Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The all non-gaming post


Let’s cleanse our gaming palette a bit and look at other items on the menu today:

MANGA
Dark Horse just released another series from Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, the legendary duo behind the Lone Wolf and Cub manga. Path of the Assasin follows the story of Hattori Hanzo, a young ninja who serves an equally young lord Tokugawa Ieyasu. It’s quite different from Lone Wolf and Samurai Exectioner, but still great in it’s own way. Of course you need to start with the Lone Wolf series if you haven’t read any of the above though.

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The Samurai Exectioner series ended recently with volume 10. It came before Lone Wolf and it shows in both good and bad ways. It’s more visceral at times (good), but also meanders more (bad). They really dialed it in once they started Lone Wolf though.

Eagerly awaiting book 11 of Negima. They stretch out the story sooooo much, but I’m already hooked. Volume 1 of the anime just got released here. Not interested in it at this time.
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I’m a big frank Cho fan, but waited on getting his Shanna the She-Devil series until it got collected into one book. The hard cover is out now (which I finally picked up) and the soft cover comes out in November. The man is just a fantastic artist although the series feels overly censored at times. Still worth grabbing.
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Another of my all-time favorites is Tsukasa Bullet. He just released his new doujinshi of sketches of random personal comics at the recent Summer Comiket 2006 in Japan.
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I had no idea they were releasing domestic translated versions of ROBOT. It’s basically a high-end collection of short comics by the top manga artists around. I’ve only read the first two, but it’s fantastic stuff. There are five in Japan so far, three total released here.

BOOKS
Finally got around to reading Moneyball. It’s interesting how much controversy the book has sparked, but it’s absolutely essential reading if you remotely enjoy the game of baseball. You will never view a game the same again.
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A little bit before that, I finished In Cold Blood. I saw the movie starring Philip Seymour Hoffman first. Fantastic movie, fantastic book. Both different since the flick focuses a little more on the author.
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With all that “reality” reading, I think the next book will be in the fantasy realm. Sean gave me the first volumes from The Wheel of Time series (10 books and counting) and A Song of Fire and Ice series (Game of Thrones, four books currently, maybe o 7 and 8). I usually like to read a series once it has finished since it’s so easy to forget what happened last. I do have a few completed sci-fi series, but not sure I want a futuristic tale right now.

TV
Once again, ESPN’s coverage of the World Series of Poker is first rate entertainment. It’s interesting the way they are presenting it this year, leading off with a ton more circuit events and straight into the main event. I haven’t checked the schedule, so not sure if they are going to play any of the other matches, like the one where Phil Hellmuth won his 10th bracelet. One of the earlier circuit events had my man Scotty Nguyen at the final table. I really wanted him to win, but at least he got some dough for his troubles. The event where Daniel Negraneu won officially made me a fan of this guy. I didn’t like him that much before, but ESPN wisely spread out their coverage to let viewers witness the nuances of his chatty game.

I’m glad Project Runway is getting the media attention it deserves. By far the best “reality” show out there.

Still watching Big Brother All-Stars. I hate this show, but also can’t stop watching and talking about it.

MOVIES
Haven’t been to the theater much lately, but I will be first in line for Nightmare Before Christmas 3D. How awesome is the poster? Way awesome.
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HD/DVD
I’m starting to think maybe I won’t get a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player this fall. Why not sit out the initial growing pains and jump in when things are settled (and cheaper)? I got hipped to this sweet upconverting Oppo DVD player. Similar players have been around for a long time, but most have been buggy and the quality has been less than satisfying. This one seems different. There is just no way I am re-buying most of the DVDs I own, so a top flight upconverting option is a must.
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Sure, HD-DVD and Blu-ray players on the market now and in the future have this feature built-in, but how good is it? At $200, the Oppo player costs the same as the rumored price point for the HD-DVD attachment for the 360. If I were a betting man, I would say the attachment will have poor to average upconversion. Not that I’m in some terrible hurry to blow $200. I may wait out all DVD options until next year at this rate.

District B13
It was impossible to find this in theaters during its brief domestic run, but it’s out on DVD in a week or two. Select clips are everywhere if you’re curious. I’m psyched.
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EVENTS
Last, but not least, I took in a company sponsored Giants game. It was the afternoon game against the Diamondbacks with Schmidt on the mound. Really great game with a clutch hit by my man Alfonso. I went to last year’s company game and the Giants won then too. Rad.
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Why so many games?


In the midst of whipping up a list of games to look for during an upcoming Japan trip, it occurred to me to do some soul searching on whether I need them at all. I have less time to game these days, so I have to be more selective of game purchases. The choices will be tough just amongst the abundant domestic holiday offerings without complicating things with import software. That lead to listing out exactly what is on the radar.

