Amplitude & Your High Definition Television = Well, Shit

I was rooting through my PS2 games the other night looking for my copy of Gitaroo Man so I could play a few levels and ended up coming across Amplitude. I figured "Hey, what the hell, I haven't played this game in years... I bet Andie would find it interesting since it was kind of a precursor to Guitar Hero and Rock Band." and popped it in. Much to my surprise, I still had my save file on the memory card that happened to be in my PS2 at the time.

"So far, so good!" I thought. "This is gonna be a blast!"

And then, the lag hit. And here is where my true laziness comes in; or maybe not. Let me explain:

This game sucked up way too much of my time nearly a decade ago. It's a shame I'll most likely never play it again.

For the uninitiated, most of the games in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises (maybe all of them? I'm too lazy to check and I haven't played them much) have a setting that lets you compensate for the lag that is inherent in all HDTV's. Amplitude apparently came out before such a thing was thought to be needed, and the end result is a game that is unplayable on my television in my living room.

The best way I can think to describe the gameplay of Amplitude is to think of Guitar Hero without the guitar. You are in a space ship of sorts, and your job is to fly down tracks of music, playing notes along the way until you activate each track. You activate a track by playing every note in two consecutive bars correctly, after which the track will play automatically for a few measures so you can hop to the next track to activate it, and so on and so forth. You rack up bonuses by linking tracks together without any gaps in between activation, and on some songs you can have the entire song playing automatically, however briefly, based on your performance. Add in score multipliers, slow motion power ups, and the ability to freestyle on certain songs and you have absolute musical chaos. And it is lovely chaos!

You "play" the notes in the tracks by pressing the shoulder buttons in time with when the circles in front of your ship pass over them. Unfortunately for me, this means I have to play the notes a fraction of a second earlier than when they actually pass through the circles in front of my ship. I was able to get about halfway through one of the easier songs ("Cherry Lips" by Garbage) before I became disheartened and gave up.

I did a quick search online (i.e. the Amplitude forums at GameFAQs and a few Google searches that yielded nothing helpful) and found that, unfortunately, you really need an old CRT TV to play this game. I did read that if I were to hook up my PS2 to my HDTV without HD cables it would reduce the lag to as low as 17 ms, or one frame, but that would still be unacceptable on some of the more chaotic songs in the game.

I believe I have an old CRT TV in my attic that ended up there after the last move, but I'm not sure if I threw it out or not. Even if I do have one, rearranging my gaming setup to accommodate one game seems ludicrous to me. We have a Wii, Xbox 360, and PS2 all hooked into a switch box which attaches to our HDTV via component cables. Not the best nor most revolutionary setup in the world, but it makes it so all of my systems are connected in HD, and it's simple enough that the kids can switch systems if need be without fiddling with any wires. I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to call myself lazy for not wanting to deal with moving things around to play a rhythm game that's a decade old, but this is just an unfortunate situation in general since Amplitude is a quality game, and, more importantly, one I have a lot of fond memories of playing.

One interesting tidbit I found while researching this issue was that the online play for Amplitude was still able to be accessed until August 31, 2013 with a bit of trickery (the official SCEA servers went down on February 26, 2007 according to Wikipedia; the game can still be played on official servers in Europe, though). Apparently by changing some kind of settings on your network/PS2/router/something you could trick the game into "piggybacking" off of multiplayer servers for a SOCOM game. The exact details ade my brain hurt and I was too lazy to delve into it much, but it was fascinating to see that people still played this game online relatively recently (I had played local multiplayer, but never online). It appears that people host private servers nowadays, even though the game itself doesn't support anything but the official servers for online play. I find this all to be quite fascinating, especially since I never played any PS2 games online at all even though my PS2 has the network adapter attached.

Although it appears my days of playing Amplitude are over, I still have Gitaroo Man to enjoy (when I find it), and I can always pick up a copy of N20 somewhere (even though it's not a rhythm game) to get my psychedelic tunnel shooting fix.

I leave you with this video of someone playing "Super Sprode" on insane difficulty and totally destroying it. I didn't realize this song was on Rock Band until fairly recently, but Amplitude was the game that introduced me to it.


Proof That I Am Lazy, Three Years Later

Yeah, I really am that lazy, apparently. I'm still poor, still playing lots of classic games, and still pretty angry about the hobby in general. As of late I've been playing through the Sega Genesis version of Shadowrun and enjoying it more than I have in years. I'm also sporadically picking up and playing Final Fantasy X (I'm at the part where you have to dodge the lightning... ugh), and enjoying playing Tetris Party on the Wii with my lovely fiancee. I've gotten a different perspective on gaming thanks to having two preteen boys in the house; they pretty much only like to play Minecraft and first-person shooters on the Xbox 360 (we don't allow them to do multiplayer online -- we only let them do it locally). It's fascinating to me that they can play first person shooters with no problem, but they can't get past the first level of Super Mario Bros.

I hope to start updating with some kind of regularity even though I know no one will ever read this blog nor stumble upon it, if for no other reason than to just be writing something again.

That being said, I give my nearly three year absence a score of:


Five twirling L-blocks from Tetris that I found in a minute using Google Image search out of five


Megaman, battle routine set! Execute!

Also available in Blue flavor.

Something about the Megaman Battle Network series has kept me playing it on and off for the better part of 8 years now. Granted, after the third game the series turned to complete and total garbage, but the second and third games have been played to completion by me numerous times. I can't put my finger on exactly why. Maybe it's the atmosphere of the games: one in which virtually everything is connected to the Net in one way or another and can be jacked into and explored. Maybe it's the "gotta catch em all!" chip-collecting aspect-- although it'd be odd if it was... I normally despise tedious activities like that in my video games. Honestly I think most of the appeal comes from a few simple qualities the games possess.

