Kitchen Nightmares III: Holding Patterns (and Who Can I Sue If I Drop Dead of Starvation?)…


 

So, the kitchen here still hasn’t been returned to its normal state, but the work is set to begin on December 5th. The stove can still be used, but once the sun goes down, you’re taking your life in your hands if you try to chop anything in the kitchen. Sure, I can sit in the living room and get all rustic with a cutting board in my lap or on the coffee table, but there’s something so odd about doing this (and yeah, one slip means I’ll be adding a body part to whatever I’m cooking). I’ll have to bug the management here about some sort of cooking/meal solution once the repair/rebuilding work gets underway. Once it starts, the kitchen will be off limits for at least four days straight and then a few days more after a weekend break. Bleh. I hope to hell they don’t think I’ll be ordering out or eating fast food for all that time, as that’s not a good idea for me for a few reasons.

(Thanks, SeriouslyDead!)
 

Feh, at this point I just want this long national nightmare to be over so I can go back to living like a normal person. Maybe I’ll slap on some zombie makeup and start groaning at the workmen when they show up to spur them to get the job done faster. Then again, the lack of craftsmanship and care here is pretty shocking. The team that removed the asbestos from the kitchen had a fat guy who busted the burners on the stove AND chipped the paint on the stove because he stood on them when he was doing the ceiling. Gyahhh. I despise that sort of idiocy. Okay, let me go lie down before I bust something.

Random Film of the Week(end): Adrenaline Drive


 

Adrenaline Drive DVD coverShinobu Yaguchi’s films always make me smile because they’re consistently fun to watch even if they don’t achieve everything they need to over the course of their running times. 1999’s romantic (and slightly black) comedy Adrenaline Drive does make the most of its hilarious plot and energetic cast although it takes a slight misstep later on with a very short burst of violence some viewers may find slightly sours the experience. On the other hand, given the character in question dishing out that brief bit of ouch time, it’s a sort of cathartic moment for him after all he’s been through… Continue reading

VGA 101: Happy Birthday, Sega Dreamcast: “It’s Thinking”… But Probably About Better Times.

Note: This isn’t at ALL a “complete history” of the console. It’s just more random off the top of the head wistful reminiscing!

(thanks, Wiidork!)
 
For one brief, shining moment (well, that moment lasted three years or so), Sega has many of us gamers on the edge of our seats and extremely happy about it. Once the US arm of the company deemed the Saturn “dead” and started peeling away support for it, there was a gap of time where we were wondering what was coming next. When whispers of a new and more powerful console code-named “Katana” started getting traction in the game press, followed up by early screenshots of works in progress, some fans were trumpeting that upcoming console as a redemption and return to form for the company and in Japan, while Saturn games were still being sold, it seemed that everywhere you went in some spots, ads popped up announcing something was coming from Sega that would be new, unusual and exciting. And oh, was it when it finally did arrive… Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: The Straight Story

straight_story_ver2For me, The Straight Story is David Lynch’s best film because it succeeds wholly as the director’s “most experimental” work and manages to be one of those movies that WILL touch you no matter how you feel about his other work. The true story of Alvin Straight’s 200+ mile journey to visit his ailing brother on a riding lawn mower may seem well out of Lynch’s weird wheelhouse, but those of his fans and anyone with a good eye will see plenty of strangeness in the normal here that shows even the simplest of stories can be remarkable when told as well as done here.

