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Jaren Face's blog

10:37 PM on 10.08.2008

Anyone want to nab 350 Free Microsoft Points?

I’m not sure if anyone remembers, but that MSN Auto Dreamcar Microsoft Point Promotion recently just sent out their Microsoft points for those who “designed” their dreamcars earlier this summer. I guess I missed the fine print saying that the MSPs were region specific with that reason being the United States.

Instead of going to the trouble of creating an American Live account to use them, I thought hey, maybe someone on Destructoid might want them.

At first I wanted to send them over to the RFGO! Team for being the first podcast to introduce me to the world of podcasts, a thank you for the addiction if you will. But then it occurred to me that I only had 350 points, and it wouldn’t really be fair for three people to get 100, while one gets 50 and the last get none. Plus 100 MSP sounds like a shitty thank you.

Moving on, since I was planning to buy one or two Rock Band DLC tracks with those points, I was thinking of having a little contest asking people to post their Rock Band characters, and my favourite would get the points. Then I realized this is sort of a lot of trouble for a measly 350 points, so that went down the drain.

Finally, I thought I’d just do it the old fashion way, one lucky commenter will walk away with a very awesome 350 Microsoft Points. I’ll leave this up for a day or so then choose a poster at random. Easy as that.

Once again, all you have to do is leave a comment for a chance to nab some (350) free Microsoft Points! The MSP can only be used on an American Xbox Live account, so keep that in mind.

If you read through my life story, then I applaud you for that. So get posting while I start studying for my web studies test next week.

Update: Two days later, well...

Thanks for everyone that took interest. If ever there's another contest where I'm able to score some free MSP that I can't use, the Cblogs will be there first place I try to dump them.   read

9:30 PM on 03.08.2008

Random Ramblings. A love letter to Elite Beat Agents.

Ok, maybe not a love letter, but that's not the point. Oh, this post sort of contains spoilers. But it's a rhythm-based game! What's there really to spoil?

Growing up, there was only one game I would associate with the rhythm-based genre. I bet it comes as no surprise that that game was Konami's Dance Dance Revolution. Almost in ever arcade/gaming area I went into as a kid, there would always be a DDR machine. That trend seems to continue even today, as even the biggest "arcade" (more so a gaming center) in my area homes a section dedicated to four, five different stations. Sure I would play the occasional Beat Mania or Guitar Freaks machine, but DDR was a force to be reckoned with that was sure to bring a crowd to spectators and ghosters awaiting their turn.

Over the years, that association to the genre would certainly change. These days, when I think of the rhythm-based genre, two things are sure to come to mind. The first is of course, fan favourite developing team Harmonix. I've had such great experiences with their games. From Frequency, Amplitude, The first "three" Guitar Heroes, and now Rock Band, I have many fond memories attached to those titles, enough that I'll be sure to dedicate another love letter to them. Harmonix has definitely made an impact on my views of rhythm-based games, making the genre one of my favourites and the crowning of me as "the music games guy" among my friends.

But I digress. This isn't a love letter to Harmonix. As the title states, the second association to the genre I now have is Nintendo's Elite Beat Agents. Released in November of 2006, EBA is a rhythm game on the Nintendo DS. Players use the stylus to tap, drag, and circle indicators on the screen in tune to modern and classic pop and rock hits such as Deep Purple's Highway Star, The Rolling Stones' Jumpin' Jack Flash and Earth, Wind and Fire's September.

Even though more of a recent title, the game made such an impact on me on so many different levels that it soon became one of my favourite games ever. The style, the atmosphere, the general excitement I felt towards the game just made it seem so great to me.

For starters, the game has you taking the roles of agents of a government agency, who's sole purpose is to help people out in wacky (and sometimes heartfelt) situations through dance. To me, the concept is just awesome. You're not just some musician trying to make it big, or a dancer in a club. You're an agent trying to make a difference through dance. It's so bizarre, yet so positive that it makes me all giddy inside.

