Archive for the Lists Category

The Pros & Cons Of The Hobbit Trilogy

Posted in Best / Worst, Lists, Movies, Reviews, Tolkien with tags , on December 30, 2014 by slateman

307252id1L_TheHobbit_TBOTFA_Teaser_27x40_1Sheet.inddNow that The Hobbit is done, we can look back at the trilogy that is a miracle to even exist. I recall the promise of it coming out being squelched by lawsuits. Now that the trilogy has ended, there is plenty to mull over. The verdict has come and it isn’t pretty. Rotten Tomatoes lists the finale as the worst of the three movies. I’ve heard of at least two comparisons to Episode I – just about the worst analogy a multi-part film could receive. It’s not quite so bad, but some commentary is needed.

The most important part of an article such as this is to preface the entire lot by saying this trilogy was no LOTR. The book, the lighthearted feel, even the way it was filmed differed. Comparing a children’s tale to the “if we don’t destroy the ring, the entire world will cease to be” feel of LOTR would be utterly foolish. Having said this, by the conclusion of the series, I found this tone, the colors, the presentation to be a charming alternate to the darkness found in the first film trilogy.

Nothing is more exemplary than the barrel scene from the second movie. If you read the book, you’ll remember it was a consistent, silly tale of “Aww shucks, we’re in trouble again – Oh look at that! Bilbo saved the day!” Contrast that to, “OMFG darkness, Nazgûl, Sauron’s gonna kill everyone.” The movies’ entire atmosphere is representative of this.

Letting go of this comparison allows for a better appreciation, so just do it.

The Good

The Dwarves
The variation of the Dwarves in the book was limited to color and some simple personality traits. The film does a good job in at least visually differentiating each. Time is limited, clearly, so by the third movie, there were some whom I couldn’t name whatsoever (Bifur and Nori, for instance.) I feel Jackson did a splendid job at making a colorful cast work well in the constraints presented by film. I did quite appreciate the fact that Glóin looks like his son, Gimli.

Out-Of-Control Action
It’s safe to say that some scenes were almost ‘comic-book’y. Yes. Just in case you were forgetting already, This Isn’t LOTR. Read the book again to get a feel of how silly it all was.

Three Films
In the recent weeks, reviews have slammed Jackson and his expansive Hollywood rendition of the timeless 200-page book. Most state that two films (the original vision) would have sufficed. But let me say this…in the original book, Thorin, Fíli and Kíli were all killed in three sentences. The nephews were relegated to saying they died defending their uncle. A film translation cannot introduce main characters and kill them without some weight and gravity. And Thorin’s death would come how? By the hands of a normal Orc? By a stray arrow?

hobbit-azog

Enter Azog & Bolg
In the books, Azog was slain by Dáin after killing Thrór. In the extended version of The Desolation Of Smaug we’re given information about Thrór’s death by the hands of the orc-chieftain. While Azog’s involvement in The Hobbit trilogy was greatly expanded, it presented us with a very important nemesis.

I didn’t like the idea of Azog originally. Another CG character – but think about it…Tolkien created Azog and while his backstory isn’t fleshed out (much like countless other characters), his purpose in the book is legitimate. And Thorin has a genuine interest in him. Who is the main antagonist in the story otherwise? Peter Jackson took an underused enemy, beefed him up and gave the trilogy a veritable (though not the most innovative) main enemy. It had to be done and while it’s far from canon, it ties in well.

Oh, Bolg was Azog’s son. He fought in the final battle and was slain by Beorn. In the movie, Legolas took care of him, but that’s OK. I guess Legolas needed to have some purpose (more on that below).

Extended Editions
We still wait for the last film’s extended version but I look forward to Alfrid dying! I liked the first movie’s extra footage but the second’s was far more powerful. It included much more about Thrain and Thrór. The potency and overarching importance of the magic rings is played out. Beorn has his time in the sun and seeing him next to Gandalf next to Bilbo was a cool height comparison!

