The only thing scary about Kevin Costner is when he tries to act...

Seriously, Kevin Costner may actually be one of the worst actors to ever grace the big screen. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is one of my all time favorite films, but that film works in spite of Costner's wooden delivery and horrid attempt at an English accent he occasionally remembers his character is supposed to have. Now, he tries to be a seriously scary psycho killer with Dane Cook as a protege in Mr. Brooks. Granted, given Costner's mostly played nice guys his whole career this seems like a daring move, but unlike other actors who simply normally don't show their dramatic edge, Costner simply has none. Every single role is the same for him, and lately he's made the unwise decision of starring along other talentless individuals so it shows all the more.

Luckily, there's an easy choice this weekend for movie-going audiences with Knocked Up, which granted, sounds like a straight-up chick flick, but this is from Judd Apatow, who brought us the fantastic 40-year old Virgin (and of course, Freaks & Geeks). The guy knows funny, and aside from a dude like Seth Rogen actually having a chance with a woman like Katherine Heigl, from all reports it's a refreshingly honest & real approach to the subject of an unexpected pregnancy.

Finally, I think I'm bored with the Halo 3 beta & I'm certainly not alone, as the "population" seems to mostly bottomed out from those insane early days. It's not a knock on the gameplay, really, but let's face it, this is just an unsatisfying nugget of the final product. 3 maps and only a few gametypes get old quick, along with it basically requiring massive trickery to play any sort of a real custom game. Oh well, not like I don't have plenty of other actual games like Odin Sphere to keep me busy for awhile.


No one to blame but yourself

We live in a culture where generally people like to blame any issues on anybody but themselves. Granted, it's occasionally true that circumstances are just beyond your control, you've done everything in your power and things still turned out poorly. But the majority of the time, you truly have nobody to blame but yourself. Video game companies especially should take note of this, because lately, a lot of third-party developers are whining and moaning that although the Wii is incredibly successful, people only buy Nintendo systems for Nintendo games, making it impossible for third-parties to justify developing games (or at least ones with big budgets) for the waggle machine.

Really? It's Nintendo's fault that everyone has rushed to develop cheap ports or uninspired party party games? Cause when I take a look at the Wii's third-party offerings, that's all that is there. I mean, when the best offerings from somebody that isn't Nintendo of late are literally rehashes of old games available on other systems (sometimes even the Gamecube), what right do these developers have to state they have no chance? A perfect example of this is Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, which just came out for the Wii after being available on the PS2 & Xbox for months, and yet the PS2 & Xbox will be the preferred versions because they have online. Granted, Nintendo has been incredibly slow to get the ball rolling on online, but it's happening, and exactly what timetable was Midway under that they couldn't wait for the tools to be sent? I got news for you guys, nobody would care about this game any less if it was delayed a few months for online, in fact that would most certainly make it sell far better than as it is.

There seems to be this weird mentality that the Wii's success is an extremely short-term thing and they'd better just flood the library with whatever they can while the iron is still hot. Granted, the odds of the Wii remaining as red hot as it is for much longer are slim, but it should continue to be a powerful seller, just like the DS has been, especially when they inevitable price drops start. And key to sales remaining strong after the initial hype has finally died down and you can actually walk into any store and just pick one up is good third-party titles. You can make Manhunt 2, but make sure it doesn't suck (see Resident Evil 4 for lessons in this). If everybody has a party game, people will just go with the most recognizable one, and odds are it's not you, so try something casual, but different. And lastly, don't suck. I know that seems obvious, but the plain & simple of it is that a lot of these third-party titles are just mediocre or awful games in the first place, and when the First-party offerings are almost all top notch efforts, it's hard to blame consumers for not buying your shitty product.

FREE GAME OF THE WEEK: Agent Scarecrow #1


I'm all partyed out...

Seriously, do we need another party minigame collection on the Wii already? Granted, Mario is almost certainly the king with his Mario Party series, and the mere fact that it's on the Wii makes sure it's a long overdue overhaul, but Wii owners already know that the Wii is flooded with minigame collections, which don't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. And honestly, while the game looks fun, history tells us there will be another 4 or 5 Mario Party games on the Wii in short succession, so I'll wait for a more definitive version (i.e. with some online support like downloadable content).

