Monday, August 31, 2009

PS3 Firmware v3.0: It Sparkles

The PlayStation 3's latest firmware (v3.00) has arrived! You can click here to check out the details of the update. Nothing too extraordinary to be frank, but I just love the new look of the swirly smoke thing in the background of the XMB. It certainly proves that everything can look super pretty if you just sprinkle a little bit of glitter on them.

The start up sequence now shows off the new PS3 logo. Rock on!

Shiny glitters. Only on the PS3.

GameFly: Loner the Renter

It's funny how a big change in one's life can drastically alter one's perception of the world. Before today, if you ask me if I would ever rent a video game, I would give you an evil stare and a growl. If you are unlucky, you would also get violently clawed, Wolverine-style. I was actually going to hit the electronic store tonight to check out some games (which usually means that I would buy something) but instead, I stayed home and signed up for a rental subscription on GameFly.

I am doing this out of curiosity more than anything else. I thought it would be interesting to at least experience how it feels to rent video games. If I don't like it, I can then cancel it at the end of the month but if I do like it, then it has to be a good thing. The only worry I have with renting is this: I will have to play the games right away and focus on those games when they arrive. This of course is contrary to my more happy-go-lucky, mood-dependent approach to playing games. I have always been the one to agree that you cannot say no to something until you at least try it... So, here we are.

Don't worry, I don't plan on discontinuing the expansion of my game library. You just don't know how excited I am about getting the total number of games I own to finally hit 2,000. That day would be an awesome day. The rentals are probably going to slow things down if I decide to keep my subscription though. I will add a "Rented Game" list under my game library to keep track of all the games I have rented. Also, just because I have rented a game, it doesn't mean that I would not want to have that game in my possession permanently - whenever I plan to purchase a game that I have previously rented, it will be marked appropriately on this "Rented Game" list.

I am a bit nervous about this whole thing but my GameFly queue has been filled with a lot of games so...Wish me luck!

Bad news: They actually charge taxes on the subscription fee. Ewww.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Loner Gamer Content Overhaul

I was looking down at my notebook earlier as I was jotting down Heroes of Newerth into today's entry when I realized that I am currently a month behind on my Daily Game Log. When I first started this feature, I used to only list the date, the games played, and sometimes some notes on the prominent things that I have done on the day in question. After a while, the Daily Game Log became a bit of a boring daily entry with little to no substance other than the fact that it serves a very personal purpose for me. Well, I know that some people get a kick out of knowing the specifics of what's going on in a person's private life but I am no celebrity. The bottom line is this - I am very curious to see the significance of all this in hindsight perhaps 10 or even 20 years from now, or longer. The thought of looking back at the list of games I played and how much time they were able to capture my attention is just surreal and exciting to me. On 08/14/2008, I decided to include a "Random Game of the Day" entry into each of my Daily Game Log. The reason for that is simple: 1) it would make the daily statistic more interesting, and 2) I want all of the games in my game library to have at least its own summary page if not a review. If you browse through my game library, you will see that if a game has been previewed, reviewed, or featured as a "Random Game of the Day", you will find them properly linked to those contents.

So I have decided to make some changes in regards to the Daily Game Log - starting immediately - so that I can still able to do the two specific things I have listed above while making the whole process more manageable for me. Bear in mind that this blog page is a solo project and making sure that I can get one random game attached to each Daily Game Log entry can be quite a burden. It also becomes difficult sometimes because there are days when I just really don't feel like playing anything extra because of the time constraints due to other matters in my personal life or I just basically don't feel like forcing myself to play a game. I love having the ability to experience whatever I want from my huge game library but it doesn't mean that I can jump into any game at any time. No, this doesn't mean that I will stop doing the "Random Game of the Day" articles, it just means that they will appear less often than before - I do plan to be consistent with them because at the end of the day, I still want all of my video games to have their own individual page. So here are the changes:

1) As I just described, the "Random Game of the Day" will be separated from the Daily Game Log. It will now be categorized as a "Feature Article". Just like before, these entries will be linked directly to the listed games on my game library page.

2) The Daily Game Log will only be posted on a weekly basis. I have decided to have it published every Monday and it will include games that were played the previous week. It will still be separated by days and perhaps it will be more interesting to see a week's worth of data instead of seeing it a day at a time.

3) I tend to get into the habit of writing other descriptions related to the games I played or other events that occurred to me into the Daily Game Log entries. Now, I will just post them separately, even if that means that you'll see brief articles on the page.

Well, that pretty much sums it up. The only question now is this: what am I going to do with the data from 07/25/2009 all the way to 08/30/2009? I'm currently playing with a couple of ideas in my head at the moment and all I can say is this: please bear with me when you see finally see the end result being posted up.

Sleepless in Newerth

Last night, I did something that I haven't done ever since the end of my World of Warcraft days - I pulled an all-nighter playing a videogame. I didn't plan on it in advance either, just kind of happened. I am not exactly in the best of moods to play any games these days and it doesn't help that I can't find anyone to play with last night. Then, I remembered about the Heroes of Newerth closed beta and that I haven't spend much time on it. As mentioned previously, the poor camera control in that game and the overall arrogant community leave a lot to be desired but I decided to just play several games just to pass the time. This was around 9pm last night... I couldn't stop playing it until 4:30 this morning. The game is very addicting, especially now that I have a favorite hero to play as - The Puppet Master! This creepy character (sorry, screenshots are still not allowed in this closed beta) can hold your opponents in place by tying their arms and legs with puppet strings: you get see your opponents trying to run away but then they get dragged back to their original spot by the elastic strings, complete with a springy sound effect - this deadly attack is so much fun to use. You can see it in action in the video below at the 1:15 mark. He can also attach a puppet to his opponents and attacking the puppet will damage the opponents even more. Love it. I will probably be playing more HoN today.

