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31Oct2007 2000: Guitar Hero 3

Guitar Hero 3, now in the hands of developers Neversoft rather than Harmonix, is going out of its way to try and be the worst Guitar Hero game. Rocks the 80s was only bad due to its completely lackadaisical expansion-pack feel. GH3 is actually a step backwards in terms of presentation and technical wizardry. Load times (at least on the PS2) are horrendous, and the wild Star Power moves are gone. This Guitar Hero may actually fail as a spectator sport. Thankfully, once you finally make it into a song the core game is mostly intact. You still rock, and the notes are just a tad more forgiving here so you can feel like a total badass in even the higher songs.

I'm angry about the boss battle mechanic, but I need a few more days to put that anger into a decent paragraph.

So last week I predicted that iTunes was gearing up for a spooktacular Halloween extravaganza. Somebody didn't get the memo, because this week's crop of songs is the usual random selection. [Graham Colton - Best Days]...look at this guy's name, then at the title, and you tell me what kind of music this guy plays. I'll wait...

That's right! It's a bland lite-rock ballad! And this one doesn't have the benefit of nostalgia from me, like Oasis or Verve Pipe might. It's too bad, Graham's one letter away from being the good kind of Coulton.

[Anita Tijoux - Despabilate] is some kind of pop-rap concoction that was this close to getting deleted, but then she broke out the extended Atari 2600 samples in the last minute and I was all "Man, I can't hate you."

[Sara Groves - When the Saints] is the closest to being in "theme" this week, but unfortunately it's an All-Saints Day theme rather than Halloween. I don't know all the words to "When the Saints Come Marching In" and for reason I seem to have forgotten about Google, but at least the chorus borrows from the old standard. If I wanted to hear that song, I'd still be in band. In fourth grade.

27Oct2007 1856: TV

After a months-long RMA ordeal with Olevia's broken TV and even-less-functional customer service, I finally got a working version delivered on Thursday.

It even has a tuner for all that nifty over-air HD content I've seen at friends'. Unfortunately my 60s-era condo isn't wired for cable, so I get my content through an old antenna. It seems to be working with the new TV, but...well... with all the fancy technology inside this TV, they can't give me a simple hole to snap in an antenna?

Never mind. I don't need Olevia's help when I have 3M's. And a healthy disdain for decor.

24Oct2007 2129: Literally Spooky

Aaaaaand scene.

24Oct2007 2121: Actually Spooky

Sure, maybe the content of this movie won't be as scary as intended. But think about this: it exists. Once seen, it cannot be unseen. OOOOoooooOOOOOOOooooooOOoo.

24Oct2007 1836: Normalween

Nothing drastic has happened since Monday to change my opinion on Portal. Game of the Year, possibly Years.

No, I'm here to talk music. I think iTunes is gearing up for Halloween with their tune selection this week, perhaps in preparation for some actual spooky tunes on the 30th. This week just sounds like practice. [Circo - Antes del Fin] is utterly forgettable rock that relies on a little "boinging" synth effect that you might find in a Halloween song from the 50s. Something like "Monster Mash" or "The Square-Headed Weirdo Who Might Be a Communist".

[The Black Ghosts - Tears From a Gun] sounds like it could be scary, but they sound like nothing so much as Trent Reznor on Valium, with all his loud and scratchy instruments replaced with a SNES audio chip. I think I've actually heard this backbeat in Smash TV or Super Contra.

[Scary Kids Scaring Kids - Snake Devil] definitely has the most over-the-top band/title this week. Unfortunately it's hard rock in the formulaic "scream verse, harmonize chorus, forget a third verse" that's apparently popular these days. It could live near the top of a Guitar Hero tracklist, but nobody would play it more than once.

22Oct2007 2138: Portal

This couldn't wait until Wednesday. Everybody with a Windows computer and moderately powerful specs needs to purchase and play Portal. The Orange Box has a bunch of value for $50, but buy the $20 stand-alone Portal if you really must. It is very important that you play this four-hour game before you see spoilerz on the internetz. If, like me, all you know is that you shoot awesome teleportation portals and that the cake is a lie, this game will still possess maximum impact.

You should definitely set texture detail to High or Very High, even if you have to sacrifice down to 800x600 resolution. Texture and shader detail is way more important than polys, and a smooth framerate is a must.

I have time to type this as I'm currently going for the Terminal Velocity acheivement, which I receive for falling 30 000 feet. That's a lot of feet. My character's been swooshing through an infinite portal for about five minutes already.