The agents themselves are just very fun looking. Each supporting a fine looking suit and a wide variety of hair and accessories, it's hard not to instantly like these commanders of dance. Just for added fan service, you can even unlock the Elite Beat Divas. While they can be seen as mere eye candy, they emit the same amount of charisma the other agents do, making the whole game even more appealing.

And those situations you find yourself in? They're pretty fun as well. These missions correspond with a song which relates to the situation. In the game, the songs are divided into sections. If you do well in the section, the story continues positively. On the opposite hand, if you do crappy, that's basically have happens to the people you're trying to assist. The variety of objectives take you not only around the globe, but around a spectrum of values as well.

You start off the game trying to assist a guy who's visiting the girl he likes while she babysits, but babysitting leads to a chaotic turn of events. From there you find yourself assisting a movie director trying to make the next blockbuster film, a lost puppy trying to find this way home, hell, even a white blood cell (in the form of a hot nurse, lols) trying to fight off sickness.

Hell, it even has one of the most heart whelming scenarios ever. The mission for the song You're the Inspiration has you assisting a little girl who's father passes away. and is trying to keep his thoughts alive. I just found it so emotional, that I couldn't do crappy on any of the parts, or else situations would worsen for this girl and her mother who are trying to stay strong. Yeah, a rhythm-based game made me feel attached to characters. Who would have thought.

These situations get so over the top, but yet are entertaining. You are exposed to a wide array of characters who's hopes and dreams lay on your ability to dance. How awesome is that.

The only problem I find, and this maybe due to the fact that i have a bitter sociology kid within me, are the values that some of the missions project. While you do have some very heartfelt ones, those are accompanied by ones that really speak to what a materialistic thriving society we've become (well, technically a waste society, but that's a whole different blog topic/blog all together). A few scenarios have you assisting people in get-rich quick schemes, or getting everything you need, not through work, but by your looks alone. While the levels may be fun to play, I could have done without the materialistic girls with the jiggling breasts (not to mention how most, if not all, the female characters in the game are strangely attractive for cartoon characters).

Other than that, the presentation is really top notch. The little cinematics play out like a comic book with the cartoon characters being animated here and there. The only real instances of 3d are the agents themselves dancing on the touch screen. A little nice touch is how they usually dance to the lyrics of the song, whether they be doing an ollie motion in Sk8er Boi or the Y.M.C.A. during... well, Y.M.C.A., it's a really nice touch they added. While you won't really notice them since you'll be frantically poking away at your screen, they really add to the fun chaoticness of the bottom half. The funny thing is, if you watch a replay of your run and actually concentrate on your dancers... they're pretty bad. In a good way, of course. But that's beside the point. Visually alone, the game is easy on the eyes, and it just makes the whole thing feel warm and welcoming.

The style of the game itself is what had me drawn to the title. The gameplay itself however, is what made me stay. You simply need to tap the screen to the rhythm of the song, with the occasional dragging along and drawing circles like mad. That's it. It's some simple to get into, but as you start to play more, get the hang of it, and start playing around the harder songs, you soon realize how frantic it gets... but it never gets to the point where it seems impossible.

And this is an aspect I love about the game. The game does get challenging as you play the harder songs, but it never gets so hard that you frustratingly want to quit. All the songs just seem manageable. If you can't get it at first, you do get this sense that you can nail it with a few more tries practicing. Pretty soon you get the hang of it and eventually beat it. But then you're left with a feeling that you can do better. and even if you do it again and hit every note, there's still room for improvement.

And improve you will. The game isn't that hard, and it isn't made to be that hard, just enjoyable. The screen gets to frantic at times, but you can still hit every note, creates such an addicting and entertaining experience. The songs don't scare you off like say Jordan, Through the Fire and Flames or Raining Blood. They're difficult in a sense that you don't need to spend a week practicing a section over and over to do, but that you can get it after an hour at most of restarting. And I honestly did not mind that fact, since the soundtrack is pretty decent as well.

