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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Monkspider's Top 25 Countdown: #23 Victoria (PC)

The top ten countdown returns! Sorry for the delay dear readers, but last week i was bedridden with a particularly nasty Las Plagas infection. As promised, today's entry is a somewhat obscure PC title that I doubt any of you have heard of, Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun.

Released in 2003 with perhaps the most absolute lack of fanfare of any game ever. Victoria allows you to control any country in the world from 1836 to 1920 (and later 1933 with the eventual expansion pack), giving you the chance to lead your country through the industrial revolution, the American Civil War, the Colonial rush, and the World War I era.

Many have called it the most hardcore videogame ever made. Personally, I know better, but there is no doubt that for the beginning player it is intimidating almost beyond belief. You control the creation of armies, the research of technologies, the acquisition of resources, your diplomatic relations with other counries, the expansion of industry, the laying of railroads, and i am sure i am just scratching the surface of everything this game covered.

One of the best parts of the game is that at various points "events" occur that give you potentially far-reaching possibilities. These events usually pop up and give you several choices and you are forced with the task of deciding which one best meets your long-term goals. For example, playing as Japan in 1836, you are still a backwards country living under the Tokugawa shogunate that has closed the nation to all trade with foreigners. An event occurs early in the game where you have a choice to allow trade with the Dutch. If you do so, it negatively impacts some of the events later in the game regarding the Meiji restoration which saw Japan quickly undergo a period of rapid industrialization only matched by Modern China. But if you play your cards right, the free technologies the Dutch give you could allow you to gain a bigger advantage than waiting for the Meiji restoration to take place. So the events are interesting and add a lot of historical flavor to the game.

One of the game's greatest accomplishment is a fully functioning market that has prices that increase and decrease based on supply and demand. Every province has farms that create certain natural resources and each of your factories will create industrial goods. So say there is a lot of demand for steel because France and England are trying to build a ton of railroads (which require certain amounts of steel, lumber, and other resources), you build some steel factories to satisfy that need and make money hand over foot, but later on maybe the price for steel will drop and your factories actually start to lose money because the resources to make steel (iron and coal, as I recall) but be more expensive than steel itself. It is an interesting dynamic which rewarded the prudent player and later on you can build a lot of factories for cool stuff like automobiles, telephones, and "aeroplanes". Just be careful, all of your population develop different political beliefs based on various conditions in the game and the more factories you have, the more rabble rousing communists and socialists will pop up demanding absurd things like safe working conditions and health care that will cut into your bottom line!

The best part of the game though for someone who enjoys history like me is the "stories" that the game creates. The points of divergence from history that leaves the amateur historian such as myself to dream about all the implications of what real history would have been like if things unfolded like they did in your game. You can try to rebuild the Ottoman Empire to greatness, lead Prussia or Bavaria through German unification, you can try to colonize the world as England, or give the Confederate States of America a chance at independence. The game allowed for several interesting fantasy scenarios like a communist "Manhattan Commune" that would declare it's independence from the USA if the New York province falls to commie revolutionaries.

My favorite game of all time I think was playing as the Republic of Texas. First of all, winning the war against Mexico at the beginning is tough as balls and accurately represents the historical fluke that was Texas' existence. But once I finally did that, I freed the slaves, passed political reforms toward universal healthcare, covered the country with railroads, massively industrialized (i seemed to favor the canned food industry based on the natural resources Texas had at the beginning) and built Texas into and up and coming power. Several events popped up at the time that Texas historically joined the union, but this time I declined and remained independent.

When the civil war broke out (ahistorically early in this game I think, around 1854), an event fired where the the CSA offered for me to join them as a state, ally with them or stay out of the war. I chose to join the war as their ally but remain independent. Mexico and I were good buddies at this point so they joined the war too. In this version of history, Texas, Mexico and the CSA fought in an alliance against the Union. It was a tough war, but thanks to the support of crack Texas ranger cavalry troops, the CSA won their independence!

Over the course of the game, my liberal reforms and economic opportunity attracted lots of immigrants, so when i looked at my demographic screen it was like 75% Texan, 10% Mexican, 0.5% Chinese, 0.5% Irish, 0.5% Hungarian and so forth. My population, military size and industrial size couldn't rival the USA, but it actually did rival the much larger CSA.

