Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Disposable Income: April 2009

Welp, it's that time of the month again.

That's right: I start menstruating.

Also I make blog posts!

So like I mentioned earlier, video game releases spiked considerably for the month of March, but slowed back down for April. That's actually fine, because with the exception of one game that I bought early on, there were a couple of other things I bought that managed to hold my attention for the rest of the month. Hit the jump to find out what those things are!

Rhythm Heaven

So first off is the one game I bought in April, Rhythm Heaven for the DS. This is actually the sequel to a pretty quirky GBA game that only came out in Japan. That game was called "Rhythm Tengoku", and it was basically a collection of rhythm-based minigames by the guys who made Wario Ware. The combination of Wario Ware and shaking it to funky music made me really excited of course, so I've been looking forward to the series' US debut for quite a while now.

Well it turns out that I suck at this game. The quirky music and visuals are great, but it's also really hard and requires very precise inputs. In some cases that can be difficult to do since once of the controls is "flick the stylus across the touch screen", and during certain fast-paced and hectic songs the game will generally confuse you "flicking" with you "tapping". Additionally it's frustrating that a single mistake during a song is generally the difference between a "Superb" rating and a "Just OK" one.

The game's got a lot of style, but unfortunately for Nintendo I played Henry Hatsworth last month, which not only oozes its own brand of style, but also has really solid gameplay that manages to be really challenging without being obnoxious.

I don't regret this purchase, though! As long as it encourages NOA to take more risks besides "Wii Party Games 5".

Scott Pilgrim Volumes 2 through 5

Scott Pilgim is a series I've known about for a pretty long while, but never really bothered to get into. I bought the first volume of the series like three years ago and it was a pretty fun little comic! It's basically about this Canadian kid named Scott Pilgrim who falls in love with a pretty awesome girl, but in order to go out with her he has to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. It was presented pretty hilariously and there were a ton of video game references which were great, but at the time I didn't have a job so I couldn't afford any of the subsequent volumes. By the time I did have a job, I had pretty much forgotten about the series.

Well, fairly recently there's an announcement that it's getting turned into a live action film. Usually film adaptations of comics make me respond with an "eh" or a "I hope that will be cool! It probably won't be though", but due to the talent involved my reaction was more like "The main character is played by Michael Cera, who has basically perfected playing that type of role? Fuck yes! The director is Edgar Wright, the Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz guy!? Double fuck yes! There will be an asian girl with a knife!?!? aaaaaa i am ordering these books online right now while I am talking"

So I've read the entire series so far, which almost completes the story. There's one volume left, which is apparently trying to get released before the movie, and I hope it does because this series has been totally awesome. The fight scenes are great, the dialogue is hilarious, and there was a Monkey Island reference somewhere which instantly makes it the best comic book ever made. I want to go into more detail but I am hoping that you, the reader, will check it out and I don't want to spoil things!

A Bunch of DnD 4.0 Stuff

Remember when last month I said I'd been playing the latest edition of Dungeons and Dragons recently and I'd been enjoying myself? Well I've been getting really into it lately and I decided that I wanted to Dungeon Master a session of the game myself. A good amount of my friends are into roleplaying but haven't played 4.0 yet, so I figured this summer would be an awesome opportunity for everyone to try it out. As a result, I've been buying a bunch of stuff in preparation, and there's a few more things I'll be getting in May before the adventure I'll run in early June.

Core Rulebook Set: This includes the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual in one convenient package. I already had my own copy of the Player's Handbook, but buying this set was actually cheaper than buying the remaining two books separately, so it was almost like getting a spare copy for free! Which is great, since two books spread amongst 4-6 players will make character creation and whatnot a speedier process than it would be with everyone having to share one book. Plus the DMG and MM have been awesome for my adventure designing purposes.

Dungeon Master's Screen: It's a screen! For dungeon mastering! Oh boy! (It is well designed and I like it.)

Arcane Power: This is a book I actually bought for the sessions I'm a player in instead of for DMing purposes. This book is basically kind of an expansion pack for the non-god-oriented magic-casting classes like Wizards, Warlocks, Sorcerers and Bards. The god-oriented magic classes get their own supplemental book called Divine Power. Anyways my character is a Warlock, so I bought the book to give him access to the neat new powers and feats and stuff that it offers. And I think it was a worthy purchase! A lot of fun new stuff that still keeps things balanced. I might get the other character-related expansions as well so that the players in my upcoming adventure can use them if they like.

Minatures: I got a handful of same-looking miniatures that I can use for groups of monsters. Next month I'm getting the mat that my players and I will be using for combat, which will help me know whether or not I need to buy more miniatures. I'm secretly hoping that the squares are big enough for me to recycle minis from other tabletop games I own. I already know that the HeroClix minis are too big, so my heroes won't be fighting Batman anytime soon, but maybe my Heroscape stuff? The fantasy-oriented stuff would fit in just fine, while the sci-fi and world war II minis would fit in just hilariously!

Anyways, that's all for this month. Tune in next time my vagina starts bleeding! Read more!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Disposable Income: March 2009

March was a pretty great part of the year. While the new video game release drought hasn't quite ended, a whole buttload of games and other neat stuff came out to herald the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. I mean, I didn't buy that many, but hey, the new releases scene gets boring again in April so maybe I'll get to play some catch up!

In the meantime, here's what I picked up in March.

