Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back Pain

I alluded to this in my previous post, but I really jacked my back up at PAX (Penny Arcade Expo).

I believe I stressed my lower back on the flight up to Seattle by sleeping in an uncomfortable position. (I really should have lowered that seat.) Then Thursday night (before the con!) I bent down with my back and not my knees. The end result? PAIN! Things went downhill from there.

Friday and Saturday were pretty painful. I've never felt pain like I did on Friday. It made sleeping difficult and just moving around sucked. Yet, when I stayed relatively still there was still pain. It totally ruined my plans for the convention but at least I didn't die. On the upside, I now know why people pass out from pain. I had pain spasms that would travel up my spinal cord to my brain; it felt like someone was squeezing my head at times.

I suppose it's only fitting that I got jacked at PAX this year though. Last year it was Comic Con and the most horrible food poisoning of my life. Back then I learned firsthand how people can die from food poisoning. I guess my con going experience every year is going to include a lesson in being physically owned? I love how it always happens BEFORE the con too, not during or after. Irony indeed.

So what have I learned from all this? Recline the damn airplane seat. Bend with your knees, not your back. Figure out when your back is stressed and give it a rest when it is.

On the plus side, I'm doing much better now. I'm not in that much pain and I can actually sleep through the night. I've been seeing a chiropractor because I feel it's more productive than the prescription drugs (muscle relaxant + painkillers) that my doctor recommended. It's also because I was walking funny. People at work were like, "You're @#$@# up dude, you need to get something done about that."

(We'll cover my visit to the chiropractor and subsequent healing in a future blog post.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

PAX 2007: Video Games

I didn't really see as much of PAX as I wanted to because I jacked my back...but I showed guts and went to the exhibit hall despite the pain.

There were a bunch of games I paid absolutely no attention to, like Bioshock (PC), Gears (PC), Conan MMO, Warhammer MMO, etc. (Mainly PC stuff)

Naruto: Rise of Ninja Multiplayer Demo (BETA)

This is basically the Gamecube game's (Gekitou Ninja Taisen / Clash of the Ninja) fighting system but with 360 graphics. One of the neat features is that you can do "justus" (supers) by squeezing the left trigger and then using the thumbsticks to simulate your hand motions. Then you can bust out a level 1, 2, or 3 super depending upon how long you charge. These are all the signature moves for a character: Naruto has Sexy no Jutsu, Kakashi has Sharingan, and Neji has his Byakugan.

Each character had multiple supers in the demo, and Neji's other super (64 Palms) actually leads into a mini-game of sorts. When you use it, the Neji player sees a silhouette with Chakra points on it. The Neji player then attempts to strike the points with his cursor while the other player controls the silhouette and attempts to dodge. At higher levels Neji's cursor is bigger and there are more points on the silhouette. It's actually a pretty cool gimmick; I certainly can't fault the game's flavor. Hell, I didn't even know Rise of A Ninja had multi-player so I'm hoping this game turns out to be better than expected.

Culdept Saga

This is a 360 sequel to a PS2 game. It's basically Monopoly + Magic the Gathering with a Japanese flair. I'm fairly certain that your die rolls aren't totally random either, there's some sort of "balancing mechanism" that hinders/helps your die rolls when you are far ahead/behind. Combine this with the luck factor in drawing 1 card a turn and being only able to hold 7 (or so) cards and this game is way too luck based for my liking. Still, it's got online play for up to 3 (or was it 4?) players so there might be a market for this.

Virtua Fighter 5 (360)

This looked awesome on the 360, and the booth had Hori sticks to play the game with. The real kick in the nuts is this was setup right next to the PS3 version. The load times were like 1/2 as long as the PS3 version. When you add in the online play it's total beatings and proves that Sega or whomever did the port didn't just phone it in.

Puzzle Fighter HD

Same thing I saw at Comic Con, but I have to comment that it looks really awesome. Sirlin balanced the X' Version of the game so I'm looking forward to that. It comes out this Wednesday on Xbox Live Arcade.

Eye of Judgement

Also seen at Comic-Con, it's still my reason this year to buy a PS3. I have clearly gone crazy.