The beta testers have access to pre-ordering the game for $30. It's still unclear when this game will come out exactly but I am definitely going to pre-order it soon. If you are really curious about this game, many people who apparently do not honor the closed beta terms of services have posted gameplay videos of it on Youtube. If you want to feel less dirty though, here's the incredible debut trailer of the game for your enjoyment:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Review: The Final Destination

The Final Destination (2009)
Genre: Horror
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: David R. Ellis

Death works in such mysterious ways... Even when it comes to the progression of the Final Destination films. While the first movie was no slouch, Final Destination 2 was what made me really crazy about the whole theory of Death coming back to claim the lives of those who were lucky enough to distance themselves from massacres of catastrophic level in such gruesome ways that these individuals wished that they should have just died to begin with. The return of the director who was responsible for that sequel (alongside one of its writers) would logically ensure another successful entry for the series but instead, The Final Destination could mark the franchise's actual death. They should have named this Final Destination 4 to make things less ironic.

This time around, a young group of friends are enjoying themselves at a NASCAR racing circuit when a large accident occur on the track and later onto the spectators. A number of people who would have died were able to escape death because a premonition from a guy from the group. Later on, they are picked off one by one by the ever-invisible (as well as lazy and much bored) Death because when it's your time to go, there is nothing you can really do to stop it. Let's begin with the Director's claim that the NASCAR accident was meant to be more spectacular than the highway accident in the first movie - yeah right. The scene was so haphazard, it lacked any real impact. This first death scene becomes a clear indication of what to come for the rest of the movie: all of the deaths, save for one, are incredibly boring and they lack that sheer brutality and precision found in all previous Final Destination entries. There is hardly any exciting build up that leads to the less-shocking and less-surprising deaths. Instead, all the set pieces feel rushed, with weak punchlines that for the most part do not have any intelligent connection to what preceded them, unlike all the deaths from the previous movies. Also, you don't see a lot of the deaths, which is truly unforgivable and that ending - it is the worst ending in movie history. Period. There are some weird missed opportunities too like the sudden unwillingness to show the deaths of kids - this is after the gory death of a kid in the second movie - and this even betrays the logic that these movies are supposed to adhere to in the context of the storyline.

This is my second Real-D movie and again, the technology is excellent but unlike My Bloody Valentine 3D, this movie uses a lot of special effects and the 3D illusion actually cheapens a majority of these so I would highly suggest watching the 35mm print. After seeing this, I have decided to steer clear from Real-D when it comes to live action films because things just don't look consistently natural. The 3D definitely didn't spoil the movie but it didn't bring anything special to the occasion either. Still, it was the only exciting and relatively creative thing about the movie... And that ending... That terrible ending... I want my money back.

RATING: 1 out of 5

Here's how I rank the Final Destination movies from top to bottom:

Final Destination 2
Final Destination 3
Final Destination
The Final Destination

Thursday, August 27, 2009

X-Box 360 Price Drop

As many have expected, Microsoft announced that the X-Box 360 will also see a price drop to their line of SKUs starting this Friday. The best deal here is of course the Elite console that now shares the same price tag as the PlayStation 3 at $299.99. Not adjusting the price of the X-Box 360 would be a dumb move, especially the fact that the PlayStation 3 is technically the superior console that doubles as a Blu-ray player, not to mention the completely free online gameplay. The constant strive for domination between these two though is going to be less compelling when OnLive finally arrives later this year. If you ever wondered why Microsoft added the rate-a-game feature on Live and is suddenly clamoring for the "Games on Demand" module recently, it's because of OnLive's threat. Though still susceptible to being rendered obsolete by OnLive, at least Sony has started the whole full game download thing for quite some time now but they do need to take a more aggressive approach to it very soon.

Major Nelson seemed a bit tense during the featured video announcement.
This time I can't tell if it's the bad acting or it's simply something else.

A Midnight Revisit

Tonight, I am going to hit the midnight show of The Final Destination - and I am going to watch the digital 3D version. I can't even recall the last time I actually watched the midnight premier of a movie - perhaps it was The Devil's Rejects in 2005 but wow, that was like 4 years ago. I have always been a big fan of this franchise and I find Final Destination 2 to be the best movie in the series so far - that highway accident at the beginning has yet to be toppled by anything that comes after it. Maybe 2012 will do the trick later this year. What is very unique about number 2 that makes me love it even more is the cast of characters - instead of having just your typical teenagers and twenty-somethings, the movie includes a mom and a young boy who both meet some very painful and very nasty deaths. The Final Destination is directed by the guy who did the second movie, David R. Ellis, so I do have high hopes that it's going to be a lot fun. Now I have to go find something to do to keep myself awake until midnight...

The French poster for the movie is super cheesy.

Champions Online Open Beta

I hate it when I don't get selected for a closed beta but maybe it's a good thing when it comes to Champions Online for the Personal Computer - the game is also coming out on the X-Box 360 next year - because I have played City of Heroes/Villains before. Now that the open beta for the game is here, I thought I would give it a go just because I am now seriously thinking about playing a massively multiplayer role playing game again. I have been playing a lot of Guild Wars recently and that game has certainly become extremely addicting (with no monthly fee!) but GW's faux MMO design does get a bit tiring at times - especially its tactical but limited 8-skill slot nastiness.

