Jay's Internet Log

Tag: Star Trek

Initial Impressions – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

by on Oct.06, 2010, under Gaming, General

Everywhere I go to read about this game I see a mixed bag of opinions.  On one hand, the game is too difficult to figure out or is a clone of another style of game.  On the other hand it’s a beautiful piece of art, feels like classic Castlevania using today’s technology, and sucks you in to the point where you don’t want to put it down.  Luckily, I fit into the latter group after playing for about three hours last night, though I can definitely see what people are saying who are in the former…somewhat.

I say somewhat because I’ve never played the game that people are comparing this to (God of War).  In terms of gameplay, The most similar game that I’ve played is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.  Also, as a side, if we’re comparing games, shouldn’t we all be comparing all platforming games to Pitfall and Super Mario Bros.?  Games are going to continually take ideas from other successful games.  Activision pays a certain developer to basically copy another developer’s ideas every few years and it makes them a LOT of money, though it goes almost unnoticed among reviewers and many fans.  It’s part of the industry and it isn’t going to stop.  When I read about people knocking this Castlevania game because it’s too similar to God of War, I just stop reading because they should be reviewing this game in a sterile environment and for what it is.  Okay, on to the game at hand.

To begin with, my Castlevania experience began when I was 12 years old and my neighbor showed me his new Nintendo Entertainment System.  We played the original Castlevania on it and eventually beat it; a task that I doubt I’d be able to easily accomplish today.  Since then, I’ve played all but about 4 titles in the series on most every platform, my favorites being the Nintendo DS titles.  I did play Castlevania 64 until I got to a part that I couldn’t get past in a clocktower of sorts.  The jumping mechanic in that game was atrocious.

I played the demo for Lords of Shadow Monday evening and was very impressed with the presentation set forth, the voice acting (though at times it definitely feels read and can be a tad long), the graphics, as well as the gameplay.  The demo consists of the first two levels of the first chapter of the game, and admittedly, I had some problems with getting the combat down.  I died a few times but when Gabriel, the main character, flew over a bridge that wasn’t really there at the end of the demo, I took a deep breath and knew that this was going to be a great ride.

Last night when I arrived home from work, the Limited Edition of Lords of Shadow was waiting for me.  I opened up the box and started installing the discs one after the other.  I always suggest that you do this with every current title that you play.  Not only does it make the game run more efficiently, it reduces heat and prolongs the life of your 360.  I took a quick glance at the art book and CD, but these won’t really be looked at more until the game has been completed once.  The packaging is nice, but I would have preferred a metal tin case.  I love those metal tin cases!

Upon starting the game and realizing that I had just played these levels the night before, I fared much better and got through the entire demo section unscathed.  I bought a few new attack moves, and really started to understand the attack methodology.  When done correctly, the battle mechanic is extremely satisfying.  I decided to stop buying new moves to see how far I could get with just a few basic ones, and I got about 6 levels further before stopping for the night.  Now I’ve got a lot of credits to spend on some moves tonight.

Graphically I believe this to be the nicest looking game I’ve seen on the 360 and I don’t really foresee better graphics coming to this platform without serious performance degradation.  The only clipping or stuttering I saw was at the head end of a few cutscenes, and even then, only for about a half second.  During gameplay I saw no slowdown whatsoever.

The game is divided up into 12 chapters made up out of about 50 levels.  Chapter 1 had 5 levels, and Chapter 2 appears to have more like 10 levels.  When starting the game, you can replay any level you want from a menu and choose difficulty.  This is similar to how Resident Evil 5 was set up, and I wholeheartedly approve.  This will make it easier to play through harder difficulties with all of my upgraded weaponry and moves.  Also, each level upon completion grants you a challenge in order to add re-playability and counts towards achieving 100% in the game.

One particular boss fight actually required me to grapple onto and climb his enormous body.  The game doesn’t really tell you what to do at first, and I died a few times figuring it out.  You have to destroy 4 orbs on his body, but after you destroy the second one, the game saves so you don’t have to repeat the first two again when you inevitably die.  At the end of the fight, I was climbing this thing very efficiently and eventually downing it felt really good.

