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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Boxing Week 2008... slightly better

So maybe I succumed to Boxing Day sales after all.

I did go back to Toys R' Us & picked up Raving Rabbids TV Party for $29.99. On Boxing Day I wasn't sure if it was on for that price as the sign still said $49.99, and the only way to ask a clerk was to get in line. When I got home, I checked the website, and confirmed, I trekked back down there the next day.

I found that lot of Boxing Day/Week sales are unmarked, as if the store clerks were too lazy/didn't know what the sale items were. So you have to know what the sale price is before you go there.

Today I went to Rogers Video Rogers Plus & picked up Super Mario Galaxy for $29.99..... sigh... I don't want to pay that much for games, especially 2, but unlike Microsoft or Sony games, Nintendo is *SUPER STINGY* with their game prices. First-party Nintendo games rarely go on sale, nor do they go down in price very much-- Mario Kart DS, which came out years ago, is still MSRP about $40.00-$45.00.... I think it's dropped a WHOPPING $5.00 since it was first released. Jerks.

Raving Rabbids TV Party is a game that I do think will drop in price, hell in a year it'll probably be $20.00, I find that a lot of UbiSoft games (& EA Games) get big price cuts, both companies are so big & put out so much product I guess they can afford it. I was hesitant to pay $30.00 for it, but I know my nephew is a big fan.... so I shelled out for it.

Also at Rogers Plus were some good Nintendo DS games on 2 for $20.00. I bought Sonic Rush DS and Custom Robo DS. $10.00 a game is not bad, but I hope I don't regret buying another Sonic game.....

And at HMV I bought Counter Force (Wii) for $9.99. This is a shovelware game, and I feel guilty for buying it, but it's a mech game and as bad as it sounds, I think there might be some good dumb fun to be had in it.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Boxing Day 2008 sucked

Wow. How awful was this year's Boxing Day? PRETTY DAMN AWFUL.

There weren't many great deals to begin with. I sort of suspected there wouldn't be... I went out hoping for the "privilege" of buying Raving Rabbids TV Party for "only" $29.99. And WarioLand Shake It! for $34.97. Oh boy.

The only other thing I was somewhat interested in was a 16GB flash drive for $23.00.

All a whole load of meh. And I didn't manage to get ANY of the stuff I was looking for. I got out there in the afternoon... a lot later than I usually go (if I go out to sales on Boxing Day) and it was INSANE. The entire city was in gridlock, mobs of people EVERYWHERE on the street-- I couldn't believe it. I'VE NEVER SEEN THIS TOWN SO CROWDED. Seriously, even when The Queen comes to town, there aren't this many people out. It was stupid. After missing out on *everything* I was looking for, I just gave up & tried to get out of town ASAP.

Shitty deals compared to what I got earlier in the year... hell, a week ago I paid $20.00 for Jeanne D'Arc (PSP) , which isn't an awesome deal, but it's not bad. At the same time I also bought Wipeout Pure (PSP) for $5.00... yes, *$5.00* ( I used that one for a gift) Both from The Source @ Circuit City... I just scoured their clearance lists, and made sure that a local store had any in stock.

Nothing compares to the EB Games Days sale they had, I think it was last Spring... where I got Star Trek: Conquest (Wii), Trauma Center: New Blood (Wii), Metroid Prime 3 (Wii), Chibi Robo: Park Patrol (DS), Socom: Fireteam Bravo (PSP)... all for $10.00 each! Now *THAT* is a sale. And there weren't lineups out the door for it (because nobody knew about it) and it wasn't on Boxing Day.

People lined up for shit that wasn't even on sale.... EB had crap deals, and it was still a mob in there.

This... this was just a whole lot of AWFUL. Add to it the huge mobs of people, which I didn't have to contend with during those other, actual sales, and I may have to swear off of Boxing Day from now on. Sucked so bad.

I've been meaning to cut back on just buying crap, so that's the one good thing about it... I didn't add to my CC bill. I'm hoping that in the spring we'll see another killer EB "Games Days" sale.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

PSP calendar 2009

I was looking at my PSP calendar the other day, when I realized-- I hadn't created one for 2009!

Back in 2006 when I first got a PSP, I came across an FHM PSP calendar.... basically, it was 12 (.jpg) image files of hot girls with each month's calendar stamped on them. It was a handy app, you load it onto your PSP, and you have a nice calendar when you need it.