Seeing the the Witch-King of Angmar’s burial grounds, the added scenes in Mirkwood and even the naming of Bilbo’s sword Sting were all nice touches that added to the fidelity of the motion picture as well as effective tie-ins to the LOTR trilogy.

The Bad
I positively hate how Galadriel handles things in Dol Guldur in the last movie. However, in The Silmarillion, details are given about the White Council, though few they are. Essentially, while Galadriel is part of the council in some form, she wasn’t there for the actual event. All that’s told is that Saruman, Gandalf and Elrond “assailed Dol Guldur and drove Sauron from his hold.” You can understand Peter Jackson’s desire to include this portion in the films. It ties this trilogy with LOTR and also gives Gandalf something to do. That is why he left the party at the edge of Mirkwood after all. So, having this is ok, but man, I hate the weird magic they give to Galadriel (but it’s not much different than what she was like in LOTR. And, having that meeting in the first Hobbit in Rivendell with Saruman, Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond is pretty cool.

hobbit-tauriel

Tauriel
I don’t know of a single reader of the book who enjoys Tauriel’s presence in these films. Her acrobatics were entertaining. Many cite Tauriel as one of the worst decisions of the movies but I’ll just say one other name. Arwyn. I still haven’t a clue how it was the she was dying in the LOTR trilogy. As a purist, I hated her entire storyline and Tauriel is no better. She is Hollywood’s love story and as dreadful as it was, I understand the need to have this type of character.

Legolas
I realize time doesn’t pass the same way for Elves but it’s hard to hide the 10 years of age in Orlando Bloom’s face. To counter this, some film tricks have been used but he looks less natural. Visuals aside, my biggest issue with him was his lack of purpose. The entire second film just made him seem like a whiny boy slighted by his true love.

The WTF?

Thranduil’s Goodbye
Really? Go find Strider? That’s absurd, ridiculous and unnecessary.

Gandalf Knows?
I look forward to the extended edition to tell me more about this. I’m guessing he may think Bilbo has one of the Dwarf rings of power. This was another unnecessary attempt at a tie-in to LOTR.

Worm Things?!?!
I guess the Orcs need a way to travel. I don’t remember any worm things…

Alfrid
He kept getting screentime in the third movie but never died! Perhaps the extended edition? He was annoying but the comic relief was appreciated by one of my daughters. I expect this was the goal, but like Tauriel, readers groaned at his inclusion and recurring appearance!

It’s Over
Regardless of what you think, we’re done. The Silmarillion will and can never be made into a film so let’s not even pretend there’s hope. So, that’s it. Two trilogies that were dreams in the first place have been issued and while The Hobbit will never receive critical fame, I thought all three movies were fun. I enjoyed them all in some fashion and each has its own merits. I can’t wait for the extended finale. While most will disagree with all of what I wrote above, I’m a reader. I’ve read everything at least three times. I love my stuff and was highly entertained by the motion pictures. For me…that’s good enough!

New Albums: Spring 2014!

Posted in Lists, Music on April 11, 2014 by slateman

melting-sunThere are finally some good releases coming up. I figured we could take a peek at the whats and whens! Some I don’t know if I care about (Marty Friedman?) and some can’t possibly be good (Opeth!) but whatever. I’m certainly excited about new records from Lantlôs, RodGab and of course GODFLESH! Here’s what the next few months look like. Some exciting releases are coming just in time for summer! I’m psyched!

Insomnium – Shadows Of The Dying Sun (April 25th)
Rodrigo Y Gabriela – 9 Dead Alive (April 28th)
Lantlôs – Melting Sun (May 2nd)
Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere (May 13th)
Down – Down IV – Part Two (May 13th)
Marty Friedman – Inferno (May 23rd)
Burzum – The Ways Of Yore (June 2nd)
Anathema – Distant Satellites (June 6th)
Arch Enemy – War Eternal (June 9th)
Opeth – Pale Communion (June 17th)
Overkill – White Devil Armory (July)
Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire (?)

