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7:50 AM on 08.28.2009

What I Got This Past Week: Quest Nearing Completion

Okay, so if you read the other two blogs I posted, you'd know that I've been on a bit of a quest to reclaim all of the games I sold a few years back. I didn't really go into a lot of detail about it, so here's a basic rundown:

When the DS Lite was released in June of 2006, I decided to breakdown and buy one. I borrowed my brother's DS a few times to play Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow and really wanted a copy of my own. And with a bunch of games on the horizon that appealed to my interests (like the New Super Mario Brothers and Portrait of Ruin), the purchase was pretty much a no-brainer.

This was my siren. I'd do anything to obtain it...well, short of prostitution and selling my first-born.

However, the missus didn't want me dropping almost $200 for a game system, since she was pregnant with our second kid and said that money could go towards something we really need. So I gathered up some games, old comics, and CDs, and threw them up on eBay. Some of the games were rare or hard-to-find ones; Valkyrie Profile (sold for around $120), Suikoden (I think I got $80-$90 for it), Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis (I was surprised; I believe I sold it for $70). At the time, I justified their sale with the thought that I don't play them, nor did I plan to play them anytime soon.

A year later, I realized my mistake. No, I highly enjoyed my DS Lite; it's served me well all these years and is my go-to game system when I get bored with console games. My mistake was selling off the games I did. What the hell was I thinking?

How you would usually find me after I realized what I had done.

Since then, I've been slowly but surely reclaiming what I have lost. Thankfully, a good chunk of my games were sold to my little brother; the two Lunar games for the PS1, the first Shadow Hearts, Dragon Quest VII, among others. He sold them back to me for around the same amount I sold them to him. Some were located in game stores; most at Gamestop, a few at Game Crazy and Play N' Trade. And others have been tracked down online, with most found on Amazon's marketplace.

Which leads me to this:

The game I didn't think I'd ever own again: Suikoden. I found this one for $50 on Amazon. The case is in excellent condition. The instruction manual has a small tear on the front cover, but is otherwise in great shape. And the disc has very light scratches, nothing too serious or that would affect gameplay. This and Valkyrie Profile were the two games I really regretted selling, and now both have returned to my collection. I was extremely happy to place it on my shelf.

Also, why the hell did we get the crappy covers back in the day (and still do occasionally)? What is going on with this cover? It's like something for a bad 80's fantasy movie or hair metal band. Compare that to what Japan got:

Europe's cover was the same, just with a white background. This and the cover for the first Mega Man stand out in my mind as being the most "WTF" game cover art.

And one of the games that was on my short-list of games I wanted to buy was also purchased:

I almost had this one a year or so ago. Found a complete copy at Gamestop and immediately bought it. When I got out to my car, I realized I didn't see if the clerk put both discs into the case. He did, but upon closer inspection, I found one of the discs had a deep gouge in it. Dammit. Seeing as though I couldn't find another copy in a brick-and-mortar store, I had to turn to the online variety.

So...the quest is coming to an end. There are only a couple more games to locate; looking for a copy of Skygunner, Suffering: Ties That Bind (you'd think this would be an easy one), and Clock Tower for the PS1.

I did pick up three other games this week; Batman Arkham Asylum, Metroid Trilogy, and Mana Khemia 2. But, figured I didn't need to post pics of them here.

Oh, forgot about this:

That would be my copy of Fatal Frame 2 for the Xbox, with cover art and instruction manual (not pictured). I mentioned buying the game the other week from Gamestop, sans cover and manual. I also mentioned I located a site that sells cover art inserts and instruction manuals, BRE Software's (whew). I ordered the missing items for my Fatal Frame 2, as well as 4 extra Xbox cases. Everything arrived this past Saturday, 4 days after I placed my order. The cases are used, but in good condition, and they put the insert and instruction manual in them. A minor detail, but still cool.

So if you're looking for manuals, cases, or cover art for your games, check them out. They don't have items for every game (been keeping an eye out on the site for an Ico manual), but they've got a lot. Only downside is that shipping is a bit high; maybe it was the additional cases, but my order total was about $9, and $12 to ship it.

There you go. One game returned to my collection, one game to cross off my list, and one game made whole, with a plug for the site that helped me make it whole.   read

7:25 AM on 08.25.2009

Why I Love Destructoid (Short and Sweet)

I love Destructoid because, while there are the occasional trolls to deal with, I don't have to worry about this:

The underage gamer. The kid who finds joy in mocking older gamers. The kid who uses haxor-L33t speak, even though the extent of their hacking skills ends with their ability to guess their parent's email password. You post an intelligent, well-thought out blog/comment, they come in with their failure to grasp the English language, their love of replacing letters with numbers, and their excess of exclamation points.

They aren't here, and I love Destructoid for that.   read

7:52 AM on 08.19.2009

I Went Game Hunting This Weekend (and Monday/Tuesday)

So, slightly inspired by my recent c-blog discussing my video game collection, I went on a mission this weekend: increase the collection. The focus was on PS2 and PS1 games. First stop, my parents' house to pick up some games from my little brother.

I sold Shadow Hearts to him a few years ago to fund my DS Lite purchase. I mentioned before that there were games that I didn't want to put on eBay and lose forever, so my little brother bought them from me. This one was one of those games. Can't remember how much he bought it from me for; I bought it back for $10.

Wild ARMs 2 was a surprise. He picked it up at the Play N' Trade store near us for $20, but wasn't thrilled with it. It so happens that I used to own it but traded it in (stupidly) to Gamestop many years ago. He sold it to me for $15, for the same reason I had sold him my games: don't want to sell them to someone outside of the family.

Next stop? The above mentioned Play N' Trade. Last time I went there, they had just opened, so their selection wasn't all that great. I did find a pristine copy of Thousand Arms, complete with the memory card sticks and hologram card. This time around?

