Much 90’s, such nostalgia, many pixels.

Here’s one for those who get nostalgic about PC gaming in the 90’s.

3D Realms – the guys responsible for such classics as “Commander Keen”, “Rice Of The Triad”, and of course “Duke Nukem 3D,” have released a new ‘Anthology’ pack containing a swag of their PC classics. Also included is a “Re-Rockestrated” soundtrack of your favorite theme songs.

It’s currently available off the 3D Realms online store for 20 bucks, but only for 48 hours or so, then it goes up to 40. I’m keen to try an old favorite, “Terminal Velocity.”

A great way to experience PC Gaming as it was growing up.

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Convention Time! EB Expo 2014

EBX Logo

I do the same thing every year. I seem to have this nasty habit of leaving things until the last minute…

I wasn’t planning on going to EB Expo this year. October has shaped up to be a busy month for me, with an awards ceremony for my day job in Melbourne, plus heading back to Melbourne 2 weeks later for PAX Australia, another convention just seemed a bit much for me. But, as the event drew closer, and I found myself with some extra money, I figured I’d at least grab a ticket for the Saturday night session, and I could at least catch the Good Game live show.

And, of course, that one ticket changed into the whole day. I did a similar thing last year, the catalyst being the thought of standing in humungous lines for half the day, and I would like to at least see half of the convention not from behind a “45 minute wait” sign (I should add, those kinds of signs were missing this year, which was in a way a blessing, as not being reminded of how much of the day you’re wasting can be beneficial.)

Playstation banner

So, Saturday morning, I headed down to Homebush for a day of some killer upcoming new releases, and some great panels and shows.

I have to admit, it’s refreshing to see how EB Expo has really evolved in the past few years from, essentially, a giant marketing exercise to possibly Australia’s premier gaming convention. Granted, it still has some of that corporate feel attached to a few attractions, but it’s great that this year EB Games has seemed to concentrate on making the event less of a trade show, and more of a fan-focused event. This has resulted in a much better atmosphere all around.

A balloon version of Mega Man, who unfortunately was suffering an allergy at the time of the photo.

A balloon version of Mega Man, who unfortunately was suffering an allergy at the time of the photo.

EBX has also included quite a few presentations from a few of the big names in the gaming industry, giving those of us who aren’t lucky enough to go to an event as grand as E3 the chance to experience the buzz and sizzle of a big presentation usually reserved for the media.

I managed to take in the Bethesda presentation, which showcased the upcoming Survival Horror title from Shinji Mikami, The Evil Within. The half-hour show came complete with a few real life monsters, which were more there to help promote the upcoming maze attraction at Movie World up on the Gold Coast. Later in the day I managed to get into the smaller ‘Teaser’ maze they had created, which was quite effective at scaring the pants off you, even if it was only 90 seconds long. I also managed to get a quick hands-on with a demo for the evil within, and while it’s definitely a title I’ll be picking up, I might wait until I get hold of a PS4 for the full experience.

 

 

Xbox Booth

Halo

Wandering around the main expo arena, I caught up with the Xbox both, trying a few new and upcoming titles, one of which being the latest in the Forzza Horizon series, which looked incredibly sleek, and was very comfortable to play. Most of the bigger Xbox releases, including the much hyped Sunset Overdrive, came complete with extended lines, which I’d be more inclined to join if I was at the Expo for a longer time.

Call of Duty Banner

Borderlands

!SDNALREDROB LEUQES-ERP EHT

2K were on hand to showcase a few upcoming releases, including the long- anticipated “Evolve” and of course, the latest Borderlands installment. I was slow to try the first two Borderlands games, having only just recently picked them up for the PS3, a had tons of fun with them, so I was eager to try Borderlands The Pre-sequel, and sat down to a 20 minute demo, which was over before I knew it. A great game, and one I’ve picked up on release day.
Ubisoft had quite a large presence at EBX this year, showcasing the likes Farcry 4, the Crew, Just Dance, and…um…there was one more…what was it again…oh yeah, Assassins Creed number 427. (Seriously Ubi, can you stop now?)

Amibo Display 1

Nintendo had a decent booth, with Smash Bros comps for the literally just-released 3DS version, Displays for the ‘New’ 3DS and Amiibo figures, and demos for Splatoon, Captain Toad, Hyrule Warriors, and of course, Mario Kart 8. Nintendo are know for putting fun over flashy, and didn’t disappoint here.

