Sunday, July 22, 2007

day late and a dollar short, vol. 3: shadow of the colossus

I know this has most likely been said before, on numerous websites, and in a much more timely manner, but here goes: Shadow of the Colossus is a flat-out moving experience that is, for the first time, bringing a moral quandary into my video gaming life.

meet our hero, colossus killer extraordinare

I know this game came out forever ago, I know everybody raved about it, but I do have a hard time pulling anything that isn't Guitar Hero or Winning Eleven out of my PS2, so grant me that. And I didn't want to do the game a disservice - I wanted to play this like one would pray at an altar, so it needed to be a special environment and a quiet, focused time.

for those that don't know, the game is an adventure-platformer that, in the strictest gaming terms, doesn't have levels, just massive, incredibly interesting and intricate boss fights. Cut scene, find the boss (including some adventuring on horseback across country and some light platforming to get to some of the bosses), figure out how to stab the boss' weak points, rinse, wash, repeat.

except the developers (who also made another art-house gamer favorite, Ico) do SO much more with the formula than that sounds. You play a warrior who is trying to revive his deceased princess and is listening to the voices at a holy shrine, who tell him to go slay colossus after colossus...presumably in order to revive her.

to kill, or not to kill, that is the question

herein lies the problem. This isn't going out to collect all seven tokens in order to revive her; you must actively slay these gigantic, screen-filling, peaceful colossi in order to make that Phoenix Down work on your girl. I'm three colossi in, and each has ended with my character climbing to the top of the colossus (who is rather eerily trying to shake you off the entire time; your character's grip meter is what makes this whole thing interesting, because you can't hold on forever) and stabbing it in a weak point atop its head.

I would do anything for love, but would I do that? Would you go toe-to-toe with a bear and stab it in its head? The bear is much smaller than the game's colossi, but you get the point I'm trying to make...

...especially when that sort of thought process is backed up by what happens to your character after each colossus dies: a guilt trip. Not only does the thing breathe its last in a wonderfully epic manner, a sort of series of black tentacles of the thing's soul reach out and take your body over, you see tunnel vision, get the option to save, and your character black-out returns to the main shrine, where a few shadows stand over his passed-out ass. Last time after I saved, it was three - the number of colossi I'd slain.

I was told after this game came out that my friend Peter went on a binge, played all the way through it in a day, and saved right at the last boss, trying to decide whether he wanted to go on or not. I don't remember if he finished off his save or not, but he had one of those moments where his conscience took over.

I absolutely love that a few games are doing this now. More need to. Shadow of the Colossus is so simple in terms of gameplay (though the colossi are all fun to figure out the "trick" to, and just as fun to actually battle); fighting the most recent one, I could feel my mind switch from itchy-finger gamer mode to "oh my god what am I doing" story mode. It hurt, and it was very engaging.

I like that sort of engaging.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Underrated albums No. 2: Daft Punk, Discovery

I promised, and now I deliver: not only another “forgotten album” post, but one on something that covers more than one aspect of my personality. This would happen to be….Daft Punk’s Discovery.

seriously, the more I think about it, the more I like the robot-style headwear that Daft Punk sports

This is about as perfect as a techno album can get; Discovery and the Chemical Brothers’ Dig Your Own Hole are absolute transcendent classics. It’s a great dancing album, it’s a great party album (throw on the opener, “One More Time,” and you’ll get the girls back alive in no time…though it does drag in the middle a bit), it kinda lacks when driving around because some of the songs rely on softer tones, but on headphones walking around, working out or doing homework this disc is brilliant. (Heh, Homework. Sorry, I amuse myself).

The pacing is almost perfect, and though only a few songs really stand out as singles, the others flow perfectly together and seem to speed up time in a way. Sure, the two noteworthy singles that are well known in the US – “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” – both really pop out of the album and make their presence known, but four of the deep cuts stand out well and the rest of the album is incredibly well done.

These four songs – “Digital Love,” “Superheroes,” “Something About Us,” and “Face to Face” – are just as key as the two singles. “Superheroes” is a wonderfully rising song, and “Face to Face” has a solid backbeat behind an interesting stuttering harmony and singing. But it’s “Digital Love” and “Something About Us” that stand out – as, fittingly enough, beautiful love songs. “Digital Love” is a lament that a love affair was only in the singer’s mind, rising to a roboticized guitar solo, and “Something About Us” is a beautiful little love poem.