But something far more interesting is on the horizon this week. Shadowrun for the Xbox 360 & the PC, letting two fairly volatile sides collide for the first time. There just really is no in-between on the console vs. PC debate, people just believe one is the obvious choice (I personally go with consoles because you don't have to spend outrageous amounts of money every year to keep up). And the rivalry between FPS console gamers & PC console gamers is even worse. Will this solve that age old question? Probably not, because word on the street is that this is already a failed experiment at best, but it'll at least be interesting to check out.


Video Day-The I'm even less sure I care about Pirates edition

Geez, I'm generally not one to pay much attention to critics, but given that Spider-Man 3 was sort of a letdown, and 28 Weeks Later & Shrek The Third were horrid insults to their terrific predecessors, I'm understandably apathetic about the latest sequel hitting this week, Pirates of the Caribbean : At the World's End. At this point, rather than being excited, I feel like I should go since I saw the last one and want to see how it ends rather than being genuinely excited about this latest chapter in the franchise. Hopefully the Summer season has nowhere to go but up from here.

Anyways, onto the videos. Nintendo & Ubisoft both had very big media days, so here's what I think are the best highlights from both:

Raving Rabbids 2 Trailer

Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 - Transformers Trailer

Posted Yesterday

Theeeeey're baaaaaack!!! And this time they're rabbids in disguise.

Assassins Creed Trailer:

Mario Strikers: Charged Online Interview

Nintendo Media Summit Overview

And finally, just for fun: STAR WARS: JACKASS


Odin's got big balls...

One good thing about the end of a consoles lifespan, your bound to see those weird quirky titles strictly meant to keep the hardcore gamers still interested in the system, usually in the form of a flood of low profile but awesome rpgs. I'm still working through quirky fun little games like Tales of the Abyss & Shining Force Neo, which lack the polish and production value of say, a Final Fantasy, but still offer a good value in other ways like deep & fun characters or a unique take on a tried & true system. This week, another possible gem comes out in the form of Odin Sphere. The reason I say possibly is because it first got major notice by the guys over at Penny Arcade. And not to dismiss their opinion, but after them defending Enchanted Arms (which I thought was terrible and for much more than the reasons they said to ignore the bad reviews) and championing Puzzle Quest (which I thought was alright, hardly worthy of the heaps of praise they gave it), we simply seem to have a difference in tastes. But then the reviews started rolling in, with most calling it not only a damn good game, but the best-looking game to ever grace the PS2. Of course, me not reserving the game in advance may make it hard to come by, as these lower profile titles are never stocked well and hard to find at your bigger chain stores that deal in more than just games.

Now, if you want a no-brainer recommendation, just pick up season 5 of one of the best sitcoms of the last decade or so:

Few shows can keep this fresh for so long (and admittedly the show faltered in quality in the just ended season 6, but it was still way better than most other shows on TV) and season 5 is easily my favorite with lots of great episodes and moments throughout.

Free Game of the Week: Tactics 100 Live


The Top Ten Characters that should be added to Smash Bros. Brawl

Quick note before I get into my column: Shrek sucked. Hard. Granted, maybe it's because I was lucky enough to skip most of the banal animation films that have come out over the last few years, but this was truly one of the worst animated films I've seen in a long time. It may have had the production values of a big screen animated film, but everything else was on a Disney Channel Original Movie level. It's just sad. There's already a 4th planned, going back to Shrek's origins, hopefully that new focus will be a fresh spin that's badly needed. Also, I know the big news of the weeknd was all about Starcraft 2, but I don't know what I could say on the subject since RTS is one of my least favorite genres and I haven't really logged much PC game time since Oblivion.