The first list was way massive. After pairing it down to titles most likely to get purchased, it was still way too large. The sick part is that Wii stuff isn’t even in the mix yet. Thank goodness I’m not tempted by the PS3…yet. I don’t even want to think about all the games that are already out that I still want.

The funny thing is I thought I was becoming more of a casual gamer over the years. I do devote more time to read a ton of books, playing sports, etc. I guess the urge for gaming in my life is still pretty deep rooted. What has changed is my tolerance for certain games have become much lower. I no longer have to beat a game no matter what. When the challenge outstripped the fun in recent titles like Perfect Dark Zero, GRAW, and Prey, I just stopped playing them.

Perhaps if I talk it out, some sort of further weeding out can get done. I’ll start with the import titles:

IMPORT

PS2
King of Fighters XI – The consensus among gamers who still enjoy the sprite-based series is a big thumbs up. A huge cast, good fighting system, and upgraded Atomiswave board graphics. A domestic release is highly unlikely. As a long time fan that loves sprites, I’m very tempted.
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Samurai Spirits Tenkaichi – Not as universally loved as KOF XI, but mostly the same MO except the graphics aren’t as spruced up. If it can be had for a good price I might do it, but it otherwise I can pass.

GBA
Rhythm Tengoku (Heaven) – Music game from some of the Warioware folks. I’m going to check it out in the office before committing though.
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Bit Generations series – These simple games have super snazzy packaging, a budget price (although still kinda high for what they are), and are mostly addictive goodness. Again, I’ll have to try them out before getting excited.

US RELEASES

Xbox 360
NBA 2K7 – 9/25 – I liked last year’s version and this year is way better. My play time with the E3 version was lovely. Have to keep this on the list.

Splinter Cell: Double Agent – 10/16 – Chaos Theory finally made me a fan of the Splinter Cell games, so I’m really looking forward to this one. The question is whether the online bits will warrant this title as a long term must own, or just a week long thrill ride. Leaning towards the latter.

Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 – 11/1 – This is a no brainer. I spent over 80 hours on the last one and I’m just retarded for the franchise in general. It’s ridiculous.

Gears of War - 11/7 – The multi-player has me more intrigued than the single player, but the jury is still sort of out. I might be able to skip this one till post holidays because…

Rainbow Six Vegas – 11/7 - …as much as I’m excited for the potential that is Gears of War, I am a rabid fan of Rainbow Six. The offline campaigns are always fun and multi-player rocks ultra hard. Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Star Trek Legacy – 11/7 – Yes, I’m a fan of Trek and totally psyched that all the previous Captains will be voicing their characters for the game. Guess I can wait on this till I know more.

PS2
Yakuza – 9/1 – Gah, I’m not crazy about the US voice dubbing, but I’m glad it’s coming out here. I may just buy the import. Hmmm…

King of Fighters 2006 – 9/4 – I was entertained by the previous 3D version and this one has a ton more to offer. Fighting system seems like it’s still broken though. $39.99 price sure makes this tempting.

Okami – 9/5 – Instant buy. Seriously. This is the type of game I want to see more of.
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Rule of Rose – 9/12 – I hate scary movies, but love scary games. Go figure. Rose looks very creepy although I’ve heard it has its share of control problems. Seems like another rental candidate although I’d like to support the decision to release the game here with a purchase.
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Final Fantasy XII – 10/31 – I like the character designs, the battle system looks cool, and I feel like I can squeeze one RPG in this year. I can always track this down next year I guess. Ha, next year. That means never I think.

Guitar Hero II - 11/1 – I skipped the first one, but that’s because I had access to borrow it whenever I wanted. I think I need to own this next one. It’ll depend on the tracks though.

DS
Mario Hoops 3-on-3 – 9/11 – Played around with the import version and loved it. Must get.

Cooking Mama – 9/12 – How can you not buy a game called Cooking Mama? Plus it’s only $20.
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Contact – 9/19 – I actually don’t know much other than it looks quirky and it’s some sort of graphic adventure or something. Sounds exactly like the type of game I like in my DS library.

Mario vs Donkey Kong 2 – 9/25 – The original was super dope and was the perfect puzzler to pop in at any given time. Must get.

SNK vs Capcom Card Fighters – 10/2 – I liked the Neo Geo pocket version, but so far the screens I’ve seen show little of the personality of that title. Keeping on eye on this one just in case.

Touch Detective – 10/10 – Same reasons as Contact, and “detective” gaming gets a plus one with me. The character designs look nutty too.
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Final Fantasy III – 11/1 – 3D remake of a classic FF game? I’m 70% in for sure. The reviews will decide it for me.

