04/18/2009

Approaching Level 32

by Matthew Hawkins

So today’s my birthday. Yay. I’m now 32.

As juvenile as it is to some, I’m one of those people that have continued to make a fuss about hitting the anniversary of their birth past the age of 21, which is when many feel that anyone should give such a practice a rest. But hey, it’s a great chance to bring some friends together for a party and get free stuff out of it as well! Yet even those folk generally give it up once year 30 is hit.
That’s like, whoa, you’re finally an adult! And hitting 31 basically sealing the deal. So 32 as a result is nothing special. That and I just hate the number. Note: I have OCD, and most obsessive-compulsives have bizarre, almost irrational opinions of numbers. Like so many of my kind, I’m not fond of even numbers in general. But moving on…

Today is also the day that all Persona related fan art is finally due! I was originally going to post all the best submission and announce the winners today, but one person asked for a little bit of extra time, so I’m quietly extending that window of opportunity till the end of today. Winners and runners up shall be finally announced tomorrow.

Anyway, I have a nice little shindig organized by the girlfriend to attend to, but that’s later tonight, so how about some odds and ends from the past couple of weeks…

2 Places, 1 Weekend

This just in: I’ve been asked to be a part of The Connecticut Film Festival! I will be one of the guest speakers that will be taking part in a panel on new media, which will be sponsored by the Writers Guild East. In addition to traditional film and animation, there is also a heavy interactive component as well, including the web, free & open source software, and…. you guessed it… video games. That’s where I come in, and I’m pretty psyched to have been invited!

Now here’s the problem: the whole thing takes place during June 1-7, though my part is scheduled for June 6th, which is a Saturday. Which also happens to be day one of the MoCCA Art Fest! My original plan was to come in that Saturday morning and stay for the remainder of the weekend, to catch the end of the festival festivities. Which unfortunately is not at all possible it would seem. So the plan as of now is this: I’ll be Connecticut at the film fest, for my thing, which means I will definitely miss all of day one of MoCCA, but will try to catch a train to be back in NYC in time for the after-party. And then I should be there all of Sunday as originally planned, alongside my indie comics partners in crime, Katie and Hilary.

A part of me wants to go “fuck it” and just spend the whole weekend at the film fest, since it most certainly will be awesome. But on the other-hand, there’s nothing more fun than hawking one’s mini comics alongside Ms. Skelly and Ms. Florido, especially at the home base show. ESPECIALLY since none of us will be making it out to SPX later this year (we’re just all too broke, and last year’s affair was, to be blunt, pretty lame), plus I did put down a good chunk of change for the MoCCA table as well (it being such a hot ticket means the price of admission is rather steep), and being the cheap bastard that I am, I intended on getting my money’s worth if possible.

Plus, it’s supposed to mark the official NYC show debut of the fort90zine (never-mind that it’s been available for sale at Forbidden Planet for months now). Speaking of, I was also hoping to have both the second as well as the third installments (the Spring 2009 Edition and the Summer 2009 Special) ready as well, but I TOTALLY didn’t realize the show was so soon, which also means the fate of UNLUCKY #5 is also totally up in the air! We shall see…

The DSi: Just The Facts

So what’s been going on since my last report? Mostly taking care of business. That iPhone game I’ve been hammering away on just keeps on going. I’m way behind, but really need to step back for a bit (hence why I’m wasting time with another journal entry). Been playing a bunch of stuff, mostly Resident Evil 5, which I’ll talk about in the very near future (I hope). Though the most noteworthy acquisition would have to be the new DSi!

First off, I’m both hot and cold to all the little changes/enhancements made to the Lite’s physical design. I really like the move from a slider to actual buttons for powering up and changing audio levels. I also love how the shoulder buttons are a tad bit more clicky this time around (which I guess makes sense since they’re now also shutter buttons).

But I can’t say I’m a big fan of the matte finish. I’ve handled my Lite with kid gloves since day one, and am afraid that it won’t be enough to prevent scratches all over my new system. I was also very disappointed that Nintendo was not offering a white model in North America, mostly because it somewhat clashes with my Wii, but also how any potential scratches would be less noticeable. Yet I’ve seen pics of the white system and it looks even more boring, due to the totally plain top lid. So black is better in this instance, it works very well with the new design, and at the end of the day, I still have my matched white Lite.

