The 404 Box

A Random, infrequent Blog

I've discussed this with a friend in an email earlier (lol yeah, some people still send emails :P) and just thought I'd share the same thing with you guys/girls here.

It's something I've been becoming aware of more and more over the last few years and this year it really just sunk in and solidified. Remember when Christmas (or even just the holidays in general) meant a whole lot of hustle bustle, time spent getting things ready, shopping for 'mega gifts' and items you were sure would make Christmas a 'big' thing, decorating for the occasion and more or less succumbing to an entire holiday that seemed to suck so much more time away from your life - at least in preparing for it than the actual time spent enjoying it? I sure as hell do. We may not have ever gone 'CRAZY' with Christmas as much as some families do, but there effeminately seemed to be a whole lot involved in the entire scheme of it all.

This year was a bit different. For a few reasons, one being my mother and her inability to get up and do things as easily as she'd like, our time focused on helping her out and getting any tasks she'd normally take charge of into our already busy schedules, stuff like Christmas shopping, Christmas dinner,  tree decorating, getting gifts for others ready, and so on. (She had to have more surgery early this December, which went well btw, she's recovering nicely). Couple that with the passing of one of my Aunts a few days before Christmas (she's been battling cancer for years, we knew this was coming, but that doesn't make it suck any less)  and we've got a lot on our minds to say the least. But, we managed, just fine, to get things done.

Come Christmas morning... the day had a different feel. Our family's tradition is to wait until everyone is up (or wake them up :P) and open gifts together, sharing what each has gotten and from whom, during this I noticed how nice it was to just sit down and enjoy some down time. Quiet, something played on the radio in the background as we systematically tore through the piles of gifts anointed to each member. There were your typical "I didn't know what to get, so ... here's something random sweets, clothes or other impersonal gift" but then there's those gifts that you know mean something. It's interesting because they can be the tiniest things too. For me, I got a book mark (I've been reading a lot lately) with Michael Scott on it (of The Office, a show I enjoy very much) from my brother... and while it was a small, simply gift... I loved it because it encompassed 2 wonderful things I'm into and it took thought on behalf of my brother to connect those.

I also got a small Batman figure from my cousin's girl friend, Just because she "Spotted it and thought of me". I was floored by how awesome that was. I noticed a few other instances in my families' gift unwrapping where you could tell there was something more to the gift than the actual item. That coupled with the low key, quite peacefulness of the entire rest of the day and I'm left in awe at the awesomeness of this Christmas, despite there being some large bumps in the road on the way there.

Which outlines the bottom lining to the whole idea. Christmas and anything really, is so much nicer and meaningful if you just take time to breathe; time to sit back and enjoy the downtime from the hecticness of life and also just enjoy the thought put into the bobbles purchased for you based on your character.

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That said, it's always nice to receive some kewl gifts as well. Here's a few of the kewl items I am proud to of received this year:

3 books, Bioshock: Rapture, Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth and Deus Ex: Icarus Effect - all video game related, and all sound REALLY sweet. I love reading a book based on a game I already love. They all look a bit shorter than Im use to, so it should take too long to get through them.


   


2 Games - Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, which I was PUMPED for :D Can't wait to get into it and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, a game I've been meaning to get and now don't need to, thanks to my bro.

 


3 movies/dvds - Super8 on Blu-Ray as I loved seeing it in theaters. Didn't like the ending, but the rest of the movie made me smile. Batman Year one - Haven't seen and the box set of Batman Beyond :) Yay batman :)
   

These items made me smile the most. I got a pair of leather driving gloves from my sis that have already come in handy :) *Get it, handy? :P lol. Gift cards, money and other things fill up the rest of the space (gift cards are so lazy IMO). Over all, very kewl Christmas. How about you?

*Don't worry, no real spoilers.

While I understand that the show in question isn't everyone's 'bag of tea', I simply adore Dexter. The basic premise behind it is simple; each episode you follow Dexter Morgan, a blood splatter analyst for Miami Metro Homicide whom uses his expertise and position to track down the scum of the earth (murders and the like) and kills them. However, the weight behind his character, his background, reasons for killing those he does and his entire universe created by the (well, originally created by the author of the books, Jeff Lindsey) the team behind the show is one of supreme crafting.