Amibo Link

Lego Batman

Warner Brothers had Lego Batman 3, Shadow Of Mordor, Dying Light and Mortal Kombat X on show, as well as a cool display for Batman Arkham Knight.

Batman Arkham Knight

Other companies included Razor, Logitech and Turtle Beach showing off various shiny new peripherals such as Mice, Keyboards and Headphones. ASUS which ran Game design workshops in conjunction with AIE, as well as a rather brief and basic demonstration on overclocking, which could have been a lot more detailed and helpful (to be fair there was only 2-3 people interested,) but it did light a small interest in upgrading my PC, which I might do a separate blog or You Tube video on in the future.

League of Legends 5

Across from the main expo building, League of Legends were on full power, covering one of their major championship streams, and Origin PC were being all flashy with their sleek looking PC setups, and the Battlefield tank was also on show.

Origin

Over in the Freeplay area, a few consoles from the next gen and previous gen were set up with some favorites, But the highlight of the area was the Retro Garden. the guys from Weird and retro had outdone themselves with their legendary Retro Garden, with everything from the Atari 2600 through to the retail display cabinet for the Dreamcast. I even caught up with an old friend – the Amiga 500.

Amiga

EB Expo’s program of panels has also grown a bit this year, and included a Cosplay competition, Q and A’s from developers, community folk and of course the Good Game guys. I was able to get along to the Trivia comp, which was good fun, even if I got a lot the answers wrong. the weird and Retro panel gave people a good look at the various consoles and computers that a lot of older gamers grew up with. I also briefly managed to get a look at John Robertson’s comedy show, which I wish I could have stayed and watched all of, but it was too close to the Good Game late show, so I had to leave. It would be good if EBX would move this show a little earlier, as the humor is a little similar to that of the Good Game late show.

Good Game

Which was probably the highlight of the day for me. ABC’s Good Game team have really established themselves as Australia’s most popular Gaming show on Commercial Television (okay, it’s the only Gaming show on Commercial television) and the massive crowd waiting in line was proof. This was the ‘Mature Edition’ of their live shows at EBX, and came complete with a cavalcade of talent from the ABC stable, including the Chasers Andrew Hansen, Utopia star Luke McGregor, The Roast comic Nich Richardson, Giggle and Hoot host Jimmy Giggle, and of course Good Game regular Dave Callan. presented as a quiz show, similar to that of the classic ABC hit “Spicks and Specks”, Good Game Live was hilarious from start to finish, and has definitely become a compulsory fixture of the entire expo.

Dave Callan

It goes without saying, although you can get a few highlights in one day, the whole 3 days is really recommended to get as much of the expo as one can, since queue times can really drain your day. There were a few features I missed that I would have liked to have done, including seeing the Robot Wars on display, plus the League of Legends shows would have been good to have watched for a while.

League of Legends

The EB “mega store” still could do with a revamp, with various game memorabilia marked cheap and just thrown in a pile. Select new release games and some hardware are also on sale (to be fair that included new consoles available over the counter,) however overall it comes across as a bit chaotic. A “pre-owned” game section wouldn’t hurt either.

The Order

Overall It’s hard to fault EB Expo with only one day and, if I can get organized, I’d love to make the full weekend next year, as EB Expo has definitely become a great fixture on the Australian Convention calendar. It does still carry some of that marketing event atmosphere, which obviously can’t be helped since it is organized by the Gaming Retail giant, however a few tweaks could help give the event more of that ‘fan-focused’ atmosphere that’s really proving beneficial for the overall event (all day tickets instead of “sessions” might help lose some of that commercialized feel.) However I hope it manages to remain at Sydney for some time to come as it has a great potential to expand on this already massive event.

Sonic

My new YouTube channel in the works, and it must be con season too…

Yes, I know, it’s been a few months between posts.

But it is coming up to the Convention season. For Sydney anyway – I know the Gold Coast and Melbourne Supernovas have already kicked off, plus Oz Comic Con in a few states already. But Sydney has been a little dry in the convention department. So thought I’d round up a few events coming up in the surrounding areas.

First up – The scenic seaside town of Wollongong has their second annual Comic Gong – 17th of May at the Wollongong City Library. I may or may not be going for the Cosplay – featuring special guest Eve Beauregard, who does an awesome version of Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite.

The Cosplay talents of Eve Beauregard.

Also in May – Worth a trip to Canberra is GAMMA.CON, also in their second year, the 24th of May at the Hellenic Club in Woden. I hear Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey may be in attendance cosplaying as Thor*.

Hockey-as-thor

* – Okay I made that up. He’ll be dressed as Spiderman.

