Initial Impressions on the Christmas 9

So among the many things we got for Christmas (Sony home theatre system, lots of books, clothing, DVD sets for 24/The Awful Truth/South Park/Sakura Diaries, etc), we cumulatively received 9 video games. This is problematic, given that I’m hard pressed to find time to play them between work, maintaining the house, all the DVD watching, and Animal Crossing. Still, I have at least played everything, so here’s my initial thoughts, in alphabetical order. Britney’s Dance Beat (PS2) – Katie wanted this as a gag gift. The gag, apparently, is that she does like to play it. I will not play this. Period. The engine is novel enough, but I can’t stand Britney, never mind that there’s only 5 songs on here. Rating: Funk dat. Devil May Cry (PS2) – as a quick addition since I liked it enough on rental and it’s Greatest Hits, it’s decent. Better survival horror than Resident Evil, good graphics/framerate, and the hack and slash is sufficiently deep without leaving me frustrated. Rating: Decent. Frequency (PS2) – sleeper hit. Picked this up because I knew FYE had a copy kicking around for the past 6 months and I had heard good things. Despite playing like a poor man’s Beatmania, it’s quite challenging, the music is nearly all great (why is there industrial rock on here?), and I am so addicted. Rating: Excellent. Metroid Prime (GC) – I had rented Prime a few days after we picked up the GameCube, and I unfortunately cannot toe the party line here. Yes, it’s an excellent game. Yes, the game looks great. But the game just feels a little off from the Metroid I’ve come to know and love over the years, and I can’t go “GOTY! GOTY!” like everyone else I know. Rating: Just Great. Sly Cooper And The Theivius Racoonus (PS2) – ahh, now this takes me back. Rented this, couldn’t take my hands off of it. I restarted my game today, just so I could play it fresh – this, folks, is a 3D platformer done perfectly. You know why this is perfect? Because there’s not a single point in this game where I don’t feel like I’m in control and responsible for the game play. Other platformers, the camera gets in the way, or the shadows aren’t precise enough, or worse, the control scheme is too complicated. Sly Cooper, however, executes everything flawlessly, looks beautiful, and is fun and innovative to boot. Rating: Perfect. Sonic Collection (GC) – emulation is all the rage these days. Sega put out a bunch of Sonic games on one disc. It takes me back. Rating: Nostalgia is a good thing. Super Monkey Ball 2 (GC) – This was actually Katie’s present, but I seem to play it far more than she does (since she hasn’t touched it yet). I agree with the complaints that I had heard that some of the levels just rely on dumb luck, but with beefier party games, I’m not going to complain. Rating: Excellent. Suikoden III (PS2) – now this is a toughy. After the legendary 8BOP Suik3 Standoff, I had my interest piqued by this one, and IGN giving it a stellar review didn’t help keep me away. So I got it, and now…I’m waiting. The game has a huge learning curve (no in-game tutorials, skimpy manual), the camera is weird, and there aren’t any voices, which is odd because I think this may be the first PS2 game I’ve played without any. Still, I can tell there’s a ton of depth here, it just needs to pick up. Rating: Too soon to tell. Virtua Fighter 4 (PS2) – also in the Greatest Hits section now. Looks great, sufficiently deep…one of the two fighters I plan on owning (and the other is SC2). Rating: Very good.

Random links before Xmas

Some links before I head out: Those crazy kids at Microsoft. They just can’t stop trying to bash the PS2. Not only do they manage to insult women, they manage to insult dialup users – which make up the majority of the Internet! Classic. But it’s not just the Xbox team that’s spreading the holiday cheer – turns out that they’re screwing with educational institutions too, forcing them to undergo NDAs when they’re not legally allowed to! Joy to the world! Finally, to get away from this whole Microsoft thing, if you haven’t started watching So Graham Norton yet, shame on you. BBC America runs him at 11PM on weeknights, and he is not to be missed. Of course, the irony is that he’s not originally from the BBC, but instead Channel 4. Katie and I are out to my parents’ house until sometime tomorrow, unless this alleged snow storm destroys the roads. We’ll be back at some point, though!

$10K reward for the Eli Lilly Bandit

I love getting enraged every time I read the news. But that’s the way things go these days. Yup, I head over to Boing Boing, and what do I see? In November, as Congress finalized the legislation authorizing a new Department of Homeland Security, two paragraphs suddenly appeared in the bill giving drug maker Eli Lilly & Company something it desired: a shield from lawsuits by parents who claim the company’s vaccines caused their children’s autism. The provision diverts those suits from state courts to a federal ‘vaccine court’ where damages are capped at $250,000 — small compensation for a child’s lifetime of medical care. And because any damages awarded by the vaccine court are paid by U.S. taxpayers, manufacturers are relieved of liability. It’s a sweet deal for Eli Lilly, a very special interest that, like most mega-donors, gets what it wants in Washington. Since 2000, the company has given $1.6 million to national parties and federal campaigns, 79 percent of it to Republicans. Who inserted the provision? Reporters tried and failed to find out. Lilly’s lobbyists (laughably) claim ignorance. No one on Capitol Hill is proud enough of his handiwork to claim it. Democracy requires accountability, so TomPaine.com is offering a $10,000 reward to the first person who proves the identity of the Eli Lilly Bandit — the member of Congress responsible for inserting the company’s special provision. Full details are here. Normally I do try to avoid the overly political posts, but since allegedly blogging is what got Trent Lott to step down, I’ll do my alleged “part”.

