Thursday, July 24, 2008

A How-To guide on buying a Portable Console

The portable console war used to be dominated by the Game Boy franchise, courtesy of how brilliant Nintendo used to bring out games like Pokemon. And then, Sony decided to come into the foray and make sure that they get a slice of the cake too. Hence the Playstation Portable was born. After numerous years of Nintendo's monopoly with the Game Boy franchise, the recent addition is the Nintendo DS, which emphasizes dual screen technology. So, are you hard pressed on choosing what to go for? Here's your guide.

Lets Introduce the 2 fighters first.

The Nintendo DS
You know, this console was reverred as a technical feat. An awe inspiring achievement way beyond anyone's own imagination. Under the flagship portable console line up launched by Nintendo, this one didn't need to have the name Game Boy to stand on with. The DS already means "Dual Screen". The console has seen a not so recent modification to it that it was called the "Nintendo DS Lite", a slimmer and sleaker version of the original. Being the top selling console (Out rivalling the Nintendo Wii even), this console has been great to fans in terms of fun and versatility. Providing mostly 2D graphics, and sometimes 3D, this small little machine emphasizes more on having fun with games through new ways of playing.

The Playstation Portable (PSP)
This was Sony's attempt at the portable market. And if you ask me, this one is more well received than the DS, in Malaysia that is. The appeal that this powerhouse brings is that the games, feels like your carrying a mini PS1, or sometimes the graphics could really still look like the PS2, just in a smaller scale. During the early launch, the console had a lot of problems, but it still emerged with great games to go with. 3D graphics with crisp cutscenes shows that this really appeals more to gamers who are opted for a mature look.

Since the portable goes more ways in functionality, lets do the intro here.

(Nintendo DS)
Honestly speaking there's not much to do with the DS. Its actually backwards compatible with Game Boy Advance games, but nothing earlier than that. If your in Malaysia, the DS would be quite limited to you. You'd only be able to download Demo's, provided you have a Nintendo Wii. And then there's Picto Chat, which only takes in a very small radius for people to scribble around what they want to write and do. At times, certain games can provide download play, which would mean during multiplayer sessions, only 1 person might need to buy 1 game cart sufficient enough to play full featured multiplayer mode of games. Iif you're bringing this to Japan, The States, be expected to have DS download stations that can provide you with Demo's of games and even maps and guides to places.

Perhaps the extra functions is what makes the appeal. You see, the PSP is great in lots of things. 1, the games appeal better than the kiddy like DS. 2nd, it's also a multimedia player, ranging from songs, to movies, and even slideshows of photos. On top of that, Google was recently included in the whole package to make websurfing a simpler task. There's even Skype connectivity for people to chat with using their PSP's connected to Wifi. Add on a camera for pictures, and then a GPS receiver to find out where you should go and so forth. And that's not even to mention that the games are quite a lot of fun too.

(Nintendo DS)
Name the game. Any. You'd most likely find it here. No worries. From any type of genre to new types of genre's. You're bound to see it here. The focus though is more to people friendly games. Still, there are some mature games for the DS, but nothing so controversial and serious, yet. The recently announced Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars might seem to be getting a mature rating, and the current market selling title Guitar Hero On Tour proves that the focus is slowly garnering more attention from more gamers around. Fun and friendly is the theme of the DS, but don't be surprised to find some titles that appeal to you too.

The crowd stunner. This portable lacks too much, that it doesn't even have a GT title for it. Very very shocking. But with titles such as God of War, Ratchet and Clank, Daxter, Tekken, the portable actually has a lot to offer, especially when we noticed that the GTA series goes in full 3D here. The Metal Gear series is also as great as they were before, sprouting out in full 3D. Perhaps the focus of 3D games has kept this portable going and still is. Owh, I almost forgot Monster Hunter. That's a cult.

