Saturday, April 30, 2011

Does My Video Gaming Turn You On?

A boring Saturday leads to a strange questionnaire I made specifically for my significant other in regards to me and my video gaming hobby The questions were printed on a piece of paper but it didn't take too long for my significant other to answered all of them and returned it back to me. I suppose the simplistic one word answer should be pretty telling:

1) How do you see me in regards to being a gamer?
"Not sure."

2) Do you think video games get in the way of our relationship?

3) Do you miss me when I am playing my games?

4) Do you believe me when I say that I love you more than I love my video games?

5) Do you ever wish that I am not a gamer?

6) Explain the reason(s) why you don't like watching me play my games?
"Boring and I don't understand them sometimes."

7) What kind of games do you think I like to play the most?
"The ones you like."

8) Most importantly, does my video gaming turn you on?
"Just you being somewhere else."

Nothing too surprising here with the exception of answer number 4. That last question was a silly one of course but apparently my humor didn't come through for me. This is a really fascinating insight into our gamer/non-gamer relationship and I have never laid these questions out so specifically before. We sat down and talked after I read through these answers to make sure that everything is really alright and it is. I am glad to be in a relationship with someone who is very understanding of my hobby and I have to make sure that it stays that way. I guess I should make plan to watch these last remaining Oprah shows with my significant other to further raise my likability rating. Then again, maybe not.

Friday, April 29, 2011

You Want a Blade with That Mount?

With the upcoming new release of the third entry for the series, Steam is currently offering discounted prices for all of the Mount & Blade games and I have decided to induct the Warband standalone expansion into my Game Library. Warband is an action role playing game and I am sure that you can guess from the title that there is an emphasis on battling your opponents while you are mounted on a horse. The game has a really open ended campaign and it also has some good multiplayer options. I will be spending more of my time playing the campaign and getting lost in the game's medieval era world. Compared to the original, the game looks slightly better but with a game like this, the focus is its solid gameplay than anything else. You know they always say - war is an ugly thing. Well, Warband definitely carries that sentiment rather well.

The game has some fancy lighting and water effects but the character models are questionable.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Wedding Invades X-Box LIVE

So remind me again why tomorrow's marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton needs to be celebrated by everyone worldwide? It is bad enough that the media is having a frenzy over the whole thing but imagine my shock when I noticed that the LIVE service on the X-Box 360 has been infected by the fever:

There is a special section dedicated to the royal couple for your perusal.

Microsoft seems to be putting a lot of efforts in encouraging its users to celebrate this uh, special occasion including selling avatar items inspired by the upcoming event. Sure, the marriage is probably a very special day for these two lovebirds but does it carry a significance other than that? No. Does this marriage bring peace and justice to the entire world where everyone is equal and the idea of birth-given privileges and classes amongst humans is abolished? No. Will this marriage grant the basic human rights that everybody deserves but don't have when they are unfortunate enough to live in countries that deny them those rights? No. Is this marriage any more special than the marriages of those people that you actually know and interact with on a daily basis? No. So why the heck is this thing being treated like it's the best thing that could ever grace our planet and more importantly, why is this thing even on X-Box LIVE to begin with?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Random Gaming Star: Murdra!

This new feature will appear whenever I encounter a startling, memorable character in the games that I play. The characters don't have to bear any significant impact on the games as long as they are able to make a positive and/or a negative impression on me. Also, bear in mind that I have never been a fan of spoilers so those things will be kept to a minimum. Enjoy!

Case File #1 - ArcaniA: Gothic 4 (Personal Computer)

The first time her name is uttered, it sounded like the person was talking about a "murderer" but then when you meet Murdra for the first time, well, she does indeed look like a murderer! Then, she starts speaking and you can immediately tell that she is one bossy bit%#, a characteristic that should be pretty obvious because she is the tavern owner type. Sure, the men around here may fancy the "fisherwomen" living not too far away from Murdra's tavern but at least Murdra knows that she will not be trifled with because of her seemingly superior disposition, even though the lack of intimacy does push her into the realm of unsanitary hygiene since she never washes after herself and her arms are drenched in what looks to be spattered blood that could originate from the chicken she slaughtered or the men she tried to seduce.

STAR POWER: 4 out of 5

Exercising Love & Hate: A Yf Story

I have been using Yourself!Fitness on the X-Box for a month and a half now and even though I have been very good with keeping up with my Maya appointments, things have been a bit interesting because of my chaotic console switching when using the program. On Monday of last week, I decided to use Yourself!Fitness on the X-Box 360 - it is a backward-compatible title - because I hate having to adjust the clock on my original X-Box every time I booted up the system to start up my workout program. I had to do that because I would unplug the power adapter after each session since it would get very hot and I don't want to waste energy on a system that I hardly ever use. I have done this console switch a long time ago and I ended up going back to the original X-Box so I really don't know why I even bothered this time around. I guess messing around with the system clock on the original X-Box was just too much for me. Yourself!Fitness relies on the system internal clock to allow Maya to track the consistency of your workout and on the 360, the program sometimes cannot tell the time and it would think that you are 12 hours or 24 hours ahead. Thus, I have been scolded by Maya for supposedly "missing" workout sessions that I didn't skip and that can get a bit discouraging sometimes. So now, I have decided to use the original X-Box again that is missing 2 weeks worth of important data from my 360 sessions but if that means that I don't have to worry anymore about the time displacements, so be it.

