Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Okay, it's December 31st and basically I let the whole GotY thing slide off into nothingness.  I'm working on a single best-games post, but that'll have to wait for another day (there are doings afoot).

I'm up to my eyeballs in Inquisition right now, and am terrified to acknowledge that it really does belong in any Best of 2014 deliberations.  It's so detailed and kneels so thoughtfully in service of the fantasy-epic our inner child so desires - traipsing through a beautiful wooden glade, hearing a crow take flight behind you as it wings away.  The combat, which just gets sharper and sharper as you begin to understand just how quickly and aggressively it wants you to play.

Oh, and Scout Harding.  I love Scout Harding.  She's a dwarf with clever eyes who introduces each new area as your Inquisitor arrives, and with a confident, smokey voice, lets you know just how fucked up things have gotten here and thank goodness you've arrived.  BioWare, if you're listening, I want Scout Harding as a party member in Dragon Age Next.  Specifically, as a romance option.

I want this conversation to be a thing.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Game Diary - Dragon Age Inquisition.

Well crap.  It is that good.  I'm not sure that it's my GotY, but it's up there, man.  All the reviews came out and I was like "really? Dragon Age?  Really?"  And then it gets the GotY at the Game Awards and I'm all "really?"

Well, yeah.  Really really.

My Inquisitor is a scrawny little Dalish elf who's kinda' funny lookin' and kinda' cute.  Her prominent eyebrows ensure she always looks a little worried and/or surprised, and she's almost entirely lacking an upper lip.

I think she's adorable.  She often lacks the cool, cocky charm of Shepard, but she's kind, direct, and now - at level fifteen - an absolute monster with a bow in her hands.

What Inquisition has - what it has in spades - is the Lord of the Rings romance that DAII completely ignored.  It's a far broader game than any Mass Effect or Dragon Age to come before it, and what you get are these colossal, wide-open areas that give you the real sense of wandering through an impossibly ancient forest, of slogging through gloomy swamps - of exploring a fantastical world.

The fallow mire is incredible

That is a huge part of the game's success - even as it denies it the denser excitement of Mass Effect.  Thus far, it feels like the "big moments" are fewer and further between, and I've yet to come across a side quest that really throbs with the bracing, morally-gray narratives BioWare cut their teeth on - but the size and grandeur and beauty of the adventure, and how pleasurable its play is, ensures I don't mind.

Life as an Archer Rogue wasn't all cupcakes and daisies until I unlocked my class specialization, and went with Tempest - which permits me to lay down ridiculous burst damage from thirty feet away, and spam focus moves at will.  I send in Blackwall - the world-weary Gray Warden who stole my Inquisitor's heart, despite the low-down charms of Sera - and he taunts them all into a neat little group.  I pop my poison-weapons skill, pop Flask of Fire (which eliminates the stamina cost on my abilities and their cooldowns) and spam an explosive arrow that showers everything downrange in fire and poison.


It's super good-looking with gorgeous environments, it's absolutely gigantic (I had spent 22 hours in it before I really left the Hinterlands, your starting area), and it's fun to play.

Dragon Age Inquisition.  Yes, really.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dear assholes who took down PSN and Xbox Live on Christmas.

Dear assholes,

I know I've begun on an inflammatory note.  Calling you assholes, I mean.  That's a good way to start a conversation and ensure everything you say gets ignored, but I don't choose the word lightly.  It is my fervent conviction that, in utilizing your technological power and free time to crash Xbox Live and PlayStation Network on Christmas Day, you have established your assholery in no uncertain terms.

In interviews, you've claimed to be motivated by some altruistic purpose.  You believe you're going to teach Microsoft and Sony a lesson about... what?  How to suffer an attack which cannot be defended against?  A DDOS attack exploits the fundamental nature of the Internet - the fact that a server you send a ping to has to listen to it before it determines if it's crap or a real customer - and by sending a deafeningly large number of pings, that server cannot assist their actual customers.  Your members have suggested that if Sony or Microsoft just spent "millions," they could handle attacks like yours - that they have some sort of duty to do this ridiculous thing they wouldn't need to worry about if it weren't for bullies like you - and that's the lesson you're benevolently attempting to impart.
The rest of the world. upon hearing what you've done and why you've done it. immediatley appreciates that you are assholes - but you don't. So you'll probably keep doing it.  But maybe you wouldn't if you empathised with outside perspectives - so let me explain why your actions have proven you to be assholes.  Because you don't have to be assholes. 

1 : For the lulz?  Are you kidding? 
"There was one question on the mind of every gamer this Christmas: Why? Why would anyone ruin Christmas by taking down these gaming networks? The simplest explanation, Lizard Squad told me, was that they did it for the lulz."
The lulz is a good reason to tell a joke.  It's not a good reason to do anything destructive.  Building, creating anything takes work, and the person who knocks it down isn't funny.

No one thinks it's funny.  All they feel is sad for the guy who made the broken thing, and know that the person who threw the brick is an asshole.  If Sony and Microsoft are the kids who spent hours building sand castles on the beach, you are the assholes who walked by and decided to kick them down, because you decided they weren't good enough, despite literally thousands of children and gamers standing around enjoying them.

2 : The term is "bully."

Let's pretend that, in executing this attack,  it actually was your intention to teach Sony and Microsoft something - but this is not how these conversations have a meaningful outcome.  It's not a conversation.  It's just an attack.  Do you really think that, because you announced it a month ago, that makes it okay?  It's not.  The "conversation" you've had with Sony and Microsoft is analogous to this:
"Hey kid, I'm going to beat the shit out of you on Thursday.  You have until then to learn martial arts."

"My mom won't let me learn martial arts."

"If your mom loved you, she'd teach you karate."

(One week later, the kid lies twitching and bloody on the ground, a bat in their attacker's hands.)

"I hope you learned a valuable lesson about how not to get the shit beat out of you."
(Passerby.) "Why did you do that?"
"'Cause it's hilarious!" 
How on Earth have you convinced yourselves that you're the cool people in this scenario?

3 : Seriously, you're bullies. 

"You feel that you have the power to do something," one of the attackers said to BBC.  And that's it, really. You want to convince yourself that you're powerful - but instead of doing something meaningful, you've chosen to take a bat you've found to the Christmas Morning of millions of children across the globe.