Playstation 4: Four Reasons To Be Excited

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Uncharted with tags , on February 24, 2013 by slateman

sony-ps4-logoOh, new console, how I loathe thee. I’m sorry, I am actually quite fond of you. Your first year usually sucks but then again it’s so cool having the newest, latest & greatest tech! But nowadays, things aren’t quite like they were years ago. New consoles mean so much more than just better visuals. So, with a non-backwards compatible (with hardware & software), expensive machine on the horizon, why should anyone be excited? My PS3 does just about everything I want (cross-game chat notwithstanding). Let’s see.

#1 – Remote Play & Streaming

Sure, we’re disappointed by the lack of backwards-compatibility but if remote play is anything near what Sony was touting during their press event this month, I’ll be rather impressed. So, I’ll be able to play PS4 games on my Vita? Without lag? Wait…I’m going to press the X button on my Vita, it’ll send that signal via WiFi to my PS4 which will process the button press and then send that entire video signal back – with zero lag? Then to say we could do that with anything from a phone to an iPad…I’m not entirely sold. However, if they can get this working; it’ll be pretty sweet.

Streaming is a different beast entirely and I’ll believe this when I see it. Beyond streaming to devices to play PS4 games, being able to play PS1, PS2 and PS3 games via streaming could be outrageous! Of course, I don’t want to pay for any game I already own…and pay for the streaming service as well because we know that won’t be free! However, this could be a great thing if implemented nicely. I’m hoping they do this right. I’m not sure how this will work but the more I think about it, the more I fear it’ll be a greedy method of extracting cash. Hmmm….

#2 – Dual Shock 4

I may be in the minority but I love the Dual Shock. I’ve loved it since before it had dual analogs and…well…shock. Tweaking it doesn’t look too sexy but from what it seems, this should be one hell of a controller. It’ll also come at a cost; I can’t see that monster going for any less than $60.

Now, I don’t know how much I’ll use the Share button, nor do I have any clue why I’d need a touch pad. The rest looks solid though and I’m excited about it. Oh, and the ability to charge while the system is off: A+!

#3 – Horsepower

Of course we’re looking at a faster, more-powerful processor and more RAM. But it’s what that means that makes me happy. Irksome things from the PS3 will be eliminated. Cross-game chat is, of course, welcome (though will it cost us via a new subscription service?) but there’s more than that. The reported ability to install in the background is a wonderful change from the current method. I’m excited about what else this processing power will entail beyond just graphics.

#3 – Screenshots/Movies

10 years ago I used to capture video and post stuff to PTH but I have neither the time nor the resources to go about it any more. I’m thoroughly enjoying the ability to capture images on the PS Vita, even if I don’t do much with them. Being able to edit video could be a very cool thing indeed as there have been numerous times I’ve wished to do the same. Sports fans could go back and edit replays like they have done for years but now they could save them.

How about a few things I’m not excited about.

#1 – The Price

This thing has to cost a ton. Even at a reasonable $400, which I find a doubtful price point, you need a game and so that’s a $500 purchase in the end. Will PS+ carry over? What will the new subscription cost? Streaming? Additional hardware? That controller at $60 would be manageable – but still costly. I love hardware, but don’t like paying for it! :D

#2 – Not BC with PSN Games

I totally get the backwards-compatibility issue with PS3 games just like how Sony took out PS2 BC on the PS3. I accept that and look forward to how streaming will be implemented for older titles. However, PSN games would be nice to carry over. I have a large number of PSN games. I suppose this is the same as every console generation but I have a LOT of reasons to keep my PS3 hooked up. Speaking of…

#3 – HDMI Space

I now have 3 HDMI devices connected to my TV. My PS3, my Wii U and a blu-ray player. My TV only supports 3 HDMI inputs. Another device = what to unplug? I hate that decision. It may be minor, but in a small house with kids everywhere…it’s an important decision.