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 1

There was an announcement at this PAX that this game is coming to the 360 via Xbox Live Arcade. The demo was for the PC version though.

They only had the character designer up; there aren't that many options but there are enough to make a decent looking and unique character. It's certainly no Oblivion or City of Heroes/Villains. Your character is inserted right into the comic book style cutscenes which is a great touch.

The opening sequence has your character's home destroyed by a huge Fruit Fucker. Gabe and Tycho then run by in hot pursuit and you join them, armed only with the rake you were using outside the smoldering ruins that was your homestead.

Rockband

This game lives up to the hype. The concept is simple: four instruments for four players. There's lead guitar, bass guitar, drums, and the microphone.

The guitars are setup just like Guitar Hero, except the instruments have an extra set of frets closer to the strum button for solos and difficult hammer-ons/pull-off segments. The bass player can naturally raise his multiplier to 6x as opposed to the 4x multiplier for the lead guitarist.

The drum controller and screen setup is a lot like Drumania. The Haramonix guys said that the drum is the hardest instrument which makes sense since it's so close to actual real life drumming. Supposedly if you can drum on hard or expert you can drum in real life.

The microphone is setup almost exactly like Singstar or Karaoke Revolution, right down to the freestyle portions of a song. You can activate starpower by shouting into the mic. I was impressed with the level of singing ability that the average PAX attendee possessed. Though it's quite possible everyone picked easy or the game is not that strict for singing.

There's a lot of customization in the game and before each song the game has a cutscene that shows you each band member's avatar, name, and instrument. At the end of the song, each player gets a rating and title so you can totally see who is dragging your band down. I sense future dickery and trash talking!

I had a total blast playing with strangers. I can only imagine how cool and exciting it would be to play with your friends. I played bass on the OK Go song "Here it Goes Again" (there were 20 demo songs) because I didn't care what I did. I liked how you can bring a failed band member back by activating your Star Power. I must say that playing the bass was pretty boring on medium, I think I should have picked hard. That being said, I easily had the starpower to help my band out.

Start saving your money now...the game comes out in November.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Packing

My flight to Seattle for the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) leaves tomorrow. I'm packing tonight.

I've got the packing before a convention down to a fine science, yet I always feel anxiety whenever I'm packing. I don't think I've ever forgotten anything important, but yet I always make a checklist and go through it multiple times before I leave. I guess I really do have Type A blood. (Maybe that Japanese belief that your blood type imparts personality traits is true?)

One thing that is coming in really handy are the small containers I bought on Sunday. They are super tech! I love organizing my belongings like this...I think the next time I go back to the container store I'll really load up and get even more small travel containers. With the TSA regulations being what they are, I need all the small containers I can get for my precious liquids.

I'm bringing my camera so hopefully I'll have some pictures if I remember to take them. I'm also bringing my DS and am looking forward to getting relieved of my two pins in no time.

Hopefully I can actually make the concert this year and see the Minibosses. I'm also hoping to hit up the Sam & Max panel (where they create an episode of the game in front of you!) as well as the Penny Arcade panels (always a blast). I may even work in King of Kong and/or getting drunk at/around Gameworks. I'm hoping for at least a 50% success rate in terms of what I actually achieve.

Good times indeed.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Wandeing Pasadena

I went to The Container Store on Sunday to pick up some travel containers among other things. (I'm going to PAX this weekend.) Apparently there is one somewhat nearby in Pasadena. This was all the excuse I needed to head down there and wander around Old Town.

I enjoy a place like The Container Store way too much. It totally appeals to my OCD/Type A desire to organize and classify everything in my life. I could probably spend far too much money in a place like that.

Somewhat ironically, everything I did after my planned visit to the store was spontaneous. Since I foolishly parked at a flat rate lot (should have read that sign more carefully!) I decided to wander around Pasadena on foot.

I ended up walking quite a bit down Colorado Blvd. I went as far as Famima!!, a Japanese convenience store. (Yes, the exclamation marks are part of the name.) I wandered around the surrounding streets as well. I found that I'm quite poor at measuring distances by both car and on foot. Landmarks in the Pasadena area all slurred together as I walked the streets. Still, I suppose it was decent exercise. It was so warm out that I ended up pretty sweaty.

