3.27.2009

Dragon Ball Kai

Everyone knows how much I love Dragon Ball... So I just stumbled on this piece of news, Toei Animation has remastered Dragon Ball Z for its 20th Anniversary. The new version of the series is called Dragon Ball Kai and will premiere on Fuji TV in Japan on April 5th at 9:30am. This isn't just a simple remaster of the original episodes in HD, the voice acting has been re-recorded by all of the original (living) voice actors. In addition, the music and sound effects are being re-recorded, the and the visual effects have been updated. Also, the opening and ending animation and theme songs are being completely replaced with new content (I'll miss Cha-La Head Cha-La).

Probably the most shocking bit of news is that the episodes have been edited down to remove all filler content so that it moves at a much faster pace, more closely following Akira Toriyama's original version from the comic. How much filler is being removed? The episode number is being reduced from 291 to 100!! This news doesn't bother me much, even as a fan I recognize that Dragon Ball had some pacing issues, I've heard the show referred to as Drag-On Ball many times, so this could be a good thing.

I'm pretty excited to see how these are going to look and sound, I've heard rumors that fan subtitlers are standing by to catch and release these as they air. If I get my hands on them, you'll find out here.

Another quick bit of unrelated Dragon Ball news, a brand new episode of Dragon Ball Z was released at the Jump Super Anime Tour in Japan not too long ago. It's the first "new" Dragon Ball animation to appear in 12 years. It takes place during the Majin Boo saga, and is titled Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return. Here's more info and a download link (password required). Below is a trailer for Dragon Ball Kai.



3.17.2009

Yes Rick, only a dream...

If you didn't do tabletop RPG with me in high school, you probably won't appreciate this. But going back to 1988-1992, our days and nights were dominated by a little thing called Robotech. I blame my friend Kevin for my many fond memories of blowing each other up with barrages of missiles in a mental realm. It was something he'd been doing for a while with a small group of people, and he wanted to get me on board as soon as possible. So I first had to be initiated into the cult by watching six videotapes full of the entire Robotech anime series. After that, I was assigned a character who I named Radd which is a handle that I've stuck with to this day. I had the fortune of moving up the ranks quickly in "Blaxe's Forces" because all I cared about back then were video games and Robotech and all I did for those years was play and play and boost my character's level (in between Kevin's many groundings by his mother, A.K.A. the troll). So in the course of this foolishness, Kevin decided to chronicle our misadventures in a newsletter. There were no computers back then, so all graphic design and art direction was handled alone by Kevin, his typewriter and the copy machine at Lockport Library. The Blaxe's Forces Player Newsletters spanned many incarnations, and was eventually joined by many other writers and contributors, including Kevin's brother Patt who added his unique wit and wisdom to the final three issues.

I'm in the process of scanning each and every page and converting these to PDF at the moment. A project I abandoned a while back, but now that I'm back in regular contact with Kevin and Jim after losing track of them for a while, I've been inspired to return to the project. So without further delay, here is Issue #1 of Blaxes Forces Player Newsletter. I believe this one came out November 1989, but correct me if I'm wrong Kevin...

I'll post the others as I complete their PDF conversions.

3.07.2009

More Street Fighter IV

I just picked up the Street Fighter IV Original Soundtrack. I like it. It's fitting for the material, with a 50/50 mix of old-school remix and original content. It's playing right now on Radd Radio (right sidebar) or download via FTP (password required). Both English and Japanese versions of the title track are present on the two disc set, Disc 1 has all the original content and Disc 2 contains all of the individual character themes.

Capcom also released this really nice FREE downloadable SFIV Training Manual.

As if that weren't enough, the first pieces of SFIV downloadable content are starting to trickle onto Xbox Live and PlayStation Network in the form of five alternate costume packs. Nice to see them finally wearing something new after nearly 20 years. Here's a few of my favorites:

Battle damaged Ryu. He doesn't mess around.

Haggar: "Oh, My clothes!"

Sakura wearing Ryu's outfit. She's in high school.

"Now if you'll 'scuse me, I have to feed Tiger."

Ken in American martial arts outfit. What a sellout.

Battle damaged M. Bison... or Vega, I forget.

Jean-Claude Van Damme is Charlie Nash... Er, Guile.

For those weren't sure Fei Long was an homage to Bruce Lee.

Chun-ster Formalwear

Now that I've had time to really play it a while and absorb it I've decided it's not Street Fighter II. But I guess in order to make a sequel they feel they have to progress it. I personally have no use for things like alpha counters, chain combos, parries, air-blocking, dashing or rolls. Street Fighter II had just the basics, none of the technical BS. You had to actually PLAY and BE GOOD to work your way out of certain game exploits, but it was possible with good timing. I think the addition of extra offensive or defensive techniques dumbs down the core of what Street Fighter II was. A true test of hand-eye coordination. Throws were the most technical thing you could do in Street Fighter II, and I will forever compare every thing that comes after... to Street Fighter II, because in my mind that game is the standard by which all should be judged. Not everyone agrees with me on that, and that's okay. It's my favorite, and apparently always will be.