#4 – Gimmicks

Sony isn’t focusing on 3D but we cannot forget how important the push was just a little while back. It’s typical, especially for Sony. So, now, we’re going to get the share button forced down our throats, the new camera system will make the Dual Shock 4 act like a Move controller, the touch screen will be used for balancing, etc. Expect the first wave of games to have trophies related to them both. Silver trophy for sharing this game/something with 10 friends! Meh. It’s just like the first Uncharted games – both on the PS3 and the Vita. Remember balancing in the first UC? Tilt the controller? No thanks. It was removed from games #2 and 3. How about the Vita? Hold the Vita up to the light! Swipe, swipe, swipe! No thanks. I hate gimmicks. Expect the PS3 to come at you full force with them.

So…that’s that. I’m certainly excited about the PS4 and will almost definitely be getting one. I have enjoyed the systems for over 15 years now. This holiday’s launch should be cool and I look forward to what they’ll have to offer. Next up…see what Microsoft has to say! I can’t wait to see what innovations they’ll conjure up! While I don’t play my 360 nearly as much as my PS3, I own both of Microsoft’s consoles.

Best Japanese-Only PSN Classics

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, DoDon Pachi, Games, Lists, Ys on February 10, 2013 by slateman

psnBefore my PS3 died (twice) I had two PSN accounts. I would peruse the Japanese store every few weeks, downloading demos and seeing what was new. However, I can’t recall the login and haven’t checked the store in a while. This weekend I signed up for another Japanese account and had a peek at the store’s new layout this morning. There are some great classic games that aren’t available in the U.S. that I’m considering picking up.

PS1 and PC Engine classics cost 600¥, that seems reasonable! As of today, 600¥ translates to just under $6.50 US. Nice! However, I don’t know if it’s possible to use a U.S. credit card on a Japanese account. Over at Play Asia, you can get a 1,000¥ card for $17. That’s…not so reasonable. 1,000¥ wouldn’t do me much good, I’d need 2,000¥ (three classic games w/ 200¥ to spare) but those two PSN cards would cost me $35. Certainly not worth it. I may not dive in and get anything, but I thought I’d talk about what’s good on the Japanese PSN Store that isn’t yet on the U.S. store!

Playstation 2
I’m starting with the PS2 because none are really great. All cost 1,200¥ (~$13) but since the originals are region locked (are these?) even if you owned the titles, you couldn’t play them on the PS3. The games I looked at:

  • Capcom Fighting Jam
  • Capcom Vs SNK 2: Millionaire Fighting 2001
  • Castlevania
  • Neo Contra

Now, Capcom Fighting Evolution was the U.S. title and the game was just plain bad. That was a bad time for Capcom and it was before the company really started listening to fans.

CVS2 is widely regarded as a good title, but since I never liked SNK, I only played it for a short while. And I never chose SNK characters!!!

Castlevania was subtitled Lament Of Innocence here and it’s a title I never beat. The dungeons were so repetitive and devoid of character. Its sequel appeared to remedy some of these things…but I never beat that one either.

Finally, Neo Contra was the second Contra on the PS2 and while it was not anything like Shattered Soldier in layout or difficulty, I had fun playing it! I even wrote a mini FAQ on it. Is that worth $13? Nah…

Playstation 1
The PS1 had an impressive library of games and as the years pass, the games look worse and worse. However, a few titles piqued my interest, and for 600¥ each, they’re manageable downloads. There were two titles I didn’t expect to see, and all games were shooters. Let’s see.

dodonpac

DonPachi & DoDonPachi
I am a big DDP fan (evidence #1 / #2 / #3 / #4 / #5) While these are just the PS1 ports, they’re DDP on an American PS3! I can probably skip DonPachi. However, until DDP3 came out, DoDonPachi was my favorite shmup ever. The game is just incredible and this title trumps part 3 with its metal soundtrack.
Worth a few bucks? Absolutely. I’d pick this up in an instant.

But that’s not all…the Japanese store also has ThunderForce V, the two Ray Crisis titles and Einhander. The latter now fetches a ton of money in its original packaging and I regret selling it all those years back to fund a new PS1. I don’t know why it’s not available on the U.S. store, but I remember it being such a solid title, with different paths, awesome weapons and a pretty cool soundtrack.
And to think, everyone doubted Square could put out a good shooter!!!

