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Sunday, October 30, 2005

10:00 PM - Blue jerseys, red faces

Edwin van der Sar was quoted as saying United's next few games, beginning with the one against Middlesbrough, would determine the course of the team's season. If that indeed is the case then United fans had best brace themselves for disappointment.

United started the first of their "season-deciding" matches in their blue away strip but ended the match red-faced as they succumbed meekly 1-4 to Boro (BBC, Soccernet, Guardian, ManUtd.com). What was particularly dismaying was the manner in which United allowed themselves to be dominated by McClaren's team. This United team never really looked like they were going to battle their way back into contention in this match.

United had problems all over the pitch but the game was lost in the middle of the field. United's central midfield pairing of Scholes and Smith were outclassed at every turn by Mendieta, Boateng and Rochemback. Smith may have Keane's fire, grit and determination but not his footballing brain and as a ball-winner, the ex-forward leaves a lot to be desired. Scholes is merely going through the motions this season and it must be only a matter of time before the manager relegates the stand-in captain to a well-deserved stint on the substitutes' bench.

It's always painful to see the Red Devils lose but it's a lot more painful to watch them play like this. Where did the confident swashbuckling attacking style disappear to? We've only seen it sporadically this season and it wasn't regularly evident last season either. The last occasion I can remember being thrilled by United's attacking play was in the first half of the match against Fulham. The measured approach with pragmatic, conservative play geared towards earning 1-0 wins doesn't really suit a club with United's attacking tradition.

There's little indication United will be able to inflict upon Chelsea their first Premiership defeat of the season next Sunday. Indeed, it is entirely likely United will be humiliated yet again.

There's still some reason for optimism, though. It's possible United will once again rise to the occasion. The pundits may all speak of Chelsea's invincibility now but most pundits were still saying the title was Arsenal's to lose last season until United beat Wenger's "Invincibles" home and away in the Premiership.

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9:59 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Microman Saint Seiya.
Fan-custom ideas using Microman Material Force figures and Saint Seiya plastic model kits.

Compoboy.
Someone tell Engadget Soundwave and Soundblaster were based on Microman Microchange MC-10 CassetteMan and in a more Engadget-relevant geek note, Microchange MC-21 Radicasse Robo featured a working AM radio.

Sony's MMOG trojan horse.
The undescribed game will be free without a subscription-fee and gamers will only have to pay for expansions or items.

The power of myth. [via]
"Like art, mythology was the product of the creative imagination; it transfigured our fragmented, tragic world and helped to glimpse new possibilities."

Best band names.
"Jesus Chrysler Supercar" and "Sweep the Leg Johnny" cracked me up.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

9:47 PM - Impulse buy

MMMGQ Sword Impulse Gundam

The Metal Material Model Gundam Quality Sword Impulse Gundam is the kind of toy design I've been hoping for years to see in the Gundam franchise.

This is a thoughtfully-designed figure for adult toy fans. It's a joy to handle and a delight to look at. Nowhere near as fragile as model kits and much more satisfying than the cheap (and cheap-feeling) MSIA figures, the MMMGQ Sword Impulse Gundam is sufficiently articulated to earn the mobile in "Mobile Suit" and on top of that, the figure comes with enough well-produced accessories to increase the cool factor even further.

It's not flawless but on the whole, it's a fantastic figure and well-worth the asking price of 5500 yen.

A long, rambling review will be coming.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

9:45 AM - Yaaargh

Back-ups. You know you should do them but you never do. Or perhaps you once did but since nothing untoward happened for months or years, you became complacent.

And, of course, that's when A Serious Problem rears its head and bites you in the ass.

Well, A Serious Problem reared its head today when I attempted to update the Tripod mirror of my blog with Blog. I had trouble publishing to my site because BitTornado was sucking up my bandwidth so I decided to try again later and aborted the Blog publishing attempt by hitting the Close icon on the Blog window.

It turns out this was a vewwy, vewwy bad idea.

Thanks to a rare bug, Blog deleted all my blog data. It has no record whatsoever of my 1600-plus entries or the templates I use to create the site.

Fortunately, I had back-ups up to October.

Unfortunately, it's October 2003.

That's over 900 entries ago.

So now you know why I have A Serious Problem-sized chunk of my ass missing.

The problem isn't as bad as it might seem. For one thing, the site itself is fine. The only problem is Blog itself has no record of the site. It would be simple enough to fix this if Blog had a way of importing HTML files on the site into its record database but alas and alack, it doesn't.

I have no intention whatsoever of manually copying, pasting and reediting 1600-plus entries in Blog but I think there might be an inelegant workaround. I'm not sure if I can actually pull it off but regardless, there might not be any updates on the Tripod site for awhile.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

11:24 PM - Chaos reigns

I got Warcraft III Battle Chest a few weeks ago and it's been occupying most of my gaming time.

I got the compilation mainly for the strategy guides but I was disappointed with their quality. The binding on the guides is awful and the several pages have already come loose. The content is similarly unimpressive. The guides devote most of their pages to the campaigns and I found the numerous FAQs on GameFAQs much more useful for gleaning general strategy.