That would be the third game in the Wizards and Warriors series (full name: Wizards and Warriors III - Kuros: Visions of Power). I own the first two and played the hell out of both of them when I was little. I never had the chance to play the third, and for whatever reason, never felt the need to search for it. When I spotted it in the display case, I decided it was time to complete the trilogy...especially since it was only $5. The clerk threw the plastic case in for free; he told me they had been selling them, but some guy came in recently and bought up most of them. They only had a few left, so they were throwing them in with NES cart purchases.

Also grabbed these:

The Fable purchase was one I mulled over for a bit. I never played it, and while I did like the second one, it was a bit on the short side (and had a disappointing ending). People told me the second was better than the first, but I was also told that the Lost Chapters version is better than the original version of the game. So, what the hell...bought.

And while they are the Greatest Hits versions of the games, Final Fantasy Anthology and Final Fantasy Origins are sealed. They were also part of the Great DS Lite Funding Purge of '06, so I snagged them as soon as I spotted them.

Alundra 2...yeah. Bought this one a long time ago, after playing through most of the first game (which I have been meaning to actually finish one of these days). When I popped it in the ol' Playstation, I was like "what the hell is this? Where are the sprites and the Zelda-feel?" I hung onto it for a while and then traded it in. I did later regret that I didn't give the game a chance. Glad I've finally found one out in the wild.

I was a little disappointed that I didn't find a few of the games that are on my "must-find" list, which includes:

- Shadow Hearts: Covenant
- Shadow Hearts: From the New World
- Fatal Frame 2 Crimson Butterfly - Director's Cut (Xbox)
- Mega Man X Collection
- Suikoden

There are others; these are the ones highest on the list.

But hey, nice haul, right?

Well, I decided that while I'm on a roll, I might as well continue my search. I found that there is a Play N' Trade near where I work, so I took a trip there during my lunch break on Monday.

Sadly, this store seemed to focus on the newer-gen games. They did have a Dreamcast, which I'm considering picking up, but most of the retro games were sports games. Bleh.

On the way back to work, I decided to make a quick stop at a nearby Gamestop. Glad I did.

Knocked two off of my list. Sweet. I know the third Shadow Hearts isn't the best in the series, but it brings me that much closer to completing the trilogy. And Mega Man X Collection has eluded my hands for far too long, teasing me a couple times (like when I visited a Gamestop to find they only had the case and instructions, no game disc).

Also grabbed these two:

Metropolismania was $5. It was also another one I owned and sold to buy my DS Lite and kids, use me as an example: unless the game really sucks, hang onto it. You may end up spending far too much time trying to track them down later on.

The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy is for my son. He's now 5 and loves to play video games. His favorites are the Lego games (Batman, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones), and the Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Any game that has a fairly simple control scheme is something he can jump right into. Assuming this game is one of those (haven't tried it out yet; he's been getting into trouble recently so he lost his video game time on Monday).

Yesterday, on a whim, I went to Gamestop's site to see if they listed the second Fatal Frame for the Xbox. Sure enough, they did. And the site showed that there was one available at the store right down the road from where I work (different store than the one above).

I rushed over and found it in the bargain bin outside the store. Sadly, it had lost the case and instructions:

But, I couldn't pass it up. This is the first time I've purchased a game disc-only, and it'll probably be the last. I did remember reading about a site that sells case, artwork, and instructions for video games. After a quick bit of searching, I found it. And lo and behold, they've got the artwork and instructions for the game. Awesome. Just hope they aren't a scam. Guess I'll find out soon enough, eh?

Well...there you go. The weekend/beginning of the week haul. Blogs like this will probably be few and far between from me, as my list of "must-find" games has shrunk considerably recently. But, should I track down more or find something worth throwing up here, I'll make sure to write up another one.   read

9:30 AM on 08.14.2009

My Video Game Collection, Also Known As "I Have A Problem"

I started my wild and crazy path into the world of gaming back when I was a wee lad of 4. My aunt would babysit me while my parents went to work, and what better place to take a little kid than a bar?

Yes, I said a bar.

While it probably wasn't the most kid-friendly of places, it did have a couple pinball and arcade machines. The bartender would give me a chair or stool to stand on, and I'd go to town playing whatever machine was available at the time. People in the bar, friends of my aunt, would give me quarters to keep me happy. I have no idea if I had to do a crazy little kid dance or carry beer to their tables; it was a simpler time in 1981, so maybe they just gave them to me without any goofy requests. Thankfully, I walked away with only a video game addiction and not a love for booze.

Anyway, flash-forward 27 years, and I've now got a nice little collection going. Nothing like the collections you'll see online where some dude has every single NES game, or has an entire room filled with games and consoles. But, I'm proud of what I have and figured I'd share it with my fellow Destructoid members.

Here's a shot of everything together, along with a couple game-related figures:

The picture shows somewhere around 410 video games. See? I have a problem, right? I'm just happy that my wife understands my obsession and was kind enough to agree to allow me to display most of the games in our family room (the NES and Genesis are in storage, taken out the other night so I could get them in the picture).

Sadly, I can't find my old Atari games; they are probably buried somewhere in my parents' cellar. And my SNES games were given to my little brother after my SNES died, so I didn't include them. I'll get them back from him someday.

Here's a closer look at the games:

The NES games, with the few surviving manuals. There are a few that I cannot find, such as the first Megaman. Pretty sure those games are in a box with the Atari games at my parents' house...

The Genesis and GBA games, with two of my favorite figures (Mitsuru and Orange Knight). I actually did not own a Genesis; I came upon the console (not pictured) and games when the in-laws moved out of the house we now live in. My wife has a love for ToeJam and Earl, and when we found the box containing it and the other games, she wanted to keep them. One of her brothers sold the family's N64 (bastards), so we didn't want the Genesis to disappear as well. Her parents were cool with it; we didn't tell her brothers (one lives in Florida, the other still lives with my in-laws). They probably don't care either.

