Thursday, June 30, 2005

Affordable High Definition baby


Coming out in less than two weeks is the Sony HDR-HC1 HDV 1080i Handycam. I was mad with lust over their previous $4000 HD camera, but that was a fine and healthy lust. Something unattainable I could safely fantasize about. Now that there's a more affordable option, I'm not sure what to do. I mean, it's still 2 bills and, um, what exactly am I in a big rush to tape? I've gone my entire life without owning a video camera so why do I need one right now? We’ll see how much it retails for once the holidays roll around.

Send me thine fantasy novels
Out of the blue I got mailed a Warhammer novel courtesy of Mythic Entertainment. Maybe it was because of my recent Dawn of War fixation? The sad part is I might actually read it. I will fess up to reading (and enjoying) some of the Diablo books, an admission made more damming because I went out and paid good money for them. I read more well regarded fantasy books now (thanks to Sean and Jay), but lately I’ve been wanting to go back to my stack of hard boiled detective stories.

UPDATE: Sean informs me he got sent the Warhammer Trollslayer novel too, so it’s safe to say most gaming press have it sitting on their desk. Who will be the first to read it? RACE!

UPDATE 2: There are SIX(!) books in the Troll Slayer series. Good lord.
Posted by Hello

Monday, June 27, 2005

Killzone gets some love


The details are somewhat fuzzy about my recent decision to start playing Killzone. The E3 trailer for the PS3 version has to be one, plus I always meant to sit down and give it a real go instead of little casual stabs. I also needed a break from Dawn of War as I’m trying to stretch out the campaign. There might be others, but that’s about the top three I think.

Killzone is definitely flawed in places (mostly control issues), but I’m having a good time with it. I love the world it creates and the overall art direction. The story is pretty decent, but seeing more of the impressive level designs and architecture is a greater motivation at this point. I’m not sure if it’s a Greatest Hits title yet (or if it had sales enough to warrant that distinction), but I’d recommend it if it pops up for $20.

The new season of Punk’d debuted last night although I have yet to watch it back on DVR. I’m not really a big fan of the show, but I did want to see what they pulled on Simon Cowell. The situations are usually mean spirited to the point it’s not that funny, which made me remember this awesome post from Daryl on Infarto. You simply must read that. Even with the threat of lawsuits, it seems American TV will “go there” at one point. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24, 2005

Must...not...upgrade


There's nothing much on the late 2005/2006 PC release roster that is getting me jazzed enough to want to upgrade beyond the extra GB of RAM I just installed. The only thing that may test me is Age of Empires III, although my current rig should be able to handle it ok. Shots like the one above scare me though, especially when you factor in all the physics they are building into it. Dawn of War chugs a bit when the map is totally packed and too many effects are turned on, so Age III may give me fits.

There's no way to justify buying a new video card for only one game when the Xbox 360 will be available for around the same price and have at least a dozen titles I'll want (maybe not at launch, but within a year for sure). Titles I would have bought for the PC like Call of Duty 2 are headed for 360 and will run far better than my current machine (and look larger and better on my HDTV) so it's really a no brainer. Ah, I feel better having typed this out. I might actually follow my own advice. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Late to the party: Warhammer 40K Dawn of War rocks


So I finally get around to playing Dawn of War and it is way too freakin' sweet. I hear the campaign is fairly short, which means I'm halfway finished already. Nuts. That expansion can't come soon enough.

I should have the DS Kirby game any day now (used a leftover Gamestop online coupon), and will probably pick up Meteos eventually. When that event occurs, I will have more games for the DS than PSP. Come August, the ratio will more than double thanks to Nintendogs (probably end up getting at least two versions if not all three...damn you Nintendo!), Advance Wars DS, and Pac Pix (if I can get it for $25 or less by then that is). I could not have predicted this.

Summer TV
It's that time of year when reality TV shows take over the airwaves. I've been able to resist a bit thanks to quality fare like the final season (sob) of Six Feet Under, but succumbed to the season opener of The Real World last night. Holy crap, the drama just rains down on that show. I was also tricked into watching Celebrity Charades (it's only a week long after all), and found it amusing. It does make you want to set up your own "runnning charades" party though.

