Bought a new PC

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Bought it yesterday, I've been saving for the past 3 months from working. It's not a high end gaming PC, but it should get the job done for the most part (Intel Core 2 E4400 @ 2.0 gHz, 2 GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 8600 GT, 320 GB HD). Altogether the package cost me about $1350, and I am loving it so far; I don't buy a lot of current PC games, but I have the Orange Box on myChristmas list, which should run fine on this rig.

2008: The Year of the Fighters

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2008 is shaping up to be a very good year for gaming; one genre in particular, however is going to take the world by storm and that is the fighting game genre. If you look at some of the most anticipated titles of that year, you'll see among the list: Soul Calibur IV, Tekken 6, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Yesterday one announcement by Capcom took an already stellar lineup of fighters and made even better...Street Fighter IV. The king of 2D fighitng games finally returns after being absent for over a decade, and looks to popularize fighters in a way that we haven't seen since the original release of Street Fighter II. So whether it's 2D, 3D, weapon-based, or all-out insane brawlers you love; then 2008 will be sure not to disappoint.

My review of the Sega Dreamcast

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History

Sega's final console released in the video game industry, the Dreamcast was touted as "ahead of it's time" for its 1998/1999 release. Not only was it the first 128-bit console, it was also the first system have online support right out of the box, and with this it helped popularized the online gaming scene for consoles. It was first released to Japan on November 27, 1998; followed by the US launch on September 9, 1999 (thus the ad campaign: 9/9/99), and finally the European release on October 14, 1999. The Dreamcast's US launch was considered the best of the major regions; setting records for pre-orders (300,000 units), and day one sales (225,000 units). With amazing graphics, online support, and a very strong initial library of games it looked like Sega was back in a big way stateside after the poor performance of the Saturn.

However, things soon took a turn for the worse for Sega and the Dreamcast; poor copy protection on the system (a bit ironic considering the measures to stop piracy with the Saturn) led to widespread piracy of games, causing Sega to lose millions in software sales. It was so bad that bootlegged versions of games were releasing before their retail launch. There was also the looming giant that was the Playstation 2 which promised superior graphics, backwards compatibility with the PSX and even DVD player functionality. After the failures of the Genesis add-ons (CD and 32X) and the Saturn, Sega knew that their number would soon be up, and unfortunately that came sooner than they had hoped. In March 2001 Sega officially ended hardware production for the Dreamcast, and the last 50+ titles still in production were released throughout 2001 and in early 2002. Despite its abrupt lifespan in the market, the Dreamcast is still very popular for its strong lineup of games and variety of unique games; this along with its emergence as a top-notch homebrew console (only behind the original Xbox) made it into a favourite among many hardcore gamers. Even today in 2007, there are still some commercial releases arriving for Dreamcast and more announced for 2008.

Hardware

The design of the Dreamcast is a white box with a top-loading tray for its games with the tray's lid bearing the Dreamcast "Swirl" logo, and a small triangular-shaped orange LED light towards the front of the system. The Dreamcast also followed the trend set by the Nintendo 64 by including four controller ports on the front of the system, doing away with the need for a multitap. The side of the system reveals a de-attachable 56k modem that can be used for web browsing, downloading save files onto your memory card, and online games; the modem can be swapped for a broadband adapter (rare and very pricy). What you will notice right away is that the console doesn't have any sort of reset button on it, which I find rather annoying because if you don't know the reset method (more on that later) then you have to turn the console off and then on again which takes a bit more time. There is also the one glaring flaw to the console and that is hidden in the disc drive; the laser on the drive tends to wear out much faster than most other disc-based systems, leading to disc read errors; which usually necessitates the need for a backup Dreamcast. Don't worry though, your Dreamcast can still give you several years before this can happen, it's just a bit more fragile than other disc-based consoles.

Hardware Score: 7/10 - Overall, it's a really nice design, but the fact that the disc laser is much more prone to crapping out on you means that you'll need to shell out extra cash for a spare system at some point.