I don't know how, or why, that makes you feel powerful.  It certainly doesn't seem big to anyone else.

Countless children's parents gave them their fondest nerdy wish, this Christmas - a new system, under the tree.  One would hope you could empathise with a legion of geeky children, but instead of being able to play it, what they got was your bat in their face.  They got a toy they couldn't play with.

4: Consider the timing. 

You took down Sony's gaming network for a day and inconvenienced their customers.  As chilling as you feel that to be, two weeks prior, the perpetrators of The Sony Hack leaked movies which cost the company multiple millions of dollars, denied them the wide release of a Christmas Day adult comedy (which cost them yet further millions) and earned the company untold levels of public embarrassment as thousands of terribly unprofessional emails were showered across the 'net.

If there's a digital attack Sony is concerned with, at the moment, I can assure you it's not yours. In a manner of speaking, in terms of what cyberterrorism they should be worried about, Sony was already concerned with someone else's ping.

* * *

I hope one day you'll understand that having a bat doesn't mean you should use it on someone - that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.  I hope you learn more and put on a white hat, but for the moment, just appreciate that you're being assholes.

True power creates.  True power speaks, and resonates with that truth.

You're not funny.  You're the bully laughing at the broken nose you've inflicted.

You're assholes.

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Merry Christmas, you lovable internet dwellers. 

I gave my brother his only request, an extra Dualshock 4, but also a foot-tall Sackboy figure (he loves LBP, so I had to pick it up when I saw it in a collectibles store), a copy of Guardians of the Galaxy on bluray, inFamous: First Light and the sublime Alien Isolation.  Kayla made off with eight gigs of requested music for her iPod, a white-gold chain for her pendants (her last one broke), a big set of makeup brushes from Sephora and a POÄNG with matching footstool from Ikea (she'd been fawning over it for like a year, every time we went to the store).   

I had suspected Kayla had procured the Wind Waker Link Nendoroid for me when, a few weeks ago, she was clearly browsing Nendos.  I walked into the bedroom and she held up her iPad to me.  "She's so cute!" she proclaimed.  It was the Nendo of Yoko Littner from Gurren Lagaan.  

Obviously, my first thought was I can never let her see the source material for this, which is sage advice I will now ignore.  

Still, she was right.  Like all Nendos, Yoko's is totally adorable - even if she is wearing a flaming bikini top, short shorts and thigh highs.  

My second thought was "well, she's getting that for Christmas."  My girlfriend expressed interest in a Nendo - she's getting it - and so, she has.  It is my fondest wish that Yoko will merely be the beginning of a collection for her. 

Kayla and I also took on Christmas Eve dinner duties - it's always been tradition in my family to have a big dinner for Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day, and this year my parents decided they've been putting them on for a few decades and they're sick of it - so Kayla and I stepped up.  I made the Nanimo bars, which you must experience if you haven't, Kayla got some hand-made perogies, and I spent most of yesterday in the kitchen making sure the turkey and potatoes and kolbassa turned out okay.  

I can appreciate why the last generation found it a bit exhausting. 

Anyway, today is Christmas day, and I got things!  What things?  These things. 

Geek happines comes on discs.

Not bad, not bad at all - if I do say so myself.  The entire top half of this image is courtesy of Kayla, who secured me Link's Nendoroid (who is adorable - after I unwrapped Link and she unwrapped Yoko, she proclaimed "we're awesome"), the original Mad Max Trilogy (which she saw me oohing and ahhing over at Wal-Mart, and promptly decided to purchase), Ghost in the Shell Arise: Borders 1 & 2 (which should damn well need no introduction), a fully paid-off preorder for the first big game of 2014, Dying Light, and a physical copy of the only full-release Vita game I really loved in 2014, Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed.

My parents procured Futurama's final season on Bluray and - going off-list, which is usually a horrible idea, when it comes to me - what the box assures me is a uniquely peaty scotch from the oldest still-functioning distillery in the Scotland.
"Bowmore's celebrated Single Malt has been distilled on this jewel of an island, the Queen of the Hebrides, ever since 1779. This makes it the first of Islay's eight distilleries chronologically speaking (and by taste too, many would say). Now, as then, Bowmore is widely acknowledged to be among the finest and most perfectly balanced single malts in the world."
Yeah, I'm... I'm looking forward to trying this.

Finally... I get a little selfish around Christmas.  'Tis better to give, of course, and I try to buy people so much it makes them uncomfortable.  As the same time, I am conscious of the fact that very few people go as nuts to Christmas as I do, so I tend to reserve some funds just to buy stuff for myself - so that no matter what my loved ones get me, I'll have some stuff I'm happy with (it's weird - I know - don't judge).  

This year, I snagged myself Dragon Age Inquisition, because I didn't want to put it on my Christmas list and risk someone not getting it for me, and I didn't want to fight Boxing Day crowds for a cheap copy. Warm Bodies was finally under fifteen bucks at Best Buy, Cowboy Bebop's bluray release was an insta-buy when I walked past it in the store, and I am absolutely thrilled to have Satoshi Kon's Opus.  

I finally cracked it open today after finishing Dr. McNinja, and it's wonderful, so far.  Very Kon. 

Link & the ladies.

And that's my Christmas!  I hope yours was awesome too :) 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How to get Resogun working on your Vita.

Officially, Sony and the crew that ported Housemarque's exemplary shooter are still working on getting the Vita version fixed on North America's PSN.  If you, like me, were pretty put out when you downloaded the game yesterday and got a validation error when you booted it up, PlayStation Blog commenter ShadowJR has got us covered.  I tested their solution, and lo - it works!

Step 1 - delete Resogun off your Vita.  (Hold your finger over its icon, tap the "..." that comes up, choose delete.)

Step 2 - log on to your PSN account on the web browser version of the PlayStation Store.  Search for  "Resogun."  Three versions will come up - the PS3, PS4 and Vita versions.

Step 3 - add each version to your cart.  If you already paid for it or have the PS4 version through the Plus version we got during the PS4 launch, the price for each will be free.  Go through checkout, and you're done here.

Step 4 - open up the PSN store on your Vita, go to your downloads list and re-download Resogun.

Step 5 - update Resogun before trying to run it.  (It's one of the symbols at the top of the page when you first tap its icon.)  Finally, run Resogun!


