July 2007 Archives

PS3 First Impressions

Two days with a PS3 and this is what I'm thinking.

Price: OK, I jumped at the $500 sale price because I didn't want to get stuck at $600 this October once the cheaper editions are sold out. And I don't care too much about an extra 20gig and the inclusion of MotorStorm; and I guess I want the Emotion Engine. I also had a minorly beefy Circuit City gift card, so there you go.

I cannot recall fretting so much about an expense. I must have changed my mind back and forth a dozen times while walking to the checkout. It's a shitty price, and Sony has been complete wads about it since day one. So I kinda hate giving them my money... but the PS2 was home to so much of my favorite stuff that I do feel that pesky customer loyalty. And after this past E3, I felt like they finally had some games coming that I needed to get.

Console: Holy hell, is this thing every negative descriptor you ever heard back at launch. Gigantic, too-glossy, shaped like something wildly stupid. It's aggressive and alien. It's not going to fit nicely anywhere inside your entertainment center and Sony knows it. I swear I saw it inch its USB charging cable closer to the Wii like a dark tentacle bent on strangling smaller prey.

In fact, inside your cabinet is probably a terrible place for it anyway. The PS3 blows heat out the back like a car engine. I tried two different locations inside our big wooden armoire and both created oven-like conditions. The sweaty, snarling PS3 kicked itself into high-gear fan mode (there are at least two, maybe three, fan strengths) even when it wasn't doing anything other than downloading the Super Rub-A-Dub demo. Because it was so damned hot in there.

So here's where it ended up:

"Up" is right.

Controller: Sticking to the Dual Shock design was brilliant, if a little too easy. However, I would not be surprised if Sony did something different for the second-generation SIXAXIS controller that returns rumble to the mix... because the familiarity of the Dual Shock case is completely at odds with the dense black-and-chrome of the PS3's carapace.

The new L2 and R2 triggers are mushy and awful. Expect no game to ever use them, just as nobody ever used the shoulder triggers on the GameCube controllers. The MotorStorm demo uses R2 for gas and L2 for brake and it just feels weird, like your finger could slip off at any second.

The new cental system button - referred to by all official Sony manuals as the "PS" button - reminds me of that cheesy plastic that is used to make sticker earrings. It's like the Home button on the Wii Remote... shows battery charge, lets you quit a game and bail back to the system, and lets you power off.

The neatest bit about the SIXAXIS is the black plastic that seems opaque but is actually translucent if you hold it up to light. More evidence that the controller is not a design match with the system itself.

XrossMediaBar: The XMB would probably be a great idea if Sony could stick with it. But as you set up your WiFi, your PlayStation Network account, and download at the Store, you'll be met with varying degrees of UI compliance... and in many cases, none at all.

Like Windows, this UI is more concerned with showing you every possible option, even those that you will never, ever use. Do I really need to watch "Printer Settings" scroll past? Who in the hell is going to print from their PS3? Compare this to the jelly-like Wii menu system (or a Mac) where you just get what you need... and if you need more, you have to simply click in one level deeper.

Aside from a pleasant orchestral hit when it first turns on, the PS3 XMB menu has no background music. The only clue that your audio setup is working is the quiet click of option navigation. When you select a game demo, you get music - and a fullscreen background - from that game, which is quite nice.

The Hookup: Segue from audio mention. I was getting some terrible line hum on the PS3, made all the more noticeable since the damn thing doesn't have much sound when you're just scrolling through the XMB. I tried to simplify my entertainment center since the move, which means I busted everything down to an RCA router... which is as low-quality as you can get. That old router (it still has an N64 label on it!) seemed to be the source of the PS3's hum, so I switched it to s-video using my PS2's s-video cable (which only sort of fits inside the PS3's multi-out, by the way... it's not snug like it should be).

Our TV is just old enough that it doesn't have enough AV inputs for my modern tastes. When we finish off our basement and turn it into a Total Gaming Zone, I need to get a new, awesome, component input, HD, big-ass, flatscreen TV.

PlayStation Store: After all these months of regular Virtual Console updates, the PS Store seems anemic. Only a bare handful of retro games, but I have to give Sony points for having contemporary game demos available. (Hey Nintendo? Where's our DS Demo Download Channel?) The microtransactions are obnoxious... $6 to download New Goblin? $2.50 for the "Very Hard" Sonic levels? At the least, Sony had the balls to post prices in actual money, instead of fictional buzzword currency.

What I Downloaded: I queued up a bunch of files and then went back to play Okami on my PS2.

Heavenly Sword Demo - Pretty lousy. Looks great, but you mash buttons just like God of War / Devil May Cry / Anything Else. No longer interested in buying this one. The lead looks like a white Tyra Banks.

