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Hi. I'm Mike. This isn't updated often.

Month: October 2008 (page 1 of 2)

Losing Games Via Loans

Since I’m leaving for my honeymoon tomorrow, I was briefly over at Jeff’s dropping off another key and talking about our kitties. I had a bunch of my stuff returned top me while I was there… stuff which I had almost no recollection of even loaning to Jeff in the first place. They included:

Mario Party 8
WarioWare: Smooth Moves
Wii Play
GBA (original) w/ Link’s Awakening (original)

I remember loaning him the GameBoy Advance and Link’s Awakening after the first episode of our podcast, but I had completely forgotten about those Wii games. Now that I have them back I remember bringing them over there for his house-warming party, but since then I had completely forgotten I even owned them. It’s really funny, because just the other day I moved a whole bunch of games around on the various racks and shelves¬† here, and I remember thinking to myself, “Huh… I thought I owned a couple more Wii games. *shrug*

It reminds me so much of being a kid, loaning games to friends… and never getting them back. For me, it had a lot to do with the fact that I moved around so much (I went to four high schools in as many years). The two examples that I remember very well are Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES), which Jennifer (the girl who lived across the street from me) borrowed. The other was Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (GB), which my friend Ryan (who actually got me into DBZ) borrowed. I’m sure there are plenty of others that I’ve lost this way over the years, but those are the two that I’m most mad about! God dammit, I’ve been dying to play SML2 again, and not emulated! C’mon, DS-version on Virtual Console!

So I leave you all for the next week or so with this question: What games have you lost in a similar manner?

I Pirated. Then I Bought. Huh.

A couple weeks back, I was feeling the urge to listen to some new music. I have a tactic that I’ve used every so often, and since it results in awesomeness more times than not (like originally finding Anberlin many years back), I decided to give it a go once more.

I took a look at the upcoming release schedule for October over on Absolute Punk, picked a random band, looked them up on Wikipedia to see what type of music they played, and illegally downloaded the advance copy of the album (either on IRC or a torrent site; can’t remember which).

The band I picked was Pompeii. An indie rock band with influences of Explosions in the Sky and Phil Collins, with comparisons to Sigur Ros? How could I not like this band?!

I ended up downloading their new album (which just came out yesterday), Nothing Happens For A Reason. I knew things were going to be wonderful when the first track was titled, “Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads” (that’s a line from the end of the first Back to the Future movie, if you happen to be uncultured). Combine all that with the realization that I’m actually going to Pompeii on my honeymoon, the fact that “Pompeii” is a great song by Gatsbys American Dream

Well, I have a new favorite album of the year thus far.

But here’s where it gets interesting. I saw that the band had been around for a couple years, and had a previous album released called Assembly. I quickly looked around, and saw that there weren’t any active torrents. Next I went to Amazon to see if they offerred it (both as download and as physical CD). I saw that they only had a couple left in stock.

I figured that since I already loved their new album so much, I may as well just order them both right there on the spot. Threw them both into my cart, chose the Super Savings Shipping, and had them the day after they shipped (which means I got the new album right on its release date).

I’m absolutely in love with this band and their music. I am so glad I went through the motions of my random downloading, because I otherwise probably would never have heard of them, nevermind bought two of the albums. If you’re interested, Assembly is $11.98 on Amazon, and Nothing Happens For A Reason is $13.98 on Amazon; neither of those are referral links, so don’t think I’m trying to make a quick buck, here!

For single songs, I tend to just download the most convenient DRM-free version, but for full albums, I’m all about owning the physical product. I still love opening a new CD, checking out the artwork (I mean, c’mon… look at those!), and knowing that I can rip it to any format and quality that I want as the years go on.

I am in absolutely no way trying to justify anything, or suggest that this is the typical situation or even the exception. Quite frankly, I don’t even give a rat’s ass what you think of what I did. All I’m doing is describing one experience I had. Was it beneficial to me? Was it beneficial to the band? Was it beneficial to anyone else?

Who cares? I just found two new albums that I love to death.

Video Game References At A Wedding

So I’m back and married, now. Woo-hoo! Leaving again for Barcelona in a couple days to go on a cruise! Woo-hoo!

I’m not here to just go on and on about the wedding. You don’t care about that (most likely). You care about video games; that’s why you’re reading this (most likely). What I’m trying to say is that I’m here to talk about both the wedding, and the video game references there-in.