The 360 and original Xbox games. My 360 collection has grown quite a bit since I got the system last June. I only own 4 original Xbox games because I never actually owned the console. I also didn't want to buy a game and find out I can't play it on my 360. Stupid pseudo-BC...

The centerpiece of my collection: the PS2 games (also pictured are a few of the Wii and PS1 games). My NES collection didn't really take off until much later, when I started tracking down games I wanted when I was little but couldn't convince my parents to buy for me. My SNES collection was somewhat small, and while I owned quite a few PS1 games, it was the PS2 era that caused my collection to expand dramatically. The 360 and DS may be taking up most of my gaming time, the PS2 was (and is) the one that, in my opinion, had the best and most diverse library. I'm still keeping an eye out for a few titles I missed; one, Shadow Hearts, I am buying off my brother this weekend. Just have to find the other two in the series, along with a copy of the Mega Man X Collection.

...and the rest; the Gamecube, DS, and remaining Wii games (also pictured are a few PS1 games, which I'll get to momentarily). Funny (or sad, depending on how you look at it); the Gamecube is considered a failure by some, with the Wii being marked as a success for Nintendo. Yet, I own more games for the GC than the Wii, and probably spent more time playing those games.

Guess I'm not the target audience that Nintendo is aiming for with the Wii ;)

Finally, I give you a closer look at the PS1 games; apologies for the not-so great pictures. I didn't want my games to take up an entire wall, so I put the shelves up in a corner of the room. After I started to organize them, I realized that there would always be games stuck in the corner. Since I don't play much of them anymore, I put the PS1 games back there so I could easily grab any one of the newer console games.

I also didn't feel like pulling them all out, after digging out the NES and Genesis games. I'm lazy. Sue me.

The unmarked game is Darkstalkers 3; got the game through Goozex with the disc and instructions.

Pretty sure the game under Incredible Crisis is Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Forgot to look at these the other night to see if any names were blocked, and I don't see that one in the other pictures. Also, both Lunar games contain all the junk that came with them. Almost sold them on eBay a long time ago...glad I didn't.

Sorry about the cut-off on the right in this picture. Didn't realize I did that.

And there you have it, my collection. Good? Bad? I do wish I could find my Atari games; while I have a good amount of them on the Atari Anthology disc for the PS2, I would like to be able to show my kids what started my home-console gaming obsession off (they've seen arcade and pinball machines already). They also probably wouldn't believe me if I told them that a console once had a wood finish on it...   read

8:02 AM on 07.31.2009

Aborto's Ultimate Tag Team Contest - ZK13 Entry

So, I figured I'd try my hand at this. Hopefully I didn't yank any characters that others posted about.

First in my 3-man/woman team is Poison Ivy.

I've always had a thing for Poison Ivy. Probably the red hair. Or that her normal outfit usually involves only leaves around her no-no ares. Or maybe it's the fact that I will go out in the back yard and rub poison ivy on my...

Wait. Sorry. Too much information there.


I know she's in Lego Batman and the upcoming Arkham Asylum game, but I don't care; she'd be considered a comic book character for my team. And I think she'd be a pretty cool addition to a fighting game. She'd have simple punch and kick moves, but I'd also give her some power attacks where she'd cause plants to grow under her opponent's feet, where they'd either sustain injury or get caught up in vines. It would be like a long-range grab move. Maybe allow her to grow plants at her feet that spit poisonous seeds that release toxic vapors for a few seconds, damaging foes.

Super attack...hmmm. How about calling forth a large venus fly-trap that grabs the enemy in its mouth, chew on it a bit, and then spits them into the side of the screen, smashing them against it?

I'll's a little unimaginative. Maybe I'm a little distracted.

What would sex with a plant be classified as? Foliagality?

Next up...I'm hoping this one isn't a stretch. He does appear in a Capcom game, so bonus points there. However, he started off as a cartoon character (or was it a comic book character, and then cartoon?). That still counts as being a video game character, right?

I hope it does...because it's Uncle Mother Fucking Scrooge.

The pogo-cane attack is a given for his arsenal of geriatric attacks. And he could do the golf-swing to knock projectiles back at his opponent. Long-range attack? Covered: he throws gold coins. Granted, it would be a weak attack, but with his near-unlimited amounts of gold, he could care less. It's F.U. money.

His super attack would be to whistle and call forth a wave of gold (bars, coins, statues, whatever) from his vault...let's call it "The Gold Rush". Suck that, poor people. You've got all sorts of fancy fireballs and uppercuts; Scrooge pisses on those moves and shows you what really counts in this world.

Screw your Hadouken; he's got cash to buy you 50,000 times over.

And favorite: Hellboy.

C'mon...look at him. He'd be awesome in a fighting game, and including him would redeem him from his initial lackluster console entries (sadly, I own both). His Right Hand of Doom alone sounds like a combo or power move. The Samaritan, his large revolver? Though he admits in the comics that he's a lousy shot, it's still screaming to be used as a long-range attack.

And his power-up move could be the "World Destroyer" or something along those lines. His horns would grow, the screen would change to some hellish, supernatural background, and he'd call down some sort of other-worldly beast to wreak havoc on his opponent. When the move has finished, he'd break off the horns and return to normal.

I'm getting a nerd-boner just thinking about using him in a fighting game.

So...a team-up attack? I thought about it for a little bit, and then realized something that connects the three of them: "Man's Ruin". You've got Poison Ivy: sex. Uncle Scrooge is a miser with way too much money. And Hellboy could very well bring about the end of the world. So let's work with that. Poison Ivy jumps in, grabs the opponent and plants (heh heh) a kiss on them...followed up with a spinning body slam onto the ground. Uncle Scrooge drops gold bars from the sky, building a wall around them as Hellboy steps in rips open the ground under them, causing waves of flame to erupt from the depths of hell.

And...that's it. Hopefully it's good enough.   read

7:21 AM on 04.02.2009

Achievement Whoring: What Was Your First 1000/1000?

