06/18/2008

Okay, Now, Cop A Feel! Hit The X Button! Hurry!

by Matthew Hawkins

Man, where does the time go?

Excuse Me, Mr. Kojima-San, I Forgot To Bring My Copy Of Metal Gear Solid For You To Autograph, So Could You Please Sign This VHS Copy Of Ernest Goes To Camp Instead?

Last Thursday saw Hideo Kojima at NYC’s UNIQLO store in SoHo, to help commemorate the release of Metal Gear Solid 4, the final chapter of the MGS saga, along with a line of limited edition shirts based on the game. And not surprisingly, all did not go as planned, though that’s hardly a surprise…

That there is a pic of Kojima signing a bag of wasabi flavored Doritos from Japan. And that there is also pretty much the ONLY pic I have from the entire event. Which meant I didn’t capture the dude dressed up as Naked Snake, all decked out in camo gear. I know… So what happened? Basically, I was running really late that day; some last minute freelance gig dropped onto my lap, which meant I didn’t get a chance to head over to the store in the early afternoon as originally planned, and instead had to rush out the door and get there just as things were kicking off. And in my mad rush, I totally forgot that my camera was without a SD card, meaning only one single pic could be taken and contained. I actually took several pics, but each one I liked had to take the place of the previously saved on, plus its slow as hell with a card for whatever reason, so I was just too late when it came to Naked Snake. Oh well. Though things didn’t exactly go as planned for the event either, and as previously noted, that wasn’t exactly a shock; it seems any MGS-release celebration ends up being a clusterfuck, though compared to the Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence launch, this one was nice and calm, aside from the shoving match I saw ensue.

Long story short, only 300 of those aforementioned limited edition t-shirts were made available (and only three of the six designs as well… naturally, the UNIQLO in Tokyo got the cooler ones), and were originally supposed to go on-sale at 5, which is when the event started. But by the time I arrived around 4:30, they were pretty much all sold out. Huh? Thing is, the event was organized by New York-Tokyo (this was easily the most high-profile game-centric event, and as a whole, their most successful one… though I still have to give props to their Mizuguchi appreciation night, in which Rez was projected on a 30 foot plus wall), along with Konami and UNIQLO, and it was clear that not everyone was on the same page, or at least UNIQLO, who decided to put the shirts out when the store opened around ten in the morning, though one store representative I spoke with explained that they were only for display. But I guess no one told this to the customers, or to the sales people, so by the time NY-T and gamers wanting to meet Kojima, and also get something signed, arrived they were pretty much all gone. There were a few available, but all the large sized shirts were long sold out. Instead you had small, extra smalls, and a very few mediums… for gamers. And we all know that most, at least here in America, generally wear large and sometimes extra large. So yeah!

Also by the time I had arrived, almost all three hundred of those alloted to see Kojima were waiting in line outside the store, but there was also a second line inside, waiting for the final batch of shirts (so obviously, the original idea of a shirt for each person was out the window). And when they arrived, it was a mad scramble, with a mini riot almost ensuing, requiring security to break up a minor scuffle (the previously mentioned shoving match). Making things worse were certain fellow members of the press, who decided to be greedy and cut the head of the line to grab the goods. The thing is, we generally get preferential treatment a lot of the time, which leads to a sense of superiority and entitlement, and granted we were promised a chance to get a shirt as well as an autograph from Kojima, but when things are clearly not going to plan, one has to realize what the deal is and respect the people the event is really for, specifically those who had waiting in line for a lot longer than any of us were there in the first place. That’s why I went straight to the end of the line, knowing full well that I probably wouldn’t get a chance to nab a medium, cuz I’d like to think I’m a nice guy. And what do you know… the design I really wanted was available in medium, which no one wanted, and passed down the line, till it ended up in my hands, plus by the time I actually made it up there, another in the same size was also in reach! The third design, which I really wanted, was all sold out, but I still consider myself lucky.

