Thursday, December 29, 2005

It’s a Christmas time miracle…or it’s about frackin time!


Although I’ve been able to spend time with the 360 due to my job, it was more than a little annoying that I had yet to secure a personal one even though I had pre-ordered it months ago. Well, on Christmas Eve no less, I get a call from EB saying my premium console had come in. What are the chances of that? Christmas frackin Eve. It was insanely cool and not so cool at the same time. I mean, the previous estimate they gave me was January.

Of course there’s a hitch. I’m in southern California at this time visiting family and EB is near my office in the Bay Area. Then a real Christmas miracle happened, my wife’s mother and brother trecked across the bridge to snag it for me since EB can only hold the item for 48 hours (and I wouldn’t be back by then). Very, very cool.

There was still bad news as the ship date for DOA4 appeared to have slipped yet again to the very end of this year. I was pretty sure this meant we’ll have to wait till January at the earliest. Then, word starting spreading on the interweb that the Japanese version had shipped to stores. A few days later, an official press release comes out announcing the game is in (some) stores today! After calling all the local EB and Gamestops in a 5 mile radius, there’s five if you’re curious, only one knew for sure it would have it today. I had to do the dreaded pre-order yesterday to “make sure I got one”, but the upside for driving to the GameStop was I got handed the promo calendar. I also ordered the Hori stick online for overnight delivery (none of the stores had the Hori arcade stick, which supposedly had shipped last week), so with fingers heavily crossed, I await both today. I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about them till they were both in my hands, but I’m up earlier than usual during vacation, so what the heck.

Now that DOA4 is a few hours away (I hope, I hope, I hope), I think the chances for finishing Shadow Hearts: NC just went out the window for a few weeks. I’m pretty close to finishing Condemned and I beat Trace Memory for the DS during the trip too. I knew Trace Memory was short, but it’s much shorter than I thought. Still it’s a very nice, engaging graphic adventure. I made my wife play it first and she liked it a lot. The Nintendogs are still getting daily attention, as is Animal Crossing. It was nice visiting the town on my birthday and Christmas. I missed to first big fishing tournament, but I finally got to see K.K. Slider! On the downside, it sounds like all the songs are the same as the GameCube version.

I’m also fairly close to finishing Perfect Dark Zero, but I may not bother. The realization has sunk in that I’m not having that much fun. The level of challenge has kept me coming back, but many of the obstacles in front of you feel cheap. To be continued.

Food
Getting back to Christmas, it was good times. Need to go back again very soon to see friends I only saw for like a minute. Found a cool new Chinese restaurant, I think it was called Mandarette. Decent size, but not big enough for how popular it seems to be. Nice atmosphere, very good food, and good prices. It’s on Beverly, near La Cienega if you’re in the area soon.

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I had seen a show about fried chicken on the food network and they highlighted a place in LA called Pollo Campanero. The joint was a popular fast food chain originating in Guatemala and the lines were said to me very long. Guatemala fried chicken? I had to try me some of that. The lines were indeed long, but the chicken is quite fantastic. My wife and I were the only non-Latinos in the place, which I took as a good sign that an eatery is still authentic and keeping it real.

Surprisingly, I bought no new books or toys this trip. I’m eagerly awaiting new figures due to ship between January and March, so saving up till then. Preview pics coming soon.

Battlestar baby
The latter half of the post title also refers to the long awaited return of Battlestar Galactica (Jan 6th people!) after it’s midseason hiatus. The last episode was so intense, it’s made the wait all that more difficult. I’ve been tempted to pick up the DVD sets out, but I’m going to hold out (it’s probably going to be a while I know) for a blu-ray or HD-DVD release. Having seen the series in HD, there’s no going back. The DVDs are indeed great, but I’m getting 60% less pock marks on Edward James Olmos’ face. In a word…unacceptable.

Update 12/31/05

It seems nothing Xbox 360 related can go off without some drama. The store I pre-ordered DOA 4 from didn’t get the game on Thur (which I didn’t really expect anyway), but they also were the only store in the area that didn’t get it on Fri. I cancelled and bought it at another EB, so that was that. The arcade stick did come in Thur, so it’s been all business since yesterday afternoon.

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As a DOA fan, I’m happy with the game. My thoughts spoiler free thoughts so far:

Good
- The majority of character moves have revamped, which is a good choice. I’m not so sure about other engine revisions. More on that below.

- The stages are drop dead gorgeous. Wow. The way the fighting engine finally complements how big or small a stage is. You still can’t run around easily though.

- I’m hoping Team Ninja really support the Xbox Marketplace with reasonably priced goodies for the fan. The DOA player is one I know will shell out points for premium items.

- I really enjoyed the story. It still doesn’t make much sense, but the few parts that do are wrapped up to a certain degree.

- The online lobby system is really cool, although waiting around in groups anything larger than six feels like a waste of time. That is unless you know everyone there and can have fun chatting while waiting.

Bad
- Not many costumes and the few characters that have more than four have a lot of color swap outfits.

- While everything looks crisp, I wish the player models were more detailed. I haven’t done an A to B comparison of DOAU to DOA4 though.

- The end boss isn’t as cheap as the Genra from DOA3, but still not fun to play against.

Jury still out
- The three new characters are a mixed bag. I love Mariposa, Kokoro is ok, and Elliot I’m not too hot on.

- The way your character is stunned and recovers from getting hit has been changed greatly. DOA has always favored the defensive counter player, but now that power has shifted to the aggressive attacker who can mix up high/mid/low attacks. It feels like Team Ninja chose the lesser of two evils, but it doesn’t sit 100% right with me yet.

- My limited online play so far was really fun, BUT half of my matches were silky smooth while the other half were riddled with nasty lag.

- I’m beginning to feel like all 3D fighters need a block button and should not use holding backwards for defense. It works so well for the Soul Calibur and Virtua Fighter series (the two most balanced 3D fighting systems out there), it can work for DOA. Even though countering has been made much harder in 4, you still want to go for it since blocking doesn’t seem to be an effective alternative.

Hmm, this was a much longer post that I thought. Well, heading back to counting down the New Year. And Montry, look for a friend invite in a few minutes.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Nice long break


I’ve been having lots of random ideas of things to post about before the holiday break so here goes in no particular order:

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- Rule of Rose is a Sony of Japan developed horror game for the PS2 that is about to come out this January. It involves English children in some sort of boarding school house and it looks super creepy – both in a scary movie way and a “seems like something uncomfortabley naughty is happening” way. Hit up the official site and watch the trailers, especially the first one. It’s all CG stuff, but it gives you an idea of what it’s about…sorta. I hope this comes out here.

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- Ryu Ga Gotoku is sort of like Shenmue meets Japanese gangster Grand Theft Auto. I’ve been obsessed with it as the theme seems really cool to me, but not enough that I want to import it at this time. I played through the first Shenmue in Japanese and had a ball, so language shouldn’t be that big of a deal. It’s more of a time thing I guess at this point. I just have too many damn games I want to play that sit on my shelf, which makes it hard to justify paying an import premium. I really hope they bring this out here. I mean, everyone is trying to make a “better” GTA (True Crime comes to mind), but they all are mining similar territory. Exploring the underworld of Japanese gangsters would stand out more I think. You can do it Sega!

