Monday, August 31, 2009

Potential Disney Buy-Out of Marvel

While on the surface, a buy out of Marvel by the Disney company would seem to affect the world of video games very little. But any video gamer can tell you about any of the countless times they've played as Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, or Wolverine. This long history of Marvel character licensed video games, combined with the burgeoning Disney Games studio can create quite the stir in the video game industry. (My classic Marvel video game is at the right).

I don't think we'll be seeing Mickey Mouse in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (certainly anytime soon), but with Disney Games making very honorable efforts, like Split Second (pictured below) and Spectrobes, I don't think Activision will be making Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. Obviously, there are many implications in the area of where Marvel licenses will lie in the future, but until those licenses come up, Disney won't be spending the cash just to get them in their stead.

Instead, I think we can expect to see Disney pouring more and more money into their Interactive Studios division. We'll be seeing a lot more intellectual properties coming out of Disney, along with renewed efforts in the Disney branded games they put out. I think that they're going to muscle up in the video games division so that as the Marvel properties become theirs again, they'll develop in house.

It's a pretty clear cut deal across the board for Disney actually. They stand to do nothing but gain from the IP Marvel owns. Imagine the Spider-Man ride Disney could come up with. More importantly I think we'll be seeing more of everything once Disney understands to keep their name off of Marvel's work as much as possible. They should be very careful, because some of the younger male adolescents out there could become alienated by the very nature of Disney. I know growing into a teenager means that Marvel becomes cooler than Disney, and how can it do that if Marvel IS Disney?

Thursday, August 27, 2009


FURTHER READING wraps up this school week. Who knows if I'll see my blog at all this weekend!

PS3 Slim Ad Campaign Comes Tongue In Cheek to the States

How the Geico guy picked up this gig is beyond me, but I'm happy to see Sony taking a little bit of the cynicism they've been getting from American gamers and press and turning it into some humor.

In fact, I'm very pleased with Sony for managing to take their past mistakes in stride. This commercial really shows what Sony has always been capable of, but missed the mark on, in that they're finally move on from the debacle that has brought the decry of so many in the gaming industry.

It also puts a very positive spin on Sony in my eyes in that I find myself coming closer and closer to really taking the plunge and picking up a PS3 (when I find myself able to do so). More and more games have begun to look better and better, and with a Slim model and a lower price, the PS3 doesn't seem like the aristocrat's gaming system, and more like something that can stand along with the other platforms already in place in so many homes.

We'll see how the holiday season treats the PS3 over the coming months.

Chinatown Wars on PSP

I promise this isn't going to become PLAY GTA READ GTA WRITE GTA, even though I know it has been lately. I'm sorry! I really am! I don't know what's happened, but I have been steeped in Grand Theft Auto games, but it will soon come to a close!

Before that happens, I wanted to post these screen shots Rockstar has released of the PSP version of Chinatown Wars. I have to admit I'm a little jealous.

Playing Chinatown Wars on DS was fun, but these graphical upgrades really lay on a lot more mood and realism to the city. Lighting, models, textures, and even the screen size make a huge difference with the game. I'm also interested in seeing how the HUD has changed between versions, as the map remains largely the same, but the wanted rating, text, and on screen items and points have all become much sharper.

I guess it all makes a lot more difference than I thought it would, but it doesn't take away from the fact that the PSP version will be missing out on the touch screen interactions. I'm sure that some of that stuff will be brought over in some form or other (or maybe not, who knows?), but it wouldn't be the same without the interface.

I guess in some ways, I'm glad that Rockstar will make some additional revenue off of their title that hasn't exactly moved millions on DS, but I'm also disappointed that platforms have become so splintered that an experience can't be emulated the exact same way across all users.

Such is competition, as Nintendo has found a lot of success in offering differing modes of input, bringing in new gamers and old. I don't think I have any plans on picking up a PSP anytime soon though, so I'll probably be missing out on the varied experience.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


FURTHER READING is late, I know. It has been quite some time since I was last in school. Summer seemed to lag on and on in some sort of lackadaisical spiral. Further and further the months drew on, and I was thankful. Now I'm back and I am so tired. Here's some neat stuff to read:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


It's slowly starting to sink into my skull that the semester has actually started. Here's to the Fall 2009 semester: may these budget cuts and "furlough" days leave a lasting effect on my future. I hate to think that it's as hard as it seems to be for the legislature to give the education system some goddam money.

Batman: Arkham Asylum's good reviews

I honestly did not expect to see the scores Arkham has been racking up, but then again you can never predict when a title will manage to break trends and actually turn out fairly polished.