Anyways, if you're any kind of Nintendo fan, you know that arguably the biggest game coming out this year (and arguably for the existence of the system if done right) is Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The Smash Bros. series is essentially any nerd's wet dream come true, all those questions of "would X beat y? in a fight?" can finally be answered (at least involving any of Nintendo's mascots, anyways). Now, it's still most likely quite a few months off, but the official website is "launching in 1 day. What does this mean? Hopefully that most of our questions will be answered, but more likely it'll be a minimal thing at best. But regardless, I figure this is a good time to list the top ten characters I think should be included in the game. I tried to include mostly non-Nintendo characters, ones that I think would fit, and that I think have a realistic chance of appearing (in other words, though Ratchet & Clank would be awesome, since they are Sony property, they will not appear on this list). So without further ado:

10. Little Mac

Admittedly, Little Mac isn't the most obvious fit given that he's simply a pugilist without any special tricks or powers (which is why he's not higher on the list), but it's his iconic status that get him a much deserved spot in this list. Punch Out is still one of if not the best boxing games ever made and it's ability to stand the test of time when most VC releases don't hold up very well solidifies him as a top choice. My suggestion: Keep him a short range character, but with incredibly powerful attacks and a whole lot of speed. Again, it would be tricky to make him work properly, but if anyone deserves the effort, it's every gamer's favorite underdog.

9. Rayman

Though the real stars of his latest game are most definitely those psychotic rabbits, Rayman is a big reason for Nintendo's resurgence in the game market and has been a mostly solid presence in the platformer genre as well (Rayman 2 is still one of the best platformers of all time), so why not give the star of what is the Wii's biggest 3rd party title a shot at duking it out with Nintendo's elite? He has lots of natural abilities that fit right in, and arming him with plungers/a plunger gun would make him a very versatile character.

8. Bonk

The TG-16's hard-headed hero is a perfect addition to the roster. His head-butts are already a great smash move in themselves, and his various abilities granted by eating meat (along with being able to change into certain costumes that give him other abilities could easily be incorporated, making him one of the more formidable newcomers.

7. Pac-Man

Arguably the only character that's as iconic as Mario, Pac-Man is probably the most deserving character on this list by mere status alone. Like Little Mac, it may be difficult to come up with a fitting move list, but I'm sure the programming geniuses at Hal Laboratory can figure out how to properly fit in the guy that really helped start this whole wacky video game craze.

6. Simon Belmont

The original vampire hunter seems to have more or less retired since his NES & SNES adventures, so what better way to bring him back than on the Wii's flagship fighting title? He's already got a ridiculous arsenal of moves, and I know we'd all love to see Simon take on Samus since they basically copied off each other for years until Metroid made a move to 3D. Castlevania was synonymous with Nintendo for a long time and any fan would love the opportunity to test him out against the likes of Nintendo's best.

5. Earthworm Jim

There might be characters who are better suited to the style of gameplay, and possibly even more deserving with a better iconic status, but I'll take Jim's straight out insanity over those any day of the week. Part of the charm of Smash Bros is the utter ridiculousness of such a concept, and that's why Jim would fit in so well. His gun toting insanity would be a great match up against any of Nintendo's roster (and maybe being able to somehow include his sidekick Peter Puppy). And if included, they must use the EARTHWORM JIM THEME SONG whenever he is selected!

4. Toejam & Earl

The funkiest aliens to ever grace a console, ToeJam & Earl are exactly the type that fit right in with this crazy concept. They could even be a tag team like the Ice Climbers, but I'd rather see each be his own character. They could still have the same moves (Tomato Bazooka, rocket skate charge, etc.), but obviously have roughly the same differences they had in the first game (cause really, that's the only one worth mentioning), where TJ is the quick one and Earl is the strong one. These guys would be a tremendous addition to the lineup and I hope Nintendo and Sega see it that way as well.

3. Mega Man

Simply put, the blue bomber made a name for himself on Nintendo. He's tried to go with other systems, but it's never regained the glory of his 16 & especially 8-bit years. That fact should be recognized with a slot in Brawl. He'd be arguably the most versatile fighter on the roster if given the right weapons (note, most if not all of them should come from Mega Man 2!), and is probably the #2 most wanted choice among fans. If Capcom can slide one character into brawl, there is no other choice.

#2. Bomberman

Bomberman is so high on this list cause he's such a seemingly obvious choice. He's been around nearly as long as any longtime mascot, and he remains a timeless symbol of fun & simple gameplay, which is what Nintendo and the Wii are striving to be synonymous with. Plus, with his various bombs, he's able to cause chaos. Lots of chaos. A key element to the Smash Bros. games is chaos, what with random things from umbrellas to laser guns to pokeballs pooping up randomly to use. A guy throwing all kinds of bombs all over the place would greatly add to that chaos, and in a good way. Bomberman always seemed most at home on Nintendo systems, that sentiment should be certified with a spot in Brawl.

