Didn't Get a Lite, but I Got a Load!!!

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I've been hunting for a DS Lite.  Damn, are they hard to get.  I don't know why, I have a perfectly good DS, but I want the DS Lite since they are hard to get now.

A local Best Buy had 4 last night.  I couldn't go, however, because of crazy plumbing problems.  Those were resolved today, thanks to a local plumber, and tonight I went back on the hunt.

When I finally got to Best Buy, an associate notified me that they just sold the last one 45 minutes ago.  45 minutes!!!  That's incredible.  I would have been one of a select few (at least in my mind) who would have had... well I guess just another DS... but damn it would be a DS Lite.

So, we (my wife and I) ended up at Circuit City.  I had one last attempt in me and hoped that I might find one there.  Nope, the only model was on display.  However, what we did find was pretty good:

Wifey's collection additons:
Cooking Mama
Harvest Moon

My collection additions:
Final Fantasy V: Advance
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

That's damned right!  Phoenix Wright.  Holy F-bomb.  I know some VU'ers had been picking up stray copies, but this is the first time I've seen the game since it was first released a couple years ago.

Now I'm ready for my Chicago trip back home.  FF III, Phoenix Wright and Castlevania: PoR.

You Call it a Backlog; I Call it Options.

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With the new systems coming out, my new addiction to FF XII and ongoing addiction with GTA: San Andreas, I can't help but think that I have several games in my backlog.  The truth is I resent the idea of a backlog.  Backlog is something you have to do, in your job or at school.  A backlog is a chore.  Games are fun.  So I prefer to think of games as options.

Back as a kid, I really had a limited amount of games to play.  They were good games and, thankfully, back in the day of the 5200 and early NES days, game difficulty was ridiculous.  It was rare to have beaten a game and, even if you managed to, replay value was always high.  Well, hell, I was a kid, I don't know if they were great games.  They were just fun for a pre-teen kid.

Nowadays, I just don't like replaying games all that much.  Most games are so long that to replay them is too much effort.  I might pop them in here and again to reminisce (thank you Square for the movie theater in FFX), but it would be unlikely for me to play through an entire FF over again.  I did it with 7, prior to the release of 9, but that was the last FF I've done that with.

Honestly, replaying 7 was great, but I did it with the strategy guide; I just didn't have the patience to look for things and waste time.  I know, it's a game, it shouldn't be about efficiency.  Sometimes, I want the feel without the effort.

Now, 8, 9 and 10 (hallowed be thy name) were all great in their own right.  It's not fair to compare each game.  They were released at different times.  It's like comparing the 60's Celtics to the 90's Bulls.  It puts fluff in an editorial, but it is really impossible.  It's good for provoking fanboys.  I digress.

The truth is I've played a lot and continue to play games.  I've got quite a back.. a lot of options.  I've completed about 80% of my collection, and I have some great games I can't wait to pop in.  I have Okami, Pikmin 2, Jade Empire, Halo, Halo 2, Doom 3, etc waiting for me.

The truth is that there are just some games I bought that I will never play all the way through.  That's ok.  I mean I bought them because of my consumer whoreism or just to have them in my ever-increasing collection.  Brothers in Arms, for instance, is never going to be played all the way through.  I bought that impulsively, and Medal of Honor: Frontline (PS2) gave me all I'd ever need from a WWII game.

It's highly unlikely I'll play through Ninja Gaiden (XBOX).  Yeah, graphics/presentation is incredible, but it's too difficult.  This is coming from someone who beat the NES original in under 15 minutes, regularly.  I'm not a kid anymore.  I want difficulty, but not frustration.

Well, anyway, I'm going to continue playing my GTA and FF XII.  Those are some of last generations best games.  I've still got that Chrono Cross, Lunar (the first one and Eternal Blue) and a bunch of other classic games that I do plan on playing.  But there are others which I'm now comfortable admitting I just have no interest in.  But, what the heck, it's good to have options.

