terça-feira, 29 de abril de 2008

Black Sabbath - Iron Man

Unlike probably most of you, I already knew this song before listening to it in every Iron Man movie commercial. Still, I have to admit I have been listening to it more lately, probably because of said commercials. Anyway, here you have it in all its glory, a great song with what is probably the most recognizable guitar riff in rock/metal history. By the way, since you're already here, listen to some more Sabbath. Pay special attention to master Tony Iommi's riffs and solos, that guy's a fucking genius (and the true mind behind the band, fuck Ozzy with all his bullshit...).

Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath - N.I.B.

segunda-feira, 21 de abril de 2008

Jet Set Radioooo!!!

Jet Set Radio, my very first game for the Dreamcast, and even after playing literally hundreds of them, I think it's still my favourite game for the system. It was just so awesome and unique for its time... Hell, it's still awesome and unique today! It represented Sega at its peak of quality and creativity, and like many other great Sega franchises it only had one sequel. You know, because unlike other companies (*cough*Nintendo*cough*), and with the exception of a certain blue hedgehog, Sega is not known for mercilessly milking its franchises to death... (how many different sports did Mario practised already?).

Unfortunately that sequel has been out of my reach for years, since, like many sequels original programmed for the Dreamcast, it ended up being released for the Xbox after Sega officially killed its little white box of awesome. But hey, that's why god invented retro compatibility! Today, thanks to my beloved Xbox 360, I'm finally able to play that hallowed title and man, isn't it fucking great!

The core of the game stays the same. You're still a kid in rollerblades trying to cover a city in graffiti, while avoiding corrupt police officers and clashing with other gangs. What changed is the way you do all this. In the original game you had missions. You enter a zone, have to cover it in graffiti within the given time limit, and you only leave after successfully completing your objective. Now that's all gone. Your garage is no longer just a menu, it's a fully 3D "mini-level" which serves as a hub to reach the city areas, and you can freely go in an out of those areas without any time limit or other constraints. You are free to enter an area, calmly explore it, paint a few tags, even save your game in special spots, and go out without any penalty. Some might argue that this takes away that thrill of being against the clock in the original, but for me this is just great because now you can play at your own rythm, with no stress.

The way the police acts is also different. In the original they would come after you painted a certain number of graffiti, chasing you mercilessly (which in later levels forces us to carefully select which graffiti to paint first, because it's really hard to paint larger ones with tanks behind your tail). Now they only appear at certain spots and when they do, you just have to knock them down and paint their backs for them to run away. Once again, for some people this means no chase=no fun. For me this means no fucking police trying to kill me while I'm busy painting walls, and that's good.

There is one change I don't like, though. In the original, in order to paint the medium and large graffiti you had to move the analog stick according to the directions shown on-screen, kind of simulating the movement of our character, waving its arms in the air while painting the walls. Now you just need to hold down the trigger and move along the area you want to paint, which honestly feels like an unnecessary change and it takes away some of the fun of doing the graffiti.

Graphics wise, the cell-shading of the original game was so freaking awesome that it would be impossible to do much better with the sequel. This is true, but still there are some nice improvements, like gorgeous lighting effects or way bigger areas. Sometimes it looks like they overdid it, though, with areas so full of NPC's the game actually slows down. About this I don't know if it's the game's fault, or it's just the 360 emulator (just because a Xbox game is playable on the 360 it doesn't mean that it'll run flawlessly), but still it's a little annoying. On the plus side of things, as the name implies this game is set after the events of the first one, so be prepared to meet redrawn models of your favourite characters and even some updated versions of well-known areas from the first game. Professor K looks a little too futuristic, though...

But JSR is not only known for great graphics and gameplay, it also had a freaking awesome soundtrack that, to this day, it's still my favourite licensed game soundtrack (the 2nd place belongs to Need for Speed: Underground, great soundtrack that one had...). Featuring a psychedelic mix of rock, hip-hop and techno, it fitted the game perfectly and was even enjoyable by itself. Well, I'm proud to say that JSRF's soundtrack is equally impressive! Once again it's a great mix of various genres, it fits the game perfectly and you'll get so hooked to it you'll immediately consider buying the cd to listen to it while away from the game.

(this review sucks, but at least you can watch more gameplay footage)

Overall, as expected this game is not as ground breaking as the first one, and it's not the perfect sequel either, but it's a really great game and it's well worth the title Jet Set Radio. Fans of the original game owe to themselves to try this one out, for even if this game represents the start of Sega's demise as a respected software-house, it still has some of that magic from the Dreamcast era, something hard to find these days, unfortunately. Also, knowing that so many Sega games are left without follow-ups, we have to be thankful for the mere fact that this one exists.

sábado, 19 de abril de 2008

Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!

