Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Old school holiday weekend

I recall playing a good portion of Castlevania Aria of Sorrow on the GBA, but the save file indicated only 20% of the game had been uncovered. The craving for old school action was only intensifying with the imminent US release of the DS Lite, so it came to be that I started from scratch and beat Aria over the long weekend.

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At first I got a lame ending and figured there had to be multiple story resolutions. That assumption was correct, so I forged ahead and obtained the best ending. The verdict? Satisfaction. I actually had no idea Dawn of Sorrow was a sequel to Aria. I had picked up Dawn right when it was released, but it has been sitting on the shelf waiting for the DS-Lite to work its brighter magic.

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I also finally polished off Mario vs. Donkey Kong and was sad that it had to end. That lasted all of two seconds before the “plus” worlds revealed themselves and I had a whole new challenge to tackle. Sweet. I’m even more happy that there is a MvD sequel in the works for the DS. If you've never given MvD a chance, I strongly recommend you look up this modern day classic.

Next on the menu is Metroid Fusion. I’m hoping to finish before the temptation of New Super Mario Bros finally gets to me.

Oh, I also noticed DS-Lite pre-orders online are now bundle-only. It has begun.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Xbox 360 HD-DVD

Pics surfaced a few days ago of the HD-DVD attachment for the 360. The question is, how much will stand alone HD-DVD players be by this holiday season when the attachment is out? If the attachment is $100 and the lowest cost player is $300, then I’ll go with the former. But if the price difference is only like $100 or maybe $150, then I would probably prefer a separate device.

Considering how flakey the 360 can be, I feel uncomfortable using it as an everyday DVD/HD-DVD player. Still, the way I have my 360 laid out in my entertainment area leaves enough space for the add-on. As of this moment, there are 19 HD-DVD releases in stores. I only kind of want one of them, so waiting till the holidays is not that tough. Will have to keep close tabs on how this plays out.

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RIP Captain Jack
Anyone familiar with Dance Dance Revolution has frantically moved their bodies to some Captain Jack jams. I happened upon some Captain Jack videos on YouTube that got me all nostalgic and wanting to look up some previous albums. That lead me to his Wiki page entry where I learned he had passed away last year. Bummer.

The good news is three of his albums including his most recent greatest hits compilation is available on iTunes. A great deal considering all his albums are sold here as costly imported CDs. Give his infectious tracks a try if you haven’t before.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Post E3 2006 musings

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I seriously meant to post this earlier, but post show work and catching up on things I missed while at the show caused a delay.

In any case, I’m still obsessing about the Wii. Who knows when places will start taking official pre-orders for it since there is no firm date or price. My gut feeling is that it will come out in October for $249. If it’s $299, I’m thinking the console will come with a pack-in game and maybe an extra controller. How rad would that be?

I didn’t have time to go play more Wii at the show, but I did manage to try out some other exciting games and a bunch that weren’t so great (I mercifully did not list any of those for now):

Ghouls & Ghost PSP – So cool and really hard. This one is going to rock.

NBA 2K7 Xbox 360 – Everything the last game should have been. Next generation looks and improved play. Fantastic.

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Elite Beat Agents DS – The US version of Ouendan is pretty much a brand new game. The two scenarios available for play on the show floor had me smiling, laughing, and even getting a little emotional.

Warhawk PS3 – The tilt function works well and it’s so nice to revisit the world of Warhawk again.

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Once I got home, I started downloading Xbox Live trailers and demos like a madman. Being able to view the DOAX 2 trailer in HD and surround sound is awesome. The Lost Planet demo was pretty rockin too. There were too many trailers that didn’t show much gameplay and not nearly enough demos. In the end, I think it’s a great idea that wasn’t executed as well as it could have. I’m sure it’ll be a growing trend since every new console has online/hard drive support.

There were plenty of items I totally missed at the show. I was glad to hear the SCEJ horror game Rule of Rose for PS2 got picked up for domestic release.

Holiday Budget
The post show buzz is starting to wear off and soon it’ll be decision time regarding what consoles and games to budget for this year.

Wii – The console is a must purchase. I don’t usually buy many games at launch, but the Wii may break me down.

Xbox 360 – E3 has made me quite happy to be a 360 owner. Lots of good games coming down the pipe. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if the HD-DVD attachment is reasonably priced ($100-180ish), this combo could be enough to keep me away from the PS3 and Blu-ray for at least a year or perhaps much longer.

PlayStation 3 – The MGS4 trailer was super cool as was Final Fantasy XIII, and I’m psyched for Virtua Fighter 5, but most everything else I saw was a let down. At this point, I’m heavily leaning on skipping the PS3 launch. Blasphemy!

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PlayStation 2 – Aside from the Wii, the PS2 was a big surprise to me. There seems to be a ton of games I want for it. Yakuza, Rogue Galaxy, Valkyrie Profile 2, Rule of Rose, God of War II, Final Fantasy XII, Guitar Hero II, Okami, and Karaoke Revolution American Idol. That’s just the stuff I remember.