Goodness gracious, I hope my hero doesn't look like the guy on the left...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Games Played 07/24/2009

Demigod - PC
Dissidia: Final Fantasy Demo - PSP
Fatal Fury Battle Archive: Volume 1 - PlayStation 2
Motor Storm: Pacific Rift - PlayStation 3
SingStar - PlayStation 3
Street Fighter IV - PC


Heavy Metal Geomatrix (2001)
Developer: Capcom Co., Ltd.
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Purchase Date: 09/21/2001

♪Moto psycho... 100 miles an hour... Moto psycho... I'm a Moto psycho!♫

Continuing a short-lived trend of making games based on western comic books after the success of Spawn: In the Demon's Hand, Capcom released Heavy Metal Geomatrix - a game that takes place in a virtual world and it combines the weapon pick-up mechanics found in Power Stone and some of the tactical aspect of the original Cyber Troopers Virtual On game. The former influence gives the game a generic feel because all the characters can use any of the available weapons scattered on the battlefield though they all start the round with their own special weapons. There are 4 teams to select from and each has 3 unique team members. The graphics look similar to Spawn: ItDH but with a smarter camera adopted from Virtual On. The game features some impressive selection of heavy metal soundtrack from bands like Megadeath, Dust to Dust, and Halford. I am not big on the heavy metal stuff but the songs here are quite catchy and they fit the fast paced battle perfectly. The game has a split screen versus and co-op mode! The latter is a lot of fun because there are not a lot of co-op 3D fighters out there and it would be great to see this being implemented in future games. There is also a "Chaosmatrix" mode , which is a timed adventure mode where you have to collect a key item and get to your goal while fighting off pursuing opponents - as the name implies, it's a bit too chaotic for its own good.

LIBRARY STATUS: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Behind and Benign

I know that I haven't posted anything over the last couple of days, which is something that doesn't happen very often for me. I am a creature of habit and I also hate being behind in anything I do. The reason for the lack of productivity is related to some relationship issues that have been accumulating over time and have really intensified over the past several weeks. Thankfully, everything is finally resolved. The bad new is that I am never going to look at the idea of love and commitment in the same light for the rest of my life. But the good news is that it is all behind me now. I have come to terms with what I have lost and what I have gained. We only live once and one has to make the best out of everything in one's life.

Coffeer - 08/24/2009 -

Friday, August 21, 2009

Review: The Last House on the Left

The Last House on the Left (2009)
Genre: Horror
Format: Blu-ray
Director: Dennis Iliadis

The idea of remaking classic movies is bad in itself - though sometimes, they do result in some truly remarkable movies - but there is one rule that filmmakers need to be aware of when they want to proceed with such attempts: never mess with the major plot elements. In that regard, The Last House on the Left simply fails in the most disastrous way imaginable. Unfortunately, since the movie's critical error is attached to a spoiler and I don't like to reveal such things in my writing, I cannot bring it to light here in this review but feel free to contact me if you would like to have an intelligent discourse about it.

The terrible trailers should have already given you enough information about the story: the daughter of a middle-age couple was hurt by a group of criminals and by chance, they happen to stay the night at the couple's home. This lead to some dull confrontations between the regular domestics against the rough and tough villains and you know that only one side will emerge victorious at the end. I have seen the original by Wes Craven and that movie is a pretty nasty bit of cinema that will leave you feeling very dirty at the end of your viewing. This remake has all the right excuse to at least make the movie as filthy as the first, or worse, but what we ended up with is actually a watered-down version that seems to be tailored towards the mainstream audience who would normally avoid watching these kind of movies in the first place. There is a bit of that "cool" factor that was used in its marketing, heavily advertising the whole vengeance theme since no one in their right mind would oppose to the vigilante justice that takes place in the movie. It's not a sign of changing times either: it is easy (and lazy) to believe that the first movie was so impactful because of how sensitive and ignorant our society was back in the 1970s when in actuality the thoughts of home invasions or losing someone very dear to you will still scare and disturb just about anyone in this modern age. This remake is scared of consequences and it is pathetic in its attempt to garner sympathy from its audience. All the display of lives lost in it are done with the intent to shock but what you do get from them are just some amateur attempts at creating the illusion of realistic violence. Well... except for one particularly nasty death.

Even if you have not seen the masterful film this is based on, you will be able to see through its mockery and failure as a bloody revenge drama. I am sure you can come up with so many other fascinating and rewarding scenarios on what to do with the bad people if you were their host in the movie. Or you can skip this junk and just watch the original movie - only do this if you want to ruin your day because that movie will take away your faith in humanity. But at least it will not make you feel like you are a part of the reason why you lose faith in humanity for wasting your valuable time on a horrible movie like this remake. The link below is for Craven's version of the movie.

RATING: 1 out of 5

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Games Played 07/23/2009


Dragon Ball Z: Idainaru Dragon Ball Densetsu (1996)
Developer: Bandai
Platform: SegaSaturn
Purchase Date: 12/26/1996

It looks like Gohan has forgotten to do his homework again.

Bandai's split screen Dragon Ball Z games are fun and unique but after repeating that design many times over, they decided to do a complete gameplay overhaul with the release of Idainaru Dragon Ball Densetsu. This game features 2D sprites on a 3D battlefields and I remember how confusing it was to play the game when I first brought it home. The player can switch between three characters on the fly and the game is all about filling up the "Power Balance" meter located at the bottom of the screen. Each successful attack against your opponent will tip the balance in your favor and once it is filled, your character would then perform a cinematic special move towards the targeted foe. The good thing here is that the fighting is hectic and the high speed melee attacks mimic the intense battle found in the anime. The bad news is that all the characters feel generic because the game's only strategy is to rush towards your opponent and connect your attack combo to fill up the Power Balance meter quickly. The game gets repetitive very quickly and the cinematic finishers get tiresome to watch because 1) you are not performing them in real time and, 2) their excessive dramatics only yielded a small portion of damage on your enemy so they feel empty and lack the devastating impact that they should all have. The game can be fun when playing against a human opponent and there are many characters you can unlock by playing the game's story mode.

LIBRARY STATUS: 3 out of 5

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Games Played 07/22/2009

SingStar - PlayStation 3
SingStar '80s - PlayStation 2
SingStar Pop - PlayStation 2
Street Fighter IV - PC


Legend of Mana (2000)
Developer: Square Co., Ltd.
Platform: PlayStation
Purchase Date: 06/09/2000

That's right, nothing is cuter than a delusional blue pelican.

