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Day 4: E3 Day 2 and EIII May. 25th, 2005 @ 04:03 am

Compact

We got up a little late. Since David had left to pick up his girlfriend, this time, Luigison drove us. The problem was, his car, a hybrid electric, was even smaller than David's. This made it impossible to sit directly side-by-side in the back-- the two people on the end had to sit on the front edge of the seat, but we all still managed to fit. The vehicle even managed great mileage. Those of us in the back got out of the car onto the sidewalk and Dennis and Drew drove off to find parking.

Outside

We found a Games for Windows tent outside and went in. I tried to play on one computer but it said Direct 3D error, then the guy came and shut it off and told me to play on a different machine. The interesting thing about the computers were that they had XBox 360 controllers hooked to them. I tried them out, and while I thought the sticks were a little stiff and high for my liking, the feeling of the controller itself was really nice. Much better than last generation, Microsoft. Good job there at least... Outside of the tent was a Bawls vendor. Bawls is a highly caffeinated soda (or "pop" to a few of those in our group). They were handing out bottles of Bawls like crazy, and the caffeine was welcome. I drank a pair of Bawls, and there were plenty of jokes like that to keep us amused.

Nintendo again

Since we were even later than the first day, we decided not to do the Zelda line, since it was getting to be about 3 hours long... again, big mistake. Link was roaming around the Nintendo area, and the expression on his mask was classic. We stood in line to play Pokemon XD. Apparently the XD doesn't mean anything. After a 30 minute or so wait, I was able to play. I've never played a real Pokemon game before, but the battle mechanics in XD seem good. The reward for waiting to play the game was three plush toys: Pikachu, Plusle, and Minun. Dumb names. Some of the guys in the Pokemon line started to get rowdy... people go crazy for stuffed animals when they're free... Over at the Sony booth, they were handing out bucketloads of lanyards. This was good-- I took two of them and tied them together to make a belt since I had forgotten to bring one on the trip. They worked great and made me wish that I had brought one the day before instead of worrying that my shorts would fall down.

Video Game pianist

At 12 o'clock, we went over to BradyGames booth where the Internet-famous Video Game Pianist (Martin Leung) was to play. He played several Mario tunes, Halo 2, several Sonic tunes, and the Zelda theme. Afterwards, we were able to meet and talk with him. I tried to get Matt W. to play a duet with him since he also plays Mario music on the piano. I asked Martin if he'd play the duet and he agreed, but Matt refused!

Nintendo infiltration

Nearing 2:00, we went upstairs to the Atlus room to play in the Puyo Pop Fever tournament again. We still had a few minutes, so I popped into Nintendo's meeting room, which was two down from the Atlus room. Matt and I met with a GolinHarris employee to ask if Nintendo was going to show Revolution or Mario 128. The answer to both was no (even though Revolution was in the guarded back room of the Nintendo area and the fact that Reggie claimed Mario 128 wouldbe shown at E3-- he apologized for this as Dennis captured on camera). He explained that the DS line-up was so large that they didn't want to show even more software. Next I asked whether I could take pictures of the Nintendo area from their window; a request that he graciously agreed to. Before leaving, I asked if there were any Zelda trailer DS cards available that they had given to media. He said that there weren't, but gave me his business card and told me to contact him on Tuesday when he got back. He also said I could try the media booth downstairs. Hopefully this will work out and I'll get the coveted card. We then left for the tournament.

Puyo Pop Fever

16 people were there to compete, but only 8 people could compete at a time, so they split everyone into two groups. We went to start our game, but the problem was, some of the people waiting in the second group tried to join our game. After sorting that mess out, we started the match. I won the match and with it came a free copy of Puyo Pop Fever (I could have also received Shin Megami Tensei (Digital Devil Saga), but I don't own a PS2, and I'm a Puyo fan anyhow).

