sly 2 has totally lapped two other games purchased earlier that still have never been booted (Pikmin 2 and ESPN NHL 2K5.) Sly 2 is in addition to Burnout 3 and Pokemon LeafGreen. I was planning on starting Pikmin 2 next, but the notice of a "USB headset" on the back of the Sly package intrigued me. It's not mentioned in the manual (?), but if you plug in your USB headset, you'll receive most of mission operative Bentley's audio in your headset instead of your speakers. I love that! I just wish I could talk back to him.
Next week: Katamari Damacy, which I already ordered from EB. This little game ($20) is so niche and so bizarre that there is no way anyone is going to have it in shelf stock around here, so I went ahead and formally requested it. You may have heard of it, it's the PS2 game where you're an alien and you push around a ball of trash that gets gradually larger. See. And that's why I choose console games over PC games.
There's a new Hiptop coming out. New design, different features, better camera, same flippy screen dealie. Still provided only by T-Mobile. I've been kinda on the fence about getting it, since the damn things are expensive ($300 retail) and I've pretty much burned through my fascination with the gadget. My Hiptop has been entirely utilitarian for months: AIM monitoring, quick eBay checks, killing time in waiting rooms, website updates on the road. And the odd phone call. I even stopped carrying around the plug-in camera.
That said, I couldn't live without it. It's too great to have all that functionality immediately available. And I have been using the same black-and-white model that I bought in October '02. I know it's trendy to order replacements because they're chincy and break a lot. I know it's cool to create forum avatars that illustrate the amount of broken Hiptops owned like Japanese flags on the side of an F6F Hellcat. But my Day One model has been a perfect little soldier for almost two years now. So suck it.
Monday I get an email. T-Mobile is proud to announce a limited time offer for loyal Hiptop owners: call this number and trade in your old Hiptop on a new model for only $200. They promise to ship it within a week, which means you get it before it's available in stores. Cool. Offer available while supplies last or until 9/24.
That night I do something I stopped doing years ago: I hit the Hiptop.com forums. I'm not trying to name names here, but the Hiptop forums stopped being useful a long time ago. Somehow, T-Mobile managed to market the Hiptop to the Disaffected Moron Youth population, and they hijacked the message boards like crazy... with incomprehensible messages, your usual internet non-spelling, and incessant requests for IM friends. But I ventured back inside to see the buzz on this offer.
It's legit... but it's trouble. Most folks can't get through. It's rumored that T-Mobile has only 10 operators running it, and they're swamped from sunrise to sunset. People are pissed.
Tuesday I get an email. Thanks for your patience, the response has been unexpected. Please keep trying. I figure I'll wait out the rush and try after a few days. Back to the boards. Some folks are getting in, some orders have been screwed up (Some people placed their trade-in order, and instead received a refurb model of the current Hiptop! Some people are being charged an additional $70 for trading in the old one!) People are still pissed.
Wednesday I get an email. The offer is closed. We're out of Hiptop2s. We will re-open the offer soon. People are really pissed.
That's shitty. The entire supply was blown out in under three days. One thing that's great about the forums is that people will post verbatim conversations with T-Mobile customer service monkeys - filled to the brim with stupidity - and then the few "official" forum mods have to scurry to explain how the monkey screwed up. (Like the classic instances mentioned above: sending out a Hiptop1.5 instead of a Hiptop2, or the extra $70 charge.) I have to agree; those idiots fucked over my T-Mobile service too. When I added a phone for Rhonda and switched over to one of their family plans, they immediately disconnected my Hiptop. And whenever I would visit the T-Mobile store looking for Hiptop accessories, they would never know what I was talking about. Customer care just isn't a priority, because delivering informational memos to a million seasonally-employed high school kids is too large a task.
BUT. Friday I get an email. The offer is back on, and now it's web based. I immediately hit the website, but how's this for lacking confidence: Now you give them your name and phone number, and they promise to call you to finish the deal. Oh, sure. The same company who f-ed up everybody's Monday Hiptop2 order because the system was down and they had to write everything down on paper... yeah, they're going to call my ass back and set up my upgrade order.
T-Mobile sucks. They've got the best goddamn phone gadget out there, but they suck.
So I will wait and see what happens. If it does work and I get a Hiptop2 for $200, that will be phenomenal. If it doesn't, I doubt I'll rush out for a $300 retail edition. There will be an inevitable sale or promo anyway. For crying out loud, for months you could get a Hiptop for free through a New User service plan and a couple combined Amazon.com rebates.
