Vote Char in 08

September 24, 2008

Hell, since everyone on the planet has a mock election 08 forum sig, I decided to conjure up one of my own. Slapped these together based on who I think would make the best president — Char Aznable. If they amuse you, feel free to use them.

MacBook Air: The bane of IT

September 11, 2008

I have in my posession right now a shiny new MacBook Air. Apple’s delightful little wafer is seen below sitting atop my regular MacBook which looks positively obese by comparison:

A client has purchased 3 of these for use in a particular project. The prototypes for the project were MacBook Pros, for which I have a disk image. The plan: push the image onto the Airs so they’d be all set to go. Problem: How the hell to push an image to a MacBook Air?

The limitation we run into is that the Air is lacking many things, and only has one lonely USB port with which to make up for them. Regardless of the fact that you could use a hub to get everything you need plugged up, that leaves us at a serious lack of bandwidth into the machine. I initially tried to copy the image onto one of our utility boot drives, boot the Air from it, and restore the image to its internal drive. Unfortunately, the Air seemed none too happy about running from that drive, and less happy about trying to restore an image. It was painfully slow, and restore attempts always failed. Subsequent attempts to boot from the drive yielded kernel panics, and investigation showed the Air had somehow wrecked the file system on the utility drives. I think it’s a bus powering issue with the portable utility drive. These drives work splendidly with Firewire though. Yeah, Apple, Firewire. That thing you created that’s so great, but you seem to be allowing to languish? I’ve since cloned one onto a 3.5″ drive with its own power supply, so we’ll see if that works any better.

The second thing I thought to try was a NetInstall. We ordered ethernet adapters with the Airs, so I decided to give it a go. I converted the image into a NetInstall and set it up on my server running OS X Server 10.5.4. All looks good, but when I try to boot the Air… kernel panic. Not sure what the hell’s up with that. I thought they’d fixed that graphics driver issue in NetInstall images. It’s too late at night for me to mess with it, so to hell with it until morning.

At this point, the only thing I want to try with the Air is throwing it at the wall to see if its thin profile allows it to embed itself like a shuriken.

Gundam: Climax U.C.

September 7, 2008

I’ve got yet another little game review here. Mobile Suit Gundam: Climax U.C. came out in March ’06, as another entry in the long line of Gundam shooters on the PS2. I got it a few months after that, but never actually got around to playing it. The problem was, I also got A.C.E. 2 around that same time, and compared to it every other mecha shooter seemed disappointing. Looking for something to do recently, I dug it back out of my pile of PS2 games and decided to give it an actual play through.

The premise of the game is to allow you to play major events from throughout the Universal Century timeline. Missions start with the original Mobile Suit Gundam, and hit everything through Gundam F91. Each of the individual series are short, but all together there’s a lot to do in the main Chronicle Mode. After finishing each main character’s story, you’re also given the chance to replay missions from other pilots’ point of view. As it stands, the only Chronicle Mode mission I haven’t done is Sazabi vs. Nu Gundam. I mopped the floor with Sazabi when doing it as Amuro, and it goes the same way when I try to do it as Sazabi. There’s also an Extra Mode, unlocked after beating all the main stories of Chronicle Mode. This gives a number of standalone scenarios. One of the best ones I’ve played so far is one where you take out all of the kids from ZZ. Oh, is that ever satisfying. I hate them all.

The first thing that you notice about Climax U.C., and what threw me off at first, is its somewhat unique combat system. Rather than switch weapons, or assign them to different buttons, each MS has 3 attacks accessed by charging the square button to different levels. For example, Zeta has a rapid fire beam rifle at level 1, the wrist mounted missiles at level 2, and the hyper mega launcher at level 3. I’m not sure I like this style, as it removes a lot of the tactics involved in combat. Generally, you’re just trying to charge the strongest possible attack, rather than tactically use your weapons based on their strengths and weaknesses. The lock on system is also terrible, since it just flips through targets in some random order. The way it should work, and the way most competent games work, is to target the nearest enemy. That way, if something is pounding on you right in front of your face, you can target it and retaliate quickly rather than flip through every target in range. I also never did figure out how to move on the Z axis in space missions. Enemies can do it, but damned if I can figure out how.

Much as with A.C.E. 1, I did eventually get used to the controls and get into the game. However, this is also a case where I can’t recommend it when there are other, superior entries in the series. I’d suggest Encounters in Space or any of the VS. series games for your PS2 Gundam fix. This does represent some unique opportunities, however, like playing the Norris/Gouf Custom scenario from 08th MS, or getting to play as the F91 (mediocre movie, great mobile suit). Anyone who’s suffered through Gundam F91 on the Super Famicom can appreciate that. My question is, where the hell is V Gundam? It’s UC, it’s at least better than ZZ, so where’s the love? Is my only option to use the V2 in the series’ own lackluster Super Famicom game?

In summation, buy this if you’re dying to play some of the rarer scenarios/units present in it, or if you’re really dying for a simpler, more arcade like experience than the other PS2 games. Honestly though, EiS is better… or you should play A.C.E. 2 🙂

One of my more unexpected acquisitions at Otakon was the complete set of DenLiner train cars from the Kamen Rider Den-O Action Liner series. HLJ was selling them at the con for $100, which works out to about $14 per car. Not bad at all for an import toy.

