Mid-Week Mid-Boss v2.16

Hey yo. Christmas has passed us by, yet New Years is fast approaching. I never really wax poetic about the changing of the years, because it’s just another day. I will be using it as an excuse to do a little drinking, but I’ve been doing that a lot lately. At least I do it with friends and have fun.

This year was very unusual for me. Typically, I hate Christmas. I hate the act of spending money on people who probably won’t appreciate what I’m getting them, no matter how much thought I put into it. I also wasn’t a big fan of having two Christmases, because one of the two was always fraught with drama.

This year, I only had one real Christmas, drama free. It was also the first year I can remember really and truly enjoying getting gifts for others. And giving them to people, and them enjoying them. That made the Christmas really special.

But as always, I did get gifts in return, and without further adieu, is The Haul:
Guitar Hero
Fatal Frame 2 Director’s Cut (courtesy the TRU sale, only one on my list they had)
Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology
Batman Begins (the non-special edition, need to trade it in)
Buffy: The Vampire Slayer – The Entire Series box set
OZ the entire series
A Hawaiian shirt and Khaki shorts
a Ferret Calendar (a family tradition, we always get a calendar for the following year)
Some new Gloves
Socks (dunno why, I didn’t need socks or anything)
$50 in Gift Cards to Walmart
$25 in Gift Cards to Best Buy

Oh, and this is stuff that was ordered for me but hadn’t arrived yet:
RahXephon series thinpak box
Subscription to Official Xbox Magazine

I truly feel blessed to have gotten so much this year. I really didn’t expect more than maybe Guitar Hero and a couple of seasons of OZ or something. To get so much really blows me away. I don’t even know when I’m going to have time to do anything. Not to mention the fact that I received Taiko Drum Master on Monday, and will be getting several series of anime from ADV soon, all of which were presents to myself.

So excuse me while I go play some games or watch a TV show or something. I won’t be getting sleep for a long, long time (how many times have I said that).

Seiken Densetsu 4 is Pretty
One of the most anticipated titles to come out of Square Enix in a long time is the forthcoming Seiken Densetsu 4. It is known as the Mana series in America. And anyone who has played one of these titles knows the character designs are wonderful, and usually they are very pretty games.

Well, SD4 looks to follow that trend. The graphics are very cartoony, but simply beautiful. You can check out some screenshots on the official World of Mana page. You can also see information on the upcoming DS game, Children of Mana. It’s all in Japanese though, so it’ll be more fun to navigate.
(Credit: Joystiq, World of Mana)

Unwrapping the Layers of AQ Interactive and Mistwalker
Sometimes the whole Publisher/Developer relationship can be quite confusing. But to someone who has witnessed it first hand, it should be simple, right? Not so with AQ Publishing and Mistwalker. It’s pretty damn complicated, and I’m having a problem telling what’s what.

Ok, from what I can tell, AQ Interactive was formed by 3 development houses: Artoon, Cavia, and Feel Plus. No problem there. The odd thing is that each of those three developers are making games for Mistwalker (Blue Dragon is by Artoon, Lost Odyssey is by Feel Plus, and the most recent title to be announced, Cry On is by Cavia). Artoon is also developing Vampire Rain, and Cavia is working on Bullet Witch.

So is AQ publishing all of Mistwalker’s games? Or is Mistwalker publishing their own games or what? It’s just all rather confusing. Not that it matters much. If we get all of the Mistwalker games in America (which we probably will since Sakaguchi-sama knows the gaijin love him), I’ll be happy.
(Credit: Games are Fun)

I wrote what will probably be my last review of the year, Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows. I also am FINALLY going to get Call of Duty 2 and will review that, but who knows how long that will be. Two other games have dominated my post-Christmas game time.

Guitar Hero
While this game is essentially a ripoff of Guitar Freaks, that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome in its own right. Harmonix is probably the best Western rhythm game developer, and Guitar Hero follows the tradition of greats such as Amplitude and Karaoke Revolution. The game is published by Red Octane, which also made the guitar controller.