Avalon Code

So here is a game that I was really interested in because it had incredible potential. It's developed my Matrix Software, better known as the people who developed the 3D DS remakes of Final Fantasys III and IV, and published by XSEED Games, the awesome people responsible for bringing Retro Game Challenge to the States last month. That's a pretty promising team in my book, so as long as the story wasn't something like "Captain Poop keeps poopin, clean up his poop to save the planet from poop death" it was pretty much a guaranteed buy. And despite that story being 100% LIKELY, it was actually something pretty different! Basically you're a kid who stumbles across this magical tome called the Book of Prophecy. The world is going to end soon, and it's your job to travel across it and record everything in the Book of Prophecy that you deem worthy of appearing in the new world. Not the most unique story in the world I guess, but still neat enough.

The coolest part was the role the Book of Prophecy played in the gameplay. The main gimmick is that just about anything in the game's world- weapons, enemies, characters, flowers, talkin' cakes, talkin' butts, talkin' buttcakes, whatever- could be scanned and have their properties viewed by smacking them with the book. Then those properties could be mixed and matched by dragging them around on the touchscreen. For example, let's say you come across a rusty sword in the game. After scanning the item, you notice that amongst the different icons on the sword's page within the book, one of them says "SICKNESS". You drag that icon off the page, and ta-da! The sword isn't rusty anymore. Beyond that, you can take the "SICKNESS" icon you just collected and place it on the page of a tough monster, which would cut its HP in half and make it easier to fight. There's basically tons of ways to use this feature and it would be pretty awesome except for one problem: the interface is kind of terrible!

The problem is that by the time you're halfway through the game, you have literally hundreds of pages in your book, with no easy way to navigate through them. You get a Table of Contents that'll take you straight to a certain category, like Characters or Weapons, but it gets to be a problem when even after that you have to flip through 50-plus pages to get to the specific character you're looking for. The game desperately needs a Search option, and it doesn't have one. And as for the little property icons, you can only hold up to four at a time. This means a lot of tedious shuffling around to get a hold of the icons you need and to get rid of the icons you don't. It shouldn't take ten minutes just to add the "FIRE" property to your talkin' buttcakes and make Flamin' Buttcakes. I mean, Flamin' Buttcakes is worth it no matter how much time it takes, but still.

Avalon Code could be a fantastic game, but it's cluttered too much by various design flaws I can only guess were caused by the DS's various technical limitations. Oh well, maybe we'll get a sequel some day. Really, all they need to do is clean up the interface of the current game to upgrade it from "decent but weird" to "freakin awesome and great".

Dungeons and Dragons 4.0: Player's Handbook 2

Right now seems as good a time as any to mention that I'm a fan of tabletop roleplaying games. I don't get to play them as often as I'd like, since playing them regularly tends to require a flexible schedule and a lot of free time, of which I usually have neither. However, recently I have been able to work things out so that, once a week, I can spend my non-worky time with some friends as a player in sessions of Dungeons and Dragons.

The version of DnD we've been playing is the latest one, Edition 4.0, and while it seems to be getting a lot of flak from people that haven't played it yet, I've been enjoying my time with it quite a bit. People that expect a direct upgrade to Edition 3.5 and refuse to play anything else will probably end up being a bit disappointed, because it's very different now. Quite a few things have been streamlined, and there's a much bigger focus on combat than the previous edition had. Most of a given class's special abilities are for use in battle and battle alone, and while you could talk your way through most of a battle in 3.5 while lying down, eating chalupas, and rolling around in a tub of hot sauce (easy dipping for the chalupas, you see), battles in 4.0 pretty much require some sort of graph paper and miniatures to play even sort of coherently. Initially I balked at these changes and thought they'd detract from the roleplaying experience and make things more boring. In reality, it turns out that the role playing elements can still be just as big of a focus if you have the right Dungeon Master (which I'm lucky enough to have), and the other changes makes it feel more like... wait for it... a game. And a very fun and solid one, at that. Compare it to the release of the fourth Harry Potter movie versus the book: if you're looking for a faithful translation of the original, you'll hate it. However, ff you just want a fun, action-packed experience based on the source material, then you'll have a great time with it.

Anyways, Player's Handbook 2. As with earlier editions of DnD, 4.0 has been releasing a bunch of supplemental books that add various elements to the game. This particular book primarily adds a bunch of new Classes and Races to the mix, as well as a handful of new weapons and feats and stuff. It makes me particularly happy because when 4.0 came out, two of my favorite classes from 3.5 were missing: Druid and Bard. Barbarian, Sorcerer and Monk were gone as well. Player's Handbook 2 fixes things by adapting the first four classes I mentioned to the new ruleset (Monk has been promised to make a return, though I'm not sure when), and although I haven't been able to try them out yet in actual gameplay, they're pretty neat! The other new races and classes are interesting as well, although a couple of them made me roll my eyes and go "GEE I WONDER WHAT POPULAR FANTASY-BASED FRANCHISE INSPIRED THIS", like the new Shaman class.

Overall, not a disappointing purchase, and it's been handy to have in recent sessions (one of our party members is a Sorcerer), though I suppose my Warlock'll have to die before I can use the book much for myself. And I don't want my Warlock to die! He's a half-elf who got raised by a dwarf and he is awesome.


So I've heard a whole lot about how Grant Morrison is a great comic book writer and Frank Quietly's a great comic book artist. This talk has become frequent lately because the two are collaborating to make a Batman & Robin series for DC, which people are making a big deal out of because Bruce Wayne died recently in DC's canon, and he's being replaced by a new Batman (DC is trying to be all mysterious about who it is, but it is probably Dick Grayson, the first Robin). Anyway I'm not going to justify that retardedness by continuing to talk about it. So these two guys are apparently pretty talented, and I want to check out their earlier works. Turns out they've collaborated several other times, and the most interesting of these was a little title called We3.

We3 is basically about a dog, a cat, and a rabbit who are turned into cyborg weapons by the government. Right before they get decommissioned, the hot doctor lady who made them that way has a change of heart and sets them free. Now the main reason I bought this paperback is because I had an equation going on in my head:

Homeward Bound + Robots = BEST THING EVER?

