Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Son Leaves, Some Game Updates and A Lot On Doctor Who  

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Family: Just a word or two to recognize the end of my son’s Christmas visit.

My oldest (age 9) was here for two weeks, and it was absolutely fantastic to see him. Our time together was great, and I was quite pleased to see that he got along famously with our youngest (almost 2.) I was a little concerned there might be some feelings of jealousy or competition between them, but there wasn't a bit. Optimal situation, really.

Before we knew it, the fourteen days were up and we somehow found ourselves in the car and driving towards the airport. It seems logical to expect that after several years of doing this exchange that the drop-offs would get easier, but they really don't. Still, what must be done must be done. The wait until spring break is going to feel like an eternity...

At the very least, I was quite pleased to have been able to do some co-op with him in Monster Hunter… he's going back to his mom’s with a bunch of advanced gear that he wouldn't have had without my help, so all those Kut-Kus, Congalalas and Cephadromes better watch themselves or else they’ll find the business end of a dragon bone longsword sticking out of their rumps.

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Games: Speaking of Monster Hunter, I had planned on taking a break from Freedom Unite but found myself coming back to it after a few other portables I tried failed to keep my interest. At this point, I'm around 130 hours into it and just successfully finished the fight against Lao Shan Lung, a dragon that is approximately the size of six-story building.


The battle was visually impressive thanks to the size differential, but a bit of a bore... since the dragon is so big, it doesn't even take notice of you, and damaging him basically boils down to punching a roll of its stomach fat for half an hour. Whee!

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In other games news, over the Christmas break, I had a mad craving for the new Splatterhouse revamp form Namco, and as luck would have it, Amazon had it on sale for a ridiculously low price. Something like $20 or $25, if I remember correctly. I haven't finished it yet, but at this point (approximately halfway, I'm guessing) that pricepoint feels perfect.


Don't get me wrong -- I'm not trying to say it's bad, because it's not. It's actually pretty good. The combat system is easy to understand and handles well, there are some fun moves to perform, and the whole B-movie/Lovecraft/UNBELIEVABLY GORY mash-up really works for me. I've definitely been enjoying it, but there's no question that the game needs a lot more polish and tweaking before it can hope to ask for $60 retail with a straight face.

It's definitely recommended (so far, anyway) if you can find it for cheap and are a fan of the absurd levels of violence, but don't go into it with AAA expectations. I'm considering doing a full review, so there will probably be more on this to come.

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One final games note, I'm only one track away from completing the most recent Trials HD DLC and the damn thing is driving me insane.

This is NOT the obstacle giving me problems.
Trials has always been about the extreme difficulty in the most advanced courses, but there is one particular jump that I just cannot wrap my head around. I have driven flawlessly up forty-foot near-vertical surfaces, I've wheelie-jumped across slippery logs suspended in midair, and I have rocket-boosted upside-down through flaming rings and always come out triumphant at the end with little patience and a lot of practice, but this one particular part has just got me stumped.

I've watched replay videos of people far better than I pull off this particular jump, and it looks effortless. I've consulted with fellow players and gotten specific advice on how to do it, and I've put in over a thousand attempts on my own time and it's just not clicking.

I'm currently taking a short break away from it (blood pressure, you know) and I'm really hoping that things will look a little more hopeful when I resume. I've finished everything up until this point, and I would hate to have the streak broken at this point...

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TV: I've mentioned it here on the blog a few times, but the wife and I have only recently become Doctor Who fans. Given my innate level of nerd-dom and love of Fantasy/Sci-Fi, it seems somewhat incredible that I've never even seen a single episode of the show prior to 2010, but it's the truth. However, that problem has certainly been rectified. Thanks to the magic of Netflix, we've seen the entirety of Seasons One through Four, and watched nearly all of the related series, Torchwood. Doctor Who, Season Five is currently on its way to our house as I type this. As such, I realize that the following comments are going to be old news to all you Doctor Who OGs, but hey, we all have to start somewhere, right?

David Tennant, looking... Brilliant?
Anyway, the reason I bring it up is that the end of Season Four was pretty monumentally huge for a few reasons. The first is that the writers stitched everything up in such a way so as to connect virtually everything that happened in all four seasons into one long, immense story arc. The second is that the end of Season Four marked the departure of David Tennant from the show, and from what I gather, he is an extremely well-loved incarnation of the Doctor, if not the MOST well-loved.

Speaking first of the season-spanning storyline, I was quite impressed at some of the tricks and details that the writers had managed to include. Virtually every important character that had been in the series made a reappearance in some fashion by the time things wrapped, and I was constantly tickled by familiar faces popping up. Being a writer myself, I have the utmost appreciation for how much work this must have been, and really, everyone involved deserves an immense pat on the back.

Also, I did want to give special thanks to everyone who gave me advice about the proper way to watch Doctor Who before it started. I wasn't sure if the show was going to be something I'd get into, and a good number of people who were fans recommended that I jump into some of the later seasons in order to see some of the "good" episodes as a means of judging whether the series would be worth my time. I considered that, but a larger number of people stressed that many of the events hinged on groundwork being laid in chronological fashion, and strongly insisted that I start at the beginning if I was to start at all.

