Dig That Radio [Featured]

DTR Header

Ok, so this is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. It’s going to be long and it’s going to be about a topic that is both generally universal and intensely personal. Music. Specifically, video game music, both original and inspired by, some of which will be included along the way. So feel free to fire up some of your favorite tunes, or jam on some of the ones here, grab a snack, and let’s jump in.

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But Nobody Searches

Travel: Charelston, SC
Travel: Charelston, SC

Uh oh, a short, recappish (I just invented that word), post. That means I’ve either been really busy or really lazy. In this case, it’s the former. I’ve been working my way down the East Coast since leaving MA, had a couple stops in North and South Carolina, on my way to Ft. Augustine, FL, where I currently am. What was originally supposed to be a prolonged stop here has switched to a much shorter stay.

One of the reasons I decided to come here was to help out a friend of the family who has become too sick to travel and look after her apartment. I volunteered to head on down and handle some maintenance on the apartment so it can be either sold or handed off to one of her kids. It was a good opportunity to get away from the cold, hit the road again, and take some time for myself to get a few of my affairs in order. Well, the work was not much an issue, nothing out of my league, but… though I was told there was a stable internet connection here, there most certainly is not. Now, I’m not without my means, but that is just one of those things that grinds me a bit. Before leaving I had prepped a bunch of work online that I could pick up anywhere, as long as I could get online. Well, that didn’t go as planned, so offer to somewhere new. Maybe time to start my westward trek. In the meantime, I’m certainly enjoying the weather here.

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Playing With Power – Pt. 1 [Featured]

What you are about to read, should you decide to read it, is all true to the best of my recollection. I have had a long, strange, journey through the video game industry. I have hundreds of stories, this is just one of them.

Nintendo Street Team: 2004
Remember Link Cables?

It’s for breakfast now.

It’s interesting to see all the news about Nintendo recently and the expected fiscal loss posting. “First time in 30 years…” “Lower than expected interest in the 3Ds.” “20 billion yen.”, etc etc. I really only have one question: “Is anyone really that surprised?”

Ok, let me preface this with a few things.

  1. I am not a financial professional. I don’t analyze trends, stocks, or earning strategies.
  2. I am not a corporate business strategist. I understand the complexities of running a business, but I am by no means familiar with the intricacies of running a massive, multinational, corporation.
  3. I have worked for and with Nintendo in the past (2002-2007). In fact, I did through one of their darkest hours, the end of the GameCube lifecycle, in what was essentially “the trenches”, Marketing and Promotions. I was also there for one of the truly brightest moments, the launch of the Wii.
  4. Yes, I’ve met Reggie Fils-Amie. I sat across from him at a marketing meeting in New York City in 2004 and told him we should probably forget Geist ever existed and focus on Resident Evil 4 and Metroid Prime 2 for that particular holiday season. I’m not saying it affected anything either way, but we all know how that turned out.

In any case, all I present here is my experience with Nintendo, the frustration that came with working for them, especially as a fan of the company and their products, the insight it gave me to the insane swing-set-riding-a-roller-coaster that the company exists on, and why it should surprise no one that they’re on the big downswing yet again.

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Paris: Comic Con 2011

Paris: Comic Con / Japan Expo 2011
Paris: Comic Con / Japan Expo 2011

So, I went to the 2011 Paris Comic Con/Japan Expo.  It’s essentially the same as San Diego Comic Con, only 90% of the attendees speak French, there is a strange obsession with One Piece, and everyone is hopped up on Coke Zero.

Also like SDCC, it’s pretty much impossible to find and actual comic books. Tons and tons of manga in the Japan Expo side, but nearly all the floor space of the “comic” area was dominated by video games. The only place I found real, actual, comic books was in Artists Alley, which was more like “Artists Island”, a tiny flotilla made up of folding tables floating off to one side of the floor.

In any case, I’ll let the photos tell the tale. You can view them all here, or directly on my Flickr page via this link.

