Monday, May 30, 2011

56 - Minecraft (PC)

Genre: Simulation
Rating: E
Developer: Mojang AB
Publisher: Mojang AB
Platform: PC (Also: Web, Mac, Linux)
Release Date: 2009

My first experience with Minecraft came sometime in the middle of last year when the game was free for a weekend. Something had happened so that was Notch's attempt to make peace with gamers. I didn't end up doing much however as the game seemed so damn boring. After my friend bought me a copy more recently, I decided it was finally time to give it another try.

The learning curve is surprisingly tough which is why I probably didn't get into it the first time. You can do very basic things without researching, but won't get very far at all. To truly get the best experience out of the game is to learn at least the basics online because once you are armed with a weapon and axe you can start to adventure and mine like crazy.

The basic structure of the game is that you're out in some huge world with friendly and unfriendly creatures. The earth is yours to mine and farm to create whatever you will with it. Aside from that though, there's really nothing you have to do. You can mine and make tunnels underground forever. You can build a massive castle. You can make a village with friends online. You can really do anything you'd like and it's a highly creative experience because of that.

What I really love is that you can turn off enemies entirely to make it a fully "safe" experience to build and explore. When I find a game that is such a blank canvas I can't stop playing it. The last time I really got so into a game was The Sims in 2000. Both games are creative outlets for storytelling and creation (thank you friendly creator tools for The Sims). Basically, I adore the game but it is not for everyone.

Would I play again? Yes!

Friday, May 27, 2011

TGIF: It's Summer

It's time to sit back, relax, and do a whole lot of nothing! Well, there's actually a whole load of things to do but not right now. I want to play video games but my life keeps getting in the way - what gives! Thankfully writing has never been "work" to me so even if I'm not playing games I can still write and read about them.

I hope you all are having a nice time and don't get too hot when summer is in full form. I can expect to melt thanks to Southern California temperatures soon enough.


So, I've been pretty busy this week! I really want to get back to writing my little game review snippets but it seems the time is not right just yet. My fingers are crossed for next week now that things are calming down. On the plus side, I got a promotion!

In short little news snippets that I was too lazy to talk about...
  • Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure is a wonderful game and everyone should play it if they haven't.
  • L.A. Noire got so much good press - and I disagree with all of it.
  • PlayStation 4 is in the works and in other news nobody was surprised. It's been a good amount of years already!
More personally, I'm currently helping a friend work on a shmup and it's pretty fun. I'm also digitizing my game collection into this database software because I was too lazy to create my own program. Probably gonna write a "review" of the software so that'll get linked here when it does happen. In fact, I'll probably write a L.A. Noire review too next week. I just hope I can finish the game soon enough to put out my opinion before everyone else posts their disheartened essays about the game. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Check Out This Satyr

Satyrs are one of my favorite beings of Greek mythology. I'm not sure why but I've always really thought they were cool characters. Today the US PlayStation Blog posted up some God of War III concept art. I've yet to get deep into the 3rd title, but love the first and second. Anyway, the art presented is pretty awesome. I'm especially enamored by this monstrous satyr art.

Cover Art Localization: Ju-On: The Grudge

Ju-On is a horror film series from Japan. There was an attempt to bring the series west with an American remake, but like anything aside from The Ring it didn't quite work out so well. So long after the film has left the American conscious a game version appeared in 2009 on Wii.

In Japan the name roughly translates to "Ju-On: Sensation of Fear". I guess the game was meant to entice people with the world of Ju-On suddenly being interactive. While apparently the game is pretty horrible in general the cover at least looks scary.

Europe got the worst, worst, worst version of the cover. There's no doubt in  my mind that whoever created it must have been laughing their head off during the process. The subtitle has been translated to "A Fright Simulator" which sounds okay but the image in no way conveys it. Maybe it would be a fright simulator for 6 year olds. Also, it is worth pointing out the quote on the cover: "You'll jump, laugh and cry... perfect fun!"

