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The Ill Communication

Mind the gap

April 24, 2017 | 22:14 | Written by: snake911

Apologies for the radio silence, but there have been some IRL things on my mind.  But starting with this post which is acting as a warm up, content should be streaming back to normal output, so I'd say check later in the week for another new post that'll have, you know, something actually worth talking about, unlike this post about that's really about nothing.

I like all my posts to have an image, but the message above has no associated image I can think of.  So instead, here's one that has absolutely nothing to do with the above paragraph.  Good night!

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A room full of mystery and suspense

April 10, 2017 | 19:39 | Written by: snake911

Over the weekend I took the day off from playing games and actually participating in one in real life.

I went with a group on Saturday in Anaheim to a place called Mission Escape Games, a business with a unique service of entertainment I've never experienced before.  Here are the details: you and your group are placed into a room and have 60 minutes to escape.  No items are given to you and you must empty your personal belongings into a box for safe keeping (or to be used to cheat the game with).  So to get out, you're solely dependent on what you find in the room in order to find your escape.

The theme of the game we played is called Escape The Hydeout, and as you probably guessed, it's related to the story about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Here's a blurb of the theme from the official website: "The Hydeout is a Victorian-era mission inspired by the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Be prepared to go into the good doctor's home but beware of his dark side. Dr. Jekyll has been acting strange and gone missing. It's up to you to find out what has happened to Dr. Jekyll before Mr. Hyde shows up..."  Spooky stuff.

The room is chock-full of items and it's up to you and your crew to scavenge for any clues that may be able to help aid in your escape.  A total of six can participate in the game, but we rolled with four.  Let me stress the fact that teamwork is essential for getting out of there.  No one person can be the hero.  In the end, we were able to escape and beat the game with only two-and-a-half minutes left to spare!  All of us contributed in solving the puzzles, so it was a team effort that got us out.

While exiting there were flyers for other similar escape games like this one all around Orange County.  One's in Tustin while two others were in Irvine, I believe, and a few others in neighboring cities, too.  All seem to have different themes, so you'll have a different experience at each location.  One had a haunted carnival circus vibe to it.  I'm sure that one will creep a lot of people out if clowns are involved.

This is definitely one experience I will never forget.  It was challenging, unique, clever, and just plain fun!  If there's one of these escape games around you, I'd recommend trying it at least once and hopefully get the same satisfaction that I got when we beat the game.  Resident Evil's got nothing on this!

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Smiling to the beat

April 6, 2017 | 20:50 | Written by: snake911

One game that has eluded me and acted as a blank spot for my PS1 knowledge has been playing PaRappa the Rapper in its entirety.  Now I tried to rectify this by trying to get it a few years back, but was surprised to see how much it goes for on eBay, so it was something I never went forward with adding to my collection.  Instead, I got UmJammer Lammy, the not-so-true official sequel to PaRappa the Rapper last year for my birthday.  Surprisingly you can still get a new copy of the game on Amazon for about $24.00.  Who knew?!

Although, this doesn't mean I'm completely oblivious to PaRappa as I played the heck out of the demo back when a friend let me borrow his demo disc that came packed in with his PS1.  But now here we are in the year of our Lord: two thousand and seventeen, during the 20th anniversary of the original game, Sony went and made a remastered version for the PS4 to redeem myself.  And I gotta say, it's pretty cool.

Visually it's just beautiful.  I normally keep games in their original aspect ratio, but I'm making an exception here as the simple yet vibrant color scheme and big character models make this something you can actually take advantage of your 16:9 widescreen HDTV.  In fact, I believe they mentioned it was also scaled up to 4K.  Nice.

As a bonus, there's even an interview with Masaya Matsuura, the creature of PaRappa the Rapper on PlayStation's official blog.  I loved how he said, "I Wanted to Make a Game that Puts a Smile on Everyone's Face."  Yup, mission accomplished as I'm grinning from ear to ear when I'm playing to the beat of this game.  This release is getting me excited to play the upcoming Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy that groups the first three games in a remastered collection for the PS4.

Man, this year is shaping up to be a great one for PS1 classics.

