tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Lion City Chronicles

Got back to Singapore two days ago. The flight was uneventful, and I managed to gather more data to support my hypothesis that turbulence only occurs at mealtime. I watched Iron Man and judged it worthy of all the praise it got when it was released – that’s one I’ll have to pick up on Blu-ray or DVD at some point. I also watched Get Smart, and I only really enjoyed Steve Carell’s performance (and Anne Hathaway’s presence) – the rest of it felt a bit trite.

So what have I been doing for the past few days?

  1. Meeting friends for dinner and catching up
  2. Trying to get my ancient (vintage 2004) laptop to run Half-Life 2 under Wine and failing (it runs the first game just fine, but then again that game actually had an OpenGL renderer)
  3. Putting time into Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
  4. Trying out some iPhone games (I Love Katamari and SimCity – and I’m not really impressed with either one)
  5. Troubleshooting computer issues (as always)

I’m hoping to buy some programming books and spend some time programming. I’ll probably start with the OpenGL Red Book since the Graphics professor I had in college was pretty terrible, and I’ve always wanted to revisit the subject in a more competent setting. I’ve also brought my copy of The Ruby Programming Language with me, in the hope of finally getting down to writing that IRC client I wanted to write.

I thought about getting a gaming laptop to play TF2 and L4D, but then I remembered that I have a perfectly good desktop computer that does that already. No sense buying something I’ll only use for a few weeks. Still, my ageing Dell needs a replacement…time to go shopping. I guess.


A followup

I mentioned in my review of Sonic Chronicles last week that the music was rather terrible. Well, the folks over at Sonic Stadium have managed to get their hands on a complete rip of the game’s soundtrack. I’ve taken a listen to the tracks I didn’t get a chance to listen to (since I didn’t get that far in the game) and all they do is reinforce my opinion.

You can download the tracks here.

More disturbing, however, is the fact that the music appears to have indeed been composed by Richard Jacques. If this is true, then how did he go from composing the cheesy-yet-awesome Sonic R soundtrack and the awesome Euro remixes for the console/PC versions of Outrun 2 to making terrible synthesizer beeps and bloops? I mean, some of the tracks are remixes of tracks that he originally composed for games like the Saturn version of Sonic 3D Blast, and even those are terrible.

Some samples for those not willing to do the legwork:

Original (Sonic 3D Blast Genesis version, Diamond Dust Act 1, composed by Jun Senoue)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Central City)

Original (Sonic 3D Blast Saturn version, Diamond Dust Act 1, composed by Richard Jacques)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Blue Ridge Zone)

Original (Sonic CD JP version, Collision Chaos Bad Future)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Angel Island)

Original (Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Final Boss) – yes I know Doomsday Zone is technically the final boss but whatever
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Nocturne)

Why did they phone it in so badly? God knows.

There may be legitimate reasons to buy this game (depending on your perspective), but the music is most certainly not one of them.

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Review: Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood

As some of you may know, Bioware has been developing a DS RPG set in the Sonic universe for Sega. The game, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood was much anticipated by the fanbase, seeing how it was developed by a studio known for its expertise in developing RPGs on PCs. Well, the game is out in North America as of yesterday, so how is it?

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Touching is still good

Or so Nintendo would like to remind us. They just announced a new DS model: click here for more details

In a nutshell, this is what has changed:

  • No more GBA slot
  • The unit is thinner, and the screens are slightly bigger
  • 3-megapixel camera
  • MP3 player
  • In-built web browser
  • SD card slot for storing photos and MP3s
  • Onboard storage…and this will apparently be used to download games from a DS game store, much in the vein of the Wii Virtual Console or WiiWare.

The price has also gone up, to about USD180, and the new version will be launched on November 1st. To be honest, this new version will only be a must-buy for me if they managed to work WPA encryption support into the device…I really don’t want to run WEP on my router. Other than the addition of internal storage and the online store, I’m not sure the other additions are really worth the asking price.

