Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gears Of War 2: Anime Or Gay Friendly?

Well, recently the Gears of War media machine has released the spiritual successor to "Mad World" trailer and it feels like a too emo variation of the predecessor. This one, for Gears of War 2, is titled: "Last Day".

I don't know, it doesn't ring with me like Donnie Darko did and hence the "Mad World" trailer. That trailer was set in a very depressive and gloomy environment filled with children killed insinuations in the form of broken statues, war torn cities with pouring rain and a lonely single man in the midst of it all. OF COURSE! The Donnie Darko theme was perfect for that trailer.

In my opinion the theme song for the new trailer should have reflected more of the "finish the fight" ambience that the trailer, and I guess, the game speak of. Have you not seen the previews?! They are fighting on top of Brumaks! Hot Brumak on Brumak action. Personally, maybe some Metal would have been fine or to keep it kinda emo, some Within Temptation.

Still, I think... I really think that this trailer could foreshadow the possible coming out of Dom and Marcus. I mean, it's there and out in the open. I guess the world isn't ready for it. Also, that rumour has already been debunked and apparently Marcus will have a female love interest this time around and who knows, maybe Dom will get some alone time with his wife too.

Getting this whole gay and emo thing out of the way... man! does this trailer look alot like an Anime opening or what? The whole helping each other up the platform, the shots in dramatic posses of the characters, they all seem too Anime familiar to me. I could name any number of Anime OP's but I'll just show you the latest Naruto Shippuden opening (Blue Bird) so you can get an idea of what I mean.

Just goes to show that all of life's answers are in Anime and Manga, you just need to look for them.

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Tapping to the beats : "Rhythm Tengoku Gold" Review

Not too long ago, the guys behind "WarioWare" games released a funky GBA Rhythm game, "Rhythm Tengoku" (literally meaning "Rhythm Heaven" in English). The game really did turn out to be a sort of "heaven" for fans of rhythm games with its funky levels, comical characters and very simple gameplay. It was definitely a memorable experience all throughout. Now, after 2 years, Rhythm Tengoku Gold (RTG) released for the DS ,in Japan.

Lets have a look at short video to introduce you to the game

*How to be rhythmic

The game has stuck to its core and the gameplay is as rhythmic as before. The cartoony and personified art style is retained in RTG, and the animations of the characters will make you want to swing along to the rhythm. This time, you will observe that the game takes advantage of the DS's power and contains many levels where the objects are rendered in 3D rather than in good 'ol 2D. Every thing represented on the screen has high quality animation expressing their own rhythm, be it clapping hands, or rolling blocks.

Gameplay this time revolves around you doing two basic actions (as opposed to the previous' single-button-press gameplay). The first action being a single tap on the screen, which feels very similar to the old button tapping gameplay. Then there is the second action which is a "down to up" sliding action. This might take a bit getting used to, as changing instantaneously from a continuous tapping motion to a sliding one can get confusing at times. Also, timing on the sliding motions have to be more precise, making games based on sliding a bit more difficult. Overall difficulty of the game is "OK" with games not being too easy and not too hard with the exception of 1 or 2 games which can be very difficult to pass.

*Simple yet effective

RTG has the same basic game structure as the previous one. There are 4 different mini-games to be played in every level. Each game begins with a simple training session, which any one (even those, who have little to no knowledge of Japanese) can understand. After succeeding in the training level, the main game starts, usually lasting ~2mins.

The simple level structure and lack of "story" allows for a perfect handheld experience which means that you can just turn your DS on whenever you want, play for a while and then shut it off. There is nothing like the player will get "out of sync" after not having played the game for a long time (Aka, ouendan etc) as there is basically no concept of memorisation used in the levels, and the gameplay itself is simple.The songs themselves this time are very different and nice, but the remixes do not impress much, when compared to the ones in the GBA game. They are good, but not as good as they could have been.

* Is it Freaky?

These minigames are the heart of the game. Each one is unique in its own freaky way. Games where you make frogs swing their hips or make a guy eat eggs, all while responding to beats in a rhythm, are some of the game's defining moments. You will have to see it to understand how and why these are the main selling point of the game.

To pass a game you will have to get most of the hits/slides correctly. There are two ranks given for passing, you either JUST pass,which is indicated by a silver/ash outline on the game's selection box, or you do very good and get a gold outline. As soon as you pass, the next game is unlocked. If you fail, the next level is not unlocked and you will have to retry till you pass.

There is a small feature in the game which allows people to bypass this in case you are failing repeatedly in one game (~5+ times continuously). When that happens, the kettle icon on the right-end of the line with the "move" icon starts boiling and upon pressing that, you can select to unlock the next level. Once 4 games from a level are completed the 5th game is unlocked which is a remix using all the previous games of the level. Once this is completed the next level is unlocked.