Free Comic Book day is on the 3rd of May too, I’m planing on being in Sydney for something that day, so I hope to pass through a few shops including Kings Comics and Kinokuniya to check out the festivities. I hear there is also an afterparty on at Luna Park that evening.

And of course June 13-15 brings us Supernova, with comic legend Stan Lee as a special guest. Should be a cracking great weekend. I’m hoping to be in attendance this year as a volunteer, we shall see.

Oh, while I think of it – I also have a YouTube channel in the planning stages (planning as in trying to get the spare cash to get some decent equipment, and know what the hell I’m gonna talk about) – just under my name, I was going to do a playstation-focused one, but I’m starting to think that may be a bit limiting.

Some Gaming opinions, various news and the like will be on the way. Until then, happy gaming.

 

 

 

Retro Gaming 101 – Ponchos, Wrenches and Tea Cosies

Yes I know – It’s been a few weeks since my last post. Apologies, but time has just gotten away from me. That’s how life works though, right?

So let’s recap, last time I told you about how, through the power of You Tube, I have started to develop an interest in building a game collection, whether that would be SNES, N64, Dreamcast, etc. In the end I decided to begin with collecting Sony games, which includes the extensive PS1 library, all the way up to the current PS3 system (still giving the PS4 a year or so to get started.) Although I may start on Nintendo at some point (I do have a building Gamecube and Wii library) but, for now, my main focus will be on Sony.

So that’s what I’ve started on, and boy let me tell you, I’ve learnt something over the last few weeks, and that would be that seeing a bunch of guys doing something on the internet, as opposed to doing that same activity in your own backyard, are two VERY different things.

Case in point – below Billy and Jay, known to the Retro Gaming universe as the Game Chasers, head to their local Flea Market to see what great pickups they can find.

This, along with other cool you tube channels, such as Retro Liberty, Metal Jesus and Pat the NES Punk, is what inspired me, along with possibly other Gaming fans, to head out to their own local Flea Market to try and find their own super-cool pickups.

This is where my first hurdle came up.

The thing is, here in Australia, we don’t exactly have what America would call ‘Flea Markets’ (or at the very least, not in the Sydney/NSW area.) Even the word ‘Market’ is a very grey description, as especially here in Australia, there are multiple types of markets. Obviously I wasn’t going to find a Zelda game floating amongst potatoes and spinach at the local farmers or growers market. However, most other ‘markets’ can vary in their definition, as I found out the hard way.

In order to get started with the Market raiding, I felt a little homework was in order – with a little googling, I compiled a list of possible Markets to try out, spreading from Central Coast areas like Davistown, to the Western Sydney suburb of Liverpool. I figured the easiest thing to do would be to just go and try my luck at each market and see what happens. Seeing as Garage Sales seemed to also be potential Retro hotspots, I also thought to screen the local paper for Garage Sale listings, and began one Saturday morning hitting up my local area.

 

A ‘Market’ out in Davistown was a bust, I found myself in a rather run down community hall, for what was obviously a ‘Art and Craft’ market, and the strange looks from seniors had me back in my car and back on the road in a heartbeat. Another weekend I tried the Glebe market, and found nothing but jewellery, patchwork, and hipster stalls involving hemp bags and tribal drums. The other extreme was a market out at Liverpool, which consisted mostly of cheap jewellery and luggage. Sometimes what you find that even comes close to what can be described as ‘Video Games’ are mostly pirated Nintendo DS cards, or cheap Wii accessories. My ‘Market list’ has over time started to be narrowed down quite a bit.

Garage Sales are only slightly better, it can be very much hit and miss. Some places can feel very morbid, as they come in the form of deceased estates, which personally I feel awkward rummaging some poor old ladys belongings. On the brightside, I did manage to have a few hits, picking up GTA3, Destroy All Humans, and Dynasty Warriors 5 for only 5 dollars each. Those finds, while only small, were enough to spur me along, keen to see what other Retro finds I could pick up.

This is where I discovered the beauty and pleasure of the Car Boot Sale. My first one was a journey out to Woy Woy one early sunday morning, I was slightly skeptical, thinking it would be mostly clothes and kids toys. I was pleasantly surprised – amongst the old board games, crafts, and old electrical products, I found a few stalls housing not just PS2 games, but Game Boy games, Xbox games, and even though I didn’t pick it up at the time, a Sega Mega Drive. I found that I could get further success with subsequent visits to Car Boot Sales in other surrounding areas, picking up various PS1 and PS2 games.