#1 Sonic

This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Sonic has been a fan demand since Sega stopped making consoles. Execs at both Sega & Nintendo have slyly hinted that this is something they would like to see happen, and whenever an interview about anything Nintendo or Sega is doing comes up, even if the project has no relation, you'll see the interviewer try to worm it out of the interviewee. Sonic is the closest thing Mario has had to a serious rival for the gaming throne, and while he's certainly fallen on hard times, there's nothing like including him in Brawl to help him & gamers relive his glory days. It won't be a deal-breaker, but lots of fans will certainly be disappointed if Brawl comes out and the blue blur is nowhere to be seen.


Video Day-The I'm not sure I care about Shrek edition

Yep, the only thing opening this weekend is Shrek The Third, which I'll most likely check out just because I really like the first two even though the reviews aren't all that hot. But despite the PS3 costing Sony nearly 2 BILLION DOLLARS, they put on a brave face and showed of a bunch of stuff at a big event in San Diego this week, here's some of the better vids:

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

Ratchet & Clank Future

Heavenly Sword



The waiting was the hardest part

This was at best a problematic day for 360 owners. People in possession of Crackdown couldn't get on until a couple of hours ago (and some people who got genuine beta invites still can't get on). It was definitely agony waiting (especially since the Halo 2 servers were also offline while they were trying to figure out the problem. And people are still having slight problems getting in even after downloading the beta. Most companies would fix it and leave it at that, but Bungie's been kind enough to expand the Beta 4 more days til June 10th.

I was able to get a few games in before this post. My early impressions? It's Halo 2's multi-player, refined. There aren't any huge changes, even with the new equipment. And that's hardly a bad thing. Granted, some jackasses will (and already are) complaining that it's not a big enough leap, but I seeing how highly praised Halo 2's multi-player was, refining to a T is far from a bad thing. I'll definitely post further impressions tomorrow if I feel I can say more on it than I have here, until then, it's BETA TIME!!!


If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, that still doesn't mean it's a duck...

Just a reminder to everybody trying out the Halo 3 Beta that starts in a few hours-The finally product may be very different from what you play now, it's also something to keep in mind for the Halo haters who have been saying it isn't different enough. The game isn't coming out for 4 more months and this is simply a small glimpse into a small part of the final product, so it's hardly something to judge the entire game by. Single-Player is still a complete mystery, we haven't seen all the multi-player maps, some features probably haven't been implemented, and much may change based on the feedback Bungie gets from the beta testers themselves.

Though it seems like it's been forever and a day, Nintendo's online is finally starting to come closer to reality, with their first true online titles, Pokemon Battle Revolution hits in a little over a month, and IGN posted a really good hands on preview of Mario Strikers today. Re-registering people I already have registered (and them having to register me again) is definitely an unnecessary pain in the ass, but aside from that, the online setup sounds tremendous and as long as Nintendo actually takes the online play seriously this time, people probably won't care about having to register friend codes for each and every title.

That's really it for today, but I've decided to give it the old half-hearted try and score a rental copy of Crackdown tomorrow in order to try out the Hao 3 beta, so should I be successful, I will most definitely post my impressions, in the meantime, here's your FREE GAME OF THE WEEK: Star Island


Crackdown can finally be used for something besides a coaster

Well, maybe that's a bit harsh, as Crackdown is far from a terrible game, just underwhelming. But there is no doubt that the main reason this game sold was for the fact that if players weren't lucky enough to get into the Halo 3 Beta, they had to put down a hefty $60 for this GTA wannabe, and after all the waiting it finally starts in 2 days, surely making 360 fanboys cream their pants in anticipation, especially with the flurry of videos released over the past weekend (just head over to gametrailers.com and they are all very easy to find). Though I'm very excited about Halo 3 and somewhat tempted to rent Crackdown just to check out the beta, I'm pretty sure I'm content to wait til the full game hits, as I'm probably one of the few people who gives a damn if the single-player is as engrossing as the multi-player.

