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Geek Baltimore: Round 1

Hey all,

 It’s been a little bit since this blog has seen any action and we apologize. The holidays always get us and it has been especially hectic here at Doomtastic HQ. We did get to go to a fair number of conventions in around the holidays though, so that was good.

The new Round 1 arcade

But we are starting back up for the New Year talking about the series of Round 1 arcades that have been proliferating across the US because one finally opened up near us. WOOHOO!! We have had the amazing opportunity to go to them in Japan as well as in the US so we thought it would be fun to talk about them. We would like to preface the rest of this post by saying we are happy to see more arcades regardless of whether they are different or unique. They provide a great social opportunity and even though they do cost money, it is nice to see a place for individuals to gather that allow and encourage teenagers.

That being said, let’s talk about Round 1 in particular because they are a Japanese entertainment company opening franchises all over the US and they are rapidly expanding which is awesome. The Round 1 locations that we have been to in the US seem a little bit like Dave and Busters at first glance. Near the entrance is primarily shooter style games. Similar to other locations, there are pool/billiard tables and bowling as well as pinball and other arcade games. The bar is close to the entry from the mall as well. In a more secluded corner are more Japanese rhythm games, which definitely sets it apart from other arcades, although some Dave and Busters locations do have DDR now. The rhythm games are naturally of particular interest to us. We do enjoy them, as well as the fact that Round 1 sells Nessica, Banapassport, Konami amusement passes so that you can track progress and connect to the internet so you can compare scores.

What we really miss from the arcades in Japan are the pods and Mecha/piloting simulation games, such as the one that allows you to drive a train. People familiar with the Gundam pods will know what we are talking about. The Round 1 location near us does not have these, and from our experiences and our friends’ experiences, it does not seem that the ones in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have these games either. So we miss these and would really enjoy having access to them.

The screen and cockpit of a mecha simulator game in Japan.

The other complaint that we have is that there do appear to be several problems with games. The Round 1 in Maryland has only been open for approximately 1 month and several games have intermittent malfunctions. We have noted several random people indiscriminately hitting controls on the games. This, of course, affects games that are pressure sensitive more than it does games that use a joystick or gun style controller. Given this, it is not surprising that some of the games have started to malfunction so quickly. In addition, in the month that this location has been open, pinball games have yet to be functional and the bar is not working. We also ran into a few errors with reloading the payment card where the whole system was down. Also problematic is that some of the games have region locks on certain aspects of play which has limited our participation and may impact the longevity of our fascination with them. We will continue to play and frequent the location and see if these changes.

We are really enjoying the ability to play so many games such as Project Diva Arcade and Maimai in arcades when we want. And being able to play these games, with awesome prizes and some really great claw games. Round 1 Baltimore claw prizeThe abilityto engaged in multiple types of recreation, such as an arcade with bowling and karaoke is also not to be overlooked because it allows a fairly large group of people (or even two people who like to do two very different things the way Yosei hates bowling, but Graham LOVES it) to have a wide area of needs met. Plus the prizes that you can earn are pretty darn great!

Anyway, the Round 1 expansion is pretty great and allowing for more people to play games. It is very nice to see arcades making a comeback and we hope to see more in tise vein. Although the gaming lounges that are popping up are also very fun. We are going to keep checking out Round 1 and may update this post or do a follow-up if things change.

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Gundam ZZ

I’ve been wanting to watch ZZ for quite a while now, and while it took me a while to do so, the main catalyst for it was the recent playing of Super Robot Wars V. Watching the characters interact and talk about events in the story got me motivated to finally sit down and watch the series.

This series is the direct sequel to Gundam Zeta, and talk about a tonal shift. We go from a series that has dark war tones, to a series where we watch a bunch of scrap yard kids steals military weaponry like it’s nothing. Don’t forget the food fights.

The first episode was also something that I didn’t expect, a basic history of the Universal Century up to that point. After that episode, it gets back to the narrative and starts after the final battle in Zeta.

The first 3rd of the series is spent on the colony as the Argama is hiding from Neo Zeon and a bunch of kids keeps trying to steal the Zeta for parts. While this is kinda funny at first, it gets quite tiresome after a few episodes. Neo Zeon has also pitted them against Mashymre Cello, an officer who is obsessed with Haman and cherishes the flower that she gave him.

For me, the series picks up after they leave the colony, and they bring in the ZZ and one of my favorite characters, Ple. The whole dynamic of Judau of being this brat who won’t take orders, but will do anything for his family, really comes out in the middle of the series where he starts to realize that his family will be affected by all of this.

While Neo Zeon’s head is Haman Karn, a character who I became obsessed with after watching Zeta, there is a bit of a power struggle as another officer, Glemy Toto tries to figure a way to usurp her power. The role these two have to play in the story is very fascinating as the two dance around each other, with Haman always being the better.