17Oct2007 1918: A Triumphant Return to Form

Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is the best Zelda game I've played since Ocarina of Time. Twilight Princess was good, sure, but it was merely the farthest logical extension of Ocarina's groundbreaking world. Phantom Hourglass is something completely new. It is controlled entirely with the stylus and three buttons and still manages to be completely in hand at all times. I haven't found myself wishing for more buttons since about fifteen minutes in.

Let's not talk about how it takes the Zelda formula and polishes up all the cliches; let's talk about where it ignores the formula completely. Since Ocarina, the Zelda games have had an occasionally distracting hand-holding fairy that enjoys pointing out the obvious. For some people, this is a deal-breaker. Twilight Princess, again in its bid to be the ultimate this-style-of-Zelda, extended "helpful" messages to picking up rupees from chests...even if you couldn't hold them.

Phantom Hourglass cuts out almost ALL of that crap. You still get messages for picking up things from treasure chests, but it's never a downer kind of message. Although it explains how to use returning items with the new controls (draw a path for bombchus, draw a path for the boomerang, etc), you're mostly left to figure out their uses on your own:

The fairy Ciela stays the hell out of my way. I can count the number of times she's pointed out an obvious bomb crack or protruding switch on one hand. Shit, even the sailing is fun, and you know how much I hated the sailing.

Blah blah blah music. [Carina Ricco - Yo No] is pretty close to tolerable, but it just fails to hook me in any way. You might want to give it a try. [Metro Station - Shake It] barely falls on the other side of that border (haha pun!) and, while it doesn't actually manage to shake anything up, it puts me in mind of when people weren't embarrassed to listen to Lit. Remember them? Yeah. If this song had something about spaceship travel in the lyrics, you could slot it right into the middle of the Titan A.E. soundtrack. Which I adore.

10Oct2007 1934: Sonic

Anything I may have wanted to say today has been eclipsed by this megaton announcement for Super Smash Bros Brawl. This not only shatters my worldview, but several worldviews in alternate universes. In an age long ago, my ten-year-old self just woke up in a cold sweat with the rapidly fading impression that somewhere, there was a disturbance.

[Alejandra Alberti - Quiero] had me through the acoustic portion, but the chorus reveals its hideous pop intentions. [Sarah Johns - He Hates Me] is country. Luckily [meiko - How Lucky We Are] is there to pick up the slack of three songs, hitting me right in the chick-folk spot.

07Oct2007 1248: Punishment

If you have ever played Super Mario World, you need to see what some people are capable of. I mean that both in the "sadistic level designer" and "dogged player determination" sense.

So I mentioned Sin and Punishment in the last post, but I've been playing the hell out of it and I need to try and explain myself. These could be considered spoilers, but they're also the very first level of the game.

You click Start Game and the screen immediately fades in to your character running through a field of tall brown grass. Large beetle things start flying by -- not attacking, but you can certainly attack them. After a multitude of beetles, some enormous centipedes start jumping around. The boss is also a centipede, even larger yet. Nothing in this level is really dangerous, although I suppose you could die at the boss if you really tried.

The main character then wakes up, and an ally tosses him his gun in super-dramatic slow-mo. You step outside into the future-Tokyo of 2007 and start shooting the oppressive military police as part of some sort of hijacking plan. Midway through this level the mutated insects show up again, and you fight your way into a train station. The elevator to the roof of the station is attacked by a mix of soldiers and mutants, and then at the top you fight a gigantic mutant dog, followed by an injured but powerful psychic girl. Once you get in a good slash against her, Tokyo is covered in a tsunami of blood, and your character drowns, only to transform into a giant mutant mech thing. You then fight the psychic girl, who has also turned into a giant mutant mech, and both of you are thigh-deep in Tokyo blood.

And after Level 1, it gets weird.

03Oct2007 2110: Thestatic

Hm, that title is the biggest reach yet. What I'm trying to say is that my thesis has gone through the first round of proofreading by the Grad School. There was quite a bit of comma-related unhappiness -- where I come from, commas are for splitting on. Nevertheless, I'm, well on my way to graduating for good and all. What will I do with all that free time I haven't been spending on my thesis?

This month is going to be quite tight financially, I can already tell. Not only do I have two siblings' worth of birthdays that I haven't even planned for, but Nintendo is doing their best to take all of my monies. Precious, precious monies.

Disappointing crop of free tracks this week. [The Last Goodnight - Pictures of You] and [Black Guayaba - No Hay Espacio] are a one-two punch of slow radio rock, above and below the border. [Jypsi - Love Is a Drug] loses points for spelling, being country, and for using a metaphor that cannot compete against a cheesier opponent; one that benefits greatly from being associated with Sliders, and when will you ever hear that again?