Saturday, May 22, 2010

Big Decisions = Big Risks...

I'm thinking of buying a PlayStation 3. Again.

What happened to my last one? Well, for those who weren't that for that drama filled episode, I "gave" it to my brother and his girlfriend when they moved out. Nice, huh? I don't regret helping them out. But I despise purchasing something more then once (note that I tend to feel differently about repairing something I have invested in.) I paid over $1,000 in system, accessories and games. What do I have from that currently? Two games -- Disgaea 3 and Folklore -- which are both currently unplayable due to my lacking the proper console for them. But is it logical spending $300 to make these games work rather then getting $30 or so for trading the pair of them in?

If only it were that simple. There are other titles that are enticing, such as those in Sony's "Play, Create, Share" line of games. These are currently Little Big Planet, the soon-to-be-released ModNation Racers, and the recently announced Little Big Planet 2. There is something that I find very enticing about being able to make and share content with other games. And the systems for doing these are very slick indeed. I owned Little Big Planet but gave that away with my system.

But the PlayStation is also a rather solitary experience, at least from how my experience with the system went. In a fashion very different from that I have had via my Xbox 360, the PlayStation, while offering "free" online, seems to do absolutely nothing to actually encourage its users to communicate using it. Along with the games that I bought when I got my last PlayStation I also bought a second controller and a headset. Being brutally honest I am still uncertain whether or not the headset ever worked properly (it was BlueTooth and labeled as an "official" product) as I never had a single legitimate conversation with any other gamer via the PlayStation in the entire time that I had it in my possession. Clearly there are reasons that the Xbox 360 is my multiplayer console of choice!

ModNation Racers looks like an incredibly social game as well as an incredibly creative one. But without friends to share the experience with it is just as likely that my creations will get lost in the flood of content that will be produced by hundreds of thousands of other Mod Designers. There is no way to be certain that there will actually be a truly diverse amount of options until the game launches either. The game does also support play and guest online and offline four player splitscreen modes, but I am really the only one here who is interested in a "cartoony" kart racer. Shawn is trying to sell me on Blur, but I simply cannot muster any real enthusiasm for it because despite all of these intellectually sound reasons against it, the artist and the kid in me are both extremely eager to play ModNation Racers. If I am going to play a realistic racer its going to be something like Forza 3 or TestDrive Unlimited 2. I like my kart racers "cartoony". (Speaking of this... Where the hell is Joy Ride, Microsoft?!)

And its not like the 360 front -- or my writing, for that matter -- is barren on the shopping front either. Alpha Protocol, which is made be Obsidian (Knights of the Old Republic II) has captured my attention as well. And I am very tempted to take GameStop up on the deal that they are offering if I pre-order the game from them. I am also curious about playing Bully. Having enjoyed my time with Red Dead Redemption this far I see no reason to skip investing the $15 or so it would cost me to grab a copy of that game. Jay and I also want to mess around with Crackdown which has an asking price of $9.99. Oh, and we are back on Final Fantasy XI, too. Which means that upgrading to a 60 -- or even 120 -- gb hard drive would save me a lot of headaches.

I have some decisions to make and they are not easy. Which purchases are going to benefit me more? Will the PS3 be used this time or will it persist in being a big black paper weight? Will the 360 hard drive really make a difference for me? Will ModNation Racers open the door to an amazing experience I would regret missing, or am I far too over-eager to jump into the game since it is bringing back fond childhood memories of Diddy Kong Racing? Everybody keeps telling me that only I can decide the answers to these things. That's obvious. What is yet to be seen is whether I can reach a solution that I am truly satisfied with.

I will wonder about ModNation Racers until I am able to try it. BUT I will likely get bored with this since no one I am close to has a PS3, can afford this, or is interested in it. (Everyone that matters fills one of these three categories.)

I will continue to be annoyed by the lack of space on my 360 until I upgrade it. BUT this is becoming too large a problem to ignorel. I absolutely must upgrade this either via the purchase of a new 360 while trading my old one in, or by buying a larger hard drive for my current system. With my install for FFXI I am down to less then one gig of free space -- this is becoming too serious to ignore.

I will miss out on some awesome extras for Alpha Protocol if I do not pre-order it. BUT I can get the game whether or not I do this. This would be really, really nice but its not 100% necessary. BUT I do need to decide whether or not I am going to do this by the end of the week and determine how this will effect my other plans. It is a pre-order bonus.

