Checkpoint: Baller Brands Edition

Checkpoint: Baller Brands Edition

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When I was a wee lad, I saw brands like Apple and Bose as overpriced junk for snooty people. Now, a decade and a half later, I am typing on an Apple MacBook Air and listening to music on Bose Bluetooth speaker.

What happened?

I’m certain some of it has to do with lack of money at the time. How can someone spend so much on something that essentially does the same thing as a significantly cheaper brand? I never understood the differences in nuances available on higher end brands like Apple or Bose. For many tasks and functions, cheaper options would suffice but now I get it. Paying extra nets that extra layer of polish and quality that are “nice-to-haves”. Do I need them? No. But I also have the funds now to legitimately choose those higher priced options.

Consumer awareness has also increased significantly since my youth where big brands like Monster can no longer hide behind marketing speak. Companies now need to have actual substance behind their words. Technology and gadget sites now review and dig into the nitty gritty details to see how higher priced options stack up to cheaper offerings. I picked up the Bose SoundLink Mini II based on one of The Wirecutter’s recommendations and not out of any brand recognition.

I finished the first run of Nier: Automata which left me a bit underwhelmed if I’m honest. For some reason, I thought I would see more interesting vistas and places. The Copied City was amazing and I was hoping to see more areas like that but 2B’s run came to somewhat of an abrupt halt that left me wanting. So I dove back in as 9S curious to see what his perspective has to offer. 

Checkpoint: LG OLED55B6P Edition

Checkpoint: LG OLED55B6P Edition

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My goodness is this TV ever pretty. My LG 55LE8500 bit the dust last week and the stars aligned for me to pick up an LG OLED55B6P for $2299.99 ($700 off). It’s worth every penny despite the fact that I’m not able to fully appreciate the screen’s capabilities yet. I still have yet to receive the new A/V receiver to enjoy my home theatre speaker setup with the 4K goodness. 

First impressions of the screen is that it’s remarkably thin and light. My old LE8500 was 79 LBS without the stand and this new screen is a mere 36 LBS or so. It’s super thin at its thinnest point but half the screen still has a bit of a bulge for electronics, speakers and all the other bits that make TVs usable. The picture quality was very dark and saturated by default but after a bit of tweaking it was much more appealing. Motion resolution and clarity of image is what I’m most taken aback by. I’ve only played Nier: Automata on it but everything looks crisp still and in motion. 

The built-in speakers are quite poor but it’s not surprising considering how little space they have to work with. The interface and “Magic Wand” remote are a joy to use which is a huge step up from the clunky and laggy interfaces of old. I have yet to try any of the built-in apps but it looks there’s a solid app marketplace on there.


Checkpoint: CBC Edition

Checkpoint: CBC Edition

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I’ve been listening to a lot of Chinese pop music lately. I was inspired to go down this rabbit hole after I was shared a modern song and noticed how similar the music style and how coherent the occasional English lyrics were. I just had to know how much has changed since the late 1990s and early 2000s. I used to listen to Chinese pop music around that time — putting popular Hong Kong songs into my MD Player.

It always seemed off way back then. Now the beats and musical style aligns so closely to western tastes, that the only differentiator is language. Even how artists use English lyrics have improved tremendously. In the past, English lyrics were strewn in an incoherent manner. They were used as buzz words and uttered with thick accents. Now? I can listen to a song from Ztao and Wiz Khalifa. What a weird world. 

I was also inspired to get in touch with my Chinese side. I’m a Canadian Born Chinese and my comprehension of Mandarin has slipped into oblivion. It’s tough for me to even pick out words I recognize anymore. But listening to this music for the past few days has helped. I can pick out more and more words and maybe I’ll be able to actually relearn what I’ve forgotten. I was never great in the first place but I feel like I should put in more of an effort to at least get listening comprehension back to a basic level. 

So what do I think of what I’ve listened to thus far? Much of it was sourced from Spotify playlists and I’ve really enjoyed the melodies. I can’t say I understand an entire song yet but that’s alright. I’m hoping it gets better with time. I really wish my comprehension was better immediately because I would love to know what Chinese rap is all about. It sounds cringeworthy and I want to know if it’s warranted.

