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What I’ve Been Doing 22 July 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Jul 22nd, 2013 by Dan

Shin Megami Tensei IV Limited Edition

The Limited Edition (read: first printing) comes with so much cool stuff! (Photo by SwatWolf)

SMT IV is pretty good, you guys. It’s hard as hell, but it’s funny about it.

Movies

Not this week.

TV

The Bridge – I’m really tired of the “woman with mental disorder” (or man) trope in tv right now. I’d be more interested in Sonya if she wasn’t on the spectrum. Marco is way more interesting to me.

The Newsroom – Nope. Aaron Sorkin is still not for me. Between all the mansplaining and the self-righteous lectures I can only tolerate this show, even thought it has sharp, sometimes funny writing in lots of places.

Sherlock – Watched “A Study in Pink” with Katie. So much fun. I think she was really into it too since she didn’t fall asleep like she thought she would.

Archer – Watched the train episode again. It’s funny, but I still think “Skytanic” is way better.

Music

How about “Adios” by Natalia Clavier

Books

Not this week, but probably next.

Video Games

Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Beau beat me in the bug-off. WTF! Also added a second floor to my house. No big deal, guys. Took a bath on turnips this week too…

Donkey Kong ’94 – Still loads of fun.

Shin Megami Tensei IV – I wish I had more time to play this (probably this week), but it’s just as hard as you’ve heard. I was getting dominated in the first dungeon until I realized that I could flee the dungeon and heal as I level grind. Tough, but awesome.

What I’ve Been Doing 15 July 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Jul 15th, 2013 by Dan

Pacific Rim Locandina

Giant mechs and giant monsters. I’m all in. (Photo courtesy Domenico)

You know how the saying goes, right? When the cat’s away, go see a kaiju homage movie. It was silly stupid fun and it was awesome.

Movies

Tokyo Godfathers – Min and I were looking for something to watch during dinner and I finally convinced him to check out Satoshi Kon’s fairy tale/holiday story. I love how happy this movie is and ends. Very few mind games for a Satoshi Kon flick too.

Pacific Rim – Giant robots, somewhat hammy acting, and great special effects make Dan a happy man. Go into it with your expectations properly in place and you’ll dig it too.

TV

Mad Men – Peggy’s phone conversation with the pastor is pretty awesome/hilarious. Really the only episode of the latest season I’ve seen was the premiere, but it was fantastic and I’m excited for the rest of the season that’s just hanging out on my dvr. Just gotta find the time.

Music

I don’t really have anything for you today. Maybe next week?

Books

Not this week.

Video Games

Donkey Kong ’94 – The Game Boy remake/sequel to the arcade game is so awesome I knew I had to get it from Club Nintendo. Seriously one of the best games I’ve ever played and I’m loving getting through it again.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf – I bought so many turnips…I hope I get a good price.

Professional Baseball Spirits 2013 – My Hiroshima Carp are having a surprisingly solid April. The bottom third of the lineup is an out magnet, but I’ll hopefully be able to shore it up with free agents or a trade.

The Last of Us – I thought I was in the last section of the game, but it appears that another few hours are left. Almost there…

Tetris [GO]
Oct 7th, 2009 by Dan

Eric came up with an idea to write parallel reviews of the same video game to see how similar our reviews came out. You can see his at Eric’s Binary World 2.0

Tetris is…”video gaming distilled to its core

The most fun a person can have playing Tetris is completing this drop

The most fun a person can have playing Tetris is completing this drop

A Tetris Review (In Four Lines)

Tetris is a game where you try to clear lines from the screen using six different shapes.
The highest number of lines you can clear with one shape is four (called a Tetris).
There is no narrative reason for you to clear lines.
The reason for you to clear lines is because it is fun.

There’s absolutely no reason to review Tetris. The game has existed longer than I’ve even been alive. Most everyone who’s played video games has played it at least once. Everyone I know who has played it loves it. What is there to say about a game like that? I could write about tetrominoes, but I’m pretty sure most anyone who reads that word will say, “What the hell is a tetronimo?” (protip: it’s what the individual Tetris shapes are called) or I could talk about Tetris syndrome, a repetitive stress symptom resulting from endlessly watching these blocks fall into place to clear lines.

