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YLOD - Right Before BlazBlue

My PS3 kicks the bucket right before one of my most anticipated games of the year is released.

Upon reflection, this is like how my disc reader broke just as I got FFXIII - my reason for getting a PS3.

I'm going to be sad soon, but allow me to document this here while the irony is still delicious and moist.

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;___;

Sky Driver: An Introduction to My Dream Game

Oh why, hullo thar!

It's been a while since I've done a "normal" blog, so after a few countdowns, holiday greetings, and editorials, I think I'm due for a more casual…um… wall of text.

Today, I'd like to officially unveil a little project of mine. For the next year and a half, I'm being sponsored by two fantastic teachers at my very own high school to make a video game of my dreams. What did I have to do to get to this point? I took several classes in preparation such as Multimedia, Digital Media Development, Animation, Film, and Programming throughout three years. All of this complimented by basic sound/music design courses taken throughout five years have given me the tools necessary to take on this colossal task.

This project is something I like to call Sky Driver.

WHAT IS SKY DRIVER?

Sky Driver is a video game being developed independently for the PC. The simplest way to describe the game is Star Fox 64 meets Zone of the Enders meets Ace Combat. The core of the game lies within its Star Fox influence of being an on-rails shooter. This means that your path is predetermined, and at a 3rd person camera, you can only control where you shoot and where you can move around in a single plane on the screen. Zone of the Enders comes into play because the primary focus of this game will be mechs, along with the artstyIe being a mix of 2D and 3D visuals. Finally, Ace Combat lends its narrative mechanics and storytelling to Sky Driver by offering up its story-driven radio chatter and in-between-mission events the series is most recognizable for. Throw in a few visual novel-like moments, and you've got Sky Driver.

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(CLICK TO ENLARGE PICTURES)

Above are some concept drawings done in my sketchbook, one of which were removed from production. Only very few of the dozens of mechs drawn were even considered to be included in the final game.

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So why is Sky Driver going to be a simple on-rails mecha game instead of a grand adventure game brimming with mind-blowingly deep gameplay mechanics and freedom to adventure on your own path? It's because simplicity is the only way this low-resource project is going to succeed. With a set camera path the character must follow along, it'll be easy to debug, test, and create set pieces to deliver quality in the final product. That's not to say I'm planning on making the game unenjoyable; anyone who's played Star Fox 64 knows how fun this kind of simple yet addictive gameplay can be.

Furthermore, I'm disappointed by the lack of any good on-rails shooter games on the market at the moment since the genre is really open to some creativity and originality. That coupled with the lack of mecha games in general serve as motivators to go along this unbeaten path. Oh, and I just simply love playing Star Fox 64, Zone of the Enders 2, and Ace Combat 4/5/0. Is that a crime?

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(CLICK TO ENLARGE PICTURES)

Rough sketches of Mai Kallsing - the current pilot of Nova Frame Calypto. Emphasis on rough.

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DEVELOPMENT SO FAR

At the moment, Sky Driver's development is slow, steady, but progressing. Due to the limited amount of manpower, all of the modelling is so far being done solo, which means that I have to create everything that's 3D on a piece of paper, scale it appropriately into the software, and create the model from scratch. Every single 3D object, character, or environment you see on screen has to be made from literally nothing, and that's not putting into account the material/texture being added to the final render (which are also done from scratch).

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(CLICK TO ENLARGE PICTURES)

Some rotoscopes for Nova Frame Calypto and Aether Frame December. Rotoscopes are drawn at two dimensions and scaled accordingly so that I can model around them in the program.

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However, the story is completely planned out and out of the way. I've also been accumulating a lot of radio chatter script, concept art, and other miscellaneous designs over the last six months, with some rotoscopes finally scanned in for the modelling stages. Voice talents and sound designers have been cast, so now I'm in the simple process of scouting for any composers willing to donate a musical piece or two for this project.

If you're interested in contributing a self-composed piece of music (preferably completely instrumental) or maybe even a concept art piece or two (anime-styIe), then I'd be happy to take a look and possibly try to work them into the game with your permission. I'm aiming for 100% original content, so please don't put me in a position where I could end up with lawyers breathing down my neck.

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(CLICK TO ENLARGE PICTURES)

Some incomplete models currently in development; in this case, Nova Frame Calypto. It took me about 2 weeks and a half to make the top-right model, and I'm still not done.

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Either way, I can't say that I'm really too far into development. I still have a ton of modelling and coding to do if I'm ever going to even hope in getting to the Alpha stages. If I were to give a percentage, it would barely approach maybe 0.3% completion. So why even make a blog on it?

Because I'm excited for it. That is all.

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Darker Than Black OST - "Vicious Dog Cerberus"

This piece wonderfully begins in a trance-like state, and out of nowhe- UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZUNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZUNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZUNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZUNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZUNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ

Underappreciated Games: DJ Max Series

Here's a new mini-series of blogs I'll be taking on, featuring some great video game gems I've come across which receive much less attention than they should be getting. Please advise that these are not entirely recommendations, but rather eye-openers to some less-known games out there. You may have actually played the game before and still don't give a crap about it, which it totally fine; but if some people widen their horizons and maybe even enjoy a new game or two from reading these, then that would make me one happy guy.