Here are a few negative aspects that I’ve encountered with this game, because even though I think it’s very well made, it isn’t perfect.  It may be just because I’m still early in the game, but it sure does seem to pause an awful lot to instruct you on what to do when new items are available, but like I mentioned above, when a new, huge boss is introduced, the game decides to let you guess what to do while he punches the ice repeatedly (That’s a hint to this boss!). I’ve gotten lost a few times.  Sometimes the path will fork and you won’t know where to go.  Luckily, each time I’ve come across this, the paths merge together to a common goal.  The levels are all very short in length, possibly due to the high amount of graphics that need to be loaded.  When a new level starts, Captain Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart will always be Captain Picard to me) talks for about a minute while the level loads.  This is a nice touch but it tends to drag on at times.  I’m still engulfed in it because I’m trying to figure out this story.  At the end of each level, it always tells me that new moves are available, even when they aren’t.  When you grab an enemy, a large circle closes in on a smaller one, and when it gets inside, you’re supposed to hit a button.  Many times I’m hitting it too early, but that’s not the game’s fault.  Maybe on harder difficulties these circles are a bit faster, which is where I think they should be.  The last little bit of frustration that I’ve had is that sometimes the game will want you to jump to a ledge, but I jump almost to it and drop to my death.  This isn’t so bad though since the game autosaves frequently and I just start over again right from that ledge.  Even when you fall in battle and have to go through it again, the credits that you earn are saved so you essentially are earning them again on top of what you already earned.

Overall, I’m loving this game so far.  Sure it borrows methodology from other games, but very few don’t these days.  Even Batman: Arkham Asylum last year borrowed from games such as Splinter Cell, but for some reason it wasn’t publically knocked for that.  Some reviewers seem to be making up excuses for not liking this game and I’m not sure why.  Most of them say that it’s too similar to other games, but maybe they don’t realize that not everybody has played those games.  They should really be reviewing this game for what it is, and not what it borrows from others.  This game has a great Castlevania feel to it.  Also, when someone says that this game drops in framerate, I have to disagree.  It runs perfectly on my old 360, so it should on yours too.  The game is fun and very well put together, and I applaud Mercury Steam for their effort.  I look forward to finishing this and playing it again!

[EDIT] – I forgot to mention the music.  The music is amazing.

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Eastern Caribbean 2009 – Day 1 – Boarding

by on Aug.14, 2009, under Eastern Caribbean 2009, Gaming, General, Vacation

After casting off Caribbean Princess will proceed out of Buttermilk channel passing to the east of Governor’s Island and the Statue of Liberty.  We will transit the narrows, a stretch of water separating Brooklyn and Staten Island, passing beneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  Once clear we will enter the Ambrose Channel which forms the main traffic route for vessels entering and leaving New York Harbor limits.  Soon after, the local pilot will disembark and Caribbean Princess will set various southerly courses off the eastern coast of New Jersey on passage towards West End.