The beauty of the Car Boot Sale is meant to be that every one is different, with different people each time lining up to sell their old goods, which potentially means different outcomes for Retro Game Hunting each one I visit. Plus there’s a sausage sizzle. You can’t go wrong with a Sausage Sizzle. Just ask Bunnings.

So that’s my result. Like I said, Australia has a very different market system to what America does. But I think with regular visits to Garage Sales, Car Boot Sales, plus some visits to other places like Pawn shops, Op Shops, and of course Ebay, I think Retro Game collecting will be a very enjoyable hobby indeed. And that’s before I’ve even played anything.

I’ll have more on Retro collecting in the future. Happy Hunting!

Retro Game collecting 101 – Getting The Bug and taking the plunge

You Tube can be a really addictive thing. Hours can be magically zapped away by watching Cats tripping on Catnip….

…making your own 90’s flashback (radio joke, sorry)…

…finding your (sort of) current favorites…

…sourcing witty comebacks for arguments on forums…

…or learning how to cook japanese food from a canine…

(Seriously, how do they keep the dog from eating the food?)

Of course, it goes without saying that You Tube has a massive place within the gaming world. From parodies to play-throughs. News wraps, interviews, trailers, even user reviews. You Tube has given the average gamer a voice, enabling them to both criticize and create. Even I’m thinking of starting up my own channel (that will come soon.)

Of particular interest to me as of late has been the retro gaming scene. What started as watching a few videos of ‘game room tours’…

…has slowly progressed into finding a rich, vibrant community of Retro Game enthusiasts (granted mostly in America.) There are dozens of channels from Game collectors, covering everything from showing off their massive collections, game collecting tips, reviews of games gone by (which I have previously had a taste of via the Angry Video Game Nerd) and, something that has become somewhat my personal favorite, some great field trips to flea markets, game stores, and garage sales.

If I may, let me take though a few of my favorite channels so far…

From the city that’s pretty high on my ‘to visit’ list, Seattle, there’s avid games collector and vinyl fan, MetalJesusRocks.

Another collector from around the Washington State area, a Mr Pete Dorr.

(These two guys also run a podcast, All Gen Gamers.)

I also found some great channels featuring field trips to flea markets and game stores. The Game Chasers, a show that wouldn’t look out of place on the discovery channel…

…and from what I understand, these guys are somewhat the pioneers of the ‘Retro Field Trip’ video, although sadly they’re now defunct, The Retro Hunters.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. there’s a whole great community of Retro game enthusiasts in North America, most of which are connected through the power of youtube. Offline they hold Retro Gaming conventions, such as Too Many Games and the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, coming together to share their rare finds and all knowledgeable things about Retro.

So of course, with all this viewing of game collections and Flea Market field trips, it was only eventual that I would get the itch to start a collection of my own. Luckily there are plenty of collecting tips as well, such as those from lithium017. Most suggest starting out by picking just a one or two retro systems to collect for. I also wonder if, with the upcoming release of the two big new consoles, whether or not the PS3 and X360 can start to be counted into the retro banner. In which case I have a good head start with the 360. I do however believe I still have a retro system buried in a shed interstate – the good old Mega Drive, coupled with a japanese import of the Mega CD.

MegaCD small

I remember when I first got that package when I was a kid, bundled with a bunch of Mega CD’s in japanese, as only japanese versions could be played on the Mega CD. However, the Mega Drive was local, so I was able to pick up a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Countless weekends would be spent on that system. In fact, I credit the Mega CD (in particular Earnest Evans) with getting me into Anime.

earnestevansj

  Two of my favorites from my old Mega CD collection.

Two of my favorites from my old Mega CD collection.

That wasn’t the first gaming system I had though. Although my grandparents had an NES that I would occupy my visits with Super Mario 2, Zelda, and a large number of rental games over my childhood, my first system was back around 1990, in the form of the Amiga 500.

amiga500

I think I played an abundance of games over  the 10 year period I had this system. From Indiana Jones, Giana Sisters (the first horror game in my opinion – that scream when you died was just brutal) to Defender of the Crown, King Of Chicago and Chase HQ. And thats before you get to the demo disks – man did I have plenty of those!

defender_of_the_crown_01

So what happened to my Amiga? To be honest – I can’t for the life of me remember. I think we just threw it out – something that, upon a quick visit to ebay, makes me slightly regretful of such an act.

But I digress, in the end I’ve decided my collection will start with Sony, in which I mean the PSX, PS2, PS3 and Vita. If I end up picking up an N64 so be it, although I do own a Gamecube and a Wii, but that will all come in time.