100th Window

This is a (p)review of Massive Attack’s 100th Window. I admit it, this is an advance leak. I have been on pins and needles since I started listening to Massive Attack (post-Mezzanine) for a new album, and when I saw this get leaked, I had to give it a listen, wondering where the band would go next. After starting with the very soft-break oriented trip hop with Blue Lines, then moving to the very reggae influenced Protection, and then the commercially-successful Mezzanine…where would Bristol take us to next? The answer? I’d call it an evolution off of Mezzanine. Essentially, the overly dark bass lines from Mezz (Risingson, Inertia Creep, Group Four) have been left behind. Now you have more complex rhythms, and higher-register electronic instruments. You have a movement away from the trip-hop style rapping that was big on Blue Lines and Mezzanine, and more ambient-ish melodic vocals from Protection. There are exceptions to this (Special Cases takes us back pretty close to Mezzanine), but everything definitely feels different. At times, I’m reminded of William Orbit’s Pieces In A Modern Style (the intro to Future Proof), at others, some of the less dense stuff from Aphex Twin’s ambient albums (Smalltime Shot Away). What’s most important, I guess, is that there hasn’t been a song off of here that I haven’t liked. My lowest rating is a 68/100, which considering that I tend to average a 40/100 with all my music, is extremely good. If there’s a downfall, it’s that the tracks do mush together a bit, because there really aren’t any hooks as have been heard in other albums (Blue Lines and Karmacoma both hooked me like a stringfish; everyone knows the bassline from Angel because it’s been in eleventy billion commercials). No lyrics stick out, no melodies come above the rest… …but frankly, the album is so refreshing, so different from what the downtempo and trip-hop scenes have consisted of for the past few years (everyone trying to sound like Theivery Corporation or, well, Massive Attack), it’s more than welcome on my playlist. And yes, I’ll be picking this up on release day.

Inexplicable birthday presents

For those of you who don’t religiously keep up with our lives, Katie’s 23rd birthday was Wednesday. (note to self: put calendar back on links section). Anyhow, she received, among other things, a GameCube, and some gift certificates… …and one very unexplainable SID THE PARTY TIME TALKING BEAR WITH GUMBALLS!

Katie’s comments (you can see her surpressing her rage in the picture) about said Sid The Party Time Talking Bear With Gumballs (hereinafter referred to as STPTTBW/G) would be included in this post, but I would probably sound like an episode of The Osbournes, and I can’t stand that show anyhow, so fuggeddaboutit. STPTTBW/G’s BEST feature is that if you squeeze his hand, he says… “It’s PARTY TIME!” Yes, that is a link to the sound file. And just wait till you see the other products and Sid’s recipe page… If anyone knows the guy who came up with STPTTBW/G, please, direct my fist to him.

Best. News. Ever.

So this morning, I’m reading Salon, as usual. Amy Reiter posted the Nothing Personal Reader’s Choice Awards, allowing people to be snarky towards celebrities. Some quotage from the biggest landslide category (boldface mine): The continuously cooing celebrity couple you suspect will unceremoniously part ways in the year ahead, and what will precipitate the split: The winner is … Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck: “Ben gives the wrong answer when J.Lo asks, ‘Do these leather pants make my butt look small?’”; “She’ll dump him toward the end of 2003 to stay on pace to eclipse Liz Taylor’s record of eight marriages before her 50th birthday”; “When they’ve milked all the publicity they can from their union”; “J.Lo will discover a shoebox of love letters from Matt D. and all hell will break loose“; “They’ll last from Valentine’s Day through June. She’ll be cast in a movie with Leo DiCaprio. She will then file for divorce due to ‘unreconcilable differences.’ (Funny, sounds like what happened last year).” Funny enough, right? Then, Luke informed me about 5 minutes ago that the wedding has been called off. Jennifer Lopez has called off her wedding to Ben Affleck – after a row with his best man. The Latino singer was furious when Ben’s best friend Matt Damon tried to talk him out of it, claiming she was a “serial bride”. J.Lo, who cancelled plans to tie the knot on St Valentine’s Day, reportedly warned Affleck: “It’s me or him.” She told friends: “It feels like there has been three of us in this relationship.” Between this and the weather being 50 degrees and up, this has been a fantabulous day, and it’s not even 11 AM!

Only in Ithaca, Pt. 2

So I’m at the arcade, playing Pump It Up Extra. Playing doubles, doing decently, trying to add some flair to my rather un-fluid play. Some guy comes up to me after one game… Guy: Wow, you’re pretty good! Me: Thanks. Guy: pause So, have you played Hydro Thunder yet? Me: … I have no idea where he thought Andamiro dancing games were connected to Midway racing games.

Kevin Smith DVD Out

This is probably the most masturbatory post I’ll ever make, but… My name is in fact in the Kevin Smith DVD credits. Amy Liu has made me a happy man. Should you need to re-read my thoughts on the whole shebang, let me take you down memory lane… Also interesting to note: Arial Schwartz from CUPB is the one giving the intro as the disc starts. And I’ve seen at least 3 people I know while watching about 33% of the DVD. (Site fixes are done.)