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Today's game is not actually a single piece of software, but a series of games on the PlayStation Portable called DJ Max, not to be confused with 2009's DJ Hero; that's a completely different franchise. First originating on the PC in 2004 at South Korea, the DJ Max franchise takes a very simple yet unique approach to the music/rhythm game genre. After some moderate success with the PC version, DJ Max migrated to the PSP where it made its name as one of Korea's fastest and most competitive rhythm games, eventually spawning arcade and re-released PC versions as well.

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It looks crazy and ridiculous, but that's because it is!

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The DJ Max series has 5 games released for the PSP:

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But enough about the history; here's a sample of me playing a song in DJ Max: Black Square on the PSP:

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DJ MAX: BLACK SQUARE

[video=K307kmP95bIFszfZ]

I Want You (6B)

Song Level: 10

Suee Character – Black Square Gear – Black Square Note – Fever x7 Effector


The game might initially look like a Guitar Hero game without the peripheral, but initial impressions are where the similarities end. DJ Max more closely resembles Dance Dance Revolution with many rules and gameplay elements tweaked to be better suited for a competitive PSP game. The controls are rather simple, but take some time getting used to. Depending on what mode you're on, you could have anywhere between 2 to 8 different buttons you'll have to keep tabs on while playing. For example, if you decide to stick with 4B (4 button mode), then the left and second-to-left notes on the screen will be dedicated to the left and up directions on the D-pad, while the right and second-to-right notes on the screen will be dedicated to the circle and triangle buttons respectively. As you add more buttons (essentially like increasing difficulties in Guitar Hero or Rock Band) the control scheme changes somewhat to best suit that mode.

Confusing? Yes, very. So I've prepared this diagram:

Still confused? Then don't worry about it. It's not that important, and you don't have to memorize anything as long as you stick to one button mode at a time.

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The entire concept of DJ Max is to become the DJ of a song, not by pressing and turning things on a silly peripheral, but rather become a part of the actual music by controlling the sounds which play as you press the corresponding buttons to the song. It's rather difficult to explain, but basically, the game assigns notes to each button; these notes will change into vocals, electric guitar, percussion, bass, sound effects, and various other instruments depending on the situation. The game basically hands you all of these small audio samples, and while changing what they sound like in each situation for you, they also present the sequence in which you must hit them to keep your life gauge running.

I'm sure you're tired of reading, so let's watch another video. Here's one of the easier songs in DJ Max: Portable 2, but one of my all time favorites:


DJ MAX: PORTABLE 2

[video=cXAzkjL65bIFszfY]

Ikarus (6B)

Song Level: 7

Laira Character – PG-Black Gear – Crystal Note – No Effectors

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Now let's get this out of the way: these games pose exceptional challenges far beyond most other rhythm games ever released. No, really – I would rather take a risk at getting 100% on Through the Fire and Flames (Expert) to save my own life than try to get 90% on Nightmare (8B). The main reasons why these games pose a higher difficulty are that:

  • Every successful note is scored from 1% to 100%, which adds up to your total percentage. This is unlike Guitar Hero and Rock Band where all you need to do to get 100% is hit every note.
  • Every long note is judged not only on how accurately you start the note, but also how accurately you let go of it as well.
  • The game punishes you for missing a single note in Network Battles by giving combo bonuses to only successful players.
  • The default life judge is MUCH faster to fail you on a song.
  • The music is dictated completely by how accurately you hit the note, so while you might have successfully hit the note to keep the combo, anything other than 100% will throw off first-time players.
  • Most people will not recognize any of these songs, as most of them (with the exception of Clazziquai) were composed in-house or from small Korean bands.

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Yeah, that's what you can consider a small combo.

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The game has a few small gameplay elements which really set it apart from the crowd, but at its core, it's a very simple concept with a few twists added. As you've probably guessed by now, this is a rhythm game where you have to hit the appropriate note in time with when it hits a certain level at the bottom of the screen. These notes may demand you to hold that button for an extended period of time and even spin the analogue stick repeatedly or turn it towards a certain direction.

One of my favorite features in the DJ Max games is the speed changer. If you're not in Fever Mode (which I'll explain later), then you can change how fast the notes come down. The higher the speed, the more spaced out and more accurate-to-hit the notes are. The slower the speed, the easier the reading is. Finding the perfect speed for each song is crucial in reaching a satisfactory balance between accuracy and readability.

The most crucial gameplay feature in all DJ Max games is the Fever Mode. Your Fever Meter goes up faster as you hit notes accurately. When the bar fills up, you can initiate Fever Mode. In the first stage of Fever Mode, all notes hit are worth double points and combo notes, kind of like Star Power or Overdrive from Guitar Hero and Rock Band respectively. However, there's a twist: if you can accumulate enough Fever to initiate ANOTHER Fever Mode while still being within the first Fever's time limit, then you'll now start a TRIPLE fever mode. This perpetuated chain of Fevers can last up to 7x Fevers in DJ Max: Black Square, and 5 for the other games. Once you reach 4x however, the note speed starts to increase with no way of turning it down (except for Clazziquai), making it harder to hit notes as long as you didn't start off with a slow speed to begin with. The intensity of racking up crazy combos with the help of the Fever system is always an exhilarating experience.