Finally we come to the US version titled Ju-On The Grudge - Haunted House Simulator. While this title may be the most accurate, it seems really out of place. When do games tell you exactly what they are on the box? Does Silent Hill say Foggy Town or Locked Door Simulator? I suppose Metal Gear Solid does with that whole "Tactical Espionage Action" thing but nobody ever seems to notice that. Anyway, the cover is a huge improvement over the UK one at least. It's not quite as artistically scary as the Japanese version though... and giant eyes don't bother me much.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Awesome Karateka Video

I was never any good at Karateka. However, that never stopped me from trying my hand at the game over and over again attempting to get just a little further past the stream of bad guys.

This video is definitely unusual and I love it. It's not an in-game video although it looks very much like that at the start. It appears to be something done from the ground up with MikuMikuDance software just because they could. I like dancing, video games, and Michael Jackson music, so this is perfect.

I came across this thanks to GameSetWatch.


Persona 2: Innocent Sin is coming to North America!

I'm a big fan of the Persona series and my life continuously intersects with the game as time goes on. I never had a PS1 so ended up missing out entirely on the first titles. However, as the 3rd game was set to come out in Japan I found myself really enthralled by it. My interest was intense enough that I almost bought the Japanese Konamistyle Special Edition. Instead, I waited around until the game came to our shores.

I fell in love with the damn game instantly and played it to completion over a couple weeks. This is rare for me. I usually lose interest in a game only days after starting it up. Persona 4 came around and I toyed with the idea of picking up the Social Link pack. Figuring it was boring and would be produced in massive quantities. Unfortunately I was wrong and even the Teddie toy that came with it goes for a fair amount on its own these days. Not like I'd sell my stuff, but it bothers me that I always seem to screw up "predicting" what special edition items will be rare and which will be everywhere.

Anyways, back to Persona. I bought Persona 2: Eternal Punishment on eBay about a month before Atlus announced they would be reprinting the game. It was an almost exact reprint too, still including the soundtrack CD which came with the original. I no longer have that game, and the prices have since returned to about the same price it was before since the reprints have long since been snapped up. They sold out on Amazon the first day.

Innocent Sin never came out in America, which is why the game is special. Atlus has never said why exactly the game didn't come out here, although they may say something about it now. However, most people who worked on it those 12 years ago are no longer involved with Atlus at least that's what I heard. Apparently there were some gay undertones along with Satanic things... Hitler. I assume the latter is the bigger reason why the game didn't see light over here. Either that, or I'm confusing my Shin Megami Tensei games.

So, I'm really excited to get this version. Unlike the original Persona which is weirdly clunky and slow (even on PSP) both Persona 2s are pretty "modern" games. I'll pre-order it soon and hope the game comes with some nice freebie. If nothing else, Atlus knows how to treat its customers.

Friday, May 20, 2011

TGIF: Phoenix Games Edition

Earlier today I put up a post about Phoenix Games, one of the funniest game publishers out there. While everything can't be chocked up to them as they're simply publishing games, but why would they do that to begin with? What great are they bringing to the table when they publish Disney ripoffs and crazy things. It must make them money for 'em to have been going at this game for at least 10 years now.

So, the Disney-ish games are mostly just cartoons with a tiny puzzle and coloring game squeezed in on the side. Really though, they seem as interactive as the GBA Video carts. The maestros behind the cartoons used are Dingo Pictures. The company is based in Germany and at some point must have gotten the bright idea to put the stuff on PS2 discs. Either way, the art is all extremely derivative of Disney at times and animated pretty terribly. I'm going to stop talking now and just share my favorite video from Dinosaur Adventure.

If you're curious to see what kind of actual games Phoenix puts out then this next video should show you quite accurately. I've checked out other games in their library and everything is about the same quality. I've played some pretty bad games in my day, but it seems London Cab Challenge might take the medal if I could get my hands on it. 

Youtube user InfernalMonkey has put up videos for most all the Phoenix Games in case you need more. 