I ate at thaitalian solely for the kitsch value and the fact that it's on Eater LA's DEATH WATCH. The restaurant truly is as janky as the concept: Thai + Italian food = a truly mediocre experience! You won't hate it, but you won't love it either.

On my way to Famima!! I passed by the massive Paseo Colorado complex. This is an outdoor mall type structure, with numerous restaurants and shops as well as a "Gleason's the Super Market!". (I've never heard of it either and once again the exclamation mark is part of the name.) More importantly, there was a theater so I FINALLY got around to seeing the third Bourne film, The Bourne Ultimatum.

Like my experience with Inside Man, I found the theater surprisingly full with most of the audience composed of elderly people. Sunday afternoon truly is when old people go to the theaters. I have no idea why people with walkers and canes find Jason Bourne such a draw, but if I had to guess I would say that it's probably because they've read all the books and want new stories with the same character.

I've always enjoyed the Bourne films, and this one was definitely better than the second film. (Once again living up to my theory that in a trilogy the 2nd film is usually the weakest unless it's Star Wars.) I'm not sure if it's better than the first one though, because I really love that Mini Cooper car chase. The plot was definitely the most interesting of the 3 films simply because it reveals Bourne's true origin story.

The awesome action sequences (complete with shaky cam) return as well. This is the film to watch for good and appropriate use of the shaky cam, as opposed to Transformers. (Though I did find it odd that the shaky cam is used in non-action scenes as well...reminds me of Bay in Bad Boys 2.)

I couldn't help thinking throughout my viewing that the film could have been titled "Listen to Bourne or Get Pw3nd!" as that sums up the majority of the action sequences and plot twists. Interestingly enough though, one of the assassins successfully metagames against Bourne. So I guess you shouldn't listen to Bourne all the time. What a twist indeed!

What I enjoyed about this film was how it doesn't have an outright summary of what happened in the previous two films. Rather, your viewing/remembering of the 1st two films simply enhances the plot of this film. I felt this film had the best plot beyond the origin story quest. I enjoyed the villain this time around even if he was a bit cliche and I really liked how the film takes place in various locations all over the world. It's only fitting for what is essentially a spy film.

I'll also admit to liking Julia Stiles' character in these films. I find it hilarious that whenever she crosses paths with Jason Bourne her whole life is endangered and turned upside down. Nicky Parsons must be like "@#$@# not him again" every time she runs into Bourne. This film is no exception; she ends up in the most danger in this one after crossing paths with Bourne. What can I say, Jason Bourne can totally manhandle the future Princess of Denmark.

After finally seeing Bourne, I can attempt to rank all the 3quels for this summer:
  1. The Bourne Ultimatum
  2. Pirates of the Caribbean : At World's End
  3. Spider-Man 3
  4. Ocean's 13
  5. Rush Hour 3
(Unfortunately, I didn't see Shrek 3...but I pretty much saw everything else!)

Oh and did you know they made a sequel to the Prince and Me?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Xbox Live Demos

So lately all I've been doing on my Xbox 360 is playing demos I've downloaded over LIVE. There are a lot of good ones out: Beautiful Katamari, Blue Dragon, Bioshock, Dynasty Warriors Gundam (aka "Gundam Musou"), Eternal Sonata, and Stranglehold just to name a few. While I haven't played every demo on the previous list, I have played enough of them to comment on a few.

Bioshock

This FPS totally has a Dues Ex feel, which shouldn't be surprising since this game is being touted as the "spiritual successor" to System Shock 2 and Thief 3. What surprised me the most about this game demo was how well it sucked you into the game world. The game takes place in a 1960s underwater city that has become a dystopia. There are a lot of creepy characters around and the lighting is pretty dim to invoke tension. You have both "magic" weapons due to altering your genes (shooting fire and electricity out of your hands) as well as more mundane weapons like a wrench or pistol. For some reason the pistol feels really solid and real to me. It's a lot of fun to fire. I also really like old school music in this game as well.

This is clearly a must buy game now. I'm glad it lived up to all the hype (for me at least).