Super Rub-A-Rub Demo - Simplistic and dull Monkey Ball clone, clearly only around to show off the SIXAXIS's waggle. Why can't I zoom in to see how nice the ducks look?

Nucleus Demo - Ever since Geometry Wars, the world is afire with lame-ass latter day Asteroid clones. Already deleted this one.

MotorStorm Demo - I mean, wow, but, still just a racing game. Looks incredible though. I get easily annoyed with tracks that are more about keeping the damn car on the cliff than actually maneuvering against opponents.

Resistance: Fall of Men Demo - Not that I'm a big FPS-on-console fan, but this was a pretty sweet demo. Seemed hard at first, but I survived by playing like a chicken. As cool as it looked, after about a minute you forget to be dazzled by the clarity and then it's just like every other FPS you've ever played.

MGS4 Gameplay Movie - Fifteen minutes of narrated infiltration, showing off Snake's various attacks. I am super psyched. MGS4 looks just as good for early PS3 as MGS2 looked back on early PS2. An instant pre-order.

Ratchet & Clank Future Movie - I thought #3 was a bad-faith rerun and Deadlocked a non-contender, but the new hardware is enough to get me excited about a new R&C game. Not thrilled about goddamn Captain Qwark showing up AGAIN.

Resident Evil 5 Movie - Awesome. RE5 has this constant crazy lighting effect that demonstrates how realistic graphics don't have to all look like sweaty waxworks. Tell you what though, the Africa setting makes me itchy... one white dude shooting down waves of black people? I hope that's not the entire first half of the game.

LittleBigPlanet Movie - Every time I see this, I can't even imagine how the level creation tools are going to work. I have high hopes for this one.

Home Movie - "Infinitely more exciting than anything on other consoles!" God, how embarrassing. A good idea dressed up in bare bones boredom. Sony has not convinced me that I need to have this, and you'd think this is exactly the kind of thing I would dig.

GTA IV Trailer 2 - Easily the worst graphics of the bunch, but GTA has always sacrificed some pretty in trade for grand scale. Great trailer; it's more about atmosphere than plot, which makes it so much cooler than all the awful film trailers you get nowadays that spell out the entire movie... fuck it; I'm embedding this one.

I guess the countdown started at "6".

I'm sure I'm a sucker for falling for the big 60gig fire sale, but you gotta make the jump sometime. I'm running the system update right now, then I plan to download some demos (I didn't pick up any games, what's that tell you) and start living the Sony Lifestyle again.

Mike broke Wii Sports Bowling.

Mike was visiting for a few days and showed me how to own Wii Sports Bowling.

I don't know if this is a known exploit, but Mike found a near-foolproof technique for nailing a strike. He developed it on another Wii a month ago. I started doing it in my third frame and hit strikes every time.

Mike then started trying out other throws, but none were as successful as his initial discovery. Which is why his score is lousy. He was also playing for Clark after Clark stopped playing and started eating. Which is why Clark's score is so good.

I mean, look at that. In case you're wondering, once you pass five strikes, it starts calling them "X in a row." Also, the game yawns and loses interest in you.

The trick is, tap almost all the way to the right... just after that last red tickmark. Then zoom in and change your angle so you're pointing right between pins 1 and 3. Then throw a granny shot so there's not much spin on the ball.

Strike.

The Week in Links

Mr. Rogers plays video games (YouTube)
Clark is huge into Mr. Rogers at the moment, or as we familiarly call him, simply "Rogers." This clip is from 1983, which means Donkey Kong was cutting edge at the time.

Animated Characters in Prescription Drug Advertising (Cockeyed)
"In real life, a nail infection probably doesn't hurt, but in the commercials, this guy bends a toenail back like he is opening the hood of a Chevy and jumps right in."

Epic Comic Book Miniseries Is Animated for DVD (NY Times)
Kind of a lame, can-ya-believe-somebody-does-super-hero-cartoons/comics-for-adults article, but it's the first time anybody has seen any art from the upcoming DC: New Frontier animated movie, which I will buy as soon as I see it.

The Tourn�mon, Part One (Penny Arcade)
Gabe's write-up of a local Pokemon DS tournament is beautiful and honest. "The young man I played earlier kept approaching me and telling me he could have beat me easy, he just used the wrong Pokemon. I nodded, yes well that's sort of the whole game."

No Camp Hyrule This Year
Bummer. I guess.

Last year's Camp was Mario Galaxy-themed anyway... what would have been this year's push, Wii Fit?

The countdown to a PS3 is coming, but I don't know how soon to start counting.

I've been saying since launch that I wanted to get onboard in time for GTA IV, which is October something-or-other. The $500 price on the 60gig model is about as good as it looks to get, and once the 60gig is gone, all that's left will be the new $600 80gig.

