January 2008 Archives

Check Mii Updatez.

In another SURPRISE! move by Nintendo, I received a Wii email about a Check Mii Out Channel update late last night. The information letter must be a rolling release, because Kotaku still hasn't reported on it. I downloaded it right away, as I'm still moderately amused by the CMOC. <-- Initials provided for additional hipness.

Besides, one of updated features allows browsing of the Top 500 Miis (rather than merely the Top 50), which means increased access to Miis like this one:

Although I'm sure Nintendo will yank that Mii soon enough. Yank it hard.

The list of upgrades is mostly ease-of-use stuff, including the long awaited "Show My Damn Miis Without Having To Memorize Stupid Codes" feature.

I don't know what is up with Nintendo that they can just sneak these out without any advance discussion. People were complaining about the Check Mii Out Channel's eccentricities as soon as it showed up, and now Nintendo quietly fixes some of the biggest issues. Sony and Microsoft would have spent the last two months talking about the fixes, polling about the fixes, beta-testing the fixes, press-releasing the fixes, issuing the fixes, and then thanking themselves profusely over the fixes.

Not that most of that is a good thing; the Sony/Microsoft marketing machine(s) chief concern is to barter phony goodwill for rabid fanboy loyalty. But still, at least it seems like they listen. In comparison, Nintendo's marketing arm seems to reside somewhere in the clouds, atop the summit of an unreachable mountain, with statements coming forth only when absolutely necessary, and many questions are just simply forbidden to ask. (When will Wii get storage space/SD card access? Why separate Friend Codes for console and games? Why can't we get a decent console Pokemon game? Why not a Virtual Console Channel option for organizing downloaded games? When are we getting that DS demo channel? Why isn't there a system-level screenshot function? Why did Nintendo farm out Nintendo Power when at the top of their game? Why does Galaxy have such pathetic interaction with Wii system features? Why aren't more Wii games taking advantage of the DS?)

The First Ever DS Abbreviation Awards!

One of the bizarre little sub-trends in DS games over the past three+ years is the practice of giving a game a subtitle that uses the initials "D. S." Sometimes it makes sense, as in 2005's Advance Wars: Dual Strike. You know, like, maybe you can attack twice. Most of them, however, are just plain terrible... nonsensical phrases that have nothing to do with the game. Somebody, somewhere, probably deep in marketing, decided that inventing a fruity "D. S." subtitle would magically increase sales.

So now, fourhman.com is proud to present

First the runner-ups, then the TOP FOUR FINISHERS!

Nominated But Not Too Awful
Ranging from smart-and-subtle to blatantly buffoonish, these games just weren't horrible enough to land a prize.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (2005, Konami)
Dig Dug: Digging Strike (2005, Namco)
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits (2004, Namco)
Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (2008, Tecmo)
Tenchu: Dark Secret (2006, From Software)

Third Place for Awful

Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (2006, Capcom)
The thing about this game is that it is a remake of the original PS1 Resident Evil that we all ignored until RE2 came out and was awesome. Although classic-era Resident Evil is nothing if not cheesy, "Deadly Silence" is beyond the pale.

Second Place for Awful

Super Black Bass: Dynamic Shot (2007, Starfish)
OK, this is completely unfair because this game will likely never see a US release, so the "Dynamic Shot" thing could just be a generous translation. Still, hellish wicked box art, eh? Al Borland in a turtleneck about to get crushed by his avalanching boat trailer!?

Might as well mention Zettai Zetsumei Dangerous Jiisan DS: Dangerous Sensation (2006, Kids Station), another Japanese release with a potentially awful subtitle. Maybe even class-actionable.

First Place for Awful

Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy (2006, Bandai)
I don't think "Dual Sympathy" makes any sense, even by anime standards.

GRAND PRIZE for Most Awful Use of D and S in Game Title!

Guilty Gear: Dust Strikers (2006, Majesco)
I'll admit that I don't know beans about the Guilty Gear franchise, but I am willing to bet that striking dust doesn't figure in to it at all. This is the ultimate abuse of initials.

Honorable Mention
Commando: Steel Disaster (unreleased, Lexicon) - For mixing up the proper order.
Trauma Center: Under the Knife (2005, Atlus) - For naming the lead character Dr. Derek Stiles.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (2007, Nintendo) - I suspect that the name "Dusk" was chosen as a DS soundalike. In Japan, the game was called "Wish Room." Same goes for Pokemon Dash (2005, Nintendo.)

Games That We Can't Believe DIDN'T Use A DS Subtitle
Any Sonic game - If anybody would love a sillyass DS subtitle, it's Sonic. And also: Spyro, Bomberman, Mega Man and Frogger.
Any Nicktoons brand game - SpongeBob: Deepsea SquarePants! Hey Arnold: Delicious Sandwich! Ren & Stimpy: Denied Snot-jokes! (post-John K.)

Did I miss any? Let's hope we never have to do this again.

PS3 download roundup

To get up-to-date on my latest PS3 downloads...

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men Demo
An OK demo. I guess I was kinda interested in this one, just based on the concept of two crazy hitmen forced to team up. Supposedly has 2P co-op, which I'm always up for.

I think my patience for FPS-style controls on a console is just about up. I trained myself to control Warhawk because I really like jumping into one of those fancy planes, but this kind of non-compelling FPS stuff does not inspire me to master it. I mean, I was certainly capable... hiding behind pillars as I led a squad of killers through a presumably corrupt business office... but it was still more of the same not-impressive gameplay that led me straight out of the demos for The Darkness and Timeshift. I bet the story is cool and I would dig it, but I don't feel like fighting the camera to find out.

Games like Kane & Lynch are trying to differentiate themselves from each other, but it seems like the genre hit the ceiling years ago. It's all about fine-tuning the experience at this point, and if you do that well (like, say, Half-Life 2?) you're a hit... but if you don't, it's just another pile of meh.

I did like the odd psychological audio flashbacks that happen as you die (I don't even recall if I was Kane or Lynch in the demo)... you get little snippets of a previous conversation, of some remembered poignant drama with a child, etc. But like the kooky time-manipulation in Timeshift, it's just not enough to make me care about dropping the $60 on the full version.

Devil May Cry 4 Demo
I've been away from this series for a long time. I bought the first one when it went Greatest Hits, which was right when the second one came out. Never finished it because it was really sick hard. This demo plays exactly as I remember, which isn't bad to see, I guess.

It's a timed demo. You have ten minutes to get from wherever to wherever. Had a reasonable amount of enjoyment attempting to do that. Certainly looks fantastic, although once again you keep walking into the same stupid bad guy models every three feet.

Didn't really plan on getting this pre demo, and not sold on it after demo. When it comes to Next Gen Games That Play Exactly Like Last Gen But Just Look Better, I've already hit maximum with Ratchet & Clank. I expect more, people. At this point, I'm more into playing games that look last gen but play differently, like Endless Ocean. Endless Ocean.

Burnout: Paradise Demo
Like I said before, this is a fantastic demo. In fact, it's so great that I actually feel like I've gotten enough Burnout out of it that I don't need to buy it. Don't tell anybody at EA that I said that. I'm hoping that I'll stumble into this on sale soon - like, before they announce a sequel.

I guess I'm getting choosy, because I'd rather pick this up at a discount than be there on launch week. It's just a car game, and I haven't yet seen any review mention that one mythical feature that's going to convince me that I need the full purchase. Has anybody said if you can play your HD-stored music in the game? Seriously, that should be Point One. We're at Target all the bloody time, so I'll probably notice when they drop it to $37 for a weekend.

Fun game, though. I wish more people owned the stupid PSEye camera because mugging for the You Killed Me shots is silly-great.

PixelJunk Monsters
Ooh, ooh, ooh. Great stuff. I guess you'd call it retro simply because it's a one-screen, 2D, small scale game, but it's really good. On sale for $8 through Sony's good-luck-finding-anything-older-than-last-week Online Store.

