Sunday, December 20, 2009

RPG Classics

Although the Role-Playing-Game genre has been around for a long time, I didn't care about it till the mid 1990's. Before this era I was very hooked of the 1-on-1 Beat-em-up's like Streetfighter II (Turbo), Fatal Fury and the KoF series.
The following RPG-timeline describes the developments from 1992 till today, with spotlights on the classics on the SNES.
In the fall of 1996, it was like I stood up on a day and must have thoug
ht there must be more than no-thinking games like SF etc.
So I bought Secret of Mana, which I also purchased a few years earli
er, but swapped it for another game due to not understanding the RPG genre.
I was hooked ag
ain and the RPG virus never left me since. Because it was also fall in the lifespan of the best gameconsole ever, the SNES, my brother and I were hunting for all the greatest RPG's on this system for about two years.

The result was a very impressive list of great RPG's. Most of them were in new condition.
A unique feature at the time for Secret of Mana (16-Meg) was the real time action where most of the rivals were menu-driven or turn based. The latter method was because of the limited processing power to realise real time action. There was also a 3-player mode which gave the players more fun. My brothers and I are still playing it nowadays!
Father of the SNES RPG is without a doubt 'The legend
of Zelda III - A Link to the past' (8-Meg). In those days - and still- a fantastic in-depth story with lots of action released by Nintendo itself.

Squaresoft (Good old times without Enix) was already a specialist in RPG's and had released Final Fantasies 1 -3 for the NES. Though the story of FF IV (8-Meg) was very good and today's classic, the graphics were reminding of a pimped NES. Till winter 1994, Square releases her Golden Egg - Final Fantasy VI (FF III in the US) with rendered graphics, great music and a epic story stored in - at the time huge cart - a 24-Meg cart. Since then Square's star has rised to heaven and the following succes were even greater. This time, there was besides the turn based, the introduction of active time battle, better known as real-time battling menu-driven. In 1994, just after finishing FF VI, Hironobu Sakaguchi put together the so called dream team consisting Yuji Horii (Dragon's Quest), Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball) and Sakaguchi himself to work on a project which turned out to be the best RPG ever - Chrono Trigger (32-Meg!). Aside of them, there was the debut for music composer Yasunori Mitsuda. It was a gamble, but it turned out fantastic. Mitsuda asked too much from himself and suffered from exhaustion. Nobuo Uematsu finished his soundtrack with a few tracks, but Uematsu states that the credits goes to Mitsuda.
This game was special because it didn't had to change the field screen to action/fight screen. A few extra
menu's appeared when confronting the enemy and there was a smooth transition in the music. The unique style for the Chrono Series was also the Tech-ability. Depending on which character you were using, you could spread a great arsenal of magic and fighting combo's, just fenomenal! Of course the active time battle system was featured here.
Besides of all, ther
e were multiple endings, depending on what kind of decisions you had made in the past. Now this is Chrono (time) Triggering at highest level!
The new game+ feature boosts up the replay value. You
can replay the game without searching all the valuable items/ techs once again.
Later in 1999
Sony would also release a 'sequel' named Chrono Cross. This is not a really sequel, because it has no direct connection to the events of Chrono Trigger, but takes place in the same universe about 20 years later. The extra dimension of CC was that it also junps to parallel universes, which explaines the title Chrono Cross.

Due to the arrogance of Nintendo to keep the support of cartridges, Squaresoft switched and gave the licenses to Sony to release titles for the Playstation. This is because the CD-rom (and later DVD-rom) could store much more data, which gave more opportunities and possibilities.
The results are known, FF VII till FF IX were cashcows for Sony.
Many people claim that FF VII is one of the best episode that has been made. It was a high quality title with a good in-depth story. For me, FF VI is still the one above all, nothing beats the 16-bit era. FF VII & FF VIII was a little change in tactics and technical choices. The party you were playing consist 3 characters. Why Squaresoft made this choice is unknown. In FF IX was a return to the roots.
The characters were more animated like and the music is familiar with the pre-32 bit era. The party you're travelling with consists 4 characters, like bef
The summons are mostly the same as in FF VI.