Thank you, SharowJR, for figuring this out - and shame on you, Sony, for making this process necessary.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Error : Cannot validate the full version of the game.

The above message is what I (and, it seems, all) North American Vita owners get when we try to run Resogun.

All day today, at work, I was lookin' forward to coming home and trying the game out on my handheld but nooo... we live in an age where games will launch and just not work.  This feels doubly egregious, coming from Sony, who championed consumer rights at E3 2013.

Also, I know the Velocity 2X review is quite possibly the worst review I've ever written.  Where did you go, gaming magic?  And how can I get you back?

Monday, December 22, 2014

REVIEW - Velocity 2X.

Velocity 2X - sequel to a 2012 smart phone game that was good enough to get a pretty-damned-awesome PS Vita remake - has an attitude very different from most indie games.  Developer FuturLab have, in the past few years, garnered a reputation as a studio whose titles possess razor-sharp mechanics that demand the very best of their players, but remain exceedingly playable.  They specialize in fast-paced, twitchy action games, and the amount of accolades they've earned between Velocity and Surge Deluxe is expansive.

Indies can occasionally come across as a bit... desperate to be liked.  A bit needy for your approval.  Velocity 2X doesn't give a shit what you think.  It knows it's awesome.

It's very confident, and not without reason.

Velocity 2X represents the developer at the top of their craft, and is the most polished, accessible-yet-viciously-challenging, well-presented game FuturLab has ever made.

Its narrative is pleasingly-presented with lush, cartoony storyboards that showcase hero cyborg pilot Kai Tana's general badassery as she takes it upon herself to spearhead an interstellar slave revolt in her quest to return to Earth (after she got sucked into a black hole at the end of Velocity Ultra).

The gameplay is instantly-comfortable to anyone who threw down with Ultra in 2013 - a classic top-down shoot'em up with puzzle elements that require total mastery of your ship's ability to teleport across the screen at will, which ends up being blisteringly fast when you start shooting for top scores across its fifty levels.  It remains as thrilling now as it was then to bamf bamf bamf teleport through a series of obstacles, disappearing just before enemy projectiles would have smacked into you, reappearing in the middle of a formation of evil drones and flinging bombs in all direction.

Instead of the relatively uniform environments of Ultra, 2X sends the player across garden worlds, ice worlds and space junks - though it is, admittedly, hard to notice the lovely background art when you're blasting by as fast as possible.

2X doesn't sit on Velocity's laurels with a new coat of paint and some new levels.  Roughly a third of the game consists of Kai leaping out of her Quarp Jet for sidescrolling platforming so speedy it would make Sonic long for his sixteen-bit youth.

Cleverly, Kai's controls on foot are largely identical to the Quarp Jet's.  R1 is run here as it is boost there, and square permits her to tele-dash through solid objects and enemies.  Instead of feeling tacked-on or half-baked, her 2D platforming is even sharper, her action more confidently expressive than when she's in the pilot's seat, and the game's greatest thrills are found as she dashes through alien halls at a breakneck pace, obliterating collectible crystals as she flies by with a long rapid-fire string from her palm-blaster.  It's so incredibly fast - and so easy to screw up if you're not entirely invested for even a second - that it ends up being not only the most visually impressive part of the game, but also the most satisfying.

The game's challenge gradient is excellent - it goes from merely challenging and entirely linear to utterly insane and labyrinthian by the end, but still eminently doable thanks to a steady escalation of complexity that slowly turn the player into a speed-running, teleporting martial artist.

It's exemplary, and an exemplary sequel - from tip to tail.

  • Lovely presentation
  • Lovely art direction
  • Excellent music
  • Very fun
  • Very challening
  • Excellent design
  • Additions to the formula work beautifully 
If there's a strike against it, it's that - once mastered - you won't feel a pressing need to return to Velocity 2X any time soon.  It's not a game like Olli Olli that calls you back, every so often, to zip through its levels as a quick diversion.  It requires absolutely all of you, or nothing.  

If you don't bring your A-game, you'll never get past level 45. 

Despite its nearly uniform excellence, it's not a game for everyone - but if you're longing for something that rewards keen reflexes, path memorization and classic arcadey sensibilities while thumping you with an awesome electro soundtrack, Velocity 2X would like a word.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

5 year old girl discusses Princess Leia's slave outfit with dad.

Bless this five year old's heart.  She shines a brutal light on our ability to turn everything ugly.

"Do you know what the word demeaning is...?"


(Dad explains.)

"But it actually is quite nice.  I think so.  I don't care if people don't think that."

Bless her heart.

Apt for 3 reasons:  (1) Leia is a Disney Princess now, (2) Kayla and I were just talking about how we need to see Tangled again, and (3) it is quite nice.  I would keep that outfit too - 'specially the bangles and tiara. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Music minipost!

Just three.  For starters, my baby love the western movies.

Second, The Black Angels' The Sniper,

and Black Rebel Motorcyle Club.  Enjoy!

These Final Fantasy XV trailers are still workin' on me.

The director explained a bit about the game today, too - take that town and the camping scene, for example.  Your heroes will need to rest at inns or by camping in order to keep themselves at top performance - you'll get a buff for resting, for example, and may end up with a debuff if you go too many days without sleeping.  Cool!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Variety! Part II : The Varieting.

Kayla and I do this thing where we (try to) have a nice date night once a month, and last night we went out to dinner, visited a local games store and saw The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  It's the best of the trilogy, in terms of never being bored throughout it,but it makes me want to revisit the second one just to get a bit more Smaug goin' on.  What Smaug Five Armies has is the best Smaug that's ever Smaug'd.

The theatre was kinda' screwy in that all of the pre-show audio was super-low and out of synch with the video, and the guy in the seat next to me was... a large gentleman, so as I had to kinda' twist my whole body to accommodate this imposition on my personal space, I spent most of the movie with my muscles threatening to go into full-on cramp mode.  Also, that there were no trailers - which made me want to go find a trailer for Into The Woods that wasn't all teaser-y... annnd...  let's see here... YouTube's got nothin' -  oh my God they're making Kite into a live-action movie?

That's... weird.

Anyway, at the games store, Kayla procured my Christmas present - a fully-paid preorder on Dying Light for PS4 (woo!) - and I procured the game of 2014 I feel guiltiest for not playing.

