Monday, December 31, 2007

Supernatural (a fan review)

Okay, well, supernatural is a freakin' good show now appearing on the CW. I suggest checking it out because, well, it mixes comic book horror with Joss Whedon style banter and a conplex nerdy occult history lesson. Basically, everything I stand for...:) And it's not your average Chick Flick of the week that you usually find on the CW, so don't even think something like that.

Here's an example of the banter you find on Supernatural:
Dean Winchester: [Sam points to a word carved into a telephone pole] Croatoan?
Sam Winchester: Yeah.
[Dean stares blankly]
Sam Winchester: Roanoke... lost colony... ring a bell? Dean, did you pay any attention in history class?
Dean Winchester: Yeah. Shot heard 'round the world, how bills become laws...
Sam Winchester: That's not school; that's schoolhouse rock!

or my favorite sequences
Sam: Dean I....
Dean: Whoa. [holds up hand] No chick flick moments.

HAHA. Anyway, I wanted to write a good review for Supernatural, but well, I couldn't. However, I found that tons of people have written something about it. So this post goes out to you readers. Make your comments about the show if you've seen it. But here's what other people have said:

One word: Awesome, 17 September 2005
Author: downonthecorner2000 from United States

During the 90's I was a big fan of the X-Files to this day I still am. The X-Files had great stories and character development, which is needed for a great show. Supernatural has that from the very first episode. I admit that I missed the first 10 minutes of the show, but I knew exactly what happened and where the story was going. Most shows you tune into after the first few minutes your lost and you lose interest, unlike Supernatural. CBS's Threshold, may not live up to the X-Files, but Supernatural does.

One final note, as long as the WB doesn't do any tweaking of the show this series will last for quite a few seasons.

I’m really glad that the show was not based off a reporter investigating the paranormal because in a way, it would be like a rebirth of the X-Files. The Winchesters are different from other paranormal hunters because very few people know that they hunt demons and other spirits. The golden family rule, “We do what we do and we shut up about it.” Supernatural is geared toward teenagers and having the show be about an adult reporter just wouldn’t fit right.

The thing that appalled me the most is that Eric originally wanted to use a 65 Mustang in the show. It was Eric’s next door neighbor who gave him the idea for the 67 Chevy Impala. A Mustang is not a classic road trip car, but more of a sports car. The Impala’s essentially the third character to the show. I can’t even picture Dean driving a mini van in second episode of this upcoming season, let alone a Mustang.

When the casting for the show was being held, they originally wanted Jensen to play the role of Sam. That would’ve totally killed the show. Thank the Lord Jared came to the rescue. Jensen’s perfect for the role Dean because the older brother’s supposed to be a total smartass. LOL!

I’m really glad that the show was not based off a reporter investigating the paranormal because in a way, it would be like a rebirth of the X-Files. The Winchesters are different from other paranormal hunters because very few people know that they hunt demons and other spirits. The golden family rule, “We do what we do and we shut up about it.” Supernatural is geared toward teenagers and having the show be about an adult reporter just wouldn’t fit right.

The thing that appalled me the most is that Eric originally wanted to use a 65 Mustang in the show. It was Eric’s next door neighbor who gave him the idea for the 67 Chevy Impala. A Mustang is not a classic road trip car, but more of a sports car. The Impala’s essentially the third character to the show. I can’t even picture Dean driving a mini van in second episode of this upcoming season, let alone a Mustang.

When the casting for the show was being held, they originally wanted Jensen to play the role of Sam. That would’ve totally killed the show. Thank the Lord Jared came to the rescue. Jensen’s perfect for the role Dean because the older brother’s supposed to be a total smartass. LOL!

I’m really glad that the show was not based off a reporter investigating the paranormal because in a way, it would be like a rebirth of the X-Files. The Winchesters are different from other paranormal hunters because very few people know that they hunt demons and other spirits. The golden family rule, “We do what we do and we shut up about it.” Supernatural is geared toward teenagers and having the show be about an adult reporter just wouldn’t fit right.

The thing that appalled me the most is that Eric originally wanted to use a 65 Mustang in the show. It was Eric’s next door neighbor who gave him the idea for the 67 Chevy Impala. A Mustang is not a classic road trip car, but more of a sports car. The Impala’s essentially the third character to the show. I can’t even picture Dean driving a mini van in second episode of this upcoming season, let alone a Mustang.

When the casting for the show was being held, they originally wanted Jensen to play the role of Sam. That would’ve totally killed the show. Thank the Lord Jared came to the rescue. Jensen’s perfect for the role Dean because the older brother’s supposed to be a total smartass. LOL!

Common Sense Review
Reviewed By: Marjorie Kase

SUPERNATURAL follows the lives of Sam (Jared Padalecki, Gilmore Girls) and Dean Winchester, (Jensen Ackles Smallville, Days of our Lives) in this X-Files meets Hardy Boys paranormal thriller.

These two gorgeous brothers both come from extraordinary pasts. As children, their mother died from a horrific supernatural event. While Dean spends his life fighting the demons that may have killed their mother, Sam does everything in his power to escape his traumatic past. When their father goes missing on a "hunting" trip, Dean rips Sam from the law school track on a search for Dad and answers to their mother's untimely death.

Supernatural picks up where the X-Files, Angel, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer left off. Supposedly based on real folklore, the overall tone of the program is very eerie. At times, the dialogue drags on, especially when the brothers reminisce about their childhoods. One troubling issue is that all three female characters, including the homicidal specter, are portrayed as virginal prey, and men are treated no better (given that victims were chosen for their infidelity).

The show is entertaining, especially if you're into cute boys and sci-fi horror. But this isn't a show for kids, and not even for some adults.

Tweens and teens looking for a tamer sci-fi thrill should check out Strange Days at Blake Holsey High or Lost instead.

Okay, now I'm waiting to hear from all of you. Say what you think. If you haven't seen the show, go home and watch it. NOW!!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

How to hold a Phantom Hourglass

When you get a Nintendo system, there is always one game that you should get. Now that the DS Lite has become the common device, it's time that we had a good review of yet another story in the Zelda Saga.

Okay, so this game is full of all the Zelda-like components that we've come to love: sword-swinging young guys, a damsel in distress, little munchkin like enemies hitting us and taking our hearts, puzzles and, of course, Pirates....wait what?

That's right, in this version, Link is a pirate, in fact, so is Zelda. Interesting twist eh? Not really, well fine Stinky McMood Spoiler, pick up the game and play it for yourself if you don't agree that ship sailing is a fine addition into the Zelda universe.

Okay, now mind you this is old, but when I first started this post in October (Yes, I got side-tracked) it was brand spankin' new. And well, it's still entertaining, so yes I decided to come back to it. But I can tell you that it is a fun game.

Now you may get lost in all the puzzles and find yourself running back and forth, trying over and over again to solve the darn things, but since all I had to do was move my little fairy person around the screen and Link followed, that was easy enough. Definitely easier than doing battle on the WII version of Zelda...*GASP*

Yes, I know, I just committed blasphemy, but come on, with the DS's built in microphone, you actually have to shout at some enemies in this version to break them into pieces. Yes, instead of just interacting with the game via controllers, that granted you have to stand up and wave around like you're going throw epilepic seizures or something, the gamer must actually do some work to defeat the enemies. You will not be able to finish this game casually sitting at your desk at work or in the back of the classroom, oh no, you'll actually have to yell.

But, once its over, its over, so you know, you'll probably want to invest in more games than just this one. I know *gasp* again, but hey, as much as I love Zelda, you should always have a back-up supply of something else to tide you over between games, because, well, it takes so darn long.

I give it a A- for piratey goodness.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why does hell always seem to have a gate?

Alright, so it's about time we added another review to this site, and well, you've heard about it before, but you've never had a review like this. This one of those special reviews, full of blood, gore, demons and lots, and lots, of violence (thank you Scott Sigler for that rhetoric).

Well, it finally hit the markets after being pushed back twice. And though the gameplay is fun, there are some general let-downs that normally associate game releases, as well as some bonuses that you may not have expected. This game is just like them.