The second image that pops up in a Google search for "360 achievement".

We all go in with the best of intentions. Prior to owning a 360, you hear about the achievements you can gain through playing a game and how people brag about them. "That's not going to be me!" you say to yourself.


The day you get your 360 and start up your first game, what do you do? Check the achievements.

It's okay; we all do it. Even if we're not actively trying to get every single one, we're going to look just to see what might be the easiest. And while we may deny it, we're doing it so we can have at least one to show off to others. But look at it this way: we did it back in the day as well. Who here from the NES generation hasn't gone into school after beating a game and bragged about it? The achievement system is just a way of being able to do just that, only with the ability to prove what we did...instead of having to take a picture of the final screen or have a friend present to validate our claim.

This kid probably never had to submit proof of his awesomeness to his classmates...

Now, there's a difference between what kinda of achievement whore you may be. There are those that go for achievements just to have them; they will play a game they'd normally never touch if the achievements are easy enough. Some will aim for the hardest ones out there, just to tell other people that they got them. They too may play a game they'd never normally play, though they are less likely to be found playing a kid's game, since those tend to be a little liberal with handing out achievements.

Seriously: five achievements, lowest one worth 150 points. You play this, you're either 12-years old, or a good ol' fashioned achievement whore. Or maybe a pedophile, according to some law enforcement officials.

There are some of us that are a mix of both; we'll pad our score with a mix of easy games, but also throw in harder ones just so people don't call us out on our 20k+ score. "Dude, my little brother played that using my account".

Others may go for certain achievements, but normally tend to just get them when they get them. They know what the achievements are, but know they'll eventually get them through normal playing, so they won't be as aggressive as others may be.

And finally, there's the ones that take that second part and live by it: "I'll get it when I get it." They'll look at what is available, but won't look at how to get them. They like the surprise.

Me? I'm the second to last one. I will look to see what I can get, and may make it a goal to get certain ones, but I also like having them attained without knowing I'm about to get them.

So now that we've got that out of the way, what's your first "1000 out of 1000 achievements" game?

Mine happened recently, with a game I sunk well over 80 hours into: Fallout 3. Up until this game, I wasn't all that interested in hitting 1000/1000. Not to say I played games I didn't like; I just really didn't have any desire to grab every single achievement in any other game. Some games included achievements I had no desire in attaining; I can't stand the Tow Truck side-mission in Saint's Row 2, so the Blue Collar achievement is out. Or they have odd multiplayer achievements, or multiplayer achievements that aren't attainable anymore, usually because no one is playing it online. And I can't stand the ones that require you to beat one of the game's developers. While cool, it's not like they are on 24/7, or on when you're playing.

Wait, I have to beat a developer who previously beat me and 2 other developers, but only using the X button and only at 2 in the morning while...*BOOM*

But Fallout 3? The majority of the achievements are attained by finishing quests, while the others aren't too difficult to reach and would normally appear through a regular play-through. Sure, this may been viewed by some as an easy one to hit 1000 with, but I don't care. At a certain point, I looked at the achievements I had gained and thought "I've invested a lot of time in this's going to be my 1000 pointer."

1 down, 49 to go.

And okay, so the achievements aren't anything like "beat the game on the hardest difficulty while using only a knife and one Stimpak", but they aren't like the previously mentioned Avatar game. You can miss out on an achievement if you miss one of the bobbleheads (won't reveal which ones, just to avoid spoilers) or screw up Speech challenges (and don't reload when you fail them). So...yeah. I may have picked one that is easier than others to hit 1000 on (or as it stands with the DLC, 1200), but it's not stupid-easy.


So, I ask again: what was your first 1000-pointer? Was it a planned event? Did it happen as a natural progression of the game? Or was a little of both, as was my case?


5:05 PM on 03.20.2009

Guitar Hero: Metallica - My Impressions So Far

Well, "so far" meaning "I'm only playing the demo". And honestly, I'm not quite sure what to think of Guitar Hero: Metallica.

But before I explain myself, let me give you a quick little background on myself, in regards to Metallica and Guitar Hero.

I got into Metallica back around ...And Justice For All. A kid in school had drawn their logo onto his math book cover, as well as a crude drawing of the electric chair from the Ride the Lightning cover. I asked him what it was, and without saying anything, he took out his Walkman, stuck the headphones on my ears, and hit play. Out came Creeping Death...and I was hooked. Eventually I saw them in concert during the tour for their box set, and later on the S&M tour. Both shows are on my list of the best shows I have ever seen.

The album that got me hooked.

As for Guitar Hero, I bought the first one for the PS2 when it came out. I had a bit of difficulty really getting into it, and when a friend of mine came over and beat me in the 2-player mode, I sold it to my little brother. At the time, I had no desire to practice a plastic instrument just so I could play a video game...

...and then, Rock Band came out. I played it at my cousin's house and, much like Metallica, was immediately hooked. For whatever reason, I had no problem playing the guitar like I did with GH1, even though Harmonix made both games. Once I got my 360, the purchase of the full band kit was a no brainer. I even got my wife hooked on it, and when Rock Band 2 was announced, I immediately put it on pre-order.

I heart you, Rock Band. Not you, Generic Singer.

And though some of you may be hardcore GH/RB players, I tend to stick to Medium. I can play on Hard, but I tend to focus too much on getting everything right than having fun pretending to be in a rock band. I've tried Expert, but apparently I'm too old to stick with it. So, yeah...Medium for me. I can goof around more and, as I said, have some fun.

Just before Christmas, my boss gave me a $30 gift card to Gamestop. Since all the games I wanted I had asked for from my wife, parents, and in-laws, I decided to pick up Guitar Hero II...I'll admit, I learned that it had the Strong Bad song Trogdor in it, as well as a Buckethead song, which also pushed me to buying it.

