04/29/2009

Alright, Listen Up. Tough Guy From Da Hood? You’re Now From Mars. And You Over There; Get Your Hair To Look Like That Other Guy’s. Why? Because Next Week, You’re His Clone. Got it?

by Matthew Hawkins

And… I’m back. Sorry for the lack of the updates everybody. You know, it’s kinda silly how I do something like throw an art contest, partly to boost awareness of this site, which in the end totally works, but I then fail to update for over a week afterwards, and in the process lose most of my newly acquired visitors’ interest. Oh well.

Can’t be helped unfortunately; for the past week or so, that previously mentioned game that I’m toiling away on has taken a front seat, while most of everything else, like the blog, has been relegated to the back-burner. In the end, stuff that helps to pay the bills must take priority. At least I’m finally able to take a break of sorts; now I’m sitting back and waiting for the first playable build to land in my lap. Sorry I can’t say anything about it just yet, but rest assured, when the time comes, I won’t be able to shut up about it and will be shamelessly asking everyone out there to buy the damn thing.

So I’ve more or less been chained to my computer this whole time, doing my best to stay focused and not throw away the usual 20 hours of so per week surfing the web for nonsense, which for a person like me is REALLY HARD. At least it’s given me a great reason to avoid the outside world and the summer-like temperatures that’s hit the city the past couple of days. Can’t say I’m a big fan of the heat. Sure, like most red-blooded dudes, it’s nice seeing the female populace shed their extra layers, but this time of the year also brings along with the massive headache that is allergies. Though today seems to be just about perfect. Then there’s also that swine flu to also worry about and avoid. Okay, not really…
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Shamelessly Name-Dropping

To be honest, it hasn’t been all work and no play. A lot of game related things have been going on in the city as of late. First off, it’s actually that time of year in which all the major publishers come to town and present their early summer catalog. EA was here last Thursday, mostly to showcase their new sports lineup, but since I’m hardly the biggest Madden fan in the world, most of what was shown was hardly of any interest. It looked good I guess? At least they also brought with them Boom Blox 2, which was my first real chance to give it a spin. The first one is still one of the best damn games for the Wii thus far, period, and the follow-up is going to be just as awesome.

Another curious odd one out, given the general theme of the press event, was the latest Harry Potter movie tie-in, the Wii version to be precise. The waggle controls look to be vastly improved, and while also looking quite nice, I’m still mostly interested in the Xbox 360 one, as should most fans of the series, since it’s the first time the franchise will be in glory high-def. I got a peek of that one a few weeks back and was totally floored by the Quidditch, as I’m sure others will be as well. At least those that still give a damn about Harry Potter. I’d have screenshots to share, but… I’ve somehow misplaced my EA press asset FTP info. My bad. But trust me when I say that it looks gorgeous.

Then you had Stephen Totilo’s big send off from MTV that his now ex-coworker Tracey John threw together the following night. As some might already know, he’s heading off to Kotaku… so much for my chance of being heir new NYC correspondent! Anyhow, pretty much anyone that’s anyone related to video game journalism and pr in the Big Apple was there, and I spent my evening either entertaining or perhaps annoying folks like Tracy’s boyfriend Jesse, former MTV Multiplayer scribe Jason Cipriano, now at TrueGameHeadz, Sam Dalsimer from TriplePoint, Evan Narcisse who writes for a ton of different people, and N’Gai Croal who now does the consultation thing like so many former game reporters out there. Yes, I love to shamelessly name-drop.

Didn’t stick around for too long; since I was among peers and trying to do the networking thing, I made sure to make my exit as soon as the booze completely hit my head. Though I made sure to pass along a present to Stephen, for his week long vacation before the new gig started, that being a spare copy of Persona 4 I had just lying around (you people don’t want to know how many extra copies I actually have… it’s somewhat ridiculous, but I guess I’m just that big of a fan of the game). I’m meeting up with the guy for drinks later tonight, along with O’Connor, and hope to hear how it’s going thus far, and which girls, if any, he’s dating/banged thus far.

EDIT: Apparently he hasn’t touched it yet, and is instead working on… Godfather II? Yeesh. Says he’s saving it. Perhaps the best is for last?