As the seasons go on (the 6th just wrapped up) it seems to be less and less about the kill and more about delving deeper into what makes Dexter tick, what makes him human and the flaws he and everyone around him has. When the killing bits do interweave into the story (as they often do) it's an exciting entrapment of suspense as you wonder exactly how things will play out; constant twists come to mix you up and destroy any kind of path you assume you see forming.

I just caught the season finale of the 6th season's run and while the episode itself was a bit sporadic with it's pacing and excitement level, in the end it cleared up a lot of loose ends from the season's length and even brought to the surface some plot points which lots of people were no doubt wondering about and suspecting to rear up at some point. I won't go into detail as I hate to include spoilers and ruin it for anyone whom watches the show, but suffice to say, the events in this last episode (for the season) has mixed Dexter's world up in more way than one.

Deb plays a big role in the majority of season 6 and grows quite a bit as a character.

IMO, the shock of season 4's end was a much bigger thing, but the news presented and played out in this end of season will no doubt have bigger waves in how the series plays out from now on. Gladly, this season, even including Colin Hanks as Travis, was a step up from what I consider a low point for the series in last year's season. Perhaps it was the fault of the end of season 4 that season 5 couldn't stand up in comparison... but as it stands season 6 beats season 5 by a long shot.

Including Edward James Olmos (of BSG fame) to this season's cast was also a high point, for me at least, as I love seeing the guy in any role.

I yearn for more. Sadly, next season won't start airing until next September (which is a long ways off) and while I do have the first 2 Dexter books (which the show is based off of) I fear reading too far into them and then ruining some plot point they plan on using for the show... which I wouldn't want to do at all.

Just a thought that stems from a changing environment I see. The idea really sparked from the other evening when my brother and I were discussing a movie of which we didn't know the name. Stumped, we decided Google might know and my brother reached for his 3DS as he exclaimed "It'll take 5 minutes for my PC to turn on and boot up to a point where I can search" and that's the sad truth. If your PC isn't on... you're in for one hell of a sluggish wait compared to other electronics today.

I for one, reach for my android "smart" phone if I want to look up something quick, my brother his 3DS. Others their ipones, tablets and compatible devices that aren't anywhere near as clunky and time consuming as the PC. Sure, the PC is the more powerful hardware and at times the easiest to deal with (in regards to a normal keyboard/mouse combo, compatibility with various media forms) but... it would seem that the big ol clunky desktop PC is becoming a dinosaur of the tech world.

Netbooks had a quick run and I even read that Dell has dropped the idea altogether due to the popularity of tablets over netbooks. Netbooks were the "speedy, low-powered version of a laptop" which seemed like a good idea at first over more beefy laptops for those quick, less intense uses... but the tablets seem to be a smarter move for that kind of thing.

I love my PC for the game's it's able to run, it's multitasking swiftness (it's not always easy running a media player, browser, chat clients and download software simultaneously - if at all - on other smaller devices) and power to run dedicate stuff like Photoshop, 3D modeling and other such heavy software... but for every day tasks... it seems that people are taking the easy route and just picking up a tablet like device.

Whether you want to check facebook, browse youtube, watch a movie on netflix, surf the net, play some games, chat with others, check your banking, or download an app that makes fart sounds - tablets (and like devices) seem to be the easier way to go. The prices for these devices can some times alienate people... but tech is becoming more and more affordable each day as countries like India experiment with tablets that cost a mere $32-$60. While those "uber-tablets" now cost upwards and beyond $500, in the next few years I can see them dropping out and down to the sub $200 range easily, with cheaper models going under $100.

With the popularity of the iphone/pod/pad and the ever growing market of smartphones (and again, like devices) in general, it would seem that this kind of 'easy tech' is only going to continue to integrate itself in our lives more and more.

