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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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