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Tom Zjaba 1997 - 2015      

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Video Game Blog
March - April 2005

Back to Video Game Blogs

This will be the last blog until next month.  The site's hits have gone up so much this month that I had to upgrade or have the site shut down for the month.  So I don't want to do anything that will possibly make it go over the bandwidth.  It has been great getting all these extra visitors but I don't want the site to close down, even if it is only temporary.

Now onto video games.  I received an email that talked about Microsoft and MTV having a show that showed details of the next XBOX system.  It will be on May 12th and have Elijah Wood as a guest.  It is good to see that games are becoming more and more accepted by the mainstream.  I will have to set my TIVO as this could be interesting.  The XBOX has really become a major player in the system wars and Microsoft has an opportunity to give Sony a battle for first place. 

Speaking of new systems, I read that the Gamecube's successor will be backwards compatible with the Gamecube.  That is a good idea as it makes it an easier sell when you do not have to abandon the old system.  Now we just need Nintendo to join the 21st century and go with at least DVD if not one of the new formats.  I know they want to make a game system first and foremost but it is easier to sell a system when it can do multiple things.

Something I talked about before in Bit Age Times is an amusement park based on the Nintendo characters.  I am still amazed that no one has done this.  Nintendo has so many recognizable characters and it would be easy to adapt rides to the different characters.  Mario is known the world over.  Donkey Kong and Link are as well.  And Pokemon is still well known.   I would expect it to be made in Japan but I think it could work just as well in the USA.

Is there a game you keep playing and playing?  Did you ever ask yourself what is it about the game that keeps you coming back?  For me that game is Crazy Climber.  I play that game at least once a week.  I have played it on every system from the Atari to the Nintendo to the Playstation to the arcade.  I still am not sure what it is about the game that keeps me coming back but I really do like it. 

A game that I picked up cheap and really enjoyed is "Dog's Life" for the Playstation 2.  I like to call it "Grand Theft Puppy" as there are some similarities to the GTA series.  You have some open areas that you can explore.  You can also do missions in your own order.  For a budget title ($19.99 retail price), it is quite the game. 

Just started getting into Morrowind for the XBOX.  I picked up the Game of the Year edition.  Not sure why as I probably will never get through enough of the original game to ever get near the expansions, but who knows.  So far I like the game.  I did pick up a strategy guide for it.  They had one at the used game store for $2.50.  Normally I do not bother with strategy guides as I have a hard time paying $15.00 for something you can get free on the internet.  But with this game and the amount of material in it, I figured the price was right.

One thing I notice when I talk to gamers.  Almost all of them talk about how they have too many games.  They have games they barely played or never played.  Yet, they keep buying more games.  I know I am guilty of this myself.  I think back to when I was a kid and we never had that problem.  I can remember when I bought a Colecovision and had a whopping two games - Donkey Kong and Zaxxon.  It was a few months before I picked up another game.  But now, I have nearly 60 games for the PS2 and about a dozen games for the XBOX (and I just got it for Christmas, granted four games came with it).  I also have a stack of Dreamcast games too.  Yet I am always looking for more games.  What is it about today's gamers that we are never satisfied? 

I am one happy camper!  I just received the latest issue of Game Informer (a great deal at $10.00 for 10 issues) and on the cover is the game I have been waiting for any news about, The Warriors!  Not since they announced it at the last E3 show has there been any news about it.  Not a screen shot or anything.  Then Game Informer pops up with an awesome cover (I am tempted to make a t-shirt out of that cover) and a huge article full of pictures and information on the game.  Needless to say, I am stoked.  I know in the past, I said that I don't buy games new but this one may make me break that promise.  The Warriors is my all-time favorite movie and a game based on it that is made by Rockstar is enough to sell me.  Now all I need is a nifty leather vest with the Warriors insignia on it and I am in heaven.

If the Warriors coverage wasn't enough, they also had a big feature on a video game based on City of the Dead, the new zombie movie from George Romero.  Another game that looks great and with George Romero aiding in the development of the game, I cannot wait for it.  Dawn of the Dead is my second favorite movie of all-time (after the Warriors being my all-time favorite, what were you expecting, Yentil?).  So I am as happy as a pig in mud.  Darn, two games that may make me break my promise to not buy games for retail price.  Wonder if Electronic Boutique or any of the stores will have any nifty extras if you prepay?

I have been fooling around with a NES emulator (actually my kids have been fooling around with it more than me) and I loaded a ton of remakes on it.  It is hilarious how many different versions of Super Mario Bros that people have made over the years.  You have Link as Mario, Mario in silly outfits and more versions that you can shake a stick at.  It is pretty funny how clever some people are.  Makes me with that I could program games to make a few myself.  Maybe I could remake River City Ransom to be the Warriors.  Or a Street Fighter game with former presidents.  Wouldn't it be cool to see who would win between George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Or send JFK against FDR.  I would put my money on either Teddy Roosevelt or Ike.  When in doubt, go with the former military men. 