Nintendo, part III

I went back down to the Nintendo booth to talk to the media people. While walking by the non-media information booth, I found a guy asking about 4Kids, which was producing all sorts of merchandise for Nintendo. The woman had no clue what the guy was talking about despite the 4Kids mini-booth being about 3 yards from where she was standing, in plain sight! I told the man where it was found and he was not pleased with the woman. The woman also had no idea what I was talking about when I asked for the Zelda DS card. In between this info booth and the media booth was the guarded entrance to the Nintendo meeting rooms. Who was there but none other than Shigeru Miyamoto! His back was turned, and Nintendo would not let us in without an appointment, but it was still cool to see the creator of Mario and Zelda in person. Over at the media booth, I again asked for the Zelda DS card, but was told that they were out. I was still able to get a Nintendo press kit. I also asked for a Nintendo swag bag, which they provided me, even though they weren't for handing out... they had just brought their junk in them. It was nice to have a Nintendo bag instead of an XBox one, even if I hadn't found a Nintendo lanyard yet. Drew and I decided to play Super Mario Strikers. While waiting in line to play, I was finally able to get a DS download to work. I downloaded the Table Hockey Tech Demo. This was basically like the e-Reader game, but took both DS screens and used the touch screen for control. I picked up the control to Super Mario Strikers and it was literally dripping with the sweat of the previous player. After wiping that nastiness off, we played a couple matches, winning both of them in overtime. Strikers is probably the best Mario sports game to date. It's very easy to pick up and play, and plays like you'd expect soccer to, with a few twists. First, there are item attacks similar to Super Mario Kart. There are also cut scenes similar to Mario Power Tennis. Finally, there's no out of bounds. If you try to go out of bounds, you are simply electrocuted, but the ball remains in play. The game is very fun and Drew stated that he's buy a GameCube just for this game (if he could afford it). I'll definitely buy it.

West Hall, South Hall

We went over to the Fata1ity booth where you were supposed to try out two demos before receiving a T-shirt or other prize. However, when the booth attendees saw that we were with IGN, they just handed us a shirt. Most of the rest of the day was spent trying to find T-shirts from South Hall, to little avail. Errol was following me around since he thought we end up with a lot of swag like I had the first day. Unfortunatley, that didn't really happen.

Sqeenix

Nearing the end of the day, I had forgotten to get a ticket to the Square Enix theatre. Luckily, we (Drew, Errol, and myself) were informed that if we would wait near the entrance to the theatre, we'd likely be admitted. We were. Though photography was not allowed, I did take one shot inside the theatre. The presentation proported to activate the "fantasy center" in our brains. Here they showed a new (and very sweet) trailer for Fintal Fantasy: Advent Children. They also shown movies for the other 3 Final Fantasy VII spinoffs, as well as trailers for Final Fantasy XII and Dragon Quest VIII. They all looked great. Upon exit, we were given a slime from the Dragon Quest series. I received a green one. We walked around a bit more. Right before leaving, we caught Aonuma (Zelda producer) and Bill Trinen (NOA localization) being interviewed by Gamespot TV. We then all met up again at the stairs outside of the IGN room.

Time travel

Since we didn't leave the convention center until after 6, I was worried that we wouldn't make it to Arclight on time. Some of us grabbed some grilled sausages from the vendors on the outside (Even 2 years ago, I'd wanted to try them-- they smelled so good) while walking to the car. Missing the exit ramp, driving a fair ways the wrong way, and driving in rush hour traffic-- i.e. not moving much at all-- did not help things. However, we somehow managed to get to Arclight cinemas in Hollywood with about 10 minutes to spare. We finally found some parking in their parking deck and went down to the theatre. The tricky part was that I had only purchased 5 tickets for the 7:45PM showing. However, due to a computer problem, I had also purchased 5 tickets to the 9:30AM showing. I had sold 3 of them to Matt McC.'s family so they could see it in the morning. Now, we had 6 people since Dennis was not in the original plan for attendance. I gave him my extra morning tickets in hopes that he would be able to get in with them. We were seeing the movie in a large dome structure with digital projection. We stood in line waiting for everyone's tickets to be checked. Somehow, Dennis made it through and we entered the theatre. The inside of the theatre was impressive for a movie theatre. The top of the dome looked like a honeycomb. There was an upper deck of seats in the back. We found our seats and it turned out that there was one extra seat in our area that Dennis sat in. It turned out that several people were missing and Dennis didn't even have to move. The lights dimmed and the trailers began...