Hey team :) I haven't published a blog in quite some time... I've written a few but... end up just not liking them and then just leave them in their unfinished state. One of which was quite a lengthy "mini review" piece again and honestly... there's nothing "Mini" about it :P So I decided to do a "game experience" piece in which I try to keep a tiny blurb about each game I'm currently engaged in short but sweet. Please do offer some comments as to each.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (PS3)

A blast. At times incredibly frustrating. Been working on completing the remaining races, aiming for gold in each. Also looking to pound out it's trophy collection.

The Saboteur (PS3)

Having never completed a platinum trophy (PS3) and knowing I was really close with this title... I sat down for a few hours and ironed out the last I needed for this. The game is now 100% complete - both gameplay wise and with trophies.

Mafia 2 (PS3)

Same deal. Finished story before, had just 1 trophy left to snatch. Insanely hard part (killing Derek) took like 60 tries (since I hit that part). Finally did it (almost by fluke), now it's 100% complete in game/trophy. Working on the 3 DLC chapters now.

Uncharted: Drakes Fortune (PS3)

Been heavily considering picking this up again. Need only complete the 'Crushing' mode to get the plat. Crushing mode is aptly named.

APB: Reloaded (PC)

APB had a bit of a short run as a gang vs cops MMO but has since been resurrected by a different company and made Free-to-play. I've got a couple hours in it already and enjoy it :) Insanely detailed character creator too :P

Duke Nukem Forever (PC)

Got cheap, as planned. It's actually kind of fun. Lots of people hated it, but my presumption of their hate being that of the old-skool method it uses for gameplay, thus far seems to be accurate.

Assassin's Creed (360)

I misplaced my PS3 copy of AC (yeah the first one) and so I grabbed a 360 copy at ebgames (it was on for $2.99) as I've had a desire to go back and refresh on that story before I jump back into AC2 (which I never finished) after which I'll get brotherhood and eventually revelations.

Chrono Trigger (PS1)

Got on PSN a little while ago, been playing on PSP, still love the hell out of it. Thinking of getting Chrono Cross after I finish this.

Starhawk Beta (PS3)

Got into the Starhawk private beta recently and gave it a few hours of my time so far. Just one map in CTF mode as far as I can tell, but it's decent. Much like warhawk before it, they mix things up with ground and aerial units (or jet packs) and the whole "Build your base on the fly" idea actually works quite well. I managed a few flag captures for my times (as I'm decent at that) but it's not easy to get in and out without being swarmed. I'm actually looking forward to the story more than multiplayer, but the multiplay was still fun :)

RAGE (PC)

Thus far I'm not impressed. The gunplay works, the Vehicles not so much (feels clunky), the environments look spectacular... but the interior environments look like hell. Low poly models, laughable textures... ugh. Honestly, wtf happened? I still need to pour time into it to decide if the game itself is worth it... but engine wise... meh. Hearing John Goodman right from the get go was kewl tho :)




The Last of Us

If nothing else, the Spike VGAs are good for reveals and trailers and this year was no exception. With it came the announcement of "The Last of Us" which has me really excited. I love Naughty Dogs attention to detail and the mammoth amount of work put into their characters, NTM their solid story lines and beautiful games. TLoU seems to continue that trend and the reveal trailer is great.

Vita out in Japan soon

The Vita is set to hit Japan on the 17th (Saturday) and some reviews for it's launch games have started coming in. So glad to see the likes of Uncharted doing rather well on the platform. Can't wait till February 22nd to get mine.

Gotham City Imposters

So... I hear that the beta for the game is starting up... sigh, I've signed up, even used the card that came with Arkham City as an "extra push" to get in line... and no word :( I really would love to try it.. hope I get in. Trailer here.

Hitman Absolution

The 15 minute gameplay video released a while ago sold me on the game. The new trailer just sweetens the pot.

Final Fantasy Type-0

Not only confirmed for North America, but will be playable and optimized (at least control wise) for PS Vita. Me likes.

So, I just spent some more time wandering around in Shadow of the Colossus (please tell me someone got that Sotc pun), hunting down fruit and lizards to boost my health and stamina as I plan to start out and take down my 3rd Colossus and I noticed something. I love these 'HD Collections' packs that companies seem to be hoping on board with.