Square Enix had a big party and you weren't invited, but luckily in the day and age of teh internet, we don't have to beg someone cool enough to go for info, it's freely posted shortly after being announced. Some of the announcements sound awesome (Last Remnant seems like the next big RPG franchise), some not so much (like Chocobo Dungeon for Wii and Parasite Eve 3 being a cell phone game, doh!) but it seems any SE fan will be thrown so much love their wallets can't possibly take it between the new stuff & the stuff we'll all but for the 4 billionth time on a new console.

How much do I enjoy punishing myself? That's the real question anybody should ask giving a look at today's biggest Virtual Console release: Ninja Gaiden. It's an undisputed classic, no argument, definitely worth a measly $5. But it's hard, like make you suffer a brain hemorrhage hard, and quite frankly I'm just not completely sure I want to really remember how agonizing that game could be.

That's pretty much it for today, but I think I'll be back tomorrow with... something.


You can't make a good scary movie anymore...

At least that's my opinion after just getting back from a sneak preview of the only movie anyone cares about opening this weekend: 28 Weeks Later, the highly anticipated sequel to 28 Days Later. I really enjoyed the first one as a good, original horror film that treated an viral outbreak fairly realistically and had some good adrenaline-charged moments. While there have been some decent dumb-fun type horror films since then, there hasn't been a good serious horror film, and though you'd expect something better if they were going to bother to do a sequel, "Weeks" suffers from the same bad cliches and the same stupid types of characters you've seen in every awful horror film over the last 20 years or so. I've theorized that since horror movies never seem to scare me that I'm just not the kind of person who can enjoy a serious one, so take this review with that in mind, but I sure as hell won't be showing up for what seems to be yet another inevitable sequel judging by the ending.

The long-awaited Spring Update has happened for the 360, and my reaction is a huge "meh". It's kind of nice to be able to set my console to shut down automatically after a download is finished, but everything else seems incredibly unnecessary, especially the much touted ability to IM across services that were previously not available on live. Of course, we can already trade messages back and forth and talk to to other players through our headsets. If I wanted to talk to someone on AIM, I'D USE MY COMPUTER. This seems like one of many desperate moves to try and capture a more casual market that has mostly eluded Microsoft. But the casual non-gamer won't buy a 360. The controller is intimidating, the price is kind of steep. And why would they buy a console to play these casual games they can get for free on a PC they already own? I realize both MS & Sony are trying to establish themselves as some sort of centric entertainment box that covers all your needs, but the consumers don't want that much convergence, and they are proving it with their wallets by buying the simple and easy Nintendo offerings in droves.

And as a final note for today, I'd like to thank MS (or whomever is responsible) for butchering yet another classic. Double Dragon was released, and while it shares some of the same problems as TMNT like cheap difficulty, it brings a whole new one that completely ruins the experience-massive slowdown in co-op. You're telling me that you couldn't get a 20 year old game to run smoothly on your oh so powerful system? As long as fuck-ups like this keep happening, Live is always going to seem like a system filled with potential it never fully realizes, and somebody (possibly Sony with their Home service) will swoop in and take the jaded gamers.

FREE GAME OF THE WEEK: Tam Tower Challenge


A perfect example of why Nintendo's phliosophy on the Virtual Console is wrong

Much as I've made great use of Nintendo's virtual console feature since the system debuted, and as much as I've appreciated their philosophy that these classics of gaming yore should remain untouched, in some cases, this just isn't the right thing to do. Nintendo & Microsoft's retro releases for this week exemplify that. Today's only "worthwhile" VC release was Final Fight for the Super Nes. Final Fight, as most old school gaming fans will tell you, is one of the classic fighters of all time, right up there with classics like Streets of Rage. But the SNES version is a horrid abomination, missing things like one of the main protagonists as well as a two-player mode. It's bad enough that this is the kind of game that screams for online co-op, which we know won't happen on the Wii, but they could at least fix those horrid mistakes that no fan of Final Fight would forgive.

Then for the Xbox 360 crowd, we have arguably the father of all great side-scrolling fighters, Double Dragon coming to Xbox Live Arcade this Wednesday. Now granted, this isn't exactly a reason to cheer yet, as MS has a solid history of completely screwing up ports of ancient games that should be easy, but at least there is potential here. You know online co-op, touched up graphics and other goodies like achievement points are a solid possibility, enhancing the gameplay experience beyond mere nostalgia, which has definitely played tricks on many a long-time gamers mind. I can only hope MS somehow pulls a miracle or Nintendo gets their fucking act together on this shit upon the inevitable releases of classics like River City Ransom.