Having seen the final episode of Season Four today, I am extremely glad that I decided to start with Season One, Episode One and work my way forward. The payoff was pretty incredible, and wouldn't have been anywhere near as satisfying if I had been picking and choosing my way through the various episodes.

If you are reading this blog, have never seen Doctor Who, and are considering starting, trust me and BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING. There are definitely a few wonky episodes here and there and it takes a little bit for things to get going, but it's absolutely worth experiencing the whole ride from start to finish.

Billie Piper and Christopher Eccleston
Moving on to the subject of David Tennant, I’ve said several times that I've never cared for him much, and that remains true. Having had no previous Doctor experience, Season One’s Christopher Eccleston was my first exposure to what a thousand-year-old Time Lord should be like, and I think he did a phenomenal job. He was relatable, yet fiery and alien at times, and certainly had the required level of gravitas that I think the role calls for. Unfortunately, he only lasted for a single season and was quickly replaced.

To use the vernacular: Disappoint GET.

Moving onto Tennant in Season Two, both the wife and I were put off by his manner and his delivery. Personally, I found him to be too lightweight; too quick and flip at times, and did not (to me, anyway) feel like much more than some dude in a long coat running around and speaking way too fast for how thick his accent could get. I never got many serious tones from his performances, and that was something I definitely missed.

Season Three was fine (we knew that Tennant would be replaced at the end of the next season, so we dutifully followed along) but it wasn't until Season Four that I really felt Tennant’s characterization and illustration of the Doctor really started to blossom. In large part, I think his effort was assisted by the Doctor’s companion at that time, Donna Noble. Donna (played by Catherine Tate) was a great foil. Her vulnerability and humanity made her feel like more of a "whole" person than the previous companions (although I liked them as well) and it really helped that Donna's character was not hopelessly in love with the Doctor. They made a great team in the truest sense of the word.

The Doctor and Donna
As Season Four went on and eventually led into the special episodes that precede Season Five, Tennant finally started showing sides of the Doctor which enriched my appreciation of him. Sadness, regret, weakening confidence... even shades of insanity. Reaching this point, Tennant finally started slowing down and really bringing the kind of meat to the role that I could sink my teeth into. It was definitely still largely lighthearted and fun, but the undertones of tragedy enhanced everything that happened.

I can't say for sure whether it was the writers, David Tennant himself, or a combination of both which finally zeroed in on a performance of the Doctor that I could finally get behind, but it was a real shame that it didn't materialize until a few episodes before the actor’s exit. If that kind of acting had been happening in seasons Two and Three as well, I'd probably be a much bigger Tennant fan than I am.

Although he definitely started to grow on me towards the end, I have to say that overall, I really don't see the appeal in his version of the Doctor, or why he seems to be the overall favorite of most people I ask. Is it just the hair? The cute-guy factor? I don't know.

Regardless of my feelings for Tennant, the fact remains that Dr. Who has been one hell of a ride so far, and the wife and I definitely count ourselves as fans despite our long-delayed discovery of the series. In fact, we like it so much that we’re considering dipping into some of the old-school stuff to see what we missed the first time around. If any of you experienced Who folk out there have advice for how or where we should start, I’m all ears.

(Oh, and I’ve heard mention of the Sarah Jane Chronicles and K9 having his own show as well… Any words on those would be quite welcome, too!)

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3 comments: to “ The Son Leaves, Some Game Updates and A Lot On Doctor Who


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    I still think David is great at Who, but, having said that, Matt Smith (the new doctor) is far superior. Hopefully you'll enjoy his performance. Suffice to say the writing is a ton better in the latest season, too.

    In regards to Sarah Jane Chronicles, I'd pass. It's a show aimed at kids and because of that, lacks any edge of the main Who show or Torchwood (which I'd love to hear your thoughts on).


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    I think the previous commenter does have some point about Sarah Jane Chronicles, but I did enjoy watching it. More importantly, I really enjoyed watching it with my girlfriend's daughter (age 7). It is designed to be more accessible for a younger audience but it doesn't shy away from having some depth to the characters and at least attempting to explore some of the larger themes found in Doctor Who.

    If I were you I would wait for spring break and watch it with your 9yr old. I can't promise he'll love it but I can't imagine both of you won't get something out of it.


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    When it comes to Dr. Who, you're first Doctor is *always* the best :) Which, for me, means Tom Baker will always be "the Doctor" as much as I love the four new ones that have come to light in this recent reboot of the series.

    One of the things The WHO Team its and pieces have done brilliantly is to give us long story arcs, but not so obviously that you say "oh, this episode is filler or that pushed the plot along".

    Sarah Jane Chonicles is still going, they aired a single season here in the US, but I think the BBC is still running it in the UK. It's quite a different animal, and having watched Sara Jane as a bossy Lois Lane mimeo when she was a companion to John Pertwee and Tom Baker, I can say she still retains that character's charm and mild lack of tact :D. It is targeted at kids, but so was the original Dr. Who, and look at how it's evolved after 30 years.

    K9, BTW ia just AWESOME. I don't think he could hold a show, but he really needs to just show up ALL OVER UK advertising, just because.

    I will add that you *must* see what Moffet and friends just did with Sherlock.