by Matthew Edward Hawkins

Another fantastic Phil Fish quote to kick things off!

In this post:
1. A brief rundown on what’s been going on.
2. And two VERY important things.

As usual, things have been fairly insane. For the most part, LOTS of Babycastles: Manhattan pre-planning going on. Though before all that, highlights from the past two weeks, at least that which I can remember; with so much going on, it’s all a blur)…

- For starters, my aforementioned Scott Pilgrim movie review is finally up. Didn’t mean it to take so long (saw it on opening weekend, btw), it’s just been that hectic. Anyhow, the final verdict? I’m afraid it’s going to ruffle a few feathers, sorry!

Out of the three, the comics, movie, and game, the latter is what I’ve enjoyed the most for perhaps obvious reasons. Unfortunately, despite the gorgeous visuals and phenomenal soundtrack, it’s actually not that much fun to play. Something that was hardly a shocker; it’s not like I had an inside source (well, actually I did), but anyone familiar with Ubi Soft knows already that they could give a rat’s ass unless it has Splinter Cell or Assassin’s Creed in the title. So it’s still a miracle that we got anything in the first place. Haven’t had a chance to download the XBLA version yet; hopefully it’s free of all the retarded bugs found in the PSN release (though everyone told me not to hold my breathe). Unfortunately, that’s not the only issue; some of the design choices are exceptionally bullsh*t and indicative of someone that obviously has never played a side scroller brawler for more than 2 minutes, let alone the halfway point of past the first stage. That’s Ubi Soft for ya! And for those wanting further clarification, simply check this out.

- BTW, my healthy dose of the game was via three player action with Dave and Joe this past Friday, my last chance to hang out with the boys before they flew off to Japan. Which is where they are at this very moment, the lucky f*cks (they’re there mostly for Blip Fest Tokyo, but decided to head a week early to soak in all the sights and wonders there is to soak up. In addition to giving them money for our upcoming panel at the New York Anime Fest (again, it’s called The Best (And Worst) Games From Japan That You’ve Never Heard Of and each received some cash to get something truly “amazing” in Akihabara), I gave Joe a little extra to pick me up something specially. Ideally a shirt from BEAMS or graniph, but if it ends up being $50 worth of frozen panties, I won’t complain! But because they’ll be thawed out by the time they arrive, my enthusiasm might be a tad bit muted.

We also watched this video and laughed our collective asses off. Remember: “JOHN MADDEN, JOHN MADDEN, JOHN MADDEN.” And so forth.

- Speaking of hanging out, earlier that week yet another Canadian game guy came to town: Mathew Kumar! Myself and the girlfriend took our latest guest from the great white north to our second fave Korean joint in East Village. Which used to be our number one choice, btw, but it’s already slipping; last time I had the bulgogi, it was way too salty. Afterwards, Dave and I had him check out our fave el-cheapo watering hole, which doesn’t even have a name technically, it’s that low-fi; PBRs there are like $2! Highlight of the evening was Mathew’s reaction to my “perfect pets” concept, along with my celebrity sex clone dispensing machine idea. Basically, he thought I was completely insane. Perhaps stupid as well. Oh well, haters gonna hate, what can you do. Additionally, Kumar’s also a proud SD gamer, and when he heard of my woes regarding my set and how I was seriously considering an HD display, despite the fact that it’ll make all my classic consoles and VHS viewing a total headache, it was suggested that I call a repair person since he had a similar problem. One that got fixed! So fingers crossed.

- Back to games, finally got the chance to get my hands on Sonic 4. And… it kinda blows. Big surprise, huh? All the elements are there; game looks great, sounds just like Sonic 3/& Knuckles, and even the stage designs appear to be on the similar level. So what’s the problem? Sonic is made out of polygons, not pixels, and for whatever reason, his overly fluid animation makes him a slowpoke. The whole time I wonder why I wasn’t going faster, and since the levels are like in the classic games, as in your supposed to bounce around the screen like a pinball, it was excruciatingly awkward. Once again, another sure thing basically ruined. That’s Sega for ya! And I didn’t even mention the best part: when I asked the Sega rep about this, he claimed that it was completely faked. Seriously.

- Also got the chance to check out that new Wacom tablet for kids for the Wii that THQ is coming out with. Games slated for it is Pictionary (zzzz), a platformer that’s somewhat reminiscent of Wire Way (why they simply didn’t rip off Max and the Magic Marker is beyond me), and a scaled down, kid’s version of Photoshop (now we’re talking). This is basically Mario Paint all over again, and it absolutely rocks. Best part is how you can export the images as jpegs and easily pass them around. If only there was a way to do this back in the day; would love to show folks the slime porn landscapes I spent hours drafting! See, what I did was first take the mermaid stamp, edit out the fish tale, then the sea shell bra, then… moving on!