How I Got My DS

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One of the prized things I own is my car. It's a silver, 4 door, '99 Honda Civic. It has about 130K miles, and it gets great gas mileage. I guess you'd think it's nothing special. I mean it's a cost saving compact car. It doesn't have a navigation system or cruise control. It does have a CD player and AC (which is the most important feature a car can have in FL), but it has manual windows. I'll tell you the two things I love about it the most (well 3): gas mileage already mentioned, it is low maintenance and it is paid for.
I bought it when I graduated college. I wasn't too savvy with money, so I put $300 down and provided a copy of my college diploma to prove I was trustworthy or something. In any case, this car has been with me on many road trips and, hopefully, it will be with me for many miles to come. As I said previously, my car gets great gas mileage, and it's low maintenance makes it primarily responsible for my disposable income. This in turn allows me to continue my gaming hobby. In fact, my Civic is directly responsible for my getting my Nintendo DS last year.
You see, although my car has been a gem, I bought it when I lived in Chicago. You know the whole scam of rust proofing the car; you know, the option the dealer gives even though it's unnecessary? Well it turns out that may be a good thing when you live in a state that oversalts its streets. I, being the inexperienced 23 year old I was, chose to pass up the rustproofing. This choice, along with my Civic's built in intuition provided the means to get a DS 7 years later.
Fast forward to winter 2004 (january/february). My muffler was going. I knew it. I could here it starting to get louder. It wasn't until a few months later, during July, when I was driving home from watching "The Village". I was on a street in "Little Italy", and I hit a stealth pothole. All of a sudden, I heard a clunk. I looked in my rearview mirror and literally saw my muffler slide back and to the right, as if it were parallel parking. It's gracefulness was surreal.
My car, as you'd expect got a lot louder. It was actually very funny. Other fast cars would try to race me off the line at stop lights, thinking I had intentionally suped up my Civic. Since my car only has about 109 HP, it's pretty damned funny. In the end, I was too lazy to get it fixed. Hell, I even took a road trip to FL with the damned thing missing.
You see, I hate car maintenance. Waiting for oil changes, tire rotations, booooring. Damn, I hate it. Fortunately I can drop it off and roam the mall, or go see a movie. I eventually bit the bullet and got my muffler replaced in Jan 2005, a few months before I moved to FL.
Well, even though the muffler had helped the loud noise, it was still there. In fact, when I would accelerate there was a high pitched noise. I put up with it for a while, until one day, in a drive through the kid at the register says, "Man, your catalytic converter is bad." All I knew was that that meant money.
So we brought the car into a local shop, badass service by the way, and they evaluated the problem. They replaced the center pipe, which is the pipe connecting the muffler to the manifold pipe. If you don't know what I'm talking about, no worries. I'm an exhaust expert after this whole thing. It turns out the pipe was rusty as hell due to the snow/salt thing.
Now, I had been fiending for a DS for quite a while. My wife, being more financially savvy and practical, wanted to wait to make a pleasure purchase until the maintenance cost was determined. So, I was hoping it would be low of course; I couldn't wait to get my hands on Castlevania, Advance Wars, etc.
It turns out the pipe cost was cheap, under $100. Of course, there was a snag in my plan. The new pipe did not fix the noise. Not only had my catalytic converter gone bad, but my manifold had a crack in it. It turns out that '99 civics have a single piece manifold that wears due to contraction and expansion. This wear can manifest itself as a crack if in extreme cold. Well, thank you for that Chicago.
A new manifold/catalytic converter (they are sold together) cost $750! The labor was about $79. The mechanic gave me this news on the phone. My dreams of the DS were shattered.
But a brilliant idea hit me. What if I got a 3rd party part? Hell, my car wasn't new. There was no warranty to protect. My friend, who worked at a shop, always used 3rd party parts to save customers money.
The shop I went to did not want to be liable for non-make parts, so I was on my own. Fortunately, I found a manifold/cat converter online for $200!!! It was a 2 piece, which resolved the issue with the Honda part. Excellent. I ordered it, and brought it to the shop. They installed it, and that was that. I had saved us over 60% of the cost by going this path, and I got my DS.
Well, for a couple weeks things were good. But that damned metallic sound kept coming back. I brought it back to the shop, and they re-tightened the thing but were at a loss as to what caused it. Again, the thing was sounding ok for a couple of weeks and came back, until eventually my car would stall when stopped at a light. All of a sudden on my way home from work the check engine light came on.
The next day I got a diagnostic, and it was my O2 sensor. Apparently, it had exceeded its life expectancy. There goes another $300. I still thought the 3rd party part was responsible. It didn't install as seemlessly as I'd have liked. The shop had to really massage the piece into place. Maybe this crude installation broke the sensor.
That's all conjecture, my car was working again, but I still had the sound. Who really cares? I mean the damned thing works. I didn't care until last wednesday when out of nowhere my car starts making incredibly loud sounds while going down the highway. Everything's vibrating, and I smell exhaust.
My first thought was the 3rd party part. "Buy cheap. Get Cheap." Right? Well, we took the car in today, and it turns out that although they replaced the center pipe, manifold and catalytic converter, they never replaced the pipe connecting the manifold to the center pipe. It had rusted completely out. This was the missing piece to the high pitched sound.
It was fixed for only $70. My exhaust is completely brand new, and it purrs like a kitten. Now, the chapter on how I got my DS is completely closed.

