Marvel Ultimate Alliance wasn't easy to come by. I had to wait until just a few weeks ago to pick the game up; this is partly due to my strict law of judging certain games as being worth a certain amount of my dollars (in this case, no more than precisely $23.00), but also because for some reason people seem to have viewed it as popular enough for that price to not come to pass within something like a year of its release. I can't say I'm suprised as that's becoming basically the habit with games this generation, considering Dead Rising is still bringing in a regular $30 a solid year after its release, which is a game that I've decided I won't pay more than precisely $20.00 for. Don't ask me where I get these numbers from; they come to me like alien transmissions.



Regardless, I finally did get Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and I've since played through the games story, ultimately realizing why it is probably just that the price hasn't dropped. Marvel Ultimate Alliance is a pretty rich, and rewarding experience; it's also Diablo 2. Those two things are slightly related. Some quick, obvious examples of the similarities between both games:

- Both games are centered upon a 5 Act structure
- Both games play fundamentally the same (hack n' slash)
- Both games feature enemy mobs that carry the same benefit as their leader
- Both games are driven by story cutscenes outside gameplay (mostly anyways)
- Both games feature upgradeable skills

These are pretty generic things, but above and beyond all of them is the truth that the two games just feel undeniably similar. Remove from Diablo the Blizzard feel, and replace it with a Marvel feel, not to mention remove the Thundering Longsword of the Whale and replace it with Spider-Woman's Nano-Fiber Suit, and there isn't much else separating the two. Excluding of course the fact that Marvel Ultimate Alliance is buggy as all hell.

It wasn't buggy to the point of being distracting, but it was noticeable that the developer maybe reached a few steps beyond their ability in striving for a Diablo-like structure. This is most obvious when you come to realize that you're playing with 30 (or so) Marvel characters, and the game isn't set to recognize the character with whom you're controlling outside battle. Walking around the starting area (there's a separate one in each Act; Stark Tower, Dr. Strange's Mansion, Valhalla, the Moon home of the Inhumans, and Doomstark) and speaking with the NPCs can leave you groaning. In Asgard I'd speak to Valkyrie with Thor, and she would proceed to greet me as, "Human, welcome to Valhalla." I'm pretty sure that shit would offend the God of Thunder. Add to this the fact that with the additional downloadable characters players can literally speak to Bruce Banner as the Hulk, or speak to Dr. Doom, as... Dr. Doom. It's a little jarring, and it makes the game seem sloppy.



My team throughout the game consisted of Wolverine, Iron Man, Thor, and Deadpool pretty much exclusively. Originally, I planned to play through the game with my new Marvel favorite Moon Knight, but honestly, he sucked. Iron Man only maintained a position as temporary teammate until I'm able to unlock the Silver Surfer. There's no substitution for the Power Cosmic in the guise of man. Most of the characters have four costumes, which makes for a hell of a lot of customization in your team. Iron Man's Ultimates costume was a large factor in keeping him around; it's just plain awesome.

The game is very story driven, and the story is pretty much tantamount to anything you'd see coming from Marvel these days anyways. Expect all the super villains to gather, someone important to actually die (not Captain America!), and the world to get totally ravaged by the end of the game. Honestly, I never would have thought that the story would have been as good as it was. It takes you on a journey to Mephisto's Realm, Asgard, the homeworld of the Shi'Ar, the Skrull Planet, Latveria, and other places as well.

I can't say anything better or worse about it really; Marvel Ultimate Alliance was worth my dollars, and I'd dare say it would have been worth even more than $23.00. I've got a lot of unlocking and Achievement-whoring to do, and I'm looking forward to the majority of it. Diablo fans should love it...

Why does Fatal Fury: Battle Archives Volume 1, supposedly releasing next month, matter?

1. It will probably cost $20. I don't much care if it's a terrible, terrible game. It's a piece of gaming history, in a genre I find enjoyable, and $20 makes it totally worthwhile.
2. This is a 2D fighter, but sometimes Mai Shiranui will hit your ass so hard, that she'll knock you right into the next dimension.






Now let's see if SNK can follow up with three more 2D fighters before the end of the year, and hopefully they'll all be at the same price-point too.

Let's take a look at the news dropping this week:

1. Peter Moore is leaving Microsoft to head up EA Sports. Not that it fucking matters, but I did like the guy. - Down 5 Points
2. Square Enix announces Final Fantasy 13 is 13% finished, and Final Fantasy 13 Versus is 1.3% finished. What?! - Down 10 Points
3. Microsoft announces that there will not be an X07 event. - Down 15 Points
4. A new Guilty Gear is announced. It's not a 2D fighter. - Down 20 Points
5. Capcom's mystery 2D fighter is not Street Fighter 4, but a Sengoku Basara game that will likely never be released in the US. - Down 25 Points
6. Capcom says Resident Evil 5 might not be released until 2009. - Down 30 Points
7. Bungie announces Halo 3 will likely ship WITHOUT online co-op. - Down 35 Points
8. The creator of Katamari Damacy, one of my favorite games, is making a game based on the whimsical nature of a double-headed dildo. + Up 35 Points

Tally Score = Breaking Even



That's a lot of bad, terrible, horrible, dirty, heart-crushing news; but that just goes to show that there are few things a double-headed dildo can't fix. Good looking out, Keita Takahashi!