Equipment Notes:

  • Camera: Canon EOS 60D
  • Lens: Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM
  • Lens: Canon EF 35mm f/2
  • Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
  • Lens: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Lens: Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
  • Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM
  • Flash: Canon Speedlite 320EX
  • Flash: Canon Speedlite 580EX II

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New York: ThoseGuys 2011

ThoseGuys 2011
ThoseGuys 2011

Every year, a group of friends who originally met online through the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI, collectively known as “Those Guys”, or TG, meets in New York City to catch up and reminisce about the good ol’ days.  A lot of us don’t even play anymore, but the friendships carry on. It’s a fantastic group of people.

Equipment Notes:

  • Camera: Canon EOS 60D
  • Lens: Canon EF 28-70mm f/4 L IS USM
  • Flash: Canon Speedlite 320EX

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Nothing is true…

Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Assassin's Creed: Revelations

This post will be about Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and the series return to “the individual’s quest” format that made the first two such incredible experiences for me, especially the original Assassin’s Creed and it’s lead protagonist, Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad.

First though, you need to watch this.

That song is “Iron” by Woodkid. It is one of my all time favorite pieces of music. Paired up with the stunning new imagery from AC:R, it took a hold of me and yet to let go.

I’m not going to go into great detail about the Assassin’s Creed series here. I will link wiki articles at the end if you are interested in learning more. If you know me though, or have read my “About” page at any time on past incarnations of this site, you will know that the original Assassin’s Creed is my all-time favorite game. I combined so many elements of things I enjoy into a truly jaw-dropping experience.

Words words words.

Ezio at Masyaf
Ezio at Masyaf

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Something to stop alright…

I need to write this now while it’s still fresh in my mind.

This whole GameStop thing with exclusive pre-order game content is the worst thing to happen to videogames in a long time, if not ever.

Ok, yeah, I get it. GameStop must be sweating pretty bad over the slow shift to digital distribution. They’re also, of course, looking to solidify their place as the go-to retailer for videogames. That’s just business and any retailer has to form strategies like that. What’s bullshit though, is now game developers/publishers are essentially saying to game players “If you want the complete game, we get to dictate when and where you purchase said game.” and that’s not right. Sure, they made the game and can do whatever they want with it, but excluding actual game content/mechanics based on where a consumer purchases a game is pretty fucking low. That’s like a car dealer saying “If you want air conditioning, or anti-lock brakes, in your car, you have to preorder and buy your car here.” Are you kidding me? Sure, AC and ABS are not critical to the car functioning, but you’re removing choice from the consumer and that only ever breeds contempt for both the developer and the retailer.

Now, when it comes to consoles, it’s understood that there are going to be exclusivity deals. That’s the way it’s been since the old NES/SNES/Genesis days and i can understand that. But that’s choice. If you want blood and gory fatalities in your Mortal Kombat, you choose to buy the Genesis version. If you wanted tighter control and marginally better graphics, you choose to buy the SNES version. Hell, you could choose to buy both versions and you could choose to buy them anywhere you wanted. That’s choice. Even today, in the day of $300 consoles and $80 games it’s accepted that if you want to play the Joker in Batman: AA, you have to get the PS3 version. But that’s still choice. If i decide that playing the Joker is essential to my game play experience, i can buy a PS3 anytime i want, anywhere i want, and get access to it. This is a situation that nearly all gamers are familiar with. It’s rooted deep in the fragile psyche of the console fanboy. It’s fueled endless forum arguments. Add the PC to the mix and it’s really a war of the ages. It’s a war of choice though.

This GameStop crap removes that choice.

In a day where games alone can spiral upwards of $80 and bundles/collectors editions can cost more than the consoles themselves, is anyone really expected to pay for a game that’s missing content? (And I’m not talking about DLC that’s added later. We can choose to pay for that content if we feel it’s important.) Apparently we are. And I’m not talking about aesthetic content, ala Gears of War 2’s gold Lancer/Hammerburst, I’m talking about actual game play altering content and mechanics that is not made available any other way. Entire levels (Batman: AA), game play changing powers (InFamous), and game play altering mechanics (Dark Void) available only if you give up your ability to choose when and where you buy your game. This is a bad situation and it seems like it’s only going to get worse.

I’m all for pre-order and retailer specific incentives (Maxwell’s hat from Scribblenauts is a great example), but game play experience altering content is out of bounds, and just wrong. Denying players in-game content based on their chosen retailer and time of purchase is about as dirty and underhanded as you can possibly get. It’s a double sided deal (developer/retailer) and the only losers are the people who they both rely on to keep them in business, the game players.