Revenge of the Sith

WARNING: This section contains spoilers.Collapse )

Yo Quiero

We drove around in circles in Hollywood and Burbank since we didn't have exact directions on how to get back to the hotel. I had only printed directions on how to get from the hotel to the theatre since I wasn't sure where we'd be leaving from. Unfortunately, the directions didn't give actual directions, making it a 50-50 chance whenever we hit a junction. When we finally did get back, Matt McC. really wanted to go to Taco Bell, so we drove to the nearest one and ordered food. That was about all that happened that night.


Day 3: E3 Day 1 and the 36" pizza May. 24th, 2005 @ 04:58 am

And so it begins...

After very little sleep we got up for the first day of E3. In our group were David, Drew, Errol, Matt McC., Matt W., and myself: 6 people. David's rented Sebring holds 5 people. With David driving and Drew being the largest besides David, the other four of us managed to pack into the back of the car like sardines. After eventually arriving finding parking, we made it to the convention center.

Media Pass-out

David and Errol left for media registration (they were registering under David's "company") while we went to find Serenity. Drew, the two Matts, and I met up with Serenity outside of IGN's room (amazingly bypassing guards again). She informed us that the E3 registration people were being (expletive deleted) and didn't want to let people in with guest passes because they had apparently given so many out the day before. Serenity then suggested that we could try to get in as media. The problem was that part of the convention center had experienced a "city blackout" (that somehow only affected the upstairs part of the convention center), so their registration computers were down. She had already sent two groups with the extra credentials (IGN's business license). I got the cell phone numbers of the other IGN people, but never got an answer. After finding the sign at the media registration room directing us to the tent outside, we began a serach for the tent. We eventually found it... and the long line proceeding from it. We walked up to the tent entrance where I found an unexpected individual. Angelina, the woman who had handled my DS launch trip last November was working there as an E3 employee! She informed me that they only had 4 computers running to register media and that's why the line was so long. We started walking to the back of the line, finding it went all the way across the sidewalk, down the stairs, and into a tunnel. There, we ran into David and Errol. We began to use Pictochat and play some multiplayer DS games while waiting. Sometime in the middle of waiting, Drew went to the IGN room to get the business license, where he picked up a couple extra IGN hosted site people. After about 2 and a half hours, we made it into the tent. David and Errol somehow managed to get registered despite the E3 guy's questions about their distribution ("Why haven't I heard of this magazine?") Then came our turn. The guy decided that our business cards (that David had printed up) were not good enough ("looks like they were printed on ink jet"). Despite having the IGN business license, the guy said that we would have to get a letter from the editor with our name on it. We left for the IGN room again, to pick up said letter. This time we just walked right past the guard. Serenity was not pleased about the situation, but already had a stack of letters waiting to be signed. The odd thing about the business cards was that they had a computer there where they were printing up fake cards for other sites' members to use and none of them had had a problem even though they looked cheaper than ours. Returning to the tent, we walked right to the front of the line. The guy who rejected us before told us to wait a minute to check our credentials, and then left and didn't come back. Jackass. I spotted Angelina behind the registration desks and with her help, we got registered without any more problems (except Matt W.'s misspelled name, which he didn't even notice). In the end, it was IGN that came through for us *shock* I'm not really sure why IGN doesn't just send us all as media every year instead of relying on guest passes-- they turned out to be more useful.