Here's another song that's rather on the difficult side. See if you can pick up when I initiate Fever Mode and continue chaining them:


DJ MAX: CLAZZIQUAI

[video=cnw3xWT_5bIFszfe]

Clear Blue Sky (6B)

Song Level: 11

Sky Character – Jewel Light Gear – Basic Note – Fever x5 Effector

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DJ Max hosts a variety of gameplay modes to suit your mood and situation. For those who just want to get songs unlocked and trudge through many challenges, the Club Tour or Mission Modes may be appealing. The arcade mode is where I spend most of my time, taking advantage of the FreestyIe Mode to practice songs and set high scores. The Network mode allows me to connect to another DJ and battle it out in a score accumulation duel, creating some incredible tug-of-war matches which always seem to end in a dramatic fashion. The Options menus let you choose how difficult you want the life judge to be, change the languages, set the position of the interface, and all that jazz.

Finally, the Gallery and Album modes allow you to listen to unlocked songs, watch unlocked music videos (which play in the background during gameplay), and view different unlocked pictures which can then be downloaded directly into the Pictures section in your PSP's main menu as a nice gift to players. Throw in the medal system, high score system, bonus video unlocks, a DJ score card, and ranking, and you've got one hell of a game that keeps on giving.

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If you live in North America, then DJ Max Fever (a compilation of Portable and Portable 2) is now out for the PSP via UMD. I've seen a few copies around here myself, and this is Canada we're talking about, so I'm sure most of you shouldn't have too much trouble in the States.

If you want to play Black Square or Clazziquai from anywhere other than Korea or Japan, then you're going to have to unfortunately import. All DJ Max games come with a multi-language option, so unless you cannot read Korean, Japanese, or English, you should be fine.

However, if you own a PS3 and PSP in North America or Europe, this is where the exciting news comes in. Sometime in January 2010, Pentavision is bringing DJ Max Fever to the PlayStation Network, available for digital download onto your PSPs.

I'm going to leave one more video here to (try to) win you over:

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DJ MAX: PORTABLE 2

[video=dSQxxjDx5bIFszff]

Memoirs (6B)

Song Level: 8

Laira Character – PG-Black Gear – Crystal Note – No Effectors


Only two game series have ever been able to completely addict me through many months or years of constant playing. One of them is BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, and the other is the DJ Max franchise. Every DJ Max game is certainly a refreshing take on the rhythm game genre, so if you have a PSP and are itching to get seriously addicted, then I implore you to check out any of the DJ Max games.

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Joyeux Noel!

Oh, hai thar!

Here's a Christmas card for you darlings:

Christmas Greeting

I hope everyone has a Fabulous Christmas, a Naughty New Year, and a Marvelous Holiday Season! Regardless of what you may or may not celebrate at this time of year, it's undeniably a time where most of the world settles down and reflects upon their families, friends, and the gift of being alive; that alone is something worth being happy about.

Anydoodle, Christmas is more than exchanging presents with frien- ah who am I kidding? It's the best freaking part! :D

Loot:

  • District 9 on Blu-Ray (cuz I just had to see that mech action again in hi-def)
  • Rock Band 2 (game only; already have instruments)
  • USB Keyboard (for easy typing on PS3)
  • SkullCandy GI Headphone (because I have a fetish for overly-large headphones)
  • Small amount of pocket money (Christmas bonus from work)

I'm probably not going to be sleeping tonight since I'll have to stay up to go line up in the freezing cold for Boxing Day (a Canadian shopping holiday). Dragon Age on the PS3 for $40; formerly-expensive earphones for $10; Tekken 6 for $30; New BluRay movies for $10, and the list goes on! Color me excited!

Anyways, here's to a Happy Holiday Season, everyone! I hope your lives are filled with warmth and love, or at least a nice bag of chips which are pretty much the same thing.

~hazelnutman

Fabulous Awards for Fabulous Games

So once the teachers found out that they had less than a month worth of school left in the semester to finish teaching the rest of the curriculum, they freaked out; they freaked out hard. To make sure they could finish the course, the students were given stacks of worksheets, projects, and tests. I happened to be one of those students caught in this whirlpool of "educational material", and so I'm justifying my lack of activity with the above statements. I managed to finish a lot of stuff though – enough to let me do whatever I want for the winter break without any school work on my mind. I was especially lacking in motivation to study for the past week, so I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that I managed to score perfect marks in many assignments and tests I completely during my time of homework-hell. Hooray for half-assing :D

So yeah – I'll be a lot more active for now. I'm done most of my Christmas shopping too; expensive-ass scarf ring for my mom, something-something for my brother (lol, he might be reading this to find out), a crazy animal squeaky toy for my dog, some toys for the kids I tutor, and probably a pair of soccer shoes for my dad. I would get my grandparents something, but something suddenly happened and now I won't be able to spend Christmas with them. They're not with us anymore; they've passed on to a better place…

…and by that, I mean Halifax. They get to eat lobsters and stuff every day, damn it. Lucky ducks. In case you don't know, Halifax is a port city on the East coast of Canada. Awesome place, and I'm totally envious of them.

=HAZEL'S FAB GOTY AWARDS=

=2009=

Oh right, I'm here to give you my Game of the Year awards! The following games/characters are all from games I own and have played. However, this limitation means that not everything can be nominated – only the stuff I've actually played.

Let's get right to it then:

(Spoilers below)

Male Character I would Sacrifice my Heterosexuality For

WINNER: Nathan Drake (Uncharted)


Probably the prettiest looking man in a wet shirt this year, Nathan Drake is undeniably a charming fellow. With his multi-purpose fingers used for hand-puppeteering and ledge hanging, he should do a damn-fine job with any other chore I might have for him.