Time for the lots and lots of violence. Watch this:

Now, it's no surprise to those of you who read these posts that I am somewhat of a Hellgate Fanboy. So, I was expecting quite a lot from flagship studios--the creators of this game, and a surprisingly young company that branched off of Blizzard North. Now, it turns out, that the founders of Flagship Studios, Bill Roper, Max Schaefer, Erich Schaefer, and David Brevik, are the same people who created the Diablo game. But well, I wasn't too much of a fan of Diablo, so I found myself sadened by the uncreativeness that I should have expected. You see, even though the release of this game got pushed back, the only reason I feel this happened was because they were too busy promoting the game with fan art and comics.

Though the game starts off with the intro video that links it to the comic series, parts of the story are changed for dramatic effect. And then, when you expect the game to start off following the plot from the comics and the videos, you find that you are thrown on some completely different task, and the quest of Jessica Summers and the templar isn't really your concern. In fact, I'm up to level 11 and I still haven't even heard of Jessica Summers's quest, but I have passed through the hellgate twice and caused a whole bunch of problems while I was at it.

While the gate has some good visuals and really simple gameplay, it loses part of the image when you find out at the very beginning that the Demons aren't actually demons at all, but a race of extradimensional beings who have moved from planet to planet in our universe enslaving the creatures they ran into until they bumped into the Knight's Templar and the general human stubborness to not become someone else's bitch. I wish they would have kept it as a psuedo-religious game with occultist undertones and strange powers that can only be explained as Godsends or as Dark Magic, but instead, it's like the beasts are mutants infused with extradimensional abilities.

Anyway, the nature of the beasty bash is very much like diablo and the multiplayer mode plays itself out like Guild Wars. Great, more time to hunt on my own and then sit around while I wait for the story to pick up or for other people to come into the town so that i can trade them goods. I guess that's okay, because the game has an ingenious crafting system, where you're weapons have slots available attachments, which give you the ability to make it stronger and have cooler effects, and you can infuse your weapons, armor and items, perminently with cool legendary abilities. That's always a nice function.

Wanna see some gameplay, check out more the violence in this one:

I love the Hellgate concept and I like the game, but it's not what I was expecting because the build up to it being a religious-themed storyline (which you get from the comic books) and because of that, I was forced to give it a C because it passes for being a fun game, but fails because the idea was lost in translation someone. I mean, why do you call them demons and wraiths if they are infact just aliens? I also gave it a C because the maps are repetitive and the items are customizable, but you begin to find that you will eventually find the same weapon for free with more options later on down the road. In fact, if you are going to pick up an alien crunching game this winter, I suggest Crysis, Mass Effect or Tabula Rasa instead, because at least in those games you have some really well done multiplayer.\ If you pick up this game, happy hunting.

This game was rated a C by the author

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Okay, well, I made a podcast for our group. It can be found at under the nerd evolution name. It will be good in the future when I can get some of the others in on it.

Oh, and we are also listed on iTunes, so if you search for Nerd Evolution, you'll find it, with the artist Heero2020.

And now it's posted on this page.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Return of the King of Iron Fist Tournament

Same Whooping, New Faces. Basically Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection is the same old school beatdown of Tekken 3, Tekken 4, and Tekken Tag, but some new faces have been added to the mix. And some of them are not the kinds of faces that I'd like to meet in a dark alley.

Basically, the Namco has been hitting it big with Tekken since 1995, and now they've come to the conclusion that what they were doing before was good enough to keep them in business. Well, Darn if they weren't right. Originally, this game was released under the title "Tekken: Dark Resurrection" and was only for the PSP, but since it was one of the better PSP games that came out during the first edition runs of the new device, Namco agreed to make it into a full version game to be played on the PSP's bigger brothers--namely the PS2 and the PS3. I chose to go with the PS2 version because, well, I'm cheap and that's all I could afford. Nonetheless, I knew that Tekken was going to be Tekken no matter what version it was, but just to certain that I got the full go around, I did play the PS3 version to make sure that it was all the same--which it turned out it was. The only difference is the inclusion of Eddy Gordo and Jinpachi Mishima as playable customizable characters.

Anyway, there was talk that the console versions of Tekken 5 would have new move combos and different control designs, but those changes were minute. If you're a fan of the previous Tekkens, then you'll be able to slide right in and lay the smack down. In fact, without bring up the command screen, I decided to see how well I'd do playing the Story mode at the "VERY HARD" setting, and well, I didn't do too bad. I expected the continual increase in difficulty, and found that it actually capped at Stage 4 before continuing in the same level all the way to the Boss--something that I've never experienced in other Tekken games. But I was pleased to find that the uneven surfaces in Tekken 4 were taken out, which made the fighting a lot smoother.

I also noticed a significant change in how the game was put together. You see, until now, all, and I repeat ALL for emphasis, of the characters, regardless of orgin, would speak Japanese in the previous Tekken games. The character taunts and pre-fight voices would be in Japanese, done by japanese voice actors, but this Tekken has actual voiced over cut scenes and languages, which makes it nice. It always cool when you're Korean Taekwondo character actually taunts his enemies in Korean and during the cut scenes goes on and on in Korean about wanting to take Jin to the cleaners. Or when Paul and Law get into an argument in English before the stage 4 fight breaks out. All in all, the languages and taunts were a lot better in Tekken 5.

As far as the game's story goes (and I know that Tekken is notorious for it's varied storylines), the game starts directly following Jin's ascent at the end of Tekken 4. For those of you unaware, when Kazuya wins the King of Iron Fist Tournament 4, he enters a shrine that has been in the Mishima family for years and finds his son Jin chained to the wall. A fight between Kazuya and Heihachi breaks out, but Jin manages to break free by turning into the demon/angel creature that he has been since his parents (Devil/Kazuya and Angel/Jun) mated somewhere during the second game. Jin smashes through the ceiling and gets away, leaving Kazuya and Heihachi staring at the new skylight.

Well, the game starts with Heihachi and Kazuya looking into the sky, wondering what the Mishima heir is going to do next. At this moment, there is the sound of incoming aircraft, and suddenly a platoon of Jack-5 robots come crashing through the building. At first, the father looks at his son, assuming that these Jacks are sent by the ever cryptic G Corporation, but Kazuya is just as confused by their intrusion as Heihachi. So, like true Mishima's, Kazuya and Heihachi begin showing the Jack's why you never mess with a family of samurai. Unfortunately, the Jack supply is endless, overwhelming the two men.

Kazuya, never happy with his father, takes advantage of the opportunity and escapes, leaving Heihachi to fend off the men by himself. Timing seems to be Kazuya's speciality, because at that very same moment, one of the Jacks detonates his self-destruct device and destroys the entire Mishima family shrine in a mushroom cloud. Meanwhile, on a cliff top nearby, the explosion is watched by a man dressed in black(revealed as Raven). He raises his hand to his ear, and speaks into James Bond-like communication device, saying, "Heihachi dead."

At that very moment, a Jack robot attacks unexpectedly attacks Raven from behind, only to find itself instantaneously sliced into two bits by the mysterious man, who then disappears into the night. As the aircraft disappeares into the night, a pile of debris is blown apart, and something dark emerges from the fire, unseen. The very next day, news of Heihachi Mishima's death spreads rapidly across the globe. Most people believed that Heihachi's death would bring about the end of the Mishima Zaibatsu, but behind the scenes someone else has taken control, and business goes on as usual. A month later, it is announced that the Mishima Zaibatsu will hold The King of Iron Fist Tournament 5.

Returning Characters
Heihachi Mishima (unlockable)
Kazuya Mishima
Jin Kazama
Nina Williams
Marshall Law
Paul Phoenix
Ling Xiaoyu
Julia Chang
Anna Williams (unlockable)
Christie Monteiro
Eddy Gordo (Alternate, uncostomisable costume for Christie in Tekken 4, but he is a separate, customisable character in Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection)
Lei Wulong
Lee Chaolan
Bryan Fury
Kuma (unlockable)
Panda (unlockable)
Mokujin (unlockable)
Baek Doo San (unlockable)
Wang Jinrei (unlockable)
Bruce Irvin (unlockable)
Ganryu (unlockable)
Steve Fox
Craig Marduk

New Characters
Asuka Kazama
Feng Wei
Roger Jr. (unlockable)
Devil Jin (unlockable)
Jinpachi Mishima (playable on Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection, PlayStation 3 version only)

Though the main boss is cheaper than any other Tekken predecessor, I still loved this installment on the already good series of games. I'm glad they made it into a console game for the PS2, because that meant I could play it, own it, and give it an A for being a fun fighting game that you can play with friends.

