>Sony: I bitch, I praise

>This post was originally intended to be a mini-rant about Sony’s ass-backwards approach to online interactivity, but then I glanced at my RSS feed and they came out with a press release that suddenly makes the PSP instantly relevant again. So: toh-may-toh, toh-mah-toh. I say: why not write about both?

When I bought my Blackberry Storm, it came with a bluetooth headset that I never use – until I realized that I could use it as a headset for the PS3. I don’t really do a lot of online gaming on the PS3, but I do like communicating with the few PS3-owning friends I have, and chatting is easier through speech than with the clunky text interface, and I wasn’t about to spend $50 on a Sony headset or the official chat-pad thing which, speaking of being ass-backwards, look at that thing. So a free solution to the problem seemed awfully appealing…

… except that the process of getting a headset hooked up to the PS3 is not at all intuitive and there was a key thing that I apparently wasn’t doing, and I only figured out what I missed through extensive google searches. (It’s not just enough that you pair your device; you then must dig into another sub-menu on the dashboard and flip a few switches, and I’d never have figured that out on my own.) A lot of fanboys like to point out that PSN is free while XBL is a paid service, but I say you get what you pay for; if you want to use a 360 headset, you put the plug into the controller and that’s it. In any event, I was eventually able to get my headset to work, and so I was finally able to talk with my friend as she kicked my ass in Street Fighter 4 yet again, and I was able to send the game back to Gamefly with a clear conscience, knowing I had tried my best.

As for the PSP news, peep this MTV Multiplayer article for the full press release; the important PSP releases are as follows:

  • LittleBigPlanet (sounds like a port, with added levels and features)
  • Assassin’s Creed (and a themed bundle)
  • Rock Band Unplugged (I’m actually pretty curious about this – it’ll have its own wi-fi store)
  • Madden 10 and Tiger Woods 10 (meh)
  • MotorStorm Arctic Edge
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy

It’s maybe not as jaw-dropping when you look at it like that, but this is a hell of a lot better than the nothing that’s been the PSP’s status quo for the last year or so. I’d certainly like to see a new GTA title on the PSP (as would lots of people, it would seem).

>Stupid poetic justice!

>So I’ve sent my red-ringed 360 back to Microsoft, and, as per my diabolical plan to stick it to the man, bought another one from Best Buy planning to return it once I get mine back.

It’s busted. The disc tray only stays closed when it wants to, and even then I’m getting graphical glitches and random freeze-ups all over the place. What’s a conniving weasel to do? As Homer Simpson (who also provide the title of this post) says: “It’s our ability to weasel out of things that separates us from the animals… except the weasel.” Looks like I have some evolving to do.

In other news, this has provided me an opportunity to dip back into Ratchet and Clank Future on the PS3, which I’ve started over from the beginning. So far, it’s fun and awfully purty. While I think (and hope) that the true awesomeness of the game lies ahead of me yet, I have very high hopes given the glowing reviews it got.

And I’ve played and dug Flower, which I adore because it is actually a game that my four year old can play given the elegant simplicity (simple elegance?) of its control scheme. Not to mention, she is a (small-f) flower fanboy, so the game could hardly be more up her alley. Definitely worth 10 bucks.

>Weekend Recap: Reality Sinks In edition

>I’d thought I’d handled my 360’s recent death rather calmly, all things considered; it happened the night before The Lost & Damned came out, so I already knew I wouldn’t be playing it – I imagine I’d have been a lot more pissed off if I’d bought the DLC and then found out my 360 was fucked. And, really, this was a perfect time to try out the PS3 as my main console, and if nothing else this gave me a lot more opportunity to spend with FF7.

Problem is, I was expecting Microsoft to send me a shipping box for my 360 when I did my online support request, and as it turned out, I had accidentally selected the “No, thanks, I’ll send it myself” option, which I didn’t actually find out until Saturday night, after the local UPS store closed. So I basically wasted a week of repair time that I didn’t even know I had. And now, well, I’m really missing my 360.

I certainly had stuff to play for the PS3 this weekend – I downloaded Noby Noby Boy, already this year’s front-runner for the coveted “What The Hell Is This Thing?” award, and my rental copies of Valkyria Chronicles and Street Fighter 4 had arrived.