I keep hearing reports that the XBOX 2 or XBOX Next or whatever it is called will not come with a hard drive.  You will need to buy one separate if you want one.  Personally, I think that would be a big mistake.  The hard drive is one of the biggest advantages of the XBOX.  It was an idea that was long overdue.  I know it adds expense to the cost of the system but it also makes the system unique and offers alot to gamers.  Though I must say that I would like to see more games take advantage of the hard drive, especially when it comes to loading.  Microsoft if you read this, don't abandon the hard drive or make it an add-on.  It is a big part of the success of the XBOX.

Wonder why there has not been a game since Legends of the Diamond for the NES that features classic baseball players.  I know they have some thrown in new baseball games as unlockable but I really want to see a game that offers a chance to play whole seasons with old time players and have deadball physics.  It would be cool to be able and see what would happen if you left Babe Ruth as a pitcher or what kind of stats Shoeless Joe Jackson could have accumulated if he wasn't thrown out of baseball.  There is a gold mine worth of material there to work with.

I wonder if some of the alternate controllers of the past like trackballs will ever come back.  I always liked the trackball but I am not sure today's gamers would warm up to it.  Ditto for the paddle.  There is not many uses for a paddle controller anymore but I would love to see one packed with the Activision collection.  I still find it annoying trying to play Kaboom with a controller. 
One of my dreams for a video game is one that really lets you have total control of the life of your character.  Think about The Sims but to a much greater degree.  The game would have you in a fictional city.  You would start off with a set amount of money and a predetermined set of skills that you would either allow the computer to choose for you or you would set.  From there you would do whatever you want.  Find a job doing whatever you want, if you can get the job.  Go to college if you want.  Make friends, make enemies and find lovers.  You could try to move up the corporate ladder, you could rob banks, you could try to be a sports star.  But every choice would have an impact on your life.  Every person you are nice or mean to could come back to help or haunt you.  I am not sure if the next set of systems will have the power to run all these different variable or if a company would want to try and program every possibility.  But it would be fun.  The Sims is getting closer to it but they still limit what you can and cannot do.

While they would not be huge hits, why doesn't Microsoft consider bringing over a game like Zoo Tycoon to the XBOX?  I think a few games like that would expand the number of games that the entire family could play together.  As great as Halo is and as much of a system seller it is, I feel the XBOX needs more games for the rest of the family.  It has some like Tetris and classic compilations but I think a few games like this would help. 

I am glad to see there is a sequel to Fable in the works.  I really enjoyed Fable and would love to see a game that can build upon it.  It told a good story and seeing the moral implications of your actions was a big step forward in gaming.  Sure there were games that did that before, Daggerfall being one, but Fable took it to another level.  But the one thing that I would really like to see with Fable is more open-ended gameplay.  I was turned off a bit by the outdoor dungeon feel of the game.  I really felt like I was moving around in a dungeon, only instead of stone walls, it was walls of trees or hills.  You had to move from area to area through what felt like doors.  Guess I have been spoiled by games like Morrowind and GTA where you can go just about anywhere. 

I am still amazed how far Mario has come.  From the poor plumber in Donkey Kong to the villain in Donkey Kong Jr. to the most famous video game character of all-time, it still boggles my mind.  How many other games can you think of where the villain became the star?  It is just amazing.
One of the genres that I have always enjoyed is the RPGs or role playing games.  From as far back as Adventure and Tunnels of Doom, I have been a fan of the genre.  A big part of it was how much I played Dungeons & Dragons back in my youth.  I was lucky enough to get in early on the game and became addicted from the start.  I played it regularly for nearly 10 years.  I was also a huge fan of fantasy literature with books like The Lord of the Rings series, The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe and others among my favorites. 

When I was young and video games were in their infancy, I dreamed of a real Dungeons & Dragons video game.   I still remember riding with my friends up to Sears to buy the Intellivision version of Dungeons & Dragons and being disappointed by it.  I did like the Quest for the Rings for the Odyssey 2.  While it was limited, it did allow different classes and two people playing at once, firsts in the RPG video games.  But it did not quench my desire for a real RPG.

When Tunnels and Trolls was announced for the Colecovision, my hopes were high.  It looked like the game that would deliver what the Intellivision version never did.  But it never came out and once again, I came up short.  But I did find a game that took a significant step closer.  Tunnels of Doom for the TI computer allowed for a team of up to four players.  You had different classes and even different looks.  There were monsters in room, treasure to find and fountains that could heal.  It was the closest that I had ever gotten to playing D&D on a computer or video game.