- I was mildly tempted to ask for the 20th Anniversary Gameboy Micro for Christmas, but held back because: A) The US release should have been the domestic NES style and not the Famicom. B) Where are all the extra faceplates? All I keep seeing are more versions of Micro hardware. C) It still costs too damn much. D) I’m very happy with the new backlit GBA SP already.

- I’ve been playing a lot of NBA 2K6 for Xbox 360. It’s so damn good, I can’t understand a lot of the knocks it’s gotten in some reviews. There’s just no contest between Live and 2K this year. Live is all flash and 2K is slightly less flash, but ultra rich content.

- There’s no doubt now, the denizens of Animal Crossing DS are much weirder than the GameCube version. The random things they talk about, ask you to do, etc. It’s very entertaining. The best part about the game is how relaxed I feel when walking around town. Nintendo has done it again!*

- Now that I sit back and think about it, I can’t remember a holiday where I was so obsessed with games. I love the widening selection of types of games in both the home console and especially the portable realm. Without really thinking hard on it, I’m willing to say the DS was the console of the year. The PS2 and 360 are close in that race though. The year isn’t over yet and I’ve a lot to play before my mind is made up on it.

*The post on the history of that quote is coming soon, I swear.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Farewell Phil!


So this past Friday was Phil’s last day at GameSpy. I’ve known him for almost seven years when he used to do some writing for me on OPM. He’s decided to pursue the noble career of teaching although he’s sure to keep at least one toe in some game writing. The good news is I’ll spend far less on geeky gaming pursuits without the guru in the office.

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We had a nice good bye lunch where much fantastic food was consumed. Here we see the posse strolling to the eatery.

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I forgot to take pictures of the other food, but here’s desert! Yummy tiramisu. Good luck Phil!

Christmas break looms and I have a ton of gaming I’d like to get on. I’m on the 2nd disc of Shadow Hearts Covenant and guestimate I have about 12-15 hours left to go. I still have to get back to my unhealthy fascination with Beat Down.

I’ll have more access to the 360 over the break and want to finish Perfect Dark and finally start to mess around online. I’m not so sure I’ll keep the game too long after though. I want to spend more time with Call of Duty 2, NBA 2K6, and Condemned (which is scaring the heck out of me). I’d like to get a higher score on Geometry Wars too. If Dead or Alive 4 ends up shipping before the end of the month, I’ll be all over that.

I’m still having a great time with Animal Crossing. On my birthday, I received presents from neighbors and seemed to have abnormally great luck fishing. There’s quite a stack of DS and GBA games I really want to get to as well. So many great games this holiday.

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Speaking of my birthday, my wife threw me an awesome surprise party. I was totally not expecting it. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Give me your fruit!


As the ridiculous drama of elusive 360s continues, I decided it’s more exciting to focus on Animal Crossing DS. I just picked up the game today and starting to get my town ready for visitors.

What type of letter will my friend drop off today? Who left this thingy in the middle of my town? Why are all my apple trees dug up? What type of shirt design will shock everyone? You get the picture.

It’s the fun of what your friends bring to the party. The more creative or weirder they are, the better. I’m hearing that the way you use WiFi is not as cool or fully featured as one would like, but I’ll manage.

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RPG revival
I was really in the mood to play Dragon Quest VIII, but I put it on my Xmas list and can’t just go out and buy it right now. So, I looked over my PS2 RPG collection and decided it was time to give Shadow Hearts: Covenant (that’s part 2 for those not in the know) a twirl. It has a very quirky story that mixes heavy themes like death with sometimes out of place bits of comedy. I’m absolutely loving it. It’s going to get harder to spend time with it now that I have Animal Crossing though.

I was almost about to drag out Valkyrie Profile for the PSOne, but decided against it at the last minute. It seems news points to a sequel for the PS2 being made, less concrete is a long rumored port of the original for the PSP. I’ll see if that pans out. RPGs stand a much better chance of being played if they are on a portable system for me.

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Darkstalkers Book Ends
My wife threw me an awesome early surprise birthday dinner and one of the gifts I received were these awesome Darkstalkers book ends. Morrigan is indeed "puttin 'em on da glass" as the kids like to say. They’re so wrong and yet so right. Thanks again Sean and Keith!

Monday, November 28, 2005

DOA 4 or nothing


I had to return the loaner 360 back to the office today, but I think I’ve had my fill for now. I borrowed mostly games I hadn’t tried before this time. I managed to finish Gun, which is fun while it lasts, but way too short for even my tastes and I likes short games. Played a few missions in Quake 4. Frame rate is not as smooth as I would have like, but it’s fun for what it is. Might buy it if it hit the $20 mark in the future. Decided to borrow Amped 3, hated it. It’s going to alienate Amped 2 fans that’s for sure. Played a little Tony Hawk too and had a decent time. I could see myself getting back into it whenever there is a real shift in the visuals. Needs more graphics punch for me to keep playing.

I didn’t play much NBA 2K6 since I own it and will play plenty later. I snagged Perfect Dark Zero from Costco ($43.99, nice!) and made it close to the end (mission 10 out of 13). It’s pretty cool and at the same time kinda average. People tell me that co-op is awesome as is multi-player. I’ll reserve judgement till then.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been able to save my profile and game saves on the 65MB memory card so I can transfer everything to my future 360. I almost felt like I should buy the 20GB hard drive since it’s just a $60 difference. I mean, $40 for 65MB or $100 for 20 gigs? If you look at it from the perspective that the PS2 memory cards were 8MB and sold for $20-25, then it’s not so bad I guess.

One curious note: You can “move” your profile from the hard drive to the memory card and vice versa, but you can’t make a “copy”. It can only “exist” in one memory device. It makes sense since so much is tied to your profile. Also, my PDZ save file could not be moved or copied from the HD to memory card in the systems menu. After a brief panic, I figured out you have to select the memory card as your preferred save location within the actual game. The curious thing about that is, I confirmed that it saved to my card, but the save file was apparently “moved” off my HD by the game. Interesting. So PDZ saves apparently can only be in one location too.

Other than that, I’m on the 2nd shipment watch as many others are.

Dead or Alive
I popped in DOA3 in the 360 and was surprised that all the CG movies stuttered. Not exactly perfect emulation. The game ran fine though. Also, the upconversion to 720p/1080i was very nice. It’s amazing how much more detail I was able to spot on the clothes and backgrounds. I did a minor A/B test and confirmed that the game looked much better on the 360. It almost looks too soft on the original Xbox now. I started to hope for compatibility for DOA Ulimate and Xtreme Beach Volleyball, but maybe it doesn’t matter. There’s no way I’m sinking the hours needed to unlock everything all over again. I’ll just lavish my attention on DOA4.

Speaking of 4, the release date has been moved again, this time from this upcoming Thursday to next week, the 6th (or even the 8th say some). Will it actually ship next week? If I don’t have a 360 by then, I don’t really care. If you pre-order online, you can get a free 2006 calendar. I checked all the local EBs and Gamestops and they have no clue if they’ll get it. I hate to have to pay shipping, but I kind of want that calendar. I’m also considering the Hori arcade stick made especially for DOA 4. I’m not sure if it’s wireless or not, but probably not. It would be a must have if it were. Even if it isn’t, I’ll probably buy it still. The above pic is all I could find at a decent size and is from the Play Asia site (although I airbrushed out their logo).

Animal Crossing
Animal Crossing DS comes out next week and that will take up a ton of time. So it won’t be so bad if no 360 is had soon.

