Tuesday Morning Roundup

Virtual Monday is the best kind of Monday; I’ve got a head start on the weekend. What did I do with a three-day weekend free of obligations?

I played Asura’s Wrath to completion. I had no desire to play Asura’s Wrath from reading previews; it was only when I watched the Giant Bomb Quick Look that I realized this was a game I desperately wanted. I plan on talking more about this later on today if time allows.

I finished Hajime Saito’s route in Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom. That remains a fantastic game, and of the four routes I have heard about or played myself, I think the ending of Saito’s path is the most satisfying.

I also finished Theft of Swords, the first book out by Michael J. Sullivan. I also plan on talking more about this, but I liked this a great deal and think it’s worth continuing. Keeping a handle on my spending is the only reason why I didn’t pick up the rest of the series.

I spent a lot of time indoors this weekend on account of it being 94 degrees out. This upcoming weekend is supposed to be much nicer, so I’ll need to think of a good excuse to keep playing a ton of games.

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Monday Morning Roundup

What did I do this past weekend? I got into the Torchlight 2 beta and downloaded the demo for Civilization V, but didn’t play either of them. Instead, I troubleshot my computer after a BSOD and then watched about eight videos of the Giant Bomb Endurance Run of Deadly Premonition.

While price-checking computers, though, I did find this beauty. I think if you spend $4000 on a PC you’re put on some kind of list, “dramatic lighting effect” notwithstanding.

I have actual thoughts on the 38 Studios hootenanny, but it needs to not be so busy for me to share them.

Monday Morning Roundup

Another week bears down on me, a week of preparation here at work for next Monday’s insanity. How did I spend my weekend?

Vienna Teng is doing a series of concerts on StageIt, and I caught the Dreaming Through The Noise concert on Saturday evening. Once a month, she plays half an hour’s worth of songs from one of her albums, in new solo piano arrangements. I cringe when I look at that sentence, though, because that sounds like I’m selling them short. It would be more accurate to say she’s performing new solo piano and bizarre technological device arrangements of her classic songs. I read a Sting interview where he talked about the challenge of playing the same songs night in and night out without starting to hate them, and that that’s the reason why we have so many different versions of Roxanne. Vienna’s performance showed a lot of that same creativity; “1 br/1 ba” found new life as a multi-tracked piano-percussion piece, with Vienna recording and mixing herself making no end of hilarious noises live, and “Whatever You Want” became an energetic beatbox revenge fantasy with some real fire behind the chorus. She also played “Recessional,” the first song that really broke my heart, so that was worth the price of admission by itself. She’s got three more performances over the next three months, with the incredible Inland Territory up next, then Covers and Rarities to close it out. She will play her solo piano version of Fields of Gold in one of those and I will sit, entranced, and it will be wonderful.

Magna Carta 2 did not hold up for very long. There’s a set of voice actors that show up in most every game that I play; Nolan North, Troy Baker, Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthal, Steve Blum, Nolan North, Jamieson Price, Michelle Ruff, Nolan North, Steve Blum, Nolan North, Steve Blum, and Nolan North. Bosch, Ruff, Lowenthal, and Price feature heavily in Magna Carta 2, and to be honest — and it pains me to say this — they’re all pretty flat. But I don’t blame that at all on the actors, I blame that on the direction. I play and adore the Dynasty Warriors games, and one of my favorite characters is Sun Shang Xiang, the tomboy princess with the wind and fire wheels. This is despite her voice; she was shrill and unpleasant from Dynasty Warriors 3-5. I just liked the character design. Then I played Warriors Orochi, which had a different voice director for the localization, and he or she let the actors loose, and SSX suddenly became a fiery tomboy with real energy behind her voice as she yelled at Sun Ce about their forced servitude. “Do you think I LIKE fighting in this army? I don’t! But I know better than you that I can’t just turn my back on my family and my responsibilities!” Since then, the DW games have been of a much higher quality for the acting, and I’ve heard Michelle Ruff give incredible performances in Persona 3, Tales of Vesperia, and others. Magna Carta 2, on the other hand, is much closer to the other Michelle Ruff, the flat and uninspired one. Much of that is the material, too; this did not even approach Vesperia’s quality.

They also shouldn’t have named a character after male enhancement drugs. Schuenzeit? Shoe-Enzyte? Really? Really?

Last week in this spot I said that Titan Quest let me “hit a centaur with a club so hard he went sailing at least fifty feet in the air, landing after I killed two other guys.” I found a mod that drastically increases this. I can now spin in a circle, maces swinging, bones from the undead rocketing through the tombs and bouncing off of everything in sight. It is, to be technical, pretty great. Thirteen hours in and I’ve just landed in Egypt — time to go shoot the sphinx in the face over and over again.