Which no longer has hardware-based backwards compatibility... it will play PS2 games only through software emulation, which could stand to be just as annoying as the 360's abortive and ridiculous backwards compatibility that kept early Xbox owners guessing as to which games would work on their new system.

Not that I plan on continuing to play a ton of old PS2 games, I just like the idea of it being manufactured-in-hardware instead of written-in-software. But it's not like Sony is going to break into my home and steal my PS2 as soon as I buy my PS3, so this isn't really a point for buying now.

Although if I'm buying before October, I might as well buy at $500 and enjoy my tangible Emotion Engine.

Then there's this:

This "deal" goes on until October, so it is entirely likely that I will take advantage of it. Even though it is terrible. Buy a PS3, get five unsalable, weirdly-tiered Blu-Ray movies!

I mean, look at that. What kind of awful choice is that? Choose ONE from each row? What complex algorithms are at work here?

I guess I go with Chicken Little as the lone kids' movie option. Then Corpse Bride (although I could go Blazing Saddles). Category 3 is a puzzler... Resident Evil 2? Why not. Then on to #4... which Italian Job is it? With that unknown, I have to go with Babel, covering the "arthouse drama" category. And then wrapping it all off with Kiss of the Dragon, just because Jet Li is in it.

So there's five movies I would never, ever have purchased... but will likely receive for free once I hunker down and pick up that PS3.

Final GameCube Stats Roundup!

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And now, the bare facts about my GameCube collection. First, THE GRAPH.

This charts the number of games I bought each month, from November 2001 to March 2007. There are 52 games total, with '03 and '04 tied for most number of purchases. For the first three full years, my GameCube buys were pretty much steady, with the only obvious "drought" in summer of '03... which was then evened out by the '03 holiday release blitz. (Of course, by mid-2005, things were unapologetically grim.) On average, that's about one new game every five weeks!

A dot with a gray center indicates a month where I picked up a game that was several months (if not years) old at the time... so you can see that the majority of my purchases were full-price, first-week-of-release buys.

IGN gives my collection an average rating of 8.3, which is no doubt a reflection of the modern reviewing system of giving every game a B+ unless it totally obviously totally stinks. I have 56 GameCube games there because my IGN list includes four bonus disks - the GameCube Preview (Viewiful Joe, Billy Hatcher, etc), the Mario Kart Double Dash Bonus, the Metroid Prime 2 Bonus, and the Pokemon Colosseum Bonus.

All of the following rankings refer to MY collection of games, not the entire GameCube library.

Brand New IPs: Super Monkey Ball, Eternal Darkness*, Animal Crossing*, Splinter Cell, Pikmin*, Viewtiful Joe, I-Ninja, Beyond Good & Evil, Gun, Chibi-Robo*, Odama*, Killer 7, Baten Kaitos* (* = exclusive to GameCube)

Number of games with "Mario" in the title: 7 (but 6 more either have Mario in them or could be considered Mario Universe games)

Number of GameCube-exclusive games (as of this posting): 33

Number of memory cards: 6... one 59, two 251s, one 1019, the Animal Crossing 59, and the Pokemon Box 59.

Number of controllers: 7... five regular, two WaveBirds. I had to have four for Smash Bros (adoy), then picked up the WaveBirds when they came out, and then got another controller with my second GameCube.

Peripherals: DK Bongos, Game Boy Player, Broadband Adapter (never used!), two Microphones (one with Odama and one with Mario Party 6), several third-party controller cable extenders, five or six GBA-to-GameCube cables.

Soundtrack albums I grabbed: Smash Bros Melee, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, Soul Calibur 2, Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime, Animal Crossing, Wind Waker, The Hobbit, Crystal Chronicles, Baten Kaitos.

BEST BOX ART
WORST BOX ART

The Wind Waker Link taken into anime territory, with beautiful dramatic color and lighting.
RUNNERS-UP:

Huh? Jill getting strangled near a pointlessly-emphasized glowy window makes the cover?
RUNNERS-UP:
BIGGEST SURPRISE
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

I was expecting something boring and it turned out nicely weird.
RUNNERS-UP:

Promised a full RPG experience and delivered more endless battles, just now with mindless walking inbetween.
RUNNERS-UP:
BEST CONCEPTS: standout features that will found future games

1. The real time clock with built-in holiday events. This was a life-altering feature.

2. Insanity effects. Ranging from absurd to disturbing, the insanity meter became this game's raison d'etre.

3. GBA screen. An ahead-of-its-time idea.

4. Web-swinging. NYC was boring and drab, but getting around town was the closest I've felt to flying.
WORST CONCEPTS: classically dopey design mistakes

1. The unbeatable boss. "Exclusive content," my ass!

2. Foreign embassies with no interior lighting. Come on now.

3. The whole fucking control scheme. Walk on A? Get out of here.

4. Giant robot wasps. Even given the twist ending this makes no sense.
RECOMMENDED GAMES YOU PROBABLY OVERLOOKED: what, are you cheap, stupid or both?