In a vain attempt to post something not related to Pokemon, here's some newish websites for you to visit:
LazyTown: This is a Finnish kids' show re-done for Nick Jr. starring a neo-Power Ranger athlete ("Sportacus") who must spend his days teaching the hideous puppet populace of LazyTown how to not be slugs. As usual, boring parents everywhere are turning against it, just as they did against Barney and Teletubbies and everything else that young kids glom onto. After reading a blog mention of the show, I made sure to check it out today on Nick... and it's not all that great, actually. But Sportacus himself is undeniably awesome, and he deserves recognition if only for spending his workdays leaping and backflipping in front of a greenwall. At the least, you have to watch the preview video, which does a better job of presenting the concept's crazy verve than the actual half-hour show does.
johnkerryisadouchebagbutimvotingforhimanyway.com: I couldn't have said it better myself. John Kerry is a douchebag, and yet I shall vote for him. This site presents one person's take on the current US war de politic. And it rather neatly covers my view: all politicians are lying, dirty scumbags and the only thing we can do as voters is punish the ones that do wrong and take a chance on the next guy. Unless we're voting for Sportacus. Sportacus is awesome.
Skeptic's Annotated Bible: Be honest; you have never read the Bible. No one has. 99% of all Christians flip through it, give up, and go buy a little inspirational quote calendar instead. If you did read it, you'd uncover all sorts of disgusting passages, utter nonsense, and obvious contradictions. This site lays them all bare, and should be required reading for anyone heading into a Bible-based argument against one of those stupid Fundies.
I kinda duck-and-covered my way through Mt. Moon. Things were getting hairy for my tiny crew, so I avoided a lot of battles. (Except the Team Rocket intro and the fight for the Helix Fossil.) Unfortunately, that meant losing out on some experience points... which made a difference when I got to Cerulean City.
I trapped myself for a couple hours. You see, the path from Mt. Moon to Cerulean is one-way and (initially) the only exit paths are blocked. The southern route is blocked by a CUT tree (don't have CUT yet.) The east path requires the cops to step aside from blocking the house that Team Rocket robbed. Stepping on the northern path triggers a fight with Liquid. Then there's Cerulean's Gym Leader, Misty, blocking the town's major plot point: the Cascade Badge.
So I had effectively cornered myself with a weak team, surrounded by blocked paths and difficult fights. Luckily, there is one patch of tall grass just outside city limits, so I burned some time out there training up my party. Also picked up a Mankey, a silly beast who I remember fondly from his primal screaming back in Pokemon Snap.
Trained up to my satisfaction, I took down Misty and Liquid in short order, then travelled north up the Nugget Bridge gauntlet to visit Bill's House. Turned down an offer to join Team Rocket... which would be a cool idea for an alternate-angle future game: joining Team Rocket. Saved Bill from his teleportation accident (where did the Clefable go?); I guess that was the scripted event that allowed the police to move away from the Rocket-ransacked house.
Now I could take the long walk to Vermilion City, passing the awkwardly-placed Day Care Center along the way. I left my NidoranF with the owner there... hey, shouldn't we able to breed pokemon at this Center? Weak.
Now begins the item parade: received the Old Rod, the Bike Voucher and the Vs. Seeker from various generous folks in Vermilion. Caught a Magikarp with the Old Rod. Ran back to the Cerulean Bike Shop for the free bike (they're $1,000,000 otherwise.) The Vs. Seeker is an different take on Sapphire's Trainer Eyes. Activate it and it shows you what trainers in the area are willing to battle you. Since you have to be standing near people for the Vs. Seeker to ID them, the Trainer Eyes (which listed every willing fighter and their locale across the continent) strikes me as quite a bit more useful.
Caught a Meowth near the Day Care Center... if I remember correctly, you couldn't catch Meowths in Yellow since that game followed the cartoon's storyline a little more than the other games, and Meowth is pretty much a Team Rocket thing (except that episode with all the city Meowths and the explanation of how the TR Meowth taught himself to talk.) The first Meowth I caught was holding a Nugget, which you can sell for $5000. That is awesome. I went back for some more, but no such luck. However, it's fun to start your battles with a Meowth, because the little bastard will usually steal something from whoever he's facing... so far, he's lifted a couple of berries for me. Which I gather is a cool thing, since LeafGreen doesn't have the whole Berry Planting deal that Sapphire had.
