So, hey, this is awesome

I never actually expected to get anything out of it, but some awesome guy out there by the name of Logan actually sent me some money to repair my Xbox. I kind of sort of know Logan from a community we're a part of, but I never thought we knew each other well enough for an exchange like this - which just makes him all the more awesome for it, if you ask me. Big thumbs up to him.

Problem is, I lost the guy from Microsoft's phone number and now he's not returning my emails. I've emailed him like three times in the last couple of weeks trying to get this sorted out so I can repair my Xbox, but he's basically ignoring me. Thanks a lot, Glenn from Microsoft. This certainly makes me feel better about my "Xbox Experience".

Castle Crashers is bugging out for me, now. I got up to Flower Field and it's not letting me continue. Whenever I start the level, the game complains that I've disconnected my HDD and I will be sent back to the Dashboard. Obviously, I haven't, and I can play any other level before Flower Field just fine. No other games complain about this, either, and I've even re-downloaded Castle Crashers to try and clear it up (to no avail, obviously). Behemoth says they're working on a patch, but who knows how long that could take. Microsoft Certification is a long, tough road, apparently.

I'm on the final level of Bionic Commando: Re-Armed. I wussed out and played the game on easy mode, and up until now, I was considering going through on normal difficulty because the game has been almost too easy. The last level, though, is where the difficulty spikes really hardcore and the thought of doing the final area of the final level without the safety net easy mode provides is not something I plan on doing. Disappearing platform sections are the reason why I've never been able to tolerate NES MegaMan games, and Bionic Commando's final section is basically one big maze of disappearing platforms. I don't even know if I can force myself through it on easy mode - we'll see.

Judging by mIRC, the one-year anniversary of my old PC going kaput happened a couple days ago (it says I've been using mIRC, unregistered, for 367 days). How fitting, then, that finally all the pieces are in place to get my new motherboard in. I wonder what's going to go wrong this time? Hopefully very little - last year's installation was a pretty big learning experience for me, and I know how to do this properly, now. I've got a stack of 35 DVDs by my side with the plans of backing up everything I've accumulated on this HDD - all my UT2004 mods, my San Andreas mods and save files, the Oblivion mods, my music, the games I am working on... etc. Still, doing the hardware swapping part of all this is what makes me nervous; changing the processor is the worst of it, as it's something I've never done before and I really, really don't want to screw it up. Would be nice if Ashuku could come down and help me again, but he's busy moving in to a new Apartment. Hasn't even been on Instant Message for the last three days. I think he's tried to call here a few times, but he never leaves a message on my answering machine, and I screen all my calls.

I got a new game a couple days ago, new, of course, being a relative term. I didn't pay a dime for its purchase, so don't hate me or anything - but it was Shadow the Hedgehog. I've been curious about this game for a long time, and after playing the first level, all my curiosity had been quenched. It's no doubt really obvious, but this is not a very good game. I knew this going in, but I at least wanted to see what the game was like. Rubbing salt in to the wound, I got the Playstation 2 version. SonicTeam never really liked the PS2, you see, so PS2 ports of their games are considerably worse than, say, the Gamecube versions. What this boils down to is the game runs at 15-30fps most of the time. The game is sort of frustratingly awful in some ways, because you play only as Shadow, you see. In most other Sonic games, the cast of characters is so large and each character represents a different gameplay class that most levels in 3D Sonic games are really generic, because gameplay variety is represented in the number of characters you play as. In Shadow, you only ever play as the one character (Shadow himself), so a lot of the levels end up having a lot of really unique gimmicks. They are packed with tons of different things to do, and the three-way-battle between Eggman's robots, the Black aliens, and the Military really make up for quite a large variety of enemies you fight. Unfortunately, the game feels really muddy and blurry, the animation is considerably worse than you normally get in most Sonic games, and the controls can be likened to steering a nitrous-oxide fueled tank - Shadow accelerates with incredible speed and stops on a dime, but steering him left and right is remarkably sluggish. It is, without a doubt, a 3D Sonic game: You can see parts where they get stuff right, but they are far outweighed by the stuff they got wrong.

I think... that's all I have to say, yep.