You're in a forest, charged with protecting your home base full of I don't know what they are, Kids? Townspeople? Sages? Whatever. Waves of various enemies come out according to specific timed intervals, and you have to build towers to kill them all off before they reach your base. The towers come in a bunch of different types (varying cost and ability) but they attack the baddies automatically, so all you have to do is strategize which ones to build and where to put them. My kind of game, the passive-aggressive type.

It's also hard right away. A lot of puzzle games make you burn through 10+ levels of brain-dead-easy levels before getting to the hard stuff. Not so here. I was already failing out on the second Easy level, and at this date, I can't beat the first Medium board. And in order to open new paths, you need to clear a level with no Kid deaths... which is nuts.

So, affably challenging and highly recommended.

Super Stardust HD Demo
If I did not already buy Everyday Shooter, I would buy this one. It's probably better than Everyday, but I can't see spending out again for essentially the same game.

The big advantage on Super Stardust is that you can have it play your own music while you gun asteroids and space aliens and whatnot. This game has been out for a while, but they only posted a demo version a few weeks ago.

I got Everyday during the holiday $5 sale. If Sony drops this to $5, then I'll bite, but $10 is too much... I'd rather put that into Rock Band tracks.

Things We Learned This Week


Viz not kidding about "Best of".

Last week I was all excited about Viz's re-printing of the Pokemon Adventures manga... until I realized that the chapters were grabbed randomly from the original volumes. So the story rarely makes sense, characters leave and arrive with no explanation, and my enjoyment of the series has been destroyed. Now I still need to find old editions of Pokemon Adventures #4 and #7, thanks Viz.

Perhaps the greatest Mac nerd joke of 2008. (Already!)

John Gruber of Daring Fireball did a special MacWorld podcast with Cabel Sasser of Panic Software, and they got to talking about the weird $20 iPod Touch "upgrade" that adds Mail and other apps to the WiFi enabled iPhone-without-the-Phone part. Then one of them points out that the upgrade is actually only 8k which means that - like a lot of video game DLC junk, unfortunately - the file is not actually delivering Mail, but instead simply unlocking the Mail app that already hidden somewhere on the Touch.

Cabel: "It must just be a p-list... Mail equals True."

Div is a Divx machine.

One of the latest Penny Arcade strips speculated that most readers have probably forgotten (or never knew) that crusty supporting character Div is an old Divx machine. I have to admit that, for YEARS now, I had always assumed Div was an upside-down N64. And I had no idea why he was named Div.

Smash Brawl videos are appearing.

As demo kiosks hit Japan, local Smash fans are filling YouTube with demo clips. So far, they're spoiler free, as the demos do not contain anything we didn't already know. I do love finally seeing the Nintendog in action!

Another Windows failure.

As I mentioned back in August, my office PC has been living with some kind of IE virus. Although the Microsoft professional anti-virus bullshit, that we pay out the ass for, showed a clean machine, something definitely was wrong. The only solution was - get this - to wipe the disk and reinstall Windows. Imagine that.

So this week my desk received a fresh, sparkling Windows XP delivery. Then I got back into my Outlook to sort through all the email I missed while my machine was down. Upon attempting to open up a text doc that someone sent me, I landed into a classic example of Microsoft's utter inability to achieve any kind of simple, intuitive user design.

First of all, somebody needs to tell the Office wonks that a computer is not a book. We do not glean any sort of comfort by "flipping pages" on a monitor. On computers, we vertical-scroll. We like to scroll. Our mice have built-in scrollers (that work in about 60% of boxes on Windows, I find). The web scrolls. When we write a huge text document, we scroll as we type. There is nothing to be gained by presenting a multi-page document as if it were a book. It never was a book. We don't expect to read it like a book. Yet Microsoft's engineers, consistently flummoxed by genuine achievements in competing interface design, typed up a pleasant-sounding dialogue box to tell us that we ought to really enjoy this feature.

Which brings me to the larger point: if an interface feature works well, you don't need to tell your users about it. It will just work. If this "reading layout" was so great, so natural, it could just happen when I boot a doc. Not happen after an instructional warning box that will only go away permanently if I take action by clicking a checkbox.

Reading Layout warps the user into an Office sub-universe, where your tools have all been removed, and the font is altered by an algorithm that knows you better than you know yourself.

I love the list of caveats. "Um, we had to adjust the page size. There might actually seem like there's more pages than if you would print it, so, like, don't be surprised that you're not seeing what would actually print. We, like, put in an extra button for you to find if you want the page count to match. Sorry, students-writing-term-papers."

I stopped installing Office on my Macs about five years ago and I have never needed it since. In Windows world, I can't be as smart.

The Week in Links

They Might Be Giants - Never Go To Work (YouTube)
Great new TMBG video. Taken from their current video podcast for kids.

Rock Band, Guitar Hero drive digital song sales (Yahoo News)
2.5 million downloads for Rock Band; 5 million for Guitar Hero III. Crazy number play: only counting the 360 and PS3 editions - because those are the only versions that allow song downloads - you get 1 million copies of Rock Band sold and 2.8 million of Guitar Hero III. In rough terms, that's about the same percentage of songs sold across the two games. You can just hear the music companies salivating over this.

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #138 (Comic Book Resources)
Complete must-read... a look at Dwayne McDuffie's amazing 1989 tongue-in-cheek pitch to Marvel Comics: Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers!

Study: False statements preceded war (Yahoo News)
Almost 1000 completely wrong statements from Pres. Bush and others about WMDs in Iraq or about Hussein/al Qaeda ties, counting only from 2001 to 2003. Guaranteed nobody in the media talks about this story.

Pictures of the WDW DS map game in action (WDW Magic)
A forum with pics of that cool-sounding Disney World DS cart. Looks better than anticipated, even in beta.

Your animation feature template (Paul Dini)
Great cynical assessment of modern feature animation by Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series, Lost), taking Disney, Warners and DreamWorks to task. Nice discussion in comments too,

New UK Bully title causes controversy (Games Industry.biz)
Pretty amazing that the same nonsense that plagued the original release of Bully is coming right back for the Wii/360 re-release. Hey everybody:

BULLY is NOT about bullying children! It is about PROTECTING kids from bullies!

Jesus flying fuck on a car door.

I'll let you decide which are awful and which are interesting.

Keepin' your Lowe's erotic for all generations.

And this is the kind of problem plaguing the average American.

It's a tin box, collector's edition puzzle featuring fully painted artwork of the heavy hitters of the DCU: Superman! Wonder Woman! Elongated Man?

The weird thing is, I think this "Satoshi and Kasumi" toy is legit.

For when you think you're spending too much on monkeys.

This is what happens when you use Excel to make your signage.

Just be glad they don't show how the dog mascot got that name.

I was kidding; they're all awful.

First Impressions, Endless Ocean

When I saw that that Endless Ocean was only $30, I gave an involuntary twitch. In a good way.

This game is going to be a tough sell, so that kind of drastic underpricing is very necessary. Kids are going to write this off as boring edu-tainment, "gamers" really have no interest in something this low-key, so Nintendo's only hope is to throw this at the Wii Play/Brain Age crowd. You really have to know what you're getting into with a title like this, and you need a keen internal assessment of the types of games you enjoy. Reviews are not going to help you here. You need instinct.

On the Gameless Games scale, if you put most game-like on the left and least game-like on the right, I think you'd come up with something like this...

\ .............. Animal Crossing...................Endless Ocean
Harvest Moon

Endless Ocean is very much in the vein of Animal Crossing. You don't really have to do much of anything except screw around. It really is impossible to judge it as anything on the video game matrix. You swim. You touch fish. You find new and interesting places in which to swim and touch fish.