I can’t really talk about Noby Noby Boy, because I have no idea what it is. I was certainly excited to check it out, as my love of all things Katamari runs deep, but NNB is just plain weird. I’m not even sure it’s a game, to be honest, nor am I sure what exactly it is you’re supposed to do. Then again, the game’s creator doesn’t really know what it is, either, so I guess you get what you pay for.

Valkyria Chronicles is a sort-of strategy RPG, and while I can appreciate that it’s doing something new, I really don’t like strategy RPGs, and after finishing the first mission I already knew I wasn’t going to like it. So there’s that.

Then there’s Street Fighter 4. I feel terrible for not really liking it. I feel pretty confident in calling it the 2nd best fighting game ever made (next to Soul Calibur), and it certainly brought me back to my childhood years in which I’d routinely beat the hell out of my younger brother on the Sega Genesis version of SF2. But the truth is that I think I’m kinda done with fighting games; I have neither the skill with which to be even marginally successful in online play, nor the patience to learn. I tried Arcade mode on Very Easy with 3 or 4 different characters and I couldn’t even make it past Round 3 with any of them. I tried the Trial mode, which ostensibly teaches you all the moves, but it’s done pretty badly and the nomenclature they use to describe moves went way over my head.

I can totally respect why other people are going apeshit for it, and I really wish I felt the same way. I suppose if my wife were interested in mashing buttons with me, I’d probably put in a bit more effort into getting better at it, but she is most definitely not interested, and so it’ll be going back later this week. I kinda want to give it one more go online before I send it back, though, if only to see if I can get my headset to work (in advance of Killzone 2‘s eventual release).

>Release Calendar: Recession-Proof Economy edition

>I don’t mean to scare you to death, but we’re in the middle of an economic shitstorm right now and the videogame release calendar just went from “zero” to “how will I eat?”

This is just the next 5 weeks, starting right now:

Week of 2/14

  • GTA 4: Lost and Damned DLC (which I can’t play b/c my 360 is busted! GAAAAH)
  • Street Fighter 4
  • Noby Noby Boy

Week of 2/22

  • Killzone 2
  • Star Ocean (360) – I’m intrigued, but I can wait
  • Dead Rising (Wii) – maybe I’ll get this version and actually finish the damned thing
  • Puzzle Quest Galactrix – or I could just play this for the next year

Week of 3/1

  • Halo Wars – I don’t think there’s any way my 360 comes back in time for this
  • MLB09: The Show – I’m not listing the 2K MLB game because it’s going to suck
  • HAWX – the demo was pretty awesome
  • Phantasy Star Portable (PSP) – any reason to dust off my PSP is noteworthy

Week of 3/8

  • Resident Evil 5

Week of 3/15

  • GTA: Chinatown Wars (DS)
  • Resistance (PSP)

After that, release dates become subject to rumor and speculation; still, though, this is enough to put a serious dent in anybody’s wallet. Good luck and godspeed.

>Well, that happened

>Fuck.

My 3rd 360 just died.

Not the dreaded 3 RROD; just 1, but none of the steps on xbox.com/support could help, and so I gotta send it back.

I guess this means I’ll be playing FF7 for a bit longer; it also means I have to avoid Lost and Damned spoilers like the plague.

Goddammit.

>EOiNA: FF7: golden shiny wires of hope

>I’ve logged roughly 10 hours in Final Fantasy VII; I finished Shinra HQ, made it out of Midgard and am now in the Inn at Kalm, about halfway through Cloud’s story of his experiences with Sephiroth.

With the release calendar suddenly starting to get interesting (especially with SF4 and GTA4 DLC hitting tomorrow) I wonder how much time I’m going to be able to invest in FF7… but even if I stopped now, I feel like I totally understand why this game is considered a classic. The story is remarkably sophisticated and, well, adult, far more than I expected, especially out of a JRPG released in 1997. I am especially impressed with how much personality there is in each crudely-rendered polygonal character; it’s impossible to make out anything beyond the most basic human forms, and yet they’re all expressive and animated with an unmistakable clarity. I have absolutely no idea where the story is going, but I feel pretty invested with these characters already (even though I’m pretty sure there’s no way anybody could get away with making a character like Barret anymore).