This might come as a shock to you all, dear readers of this blog, but I love Naruto! I'm not your typical otaku who is completely obsessed by everything anime/manga related, but I do enjoy a few select series, like Evangelion, Trigun or Hellsing. As you can see I favour short series with just 10/20/30 episodes, so it took me a while to get interested in such a long anime as Naruto, but I eventually decided to give it a go and immediately got hooked to it. The setting and the story are so original and compelling that one can't help but love it. As any videogame fan, I immediately started looking for games to fuel up my passion, but what I've found left me somewhat disappointed. The portable games are just mediocre and barely entertaining and the PS2 ones are not that much better. Ultimate Ninja is pretty good as a fighter, but lacks in the story and adventure department (the anime is not just about fighting scenes), and Uzumaki Chronicles is just average.

But don't worry, for I've just discovered a great Naruto game, and the story surrounding it is rather interesting! I'm talking of Naruto: Rise of a Ninja, a game developed exclusively for the Xbox 360 (!) by an European software house (!!), and that despite the odds is easily the best Naruto game so far (!!!). Un-fucking-believable, isn't it? I mean, the best game based on an anime (and there are really a lot based on Naruto, just check the wikipedia entry) is neither developed by a Japanese company nor it is released in Japan, and is available only for a console despised by the Japanese. Irony at its best, isn't it?

About the game, unlike the other games that try to follow the series as a whole, Rise of a Ninja, like the name implies, is about Naruto Uzumaki and only him. In story mode he's the only controllable character and the parts of the story where he has little to no involvement were largely left out. This means that, although the game shows the story from the beginning and there are a lot of cut-scenes taken directly from the anime, the game alone won't show you the real picture, and you'll miss out the parts of the plot involving characters other than Naruto if you're not following either the manga or the anime. Still, this is a good way to get started, so this game is not exclusively aimed at Naruto fans.

The gameplay is divided into two main genres: exploration and fighting. The fighting part is pretty obvious, but, considering that it's not the main component of the game, it's surprisingly deep and enjoyable. You take part in one-on-one battles where everything goes, including a variety of hand-to-hand combos, throwing weapons and, of course, jutsus (for those not familiar with the Naruto universe, a jutsu is basically a special attack). The way you activate the jutsus is very interesting. Instead of just doing some sort of combo, you have to press the left trigger and input a series of commands with both analog sticks, convincingly emulating the hand signs the characters use in the series.

But throughout the game you'll probably spend more time exploring than fighting, and this is due to the absolutely amazing depiction of Konoha village. Forget levels or stages, here you have a fully 3D rendered version of the Village Hidden in the Leaves, waiting for you to explore it GTA-style! For fans of the series it's just an incredible feeling to be able to freely explore the mythical Konoha Village, home of our heroes, by running through its streets or jumping unto its roofs. The best part, there are no loadings while in the village, which is yet another amazing feat regarding programming for the 360.

The game has its problems too, of course. After a while some missions get a little repetitive, the "wild" areas outside the village are filled with annoying random encounters and, for me the worst part about the game, it ends (or so I hear, haven't finished it yet) with the final rounds of the Chuunin Exam, which corresponds to somewhere around episode 60 (80 if we count the attack on Konoha). For those unfamiliar with the series, part 1 of the anime has 220 episodes (it's currently on part 2, episode 30 or so), so you can guess that there are lots of things left out from the game, specially abilities that Naruto only learns later in the series, like the Rasengan (Naruto's ultimate jutsu).

Still, what we have here is the best Naruto game currently available for any platform (this might change with the upcoming Ultimate Ninja Storm for the PS3) and it's absolutely a must-have for Naruto fans, not to mention one of the best anime-licensed games ever, proving that apparently European game developers know more about what anime fans want in their games more than the Japanese themselves. If only there was an Evangelion game with this quality...

sexta-feira, 18 de abril de 2008

Ernie and Bert go BRUTAL

Ah...Sesame Street... I loved that show when I was a kid... I don't remember this episode, though...
Ernie and Bert go brutal, playing some grindcore. Yup, DEITRIX, this is what grindcore is.

quarta-feira, 16 de abril de 2008

This one is for DEITRIX... - Black Fucking Metal part 2

As promised here's more black metal for ya'll, but specially for DEITRIX since so far he's the only one interested in this shit. This is a Dark Funeral special, to celebrate my almost complete Dark Funeral discography (the discography itself is already completed, I'm just missing the DVD now). Unfortunately, as with most extreme metal, youtube is not a great source of videos. Most are bootlegs shot from the audience with crappy audio, which might make some sense for those who already know the songs, but someone who's listening to them for the first time will get a distorted vision of these songs, know what I mean?

Anyway, above is Open the Gates, from their very first EP, which has really awesome songs for a first effort. Unfortunately my favourite, In the Sign of the Horns, is not on youtube (fuck!), but the other 3 songs are. Besides the two mentioned songs, their first album also has the following:

Shadows Over Transylvania

My Dark Desires

Moving on, probably my all-time favourite Dark Funeral song is Thy Legions Come, from their 2nd full-lenght album Vobiscum Satanas, but once again the only video on youtube is crappy footage from a concert at Wacken Open Air. Still, that song fucking rocks, so here's the vid anyways:

Oh, and here's the trailer for the DVD, Attera Orbis Terrarum:

About black metal, this is a very unique sub-genre of metal music and it's above all an acquired taste. Don't expect to like it right away, because at first it's just going to sound like noise, distorted guitars and a guy screaming. Of course that for most people it will always sound like that, but try to listen to it a couple of times. Who knows, maybe after a while it'll suddenly start to sound more familiar and when you realize it you're already banging to some of the most extreme shit the metal industry has to offer.

terça-feira, 15 de abril de 2008

Art Attack!