I can't say which one is the one that you must have. Rather, I'd go with what appeals to you best. The DS is purely for gaming. True fun and truly gruesome to play with. Some games may challenge how great your surgical skills are, following the rhythm of beats, and even how to make food. This one has a lot of things going for it for sure. The PSP however is more centered as a multimedia player. The focus of this item is to have you playing games on the go, and if you're bored, whip out a show or movie and enjoy. Load in some great songs and listen as the PSP emenates some great tunes. For a mature and more adult like experience, the PSP is yours. For the fun loving, witty charming and humor cheerful, the DS is your pick.

What did I go for then?
My choice was an obvious DS. I choosed to get this because I felt like I need to redeem myself for not buying a GBA, and then I so wanted to play something with a touchscreen. I'm actually still waiting for the Mystery Case files to come, since its still a search sort of thing. hehe. The DS has given me a great time when i'm Mario Karting with my friends during my monthly gaths, and Clubhouse games brought me smiling more. That and the usual chicken buffet I love. haha. The DS has not dissapointed me at all. And I'll continue to play it until I get my PSP, which i will then juggle between the two.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Red Cliff (Part 1): Movie Review

This was a tough poster to find. Really is. Perhaps much more tougher than the one for The Dark Knight I showed. So now, lets play a game. Its called, "Count the White Doves in a John Woo movie" Haha. Knowing John Woo, he loves the doves so much that every movie he'll need them. But does it make the movie any better?

The story is loosely based on the Romance of the 3 Kingdoms. The battle of Red Cliff is the focus here, but with some surprising modifications to the story. As Cao Cao (Zhang FengYi) advances with his army to conquer the Wu territory, the forces of led by Liu Bei having suffered defeat is looking for an alliance with Sun Quan (Chang Chen) under the guidance and consultation of chief strategist Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Teamed with Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhao ZhiLong/Zhao Yun (Hu Jun), the alliance led by Zhao Yu (Tony Leung) will go to war with Cao Cao's forces along with the help of Sun ShangXiang (Zhao Wei). Though people may not know why Cao Cao waged war, it is all actually due to Xiao Qiao (Lin Chi Ling), the proclaimed "most beautiful woman in the world". Will Cao Cao prevail? Or will the wind blow to the favors of the alliance?

The Cast
Tony Leung is back in a John Woo film. I liked how he did his character in Hardboiled, but this one feels a bit cheezy then standard. As a calm and strong viceroy, he displays the exact characteristics with a few minor setbacks during a few scenes. Takeshi on the other hand shouldn't be so well perceived either. The master strategist during that era should have been more calm, and less worried. Still, his performance is something to appreciate on a good degree of praise.

The supporting characters were great, but still possess some minor setbacks. Most notable and somehow surprising was actually Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. The 2 actors were somehow truly felt as if masters of the art they are on, especially with Zhang Fei. Liu Bei was also a setback, but perhaps we was actually somehow overshadowed by the presence of other big name actors. Zhao Wei and Lin ChiLing provide great eye candy with their Ok performance.

Presentation, storyline, sound, setting
Without a doubt, China's most expensive film truly delivers. The sets are amazing and truly a spectacular to look. The shots taken were all to emphasize on how brutal the Chinese during that era, and to show how tough was it all to build such beautiful monuments and fortresses to go with. Truly a high budget exprience to be held with. The story however, is actually a dissapointment. The quest for a man so obsessed with having a woman was more than enough to lead a whole army to war, which is by far ridiculous, even if it is in the oldern days. We believe other movies have done this correctly, but this modification doesn't truly fit with the whole epic story that was passed on to us. The dialouge proved to be amazing, and carefully made. The soundtrack and score are however amazing. Truly fits the setting that was established and brilliantly composed. The shots taken on the characters were somehow reused over and over again until it felt abit cumbersome to watch. There were some things that felt a bit off indeed, especially on how the people were acting.

I can't help but note that this serious war movie, actually hit the best notes when it came to jokes. It manages to take away the violence and cruelty of war that is very daunting and totally depressing to be seen. Despite this, there were lots of things that didn't really click in this movie, but perhaps there is a major reason for that. This is after all, only the first part. In fact, even audiences didn't think that this would actually have a sequel coming soon. Sadly, we're unsure of how soon.

