Monday, June 25, 2007

Evangelion almost pulls me back in (spoiler free rant)

I’ve been selecting random DVDs from the shelf to check out how they looked upscaled on the PS3 and last night it happened to be Evangelion. This was the Platinum release with the slightly cleaner transfer and 5.1 audio mix. I just wanted to enjoy the opening theme music and random scenes, but I ended up watching all five episodes on the first disc. The pacing of these first shows is so stellar, it just grabs you instantly.

I’ve only watched the series through once back in the day on VHS. I skipped the first batch of DVDs and ended up picking up the first three Platinum volumes.

Now I’m stuck. Do I go pick up the other four platinum DVDs? For the same price, I could get the collected Platinum box and sell of the three volumes I already have. I also have to consider that a Blu-ray or HD-DVD release can’t be more than two years away and it’s not like I can’t wait till then.

But wait, it gets more complicated!

So say I start re-watching the entire series. There is the matter of the post series Evangelion movies that sought to clarify and give some better resolution to the whole affair. The movies were considered “still confusing”, “terrible” or “not that bad” depending on who you asked. I never watched them for a variety of reasons like bad transfer quality, fan reaction, and mainly because I had moved on at that time.

Most of this info is old hat and you can read up at length on the series here.

And still it doesn’t end there.

A brand new four movie re-telling called Rebuild of Evangelion is set to be released later this year. Geez…I think its for the best I go back into Evangelion hibernation and re-emerge when the Rebuild movies are all out on Blu-ray.

Monday, June 18, 2007

#1 Pac-Man CE player (UPDATED!)

Not #1 worldwide, but at least on my friends list I am. It probably has changed since last night, but I was at #231 overall (score was 285K+). I’m not sure how many people are playing it, but the lowest ranked person on my list is #40,000. Feels pretty sweet to be #231 out of at least 40,000+ players.

Big credit has to go to my man Erik Harte who reveled a crucial portion of his strategy (he was formerly tops on my list at 270K+) that filled in some holes in my route. At this point I feel I’m reaching the max of what I can do with the game. There are a few more tricks I want to try that may get me over the 300K mark, but burn out is starting to set in.

UPDATE: Last night I hit 310K+. I wish would let you check your scores and not just basic live info. At the time I hit that mark, I was ranked #131 in the world. After checking 1 hour later, I was at #140. Oh well, still in the top #200. I felt like I would take a break for a bit, but this morning in the office everyone was buzzing about challenging my score. It's got me amped again to keep getting better. Still, I feel I'm close to my max ability in the game. We'll see.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Super PlayStation 2 Haul

Finished off Command & Conquer 3 this weekend. Final verdict: I liked it. Wasn’t wild about it, but it was worth playing through.

Within the past week, I picked up more PS2 games in a concentrated span than I can remember. It started with EB’s clearance sale where I got Final Fantasy XII Limited Edition for $29.99 (marked down from the $39 sticker you see on it). Then came Odin Sphere in the mail from Amazon. I’ve talked about those two before so up to this point, no surprises.

I own Karaoke Revolution 1 and KR Party which actually come in handy when folks come over. The most recent American Idol version has, in my opinion, the best song selection yet in the series. Normally stores only carry the package that comes with the mic, but I managed to find a regular “game only” copy so I snagged it.

I’ve been intrigued by the retro game compilation Taito Legends 2 since its limited GameStop only release a few weeks back. It’s loaded with some great titles I’ve played before, but the true joy is trying out the more obscure ones and hoping to find some gems. It’s only $20, so grabbed one on Sunday. Having an absolute blast so far. With Xbox Live Arcade/VC/PSN retro games selling anywhere from $4 - $10 a pop, it really feels like the deal of the century to get so many quality games. There are a good number of titles that look almost as good as Neo Geo games, or at worst, far better than what the Genesis or Super NES was capable of. Violence Fight and the three Final Fight clones fall into this category.

I’ve been especially haunted by the music in Rastan Saga II. It’s like a synth-heavy version of the Conan movie soundtrack interspersed with bizarre female voices. It changes what would normally be a mundane, albeit incredibly difficult, sidescrolling hack & slash into a psychadellic descent into barbarian hell. The hell part is very apt because the game is very terrible, but I can't stop trying to beat it (Above pic taken from this source). Elevator Action II/Elevator Action Returns was previously only available as a high-priced import Saturn game and it’s totally worth $20 by itself.

Speaking of Xbox Live Arcade, I can’t stop thinking about Pac-Man Championship Edition. I downloaded the free trial and was ready to purchase when the $10 price scared me away. Well, that was four days ago and not a minute goes by where I don’t wish I was playing it. Looks like I’ll have to pay up. I know a lot of my friends are playing so I can’t wait to see what their scores are. I still hold the top spot for Galaga scores in my group, but have been severely outpaced on the Geometry Wars rankings.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Elite, HD-DVD, and C&C 3

There are times when I think I absolutely hate Command & Conquer 3, but then I go right back and play it obsessively. The game has to be doing something right I guess.

I polished off the GDI campaign on medium over the Memorial Day weekend getting both the campaign achievement and the one for finishing on medium with all the bonus objectives. I quickly started into the Nod campaign and I’m about 5 missions in. I was really hoping the Nod forces would be more fun, but so far there are only a few units I like. The commando is cooler than the GDI one, the fanatics are fun, and I like the dudes who can hang glide into areas.

After spending way too many hours getting all the bonus objectives for GDI (which only amounted to 25 more points) I decided to just beat the Nod campaign sans bonuses. The way the game is structured, you can always return to earlier missions so I can always go back and get them if I felt the need.

I did take a break from C&C since I got Ouendan 2 in the mail. I finished everything in the normal mode and started into hard. Great stuff, but so far some of the songs aren’t really sticking.

I finally got a chance to try out the 360 Elite and HD-DVD attachment on my home 1080p TV. Right away I could see a difference in appearance of the menu blades. Game and movie trailers also looked sharper although it depended greatly on the material. The only game I tried for a bit was C&C 3 and it did look a touch sharper. I’ll have to play more to know for sure. King Kong looks really good. I’m not sure if a new firmware improves this, but the menus and load times are much slower than watching Blu-ray movies on the PS3.

I’ve been mildly tempted to go out and pick up one or two HD-DVD discs, but that would be silly. I’m not sure I would ever own a HD-DVD player of my own. There’s been buzz recently with Toshiba lowering the price on their entry level player to $299. Combine that with offers of 2-7 free discs or other discounts like Amazon’s recent sale at $243 and you have lots of people on the fence jumping in. The only problem for me is that the entry level players are only 1080i. Ha, I can hear the chorus of 1080p is overrated already. Shut it. It matters to me and that’s all that counts in this vote.

What would have to happen for me to commit to TWO formats? Well:

1. HD-DVD would still have to be going strong holiday 2008
2. A good, stand alone HD-DVD players with 1080p drop below $200, $149 is the magic number
3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy HD-DVD box set is released well before the Blu-ray. This would also have to be the brand new HD extras packed version Peter Jackson has been talking about and not another “milk the early adopter” release
4. The library of available Blu-ray titles is not satisfying enough by holiday 2008

Even so, I really hope one format is close to dead by early 2008. I thought HD-DVD was near dead, but these price cuts have really done a number on that perception. Even so, this news just came out regarding how much better the two Pirate movies on Blu-ray outsold the two Matrix collections.