The 5 X-Box 360 Must Have Games or Accesories of the 2009 Holiday Season!

From the day I first played my brother-in-law’s X-Box 360, I was hooked. From the ergonomically designed feel of the controller, to the speed of the processing unit, there aren’t many things I can find wrong with this “gamers” treasure chest. It offers a myriad of titles, and accessories, virtually making it an all-in-one entertainment unit. With that being said, every year, something new is released for the gem of this gamer’s eye, from the playability and graphical beauty of the games themselves, to the package bundles Microsoft releases, there’s something for everyone.. With out further adieu, I give you my list of the 5 “must haves” of 2009!
Xbox 360 Elite Holiday Bundle- Starting with a low price tag of $300 USD, this holiday bundle is for the gamer who has yet to purchase an Xbox 360. The Elite features a 120 G hard drive (twice the hard drive size of its closest competitor, the PS3) and an HDMI output for hook up to your Hi-Def television. After buying the ELite, it will fast become one of, if not the main, source of entertainment in your household. Toss in LEGO Batman: The Video Game and the ATV stunt racer, Pure, and you have an excellent start to the 2009 holiday season!

Halo 3: ODST- With the Halo franchise being one of the best selling game franchises of all time, it should come as no surprise a Halo themed game would make it on this list. Although not playing as the insanely popular Master Chief, the gamer will find himself playing as a character known only as ” The Rookie”, an ODST soldier, minus the Master Chief’s superhuman abilities. With out the abilities of the Master Chief, the Rookie will be more vulnerable to weapons fire, making for a more “stealthier” Halo game, than previous incarnations. Traveling the city of New Mombasa, Kenya, the Rookie is trying to discover what happened to his missing team mates. When finding an article of a missing soldier’s, such as his gun, it triggers a flashback, and the gamer assumes the role of the missing soldier, making for an interesting way to play through the game’s storyline mode. With a release date of September 22, and a price tag of $59.99 USD for the standard game, or $99.99 USD for the special edition controller copy, this game would make an excellent buy to end the summer, or a great way to start the holidays!

Xbox 360 Wireless Controller Game Pack- If you need a new controller, why not stop in and grab this nice little package deal? Along with the black finished, wireless controller, you also get Geometry Wars: Retro-Evolved 2, Lumines Live, Bomberman Live, from the Xbox Arcade, as well as a Microsoft token for Ms. Pac-Man. Toss in a 48 hour Xbox Live gold membership, for the low price of $59.99 USD, and set to be released in November, maybe it’s time you got an early Christmas present?

Forza MotorSport 3- With a release date of October 27th, developer Turn 10’s latest installment of their popular racing series promises to be the best yet! With over 100 real world tracks and road courses, and 400 plus of the world’s most beloved cars, Turn 10 catered to the casual and die hard race fans alike! Add in the AMAZING paint shop design capability, and this race game could, and should, rank as one of the best racing games EVER! And it’ll only cost you $59.99 USD!

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2- One of the most eagerly anticipated games of all time, Modern Warfare 2 is set to make its debut on November 10th! Some of the new features for the game will allow player’s to wield dual handguns, as well as a cooperative mode entitled Special Ops, with similarities to the “Mile High Club” scenario in the first Modern Warfare. These Special Ops missions can be played alone, online, or in a split-screen two player mode. The online game play will keep the same things that made Call of Duty 4 so popular, as well as adding in a few new options, such as: New weapons and equipment and 15 different kill streak rewards! The storyline mode revolves around the player’s character “Roach”, and his team of elite, multi-national commands, Task Force 141, and their mission to take down the resurgent Russian Ultra-Nationalists. With reports that this game has out-sold ANY Activision game ever on pre-order sales alone, it stands to reason that it’s not just this author who is salivating over the release of Modern Warfare 2!

Well, I hope this helps anyone who was, or is, wondering what to buy for the 360 fans in the family for the holiday season I know I’m looking forward to it, and I hope all of you are as well! Happy shopping everyone!

Game Review – the 7th Saga (SNES)

The 7th Saga is an RPG created for the Super Nintendo. The game, released in 1993, revolves around magical runes and the player’s quest to find them. Along the way, the player character befriends and parties up with a myriad of other characters in order to combat any opposition and discover new runes along the way. The game plays very similarly to the Final Fantasy series of that time period.
The overall storyline focuses on a total of seven powerful runes (a rune being a magical stone with intrinsic value and great power). Parallel with these seven runes are the seven main characters amassed in order to collect them. What this boils down to is basically the navigation of a giant world map in the search for such runes, and the game doesn’t take the storyline too much further.