Board-DevilsCrush

PC Engine
My friend Dan got a TurboGrafx-16 way back in 1990ish and we all know nostalgia is a very powerful thing. Of course, I’ve gone back to play a lot of these games since, but without the hardware (and Japanese hardware at that!) there are many games I missed out on. And I much prefer the living room experience over
the PC/emulator one as the former is much more comfortable.

The Japanese store has all three PC Engine Ys titles. Ys Books I & II, Ys III: Wanders From Ys and Ys IV: The Dawn Of Ys. Sadly, none are viable purchase options as my Japanese is weaker than ever. Fortunately, I have Ys Chronicle and Ys: The Oath In Felghana on the PSP (Vita) and those cover I-III and Ys: Memories Of Celceta, the remake of part 4, will be coming to western shores this autumn. While I love Ys, I don’t need these titles.

Shooters were still the rage back in the early 90s and there are a number of good titles available. Blazing Lazers, Super Star Soldier and the Turbo Duo title Gate Of Thunder are all there. For 600¥, that’s pretty good. Again, I’ve already gone back to these titles in recent (~10 yrs now) years.

However, there was one title in particular I searched for. I’d easily drop the yen on this one. Devil Crash! As a kid I’d play the US title, Devil’s Crush and have great memories. Even going back to this a decade ago (thus the FAQ and the site) has a special place in my heart.

I’d go back to this game in an instant. The three levels, numerous little secrets (I still don’t know how to get the red ball), high score chasing…it’s just awesome. It’s one of the things I don’t like about this generation. With online leaderboards all the rage, we lose out on local high scores. I love the top-10 lists. Nowadays, games often just keep your best score which destroys local competition and doesn’t even allow me to chart my progress.

In any event, the tame is awesome and I would love to go back and play through it again. It’s only a couple of bucks. Worth it???

So…all in all…with 2,000¥ I think I’d have to pick up Einhander, DoDonPachi and Devil Crash. These three would be worthy entries into my PS3 collection and none require heavy translation. Alas, none are really necessary, so I may just avoid them all and save a few bucks for the impending release of the PS4. Oh, and that had BETTER have full PSN implementation. The new system won’t be backwards compatible, I’m almost certain, but I’d love to have PSN game purchases available. That would be awfully nice.

Best Albums Of 2012

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, Music, Web Design on February 9, 2013 by slateman

vintersorg-orkanI’ve been posting my Best Records of The Year for over a decade now. While 2012 was the weakest year in…well…over a decade, it still had some good stuff. So, in continuing the trend of listing the best of the best, I’ve given the coveted Album Of The Year title to Vintersorg’s Orkan. Read the whole article here.

I have high expectations for 2013, as I’ve already stated. However, until then, I’ll still have last year’s Vintersorg, Borknagar, Alcest and Module.

2013 Video Game Release List

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists on February 3, 2013 by slateman

Colonial-MarinesI had to cancel my GameFly subscription but I hope to re-start soon and begin playing all the new stuff set for 2013. 2012 was a good year for games, mostly thanks to GameFly! Now, with new hardware to come, and many titles not yet announced, this is clearly incomplete. AND, since I don’t have a 3DS or a Wii U, there are actually more things I’d like. However, we’ll keep it brief. Let’s see what’s coming this year, and, like my Metal Release List, it’ll be followed by a number (out of 10) ranking my excitement level. Kalmah’s new record on that list was clearly an 11!

02/12 – Aliens: Colonial Marines (10)
03/05 – Castlevania Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate (0 – No 3DS :()
03/12 – God Of War: Ascension (7 – b/c I don’t care about multiplayer)
03/19 – Gears Of War: Judgement (7 – Dunno why so low!)
03/26 – Army Of Two: Devil’s Cartel (8 – fun co-op!)
05/07 – The Last Of Us (10 – Naughty Dog!)
09/17 – Grand Theft Auto V (8)

No Date/Not Announced Yet
??/?? – Ys: Memories Of Celceta (10!)
??/?? – Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2 (8)
??/?? – The Walking Dead – Season 2 (10!)