The wedding was pretty “traditional” overall, with no obvious, strange things pointing to the contrary. Being who we are, though, we weren’t about to pass up the chance to slip little things into the ceremony and reception that key friends (and maybe family) would understand and see the meaning in.

The first video game reference we had was actually our recessional music (the song played as we walked out of the actual marriage ceremony after being pronounced husband and wife). The song choice? The Final FantasyPrologue“, and specifically the version from Celtic Moon. I actually cut the very beginning (our wedding version begins right where the main tune normally starts), and sped it up about five percent. It was absolutely wonderful.

The second (and probably final) video game reference was our cake-cutting music. The traditional songs are usually dumb ones like “Pour Some Sugar On Me“, or otherwise totally inappropriate songs that vaguely reference sugar or something sweet. Our choice? C’mon. Video game. Cake. Sense of humor. Do the math.

That’s right, “Still Alive” (from Portal) was our cake-cutting music. We didn’t use either the GLaDOS or Jonathan Coulton versions, though. We actually used a piano version by Jarrett Heathe (you can download the MP3 we used on their YouTube entry for the song). What made it all the more amazing was about halfway through when all of our friends in the back starting singing the lyrics along with the song, much to the confusion of the rest of our attendees. Apparently our DJ came up to them afterwards and was all, “Wait, there are lyrics to this song? What is it? Huh?”

At the end of the day, what I am actually trying to stress and say with this entry is that you can do these types of things on your special day, and pull them off respectfully. Unless anyone knew any better, both of those songs were just that… songs. They were beautiful pieces that fit the mood perfectly, and are easily forgettable at the same time as just regular ol’ classical-style songs that were played at a wedding.

But to us they held deeper meanings, let us express ourselves, and we were able to share those connections with those who understood us. It’s something I’ve talked about elsewhere, but the concept of simply passing for normal productive members of society is incredibly important… that doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t slip in those little pieces of your nerd life!

Problem Solved: Photoshop Crashes

So I randomly started having an issue on my work computer this week where Adobe Photoshop CS3 would crash each and every time, without fail, when I tried to open or create more than one image at time.

Needless to say, this is slightly frustrating when you live inside these types of programs and need to… oh, I dunno… actually get some work done.

First thing I did was go through the painful process of uninstalling and reinstalling Photoshop. I had done a few things recently to the system, so I figured this might just be the best option. Set it to go, went for a long walk, came back, rebooted… same problem.

I really should have done my research ahead of time, because this is a known issue with an easy workaround.

Wait, what…? Photoshop crashing with more than one image open is due to printer availability…?! You’ve GOT to be kidding.

Maybe there was some work being done around the office that I didn’t know about, and whatever my default printer happened to be was moved or disconnected. Not having printed anything for days, I can’t say I noticed. Sure enough, when I switched the default printer over to something else,¬† ta~dah! Suddenly able to have more than one image open at a time, again.

Seriously, Adobe? We pay how much for this? Argh. If I could figure out how to do simple things in GIMP, I might actually consider using it.

Town Names In RPGs

I figured it out! I know what my biggest problem with RPGs is; despite wanting to love them so much and continue picking them up time and time again, I have so many issues!

Town names!

I have a hard enough time remembering all of the character names (something I’ve always had a problem with in TV shows, movies, and even around the office!). When you toss magic attacks, items, and enemies on top of all that, and then ask me to remember where all the towns are so I can backtrack to them? I’ve got issues.

Today Final Fantasy VI asked me to fly back to Narshe. OK, no problem. I recognize that town name. I don’t really remember what it looked like, but I know I’ve been there a few times and it’s important to the story. I should be able to find it no problem. Then I realized I had absolutely no idea where it was or what it looked like. I hopped onto Google Image Search on the iPhone, looked at a world map, and still flew around for about fifteen minutes completely unable to find the stupid town. Finally I just landed in the general area of what all the maps said, and I finally walked into a mountain and put it all together again in my head (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve played the game).

So what was the real problem? Since I’ve already recognized that I have a difficult time in life remembering names (it takes me FOREVER), I can only assume that it’s a huge factor here. Final Fantasy VI probably makes it even worse by throwing so many characters and towns at you without ever slowing down. I’m trying to think back to other RPGs I’ve played in the past to find some parallels, but I’m drawing a blank. I initially thought that Final Fantasy VII did it perfectly by baby-feeding you with one town at first (Midgar), but even then, there were all of the separate areas within in (Sector 7 slums, Aerith’s house, Shinra Headquarters, etc.). Zelda II had a wonderfully small amount of towns that I could probably recite in order, but that is such a different type of game and from so much longer ago.