That’s it for this week! I did manage to check out a local car boot sale last weekend, where I was able to nab a few gaming bargains. However, I might check out a few more and do a part two on markets around the Sydney and Central Coast area.

So next week – Retro Gaming 101: To Market, To Market! Thanks for reading!

Why I’m not ready for next gen

xbox-one-vs-ps4

At the moment I’ve reached the 20 hour mark of Final Fantasy XIII, a game that while admittedly I bought back in 2010, I have neglected to finish. So recently I decided to make it my goal to finish it at least once. If I can do that, it’ll be the first Final Fantasy game I’ve ever managed to finish (mind you, I have come pretty far in other FF games, it’s just sometimes I can take the whole ‘rage-quit’ thing a little seriously. Just ask the copy of Red dead Redemption sitting in pieces in the corner.) If I ever manage to finish it or not is another story – with the imminent release of Saints Row IV, GTA V in September, plus the upcoming Bioshock Infinite DLC, FFXIII may just be swept aside again unfortunately. However I do hope to finish both XIII and XIII-2 before the Feburary 2014 release of Lightning Returns.

ffxiii-lightning

I’m a little worried at what Lightning might do to me if I don’t finish her game soon….

The Final Fantasy saga isn’t an isolated case, of course. In my gaming collection, while being relatively small, I can think of a multitude of games off the top of my head that I have yet to finish, two of those I haven’t even started, due to the fact they’re games 3 & 4 in a four-part series (in case you’re interested, the games I’m referring to are the .hack series.) Half of those are on PS2, some are on the X360, lest not forget Zelda on the Wii, plus Persona 4 that I got when I bought the PS Vita last month.

Oh yeah, and I picked up a PS3 last week off Ebay for a bargain, which after a day trip to Gametraders in Parramatta revealed quite a few JRPG’s, Survival Horror titles and PS3 exclusives that look well worth adding to the ‘to play’ list (I took home a copy of ICO/Shadow of the Colossus by the way…) Plus the upcoming HD Remaster of both Final Fantasy X and X-2, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 remix (oh yeah, I wouldn’t mind picking up KH2 at some point. Man, I rented that when it first came out, it was fun, just neglected to pick up a copy…) A few other PS2 titles I’m eying off on ebay. And I wouldn’t mind checking out Earthbound after seeing it being played on Twitch TV a few weeks ago, for which I’ll need to pick up a Wii U. In retrospect, that’s quite a growing wish list of titles to date that I’m hoping to give a go at.

So with this ever-growing list, an anime-viewing habit I have at the same time, plus a little thing called life in between, one very relevant question comes up…

When in the hell am I ever going to find time for a next-gen console?

Of course I’ve been excited as the next gamer since the announcement of both PS4 and Xbox One earlier this year (personally I’m favoring the PS4 at the moment, lets leave that debate for another time though.) However, as time has passed, since the excitement and theatrics of Microsoft and Sony’s press conferences has had time to die down, I’ve taken a bit of a second look at what both systems have to offer upon launch.

Seeing as how I originally decided to go with the PS4, let’s take a look at the launch titles according to IGN (retail ones, not the ones available on the PSN;)

  • Assassins Creed IV
  • Battlefield 4
  • Call Of Duty: Ghosts
  • Driveclub
  • FIFA 14
  • Just Dance 2014
  • Killzone: Shadow Fall
  • Knack
  • Lego Marvel Super Heroes
  • Madden NFL 2014
  • NBA 2K14
  • NBA Live 14
  • Need For Speed: The Rivals
  • Skylanders
  • Watchdogs

I’ve put the ones I’m even remotely interested in playing in bold. So that’s 3 possible games. Being a stickler for playing things in order (I have a thing about following a story correctly – might be just me though) I probably wouldn’t touch ACIV until I’ve played the rest of them, of which I’ve gotten as far as ACII (call me the king of rage-quitting, ladies and gentlemen – I ran over that fucker in my car repeatedly GTA style.) So that leaves just two games on launch that I would consider. Of course, there was the announcement at E3 of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3, realistically though I think it’s safe to say we won’t see those titles until at least the end of 2014. With that in mind, and if nothing else came up on the PS4 that was any interest to me in that time, that’s 12 whole months of just 2 games.

sony-e3-presser-2

Personally, I can’t really justify spending 600+ bucks on something that, for me at least, won’t kick into full gear for another 12 months. Especially considering the multitude of games already released that are on my ‘to play’ list – some of those date back to the PS2 and SNES consoles. Had either Sony or Microsoft offered the option of backwards compatibility, maybe that would have justified an upgrade. Both companies I feel have shut themselves out of potential customers by not offering what should be a standard feature in this day and age.

