It's Friday, it's ten past two, and I haven't had any lunch yet. So, as you can imagine, I'm not taking any shit from anyone right now. It's also so cold that my arms feel like they're encased in stainless steel whenever I try to bend them, and I will be surprised if my nose ever functions properly again. I tried to blow it just now and the results look like that bloke who went headfirst into the toxic waste drum near the end of Robocop. Fortunately I'm on crack rather than coke, so the chances are my lifestyle will be largely unaffected my current inability to smell things - unless Martin leaves the oven on again and I die in a massive fireball, which quite frankly wouldn't be that much of a loss to most of you in any event.
None of which has anything whatsoever to do the list of games released this week, and I'm not going to bother making any tenuous logic leaps along the lines of "cold nose > ice > crystal > Crystal Chronicles", or "lack of lunch > starvation > ambulance > Forbidden Siren". No sir. However I am somewhat tempted to do a "Spawn: Armageddon" gag relating to the contents of my handkerchief. Any objections? Oh fine, piss off then!
More's the pity I can't think of a decent gag to come in on, actually, because there are a couple of games out this week arguably worthy of such treatment. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is obviously one. It's taken a long time to arrive, and there has been much debate about whether it's worth it, but - Blast, I suppose I better explain it properly...
Masters of the Universe
FFCC, for those with no clue, is Square Enix's first Final Fantasy title for a Nintendo home console platform (Final Fantasy Tactics Advance on a Game Boy Player doesn't count) since the halcyon 16-bit days of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, before EA came along and took over from Kefka as masters of darkness. Or something. Anyway. This new Cube Final Fantasy betrays the series' core principles - which was the first stickler for many fans - in that it's more of a multiplayer action RPG, with a level-based system of progression, a magic combat system whereby players cast spells together to combine their abilities, and the infamous "bucket", which generates a force field to protect players from the harsh conditions of the game world, and has to be carried around by one player most of the time.
Give the game any other title and it wouldn't be anywhere near as controversial, of course, but such is the plight of the GameCube that nothing ever seems to pan out as well as it really should. I mean, come on - it's a clever (and beautiful) action RPG with a tactically minded system of progression geared towards advancing the (not massively) multiplayer RPG sub-genre. Didn't we all love the Phantasy Star Online once upon a time? Where did it all go wrong? Perhaps the answer is the other "headline aspect" of FFCC - that it relies on each of up to four players using a Game Boy Advance with GC/GBA link cable to delegate four players' worth of menu commands etc so they don't clutter up the TV screen.
This is in some people's view genius, in other people's view complete madness, as it requires four GBAs and link cables to facilitate the ideal multiplayer scenario. We'll be offering our verdict on that early next week, but since having to purchase a stack of GC/GBA link cables is one of the factors holding up my review, you can imagine I have a certain perspective on it. Rest assured though I won't let such material matters cloud my judgement if the game is as good as some quarters - including Penny Arcade - are happy to tell you it is, and it's also worth nothing that the boxed one on your local store's shelves comes with a free GC/GBA link cable anyway. Albeit only one.
It's All Staged
Otherwise this week the most intriguing item on the release list is probably Sony's Forbidden Siren, which - if you ask me - only caught the eye of most folks because it was announced in virtually the same breath as NICO. Indeed, reports from some of my colleagues on other publications suggest it's more gameplay horror than survival horror, but as soon as Sony bothers to send over a copy we'll have a look anyway and give you the benefit of our wisdom. Or whatever you want to call it.
I'd also get into trouble this week if I didn't mention Codemasters' LMA Manager 2004, though I care not a jot for such matters. Sorry. Capcom also has something on the list this week, but sadly it's another money-grubbing Cube port of a Resident Evil title, in this case Code: Veronica X, which probably won't sell very well but at least doesn't cost 40-odd quid this time. Shop around if you've never played it and you might find a bit of a release, both from the quirky mechanics of previous (and curiously subsequent) Resi titles, and from the tedium of looking at boxes with things like "MaXXed Out Racing", "Tak And The Power Of JuJu" and "Universal Combat" written on the front. In fairness to "publishers of Tak" THQ however, they also have a Rare-made Sabre Wulf title out on GBA, which Kristan is probably playing this very second. (Well, he's on a Sudeki press trip but you know how he likes to slack off...)
Of course it wouldn't be much of a Friday if EA didn't have a contribution to make too, and so they do, with Cricket 2004 (warmly received by one South African reader) and Spawn: Armageddon on the shelves today. Couldn't tell you what that's like - some of these could though. GameSpot, for example, gave it a whopping 5.6 out of 10.
Oh and hey! I've just spotted Dancing Stage Unleashed is out this week on Xbox. (I should really look at my own bloody list before I start babbling crap into a Word document, shouldn't I?) Much as I love my Dad, the copy of Dance:UK he bought me for Christmas clearly needs replacing, so I will be off to the high street this weekend in search of a copy of DS Unleashed. Given the obvious hilarity associated with your truly on a dance mat, you can bet your dancing queens I'll be writing more about it soon. Oooor that I'll fall and crack my head open, thus bringing this column to an unsavoury end. I'm sure we'll print the photographs anyway - as confirmation to my enemies.
Across The Pond
Following a pleasant response (i.e. no death threats) when we announced plans last week to incorporate US releases into What's New, I've been looking around this week and have concluded that there is little to challenge Ninja Gaiden in excitement terms this Friday. Konami has chucked Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes out of the door on GameCube, but even with Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima and Silicon Knights' collaborating on the project I can't really bring myself to get overly excited. It is ostensibly the same game we all played on the PSX several years ago by all accounts, except now it costs full whack again. Konami has told us they can't afford to send us a PAL Cube copy for review (eh?) so maybe I'll import it. Then again maybe I won't. I'm not made of money here. Anybody in my line of work willing to donate a copy for review ahead of its March 26th release will be forever in my debt...
Konami also had the decency to put Firefighter F.D.18 on the shelves last week in the States. No real idea when it's out here sadly (August?), but the reviews haven't exactly been glowing so you'll probably live. You also don't have too long to wait for Tenchu: Return From Darkness on Xbox or Tom Clancy's Raven Shield: Athena Sword on PC to arrive here in Europe, although both were released in the States just recently if you're really impatient.
All of which just about does it for this week's instalment, and means I'm finally released from all this and can run off and pick up a sandwich. Whatever you wind up playing this weekend, make sure you don't make my mistake and miss lunch...
Oh look, it's bloody raining. Wasn't raining at 14:09. That's your fault, that is.
- PAL Releases
- Charm Of War (PC)
- Cricket 2004 (PS2/PC)
- Dancing Stage Unleashed (Xbox)
- Detonator (PS2)
- Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (Cube) - with free GC/GBA link cable
- Forbidden Siren (PS2)
- Knightshift (PC)
- LMA Manager 2004 (PS2/Xbox)
- MaXXed Out Racing (PS2)
- Resident Evil Code: Veronica X (Cube)
- Sabre Wulf (GBA)
- Spawn: Armageddon (PS2/Xbox/Cube)
- Tak And The Power Of JuJu (PS2/Cube/GBA)
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm (PS2)
- Universal Combat (PC)
- Key US Releases
- Firefighter F.D.18 (PS2)
- Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (Cube)
- Seven Samurai 20XX (PS2)
- Tenchu: Return from Darkness (Xbox)
- Tom Clancy's Raven Shield: Athena Sword (PC)