Much later, I finally found a game that exceeded my expectations.  Dungeon Master was really the first game to really capture the feeling of going through a dungeon.  You had to eat and drink to keep your health up.  You needed to rest to heal.  Once you shot all your arrows, you were out and had to retrieve them.  Monsters kept coming after you and not stopping at doors (unless you shut them).  You had to prepare spells and only had a limited amount of magic.  It was real time, which meant monsters kept coming and not waiting their turn.  The game was awesome! 

While the real time games commanded most of my attention, I did still play turn based games.  I was one of the handful that owned and played through all four Dragon Warriors.  I played the first Final Fantasy before it was fashionable and enjoyed Phantasy Star from the first one to the newest online ones.  I still play RPGs with games like Fable being the latest that I completed.  I think that RPGs will always be a part of my life as I like the story, the building up your character and fighting all kinds of monsters.

I watched a special on G4 on the history of Tetris.  It was quite interesting the all the problems that arose from Tetris.  But what is much more interesting, especially to a gamer like myself is how incredibly simple yet incredibly addictive the game is.  I can still remember playing it on the NES (the far superior version from Tengen).  I remember how addictive it was and how much I loved the game.  I also remember the tons and tons of clones out there that for the most part are inferior.

What is even more amazing about Tetris is that I still play it today.  I picked up the Playstation 2 version and still enjoy it.  While they improved the graphics and sound and added some new things to it, it is still the same basic game.  The game is still a blast to play and can still keep me playing.  I guess that is the sign of a great game, one that remains great even after a decade.

Out of all the clones and variations of Tetris, my favorite one has to be Klax.  It is the one puzzle type game that I find myself playing often.  I think a good part of it is the challenge of making the longer diagonals for more points.  Also the different type of boards, from getting a certain amount of points or having to put down a certain amount of blocks, keeps it fresh and challenging.  It is not just the same game over and over. 

I wonder why no one has updated Klax.  I have seen Tetris updates and even Columns updates but not a single Klax update.  I think it is a good idea that could do well.  There has to be more people than just me who want to play this fun game and would enjoy an update.  Maybe Infogrames or whoever owns this and many of the Atari games from this era, could create a combo disk of some of the different games with the original and updated versions.  Atari really created alot of great games during this era and I think they could create a nice combo game, much like the new Sega Generations game or whatever it is called.

Was there ever a game that completely obsessed you?  Where you would play it constantly for days, sometimes weeks at a time?  I can think of a few games that would fit that bill with me.  These are the kind of games that I wanted to play morning, noon and night.  One of those games was Genghis Khan on the Nintendo 8 Bit.  A friend of mine, John and myself played this every night for two weeks.  We would play until the middle of the night.  We just loved building a dynasty and battling for the world.  He tried to build a huge empire on Japan.  I came from Europe and tried to conquer the world.  Genghis Khan was in the middle, giving us both problems.

The other game was Dungeon Master.  I bought an Atari ST computer just to play this game.  I tried to justify that I bought the computer to do word processing and other useful stuff but the real reason was to play Dungeon Master.  I played for weeks until I beat it.  I would dream about the game.  I saw the creatures hiding out as I went through life.  It was bizarre. 

Years later I tried playing these games and seeing if I could recapture the same feeling.  While they are still great games and I still enjoy them, the same feeling is not there anymore.  I have not found a game since that has really overwhelmed me like these games.  It is amazing how absorbing a video game can be.

I never really got into handheld systems.  Alot of it had to do with playing games on tiny screens.  It is hard for me to get into a game on a three inch screen.  Also, the Gameboy has been the main system and I never cared for the Gameboy.  The new DS is probably the first Nintendo handheld that I considered buying and it still has too small a screen.  While I can understand the desire to play games on the run, after playing games on a large television, it is hard for me to play essentially the same games with worse graphics and usually more limited gameplay on a tiny screen.  But by the huge sales of the Gameboys over the years (125 million or more, some ridiculously huge number), I can see that I am in the minority.

Now the Sony PSP finally adds a larger screen.  It also has better graphics  than your typical handheld and closer to console graphics.  But the high price is enough to hold me back.  If it was closer to the $99.00 of a Gameboy SP, I would be very tempted (but they would lose a ton on it, so that is not feasible).  They finally fix the main complaints I have with handhelds but add new ones.  Guess I was not destined to own a handheld.

One game that I have a real interest in is Doom 3 for the XBOX.  I have no interest in the PC version.  I am the kind of person that if I have a choice between a console and a PC version, I will always take the console version.  I have had too many problems with PC versions.  The last thing I want to do is spend good money on a game that will not work right until I download some patches and install them.  I do very little PC gameplaying with most of it being card games and stuff that does not require patches.  I understand that there are so many different computers and configurations that have to be taken in consideration but I would rather get one for the XBOX or PS2 and know it will work out of the package. 