Sure, the setlist is filled with some of the most mainstream songs recently, coupled with the classic rock jam, or the romantic slow song. While this may piss off music elitists, I must say, the soundtrack fits so well. All the songs are catchy, and fit their corresponding scenarios so well. They're all recognizable tunes that span a time frame of 40 years or so. Not only that, but overall they're just easy to listen to, and sound way more inviting than some of the tracks you'd find in Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

I guess what makes the soundtrack so appealing to me is the fact that I can associate a specific memory with each one. Whether it be remembering my last year of highschool during September, a summer vacation during La La or my friends and I playing Rock Band during Highway Star (OMG! PARADOX!), each song is just easy to relate to in some way. And that's what I really find great about them. Since setlist has such a variety of well known radio friendly songs, I'm sure many people can associate certain memories to some, if not most of the tracks found within the game.

Arguably, you need three things to make a real gem of a rhythm based game. Presentation, gameplay, and of course music. EBA has all these three, and tie them together so well that you have such an inviting game. And that's another thing I love about it. The game is just so inviting to people. Sure, a dance mat or a plastic guitar with a million notes scrolling at you can seem intimidating to some. But just seeing someone tapping the screen multiple times seems way less potentially humiliating. The visuals are great, the music is just as well, and teh fact that it never gets too difficult just make EBA an overall great experience on the DS.

So, what now? It's almost been a year and a half, and still no sign of a sequel. Sure, there are two Ouendan games (Their Japanese counterpart, whose franchise EBA is a spin-off of), but I can honestly say that's not enough. In a time where countless sequels, spin-offs and DLC are made available for most of the popular rhythm-based games out there, it saddens me that EBA isn't getting that same kind of treatment. It's a quality experience that many more people should give a shot.

Now, the point of this "little" love letter of mine? Simple. I want more colourful scenarios, I want the same "just right" difficulty, I want more songs that I can associate memories too. Simply put, I want more Elite Beat Agents. So, if you're listening Reggie, I highly suggest you get on that.

And that's my problem. Now excuse me as I run outside and scream "help!" at the top of my lungs, in hope for three agents (or divas) to arrive and dance a sequel into my hands.   read

8:53 PM on 03.06.2008

Circuit City has your first Guitar Hero Aerosmith details.

Circuit City has updated their product page for the upcoming spin off, Guitar Hero Aerosmith.

The page lists the game for a disheartening, yet non-surprising, $59.99 before taxes with a 06/30/08 release date. As well, game highlights include:

-Over 40 playable songs.
-At least 25 of those will come from Aerosmith themselves. They're all set to be the original masters or re-recordings of their hits.
-These songs include Dream On, Make It, Mama Kin, and Movin Out.
-The remaining songs were chosen by Aerosmith themselves. These tracks feature artists such as Lenny Kravitz, The Black Crowes, Run DMC, and Stone Temple Pilots.
-The Career mode has you playing venues that the band has played themselves throughout the years, including Nipmuc High School, The Big Game Half-Time Show, Orpheum Theater, Russia, and The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
-Behind the Scenes Aerosmith videos.
-Online/Offline multiplayer including Co-op and Head-to-Head modes.

Does any of this new information peak your interests? Personally, I love the idea of different genres of music crossing over into the Guitar Hero/Rock Band franchises, so I'm stoked to see Run DMC here (even though that probably just means Walk This Way, which is still awesome).

However, while I'm not surprised to see such a high selling price, it does rub me the wrong way. For essentially 40 tracks, asking $60 is a lot (considering how many songs are offered in the stand alone versions of GHIII/RB for the same price). Oh well, just as Rocks the 80s, this gets a price-cut/sales price purchase.   read

9:28 PM on 03.04.2008

Could Guitar Hero Van Halen be the next band specific title?