- This past weekend I finally experienced foci + loci , the new collaboration between Chris (glomag) Burke and Tamara Yadao that I’ve been dying to check out, ever since it was first described to me a little whiles ago. Basically, they both create audio spaces using Halo 3 (which Chris is obviously no stranger due, or at least his alter ego Damian Lacedaemion) and LittleBigPlanet. They performed at Secret Project Robot, in Williamsburg…

… I’ll be talking about it more, though later, and over at GameSetWatch! For that video game X performance art piece column that has yet to launch. But soon! Hopefully.

- The following evening was the Reformat The Planet DVD launch party! And as noted over at Attract Mode, been ages since it was just the magnificent three, a rare treat indeed. The place was surprisingly not super packed and the evening as a whole was fairly low-key; no doubt it being a Sunday night was a factor, along with the shitty weather. But in some ways, it made the evening all the more special, because the resulting vibe was quite intimate. Pretty much everyone in the audience knew each other, so it was almost like a family reunion of sorts. Case in point: was great catching up with Asif, who I’m certain was happy for the chance to simply kick back and enjoy a chiptunes show without having to worry about getting the angle or changing tape. Unfortunately, found out that he’ll be in Japan during PAX Prime weekend, filming Blip Fest Tokyo! Major bummer, but at least Paul Owens (who was also in attendance that night), plus the rest of Two Player Productions. God, I keep forgetting that PAX is only two weeks away. Actually less than; I fly out next Thursday morning!

Oh, and I suppose I should talk about the performances, which of course, was absolutely amazing. Glomag’s set of covers tore down the house, with every last remaining bit completely atomized by both Nullsleep and Bit Shifter, who blew the dust off inside and out of certain LSDJ carts to perform classic tunes that the audience hasn’t heard in a very long time. And some of which, primarily on Jeremiah’s end, that will never be performed ever again! Though the highlight for me had to be Josh’s set; his new song got everyone in a frenzy, which was almost immediately followed by a slowed down, soulful rendition of the song Reformat The Planet that got everyone all lovey-dovey. Which again, is the most hummable chiptunes song in existence! As for the movie, I’m beyond elated to finally be able to watch the thing (only chances I’ve had previously has during Blip Fest, when there’s about a billion other things going on); expect a full review of the special two DVD package over at… you guessed it… GameSetWatch! Once I find time to actually watch it, of course. Thus far at least, I can attest to how Fangamer has hit another home run with the exemplarily packaging; you can pre-order you copy (yes, I am indeed a lucky bastard to already have a copy) here.

- Hey, have I mentioned that I’m back writing for Heavy.com? Yup! And my first duty is to blog about Metroid, and nothing but Metroid, for the next month. Though I do have some help on that end… various luminaries from the world of indie games are posting their thoughts on the series; thus far we’ve heard from Nicklas Nygren and Anna Anthropy.

As for myself, only just gotten started though I’ve already covered a few of the basics: the hidden, discarded passages in the first Metroid (which is the main reason why the first is always going to be number on in my book, Super Metroid be damned) and that live action commercial for Other M starring the very delectable real life Samus (want to know how much of a mindless Metroid fanboy I am? I actually think the new game looks awesome).

- On a much sadder note, one of my all-time favorite artists, Satoshi Kon, recently passed away. I’ve been a diehard fan ever since Perfect Blue and it hasn’t stopped since. Even though his body of work is relatively modest when compared to his contemporaries, every single frame of it is absolutely captivating and flat out beautiful. That’s the biggest shame really; he was only getting started. I still remember clearly, his appearance at the North American premiere of Millennium Actress, in which he stated it was very difficult for him to get financing for his movies in Japan, which is more or less dominated by giant robots and school girls.

But in the end, he managed to defy the odds. And as a result, whenever I encounter anyone that states “all that anime crap is exactly the same”, Kon’s work has always been my go-to example to prove such assumption is dead wrong. He’s really going to be missed, and I hope to God he was able to put as much into his final film, The Dream Machine, before his passing.

- Check this out; the latest video starring my pal Heather and her pals in The Midnight Show! Though my persona fave will always be Immortal Dog. So Comedy Central, are you guys gonna sign them up or what? What’s the delay?

- Speaking of television; so the other night on cable access was a show starring furries featuring clips from episodes past in which various “furs” were playing video games. This particular program has apparently been around forever, cuz it went back ages; you had one playing Hangman on the Commodore 64, “special guest” Chuck E. Cheese playing Donkey Kong, a visit to some arcade where one played Q-Bert, and a bunch gathered in a tiny little bedroom for versus Super Mario Kart. It was awesome. It’s just a shame that those outside of Manhattan are not able to share in such splendors… though I am working on a solution! Not to spoil the big reveal, but I’ve been working on a secret project that deals with my intense love for cable access that I’ve been aching to reveal, along with Katie, who keeps asking when I’m finally going to pull off the covers! But that’s for next time. And hopefully I’l have enough time to launch it, before I become completely wrapped up in pre-PAX & SPX madness!