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Wow, that was a big letdown. I just played the demo. Controls are way too slippery and the trick variety leaves a lot to be desired. Your bike just doesn't feel very nimble.

And I was so excited, too.

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The Dreamcast is Still Thinking


Happy Birthday, Dreamcast ol' girl. Quoth the Youtube:

Whew. "I know, I'll just do a short video for the Dreamcast's anniversary, it won't take long."

Ten hours later, here we are. A special thanks to the nullDC emulator, which allowed me to record all this Dreamcast footage. I didn't get all the games I wanted in here, but I got all I had time for. I had planned on SA1 and House of the Dead 2, at least, but, well, too bad.

I also realize I got lazy with parts of it (timing is weird - blame Windows Movie Maker; it looked fine before I rendered it. Should've used Vegas or something), but, well, 10 hours of work. On one video. Get over it.

Games, in no particular order:

Sonic Adventure 2
Jet Set Radio (Jet Grind Radio)
Crazy Taxi
Soul Calibur
Phantasy Star Online
Chu Chu Rocket
Marvel vs. Capcom 2

The song, by the way, is "Everybody Jump Around" from Jet Set Radio.
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Make it STINKY!

So remember how I said I didn't want to even think about reviews for a while? I lied. Sort of. I started writing a blog about my experience with playing American McGee's Grimm, but about halfway through writing the blog, it dawned on me that it sounded an awful lot like a review. So, uh, that's basically what it ended up becoming. I didn't plan on writing a review for it, and to tell you the truth, I only just stopped playing the game maybe an hour ago. I finished the first episode and watched a few more episodes on Youtube and I guess it's just the sort of game that sparks an immediate opinion.

So, read up.

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Fried Brains

I was going to say, "this has been a long week", when, in fact, it has been a long month. It seems like whenever I breathe a sigh of relief something new crops up . It started with two or three days of hardcore, deep cleaning on the house. You know, that sort of yearly clean everybody calls spring cleaning? Around here, it's summer cleaning. You wake up, start cleaning, and 24 hours later you pass out to what is hopefully a much tidier house.

Once that was over with, I had to go in to crazy crunch mode to get the newest demo of my Sonic game out there. That was three weeks with very little time to stop and catch my breath. Very little leisurely activity. Ask Ashuku! We normally sit on GoogleTalk all night and play Counter-Strike: Source or something. In three weeks, I think we played two games of CS:S.

Once my demo was done, I had to dive head first in to TSSZ's (the site I work for) news coverage of a Sonic community event called SAGE. In five days, I wrote 7 full-length reviews and 15 mini reviews, for a grand total of 22 reviews. From a guy who normally writes one review every four months (if that).

As perhaps a grand finale, I just spent 7 hours being dragged around the mall shopping for various tomfoolery (the mall being something I visit maybe once per year). My feet have been destroyed. None of this is stuff that is bad on its own, but when compacted in to a month with no time to catch my breath, I just really want to kick back and relax and not do anything for a week.

Unfortunately, I have a brand new motherboard staring me down, which is its own long, drawn out song and dance involving backing up tons of data, finding a Windows XP Home Disc, and crossing my fingers. Out of all the components in a computer you add/replace, changing the motherboard is probably one that makes me the most nervous, because it's basically everything else that makes me nervous all wrapped in to one. Removing every component and then plugging it all in on a new board. The processor makes me especially nervous. Most people don't get a chance to see me when I'm doing computer maintenance, but even simple acts like switching a HDD make me sweat bullets. It feels sort of like defusing a bomb.

In other, more belated news, Microsoft contacted me about my Xbox console a few weeks ago. I don't know if it was because I complained to somebody high up or if Microsoft simply goes around the internet reading blogs from people who have tech support issues (apparently Comcast does this and a few other companies are doing it, too) but essentially it went as I expected: Pay them some cash to get the old girl repaired. They offered me a discount, which was cool of them, but the last $50 I had went to buying my new motherboard. So unless another $50 magically falls in my lap, my Xbox 360 is going to remain borderline worthless for a long, long time, and the discount they offered me is only available for a limited amount of time (and, c'mon, if I can't afford the discount, there's no way I can afford it at full price).