In the early 2000's Squaresoft merged with Enix, it's rival company, to the biggest console RPG developper. The merger is comparable with that of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in the aviation-world.
Critisism said it hasn't brought that good to the development of the products, I agree. The saga continued on the PS2 with FF X to FF XII. Now in March 2010 the 13th episode awaits for the PS3.

Do you look forward to Final Fantasy XIII?

A few titles (brandnew) acquired during our hunt late 1990's:
Chrono Trigger, FF III (US), Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, S
uper Mario RPG, Breath of Fire 1 & 2, Lufia 2, Terranigma, Illusion of Time, Seiken Den Setsu 3 (Secret of Mana 2), Treasure Hunter G, Romancing Saga 3.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New additions

It has been quite a while since my last post. So it's about time to present my newest additions to my Home Theatre & Home Entertainment. This time it is a mix of modern computergaming and old school retro gaming.
At the end of October I bought the new PS3 Slim with a 120 GB HDD. I already know the possibilities and a few systempushers like Metal Gear Solid 4, CoD 4 Modern Warfare and the newly released CoD MW2 have convinced me. The PS3 slim has more HDD space and a renewed OS. A few features didn't come anymore with this version, but it's worth it. PS2 support is not available, which is a downside, since the PS2 is still the cashcow after 9 years of life. Directly after release I purchased the Hardened Edition of CoD MW2. This version includes besides the game disc, a steelbook case, plastic overall sleeve, a booklet with concepts & art-work and a voucher to download the first CoD, known as CoD Classic.

Furthermore, there is a new handheld. The Nintendo DSi black is a lovely gadget to play presen
t games, but also timeless classics as Chrono Trigger DS.

I love this game and also got the original brandly new SNES cart title from 1995 (purchased in 1998).

Speaking about the
SNES, i already own an PAL version and share a US SNES with my brother. But if this one dies, it will be difficult to play US games. And I got a good library of fantastic SNES RPG's. So'I purchased a spare US SNES on E-bay.
It took me € 5
5,00 shipping from US included, but hey......this brick is gold! The US controller, RF-switch and AC-power adaptor are rubbish, but I got a tons of PAL controllers and accessoiries. Ow...a Super Mario World game pack was also a freebee.... Nice!
But aside from it's uncool design (known as the Brick) the US SNES has a few points over the PAL version. It supports RGB-signals which was comparable with HDMI nowadays. The colors of the US SNES were far more brighter, colorful and thus superior to it's PAL nephew. Another good thing is that the Brick is running on 60 Hz due to NTSC, which is 17 % faster than the European counterpart and the black boxes on the top and bo
ttom of the screens will not be shown.

Later this year I will spent an article about the classic SNES RPG's.
For now, i present a few screenshots which are upscaled by my superb Onkyo beast and full blown all channel stereo (There wasn't any Dolby Prologic II or DTS HD yet in 1995). The shot of CoD MW 1 & MW 2 is a little blur. Apologies for that.
(All pictures are taken with Sony-DSC P8)

Which type of gaming do you like? Retro, Modern gaming or both?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Poll Results

Again, the poll has already been closed for a while. The results shows that amongst the High End line of Bandai's PG series, the GAT-X105 Strike Gundam is the most popular version of all. If we look closer to the second place, the MBF-02 Strike Rouge, we'll learn it is the same frame. So, actually the G-frame owns 63% of the votes.
Final results:
GAT-X105 Strike - 36 %
MBF-02 Strike Rouge - 27 %
MBF-P02 Astray Red Frame - 18 %
XXXG-00W0 Wing Zero Custom - 18 %

Thanks for voting and a new poll about the Macross Frontier kits has been added.
Picture: Thanks to Danny Choo.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Home Theatre - Next Generation