The source of all that hassle.

The good news here is that even with the weird situation mentioned above, I am getting positive results from the sessions between the two consoles. The actual weight loss is really slow but thankfully, I can see the changes when I look at myself in the mirror. My face is definitely looking thinner and there are areas of loose skin around my waist where the fat has melted off. The real test when it comes to these things however is the reactions of others in regards to the change and I finally got one those - this morning, my significant other told me that my body felt different. That should keep me going for a long time to come. I just have to remember to keep the darn disc inside my original X-Box.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Clearly I Don't Need LIVE Gold?

It's almost 2 months now since I deactivated my X-Box LIVE Gold subscription and I am nowhere close to subscribing to it again. I do however want to play some online Super Street Fighter IV - why did I get the X-Box 360 version again? Oh, the graphics - but that will be remedied once Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition hits the Personal Computer later this year. There was one moment several weeks ago when I almost did resubscribe to that darn LIVE Gold because I found a local gamer - whom I met via a gaming forum - and before I decide to hang out with anybody in the real, I sure want to play with him or her online first to get to know that person better. I wasn't able to do that however and I explained to him that I just unsubscribe to the service but I may get back on it in the future (a little white lie?) to keep the connection alive since I don't have any local gaming friends at all and the guy only plays on the 360. Since we are not playing any games online and that I hardly ever log-on to LIVE these days, the interaction has been kept to a minimum with us sending a message or two to each other every so often. This morning, I decided to visit the X-Box website to reply to a message he sent me last night that I didn't get a chance to reply back to and then I saw something horrible:

Is that why the Message Center banner is gold-colored?

Apparently, without X-Box LIVE Gold, you can't send messages to others using the website. I just found this to be too ironic because I can play online games for free using LIVE on the PC. No Microsoft, I will not pay for a subscription just to get the privilege of using the Message Center to send messages to people when I can just quickly launch Fallout 3 and sign in to LIVE from there. Hopefully, 360 gamers will realize one day that online gaming should be a free service - we have paid more than enough for the hardware and the software, people - and that Microsoft should loosen things up on the console like they did with the more savvy PC community.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Games Played 04/18/2011 - 04/24/2011

- 04/18/2011 -
Borderlands - PC
Phantasy Star Portable - PSP

- 04/19/2011 -
Grand Theft Auto IV - PC

- 04/20/2011 -
Split/Second - PC

- 04/21/2011 -
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - PC
Split/Second - PC

- 04/22/2011 -
Axelay - Wii
Contra III: The Alien Wars - Wii

- 04/23/2011 -

- 04/24/2011 -
Bulletstorm Demo - PC

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Oh No! PSN Down?

I wanted to play some online Dynasty Warriors 7 on the PlayStation 3 this morning when I was greeted by the message of "PlayStation Network is currently undergoing maintenance." At first, I thought that there was something wrong with my wi-fi connection but after testing my other devices, I decided to check the official website for an answer to this sudden interruption in service. Apparently, it has been down since the 20th and the latest official update from yesterday seems to indicate that it will not be back up anytime soon:

What was that bit about "additional security"?

I am not upset that the PSN is down because well, it's a free service and blunders such as this one is excusable, as long as none of my personal information gets leaked to some hackers because if that was the case, Sony would have to give some heavy compensation to all who were affected. I am sure that those who actually paid for that ridiculous "pay to get rewarded" scam of a subscription program (aka PlayStation Plus) are certainly feeling some sort of regret right now but I am sure that they will get some sweet band-aid reward when the service is back up... But then again, since people actually pay to get nothing from Sony, why would Sony want to give them something unless they pay more? So I am thinking that the PlayStation Plus users will probably be offered some discounts on all of the PSN Store items when everything is back online. That way, Sony will get more money and everyone will be happy!

Update Note: 04/27/2011 - Personal data was compromised. This is turning out to be quite a terrible event for Sony and especially, for us PSN users. This is made worse by the fact that Sony cared about themselves first instead of their customers by withholding the possibility of personal data loss instead of taking that precaution from day one of the security breach.

Next Generation Already?

Just recently, discussions about the impending arrival of the Nintendo Wii's successor have flooded the Internet. In the past, I would get really excited about these kind of news but these days, my reaction to such things is less enthusiastic since I have gone through the new consoles cycle so many times before and that I am just happy with the state of things as they are. Sure, I always support progress and improvements both in the video gaming industry and in the way we humans live our lives but in regards to the former, is it truly necessary for us to keep buying new consoles every 5 years or so?

The one thing that can be worrisome about the arrival of a new console is its backwards compatibility functionality. We know that these consoles may not last a lifetime and to have continual support for them in the form of a functional new pieces of hardware should be deemed necessary. Supposedly, this upcoming new Nintendo console will be capable of playing all the Wii titles... But what about the Nintendo GameCube titles? Why can't newer consoles have the ability to play games from all of the company's previous console iterations - Nintendo had done this before with the original Nintendo DS. Shouldn't we as gamers be compensated for our undying loyalty to the console makers with the ability to play old games on our new consoles? This is the reason why I favor gaming on the Personal Computer more these days: Though it can be painful to keep up with the latest gaming rig requirements - which is really not the case anymore these days - you know that your previous investments will always be secured despite some minor operating system compatibility setbacks where eventual solutions may be just around the corner.