Party: Rattata lv16, Wartortle lv22, Meowth lv14, Pidgeotto lv20, Mankey lv20, Ch'Ding (Farfetch'd) lv8
I have to wonder why Nintendo didn't keep the cool clock feature from Gold/Silver in the Advance generation of poke-games. It made those games all the more compelling to know that you could only enter the Bug Catching Contest on Saturdays, or that you have to be at a certain place during the morning, or whatever. The real-life clock really elevated Gold/Silver, and it is keenly missed in Ruby/Sapphire and FireRed/LeafGreen.
Speaking of bug catching, are there any sadder trainers in Kanto than the Bug Catcher boys? They insist on fielding Kakunas and/or Metapods that have no aggressive attacks, only defensive ones. It's an easy way to level up some lowly lv3 pokemon: against a lv9 Metapod that refuses to do damage to you. I suppose the Bug Catchers are placed here in the beginning of the game for just that purpose: painless experience-farming.
I've already evolved up both a Beedrill and a Butterfree, but I doubt I'll hold on to both for long. Two bug-types seems a bit much. I'm trying to actively pursue pokemon I tended to avoid back in Pokemon Yellow, so the Beedrill might win out. These bug types are all about short-term gratification since they evolve so quickly. What fun is it when they reach their highest stage at level 10? There's nothing left to look forward to but fresh attacks. You can see why Ash himself had no trouble releasing his Butterfree to the wild back in the first season.
For every bit of script that I recall exactly from the original game, there's something I have wholly forgotten, like the Museum in Pewter City. I paid my $50 to get in, but I don't remember what eventually happens there. I'm sure the plot points will reveal themselves in time. I love the spooky reconstructed skeletons of prehistoric pokemon Aerodactyl and Kabutops, though.
Brock, Brock, Brock. Pewter City must not have much of a legacy in pokemon training if the best you can swing is a lv14 Onix. My Squirtle's Bubble attack pretty much rocked the Pewter Gym single handedly.
I did not find any Pikachu in Viridian Forest (maybe later), but I did catch a Jigglypuff down in the grass below the entrance to Mt. Moon. And that's where I am now; it's bigger than I remember it, with cute little water puddles and sand patches. And tons of Zubat, which is irrelevant because you could find those in Sapphire so I could always trade one over for 'dex completion.
Party: Rattata lv11, Butterfree lv10, Squirtle lv14, Beedrill lv11, Pidgey lv14, NidoranF lv7
My Pokemon LeafGreen adventure begins now, and this online diary will track my progress from neophyte to master.
Since LeafGreen (and its counterpart FireRed) are remakes of original Pokemon classics Blue and Red, it's back to the continent of Kanto, Professor Oak, and the original eight Gym Leaders. I named my character JoeLG, which was intended to stand for LeafGreen but now looks like JoeLarge. Bleah. How about JoeLegend? Yeah, let's go with that.
Since Oak can never recall the name of his own nephew - destined to be my greatest rival - I named him Liquid. I just finished Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, so the allusion amused me.
As expected, Liquid is a complete prick and wanted to battle as soon as Oak gifted us our starting pokemon. I chose Squirtle; he picked Bulbasaur. I won. Then it was off to wander through a couple of in-game tutorials about catching and status effects and such. Now I'm in Viridian Forest, which if I recall correctly, was just the place to catch native Pikachu.
First impressions: the cartridge is a very healthy glowing green color. The graphics are much the same as they looked in Ruby and Sapphire, with a couple effect tweaks... like a cooler Pokedex, and fullscreen splash screens upon entering a new area. One feature I really like is the flashback recap that occurs every time you load a saved game. You get a brief visual rundown of your latest accomplishments, which will be great if you pick the game up after an extended period of not-playing and have forgotten what you have to do next. The flashbacks are all black & white, and they even animate your actual actions, so it's just like watching yourself on a convenience store monitor. And yes, they're skippable, o impatient one.
My name is JoeLG from Pallet Town, and I will be the greatest pokemon trainer Kanto has ever seen.
Party: Squirtle lv8, Rattata lv3, Caterpie lv4
Part of what makes games like Magic exciting is the continuous influx of brand new cards. Right from the start, I wanted to do something like this for TaleSpin in the form of small expansion sets. Originally, I had drawn up plans for a Thembrian-themed set and a Pirate-themed set... but it seemed cruel to make players wait for Sky Pirate cards, so most of that imaginary expansion went into the current "base" set.
