The Phoenix Nest
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I'm sorry! *cries* This blog has been unintentionally neglected! I say unintentionally because I've been meaning to write a blog on something, but every time I try to think of a subject, my mind just blanks. My bad! So um... this blog should probably have some actual content to it, hey? I know! An update on my boring life. In point form!

- My manga collection is currently at 227 volumes! I know this is an obvious thing to say, but I am quite proud of it. I have no idea how much I've spent on it all, but it's easily over $2,000. It seems like so much more when you think of it like that...
- I recently bought a PS3! Finally! I got a 160gb console, HDMI cable and 4 games (Infamous, Uncharted, LBP and MGS4). Unfortunately I bought them all online (the games are all US imports, the rest from GAME online) so I have to wait for them to arrive... The wait is killing me!
- Speaking of waiting for things to arrive, I have so many things coming in the mail! DVDs, Blu Rays, even more manga, anime figurines... many many things, the waiting is killing me! However it is also exciting. I get so impatient though, and usually I check the mail at least 3 times a day, even if something has already been delivered! It's a good thing I do though, because they sometimes leave something and then come back later!

I think that's about it. I'll try to do another blog soonish... If I remember to that is >_< I know, I'll do a special PS3 blog after I've had the chance to play all the games I bought. It'll probably cover many things, like the games themselves, my thoughts on the system (eg interface) and possibly a DVD comparison with the 360's DVD player.

Oh, and here is a picture of puppies to apologise for the neglect.

Fallout New Vegas Impressions

After playing 20 hours of Fallout New Vegas, I figured it was time for an impressions blog!

I know for many people, Fallout New Vegas is a kind of questionable title. Will Obsidian deliver us yet another bug-riddled game? Will the game feel new enough to warrant a purchase? New enough or not, is the game just an expansion pack? The short answers to these questions are: yes, yes and no. The long answers? Read on and find out.

Bugs, Glitches and Crashes

Firstly, there are a whole heap of bugs. If you want a game with no bugs in it then look elsewhere. The bugs that I've encountered however are not really that big of a deal. Some reviews I've read out there on the Interweb say that the game is so buggy that despite all the good points, you'll give up because of them. This is not true. I am playing the unpatched 360 version, and I've yet to come across any bug that has made me want to quit... except the Cazador (har har har). The bugs I have encountered aren't anything new anyway. These bugs were already in Fallout 3. If you played Fallout 3 and the bugs didn't bother you, then chances are the bugs in this won't bother you either. I've encountered a few system lockups, and while annoying, they aren't really game breaking. As long as your autosave is working and you save manually after big fights, level ups, quests, etc, then the lockups probably won't bother you either.

To those of you that can't look past the bugs - Bethesda and Obsidian are fixing it! They've already released a PC patch that fixes over 200 bugs and glitches (none of which have been named) and a 360+PS3 patch is on the way. No doubt we'll be seeing many more patches in the coming months.

New Content

I came into Fallout New Vegas thinking that it would be pretty much the same as Fallout 3, just with a new setting, new characters, a few new weapons and items, and a few new game mechanics that wouldn't really make much of a difference. Boy was I wrong. I'm not going to say that everything is different, because it's clearly not, but I'd say the different things outweigh the recycled things.There are new sound effects - not just music and stuff for new enemies, but stuff like the jumping sounds and sounds for kicking a bucket or empty bottle on the floor. Most, if not all existing weapons have been given new sound effects for firing and reloading, and they are great! There are new ambient sounds too, which make the world feel more alive.

There are also new particle effects, stuff like dust storms and smoke. They are a small part of the game, but they are a pretty noticeable addition, especially if you manage to find Hidden Valley. Fire has also been given a makeover to make it seem more realistic. I could go on and on about the changes, but I can't be bothered... not to mention it would be boring to read. The easiest way to discover them is to play the game yourself.

An Expansion? Hell No!

Even with the amount of DLC, I would have been happy with an expansion to Fallout 3. This is so much more than that. It's almost overwhelming, even to a veteran Fallout 3 player like myself. I played the absolute crap out of Fallout 3, and I was a bit worried that I'd get New Vegas, play it through once and then move on. After an hour of playing the game, I knew this wouldn't be the case. Almost everything felt new to me, and that which wasn't new felt like the return of an old friend I hadn't seen in a while. Lame metaphor, but that's how it was.