* Import friendliness and worth.

Apart from the 50 levels that that you play to get the "end credits" (which again is a minigame in itself) you have loads of extra games. These levels feel more like an integral part of the complete experience one can spend a great deal of time just playing these unlockable games. They are unlocked when you get a "gold" for the levels you play. These games range from things like flipping coins to punching those "hit me nots" toys, all to the rhythm, making nice music as you do it. These are very addictive and add a lot to the whole value of the game. Makes all those golds you get in the games really feel "worth it"

50 levels each with around 2 minutes of gameplay might make it sound like a short game. But the mini-games are just so good that, no matter who you are, you will find yourself replaying some of them, just for fun. Also, its not like every level can be crossed at first try. It takes a few tries to understand the music and play accordingly. All these factors, along with the infinitely long long extras that you unlock by playing game, add a lot to the replay value of the game.

The game is very import friendly

The game being Japanese only for the time being means that importing is the only way to get it. But how import friendly is it? Well, lucky for all of us, the game is very import friendly. It will only take a few minutes to figure out what is happening and which buttons is the "ok" or "cancel" button. The meaning of all the extra options in the menu can also be found out by trial and error method. There are usually images on the other screen which give a basic idea on what it is.

*In Conclusion

The game's very import friendliness, great replay value, catchy music, easy gameplay and "handheld" structure really make it a must have for anyone who is looking for something fresh and entertaining for their DS. This will keep you busy for 10s of hours and will you want to get back to it even after months of playing it. All in all, it is something that every DS owner should atleast try out. The game has already sold over a million copies in japan, that sure speaks volumes of its appeal.

Lets end this review with another nice video

For Hi-Res pictures : checkout the album.
For more Gameplay Videos : checkout my youtube playlist (all videos created by me)

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Diwali crackers and Otaku-ness

*The Occasion

Its Diwali time once again in India, and everyone is busy buying sweets and crackers (thats what we call fireworks here, not something that polly would want). Its India's festival of lights where people of all ages have fun blasting crackers the whole night. Little kids with sparklers and plastic guns that blast "tickli"s , big kids with atom/hydrogen/lakshmi bombs, and then everyone else with their flower pots and rockets.

It is indeed a sight worth watching where everyone tries to show off their purchases by blasting at the right moment. Its not like a special location is fixed where you can blast them. Anyone and everyone blasts them on their colony roads, in their house's plot etc.. the community handles the aftermath (cleaning roads etc)

*The Point

Now what does all this have anything to do with the topics that we at WEastGamers deal with? well, the special thing about Indian crackers is that there are many companies/small households making these things and the best way to sell their wares is by having the most attractive covers for the boxes they sell them in.

They usually have things that kids (cartoons) and adults (famous actresses) would notice the most. Not too many years ago, I started seeing things like Mario and Sonic popup in these box covers. I immediately wanted to have a look these boxes, and then understood how effective this idea is. However, the first thing I got in my head was "copyrights!" but seeing that this is India and no one cares for such small things.(not like they are earning billion dollars and they don't have an "official" presence here either) Its freely done.

*The Reason

Recently I saw a post @ Kotaku showing "devil may cry fireworks" People went "Wow" by looking at it.. seeing that how everyone was surprised at the thing, I commented there saying this:

Wow, guys, if you find that amusing, wait for "Diwali" to start here, there are so many cracker boxes with Mario, Peach, Sonic and many other game characters that are sold here since years!

Cool, so I will take pics and send them this diwali!

So, yeah I am man of my words, today was diwali crackers shopping time for me and I took pictures of all those boxes with references that I thought you all can relate to.

Without further ado..
These are the ones I could find, but I am sure there are many more somewhere out there. I leave them here, for your viewing pleasure, to make it more interesting, why not try and name all the characters that you see here in the images.

Will try to take videos and more pictures of things this diwali. Keep looking for updates :) But yeah one thing is for sure.. people found it very amusing, seeing me take pictures of these things :P As for myself it felt kinda different but nice!

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Naruto Databook 3 Analysis I

So, user Agrias over at Mangahelpers was nice enough to upload some scans of this book.

For anyone who doesn't know, Databooks are a common class of books published by many mangas (specially long running ones) in which the creative team of that manga put out vital and/or non-vital statistics concerning characters, events, backgrounds, consequences, abilities and plot-lines for the respective title.

Now these scans are all in Japanese so tough luck on getting all the facts, specially if you don't know Kanji... what user Agrias did provide so kindly was an understanding to what the following graphic stands for: (Click to enlarge)

Skill Chart

**Note: The embedded skill chart was edited by me, but using the information provided in the image's description.

The basic rule by how this class of chart works is simple: the more the color area covers, while pointing towards one specific attribute, the more skillful the character is at that particular attribute.

