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LEGOs Will Never Die.

I grew up on Legos. Hours of my childhood were spent building complex structures out of plastic blocks using only my mind and a strangely intuitive booklet of pictorial instructions. I’m a grown man now, and I still find myself getting giddy over the upcoming Lego themed games.

The early days of Legos in the Gaming world were sketchy at best. If you don’t remember any of them before Lego Star Wars, it’s because most of them crashed and burned (Lego Racer, anyone?). Who would have thought that there would be a proverbial renaissance of Lego video games, starting with Star Wars, and moving on the Indiana Jones and Batman? I don’t know about you, but I’d piss myself with glee if I could see one lego man tearing out the heart of another over a pit of lava.

I don’t know if it’s the style, the game play, or the humor that makes me want to play these games, but I know it has something to do with seeing your enemy blow into pieces when you shoot it with a blaster. It’s incredibly cheerful and violent at the same time. We can only hope that they keep it up in the upcoming games, and that novelty won’t be lost once we get there.

While looking online for what Lego themed games were coming out soon, I stumbled across Lego Universe, an MMO that in my opinion has the greatest possibilities for any game known to man. Freaking pirates and ninjas and lego spacemen all fighting and occupying the same world. Building your own vehicles and houses, making yourselves immense weapons from scratch. If they do this right, it could be the greatest thing since Freebird was written. However, there are an immense number of ways that this could fail miserably, so fingers crossed that this will not go down like Hellgate did.

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Mana Khemia – First Impressions

Developed by Gust and published in the US by NIS America, Mana Khemia is a nice diversion. If you like the Atelier Iris series and Ar Tornelico, you’ll like Mana Khemia. Call me boring or a pathetic fan girl, but I think this is a good thing. There are times when I’m looking for something comfortable and familiar. Playing a game like that is like snuggling under the covers on a chilly Sunday morning and just being lazy. So if you’re looking for something different, amazing, and revolutionary, this isn’t the right choice. But if you’re into snuggling with hot chocolate, I definitely recommend checking it out.

You begin the game as Vayne, a young man with a cat companion named Sulpher. A teacher from the alchemy school invites him to be a student and so he begins his studies. On his first day of school, he befriends a super-cute, pink-haired girl, a spunky cat-girl, and a brash loser of an upperclassman. Each chapter is broken down into events and classes. In order to progress the story, you have to pass your alchemy classes. These classes might teach you combat, alchemy, or judging whether or not to run from battle. I am in the second chapter and so far, there are hints that there is something special about Vayne, but nothing concrete. There also isn’t some great evil threatening the world yet, either.Mana Khemia

The battles are turn based, although when you get to take your turn next is determined by your actions. There is attack, defend, run away, item, and skill/magic. Instead of experience points leading to increasing levels, your points can be allocated to an alchemy grid, similar to the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X. The primary difference, however, is that in order to allocate your points, you must synthesize items, armor, or weapons using alchemy and have them either in your inventory or equipped. If you haven’t synthesized them yourself, you can’t learn the skills associated with them. As such, leveling up your character is directly determined by how far you’ve progressed in the story and what items you’ve picked up along the way. In addition to that, as you progress through a dungeon, time passes. When it becomes night time, the enemies get a LOT more difficult. Unless you’ve got a lot of skills on the grid unlocked, the night enemies are too challenging, so you have to leave, come back, and start the dungeon over. So forget grinding. It doesn’t get you anywhere. Enemies are visible on screen as you traverse the dungeon, so you can avoid them, if you’re careful. This definitely helps with the time passing issue.

The alchemy system is the basis of the game since you have to synthesize items in order to “level” your characters. Experimentation is easy and you can receive support from other characters in your party. I haven’t messed around with it that much yet, so I’m not entirely sure how the different characters can affect your outcomes. The synthesized items have qualities like “muddy” or “powdery.” I haven’t figured out how they affect the game yet, though. I haven’t found my Heal Jars to work differently based on whether they’re muddy or powdery.