… There’s also a couple of things on the immediate horizon; tomorrow’s a Konami press event, where I’ll finally get to test drive the new Kojima Productions led Castlevania title. Am cautiously optimistic about that one. At the least the American version of Otomedius should be on hand as well and am guaranteed to have tons of fun with that one! Plus later this weekend I’m checking out The Dudleys, which is having it’s long-awaited, official run. Some might recall my report from the dress rehearsal from late last year. Can’t wait to see the finalized version. Which I?ll be reporting on for… say it with me one more time: GameSetWatch!

But before wrapping things up, there’s two super important things I need to go over and remind people about:

#1. Help Babycastles (And Indie Gaming) Take Manhattan!

As everyone already knows by now, I’m helping out with the upcoming Babycastles Manhattan space. In fact, I’ve been awarded the auspicious title of primary curator! Mostly due to my previous two attempts being so wildly successful and all (which is pretty much thanks to all you fine folks out there). Plus, I’ll be overseeing the retail end and helping out with PR as well. Though it’s not just me running the show, far from it; there’s a dedicated team of hard working and crazy passionate folks, all determined to show NYC what indie gaming is all about! We’ve got a TON of amazing things in the works (just thinking about some of what’s been discussed via email alone is seriously making my head spin), though we still need help. And that’s where you come in…

… Yup, we have a Kickstarter, to help raise money for vital essentials, such as technology and related tools, plus to ensure the space is properly staffed. So please, ANYTHING you can donate would be sincerely appreciated. Though, it being Kickstarter and all, we are able to provide some truly kick ass incentives, thanks to all our generous sponsors. Might I suggest the $200 donation level, aka the ABC No Rio of Video Games! Not only will you get a ton of cool video game zines, including ones from yours truly, but there’s also a framed and self-lit Pixelblock rendering of Jizzmakun, the hero from Jizzmoppa!

God, I really wish I could spill the beans re: some of the truly mind-blowing things we have on tap! Though much of it might not happen unless we get some help. I’m not joking when I say that, not only will your donation be going to an incredibly awesome cause, but you’ll be helping to make history. It’s been a long time coming, such a convergence of indie art, music, and most importantly, video games. In the Big Apple no less. Please make the dream a reality!

And then you have:

#2. Help Get My Ass To Texas So I Can Share My Wacky Dating Girls From The Internet Stories With A Room Full Of Tech Conference Attendees!

As also previously noted, I have a panel up for consideration at next year’s SXSW, and once again, everyone’s assistance is required to make it a reality…

… To recap: the panel will cover my glory days of girl hunting on the internet, circa 2000-2004, back when social network was still being established, and the net as a whole was far wilder and crazier than it is now (trust me, as wacky as stuff is today, things were on a whole different level back then). It’ll also cover how I basically had zero rap with chicks beforehand, and by talking to 36 different girls via instant message, all at the same time, I eventually developed one. Sorta. To read the fine print, simply click this link.

And yes, for those of you with good memories, I did ask the same thing last year, but that was to help a pal’s panel, which I was brought on board around the mid-point to help spice the planned presentation up and also get enough votes, since I happen to know tons of wonderfully giving friends, such as yourselves! Which btw worked, though I ended up not being involved in the final panel, for reasons that honestly are not that important right now. The only thing to remember is how this time, it’s all me! Plus, there’s the real reason why I want this to happen so badly…

Basically, for the longest time, I’ve been writing a book about my pioneer days in the world of internet romance, and I honestly believe that appearing at the grand stage that is SXSW will greatly increase the potential of a publishing deal. Hence why I’d be eternally grateful for anyone that takes the time and effort give my topic a thumbs up. Yes you have to register, but it?s fairly quick and painless; just sign up once, immediately cast your vote, and never worry about the site ever it again. And again, you’d be doing me another tremendous favor!

I?d be even more profoundly grateful of anyone that takes the extra step to help spread the word via Twitter/Facebook, bugging coworkers and friends, or just yelling on a street corner. Perhaps it’s a fool’s dream, but I honestly believe that if everyone reading this post casts a vote, the topic will go through and, fingers crossed, that book I?ve been waiting so long to pen will finally become a reality. But please vote as soon as humanly possible! The deadline for voting is this Friday, WHICH IS LESS THAN 48 HOURS FROM NOW!!!

From the bottom of my heart, thanks to everyone in advance (and especially those that have pitched in already) for helping to put indie game culture on the map in New York City and fueling my ego/land a book deal. It really means a lot; with your generosity, things can and will happen!

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