The new screens are indeed slightly larger, but otherwise, offer nothing new. I was really hoping for less ghosting and improved color levels, but at this point, only first gen DS software look gaudily colored (since designers at the time were working around the DS Phat’s screens).

As for the new speakers, I had my doubts when Nintendo lessened the number of sound holes even further from the Phat (which had amazing sound output, when compared to the Lite’s), but I was totally proven wrong. Audio sounds pretty damn awesome.

I really miss the loud click that was made when opening the Lite. It felt like opening up a Japanese cell phone, which also makes that loud, soothing sound. Though I have to wonder if that same click is the reason why my Lite’s hinge has become cracked over time (I know plenty of other users with the same issue, at least those will first gen units as well).

I like the new, Wii-like interface. Overall, it’s just as smooth and intuitive as before, and perhaps even more so, given all the options that is available to the user. Though I do feel it’s a bit of laziness on Nintendo’s part to have not updated Download Play and PictoChat to match the rest of the updated operating system. A very minor quibble, but still.

The DSi Shop channel works just like it’s Wii counterpart, and web surfing is, as expected, an entirely awkward and pointless affair. I mean, without Flash, what the hell is the point? No YouTube, no buys, and there wasn’t enough system memory to handle Gmail. Fail.

Speaking of, I know there there’s additional onboard ram to help run games (right?), but I saw no such improvements while playing the opening demo for Avalon Code, which has a tad bit of slow down in spots on my Lite. Perhaps I have a bum copy? Though that’s what I thought with Henry Hatsworth, which was literally missing audio, enough for me to request another copy from EA, till I realized that the headphone jack on that system is somehow messed up… Sorry for the trouble EA.

Also, as expected, flash cards do not run on the new system. Once again, I acquired one to play a certain game I was consulting on, and have held onto it since, to sample out various Japanese only games, before committing to a purchase… Though no test drive necessary for the upcoming Doki Majo Plus, since I already own the first two!

Aside from running all your regular DS games, the real selling point of the system is the new A/V tricks. Messing around with the dual cameras is quite a bit of fun, taking then altering pictures and the like, but since I’m not some 15 year old girl, I’m fairly certain that the novelty will wear off pretty soon. Though the real action is on the audio-side of things; it’s audio-manipulation tools are beyond fantastic, and coupled with a copy of KORG-DS, chiptuners all of a sudden have a whole new set of toys to mess around with.

Though it still flat out sucks that mp3s are not supported. REALLY sucks.

Since I don’t have a SD card handy to test importing and exporting content, there’s not much I can say on that end, other than it’s just great that they’re being utilized in the first place. I simply LOVE the format and wish I could just go back in time and force every console maker from the 32-bit era forward to utilize them in their systems.

The DSi a neat little system, for sure, but after messing around with it for a few minutes, it basically became clear that it’s just the same thing I already have, expect a tad bit more fragile and loaded with features that only a high school girl or video game musician would really go ga-ga over. Though the jury is still out till we finally get some DSi only carts, but in the meanwhile, there’s still DSi Ware, which I haven’t had a chance to really dig deep into, but am pretty excited for. I’m well aware of the already cool stuff that’s available in Japan, and we already have a neat little WarioWare title at the moment, along with an Art Styles title I really need to find the time to actually play. Ultimately, the new system is for Katie, to replace her DS Phat, which not only is the ugly red Mario Kart edition, but was a present from her ex-boyfriend that he got USED at a GameStop. So I’m just happy to have it out of the apartment, once and for all.

Oh, I also got the following, since it’s my birthday and all…

… For the longest time I’ve wanted a Rei Ayanami statue and finally found one on eBay that suited my fancy (and was also not a bad deal). And overall, I like it, though it isn’t quite as nice as pictured in the eBay auction. I mean, it’s beautiful and all, with some very exquisite details throughout, but some parts of it seem to have mistakes, such as the overall paint-job of her plug-suit. I dunno, maybe I’m just being too picky, or maybe I know nothing about models (I’m only now seriously getting into them). Yet I am of the belief that I accidentally got a knock-off. The seller is from Hong Kong after-all. I dunno, maybe some of you folks out there can tell me?