Is it just me though? Am I getting a little greedy with my gaming? Could it be that my insatiable appetite for existing gems may just be blinding me to the shine and excitement that is a next-generation console?

Or is it just the fact that I don’t feel the need to follow the crowd, camping out at a midnight launch, hungry to have the latest tech gizmo. The one thing I ever bought on launch day was the Iphone 5 last year – and to be honest, that thing has given me nothing but grief since I got it.

So I’ve decided to wait. It’s not like the PS4 (or Xbox One, to be fair) will fail and disappear. In fact, I expect the first 12 months of both systems to be at least somewhat buggy. Plus the inevitable possibility of a price drop in both consoles will make the wait pay off a lot more.

Perhaps we should note of this video.

 

SMASH! Convention and Vocaloid Night 2013

logo

Darling Harbour

This past weekend, it seemed the overall theme for my SMASH! experience was ‘something different.’ I got to experience a few things that were either on my list to try, or something completely new. SMASH! (or more formally the Sydney Manga and Anime Show) is now in its 7th year, and has grown significantly in attendance each year, thanks in part to its convenient location at Darling Harbour, plus the fact its direct competitor (Aussie Otakus may know who I’m referring to) has lapsed somewhat in quality over the years (to put it politely.)

Saturday August 10 was, put simply, a glorious day to attend one Australia’s best anime conventions. There were the old favorites in the form of the Traders Hall, the screenings (which admittedly I skipped this year,) the Panels, Cosplay, Trivia and Karaoke. The Maid Cafe was in full swing as always this year, and so popular it was it was fully booked by the time I decided to take a look. But alas, let’s take a look at the highlights I had of the day.

Taking a look around the traders Hall this year saw some old favorites and some new additions, plus some great showcases. Mindscape were on the floor to show off a few upcoming releases, ‘Castlevania 2: Lords of Shadow,’ ‘Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z’ and ‘PES 2014’. I played a brief demo of the first two, however didn’t get to the soccer game (not much of a soccer game person.)

Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z looked promising. The Cel-shaded graphics fit the game well, serving a dark comic-book atmosphere that serves the bloody, frantic combat well. Dealing with a horde of the undead was very satisfying, all while the game is teaching you new moves. Unfortunately I think I managed to glitch the game somehow – A small bug made a respawning zombie in a dumpster vanish, which unfortunately breaks the game. However, if bugs like this get ironed out, Yaiba should be a fun game to look forward to.

I came back later in the afternoon for a crack at another title, Castlevania 2: Lords Of Shadow. I have to admit, I haven’t really played the Castlevania series before, so being new to the series I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. While the game looked slick with its gothic theme, I actually found it quite slow, with a control scheme that was a little difficult to remember. This game won’t be for everybody.

A small indie developer by the name of Red Knight Games were also in the Traders Hall to show off a title they have been working on, ‘Grapple Knight,’ a classic 8-bit style platformer a little reminiscent of the classic ‘Ghosts N Goblins.’ I played a brief demo, and found it to be rather fun and engaging, with a control system that was rather easy to pick up on. Should be a neat little indie title when it’s released.

Still on gaming, The Sydney Gamers League were on hand at the front of the room to provide the days gaming extravaganza, including comps for Street Fighter IV and Smash Bros Brawl, as well as a Just Dance free play for those so inclined.

However, as packed out and buzzing the Traders Hall was, there was plenty of other action happening at the Sydney Convention Centre…

loverin tamburin

I moved on to the Main Stage at around 10.30 to catch one of the special guests that had got my attention. For a few years now, something on my list to do has been to see a J-rock/J-pop band. A task that was well taken care of with the appearance of Loverin Tamburin, a band that from the moment they were on stage just nailed it. Frontgirl Aya was confident and brilliant, even fitting in a slight costume change towards the end of the set. The one thing I would say though, and maybe it’s because I’m used to more rowdy live gigs, but the crowd were just so…placid.

What I mean is…EVERYONE WAS SITTING DOWN!!!

Thankfully, by the end of the set, there were a few people up and at the front, making the main stage somewhat resemble something of a proper live concert. Loverin Tamburin certainly struck a chord with the SMASH audience, which means hopefully they might come back to Australia. In fact hopefully we might see more J-Rock/J-Pop acts finally start gracing our vibrant live music scene a lot more in the future.