This is my ninth cruise aboard Princess ships, and my third on the Caribbean Princess.  The last time I was on this ship, Heather and I were on our honeymoon in May/June of 2007.  since then, the ship has gone under some changes to the deck plan, mostly in the interior center of the ship.  Princess has “updated” this ship to mimic the Crown Princess’ restaurant styles, a change that I personally don’t care for.  This ship used to have an incredible steakhouse, but they’ve replaced it with the Crown Grill, which is steak/seafood and Sabatini’s, which is italian seafood.  If you know me in the slightest, you know that I don’t really care for seafood.  A nice change however is that I can now connect to the Internet (supposedly) from my cabin, which was updated the week after our honeymoon.  Anyways, we left Worcester on a Princess-chartered bus heading to New York City.  The bus picked up my parents in Hartford and the trip down was nice.  I got about 3 hours of DS playtime in and made a flipbook movie on the DSi of a chicken getting his head chopped off.  I used to make similar flipbooks as a child.  The day was cloudy, and driving into New York was nice.  We did see an accident on the other side of the highway that looked rather severe, so that kind of stunk.  We arrived in Brooklyn at the pier, south of Manhattan.  As we exited the bus, the longshoremen told us that we should give them $2-$3 per bag as a tip.  I’m usually a good tipper, but when someone blatently asks for one, AND tells me how much I should give him, I usually tip worse, and this was no exception.  Getting through Customs was not difficult, but I did notice a large amount of people getting on the ship (I am writing this a day later and just found out that there are 3500 people on this 3100 passenger ship).  When we boarded, they took our picture like they always do, and gave us a Treasure Hunt to go on.  This hunt took us all over the ship to different shops and areas, and if you visited all ten of them, you could turn your card in at the sailaway party and possibly win a prize or something.  After we ran all over getting stamps on this card, we went to the room and I saw the Statue of Liberty right outside!  It was awesome as I’ve never really seen it up close before.  I mean, I’ve flown (and crashed) a helicopter around the one in Liberty City, but that’s not really the same thing.  At 5:00, Heather and I went up on the top deck, got our customary sailing away drink (she got a mojito and I a Foster’s) and watched as we sailed past the Statue.  It was rather amazing, and was easily the best part of leaving out of New York.  What’s the worst part?  The sheer amount of New Yorkers.  I generally don’t mind New Yorkers, but man, this ship is PACKED with them.  I’ve seen many hoodlems in gold chains and Yankees hats with flat brims.  I am looking forward to seeing how they dress on formal night.  There are many Mets hats too, but for some reason, I think they are actually Mets (and baseball in general) fans, not just using the hat as a fashion statement.  Anyways, the cruise director was calling names out for winners of the treasure hunt and he called Heather’s name.  She wasn’t paying attention so I grabbed her and told her to run up there.  This would have been much funnier if she hadn’t have actually won, but that also would have been mean.  She ran up there and won some casino money, so we’re going to use it in the casino in a few days.  For dinner I had Prime Rib, and we planned on watching the movie (Star Trek) but ended up going to bed early as we were tired.  Sleeping on a cruise ship is one of the best feelings.  Tomorrow (which is actually today as I write this) we will be at sea all day.

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Impressions – Star Trek (no spoilers)

by on May.08, 2009, under General

It’s been a while since a movie has touched me as much as the new Star Trek has. Thinking back, Return of the King has been the only one in recent history that really has, and probably not even as much as the new Star Trek. It’s probably due to a myriad of reasons. When I was a young child, my father would always watch The Original Series on television while we ate dinner. I enjoyed it but didn’t really have any say in the matter. Tribbles and some huge monster that Kirk fought in an arena-type area were my favorites. I watched the movies as they came out, and really enjoyed The Next Generation. I guess you’d say that I’m somewhat of a fan of Star Trek. We’ve been recently watching TOS on blu ray which brings back some great memories (and looks spectacular as well). My favorite Star Trek movie was First Contact…until last night. When I read that J.J. Abrams was directing the new Star Trek movie, I had the exact opposite feeling as when I heard that Michael Bay was directing Transformers. I was really excited. Being an enormous Lost fan, I couldn’t think of anyone that I’d rather have directing this film. So last night we arrived at the AMC Premium Theater around 6:00 and had dinner. We took our seats at 6:55 and watched a few great previews (G.I. JOE, Transformers 2) and then up pops the Bad Robot graphic. I was expecting to hear the classic Star Trek theme, but instead they’ve changed it to a completely new theme…which actually works. Also the Beastie Boys. Anyways, I’m not here to spoil the movie for anyone. I just wanted to say that this movie gave me chills throughout, is incredibly made, seems to have many ties to what’s going on in Lost right now, and the actor who plays Bones does a spot-on job. I highly recommend seeing this movie in a theater. Scotty’s alien friend FTW.

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