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Archive for October, 2008

Review #222

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

My Japanese Coach
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Sensory Sweep
Genre: Educational Software
Release Date: 10/15/2008

I’ve been a big fan of Sensory Sweep’s “MY Coach” games. My DS collection at this point consists mainly of the various language games from this series and well, Pokémon. I purchased My French Coach on a lark and have used it ever since to keep my French sharp. Ubisoft sent me My Chinese Coach, and as I’m one of the few video game journalists in the States that knows any Mandarin, it made sense for me to give the game an in-depth review.

Now we’ve come to My Japanese Coach. If you’ve been a long time reader of mine, you’re probably aware that I know Japanese, or at least enough to get by. I had two big concerns with the otherwise stellar MCC. The first was that the game focused more on the recognition of Chinese Characters over learning pinyin and that the game didn’t focus much on the multiple tones that are key for proper pronunciation and which should be the first thing one learns in Mandarin. With My Japanese Coach I was worried that similar issues would occur. Things like, “What if the game only focused on Kanji or Kana (the two forms of writing in Japanese) and not both?” Another was a concern that the game wouldn’t focus on Romaji (Japanese written in English characters) which is exceedingly helpful if your focus is on SPEAKING Japanese rather than WRITING it. I’m happy to say both worries were needless as MJC has a nice balance between English, Romanji and Kanji/Kana.

Now the question is, how well does the game teach you Japanese?

Once again it is the middle of the week!

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Long week of sorts. I’ve been doing a lot of writing, albeit it not professionally for once.

Monday a motorcycle collided with a truck right outside my house and it was hours of coptastic drama complete with a helicoptor medvac. Creepy.

Yesterday was hilarious goth promoter drama back in Minneapolis. Unlike most of these occurances, this one ended with an apology and someone actually admitting they made a mistake. Yay for things ending well. It is especially amusing if you know all the bands and people involved.

Today it’s a horde of games arriving once again. Yippee. At least they are (potentially) good ones this time.

Not much else going on. I need to email (and call) Kim sometimes this week. I’ve just been so crazy busy. Sorry Kim!

Wow It’s been a busy week

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Tuesday and Wednesday of last week I was in Cincinatti, OH and St. Louis, MO. Aimee was with me on this trip and she was a lot of fun to have with. My room in St Louis was literally across the street from the Arch and I had a nice view of it from my window.

The event in St. Louis was frantic, but fun. So many people wanting stuff. Greedy greedy people who you know are just going to chuck the stuff int he garbage either that evening or in a week at the very latest. Such a waste and a good example of why we have landfill issues.

Weds night coming off I had a pretty bad migrane that lasted until the middle of Friday. That was not fun at all. Oy, my head. So I spent part of Friday in bed, part working out, and the rest re-arranging my living room once the head felt better.

This weekend was pretty lackluster seeing as I had a bunch of writing and editing to get done. This weekend I’m out with Kim at some point for a hike and probably some other stuff. We’ll see.

Oy, busy week for me as Ubisoft, EA and someone else has games coming for me that I know of. Last week was just a blitz of review copies, so we’ll have to see what else makes its way here.

Friends and relatives have been trying to lock me into activities and hang out times while I’m back in MSP in November. I still have to plan vehicle and hotel arrangements though. I really need to make time to do that.

Speaking of trips, the new England Halloween is only two weeks and change away. That should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to taking a lot of pictures of how camped up Salem is during this holiday.

Review #221

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Pokemon Platinum
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Release Date (Japan): 09/13/2008

One would think that at some point the most successful video game franchise of all time would start to lose steam, especially after eleven years of holding the top spot. After all Mario, Sonic, Street Fighter and the rest lost their dominant spot, but Pokemon remains nigh untouchable. In the first two days of its release, over one million copies of Pokemon Platinum were sold in Japan alone and industry analysts easily expect the game to break the North American sales record currently held by GTA IV when it hits US shores. Famitsu gave the game straight 9’s for an overall score of 35 (unheard of what amounts to a remake) and those of us who have a financial stake in Pokemon are pretty gung-ho about the success of this game.

That being said, I’ve always looked forward to the remix addition of each Pokemon generation. I preferred Yellow to Blue, Green, and Red. Crystal is easily the greatest Pokemon video game ever made, and although the third generation of Pokemon was by far the worst in the series, Emerald was able to keep its head up above Ruby and Sapphire.

Now we’re on generation four. Pokemon Diamond/Pearl won our 2007 RPG of the year and it was my own personal #3 game of the year. Pokemon Platinum however, has managed to surpass D/P and is in my opinion, only a hair beneath Crystal for the best game in the series. Usually I’m cryptic about my feelings about games in the intro, but there you go: Pokemon Platinum is amazing. I do want to give the caveat that I pick up two different paychecks from the Pokemon universe but that this review is not endorsed nor paid for by NoA, NoJ, Pokemon USA, The Pokemon Company, or Game Freak. Still, in the interest of fairness and full disclosure I feel the need to remind my readers of this with each Poke-review I write.

Review #220

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Release Date: 10/1/2008

So here’s the thing: I love Sonic, but there is no denying that he hasn’t had a super quality game in a long time. He’s gone from the standard-bearer of 16 bit goodness to the standard-bearer for a guaranteed crap game. How sad is it that the best game he’s been in for several years was Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a game not even made by Sega. Well, thanks to BioWare, history has a chance to repeat itself.