In other news, I've slipped right back in to a feverish Don't Starve obsession on my Vita.  Today, I finally survived the duration of an absolutely brutal summer, and the rainy season has begun - thank God.

I find it kind of incredible that we're nearly three weeks into December, and there is still a release in 2014 I'm hyped for - Resogun on Vita.  Can't wait for that one.

Anyway, after the movie we got home by like 9:30, and were responsibly in bed by 10:00.  Then my digestive tract began revolting against some offensive aspect of my dinner, and I was up till 02:00 dealing with that.  So I worked all day today, I'm totally exhausted, and I'm going to...

I'm going to...

Well, heck.  I'm gonna' check out Dragon's Age.

Oh, also, I've decided I'm getting this Nendo.  Somewhere, beyond the far edge of our galaxy in the unknown depths of the universe, a legendary device known as the All Seeing Cute-O-Meter sensed the existence of this Nendoroid upon its creation, overloaded, and shattered into infinite tiny sparkling pieces.  Its caretakers could only send the briefest of messages before the explosion - "too cute."

I don't even watch Nichijou, but this thing is totes adorbs. This is happening.

[update]  Oh, also, I wanted to mention.  Sony pulling the release of The Interview because of some vague threat.  I doubt you were going to see The Interview, and I certainly wasn't, either - I'll wait for it to be on Netflix or something, like I did with Pineapple Express and This Is The End - but I think it's safe to say that we all feel like that's total bullshit, and gives a green light to anyone who wants to threaten violence to force companies, people, artists to kowtow to... bullies.

Film/Book/Game X features something you don't like?  You just threaten to bomb a store selling it - yoink - off the shelves.  Wasn't that easy?

On the other hand, remember when that Danish cartoonist drew a comic and extremists got all pissed off and killed him?  That shit happens, man.  I just wish that the people making these threats would do so without a mask on, so they could be subsequently whacked across the head with a large explosive device.

It's a terrible precedent, that's been set here. [/update]

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


This is probably the coolest gaming thing you'll see today.

There are a few semi-interesting other bits, I suppose.  This week's PSN Holiday sale has Child of Light for Vita down to a reasonable price, and I'm considering snagging it despite my tepid reaction to the game on PS4.  Two sale prices you should really be paying attention to is Don't Starve's - it's down to nine bucks on Vita with a PS+ membership, and that is a steal - and my cherished Dragon's Crown, which is down to $20, even without a PS+ subscription, on PS3 and Vita.  If you don't have it, get it.   Oh, and Hotline Miami for three bucks is an absolute no-brainer.

I also find myself considering Sleeping Dogs' PS4 version - it's down to thirty bucks with a plus membership - but if I'm being honest with myseslf, I'd rather have it on a disc.  Speaking of up-ports, the excellent DmC: Devil May Cry is also getting a new-gen up-port (due out in March), and Devil May Cry 4 as well.

Hmmm let's see what's new on the PlayStation channel... ooh, this The Order: 1886 trailer is nicely creepy.

Oooh, and they've got the opening cutscene for Dying Light but it's... pretty meh.  Still super-hyped for the game, though.

What else, what else... oh!  Disgaea 5 is coming to PS4 in North America.

Annnd Guilty Gear Xrd and Loadout dropped today for PS4, and Loadout is free - which is ample reason to give it a shot.

...but I think I might just end up playing more Don't Starve.  I turned it back on today.  That might have been a mistake.

[update]  I didn't play Don't Starve.  I played with my Nendos and moved them to the upper shelf of my Detolf, away from Momo, Gwendolyn and Harley.

They are not happy about it.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Beautiful. And terrible.

A week and a half ago, I fleshed out my collection of Shun Classic knives with the bread knife (verdict: makes my old bread knife look like a bat with nails in it), and promised myself I would get Shun's Blue line kiritsuke.  I was so pleased with my purchase that I decided to poke around the internet and see what reviews of the knife were like - someone must have tried the Shun Blue, after all.

I wound up at, which, as it turns out, are forums for people who are as crazy about cooking gear as we are about video games.  These people know their shit, and the consensus at those forums is Shun knives aren't worth the price.  There are tons of better options for slightly more money.

The first bone of contention I stumbled across was that Shun knives are measured in inches - not millimetres - which, these folks advise, instantly denote them as mass-produced products tailored to mainstream American sensibilities, and not purely designed as articles of Japanese craft.  Sure they're beautiful, but they're also kinda' terrible.

And it was like...

This news struck me like a thousand pointy arrows, and I desperately went through the forums for something I could understand - something that explained why the knives were shit without using terms like "profile."  I don't know what the fuck that means.  It must be like what people feel like when they stumble across Penny Arcade and see us throwing terms like "mechanics," "pacing" and "expression" around without any context.

The ultimate point of these learned gentlemen and women was that Shun knives aren't bad, they're just painted up like some sort of silly knife-clown with their gorgeous Damascus cladding and for a hundred or two hundred dollars more, you could get a Formula 1 instead of a Challenger Hellcat.

I paid $200 for my Shun Classic chef's knife.  I could have paid $350 for the 240 millimetre Mizuno Hontanren Blue #2 Gyuto, which was literally hand-crafted, hand-forged, hand-hammered by members of the ancient Mizuno family.

These are real knives.  These are the Formula 1s.  And my Shuns..?

They're just the sports cars from a mainstream brand. They roll off assembly lines - and sure, they're hand-sharpened, but... they're not art.

Are they art?

I don't even know, man.

I stopped looking for reviews of their Blue kiritsuke and started drooling over knife porn for like three days, pouring over thousand-dollar hand-crafted Japanese knives.  But what's the point?  I'm not paying $1000.00 for a fucking knife.  For $400 I could get an Xbox One, and I don't even want an Xbox One, but that seems like a more valuable investment.

Whatever.  Fuck it, man.  Fuck it.  Y'know what,

After the last post, I brought it up in conversation with Kayla - had I really never made my lasagna for her?  Turns out, no, I hadn't.

So I procured a bunch of ricotta and some fresh mozzarella and some large noodles and set to work creating a layered masterpiece.  I like the sauce to be really thick in my lasagna, so it's not just a big wet mess, and the beginning of that is a really hearty mirepoix.  I used my ten-inch chef to halve the carrots and switched to my seven-inch beveled santoku for the finer work, and in no time flat I had a nice stock of finely diced veggies, ready for the pot.