Anywho, I then bought a $10 X-plorer guitar from Circuit City (this was prior to their bankruptcy, when they marked down this and the Les Paul), went home, and popped it in. Not sure if it was from my time playing Rock Band 1 and 2, or that I just decided to give it more of a chance than I did with GH1, but I actually liked this one.

Guess the second time is a charm in my case

And that leads us to today, when I learned that a demo for Guitar Hero: Metallica was out. Still being on the fence about it, due to what I've heard about how RB and Guitar Hero: World Tour are two different creatures altogether, this went immediately into my queue. As soon as I got home, I grabbed my RB Gibson and powered up the demo.

The intro seemed pretty awesome. Cartoon, evil-looking versions of the band are shown on stage, evil-looking red sky...but I wanted to get to the game, so I skipped past it.

I get into the single player, select guitar, then choose Seek and Destroy. Throw it on Medium and start it up.

Immediately I'm thrown off. The note-highway is slightly more "back"; Rock Band's is more vertical, and also a bit wider. It's also easier to see the notes coming, or at least it is for me. In fact, I popped in RB after playing GH: Metallica to compare the two, but more on that in a moment.

"Okay, just gotta readjust," I tell myself. I take a quick look at the band before the song starts up; pretty cool looking. We've all seen the images; stylized versions of the band. Nothing really new to report here.

James contemplates Robert's hair.

The intro starts up, and I start playing. Still have to readjust to the notes, and I'm doing fairly well, but for some reason, everything just feels off. Maybe it's the circles, as opposed to RB's bars? Nah, I've played GH2, so it shouldn't be a huge leap to revert my brain back to using them.

Then I figured it out; it's the placement and size of everything...the layout. Star power is on the right, in little light bulbs. I'm used to the bar across the bottom (for Rock Band), or the bar to the right (with GH2). The rock/status meter is flipped from GH2 as well. I kinda figured it wouldn't be the same as RB's meter, so I was ready for that. But the light bulbs...I don't know. I'd rather have a bar (note: did a search and found GH3 switched over to light bulbs, but the images I found looked like the bulbs were larger).

Multiplier meter...where are you? Oh, look, you're off to the side. And somewhat difficult to see while I'm trying to hit the notes coming down. Hrmmmm...really not digging that. GH2's is pretty easy to spot, and RB's is perfect; right under the highway.

Then there's the star rating/points area. For whatever reason, I find it much easier to glance up at RB's than I do with GH: Metallica's. GH2 doesn't display your rating, but the points are in a much bigger font that GH: Metallica's, making easier to read on a quick glance.

Here's the Rock Band layout...

...and here's Guitar Hero: Metallica's.

After getting through Seek and Destroy, I try out No Excuses. Did pretty good there, but I'm still not a fan of the layout. I switch over to Rock Band 2 and...ahhhh. There it is. Much easier to work with, and I immediately notice that the highway is much more vertical and wider. But maybe it's just a difference between RB and the GH series?

Nah...looks more like a difference between Activision and Harmonix. Popped in GH2, and while the highway isn't as vertical, it's definitely wider than GH: Metallica's.

So, verdict on the layout: this is definitely a case of personal preference. I'm more used to RB's style and layout. And though I've played GH2 a bit, I probably just need to play GH: Metallica a few more times to see if I can get over my initial dislike of how everything is setup.

But what about the music, you ask?

Well, it's Metallica. If you don't like them, you aren't going to like the game. Sure, there are songs from 20 other bands in the game, but I'm pretty sure someone isn't going to buy the game to play Queen's Stone Cold Crazy.

I did notice a bit of a jump in difficulty between RB and GH:Metallica, but that could also be due in part to the fact that I haven't played a lot of Metallica in RB. My wife doesn't like to sing it, nor does she like playing bass on their songs. I have the DLC songs, and took a little bit to get used to Enter Sandman in #1. I also found myself focusing more on the notes than on just loosening up and having fun, like I do with RB. So again...need to readjust to their style and note layout.

Final verdict?

Meh. I need a little more time with it. First go didn't really hook me. Sure, it's pretty awesome I can finally play Metallica songs AND have the game-versions of them thrashing about in the background. But, the kinda bugs me. If subsequent plays fail to grab me (I'll try to get in more tonight, once the kids are in bed and before the finale of Battlestar Galactica), I may wait until the price drops. $60 might be a bit too much for me at the moment to drop on a game that, while I love the music, the gameplay isn't as fun/smooth as least for me.

Sorry may end up being a discount-buy for me.   read

9:15 AM on 02.16.2009

My two cents - Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad

I wanted to like this game. Hell, I even defended it on other gaming sites. And for a while, I did enjoy it and felt that the negative reviews out there were totally missing the mark. I mean, what wasn't to like?

Zombie-killing? Check.

Lots of blood? Check.

Arcade-esque slash-n-hack? Check.

Laughable cutscenes? Check.

Bikini-clad heroine? Check. Though, I do have to note that they include the bikini-clad heroine's pre-teen half-sister, who wears a schoolgirl outfit and may make you feel a little uncomfortable if you're playing while your girlfriend/wife/mom is in the room. Especially when you go into dress-up mode...I'll get to that later.

So, really...what went wrong?

You don't like me? I kill zombies and wear a sure you're hetero?

I didn't have high expectations for the title. And even though my experience wasn't all that great, I'll admit the game is good for 5-10 minute escapes from life and other, more serious games.

And I knew going into it that it wasn't going to be an epic gaming experience; it was going to be a guilty pleasure game. I wasn't buying it for the boobies (though that never hurts)...I'm a big zombie game/movie fan and needed a fix. $40 seemed like a good deal for a 360 game that let you slash your way through zombie hordes.