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Babies -- 1, cyborgs -- 0

April 3, 2017 | 22:47 | Written by: snake911

I got to complete my Ghost in the Shell quest this weekend by seeing the live-action movie, and I gotta say it was pretty rad even despite the dismal amount of money the movie brought in during this weekend's box-office.

Could you believe The Boss Baby made over half as much than what GitS brought in?!  I was surprised at how low the numbers actually were because the movie theater I was at was pretty full.  Welp, I guess Paramount will never do an adaptation of an anime property ever again.

And that's a real shame because it look as if the studio really put all they had into making this successful.  I guess the biggest stink coming from fans of the series was the movie whitewashing of some of the main characters, but for me that wasn't really the concern I had going in.  I just wanted the story to be in line with what one would be for something with the GitS name on it, and I'd say they did a pretty good job.  Not great, but enough for me to recommend it.

Like the Scott Pilgrim movie from 2010 where they needed to truncate and modify parts of the story in order to turn it into a stand-alone live-action movie, they did the same for GitS and I was totally ok with that, even though I prefer how the way things were in the books and movies.  They even went with the similar tactic of borrowing certain iconic scenes from the manga and apply it to the other properties, so it was like this latest movie was just like all the other properties in the franchise.

Although I do wish they did more with the other characters in Section 9 like Togusa, Ishikawa, and Saito because each basically had just one line in movie and that was it!  Mainly it followed the Major and Batou; although, I did like the amount of time Aramaki had in the film.

And finally, with this being the finish line for all of this Ghost in the Shell related topics, posts, and write-ups, let's put a bow tie on this topic and move on to other things, shall we?

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Follow your ghost. Read this feature!

March 30, 2017 | 22:24 | Written by: snake911

This is it!  Here are the last articles for the Ghost in the Shell Post Factum feature.  And just in the nick of time too as the premiere for the live-action movie is tomorrow!  Just like before, click on the image or the title's name to read the articles.  Alternatively you can get to the feature's index page by clicking the image link for the feature on the right-hand side of this page, or any page for that matter.  Or right here!

I'll wrap things up by giving the index page a facelift now that I've barley managed to finish the writing in time, so expect to see more than just a list of hyperlinks and that rushed header image.

Ghost in the Shell: Arise
With a new decade we get another refresh for the franchise.  This time with a younger cast as we get to see how the members of the group coalesced to form the offensive, anti-terrorist unit we love so dearly.

 

Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie
A movie for the Arise series, this concludes the arc story dealing with Fire-Starter.  If you dig the action, then this'll be a treat for your bloodthirsty senses.  Unfortunately the trailer for it is better than the movie itself.

 

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - First Assault Online
Making good on their not so great first-person shooter game they brought to the PSP, they made one for the platform the genre was intended to be played with: the PC.


 

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One last thing...

March 21, 2017 | 21:50 | Written by: snake911

Oh, right!  I forgot to mention in the previous post about the PlayStation Underground CD Magazine was during the first year and a half they included information about the Net Yaroze along with game demos that were developed with the platform.

In case you're wondering what the heck is a Net Yaroze, it was a special PlayStation that allowed hobbyist leveled users build games for the PS1.  It was totally awesome that Sony allowed the opportunity for gamers to put their skills to the test and allow them to make games for the then powerhouse that was PlayStation.

To market the Net Yaroze, they included a number of games with the CD mag and they were such a fascinating thing to look at and actually play.  The small videos they included about the development and contests gave context to what you can do with this special black version of Sony's console.  Sounds dumb, but if I had the cash, I'd try to get a Net Yaroze because it was such a neat product and service for promoting programing and games development.

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A 32-bit periodical

March 19, 2017 | 11:15 | Written by: snake911

About a year and a half ago after I knew my roommate (my brother) and I were splitting up to do our own things and living separately, I went on a bit of a spending spree.  You see, I was planning to continue living in our 2 bed, 2 bath apartment unit solo because I was lazy and didn't want to move.  So knowing in about two months I was going to be broke as heck by forking out the cash for rent without any other income to split it with, I knew my budget was going to be tighter than ever, so like the irresponsible adult that I am, I decided to blow the loose money I had on impractical things like video games.  Hooray!

