Still alive…

Yeah, not a great job of staying up-to-date.  Things have been pretty crazy, and it’s kept me from really even thinking about this blog.  At any rate, couple of things that come to mind recently…  the release of Skyward Sword and Arkham City.  Both of which, despite the couple of holidays that I’ve had or am on (it’s Christmas time, folks), I haven’t beaten or even significantly sunk time into.  And I usually use this time to finish one high-profile release.  Still, I’ll try to update some stuff here, and even maybe catch up on some of the games I finished during the downtime.

In the meantime, the NBA season is going again.  Awesome.  And Chris Paul is with the Clippers.  The Clippers!  Craziness.  With their other signings, they look (at least on paper) really, really good.  Of course, I’m still rooting for my Spurs, but they really haven’t made any substantial free agent splash, with the only significant signing being T.J. Ford to back up Tony Parker.  It will be useful to have an honest-to-goodness point guard running the show for the second unit, though.  As long as he doesn’t try to do much, of course, which I’ve heard is T.J.’s penchant from time to time.

Also snagged the latest Evanescence album.  Good stuff overall, although nothing overly new.  What happened to that “positive” direction they were going?  Guess it wasn’t working out, I suppose.  If you liked Fallen, you’ll like this one, and it’s better than the last one.

Also, Indie Bundles are awesome.  I’ve snagged some awesome stuff with the Humble Indie Bundle (http://humblebundle.com) and Indie Royale (http://indieroyale.com), and recommend everyone else to check it out, too.  Especially the HIB.  Right now, if you go above the average, not only do you get all the games (plus Cave Story+ and Gratuitous Space Battles), you get all the soundtracks, and the entire contents of HIB#3.  Absolutely incredible.  Go.  Now.

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Album “review”: Time of My Life (3 Doors Down)

Well, the 3 Doors Down album, Time of My Life, has been out for about a week now.  I’ve been listening to it almost non-stop, so I’ll give some impressions.

First, it’s a more driving, fast-paced affair than the last album.  Of course, I really liked the last album, too, but there’s a nice mix of slow(er) ballads with the quick stuff.  “Believer”, in particular, is crazy-fast compared to some of their other stuff.  I’m particularly stuck on “Round and Round” and “My Way”.  Even most of the ballads are solid stuff.  I don’t really like “She is Love” much, but it’s not offensive, and certainly doesn’t ruin the CD.  “When You’re Young” is probably the best of that group, and I’ve also taken a liking to the acoustic version of that song.

Anyway, to keep things short, if you liked 3DD before, you’ll still like ’em now.  And since I like ’em, I’ll give this one an 8.5/10.0, with several of the tunes being absolutely spectacular, at least in my mind.  Definitely worth a purchase.

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Thoughts on Enslaved

If you’re reading this and are planning on finishing this game, you might want to stop now.  Significant spoiler-age may occur.

Anyway, I finished off Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.  As one might be able to guess from the title, it’s very (very) loosely based on Journey to the West, the same Chinese story that inspired the likes of Dragon Ball.

Your main character is Monkey, an agile protagonist that just happens to ride from time to time on a hoverpad-thing called a ‘Cloud’.  Yep.  And he uses a staff in combat.  Didn’t see that coming, right?  Controls are a bit tricky, as Monkey goes from slow to blazing-fast very, very quickly.  Most of the game plays a bit like the recent Prince of Persia games, except this one won’t let you go plummeting to your doom.  Exploring the areas for masks and tech orbs is a lot of fun, at least in my opinion, and I like that they don’t make you collect any more than that.

Still, the main draw is the story.  It’s a bit simple, but the characterization is top-notch.  Monkey and partner / enslaver Trip’s interactions are absolutely phenomenal.  They feel like real people, which is a far cry from most games.  Monkey’s attitude about things is done well, and changes throughout the game to reflect his journeys with Trip.

Speaking of Trip, she pulls the load, too.  She throws an interesting moral conundrum into the mix.  She knows she won’t survive without Monkey, so she uses a slaver headband to make Monkey help her get home.  It’s interesting because from a simply pragmatic point of view, she did the “right” thing, at least for her situation.  It also becomes clear throughout the game that Monkey might not do all that well without her, either.  It’s especially interesting in that while Trip enslaves Monkey, it’s Monkey who ends up calling most of the shots after Trip doesn’t handle a situation well.  And Monkey shows a real propensity to protect Trip beyond the whole “I’ll die if she dies” shtick.

Pigsy may annoy people, but even he is a source of comedy in a game that needs it to balance out some of the hopelessness.

The end, of course, is where things get all Matrix-like.  The slavers that have been abducting people (and killing the ones that are trouble) are really operating under the control of one “man”, although calling him that at this point is a stretch.  He’s the only one left who remembers the world before the apocalypse, and he is bringing everyone together to experience the joy of his memories of the world that once was.  Even Monkey almost succumbs to this vision of the world, before Trip kills the guy.  It proves to be an interesting statement on escapism, and holding on to what was.  A little escapism is fine, but at what point are you ignoring the entire world around you?  It’s also got a bit of “ends justify the means”, as the villain has killed countless people in this misguided quest.

Anyway, the game didn’t exactly light up the charts.  It’s pretty cheap now.  And I’d say it’s well worth picking up at this point.  Not much for numerical ratings, but 8/10 seems pretty reasonable.  Play it for the story.

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The “My Little Ponies” win a championship

Yeah, that was probably uncalled for.  But they are the Spurs’ in-division rival.