Hardware
??/?? – Playstation 4 (10) – I love the PS1/2/3
??/?? – Xbox720 (9) – Love hardware, not MS as much tho!

There are some high-profile games not on my list – guess I just don’t care that much about them! Looking like a good year, not a great year…not yet. We’ll see how it goes!

Updated: 2013 Metal Release List

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, Music on February 3, 2013 by slateman

The Living InfiniteAs I work on my Best of 2012 article, I can tell last year was a weak year for metal. In looking around, it was evident that 2013 would crush last year’s offerings with an incredible listing of albums to come. In the very least, there’s a new Kalmah which alone should do the trick. However, I’m also terribly excited about a new October Tide and I’m curious about the Soilwork double album. And..Skeletonwitch is in the studio? Lantlôs?!?! Fuck yeah! So…let’s see what’s coming. Better than 2012? It has to be! What follows is the Date/Release/How Excited I Am (out of 10).

Out! – Helloween – Straight Out Of Hell (It’s quite good!)

02/27 – Soilwork – The Living Infinite (8)
03/19 – Anthrax – Anthems (6)
03/22 – Hypocrisy – End Of Disclosure (6)
03/25 – October Tide – Tunnel Of No Light (10)
03/25 – Finntroll – Blodsvept (6)
04/19 – Amorphis – Circle (9)
04/?? – Summoning – Old Mornings Dawn (9)
05/28 – Dark Tranquillity – Construct (7)
06/?? – The Black Dahlia Murder – Everblack (8)
09/?? – Solefald – Kosmopolis (6)

??/?? – Kalmah – ? (11)
??/?? – Lantlôs – Melting Sun (10)
??/?? – Skeletonwitch – ? (10)
??/?? – Amon Amarth – ? (8)
??/?? – My Dying Bride – The Manuscript (EP) (8)
??/?? – Children Of Bodom – ? (7)
??/?? – Down – Down IV Part II (5)
??/?? – Megadeth – Don’t really care (5)

I added a few I’m not too excited about…but still…this should be a pretty good year! Imagine Moonsorrow announced a new album too? Oh….just imagine!!!

Games I’ve Beaten – 2012 Edition

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Borderlands, Games, Lists, Portal, Resident Evil, Skyrim, Street Fighter, Uncharted with tags on September 4, 2012 by slateman

After a few rough weeks, I’m glad to be back posting stuff here, even if no one reads this blog. I was thinking about the games I’ve completed this year and thought I’d write a few notes about them. How many have I finished? Well, these should be broken down into retail games and PSN games. Don’t think I got anything new on the 360, so that’s PSN and not XBL.

GameFly tells me I’ve rented the following this year:

  1. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (later purchased)
  2. F.E.A.R. 3
  3. Street Fighter X Tekken
  4. Portal 2
  5. Uncharted: Golden Abyss
  6. SSX
  7. Sniper Elite V2
  8. Rayman Origins
  9. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
  10. Binary Domain

Not a bad list and it really justifies the GameFly fee, seeing as how I’d not have purchased most of those. Of the 10 titles GF sent me over the course of 8 months, I only completed 4. But that’s not really bad seeing as how SFxT can’t truly be finished and my PS3 died before I could complete the fun Sniper Elite.

In addition, my friend and I love coop games, but both Ghost Recon and Binary Domain aren’t what we’re looking for (gotta pay for one, no campaign coop in the other), so I wouldn’t count either of those.

This leaves F.E.A.R. 3 which, by all measures, was pretty much crap. SSX just was absurd and I didn’t play that long before shipping that one back. It lost all the charm the old games had. Now, Skyrim is a big one, and I quite enjoyed what I played but I have yet to complete the campaign despite dumping scores of hours into it.

The games that I count are Rayman Origins which was a pleasurable platformer replete with collectibles and tons of replay value. Had I not been on vacation in the middle of nowhere (which is why I got the game to begin with, really), I would’ve written more about it. The handheld Uncharted was largely a success. In fact, it’s the best-looking handheld game I’ve ever played and it felt like Uncharted, itself a success!