I really do wish that the current generation consoles would last another 5 years but that is not going to happen now. So the next Nintendo console may be able to output games at 1080p, well that's good but one thing that a lot of people seem to have forgotten is that the the art style of a game, and not necessarily the technology behind it, that is the predominant factor in making a game look beautiful forever. Isn't gameplay the most important part to video gaming? Remember, it was the ambition of 3D graphics that brought the ultimate demise of Sonic the Hedgehog because Sega forgot that new graphics capabilities are there to enhance only the visual aspect of a game, not alter the actual gameplay design. Can video games be more amazing-looking in the future? Of course they will and I am interested to see them looking better and better but at what cost? The console gaming industry should really be focusing on software innovation because you know that even in a future when gaming consoles can reach infinite graphical possibilities, there will always be developers who like to cut corners and make poor looking games. Since only a small fraction of games made utilizes the full potential of a console, it is easy to argue that producing a more powerful console for the consumers is not a necessity, but a mere luxury. Sadly, I don't think that this pattern will change for the better anytime soon - Though there is really no official announcement yet from Nintendo about their new console, the heavy rumors and the "information leaks" (two backhanded methods to gauge the response from potential buyers) are indicative that it is truly coming... So bring on the next generation consoles then.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Creepiest. Bunny. Ever.

Forget that bunny costume from the Silent Hill games and take a look at the new promotional banner from Direct2Drive. I have been checking up on their website on a daily basis to catch their "30 Days of Deal$" discounts. To celebrate Easter, Direct2Drive is currently offering a 25% discount on any order $19.99 and up, which is of course, rather sweet... unlike the horrific, highly disturbing images used to convey the message that it:

Twin bunnies from hell...

The tagline for the promotion threatens you to "Buy now or the bunny gets it." To be honest, I rather see this bunny get destroyed immediately, never to be seen again by anyone for the rest of eternity. So they really can't find a cute Easter bunny picture to use? I mean just look at those evil eyes, the violent smile, the colorful bow-tie/vest, and the murderous arms reaching out to grab your neck. You know there's something wrong with that bunny. I have a feeling that I will be having nightmares when I sleep tonight.

Just Getting Used to Runeterra?

I don't plan on making this a habit but I have unlocked another fancy skin for League of Legends. This is the third time I have done this but to be honest, for all the great satisfaction I am consistently getting from playing the game since more than a year ago, the amount of cash I have given Riot Games is definitely insignificant compared to me purchasing just one major release on any platform. The champion of choice this time is dangerous however - Cassiopeia: The Serpent's Embrace. I have played her on and off in the past, and I really like her set of skills that focus on poison damage over time spells and the potential for spamming damage but she is one of those champions that a lot of people don't seem to enjoy so much. I often get harassed heavily when I pick Cassiopeia and I am not talking about the team not having a balanced line-up, but the reasoning behind it is more in line of her being "a waste of Influence Points" and that she is "worthless". I never had a terrible performance playing her but then again, these things don't have anything to do about personal performances because there are people out there who think that only their champion selections are the only valid picks everyone should be making. Cassiopeia has two really interesting looking alternate skins and since one is one sale, I just couldn't resist! Her "Desperada" skin is definitely better looking than the ones I have unlocked before for Nidalee and Karma. The whole rattlesnake cowgirl thing is just... disturbingly sexy.

She got a lot of poison but she's less vemomous than a negative teammate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Steam + PSN Marriage?

I was about to log into my Steam account this morning when I saw an option to log in using my PlayStation Network account. Clicking on that link revealed the following explanation  pop-up:

The portal technology is so powerful apparently that it could connect two gaming platforms.

I haven't been following up closely on Portal 2 at all so after a bit of research, I was surprised to find out that Valve is providing cross-platform support between only the PlayStation 3 and the Personal Computer/Mac versions. More importantly, the PS3 version comes with a free copy of the PC/Mac version! It is quite intriguing to see this set-up, especially the fact that Steam offers cross-game voice chat functionality, not to mention the new in-game cross-platform chat, so just imagine if every PS3 game opted to include this feature in the future. Well, maybe Valve just wants to entice PS3 gamers to turn to the dark side and play exclusively on the PC but whatever the reason behind this odd coupling may be, it has the potential to turn into something big if both Valve and Sony really work hard on the relationship from here on out. I am not surprised at all to see that the X-Box 360 version doesn't have the Steam connectivity because if the 360 community could see how grossly superior the free Steam service is compared to Live Gold,  Microsoft could possibly lose a lot of money and of course they would never allow that to happen. Ever.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

L.G. Gets Carded

My new graphics card, the Nvidia GTX 460 by EVGA, has arrived today. After installing it, I was very surprised to discover that the card actually has a high definition audio support alongside the video HDMI output. My receiver has problems passing through HD video signal from my computer - I have to connect it straight to my display - so I am not able to use the high definition audio feature at this time: It would be great to be able to do so to eliminate the need for my Creative sound card and open up some space on the motherboard.

The card has a lifetime guarantee. You really can't beat that.