By the dawn of the 20th century, i was considered one of the world's "great powers" and had the third largest economy in the world. I was one of the foremost producers of the newfangled aeroplanes as well as tanks (to reflect the ahistorical nature of the game, they were actually called "barrels" instead of tanks, which i thought was hilarious). The mighty Texan navy struck fear into the hearts of the European powers, with massive dreadnaught-class battleships and I had even established several small colonies in eastern Africa (I believe around the Congo area). Texas was ascendant, a colonial and industrial power, and at this point I believe nothing could stop me.

That is, until another war between the states broke out! The USA declared war on my allies, the CSA. Texan infantry powered by the latest in rifling technology and a complement of barrels to break through enemy lines assisted my besieged CSA ally. This time the USA proved too much, with seemingly hundreds of divisions who didn't hesitate to use gas attacks on us. The USA took the Confederate capital of Richmond but the war devolved by this point into a World War I style stalemate. Texan barrels made some small scale victories, but by the the time an armistice was signed, the Confederates had to surrender some territory back to the union. Seeing which way the wind was blowing, i put a lot of money into cultivating relations with the Union so when another war broke out, i turned on my former ally and added a lot of land to Texas' borders including Oklahoma and chunk of the southwest USA.

The only real flaw with the game as I saw it is that it divides the world into "civilized" and "uncivilized" nations and the uncivilized nations received absolutely absurd penalties against them that made the game completely unfun. The offensiveness of dismissing a civilization with as rich a culture as China as uncivilized aside, it was a horrible gameplay mechanism. It's only reason for being in the game in the first place was just to handcuff China who tended to become an unstoppable monster in the game if it ever got it's shit together. But relatively advanced nations like Korea and Siam that could have theoretically pulled off Japan style transformations are lumped in the category as the most backwards parts of Africa and the middle east and pretty much have zero chance of having any kind of an interesting game. Modders eventually fixed this problem but it was really dumb for it to exist in the first place.

Oh, and one other thing, the expansion pack had an awesome cover featuring a manaical, possibly zombiefied British soldier.

So yeah, i had invested many hours in this game, and experienced some of my most memorable gaming experiences. It has a ridiculously steep learning curve, and it's definitely not a game for the faint of heart, but if you put in the time to learn it, it is incredibly rewarding. It gives me hope for the future of gaming as an intellectual medium. For that reason, it is number 23 on this list.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Monkspider's Top 25 Countdown: #24 Empire at War (PC)

The next entry in my top twenty five countdown goes to an old favorite on the PC platform, Petroglyph's real-time strategy classic "Star Wars: Empire at War". Although one would think the source material would naturally lend itself to an epic RTS game, all previous attempts were considered huge failures (Force Commander, Galactic Battlegrounds). Fortunately Empire at War was a big success, staying on the PC top ten list for a long time and eventually getting an expansion pack.

The setting of the game is supposed to be shortly before Episode IV, so Luke isn't a Jedi yet, Obi-Wan Kenboi is still kicking it, and Grand Moff Tarkin is still being a badass. One of the most compelling elements of the game when it was first revealed is that it combined both space and ground battles into one game. The game consisted of the usual assortments of vehicles and groud troops you would expect (Stormtroopers, X-Wings, AT-ATs and the like). The most exciting part for me was the hero units you could utilize on both sides, with unique ones for land and space battles. Like in land battles the Empire could utilize Darth Vader, the Emperor, and General Veers and in space the Rebels had the Milennium Falcon, Luke Skywalker's Red Squadron and Admiral Ackbar's Home One.

The single player campaign was decent, it had a couple semi-memorable missions like rescuing some captured wookies from an imperial prison as Han Solo. The most fun to be had in single player though was the galactic conquest mode. Playing as either the Empire or the Rebels you would be looking at a map of the galaxy and using the production capabilities on the worlds you control you would build ground armies, massive space fleets and decide which planets you would want to attack and which ones you want to fortify against oncoming invasions. Would you put all of your fleet in one point or take a chance to spread your forces over multiple worlds? I had lots of fun in this mode with huge "Battle of Midway" style fleet duels, with both sides throwing every capital ship they had into the fight in an all or nothing decisive battle. I also remember losing a space battle and having a rag tag tiny group of troops manage to beat an AI invasion that was ten times bigger just through sheer strategery.