It started with the South Park character generator, and then a thousand other create-an-avatar interfaces soon came flowing forth from the depths of the Netspace. It was doubly funny that they all tried to aim for that iPod appeal of silly branded titles. I can see the ads now, "Create your Twingy here. Custom Moblo's for everyone. Your very own Woompla." I imagine they all used the same damned interface and the same avatar design options. They're either stealing it from each other at lighting speed, or it's the same company behind them all. The Mii's were the perfect storm, as they came tied-in to Nintendo's gaming platform, or so it seemed at the time; we're obviously still yet to see them in much other than Nintendo's own games. Just one more gripe I have for the company that inspires no less than a million of the same.

Regardless, all of the avatar creation utilities can now be put to rest, because The Simpsons Movie website has come bearing the last we'll ever need. Web crawlers can now create themselves, in full Simpsons guise, with relative ease and infinite hilarity. It's not quite as robust as I would have liked, but it's just as addicting as Miis or the South Park generators, and it easily overshadows the Twingy/Moblo/Woompla phenomenons. I'm not really sure if they were ever phenomenons; somehow I doubt it.

I've made a short post long, but what I originally set out to say was, "Here I am, as a Simpsons character." Now, go and make yourself.



The Simpsons Movie Website via Fjetsam



Here's something I wasn't really expecting. EA's Army of Two has some of the nicest cover art I've seen this side of all the Steelbook and Collector's Edition fare that loads the shelves these days. I'm all for the extra content, and I love a sexy Steelbook, but when a company puts their asses in gear and makes a standard case look like something stellar, that deserves a little praise. Here's hoping they don't go tweaking or fiddling around with this cover; it's beautiful just the way it is.

The game itself is another issue, but I'll be honest and say that I'm more excited for this than I was for Black, EA's last fledgling shooter franchise. The humor and deep co-op gameplay look really interesting, and the aggro system seems wonderfully orchestrated. Something tells me I'll end up buying this, just unfortunately long down the road from its release.

This is my 100th post in the Zenspace catalog. That's chump change to some guys, but I just thought I'd share what is, to me, a small milestone. This is also the reason I hadn't posted in a while, as I was trying to decide on how to best commemorate the event. I wanted to take a historical cruise through the Zenspace, highlighting a post from every ten posts or so, and remember what led me to now. Unfortunately, that seemed like a lot of work and it just wasn't getting done. Add to that my actual desire to post on a bunch of other things but then I was unable to, thanks to not wanting to ruin the 100th Post thing ... and, well, it obviously gets a little silly.

So, I decided that E3 take center stage instead, and this is undoubtedly the proper choice to make. It is E3 after all. We're only a couple days out from the Microsoft conference with less than 48 hours to go, but I've still got just enough time to lay down some predictions to see if I have my finger on the industry. Chances are, I don't. My GDC '07 predictions turned out to be pretty much a bust so far (actually, they could still be OK), so we'll see how I do this time. By company seems the best way to go about it:



Microsoft

The Wii's coming in to this E3 riding high on popular opinion, but Microsoft's the crew actually in first place. This is interesting in particular, because Microsoft's never been here before and I'm not sure they understand the delicacies of maintaining hype. They'll always have a pull thanks to Halo and Grand Theft Auto 4, but the biggest problem I foresee for Microsoft so far is the utter lack of any surprise. We know no less than 100 games headed to the 360 in the next year, and many of them are all striving for blockbuster status. The question has to be, what else could they possibly have left to announce? Not much, I think. Microsoft's biggest problem will be showing people awesome stuff from awesome games, but nothing will be a surprise. They'll rely on Banjo Threeie, Mass Effect, Too Human, maybe even Halo Wars, and all the other games that we've known about since this went down last year. In short, Microsoft blew their load early to get in first place, and now they've either got to be warming up for another go, or they're dead in the water.

If the surprises do come, it might be another of Rare's titles finally getting a trailer, or some of the Japanese games we've known were in development. Although, I wouldn't hold my breath for any of those games; we may have felt it was necessary to cut back E3 to make it a more serious affair, but that doesn't mean Japanese companies are going to be comfortable announcing their titles in rooms that aren't filled with screaming fans. In case you're wondering, I'm talking specifically about Itagaki; I don't think the rock star will be happy with Ninja Gaiden 2 in a stuffy hotel conference room.

I think the Microsoft handheld thing is a joke, and if that's announced I'll be so blown away that I might just never try to predict anything ever again. I don't care if Dean Takahashi claims they're working on it or not, it just doesn't seem realistic. At all.

- Five Predictions and Un-Predictions -

1. 60% - We'll see a demo of Devil May Cry 4 on Xbox Live.
2. 10% - There will be a 360 pricedrop announced (Just don't see it happening).
3. 60% - Capcom will announce Dead Rising 2 (This could be multi-platform).
4. .1% - Microsoft announces a handheld gaming device.
5. 10% - They do the unthinkable; Peter Moore's tattoo is Metal Gear Solid 4.