Interstella 5555: epic, and full of blue people

Even better, this album isn’t just an album – some may know about the singles from the album being turned into anime music videos, but little do they know, the whole disc was turned into an anime movie called “Interstella 5555.” I haven’t seen it all the way through yet, but, yes, it weaves the music through the plot (ala The Wall, but not, err….fucked up) but with no dialogue and minimal sound effects. “I5555” features art design by Leiji Matsumoto, best known for his work on the seminal late ‘70s anime series “Space Battleship Yamato.”

I just recently found a "Sample Wednesday" by a website that provides a lot of the tracks sampled to make Daft Punk songs, and all the songs from Discovery are accounted for. I honestly can't believe Barry Manilow got sampled by Daft Punk, but there you go. (tip of the hat to

now, excuse me while I go listen to "digital love" one more time (...that was unintentional, by the way).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

goodbye, sweet prince

so, as I've documented Xbox 360, it is dead, from the dangerous cirque du rouge virus. This happened almost two weeks ago, and after calling Microsoft support last Monday, swallowing a $140 charge, joyously celebrating last Thursday when it was announced that the warranty was extended by two years for problems like this, then waiting all weekend for an empty box...I finally got it today.

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it's just a box...

for your princely $140, Microsoft sends out an empty box with instructions (basically, "take out games, take off hard drive and faceplate, unplug and put it in here like *so*" and how not to be a fucktard about applying a UPS label) and shipping supplies to get it back to the repair center in Texas.

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I think I got it, but thanks for the instructional help, guys.

so. into the plastic baggie it went, on went the foam blocks, and once that got put in the box, out comes the supplied packing tape. Sharpie on the UPS label, add on the new label right on top, and my 360 will soon be going, going back back to Texas, Texas. As soon as I find a UPS store here.

Over-under: will I get my sweet, sweet, broken console back before the Penny Arcade Expo in late August? I don't know. I don't know, but I'm not completely keen on the under.

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goodbye, sweet prince.

A letter to the video game industry

Dear video game industry,

As they say on radio shows, "long-time listener, first-time caller." I've been a fan of yours from the sidelines for many years - since childhood, indeed - but haven't thought it necessary to write in to you like this until now.

The king is dead; long live the king

We all know that you think you did the right thing when E3 was killed off last year...and I think many of us on the outside looking in will agree, on paper at least, that it was the right move. However, in its wake (literally - that's a party this week held by a company - and figuratively), there's an enormous chasm.

You see, E3 had a certain....oh, pomp and circumstance? Yeah, pomp, circumstance, and a flash-flood of light, color, sound and fury that would overrun poor Los Angeles for a glorious week in early May every year. It was like christmas for my friends and I growing up; through high school, we'd check in multiple times daily to see what news had broken. Hell, last year, I watched the Nintendo keynote speech online! What progress, and what importance at the same time!

But now, this year, it lacks the bombast that comes along with booths stocked with game demos and bored 'models' or 'actresses' hired to cosplay for a day or two and take photos with mouthbreathers. Sure, the journalists probably will be able to do their jobs better without all the lights, glitz, and distractions (including the flocks of extra people who somehow ended up with credentials), and the parties will still be held, but it's not the same. Now you're just a conference being held in a hotel in L.A., and that's no fun if there's no yiffing around (check out the pictures. Yowza.)

Why is this important? Because only *now* is technology catching up to what was the most overbloated, slightly unnecessary show in entertainment. What once could only fill out a two-page spread exotically in EGM in a couple of months can now be broadcast 24/7 by somebody like G4, so that gamers truly get the idea they're there. Why kill off the greatest show on earth under those circumstances? It doesn't make complete sense.

Ah well. At least we've got our PAX. Plus, you guys never let us in to E3 (well, not legitimately, anyways).

P.S. the 'new' format is even scaring 1up staffers. Come on, that's gotta be worth some change. Think of the precious 1up staffers here!

