Archive for the Blog Category

I Beat A GTA!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games with tags on August 9, 2018 by slateman

Despite having played every major GTA installment dating back to the late 1990s, I have never actually completed any of them. Not a one! From the London updates to the original, through the PS2’s trilogy, even GTA4, I’ve played almost everything (Except 4’s DLC). In fact, I’ve already written about GTA3’s impact on gaming. But at no point did I ever follow-through and see the credits on any of them. That’s not a bad thing! They were all marvelous releases and Rockstar’s brand revolutionized gaming and became the biggest-selling form of media in history.

And I actually started GTA5 when it came out. However, I had to return it to GameFly for one reason or another. As the years progressed, I watched the sales figures creep up. 60, 70, 80, 90 million units. Holy shit.

With sales never floundering, the price tag rarely dipped. However, I finally nabbed the game at the low, low price of $20. And it is quite low, considering just how much game is crammed into this behemoth. With no other games capturing my attention at the time and a busy autumn ahead, I gave it a go. Reminiscing of the missions I’d done and branching into new territory, the entire lot was a hell of a lot of fun. It’s such a polished product with scores of random events, WTF moments, incredible writing and amazing production value. I cannot recommend it enough and even completing it leaves a great majority of the game still unseen, both online and off.

As has been my wont, here are some spoilericious snapshots from the journey. For the first time, I can claim accomplishment in clearing a GTA game. It’s about damn time!

4×4 Windmill Last-Layer Parity

Posted in Blog, Cubing with tags on August 8, 2018 by slateman

Another quick algorithm update. I saw I had left my awesome MoYu AoSu 4×4 Windmill Cube on the shelf unsolved. That last-layer edge parity (either opposite or adjacent) can’t be fixed by the normal algorithm, as it messes up your centers. “Oh, what was the solution again?” I pondered…To the YouTube!

Ah, that’s simple! OK, so first, rotate the U layer either way and then drop down the white center. Move back the top layer so your parity is properly located for your algorithm and the white/yellow centers are front and back. Do the awesome LL parity algorithm and then just reset the white and yellow faces. Since those two don’t have any orientation, it’s OK if you flip them around.

Quite simple really…until I forget next time, of course!

Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night – 200.6% Finally!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, High Scores/Accomplishments with tags on July 28, 2018 by slateman

20 Years Later – Finally 200.6%!

At 42 years old, my personal Castlevania history dates back three decades to the original on the NES. Like so many others, I’ve played just about everything. The classic trilogy, Bloodlines, IV, SOTN and its subsequent GBA/NDS titles, the PS2 3D ones, LoS, side stories, etc, etc, etc.

And at the top of that heap, to me, remains Symphony Of The Night. It’s just so [insert 20 superlatives we’ve all heard]. Anyhow, while I was a day-one adopter in early 1997, I never made it past 197% or so. This continued when I replayed it in the early ’00s, and again when I got the PS1 Classics version on the PS3. Oh, and when I replayed it **again** on the PSP with Dracula X Chronicles.

My itch for more Castlevania meant another replay of Rondo Of Blood, now on my Vita, and…why the hell not, let’s do it again! And now my goal was to *finally* get the elusive 200.6%. Methodically going through the game room-by-room, I made it to the end of the second castle, started doing my clean-up and realized…I missed Mudman. No! No!!! So bummed, I took a day or two off before heading back in and finishing it all off.

Little did I know that getting 200.6% was still achievable despite my oversight!!! And so finally, for a game I started playing just after my 21st birthday, is now (sorta) 100% complete at my tender age of 42!

New 3×3 Record! 29.03!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records, High Scores/Accomplishments on July 28, 2018 by slateman

This one is a few months old, but that’s OK. This isn’t unusual, but every so often I’ll grab my best 3×3 and see if I still have it. A sub-40 average is usually my goal, but my ninth solve on this day was just remarkable. I slammed together that first layer in like 8 seconds. The second layer was average, but I think I had two last-layer skips. It was one of those moments where you just know this is something special. As only my third sub-30, I was utterly thrilled. Anyhow, new record! Oh, and a quick check of my cubing records reveals that this new time came precisely one year after I got my last sub-30 record! I suppose I’ll have to make another go on the 18th of May, 2019!