So then I actually received the graphic novel and read it and everything, and it was slightly deeper than that. Well actually, the equation ended up being this:


The art is very well done, and it's also very well written, but this particular story just didn't really click with me. I mean, one of the main points made is that animals with deadly weapons lack human restraint, and are therefore capable of pretty fucked up shit. As a result, there is some pretty fucked up shit throughout the comic, all shown in more detail than you'll ever need. I never really went through life hoping that I could see an extreme closeup of a tiny spear going through someone's eyeball, and uh I guess now I never have to, thanks guys!

It's very clear from this outing that Mister Morrison is a good writer and Quaint Quietly is a good artist, but We3 just wasn't for Me3.


I bought this movie pretty much on an impulse while I was at Wal-Mart, and seeing as it was a non-Pixar CG-animated flick, my expectations were pretty low. Especially considering that star billing went to Miley "Hannah Montana" Cyrus, and I tend to avoid things she's involved with on principle. But hey, I dug the superhero angle, and I liked the trailers with the screaming hamster in it, so I plunked down the 14 bucks.

And it was mostly a fairly typical kids' movie, with not much that I haven't already seen before (Bolt's story was pretty much exactly like Buzz Lightyear's story arc in Toy Story), but it was pretty cute. There was a lot of clever writing and likeable characters, and Miley Cyrus wasn't even in it that much.

I really don't have much to write about this. The movie was okay and I liked the jokes. As far as non-Pixar CG Disney movies go, it was significantly better than expected but not as good as Meet the Robinsons. And by the way if you're someone who enjoys reading this blog but hasn't watched Meet the Robinsons you need to stop everything and watch it right now. That movie is amazing!

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure

First of all, let me say that the purchase of this game was worth it for the box art alone.

Henry Hatsworth is this quirky little Nintendo DS adventure that's a pretty interesting melding of the platformer and puzzle genres. The general gist of things is that on the top screen you have your basic side-scrolling platformer, and on the bottom screen you have a Pokemon Puzzle League style puzzle game. When you defeat enemies or grab items on the top screen, they become puzzle blocks on the bottom screen. Clearing those blocks gives you bonuses and special abilities in the platformer part of the game, while ignoring them for too long will make the blocks float back up to the top screen and try to smash you and stuff. It's a very simple concept that the game gets a whole lot of mileage out of, and it's surprisingly fun. When the basic gameplay gets old, you can count on boss battles to mix things up again, which by the way are AMAZING. The second boss of the game might actually be on my Top 5 of Best Video Game Boss Battles Ever, Seriously.

Plus, if you couldn't tell by the boxart, the game is friggin hilarious. The story is basically about an ancient legend about a treasure hunter known only as THE GENTLEMAN (yes they actually spell his name in all caps every time they refer to him I love this game so much) who finds a suit so classy that it gives the power to access another dimension, the world behind the Puzzle parts of the game. Deeming it just too dangerous for humanity, he seals the Puzzle Realm, then breaks the suit into pieces and hides it in various places around the world. The game involves Henry Hatsworth, #1 member of the Pompous Adventurers Club, trying to the suit's various pieces before his rival Leopold Weasleby (the guy screaming in the background of that boxart) does. The genius is mostly behind the dialogue and the goofy-ass characters. I have genuinely laughed out loud at certain points in the game, it's actually that good!

The only drawback is that the game is freaking HARD. It gets ridiculous around the fourth continent you explore, and currently I'm stuck at the fifth continent and keep dying. Oh man, when Henry Hatsworth dies he says "Poppycock" as he falls off the screen. Game of the year!

Anyway if you like quirky video games you should probably get this.

A 4GB SD Card

So remember when I talked about GDC and made some predictions a little while ago? Well consider this my coverage of the aftermath: I said in my original post that people thought Nintendo would release their storage solution and announce a new Zelda game that day, and that they were retarded. Well, uh, exactly that happened. The Wii now has a firmware upgrade that allows you to run VC and WiiWare games directly from an SD card, and added HCSD support on top of that, which means you can use SD cards up to 32 gigs in size. Also they announced a DS game called Legend of Zelda: Link Train Ride Adventure or some shit, but it's not really worth mentioning.

The firmware upgrade was great news, though, and I went out and got a 4 gig card on the same day to celebrate. And well, not much to say besides that the new interface works, it works pretty well, and I'm probably going to buy a bunch of VC/WiiWare games soon to start filling up all my brand new space. Maybe you'll see which ones in the next My Disposable Income installment.

So there you go. My Nintendo systems got a whole lot of love this month. About friggin time, Nintendo! Read more!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Game Developers Conference 2009: Pre-Event Excitement

Hey folks, guess what? GDC '09 is here, hooray!

For those not in the know, the Game Developers Conference is the first major gaming event of the year. I should probably use the word "major" loosely, because it's generally the one that garners the smallest amount of big announcements. Actually, the amount of game reveals is downright pitiful when put next to megatons that typically happen at events like E3 or the Tokyo Game Show, which happen in the Summer and Fall respectively. Despite that though, it could very well be the most interesting.

The reason for this is that the purpose of the conference isn't for game developers and publishers to showcase upcoming games, or to wow the gaming press. This does happen of course, but the real intended audience is fellow game developers. The presentations generally show things like a behind the scenes perspective on a recently completed game, or tips for a fledgling game designer looking to direct his own tiny team of tenacious taters. E3 and TGS say "This is what you'll be playing at the end of this year and beyond," but GDC says "This is the work we had to do so you could play what you did last year". So while there's rarely a reveal that would make one wetten his pants, it does give us a deeper look into the world of game development and the industry in general than we usually get, and it can be really awesome sometimes.