1. Eternal Darkness. The poster child for undeservedly underplayed GameCube games.

2. Pikmin 2. Bigger and better than the first one, which also rocked.

3. Chibi-Robo. Fantastic low-impact sandbox, in a Toy Story-meets-Wonderland setting.

4. I-Ninja. Just plain fun. Deserves a sequel.
SO BAD THEY'RE GOOD: games that you have to see to believe
UNJUSTLY ACCUSED: games that were beat up for no good reason

1. Odama. Wonderful concept, but terrible execution. Almost unplayable at points, but confidently bizarre.

2. Beach Spikers. Cheesy (but not sleazy) all-women volleyball.

1. Wind Waker. "Celda" comments were so, so short-sighted.

2. Mario Sunshine. I hated what people liked about this one, and liked what people hated.
BEST MULTIPLAYER: for the best in game nights

1. Soul Calibur 2. My requests for the new one: Talim, Talim, Talim and Talim.

2. Super Smash Bros Melee. This game makes fans out of everyone.

3. Double Dash. Having two players in one kart was brilliant... I'm sad that it doesn't even seem to be an option in the upcoming Wii edition.

4. Four Swords Adventures. Think different: 2D gameplay plus GBA controls plus player voting plus gorgeous Wind Waker styling.
TOP FOUR
BOTTOM FOUR

A winning experiment in delayed gratification, sprinkled with secrets and run by furries.
RUNNERS-UP:

Buggy and ugly, the best thing about this game is that it smells.
RUNNERS-UP:

The Week in Links

Flintstones sell cigarettes (YouTube)
"Let's go around back where we can't see 'em." (Thanks to John K.)

The Urinator: Theory and Practice (Dubious Quality)
Great read about a man and his 5-year-old son discussing which urinals they would use in a row of five.

Takahashi's New Game Stretches Into View (GameSetWatch)
So Mr. Katamari's playground career was a bust then?

Flower Power (The Escapist)
A look at the history of card games in Japan, specifically the confusing-to-gaijin hanafuda decks that led Nintendo into the business giant it is today.

Getting All Ralled Up Again (ComicMix)
See, I thought this Ted Rall panel was hilarious.

iPhone Fonts (Daring Fireball)
"Arial is a tawdry, inferior knock-off of Helvetica, but which, to the detriment of the world, Microsoft chose to license for Windows simply because it was cheaper."

Let's make it "Understand the Dock Day" instead (MacJournals.com)
The thing about iCal's Dock icon defaulting to July 17 (unless the app is open) is that it is an uncharacteristically rare instance of a hometeam Apple product presenting itself as outwardly stupid. First-time users see that July 17 icon and instantly say "That's wrong." That right there should be enough for Apple to overhaul the Dock. Although I never use iCal, so it doesn't matter to me.

DC has lapped me.

I'm visiting Post Modern Barney as he covers the DC solicits for October, and I scroll down and see this:

"Captain Carrot and the Final Ark", Issue 1! So there actually was a point to that weird Teen Titans appearance back in Dec 05! I'm still not at all pleased of the slapdash way that was handled... what with the conveniently dramatic corruption of Alley-Kat-Abra and the utter lack of Scott Shaw! artwork, but it looks like it was definitely in-continuity. Note the entirely redundant patriotic team member American Eagle in the background of the cover, plus Felina and Little Cheese are nowhere to be seen. That cover is pure Shaw!, but hopefully we get full interiors of genuine Shaw! work this time, DC?

Final Ark is a three issue miniseries that ties in to Countdown. Unbelievable but true! Earth-C is one of the 52! I am so freakin' excited right now.

BUT THEN...

I scroll further down the page and receive this:

That is a goddamn Ambush Bug minimate that is neither a fan repaint nor a seductive Photoshopping. I should be at my store right now ordering multiple copies of all of this.

As I mentioned a long time ago, the Zoo Crew and Ambush Bug were instrumental in getting me into comics, specifically DC. So getting slapped in the puss by the return of both was simultaneously unsettling and invigorating.

Personal expression in Okami.

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The other night I got to the bit in Okami where you have to draw your own imp mask. Does my creation look familiar?

This is one hell of a game. It has that open-world exploration that I love, plenty of collectible sidequests, a compellingly weird-ass game mechanic, and some beautiful art direction. I'm a little miffed that Wind Waker goes all cutesy and everybody hates it, but this game waltzes in with a near-identical visual tone and it's IGN's Best PS2 Game of All Time, but there you go.

I'm 20 hours in, and the storyline just seemingly ended... or did it? I have about two-thirds to go, I think. Very classy play.