With TaleSpin being a single deck card game, there comes a point where you can have too many cards. Especially when they're sleeved, which almost doubles each card's thickness. Shuffling can be a bitch. So I have settled (probably) on two separate expansions, approximately 20 cards each. That will bring the final deck size up to around 140, which is plenty. (Although I'm considering adding variant rules that would split the deck into two decks for a 2-player Baloo vs. Karnage game. That will require some investigation into balancing two halves of the main game deck.)
The first of these expansions - aptly titled Expansion #1 - is online now, along with a revised rulebook that evens out some rough spots.
Expansion #1 contains the fully-realized Artifact card type, which is now sort of a specialized Cargo card. Playing Artifacts isn't exactly elegant under the new rules, but it works well enough. There's two ways to play them: you can play them directly to a cargo hold by replacing an existing open cargo card. The idea being that the Artifact was what was inside the box. The second way is to play them as normal, facedown cargo and wait for someone to open them... thus exposing what was hidden inside. In both cases, the Artifacts apply permanent effects to whoever controls them. There are good Artifacts and there are bad Artifacts. All five of them are rather powerful.
The balance between red and blue characters is now equal with the Expansion (unless you're playing with less than 4 players and have shuffled in the Passenger versions of the main 4 Player characters), so things are a bit more fair there in terms of red vs. blue. The blue "good guys" get a rough new Pilot named Joe McGee, who has a Damage, a Reward of opening 1 cargo, and uses your Player's Pilot stat as his... he could add up to one mean dogfighter. (If you know the episode Joe is from, he is a famed pilot instructor, so having him share your Pilot stat is thematically appropriate!)
As promised, the Thembrians have arrived: Spigot, Dunder and one of my favorites, the Firing Squad. Loyal Dunder's stats get bigger if Spiggy is around, and the Firing Squad move any Passenger to last position, putting them under crosshairs, as it were!
And there's now a Group Passenger that doesn't suck: Khan's Board of Directors. The Board lets you re-roll any die roll, and they have +2 Shipping. These guys hit the table quite a bit.
So that's a taste of the new cards, but what did I have to change in the game's overall rules? Well, I believe they call these "patch rules" in the biz, and that's usually not something to be proud of. It tends to indicate something majorly wrong with the game design, and a quickie patch rule must be fashioned to shore up the leak. My big patch has to do with the number of cards in hand. All players still draw up to 5 at the start of their turn, but now they can't have more than 10 cards in hand, and all players must discard down to 7 at the end of EVERY turn.
What we learned is that unchecked hand growth created unstoppable players. And since card-drawing is most often associated with the better skilled Pilots, a player with a high Pilot stat was almost impossible to stop. The 10-card hand limit severely weakens the game's big dogfighters. Yeah, it's an ugly patch... but my playtesters have incorporated it perfectly so I'm not ashamed. Of course, now I think I'm sensing a new problem: the tide has turned towards the game's big shippers...
Several cards from the original set were tweaked or changed. Claws for Alarm is now playable and much cooler. Louie got a major upgrade to his die roll table, plus a cool combo effect with the otherwise chumpy Monkey Workers. My favorite revised character is the Passenger Molly. She now has an adorable effect I call the "stowaway." If you reveal her as bluff cargo, instead of being discarded she jumps to your first position and all opponents must discard a card. Of course, you'll only use this card if no one is playing Molly, but it is sooo thematic that I just love it.
So check it out; you'll find the game a little more even-handed than before, and a lot of the expansion cards really kick ass. Now it's off to think about Expansion #2.
So now that Zoe has been de-mited, distempered and spayed we needed a new excuse to keep going to the vet. So Annie is currently on pills for a bladder infection. She's been having trouble peeing - for a couple weeks now, I'm guessing... if the pills don't get her back on track then it could be something more serious. Once upon a time we had too much urine. Now it's not enough.
There's not much sadder than the look on a cat's face when she wants to pee but just can't. She'll amble into the litterbox, sit there for minutes at a time, and gingerly step out without having done anything. I first noticed some irregular bathroom habits about a month ago, but I chalked it up to the stress of having Zoe around. When Annie squatted over a discarded pair of my jeans right in front of me and released two tiny droplets of piss, I assumed it was a territorial thing. Turns out it was a cry for help just less blatant than sending me a sheet cake personalized with "Can't piss. Meow."
So the vet prescribed some pills - which we hide in sliced turkey, the first genuine animal meat we've had in the house in quite some time. Not that we're happy about it, just that it was the only sure-fire way to get her to eat the pills. Annie is not the kind of cat that will sit still for the ol' crack the skull back and chuck the pill down the throat trick. Annie loves the turkey, but she's a natural carnivore and that's to be expected.