Done with SCIII
It comes as a big surprise to me, but I have no longer have a desire to play Soul Calibur III against the computer anymore. I’ll still play in the office because playing against other people rock, but I just hate playing by myself in the game. Plus, the lower resolution really bugs me. It turns out I was spoiled by the 720p visuals on the Xbox SCII. I can’t go back. I just can’t. It’ll only get worse once I have DOA4. So here’s hoping the rumors in a recent EGM about SCIII hitting Xbox 360 in spring 2006 is true. Even then though, I might not buy it if it’s not online. Offline fighting games should be banned.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Last minute 360 madness. Madness I say.

So today was going to be super busy with the shortened holiday week, but I got an extra dose of drama by learning I was bumped to the 2nd 360 shipment at my EB. I have no words. Well, I didn't have any when I heard the news. Better now.

Anyway, the rest of day had been a scramble to try to get a lot of work done and figure out a plan B for getting a 360. By the end of the work day, I was resigned that there would be no way to get a console tomorrow. Reports and photos of massive lines seemingly everywhere crushed any latent hope.

So, I borrowed one from work along with several games (sadly no PDZ or Condemned as all the office copies were being put to official use) to see if it would be worth it to hit like 10 stores tomorrow before work. All the trips would most likely be futile I'm sure.

Anyway, finally got to see what the system would be like on my HDTV. Call of Duty 2...stunning. Wow, this is a must get for sure. PGR3, it does look immensely good, almost photo-realistic. Still, I just wasn't getting excited playing. Ridge Racer 6, yes...yes...YES! I didn't know there were so many tracks and it gives me that old "arcade in your home" feeling. Really sharp looking environments, cool music, and super solid gameplay.

NBA 2K6, I already bought it and happy with what's there. It certainly has rough patches, but it's fun overall. FIFA 2006, is not as bad as I thought, but not really up to snuff. Gun, is really cool. The textures and character models look worse than current gen, but the high resolution and widescreen display sort of make up for it. The story seems way cool too. Probably best played as a rental though. NBA Live 06 is just gorgeous, but plays soooo sloooow and not quite right. Madden 06 looks quite good too, but I' ve always prefered 2K pigskin which means I'm SOL for the next couple years.

I don't have any interest in Tony Hawk, Kameo, Tiger, or Quake 4 so I didn't grab them.

So, am I still jazzed to go try my luck? If I wake up early, I'll make an effort. I'll definitely get CoD2 and Ridge Racer. If I'm forced to buy a bundle in-store, I'll add PDZ or Condemned. If not, just relax with Mario Kart DS and maybe pick up Dragon Quest VIII.


UPDATE: So everywhere I went had numbers of people who had been there overnight and given some type of ticket stub. It's what I expected, I mean, there was a total of 180 consoles out of the six stores I checked. 180. That includes two Wal-Marts and a Best Buy. think about how small that number is. Well Microsoft, you've got the sell out you wanted. Congrats.

UPDATE 2: I was fortunate to be able to borrow one of the office retail units over the break. I have a memory unit so I can save my Gamercard progress and transfer it whenever I get my own. So, phew, some next gen action is in effect.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Backward compatibility and 100,000 hits!

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The list of Xbox software that the Xbox 360 will play was released recently and it tops 200 titles. Just like Halo and Halo 2, the games get the benefit of an upconverted signal to 720p or 1080i. Not sure if they do can do widescreen thing like the Halo games, but the improved resolution is enough for me.

So, the combo of better visuals and tons of titles supported had me psyched. That was until I looked over my collection. Out of 23 Xbox games I own, 6 will play on the 360. SIX! And that six include Halo and Halo 2. So four non-Master Chief games. W…T…F….

Dead or Alive 3 works on the 360, but not DOA: Ultimate or DOAXtreme Beach Volleyball. Well, that list is supposed to grow as the weeks go on. Not holding my breath.

So I’m still trying to figure out what game(s) I want for the 360 launch and find myself stuck between genre choices.

Basketball - I love how NBA Live looks. Out of the launch games, it’s probably the best for wowing friends when they come over. But holy hell, the sluggish gameplay is just bad. No features other than a bare bones season mode is supposed to last me till the next version? I don’t think so. The gameplay is not tight enough for me to risk my online rank either. On the other hand, NBA 2K6 is feature packed and plays as solidly as other console versions. The problem is it looks good…sometimes, not so much others. Without a doubt 2K is the superior title both offline and especially online, but man, I really wish it were a better showpiece.

Racing - PGR 3 looks insanely good, but the series never did it for me. Seemed too devoid of personality. Ridge Racer looks sorta so-so, but it’s one series that pushes my buttons in the way I wished PGR did. This is a fairly similar situation to my basketball dilemma actually.

FPS – No doubt Perfect Dark Zero will have great online modes and probably good single player campaign, but Call of Duty 2 is looking better and better with most in agreement it runs better on the 360 than a high-end PC. For sure I’ll only buy one basketball and one racing game, but I may crack and buy both these FPS titles. Of course, to date no one has the final version of PD0 yet so who knows if it’s really any good.

Then again, I think about all the other games I have right now I want to get back to. I finally picked up Gunstar Super Heroes and itching to get to it. For some reason, I started to play that $5 copy of P.N.03 I got from Frys a few months ago and it’s sort of addictive. Plus I’m being hounded by everyone to jump on Mario Kart DS.

Micro-transactions
I haven’t paid very much attention to the marketplace features of the 360 Live service, but the info I’m starting to get caught back on has me psyched. The retro games you can buy on Live Arcade are pretty cool. Four player Gauntlet online or co-op Robotron? Spiffy. Points to buy those things cost money, so I doubt there will be much splurging. That is, until there are things to purchase for DOA 4. Oh man, my wallet is already hurting just thinking about it.

WSOP telecast done
So, I’m very happy that the winner of the 2005 World Series of Poker was not totally spoiled for me before the final telecast this past Tuesday. Don’t worry, I’m not going to say even though the info has been online since the actual tourney ended back in July. There’s an interesting post about spoilers from Sean who has finally launched his blog. Welcome to 2002! I should be one to talk being fairly late to the party too.

100K baby
I didn’t really have any traffic goals when I launched my two (formerly three) blogs, but I did want to eventually reach 100,000 page views. Well my friends, that milestone took place two days ago. Two whole weeks before I reached the one-year anniversary of my first post.

(Note: DOA scan lifeted from a GAF post)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Game cut off


Well, I hit that limit of having way more games than I can finish…about three months ago (not counting anything not yet played from past console generations). And yet, I recently scored a sweet stash of titles courtesy of a visit Phil paid to the Nintendo employee store after “official bidness”. I finally got Minish Cap and also nabbed the GameCube Fire Emblem, Metroid Pinball, and Trace Memory (cuz it was very affordable). In my defense, the purse strings were loosened only because of the bargains at hand.

Even so, there is the matter of the Xbox 360 near. I have the system pre-ordered at a store and the only game I know I really want is Dead or Alive 4. The bad news is, EB just updated their site saying the game has slipped to 12/1. That date is quite tenuous methinks. There are whispers it might not ship this year even. Who knows what to believe when it comes to Team Ninja.

Well, next on my list is either NBA 2K6 or NBA Live. There’s no question which has more features (2K6), or which looks more next gen (Live, but just barely says I), but I’m not sure I can commit until I sit and play them once they come out. So, no launch slam dunk here either.

