Monday, 23 March 2009

Japanese Spider-Man - free episodes from Marvel!

Marveller, Change Leopardon!

You can now watch subtitled episodes of the 1970s Japanese tokusatsu adaptation of Spider-Man on the Marvel Comics Website! They seem to be releasing one episode a week, and they're onto the third one now. :D

Everything I knew about this series up to now was pretty much from the opening and ending sequences, as I have then on a Yuki Hide compilation album, and saw the videos on youtube. The music in this series is composed by Watanabe Chuumei, so <3 <3 <3. :D I'm very grateful to be able to see this series, especially for free!

Don't expect it to be anything like the story of Spider-Man that you have read in Marvel comics, it's a standard tokusatsu type plot. It is about as far away from the original as any sentai series becoming a Power Rangers series. Perhaps moreso! I found myself thinking "hey, this concept was stolen from Ultraman / Kamen Rider!", though according to wikipedia this series pioneered the concept of having a giant robot to fight giant enemies. (though, hmm, Ultraman being giant for 3 minutes is very similar, he's just not a robot...) There is a lot of overacting and the special effects are.... well, not so bad for something that's the same age as me... but somehow, that's part of its charm. It is very entertaining! :D

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

UK's top Singstar karaoke download: Total Eclipse Of The Heart

Oh, I really love this song. It's one of the best songs ever written, in my opinion. Hooray for Jim Steinman! Hooray for Bonnie Tyler! Hooray for Rory Dodd! :D

Singstar, as a karaoke system, is pretty good. You get to watch the music video for the song, and sing your part. The lyrics and a guide to show you which notes to sing and the duration are shown on screen, so you can see if you are singing off-key, too early, too late, etc. There is a rating system at the end. It's all good fun.

I actually bought myself a copy of "Singstar Anthems" (with the microphones!) on PS2 when it came out just to sing that song on karaoke. It's got a funny video too; funny because it's really over the top, a rather ridiculous fantasy, and very very 1980s.

It's very difficult to sing on single player, though! It forces you to sing the "Turn around bright eyes" parts as well as the lead vocal, so there is nowhere to breathe! [ack! erk... dying... splutter...]

It turns out that Total Eclipse Of The Heart is the biggest selling song downloaded on the Playstation network Singstar store. (For those playing on PS3, you can buy any Singstar game and then download extra songs, where I would just buy a PS2 game with the songs I want to sing).

The top ten in full:

1. Total Eclipse Of The Heart - Bonnie Tyler
2. Final Countdown - Europe
3. Just Like A Pill - Pink
4. Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley
5. Torn - Natalie Imbruglia
6. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper
7. Eye Of The Tiger - Survivor
8. Take On Me - A-ha
9. Baby One More Time - Britney Spears
10. American Pie - Don McLean

Not a bad list, though some are much easier to sing than others!

There is a good write-up from The Guardian - the following is an excerpt:

On the subject of Total Eclipse, what is it about that song that makes it such a PlayStation karaoke gem? Of course, the Cadburys advert has no doubt raised its profile over the last year, but I expect it would have topped the chart without the endorsement of a drumming gorilla.

No, I know why it's at the top. In many ways, the song is like a videogame level. It starts off slowly and quietly, building the setting, introducing you to the central themes. Then the pressure begins to mount up, leading to the mini-boss of the middle section, where the drums come in. After this, a brief period of calm, before the climatic explosion - "We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks!" - a vocal boss battle of epic proportions, requiring several special moves across the vocal register.

And then calm again, as the song ebbs away on a tide of bitter lament, a love affair shrouded in darkness and unspoken anguish, like Solid Snake skulking away from another ostensibly successful mission, his soul sullied, his head bowed.


I decided to try some PC gaming for a change, since my boyfriend has a new PC and is all into space / strategy simulations. He's so enthusiastic that I thought I would join in the fun! I've had a copy of Freelancer on my shelf for a few years, I bought it in a charity shop and it had some decent reviews, so I thought I would try it.

The title on the box is actually "Freelancer - The Universe Of Possibility", and the back of the box says "Pirate, Hero, Merchant, Smuggler you decide!", so I thought this sounds good. It sounded like it would be a more up-to-date Elite style game - even though Freelancer was released in 2003 it's a good few years newer than the most recent Elite game, and I really like those! Space trading, perhaps signing up for army misions, perhaps engaging in space piracy, perhaps going space mining, or just plain exploring - yeah, I enjoyed the Elite games very much!

So I installed Freelancer on Windows XP (no problem), and gave it a go.