Here’s the thing: I’m pretty neurotic about hanging on to borrowed goods. This game belongs to a colleague at my office and I can’t just hold on to it indefinitely, and my understanding is that FF7 could easily take 100 hours to get through; with all the new games coming out, it’s pretty likely that I could be idle in this borrowed copy of FF7 for some time, and that would just drive me crazy. But buying my own copy of 7 looks to be a pretty expensive proposition; the cheapest it’s going for on Amazon is around $60-70, whereas I could get a new, unopened copy of FF8 or FF9 for under $20. If any FF veterans happen to be reading this: how are 8 and 9? (My PS3 will not play PS2 games, so FFX is out for the time being.)

>Twice a Widower

>The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. You wouldn’t know it by my total dearth of posts of late, but I am in fact alive and well. Which is more than I can say for my Xbox 360. Yup, my 360, born on July 7, 2007, has died at the ripe old age of one-and-a-half, the second such console to die in my service. So that kinda blows. Thankfully, Best Buy still has a 30-day return policy, so I’ll just pick up an Xbox 360 Arcade, pop in my hard drive, and use that until Microsoft sends me my refurbed unit. (This ingenious ploy is inspired by a buddy of mine who, back when Best Buy used to have a 90-day return policy, would buy a top-of-the-line air conditioner from them annually in early June only to return it in late August.)

So why have I been so quiet lately? Well, I don’t really have a great excuse, and certainly not an interesting one. You know, busy at work, no games coming out, blibbety blabbety bloo.

A few quick blurbs on what I have been playing:

  • Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts – This game was really a pleasant surprise. I can’t say I’m surprised it hasn’t sold given Rare’s recent track record (though I am a fan of Viva Pinata), but once you get past the kiddy look and general awfulness of the writing and characters — which I will grant you are pretty big obstacles — there is an extremely fun game here. My library just really needed a game with a high fun factor and low stress factor. This game is a great break from all the gritty shooting stuff, and I’ll be using it to cleanse my gaming palate for months to come.
  • Left 4 Dead – Still love it, especially now that I’ve recruited by three brothers to the fold and we have weekly Versus games going on. Can’t wait for the other two campaigns to be Versus-enabled when the (free!) DLC comes.
  • Half-Life 2 – Started it over for the 5th time or so. This time I’m gonna chug all the way through including Eps. 1 and 2. Great pacing, great fun.
  • MLB ’08: The Show – I’m now 85 games into my season, so I should have it all wrapped up by the time MLB ’37: Laser Baseball is released. I was happy to hear about the new feature in the upcoming ’09 version that lets you record your own heckles. You can bet I will be asking my four year old daughter to record “GO BACK TO BOSTON!”, which she dutifully shouts whenever we see the Sox live.
  • Call of Duty: World at War – It’s exactly what you’d expect, which is not a bad thing at all. Unless you’d expect it to suck just because Treyarch developed it, but it turns out that, given enough development time, they can create a roller coaster ride to rival most developers, if not quite Infinity Ward.
  • Fallout 3 – I’ve stalled. It seems like I’ve been waiting way too long to become a badass who has enough frackin’ ammo. I’m sure I’ll return and grind it out eventually, because I do want to get to all that great content eventually.
  • Fable 2 – Also stalled. Still waiting to fall in love with the game as much as anyone else. This’ll probably gather a fair bit of dust before I pick it up again, if at all.
  • Resident Evil 5 Demo – Haven’t played it yet, since I want to go it co-op and Jervo keeps standing me up.
  • Saints Row 2 – See Resident Evil 5 Demo above.

>Quick Impressions: Flower, Onechanbara

>Didn’t have a lot of TV time yesterday, but I ultimately did get to download and play through Flower, a PSN title that I’d been looking forward to for an absurdly long time.

There are certainly some comparisons that can be made between Flower and Flow, the previous PSN effort from ThatGameCompany; there’s no score, there aren’t any “lives”, there’s no time limit, and both games feature a motion-control scheme that’s intended to be as intuitive and unobtrusive as possible. More specifically, Flow and Flower seem to be aiming for a different pleasure center in your brain than what you may be accustomed to.