Controllers/Accessories

The Dreamcast controller is pretty simple looking; on the left side we have an analog stick that sits a little bit above a generic D-pad, the right side is home to four action buttons in a diamond pattern that's similar to that on an Xbox gamepad. The start button is a triangle located at the bottom of the pad's face, and two analog triggers sit atop the pad. You also have two slots on the controller that can be used to store memory cards, rumble packs and even a special microphone that works with select games. Overall, I found that the controller's design wasn't that good, because it just doesn't offer the best experience in many games; particularly 2D Fighters and First-Person/Tactical Shooters, where control is of the utmost importance. There is a solution to remedy this though, Sega produced numerous peripherals that work great for their intended purpose, and are a blast to collect; these include a keyboard and mouse, arcade joystick, lightguns, and even fishing rod controllers. The VMU (Visual Memory Unit) memory card was also very innovative, not only could you save your game files on it, but you could also take special data from some games and play minigames on your VMU (most notably the Chao games from Sonic Adventure 1 & 2).

Controller/Accessories Score: 8/10 - The basic controller isn't the best for many games, but thanks to the large variety of 1st-party peripherals made by Sega, you can still play your favourite games with the best possible control. The VMU's concept overall is pretty awesome, and those little minigames can be pretty entertaining!

Game Library

Despite only being on the US market for about two and a half years, the Dreamcast managed to amass a very strong library of games. It contains a little bit of everything for the casual and hardcore gamer; some of its strong points were its great variety arcade titles, fighting games and 2D shooters (shmups). The Dreamcast library also had a number of unique and innovative titles, some of which have been ported to other consoles, but the original Dreamcast games tend to be the superior versions. The only thing that was really missing from the Dreamcast library were more quality RPG's, and while there were some gems (Grandia 2, Skies of Arcadia) they just weren't enough to satisfy hardcore RPG fans. Some major 3rd-party game companies are absent from the Dreamcast altogether, most notably EA; now the absence of these companies may upset some gamers, but I don't really miss the ten extra football games, Sega's NFL 2K series was more than satisfactory.

Game Library Score: 8/10 - The Dreamcast has a very unique lineup of games at its disposal, but if you just can't live without your infinite copies of Madden NFL "insert year here"; then you'll probably be disappointed. Fans of the fighter and shmup genres will really appreciate the selection they have with the Dreamcast.

Audio/Visual

When the Dreamcast was released it was the first console to offer 128-bit graphics to the home market, this meant that its 3D visuals were pure eye-candy to the numerous PSX/N64/Saturn owners at the time. Some of the games today (Soul Calibur, Shenmue) still hold up pretty well compared to later PS2, GC and Xbox titles; many games however, didn't age so well and look a bit dated by today's standards (Sonic Adventure). Some of the uglier looking games on Dreamcast are the "enhanced" PSX/N64 ports (Resident Evil 2, Test Drive 6, Street Fighter Alpha 3); the games are a bit more cleaned up, but the graphics don't look much better than they did on the older consoles. The Dreamcast was the first system to have a VGA cable available, which meant that you could hook up your system to a computer monitor and experience games in a high resolution display, and with a much crisper, cleaner quality of graphics. With the Dreamcast we were able to experience higher quality audio tracks for the first time; with some games like Crazy Taxi boasting songs from Bad Religion and Offspring, this helped set the trend of audio quality in future games on other consoles.

Audio/Visual Score: 7.5/10 - Some games still look stunning today compared to the PS2, GC and Xbox, but many games; including ported N64/PSX titles are pretty dated looking. The audio quality is much better than PSX and Saturn tracks, and offers soundtracks from bands/singers that were popular back then. For the best graphic quality, pick up a VGA cable.

Value/Collectability

A Dreamcast console isn't incredibly hard to find, and will usually cost you $40-$50, but as I mentioned with the fragile laser in the disc drive it's a good idea to pick a spare as well. The games are pretty common, and can usually be found for a pittance ($5-$10 usually), and even the most popular games on the system are pretty easy to acquire. The overall selection of games is great, and with the vast amount of offbeat and quirky games; there are many gems that are just begging to be popped into your machine. As a collector, I must say this is probably one of the best systems to collect games and hardware for; if you're not much of a game collector, then the Dreamcast is a great place to start.