When the PSP first came out in 2005 (in North America) everybody was excited about it... third parties of all types were looking to get in on the "craze"... not just video game makers, but companies like Maxim & FHM, hence the FHM calendar, with nice PSP-formatted images (480 x 272) .

But Sony rested on its laurels, totally squandering all the momentum it had initially built up during the first 2 years of the PSP launch. By mid-late 2006, seeing Sony's apathy for their own product, third parties gradually jumped *OFF* the PSP bandwagon. Among many other tragedies, this meant that there was no 2007 FHM PSP calendar.

So I had to make my own. It's not quite as nice as having an FHM pre-formatted one, but it still turned out pretty good. Then after the 2007 PSP calendar, I made a 2008 PSP calendar....

And now that the history lesson is done, we're caught up. I searched my archives for some suitable images to make into calendar pages, and came across a nice calendar grid that I could cut & paste via Photoshop into my 2009 PSP calendar. What's weird is that afterward, I noticed the date I started my 2008 one is the EXACT SAME DAY-- 12/23-- that I started my 2009 one! Kinda funny.... guess that's going to be my annual tradition for 12/23?

So far I've got up to August done.

(Jan 2009 model is Tiffany Toth BTW)


Monday, December 22, 2008

Lisa Kudrow on DS

Got this weird Nintendo email recently, advertising one of their latest DS apps, Personal Trainer: Cooking. It's what it sounds like; a cooking guide for the DS. I guess there are recipes, but apparently it also tells you how to prepare the meals, it's largely hands-free (because they'll be busy cooking, 'natch) and it's also voice operated(?) Sounds pretty ambitious.

There's a site with ads for it, and a couple have Lisa Kudrow, one of them is the ad for the "game"(that's her niece with her in the ad) and this one is her talking about her history with Nintendo handhelds, specifically the Nintendo Game Boy. She said she's had one for about "15 years", then asks when they came out, implying that she's had one since around that time.

Kinda strange to hear one of the Friends talking about a DS, and the games for it. I dunno. So that's where she's been since they stopped making Friends... playing her DS.....


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

weird idea

Last night I had the weirdest dream.... I dreamt I was watching a trailer for a video game. You know HAL-9000, from the movie 2001?

And you know the movie Tron?

The trailer was for Hal vs Tron.

I have no idea how this works. I even asked that in my dream, after I watched the trailer. It was more like a teaser trailer than a full-blown trailer. It had something about HAL-9000... then we pan out through the Tron logo. It was like, what is HAL after 2001, or more approriately, the sequel, 2010? At the end of 2010, HAL is part of the spaceship Discovery, and the Discovery was consumed when Jupiter went nova. But I always got the feeling that HAL was saved & somehow fused with the alien intelligence that was behind all that 2001/2010 shennanigans.

(The last Tron game I played was Tron 2.0: Killer App for Xbox, I got it a couple xmas ago. I played the first few levels, it was ok, but I put it away for some reason. Been meaning to pick it up again. It seemed like an average FPS style platform game...)

So imagine an alien hybrid HAL, and now imagine somehow going into him, Tron-style. I'm still not sure how this all works. Hey, it was a dream after all.

It also got me thinking about other, more appropriate Tron crossovers. Like what about Tron vs Skynet, from the Terminator franchise? The Tron characters could be trying to stop Skynet from the inside, and it could be a completely different battle than the Terminators vs human stuff we've seen.

It's such a bizarre idea, and I think there are a lot of possibilities. Maybe not for a kickass game, but for a movie? A total fanboy-fanservice movie..... but you can't deny what a DAMN cool idea it is.


Socom: Fireteam Bravo

I've been playing Socom: Fireteam Bravo for PSP over the last week or so, anything to try to wash the bad taste of Patapon out of my gaming mind.... actually I kept trying to go back to Patapon, and just getting frustrated over & over again, so I had to break the cycle I was locked into.

I bought Socom: Fireteam Bravo spring(?) 2008, "new" at EB games for something like $9.69! It was during their killer sales, where I picked up a bunch of Wii & PSP games for under $10.00... for that price, I can afford to take a chance on a game I'm iffy about.

Oddly enough, uploading the boxart for this post is the first time I've really taken a good look at the box cover for this game. I know I've looked at it, but I never really looked at it closely, because I didn't realise what a CHEESY image it was! Wow. What is that?? It's like he's going, "Lookee lookee thassa big missell!! Let's go git it!! YOOOOO JOOOOOOOOE!!!!" Seriously, that is some bad game box art.