Phoenix Games: Game Publisher Extraordinaire

So, earlier this week I came across a game that had a really disgusting CG rendered cover. Through a bit of commenting, it brought back memories of the game company Phoenix Games. They don't operate in the US (at least under that name) but have been popping out games at least since the PS1. Back in the PS1 ways, they apparently mostly stuck to arcade/retro computer game remakes. Perhaps that's what they should have stuck with.

Once the PS2 came around Phoenix Games immediately started pumping out games with 3-5 month work cycles. They've released at least 20 titles for PS2/PC and have since moved on to Wii and even DS. I suppose the Wild West state of the Wii/DS for game publication is why this sort of thing is allowed to happen. Whatever happened to the Seal of Quality?

Now, while they say "don't judge a book by its cover" but just take a gander at these covers and tell me you don't want to judge (and yes, they are real):
I've been told "paccie", at least phonetically, is a slur in Europe. Why these people would then think to publish a game under such a title for the EU market is confusing. I've also heard it said (and from watching some videos) that the developers for many of the games are Danish, so it might make sense they were not aware of the slur. And just LOOK at that Pac-Man creature! He somehow manages to look sick and horrifying at the same time.

This is an interesting one. In fact, these characters look like severely buffed up versions of Poser models. Poser is a 3D rendering software program and comes with a few default models for play. Why create everything on your own if you can just mess with the program already came with? I'm a fan of muscles but in this case they're much too big. Much, much too big.

Now we get into what Phoenix Games is infamously known for. They rip off Disney movies. Well, I suppose one can't say they're ripping off Disney since Snow White was a story before they made a film. While the outfits and characters are reminiscent of the Disney version, I guess this game sidesteps being an exact ripoff. Snow White and the 7 Clever Boys. Exactly what makes them so "clever"?

Well, better just disregard everything I just said. Most of their other games are exact Disney ripoffs. There was no Dalmations 1 or 2 game by them either. This is simply an attempt to cash in on the Dalmatians franchise by making the game out to be the 3rd version. If they're just ripping off artwork you'd hope they were at least a better artist.

You know what? This cover isn't that bad. It's relatively dynamic except for one small point. Why would you want to play a racing game with white vans? I don't know about in Europe, but the connotation of white vans in the US isn't the most pleasant thing. At least they actually had someone using Photoshop in a halfway decent point for this cover.

Finally, I'll show you some more of their CG renders. The Snow White one was a little too good. It's apparent someone was definitely trying to make attractive characters for the cover but failed. Not to mention that they are completely weird. Why is Gretel's hand so damn small? Why does the witch in the back look more like a religious figure? These questions will never be answered.

So there are some of my favorite covers from the Phoenix Games library. Unfortunately their site is no longer online. When it was online last, they had even started a process of updating their cover art to be less horrendous. But, Phoenix Games, those covers are a part of you! What's the actual gameplay like in these things? For games like White Van Racer it is legitimately a racing game. A few of their games are actually things you can play, but the fairy tale/Disney ones are basically just cartoons. You watch a cartoon and that's about the most functionality you get, aside from playing a little puzzle game on the main menu. The cartoons themselves are done in a bad Disney style with about two voice actors who don't have a grasp on the English language. However, I will save sharing game videos for my TGIF post later on. I promise it will go far beyond your wildest expectations.

PS: If you want more awful games in your life, check out the publisher Popcorn Arcade. They're  operating in the UK, although Conspiracy Entertainment has been publishing some of the same titles in US. As for Japan, check out the Simple series (PS1, PS2, PSP). Interestingly, the publisher 505 Game Street has put out many of the Simple games under their own budget line in UK, Simply 20. For US residents, D3 has published some of their most popular or profitable titles here which are basically sequels to the Simple 2000 games (Onechanbara and Earth Defense Force).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Urinal Made of Video Games...

At first I was amused but then this really started to gross me out. Either way, if someone ever wants to make a home full of video game furniture and appliances this is one way to start. There are instructions for building it over at PriceCharting. I honestly can't see why they posted it as they usually spend time talking about the increases and decreases of game prices online. 

