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It's Been A While Since I've Been Here. Also, I'm Not With GameSpot Anymore

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So, two-and-a-half years. It was fun while it lasted. 

If you couldn't tell from the headline, readers, I no longer work at GameSpot. My last day was August 20; I was essentially made redundant. I won't go into more details, but it's more corporate than editorial.   

Despite that minor setback, I can definitely say that I've learned a helluva lot working in a bigwig publication, and find out first-hand why GameSpot is still one of the best in the video game-writing business. I'm also glad that my ideas like Sound Byte Radio, Asia's first big gaming podcast (The GameSpot Asia Beat) and all those other videos and livestream with me in it came into fruition, even if half of them were killed off due to this year's recent change in direction. 

For those who managed to check out my work since two-and-a-half years ago, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting and commenting on them. Will I still stick around and blog randomly on this? I don't know. Will I head back into writing for games? Of course, but not so soon. How long will my premature retirement be? You ask me. 

All I know is that it's been lovely working with the editorial team at GameSpot. Creativity shines through multitudes of restriction & barriers, and the team has been showing loads of that. 

Thanks, and bye for now! I'm still on Twitter (@MrToffee) if you're into that sort of thing.  

Bit Droppings: July 29

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- So I already know two people in my circle working in the food industry: one sells import beers for mad cheap prices (Good Beer Company), while the other makes kick-ass Western food and is open to my suggestion to include mac & cheese in the restaurant menu. Life is good; for me, anyway.

- I laid out my thoughts on Persona 4 Arena twice: one on this week's Asia Beat and the other on this week's Now Playing. Do check the game out when it's out on your respective regions.

- I also did something on Anarchy Reigns which should be out next week. Long story short: good beat-em up with great multiplayer options which I sadly have trouble looking for people to play with on the Xbox 360 version. So why did Sega postpone the release of this game in North America again?

- I finally watched the 1000th episode of WWE Raw and I must say: seeing Ron Simmons utter his famous line in his old gang with Lita, Rikishi and a few others warmed the cockles of my heart to an acceptably lukewarm level.

Bit Droppings - 21 July 2012

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- The more I log on to Diablo III for a few minutes, the more I'm willing to just delete it off my hard drive. It's one thing to make a game difficult and enforcing players to use skill and reflexes to win the day, but to build a game solely reliant on a hub that requires you to invest time on more grinding than humanly possible, along with a real-money shortcut to purchase goods to make you stand a chance? That's just not fun.

The only reason you're playing D3 right now is some sick-as-heck obligation to complete the game's marketed Inferno "difficulty setting". Must be nice trying to sleep at night with these purposely-made decisions eh, Blizzard?

- Conversely, Dragon's Dogma showed me that with some right implementation of old-school, a game's fault can be turned around to be its positive. As much as it irks me that Capcom could have designed a better fast travelling method before the game credits (portcrystals are on sale after the first credits), my pawn and I were always in all sorts of fights both small-scale and ginormous.

It's like the devs were purposely not letting us do the whole Skyrim "laundry list" concept in favor of random battles that feels organic.You really haven't lived until you've had to deal with floating undead zombie-summoning and tornado-shooting wights paired up with a golem whose weak spots are scattered across the fighting spot.

In case you couldn't tell, Dragon's Dogma is on my top twelve of 2012.

- I wonder what that Destructoid intern is doing now right after shooting off his thoughts on Felicia Day before proof-reading what he typed? This is why foresight is important in the realm of Twitter and FB posts, folks.

- Amazing Spider-Man movie? How about 'Amazing Hipster-Man' instead? There's a big difference between Tobey Macguire's socially awkward stance and Andrew Garfield's "I'm too cool to tell you how I feel, so how about I stutter and do nonchalant pauses to act like I'm shy" garbage. At the very least, the Lizard fight at the school was the only highlight.

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Guess What's On My Plate This Weekend?

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This, and also some cosplay-shooting shenanigans at AFA 2011. If anyone's reading this post and are planning to fly down to Singapore for the convention, do say "hi" when you see any of the GameSpot Asia crew (which is probably just me and my video producer).

Driver: San Francisco - Criminally undersold by own publisher?