First Order Of Business: Make Uptown Badboy The Champ

Met up with Katie and Mooney afterwards, at our usual neck of the woods, and ended up at Typhoon Lounge. BTW, I had heard for some time now that the pice of sh*t dive-bar next door, known simply as Cocktail Lounge, which was mostly known for it’s crappy furniture that’s completely covered in duct-tape and the tiny Russian bartender that doesn’t so much talk to you but snarl (and when you order, say a rum and coke, he’ll take a glass and aim for the glass, yet instead pour the rum onto his hand, so what you’re getting is stuff that’s run down the back of his hand, but the drinks are still super strong and DIRT cheap) had been taking over by the hipster-dipsters, which was lame to hear since I used to love that place. Though I personally never saw this transmogrification first hand since Mooney absolutes hates that place and won’t go near it for whatever reason. But when passing by this past Friday, we all noticed something totally new, that being a guy checking IDs, so I had to go inside and investigate. All the furniture has been replaced with shiny new stuff, and the bartender was some young chick, vaguely doing the Coyote Ugly shtick. So ruination confirmed, though it appeared to be more of a hotbed for yuppies more than hipsters. Oh well…

Back to Typhoon Lounge, the main topic of conversation was the WUW; Katie has come to the conclusion that it seriously needs both myself and Mooney behind the scenes, to book the show and basically help realize its full potential. The problem is, you have a small handful of genuinely interesting wrestlers getting totally lost among all these other ultra bland and generic indie dudes, no matter how competent they might be in the ring. The storylines are practically nonexistent, and you’d think they would have learned from the amazing reaction that the Musketeer vs. Zombie battles have been getting. At least according to Mooney, at their last show, which clashed with my birthday shindig the weekend prior, so he was only there for a few opening matches, that now Tristan Spade, the pimp, has been thrown into the mix, and there’s some potential there. Otherwise, it’s all the game, generic crap, with lame attempts at ECW circa 1997 shoot gimmicks here and there. The first order of business if Mooney and I were to indeed take over the book? Find Uptown Badboy of course!

Moving on, I had the omurice like I usually do, but there was something wrong this time, because a bit later on, and for the rest of the weekend, I had a pretty nasty bout of constipation as a result. Eh, the food there has never been it’s prime selling point (I recall Hilary’s one and only experience there being somewhat along the same lines). Though I’ve yet to have their curry, which I sorta need to try out for a reason that I might be getting into next time! Once again, moving on…

“I don’t like the sound of mice chattering.”

Next day, Saturday, I went out to Brooklyn/Queens to hang with Joe Salina. Yes, I do believe he literally lives on the imaginary line that separates Brooklyn and Queens. Anyway, Joe just purchased a PS3 (lol, I know) and wanted my spare MGS4 Limited Edition; much like with MGS3 Subsistence, I figured it be better to be safe than sorry when it came to dealing with the idiots that usually run Gamestops, and both instances netted an ultimately unnecessary extra copy that I figured I could perhaps make a profit from on eBay many years down the road. And both times I simply handed it over to Joe, at cost. But yeah, that afternoon provided me the chance to check out a bunch of stuff that I’ve been dying to get my grubby mitts on, including…

Meta Gear Solid 4: Not surprisingly, and unfortunately for me, the game is indeed as awesome as everyone… well, fellow diehard MGS fanboys at least… have been saying. Unless it does come out for the Xbox 360 as I’ve long been predicting (even I don’t know if I’m joking anymore), I’m gonna be screwed, because I totally HAVE to play this game at home.

Noby Noby Boy: Another “finally!” game for me. And it was well worth the wait. Totally WACKY JAPPY, yet still genuinely enthralling at the same time. About as good a five-dollar game gets.

Ryu ga Gotoku 3: Considering that the first two games in the series were released in the States, there is absolutely no reason why Sega shouldn’t do so again. Then again, Sega works in mysterious ways… Anyhow, the third installment is far better than it’s predecessor in almost every department, which admittedly were nothing brilliant, yet still guilty pleasures of mine, hence why my fingers are crossed.

WipeOut HD: The game’s very pretty, I’ll give it that. Otherwise, it’s still no Wip3out, that’s for damn sure. I found it to be a bit of the slow side, oddly enough, plus The Designers Republic has never been so missed. That HUD is just an eyesore.

S?ldner-X: Again, very pretty. But dear God, boring as hell.

The Last Guy: Finally got the chance to check this one out. And once again, it’s really pains me that the best reason to spend $400 on the damn machine is for all the neat little $5 games.