Loverin rocked, but seemed to be warm up act for the next special guest. After the mini-concert, I received this flyer…

IMG_1244

This is a more smaller version of a ‘call book’, something prepared by a Japanese Idols fan group, and contains lyrics and musical ‘cues’ for those following to either clap, cheer, jump or sing along to.

The Idol phenomenon in Japan is both amazing yet slightly disturbing, depending on what you’ve heard or read. Idol fans flock in droves to halls in Akihabara to witness the latest sensation live in concert. Some devoted fans go as far as to purchase an entire shipment of an Idols latest release, mostly in order to obtain the ‘meet and greet’ tokens contained within. An Idol performance can be quite the spectacle, complete with lighting, visual cues, and seas of glowsticks belonging to the many Idol devotees.

One such Idol is Halko Momoi, who is not only a singer and songwriter, but an accomplished  Seiyuu/Voice Actor, whose credits include Steins;Gate and My Bride Is a Mermaid. SMASH attendees were treated to the famous Idol experience, with the singer performing for a decent hour. There seemed to be some fans of hers, as quite a crowd had adorned the front of the Main Stage, to which Halko obliged by performing her little heart out. There was even a familiar Otaku favourite thrown into the set, in the form of ‘God Knows’, a song made famous in the classic Haruhi Suzumiya series. By the time Miss Momoi had finished, the room was jumping and cheering to her very command. Quite an experience indeed.

Halko Momoi’s popularity extended into the Auction that took place later in the afternoon, where her signed CD’s fetched around $300+ each. Other items included a SMASH banner and poster signed by all the special guests, sketches from the special art panel featuring Hidenori Matsubara, known among other things for his work Rebuild Of Evangelion, plus the fabled SMASH art book, which fetched around the thousand dollar mark.

The auction was followed with a very special announcement by the conventions president, Ray Elinon. Ray promised the crowd a bigger focus on gaming in the next convention, plus (more importantly) the convention was being expanded to cover the entire weekend. He also broke the news that, due to the Sydney Exhibition Centre being rebuilt, SMASH was moving to the Rosehill Gardens in 2014. Whilst being more in the Western suburbs than the Sydney center (bordering on Parramatta actually,) The Rosehill centre with provide easy access via train, features around 5000 parking spaces, plus is adjacent to three hotels nearby. Time will tell if this move will pay off, I guess.

The remainder of the day featured a quick pop in to the Madman panel, which was in the middle of announcing a slight delay of Sword Art Online until 2014. I briefly visited the trading card game room for a quick look (I also picked up a trial deck for Weiss Schwartz, not quite sure when I’ll get to learn how to play it though,) plus the AMV wrap ups at the end of the day, out of which the comedy winner caught my attention…

A good day indeed. SMASH always seems to come to the table with great experiences, and the atmosphere from both the convention and it’s attendees was so positive and friendly. I’m looking forward to next years move to Rosehill, which may just crown SMASH as Australia’s best Anime convention. I just need to learn to take more photos. Or at least have a phone with a longer battery life. Thanks Apple.

I did however manage to take this slightly strange photo. I dub thee – ‘Invisible Girl!’ 🙂 (Clue – The screens are showing exactly what is happening on stage.)

Smash Strange

While the day was good, SMASH however had one more great experience up it’s sleeve. After a brief chow-down at Chinatown, it was time to move to the Pontoon Bar across the harbour for the much anticipated Vocaloid Night.

Vocaloid Night - Crowd

Being a Rock and Metal fan, I ventured into the Pontoon Bar with some slight skepticism about what a Vocaloid night might entail. To be honest I’ve never really viewed DJ’s as anything I would call ‘true musicians.’ These guys however altered that view a little. Two of Japans star Vocaloid producers were brought down to Sydney just for the occasion, Hachioji P and kz (livetune).

What followed was a sensational night. With both performers (and the three supporting DJ’s, who did a fantastic job) delivering a killer sound and visual show that briefly made the room feel like it had been lifted out of Sydney and placed within the neo-nightclubs found within Tokyos most famous nightspots. Glow Sticks, Miku cosplays, and vocaloid themed cocktails were the flavor of the night, and the crowd cheered and even sang along with the Two Japanese producers biggest songs.