Personally, I’m worried that a lot of games I’m looking forward to are going to fall into this BS trap. Assassin’s Creed 2, Red Dead Redemption, Lost Planet 2… please don’t let this happen. I was having a conversation today about AC2, probably my most looked forward to game at the moment, and how a GameStop pre-order exclusivity deal would probably prevent me from buying the game all together. I don’t want to pre-order. I don’t want to have to buy it at GameStop. I do want to play the complete AC2 experience. If there is additional content available for it, i do want the choice to purchase it as DLC or on an additional disc.

Game reviewers always talk about how it’s a great time for gamers because there is so much available, so many experiences to choose from. GameStop and developers/publishers that buy into this pre-order exclusivity crap are taking away that one thing all gamers should have the right to. The ability to choose what you play, how you play it, and when you play it.

In case of brawl, smash…

So I’ve been meaning to post here recently, but as you can tell from the post dates, I often fall pretty short of any kind of quota. I’ve always been more of a stream of consciousness kind of writer (unless it’s fiction, science fiction mostly, but that’s for a different post) which is why my Twitter feed gets updated approximately 97625916 times more often than this blog/journal/whatever it is. Anything that’s too big for Twitter, I plan to post here. As well intentioned as that idea is, planning it pretty much always falls apart and I just end up with this giant car-wreck of ideas smoldering in my melon, blocking the rest of traffic, and causing any number of violent, premature, deaths. Typically when it reaches an intolerable capacity I force myself to at least start writing something. By that point, though, I usually end up looking at novel length posts, months apart.

Oh well, I learned long ago to not make excuses for my posting frequency. It’s my site, I can do what I want with it… or so I tell myself. Something I love about Twitter is that I can look back over my timeline and be reminded about what it was I wanted to post about. I kind of want to start a once a week kind of deal, but I don’t know if I can make that kind of commitment. Heh.

Anyway, topics randomly floating around in my brain are:

  • Magazines: The only three I read on a regular basis (Wired, Maximum PC, & Game Informer).
  • My trip to San Francisco and working with Cisco for the Cisco Live! event.
  • Las Vegas and the fact that my lease is up in a month.
  • My never-ending quest to keep my resumé updated and relevant.
  • My diet, but only because between the last post and this one, I turned 30.
  • Misc stuff like, games I’ve been playing (return to FFXI), Starbucks, web comics, so on, so forth. I know I’ll think of other things even as I’m typing this.

Chapter 1: Magazines

So yeah. Print is dead, RSS, blogs, interwebs, etc, I know. I read three magazines on a regular basis, one because the subscription came with my GameStop Edge Card (Game Informer), one because I received a subscription as a gift, but that was so I’d stop paying shelf price every month because it’s the greatest magazine ever published (Wired), and one I pay shelf price for because I was moving and didn’t want to subscribe and then have to immediately change my address and then possibly have to change it all over again if I wasn’t staying where I moved to for more than a year (Maximum PC).

Game InformerI’m immediately speculative of anything associated with GameStop, not as much as I am Best Buy (that’s another story), but when I got my Edge card the subscription was free so I just said “Sure.”. Turns out it’s probably the best video game magazine out there, although Play is damn close. Here’s the thing, I love spoilers. I love knowing everything about something before I see/play/etc it. To me, information about something is not the same as experiencing it. I don’t see films for the story (generally) and it’s pretty much the same for games. I see movies because I like to see how things unfold visually. Similar with games, I love experiencing how it all unfolds as a complete package. With that in mind, Game Informer is always months ahead of other magazines with their info and I love knowing all that info way ahead of time. The magazine is also packed, packed, with info. They use awesomely small fonts in some of their sections and just cram loads of words, notes, letters, tidbits, articles and whatnot onto the pages. You have to read through GI like 5 times to get everything read. I love that.