Moving on, I did catch Spider-Man 3 this weekend (and according to its ginormous box office, so did most other inhabitants of planet Earth). Strictly as a movie-goer, I was pleased. The effects rocked, it was fun & funny, pretty much all I ask out of a blockbuster movie. But I being a fan of the comics in my youth and being very familiar with most of the characters involved in this movie, I could see why comic book nerds are not, and they have really vented their rage on the internets over the weekend. We'll have to see if their reaction has any real effect, but unless Spidey plummets in week 2 (where there is no serious competition), I don't see this being an issue for the already announced sequels.

That's pretty much it for today, but I got another treat for old-school gamers: GAMETRAILERS TOP TEN 8-BIT GAMES


Great things come in three's?

Is three a magic number for Hollywood? Possibly the only thing Hollywood seems to love more than the sequel is the trilogy. And we've got 3 of the biggest sequels of all time coming out this month, with all three of these respective franchises going for the true Hollywood Holy Grail, the Hexilogy, with a 4th, 5th & 6th movie all but guaranteed, even though it's likely some major changes will go down in their latest chapter that may drastically alter the direction of the franchise. Only seemingly eternal series like Bond can really hope for a longer run without sufficiently long breaks in-between.

That being said let's look at what may already be the biggest movie of this year that many people are already seeing at midnight tonight, Spider-Man 3. This is also arguably the trilogy most likely to please most moviegoers as the last two were nothing short of two of the best blockbuster films ever made. Unerstandably some hardcore nerds have objected to certain elements (namely Gwen Stacy being a character in this film even though in the comics she was killed by the original Green Goblin). But really, all this is just Raimi's interpretation of source material that has time and time again been completely re-written anyways (or "retconned" in nerd terms) and as long as he makes it work, I, a former comic geek and long-time Spider-Man fan, am more than fine with it.

And finally, it looks like Live Arcade may have another gem worth downloading next week in Double Dragon. Unfortunately the keyword is "may". The press release is brief on details, and makes no mention of online co-op. And while it may be only a measly $5, classics on Live tend to be horribly butchered or missing what most would consider basic features (like altering the number of lives you have available in TMNT Arcade...). We'll just have to wait til more details are available or til the game is actually out to see if they didn't also screw p this one...


Those rectangular thingies with words in them, continued...

The last time I talked about books I mentioned how not fond I am of autobiographies, but at least they aren't always necessarily tied strictly to making money and can on occasion be enjoyable and insightful reads. The one type of book you're almost guaranteed to not get your money's worth out of even if you found it in some dollar bargain bin is the infamous tie-in novel. Not something that was a little known or long-forgotten book that a movie or some other property was based on, but something that is based on the property itself. These are nearly always rushed and very poorly written, mainly due to the fact that whoever is writing them is clearly doing it to pay the rent rather than someone who is a genuine fan of the property and wants at least the literary world to see their vision of it. This goes double for the ultra-rare, yet usually ultra-mediocre game novels. Rarely are they based on the actual game, usually they are a prequel/sequel/spin-off taking place in the same universe, and for that rare combination of gamer who not only reads books but also is willing to take chances on the game novel, most of us have been spurned, many, MANY times. It's sort of amazing that there's a general consensus that story-telling in gaming, while getting better, still needs drastic improvement, and yet while you can usually say the book is better than whatever shlock movie it's based on, you can never say that about the game. But there is a glimmer of hope. The recent Halo novels have not sucked (especially Fall of Reach & Ghosts of Onyx) and the books seem to finally start being based on series that have a deep story to begin with. Mass Effect: Revelation is hopefully evidence of this. A prequel novel to the certifiable awesomeness that Mass Effect will be when it finally comes out, it seems like it might be a great complimentary companion piece rather than a quick cash after-thought. It's out in stores this week, so if you have any interest, you might want to pick it up as I have.

That's really all I got for today, but I'll certainly be back tomorrow to talk about a certain wall-crawler's latest big screen adventure (and the game tie0ins that have that rare chance of not sucking).