Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy new year!

It's been a great twelve months. Lots to look forward to in 2011!

Best of 2010 - gameplay.

It's one thing to just have great presentation - too often considered the most important measure of a game's quality - but forget all that. What games in 2010 were the most fun to play? 2010 boasts a phenomenal year of exceptionally well-realized systems and mechanics. So many, in fact, that a few really remarkable games will have to sit on the sidelines as I honor the others.

Alan Wake, your shooting is responsive and fun and pales in comparison to Vanquish. God of War III, your puzzles and gorgeous, visceral combat can only sit in the shadow of this year's winner.

And the nominees are...


The humble PSP follow-up to 2008's spectacular sleeper hit, Valkyria Chronicles II isn't as pretty, as smart or surprising as the PS3 original - but its gameplay is the ocean beyond the original's river.

Every facet of the game's systems have been honed, every tool considered, and (often) nearly every strategy is viable, while smaller, jumpable maps speed up the entire affair as your squad ping-pongs between base camps. So deep is the customization that my Class G squad is likely nothing like yours, and we're both beating the crap out of rebel scum with A-ranks. Valkyria Chronicles II is a lovely, deep, huge chess game - begging for hours of play time.

At first blush, it's a cover-based shooter with rocket legs. Once you really crack through the gleaming surface, however, Vanquish turns from a great-looking but run-of-the-mill experience into a virtuoso spectacle of considered design and perfectly honed mechanics.

The first time you come up against a miniboss and discover The Trick, your understanding of the game begins to snowball. There is a trick or tricks to every part of the game. Every enemy, every weapon, every ability has a depth beyond its initial impression - and you soon discover you're playing a shooter unlike any other. A title that begs to not merely be played, but mastered.

With design that neatly outstrips the original, BioShock 2's gameplay is one of the lesser-heard triumphs of 2010. More enemies, more plasmids, more options and ultimately more strategies at the disposal of the player gel with silky-smooth controls to make the simple act of playing it one of the more pleasing, involving experiences of the year.

Resonance of Fate initially deluges the player with basic strategy and mechanics that go way over your head. During your first visit to the Arena, you'll play through a few dozen simple tutorials that show the player, precisely, everything that can be done in the game - and it all comes down to three basic actions, during combat: shoot/use item, run and jump.

It doesn't take long to get a hang of the basics, but the game constantly pushes the player just beyond their newly-discovered comfort zone until you're forced to discover every possible permutation and combination of those three basic actions - where timing is everything - and a hundred hours later, you find you're still not tired of the combat.

Resonance of Fate easily has the best RPG battle system I've played all year.


Impressive from any angle, Red Dead Redemption's cowboy simulation is an absolute delight in its capacity to translate intention to action. Unlike most other contenders, its strength isn't the depth of its systems - instead, RDR is a game that's exceedingly easy to jump in and just play, without spending much time learning its particulars. Its designs and mechanics are all in service to its greater ambition - realizing the spaghetti western experience - and it allows the player to effortlessly put a round through a bird on the wing, or yank a desperado from his horse with a lasso.

You're never struggling against the game. You slip into it.

Rockstar finally managed accomplished shooting in an open world with the advent of Grand Theft Auto IV, but it is in Red Dead Redemption that its design truly sings, and allows the player to get on with the business of being thoroughly absorbed.

* * *

OF 2010

Controversial, flawed, colorful as a bomb in a flower shop and marred by uneven presentation, Bayonetta bests all comers of 2010 to claim her place as the crown monarch of action gaming. In terms of play, this is not merely the best brawler of the year, but arguably of all time - and a no-contest lock for best gameplay of 2010.
"This game's razor-sharp, supple combat is the standard by which upcoming entries in the genre will be judged. ... Like the best of its type, it is lightning-fast and elegantly liquid. Combat is brutal, beautiful, satisfying and - for lack of a better word - glorious.
. . .
Bayonetta is funny, original, creative, and one of the best brawlers ever made. It offers a staggering degree of replayability, and the true teeth-gritting, carpal tunnel syndrome-inducing challenge that only the best can. Its core gameplay is flawless."
- from the review -

Silent Hill Sound Box: the sound of fear.

Or at least really creepy atmosphere.

Konami is releasing an eight-disc soundtrack for the Silent Hill series. Not every game is represented, here - but every important (or reasonably important) one is.

