Archive for February, 2013

New Average-Of-5 Record: Sub-40!!!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records on February 28, 2013 by slateman

zhanchi-stickerlessI’ve finally done it!!! While the past two weeks have been tinkering with my new Gigaminx, I’ve returned to the classic 3×3 (seems so small in comparison!) and after a pretty impressive first two runs (36.56 & 39.89) I figured why not go for the five? 41 and 43-second runs were not quite as impressive leaving my average just over 40. I knew I needed a great run to bring that down and after an awesome last-layer skip, I finished at 35.15! Anything in that region is still exciting but to have it finish my average-of-five run at 39.31 seconds was thrilling! So – the final run times were:

36.56 / 38.89 / 43.80 / 41.17 / 35.15 = 39.31 Average

\m/

What I’m Playing: February Edition

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Personal on February 24, 2013 by slateman

gravityrush-katVacation week has been a bit insane here, really. In fact, they’ve been totally bat-shit crazy, but it’s OK; that’s life. In fact, I’ve had the chance to play some games this week. So, what’s what?

Gravity Rush
PS+ is the bomb, to reiterate the obvious. I grab everything that’s ‘free’ even if I don’t download it. Having beaten Uncharted: Golden Abyss and with zero interest in the arduous task of getting the platinum, I deleted that bad jackson and tossed on Wipeout. I’m not much of a racing fan though, so while it looked phenomenal, I deleted that too. Why not try Gravity Rush!? I’d tested out the demo and didn’t quite like it, really. However, it’s Free! The controls take some getting used to but it’s actually a pretty good game! And, in the process, I got a reminder about how much I love Japanese games. In the old days, I would pore through magazines, translate games and I loved it. The music, the quirky nature of Gravity Rush is wholly Japanese and I love it. Not sure if I’ll beat the game but it’s a fun romp while it’s lasting!

Aliens: Colonial Marines
I don’t need to say much more.

New Super Mario Bros. U
This game is traditional Mario fun. There is nothing like the feeling of running through the stage, full speed, bouncing off of enemies that were precisely placed for that purpose. There’s nothing better than looking at an area with a curious eye only to reveal a hidden coin in an invisible cave. The new Wii U controller is comfortable enough to play this familiar game. The HD visuals are nice, if not somewhat wasted. It’s Mario. It’s a mushroom. Sure, it’s nice to be in HD, but I’m waiting to see the Wii U play something gorgeous. Zelda is my first guess.

It’s the same game I’ve played before but it’s fun. I plan on getting every gold coin and unlocking whatever it is that unlocks. Sadly, after that, I’ll likely avoid the game for a while. As good as these games get, I rarely go back too much. Not like the classic, Super Mario Bros. 3 – probably my favorite game ever. *shrug*

New-Super-Mario-Bros-U

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.

Aliens: Colonial Marines – Thoughts

Posted in Aliens, Blog, Games on February 24, 2013 by slateman

aliens_colonial_marines_1I normally wait to beat a game to put up my brief review (thus still no RE6!) but I had to chime in on a few things here. I’m working through Colonial Marines and it is a chore. I’ll beat it, but there are a number of irksome things to detail.

Since I’m playing New Super Mario Bros. U at the same time, we’re looking at completely different games. In that game, when I head to a curious corner; I explore it. There’s almost always something there. In Aliens, every dead end is just that – a dead end. There’s no reason to explore…simply because there’s never anything there. Of course, there are collectibles, but why might there be dog tags sitting on a desk? I don’t know who the guy is, nor why dog tags would be just sitting there. I’ll get a trophy for collecting them all, but since I know I missed some, why go back? Audio logs are a little better.

As for the visuals, it’s already been chronicled how questionable the game looks. From slow-to-load textures to an overarching shoddy presentation, it’s just wrong. Xenomorphs have stiff animations and they just disappear from time to time. Any sense of realism or fear is wiped away by these visual hiccups. The lighting sometimes look great (like with strobe light effects or during cut scenes) but other times things just look bad. Part of the problem is that the we were promised pictures like this one. I remember this scene in the game. I can promise you; it didn’t look nearly as good as what you see here.

But that’s not all. There are countless inexplicable problems. Death scenes could be so cool, instead, your character just dies and the screen turns grey. The powerloader sequence was utterly disappointing. Why do doors take forever to open?!

I mean, there are positives. Some sequences were very cool and I had a few moments of dread. Aliens did instill fear for a short while. But every time something awesome happens, the game would come back to me, washing away anything good. Now, I’m a bit more than halfway through, but why are there no tense facehugger sequences yet? No eggs hatching? This could be the greatest thing ever but instead I’m trying to find a doctor to save Bella, a character I have zero interest in?

I should save judgement because the game is not yet done. But there’s nothing that can be done to fix the issues I have already encountered. While my anticipation was outrageously high, it was brought back to earth by the poor reviews. Even with lowered expectations, this is still disappointing. Opportunities missed everywhere. Meh.