Overall Place Prediction (in hype) after the show: Second



Nintendo

Please don't think I'm a hater after all this, but it's going to sound bad. See, I'm a hardcore gamer, and for that reason, I have some real problems with the Wii. I understood all the things they were saying when they announced what the purpose of this silly little machine was, and who it was directed towards, but I didn't think they'd actually go as far as they have. Or, maybe I did, but I thought they'd do it without forsaking me. That's the big problem I think Nintendo might have at this E3. Forsaking the hardcore gamer. They've already done it at their last media summit, and all these rumors keep swirling about this game or that game being canned in favor or more casual software. I'll say it right here, if Nintendo leads off E3 with announcements of casual games for the Wii, they've lost. They might fucking win the hearts and minds of the world, but they've lost me, and I think they're going to do it.

They might have one good year left in them, obviously with Smash, Metroid, and Mario coming (and we'll get dates for at least one of the second two at E3), but Wii Health, Wii Music, My Word Coach, and whatever the hell else there is, that can not be the focus of E3! Cassamasina claimed there is going to be a franchise renewal this year, and I'll make it very clear, if it's not Kid Icarus or Punch Out, I'm well beyond pissed. Actually, Punch Out worries me in itself, because I don't think the Wiimote is, at this point, sensitive enough to make a boxing game any better than Wii Sports Boxing, which is nothing more than a clusterfuck of flailing arms.

I think we might see Mario Kart, but I was never vastly into the series anyways. I think they'll show some WiiWare titles as well, just a couple in a montage or something, but they're so far off that it won't matter much anyways. Why are they so far off though? That's the question. It has, has, has to be for Nintendo to have enough time to figure out what to do with a HDD situation. Announcing it now, I'm not so sure, but it's, at this point, a necessity. Virtual Console and WiiWare titles are going to destory the 512MB available on the Wii, and carrying 20 SD Cards isn't a realistic alternative. The Neo Geo titles coming down the pipeline are only going to exacerbate this as well.

DS redesign? No.

- Five Predictions and Un-Predictions -

1. 85% - Nintendo announces Kid Icarus for the Wii.
2. 45% - Nintendo announces Metroid DS.
3. 30% - Nintendo announces New Super Mario Bros. 2 (Really feeling TGS on this one).
4. 65% - A Wii HDD is announced ...and it isn't big enough.
5. 05% - A DS redesign is announced.

Overall Place Prediction (in hype) after the show: Third



Sony

Sony. The monster. The behemoth. The $600 leviathan. Oh, excuse me, I meant $500. Sony's coming in to E3 with the world looking at them in a collective WTF? No one is exceptionally happy with their pricepoint, their handheld, their online structure (till Home anyways, and even then who knows), their non-stance on exclusives ... am I missing anything? They've got the most to prove, and here's an interesting thing from the guy without the Playstation 3; I see them pulling it off. The $100 price drop was the beginning of what I think is going to be a good week for Sony, that is if they don't rely too much on Metal Gear Solid 4. I'm not saying I don't want to see the game, but I'll say it one more time, winning E3 is about building new hype. We need to see MGS4, of course, but we need something else too. Something that is so new and unannounced it will blow our sneakers off. I think they might have something, what it is though, I have no idea. Also, if they go ahead and announce the PSP redesign as well as the PS3 price drop, they win by default. Cheaper hardware and new hardware is like, unbridled victory.

I think the PSP redesign is all but confirmed too. I could talk about their software but I don't have any idea what they've got planned. Some Final Fantasy tidbits would be nice, but like I said above, I think J-developers are going to be moving pretty heavily towards TGS these days, and in an off-the-wall prediction, I think that's where Square will announce the Final Fantasy VII remake. This year? Not so sure.

- Five Predictions and Un-Predictions -

1. 90% - A PSP redesign is announced.
2. 90% - A demo for Heavenly Sword is available on PSN. I weep at how cool it looks.
3. 60% - Little Big Planet steals another show.
4. 10% - There is no new Sony exclusives other than first party titles.
5. 01% - The Final Fantasy VII remake is announced.

Overall Place Prediction (in hype) after the show: First

- 10 Things I'm Particularly Stoked For -

1. More Smash Bros. Characters. Sonic to be FINALLY shown.
2. Condemned 2: Bloodshot being shown, and looking even more fantastic.
3. Golden Axe. Does it still exist?
4. Mario vs. Sonic at the Olympic Games videos. Sorry, I LOVE the Olympics.
5. Capcom announcing their new 2D fighter. It being THE game that ends all things.
6. New PSP games. I'm digging the lineup, but more is always better.
7. A new Castlevania DS game. A man can dream, no?
8. Seeing larger-scale planets in Mario Galaxy.
9. A new Mistwalker game, or Lost Odyssey in-depth. I'll take either.
10. Worthwhile content on Xbox's Bringing It Home E3 campaign.



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