I seem to recall one of the developers describing the game as being “a flower’s dream”, and I must admit: the game reminded me very much of dreams I’ve had in which I’m flying. The motion-controls are a little bit touchy at times but they never got in my way – I was able to soar and loop at will. Each blade of grass appears to be individually rendered, and the sensation you get when you swoop into the ground and the grass is pushed back is just breathtaking.

If you have the means, I highly recommend it. I feel like $10 is just a tad too high, but it’s a remarkable experience – if you’re open to it.

————

On the other hand, I popped in my GameFlown copy of Onechanbara this morning; it is the exact opposite of Flower. Let’s just leave it at that.

>The Beatles Rock Band Set List: a considered guess

>Joystiq published a story today confirming (from Paul McCartney, no less) that there will be 45 songs in the upcoming Beatles Rock Band game out later this year, spanning “early days, Liverpool, then psychedelic, and on from there.” As a huge fan of both Rock Band and the Beatles, I have a pretty vested interest in how this game turns out.

I should point out, though, that my intense love of the Beatles is really only focused on their post-Rubber Soul material. Paul, however, says that the setlist will run the gamut. I’m gonna say 15 of the 45 songs will be pre-Rubber Soul:

  1. She Loves You
  2. I Wanna Hold Your Hand
  3. Love Me Do
  4. Help!
  5. I Saw Her Standing There
  6. Please Please Me
  7. A Hard Day’s Night
  8. Can’t Buy Me Love
  9. Eight Days a Week
  10. Ticket To Ride
  11. Yesterday
  12. I Feel Fine
  13. Paperback Writer
  14. Rain
  15. We Can Work It Out

Those last few songs aren’t exactly pre-Rubber Soul, but I was having trouble being generous with the early stuff. In any event, that selection seems reasonable, and as far as I can tell there’s no need for keyboards. Which makes the remaining 30 songs a bit trickier to parse out; once they stopped touring and stayed in the studio, they started writing and recording songs that probably could not be performed by only the four of them – “Eleanor Rigby”, for example, is done entirely with strings, and “Tomorrow Never Knows” was recorded in outer space, in the future. And unless this game introduces a keyboard peripheral, there’s going to be quite a few classic songs that are going to be very difficult to play without one. (“Hey Jude” and “Let it Be” spring to mind.) But they can’t outright ignore those songs, either; they have as much to do with the Beatles’ enduring influence and legacy on popular music as their earlier, more conventional stuff. So they’re gonna have to split the difference somehow.

Here’s my best guesses as to the remaining 30 songs, which I’m picking based on a combination of historical importance, instrumental arrangement (with an emphasis on keyboard-less tracks and songs with riffs as opposed to chord strumming), Paul’s being alive and John’s being dead, and personal taste. I’m leaving out a lot of favorites (how can I possibly leave off “I Am The Walrus”?), but here goes:

  1. Revolution
  2. Get Back
  3. Drive My Car
  4. The Word
  5. In My Life
  6. Taxman
  7. She Said, She Said
  8. And Your Bird Can Sing
  9. Doctor Robert
  10. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  11. Getting Better
  12. Good Morning Good Morning
  13. A Day In the Life (I have no idea how, but it has to be in there)
  14. Hello Goodbye
  15. Strawberry Fields Forever
  16. All You Need Is Love (guitar plays the string parts?)
  17. Back in the U.S.S.R.
  18. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  19. Birthday
  20. Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey (not an obvious choice, but every instrument is doing something interesting, and there’s gotta be at least one unexpected song)
  21. Helter Skelter
  22. Come Together
  23. Something
  24. Octopus’s Garden
  25. Here Comes The Sun
  26. Mean Mr. Mustard -> Polythene Pam -> She Came In Through The Bathroom Window -> Golden Slumbers -> Carry That Weight -> The End
  27. Get Back
  28. Dig a Pony
  29. I’ve Got A Feeling
  30. The Ballad of John and Yoko

Obviously there are some major omissions; I opted to cut out anything piano-based, and I generally chose upbeat songs as opposed to softer acoustic songs, which leaves out quite a lot (including quite a few of my favorite Beatles songs). And my entry at #26 is assuming that Harmonix will be lumping the famous medley that closes out Abbey Road as one track; none of those songs really stand out on their own (except maybe “Bathroom Window”) but they would make for an epic “final boss”, with a long drum solo and those 3 rotating guitar solos.

That’s my guess. What’s yours?