Friday, December 22, 2006

Ikea Speaker Stands and Virtual Quandary

I’ve preached the importance of making sure your speakers are at the right height, but couldn’t follow-up in my own set up due to a combination of having to use existing furniture, the high cost of speaker stands, and the trouble of mounting on an apartment wall without damaging anything.

I stumbled on these Gaje speaker stands at Ikea the other day and they have made an immense impact in my audio enjoyment. It feels like I have new speakers actually. They are only $25 a pair and have these sticky holders if there are no proper screws on the bottom of your speakers. I really can’t recommend them enough if your speakers aren’t too large to fit on them.

Virtua Fighter 5 Xbox 360
Wow. I saw the news yesterday morning. The funny thing is, the day before that I was talking with someone about how VF5 and Ninja Gaiden Sigma would be enough to justify a PS3 purchase. Now that it’s down to Sigma, I’m not so sure.

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On one hand, I do believe VF5 on the PS3 will hold at least a slight graphical edge over the 360 version (call it the HDMI difference for those that can see it). On the other hand, I already have a nice arcade stick for the 360 and getting achievement points for the months I will spend playing this game would be nice. Plus, it sounds like there will be no domestic PS3 arcade stick released, forcing me to import the nice, but pricey Japanese Virtua Stick.

$500-600 for a PS3 plus $100+ for an arcade stick, or wait 5-6 months for the 360 version. Practicality versus impatient love for VF5 are on a collision course!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dragon Quest IX to sells zillions

That the next official installment of DQ is moving from a home console to a portable is an extremely significant event. I don’t think it’s ever happened to a series of this stature, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time, for me that is. There is no way I will ever have time to play DQ VIII on PS2, but DQ IX on the DS is another matter. It’s relatively easy to squeeze in time with the quick booting DS, plus the graphic look established in VIII can be achieved to an acceptable degree on the portable system.

There is plenty of differing opinions on this, mostly by the vocal community of RPG fans who would rather have seen the series move to the PS3 or even continue on the PS2. I’m as big of a graphics whore as anyone out there, but there are some experiences I must have on the couch and HDTV, and others that are more accessible on a portable. Take Blue Dragon as an example. It looks pretty sweet from what I’ve seen, but will I ever play it on my 360? Highly, highly doubtful.

I know what you’re about to say, “How come you had time to sink 40 hours into Okami and potentially 70+ into Twilight Princess?” That depends on the way a game keeps my attention. I did wish Okami was a little shorter at times, but I loved playing it and the ending was a great. It was a well-thought out journey that never bored me. I expect Twilight Princess to be the same.

In any case, the installed base of the DS, especially in Japan, is going to send DQ sales through the roof. I bet they charge a lot for the game too. Can you say "the first $60 DS game"?

Lately, I’ve been getting the craving to pick up Yakuza. It was high on my list for most of the year, but videos containing the US voices really turned me off. I think that disappointment has died down for the most part and I’m ready to accept it and enjoy the game. There’s also a part of me that wants to import the Japanese game and its sequel for the purer experience. The problem is my import PS2 is on the fritz and my alternate plan of picking up a Japanese PS3 (as a means to play imported PS2, PS3, Region 2 DVD and Blu-ray) is at least two years away.

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Plus, even if it’s late, I want to support Sega for bringing out the game here. I really believe the game had the potential to be a big hit in the US, but it seems the game didn’t have the marketing budget to lure in the general audience. I mean, why go through the trouble of hiring Hollywood voice actors if you aren’t going to court the masses?

I would have loved to see how a web-sales only, limited edition featuring the original Japanese VO with English subtitles would have sold. I would have even paid a premium $59.99 for that version. Oh well.

Maybe they’ll do that for part two if they decide to take a chance on that release. Here’s a free idea Sega, set up a pre-order page for Yakuza 2 Special Edition featuring Japanese voice and English subtitles. Also included is Yakuza 1 with Japanese voice and English subtitles for $79.99. That would be one killer set, especially since the first game will see price drops to the $30/20 level soon, if it already hasn’t happened.

Cool things like that rarely happen though, and having been a lifelong Sega fanboy, I’m used to being let down by them time after time.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Namco recently announced they will release an arcade port of Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection for download on PS3. I love this idea for three reasons:

1) The Tekken 6 PS3 gameplay snippet from E3 earlier this year was underwhelming to say the least. Especially compared to how incredible Virtua Fighter 5 looked. Releasing DR buys Namco more time to keep working on Tekken 6.

2) I really wanted to buy DR for the PSP. Tekken 5 for PS2 is my second favorite Tekken ever (part 2 still holds the top spot for sentimental reasons), so I was very tempted even though the additions didn’t add up to much. I think the hit in graphics and the clunkiness of playing a fighting game on the PSP held me back. Now DR will look as good as it can and on a system I can hook an arcade stick to.

3) DR for download potentially opens the door for 1080p Soul Calibur 3. That rumored 360 version didn’t materialize (or was that an April Fool’s joke?), so having that game achieve it’s full potential visually would be nice. Having spent so much time with SC II on the Xbox, I was deeply disappointed by the visuals for 3 on PS2. The broken gameplay didn’t help either, but I could have stuck with it longer if it looked better. Yes, such are the whims of a graphics whore.

Aside from that, just trying to finish Gears on hardcore and play some Rainbow Six online (it’s not as popular among my friends as I had thought). I’ll be able to borrow a PS3 here and there, so maybe I’ll finish Resistance before Xmas. During the holidays is when I’ll embark on my Twilight Princess campaign. I’ve been waiting until I can concentrate fully on that game before starting, and that time is nearing.

I’ve seen the comparison between the 360 and PS3 versions of Ridge Racer that make it look about the same, if not better on the 360. On my TV, the game looks much better on the PS3. Maybe it’s the 1080p that’s making it look ultra sharp? Whenever I eventually buy my own PS3 (probably next Xmas), I’ll grab Ridge Racer 7 for my library.

NBA 07 looks and plays much better than I would have imagined, but it’s really no match for NBA 2K7.

I applied the 1080 update to my 360, but it’s not like I will see any real difference until games that support it get released. I definitely decided the HD-DVD add-on was not for me. The selection of HD-DVD titles is what sealed it for me. There is maybe one movie out of the currently available bunch worth buying. Even on Blu-ray there aren’t more than a handful I want, mainly because these are first run editions. Hardly any special features and over-priced. Plus, many sport mastering that is drawing mediocre reviews from the home theater crowd. Better HD authoring and “real” special editions are still one to two years away most likely.

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Instead, I opted for the Oppo DV-981HD upconverting player. It was just released this week and already drawing rave reviews. The previous models were big hits, but I’m excited about this new one since it now upconverts to 1080p (perhaps I should change the name of the blog to 1080p Ninja).