As for the game itself, I'm very impressed with Blizzard's fantastic post-release support. Bugfixes are being released more than three years after the original game was first released and on top of that, Blizzard has also continued to release additional content in the form of bonus maps. This is all the more impressive considering the situation with the competition.

I'm concentrating on skirmish games against a computer opponent right now. Games on a small skirmish map typically take about 20 to 30 minutes to run their course and at the moment, the typical outcome is my defeat.

My opening moves seem okay but everything quickly goes to hell during the first battle. The computer opponent almost always comes out on top in the first encounter and goes on to win the game. Impressively, this is accomplished without cheating. The computer opponent is just very efficient economically and sound tactically. I fared no better against a human opponent; I've tried two 1v1 games online and managed to lose on both occasions.

The key to winning in Warcraft III lies in micromanaging units during the heat of battle and I'm not very good at the tactical decision-making aspect of the game right now. Fortunately, Blizzard has included the ability to save and watch replays of games so players can discover where, when and how they erred.

(The downside of replays is I have a sneaking suspicion replays of my online battles are being used as comedy relief somewhere.)

It's been awhile since I've had to work this hard at improving at a game but I am enjoying the challenge.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

9:24 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Microman Decepticon Bludgeon.
A custom figure featuring the armour from Microman Samurai Armor Batman.

Bryan Wilkinson's Microman fan-modes.
The Giant Acroyear-based Terraphant Mk 2 is especially creative.

Ebi's Kamen Rider Armed Hibiki review.

1:1 scale Binaltech Smokescreen. [via]

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Friday, October 21, 2005

8:46 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Star Wars Imperial Walker Signature Edition.
45cm tall, 60cm long, weighing 22kg and costing over 200,000yen.

Miracle House's Airwolf.
1/48scale for 8,274 yen.

Microman neo-Titans.
A nice fan-creation.

Kamen Rider Hibiki ver. race queen.
Because the world needs oni in hot pants.

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8:43 PM - Face it

I wonder how many years one would have to spend at the Japanese equivalent to Juilliard to be sufficiently skilled to pull off the following faces:

(From Densha Otoko episodes 8, 9 and 10.)

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

11:13 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Travis Bickle the action figure.
A 1/6 scale figure going for 39,900 yen.

PSP's Untold Legends: The Warrior's Code.
From accounts I've read, the first game's legends were untold because they were repetitive and generic but the sequel looks interesting.

Clocky.
Wake up to play hide and seek with your clock the first thing each morning. Winner of an Ig Nobel award.

MMOGing in Japan.
"Everyone, once assembled, bowed with their avatar, greeted one another and stated 'yoroshiku onegaishimasu' ... Then we'd head out, level for several hours, the leader would thank us for our time, we'd disband, and head home for the night." In contrast, a Guild Wars pick-up group might be considered remarkably polite if no one described a fellow party member as a retard.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

11:48 PM - Farewell

It's funny because it's familiar.

(From Densha Otoko episode 7.)

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11:47 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Rome: Total War 1.3 patch.
Lots of fixes to placate disgruntled fans.

Densha Otoko: the thread.
A translation of the original 2ch threads that inspired the book, movie, television series and ...

Densha Otoko: the play.
"... after the last performance in Tokyo, the entire cast and production team were rewarded with an unprecedented 10-minute-long standing ovation from the audience."

PSP's Field Commander.
A turn-based strategy game for the PSP? Take my money now! The game, undoubtedly inspired by the success of Advance Wars, is due next February but curiously, the Sony representatives didn't let the IGN staff play the game during the preview.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

9:25 PM - Twisted Metal: Head-On

I haven't played a decent game of vehicular carnage since Carmageddon on the PC so I made it a point to get Twisted Metal: Head-On (FAQs, reviews) once I got the PSP.

I knew from the outset that it was a loud, dumb game but it's not without its charms. The game looks and sounds really good and it makes a much better demonstration of the PSP's audio-visual capabilities than, say, Lumines. In terms of gameplay, there's definitely something appealing about driving around exotic locales and showing your appreciation for the different cultures by breaking traffic laws and blowing stuff up.

There are three game modes: Story, Challenge and Multiplayer. I'll limit my comments to the single-player modes because I haven't found anyone in my neighbourhood with a PSP let alone a PSP owner with TM:HO.

In all modes, you drive a vehicle around in large arenas and victory involves defeating all your opponents. You do this mostly by blasting away with various weaponry. To aid you in your offensive driving undertakings, power-ups litter the arena and these confer various benefits.

Calypso's carpalooza

The story mode requires you to first pick a vehicle. Each has different characteristics and each is driven by a character with a reason for taking part in the Twisted Metal competition. Once you've completed 11 levels and defeated three bosses along the way, you will be rewarded with a cinematic unique to each character. All story endings feature twists of the sort a 12-year-old might find intriguing and deep but everyone else will roll their eyes as they see the ending coming a mile away.