It's nice to finally be able to see some stats since the two year gap in Naruto, the Itachi vs. Sasuke fight and the appearance of Pain. It helps in giving some idea of the growth the characters have gone through and realize what some of the new faces in the manga are capable of.

Some characters stats are still a mystery, given that they have not made a move or the real extent of their abilities are unknown 'til this moment, and on the other side, some characters may have not yet shown their skills to the fullest capacity.

Among the data I was able to see, I came to some conclusions:

Tobi was saying the truth, Itachi was stronger than Sasuke and let him win.

I'm not saying that Itachi is stronger in the sense of physical strength, but as the overall ninja he was superior to Sasuke in almost every aspect. So I will have to give this one to Tobi's side of the story as it is now basically a fact in reference to these stats. So, the way Sasuke won was by having an edge over Itachi (Itachi's illness) and by Itachi not really going "all out" from the beginning by having orchestrated the end result to go in favor of Sasuke. This last statement explains why Itachi was very close to killing Sasuke like 10 times before exhausting (and didnt kill him). He also expelled Orochimaru out of Sasuke, that too, in such a way where Sasuke didn't perceive it...all because of his blind hatred towards Itachi at the time.

It's true that Sasuke Uchiha's stamina is just a bit above Itachi's but it's not known if the creative team was counting on this pre or post loss of the Cursed Heaven Seal and/or a partition of Sasuke's M. Sharingan. Also, its fair to mention that Itachi's stamina was seriously affected by the continuous use of the M. Sharingan and how just using it once, drained alot out of him; not to mention the life threatening illness he had succumbed to, for who knows how much time.

Either way, without the M.S. and not at full power, Itachi was more than capable to handle Kakashi and Naruto through Pain's Shapeshifting Jutsu. Which tells a lot about his overall strength

**Update: One point I failed to mentionn regarding Itachi's stamina was that before his fight with Sasuke he gave some of his power to Uzumaki Naruto. So that could have properly drained him of energy or overall lower his stats to some degree.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Getting 'yer booty off PSN : A Huge Pain.. in 'yer booty

[UPDATE] Just now I finished download the game for the nth time.. this time the "current went off" only twice throughout the download, although I expected it to not work like all the previous times. I was staring at the "loading please wait" screen that comes before the installation starts(after which the error is usually shown) and after minutes of non blinkage, I was surprised to see that even after having 2 abrupt cut offs, the download started installing.

This is just great with one of the best timings, because now I dont need to buy the Rs.800/- worth Standalone version that has been released, and neither do I have to spend Rs.600 extra (an alternate plan that I thought up of) to increase my Internet's bandwidth by twice and download again, trying for complete download with no power cuts.

All is well and My bilind faith and continuos retries have paid off! Dont know if the problem of abrupt power cuts spoinling downloads has been fixed now though. Maybe thats the reason? (from FW 2.5) 

Let us just hope so.

OMG Ratchet and Clank ?

I have been a big Ratchet and Clank fan ever since I first played the game. I always tried my best to get all the games ever released and play them (never cared for the Mobile ones though). You could say one of the biggest reasons I even bought a PS3 (and DS3) was Ratchet and Clank. So, yeah I think you got the picture.

Recently "Age of Booty" a small expansion pack to Tools of Destruction was released on PSN. I knew that I would get it the instant I saw the announcement at E3 '08. But never did I imagine that getting it would be that difficult.

With my friend's help I was able to get game from HK PSN store. After seeing its size was a whopping 2.8 GB, I told to myself "oh well, its only 24hrs of downloading", I was casual about it,because I was (and AM) playing GTA IV, which I know will easily take me more than 24 hrs to play, so I can always have the game download in the BG, hence not wasting much electricity.

Realisation 1.0

So I start the download and then start playing GTA IV, what do I see after a 2hr session? the percentage had not increased at all. After a bit of googling, I found out that GTA IV on PS3 doesnt support background downloading (unlike MGS and many other games). What did this mean ? well, now I had only one option.. turn on the PS3 "not for gaming" and just leave it like that to download stuff. becasue GTA IV is the only game I will be playing till I finish it.

Whats the problem?

Well, first of all, leaving the PS3 turned on for hours together, with no A/C and that too in a closed room is just too risky. Also, it feels like unnecessary current waste.

What did I do?

Well, I started watching movies on the PS3 just so that I can download things while watching movies, so there is atleast something got from turning it on (also that I will be using A/C when there). This time I realize another thing..

You cannot BG download when you are watching DVDs/BDs on PS3..
WoW, just what I needed :| Luckily , I have a lot of Anime and movies burnt on DVDs, and luckily PS3 supports them, so I started watching them.