But delve into the actual game, I have to say Socom: Fireteam Bravo is not bad. It's alright. I'm not a huge fan of military shooters; I prefer sci-fi shooters rather than just army guys. But if a game is a good game, it's a good game. A really good game can surpass its genre & reach out to me even if I'm not a big fan of that genre. The Syphon Filter games are great examples of that; also military shooters, but they are great games.

Unfortunately, because of the high quality standard set by Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror/Logan's Shadow, Socom: Fireteam Bravo pales in comparison. Like I said, it's not a bad game at all. But there's more to the SF games that are in this similar genre & it's hard to help but compare the 2 game franchises when Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror kinda stomps on it in terms of gameplay and graphics.

Socom: Fireteam Bravo is a 3rd person shooter, you have a AI controlled buddy who "helps" you with missions. The missions usually consist of eliminating terrorist, securing intel, and/or rescuing/escorting hostages. This game came out the first year that the PSP was released (in North America), 2005. There are a few PSP launch titles that still stand the test of time, even today their graphics & gameplay are so good-- like Wipeout Pure & Ridge Racer. Unfortunately, while Socom: Fireteam Bravo must've been impressive back in 2005, is less so today. It doesn't look awful, but it also doesn't look that great. I have a demo for Socom: Fireteam Bravo 2 on my PSP, I loaded that up to play and it looks a LOT better than the first game. If one had a choice between Socom: Fireteam Bravo 1 or Socom: Fireteam Bravo 2, they were the same price, I'd totally recommend getting 2. I haven't played it beyond the demo, but it looks like a vast improvement in the overall polish while staying with the same core gameplay.

Beyond the graphics, it's a fairly standard shooter. Because there's no 2nd analogue nub on the PSP, moving & aiming can be cumbersome. The default control is the same as Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron: analogue nub = move, R button for strafe, L button to lock on target. I prefer putting it into freelook mode where the analogue nub controls the camera, hold down R button to move. But with that you can't really look and move at the same time. So it's a bit clunky.

Socom: Fireteam Bravo "crosstalks" with Socom 3 for the PS2. What this is is you can collect bonus info, like pick up plans for side missions that can be unlocked in Socom 3 when you hook your PSP up to your PS2, and vice-versa. This is one of the rare games that has PSP/PS2 interactivity, and it sounds pretty cool. Obviously I don't own a PS2 or Socom 3, but when you complete this crosstalk stuff, you'll get more info for upcoming missions. I noticed there were missions in Socom: Fireteam Bravo where I didn't have any map intel, and I'm guessing that if I had completed some crosstalk bonuses in Socom 3, I'd have had that extra intel for the PSP game. But it isn't necessary, and it doesn't make you feel like the game is less complete for not having the other game. It seems like a good feature that I wish more game series employed.

But then again, the only way such a feature would be useful to me is if it allowed my PSP to crosstalk with my Wii or Xbox. Like that's ever gonna happen. :::sad:::

Yeah, Socom: Fireteam Bravo is not bad. Totally worth the under $10.00 I paid. Though if I had a choice, I would've gone with Socom: Fireteam Bravo 2. If you're a core or casual military shooter fan with a PSP, it's worth picking up.

Gamespot gameplay video:


Monday, December 8, 2008

Patapon sucks

Looking over games that were sitting on my shelf, I noticed Patapon up there. It had been a long time since I played it, so I thought I would try to get back into it. But now I know why it was sitting on my shelf for so long.

Patapon is a really brilliant looking/sounding game, with an innovative gameplay mechanic-- it's both a rhythm and a real-time-strategy game. All that gets RUINED by the demand of the game for absolute machine-like precision in tapping out the drum beats.

You control these little black eyeball soldiers called Patapons, by beating drum commands in a series of 4 drum beats. To command the army to move, you beat the pata drum, [] button, and the pon drum, o button. So move is [], [], [], o. Attack is o, [], [], o. Unlike most rhythm games, there's no symbols flying down the screen telling you what to press & when to press them; you issue whatever commands you have unlocked, and it's up to you to stay on the beat.