What do you all think? Do you have the same problem in games? Are the terrible world maps also to blame (seriously, these GBA games’ maps are impossible to see)? Is it the outlandish names of these towns, that almost always seem to be neither English nor Japanese in origin? At least those two languages I’m familiar with…

Video Game Club: “Final Fantasy VI” Thoughts #2

I just got a chance to play another ~45 minutes or so in Final Fantasy VI, and wanted to give everyone an update on my thoughts. Judging from the comments when I last talked about the game, a lot of you are interested in (and currently are!) playing along with the game, too, and want to discuss what’s going on. Awesome!

So here are the ground rules when we here on vgconvos talk about a game we are playing and want to hear feedback from you all while still going into spoilers (which I guess we’ll just call “Video Game Club”). Note that these rules are subject to change, and probably will change as we figure out what the heck we’re doing.

(1) All in-depth talk / spoilers will be put behind a “read more” cut.
(2) The age of the game is irrelevant; we will respect spoilers in all games.
(3) Before the cut, we will describe the general area of where we are in the game, and where appropriate, the current play-time.
(4) You can’t hold us responsible for ruining games for you!

With that out of the way… I’m about 11 hours into Final Fantasy VI. If the town of “Vector” and a research facility don’t sound familiar to you yet, do not…

Continue reading

“Secret of Mana” on Virtual Console

Just because a new podcast episode came out yesterday, it doesn’t mean that I can’t keep writing blog entries! I’m still here for another couple days!

We heard about it hitting the Japanese Virtual Console last month, so we knew it was on its way. That doesn’t change the fact that a SquaresoftEnix game coming out at a budget price via digital distribution rather than a $40 Nintendo DS remake is a strange thing in today’s world.

Seiken Densetsu 2, or Secret of Mana, hit the North American Virtual Console yesterday. I know Jeff will be all over it once he clears out some blocks on his Wii (I’ve got five, he’s got zero!), and Andrew I’m not sure about (probably? but he’s got his SNES hooked up and owns the cartridge…).

If you’ll remember back to our first podcast episode, Andrew and Jeff totally loved the game (as well as Secret of Evermore), but I had actually never played it. I surprised them on the show by having played a good few hours into the game before talking about our mutual top ten games. Some of my complaints were the at-times clumsy hit detection on enemies, your companions getting stuck behind things, and… well, I don’t remember much about what I said. I did recognize the wonderful music and the ingenuity of the “ring system” for the menus.

So what about me? Should I be picking it up on Virtual Console? If I do, I’ll probably wait a few months while I work through my backlog of RPGs on the system (Super Mario RPG, Ys Book I & II, Shining Force II). Does it really deserve another chance, though? What do you all think?

Conversation 004: What’s Going On Right Now & An Old Discussion About Video Game Magazines and Import Game Coverage

It’s that time of the month, again! We’re pretty much on-schedule, and here to hit you back with another podcast episode.

Since I’m getting married next week, and therefore all parties involved are pretty busy right now and will be out of town (Hell, Jeff’s down in Virginia as I type this for AnimeUSA), we had to decide what we were actually going to do for a podcast episode this month. Would we just do a cheap cop-out episode? Would we record anything? You can’t do nothing for an episode, and you can’t do a clip-show after only three episodes!

What we decided to do was have a split show. The first part is going to be as-per-the-norm, with the regular intros and talking about what we’re playing right now (along with any fun stories to be shared). We also wanted to address some of the feedback we’ve been getting (thanks for all the blog comments and e-mails, everyone!), so we hit up one e-mail and gave some suggestions based on their questions.

The “conversation” for this episode, however, is actually a topic portion of my main show, Daizenshuu EX, from nearly two years ago (January 2007). In it, we all talked about old video game magazines (specifically EGM from the early-to-mid-1990s) and their coverage of import video games. There was (obviously) a huge DragonBall slant to the discussion, but it’s actually general enough that it makes a lot of sense over here in the vgconvos style. I think you’ll all find it incredibly interesting! The only downside is that I guess this was recorded before I got the new mixer and mics, so the sound quality is quite a bit different than you may be used to. I re-balanced it, though, so it should be slightly better than it was two years ago.