Vocaloid Night - Hachioji P

As the night finished up and I started to leave, I accidentally bumped into two – well, I suppose you could call them – ‘regular’ clubbing girls who had somehow accidentally wandered into the after party. The look of bewilderment and confusion on their faces said it all about the entire day – if you’re not one of us geeks, otakus,cosplayers, or even vocaloiders – chances are, you never will be. But that’s okay – we’re doing just fine without you.

Anime Review – Watamote

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Have you ever watched a particular character or a particular Anime and found yourself thinking “I’m a little like that”? I’ve found myself thinking that exact thing every now and then while watching Watamote, one of the new series rolling out for the ‘Summer’ season.

From the opening moments of episode one, watching poor Tomoko dealing with the harsh reality of everyday life, the term ‘Social Anxiety’ comes to mind. While often being mistaken as ‘just really shy,’ Social Anxiety can actually be a rather limiting form of mental illness. People find it hard to make new friends or be in social situations, often going out of their way to avoid such encounters (things I myself find a little difficult.) A quick google search also finds that ‘Social Anxiety’ or ‘Social Phobia’ is fairly common in Japan, where it can also be known as ‘Taijin kyofusho’ (roughly translated as ‘fear of interpersonal relations syndrome,) and affects between 10 and 20 percent of Japanese folk.

You get the feeling the creators of Watamote wanted to raise some awareness about this issue, and have done so with such humor and rawness that potentially connects with someone who is dealing with Social Anxiety, and invokes a more positive outlook on life.

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The show centers on Tomoko Kuroki, who has just started high school with the rather optimistic approach of being immensly popular and, due to her vast experience with dating sims, is confident she’ll bag herself a man within a month of starting high school. Trouble is, Tomoko is so incredibly reserved and petrified of human interaction that even something simple as ordering at a fast-food restaurant take an incredible amount of courage. Before she knows it, it’s been three months into high school, as she has barely said a word to anyone, to the point where she literally gets ignored in PE class (until she cops a basketball to the head that is.)

Of course, in private, Tomoko is completely the opposite, being rather bubbly and optimistic (albeit very eccentric and odd), and predictably often clashes with her brother Tomoki, who struggles to understand her weird behavior. That weird behavior also lands her in some hilarious situations, but there are times where you feel slightly sorry for her, as she goes to great pains to become popular. Unfortunately her oddball personality often gets in the way of this, however it is this very personality that makes her one of the most adorable characters of recent years.

Yes, Tomoko, yes you are...

Yes, Tomoko, yes you are…

Watamote has all the oddness that has been in Anime comedies as of late (Mysterious Girlfriend X comes to mind,) but has a big heart. I hope we get to see Tomoko become a little more confident as the show progresses. It promises to be one of the better shows of the Summer season.

Ocarina Of Time – Speed Run for charity (or how it takes all kinds of people to be a gamer)

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Just wanted to share this video, a Zelda fan has completed a speed run of Ocarina Of Time in front of a small crowd for charity.

In 22 minutes.

Personally it would probably take me more than 22 minutes to get past that stealth around the castle bit (not a big lover of stealth missions), let alone 22 minutes to get from the start of the game, bypass…oh…about 30 hours of game play at least, right up until the last strike of the master sword in the ruins of Ganon’s castle.

But this guys has worked hard to find and exploit every single glitch of the game, and manages to go from Farron Woods straight to the cutscene showing the fall of Ganon. Although, and no offense intended, I’m trying to decide if I should be impressed or worried about him. I mean, 13 years is a long time to be focused on one game.

Check out the video below.

You can read all about how he did it over at CVG.

 

New Bioshock Infinite DLC – Clash In The Clouds and Burial At Sea

After a four month wait, yesterday Irrational Games finally unleashed news of their upcoming DLC for Bioshock Infinite. And going off the trailers, it’s going to be truly something special.

The first DLC can be taken as Irrationals way of saying “we’re working on something big, it’s coming. In the meantime, here is a little something to tide you over…”

Clash In The Clouds will feature 4 new areas, 60 challenges, plus extra content including new voxophones, behind the scenes footage and artwork.

The real surprise was the Story-based DLC reveal, set over two episodes, ‘Burial At Sea’ sees an alternate version of Booker and Elizabeth, returning to Rapture on the eve of the events that set in motion the premise for the original Bioshock.

On top of that, episode 2 will see the player taking control of Bioshock Infinites most powerful weapon – Elizabeth herself. You can read an interview with Ken Levine at Gamespot.

The Clash In The Clouds DLC is out now, but the slight downside is we may not see the Burial at Sea content until 2014.

On the bright side, plenty of time for me to finally finish Final Fantasy 13. (More on that another time.)

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