It reminds me of this throne of Famicom game cartridges I saw a few years ago in Super Potato. I would have taken my picture in it but it was a pretty scary event for me. Mostly because it was my first experience with Japanese arcades and all the smoking, serious men threw me off. If I go back I'll definitely have to take a photo in it. Not to mention that this chair is much more appealing and enticing th6an a urinal. Just saying.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cover Art Localization: Spirits & Spells

I've never heard of this title before but came across it when searching for a children's horror game that I played once before. This wasn't it, but discovering the cover art for it is wildly different in each reason and I had to share!

Castleween started out as a European title for PS2, GC, and GBA. It's odd for a game to start out with such a terrifying cover, but here it is. It came out in Europe a month before in Japan, so I take it that this was the first version. The 3D renders are pretty terrifying. If it were just the background and title image I think the cover would be a ton more effective.

Here we have Mahou no Pumpkin. Unlike Castleween, this version has separate cover art for PS2 and GC. Personally, I find them both pretty damn cute. I like the PS2 version a bit more for the focus on the witch girl, but the GC version is no slouch. I'm especially a fan of the menacing pumpkin-headed man in it.

Finally the game came to the US under the changed title Spirits & Spells. It seems to take a page from both other covers. It focuses on the two main characters, but in a much less terrifying fashion than Castleween. There's an attempt at cuteness that doesn't match the Japanese covers, but it looks fine.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


It looks like Blogger is back in working order! I just wish this fuss had happened this week instead of last, because this week is Finals at school... and then my birthday weekend. Ah well, what can you do?

So unfortunately for you fine readers I'll probably be mostly out of action this week. Of course, now that I've said that the case may actually be that I post a ton on Thursday or Friday but that's no promise. Instead I'm just warning that I may be inactive for this week before returning to regular form afterwards. On the plus side I've gone through a good amount of games so that means there will be a lot to write about.

See you later :).

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger is Being Weird

So Blogger has been all wonky the past few days. Sometimes it was in "read-only" mode which wouldn't let me look over comments or then even post new things. Looking today, it seems to have eaten everyone's most recent posts for some reason.

Because of this, I'm going to keep from posting anything more this week in case it gets eaten too (and doesn't come back, anyway). I'm still assuming the newest data can be restored, but you never know. So hope this stuff gets fixed by the weekend's end! See you all later.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dance Dance Revolution and Me

My entry for that Konami contest

I first played DDR sometime in 2000 at a miniature golf place. The second time I played DDR was in someone's garage (someone I didn't especially like either!). Then I played a version of Konamix in a demo kiosk. Every time I came across the game I knew it was something special and I wanted it in my home. Unfortunately for me, I never had a PS1 and not a PS2 until 4 years after the release. Once I did though, nothing stopped me from playing the hell out of each and every release as they appeared.

I mostly lost interest in playing around 2006 but continued to buy every new release. I still maintain this habit because it's amusing to me to know that I own every US released version of DDR. I recently fell out of this pattern with the newest releases of "DanceDanceRevolution" on PS3 and 360, but those will be coming into my collection soon enough. I must say though I don't like how Konami is so stingy with DLC and how much it costs. Why pay for it when I can play Stepmania or my hacked In The Groove with all the songs?

Anyway, even though I stopped playing in 2006 I still found myself playing from time to time. Whenever I come across DDR in an arcade I must play. I still manage to impress the unsuspecting with a few heavy songs, but honestly, after that I nearly pass out. I'm no longer a teen! It's the culmination of these events and renewed interest in the series that I figured it was time to start playing again. I can't play the hardest songs for more than 2 or 3 rounds now, but that's what playing it again will help. So I'm playing the game for 20 minute bursts (increasing weekly) on the medium difficulty. I'm hoping this'll increase my stamina enough to get back into proper DDR-ing form.

What am I doing this for? Me, basically. There are now official Konami-sponsored DDR competitions now, but they are soulless. Besides, anyone who was once big in the scene really has moved onto other things by now. If I really wanted to I'm pretty sure I could place in regional tourneys, but that's not what I seek. I'm playing to rekindle my relationship with the game and maybe get some exercise in the process.