Good luck and don't get hurt too much.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

¡Viva Piñata!

Have you ever desperately wanted a colorful garden absolutely full of a variety of flowers, with tall trees, berry bushes, and many colorful piñata? Well you should!

Viva Piñata is an XBOX 360 game developed by Rare Ltd., the same people that brought us such classics as Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie, GoldenEye 007, and Star Fox Adventures, and was released for last year’s holiday season. A single player simulation style game similar to Harvest Moon, Viva Piñata has taken over my summer and made a $360 purchase of the game system perfectly justifiable.

The open ended game starts you off with a small patch of decrepit land for you to clean up and attract piñatas. Your garden space starts out small, but as you increase in experience, so does your garden’s size and the amount of piñatas you can attract. There are 60 different piñatas in the game, with cute, usually candy-related names (such as a Buzzlegum, Syrupent, Shellybean, or Moozipan.)

Each piñata has its own appear, visit, and residency requirements that you’ll need to complete before a piñata can become your resident. Once two piñatas of the same species are your residents, you can romance them (after completing another requirement or two to make them happy enough). The piñata’s do a unique ‘romance dance’ to propagate their species in their unique houses. Some piñatas are carnivores and need to eat other piñata to survive, thus creating an intricate piñata ecosystem.

The game lets you do what you want, with the only goal being to increase the value of your garden and attract more piñatas.

This has to be the most addicting game I’ve ever played, even considering the life altering experience of The Sims 2 or the original Harvest Moon. The open ended style lets the player decide what course he or she would rather take. You could try a large water garden and attract as many water piñatas as you could, including the adorably large Chippopatamus. Another path could be to breed horse variants (Ponocky, Horstachio, Zumbug, Doenut) to try to get an elusive Chewnicorn. You could even breed Goobaa’s (sheep) and sell their wool for lots of chocolate coins (the currency).

The possibilities in this game are literally endless, and thus, I believe, its widespread attraction. The game is made to appeal to both children and adults and is the best $20.00 game on the market.

And even if you don’t have a 360 and aren’t interested in purchasing one just for this game, the game is being developed for the PC and Nintendo DS.

I give this game an A+ for general awesomeness and ability to keep me entertained for months. And I highly recommend it to anyone.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hellgate: London (The Comic)

For those of you who are familiar with this title, you know that the game isn't set to be released until August 24th, but I thought I'd prepare for the release by talking about the comic and the suspense of those waiting for the game to come out. I know that I've been waiting patiently, but I've begun to realize that it's not my fault that I've been salivating this long, it's due mostly because of the huge build-up. Comics, books, figures, all for a game that's still in development.

Anyway, Hellgate: London takes place in London during the end of days. In 2020, MI5 agent Lyra Darius tales the recently resigned Home Office Minister for Internal Affairs Lord Sumerisle. Things change for the worst when Sumerisle is attacked by a demon from deep within the annals of Hell, and Lyra, Sumerisle and his granddaughter Jessica run throughout the turmoil of London to find a safe haven.

Things become entrenched in intrigue as it becomes apparent that Lord Sumerisle is actually the leader of the ancient order of the Knights Templar. And when things get hairy, Sumerisle leads the troops into combat while his grand daughter and her escort go into hiding.

The comic then jumps forward 18 years, and we find that Jessica Sumerisle has become a formidable Templar herself, receiving the symbol of the order from her grandfather just before his death. Jessica leads her men and women with the intensity one would expect from a girl born in the carnage following Halloween 2020, but it seems that she was destined to do more than lead her knights in the fight against evil.

You see, as the years have passed, a government of sorts has been established, and the templar, demon hunters and cabalists have created three separate factions doing the same thing, but one man, Lord Tyndall, has discovered the ancient texts that shine more light on the situation of the world. You see, these three groups were destined to band together and bring an end to the carnage that has been continuing for 18 years.

So Jessica is paired with Seeker Crowe, a cabalist with the dark arts as her guide, and Saul Petrus, a demon-slayer and thrill-seeker. The three of them are then sent on the quest of quests, the search for the holiest of holy items: a tome in which holds the source of all knowledge.

So, Seeker Crowe, Jessica Sumerisle and Saul Petrus head into the darkest parts of London, through ancient pathways established by religious enthusiasts, Templars, and hunters of the Holy Grail, only to find demons at their heels. But when the going gets tough, these people get going...

This comic told an awesome tale, and since it is incomplete, I picked up a copy of the book by story-teller Mel Odom. It promises to be a great story and the game is hightly anticipated. I certainly can't wait for it to come out, and I intend to get it immediately (supposing my LAPTOP can handle it). I'm going to be all over this game, like a japanese school girl to hello kitty. So if you need me, I'll be in my room, watching the game's trailer one more time.

Oh, and I guess I give this comic an B+ because it's interesting and keeps you wanting more, but sometimes gets confusing and sorta rushes at the end. You'd think with all the time they'd have that they'd be able to come up with something better, but apparently not.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Never Fear, Dekker Sampson is here

Okay, so that ridiculous name was mine as I play around in City of Heroes. Now, this game has been out for a while, but I thought I might as well do a review on it because I didn't start playing it until recently.

For those of you who don't know City of Heroes or City of Villains, it's a game that is produced by Cryptic Studios, and gives us a whole new look into the world of MMORPGs. And after you get through the long and beautifully done character creation, you'll find that this game is not much of a let down; no wonder it's been a constant in the gaming world for the past 3 years and spun off into novels, comics, collectible card games, pen-and-paper RPG and an upcoming TV series (all the things we're made of here at Nerd Evolution).

As far as character creation is concerned, creating a character consists of several steps. First the player selects an Origin, an Archetype and a primary and secondary power set. Next the actual avatar with its costume is created. Lastly, the player chooses a name and can optionally write a background story to add some flavor to the character as well as creating an individual battle cry.

There are five Origins a player can choose for his/her character that dictate what type of enhancements the character may use, affect a single short-ranged power and can influence the various villain groups that the character goes up against; these origins are Natural, Magic, Science, Mutation, and Technology.

There are also five basic Archetypes in City of Heroes that affect a character's Power choices throughout the game. Blasters are primarily long-ranged damage dealers. Controllers have powers that allow them to prevent their foe from moving and attacking. Defenders complement others by providing a wide range of healing and defensive powers for other characters. Scrappers are melee fighters, dealing damage quick and close-ranged. Tankers' best offense is their great defenses and ability to take as much damage as they put out.

City of Heroes also has two "Epic Archetypes" which are designed to be more challenging to advanced players, and can only be unlocked after reaching the level cap on any other Hero on a player's account. Currently, there are two Epic Archetypes which are the shape shifting Kheldians. Apparently one group is known as Peacebringers, peaceful symbiotic aliens that have light-based powers. The other group is called Warshades, more war-like symbiotes also known as Nictus who are normally enemies to the Peacebringers but have reformed their 'evil' ways.

Now, many of you out there might be big World of Warcraft fans, but this game has a twist that WoW doesn't have: other than the superhero/villain thing, the environment is interactive. It's this little aspect that made my gaming enjoyable. You see, you need points in order to level up your character (and yes, this is like any other MMORPG, where you have to fight for long hours at a time in order to gain a new ability or to make another more powerful). However, unlike most MMORPGs, you can't just run out into a forest and start killing animals. There is no forest. In fact, you live in a giant metropolitan jungle. The closest thing you got to a wilderness is a complicated sewer system.

But anyway, when you need to level up, you just walk down the street, and eventually you find your friendly neighborhood pedestrian getting mugged by a street gang, or you'll just find a group of teens breaking the noise ordinances. Either way, there's a whole lot of butt for you to kick without getting flak from the Paragon PD. In fact, if you get bored, you can just right-click one of the people walking around and follow them. It's kinda boring, but you get some good gang encounters that way. Or you could start a supergroup (like the JLA or something) and get to work on the baddies that drop from outer space or Villains world.

It's unfortunate that Marvel attempted to sue on the grounds that this game infringes upon their copyrights, because after they lost, Marvel put a game into the works that does basically the same thing, but uses well know Marvel characters and groups. No, strangely, Marvel selected Cryptic Studios to develop the game that will probably become the major competitor for CoH, but at least the company will still be be making cash hand over fist.