That said, there are neat little announcements to be had, and they tend to appeal to the most specific type of gamer nerd. The "yours truly" kind! There's a few events this year in particular that I'm very interested in, and I'm going to list them right now.

Level-5's Keynote

Level-5 is probably one of my favorite development teams right now. Their stories and concepts tend to be a 50/50 split between "intriguing" and "horrible cliche mess", but they always, always deliver unique and engaging gameplay. Their RPG titles are amongst the most fun I've played, although some (such as Rogue Galaxy) are also amongst the most annoying. This is usually the US localization team's fault though, and I'm sure that the more popular this developer gets, the more attention and respect will get paid to the source material upon future translations.

Anyways, they're speaking at this year's GDC, and they're going to be discussing three of their games. The first is the Professor Layton series, a trilogy of puzzle-adventure games about some british guy in a top hat and his little boy sidekick running around and solving mysteries. It's kind of like Batman and Robin, except instead of saving the day by punching people in the face, they do it by figuring out how exactly they can line up three cows to spell the word "PARTY". The second is Inazuma Eleven, a Soccer RPG that basically turns the sport into an episode of Dragon Ball Z, in the best way possible. The third title, and the one I'm most interested in, is Ninokuni: The Another World, a game about a little boy with a book that gives him a portal to a mystical world or something? The neat thing is that the game comes with an actual physical book that you read to find things out about the world in the game. Also, the cutscenes are animated by Studio Ghibli, who've made amazing anime movies like Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky.

The interesting thing here is that GDC takes place in California, and two out of three of these games are Japan-only so far. If we get an announcement regarding a US localization of even Inazuma Eleven, I may have to cream not only my pants, but everyone's pants in a 20-yard radius.

Satoru Iwata's Keynote

Now Satoru Iwata being at GDC is kind of a big deal, seeing as he's the president of Nintendo. He's due to talk about "Creating New Development Opportunities", and of course this would probably be a good excuse for him to talk about the DSi, the new redesign of the Nintendo DS that has fancy cameras and games you can download from their online shop called "DSiWare". There are already rumors exploding all over the place about how he's going to announce a brand new Zelda, or that the Wii storage solution will be uploaded to the Wii Shop Channel during his keynote. And the people spreading these rumors a dumber than a sack full of retarded people (it's really kind of a tragedy, the opening's right there but they can't figure out how to escape), because once again, the point of GDC isn't to make big announcements like that. I'm pretty sure the majority of his speech will just involve the development process of the DSi, and maybe a few neat tidbits about upcoming DSiWare titles.

At the same time though, there's been a rumor floating around about old Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games coming to the DSi Store as downloadable games. If it turns out to be true it could turn my DSi purchase priority from "eventually" to "preorder".

Impressions of Games

While it's not a huge focus, there will be some upcoming games shown off. There's a couple in particular I'm excited to hear about. The first is Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, a co-op brawler-RPG starring Spider-Man and a bunch of other unimportant jerks, and also Deadpool. The first title wasn't exactly the most polished gameplay experience, but I'll be damned if it wasn't a whole lot of fun. If the sequel even kind of brings back the multiplayer goodness, it might be an instant purchase for me. The second game that gaming press will likely get hands-on time with is Brutal Legend, the latest game from the genius behind Monkey Island, Tim Schafer. It has Jack Black in it as a roadie, so even if the game isn't that great it's sure to be hella entertaining.

Anyways that's just a taste of GDC this year. I'm sure we'll get all sorts of pleasant little surprises as well. Depending on how awesome they are, I might end up writing up an aftermath post when the Conference is over. Read more!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Disposable Income: February 2009

So hey guys, it's the end of the month and you know what that means! Yup, time for me to talk about stuff that I paid money for, and my subsequent opinions of those things!

And I sure did purchase some things!

See which things after the jump.

Seriously, I'm at a loss for pre-list filler text today, just click "read more".

Retro Game Challenge

I'd been looking forward to this title for a while. The basic premise is this: a guy who really likes oldschool video games turns you into an eight year old and teleports you to the 1980's, where you you're told to beat a bunch of challenges he gives you as play an assortment of 8-bit parody/tributes to the games that existed back then. You've got your Galaga-like space shooter, your action-puzzle-platformer that's kind of like "Flicky" for the Genesis, and even a full fledged ancient grind-and-dungeon-crawl RPG, amongst others. When the game was released in Japan it was based off of a TV show about a guy who tries to beat a bunch of old video games, but since that show hasn't been localized over here, most of the references to the show have been stripped from the US version of the game. Anyways, I finally got it around the middle of the month, and I wasn't disappointed one bit with my purchase!

Not only does the faux nostalgia and playful pokes and prods at games of my childhood work their magic awesomely, but most of the games in Retro Game Challenge are also actually really well designed. They manage to feel like authentic games made in the 1980's while still being really fun. And there's a lot of parts of the main game, I mean the part between all the 8-bit fake games, that make you go "oh that is kind of neat and clever! I mean, I want to get back to the actual video games but this is neat and I appreciate it!". As you play the retro games, you'll unlock gaming magazines that you can then read in-game, and they'll have strategy guides for the games you're currently playing, and previews for "new" games that you'll unlock later on. There's like five previews for the RPG title because it keeps getting delayed. See, it's cute little things like that that make the game even more enjoyable!

The game has its flaws. For example there's an 8-bit racing game called "Rally King", and uh remember how much 8-bit racing games actually suck? Unfortunately this game emulates terrible games of the 80's just as well as the good ones. Also there is a little english voice acting, and it is awful. Luckily, they're just short sound clips and they're easy to tune out.