The latest movies of Condemned look moodily sweet, but I hear it may be rather short. I want to play Perfect Dark, PGR3, Ridge Racer, FIFA, Call of Duty 2 and most every other launch title. I guess I’ll wait to see what the reviews have to say to help me make up my mind.

No loss if I end up buying just one or two games for now. I’m sure I’ll either rent of borrow enough to scratch my next gen itch. That just means I can move up my purchase of Dragon Quest VIII. I played the demo on the latest Official PlayStation Mag demo disc and came away very excited. It’s really damn cool. I haven’t had time to sit down with an old school RPG since KOTOR (and it was brutal finding time for that one), but I will somehow do it for DQVIII.

So why is there a picture of Dixie from Rumble Roses at the top of this post? Because RR XX is now my #1 most wanted Xbox 360 game thanks to the latest trailer that hit like a week ago. You can’t miss it, it’s the only one that has some actual gameplay snippets and the debut of the eviler version of Evil Rose and the 200% sexier ninja Bloody Shadow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

My new current...


One of the games I keep going back to is the import DS game Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. I’ve mentioned already how much I love the game, so I’ve been waiting to see if an official soundtrack would ever see release. I would have settled for a fan rip of the music straight from the game and even contemplated doing it myself. Well, once again Phil comes through and has done just that. Of course the sound effects from the game are in there, but so many of them are tied to your memory that you mentally re-insert them into the real recordings anyway.

Still, it would be nice to have as many of the actual songs as possible. Available domestically is the song from the final stage Ready, Steady, Go by L'Arc-En-Ciel off their Smile LP. It also happens to be the opening song from the Full Metal Alchemist anime, which I didn’t know since I haven’t taken Chris’ advice and watched it yet.

Thanks to info from CJ via Phil, you can also get the song from the first mission, Loop & Loop by Asian Kung-Fu Generation in stores here too. As is the case with anything Phil-related, a rather expensive plan to obtain the remainder of the songs from Amazon Japan was starting to hatch.

… favorite music group is Nobody Knows+

As I was researching the bands involved, there was a particular one that stood out. The song Kokoro Odoru by Nobody Knows+ is a funny light rap tune made cooler by how it was used in the game. You can check out the snippet from the game here, and listen to a sample of the real song here I found on the group’s official site. There’s even a clip of the video that you MUST watch. Good stuff right? It gets better.

I knew I had to have that video so I looked around their site and could only find Tour videos and one video single to a different song. Curious, I clicked the sample and was totally BLOWN AWAY. Obviously if you have any idea of who Ultraman is, the payoff is going to be much bigger for you. Even so, the song just gets better and better with repeated plays.

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The full-length CD containing Mebae doesn’t come out till next week, but that’s getting ordered along with their previous album with Kokoro Odoru. I’m fairly sure I’ll end up buying the DVD single of Mebae too. Ack, that budget shuffle means one less 360 launch game.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Here and there


This one is kinda long, pretty much most of the random gaming thoughts of the past few days. So stick with it as long as your patience allows, or just come back to it later and savor it in bite sized morsels.

Making room
I’ve started to think about where the 360 should be placed in the entertainment cabinet. Since it looks like I’ll still need to keep the Xbox hooked up (damn selective backward compatibility), I made the tough choice of moving the GameCube to the bedroom. The bedroom TV is not HD, but it has component inputs so it’ll still look fine in there.

I briefly toyed with the idea of getting a new receiver, but that’s just craziness. It’s going to be tough keeping a respectable budget this holiday as is. I’ll eventually get one with enough inputs (combined with my component switch box) that I can have a few older systems hooked up too, like the Dreamcast, Saturn, or Neo Geo home system.

I have wireless routers that I haven’t bothered setting up, but accessing Wifi with the DS looks to be the kick in the butt needed to finally do it.

Sites I’ve visited
I don’t point to random sites very often, but thought I’d throw a few interesting ones out there for the hell of it.

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Cammy news page - Yes, everything happening in the world of the young, muscled Street Fighter is chronicled. Those Cammy figures in the September 19th update are pretty cool looking. The one pictured above is my favorite, but I would have to build it and paint it, so it would look nothing like the completed figure. I also like this one , but it looks a bit too perverted for me to display safely anywhere. Ditto that dilemma for the door poster.

Concered - Hillarious thrice weekly Half-Life 2 strip about the adventures of Gordon Frohman. It may take a while, but read it from the beginning.

Gainax - To celebrate Evangelion’s 10th Anniversary, Gainax is creating boob girl versions of the Angels. Dom said he immediately thought of me upon seeing this and forwarded me the link. I still contend he is a bigger pervert than me.

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I’m totally jazzed about Sony’s new Cybershot camera, which should hit stores mid November. I can wait or pass it up though since I already have a great camera, and this new release comes out at a time all my money is spoken for. Still, it’s 8.1 MP (mine is 5 MP), and has a 3 inch, touch screen LCD. The size and 3x optical zoom is the same as my current camera, but this new version’s lens protrudes from the body (don’t like that). Mine is all cool and does its zooming inside the body. I do get the occasional focus problem and blurry pics, which this one is supposed to annihilate.


Games of note coming out this week, into early November
There’s no way I’ll get even a third of the game listed, but here’s what’s on my radar for the rest of the year.

10/18/2005
Age of Empires III – PC
It comes as a huge surprise to myself, but I think I’m going to wait on this for a little while. Reviews pretty much confirm my impressions from the demo—solid stuff, but not as innovative as one was hoping for (outside of the graphics of course). I’ll see if a good bargain drops or until I beat Winter Assault and feel the itch.

Samurai Shodown V - Xbox
I’ve been craving some 2D fighting action and very curious about V. Unless I hear the action online is rocking the house, a purchase will get put off until I’ve forgotten and no longer care.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance – GC
I’m sure I’ll get it eventually because it’s Fire Emblem, but man, the battle animations look sorta crappy. You can unlock extra artwork if you connect with the two GBA games, so maybe I’ll wait till I beat Sacred Stones before jumping on Radiance.

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Shadow of the Colossus – PS2
Have to get this just so they’ll hopefully keep making these games.

Shining Force Neo – PS2
This was nowhere on my radar until the features 1up is running this week. I love the Shining series, but it has been in demoralizing decline for a while now. The review makes it sound like it’s back to where it should be, but I might wait till other opinions chime in. I’m all for supporting games (see Shadow of the Colossus), but Neo has $29.99 price cut (retail is $49.99) written all over it not to mention I wouldn’t have time to play it till next year.

10/25/2005
Metroid Pinball – DS
I had a chance to play the finished version in the office and WOW…so damn cool. It uses tunes from the Prime series and has a very high production value. The ball physics is perfect. The rumble cart makes noises as it does its thing, which I thought fit with the game. Other folks here seem to really hate it. I’m still playing through the last Pokemon pinball and Pinball of the Dead, so there’s no big rush.

Taito Legends – PS2/Xbox
The US collection is missing some really awesome titles found in the two Japanese volumes, but it does have a snazzier interface and games not found in the import version. Plus how can you pass up 29 frackin’ games! Even so, I’ll hold my breath for a PSP version.