Well, I give City of Heroes an A because it is a beautiful game that doesn't have the useless running that you normally encounter with these kinds of games, and also seems to keep that fantasy factor we've all come to love from MMORPGs. Plus, I could boogie down in the middle of the street and cars would just push me out of the way. Always a good day when that happens.

Happy Gaming.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Frets are on Fire

E3 gave us a nice look at the new age of console karaoke with its tempting videos of the upcoming “Rockband” and “Guitar Hero 3,” but little do many people know, hidden in the dark reaches of the internet lays a freeware version of the infamous game that has many of us addicted and thinking that we can rock like the stars. And if you have a computer with internet access, then you can rock and roll all night long.

If you have read the previous entries here, and if you have been paying attention to the gaming scene since about 2005, then you know about Guitar Hero, and have either made up your mind that it is a fun game or a complete waste of time. For those of you who refuse to pick up the guitar and rock out, know that I was with you. But then one day, as I listened to the lovely ladies at Gamer Girls Radio, I heard about the freeware version known as Frets on Fire. This apparently was an attempt by Unreal Voodoo to increase the popularity of Guitar Hero amongst PC gamers, but also a way to utilize the up and coming Xbox 360 USB guitar, which can plug directly into the computer for seamless Frets on Fire gameplay.

Know, if you don’t have an Xbox 360 Guitar Hero USB guitar controller, then you are forced to use the F1-F5 buttons on the top of your keyboard and the enter key as you action buttons. This can be rather ridiculous looking and complicated at the same time. Especially if you are like me and only have a laptop because you can’t flip the keyboard in order to simulate the Guitar Hero controller. In which case, you grow used to using the fingers in the opposite motion, which really messes up your Guitar Hero skills, believe you me.

Know this can be both really fun and really annoying. There’s nothing like feeling the crowd and rocking to the music to get your heart beating and head swollen. But then, when you heard that squelch from the guitar as you strum the wrong note, you almost want to jump off your balcony to end your worthless existence. Yes, your friends will make fun of you just as bad when you screw up at Frets on Fire.

Now initially, the game only comes with three songs, which is lousy to say the least. I mean, since you can never play only one song one time, you will eventually master the three songs rather quickly, leaving yourself feeling empty and violated, but never fear, there is a song editor. Now, the song editor is a great program, if you can ever get it work properly, which I never did. But others did, leaving us with 3 downloadable song packs, one of which was released by Red Octane in order to boost their popularity. So, you can get Guitar Hero I songs and about 500 other songs, with a total of 700+ songs. You’ll need to Bittorrent these up however, so if you have a bad internet connection or are just apposed to using Bittorrent, then this game is going to be lacking something for you.

But the 700+ songs give you hours of gaming enjoyment, even if you are terrible at it. Most of the songs have at least a medium rating, and some of the most difficult versions of songs are easy, so you can’t say the editor program is foolproof, even if you agree that most of the errors occurred between the keyboard and the chair. Still, it fun to rock out to some of the worlds most famous songs and listen to some of the greatest bands, like AC/DC. If would be even better with the Xbox seamless play however.

Being that this game is free, and being that all you need to do in order to get more than 24 hours of enjoyment is click download and wait, I say that this game is worth it, even if you suck and hear that stupid squelch more than you hear the song. Trust me, even if you are terrible or find no enjoyment in karaoke-type games, you will find yourself sucked in by more than one song. Even a tone-deaf guy like myself has fun with this game, so I highly recommend it.

I give Frets on Fire a B for its many bugs but very enjoyable gameplay. Rock on guys.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Saiyuki, what a way to go

Four men face look across the open valley. A slight wind blows across their face and carries the faint scent of lotus to their noses. Two of the men fight urges to light cigarettes while the wait for the oncoming danger to get closer. The rumbling of the dusky ground is overpowering as 1,000,000 frenzying demons rush toward them armed and bloodthirsty. Issuing threats, the beasts salivate and wait for the four men to surrender. No one moves until the monk shoots his gun and threatens the leader’s life. That’s when all hell breaks loose…literally.

No, I’m not talking about the new Resident Evil 4 Wii game—though I can’t wait for that to come out—I’m in fact talking about “Gensoumaden Saiyuki: Requiem”. There might be some of you out there who’ve seen the Saiyuki images on Yahoo! Images, and thought, “there is no way I’m watching that!” Or there may be some of you who have looked at the pretty boy art of the manga and said, “What kind of girl’s story is this?” Well, to you people, I nod my head in agreement, you are absolutely right, but I would also like to inform you about the aspect that very few “Face Value” appraisers ever find out. You see, Saiyuki may be a girl’s comic, but I don’t think a single guy out there would be too upset about sitting down with his girl and watching a pretty show in which the pretty boys blast away tons of demons with their “Exorcism Gun” and bash some skulls in the TMNT style that we grew up with.

Let me give you the low down on Gensoumaden Saiyuki: Requiem. So, you guys are all familiar with the old Chinese fable “Journey to the West”, right? You know, the story that they used to make Dragonball, but then sucked it up pretty bad? What? You don’t? Okay, let me give you a really (and I mean really) short blurb provided by—ah Wikipedia, we love you. (If you do have a fairly sophisticated knowledge of Chinese Folklore, you can skip the next 5 paragraphs):

The tale is also often known simply as Monkey. The novel is a fictionalized account of the legends around the Buddhist monk Xuánzàng's pilgrimage to India during the Táng dynasty in order to obtain Buddhist religious texts called sutras. The Bodhisattva Guānyīn, on instruction from the Buddha, gives this task to the monk and his three protectors in the form of disciples — namely Sūn Wùkōng, Zhū Bājiè and Shā Wùjìng — together with a dragon prince who acts as Xuánzàng's horse mount. These four characters have agreed to help Xuánzàng as an atonement for past sins. Journey to the West has a strong background in Chinese folk religion, Chinese mythology and value systems; the pantheon of Taoist and Buddhist deities is still reflective of Chinese folk religious beliefs today.

The novel comprises 100 chapters. These can be divided into four very unequal parts. The first, which includes chapters 1–7, is really a self-contained prequel to the main body of the story. It deals entirely with the earlier exploits of Sūn Wùkōng, a monkey born from stone who learns the art of fighting and secrets of immortality, and through guile and force makes a name for himself as the Qítiān Dàshèng, or "Great Sage Equal to Heaven". His powers grow to match the forces of all of the Eastern (Taoist) deities, and the prologue culminates in Sūn's rebellion against Heaven, during a time when he garnered a post in the celestial bureaucracy. Hubris proves his downfall when the Buddha manages to trap him under a mountain for five hundred years.

Only following this introductory story is the nominal main character, Xuánzàng, introduced. Chapters 8–12 provide his early biography and the background to his great journey. Dismayed that "the land of the South knows only greed, hedonism, promiscuity, and sins", the Buddha instructs the Bodhisattva Guānyīn to search Táng China for someone to take the Buddhist sutras of "transcendence and persuasion for good will" back to the East. Part of the story here also relates to how Xuánzàng becomes a monk (as well as revealing his past life as the "Golden Cicada" and comes about being sent on this pilgrimage by the Emperor Táng Tàizōng, who previously escaped death with the help of an underworld official).

The third and longest section of the work is chapters 13–99, an episodic adventure story which combines elements of the quest. The skeleton of the story is Xuánzàng's quest to bring back Buddhist scriptures from Vulture Peak in India, but the flesh is provided by the conflict between Xuánzàng's disciples and the various evils that beset him on the way.

The episodic structure of this section is to some extent formulaic. Episodes consist of 1–4 chapters, and usually involve Xuánzàng being captured and his life threatened, while his disciples try to find an ingenious (and often violent) way of liberating him. Although some of Xuánzàng's predicaments are political and involve ordinary human beings, they more frequently consist of run-ins with various goblins and ogres—many of whom turn out to be the earthly manifestations of heavenly beings.