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So I picked up Driver: San Francisco last Wednesday. Apparently, it's pretty damn good and definitely a candidate for my personal GOTY list of 2011: you haven't lived until you played a racing game that allows you to possess some truck-driving schmuck on the road to do a head-on collision onto some criminal you're pursuing. Seriously, get it.

Which begs the question: what IS up with Ubisoft not pointing out the shifting mechanic behind the back of the game's box?!?! Well, for the Asian release anyway.

Does THIS make you want to pick up the game upon inspecting it on store shelves?

Generic box blurb is generic.

"Experience the thrill of the chase"? "The classic movie car chase experience"? So many cliches are really killing my brain here. It also didn't help that the Driver series is known for its own controversies in the past. Really, who could blame readers and game fans?

I shudder to think how they would present Rayman: Origins on the back of the box if they present the same kind of confidence for this game.

Guess I gotta set this shindig as my new ringtone...

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The Super Street Fighter IV AE combos featured here are rad and all, but it's the music performed by the combo video maker Desk's band that hits it all the way to the ballpark. The band, Project Dolphin, played Ryu's theme, the Final Fight alleyway theme (Guy's theme in the game), Guile's theme, Juri's theme, and SSF4's main theme in melodic succession. The guitar riffs and percussions are indeed ambrosia for the ears.


The band also did a great cover on Marvel vs Capcom 2's Airship stage and Streets of Rage 2's bar room level. Best of all, it's available free on this link.

Oh, and yes, it's been a while since I posted stuff on this blog. I should make this a fortnight habit or something.

Post-E3 bullet points

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After an 18 hour-long flight, followed by two days of recuperation (curse ye throat bug and obligation to play through that open copy of InFamous 2), I should drum up a few thoughts on last week's E3.

- Microsoft: where the hell were the Suda 51/Masaya Maatsura/ Yukio Futatsugi Kinect-related projects announced last TGS? Nothing from those three developers were shown last week. With all of the expected announcements like a new Halo and Fables title, I figured that you'd at least surprise us with a Kinect-able Panzer Dragoon or whatever kind of acid trip the No More Heroes and Parappa the Rapper guys would come up with.

- Sony: I enjoyed previewing the upcoming PS Vita stuff last Monday on your fab portable console, but you better not shoehorn unneccessary rear touchpad controls and functions for future stuff. Most of the time I accidentally triggered options and first-person perspectives while the rest of my inactive fingers were resting on the console's back. Remember the unnecesary SixAxis controls that did more harm than good? Remember Lair before the patch?

Still, thanks for Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.

- Nintendo: I had fun with your controller. I managed to check out the tech demos and whatnot an hour just before the end of the show and they show signs of potential. That said, I hope you have something ready for Gamescom and that obligatory Nintendo event before/after this year's TGS because you have a heck-ton of convincing to do with the people pouring money down your way.

Also, your new Super Mario game is a little too much like a Crash Bandicoot game. Then again, it's hard to top off the two Super Mario Galaxy games.

- Irrational Games: Bioshock: Infinite = frickin' impressive closed-doors preview. I'm still wondering how the literal on-rails sequences would work manually, but color me impressed. 2012 can't come soon enough.

- 2K Marin: Haters are gonna hate, but the XCOM demo looked pretty cool. It's not going to be an isometric TBS game, but if all that researching and squad management thing pulls through with the team-based FPS action that I saw, I'll take this reinvention for all of its worth. I also do hope 2K Marin has the sense to bring in classic units like the Sectoids or Chryssalids.

- Harmonix: Thanks for putting in that Montell Jordan song in Dance Central 2. I will foresee more man-made accidents with your simultaneous two-player dance-off mode though.

(update)

- Capcom/Namco Bandai: Stop teasing us. You know you want to reveal Kuma and Roger for Street Fighter x Tekken.

- Square Enix: I managed to check out FF XIII-2 and my inner nerd JRPG senses are tingling so much that I'll buy your game. I know there's probably something in the game halfway that will make me want to cut myself, but I'll play along for now.

- Sony, again: Please do more promo for Gravity Daze. That game looks surreal.