The one thing that impresses me the most about this new graphics card is its cool temperature. It stays at the mid-40 degrees Celsius idle and the upper-60s/lower-70s at full load. My 9800 GTX ran hot at 65+ idle and it would hit the upper 70s at full load. I haven't forced games after games on the new card yet to check for performance gains  because I want to take things slow and just see the difference once I actually get to them but I did play a little bit of Grand Theft Auto IV and the game can now run with high resolution textures and all the graphics options set to maximum except for view distance (still able to get it to an impressive 80% visibility however versus 40% before). I am very happy with this little upgrade to my PC and I am confident that the card is going to stay competitive for a good amount of time as far as gaming configuration goes.

A fancy looking sticker was included in the package. Could have been more specific though.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Games Played 04/11/2011 - 04/17/2011

- 04/11/2011 -
Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition - PC
Mafia II - PC
Phantasy Star 0 - NDS
Sacred Gold - PC
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - PC

- 04/12/2011 -
Phantasy Star 0 - NDS
Sudeki - X-Box

- 04/13/2011 -
Magicka - PC
Phantasy Star 0 - NDS
Samurai Shodown Anthology - PlayStation 2
World Heroes Anthology - PlayStation 2

- 04/14/2011 -
Phantasy Star 0 - NDS
Ridge Racer - PSP

- 04/15/2011 -
Phantasy Star Portable - PSP
Ridge Racer - PSP

- 04/16/2011 -
Borderlands - PC
Phantasy Star Portable - PSP

- 04/17/2011 -
Phantasy Star Portable - PSP

Sunday, April 17, 2011

PC Upgrade in the Works

So it has been close to 3 years since I upgraded my Personal Computer setup. I am so glad that the PC gaming has slowed down somewhat when it comes to the progression of its graphical technology because for the majority of the time, I have been ahead of the curve but things are definitely a changing. Some of the newer upcoming games have listed my current video card, the GeForce 9800 GTX, as the minimum GPU requirement and seeing things like that do worry me to a degree. The thing is here of course is that I must upgrade to Windows 7 soon to really take advantage of DirectX 10 but when it comes to my PC operating system, I am in a situation where I am going to be able to get the upgrade for free because of my line of work. Things are a bit slow when it comes to that obviously because if not, I would have had Windows 7 right now. I suppose that I can always get the darn thing myself but saving cash is important of course.

The only two elements to my PC build that I feel is necessary to be upgraded at the moment are the OS and the graphics card. So I am going to go ahead and start with the latter. I was hoping that my 9800 GTX would last me about five years. To be honest, it probably would still perform greatly for the next couple of years but the newer games are getting a bit more demanding and you know me, I love maxing out the graphics option. The replacement card that I have decided on is Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460with its 1GB GDDR5 memory and DirectX 11 compatibility. I have placed an order for it and it should be arriving my way soon. I am really looking forward to having it empower my PC graphics while I wait a little longer for my eventual Windows 7 adoption.

Hello there sexy...

My Second Fancy LoL Skin!

After I received the "bonus" League of Legends Riot Points several days ago, I haven't had the chance to unlock a fancy skin for one of my champions until today! My first fancy skin was for Nidalee and the champion of choice this time is Karma. I have been testing her out since yesterday and she is a very interesting champion with great defensive and offensive abilities. She is no Janna but she does have a really nice alternate outfit. My X-Box 360 avatar is an obvious indication that I love Kimonos so there shouldn't be a surprise that I have unlocked the following skin for Karma.

The Classic skin to the left and my new "Sakura Karma" to the right. Isn't she beautiful?

Say No to the Asparabus

While a majority of the Sundays in my life are reserved for some hot and heavy gaming action, a good number of them are utilized to support my significant other's interests such as a visit to the "Asparagus Festival". After saying no to it for a number of years, I have decided to go this time around so earlier today, we embarked on a journey to Stockton, California to see why people actually want to celebrate this delicious vegetable that makes for the most memorable next urination cycle. Once we got there, we were both quite surprised that the festival didn't really capitalize on showcasing asparagus. There was a bizarre asparagus-inspired circus show - a really creepy tale of photosynthesis and how asparagus came to be - and there were some asparagus being served at the official stalls but those were pretty much it. The rest of the festival was comprised of the usual cornucopia of your typical carnival variety. We did have a good time however and my significant other seemed to be very satisfied with the outing and of course, that is all that matters.

I don't fancy the heat but it was a beautiful day to be out and about.

L.G. the biker?

The asparagus and chicken burrito was... interesting.

They are pretty fanatical about their asparagus around here apparently.

The live band was very entertaining.

Well, I wouldn't go that far...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Steam's Strange Portal 2 Event

The official release date for the highly anticipated Portal 2 that will be available across all major platforms is April 19th, which is about 3 days from now. Valve however has made things quite interesting for PC owners - playing 13 indie games on Steam will shorten the wait time of the release! They are doing this to boost sales for these games that are currently discounted under "The Potato Sack" offering. There is a bar attached to each game, apparently attached to some arbitrary number of hours needed to fill it completely. There are also indications of the number of "CPUs" that are running these applications though I doubt that the data is presented in real time because I tried playing one of the games earlier and I didn't see the number of CPU going up to include mine. The concept behind this is really cool however, since the activity is symbolic of everyone helping to "reboot Glados". Will the community be able to get Portal 2 released for the PC days before its release date? We will know soon enough.