If you can tolerate its slow pacing and sometimes nonsensical but nonlinear storyline structure, Legend of Mana can provide an engaging action role playing experience. You play as a rather generic male or female main character but the real story here revolves around the many supporting casts you meet in your adventure. There are many quests to complete and the branching storyline encourage multiple playthrough of the game. The real time battle system is a lot of fun and killing the enemies never feel like a chore, especially when you have the A.I. character along your side (or a second real human player if you are lucky enough to have someone to play with you). The game offers a lot of customization options for the combat as well as the layout of the world that you explore. The latter feels a bit random at first but stick with the game long enough and you will start to notice the brilliance behind it. The 2D graphics used in this game are starting to show their age now, especially the rigid animation but the fancy special effects that Square likes to use in most of their games are still pretty though. What really took me by surprise when I played this earlier today was the incredible soundtrack. I have forgotten about many of the melodic tunes found in this game and they brought back the fond memories of playing through the game in the past.

LIBRARY STATUS: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Games Played 07/21/2009


Dual Hearts (2002)
Developer: Matrix Software
Platform: PlayStation 2
Purchase Date: 10/11/2002

If you've met the sheep, you would know how extremely annoying he is.

This spiritual sequel to the PlayStation's Alundra may be light-hearted and goofy compared to its somber origin, but it's still one of the better Zelda clones out there. You play as the treasure hunter Rumble who teams up with a "Baku" named Tumble- a pig-thing dream creature of cuteness extraordinaire - on a quest to obtain the legendary Dream Stone. Just like Alundra, the game's dungeons take place in people's dreams (or nightmares depending on how to view them). The game doesn't deviate much from the proven dungeon crawling formula of any Zelda games but it does try to bring several fresh elements into the gameplay: Rumble can dual wield his weapons - take that, Link! - and these weapons can be leveled up to make them more powerful. Rumble can also team up with Tumble to perform many different maneuvers for combat and navigating through the environments. The game is quite humorous with a lot of really offbeat characters and situations and all of its silliness may not translate well to everyone. The graphics are a bit of a mixed bag - some of the dungeons look incredibly dull, complete with some really crazy color schemes that can easily hurt the eyes after a long play session. The game is a bit straight forward but there is a night and day cycle that you have to be aware of since it affects the schedule of the other characters in the game.


Review: District 9

District 9 (2009)
Genre: Sci-Fi
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Neil Blomkamp

District 9 is a frustrating movie because it has such a promising premise that unfortunately fails to deliver its full potential. It's a social commentary that may ended up being a bit too oblique and unfocused to properly deliver its underlying message to the general public. It's just one of those movies that could have been so much more but for the fear of being a commercial disaster - not to be confused with being a bad movie - it takes away quite a lot from its viewers. Oh, it also uses Peter Jackson's name like its success truly depends on it but that's what happens when you have an overzealous marketing team responsible in promoting your movie.

In District 9, a large alien spaceship has stalled above the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. An extraction team later infiltrated the floating spaceship to discover that its occupants, who are later named "prawns" because of their similarities to said crustaceans, are seriously ill. They brought these brings back on land to save them and then later confine them to one area - District 9 - to control their population as well as their immediate interactions with human beings. Two decades later, a team is sent into the area in an effort to move the aliens to a different concentration camp and this lead to an uprising that pits the humans against the prawns. The movie starts off as a "mockumentary" and this film-making style is its greatest strength. You see people from all walks of life being interviewed about the events surrounding the movie and this indirect style of storytelling is quite effective in conveying the feeling of frailty and uncertainty to how this alien contact has changed the nature of the world for everyone involved. Then, all of a sudden, the movie switches gears mid-way through as it abandons the documentary film-making for a straightforward narrative. The brooding commentary on class-separation and social injustice suddenly turns into a typical, obligatory excuse for weak government conspiracy exploration and explosive, bloody action. The tonal shift really throws me off but the movie is able to remain watchable all the way towards the end - the convincing special effects of the prawns as well as the ensuing violence have a lot to do with that.

I don't think that there is anything wrong with trying to get things exciting for the audience but District 9's method of getting there feels very cheap. As a matter of fact, I think it would be more exciting to see what happens in the end through the eyes of a person watching a news report of it from behind the camera instead of being there in the midst of all the action, without changing the major flow of the story. By knowing too much, big holes in the plot also emerge and they all have something to do with the validity of the predicament that the prawns have found themselves in being stuck on planet Earth, treated like they are of lesser beings. The movie ends with more interviews and news reports just like the ones seen at the beginning but by then, it was too late to repair the highly unimaginative mid-section of the film.

RATING: 3 out of 5

PS3 Slim

It's finally official - Sony is releasing a slimmer version of the PlayStation 3, complete with a 120 Hard Drive. From the looks of it, you may not be able to change the HDD from this version of the console - unless they were successful in hiding the opening flap for the HDD really, really well [Update Note: You can take out and change the HDD]. It is still unconfirmed whether or not this one will be backwards compatible but that would be an upgrade wouldn't it? So I really doubt that will be the case. The system is slated to hit the market on September 1st. I have always been an admirer of Sony's design aesthetics but this new PS3... is just plain ugly.

Proof that just because you're slimmer, it doesn't mean that you're more attractive.
Gosh, that sounds like a tag line from "More to Love" on Fox.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Games Played 07/20/2009


Suikoden V (2006)
Developer: Konami
Platform: PlayStation 2
Purchase Date: 03/25/2006

I was never close to my father so I really don't know which reaction would be proper.