Well, I'm only a few hours in. Who knows what happens next. This is one of those games that won't get a proper online writeup until the fanboyest of the fanboys gets ahold of it. See if this itinerary sounds interesting to you:

  • Picked my characters gender and hairstyle. (Female. If I have to spend the whole game staring at an ass...)

  • Met the main sidekick character, a humorless figure with constant silly dialogue boxes. Was disappointed to see she had my same hairstyle.

  • Went through a very perfunctory control tutorial.

  • Sought out fish to click on so they appear in the forty page animal encyclopedia, including a couple penguins who showed up on the deck of our boat.

  • Learned how to spot areas that are zoom-inable, so as to find tiny fish or collect underwater treasures.

  • Fed some fish and discovered that this made them follow me around.

  • Selected from multiple dive areas (covering only a small corner of the map).

  • Took two tourists on guided tours of specific areas, with the "goal" of showing each a particular type of fish.

  • Unlocked a bunch of upgrades (underwater pen, whistle, night light, Friend Code) and clothing options.

  • Experienced a very loose story arc where I had to chase a dolphin around the map.

  • Attached that dolphin as a "partner" animal, and got friendly enough where it will do specific tricks for me depending on how I click on it.

So really, not bad at all. That seems like quite a lot for a non-game game that's already been smacked around by the Normies' gaming press.

The graphics are passable. There's a TON of identical sand zones, as you might expect. The underwater land forms have not been, thus far, particularly distinctive... but you're always limited to a certain radius when you dive, so it's not like you're going to get lost. Some of the flora is very nice (especially when you zoom in) and some are terrible PS1-esque flat shape cut-outs. The fish, however, are all very believable. (I was very excited when I swam over a little ridge and discovered a nest of cowtail manta rays gliding about below me.) So I'd call the overall graphic realism a very mixed bag.

I haven't put together my MP3 collection for the SD slot feature, although I will. (Giants? Fleetwood Mac? Daft Punk? Katamari? Not sure what music is appropriate for SCUBA diving.) I don't mind the New-gEnya thing they got going here, but it doesn't seem like there's enough tracks available. Maybe more open up as you explore the map.

Here's why I say the pal NPC is humorless... her mouth never moves from this taut, grim expression. Even when she's laughing (in text).

Weird, right?

I'll definitely play this to the point where I uncover the entire map. It's not going to be a rip-roaring ride, by any stretch. It's going to be a pleasant, non-committal experience.

I submitted my guitar replacement request on a Sunday, EA registered it on Monday... but UPS didn't ship the guitar until Friday morning. And then it arrived on Monday. Funny way to count "two day shipping." I guess there was some lag between EA notifying UPS... although, suspiciously, the UPS tracking system did not register movement until AFTER I had bugged EA Support about the status of my order. However, I am pleasantly surprise that UPS delivered on Monday, being a holiday and all.

Right away, I was curious about any noticeable differences between the launch day guitar and the replacement guitar. The most obvious one was this little green sticker...

It says "PA1" in a font, and then "14" appears to be hand-written on it. Clues?

The FCC ID is a sticker-on-a-sticker on my first Strat:

And the same number is printed directly on the replacement's sticker. Must have changed FCC IDs at some point, perhaps shortly before launch. Intriguing?

This is more interesting... the USB dongle was originally a stickered affair, but is now a subtle imprint...

It's like that on the back as well, but you don't really need more boring comparison shots of that.

Here's the giant box (which comes with pre-printed shipping labels; this whole thing isn't going to cost me more than whatever gas it takes to get to a UPS store). The replacement comes inside the smaller box; it's partially disassembled just like a bundles guitar. But the return box needs to be larger since you're unlikely to crack that top neck bit off of your old controller.

That green sticker scared me for a split second...

"Those asses sent me a PS2 guitar!" I thought. Until I saw the huge PS3 type on the box. I guess the PS2 edition of Rock Band uses the same USB dongle? Does it also come with a hub like the 360 version, because the PS2 does not have enough USB ports for a full RB set.

Here's a poser... the box had this instruction sheet, detailing how I am expected to return the guitar.

Guh-what now? I don't know what crazy origami is on display there, but I certainly received no such formed cardboard inserts. Here's what's going to happen to my old Strat: it's going in the bubble wrap, which is going inside the small box, which won't be able to close, which is going inside the large box, which is getting taped shut. Fin.

Although I do intend to enjoy two guitars for a couple weeks before sending my old one back to the factory. When the hell are they going to sell stand-alone instruments? Did they forget?

But how's the new one play, right? Straight off, the new guitar does not activate overdrive simply because you reached up to pick your nose. So that's an improvement right there. And I did manage high scores on a bunch of fast songs, so my early anecdotal research seems to indicate an improved response on the strum bar. Still can't beat Suffragette City on hard though. That block of songs appears to be my breaking point.

I did just spend about an hour trying to master Last Train to Clarksville on medium. There's a tricky solo in there that would throw me, but any time I sailed through it, I would miss one of the last seven notes in the song, wrecking my 100%. My best performance was a 99%er (missed one goddamn note at the end) with a score over 70,000... which puts me almost in the top 100 players, but definitely in the top 10 players on medium. Woo! At the moment!

Truthfully, I remain unsure how much of my experience with the launch day guitar with hardass songs was me missing notes or the hardware missing notes... but things feel better so far. Either way, this whole exchange was painless and free, so why not have done with it.

If I need any further help, there's always this:

Really? A strategy guide? I guess that's one way to spend the $10 you might save by buying the PS2 version.

Futurama: Teh Clever

These scans are a portion of a free mini-comic that was produced by Bongo Comics to promote the Futurama direct-to-DVD movies. It's a rather sly look at the show's cancellation and shift to Cartoon Network. Here are pages 2 through 5... it goes on for another 12 pages, but this is the really clever stuff.

In the face of diminishing tourism, boring old history-laden Mt. Rushmore did the only thing it could: add a dinosaur tarpit and moderately expensive bungee jumping. Seems like a fun place to visit, but why exactly did we stop here again? Oh yeah, because this is an adventure game.

Dawn of 24: The Fury

24: The Game
released February 2006, received May 2006

This was sent to the office one day, so the bright idea was hatched that we should all get together and play it.

Taking turns, we made it through Hour Nine and then gave up when none of us could "LOSE THE TAIL!" Although we put in a second evening's effort a few weeks later - and did in fact LOSE THE TAIL - our opinion of the game being slightly better than good dog shit did not change.

I mean, it tries. The story is original (but is it canon?)... the actors were all super excited to be involved, judging from the PR-alicious commentary videos. There is a nice variety of levels, from regular ol' third-person shooting to regular ol' third person stealth to regular ol' third person driving to regular ol' psycho interrogating, but none of it is particularly well done. The best you can say is that the game's stinkiness largely does not interfere with your ability to complete it. Even though we never did because we got bored.

Memory Score: LOSE THE TAIL.

Genji: Dawn of the Samurai
released September 2005, purchased June 2007

I picked this up for $10, a few months before I bought a PS3. I'm sure I got $10 out of it.

The worst part was, I went from Okami to this. Although Genji is probably a fine, serviceable, deep-enough experience, not many games could stand to follow up Okami.

I never finished Genji, but I should have. It's very pretty for a PS2 game. It is sort of strange amalgam of RPG talk-and-search with Dynasty Warriors-esque action combat levels connecting all of the towns. You get to power up your dudes, collect trinkets for special attacks, etc etc. Once your guy gets a ton of special energy built up, you can unleash an uber-killing mode that lets you dice through a pile of enemies in a showstopping chain sequence. That's about the ballgame.

Sony has tried to turn Genji into a genuine franchise, but the results have been less than spectacular.

Memory Score: Amahagane!

Zatch Bell: Mamodo Fury
released September 2006, purchased July 2007

"Oh, how bad could it be?" I wondered. This was another $10 grab, but this one isn't worth the tenner.