Although to be specific, I didn't actually buy any games.  Rather, I bought volumes of CD magazines.

Back during the PS1 era I was subscribed to the PlayStation Underground CD Magazine.  I wanna say I learned about it from one of the many documents inside the PlayStation's box that the console came in.  It was a flyer advertising the annual subscription for the CD mag.  Back then magazines were a primary source for getting news about the gaming industry along with reviews for new games, so it was common to regularly buy magazines from a grocery store or get a subscription.  Most of my friends had magazines for me to borrow and read, but with the ushering in of the 32-bit consoles and PlayStation leading the pack in terms of mainstream popularity, it was a big leap forward for games, and Sony made a similar big change in how you stay up to date on their console.  Rather than a passive form by reading words on pages, their own self-published magazine was in a multimedia format, allowing for an interactive experience for consuming information, something definitely new and refreshing at the time.

The CD mag itself was really cool because every 3 months I would get a package in the mail with two CDs inside: one for the magazine with videos on upcoming games, interviews, and other related content, while the second CD was packet with game demos.  And if you were a fan of PlayStation, this was the inside scoop for all things Sony.  Something on par with Nintendo's magazine, Nintendo Power.

I loved it and was a subscriber for two years starting with Volume 1 Issue 4 all the way through Vol. 3 Issue 3 (Dec ‘97 – Sept ‘99).  The only reason why I stopped my subscription was because I was trying to save up all of my money to get a PS2 at launch, so one of the sacrifices I made for getting that next gen console on launch was to unsubscribe to the Underground CD mag.

A while ago around 2010/2011 I attempted to get the issues missing from my own personal Underground collection so I can have the full set from eBay, but at that time people thought those CDs were gold and sold them for high prices.  So high that I didn't even bother to buy or bid on any of the listed magazine issues and decided to just pass on the idea of collecting them.  But would ya believe that a few years later the sellers would have some sense knocked into them that these were fool's gold and dropped the price for these CDs considerably?  So for a solid month before my roommate left, I was searching and snatching up all of the issues I could find.  I believe I got the majority of these from three sellers across the US.

My timing couldn't have been any more perfect as when I was finishing collecting all the issues I could get, Giant Bomb's Demo Derby started showcasing the Underground CD mag.  Shortly after is when I saw the eBay market for the CD mag shrink a bit with other curious viewers of the Demo Derby snatching up copies for themselves.  At least that's my best guess.

I missed out on some good volumes, so I'm glad I got the ones I missed.  For example, Vol. 1 Issue 2 (June ‘97) includes the Square exclusive demo disc that packs in it nothing but Squaresoft games, and a unique JRPG styled interface to boot.  The list includes Final Fantasy VII, Bushido Blade, SaGa Frontier, Bushido Blade, and Final Fantasy Tactics.  I'm also digging all of the Tech Q&A and R&D interviews.  The most interesting issue I took a glance at is Vol. 4 Issue 4 (Dec. 2000) where disc 1 is a disc for PS1 while disc 2 is for the PS2.  This one was, obviously, to celebrate the US launch of the PS2, so this issue needed to deal with the now split user base.

I still have to go through all of the issues in detail in Vol. 4 (year 2000), and yes, I still need to get a copy of the elusive Volume 5 Issue 1 (March '01) PS2 exclusive version to have all the issues in my collection for it to be complete.  If I can get that last one, then I'll die a happy man as I'm a stickler for complete sets.

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Jack's back

March 15, 2017 | 20:47 | Written by: snake911

No, not that JackThis Jack:

This past Saturday was the premiere for the latest season of Samurai Jack, and wow was it great!  Bonkers to believe it's been over a decade since the last episode aired back in 2004.

The obvious big change is how he looks so incredibly different from the original series (not art style, I mean his appearance).  Here he has a beard, wears heavy armor, rides around on a dirty, noisy motorcycle, and uses a small arsenal of firearms rather than a sword; making a striking contrast to what he used to look like.

Since this was the first episode it had a lot of ground to cover for setting up all that's to come in this latest season, and because of that, this 30 minute episode felt more like 60 minutes.  But that's a good thing because every minute of it was extremely entertaining.  We get a lot of time with Jack to get an idea of what he's like now, which is a confused, lost, and tired individual.  It'll be interesting to see how he develops as a character with this new season.

