Monday, April 28, 2008

Game Log #0 (A chance some poetry... before a fortnight)

This is where I lose all crediability as a gamer. For every one game that's generally accepted as a game you need to play to be a "literate gamer" (air quotes), there's 50 I probably haven't ever played. I played Halo, the original Halo, less than 3 months ago for the first time. I'm just now playing through Starcraft. I think alot of this stems from how I played games as a child. I didn't generally read gaming magazines, so I was left out in the cold when it game to gaming news. I was a Genesis kid (and briefly a used NES, though it was years after the system's life ended). My first videogame period was Sonic the Hedgehog, which definetly steered my decision of begging my parents to pick one up for Christmas. I still acknowledge the Genesis as being a great system that only gets hate because it wasn't the SNES. However, the Genesis was, and still is, a system mainly of "underappreciated games you should play" rather than widely accepted "games you must play". On top of this, my taste was admittedly not as "refined" (air quotes) as it is now. I universally steered clear of RPG style games (barring Legend of Zelda), mostly because they had so little prescense on the Genesis anyway. The majority of my gaming experience was random games from the local Blockbuster. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I played a lot of movie games. And I mean a lot.

And then, I made the "best" (super super sarcastic air quotes) videogame-related decision I've ever made: I asked my parents for a Nintendo 64. Thanks to the fact that N64's games were so expensive, combined with the fact that Nintendo was producing worthwhile games at a rate of once per year at the time, I owned maybe 4 N64 games for the entire time I owned it. The rest was taken up with the most god awful Blockbuster rental filth imaginable. About one year after I got it, I felt like the biggest moron in the world for not getting a Playstation. It's terrifying when you go to a site like Wikipedia and check out the "List of Nintendo 64 Games" page. Wasteland isn't the right word, but it's the first word that comes to mind.

And you can imagine how it all went after that. I remained mindlessly faithfull to Nintendo all the way up till the Gamecube, at which point I was goddamn finished. I was tired of owning the system with 2-3 worthwhile games and finally adopted the correct attitude ("I go where the games are" and all that.) This post itself is ment to put into context my later game logs, as I'm taking much of my current gaming time not only playing the new titles, but catching up on many games I completley missed or ignored. My original plan was to name this blog "Late To The Party" and I may have to follow up on that, though I haven't decided what I actually should call this. Oh well.

Things I Do When I Play Videogames: Sometimes I Go to Sleep

I am a very tired person. I couldn't tell you why. I get a decent amount of exercise and I try to go to bed at a decent time. And yet I'm tired. So damn often.

I tend to find myself catching up on my sleep while doing things I like, which is aggravating. It started mostly with watching anime. A lot of that probably owes to the fact that I watch really slow paced anime. As much as I absolutely adore my Legend of the Galactic Heroes and my Galaxy Express 999s, I can barely stay awake when watching them on my worst days.

And of course, it all transfers over to video games, which confuses the hell out of me. Lately I've been getting in the awful habit of laying down on the floor with a pillow in my appointed gaming room. Being that, like above, I've been playing alot of slower paced games (such as Dragon Quest 8), I find it extremely easy just to drop the controller and go to sleep. My biggest mistake is trying to do all that when it's 10:00 PM on a weekend. Instead of loading up on caffeine and sitting in a chair like a "sane" gamer would, I just lay on the floor and try to grind out that next level. This works for about 10 minutes. And then I end up sleeping on the floor with the game going until I wake up with a serious back ache the next morning. What a great plan.

And sometimes it really messes me up. I was about 3/4 the way through Metal Gear Solid 2 one night when I decided to roll over and take a nap. Have you, reader, ever had one of those bizarre dreams wherein you're sitting in your bed and you can't get to sleep? I had something like that. Except instead of that, I was having some crazy nightmare where I was playing MGS2 with a apocalyptic red screen and no cover. And then I woke up and had no clue I was dreaming.

The moral of the story, if there is one, is don't go to sleep playing a game that logs your time. Jeff Green of GFW fame talked on his podcast about falling asleep while playing Portal, bringing his play time to something like 16 hours. My most recent experience left me 11 hours into a game I had really only been playing for about an hour and a half. Oh, America.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

When Do You Trade In Games?

Recently I've had a change of heart in relation to my somewhat OCD collection mentality. I've kept around an obscene amount of media I've purchased for years. I own just about every CD I've purchased in the last 10 years. I've got several boxes in my closet filled with movies I probably only watched once and will probably never watch again. And my game collection since my Gamecube purchase? Virtually untouched until recently.