How awesome is Hard Corps: Uprising's soundtrack?

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Pretty damn awesome, if you ask me.


Many of you may remember the name Daisuke Ishiwatari if you've played a lick of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue. He was, after all, the man behind the soundtrack of those two franchises (not to mention designing them). Sick guitar licks and solos, heavy on the snares and rhythm riffs; there's never a dull moment in any of the man's compositions. Hard Corps: Uprising's OST gets better and more pulse-pounding depending on the stages. While Stage 3 has a slower tempo (and barely so), it notches up in Stage 4 and Stage 6. As a bonus for music fans, inputting the famous Konami code during the loading screen for the first stage will give you the benefit of listening to Ishiwatari-san's remix of the Jungle Stage in the first Contra. You know which song I'm talking about.

No school like the old school, eh?


That said, what Hard Corps: Uprising lacks when compared to something like BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is variety. Don't get me wrong; as the Contra-esque game is heavy on action, it'll be silly to have a few offbeat songs that aren't focused on being as metal as humanly possible. But BlazBlue had odd-yet-hyper tracks deviating from the heavy metal genre. Just listen to the entirety of 'Catus Carnival' and the starting segments of both 'Queen of Rose' and 'Awakening The Chaos', and one wonders if Ishiwatari-san felt a little too comfortable on his musically-laced laurels. To the casual listener, they won't be able to differentiate between each "Ke-Raang"-filled melody.


And yes, I do know that there is a stealth track on Stage 5, but really, you're not going to listen to it since you'll just start shooting the moment an enemy pops up from the right side of the screen. Putting in a stage where you hide in boxes in a Contra game is like a leper giving someone a facial scrub: it doesn't really work.


Still, if you're a fan of just rocking out with your hair out to the kind of music you're not allowed to take a breather from, Hard Corps: Uprising's music can't be beat in that regard. Now when in the holy heck will the official soundtrack be out?

More Lovely Melodies For Valentines' Day

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Poor Mario; can't catch a break.

Today's that time of year again where commercial places hike up their prices for couples dining and bouquets of unrelenting sizes. If you haven't checked out this week's Sound Byte, do so now as it's Valentine's-themed.

To get into the spirit of the day, here are my five picks for the most appropriate Valentine-esque songs to play to get in the mood. These tunes also prove that I'm getting old, as almost all of these picks were tunes composed back in the late 90s, but whatever:

1) Love Theme- Ultima VII: The Black Gate

Short but sweet, this tune in the hit RPG Ultima VII: The Black Gate plays when you talk to a particularly tragic character who tends the Shrine of Compassion in Cove. I personally like the chimes that make up the majority of the song's rhythm.

2) Rydia - Final Fantasy IV - CELTIC MOON Album

I could go for the obviously-titled theme when Final Fantasy IV's Cecil and Rosa open their traps, but I can't say 'no' to summoner Rydia's Celtic-arranged version of her child-like and innocent intro music.

3) Leen's Love Theme - Grandia

Remember that one Sega Saturn/PS1 RPG that was touted as a Final Fantasy VII killer in native Japan? Of course you haven't, but that isn't going to stop me from sharing this underrated piece from Noriyuki "I compose Phoenix Wright music now" Iwadare. I wasn't that invested in Grandia's plot-important characters, but damn if some of their themes and leit motifs didn't make me care too much.

4) Late Goodbye - Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne

Here's an excerpt from the second verse: "Your breath hot upon my cheek, and we crossed, that line
You made me strong when I was feeling weak, and we crossed, that one time"

Considering that the entire game was about Max Payne trying to hook up with Mona Sax, this is more or less the "love" theme that caps off the hit action game. You might also want to check the piano rendition of the song; it kicks just as much ass.

5) Small Two of Pieces -Xenogears

You seriously can't get any cheesier than this ballad when it comes to romance songs in videogames. Even the title doesn't make sense. Hell, the entire game's plot doesn't make sense if you play it through once without any FAQs to break down the story. Still, this ballad rivals Celine Dion's in terms of corny lyrics and outstanding vocal chords. Did I also forget to mention the obviously-shoehorned guitar riff in the middle?

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