I can't believe this game only sold 200,000 copies in North America and a staggeringly pathetic 66,000 copies in Japan. Those Japan numbers are enough to make somebody take a leap out a window. No wonder Capcom shut down Clover Studio, the subdivision that created this masterpiece. Jesus, Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers moved over a million NES carts back in the day.

A move was made.

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So you know that we moved, and that our new home has the worst cell phone coverage in the continental United States, right? I mean, nobody has any reception worth a damn out here. It might as well be the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. You'd think I would have glanced at my precious Sidekick once during the initial tours and walk-arounds of the property.

So, T-Mobile has nothing, maybe one bar. Same with Verizon and Nextel... maybe one and a half outside. AT&T fared the best, peaking at two bars depending on which way the wind blows.

And if I drive half a mile up the road, bang, T-Mobile breathes again.

There is a local land line service available, but it's some mom-and-pop racket that expects $25/month, and that's not even including long distance. It's a gouging of Caponesque levels. So we were trying really hard to avoid having old-fashioned bullshit handset phones installed.

We checked out Skype. It's a possibility. For what we wanted, it would break down to about $8 a month, which is pretty great. Of course, that would mean the Mac(s) become the phone, so there's no walking around and we'd need to remember to have the Skype app (which looks comfortably like iChat, by the way) open all the time.

Then the iPhone details came out, and I felt that the planets were aligning for the sole purpose of handing me the Jesus phone. AT&T sort of works, but the iPhone can use WiFi networks anyway, so our down-in-the-valley troubles wouldn't matter anyway.

I was really close to sealing that deal when I noticed T-Mobile's stealth announcement of Hotspot@Home. Did anybody tell those guys that using @ symbols in your year 2007 marketing is completely pathetic? Even the word "hotspot" bothers me. Anyway.

For an extra $10 a month, plus a a new phone (two year contract, of course), you get the ability to use your home WiFi, just like the iPhone. So that's what we did. They only have two models, they're both $50, and we choose the one that was least unattractive. It's a Nokia, as if that means one fucking thing, all these non-iPhone phones have the same shit worthless UI where nothing makes sense, the buttons aren't consistent, and you can never find any function without hunting for half an hour.

The haters won't tell you this, but that is precisely why people are willing to pay $600 for an iPhone. Useability. I damn near did.

But $10 a month is easier to swallow right now. This puts our monthly phone bill in the approaching $100 range, as opposed to the over $100 range, which is where the iPhone AT&T plans would have gone. And the word is that eventually, T-Mobile is going to jump the rate to $20/month, unless you sign up now for the $10 price.

That's a handful higher than Skype, but for that $2 we retain the ability to walk while we make phone calls, and I don't know that we would have been thrilled with the lack of privacy that you get by screaming at the iMac to make a phone call (yes yes Skype fans, I know you can buy special USB handsets).

The WiFi function seems solid enough. It saw my home network right away, and now it jumps on as soon as it sees it. If you walk outside of the my WiFi cloud, the phone hops to the nearest T-Mobile tower, and vice versa. It also works on any other WiFi network, although the marketing pamphlet is quick to stress how AWESOME it is to CONNECT to the T-Mobile HOTSPOTS at BORDER'S and other OFFICIAL locations. All calls made on WiFi do not count against your plan's minutes, not that we ever had a problem with overages in the first place.

T-Mobile also offers a free (via rebate) WiFi router... it is supposed to be specially designed to toss more bandwidth at phones, but it has the same model number as the Linksys router I've used for years. Suspicious? I'm probably going to switch to it anyway as soon as I feel like rewiring everything, just because it's newer.

Unfortunately, the new phone had to replace Rhon's cute Motorola, so she had to sacrifice a little form factor there. My Sidekick remains largely unusable at home (it does maintain a data connection strong enough for IM, sometimes), which stinks, but I bet a future Sidekick will have WiFi capability.

But I would still buy an iPhone, yeah.

The Week in Links

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Morning Musume - "Koi no Dance Site" (YouTube)
This j-pop song from 2000 is in Ouendan, and I am absolutely in love with it.

Pokemon TCG National Championships at Origins (Pokemon Elite 2000)
You have to see these pictures. They had GIANT GODDAMN POKEMON BALLOONS at Origins this year, and I wasn't freakin' there. I never want to miss another Origins again.

Pope: Other Christians not true churches (Yahoo News)
Now this is what I like in my organized religions: petty, combative statements of assumed world compliance. Your move, Mohammed!

Miyamoto jokes that they may need to make the WiiFit Balance Board bigger for US (GameSetWatch)
'Cause we fat.

The worst album covers ever (Newplanet)
There is just so much weblog gold in your grandparents' attic waiting to be discovered.

In case you forgot, I hate everyone. (Written World)
Interesting discussion in comments on how Arcee alienated young female Trans-fans by inadvertantly assigning a male gender to all of the other characters.