I deglazed the pot I'd browned my burger in with some wine, scraped up the brown bits and once that had reduced I added some oil and the mirepoix, and in my head, I was mulling over how sub-par these knives were supposed to be.

They're doing a pretty damned good job, for the record - and the cheftalk folks say what knife you use doesn't matter - what matters is what you're able to produce with them.

Apparently I'm supposed to hone them "once a week with regular use."  Well, I don't cook that much, so I don't hone them all that often, but it's been a few months since I got the santoku, so I decided to tease its edge back to perfect.  

Being careful of the angle, I thwipped it down the honer - three times on this side, three times on that, then two, then two, then one, then one.  And that's one sharp motherfucker.

Then, I decided to knock up my mirepoix a bit with some garlic.  It had cooked down a bit - was getting nice and mellow-gold - so now would be a good time to add garlic without burning it.  I smashed the garlic, removed the skins and took to chop chop chopping and sheared off a big dragonscale-shaped chunk of the nail of my middle finger on my left hand.

I didn't even feel it, at first.  There was no resistance.  It had gone through my nail and flesh like it was butter.  No blood, even.  The cut was too perfect.

I held up my finger and the blood slowly began to seep up through where the nail had protected it.  I picked the nail and the sliver of tissue that clung to it off the cutting board, went upstairs to find a first aid kit, wrapped it up and finished my lasagna.

The lasagna turned out very well, for the record.  Though Kayla has confessed she's not very fond of lasagna.


On the bright side, this throws in to stark relief the fact that if I had a real top-of-the-line knife I'd probably mutilate myself beyond repair or comedy.  The Shuns are infinitely better than the crap knives my parents own - the crap knives I grew up using - or the knives you'll find in any department store.

So what if the cooking crazies think they're less than spectacular?  I'm less than spectacular, and I get a lot done.

They're better than any high-end German knife you'll find, and the important part is they make creating awesome food for my loved ones a bit more pleasant, a bit more beautiful - and if I disrespect them for a moment, they will take pieces of me.  Beautiful, and terrible as the dawn - like that elf chick in Lord of the Rings.

For God's sake, I'm not on Iron Chef.  I just want to make something delicious for the ones I love - and I can certainly do that with a set of Shuns.

Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is headed to new-gen consoles.

Ohohoh this is gonna' be gorgeous. Click to embiggen.

I enjoyed Ultimate Ninja Storm and its sequel on the PS3 - they were fun little diversions, but most of all they were unbelievably gorgeous, with combat sequences and animation that put TV or film animation to shame.

I'm not the biggest Naruto fan - or a Naruto fan at all, in fact - but I am a fan of gorgeous, and given what CyberConnect2 pulled off on the PS3, I don't think I'll be able to ignore their first game on the PS4.

Should drop in mid/late 2015.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Best of 2014 - biggest surprise.

There were relatively few shockers in 2014 - nothing, at least, that entirely took us by surprise or rocked us to our core - but there were a few pleasant realizations, and troubling revelations.  Let's break it down.

honorable mentions

In 2013, when Microsoft was weathering the online backlash to their planned digital rights policies on the Xbox One, they did a complete about-face and stripped everything out of the platform that differed from the norm, in the hopes that would effectively reposition them for the late-year launch of the Xbox One.  When that launch came - and throughout 2014 - the One was outsold at every turn by the PS4.

Is it because the PS4 is a more powerful platform with better games and an inviting self-publication policy to attract indie developers?  Of course not.  It's because the PS4 is cheaper.

In another reversal, they pulled the mandatory Kinect 2.0 usage from the system, and offered the console without the suspicious camera - effectively negating the price difference between their platform and Sony's.  That didn't quite do it, so over the holiday season they're offering the Xbox One for around $350 - fifty bucks cheaper than Sony's closest price.

It didn't completely turn the tide - some reports have the PS4 selling within 10,000 units of the Xbox One's 1.2 million over Black Friday weekend - but it's yet more proof of how much of its own blood Microsoft is willing to shed in order to win the console war.

It's less surprising, to me, that Assassin's Creed Unity sucks.  Flip a coin, any given AC game may suck or may be awesome - but with Watch Dogs, one really got the sense that Ubisoft were taking this thing seriously.  Watch Dogs was to be their statement about what open-world games could, and should be, literally telling us it would "go beyond the limits of today's open world games."  The enthusiast press was almost universally-hyped about the game, and I remember folks at work insisting that Watch Dogs would finally keep the promise of open-world games and emergent gameplay.

It didn't.  It's a pretty boring game with decent stealth and downright bad design when it comes to its more spectacular action beats, with a boring character and a boring story.  In aping Rockstar, they soundly proved that they are no Rockstar - who only release open-world products of uniform excellence consistently and reliably - keenly aware of the fact that each masterwork is a statement on the quality of their brand.  Ubisoft, it seems, are comfortable burning the public's perception of their games to the ground with titles that roll off their conveyor belt without a meaningful quality-control check.

With Watch Dogs - and perhaps, then, cemented with Unity - it's become pretty clear in 2014 that Ubisoft thinks very little of their consumer, and doesn't think very much about how to make fun video games, either.

Note: Ubisoft also release Far Cry 4 in 2014, and it is frickin' amazing.

It can happen, of course.  Every now and again you get Rocksteady making Batman games or CyberConnect2 making a Naruto game, but in 2014 we got two excellent games from huge properties that had never, before, managed to get themselves into a decent video game.

South Park: The Stick of Truth is far and away the shiniest, most-polished game Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout: New Vegas, Alpha Protocol) have ever released.  Beyond being an excellent semi-traditional RPG, it bursts with the unique flavour of South Park that only creators Parker and Stone could have given it, as the two were deeply involved in the game from creation to release.  It is the definitive South Park game, and one of the better titles of the year.

Alien: Isolation - a first-person stealth/action/adventure from a developer that specializes in real-time strategy games - is the polar opposite of every single Alien game we've been offered in the franchise's history.  A game totally uninterested in letting us mow down hordes of xenomorphs with high-powered future weapons, it concerns itself entirely with re-creating the iconic world and thick atmosphere of Ridley Scott's seminal film, and permitting the player to feel the clawing terror of being alone in the dark with a few chunky gadgets and a superpredator.

