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Archive for November, 2008

Review #235

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Metal Slug 7
Developer: SNK Playmore
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Genre: Shooter
Release Date: 11/19/2008

Although SNK is primarily known for its fighting game series, I have to admit games like King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown were not what originally sparked my interest with this particular publisher. Instead, it was both the Baseball Stars and Metal Slug franchise that were my gateway to Terry Bogard, Geese Howard, Yuri and the A level SNK characters.

I’ve always felt that Metal Slug 3 was the best in the series. One and two were great, but three blew me away, especially with the eventual port of the game to the Xbox with a lot of bonus features and frills. MS 4 & 5 were a step down in quality, but they were still enjoyable games. MS 6 made its US debut on the awesome Metal Slug Anthology for the Wii and PS2 and all six games thrown together gave that compilation our “Shooter of the Year” award for 2006.

Two years later and we finally have the much delayed Metal Slug 7, exclusively for the DS. Anytime a series gets up to the number seven, things start to get a little stale. Is MS7 able to show us something new, or has the series picked up the same issues that detractors say about KoF, where SNK just makes cookie cutter games to sate an ever shrinking core audience?
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Monday and Tuesday

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Monday - Hung out with Erin most of the day. I ran some errands with her, lent her my Edge card so she could get a used copy of Raving Rabbids 1, ate at Fogo De Chou after we learned Babalu was out of biz (even though their website is still up!), tried to run the lake except Erin was too cold so instead we threw rocks through the ice, and then ate pie.

The rest of the night was writing my TecmoBowl review and editing a ton of stuff while watching Anatomy which was merely mediocre.

Today I ran a bunch of errands, traded in Tecmo Bowl for Monster Madness on the PS3, went to Dreamhaven and purchased 160 dollars worth of books I’ll have to mail back to me because there is no way I will have room for them, worked out, swam, and then hung out with Scott and Shae for most of the night.

I really liked this hotel. I will miss the spa and pool. I’m tempted to join a gym back in DC just for swimming reasons.

Dreamhaven purchases:

Nemi volume 1
Nemi Volume 2
Vertigo tarot set
Haunt of Horror (Marvel Comics Lovecraft adaptations)
The NEW annotated Dracula (Mainly because I was flipping through it and saw mysef citied on several occasions. WHOO EGO!)
Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar
Enchantment Place

and I grabbed a free novel they were giving out called “A Princess of Roumania.”

Tomorrow morning it’s off to Fergus Falls. Ew.

Review #234

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Tecmo Bowl Kickoff
Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Genre: Sports
Release Date 11/19/2008

I’ve never been a big football fan. I find it to be rather well…pussy. All that padding and yet it has a reputation in the US as a violent sport. Compared to Rugby, Australian Rules Football, Boxing, Fencing, MMA, Wrestling (not Pro) and other sports where there are real levels of violence and a higher potential for injury, American Football to me is about as boring as real football (or Soccer as we call it in the States).

The same holds true most football video games. These I tend to like better because it’s not so passive. I actually have to think and do something rather than just slam up against another man while grunting and grabbing around the waist in what passes for a homoerotic mating ritual. Yet these too bore me after a while. The Madden franchise in particular has never done anything for me. I find it tepid, repetitive and most of all, overpriced for what is generally just a roster update. I loved Sega and 2K Sports games and spent a lot of time playing NFL 2K1 on my Dreamcast.

But there are two football games that stand out in my memory as the best I ever played. The first is Mutant League Football which is hilarious and surprisingly deep/. The second is Tecmo Bowl. It was simple and yet rewarding. It was highly addictive and its arcade-esque over the top gameplay was awesome. The running diagonally trick, the 80 yard passes. The frantic button mashing and the 40-50 times the game would say “Hike!” before a play. It was the first game I downloaded onto my Virtual Console.