But, I can't overlook the bad points, especially when they are glaring. With no real depth in controls (you have several types of attacks, but mashing X will get you out of pretty much any battle), the game starts to become a "walk here, smash X, walk there, repeat" chore. Enemies come at you, smash that attack button, they're dead. Bosses probably have some sort of attack pattern, but I didn't notice; I jumped right in and smashed that X button like crazy, occasionally hitting A to get Aya or Saki off the ground. What had started off as a game that reminded me of my quarter-wasting arcade days was slowly devolving into a game that I had wished I paid much less than $40 for.

There are enemies that require a bit more finesse than others, where you need to land "Cool" combos to kill them. But once you figure out how to do them (don't look in the instruction manual...that joke is 7 pages of English, with the remaining 18 in other languages), you're back to mindlessly attacking everything that appears on-screen.

Kick, slash, be bored outta your mind!

The camera is a bit wonky at times; one point, I have full-360 degree motion. Move a little further, I can only spin 180 degrees. Further down the road, it's practically locked into place. Targetting an enemy will move the camera so you're facing it, but if it was locked to a limited space prior to that, it remains that way.

Difficulty is a joke. On the first stage, I sustained no damage until I reached the boss, and even then, damage was minor. Second stage, same thing. I was playing on Normal, and while I don't expect an all-out attack by the zombies, I was hoping for something a bit more challenging. I've read that the higher levels aren't really much different.

I tried to overlook the poorly-made cutscenes. Japanese voice-overs are cool, but they give you no option to switch to English; you're forced to read all the text they present. In some cases, it ain't so bad...even the minute-long text scroll at the beginning. But it gets really annoying after playing for a while.

And right from the get-go, the cutscenes stutter and tear. Horribly. An overhead shot of a city, zooming into the living room of Aya and Saki, would stutter every half-second, as if my disc drive was having problems reading the disc, or acting like there were scratches and fingerprints on it.

Thing is, I installed the game to my HDD, so I can't blame the lens or disc.

Other cutscenes suffered the same fate; camera moved, screen would stutter.

And the screen-tearing would happen every time the camera moved. It also happened during gameplay. I don't pretend to know the technical reasons behind this, so I decided to Google it. Yeah, it has happened in other games (Lego Star Wars is one that comes to mind), but up until Onechanbara, I never felt the need to figure out why it happens; it was never bad enough in other games to warrant a further look.

According to Wikipedia, screen tearing is a "phenomenon in video where a newly rendered frame overlaps a previously rendered frame, creating a torn look as two parts of an object (such as a wall) don't line up. This occurs when the output device sends frames out of sync with the display's refresh rate.

Screen tearing can occur on all display types but is most common with video games and videos decoded and shown by computers, as heavy processing can limit synchronization capabilities. It is less common with other mediums such as DVD players and TVs since the frames are not dynamically generated as they are with computers, but are preset."

So, learn something new every day. Why Onechanbara is affected more than other games, I can only guess: it's a budget title, and the developer didn't feel like putting a lot of effort in making sure that the cinematics were spot on. Just wanted to make sure the boobies bounce and blood splatters.

The cutscenes are awful, but hey...I'm only wearing a towel and panties! Spank time!

The game does give quite a bit of replay value; it gives you quests that, when completed, unlock different outfits for the girls to wear. Each quest has three levels, and upon completion of the third, you gain an achievement.

The quests are vague. They are listed in-game, but only by name: "Acquisition of a strange woman", "Swallow's Dance", and "Insane Libido" are a few examples. You tell me what you think you need to do to achieve those...and I'll tell you you're wrong. I don't need to have my hand held to figure things out, but a little bump in the right direction would be okay. Maybe instead of a "???" under the quest, they could say something like "Counter stance is the key" or "A messy sword is good sometimes".

Okay, maybe you didn't buy it for the gameplay. Maybe you can overlook the bad cutscenes, mindless controls, lame story, and everything else you'd expect from a last-gen budget title...and you're in it for the sex appeal. Hey, that's fine. I won't judge you...pervert.

D3 isn't making any apologies for the T&A allowed in dress-up mode. With no costumes available at the start of the game (they won't even let you use the default outfit each girl starts with), the only costume you can create prior to playing is the bra-and-panties look. Awesome for those of us that don't have access to porn (pretty sure 100% of America can find a source of porn within 5 minutes nowadays), amusing and/or embarrassing for those of us that do.

And Saki's pre-unlockables option is cringe-worthy. Not really looking to play as a pre-teen girl in only her training bra and underwear. Pretty sure that shit will get you marked as a pedophile in the States...maybe not Japan.

After unlocking outfits, you aren't going to find a whole lot of depth in dress-up mode. Each girl gets 3 articles of clothing and different hairstyles, along with hair, eye, skin, and lip colors. Not even sure why they bothered with the body items, as changing Aya's hair color from red to blonde to brown didn't really change much. And you aren't really going to see her eye or lip color while playing. Should've just dropped those for more outfits. They have promised DLC, but I don't know when that's going to drop. Plus, not going to wait around to pay 200 points for a new top.

When bikinis aren't skimpy enough for zombie-killing...

Wondering about breast-physics? Yeah, you are. They bounce ridiculously, probably the way they do in those Dead or Alive volleyball games (no, never played them). Aya would jump, and a half-second after landing, they leap upwards and jiggle around. Yes, I checked. If you own the game, I'm sure you did as well. Good for a laugh, and maybe some out there who need a bit of material for "alone time".

So, okay...I realize I've probably gone on longer than I should have. My verdict? Rent it. Or if you ever spot it in the bargain bin for $10, snag it. But at $40, there's better ways to spend the cash; pick up all of the George Romero "...of the Dead" flicks, subscribe to a porn site, purchase a good hack-n-slash (like Castle Crashers), buy some porn DVDs, buy a cheap hooker in Atlantic City (probably have enough left over for gas as well), grab a few skin mags from Barnes and Noble...though, that last one could get embarrassing when you get to the counter and the cute cashier looks at you like you are the biggest creep in the world. Not that, uh, it's ever happened to me...