Wired Magazine If the world somehow magically burned down tomorrow and was then instantly rebuilt the next day with some kind of remarkable extraterrestrial world shaping technology according to the descriptions in an ancient tome, I’d hope that tome was Wired. Wired is geek brilliance with an almost fictional level of style, or said wondrous style with brilliant geek influence, I dunno. Maybe both. In either case, it’s always spectacularly well written and full of articles on topics that seem to be handpicked from the cream of the modern technologically relevant world crop. It’s hard to even describe. If you read Wired, you already know. If you don’t, then I doubt this description here will convince you to start reading it religiously, or probably even at all. Pick up the magazine once, if you have even a passing interest in the modern world, you won’t be disappointed.


MaxPCOn my trip to San Francisco I was unfortunately stuck between Max PC issues. I’d already read July, but August wasn’t out yet. I picked up an issue of Laptop Magazine for something to read and that’s when I realized the ultimate downfall of being a devoted Max PC reader; once you start down the path that is Maximum PC, every other computer magazine just seems so watered down, bland, and patronizing by comparison. It’s a sincerity thing (which I have a major personal issue with, more on that later). The Max PC slogan is “Maximum PC, Minimum BS” which is exactly true. Everything in the magazine is presented in such a sincere, genuine, no BS, manner that when you read any other computer magazines they just seem patronizing. Now, I also understand that Max PC is for hardcore PC people (which I am). They know that the demographic reading the magazine is well aware of what the score is out there in computer nerd land. Other magazines are typically written for people who may not be so hardcore about this stuff, so I’m sure that’s why they’re written the way they are. Once you get used to reading Max PC though, it’s hard to take any other computer magazines seriously. It’s the only magazine I will actively hunt down if I know there’s a new issue out. The other big issue I have with Maximum PC is that when I’m done reading it, I have to wait a month for the next one.


Chapter 2: Cisco Live!

I’m going to write about this later. (I started this post 2 days ago, and just came back to it. Distractions, hooooo!)

Chapter 3: Las Vegas

The short story here is that my lease is up in a month. I’m kind of stuck in living situation limbo until I can nail down potential work opportunities. More on this later.

Chapter 4: My Resumé

Also going to write about this later.

Chapter 5: Diet

I’m skipping forward to diet, mostly due to the fact that I just finished the new Wired (July 09) and I’m feeling terrible about it (my diet, not the magazine). I also promised myself that in this last week I was going to eat better, just as an experiment. Yeah, experiment was fail from the start. The night I made that decision I also decided to order two sausage pizzas from Papa John’s. Although, discounting pizza and, I guess, Quiznos, as a rule, I do not eat fast food. I also don’t drink soda.

It’s not even that I eat a lot of crap, it’s that I don’t eat very much at all and the stuff I do is of questionable nutritional value. I can go a whole day on a bowl of cereal, but I know that’s just not any good at all. I’ve also been mulling it over because, as I stated above, I turned 30 between the last posting and this one. I’m not as spry as I used to be (or so I feel, people keep telling me 30 is the new 20) so it weighs (ha!) on me that I need to start paying more attention to what I put into myself. I’ve always had the benefit of a blisteringly fast metabolism, but I know it’s slowing down (something my Dad loves to point out). I should probably exercise more too, but as it is I walk way more than most people. I wish I was more regular about better exercise, but that’s another story (see a theme here?). I am in decent physical condition for someone of my height/weight (5’10, 160lbs), but I know it’s going to take more work to stay that way as I get older. As it is, I could stand to lose a few pounds and be in better shape.

I started a new personal Twitter feed for myself. I’m just going to tweet everything I consume as I’m eating it. Not the nutritional value, calories, fat, etc. Just what it is. I don’t need all that data to know whether or not what I’m eating is good for me, common sense can fill that role. I followed myself with my main account so I can’t escape it. The idea is to build a list that will eventually shame me into eating better. I know that what I eat most of the time is garbage, but not forgetting that I eat it might help somewhere down the line. Only time will tell.

There are a few major hurdles, or routines, I suppose, to overcome here.