Finally we have Portal 2. I’ve said it before and won’t hesitate to repeat itPortal 2 is one of the most brilliant achievements in gaming history. Ingenious and clever and…well, no reason to do this again.

Now to PSN games. It looks like I’ve played the following this year:

  1. Outland
  2. Journey
  3. The Mysteries Of Little Riddle
  4. The Walking Dead (Episodes 1-3)
  5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

I figured I must’ve beaten more than that…but I guess not. I’ve already professed my love for that game. As for Journey, I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought of it. The Little Riddle game was something fun to play with my wife, and The Walking Dead games…well, just read below. Playing through the three episodes was one of the of the most enticing gaming experiences ever.

I played, but haven’t finished:

  1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  2. Just Cause 2 (PS3 died, lost save game)
  3. Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One (same)
  4. Lara Croft & The Guardian Of Light (same)
  5. Rochard

I’d like to get back to Rochard. Batman…I didn’t love that as much as everyone suggested I would.

Verdict: So…let’s face it…the reason for this article was to figure out what the best game was that I completed. Well, first off, Borderlands 2 comes out in two weeks and Resident Evil 6 in four. Those could very well be high up on my list, but from what I’ve done so far, Uncharted, The Walking Dead were the highlights. Rayman and Outland were fun, visually-impressive titles, but Portal 2 was the best.

Let’s see how BL2 and RE6 fare against such a juggernaut!

Uncharted: Why Golden Abyss Is Better Than UC3

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Reviews, Uncharted with tags on May 27, 2012 by slateman

I love me some Uncharted. I’ll go as far as to say it’s the best game this generation. It helps that I prefer 3rd person games. But there’s no disputing the level of care the four UC games have been given. The settings, voice acting, stories and gameplay are all polished and pristine.

When Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception came out in November, I was disappointed. It did a lot right, let’s clear the air there. However, when looking at its single-player experience, it was inferior to UC2. That’s not a surprise, really, as UC2 is the aforementioned best game of this generation. There was something more though…something more disappointing than the fact the game was disappointing. It failed to move forward in a lot of ways. It failed to make me care.

So, as I started to play Golden Abyss, I knew we were looking at a side entry into the series. They’re never as good. And, once again, to be clear, it is less grand in several ways.

The visuals are clearly not as fantastic as the third game. The controls are lacking both a second pair of shoulders and the clicking of L3/R3, that’s 4 buttons lost. This makes reloading more cumbersome and you cannot zoom in through most gun scopes. The touch-screen controls are totally unnecessary and add zero to the game’s value. And there are never as many enemies on screen as on the consoles, though the endless hordes towards the end of UC3 was apparently one of the only picking points to its stellar scores.

Spoilers To Come BTW!
With those basics out in the open, it appears (about 3/4 of the way through the game) Golden Abyss is better in almost every other way. The story in 3 may have been large, but like I mentioned, I didn’t care about Marlowe and Talbot. Cutter was a grunt and Chloe and Elena were barely in the game. I was really disappointed in the cast and settings of UC3. Right from the get-go, I felt passionate about Dante. He was slimy and deceitful from the outset and I disliked him greatly. However, you are tied with him, which makes you hate him more. Chase started out just so-so, but as I progressed, I actually cared about her search for her grandfather. The Chase/Nate chemistry is there too, replete with his trademark charm and tongue-in-cheek comments. Then…Sully!!! I really didn’t know he’d be in the game. His appearance is perfect. There is a ton of dialogue between him and Drake, the camaraderie and history is blatant. There are jokes about ‘that time when…’ and Nate picks on Sully’s age. It’s all just like it should be. It has virtually everything UC3 has.