I will miss out on owning Record of Agarest War all-together if I do not purchase it soon. BUT I am not sure how good this game will actually be. It could be a total gem or it could be a total piece of shit. On one hand I know I will regret it if I do not try it. On the other hand I know that I will feel frustrated if I buy a toilet bowl game.

Making big decisions can be really annoying. But then, I guess that having decisions to make is better then having no choices in life at all. As one of my favorite authors, Sarah Ban Breathnach, states in one of her books, (Paraphasing here) " If we all made just one tiny choice every day for one year imagine how different our lives could be then from where they are now. Perfect? No. But certainly better then if we sleep our way through making coma choices. Just letting life do what it may rather then actually making a decision for fear that we will make the wrong one. There are good choices and bad choices. But coma choices are definitely a far worse alternative. "

So that is it in short. I have to make a choice what I am going to do. There does not seem to be a perfect answer. So I guess I will just have to pick something.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Agarest War Becomes a Price War...

I buy a lot of luxury items. Anyone who reads my blog here, or who has taken a look at my work in progress, Shop N Tell, knows this. I'm not afraid to spend a little cash. But don't let that confuse you -- I am not a fool who is soon parted from my money. The reason I can buy the stuff I do, have fun, and not stress out? Its simple: I have confidence that what I am buying is worth what I am paying for it.

So when Aksys Games decided to release their strategy RPG Record of Agarest War on the Xbox 360 with a full color booklet (these are becoming far too uncommon to take for granted), a really pretty anime pillowcase, a soundtrack and (this last part I didn't need personally, but I will still) an 8 x 10 mousepad of a character from the game -- complete with gel filled boobs. Yes, I realize that is very cheesy. And yes, I am a girl who is definately *not* a lesbian!

The thing that I found so impressive about this special edition was just that -- that all of these extra goodies -- which it could easily be argued are unnecessary -- are included in the game price. At $60 Canadian it was a true effort of fan service, and something that I would like to see more companies do far more often. So I was all ready to click buy and add it to my credit card. The trouble is, I was not ready quite fast enough. I am on a pension, as some people know. I don't drive. So I did not get to choose exactly when I would cash my check or add funds to my online accounts. And as of Thursday the game is all gone on ... All gone, that is, unless you want to pay the rediculous prices that are being demanded by online sellers.

So just how bad is it? I have been following it the last two days and in less then 48 hours the price of Record of Agarest War on has gone from $59.99 (which was the MRSP) to $89.99, and then from that to anywhere from $90.15 through 107.99. Then you have people who bought extra copies so that they could separate all of the extras and sell each piece separately on sites like eBay. Research indicates that the complete game will run you $74.99 over there, whereas the game can be had for approximately $35, whereas the mousepad and pillowcase seem to be worth about $15 each.

But really, that is all above and beyond the point that I am attempting to make. If you glance at the picture that I chose for this article, it reads "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things". If this is how we, as a society, behave when something like this comes out, then should things like this be presented to us? This seems like a complete slap in the face to the company who chose to design and destribute their game in the manner in which they did. Sure... The overall marketing scheme for Record of Agarest War was over the top. It sold itself on sex, which is totally classless, and also very much false if you research the actual game. (C'mon, it is rated T, people.) Is it going to reach the upper levels of SRPG greatness that games like Fire Emblem, Disgaea and Final Fantasy Tactics achieve? It would seem questionable, considering all of the bells and whistles being used outside of the actual game as selling points.

But did I still want to give it a whirl? Yeah. Sure. For $60 with all of the extra goodies, I did not feel like I had a lot to lose. For going on $100+ because some idiot on the internet got greedy? No way. Its not that I couldn't afford it -- I'm actually sitting here with $200 ready to go on a shopping spree at all my favorite online stores. Its not the money that is stopping me. Its the principle of the thing. Someone else, who had nothing to do with the production of a product whatsoever, feels that I should pay them an aditional $40 in order to buy it. And I won't fall for that.

Interestingly enough, still has copies of Agarest War. They are even selling them for $4 less then the company suggests. Too bad it would cost me about $12 in shipping. But if I were to have to decide between giving some asshole reseller extra money, or paying for shipping to avoid them, I would choose the shipping. Because at least there is a legitimate reason for it beyond a company or individual's greed. Beyond the twisted practice of resellers wiping out unique products like jackells to lazy to make their own kills. When I pay money, I make sure that I know what I am paying for. And if I am paying to not only assauge, but also encourage someone else's greed, then I don't need what they are selling. (I also don't need the game companes thinking I am willing to pay $100 per Xbox 360 game, thanks muchly!)