First impressions:


I've gone through one and a half missions before failing the 2nd one because someone on my side got killed. AND THANK GOD. This game is making me infuriated and sick. @_@

Whoever thought that using a mouse was a good system for space-flight control was an idiot. Dear god. It's awful. You accelerate with the "W" key, you slow down with the "S" key. That I can cope with. You've got hold-left-button-and-drag to head in different directions, you've got point and right-click to aim and fire guns. Now how are you supposed to effectively steer and shoot at the same time? You can lock onto an enemy but all that seems to do is put a box round them, it doesn't seem to help your piloting or weapon targetting. All I can do is spin around endlessly, shooting lasers while chasing round spacecraft; I've got a small fleet here - where are our tactics? Why are our tactics just "spin around constantly, shooting at everything"?


Then I realised that I could go into the options and change it so that I use the keyboard for steering my ship, and the mouse for firing. That made the game bearable. It is a bad default control system.

I carried on with the game for the following days, and got as far as becoming "level 6", but I think I will give up with this game.

I'm really bored by it. It's all dogfights and bus journeys. By which I mean, there's autopilot for everything so you just click some buttons to select the route you want to take, click some more buttons to go, and you wait. It makes me feel like a passenger, it's like being on a bus.

All missions are "go to X and engage in battle". Rather repetitive. If you want to be a trader, sometimes you get attacked, so, -=yawn=- another dogfight. If you decide to do something different, e.g. go mining, you will also get attacked, so, -=yawn=- dogfight. It's as though the game was thinking "hey, you're flying around not being in a fight, that must be boring! Have some attackers!". It just gets tedious. Well, the whole thing is somewhat tedious.

For a game that touts freedom as its main selling point, this game is really very one-track and repetitive. I do not care to play this game any further than I have so far.

Electric sheep

Cool little video featuring extreme shepherding!

youtube video

My first thought was:

"I wonder if Jeff Minter knows about this!"

shortly followed by:

"I hope he's not too inspired by this version of Pong to spend a decade porting Tempest to electric sheep!"


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Brain Training For Dummies

I saw this piece of software on a shelf in HMV on Saturday, its title made me laugh.

Brain Training For Dummies

It sounds like a book for people who have picked up a brain training game but haven't worked out how to play it. It's actually a piece of software, though.

Retro Game Challenge

I've been playing a Nintendo DS game which I imported from North America: Retro Game Challenge.

Retro Game Challenge boxart

I haven't actually completely finished it; I have completed 7 of the 8 games available - just the long-drawn-out RPG to grind my way through, but I think it's enough progress for me to comment on the game!

So. This is a game that contains several other games, all in 8-bit console style. It was originally tied into a show on Japanese TV called Game Center CX. I don't know how far the localisation has gone with this game, but you wouldn't really know it was tied in with a TV show other than having Arino as a character (twice). The voice from the game speaks English and the photos of people in magazines do not look like typical Japanese people. Even if the localisation is heavy, it doesn't detract from the game at all, because the atmosphere in magazines is right and you are primarily here to play retro games.

I would say that if you have a hankering for mid-to-late 1980s console games, are about 30 years old and want to feel like a kid again, or liked Megaman 9 but thought it was too hard, this game is likely to suit you.

The overall story is that a guy (Arino) zaps you and sends you back to 1984 to play video games with him as a kid (I guess he was lonely). There, you have to play the games he orders you to, fulfilling the criteria he sets before you get to play a new game, hoping to eventually return to the present day.

It's very nostalgic even though the games you play are actually new. They are classic 8 bit style in graphics and audio (generally Famicon/Namco arcade style), they come with a manual to read (rather than in-game tutorials), and contain secrets and cheat codes which you can discover and enter if you need to. As you play, this little kid (also Arino) sits next to you watching, getting excited over new games that look ancient... and he buys magazines for the news and cheat codes. It really helps the authentic feel, having an excited kid next to you (until you hear him speak, due to mis-casting - he sounds like an adult).

The games are...

Cosmic Gate - A game that's a lot like Galaga. But, with warps to later levels, and not so fast but more bullets.
Robot Ninja Haggleman, which I quite like; you're a ninja and you swivel doors or jump on enemies' heads to kill them.
Rally King - An overhead-view rally game where you drift/boost and look for shortcuts to win. It reminded me of a game for C64 which I played, but with far more basic graphics. I wish I could remember the name...
Star Prince - a fairly easy mid-1980s style shmup (though the requirement that you play through it twice to complete it makes it harder)
Another edition of the rally game (zzzzz...)
Haggleman sequel (bigger levels, harder)
Guadia Quest - A simple RPG, Dragon Quest style
Haggleman 3 (more of a Shinobi type game than the other Haggleman games - or maybe I should say it's more Metroid as you progress through the game.)