By the end of this series, you have a fascinating group of characters, which are all pretty much kids, that will create the world they want by fighting against the tyrannical Neo Zeon. Of course, this is only temporary, since everyone forgot about Char.

This 3rd Gundam series gets a lot of flack. I know a lot of it is from its sudden tonal shift from the super seriousness of Kamille to the goofiness of the Moon Moon tribes. I believe this series stands out as being a fantastic series otherwise. I for one enjoyed the Moon Moon portion of the series, especially since it comes back later in the series, and not just a random couple of episodes. Which is what I look for in series. I enjoy when things, seemingly random, come back to assist or even hurt the main protagonists of the series.

If you’ve been missing out on this series just because people have been saying it’s bad, I say give it a try anyway. While it can be a little silly in the beginning, it does pick up and it does have a compelling story, with an interesting set of characters.

You can purchase ZZ officially over here either by Rightstuf or other retailers.

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Review: Dai-Guard

A while ago I found this little gem at the Discotek Media booth at one of the many conventions I travel to. This was Dai-Guard: Terrestrial Defense Corp., a mecha series which I had heard of, but never watched. It looked entertaining, so I decided to pick it up.

I finally got around to watching this a few weeks ago, and I really swept through this series. Now to the fun details.

Dai-Guard is a sci-fi mecha series created by XEBEC and directed by Seiji Mizushima, who directed both Gundam 00 and the original Full Metal Alchemist anime series. This is a quaint story about a security company in the year 2030 and their giant robot…also paperwork.

Look how huge it is!

Dai-guard is robot that was created by the 21st Century Defense Security after an attack by a large monster known as a Heterodyne. Unfortunately, they disappeared after the first attack, and it became nothing more than a attraction for years to come. Continue reading Review: Dai-Guard

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Random Acts of Chocolate

So Valentine’s Day is here again, and I was feeling a little crafty. So what would be a better artistic medium than that age old standby: chocolate. Ah chocolate, praised by the Aztecs, sad housewives, and hyperactive 5 year olds everywhere. And this time of year, chocolate consumption goes up by, like 2 billion percent (Google the stats if you don’t believe me) .

If you’ve ever watched any long running anime series, like Ranma ½ or Ah! My Goddess, you’re familiar with the distinct differences between Japanese and Western observation of the Valentine’s holiday. Particularly on the who’s giving who the chocolaty goodness.

See, unlike here in the US, it’s customary in Japan for girls to give boys chocolates. This may sound strange to any American guy who’s still waiting for their 4th grade crush to even acknowledge that they existed, but in Japan it seems to be the norm. However, turnabout is only fair play; and one month after Valentines, the Japanese celebrate White Day, where it’s the boys turn to pony up the tokens of affection.

There are two levels of the Japanese chocolate gift giving: the obligation chocolates, given to friends and coworkers, then there’s the honmei choco, a specially prepared chocolate confection that is homemade and presented to a girl’s crush.

While I’m not a member of the double-X chromosome clan, I was intrigued by the idea of rolling up my sleeves and indulging my inner Willy Wonka. So I set out to see if a middle aged, single guy could produce a version that any 14 year old boy living in Shinjuku would be happy to receive. No, I’m not trying to woo teenage Japanese boys. You know what, forget I said anything.

The first part was finding a suitable recipe. As always, the internet is my lifeline, my savior, my ultimate guru to any questions that pop into my overstuffed, yet often scattered brain. I chose a simple instructional video on YouTube posted by creator ochikeron,

Her instructions were simple enough to follow, with the added bonus demonstration of a little origami crafted box to present your chocolates in.

I used the demo as a jumping off point, because I had to, like Emeril, kick it up a notch. I procured a slew of additions to give distinct flavors and textures to my finished chocolates; including hazelnuts, pistachios, caramel sauce, and sea salt.

Hazelnuts before toasting.

After being toasted and skinned.

For my boxes, I wanted to get a lot of bang for my buck, so a quick trip to Target netted me a major find. There were several Disney themed calendars that were pretty square in shape, and they were on sale for $1 each. They were also slightly bigger than the 6×6 inch origami squares recommended by ochikeron, so I was able to make more chocolates per box. A bargain if ever I saw one.

The entire process, from toasting the hazelnuts( my kitchen smells amazing BTW) to setting the chocolates was super easy. In fact, the hardest thing about the entire process was writing this article.

After cooling, cutting, wrapping, and delivering my work to my selected guinea pi- I mean cherished friends, the reaction was primarily positive. The one piece of constructive criticism I did get was that the texture was perhaps too soft to leave at room temperature. If I do this again, and of course I will because, hey chocolate and origami, I will try reducing the amount of cream and butter to see if the finished product can stand up to being left on the kitchen counter for an hour. By next Valentine’s Day, my honmei choco game will bring all the boys to the yard. I’ll just have to throw back the ones under 18  . Til then, hsawaknow.

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