Across the board professionals are reviewing Batman: Arkham Asylum and praising it's pacing, story, memorable moments, varied combat, and extras. Sure does make me wish I had the cash to go and score one of the numerous deals available right now (some stores selling the game as low as $40).

I'm sure I'll be able to pick up Batman later this holiday season as some of the bigger titles are launching, but I thought one reviews comment in particular was of note. Game Informer called Batman: Arkham Asylum "this year's Bioshock." That is some extremely high praise for a Batman game.

Monday, August 24, 2009


FURTHER READING is back and will hopefully manage to continue it's rigorous posting schedule through the rest of this school year. Who knows what adventures await for me, but I'm sincerely hoping that my blog will continue to grow in depth and readership. What are some goals I can make for myself over the coming months in relation to this blog?
Back to school.  I'm sorry to everyone who reads this blog on a regular basis as I went on a bit of a hiatus over the past couple of days.  School has started so I was enjoying the rest of my summer vacation as best as I could.  I'll be back to a regular posting schedule this evening and beyond.  Thank you for your patience.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PS3 Slim announcement

My first day back home and this drops.  At $300 the PS3 Slim might actually move quite a few units, what do you think of the newly announced redesign?

Personally, it looks a lot better, and less like a grill of some kind.  Really the smaller design means it'll fit in with more videophiles entertainment centers, but will anything stack on top of it?

The announcement of the new design also means that the older models are getting a price drop between now and the release of the Slim line in 

I suppose what I'm really thinking about is how much the hardware division of the games industry has changed.  For the longest time, companies wouldn't waste the R&D on a console redesign, instead killing off the Virtual Boy, or eating the bottom line on the original Xbox.  Now, with the advent of the Nintendo DS and it's third installment in the DSi, can we only expect that the PS3 Slim might soon evolve into the PS3 SUPER SLIM.

No, probably not, but what about the Xbox and it's soon to be Natal-ized edition?  Who knows how long this fad will be around to say, but the Slim design certainly gives non-PS3 owners like me a second shot and picking up a unit.  And really I can't lie, Uncharted 2 looks awesome, how am I going to play it without a PS3?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cabinets in Pizza Places

While I'm down here in Ventura, we've been running around every which way.

Earlier this week we stopped by one of the local pizza joints and I immediately started sleuthing around for the arcade cabinets. Any self-respecting family oriented pizza restaurant would surely have some arcade cabinets to go along with the outdated big screen TVs right?

Of course, Santino's in Ventura, CA is no different. Here you can see they have a Neo Geo cabinet, along with a Bubble Bobble machine and an Area 51 shooting cabinet. I can't make out what the cabinet on the far left is, and I don't really remember either. In their small game room, Santino's also had two pinball tables in great condition.

I was happy to see that in the middle of the day, all of these machines were on, and one of them was even in use! Cabinets are so rare these days, but they played such a huge part in my video game upbringing that if I see any powered down, they seem like such strange, square ghosts. I know just because they're off doesn't mean that the cabinet has died, but it does have me worried if it isn't on and telling me that winners don't use drugs.

This Neo Geo cabinet had a particularly nice assortment of games to choose from, including Kind of Fighters '94 and 1945 Plus, both games I don't normally see in Neo Geo cabs up north. While I didn't hunker down and play any of these games, it was nice knowing they were out there for someone else to enjoy.

Do you have a pizza place with arcade cabinets where you live?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

REVIEW: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for the Nintendo DS

Lots of good things have been said about Chinatown Wars, but the sales remain unremarkable. I never feared that the game could be less than stellar, even Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories on the PSP were playable, but I did come to the game with few expectations and the mantra that I wouldn't compare it to it's console brethren.

Having said that, Chinatown Wars does a great job of recreating the living active city that exists in more elaborate terms on other platforms. People litter the streets and cars are there for the picking, but never does anything seem overly congested. Well, maybe sometimes when you're trying to make a speedy getaway from law enforcement, the streets can be a little crowded, but that's part of the game. Chinatown Wars also has the rare occurrence of violent crime by NPCs. This was probably what made the game a true member of the Grand Theft Auto family for me. I always stop to marvel at what happens in game when I'm not the one directly at fault, and Chinatown Wars does a good job of peppering in action that has nothing to do with the player.