As enjoyable as the single player was, the real reason this game is on the list is for the multiplayer. This was probably the first game that Jay, Rob and I all played together online and it was really a blast. We would always play space battles exclusively since ground battles were marred by overpowered units and a general lack of fun compared to the superb space battles. Eventually over time, our triumvirate became quite the force to be reckoned with.

The landscape of Empire at War's multiplayer was dominated by a handful of huge clans that would try to bully anyone that would dare challenge them. At first we considered ourself the anti-clan, clan-stompers if you will. We would take on all of the best players from any given clan and win with fair consistency. Eventually we decided to form our own clan, calling ourselves Clan Rogue Bantha, after a particularly beloved card from the Star Wars CCG game.

Clan Rogue Bantha quickly earned a name for itself by using a unique system of self-imposed handicaps when playing non-clan players. With different levels of handicaps corresponding to different characters in the Star Wars hierarchy of villainy (Tarkin, Vader and Emperor respectively) we would grant other teams various levels of free resource points to create games where we would have to somehow find ways to win despite fielding numerically and technologically inferior fleets. Despite this, we almost always won these handicapped games and if not we had a good excuse to taunt the other team ("Ha, we were giving you a Vader-class handicap anyway fools!").

Our multiplayer days came to a sad end when Rob's PC crashed one day and he moved away to Florida. After that the band just kind of broke up. But I will always remember the awesome Boba Fett vs (the overpowered) Millennium Falcon battles, our broken surprise bomber rushes that would steal victory from the jaws of defeat,the time where we almost beat one of the game's developers and the sheer satisfaction of finally being able to deploy an Imperial-Class Star Destroyer.

It is these fond memories that propel Empire at War into the number 24 slot on my countdown. Who will be next? Will it be a PC game that I doubt any of you have ever heard of? Probably! So stay tuned, this shit is starting to get real.

-Last minute edit! Okay, snowbot reminded me to mention one other key fact. When you were hosting a game you had to give your game some name of some sort. Most people used generic stuff like "2 vs 2 space" and stuff like that. We used hilariously out of place names for a Star Wars game like "UFO Fight", "Flying Cigar Battle" and "Space Fisticuffs". It was so funny. We would have people join our game and say stuff like" UFO Fight?...the fuck?!?" And yes, Rob was a masterful smack talker who had a knack for making enemy clans absolutely livid with rage upon hearing his victorious banter.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Monkspider's Top 25 Countdown: #25 Super Mario Kart (SNES)

Alright folks, time to kick off the actual countdown proper, and coming in at number 25 is that perennial classic Super Mario Kart. Though many have challenged the throne (Crash Team Racing, every other Mario Kart since then, Star Wars Super Bombad Racing et al) none of them have eclipsed this 16-bit masterpiece. To this day it remains the greatest example of the kart racing genre, and is personally my favorite racing game, period.

One of the things that really put Super Mario Kart over the top for me was it's characters. It seems like these days Nintendo shoe-horns in a lot of awful characters like Daisy and the awful Rare-designed version of Donkey Kong. Super Mario Kart wasn't about this kind of pandering to the lowest common denominator, it was all about the art, baby. It had great characters like Donkey Kong Junior and Koopa Troopa. The two greatest characters to ever star in a Mario Kart game and paradoxically the two that Nintendo dropped from the roster when they created Mario Kart 64.

But Donkey Kong Jr. was just so badass. He was one of the two "heavy" characters so he was slow to accelerate, but he had the highest top speed potential and could use his massive girth to knock pipsqueeks like toad off of the track. Koopa Troopa was a "light" character so he enjoyed quicker acceleration and superior turning capabilities. He was a lot of fun to play since it was so easy to be effective with him and also arguably the most loveable character. DK Jr was more of a thinking man's character.

But the game was really so much fun to play. The courses were all highly varied and well-designed interpretations of various Mushroom Kingdom locales. My favorite tracks were the Boo Houses and the legendary Rainbow Road. Anyone who played that the first time back in the day (which is the last course in the top secret Special Cup) was immediately blown away by it's psychedelic imagery and it's extreme level of challenge.

I have a lot of great memories on this one. The game was really one of the few early games to have a "coop-esque" mode where both of you can race in the same cup against each other and AI opponents. Jason (a highly skilled Yoshi expert as I recall) and I spent many hours playing through the various cups. I remember we always found the Peach to be particularly annoying so we nicknamed her Princess Brandi, after a particularly annoying and snotty girl who went to our middle school.