More Tolkien? I Cannot Resist!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Books, Tolkien on July 10, 2018 by slateman

I can’t blame them. The man has been dead for 45 years and my collection somehow continues to grow. Giving me anything Silmarillion related will equate to a certain purchase. This time, we return to Gondolin to round out the trio of epic Tolkien tales, following Narn i Chîn Húrin and Beren and Lúthien’s tale. I know these stories by heart despite not touching the book in a decade. I can open up to any section and be right back into the world, the lore and Tolkien’s grand vision. I can’t wait to return to Turgon and to Maeglin’s betrayal. The author of my favorite book remarkably continues to publish, almost a half-century after his passing. Even his son, the editor of a majority of these books, creeps up on his 94th year. One day, perhaps, they’ll run out of content. But until then, I may be in search of a larger bookshelf. :D

What To Play: 2018-2019 Edition

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Resident Evil with tags , on June 15, 2018 by slateman

As E3 rolled out the new and exciting, it’s hard not to truly get pumped up by something. There are some enormous titles a’coming – and many of them are not so far off. Sony’s Resident Evil 2 reveal gave us our first glimpse of the game in action as well as a release date merely seven months later.

Today I’d like to go through some upcoming release dates alongside my excitement level. Three stars = must buy, pretty much. As always, this is more of a personal checklist, but now that it’s written up, there’s some good shit on here!!! Let’s go!

07 Aug – Dead Cells ***
07 Aug – Overcooked 2 ***
21 Aug – Guacamelee 2! ***
31 Aug – Divinity: Original Sin 2 *
14 Sep – Shadow Of The Tomb Raider *
21 Sep – Spyro: Reignited Trilogy **
26 Oct – Red Dead Redemption 2 ***
04 Dec – Just Cause 4 ***
31 Dec – Mega Man 11 **
?? ??? – Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night***

2019
25 Jan – Resident Evil 2 ***
29 Jan – Kingdom Hearts III **
?? ??? – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice ***
?? ??? – The Last Of Us – Part 2*

Resident Evil 4 – Again!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Resident Evil on June 15, 2018 by slateman

By my count, this is the fifth time I’ve beaten Resident Evil 4. I’ll simply never forget my first time on the GameCube – and that chainsaw death. I followed this with the PS2 game, and later the Wii game which, by all acounts, was the easiest of them all. The remaster on the PS3 and now on the PS4.

But on this last playthrough, I wondered to myself, why precisely I was doing it again. I found it curious that on both of these Playstation versions, I paused. There was a significant delay between certain trophies. After saving Ashley and before defeating Bitores Mendez on this playthrough, I stepped away for seven months. As surprising as that might be, the lapse was 3-and-a-half years back on the PS3. Evidently that middle section is my least favorite.

So back to the question: Is this really one of the best games ever? Five playthroughs suggest yes, but that middle bit gave me pause. However, the flurry of trophies as the game ends on both the PS3 and the PS4 show that I just blasted through the finale. The level design is smart, the bosses are challenging but not overly dumb (as is the case with certain games) and it balanced the tiptoe beginning with an action-packed ending. Resident Evil 4 is not a top-10 game ever IMO. But it is a top-20 game and that’s not half-bad. I’ve definitely spent too much money on this game, but it’s OK when the final product is that fun, with satisfying head-shots, intense anxiety due to those effin’ Regenerators and tremendous sound design.

Perhaps after two Nintendo systems and three from Sony, I may have completed it for the last time. At least, until the remaster on the PS5!

Oh, and just checking out those trophies made me think, “I must’ve taken a picture from the last time I beat the game! I did – and the stats are significantly different! I’m certain pause time contributed to the lengthy duration of this latest run, but, I couldn’t have paused it for that long!

Dimmu Borgir: Eonian – Quite Good!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags , on May 5, 2018 by slateman

I vividly remember 1997 and hearing Dimmu Borgir for the first time. That record remains among my favorite albums ever and the band never matched it in my opinion. I lost a little interest by the time Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropa came out but my interest was renewed with 2003’s Death Cult Armageddon. With only a pair of new-material, studio records since that, Eonian’s arrival didn’t really have me expecting altogether too much. The singles weren’t bad, I thought, but it turns out that in context, they are part of a rather grand presentation.