Midnight Train to Ivalice

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Well I just received an automated message from EB that FF XII will be available for midnight pickup tomorrow!  WOOHOOOOOOO

That's all I can say at this point.  Starting Tuesday, FF will dominate the rest of the year and early part of next year.

Oh and what the hell is this?  Bears 41, SanFran 0 at the half? Mwahahahahahahahaha

GO BEARS!!!!

Birthday Gets - Okami is the Bomb!

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Well Friday was my 31st birthday, so I'm officially an old school gamer... or just old :P .  Anyway, I got some good stuff, but in gaming terms I got Okami.  I've only played the early parts... about a half hour to be exact.  There is a lot of clicking through text, but I don't mind it because this game is simply gorgeous.  I mean that is an understatement.  It is mindblowing and a must have simply based on the superficial effects.  The music and visual style meld together to create something special. 

This is one of those gaming moments where all the machinations of the universe are working together with perfect precision, and you know you are playing what will go down as a classic.  It will be one of those games that I think truly defines this generation.  Damn is it cool.

At first glance the mythos reminds me a lot of Princess Mononoke.  Your character is a god incarnated in the body of a white wolf, and flowers sprout wherever you walk.  In any case, Mononoke is a fantastic movie with a great soundtrack, and this game shares that trait.  I mean the music and ... well now I'm just repeating myself but damn its gorgeous.

On to another definitive classic of last gen...   I've also just completed one of the hardest gaming tasks I've ever had to do.  And this is including older 8-bit games! GTA: San Andreas has a mission with RC planes that is simply hard as hell.  I mean it took over 40 - 50 tries for me, but I just finally beat it!  This mission is so hard that Gamespot's guide (which I really try not to look at even though they are very good --shout out to Rorie!) didn't even have an exact method of beating it.  To quote, "it is a little skill and a whole lot of luck." 

Anyway, San Andreas is very special.  Rockstar has that "Final Fantasy" type spunk about them.  I mean San Andreas is such a step above Vice City just like Vice City took the series to another level.  I'm on the 2nd main island or City area now.  It's a complete change of pace from the first city. There are much more actions your character can do, and I can't wait to fly a real aircraft!!!!!!!!!

It's interesting with GTA games.  I get into them at first, put the game down for a month, pick it, put it down.  Then a couple months later, I pick it up and the game does some 'magic', which reveals why it is lauded with such praise.  That's the "GTA Hook".  In Vice City it was when you could buy property and make money.  At that point, I was like holy ****!  That was the whole game.  Then getting the Vercetti suit.  I mean it really absorbed you into the life of  a mob leader on the path upward to taking over... well a glorified path anyway.

That's how this game is.  The hook.. well it's when you start taking **** over.  Then all of a sudden they throw you for a loop, and you're not exactly taking stuff over the same way.  They are masters of the dangling carrot.  In any case, the game is huge and fantastic.  If you haven't completed it, or haven't picked it up, go get it.  I mean it's so huge that you probably will be occupied for months.  I'm just guessing though; it took me 2 years to get hooked on it.  With another game around the corner, who knows how long I will be enthralled by this badass?

All the above would be utterly meaningless unless I mentioned that FF XII gets released in 16 days.  That's basically 2 weeks!  So here are 2 triple-A titles in my lap, and they will have to be set aside once the big FF comes to daddy. Wow is this a great season for gaming.

