Puzzle & Dragons: Rebirth (Day 1)


So I generally don't like playing games on my phone, and I dislike the whole free to play game with time mechanics, but about five months ago Puzzle and Dragons proved to be the exception to the rule. I spent a little over four months playing the game off and on, and without spending a dime or assailing friends on Facebook with requests for "stuff" was able to build a pretty strong team together. My "monster box" was filled with things which were just pulled from the rare egg machine which could build some teams capable of even clearing some of the harder "descended" dungeons which looks to be part of the game's endgame. (Among those were a Loki, Karin, Sakuya, both a Love and Chaos Venus and Hera.) When my phone's contract was up I transferred data to the new phone, and began playing again when something happened to the sim card reader in my phone. No problem I thought, I'll just get another transfer code when my new phone comes in and move that data across. The transfer wasn't hard, so it shouldn't be a problem.

So before factory resetting my broken phone for my new one, I went to get a transfer code and found out you can only get one every 30 days. Then my phone was factory reset. I could probably go and request my data be transferred through customer service, (I haven't spent a dime, but my team was over rank 100 so I would be eligible), but I've heard the wait time on that can be almost a week. Left with the option of waiting for my team to be transferred and starting over, I chose the second option.

Day 1

Having played the game to a decent rank before, there were things I was looking for in the early levels to boost my progress back to where I was before. Going through the initial dungeons I began trying to choose carefully what friend monsters I was pulling, although the decisions were making themselves. An Echinda? An Isis? All I'd need is a good pull out of the starter dungeons, where the last part of the tutorial is you spending the five stones you've received from clearing levels on a rare egg pull, put that in the leader to show some reciprocal usefulness, and I'd be on my way.

And then I pull a Vampire. A lot of people complain about some of the "bad" pulls you can get from the rare egg machine but this is possibly the worst "rare" monster you can pull for your initial rare egg. It has no leader skills, middle to lower end stats, and is going to force you into using the default monster as your leader for the foreseeable future. For people who haven't started playing Puzzle and Dragons, a hint, you should never use your starter monster as your leader. It gives potential "friends" the impression you just went through the tutorial and stopped playing and since access to those leaders are based on you logging in, it means you're a "dead friend". The vampire's not going to inspire anything, and it's going to cripple me in the early game. I'm left with the decision to wipe my data and start again, or try to tough it out.

So I wipe my data and try again. I'm not going to do this over and over until I get an Isis, Odin, Karin, or other monster that will make the early part of the game a cakewalk, but I want at least something I can work with. I say goodbye to the friends I hadn't made yet, and push through the early part of the dungeon again. After clearing the tutorial stages again, I get a Basilisk (1.5x ATK for Dark Monsters). This isn't a great start, but it's workable, All the more workable because a Midnight Gala (which increases rare egg machine drop rates for dark monsters) just started, and a Godfest (which increases rare egg machine drop rates for specific gods, in this case Norse and Egyptian gods which includes Isis, Loki, Anubis, and Ra) starts the next day. My goal for day one, collect as many stones as possible and once both are active, dump them into the machine, and hope for the best.

I log out and log back in, since the "Hearts a Flutter" event is on right now, I end up getting a TAMADRA from it. TAMADRA is useful in the late game because it can be used to "Awaken" your monsters, giving them extra skills such as damage reduction, auto-heal, bind resistance, or reducing the amount of turns required to use skills when you start a dungeon. TAMADRA are also extremely hard to come by, and my old team would have gone through 20 of them without blinking an eye, so picking up some now for future usage is a great boost. I even throw it into my team's roster because it's more powerful than any of my starter light monsters, and it's healing allows me to focus more on hp and damage with my other slots at this stage.

In forming my team, most of my slots are taken up with dark monsters. Baddie and the Black Fighter that I received out of the tutorial stages come onto the team, and my Tyrra and TAMADRA fill out the rest. This leaves me with no wood or water attack, but now with three monsters getting Basilisk's effect. I begin pushing Tyrra to Tyran because it's evo material comes quickly, and push my way up to the first Dark dungeon "The Dungeon of Darkness". Here's the problem, for every dark monster I pull to fuse or possibly replace the two I have, I'm getting three or four red, blue, and green monsters. I decide that I'm strong enough to push to the second dark dungeon, Pluto Valley. And by the end of the day make it there and inch just before the next level when I decide to call it a day. I've dealt as well as possible with a severe shortage of money, thanks to aggressive fusion which in the end even gets Tyrra fused into Tyrannos, giving me a fire ally that's becoming equivalent to the Basilisk. I'm also able to evolve Baddie into Big Baddie where his special ability (turn heal orbs into dark orbs) becomes essential for making sure that damage can be consistently churned out, especially in boss battles. There's a part of me thinking that I'm going to have to start farming Baddies (?) so I can try to get his skill level up (which reduces the amount of turns it takes to use his skill). Farming skills is something I wish I did more the last time I played through, so doing so from the onset, especially with something which can manipulate the color or orbs, is going to be handy.

As the day goes on, some friend requests are allowed, and I get access to some pretty powerful friend monsters. The friends are going to become more important depending on the Godfest/Gala drops which should further hone which monsters will be most important to have on that friends list. Two Isis (3x attack when 3 colors attack), two Naga (delay opponents for 3 turns), an Andromeda (4x attack when 8 blue orbs chain together), and an Anubis (10x attack for a 10+ combo) is a good start, although those lists will constantly be in flux as new gods come in. It allows me to be aggressive in the early stages, which I was. The Isis are key, as they're easy to trigger, and I might use the Anubis in the weekend dungeon because it's limited to three colors and he can actually hit often there, although some luck is involved.

At the end of the first day, I'm already back up to rank 17, with 3 xp left to my next level. I figure this allows me to take a flyer on a more dangerous dungeon, and if I fail I'll be able to just level back up in 20 minutes (if there's a stamina reduction low level dungeon available) but I don't think I have a strong enough team to take on an expert level dungeon yet, so I might just run a weekend dungeon and collect some coins since being aggressive with my fusion means I'm generally low on coins to fuse monsters. A few good runs in the weekend dungeon can solve that, and being close to the next level, it allows me to try to be aggressive and possibly try an expert level while still having an intermediate dungeon to fall back on.