I'm surprised that airdates for the 2005 World Series of Poker are so far off from the actual events. Televised matches start July 19th, four days after the final match has been played. Of course they need time to edit the footage for maximum drama, but we don't get to see the final match till November 15th! Is it possible to avoid news of the winner till then? It's certainly possible. I didn't know that fossil guy was going to win last year, and I easily could have found out by searching online.
Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Edge June 2005


Barnes & Nobles has some exclusive North American deal that lets them stock the UK edition of Edge in healthy quantities. The two closest B&N always seems to have a thick stack whenever I drop in (not sure how many they get in initially), but I was surprised at how many of this beauty was still left. The gold folder you see on the right is the cardboard sleeve the June issue of Edge came in. Unfortunately it had like three stickers on it, and it was impossible to remove them all without causing some damage. Still, it’s super snazzy and the main Link image is sweet. I haven’t had a chance to read through much yet so I’ll post impressions later. Track it down if you get a chance. Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Upgrades and milestones


I’ve been stuck on the last mission in Fire Emblem and have come to realize two of my main characters are waaaaaaay under experienced. Prevailing is going to be tricky since I can only go back two missions (only three saves are allowed) to try to rectify things. Also went back to try and finish Age of Mythology, but decided to shelve it. I have a slew of older RTS games that are being saved for play on trips when the only available option is an underpowered laptop. Instead, I’ll finally bust out Battle for Middle Earth and Dawn of War (the expansion is almost upon us so…).

I recently upgraded my gaming PC to 2GB RAM just because recent deals were too good to pass up. Aside from a larger LCD monitor (waiting for best compromise in size, response time, and price), that will be the end of the line in terms of upgrades for this machine. We’ll see how long she can tough it out.

Milestones
So I’m psyched Hideo Nomo has hit the 200-win mark (combined totals from MLB and Japanese league), especially since he’s been having such a rough time after his surgery last year. I’m hoping he bounces back and this isn’t his last season. Whatever happens, his achievements will always be remembered.

Not to be outdone, Ichiro now has 1000th hits in the US (2300 hits if you count his Japan totals). There’s an interesting article on ESPN.com about whether overseas numbers should count if domestic achievements get close to Hall of Fame levels. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

World Cup fever!


Last week, Japan was the first non-host country to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. It’s amazing how they’ve started to turn things around considering how the team has stumbled in recent months. Of course this means I’ll be playing a ton more Winning Eleven once all the qualifying teams are finalized. Why not simulate the action on FIFA you ask? I’d be more than happy to since if the FIFA games had the Japan squad. I’ve squawked endlessly about it in past reviews, but what’s the percentage of US soccer fans who are genuinely upset about it? I wish I had the answer, but I know there are at least two in the Oakland area. The reply I get is they try every year, but there is some crazy license issues with the Japanese Football Association. I can understand why they might have trouble getting the rights to the J-League (the Japanese MLS), but the national team? The fact that they add something like 100 obscure teams for every new FIFA installments is like lemon in the wound.

That’s not to say I don’t still play a lot of both games, but I would say the ratio I play Winning Eleven to FIFA is like 4 to 1. Even so, there are times when Winning Eleven games (never known for a huge assortment of teams) don’t have certain teams either that make simulating a particular World Cup impossible.

Since we’re on the topic of sports, the CNN I had on in the background just announced Phil Jackson is returning to coach the LA Lakers. Holy crap. I didn’t think he would do that. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

Father’s Day HDTV bargains for gamers


The end of this year is the best time to shop for a new HDTV, but this week is not too shabby if you’re itching real bad to get one. I found a good number of deals in the stacks of circulars in yesterday’s (Sunday) paper. They’re starting to advertise Samsung’s new SlimFit TV, which is a CRT display about 1/3 the size of a standard tube HDTV. Word so far is that it’s pretty good (once you get it home and calibrate it), but not up to reference quality as one would expect from a CRT. The SlimFit comes in only the 30” model right now and it’s still as heavy as other tube HDTVs (roughly 132 lbs). Still, it’s only $999 and offers a far better picture than any 30” LCD in this price range (really only bare bones off-brand LCDs are anywhere near this price). Thinner sets with larger screens are promised, but probably a ways away.

Similar to the world of computer monitors, the CRT is the price + quality leader in the TV arena. For the price, you get the sharpest picture with the largest display. HD CRTs top out at 38” and models 30” and up are as heavy as a truck (34” is about 200 lbs and 38” can be up to 270lbs). For image purists and gamers, the CRT is still a popular choice.

A bonus not talked about much is that HDTVs are great for sprite-based games. Fare like Metal Slug 3 or SVC Chaos on either the PS2 or Xbox via component cables look amazing. You might have to create a custom calibration setting just for sprites, but it’s worth it. Just don’t over sharpen the picture and you’ll get as close to an arcade RGB monitor as possible. I’ve also connected my Neo Geo home system via S-Video cables with similar results, although not on par with the PS2 or Xbox visuals. Perhaps if I had a custom RGB to component cable made? SNES and Genesis games look about as good as it gets too, just don’t expect to be wowed.

However, such results are not universal. Rear projection DLP and many LCD TVs aren’t so hot for sprites. CRT HDTV is the best, but good Plasma sets are also very nice.

If you can wait a while, the next ripe period is mid August to late September when the majority of new TVs have entered the channel. You can select from the newest of the new or get a good deal on last year’s model. After that, the holiday season is the most opportune time (and the one I myself would wait for). Folks would have lived with the new Aug/Sep TVs for a while, so you start to get “real life” results and defect reports to better inform your purchase. Plus stores get desperate to cash in on the holidays.