Okay, well, that’s about enough explanation about the background behind the inspiration for Gensoumaden Saiyuki. Now, take all that, and change the character’s names to Genjo Sanzo, Son Goku, Cho Hakkai, and Sha Gojyo, and then switch all the goblins and ogres and such (and forget that they are earthly manifestations of heavenly beings) with a humanoid demonic race called “Youkai”. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the dragon mount, whose name is Hakuryuu, and he morphs into a jeep so that they can travel faster—I want a jeep that changes on command, like organic transformers. You do all that, and you’ve figured out the entire plot of Gensoumaden Saiyuki.

Aah, but I see you are still reading. That is because you are smart and realized that I haven’t talked about the movie yet. Good job. Well, as your reward, I will tell you that the movie is well done. As sort of a prologue, the team takes on about a million youkai before they hit the road again. When night hits, Goku begins to complain that his stomach is empty, but the tension grows as Hakkai announces that he managed to get them lost somewhere. That’s when this story moves into the horror flick genre, dropping our team in an abandoned manor, on a dark and stormy night, with one other person, who says that many of the townsfolk disappeared many years ago, completely without explanation. Goku and Gojyo are too busy arguing to hear her, but Sanzo does hear her and remains on the lookout for the rest of the evening.

Well, as the team is confined to cramped quarters without any understanding about the place, before long, things began to change for the worst. There’s some stereotypical doppelganger situations, but I must say, there were times when I didn’t know if it was the real character or not. And the plotline is really well written. You can tell, however, that the writers were looking for a plot twist and decided to go to a standard cop out: refer to something that happened just directly before the show began, that way there are no discrepancies. And so, our opinions of Sanzo from the first episode, and changes some things we’ve come to understand about some of the characters.

To make the scene more “horror movie” clique, it eventually does become dark and stormy, and there is a shower scene in which one of the main characters does get knifed repeatedly. Yes, and it does show the blood and water rushing down the drain. It is devoid of the classic “REE REE REE” music though, so it lost some points in my book.

Normally I would tell you all about the plot and the twists and the ins and outs, but I’m feeling the Anti-spoiler Police coming on, and I don’t want to be the one that turns you off of Saiyuki because I told too much. Besides, I already explained the whole story behind Gensoumaden Saiyuki, so you have some knowledge of Chinese literature.

The art was well done, the voice acting was way up to snuff, but the only thing I had a problem with was parts of the story. There were a few things that I just didn’t like. For example, I know that there is a whole plot line following Kougaiji and his band, but I thought that there could have been more storyline, more creepyness, and more of a thiller feeling if we didn’t keep jumping back and forth between the Sanzo crew and the Kougaiji crew. Personally, I think we would have found it a whole lot cooler if they would have just came in at the end, looking down at the group from above, as if they had always been there, watching. CREEPY!!

Well, that’s it. Go get the movie and watch it. It’s worth it, but it’s not going to blow your mind, not even if you really get into movies. Overall, I think this movie deserves a passing grade, and I’m going to shut my bias aside so that I can give it a B- grade. Happy Viewing.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero

By Angela C. Finneran


Take air-guitaring to the next level with Guitar Hero for the PlayStation 2 or X-Box. This game is great for the music lover and musician-impaired alike. Now you too can be a rock star, in the privacy of your own home or in the company of friends without years of lessons or having a band.

Similar to Dance Dance Revolution (also made by RedOctane) the object of the game is to hit to correct button at the correct time as the note scrolls by on the screen to your chosen song. If you miss a note or hit the wrong one, your guitar part of the song will not play or play correctly. If you miss too many notes the audience will boo you off the stage and the song will end. The game comes with the options for a two-player duel with a friend, arcade style quick play, or career mode where you can earn money to personalize your character or buy new songs.

Guitar Hero has four skill levels: Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert. No matter what level you may be as, some songs are more difficult then others and increase in difficulty as you work your way through the song list. Just like playing a real instrument, practice makes perfect.

If you love classic rock of the 70's and 80's such as ZZ Top, Moterhead, and Blue Oyster Cult mixed with the modern rock of Queens of the Stone Age and Sum 41, then this is the game for you.



Purchase recommendation: The game includes one guitar controller, but you may find that unless you have completely shunned society, you will want a second controller. Having your friends playing with you is better then switching turns. But, beware of sticker shock. On you can purchase the game/controller bundle pack and extra (wireless) controller for around $124.98 if you are buying for the Play Station 2. However, it's cheaper then a real guitar and years of lessons.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Densha Otoko

It was a normal day for Yamada Tsuyoshi, until he rode home on the train. The train ride was interrupted by a drunk man who started harassing the other passengers, including the woman that was sitting across from Tsuyoshi. After standing up to the drunk man, Tsuyoshi is thanked by some of the passengers, including the woman. Neither of them realized what road this situation would lead to.

Tsuyoshi & Saori

Based on a true story, “Densha Otoko” is a 12-episode (with a special, ending the number at 13) Japanese drama about Yamada Tsuyoshi, an anime otaku who falls in love with Aoyama Saori, a beautiful girl that he meets on a train, and the decisions he makes with help from a message board singles thread. Each episode contains several suspenseful, comedic, and sometimes heartbreaking events that bring Saori and Tsuyoshi together. Tsuyoshi’s growing relationship with Saori is not all fun and games. In fact, so many unlucky things happen to Tsuyoshi that nearly jeopardize his and Saori’s relationship, with some of them being really unbelievable (or perhaps it’s the fact that these bad situations tend to snowball around the same time?), or “too” ironic.

Yamada Tsuyoshi, our hero

The series is also filled with many humorous characters. Tsuyoshi spends part of each episode on a message board talking to people who give him advice. Viewers are able to see the people on the message board, who are all cheerful and full of personality, and who each have their own stories to tell. A favorite of ours is seeing how each person is characterized. One character is often superimposed over different cultural settings (being depicted as a world traveler), so we had fun guessing where he would show up next. Sometimes, however, a few of the characters came off as a little weird (such as a board member who kept repeating that he had “moe” for Hermes), but eventually this anxiety wore off as the series progressed.

One of the many message board posters

Each of them is supportive of Tsuyoshi’s plight, either right from the beginning, or they are eventually won over. One realizes how involved his message board peers are when they begin to examine their own lives, after hearing about Tsuyoshi taking his stand against the drunk man to protect Saori (nicknamed “Hermes” on the message boards). From re-evaluating a broken marriage, to learning to stand up to an abusive husband, or going to rehabilitation for a sports injury, each of the members grows along with Tsuyoshi in some way. The board members help him by contributing advice and encouragement on his journey. However, the message board can be the cause of conflict, either with Tsuyoshi himself or between other members. Because of the various subplots and connections, it often seems a little disorienting at first, but eventually one finds a comfortable spot to sit back and enjoy the show.

Another poster on the message board

Another great aspect of this show is the pop culture littered throughout the series. As Americans who don’t speak much Japanese, this makes the series all the more relatable. Popular movie scenes are parodied as a source of humor. The music is the most prominent of these pop culture hints, such as using the popular Darth Vader theme song (“The Imperial March”) for a side character, or the song “Mr. Roboto” by Styx in the first episode, parodying Japanese otaku culture. The theme song opening sequence (using the song “Twilight” by Electric Light Orchestra) pokes fun at Japanese pop culture especially, paying tribute to the famous opening video from Japan’s Daicon IV Convention (right down to the song!), albeit using a different character. This character, Mina (from the newly released “Getsumen To Heiki Mina”), also continues to play a role in the plot aside from appearing in the opening sequence. As a random point of interest, the first episode file on the disc we had contained the commercial break, so we got a nice juicy taste of Japanese advertising (and now we crave some Blendy, darn it).

After one conflict after another is resolved, it is hard to think of what could possibly happen next. There is always another obstacle that threatens the characters. The ideas are not less thought through or less interesting towards the end. Instead, everything that happens is equal in suspense. We found ourselves rooting for Tsuyoshi. While the nearly hour-long episodes can be disorienting to a few viewers (we watched this series in two days over Spring Break, but you don’t have to marathon like we did), don’t let it dissuade you from this one-of-a-kind series. Throughout this series, the viewer is kept awake by all of the humor and suspense that make “Densha Otoko” what it is: the amazing and heartfelt story of two people who care about each other and are pulled apart and brought back together by everything else that takes place in their lives.

- The length of the episodes can be disorienting.
- In some cases, it was unbelievable how many bad things happened.
- Some of the characters can seem weird at first.