Way back in January 2004, half a year before I moved into my current residence, which I've had build then, I purchased a Home Theatre system to enjoy the new era of home entertainment. The Sony DAV-S880 was a good all-in-one choice at the time. My budget at that time was not that big due to my movement and the purchase of my house. For displaying the video I bought the Sony KV32FQ86 including the complementary furniture. A CRT TV with a 32" display, very big at that time. All together it had cost me about € 1900,00 (US$ 2680,00), € 600,00 HTS and € 1300,00 for the TV. In the meantime I've hacked the regioncodes and it is regionfree since then. But there were also some major flaws. The main shortcoming was the passive subwoofer. So the power of the sub wasn't that high, since it had to drain it's power from the main receiver causing the temperature rising rapidly. The satellite speakers were good with a power of 100W rms per speaker. But as usual, satellite systems are not made for audio or music events. The mid-range frequencies were not that good. Sony's S-Master digital amplifier system made the AV-receiver very compact and gave it a superslim design. But the drawback was that it could, despite the S-Master technology, overheat. Slowdown processing and even crashing could be the result. And as time goes by, the still goodlooking Home Theathre System has became a fossil in the HT scene.
This summer I assembled my next generation Home Theatre System. First thing first. The heart of a HT system is an A/V Receiver. My choice is the Onkyo TX-SR876. A high-end receiver and top of the line along with the TX-NR906. The receiver has an output of 200W rms per speaker and has many features like 7.1 with all Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio + variants, Bi-amp wiring, up to 3 zones performing. The THX Ultra 2 Plus and ISF calibrating is also included. One of the great things is the upscaling proces to high defintion display with its advanced HQV Reon-VX video processing. This guy is really big and weights 24 kg! Ironically, as I'm writing this blog now, the successors of the SR876 and the NR906 are presented as the NR3007 and NR5007 respectively. Speaking of first things first. It was a pain to get a new AV furniture since the depth of the Onkyo is 46 cm. Besides of that, the old AV furniture was a part of the CRT TV and the glassplates would explode in thousand pieces should the Onkyo be placed onto it. So the German company Spectral was the solution. The Brick 1501 was my choice. My version is a black one with black glass on top and front. To get a good sound, I choose between Focal Sib & Co (JM-Labs), Mordaunt Short and KEF KHT 3005SE. Since the first two were hard to get and becoming obsolete I purchased the KEF. The black high gloss version has a good design and even the sub is very stylish. The performance is very good and in pure audio setting the satellites have enough power of their own. The packaging of the speakers also gave me confidence since it has a precious sleeve to protect them.
For the video features I purchased the Samsung LED LCD-TV UE46B7090. A 46" (117 cm) wide flatscreen with an ultraslim design. The screen is only 3 cm (1,18") deep!! Originally I ordered the B7000, but it was not in stock anymore, so the retailer offered me the B7090, which has no red lighting edge. I didn't bother, so I ordered the B7090.The specs are the same as the B7000.
At this moment, I do not have a really DVD player anymore. I borrowed my brother's PS3, so I can also play Blu-Ray movies. I'm considering to get a PS3 (or the new PS3 slim) of my own, because it can also play videogames and has several other multi-media features, which a regular BD-player doesn't have. Besides, it is said that the PS3's Blu Ray player has better performances than many other players. the last thing I noticed is that the PS3 slim will support DolbyTrue-HD and DTS-HD, something the PS3 Fat doesn't do. This is something I have to think about..... Of course, there will also be a cheap DVD player next to it which accepts all legal and illegal crap from all over the world.

These finishing touches will be coming soon.

Suggestions for the choice between a regular BD player or a PS3 are welcome. (Except for the first 2 pictures, all pictures are taken with: Sony-DSC P8)

Onkyo in Pure Audio setting
Final setting Home Theatre


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Gundam Fall 2009

The currently running Gundam Big Expo reveals a lot af interesting kits for coming fall. The most forward looking kit for almost a year will be the MG 1/100 RX-75 Guntank. With this MG kit Bandai finally completes the Operation V team. Even the Box-art is ready. Release of the MG Guntank will aproximately be late September. At this moment I don't know yet if the MG Guntank will come with new gimmicks like flash LED's or anything else. Bandai has becoming known as the source of the Chaos Theory lately due to the unlogical strategy of release of kits. Now it is revealed that there will be a MG re-incarnation of the MBF-P03 Gundam Astray Blue Frame 2nd L revise (Lowe Gear), which already has a HG 1/100 version. Just half a year after the Release of the PG Astray Red Frame. It is the second MG kit that comes after a PG version. The first one was the Gundam Wing Zero Custom. My guess is that a MG Red Frame release will be realised in a distant future. I will probably get this kit anyway, due to the originality and technical quality of the design. Speaking about design........ I am a great fan of the Cosmic Era (Gundam Seed), but the future releases of Seed vs Frame Astray makes the C.E. a little ridiculous and insults the current line-up. Look and make up your mind. From left to right: NCYS Providence; Hail Buster; Gail Strike and the Regen Duel. The Buster and Strike will be released on August 24th, the Providence and Duel will be released late September. Designs are very undelicious in my opinion. It looks like the designs are coming from an artstudio with some rookie students. Every one can redesign this through replace the MS parts on a different location. I do not wish my future car will be one with the wheels on the roof....defenitely a No No to me.