… Meanwhile, this one camera guy, for a news outfit that shall remain nameless, was later spotted in line for a cash resister with all three shirts, and in large no less (which would explain why I saw him literally shove some girl aside, to nab the absolute last ones), had the largest, shit-eating grin I had ever seen. I so wanted to slap him in the back of the head. I also feel the need to mention that the store also has the absolute stupidest and laziest clothing store cashiers I have ever encountered, and that’s saying a lot for NYC…

But enough bitching about UNIQLO; otherwise, things went fairly smooth. Though initially, there was some fear as to whether Kojima would indeed stick around to meet all 300 folks in line; the night before he was at a midnight launch event in Times Square, for a signing at the Virgin Megastore, where folks acted pretty unruly. Aside from some constant yelling and screaming, he was asked to sign loads of stupid like, like condoms, and eventually became so annoyed that he bailed, despite there being several hundred people still waiting (I also hear that he hates doing autograph sessions in general). But things went far smoother this time around, though it was strictly controlled; just one signature per person, say your thing real quick, maybe take a picture, then move along please. Most folks had copies of MGS4 for Kojima to sign, or assorted Metal Gear goods. A few brought copies of Zone of the Enders, and even one dude brought his copy of Policenauts. Very nice. Though here’s the thing… it wasn’t just Kojima signing stuff, but also one of the voice actresses from MGS4, who is a model in Japan, though I also hear she’s done porn. And as soon as Kojima had put his signature on something, it went to her… you could tell that the dude who brought Policenauts didn’t want her to sign it since, well, she didn’t work on it! But either she didn’t understand, or the dude was too nice to say anything.

By the end, the line had thinned down, and I myself had a chance to get something signed. Now, I normally think autographs are kinda weird… I mean, I’m always up for meeting people that I respect or admire, but I’m happy enough to just exchange words, maybe a handshake. But to ask them to sign their names for you? I see no real point… though I guess it’s supposed to be some sort of concrete proof that the encounter happened, but it all just seems so awkward and impersonal. But, since it was advertised as a signing, I figured, what the hell, and had intended on bringing my copy of The Metal Gear Saga Vol 1 DVD, but of course, I forgot that too. Though they had the MGS4 coverslips for those who hadn’t purchased the game yet and had nothing to sign, so I decided to utlize that, though I mostly wanted the chance to ask Kojima a question (another reason why I wanted to be there early was the possibility to chit-chat with the guy). What did I ask? If there’s gonna ever be another Botkai title (remember that GBA game with vampire hunting that had the solar sensor built into the cart, so if you played during sunlight, there wasn’t much to do, but you could build up power, so when night fell and the vampires came out, you could do battle?). His answer?

[chuckles] “Sorry, but never!”

So there you go… I also nabbed a copy of MGS4 that same day, to further mark the occasion, the Limited Edition package with the special behind the scenes Blue-ray disc. Both of which I haven’t been able to play, of course! And I’ve had a burning desire to run out and nab a PS3 to experience the damn thing ever since, though it just hit me that there’ll probably be a super, gussied up director’s cut later down the road, so I may as well wait for that. Or… one last thing: the big joke of the event among all the other game journalists? “Can’t wait for the 360 version!”

Afterwards I went to Katz’s for another ex-Funny Garbage meet-up, since I’m tight with the gang of Jason, Dave Savage, and Sean Taggart. No Danny Glover this time, though. BTW, here’s a look at those shirts I got…

That Was The Worst $10 I Ever Spent… Scratch That, That Was The BEST $10 I Ever Spent!

The following weekend was pretty low-key. On Saturday I went drinking with Joe Salina and Mooney at my fave get drunk for cheap spot, Kenka, and it was pretty epic. One somewhat relevant moment was when I asked Joe if he thought Resident Evil 5 looked racist. And instead of repeating the entire argument, I’ll just share my two-cents: it doesn’t at least to me, and most folks claiming it is are simply projecting, IMHO. It’s already something I’ve discussed in detail, though on the podcast that no one has heard, though that part might be available soon. Though anyone wanting further elaboration around here can simply ask for it.