- Amazing characters who are all different and interesting.
- Interesting things happen to the characters.
- There is no lull in the action.
- Random pop culture references make the series more fun.

The final grade? Halie and Kat give this series an A.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Resistance Is Futile

The last 4 days for American Patriot Nathan Hale were probably the worst in his life. Lashings, burnings and cuttings his everyday experience. He was being tortured by the British Army for his treasonous acts as the first American spy in history. Little did these British soldiers know that 175 years later, their English descendants would be relying on another Nathan Hale for their survival. But this Nathan Hale would probably think that his predecessor had gotten off easy.

Resistance: Fall of Man is a first person shooter taking place in an alternate history, diverging just after World War I, in which you play out the last 4 days of Sgt. Nathan Hale’s life. Unfortunately for this Army Ranger, he has been dropped into the most hellish of European war zones: York, England. And to add insult to injury, his commanding officers left out the most useful information of all: the enemy. Knowing nothing, but armed with his trusty M5A2, he drops into the war torn landscape of York and find his entire team killed before the end of the first map, a whole 5 minutes of gameplay.

It turns out the enemy is an alien species of genetically engineered hyper-beings known only as Chimera. These bizarre creatures will haunt the nightmares of the faint hearted and appear just out the corner of every paranoid schizoid’s eyes. I like to think of them as a much smarter, much faster, and much more advanced version of the old Resident Evil—Biohazard in Japan—zombies. And like the Resident Evil zombies, these creatures propagate their species by infecting the dead bodies they find on their many exploits throughout the British countryside with a virus that increases metabolism to 12 times it nominal. This, of course, causes overheating—and probably overeating— which is only countered by a coolant machine embedded into the spinal columns of all the enemy soldiers; cool-looking contraption, but probably an unnecessary hindrance in combat.

As far as the history goes concerning this Call of Duty gone Star Trek First Contact game, it’s pretty deep, though most of it is told to you in the opening sequence by Captain Rachel Parker of the British military. I found out that there is a far deeper historical deviation when I visited the official website for the game, but none of which has any profound impact on this particular version of Resistance—I can’t guarantee it won’t be important in upcoming sequels however. But the basic gist is that in 1939, a weird virus, whose origin is almost completely unexplained, began to spread across Russia; converting the populations of small villages into these bizarre creatures overnight. This grew in intensity, and before too long, messages to and from St. Petersburg stopped. Ten years after the start of the outbreak, the virus breaks the “Red Curtain”—which is supposed to be the Iron Curtain, but World War II never occurred in this game’s divergent history—and before the end of the year, most of Europe has fallen prey to the disease. Britain holds out, as they tend to during most European invasions. However, at the end of 1950, the United Kingdom falls to the plague.

The story opens with the American relief effort. Sgt. Nathan Hale was one of the soldiers who was supposed to take supplies to the city of Manchester, but like the British counterparts, the Americans were ambushed by the ugly, drooling, pulse rifle wielding Halo-knockoffs. In a fit of what was supposed to be foreshadowing, Captain Parker informs us that Nathan Hale dies 3 days later, but we are required to play out his entire 3 days with all the enthusiasm we can muster. As he drops from his V-22 Osprey (don’t count on the history to be accurate), I thought this foreshadowing was a mood-spoiler, but once the shooting began, I completely forgot the intended fate and fought for my life. Fortunately, not only was Sgt. Hale doomed at the outset, he was genetically advantaged to possess the only gene resistant to the Chimera virus, which came in handy when the surviving members of his Ranger squadron was attacked by mutant beetles who tried to inject him. Like his ancestor, Hale goes down with the regret that he only has but one life to give for his country, and awakes with renewed desired to give his second life for his country. Now an enhanced hybrid, the semi-regenerating lifebar and enhanced reactions showed me that Hale was ready to battle with these Chimeran miscreants, giving back the punishment they had dealt.

Being that this was the first Playstation 3 game I’ve played so far, I can’t really comment on its capabilities as a PS3 game, but the 40 man multiplayer mode definitely had my mouth watering. Imagine an entire team enhanced commandos wrecking havoc on the British countryside. I bet those Chimeran bastards—and trust me, after the first ten minutes of the game, you too will be calling them your favorite derogatory term—wouldn’t even know what hit them. On top of all that, the game seems to utilize many facets of the PS3 controller: using the arrows to turn on and off special features like headlamp and friendlies-radar; using the left analog stick to move and right to aim; and most importantly, shaking the controller to pummel enemies who have latched on and begun to devour your flesh. This last feature causes for increased stress in melee situations which leads to an overall incredibly exciting gameplay.

There are different types of weapons and enemies, each adding its own level of stress and excitement. You start off with the M5A2 carbine with grenade launching attachments that brings smiles to many a gamer’s face, but quickly pick up the alien “Bullseye” weapon (very much like a pulse rifle in most other FPS games). Since most weapons have a secondary feature that incurs upon the impression of the L1 button, the M5A2 launches a grenade while its alien counterpart fires a tracking beacon that will draw all you fire if it successfully attaches to an object. This is especially fun when you are suddenly able to fire around corners at enemies who think they are hiding. A few maps later, you receive the Rossmore 236, which is probably the most impressive FPS shotgun I’ve ever used, with its one-shot kills and incredibly good accuracy. By far, it is the best weapon offered in many parts of the game; I don’t recommend losing it.

But the list doesn’t stop there. The “Auger” allows you to shoot through walls, with a bullet-proof barrier shield as its secondary function. The L23 Fareye is just the weapon for an enhanced soldier, because it’s a sniper rifle with the ability to slow time—always a nice aspect to throw into a gun that is built upon accuracy during combat. Then there’s another alien weapon, the Sapper, which is more like a mine-dropping goop machine than a gun. It discharges a bio-mine that sticks to the floor and waits for you to hit L1 and detonate the bizarre ammunition; mostly affective against the menials, leapers, and rollers, the most annoying enemies in the game. Then comes wall-bouncing fun with the Hailstorm, a weapon that fires nice little projectiles that bounce off walls until they come into contact with an enemy, dropping them like any other bullet does. Then there are rockets, grenades and mines, all of which add flare to your fireworks display.

Don’t expect the enemy AI to stand in front of your weapons while you try out the cool features, however, because they won’t. In fact, these enemies are fairly elusive, well, the hybrids and beyond anyway. The Menials, leapers and rollers will come at you and let you wipe them out, but the others will actually bob and weave, hide behind walls and bullet-proof armor glass while you try to shoot them, which is why the tracking shots can come in handy sometimes. Fortunately, they’ll usually fire in auto-fire mode, which causes the shots to stream wildly in the general direction of combat. This isn’t one-sided, because it happens to you. HINT: Tapping the R1 instead of holding it will cause a much more accurate chain of fire.

All-in-all they were not as good of enemies as the ones in Red Steel, but close. They’ll shoot at you when you’re hiding, and unlike you, they never run out of bullets. If you use the Bullseye often, this will be beneficial, because many of them will drop more ammo for you to pick up. However, this can be a pain when you are in areas where the enemy is rushing your platoon and you can’t seem to drop them very effectively. But the tank does the trick fairly well. So do frag grenades, so keep those as long as you can.

In the end, you fight the good fight and defeat the Chimeran threat, restoring not only England, but the entire world to its rightful place. Though Captain Parker stated Nathan Hale dies at the end of the 4 day period, there is an ending movie that leaves the imagination brewing. As part of my anti-spoiler contract, I won’t give the details of that cut scene, but I can safely assume that there will be a sequel if not many sequels to come. And I also suggest that you pay very close attention to your radio broadcasts and your intel packets if you intend to understand the complexity of the plot, because it’s deeper than any FPS usually is. As you go through the game, ask yourself: Who is X-Ray?

Speaking of cut scenes, this game has some of the most fluid scenes I’ve seen yet. It’s probably because this is the newest system to hit the market, but I found the voice action congruent to the situation, even if the CG is definitely CG. RPG’s like Final Fantasy X and X-2 have better cut sequences with more dazzling events and attractions, but the cut scenes of Resistance: Fall of Man move directly from cut scene into gameplay, which a more comprehensive feeling of atmosphere than you would expect a mediocre cut scene to have. It felt as though the whole game, both plot and action, flowed together and became a realistic situation, even if that situation is killing aliens while I become one.