Disc 1: Silent Hill
Disc 2: Silent Hill 2
Disc 3: Silent Hill 3
Disc 4: Silent Hill 4: The Room
Disc 5: Silent Hill Origins
Disc 6: Silent Hill: Homecoming
Disc 7: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Disc 8: Silent Hill: The Arcade, Demos
Disc 9 (DVD): Bonus DVD: Trailer reel

The black box will set buyers back 14,700 yen ($181), and represents the first time anything from Silent Hill: Homecoming has appeared in Japan.

Also - wtf, there's a Silent Hill arcade game?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Game Diary.

I've had to get up at 6am all week, which is about six hours earlier than I've been waking up for the past year - hence the limited quantity and quality of posts as of late. Sorry 'bout that.

It's taking its toll, but I feel a gnawing hunger to pop in the first Mass Effect and see if I prefer Ms. Shepard to Mr. I suspect I will - anything Jennifer Hale does is usually pure gold.

I'm not minding this Xbox thing, so far.

Still getting ME2 for PS3, though. Maybe that's weird.

[update] Yep, definitely stickin' with Jennifer Hale. The first mission of this game got me more hyped for ME2 than the ME2 demo. [/update]

Screenshots from the Tomb Raider reboot.

When those illicit scans of screenshots from the upcoming Tomb Raider appeared online, some folks said that they must all be concept art.

Well, Game Informer has put up a gallery of the direct-feed screenshots, and it's pretty clear that they're from in-game. Not astoundingly good-looking, mind you, but at least the whole affair feels very different from anything else one would identify with the Tomb Raider license.

For the full gallery, head on over to Game Informer.

The ultimate weapon against the darkness.

In Atlus's upcoming debut on the HD consoles, protagonist Vincent will negotiate the nightmare with naught but his underwear and his wits. And a pillow.

You heard me.

He uses it to bash at the sheep in his nightmares. This is a real thing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Games of January 2011.

December is over, and it's officially time to start releasing important games again. January isn't jam-packed with quantity, but it makes up for this with a few highly anticipated releases.

January 4th
Lost In Shadow
: Low.

Lost In Shadow (or A Shadow's Tale in Europe) got more than a bit of early hype thanks to its unique premise and style - to the point where some folks are still really looking forward to it - but reviews of its European release (back in October) have certainly dulled my interest in the title.

January 11th
DC Universe Online

This generation's first console MMO is a Sony-backed affair, but the MMO business is littered with the fallen corpses of those who have tried and failed. A winning license won't hurt DC Universe, but neither is it a guarantee of success. Everyone wants to be the next World of Warcraft.

January 11th
PS3, PC, 360

An action-RPG, Venetica was once a 360 exclusive. Its new status as multiplatform is rarely a sign of promise - it's possible the game was doing so poorly during pre-production, Microsoft backed away from their exclusivity deal. Still, I remember seeing videos of this a year or two ago, and feeling a bit disappointed that I wouldn't get my hands on it. Venetica may be January's sleeper hit.

January 18th
Mass Effect 2
Hype-O-Meter: Day one.

One of the most critically acclaimed games of 2010 lands on the PS3 with every piece of downloadable content included on the disc. The simple fact that the PS3 lacks the original game detracts from the total package, here, but let us not look a gift horse in the mouth: PS3 owners, we get to play Mass Effect 2. Praise be.

January 18th
Little Big Planet 2

Forget Minecraft - for many gamers, this is the ultimate video game lego set - and likely the only game my older brother will be playing for the duration of 2011.

January 25th
Dead Space 2
PS3, PC, 360
Hype-O-Meter: Day one.

Dead Space was a bit of a sleeper hit back in 2009, with critics accepting it as very good without proclaiming it to be goddamned incredible, and a required experience of the current gen.

For the record, Dead Space was (is) incredible, and is a required experience of the current gen. EA Redwood Shores (now Visceral Games) has proven that they have the capacity to really fuck up a proven formula with Dante's Inferno - here's hoping they don't make the same mistake with one of the most impressive new IPs of the HD consoles.

Really, between Mass Effect and Dead Space 2, I'm covered. Man, I can't wait to get a look at (and be disappointed by) the CE's Plasma Cutter!

The Wal-Mart misadventures of D. J. Ferber.