So, should you buy it? You only have to answer one question. Did you like Fallout 3? If yes, then you'll like this. If no, then you probably won't.

Reach Out

So, Halo Reach is out! My verdict: Pretty awesome. I finished the campaign last night, and I gotta say, it was great. Better than Halo 3? At the moment I'm not too sure. Both were great in their own way. My favourite mission is the one where you have to fly the Sabre. Not just the flying and shooting part, but the run up the beach towards the Sabre facility is epic too.

Firefight though is another story. I don't know about anybody else, but it seems like it's not all that fun, by yourself anyway. Also the sets go on too long. I was going for 20 minutes and I only finished one round! I just ended up quitting out of it.

So yeah, there are my impressions of the game... sorry it's not much but I'm not really in a writing mood right now. Maybe I'll do something more in-depth later.

125 volumes of manga! + Updates

Some explanation of the above image is probably required. This is my manga archive, the spreadsheet I use to keep track of all my manga. I'm trying to keep it simple, so the columns should explain themselves, but there are 2 that might not be so straightforward. Firstly the "Last Volume" column is there so I can see what the last volume I own of each series is. The "In Between" column is in case I skip a volume - either accidentally or because the store doesn't have that particular volume. It's pretty clean right now, and I'm actually proud of that, though those 5 volumes that I've missed are digging at me! Also the rows in red are the series I intend to get in the future, despite having plenty of ongoing series in the list already.

Seem a little boring? Here's the whole collection in photograph format!

Enough of that for now though. This is the first blog in a while, mainly because I haven't really had anything to blog about. I can assure you though that there will be more blogs coming... eventually. My schedule is pretty blank until Halo: Reach comes out - I'll be pre-ordering the Special Edition for that, and I'll probably do an impressions or review blog for that. After that comes the biggest release of the year for me: Fallout New Vegas! It's going to be quite epic, and I've already decided what my first play style will be (tank/heavy weapons). Besides those two, I have basically nothing going on until November. How boring.

Lego Batman Review

The Lego games have been some of my favourites for a long time. As a child I loved Lego the most out of all my different toys, and even now there are a few kits I'd love to buy and collect, though I'd never actually play with them like I did as a kid. The Lego series of games keep the fun that makes Lego so unique. I picked this up for a mere $6.95 at EB.

The premise of the Lego games is, and always has been, pretty simple. Levels are linear, and you'll usually know exactly what to do to get to the next area. You take control of at least 2 characters, and each usually has their own talents, like jumping high or super strength. You'll need to use these talents to solve relatively simple puzzles and move on.

Lego Batman is no different to the rest of the Lego games. The setting and characters have changed, but it's still the same game underneath. This is by no means a bad thing. In this installment you take control of Batman and Robin in one mode, as well as many of the series' super villains in another mode. The stories of these modes remains the same, just in one you are trying to stop the villains and in another you are the villains trying to achieve your goals. Though the stories are the same between modes, the levels are not, so each story feels different from the other. The story is told though humorous cutscenes, and it's incredibly easy to follow, even though there is no spoken dialogue, as is a trademark of the Lego series.

During the levels you'll find yourself collecting things that will be familiar if you've played any of the other Lego games - there are 10 mini-kit parts per level, one red brick used to unlock cheats, and of course thousands of little studs. These studs, as always, are the currency in the game, and can be used to unlock new characters and cheats. The purchasable characters in this game aren't as interesting as they were in other games, due to the dual story; you unlock any characters you play as, meaning you'll unlock most of the villains as you progress. This is a slight annoyance to those like myself who usually take a break between levels to see what is new, but overall it doesn't affect the game too much.

So as you can probably tell, the old and often mentioned saying, 'If it ain't broke don't fix it', is pretty fitting for the Lego games. They're all ridiculously fun, even more so if you are playing with a friend, and have very little flaws. However... the flaws are there. They always have been there, right from the first Lego Star Wars game, and it's quite a shame that the developers, Traveller's Tales, are taking the saying too literally.

