Today I stumbled on YouTube's Most Viewed Videos of All Time page on my iPad and my heart sank. Charlie bit my finger? Hahaha (I'm not laughing, that's the name of a video)? Tootin bathtub baby cousins? Pregnancy booster clomid? Potter puppet pals?
Why? Just tell me why?! As a society, is this it? Is this our pinnacle? Because if a minute-long clip of a baby biting the finger of a slightly larger baby can get 300 million views, I fear for us all...
I... I just don't sometimes...
In Other News
I started RDR again. It's been almost a full year since the last time I've touched it and man, I forgot how great it was. This time I'm spending a lot more time doing sidequests and generally just exploring the surroundings. Some of the stranger quests are truly excellent (like that one where you meet the guy in the suit on a cliff and he acts like he knows you) and I'm having a blast looking for buried treasure. I'm amazed at how much detail there is in the world once you start paying attention.
I can't wait to wrap it up properly this time (damn ending credits got me good last time) and then jump into Undead Nightmare.
I usually have a 20-minute walk to campus every day. I dislike bringing my laptop since it's too heavy/bulky and the battery goes out quick. Also I need to take a shitload of notes at lectures and I always find myself wanting to google things the professors mention (or check out whats happening on GB). Therefore I figured an iPad would be a perfect medium for my needs so I decided to get one today.
Since my small college town doesn't have an Apple store, I decided to swing back to my hometown this weekend and get an iPad 2 there (and see my dog... oh and the parents). It has a healthy variety of consumer electronic stores along with a brand new Apple store so I figured it wouldn't be a problem to find one.
Man was I wrong.
The Apple store has been out of stock since Wednesday (and apparently there are lines of 50+ people every morning waiting for a new shipment to arrive). Best Buy has been dry for weeks. Same for Target. The guy at Walmart just laughed in my face. Most of the others stores I visited don't even carry them.
Fine. I'll just go buy one online. A can wait a few days for shipping. Wrong!
Even the ever-dependable Amazon let me down. :(
It's like the fates are against me. I haven't seen a company create artificial demand like this since the Wii came out and frankly it's disgusting. Makes me not want to buy one at all...
The Silver Lining
Since I spent all day running around the stores I managed to get my hands on a 3DS demo kiosk. Now, I realize it's already out but I haven't been too hot on Nintendo handhelds since the GBA, so I haven't exactly kept track of the thing. Honestly, I am shocked at how well the 3D works! I only played a few minutes of Pilot Wings, but it was impressive. Not only the 3D but also the power of the hardware itself and the solid construction of the device.
As someone who is thoroughly unimpressed by Sony's push of 3D TVs and that crap the movie theaters are serving to keep people coming back (and charge them $5 extra), I can actually see a future for the 3DS tech. Now, I'm not going to run out and buy one right now, but I can certainly see a possible purchase down the road when the game lineup isn't crap. If anything, it changed my opinion from "Oh great! Another shitty gimmick like the DS" to "This is pretty damn neat."
After 30-something hours in less than 3 days and only a handful of hours of sleep, I finally finished DA2. Talk about a crazy week... also I probably failed one of my classes as a result but let's not talk about that right now.
To say I was hyped for DA2 would be an understatement. I put in a little over 280 hours throughout all my playthroughs of Origins and the DLC. I even made a "Master Save" right before the game came out that took me 108 hours (Origins + Awakening + Liliana's Song + Golems + Witch Hunt). I've read through all the Codex entries at least twice and I've sexed Morrigan many, many, many times.
With that said, it took me 48 hours and 50-something minutes to finish DA2 (along with a 90% or so quest completion grade). Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about the length. 49 hours is more than enough for an RPG in my book. Hell, I'm happy Bioware learned a lesson and cut down from some of the more tedious dungeons in Origins (I'm looking at you Fade/Mage Tower and Deep Roads!). My biggest complain is that it was the same fucking cave, the same fucking warehouse, the same back alley, the same mansion and the same sewer over and over and over again. This blatant copy/pasting really started to drag around the middle of Act 2. Also the constantly spawning enemies were pushing it. Every time I killed a wave, 5 new guys would jump from a roof or something. By the end of the game I must have slaughtered so many goddamn people that anything the Templars/Mages might have done in comparison looked like a petty misdemeanor at best.