I get the feeling that the games would be actually technically slightly too complex for an actual 8-bit console (especially Star Prince's later levels which give the DS slowdown), and there are lots more secrets to discover in a smaller space of game than would be normal, and yet the games seem overall simpler in content than actual 8-bit games.

They really do give the feeling of games of the year each game is supposed to be released, though. There are certain ways that these games play which have died out in games for years. The progress between games and their sequels seems really natural, like they were real games of the era. The feeling of anticipation for tips on a game you're currently playing in next month's games magazine was familiar and something I haven't felt in years; cheat codes are so old-style and you never have to wait long now we have the internet. There are also some classic comedy bits in the letters page of the magazines.

The interface to the game has you playing the games on the top screen, and you can pause as you play, and take out a manual or magazine or notepad to put on the bottom screen as you play, so it's like having a magazine on your lap to enter a cheat code or draw yourself a dungeon map or whatever.

All very nostalgic.

Drawbacks to this game:

* If you can't feel nostalgia for 1980s gaming, this game won't appeal.

* Comfort has been sacrificed for nostalgia. Remember before they invented useability? Yeah.

* You have to play through each challenge before getting to the next game even if you hate the current game. i.e. the racing game is pretty mediocre and you have to play it twice. Oh well, it didn't take long. It's really easy.

* There's not enough of a selection of games. Only 8 games and a few are very similar.

* The perceived depth to the games is more down to finding hidden secrets than it is to the number of levels.

* The games are way easier than your average 1980s game. No way a game would have been so popular in those days if it could be beaten by a person of my skills in the first playthrough! XD

* The kid sitting next to you while playing is a bit annoying, which is expected as he grew up to be the "villain" of this game. I wish the people who dubbed it would have got a kid to play the kid, as I think he's supposed to be about 6 by his attitude, but it's clear his voice has broken.

Although I thought I would like the RPG the most when I started playing, it turns out that my favourite games are the Haggleman games. (Guadia Quest isn't terrible - it's generic and very grindy / random battle heavy, but most of all I wish it had some more info on the items you can get than is available in the manual...)

Overall, I'm glad I bought this game. I wish it was a budget game at 1/2 the price though! It was quite short, as I started the game on a Saturday and had completely finished most of the games by Tuesday.

It's been fun, and relaxingly nostalgic. Somehow capturing something about the feeling I had about gaming pre-internet era way more than having the dozens of actual retro games in the recent Sega Megadrive Ultimate Collection. :D

Friday, 13 March 2009

The Zombie Hunt in London was no good

Carrying on from my last post, hahahaha!

Apparently barely anyone turned up, and some of the miscellaneous body parts went missing (or have been stolen?)


Destructoid article, Joystiq article


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Zombie hunt in London tomorrow

I wonder if the police will stop this... public disruption. ;)

If you're near London's Trafalgar Square on March 12 and find some severed body parts, you could be a winner. (As long as they're fake and zombie-like, otherwise ring the police.)

Capcom's wacky UK marketing folk have decided to hide the parts -- arms, legs, torsos and heads -- about the area as part of a Resident Evil 5 launch contest. The person who finds the most bits & pieces between 9 a.m. and 12 noon local time will win themselves a trip to Africa. In order to be considered for the prize, participants must email Capcom beforehand (info at the source link) and be willing to stand atop Westminster Bridge, wave their bounty and shout "Kijuju!" (A common sight in London, we're told.)

Source: Joystiq

Sings: Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, that I love zombie parts...

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Persona 4 - UK release - very cheap

Persona 4 came out in English in the US last year, in the US. Lucky buyers received an art book with it as a preorder bonus. That does not appear to be available for the release of the game in the UK, but it is coming out at a cheaper price (yay!). It will be released on the 13th of March 2009. It's being published by Square-Enix!

If you preorder from for £17.99 (free shipping) you get a t-shirt free.

If you preorder from it costs £14.96 but there's no bonus item.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Grand Theft Auto 4 - review

Although I was entirely underwhelmed by the prospect of playing another Grand Theft Auto game when it came out, I eventually bought a copy of the game last year (the Xbox 360 version) as I found someone selling it cheap online (£15 free delivery), plus the game gets overall very good reviews, even from people and magazines you wouldn't expect to give it good reviews.