For instance, there are many ares with respawning enemies. This is a big no-no in game design, and yet it's in every Lego game I have played! Sure the enemies are easy to kill, but how are you meant to concentrate on the puzzles when new enemies appear from nowhere every 10 seconds? In fact, almost every flaw the game has is related to the enemies. Often they'll head straight for whatever character you're playing as, leaving your partner alone. Many times I've seen them run right by Robin and head directly for me playing as Batman, and Robin will just stand there doing nothing! And when your partner does fight, they may as well be whacking the enemies with a newspaper. I don't think I've ever seen my partner take down an enemy without me taking control.

Finally, the partner AI is pretty stupid. They'll follow you everywhere, but they won't really do anything other than that. There are usually doors that need opening by both characters standing on a switch at the same time, or pulling a lever at the same time, and the AI will do those pretty easily, but that's about as helpful as they get. Even that is sometimes painful. At one point I needed to get Batman and Robin onto a dual-person switch on top of a platform. Every time I got on the platform as Batman, I fell off and had to do it again, but Robin would make it on. Then, as I'd go back up, Robin would jump off and follow me! Surely it's not hard for him to stand there and wait for me...

That said, it's still an excellent game. Graphics are okay, nothing special, but they don't really need to be. The sound is great, with excellent background music and sound effects. Best of all is, and always has been in Lego games, the gameplay. As always there is lots of replayability here - my tip is to finish all of the stories, unlock all the characters and then go back and do each level again in free play, because you won't be able to get everything unless you've unlocked certain characters.

My verdict - Buy it! Don't make the common mistake of overlooking it because it's Lego. It may be aimed at children, but it's so much fun that you won't care.

E3 - Nintendo Press Conference Thoughts

Okay, time for the Big N to show us why they are king! Or... something like that.

- New Zelda game... I'm actually over Zelda. This doesn't excite me as much as it should.
- Okay, so now they're showing us how it controls.
- It's basically what Twilight Princess was meant to be, but wasn't. Bit late Nintendo...
- This looks terrible to control. Half the time he's swinging and nothing is happening.
- Haha, it took him 5 swings of the Wii remote to throw one bomb.
- Miyamoto is claiming that they are having some difficulties, and that it usually runs smoothly. Riiiight.
- LOZ: Skyward Sword won't be out until next year.
- Apparently characters look real on the Wii. Well that's a blatant lie.
- New Mario sports game is called Mario Sports Mix. Coming next year, games include hockey and basketball.
- Now comes the bragging about how Nintendo is the best. Seriously Reggie, get over it.
- "We have sold 20 billion copies of everything we've ever made!"
- Wii Party - sounds like a fetish porno.
- Haha, Nintendo is trying to top Harmonix's Dance Central with Just Dance 2. Good luck...
- Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is up now. Looks boring to me, don't see why it's so anticipated.
- A new Goldeneye game is coming out. Exclusive for Wii. Prediction: It will be disappointing.
- It'll also be out this year.
- Hahahaha. New Disney game is titled Disney Epic Mickey. Whoever named that should be shot.
- The main selling point of this is a painting mechanic that lets you paint things into the world, or erase them.
- A new Kirby game is coming for the Wii... I think. The stream is crappy, I have no video at all, just audio.
- It's called Kirby's Epic Yarn. Yo Nintendo - Adding 'epic' to your game titles won't make them better.
- Dragon Quest IX - coming in 26 days to the US (So like 5 months for us)
- Metroid: Other M is up now. I can't see it but I can tell by the music and sound effects.
- Still trying to find a better stream. Trying and failing.
- Okay, got video back up.
- I feel a new Metriod title coming on.
- Oh no, it's Donkey Kong! I assume this is for Wii, where's the DS love? :(
- It's called Donkey Kong Country Returns.
- The 3DS is now being talked about.
- Won't need 3D glasses. That's a plus.
- Looks like you'll be able to turn the 3D off if you want, or make the effect stronger.
- It also includes heaps of other additions, like a slide pad for analog control and accelerometer.
- You'll be able to watch 3D movies on it. Yay, let's all strain our eyes! It was bad enough on the PSP...
- A new game with that angel dude I don't care about has been announced.
- Kid Icarus: Uprising.
- Don't know if this is for the 3DS or Wii... can't tell.
- It's 3DS.
- I can't understand half of the things this guy is saying...
- So the 3DS connects to wifi points all the time, even when it's off.
- Yay, Nintendogs and Cats!
- Now he's quickly going through some 3rd party games that will be made for 3DS.
- Big cheers for Metal Gear, Resident Evil and Kingdom Hearts.
- Laughter for Saints Row.
- Now some industry people are talking about how cool 3DS is. I wonder how much they got paid.
- Oh, apparently the 3DS has a 3D camera too.
- You heard it here first - Nintendo 3DS is the ONLY thing worth seeing at E3!
- 3DS will make fluffy dogs come out of the screen and into your arms.
- Nintendo is giving the people in the crowd a 3DS to trial... the 3DS is chained to a lady!
- Microsoft's free Xbox 360s was a much better sign-off.
- No Nintendo, you haven't raised the bar. You've just jumped on the 3D bandwagon.