At the same event, they revealed that the Wii will allow you to download games to SD cards starting next year. It’s not as good as a hard drive, but given the unit’s limited capabilities it will have to do. The Wii can only read non-SDHC cards, so the maximum storage capacity will be 2.5GB – not great, but better than nothing.

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I went outside on a weekend, holy crap

Went downtown to see The Dark Knight today. Great movie, and I really enjoyed it. Very satisfying, and no real bits that stuck out to me as forced or unnecessary. Heath Ledger’s Joker was suitably sadistic, random and occasionally morbidly funny. I’m a fan of Mark Hamill’s Joker from the animated series, but I have to say Ledger did an excellent job.

In addition, a certain other Batman villain shows up (you should know who it is if you’ve been paying attention to any of the trailers at all) and while the treatment given to him in this movie is somewhat different from how he has been portrayed in the past, I thought it was pulled off very well.

The only complaint I had was Christian Bale’s Batman voice. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Kevin Conroy’s superlative treatment in the animated versions, but I have no idea why Bale’s Batman sounds like he has lung cancer. Apparently this was an issue with the first movie as well. Not only did it sound weird, it also made it hard to understand what he was saying at times.

In any case, go see it.

On my way back I popped into a Gamestop and picked up Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword and Metal Gear Solid: The Essential Collection. I’ve put in some time with the former and it’s really good for a handheld action game. I’m really not used to being able to block, though, being a long-time Devil May Cry player, but I suppose it’ll come with time.

MGS should be interesting…I played parts of the first game on PC, but I never beat any of them. Time to see what all the fuss is about.


The list of doom, July Edition

Here’s last month’s edition.

Games that have been knocked off the list due to completion:

  • Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition – well, Dante’s route on normal anyway. I’ve started a Vergil playthrough, but it’s more like something I can do if I’m in the mood. With this I can finally claim to have beaten a DMC game!

And that’s the only game I managed to beat last month.

  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – Still on Mission 5-2.
  • Zack & Wiki – No progress here either.
  • Super Mario Galaxy – Took a few stabs at clearing that Luigi coin mission, and the closest I came was 80-something coins before my reflexes failed me.
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams – I set my sights a little lower and decided to go for all C-ranks first so I could unlock the true ending to the game. Unfortunately this is easier said than done because some of the side missions are really fucking stupid.
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – Gathering dust. For some reason I simply can’t bring myself to finish that particular mission.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure – Set a few more personal records in time attack, but otherwise nothing else. I’ve noticed that the physics in this game are quite broken (at least as far as Sonic games go).
  • Mass Effect – I’ve unlocked my character’s specialised class (went for Shock Trooper) and after spending ages on sidequests I’ve finally started on the main story quests again. Still pretty good so far – the universe is interesting, and conversations with the supporting characters tend to reveal some interesting nuances over time.
  • Beyond Good & Evil – Played a bit more. This feels like a Zelda game with most of the tedium/treating the player like he’s five years old stripped out. So far, having a lot of fun with it.

The only “new” entries on the list?

  • Diablo II: Lord of Destruction – Nostalgia got to me after the Diablo III announcement. I’m rebuilding my old Zeal/Fanaticism Paladin (boring build, I know, but it was the first D2 character I ever made). In addition I’m playing a summoning Necromancer for playing online with PenPen.
  • Devil May Cry 4 – So far it’s definitely easier than both Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 3, but still rather fun. The Devil Bringer isn’t quite as interesting to me as the instant rev and other frame-specific moves like Table Hopper and the instant Exceed, which are the main source of depth in Nero’s play style.

Stay tuned for next month’s update, when I reveal pretty much the same list with no changes whatsoever!


Is today “reveal crappy games day” or something?

Capcom and Konami appear to think that it is.