Team 1 (normal team): Basilisk (lvl 30), Big Baddie (lvl 8), Black Fighter (lvl 10), TAMADRA, Tyrannos (lvl 11)

Team 2 (Isis team): Basilisk (lvl 30), Black Fighter (lvl 10), TAMADRA, Tyrannos (lvl 11), Hobgoblin (lvl 1)


Games, Anime, and lost wallets

So when I left the bar on last Saturday night (no, the Saturday night before that) after watching UFC 126 I was feeling great after watching what was an interesting night of fights.  But on Monday morning I found out one of the worst things that I could possibly find out.  My wallet, which I had when leaving the bar since I needed it to pay my tab, was missing.  After tearing the house apart and finding no trace of it, it's been the process of trying to get all of my information and being pretty much homebound with limited access to funds, becoming more limited due to the problems transferring my direct deposit into my new bank account.  It's left me time to do things to try to divert my attention from how much losing all of your identification and access to money can be, which means lots of games and anime in the nighttime hours.  Fortunately my bank was able to set up new accounts, freeze the old one, and transfer the direct deposit into the new account until my HR department gets the transfer to the new account solidified with the payroll company.  Unfortunately, my first check after this happened is still vapor at this point, and to say I'm getting a bit nervous with a check that has nearly 30 hours of overtime in it being "somewhere" where somewhere doesn't equal the new bank account, is an understatement.  Bah, on with the games: 


So I finally completed Fallout 3, after going back to it six months post first attempt at playing it.  I still get why it's good, I still understand why people love it, and acknowledge that a PC is probably a better tool than a PS3 to play the game on.  I understand that the reason I was able to get through it was going back to it with lowered expectations as to what the game was going to do for me.  I still didn't completely love the game although the ending sequence was good, even if it was good due to my not thinking about the puzzle that ended the game until I was forced to do so or die by radiation.  I again believe part of it was the games I played before playing Fallout 3 the first time, and those games still stand up as doing things better than Fallout 3 did.  Bayonetta still had more enjoyable characters, and seemed to settle into it's own fiction better than Fallout 3 did.  Bioshock's Rapture is still a more interesting place to be than the Capital Wasteland and I found it's propaganda more enjoying to search out and look at.  Demon's Souls outright hostility seemed like something that should have been prevalent in Fallout 3 and wasn't to the extent that maybe I would have liked.  It's not that I wanted Fallout 3 to be more difficult, but I wanted that feeling of fear going into a new place that just didn't seem to be there when I could just drop into VATS and start aiming my shots, or just pause to regroup and figure out how I wanted to handle whatever situation I found myself in.  I wish that a music add on which was on the PC was available on the PS3, as I would have loved more variance in the music for such a long game, but all in all I'm glad I beat it, and I'm glad I'm done.  Maybe someday I'll get the itch to go back and do some of the missions I didn't do, but that time isn't coming any time soon.  
One of the great things about PS+ was the free day one download of Stacking this last week, and I tore through the game with abandon.  It had an interesting art style, some great puzzles, and rewards for just messing around in the world they created.  I'm not going to judge whether $15 would have been something I was willing to pay for the game, but as a bonus treat for having PS+, it made my decision to subscribe to the service even better.  Sam and Max was a great first get, add in Stacking and the interesting assortment of PS1 games my son is having fun playing and that I can take on the go, and it's a no-brainer, at least for me.  PS+ has been absolutely the best investment that I've made on my PS3 since getting it and having over 13 months more of content coming my way is icing on the cake that I've already had a chance to eat. 
I went and did more playing around with Little Big Planet 2, and I'm in the middle of trying to complete the "Aces in Spades" trophy for acing 10 levels in a row in the story mode.  This has not gone well as I've made it to eight twice, and nine once before doing something completely stupid and forcing myself to start over again.  Frustrating to continue starting over on this, and I might walk from it for a while and just mess around with something else to get some distance, but I might do what I did with the "Bomber" trophy on Super Stardust HD and decide to just bag it.  I'd like to eventually play around with the level editor and see if I can make a level that's actually worth playing, but for now messing around myself and watching Malachi play with his "friends" is good enough to make sure the game stays in heavy rotation and always taunts me when I get on the PS3 myself. 
Finished the story mode on Space Invaders Infinity Gene last night as well, and that game scratches a retro-evolution vibe nicely, although not as nice as Pac Man Championship Edition DX does.  For $5 when it went on sale it was a good get, and beating the game on medium, setting it back to easy, then having my son jump in and beat the last boss to unlock that trophy was pretty funny, just for his reaction (which is always awesome when he gets trophies).  He's also quickly figured out how to use the stored music on the PS3 to play around in Music Mode and it's amusing to see what he's playing to at any given moment when he does so. 
I'm debating going through Enslaved again, and messing with Piggsy's Perfect 10.  I feel a stronger pull back to that game than I had for Uncharted 1, which is interesting, and I'm wondering if that might be next on the list of games to knock down and pull a Platinum in.  It's been a while since I've gone for that in a game, and I think Enslaved might be the one I go for it in. 


So I've been going through a few shows from the current season and picked up one that I meant to watch a while ago and I've been tearing through it.  If you think that "anime is for jerks" this is where you can stop reading, unless you're doing a tl;dr, in which case you haven't read to this point anyway.   
So I decided for some reason to start watching Kore wa Zombie desu ka? and strangely enough I've been really enjoying it.  Why, I don't know, but it could have something to do with the main character being half zombie, half magical girl, and all bizarre.  The slapstick humor has been working for me for some unknown reason and while it's not something I'm itching to continue, this season seems so thin that the diversion works for me. 
I've also started watching IS: Infinite Stratos, and be damned if this show isn't completely derivative of more shows that I've watched than I'd care to admit.  But like Zombie, something about it is just working for me.  I don't know if it's again how thin the season is that lowered expectations is allowing me to enjoy this more than I should, especially when I haven't even started with Gosick which is the show that at the beginning of the season interested me the most. 
Level-E has started off in an interesting way, and I'd probably be tearing through that right now if not for something else grabbing my attention more.  There seems to be a rapid fire to the conversations that worries me about the subtitles and keeping up with it while missing what's happening, but the premise and animation style is intriguing to me.  Maybe with more than one episode in I'll have a better idea of how good it is, but right now it hasn't lost me. 
I've been continuing to watch Bakuman which the more it continues, the more it challenges Togainu No Chi as my favorite series from last season.  It's painstakingly slow in it's execution which is a strength considering how enjoyable the characters and the struggles they face are.  It reminds me of a more serious version of Comic Party in all the right ways, and while the premise is ridiculous the journey's been enjoyable. 
So I reached back for the series that everyone who complains about the "moe" fad is doing themselves a disservice if they haven't watched, which is Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.  It looks like every moeblob anime ever made, except it's evil and disturbing to it's very core.  I started watching the second arc last night and found myself at 1:30am wondering if I should get some sleep or finish the arc by watching the last episode.  Twenty-five minutes later, the question was whether to start the next arc or not, which fortunately for the people at my work I decided not to.  Seeing these cute little moeblobs get their faces smashed in with baseball bats, or go psycho and start cutting people up with ridiculous glee just seems like those who are sick of the moe craze would be embracing stronger now than when the show originally aired.  It's demented, crazy, and absolutely fascinating to watch this story get twisted around and so far reveal more of what's happening in the town of Hinamizawa.  I'm almost tempted to see if there was an English language version of the game it was based off of to play around with it.

