So this is a video advertising a Ghostbusters pachinko machine.

Yeah. Not much to say about this, except that my enduring love of all things Ghostbusters compelled me to sit through the whole thing, and that I find it fascinating that, as in the original computer game based on the film way back in 1984 and numerous other Ghostbusters licensed products over the years, Winston is conspicuously absent.


Have you tried boosting? (A Burnout 3 reflection)

The impending end of support for original Xbox titles on Live gives me pause. And while there are so many great games we can look back on fondly from Xbox Live's original incarnation, for me, one looms particularly large on that landscape.  

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I've probably spent more time online, and had more fun online, playing Burnout 3: Takedown than any other online-enabled game. While most games these days fail to get regular play from us for more than a few weeks, a group of faithful friends and I played Burnout 3 frequently for months after its release. Thinking about the game today reminds me of where I was living at the time, who I was dating, where I was working...I created my own soundtrack to replace the mostly lousy EA TRAX stuff, and to this day, when my iPod shuffles up some of the songs I used--songs by The Postal Service, for instance--I'm instantly transported back to those wonderfully dangerous streets, to the thrill of knocking an opponent into one of the pillars of death downtown or of narrowly evading a truck as I tear through an intersection. I play a lot of games, and I love a lot of games, but few indeed are the games that get inside my head like this.
It's truly a landmark title in my opinion, one that pushed the genre forward and that delivered adrenaline-junkie thrills far more successfully than most games that try. And even though I haven't played it in years now, knowing that my friends and I can't ever race again through the crazily twisting streets of its nameless Asian city, trading paint and taking each other down as we go, makes me sad.
Thanks for the good times, Burnout 3. And here's a toast to Xbox Live's first generation, where those races were lost and won.  

Street Fighter IV: The Wandering World Warriors

Remember how, in Street Fighter II, each fighter had their home turf, and you, as the jet-setting player character, would travel the world to meet your opponents in their home country? I'm a bit weirded out by how Street Fighter IV has done away with this completely. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to where you might fight any given opponent. I imagine Ryu calling Chun-Li on the phone and saying, "Hey, so, we gotta beat the crap out of each other again, where do you want to meet this time? Oh, you're at a drive-in in South Central Los Angeles? Cool, I'll be right there."

Certainly not an issue in gameplay terms, but what can I say? I like structure, and this sort of thing shakes up my world view to the core.

Anyway, the game is awesome. I'm having a blast with it, and I don't even care that I totally suck. To give you a sense of just how poor I am, I had to set the difficulty setting to Very Easy to complete Arcade mode, and even then, final boss Seth took me something like ten tries to defeat. Dude is a straight-up punk. At first I thought maybe he was just ridiculously difficult to everyone, but one dude on my friend's list already has the achievement for finishing Arcade mode on the Hardest difficulty, which I can't even fathom attaining.

Playing online is a blast, too, despite my lack of skill. Out of the 11 or 12 ranked matches I played, I won one. And one guy who defeated me followed up his victory by sending me a message that read, simply, "PWNED?" I never thought I'd long for the days of face-to-face arcade trash talk but the insults people dished out amid the neon and noise of an arcade were downright Shakespearian in comparison to some of what you get on PSN and XBL these days.

I can already tell that I'm going to be spending many, many more hours with Street Fighter IV. I'm not sure I'll get much better--as Jeff points out in his review, the Trial mode doesn't teach you anything about theory, and I'm not sure if the more nuanced aspects of play will reveal themselves to me over time, or if I'd need to hunker down with a strategy guide or seek the counsel of a fighting game guru to learn them.  But we'll see. Getting better would certainly make the experience that much more rewarding, but even for a lightweight like me, the game is just terrific. I can only imagine that it's more enjoyable still for those with the skills to appreciate and take advantage of all the depth the gameplay has to offer.

If you have the game on PS3 and you're not in the habit of sending people messages that say "PWNED?" after you beat them, feel free to add me. I'm HarajukuKid. You'll probably clobber me, but I may learn a thing or two in the process.