Elite Beat Agents – 11/6 – YES, YES, YES. Easily my most anticipated game of this holiday outside of Wii launch titles. Great music game that has new content that differs from Ouendan. The two “stories” I played at E3 were damn good. Funny, and at times, a little emotional. I’m so glad US audiences will have a chance to enjoy it.
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Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin – 11/21 – There’s no rush for me to immediately play it, but it would be wise to snatch it up judging by the frequent “sold out” status of the Dawn of Sorrow.

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 – 12/1 – Same genre as Touch Detective, but much grittier looking. Maybe someone can revive JB Harold Murder Club too?
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PSP
Loco Roco – 9/5 – Has some blobby things, is sort of a puzzler, and is loved by lovers of interesting games. In.

Capcom Classics Reloaded – 10/24 – The first classics collection for PSP is beyond great. I will gladly take more.

Metal Slug Anthology – 11/1 – I’m undecided if I want this collection for PSP or Wii. I think I would play it more on the go though.
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Every Extend Extra – 11/7 – Looks like Missile Command on acid set to groovy tunes. I’m pretty sure I’ll get it.

Sega Genesis Collection – 11/7 –Shinobi III is the height of the series, I’d really like to play Shadow Dancer again, and it’s just mind blowing to have access to Phantasy Star II, III, and IV on one disc. Where is Streets of Rage and Revenge of Shinobi? Probably in Collection 2.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Inside Man


Inside Man came out on DVD yesterday. I really, really enjoyed it in theaters and want to watch it again. Special features include a commentary by Spike Lee, a featurette, and lots of deleted scenes. Hmmm, not sure if I actually want to buy it now. Oh the slippery slope of waiting for the HD version.

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. One of the best heist movies in recent memory.

Friday, August 04, 2006

360 Action


Ended up installing Winter Assault on my PC the other night. I had to run it in the low settings to get rid of the choppiness. Not good. Now I’m not so sure Company of Heroes will get purchased. Sorta on the bright side, FEAR for the 360 is said to run as good as a super high end PC. I held out on playing it since it just ran ok on my rig.

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I downloaded Street Fighter II last night and have 14 wins and 14 losses. Maybe two matches had slight lag, but overall it played great.

On a technical level, I was impressed by the Saint’s Row demo, but just couldn’t get into it. I can wait till GTA4 comes out. The Ninety-Nine Nights demo on the other hand confirmed what I already knew – I must have this game. The Dead Rising demo is out today, so I’ll have to check that out too. Hurray for marketplace!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Lord of the Rings, Galaga, and the A's



Talk about timing! A day after beating Battle for Middle Earth II on 360, EA goes and announces an expansion pack, The Rise of the Witch King. Who knows if it will make its way to the 360, but cool news still. I’m definitely hoping Command & Conquer 3 heads to consoles as well. You’d think that the chances of it happening are pretty good, although I haven’t seen any console sales figures for BfME II.

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After two nights of Galaga, I landed myself in the top 100 high scores on Live. That was a few days ago, so I’m sure my rank has taken a beating by now. The leader boards and achievements have got me playing it more intensely than ever before. I hope Street Fighter plays good over Live. Guess we’ll find out tomorrow. I’m also psyched for Luminees Live, but it comes out around the same time as Ninety-Nine Nights. Interesting Q entertainment coincidence.

As for what game to settle into next, I’m leaning towards another RTS. There is a pile that I never got to like Age of Mythology, Rome Total War, Rise of Nations, and the Dawn of War expansion pack Winter Assault. Out of those, leaning towards Winter Assault, especially since videos of the second expansion have got me juiced. For sure, I’ll get Company of Heroes when it hits early September. After Dawn of War, Relic has my trust that they can make WWII interesting again for me.

There was a small window where I was craving some RPG action. At first it was going to be Elder Scrolls, then it was going to be Valkyrie Profile Lenneth, but the feeling has passed. Maybe it’ll come back when Valkyrie Profile 2 gets released or Rogue Galaxy. Most likely the game that might work some level 20 magic is Phantasy Star Universe.

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Went to the A’s game on Sunday to witness the Major League debut of Shane Komine (koe-mee-ne), aka The Hawaiian Punch Out. Despite giving up a homerun on his second pitch, he settled down and delivered six strong innings, giving up only three more hits and no other runs. He would have got the win, but the game was blown in the top of the 9th.

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Luckily, a three-run blast from Milton Bradley saved the day. Jubilant pic above. Shane’s next start is Tue against the hard hitting Rangers. I’ll be on the edge of my seat cheering for sure. If only my Giants would get their act together.