  1. Waking up in the afternoon. A more recent development. When I first moved to Vegas, the shift to PST did wonders for my sleep schedule. I was asleep at a decent hour and up early every morning, i.e. 12:00 AM to 8:00 AM. It’s slowly succumbed to my old EST schedule and in the past week I’ve found myself falling asleep around 5:00 AM and up around 1:00 PM. The obvious solution is to move further west until I catch up with myself, but for now I need to just work on regulating out my sleep schedule. This sleep routine impacts my diet because I also end up eating on a terribly shifted schedule. “Breakfast” is at 2:00 PM, if at all. Dinner is at 2:00 AM, which is no good.
  2. Starbucks. Oh my beloved coffee shop, don’t hate me. A lot of times when I get up in the early afternoon the first thing on my mind is “Go to Starbucks for my usual.” (a Triple Grande No Whip White Mocha and an Old Fashioned Donut, shut up). A lot of days this will be the first thing I consume, since it’ll take me from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM to wind up, get basics covered, and get rolling for the day. Unfortunately most of the time, “the basics” doesn’t cover eating anything, although I usually think to myself “I really need to eat something before I dissolve my stomach lining with espresso.”. Thinking and doing are two different things.
  3. I originally changed this list from “2” to “a few”, but now I’ve forgotten what the 3rd item was. Maybe I’ll remember it later. I fear greatly that when things like this happen, (forgetting) it’s also related to my diet.

So anyway, yeah, TL:DR is “Eat better.

Now, what’s left on that list? Oh…

Chapter 6: Misc

  • I’ve ingloriously returned to Final Fantasy XI. Ok, well, technically, I never really left FFXI. My playtime was in the single digits per week though, if at all. My Xbox 360 had stolen me away (I play FFXI on PC) again thanks to a whole heaping of awesome titles. Also, work had picked up and I was keeping pretty busy with a lot of good gigs. FFXI represents a huge investment in time that I just didn’t have. In the past week or two I’ve had some more time to log on. I’ve stuck mostly to Campaign and personal skilling up (I just recently capped all applicable skills on all my jobs, see image), since it affords me ability to make my own schedule. I’m sure my linkshell isn’t thrilled about this, given that I’m one of the last “old guard” LS members. I don’t even recognize ¾ of the LS anymore. I’m still playing for personal reasons though, when I have the chance. There are still some goals I want to see realized.

All skills capped.

  • Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2. I think I broke my thumb playing last night. I’m mostly just going for achievements now. The game is a huge, repetitive, time sink when it comes to achievements, which kind of pisses me off. I’m halfway there though (15/30) so I have to keep going. Read the post before this one for more details.
  • Fallout 3: Point Lookout. I have a love/hate relationship with Fallout 3. Mostly it loves to make me hate it by spectacularly glitching out and causing me to lose disastrous amounts of progress at the most (least?) inopportune times. I got through all of Point Lookout with only a few issues. I’m only missing a few achievements from the main game (the karma/level ones) and I’ve yet to play The Pitt. Still not sure if I will.
  • Rock Band 2 is still in my rotation. I just hit the halfway mark on its achievements (25/50). I know I’ll never get them all and that’s fine. Expert Drums? Yeah, right. Some of the recent DLC has been awesome. If RB2 had real life achievements like “Transition between multiple monitors without missing any notes.” and “Convince a group of total strangers who have never played Rock Band in their life to play onstage in front of a large group of other strangers.” I’d be on the top of the charts.
  • Starbucks. I kind of addressed this in the Diet chapter. I go there. I go there a lot.
  • I’m thinking of starting a web comic. Nothing huge, just ideas I want to get out somewhere.
  • I’ve spent waaaaaaay too much time on
    t=”_blank”>Wikipedia the last few days. “Torchwood” lead me through all of “Dr. Who” and I pretty much read every Gundam article ever posted while I was researching “Zeta Gundam“.

Ok, ok, this has gone on long enough. I still have to port this all over to Windows Live Writer, fix links, add pics, etc. (I wrote this in Word for portability). I’m not keen on the idea of letting a program write my code for me, so i expect a long, drawn out battle.

Hopefully I got most of the accident cleared out of my brain, but I can already see another pile-up on the horizon.

Electronic Entertainment Aftermath

Well, it’s been a week since E3 and I’d be lying if i said i wasn’t still feeling the effects. It’s like remembering an awesome party; you’re so glad you were there but it sucks that it’s over. While there’s no doubt that experiencing all that video game awesomeness was indeed amazing, the real part of it I’m missing is the feeling of “being on the inside”. That deserves some clarification.