Everyday Shooter: It took almost not time at all for me to become almost immediately bored with the PC version, despite really wanting to like it, and for one sole reason that was only made clear during my first ten seconds with the PS3 version; don’t ask me why, but I could never get my DualShock configured correctly, so I had to rely on solely the digital buttons as a result. I recall reading somewhere that this is the preferred method of play, according to Jonathan Mak, the game’s creator. Well, sorry, but he’s full of it; the game is only playable via dual sticks, otherwise it’s a total pain in the ass, plain and simple. And another hooray for the ease of use of PC gaming!

Catlevaina Chronicles (not the downloadable version but a copy of the original release): I love how PS2 compatibility has always been this major point of contention, yet hardly anyone makes a fuss about the PS3′s ability to play PSone titles with zero problems. I also love how the system that’s supposedly leaves region protection in the dust still won’t let you play PSone imports. Though, what about Japanese titles downloaded via the PSN Store? If that’s not a problem, that might be the only way to play Vib Ribbon in high-def proper (I’m really surprised that it hasn’t been made available yet).

Valkyria Chronicles: Here’s a game that I thought about buying right now, despite not having a PS3 just yet, before it becomes ultra hard to find and expensive to get later down the road, mostly because it has quite a bit of teh animu, which everyone knows I love, Though I was less than certain that I’d find the gameplay all that exciting, since I’m not the biggest SRPG fan in the world. Thankfully, Joe played a decent chuck of it for me, so now I know to save my money. Looks lovely and all (yet I can’t help but wonder if the color-penciled look is a tad bit overrated… take it away, and you’re left with a rather bland looking game me thinks, while the best cel-shaded games would still look awesome without it, thanks to rock-solid art design in general), yet once again, that type of gameplay just ain’t my cup of tea. Though I do agree with Joe how it does appear to be the most approachable for novices to the genre, perhaps ever.

… On that note, I began talking about Dragon Force, and how despite being a diehard Saturn fanboy back in the day (still am really), I never got my hands on that one, and have quietly regretted it ever since. Cut to… Joe’s bedroom, where his Saturn was lurking, and I finally got the chance to see what I had been missing. And once more, it’s nice to see what the fuss was about, but it’s really not for me. Plus we played a few rounds of Final Fight for the Sega CD; Joe has both the Genesis 2 and Sega CD 2, and holy sh*t, I had forgotten how big the whole thing was. I remember selling off my Genesis 1 back in the day (boy was that ever a mistake), to make way for what I figured was going to be a slim and svelte model 2… boy was I ever in for a rude surprise. Those images in the magazines were pretty deceiving. I almost felt like taking a picture, but for some reason thought it would be silly. So instead, I tried taking pics in the total dark later that evening!

Jokes Not To Tell At A Chiptunes Show

Then it was back to Manhattan, to meet up with Katie for dinner near Times Square. Went to Lucky’s Famous Burgers, which like many NYC eateries, has totally phenomenal food but totally suck-ass service. Tried convincing her to join me for Pulsewave later in the evening, but after a long day of French class and gallery hopping, Katie was ready to crash, so I went solo…

This past weekend’s Pulsewave was my first chiptunes show in a while, since Blip Fest 08. I was actually kinda not feeling it, but given the insanely convenient location (Times Square is about a billion times easier to get from where I’m at than the middle of nowhere Brooklyn), I would have felt a lazy good for nothing by not showing up. Plus it was a chance at last to finally hang with Glomag (we’ve been trying to hook-up with for seemingly ages, but to no avail; some might recall how Chris was supposed to perform at ICON, but his son became all of a sudden very ill and had to cancel at the last minute cancellation, which in the end, turned out to be a very good thing, all things considered) and various other chiptunes folk, like Nullsleep. Speaking of, I forgot to mention how while at Joe’s, Jeremiah gave me a ring but I missed the call. Upon calling back, I would discover that it was made while on his roof; he was up there taking pics, perhaps for a school project, when all of a sudden he came to the realization that the door back down was locked! And since I live a few blocks away, I’d help him get unstuck. Unfortunately I wasn’t even close to nearby, though in the end, Jeremiah figured a way down. Crazy!