I played as a male mage with an Elemental/Force Mage/Spirit Healer specialization. I gotta say that Force Mage is awesome! You become a fucking Jedi, flinging people left and right like rag dolls and crushing them into pulp against the ground. I'm not too keen on how they changed certain spells though. Haste was my bread and butter in Origins for the simple fact that it made you run faster so you could travel around in almost half the time. Made dungeon crawling much more bearable. In DA2 its a crappy 10-second attack speed boost. In fact the only way I found out that made Hawke move faster was when he had his staff pulled out, so I constantly had to keep mashing X just so he could run a little faster. Not cool. Also some spells are auspiciously absent. Where is my Mana Clash?!
Now, if you're one of the people who believes that the combat system is not as complex as it used to be, then you are an idiot. You are. No, really. If anything its even more complex, what with the combo attacks and expanded set of moves. Rogues are much better, archers are actually useful for once and you can't cheese the game like you used to be able to in Origins. Not to mention that there's finally a revival potion! It'a also more accessible, which is why I think people may think it's not as complex, but you can basically do everything you could in Origins (minus some tweaked spells/skills) and a bunch of new shit on top of that. It's certainly a welcome and much-needed improvement in my eyes.
One thing that bugged me was the new inventory system. Well, it's the same inventory system, but now you can't change your party's armor. I can see why they chose to do it and you can still upgrade some parts of it, but the general look doesn't change (with 2 exceptions - Anders and your love interest). However it also meant that I had a bunch of awesome armor and gear and the only one I could equip it to was my Hawke, so basically I ended up keeping the best and selling the rest. It's a small nitpick, but I do enjoy dressing up my characters and making them look a certain way... Also I don't like to waste cool gear, and selling it for chump change was little better.
As far as the storytelling goes, it's a mixed bag. I can't say I'm a fan of the fixed perspective narrative. It may sound good in theory, but in practice it leaves a lot to be desired of. For one, there's the aforementioned cookie-cutter level design. You basically visit the same 20 or so areas over and over and over and over again and that's it. They may get small changes like the color of the banisters and so forth, but it just starts to feel really stale after a while. Furthermore, for a story that takes place over the course of 10 years there weren't a lot changes, especially in the characters. That kinda kills the immersion. Not to mention that in Origins you had the whole "on an epic quest to save the world" feeling that is simply lost here. The head-scratching time skips don't help either. They simply happen and leave you to infer what the hell is going on now and on the whole felt very unnecessary.
However I did find that the characters themselves are much better handled than Origins. They are deeper and more multifaceted and each one has a unique struggle and story arcs that were done quite well. You can identify with them on a deeper level and there's a couple of parts where I truly felt sorry for them, like Fenris' climactic showdown with his former master. Good stuff.
On the other hand, the ending was a giant kick in the nuts. Not only is there only one main ending with very slight variations, but it made you responsible for everything that went wrong. Throughout the entire game I tried helping out everyone I could and being generally a nice guy. But it doesn't matter if you're a saint of the biggest dick in the world, there's only one ending and you are still the reason why everything became so incredibly fucked up and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. For a franchise that prides itself on choice, the illusion is quickly shattered because of that. At least my choices in Origins did something more than change a couple words of dialogue in the final cutscene and determine which final boss I fight first. In Origins I picked the Ultimate Sacrifice ending because it felt like the right way to end my adventure, but I didn't get that sense of closure here. No, you just "disappear" and there's some cryptic talk of shit going down (by a stunningly young-looking Liliana btw - I wonder what she uses to keep her skin so smooth after 10+ years).
Oh, and if I can commend Bioware for one thing more than anything else is the way the completely made me hate one of my favorite characters. I loved Anders in Awakening. He was great, funny and his talks about Ser Pounce-A-Lot always put a smile on my face. However what they did to him in DA2 was just... evil. Not only does the new voice actor completely suck (along with his dialogue and the general sense of unpleasantness I always get around him) but every time I see that sullen face of his now I just want to punch it until there's nothing left but mush and bits of bone.
So overall, Dragon Age 2 is not a bad game. It's a really good one, actually. There's certainly some things where I felt like they took a step back and the ending was a lot more restrictive than it should have been. And yes, Anders is a dick-shitting asshole, but I still enjoyed playing through it. Hell, I'll probably jump in for a second romp as a hard-assed bitch who hates mages so much she'd sell out her own sister. Also I can't wait for the inevitable DLC!
The NGP has lit the internet on fire, so I figured it was time for a little retrospective. This is a look at some of my favorite PSP games of old, the current state of the platform and it's near future.
My first PSP was a black launch model. I woke up at 6:30am to go purchase it with money I had been saving since I first heard about it. My first game was Metal Gear AC!D, a free copy I won from Dan Shoe of EGM and Bitmob fame. Also I'm one of the 6 people in the world who bought a PSPgo, and I even went as far as to re-buy most of my UMDs in digital form (not as stupid as it seemed back then when you consider the NGP's backwards compatibly debacle). So yes, you can say I'm a fan.