Chinatown Wars also has some of the trademarks of those other Grand Theft Auto games, in the form of collectibles and stunt jumps. Instead of gathering packages, players will find security cameras to shoot (also affecting the drug trading mechanic in the game), and instead of the ramp here and there, players will collect stunt jumps only when the jumps hurl their vehicle through billboards in the city.

The combat is mixed, divided well between vehicular and on foot gunplay, but targeting can be frustrating. Why is it that an enemy is encircled by a green line, yet my gun is firing 180 degrees in the other direction? It's forgivable though because any faults of the combat system are made up for in the inclusion of replay options after failure, and a trip skip feature which means you won't have to drive to the other island again after deciding to retry.

Driving is a lot like in GTA III, which is refreshing, but mostly because of the limitations the system is placing on the game. After having to tackle the challenges GTA IV has tacked on to driving with enhanced physics, Chinatown Wars has me throwing all of that learning out the window. Don't worry about braking around any corners, just hold the D-pad in the direction you're looking to go and you'll pull conveniently into the next lane.

But what good is driving if every cop can rip open my car door and throw me down on the pavement? Given the chance, cops will succeed at every turn, busting you for the most minor of traffic incidents. The whole process of getting busted is particularly problematic because of having to repurchase both weapons and drugs, especially when I'm muling a large amount of cocaine or heroin across town to make a big sale.

The touch screen minigames also do a good job of keeping the overall gameplay mixed and varied. No two minigames are the same and really the only ones you see more than two or three times in one playthrough are the hot-wiring games. They were so seamless in fact that I didn't really think of them separately from the rest of the game.

The drug trade economics make it a worthwhile endeavor when weapons are as expensive as they are. Mostly, I just waited for a good tip off on one of the pricier drugs and then proceeded to gather a large stock. This would pay off in a huge profit with the minimal amount of work. The PDA has stats and dealers stored in it, so when someone e-mails the player saying that they'll pay good money for weed, you can look up which gang and which area of the city will have dealers with that particular drug in stock and for a good price.

This brings me to the biggest gripe I have with Chinatown Wars.

I hate everyone in the game: Everyone I'm getting missions from are jerks. They need my help and blame me for the outcome of their demands. There personalities are terrible and their dialogue is groan inducing at best. Maybe it's the voice actors in my head that are doing such a terrible job, but even Chan, the dumb son of one of the triad bosses, obviously intended to be the lovable incompetent idiot, comes across as a tastelessly poorly written rich boy. It's hard to review Chinatown Wars without comparing it to its console bretheren, but the cast of characters is atrocious and annoying, and even more so alongside likeable figures in GTA IV like Packie or Brucie. Each member cast in Chinatown's drama isn't worth the bytes of data it takes to hold them on the cartridge.

Really, the writing as a whole is laughable at best. I know people complained a lot about how toned down Grand Theft Auto IV was, so I think that Chinatown Wars was staged to be this playground people could torch to the ground. Ultimately the subtlety and nuance of story and character in Grand Theft Auto IV has shown how weak the old outlandish crime drama could really be.

Anyways, Chinatown Wars is easily one of the best Nintendo DS games available and has been thoroughly enjoyed on a road trip. It takes several hours, and has great varied combat and gameplay, along with a living city despite the drop in graphical fidelity. Pick it up as an essential addition to any Nintendo DS library, but only if you have the cash to spend.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Looking back at Grand Theft Auto III

Playing through Grand Theft Auto IV again has me thinking back to days in my youth, days when you used the X button to accelerate, cheat codes were entered on the fly with R1 and R2 in rapid succession with the D-pad.

Grand Theft Auto III came out in the fall of 2001. I didn't have a Playstation 2, but my friend Eric did. I remember that he got it for his birthday (or was it Christmas). It was wrapped together along with Final Fantasy X, but of course that was quickly tossed aside in favor of the more violent, action-oriented fare.

Inserting the game was like placing some sacred crystal in a booby-trapped chamber of some forgotten tomb, a la Indiana Jones. We obviously weren't of the age the Mature rating deemed appropriate, but it didn't matter. I don't think any of us had ever even driven a car, and my gun firing experience was limited to my Uncle's BB gun.

The theme played and I'll never forget how the tune lodged itself in my adolescent brain. It only ever played when we'd load the game up initially obviously, but I always thought about it while I ran around, stole cars, and generally caused chaos. It was a good time to be 13, and that opening theme only made the experience more mature with its jazz sensibilities and stylish credit sequence.