Obviously crafted early in the PS2's life but then shipped to America only after the anime grew legs, Mamodo Fury is one ugly, confusing, unplayable game. I would hope that somebody, somewhere, has achieved a better Zatch Bell game than this.

I like the Zatch Bell concept. I think the manga is surprisingly weighty and well-written. It's a neat riff on Pokemon with a Battle Royale flavor. This game, however, sucks.

Offensive in design, Mamodo Fury has some of the absolute worst menu screens ever devised. Offensive in gameplay, Mamodo Fury's levels consist of repetitive, impossible battles with charged attacks that rarely work. Offensive in presentation, Mamodo Fury's battlefields are of PS1 quality, with barebones graphics that would look crappy on a DS. Were this 2001, we'd have our excuse.

This is a textbook example of a license raped, an elderly game sold as new to unsuspecting fans.

Memory Score: Fun loading screens though.

Next time: the final tally!

Things We Learned This Week

I renewed Nintendo Power.

Eh. I guess what convinced me was the big in-house ad that says "THIS IS NO TIME TO BE WITHOUT NINTENDO POWER!!!" Now that they're on top of the gaming world, that ad is absolutely correct. I'm pretty well convinced that NP will have some nice articles on Smash Bros and Animal Crossing in 2008, so I'm sticking around. Although losing the big list of renewal gift options really bites. I'm getting a Phantom Hourglass mini-guide instead of something I would actually want, like a t-shirt.

X-Play still sucks; about to be rebooted AGAIN.

How many times does this show have to get revamped before somebody realizes that the long-winded over-written wink-wink-smarm is the problem? That and the sad decline of Adam Sessler. I caught their Mario Galaxy special and turned it off in disgust after five minutes of cheap shots at Sunshine (and they didn't even bring up the camera, which is about the only legitimate complaint!) But really: the for-print scripting style that this show has been doing for years needs to go.

I should do volunteer service at Gamestop.

Every time I'm in one of those stores, I feel like I should offer my time as a visiting consultant to customers about to be misled by the morons behind the counter. I heard a clerk talk up the Nyko Wireless Wii Nunchuk. The Wireless Wii Nunchuk. Now that Johnny Blue Ocean Never Plays Games is on the street looking for Wii stuff, these stores are complete death traps.

Viz finally republishing Pokemon Adventures manga.

About time, with the franchise still coasting on Diamond/Pearl success. I tried picking these up years ago - it's a really nice series - and I have been long missing Volume 4. Viz's new Yellow volume reprints the original #4 and #7, but it may be missing some chapters. I haven't figured that out yet.

Clark enjoying Teen Titans (animated) phase.

We bounce from one thing to next around here, but the last week-and-a-half has brought Clark to a Teen Titans period. I bought him one of the manga-sized collections of the comic-based-on-the-cartoon, and we picked up Complete Season Four for $15. $15 for thirteen 22-minute episodes is a good buy.

The Week in Links

U.S. Pokemon Snap commercial (YouTube)
For those of you looking for something cool to download to your Wii, here's an ad for Pokemon Snap.

Note the truncated slogan at the end - "Gotta Catch 'Em" - I bet that was done because, technically, they're not "all" in Snap.

Sam & Max Headed For The Wii, Nobody Surprised (Kotaku)
It's about time we started getting some substantial rumors about this. I really hope they avoid the download route, because I don't think the Wii's onboard memory can handle it.

Get ready to make the Disney Magic Connection (Jim Hill Media)
Apparently Disney is about to start field testing a Disney World wireless PDA/gaming device that would display live wait times for rides, character locations, trivia, location-specific games, and other park info. And get this, it runs on a DS! I want that cart!

"Thundercats": A Critical Retrospective (Toon Zone)
Despite being a mostly negative look back at the 'Cats, this article made me want the Season One boxed set.

The Hard Lessons of Kwicky Koala (Cartoon Brew)
Poignant and terse editorial about how - and why - animation great Tex Avery finished out his career doing shit for H-B.

Holiday Gift Bonanza!!! (Publick Nuisance)
A December post from Jackson Publick's weblog, mostly about his awesome Venture Brothers show. In this entry, he reveals that Stephen Colbert will not be returning to voice incidental character Professor Impossible in Venture Season Three. (He's also not doing Phil Ken Sebben in the new Harvey Birdman game.) Read how Publick was treated and you'll come to the conclusion that either Colbert is a dick or he's being managed by dicks.

Readalong: EGM #225 Feb 08

This is the issue with the Dan Hsu editorial about the game companies yanking review copies of their crappy games. On the latest Penny Arcade Podcast, Tycho opined that this was a plus. Not that EGM should name names, but that corporate PR machines should stay away from professional game reviewers. They're both correct: those press release copy/paste jobs that used to define "previews" suck. It's an insult to readers to assume that we can't tell the difference, and it creates a striking narrative disconnect when you read a glowing preview followed months later by the two-blargs-out-of-five full review. Like, boy, were these mugs fooled by the beta build! They weren't. They just weren't allowed to talk about it, some naively assuming that glaring issues would be fixed and others cowed in deference to the usual assembly line machine.

For my part, I still go by the undefinable feeling I get when I hear about a new game. I'll check out reviews from a couple sources, and then glean the pros and cons out of that. For a game like Disaster Report, the bad reviews did nothing to sway me from buying it, because I was that captured by the game's concept. Conversely, the phenomenal reviews for Burnout Paradise are not actually helping me to my decision because I can't lose the taste that it's just a damn car game. And I really enjoyed Burnout 3... I would just like to hear about more ancillary features that would make Paradise a better experience, rather than just more of what I expect from Burnout. But back to the magazine.

Nice Mario Galaxy interview with director Yoshiaki Koizumi. It's nice because it manages to run for a full two pages without unfairly harassing Sunshine. Mr. Koizumi directly refers to Sunshine as "nonlinear exploration," which, as I've said many many times, is the type of game I prefer. The article also reveals a second ending for Galaxy, which you get after beating the game with Luigi.

Followed by a Rock Band post-mortem, where Harmonix VP Greg LoPiccolo admits that the reason there is no non-scored practice mode is because they ran out of time! Boo. He makes up for this one question later, where he says it without saying it that we'll be able to use our DLC songs in Rock Band 2. Still wondering where those promised albums are? Greg says to wait until six months have passed since launch. I bet they are just fighting about what to charge for them. $2/song is reasonable in small doses, but a whole ten song album at that rate ($20!) would be crazy. The album thing is a fine idea, but they are going to need to apply a substantial discount to it.

There's a weird interview with former EGM writer Shawn Smith, who left the magazine after six years to go sew Domo-Kun ripoffs. I'm not a fan of putting your name in a product that has absolutely nothing to do with you, which is what this guy did with "Shawnimals." Enough people must be ordering his stuffed animals, because he's getting a DS game based the ninja-looking Shawnimals. They live in Shawnimaland, and I'm not making that up.

Rumor columnist Quartermann suggests multiple Guitar Hero sequels this year. Now we know why Activision hasn't been aggressive about DLC.

Then the big console wars article, a breakdown of all the games supposed to hit Wii, PS3 and 360 in 2008. I'll run through my personal picks from the list...

On Wii... I may get Wii Fit just for the sheer curiosity value, but it's nothing I'm super excited about. Mario Kart Wii scares me with the steering wheel controller. Have they announced normal, non-fucked-up Classic/Wavebird compatibility yet? de Blob is probably a definite purchase. No More Heroes is a big maybe. All in all, this article makes it look like a crappy year for the Wii, but that's because Nintendo never tells anybody anything about what they're actually working on. The article doesn't mention Smash Bros, but that's probably because they figured the game would be in stores not long after this mag saw print.