Each train car individually isn’t terribly interesting. You push a button and a weapon pops out. DenLiner’s engine car has a few trademark DenLiner sound effects activated by pushing down the spoiler on the back. The “eyes” on the front also light when you do this. The real interest is when you hook them all together. You pull out hitches on each car to connect them all up. When you push the weapon button on the first car, it will pull the next car forward, bumping its button, and causing the process to chain react down the line. It’s pretty fun to watch it all go off.

I happened to go onto HLJ’s site shortly after the con, and noticing they were clearancing out ALL of the ActionLiner series trains for really cheap. Since I wanted to order the Kiva Dogga Form figure anyway, I decided to pick up ZeroLiner Drill, ZeroLiner Naginata, and the dining car for DenLiner. I also grabbed the combining Kamen Rider Zeronnos figure despite it being kinda lame, because it was also going for cheap.

The ZeroLiner cars are each a bit bigger than the DenLiner cars. They both have a wind up feature as well for the drill and the helicopter blades. The helicopter blades will, if wound, start spinning automatically as soon as they’re released, which is pretty fun. ZeroLiner Drill also has the same sound effect feature as DenLiner Gouka, but with ZeroLiner’s typically more steam engine like sounds. And it moos. No lights on ZeroLiner, however, which is a bit disappointing. Regardless, I think the ZeroLiner cars are my favorites out of the whole Action Liner lot. I like the styling, the fact that they’re a bit bigger than the DenLiner cars, and the wind up features.

This one was a bit of a surprise to see that they made. The DenLiner dining car, setting for many a scene in the Den-O TV series. It has the same pop open feature as the other ActionLiner cars, though all it does is pop open the cover on the little diorama. Inside you’ll find miniatures of Momotaros, Urataros, Kintaros, Ryuutaros and Den-O (Sword Form) each with hip articulation so they can sit down. The most fun feature of the car is that you can mount the figures on little tracks, then have them “fight” by sliding them back and forth with the levers that pop out of the side. Kinda like those tabletop hockey games, but with Imagin.

Overall, these trains aren’t bad for what I paid. I don’t think they do enough that they would have warranted their full retail price, but at a discount they were a steal. All combined the entire train is pretty impressive, and I don’t even have GaoLiner or KingLiner. I just wish I had a shelf big enough to display the whole train put together.

Another Century’s Episode

September 3, 2008

A while back, I talked a bit about Another Century’s Episode 3, a game which along with its predecessor A.C.E. 2 I feel is one of the best shoot em ups ever. A.C.E. 2 and 3 are certainly among my favorite PS2 games. I’d never played the original A.C.E. until I picked it up at this last Otakon. So, how does it compare to its illustrious successors?

Initially upon beginning to play A.C.E., I almost decided to put it aside and never mess with it again. The control, the part I loved most about A.C.E. 2 and 3, is nothing like the sequels. It seems the wonderful “shift” system for using subweapons, where holding L1 changes the face and R buttons into subweapons, didn’t get invented until A.C.E. 2. That leaves you with a severe shortage of both buttons and weapons. Instead of a dedicated melee button, your main attack toggles between ranged and melee depending on range. This is frustrating as hell, since sometimes you know you won’t hit with one or the other, but can’t control what happens at will.

The tune up system is also not to my liking. You can only upgrade a fixed number of stats at a time, and that number varies by unit. In addition, each stat weakens another. So, if for example you beef up armor, you lose speed. If you beef up reload rate on your main weapon, you decrease its power. That’s extremely frustrating because you’re perpetually out of ammo on any useful weapons. You can upgrade opposing stats for a net gain on both, but not nearly as much of a gain as if you’d done one stat alone. It makes me wonder why bother spending so many points upgrading the units at all? If I’m going to be penalized in another area for upgrading one stat, wouldn’t I just leave it alone to keep a good balance?

I also don’t feel the difference between the various units that I didn in the other games. My choice of unit was basically this: Wing Gundam or someone else. Wing was special because the buster rifle makes it a keen boss slayer, especially when the target’s big like Psycho Gundam or a super sized Aura Battler. That’s about all it’s good at though. When Wing wasn’t appropriate, it didn’t really feel like it mattered if I picked Zeta, Nu, Billbine or whatever.

Available units are a little disappointing in comparison to the later games as well. No Macross? It is nice to play Zeta or Hyaku Shiki, and I don’t think the TV series versions of the Gundam Wing guys have been available in any other shooter style games. However, a mecha fan would be much happier with the spread in A.C.E. 2 or 3.

After forcing myself to play enough to get used to the differences (and awkwardness) of the controls, I did find the game to be playable and decent overall. I think I would have liked it better had I played it before its sequels. Unfortunately, I didn’t, and I have a hard time recommending the game when A.C.E. 2 and 3 are out there (and probably easier to find). Unless you want to play the original Wing Gundam that badly.