Of course no article about Super Mario Kart could be complete without mentioning it's battle mode, the game's true multi-player highlight. The game featured a number of rather simple maps where these peaceful characters, once separated from the peaceful world of racing, quickly devolved into violent barbarism. These kart drivers would actually try to inflict mortal injury on their opponent using a variety of weapons including but not limited to koopa shells, feathers, and banana peels. Needless to say, it was some hardcore shit.

Rob and I created a game where we would set up bases and basically agree to not attack each other until the other infringed on the sovereignty of our base somehow, whether by crossing into our territory or by some other perceived slight. Territorial laws aside, that didn't stop us from shooting off massive amounts of shells while we were in our base. Of course we would always try to offer "friendly" warnings to each other about "shell levels being unusually high" and stuff like that. We would also declare voyages of exploration in this mode where we would try to use the feather (which allowed your kart to jump) to glitch our way into unintended areas. Of course we would sometimes take this opportunity to plant a koopa shell in the back of the explorer while he was off on his great expedition. It was an interesting attempt to forge civilization out of the untamed jungle that is battle mode and to this day it is one of my most memorable multi-player experiences.

Super Mario Kart is one of my twenty five favorite games of all time, and I think is an excellent game to kick off this list. Oh, and more thing, anyone who grew up in this time period I guarantee will remember this commercial.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Foreward: Monkspider's Top 25 Games of All Time

Well it's been a while since I have blogged on here, but to bring the blog back with style, and as a fundraiser of sorts for my brother Rob Kreh's upcoming Stephen King film project I am going to do a top twenty five list. I don't pretend that this is some kind of objective critique of any sort. This is merely my top 25 games at this point in time. I am sure there are some great games that deserve to be on this list if I had played them and I am sure this list will change in the future but this is merely where I am at right now. In fact two games that I am playing right now but haven't finished are likely contenders for a future version of this list (Uncharted, Psychonauts).

I have heard some people ask how I could have possibly created such a list. The process was admittedly difficult. I tried to go through each generation of games and list my favorites. I referred to other "top" lists on the internet to see if they thought of any games that I forgetting and then I began numbering my choices starting with my number one favorite on down.

So what games made the list? Which ones narrowly missed out? Just to start things off, I am going to include numbers 26 to 50 just for historical value. These games put up a valiant effort but came just short of making the top 25. They are still some of my favorite games ever though. Expect number 25 to be revealed within the next couple days with an accompanying article.

Here are the "honorable mentions".
50. Super Mario Brothers 2-j/The Lost Levels (NES)
49. Command and Conquer Red Alert (PSX)
48. Ms. Pacman (Arcade)
47. Super Mario Brothers 2 USA (NES)
46. Final Fantasy Tactics (PSX)
45. Mario Brothers (Atari 2600)
44. Duck Tales (NES)
43. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Gameboy)
42. Final Fantasy IX (PSX)
41. River Raid (Atari 2600)
40. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES)
39. Star Wars: Empire at War (PC)
38. Mutant League Football (Genesis)
37. God of War (PS2)
36. Gears of War (XBOX 360)
35. Europa Universalis 2 (PC)
34. Resident Evil (PSX)
33. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PS2)
32. Metal Gear Solid (PSX)
31. Super Mario Brothers (NES)

30. Advance Wars 2 (GBA)

Incredibly challenging, but rarely frustrating and highly rewarding. One of my favorite parts was the secret levels in each chapter that would unlock secret AT-AT super tanks until the next level. I really kick myself for selling this one. I guess really what made it so great for was the divine sweet spot of difficulty and the highly strategic gameplay that stimulated the part of my brain that is in sync with my past life as Genghis Khan.

29. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

Easily the highlight of the Zelda series for me. I loved the dark and light world dynamic, which is incredibly cliche today but was invented with this game. The other thing i really loved it's ireverent sense of humor: attacking chickens repeatedly would eventually cause a sworm of them to mob you until death and there was a weird guy in the desert who would follow you around forever if you stole his sign. A lot of cleverly designed dungeons and great bosses.

28. Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

Although I had mixed feelings about the battle system initially, eventually I decided it had the best sheer gameplay of any FF game. Although the story is not as strong as some, it had some really great characters, including one of my top ten characters in any game, the legendary Dr. Cid.