It's a lesson games often prove - that teams can offer singular and meaningful experiences, if the folks with the money will have a bit of faith in a vision, and permit something unique to be produced. Of course, it helps if the developers are insanely talented.


The early days of the PS3 saw a similar resurgence in survival horror - but that felt more like the last gasp of a genre that had been eminently popular on the PS2, with the heyday of Silent Hill and Fatal Frame.   On the PS3, the genre petered out with the excellent Siren: Blood Curse, a few middling western-developed Silent Hill titles and an egregious Alone In The Dark reboot.

With the PS4, though, it feels like a whole new world of horror, as legendary auteur Shinji Mikami gives us The Evil Within - basically Resident Evil 4-2 - and indies are offering us high-quality jump-scares with Daylight and Outlast or thoughtful pixel-driven stuff like Home: A Unique Horror Adventure.  Even the triplest-of-As are getting in on the action with the internet-rocking P.T. and Alien: Isolation - probably the most effectively-immersive experience of the year.

The problem horror had on the PS3 was twofold.  One, it's always been a somewhat niche genre, and whole swaths of gamers will avoid them entirely.  Two, in order to achieve the immersion necessary, a great deal had to be spent on visuals and production values, as shitty graphics are a deal breaker when it comes to suspension of disbelief.  The limited audience and skyrocketing production costs rung the death knell of games concerning death.

It is, perhaps, that new-gen gamers are hungry for fresh experiences - given the relatively slim libraries of each new console - that permits production of these riskier properties at this point in the platforms' life span.  It could also be that Sony has been actively courting PC indies - long the guardians of this forgotten genre - to ensure stuff like Outlast and Daylight appeared on its platform.

And here's the lovely part - also in the pipeline are Among the Sleep, The Call of Cthulhu, Dying Light, Forgotten Memories, Grave, The Forest, Home, Human Element, Koduku, Silent Hills, Soma and Sony's own Until Dawn.

After nearly ten years in the wings, survival horror is back - and it's just getting warmed up.

biggest surprise(s) of 2014

This is actually an update to this post - I originally had horror's resurgence in the top spot, but that seemed like a... standoffish answer, and not an honest one.  To be honest, the biggest, most shocking and thrilling industry moments of the year came at Sony's press conferences.  Take, for example, when Sean Murray walked up onstage at E3.

The trailer begins, we see the cave, we walk out of the cave and oh my God, is it?  There was a stunned silence in the auditorium, followed by whoops and applause when the lights came up, and Murray was standing there.  Yes, the most exciting indie game introduced in the past year - No Man's Sky - was coming to PlayStation 4.  Sony gamers across the world shrieked in excitement.

There are a ton of awesome-looking indies coming to Sony platforms. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Not A Hero, Wanderer, Hyper Light Drifter, Night In The Woods, Y2K, Salt and Sanctuary - too many great-looking ones to name, in fact - but there are a crucial few that ended up being some of the games I'm most excited to play.

I was stunned when they announced gorgeous strategy-RPG The Banner Saga was on its way to PS4 and Vita, but - personally - the biggest and most unexpected thrill of the past year was when Adam Boyes came onstage at PSX, showed a trailer for Killing Floor 2, and then announced that Red Hook Studios' Darkest Dungeon was coming to Sony platforms (PS4 and Vita).

Sony's well-chosen indies - a massive list of games I'm dying to play, top my personal list.  To put it another way, there were only two times in the past year where I blurted out "oh my God, yes!" - the No Man's Sky announcement, and the Darkest Dungeon announcement.  There was no greater industry shock in 2014.

I literally needed a cigarette after.

Oooh a half-hour of Cosmic Star Heroine...

I've always felt a bit guilty for not playing any of Zeboyd's previous games - Cthulhu Saves the World, the Penny Arcade titles - my excuse being they were on the 360 and PC, not my preferred platform for adorable little RPGs, the Vita.

Well, this'll be on Vita - and I can see myself putting some time into it.

...I wonder if Darkest Dungeon has some new footage out of PSX?

Two Street Fighter V matches, and a longer trailer.

Skip to about 1:35 to see the match.

I actually watched quite a bit of the Capcom Cup yesterday.  It started innocently enough - I turned in for the first few matches and found myself kinda' getting caught up in the drama of it.  I didn't see the match that knocked Daigo or Justin out, but I caught all of the final matches.

I was really in Xian's corner come the finals - mostly just 'cause I wanted to see a Gen win - but no, a Ken.  Oh well.  Here's the extended trailer.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Aw man there was a new Dying Light trailer and I totally missed it.

Be the zombie. Takes cues from Dark Souls (invading other players' games), still permits the game's badass platforming, looks terribly fun and cool for all involved.

God I love you, Techland.

The Best of 2014 Homepage.

As 2014 draws to a close, it's pretty clear that this was a transitional year in gaming.  Some of the best titles on the new platforms are old titles - classic games that either stood the test of time and deserved a coat of new-gen polish, or late-life PS3/360 games that were welcome additions to our PS4/One libraries - but thank goodness, 2014 also has some genuine gems that my collection would feel much poorer without.

As per usual, consideration for the internet's greatest honor is limited to games that I played in the past year.  Sorry, Mario Kart 8, you're not in the running.

Such is life.

In the coming days and weeks, you'll be able to return to this page as the features for this year's deliberations come together - it'll be your one-stop-shop for Game of the Year proceedings on this humble blog.

Now, what games are up for consideration?  Well, the list ain't short. Where possible, each title below will link to its review or associate game diaries.  These are the games of 2014.

**didn't finish and probably will, cause it was kinda and/or pretty awesome. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Game Diary.

Since abandoning Nameless Kingdom, I turned to Velocity 2X and burned through it in about two days.  After, I dabbled a bit in Dragon's Crown - considered going back to Don't Starve (but feared if I did, I might never return) - and opened up the Vita's port of the Ratchet & Clank HD Collection.

God, these games are marvelous.  Going Commando was always my favorite of the three, and it's a touch irksome that they've relegated the strafe button to the rear touchpad, but it doesn't end up hurting the very special flavour the series is heir to.  There is such joy, here, in exploring strange alien worlds, leaping between levitating platforms and blowing shit up with an ever-expanding arsenal of ridiculous weaponry.   I'm definitely going to finish GC, and then I feel I might take a stab at Up Your Arsenal - I hear I can map strafe to the trigger in that one.