So what made me change my mind? I'm broke. Seriously broke. I've got a 360, a PS2 with a shit ton of games I still haven't played, but no real money to spend on the NEW AND EXCITING TITLES coming this summer. And by this summer, I mean games that have came out anywhere between 2001 and now. Of course, who can blame me? I'm a poor high-school (soon to be college) student with a weak ass job, faced constantly by the threat of $6 gas prices in the near future. I ain't got shit. But I'll tell you what I do have: a whole lot of old vidjergames.

Now I resolved myself to not simply grab my box with every GC game I've ever bought and hand it to the FYE clerk. I'd say most of my pack-ratish nature owes to some bad experiences I've had trading in GOOD stuff. Back in the N64 days, I traded in Ocarina of Time for another game. Within 2 weeks, I was tired of whatever game I had bought with the money (it was the N64, so it couldn't have been anything fantastic) and was already longing to return to Zelda. Even now, I'll get the random urge to go and play Metal Arms or Metal Gear Solid or some other game from a billion years ago. So definitely a no on games I know I still love.

So I had to come up with a qualifier. A question I could ask myself in relation to the games that would allow me to sell off my worthless games and keep the good ones. And I found it. Didn't take to long either. What games do I regret buying? That's where the money was. And readers, I hate to say it, but I had no shortage of games that fit the criteria. These weren't necessarily games I immediately hated the second I hit the start button. Being the kind of person I am, someone who doesn't like to admit it when he wastes his money on something that totally wasn't worth it, I had often times tired to convince myself that the game I'm playing was actually good. Spiderman on the Gamecube? Yeah, this is pretty cool. Right guys? Right? James Bond 007: Nightfire? Yeah dude. This is just like Goldeneye. But prettier.I also found myself turning in a lot of racing games. I'd like to write an article about the subject, but in summary, I don't like racing games. Most of them are over too quickly; there's not much else you can do once you've raced all 10 or so tracks the game ships with (not counting all the mirrored tracks and whatever nonsense most games ship with). So, as much as it probably horrifies people, I packed up Mario Kart DS, STARSKY AND HUTCH (yeah, I know right), and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2.

And of course, threw in a couple movies I wasn't all that happy about, like the totally awful fullscreen Manga Video release of Ninja Scroll. Overall, it's been a pretty big success. I'm beginning to think I'm the local FYE's number #1 supplier of Gamecube games. Of their extremely small collection of 10 or so games, at least half of it was mine. And the best part of the story? My copy of Starsky and Hutch is going for $11. That's 2 dollars more than I paid. At Target. Regular price. Fantastic.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Ga ga ga, ga ga ga GAO GAI GAR

In some ways, GaoGaiGar can be viewed as the ultimate litmus test for the truly hopeless mecha nerd. Make no mistake: the show starts of as generic as you can get. But like so many great shows, it builds. And boy, does this motherfucker build. But in order to get to where the show truly hits it stride, you have to already be in love with the basic, generic ingredients of the super robot genre.

So let's get the basics out of the way (basic being the operative word here). GaoGaiGar's story is chiefly concerned with the exploits of GGG (the Gutsy Geoid Guard) who exist to combat the forces of Zonders, an alien force that uses "Zonder Metal" to posses human beings and turn them into crazy evil mecha. Our hero, Guy Shishioh (voiced by none other than Nobuyuki Hiyama of Legend of Zelda fame) is the pilot of GGG's combining mecha, the GaoGaiGar. Being that every kids mecha show hero needs a child side kick, the show provides us with young Mamoru Amami, an adopted child (FROM SPACE) with the power to reverse the Zonder Metal transformations.

It's all pretty standard fare from the get go. Standard fare that I completely connect with, mind you. Every anime fan has the generic show formula they totally click with. For some people, it's generic shonen fighting tropes. Or maybe it's Generic Magical Girl Show #5 Trillion. Whatever. For me, the "Hot blooded mecha pilot and his wacky friends battle to save the earth from generic space villains" formula just clicks. This is why I'd say that GaoGaiGar is not, by any means, a very accessible show, and also why I think GGG is often mis-recommended as a good introductory to mecha anime. If you're looking for a gateway drug to the super robot genre, you're better off with something short and to the point such as the recent Go Nagai OVAs. GaoGaiGar is more of a heroin for the already indoctrinated supernerds.