On PS3... LittleBigPlanet might actually come out this year! The blurb for The Agency has me very interested because it says that the game will text your cell phone throughout the day. Infamous, waiting for more info but eager to hear it. If Afrika is in fact a photography game, I will be there day one. MGS4 and GTA4, of course yes. Also yes to Soulcalibur 4 (Darth Vader notwithstanding), and a probable on Ghostbusters, if they make the game even half as good as the first screenshots.

The cover story is Smash Bros. (I got the Donkey Kong cover, waaaah.) It begins with a good summary of everything you've read online for months now. Shortly thereafter, the article spins out on sub-stories about Nintendo fandom and "the magic" of Nintendo design. Look. I know they've spent the last six years bashing Nintendo because it's what their oh-so-mature readers wanted to hear. This does not make up for that, now that suddenly, unexpectedly, Nintendo is king again.

Reviews. Harvey Birdman, not tracking well. This is kind of a case where I buy the game anyway, just because I like Harvey Birdman. It's apparently really short though, so that makes me want to hang for the first price drop. Endless Ocean doesn't even warrant a real review... is that game out yet? I'd love to read something substantial about it, because it seems intriguing.

Jeremy Parish has a very nice cheat sheet to the entire history of Metal Gear, which is no mean feat. And the very last page of the magazine is one of the best Hsu & Chan comics ever, a very sensible explanation as to why all the Nintendo characters are fighting to the death in Smash Bros.

A lurid tale of sin and depravity.

Now we visit the Savage Jungle Inn. Is it too obvious to have a giant Bigfoot with an aching foot problem? Yes, that's probably a clue of some sort. Evelyn Morrison can't help you there, but she does have some interesting travel brochures.

Things We Learned This Week

| 1 TrackBack

Darth Vader and Yoda appearing in next Soul Calibur.

Seriously? Look, it's not that I'm against Star Wars, and it's not that I give two shits about the SC storyline (hint to fans: there isn't one) it's just that this is sad. Like Soul Calibur can't stand on its own without some nonsensical cameo appearance. It also doesn't help that Star Wars is effectively DOA at the moment... this MIGHT have been cool circa 2002. For the record, I thought Spawn and that other Todd McFarlane embarrassment were stupid in SC2 as well. Link I gave a pass just because he looked like the Space World 2000 demo.

Call me when I can be Han and just shoot Mitsurugi from across the map.

Shoe named names.

EGM editor Dan Hsu recently listed three names who have stopped submitting review copies of their latest games because they were unhappy with the magazine's game previews and review scores. The jerks in question are Sony sports, Ubisoft, and the dopes who still make Mortal Kombat games. Like anybody gives a shit about new Mortal Kombat games. Bravo, Shoe!

In all likelihood, this will be the best Batman game ever.

I'm getting more and more excited about LEGO Batman and, by extension, LEGO Indiana Jones. I'm waiting like a hawk for the review that tells me they fixed the co-op camera problems.

I ordered a replacement Rock Band guitar.

I've been waffling this one for weeks, but a conversation with Jeffrey convinced me to do it. Since I got the game, I've been convinced that my tilt sensor is too sensitive, and I have had to accommodate that by holding the Strat perfectly level with the Earth's crust. I could deal with that, but I can't shake the feeling that my strum bar is suffering from the non-responsiveness reported by many launch-day-purchase gamers. It's tough to tell whether it's the strum bar or my naturally-stunted abilities to play a fast song on hard... but when I started missing notes in a repetitive section on medium, that's when I felt like I was robbed.

For whatever reason, EA seems to have the world's best replacement policy for Rock Band. I filled out an online form - that asked for no proof of purchase or proof of defect, by the way - and I will have a replacement guitar within the week. At no cost. Then I have 28 days to send back the old guitar, in the box that comes with the new one. If I don't they'll charge me $125, which is probably double what a stand alone RB guitar will cost once we beat the Communists to the Moon or whatever the fuck is delaying those from showing up in stores.

And yes, this would have been a fabulous way to get a temporary bass for my dream of setting up Rock Band at the company party. But as it turns out, the party's venue was a bloody glass barn with all the accoustics of a high-rise parking garage. I would have been instantly disappointed with that. Maybe next year.

When I first heard about Eye of Judgment, I was intrigued but highly skeptical. Clearly, EoJ represents an effort by Sony to push something totally unique to the market... in the wake of Nintendo's wild success with their differentiating feature: platforms with non-traditional controls, the DS and the Wii. And as past experience shows, when you go out on a limb, you either come up big or fail hard. Add to that risk the idea that Eye of Judgment is a collectible card game. So Sony expects you to dump even more money chasing boosters and rare cards. "Hi! Here's our new untested card game that requires a $70 buy-in assuming you already have a PS3! You'll want to buy lots of extra cards to have even more fun!" It's hard not to be cynical about something like that.

But after actually playing it - and yes, buying plenty of booster packs - I'm prepared to say that Eye of Judgment is not only a good game, it's a great game. And technologically speaking, it's a very clever proof-of-concept game. Here's what I thought (or what you may be thinking) about the game prior to purchase, and what I found out.

"It just looks lame."
Let's get this out of the way: "The Eye of Judgment" is a stupid name and the cards look like crap. Since the camera has to see each card played, with absolutely no confusion, the card layout has to follow some pretty bizarre rules in order for the Eye to correctly scan it. There's not a lot of room for artwork or design flourishes, and some of the info you need to see (the card faction, summoning cost, health/attack) is obnoxiously hidden on top of the artwork. The only mitigating factor to this weirdness is the PS3 itself: once you play a card, you pretty much stop looking it on the table and start looking it in on the TV, where the stats are all readily displayed.

The real ugliness to the cards is found in the punch card-esque black boxes at top and bottom and the lime green triangles along the sides. The black boxes - hilariously masked as "runes" - let the camera identify each individual card. In combination with them, the triangles tell the camera which way the card is facing.

Get past that mess, and you're one step to enjoying the card game underneath. As you might guess, this unavoidably-weak print design was a major hurdle for me.

And yeah, the Everybody's A Badass With Attitude problem is all over this game. I get that it's a game about arena combat between warring factions in a pseudo-fantasy setting, but when even the grasshopper-riding frogs are spouting hyper-aggro Alpha Male epithets, it's simply not moving the meter on the innovative character design scale. EoJ tries way too hard to be cool, and cool is defined as Generic Fantasy Card Game Backstory Circa 1998.

"It's probably a really terrible card game."
Against all possible odds, it is not. And I've been through some awful, awful card games, so I think I would know. I've been through card games that were too simplistic, too complicated, too non-intuitive, too far removed from a theme or license, and/or just plain too ugly.

Here's how the game works. The playspace is limited to a 3x3 grid... again, this is a concession to the limitations of the camera's view. Every creature you summon (using mana that regenerates at a rate of two per turn) has specific attack and counterattack grids within that 3x3. At the barest, a creature will attack the space directly in front in it, will defend itself with an automatic counterattack should an enemy attack it from that same front direction, and will be weak to an attack from its blind spot (typically the square facing the creature's backside). Naturally, complications abound, so the fun is planning out your plays with a chess-like strategy so your creatures can attack, avoid enemy counterattacks, and protect their blind spots.

It's like the common summon-monster attack/defense paradigm of a game like Magic: The Gathering was overlaid with an abstract puzzly board game. And then prettied up with largely inconsequential PS3 graphics.

(These pictures stolen from Jeffrey's flickr, by the way.)

Added to this is a mechanic on the game field itself... each square is pre-aligned to one of the game's elemental colors. Play a creature to a square that matches it's element and it receives a +2 bonus to its life. Two pairs of elements are considered opposites - fire/water and earth/wood - so if you play a creature to its opposing alignment, it will have to weather a -2 to its life. For many of the smaller soldiers, this will be enough to kill them. The fifth element's squares, devoted to a robotic steampunk sort of affair called biolith, do not grant a +2 bonus, but they can allow you to get around the game's summoning restrictions for higher level critters.