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Gunstar Super Heroes – GBA
Minute it hits the shelf, it’s mine. I was jazzed enough about this for a while, but times that excitement by ten thanks to my new backlit GBA

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Soul Calibur III – PS2
This one totally snuck up on me. Seems like this has been the game I’ve been waiting for all year, but some of that fervor is dimmed by the impending 360 launch and DOA4. Several weeks or months down the line after I’ve exhausted all the unockables for both fighting games, it’s the one that supports online that I’ll still be playing. I’m also worried that the widescreen picture will be similar to Tekken 5, meaning that the image will be cropped on the top and bottom. Even so, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought in Tekken thanks to the outstanding progressive scan quality. Gotta get this day one.

Resident Evil 4 – PS2
I really, really want to play through Ada’s mission and check out the plentiful extras, BUT, there’s no way I’m playing anything but Gunstar and Soul Calibur III till the 360 launches.

Trapt – PS2
This one is guaranteed to get lost in the shuffle, especially since Tecmo totally dropped the “Deception” name from the title. I LOVED the Deception games, so I’m very excited about Trapt. Going to wait till it hits $20-30 though, which it no doubt will very quickly with so many releases this holiday. Pretty interested to see how it reviews too.


Mid to late November/ December
DragonQuest VIII – PS2
I may take a break from the 360 to quest it up, but it’s not likely. I want to give DQ VIII my undivided attention, so it’ll get bought in 2006.

Elektroplankton – DS
Still want this quirky musical thingy, but there’s no rush.

King of Fighters 94 Rebout – Xbox
The 94 version has a lot of great memories for me, but I already have the home cart and I haven’t heard too many great things about the revamped graphics. I’ll get it eventually.

Animal Crossing – DS
If there’s one game I can’t do without this year, it’s Animal Crossing DS. I predict long, long hours writing letters and enjoying mischief in neighboring towns.


Potential games to get in current release
Phoenix Wright – DS
Will get soon.

Trauma Center – DS
Ditto.

Lost in Blue – DS
Waiting for price drop.

Trace Memory – DS
Waiting for really big price drop.

Lunar Dragon Song – DS
Lukewarm reviews have cooled my enthusiasm. Since it’s an Ubisoft published game, I expect steep price drops soon, at which point, my enthusiasm will moderately rise again.

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Astro Boy – GBA
Have no idea why I’ve waited so long to get this. Mostly because I can’t find it at most stores anymore.


What I’m playing now
Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising – GBA
I was waffling on whether to play this or skip right to Dual Strike, but I’m glad I went with this one. I think I’m right at the end, but you never know.

Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow – DS
Technically, I don’t own it yet, but my plan is to pick it up this week right after I finish AW2.

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Killer 7 – GC
Still haven’t finished it since I’m totally absorbed by Advance Wars. Favorite character in the game is Samantha the maid. She’s not one of the Killer 7, but very interesting and is as bizarre as the game is.

Indigo Prophecy – PC
Very cool little mystery game. I played what I needed to for work purposes (obviously not a review of course since it’s been out for a while now), but I’ll start over and have a proper go at it soon. Hopefully right after Castlevania, but before Gunstar and Soul Calibur III. It’s going to be tight.

Nintendogs – DS
My Sheltand sheep dog Pikachu is doing well and has all sorts of goodies now. I’ve been trying to save up for the Tatami room, but that may take a while. Especially since my wife just bought a new dog, a Yorkie. Just as my interest in the game was starting to wane, the arrival of the second dog has sparked things up. It’s so much fun to watch the two dogs play with each other. Now that I think about it, maybe it won’t take so long to get more money since I can enter the Yorkie in all the competitions Pikachu has already conquered. I may have to buy a second DS soon. Perhaps that cool red Mario Kart DS. I would really like a white one though.

Warhammer 40K: Winter Assault – PC
I didn’t get this right away and it paid off. Last week Circuit City had an amazing sale listing Winter Assault for only $10! I brought in the listing to the store just in case, but it was no error. Totally sweet. I installed it, but haven’t really dug in yet.


Xbox 360
As if there wasn’t a ton of game already this holiday, we have a whole new system and games to go with it. Going to play it tight for the most part as far as spending money goes. A lot of the launch games have “price reduction” written all over them, I’m looking at you Kameo and Condemned.

NBA 2K6
Definite get. Psyched.

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Dead or Alive 4
Ditto. Although not as psyched surprisingly.

Elder Scroll IV
No longer a launch title, but will get it when released.

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Ridge Racer
I really love the idea of having a Ridge Racer game at launch, but the vids I’ve seen are uninspiring. The only chance it has is if I get caught up in launch day fever and throw it in the pile.

Perfect Dark Zero
Doesn’t look as awesome as I’d hoped, but it looks really fun. Online play is sure to kick ass too. I’m on the fence on whether this should get bought on launch day (if it’s out at that time anyway), but will most likely cave before Christmas. That is, unless reviews hammer it.

Project Gotham Racing 3
I wish Ridge Racer looked as good as PGR3. I like a good racing game, but this series never “did it” for me. We’ll see.

Kameo: Elements of Power
I’m sure it’ll be pretty good. I can wait a while before getting into Kameo though.

Call of Duty 2
This game will run better on the 360 than my PC, so it’ll get the nod. Not sure when I’ll feel the need for WWII action, but this will be tops when I do. Predicting a spring of 2006 purchase, at $39.99.

FIFA
Finally, Japan is back in this series, plus World Cup fever will surely push me to get FIFA. Not at launch, eventually.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Life goes on.

My dad passed away about two weeks ago. There’s been so many surreal moments. Mostly positive, like when I was putting on my tie before the funeral. I vividly remember when my dad taught me how to do that properly. Watching the baseball playoffs, I recall the first game he took me to, and the many games of catch in the backyard. I took a week off, but have been back in the office all this week. I wasn’t sure about going to work so soon, but it’s certainly been helpful to keep busy and focused on something. Support from family (especially my wife), friends, and coworkers have been tremendous.

The night before I left for the funeral in Japan, I grabbed the new backlit GBA (the blackish one). Without a doubt, it is one of the best things I ever bought. Sure I was tempted by the Micro, but I play a lot of Advance Wars and Fire Emblem so the greater the screen size, the better (although playing on TVs with the GameCube player is a bit too big and washed out). I’ve heard many folks proclaim they have fallen in love with the GBA all over again because of the Micro. Ditto for me, except it was the backlit GBA SP that did it. Actually, I’ve never been as excited about GBA game as I am now. It makes that much of a difference.

Oddly enough, I’ve also found comfort in Killer 7. The world in that game is so bizarre, it’s easy to lose myself in it. Upon Tim’s recommendation, I took on a work-related project that would require me to play Indigo Prophecy. I’m quite looking forward to it.

Most of the 360 news out of X05 is quite exciting too (at least to me anyway). I’m so glad I have an in-store, non-bundled 360 pre-order considering the insanely expensive bundles out here. The top three must have games for me are now NBA 2K6, Elder Scrolls IV, and Dead or Alive 4. People are now saying games will be in short supply too, but I’m not sure if I really want to bother to pre-order. I would rather hop to whatever store starts selling the games the week prior to hardware launch.

So, yeah, games are playing their part in keeping me sane.