Before I even owned my Wii, I saw Muramasa: The Demon Blade at my local Blockbuster. It was on the shelf to be rented, but I yanked it down and held it out to the (rather pretty) young lady who worked as the day manager, and asked her how much it would be to purchase it outright. Thirty bucks.

An examination of the disc proved that its wild youth had been spent in the grips of folks less careful with their games than you or I, but the scratches were very small and very thin, so I bought it. My reasoning was, I may not want a Wii at the moment, but I know I'll never want one if I can't find a copy of Muramasa to play on it.

A few months later, I had one, and Muramasa is still my favorite thing about the system.

...I just hate that the copy I have is used, even if it is gently used. That same Blockbuster has a sealed copy, behind glass, for fifty bucks. I've been waiting all year for it to come down in price. Even for $40, I would jump at it - but I just can't bring myself to pay fifty dollars for a game I already own.

Tonight I was toolin' around town, ostensibly to buy cheap frozen pizzas at Wal-Mart. (They've got these things called "Donatello's Rizin' Crust Deluxe" which is identical to Delissio, but they're three bucks each - which is incredible.) Of course, when I get to Wal-Mart the first thing I look at is the cheap games rack.

I'm hoping to find Gears of War 1 or 2 - the only other boxed games I really feel I'd like to have for the 360.

Mass Effect 2, BioShock 2, Velvet Assassin... I do love stealth games, but I heard that really sucked... should I get Mass Effect 2 for 360 and put that preorder cash towards something else? It's only twenty bucks - that's quite a saving.

But the PS3 version comes with all the DLC. Apparently the DLC is pretty good.

Will you have time to play all that DLC? Of course not.

I do prefer the PS3 controller, though.

Yeah, the D-pad on the 360 really sucks... Okay, let's keep looking

They had no cheap pizzas.

We stopped in at Best Buy on our way to another Wal-Mart. They had Gears 1 and 2 listed in their system, for $30 and $50 each. No dice.

So we head on out to the other Wal-Mart. I check the frozen foods section, but they too are sold out of my Donatello's Rizin' Crust Deluxes.

On my way to the electronics section I notice something in their Crazy Boxing Week Sale racks - the Futurama straight-to-DVD features, two for twenty bucks.

I've been waiting for those to go down in price, too - and while I wasn't fussy about getting DVDs instead of Blu-rays, I was thrilled to find them for less than thirty-five bucks each.

But still... if I paid $20 plus tax, that would mean I only had enough money for a single pack of cigarettes between now and payday. That would just squeak me by, and I wouldn't be able to afford lunches at work...

...still... ten bucks each... that's... yeah. Yeah, I'll do that. Might as well ask about Gears, though.

So I stand in line at the electronics section long enough to ask the lady behind the counter if they have any Gears games for 360.

"What you see there is what I got," she tells me, with what is clearly a deep passion for her work. As I turn to leave, I see Muramasa behind the glass in the Wii section.

It's thirty bucks.

Thirty bucks. Twenty bucks cheaper than Blockbuster. Ten bucks cheaper than I was willing to spend.

But thirty bucks would leave me with a total lack of cigarettes.

May as well get the Futuramas, I told myself.

But I'd rather have 'em on Blu-ray - and it's thirty bucks. It's brand new. It's sealed. You may never find it so cheap agian! Go without cigarettes - this day must be seized!

So I dropped the Futurama discs and asked her to open up the Wii case.

I drop two twenties on the counter and she rings it up.

"Eleven twenty," she says.

Hm. Isn't that more change than I should get back from a thirty dollar game? I ask myself.

Shhh! I snap. Don't queer the deal!

She pushes one of my twenties back to me, and gives me another eight dollars and eighty cents in change.

Dude. You just got a sealed copy of Muramasa for ten bucks!



It's the little things. Seriously.

There will be a Catherine demo.

In the latest post on Catherine's development blog, director Katsura Hashino said the game went gold last month, but the team is now hard at work at putting together a demo. Apparently we'll hear more "in the new year," but chances are good it will appear before the game's February 17th release date.

Those of us with Japanese PSN accounts (can I set up a Japanese XBLA account? I should look into that) should be able to look forward to playing the game well before we can actually play the game - we'll just have to do it in Japanese.

No word yet on localization (sigh).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Beat Alan Wake.

Well that was pretty darn good. I shall have to do up some reviews for it and Limbo before I proceed with the GotY stuff.