RUNNER-UP: Chris Redfield (Resident Evil)

Any man who can punch a bolder into a river of lava is a man for me.

Mai Waifu (Favorite Female Character)

WINNER: Noel Vermillion (BlazBlue)


She's just so damn cute – seriously. Writing poems secretly? Internet shopping to avoid human interaction? PANDAS?! HNNNNNNNG!!!

RUNNER-UP: Taokaka (BlazBlue)

Because Tao is Taokaka!

How to Soil Your Pants

WINNER: Batman: Arkham Asylum (Scarecrow Segments)


I was all like, "This room has nothing in here; why would the designers even do this?"

And then I was all like, "Okay, screw this – time to leave."

And then I soiled myself, because I left the room to enter the exact same room. Craziness ensues.

RUNNER-UP: Modern Warfare 2 (Helicopter Rain after EMP)

Helicopter raaaaain.

Some stay alive and others feel the pain.

Helicopter raaaaain.

A main character will probably die before the end.

Hottest Soundtrack

WINNER: BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger


Hells yes – there isn't a single track in the BlazBlue OST that doesn't appeal to me. I love every single piece of eardrum sex, with some highlights being Bullet Dance, Rebellion, and Gale. Daisuke Ishiwatari can have my children if he wants to anytime.

RUNNER-UP: Assassin's Creed 2

This one was hard to separate from the rest of the herd, but when it came down to it, there was a particular song I really thought was something special. "Ezio's Family" further compliments the solid soundtrack of Assassin's Creed 2, making it an audible experience worth taking.

Best Bosses

WINNER: Demon's Souls


While not all of them are particularly special in any way, the bosses in Demon's Souls represent a time where there was a mandatory boss at the end of every structured level you could look forward to – each with their own patterns and weaknesses. Simply, there were a ton of bosses, and all of them were fun to fight against. Nothing more I can ask for from a game, really.

RUNNER-UP: Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

While they were on the easy side and not numerous in the memorable category, the few that stood out REALLY stood out for me. Most particularly, the ending was incredibly satisfying and brought back a lot of nostalgia from playing Up Your Arsenal. Good times.

Eye-Candy

WINNER: BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger


Hey – I never said anything about the art styIe, so BlazBlue is completely up there to win. Yes, this game is a high-definition 2D game. I prefer the 2D visuals myself, so based on this, BlazBlue wins for simply not having that much competition in this department. Grats.

RUNNER-UPS: Uncharted 2 and Killzone 2

Yeah, I have two games up here. While both of them have completely different art directions, they both look equally stunning in my eyes. I'd take a bubble bath with either game any day of the week.


Game of the Freakin' Year

WINNER: BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger


Screw my own rating system and the scores I gave to every game of 2009; BlazBlue is simply my favorite game of the year. It's loud, noisy, flashy, and always fun to play. The online is addictive, the characters are great, the soundtrack is awesome, and the game itself never seems to age on me. If a Game of the Year is based on how much fun you had with the product (you know, because it's a video game after all), then I don't think I could give it to anything other than BlazBlue based on my personal experiences this year. Hooray for fun games!

RUNNER-UP: Assassin's Creed 2

This game took me completely by surprise. I knew it was going to be good, but not this good. The story is incredibly fleshed out, the attention to detail is exquisite, and the overall mechanics from the first game are transferred over a game that isn't as repetitive as the first one. I'm inclined to say that Ubisoft Montreal is one of the few developers who actually listen to their fans nowadays. Good job guys; but next time, don't deliberately take out two levels so you can charge us for them later as DLC.

So yeah, those were my choices and highlights of the year. None of them except BlazBlue really broke into my top 14 games, but when you think about it, it's been another exceptional year for video gamers everywhere. Here's to 2010 starting and ending awesomely as well! Hear, hear!

I'll be back to post an annual Christmas blog sometime later, so until then, have a safe holiday season, my friends.

BlazBlue Original Soundtrack - "Bullet Dance: Dual Violin Cover"

Holy crap, this guy is amazing. Almost makes me want to put my bass and guitar down for a while in favor of a violin. Almost.

Blazing and Blueing

I hate BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger. I hate it for sucking me into its world and refusing to let me go. I hate it for taking away the time I could have used to finish the massive warehouse of games I have yet to touch. I hate it for constantly distracting me from my school work and the responsibilities bestowed on me. I hate how much I love this game.

I don't usually blog on single video games, but I feel obligated to say some words of admiration for this one.

A long time ago, I noticed that Scianix-Black had (once again) changed his profile theme to Taokaka. At the time, I had no clue what BlazBlue was; it was still a relatively new game in arcades as well. I investigated this 'Taokaka' character, only to find myself engulfed in an ocean of flashy gameplay videos of an impressive-looking fighter with a totally unique cast of characters.

As time went on, I yearned for a console port, but no such announcement would be made until months later. Week after week, new video footage was released from the arcades; combo videos found their way onto YouTube, with a particular video featuring Noel piquing my interest in her. She would later become my main character.

Finally, a port was announced for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. I immediately pre-ordered it, with the promises of a first-run-only Limited Edition upgrade at no extra price being mere sprinkles on an otherwise delicious and moist cake.

After an antagonizing wait and a mountain of delays (thanks to the release date being on Canada Day of all days), I had my hands on two copies of the Limited Edition due to some complications involving cats and the quadratic equation. I sold the second copy to a good friend of mine – the same one who had bought a PS3 on launch day and invited me over to play (which lead me to buying one as well). I would finally be able to play.