So it looks like I might not be getting Record of Agarest War after all. Too bad. I was really looking forward to it. But its only a game, and there are far more important things that are at stake by not buying it then there are by going ahead. I can live in a world without one more aditional SRPG. Trading in an exuberant amount of money as well as a few grains of my self worth to get it, though? Nope, sorry. That's just a little above and beyond my budget for any purchase. If this is what adding cool bonuses does to a game the developers can shove them up their collective asses.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yay for May!

Ah, May. The perfect month. Lots of sunshine, less sunburn. Blue skies with puffy white clouds. The full allure of spring, summer and early fall unfolding before us like a fresh white page on a canvas, awaiting our attention to bring forth what is to come. Can you tell this is one of my favorite months?

And it is so with good reason this year. There are tons of awesome things coming out in May 2010, ranging from the ridiculous (and possibly raunchy) to the utterly sublime. Books, games, a new tarot deck... If you are curious what has caught my attention this month feel free to read on. Some of this is no surprise, but some might shock you.

This game looks pretty cool. I love strategy RPGs and this was on a list for me from I have definately struggled over whether to get it or not, but my research indicates that there are only going to be 100,000 english copies for the Xbox 360 so I suppose I will be viewing this as a (somewhat kinky and cheesy) collectors item. What the heck is in the picture? Well, for starts there is the game of course (which does come in its own 360 case -- I don't have to make that gigantic box fit in my lazy susan table! But along with the game you also get a game soundtrack CD (cool) as well as a pillow case and a mousepad which has the wrist rest shaped as gel filled boobs. I'm not joking, ether. As a girl I am still wondering precisely what I am going to do with *that* piece of "fan service". Anyway, here are a couple videos for shits and giggles:

American Release Trailer. Click here for a better version, as I can't seem to get this video to fit on my blog properly.

The "Very Naughty" Limited Edition

I love the House of Night series by P.C. and Kristen Cast and book 7 just came out on April 27th. I don't have it yet, so it gets to be in my May article. Anyway, reviews on Amazon have been mixed from what I have read, but they were also mixed for Hunted, which is the book I am reading right now (HoN book 5) and I am enjoying it, so I am not overly worried. I will have to see what I think once I am all caught up on the serie and (*groan*) waiting for the next installment.

Cute looking tarot sets must be purchased! Shadowscapes definitely fits this category, plus it is one of those sets that comes with a nice book to boot. And so it goes on my Wish List (along with The Fairy Ring Oracle, which I still have yet to get.) I don't have much to say on it here but keep your eyes peeled for a post with some images and links to reviews.

This is May's crowning achievement, a game Jay and I are getting together, and an experience that I am counting down the days for. And it all started because I thought the horses in the trailers were cute. I do realize that this game is not "cute" as a whole. It is actually going to be quite gritty and challenging. Case in point: ClipClop and Speedy (those are Jay and my horses in Lord of the Rings Online) can accidentally take a bullet to the head (or any other body part), resulting in quite a gory bloody mess. Sorry, ClipClop and Speedy!

On the plus side, however, the game looks like it is going to have quite a solid set of multiplayer options, boasting both traditional competitive modes as well as a Free Roam mode where we can just get on our horses, or go into town or (essentially) go anywhere and explore at our leisure. That is what *sold* me on the game. Anyway, here are a few trailers to whet your appetitie if you have been sleeping under a rock and don't really know what Red Dead Redemption is yet. Enjoy!

Multiplayer Free Roam Trailer

Competitive Multiplayer Trailer

My brother, Shawnie, got me a boxset of Vampire Academy of books as one of my birthday presents off Amazon this year and I really like the series. I picked up book four when I was in Florida. With all of this said, is it really a surprise that book 5 is on my May shopping list? Probably not.

I love the Dark Hunter series, but still, when an author does something like this it is always a gamble. Take a character integral to your series and do a book about them set in the past. This could be awesome or it could just be awe-inspiringly bad. Personally, though, I think that Sherrilyn Kenyon knows what she is doing, so getting this book will be a gamble that I am willing to take.