I am truly a Jack of all trades, master of none, and that includes drawing. Since I had enough strength to hold a pencil I remember liking to draw stuff. Eventually, as I grew up, my art evolved with me, although it never reaching an outstanding level, and somewhere around my teen years I gradually stopped doing it. Don't know exactly why, all I know is that during the last years I can only remember doing a handful of drawings, most left unfinished. Don't know if it's lack of time, skill of inspiration. Anyway, from time to time I still pick up a pencil, a piece of paper, and just draw something, usually pretty wicked.

Above is my latest work, inspired by the cover of a music album I've seen. The original drawing is a little different, since my scanner sucks and I had to do edit it a little to be anywhere near the original work. Still, despite the right side being a little darker than the left one, and other minor issues, this is pretty close to what the original looks like. Pretty neat, eh? Let's see what Deitrix, the other artist on the block, has to say about it :)

BTW, don't ask me what the hell that is. There's no story behind it, it's just "something" that looks cool (in a distorted way...).

quinta-feira, 10 de abril de 2008

Black Fucking Metal!

Yeah, I know, these are not exactly the most popular posts on my blog, as one can guess by the total lack of comments in an Iron Maiden post... (that's a fucking crime!) But fuck it, today I'm in the mood for some hardcore black metal and I thought about sharing it with the world. Do yourself a favour and listen to some of the most wicked shit you've ever seen:

Dark Funeral - The Secrets of the Black Arts

Dark Funeral - Ravenna Strigoi Mortii

Marduk - Baptism by Fire

Marduk - Bleached Bones

Marduk - Castrum Doloris

That's all for now, folks! Hope you enjoyed this little trip through the darkest paths of heavy music as much as I did! ;D

segunda-feira, 7 de abril de 2008

The battle for Asgard is over...

...for I've just beaten Viking, and this game fucking rocks!!!

It looks like a lot of critics disagree with me, and funnyman too, but overall it looks like the gaming community liked the game, which either means that we're all wrong or that sometimes critics, in all their wisdom, forget exactly what makes a game fun. But on with this review - sort of...

I've already covered the GTA-style of free roaming, the graphics and the combat system in my previous post, but there are still things to talk about, like the assaults on fortresses that put your entire army against the legion of undead! These scenes are FUCKING EPIC and so far they're as close as you can get to experience a LOTR-style full scale war in a fantasy setting. There are literally hundreds of units on the screen at the same time, fighting and killing each other, advancing and retreating on the battlefield, while flaming arrows pierce the sky and dragons roam freely, incinerating foes at your command. It is AWESOME and, along with the free roaming gameplay, it makes this game stand out as a really unique title, different from every other action game out there.

Unfortunately your soldiers don't just appear on your base camp, you have to search the wilderness for their villages, save them from the legion's grasp, and often perform additional tasks before they join you (ungrateful bastards, we just saved them from horrible deaths and they still demand additional favours...). You also have to summon dragons, upgrade your weapons and often sneak in enemy fortresses to retrieve certain items, enough tasks to make you crave for the next big battle. Unfortunately, as you progress, the game starts to get a little repetitive, but trust me, you'll want to do everything to fight in the last huge battle, for it is worth it.

So, overall Viking is a very unique and intense experience, and it deserves its place in the gaming history as the first game to put you in a battlefield surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of allies and enemies, all in a glorious 3rd person perspective and with a truly next-gen graphics engine. There is nothing like it out there, and I definitely hope to see more of it in the future. If you like the viking theme and huge battles, don't miss this game.

After finishing it, I was left with nothing to play so I decided to try and finally beat Dark Messiah of Might & Magic: Elements, but man, that game is so fucked up...

It was a disappointment, because I had really high expectations about it, specially because it's rare to play a 1st person fantasy game that's not an RPG, but unfortunately this game is broken, plain and simple. Despite being released more than a year after the original pc version, it's still full of bugs, some of them annoying, some that actually can make you loose all your progress, and at times it's just fucking boring. I still want to finish it, but I'll need huge amounts of patience...

sábado, 5 de abril de 2008

Iron Maiden - Somewhere in Time

As in some sort of preparation for the upcoming Iron Maiden concert in Portugal (July/9) I'm revisiting their previous works and right now I'm completely hooked to the 1986 album Somewhere in Time. Join me in this journey through the glorious past of Heavy Metal and relive the early efforts of what came to be the biggest metal band of all time (that's not my opinion, that's a fact!)

WARNING: the following song is rated FE (FUCKING EPIC!!!)