Only 2 of the 13 games have met their computing power quotas so far.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: Scream 4

Scream 4 (2011)
Genre: Horror
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Wes Craven

Ah, the Scream trilogy... I have so many fond memories from them. The second being the best while the third was good but it was somewhat of a disappointment, ensuring the end of what could have probably been a never ending list of sequels. But what is this? 11 years after the last movie, here we are again with a brand new Scream movie still being directed by Wes Craven but now complete with Kevin Williamson doing the screenplay. Being a fan of the first three, I was of course very excited by the prospect. The reality of the situation however ended up being less promising than it should have been.

Sydney Prescott, the heroine from the first three films decided to return to Woodsboro to launch her new book. Of course she just had to do this during the anniversary date of the original Woodsboro murders. Soon, people started to die left and right by a killer wearing the "Ghostface" mask so Sydney, alongside Gale and the still goofy but less charming Dewey found themselves at the epicenter of the murderous rampage. The movie started off really strong but the rest of the film lacks the frenetic energy found in the previous entries. The set pieces for the murders were not even remotely creative and even though somewhere in the self-reflexive dialogues between the characters an implication was made about the desensitization of violence via movies like the Saw franchise, Scream 4 could have benefited from a nastier, more menacing presentation of horror. To make things a little more depressing, the movie within the movie moments in the form of the Stab films - movies based on the Woodsboro murders that existed in the Scream universe -  were actually a lot more fun the actual Scream 4 movie. With two more Scream movies supposedly going to be made after this disappointing return, perhaps they should just scrap off that plan and make an actual Stab movie instead since Craven seemed to have the most fun with the Stab scenes.

Though the movie took a rather creative approach with the identity of the person responsible for the killings during this go-round, the speech that followed where the killer explained the motives for the murders was just too elaborate and long, killing off whatever excitement that got generated from the reveal. Scream 4 is just filled with so many potentials, especially after having access to 10 years worth of horror conventions to poke fun with. Instead, the film itself became a bad joke because it is in itself, a strange kind of remake of a franchise that doesn't really require one. Instead of keeping its own identity of a smart but brutal horror movie, it lost both as the script was lackluster and the killings just seemed desperate. The attractive cast from the previous films may still look the same as they did before but Scream 4 has significantly aged the franchise and it just cannot keep up with the times. Mr. Craven, 4 is enough. Please, no more sequels! Especially when the result is this poor.

RATING: 2 out of 5

Review: Shiki

Because of my video gaming habits, I don't sit down to watch broadcast television from a very young age. These days, I do try to find television shows to watch from digital venues such as Netflix, Hulu, and other official stream channels. I fail to see the allure watching scheduled shows - do people really still do that? I imagine that people would sit down with their family at night watching recorded shows so that they could skip through commercial breaks. Maybe not. Live shows? They are overrated me I am afraid - these things should happen on my time schedule. Since I don't watch football, I tend to spend my time playing video games on Super Bowl Sunday. Every so often in my quest to watch something passively instead of playing video games I would encounter incredible television shows that I would have regretted not seeing if I focus solely on one hobby. Shiki is one of those shows. This 22-episode anime series that was originally aired in Japan in 2010 is being streamed for free by its American distributor Funimation. You can check out the awesome stream by clicking here.

Shiki tells a story of a secluded Japanese village that is being plagued by an ever increasing number of mysterious deaths. The local doctor is unable to find the cause of the problem as the body counts continue to rise. Mostly inhabited by simple-minded people, a majority of them comprised of old folks, only a few suspected that the new family that has just moved in to a remote sector on the village where a western-style mansion was recently built had something to do with the entire thing. As you may suspect from the plot, this is a tale of vampiric-nature but even with its adherence to the established rules involving these bloodsuckers, the way the story is told is quite refreshing and the characters, both the humans and the undead are deeply fascinating.

There are so many characters in the show and how the quickly the scenes move from one to the other, not to mention the never ending changes in time and place, can be a bit too much at the beginning but the reason for this will be quite evident at the later stages of the story and by then, you will be used to their faces and names. Shiki takes its time to build up but from the beginning, it is obvious that the story will be a somber, dark one. There is that theme of helplessness and seclusion, as exemplified by the symbolic location of the village and the inner demons of the main characters. The only thing that didn't work out so well for me was the subplot of a Junior Monk who is trying to discover himself through a novel that he is writing. The monk ends up being one of the most important characters in the tale but he is also the weakest characterization of the bunch. Be warned that the show is filled with deaths around each corner and before everything is settled in the end, you have to go through a heavily emotional and extremely unforgiving climax. There is an interesting morality play to Shiki involving the idea of the hunter and the hunted as well as its role reversal. Is there truly a valid justification to murder when life has always been about survival of the fittest in all of its aspect? Whether its the human losing a life or an undead losing its own forever, the aftertaste will always be a bitter one.