Best of 2010 - My Opinion Part END and UFC 125 thoughts

 Ok, on to the finish, my top 5 games of the year.   

5: Hitogata Happa (Gundemonium Collection) 

Ok, I understand that no one will have this on their list.  Fine.  But of the three games released as part of the Gundemonium Collection this year, Hitogata Happa was the best of the three.  While GundeadLigne and Gundemonium Recollection were fairly standard horizontal bullet hell shooters, HH was different than anything else in the package by having a vertical scrolling bullet hell with an interesting twist.  If you stay alive long enough, a power meter charges which allows you to run into larger enemies which will kill you but unleash a bomb effect that will do massive damage.  Against bosses this turns into a strategy of whether you want to give up one of your "dolls" for the massive damage it creates, or continue to try to use the weapons at your disposal to wear these large beasts down, in fights which are timed.  Also there are 12 (13) dolls which all have different shooting styles and can be useful in different situations or different stages.  It's not just dodging and recognizing patterns of bullets, it's figuring out which tool is best for the job, and if you can use that tool for the bombing attack when it's time to switch to another one.  It has just enough tweaks that made it surprisingly fresh and interesting and it deserved a place on this list. 

4:  Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable 

How in the hell do you take an epic 80 hour Japanese RPG and whittle it down to a handheld system?  You do it like this.  While you lose the immersion of being able to walk around in the world that you had on the PS2 versions, what you end up with is a more streamlined version of one of the best JRPGs on the PS2.  A game that now takes about 45-50 hours instead of 80 by employing a point and click adventure control to the social settings while letting you still have the combat of the PS2 version.  But not just the PS2 version of Persona 3, but the PS2 version of Persona 4.  So you streamline the social aspects, improve the combat, then on top of it add a new protagonist who's gender causes slight and subtle changes in the way that people react to you?  This was what I wanted from FES, not a difficult aftermath, but a slight adjustment of the situation to cause the reactions of the cast give you more details about them.  Brilliant, and a must play PSP game for anyone who's a fan of SMT or JRPGs in general. 

3:  Enslaved: Odyssey to the West 

The animation, script, and voice acting in this game come together in a terrific manner, and warts and all, that marriage of those elements made Enslaved one of the best games of the year.  It's an interesting retelling of the "Journey to the West" tale, in a great environment that looks great even in the Unreal Engine, known for muting the colors in almost everything it touches.  It's got the best told story with some of the most memorable characters that you'll see this year who truly pop off the screen and seem less like a collection of pixels and more like real people.  If you haven't played Enslaved, just check the demo out, as the introduction to that game is one of the best openings of any game that I played this year, from 2010 or earlier.  Just a brilliant and fun action adventure game that does what it's trying to do with great results. 

2:  Bayonetta 

Listen, I don't know what it was about this game, because I wasn't a fan of Devil May Cry.  I'm past the time of just wanting a button mashing kill fest like Dynasty Warriors.  So how did Bayonetta work so well when everything about the game made me think that there's no way I'm going to like tihs?  Bayonetta works because it's crazy.  In a time where it seems like Japanese developers are hell bent on "capturing the western market" it seems like the people making Bayonetta were hell bent on making the game MORE crazy.   Platinum Games seemed like with Bayonetta they stopped trying to chase the market, and instead focused on an ideal and chased that instead.  Bayonetta is Devil May Cry, if Devil May Cry wasn't so pretentious and just let itself be crazy and fun.  It breaks out of being exploitative by empowering their characters so freely and naturally that you get the impression that those characters own their sexuality, and not the other way around.  It breaks out of being boring by switching up it's gameplay in fascinating ways when you least expect it.  For instance, very late in the game, Bayonetta stops trying to be Devil May Cry and tries to be Afterburner, just because it can.  And it's that freedom, that devil may care attitude, that makes Bayonetta so much fun.  You can almost see the title character looking at you, sucking on a lollipop, and saying in the British accent, "Silly boy, you know games are supposed to be fun right?"  Bayonetta and Platinum Games didn't forget this while most of Japanese Game makers have.  If not for some of the triumphs of the game that's #1 on my list, this would be my game of the year, and I'd have as many apologies as Bayonetta has for being what it is, which is NONE. 

1:  Heavy Rain

I'm glad that I'm not a game critic, because then I'd have to be critical about Heavy Rain, and I don't want to be.  I can put aside the fact that the voice acting was some of the worst that I heard this year in a video game.   I can ignore the plot hole so big you can fly a 747 through it with plenty of clearance.  I can instead focus on what Heavy Rain did right.  First of all, you realize this game doesn't have an end state, right?  There's no failure of missions forcing you to start over, as instead the game takes your successes and failures and continues on, morphing the story around what you did right and wrong to tell a distinct narrative based on your actions.  It was Heavy Rain's ability to slowly spill out this personal narrative that made Heavy Rain the best ONLINE games I played this year.  Not because of lobbies and friend's lists, but going to different communities and reading the experiences that others had with the game while sharing your own.  It was listening to spoiler ridden podcasts after you had beaten the game and listening to the opinions of people who you spent enough time with to understand where they were coming from.  It wasn't just the game that was fascinating, it was the aftermath and discussions after beating the game that gave it gravitas like no other game before it.  The second thing that worked so well about Heavy Rain were the controls.  People kept saying the game was filled with quick time events, but the controls were more like an advanced contextual mapped control than a quick time event.  It had more in common with a game like Assassin's Creed than it did with God of War in where the buttons were mapped often to what you were doing and what was happening on screen.  (You need to do something that's "up" then you'll use the Triangle button, something that's "down" uses the "X" button, etc;)  When this didn't happen, the controls were being used to pass across the feeling of tension the characters had, such as in the Butterfly trial.   
It wasn't perfect, but it was the best attempt at this type of interactive cinema that we've seen.  It did things that no other game has ever attempted and pulled them off.  It caused more discussion and conversation than any other game for the trail it was blazing on it's own rather than how well it was refining what others had already done well.  It was a unique beast and the best, more interesting gaming experience that I had all year, and because of that, gets the #1 slot on my list.     

