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CURRENTS
Issue #91
August 8, 2008
Ham and Cheese
Front Page

Mmmm... ham and cheese. One of mankind's greatest inventions. Pretzel sticks, too. Pretzel sticks dipped in spicy mustard.

Sorry about that. Welcome to Currents #91! I don't have a terrible amount to say at the moment, I fear. I'm still not done with Persona 3, although I should be soon. When I finally beat the game, there will be a celebration. With cake. You're all invited, so mark your calendars.

Onwards to the NEWS!

Game Banned, Jack Thompson Jeers
It's an epidemic
Title

Violent videogame controversies aren't exclusive to North America, you know. In fact, during my tenure here as Currents columnist, I've visited several different regions and reported on several different videogame controversies. Today we'll be going to Thailand, to hear about the latest controversies surrounding Grand Theft Auto! (Ooooh, exciting.)

So, some 19 year-old dude decided to rob and murder a cab driver in Bangkok. Upon being questioned by investigators, he claimed that he did it out of a desire to re-enact what you can do in GTA IV. (Such a damn convenient excuse these days, now isn't it?) According to Reuters, police said that "the youth had had wanted to find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game." I'm sorry, the "youth?" I believe being age 19 qualifies you as an adult.

GTA IV has been yanked from shelves in Thailand. Additionally, the Thai press is currently having a veritable field day. My favorite example is an outright lie from the Bangkok Post, in an article entitled "Games of Subversion":

The Public Health Ministry, which has monitored the impact of these games on the mental and physical health of young Thais, yesterday released a list of 10 online games which have been banned in the United States since last year because of their inappropriate content...

They are: Manhunt; Scarface; 50 Cent: Bulletproof; 300: The Video Game; The Godfather; Killer; Resident Evil 4; God of War; Hitman: Blood Money; and Grand Theft Auto.

One problem: there has never, ever been a videogame banned in the United States! (Games of Subversion, bahahaha.)

In a move that should surprise no one, Jack Thompson stuck his ugly mug into the case. Well, actually, all he did was write a nasty letter to Take-Two's Chairman Struass Zelnick. Like always, he was nice enough to forward it to several different news sites as well.

I warned you both that copycat killings by teens would occur upon the release of Grand Theft Auto IV. Now my prediction has come true...

In addition to multiple written warnings, I told you of this coming mayhem in a face-to-face meeting with you, Mr. Zelnick, on Central Park West on May 15, 2007... I am working with authorities now... as well as other remedies against Take-Two for its reckless worldwide distribution of its murder simulation training products... This is just the latest killing incident prompted by your murder simulators. I aim to make it the last...

PS: The above latest copycat killing will help fuel federal legislation in the United States because of your company’s chronic marketing and sale of its mature-rated video games to minors. You are selling GTA IV, for example, to anyone of any age via the Internet.

And finally, we need to take a moment to laugh uproariously at this clueless blogger on Gawker. Just listen to some of what Hamilton Nolan has to say:

This is an absolute nightmare scenario for video game manufacturers, who must now be thanking their Pagan gods that it didn't happen in the US: a teenager in Bangkok murdered a taxi cab driver in an attempt to reenact a scene from Grand Theft Auto...

Not only was the killer inspired by the game's violence; he committed murder in order to get more money to play the game. The incident makes GTA look like a mix of the worst elements of trashy media and crack cocaine. Rockstar, which makes the game, hasn't commented, but they'll have to do something serious. The day this happens in America is the day video game content regulation becomes a reality.

Ba-hahahaha. Funny guy. Makes you wonder where he's been for the past five years or so! In any case, I'm not sure if a case originating from Thailand, which has a history of censorship, will have much effect on American legislation. But Jack can always hope, I suppose. And once again I ask: since when are 19 year-olds considered "youth?"

Source: GamePolitics
Includes Metal Case, Series Soundtrack
And a bigger pricetag
Title

I've never actually purchased a collector's edition for a game before, but this recently-revealed Tales of Vesperia collector's edition looks pretty damn nice. It's pretty much just a metallic case, but it's a pretty metallic case, and I wants it. So I will gets it. Precious.

Oh, it also comes with a special CD that contains 25 tracks assembled from a variety of Tales games. Not too excited about that one, I think I would have preferred a simple soundtrack CD. But what the heck, we'll take what we can get. We're already getting shorted compared to the sexy Japanese hardware bundle, which includes a 20GB 360, a copy of the game, a ToV faceplate, and a copy of the game's script. Damn! Why aren't we awesome enough to get something like that?

Source: Kotaku
Arcade Model Would Fall to $199
omg that's cheaper than teh Wii
Title

When Microsoft announced a price cut for the 20GB Xbox 360 SKU, it was accompanied by an announcement that a new, $349 60GB model would be replacing it anyways. In other words, the $50 price drop was merely a ploy to get 20GB 360's off store shelves. A damn disappointment, wouldn't you say?

But hold! The rumor mill, it's 'a turnin' - and word on the street is that Microsoft may be giving us an honest-to-God price cut on all three Xbox 360 SKUs. Where did this RUMOR (yes, rumor) originate? From a thoroughly bizarre Ars Technica article. This rumor was then "confirmed" by a photo posted on VGChartz.