I played an entire season of Madden NFL 12 in a weekend. I don’t want to talk about it.

Monday Morning Roundup

What happened this weekend? Not as much as last weekend. I’ll still try to make it interesting, though.

I started Iron Lore’s Titan Quest this weekend — well, started it again. I’ve own TQ and its expansion for years, but only played a few days before losing interest. Diablo III comes out in eight days, but I’m not picking that one up. I’ve never really gotten into action RPGs as a genre, but I know enough people who have that I wanted to give one a good try. The story’s forgettable, the environments are beautiful, the classes are entertaining, and I hit a centaur with a club so hard he went sailing at least fifty feet in the air, landing after I killed two other guys. That’s enough to warrant a second day.

I also started Magna Carta 2 this weekend, and it is also pretty engaging. While I’m not one to denigrate the storytelling in Japanese RPGs, I do understand that they tend to follow a lot of the same steps. My immediate counter to people who say that is to point out that 90% of Bioware games follow those same tropes, but I’m usually worked up into an unreasonable frustration at small-minded fanbases at that point and I don’t really handle it well. Regardless of my own personal damage, Magna Carta 2 is a serviceable JRPG with a pretty neat battle system and main characters voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch, Michelle Ruff, Jamieson Price, and Yuri Lowenthal, so that’s wonderful.

I also played about five more hours of Hakuoki, which means there’s an update due sometime this week once I finish up a route tonight and then sort through what will likely be 900+ screenshots.

Jaz Rignall at Eurogamer wrote a story about how important 1991 was in video gaming. I read about the Super Nintendo in Nintendo Power, and I remember how excited I got about this incredible machine that was just over the horizon. I did not come from a rich family by any stretch of the imagination; we had an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, but we only had four games for it. Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt, Super Mario Brothers 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Exodus, a Bible-themed knockoff of another game. My neighbor had tons of games, so it was at his house that I beat Super Mario Brothers 3 and a bunch of others, and I also rented a lot of games from a little local place called Doug’s Video. When I read about the SNES, I knew I wanted one, but I knew I’d never get one as a gift. It cost $200. $200! That might as well have been Monopoly money to my ten-year-old self.

I saved my money for a full year. I asked for money for my birthday, and I got about $80 in checks and the like. My grandmother asked me what I was going to get with my money, and I said a Super Nintendo, when it came out in a year. When Christmas came, I took the money I got as gifts there and put it into the same jar in my room. Any change I found around the house, any dollar bills that fell out of pockets in the dryer, that all went in the jar. I believe it took me over a full year to save enough money to get it, but I took my $200 in cash to KB Toys in the Staunton Mall and bought myself a Super Nintendo with Super Mario World packed in. It was worth every penny.

SNES Concepts

Let’s all be grateful they changed the final design from that thing on the right, though.

Monday Morning Roundup

Another weekend is in the books, and another week rears its head like Putin glaring down at Alaska. How did the weekend go?

I wrote 5000 words on Ancient Japanese Demon Vampires And The Women Who Love Them – Let’s Play Hakuoki! over on Broken Forum. I played through all of Chapter 4 and wrote it up in a single day, which was a lot of writing but also a lot of fun. Highlights include cutting that guy, screaming in anger at the PSP, and furthermore, cutting that guy. I’ve now uploaded enough screenshots to Imageshack that I had to get a premium account. Oooooh, six dollars…

Giant Bomb posted their Quick Look of Botanicula. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard at one of their Quick Looks while also desperately wanting to play this game. You can hear Vinny’s status as a new father in his voice in how he narrates this one. I don’t so much want to play Botanicula so much as I want to watch Vinny and Patrick play Botanicula.

Music of the week: Botanicula and Sword and Sworcery. I think I spent about $10 total on these albums, and they’re both brilliant. Botanicula reminds me of Rayman Origins in the music (Patrick beat me to that comparison), and S&S thus far is making me think a little bit of Big Giant Circles.

The NFL Draft happened this weekend, and I have mixed opinions on my two teams. The Redskins picked up their QB of the future in Robert Griffin III, and then decided to get him a caddy in Kirk Cousins in the fourth round for some reason. As for Kansas City picking 350-pound DT Dontari Poe, I’ll let Mike Tanier of the New York Times take that one.

The Guild Wars 2 pre-order beta weekend happened. I plan on writing about that later, but the short version is OH MY GOD THIS GAME IS GREAT. Hakuoki should have stern competition for my Game of the Year for 2012.

(I really do not want my 2012 GOTY to be a dating game.)