Four videos about Uncharted 3.

First up, we have nearly five minutes of gameplay from the chateau sequence we've seen snippets of before. I refuse to watch it, as I'm trying to ingest as little media as possible prior to release - so let me know if it's awesome.

I expect it's awesome.

Here we have a little dev diary about how they're trying to improve the gameplay in Uncharted 3 - specifically the melee combat. 2 truly improved the gunplay with the way it was incorporated into traversal and movement - I still remember the first time I jumped from a ledge while firing backward, one-handed with an AK-47.

It was awesome.

And this one's about the story. Amy Hennig makes it pretty clear that we're likely to see Elena (or at least Chloe) again - she's just not willing to tell us yet. Oh Amy - you tease.

The last two vids are ripped from I'd rather embed them directly from that site, but their player has recently been causing havoc with the blog. Check 'em out at if you're so inclined, and it may be worth your while to stick around for their Game of the Year 2010 vids. I'm quite fond of GT's stuff - mostly because I have trouble disagreeing with any of their nominations, or choices of winner - and when I do, I can still see their point.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Okay, how was I unaware of Stacking?

It's The Next Thing from Double Fine.

This actually looks funner than Costume Quest. Curse you, Double Fine! You're so awesome.

Three things about Alan Wake.

The earliest of impressions:

(1) Very good graphics/art direction.

(2) Wow this facial animation is terrible.

(3) Holy extraneous writing, Batman!

Oh, also,

(4) Jeez this console is loud.

[update] This game is Psychological Thrillers for Dummies. Honestly, it's like the devs wanted to make damn sure the narrative of the game - and every single reference therein - was accessible to people with mental disabilities. They're leaving no room for any real subtlety, and packing it full of dialogue and exposition that should have been left on the cutting room floor.

(An axe-wielding maniac buries his axe-head in a door, with Wake on the other side.)

Me: "Hm, just like The Shining."

And then the character in the game says, "it's just like The Shining, by Stephen King!"

Seriously?! You don't need to say that. It's only cool if you don't say it. [/update]

Just put Bayonetta in the 360.

It's night and day. It's so weird to be playing the clock tower sequence and actually see what's going on. Man, Sega - did you ever fuck that port up.

MOVIE - Despicable Me.

In recent years, the world of CGI films has broadened - it is no longer just The Pixar Show. Dreamworks have stepped up with great offerings like Kung-Fu Panda and How To Train Your Dragon, Sony's Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs was delightful (thanks for the tip, Mario!), and now we have Despicable Me from Illumination Entertainment - their first feature film.

If there's a movie type I won't take to task for playing it safe, it's "kids' movies." It's fine to give us a standard story with archtypical characters, so long as there's a sense of heart behind it all - but Despicable Me offers the best of both worlds.

It's got cute humor and huggable characters and the story plays out without any big surprises - but it also manages to be a rather different "kids' movie," simply by merit of its lead.

I just can't recall a movie like this - ever - where the protagonist is a bad guy. That's the hook - and it really pays off. It ends up feeling fresh and fun and let's face it, we always wanted to spend more time exploring the world of guys who keep sharks under their floors, right?

I mean, don't get me wrong, he's The Good Guy, but he's also A Bad Guy. Professional criminal mastermind Gru (Steve Carell sporting a great accent) loves being a jerk. In in the first three minutes of being introduced, Gru tortures a child, unleashes his mighty Freeze Ray upon the patrons of a Starbucks to cut in line and smilingly threatens to kill his neighbor's dog if the pooch doesn't stop leaving "little bombs all over my yard."

Thankfully, he's not just a charicature. The most rounded character of the film, the source of his prickly disposition is given just enough exploration - we understand why Gru is the way he is, and empathize with him.

Gru's ambition is to pull off the crime of the century - to steal the Moon - and thanks to circumstance he must enlist the help of three orphaned girls to do it.

You already know where this is going, yeah? Yeah - and the film delivers on the promise you just created for it. It's a classic plot line: the character spends the entire film chasing his desire, only to find it's not what he wanted / slash / he had what he really wanted the entire time. It's doing nothing new in this regard, but Despicable Me does us the favor of getting from A to B via a scenic route that's entertaining enough - that feels new enough - to leave us little time to dwell upon its flaws.

The flaws are hard to find. I've tried to give this show time to start bugging me - but it doesn't seem to be able.