So now we have the newest game in the Tecmo Bowl franchise. Yes the teams aren’t real due to EA’s unethical business practices, but real teams and players were removed from the VC version and that still kicks butt. Does Tecmo have a contender in the work, or is it just too little, too late for this long abandoned franchise?
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Day 2, or Things I Love About Minneapolis

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

This morning I rose about 9am and drove into uptown for breakfast at Sunny Side Up. if ther eis one thing I can honestly say the Twin Cities does better than anywhere else I have ever been, it is breakfast. I have lived in seven states and visted five continents, and There is no better place to get breakfast than this city. So many awesome places, so little room in my stomach. I had blueberry pancakes, a hot chocolate and some bacon. Then I ran the lake on a fully stomach. Well, in this case it was more walking the lake. :-)

I love Lake of the Isles. I miss it terribly. No other jogging route I have ever done has given me such a zen like state. DC has some great trails, but this? This just feels right. The route, the air, the scenery, the geese. Everything about it. Even though it is god f’n freezing out in this place, I know I’ll be on this route every morning until I leave.

From there I drove to Dreamhaven’s new location. Not a fan of the area, but I’m overjoyed to see it’s still around. It’s only open Tues - Sat now though, which is a bummer. Still, at least it’s open. I had some time before I had to pick up the date for the play, so I took a look around the U of MN area and downtown both. Although there are some business casualties in both, I was quite happy to see these areas are doing much better than Uptown. Downtown especially has a lot of new growth - especially with some very nice hotels. Not sure how they are doing, but at least they are there.

Onto the guthrie. This was my fourth time seeing “A Christmas Carol” and my first in the new Guthrie. I admit I was a biut peeved when the Guthrie moved. I loved being able to do an early afternoon performance and then go into the Walker. But the new location, with its design and views from up top are amazing. The importance thing is they recaptured the design and layout of the original stage, which is honestly my favorite stage in all of theatre. I’ve lived an hour from Broadway and Have seen plays in the heart of Trafalgar Square and Oxford Street in London. The Guthrie is still my favorite, and their yearly rendition of A Christmas Carol was something I couldn’t miss. In fact, it made me miss having season tickets to the Guthrie the MN Orchestra. I haven’t bothere din DC because out of the few plays I’ve been to…well, I haven’t been impressed. I might have to pick up the Guthrie coffee table book or the snow glob e before I go.

I was shocked however as one one side of the street is the Guthrie and the condos where Stephanie and Castle live, but on the other is the dirtiest, most litter filled area in the city. I swear to god, I thought this empty parking lot was a dump, not Metrodome parking. Really gross.

I have to find that awesome Greek place in Burnsville before I go and also go by some exclusive stuff from DH to support them. The old DH was my second favorite book store of all time. Of course it can’t compete with the one true Powell’s in the heart of Portland, but nothing can. Seriously, nothing can.

Now it’s off to get ready for dinner with Matt, then a work out at the hotel and editing a shitload of reviews for tomorrow.

The trip so far.

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Friday Night –

I packed, and then downloaded Home for the PS3 which I have been asked to Beta Test. Home is basically the PS3 Second Life. Everyone else has skater/alternative/hipster avatars. I instead tried to go a different route with a fugly midget with a pot belly, tight red vinyl pants, a receding hairline and no shoes. I then proceeded to stalk people while making it look like I was butt fucking them or joining dance parties with comments like “Where are all the ladies. And by ladies, I mean dudes pretending to be ladies?” or “How many of you are into fursuits?” It was hilarious and thankfully other people thought so too.

Saturday –
Weird dreams. The first is that I dreamt I had a nervous breakdown from too much work stress (???) and moved back to Portland only to find everything had changed and that I was wandering a mall looking for something familar. What the hell?

Up at 6am. Cab came at 6:15am. Played Tecmo Bowl and Metal Slug 7 in the airport. Tecmo Bowl is getting a 4 or so. Metal Slug 7 is getting a 6.5 or so. Then there was the flight and honestly, this was the second worst flight I’ve ever had. Nothing can beat the utterly full flight to England behind that vomiting child for 6-8 hours.

First up, I was behind the Minnesota family of Doom that personified exactly why I exaggerate my disdain for the area. Lack of manners. Lack of consideration for everyone around them. Bad parenting. Loud. Yokels. They had four kids, not a one of them behaved. Children were loud, screaming, throwing things and utter brats. Not once did the parents reprimand them. In fact the parents too shouted across the aisle to each other and threw pens and newspapers instead of handing them. Ick.

