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The 8 Ball 12.3.13: Top 8 Wanted Christmas Gifts
Posted by Marc Morrison on 12.03.2013

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. With Thanksgiving out of the way we can talk about what is important: Christmas lists. Both Liana and I have tried to come up with our own specific, personal lists of the various toys/games or electronics gear that we'd like to hopefully get. These are just our own personal lists, so take them with a grain of salt. Enjoy:

8. PS4/Xbox One $500/$600

I know a lot of people either have these or want these, but I'm kind of indifferent to them at the moment. Sure, I'd like either one but I'm itching to get them. Part of this reason stems from me just getting a PS3 and wanting to try those games first. Another aspect is that I still have a fairly powerful gaming PC that I can get most of my gaming on. The third thing is the somewhat tepid reviews of both consoles, and of their respective launch lineups. Still, I wouldn't mind if either console just showed up at my door one day, it would allow me to review some of the new games and play with the new toys.

7. The Last of Us $50

A certain redhead woman who writes this column with me is already getting me this, so it's a bit moot, but I'll still mention it. Not having a PS3 until only recently, I had pretty much ignored most of Naughty Dog's work on the system, even though it's been lauded. And while the Uncharted series (2 specifically) seem like good games, I have a feeling that the Last of Us is more my type of speed. I don't think there any zombies in Uncharted, at least to my knowledge. I have a soft spot for apocalyptic games with strong survival elements. I hope I get it soon and enjoy playing it.

6. Assassin's Creed 4 $60

This is a small pass, as I currently have the game now, thanks to a good friend who works at Ubisoft. Before he got it for me, this game would have been at the top of my list. Having played and just recently beat it, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. AC3 was seen as a let-down by some, but I still liked aspects of it. AC4 is largely a return to form with having the brash Edward as the hero (sort of an Ezio-squared) character who seemingly actually enjoys what he does. As the story goes on he gets more beaten down, both mentally and physically, but there are large swaths of the game where Edward (and by extension, the player) are just having fun doing pirate-y things. I am extremely glad to have played this game and I look forward to the next inevitable one.

5. Suikoden 2 $140

Long ago I sold my copy of this game to pay for an outstanding bill I had. I still regret doing it, to this day. For as much as I love Suikoden 2, I somewhat refuse, on principle, to pay $140 or more, for a good copy of the game. I'd love it if Konami got around to re-releasing it on PSN because most of the copies out now would drop some in price. I just really want another copy of this game, one that I can legally own, as opposed to the questionable ways I can play it now. Get on it, Konami.

4. Panasonic Q $400

 photo Panasonic-Q-Console-Set_zpse29eb1ee.jpg

I'm a collector of rare consoles, and this is among one of the rarest. It's a Japan-only Gamecube that can play full-sized DVD movies. It also looks AWESOME. There were a few mods for this system, one of which included a region-free mod so you could play American/Japanese DVD's and games, which is pretty nice. I like weird off-shoots of consoles like this, and another one would be the Treamcast. That thing is also pretty cool looking. Sadly both systems are fairly hard to find, and if you can, they are usually outrageously expensive.

3. Debug Hardware Variable, but between $150 and $400

Along with rare "official" consoles, I am a small collector of this more obscure off-shoot. I currently have a nice Playstation 1 model (DTL-H1101) and a Debug original Xbox with an unfinished game on it. Debug consoles (and preview builds of games) offer a good glimpse into the inner workings of a system. Most consoles of this variety have special features like being able to play preview code, being able to boot CD-R disks, or having special networking/profile features. I'd love to have a nice Xbox 360 Dev Kit (with side car) or a PS3 Test Kit. If anything else, they are just supremely cool as collector's items, and I hope to get some more soon.

2. Pinball Machine Vairable, but anywhere between $1,200 and $10,000

One of my life's goals is to eventually own a pinball machine. I'd particularly love to own a Funhouse machine, owing to nostalgia memories of playing it in my youth. However a new "Wizard of Oz" pinball machine, as seen in the video, looks absolutely beautiful and fun to play. I think the appeal for pinball is that it's a test of my own skill when playing. When you're playing a video or arcade game, there is usually a computer trying to beat you. When you're playing a pinball game it is the table's chaotic nature and your own mistakes that you are trying to conquer. Video pinball is great and all but it's just not the real, tactile thing.

1. Meet/Hang out with Liana Priceless

 photo Liana3_zps749f1ec4.jpg

I met Liana online a little more than two years ago online and it started a good friendship between us. We've spent countless hours talking to one another online, either chatting, or being silly on Twitter. I've given her about one-third of her current Steam library in gifts, and another third by telling her about good deals or especially good games to check out. Conversely, she's helped me out through some very difficult spots in my life, always being there for an ear to listen to what's going on, or to lend a helping hand if she can. This is all without us actually meeting, by the way. We've voiced chatted a few times and played a few games together, but that's been it. It would be my greatest wish for us to meet, play some games, and actually talk with her face to face. I could watch her eyes glaze over as I talk about Space Rangers, and she could me not understand some point she makes about Dragon Age. That sounds like the best time ever, actually.