55 - Phantom Dust (Xbox)

Genre: Sci-fi, shooter
Rating: T
Developer: MS Studios Japan
Publisher: Majesco Games
Platform: Xbox
Release Date: 2005

Phantom Dust is one hell of a game. For some reason, it never seemed to get much traffic on the Xbox, but it should have.  It was a friend who first turned me on to the game by talking about how wild a multiplayer experience it offered. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to play it online and now can't unless I use some sort of Xbox VPN.

Anyways, the game is sort of like Fallout in a way. You're in an underground world because you and your people can no longer venture onto the surface (it's not safe!). Of course, being the main character you do venture out and when you do there's lots of fights to be had with enemies. It plays a lot like an episode of Dragonball Z, honestly, and that's pretty cool. I never really even liked the show, but being in control of a character who can fly and shoot out powers is crazy fun.

It's intense. The game is very Japanese and a strange take on the sort of post-Apocalyptic world. Things are kind of steampunk style, but then also just super futuristic. I don't know how to explain it. The art style is akin to Jojo's Bizarre Adventure which is love/hate.

I still don't understand why this game didn't become hugely popular. Available only to Xbox gamers, it really seems like a game that tons of people would have liked if they had heard of it.

Would I play again? Sure.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

TGIF: Except It's Saturday

I didn't want to leave you guys without some sort of TGIF post so I present you with a scene from a fun movie. Muder Rock (which actually goes by a couple names) is an Italian horror film. It's not the best thing in the world but I love horror infused with ballet and/or music. So we've got this scene that came out of nowhere really in the movie. Oh, 80s.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

54 - Destroy All Humans (Xbox)

Genre: Action
Rating: T
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Publisher: THQ
Platform: Xbox (Also: PS2, mobile)
Release Date: 2005

Despite aliens being really cool there's only a few games that put you in their shoes. In fact, aside from Under the Skin, Alien Hominid, and Yars' Revenge I'm having a problem thinking of other action games where you take that role. I'm sure there's more, but that's all for now.

I wish there were more games like this. Destroy All Humans may ultimately be an exercise in repetition but it's fun. At least, until it gets annoyingly difficult. You take the role of an alien among many who have chosen to invade Earth. It has something to do with using Earth to repopulate as well as just explore and destroy. Anyway, the story isn't that big of a deal.

Gameplay-wise, you shuffle around on earth with a variety of weapons to control, zap, probe, and generally annihilate the human race. If running around on your feet or with a jetpack isn't good enough, you can take to the skies with your flying saucer. The saucer is equipped with an excellent death ray perfect for leveling buildings.

With so much power at your disposal, it is hard to lose most of the time. Characters do not have any highly intelligent attack patterns so once you get their logic down it's much easier. The high point for me is that the alien commander is voiced by Richard Horvitz (Zim) of Invader Zim fame. The game gets a little boring after long enough, but for a while it feels like a great B-movie adventure.

Would I play again? Maybe.

Let Me Tell You Something

If you ever have the opportunity, you must play Fatal Frame at night. The PS2 game the first of a currently four part series (3 parts have made it to the US). They also happen to be some of the scariest games I've ever played. It might be because I have a huge irrational fear of ghosts in any capacity. Playing in the dark and alone brings you into the game world so well though and so I suggest everyone try it at least once. Surround sound would also help with the horror, but it works quite fine for me without that. 

Please play it in these conditions if the chance ever comes up. For those of you who were scared of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, this is so much more terrifying. Of all the horror games out there, the series is one of the few I've ever jolted in my seat from. Or shouted. Or felt dread over when exploring new rooms. 

That's all I had to say. Regular blogging shall resume later. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

53 - Two Worlds (360)

Genre: RPG
Rating: M
Developer: Reality Pump
Publisher: SouthPeak Games
Platform: 360 (Also: PC)
Release Date: 2007

Two Worlds is a game I knew nothing much about. I know that it came out and was always compared to Oblivion. Because of that, everyone said it was terrible in comparison. I mostly ignored those statements because why focus on comparing two games? A game by itself may have its own merits. So, with that idea firmly planted in my mind I picked it off the shelf and started playing.