I thought I was done, but I'm not.  I just hope that PS3, Wii and XBOX 360 really come through.  This gen (PS2's gen) was dominated by Sony.  It was simply because they had so many titles that will be remembered for years to come.  Their system was like a classics factory. 

I've been gaming for quite some time and, although I'm still shooting for additional classic titles, look at the majority of the games I own.  They are for the PS2.  Now I'm not discounting Microsoft or Nintendo's presence.  They had classics as well.  I'm definitely not console-biased.  But just look at the quantity of quality games released for PS2.  It is mind blowing. 

I guess we can't predict the future but, with game consoles and price tags increasing, I'm hopeful that we will see many more classics to come.  Just think, if a new GTA or FF or totally new game was developed that took well over 6 months to complete.  It's very possible, especially with the increased processing power and memory capacity of these monsters that this will happen.  With Nintendo's great track record of bringing incredible fun to gaming with not so state of the art hardware and PS and MS bringing fun games with some excellent hardware, we may be in a for a treat. 


28 Days - GTA: San Andreas - Go Bears

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First, in case anyone has forgotten, which would be gamer heresy, FF XII is released in 28 days.

Next, GTA: San Andreas is incredible.  If you haven't picked it up, you can't go wrong for $20.  I mean this game just takes it to the next level.

Finally, the bears are kickin' butt. I love the Bears.  Although the Bucs are my new home team, the Bears are always my favorite team.  Here's to 16-0 baby!

PS3, why $600/????// PS2 Reminiscing

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That MGS4 trailer looks hot... hot!!!!  Kojima is great at leading his flock of fans on, but he always delivers.  If a single game could make me purchase a system, it would definitely be MGS4. 

Final Fantasy XIII also sounds incredible, but that's not surprising either since the series is always going outside of the box with gameplay. 

I've read other stuff here and there, but the 2 games above have just got me floored and giddy.  If they are good enough; I mean if these games metaphorically blast you in the head and say, "HEY THIS IS WHAT NEXT GEN IS!"  It could be worth the moola. 

I waited over a year for a PS2.  Let's be honest, during it's first year it was pretty damned weak.  Sure there was Gran Turismo 3, but after a few license exams I want to shoot myself.  I was lucky enough to get one for my wedding in Sept 01. 

And in November, I bought Metal Gear Solid 2.  I kept it unwrapped until I beat the first one.  I bought the first one when it came out, after reading several impressions of it.  I popped it in, but I never proceeded past the first level.  I just didn't get it.

Well, after lurking around GS and reading about MGS2 in other magazines I couldn't pass it up.  I made myself play MGS, and wow I was hooked.  I couldn't put it down once I started, and 12 hours later I beat it! 

Once I did I opened MGS2 and popped it in, just to see how it was. OMG!!!!  It was a complete level above the first one.  Once I started it, I played it every night for a week.  I didn't get much sleep for work that week, but it was one of my favorite weeks in gaming.  The tanker scene, well that's gone down as some of the best stealth in gaming.  I also loved the Raiden part. (call me crazy).

That year also released Final Fantasy X, which has got to be the best Final Fantasy ever released, bar none.  I love all of them, but you have to give props to FFX.  It took well over 100 hours to complete, it raised the bar in every area, and there is yet to be an RPG to top it.  Really, there is nothing that comes close, and that's actually pretty sad considering it came out almost 5 years ago.

BY THE WAY FINAL FANTASY XII COMES OUT IN 38 DAYS!!!! :P

Back on point, that year also saw the release of Devil May Cry, which I never really got into but played a couple times and it is fun as hell.

Ace Combat 4 -- that game totally brought Air combat into next gen.  Incredible.

GTA 3 --wow, where the hell did that come from?  I thought VC was better, but GTA 3 did it first.

Bottomline, there were other good release years when Vice City, or MGS3 came out, but 2001 was definitely the peak for the PS2 in terms of the amount of triple A titles that were released.  It just felt like every one of those games was a classic.

This year is also a very good year.  We have a new Final Fantasy, a new Zelda, a new Castlevania 2-d adventure and some other hot titles like Okami.  And the release of the Wii and PS3!! 