Of course everything seemed new and sensationalized. We quickly organized our experience, the three of us. Each of us would take a turn driving. Each of use would take a turn breaking into a fist fight. One of us found a bat, each would take a turn killing one of the unlucky civilians who happened to walk by. One of us found the fabled prostitutes, we each killed our own.

In a way, I felt guilty, but never said anything. It was like our ids had taken over and given this screwy playground to wreck havoc in. Could I ever do such horrid things in real life? No. But we all laughed together anyways. It was harmless and we were teenagers. What did anyone think we were going to do?

It was the small things that really made the game for me at the time: bloody foot prints after running over a victim only seconds after taking them down with the Uzi or the way people would scream and run after you opened fire in a crowded area.
We knew Grand Theft Auto III was vastly innovative as soon as we started playing it. When was the last time you played a game like that?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Video Games at Macy's

I'm at Macy's with Jenna looking at shoes right now and two kids are playing DS. I'm pretty sure they're playing a Game Boy Advance game but it's interesting seeing the dynamic between the two. When my brother, Matt, and I were that age, I don't think it would have been possible for us to share a single video game unit. One Christmas we both opened up very similarly shaped boxes. Inside were Game Boy Colors. I remember trading the starting Pokemon between our copies of Red and Blue (and subsequently not being able to control my Charmander). Playing games with my little brother will be a timeless past time and I think the same will be said for the pair here in Macy's today, waiting patiently for their mother with video games in hand.


PLAY READ WRITE is on vacation but that doesn't mean Im not still working diligently. In addition to the posts going up this week, some of which are already finished, Im going to have a lot of reviews up and running in the next two weeks (certainly before school starts). PLAY READ WRITE will be running reviews of Grand Theft Auto IV and Chinatown Wars, as well as Final Fantasy Tactics A-2 and any others I can finish in time. FURTHER READING and WRITE UPs will be posted as available. I hope everyone is having a good finish to their summer vacation.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My favorite arcade game

I was such a huge fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I love playing Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 in the arcade, but my favorite arcade cabinet of all time would have to be The Simpsons arcade game.

I've easily spent over $100 in quarters in one of these machines, playing as Bart, Homer, Marge, or Lisa. A simple stick and two-button design had me beating Burns's goons into oblivion. I can't tell you how many times I've picked up potted plants and thrown them at generic enemies in suits, or thrown the bus stop sign at the jerks in the suits in the first level.

The Simpsons wasn't just an arcade game, it was THE arcade game at Dutchman's pizza. There was always someone to play with. With each partner, our chances of clearing the level without having to drop another quarter in the machine was doubled. Of course, my brother was always there to be my trusty side kick so long as there was a spot open at the machine.

I think really that was what made the game so awesome so long ago. Our teamwork enabled us to play connected characters and do special tandum moves that would clear screens of ball riding clowns and one eared bunnies.

One weekend evening, I sat down and played the game from start to finish. I pulled a stool away from a table and leveled myself at the game, deploying quarter after quarter through to the end. It was some sort of miraculous thing to see in my youth. My partners would come and go. By the second to last level the excitement was mounting but so was the challenge. The game was full and everyone checked to make sure they had enough quarters to get through to the end. Starting the last level, one of my fellow players had run out of quarters and ran to ask for more, but we didn't need him. We soldiered on and beat final boss, getting Maggie back from the clutches of evil.

How many times did I beat up the drunks at Moe's Tavern? How many times did I slap myself awake after Dream Land? Thousands.

Seeing this machine the other day at Hobby World made me think about the time I've spent playing The Simpsons. I can assuredly thank it for the love I have for video games today. I just wish this poor cabinet was in better condition. Some day I hope to have my own Simpsons cabinet at home, and I'll make sure to take good care of it.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I've been driving hard through the story missions in Grand Theft Auto IV again to get the Liberty City Minute achievement. Do you think I'll get to the end in time? Will I beat it by the end of this week? (Probably not.)

Are these arcades?

Yesterday Jenna and I went around to the local spots where lots of arcade machines are set up to play. These aren't necessarily arcades. One of them is a pizza restaurant. It was closed.

The other is Hobby World in Gilroy. They have lots of RC car parts, model kits, and comics and cards, but they also have this wall of arcade cabinets of varied interests.

Up front is a Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 cabinet I've easily dropped several dollars in. Hobby World is right next to the movie theater, and while there might not be any arcade machines there, it was always easy to leave my house a little early and stop by Hobby World. There are also plenty of light gun games, like Carnevil (which Jenna played) and Time Crisis 2 (which I played).