At least we'll get some cute-girl cosplay pics out of it...   read

9:25 AM on 12.17.2008

I want to strangle Club Nintendo

Look at it there. The logo. It's so simple, yet so inviting. You know right away what it is, and all the magic it potentially holds upon your little gamer heart.

But, the damn thing is playing you. Any attempts to access the wonders Club Nintendo holds is met with a swift boot to the groin. Here's how my attempts went:

Want to register? Cool. Try a few times before I decide to save your info.

Oh, look, you registered, but I logged you out. Try logging in again. I'll tell you that you entered the wrong password, even though you slowly typed it out, making sure you didn't have caps lock on and hit each key correctly. Or maybe I'll ask you to log in again, just for shits and giggles. Or, I'll completely ignore you and pretend you did nothing at all.

Seen this way too many times.

Wait, you logged in? Okay. Try to figure out how to get coins. Go ahead, I dare you.

Yep, you may have registered games before...even though I'd only give you access to supposed "exclusive" images or wallpaper...but now you have to fill out surveys! Wheeee!

Couldn't get a survey to load when I want back to get a screenshot, so here's Jean Luc expressing my anger.

Oh, by the way, while you were figuring out what to do, I logged you out again. Ha.

Got this one after completing a survey and being thanked for doing so. It didn't give me coins or record the survey.

Yeah, refreshing me will really work. Don' t even bother, dummy. I'll just sit here for a bit while you slam your mouse in frustration. Go ahead.

Oh...somehow you finished a survey. Okay, cool, let me just thank you for doing so, aaaaaand...whoops! Not going to record it! Ha ha!

Oh, suck my dick...

By the need to log in again. But I'm not going to let you.

Timed this one. 5 minutes, 3 seconds.

Gah. All this so I can get the Game and Watch Collection. It's freakin' teasing me, reminding me of hours spent during my youth, playing a little orange, monochrome-screen handheld, ignorant to anything going on around me.

After about three hours of off-and-on attempts, I've got most of my registered games entered, for a grand total of 580 coins. 220 away from owning my prize. And, oh yeah...none of my purchased VC or WiiWare games are showing up. Sure, they were there before under My Nintendo, but this is Club Nintendo, so they disappeared. Looks like I have to go onto my Wii and re-link my account up.

Hey, Nintendo:

Okay...I'm not an anteater. But "fuck you" anyway.   read

7:03 AM on 12.15.2008

A Time to Destroy: Saint's Row 2

Okay, let's get the major complaint out of the way: yes, Saint's Row 2, like its predecessor, is a blatant rip-off of the Grand Theft Auto series. But is that so wrong, especially with GTA IV's realistic slant? I was happy to find that Saint's Row 2 harkened back to the days of Vice City's cartoony (and fun) violence. Sure, the latest GTA is a great game, but there are days where I want to jump into a car, hit the gas, and plow into as many pedestrians, mailboxes, lightpoles, and other vehicles as fast as I can without having to worry about police immediately chasing me or getting phone calls from NPCs that want to go bowling with me...or the simple fact that my car goes careening off of every damn parked car and lamp post if I push the acceleration too hard. Leave the realistic car handling with Gran Turismo or all the other racing games.

But...but all I did was tell that old lady I wouldn't help her cross the street!!

However, I'm not going to go much further into that potential flame-war; I'm here to talk about destruction, pure and simple. Saint's Row 2 has it in buckets full of blood, viscera, explosions, fire, and...oh yeah...excrement.

Yep...that's a truck spraying poo all over a police building.

Sure, you can freely blow stuff up and cause chaos pretty much from the get-go, but why not do so and get paid for it? That's what the game's 'Mayhem' missions are for. They give you two, six-level missions where you are charged with causing as much destruction as you can. Each level has a total amount you have to reach within a specified amount of time. Every person you crush with your car, every vehicle you blow up, every inanimate object you all has a dollar amount. Successive destruction will give you combos that multiple your totals. Oh, and they give you an infinite amount of all weapons; pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, rocket launcher, grenades...

Passenger inside car: $250. Car: $8000. Getting the chance to cause mass destruction after a crappy day at the office: Priceless.

Best moment I've had so far is when I ignored the fact that I could ram the hell out of everything with a bulldozer (which is normally a lot of fun, but it's slow) and took advantage of the above-mentioned infinite weapon use. They give you satchel explosives that you can place wherever you want, and when ready, you hit the switch to blow them up.

Instead of placing a couple around, I threw as many as I could all over the place. Being in the middle of a downtown marina, my satchels of firery death found there way onto cars, in front of outdoor cafes, and on top of cars I hijacked and parked in the middle of the road to block traffic, among other places. As I had yet to cause any real violence, the police were not alerted to my deviant activity.

When I was satisfied with the amount of explosives I had placed, I hit the trigger. And was treated to an awesome display of fireworks, with tables, chairs, people, car parts, and all sorts of debris flying all over the place.

I wish I had a camera when I did it, but this picture gives you an idea of what went down.

Boom. In no time at all, I reached my goal for the level, amassing well over the total required. And my lust for destruction had been satiated...well, at least until I started the next mission.

If you haven't played the game and want to see a Mayhem level in action, look no further:

So, there you go. Destruction, pure, simple, and rewarding.   read

1:26 PM on 11.13.2008

Son of a... (Persona 2 reprint)

Atlus, I love you. Really, I do. You know how to treat us gamers right, giving us a ton of freebies with your video games. But...goddammit. Maybe you could've announced this one a little earlier, like back when I dropped $60 for a copy of the game?

At the time I bought my copy, I mocked my little brother, who had been trying to obtain a copy of this game for a few months, only to find $80+ prices scattered about eBay and Amazon.

Oh well. To those of us not lucky enough to have bought it when it originally hit stores or those that took the second-hand route like I did, here's your chance to snag a classic. Act quickly, as they state this is a limited time reprint.

Here's the US Amazon link.