What upsets me a little is that Capcom kept saying "we're taking out all of that technical stuff" and Street Fighter IV is gonna go back to the roots and be more like II. I've mentioned before the game is much slower than SF2 already. Already we're seeing it dumbed down just like everything so "everyone" can enjoy it (ahem Mario Kart Wii). But then I find EX Moves, Super Armor and Focus attacks. Now you can't even be hit by an attack! That's right, someone comes in, all you have to do is hold Strong and Forward and you get Super Armor. Problem is, you're stuck in that animation until it's over, but fear not, double tap and you're out of the animation and can attack your crumple stunned opponent with an Ultra Combo, not too technical at all, right? There's another problem, Ultra Combos... WAY too easy to do. The strategy now becomes go ahead and beat the tar out of me for the first 20 seconds of the match so I can get my revenge meter up. Then I'll win the match with two quarter circles and all three punch buttons. I don't understand the logic of Street Fighter IV's development; either make it like SF2 or don't, don't go halfway. I'm left hoping Street Fighter IV Turbo comes out so I can speed it up and defeat my opponents before they have a chance to even whip out any of this technical crap. It's just tough to go from playing SF2 Turbo SNES on 8 speed stars to the modern day of nerfing.

I will say this for Street Fighter IV. I still like it and I'm compelled to continue getting better at it and even learning the technical aspects of it. It's just that good of a game. I wasn't interested in playing Street Fighter III at all until third Strike, and even then I gave it my "Ok, not bad" label. Street Fighter Zero was enjoyable, I actually played Street Fighter Zero 2 quite a bit, but already the technical aspects were beginning to creep in. But Street Fighter IV sounds good, it's nice to look at, and I like all of the characters, even the new ones, especially El Fuerte. Focus Attacks and slowness aside, it's still fun, and I think downloadable content will make it even better. Think about it, instead of buying the same game three to five times, Capcom could release Street Fighter IV Champion Edition as a downloadable add-on. They could speed it up, add characters and moves, take things like Focus Attacks out, you never know! An option to disable the Focus Attacks and Ultra Combos would be nice. Play it "with honor" (we're not gonna throw right?). Or I could stop complaining and actually learn this stuff. Also an option to turn off the yelling narrator would be nice. "WHICH OF THESE FIGHTERS WILL COME OUT ON TOP? THIS IS GONNA BE ONE HELL OF A MATCH!" Yeah we know narrator dude, SHUT UP already! Go back to SFZ3 and Capcom vs. SNK 2 where you belong!

I'll continue to learn and maybe someday you'll read a blog about how I love Focus Attacks. But for now, I'll play it like Street Fighter II, and occasionally dabble in the new aspects and see where I end up. Until then:


3.03.2009

Part 2: The iPhone is the greatest invention in the history of civilization.

In our last episode, I was convinced by a shady phone salesman to make a horrible financial decision.

As it turns out though, it wasn't so horrible a decision because the iPhone is the greatest invention in the history of mankind. Although Koop is quick to point out that the iPhone was created by aliens, not man. He's probably right, but just like I assist Google in their takeover of the world for the sake of my own convenience, I'm also willing to assist aliens in their takeover as well. Again, for my own convenience.

What's so great about this iPhone? Well, this is a screen capture I took from my own phone. As you can see there are a bunch of Icons floating around. Let me explain how awesome this is. The iPhone is an appointment book (Calendar), a camera (Snapture), a video recorder (Cycorder), and an alarm clock with world clocks, now I know what time it is at John's house (Clock). It syncs your contacts with your computer (Contacts), you can view Google Maps and Google Earth with assisted GPS and turn by turn directions. Using the GPS, you can find whatever is around you, like gas stations, hospitals, movie theaters or even Apple Stores (AroundMe). Built in Yellow Pages and Accuweather that dynamically updates based on your location in the GPS. Not enough? Download new apps in the store, or even new music for your iPod, which is built in. Did I mention that? Yeah, built in 16GB iPod. I can update my Twitter, chat with my many, many friends on AIM or ICQ, (okay I have 4 friends, maybe 5). Oh also a full featured web browser (Safari) is built in, pretty pimp right? That's only page 1, lets swipe to page 2...

On page 2, I can get the showtimes and trailers for the closest theaters to me (again, theough the GPS), I can browse tonight's TV listings on Comcast, find out where there's some free Wi-Fi in the immediate area, check on my eBay auctions, track packages through FedEx, and query Wikipedia at the touch of a button. RDP allows me to connect to my server desktop. If Radd's Basement ever has a problem, I can correct it no matter where I am. There's also a wealth of media available if my 16GB of space ever should fill up. SHOUTcast is the internet radio network that served Gaming FM for years. Pandora allows you to type in an artist and it will play selections from that artist plus randomly select similar artists and play their songs. Shazam will listen to a song through the iPhone mic and identify the title for you. It's like black magic. Heard it on the radio but never knew who it was? Never again. Orb and TVersity give me access to all the media on my server, music and video. I can watch Star Trek in the doctor's office now. I can also tune in to the latest episode of I suck at Soul Calibur thanks to the YouTube app. I can type quick notes, or make complex calculations like Olaf does.

