Tuesday, April 29

what i've been up to - april edition

so wow. april's over. what happened?

i'll tell you what happened:

- finished off the seventh and final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. i watched the entire series in just 3 months. wow. and i was giving myself until summer! it's a great show that really hits its stride in the third season and never slows down after that (well, it does a little in the sixth season). i could go on forever about it - and maybe i will later - but just know that it's a great show that any self-respecting sci-fi geek has to watch.

- immediately after finishing Star Trek i hopped on Battlestar Galactica and got caught up on the entire series - 60+ episodes (including the movies) - in under 2 weeks. there were nights after work when i was watching 6-7 episodes before succumbing to exhaustion. needless to say, it's a great, GREAT show (or else i wouldn't have been so obsessed as to watch 7 episodes a night). it's not without its faults - in fact, the current season (starting with the season 3 ender) is probably the weakest stuff in my opinion - but it's a very dark, very religious (i was surprised just how religious) sci-fi that stands up there with Star Trek: TNG and Babylon 5.

- all my March/April shows are over. New Amsterdam pretty much sucked but i watched it anyway (hey, nothing else was on). if it comes back for another season (doubtful) i probably won't watch. Bizarre Foods was good, but it always is. and South Park - oh South Park. great, great stuff. a few of the episodes felt a little "been there, done that," but not so much as to bog them down. 12 1/2 seasons and they're still going strong.

- now i'm watching House (back for 4 episodes starting tonight), Law & Order: SVU, Law & Order, and Hell's Kitchen. these should take me to the end of the month, at which point i'm not sure WHAT i'll be watching. i'm not even sure if any of my summer shows are returning this year or not - what with the writer's strike and all. might be able to catch up on all those OTHER shows i've always been meaning to watch (like Star Trek and Battlestar) this summer.

- in fact, after finishing Battlestar i moved on to Freaks and Geeks. started it this past weekend and i'll be finishing up the series tomorrow probably (there's only 18 episodes). it's a great high school comedy/drama with just the right jokes. it's some of Judd Apatow's first work (guy that did 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, along with another favorite of mine, Undeclared) and his influence definitely shines through.

- i'm reading my first manga series (that's a japanese graphic novel, for those not in the know). it's called Yotsuba&! and it's a really light, funny series about how happiness can be found all around us. i bought and read the first 5 volumes and am patiently awaiting more (volume 6 is out but that's it right now).

- also read the latest Ultimate Spider-Man trade paperback. it was... ok. it seemed rushed, like it should have been at least another issue or two to deal with all the problems that were brought up. but no, it ended rather abruptly and sloppily. whenever Bendis isn't on his game with Ult. Spidey i just chalk it up to him being too focused on his other work (he's got like 10 projects going at once). i just hope it doesn't continue.

- finishing up reading my Spider-Girl trades. i learned about halfway through that they don't collect the whole series - in fact, they only collect half of it. so if i want to continue the Spider-Girl story i'll have to either wait or go out and buy the single issues. i think i'm going to wait. it's a good, fun series that hearkens back to comics of old, but it's by no means groundbreaking or anything like that.

- Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon continues to ROCK. seriously, they're hitting all the right notes. my only complaint would be that the stories tend to be rushed as they try and pack too much in. oh, and they introduced Mary Jane earlier than i thought they would... and their interpretation of her seems to be based off the one in the original comics - where she's this party girl, a real flirt. maybe it won't turn out that way, but if they do go that route, good on them for staying true to the roots. every other portrayal of MJ nowadays is that of a good girl.

- saw 2 movies in april: 300 and I Am Legend. 300 is a masterpiece. i'm calling it best movie of 2007 without having seen ANY of the Oscar contenders. it was just... brilliant. it was the beauty of Sin City combined with a story that actually had a message. awesome stuff. I Am Legend on the other hand... it was just ok. everything is cool until the monsters attack and you realize that they move EXACTLY like the robots in I Robot (another Will Smith movie). it was more action movie than horror movie. oh, and it didn't know how to end. i saw 2 endings and neither one was very good. now, could i have done any better? i don't know. all i know is that both of those endings sucked. got me interested in checking out the book though, maybe even the other 2 movies that were made about it before I Am Legend. someday.