Shiki is definitely one of the best anime series I have seen thus far with my two top favorites being Boogiepop Phantom and Death Note. Despite the unnatural hair shapes and colors infused into the art style, there is an incredible level of maturity to the storyline and the show really plays out its ideas to the fullest, never for a single episode deviating from its sordid roots. Shiki's potent combination of drama and horror is an experience that I will never forget. It is also another brilliant showcase from Japan that animation can certainly do a lot more than what live action can bring to the table. Watch Shiki now before they stop streaming it.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Thursday, April 14, 2011

PSP More

The recent faceplate change I did for my PlayStation Portable and the addition of its 100th game are actually part of an evil plan that I have to encourage myself to spend more time with the system. When it comes to all of my current generation gaming systems, the PSP is unfortunately the least played - followed by the Nintendo Wii. I really want to change all that however and try to consistently spend some quality time with all of them. The scarred face on my PSP was definitely a turn-off whenever I jumped on it in the past but that has been addressed. To make the PSP even more attractive, I picked up a 8GB memory stick pro duo for it. I used a 1GB stick before and there's hardly any room left on it, especially when playing games that allow for some data to be downloaded directly onto the stick to assist with loading time. I have to keep transferring data between my PSP and my PC - though I like being able to do this, it does get annoying whenever I want to play a new game and I have to clear some space on the stick. 8GB should be enough for me to play with and now I should even be able to keep several full length digital download games in my PSP at a time. There are so many games on the system that I have yet to complete and now, I am ready to return to them... in serious style!

It's time to get back into some premium PSP gaming.

Randomly Playing Crash Nitro Kart

Crash Nitro Kart (2003)
Platform: X-Box
Induction Date: 2004

Crash's oblivious nature is charming but I rather play as his sister Coco.

After being abandoned by its creator, Naughty Dog, Crash Bandicoot's rise to stardom via his first two games for the PlayStation quickly diminished into nothingness. That didn't stop Crash's adopted developers to abuse the license and cash in on what was left of his popularity. Thankfully, Crash Nitro Kart is one of the better games that came out of this. This Diddy Kong Racing clone features a plethora of racing options which include the traditional lap race as well as several fun battle modes. There is even an adventure mode as well where you can select between Crash and his friends or Neo Cortex and his lackeys who were all kidnapped by an alien race and forced into a racing tournament. The actual racing itself is responsive and there are a variety of weapons to pick up on the tracks. The impact of these weapons really lacks visual oomph however when a racer gets hit by them. The stylish simplicity of the graphics looks great and the game is one of those lucky X-Box titles that got a 720p treatment. There is a consistency problem with this however since the clarity of the visuals is marred by low resolution 2D overlays. The computer opponents are pretty fair to race against and it is the player that is actually a bit broken - there is a "Team Power-Up Meter" that you can fill up by racing close to your teammate and when the gauge is full, you can spam power-ups constantly for a good amount of time. This almost always guarantees a win providing that you don't get hit by weaponry or fall off the track while performing this deadly move. Overall, Crash Nitro Kart may not present a lot of originality but it is definitely a lovable kart game even if you don't know who the heck Crash is.

LIBRARY STATUS: 4 out of 5

Getting Paid to Play a Free Game?

As you may have known by now, League of Legends for the Personal Computer is an absolutely free-to-play game - the only game advertised as "free-to-play" I know that has no hidden payment requirement whatsoever to get the full, complete experience of playing it. Well, the game's server has been problematic recently with horribly long log-in queues. Mind you that this is a free game and even though stability issues for the game are infrequent, Riot Games apparently felt compelled to reward those who were affected by the recent server problems with about $3 worth of Riot Points! Riot Points can be purchased in the game to enable players to buy champions and stat-modifiers quicker (these things can be unlocked by simply playing the game via Influence Points gain) or get alternate skins for the champions. I am definitely will be using it for the latter because these skins can only be purchased via RP - note that alternate skins do not affect the gameplay balance whatsoever and are there merely for cosmetic variety. My additional RP has already been registered into my account and I cannot wait to use it soon. Pessimists may argue that this move is a ploy to encourage players to spend at the store because you can't get too much from the low value of the RP but if you think about it, Riot didn't have to do this at all and a lot of people will still spend money at the store. To me, this is another example of how Riot really wants to make a name for themselves when it comes to their public relations. Still in the dark when it comes to LoL? Every PC gamer should take the time to at least check it out not only because it will not cost them a single dime, but because it is also a very, very good game! Sign up for your free summoner's account by clicking here and start playing the game today!

They aim to please.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Missed Inductions

Since Wednesday of last week, I have been steadily increasing the size of my Game Library thanks to some irresistible sales I found on Amazon, Direct2Drive, and Steam. I am normally pretty diligent when it comes to posting these inductions onto this site so I am not really sure why I haven't done so with these last batch of games. The main reason why I would announce their inductions to begin with is to make it easier for me to monitor the amount of new games I get on a monthly basis. I have a separate Excel sheet with all the information but it's easier to just look at the monthly tab on this site instead of trying to locate these games between the data sheets categorized by systems.

Someone is angry.

Wednesday, 04/06/2011 - Yakuza 3 for the PlayStation 3, an action game from Sega involving the seedy Japanese underworld of criminals and thugs. I really liked the first game on the PlayStation 2 and to this day, I still regretted not picking up Yakuza 2 when I saw it being sold at my local retail stores for $19.99 because I had the current generation games prioritized over it. Since Yakuza 3 is a direct continuation of that the last game, I am going to give myself a some time to find a decent copy of the sequel before I started playing this game.