Perhaps the most amusing and interesting thing about the movie to some will be it carries the Disney name on it (it was released under the company’s Buena Vista Pictures label back in 1999) and is rated G, usually two death knells for a director know for startling his audiences with bizarre imagery. Lynch keeps things more mundane here, but there are moments in performance and presentation where you can see bits of his trademark style on display and it doesn’t detract from the story at all… Continue reading

Omega Boost 1995/1996: A Work In Progress Before Some Big Changes…

Omega Boost Demo 0 OB_Cyber Head Logo OB_WIP Omega Boost Demo TS OB_HTP screen OB_HTP_SC2 OBS2 OBD_Cockpit View Omega Boost Demo 1

PC_Vol.2Well, now. That wasn’t hard or annoying after all except for two things. One quick download of an emulator, some fast configuring and popping in the demo disc I have here and boom – pictures of the first of three Omega Boost demos that appeared on Japanese PlayStation Club discs from 1996 to 1999. The game went through some major changes in those three years, but even as a 30% complete version in these shots it’s pretty darn interesting from a technical standpoint.

I believe the demo runs at 60 frames per second, it has three selectable viewpoints (first person/cockpit/third person), a full 360 degrees of freedom and is pretty fun overall for what it is. Granted, I took these screenshots at the library while dinking around on a keyboard because I didn’t bring a controller with me (oops) or else there would have been about 30 more images here. I also didn’t tinker with the visual settings on the emulator to make the game prettier because I like the look of many early PlayStation games.

Finally, I need to find out who made up Cyber Head, which seems to be the development team behind the first two builds. Based on some other games I’ve played, it seems that in the early days of PlayStation development, a few studios didn’t mind sharing talent to help each other out as the new hardware was being explored to see what it could really do. Hmmm… I smell a longer story here at some point. I wonder if there’s anyone still around from those days with some helpful info?

Hey, Polyphony Digital? Where’s That Omega Boost Remake/Sequel?

(thanks, Maya Rudolph!)

OB_JPSomewhere before and in between Gran Turismo and Gran Turismo II, members of Polyphony Digital (seemingly working under the name Cyber Head) worked on a little game called Omega Boost which was released for the PlayStation in Japan in April of 1999, the US that August and in Europe a month later. Japan got the awesome and hilarious TV ad above for the game (the US ad was amusing, but not as nuts as the Japanese one) and when the game arrived at the small indie game shop I worked at, it spent a decent amount of time in the store play stack. Back then, the game was impressive to me and many others right away thanks to the opening movie that still packs a punch:

(thanks, Cacophanus!)

Thankfully, other than the slightly unwise replacing of the Queen-style rocker that opens the import with some alternative tune that’s OK in terms of it’s title (“Fly” by Loudmouth) but lesser than the original theme music in terms of impact, the US version got the same explosive intro:

(thanks, vision2098!)

OB_NABy the way, note the “Marilyn Monroe/Norma Jean” autograph reference – I loved that tiny bit of fluff because it was a little detail only a film buff would latch on to right away and smile at. As far as the gameplay went, it was an arcade-style space shooter with 19 stages, some cool planetary and tunnel missions along with a number of intense boss battles and a ton of cool bonuses for the dedicated players out there. Some game critics unfairly compared it to Sega’s Panzer Dragoon games, which only made sense as a frame of reference if you were a PS owner who also happened to have a Sega Saturn in the house. There were some minor similarities, but Omega Boost was more a technical showcase for the PlayStation hardware than Panzer Dragoon ever was on the Saturn.

The game was actually in production as early as 1996 (or perhaps sooner), as a series of Japanese demos I have here shows the early work on the game back then was making for a very different-looking experience running at 60fps with simpler polygon visuals and a few more viewpoint choices. Oh, you want some videos of that for proof? Well you’ll need to come over if you want to see them, silly. I’d thought someone would have posted them on YouTube already, but nope and nope so far. Get on it collectors who never open your stuff, I say!

Oh, all right. One day I’ll get off my butt, dig out those PlayStation Club demo discs and have someone shoot footage of me playing them, but I just haven’t had the time to get onto that and some other projects. As usual, I digress. Anyway, the game wasn’t exactly a “blockbuster” in terms of sales or review scores, but it’s definitely one of those side projects where you could see the quality right from the beginning. Of course, with Polyphony so darn occupied with the vastly more popular Gran Turismo series of games, it’s hard to even think of a new OB rolling out from them any time soon. That’s not to say that is SHOULDN’T be done at all, folks. I’m just hoping that if there is a follow-up or remake, it gets the attention it should on a few fronts the original certainly didn’t.