- after playing Star Wars: KOTOR i decided to take a step back from role-playing games and just knock off as many action games as i could before Grand Theft Auto IV came out (which is tomorrow, by the way). well, it was a good plan, but Battlestar screwed with it. i was able to beat Heavenly Sword, play a little of Folklore before giving up on it, and beat the career mode in DiRT. this was all while playing more Halo than i had been the previous month - new downloadable content came out that my friends and i just had to have, so we've been playing Halo on and off again. oh, and Call of Duty 4. i hope to get a review up of Heavenly Sword one of these days. if not, i'll just say this: it's a beautiful looking, beautifully acted, beautifully crafted story that's way, WAY too short (we're talking 4-5 hours if you're taking your time).

and that's about it. what will May bring?

- i'm going to start watching Ashes to Ashes (the sequel to one of my favorite sci-fi shows of late, Life on Mars) after Freaks and Geeks. then it's on to Deadwood.

- i'm going to be playing Grand Theft Auto IV every night starting Wednesday. it's going to be good. damn well better be - i've been waiting years for it.

- i'll be watching my TV shows until the new episodes run dry.

- i'll still play Halo here and there.

- i'll be on vacation for a week and a half May 16th - 26th down in good-ol' Phoenix, AZ.

- i'll keep on keeping on.

you stay classy.

Tuesday, April 1

i beat it! - Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Star Wars: KOTOR. it was one of the few games that almost swayed me to buy an original Xbox back in the day, but alas, it wasn't enough. i had tried a friend's copy of the game and found the battle system too hands-off and out of my control for my taste. so i never continued playing it.

when i purchased my Xbox 360 over a year ago, KOTOR was still a must-buy for me because it had many critics and fans raving... that, and since it'd been out for a number of years, i could pick it up for under $10 (and i do love my cheap games). well, next-gen games got in the way and i thought i wouldn't get around to playing KOTOR for a long time.

then i played Mass Effect and everything changed.

see, Mass Effect was created by the same developers that did KOTOR over 5 years ago. since i really liked Mass Effect - and since i'm on a huge sci-fi kick right now with Mass Effect, Star Trek: TNG, Babylon 5, etc. - i thought now would be the time to try KOTOR once again.

dear god why did i wait so long?

now, i've got quite a few "favorite games." if you scroll down a ways and look at my side bar, you'll see that there's over a dozen of 'em. however, among those games, very few of them are what i'd consider "near-perfect" - it's just that they are my favorites.

KOTOR is a near-perfect game - from its dialogue to its quest system to combat and story, it is just a damn well-designed game. perhaps the last time i felt this way about a game was after playing God of War, or maybe Ico.

the whole experience was just seamless. a marvel of game design. it allowed the player to make meaningful choices that affected how the game played out. these choices were not always black and white like in Mass Effect - i sometimes found myself using dark-side tactics to get what i wanted because i saw no other way.

what compounded these light/dark decisions was the wonder of a story. it's difficult to talk about it because talking about it would give away too much, but let's just say that many of the characters have things happen to them that bring into question both the goodness of the light and the badness of the dark. i played through the game as a Jedi, but after going through much of the game i started questioning whether or not i made the right decision - or rather, who would it hurt if i just played it a little more dangerous, a little more dark.

it was unbelievable. never has a video game affected me in such a way. BioWare found a way to set up a dialogue system, quest system, and overall story that made me question the light side.

oh, and the twist! now, since the game is 5 years old i had heard people talk, and i knew there was going to be a twist. i also knew in what vein the twist was going to be. however, when it happened, it caught even me off guard. what great storytelling. this twist was part of the reason i started to question the light side. amazing.

something i haven't even touched on yet is the combat and leveling up systems! when i first played the game a few years ago, i felt that it was too hands-off and out of my control. however, i think playing FFXII actually got me used to what type of combat system KOTOR has to offer. your characters basically go through the motions of what you tell them to do, but it happens rather rapidly. you can pause the action to take stock of what's going on and issue new commands, but really its meant to just be pretty much hands-off. what its doing is computing all these numbers and factors that are ripped straight out of Dungeons and Dragons and playing it out before your eyes. see, the combat and leveling up systems work so well because they borrow HEAVILY from D&D - a tried and true game.

playing KOTOR i could see how heavily they borrowed from it to form the basis of Mass Effect. however, i think in the process of trying to evolve with Mass Effect, they actually took a couple of steps back. it was too easy to identify the good and bad ways of doing things in Mass Effect, the D&D in action combat system was abandoned for a third-person shooter to no doubt appeal to a wider audience (but to its determent), and the story wasn't nearly as thought-provoking and twist-filled as KOTOR. however, i still like Mass Effect - it's just that i love KOTOR.

this is as close to a perfectly-designed game (specifically, a western-style role playing game) that i've ever had the honor of playing. it is perhaps the best game of the last 5 years.


9.95 out of 10