Value/Collectability Score: 9.5/10 - Aside from the downside of having extra consoles handy, the Dreamcast is very fun to collect for, and it's great for gamers on a budget or people new to the collecting scene. The best games won't break the bank either, except for a handful of games Dreamcast titles will probably cost $10 or less.

Total

Hardware: 7/10

Controller/Accessories: 8/10

Game Library: 8/10

Audio/Visual: 7.5/10

Value/Collectabilty: 9.5/10

Overall Score: 40/50

Random facts/lists for Dreamcast

The Dreamcast does not have any sort of copy protection on its games, what does this mean? Well essentially it means that you don't need a modchip to play backup (games burnt to a CD-R) games, and if you have a boot disc you can also play import games.

The game "Jet Grind Radio" was the very first game to use cel-shaded graphics, which are commonplace in games that want to capture that look and feel of a cartoon or anime.

The Dreamcast currently has one of the best homebrew communities of any console (aside from the Xbox); there are numerous emulators, independent games, and ports of classic PC games (like Doom and ScummVM) currently available on the internet; all you need to do is put them on a disc and play!

The US Dreamcast launch lineup is widely considered to be the best initial library of games for any console ever released. Out of the 19 games released for the US launch, seven of them received an average review score of 80% or higher (most consoles at launch don't have more than two or three games with these high of scores). One game, Soul Calibur even managed to get perfect scores on several review sites, and in the era of review scores (1997-current) it is ranked #2 on the list of best games of all-time (#1: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).

The Dreamcast was the first console to have online functionality without the need of extra hardware; the console came with a de-attachable 56k modem, as well as a phone line and a disc containing a web browser. This also helped popularize online gaming in the console market later on with Sega's ISP, SegaNET.

Dreamcast US launch titles (italic font are games with 80% or higher average score) Airforce Delta

Blue Stinger

Expendable

Flag to Flag

House of the Dead 2

Hydro Thunder

Monaco Grand Prix

Mortal Kombat Gold

NFL 2K

NFL Blitz 2000

Pen Pen Tricelon

Power Stone

Ready 2 Rumble Boxing

Sonic Adventure

Soul Calibur

TNN Motorsports Hardcore Heat

Tokyo Xtreme Racer

TrickStyle

Million Sellers

Sonic Adventure (2.5 million)

Resident Evil Code: Veronica (1.14 million)

NFL 2K (1.13 million)

Crazy Taxi (1.11 million)

NFL 2K1 (1.01 million)

Soul Calibur (1 million)

Top Ten Dreamcast Games (in terms of avg. review scores)

1. Soul Calibur (96.4%)

2. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (94.9%)

3. NFL 2K1 (94.8%)

4. Resident Evil Code: Veronica (93.5%)

5. Rayman 2: The Great Escape (93.0%)

6. Quake III Arena (91.7%)

7. Jet Grind Radio (91.5%)

8. NFL 2K (91.4%)

9. Dead or Alive 2 (91.3%)

10. Virtua Tennis (90.6%)

Remembering 9/9/99

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Yes, that special day is coming around once again. Eight years ago Sunday (still Saturday as I write this) was the US launch of the Sega Dreamcast, and I plan to have an all out Dreamcast-a-palooza this week despite my heavy work schedule. It looks like I may be getting my hands on some new games for my collection including Jet Grind Radio (finally!), so I'll be playinga lot of that as well as all my other games. You guys can also expect a console review for the Dreamcast to come out sometime next week (next Sunday likely). So to everyone who has a DC out there, make sure to spend some extra time with it this week.

Console Review?

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I've seen these type of articles before and I'm thinking I may write one up down the line. Of course it could be a while from now as I would need to play through a variety of games and try out peripherals, check the system's capabilities (i.e. strengths and weaknesses). Would you like to see a console review by me? Here are the consoles I have right now: Genesis, Saturn, N64, Dreamcast, Gamecube, Wii, GBA, and Nintendo DS, and I'm thinking about picking up a PS1 sometime for the heck of it.