Back to the show, and long story short: I’m glad I made it out, because it was pretty fab. At least the first half; didn’t stick around for the latter portion due to exhaustion from the long week prior and still not feeling so hot thanks to the food from the night before. Thing was, I was mostly lured in by the promise of French chiptunes and got virtually none of that, which was still okay. I guess I should also mention the crowd, which was a total 180 from the Blip Fest’s. Basically, no real douchebags as far as I could tell, everyone was just ultra cool. Though the three high school raver chicks whom I would end up being near during the beginning part of the show made me feel REALLY old. It also seemed that many were involved in the chiptunes community, to varying degree. Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise, given how there was an open mic that evening. Speaking of, one of the dudes I chatted with while waiting to get in, a fellow whose name I didn’t catch, asked me “Hey, you’re a reporter; maybe you can tell me how this thing became so big?” and I jokingly replied with “Why, Crystal Castle of course.” Needless to say, that didn’t go over so well. Again, given the crowd, hardly a shock.

The action kicked off with the aforementioned open mic, which is usually bad news, but in this instance, no one was particularly horrible thank goodness. There was one definite standout, some guy who simply went by the name of David. Instead of doing some dance like everyone else, he went for something a bit more moody and trance-like. Plus he was using a Micro, and in all the years I’ve been going to chiptune shows, I can’t ever once recall one being used. So that right there made the dude tops in my book. There was also some other dude, whose name I couldn’t catch, cuz the mics themselves were totally useless (at least all the music sounded amazing, which was what really mattered, plus the new space otherwise is actually quite nice, with plenty of seating, air conditioning, and the whole nine yards), who performed Ca Plane Pour Moi, along with Glomag, I’m assuming in keeping with the theme of the night.

Afterwards was Larry, which I believe is a new two-man team comprised of Ary from Anamanaguchi and Louis from Graffiti Monsters. Both guys pretty much tore the house down with their Game Boys. It was basic, no fussing around, rock-solid dance music, from start to finish, with everyone’s favorite part being the medley of assorted tunes from their favorite heavyweights. It was kinda funny seeing someone else play Bit Shifter and Nullsleep songs… again, a first. For two young dudes, they sure sounded like they’ve been doing this for years. Actually, that’s not too fair of a statement, since both have been honing their craft for quite a while now via their respective other projects. In that sense, you really got the sense that this was their finally time in the spotlight, and made the absolute most of it…

Though on that note, as rocking as Larry’s set was, it was a tad bit too long by the end, like over an hour I want to say. Hence no taste of the French, despite being there for well over two hours. Oh well, next time, plus I’m really looking forward to Larry’s next performance, whenever that might be.

… Last night, btw, was another Rock Band party at the Village Pourhouse, which I had to pass on. My stomach is now totally fine, but I just had lots of emailing to do. Though OutRun Online was also a minor culprit as well. Along with, and speaking off… been so busy as of late that my pile of stuff to play has pretty much gotten out of control, but I was able to clear one game at least just the other day!

Review: Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360)

For starters, I love how all the fuss surrounding the game’s supposed racist qualities immediately died down as soon as people actually played the damn thing. Perhaps I’m asking for punishment at this point by bringing that up again, yet I also believe any RE5 review that doesn’t address the topic is ultimately incomplete. So yeah, for those who haven’t heard or figured it out yet, the game is NOT racist. Though I’ve already detailed my stance on the issue as a whole over at the forums for anyone that’s interested in the detailed reasoning, otherwise: racism is 95% intent, and so forth, plus things are just different in Japan, though even I will admit that one particular alternate costume… and I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about… made me almost go “okay, Capcom is pretty damn racist after-all” at the end of the day.

Still, I’m personally offended that more of a stink wasn’t raised about the asinine control, at least to the degree that the racism issue created, which was enough for many to demand that somebody get be fired. I’ve been a Resident Evil fan since practically day one (though I cut my teeth on Saturn version of RE1, not the PlayStation, for a variety of reasons), and like so many others, have tried my best to tolerate the wonky controls schemes as the sequels have come. RE4 was a reason to jump for joy, simply because someone finally got it right! And then along comes RE5 to completely ruin a winning formula and drag things back to 1997. Resident Evil 5 has once and for all convinced me that contextual-based controls, to a large degree, absolutely blows. Okay, that’s not very fair either; there’s been plenty of games in which its worked out just fine, MGS4 for example. At least in that case, it wasn’t completely out of control, whereas in RE5 I had zero idea what the B button would be used for from one minute to the next. I’ll spare everyone my philosophy on game control, and how the key to a truly connecting a game and its player is giving them a scheme that’s, aside from being logical, is consistent throughout for another time. But yeah, I can’t tell you how many times in the heat of battle I’m trying to do one thing, and because something happens in the blink of an eye, such as your AI partner changing positions, that action either immediately becomes unavailable or becomes something else.