Petree Hall

After finally getting our passes, we decided to use them to their fullest by entering the Media-only break room. No food was left, but we were able to procure some much-need water. Across the hall from the break room was the Atlus room, where they were getting ready to hold their 2:00 Puyo Pop Fever tournament. For me, Atlus wins the best third-party E3 booth. They had Puyo Pop Fever tournaments twice a day as well as an iPod drawing. They also had several interesting RPGs like Shin Megami Tensei (Digital Devil Saga) 2. Atlus also had some pretty funny ads in the E3 Daily magazine "Do you like hot ______? Come to room# 514." The blank included anime characters, demon babes, anime snowboarding, anime nurses, and... samurai dudes. The nurses were for Trama Center: Under the Knife, a surgery simulator for DS. While I didn't win the tournament this time (made it right up to the end), there was always later. Outside of West Hall was the new Batmobile from Batman Begins. That is, the one that looks like an XBox. Microsoft had bought the swag bags again, this time branding them with the XBox 360 logo. They weren't as big as in 2003, but it seemed that companies didn't hand out as much stuff as in 2003 either. Supporting those not wanting to be seen supporting Microsoft, many booths handed out their own bags.

Nintendo Booth

As could be expected from TMK staff, we first visited the Nintendo area in West Hall. As usual, Nintendo's was by far the best booth of the show. They had tons of playable games that were fun as well as all sorts of handouts. Nintendo's booth was quite blue with projected images and videos everywhere. Once we entered Nintendo's booth, our group fragmented almost immediately. While there was no Revolution in sight, a kiosk full of Game Boy Micros with various faceplates was on display. I spent most of the time playing DS games. I played Mario Kart DS remotely with an NOA employee. Mario Kart has 8-player online capability and has everything you'd come to expect from a Mario Kart game. I loved every aspect of the game except for one thing: the blue shells. Power sliding using the digital pad was a little harder than with an analog stick, but it still worked, with a bit of practice. The weight of characters seemed to affect collisions wuite a bit. I also played Animal Crossing DS remotely with Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario (and other Nintendo characters). I beat him over the head with a butterfly net while he returned the favor with his fishing pole, while we laughed about it over the video feed. "This is what boys do" he said. The E3 demo was kinda neat because the dialog was specifically tailored to the event, with references to places on the show floor. They handed out Mario Kart styluses for playing the DS multiplayer games. I also played a bit of Nintendogs, though that isn't my sort of game. You can play with your virtual dog, customize their accessories, throw toys at them, walk them, and everything. They gave out tiny stuffed Nintendogs for playing. On each side of the wireless booth was an especially interesting tech demo: Voice over IP on the DS. This technology allows you to route phone calls over the internet with your DS and displayed a 3D Mario or Wario head that talked as the person on the other side talked. If Nintendo pursues this, things could get very interesting in the phone industry. Nintendo also had a wireless center with downloadable DS games. They had Polarium, Meteos, Electroplankton, Submarine Tech Demo, Table Hockey Tech Demo, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess trailer and art gallery. However, there were so many people with DSes, and potentially so much interference, that it was nearly impossible to get a successful download. Also, the DS error messages aren't very helpful at all... I hope there's a way for Nintendo to fix some of these issues with a firmware update. After playing with DS games, I decided to try some of the GameCube games. David and I tried to play some Donkey Konga 2, but it was fairly pointless because it was impossible to hear the music with all of the sound in the area. Next, I tried Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix. Now, I have never played DDR before, and I accidently set it to the hardest mode. That certainly gave me some exercise, and though I managed a 19 combo and a fair amount of perfects, the game still gave me an F rating. It was fun though... I'll certainly be buying this game when it comes out. The other major games, Mario and Luigi 2, Mario Baseball, Super Mario Strikers, Mario Party 7, New Super Mario Bros., Another Code (now renamed Trace Memory), Kirby Magic Paintbrush, Metroid Prime Hunters, and Metroid Prime Pinball to name several, had individual kiosks, but I didn't play them. One game that stuck out just because it was so odd was Odama. In this game, you play pinball on top of troops trying to get their Odama across the screen. Thus, you want to smash the enemy troops with your giant pinball, but not your own troops. They also had a large bell-shaped Odama on display. Movie clips were played on a big screen near the top of the Nintendo area. Interestingly, one of the clips that was playing included a 3d rendered animation of the Minish from the recent Zelda GBA game. I don't know if they were from Twilight Princess, or something else. As for the game of the show, the Zelda line itself snaked into a room and wound around the entire Nintendo area, with signs marking 1 hour wait and 2 hour wait. Because of this, we decided not to go at the time. Next time we'll wait happily on the first day.