Happy Birthday, Sonic!

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On this day (June 23) back in 1991, Sega debuted a character that would soon become their top mascot, that's right I'm talking about Sonic the Hedgehog. This month the franchise celebrated by re-releasing one of the series' signature titles onto the Wii's Virtual Console, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Genesis. Although last year's 15th anniversary bash was spoiled by the bombing of SONIC the Hedgehog (XB360, PS3) and Sonic Genesis (GBA); this year looks to bring the spiky, blue speed-demon back into the limelight. The overall reception ofSonic's Wii debutin Sonic and the Secret Rings has turned out pretty well, and with word of two new DS titles on the way, as well as Sonic and friends teaming up with Mario and Miyamoto in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games; things look very promising. Enjoy the rest of your Sweet Sixteen, Sonic, and may you keep on delighting millions and dazzling them with your speed.

I got a Wii!!

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Yep, I just got one today for a birthday gift; I've been spending the last hour or so setting up and configuring the thing, and finally finished with all of that. I don't have any games (besides Wii Sports) right now, but I plan to head out later this week and pick up Twilight Princess, and other stuff if I have the money.

I saw Spider-Man 3 this weekend.

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Yesterday (May 12) I finally got out to the theatre to see Spider-Man 3, and overall I thought it was a great movie. Symbiote Spidey is a total badass like he should be, and the CGI effects of Harry, Sandman, and Venom were all great. I was pretty disappointed with the way Venom turned out in this movie, and Topher Grace was not a good actor for Eddie Brock, but the final battle between Eddie and Peter was pretty darn cool.

My newbie's guide to the world of Fighting games

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I've loved the fighter genre ever since I first watched my brother and cousin play Street Fighter 2 at an arcade way back when I was maybe 4 years old. When I got to play my first  few fighting games at home, I knew I was hooked. It's a very interesting genre of games; while they are quite easy to get into, most of them can be very difficult to master. It takes time, patience, and a lot of strategy to make your way to becoming a great player. The next few paragraphs will detail what you'll need to open up a can of whoop-ass in style.

1. You'll need a new console

The console you choose strictly for fighters will be the most important decision you'll have to make. There are several good choices for machines, most of which will require you to delve into the world of older hardware; so let's outline the top consoles in this field.

PS2 - This is the best choice for newbies, they're cheap, abundant, and they offer a wide range of titles. A console will cost around $100-$150 US new (not sure of the exact price right now), and most games should be in the $20-$30 range. The controller is good but it's not the best, I honestly can't see how hardcores can take the beating on their thumb from the D-pad, however, there are some really nice 3rd party pads better designed for fighters and also arcade sticks.

Dreamcast - The Dreamcast was based off of the NAOMI arcade board, and this lead to the Dreamcast being one of the only modern consoles to pull off flawless arcade ports of some the best fighters of all time. Sega's little white box is starting to go up in demand, but the average price is still about $50 US, though you may need to go to Ebay to find one. The console lacks the PS2's 3D fighters, but its 2D games are some of the best versions available, especially DC's Marvel vs. Capcom 2 port which is still the choice port in competitive events.

Saturn - Once again Sega proves that it's the best when it comes to making good arcade ports, but the predecessor of the Dreamcast is recommended for people with larger budgets and importers. The Saturn was marketed as a 2D powerhouse, and it's still the best 2D console available; comparing it's library to the PSX the Saturn blew the competition out of the water. The controller is by far the best thing to use for fighters except maybe arcade sticks, it's 6-button layout makes it very Capcom friendly and a D-pad that can't be beat.