The graphics in The 7th Saga are quite nice for its genre and time period. The underlying intention of the graphics is to create a dark and dreary environment, though the end result is actually a quite colorful and varied set-up. Character animations are somewhat played out and not very good, but the overall environment and the characters’ interactions within it are quite nice. All playable characters have different sprites, however, and are not simply reused and repaletted animations of previous characters. This is definitely a nice change from a time period where most games simply have ten different colors of the same type of monster or character.

In terms of audio, The 7th Saga is wonderful. I simply loved the various themes promoted within the game, my favorites being the battle theme and the worldmap theme. The 7th Saga strives to be dark and gloomy, and a lot of the music tracks reflect this; not all of them are up-beat or happy. This, however, sets the mood for the game, and is a wonderful addition to its already-impressive arsenal of features.

The learning curve is far too steep in this game, I think. When first beginning the game, if you don’t plan to die you will be very upset. Death comes with the territory in The 7th Saga, and any player who dislikes losing will dislike this game. Put simply, they made it hard on purpose. While the game’s difficulty level can be overcome through a lot of experience and training, it took me hours-probably twenty, in total-to fully understand its mechanics. Much of the game is simply wondering around a large worldmap in search of the runes, so any given battle may be hours apart.

I enjoy difficult games, so this was my bag-you may fare differently. Though much of the game involves the search, much of it, still, consists of vivid battles and wonderful thematic sound tracks. Overall, I’d give The 7th Saga a solid 3.4/5.

SilkRoad Online: a Dangerous Trend for MMORPGs

SilkRoad Online, a JoyMax, Co. owned and managed MMORPG, has set a dangerous precedent for future free MMORPGs. It’s problems range from overcrowded servers to a complete lack of customer service. JoyMax Co., a Korean based company, manages only one other game for the US market; it is still in beta testing. What does this mean for future free games?

SilkRoad Online is a free to play MMORPG. What that means to the player is that you can sign up, download the client and level an online character without ever paying for service. To balance this, JoyMax Co. has an in game item mall that sells various items for real cash. SilkRoad Online is a massively popular game and as such it has attracted the attention of gold sellers who plague the servers with hundred of gold farmers and text spammers advertising their illegal services. Sporadic and minimal banning of these accounts does little to stem the ever growing tide leaving the servers terminally crowded. It may take up to an hour to log in at even non peak hours. JoyMax’s response to this issue was surprising. They created an item for their item mall to bypass server traffic, selling it for 20 USD, and removed all references to 3rd party program use being illegal from their Terms of Service. This has cause massive inflation within the game economy where items that once sold for one million in game gold now sell for ten times that amount. JoyMax representative and forum moderator “morningdew” does not answer questions regarding player or gold botting. There are no other avenues of contact with JoyMax staff.

The theft of accounts and items is rampant. Visiting the official forum today I can count ten new posts from players that have either had their accounts stolen or stripped. In the past (1/06), JoyMax Co. has admitted to having security flaws on their main site that may have lead to account theft, but they cite the passage in their TOS that requires them to provide no restorative service in these matters. New and incomplete security measure are in the works. They were partially implemented on 10/4 but to date are not completed. The uncompleted system itself caused a major rash of account theft because the previous method of theft prevention, the secret question and answer system, was temporarily discarded. Again, according to forum moderator and JoyMax Co. spokesperson morningdew, :”hacking/account theft usually occurs by negligent management by the user of his own account information.”.
To aggravate the issues, there is no GM presence within the game or on the official website. You cannot speak with, contact or otherwise engage their assistance for any matter. The official SRO forum does have a manager/moderator to answer certain question regarding game play; all other queries are politely rerouted to the “Bug Report” form for which you receive no feedback or confirmation. JoyMax Co. didn’t even tell it’s players who the GMs of the game were until an exploit allowed users to appear as GMs. JoyMax Co. did nothing to restore the accounts of those people who willingly gave their account info to those they believed to be true GMs out of ignorance.

These are just a few of the issues SilkRoad Online has and despite them, the game continues to grow. SilkRoad Online has at this time 25 overcrowded servers. It leaves the future of free games in the dark. If this is the trend of gaming in the world market, then it is indeed bleak. There is no oversight or Better Business Bureau for the gaming industry besides word of mouth and gaming sites. We have so many games to choose from in the over saturated market, that problems like these go largely unreported and new players are completely unaware of the issues when they begin playing. I hope the gaming industry and the gaming community puts the necessary pressure on new entities and old that there are standards to be upheld in at least the US gaming market regarding customer service and security when real money is being spent.