None of these actually express the point of Tetris.

The Game Boy launched in 1989, only three years after my birth and too soon for me to experience it until far later. The system sold on the market until 2001 and the original iteration came bundled with Tetris. I don’t remember the year that my older brother, Eric, got his hands on a Game Boy nor do I remember the year that I got one, but I know that we had one in 1992 and I know that I played the hell out of that game, both alone and with Eric and David. I have distinct memories of straining my eyes in the car, playing a few seconds at a time between the streetlights in Miami, probably causing the severe vision problems I’m beset with today.

Before we get any further, I think it’s time for a digression.

For the first time since 1978, the entire oeuvre of The Beatles became available again for people to buy. Just about everyone who was alive during the brief seven years that the band released albums went out and paid what former 1UP editor Jeff Green affectionately called the “60s tax” to relive the blessed music of their youth. While I’m definitely not a flower child in any sense of the word, I happen to be a pretty big fan of The Beatles. I went out and paid my dues to nostalgia to bring home the works of The Greatest Rock Band of All Time. With deliberate caution I opened up the packaging and began systematically ripping and listening to the catalog in strict chronological order. I discovered something that I already knew, but had neither the equipment nor the resources to effectively conclude: The Beatles are fucking amazing. Note that I didn’t use the past tense there, there is something undeniably timeless about their beats, their beautiful bass lines, those perfect harmonies, and the sublime percussive talents of one Mr. Starr.

I’m no audiophile, I’m no serious student of music, I’m no musician, but I fancy myself a true lover of music. It’s rare for me to entirely dismiss a genre of music, I’ll listen to it all and I do my best to collect music from as many different sources as I can. Music is something that resonates with the basic, primal, inherently human parts of me. Before there was society, before there were cities, before there was an Internet (mind-boggling, I know!), there was music. Before we knew how to rock, there were The Beatles.

The first track on Please Please Me is “I Saw Her Standing There.” Within that short, 2:54 song, a pure, simple, but complex sound bursts from speakers. From Paul’s frenetic bass line, to the clean, non-threatening vocals, the harmonies from John and George, and the pure perfection of the backbeat, it’s clear, at least from my vantage point in 2009, that I’m listening to a group that had so mastered their medium that the only logical progression was for them to take music and irreversibly change it. The Beatles may have started with a medium that was established, but they would go on to create early forays into almost every modern genre. Just glancing at the bits of trivia contained within The Beatles: Rock Band shows a group unafraid to experiment with technology and push the medium to its furthest reaches. They found ways to implement the new until they ended with Let It Be sounding almost nothing like when they started.

It’s the astute reader who already sees where I’m going with this.

A Tetris Review (In Haiku)

Four lines disappear
A never-ending supply
The fun never ends

Pong is a simple game. Its spartan simplicity was necessity. When it comes down to it, it’s really just two lines at the edge of a screen bouncing a pixel back and forth. You couldn’t really do more than that, but it was the 1972. Comparatively, Donkey Kong is a ridiculously complicated game released in 1981. As Jumpman, you’re required to scale ladders, hop over barrels and fireballs, possibly smashing them with a hammer, and go toe to toe with a gigantic ape to save a damsel in distress. In 2009, I’m a huge fan of Left 4 Dead, a game that requires me to keep track of my health, the health of my allies, maintain situational awareness, know how to deal with six different types of zombies, each with unique attack/AI behavior patterns, navigate huge, 3D environments, and be able to aim and fire eight or so different weapon types. Tetris requires me to manage six shapes (two pairs of which are mirror variations on the same theme) and arrange them into lines. It’s not Pong, but it’s not even Donkey Kong complex. One joystick and two buttons that ostensibly serve one purpose.