As any fool can plainly see, it shows a $199 price point for the Xbox 360 Arcade SKU. But according to the Ars Technica article, this $50 price drop will be put into effect for all SKUs - in other words, the 60GB Pro model will fall to $299, and the 120GB Elite model will fall to $399.

Ars Technica has been right in the past. They were the first to break the news about the 40GB PS3, and apparently, the dude who supplied this information also knew about the 60GB 360 beforehand. So, while this is definitely a possibility, it should be taken lightly. Oh, and I wouldn't place a terrible amount of stock in that photo, especially considering it came from VGChartz. But I will say this: lately, retail stores have had a serious penchant for letting hardware price cuts out of the bag early.

Source: GameSpot
Jade Empire, Dragon Age Titles Also Possible
Tide us over
Title

Anyone excited about BioWare's upcoming handheld game, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood? I can't really say that I'm interested, although I'm intrigued by the concept. This happens to be the first handheld game produced by BioWare, and according to the game's lead designer, Miles Holmes, this is an attempt to get the company's portable division off the ground.

According to EuroGamer via GamesIndustry, Holmes said that BioWare could possibly make more handheld titles based on franchises such as Mass Effect, Jade Empire, and Dragon Age. ""We have a lot of big plans for Mass Effect," he said. "Having a DS version would be an awesome way to keep interest alive and keep it going in addition to the next one [Mass Effect 2]." Holmes went on to say that of all BioWare's franchises, he most wanted to see a Mass Effect game on a handheld.

Well, I'm all for that, as long as they ensure that these handheld titles are well-done games, rather than cheap cash-ins to keep a franchise alive during the sure-to-be-long development cycle of, say, Mass Effect 2. But then, from what I understand, BioWare doesn't make a habit of producing garbage. This is hardly a confirmation, though, so we simply must wait with bated breath in order to see how (and if) Virtual Orgasmic Rape will play out on not one, but TWO screens!

Source: GamesIndustry
Has Nothing to do With Puerile Petition
SCREW THESE FANS, I QUIT
Title

You remember several weeks ago when I reported that a group of Diablo fanboys had banded together to make a silly internet petition, demanding that Blizzard turn down the contrast level for Diablo III? Of course you do. That petition didn't work, by the way; Blizzard effectively told them all to go suck a wet sock. (As they well should have.) But amusingly enough, mere weeks after the petition was made, Diablo III's lead Art Director (Brian Morrisroe), left the company.

This was "announced" by a job listing that appeared on Blizzard's website, seeking a new lead Art Director for the game. Kotaku contacted Blizzard for comment, and received this reply:

Regarding Brian, he recently resigned to form a startup company "outside the game industry", which is why we posted about the open position. That change won't impact the game... we're really pleased with the look and feel that Brian helped create for Diablo III, and the new person we bring aboard will work with other artists on the team to maintain the art style moving forward.

So no, Blizzard is not bending to the will of its gothic fans. You may actually be able to play Diablo III without turning up the contrast level.

Source: Kotaku
QUICKIES: In Which I Make Passing Mention of Some Relatively Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
  • Wii MotionPlus to be Cheap
    Sounding almost apologetic (for the second time since E3 2008), Nintendo's president, Satoru Iwata, assured the Wall Street Journal that the Wii MotionPlus accessory would not be costly. "There will be games that will be enhanced by the Wii MotionPlus as well as games that can only be played with it. Users will need four if they have four controllers, but we're going to try to offer it for as little as possible. We haven't announced the price yet, but the cost of making the Wii MotionPlus is not that much, so I think we can make it very affordable." Okay... so some will require it, while others will be "enhanced." In other words, plan on buying a Wii MotionPlus.

  • Soul Calibur IV Sells 2 Million
    Advertising! Advertising! Advertising! If you do it well, it pays off, as Namco Bandai's Soul Calibur IV proves. The game has already sold (yes, sold, not shipped) over 2 million copies worldwide. It was released in North America on July 29, and in Europe/Japan on July 31st. It's really quite good, I would suggest you buy it as well.

  • Persona 4 Import Preview
    Come hither, fans of Atlus's Persona series! (Or at least you fans of Persona 3.) Andrew Fitch of 1UP has gotten his hands on an import copy of Persona 4 and has written up an impression of the first 10 hours or so. It's completely spoiler-free, so worry not. He makes it pretty clear that they're ratcheting up the difficulty for this one. And THANK GOD, you can control your party members directly now. In other words, somebody OTHER THAN YOU will be able to cure status effects in Persona 4.
Sources: 1UP | Kotaku | GamesIndustry

And we've come to the end. Since we're here, I'm afraid it is time for an announcement.

My next Currents column will be my last! After much thought, meditation, and discussion, I decided that it would be best to continue my tenure as Q&A host, and to end my time as Currents columnist. And I assure you, we will all be working as quickly as possible to find a suitable replacement.

In any case, my last column will go up the week beginning August 18. I will not be producing Currents or Q&A next week, as I will be moving.

'Till next time, my friends!

Oliver Motok
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