But onto Doom 3, the game does look great.  I really liked the other two Dooms and still remember the first time I played Doom and really felt like I was in a 3D world.  The game just blew me away.  It is good to see some more great games coming to the XBOX.  The system is really building a solid library of games. 

It makes me old saying it, but I was fortunate to grow up during the golden age of video games.  I still consider the late 70's to early 80's to be the golden era of video games, especially at the arcades.  I really think there was more variety of gameplay that you see today.  While there were quite a few maze games, there were so many different types of games, many that did not fit easily in a category.  You go to an arcade now and it is mostly fighting games or racing games or shooting games.  You have some dancing games but the vast majority of games neatly fit in the aforementioned genres.  But during the golden age, you had all kinds of games.  From Joust to Tapper to Missile Command, each experience was different, each game was unique.  The programmers really tried to do something different and more interesting.  They were not afraid of taking risks. 

I still dream of the time when I could go down the street to the local arcade and play the latest games.  There was an arcade around the corner from my house, Pleasure Time Arcade, that was a test center for the region or so the manager told us.  Every week, they would bring in a new game or two.  We were spoiled by the constant flow of new games.  I can still remember playing games there that I never saw anywhere else.  Games like Munchmobile and Mystic Marathon and Timber.  And every Saturday night they would have a play all you want for one price deal.  You could pay $5.00 or $6.00 dollars and play from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM.  I would go out of my way to try all the unique games that may not have caught my attention before.  I found a lot of great games that I may have missed.  Games like Ladybug became favorites, where I may have ignored them. 

I can still remember those days.  But in time, the arcade was sold and the new owner didn't bring in new games every week.  We would go months before a new game came in.  We had become so spoiled by new releases that it was hard to keep coming back and play the same games.  Soon, the crowds slowed up and the arcade closed.  I didn't think too much about it then but now I think how much of a part of my childhood it was.  I remember the excitement of being the first one to play a new game.  We had so much fun trying to get in as many games as we could on Saturday night.  It was a great time to be a kid (or a teenager in my case). 

Like many gamers from the 80's, I went through a period when I switched from consoles to computers.  While I had my Nintendo 8 Bit system, I did most of my gaming on the Atari ST.  I can still remember how I would call this one company that sold games each week and order something.  I do not know why I bought so many games as I ended up playing about a dozen games all together.  There were the games that took most of my gaming like Dungeon Master and Hero Quest and games that I enjoyed playing from time to time like North and South and Lemmings. 

Outside of FTL (the makers of Dungeon Master)), there were two other companies that I would buy every game they made.  They were the Bitmap Brothers who made so many great games.  From the tough but great Gods to the wild fun of Speedball, they just consistently made great games.  I knew that when I purchased a Bitmap Brothers games, I was going to get my money worth.

The other company that made software for the Atari ST and other platforms that I would buy their games on sight and not wait for a review was Cinemaware.  It is hard to think of a Cinemaware game that I did not enjoy.  Three Stooges was hilarious.  Sinbad was fun, especially fighting the Cyclops.  Defender of the Crown was many people's first experience with a strategy game.  The TV Sports games were flawed but fun.  It added the presentation of TV to sports games, something that is taken for granted today.  What a great company.
It still amazes me how far video games have come in such a short time.  Twenty five years ago, the Atari 2600 was the top of the heap and now you can fit all the games that were made for the system on one CD that you can buy for under a dollar.  Sometimes I think about what would happen if you went back in time to one of the shows where they showed the new systems and set up an XBOX or Playstation 2.  Imagine the buzz that would happen at a show in 1982 when they debuted the Colecovision and showed Donkey Kong and a few tables over was the XBOX with Halo 2 on it.  I can still imagine how impressed I was with Zaxxon on the Colecovision.  I was floored by it.  If I saw something like a Fable or a Resident Evil 4 back then, I would have had a heart attack.  I always dreamed of games that offered so much more, but never really fathomed them happening in my lifetime.  I guess I was just to shortsighted.

Is it me or is this the biggest spring for video games ever?  The spring is usually a dead time for video games.  There are some big releases during the spring but for the most part it is all from September to December.  But this spring we not only had the PSP, but also a slew of big titles.  Gran Turismo 4, God of War, Doom 3 for the XBOX and quite a few others.  It is good to see the games being spread out more. 

One of my favorite things is mythology.  I always was fascinated with the myths and legends that the different societies created over the years.  And now I am happy to see so many of them working their way into video games.  For years, we saw a fair amount of Japanese and Chinese history and mythology in video games.  Alot of it had to do with majority of the software programmers and companies being from Japan.  But now we are starting to see more mythology and history of other cultures popping up.  From the gladiator games of late to Gods of War, we are seeing the Greek and Roman mythology emerging.  And that is great as it is a very rich and detailed history.  I would also like to see some of the Norse mythology and even some Native American.  There are great stories and great heroes and monsters from all over the world that have yet to be tapped and I think video games offer a great opportunity to not only entertain but also teach gamers about the great stories that are not as popular as they once were.  Let us hope this is the start of a new trend.
 I can still remember how excited I would get about a new version of Bases Loaded for the NES.  For some reason, this baseball series was the one for me.  Not since has a sports series created so much excitement for me.  I know the brawls were a small part of it.  But I also liked the pitchers who could pitch insanely fast (I had one pitcher that could exceed 115 mph).  It is funny how much a video game can become a part of our lives.  I look at the people in newsgroups who are huge and I mean huge Madden fans.  It is almost a religion for them.