After the disappointment of Suikoden IV, Suikoden V has got to be nothing but perfection to save the franchise from sliding down towards mediocrity. Thankfully, Suikoden V succeeded in becoming one of the best games in the genre. In this exciting role playing game, you are the prince of Falena, a matriarchy ruled country on the brink of a collapse. Soon, you are forced to abandon your beloved land by the opposing forces and it's up to you to reclaim the former glory of Falena. This brief synopsis may not seem like much but what make this adventure extremely special are the many mature-driven plot threads, ranging from political intrigues to family scandals, that unify the epic narrative and how the characters interact with each other. The game mainly focuses on the dynamics between the prince, his immediate relatives, and his loyal bodyguards. The forged relationships here are believable, touching, and constantly fascinating. You'll laugh during the funny moments and you'll shed some tears during the emotional ones. You'll feel the rage towards those who have wronged you as well as the passion to set things right while recognizing the subtle signs of love, honor, rivalry, and jealousy whenever they appear throughout the game. The battle system itself - whether you are doing one-on-one duels or large skirmishes - is very basic but with a game that is completely dependent on delivering a memorable story, the only complex thing you want to experience here is with the actual plot instead of the gameplay mechanics. Suikoden V has a very long build up at the beginning though but if you are able to play through that section, you can look forward to a highly rewarding experience during the remainder of the game. Not as good as Suikoden III, but it comes bloody close. Konami, where's our Suikoden VI for the PlayStation 3?

LIBRARY STATUS: 5 out of 5

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Games Played 07/19/2009

Battle Fantasia - X-Box 360
Demigod - PC
Raiden Fighters Aces - X-Box 360
Rhythm Heaven - NDS
SingStar - PlayStation 3


The King of Fighters '95 (1996)
Developer: SNK
Platform: SegaSaturn
Purchase Date: 06/10/1996

Yuri has no regards for the elderly.

The King of Fighters '95 is the first Saturn game that comes with an additional memory cartridge but unlike the RAM cartridges of later years, this game must be played with its own unique ROM cart. 2D fighting games released on the console prior to X-Men vs. Street Fighter were prone to excessive loading time so the ROM cartridge didn't help eliminate that problem in this game. There is even a brief loading screen between the rounds while playing a 3 vs. 3 match when a new character enters the bout. KoF '95 is the second entry into the franchise so the gameplay was still fresh when it first came out. With a big character roster and the ability to mix and match your own individual team of three, the game offers a lot of experimentation. When I picked this game up, KoF '96 was hot in the arcades so it was actually weird having to play '95 at home - the game became underwhelming and outdated rather quickly because '96 was more stylish and nicely tweaked for further character balance. The series' yearly update format doesn't work that well with home releases even though I always find myself continuously buying the later versions,,, Until now that is. Instead of releasing a new game every year, SNK Playmore should just sell an online patch to update the character roster and gameplay modes for future KoF games - perhaps that may be possible with the recently released The King of Fighters XII because of how seriously lacking that game is when it comes to the available number of characters and stages.

LIBRARY STATUS: 3 out of 5

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Games Played 07/18/2009

Legaia 2: Duel Saga - PlayStation 2
Raiden Fighters Aces - X-Box 360
SingStar - PlayStation 3
Street Fighter IV - PC


Odama (2006)
Developer: Vivarium
Platform: Nintendo GameCube
Purchase Date: 04/11/2006

Conceptually, it's a pinball game with a really insane twist.

Odama - no, not Obama... Odama! - is the most offbeat title to ever grace the North American GameCube market. It is a pinball game where you play as a Japanese army general who is using the untapped power of the Odama, a huge black ball of death to destroy your enemies (as well as your own men) and other obstructions found within the battlefield. The object of the game is to get the huge "Ninten-Bell" that is being carried by a bunch of half naked men across to an exit located at the top of screen. Since this is a game made by the same team responsible for their own oddball creation on the Sega Dreamcast called Seaman, Odama also involves a heavy amount of voice commands to be spoken into the large microphone included with the game. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you should know that I am very adventurous when it comes to the games that I play so when I heard about this game, I was highly anticipating its arrival. As strange and imaginative as this game may be - you will love how they were able to associate Nintendo's name to the origin of Bushido in the game's storyline - in the end, it's just a messy, unfocused, and quite infuriating piece of garbage. The voice commands are used to provide the direction of where your army should be moving towards but when you add the unpredictable nature of the pinball game mechanics, there is a real lack of accuracy and speed in which you can adjust to the constantly changing situation at hand. So for the most part, you'd end up killing many of your own soldiers while the Odama is ricocheting all over the screen. What could have been a crazy fun game ended up being nothing else but a crazy experiment that fails.

The microphone works great.
The same can't be said about the game.

LIBRARY STATUS: 2 out of 5

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Return of Culdcept Central

I am in a cranky mood at the moment having to deal with a relationship that is going sour faster than a 360 red ring demise. I normally can find a game or two that can calm me down and make me feel better whenever I'm feeling horrible but I really haven't been able to do that at all with this current situation. No matter what it is I do, gaming or otherwise, it just doesn't feel right. While restlessly sitting on my futon desperately trying to find something to really occupy my mind with, I randomly typed in on the internet browser - my mind was all jumbled up - and low and behold... An attractive looking site popped up instead of the grey confessional that was left behind on that site earlier this year. Apparently, the site is back with its creator, Andyman (previously Andym4n) reviving it in full force. Here's a description of his return:

It looks like he's very determined to commit to this project for the long haul. I am of course pretty excited about this because this means that the Culdcept Saga community on the X-Box 360 will flourish again. I am still being cautious about how this is going to turn out though because reading some of the forum posts, I am already seeing signs of arrogance and elitism with some of the registered users. Since Andyman had seemingly experienced rotten players in the past, the community being forged here may turn out nicely in the end but I am going to give it some time and see how things will progress. I do miss playing Culdcept Saga and I really don't have any friends who would want to play it with me. This site was revived in mid July - I have tried looking for online matches earlier this month but I haven't found anyone playing this game lately. I'm going to try again tonight but more importantly, perhaps I have found something that will get my mind off things for a little while.