The Better Half with Liana K


Top 8 Things I Want For "Chrismukkah"

I don't tend to make Christmas lists, for two reasons:

1: Most people don't get me the stuff I actually want. I'm the lone geek in a family of UFC, hockey, and Downton Abbey fans. No matter how much I dumb things down, my family tends to get me things I SHOULD want, as opposed to stuff I actually want.

2: Because I'm Jewish. Which actually doesn't preclude one from Christmas as much as one might think, but there you have it. Even though companies now say it's "holiday" shopping, let's face it: it's CHRISTMAS. Hanukah doesn't result in an orgy of shopping. And people think shopping is fun, so they adapt their own traditions to make them more Christmasy. Have I mentioned I hate shopping? I digress.

So for the sake of this column, I'll bite the bullet and think about what I really want for Chrismukkah this year... hypothetically. The tough thing about this holiday is that it's a new console cycle, so the games on offer are somewhat limited. Most of the big releases were in the fall, and this fall was Grand Theft Auto... then everyone else. So there are a lot of games I'm hoping get a second life at Christmas... but I've already played those. So half of my list is add-on content, which, on the bright side, is fairly cheap. The downside is that my non-nerd family finds downloaded content too complicated to buy. Sigh. Oh well, on with the list!

8: The Rattle Shake and Zoo Lou Figures From Skylanders Swap Force

The last thing I need in my house is more plastic figures, but... but... these are awesome plastic figures! The sculpts on the latest Skylanders are possibly the best ever, and I just can't help myself. The Rattle Shake is actually for my husband – he really liked that figure at a preview event. But Zoo Lou... come on, he's a badass, raging berserker bunny type thing. I must have him!

7: Xbox One

I can already hear the freaking out among Xbox fanboys that the Xbox One ONLY ranks at number 7 for me, but, well, what can I say? I will eventually get one when my knee is improved enough to take advantage of its fitness app, and perhaps it's the inevitability of the purchase that's dampening my enthusiasm for it. I'm also waiting for better pricing incentives, because, let's face it, we know they're coming.

The ironic thing is that of the two consoles, I generally prefer the launch games on offer for the Xbox One. However, while Ryse intrigues me and Dead Rising 3 looks like a crazy amount of fun, I still have a gazillion steam games I have not played yet. Furthermore, based on how infrequently I play my Xbox 360 these days, it seems silly to make room for another system to slowly run up my electrical bill. That being said, if I got one, I wouldn't turn it down, even if the controllers are still giant in my little gimpy hands. I know that game I absolutely have to play is coming in the future, and when Quantum Break finally gets a release date, I'll likely start plotting Xbox One ownership in earnest.

6: Sony's 55 inch W900A Internet TV

Okay, so it's a half-inch too big for my wall unit, but damn it, I'd make it work! I watch more TV on the internet than on actual TV, so TV with built in internet would be perfect! Furthermore, it has enough HDMI ports to accommodate all my game systems in true HD. Okay, so it's two thousand bucks, annnd with tax, that's two months of mortgage payments. But... it's such a cool TV!

5: Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag Seasons Pass

I normally don't do seasons passes. However, the latest Assassin's Creed add-on has one irresistible incentive: More Adewalé! Adewalé is the best original character in Assassin's Creed Black Flag, and I was left wanting a lot more of him. Tricksy Ubisoft, making me spend money on DLC for a game I got for free to review! Okay, so there's no release date yet, but... but... WANT! Very few DLCs are things I consider must-plays, but holy blunderbusses this one is darned near close! Not convinced? Enjoy the video below of me, dressed as a pirate, interviewing a very nice guy who worked on the DLC who insists that Adewalé is MORE brutal than previous assassins. I'm not sure how this is possible. I must see for myself! As an aside, why am I dressed as a pirate? The correct question is, why wouldn't I be? One should take any and all opportunities to dress as a pirate.

4: The Last of Us: American Dreams Graphic Novel and Left Behind DLC pre-order

I absolutely loved The Last of Us, and I'm thrilled that comics artist Faith Erin Hicks has gotten some high profile work. Also, more Ellie. Granted, Ellie is younger in these stories, so perhaps she will not have quite so much trucker mouth, but I'm invested in the story of her friendship with Riley: the tragic way it ends is critical to who Ellie is, making this story not just "another prequel". I don't expect these spin offs to be as good as the main game, but I don't need them to be. Ellie is the friend I wish I had in high school, and I'll take any opportunity to spend more time with her. Also, check out the awesome audio work on the Left Behind teaser trailer. Sound is an often-overlooked hallmark of The Last of Us franchise! Was that a really nerdy thing to say? I don't care!