27. Resident Evil 2 (PSX)

Man, I have such great memories of playing this one with Rob. Truth be told I don't remember a whole lot about the actual story, but I remember playing it over and over, Going from Leon's disc to Claire's back to Leon's trying to unlock stuff. I don't think I was ever as sucked into any of the other Resident Evils as I was with this one. It just had rock solid gameplay and is probably the magnum opus of the tank control Resident Evils.

26. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Wow, lots of great memories on this one too. The thing that always comes to mind first is how great the music was. This game is possibly my favorite soundtrack of all time, and easily in the top five. Aside from that, is has some great lines ("Die Monster! You don't belong in tis world!") with some legendarily cheesy voice acting. It was a unique amalgamation of Castlevania, Metroid, and various RPG elements.

One of my fondest memories was back in high school watching Joe unexpectedly get obsesssed with this one. Joe was pretty much a strict RPG guy at the time and he somehow matched the world record for the highest percentage completed, utilizing several ridiculous glitches to access unintended areas. Years later at Jason's house, Jay bought the XBLA version and Joe still to this day was an absolute scholar on this game, citing various statistics on drop rates, analyzing the strengths/weaknesses of various items at length, able to explain to Jason the absolute minutia of every nook and cranny of the map just from memory. It was amazing. This one came soooooo close to making the top 25, I kept flipping back and forth with one other title, but it narrowly lost in the end.

Well that brings us to number twenty five. What game *could* it possibly be? Hopefully I have you on the edge of your seats. Stay tuned as the list continues!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

WarHawk: Omega Dawn Review

I present to you another great review from our excellent editor Rob "Dark Harvest" Kreh.

WarHawk is back and the battle is more intense than ever. Last night I bought the much anticipated “Omega Dawn” expansion pack, and I a survived a long night of battles to bring MonkBlog an exclusive review.

“Warhawk: Operation Omega Dawn” adds a lot to the already amazing game play. As I have mentioned before, Warhawk is the greatest online multiplayer in history, IMO (sorry Master Chief, You just don’t cut it). And much like my review for “Uncharted” this is another game that is completely underrated.

The expansion is priced at $7.99, and is well worth the price. The key addition in this XP is a new vehicle called the “Drop Ship”. This massive ship allows pilots to pick up six infantry and one ground vehicle to transport across the map. And this thing is POWERFUL! Wielding three laser cannon’s on each side of the ship, and transported infantry can also utilize missile turrets located on the top of the ship. This completely changes the face of war, especially in CTF mode.

Last might I made it my goal to take down one of the enemies heavily armored dropships in nothing but my lone Warhawk. I felt like Luke Skywalker taking on the Death Star in his weak ass little X-Wing, amazingly after several run and gun attacks, I brought her down in a rain of fire. BOOYAH!

Also added with the “Omega Dawn” expansion are new map layouts for the original 5 Warhawk maps that add the dropship, and a brand new stage called “Omega Factory”. This new map is huge!!!! Seriously, Warhawk is known for huge maps, but this one takes the cake. Oh and did I mention that the “Omega Factory” is a night mission, nothing as beautiful as my WarHawk screaming through the sky at night! Could replace my current favorite map “Island Outpost” We shall see!

One thing I noticed is that the XP was not available to buy directly from the Playstation Store. Instead they added an update to the Warhawk game that adds a “WarHawk’ store in which you purchase the XP from….. Hmm. Now why would they do that? Why not just sell it on the PS Store like all the other XP’s... I think all signs point at future WarHawk content. This is fine in my books! Here are some of my suggestions for WarHawk additions:

1. Parachutes! (To jump out of Warhawk at last second)

2. Boats! (To cruise around in that beautiful water on most maps)

3. Motorcycles (just for shits and giggles)

4. Level Designer (How cool would that be)

5. Custom Warhawk Skins (Come on; let us put our own skins on our Warhawks!)

I will say however that I was disappointed because initial rumors stated that the new upgraded original maps would also be “Night Missions”, that that was not the case. They are the same as the original maps, only with the Dropship added.

So I must say the XP is worth the cost and has been well worth my sleepless, drooling nights of anticipation. If you already have Warhawk, get the expansion. If not, WTF are you waiting for? Merry Christmas and It is time to Play B3yond!