  • You can save anywhere, anytime.
  • They're easy to pick up and play on a whim.
  • They aren't too awful difficult.
  • You can get as little or as much depth out of them as you please.

Being able to save anywhere, anytime may seem like a silly high point for a game. But it's nice-- especially in an RPG-- to be able to play without worrying about locating save points if something comes up that requires your attention. Or if your battery is dying and you don't have your charger handy. Save points are one of my pet peeves in gaming in general. I only make exceptions in rare situations, such as older consoles. Let's face it, Enix and Square had no clue what they were doing when they were making Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. If they did, the thief wouldn't have been completely useless in Final Fantasy. Hell, by the sixth installment of that series, Square still couldn't program things like magic blocking and evasion properly. And don't even get me started on the Relm sketch bug.

But yes, saving whenever I want is good, and goes hand in hand with the game being easy to pick up and play on a whim. The plot isn't too involved, which isn't necessarily a bad thing-- it basically serves as an excuse for you to run around, jack into every piece of electronic equipment in the world, pillage data and money, and battle other folks. Oh, and spoilers, Dr. Wily is the bad guy. Like you didn't see that one coming.

If you've ever played an action game before and been somewhat decent at it, the battle system isn't overwhelming. It can take some getting used to, but putting together a decent folder really doesn't take much thought. You can beat most of the game just using your mega buster, anyway. It'd take a long time, but it's possible. In fact, the hardest part of the games is sometimes just remembering how to navigate the various areas on the Net, especially toward the end of the game. A lot of the areas start to look the same, and some of them aren't visited all that often. Their labyrinthine nature doesn't help matters at all, either. I can get from Lan's PC to just about anywhere in the ACDC area without thinking, but beyond that I usually have to wander aimlessly for a few minutes to figure out where I'm going. Of course, that could just be me. Who knows?

On my current play through I'm not really going out of my way to get a ton of extra or rare battle chips. I'm just enjoying the scenery, blasting my way through battles, doing some side quests when I feel like it... just kind of making things up as I go. I remember when I was playing the game for reviewing purposes, I got sucked in big time. I was a chip collecting fiend, I had to S rank every boss, had to collect a ton of bug frags... but not now. I've seen most of what the game has to offer. I just want to play it and enjoy it without using my brain too awful much. And so far it's been fun.

I picked this one up used at Gamestop for less than $10. It was worth the $40 I paid for it when it originally came out, and it's definitely worth a ten spot now. In my opinion it was the high point of the MMBN series, which is unfortunate. That's not to say it's a bad game, because it most definitely isn't. It just seems like Capcom sort of gave up after this installment. The first game was a new concept with a lot of rough ideas that were smoothed out when the second chapter was made. The third one refines these ideas and streamlines them further... and after that, Capcom became focused more on gimmicks than actually building on the story and atmosphere of the previous games.

I never really thought about it before writing this, but the series is very similar in quality to its NES cousin. The first game had some good ideas but was just kind of thrown together; the second game streamlines them a bit and removes unnecessary elements; the third game serves as the pinnacle, where things are fresh and familiar at the same time while introducing some minor enhancements and still being tons of fun; the fourth game throws in some new ideas that don't really help things at all; the fifth game discards those ideas for even worse ones, and the formula wears noticeably thin; the sixth game is more of the same and goes unnoticed.

I know most people disagree with Megaman 3 being the pinnacle of the NES series (choosing the second installment), and that's fine. I disagree, and I think it creates an interesting (and disappointing) parallel between the two series.

The Verdict

Five dopey-looking mettaurs out of five


Being Lazy & Poor Ain't All That Bad...

I'm lazy in the sense that I don't keep up with the latest in movies, music, and video games anymore. I basically just pop into a store, see what they have in stock, and blindly buy things. Well, not always; sometimes I just stick to the "classics" that I've seen, heard, or played before but don't own anymore for some reason. I find that I'm generally much happier with my purchases that way.

I'm poor in the sense that I just don't have $60 to spend on every new game that I want. Actually, I don't have $60 to spend on any new game that I want. I'd love to snap up a copy of NBA 2K11 and put Jordan on a superstar-packed team and have myself a ball, but the reality is that I just can't. Why do that when I can buy last year's game for $10? Or download an emulator, and ROM of Tecmo Super NBA Basketball and play with Michael Jordan on the Bulls-- with hair!

Yeah, that dude with the ball (and the hair) is Michael Jordan.

I'm sure that NBA 2K11 would give me a much deeper NBA experience than a Tecmo game from 17 years ago. But is it worth $60? That's the question I ask myself every time I even consider purchasing a new game. There's nothing I hate more than buying a game at full retail than bringing it home, playing it for a few days (or hours, even) and loathing it. I end up forcing myself to play through it so I can justify the purchase by saying I got my money's worth. I could have used that $60 in much better ways: paying bills, bolstering my savings, or buying my guinea pig more guinea kibble. The possibilities are endless. But no, I'm stuck with a game I don't really like.

Sure, I could trade it back for $25 or so, but even then I'm out $35. What a waste of my money and my time. It's almost depressing to think about. It's sad that buying new releases has become painful. As a result, I end up buying games I know and love (and their remakes) usually a year or so after initial release, and almost always pre-owned. I make very few exceptions to this rule: pretty much any Atlus RPG (especially if it's Shin Megami Tensei or a spin-off), re-releases of older Final Fantasy titles, and compilations of classic games. Usually they are priced lower than a big-name release, and thus it's easy for me to spend some coin on them while they're still fresh.

So that's what this blog will focus on (mainly): my experiences with these older games. Opinions, rants, maybe some full-fledged reviews. And probably lots of angry diatribes. Yeah, I've been known to go on one of those every now and then.