Otherwise, I just worked on various projects, plus messed around with my new iMac (which has thus far been totally awesome, though the screen is less than perfect; it’s true what they say about the 20″ iMacs, in comparison to the stellar displays the 24″ model has, yet then again, CRT over LCD any day in my book, and eMac for life, yo), and played a few games naturally…

The World Ends With You – I was pretty intrigued by this game when it first surfaced, given how it appeared to be not your typical Square Enix RPG-fare (with the exception of the Tetsuya Nomura character designs… which btw, I don’t mind; I know everyone hates the guy for ruining Square, but honestly, you have to blame the fans on this one). But, like lots of stuff, it fell off my radar when the moment of truth came, i.e. when the thing was finally released. But when picking up the MGS4 Limited Edition, plus Blast Works (more on that later), the guy at Gamestop noted that a few copies of this one was in the same box, and noted how it was a surprise since it’s apparently already a rare tile, which may or may not be true. But it worked on me, and another copy was sold! Anyhow, I’m still very early into things, but I already LOVE the aesthetics, as well as the soundtrack, plus the storyline is pretty intriguing. I’m actually a sucker for any RPG that’s not placed in some fantasy or sci-fi driven setting, but in contemporary times. I guess I just find the prospect of exploring some medieval cave or abandoned space station rather boring, but the mall? Oddly alluring, and it makes a helluva lot more sense when your protagonist is a teenager. But I’m already annoyed as hell with the lead character, which really does seem to typify what is wrong with S-E these days; his emo-riffic, self pity bullshit puts even Cloud to shame. But also, the dual screen combat is just not clicking with me. How it works is like this: on the bottom screen you fight with your main character, by sliding the stylus around, either to move around, or to directly attack the enemy. Meanwhile, up above, you can control your partner by manipulating the d-pad to input attacks. At first I was overwhelmed by everything going on (though there is the option to not do anything for above, in which case the computer simply takes over), but then I realized what the problem is; combat with the touch screen feel too sloppy. You can do several different things depending on how you minutely use the stylus, but the game does do a good job of detecting these nuances. Also not helping is how the enemies, at least thus far, have been lame as hell. Evil frogs? Come on. But, I’m hanging in there… so stayed tuned for more.

Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass – I got this on day one and haven’t given it a spin till now. And… holy shit, this game is awesome. I’m totally blown away how seamless they managed to transition Link’s well established (and rock solid) control scheme for the touchscreen. I thought messing around with the boomerang was hella fun before! Again, just started playing it, so there’s not much to say, or at the very least, I have nothing to complain about thus far.

Blast Works – Yet another game I’ve been dying to get my hands on since day one, and I’m probably one of maybe five people to get the thing when it came out (tracking it down was a bitch itself… every Gamestop clerk confused with either Blast Corps, which at least makes sense, and Boom Blox, which makes less sense), mostly cuz its a Kenta Cho on a console, proper (there have been homebrew ports of his stuff on Dreamcast and the PSP, but those don’t count). Also wetting my appetite is how its gotten glowing praise from across the board, which was surprising to say the least. And… I’ve only gotten up to level five, not because I died or ran out of time, but I was literally falling asleep. I have no idea what everyone is talking about. As much as I love Tumiki Fighters, I find the Wii revamp to be a complete borefest. The graphics are nice I guess, though the backgrounds are insanely dull, plus the same goes for the music, and there is zero challenge for the most part. Enemy patterns? What enemy patterns? Though with the fact that your ship becomes to big, they become impossible to even notice, but I still find them to be boring as hell. The game simply lacks intensity, something Kenta Cho games are best known for. I know, I know… I guess I should give it more time. Plus, I haven’t even touched the level editor, which is what everyone is really talking about, but still, I’m surprised most reviewers haven’t mentioned the sub-par single player mode yet.