There is one constant that I do for every system that I own.  I always go out and try to get a good joystick for it.  Having began in the Atari era, where joysticks were the norm, I just find a comfort level with them over the gamepads.  I would think after 20 years of playing game with a gamepad, I would become used to it, but I still prefer a joystick any day.

Hit a few stores this weekend and noticed there were still alot of PSP on the shelves.  I talked to a few employees at the store and they said that they sales started fast but quickly slowed.  Most said it is the high price that has kept buyers at bay and they get a lot of requests for stand alone models and not ones that are packaged with all the extras.  I do not know how sales are across the country, but in my little part of the world, they are not great.  Will be interesting to see how the final numbers shake out.  It is a very nice system and finally one that has a large screen (I always hated the tiny screens of the Gameboy).  But at $250.00, that is way more than I would pay for a handheld and it looks like I am not the only one.

A few weeks of doing the Video Game Blog and already I have received a request to review an online game.  Good to see the blog getting some exposure.  I won't review every game that comes my way, but since this is the first one to ask, I will review it.

The game is called The Black Knight (nothing to do with the character from Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and it is his job to go around and collect gold for the king.  He has to take his club and literally beat it out of the peasants.  The graphics and animation are nice.  You also get a wide variety of stuff to hit.  Old and young peasants, male and female all are victims to your attacks.  You can also smash barrels, stands and even birds.  The game is quite simplistic in that you air and swing your club.  That is it.  If you hold it down longer, you can hit harder and get more gold.  There are quite a few levels you can go through and after each level, you can spend your gold to get a better club as well as other items.  But be warned, the more you spend, the more you will have to collect on the next level.  So be very cheap with your money or your game will end quickly.

Considering the game is free and is a fun way to blow off some steam, I recommend you check it out.  You may also want to check out some of the other free games on the site.  Here is a link to the Black Knight.  Enjoy it and see if you can make it into the Top 50.  Here is the link: http://www.arcadetown.com/blackknight/playgame.asp

Hit the used game stores yesterday and came away with a game that I have been looking for but finally found at a cheap price that I am willing to pay.  I have been a big Crazy Taxi fan since I first played it on a vacation to Las Vegas with my wife back in 1999.  We went to the Classic Gaming Expo and during the time not at the show, we were visiting the many casinos when I came across this game.  Loved it from the first game and it was one of the big reasons that I picked up a Dreamcast.  So yesterday, when I saw Crazy Taxi 3: High Rollers for the XBOX for $10.00, I jumped on it.  It is great to have a new Crazy Taxi level in Las Vegas, plus the New York and San Francisco levels from the original game.  But they also added new stuff to the old levels.  There are new people to pick up and new places to go.  There are also a bunch of cool mini games to play.  Now I need to find Toe Jam and Earl and Panzer Dragoon Orta for $10.00 or less and I will be happy.

I love used video game stores.  While I appreciate all the people who buy video games when they are new because they are the ones that make it possible for more new games to come out, I am the kind who waits for a bargain.  Sure I could pay full price and be among the first to buy a game, but I would rather wait.  I have bought some great games for dirt cheap prices by waiting.  Picked up GTA 3 for $5.00 and Vice City for $10.00.  Grabbed the Jet Set Radio Future/Sega GT combo for $2.99.  I would tell everyone to wait but we do need people to buy games new in order to have used games and more importantly, to have more new games come out.  I salute each and every one of you who buys at retail.

There are a few trends in video games that I really am pleased about.  These are the kind of things that I hope will not only continue but also will be improved upon with the next generation of video games.  These are the open ended gameplay that really came to the forefront in Grand Theft Auto 3 and also the keeping of stats on almost everything that also really took off in Grand Theft Auto 3.  While neither of these features were started by GTA 3, it was this game that really made them popular.  One of the best things about GTA 3 and its open ended gameplay was how you could solve a problem in many different ways.  Personally, if I never have to find another key to open a door, I will be happy.  It just irritates me when I have a flame thrower in my hand the door is made of wood and I cannot burn it down.  It will only open with the special key that is hidden in some wall.  Why can't my flame thrower burn a wooden door?  Why can't my bazooka knock down a door or put a hole in the wall?   Why must I find a lever to open a door, a lever that is nowhere near the door?  That makes no sense.  It is like putting your doorbell on the back of your garage.  Who is going to go in your backyard and look around until they find it on the back of your garage to ring it to get you to open the door to your house?   That is one part of video games that I want to see go away.  Let it die off like the stupid bad guys that kept walking right at you as you shot them.  Video games have grown up and we need to move past this.
One of the biggest news stories in the world of video games has been the exclusive deal between the NFL and EA.  The shockwaves of this one have been felt all over the industry and will continue to be felt for years to come.  But for anyone who follows the industry, should have seen this coming.  Exclusives have always been a part of the video game industry.  Arcade games are always owned by one company.  There is only one company that makes Dungeons & Dragons video games.  So why should it be a surprise that this happened with sports games?  Just because it never happened in the past, does not mean it won't happen.