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PSP – There wasn’t much to get me excited aside from Ghouls and Metal Slug anthology, but I know there will be enough games this year to keep my PSP fed. The PSP Media Manager actually keeps me quite happy with the other functions of the handheld. It just needs larger and cheaper memory options.

DS – Got my US DS-Lite pre-ordered so I’m set. Amazingly, I have more DS games than PSP, Xbox 360, and GameCube games combined (I have quite a number of Xbox and PS2 game however). That number is going to get larger still as the year will see some awesome games starting with New Super Mario Bros. DS wins.

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Oh, bonus pic! It's good old John Ricciardi who now lives and works in Japan. Check out his thoughts on games here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Day one impressions

Just one day and I'm already tired. I didn't get to play too many games with all the regular work I had to do during the show, but I was lucky enough to get in the Wii line super early. Yes, the remote controls as good as you hoped it would. I played some tennis, batting game, WarioWare, and Metroid Prime 3. Aside from Metroid, they were all super intuitive and a ton of fun. It's going to be very hard to wait till later this year to own the Wii. Metroid took some getting used to, but it's very cool once you do.

I'm hoping to get in early again tomorrow to try out Mario and Sonic (someone told me it rocks?!). Other than that, I looked at some PS3 games and they look pretty good. Nothing like the Killzone video from last year of course. So far, it seems Nintendo and MS are having a better show. There are some hot PC items too. Some friends told me the behind closed door demo of Crysis is amazing.

Oh, there is an arcade Virtua Fighter 5 on the floor, which I need to spend time with. The conversion to PS3 should be flawless. I think I've only seen 10% of what's here first hand. Going to try real hard to actually play more tomorrow.

Monday, May 08, 2006

PS3 details first reaction

So $599 for the system with 60Gig hard drive and $499 for the 29 Gig version (with slightly less features is the initial word is correct). The controller looks like the PS2 one, but with tilt sensitivity among other features. The tilt is quite a nice surprise that I'm sure was implemented after the Wii controller was shown. It's no substitue for all the potential innovations and simplicity the Wii controller promises though. I like the black better than the silver for a launch system. Too bad they’re still using the Spiderman font.

Before this press conference, I was 100% going to pre-order a PS3, no question about it. Now that I know the price and see some games that are further along, I’m not so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the $599 is still a good deal. It’s $400 ($500 if you actually wanted just 20 Gigs) less than the first batch of Blu-ray players.

It’s going to come down to how the games on the show floor hit me. Are the games going to be so much better from the 360 that a console is worth $200/$100 more? We’ll see.

It’s been a while since I’ve been THIS amped to get into the show to play some games. No doubt the first booth to hit is going to be Nintendo, but the Sony booth is going to be hot too (I hope).

I do think the price point leaves the door open for Xbox 360. If Microsoft got aggressive and lowered the 20Gig premium pack to $299 by November…oh baby. We’ll have a real battle.

Anyway, I can’t wait to see what Nintendo and MS have to show at their events.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

US DS Lite official!

Wow, I’ve been itching to import a DS Lite, but I just knew with E3 so close we’d hear something soon. June 11th, $129.99. Unfortunately, white is the only domestic color offered. I can live with it.

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Already feeling like 1,080 scanning lines of pixels isn’t enough? Engineers from NHK, the Japanese public broadcasting company and research group are starting to show off a TV that has 4,320 scanning lines of pixels. Currently dubbed Ultra High-Definition Television, it’s said to be at least 20 years off into the future. Obviously nothing is captured with that much detail now, only two cameras in the world exist that capture in 4320 pixels. At least that means you won’t have to worry about rebuying your current DVDs a fourth time, since a natively ultra HD version of Breakfast Club doesn’t exist. I wonder how it would looked upconverted to 4,320? Hmmm…

Speaking of sharp looking things, I popped in Final Fantasy The Spirits Within the other night. I’m not sure why. Part of it was in preparation for E3. With all the fancy PS3 demos sure to dazzle, I wanted a recent point of reference for truly cutting edge CG graphics. I’m also trying to psyche myself up to buy Advent Children. I know it won’t be great, but it should entertain in the same good looking CG action mold.

In other random thoughts:

- I’m looking forward to the E3 HD trailers and demos that will be available on Xbox 360. Although I’ll be at the show, it’ll be nice to come back and enjoy anything I might have missed or want to relive in HD quality on a big TV. The Halo 3 footage scheduled to be shown at the Microsoft press conference is not among announced downloadable trailers, but it’s got to be a matter of time. It’s just too bad the 360 hard drive is so small and DL times take so long, or else MS could really blow out the demos and footage.

- It’s hard to believe, but you’ll soon be able to buy the original Star Wars Trilogy sans digital touch-ups. A part of me says wait till they release this again on Blu-ray, but another part says don’t wait.

- Last night’s episode of Lost was just amazing. That’s all I wanted to say about it.