It's just... adorable. Look at these girls! They're adorable!

Margot, Edith and Agnes are all so totally endearing. The supporting cast is wonderfully realized by excellent comedic and character actors, the character designs are great, the writing is lean and sharp, the plot structure is tight...

It's a really good show. Check it out.

And some other movies.

I've managed to sup at the Table of Films quite a bit, lately, and there's a few more flicks that bear mentioning.

I remember this past spring when I saw a huge, building-sized poster for Knight & Day, the new Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz romantic/action vehicle. Deep down inside, I rolled my eyes. I hate Tom Cruise - his mannerisms seem to get more pronounced and locked-in the older he gets. Less of an actor now than a property, really, and he comes across as so damned fake in interviews. Hate him.

I did like him in the first Mission Impossible, though. And Cameron Diaz is still very likable to me - so I gave Knight & Day a chance.

You should too. It's not going to revolutionize anything, but it's got solid, well-directed action and sharp writing - and that's half the battle - and I actually like Tom Cruise in it. A surprisingly enjoyable movie, worthy of additional viewing.

Tron: Legacy, on the other hand, is one of those movies that's alright to see once, but I never want to spend two hours on again.

It keeps its promise - crazy noirish virtual world with neon light-on-black everywhere, and ooh here's some special effects which are on-par with modern ability, here's some crazy sci-fi stuff and here's some decent action - but it is just so goddamned paint-by-numbers.

The film neatly sets up its world, the characters, the rules and several possible outcomes early on - and there is never a question of where this thing is actually headed. Again, it keeps its promise - you wind up precisely where you expect, precisely how you expected to get there - but it would have been nice to have the movie actually surprise you once in a while with... well, anything.

Legacy is designed to be easily digestible for the masses, sheared clean of any potentially rough edges that could cost it valuable revenue - but in doing so it only feels like it's offering half a film, half a story, half of its characters' depth. It posits ideas that I'd like to see explored further - by a movie or book or any media willing to take even one goddamned risk.

Classic creature feature Tremors is available on blu-ray.

This is a good thing.

They're under the goddamned ground!

I just stumbled across this trailer, which has a ridiculous premise, but I expect may be worth one's time. Emily Blunt and Matt Damon are both pretty smart cookies - it's unlikely (certainly not impossible) that they'd get involved in something wholly stupid.

So maybe it just looks stupid, but it's actually awesome. You feelin' me?

Oh, and because I was late showing up to Tron: Legacy, I missed the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. This will be a pleasant celluloid snack.

No Orlando Bloom! Eeee!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

And then there were three.

Today I took a bit of a plunge.

Although I've always been (reasonably, I feel) standoffish about the 360 due mainly to its legendary ability to self-destruct and/or destroy one's games, the library has also been an issue for me. I'm sure I've put it this way before:

The 360 has a good half-dozen titles I'd really like to try, and nothing I really need to play.

Except the definitive version of Bayonetta. And I guess Limbo and Alan Wake.

I picked up said version of Bayonetta dirt-cheap from Wal-mart a month or so ago while I was there with Blue. It was very much like purchasing Muramasa before I actually owned a Wii. The reasoning behind it was the same - "I may not necessarily want an Xbox 360 - but I know I'll never want one if I can't find a copy of Bayonetta to play on it."

But my rule regarding price still held firm. No way would I spend three hundred dollars on one - it's not worth that, to me. Not two fifty, not even two hundred. $130 is a nice, low price for an HD gaming console.

So today, during my Boxing Day sojourn, I bought one.

But Chance! one may cry. You play PlayStation 3 games! It's how it's always been! What can you be called now, but 'traitor'?

I suspect I'll still play PS3 games, and the blog will continue to be PS3-centric.

Thegamesofchance has always been a place where I talk about the video games (and other stuff) that are interesting to me, at any given moment. Given that ninety per cent of it has been me talking about something on the PS3 or PSP, I can understand how I may have given you the impression of being an unyielding Sony fanboy.

I'm not sure I am, though. Admittedly, perhaps this article doesn't help my argument - but it's not so much about disliking the Wii and 360 as it is about why the PS3 was my first choice.