There’s a reason almost everyone alive today has played Tetris and that people who don’t play video games still love Tetris. The barrier of entry is so low that anyone can play, but, thanks to the complexity created by the interplay of these six shapes, (WARNING: cliché approaching) very few can truly master it. When you combine that with the pure joy of taking that line piece you’ve been waiting almost twenty blocks for, while your tower sits mere millimeters from the top of the screen, and slamming it as hard as you can into place, generating that happy little sound effect while instantly eradicating four lines, well you’ve got yourself some magic there, don’t you?

Eric has a house, a wife, cameras that probably cost more than an unfortunately large proportion of the population makes in one month, multiple, powerful computers, a High Definition (TM!) television, a Nintendo Wii, and countless other distractions, but, inevitably, when I ask him if he’s watched this box set I lent him or had a chance to check this or that out, he’ll tell me, often enough that this isn’t that big of an exaggeration, that he didn’t get much done on a given night because he was busy playing Tetris online against his sister-in-law. It’s just something that calls to people, gamer or not, to play and try to master. It is timeless. It is a force of nature. It is rock. It is video gaming distilled to its core.

A Tetris Review (In One Word)

Perfection

Game Overview: 16-Bit All-Stars Runner-Ups Part 3 / Sony: MGS4 Launch
Jun 12th, 2008 by Dan

Here we are at the last of the 16-bit era’s all-stars that couldn’t quite crack the top three.

This game is distinctly famous for Shigeru Miyamoto claiming that this game “proves that players will put up with mediocre gameplay as long as the art is good,” which he later apologized for claiming that he was expressing some frustration at Nintendo pressuring him to make changes to Yoshi’s Island to make it look more like this game. Another, more obvious clue, is that I talked about this game in my instruction manual editorial. Our last runner-up is Donkey Kong Country.

Runner-up: Donkey Kong Country

This will be one of the few times that you hear me say this, but Shigeru Miyamoto is wrong. Donkey Kong Country was the much lauded return of Donkey Kong to the video game spotlight and what a job it did. They looked at the aesthetic of the original Donkey Kong and they absolutely brought most of that to this new game. The most obvious transition from original to SNES was the strong use of the barrel. Donkey Kong’s chief weapon in the first level makes a return as one of the most prolific items in the game. You save progress in them, fly around the world map in them, rocket through the levels in them, regain party members from them, and have a projectile attack a la the original game. The mortality of the player characters were even brought over from the arcade game with both Donkey and Diddy dying after one hit, much like Mario (Jumpman) did back in the day.

I love Donkey Kong Country because it took the conventions for how a platformer is done, pulled from Mario 3 and Mario World, and took it to brand new heights. Sure, it didn’t have the branching paths of SMW or the innovative power-up management system of SMB3, but it had pets done way better than Yoshi, tight, almost simultaneous two-player action, secrets hidden around every corner, and that trademark Rare humor (or should I say humour?) that’s long since left the company (probably left when the Stamper brothers left).

DKC was and still remains one of the coolest Christmas presents I ever got. I still have the t-shirt that came with the game as a pre-order bonus (thanks Mom!). If you’ve never played it, you should go back and try it out.

A great Sega-bashing commecial:

The kid in this commercial is wearing the t-shirt I got as a pre-order bonus:

One of my favorite video game intros:

Wow, what a journey the 16-bit era was. My most formative gaming years spanned this generation, setting up my future video game habits and tastes, most notably, my voracious love for RPGs. This era’s a real tough one to follow, I mean a good chunk of my top games of all time came out of this period. Tune in tomorrow to see which console games make my top three in the post-16, pre-current gen time period. I can tell you right now, regular readers of my blog won’t be surprised by the number one game, but can you even come close to guessing what else will be covered in the week to come? Go ahead and leave a comment with your guesses.

I hope you all remember that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots launches today! Go and buy it. If you don’t have a PS3, go get an 80GB model (backwards compatibility for the win!) and a Dual Shock 3 and then buy MGS4. What are you waiting for?

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