Then there’s the inventory system. I’m seriously not joking or exaggerating when I state that at least a solid 25% of my time spent was staring at the inventory screen between each round, moving crap around and around and around. Here’s a sequence that would go down at least four times during each and every time round: I find some magnum bullets, which is good because my magnum is totally out of ammo. Problem is, I don’t have a spare inventory slot! So I pass along my regular handgun rounds to hold onto, so I can then make some room. I can then pick up those magnum shells and reload my weapon… great, I still have an extra round. What? My AI partner also used my handgun bullets to reload her weapon, but I needed those too! The absolute worst is when you come across a health pick-up that you desperately need and want to use ASAP, but you again don’t have an empty slot. At least in RE4, you could use items on the spot.

What else? The boss battles. Which are generally pretty enjoyable, but one major issue is how one can never tell if they’re doing things right or wrong. That actually relates to another issue that encompasses all the enemies, and is also drags things out needlessly; instead of being able to assault an enemy with constant gunfire, you have to wait after each major blow for their reactionary animation to end, or hits won’t register. Though back to the bosses, and despite all the aforementioned issues, I will still able to enjoy myself for the most part, till the final boss battle. Which aside from forcing you to deal with every single major problem with the game, all at once, is perhaps the most flagrant and pathetic attempt at padding things out, ever. And the absolute last sequence had me so confused that I actually had to check on YouTube to figure out what I was doing wrong. EDIT: According to Stephen, I wasn’t the only one! The last 5% of the game almost single-handedly ruined the rest of the experience. There’s also the issue of whether Resident Evil 5 is truly a survivor horror game anymore; most feel that it’s just another action-oriented affair with zombies. I believe such a point is debatable, yet totally understandable. I personally was super excited when the locale was initially revealed; there’s no better contrast to a dimly list mansion hallway or a ultra spooky forest than oppressively bright, barren desert landscape, yet the potential for bone-chilling scares are still very much there. Which unfortunately is only utilized for the first couple of levels or so. Talk about a blown opportunity.

Still, that game is not without it’s merits. RE5 is, without a doubt, the one of the most absolute beautiful looking games of this current generation. The level of detail and craftsmanship is totally staggering. Mind-blowing even. The animation as well is pretty fantastic. I also found the voice acting to be quite exemplarily, and as a result, the characters to be very endearing, especially your partner Shiva. Regarding the story, even the most ardent RE fans have long lost track of what the hell is going on, but many things are explained at last. I should perhaps some on the rails shooting segments that appear early on in the game, as a means to break up the action, which I found so insanely enjoyable that I’m pissed there wasn’t more of them. But by far the best part is the special Mercenaries mode that opens up after it’s been completed; it’s basically you pitted against hordes of enemies that one must survive within the time limit. That alone is more survival horror than the entirety of the main game. There’s also a bunch of other unlockables, like wacky alternative costumes, one of which is rather offensive and should have either been toned down or completely removed due to the aforementioned controversy. Though I’m just miffed that they didn’t include Claire Redfield as an incentive instead.

At the end of the day, despite all that I really like about the game…. which does outweigh the bad… I still have a very hard time recommending this title to almost anyone. Despite the gorgeous visual and some outstanding action in parts, the controls and other aspects are so broken that I’d feel bad for leading them towards an ultimately frustrating experience in advance.
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There?s much more I wanted to get into, but there’s stuff to be done before heading down to Grassroots, and if I get started on the next big thing I wanted to talk about… that being the absolutely most insane film I have seen in years (we?re talking Karate Ruler levels of madness here)… I might be here all night.

In the meantime, for those who haven?t seen it yet: a totally retarded yet still absolutely enjoyable Street Fighter 4 porn animation (NSFW, obviously). Enjoy!

  • http://www.jamesbochanski.com yojimbo

    From what I hear, MGS4 will be released on the 360 somtime 2010, annnnd it’s awesome. There are parts of its gameplay that could easily be an entirely different game in themselves. namely the mecha battle, and fist fight portions. The level of depth is unsurpassed for a game of its make, and probably has set the bar for its genre once more. The level of quality progression that each sequel builds on makes me a kinda sad that 4 was the -fin-

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