I'm moving to Smashville!

Today's Smash Bros Dojo update is the best one yet: Smashville, the Animal Crossing battle stage! (It's listed as Stage 06.) Note that "Smashville" couldn't even be a legal AC town name, under the 8-character limit of the GameCube and DS versions.

You can read the official notes from Smash Brawl designer Masahiro Sakurai, but here's a quick rundown.

That's the entire stage, zoomed out. Unfortunately, it's the more common floating platform type of stage, instead of the grounded-with-boundaries type... like Onett back in Smash Melee. I would have preferred the latter.

Looks like random AC characters appear in the back row, to stand around and gawk. Wonder if Brawl will be able to see your save for AC Wii and pull your specific townspeople (and your player model) to populate the arena?

Of course, this seems to dash any hopes of any Animal Crossing characters being used as playable fighters.

The level knows what time of day it is, and will change the mood of the environment accordingly. Smashville will even include special surprises based on the time, just like regular ol' Animal Crossing...

It's Saturday night! Time for K.K.'s live set!

Awesome. Totally stoked over here.

E3 2007 Reactions

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HILARIOUS VIDEO: The Halo 3 Special Edition 360! *Crickets*
What if Microsoft announced a repainted 360 and nobody cared?

COMPLETELY STUPI... HEY WAIT, LET ME SEE THAT: Wii Party Station
Holds your Remotes, your drinks, your chips & dip, has LCD scoreboards for tracking wins, and a built-in fan for airing your sweaty palms. For serious.

SAVE THE DAY: Smash Bros. Brawl December 3.
Should I put in for the day off work, or the week off work?

JESUS, THEM TOO?: Nintendo calls Mario Galaxy the true successor to Mario 64
This is an all-time low for poor misbegotten Mario Sunshine. Now even Nintendo itself hates on Sunshine.

NO GOOFY MOTIONS ON THESE GAMES: The Wii Zapper (Final Name Pending)
The least violent system gets the most violent-looking accessory.

DON'T EVEN ARGUE WITH ME ON THIS ONE: Mario Party DS revealed
Is it online? Is it online? IS IT ONLINE?!

WHO MIXED UP THE SLIDE ORDER?: Nintendo's final E3 presentation is a goddamn exercise game
They tease Miyamoto's appearance as the big finale to the speech, and all he has is this lame-ass-whatever Wii Fit thing? So I can do fucking push-ups? That's fine and all, but not as a speech-ender. How about Starfox? Pikmin 3? Animal Crossing? No no. Push-ups.

FINE, FINE, I WANT ONE: Between Infamous, LittleBigPlanet, Rock Band, MGS4, Heavenly Sword, GTA4, and the new Ratchet & Clank game, I'm becoming totally keen on the '3.

O RLY?: Metal Gear Solid 4 Is PS3 Exclusive - Last In Series
I don't know which claim will be busted first: that MGS4 will stay a PS3 exclusive, or that MGS4 will be the last Metal Gear game.

BEST COMMENT: So I'm watching Kotaku's coverage of the PS3 keynote and I thought I'd jump in to the spammy comment thread with an hilarious "WHERE'S THE FITNESS GAME?!?!!" Two seconds later somebody retorts "your mom's my fitness game."

ADDITIONAL: Here's a picture of that absurd Nyko Party Station thing (found at Gizmodo).

It looks like R2-D2's anus. But at $25, it's almost worth having as a one-off party joke.

The Baochuan Humbled - A Pirates Yarn

Did a two hour Pirates battle last Friday, making full use of my expensive sculpted islands and pretty-pretty ocean playmat. Tony had a Cursed fleet, two ships and one squid. Josh comboed two Jade Rebellion ships (a big, slow junk and a small Korean turtle ship) with the Cursed submarine I picked up at Wizard World. My fleet was one ship, the Baochuan, pride of the Jade Rebellion, that gigantic 10-master that I was all hot over a year ago.

I made a super-big looping animated gif of the entire game, assembled from pictures I took at the end of each round. SO you can check that out if you want to, or just gaze at Josh's closeup shots of all the action.

Right out of the gates (dock?), Tony split his ships to head for treasure islands. This won him the game (SPOILER!) I aimed the Baochuan more or less at the center of the sea, anticipating some epic skirmishes, while Josh sent his sub after me and his ships towards treasure.

The first exciting clash was squid vs. Baochuan. Tony sent the monster below the waves, then surfaced for an all-or-nothing attack. This is what squids do. Meanwhile Josh brought the Locker in on my starboard side. We decided that if the sub and the squid ever met while both were underwater, then could fight each other just as if they were both on the surface. It never happened, but it sure sounds cool.

What's fun about squids is that they can swim around underwater and then pop up right beside the victim for FIVE short-range attacks. Tony scored four hits out of the five, which greatly reduced the Baochuan's intimidation factor. I turned the squid to pulp, but it took me two turns.