Therein lies the charm of GaoGaiGar, and that's that the show builds itself up so damn well. The best way to explain the build in the show overtime is that everything just gets better. Without spoiling to much, the show really kicks it into high gear around the 25 episode mark, this being the conclusion more or less to the first story arc of the series. New robots are introduced, new and more ridiculous special attacks are created, new and more gigantic villains are faced.

The show is truly excellent at selling the "burning spirits" robot anime trope, maybe more than anything else I've ever seen. Almost every character in the series is exaggerated as all hell. Everyone's hot blooded, loud, totally into whats going on. Every action has to be accompanied by dramatics shouted procedures. Everything is excessive and over the top. GaoGaiGar's main attack is a gigantic mallet that drives a gigantic spike into an enemy mecha and subsequently rips it out. Hell, the GaoGaiGar itself is made from a bullet train, a stealth jet, a DRILL TANK, and a GIANT METAL LION.

And of course, it doesn't hurt that GaoGaiGar is a damn good looking show. The Brave series shows tend to have pretty great animation, but this one takes it especially well. For a 49 episode TV series, it's surprisingly fluid. The robot designs are done by veteran mech designer Kunio Okawara. A lot of people take issue with designs as looking too plasticy, something that I think applies to the Brave series as a whole, and I personally really enjoy the designs. The voice acting is as ridiculous as you'd hope it'd be. Being able to scream crazy shit at the top of your lungs, as well as the ability to sound really really into lame speeches about BURNING SPIRTS, are the primary criteria behind getting a VA job for this show. Kouhei Tanaka's soundtrack is somewhat of a hit and miss deal. The opening (GAGAGA) and ending songs are fantastic. Some of the music during the show is as stirring and epic as you'd hope it'd be for a robot show, but a lot of it isn't. At the very least, I'd recommend you at least check out the opening theme. It rocks hard core.

GaoGaiGar takes everything that's completely great about super robot anime, and by the end of the series multiplies it by a trillion. It's crazy mecha fun that no self-respecting robot fan should ever be without. Media Blasters even has the right idea about how to release the show. They've taken a long time, and they were originally just releasing it single disc, but you can now get the whole first season for a mere 26.24 on Right Stuf. We'll have to wait till June to get it, but hey. If you've got the time to watch a 49 episode TV series, and you love super robots, this show is for you. In fact, you probably should have already seen this show. Yesterday.

Friday, April 11, 2008



5 really good openings and endings for 5 not so good shows

You gotta start somewhere, so why not a list?

-Sayonara Solitia (Chrno Crusade)
Chrno Crusade was one of the first animes I actually tried to watch as it came out on digisubs, and thusly holds a special place in my heart. Sadly, the show (in true GONZO fashion) fell flat on it's face towards the end, ruining the story and it's excellent premise and fun characters. Luckily, something that wasn't spoiled by the lame ending was the shows ending theme. Sad, emotional j-pop tune that just fits well with the show.

-Butter-Fly (Digimon)
I fully admit that Digimon is a totally stupid, bullshit kids cartoon.
And yet, in the same way as many other shows that aren't good at all, I like it. Probably stems from growing up on the super huge wave of Pokemon-like shows. Hell, I even watched half of the show IN JAPANESE just because. I dunno. The opening is legit though. It always totally confused me why they skipped out on using this OP in the English version of the show and went for the bullshit song they ended up with.

-The World Without Logos (Hellsing)
Yeah, you could basically copy-paste the story from Chrno Crusade, and it'd work here. Awesome show right at the beginning, then suddenly not so much. Luckily, I've discovered the manga recently, and it's totally worth checking out. A bit pricey (13 dollars), but that's Dark Horse for you. Anyway, I have a playlist on my iPod by the name of "If I Was A Chain-Smoking Gunslinger/Judo Expert/Robot Pilot And Had Many Opportunities To Walk In Slow Motion, This Would Be My Soundtrack". That about sums this song up.

-Bara wa Utsukushiku Chiru (Rose of Versailles)
This show actually isn't a bad show. By all acounts, it's totally great. Dezaki and Sugino worked on the show. It's old school shojo. The art style and historical fiction concept are both awesome. It was a huge influence on one of my favorite animes of all time, Shojo Kakumei Utena. Unfortunately, my torrent program screwed up the 10 GB+ download after days of excitedly waiting to finally watch the show. This was lame.

-Cha La Head Cha La (Dragon Ball Z)