The RTS factor comes in when you're fighting enemies, you have to plan what set of beats you're going to follow up with depending on what they're doing. If they're about to attack, you want to be sure to tap out a defend command to anticipate it. This gametrailers footage shows how your drum beats show up on screen after you tap them:

Where the game falls apart is that it's REALLY, REALLY hard to "stay on the beat", according to the games strict parameters. You could be tapping along, counting time, and suddenly it decides you messed up. You often need to tap a certain number of combos to get a FEVER mode, but it's nearly impossible to keep that up. So what happens is you fail missions over & over, until you can master the machine-like precision needed to have a chance to pass it. But then add to that you need to have planned your battle carefully, attacking & defending at the right places. One missed command can cost the entire mission, and you'll have wasted the last 10 minutes of your life. Those last 10 minutes where you had to get EVERY set of 4 beats right. Sounds like fun, doesn't it.

Patapon should be one of the shining jewels of the PSP library, it's one of the most innovative games to have come out in 2008. Instead, I feel ashamed of it, even though I had nothing to do with its creation. I feel ashamed because it's such a beautiful looking and sounding game, and the core mechanics are sound. But because it's so rigidly anal, it sucks all the fun right out of it. People who are interested in the top games of the PSP library will be told to look at Patapon, but it's so flawed it's an embarrassment. I feel like they're getting suckered if they're told it's a "must buy".


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Long cold winter for games

I can't deny it, this 2008 holiday season is pretty bad if you own a DS, Wii, and especially PSP. Basically all my systems.

The PSP new games drought is somewhat understandable; honestly the system is dying... there are going to be fewer & fewer new games coming out for it. Blame Sony's mismanagement. But there is at least 1 game that came out in Europe & Japan that I *really* want: Loco Roco 2. There's no word on when/if it'll come to North America. If they could publish it in those regions for the holiday 2008 season, *why* wouldn't they publish it here and, you know, capitalise on Xmas sales??? Logic & Sony are 2 things that just don't go together.

But the PSP situation doesn't explain: why is there almost as much a shortage of DS and Wii games, 2 of the top selling consoles??? Especially Wii! You'd think there'd be some strategically-placed, must-have KILLER APP games scheduled for Xmas. But NO. Nothing.

I'm not sure if Nintendo is just counting on selling more copies of already-released product such as Wii Fit (which they will sell tons of) or what. I have to admit, I already have Wii Fit, I've been meaning to post about it, I'll try to do that sometime....

For the DS, I really want to get Kirby Super Star Ultra, I played that recently & it seemed pretty fun.

In a way, a shortage of new release games is good & bad. Maybe not so much good, exactly, more like I can live with it... I bought a lot of games recently mostly because they were cheap, and I've been meaning to cut back for awhile. I still have a backlog of games I haven't even tried yet. I'm thinking that my Xmas is going to be about diving into some of that stash, hopefully it'll be fun. And I'm really trying to make the majority of my games purchases only at discounted prices. Under $20.00 is a sweet spot. $10.00 is usually a deal-maker for me. So there are lots of titles I'm waiting for, hoping they'll reach the sweet spot. Unfortunately, it means I can't buy a lot of games new. So hoping for new games is a bit of a moot point.

But Xmas is the one time of the year where unabashed materialism reigns-- it's all about the shiny shiny & new-- oh sure, there's all that Peace on Earth, and Good Will towards Men crap, but we all know it's all about the stuff. It's depressing that there aren't any killer-app games around this holiday season to look forward to.


Star Wars Lethal Alliance PSP

I just finished off playing through Star Wars Lethal Alliance, a PSP & DS exclusive game (obviously I played the PSP version)... I had this game for quite awhile. I originally played halfway through, got stuck at the Rancor boss battle, and put the game away forgetting about it until the last few days when I've been playing it on & off.

You play as a new character in the Star Wars universe, Rianna Saren. SHE'S NOT A JEDI. *Ahem* if you can get over that, she has blasters, and a floating-orb droid buddy named Zeeo. He's actually pretty cool-- together they can pull off acrobatic moves; she flips over him & such-- not to mention he slices (hacks) into computer systems while Rianna defends him.

The game is basically a platform/shooter, with some puzzle work, punctuated by a few turret defense missions.

I wouldn't say this game is terrible, but it's not really remarkable either. It uses the Unreal engine, and while there's nothing outright broken about it, overall it's a bit clunky. The targeting is the worst part, you use the shoulder buttons to select/switch between targets, whether those are enemies to shoot, or data ports for Zeeo to slice. The problem with this is that it never seems to target the enemies you NEED it to target, i.e. the closest enemies to you. One of Rianna's weapons is "the Thorn of Ryloth" which is a glowing dagger thing that is NOT A LIGHTSABER. It activates whenever an enemy is in close range, and is good because sometimes it can do 1 shot kills, and it doesn't have limited ammo like the guns do. But because the targeting system never seems to target the closest enemy to you (even though it says it does in the instructions) often you'll have an enemy right beside you, the Thorn of Ryloth is on, but the target is on some faraway enemy that might even be behind some crates or something. So you have to do some fancy retargeting which really becomes a pain.