I fucking love my PS3. It's an internet-browsing game-playing exclusive-encrusted blu-ray-playing HD beast. I prefer the controller, but most of all I love Sony's first and second-party developers - I love the PS3 for the games - and given that Microsoft tends to concentrate its efforts on a shooter, one RPG franchise, another shooter and a racing game, I don't expect to have a particularly voluminous 360 library.

I like my Wii for Muramasa, and I bought the 360 for Bayonetta, Alan Wake and Limbo.

* * *

Now... setting the thing up was a bit of a hassle, I'll admit. Upon opening the box, it struck me that they arranged it very much like the Wii's internal packaging. It's designed to be simple, so Little Billy won't have much trouble putting it together.

Upon turning it on, however, it took a good half-hour of wading through seemingly unskippable goddamned tutorial menus before I was even able to create an XBL account - and then another ten or fifteen minutes to sign up for that and do I seriously have to create a fucking avatar before you'll just let me buy Limbo?!

* * *

Ahhh, but finally playing Limbo was sweet. A delicious delicacy of gaming. Simple, simple mechanics, great puzzles, lead-thick atmosphere and such wonderful presentation. And it's like, "yeah, this was the right call."

And so now, in terms of gaming, I have my options wide open. Except for the iPhone. And iPad. And DS. And gaming PC. Anyway...

I actually looked at the 360 section of the games in HMV today. "This is weird," I thought to myself. "Hmm, Mass Effect 1..."

One big happy family.

OhmiGod I'll be able to play Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet now!


I don't have to remind you what that is, do I? First noticed it last year, then in March word drops that it's getting an XBLA release and nothin' else? No? Don't remember? Never heard of it?

Watch the trailer.

I'll get to play that.

A clearer look at (what folks think may be) the PSP 2.

A few weeks ago some terrible, blurry, extra-lens flare pics appeared online of what was said to be the PSP 2. With two analog nubs, an HD screen, one front and one back-facing camera and a trackpad built into the back of the unit, it had the same sliding front as the PSP Go.

I didn't post the pictures because they were terrible and blurry, with extra lens-flare - hardly worth our time.

These images, from PSM3, seem to be a CGI mock-up of the rumored item - and from the sounds of things, this design is already out of date.

Hey look, it plays Killzone 3!

Word is the sliding design is going to be scrapped due to overheating issues - but the magazine expects the PSP2 to arrive sometime late in 2011. I just hope they swap the placement of the analog nubs and buttons, 'cause this is really going to mess with my DualShock muscle memory.

Well crap.

There is only one other post on the blog, so far, with the Nier tag. In October of 2009 I wasn't exactly enthused about the title - and if I only paid attention to reports and editorials from gaming media, I wouldn't currently own a copy of it - but if one was willing to pay attention to what gamers were saying about the title throughout the year, it sounds... kinda' special.

Which is something I'm quite fond of, when it comes to gaming.

Still, thanks to the endorsement of folks like Rent and the name being continually dropped in discussion circles online, Nier moved back up onto my radar. Tonight I finally threw it in.

The opening voice work (a one-sided chastisement of a demonic book, completely absent from the Japanese version of the game) seizes upon one's imagination immediately. Then it had to install, so I walked away for a while.

Then I came back and played the opening sequence.

Gameplay is okay. Voice work is good. Writing is alright. Music is fantastic. Story seems above-par. Textures are pretty bad, but still... it demands investigation.

Well, crap. Now there's another game I care about.

I don't have time for this.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's a pagan holiday, Charlie Brown.

The obligatory posting of Shortpacked's comic on the subject.

Oh, and while we're getting sacrelicious, here's one about male performance from Gun Show.

Poor Santa. Poor Mrs. Claus.

And the wise men started tokin'...

and yea, the bud was kind.

It was salvation they were smoking,
and his forgiveness blew their mind.

And let not mandkind bogart love.

I'm really very fond of Colbert's Christmas special.

I keep listening to Season of the Witch on repeat.

No idea why.

The awesomest thing I opened on Christmas.

The parents were accepting enough of my lifestyle to get me preorders for Dead Space 2 and Mass Effect 2 (SE for DS2!), but my other gift today actually made me go "holy shit."

Here it is : thanks, little brother.

"Metal Gear?! can't be!"

Papercraft! Apparently it took him 30 hours. Not "like, thirty hours," but thirty hours.

This thing is fucking awesome.

What?! No more demo for the original Valkyria Chronicles?!

