Sunday, 24 February 2013

1up Blog #108: Game Over (Farewell 1up) (02/21/2013)

I was pretty worried when I first heard IGN was for sale. I thought it would be likely 1up wouldn’t last long after the sale was made. After hearing Ziff Davis picked up IGN, I thought there couldn’t have been a better partner than 1up’s former owner. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Instead it’s like Ziff Davis just came back to kill off the only remaining part of its “good old days.”
Anyway even with 1up gone, I hope I can stay in touch with everyone possible. I deleted my old twitter because I stopped using it, but I recently started up a new one so anyone with that can add Halochief90.

I’ll also be starting up a blogspot account because it seems a lot of other 1uppers are moving there. This is my blogspot account. I hope to see you guys around until next time.

At the very least, I am glad I was here till 1up met its end.

Edit: Pixlbit is where it is at now folks!

1up Blogs #107: My Favorite Books and Comics: Part One (02/15/2013)

Welcome to the final instalment of stuff I enjoyed reading! In case you missed part one you can check it out here.

I would have to credit this book for getting me interested in books in the first place. At the young age of fifteen, I loved playing video games, I loved science-fiction, and I loved science-fiction video games. I had attempted to read sci-fi novels, but nothing really grabbed me. One book that I constantly saw at the top of “Best Sci-Fi Novels” was Ender’s Game (Dune and Neuromancer were there too). My memories of that time are pretty fuzzy, but this book did grab me pretty fast. And the fact that one of the major themes of Ender’s Game is about video games didn’t hurt either. However, it didn’t truly make its impression on me until the earth-shattering twist at the end. I’ve been reading to find something as mind-blowing as that, but alas, to no avail.
There’s actually an Ender's Game movie coming out this summer and even though Han Solo is in it, I really don’t think it could possibly live up to my expectations.

Like Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns is leagues above your typical comic in terms of story, polish, and looks. Comics like these that set the bar so high are probably why I find it so difficult getting into other comics. Sure, the Dark Knight trilogy movies did wonders for the Bat, but even the themes it clearly lifted from Returns are not handled as well as in this comic. There’s also one scene in specific three-quarters through this epic that I’m sure no Batman fan will ever forget.

Easily the best thing to come from my English classes! That was back in high school and I got to say, I don’t remember a whole lot about this book. It’s the only book on this list that doesn’t have any elements of science fiction. Actually, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably as slice-of-life as a book can get. I could tell you that the book captures the feeling of being a child while tackling complex themes on racism, but that probably sounds boring. Trust me, it’s not. I hope some of you were also lucky enough to stumble into this one during school.
Reading in Progress…

I am unsure when I’ll finish this manga. I read about nine or so volumes of it years ago, but I felt it was too good to be reading it on the internet. The original FMA TV series is among my favorite series’ ever and from what I read, this is even better! Much like the TV series, this book is enjoyable drama-action peppered with darker, thought-provoking scenes. It’s a book that while being an easy read is also very emotionally engaging. I will pick up the massive 27 volume set eventually, but certainly not while I’m still making minimum wage!

1up Blog #106: What's Your Favorite Video Game Tune? (02/11/2013)

 It comes with only slight hesitation at choosing my favorite video game tune. That would be "The Opened Way" from Shadow of the Colossus. Nothing better captures that feeling of an encounter with a colossus. Even without playing the game, I could visualize taking down a giant to this song! It is unfortunate the composer, Kow Otani, rarely does music for games but with the SoTC soundtrack it's clear he has still left a huge mark on gaming.

There’s lots of great video game tunes out there (most of the Final Fantasy soundtracks spring to mind) but none have the lasting power of this one to me. Even the best songs, from video games or elsewhere, get tiring after listening to them 40 or 50 times. For some reason, this one is an exception.

Everyone has their own favorite though, so go ahead and share yours (or at least the first one you can think of)!

1up Blog #105: My Favorite Books and Comics: Part One (02/06/2013)

This list of my favorite written material is far from complete. Not only am I still a young reader (and a slow one at that!), I’m in the middle of reading two works good enough to make the list! Regardless, once I get in the mood to write a blog about something I do it. So here it is: My soon-to-change list of favorite books! Also, after writing this one I found it was long enough that I might as well split it into two blogs.
I'd be hard pressed to find a comic deeper than this one in terms of story. Unlike many superhero stories, there’s nothing much happy about Watchmen. In fact, the whole thing is a rather depressingly look at human nature. From what I've heard, the author is now insane and seemingly hates people. Looking at the stuff he wrote in Watchmen, that's not at all surprising.
There is that movie, which was decent (and hey, it was because of the movie trailer that I checked out the comic!). Although they didn’t capture the story of the comic very well, it did at least get some of the visual elements right.

Watchmen had a pretty deep story but as far as the most ambitious and epic story, that award would go to Dune. Due to the book pretty much creating its own language, you have to constantly flip to the back to really understand what’s going on. That’s not a knock on the book because this world really sucks you in. I enjoyed the journey Dune sent me on so much it left me a little depressed when it ended. No wonder George Lucas royally ripped this one off when he made Star Wars!
I’ve yet to read the sequels of this book. Some say they are just as good as the first, others say they go off the rails into badly written sci-fi pulp. Either way, I will have to revisit the first book if I ever decided jump back into the world of Dune again. I will forever avoid the David Lynch movie though; I couldn’t stomach ten minutes of that!