Dynasty Warriors Gundam

There are really only two groups of people this game appeals to: those who enjoy Dynasty Warriors despite the massive, mindless repetition of slaughtering numerous virtual enemies, and those who are rabid Gundam otaku.

Unfortunately, I fall into BOTH categories. This demo isn't great in terms of graphics or game play and the music is pretty much non-existent. However, it has a cross section of some of the most popular Gundam characters (Char, Master Asia, Heero Yuy, etc.) and they are voiced pretty much by all their original voice actors. (Or at least this is the case when you select the Japanese language option.) This makes it a pretty legit game for a Gundam otaku.

I would advise about buying this game unless you are crazy about either franchise like I am. (If you look at my Gamer Card, the only game I have 1000/1000 in is Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires.) I'm looking forward to utilizing the custom soundtrack feature of the 360 to play songs from the various Gundam series/films during the game.

Stranglehold

You might as well call this Hard Boiled 2: The Game. From Midway, this 3rd-person Max Payne-esque action game has you controlling Tequila from Hard Boiled as he stars in an original story. Both John Woo and Chow-Yun Fat contributed to this game, meaning that you get Woo's style as well as CYF's likeness and voice for Tequila.

I didn't really enjoy the demo at first, but as you beat it you are rewarded with additional 'Tequila Bombs' (special moves) and difficulty levels. I think medium is too easy, while hard-boiled is pretty difficult in some sections. I enjoyed the stylish gun play and the interactive environment. I must say shooting people in Tequila Time (slow motion / Max Payne style) never gets old.


This game also features "standoffs" where Tequila will be surrounded by a bunch of enemies. You play a neat mini-game as you face off against each opponent in psuedo-slow motion. Tequila moves quickly (in real time) and has to dodge incoming fire by leaning left and right while shooting his gun. During standoff mode, all the bullets (including yours) fire slowly. Once you are done with one enemy, it moves to the another one and so on until either Tequila or everyone else is dead. (The order you move through the enemies is random so no memorizing!) You are heavily encouraged to use the environment to dispatch the enemies in these sequences.

Tequila also has 4 "Tequila Bombs". One heals him, another one kills an enemy in one shot (with a spectacular cinematic), and yet another one allows him to become nigh invulnerable, have unlimited ammo and rapid fire for a short duration. The final one kills every enemy on the screen (only damages bosses though) by having Tequila spin around and shoot while doves fly everywhere. Once again, popular media proves to me that spinning is broken.

Oh, and did I mention the aimed shot special allows you so shoot enemies not only in the throat, but the GROIN as well? Hilarity!

How could one NOT buy this game based on that? Oh yeah, it's got multiplayer too...that seems interesting.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Convention Center Nostalgia



So I was at the Anaheim Convention Center (ACC) last Saturday for the World of Warcraft CCG Fires of Out Land Sneak Preview. (Yeah I have no life, but I still lucked my way into a playmat that's going straight to eBay.) I've attended other CCG related events there before and I always end up feeling odd.

I guess I just expect the convention center to be filled with people cosplaying. After attending Anime Expo (AX) so many times, I feel that the convention center is sorta like Disneyland. I only go there once a summer and when I do I expects crowds of people in various anime/manga related costumes. It's rather creepy being at the place when it's mainly empty and filled with "normal" people attending a trade seminar or whatnot. It's sorta like visiting your old school during summer or something. On the other hand, I had no problem figuring out parking and food though I packed my own lunch.

I feel the same way about the San Diego Convention Center. That place IS Comic Con. I've never been to the place when Comic Con isn't going on. San Diego to me is basically Masa, Comic Con, and where the original Game Empire is. I guess they filmed Veronica Mars there too.

After 4+ years or so of going to cons, these convention centers have become ingrained in my head as hosting these events. It's difficult for me to separate the convention centers from ther respective events. I definitely associate them more with events than locations. I expect cosplayers and crowds whenever I'm at them. It's definitely a form of nostalgia right?

And yes, I know Anime Expo has been held in Long Beach and other locations in the past. I missed out on this year's but I'm looking forward to next year's at the Los Angeles Convention Center. We'll see if I can make it, if only to break this location nostalgia.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Boiling Point (Restaurant)

Man what is it with hot pot and mediocrity? It seems like all the hot pot or shabu shabu places here in Monterey Park aren't great but aren't bad either.