I've already beaten the game, and for the most part I had a lot of fun, even though it runs a bit short with only eight games. There's a sequel coming out soon in Japan with even more fakey-retro-time-amazings, and I hope it gets brought over to the US at some point in the near-ish future.

Lost Odyssey

Now, I've actually played Lost Odyssey before, right after it came out around this time last year. The thing is that back then it was only a rental. I was excited, but hesitant to full-out buy it. On one hand, it was a next-gen fantasy RPG from the father of Final Fantasy, and unlike his first Xbox 360 effort, Blue Dragon, this new game didn't involve Dragon Ball Z's Akira Toriyama signing up for the project and using the same five character designs he's been using for the past 20 years. On the other hand, 60 dollars was a lot of money to spend, especially since I was close to broke at the time from just buying my Xbox 360. So I decided to play it safe and rent it first to see how much I liked it. And it was a fun JRPG with some awesome gameplay features, decent but not great dialogue/voice acting, and a fairly cliche storyline that was still fresh enough to feel tolerable.

However, right around the time I was supposed to return my rental I came across a part of the game I absolutely HATED, which resulted in me deciding not to spend the full 60 freaking dollars on it. Kind of a harsh decision in retrospect, considering how much I enjoyed the game otherwise, but maybe game developers should learn this lesson: if you are going to put something potentially dramatic and touching in your game, say maybe a character death... for the love of god please do not follow it up with FUNERAL MINIGAMES OH GOD THE MEMORIES ARE STILL PAINFUL.

Anyways, after that little tragedy I was never going to pay full price for the game, mostly out of principle for a game element so stupid that upon sitting through it, my brain managed to climb out of my skull and punch me in the face. But recently I was walking through Best Buy, and I saw that the game's price had lowered to a modest 30 dollars. On top of that, I had two Best Buy cards that, when combined, lowered the price of my purchase by 20 dollars. And that was when I caved in and walked out of the store with my 10 dollar Xbox 360 game.

I started the game over and I'm about 5 hours in, and man there were actually a lot of great things about this game, and I'm glad I'm playing it again. I plan to do my best at trudging through the offending part of the game this time... I guess I'll just have to brace myself for a squishy smack in the nose from my angry cerebellum.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

This was an interesting purchase for me. Not because it's Final Fantasy, because I think we've already established my weakness for that franchise. No, the main reason this was an odd buy is because this is a PSP game, and I don't actually own a PSP.

"But Thores," you're saying, "that's dumb. Like, really dumb. You're stupid." And I say YOUR FACE is stupid. I also say that I actually planned on buying a PSP alongside the game this month. The initial reason I held off is that I want a PSP-2000. The store I bought Crisis Core at only had the PSP-3000. It's a newer model, and that would usually mean better, but unfortunately that isn't the case here. The 3000 has screen issues, visible "scan lines" you can see blinking on the otherwise pretty screen when you're playing certain games. The 2000 doesn't have that issue, and it also has a better battery life. In fact, the only disadvantage the older model has is that the screen isn't capable of being as bright as the 3000's. But I didn't really care about that! The brightness level the 2000 can pull off is just fine from what I'd seen, so the plan was to buy Crisis Core, a 4 GB PSP memory card that I also bought but am not dedicating a whole section to because it would be about as long as this bold text you're reading now, and then go home and order the older, better model of the PSP off of Amazon.

And when I came home I checked my gaming news and found out that rumors were flying around that Sony's about to announce a new redesign for the PSP, one that would potentially improve upon and eliminate the problems of all the previous models, and also look really nifty. Last time there were PSP redesign rumors flying around, the PSP-3000 was announced a couple of weeks later. So now I'm playing the waiting game! I figure if the next big game conference passes by and nothing new regarding the PSP hardware is announced, then I'll just go ahead and buy the 2000... and then promptly poop everywhere in anger as the PSP-4000 is announced exactly one day later.

Oh yeah anyways Crisis Core is a neat game I want to play.

Hunter x Hunter Volume 25

One of these days I'm going to have to make a full fledged gigantic post about this series, but for now here's a brief covering of the basics: Hunter x Hunter is one of my favorite mangas of all time, and the only one that I still read these days. It's set in a world a lot like our modern world, except there are magic beasts and amazing undiscovered treasures, and also a whole lot more badasses. Of course, access to those three things is mostly exclusive to Hunters, the most sought after profession in the world, and also the hardest to get a license for, seeing as the Hunter Exam is only once a year and generally involves a lot of people dying. The opening of the story involves the protagonist of the series, an 11 year old named Gon, applying to take the Hunter Exam so he can meet his father, apparently a legendary Hunter himself. The story sounds simple enough, but the characters and adventures that result from it are flat out amazing and make for some of the best manga I have ever, ever read, especially in the earlier volumes. It reminds me of the original Dragon Ball sometimes, and I loved Dragon Ball, because it was amazing and unique then, despite my earlier musings on Toriyama's creative abilities now.

Right now it's still good enough that I buy a new volume every time one comes out, as you can see from me purchasing the issues this month pretty much the instant it released, but it's definitely dipped in quality. Using my example from a few sentences ago, if early Hunter x Hunter can be likened to the original Dragon Ball, then the latest volumes of series are a lot more like Dragon Ball Z. Don't get me wrong, it is much better than Dragon Ball Z, but the series just isnt as amazing and charming as back when Gon took his Hunter Exam for the first time. It's still good times though, and I still have a very large soft spot for the series as a whole. I'm just bummed because for some retarded reason, Volume 26 doesn't come out till January of 2010. What the butt?

And speaking of butts, that's the end of my post!


