Hugh Jackman vs. Diablo 3

The 8 year gap in his story explained: Jean Valjean seeks redemption by crushing Diablo on the side.


Nekomonogatari (Kuro)

Last week, I was having a conversation with a co-worker about what anime series I would like to see more of (that has a decent chance of actually happening). His first wish was for the next Haruhi series. With nodding approval, I then proposed Index, to which he scoffed due to its recent sequel & railgun treatments, but hey, I still want to see more. How sad my recollection is though, because on New Year's eve, this dropped onto our laps. I would have totally asked for this if I remembered! Good thing that conversation didnt't have a material effect on our universe (Haruhi style) ...

Anyways, I've always been a big fan of the Bakemonogatari series, and I really liked how Nisemonogatari ended. I was kind of disappointed that rather than continue onwards with the light novel adaptations though, they went backwards to a key event that served as a backdrop of the original series - Tsubasa's cursed cat arc I. Although once I hit episode 2 and the Shinobu flashbacks begin, I didn't care anymore.

If anything, this mini-series has really drummed up excitement about the universe for me again, and I can't wait for them to go further back and hit the prequel novel - Kizumonogatari with the full movie treatment.

A kenholic year of gaming: 2012

And the final tally is in. I clocked about 950 hours worth of gaming this year, comprised of some 500 hours worth of Diablo 3 (which for the purposes of this post, I won't rate or bring up again) mixed into 450 more hours of other gaming.

Below, I've included a table of all the games I've played this year, along with some snippets about what I thought of them. As you can see, I only bothered to do full reviews up until April, then I got really busy again. Maybe one day I'll go and backfill them.

It was a good year and mix of games, but I played no almost Xbox this year. I even ended/began the year by fixing my YLOD'ed PS3. Next year looks exciting since I have a few sequels on tap for my backlog - a few Uncharteds, Assassin's Creeds, etc.

Finally, favorite games that I played of 2012 (not all of them came out this year):

1) The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead really came out of nowhere (like zombies tend to do); it was a different type of game compared to what I'm used to and set in the world of a recently popular comic book/tv series that I also picked up. Can't really discuss favorite moments without spoiling so I won't. Excellent game that I recommend everyone give a try.

2) XCOM (2012)
The new XCOM follows that same tactical RPG vein that I love (Valyria Chronicles, FF Tactics, etc). I never played the original, but this new one provides its own twist on the genre. I played it Ironman style (a single autosaved file) which really adds a lot of tension into the game, as I lost a lot of favorite units.

Among my favorite moments - half way through the game, a newly encountered enemy type appears; I have no idea what it does, but it looks nasty. I approach carefully but it retreats and lures me deep and into an uncomfortable formation. Then it fires at a sniper's range (it's a giant, walking tank, wtf) and one-shots my beloved "Boromir of Gondor" heavy unit with a 15 damage crit (my units avg'ed 8-12 hp at the time). I just thought, "Oh, so that's what it does. And Boromir, that was a death worthy of your namesake". Also, you guys don't want to know how many "Redshirt 00X" named characters I lost during the course of the game ...

3) Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect is a special franchise that gives me the same type of excitement that rivals a Star Trek or a Babylon 5. It's a rich space opera that's just more interactive. I really loved the mobile app integration features, even if other people didn't. In fact, prior to many newb oriented patches, it was impossible to get the best endings without either playing the multiplayer version or investing some time into the mobile apps. It's the ultimate Captain Kirk simulator, but as much as I like the franchise, I feel that this is the weakest entry of the Shephard trilogy - it lacks the team-building triumph of the second or the depth of the first.

4) Portal 2
I actually have a full review for this game here, but to summarize - this game is just pure fun. There's no world ending event to be found in this game, but the level of humor and puzzle platforming here is nearly unmatched by anything else I played this year.

5) Modern Warfare 3
And Modern Warfare. I hate FPS'ing. It's pretty boring and mundane, but I'd have to emphasize the pretty part. Modern Warfare does what only a handful of FPS's in history can do - make me feel immersed and excited to play it. As with Mass Effect 3, Modern Warfare 3 feels like a bit of a let down compared to the prior 2, but there's still enough explosions here to make Michael Mann proud.

And the rest ...

GamePlatformHoursRatingLittle evolution, same game
Zelda Skyward SwordWii454.5Little evolution, same game
Monkey Island 2 Special EditionPC76.5Not even close to the first
LimboPC35Artsy, a few neat puzzles, very reliant on visual / sound queues
Portal 2PC78.0Glados is a tsundere / yandere
PsychonautsPC107.0Tim Burton Style + Platformer
Crysis 2PC8.56.5Signature super graphics, meh gameplay
Dragon Age 2PC707.5Not as deep or epic as the first, but still a satisfying rpg adventure
Assassin's Creed BrotherhoodPS3206.0Interesting mechanics upgrades, but a downgrade in the assassination planning part
Shadows of the DamnedPS375.0Worth playing, but average shooter. Unconventional presentation, but kind of bland gameplay wise.
EnslavedPS3107.0Good story, above average number of technical glitches, could have used a deeper battle system, it's actually a hidden platformer, uncharted style, a few awesome moments
Mass Effect 3PC408.5Not as good as the first two, crappy glitches, horrible endings take away from innovative mobile platform integration
Penny Arcade Act 1PC64.0Interesting story, some nice humor, but repetitive after a few hours
Penny Arcade Act 2PC64.0Interesting story, some nice humor, but repetitive after a few hours x2
Deus ExPC305.0Precursor to modern bioware/skyrims, etc, but dated
Civ VPC407.5Addictive as always, many sleepness nights for that 'next turn'
Puzzle AgentPC74.0Quick, puzzles range from fun to frustrating
Deus Ex Human RevolutionPC357.0As close to metal gear as we'll probably get any time soon
Deus Ex Human Revolution: Missing LinkPC66.0More of the dxHR ness
And Yet It MovesPC24.0Barebones puzzle / platformer. Has some interesting visual design. Decent palette cleanser between big games
Commandos Behind Enemy LinesPC242.0Stealth missioning, but FPS / Settings not implemented correctly on steam conversion
Jolly RogerPC55.0Adventure gaming, lacks complexity of monkey island, shares many similarities with it though
GishPC21.0So bad, I didn't finish. Stiff controls.
Modern Warfare 3PC58.0WW3. Buddy Stealth Shooter. Awesome as always. Not as good as part 2 though. Capt Price is Jack Bauer v2.
Walking DeadPC129.0New way to Point and Click. A really thoughtful adventure game.
Penny Arcade Act 3PC74.5Interesting story, some nice humor, but repetitive after a few hours x3.
XCOM (2012)PS3308.5My kind of turn based tactics game!