The graphics are what we’ve come to expect from Gust. The enemies are the same, as are the mana. I love Punis. And the pretty boys. 😉 There is a Japanese voice option, thank God. The English makes me cringe. (I’m one of those Japanese voice acting purists, though…) The story so far is fluffy, but I’m guessing that it will get interesting later. I’m definitely enjoying this game, but it’s not breaking down any barriers. It’s more of what I like about Gust’s games and that’s good enough for me.

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Valkyria Chronicles character trailer 6 and info

A new character trailer has been released, this time featuring Alicia, this time however more than just the trailer has been released. The “book” style apperantly plays into the gameplay and story as the game menu is a book and the story follows a single story, likely a diary of one of the characters. In battle it is a curious mix of real time with pause and strategy, where you run around in real time but attacks are made in a paused mode and you make each unit’s move in turn using this method. Being defeated doesn’t immediatly result in death, instead the character will be “pushed down” and a medic can be called to recover them. Inbetween battles players can train their troops, and do R&D to improve weapons for the characters or upgrade the tank. An interesting tidbit is that the game can be , but apperantly does not have to be installed on the harddrive, coming in at a whopping 3.3 GB, and with load times at a paultry 15 seconds without an install one has to wonder what the point is.

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Tales of Vesperia – XBOX 360

I get all kinds of excited whenever I hear about a JRPG for the 360. I think, “Oh! My 360 will have purpose!” The official Japanese website has a trailer for download. There are two options. The first is an actual download (r-click save as…) and the second is streaming. Honestly, I tried the streaming first. Took too long. So I downloaded the 1280 x 720 and wow, it’s pretty. Crystal clear animation made my mouth water. I love the Tales of… series. Most Tales of… games seem to come out eventually in the US, so I’m crossing my fingers for this one. Nothing like playing stuff like this in HD…

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Front Mission 2089

My RSS reader informed me today that Front Mission 2089 Border of Madness is now available for pre-order from the Official Japanese Square Enix store. I’m not a huge fan of giant mechs, but for some reason, Front Mission, Xenogears/Xenosaga, and Evangelion live in my top 20 coolest things EVER category. Anyway, it’s scheduled to release on the Nintendo DS on May 29th, 2008 and it’s a “Dramatic Simulation RPG.” The “dramatic” part amuses me.

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Ryu Ga Kotoku Kenzan Impressions

Anyway here are my stats:
Rank: Chuu-kyuu
Completion Rate: 10.7%
Time: 28:30


Still don’t really like the combat in the game, and it really got to me in the later fights but I didn’t have any real problems against anyone save for one boss near the end. The story is one of the best I’ve played (even though I have to admit I didn’t 100% understand all of it… I got maybe 95% of the main story) and the ending is just ridiculously awesome.

For me, the game is a solid 90% or 95%. FYI I think the first RGG was probably an 85% game, so I think this one is a bit better for a lot of small reasons (better loading, more enjoyable mini-games, story is more epic and grand, etc.) I think if the combat was smoothed out a bit more it would be good. I’d like it if certain strings were cancelable or if you could have a make a combo feature or something like that.

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BenQ X2200W Gaming Monitor Hit With Delays After Factory Fire

“…a major fire that burned down the production factory where we were receiving these monitors from. However, they should be in stores by early June and we should have samples available for you by May 1.”

That’s the official word from BenQ. Thankfully the monitor is still coming but it will be delayed to around June.

I personally am really excited for this monitor as it has a 2ms response time and AMA technology that pretty much eliminates any kind of LCD tearing.

AMA increases voltage to speed up the time it takes liquid crystals to go from dark to bright and back again. With AMA, the X Series performs this cycle at a blistering 2ms GTG (Grey to Grey response time). It’s like pressing on the gas pedal to make images appear faster and give gamers what they want most: quick response.

Really incredible monitor technology that I recommend tech heads take a look at.