UFC 125 musings

Now that the gaming list is done, I just have to comment on last night's UFC 125 card and the unfortunate aftermath of the main event.  Unfortunate, because while I gained a ton of respect for Frankie Edgar for surviving round one and pulling even at the end with Gray Maynard but still the third fight between them was the last thing I wanted.  I had the fight 47-47 as well with Maynard getting an obvious 10-8 in the first round and treating Edgar like Velasquez treated Lesnar without the finish.  Edgar's survival and rebound to take the next three rounds (no, I didn't let Maynard steal round 3 with the last minute takedowns, but thought he got the better of round 5) was an amazing thing since he wasn't the fighter who had "Cool Under Pressure" under his name when he came to the cage.  Rounds 3 and 5 were close, and I could understand judges going either way with them, which they did.   Scary omen for 2011 is that my scorecard lined up with Patricia Jarman's who is notorious for being one of the WORST MMA judges.  Monkeys and typewriters I guess...
But just because the fight's a draw, doesn't mean that I want a rematch, at least not with Anthony Pettis waiting in the wings with the WEC Lightweight title with a legitimate call for the "winner" of the fight.  Also I think that Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis would destroy either guy in the cage last night.  Henderson's wrestling I think is better than Edgar and Maynard, and neither guy wants to stand up with Pettis' unorthodox standup techniques.  I would have put Maynard in a title eliminator against Henderson, and given Edgar and Pettis the unification bout and let things play out for the next six to eight months in that divisions upper echelon especially with Penn looking like he's going to try to go to 170 for yet another mismatch with GSP.  Poor Penn, he can't beat Edgar at 155, he can't beat GSP at 170, there's no way he beats Silva at 185, I don't think he can get down to 135 to fight Cruz, and I wouldn't put money on him beating Aldo at 145  He's a man without a home he can call his own, which is sad for someone as good as he is.  To Dana White, if we are getting Edgar/Maynard 3, can we at least get Pettis/Henderson 2?  
Guida's submission of Gomi was one of the more interesting things of the night, as "The Fireball Kid" just never looked like he was comfortable or could figure out Guida's constant movement.  He could hit Guida once, but never could put together combinations and eventually the fight went to the ground when he landed his best strike of the night (a flying knee which was turned into a takedown and turned into a nasty guillotine choke that ended the fight).  Stann's knockout of Chris Leben not getting knockout of the night was surprising, even with the understanding that the Jeremy Stephens knockout of Marcus Davis had more interest because Davis was winning that fight handily before being dropped.  Leben's a beast, that guy should have been out two minutes into the fight after the first flurry, but Leben eats punishment like that for breakfast.  Unfortunately for him, Stann continued the assault for the next two minute sand the knee to the head finished someone who isn't knocked out easily.  Diaz and Stun Gun had some great moments when both guys were on the ground, but generally Kim had dominant position and landed some nasty elbows to win.  Note to Stun Gun, as far as GSP is concerned, you are not ready if you can't dominate a good fighter like Diaz.  And let's not talk about Vera vs Thiago Silva, that was just embarrassing for Vera who had no answer to being on bottom when Silva decided to take him down.  I'm waiting to hear about a ruptured eardrum or some other problem as Vera seemed more intent on protecting his right ear than getting OUT of being grounded, wait, I'm not talking about this...

Best of 2010 - My Opinion Part 3

So I skipped out on yesterday because there was only one category I felt like I could make a choice on, since I don't play games that have ridiculous in game advertising, and there wasn't a whole lot of FMV in the games that I played (Enslaved, sure, but was it RIDICULOUS...) so I'm combining awards I feel comfortable giving opinions on from the last two days into this post.  I'll add a little something extra in at the end as well with some MMA awards like Day 1's Anime awards.  Here we go... 
Worst Accent (Giant Bomb pick: Heavy Rain, my pick: Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain was a VERY flawed game, remember that I said that, and one of the biggest flaws was the atrocious voice acting that nearly derailed the game faster than a tacked on supernatural conspiracy.  If you're chasing after the Origami Killer, it's a wise idea to have whoever's overseeing the voice acting to make sure that everyone can pronounce the word Origami in a consistent manner.  Also if you're setting the game in a fictionalized Tri-State area, you should probably have people who have the proper accents for the area.  And the kid voice acting was horrific.  And you press X to Jason.  Just a complete clusterfuck that damn near derailed one of my favorite games of the year because I had to listen to the characters TALK during the game.  What it really made me want was for Ninja Theory, Naughty Dog, or Atlus to get their hands on Quantic Dream's engine and let THEM get a crack at doing what Quantic Dream seems incapable of, putting the complete package together.   
 I'm being harsh on a game that has a very high place on my top 10 list, but this was almost a dealbreaker.   To have high minded ideals and put so much painstaking work into making those ideals become a reality just to have a horrible oversight like this nearly ruin all the work you've done is unacceptable. 
Character I'd Most Like to Party With (Giant Bomb pick: Illusive Man, my pick: Bayonetta
You know, a night out with a witch who has a thing for stripper poles and going double John Woo on angelic beings is going to be a night that you're never going to forget.  I can imagine taking a flight to Vegas, getting met by Bayonetta, and even your worst/best fever dream wouldn't come close to the amount of sheer chaos and insanity that would ensue.  Just think about that for a minute, Bayonetta being let loose on modern day Las Vegas.    Scary, but you want to be there because you're going to need to see what happens to believe it, and even that might not be enough.  This isn't about having the best night of your life, it's about having the most unforgettable experience humankind, or witchkind can devise.   
Worst Trend (Giant Bomb pick:  Retailer Specific Pre-Order Bonuses, my pick: The Day 1 Patch) 
You know what sucks, getting that big game you've been waiting for, and putting it in your system to have the system say that the game wasn't released to game shelves ready for you to play it.  Heavy Rain had a Day 1 patch.  Bayonetta was a debacle for the PS3, which fortunately I got after it had been fixed.  Fallout: New Vegas?  Red Dead Redemption?  Both were buggy messes on release.  Both needed to be patched up because when unleashed on the real world, the game broke in myriad ways.  Listen, I accept that I'd rather have a game patched than broken, like say Ar Tornelico 2, but I'd also rather have a game that I can play, out of the box, without it needing to be fixed in some way first.  And that bothers me a hell of a lot more than trinkets being handed out depending on the retailer I chose to by the game at.  Now if those bonuses give advantages in online games, then yeah, scream bloody murder, but I'd still rather have a game that works the first time I put it in my system. 
Best Story (Giant Bomb pick: Red Dead Redemption, my pick: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
I think it's awesome that Enslaved could take a an old fairy tale (The Journey to the West) that's been told a million times (Saiyuki, Dragonball, etc;) and put a modern fresh coat of paint on it the way it did.  I don't think I've seen the Journey to the West use New York as a starting point before, and clouds are one thing, but motorcycles are something different.  That modification aside though, the pacing and script puts this on a completely different level.  Enslaved is a game that married it's story, animation, and pacing (including slowing down your speed at certain segments to make sure conversations completed by the time you entered into the next area) so masterfully, that even the strange ending doesn't detract from the incredible journey.   
The interactions between Trip and Monkey were pure magic.  You could feel the situation change from a Master-Servant relationship, to one of two individuals of equal and different strengths combining forces to overcome a brutal environment.  You could feel the respect and affection between the characters grow through the script, facial animations, body language, and that made Enslaved the best, and most human story of the year.   
Ok, some MMA stuff before I go:  