In other cat-secretion news, Zoe threw up for the first time last night. I'm pretty sure this was her First Ever Vomit, because she was wildly confused about the whole process. First she started dancing back and forth, with a couple of plaintive, worried yowls. It sounded very much like "OMG OMG WTF." Then she parked herself, gave a very sad meow, and vomited. I caught most of it in my cupped hands (to save the carpet). It was primarily barely-chewed cat food.
The latest OPM demo disc had a video preview of the sure-to-be-awful upcoming Playboy game. Actually, after watching the movie, it doesn't look as bad as I had imagined. Aside from it being nothing more than a complete Sims ripoff centered around a rock-jawed Hef avatar, there's one big redeeming feature: centerfold photo shoots. I love photography in video games; it could conceivably be enough to make me pick up Playboy when it hits the value racks four months after release. Could be.
Anyway, after watching the girlie model models bounce around in the demo movie, I started thinking about other sexy women in video gaming. Say, there's a phrase that's sure to pump up my Google search rating! Here's my highly personal list of sexy stuff I have witnessed in video games. And I am limiting this to just my collection, as much as I'd like to include DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball and Final Fantasy X-2.
It's really easy to just toss out screengrabs of Lara Croft, the Fear Effect girls, hell... even some of the Trainer sprites from the latest Pokemon games are pretty hot. So that's what I'm going to do. But I'll temper that raging ploy for pageviews with a VH1-esque series of quirky explanatory quips. (Add your own Mo Rocca and Leif Garrett.)
Sexy From Behind
Claire Redfield of Resident Evil: Code Veronica X (PS2)
Although everybody does this nowadays, RE:CVX was the first game where I really noticed the heroine's high-quality ass texture map. In third-person games like this, we spend a lot of time staring at asses. It's nice to have that ass painted in low-riding jeans.
Nell of Advance Wars (GBA)
Nell is in charge and you'd better get used to it. Happily, she stays safely at central command while you're out positioning army units against General Sturm. You wouldn't want her to get hurt, would you? She's adorable!
Sexy In Motion
Chrissy of Aggressive Inline (GC)
Chrissy seems pretty panderingly sexy when she's standing still: blonde, pigtails, schoolgirl outfit. But it's when she's blading that she's really panderingly sexy. You see, Chrissy-in-motion showcases a bouncy bra-less jiggle effect that probably clinched sales of Aggressive Inline the world over.
Sexy And Sporty
Any Team from Beach Spikers (GC)
Okay, yeah, an international cast of girls in bikinis playing volleyball. Fine. But where Beach Spikers goes the extra mile is whenever the girls score a point: then they hug. And, unlike other volleyball games, this one offers a genuine fun game too.
Sexy And Paid For It
Cowgirl Stripper of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2)
No, she doesn't strip. She just sort of runs through random low-fi motion capture sequences. But I paid her quite a bit of money to do so... because you eventually unlock something if you sit there long enough. Insert "unlocking something" joke here.
Alexandra Roivas of Eternal Darkness (GC)
Although the rest of the cast of Eternal Darkness fills up more of the game, Alex is the star. She's haunted, she's frightened, and she kicks Lovecraftian ass. And look at those eyes. Those aren't just vapid pixels; there's determination behind those eyes.
Sexy Button Mashers
Talim, Taki and Xianghua of Soul Calibur 2 (GC)
Soul Calibur 2 has plenty of beautiful women in it, but these three are my favorites. Firstly, I love playing Talim... fast and nimble. Taki's skin-tight bodysuit ensures that certain victory pose angles are worth winning for. And Xianghua is just about the happiest prize fighter around.
Sexy Double Vision
Mio and Mayu of Fatal Frame 2 (PS2)
Like Alex Roivas, the truly sexy have more to their story than an entrancing jiggle. Mio and Mayu double their waifish innocence with a horrific backstory, making them sexy and complicated. Now that I think about it, Miku from FF1 was probably a little sexier, but the twin factor beats her out.
Reiko Nagase of Ridge Racer Type 4 (PS1)
Unquestionably my sexiest moment in gaming. In the opening movie, Reiko is hitchhiking while you're speeding down streets in your crazy retro-Namco race car. When you pull over, she leans in your window, looks your car over, and does this super-great lip-biting thing because she can't stand how awesome your car is with Pac-Man painted on it. Hot.