So that's it for Nintendo! I miss Cammie and the crazy drum guy. Not too bad though, because they really brought it with the hardcore titles. There was hardly anything exclusively casual!

Now I'm going to bed, because there's no way I'm staying up past 4am!

E3 - Microsoft Press Conference Thoughts

Alright, it's 1:30am and I'm waiting for the MS press conference to start. I plan on leaving my thoughts for all 3 of the main conferences, so time to get started on this one!

- First up is COD: Black Ops. Looks good, but the game's not really on my radar.
- MGS: Rising now. I was thinking that this wouldn't be a big deal, but the sword mechanic looks awesome. Can't wait to kill some watermelon!
- The sexy beast of gaming, Cliffy B, is up!
- Live Gears 3 footage! Awesome! Loving it so far! The new Lambent enemies, especially that badass with the mouth lasers! Also female Gears - unnecessary, but I can see why they did it.
- Peter Molyneux is on stage. Yawn... so over him now.
- Fable III will be totally unlike the other Fable games! Yeah, heard that before >_>
- Okay, so we get a trailer for Fable III. Looks... like Fable really. It's a shame the trailer is made like a shitty movie trailer.
- New gladiator-style Crytek game looks promising. Can't wait to cave some skulls.
- Halo Reach = awesome. Specifics that I'm loving: Assault rifle sounds like a REAL WEAPON NOW! :O! Takedown move on Elite looks awesome. And was that space battle gameplay footage?! Awesome!
- Okay, boring stuff now. Kinect (Natal) seems to be the big talking point.
- The song they want you to play on Zune? Justin Bieber. /wrists
- Some more boring stuff, I wasn't paying attention.
- ESPN partnering with Xbox. Yawn.
- "Oh hai, I'm an ESPN dude, I makes sports jokes so you know I'm cool *thumbs up*"
- The guy talking about Kinect looks like a hobo...
- There's now a small child on stage playing with a tiger called "Skittles" via Kinect. She's creeping me out.
- The tiger is cute though.
- This game looks like some random fun, but as a Kinect exclusive, I doubt I'll ever get it.
- Now: Kinect Sports, a game where your 360 avatar plays some sports! Sound familiar? I wonder if this will be free with Kinect...
- Hurdles? Seriously? Yeah, cause I always want to run on the spot and jump like an idiot...
- Wow, racing with Kinect looks worse than it does on the Wii...
- The woman playing the game is annoying me with her terrible self-commentary.
- Now a game where you jump around to collect tokens... Kinect is just looking like Eye Toy now.
- And now some soccer moms are playing a rafting game. MS are obviously whoring themselves out to casuals just like Nintendo. Hopefully when they fail they turn back to the hardcore games.
- A fitness game is next. Very original Ubisoft.
- Ubi must have paid MS quite a bit, they're spending much more time showing this than pretty much every other game shown at this conference.
- I'll admit, the punching part of this demo looks fun. The rest of the game however... boring.
- "No other exercise option gives you what we do!" Yeah, except, you know, going outside and actually doing it.
- Oh damn, Harmonix is bringing a dancing game out for Kinect. Looks like I'll probably be forced to buy it by my DDR-loving girlfriend...
- Kinect release date: November 4th in the US
- New Star Wars game exclusive for Kinect. Looks pretty cool, but we didn't get to see what the person playing was doing.
- Now some guy from Turn 10 is talking about how Forza 3 works with Kinect.
- Okay, so apparently they couldn't do a PGR-style, walk-around garage without Kinect...
- You can also sit in the car. Cool I guess, but you can still do that with a controller.
- 360 Slim announced, predictable. Awesome looking, built in Wi-Fi and 250GB hard drive! And apparently it will be the same price as the old one (don't know what model).
- Being shipped in US today, in stores by the end of the week!
- Everybody in the audience gets a free one. Lucky bastards.