First off, Megaman 9. Let’s start off with a disclaimer – I’m not a Mega Man fan. My experience with the franchise is limited to a few minutes with Megaman X and Megaman Zero 2. That said, MM9 has me somewhat dumbstruck. It’s not that it’s a 2D sidescroller (that isn’t an issue at all, and in fact is probably a good move to appeal to Megaman fans). What I take issue with is this:

Mega Man 9 eschews the style of the more recent PlayStation-era Mega Man 8 or even the SNES Mega Man 7, instead going all the way back to 8-bit visuals, imitating the style of the NES games. Series creator Keiji Inafune commented that old-school Mega Man games don’t “fit into the grandiose and expansive world that the consumer gaming industry has become, and so you have to make games that match the current expectations.” This helped determine the game’s direction as a retro-style downloadable title for the WiiWare service.

2D is one thing, but the last thing I expected Capcom to do was take a leaf out of SNK’s book and completely recycle old assets. Actually, even that comparision isn’t appropriate any more, seeing what SNK is doing with King of Fighters XII. Yes, the old Megaman games are revered as classics, but if anything they are loved because they were good games, not because they used art from the 8-bit era! All this seems to be is another cheap attempt to cash in on fan nostalgia (see Street Fighter IV) by completely missing the point of why people love these games in the first place.

If they’re going to put it on a modern console, why not go all out and make a game with state-of-the-art 2D graphics that still stays true to the Megaman legacy? Heaven knows.

On top of that, it looks like Konami saw the announcement and decided to one-up them with their announcement of Castlevania Judgement for the Wii. The game is (of all things) a 3D fighter with motion controls.

I don’t know why Konami thought that Castlevania was great fodder for a fighting game. The system snippets in the article suggest that the game will play exactly like the main games, with heart meters and sub-weapons, but in a 1-on-1 format, which sounds strange. Still, it may be doable. The main reason I’m panning this announcement is the fact that the game uses motion controls.

I cannot think of a single fighting game on the Wii that has benefited from motion controls. Bleach: Shattered Blade is a shallow waggle-fest. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core has motion controls but no-one with any sense will use them. And the flagship fighting game on the Wii, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, eschews them entirely. The precision and timing that such games demand from their players means that control is of paramount importance (which is why any fighting game player will always insist on using an arcade stick). After about 9 months of using the Wii, I can safely say that the Wii remote does not have the necessary control. Games like Sonic and the Secret Rings suffer because of this, particularly on the later levels where it demands split-second reaction from the player.

If Konami knows what they’re doing, they will provide a classic controller option.

There was also that Ubisoft announcement of that new Prince of Persia platformer for the DS which inexplicably uses a chibi art style, but I don’t really consider that to be on the same level as these two dumbfounding announcements (although I think it’s probably just as unimpressive at this point).


The list of doom, June Edition

Here’s the original list.

Games that have been knocked off the list due to completion:

  • Psychonauts – I didn’t get all the scavenger hunt items, etc, but I was level 50 by the time I hit the final boss, and he didn’t give me much trouble.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – Excellent game, but that final boss was far less challenging than the platforming area that led up to him.

Updated progress for the remaining items:

  • Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition – No progress made. Haven’t touched my PS2 in a while, actually.
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – Mission 5-2. @#%@ Regenerators.
  • Zack & Wiki – No progress made. I don’t expect any will be made for a while, actually…
  • Super Mario Galaxy – No progress made. That Luigi purple coin mission is really hard if you just bumrush it without any planning (like I tend to do)
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams – Finished the main story on both sides (not that it was hard, there being only 3 levels on each side and a common final level + boss fight). But I always try to play platformers to completion, so my next target is A-ranking everything. Yes, that includes that music mission in Memory Forest, a mission whose designer really needs to be shot.
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – I, uh, played a few more turns of mission 13. Still haven’t beaten it.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure – I’ve been doing more time attack runs than Sol Emerald hunting, if you get my drift.

New entries on the list:

  • Mass Effect – Level 20, just picked up Liara T’Soni. I’m playing as a Soldier, and will be going for a Paragon rating, like the goody-two-shoes that I am.
  • Beyond Good & Evil – I actually haven’t gotten very far in this game because of a weird bug that causes my framerate to drop like a stone when I’m in the overworld. Just to remind you all, this is a 2003 game having problems running on a 2006 video card.