There are action combos that sometimes don't seem to work even though I know I'm pressing the buttons. So overall there's a sluggishness to the game, while it doesn't make it unplayable, it could have been better.

Star Wars Lethal Alliance is not a terrible game, nor is it a super memorable game. It reminds me of mediocre linear adventure games on PS2 or Xbox. There's no real open world feel to it; you have to perform the platforming exactly as they want you to. I'm a huge Star Wars fan, and I have to admit, Rianna is super sexy, and I love the chemistry between her & Zeeo. The game has many really short levels, which is good and bad-- you go through 1 room and it considers that a level, so it asks you to save. It's good for a portable game because you may not have a lot of time on the go, so you can do a quick level & put it away for when you have another spare 5-10 mins. But it can be annoying always being asked to save that frequently. Overall the game is fairly short, 4, maybe 5 hours....

Just feels like the game was polished just enough to be considered functional, but not nearly enough to make it something special.

Star Wars Lethal Alliance trailer:


Friday, December 5, 2008

Die Videogame industry, Die! Part 2 - Videogame advertising

Part 2 of a 10 part series about why I want the video game industry to implode, causing massive layoffs & putting most devs out of business so that the industry can come back much better than it currently is.

I was going to put the sum of this post into my previous one about the Canada Plays PSP ad, but I thought I should keep each one of these Die Videogame industry, Die! posts separate. But the gist of what I said then, that video game advertising largely SUCKS, still stands. Mostly the tv ads, which must be the most costly ones for them.

Seriously, what is the MATTER with these companies (especially Sony)... Sony has a PS3 ad on tv, and it's awful. The one with the images being projected onto the sides of buildings.... it doesn't even show the PS3. Nothing about it makes me interested in a PS3, nor do I learn anything about PS3 games. It's just supposed to be "cool" imagery in and of itself I suppose....

When was the last time you saw a videogame commercial where the majority of that ad showed ACTUAL GAMEPLAY? Only the stuff that you SPEND 99% of the time seeing when you play said game? Most game ads show junk that has little/nothing to do with the game.

Think of how much money it costs to make and run these ads on tv, and how much of a waste it is. Yes, it's Microsoft/Nintendo/Sony's money, but it was OUR money before we gave it to THEM to waste on this crap rather than them putting it towards creating new IP (intellectual property, new game ideas basically)

That's just another reason why the videogame industry needs to die & be reborn, because if companies suddenly find they don't have all these big bucks to waste on useless ads that don't tell us anything, maybe they will learn to focus on the things that ACTUALLY matter in the videogame industry: making fun, compelling games.


Canada Plays PSP ad

Sony's started a new round of PSP ads, focusing on various U.S. cities; Chicago Plays PSP, L.A. Plays PSP, etc.

I've been seeing a Canadian one for the last week or so, instead of a city, it's the whole country....

In my opinion it stays pretty true to Sony's cluelessness about how to advertise their products. Basically the commercial is nothing more than dots of Canadian cities places on a map. Very generic. And the music... not my thing. To me it sounds vaguely Chinese in that bad, shrill kind-of-way. Being Chinese-Canadian, I can say that without being a racist, hehe.

But there have been a lot of people wondering who does that song & what it's called, so.... it's called Sleepyhead by Passion Pit. Their video is also on YouTube, I came across it while looking for the PSP ad.

Sony has some of the worst ads of any entertainment/video game company I've ever seen. But *ALL* 3 companies have TERRIBLE ads.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Odd PSP startup glitch

The weirdest glitch happened this morning when I started up my PSP Slim. Normally, when you turn it on, it does the music with the Sony logo, then goes right to the XMB with the wave background... I have mine set so as not to auto-start the UMD if there's one in there.

The music tone with the Sony logo came on, but then it went to a blank screen with only the wave background, no XMB icons! And the little corner circle that shows when it's loading something was running, but the UMD wasn't going, I could hear that it wasn't spinning. It just stayed like that, so eventually I held up the power switch for a long time, and the PSP did a "hard" turn off. I restarted it and it started up normally again.

In the 2+ years I've had PSPs, I don't think I've ever had that kind of error happen before. It's really strange.


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