The Art of Sun Tzu was used for war, and now its used for businesses. So how does John Woo pull this off? By doing a Sun Tzu for the modern era. For a war movie, it does hit the correct notes. But the acting is truly a bit hampering. I'd recommend this movie to see tactics of war by the Chinese, and also to see that this movie should also take a step back and chill with the jokes. Must watch wouldn't really cut it, as The Dark Knight is more fitting. This is only the first, lets hope the next one ties it up on the Red Cliff.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dark Knight: Movie Review

Note: If you're deciding whether to watch or not, just go and don't waste time. But if you wanna know why, keep going.

I find this poster to be the best there is. No doubt. Look at the psychotic ways of making an image. And look at all the words around it. You may feel familiar with the quotes as most of us
watch the trailer multiple times already. Yet this poster truly cuts the cake on being psychotic. The pencil is also a noteworthy feature to be mentioned to further illustrate the focus on the Clown Prince of Crime's madness and insanity. You don't write with a pencil like that.

After Batman's/Bruce Wayne's (Christian Bale) successful romp on clearing Gotham City of the powers of the crime scene, a new criminal has arrived. Someone who truly, believed by Batman to be a nuisance to deal with. That particular criminal is The Joker (The late Heath Ledger). Nuisance is a word The Joker doesn't respond well to. So now, the two come in heat with one another to signify a presence unlike any other cop and robber type thing had happened before. With Batman helped by his butler Alfred (Sir Michael Caine), CEO of Wayne Industries Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) ally Leiutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and a new friend Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the team face off against one of the most notorious criminals ever. Though, not surprisingly, a love interest is still there in the presence of Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and she seems to be the love interest of both Bruce and Harvey. Who will prevail in helping out Gotham cleansed of the worldly problems? And what will happen to the Joker? That's for you to find out.

The Cast
Now Christian Bale is talented. Very. And he proves it again that the role was suited exactly for him. So, comparing it with Batman Begins, there's really no difference as the character is still the same and he provides the excellent characteristic for it.

Aaron Eckhart was also brilliant. In fact, I had believed for once that he would be a breakthrough in this movie, but to take this one into the books, is to really have given such high expectation for it. He brought my expectation higher. Much higher than I could've imagine.

The rest of the supporting cast were making roles as their own. Hard for us to provide someone else to replace the characters in the movie indeed. Casting Maggie was perfect. Much more better than I could've asked for. Michael was perfect, so was Morgan, and so was Gary. The vets definetly made their move a whole lot.

So, the star of the movie is Heath Ledger then. No? Of course, we can say this movie is all about the Joker indeed (that is, another spoiler not truly unearthed, yet), but to cast away Batman and the others, well, Heath did just that. This was beyond anything an actor could do. Portraying insanity is not simple. It is by far one of the most challenging, toughest, and mind consuming effort to pull off. Don't compare this with Jack Nicholson, this Joker is beyond anything. It seems understandable how hard was it for Heath to sleep at night. This role can give any actor nightmares and truly sleepless nights. And all the dialouge, made it so prevailing that it could actually drive someone, to truly do what the Joker has done. Props to Heath for his final performance, this is by far the greatest.

Progression, storyline, sound, setting
If you ask me, the story is great. The dramatization is pitch perfect. We could see Bruce struggling with the world he is in. Between love and justice, he still is human, wants what he wants. yet between duty and selfishness, he knows what to choose, and he has to. The sets were great. And apparently, Batman isn't just a caped crusader for Gotham anymore. See him flying to places you could've least imagined to go to. But there is a bit of a problem here. Though this is a drama, and the fact it is Batman, the pace is slow. It didn't manage to suck me in as it did with Batman Begins. That one was easily a winning score because it could make you feel that you shouldn't leave the seat. But this one, there are parts where the progression is actually slow and a bit frustrating as people want it to progress fast enough that it drives us in to believe every single moment. The score is fantastic indeed. Perhaps that kept me going for a bit more.