On the plus side, Bionic Commando: Re-Armed is one of the few games that doesn't freeze the system. Being my first time through Bionic Commando, I am loving it quite a bit.  Might be the next game I review, though right now, like a man who is eaten too much food and then sees a commercial for Burger King, reviews are the last thing I want on my mind right now. I hope Castle Crashers (available later tonight) works. The number of games that work vs. the number of games that don't work, and their reasons for working/not working puzzle me.

Alone in the Dark (Demo) works. GTA4 doesn't work. Wall-E (Demo) doesn't even get through the menu to start the game before freezing. Sonic 2006 works. Crackdown (Demo) doesn't work. Soul Calibur XBLA doesn't work (same as Wall-E). Spider-Man 2 (Backwards Compatibility) won't even boot. Too Human (Demo) doesn't work. Lego Indiana Jones (Demo) works. Geometry Wars 2 and Braid work. It's not a problem with the HDD, as I've removed the HDD and GTA4 still freezes. Can't be the disc drive because demos and XBLA games freeze. It's just the Xbox 360 is a piece of crap, has been a piece of crap since day one, and it needs to red ring so I can get it repaired for free.

Oh well, I guess that's about all I need to say. If you will excuse me, I am going to go curl up in front of the TV for a bit.

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What am I playing this weekend?

Nothing, probably. I need to buy a new motherboard soon, I need to keep working on my game so I don't miss my new deadline (the 16th), I need to get ready for SAGE as I am supposed to be covering the event for the website I work for. Not to mention Microsoft wants to talk to me about my "Xbox Experience" (which reminds me, I need to respond to that email after I write this blog). And then there's simple house chores stuff like mowing the lawn.

Busy weekend and very little of it will be spent playing games. What I do play will probably be whatever is on my old laptop - so Sega Genesis emulators, etc. Usually when I cannot access this PC (it gets too hot and the motherboard starts shorting out and giving me blue screens) I get on my laptop and do whatever stuff I can to pass the time until about 11pm or so when it cools off enough to get back on the main PC. I've been lucky in that the past two days have been fairly rainy and cool, giving me lots of extra time to work on my game - but the heat is supposed to be returning as early as today. So yeah, I expect I'll be going back to Sonic 3 & Knuckles sometime soon - or maybe Mega Man X4. Pretty good PC port, that one. Runs very well on my 266mhz laptop. Maybe start up an RPG. Tried to get in to Crusader of Centy a few days ago to no avail. But I guess that's no more an RPG than Zelda's an RPG - but let's not get in to that argument here. Started a new game on Earthbound on this PC a few months ago, may try and go for that one on the laptop.

There is also my monstrous backlog; Zelda: Twilight Princess, Resident Evil 4, Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Shadow of the Colossus, Metroid Prime 2, Kingdom Hearts... all of those need to be finished, but I never feel like playing any of them and I don't know why. Most of them feel like I have to sit down and invest too much time in them. I seem to be drifting away from the "sit down for a few hours and play something" and gravitating more towards "sit down for a few minutes and play something".

Maybe an RPG isn't such a good idea after all.

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Goin' Digital

Those Digital TV converter boxes suck. I got one last night because the TV in my room still uses antenna.

It's like, okay, every channel is crystal clear. That's cool. There are channels I can now watch that I could not watch before because the picture was too fuzzy. Like, now, I guess I could watch Saturday Morning Cartoons on KidsWB or whatever if I the mood struck me.  

But... if you've ever had DirecTV or something, you know that when there's a bad storm, how the signal will sometimes break up? The sound will start cutting out, you'll get nasty artifacts all over the screen, etc.? On channels that don't come through so well on this Digital Converter Box, that's what you get.

What sucks is that there are some channels on analog that while a little snowy are still watchable - but they are rendered totally unviewable through Digital. Either they show up as NO SIGNAL or they break up so much that you can't even tell what's going on. The tiniest bit of interference seems to completely destroy a channel, and because of the way it breaks up, it's hard to tell when moving an antenna if it's getting better or getting worse.

Also weird: Channels now have Sub Channels, so there's like, Channel 9, and then Channel 9-2. Channel 9 is our local NBC Affiliate, but Channel 9-2 is 24/7 news and weather from the Channel 9 news team.

I don't know if I like this new Digital TV thing.

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