The R&C collection on Vita is, for me, one of the most valuable titles on the platform.

Prior to Dr. McNinja's arrival, I'd totally forgotten that I had yet to finish the sixth volume of the Lone Wolf and Cub omnibus.  I polished it off and finally cracked open Dr. McNinja.  Years after having been introduced to the good(ish) doctor, it's... a lot like going back to Ratchet & Clank, actually.  There's a gleeful earnestness to the comic, and it's comforting to know its current stories are just as funny and batshit-crazy as the original arcs.

It is high time to be worrying about Game of the Year deliberations.  The folks at the Penny Arcade forums put together and finalized their Best Vita Games of 2014 list before I'd even bothered to vote (what I took away from it: maybe I should try that Tales game on Vita).  Anyway, if I don't get a move on, December will pass me by without putting my own yearly tradition to bed... but y'know what's on my mind?  It's not really what's been on my PS4 or Vita in the past year.  It's what's going to be on it in the future.

I am still so pumped about The Banner Saga and Darkest Dungeon coming to Vita.  I am going to play the ever-loving crap out of those games... and I really should put together a Hype List post for 2015 (Galak-Z would be at the top, again)...

But no, it's time to think about the games of 2014.  The games I want to re-play and re-familiarize myself with.  It's not a long list, but there simply aren't enough hours in a day to really put time into each one, as a refresher.

  • South Park: The Stick of Truth
  • Alien: Isolation
  • Olli Olli
  • Dustforce
  • Dark Souls II
  • inFamous: Second Son
  • Dead Nation (Vita)
  • Transistor
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order
  • Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed
  • Rogue Legacy
  • Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition
  • Octodad: Dadliest Catch
  • Genroku Legends: Fishy Tales of the Nekomata
  • Don't Starve: Giant Edition
  • Grand Theft Auto V (PS4)

...the list of games I will play before settling in to things is much shorter, and is a pretty good preview of where my opinions lay:

  • Alien: Isolation
  • Dark Souls II
  • Genroku Legends: Fishy Tales of the Nekomata
  • Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed
  • Don't Starve: Giant Edition
...and probably some GTA V.  But, to be honest, it's going to be a very hard sell to get Far Cry 4 out of my PS4.  For the moment, I think I'll worry about procuring some precious hamburgers. 

Some of you get this, and I love you for it.
But seriously, Kayla and I are going for hamburgers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Music post? Music post.

Big music post.

I've spent an unusually-large amount of time this week online browsing fine Japanese cooking knives and hanging around Bandcamp, Songza and Soundcloud. What I ended up with is some lovely mixes of old blues, some pleasantly growly, dark contemporary blues and some cool, weird stuff.

Where to begin, where to begin... let's start with somethin' pretty rocky - but before we do, fair warning - things are gonna' get pretty strange before we're done.

Line break!

Why I won't finish Secret of the Nameless Kingdom.

Adventure Time: Secret of the Nameless Kingdom is a game built purely on the template of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.  It is guilelessly based on that particular masterpiece of days gone by, and no others, to the point that direct homages to the classic regularly crop up in the game.  It makes fun of the trope of blowing open sealed cave entrances with your bombs, you can earn an upgrade for your sword that provides a ranged attack at full health a'la the Master Sword, and you can throw your items into a pond to have them returned by Marceline the Vampire Queen - when she offers you back Jake, your trusty right-hand dog or a fox, she chastises you for lying.

It's so purely intentional, they don't bother trying to hide it - in fact, they celebrate it - which is what makes the Nameless Kingdom's inability to be as well-designed as a twenty three year old Nintendo game so disappointing.

Its lip-service is almost impressive, at first, as you walk up to a bush and find that yes, you can lift it up before throwing it, just like Link did in 1991. Strike an enemy and it freezes for a moment, just like in LTTP.  The combat feels very similar.  Enemies pause as Finn walks down stairs, just like Link, and your first combat item is the Bananarang, which picks up objects from afar and stuns enemies when it strikes them.

All those things are great, because the act of playing Nameless Kingdom - the small things - is very similar to the pleasurable act of playing that ancient gem.  Where it falters is the broader strokes - its ability to offer genuine mystery and fantasy, and design dungeons that aren't just... kinda' tedious.

Each room, alone, often provides an acceptable diversion for the few seconds they require to clear, but taken together, no single dungeon forms a cohesive, navigable environment, and no puzzles offer the clever-feeling moments of clarity of its betters.  The world-map itself is similarly samey, and only with hours and hours of experience blindly wandering its corridors and meadows will you find you know where you're going.

Even then, tracking down that cave you found the Ice King in can be pretty frustrating - but if you take up Nameless Kingdom's gauntlet, you'll almost-definitely get the experience you need to learn the ins and outs of its map.  Once I defeated its third dungeon, I spent the next four days blindly wandering its world, trying to suss out what it wanted from me next, to gain access to the fourth and final dungeon.

(It's worth noting, at this point, that once you defeated the first four dungeons in Link to the Past, the game would turn around, say "haha!  That was just Act I!" and throw you into a much more ambitious adventure.  When you beat the fourth dungeon in Nameless Kingdom, the game ends.)

Cutting down bushes for fun and profit.  Classic.

Finally, some nice folks on some nice forums told me about a single bush I hadn't cut down near the center of the map.  I cut it down, and met an NPC who gave me an item which I then had to take to another NPC, who gave me an item I had to take to another NPC, who gave me an item I had to take to another NPC, who gave me an item I had to take to another NPC.  Once I'd reached the end of that chain, I gained a book that let me access the final dungeon.

Finally, after nearly a week of banging my head against this obtuse little game, I walked into its final dungeon and the game crashed.  I had last saved it before the NPC chain.

Then, I deleted Adventure Time: Secret of the Nameless Kingdom.  I didn't care, any more, what waited in that final dungeon or what the ending of the story was.  This thing had burned up too much of my already-rare free time, and I wasn't prepared to offer it any further credit.

It hadn't earned it.  It squandered the depth, detail and romance of its inspiration, and WayForward have offered yet another licensed game that manages to be indifferent and soulless, despite being written and voiced by Pendleton Ward and the vocal talent of Adventure Time.