The squares can be flipped to change the element alignment, and this can become an important strategic choice to get the board to favor your card types.

"It's too gimmicky."
Of course it is. I'm always peeved and mystified when people hold up "gimmicky" as an insult. Every successful innovation in video gaming started out as a gimmick. Shoulder buttons, dual analog sticks, rumble, motion controls, stylus+touchscreen, two screens, microphone, controllers shaped like instruments. Sure, we've had gimmicks that didn't pan out or had very limited applications (steering wheels, eReader, Virtual Boy) and we've had gimmicks that are this close to exploding into something awesome (handheld+console connectivity, EyeToy games before EoJ), but on the whole, the stuff you're enjoying the hell out of today grew from somebody's willingness to experiment and the marketplace's willingness to give it a try. I think it's perfectly OK to suffer through a Hey You Pikachu in order to get to a Karaoke Revolution.

It's difficult to quantify and impossible to predict. A few years earlier and the eReader would have been a money machine. The DS needed a year and a half before all the really good games starting appearing. The Wii, aside from Nintendo's first party product, still needs time for devs to get a handle on the control scheme, but luckily the first party stuff has been so good that the sideways ports and half-assed waggle controls of games like DBZ Tenkaichi 2 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance can't really hurt sales.

The point is, you can't just instantly dismiss gimmicks. You'd think I would have known better in Eye of Judgment's case. The gimmick here is pretty seductive: the tactile feel of a traditional card game with the stats-keeping abilities and visual supplement of a video game, plus a computer-controlled online system that lets you use your actual cards in a cheat-proof game against players across the world. (I played a hand against someone in Japan this weekend... I was sad to note his mic was turned off, because I would have liked to chat with him.)

"What a scam! You probably don't even need the PS3 to play the game."
The interaction between the cards and the PS3 is pretty important (although that didn't stop one guy from making his own PDF game board). Since the PS3 is tracking everything, you don't need damage counters or dice to note the life totals on all of your critters. It's all there on the screen.

And because it knows what all the cards do, you needn't fear overlooking one creature's enduring effect. If a guy you played eight turns ago gets a boost from a recently played Wood creature, you'll see that happen automatically. These ripple effects would require a lot of mental attention in an exclusively real world game, but the PS3 turns it into breaking sticks. I hope that future expansions introduce even more complicated interactions, because this is the real benefit of having a card game backed by a CPU.

"This is going to take too long to play."
Unless you're showing off the battle animations, you can turn them off to speed things up considerably. Jeffrey and I had a tight game that went to an hour, and we thought that was really long. I've played meatspace card games that dragged out for three hours plus. Shit, I've designed card games that can go for hours.

The EoJ team was aware that something like this really shouldn't play out for ages, especially in an online match, so right off the bat you can see where particular choices were made to keep the games moving. Your deck is only 30 cards, and if you run out of cards, you lose. You can implement a turn clock to keep methodical players from slowing things down. The game ends as soon as one player fields a fifth creature (thus controlling the majority of the grid), rather than attaching victory to personal life points that can be manipulated to infinity.

Eye of Judgment has not been well received (scoring in the 6 to 7 range on most 10-point review scales). VGChartz shows a bare 140,000 copies sold worldwide, which is pretty sad given how starved the PS3 community is for exclusive, high-quality games. I'm sure most people were scared off by investment intimated by the TCG aspect. Although even if I didn't much like the game, $70 is damn good for the package... game, starter deck, booster pack, playmat, camera stand and the PlayStation Eye camera. It's basically a stealth purchase for Sony's first party camera. As more games make use of the Eye, maybe more people will pick up EoJ, rather than reach for any old USB camera. Burnout Paradise has some cool Eye integration, and the PS3 natively uses the Eye for video chats.

So, there's my big long-winded defense of Eye of Judgment. I think it's a severely under-rated title that, due to the complexities of the card game, did not get a fair assessment in most reviews.

The Week in Links

The Amazing Adventures of Little Batman (Part 2 of 3) (YouTube)
There's a beginning and an end to this fan film, but this middle bit is where all the action is. The very first shot - where Little Robin takes forever to get out of the Batmobile - and Little Penguin's script-prompted Waah Waah Waah just kill me.

Spider-Man's new Status Quo (CBR)
Interesting one-sheet about the new Spider-Man reboot, post Mephisto. Although I'm fine with erasing the marriage to Mary Jane (I never liked the Erik Larsen big hair soap star MJ years), watering down the Civil War unmasking is pretty stupid. ("...some people seem to recall it, but nobody quite remembers who was under the mask"). Looks like Mephisto has the power to edit the Daily Bugle archives.

Smash Bros. Brawl Pushed To March? (Kotaku)
Bad rumor! Bad rumor!

Ok, so first I'm ready to take off a week in December 07 for Smash Bros... then some days in February 08 and have people up for a weekend Brawl-a-thon. Now maybe I'll have to set this up for March? I need to stop trying to plan my vacation time around major game releases, 'cause this is bullshit.

Chicago law prof blasts OLPC (Fake Steve Jobs)
FSJ points to some incisive commentary on the epic fail of the One Laptop Per Child campaign. Read the original, too.

I waterboard! (Straight Dope via Reappropriate)
Dude waterboards himself, then posts about it on his favorite political message board. Turns out it's torture. And no, that wasn't the guy's point, but rather that too few Americans - and most politicians - have no idea how waterboarding actually works and how insidious it is.

I Knew There Was a Reason I Detested Doctor Phil (PeterDavid.net)
Peter David comments on Dr. Phil's not-so-altruistic public session with Britney Spears.

CES: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Roughly Drafted)
A little Bill Gates bashing by route of CES. Includes this painful bit about the Xbox division...

Microsoft's fans like to think of the 2001 Xbox and 2005 Xbox 360 as successful products, but both have only lost the company billions of dollars. Over the last seven years, Microsoft has shipped 24 million Xbox units and 17 million 360 consoles to stores, but has yet to make any profits. By way of comparison, Apple in its "beleagured" decade of the 90s sold over 30 million Macintosh systems, generating far more revenue and making a significant operational profit throughout. In the last seven years, Apple has sold around 30 million more Macs, earning record profits rather than losing billions per year.

And by the way, if you haven't done Guest House yet, get over there right away. Don't forget to click around on stuff you've already zoomed in on. I was escapee #48041.

Randomized Internet Album Cover Weblog Meme

| 1 Comment

I don't generally go in for teh memes, but this album cover one noted over at Dubious Quality is a beaut. Quoted:

Basically, what you do is get a band name, album, and album cover from the following sources:
1. The first article title on the Wikipedia Random Articles page is the name of your band.
2. The last four words of the very last quotation on the Random Quotations page is the title of your album.
3. The third picture in Flickr's Interesting Photos From The Last 7 Days is your album cover.

I clicked his links just to see what I would roll, and it was so funny/appropriate that I had to 'Shop it up and try again. I told myself I would stop when they ceased to be funny, but they never did. (The only results I rejected was when the Wiki page was the name of an actual band!) Randomized fiction follows.

"Lousano" is in fact the last name of the two brothers who formed this grunge band in a mutual girlfriend's basement in 1996. Neither brother knew the other was dating the same girl, and when they both showed up at her place one late Friday night, the whole situation was so ridiculous that they dissolved into laughter after only a few punches. This, although their sophomore effort, actually contains some tracks written during those first months when their songs were all about that girl who was cheating on them. Title song "Divided Between the Sexes" tells that specific tale, but a good third of the entire song list falls under the "can you believe that crazy bitch" category of lyrics.

While this album cover became a schoolyard favorite for obvious reasons, Afrin SC's true message was directed towards burned out corporate salarymen. With sort of a John Tesh-meets-Yanni-for-buttsex vibe, "You and Be Happy" is relentlessly relaxing. References to giving up, quitting, selling the house, and moving to a cave abound, but delivered with a straight-forward sheen that makes a lack of running water seem palatable. Apparently the cover girl is intended for those lonely nights.