Pokemon Ranch – Downloaded this mostly for Katie, and it’s also my first WiiWare. I know Lost Wind is supposedly awesome, but I simply don’t have room on the hard drive for it, whereas Pokemon Ranch has a tiny footprint. BTW: I predict that Nintendo’s big surprise in the coming weeks, in addition to the slimmer, GBA-slotless DS, will be a hard drive for the system, to address everyone’s complaints about not enough room to hold downloaded material, and it will look just like that stand the system is on right now. That’s my wacky prediction of the day! Anyway, when I first saw screenshots, I was less than impressed… it does look like a first-gen N64 game, doesn’t it? But when I realized that you could conceivably have a thousand Pokemon all running around at once, the graphic quality all of sudden made sense. I also wondered if it would even be any good to someone who doesn’t have Pokemon Diamond and Pearl to use to populate the ranch with, but once I heard that those us get one free “pity Pokemon” a day, I figured what the hell.

When starting out, you’re asked to choose five different Miis to help run things, so Katie chose myself, herself, Dave Mauro, Joe Salina, and James Brown (the one where he’s doing a satellite interview, and is totally out of it). And immediately we were all plopped onto the ranch with a few Pokemon, to… just stand around and do nothing. Well, everyone does “stuff”, but all on their own accord, far as I can tell. You just sit back and watch as your avatars stand around and talk to each other, or to then Pokemon, and sometimes dance with them. At first I wondered what the hell was this shit, and how I couldn’t believe I had blown ten bucks on such nonsense. And then after soaking in about five minutes or so (actually, probably less) of all the hijinks that ensued, I finally realized that it was ten dollars very well spent…

Almost immediately, it was established that I was “popular” among all the Pokemon! Maybe because it was my ranch and I was footing the bill?

Though that didn’t stop one of them from throwing fire in my face, which lead to my hair catching on fire.

Meanwhile, for whatever reason, Dave decided to sit on Pichu, which upset him horribly. Awww… As for Joe, he immediately began hitting on both the women of the ranch, Hayley, the chick that runs everything and tells you what is what, as well as my girlfriend! WTF. I had expected such behavior from the Godfather of Soul, but Joe? Hmmm.

Hello Year 2007

On Monday, I went over to Dave’s to, what else? Play some more games! Got to check out Ninja Gaiden 2 in the hands of someone who can actually handle it; got to check out some of the later levels, along with the weapons all maxed out. Unfortunately, he was without internet at the time (for a whole week actually…. which partly explains why the forums have been all but dead for a little now, along with Mike being out of town, though things are back to normal) which meant he wasn’t able to upload all the crazy high scores he achieved when beating the game! As for myself, I downloaded the demo, and thought it was cool and all, but just couldn’t deal with the crappy camera system, which is just as bad as it was in Ninja Gaiden Black.

Joe was also over, and we also got in a few rounds of Call of Duty 4, which we were both interested in, and it was shock and awe indeed. I had written the game off when it first hit the scene, since FPSs and anything dealing with the military just aren’t my things, but seeing it at the GDC, I had to reconsider my stance, and it certainly is awesome! Not necessarily my thing, for perhaps obvious reasons, but cool nonetheless. Or maybe not? More on that in just a sec; afterwards we got in some rounds of Arcana Heart, after an aborted attempt to finally give Battle Buchigire Kongou (the candidate for Fighting Weapon Battle X) a go, since it seems that there’s no two player versus mode, unless it’s unlocked via the single player mode, which meant no fighting with construction vehicles, but with underaged girls. And after a few rounds of Virtua Fighter 5 (which again, I have no problems playing with the stock 360 controller… I know, I’m a super freak), Joe had to leave, which led to Dave asking me if there was anything I wanted to give a spin. And there was…