You'd think that would be enough stuff to do on the go. But I'm not satisifed... Let's go to page 3: Here I can look at the memory and status of the iPhone and free up memory if I need to (iStat). I can leave myself an audio note or record what's going on in the room (iTalk). I can make a phone call with an altered voice and caller ID just like a spy... should that need ever arise (SpoofApp), or I can light up a dark room (Flashlight). I have a bubble level at my side whenever I need to straighten a shelf on the fly (Carpenter), and I know what and when my Xbox 360 friends are playing without turning on my system (Inside Xbox). I can watch a soothing Aquarium, or listen to some WhiteNoise, like ocean waves or a fireplace to help me sleep. I can play an Ocarina, literally, I can play a damn Ocarina on my iPhone, just like Link. Except he doesn't use an iPhone. I can detect whether people are humans or Cylons, I can pretend ti kill people with a Lightsaber, I can mark the spot where I parked my car at the mall and be led back to it with GPS when I'm done, or I can play Pac-Man, Tetris, or Frogger. It's got a nice 320x480 screen, and those iPhone owners with a keen eye will notice some other upgrades I've made to it ;)

You know what else? I can CALL PEOPLE with it. Yeah that's right. Now if you don't think the iPhone is the greatest invention in the history of the universe, even better than sliced bread and the wheel, then just stick with your regular old phone that just calls people and does nothing else except sit there and keep papers from blowing away and hold doors open. As for me, I'm stickin with my iPhone. This concludes today's lesson.

3.02.2009

Part 1: Got iPhone, became iNerd

I've been hearing how great the iPhone is for a while now, but like most things, you really don't know until you try. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not one to jump on a bandwagon. If everyone's doin it, chances are I'm not. Probably why I never got into booze, smokes or weed. I realized early on that I was different from most people, and for a long time believed there was something wrong with me. Turns out there's something wrong with this country... It's dumber than a fish on a bicycle. So typically I don't follow the crowd, because the crowd is an idiot.

I will however take a second look when my friends start doing something because for the most part they're a pretty sharp bunch... For the most part. So everyone's telling me I need an iPhone and I can see a few interesting things here and there and after some research I thought that might be a cool thing to have someday, but right now I work at US Cellular, and I can get free phone service through them, and you need AT&T for an iPhone. So why would I spend all the extra money? Well, a few circumstances fell into place, and I'll tell you about them.

First of all, I have AT&T as a provider and always have since Sarah and I jumped on the cell phone bandwagon a couple years ago (yes we were late bloomers, my wife like myself is not a follower). When I first started at US Cellular, I ordered a Motorola Q9c phone through the employee phone program. That was in October. Something happened to my order, and I never received my phone. Around December, I called the employee phone program and asked what the delay was. They apologized and said they'd ship it right away. Two days later I got a box and excitedly opened it. Inside was a Blackberry, not the Motorola I ordered. At the time I had a Mororola Razr. I liked that phone and wanted to stick with Motorola. So again, I called the employee phone program and asked what the deal was. They again apologized and said ship back the phone and we'll ship your proper phone. I shipped back the phone, and to this day never received the one I ordered. Then my surgery came up and this whole thing took a back seat for a while.

Last week my Razr died, decided it was tired of living and killed itself. I called US Cellular employee phone program, and they apologized yet again and said they could get me my proper phone in a couple days. Hmmm... kinda need a new phone now, and based on the performance on the employee phone program thus far, I'm not really expecting to have a phone to speak of anytime soon. It's been two years, I should be eligible for a new contract discount on an upgrade with AT&T, I'll see what they've got. So I went to the AT&T store in Joliet Mall to see what they could do for me. A fellow with a white shirt, black tie and amazing mohawk named Sean (presumably pronounced SH-AW-NN) stopped over to help me. I had been looking at the iPhone at the moment. Bad timing. "Interested in an iPhone?" I smiled and said, "eh, maybe someday, right now I just wanna fix my phone or get a new one." Sean took a look and said maybe my antenna was dead, cause I'd been getting no signal. So we decided to look into a new phone, 'cause I need a phone obviously, and that day for sure I was going to get one. So we talked about the things I use a phone for, and Sean seemed unable to let go of the fact that I was eyeing up that iPhone. I was unwilling to put down the extra cash to pay for it, but at the end of the day, Sean defeated me and I walked out with an iPhone.  He even mentioned the fact that my phone not arriving from US Cellular and my contract coming up and phone dying all at the same time were signs I needed to get an iPhone.  He was good...  Like a politician, ninja or some kind of sorcerer.

WORTH EVERY PENNY! I will explain why in Part 2: The iPhone is the greatest invention in the history of civilization.

3.01.2009