Biggest Surprise of 2010:  Fabricio Werdum submits Fedor Emelianenko in 69 seconds 
Just incredible.  The legendary sambo master who at the time had accumulated a 31-1 record crushing all competition in his path falls to a UFC castoff.  At a time Werdum looked like he was in line to dominate the UFC's Heavyweight division, but a string of inexplicable losses had him cut from the company and moving to Strikeforce.  This was supposed to be a warmup for a Fedor-Overeem fight for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship, until the Last Emperor fell on his sword.  And it wasn't just that Fedor lost, it was how quickly it happened, a 69 second derailing that would have caused lesser federations to fold up on themselves along with their most recognizable fighter.  Strikeforce has survived the blow due to a deeper and more talented roster than EliteXC had, but the loss of their best fighter was a devastating blow that derailed a lot of their momentum in 2010. 
Best Moment of 2010:  Anthony "Showtime" Pettis goes MATRIX on Benson Henderson in the WEC Swan Song 
An incredible fight between two incredibly talented lightweight fighters for the biggest stakes WEC could imagine.  The winner would have the ability to leave the WEC as the Lightweight Champion and an inevitable entrance into a MMA cage on January 1st to hold up that belt in front of either Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard and claim that they had "next" to the UFC Lightweight champion at the end of the night.  Henderson vs. Pettis was an evenly fought battle which took place everywhere an MMA fight could possibly take place.  Both fighters crushed the others with strikes, took the others back, sunk in chokes that were desperately fought off, and pulled out all the stops in order to stop the other man from taking that title to the UFC.  Then Anthony Pettis went one better than Benson Henderson and everyone else who ever stepped into an MMA cage with the most unreal thing I have ever witnessed in combat sports. 
I'm not even going to try to describe it.  You need to see it to believe it.  So here it is: 

This happened 4 minutes into the fifth-five minute round of a title fight and the last fight in WEC history.  24 minutes of brutality and THIS was the moment that finally sealed Pettis' ascension to being a champion.   Awesome.  Unreal.  Amazing.  Grab your own synonym.   
Oh, and even better?  That DID NOT knock out Henderson.  He survived until the end of the fight to lose by decision.  Including the replays I've now watched that 15 times in the last two minutes (shown five times each play of the video) and I'm still mindboggled.   
Best Fight of 2010:  Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung (The Korean Zombie) at WEC 48
I love a good technical MMA fight.  I like submissions, I like wrestling, and I like striking.  But if there's anything I like more than that, it's two guys staring each other down and deciding that they're going to take the fight from the person they're looking at by sheer force of will.  They're not going anywhere, instead they're going to be the unstoppable force AND the immovable object.  And when two highly trained men get into that mindset in an MMA cage, it's a spectacle that is incredible and horrifying to watch.  You expected someone to drop dead of punishment overload but both men kept taking and dishing until there was nothing left but a controversial decision that gave Garcia a questionable win, and MMA fans a desire for a rematch that still persists. 
Luckiest Fighter of 2010:  Leonard Garcia 
Many, myself included, thought he lost the Chan Sung Jung fight.  Many, myself included, KNOW he lost the Nam Pham fight (which served as the first Featherweight fight in UFC history).  Nam Pham said it best when he asked, "Can't an asian brother get some love?"  Jung could have said the same thing.  I understand it's the hyper aggressive nature of Garcia's striking that somehow dazzles judges into giving him fights he should lose, but if Garcia doesn't improve that technique, which he can with Greg Jackson as a coach, he's going to have karma making 2011 a rough year for him.   
Best Fighter of 2010:  Jose Aldo 
No doubt that George St. Pierre can go here easily, as he's had an amazing year capped off by a brutal beatdown of Josh Koscheck after a season of coaching against him in the last season of the Ultimate Fighter.  But Jose Aldo went from interesting fighter to P4P top five in the world and now as a part of the UFC machine, the public at large is going to know what more ravenous MMA fans have known for a while.  This guy is the real deal.  He's handed the best featherweight fighters in the world their heads on a silver platter.  Faber, Brown, Gamburyan, Swanson (who barely got a bull ride out of Aldo), the list of victims of Scarface is a book of the best 145lb fighters in the world.  Five years without a loss, and a sizzle real that had people at a bar looking in horror.  2:51 into this clip you see him touch gloves then end Cub Swanson's night in horrifying fashion.
Some fighters have a sizzle real, Jose Aldo should have a police record because what he does to other human beings shouldn't be legal.  (Be thankful the soccer kicks to the head aren't allowed in the UFC/WEC, because in his early fights, I feared he might kill someone with those things.) 
Ok, sure that the final GOTY stuff is going to be done tomorrow, so I'll probably finish up then as well.  As for now, it's sleep time.