Note: Since this blog has become so fucking long, I've decided to split it into several parts for your sake as well as mine...
While most of the initial PSP launch-game lineup was tepid at best, one game stood above the rest. Probably the best puzzle game I've played since the original Tetris, I've put in more hours in Lumines and it's sequel than I'm willing to admit.
Liberation was the first real game that made me realize just what kind of a deep experience PSP games could offer. I probably logged-in over 200 hours into the online multiplayer, complete with voice chat and clan support. I spent the better part of a year playing nothing but this game. Also it gets a nod for one of the biggest bastard bosses in videogame history. I'm looking at you Cobar!!!
Moa Therma White!
Monster Hunter Freedom
Before Long Swords were their own weapon class and before you had a helpful farm to where you could collect materials, there was MHF. The game that started a revolution in Japan was hard, tedious, suffered from obtuse Japanese design decisions and had ridiculously long load times. Still, I did not mind loading the same mission for the 50th time in a roll just so I could collect some more Herbs because it was such a new experience. It's shame to think that thanks to it's popularity and success the series had done little to evolve forward -- 2 full-fledges sequels and a smattering of expansions later and there's still not even proper Infrastructure support! But no matter what the franchise has become now, MHF will still hold a special spot in my heart... just like the memory of my first Kut-Ku kill.
The first game from fledging studio Ready At Dawn, it was but a taste of the greatness the studio would achieve later on. A fun platformer, it showed a new side to the beloved PS2 franchise. Shame that Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier was nowhere near as good (who was the idiot who thought that Dark Daxter was a good idea?!).
From the masterminds at Level-5, this game came out of nowhere and quickly cemented itself as one of my all time favorite SRPG's after FF Tactics. With a deep combat system and an interesting story that is based on Joan of Arc, it was a blast to play.
By far one of the coolest original IPs to come out of Sony's Japan Studio. Watching your little Patapon army march to the beats of your drums is an almost ethereal experience. Their unflinching loyalty is truly inspiring, especially when you consider that they're often facing beasts 30 times their size. The sequel was even better, improving on every single aspect of the original. Pata-Pata-Pata-Pon!
Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles
One of the better values when it comes to video games. You get a completely reworked version of Rondo of Blood, the original game and it's sequel, Symphony of the Night, all in one package. Devilishly hard, it was extremely satisfying to beat this game. Also it's the closest you can get to a proper HD 2D Castlevania game, since Harmony of Despair was a huge letdown.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
After a bunch of stinkers, I had lost all hope that Square Enix could make a decent game again. Alas, they proved me wrong when they released this back in 2007. Lo and behold, it was an amazing and intricate experience that served as a much-needed prequel to the beloved FFVII. You could finally understand the motivations of characters like Cloud and Sephiroth, as well as how the world got into the state it was. It also featured a new battle system that was a breath of fresh air and fun to play with. I can't talk about this game without mentioning the ending. Probably one of the best endings out there, no other game has had such an emotional impact except for Red Dead Redemption. If you love FFVII and Advent Children and you've never played this game, you are doing yourself a huge disservice!
Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness
Dood! I missed out on this game back in the PS2 days, but I'm so gratefully that NIS remade it for the PSP. A great SRPG, it's crazy and funny and ridiculous in a way that only Japanese games can be. Featuring a fantastic cast of characters and some of the best voicework I've ever heard, I became an instant fanboy of the entire series. While the sequel is not as good (I blame Adell - that whiny little cunt), it has spawned multiple sequels and several spin-offs. Prinny: CIRBTH? is another great game in the same universe, even though it has some of the most evil level design ever and I tore a lot of my hair off in frustration. Super Meat Boy is a piece of cake compared to it.
God of War: Chains of Olympus
It's GOW. In the palm of your hand. And awesome. COO showed that PSP games can not only approach console games, but also exceed them. It's only real fault is it's length, clocking at about 6 hours. Also, it has my favorite GOW side weapon - the Gauntlet of Zeus! Hopefully someday they will bring it back...
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
If you only ever play a single PSP game, make sure it's this one. My favorite handheld game by a long shot, it has so much content crammed into it that it blows my mind. Kojima took the best parts from MGS3 and 4 and made sweet, sweet love to them, then sprinkled some bacon bits on top just for extra measure. The story is riveting, the gameplay phenomenal, it's gorgeous and has one of the best co-op modes I've seen in a video game. But that wasn't enough so he added epic bosses, your own customizable bipedal walking tank of nuclear destruction, a compelling base-management system and the ability to shoot down a flying dragon with a rocket launcher. Yea, it's that awesome.