That's it for the MS press conference! The announcement of the new 360 was worth waiting for! I shall be back tomorrow night for the Microsoft and Sony conferences!

Red Dead Review

Set in 1911, Red Dead Redemption is one of only a few games in the western genre. Why aren't there more games in this genre, I don't know. Frankly, I don't care, because this is the only one that matters. It's just that good.

You play as John Marston, a man who has lived his life in the classic outlaw fashion. He's robbed banks, shot Indians and ridden horses all his life. But his gang members betrayed him. Left him for dead. So he decided to turn his life around. Start a family. Go straight. Unfortunately, it wasn't so easy. His past has caught up with him. The government is holding his family hostage, and he won't see them again unless he hunts down and kills his old gang buddies. This is where Red Dead Redemption starts.

The storyline is engaging. It's full of memorable characters, standard western cliches and emotion. For me, the last one is what matters most. Rockstar have built this story out of emotion, and they expect you to care about the characters, your actions and the overall outcome. They succeeded in this. I won't spoil anything for those who haven't played the game, but it does get pretty emotional at certain times. The ending is especially unique. It's unlike anything I've experienced in a game before, and it will stay with me for a long time. Everything comes together for something truly memorable.

But the story is not the only thing that is memorable. The overall atmosphere is the best I have ever seen. No exceptions. As you ride up to an abandoned house, you really get the feeling that it was once somebodies home. As you're riding across the plains you'll spot birds in the distance, the setting sun making them all the more visible and easy to spot. The sky darkens and rain starts to fall. You want to get out of the rain, even though it has no effect on anything. The thunder rumbling in the distance makes you want to snuggle down somewhere and sleep through the storm.

The first thing that makes up this atmosphere is the game world itself. First of all, the map is huge. Even after over 50 hours of play time, there were interesting places I was stumbling across for the first time. The world also contains varied environments: plains, deserts, swamps, woods and mountains. And in each of these environments live animals. These animals you can hunt, and sell their skins and meat for money. They aren't just there as a source of income through. They are there to make the world feel more real. This is an alive world, and the animals reinforce that. The only other Rockstar game with this kind of scope was GTA San Andreas. It was filled with open space, but it all felt empty. There is none of that here. You could be walking through a featureless desert and it would not feel empty, because you can see the hawks flying overhead, hear the coyotes barking and chasing each other.

Not only that, but the world is full of interesting places to visit. Classical western towns like Armadillo, Mexican villages like Chuparosa and the beginnings of a modern city: Blackwater. These places are filled with life. Dogs barking and running around, chickens pecking at the ground, raccoons sneaking around at night trying to find something to steal. But of course, there are the people too. The sheriff, putting up wanted posters outside the prison. Prostitutes selling themselves to anybody who will listen. Drunks staggering around the street. The people are just as important as the animals in making up this world.

The next part the atmosphere is the graphics. They are, simply put, amazing. I have it on 360, but I know the graphics are nowhere near as good on the PS3 (my brother has it on PS3. He has a much better TV than I do, and the 360 version is still better on mine) Usually I would say that the graphical difference doesn't matter, but it really does. This is the first game where I would say that graphics are as important to me as gameplay. Because they pull you into the world, and they keep you there. At the time of writing there are a few graphical glitches, but they are so minor that it's hardly worth mentioning.

The final part of the excellent atmosphere is the sounds. Hawks screeching from above, a train chugging past, wolves howling. These all serve to immerse you further into the world. And the music! The music is authentic western music, usually not worth mentioning, but the way it is used is just so perfect. Not to mention the typical saloon music you'll here as you pass a saloon in town. I thought I would miss the radio from the GTA games while riding across the plains, but I don't.