For now the last fact: This is the first glimp of the next Perfect Grade kit - The Gundam 00 Raiser.
Probably a very good design and a very large kit, since it will come with the 0-Raiser.
My expectation is that the box will has the size of his successor PG Red Frame and the earlier PG Zeta and Strike Rouge + Skygrasper.
Although I'm a major fan of the PG kits, I think it is a little overkill with in mind that the last PG Red Frame release was just 8 months ago by the time the 00 Raiser will arrive.
The timelag between the PG Red Frame and the ultimate frame PG Strike (+Strike Rouge) has been 4,5 years! What has Bandai been doing all these years?
There is no doubt the PG 00 Raiser will be a succes, since the meta series Anno Domini Gundam 00 is a commercial succes. I wonder if the Gunpla fans can catch up this tidal wave of new and good releases.
Time will tell......

All kits will be available at Morgenroete Inc.

Do you like the Seed vs Astray models design?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gunpla releases Summer 2009

Amongst of the releases, the main focus this month is defenitely on the MG 1/100 GN-001 Gundam Exia. There is also a different kit, MG Exia Ignition Mode. This kit is a limited release with extra parts to make the Exia Repair II mode. Lots of gunpla builders are looking forward to it. So do I. But all other releases are also very interesting and can be ordered at Morgenroete Inc. for Benelux Gunpla builders.
The first batch has arrived!

Second batch is following very soon!

Do you like the MG 1/100 GN-001 Gundam Exia?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

City trip Hong Kong SAR - 4 (Last Part)

Asians are quite electronic-addicts. So are they here. This computer centre was in the district Sham Shui Po. The Mekka for electronic-madmen.
All sort of hardware and software for PC and console gaming are ava
ilable here. I have thought about purchasing a Nintendo DSi here, but on a second would be better to buy one back in The Netherlands due to the region restrictions. (which weren't an issue in the past).

A few days later w
e went to Lantau Island to visit the Tian Tan Buddha. It's worlds tallest buddha seated statue outside and has a excellent view. If the weatherconditions are good - and we were lucky - you can see Macau SAR from the top of the statue.
At Wong Tai Sin Temple we
were witnessing some of many ceremonial buddhism activities.

We have also visited Hong Kong Park at the district Admiralty. HK Park has a nice Greenhouse and an enormous aviary with a great variety of birds.

On the last
day we have visited our grandmother who lives in a adult-day care resort. Because the H1N1 Influenza is an actual item, we had to wear a surgical mask. On the picture: 4 musketeers, my grandfather (left) was joking with us!

Later that night, after being confirmed we were able to jump on the jump-seats again, the PH-BFS 'City of Shanghai' flew us back to the Netherlands. A special note: The 747-400 captain was the same one as on my flight last year from HK to AMS, an unique coincidence.
Unfortunately the last picture isn't that sharp, but it was my best one at the time.
Well, this is it. I hope you enjoyed my mini-trip log.

Have you planned a vacation this summer?

Monday, July 20, 2009

City trip Hong Kong SAR - 3 (City)

During our visit to HK we stayed at The Cosmopolitan Hotel. A high-end hotel at the Wan Chai district. Well...actually it is based in Causeway Bay since the MTR station is nearby. Happy Valley Race Course was situated next to us. Since gambling is illegal in HK, the people are looking for some excitement at the HK Jockey Club and bet on horse races.
Due to the economic crisis the prices for a stay are dropped tremendiously that low, the costs for 1 night at this 4 star hotel was about € 26,00 (US$ 36,50) per night.
In The Netherlands we can't get even the doors opened for us....
Anyway, the location was great we were right in the centre of HK Island.
If you have the
chance getting there, make sure you get the infamous Octopus Card.