The first few weeks were filled with absolute addiction and frustration. I was constantly getting my ass kicked in player matches, I could only barely beat Hell Difficulty Arcade, and I had trouble doing many of the combos I witnessed on those amazing videos. The bonus Blu-Ray disc did little to help, so all I could do was practice. It was not until I had made the arcade sticks when I felt like I was getting somewhere. It was a frighteningly awkward experience at first (it felt like I was learning how to play again), but once I got around the initial hump, I started winning more battles online, Hell Difficulty Arcade would be just a quick little warm-up exercise, and I was able to do some of the more basic combos I witnessed on those amazing videos. I became dedicated to the game.

Currently, I continue to main Noel Vermillion and have trouble picking a suitable sub. Without a doubt, I'm in complete anticipation for Continuum Shift, along with the PlayStation Portable port of Calamity Trigger. While this game is generally infamous for its steep learning curve, I regularly have my friends come over to play a few quick matches. It's actually a blast to fight in large groups, especially since the group of friends I play this game with happened to have picked completely different mains.

In fact, I just came back with my friends from the only arcade center within driving distance. They had a single BlazBlue arcade machine, and we tore down the house playing it for hours. One of them bought the game today, and two are going to do the same very soon. It looks like I'll have to be making some more arcade sticks… at a price :P

One platinum trophy, hundreds of hours played, and thousands of matches spread across multiple modes later, I look back and marvel at how one game could have addicted me so much. It's definitely not my favourite game, it's definitely not a game I would consider to be better than the likes of some true cIassics, and it's definitely not one that I recommend to everyone I know, but it's one hell of a ride that I don't want to ever get off of.

=Reviews and Resources=

GameTrailer's Video Review

IGN's Video Review

My Boring Text Review

BlazBlue's Wikipedia Page

Takenobu Mitsuyoshi - "Sky High" (Daytona USA Soundtrack)

Why is this song so much fun to listen to? ;___;

How to Beat a Bear in a Wet T-Shirt Contest

Oh goody, it's blogging time! Another month of fun passes, and I urgently need to pass on my experiences to other people for some twisted reason. Let's get this show on the road!

===Upgrades===

Here's a fun fact: my very first blog (over two years ago) was about wanting to upgrade my PS3's 60GB hard-drive. That plan never came into fruition until just a few days ago when I went ahead and bought myself a 320GB HDD. To celebrate, I suppose I'll finally buy that Valkyria Chronicles DLC, Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty, and maybe even Megaman 9. It sure feels nice not having to delete demos after finishing them and being able to install as many games as I want.

http://www.busydizzys.com/temp/laptop%20hard%20drive.jpg

To expand upon my memory-whoring, I also bought a 1TB external hard-drive as well. It was initially used to back up and restore my PS3's data, but now it's being used to store music, movies, games, and anime. I feel totally carefree when it comes to memory usage now.

I also bought a PS2 to PS3 memory card adapter, which is actually a pretty useless device to most PS3 owners nowadays if you think about it (no backwards compatibility). I transferred all of my PS2 memory card data onto my PS3 so that I can experience more of my games with the convenience of a single machine.

Oh, and I decided to change my flashy GameSpot profile banner into something a little more subtle and clean. I even went through the painstaking process of creating a blog banner which continues on from my main banner – viewable if you go to my main profile page. I'll probably keep this one for another year or so like my last one.

===Games===

Alright, let's start with the obligatory one: Uncharted 2. After playing it bit-by-bit over the last three days, I got up early in the morning (11:30AM to be exact) and didn't move from my couch until five in the afternoon to finish it up. The game is pretty much one giant cliché executed extremely well. There wasn't a single moment when I felt bored, but there weren't many moments when I felt surprised either. Overall, I loved it.

http://www.thegamersmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/uncharted_2_preview.jpg

BlazBlue has been taking away all of my gaming time yet again, instigating a trophy hunt for the first time in my life. I'm just one trophy away from my first Platinum; all I need to do is play 80 or so more ranked matches and I'm good to go. I won't be hunting for any more Plats anytime soon though. BlazBlue just happened to be a very special case for me.

Zone of the Enders 2 also met its end, and it was fabulous as well. I freakin' love mechs so much. :oops:

I'll probably start playing Demon's Souls and Dead Space now. Demon's Souls is souly, and Dead Space is spacey. That's all I can say for now.

I also decided to get DJ Max Portable: Clazziquai Edition. It's definitely a lot easier than Black Square, but I love the song selection.

===Game Development===

School-wise, I decided to take a senior animation course which occurs every Tuesday at night for two hours a week. I get four extra credits upon completion, and it's a course I was supposed to take next semester. This means that my independent game studies has been bumped forward by half of a year – giving me more precious time to create my atrocity of a game.

Speaking of which, remember that pretentious sounding music game I had envisioned? From a design point of view, the idea sounded fun at first, but to execute it well would have been a frustrating process. That's why I decided to simplify things and replicate a tried-and-true formula. Here's how a snobby Hollywood producer might pitch my idea:

StarFox with Mechs!