To anyone that keeps track, the Mavericks winning the NBA Championship is a bit of a surprise.  I distinctly remember that quite a few prognosticators figured everyone wanted to play Dallas.  And then they defeat the Blazers before going on a roll that involved crushing the Lakers and manhandling the Thunder.  And then beating the Heat.  Which was rather sweet.

I’m really happy Nowitzki has his ring now.  It’s too bad that Mark Cuban gets his in the process, but hey, you takes what you can gets.  And it really stresses that a stronger overall team effort can overcome the efforts of a collection of superstars.

Which leads me, of course, to LeBron James.  I don’t like the guy, but he doesn’t even come close in the “hatred” pantheon to Kobe Bryant.  Either way, I have to admit that LeBron’s got skills.  I’m not sure they’re Jordan-esque skills, though.  When you look at his game, he’s more of a point forward than anything.  Which puts him in Scottie Pippen’s league, I suppose.  And yeah, those last couple of games were rough for him in the series, but I think too many people were clearly drinking the Haterade.  Triple double?  Decent output even in the last game?  If anything, Dallas just figured out what the Heat were doing.  He and Wade didn’t have a great series, and it’s because they’re far too one-on-one focused.  Granted, they’re supremely talented, but if you don’t have other team members to keep everyone honest, you can just lock down on those two, and you’re doing great.  Make them into jump shooters, and they may burn you every once in a while, but on average, you’ll win that battle.

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Bayonetta, and games of its ilk

So, I just had the “pleasure” of playing through Bayonetta.  To make this somewhat short, I’m going to bring over my content from the ROMHacking message board.  I guess I’m just going to be lazy like that…

So.  Bayonetta.

It’s actually been sitting on my shelf, untouched (at least by me) since the game came out.  So I decided, after finishing Majin, that it’d be fun to mess around with.  And admittedly, it’s a great game.  But I do wonder if the Japanese have some sort of complex with wanting to kill deities, especially those that effectively are a stand-in for the Catholic church.  The whole “religion” in the game basically revolves around a bastardized version of Catholicism, and of course, in true Japanese fashion, you get to play as the witches, who are ostensibly the “good” guys.  Despite their having cut deals with the devil to obtain their powers.  Because, you know, that just makes you cool.

Add to that the over-the-top sexuality, and it’s not the greatest package, at least in my mind, to enjoy Devil May Cry-ish gameplay.  At least, though, it’s usually so over the top as to be completely absurd.  I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.  The dance number at the end just made me cringe.  Multiple times.  Actually, pretty much the whole way through.  I did like that Bayonetta actually shows some maternal instincts eventually, especially at the end.  It was kind of touching.

Anyway, before I come off as completely griping, it really does play very, very well.  I like the concept of Witch Time, in which time slows down to pound enemies as a reward for evading at the last second, and the combat is very much like DMC.  I still feel DMC was a tiny bit more structured, but that may just be me.  The game was good enough to finish, at any rate, and not nearly as hard as something like the original run of DMC3.  Good grief, that game was hard.  For those of you that haven’t played it already, and can stomach the elements I’ve mentioned, I’d recommend it.  But it rates just below the DMC games for me (except for DMC2).

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The NBA Playoffs, and all that jazz (but not the Jazz)

So, for anyone keeping track of the NBA Playoffs, it’s been a wild one so far.  My favorite team, the San Antonio Spurs, already got bounced out by the Memphis Grizzlies (The Grizz?  Say wha?).

As much as I’d like to dismiss them as a viable team, they’re almost tailor-made to exploit the Spurs’ weaknesses.  Let’s face it, the biggest thing the Spurs had going for them this year was phenomenal three-point shooting.  The Grizz did a great job of taking that away.

Anyway, the series was a lot closer than it looked.  The Spurs dropped Game 1 without Ginobili, and a couple of the other games were one-possession games.  The Grizz just did a better job executing down the stretch.  So that’s a whole season (and a great one at that) down the drain, and not much tread left on Duncan’s career.

Speaking of tread, it looks like the Lakers have similar problems.  Dallas just manhandled them.  It’s pretty astounding to see a team like that get swept out of the Playoffs, but it couldn’t have happened to a *ahem* nicer team.  And the cheapshot crap by Odom and Bynum were just uncalled for.  Talk about no class.

Anyway, I think the only team that I really don’t want to see win that’s left in the Playoffs is the Heat.  The Celtics, which may be the last of the old guard, need to take it to ’em.  Game 3 was a start.

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Serious monkey business

Yeah, I’m sure that tag’s been used before…

Anyway, decided to play some Donkey Kong Country yesterday.  Actually, ended up beating it.  It’s a really good game, even after all this time.  It’s interesting, though, to see that Rare DNA creep into the game.  It’s got some Battletoads-esque moments, although the primary difference between the two is that you get way more opportunities to earn extra lives in DKC.  I’m positive Battletoads would be substantially easier if it had all those opportunities for extra lives.

Anyway, there are some really good musical pieces in the game, and for anyone that is interested in some remixed versions, there’s a nice album over at OCRemix that has some tracks worth listening to.  Graphics have also aged at least somewhat decently, although it still looks like cheap 3D.  Which, of course, is to be expected, given the era and that it’s all pre-rendered 3D.

At some point, I might pick up DKC 2, which I’ve heard is superior in every aspect.  And it was also suggested to me that Miyamoto really did like the game, contrary to internet rumor, and was quite deeply involved in its development.  Thanks to the guys over at romhacking.net for correcting that misconception!

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