It's interesting that certain people were also casted for short roles. Remember Cillian Murhpy? Well find him. He's there. Rumor has it that Michael Keaton is to be a cameo in this one, but nah, it didn't happen. The Batpod was an amazing touch to see how great a bike can really be. And the Batmobile? Find it out. The costume was given a sleaker look. It was abit leaner than the bulky suit in the first place. Yet, despite all that, it still surprises as to 1 loose end. Maybe you can spot it out without having me to say about it.

Overall Verdict
This movie is from Christopher Nolan. And he does not do sequels unless it proves to be great and succesful for the audience. This is to show what Batman Begins was, and I was hardpressed to have put so much hopes for this movie. It didn't bode well at all. Not to say it is not one of the best movies for Summer, but my hopes were too high only. Props to Nolan, and the rest of the crew that made the movie. Come to the theater with a simple expectation that the movie is worth it, and you will for sure enjoy. Props to Heath, this is your best and by far you brought this movie to be one of the best renditions of the Joker and perhaps the best Batman movie, and superhero movie ever.

Guitar Hero: On Tour : Nintendo DS review

The Guitar Hero series made its landmark on the Nintendo DS for the first time. If you know the series, it would mean that you know it is by far one of the most successful franchises from Activision coming out first on the PS2. After numerous expansion and sequels, we get the portable version!

A little Gripped
To play Guitar Hero On Tour, you'd need the Guitar Grip that has 4 fret buttons (Compared to the series initial 5 fret buttons). For gamers, they think it's much easier. But prepare to be wrong later. At first, we believed this to be looking comfortable and simplistic. Yet the real deal is that, this is really tough on your hands. The grip will make you hurt, if you play it for long hours and at the wrong position of your hand placement. If following the instruction given, it feels truly awkward, yet the wrong position makes your wrist hurt. Go figure. Another problem is that the fingers felt, as if there is no free air. The fingers pressing the button would feel a bit restricted and you might see yourself pressing the wrong fretbuttons with the wrong finger too (Such as the pinky going for the yellow fret button) .

Sound quality
The game itself has 26 songs, which is only 1/3 of the normal 1 game count of songs to play. Songs vary from Rick Springfield Jessie's Girl, to Jet's Are You Gonna Be My Girl and even Maroon 5's This Love. Obviously, some song choices aren't really rock material. But looking back, this is Guitar Hero, and i was begging for more blues in fact. Though the songs are nice, there is no bass. Awkward indeed.

The animation and presentation is nice. The graphics are 3D, and the menu is simple to navigate across. It's nothing stylistic though, but adding album covers is also a nice feat. You won't see the characters having lip sync, obviously due to hardware limitation. but the animation really stands on its own as great looking.

Rock the Game!
To the gameplay itself, considering its Guitar Hero, there are 4 difficulties to go for. The progression of the difficulties, well, lets say that its as steep as Guitar Hero 3 was. The speed is definitely increased in hard, and so is the fret button count. The speed for expert is similar to hard, but more fret buttons to press on. So yeah, if your playing on medium, and wanna go hard, be prepared to be surprised becaouse it really is a bit tough on the edges. But with adequate practice, it should be more than alright. To play this game basically is to press the corresponding fret button and then swipe the DS's touch screen to pick the guitar. Star Power is activated by any button press (Easiest should the be the R button). Multiplayer is interesting but doesn't seem to be highly marketed considering the focus of this pack. But still, you won't go wrong with Face Off (Play alternate riffs), Pro Face Off (Play the same and see who's better on the scoring and combo), Guitar Duel, which is like 2 guys battling out who can do better on the guitar, and Co Op play, for the 1st player takes lead, and the other takes bass or rhythm. During the face off and guitai duel modes, you can use power ups to deliver the pain yo your opponent. Bring fire, or send a fan to ask for a signature, those are just 2 crazy power ups you could use to thrash it up.

The Guitar Hero was great for multiplayer fun, but it seems that this one really takes it away and gives more focus to a single player portable experience. If you can see yourself rocking at the bus or the subway, then this one works for you obviously. But the pain and the grip might turn you off from future titles, even if the sequel is promised to have lots of versions that players can trade among each other with. This stripped down version shows how much fun you could tak e off a game and try its best to put it on an exprience like no other. Good move Activision, but more R&D is needed.