Update Note: 10:31pm - Well, the online lobby is a ghost town tonight.

Review: G.I. Joe - The Rise of Cobra

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Genre: Action
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Stephen Sommers

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was on my list of movies to avoid because after seeing the trailer, I have a feeling that it would destroy the precious memories I still have of growing up watching the cartoon series. Plans do change whether you like it or not and through some twisted act of random events, I ended up sitting in the dark theater waiting for the movie to start, all the while thinking to myself, "What the heck am I doing here?" Luckily, I was nicely rewarded for my supposed "misfortune": a) the movie was actually pretty good, and b) it ended being a really, really good evening for me.

Since this is the first live action movie featuring the Joes, of course it has to spend too much of its time on properly introducing the characters to those who are not familiar with the franchise. I think that reproducing the opening sequence to the cartoon onto the big screen should have sufficed since it would explain in a nutshell that the movie is going to show how a special military force stops an evil plan of an international terrorist group. Instead, the entire length of this movie is really a background story of how the Cobra Commander comes to be so overall, it's a major disappointment in terms of the storyline. I really hate what they did to the Baroness character in this movie as well after they have actually succeeded matching her looks perfectly to the original cartoon. I do like how the movie presents many flashbacks to tell the stories of both the good guys and the bad guys and these create an emotional resonance you don't normally get from watching a summer action flick. So the story sucks as a whole but the action - oh my, the action rocks! The movie is so fast paced, there is hardly any breather between the action set pieces. The best thing about the action is that there's a lot of really violent things happening on the screen - especially when you have a character who likes to shoot people in the face - but by removing blood from any of the decapitations, explosions, et cetera, you get yourself a PG rated movie! The chase scene that takes place in Paris is a visual extravaganza and sadly, it's so over the top that not even the explosive climax can match its visceral energy.

What can I say? Stephen Sommers knows how to make his summer blockbusters. The Rise of Cobra is the best action movie I have seen this year. It may not have the strongest narrative but the action makes up for all of its missteps. If Sommers' previous works on the first two mummies are any indications, the sequel to this should be massively epic and a lot more entertaining.

RATING: 3 out of 5

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Games Played 07/17/2009

Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Rhythm Heaven - NDS
Street Fighter IV - PC
Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix - X-Box 360
Universe at War: Earth Assault - PC


Odin Sphere (2007)
Developer: Vanillaware Ltd.
Platform: PlayStation 2
Purchase Date: 05/25/2007

The gorgeous main menu features a little girl and her black cat.

If you think that polygons can forever replace the beauty of 2D sprites, this game will make you think otherwise. Odin Sphere is the most beautiful 2D game ever made - until Vanillaware's own Murasama: The Demon Blade is released this September on the Nintendo Wii that is. The characters are large and brilliantly animated and the gorgeous scrolling foreground/background parallax will make you forget the need for polygons in video games. The game is a side scrolling action role playing game with an item creation system. Fighting the regular enemies are fun but the monstrous bosses are truly a sight to behold - especially the fact that there is no pixelation in sight no matter how big things get on the screen. The game is loosely based on the Norse mythology and is filled with many compelling plot elements. There are 5 characters that you get to control and they are all unique in their play style. The game is very challenging and requires a lot of stats grinding to get yourself ahead. I don't particularly like the item creation part of the gameplay because it really slows things down but unfortunately, the player must invest a lot of time on it to be successful in the game. In an age where almost all game visuals are in 3D, Odin Sphere is a strong reminder that the art of 2D graphics has also evolved tremedously through the generations. Vanillaware has certainly found the fountain of youth for video game graphics - this game will stay beautiful forever. It's too bad that other developers are too scared to follow suit.

LIBRARY STATUS: 5 out of 5

Games Played 07/16/2009

Rhythm Heaven - NDS
Spore - PC
Street Fighter IV - PC
Thunder Force Gold Pack 1 - SegaSaturn


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
Developer: BioWare Corp.
Platform: X-Box
Purchase Date: 07/19/2003

Where's the Jedi mall? I need to buy me a light saber.

This game may be inferior in every sense compared to its most updated form - the enthralling space odyssey known as Mass Effect - but as far as Star Wars games go, it's as good as it gets. With a rich storyline more compelling than all the Star Wars movies combined, BioWare has given the franchise a higher sense of dignity and credibility than even what George Lucas could bring to it (apparently). All the locations visited are alive and filled with memorable events. All the characters are fully voiced, complete with nonsensical alien languages. At first, I thought that all the alien lines were unique but I was disappointed to find out that actually they were not. It was forgivable back then because they were so many unique English dialogues found within but in hindsight, we know now that it was just a cost saving maneuver rather than a DVD format storage issue. KOTOR is a role playing game with semi real time battles that work better than most battle systems found in a Japanese RPG. But of course, the real allure here is being able to create a powerful Jedi character and wields all the powers associated with it. Also refreshing in the genre is BioWare's insistence that the player makes important decisions constantly that will affect the flow of the narrative. Then, there is Carth Onasi who is the most well-developed character in western RPGs period - yes, it is as remarkable as some of the character depths encountered in a Suikoden game.

LIBRARY STATUS: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Games Played 07/15/2009

Night Raid - PlayStation
Rhythm Heaven - NDS
Street Fighter IV - PC
Universe at War: Earth Assault - PC


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform: X-Box
Purchase Date: 11/21/2003

Time is a very precious commodity.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a game that sets an industry standard on how to properly revive a classic franchise. Though the game has opted for 3D structure over the original's side-scrolling 2D, the core gameplay mechanics still revolve around tricky platforming and tireless exploration of massive environments. This game is certainly much better than the classic PoP and creating something that is way better than the original is no easy feat. Besides the gameplay similarity mentioned earlier, keeping the Vizier as the game's villain certainly adds more credibility to the title to those who have played the previous PoP games - as a matter of fact, the first two PoP games are actually included here as well, turning what's already a fantastic game disc into something more of a collectible item. As the subtitle suggests, the game features a prominent element of time control but it's never gimmicky because it is seamlessly implemented into the gameplay due to its heavy significance to the game's plot. This game becomes a start of something beautiful for the franchise, with continued excellence all the way up to the latest installment that was released last year.