Other than that, I just take the days as they come.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Very late to the party, but…


All it took was a plain looking remote stick to make me desperately want a Nintendo Revolution. I'm ready to say it's my #1 most wanted console at this moment. Of course I’m still excited about 360 and PS3, but controlling games in such a new way is ridiculously exciting. So will this odd controller truly spark a revolution and bring in new gamers? As a pseudo experiment, I’ve shown the TGS Revolution video exclusively to women (in the office and my wife at home) and they all “got it” immediately. I find myself waving around pens to simulate how I would play certain games. It is a little sad.

Speaking of Nintendo, I was surprised to read on the message boards that new GBA SPs in stores now are backlit. Previous ones were sidelit so they’re not nearly as bright. There’s a big tag on the new boxes indicating the new feature. The only reason I wanted a Micro was for a brighter screen, so I would much rather buy a backlit SP. I also don’t really enjoy playing GBA games on the DS, so I mostly play on my NES edition SP. I doubt they will re-release that version just to add backlighting, which sucks because I LOVE that one.

UPDATE: I went over and tried one of the new SPs in the office. Holy cripes the screen is bright. There are two settings, bright and super bright. Colors are a little saturated at the higher setting, but it looks damn good. Definitely need to get one eventually.

Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament

Day 11 has finished and Bulgarian sekiwake Kotooshu is still undefeated. Local Japanese TV news only shows the top four or five matches, so I’m not as wrapped up in the excitement as I usually would be. True story: At the height of my enthusiasm many years ago, I bought a sumo game for the Megadrive (the Japanese Sega Genesis) and ended up having to buy an import system just to play it. Earlier import Megadrive games were playable with an adapter with the US system, but later titles had region coding built into the carts. The saddest part was the game totally sucked. I played the hell out of it anyway. I was never the same again.

Worldly Troubles

There’s a lot to make one worry in the world, but a real nuclear threat would have to be tops on the list. It was welcome news this past Monday when North Korea agreed to scrap all nuke programs in a 6 nations deal. BUT, one day later, North Korea totally backed out and made brand new demands. It’s this sort of unstable relations that make the world nervous, and continues to show why that area is where all the WMD attention should have been in the first place.

I didn’t know anyone personally affected by Katrina, but I do know quite a few people who will be caught in the middle of Rita. As we all know, the endangered areas are not bowl shaped and won’t fill up like a pool, but hurricanes do all kinds of crazy damage aside from flooding.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Workout period coming


I’ve been slacking lately on my workouts and the time to reverse that trend is eminent. I just need to plan out one that works with my new schedule. That time not bettering my physical health has been put to good use playing games and watching TV. I’m still tinkering with the Age of Empires III demo and finally got around to playing the single player F.E.A.R. demo. It’s amazing how good it runs on my PC.

I’ve been playing Killer 7 off and on and I definitely like it. To me, the game is like a feverish dream. The kind you’d have after watching an all-night marathon of new wave Japanese gangster movies. Stylish, hyper violent, and sexy. Like a dream, there are things you wish you could control better, but you deal as best you can. The world reminds me of the anime Serial Experiments Lain. The game is not nearly as cool as Lain, but it’s an interesting place to be nonetheless. It’s only $30 now at most places, so give it a try if you’re open to some nuttiness.

Just when the second season of Battlestar Galactica really started cooking, I find out next week is the finale. Well, it’s the summer finale anyway. There are supposed to be 22 episodes, so folks can take a few weeks (or more likely months) breather to take in the DVD season one set that ships this week.

Due to a taping snafu, I ended up not watching the reruns of Firefly on Sci-Fi channel (sorry Sean). It looks like I’ll wait till Serenity is on DVD and make it a marathon in some distant weekend.

The majority of new shows start this week, so I’ve set the DVR to tape Lost, My Name is Earl, and CSI. I’m not looking to add any more shows outside of those, except for the family edition of Amazing Race that starts next week. It sucks CBS is one of two channels Alameda Cable doesn’t carry the High Def feed of. I might need to write a letter.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

GBA games in DS cases


I mentioned before that Phil was a bad influence on me, regularly enticing me with some cool bit of geekiness that I either need to buy or spend time doing. Last week, he pointed out that DS cases have slots that can hold a GBA game. I remember noting it when I got my first DS game, but have totally forgotten about it since. It turns out a large community is dutifully scanning, resizing, and performing intricate Photoshop work to create converted covers. Phil specializes in converting Japanese GBA game boxes, which are especially troublesome due to their more rectangular shape.

I told him it was cool and all, but seemed like too much trouble. Still, I kept thinking about it and my resistance lessened as the days wore on. I ended up ordering two packs of ten empty DS shells from the Nintendo online store and just got them today. I have more GBA games than that, but I only wanted to give that royal treatment to about 15 of them. They really look nice on the shelf I must say.

While I’m sort of talking about DS games, like most folks I’ve been playing my dual screen handheld a lot lately. Nintendogs, Meteos, Ouendan, and Advance Wars are in the regular rotation. Nintendogs and Oendan are especially relaxing after a long day of work.

PlayStation explosion averted

I checked my serial numbers on the PlayStation site and it said my Slim PS2 is not one of those in danger of exploding. You should check yours out just in case.

Age of Empires III

While I’m relieved Age III runs pretty darn good on my desktop, I’m a bit disappointed with the demo. It’s not nearly as cool as I was hoping, but it is just one level right? It sounds like the super snazzy graphical stuff is not fully in the demo, so there’s still a good chance the game will really tax my rig.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Movies to follow game model?


In article in the paper yesterday, Robert Iger, CEO-elect of Disney said he is investigating the feasabilty of releasing rental DVDs day-and-date with the theatrical debut. The critics quoted in the piece cast serious doubts on that outcome and I have to agree with them. They simply say that theater owners would be too angry for that to happen. Hogwash. I say it’s because movie studios would not make enough from pure rental DVDs even if they went back to the $99 priced-for-rental-only VHS tape model.

What I can see happening is movies following a videogames pricing structure. So perhaps the first week is theater exclusive, second week the $50 DVD (almost always bare bones), few months later that same DVD is $20, few months or maybe a year later the deluxe multi-disk special edition DVD comes out. As long as the early DVDs set you back $40+, theater owners will still get some sort of reprieve. Still, this would certainly signal the death of kids movies at the cinema as most every parent would be willing to pay a premium to avoid transporting the young’ns and getting raked on popcorn.

I know, you’re thinking folks would be dumb to pay $50 for a bare bones movie. All I can say to that is, people are paying $20-30 for bare bones movies on UMD. A frackin UMD! Just like in games, there is a core market that wants first run theater movies NOW for the same reason the core gamer want the latest games first. I certainly would have shelled out fifty bones for any of the LOTR movies when they hit theaters. My average would probably be one or two such DVDs a year, putting me in the casual movie consumer category. The core would average one a month or more depending on the crop of movies that year.

It’s kind of scary to think about actually.


Weekend gaming
Headed to Best Buy to pick up Advance Wars DS and Namco Museum PSP and walked away with Meteos. Wars was out of stock and Museum was $40! I feel more comfortable paying thirty. No hurry on either of those anyway as I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. Oh, and as if you haven’t already heard this a thousand times, Meteos rocks the house.

Random game beat alert! I finished Nightshade this past weekend. More thoughts on that here.