Oooh boy a new Mad Max: Fury Road trailer.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Banner Saga 2 is headed to PS4, Xbox One and PC in 2015.

Sweet.   Here's hopin' the first instalment shows up on my Vita before the sequel.

Also, that half-trailer we saw at the Game Awards is now available at its full length in beautiful high-res.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Shun Classic knives. Again.

I've spent like, six hundred dollars on knives in the past year.  Kayla wanted to eat out less and cook at home more, and I'm... not a bad cook, if I do say so myself.  I make a mean ginger beef, my lasagna is pretty damned good (though, to be honest, I'm not sure I've made that for Kayla), and... okay, I'll admit after like fifteen years of experimentation I've never come to a fettuccine alfredo recipe I'm a hundred per cent happy with... but my garlic shrimp, which go on the alfredo, are phenomenal - converting lifelong shrimp-hater Kayla to the joys of shrimp consumption - and I make a mean panzanella.

Anyway, I've been cooking more, and this past July we walked into a local sorta-upscale-ish kitchen store in one of my city's trendiest neighbourhoods called The Happy Cooker.  There, I found Shun's Classic line of knives.

Ugh, they're so gorgeous.

The Shun Classic 10 inch chef's knife.

Japanese make, folded Damascus steel.  The steel used in the cutting edge is so hard it can't be coaxed back into shape by a run-of-the-mill honer, and will instead cut the honer - and their uniquely 18-degree edge has been described by none other than Alton Brown as "scary sharp." Indeed, about two weeks after buying my first classic, I sliced myself open pretty good.

There was... a lot of blood.  Anyway, it wasn't the knife's fault.  The knife is civilization.

Kayla and I have poked around our city, looking at other stores - your big home stores - but only the high-end speciality shops carry the Shuns.  Yesterday we were poking around a huge, beautiful store on the far side of the city and I, again, found a beautiful selection of Japanese knives.

Shun has several lines,

The Classic Pro line (top) has some really drastic acid etching on the blades, which feels a bit much, to me.  The Premier line (middle) retains the gorgeous hammon of the Classic series, but only between the hammer marks at top and the edge of the blade.  Not bad - feels rustic yet high-end - and the Sora line (bottom) is pure engineering efficiency without much care to style.

No, those Classics are where it's at.  World-class craftsmanship, and the very... well, classic style of the gorgeous pattern created by the folded steel. Earlier this year, our favored store was having a major knife sale, and I was able to get the seven-inch hollow-ground Santoku-style and the three-point-five inch paring knife for a bit over two hundred bucks (a steal).

I'm currently in the market for a bread knife, as I'm still using the same bread knife that was in my kitchen when I was six years old. It crushes English muffins - which reminds me, my breakfast sandwiches are the stuff of dreams - and I've had enough of it.

So anyway, we were at this new store yesterday and I'm looking at the Japanese knives and in the market for Shun's Classic bread knife - but here it was forty bucks more expensive than at Happy Cooker.  And then, I saw it.

The 10-inch Shun Blue kiritsuke.

The Shun Blue kiritsuke has the distinctive shape of a Japanese kiritsuke, but it's not entirely traditional.

Soooo sexy... The Blue line uses yet-harder steel than the Shun Classics, and the Blue kiritsuke is made to hold a downright-evil sixteen-degree edge.  The classic Japanese kiritsuke is a single-bevel knife - the angle to the cutting edge is only on one side, and the other side is flat.  Single-bevel blades are used in Japan to do as little damage to the tender flesh of a fish as possible, pushing away the desired slice on the bevel edge without disturbing the piece of fish being sheared on the flat edge - which will increase the uniformity of the pieces cut. Similarly, a flat-edged blade like an usuba is used specifically for shaving the flat edge of a japanese radish, to create one long strip of uniformly-thick material - which a double-bevel blade would have difficulty with.  A single-bevel knife - like most traditional Japanese knives - has a single point and purpose, but by that very nature limits a knife's versatility.

A kiritsuke is considered a master chef's knife - a single, workhorse blade that can do everything an experienced chef requires, from shaving paper-thin slices of anything you put in front of it to preparing a flank steak for a stir-fry - and many modern kiritsukes have adopted the double-bevels of western designs to permit the knife to excel at as many jobs as possible, instead of confining it to specific tasks.

The Shun Blue is double-beveled.

Each knife in the Shun Blue line includes a wooden saya, or sheath.  A nice touch.

The name Blue is a nod to the blade core's high-carbon blue steel, a very hard steel which permits it the ability to take the obscenely-slender sixteen-degree edge, and hold it.  The reason all knives aren't made with this type of steel - most knives are the ubiquitous stainless steel - is because high-carbon steel like blue and white have the potential to rust, if not properly cared for.

The upside of a knife that can rust - a knife that oxidizes when exposed to the elements - beyond a harder steel's ability to hold an insane edge, is that it will oxidize when exposed to the elements, and what's called a patina will form.

Blue patinas forming on high-carbon steel blades.

A patina is a layer of chemical reaction on the surface of the steel, which (in the case of blue steel) can take on a beautiful, gassy liquid-blue color - hence the name - and once the patina has formed, the blade will no longer have the potential to rust.  The Shun Blue kiritsubo has the blue steel only in the core and the exposed cutting edge, which is otherwise sandwiched between two layers of the traditional, more-flexible stainless steel.  As a result, over time and with use, it will develop this beautiful blue patina just above the cutting edge, but not beyond - a testament to its life and its work - and earn its namesake.

Truly, a knife of legend.

But it's like three hundred dollars, so... that can wait.

Kayla follows The Happy Cooker on Facebook, and was alerted that today they were holding a customer appreciation day, and covering the taxes on all sales (taxes in Canada are very high - your jaw would drop if you knew).  We walked in and were immediately offered glasses of a very nice champagne with a pleasant, crisp, apple flavour. I wasted no time.

"Would you like to see a knife, Sir?"

"No, I'd like to buy that Shun Classic bread knife.  Well - wait - you guys are covering the tax today, right?"

"That's correct."

"Then I am buying that knife."

And then there were four.  Because, if you're going to cut bread, you're going to need a blade of folded Damascus steel to do it.

As for the Blue kiritsuke..?