Shadow of the Colossus, Starring Shia LaBeouf

Okay, time to check out a few of the more notable game related news and nonsense from the past few weeks. Note: I’ve been super busy these past couple of weeks, too busy to even log into NeoGAF (which once you step into, it’s like a five hour long commitment, no joke), but have still heard of a few neat things, here and there…

- One of the bigger stories of the past week or so is how there’s going to be a big screen adaptation of Shadow of the Colossus. And most, understandably so, are not very hopeful. Case in point, here’s a recent quote from Justin Marks, the main behind the screenplay

“”With a lot of games there are so many elements in the universe you spend your time tearing down and tearing down… What’s nice about this game is that it’s so sparse so you can start building right away.”

Yikes. Speaking of video game turned into movies, some might have also heard that The Onechanbara is getting a sequel. Some might recall me somewhat enjoying it at last year’s New York Asian Film Festival, while I enjoyed Like A Dragon, otherwise known to American video gamers as Yakuza quite a bit more, and wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel for that one as well/instead.

- Then you have Turbo, which isn’t based on a particular title, but is heavily inspired by games in general. It’s a short film shot by students who describes their work as a crossing of Karate Kid and Tron. Hey, they’ve got my interest already, and yes, I hope to review the movie for GameSetWatch as soon as they send me a copy.

- The baby steps towards a UMD-less PSP officially begins with Patapon 2, which is being released digitally as opposed to on a disc. But apparently, those who really want one, can still get a case for your shelf? Talk about a waste of plastic.

BTW, Sony’s new case design, with the way too many mentions of PlayStation on the front, makes baby Jesus cry.

- Anyhow, good old Mike McWhertor always has the inside track on all the best news over at Kotaku: Jeff Minter is working on the Xbox Live Arcade version of Space Invaders Extreme! Nice. Dude is also totally on-top of Dream Club! Thank goodness someone is.

- Speaking of Kotaku, they recently ran a super neat piece on the year 2009, as it relates to video games. Basically, tons of games over the past couple of years have set the time of their events in 2009, so Mike Fahey tries to cover a few of these events, with the assumption that they all occur in the same universe. For example, while the events of Metal Gear Solid 2 is going down in America, you’ve got the events of Persona 3 happening in Japan!

- Any Xenogrears fans out there? Then surely the most hardcore ones out there not only know about, but already own the Xenogrears Perfect Works, a gigantic compendium that details every tiny detail behind the game, covering all it’s people, places, and things, as well as its ultra detailed (and somewhat convoluted plot). Unfortunately, the entire thing is in Japan (of course), but I still cherish my copy, mostly because I’m just a big fan of bibles revolving around whatever game/cartoon/comic/movie in general. And the one of Xenogears, aside from being super exhaustive, is just a beautiful package, top to bottom…

… Well, it seems some crazy person out there has gone through the trouble of translating the entire thing! Now THAT is hardcore…

- Details behind the Final Fantasy XIII demo have finally been unveiled, and the primary cause for concern seems to be it’s size… which is around 5 gigs… at least for Xbox 360 owners. And that’s because, without a Blue-ray drive, the entire game, which naturally be much more than 5 gigs, will require a TON of DVDs, or so the theory goes. And here’s what one 2channer, via Sankaku Complex, thinks the final retail release version will look like on store shelves…

- Also via Sankaku Complex, comes world of a hentai game, or eroge as they’re referred to in Japan, in which you can hypnotize girls to stand on their heads (though if you forget to break their trance before finishing the game, they’re stuck that way for subsequent playthroughs)…

- Wait, there was once a Game Boy Color of Rush’n Attack (one of my favorite games at the corner 7-11, when they still had arcade games) in the works? And it looks pretty damn great! Though no idea about the audio, and it’s all about that sound of the blade.

- Remember that Scarygirl game I mentioned last time? Did you know that it’s already out? And did you know that it’s totally awesome?

- And does anyone else also remember that gigantic Michael Jackson estate auction, including tons and tons of arcade machines at crazy low prices? Well, sorry, but it’s been cancelled. Damn. I had my eyes on that Virtua Racing set-up. Seriously.

- Surely some readers will recall my mention of D-Pad Hero some time ago, I would hope. Well, here we have 8BITAR HERO, which to be honest, is nothing like D-Pad Hero! Sorry. Basically, people play a song via regular Guitar Hero/Rock Band instruments, and as they play, they’re also playing a NES game via the hooked in emulator. I think? At least, that’s what I gather from the demonstration video.