PSP 2.00 Update
I finally got around to updating my PSP and was a web surfing fool soon after. I was telling Phil about it and he went nuts with the wallpaper action. My favorite is the Vader above. You can find more in his post.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Now it officially exists in my mind


I get so excited when companies release official pics of retail console packaging. The $399 box looks nice, and loaded too, with all those included accessories. It’s pretty interesting checking out the rather slow flow of solid information on 360 games. By solid I mean, hands on reports of the games running on full strength kits. Namco’s Frame City Killer could turn out to be fun, but I thought it looked extremely underwhelming during its E3 debut. Some new screens that just came out indicate the game is still as underachieving as ever, but certain pics like this shot below look pretty nice.
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Raising Pikachu
I’ve always wanted to call a pet Pikachu without cursing an actual living thing with that moniker. My Shetland Sheepdog Pikachu is three days old in Nintendogs time and has learned three tricks so far. I’ve been able to test out Bark mode in the office and received a nice record from Craig. Good times.

I finally beat hard mode in Ouendan last night and was fairly spent. I did have just enough energy to test out Cheer Girls mode, aka super hard difficulty, and it was totally insane. It’ll definitely take a while to get through that one. Hopefully, I’ll have time to pick up Advance Wars DS and Namco Museum PSP this weekend.

I definitely want a GameBoy Micro after fondling one that had come into the office. It’s so much smaller than I thought and very comfortable. Good D-pad, bright sharp screen, and all-around adorable. Even so, I’m sticking to my earlier plan of not buying it right away. The price has to come down, and it’s ridiculous that the black frame Micro comes with a silver faceplate (vice versa for the silver frame one). Not surprisingly, the tiny built-in speakers are pretty terrible.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Nintendogs not yet home


CompUSA has an ad listing Nintendogs at $24.99 thanks to $5 “instant savings”. The weird thing is, the sale is only applicable to two versions, Lab and Chihuahua, but not Daschund & Friends. Are they predicting the Daschund version is the most desireable or maybe it's a limited quantity item? Very random. The bad news is the game was not yet in stock at lunch time today. I wish game releases were more exact like DVDs. Those movie discs are almost always in the retailer’s hands before being set free Tuesday morning. Games hit shelves any old day of the week and sometimes weekends. Ridiculous.

Sweet finale
Finales are always a mixed bag and rarely attain the same quality level of regular episodes, so it’s a great relief to report that the series finale of Six Feet Under was just about perfect. It was very emotional and…well, I don’t want throw out any spoilers. It’s sad that the show is gone, but it went out in style.

All in again
So the ESPN broadcasts of the 2005 World Series of Poker is well underway. We’ve only seen “circuit” events so far (don’t ask me what that means), but tonight marks the first of the main “I get a real WSOP bracelet and not a circuit ring” events. I’ve watched a ton of televised poker, but the ESPN broadcasts and Bravo’s Celebrity Poker showdown are hands down my favorite.

The main reason is the quality of color commentary. The ESPN guys have the advantage of commentating over packaged segments and can add to the drama accordingly. Some may think that’s a cheat, but it just makes for good TV. Plus I’m a Norman Chad fan (I read his column whenever it runs in the Tribune). The Celebrity show has more commentating on-the-fly, which is a good showcase for the ad-lib talents of co-host Dave Foley. The other host, pro player Phil Gordon, is also great, dishing out helpful tips and critiques of every play.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

I want the 399 one


So I get this phone call today from the EB where I reserved my Xbox 360. The clerk starts to tell me that “Microsoft made an announcement yesterday”, but before he utters another word I say “I want the 399 one”. He was taken slightly aback. That’s right buddy, I’m in “the know”, I was just about to call you guys anyway to tell you just that. I want the 360 that comes with what its supposed to come with. No 299 stripped down junk for the kid. Still, I was glad they were on top of things.

Well, I got my personal copy of Ouendan today and totally psyched. Unfortunately, it was totally nutty at work, so I still haven’t loaded it up as of this moment. Soon my precious, soon. I plan to concentrate on it all through the weekend since next week, it’ll all be about raising Nintendogs and waging Advance War. I’ll get Namco Museum for PSP if that actually hits stores next week. There is also another game coming out next week that I’m intrigued by, but it’s better you read about it over here.

Next month is looking pretty retro too, with Capcom Classics Collection, Tecmo Classics Arcade, and Midway Arcade Treasures 3. Even though the complete line-up has yet to be fully revealed, the Capcom Classics seems to be the pick of the litter. 22 games for $20 is too good to pass up. Especially since there's at least one Street Fighter included. I love Solomon’s key and would really like having the arcade version of the widescreen Tecmo bowl, but $30 for 10 games is a deal breaker. Midway Arcade may tempt me when it hits PSP later this year, but I’ll pass on the console versions.

I almost forgot, the GameBoy Micro ships next month too. In theory, I really want one. It’s super tiny and supposedly has an ultra sharp screen. If the screen looks as good as advertised, I’m in…when it drops in price a bit. $99 is pretty damn steep. For $30 more you can get a new DS.

UPDATE: Slight tweaks in text from last night, in case you saw it already.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!


So Craig was kind enough to let me borrow his copy of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! for the Nintendo DS this past weekend since he had his hands full raising puppies. I had heard whispers of a cool music game from the folks behind Gitaroo Man for the PS2, but didn’t really pay much attention. It wasn’t until I saw some videos of the game in action that I had to get my hands on it.

There are people in varying degrees of distress (a sculptor who is in a creative slump, a violinist with stomach problems before a big concert, an office lady trying to get the attention of an attractive boss), and they call upon the male cheer squad to help them. You tap numbered circles with your stylus to the beat of the music, and, well, it’s easier to understand if you watch movies of it in action.

Watch them? Good. Nothing but pure hijinks. The music is great, the animated stories are easy to follow without knowledge of Japanese (although if you can read it, it’s damn funny), and the music tapping game play mechanic is among the best ever for the genre. As much fun as Gitaroo Man was, I never “loved” the way you played with the music. Ouendan totally nails it, and is another brilliant use of the touch screen.

You have four difficulty levels, two available from the start (easy, normal). You get hard mode by beating normal and the cheer girls super hard difficulty if you get past hard. There’s also a ton of unique multiplayer games I’m dying to check out.

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So does this have any chance of making it here? It’s true many of the stories rely on some knowledge of Japanese life, but that’s not really the barrier. The music is. It’s all licensed songs covering past and very recent hit songs. So, whoever brings it out here has quite a dilemma. Putting in American hits is out of the question. You’d have to redo the entire game to match the tunes. The only alternative is to keep the songs with Japanese lyrics intact and try to get clearance to use them in the US. Neither scenario seems likely.

Your reaction to it does hinge upon your love of imported hijinks though. I think the reason it appeals to me is that it feels like a game someone created just for you. Not literally in that there are all these references no one would get, but the general warm fuzzy feeling when you happen upon something so special you’re amazed it survived and got released to the public. Original games are alive and well, and increasingly this year, they seem to all be for the Nintendo DS.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Big month for portables


I’ve prepared my wallet for quite a handheld assault as Nintendogs, Advance Wars DS, and Namco Museum PSP see release this month. I also still need to pick up Meteos, Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones and Astro Boy for the GBA. I was thinking I should wait on Advance Wars DS and play AW: Black Hole Rising for the GBA first. Then I thought I may save Black Hole for the GameBoy Micro or just play it on the Gamecube GBA player later. Who knows. I’m also on the fence whether to pick up Jump Superstars. I got to play it earlier this week (ah the advantages to working in an office full of games again) and it was quite a blast.