This card is your key to mobility. Private transport is almost impossible in HK due to the many traffic-infarctions, so the public transport (trains, underground, taxi's, busses and feries) are excellent!
You can simple charge up your card and pay electronically all your fares. The Octopus is also used for payment at convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, on-street parking meters, car parks, and other point-of-sale applications such as service stationsvending machines.

Eating is a very important activity in South East Asia. So people do not cook very often, as it is very time consuming. No, around every corner they have a restaurant, eating house or markets, so let's eat outside!
The 3rd picture is at a market in the New Territories city Sheung Shui.
Later that day we had a good dinner at my grandparents place.

Hong Kong's skyline is also breathtaking and we were able to see the Symphony of Light, a
n event with a mix of lightshow and music while presenting the skyline and the remarkable buildings of HK Island.

Also remarkable is the building proces in HK. Unlike the European which uses steel or aluminium tubes for scaffolding, the Chinese use bamboo. And they have a few points: It's a product of mother nature, easy to assemble and dissemble, it's weight is limited, also strong and withstands all sorts of stress. And more importantly, the costs are low. Incredible how an ancient method defeats modern methods.

Next time: Part 4 - Cities, Tian Tan Budha and more culture.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Poll results

Well, the poll has already been closed for a while, but nevertheless, the results shows that The United Emirates of Orb are the favorites amongst the voters. Though there were only six voters, 5 out of six have chosen the Orb Union.
It's probably the vision behind this faction that makes sense. The obviously Three Ship Alliance is a forthcoming from the orb faction.

Final results:
Earth Alliance - 0 %
PLANT - 0 %
United Emirates of Orb - 83 %
Three Ship Alliance - 17 %

Thanks for voting and a new poll about the PG kits has been added.

City trip Hong Kong SAR - 2 (Flight)

From July 4th till July 12th I have been doing a short City trip to Hong Kong SAR with John, a friend of mine. The idea to guide him in HK rose way back in 2004, but there wasn't a real opportunity till this summer.
Since John is a KLM employee, he is allowed to take a companion with him and travel with reduced fares. For € 196,00 (US$
275,00) we were able to have a return flight from Amsterdam to Hong Kong.
The other side of traveling this way, is that you are on the waiting list. So, you're stand-by. If there are people who don't show up or the flight is not fully booked, we're in. Leaving with empty seats is not an option, so the economy people who are overbooked will be upgraded to the World Business Class and if there are stand-by travellers, they can also boarding.
We were not that fortun
ate. We were only travel with these flights on the jump-seat, due to overbooking.

These seats are used by the flight attendants only for take off an
d landing, but are far from comfortable.

Well, at least we are going to HK! But the crew was very relaxed and made any efforts (well, almost any) to comfort us during the flight.
They even offered their crew seat (3rd pic), which was much more comfortable than the M-class (economy) version, but not as good as the WBC version. Besides, it was a stand alone seat, so th
ere wasn't anyone to bother you.

Except for the seat, we've had almost a WBC treatment. Due to the available space, the crew even gave me a galley-container to support my legs as I could stretch these fully to take a nap. During the 11 hours, I had a deep sleep for 6,5 hours. I can't remember to have slept this much during a flight!
At the end of both flights we reveived an attention from the crew. This attention was the famous KLM-house and only prohibited to travellers in the WBC. Nice!!
These poclain miniature houses are replica's (with a real adress) of real ancient houses which were built throughout The Netherlands (Like Amsterdam, Amstelveen, Alkmaar, Arnhem, Deventer etc.) during their Golden Age from approx. 1550-1650. These miniatures are filled with Bols Jenever (a Dutch liquor and precursor to gin made from Juniper berries)

During the flight, the attendants provided us with loads of snacks and drinks and took some time to make a chat. My brother was also on board on the flight back to Amsterdam.
The last few years I heard a lot of negative complaints about the cabin crew. KLM flight attendants would be very snobbish or not very polite.

I have been flying KLM for more than 25 years and I cannot share the above. All the flights the attendants did their job properly. Alright, the atractiveness is not like Cathay Pacific crew (which some of them are very atractive), but that is not an issue of importancy.

What are your experiences with cabin crews? (all airlines)