(UPDATE: According to Randy of PSM, the Samsung SlimFit had lots of problems so he returned his.)
Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Slightly sick


Was feeling crappy yesterday, but much better today. Got a bit of cabin fever and wanted to get out to a few places on my list, but I just don't have the energy yet. The rainy weather is not helping. Above is another pic from my trip.

Chris got the Sony fan boys riled up with his post about the PSP not doing it for him lately, and I agree with most of his points. I just picked up WarioWare Twisted (awesome) with plans to grab the new Kirby DS game and (sigh) Fire Emblem Sacred Stones next. No PSP purchases remotely in sight. Unlike Chris, I love slapping movies on the memory cards and even watched the season finale of Lost on the PSP. The "race" between the two portables is not going to have a blow out leader this early is all. It's just the beginning.

In other not very interesting news, I got myself a new office chair. I had an insanely crappy one for far too long and eventually figured out how silly keeping it was. It's lovely. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 06, 2005

Tea collecting and waiting for Animal Crossing


Still trying to catch up on work, so here's another photo from my Japan trip in the meantime. These little keychain dogs came with the numerous bottled green tea I drank. I ended up getting every variation except one (the dark brown one I think).

I just learned there are at least two more quests in Fire Emblem (Hector mode and Hectore Hard mode). The in-game timer says I spent 27 hours so far, but I know that total is far higher (maybe 40 hours...maybe) since I restart missions constantly to make sure all members survive and earn experience. Craziness. I only play at night on weekdays, so I might not ever get to Sacred Stones.


Before I go, let me express once again how much I can't wait for Animal Crossing DS. I didn't mention it before? Well, I am now, so there. In my head, I've already composed thousands of letters I would write to everyone. Oh, the funny things I would bury in their town! I could just chat them up on AIM, but it's so much better letting my AC character correspond for me. I haven't read up much on post E3 impressions, but I hope you can draw your own t-shirt designs with the touch pad. Seems like a no-brainer, but I don't want to get my hopes up. Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Hooked on Fire Emblem


Back now from a nice vacation in Japan visiting family. The trip was pretty laid back and I didn’t buy a ton of stuff (for a change). I almost picked up a ceramic white slim PSTwo, but I thought better of it since I know I’ll pick up an import PS3 next year. Region 2 Blu-Ray player, plus the ability to play my back catalog of import PS1/PS2 software = Sold. I had packed both the PSP and DS, but hardly touched the former as I was totally glued to Fire Emblem. The 2003 GBA version, not the just released Sacred Stones (I’ll pick Stones up too as soon as I finish). I can’t believe I waited this long to play this gem! Fire Emblem has it all—the epic story, the deceptively simple, but deep turn-based strategy, and totally interesting characters. It’s devious how you’ll play missions over and over again to make sure none of your comrades perish. A nice break from my usually strict diet of RTS games. Okay, I did make time for Advance Wars too.

Speaking of diet, I confirmed this morning I lost 4+ pounds during my stay in Japan. Despite eating foods like those pictured above. Portion control and lots of walking baby. Add that to the 5 pounds I lost since first mentioning I needed to lose some weight and I’m getting close to my target. I try not to use the scale as a guide though since weight training adds muscle mass. Pants and shirts fitting looser are the better measurements.

Since getting back, it’s been a game of catch up. Watched the finale of American Idol and Lost. Both were entertaining although I may drop Lost if they don’t start delivering some actual answers. I mean, it’s highly entertaining, but there’s that dark feeling that this is the X-files debacle all over again. Season 2 will be make or break for me. I also watched the DVD that came with the Dengeki PS2 magazine I picked up in Japan. Sure there’s a lot more footage online, but seeing games on your TV is something else. I should also mention the bit rate quality of the footage was fantastic. It looked pretty close to the game actually running on a console, which is the way it should be. Scanning the Japanese magazine racks, it seemed like there were tons that came with DVDs. Lots of great footage on Namco X Capcom (I must have this game), the new Onimusha (looks okay so far), and tons of others. The clip I watched the most was the new Deception game from Tecmo. It looks absolutely demented and exactly what fans of the series would want from a PS2 version.

On the shopping list - need to pick up Chappelle show season 2, Fire Emblem Sacred Stones, Warioware Twisted, and Metal Slug 4&5. None are that urgent, so we’ll see how soon these will get purchased. Sure MS 4 is more like a remix instead of a brand new game, but 5 is cool and I would probably have spent $20 on each at the arcade to get through them. Being a Neo Geo collector makes it easier to stomach paying $40 for two games. Hmm...maybe I’ll wait for a price drop. Then again, the King of Fighters 2002/2003 pack still hasn’t gone down in price. Posted by Hello