Best of 2010 - My Opinion Part 2

Ok, this one's going to be short since I'm not playing any Co-Op games and don't own an XBox 360, again, only stuff I've played included. 
Best Downloadable Add-On (Giant Bomb Pick - Minerva's Den from Bioshock 2, my pick Piggsy's Perfect 10 from Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Piggsy didn't show up until late in Enslaved, and like Trip and Monkey, quickly became a definitive character with excellent voice acting and distinctive movements and affectations that made him instantly unique.  The ability to spend more time inside of Enslaved playing as that character with his quick one liners and myriad traps and bombs changed the formula and look of the main game making it feel like something fresh and new.  There was a bit of a Shank vibe going on in the cut scenes and it told an interesting side story that worked well on it's own.  A great addition to the game to give you an ending, at least to the side story, that didn't leave a bad taste in your mouth. 
Best Download Only Game (Giant Bomb Pick - Pac Man Championship Edition DX, my pick Pac Man Championship Edition DX
Just an incredible game, that made a 30 year old franchise feel completely new and reinvigorated.  It changed with the times, morphing from a game that was designed to eat quarters as quickly as possible, to a game that was meant to use the online leaderboards to push for better, more exacting play.  It was the first game that was so good that I felt I needed to review just to get the word out that it was that damn good, and the PS3 version stood up to the XBox 360 version as a great diversionary quick action game that should be used to break up longer more substantial games, if you can tear yourself away from it once you start.  One of the best downloadable games I've ever seen, and I don't have hope of seeing much better.  
Best Looking Game (Giant Bomb Pick - Kirby's Epic Yarn, my pick Enslaved: Odyssey to the West)  
Depending on the catagories, there might be more to to be said about this game, but it was unbelievable to see an Unreal Engine game pop with such lush color.  Gone were the expected washed out gray and brown and added in were blue skies, green foliage, and I haven't even started with the character designs.  Everything moved with a realistic fluidity and Monkey's animation was truly inspiring.  I enjoyed letting my son play around on the earlier levels just for the fact of sitting back and watching this in motion.  Enslaved was captivating, and got so many things right, that it was incredible just to sit back and watch as it did it's thing.


Best of 2010 - My Opinion

First a few things about this post.  It's limited to games that I've played and that means no XBox 360 games.  It's going to be PS3 heavy, but it's just my opinion, and your mileage may vary.  That being said, my thoughts on Day 1 of Giant Bomb's awards and maybe some anime thrown in for good (or bad measure). 
First, my takes on the Giant Bomb awards for Day 1: 
2010's 2009 Game of the Year (Giant Bomb Pick: Borderlands, my pick: Demon's Souls
While the DLC for Borderlands would earn this title for that game, and deservedly for the site, personally the best game of 2009 that I played this year was Gamespot's controversial Game of the Year choice for the PS3.  No game could be responsible for the amount of hours chewed up, the intense frustration and eventual joy that Demon's Souls delivered.  The oppressive atmosphere, tense combat, crazy boss battles, and absolute thrill of taking down one of the PS3's most difficult challenges was an experience that still sticks with me, and the amount of people I know that I would never expect to be into this game that find their way to it and revel in it's craziness still astounds me.   It seemed like a shoe in until a challenger appeared late in the year that nearly dethroned Demon's Souls, but the experience was still too unique and too much to be overcome.
Honorable Mention:  Assassin's Creed 2  
Best New Character (Giant Bomb Pick: Bayonetta or maybe Mordin Solus, my pick: Bayonetta
Chaos reigned in Platinum Games' reinvention of the Devil May Cry formula and there was witch responsible.  What seemed nearly exploitative turned empowering as Bayonetta as a character (and as a game as well) reveled in it's own sexuality with a self assuredness that didn't care what others thought about it.  She's like that friend you have who's so confident in themselves, warts and all, that you can't help but want to be around them just because they're not self conscious over every little thing.  That and she has guns, guns on her feet, which she uses to kill angels in such interesting ways.   Just brilliant in every way possible and turned someone who doesn't like this type of game into someone who has a picture of her as their background on this site.  
Honorable Mention:  Monkey and Trip from Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Best Original Song (Giant Bomb Pick: Entrance Music - Pac Man Championship Edition DX, my pick: Soul Phrase by Shoji Meguro/Reiko Tanaka, opening song to Persona 3 Portable
Persona 3's story is much darker than Persona 4's and the new intro theme for the PSP version of the game sets the mood perfectly for the darkness that awaits.  Opening with a strong guitar lick that plays almost like a dirge of the horrors that await but still keeping the musical feel to the game. Amusing side note to the song, it's mostly sung in English believe it or not, but good luck picking it up throughout the Engrish.   
Best Debut (Giant Bomb Pick: Bayonetta, my pick: Bayonetta
Most of what I talked about during "Best New Character" section applies here.  Platinum Games DID NOT CARE about what you thought about this game.  They just made it and it's turned into a hallmark of the companies games in 2010.  Vanquish?  They DID NOT CARE if you thought it was a Gears derivative.  Bayonetta? They DID NOT CARE if you thought it was a Devil May Cry clone.  They set out to make their games louder, faster, nastier, more Japanese, and simply better than the games you'd try to compare them to, and they started 2010 off with a liberal dose of that with Bayonetta.  Absurdity transformed into amusement into respect by the end of it for a company showing that kind of over the top commitment to being as crazy as possible, and if 2010 is any indication, 2011 should continue to be a year to look forward to whatever the fever dreams that grip the people at Platinum produce. 
Instead of best PC game which I don't have an opinion on not having played Civ V, Starcraft II, or Cataclysm, here's some Anime related stuff for those interested: 
Best Anime Series watched in 2010 not made in 2010:  Naoki Urasawa's Monster 
Great writing, and a series to show people who think that all anime sucks.  The animation is more realistic which would make it a less jarring introduction to Japanese Animation than most of what's thrown around, and the story is smart, gripping, and more interesting than anything else I watched this year.  It's makes me wonder if an anime version of 20th Century Boys will ever be made or if the live action films will be the adaptation we get for that story.  Possibly some PLUTO coming as well?  More Naoki Urasawa is a good thing, and here's hoping that more is what we eventually get. 
Best Anime Series watched in 2010 made in 2010:  Togainu No Chi (a.k.a. Bloody Curs or Blood of the Reprimanded Dog) 
Also the biggest surprise of 2010, as it was a series during the fall season that I was ready to write off after an episode saying that at least I gave it a shot.  23 minutes later, Togainu No Chi surpassed everything on the surface that would drive me away from it (Boys' Love series, based on yaoi visual novel, shounen-ai character designs) on the initial strength of one of the best anime opening songs this year (Rose Hip Bullet by Granrodeo, the full version of which which sounds like Japanese Dragonforce on LSD, and by the way, whichever between Rock Band and Guitar Hero puts this out as DLC has my money and hospital bills for broken fingers), the gorgeous animation style and use of color during the show, and the absolute stark brutality of the violence.  IA well told story, and more focus on the toll of the situation than the orientation of the characters made it must watch and I'm looking forward to the final episode which should be streaming on Anime News Network shortly.  As I said, it's the biggest surprise of 2010, and a show that those who like their violence more like Texhnolyze and less like Gantz should watch through without hesitation.  