New Cubing Record: 7×7 – 24:49.59

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records on February 23, 2013 by slateman

7x7cubeOK, 25 minutes is an absurdly long time to solve a cube, BUT it is also about four minutes faster than my prior record. Now, to be fair, I’ve only actually solved the cube twice for time. This time, the first two centers took two minutes each. All were done by the eight-minute mark or so and inner edges were done by 15. I don’t know specifics after that, but all-in-all, it was a long solve.

I should note that I tried a Gigaminx solve after. At 25 minutes I was just finishing reducing the thing to a Megaminx (whose record is nearly eight minutes!), so it’s safe to say that one took me a long while.

So…a new record. Not a great one, but it does the trick!

Wii U Get!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Hardware on February 22, 2013 by slateman

wiiublackI’ll admit; I had low expectations for my birthday. I was sorely mistaken and my wife made it a spectacular day. Morning, noon and night, it was all a day for me, and it’s clear I’m a lucky guy. While there were many great elements of my 37th birthday, the Wii U unboxing was the most memorable. Now, I was not in the market for the system; the name is ridiculous and we know how Nintendo works. I’ll flip out over a few Mario titles, play Zelda and not finish it, and grab a few other games that look cool. But I’ve never gotten a system as a gift before. And while it wasn’t on my radar, I will certainly not complain about it!!! A friggin’ Wii U!!!

Now, in the two weeks since, I have gotten New Super Mario Bros. U and I’ve tinkered with all the cool features the console carries. An added bonus is that I can play the system from my bedroom directly under the living room. I can play HD graphics on a 6.2″ screen! In bed or while my wife watches TV. WOW!

Now, the cool factor lies heavily on the controller and upon games. And I’m skeptical about the latter. Will Nintendo be able to do anything differently from the Wii or Gamecube? Both had the same story IMO and you can’t help but fear this will end the same way. With no achievements/trophies and current-gen specs, why would I buy the same title on this system over Sony’s or Microsoft’s next outing? I’m not sure yet…and I really hope this avoids being a gimmicky system…again.

But…to reiterate…this is awesome and I cannot complain. I’m pretty psyched to finish Mario and to see what else the company has to offer. And, yes, to play Mario in bed. It’s just so cool!

Mini-Review: Ys Zanmai OST

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Music, Reviews, Ys on February 22, 2013 by slateman

Ys ZanmaiI’m still a sucker for a good Ys OST and after all these years, I’ve gone back to sort out my collection of soundtracks. I’m looking at 35 complete ones right now which accounts for nearly 4Gb of music. And while I’ve heard countless renditions of A Premonition – Styx-, sometimes ~Styx~, others =Styx=, I always have heart to listen to one more. And how does this one stand up to the original Ys III? To Ys: The Oath In Felghana? Quite remarkably, actually.

The track hearkens back to a different time, as do all the tracks. And while there are 2-3 iffy ones (I can usually skip Feena and in this case Casnan, The Frontier Town), others are incredibly strong. The metal rendition of Last Decisive Battle sits among my favorite Ys tracks and the calm power of The Depth Napishtim gives this a well-rounded polish. This entire soundtrack is great and I love the new twists on a mix of old classics. From The Dawn Of Ys to Crimson Wings, for any Ys music fan, I highly recommend this one. It shines through 4Gb of similar tracks and stands shoulder-to-shoulder to my favorites from yesterdecade, a word I just made up, but sounded cool in my head. This OST rocks.

New Cubes Get! MF 8 Gigaminx & C4U 3x3x7!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing on February 22, 2013 by slateman

mf8-gigaminxI got both of these a little bit back and I got them separately. I have to talk about the Gigaminx first as it’s a behemoth of a puzzle and it’s actually quite impressive. Those who have seen it have marveled at how insane it looks. Of course, solving it is a breeze, only differing from the Megaminx in a few minor ways. And while it takes just about forever to solve it, it’s gorgeous to look at.

Now, I did have to tinker with it a great deal to get it to the state it’s in. I took apart a few layers, lubricated the puzzle, tensioned all 12 sides and then had to sticker it. The color scheme matches the Megaminx and all-in-all it’s an awesome addition to my collection. At that price, I was hoping that would be the case. It’s fun and it towers over even my V-Cube 7×7 – quite awesome indeed!

The 3x3x7 is another fun cube, differing barely from the 3x3x5 that is missing. I wish I could find that cube because in the end, it’s more enjoyable than the 3x3x7. That’s not to say the latter is not fun but the added two layers do nothing to the enjoyment of solving the cube. It’s the opposite, actually; it just adds redundancy to an otherwise-cool cube. As for its craftsmanship, it’s very easy to pop, so you have to be careful. This is not a speed cube, that much I get, but it’s inferior to the company’s same 3x3x5 in that pieces are always getting misaligned. I was proud of solving the cube, not having to look anything up to do so – but in the end, if I had my 3x3x5, I’d use that a lot more. I love these two cubes because they’re really fun to solve.

Two more additions to my collection. My wife likely thinks I’m crazy – but it’s OK. It’s not a waste at all!

Stupid Updates A’coming…

Posted in Blog, Personal on February 22, 2013 by slateman

I haven’t updated in a few weeks and with reason. The first is that I’ve had so much cool stuff going on. The second is that I’ve had so much negative shit going on. I’m going to try to roll out some updates right now. Let’s see how this all goes…

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.