2. Controllers and other accessories 

Like the console, the controller you use is very important towards becoming a great player. You need to have something that allows you to pull off complex commands as well as not putting too much stress on your thumbs and/or wrists. Later on, many opt to invest in a 1st-party arcade stick; though expensive they are very strudy and have an ideal button layout and in turn this dent in you wallet will be worth it. A cheaper alternative is getting special controllers, many 3rd-party companies produce special pads with a comfortable D-pad and a 6-button layout at a cheaper price, but 1st-party ones tend to have a better quality and I've had a grudge against 3rd-party stuff b/c I always ended up with faulty controllers (glitches, poor design, etc.). Lastly, there's the option of special converters so you can play with controllers from other systems; I love my Dreamcast but it's big drawback was the controller design, the D-pad is very awkward to play with and the triggers don't always respond. Fortunately the Dreamcast has special converters out there that allow you to use Sega Saturn, PSX, and PS2 peripherals in place of the DC pad; the Total Control line of converters even have an extra slot on the side for a VMU, so you won't have to sacrifice extra port to save. If you pick the Saturn, I should also add that you should try to locate a RAM cartridge, these fit in the slot behind your Saturn's disc drive and add an extra 4MB of RAM which allows many fighters run much smoother and faster.

3. 2D or 3D?

This is really all about preference, I really don't pick one style or another; 2D is great but it seems to be pushed more and more out of the spotlight in favor of 3D games in recent years. 2D games can still deliver even in the age of Soul Calibur and Virtua Fighter.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice!

There's no question that fighting games are some of the hardest games to master, but with enough practice you too can parry and super-combo people with the best of them. Most games nowadays offer training modes where you can practice your combos and special attacks without fear of the timer running out or the AI giving you grief. Once you start getting the hang of attacks, these training modes also give the option of turning on the AI so you can practice you new skills on some live bait! After you beat the arcade mode a few times, try increasing the difficulty, and maybe try other characters as well; remember that it will take some time to find a character(s) that fit your liking, and it's best to have a rotation of 3-5 different characters so you can be ready for whatever your opponent throws at you.

5. What games should you get?!

Finally, the big question, and that's what games should you play on your system of choice? All of these consoles have a great selection that should be able to satisfy any appetite that you new fighters crave. If you want a solid 2D game, you can't go wrong with Capcom and its flagship series, Street Fighter. If you want something that will satisfy your VG bloodlust, check out the Mortal Kombat series. Importers will want to try the vast library that SNK offers, and 3D players will love Tekken, Virtua Fighter, Soul Calibur and maybe even Dead or Alive. I'll also take some time to recommend some games for each system I outlined earlier in this segment:

PS2 Essentials - Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, Street Fighter Alpha Anthology, Virtua Fighter 4, Tekken 4&5, Soul Calibur 2&3, Mortal Kombat Deception, Guilty Gear X2, Guilty Gear XX Slash (JP), Capcom vs. SNK 2

Dreamcast Essentials - Soul Calibur, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Capcom vs. SNK 2 (JP), Virtua Fighter 3TB, Guilty Gear X(JP), King of Fighters '99, '00, '02 (JP), Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

Saturn Essentials - Street Fighter Alpha 1&2, Mortal Kombat 2, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Virtua Fighter 2, VF Megamix, Fighter's Megamix, X-men vs. Street Fighter (JP), Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, X-men: Children of the Atom, Waku Waku 7, Fighting Vipers, King of Fighters '97 (JP), Darkstalkers series

Well, that about wraps up my newbie's guide to the glorious world of Fighting games; I hope that this interests you enough to go and purchase one of these consoles and a handful of games so that you too can enjoy their majesty. I'll let you go now, and have fun with throwing Hadoukens and slashing swords, and attempting to perform various fatalities and super combos.

Wtf, Jack Thompson?

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I'm sure everyone is already aware of the Virginia Tech shooting that occured just hours ago; 31 dead and dozens more injured. Even though the dust had little time (if any) to settle over this whole tragedy, Jack Thompson; the man we gamers love to hate appeared on FOX news and began throwing the cause of all this at video games once again. Hmm....is it just me or is it that everytime someone in the USA gets shot, old Jack heads toward the FPS games and begins to **** about how they somehow warp the mind into thinking we have to kill living people just to fill the void of having to go a day without playing one? Seriously, to Jack Thompson; you need to get a **** life and stop using this "I hate games, they are the root of all evil, muahahahaha!" mindset to get attention, if anything you should better investigate these shooters so the general public can have a better idea of why this occured. Sure video games are violent, but they are not solely responsible for all the violence in the world.
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