Oh you know that it's going to be bloody!

Thursday, 04/07/2011 - Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition for the Personal Computer. It is basically a football game with a much smaller, simplified playing field but with a fantasy-world twist. One may expect this to be a high action sports game but it is actually a turn-based strategy game. The teams are comprised of races like orcs, vampires, mummies, dark elves, and many more. I am not big with sports games but the less realistic they are, the more attractive they become to me.

I haven't installed the second half of this package yet.

Saturday, 04/09/2011 - Grand Theft Auto IV: The Complete Edition for the Personal Computer. I already have the main game on the X-Box 360 but I couldn't say no to having the game again plus the two expansions for the game, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, for under $10. The game is such a resource hog however but I was able to run it nicely at 1920 x 1080 with a decent enough graphical setting. I booted up the 360 version to do a quick comparison and I was shocked to see what a yucky blurry mess that version was. There is no way I can play the game again on the 360 and I cannot wait to make the game a lot more beautiful when I upgrade my PC sometime in the future.

Will there be blood?

Monday, 04/10/2011 - Mafia II for the Personal Computer. There is a sweepstakes right now at Steam that provides its users the chance to win the entire catalogue of 2K Games titles. The contest requires the users however to own at least one of the discounted games being offered throughout this week and since there were a couple of people who insisted to me in the past that Mafia II is a great game, I decided to finally give it a go since it's helping me in my cause. It seems to be another Grand Theft Auto clone but at least it runs a lot better than GTAIV - I just hope that it will be at least as exciting.

A broken bridge is no big deal for a wizard like me.

Today, 04/13/2011 - Magicka Complete Pack for the Personal Computer as well as Samurai Shodown Anthology and World Heroes Anthology for the PlayStation 2. The last time I got a game for the PS2 was in April of last year and with these two, the system now has 464 titles available to me! Magicka is a action adventure game that can be played with 3 other players online. The main feature of the game is the spell combination mechanics where you must select different elements to create the spells you want to unleash. As for the two anthologies for the PS2, I already have a majority of the Samurai Shodown games on both my SegaSaturn and my import PS2 - I was only missing 2 but now I have all of them and more importantly, they are all presiding in one disc. I played a little bit of World Heroes Anthology earlier and found out that the first 3 games are quite terrible as charming as they are but the fourth one, World Heroes Perfect, is rather good. I remember being in the arcades at a young age eyeing the World Heroes games but I was too scared to try them out because they looked harder than Street Fighter II for some reason.

One of these two is a lot more refined than the other.

*By the way, writing all of these in one go is not fun at all.

Monday, April 11, 2011

March 2011 Gaming Analysis

The results shown below are of course based on the combined data from the Daily Game Log which should provide a clear indication of a game's usage frequency. Bear in mind that even if a game is played twice or more during a particular day, it would still register as 1 in the Day Count column below. In a sense, "merits" are given based on how often a particular game can make me play it again throughout the entire period of the month on a daily basis. A game that makes a gamer play it over and over again or at least spend a lot of time with it... Isn't that what we mostly want from a great game? I don't think it's really fair to count all the way down to the number of hours played since some games only require a short amount of time to properly serve their purposes.


Total Games Played: 31

Close... So very close: League of Legends for the Personal Computer was almost played for every single day of the month. It looks like I missed playing it on March 24th - I only ended up playing two games that day - and looking at my posted article for that day, I now remember what had happened. I was on the verge of finishing up Dragon Age: Origins and even though I still had time to play LoL after I was done, the incredible conclusion to Origins convinced me to continue playing its Awakening expansion that night.

Speaking of Origins, naturally the game took the slot for the second played game for last month. I have stopped playing the Awakening expansion however after I encountered a travelling companion from the main game. I didn't like how the game was merely using her as a ganeric quest-giver and nothing else and that left me a bit disappointed. I do have the interest in seeing the game through but that will have to wait for now. I am not worried about getting back to the game after a long break because I have done exactly that with the main game.

The third most played game last month was Pokémon: Soulsilver Version for the Nintendo DS. With the latest entry, Black/White Version released last month, I was reminded that I haven't even completed Soulsilver ever since I got it in April of last year! Oh, the danger of a continually expanding Game Library. It's really hard to continue to play this game however, especially after seeing how great the latest game looks - I absolutely love the new Pokémon animation during the battle scenes - but I am definitely going to hold off on getting Black/White until I have put many, many hours into Soulsilver.

Best New Game of the Month:

Unexpectedly Forgotten New Game of the Month:
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution (Personal Computer)

I Missed You, I Want You Game of the Month:
Yakuza 4 (PlayStation 3)

Games Played 04/04/2011 - 04/10/2011

- 04/04/2011 -
King's Bounty: Armored Princess - PC

- 04/05/2011 -
Dynasty Warriors 7 - PlayStation 3
Moon Diver - PlayStation 3

- 04/06/2011 -
Sonic Advance 3 - GBA

- 04/07/2011 -

- 04/08/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max - PSP
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 04/09/2011 -
King's Bounty: Armored Princess - PC
League of Legends - PC
The Sims: Medieval - PC

- 04/10/2011 -
Custom Robo Arena - NDS
Grand Theft Auto IV - PC/X-Box 360
League of Legends - PC
Phantasy Star O - NDS
The Sims: Medieval - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Not as Medieval as the License

As a longtime fan of The Sims, I was happy when Electronic Arts first announced the release of The Sims: Medieval for the Personal Computer because things are definitely starting to get a little stale with the series. Though I have no doubt that the series could get more innovative with the 4th proper installment since The Sims 3 was a huge improvement from the first two games, at least on the PC version that is mind you, a little deviation from the norm is always a welcomed gesture. Now that Medieval is here, what I originally expected to be Sims-lite is actually shaping up to best Sims game thus far.