Eh, perhaps I’ll bite the bullet, download a PlayStation emulator from somewhere and figure out how to record some gameplay. It shouldn’t be that hard to do, although I generally dislike using emulators over an actual console…

Bad PR 101: Sega’s “Funny” Folly Went Over (and On) the Heads of Some…

next gen sega card (Large)Yeah, that postcard to the left was promising back in 1996, but less than three years later, the Sega Saturn ship was about to come crashing to earth in a slow nuclear explosion. While the console did get a number of excellent titles, fans of the system in North America suffered through Sega of America’s leadership at the time that seemed to ignore some pretty obvious Japanese 2D imports in a few genres in favor of approving too many first and third party polygon-based games or imports that seemed “safe” bets if the right segment of the system’s audience was willing to buy them.

Combine that with some third-party games taking seemingly forever to arrive and Sega deciding to only ship limited quantities of the last few major games on the platform and having the gall to rub consumer’s faces in it for the best game on the platform (see below the jump) and you end up with a console that died a horrible death it really didn’t need to…
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VGA 101: Drakan: Order of the Flame – The Old Girl’s Still Got It…

Drakan 15

Well, it runs like a dream and while not exactly sporting current generation visuals, I still like the look of this old classic from Surreal Software. Of course, I’m still using Windows XP, so I can’t vouch for more a current OS and nope, that 10th anniversary mod really doesn’t help the visuals at all because it’s still a bit wonky and makes the cut scenes look quite hideous (well, more so than they did in the original game). I guess if someone came up with new HD character models for Rynn, Arokh and the different enemies in the game plus a new texture pack for the levels, I’d try that out just for kicks. But for now, running this with all the effects up works just fine for me…

Drakan 7 Drakan 16 Drakan 32

Video Game Appreciation 101: Drakan: Order of the Flame (Or: The Return of the Odd Couple!)

Drakan PC 1Yeah, yeah, Microsoft is revealing its fancy new Xbox in less than an hour (*yawn!*)… I’m MORE excited that I managed to score a boxed new/sealed copy of Drakan: Order of the Flame, a game I’ve been wanting to play since it was released back in 1999. Amusingly enough, I worked in a game shop that had a copy, but I didn’t pick it up back then because I wasn’t into PC gaming as much back then. I’d played the demo on a friend’s beefy gaming rig and liked it, but didn’t want to dive into something that would require me buying an expensive 3D card (well, a better PC, because mine was a crappy model that could only run a bunch of DOS and early Windows 95/98 games).

Anyway, yes indeed, it installs and runs perfectly on the laptop (so far), but I hear from the grapevine that I need to grab a patch or two because the game has at least two major bugs from what I’ve read. The late Surreal Software whipped up a solid action game with light RPG elements starring two unique characters in Rynn, a young woman who finds out she’s bonded to an ancient dragon named Arokh after her tiny village is destroyed by an army controlled by an evil sorcerer…
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Random Film of the Week: Sleepy Hollow

sleepy hollowIf you’re a creaky old horror film buff like me, Tim Burton’s 1999 film Sleepy Hollow is a nice little love letter to a few classics. Of course, going in not knowing what the director is paying homage to works just fine, particularly if you also toss out ANY notions that he’s going to to a straight retelling of the original Washington Irving short story. Granted, I’d bet most people who went to see this back when it was released weren’t stuffy critics who poked at the movie for not staying close to that moldy lore at all (or had even read the story, for that matter). If you wanted a well-paced horror flick with some solid performances, great visual effects and a few shocks along the way, you got that and then some. Those of us who saw this with one eye out for the director’s reference material were more likely than not a great deal more giddy by the time those credits rolled… Continue reading