Getting back to that Namco collection, it got me thinking I would really like a lot more retro anthologies released for the PSP. From what I’ve played of the Japanese Namco PSP collection, the emulation is flawless and the graphics are ultra crisp (the US version has 10 additonal games!). I’m tempted to pick up the PSP Midway Treasures 3, but there aren't a lot of classics I would still spend time with. WiFi Gauntlet and Mortal Kombat 1 -3 sounds like a good time…we’ll see. The game I really want to see make it to the PSP is Taito Memories. Volume One was recently released for the Japanese PlayStation 2 and it’s loaded with gems, plus a whole slew of titles I never played before. I played a bit of Phil’s copy and it totally rocks. I just can’t find it in me to play it on a home console, retro titles work better for me on the road for some reason.

Also shipping sometime this month is the Zen Vision portable media player. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best of its kind I’ve seen yet. I fondled one in the officer the other day and decided I need one.

EB has apparently leaked a list of Xbox 360 launch titles that seems semi-accurate. I’m actually surprised by how many titles I would consider buying. Top five potential purchases would be DOA 4 (okay this one is an absolute given), Elder Scrolls IV, NBA 2K6 or NBA Live, Madden, and Ghost Recon. Games on the bubble are Need for Speed, Ridge Racer (this one may become a must have, but I’ve seen nothing solid on it), Perfect Dark, Call of Duty 2, and FIFA soccer. I’m quite interested in many of the other 20+ games on the list, rentals I guess. If I end up buying more than three games with the system, it would be the most money I’ve ever spent on a system launch. The current record is still $400 for a Japanese launch Saturn with Panzer Dragoon and Virtua Fighter. With games expected to go for $59.99 a pop, grabbing the system and my top five would be like $700! That's before taxes. Then again, the 3DO cost almost that much with no games included. Apples to oranges I know, just trying to convince myself it's worth it.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Ninety-Nine Nights and Aloha weekend


I’m almost finished my second time through Haunting Ground. It’s not often I beat a game more than once, but this one had me for some reason. Kingdoms Under Fire: The Crusaders is also getting some play, mostly because the sequel is coming out next month.

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As great as they are, it’s hard not to look toward the future at Phantagram’s next venture, Ninety-Nine Nights for the Xbox 360. The screenshot above would seem to indicate the game is somewhat similar to Kingdoms, but they are partnered up with Tetsuya’ Mizuguchi’s Q Entertainment. I can’t wait to see what fruit this pairing bears.

While we’re on the topic of Xbox, I’m starting to weigh any upcoming purchases with increasing suspicion. Is this game going to be one of the lucky few that are worthy of “becoming” backward compatible with the 360? Let’s see, definitely want Kingdoms Under Fire: Heroes, and the SNK triple crown of KOF 94 Rebout, Samurai Shodown V, and KOF Neowave. And, uh, er…um that’s about it I think. Ninja Gaiden Black is sort of on the bubble at this point.

With limited entertainment space, I want, no must make room. Switching to the slim PS2 helped a little bit, but the Xbox is sucking up some prime real estate. Ah, I guess I’ll just banish it to the bedroom. None are so good they must be played NOW, but there are reasons, very special reasons, why I feel I need to give them some time. The list include Bard’s Tale (will probably play soon actually), Breakdown (I like the demo), CSI, Futurama, Jet Set Radio Future (must play this dammit), Phantom Dust (Panzer Dragoon guys, offbeat pseudo card battling adventure? I’ll love it or not), Shenmue II, and Silent Hill 2 (one of my favorite games evar, so I really want to play the exclusive Maria bits).

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Lindsay hipped me to the annual Aloha Festival this past weekend at the Presidio in SF, so my wife and I checked it out. Traffic getting there was crazy and I totally forgot how cold the Presidio gets. Even though it was a near sweltering 85 degrees in Alameda, I swear it was around 55 degrees at the Presidio, chillier with the whipping wind. You can clearly see the grey fog blanketing the sky.

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We browsed the booths after getting some grub, but didn’t last long before escaping to the warm confines of Japan town mall. Oh well, it was a nice day anyway.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

360 degrees of excitement


I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m starting to get hyped up for the Xbox 360. The promise of at least three more DOA games and Rumble Roses XX may have something to do with it. I would have bet money there would not be another RR, but I’m glad to be so very wrong. Hopefully, the next major surfacing of software takes advantage of the final (or whatever point they are at) hardware.

Mobile action
So I was pretty sure my Warioware Twisted cart was busted, so I decided to give it a few wacks just for kicks. What do you know, it works now. So weird. I also started playing Darkstalkers for the PSP. Man, I'm really impressed with it actually. It controls well and it looks really sharp. It's nice they let you choose to keep the proper aspect ratio or stretch the image to fit the screen. The only bad part is that I move my hands a lot when playing fighting games, so it's sort of hard to keep the screen still.

iTrip field report
I have a longer commute now, so I’ve been using the iTrip attachment for the iPod on a daily basis. The verdict so far is…pretty good. I get some extra static now and then over the Bay Bridge, but it’s fine. The main complaints I’ve read about the iTrip is in regards to durability so we’ll see what happens there.

The real Battlestar Galactica DVD
So you might have seen the Best Buy exclusive UK DVD set of Battlestar, but details are finally out for the general release version. You get a TON more stuff like commentaries on 10 of the episodes, plus the inclusion of the mini-series. Of course the requisite behind the scenes and deleted material are included. All for $5 more buck that the UK version. A fantastic deal.

Monday, July 25, 2005

L.A., a celebration, the Giants, and (gasp) work!


In case you were wondering where the posts went, I was in LA last week tying up loose ends such as finally setting up internet access for my mom. That is a long story in itself, but really not that interesting. Being down there did give me a chance to meet up with the Tips & Tricks magazine gang. I started my career there (on the now defunt Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine, which eventually was renamed simply Video Games Magazine), and have lots of fond memories of the old place. I have a pic I took with my camera phone, but Chris made me promise not to post it. He remarked that I am the only editor to have worked on all three of the biggest game magazines of that era (VG&CE, EGM, and GamePro). The gaming version of Larry Brown you could say. Of course I’m not saying that, since my accomplishments are not even a tiny fraction comparable to coach Brown.

After I got back, it was time to celebrate my friend Arne’s birthday! Dinner was at a Hawaiian eatery in Palo Alto where much food was consumed.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhen you get a large group of Asian together, the cameras come out. I can say that because I’m Asian.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAnd yet still more, and bigger cameras. Obviously I am taking pictures of them taking pictures. I must have been drinking.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usA nice band played Happy Birthday and popular island tunes.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTime for some cake poking.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThen it was off to the Sea Bowl in Pacifica.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI posted a monster score of 177, one of my best ever!

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe sheer enormity of it demoralized the masses.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usExcept for Carol, who went on to beat me at the end of the night by one frackin point.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usA photo of the ass kicking in question.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAye aye mate. That's a wrap.


Giant vs. Marlins
The next day, my wife and I were invited to a Giants game by one of her cousins. It was a really beautiful and fun day, but damn hot. I wish I had taken my camera. Unfortunately my suffering Giants lost.


Announcement
Last, but not least, I have joined the marketing department at IGN. It’s fun so far, but it certainly makes posting regularly a lot harder.