I started playing it on the 25th of October 2008 until just before Christmas, then came back to it in February, finishing it on the 13th of February. I did a few sidequests after that, gained a few achievements. Stopped for a bit, then over the past weekend, I watched my boyfriend playing it through to the end, so I picked it up on Sunday and sped through the game, finishing it on Tuesday - total time of 13 hours, 8 minutes and 56 seconds. (I did the main story with no sidequests; completed a few social outings but that's all).

my  GTA IV speedrun stats

I really like this game. You might have gathered that already through the amount I have played it!

The story is set in Liberty City, same as GTA III (it's not really New York though it resembles it closely!), and the city itself has a lot of character. It really feels like you live in Liberty City. There are literally hundreds of people in the cast, just as voices in the crowds, and even after dozens of hours of play I still sometimes hear new dialogue from them. Somehow the acting from those hundreds of random people seems better than every star of a Japanese RPG dub into English I've ever heard. Maybe it's the quality of direction. Maybe it's the quality of the casting. They cast Russians as Russians. Irish-Americans as Irish-Americans. Italian-Americans as Italian-Americans. Jamaicans as Jamaicans. No put-on accents. Well, apart from the guy playing Niko Bellic who occasionally loses his accent. :/ On the whole, it sounds good.

There's a lot of bad language and off-colour remarks in the dialogue, but sometimes it's really amusing. I'm not normally one to find swearing funny, or laugh at the way a person speaks, but it is somehow very amusing when you nearly run over a man and he exclaims "Cheesy vaginas!" XD maybe because it's such an unwieldy and unlikely phrase to yell in surprise!

Each island in the city has its own distinct look and feel... no, it's smaller than that. You see a little portion here of Chinatown, a Koreatown, poorer areas that sprawl, poorer areas that are all boxy buildings looking the same, a theatre district, an expensive area with really huge expensive houses... one of the subquests is a guy sending you pictures of cars to steal from pictures, and by the end of the game I could recognise where it was parked by the background. It's that distinctive.

The writing in this game is very good. The story itself... hmm, I could take it or leave it, overall... but the characterisations, the uncomfortable choices the user is asked to make, and the humour of a lot of the dialogue and in-game advertising, radio and world, make it all worth it. The advertisements in the game are all brutally honest advertisements for scams and rip-offs and things that either play on stereotypes or things that seem useless except to extremely vain / peer pressured / gun-crazy / drug-addicted (prescription or otherwise) people.

The worst writing is if you go to the comedy club in the game and listen to the comics there; compared to the main game, they are completely unfunny. I guess they just can't compete; it's like if you eat an apple and a sugary dessert, it makes the apple seem totally unsweet.

The main character, Niko Bellic, is strangely likeable. Considering he's a cold and cynical killer, and all. Nicest mercenary / assassin / murderer I can think of. He heads to Liberty City in search of a "new start" in life, as well as tracking down someone bad from his past for revenge. He has really bad fortune. Most of the characters he meets in the game are bad people. Niko befriends some of them, all the same. Some of the characters are even worse than that, by a long way, and Niko often has to work for them. It doesn't seem so bad killing off dozens of people when you know that most of them were terrible people. Overall he lives a terrible life, though. The people are bad, the city is crazy and shallow and self-obsessed, and he can't even once buy food without the vendor describing it as something off-putting. If it wasn't for the humour, this would be a depressing game.

I wouldn't have it any other way though. As it is, it manages to be the exact opposite of all the critisisms levelled at it in the past. It is the exact opposite of glorifying gang culture. Although you see a lot of people doing drugs in the game, they are usually really messed up physically and psychologically so much that the game seems really anti-drugs. Most of the gangs in the city are divided by race, and so are full of racists, but they're all crazy bad people. Niko tries to make his money in the world by doing gangster work, but just digs himself into more trouble as he goes along, and even the top gangsters he meets are not living happy lives; either drug addicted or always having to live in fear of their lives.

It's a very good, very adult game. I mean in attitude.

(Speaking of adult, there are strip clubs in the city and you can go in and pay for a dance but it's just seedy, badly lit, and really ugly. The best thing is that Niko heckles the dancers through their routines, going "does your mother know you do this?" or whatever...)

There is now an add-on game that you can buy called "The Lost And The Damned", but I don't know if I want to buy it. It costs 1600 MS points, which is almost as much as I paid for the entire game, and you're part of a motorcycle gang (which I wasn't too excited about in the game), and I don't really like how motorcycles handle in the main game. And I only have a little bit of space left on my hard-drive for games (Microsoft charge far far far far far far far far far far too much for bigger hard drives, I'm not going to buy one!)