Big ruling conundrum of the night: if you declare a smokepot attack on an enemy ship - which generates a fog bank - can you still fire off your remaining cannons at the enemy now stuck inside the fog (ships in a fog bank can't shoot and can't be shot at)? Does all of this happen simultaneously? I figured it does, and allowed Josh to fire his cannons at the Baochuan AND send it into the fog. I think he missed the cannon rolls anyway.

The fog was fun... ships have to exit the fog bank in a random direction, so the massive Baochuan ended up exiting the fog in the exact direction from which it entered!

Then Josh sent the Locker back around to ram the Baochuan, which killed all of my crew.

While all of this is going on, Tony is getting rich off the outlying islands.

Once Tony ran out of treasure to hoard, he double-rammed Josh's poor turtle ship.

By then, the game was academic. Tony had it made in money and he had more functional ships on the table. I limped the Baochuan around towards his home island, but the crippled behemoth had no fight left in it. Here it is, entirely derelicted...

One day, everything will look like this.

Similarly, one day all mansion security systems will store their keys in virtual realities like this.

More about Wizard World.

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As promised, here's a few more epic tales of Wizard World Philadelphia. Josh is in the middle of a four part saga on the event, and Molyneaux has posted some of his pics, both including riffs on the now-famous "Welcome to Philadelphia, Fuck You" picture. So this is the bit where I gank their photos for my use.

Long story. I decided I would get Marvel's big summer event, World War Hulk, because I want to see Iron Man peeled apart like an onion... but then I hear that Aspen Comics is doing a special variant cover edition of issue one, for sale only at Wizard World. (Aspen does a pile of crappy let's-objectify-women books (as opposed to the good let's-objectify-women books), but the alternate cover art is about 60x better than the normal cover, even counting the fact that I don't particularly care for yet another Michael Turner pinup.) So I march into my comic shop and ask them to pull the entire World War Hulk series for me except for issue one, because I'm buying the variant art version at Wizard World. Then we get to Wizard World and see that those talentless fucks want $20 for the variant edition. The normal one goes for $4. I rushed back home and grabbed one of the boring, sort-of-ugly issues.

That photo registers my disgust.

Yep. Talked to Marv Wolfman, author of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Pokemon on the train to Philly.

Getting a Wiggles t-shirt for Clark.

Although this was at the end of the day, it looks rather genuine. As if we hadn't just spent half a day discovering new nerdaromas!

For even more virginal Wizard World coverage, check out the ramblings of Josh and Molyneaux, including things like this guy:

The Week in Links

Red Dwarf 104 - Waiting for God (part 1 of 3) (YouTube)
Most of Red Dwarf can be found on YouTube in its entirety. The line about roast beef about 2:30 in is one of my favorites.

Sony's Lost Exclusives: A Timeline (Game|Life)
A quick rundown of some of the marquee titles that were originally announced as PS3 exclusives and now... not so much.

iPhone-Free Cellphone News (NY Times)
Yeah, I want an iPhone... but T-Mobile (my Sidekick provider) is on the verge of their own WiFi-based calling system. For another $10/month (plus a new phone for Rhonda), we could stick with T-Mo, keep the Sidekick, and have a cell phone that works at home. Downside: Not an iPhone.

The Aberrant Gamer: 'The Maid's Story: Control Issues' (GameSetWatch)
A pleasantly safe-for-work dissection of a Hentai game (Japanese dating sim with sexual situations). The article is written by a woman, which shouldn't mean anything but does.

Microsoft Expands 360 Warranties (Kotaku)
They fucked up the 360, they're finally admitting to it, and there is no way to spin this as anything other than a billion-dollar last-minute patch for a critical business/marketing mistake. The unprecedented three year warranty should cover any 360 owners until Microsoft releases their next machine, hyuk hyuk hyuk.

The Apple junk in my basement.

I found this cool mega-chart of Apple products via Fake Steve, so I did what any self-respecting Apple fan would do: I downsized the image and turned it into a personal checklist.

I initially was only going to check machines I own, but I extended the circle to include my sister and my dad's equipment. And I marked off the ones I've had on my desk at work as well. I'd like to include my uncle's history of machines or even my buddy Matt's, but then the image would be nothing but checkmarks.

I had to take some liberties with some check assignments, since the chart is more of a form evolution than a legitimate make-and-model progression. For example, my 7600 is more or less represented by the style of the 6100 shown, but not really.

Every single one of those red checks is currently in my basement, thankyouverymuch, except for the iPods and the actual working Macs, our iMac and iBook. I've set up kind of a workshop down there (WiFi reaches!), where I intend to go through each machine, pull out the HD, and then donate the rest to whatever reclamation program will take them. Although I'll probably keep the 7600, the Performa, and the Classic, just for nostalgic reasons.