Not in English, anyway. In the wee hours of Christmas Eve (actually, 6.5 hours into Christmas Day), it came to my attention that the demo for the best gosh-darned Japanese strategy RPG of the current gen has disapparated!

It's not on the US store, not on the PAL store, not on the Canadian store!

Desperately, I searched my other accounts. How could this be?! Could the PSN's unfortunate financial situation be to blame? (Did you know every time you download something for free, Sony charges the publisher of that item for it?)

When push came to shove, I found it on the Japanese store. Now, the downside to this is that the demo's in Japanese - but there ain't much story to be found in it. Still, trying to get a handle on the ins and outs of an SRPG without localized instructions... well, that would suck.

If playing the demo before it goes extinct for good is on your to-do list, instructions for how to locate it are much the same as they were for the VC3 demo. If you're unfamiliar with what the Valkyria Chronicles icon would look like, just find the right section of the Japanese PSN Store (as prescribed in this post), place your selection in the center of the top row of icons and push the down button on your D-pad six times.

Now you're highlighting the last demo for Valkyria Chronicles known to man.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Life is good.

I suppose, at this point, it's technically Christmas Day. Merry Christmas!

I spent the evening supping on Christmas turkey, Christmas stuffing and Christmas mashed potatoes with Christmas gravy. Some Christmas Pepsi to wash it down, and some Christmas Nanimo bars afterwards. We watched Scrooged and Knight & Day (which is a lot more entertaining than you'd think, given that it's a Tom Cruise movie - I hate Tom Cruise).

Once everyone else had rambled off to bed I stretched out with God of War: Ghost of Sparta, and it occurred to me that, were I describing the game to someone, it would have no "but"s attached. Unlike other great PSP games I played in 2010 (Persona 3 Portable, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Valkyria Chronicles II), there is no caveat against enjoyment for Ghost of Sparta.

It's not "a great game, but...", it's just "a great game."

You just got Cthulu'd.

Merry Christmas - have some awesome comics!

Now, some webcomics have a tendency to make me feel a bit stupid as I read 'em. Referencing culture I've never heard of - verbose stuff that goes right over my head. It must be what reading Penny Arcade is like for people who've never pressed the start button. Now, the author of Dresden Codak has like, four degrees - so when I came across it months ago I must have dismissed it as equally inaccessible, but the other night I was reading Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and they had done a guest comic for Codak. Having been thusly led back to it, I decided to take a closer look - and... wow.

At this point in its evolution,
Dresden Codak is nothing less than a sumptuous visual feast.

Pictured above is Kimiko "Kim" Ross, beautiful cyborg daughter of famed roboticist Kaito Kusanagi. So, yes, the character is clearly a riff on and homage to Major Motoko Kusanagi (right down to the haircut) from Ghost in the Shell. Kim's only interest - ever - is doing science, to the point where she is essentially a very endearing evil genius. She'll happily destroy the world, if it means moving evolution towards the next "paradigm shift," and writes alternate-evolution-history fan fics.

As I said, when I first taste-tested Dresden Codak, I found it willfully difficult to get in to. I think I was going about it all wrong. First of all, there's only one completed story arc - Hob - which consists of twenty-seven pages and took one year to produce. This ain't Dr. McNinja, where you can fall in love with it and while away days going through the back-catalog - but once you've read through Hob, there are little one-off comics that further fill in the world and characters of Codak, and a new story arc is six pages done.

Having read Hob last night, I said the strangest thing to myself:
"This is the best webcomic I've ever read."
And I've read a lot of webcomics, so take that for what you will.

* * *

Let's see, what's next, what's next... I've already told you about Shortpacked... ah! Have you met Johnny Wander?

You may have heard of long-running webcomic Applegeeks, drawn by Mohammad "Hawk" Haque, written by Ananth Panagariya. After Applegeeks closed its doors (I rather liked it), Hawk went on to do Three Panel Soul, which often experiments with different art styles. Ananth got together with Yuko Ota - he does the writing, she does the art, and it's just lovely.

Johnny Wander is almost diary-style, and very slice-of-life (what happens when you mix coffee with Nutella, for example), but minutia is invested with emotion in the gentle, funny, and always visually appealing twice-weekly work.

Occasionally they'll veer off into short original fictions, which allow them both to stretch a bit artistically and creatively, and they haven't missed the mark yet.

Definitely worth adding to your bookmarks.