This is not an album. This is the long-running tourism campaign for Tioga County in northern Pennsylvania. (Tioga County Commissioners still do not realize that it was intended to be read sarcastically.) Sorry for the mix-up.

After seven major releases in three years, critics were starting to worry that slash-speed-death-throttle-metal band Tangvayosaurus was beginning to overplay their hand. But shrewd management surprised the world with "Cover Up What's Inside" - a soulful, plodding investigation into the masks we wear in everyday life - by finally entering the rock ballad phase of their metal arc. No one predicted it. No one expected it. No one wanted it. All fourteen band members of Tangvayosaurus, including one-legged cellist Vin Shicklegruber, committed ritual suicide after it was revealed that "Cover Up" only sold thirteen copies. Which meant that somebody in the band didn't buy one.

Not to be outdone, competitor metalheads Plastic Surgery also went the departure album route... albeit with greater success. A similar look at the deep truths of mankind, "What Makes Us Human" was given away for free in the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, granting it instant Gold Record status. Front man Jack Cymbal, once famous for demanding lightning rods installed on every house he played, would later joke that this album was witness to "more adolescent masturbation than anything Zep ever dreamed of."

NQT - the controversial rapper entourage led by M.C. Nerf-herda - signed their first contract with only one stipulation: that every album would prominently feature some dog's junk. Studio execs, desperate to land any rap group with initials in the wake of so many other rap groups with initials, were only too happy to agree. In fact, that's a Sony-BMG vice president's Labrador on the "One Link at a Time" cover. NQT proved to be a hitmaker for eleven years, until they finally pushed the Canine Cock Clause too far and tried to field a CD entitled "Little Pink Lipstick."

Finding Tacky Significance

In the skeptic's game, there's a little something called Finding Significance... which occurs when people convince themselves that the shudder they just felt was the death whisper of their uncle three states away. Or, post-9/11, when everybody was out there adding up the airliner numbers in creative ways to come up with 9s and 11s. Here's an example of Finding Significance to con tourists into buying crap.

You could take any two Presidents, make 'em kiss on a penny, and come up with a list of similarly ASTONISHING "facts" like that. "Both were slain in the presence of their wives!" It's just plain creepy!

Lincoln married a nasty piece of work named Mary Todd! Kennedy did the nasty with Marilyn Monroe! Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and hid in a theater! A theater shot Lincoln from an Oswald and hid in a Booth!

Thirty cents spent in 1988 becomes a cheap weblog entry in 2008! Unbelievable.

The Power Ring Quiz

Although it seems a bit premature to fashion an identity quiz based on the seven (eight?) Lantern colors before we've been told more than one paragraph about them, somebody did anyway. I mean, what exactly is the distinction between blue and indigo?

Here's what I got:

Which Power Ring would come to you?

You are strong in the dark side of the emotional spectrum. You have hate. You have anger. Good... good...You will make a powerful Red Lantern Lord. Draw on your anger, your rage. Let it build inside you. It makes you stronger than others. You will have your revenge.

Quizilla | Join

Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Yeah, Red Lanterns! I would guess that I am too self-serving to make it into the GLC. Well, my Corps may not have the universal backing and show-business breaks that those showboaters in the Greens get, but a Ring's a Ring.

Things We Learned This Week

Flans has a great bizarro role on Xavier.

John Flansburgh - one half of TMBG - has been appearing on Adult Swim's great new show Xavier. He's Xavier's computer assistant. Check him out at the beginning of this clip.

There's something screwy with the way Rock Band counts fans.

OK, I can understand the fan cap thing... with that in play, you know that the bands at the top of the charts are truly playing at the Expert-Expert-Expert-Expert level. Rather than just an Easy-Easy-Easy-Easy band playing for a month straight for quick fan wins.

And I can understand why my band loses fans when we fail a gig. Makes sense. Fail out the song and four thousand people stop buying your albums.

But why does my band cease to gain fans when we fall back under the fan cap for our particular level? Shouldn't we at least gain fans back up to the cap? It seems like you only gain fans when you play at a new venue... go back to a previously played gig and you can't get fans, you can only lose them. I'm completely missing something here.

Can't decide on what to do before Smash Bros.

I've got an eye on Burnout Paradise, but now I hear they bumped No More Heroes up into January as well. If I have to choose one, I would lean towards No More Heroes, unless the first reviews come back crap. Although the Burnout demo really showed off some great stuff, and, if they went to the trouble to include PSEye support in an hilarious way, I bet the full game has even more surprises in it.

Either way, I want to keep my schedule relatively clear for Smash Bros in February.

And I noticed Target selling GTA IV pre-orders for a March release. (Comes with a free PS3 console skin, WHO CARES.) Is that even definite?

I dropped JLA/JSA Classified

They were just getting way too uneven for me. I love the idea of rotating story arc/creative team/non-continuity books, but even when they start out well, eventually they all devolve into somebody's uncle's cousin doing the art.

In other DC news, am I crazy or is Countdown finally making sense and getting really good?

The PS3's photo slideshow thing is really nice.

We discovered this when we popped in a Pro Duo memory stick while at Chad & Dana's for New Year's. First of all, the clicky slideshow effect for browsing photos is slick... but the full blown arty presentation is just phenomenal. It pans across your pictures as if they are being lightly tossed onto a table. Some appear as Polaroids, some regular 5x7 prints, sometimes negatives or little film loops. Aside from some crappy text work showing the date, it is really amazing in action. Blows the doors off the Wii's Photo Channel. Even looks better than Apple's Coverflow.

Shame nobody knows the PS3 even does this sort of thing.

Moon Dog's Gripping Finale

With Reel Two missing, we have no way of knowing how Swinehurd captured Moon Dog. You'll have to use your imagination. This is just like forgetting to watch Degrassi for a week. You'll be okay.

I always thought the art had kind of an underground comix vibe, particularly the panels with Swinehurd. It would be interesting to know if the unnamed artist behind Moon Dog counted Wonder Warthog as an influence.

The Week in Links

Orangina Naturally Juicy French version (YouTube)
Call me whatever you like, but I think this is hot as hell.

50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2007 (The Beast)
Completely awesome rundown of the 50 worst people in America, including this assessment of new View moron Sherri Shepherd:

[she] perfectly illustrated the Creationist's level of intellect when she declared her disbelief in evolution, and was immediately stumped about the shape of the earth, explaining her ignorance was due to the fact that she was too busy feeding her children to acquire rudimentary knowledge about... well, about anything, presumably. Further compounded her astonishing lack of basic knowledge when she authoritatively declared that Jesus Christ came before the ancient Greeks, and that she didn't think "anything predated Christians." Judging by these statements, Sherri probably thinks there are dragons on the other side of her desk.

How Microsoft stole Christmas (Japanmanship)
I know I'm a dick, but I could read long, detailed stories about people getting pissed off over their dead 360s all damn week.

Get ready; they're going to do an early launch (2009) of their next console and screw over current owners, just like last time.

Dickerdoodle photos (Penny Arcade)
Photos of PA fans enjoying the holiday tradition of baking dickerdoodles.

Ziggy at Wikipedia (Wikipedia)
Brief but unintentionally hilarious discussion on a comic strip that nobody under the age of 80 gives a fuck about.

John Gruber on the Iowa caucus (Twitter)
Scan through his Twitter list for some great caucus jabs.

This is all taken from the current ruling FAQ on the Kingdom Hearts TCG forum pages.

Q: What happens if I have to draw cards, and I already have six cards on my hand? Do I still draw?
A: Yes. You simply draw six cards at the start of the game. Afterward, there is no limit to the number of cards that you can have in your hand at any one time.

