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    The Game Guy
    By Mark H. Walker

    Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within

    I just returned from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. In a sentence, the animation is two notches past unbelievable, Donald Southerland sounds like his heart isnít in it, and the plot is typical Square ¾grandiose and fifteen minutes too long. But Ėand this is a huge Roseanne Barr-sized but (sic)óif you donít like the movie then you donít like science fiction. The film has everything I want in the genre: flashing lasers, power-armored soldiers, and a cute Ėyet believableógirl. Hats off to Square on minimizing the blood and gore. Yeah, folks die, but we donít see the blood bath common in other adventure flicks. Donít, however, take your kids to see it if they have a thing about ghosts.

    Hey, Leave my Browser Alone!
    Do you want game publishers telling you what game reviews to read and where to read them? Doesnít sound fair, does it? After all, if the publishers tell you what to read itís tantamount to controlling the press. That, however, is often what is happening on Internet gaming sites.

    Publishers and their PR reps send out their review copies in waves. Print magazines get their copies first Ėthese are usually first-run Golds. Thatís fair enough, the print rags have a longer lead-time than websites, hence they need to get product earlier in order to compete. But lately, it has come to my attention that specific Internet sites receive preferential treatment. Again, thatís fair enough if the publisher sends its product first to ďprofessionalĒ sites, and then the fan sites. Fan, or skeleton-staff sites, just donít have the personal to immediately review each and every release, and publishers sometimes lack the product to blanket every site on the ĎNet. But when one professional site receives product significantly later than another, thatís playing favorites and very unprofessional.

    Want to help? If your favorite site always seems to lag behind the review-posting curve, write the editor. If the site claims their tardiness is due to lack of product, write the game publisher and complain to them.

    Tight Takes: Something Old, Something New
    I spent some time with an old friend last week. The friendís name is Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord. Released in early 2000, the game revolutionized turn-based wargaming. The title blends lush 3D graphics, realistic weapon ballistics and terrain, and a turn-based interface, with a simultaneous, real-time enactment of orders that can only be described as breathtaking. If you have any interest in World War II, you should pick up a copy at Battlefront.com. By the way Combat Mission II, which covers the Russian front, will be released this fall.

    In the something new category is Starfleet Command: Orionís Pirates. A stand-alone add-on to the Starfleet Command Volume II, the game adds twelve factions of Orionís Pirates, new single player skirmishes and campaigns, and a fully functional persistent online universe called the Dynaverse II.  The nail-biting tactical combat is a prime example of real-time gaming done right, and the single-player missions are great fun. Trekkies who havenít given the series a whirl, should. After all, thereís plenty of flashing lasers, and thatís what good SciFi is all about.

    © Mark H. Walker, LLC 2001
    Mark H. Walker is a veteran interactive entertainment journalist who has written over 40 books including his recently released Video Games Almanac and The Parentís Guide to PlayStation Games.
     



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