(I might also add that it is so great to be able to FINALLY play WarHawk with my Bro!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Your Hot Christmas Cocoa is Served: Hidden Topless Code for Twisted Metal Black

Many years ago on some gaming message board (I can't remember which) someone posted a new cheat code for Twisted Metal Black that causes the hot goth chick who drives Shadow to burst out of the top of the car topless on a machine gun turret (it's a pretty powerful attack to boot!). Like all other supposed nude codes in videogame history, this one was met with universal skepticism by other people on the board. I naturally believed this one would be like the infamous Nude Raider but there was a certain confidence in his words that inspired me to try it, and, lo and behold, it worked!

Fast forward to last week when I was stuck at home with a sick daughter. I decided to break out some of the old TM games. When checking out the code section for TM Black on a certain popular FAQ site, I discovered that the infamous topless code was still unknown to the world. I checked out quite a few other code sites and to my surprise, none of them had the code listed. It appeared that the code was doomed to be lost to history, like it never even existed at all. Fortunately, I still remembered it, and today I share it with the world.

To see some ultra-low res goth chick boobies, choose Shadow, and have the special listed as your current weapon. Hold down all four trigger buttons and simply press triangle, triangle, triangle.

Launch window PS2-era graphics certainly aren't the most erotic thing in the world. But still, it is slightly scandalous in this post-hot coffee world, and it does make you wonder how many other games have similar things hidden in them that no one knows about. Mad props for Incognito for having the balls to put such a thing in the game.

Here is a crappy quality video to show non-owners of the game a brief demonstration. NSFW and all that.

Rob's Uncharted Review

In light of Uncharted's poor performance in the NPDs, Rob has decided to grace us with a review of this under-appreciated game.

After many months of mouth watering anticipation, Sony’s 2007 holiday big shot has been released. Uncharted: Drakes fortune comes from Naughty Dog, famously known for their “Crash Bandicoot” series from PSone. You can definitely feel some of that series in Uncharted.

Uncharted is the tale of a young man by the name of Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter who alleges to be the descendant of Sir Francis Dake. After recovering a treasure map from Drake’s coffin, he sets out on an adventure to locate the booty. However, there are some shady characters that find out about his quest, and are willing to kill to get to it first.

Uncharted it AMAZING! I know that the PS3 has not had many killer titles this year, But Uncharted is definitely one of them. And just like Sony’s other killer title “WarHawk”, it is COMPLETELY underrated.

The game play is insane. I have heard several people refer to it as a cross between Tomb Raider and Gear of War, I would have to agree. Although in my opinion, Uncharted took the “take cover and shoot” gameplay from “Gears”, and fine tuned it. There is never a dull moment in the game, from exploring beautiful lush green jungle vistas, to exploring rusty WWII U-Boats (with dead, rotted nazi corpses still inside!).

The gunplay is just as satisfying (if not more so) than “Gears”, and the exploration elements are like nothing I have ever seen in a game. There are even a few cool driving stages that will blow your mind, especially one involving a jetski ride that will have you just staring at the screen admiring the graphics and drooling at what the PS3 is capable of. (You may even just find God while playing this game…lol).

As I mentioned, the Graphics are beautiful. There were times that while playing the game I would just stop for a moment and take it all in. Lush green jungle, Sunsets that rival the ones here in the real world, and character animations that are unprecidented. This game should be reason enough for people who are still cautious of the PS3, and the game showcases the power and potential of Sony’s amazing next gen system.

OMG! Did I Mention the water effects…. Must see to believe….

Another thing sony does not skimp on is music. Uncharted features an amazing orcehstral score that is along side the greats of Hollywood blockbusters, It is sounds like John Williams himself scored this gmae, and adds so much to the mood of the game. You feel like you are playing the Video Game equivelant of blockbuster summer film!

I know I have rambled on about the amazing graphics, But this game really is just amazing, and is fun to play. Naughty Dog knocked it out of the park, and has set the standard by which games should be mad. I truly hope that we see more of Nathan Drake’s treasure hunting adventures in the future…

Thursday, December 13, 2007

November NPD Results

Well, they are in folks, and they are big. It is the second biggest shopping month and we have virtually three million sellers on the software front, and some really big numbers for hardware. A huge month for the industry overall.