I mean bye!
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Friday, February 6, 2009

Late to the Party: My Final Fantasy XI Impressions

Hey, geddit!? Get that pun I just made? See, because you can have a "party" of people in an RPG, right? But "Late to the Party" is a phrase that means something besides that! I just wrote something with two meanings! Yeah you can leave that Nobel Prize for FANTASTIC WRITING FROM A SEXY GUY on the desk.

Anyways, as I mentioned last week, I bought my first MMORPG recently. Final Fantasy XI arrived in the mail this week and I spent most of Wednesday playing it. Like I've said before, I bought the game because I could play it on something besides my abysmal computer, and because I have a pretty big soft spot for the Final Fantasy series. It's the only numbered game in the installment that I had yet to play (besides maybe FFV, which I actually forget whether or not I tried), and the concept of riding around Chocobos and fighting Tonberries in a new world crafted by Square-Enix's capable design team was definitely a promising one.

So in my first 10 hours or so of gameplay, does it live up to that promise? Keep reading and find out.

I got the game on Tuesday night, but I didn't actually get to play at that point due to the install time. See, I'd gotten not only the main game, but all the expansions, and on top of that I had missed about six years worth of system updates, so my 360 had to download a pretty hefty amount of material in one sitting! It took about 4 or 5 hours total, so I slept through that process and when I woke up Wednesday morning, the full game was installed and I was ready to play.

Unfortunately the first thing I noticed about the game was a bit disappointing: the character creator is TERRIBLE. It started out not so bad and fairly standard: you choose from one of the game's five available races, and for three of those races you could also choose a gender. Humes are the standard Human race, Elvaan are basically elves, Mithra is the catgirl race, Galka is the "big beefy hairy man" race, and Tarutarus are basically what would happen if Bilbo Baggins got really, really drunk one day and made babies with an adorable teddy bear. I chose a Tarutaru male, firstly because they seemed to be the only race open to males that wasn't also a direct ripoff off WOW, and by extension Dungeons and Dragons, and by extension western fantasy in general. Secondly, because this race was "finely attuned to magic", and magic using classes are generally awesome. Thirdly, because AWW THEY ARE SO CUTE AND I COULD CUDDLE THEM TILL I DIE

Anyways I chose Tarutaru Male, and this is what I was offered for character customization. I could choose between six possible Faces. These selections didn't actually change the way my face looked at all, but rather modified my hairstyle. Then I could choose between two colors for each hairstyle. After that, ding! Character creation complete! That is AWFUL. Maybe other races have more variety but WOW. I think the funniest part for me was that they didn't just let you choose your own hair color, but had "Color A" and "Color B" for each selection. Your Tarutaru could have a blond ponytail and a white ponytail. You could have a shaggy hairdo that was either brown or red. So why is my Tarutaru apparently biologically incapable of having a red ponytail or a blond shag? Obviously the source of their mysterious innate magical abilities comes from their hair and how it doesn't want to be more than two different kinds of colors depending on their proximity to a hairtie.

But whatever, after I got over that I chose my Job Class, which would be pretty familiar pickings if you've ever played either FFIII or any of the Final Fantasy Tactics games: Warrior, Monk, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage, and Thief. After some heavy consideration I finally chose White Mage. Then after that it was a matter of choosing my name and starting location. After choosing the default Tarutaru hometown because it was foresty and neat looking, I was ready to explore the fast world of Vana'diel as Wigglewum, the Tarutaru White Mage!

Aww, look at him. He sure likes waving!

After a couple of cutscenes, and a few tutorial tasks, I was fighting bumblebees and leveling up like nobody's business. I've heard a lot of babble about how it is really really hard to level up in this game, and maybe that's true later on, but after a little more than a day's worth of gameplay I'm Level 8, which isn't necessarily WHOA FAST, but seems like a steady enough progression to me. Unfortunately, leveling up has been getting harder to do by myself, because not only am I a walking punching bag due to being a physically weak magic casting class, I'm also a healer and thus have no offensive magic abilities to speak of right now! Luckily, nearly all the other players I've bumped into are surprisingly nice. Really high level guys have invited me into their parties just to help me out, and even those who haven't would heal me if they noticed me fighting a tough monster, or revive me if they were passing by and noticed I was dead... which unfortunately has been a pretty common scenario lately. And they'd always do this for free! After hearing tales of WOW being pretty much Douchebag Central as a community, it's been really nice to play in this kind of environment.

Overall, the game's pretty neat, and I'm enjoying it so far. There is a part of me that wished the game felt more like a Final Fantasy, though. There are several things Squeenix could have done in this regard, like use one of the franchise's already existing worlds as a starting point. Ivalice, the world of Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, seems like a perfect fit for an MMO. That world had several unique races, each suited for different various tasks and abilities, and there's already like a billion classes to work with. Instead FFXI features a new world, Vana'diel, and that's okay, except another name it could easily be called is Generic MMORPG Land aka We Took WOW And Made It Japanese, The Continent. I mean, you do have Chocobos running around and Mogs run your house (I haven't gotten to toy around with the house system just yet but it should be fun), and the game'll probably pick up more as I run into other Final Fantasy staples, like Cactuars and Cid. There's just part of me that wishes it felt even more unique.

Still, it's not as bad as I make it sound, and in the long run it's a small complaint considering what the game does have to offer. What it doesn't have in terms of unique storyline, it makes up for with neat gameplay features, a battle system that feels like Final Fantasy while still also being MMO-ish, and an enjoyable community to play in. And I'm enjoying myself a good deal, so it's obviously doing something right!