There's a lot more games I want to add to this list, but I feel like it's long enough as it is, so I'll save them for next time. You may wonder why I omitted some of the more recent games (like Ghost of Sparta or P3P), and that's because I'm still working my way through them. Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon!
It started happening a few months ago. I wasn't sure what to think at first. Here I was, enjoying myself then for some reason I reached up and touched the crease. I don't know why I did it. Maybe I was feeling adventurous, maybe I was just bored, but whatever the reason was, the results were unexpected. I pulled back my finger and it was slathered with a thick, oily grease with a rather pungent odor.
At first I thought it was me. Maybe I had done something wrong? It never happened to me before and I was clueless. I asked a couple of friends if they had experienced it, but their disgusted and horrified faces told me the answer.
So like all proper human beings, I decided to ignore it. Maybe it would just go away? Alas, like a yeast infection, it just got worse as time passed on. It started happening more frequently. Where it took a month before, now it happened once a week. Paper towels weren't cutting it anymore so I tried to squeeze it out, but that only made things worse. You could say I was at the end of my rope.
And so I need to know.
Why are the analog sticks on my Dualshock 3 leaking grease? It can't be my hands. I scrub them long and hard before I even touch the controller. It's not just one controller either, but both of them. It seems to be coming from the bottom of the soft rubber tips. I pried one off one of the rubber caps and it was covered in grease inside. I wiped it off and glued it back with silicon, making sure to seal it nice and tight, but it didn't seem to change anything. Even my second controller, which was fine at first, started to show the symptoms.
I just don't understand where it's coming from. I know it's not my hands because my 360 controllers are spotless. Plus I never eat while I'm holding a controller. I take good care of all my gear and clean all my controllers with alcohol once a month, but the grease is starting to become unsettling. I read something about certain plastics that derive an oily substance after time, but I'm not sure what to make of it.
So here I am, 463.4 miles away from my Xbox 360 for 3 weeks while there's 12 fucking days of XBL deals.
Thankfully Xbox.com is here! I can't even begin to describe how fucking awesome it is to purchase stuff for my 360 while away from it. I already have Limbo, Undead Nightmare, Lair of the Shadow Broker and bunch of other shit.
But it doesn't stop there. Worried you're gonna miss out on the deal of the week or need to add more points to your account? No problem. Wanna check your XBL messages or write a new one? Got you covered. Got the urge to add those snazzy new 2011 glasses to your avatar before you pass out drunk? Look no further! It's like through the internet... stuff is seamlessly connected... like magic (magnets?) or something.
Meanwhile on Playstation.com you can check who's online and... er... get your Portable ID. Seriously? Portable ID? And don't even get me started on their forums. It's like a retarded monkey took a steaming dump on a keyboard and passed it off as a new "Community Platform" or some shit. Step your game up Sony!
So yes, Xbox.com is awesome. I get warm and fuzzy inside every time I think about all the shit I can do there. If it could make me a sandwich, I'd marry it.
43 games. It's a number that may not mean much to you, but I've been dreading it for weeks. Maybe even months.
It was Bayonetta that did me in. I couldn't resist her lustful curves and provocative poses. Or perhaps it was the way those sinful eyelashes fluttered as she blew a kiss. Maybe it was the exhilarating combat. Combat so invigorating that my heart is still pumping with it's deliciously savage beats. It's a way I haven't felt like since the first time I laid my hands on the original Devil May Cry (may the franchise RIP -- fuck you Capcom!).
Whatever it was, I had to have it, which is why I find myself in this particular predicament. 43 games. Who knew that I would ever reach such a number! Had you said this to me a few years ago, I would have called you crazy and probably thrown an insult or two at your mother. And yet I am here, now, staring at my empty wall.
You see, I am a tidy person. Everything I own has it's purpose, has it's place. My bookshelf has such a purpose -- 42 spots for 42 games. Lined in alphabetical order, they stand together like a family, gently supporting each other. And then came the 43rd...
No longer is there any order. No longer is there any understanding. There is only chaos. Brother pushing brother, sister squeezing sister. There is no room, and all fight for the last spot. None wants to be left on the side, forgotten. Alone.
But worst of all, my shelf groans faintly from the strain. Her time has come. We both know it. She has served me well these past 5 years, but it's not going to work out. I need my space and she simply can't bear it anymore. Heh, it's the story of my life.
Now my wall is bare. There's only 2 little holes, 2 little scars. A reminder of what once was. The games are sitting snugly in a box. It will have to do while I look for a replacement shelf. May it be the last.