The Score: 7/10.

PS: Credits to Penman for borrowing me his Guitar Hero: On Tour for the purposes of this review. Thanks man!

Monday, July 07, 2008

The King of Fighters 98: Ultimate Match : PS2 Review

How do you create legends? Some say it takes hard work and dedication, and some say its just pure luck. But this game obviously is the former, since for over 10 years after its released, the original game is still being played on emulators, arcades, consoles and so many more. If you are a fan of King of Fighters 98, you won't be dissapointed at all with this anniversary edition of the same name, replacing the Dream Match, with Ultimate Match.

I'm gonna do a favor to all for a moment. I will call this Ultimate Match only, because this is the same game but rehashed with so many new features added to it, and really fun to execute on. Looking back at other King of Fighters, all of them ties with themselves a story for each group (except for the 2002 edition). But this one was meant as a dream match. Put in 12 teams, put them in also in other variations and flavors, and you get a robust list of nearly 50 fighters packed in a 1998 game. That's a feat to behold, especially at that era. Fast forward to 2008, and now you get 64 characters in it.

We've got new additions for this game, so start with characters. Eiji Kisaragi, Kasumi Todoh, Wolfgang Krauser, Geese Howard, Mr. Big are just a start from the original cast. Add more variations for all the characters (including previous bosses), and it amounts to 64. Don't forget with backgrounds too, since they are also available. This game also takes back old backgrounds from previous games, and remake them to look so new that some are stunning to look at (Notice Goenitz's 96 stage and look at the wind spiral on the top screen. Be amazed).

The biggest addition however was the rebuilding of the modes. I mean, the power modes for each character. From previous Advance and Extra mode (which has been rehashed also), there is now an Ultimate mode for everyone to enjoy. Ever wanted to dash but build power like advance? here's your chance. The Ultimate mode emphasizes on customizing how you fight, in evasion and dash/run techniques along with the power you mode of your choice. It builds a different kind of strategy now. Even the Extra mode was redid to have a stored stock and easily activatable when needed (So that it doesn't have to be turned on when not needed). Really neat.
I remember the 1998 version for the PSX was a great game loaded with a robust galery at the time. The same is applied here, along with new stuff. From movies to pictures, to more art gallery from the Dreamcast version also, you'd be amazed that this edition compiled everything right for the fan.

There are some gripes though. Though the introduction and a few other songs were reinvented and remixed, most of the song retain their original score apparently. You could still hear the arranged soundtrack, but its mainly the same. I had wished for it to be more robust (Considering its an anniversary title), but I'm fine perhaps. the ability to input special moves with trigger buttons is all together gone, and my worst gripe was a very toned down difficulty. I loved the original 98 because it was punishing, and it thoroughly trained me to do better combos. But this one perhaps goes down a bit and would suit more crowds that love the game on a simpler approach.

There's online match, but sadly I couldn't test the mode due to lack of adapter for the PS2. As an added and perhaps the biggest bonus, you also get to play the original 98 game on the same disc. Though it is the emulated version from the Neo Geo board, this is by far also one of the best reasons to purchase this game considering that you get 2 games, a new and nostalgic version of it.

The gameplay is fluid, and you get new moves with most characters (Chin can now super you and make you drink with his wine, I got hit by one. And Clark has an awesome aerial catch and throw.) Most commands also had been refined and retuned (Be amazed with Orochi Yashiro's new catch. It's too fast.) for the better pleasure of playing and enjoyment.

For 10 years this game has stood against the tests of time. People still play it in aracades and challenge one another. A phenomenal and exceptionate game indeed for the fighting crew that only went against the likes of Marvel vs Capcom 2. For fans of the original, never miss this game. For fans of fighting games, this one will give you a robust experience indeed, and for all, this is one fighting game that you could really spend hours mastering each character. I would've given the original 9.5/10 score when I was younger, and now this title truly deserves my 10. Truly, have fun!