The big question will be how the licenses are handled now that they are exclusive.  EA has said that they will keep improving the Madden game and that is exactly what you would expect them to say.  But with the huge added expense of the exclusive deal plus the ESPN deal, it will be interesting to see how much they do allocate towards development.  One thing I do know is that the price will not go down, if any thing it will go up.

One of the biggest sections on this website is the Nintendo Box Scans.  It is also the most popular section.  I remember that I started it because I bought a big collection of boxes off a guy on the internet.  I picked up about 225 different boxes, including many rare ones.  I really liked the artwork on them and wanted to preserve them.  They are by far my favorite of the video game boxes.  You have some of the most imaginative boxes ever.

I wonder how much the packaging really has to do with the success of a video game.  Makes you wonder how much thought goes into the use of certain colors and designs.  Think about how much the packaging affects your buying decision.  I know that in the pre-crash days, the package was a big seller for us.  This was before the internet and tons of magazines full of reviews.  Most video games were sold at department stores, so there was not alot of salesman knowledge.  Now you can read as many reviews as you want, from magazines, other game players and more.  You can really know every single thing about a game within days of release. 

Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates it.  To everyone else, enjoy your Sunday.  While I am talking about Easter, I wonder why there are no Easter Bunny games.  Or any games that I know of based on this holiday.  Think of the possibilities.  You could have a bunch or mini games like an Easter Egg Hunt or help the Peep find his brothers (or sisters, not sure on their sex, just that they are made of marshmallow).  There is a gold mine here.  Maybe that is an exaggeration, more like a coal mine.  But if you made a game like the Sony Playstation game "My Street" and made it a bunch of mini games and have ones that would pop up on holidays that were specific to that day, it could be popular.  Not GTA popular, but at least "Dog's Life" popular.

Speaking of Dog's Life, this is probably one of the neatest little games that I have ever picked up.  Think of it as Grand Theft Puppy.  You can take your dog all over and do what you want (for the most part).  There are things to collect, mini games to play and places to explore and dogs to visit.  It really is a great little game and is less than $20.00.

Every so often I see a game that catches my attention.  The latest is an upcoming game called "Jaws."  This has nothing to do with that subpar NES game.  This one is being done by Appaloosa, the development team behind Ecco the Dolphin.  It is also features you as the shark and it is your job to go around and eat people, fish, orcas and whatever else gets in your way.  If the game isn't shallow (no pun intended), I think it could be a great game.  Let's hope for the best.

I am still trying to figure out when Easter went from a religious holiday to one that has come to resemble a mini Christmas (which also used to be a religious holiday).  When I was young, we would get a basket with some candy and maybe a small stuff animal when we were little but that was it.  When we got older, we would get a necklace with a cross on it or something with some religious significance.  But now I see people giving video games, DVDs, Ipods and just about every toy you can imagine.  Not sure if I am upset about the destruction of a holiday that had meaning or jealous because I never got all the stuff that kids get these days. 

I have always been a big fan of pinball.  The only problem with pinball is that it is hard to find anyplace that carries pinball machines.  You can find arcades that carry games or if you are really desperate, you can hit Chuck E. Cheese.  But not many places carry pinball.  This is too bad as they were a big part of my childhood and something that I still enjoy.  But nowadays, kids want to play those redemptions machines.  Pump quarter after quarter to win tickets.  I hate these things.  There is an arcade that I take my kids to.  We spend $30.00 and get a extra large pizza, pitcher of pop and 100 tokens.  I had to split the tickets to before the pizza and after because my kids would blow through their tokens in no time flat.  To give you an idea, I give each of my twin boys 17 tokens before the pizza.  They can spend through all of them and ask me for more before I finish one game of Ms. Pacman.  I spend one token and they will have gone through 17.  But onto my point of pinball.  The arcade used to carry two pinball machines - Attack from Mars and Theatre of Magic.  These two pinball games, Ms. Pacman, Galaga and Centipede were all I would play.  Once in a great while, I would play a little Golden Tee Golf, but that was it.  I had no interest in the fighting games and the dozen shooting games.  And I cared less for the redemption games that dominate the arcade.  But recently, they pulled out Theatre of Magic.  I am hoping it is just to get fixed as the space has not been filled and the flippers were acting up last time.  It is one of my last places to play pinball.
Now that Easter is almost here, I wonder how many people who gave up video games for lent can start playing video games again.  I knew a few people who would give them up for lent.  I guess if you don't have any better vices (smoking, drinking, you know the rest) then I guess video games can fill the bill.  Personally, I do not think of video games as something that I would give up.  But that is me. 