So yeah, an on-rails, mech-piloting game would be a safer thing to try. It'll be like a love child between StarFox64 and Zone of the Enders 2 – or at least on paper. Here are some random ideas I've put down:

  • The cast will consist of 4 pilots – all with their own unique mechs and abilities. You play as a badass guy who always wears sunglasses and screams every syllable (idea pending), because I'm honestly sick of wimpy pilots in badass mechs. There will be two other gals and one other guy as support.
  • Lots of voiced radio-chatter with character portraits and subtitles. Yeah – just like StarFox.
  • 100% piano soundtrack. I'll be commissioning a friend of mine to compose and record an intensely relaxing soundtrack. It's totally not going to fit the mood, and that's why I want it.
  • You won't ever see the pilots rendered in 3D, and you won't ever see the mechs rendered in 2D. The story will be delivered through 2D stills (which I'll have to draw by hand :cry: ) and played through a 3D engine. The best of both worlds, no?

So yeah, I'll try posting my progress on this as much as possible – assuming I don't move onto an even simpler idea. Here's a concept drawing I did half-heartedly a few days ago. The best part of making a mech game is drawing those skin-tight plug suits the pilots have to wear. It's because of the synch ratio – I swear!

Rawr.

===More Facts===

Finally, I've been tagged again… again. Just like those other 30 times. Here are 5 more facts you shouldn't have to know about some dude you met over the internet:

1. I love swing dancing. There's nothing like becoming the puppeteer of a female body – manipulating how they turn, spin, jump, and flip on and around my own body like a delusional snake. Oh, and it's fun too.

2. I love dogs – I see them on a scale of living value just as high as or even higher than human beings.

3. Anything I say pertaining to the number 4 will be false.

4. Anything I say pertaining to the number 3 will be true.

5. I've never missed trick-or-treating on Halloween in my entire life, and don't plan on doing so until I graduate from high school next year. It's always a thrill to go out at night dressed up as some sort of abomination – ringing doorbells and screaming for candy with my friends. What can I say? I'll always be a kid at heart.

If you have a mom, then I'm tagging her.

Yello - "Oh Yeah"

OHHHHHHH YEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

You Damn, Dirty Liar.

It's a beautiful, rainy Friday evening, and I had the sudden urge to write that long-overdue blog I said I would write a while ago. I'm such a damn, dirty liar.

Oh, and brace for a huge-wall-o-text you should probably skip for the pretty pictures.

Although I'm well into my Junior Year of High School, I decided that this would be a good opportunity to look back on another wonderful summer spent doing absolutely nothing meaningful.

If I were to summarize my summer in one word, it would be "work". I probably worked more hours this summer than my own father did. I tutored a total of four children in two separate households every single day for at least 3, 4, sometimes even 6 hours a day. I probably had an accumulated number of 5 days off throughout the entire summer tutoring for almost-as-low-as-minimum wage. A huge plus to sacrificing my youth like this has to be the money – and there was a good amount involved for someone my age.

I managed to buy the items in my next section while keeping a very substantial savings for any post-secondary education I may decide to take part in. Even now I have steady income – still working nearly every day while balancing honour-roll status, friends, family, and other extracurricular activities such as band, dance, anime, and of course – games.

I can't lie – life's treating me pretty well lately. Fabulous.

===Game Purchases===

I managed to buy a lot of games over the summer; the funny thing is, only BlazBlue LE was something I spent the full hard-copy game MSRP for. Even Batman was obtained during the Canadian 40-dollar sale upon release. The PS3 games are older titles that have been marked down, with the PS2 games being bought from either EB Games, Craigslist, or eBay.

As you can probably guess, I haven't even started half of these titles yet. Some of them are actually my brother's which I bought for ****s and giggles, including a fully-paid Demon's Souls Deluxe Edition pre-order. I'm just that cool of a brother.

===Other Purchases===

Adding to that substantial games list (at least to my standards), I've gone ahead and bought something I should have bought a long time ago: a laptop! In fact, I'm typing up this blog on my baby right now. She's a beautiful HP something-something. All I know is that she has good video memory, a roomy HDD, and a fingerprint scanner to protect my… secret data. No more note-taking by hand for me!

http://www.ubergizmo.com/photos/2009/1/hp-dv3-468.jpg

As mentioned in my last blog, I also spend a good amount of cash on constructing those two arcade sticks. Now, it looks like some of you are under the impression that I was able to make the whole thing by myself. Nothing could be further from the truth. jt4mtb pretty much held my hand (in a manly way) through the entire procedure; so please direct any compliments towards his expertise.

It also looks like I managed to buy two more PSPs and a GameBoy Advance SP from someone for 90 bucks altogether. That's right – I now have one slim PSP, a fat PSP, and another fat PSP. Not to mention, I now have a GBA to replace the old one I lost a while ago. In the end, one of the PSPs along with the GBA went to my brother since having three PSPs would be ridiculous enough, and the GBA is just something that's replacing my brother's lost one.

http://www.gamingghouls.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/psp.jpghttp://www.gamingghouls.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/psp.jpg

In between these "investments" was money spent on little things like eating out, movies, and gifts. Those damn scarves from those "Hermes" brand places are incredibly expensive, but make good birthday gifts for your mother. Going to movies with friends became a costly tradition for me; while buying toys for my dog is something I now find to be enjoyable (squeaky toys are just so damn cute). Overall, I spent money like any other teenager would. I spoiled myself, but also made sure I did the same for those around me.

===Anime===

I didn't see as much anime as I would have liked to, but I did spend a lot of time re-watching a lot of shows with my brother (whom I've suckered into the anime world with Gurren Lagann and the like).