Assassin's Creed 1 and 2 finished

So just finished Assassin's Creed 2 after playing straight through both games this week.  I'm pretty interested now in possibly picking up Brotherhood but I'd like to know if it's continuing the story in the single player first.   There's also surprisingly few trophies left to get for the game after playing the game through once, which I actually appreciate, and although one of them is to hunt down those damn feathers (and therefore get the Auditore Cape for that one as well) it's less painful than I'm looking at for other game on my list.  The Sandman and Sweeper trophies look like it'll require a beating but I can get those done, the Air Assassination trophy just looks like I need to find the right time and place, and the kill 10 consecutive enemies might just require me locking in a ton of smoke bombs and going nuts on everyone.  Oh, and I didn't spend 5000 florins on courtesans, which surprises me because they were USEFUL every time I did hire them.   
Taking a break right now.  Wondering where to go from here.  Maybe some God of War?  Maybe some GTA4?  Give Fallout 3 another chance?   Or I could just go with inFamous and play another open world adventure game.


Going Relatively Retro and UFC 124 thoughts

So I'm in the middle of one of the most wonderful times of the year.  Not that it's the holiday season, but it's time to burn all of the accumulated vacation and personal time I have at work before it gets eaten up into the dark corporate void of "unused time" which means I'm heading towards a seven of nine week.   
So what's a seven of nine?  I don't trust that if I'm not there at least a little bit, that I'll come back to work with monkeys hanging off the ceiling throwing poo everywhere and that if I'm gone for an extended period of time everything will be completely broken, so I set up weeks where I go in on Monday to make sure nothing broke over the weekend and Friday to make sure nothing's broken going into the next weekend, so out of nine days, I get seven off.  It also allows for me to take my two weeks of vacation and turn it into three weeks of vacation, and when I hit my five year it'll allow me to take my three weeks of vacation and turn it into five weeks.   
Going into the seven of nine caused me to take a good look at my gaming shelf and decide to hit up on some earlier games that I've been storing away but haven't had the time to really get into.  (I guess that's what a backlog is... ok, there's a word for it) so I started ordering the games that I was going to try to push through this week so at the very least, there's no games on my shelf still in the plastic wrap.  The order looked like this: 
Katamari Forever  
My wife and son play it, but I haven't had a good swipe at it and I marked this as a game to use as a break from the other games on the list but it's a Katamari game which means it never quite works out that way does it?  My son overwrote the old save file too, so it meant starting pretty much from scratch to rebuild what was already there.  So far I've cleared the main mode, just finished up Katamari Drive (which wasn't done on the old save file) and now I'm looking at it debating what to do next.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
So I started playing this on Friday night figuring that if there was one game in my backlog that I wanted to finish this week, THIS was the game.  I've played it until Chapter 8 and stopped for some reason or another.  Then I picked it up, got to Chapter 14, then stopped for some reason again.  So I told myself that this game was getting finished this week as I got home from work on Friday, put it in and started playing.  When I looked at the clock it was 4am on Saturday and ending credits were rolling.  Great game, lots of fun, but like Enslaved, it's one of those games that has the problem of "there's collectables here, but don't look for them, advance the story already" syndrome.  I'm debating if I'm going to trophy hunt this or Enslaved and get all of those collectables but it's nice to have finally finished the game. 
I got this during the Walmart Black Friday sale, and I played it for a few hours right after getting it.  I was really digging on the game and I'm looking forward to heading back in and playing some more of tihs.  It got pushed aside for me to finally finish off Disgaea 3 (Platinum) and Heavy Rain (Wow... depressing endings if you mess up enough) but with that, finished and Uncharted already knocked out, inFamous goes up on the list of games to play this week. 

Assassin's Creed I & II  
I know.  People keep saying to just skip AC1 and move straight to the superior sequel, but I have both games sitting on the shelf.  If I play AC2, I know I'll never go back, so I'm going to try to start playing AC1 just so I don't feel bad about buying it and I'll have to temper my expectations of it being polished knowing the better version comes next. 

God of War Collection 
I have never finished a God of War game.  I never even owned GoW2 because I didn't really get into GoW1 when I had it.  I had no qualms about letting someone borrow it, and didn't miss it terribly much while they had it.  Time's passed, the game's been upressed, and it's considered one of the best games of all time, so I should theoretically play some of this because I'm interested, I'm just not pulled to it strongly enough to set the time aside to play it yet.  Like inFamous, for $10 this was a no brainer, and it's nice to have it. 
I might get in contact with one of my friends who's borrowing Valkyria Chronicles and see if I can get that sent back to me too.  I think that five months is enough time to let someone borrow a game, especially when I don't have one in return. 
Oh, and the card for UFC 124 doesn't look that great, but these are the cards that generally surprise you with competitive quality fights, so my wife and I are heading out to watch the fights tonight.  In the main event I have St. Pierre by mauling for 25 minutes over Koscheck.  I would love to see Kos win the fight just for the absolute CHAOS that would ensue in Montreal tonight but I just don't see it happening.