This game is well done, with some interesting interactions. My only question throughout the Multi-player mode was: Who is the African-American man following me? With 2 players, player one becomes Nathan Hale, the supposed sole-survivor of the American relief squad, but player 2 becomes a dark-skinned male with supposedly the same abilities and intel, but absolutely no recognition in the plotline. Both Campaign and Cooperative mode offer the same storyline, so logistics would state that they didn’t want to include explanation, but something, if nothing more than a name and rank, would have been nice. I guess the people at Insomniac Games needed some sleep and simply forgot to add something crucial for those with overactive imaginations.

Overall, this is a wonderful game and definitely worth the $60 price tag. With fluid cut scenes, a plot that rivals a Science Fiction mini-series, and explosions that make me jump for joy, I would give this game a 9 out of 10 or an A grade as I hear the new system here at Nerd Evolution has become. And those that disagree, I’ll let the gaming awards speak for me:
PlayStation 3 Game of the Year 2006 (IGN)
Best First-Person Shooter on PlayStation 3 of 2006 (IGN)
Best Graphics Technology on PlayStation 3 in 2006 (IGN)
Best Original Score on PlayStation 3 in 2006 (IGN)
Best Use of Sound on PlayStation 3 in 2006 (IGN)
Best Online Multiplayer on PlayStation 3 in 2006 (IGN)
Most Innovative Design on PlayStation 3 in 2006 (IGN)
GameSpot's Best and Worst of 2006 - Winner of Best PlayStation 3 game
Gaming Target - 52 Games We'll Still Be Playing From 2006 selection

Monday, April 9, 2007


Are you looking for a shojo anime full of music, love, and drama? Then look no further than NANA. Based off of the highly popular manga by mangaka Ai Yazawa, NANA is the story of two young women named Nana (meaning seven) and their lives. Osaki Nana is the lead singer of a punk band looking to make it big in Tokyo. Komatsu Nana (often called Hachi, which means eight, or Hachiko) is a somewhat spoiled suburban girl who goes to Tokyo following her friends and boyfriend. Nana and Hachi meet each other by chance on the train to Tokyo and later become best friends and roommates following a series of fortunate events. They share gained and lost love, Nana’s blossoming musical career, and their life together in Tokyo.

One of the greatest elements of the NANA anime is the music. Two bands take center stage in Nana: BLACK STONES is Osaki Nana’s band; TRAPNEST is a very popular band that happens to have Nana’s ex-boyfriend, Honjo Ren, as a guitarist. Hachi is a very big fan of TRAPNEST, but is also loyal to BLACK STONES.

The anime features music from BLACK STONES and TRAPNEST in the opening and ending credits and also during the show. Anna Tsuchiya sings for the BLACK STONES as Nana and OLIVIA sings for TRAPNEST as Reira. The music is phenomenal and fits perfectly with the attitudes of the singers and their lives.

Another element to love about NANA is the realistic quality of the situations that affect the characters. NANA isn’t about how two girls live these magically easy and simple lives but rather about the hardships they have been through and will go through to be happy and make their dreams come true. Even side characters have highly complicated lives and face adversity that is relevant to the lives we live today. The characters in NANA develop as the show progresses as well, gaining maturity after each incident.

NANA can also be hilariously funny. The show creates a balance between humor, realistic elements, and intense dramatic plot. It’s quite addicting after a while, but thankfully the show has not ended yet. Only 36 episodes are currently available. The manga is currently being released in the U.S. through Shojo Beat Manga.

Two live action NANA movies have been made, featuring the talented Mika Nakashima as Osaki Nana. The first movie was released in September of 2005 and NANA 2 was released in December 2006. The movies leave out some plot arcs involving side characters and events present in the anime and manga, but still maintain the important elements of the story.

This leads me to the only part of NANA that I do not like. The waiting. The problem with becoming completely enraptured with an anime that is not complete is waiting impatiently for the next episodes to become available. But it is so worth it.

I give NANA the anime an A.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ai Yori Aoshi

Kaoru was a normal, everyday, college student. He went to classes, lived alone in his apartment, and didn't eat all that well. One chance meeting at the train station changed it all, when the girl he was given to when he was a child shows up, wanting to keep that promise. What's a guy supposed to do?

Ai Yori Aoshi is a good series that combines older conventions with modern conventions. Drawn and written by the mankaga Kou Fumizuki. The story is about the disowned heir to the Hanabishi Clan, Kaouru Hanabishi. Throughout the series he attracts many women – at one point, there are six women chasing him. What separates Ai Yori Aoshi from your normal harem anime is that Kaoru has already made his choice, which was made clear at the beginning. This is an old convention where there are two love interests but one love interest is shown from the beginning to be the one the main character chooses. You can see this very plainly in animes like Macross (English version called Robotech). It also separates away from the (anime/manga) Love Hina. This is shown by Kaoru not being everyone's punching bag and the gags don't repeat over and over again. Unlike a lot of similar series, Ai Yori Aoshi doesn't get repetitive and boring. Kaoru's struggle to be with Aoi becomes more and more difficult as their families try to pull them apart.

This is beautifully drawn, and well translated, as I'm told by several sources. It was translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley, friends of my roommate Scott's, whom I lovingly dubbed Japan boy in the review of Red Steel.

Even though it is a decent series full of tenderness and caring, it has a few problems that really retract from the story. For some reason, there's a mandatory nude scene in every issue. This is especially prominent in the most recent issue, when three characters have a conversation completely nude where they had no reason to be having that conversation right there. It was a conscious choice and it made little sense, sometimes he seems to go out of his way to show nude women. This really distracts from the story
because it seems slapped in the story. The amount of fan service (purposefully perverted moments that don't add to the story) also distracts from the story. I know it should be expected after several predecessors, but I was hoping that it would move away from the need for constant large-breasted, mostly or completely naked women along with its other moves away from standard manga.

The other major problem is that the characters will sometimes change suddenly, as the back story fills in. In the beginning of the manga, Kaoru almost shows contempt for Tina, saying that her looks is "all she's got." Towards the end of the story, they talk about what good friends they used to be and how they are going to miss each other. The change in how they see their relationship is too sudden. On the other hand, this series handles personal growth very well. You can see the characters growing into people, with multiple facets in their personalities developing. However some characters remain stagnant. You can see Tina, Kaoru and Aoi change, in a little way you can see Miyabi grow, but the other characters seem to be rooted in their personalities and show no change. This was annoying because those characters were also always present. If they were minor characters, it would be one thing; Chika, Taeko, and Mayu are always there. This manga would be a lot better if all those characters would be more to the side.

All and all, if you want a well drawn, sweet, romantic manga, this is a good choice, if you can get beyond the fan service and the problems with character growth. its story of a beautiful young women trying to marry the man of her dreams is wonderful.


  1. Well Drawn
  2. Sweet story
  3. Well translated
  4. Loveable characters that seem to jump off the page
  5. Keeps you coming back for more


  1. To much fan service
  2. Mandatory nudity that just doesn't make sense for this story
  3. Character growth problems

This series gets a , B it's better then average, but not the best.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Worth it’s Weight in Red Steel?

Imagine yourself for a moment, nicely dressed and ready to meet your fiancé’s father, happier than you were the first time that you heard Utada Hikaru was on tour in your town, when all of a sudden your entire world comes crashing down around you. Bullets begin to ricochet off the walls near your head. Bodyguards begin to fall down around you. SMG wielding enemies begin to file through every exit you can see. And then, someone grabs your girl. If you think you can endure this intense scene, then maybe you can endure the psychotic action that is RED STEEL for the new Nintendo Wii console.

The Wii came out months ago and really, we’re all still waiting for that amazing game to come out from Nintendo that’s supposed to blow our socks off. With Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess™ still the ranking leader on this system, it’s no wonder the Wii is still selling at $250. However, Red Steel is almost worth the money that you have to pay for the game.

Red Steel starts you off as Scott, an underpaid bodyguard who falls in love with Miyu Sato, the girl he’s supposed to be protecting. At the start Scott and Miyu have dinner before an arranged meeting with Miyu’s father, the notorious Isao Sato. There is this atmosphere of nothing more than a nervous outing that is supposed to end with the father smiling his approval of his daughter’s taste in men, however, as Miyu approaches her father, an assassin comes from the kitchen and unless a fury of bullets from the SMG hidden within his waiter’s costume. Scott tries to catch his fleeing fiancé, but finds himself on the wrong end of a gun, the butt end.