You would think that was the worst. No siree. The worst in fact was the guy in the middle seat next to me. I shall call him chubby touchy feeling Briton. Now you’re probably saying, “Wait. Britons are cold, aloof and generally aren’t touchy feeling people.” This is in fact so. But there is an exception. It is called the lonely Brit. As Dan can tell you Britons get lonely easy and god help you if they recognize you as one of them. Somehow, in my time living abroad. I have picked up a nigh unpercievable British intonation to my speech. I don’t hear it, my friends don’t hear it and my family does not. British people however do and that makes them touchy feely with me. When we were in Prague clubbing, a Lonely Briton somehow knew I was an ex resident of the isles and hung around us for several hours offering to buy us drinks. In this man’s case he would not shut up at the beginning of the flight and then promptly fell asleep on the flight and decided to SLEEP ON TOP OF ME. I kept having to push him off, but hit fleshy arm kept going over the armrest onto my special no-no place. It was like the Italian Guy in Eurotrip, but sleeping molesting.

I arrived at 10:25am. By 11:30, I had said, “Fucking Minnesota Drivers!” a dozen times. I wish this was in fact an exaggeration, but it was not so. Lane changing without signals. People going 35 in a 70 mph area. People going 50 in a 30 mph area. People without break lights stopping on a dime on highways. Straddling lanes at high speeds. Honest to god, by the time I got from the airport to Minneapolis, I was so filled with hate that I wanted to turn right back around, take that job with the Obama administration and demand we shoot every single Minnesotan who can’t pass a Driver’s test. SO ANGRY. And angry Alex is rare.

Because of this rage, I decided to curtail my Sunny Side up meal plan and instead went to the Wedge where I purchased one of their giant cinnamon rolls, which are the best I ever had. I purchased some Epicurean essentials like a chipotle gouda, red chile stuffed olives and an organic baguette. I then put them into my car for later and did my usual Minnesota stress reliving run. Usually I did this run in the spring or summer. But I was so hate filled for this city in only an hour after being back, I know I needed it. Five miles later in bundled up winter attire during 30 degree weather, I was done and feeling much better. I actually extended my run a bit to check out the rental properties which were looking good.

Then I went to Cafe Barbette, which in my time living here offered the best mussels and fries in the city. Alas, the fries are no longer as awesome as I remember, but the mussels in red curry are. While eating, Scott called and after eating, I went to his place to hang out. We babbled for a while and then took his 2 year old daughter to Bachman’s to see reindeer. After that we went back to his place, Shae came home and the three of us talked for a while before I excused myself for checking into my hotel and taking a nap.

On the way there, Alex called and I made plans to hang out with him and Madeline after my nap. Hotel is nice, and unlike most hotels, light doesn’t flood the room even with the curtains closed. Really good deal and not a bad place. I napped, showered and went to their house, where we proceeded to grab a bite at Joe’s garage and then a s’mores hot chocolate at Uncommon Grounds Nick called during this time, doing some karoake thing. A Very attractive milf commented on my choice of apparel and looks, which was a night nicecap to the evening. We split up about midnight and decided to try and hang out sometime Tuesday. I was too exhausted from flying and running around to head to G0, so I went back to the hotel, took a long bath and went to bed.

Today I’m off to the Guthrie with a date for a 1pm showing of the Christmas Carol followed by giving Scott a call. I might do lunch at Babaloo if it’s still open.

In all, I was really saddened to see how downhill Uptown has become since I was here 15 months ago. There are so many empty stores. Phoenix Games, Dreamhaven(!), Muddy paws, Calhoun Square as gone from being awesome and constantly filled with roaming idiots to pretty dead. Almost all of Lynnlake was filled with empty retail space when once it was thriving. Almost all the stores and places I liked to visit/walk to are gone – either out of business or moved from the area, making Uptown on life support. This was really sad. I found myself looking around and having deja vu over my earlier dream that morning.

So yep. I’m back in Minnesota. Call me if you have the number.

While in MN…

Friday, November 21st, 2008

…anyone interested in seeing the Guthrie’s “A Christmas Carol” while I’m in town?

Tomorrow I’ll be in the land of BROCK LESNAR

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Let’s see. My flight arrives at 10:30am. I’ll get my rental car and I think I’ll call Scott and Brad and do brunch at either Sunny Side up or French Meadow. Anyone else who is interested is welcome to join me.

Bondage a Go-Go is Saturday night, but I’m sure sure who, if anyone is going. Spike? Erin? Dan? Trinity? Janna? Madeline? I know Dawn isn’t, and we’ll probably meet for lunch Monday. I have all these people to say hi to and hang out with and eat copious amounts of meat around, but no firm plans. We should probably start doing that.