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KORG DS-10 Synthesizer?!

I was just about to go to bed when I noticed that I had new RSS feed stuff from GAME Watch. AQ Interactive is releasing the KORG DS-10 Synthesizer in July. KORG is a very popular synthesizer and sequencer company. I grew up in a music store that had a pretty decent sized synth department, so when I saw the big KORG logo, I was immediately intrigued. Very much like a full sized keyboard, you can record tracks using different sounds and mix them all together with a built-in drum machine.

The touch screen is used to do things like input notes and change sound levels. There’s even online WiFi support for multiplayer. According to the official website, this product is being demonstrated at the Musikmesse in Germany this month, which is probably the world’s largest music trade show. And if you’re curious about how it sounds, the official site has a demo song. Pretty cool stuff.

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Wii Freeloader Proves There Is A God

UPDATE: It seems Codejunkies is now shipping this product and I’ve been able to confirm how it works:

This is what freeloader does, confirmed by codejunkies staff, who actually investigated my questions when I asked about it, TESTED it, and then called me back:

• WII FREELOADER IGNORES ALL REGION-CODING.
• WII FREELOADER IGNORES ALL WII UPDATES ON A WII GAME DISK (INCLUDING SUPER SMASH BROS. BRAWL).
• WII FREELOADER IGNORES THE NECESSITY OF CHECKING FOR GAME UPDATES; THUS ALLOWING THE GAME FILES TO BE PLAYED SAFELY WITHOUT ANY RISK OF BRICKING YOUR WII CONSOLE.
• CODEJUNKIES STAFF HAVE CONFIRMED TO ME, BY PHONE, THAT IF A WII FIRMWARE UPDATE SOMEHOW BLOCKS THE WII FREELOADER, THEY WILL SEND YOU AN UPDATED WII FREELOADER FREE OF CHARGE WHEN ONE IS CREATED, AS LONG AS YOU HAVE PROOF OF PURCHASE OF YOUR ORIGINAL COPY OF WII FREELOADER.

“This is the one you’ve all been waiting for! Wii FreeLoader lets you play ANY region of Wii or GameCube game on your Nintendo Wii! At last, you can import games from other territories and play them on your Wii…”

Divineo.co.uk has confirmed to us that in around 10 days, Datel are set to release Freeloader for the Nintendo Wii. The product allows you to play import games from all over the globe and a single version works on PAL, USA and JAP consoles.

Dear Play-Asia,

Yesplznowkthnxbye!

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Do You Really, Really Need Voice?

With the release of Brawl and its undeniable awesomeness, everyone I’ve seen has the same thing to say: “We were disappointed with the lack of voice communications support.”

I can understand why you would want to communicate with your friends in game, both to coordinate matches and just to have some fun. But think about this for a minute, do you really need voice in this game? Let’s look at some of the things you’ll be encountering in your adventures with voice chat!

Instant Online Radio! Ah, who thought we could get music we’ve never heard of by artists without labels at such poor quality? Listening to music while playing a video game is great, especially when it comes over someone else’s 10 dollar Wal-Mart mic, which can barely communicate with its own headphone jack, let alone start a disco. I don’t know about you, but I love it when people share their musical tastes with me while I’m trying to say something important to my teammates or calling for backup. It makes be feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

10 year olds with superiority complexes! When I’m playing online, I enjoy listening to someone half my age talking about his enormous testicles and dropping F-bombs like he grew up at the state Veteran’s Hospital. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something when I beat up someone so young, and it’s ok to feel proud, because the little bastard had it coming. The state of our youth is in good hands when we can say with conviction that our children are growing up strong minded, strong willed, and strongly in need of some grammar lessons.

NEED A DISPENSER HERE! NEED A DISPENSER HERE! NEED A OH MY GOD WILL YOU JUST DIE

So the next time you start thinking to yourself “I wish this had voice communication so I could talk to the person I’m playing with,” just remember what comes with it. If you really want it that bad, get their cell phone number.