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.

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:

- 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.

- 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.


Tim Ng said...

Battle Star Rawks. Happy Holidays Wat, and dang you for stealing Aki! Treat him well over there, and you guys should come out to bowl on Fridays! Seriously Man!

montry said...

hey wat! happy new year, send me a message on xbox live to play some doa4!! my gamertag is "easy 2 ki11". hope to see you online..