LIBRARY STATUS: 5 out of 5

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Games Played 07/14/2009


Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves (2001)
Developer: SNK Corporation
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Purchase Date: 12/13/2001

SNK always struggle to come up with cool English names for their characters.

Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves is the most recent installment to SNK's Fatal Fury series and it is one of the best fighting games by SNK. Set many years after the death of Geese Howard, the game features a new group of brawlers with the exception of Terry Bogard. Some of these characters are relatives of past Fatal Fury games with similar moves to those predecessors. The game would have definitely been way better if SNK didn't get lazy or unimaginative with these xeroxed characters but there are many other unique characters in the game to provide a fresh sense of variety to the bouts. The characters and backgrounds are nicely animated, featuring some of SNK's finest works. The little stage introduction at the beginning of each match that has frequented previous entries is always entertaining to watch. One important addition to the game is the "T.O.P. System" - a short T.O.P. gauge must be positioned on top of your character's life bar at one of three different sections and once triggered, you gain access to additional power and special moves. The game has been recently released as a Live Arcade title on the X-Box 360 with the addition of online multiplayer. It's a must have if you are a SNK fan who missed this Dreamcast release. Let's hope that this is not be the final Fatal Fury game but I am not holding my breath because it has been a decade now since its release and SNK Playmore has been focusing too much of their efforts on the King of Fighters series.

LIBRARY STATUS: 5 out of 5

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Game Alert!

I love 2D platform games, so I have had my eyes on The Legendary Starfy since its debut in early June. Then, I saw the game's official Trailer on YouTube...

Oh... My... Galaxy! ***Faint***

What can I say? Super screen-filling boss battles - especially the giant squid kind - make me weak in the knees. That video viewing happened yesterday and today, I have the game.

Contrary to what you would expect, Starfy the starfish lives in the sky.

Friday, August 7, 2009

X-Box 360 Update Preview Updated

I got a huge patch when I jumped on my X-Box 360 earlier this evening. I thought that maybe they were rolling out the cool or the lame Facebook features for testing in addition to the stuff I got on Tuesday but unfortunately, it was just the X-Box 360 title additions to the Games for Demand service on the X-Box Live Marketplace. 9 "Greatest Hits" games can be found there as you can see from the screenshot below. Looks like we are getting closer and closer to the day when all games are going to be sold only digitally online. The real question here is this - when will Microsoft be releasing a 500 GB HDD for the console and how expensive will it be?

What's with the old games? Throw something new in there too... Like Fallout 3.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Purchase Decision

With the Personal Computer demo for Batman: Arkham Asylum finally being released today, I was finally able to play all 3 versions of the game's demo. The PC version is definitely the clear winner here: $10 cheaper than the console versions while presenting graphics that are two times more beautiful than what the consoles could ever produce, thanks to its pristine full 1080p native resolution support and its higher resolution textures. With the demo, I set all the graphical settings to maximum with no anti-aliasing and everything was running flawlessly. On the consoles' side, the game looks a bit sharper on the PlayStation 3 than the X-Box 360 but overall, they are on par with each other. Both of them are unfortunately stuck at 720p (upscaled to 1080p on the X-Box 360) so they have a slightly blurry presentation compared to the PC version. This game will be Live-enabled on the PC so if you are an achievement or trophy whore, you can still indulge in your addiction to unlock them so feel free to abandon the console versions for the obtained graphical superiority. All the screenshots shown here are taken during my play session with the PC version.

Your perfect Batman, complete with manly stubble.

Arkham Asylum is a very cleverly made game with a sole purpose of fully satisfying all the Batman fans out there. For starters, it's going to be packed-full of super-villains alongside Joker and Harley Quinn because the whole game takes place inside Arkham Asylum itself. What a logical (and easier) way to bring all the characters you have known and love from the Batman universe into one game! In the beginning, you see Batman taking the Joker back to the Arkham Asylum where he belongs but soon after, the Joker is able to get free while entrapping everyone else within the high-security prison walls. So it is up to the caped crusader to stop the Joker and his diabolical plan while having to battle the denizens of the asylum.

This may hurt a little.

Arkham Asylum is a third person action adventure game with simplified but fun combat and a bit of stealth action. Batman can use a "detective mode" vision where you can see pass solid walls to survey your surroundings and recognize areas of opportunities. The game's graphics are spectacular, from the beefy character models courtesy of the Unreal Engine to the moody environments and everything is runny silky smooth. Batman himself looks authentic and is modeled after his more modern, darker interpretation - and the trademark cape moves as naturally as it should. It's not the best Batman game from what I have played so far - that title still belongs to Sunsoft's Batman on the NES - but it is probably the best one in recent memories. This is a very promising demo. The final product shouldn't stray too far from its excellence, one would hope. The game is set for release on the 25th for both consoles and on September 15th for the PC. Wait for the PC version if you have a gaming rig that can properly run this game.

Why so serious, Batman? It's only a game.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Games Played 07/13/2009

BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger - PlayStation 3
Demigod - PC
Guilty Gear X2 # Reload: The Midnight Carnival - X-Box
Raiden III - PlayStation 2
Raiden Fighters Aces - X-Box 360


Crash Bandicoot (1996)
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation
Purchase Date: 1997

Crash is a bandicoot? Looks more like a dog to me.