Boiling Point gets high marks for value. For like $10 or less you get your own individual hot pot that comes with an assortment of stuff. You can also order dishes a la carte. I got some stinky tofu but to be honest I've had much better.

The service was pretty non-existent, but to be fair a factor might be that I'm not enough of a FOB to warrant attention. I'm used to it. Wei on the other hand, should have fit in. I guess I brought us down?

Oh and the food? It was ok. Not too bad, but not too good either. The sauces they have are easily the best part. I guess I'm 2 for 2 now in terms of mediocre hot pot.

Rating: 2.5/5 I'd recommend going to Little Fat Sheep (or whatever it calls itself) instead.

Boiling Point
153 Garvey Ave Monterey Park, CA 91755
(626) 288-9876

Sunday, August 5, 2007

OC County Fair

(Yeah I know how it's the "OC Fair" but my friends and I always call it the "OC County Fair" because it sounds better to us. This phrasing makes it similar to the "LA County Fair".)

So yesterday I went to the OC County Fair with some friends. This was my first time going, but I've gone to the LA County Fair twice. The OC County Fair is exactly like the LA County Fair, just smaller, which I guess makes sense since Orange County is smaller as well.

There were all the usual assortment of fair things: rides, stage shows, animals, crafts, arts, ribbon winning food related items & collections, etc.

Of course the real attraction for a glutton like me is the hilariously unhealthy food. I love how just about everything can be deep fried or put on a stick, or better yet, BOTH!

I showed some restraint so I wouldn't pass out from my gorging but I still ate (and spent) quite a bit. The highlight had to be deep fried coke...which, like the Krispy Kreme Chicken sandwich, tastes just like you think it would. It's basically just batter that has coke syrup and is well, deep fried. It is ever so delicious, but they sorta skimped on the whip cream. I'm hoping that same stall is there at the LA County Fair so when I go I can get it again. Another highlight was this salt-water taffy I bought, but then again I haven't had salt water taffy in a long time so I think I would praise even a mediocre piece. I also enjoyed the "Australian Battered Potatoes"; I'm definitely going to convince people with me to get them when we go to the LA County Fair. They have a texture between that of a deep fried potato chip and potato wedge.

Want to know what I didn't enjoy? Caramel Apples. I used to love these as a kid, but now the magic is gone. After consuming one, I'm just left a sticky mess and wondering if my fillings/teeth are going to be pulled out. It's totally a sad comment on how old I'm getting.

Despite my enormous stomach, I managed to miss out on quite a few things. I am looking forward to trying a Turkey Leg, Egg Roll on a stick, and maybe fried frog legs or a Texas donut at the LA County Fair.

Friday, August 3, 2007

15 Seconds of Fame

Why are people in my demographic (18-34?) so obsessed with fame? Apparently fame is the #1 desired thing based on surveys. I can't believe that, because I'd much rather have money than fame. Then again I guess you can parlay your fame into money. Maaybe that's why? Or maybe it just goes back to the fact that it's human nature to want to be recognized? I guess I find it so hard to believe since I don't really like being in the spotlight; I'd much rather be the person behind the show.

But hey, I got my 15 seconds of fame on the Kevin and Bean radio show the other day. Ralph read my email for his running "Rock Me Amadeus" gag yesterday for the 9:00 Showbiz Beat. It was about Comic Con and how at the con Paramount revealed Zachary Quinto is the new Spock for the upcoming Star Trek prequel. "Spock will make him famous!" W00t.

So am I officially Internet-level pathetic now? I think so. I guess I wouldn't have it any other way.

(For those of you keeping track at home, when you add this bit to EVO and PAX 2004, I should have like, 12-13 minutes left of Internet fame.)

First Post!

So the purpose of this blog is more for reviews (food? golf?) than anything else. I suppose I could just type stuff up at Yelp but I want to see if I can make a blog entry every other day or something. I guess to be honest I should shoot for 3 times a week.

That being said, I think I'm just gonna post random stuff most of the time and have this degenerate into a basic brain dump or something. I barely know how this interface and stuff works.