There are times that I wish I paid more attention to the video game crash.  It happened at a time that I went away to college, so I did not have the time or money to take advantage of it.  About all I did was get a Vectrex and a stack of games cheap to take to college.  I could not afford a television to take and play my Colecovision.  But a Vectrex with its own screen for $50.00 was a deal I could not pass up.  I did really enjoy my Vectrex.  Hours and hours of playing Minestorm, Berzerk, Armor Ambush, Star Castle and Ripoff.  It was a great system.  Wonder what would have become of the Vectrex if the Great Crash never happened.  There were quite a few vector games left to do.  About as close as we will ever get is John Dondazilla's games.  It is great to see someone keep the system alive.

Will the arcades ever come back?  They have been in a steady decline since in the 1990's.  During that period you had the fighting games revive them.  But since they, it has been a steady decline.  I have a dream of owning a large and I do mean large arcade.  A place that had a large selection of classics and a big selection of pinball machines.  It would have some newer machines, but not like most places that are nothing but fighting games, shooting games and redemption games.  I would want to mix in racing games, fishing games, golf games, sports games, as many different genres as possible.  I would also have a section with parlor games like pool, air hockey, foosball and games like that.  Plus you would have to have your restaurant area to increase your profits.  I dream about it quite often but I doubt it would really fly.  Unless you have a gimmick, I cannot see it working.  But it is nice to dream.

My other big dream is a video game themed restaurant.  Call it Insert Coin Cafe or the Retrogaming Restaurant.  It would have something like the Atari Flashback at each table that people could play while waiting for their order.  There would be memorabilia on the walls and an arcade section.  I don't have the money to make it fly but I think if done right, it could be popular.  Guess we all need to dream.

This is the week that the Sony PSP comes out.  I am not buying one but if you are planning on getting one, let me give you some advice....get an extended warranty.  Sony has released two game systems and both have had problems.  The original Playstation had the overheating problem and the PS2 has the disk read error problem.  That is not a good track record.  If you look at Nintendo, they had problems with the original NES and every system since then has worked fine.  That is why I would not buy a Playstation game system at launch.  I always wait at least 6 months, if not a year, to see what problems arise.   So if you must have one at launch, go to a store that offers a extended warranty (make sure it is a good warranty) and get it.  Peace of mind is a great thing and worth the price.

One of my dreams is a program that you could hook up to any game system and it would not only allow you to play import games, but it would also translate them for you.  Whether it would work by adding subtitles for the games or talk in the language or whatever, it would allow you to play deeply involved Japanese games without having to learn the language (or whatever country).  Then games like Segagaga would be playable now and not in 5 years when you finally get a good enough grip on the language.  I don't see anything like this being made.  Guess I will have to wait until they can install language interpreter chips in your brain.

One magazine that I really enjoy is Game Informer.  Of the magazines that are out there, it is probably the one I enjoy reading the most.  The mixture of reviews, previews and a healthy dose of silliness is what sets it apart from other magazines.  But one thing that has always bothered me about the magazine is the reviews.  For the most part they are well written and often on the mark, but there is one thing that disturbs me.  They have two reviewers per game but almost every game gets the same score from both reviewers.  It always seems to be within a half a point of the each other.  One reviewer will give it an 8 and the other will give it a 8.5.  It is like it is one big clone factory or something.  I can understand some games getting the same review, a game like Halo 2 will get a great rating from just about anyone reviewing it.  But it is hard for me to believe that just about every game falls into this. 

If you look at Electronic Gaming Monthly, their reviews will vary.  Sometimes they are close and sometimes they are far off.  It gives me a feel that the reviews are more accurate or at least that it is not some brainwashing cult that forces all reviewers to like the same games, the same genres and give the same reviews.  Maybe I am way off base and there is a simple explanation, but until I find out, I will believe that aliens have set up in Minnesota and are in control of Game Informer. 

On a different note, what has happened to the Rockstar game, The Warriors?  It was mentioned at the last E3 and they had a quick blurb that it was based on the movie and that is it.  Nothing since then, not a screen shot or anything.  It was the most anticipated game for me and now it looks like it has evaporated into thin air.  The thought of a game based on my all-time favorite movie and done by a company that only does quality products (OK, we will overlook State of Emergency), was enough to get me excited.  Rockstar, tell us something.  Is it still coming out or has it been cancelled? 