Enslaved impressions, a new/old PSP, and UFC 123

So first off, I got Enslaved from Amazon in the mail this Thursday and I've already blown through the first eight chapters of the game.  It's written much better than it has any right to be.  Great script and animation, and some cool little things such as the Trip/Monkey, "What's your name" conversation where it throttles your speed to make sure you have the entire conversation before entering the next area.  I wouldn't have felt too good about paying $60 for it, but for $25, that game's a steal and definately recommended for "eventual pickup" status if it's not there for you already.   
Christmas is coming up, which is delaying my pickup of a new laptop to replace this beat up piece of junk that I'm working with right now.  One of the things that my wife and I contemplated was picking up a PSP for Malachi, since he wants to use mine all the time.  I think he wants to have the PSP because *I* have a PSP, and he's familiar with it's layout and linking it to my PSN account means it has games as well as games on my shelf he'll play like Little Big Planet.  I can also throw some music on there which should make him happy.  I started looking at new and used PSPs and was looking at a floor of $99 and a ceiling of $129 (Sears is selling the LBP bundle 3000 for that on Black Friday and Atlus is having a 50% off PSN sale until Next Tuesday... pro tip!)  but I went into a Play N Trade and they recommended PRG Repair Service to me, which is who they use for repairs and it's less than 4 miles away from my house.  I'm thinking of dropping off my busted PSP with them and letting them have a go with it and they quoted me a price of $60.  Knight's Gaming Repair is also local to me, but I have a hard time dropping off a PSP to a business which has a BBB rating of "F".  Just a risk I don't want to take, so I'll give PRG a try and see if they can get the old 1000 model up and running again. 
About to head out to watch UFC 123 headlined by the Quentin Jackson/Lyoto Machida fight.  I love these guys and I'm going to be happy no matter who wins as they're just polar opposites and their dancing on the extremes makes me love to watch them.  Quentin's a character straight out of the WWE, where he needs to go when he's done with the UFC, and Lyoto has this almost Miyagi effect of being so humble and respectful, it'll be great to watch them get after each other.  As for my picks: 
Aaron Simpson vs. Mark Munoz:  I think we're seeing that the Munoz loss to Okami, the NEW #1 contender to the Welterweight throne isn't that bad a loss.  Then again Simpson's loss to Leben isn't very bad either.  I think that Munoz takes this one late.  Munoz KO, R3 
Matt Brown vs. Brian Foster:  Brown's about to get released if he keeps losing, and I don't want to see that because I love watching him fight.  I think in the end Foster's going to take him down though and grind him out.  Foster, Decision. 
 George Sotiropoulos vs. Joe Lauzon:  I *love* Lauzon's ground game, but Sotiropoulos is on the rise and I think that Lauzon's annhilation of Jens Pulver is fading further in the rear-view mirror.  (Remember, Lauzon beat Pulver when he was GOOD, not the WEC version where his heart's in it but his body can't comply anymore.)  Lauzon needs this, but I think that he's not going to get there.  Sotiropoulos, Decision 
Phil Davis vs. Tim Boetsch:  Tim Boetsch can't beat a great wrestler, and that's what Phil Davis is.  This seems to be a custom made match to get the former Division 1 wrestling champion as good start in his UFC career.  Davis, R2, KO via brutal ground and pound 
Gerald Harris vs. Maiquel Falcio:  I want Harris to slam him through the floor, and I think that he might comply in this fight.  Not to say that Falcio is a bad fighter, but I think like the above fight, they're trying to showcase Harris for a shot down the road.  Harris, R1, KO via driving his opponent through the ring and into the concrete below. 
Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn:  NOW we're talking!  A battle between two of the worst coaches in Ultimate Fighter history (*the* worst coach is fighting later) hopefully will lead to BJ Penn getting back on the winning track and sending Hughes into retirement.  I'm still soured at Hughes handing out bibles during training and when one person refused his constant badgering to get him to read "the Good Book".  Listen, if I was in that situation I'd be like, " I respect your fighting abilities, and I respect your beliefs.  I'm also a Pagan and I'm not interested in being converted into anything other than a better fighter right now."  Penn wasn't a bad coach because he's a bad fighter, he's bad because he does so much by instinct that I don't think he even understands what makes him tick.  Penn grinds this one out with some impressive standup early and then gets fended off late in the fight as he tries to submit Hughes.  I want Penn via Decision by blasting Hughes then furiously trying to choke him out but failing to. 
Quinton Jackson vs. Lyoto Machida:  Rua's Machida's kryptonite and I think we all forget after those two fights how incredible Machida's striking and evasion is.  Jackson's going to have to hunt Machida down and he's going to eat a LOT of kicks on the way in.  I think if Jackson can corner Machida, he can do incredible amounts of damage, but that's going to be easier said than done.  Jackson NEEDS to finish this fight, because if it goes to decision, he's going to lose.  That being said, I think Machida by decision, Jackson unable to corner him long enough to do damage necessary to win the fight.


So I made my first Amazon purchase today...

I loved the Enslaved demo, and when I found out that it was on sale for $25 on Amazon, I had to jump at it.  I know that it's not going to carry that level of awesome throughout the entire game, but the demo had me sold, just not at $60.  I didn't even realize that Amazon dropped it down to $40 until I saw the gold box deal today, but at $25 rather than the $60 that I thought was being charged for it, I had to do it.  The biggest issue was that I didn't know that I had an Amazon account, which I probably made hoping that the Persona 4 Social Link Expansion pack would be back in stock, so it's been nearly two years since I tried to buy anything from Amazon, and unfortunately it didn't have what I wanted (at a reasonable price, secondary resellers were GOUGING for that) by the time I had the money to buy it.  Enslaved at $25 is too good though, and I'm happy that sometime two weeks from now, I'll have the game to play around with, just in time for Thanksgiving break from work.   
I'm also looking to replace my laptop during Black Friday.  It's beaten to hell and needs to be replaced, and I'm hoping for somewhere around $250 to $400 I can get a replacement that's far more capable than this beat up machine is proving to be recently.  The computer was bought back in 2002, so it's long overdue for a replacement.   
It was also Playstation Network day today, and I hate it when this happens.  I wanted to pick up Crescent Pale Mist because it looks great and I liked the Gundemonium Collection I picked up earlier from Rockin' Android.  Of course I had a, "well, while I'm here and making a purchase" moment and picked up the Item and Class World Attack modes and Survival modes for Disgaea 3.  I'm in the mid 2000's now with a bunch of my characters and starting to grind gear while searching for the last regular item world pirates (I need Sports and Red) so I'm pushing the rank 39 stuff up to outfit my party for a hellish dive into the Land of Carnage where hopefully I can get my thief up to a high enough level to start stealing the level 40 gear that I need for my characters and to start reverse pirating some more advanced specialists.   
Back to Crescent Pale Mist, the game's second level opens things up a ton and it looks like there's going to be lots of secret passages and crazy stuff going on in that game.  I'm looking forward to getting some time to really explore what's going on as the combat is crazy and fast, and the switching into a bullet hell for boss battles looks like it's going to break up any potential for it to become stale.  I'm intrigued in exploring the game more and it looks like it's going to be a nice diversion from some of the heavier games that I've been playing lately (which was what Gundemonium was used to break up before as well).  Cheers to Rockin' Android for that. 
Speaking of "heavier" games, I've been going on a trophy run for Heavy Rain in the downtime of Disgaea grinding.  I'm down to two left but one is going to force a near complete playthrough in order to commit the perfect crime, and use that as a springboard to pick up the all endings trophy to finish the game.  It'll go next to Demon's Souls as games that I've beaten thoroughly and don't need to go back to, but I feel is essential enough that I don't want to trade them in.  I'll store them instead in case I have someone who has a PS3 that I know who wants to experience something awesome.   
And with that... back to more grind sessions in the Netherworld. 
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