Problems for Developing nations

I am from India, and as you all might know India is still a "Developing Country" what does it mean? One thing is that, in many areas you have constant power cuts, most of all, these are Random. Because of this thing, I was first afraid that such abrupt power cuts would hurt the PS3, but even then I kept downloading because "I wanted to play it"

So after many hours of watching anime (and also leaving it on , just downloading) the download was finally done. With great happiness I started the installation. only to see

What is this you ask? well, its a fatal error, where "Re-Download" is the only option. I've googled for it earlier, while trying to solve the problems of people in forums, but never actually faced it. Why did it happen? well, it was because of the "power cuts" that were happening whenever I was downloading.

There is this problem in the PS3 where downloads get corrupt if there is a power cut when you are downloading the file. I remember very well having power cuts while downloading demos, months ago, but never faced the problem till this time. Maybe its one of those "new features" that the constant firmware updates bring up.

What did I do then?

Well, just like any other fan would do, without a moment's thought, I started the download again..Not once, but 5 times!

Here is a small list of the downloads
  1. Complete Download - Corrupt
  2. PowerCut @ 400 MB
  3. PowerCut @ 700 MB
  4. PowerCut @ 200 MB
After observing all this, I started downloading only at nights, as per my friend's recc. power cuts are almost null at night times (you know, cause everyone sleeps and uses nothing electric) After a few nights of atleast 4 hrs download each, I reached 1.5 GB..

But as fate would have it "Current Wala" always waits for the right moment. It being the time when you can feel sad the most. As there was once again a very unexpected powercut @ the 1.5GB mark late at night, where I practically went mad.

How time was wasted?

In my 256K Internet speed (yeah, its another one of those "developing nation" thing) it takes me almost 50mins to download 100 MB. So thats around 4 GB of download that takes up easily 35+ hours of download.

So I've spent that much of time trying to get the thing working and its still not done, however, just in hope of current not going off again, I started downloading it again.

Possible Solutions

0.Keep Trying

I can always keep trying and maybe one day, like that scene from very other anime "I will believe" and then there will be no problems, or better yet.. I will believe so much that, even after powercuts the download will be work! ~the power of fandom~

1. Get a UPS

Well, First of all, people would say "buy a UPS", The thing is that spending so much money on getting only this download done, is a pretty, non economical solution IMO. I would rather rely on my luck than to spend more money to get it. As for everything else I will download after this.. I am guessing it will be under 1 Gb which I think luck will allow me to download.

2.Wait for fix

Seeing how frequently we get PS3 Firmware upgrades, I can only sit and wish that in the next upgrade they fix this problem. I mean, Sony cares about its customers.. right? no matter how much of a minority they are. Seeing that it has not been fixed till now (it seems the problem was there since many months) I feel we are being ignored.

3.Buy the Retail Version

Oh yeah, definitely.. once it comes out in India, with a proper (i.e not Rs.1499/-) price tag, I will be first in line to buy it. Well, hope it happens sometime soon, seeing that the UK release has been cancelled and the EU release is not known right now.

4.Move to some other country

Nope, I dont think that is going to happen soon.

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Halo 3 Secret ODST update?

[UPDATE2] The game has been officially Announced, and it will be called "Halo 3:Recon" and yes, the game will infact be based on the ODST. It will be a tactical shooter, no Idea if its Third Person or First person, will have emphasis on "Stealth". The game will release with new maps and some forge items too.

Here is the boxart of the game and the complete trailer

[UPDATE] Thanx to the Cool people at Digg, got the thing clarified.. ANS : Long term memory loss!

Just a few days ago, I dropped by at my friend PeldonPeldon's GS Blog and found out something strange. It seems when he was replaying the Halo 3 campaign he found that all the marines he encountered in "The Ark" level were ODSTs. Neither he nor I and other friends remember finding them in the levels back during the previous play-throughs.

Was this a case of poor memory? or something else? As far as I can say, I think this could be a case of "tricky marketing". A small update might have been sent in the BG when your 360s were connected to Live which made all those ODST models to appear. Let me quote myself on what I said when I saw this.

maybe its some kind of secret marketing technique where they are trying to make people feel that the ODST were really a huge part, hence a game around them, making sense.

After considering the teaser trailer for the new Halo game which was released recently, this could be true. I mean, the HUD shown in the teaser also had a helmet type view and was not particularly like the one Master Chief had. It could be of those ODST troops, and Gamespot has officially listed the game as a "Halo 3: untitled ODST project"

So is actually some kind of stunt by the Bungie/MS peeps.. Or did we truly forget that they were present in the game since the beginning ?

Enjoy the video

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