I usually don't buy systems at release, but I love reading about all the buzz and playing them if my friends pick up one.  Every new release promises completely new never before seen technology, and every release gets me giddy.  This time it's different though.  This time I'm actually not sure if I'm going to purchase one of the systems becuase of a crazy ass price tag.  Hopefully PS3 is worth it, but even if it is I doubt I'm going to drop that much coin.  Ah well, there was always 2001.

Aria of Radiance - Daily FF XII Release Reminder

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Just wanted to let everyone know that there are 44 days left until FF XII is released!  Woot  Just in case you forgot :)

I beat Aria of Sorrow last night.  I played Dawn of Sorrow first, so I knew what Aria's ending was in the first 5 minutes of that game (thanks Konami).  In any event, the game was fantastic.  Now I've played all 3 GBA Castlevania titles, and I have to say in order of preference: Aria of Sorrow, Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance.  I really liked the epilogue music in Aria; it was a remix of the track from Castlevania 3.  [Dawn of Sorrow does some fantastic tributes to Castlevania 3 as well.  I won't spoil it, but it's really a great treat.]

So I started playing another GBA game in my lineup, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.  I like it so far.  I mean I'm only on Chapter 3 and my thumb is sore from clicking through so much dialog, but it's fun.  It's like Advance Wars on horseback... which is not a bad thing.  However, I must admit I stopped playing Advance Wars: Dual Strike right when I got the Dual Strike powers.  That game really just kicked my ass.  I'll get back into it in a couple months, but I'm still licking my wounds.

On another note, I've forgotten about how many cool games are actually being released this Fall/Winter, which may prevent me from picking up a Wii.  I really want a damned Wii, but I've got to contain myself.  Check this list out:

Final Fantasy XII (Oct 31)  -- guys/gals have you seriously played the demo?  Wow, I love the new gameplay.  I was skeptical about the voices in X and the gameplay in XII but, and I mean this literally, Square has blown me away since I was a teenager with new ways of making Final Fantasies come to life.  And is that one character a Playboy bunny?

Final Fantasy III (Nov 19) -- how the hell am I supposed to pick this up when I'll be in the middle of XII?  Who cares, I'm getting it on release day.

Okami (Sept 19) -- wow, this looks so unique and gorgeous.  I don't know if I'm picking it up, but I really really want to check it out. Oh hell, I'm picking it up.

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (Dec 5) -- A new 2d Castlevania and single-player Final Fantasy in the same year??? What the hell is this? 1997?  Gotta love it!

Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (Q1 '07) - Betty just reminded me about this one in my blog yesterday.  It completely slipped my mind.  There are just too many games this year, so I'm glad this isn't coming out until '07 -- the screenshots look fantastic.

Zelda: Twilight Princess (Dec 11 GC, Nov 19 Wii) -- now if the Wii version is far superior, I'll just buy a Wii in '07 when Metroid is released. Or this year mwahaahha.  But if the Wii's version isn't different, aside from the control scheme?  I have no idea.

Heroes of Mana - Ok it's still TBA, but isn't this intriguing?  I'm hoping they finally release a worthy follow up to the SNES game.

I think that's pretty much it for games I'm stoked about.  The must haves for me are Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy III and Castlevania: PoR.  ... and Okami and the Zelda's :P  I guess we'll see come this Tuesday (or will really it really be Wed or Thur when it's in stores?) if I get Okami.

Stalling

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Wow I just realized that I never picked up Metroid Prime: Hunters for DS. I don't know what the heck I'm waiting for.  Yet I'm still not certain if I'll get it.  Possibly today, maybe not.

By the way there's no real point to this post other than I haven't posted in a while and like to let my fanbase know what I'm up to so they don't do anything drastic in my absence.

Back on point, Oct 31st is Halloween but, more importantly, it shall from this point forward be primarily known to me as FINAL FANTASY RELEASE DAY.  I've pre-ordered the limited edition; yes I've mentioned it already, but I can't stop talking about it.  I haven't been this geeked about gaming in quite some time.  A NEW FINAL FANTASY!!!!!  I'm not talking about X-2 or XI, which don't really count, but A NEW SINGLE-PLAYER ORIGINAL FINAL FANTASY!!! AND IT HAS A NEW BATTLE SYSTEM!!!! And you know it's gorgeous and incredible.