We’re talking about a handheld game that is, through its story and gameplay just as good if not better than the huge-budget console brother! I am totally digging Golden Abyss. It is flawed but IMO not as flawed as UC3 was. It’s exciting and delivers a great story and explosive moments. Where UC3 gave me the ‘been-there, done-that’ feeling, this feels fresh and exciting. You may disagree with one being better than the other, but it’s hard to deny this is one of the biggest handheld adventures ever. I’d, once again, go as far as to say it’s the best portable game I’ve ever played. And I’m not even done yet! And, I’ve already thought about subsequent playthroughs.

I figured I’d share some more pics. I love the screenshot option and these sure are beauts.

What The PSVita Needs

Posted in Blog, Lists, Ys with tags on March 25, 2012 by slateman

I’ve got my sexy PSVita and have been enjoying it for quick, short games. My busy schedule lately hasn’t allowed for much dedicated time, but it is serving its purpose. That’s what I love about handhelds and the Vita has a lot of positives. The web browser, its multitasking capabilities allows me to pause and run other programs and I love that I can read messages from friends on either my PS3 or my Vita. However, it’s clear Sony launched this thing without it running at its full ability. There are some very basic things that will be added; I’m just not too patient about it. The fact is, these things should be there already. The hardware is fantastic. Like it’s PS3 brother, who launched without a very good store integration, no in-game XMB, etc. I’m excited about what is certainly to come. Let’s see…

1) PS1 Classics Compatibility
I don’t really know what happened here. I’m guessing it’s the software emulation. I figured that wouldn’t be a real big deal seeing as how it’s such old hardware and this *is* Sony. However, I have a few games on my PS3 hard drive that I’d love to play on-the-go. Symphony Of The Night is one of my favorite games ever. I’m hoping for full support before long.

Want More

2) PSP Compatibility
I know backwards compatibility is never an easy thing and I’m happy the Vita plays a ton of PSP games. There are a bunch not on the list though, and I’m really looking forward to playing Ys Chronicles on my Vita. How they’re going to roll out these updates, I’m unsure. Hopefully with each firmware update we’ll get more games added to the list and to the store.

Waiting...

3) Better Compatibility
Yeah, I realize…Three of the same category. However, this is what I’m looking for my Vita to do. When connecting to my PS3 to download videos I downloaded from the PSN, most don’t work. Wait…why? They are brand-new videos from the PSN! Nope. My videos? Nope. No WMV? I hate the codec, but playing videos on my gorgeous PSVita screen should be a breeze. Why it’s not is beyond me. Well, I can play videos I’ve downloaded. I just have to go through remote play. No…that’s not how it should be.

3) Better PSVita / PS3 Integration
Fighting piracy is no doubt one of Sony’s biggest goals and so I imagine the reason for this interface is just that. However, the Content Manager is a weak interface that is not smooth whatsoever. Copying files is not easy, the manager opens up the video and music programs individually (so why have the content manager?) and it’s all so very cumbersome. While waiting for wireless Vita/PS3 compatibility probably won’t happen (but should), I can’t stand the interface. Having to catalog everything on my PC so to use the same mediocre program is really annoying.

4) The Interface
Now, I quite like that we’ve moved away from the XMB. I loved that interface. I have a Sony Bravia, a PS3 and a PSP. It served its purpose but now with all touch-screen interfaces, I’m glad to be beyond that. While the new PSVita interface functions well, it’s awfully ugly. Will Sony ever change this a la the 360’s dashboard updates? I certainly hope so. There’s plenty that can be done to improve this. I can’t group games together, icons like the party icon look bad even for Nintendo Wii visuals and it’s not customizable at all. We know that Sony is fighting the smart phone market as well as the handheld. Getting the best of both worlds is not going to be easy but I’d love to have more abilities when it comes to tweaking the visuals.

Ug...Ly

5) More Apps
Again, this is a handheld gaming device, but it’s got Facebook and it should add more like YouTube support, etc. Walking that line between a smart phone and a handheld means it cannot be inundated with crap. However, I hope they support this like they do with the PS3 and add something. Specifically, I’d love to be able to detect media servers and to stream audio/video to the Vita. In fact, this is one of my biggest gripes/desires for the system.