Anyways, those are just a few early impressions. As the free trial period wears on, we'll see if I get either addicted or bored. Right now I guess it could go either way, but I've been resisting turning away to go play some more during the entire writing of this blog post, so I guess that bodes pretty well for the former! I'll probably update you guys on my progress, I guess. If you want me to?
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Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Disposable Income: January 2009

Well, the first month of the new year has already gone by, and actually, a good deal quicker than I might have expected. Anyway you know what the end of the month on a fledgling blog means: Time for me to try out a monthly-ish feature and see if I like doing it enough to write it on a regular basis! Yay for experimentation!

The premise this time is pretty simple: I buy stuff sometimes! This generally happens at least once a month, and is probably the only perk of having a full-time job I can think of. I figure maybe it'll be neat to keep track of the things I purchase over time, whether they be awesome movies and games or dumb impulse purchases. That way I get to touch on some of the stuff I buy that maybe I wouldn't normally write a full article on.

So let's go, Cheerios! Here's what I got this month.

The Powerpuff Girls: The Complete Series

So, first, fun fact that I love sharing: Did you know that when the show's creator, Craig McCracken, pitched Powerpuff Girls to Cartoon Network, they were originally called The Whoopass Girls, and they were created by Professor Utonium accidentally dropping a can of Whoop Ass into his concoction? Cartoon Network obviously made him change the name since it wasn't exactly kid friendly. Still, best origin story ever!

Anyways, yes, this has probably been the gayest purchase I have ever made, but you know what? Despite the audience it was marketed to, I remembered it being a fantastic cartoon when I watched it ten years ago. I'm also a pretty big buff on animated stuff in general, and on top of that I was feeling a little nostalgic when I saw it on sale, so it ended up becoming pretty much a must buy. Even then, though, it seemed like kind of a risky purchase. What if it wasn't as funny, clever, and well written as I remember it being? What if it was just this girly kids' cartoon that my 12 year old self put up with because he was a sucker for anything that included superpowers?

Well I've watched a good half of the series now, and I don't regret the purchase one bit for the first two seasons alone, cause they're amazing. Nearly every episode in seasons 1 and 2 on the set is a classic. There's too many highlights there to list, but if I had to choose a few favorites I'd probably pick:

Telephonies: The Gangrene Gang get a hold of the Powerpuff Hotline Phone and use it to make prank calls. This episode is one of the best examples of the show's great sense of humor.

Something's A Ms.: A villainess kidnaps the Mayor's assistant, takes her place, and seduces the Mayor so he doesn't notice her robbing the city blind. There are like five billion dirty jokes in this one, I can't believe Craig McCracken got away with half of them.

The Powerpuff Girls Best Rainy Day Adventure Ever: It's a rainy day so the Powerpuff Girls play a pretend game of... Powerpuff Girls. This episode is just plain adorable and a lot of fun.

And that's just a small fraction of what I love about the show. Unfortunately, I haven't even finished the series yet and it already seems to be going downhill. Season 3 is really quirky and weird, and although there's some fun episodes it's not as filled with classics as the first two seasons. Then the downward slope becomes a bit steeper with Season 4. The animation is cleaned up a bit, but it also becomes a bit more streamlined and not as charming. Plus the entire season is exclusively half-hour long plotlines, instead of two fifteen minute episodes at a time. The series generally suffers from this, as the stories become less fast paced and there's a lot more awkwardly timed moments. The newer episodes aren't necessarily bad, they just seem to have lost what made older episodes amazing On the other hand, I'm only halfway through Season 4, so maybe things change for the better? I guess I'll see!

The DVD set itself is fantastic and packed with extras, by the way. All of the original "Whoopass Girls" pilot episodes are in here, as well as the "What A Cartoon Show" shorts, an episode that was never aired in the US called "See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey, a brand new special episode made for the show's 10th Anniversary, and a buttload of other stuff. Definitely worth a purchase for any PPG fan, whether the show eventually declines or not.

The Powerpuff Girls Movie

I bought this to make my PPG Collection a truly complete one. However, the movie didn't come out until after the fourth season, and I'm watching the series in chronological order, so I actually haven't watched the movie yet.

So how about another random fact: The underpants I'm wearing right now have drawings of a dog roasting marshmallows. The dog is wearing sunglasses!

Time Hollow

This is an adventure game for the DS that came out recently. It's been on my radar for a while, and after finding out that the game is now out of print, I snagged a new copy from a retailer on Amazon immediately, while it was still relatively cheap.

The main jist of the storyline is that the protagonist's parents have disappeared, and have apparently left him a magical pen that gives him time traveling powers. So throughout the game, you use the pen (or should I say your Nintendo DS stylus? Boy that sure was clever and not lame Konami!) to draw portals in areas that you've been having context-sensitive flashbacks about. And you use those portals to try and change the past back to normal, and also solve the mystery of why your parents are missing. The game has a lot in common with that movie The Butterfly Effect, except Ashton Kutcher isn't in it, so it's actually good.

I've already blasted through a pretty big chunk of the game, and it has a flaw or two, the most blatant being that point-and-click adventures are just becoming an awfully archaic and limited genre despite how much I loved them when I was younger, but I'm still enjoying myself a good deal. What's weird is that I've only been playing the game a few hours and it already feels like I'm reaching the climax of the story. Hopefully this adventure isn't as short as it feels, because I'm enjoying the characters and puzzles being thrown at me and am definitely up for more.

Xbox 360 120GB Hard Drive

So I've been loving my 360 a lot, but lately there's been one glaring problem: I never had any freaking space on the thing! Whenever I wanted to download a new game demo or video of something that became available on the system's fantastic online service, I usually had to delete something that was already on my measly 20GB hard drive. If you guys recall, I've been having a similar problem with my Wii's storage space for roughly the past year now. Of course, there's one pretty big difference between the 360 and the Wii in this regard: The 360 actually has a solution to the storage problem. A bit more expensive of a solution than I'd like, but I use my 360 pretty much all the time so I'd say it was a pretty solid investment.