That being said, Okami is coming out Tuesday.  I'm not sure if I'm picking this up either.  I've been playing Aria of Sorrow on Castlevania: Double Pack, and I'm really into that game now.  I've been playing it on and off for a couple of months and I'm up to about 80% castle coverage.  After that I'm thinking about starting and finally completing FFIV Advance.  Then FF III DS comes out in November, but EGM keeps saying September!  it's November dammit!

In any case, I'm really happy about that game as well, but I'm not sure if it makes sense to pick it up right away.  I'll be so entrenched into Ivalice that nothing else will exist to me.  But I'm still getting it!  And then Zelda for GC!!!  Crap so many good games coming out. 

I'm really stoked about Wii too.  I like the pricetag, and Nintendo understands innovation.  I'm hopeful that they and Microsoft are dominant this gen just because I don't want the $600 console to become the norm going forward.  However I'd be a liar if I said MGS4 doesn't sound like the game to make me buy the system, and FF XIII woohoo!!  However, rumor has it that there will be downloadable content that Square will charge for, so I'm not too savvy with that.  I'm more of a traditionalist with my single player FF's.  The bottomline is that $600 is too much money, especially when Microsoft has one for $400 and Wii will only be $250.  Ok, Wii has the potential of being another unsupported console.  But to its credit, there are some seriously great games for GC.  But I don't think I'm going to get a Wii until '07.  But you never know ;)

Back to the PS3 price issue.  Sure it's incredible, but I'm not sure I can justify it to myself.  I'd rather take that money and invest in a laptop.  You know, I can get lots of cool stuff for free, learn new things for free and make myself more marketable.  I'm all about gaming, but when we're talking over half a K for a console, I begin to question the hobby.  Well not the hobby insomuch as the manufacturer.  NeoGeo had a great system too, but not many people could stomach the outrageous price tag. 

In other news, my PC crashed a couple weeks back.  I got a new HDD, but I couldn't find my original Windows discs.  I'm not paying $200 for another license, so I now have Fedora Core 5 (Linux).  The only trick is getting my USB wireless modem to work, but hopefully that will be resolved shortly.

Ivalice, Here I Come!

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I have to admit, and you can probably find it in my posting history or a previous blog entry, that I wasn't impressed by my inital foray into Final Fantasy XII ala the demo.  All that has changed. 

I always have a handful of games laying around that are either half played, have never been opened or I watched the intro to, etc.  Most people refer to these as their " backlog".  I refer to them as filler between Final Fantasies.  Ok, that's not always true.  I do enjoy gaming,..... I guess that's pretty obvious, but Final Fantasy has always been the reason I stay gaming.  Sure I love other games and franchises, but nothing invokes an emotional response like Final Fantasy. 

I guess my user icon gives it away.  I may invest a couple hours per week into gaming.  I'll pick out a game in my 'backlog' to play during the weekend for an hour or two, but when a new Final Fantasy is released my wife and I set aside our spare time to solely play that title. 

I've always been like this with Final Fantasy games.  At least since Final Fantasy II for the SNES.  When we met, we started with Final Fantasy VIII.  After we came home from work, and on the weekends, we'd just marathon through it.  We were entertained from start to finish.  We repeated this for IX, X and X-2.

Getting back to the focus of this entry, FF XII, this will be no different.  I don't know what it is.  Reiterating, when I first played the demo I wasn't impressed, but I was looking for something to play today.  There it was, inside the case with the half-finished Dragon Quest VIII. I thought, "OK let me check  this out again."

I popped it in, and I was hooked.  I love seeing my enemies.  I've been a proponent for random battles for so long; I was reared in the J-RPG tradition.  Now I've adapted, and I love the western style.  I guess it was odd at first in western RPG's, like KOTOR, but I kind of liked seeing some Sith Jedi's attack my party real-time instead of waiting for a battle to load, beat the enemy then wait for a fanfare dance.  It makes it more real, more urgent.  It whets my appetite for more of the quest.

Don't get me wrong, I love my FF fanfare like the next fanboy, but I like this real-time stuff a lot better.  Summoning is a lot more impactful and real.  Plus, just the mention of an 'Esper' evokes a heartfelt sigh. 

I'm pre-ordering the special edition like Jon did months ago.  He was right on, and I have to say I was a bit premature with my negativity towards the new style of play.  Ivalice, here I come!