Matt - I’ll bring Wii Music and get it to you while I’m there for reviewing. Have fun with that one…

Places I want to eat at: My little French place on lake, Joe’s Garage (Scott wants to) and the two breakfast places. One thing MN definitely does better than DC is breakfast.

Man, it is going to be a busy whirlwind of a time.

Review #233

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Castlevania: Judgment
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Genre: 3-D Fighter
Release Date: 8/19/2008

Ah Castlevania: Judgment, how you stirred up the fan boys. God forbid a company tries something new with a franchise. Of course, with Castlevania, its previous forays into 3-D gaming were well, not very good. So the combination of another 3-D CV with fighting gameplay blew the minds of a lot of people. Before the game was even playable, people had condemned it as the worst CV ever. I mean, who would want a fighting game with all the big Castlevania characters in a giant fan service style game?

Personally, my big worry is that we were in for another Ravenloft: Iron & Blood. For the unaware, this was a Saturn and PSC 3-D fighting game set in the AD&D 2nd Edition world of Ravenloft where you had a party of fighters squaring off against another party in order to gain XP, magic items and well, kill your opponents. It was not a good game. I’ll admit I purchased it because I liked the idea of an RPG fighting game, but alas the closest I’ve come to that is Street Fighter Alpha 3’s world tour mode. It was I&B that killed the idea of a fantasy/action fighting game for the past decade so long time historians of the genre were far more receptive to the idea than hardcore Castlevania fans. Trust me kids, we’ve seen the worst Judgment could have been already.

The bigger problem is the fact that we have allowed biased opinionated fanboys to pose as journalists in this, the age of the internet and the lowest common denominator for writing. Behold 1UP’s review of CV:J. Not only is it only four paragraphs long, but anyone who has played the game can tell that Mr. Richard Li has not. There is no discussion of the multiple modes, playing styles or the game at all. Even 1UP’s readers have called Li out on this, yet has 1UP printed a retraction or done an actual review? Of course not. Because it’s EGM Online, the same organization that did a weeklong suck up to the Shining Force Neo game and then gave it a 9.0 even though it was universally hated. The moral here kids, is Ziff-Davies publications are about as trustworthy as your average career politician.

Unlike the aforementioned unscrupulous organization that tarnishes the very phrase, “Gaming Journalism,” we here at DHGF have put CV:J through the ringer. Of course, who better to do it than yours truly, the man whose name shows up in not one, but two characters in this game. So how does a hardened King of Fighters guru feel about Castlevania: Judgment? Did I wish Alucard and Eric LeCarde had different names and that I didn’t get royalty checks from Konami, or by some miracle from Cthulhu himself, did Judgment turn out to be…fun?
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Oh hey. We’re back.

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Wooh. 48 hours until I’ll be in MN.

Things I need to do -

Schedule meet ups with everyone

See what Madeline and Alex have going on

Get on the guest list for Ground Zero so I can check out Nitrogen’s new night.

Print off tickets.

Figure out who I’m hanging out with when. I do want to get breakfast at Sunny Side up and French Meadow while there.

For those of you who just read this for the early reviews, here’s what you missed.

Strong Bad Episode 4

Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party

Flash’s ending in MK vs DCU.

Vacation Plan So Far

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Saturday - Tuesday I’ll be in Minneapolis. I managed to use Priceline.com to get a hotel stay for my entire time in MN for $160. Thankfully it’s not a piece of shit either. Country Inn and Suites in Plymouth. So it’s a chain, but a three star chain with free internet. Huzzah.

Weds and Thursday I’ll be in North Dakota visiting relatives.

Thursday night until Saturday Noon I’ll be back in MN.

No real plans except for tenative hang out plans with Christopher/Jessica, Erin, Dan, Spike, Scott, Moser, Matt, Dawn and maybe Laura. Dan and I also talked about a trip to the ODD WI museum in Madison,s o maybe I’ll end up seeing Molly and/or the Goblyn Queen while in town.

So much writing. Tonight - Strong Bad review. Weds - Valkyria Chronicles review Thursday - CV Judgement Review Friday- Rabbids reviews. That leaves Temco Bowl and Metal Slug 7 to be written next week. Oy.