If you’ve swung through my still incomplete Portfolio page, you’ll see that I’ve been behind the scenes for some really amazing videogame related events. I helped launch the Gameboy Advance SP, the DS, and the Wii, all for Nintendo. I helped produce and personally directed all the tech. on all 4 years of Nintendo’s Fusion Tour, so on, so forth. All of my experience though, comes clocked in as a freelancer. And while i love being a freelancer and the freedom that comes with it, the flip side is always feeling like I’m standing just across a line of implied acceptance. It’s a strange purgatory, a no-mans-land, between envy from one side for involvement and afterthought from the other. The common term is “disposable asset”. “You’re key figure while the clock is running but beyond that, don’t even attempt to associate with or be considered part of our world.” It’s not that i actively seek to involve myself in everything a client does, after all, i work with them, not for them.

E3 was different though, mostly because of the people i was working with. Barring my own personal feelings of being an outsider, the level of hospitality and involvement extended to me from MTV and Harmonix was amazing. I was treated like a part of their team. That’s a rare, but awesome, experience and I sincerely thank them for it.

You can find pics from my E3 2009 experience on Flickr or on Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, I snagged http://www.facebook.com/dropslash, in case there was any doubt.

Anyway, while I was out, even though part of it was spent at E3, I missed out on some serious game playing. One of the things I was most looking forward to was the Broken Steel expansion for Fallout 3. It was the first thing i bought/started playing when i got home. The new level cap of 30 is badass and some of the new enemies are nuts. Nothing really cool weapon-wise for me though, since i play pure Stealth/Sniper. I’m a never-be-seen-one-shot-one-kill kind of player, my 1500+ saves and ammo collections will attest to that. I’m also a huge packrat, i love killing, collecting, repairing, and selling. I’m about to break the 100,000 cap mark in the game. Fallout 3 feeds my meticulous OCD tendencies to a T. It’s been glitchy recently, which drives me nuts, but overall i love the game.

Also on my playlist recently is Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2. I played the shit out of the first one and the 2nd installment has already sucked away dozens of hours from my life. They’ve made some awesome changes as well as leaving out some near-crippling features. Let’s make a list!

Things i love about DW:G2

  • The new “Infinite Boost” system. This is how it should have been in DW:G1.
  • Bajillions of enemies on screen. For melee fighters like me, it’s combo mania. (382! personal best)
  • Tons and tons of missions. Keeps the game interesting and not repetitive during long plays.
  • The Mobile Fighter: G Gundam pilots and Gundams got a huge upgrade. Domon/Burning Gundam and Master Asia/Master Gundam are far-and-away my favorite characters in the DW:G series (I’m a big G Gundam fan) and they really got brought up to the level where they should be in DW:G2. They’re amazing now. LOOK, THE EAST IS BURNING RED!
  • New level designs. Combined with the number of enemies on screen, the level of possible destruction is astronomical.
  • Free DLC missions. Hell yeah.

Things i hate about DW:G2

  • The lack of voice sample diversity. So sick of hearing the same lines over and over again.
  • That annoying fucking voice cue for notifications/objectives. Where the hell did that come from? I want it to die.
  • The revamped parts/tech system. I appreciate the customization aspects, but it’s needlessly complicated.
  • Some missions force certain difficulties/mobile suits. Weak. I don’t want to pilot a goddamn Zaku Tank, no matter how relevant to the story it is.
  • Only one gamertag at a time in co-op. WTF is this crap?
  • No co-op over Xbox Live. This really kills me, no… like fkn really. Of all the games that should have XBL co-op it should be this one. The whole mission structure is designed around multiple Aces working together to annihilate massive waves of grunts! You couldn’t ask for a more perfect co-op setting. Ugh. This took a massive amount of enjoyment out of this game out for me.
  • Achievements based on play time/repetition, not skill. This was a huge problem with DW:G1 and DW:G2 amazingly manages to compound on it’s lunacy. I understand why they do it but, really, it’s astoundingly fkn lame.

Well, those are my impressions so far. It’s button mashingly wonderful fun. I love that Domon and Master Asia are insanely badass now (as they should be!) but the lack of real/XBL co-op is a huge disappointment for me. Really, there is no excuse, but I’m going to blame the Playstation versions anyway.

Also, I’ve spent way too much time in my local Starbucks recently.