One gaming fan

Monday, July 9, 2007

I think I'm ready for *this* 'Graduation'...

everybody has their own likes and dislikes. This is just the nature of the world. Let me break down a couple of my likes, aesthetically, here right now:

-Daft Punk's "Discovery" album (I think a post on that in the near future is due);
-Good, smart hip-hop;
-Japanese stuff, including (but not limited to) anime and 'cyberpunk' movies and TV shows.

well, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Kanye West's new single "Stronger"...which samples the French techno artists' "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," is pretty well written, and....has a music video that is basically an homage to Akira.

yes, that's really Daft Punk. Yeah, they're kinda weird.

Yeah, that's a fastball right in my wheelhouse. I think I'll keep that Firefox tab open so I can watch it again tomorrow morning. That's the stuff.

I know my friend and Daily Emerald cohort Matt Sevits will hate me for it, but...I like Kanye West. Yeah, some of the shtick is played-out, and it definitely can be shtick-y...but when it's new, and hasn't gotten really stale, it's good. And fresh Kanye is always good.

even the single cover art is cool and Japanese

The question is: will this be a hit or a miss long-term? I'll probably want to buy it now; will I regret that decision once the song is off radio and MTV, and I stumble upon it in my iTunes library in two years?

It sounds like it could be worthwhile. The beat is, as always, very good, but the rhyming is a bit more mature. He's never going to be Jay-Z or Biggie; nobody will. And, granted, there are a couple songs on each album (more on Late Registration than College Dropout) that stand the test of time; Kanye seems to still be developing and maturing, which means he gets better with each album. Hopefully this album reflects that, and the single certainly sounds like it could be.


At the least, though, it's the first Hype Williams video I've enjoyed in a long while. Something about the video subconsciously "clicked" the first watch-through, then when I went to it again I had the "OH SHIT" light-bulb moment. Lights streaking off the cylces? The nurse coming into Tetsuo's Kanye's room, and him stumbling out with shrouds of bedsheet hanging off his head? YES. So very good. Too bad the katakana scrolling across the screen at times makes NO SENSE (except the soldiers' "GYAAA" when they get attacked near the end).

(and now I want to watch Akira...)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

around the horn, sports edition

so a sports-specific update: lots has been going on (and I've been writing about a good deal of it), so let's cover some bases and update some stories...

Mariners defying all odds, now just 3.5 games out

Or, "maybe I should ride the Mariners hard in columns some more." I wrote one hell of a worried column about the Mariners last week, and what happened after that? 8-game win streak (!), one of my two season wishes comes true and Hargrove resigns (!!)...and then they regress to form, get kicked in the balls twice in KC but JARED FREAKING WASHBURN shut out the Royals to get the last game of the series today.

This is where I raise my hands in futility, say "fuck it" and put my Mariners hat back on. You know, I'll take winning 9 out of 11 - including eight straight against two of the top teams in the AL, the BoSox and the Blue Jays - no matter how it happens. All I want for it is to keep happening.

Oregon explodes, Rip City is back

I believe I called this one. Okay, that's not exactly a call, as much as it is a written orgasm, but stick with me here.

The point is that not only do I as a person who's a Trail Blazers fan (not to mention a fan of my hometown - PDX 4 LYFE... or something like that) feel excitement from this, but I can sense it welling up and coming to a head in Portland. The city's opinion about the team has completely turned around in a two year span, and I simply can't believe it. Now I want to buy a Blazers jersey; now I'm proud to be a fan of the only pro sports franchise in the state.

I just can't wait for the ride to start in early November. Gotta get to a few games next year for sure.

Hello, goodbye

Just as I've welcomed one massively talented star onto one of my teams, another takes off searching for pastures new. Yep, Thierry Henry - one of my all-time favorite athletes and one-time captain of my soccer team, Arsenal - has taken off for Barcelona.

I harbor little ill will. He's done so much for the team, the team has done so much for's just saddening is all. Maybe I'm the nostalgic type who wanted to see him finish his career as a Gunner, but hell, what else does he have to prove here? I don't know. I don't know.

It's like dealing with a bad're never quite sure how to feel afterwards. I doubt, however, that if he were to return to Highbury Emirates Stadium next year in a Champions League match, he'd get the same reception as Ken Griffey, Jr. got in Seattle a few weeks ago.