Gathering herbs for cooking and crafting.

Medieval is basically The Sims set in a fantasy kingdom milieu. Instead of a bunch of random families in a modern neighborhood, you take control of hero-type characters like a monarch, a wizard, and a bard to name a few. Though the ability to build your homes from the scratch is gone, you still get full access to creating your own unique sims as well as the freedom to do the interior decorating. The game definitely feels somewhat simplified compared to The Sims 3, especially the fact that you only have to worry about maintaining the sims' hunger and fatigue level but this is a welcomed change for the game because managing the bathroom time in the previous games had never been all that fun. The kingdom is presented as a fully explorable open world and the transition between it and the places where the sims dwell is seamless.

Soul-steal just because you can!

Medieval is objective-based and you must complete quests to progress through the game. The characters get to level up like in a role playing game and they can be equipped with weapons. The game has that kingdom-simulation feel to it and the more you play the game, the more developed your kingdom will be. If you like the open-ended gameplay of the main Sims games, don't worry because it exists here as well. Though you must eventually complete the main tasks given to you, what you do before you get there is entirely up to you so you can walk around the kingdom, interact with other sims, and commit mischief to your heart's content. I have only unlocked two character types so far and completed two quests but I took my sweet time getting them done: I was having too much fun hooking up my monarch with one of the castle attendants only to have him ditch his fiance for my wizard character. Fun stuff. Fans of the series should not ignore this title - Medieval feels fresh and new. I hope they will release expansions for this one.


Friday, April 8, 2011

PSP: A Facial Reconstruction

Last year, an unfortunate accident had left my PlayStation Portable with a scarred face. With the addition of the 100th title for the PSP, at first, I thought of upgrading my launch system to the PSP 3000 model. But then I started looking for other alternatives aside from sending it back to Sony to be fixed. I was able to find a cheap solution: a faceplate replacement I found on Amazon. Uncertain about the result, I still decided to try it out and thus the PSP surgery commences:

Before: Three deep scratches on the top right hand side of the screen.

The new faceplate.

In surgery: Don't worry, the PSP was in deep anesthesia.

After: No more distracting scratches obscuring my view. Hurray!

The new faceplate was very easy to install though there were some tricky parts to it like transferring the buttons underneath the screen that actually laid out as a long strip behind the faceplate. There were only a total of six small screws that had to be removed and resecured and while the PSP was "naked", I took the opportunity to blow off a small amount of dust that had settled on top of the actual LCD using an air duster. I am happy to see the result but things didn't end up as perfectly as I would like it to be. The last screw couldn't tighten the top right hand corner of the handheld completely, which may have been caused by a slight misalignment of the screw hole. I can't fix it now because for some reason, the head of the screw got completely busted when I tried to unscrew it even though I was using a properly-sized screwdriver to do the job. The screw must not have been sturdy enough since it was rather small. I may have to find some time to meddle with it in the future but for now, screw it! My PSP now looks pretty again and that should count for something.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Back on a Healthy Groove

After many, many months (maybe even years) of procrastination, I have finally found myself on an exercise routine. It is hard to get back into it for sure - daily habits, especially ones that require a bit of mental fortitude do take some time to develop. Since I have not missed a single one of my scheduled exercising time slots over the past two weeks, I must say that I am well on my way here. I know that I have gained some unhealthy weight over the past few years so the main reason for me to do this is to maintain a healthy lifestyle as well as denying my significant other a "chubby-gamer" husband as a bonus. My program of choice? Yourself!Fitness for the X-Box - you can read my review here where I praised the software to no end. I really tried to incorporate Eye Toy: Kinetic for the PlayStation 2 into my life as you may have noticed it being listed in my Daily Game Log several times this year but the problems with body detection and lighting were so annoying and they made me feel like I don't want to exercise instead of encouraging otherwise.

I really don't care what my weight is as long as I can get rid of the little belly bulge.

It has only been 2 weeks but I am already seeing the results of my workouts, mostly around the waist. I suppose I have to thank those grueling cardio sessions that made me curse and cry. Since I work out in the early morning, I am a bit more energetic now during the day. The one thing I haven't noticed yet is the appetite change. While I was using this program many years ago, with the physical changes came the alteration in my food consumption as well. I look forward to the time when eating a small meal would satiate my hunger. Having survive the past few weeks, I know that I am really sticking with the program. Perhaps what I need to do now is play Dance Central for the X-Box 360 in the evening to help speed up the result. Wii Fit? No thank you. Expect Yourself!Fitness to occupy the top three list of the Monthly Gaming Analysis from now on.