You know, it kinda reminds me more of Fret Nice than anything else. I wonder when that games coming out, if ever?

- Sticking with NES hacks, I forget if I ever passed along that video of the augmented NES emulator that featured on the fly, drag and drop manipulation of Super Mario Bros. Well, the emulator is called FCEUX, and here we have SMB 3 with a dash of Kirby Canvas Curse, along with Mega Man 2 featuring the blue bomber with deadly red laser eyes!

- Moving onto the PSP, check out this dude’s Persona 4 custom gameboot! And trust me, I tried for hours and hours and hours to figure out how to get mine to do the same, but crappy tutorial vids on YouTube also makes baby Jesus cry.

- One of my new favorite sites at the moment has to be Original Sound Version, a blog that’s all about video game music. And this recent post, on the special Daytona USA Anniversary Box Set has me hot and bothered like nothing else…

- Though the one game blog that I’m addicted to at the moment has to be Tiny Cartridge, which has been on a serious roll as of late, digging up all sorts of neat stuff related mostly to the DS, but other systems as well. Such as the trailer for Ugo Ugo Trinity, the third in a line of free downloadable (only in Japan, sadly) titles by students.

- Then there’s Rhythm de Run Run Run, yet another rhythm minigame collection, with elements of racing involved. Though I would discover that Brandon already mentioned this game over a month ago. Man… there’s just too much stuff to keep track of these days.

- For you cat lovers out there (basically, Katie), we also have two different kitties (somewhat) playing Rittai Picross and Ouendan.

- Going back to homebrew once again, be sure to check out the Kama SutraDS.

- And going back to FCEUX real quick-like, here it is interacting with a rom/flyer from PulseWave 2007. I forget if I went to that show or not.

- No More Heroes paper-craft!

- Check out Saved By The Bell: The Columbine Years, one of the better 8-bit pixel pieces I’ve seen a long while…

… Which reminds me: I TOTALLY forgot to mention ARTXGAME, which was part of Game Over/Continue? Both were organized and curated by Giant Robot and attractmo.de, and just wrapped up! Damn. At least a few pics can be found here. Once again, nice to see someone finally give the somewhat stagnant these days iam8bit collective a serious run for its money.

- Related to the subject of game art, I’m seriously think of picking up this Japanese instructional video on Mario Paint, for purely shits and giggles. Man, if I only still had my copy from back in the day… I also wonder if I ever bothered to erase all my creations before trading it into Funcoland? Otherwise, I wonder what its new owner thought of my very primitive take on clone/slime porn?

- And what is a DS enthusiast site without a little love for the old school Game Boy?

… There’s also this very… let’s just say “Japanese” mod.

- Meanwhile, one of the main dudes behind Tiny Cartridge, Eric Caoili, is now part of the GameSetWatch team and has been doing a truly kick-ass job. There you’ll find some info behind Made in Ore, which not only allows users to create their own WareWare microgames, with accompanying artwork, sounds, and even Famicom cart design, but also allows for trading with fellow players! Additional clips of the game in action is available, not surprisingly, over at Tiny Cartridges.

- Then you have this rather neat Sega Saturn mod

… Though I’m far more interested in hearing more about this switchless region mod that’s also part of the package.

- And going back to Guitar Hero-related hacks for a moment, here’s something similar to an idea that our very own Dave Mauro came up with some time ago, but for whatever reason, never put the finishing touches upon (I believe someone in San Fran hit the stage first, and did a Godawful job of it, and simply didn’t want to be perceived as a copycat, no matter how vastly superior his take would have been). Though his concept involved going on stage and playing music via a Guitar Hero controller, connected to a PC in a briefcase, whereas this person is hooked to a Game Boy running LSDJ. Neat!

- The doujin shmup Cloudphobia is now available via a boxed format! I’ve had the demo for ages, and once I heard that the full game was only available in Japan digitally, I simply gave up on ever being able to experience the full thing.

- On a related note, here’s a thread over at the Insert Credit forums that speaks of another site that’s distributing doujin soft to those who can’t attend Comiket, but it may or may not be ripping of fan translators. Hope in the end that everything is cool, because the more legit business options, the better.