Besides weekly doses of Haruhi Season 2 (Endless Eight FTL) and Spice and Wolf 2 (hells yeah), I went ahead and watched both seasons of Code Geass. I thought it was going to be some sort of pretentious, over-rated crap with the occasional mech battle to make up for bad pacing. I'm glad I was proven wrong, since it quickly latched itself onto my top 10 with its massive production values, smart scenarios, and awesome action. I've seen both seasons twice now.

http://fungafufu.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/code_geass_2.jpg

I also finished Kanon (2006), which turned out to be my second favourite KyoAni produced anime ever (second to Haruhi S1). It's simply a wonderful tale brimming with excellent characters and story arcs that are constantly fun to watch.

Minami-ke also managed to climb its way up my personal standings – right next to Golden Boy in terms of comedy! Besides the shows above, I didn't really get a chance to watch as much as I would have liked. I did manage to squeeze in another watch-through of Gurren Lagann, which was again much, much win.

http://otakuinternational.com/images/aug30-08-postings/minami-ke.jpg

So I guess that's it. Sorry about this being another long blog, but it really gives me a sense of accomplishment and purpose to write everything I've done over a long period of time out so I can see it all lain out in front of me.

Now excuse me while I sleep before I end up writing up anything I might regret in the morning.

A'z - "Sorairo Days A Cappella Cover"(Gurren Lagann OP)

Holy crap, this is awesome; absolutely no instruments were used in this a~cappella cover. Also, the manly grunt at the beginning gets me excited.

Sexy Homemade Arcade Sticks are GO!

So after spending way too much money on materials I ended up not using, I've finally completed a little project of mine; I've succeeded in making two arcade sticks!

Our story begins with Hazelnutman strolling through the interwebz, giggling at anime girls and having serious conversations with his anti-virus software. All of a sudden, he stumbles upon a blog full of awesome and inspiration. A mere mortal had build an arcade machine of his own! Such a feat would surely be impossible for such a vermin like himself.

However, with much flirting and asking of questions, Hazel came upon the fact that arcade sticks themselves were merely boxes with buttons, sticks, wires, and circuit boards! Pffffffft, he could totally do that! Right?

...

After ordering the physical buttons and joysticks online, Hazel set out to the hardware store to buy some equipment and materials. First of all, he would need some wood to make a box, so he bought some cheap MDF wood, and sweet-talked an employee to cut all of his materials to his exact measurements.

"This is going to be the bestest arcade stick in the whole universez!" exclaimed Hazel.

Little did he know, the MDF wood he bought was a MOTHER****ING PIECE OF MOTHER****ING **** WITH ******* AND WHAT **** DO THEY HAVE TO ***** FOR EIGHT *****ER *** LUBRICATED*****ED ****** AND ****ING THE END OF A HAIRBRUSH, which cracked into bajillions of pieces upon drilling, screw-driving, or any combination of the two.

Hence, he came across a convenient (albeit expensive) alternative. He bought two decoration/storage "books" which were not actually books, but essentially boxes made to look like books. With the dimensions of this box being ridiculously perfect for his arcade stick, Hazel threw away all of the MDF he had worked so hard to sand and paint in favor of a more half-assed approach.

After many nights of cursing, operating power tools under the influence of alcohol (no really, the person who drilled the holes was tipsy), e-mailing LizardLicks because they forgot the red stick in his shipment, and burning fingers on soldering irons, the sticks were finished.

Because of the nature of the pre-made box, Hazel had no choice but to finish the sticks without the custom Okami and AwesomeFace designs. He will revisit this project at a later date to somehow include the designs.

The stick features the standard 4 face-buttons, along with two shoulder buttons placed on the very right. The pushbuttons themselves are lain out in a very natural and curved nature, allowing for maximum comfort while playing. There is plenty of palm-rest room at the bottom for both hands. The start and select/coin buttons are elegantly placed on the sides, along with rubber soles stuck to the bottom of the box to avoid sliding during play. Best of all, this is a USB-connected arcade stick, which means it works perfectly with the PS3 and PC.

THE END!

So yeah, the arcade sticks are pretty cool. They totally rock when playing Marvel VS Capcom 2, but when it comes to BlazBlue, it's a mixed bag at the moment. The button inputs are much easier, allowing me to string combos and moves I never could do before. However, the movement is going to take a lot of getting used to. The stick itself is so sensitive that I often end up jumping in the middle of combos because I shifted it just a teenie-weenie bit up as opposed to a perfect direction. Also, mid-air dashing has become somewhat of a pain, along with 236235D (two quarter circles towards the opponent with D) being unpredictable, especially from the left. Really though, this is mostly my own qualm and not the sticks themselves. I'm going to continue playing with them, because I can certainly see the benefit of using them in the long run.

I was also going to turn this blog into a double feature, but decided to stick with one theme for the sake of being concise (that didn't work out too well, did it?). I'll be posting a new blog next week, so yes - three blogs in a single month?!

That's messed up, man.

Masashi Hamauzu - "Besaid Island Piano Version" (Final Fantasy X)

The reason I picked the piano version over the original is because frankly, I think it suits the melody/theme more. It's almost nostalgically unrecognizable in this composition, and it simply makes for a beautiful solo piece.

Super Mega-Mega Deluxe Delicious Top 14 Favorite Games: 2009 Edition

Why fourteen? Because 10-12 are too small, 13 is unlucky, and 15 is an uneven number. If the games were to have a giant fight to the death, then they could fight 7-versus-7. My experiences tell me that 7 is in fact a lucky number; thus, the list will be a countdown from 14.