Yakuza 0 Review

Yakuza 0 Review

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Yakuza 0 was the definitive Yakuza experience. It had everything I loved about the series and then some. The cultural touches, the wackiness and the over-the-top violence was all there with a fresh coat of current generation paint. I took a six year hiatus after finish Yakuza 4. I still loved the series but I always felt it was losing a bit of its identity the further it marched forward in the timeline. Yakuza, to me, was and will always be a late 80s to early 90s series. This prequel was right up my alley then.

Tackling a prequel isn’t easy. How can you tack on a meaningful story when you already know the major outcomes? How can you introduce characters that were never referenced before? It turns out there’s a lot to mine and flesh out in the Yakuza series because this was one hell of a drama.

Kiryu Kazama, Goro Majima, Akira Nishikiyama and many others would go onto become bigger players in subsequent games but they all got their start somewhere. There was a time when Nishikiyama and Kiryu were oath brothers and actually loved one another. Kiryu was just an up and coming yakuza member doing small time jobs like debt collections. Nishikiyama was still aspiring for bigger and better things and Goro Majima wasn’t as wacky as he eventually became yet.

The game has its gripping crime drama but it also shares the story of Japan in the late 1980s. Side stories offered insight into various areas including the temperature of the people and taxes, the weird nature of telephone clubs, the influx of big money, and some citizen’s love of American culture. Of course, they are side stories and thus you can ignore the bulk of it but they add a lot of flavor and texture to what makes this franchise great. It’s not unusual to find myself racing slot cars for hours and then find myself running away from murderous yakuza types.

Coming from Yakuza 4 and its four characters down to just two in Yakuza 0 may seem like a downgrade at first glance but I found the focus on two of the series’ mainstays gave the story strong direction. Four characters also offered four different playstyles giving each character slightly different spins on how to dish out brutal punishment. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they shoved four playstyles into Kiryu and Goro giving a total of eight distinct playstyles to toy around with. They’re all viable options for the random throwdowns on the mean streets of Tokyo or Osaka but every so often, it behooved me to switch to a specific style — especially important against the likes of Mr. Shakedown.

Mr. Shakedown? Giant men who roam the streets of Tokyo or Osaka looking for Kiryu or Goro to beat up and steal money from. I wish these giants could be seen shaking down other NPCs. These men were the game’s trickiest opponents. They had the most health and hit the hardest. I eventually discovered It was primarily a test of patience. If I was too bold or too greedy, I was in a world of hurt but since money was so easy to come by, losing to Mr. Shakedown wasn’t the end of the world.

I love the ridiculous side content of this game. They varied in size and scope but they all fed into the atmosphere of the game. Some of it taught life lessons that wouldn’t be out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon. Others were long drawn out games within a game where I’m managing a hostess club or real estate development firm. A lot of it though, were genuinely funny.

I was introduced to host and hostess clubs through this series. I gleaned more and more nuggets of Japanese culture in subsequent games but it’s been a while since I learned something significant. In Yakuza 0, I was introduced to telephone clubs and the precarious dating situations that they present. Some of it is still relevant today and online dating scene.

Yakuza 0 is at its best when it’s imparting knowledge, makes me laugh, fills me with suspense, and entertains me with hard hitting action and drama. This prequel fills in the back story of many of the series characters and lays the groundwork for things to come. At the same time, they’ve opened up the idea of getting into the story of Shintaro Kazama and Masaru Sera and how they built their legacies. I also feel they ended Yakuza 0 with one of the sweetest endings in games let alone the series.

It’s been days since I wrapped up Yakuza 0. It took me a lot longer than I it would but that was because I was delving deeper and deeper into what this game had to offer. I still have a lot of side stories to complete but Nier: Automata was calling and I had to go. However, there were moments when I considered revisiting Kamurocho. I should wait though: the Yakuza: Kiwami is just around the corner.

I loved it

Ratings Guide

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