Goodbye, All: Final Fantasy XII

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games with tags , on July 11, 2017 by slateman

I never could put my finger on just why I never completed FFXII. While I haven’t finished any Final Fantasy game after the illustrious FFVII, I quite enjoyed both IX and XII. VII and XIII didn’t interest me, XI and XIV required an online dedication and XV just didn’t sway me with bros and a car, despite its generally-favorable reviews. Oh, and X – I don’t know why I didn’t finish that either. It was enjoyable the two-dozen hours I put into it.

I digress in a bevy of Roman numerals. FFXII had just a different feel to it; its gameplay was a stark departure, its return to Ivalice from the awesome FFT was a rare revisit of an old theme and the artstyle remains one of my favorites in all of gaming (alongside FFIX’s!). But the reason only just became clear to me: children. I got married in January of 2006 and it’s hard to believe I moved to Maine when the PS2 was still the latest and the greatest. (I don’t care that the 360 came out a few months prior.). As much as I liked the twelfth numbered installment, I never gave it enough time. And as literally every other main entry was made playable on current systems, I just waited for #12 to arrive. As the last of the older titles, it finally has and I’m drawn in again by that gameplay and artstyle. If it is as good as they say, and as my memory tells me, I might be MIA for a while. Perhaps that God Of War: Ghost Of Sparta playthrough may have to wait a little bit!!!

God Of War: Chains Of Olympus – Impressive

Posted in Best / Worst, Games with tags on July 10, 2017 by slateman

It’s been over a year since I revisited the God Of War series. I played through the remasters of all three games and was impressed at the storyline, the gameplay and most of all, the anger. Just after, I began playing Ascension but lost interest as the story was just nonsense and the anger was been-there, done-that.

As the new title approaches, I find myself intrigued at the possibilities. It could be good! Combining the classic Kratos with a new tone, setting and scenario is really the only way to reboot the series IMO. The brutality of GOW III was about as far as a game could convey anger. But while the trilogy is done and over, I’ve only ever tinkered with the handheld adventures. The remastered PS3 versions were on sale this past week: both for $2. A buck per game? Let’s do this.

Tossing Chains Of Olympus on Spartan difficulty (hard mode), I went through a game that was very clearly designed for handhelds. Environments were reused and cut-scenes were particularly ugly. However, the gameplay was, for the most part, solid and the entire experience was rather pleasant. Barring some middle segments that dragged as you ran loops through areas and and end-game portion that felt like wave after wave of enemies – the overall game was quite good. The most noteworthy area lied in the later story. Spoilers incoming. The tale itself just seemed an excuse for another game, but Kratos’ plight towards the end regarding his daughter was notably mature. The choice between her and humanity was unfair and it gave depth to the fires that fueled the epic finale of the series.

Now with the first game out of the way, it’s time to start up the sequel which, I’ve heard, is even better. Not sure if I’ll try this one on Spartan difficulty or not!

Vintersorg: Till Fjälls Del II – A Worthy Sequel?

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Reviews with tags on June 30, 2017 by slateman

The way I figure it, Vintersorg has gone through three phases. First, you had the original, folk-inspired, awesome, initial era. This was
followed by the progressive, non-Swedish and in retrospect, rather brief, second phase. I lost a lot of interest at this point. However, 2007’s Solens Rötter was a return to form that was all but perfected in the next releases. Jordpuls was brilliant and Orkan was 2012’s Album of the Year. Naturbål was no slouch, but perhaps more of the same wasn’t quite enough.

And while each release was solid and spectacular, I can see why something needed to change. So when it was announced that album #10 would be titled Till Fjälls: Del II, it piqued my interest greatly. But it also made me wonder. C’mon, how many bands can truly put out a sequel to something as awesome Till Fjälls? Can anything really live up to the first two LPs?

With a few spins under my belt, the answer simply is, “no.” Part II is on par with Naturbål and Jordpuls, but it’s no Orkan and it certainly isn’t in the same league as Vintersorg’s first few releases. Mathematically, it is sound. It is exactly what I would hope for. But it is not as rooted in the folky tradition. It is not nearly as catchy. There’s nothing as hum-worthy as För Kung Och Fosterland or the title track. Actually, Tillbaka Till Källorna is perpetually stuck in my mind these last few days. Additionally, the mix is questionable. Drums are awfully low, particularly bass drums, which is really quite strange.

In fact, the biggest downside of this album is its name. Just giving us the fourth and final entry into the earthly elements series would have been just fine. But that damn Till Fjälls name just gave me a sense of expectation that was almost impossible to live up to. (Edit: But with each subsequent listen, it grows on me.)

A side bonus is that I understand some of the lyrics and song titles now, with a little Swedish vocabulary.

New FAQs: Nex Machina & MVCI

Posted in Blog, Games, Guides, Street Fighter on June 28, 2017 by slateman

With summer vacation upon us I tossed together a pair of new FAQs. The Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite story demo is out and I figured I’d organize the skeleton of what may be a future FAQ. For now it’s just a complete move listing, but we’ll see if the game is good enough to expand it.

Second is a Nex Machina Secrets Guide. This details locations for every hidden exit, secret human, beacon and visitor and was a fun one to write. Just quick updates for today, but it’s been a long time since I worked on two FAQs in such a short span of time.