The gameplay is typical of a Rockstar game: varied and excellent. Dueling is fun, though I only really got the hang of it once I looked it up online. I probably should have read the tutorial more carefully. Everything else, from shootouts to riding your horse, feels polished and smooth. The only criticism I have on this part is that changing weapons in a hurry takes a bit of getting used to. The animations and physics have been stepped up a notch from GTA IV, and the difference is noticeable. While taking cover, John will flinch and duck as bullets come flying towards him. It really makes it feel more real.

Red Dead Redemption is a game that I hope I never forget. It's the best game I have played all year, and quite possible the best I have ever played. It really deserves all the praise it gets. And from me, it gets a 10.

Updates (14/05/10)

Alrighty, here's what I've been up to!

Finished Assassin's Creed 2. One word: Awesome. Three words: Give me more! Having finished the 2nd one 100% (Including all achievements!) I can now say that Assassin's Creed is one of my top game series, in the top 10 at least. The story is so compelling and the gameplay is a delight too. The repetition that many, including myself, complained about in the first one is totally gone. Sure, there are repetitive things in the second one too, such as courier missions and races, but the best part is that these are completely optional (bar a few essential ones at the very start of the game). The whole money system works surprisingly well; after reading reviews saying that the villa was pointless I didn't expect to enjoy it so much! Sure it's not very hard to get money, but I loved upgrading the town and collecting all the paintings for the villa. I just wish the town was bigger and that you could upgrade the actual villa itself (beyond the paintings). I hope it makes a return in the inevitable third installment. One of the best parts about the game was the glyphs! They are non-essential, but provide so much backstory, and some great puzzles too. In all it was a brilliant game, and I can't wait for the next one!

Finished Fracture. This was pretty fun. Unlike Assassin's Creed 2 it was neither long or all that interesting story-wise, but the terraforming aspect is a new and welcome change. The gameplay was solid, if a little bland. Story was uninspired. But the music was great! Orchestral quality. It really reminded me that I was playing a Lucasarts game, because you can tell that they had a hand in it. It's Star Wars scale music. Overall I'm glad I didn't pay full price when it came out, but it's a good addition to my game library.

New games. I picked up Lost Planet on the day after my previous blog, and just yesterday I grabbed the XBLA Unplugged Volume 1 collection for just 4 bucks at EB. I used to laugh at those collections, but it's actually pretty good value. I only wanted one game in the collection, Bejeweled 2, which would have set me back 400 MSP. Considering 500 MSP is about $8.25, I consider that a bargain. Best of all, the disk is in near mint condition. I don't think the previous owners knew how to use it...

Manga. I got all 12 volumes of manga I had ordered from Borders. I have only read 1 so far, but I plan to start on the rest tonight. This brings my total manga volumes to 106! If anybody wants to know what they all are, leave a comment and I'll do a blog about it, maybe with pictures too!

The boring stuff. Tafe is going well for me, though I'm not very motivated about most of the classes, the exception being Flash where we have moved on to making simple Flash games. I am making one where you gotta kill demon sheep, while sparing the regular ones. I might put it online once it's done. A word of warning though: It will be really basic, it will be really easy, and my artwork will be crap.

That's all for now, hope you are all well!

A spending spree!

On Monday, my brother surprised me by asking to buy my old PC that I don't use anymore since I've got my much better laptop. He asked how much I wanted for it, so I said $500. He was happy with that, I was happy with that, and today I got that money. And almost immediately I spent it all. My bad. Here's a list of my swag:

- 6 volumes (3-8) of Suzuka
- Red Dead Redemption pre-order
- Assassin's Creed 2
- Just Cause 2
- Mirror's Edge
- Fracture
- Turok
- Bionic Commando

Now I know those last 3 are a bit on the average side, but I've been wanted to play them for a while, and Gametraders had a buy 2 get 1 free deal going on, so I decided to take them up on it. On top of that, I also got a present for my better half, though that will remain a secret until she gets it!

I'm also super excited about my manga purchases. Though, due to the whole volcano barf thing going on in Europe, they won't ship for a while. It's annoying, but also more exciting, since I already bought 6 volumes last week. This shipping delay means that I'll be getting 12 volumes all at once! Exciting!!!

But now comes the hard part... what to play first?!