The controller has 5 fret buttons, a strum button (that you can use to strum up or down), a whammy bar and a start and select button. Gameplay is like a real guitar. Notes come down the screen vertically and when they hit a certain part, you have to strum while holding down a fret. Easy modes only use 3 frets, but the harder modes use all 5, which is rather difficult.

The best part about the game is, of course, the music. The music they licensed was all excellent. There are many great rock tunes that many people know well, such as I Wanna Be Sedated, Bark at the Moon, and Symphony of Destruction. While the music and voices aren’t from the original band, they are covered excellently, and sound very similar to the original.

The game is a whole lot of fun, and it does get very challenging. Prior guitar knowledge isn’t necessary, but it certainly does help. And hopefully, good sales of this game will prompt Konami to release Gitadora.

Taiko Drum Master
It’s rather funny that I got this game AND Guitar Hero within a day of each other. I didn’t know for sure I’d get Guitar Hero, but I suspected. Anyway, I had seen some videos of a guy getting perfect scores on Taiko Drum Master on the hardest (Oni) difficulty, and didn’t think it looked that hard, so I ordered it.

It’s a really fun game. See, I was in percussion in High School, so I know my way around a drum. And while it’s not the type of drum I’m used to, it’s close enough. There is little to know rebound on this drum controller, and the sticks are very large and bulky, but it still works.

The gameplay is almost identical to Donkey Konga, except a lot more fun in my opinion. The drum has a right and a left side, and you either hit on the drum or on the rim (which is infinitely better than clapping).

The song list is really good as well, but about the same as the original Donkey Konga. There’s even Katamari on the Rocks, which is sweet. The cover artists aren’t as good as Guitar Hero, but it’s still good.

Both games are great to have, and probably the best of their type in the states. I’d much rather have Taiko than Donkey Konga. And Guitar Hero really doesn’t have any American games that are similar. But both are great.

This week, I’ll discuss some games that are on the weird and unique side of things.

Wik: Fable of Souls
This is one of the newest and most unique titles available on Xbox Live Arcade. Really, it’s hard to compare it to any other game out there, except for maybe Bionic Commando.

Basically, you control a frog-like creature named Wik. He can jump around, but he can also use his tongue to latch on to certain things and use it to swing around. He can also use it to attack enemies, but some enemies will actually kill you if you try to eat them like that.

Regardless, the game is separated into a bunch of different stages, and the goal is to collect grubs and throw them to your mule named Slothra. The problem is that flies, bats and other such enemies will come in and try to take the grubs away. You’re supposed to throw a requisite number of grubs to Slothra, without losing some of them. Along the way, you can also collect coins and some gems which basically increase your score.

The graphics are pretty good, but not mind boggling. It reminds me a lot of games like the oldschool Prince of Persia games (except with more detailed graphics, of course). The neatest thing is the story it tells though, because after almost every stage, it gives you more to the story. It’s well written and in rhyme and goes perfectly with the tone of the game.

Overall, the game is highly recommended. It’s a lot of fun, and while it isn’t your typical arcade game, it’s so unique that you have to at least go and download the trial for it, but personally I think it’s well worth the 800 Microsoft points ($10) it costs. You can also download it for PC at http://www.wikgame.com/.

Outpost Kaloki X
Of all the titles available on Xbox Live Arcade, this is probably the least “arcadey”. It’s much more like a sim game than anything else.

The basic gist is that you control a space station. Each mission you are given wants you to achieve some sort of task. For example, the first mission is for you to earn a certain amount of money. Basically, the space station has several nodes on it that allow you to build expansions. Each expansion costs a certain amount of money and requires power to work. Expansions you can build include money makers (lemonade stand, pawn shop), research facilities (chem lab), informational centers (newspaper stand, radio station), social faculties (date line, arcade), and environmental (park, garden). And to power it all, you can build things like a solar collector.