Tons Of Rock: Slayer, Emperor, Awesomeness.

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags , on June 25, 2017 by slateman

My trip north on Friday was amazing and it’s one I will not soon forget. Seeing Emperor play all of Anthems and seeing Slayer for the tenth time…In Norway!? Just amazing. I’ve written up my review replete with some good photos, but I’ve also uploaded a video with some short snippets from the show. Figured I’d share here as this is the most updated section of my site. Enjoy

Nargaroth: Era Of Threnody – Spectacular!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music on June 9, 2017 by slateman

I’ve never listened to this German band, but I’m quite impressed with this album. Barring a pair of so-so rock-inspired cuts, the rest is a gritty, harsh and eclectic mix of black metal, Italian-sounding arrangements, melodic interludes and straight-up awesomeness. Hardly a review, this is just a friendly suggestion to check the album out. It’s got it all and will certainly be among the top albums of the year six months hence.

Nex Machina Beta: Wow

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games on May 27, 2017 by slateman

My first hour with Nex Machina was underwhelming. It’s brutal, incessant and requires a frantic finesse that even their prior titles do not. But then it clicked. A replay of the first level for a high score showed the epic beauty of its insanity. This game is not easy, but like any good shmup, which this essentially is, when things fall into place, it is as if time slows. Failing to die is rewarded tenfold and the game became a magestic song of weaving enemies, saving humans, finding hidden exits and destroying everything in sight. I fear the game will be too hardcore for the masses. But for those of us who appreciate this type of game, it’s a gorgeous-looking and finely-tuned masterpiece. I’ll be sad when the beta ends and I actually have to wait for the final release. Bring it on!!!

Upcoming Release Dates

Posted in Blog, Games, Movies, Music, Uncharted on May 25, 2017 by slateman

The usual “for my reference only” posting. Looks to be a promising second half of 2017!

Videogames
Jun 02 – Tekken 7
Jun 20 – Nex Machina
Jul 11 – Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Aug 22 – Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Sep 12 – Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana
Sep 19 – Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite
Oct 10 – Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War
Nov 14 – Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2
Dec ?? – God Of War

Music
May 26 – Alestorm: No Grave But The Sea
Jun 09 – Anathema: The Optimist
Jun 30 – Vintersorg: Till Fjälls Del II
Jul 07 – Blind Guardian: Live Beyond The Spheres
Jul 21 – Wintersun: The Forest Seasons
Aug 11 – The Lurking Fear: Out Of The Voiceless Grave
Aug 25 – The Haunted: Strength In Numbers
Sep 08 – Arch Enemy: Will To Power
Sep 22 – Satyricon: Deep Calleth Upon Deep
??? ?? – Dimmu Borgir: TBA
??? ?? – The Black Dahlia Murder: TBA

Live Shows
Jun 23 – Emperor/Slayer – Norway
Sep 21 – The Haunted/Witchery – Pustervik
Oct 20 – Satyricon – Pustervik
Nov 11 – Soilwork – Brewhouse
Nov 24 – Scorpions – Scandinavium

Television
May 26 – Bloodline (Season 3/Final)
May 30 – House Of Cards (Season 4)
Jul 07 – Castlevania (Netflix)
Jul 16 – Game Of Thrones (Season 7)
Sep ?? – How To Get Away With Murder (Season 4)
Oct 22 – The Walking Dead (Season 8)
Oct 31 – Stranger Things (Season 2)
Nov 27 – Vikings (Season 5)
??? ?? – Taboo (Season 2)
??? ?? – Westworld (Season 2)
??? ?? – The OA (Season 2)

New 3×3 Record! First Sub-30! OMFG!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records, High Scores / Accomplishments on May 7, 2017 by slateman

I’ve been waiting for this moment for six years. I had a session yesterday where everything was clicking. My average of 5 was 34.06. Average of 12 was 35.11. Average of 50 was 37.29. I could just see the entire solve more clearly than ever.

And today was the day. A quick cross. Three corners and three second-layer inserts were so fast. I had the yellow cross and corners permuted. Two lightning fast sune algs and a standard three-cycle to finish off and I knew it was coming. Just didn’t know if I could break 30. Let’s face it… 30.00 wouldn’t have been nearly as good. This was utterly thrilling. And while the record could be broken again, I think the greatest success here is the change in average time. I’ll never get too much faster… Not without F2L. But for now I can officially say I’m under 30 seconds. At 41 yrs old, I’ve been waiting since I was 35 to say that. :) \m/

100 Solves. New 3×3 Record!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records on April 28, 2017 by slateman

I don’t cube like I used to. My collection continues to grow, recently an Eitan’s Twist and a 2x2x4 entered the fold, but I don’t go for speed like the old days. (five years ago, heh) After seeing some people using an app called Twisty Timer which tracks your times and charts them, I figured I’d just see how I stood. 100 solves later and my average was just over 41 seconds. My old Average Of 5 record has remained unbroken for over four years, mainly because I don’t really ever challenge it. I was about half a second too slow to challenge that one but…what’s this? Oh right, a new personal best!!! I missed the elusive sub-30 claim by a mere quarter-second, but I’ll take it. 30.25 is my new 3×3 record. Maybe 100 more solves will give me the opportunity to shave off that elusive chunk of a second?