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
That is the first sentence in Neuromancer and probably my favourite sentence in any book. There’s something about these words that does an insanely good job visualizing the world of the book in an interesting way. Afterall, any great book should be able to visualize things better in words than they could be seen in art. As with most cyberpunk, the world of Neuromancer is a dystopia. The main character rarely talks and he has a Trinity-esque female sidekick who does most of the fighting. Guess which book the Matrix heavily borrowed from? This book is among the best in its genre and hey, it has a pretty good story too.
Reading in Progress…

I’m in the middle of reading this one right now. I imagine most people, like me, watched the Ghibli movie before hunting down this manga. The movie is great, one of the best animated movies in my opinion. However, the movie only covers the first two of seven volumes in the manga (which took 12 years till it was finally completed). This version of Nausicaa not only goes a lot deeper but it is also a lot darker. Reading this, I feel like I’m watching the protagonist turn from an innocent girl just trying to do the right thing to someone so damaged by her actions that she becomes something else. Maybe even something evil. I’m really interested in seeing where this story goes, but I’ll be damned if I won’t take my sweet time getting there!

1up Blog #104: Games I've Been Playing (01/14/2013)

Heavy Rain is probably the best game I have played in quite a while. Or should I call it the best movie I have played in while? Either way, it is phenomenal. The somewhat realistic and depressing world of Heavy Rain creates this intense atmosphere in each level that I have never felt in a game. The long quick-time events and mundane every-day activities somehow combine to make a movie that is just interactive enough to be a satisfying game!
Although I call it a movie, Heavy Rain is really the modern evolution of the point-and-click adventure genre (think Secret of Monkey Island). Although you might think searching the murder-suspect’s apartment is like a scene from a movie, it really boils down to the same pixel hunting of old point-and-click games; it’s just presented in a different manner and is a lot less frustrating. The frequent dialogue in those old games are instead shot as dramatic cut-scenes. Even the lack of restarting from a check-point is retained! I’m not sure people who love point-and-click games will love Heavy Rain but if you like mystery movies as games, Heavy Rain is sure to be a good time.

Bulletstorm is more or less what I was expecting: big, dumb fun. It's in the same vein as Quake or Unreal Tournament which oddly enough is not that common annymore. Nowadays most shooters are open-world or are a Call-of-Duty clone... I’ll take big, dumb fun over that any day. Although it attempts to reinvigorate the dude-bro shooter with various environmental hazards to kill enemies with, it still is the same old game. Bulletstorm is nothing great, but it’s entertaining and it’ll certainly help pass the time until Ni no Kuni is finally released.

Speaking of awesome cel-shaded graphics, I also played through Jet Set Radio HD! I was a huge fan of Jet Set Radio Future so getting this was a no-brainer. Although I don’t think this original is quite as crazy as Future, it still has the same great fast-paced gameplay, unique "punk-Tokyo" setting, and awesome music. Okay, so the camera can sometimes be a mess and some of the level design is downright terrible, but at $10 there’s a lot of enjoyable gaming here.
I think this video sums up how difficult chase scenes in the game feel like:

1up Blog #103: My Favorite Movies of 2012 (01/04/2013)

Greetings 1upians. Happy new year! This time around, I will likely be skipping my personal Game of the Year awards. I am a little saddened by this because I was always really excited to write about these awards were in previous years. Unfortunately, the only games I played that came out this year were Halo 4 and… the PC version of Sword and Sworcery. While I wouldn’t mind counting other games I played this year, there are only a scant number of great games that I played (many, many good games though!). Anyway, at least it was a pretty good year for movies, so I am more than excited to make a list on these! This list is by no means complete though, as I only saw a fraction of all the movies released this year (and I just ordered Redline and Moonrise Kingdom from Amazon so there's still lots from 2012 I want to see!).

Arrietty is probably on my list of my least favorite Studio Ghibli movies. Of course, that is like making a list of my least favorite Zelda games; it is still going to be a damn good list! Arrietty is full of great characters, looks fantastic, and is beautifully shot. The movie is very well done overall, though it probably plays it a little too safe. The story is very simple but despite its quality, Arrietty cannot reach the heights of my favorite animated movies.

After my first viewing this would have topped my list. Having seen it again though I can say DKR is not as highly enjoyable as I originally thought. Although it is a satisfying conclusion to the series, it is loaded with problems. I know everyone wants to mention the plot holes, but they didn't bother me. My biggest problem was probably the few appearances of Bane. This great character should have been given the screen-time the Joker enjoyed.

Not much of a surprise this movie made my favorites. Despite all the attention this movie got this year, the Avengers still deserves major kudos for making two and half hours feel faster than a trip to the fridge! I exaggerate, but what else needs to be said? This movie is an action movie fan’s dream come true and somehow it didn’t fall flat on its face in the process.