I have a confession, one that will surely cripple my hip, indie gamer cred for sure: I have never played Portal. I know its God’s gift to video games and all, as one who is usually annoyed with glowing praise for whatever game, in the case of Portal, I’ve always believed it to be reasonably justified, despite the fact that, once again, I’ve never even touched it! Lord knows I’ve wanted to, it’s always looked hella cool, but haven’t due to… you know… how I get dizzy and nauseous from any FPS. The thing is, and I forget if I’ve also talked about it here, aside from just the forum, I was a big fan of Metroid Prime 1 and 2 because of the way things were set-up, and I never once get sick, but that all changed with 3, with its switch to a more traditional control scheme. But when after doing so tinkering with the settings, I was able to come up with something didn’t make me want to vomit after fifteen minutes. I then explained this to Mike and he noted that it all had something to do with the speed of the camera/mouse look. So after firing up Portal, I immediately adjusted the look setting to almost its lowest, and wouldn’t you know! I played for over thirty minutes straight and no problems whatsoever! Talk about a breakthrough! It’s like a whole new world has opened up to me! You wouldn’t believe how excited I am… Though I do realize that this won’t work with most games. At least Portal is more puzzle oriented, but with something like Call of Duty, with bullets whizzing by at all angles, and lighting quick responses, as well as movement, a must, that just won’t work. But still… at least I can play Portal! I guess I really don’t need to mention how fucking amazing it is. Dave also got a kick watching me tackle some puzzles; some of my solutions were ridiculous or unnecessarily complicated when compared to his, and vice versa. Anyway, point being, I’ve joined the club!

Get Ready!

What else? Well, I received the entire Rock Band for the Wii set-up the other day from Harmonix, with one crucial piece missing… the game! And I of course only realized this after setting up all the guitars and the drums. Oh well! And earlier today I went to Sega’s big holiday press preview, which…. I’m not allowed to talk about. Which is kind of a drag, since I held off on updating last night since I figured I’d have a lot to talk about the next day. Once again… oh well. Though hopefully I won’t get in trouble for mentioning how, for the first time in a LONG time, I’m actually really excited, and most importantly, hopeful for an upcoming Sonic game!

So instead of wrapping things up with a bunch of assorted gaming news, which I was going to do, but I’m just feeling a bit lazy at the moment (plus there hasn’t been too much to talk about really… though news of Mega Man 9 is kinda exciting), I may as well pass along another mention that Subway Cinema’s New York Asian Film Festival finally kicks off this Friday! And oh man, is it ever gonna be great! I’ve finally come up with my checklist, which clocks in at over twenty different flicks! And yes, I fully intent on taking advantage of the special festival pass. But in addition to some fine video game-centric cinema, for my GameSetWatch column, I’m also psyched for the just announced US debut of Retro Game Master! And instead of explaining what Retro Game Master is exactly, I’m just gonna cut and paste the Subway Cinema press release since, once again, I’m just in a lazy mood at the moment…

During the NYAFF, Subway Cinema will also be presenting the American debut of a popular Japanese TV series repped by Stylejam. Produced by Fuji TV, RETRO GAME MASTER?known as GAME CENTER CX in Japan?stars Shinya Arino as ?the Kacho,? a company employee who is in love with old-school gaming, usually on the classic 8-bit Nintendo (or Famicom, as it?s known in Japan). Each show follows the Kacho as he challenges himself to defeat an old-school game, an ordeal that usually takes him many hours (viewers see a condensed thirty minute summary).

Launched in 2003, the show has lasted nine seasons, the most recent of which started in mid-June. Immensely popular, the adventures of the Kacho have inspired four DVD box set collections (released by Stylejam), multiple tie-in merchandise, and even GAME CENTER CX: ARINO?S CHALLENGE, a Nintendo DS game that features the Kacho as an animated character challenging the player to a series of cleverly designed faux retro games.

So that American fans have an opportunity to learn more about the show, NYAFF will be presenting two complete episodes of RETRO GAME MASTER as FREE screenings at IFC Center, subtitled for the first time ever in English!

The first show has the Kacho trying to defeat the difficult “Mystery of Atlantis,” a classic Famicom game never released in the U.S. The second show features the Kacho playing the popular “Ghosts and Goblins.”

  • sonictail

    Good to hear you’re making good time on the freelancing. Btw did Kojima have his clique hanging around him at this event?

    Also, I still think “Game Center CX” is a good title, do they really have to spell everything out?

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