When it comes to games that I really want to be released, they tend to get cancelled.  It started back on the Colecovision when I really wanted Tunnels and Trolls.  All that was ever made was a main screen.  Sure it is a pretty screen, but that is it.   The Dreamcast had a bunch of games that never came out that I wanted.  The most desired was the combo game that featured Jambo! Safari/Brave Firefighter and some Ambulance game.  I loved Jambo! Safari at the arcades and looked forward to playing it at home.  Never happened.  Another game was Armada 2.  I enjoyed the first one and was hoping the sequel would be even better.  They canned it on the Dreamcast and said it would come out for the PS2.  Well, it never came out for that system either.   

I saw the Atari Flashback system and wondered how well it is selling.  There is nostalgia for classic systems but is there enough market to justify a system like that.  $30.00 is a decent price for it, but one has to wonder.  I look over the list of games and wonder if they could not do better choosing.  Why put paddle games like Breakout and Warlords if you are not going to include paddles?  You think they would want a few sports games.  Sure they didn't age well, but many people played them in the day.  It is about nostalgia.

I would like to see other systems come out like this.  Personally, I would love to see the Vectrex get re-released.  I do see two big pitfalls.  First, the screen would drive up the cost.  Second, many of the best Vectrex games were arcade hits and it would be costly to secure the rights.  Speaking of rights, who owns the right to the Cinematronics games?

Another system that comes to mind but it quite doubtful is the Colecovision.  The big problem with the Colecovision is that it's most popular games were arcade hits.  Donkey Kong, Zaxxon and Mousetrap are three games that come to mind.  And each game is made by a different company.

Speaking of companies that could do a good console, I would love to see Sega do one.  Think of a Sega Genesis type one that featured a good selection (and by good selection, I mean a minimum of 20 games) of Genesis games.  Or even better would be an arcade one that drew from their long line of arcade games.     

One of the games that I really enjoyed was Kingdom Hearts.  As cool as it was to go through all the different Disney worlds and meet the different characters, it made me think what other universes could you do like the Kingdom Hearts game?  The first one that came to mind was the Warner Brothers cartoons.  The one problem with that is there is a general lack of quality villains.  Sure you have a ton of heroes like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the rest, but who are the good villains.  Yosemite Sam?  Elmer Fudd?  Warner Brothers does not have too many worthwhile villains.  Even /Marvin Martian is not that imposing.

Then my mind started to wander towards to absurd.  One that I think would be great fun but probably would not sell too /well is based on the Sid and Marty Krofft characters.  Imagine a game with HR Pufnstuf, Sigmund the Sea Monster, Land of the Lost and the rest of their creations.  It could be hilarious.  And you have some serious villains.  There is Witchie Poo from HR Pufnstuf.  Land of the Lost has the dinosaurs as well as the Sleestack.  Sigmund has his family of sea monsters.  There would be a gold mine of great stuff to do and it would be so off the wall, it could work.

Another bizarre one that I came up with would deal with BBC characters.  For people unfamiliar with the BBC, it is the British Broadcasting Corporation, a channel from England that has a loyal following the world over, including here in the USA.  Alot of shows that are cult hits here, originated there.  Shows like Dr. Who, Red Dwarf, Benny Hill, Mr. Bean and others.  Imagine a game where you are aided by Benny Hill and Dr. Who, while battling with the troupe from Monty Python, against the Daleks with Dr. Who, aboard the mining ship Red Dwarf and in the medieval times with Black Adder.  The possibilities would be endless and with the right writers, it could be the funniest game ever made.

One of the things I have been doing since I bought my wife a Tivo for Christmas is to tape shows on G4.  Before Tivo, I never bothered with television.  Heck, I didn't even know I had the G4 channel.  Now I find myself taping all the episodes of Icons.  I really enjoy seeing the history of video games and companies.

It is funny, I have a Playstation 2, XBOX and my kids have a Gamecube but the system we play the most is the Sega Dreamcast.  I am still bummed at the system dying.  I find myself wishing it had lasted one more year.  There were so many great games cancelled or released for other systems that I would have loved to play on my Dreamcast.  You gotta wonder how many of the games Sega released on the XBOX, Gamecube and PS2 would have been released on the Dreamcast if it lasted.  Think of a lineup with Shenmue 2, Headhunter, Virtua Fighter 4, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Rez, Toe Jam and Earl 3, Jet Set Radio Future, Crazy Taxi 3 and another round of sports games would be like.  Too bad it was not to happen.

At least with the new systems, you cannot go wrong with any of them.  All three have solid support and a bunch of great games to choose from.  I cannot remember when there were so many great games available at one time.  You would need to be very rich to afford all of them.  And if you were rich, the odds are you would be too busy to play them.