The Raid is about a SWAT team tasked to infiltrate a corrupt and supposedly impregnable apartment building. With that interesting setup, what I got was a highly enjoyable and intense action movie. Some of the best shot fight-scenes I have ever seen are in this movie. Easily my favorite “out of left-field” movie of the year. I doubt many have of you have seen it either so check it out!

I know “best Bond movie” probably gets thrown out a lot for this movie, but when I think about Bond movies, that does not mean a lot. Sure, 23 movies creates a lot of competition, but to me Bond movies are mostly generic action movies with the odd really good instalment such as Casino Royale or Goldfinger. In fact, Skyfall becomes my favorite Bond by being the least like a Bond movie. By ditching tired tradition, Skyfall has become the first Bond movie I will likely return to time and time again. I lost count of the number of memorable scenes in this fine movie!
I actually really liked this movie (it would probably be number 6 or 7 of my favorite movies of this year). What makes this movie disappointing is that it wasn’t the video game movie I thought it would be. Other people have mentioned that this movie misses the opportunity to make more video game references. I would argue it does an amazing job for the first half hour. After that, the movie goes from the “Wonderful World of Video Games” to “Ralph’s Adventures in Candyland.” Like I said, it is still a really good movie but I will likely only absorb that first half hour over and over rather than the whole movie.
The Amazing Spider-Man
Why did we need another Spider-man origin story? To be honest, I kept my expectations pretty tempered with this one. And Spider-Man 3 was a trainwreck in slow motion so it wouldn’t be hard to beat that one. This reboot for some odd reason seemed to mesh the best ideas of the first two movies with far too many gimmicky 3D-effects. They do a fine job with the casting, but nothing felt very interesting or fresh. The result was a mildly enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable experience. I am once again asking: Why was this reboot necessary?
The Borne Legacy
I wouldn’t call this a disappointment as much as a dud. I wasn’t a huge fan of the original Borne movies, but they were still great adrenaline-pumping action movies. Borne Legacy manages to make its $100 million plus budget feel like an extended TV episode. The story is about some deadly virus (*yawn*) which of course only the hero can stop. I like Jeremy Renner, but he comes off amazingly wooden in this one as the lead. Overall, it was a brilliant waste of time for what should have been an easy popcorn movie.

1up Blog #102: Halo 4 Limited Edition Review (11/19/2012)

Before I start confusing some people, I’m going to get this out of the way first: this is not a review of Halo 4, but a review of Halo 4’s Limited Edition extras. In other words, I’m reviewing everything within the Halo 4 Limited Edition except the game! Anyone who is interested in Halo games have probably read more than enough reviews and blogger impressions on the game itself, but what about this limited edition? I heard not much of a peep on this package’s quality and I really could have used it before I bought it!
This Halo 4 edition comes with all its goodies packed into a stylish cardboard box. Unfortunately, this box wasn’t sturdy enough to avoid being crushed in the mail! This is a far cry from the tough container that came with the Halo Reach Limited Edition. Oh well, at least the box is quite big, surely I’ll get my $100 worth inside.
Obviously the game, Halo 4, is there inside a white metal case. $60 value right there. The next thing I pull out is some sort of poster. The poster material is of very fine quality, it feels more like leather than cheap paper. However, it is the contents of the poster that is disappointing: an anatomy of a Spartan’s armor. Er… I’m a big Halo geek, but something this boring is about as likely to hang on my wall as the Periodic Table.
Next we have the included DLC. I was actually hesitant to buy this limited edition until I watched part of the "Halo: Forward Unto Dawn" Youtube series. What I watched was excellent and so good I was willing to wait for my digital copy within this Halo 4: LE. Okay, I have numerous problems with the version of Forward Unto Dawn that comes with this package. First I don’t get a downloadable copy, but instead a special edition that I can only watch on Halo Waypoint. Wow, thanks. Not only do I need an internet connection to watch this, but I also need XBL Gold. Thanks Microsoft for forcing your nonsense “XBL Gold Required” policy on this.

More DLC is the three War Games map packs. A $25 value… although none of the packs are available yet. I suppose some of my playtime of the game goes into this. I like the multiplayer of Halo 4, but I don’t think I like it as much as Reach. I have my doubts that I will still care about these maps when they come out. Regardless, it is good item for extras that so far have been a waste of space.
The rest of the DLC are lame in-game items that honestly are not even worth listing here, little own mentioning. There’s also an included military briefing package which contains a bunch of geeky Halo military info. It is nice, but I got more than enough of this with the Reach: LE (which I never finished reading).
"But Kevin!" you say, "At least you got a cool metal case for your Halo 4 game!" Not so fast! Although it is kind of nice, it looks nowhere near as nice as my Blu-Ray steelboxes, and it seems prone to scratching. Also, it does not look well with my other Halo copies in my collection.

This will likely be the last Halo LE I buy. For the record, the game is pretty good from what I’ve played. At least, it is better than I thought from a developer that is not Bungie. Too bad I can’t help but feel ripped off from the rest of the package.
Obligatory Review Score: D+ out of 10