The game is a lot more twitchy than what I'm usually used to and I couldn't really get into the game until I got comfortable with the controls. Before that, vehicles under my control would careen wildly all over the place and I would count myself fortunate if I managed to land a single hit on an opponent.

Fortunately, the game is very lenient. It doesn't feature a sophisticated driving model and there's not much of a damage model either. Your Health Meter dwindles only after taking weapon damage or being rammed by opponents and even then, it doesn't affect your vehicle's handling in any way. A vehicle with a blinking red Health Meter will handle as well as it would if it was in pristine condition.

Should you die, you get two additional lives per level and even if you run out of lives, you're given the opportunity to replay the level. Succeed and you're given a chance to save the game. With all the player crutches available, progressing through the story mode should be a breeze once you've mastered the controls.

The Challenge mode is an action-packed and enjoyable way to kill a few minutes (not to mention a few AI opponents). Pick the arena of your choice and a character to play and then select five opponents to play against.

There are different mini-games in each arena which unlock additional characters/vehicles and provide power-ups but I found these optional side-games to be much tougher and less appealing and didn't spend much time on them.

To summarise, TM:HO is not a classic game that will be remembered down the years as one of the greats but I found it an entertaining diversion and that's a lot right there. Thumbs-up.

Tips for the twisted

The first thing you ought to do when playing in a new arena is to drive around and locate the Health and Turbo power-ups. The power-ups respawn at the same spot so it's important to locate the spot.

Each vehicle's special weapon is powerful but your basic weapons will do most of the work. The machine guns are initially weak and useless but once you've powered them up, they're absolutely devastating. Of the missiles, I relied heavily on the Fire Missiles and Homing Missiles. The Power Missile packs a punch but you need to freeze your opponents before using it since it lacks homing capabilities.

Check your energy levels before you get close to the bosses because you will need to activate the shields if you go toe to toe with them.

Cousin Eddy is the first of the bosses and defeating him is simple enough. Take out the hillbillies on his sides and on top of him -- freeze him first to make this easier -- and the final stage ought to be a cinch.

Dark Tooth is slightly tougher but only until you realise he has an awful, awful turn rate. Find a large open-space and then shoot, scoot and out-turn him.

The final boss, Tower Tooth, is a right bastard. I'm not sure which is worse: his firepower or his annoying laugh whenever he nails you. But defeating him is surprisingly easy. First, drive around Tokyo picking up weapons and then park yourself in the alley next to the Full Health power-up. Once there, you can take potshots at the big bad guy without taking much damage in return.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

10:30 PM - Rage

A photo of Takara's Microman Magneforce Phobos.

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10:29 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Taiko No Tatsujin Portable FAQ.
I hadn't realised Namco had been releasing downloadable songs for the PSP title.

Football Manager 2006 official site.
Flash-powered. Blecch. The PSP version is due next Spring.

Garo episode 1 torrent.
Unsubbed. The first episode of this stylish new tokusatsu series aimed at an older audience was quite engaging but I hope there's substance behind all that flash. Having said that, the flashy Saint Seiya-ish ornate gold armour is remarkable.

White Zombie. [via]
More public domain feature films here.

Strange words. [via]
What, no "wolkenkuckucksheim" (German for "cloud cuckoo land")?

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Friday, October 07, 2005

11:42 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Tenra War figure review.
Toy reviewer momodani is distinctly underwhelmed by these Microman-like figures. The design looks nice but the execution is disappointing.

Guild Wars' strengths.
It's a good overview.

Power and responsibility.
Some theories for the origin of that classic Spider-Man quote.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

10:09 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Hilarious anime convention organiser interview.
"This may seem like an ignorant question ... but was it the genitalia part of the law that he broke, or the buttocks?"

Weirdest football kick-offs.

A sign the relationship is in trouble. [via]
"I was right in the middle of ministrating him with my mouth and looked up to see that he'd dozed off."

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12:09 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Hyper Hobby 10 scans.
Souchaku Henshin Armed Hibiki looks terrific and so does Gamou Mayu.

Spend The Night: an erotic MMOG.
"LFG for toga party," "WTS rare wang upgrade," "WTB +5 'Neck Massager'" ...

Pixia 3.3b released.
I keep meaning to get a graphics tablet in order to get the most out of this freeware graphics software.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

9:58 PM - Showdown

Takara's Microman Magneforce in action.

It's a pity nobody's using these figures to create full-blown photo-comics along the lines of Yusuke's brilliant mini-comics. I'd rather see Takara do online Microman tie-ins in this manner than through manga.

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12:10 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Takara's Ryukendo.
Takara's take on tokusatsu (first announced late last year) makes its debut early next year.

Guild Wars expansion Q&A.
Shocking revelation: there will be new areas, quests, items and monsters in the upcoming expansion. The thing I'll be looking forward to the most, however, will be the new skills as I'm having tremendous fun right now coming up with new combos and tactics for different missions and quests.

Kamen Rider Hibiki 33 torrent out.
Unsubbed. Kamen Rider Armed Hibiki looks fantastic. I only wish they had used this design from the first episode.

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