- Like I said before, I love character bibles, and this one for Sonic, by Sega of America, is just as epic as Xenogear’s, but for all the wrong reasons. Here’s the opener alone:

“Sonny Hedgehog was born on Earth in the early 21st century, in the town of Hardly, Nebraska, population 1,226. He and his bother and five sisters live underneath a scraggly bedge beside the local burger joint and subsist on burger scraps, milkshakes, and the occasional slug or bug that crawls their way. They are a poor, but happy family. Unfortunately, Sonny’s dad died when Sony was just a few days old, after falling into a gurgling, festering vat of toxic waste dumped in a nearby pond.”

Yes, Sonic’s real name is Sonny. And to think, I honestly thought all that nonsense that was scribbled in the pamphlet that accompanies the special 10th Anniversary of Sonic special edition of Sonic Adventure 2 was all nonsense that Yuji Naka came up one drunken night. Though I’m pretty sure both are still different… yet very much bizarre… and I’ve yet to completely sift through this newly uncovered tome to see if the grandfather of Robotnick/Eggman/ Kintobor (which is supposedly his real name) is responsible for the AIDS virus, as explained in the ending of Sonic Adventure 2.

And no, I’m not joking, look it up if you don’t believe me.

- Back on over at Brandon Boyer’s also extremely excellent game blog, Offworld, comes news that there will be another Famicase exhibition next month! Can’t wait. And seriously, one of the biggest disappointments from my trip to Japan two years ago was not being able to stop by (let alone find) Meteor since the 2007 exhibition was in full-swing.

- Not sure about anyone else, but I’ve always wondered why the Biohazard series was named Resident Evil in America. I always figured that it was just arbitrary decision on Capcom of America’s part. Well, as it turns out, there happens to be some real reasons after-all.

- Also ever ask why voice acting in video games generally sucks so much. Again, here’s some answers. One possible solution that is proposed: how about letting the voice talent get into their roles a tiny bit by actually having them play the game?

- Most of the rest of UNIQLO’s series of game shirts have finally been revealed. And as expected, they’re just as boring as the initial wave. I think the absolute worst offender is the Hadoken! Street FIghter tee; it’s like they didn’t even bothering trying. And the Ace Attorney design, as anticipated, is basically what’s been available from fans for years now at assorted comic and anime convention for years now. Yawn. At least the Tekken design is a pleasant surprise, and I’ll probably also try to pick up the Xevious one as well since, hey, it’s Xevious.

- Meanwhile, this one, that fort90forumite Llydis gave me the head’s up on, is just insanely awesome imho…

- Sticking with video game attire, check out this Missile Command skirt!

- How about this Noby Noby Chuck Taylor?

… We also have ones inspired by Bubble Bobble, Monkey Island, and Day of the Tentacles.

- Meanwhile, here’s a very dark shot taken at a bar last Thursday night of Joe Salina’s brand new pair of Mega Man Pumas…

… Trust me, they’re beautiful in person. And I haven’t shared the tale of that evening yet have I? In which I got into an all night long argument with this drunk chick at Grassroots, much to the amusement of Joe, Jon, and Katie. But that’s perhaps best saved for a later date. Or maybe just the forums. Speaking of which…

HURR LET’S HAVE SEX LOL UR HAWT

I was originally going to pass along the latest round of totally awesome and completely random vid from the forum, but I think I’m running out of time, plus this update has turned out FAR longer than originally planned, so how about just a bunch of random pics from across the forum instead?

… That last one is for all the Brooklyn-ites out there.

Okay, Time To Party

Alright, I should get going and getting ready for tonight (but just one last pic)…

… That btw was the image that accompanied Katie’s party invite. Yes, she really is just that good.

But yeah, I’m heading out, and sometime tomorrow I’ll finally announce the winners of the Persona fan art contest! You basically have until to hand something in (which should be around 6 pm, Eastern standard time, or abouts). Later!

  • http://www.jennydevildoll.com Jenny DevilDoll

    Happy Birfday Matt! You’re my third friend who’s birthday was tonight/last night.

    If Saved By The Bell really ended that way I wouldn’t have hated it so much!

  • http://www.originalsoundversion.com Jayson

    Thanks for the kind words about Original Sound Version (OSV). Good to know that people out there are actually reading what we’re writing.

    And happy belated birthday.

  • http://www.fort90.com/journal/?fbconnect_action=myhome&userid=1 Matt

    Hey, if you ever need anything chiptunes related around in NYC, like a report from some show or a chat with anyone local, just say the word!

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