You may also want to check out the page I set up back when we first recorded the episode which showcases a whole crap-ton of scans from those magazines. There’s stuff in there ranging from the very first issue of Nintendo Power (July/August 1988) up through stuff in 1997.

So there you have it! Next time you hear from me on the show I’ll be a married Mike… which isn’t all that different from how it is around here right now, except that it’ll be legal on a piece of paper! Sweet! Hopefully Jeff and Andrew can keep things going with some regular blog entries over the next couple weeks. Catch you later, everyone!

Six Weeks Pokemon Free

I can’t believe that it’s been six weeks since I popped Final Fantasy VI into Slot 2 of my Nintendo DS, effectively putting an end to my current playing of Pokemon. Since then, I have loaded up not a single Pokemon game for GBA, DS, WiiWare… anything.

It’s been perfectly wonderful.

To briefly recap, I played about halfway through Yellow back on the GB(C) when it first came out in 1999. Got pretty bored and dropped it soon there-after. I felt the bug coming when Generation IV (Diamond & Pearl) were on the horizon, and decided to give it all another go having skipped two generations. I picked up FireRed (GBA) and Pearl (DS) the day Generation IV was launched in the US, and proceeded to put something like 90 hours into GBA and around the same into DS (I honestly don’t remember the exact numbers; it was approaching 100 for both, I think…?). Once I “beat” Pearl (that is, defeated the Elite Four), I captured all of the standard, non-event legendaries and various specials, and then pretty much let it go.

Many months later, I randomly picked it up again. I don’t know why or how, but I did. Perhaps it was around the time that the special event critters were being passed out at Toys R Us…? I finally started messing around with things like trading on the GTS (and with a couple friends), going underground, breeding… all things I barely dabbled with on the initial playthrough. It was like a whole new world of end-game content was available to me, despite it being there the whole time. I really enjoyed it all. My Pokemon Ranch added a little bit of fuel to the fire, giving me even more of a reason to try completing my PokeDex and transfer specifically-bred (and traded) critters for the sole purpose of putting them on the ranch and seeing what they do.

It was like I was a kid again, dedicating all of my gaming time to the same, singular game (even playing FireRed or Ranch was essentially playing Pearl, since they all led to that destination). The only “problem” with this was that I was ignoring all of the other games I had been accumulating and dropping. Sure, I would hit up the new multiplayer games when friends were around (Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, various other fighting games including the standard Capcom staples, etc.)… but no progress was being made in any single-player games. I just wasn’t getting any other experience. It was really bothering me, but at the same time, I told myself I was having fun and that’s all that really mattered in the end.

While I still stand by that justification, I have to say how wonderful it is to be playing some other games again. I’m somewhere around ten hours into Final Fantasy VI, and while I’m still waiting for that huge emotional impact to hit me, it’s fun to be playing none-the-less. That’s really all I’ve been able to put time into right now (with the upcoming wedding, and all) since I’m able to play it on-the-go (mostly during lunch at work), but I’m psyched to come home after the honeymoon and know I have so many other games (both new experiences and re-playings) waiting for my time…

WipEout HD (barely started), Super Mario RPG (re-play; in-progress), Ys Book 1 & II (not started), Shining Force II (re-play; not started), Soul Calibur IV (in-progress), DBZ: Burst Limit (in-progress), The World Ends With You (not started), Space Invaders Extreme (not started), Bioshock (not started)… Hell, I might even go back and play some more of Super Mario Galaxy, which I was having a ton of fun with but just suddenly dropped (classic Mike gaming).

“LittleBigPlanet” Beta

Managed to get myself a beta key for LittleBigPlanet the other day thanks to the USA Today giveaway (which required nothing more than sending an e-mail). I’m only just now getting around to downloading it, and it’s only good through the weekend… so I don’t have a whole lot of time with it!

I’ve already recorded something extra to stitch into the games-we’re-playing little mini-segment of episode four of the podcast, so maybe I’ll have a second stitch going in before I put up the episode in the next couple days!

Anyone else have it? Wanna play together? Add “VegettoEX” on PSN and drop me a line.

(Also downloaded Portal: Prelude, but it would help if I would go finish the original damn version of the game first. Only have, like, three levels left. Which takes about two minutes. Argh.)

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