Yes, I know it looks horrible but I did purchase the "Greatest Hits" version of the game. I didn't pick up a PlayStation until 1997 and before then, I pretty much just stick with the SegaSaturn. This first Crash game is average at best but what made it significant when it first came out was its successful implementation of solid 3D graphics in a platform game. The character animations are smooth but the design of Crash's character really leaves a lot to be desired: I am still baffled that during Crash's early years, many actually elevated him to the same star status of Sonic and Mario. By just looking at him, you know immediately that he's dumb, smelly, and has zero charisma. Thankfully, it is fun to control the nincompoop as he jumps over gaps, spins into enemies, and collects wumpa fruits. The platforming can get very tricky and I appreciate that the game tries to mostly adhere to old-school 2D gameplay. This first game is the hardest of all the Crash games I have played but it is also the least inspired because things get a bit too repetitive quickly. Unlike Mario games and the older Sonic titles, there is no reason to play through the game again once you have completed it because the whole experience is rather generic and uneventful.

LIBRARY STATUS: 3 out of 5

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Genre: Drama
Format: Blu-ray
Director: David Fincher

It's a plain simple fact: David Fincher just can do no wrong. No matter what genre he tackles, the results are always mesmerizing. Yes, this means I am one of the few people who actually enjoyed Alien 3 - I always get a "boo" whenever I make that statement. For all of its soft tenderness, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a very dark movie that explores the notion of life and death in a very... peculiar manner.

The story follows the life of said Benjamin Button who was born at the end of World War I. Born as an old man (or a hideous old-looking baby), he was soon abandoned at an elderly care residence. How ironic is that? We then follow his journey growing up in the opposite direction of the significant people in his life. Just like everyone else though, he gained knowledge about life through tough lessons learned from love, loss, and everything in between but the reversed aging process made him prone to some genuinely confusing situations while providing him an acute sense of observation and understanding. The movie contains many masterful segments that focus specifically on certain life situations and characters but the message is as consistent as it is blatantly clear: nothing is permanent in this world - even if you turn back time.

Brad Pitt, who plays the title character, and Cate Blanchett, who plays his lover, both did an incredible job playing their roles and the special effect works that transform the two of them into younger/older versions of themselves are terrific. The movie gets increasingly sadder as it moves closer and closer towards its eventual end. Though logic is not really the film's most flattering asset, you never question the authenticity of the feelings that it is able to invoke because it really doesn't matter how you twist or turn it, death is imminent. Every day in our lives, we reach out for the glimpse of happiness that's within our reach and we hold on to it as long as we can. Young or old, male or female, rich or poor, life has always been a lonely journey but it's worth exploring for the many curious things that it has in store for us.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

X-Box 360 Update Preview Program

I was very surprised tonight when I received a big update when I logged on to X-Box Live from my X-Box 360. This update turned out to be the Update Preview Program that I signed up for last Friday. During the application process, it was specifically stated that an email would be sent to me if I was accepted into the program but I haven't received anything from Microsoft as of yet - not that I am complaining, as long as I get to preview these new features that would be rolled out to all X-Box 360 owners on August 11th. I am not going to list all the little additions that came with this update but I am going over the more prominent items instead.

The biggest addition here is the ability to purchase items for your avatar. There are a nice selection of things available, including toys that your avatar can play with but there is no way I am going to spend any money on avatar items. There is now a tab for special avatar items that are unlocked from playing a game but of course, we have to wait until this feature is implemented via patches or in new software. The other big addition is the ability to watch Netflix movies with your friends. This is a feature that I will not be using at all because I watch my Netflix stream from my gaming Personal Computer that's hooked up to my high definition display. I do want to test it out a couple of times though just to see what it's all about. Another significant update here is the year indicator that is now attached to your gamertag - mine is showing "6", signifying the 6 years I have been on X-Box Live: I was actually a beta tester for the X-Box Live service long before its eventual launch in November of 2002. Here are some screenshots from the update:

The teaser period is over.
You want new avatar items? You better be ready to pay for them.

Sorry, I rather use my console to only play games unless it can' be helped:
Hint, hint - Blu-ray on the PlayStation 3.

Now the community gets to rate all the games on the Marketplace.
The overall rating for Ikaruga shocked me. I thought it would average a 1.

Games Played 07/12/2009

Demigod - PC
Raiden Fighters Aces - X-Box 360
Rhythm Heaven - NDS
Rune Factory: Frontier - Wii
Savage 2:A Tortured Soul - PC


24: The Game (2006)
Developer: SCEE Cambridge Studio
Platform: PlayStation 2
Purchase Date: 04/29/2006

Michelle, send in the medic now! They cut off my pretty fingers!

While I am not a devout follower of this highly popular Fox TV series, I have seen my share of 24. I mean, you can't help but indulge in a little bit of counter-terrorism action every now and then to make you feel better about the current state of the world you live in. The game was definitely an impulse buy for me and what really convinced me to pick it up on that fateful day was the developer: SCEE Cambridge Studio. There was no doubt in my mind that for its bargain price, I was going to experience some hot Jack Bauer action. That is not necessarily the case unfortunately. It's astonishing that the same people who brought us Ghosthunter and Primal - two beautiful titles that showcase the technical prowess of the PlayStation 2 - are capable of such mediocrity. 24's graphics are poor with muddy textures and strange looking character models. I know that these guys can do better judging from their two previous games mentioned earlier and the only explanation to this atrocity is that maybe they were rushed to release the game. But that is not a good excuse when the result is this bad. The game is faithful to its source material with a lot of the show's trademark timer and split screens popping up everywhere in the game - even during gameplay, how brilliant is that? The problem is that the action is very generic - be it the third person shooter or the puzzle solving sections - and the game is incredibly easy. The storyline takes place between Season 2 and Season 3 and it is quite good. Fans of the show will no doubt forgive the game's simplicity over the complex narrative. Just think of this as a more demanding interactive movie to have a decent time with it but you must have a strong stomach to endure the horrendous graphics.

LIBRARY STATUS: 2 out of 5