I'm not sure if you're aware or not, but the PS2 era (6th generation as some call it) of gaming is by far my favorite. I own a ton of current gen games and would never give up amazing titles like Mass Effect, Bioshock, The Witcher, Assassin's Creed and the numerous franchises that started out in this generation of gaming. Jump backwards and I have mad respect and nostalgic feelings for games in the 16 and 24 bit system area with many favs from that time too and even the 64bit era has some titles that changed my life in gaming for sure. But the PS2 era is by far the largest for me. Perhaps it was just my gaming prime ages or something along those lines, but what ever the reason I seem to resonate the most with it.

Anyways, to see companies dip back into that pool, drudge up some gems and touch them up to play on our new consoles, really makes me happy. The first one to do this was Sony, with their God of War franchise, bringing the first 2 God of War games from the PS2 to the PS3 with updated visuals and a nice smooth run over to enhance it for it's new home on a beefier console. This is a step of dedication beyond simply packing games together in a box set and labeling it as a "collectors pack". Since it's success there have been a growing number of titles, some well done and some less well done, for gamers to be nostalgic with and dig into the well of gems from the console generation past.


   

As I mentioned, I picked up the Ico/SotC collection (haven't touched Ico just yet) and along with it, the God of War Origins collection (which includes the 2 PSP prequels to the GoW franchise). Now, the 5 games in the series of GoW games sit next to each other on my shelf, readily available to me when ever I choose to throw one in, that's incredibly awesome. They join my copies of The Sly Collection and The Tomb Raider Trilogy - both of which are incredible sets with some superb titles packed into their discs. I've been meaning to grab a copy of the Prince of Persia collection (the 3 PoP games from the PS2 era), but haven't seen it around.

In the near future, I am excited for the Metal Gear Solid HD pack (which includes MGS 2, 3 and Peace Walker) as well as the Zone of the Enders pack (ZoE 1 and 2, the second one I've never touched). Both of which are shaping up nicely. Since I started this blog post (a little while back, it's been sitting here unfinished) it's been leaked and confirmed that a Jak & Daxter is being prepped for the PS3 that includes it's 3 PS2 outing (minus the cart racer JakX)

   


The Silent Hill collection... I'm worried about... as they've excluded SH4 (which I enjoyed very much) and are changing the voice over for the games (contract dispute /w the original actors)... (at least for SH3, recent news reports that they'll have the option to choose either original or new VO for the SH2 copy of the disc) we'll see how it goes.

Not all HD collections seem to be golden

On the flip side I hear the Splinter Cell collection was done without love. Frame-rate issues, less that impressive HD visual upgrades, exclusion of multiplayer and other nasties make it much less appealing. Capcom decided to release each of their 2 PS2 Resident Evil games as download titles (RE4 and RECV) at $20 a pop - a curious move as the trend seems to be one of packing a few titles into a retail disc, but reviews seem to point out that not a lot was done to the two titles to upgrade them. RE4 looking near identical to it's original (albeit in a higher resolution). Was that their way of "cashing in" without actually doing a lot of work? Perhaps. As it seems, most of the HD Collections are looking to provide a product of labor (and love) to it's fans and at $30-$40 a pack (of 2 or 3 games) it's hardly a grab for money ($10-$20 per title hardly seems like such).

Some misguided cash ins aside, there seems to be promise from the studios that that their time and do justice in upgrading these aging titles for current consoles.

   

Ratchet & Clank seems to be a franchise that would be prime for packing into an HD collection, as the franchise is still very much alive today with the PS3's "R&C Future" series of games. I would think that this title is probably already in development and we've just not caught wind of it just yet.

I would LOVE to see a Xenosaga HD pack made for current generation and I loved the series on PS2 and would love to go back and experience it. Seeing as the company whom made it is now owned by Nintendo, that might mean some issues.

Kingdom Hearts HD anyone? The PS2 was the starting point for the series and while it's spun off and done GBA, PSP titles, DS titles, upcomind 3DS titles - I would still love to see the first two games and maybe even Re: Chain of Memories packed into a disc, updated visually and control wise to match the power of todays consoles.

Any other titles you feel would be great as an HD compilation pack?
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