I also like the idea of this small pack of ladies that've been trained all their lives to seek and kill Jack.  In fact, all of the antagonists that were shown in this episode were really cool.  So if every episode is going to be like this one, then I'm excited to see it all the way through.

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Migration

March 9, 2017 | 21:47 | Written by: snake911

I've been listening to Bonobo's latest album Migration.  With it comes a new list of tracks that chill the senses in a tranquil state as you listen to electronica music with his signature technique of weaving everyday sounds into each track.

Even though the album from start to finish is a treasure of songs, there are a few that stand out above the rest.  The first time I listened to the album was out of order.  I normally don't do this, but since I didn't detect any linear path like if it was trying to tell a story, so I figured it was ok.  The first song I heard titled "Kerala" -- which is one with a suspenseful tone -- is the biggest hit for the album.  It has a quick beat and with strings taking center stage from I'm guessing is a harp, but then makes way for repeating lyrics of the latter half.  The music video for it evokes an unsettling nervousness while watching a woman in an eerie situation running through a city.  It's intriguing so you'll watch it to its end to see how the story unfolds even if you don't care for the track.  Unfortunately for me the editing for the video with its quick cuts make it difficult to watch as it tends to strain my eyeballs.

Song 7, "Bambro Koyo Ganda," has a dance club vibe to it with Arabic lyrics on top.  And even though I don't understand what is being said, the flow of the music, lyrics, and hand clapping make it a pretty catchy song.  Then there's "Ontario" with its big beats that go in line with something I would have heard from Amon Tobin.  The slow and sloppy drums are what my ears focus on the most with this one, and the horns make is sound like this could be picked to be part of a soundtrack for a motion picture.

Visually the album's cover art is striking, giving me a similar appreciation for it like from his 2010 album Black Sands.  When glancing at it for the first time, I quickly though of Riven, a video game set in a world with a similar design with human structures surrounded all around by nature, but to my surprise it's a photo taken from the Mojave Desert, which is about an hour's drive from me (and very familiar having family living there).  Without context it's all very alien looking with thought-provoking scenes of rock formations, reflective blue skies, and fire spewing upward in the middle of the shot.  There's a fantastic article about the album art alone, interviewing the photographer and the reasons for their visual theme surrounding Migration.

As a runner's up list, "7th Sevens" and "Outlier" are great, but nowhere as good as the three mentioned above.  Overall Bonobo continues making fantastic music and Migration proves that with these 12 new tracks.  If you want a more relaxed, unwind, and tune out the day kind of music that comes from the electronic music scene, I don't think there's anyone better than Bonobo who can do this.

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Backhacking you with some new intel

March 8, 2017 | 22:11 | Written by: snake911

Chugging right along we have four more items to look at from Ghost in the Shell.  After this we have one more batch of content to post and that'll be everything the franchise has to offer prior to the live-action film, which, I'm still planning to see when it hits theaters later this month.

Click on the image or the title's name to read the articles.  Click here for the feature's index page.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Mamoru Oshii gets back to work on the sequel to his 1995 film.  In one sense the pressure is on due to the critical acclaim the original film had, but on the other hand it's lessened in thanks due to advancements in technology made to make certain visual aspects to the film easier to produce than it was back in '94/'95.

 

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Game PS2
Not sure how easy or difficult it was to turn the style of TV show into a video game, but they were able to do it, impressing this guy who holds the TV series on a high pedestal.  Also, can you believe its been 7 or so years since the last and only Ghost in the Shell video game came out?

 

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Game PSP
Although it wasn't necessary, a decision was made to extend the SAC series by developing a portable game for it.  I say it wasn't necessary because the PS2 game already filled the role for being the product for this form of media.  Even so, I'm not complaining as anything SAC related is good.

 

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society
Closing out the SAC series with a bang, we get a made-for-TV movie that adds one additional chapter to SAC saga before they wrap it up and move on to the next iteration for the Ghost in the Shell franchise.  See the team take on an old familiar name that the franchise has tackled for...like, the fifth time.

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