Tenchi Muyo OVA Blu Ray!

One of my all-time favorites has finally been re-released on Blu-Ray after about a decade or so of being out-of-print on DVD. How many times have I been so close to buying a used copy on ebay with an asking price of about $100? Once a year, w/o fail. So I was really, really happy when I saw the pre-order and insta-bought it - and was equally blown away when I saw that it had finally arrived.

For those not familiar, the original Tenchi Muyo OVA series covers the core universe (if there is such a thing in this multi-dimensional space drama/harem) that evenutally extends into its sequel OVA series, Ryo Ohki and its spin-off, Tenchi GXP. It's a coming of age story that follows the rise of one seemingly normal teen, Tenchi Misaki, to his place at the top of the multiverses.

How glorious the 5.1 Japanese audio sounds when paired with a cleaned up image. I don't know if its been up-scaled or what, but you can imagine how much I can appreciate any improvement when the version I've been watching for the past decade has been a VHS rip that I managed to create after borrowing a friend's equipment. I wish I could show you guys a comparison between my VHS version, the DVD version and the Blu-Ray version (this package comes with BOTH! - a 2 disc BR edition and a 3 disc DVD edition), but Blu-Rays are so DRMed that I haven't figured out how to take screenshots of them (and have been too lazy to figure out how).

If you guys are looking for something entertaining to watch, I highly recommend this series. I think it mostly stands the test of time and is a joy for me to watch each time.


A Tallgrass Martini

After a long break from painting, I decided to finish and put this piece out. I'd been dabbling with its composition for months before I could finally figure it out. A part of this delay was the low confidence I had in it, but after seeing another piece at work, I decided to give it a go.

Artist notes: This image first came to me in a dream where a dragonfly was leading me through a field of golden vegetation; I was searching for something in that dream, but I forget what exactly. Wanting to make use of that backdrop, I tried visualizing the scene in my head over and over again until I could come up with a complimenting focus piece. For some reason, it came to me in the form of a martini glass.

Not just any glass though; with the olive at its center, a reflected / mirrored image of a martini glass representing the two sides of our souls - one side representing our public selves, and the other - our private, inner selves. The doubled up glass then forms an hourglass shape that symbolizes the finite time we have in life as we pass through these golden fields.

The final element of this image is the cherry off-center of the olive. Is that what the olive is searching for? Does it compliment the olive? Does the skewer pierce through both, or does the cherry merely float aside it, residing on just the top half of the glass? It definitely stands out, and despite being a secondary element, it occupies the absolute center of the image. But whether it harmonizes with the mixture or ruins it should be left as an subjective observation to the viewer.

So what is a Tallgrass Martini then? Perhaps an odd potion born of my weird dreams: a vodka martini with both an olive and cherry garnish :) Someone should try one this weekend and let me know how it tastes ...


The Walking Dead: Season 2

The Walking Dead (Season 2, 2011):

Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes is back in action with his not-so-lovable group of survivors. One of their group goes missing, which sparks a chain reaction that snowballs until the very last episode of this season.

kenholic.com rating: 7.5 :: Better than season 1, although it still suffers from lulls and annoying characters who disappointingly don't get eaten at a fast enough rate.

The Walking Dead: Season 1

The Walking Dead (Season 1, 2010):

Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes journeys through the zombie swarmed city of Atlanta looking for his family. He meets up with other survivors along the way and thus begins their story.

Based on Robert Kirkman's comic book of the same title, it shares many of the same characters and locations. Although specific plot points differ between the two, the general look and feel of things remain the same; granted its not 100% the same, but many of the episodes are written by Kirkman himself, so you can even think of the TV series of having hindsight correction.


Movie Snippet: The Raid

The Raid: Redemption (2011): Thumbs Up.

This Indonesian tower battler has the brutal intensity that today's Hollywood lacks. Reminiscent of a zombie flick, the hordes just keep on coming, while the squad keeps on dishing. Starting off with automatic rifle battles with a bit of bullet time, it pares itself down to pistols and knives and finally finishes with some crazy Indonesian martial arts action.

Sure the script isn't as polished as it could be (it might as well not exist), but when was the last time you saw a 5'4ish dude take on two guys barefisted with a pipe jammed into his neck? This movie is just full of insane 'omg-did-they-just-do-that' moments and all action fans should definitely give this one a try.

Aside: after watching Jet Li's Kiss of the Dragon some 10 years ago, which also featured some pretty hardcore fight sequences, I wanted to see a Jet Li movie where all he did was fight guys back-to-back-to-back with no pretense of a story. This movie is about as close as I've finally found in a decade.