So here’s the other thing: I generally love BioWare. Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gate, and even though I dislike Star Wars, I can’t deny the KOTOR games were better than anything I’ve played for that franchise since the old Empire Strikes Back game for the Atari 2600. However one thing sticks in my craw and it’s the knowledge that Bioware bullies reviewers into high scores. I remember when I gave Jade Empire a 7/10 and pointed out what is now common knowledge – that the game was far too easy, the plot was threadbare, and it lacked the depth and quality of their previous games. So what happened? I received harassing phone calls both in the office AND AT HOME from Bioware demanding someone else review the game so that it gets a 9 or 10 score. They called Bebito, Pankonin and Widro as well, all with the same menacing tone that we better do a second review and give the game “what it deserves.” So we reviewed it two more times. Matt Yaeger gave it a 7.5 and Chuck Platt gave it a 4.5. Instead of responding, BioWare simply blacklisted us for not “playing ball” and we haven’t heard a peep from them in years. Makes you wonder how many review sites they did manage to bully, eh? In the end Jade Empire came and went and the last we heard of it both we and our readers voted it the “Most Overhyped Game of 2005.”

However, being the quality unbiased journalists that we are we didn’t hold Bioware’s attitude against them. Just last year, six of us put Mass Effect in our personal top ten for 2007 and it won “360 GOTY” and “Best Story” in our 2007 awards. See, even if the company has some jerks in it, we can still respect a quality product.

So why am I relating this little story? Because much like Jade Empire, I found Sonic Chronicles to be an underwhelming title and that the reviews for the game are grossly inflated. To be honest, I found it to be one of the most boring RPG’s I have ever played, and Cthulhu knows I have played hundreds. So with that in mind, allow me to expound upon why Sonic Chronicles is headed for the recycle bin and to let BioWare know my cell phone hasn’t changed since that Jade Empire review. Just try to call after 8am EST this time.

Booking my MSP Trip

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Nov 22, 2008
Depart: 8:35 AM
Arrive: 10:30 AM
Duration: 2 hr 55 min Northwest Airlines 623
Washington, DC (DCA)
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (MSP)Equipment: 32R

Nov 29, 2008
Depart: 3:38 PM
Arrive: 6:56 PM
Duration: 2 hr 18 min Northwest Airlines 1708
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (MSP)
Washington, DC (DCA)Equipment: A319

The question now is, who will be around this week and what is there to do?

Aslo, should I get a hotel or not? I’ll have to spend part of the time there up in Fergus Falls saying hi to my dad, then a day in North Dakota visiting my grandmother, and I have no idea WHEN these days will be, so I’m unsure still whether to get one hotel for a stretch, a hotel for two stretches or even what to do about car rental. Go family planning!

And another week begins

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Man, this week I fly to Saint Louis, MO. Thankfully for this little trip Aimee is coming with, so perhaps we can have some wacky adventures.

Friday was a fuck all day as I had a migraine so bad, I took off from work early. I spent a good part of the day in bed and then as soon as the headache went away I started moving furniture around and changing the layout of my pad. That kicked up dust from large peieces of furniture that haven’t moved in like a year giving myself a bad cough that finally appears to have gone away.

Friday was also the watching of Juiced, which remains the worst thing I have ever watched. EVER. How hard is it to mess up a candid camera type show where O.J. F’n Simpson is the host and main focus of practical jokes. “Hey look, O.J. Simpson is having sex with your girlfriend!” “O.J. Simpson is selling his White bronco.” “O.J. Simpson jumps out of an elevator, pushes you down, and stabs you with a plastic knife.” This should have been that ackward uncomfortable level of funny, but instead it was so boring we couldn’t make it through the full hour DVD. Wow, was it bad.

The weekend was primarily writing a ton of stuff and working out. At one point I went to a mall for the first time since moving to DC. It will probably be my last. I dunno. I’ve just never been a Mall person. Even in MSP, the only times I went to a mall was if a girlfriend wanted to, or to harass Bobby Flay.

Sonic Chronicles Review is up later today. I can not understand how anyone is giving this game a high score. It’s one of the most boring and monotonous RPG’s I’ve ever played. I’m talking, “Would rather play Final Fantasy VIII” bad.

I’ve got X Edge and Pokemon Platinum reviews finally coming too. Seeing as this week has no other games on the docket, I might as well do some import reviews.

Yay Wednesday!

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

1. I want to kill the guy who decided that backspace not only deletes characters but also makes your browser go back a page. Who on earth ever thought that was a good idea.

2. My good buddy Satchell Mouth, aka DJ Vlad of Exposure and Midnight goth clubbing fame is one of four finalists for the Kinetik Festial T-shirt. Click here to see each design and please email info@festival-kinetik.net to vote for design #1. If Vlad wins, he gets a free trip to Montreal. YAY!

3. I’ve got a neat thing in the pot with the Washington Post and Newsweek. Here’s hoping it comes to fruition.

4. Oktoberfest in Shirlington this weekend. Yay Food stuffs

5. We’re doing a horror gaming memory a day over at Diehard GameFAN. Click here for Day 1. These will only be posted over on the site, so if you want to see our Hallowe’en themed stuff, come on over.

6. Diehard GameFAN is hiring We’ve got a ton of free games coming in and I don’t have enough staff to cover them all. Combine this with the need to clean out some dead weight and negative nancies from the staff, and I need people interested in reviewing FREE GAMES. The thing is, this is meant to be a fun friends-only atmosphere, so I am only taking on people who I know, or who are recommended by people I know. If you are interested in getting a few free games a month in exchange for writing a multi-page review on them, let me know.

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