Today, Bobby Kotick (Activision CEO) gave a talk at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference. During the speech, Kotick discussed artists making money off appearing in the Guitar Hero games, and noted both Aerosmith and Van Halen as examples of whom they can be potentially exposing younger audiences to.

Taken/paraphrased from Kotaku

If true, does this peak your interests more than the Areosmith or possible U2 editions?

As much as I love the Guitar Hero franchise, I'm really not feeling the direction Activision/Neversoft are taking with these band specific games. Sure, even with the possibility that they'll contain songs from artists that have inspired the bands themselves, most of the set-list will probably be artist-specific.

I don't know about you guys, but one thing I enjoy most about GH and Rock Band is being exposed to all these different bands/songs that I, for the most part, would never have heard of. The idea of one-band specific games takes away from that experience I find. I prefer the idea of getting a set-list full of variety, as opposed to a majority of songs concentrating on one band.

Then again, I wouldn't really find this a problem if the price was right, but seeing as Guitar Hero Rock the 80s (Another GH Spin-off/Expansion) was released at full price, I won't hold my breath.

But I digress. What are your thoughts?   read

4:55 PM on 03.04.2008

Random Ramblings. My afterthoughts in regards to IGN's Brawl Review.

Long post is long, so here are a few quick summaries of what these next few paragraphs discuss. My impressions of the game can be found in the third section, while the first two is just random typing.

Summary of these next paragraphs: IGN gives Brawl a 9.5, internet shitstorm, I just ask why people take it so personally.

Another day, another random Jaren Face blog, and another one that pertains to the upcoming release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. For those who havent seen (Im assuming almost everyone), yesterday I posted a blog containing a few screen shots my friends and I have taken using the in-games snapshot feature. Within the post, I stated that I wasnt going to review the game, and gave a fairly quick opinion about it. Before I get the ball rolling, this is not a review either. This is more so me just throwing my two cents out there in regards to what is arguably the Wii's biggest title right now, and has the masses nerdgasming in their pants for Sunday to arrive.

What brings this up was a conversation I had with a friend today, as we sat waiting for our AST201 lecture to start. He brought up the fact that gaming website IGN had recently gave the game a score of 9.5 and the reader response was nothing pretty. Just a quick search of 'IGN' on the GameFAQs Brawl board makes me facepalm so much that it makes me wonder how I've been a member since 2002. Sure, that outcry is more than expected when a Triple-A title is released, but even so it still bewilders me to see how so many people can take a review so personally, like as if they've had something to do with the game themselves.

Countless people criticizing the reviewer about his lack of ability to play the game, the numerous posts dealing with "You can't spell ignorant without IGN", the list of anti-reviewer clichs goes on. 9.5 seems to be the new 8.8 today, and it just aggravates me to see people up in arms about this. 9.5 is a damn fine score to be given, but of course the hype machine has apparently built the game up so high on a pedestal, that anything less than a 10 would do. But of course the masses haven't played it yet and are just going on pure loyalty-instinct that it hasn't occurred to them that this game might actually deserve that score?

Summary of these next paragraphs: Everyone loves Smash, and my history with it..

After a month of playing an imported version, even I can't bring myself to give it something that high. Don't get me wrong, Smash Bros. is a fun game, and why wouldn't it be? The concept as we know is pretty genius. Take beloved video game franchise characters and make them duke it out with each other. What's not to love? Going through highschool, Melee became a staple. It had a pretty hardcore following, people would play it backstage during school presentations/plays, the video game club was essentially the Melee club, hell, even kids would bring in portable DVD players/Gamecubes and get a few rounds in before class.

As I'm coming to the end of my first year at University, it isn't surprising at how many people love the game as well. Staring at random laptop screens and seeing people watching videos of Brawl on youtube or checking up on the Dojo updates proves that. Now, you can see how much of Melee I was exposed to.

9/10 times when my friends and I would hang out, we'd end up playing some Smash. We're all pretty avid players, so of course we were excited about Brawl. Hopefully a few of you can relate to where I'm coming from based on this. Melee was huge, so the look on our faces when we got our hands on Brawl was nothing less than a kid during Christmas (Before he opened up his Xbox to only find clothes).