When you first start out, you can only build the lowest tier of items, but once you build the lowest tier, it opens up the next tier of items of that type. So after you build a Lemonade Stand, you can then build a Pawn Shop (assuming the stage allows you to, the early stages are very limited as to what you can build). So basically, you build on expansions, usually based on what people want, and they make money. They also cost money to keep up, and later on, you get to a point where they require constant maintenance.

Sadly, the game seems to lose some of its luster there. I like building, but to be constantly maintaining every expansion you build is a major chore. It’s hard enough having enough money and juggling making money and building (since some stages require you earn X amount of dollars), but to add the maintenance on adds an undesirable element to the game. But maybe that’s just me.

Overall, the game is fun though. The graphics aren’t spectacular, but they don’t need to be. The soundtrack is pretty cool, and very Big-Band or Jazz sounding, which is a nice contrast to the sci-fi theme of the game. I’d definitely try it out if you have any enjoyment for strategy or sim games, and I certainly thought it was worth the 800 Microsoft points ($10).

I FINALLY got to see all of this series. Didn’t have much hope for it, but I saw it all.

Divergence Eve
First off, I have to say that the first episode makes this show very confusing. But that’s because the episode is actually chronologically the 2nd to last episode in the series. Still, the episode also seems…worse…than any other. I’ll try to explain a little better further on.

Basically, the show is set in the year 2317. To achieve faster than light travel, ships must use a wormhole to travel into a parallel dimension, then another to return to ours. Ships enter at Saturn’s moon, Titan, and exit in a space station called Watcher’s Nest. Four cadet trainees have been called up to train for Seraphim, an elite combat squad combating a foe that no one else knows about, called Ghouls. They are evil monsters from whatever dimension the ships go through, and they seem to be coming more frequently, and getting stronger.

As is to be expected, the story is more confusing than that, but that’s the basic gist of it. It’s a really interesting story, and even though it feels at times like Evangelion, and other times like Xenosaga, it’s still pretty unique. What I really like is how it’s told. As I said, the first episode is actually the penultimate episode chronologically, but it slowly tells you all the story leading up to it. In addition, every episode has a small prologue that tells a little more of the history of Watcher’s Nest and how the Ghouls were found. It’s a unique way of doing things.

My only big gripe about the story is that the tone doesn’t really fit the art style. The characters are almost all female, and they all have very large breasts (like Eiken) which flop around all the time (like DOA). This would make you think that the show is a comedy, but it’s actually very serious, and other than a few bits and pieces of comedy, it is quite morose at times. The ending of every episode doesn’t help either, where it shows the main character being silly and goofing around. I just would have preferred they laid off the useless fan service, because it really kills the mood to see a really serious scene, and a girl turns and her boobs flop around.

I’m just not a big fan of the art style in general, I guess. It’s not just the breasts, but everything else. Stuff is too pointy. Even though these girls have huge tits, there are some shots were they are pointed almost, not rounded like breasts are supposed to be. It’s just very angular overall, and while the design on some of the girls is alright, the style just bothers me at times.

The show is dubbed by ADV’s Industrial Smoke and Mirrors, so is as can be expected, it’s a really good dub job. In a rare FEMALE role, Kira Vincent-Davis plays Misaki Kureha, the main character, who is recruited to Seraphim for reasons beyond her understanding. She does a great job playing the ditzy and inept pilot. Shelly Calene-Black plays her superior officer, Lyar Von Ertania, and uses pretty much the same voice she does as Mireille in Noir, the graceful yet strong commanding voice that fits the character very nicely. All the other less important characters are just as good, with the possible exception of John Tyson as Wulfgant Woerns, the Captain of Watcher’s Nest. The voice just doesn’t seem right for the character, but I can’t really say why. Other than him, no voice seemed out of place.