What this is saying - in a really weird way - is that there is no hand limit in Kingdom Hearts. But what about at the start of your turn, when you're supposed to draw up to six, and you already have six cards in hand? In that situation, no, you do not get to draw anything.

Q. Can Simba be chosen as the friend to be discarded when his power takes effect?
A. Yes. You can choose to satisfy Simba's Proud Roar with the Simba card you used to activate it.

Q. Can I play Simba if I cannot discard the full amount of characters required by the card?
A. Yes. If you do not have the required amount of Friends or Magic/Friends that Simba would discard, you can still play Simba and just discard as many cards as you are able.

Simba has this thing where he forces each player to lose a Friend when he comes into play. Apparently you can choose to have Simba kill himself in that situation... presumably because you don't want to kill any of your other Friends but you still want to whack an opponent's card.

But, the vague ruling means you're still allowed to play Simba and not kill him to meet the requirements of Proud Roar, because it's a "choice" to sacrifice Simba to his own effect. Even though you could. Basically, you're giving players the option to not fulfill the Proud Roar at all, if they have no other Friend cards. That's stupid. There should be no choice because players will naturally alter the choice based on their own benefit. Inconsistent. The simplest way out of this is to render Simba incapable of killing himself.

Q: Is the damage dealt by a Magic/Friend Card considered to be Magic damage, such as for the purposes of defeating a Gargoyle?
A: No. Damage dealt by a Magic/Friend Card is not Magic damage.


Q: Can Magic Cards do damage to the HP of my opponent's Player Card?
A: No. Magic Cards that do damage can be used in two ways. (1) They can do damage directly to Dark Cards, such as "Heartless" Cards. (2) When used during a Challenge, the damage that a Magic Card would do instead increases your Attack Value total for determining who wins the Challenge. (For example, if you played a "Fire" Magic Card during a Challenge, it would increase your total Attack Value by 4 (the damage value of the Magic Card.)

Q: Can I use Magic cards during a Challenge?
A: If you use Magic cards during a Challenge, you would have to have a particular target for the card. Since Set 1 does not have any Dark cards that can be used during a Challenge, damage-dealing Magic cards can't do anything. The "Cure" Magic card can be used to boost your HP, however.

Confusing and, under the current card set, contradictory. The first question suggests that Magic cards can be used during a Challenge to increase the Attack Value, but the second questions says that (current) Magic cards have no legitimate target during a Challenge. So despite what the former says, no, you can't play Magic cards in a Challenge against a Light player.

The missing component here is that, at some point, we will have Dark Player cards... which would be a viable target for Dark-targeting Magic cards during a Challenge.

And it raises the question, will Dark players get their own Magic cards that target Light players?

Q: I want to play an Attack Card that has an effect that allows me to play two at the same time for an increased effect. At first, I only play one. If I play another of the same card later on in a Battle or Challenge, will I get the bonus effect?
A: No. If you want to apply the bonus effect for Attack Cards, you must play all of the stated Attack Cards at once.

That's just weird as all hell. This says you actually get to play multiple Attack cards as one simultaneous action. In a battle, I don't think it makes a difference because you just dump your Attack, Magic and Friends in one big pile. But in a Challenge you get that neat trumping mechanic where the players take turns playing cards until they both pass, consecutively. This ruling ruins your card economy by wasting cards that you may not have needed to play, and it nerfs the fun of continuously one-upping your opponent in a Challenge. Strange, non-intuitive notion. I'd change that one right away.

Rock Band's first cross-state trip.

My great internal battle on Monday was: do I pack up the entire Rock Band + PS3 kit for a trip to spend New Year's with pals in New Jersey? I waffled during my entire workday, but decided on a Yes during the commute home when I listened to Won't Get Fooled Again twice, really loudly. I'm practicing my Roger Daltrey scream.

The Rock Band box is as large as my entire trunk, so we had to cram our actual overnight bags into the car. This was a surprise to Rhonda. Oh, and I had to have the PS3 back in its retail box, safe on a seat, because I didn't want it in the trunk or on the floor.

Our hosts Chad and Dana have a beautiful plasma HDTV, so I enjoyed seeing what all of my PS3 stuff looks like in reality. Locoroco was absolutely stunning in HD, as was the clarity in Warhawk and the Burnout demo. I have pencilled "new TV" onto the list of things to do in 2008.

There was quite a full house over New Year's, so the Wii would have been a solid hit. And a far easier hustle. But Rock Band is too slick to be missed... plus, the last time I had the Wii out of state, it made some weird clicks and refused to boot up Metroid 3 on the first try. So I'm not risking its movement at present time. After all, I'd have no trouble finding a replacement PS3, but a new Wii? Maybe Nintendo's shelf stock will catch up by the summer. Maybe.

We arrived late, so we couldn't do the full setup until the next day. (Drums wake kids and other living things.) The rest of the group had previously been enjoying two-player Guitar Hero II, so there was a bit of the ew-this-guitar-doesn't-click thing that all Rock Band newbies must go through. And if you haven't taken your PS3/Rock Band around to visit different TVs - and I know you haven't - they're not kidding when they say you should visit the calibration menu in Rock Band. Things felt a bit off on guitar, but when I switched the calibration from standard-def to plasma, it tightened up. I was muffing that lovely back-and-forth on Gimme Shelter before the calibration, and then knocking the frets back with ease afterwards.

Now I have a new conundrum. Several months ago, I had the great idea to take Rock Band to our company holiday party (which is in mid-January because our company rightly figures that everybody is too consumed with family visits and travelling to squeeze in an office party with bad food and free drinks and lots of people you hate and their spouses). I enlisted the gang in my department and we would sort of present ourselves as "live music" for the party. For the last few years, they've had a successful run of karaoke (Or so I'm told; we don't attend... because of the food and the drinks and the people I hate and their spouses), so stepping it up to Rock Band retains the karaoke but adds in the It factor of Guitar Hero++.

I wanted this super-big too. My plan was to set up a TV in front of us for the band to watch, but split the signal to the company's projector on a screen behind us, so everybody could see the game video. Jack the audio into the DJ's sound system so we get boomin' volume. Put together a three-song playlist that me and the mates have practiced enough times so we can grandstand our way through it... and end on Won't Get Fooled Again so I can introduce the band during that long empty synth break. Get a guy to shoot it so we can get the whole thing into YouTube. Then open it up for folks to sing or play.

Here's the crazy bit: now I don't want to do it because I only have one guitar. This whole thing was predicated on four of us looking like a real goddamn band with two guitars. The guitar controller is really the star of the show, since EVERYBODY is familiar with Guitar Hero by now. So having two guitars is a necessity. I'd feel like a tool up there with only one guitar. Harmonix broke my heart and wrecked my office party when they said that standalone instruments would not be ready for 2007.

It's been suggested that we get somebody's 360, since you can use other guitar controllers on the 360 version (WTF is up with that? How did just the PS3 get the shaft?), but I don't want to be responsible for somebody else's gear... particularly something as death-prone as a 360. Plus, then it's no longer my group's Band and avatars and DLC and such.

So I don't know. I'm completely psycho to want to bag this great and fun idea just because I'm lacking one guitar, but I'm an Alpha Gamer. I have to control the entire experience to perfection or I don't want to do it at all.

I just think a fake band with a single fake guitar would be so lame.

Meet Moon Dog.

| No TrackBacks

This dates from the early 1980s, I think. I had a bunch of these... little comics that you would spool through a window to "watch" a cartoon. In fact, over a couple summers I made my own reel comics, although most of those were sized for a different toy (and actually, that was one of those car-drives-over-unwinding-path games, so most of those were chaotic race tracks.)

Anyway, here's Reel One of Moon Dog, "The Great Moon Robbery." (What a giveaway!)

The sad news? I can't find Reel Two.

about this archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2007 is the previous archive.

February 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Creative Commons License
This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.