Also due to the lack of regularity in blogging, I might as well cram all of the games into one blog – this one!

Yeah, I did this thing once before, but that list is so damn outdated and poorly written that I feel obligated to update it. So consider this a mid-2009 report. Rules stay the same; only one game per-franchise. That's not to say that the ones that were cut from last year's (or maybe the year before that?) countdown suddenly suck now. It's just that as a growing boy; my feelings are always changing and experiencing new, exciting things. Very hot, moist, exciting things indeed, but I digress – here's the countdown!

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14 - DJ Max: Portable 2

I'm not one too obsess over music games, but I have an obsession with the DJ Max series. They're fast, difficult, and very fun. Portable 2 happens to be the most polished of the bunch in my eyes. My poor PSP has to constantly put up with this game's demand for abusing your buttons. No, that's not me playing, but I can clear that song all the same.

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13 - BlazBlue

My favorite fighting game ever hands down. Fast fighting, gorgeous presentation, and a boat-load of features make BlazBlue one of the most complete fighters around. Just make sure you don't completely screw up the balance we have going on here with the EU release of the game, alright Aksys?

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12 - Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal

A Ratchet and Clank game was inevitably going on the list, but which one? Well, only one has the best villain ever. Only one has the funniest plot. Only one had the honor of being the last Ratchet and Clank game with any sort of sexual innuendo in the title. Hells yeah! Up Your Arsenal was an amazing game.

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11 - Megaman: Battle Network

Probably my second-most played handheld game ever; it also happened to be my very first GameBoy Advance game ever as well, and what an awesome half-assed decision that was. The game's battle mechanics were surprisingly deep, rewarding players for both tact and real-time skills. The challenge was definitely there, and the bosses were fun as hell. But man, Chaud was a complete dick – just like Gary from Pokemon.

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10 - Shadow of the Colossus

BIG MONSTERS I FIGHT GOOD AND SAVE GIRL WHO ALSO MY GIRLFRIEND/FOSTER-MOM????!!! RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

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9 - Starfox 64

From the hilarious radio-chatter, to the branching paths, to the secrets, and to the StarWolf team, you really can't go wrong with Starfox 64. It simply delivers non-stop fun regardless of who you are. Also, you can actually friendly-fire at Slippy if you want. Effin' approved!

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8 - Metroid Fusion

Super Metroid might have been one hell of an awesome game, but the absolute polish in the controls for Metroid Fusion mixed with the best atmosphere in any 2-D game I've ever played makes for the best Metroid game ever. Plus, the whole cat-and-mouse thing that happened between you and the SA-X was seriously some kind of mind-game.

"OH ****, WAS THAT THE SA-X? WAS THAT THE ****ING SA-X? CUZ IF IT WAS, I SWEAR – I'M GOING TO DROP THIS GBA AND LEAVE THE ROOM"

AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGGH!~

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7 - Valkyria Chronicles

This game came out of nowhere and blew me away. Heartwarming story mixed with fluid, unique gameplay makes this chronicle a legend. SEE, GAMETRAILERS?! I CAN MAKE WITTY PRE-VIDEO REVIEW REMARKS TOO!

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6 - Pokemon Silver

So you know how Megaman Battle Network was my second most played handheld game ever? Well, guess what the first was! Yep, not only is this my number one played handheld game ever, but it also happens to be my very first handheld game ever as well. Seeing as I barely bought new games back then, this one got all of my attention for a long while. I had level 100s across the board in my party with Mewtwos, Mews, Celebis, Lugias and Typhlosions up the arse.

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5 - Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

"Oh hey guys, did you just say best Zelda game ever? Sorry I'm late, but I was too busy having the greatest atmosphere ever mixed with incredibly well-done time travelling mechanics! What's that? You love how they took the solid mechanics from Ocarina and took them somewhere completely different? Aww shucks, I love you too!"

Creepiest game ever.

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4 - Super Mario World

If I had to play one game for the rest of my life, it would have to be Super Mario World. Everything about this game is made up of amazing, and it also happens to hold the record for the longest time-span spent playing: my entire lifetime.

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3 - Okami

Makin' flowers!

LIKE A GOD

Awesome music!

LIKE A GOD

Feeding bunnies!

LIKE A GOD

Painting bridges!

LIKE A GOD

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2 - Final Fantasy X

I'm a pretty big fan of the Final Fantasy series, but in between some money-grabbing spin-offs and long-assed development cycles, there are actually only a handful of games from the franchise I truly love.

So after nearly 4 whole seconds of consideration, Final Fantasy X takes the cake. Excellent plot, fun battle system, and a great cast of characters make this the most engaging Final Fantasy (to me) yet.

Final Fantasy XIII, I'm expecting great things from you.

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1 - Metal Gear Solid 3 or Metal Gear Solid 4?

Whoah whoah whoah! Do we have a tie here?! That's not allowed!

Well, let's see:

Looks like the winner is:

[spoiler] both of them. [/spoiler]

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That's all, folks! Now to be fair, there are still a lot of games I've yet to play (Devil May Cry 1 and 3 will be eBay'd very soon) along with many games I'm dying to get my hands on in the future (FFXIII, Bayonetta, etc). So until next year, assume I've made awkward love to every single game mentioned above!

Charlie Clouser - "Hello Zepp"

Down-hill movie franchise, excellent soundtrack.