The show is pretty good, but it certainly isn’t the best show out there. It’s clearly one of ADV’s “B” shows. There didn’t seem to be any extras of note on the discs or anything special about it. Even the ADV page devoted to Divergence Eve is nothing more than an ad. It is worth noting that ADV also has the rights to Divergence Eve 2, which appears to be a completely different tone (and perhaps befitting the large breasts), and even said to look forward to it at the end of the final episode, and the first disc should be released in January.

I don’t know if I’d actually get this series or not, unless I got it for very cheap, because it simply isn’t special enough for me. The only things that stand out are the story and voices, but there are better stories with better animation and music and everything.

Overall: C+

As you can probably figure, I watched some of what I got for Christmas. I wasn’t able to watch a whole lot, but I watched some.

I was able to watch the first season of OZ, which I had seen some of, but not all of. It introduces us to most of the great characters in the show. The cast is really spectacular, and their acting is splendid. And the stories are what makes the show one of my two favorites on TV.

For anyone who hasn’t seen OZ, it’s very grim and gritty. Based in a prison, specifically in an experimental cellblock known as Emerald City, OZ shows us a compact community, all which contains the hatred and evil of the real world. One of the main characters, Tobias Beecher, is a lawyer who kills a little girl while driving drunk, and is definitely a fish out of water. He is quickly adopted as the prag, or prison bitch, of the leader of the Aryan gang, Vern Shillinger. The show is narrated by wheelchair bound Augustus Hill.

Overall, it’s very nasty and violent, and the only way the show would have existed was on a pay channel such as HBO. I highly recommend that you check it out if you haven’t, but it has a lot of blood, sexual situations, violence and foul language. In other words, it rocks!

I also watched the first Batman movie, which is still one of the best in the series. It’s either the best, or at least even with Batman Begins. The direction is awesome, and the costumes and sets and everything is just great. And I really loved Keaton as Batman, and Nicholson WAS the Joker.

The bonus features are really cool as well. Most were behind the scenes type stuff, and talked with just about everyone involved. The best bonus features HAD to be the utterly awful videos from Prince. I loved the Prince Batman soundtrack back in the day, and now it’s just funny. Batdance was horribly bad yet awesome at the same time. That’s great stuff right there.

But the biggest thing I saw this weekend was King Kong. And to be honest, I was pretty disappointed.

Peter Jackson is a smart guy, and has a great eye for visuals. It is one of the most visually appealing movies I’ve seen in a long, long time. In addition, the CGI for Kong was stunning. Great stuff there. You could see the individual hairs, and the weathered and beaten palm of his hand.

The biggest complaint that people have towards the movie is totally true: it’s just too long. At least an hour could have been cut, and it’d be more interesting. If I had a watch, I probably would have been looking at it often. Another thing that bothered me was that I had to suspend disbelief WAY too much. A lot more than most movies.

And the movie just overall seemed too pretentious. I think it’s safe to say that it’s a 3 hour Peter Jackson jerk-off fest. I have mad respect for Jackson after Lord of the Rings, but if his next movie is this long, then I’d have to say he’s WAY full of himself. That being said, the movie isn’t bad, it just isn’t as good as it was supposed to be. I think the box office sales show that very well, considering it was almost beat out by Narnia this weekend, and I think Narnia may make more overall.

Here’s this week’s helping of Eric S! Short Form and Opinions, etc.

It’s a Retrograding one-shot, with a look back at the Gamecube games we thought would be awesome, back in 2003. For the most part, we were wrong.

As I mentioned before, I reviewed Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, and while I may have been a little mean, I stand by everything I said.

Tom N. gave Final Fantasy IV Advance the royal treatment. Like Tom, this is my favorite in the series, so it’s definitely on my list of games to buy.

O’Reilly talks about the end of the year awards, and he’s pretty right. This year was pretty bland. And there was mass drama to be had, but I’ll talk about that when the awards are released.

Well, that’s it for this week. Enjoy your New Years festivities, and if you’re like me and will probably be drinking, be safe. And have fun, most of all! Enjoy, and I’ll see you next week.