When I was really little, probably under the age of 5 even, I remember there being a fully fledged arcade in Gilroy. Unfortunately I never went. Instead, my childhood memories are from Dutchman's Pizza (the aforementioned pizza joint). My brother and I would rejoice at every other Friday night as Mom or Dad came home with a roll of quarters from the bank. Dutchman's was the kind of place that always had large groups around giant tables eating pizza, watching football and playing the cabinets they had littered around the room.

Since those old days, they've leased the next door office space and the entire room is now filled with cabinets ranging from my beloved Simpson's Arcade Game, to the Terminator shooting game I was terrified of in my youth.

I wonder when I'll be back there slamming the joysticks around in Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Capcom again.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


There's been plenty to look at today and LOTS to read, so you should get right at it. (Hint: Tim Rogers' story on Pokemon is HUGE, beware).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


It's almost as if I've run out of things to say or write about in FURTHER READING each day. As WRITE UP has been happening much less often, I think on a regular basis I'll talk about what I've been playing.

With my new Gamecube I played several games including SSX3, The Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (how do I get the skin back to the hulk instead of Bruce Banner?), and Wario World. I think on several levels, Wario World is actually a better game than Super Mario Sunshine. It has better combat, more traditional platforming action, and more coin collecting. But really, who's going to say that a Wario game is better than a Mario game? Not I.


I don't have very much gaming memorabilia, but I hope to build my collection piece by piece over the years. I've already made a couple of rare acquisitions, and this is probably my favorite.

My friend Zach used to work at the local Gamestop. I think Gamestop's a great for talking to people who actually know a fair amount about video games. Sometimes I think that you have to love video games quite a bit to work at a Gamestop or Gamecrazy or other games-centric retailer because I think if you only mildly enjoyed video games the experience will kill you.

Anyways, Zach's store was instructed to take down and get rid of all of their neon gaming signs. Among these was an Xbox 360 sign and this Nintendo sign. That day, Zach came over to my house and asked me to come help him bring in his 360. I opened the trunk of his car and this beautiful piece of gaming was sitting there. It was for me! I was eccstatic.

The sign sits over my workspace now, off for the most part. I want it to be around for as long as possible. What is the life span of a neon sign? How often can I turn this thing on and off before I have to worry about replacing any parts? These questions and more have to be answered.

I always love looking up at it. Somday when I have a larger game room or a larger work space, I'll have this piece hanging in there waiting for the guys to come over (or maybe for my kid and his or her friends to come over) and play some games.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


FURTHER READING is (unofficially) brought to you today by G4 TV, which I normally don't like, but lately their online coverage has been on the up and up. I guess they hired Patrick Klepek (who did great work on the Multiplayer Blog at MTV, and I thought I also heard they hired Andrew Pfister, former 1up staffer. Anyways, check this stuff out:

New Hardware

I mentioned in FURTHER READING yesterday that I had added a new piece of hardware to my workspace. As much as I'd like to brag that it's a new Playstation 3 or Dreamcast or Wii, it is a brand new Gamecube.

I know, this one is a little from left field, but I've had all of these Gamecube games sitting on my shelf with nothing to play them on since selling my Wii. Now I can go back and play through games like Eternal Darkness or Resident Evil 4.

My problem is that it doesn't exactly fit very neatly in among everything else on my desk. In fact it's pretty crowded. How can I remedy this?

Maybe if I built a platform to lift my TV on I could put the Xbox 360 and the Gamecube underneath it. Whatever I come up with I think I'm going to have to use some serious carpentry skills to transform the workspace to fit all of my gaming goodies in.

Hopefully that slim line PS3 will find its way under my homemade entertainment console soon too huh?

I found this Gamecube at Gamestop. The clerk told me that they had both new and used Gamecubes, but that since the stock was so old, even the new in box units were pushed under the Used-moniker. $30 later I had my new Gamecube wrapped under my arm.

One thing I've noticed so far is that it looks terrible on my new LCD TV. I remember playing around with this little box on the standard definition TV we have in my family's gameroom, and Spider-man looked a lot better than this. Is there anything I can do to change the fidelity on my television? It makes me seriously regret that I don't still have my original launch-Gamecube with the component cable output.

I'm already looking around for some games that I missed the first time around, but does anyone out there have any recommendations for good Gamecube games?

Monday, August 3, 2009


FURTHER READING has been a little delinquent over the past couple of days, and I have to apologize. I was busy adding a new piece of hardware to my work space and I've also been insanely busy with responsibilities. As such, here's a super sized list of things to read I've gathered over the past couple of days: