Redbuds in bloom during at Lower Huron Metro Park. Like much of spring it was chilly and overcast, perhaps not the best day for a long bike ride, but that did not deter the group I was with. I wasn’t sure if my legs would hold up for the 20 miles we rode, but they pulled through just fine. However, I did purchase a seat with far more padding afterwords…
Words have never been a strong point of mine and every attempt to keep some sort of journal or blog has inevitably fell into disuse. After several years of dormancy, I finally found some inspiration in the form of a book I noticed while perusing the computer book section of the local library. A photo a day blog. Next to video games, photography is my favorite hobby and any excuse to get out and shoot more pictures is certainly welcome. As evidenced by my personal gallery, my pictures lean heavily towards nature/wildlife, but this gives me opportunity to experiment with new things. While I intend to post mostly new material shot within a few days of each post, I will also be digging through my archive for older material that never made my gallery. Perhaps for those rainy days, I just don’t feel like going out.
The site will likely be in flux for the next few weeks as I settle on a layout and photo sizes that work with the new direction for this blog.
I had planned to begin posting photos later this week, but I found an image suitable for this moment on my camera just now. So here is photo #1.
[Sony A57 with Minolta 28-135mm @ 28mm f/4 ISO-400 1/160sec]
Vacation this week, so I’m pretty happy. Still a little chilly and the front half of the week looks pretty wet, but it’s above freezing and not snow so I’m not complaining (much). Nothing major planned beyond a trip down to the Toledo Zoo. The big trip this year looks to be happening in August. Once things finally dry up I’d like to break out my bike and check out some of the rail trails across the northern part of the county.
With 4 games beaten last month I kept pace with my challenge, but am still 3 games behind the week counter. Perhaps I can finally gain some ground during my vacation this week.
February Gain +920 – 60 Achievements unlocked
March Gain – Level + 0 Trophies + 0
Backlog increased by 3 in April
Game spending vs. ‘10: Monthly +41% | Yearly -11%
An Amazon Atlus Gold Box Sale killed my budget for this month. Still, I didn’t go overboard and actually held off on a few titles I thought I could find cheaper down the road. I was rather disappointed to find Atlus only distributed the two Naruto games and didn’t publish them.
Fun platforming, though the lack of diversity among enemies drives the combat down. Nine areas cleansed. Thought I would have this beaten in April, but only put in once while Forza was downloading content. Game moves pretty fast, I need to just sit down and finish it.
Character Quest Chapter 6: Grune
Battle Party Lv 70-72
This is it. The final chapter. Three dungeons to progress and then the onslaught of bosses for the finale. I dont’ expect to finish it this month, but it’s possible.
15:53 – Route 6 (Chargestone Cave) | Badges: 5 | Pokédex: 63
Had Phoenix Wright in most of the month so didn’t progress much. Grabbed a few gym badges, but made no progress in solidifying my team. Currently running 31 Servine/27 Sawk/26 Victini/30 Panpour/34 Krokorok/26 Archen. They’ve been getting the job done, though I barely got through the 4th gym with no good way to take down all the Flying/Electric Emolgas.
Short but enjoyable campaign, no Flood, and my beam rifle returns. The flashback approach to the story was done well and offered a nice contrast to the nighttime wanderings of Rookie. On par with Halo 3, but I definitely enjoyed it more.
Star Fox Adventures tries hard to take Fox McCloud out of Arwing and put him into a Zeldaesque adventure. It works, for the most part, though it comes across more of a Zelda-lite. Simple puzzles, simple combat, an awful lot of backtracking and an unsurprising final boss combined for a game that I could never really get into. It has its moments but they are few and far between.
It has a good premise, swinging your Wii remote at the on-screen monsters like a sword, but this Dragon Quest Swords leaves a lot to be desired. I had a hard time getting the game to register my slashes correctly, especially on diagonals. While there is a cursor that determines the position of your shield, by default your strikes are centered on the screen. If a monster is not aligned with the center of the screen you must press A before swinging to recenter your blade. That’s fine for a good chunk of the game, but when the pace picks up and you’ve got a screen full of off-center monsters and you’re trying to block incoming attacks as well, it’s an added frustration. You can choose 1 of 3 NPCs to accompany you, but all they do is cast spells and burn through their MP. The game consists of 8 short dungeons and a strong need to grind for the gold and materials for new equipment. Just long enough for the novelty to wear off.
I really enjoyed the first Phoenix Wright. Number two is good, but not as good as the first. The last case does make up for it though. The Psyche-Lock concept and people hiding their secrets is a good addition and adds some drama to the investigation sequences, though it can leave you wondering if you have the proper evidence to present. At least in court you know you have the right evidence. My biggest complaint remains from the first game. I can often see where the case is going, but sometimes struggle to line up the proper evidence with the exact line of dialogue.
It was a lackluster victory, Reimu’s Bad Ending No. 1, and denied me access to the final and EX stage, but marks my first victory against the endless rain of Touhou bullets. With “Beloved Tomboyish Daughter”, “Shanghai Teahouse”, “Locked Girl”, “Septette for the Dead Princess”, and “U.N. Owen was her?”, Embodiment of Scarlet Devil is musically my favorite of the Touhou games and definitely an added incentive to keep playing on a harder difficulty and at least attempt to face Remilia in battle.
As promised last month, here is a picture of my game wall. It’s not every game I own, but it is a fairly large chunk of it.
From the Catherine Sound Disc & Art Book (please include with US release Atlus!) comes MegaTen composer Shoji Meguro’s take on the 1st Movement of Symphony No.9 in E Minor “From The New World” by Antonín Dvořák. An arrangement of this popped up a few years back on Ninety-Nine Nights, but I’m liking Meguro’s arrangement more.
2 Pickups, 0 Additions
Atlus & NIS America
Brr… Seems someone left Michigan off the list for Spring. Boo! Not uncommon, I suppose; the last few mild winters have left me a bit spoiled. Not much going on beyond work, sleep, and gaming. Once the weather turns nice, I’m looking forward to getting back in my bike saddle. I didn’t ride much last year, and I’m pretty disappointed about that. I prefer to keep it in my parent’s garage as opposed to my apartment and unfortunately out of sight became out of mind.
Thanks to Dragon Age II (not that I’m complaining), I didn’t make much progress in my 52 game challenge, beating only 3 games on the list. While I’m planning to finish my Mass Effect 2 Insanity run and take of all its DLC, it won’t be a priority and barring any surprise announcements nothing must-play is releasing in the next few months. Perhaps I can finally catch up.
February Gain +1055 – 52 Achievements unlocked
March Gain – Level + 0 Trophies + 0
Backlog increased by 3 in March
Game spending vs. ‘10: Monthly -24% | Yearly -24%
A couple of preorders and a few randoms as well. Been waiting for Penny Arcade to go on sale and 50% was good enough for me. Not sure why I grabbed Forza 3. I don’t really play racers, but I saw the Ultimate Collection sitting on the shelf and figured “Why not?”. Of course, I haven’t actually found time for it yet…
Fun platforming, though the lack of diversity among enemies drives the combat down. Four areas cleansed. With Dragon Age II and Halo 3 hogging the disc drive I didn’t get to it. It will be finished in April though.
10:12 – Route 4 | Badges: 3 | Pokédex: 38
Supplanted Radiant Historia as my DS game. Nowhere near as original as Historia, but something about that Pokémon formula compels me to push forwards though the 8 gyms to the Elite Four. Still in the process of forming my team. Other than my starter Snivy and over-powered Victini, the others are fair game for replacing.
Halo 3 left me wanting more. It felt really short and I did not enjoy the majority of the last two stages at all. The new weapons and vehicles were nice, though I missed my Beam Rifle. Still, it looks nice, plays well. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as Halo 2.
At first glance it would appear that Bioware attempted to do with Dragon Age what they had done with Mass Effect. Streamline the combat, inventory, user interface, etc. In some ways it was a success. Combat flows faster and there is a wider variety of skills and ways to set up a character (though I didn’t like having each tree on a separate page). In other ways, they were not so successful. From a story perspective it makes sense to limit the game to one city. But by Act Three and your 3rd trip around the Wounded Coast it gets a little tiring. Even more noticeable is that for each dungeon type there is only one map. Entrances vary and certain doors are locked changing the accessible area within, but there is no hiding that the overall map has not changed at all. The story starts off slow, but gets much better as time goes on and various quests start to tie together. Bioware has also cleaned up the visuals quite a bit from Origins. Bottom line: Enjoyable but not as good as its predecessor. Just a footnote in the greater plot this game has unleashed. Though worth playing, just to see the conclusion.
My first run last one and three quarter hours. Of that nearly two hours at least half, if not a tad more were spent watching cut scenes. Now these were Square quality cutscenes so they look quite nice, as does the game itself. Unfortunately the game does not play as well as it looks. The basic attacks are pressure-sensitive (pressing the button harder does a more powerful attack), a feature that, thankfully, few games take advantage of. Once I bought a few special attacks that combo’d well together, I pretty much stuck to those the rest of the way. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect was that the characters you unlock by advancing through the game are only accessible in the versus component and not in the main game. The story was decent and left enough questions I’ll probably play through the game with the other two main characters at some point in the future.
The beginning was pretty easy, the middle pretty difficult, and the end relied a bit to much on Monkey Combat. Overall it was fun, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two. I definitely missed the cursor, as here you often had to standing in just the right spot and facing just the right direction to get the correct action and object to appear on your menu. The early 3D models hold up fairly well, as does the prerendered backdrops. Now I just need to find a copy of Monkey Island 3.
“stray whisper taker” from CYTOKINE’s last album, VOICE BLINDED COLOR. Singer is Mei Ayakura. Based on the Stage 4 theme of Lotus Land Story, “Alice Maestra”.
3 Pickups, 2 Additions
Atlus & NIS America
Eyes on the Future
I’ve been aware of this title for a while, but I haven’t really paid it much heed until the recent batch of previews came out. Lead designer for Morrowind and Oblivion is in charge of the design for Reckoning. Long time fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore is overseeing the fiction. I haven’t read anything of his that I haven’t liked. Open-world, classless skill progression, fast-paced combat, it clearly has Elder Scrolls in its sights. Can it match Skyrim, or even come close? The last game I thought had a chance was Two Worlds and that a game best left forgotten…
March has arrived, but you wouldn’t know it from the weather around here. 40 and raining one day and 25 and snowing the next. It’s been a long winter with more snow than we’ve had in years. Spring is welcome anytime…
Still running slightly behind on my 52 Game Challenge. As of Week 9, I have 7 game beaten. I should have at least 4 beaten in March which will let me keep pace, but catching up is going to be difficult.
February Gain +995 – 63 Achievements unlocked
March Gain – Level + 1 Trophies + 37
Backlog decreased by 4 in January
Game spending vs. ‘10: Monthly +58% | Yearly -23%
Just a couple of preorders coming in. If I can stay around 20% for the year, I’ll be happy.
An improvement over the first Halo in almost every way. The repeating sections that annoyed me have been toned down and none of the stages were reskins of earlier ones. Dual-wielding was fun early on, though the need to have a free hand to grenade during the endgame run limited. While the story deeper, it proved to be too much for one game, forcing a rather abrubt ending that resolved nothing.
My computers tend to be fairly average in terms of power, but there is something wrong when a game a year older than my computer still chugs along on the lowest settings. I knew this would be a bad game going in and I was not disappointed. Nothing original here at all. Stealth kill until detected and then bunker down behind cover and clear the waves of enemies. Proceed down linear path to next section. Even the larger areas are blocked off into corridors.
Even though I’m terrible at bullet-hell shooters, I do enjoy playing them and at least trying to dodge the elaborate patterns. DeathSmiles is one of the more accessible ones I’ve played thanks to a nice setting and infinite continues.
I enjoyed the first Uncharted up until the combat heavy finale. Uncharted 2 manages to toughen the opposition without feeling so cheap for the end-game. An all-around great sequel. The mix of platforming and gunning feels right and throws plenty of “Oh Crap!” moments along the way.
A Thorny Labyrinth by Queen of Wand.
2 Pickups, 4 Additions
Atlus & NIS America
Eyes on the Future
Is it 11 November yet?
A new year, and a fresh start. My streak of 28 consecutive monthly blogs came to a sudden end. While my internet has been more consistent, knock on particle board (Is anything made of solid wood anymore?), it was far to sporadic to try writing an entire entry online. Lesson learned; write offline, edit online.
As I noted in my year-end entry, the last few months have been a little rough. I’m pretty much back to 40 hours (51 last week thanks to a massive snowstorm), and my shoulder is almost pain free, though there is some lingering numbness on occasion. I’ve been to the doctor once before for this, though last time there was more numbness and less pain with no sleeping issues beyond just not lying on the affected shoulder. It’s always been my left shoulder, so I’ve been wondering now if there is some long forgotten injury since I’m right-handed.
One of my unfulfilled wishes was to get some Winter pictures of the Detroit Zoo covered in snow. Then I went to midnights and doing things during the day became the equivalent of staying up all night. So with 3 days off in row just before New Years and a new camera in the mail, I decided to give my Kodak Z712 a proper send off. The results are posted here. If the weather is decent my new Panasonic Lumix FZ40 will get its test run with a Toledo trip in early May. The new camera has twice the optical zoom of the Kodak (12x to 24x). This should keep me from having to dip into the digital zoom (i.e. crop and enlarge) for many of the long-range close-ups.
Fiscal conservatism continues into 2011. I foresee about two more years of reduced spending being needed. This looks like a good time to really work on my backlog. So for 2011 I have started the 52-Weeks-52-Games Challenge. I have drawn up a list of 60 games and I intend to beat one for every week of the year. I’m off to a terrible start (Thanks New Vegas!) with only 2 games beaten through the first week of February, but I know I can knock off three in the next week and a half. With Dragon Age II, Twilight Princess, Mass Effect 3, and worst of all, Skyrim, looming in the future, I’m not sure if I can pull this off.
January Gain +765 – 39 Achievements unlocked
March Gain – Level + 0 Trophies + 0
Backlog decreased by 2 in January
Game spending vs. ‘10: Monthly -70% | Yearly -70%
If it wasn’t for an expiring Buy-2-Get-1-Free coupon this would have been the first month since August 2004 in which no games were purchased.
Nearly ten years late to the Halo party, but I finally decided to give it a try. And it’s actually not that bad. My only real complaint is the repetition in the stages. Perhaps it was hardware limitations, or just the rush to hit the xbox launch, but many stages just seem to drag on with scenery changing very little (or not at all, Library!) in each section. The later stages were largely repeats of earlier ones. Very solid game, I can certainly see why it has gained such popularity. Still not my cup of tea though. I prefer the slower-paced cover mechanics of Gears and Uncharted.
Elite Beat Agents is certainly one of the more unique games I’ve played. I suck at rhythm games, but I had a good time with it even as I repeatedly failed out thanks to the humorous scenes that accompany each song. I barely got through the last song on the easiest difficulty level.
Trace Memory is a bit on the short side and almost too easy. The story was interesting and kept me interested in continuing forward to the conclusion, even if it was fairly easy to see how it was going to play out. The developers made pretty good use of the unique features the DS offers.
I was a little slow to get into New Vegas, but once I did, I didn’t want to put it down (until it froze). #1 reason why I’m so behind on my 52 game challenge. The bugs I encountered were mostly minor graphics glitches and random game freezes. I once got stuck in a cave wall and plummeted to my death. Annoying, but hardly game breaking. Though I was unable to get one of the endings as the script refused to execute past a certain point in the ending scene. It’s on par with Fallout 3, but it could have been so much more.
Not bad for a collection of minigames. The game kind of plays as a puzzle as you try to win and find the items you need to proceed deeper into the theme park the game takes place in. Since this is Bomberman, pretty much all the mini-games involve bombs in some manner. Normal mode moves fairly smoothly, though some of the later challenges took quite a few tries and pushed the time limit to the max.
The final battle theme to Mana Khemia. Someday I hope to actually hear it in game. The vocalist is Noriko Mitose, who pops up in quite a few Gust games as well as one of my favorite ending themes, Radical Dreamers ~Unstolen Jewel from Chrono Cross.
0 Pickups, 0 Additions
Atlus & NIS America
Eyes on the Future
Thank you Namco! I’d almost given up on Tales leaving Japan, so it was a pleasant surprise to see a sudden teaser for Graces ƒ. No release date beyond a coming soon. I did spend a little time with the Japanese demo and found they’ve played with the combat quite a bit, though it still looks and feels like a Tales game. My Japanese is getting very rusty, so I need to go back and force myself to try and read more of the text.
Is it 2011 already? You won’t hear me complaining. Working retail, I’m used to having holiday burnout, but 2010 was something else. I was ready for New Years before Thanksgiving had even arrived. When I last wrote I was halfway through my last vacation. Since then, I’ve clocked in over 50 hours of overtime and spent a few weeks hauling pallets off the truck with with a hand jack after the store’s power jack died. It’s no wonder I’m ringing in the new year with a pleasant (i.e. painful) case of Bursitis. Things have nearly gotten back to normal, though I’m still feeling a little drained.
The monthly blog has expanded to cover the 3 months I missed, though it still needs some work and I just haven’t felt like writing it. I think I’m just going to skip it and start fresh with January. Perhaps I’ll post it at some point since it does have quite a few reviews, though I can’t guarantee if and when.
91 games were added to the collection last year which is pretty even with last year. A full 1/3 of those came from an Id collection Steam had on sale. Cost averaged $5.00 less per game and altogether I spend 19% less than 2009 despite some splurging on Collector Editions (Castlevania, Fallout, and Reach).
2010 (2009) [Total]
|0||( 1 )||[ 60 ]|
|13||( 24 )||[ 110 ]|
|33||( 10 )||[ 75 ]|
|2||( 17 )||[229 ]|
|7||( 7 )||[ 22 ]|
|6||( 8 )||[ 57 ]|
|8||( 6 )||[ 38 ]|
|0||( 1 )||[ 80 ]|
|22||( 19 )||[100 ]|
|91||( 93 )||[1166 ]|
Avg 2010 cost: 22.95
#1 Nintendo – 9
#2 Atlus – 6
#2 Microsoft – 6
#3 Sega – 4
#1 id – 16
#2 Nintendo – 5
#3 Raven – 4
#1 FPS – 23
#2 RPG – 21
#3 ARPG – 11
20 (37) 
Breakdown by platform:
Console | Beaten | Played
360 – 8 of 13
Wii – 3 of 7
GCN – 3 of 4
DS – 2 of 7
PS3 – 1 of 3
PSP – 1 of 3
PC – 1 of 6
SNES – 1 of 1
PS2 – 0 of 1
XB – 0 of 1
20 beaten of 46 played. (43.5%)
One of the most glitched games I’ve had the pleasure of playing, right down to one the three ending scripts I was able to run on this save being broken. Guess I’ll have to try the House ending again on my 2nd run when I support Caesar’s Legion. I even got stuck in a cave wall and plummeted to my demise when I ran out of floor. Glitches aside, I spent a good 100 hours with game and have no regrets in doing so.
Perhaps in part because I never got far into the original PS2 release (or start FES), and because I haven’t really played the other contenders (Ys Seven and Valkyria II) I name Persona 3 Portable my top PSP game for the year. Atlus tweaked a lot of things that bothered me about the game and I found this version far more playable than the console release.
Another year, another Bioware game as my top pick. More streamlined as a third-person shooter than its predecessor, Mass Effect 2 aims to keep you from micro-managing in the menus and moving forward. The focus is less on the main story and more on the companions you travel with.
There are 52 weeks in the year and I intend to beat a game for every one. Trying to time it so that I finish a game every calender week will be challenging so I’m just going to try to beat them as quickly as possible (especially with timesink Elder Scrolls V hitting in November). While I’ve gone into this with a clear list of games, time is of the essence so I have added a few games to serve as alternates should I grow frustrated with a certain game.
This post will be updated throughout the year to reflect my progress.
31 May, Week 22 – Games Beaten: 20
After a hectic August, September was a nice break. Actually, as I look back and try to reflect upon it I realize I can barely recall it.
I signed up for the Tour de Troit, a 30 mile bike ride through Detroit which drew 3200 cyclists this year. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the night off and it was a night I was in charge. Not the best night to come in dead tired, or even worse, oversleep. Disappointing, as I was really looking forward to this. Next year, then.
August Gain +500 – 15 Achievements unlocked
March Gain – Level + 0 Trophies + 0
Backlog increased by 2 in June
Rank 38 on the MyGamercard.net RPG Leaderboard +4
Game spending vs. ‘09: Monthly -39% | Yearly -22%
The fall is typically where I spend most of my money as all of the big name RPGs tend to release then. Except, where are they? Such a quiet year. Atelier Rorona with its artbook and soundtrack and Etrian Odyssey III were my big purchases for September. I enjoyed the first Uncharted, so I’m looking forward to popping in Uncharted 2 soon. Who knows what Atlus was thinking with 101-in-1? Cheap license, maybe? Next month is the big one, Fallout: New Vegas. Oh, and Fable III. But I’m not buying it just yet.
111:44| 25 December
Battle Party Level 60-63,69
Tartarus: Floor 214
I’m really enjoying Persona 3 this time around. Pretty much everything I didn’t like about it has been made more like Persona 4 and makes for a much more enjoyable experience. The last section of Tartarus will be opening in a few game days. The end game is definitely in sight.
Current Party – 15Hoplite/15Gladiator/15Princess/15Monk/15Farmer
Low-level areas of the first 4 floors is primarily complete. Next objective is the boss of the first stratum, Narmer, but my first attempt failed. I’ll have to grind out a few levels and give it another shot. B2 FOE is killable, perhaps I’ll see if I can take out the hippo FOE on B3. Steep learning curve, but not as bad as some dungeon crawlers.
Character Quest Chapter 3: Chloe
Battle Party Lv 59-61
Some slight forward progress. Don’t think I’ll finish it this month, but possibly in November. Wait…Fallout in a week and a half… Make that December.
A cute little platformer that is probably meant for a younger audience. Solid, but not spectacular. The story focuses on the power of friendship. Aside from the post-game Chapter 10, which I’m struggling to beat, the game is incredibly easy. My only game overs came during boss fights. While I would not recommend to adults (unless they enjoyed fun cute little platformers), I would not hesitate to recommend it to a youngster looking for something beyond New Super Mario Bros.
Dragon Age was my GOTY last year. Needless to say, I am all to happy to have a full-fledged expansion as opposed to the DLC they’ve been trickling out. Awakening adds about 10 levels to the soft cap of 20 (My mage is currently 35 with 1 DLC to go), quite a few new skills to go with the higher levels, 5 new PCs and 1 carry-over, and quite a few quests to keep you busy. It took me about 25 hours to clear the game. The story was actually pretty nice, with some of it coming rather unexpectedly. If you played and enjoyed Dragon Age, Awakening is more of the same with no complaints from me.
I wasn’t sure what to post here this month. Then I found this track buried deep in my Touhou folder. I don’t really listen to much rock, but I definitely recognized the song that serves as the core of this piece.
The first set of Vesperia figures I pre-ordered back in the spring has finally arrived. Though random, I was able to put 3 full sets together with an extra Estelle. One is for myself, one I’m giving a friend a good deal on, and the remaining six figures are going on ebay. I won’t break even, but I should only be out about 40 bucks, which is less than it would have cost me to buy the set through a 2nd party. I expect the second set to cost a similar amount, though with the way the dollar is sinking against the yen…
2 Pickups, 1 Additions
Atlus & NIS America
Eyes on the Future
The 3DS has been in news for a few months now. I have yet to comment on it because nothing has caught my eye just yet. I still can’t see 3D as anything other than a fad. However, it was brought to my attention that Namco Bandai is working on a 3D version of Tales of the Abyss. How interesting. Still not enough to sell me on a new 3DS next spring. But definitely a game I will purchase when I do finally decide to get one. Considering they’ve already translated and dubbed it (skits excluded), there is a good chance they would bring it over. Of course, given their track record of late (Vesperia PS3, Graces Wii, PS3 pending, Innocence DS, Hearts DS, Tempest DS, Radiant Mythology 2 PSP, Versus PSP), there is just as much of a chance, if not more, that it stays in Japan.