I’m not going to proclaim this the album of the year. However, my spins leave me wanting more. For whatever genre they’re in, symphonic black metal possibly, they do it well. As the weeks led up to release, the press has spoken of their ventures outside of their comfort zone. Words that leave a long-time fan hesitant. But the album is a rather solid outing and I’m thoroughly enjoying the adventure it takes me on. There are some killer albums on the horizon: At The Gates, and my most-wanted: Skeletonwitch. Though this won’t likely dethrone Kalmah or the potential of some of those aforementioned bands, it could possibly rank in the top-5 come December.

God Of War Is Coming! A Look Back

Posted in Blog, Games with tags , on April 12, 2018 by slateman

The image shown here displays a few years of GoW history. However it omits my two playthroughs of the original on the PS2 and one run through its sequel. Yeah, I suppose I played 1, 2, 1, 3, 1, 2, 3, A, COA, GOS, if you had to really break it down, not counting incomplete playthroughs of those PSP games back in the day.

And as shallow as the games truly are, they were enough to beckon me to return, as made evident here. Now, I’ve only just begun Ghost of Sparta and never finished Ascension and so I’m by no means the series’ biggest fan. However I do believe that God Of War III’s finale was the perfect way to close the series out. It finished the tale and did so in utterly brutal fashion. And while they revisited it later, the trilogy feels very much complete and actually concise once you cut out the other three unnecessary games.

But in only eight days the series takes an enormous leap forward into Scandinavia! Both the story and the setting intrigue me and the visual splendor will be a marvel to behold. Hell, the remaster of 3 was stunning! I am thoroughly excited about the game’s return. Now, the change in tone will be as substantial as the new locale. Atreus. A bearded Kratos playing father. No more chain blades. I, for one, look forward to the new GOW formula. Reviews are glowing, but you can tell they’re holding back on story and gameplay info. What’s going on? How did Kratos’ new wife die? Wait, who is she and why is he there? It’s refreshing to know these details aren’t flowing from the developers and publisher. That restraint will help millions go into this game blindly, just as it should be. It’s hard to believe that 13 years have passed since the first game landed. I was still living in NY, to give that perspective. It’s been eight years since GOW III closed the trilogy out! I suppose amidst all that waiting, one final week should be easy. But some perfect-10 scores only made me thirst for more. April 20th cannot come soon enough!

Oh – and after getting the platinum in 2018’s masterpiece, the above image has been updated to reflect that milestone! :)

Kalmah Get! Album Of The Year?

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags on April 6, 2018 by slateman

The mighty Finns return with album # 8 trying to trump the masterpiece that was Seventh Swamphony. The first singles didn’t win me over, but then again neither did the title track of album #7 and I’m thinking that may be top-20 ever. Really.

So, with the arrival of Palo – is Kalmah a shoe-in for yet another AotY victory? They took 2013, narrowly missed 2010, and won three times in the ’00s. Only fellow Finnish metalers Moonsorrow even mustered three AotY titles – could Kalmah make this their fifth?

Well, hold on now. We’ve got the mighty return of Dimmu Borgir ahead, Amorphis and even an Abbath-less Immortal record looming. However, neither of the two Norwegian bands ever captured an annual crown and Amorphis last flew their blue-and-white 24 years ago with 1994’s AotY Tales From The Thousand Lakes, truly a genre-defining album.

While some stragglers could pose a threat, there’s only one I can currently predict to genuinely battle the swamplords for the title. Yes, At The Gates is back! We’ve been treated to a pair of tracks from their second post-hiatus album: one an average filler song and the other which could vie for the best ATG riff ever written. That thing is a monster and made me salivate for the LP a mere eight seconds into the title track. The album arrives in six short weeks, plenty of time to devour this Kalmah opus.

And speaking of…just being a new Kalmah record is hardly enough to secure top honors for the year. Subsequent listens of those first singles has really gotten me on board, but some of the middle tracks haven’t hooked me yet. It ends well, with catchy grooves and some bloody-fucking-fast blastbeats. However, I’m not fully convinced it’ll lie atop 2018’s heap of music just yet. But come to think of it, the same thing happened with Vintersorg just last year. Let’s check back in a few weeks. They’ll inevitably reclaim the title as my top-played band, but beyond that – who knows. ATG might very well be that goddamn good!!!