I also found EVEN MORE damn floppies during the move (somehow stored separately from the hundred I threw away pre-move). So there's another weekend project.

Don't ask me again, Jo-Jo!

Gaze upon the secret inner workings of the Bumpusville cleaning robot! If you can't figure this puzzle out, you're probably a houseplant. Or you neglected to find the instruction manual, which Conroy keeps as good bedtime readin'.

Don't Tread On Me - A Pirates Yarn

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Tony already has the usual Game Night pic-post over on his weblog, chock-a-block of folks playing Wii and Guitar Hero... THIS IS THE FUTURE OF FUN, PEOPLE. However, my M.O. is to retreat to the dining room with my back to the wall so I can hold court on tabletop games. And I was super-excited to run a four-player, two-hour game of Pirates.

We had four 40-point fleets - Spain, France, Pirate (that faction really needs a better name), and my Cursed (Dragon and Crab!) Since Pirates has kinda crappy, never-discussed multiplayer rules, I set up four home islands with two treasure islands in the middle of the table. The goal being to have the most gold when the last treasure coin either makes it home or is sent to the briny.

That first picture is the ass-end of my mighty Sea Dragon, who missed attacking Josh's French schooner with a failed swoop attack. Fuck! Josh then used his firepot cannon to set my dragon on fire. Double fuck!

On the left side is France steaming right through my dragon to pillage that treasure island. Check out my awesome crab menacing Anna's Spanish ship on the right! I was so menacing that her shark ate one delicious arm, and then her ship shot off the other three. Triple the fuck!

Meanwhile, Paula starts controlling the north end of the board with her Revenant... sending shots off both ends, some into the French and some into the Spanish.

Great shot of my giant flaming water snake.

The Revenant stormed Josh's flagship and kidnapped the crew, including Mademoiselle Godiva! You can see the boarding about to happen, top left. In fact, the 5-coin ransom of Mlle. Godiva ended up winning the game for Paula's Pirate fleet, even though Spain hauled home far more treasure coins.

Fun game, even if my sea monsters totally sucked seawater. Now nobody will be impressed by them!

Let's wrap it up with a shot of Murray, which is kind of a Game Night thing.

The truth about Spiritomb.

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What's up with finding a Pokemon Center that you can't Fly to?

I'm speaking, of course, about the Center that you find north of Route 223, the waterway that connects Sunyshore with Victory Road. Surfing is always a drag, since you're prone to getting jumped by Tentacools and such, so after finishing the route and healing up, I flew back to Sunyshore to buy some Repels and Potions... and then realized that I could not Fly back. Nonsense.

So I used one of those Repels on my surf back.

I also was pretty liberal with the Repels inside Victory Road, which, again, ought to be called Victory Big-Ass Cave. This edition seemed less obnoxously twisty than in previous games, but I'm sure the Repels made it more bearable. And once you clear it, THEN you find a spot you can Fly to, so you'll never have to do the Route 223/Victory Road trek ever again.

So anyway, here's the fight against my rival. It's blurry because I was testing one of those little mini-tripods and it sucked.

I've put some time trying to get a love connection going for both my female Turtwig and my female Piplup (both recent GTS acquisitions), but no luck as of yet. At least, I'm assuming that they will not breed based on what the old man outside the daycare tells me. So I defaulted back to breeding more chimchars... my Empoleon and Infernape REALLY like each other. They create a baby Chimchar egg every five minutes.

I bought the Prima Strategy Guide Volume Two... the one that has the complete Pokedex and "post-game" guide. It's the Pokedex stuff that interests me, because, aside from hunting and pecking on the internet, there's NO WAY you'd decode the complexities necessary to catch some of these guys. For example, Spiritomb.

As commonly reported, in order to get a Spiritomb to appear, you need to have chucked the Old Keystone into that ruined dirt pillar thing, east of Eterna. Then you have to go talk to 32 people in the Underground! 32! Not NPCs, either! Real people!

Thankfully, we discovered a trick - and yes, I did not read this part online and no, the strategy guide does not spell this out. My sister and I noticed that our "people met" count kept going up as we kept greeting each other in the Underground. So you can artificially inflate your count by talking to the same person 32 times. You just have to keep going inside your base or wherever each time; you can't just stand in the same hallway and Greet. So, after about half an hour of Greeting, walking inside, Greeting, walking outside, etc, we both had counts higher than 32... and when I ventured back upstairs to that pile of dirt and clicked on it, the Spiritomb appeared. Easy catch.

TIME
BADGES
POKEDEX SEEN
MONEY
SCORE
POKEDEX OWN
PARTY: Roselia lv18, Gengar lv41, Torterra lv51, Staraptor lv48, Murkrow lv17, Egg

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