And here's the one for our neighbors to the north.   read

11:01 AM on 10.29.2008

Of Heroes, Murder, and Redemption: A Fable 2 Tale

Before I begin, this may contain spoilers, depending on your definition of "spoilers". I've tried to keep things out that would ruin the story.

I've tried to take an unfortunate glitch in the game (the 5-star economy Bowerstone Market/furniture store won't stock glitch) and make it into an interesting read. If I failed, I apologize.

And with that, our tale...

Totally not my character, but close enough.

I didn't plan to commit any criminal acts, least of all murder; I wanted to stay on the path of purity, of righteousness. I wanted to be a beacon of light in the dark world of Albion. But what transpired that fateful day led me down a dark, sinister path, one I may never recover from.

It all started in Bowerstone Market, a section of Bowerstone which housed most of the shops and stalls. Of particular focus, the Furniture Shop, owned by Annette. A dowdy-looking woman, she did not give me a hard time when I first arrived in town. In fact, she was one of the people who quickly fell in love with me.

They all love me...hard.

It didn't take much to change her tune. Once the economy of the market hit a 5-star rating, she stopped stocking furniture. All she'd sell was a damn book, something about being "pretty on the inside". No matter what I did, she wouldn't sell any furniture. I bought multiple copies of the book. I sold old furniture to her.

"You own a furniture store," I told her. "You should be selling furniture!"

"The book!" was all she'd say. "Buy the book!"

What was it with this accursed book? It wasn't like the others, the ones that taught me how to get the villagers to love me (or fear me, a situation I avoided). Nor did it teach me how to get my dog to perform tricks. Hell, it really wasn't even a book; it was one page long. She was selling what could have been considered an unfinished pamphlet. And yet, it sold like hotcakes.

After buying the store outright and finding that she still refused to sell what she was supposed to be selling, I was out of ideas. The book kept being restocked, villagers kept buying it. But then, from a complete stranger, I was told of a way that might just work.

Tell me, good sir midget, have you any suggestions for getting the store restocked?

"Raise the rental rates and prices of your rental properties and stores," a wee man told me. "The villagers will not be able to buy this book that troubles you so, and the clerk will be forced to restock her wares."

Brilliant! But, what of my reputation? Here I was, a hero in the eyes of the townspeople. I had gained a halo above my head, a sign of my purity and goodness. Raising rent and prices would make the people hate me.

"Balance it out," the little one said. "Raise them here in town, but lower them elsewhere."

But where? Where could I buy out a good chunk of property quickly?

The gypsy camp!

Imagine more wagons and people...that's what the gypsy camp looks like

So, I was able to buy-out the entire camp and proceeded to lower the rates. I then returned to the market and raised them there.

And then, I waited.

And waited.

...and waited.

7 whole days went by. But there was no change in the economy. Even though the citizens complained about the prices, complained about having to pay extraordinary rental fees...the economy chugged along. And the furniture store still only sold one lousy book. My renters even complained about sleeping on horrible beds, waking up with splinters in their backsides. Yet, I was the only one trying to rectify the situation.

The calm before the storm.

I was at a loss. Frustrated, I visited the store, hoping that maybe this time, I could convince my now-employee to sell what we were supposed to sell.

I plead my case to her: "The people of this town deserve to sleep on soft beds, to sit in chairs that won't break under them, to display their books on shelves that don't look like termites have taken up permanent residence."

"Buy a book?" she responded.

Before I could even think, I snapped. My halo flitted in and out of existence, as if it knew what my fate held.

I pulled out my sword and gave Annette a quick slash across the throat. Blood pouring out of her new wound, she reached for me, and then fell upon the floor in a heap. I looked down at my shaking hand, at the sword I held. Once, it glittered in the sun; it was a weapon many beasts and bandits feared. Now, it dripped with the life blood of an innocent.

As I stood there, I failed to notice the sounds of the townspeople stirring to life. I didn't hear the town crier declare that the shops were now open. I didn't hear the small crowd that had noticed me from outside and decided to come to bask in my glory.

My fate was sealed; I became a messenger of death.

When I did notice them, I didn't hesitate. Working off of the fear that I'd be locked away for life, that I'd become another tarnished hero, I quickly eliminated the seven people where they stood. The screams from the final victim alerted the authorities, and though I tried to run, they quickly caught me and decided my fate: a 4000 gold fine.

A fine? A mere 4000 gold? Why did they not jail me, throw me into a festering cell to rot away?

I learned the reason soon enough.

"Monster!" a woman screamed as I hung my head and exited the store. "Murderer!" a man yelled, shaking his fist angrily. "Please, don't kill me!" a small girl cried as she ran.

Their hero walked through their town...but now, he represented a lie. A failed hope that perhaps they could believe in something, strive to be a better person. My punishment was their scorn, their hatred, the way they looked at me.

"How can they let you walk the streets?" a woman spat into my face.

I've asked myself that question dozens, hundreds of times now. I failed them, and yet I did not serve any time in prison.

I tried to erase my murderous deeds through donations to the Temple of Light, by rescuing slaves destined for a life of servitude and prostitution, through dispatching of as many monsters and thieves as I could. I even found other heroes, people who pledge to aid me in my quest to take down Lucien.

Sure, what I did that day dropped the economy at Bowerstone Market, and soon after a new furniture store clerk restocked the inventory with luxurious items. And yes, my halo did return.

The people of Albion soon forgot what I did; how, I do not know. Perhaps they considered this heinous act a small price to pay for the service I perform for them on a daily basis, or maybe they just don't want to anger me.

But, I cannot rid myself of the memories. I close my eyes, and their faces appear; empty eyes, gaping mouths, pointing, laughing...

Can I ever be considered a hero?

For now, I take small comfort in the returned adoration of the masses. All I can do is hope that I am forgiven for my actions, that my good deeds outweigh the bad.

But, part of me hopes I am punished when I leave this realm. Then, I can truly rest.   read

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