3: Playstation 4 Vita Bundle

I admit, the main appeal of this bundle is that it exists, but I've been very good up until this point about not buying a Vita because of the cost... and the fact that I played maybe six games on my PSP. Now that the PS4 is out, however, the Vita's Cross-Play feature is very very appealing. Recently I took a four day trip out to Edmonton in the middle of playing Assassin's Creed Black Flag. This meant four days of no pirates, no Assassins, no Templars, and no sea shanties. Really, I could sing to myself in the hotel room – and trust me, I did – but I was going through unnecessary and painful withdrawal. Now, thanks to the wonders of the PS4/Vita ecosystem, my quality of life will be much improved, and I'll play fewer facebook games right before I fall asleep.

2: Completing my collection of Dragon Age Comics

Normally, comic book tie-ins to video games are just barely okay, but the Dragon Age comics are really really good! ... Well, at least the ones I've read. They're pretty hard to find, with missing issues plaguing the comic book shops that do sell them -- and no, monkeys, I won't do Amazon. I want to help local shop owners stay in business. The comics give a peek into bits of Thedas we haven't seen in the games, like Tevinter, where the clothing is pretty badass, and Qunari culture, which... well, I won't spoil it, but it's awesome! It's so rare these days that I read a comic book I enjoy that isn't promptly cancelled right after I discover it, so collecting the remaining books would be really awesome before Dragon Age: Inquisition comes out. PS: We all remember I'm obsessed with Dragon Age, right? In light of that, my number one Christmas gift wish should be no surprise...

1: Upgrades To My Gaming PC... To Be Ready for Dragon Age: Inquisition

Five years ago, I got a gaming PC. I was tired of video game installs messing up my work computer, and I was switching to a mac, which are craptastic for video game selection. I've since grown to love the convenience of direct download gaming, and I enjoy the improved graphics quality PC versions provide. Also, gaming PCs are great display surfaces for video game related toys. Observe:

 photo gamingpccrop_zpsefd63521.jpg

However, my trusty workhorse computer is finally starting to seem dated: games are crashing an awful lot – Bioshock Infinite ran okay, but Witcher 2 nearly killed it. My hard drive is consistently full, forcing me to erase games I spent hours downloading in the first place. It also seems like it would be wise to swap out my Nvidia video card for an AMD one. People roll their eyes at PC gaming, but I'm an indie game fan, and there are so many wonderful little games I've discovered through steam sales. Those games, however, run fine on my existing equipment. Those games are not the reason I want to upgrade now. All my Dragon Age save game files are on PC. I can't imagine playing Dragon Age without hotkeys or the Tab key "show all" function. I like pausing witht he space bar instead of the left bumper. I liked bing able to change the camera angle with the mouse wheel. And I hate the dialogue wheel, which is a symptom of console-native RPG gaming.

...And I don't think there's a hope in hell that my current computer will be able to handle the Frostbyte 3 graphics.

So it's time for upgrades. PC upgrades are dicey, though, and I want to be able to work the bugs out so that nothing comes between me and snotty Orlesians, graphically-enhanced Qunari, Morrigan, and Flemeth. (Note Flemeth is in dragon form on top of my gaming PC. I love Flemeth.)

So come fall 2014, expect me to disappear off the face of the earth, because I'll be playing Dragon Age on my spiffy upgrade gaming PC. Which doesn't have a name yet. Weird.

What are your Christmas wish lists? Add your own comments! Or, suggest names for my gaming PC!

Complainer's Corner

No secondary list this week. As Liana said, put what you want for Christmas down as a list. I'll enjoy reading them for next week's column.

The General Roundup

Holy Christ there were a lot of comments last week. Most of them seemed centered around whether the Dreamcast had a successful launch or not. I think it did and didn't. It did for games like Soul Calibur, NFL2K and Sonic Adventure (for the time) being impressive graphical showpiece games. It didn't for the issues I mentioned before, about how some games just didn't work, and the system had some technical issues. I also view consoles like the N-Gage, the Virtual Boy, or the Game.Com as being fairly unimportant in the grand-scheme. I actually think (for the time) that the Virtual Boy lineup was pretty interesting, if a bit too red. Speaking of the PS4 vs. Xbone failure rates, I am only going by what my friends have gone through and the chatter online. Granted not as many of my friends bought a Xbone, but the ones that did have had the system largely work out of the box. Weren't Uncharged, Rayman, Wipeout and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 kind of the signature games for the Vita launch? I actually thought that system had a decent lineup of games. Lastly, Sewer Shark is garbage. Case closed.

Next Issue

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