After waking from a momentary fainting, you find yourself in an empty room, devoid of the bodies of falling guards, but not without a gun, conveniently kicked under a nearby table. Now armed and with a vengeance, you take up the hunt for your girl and her father, somewhere lost in the LA building. Fortunately for you, the game has a built-in flaw: none of the unimportant doors are accessible, thereby eliminating the ability to go the wrong way. Before long, you find yourself meeting a beaten and shot Isao Sato on the roof, a burning helicopter nearby. With this future father-in-law now safe, you learn to use a katana and meet up with your lovely girlfriend before all hell breaks loose.

Friends and allies turn out to be enemies in this game, and many of your enemies actually join your side after you beat them in honorable sword combat. Trust no one, not even the people who are training you; you never know when one of them will suddenly switch his interests to the other side. But, if you play your cards right, you’ll get the girl, gain some cool new stuff, and gain control of the Sato Gumi—which I guess then becomes the Scott Gumi, but that’s left for speculation. Since we never get to hear Scott’s last name, we can never know what the name of the organization becomes. But the fight never really ends, so maybe we’ll find out in the sequel that’s been rumored about.

The game is nonsensical at times, like when the horde of yakuza enemies falling to your 9mm volley call out for you to surrender yourself, or when you find yourself being called a “gaijin” [which is Japanese for “Foreigner” with slightly negative connotations] by a sword wielding man from Tokyo in the lobby of an LA hotel, or when you have to explain to everyone, friend or foe, why you are in the possession of the infamous “Katana Giri”, but it certainly makes up for that with it’s constant barrage of obstacles. You may wonder why the enemy will take so long to shoot at you, but you must understand that missing is incredibly easy when you have to actually point the controller in the right location on the optical bar in order to drop the bad guys. You may also wonder why the cut scenes look like someone spliced together pages of the City Hunter manga, but that can also be explained away by the fact that this was Ubisoft’s first attempt at making a Wii game, and since it was the Wii’s debut game, they had no choice but to make sure that it was out in time for sale.

One of the problems with this game is the fact that you must watch every cut scene and action sequence that comes your way. There’s no way to skip ahead if you don’t care about the story line, nor is there any ability to stop a long monologue from a character—many of which you will want to avoid because they don’t actually tell you anything at all. Fortunately, the more enemies you spare, the more respect points you get, which affect the overall evaluation at the end of each level. I really wish those points actually mattered on some scale, like allowing you to buy more special moves or guns, but they’re nothing more than bragging rights as you move from a novice to a master.

Another problem is the weird setup of the controller, requiring that you lock on to your targets before you can use the zoom feature of the gun, which causes problems later on. There is also a technique of pressing the A button and the Z button at the same time, giving you a momentary Matrix-like ability in that gives you a chance to draw a bead on the enemies while time slows to a crawl. This is a great aspect of the game, but the Z button is important as it allows you duck for cover when the bullets become too much for your regenerating life bar. Unfortunately, if you have a target locked on with the A button and suddenly decide to drop for cover, you’ll find that instead of getting out of the way of the bullets, you’ve slowed time and are ready to disarm your opponents. The design of the controls is stressful sometimes.

But let’s say you make it through the gunfights and move to the bosses. All boss fights are fought with the katana, which is nice, but as my friend pointed out: “Why can’t I just shoot him?” Good question. With its limited two-gun capabilities, one could argue that it’s because you don’t have enough guns to fight him, but after seeing all the minions on the way up, there’s nothing really to clarify this. Maybe it’s because the boss is nearly impossible. Wrong. Shake the control wildly in front of the remote bar and you’ll find him dropping before your blade without
hitting you. The explanation is lacking, but I guess it has something to do with Honorable Combat. I just found most of those boss fights—and periodic semi-boss-like matches throughout the levels—that were like the cut scenes: boring and anti-climatic. However, sometimes it’s a nice change-up from the continuous point-and-click of the gunfights, so there was only moderate complaining from the writer.

As far as the AI goes: it was some of the best I’ve ever experienced. Previously in this review, I commented on the nonsensical ranting of dying enemies, and now I’m seemingly contradicting myself, but I’m actually not. You see, the AI might call out that you need to throw down your weapons, they might call you a stupid “gaijin” when they are the foreigners in your country, but they make up for it by shooting well placed shots, hiding when you start to shoot at them, and waiting for you to pop-up instead of unloading magazine after magazine into the walls you are using as cover. These guys actually felt like they were paying attention to the fight and not that they were programmed images running through the same pop-out and shoot patterns that makes you wince sometimes. After the third level of having to wait while the enemies dart their heads out to check to see if I’m gone before they stand, or actually having to move in order to get a better angle, I realized that these guys weren’t the type of enemy that you can memorize and take out in under 5 minutes a level. You actually have to work for your payday.

Now, the reason I’m the one doing the Red Steel review instead of some of the others here at Nerd Evolution is because I’ve been affectionately referred to as “Japan Boy” by our blog’s creator, Nick Myers. So, I should be making some commentary on the Japanese-America relations of this game and the untranslated portions of the plot. You see, at some parts of the game, the characters actually talk to each other in Japanese, and they talk about you. Fortunately, everything that is pertinent to the story is done in English—even when Scott is in Tokyo—so you don’t have to be fluent in the samurai tongue to be able to play the game. But, the Japanese is well done. Of course it is, the voice actors are Japanese, but I mean the sentences feel like they were coming from a Yakuza boss to his underlings and the connotations about you are not lost just because you are the game’s protagonist. To top that all off, Harry, the American bar owner in Tokyo, is a picture perfect match for many of the American business men I met over there, so I felt him to be a very believable character.

Another aspect that made me nearly wet myself was the scenery. The American scenery was pretty bland, devoid of any signature identifying marks. This made the Japanese scenery stark in comparison. It was beautiful, and the creators of Red Steel had clearly spent some time inside Japanese architecture. From the paper doors that slide to the side, to the confusing mazes of concrete stairwells, at some points I felt like I’d returned back to the land of the rising sun. Some things were a little out of place, like the gun enthusiast in the basement of Harry’s, but you can forgive those things when the man gives you the option of gaining new guns and blowing away some targets. At least the place looked Japanese.

The accents were also really well done. At points, I could just picture who these guys sounded like: my friend Eiichiro, that guy Satoshi that I met in the street by the eki, President Yokoyama from Kansai. A friend of mine commented on the gun enthusiasts semi-Italian, semi-Japanese sounding accent, but I think that’s because he hasn’t actually been around real Japanese people. It might have been the fact that Ubisoft hired a clan of Japanese people to do the voice acting, and it may have been that Ubisoft planned for their people to sound the way they do, either way, it was an awesome assembly of characters that made the plot, at least, feel realistic.

All-in-all, I liked this game, and it made for hours of enjoyable slashing-and-blasting fun. There’s a multi-player mode, but if you only have one controller, it can be a let down when you play. However, my friends and I developed a “pass when you die or end” system which kept the control moving through our ranks, ‘cause you can die if you’re not careful. Usually, a particularly hard swordfight would move the controller along, but none of us really minded the game play. I mean, when you do get the controller, it’s a constant shoot-hide-move motion, so you forget how long you went without. It’s definitely something worth its weight, but maybe not the total expense of the Wii.

So, to sum up everything I said for those of you who just skim through these review things, basically:
1) AI is ridiculous, but kicks your butt sometimes
2) The sword fighting can be kind of lame
3) Story is lacking, but the dialogues are great and the accents make sense.
4) Cut scenes won’t stop no matter how many buttons you click
5) Watch out for accidentally using up your special ability meter when you duck while locked on.

That’s it ladies and gentleman. If you like a game that combines Japan-America relations, pits you up against some hard minions who die incessantly, hands you a sword and says “have at it”, and has some really cool art, then Red Steel is the game for you. If you are the kind of nit-picky realist that is still waiting for a game that makes you hold mock weapons above your head or else you’ll take damage, we’re getting their, but still not quite there yet. If we had a rating system here at Nerd Evolution, I would give Red Steel 7 out of 10.