So yeah, I bought the new hard drive this week, and it came with everything I needed to transfer all the stuff on my 20GB over to the 120GB quickly and easily, which is an awesome bit of customer service I wasn't expecting. Aaand... now I have 100 gigs of free space on my Xbox! Hooray! To celebrate, I ordered one last thing for the month off of Amazon:

Final Fantasy XI: Vana'diel Collection 2008

So I've wanted to play an MMO for quite a while, but as I've mentioned before, my computer sucks balls. So pretty much just last week I find out that FFXI isn't just available for the PC and PS2, it's a 360 game as well, and it's cross compatible with all the other versions! Add those facts to my brand new hard drive, my fondness of the Final Fantasy series in general, and the fact that I could get the game and every existing expansion pack for a total of 20 bucks off of Amazon, and we have ourselves a winner!

I haven't started playing it yet, since it's being shipped to me as I type this, and I'll probably have it this coming Monday or Tuesday. The first month within me starting an account is free, so I'll have that much time to figure out if I like it enough to pay for it on a monthly basis. And if I do, maybe you'll see me talk about it in a future Disposable Income installment.

Anyways, that's all the crap I bought this month! Next month: More crap? Read more!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sega's Teaser Site: What Could Have Been

After the massive overflow of gaming blockbusters that occurs in the last two months of the year, January unsurprisingly begins what is kind of a drought of video game releases. Maybe two or three notable games are coming out before March, which would usually leave a lot of people with gaming as a hobby twiddling their thumbs.

The good part of this timeframe is that a lot of game companies tend to fill in this gap with gaming news. They might announce new games or expand on previous announcements. The new announcements are never super big since those are usually saved for super big events like E3 or the Tokyo Game Show, but a lot of the time it's still something that's worth looking forward to. And every now and then, it is a big announcement. Which is why teaser sites with mysterious countdowns, promising a new game reveal when it ends, can be so exciting.

For those of you who have trouble catching on, Sega did this recently.

On January 13th, a very barebones website from Sega hit the World Wide Internets, sporting nothing but the image below:

There was a lot of speculation on this image, and my own initial thoughts were something along the lines of "A Mario mushroom with Sonic colors? Oh DUDE we're getting an actual for reals crossover(Mario and Sonic at the Olympics didn't count)!" Don't ask me how I manage to speak in parentheses, it's a very special talent.

And as time passed, new additions to the site seemed to support my theory. Eventually the mushroom would grow big and flash red if you held your mouse over it, clicking on it would produce a sound very familiar to the Mario 1up tune, and clicking on another voice would make a voice say "Ohh, mushrooms! Mushrooms have a reputation, right?" in Japanese. Really that last one is more proof that Japan people say things funny than it is anything else, but I was still getting pretty excited.

Then finally the 26th rolled around and we got this:

Pole's Big Adventure, an 8-bit platformer for WiiWare that parodies other 8-bit games, with the most focus on making fun of Mario titles. The mushroom featured is one of the powerups, which makes you bigger and bigger until you become too big to fit on the screen and you die. Other little jokes like this occur, like going down a pipe will just make you re-emerge covered in oil, and a cactus that looks like a regular background graphic just might decapitate Pole if he tries to walk past it, resulting in little pixelly blood splatters on the screen.

And actually, that actually sounds like it'd be pretty enjoyable stuff. I'd probably buy it if it came out in the States, especially if it's only 5 bucks when it comes out like it will be in Japan. But it still has me asking myself, where the hell is my freaking epic action-platformer where Sonic and Mario team up and there's awesome fanservice for both groups and Sonic doesn't turn into a werewolf or make out with human girls? I mean, back when Mario and Sonic at the Olympics was announced, its developers were saying that this was just the first step. If their first crossover attempt was successful, then more might follow. And after the game came out it proceeded to sell ten million freaking copies worldwide. So what's the big deal?

The only explanation I can think of is that last time a Sega representative had a talk with Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo, about the subject, the conversation must have went something like this:

Satoru Iwata: Hm. Our sales of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games are adequate, but not as good as our previous big Mario games. They could be selling even better.
Sega Representative: Heh, what if we made the next one an actual game? Hahaha!
Iwata: (icy glare)
Sega Rep: Haha...ha...ha?
Iwata: (icy glare)
Sega Rep: Oh god.. I- I'm sorry sir, I was only kid-
Iwata: (icy glare)
Sega Rep: I didn't mean to... to...
Iwata: (icy glare)
Sega Rep: OH COME ON! Sega has been nothing but good to you for the past five freaking years! We're making a Phantasy Star MMO exclusively for your handhelds? We're giving you MadWorld! You know, the title we'll probably lose money on due to poor sales, but we're making anyway just to support your system's low amount of hardcore titles? And we'd make more! We could make a fantastic one, if only you'd let us-
Iwata: (icy glare)
Sega Rep: S-sir... I am so, so sorry. I don't know what came over me.
Iwata: (icy glare)
Sega Rep: Please sir... if there's anything I could do to make it up to you..
Iwata: (suggestive smile)
Sega Rep: T-that!? Again? ... but it hasn't even been half an hour since the last-
Iwata: (icy glare)
Sega Rep: OKAY OKAY! Okay! I'll do it!
Sega Rep gets on his knees. Iwata unzips his business pants.
Iwata: :)

And in the end Sega Rep didn't even do a very good job, so he was permitted to only be allowed to make a regular game that made vague references to Mario. The business world is so cold and harsh!

So in conclusion, that story was 100% factual and I hope Sega hires someone who is better at blowjobs so we can finally get a good crossover game.

See you guys next week!
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