Oh my god Two Worlds is so strange. I knew something was terribly wrong the moment I saw the main menu. As is customary, I usually go into the options and check out things. On the options, it had button mappings for changing an option, leaving the menu, and whatever. However, this button mapping information obscured some of the actual options. This terrible main menu scheme wouldn't pass any inspection in bigger games, and shouldn't pass in any game. The main menu isn't important though as gamers should only spend a few seconds there before jumping into the game.

Starting it up I was greeted with really amateur text overlaying the opening video. Again, this doesn't mean anything aside from the fact the people who made this game are not pros. That's fine. Getting into character creation made me sad because there were very few options. There was no facial modifications, either in shape or general styles. In fact, the only thing you could change is hair color, style, and eye color. Oh, and the height of your warrior. At least that meant I couldn't create a horrifying face like often happens in Bioware games.

Finally taking control of my warrior I discovered the true quality and terror of the game. It appears that the developers made a brand new engine for the game. At the very least, it isn't any popular one out there. It felt like my console must have been breaking the way it ran. The camera for the game world is extremely strange and made me a little motion sick. It's awkward and something that any gamer would instantly recognize as slightly "off". The character models were okay, but everything else felt half-done. Animations were all really strange and at times laugh out loud funny.

Really though, the main reason I talked so little about the actual game was because I got killed by my first orc confrontation. Apparently it's not a forgiving game either!

Would I play again? No.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Catherine Special Edition Thoughts

So, there's a special edition for Catherine now! I hate to admit I'm a sucker for "weird" special editions and this one looks to hit all the points. With a pillowcase, shirt, and boxers all stuffed inside a pizza box this is one of the most unusual US special editions in recent memory. I'm just waiting for a US release to come with a dinner plate, spoon and fork like Cardcaptor Sakura: Tomoyo's Video War did on Dreamcast.

For the most part, it's just the items stuffed inside a pizza box that interests me the most. It's a creative way of stuffing all the items together, for sure. A t-shirt isn't that exciting. Even a pillowcase is old news now that NIS has done that twice with the horrendous Record of Agarest War series. Even underwear has come with games released in the US before... However, I think the only time boxers came out anywhere with a game were for a version of Maximo in Japan. Girly panties seem to be much more the norm.

I admit I like the boxers the most because it's definitely different. I don't think I'd ever wear them though since they're not very good looking. Secondly, boxers always bunch up and generally annoy me.

Edit: Not going to do a full post for this but just saw Destructoid's post for this edition. "It's been perfectly designed for rigid-cocked gamers, aching to burst their bags over drawings of girls" is part of the lead in paragraph. I'll never understand why Jim Sterling seems so obsessed with talking about dicks and masturbating whenever humanly possible. I mean, even I don't think about them that much!

Cover Art Localization: Jack Bros

With the recent discovery of new "alternate boxart" for Catherine games have been all in a fuss. Thankfully it was diffused when Atlus said this truly was just a different cover that would be available in certain places if people want it. All of this Catherine cover talk reminded me of another Atlus game that unfortunately had  quite the cover change when moving from east to west.

Here we have the adorable Japanese cover. The "Snow Jack" character became the unofficial mascot for Atlus through his mascot status in the Megami Tensei series (like Prinny for NIS). With such a cute appearance on a cover like this, it's easy to see why! Snow Jack's brothers are apparently the skeleton and pumpkin head but they don't get to appreciate much time in the limelight beyond this game. 

Oh America, what have you done? You turned a perfectly adorable set of Jack brothers into these monstrosities! It looks extremely Halloween-y and there's not an ounce of cuteness to be found. What even happened to Jack Frost? Is he there behind the logo? I don't know about you, but that doesn't look like a snowman as much as it looks like a somewhat muscular, naked man with boots. 
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