Hardware Unit Sales

PlayStation 2 496K
PlayStation 3 466K
PSP 567K
Xbox 360 770K
Wii 981K
Nintendo DS 1.53 million

November 2007 Top 10 Video Games Rank # Units

Other Software Sales of Note
Mario and Sonic at the Olympics (Wii) - 330k
Rock Band (360) - 312k
Lego Star Wars (Wii)- 180k
High School Musical (Wii) - 180k
Resident Evil UC (Wii) - 130k
Crysis (PC) - 86,6k
Rock Band (PS3) - 70k
Zack & Wiki (Wii) - 35k
Unreal Tournament 3 (PC) - 34k
Manhunt 2 (Wii) - 18,5k
Wii Zapper incl. Crossbow Training (Wii) - 232k
Zack & Wiki (Wii) - 35k
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3): 117k

Nintendo once again kicks ass, and takes names. They ended up shipping more Wiis than I expected, having believed that they "shot their load" earlier in the year. Nearly a million Wiis were sold last month, the highest November total in North America for a system since the PS2 broke 1 million in 2002. The DS sold an utterly OBSCENE 1.5 million. Ridiculous. There were more DSes sold than all Sony products COMBINED. Also, the big title of the month for Nintendo, Super Mario Galaxy, sold over a million. Clearly 2007 will be remembered as the year of Nintendo on the hardware front.

On the other hand, 2007 will be remembered as Microsoft's year on the software front, posting two seperate million sellers this month, Assasin's Creed and the number one game overall, Call of Duty 4. After soft sales for the mediocre Call of Duty 3, Activision has to be happy that they handed the series back to Infinity Ward who really knocked it out of the park. Mass Effect had a strong debut for an original IP, in stark contrast to a certain PS3 new IP that will be discussed later. 360 owners are really just voracious software buyers, Micrsoft could not ask for a better fanbase.

Hardware-wise, Microsoft was no slouch either, pushing nearly 800k units. A sales total that in and of itself is reminiscent of various PS2 Novembers back in the day. In North America, 360 continues to have the healthiest overall ecosystem, and this will likely be the case for the forseeable future. An interesting oddity software-wise is that Guitar Hero III Wii outsold 360 Guitar Hero for the first time ever. Is this a sign that the 360 audience is transitioning to Rock Band? Hmmmm....

Sony, as usual this year, had very mixed success. Though PS3 did claim some small-scale victories, with hardware numbers that were slighly above what was expected, but they are well below what 360 had last November in it's 2nd holiday season (360 had 511k, which was considered disappointing at the time and below expectations). Most ominously however, the PS2 beat the PS3 again, even with a holiday season in full swing and a full month of the $399 pricedrop. Software-wise Call of Duty 4 and Assasin's Creed sold better on the PS3 than anyone expected, myself included.

However, aside from these two titles, PS3 continued to be the system for people who hate to buy games. With Uncharted posting a paltry 117k and Rock Band PS3 only selling 70k. 360 fans showed that they were willing to embrace a daring new IP in Mass Effect, but PS3 fans were not willing to do the same unfortunately. Uncharted's poor sales may be a chilling harbinger for the future of innovative new titles on the system (It should be said though, mad props go out to Rob for being one of the few PS3 fams to actually buy the damn game). Some analysts attempting to explain the lack of PS3 software sales believe that a significant percentage of PS3 owners are actually buying 360 games even though they don't the system. At least, that is the best explanation they have come up with so far...

On a final note, it looks like it is bedtime for big budget PC games, with Crysis selling under 100k, and Unreal Tournament 3 selling 34k. The future of PC gaming is looking more and more like it is going be subscription-based MMOs and casual fare.

That about wraps it up for this month, stay tuned next month for the big daddy of them all, Decemeber. Can the 360 finally beat the Wii? Or will Nintendo be able to deliver enough units to win yet again? Will Sony still be stuck in the proverbial gaming ghetto? Check out monk blog for all of the latest info.

I Got a PS Triple! And Pre-NPD Link Fest

Thanks to my awesome bro Rob (who is the awesomest bro ever) I have got a Tripler at a ridiculously cheap price, completing the holy trinity of current-gen video game consoles. It is only the 40 gig, meaning I will have to brush up some of my old PSOne games for some old school PSone gaming since it doesn't support PS2 games. I did buy Warhawk (PSX version) for 7 bucks at game exchange to hype me up for buying the next gen version soon.

Before posting my NPD analysis here are a couple cool links for you.

An article on games that pushed the NES to it's limits.

The top ten gaming innovations of 2007, really a very good list.


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