Summary of these next paragraphs: My impressions - It's a prettier Melee. What more can I say. It's fun, but it's not as LOLSHITMYPANTSINAWESOMENESS as you'd expect.

I'll be honest. Brawl is a solid game. If you liked Melee, you'll definitely fall in love with Brawl. After the first time we played it, the general consensus between my friends was that we could never bring up Melee again. The variety of characters, stages and items are amazing. Each and every one of them is all fun to use. The joy of playing numerous versus matches and suddenly being given the chance to unlock a new character is something to be experienced yourself. And once that character is unlocked? Even more reason to throw away another hour or two away with it.

Hell, even the little trinkets the game has are pretty fun too. I've thrown away at least an hour with the coin blaster mini-game, and the stage builder is decent enough to recreate what seems to be Hyrule Castle for the 64 version or what seems to be a game of Tetris in progress (Also, cocks.)

You are given this wide variety of characters, stages, items and music. You are given that sense of wonder in seeing what Assist trophy will come out that capsule, who will nab that floating Smash Ball, what song that new music CD has unlocked, if a new challenger is coming after this round. That excitement for trying that new character, that new stage, that new item is fantastic, and will definitely bring a smile to your face.

But once that excitement fades, once the novelty of finally playing Brawl is gone, you're left with a prettier Melee. This is still essentially the same game we've been playing for the past four, five years or so, with just a bit more of added flavour. Once you've tried every character, once you've played every stage, once you've seen every assist trophy, every final smash... well, you get the picture.

I know, I know. If it's not broken, don't fix it. And I'm happy Nintendo did just that. People wanted more characters and levels, and we've been given just that. But to me, it seems we were just given that. In no way does that make it a bad game, just a more familiar one.

Maybe my tastes as a gamer have changed, but I was honestly sick of Brawl two weeks in. After almost two years of waiting, staying up for Dojo Updates, discussing who will make the roster cut, after all that... Smash is as it always was.

Call that the problem of sequels, or the result of Ungodly hype created for it. Whatever you call it, I personally didn't find it the second coming of Nintendo Christ. I guess what I'm trying to say is I don't think IGN was wrong in giving it a 9.5, it sure deserves it. But once you get over all the new additions and have finally settled in with the game, there is a certain "been there, done that" aspect to it (which you can say about a lot of sequels out there).

Well, if you've stuck with my post for this long, you've successfully killed some time and the release of Brawl is that much closer. If you do plan on picking it up this Sunday, hopefully you'll enjoy it much more than I did. For those not looking forward to the title/not fans of the series, don't fret. You're not really missing that much.

Summary of these last paragraphs: LOL I R A FGGT AND DON'T FIND SMASH THAT GREAT ANYMORE.   read

7:07 PM on 03.03.2008

Immaturity at its finest. My friends playing around with Brawl's Snapshot feature. (Spoilers?)

Spoiler Warning: The following pictures include a few unlockable characters/stages in the upcoming game, Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Well, the North American release of Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Brawl is almost upon us. What better way to celebrate this occasion than to squeeze all I can out of the fact that for the past month now, my friends and I have been playing an Imported Brawl almost any chance we could.

Since I'm pretty tired of God telling me to write a C-Blog, I guess now would be the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. However, as much sense as it would be to write a review (In my opinion, the game's a prettier Melee. What more can I say. It's fun, but it's not as LOLSHITMYPANTSINAWESOMENESS as you'd expect) I thought I'd just share with the DToid community a few of the (immature) pictures that have been taken using the game's snapshot feature.

Well, here it is. I could also answer questions if any of you have any, but you didn't come here to do that. You came here to see Sonic look at Snake's Ass. Yeah you did.

You can view the rest here:

*If anyone knows how to post the slideshow directly in the blog through flickr or photobucket, that would be cool.   read

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