The Rest of West Hall

Next to Nintendo was Sony. Sony's area was very white. Their booth contained weird bubbles that people could sit in to experience the PSP. They were also showing theoretical PS3 videos in their upper deck, but there was a waiting line that I decided was worth it. Despite all of the weird PS3 ads, there wasn't an actual PS3 in sight. Not a whole lot else was going on in West Hall.

I exited West Hall and saw the Atari room. The last time we visited, Atari wouldn't let anybody into their room at all without special clearance despite having bought the giant banner on South Hall. Things didn't look good this time either, with people walking around with Atari passes. However, I was able to walk right into the Atari room. They had some Matrix stuff featured. I decided to check out Kentia Hall. In the hallway between West and South Halls, there was supposed to be a video game art gallery titled "Into the Pixel;" however, it was covered until later.

The Basement: Kentia Hall

Kentia Hall is located below South Hall, and many people don't even know it exists. Kentia is filled with an assortment of odd companies. Many are just starting up with new ideas and don't have a real product yet. Others are simply distributors trying to resell video game hardware and software. Finally, entire countries game industries are represented at several booths. Kentia is good for find odd swag. Particularly since I was media, many booths' representatives wanted to talk to me thinking that I could help promote their product. For some reason, there were a half dozen disc cleaning services there. The coolest was Disc-go-tech, because they gave me a media bag, without me even asking and told me I could throw out whatever I didn't want (which was basically all of it). However, the bag contained a golf shirt... one that actually fits unlike the giant polo I got from bugbug last time. There were other interesting booths like a NES/Famicom clone place (where David bought his $20 machine), a virtual reality booth, and several booths with alternative game input devices like tennis rackets and golf clubs. One booth had a Playboy girl with bunny ears and all signing photos. The line for that was by far the longest in Kentia. I met with some representatives of ICE, who had prototype controllers that let you play PC FPSes. The controller had a mouse attached to the bottom and several buttons on the top as well as two analog sticks and two triggers. The setup seemed to work well, and it will be interesting to see if they get beyond the prototype stage. The coolest thing in Kentia was the classic gaming and history of video games area, featuring all sorts of vintage console and arcade machines, most of which were fully and freely playable. As "IGN," I had several people make comments to me, suggesting great games to play like Super Mario Strikers.

South Hall run-through

Not a lot of time was left in the day, so I did a quick run-through of South Hall with the intent of coming back the next day for a better look. The largest booth in South Hall was Microsoft (Microsoft and Sony have to physically separated or their representatives will get into fights). Microsoft's area consisted of a very large green ramp with an upper area of... not much. In the lower area, there were some XBox 360s up for play in an area marked Media Only. However, it seemed anybody was allowed to play them. I watched someone play Need for Speed Underground for the 360, and while it did look nice enough, it seemed to have choppy framerates. Particularly interesting was the machines the games were running on. While the front showed an active XBox 360, a look into the side of the display showed Mac G5s that were actually running the game, as well as a desk fan to keep the whole thing cooled down. Obviously the hardware isn't actually ready yet. Nokia N-Gage had a fairly large booth with an arena in the center. The place was completely dead. I don't know why they bothered coming. The other doomed handheld contender, Gizmondo, also had a booth there. Other big names in South Hall included Capcom, Konami, THQ, EA, and Sega. Konami had a giant Katamari ball which encoraged people to stick stuff to it. Namco had a giant rotating Pac-Man, as it was his 25th anniversary. By now it was 6PM and the end of the first day of E3. We met by the stairs near the IGN room and played a little DS, leading to our interview by German press.

Dinner Adventure: 1,018 square inches

The LA convention center is not terribly far from downtown LA, so we decided to get some dinner afterwards. By this time we had picked up several people, so we had the 6 people from our group plus Fifth and his friend "Frog". We first tried the Macy's Center, but found that everything was closed. We walked back up to the street and were going to go to a mexican place, but ended up going to a pizza place instead. In there, we found a gigantic 36" pizza box, and then realized that we could actually order a pizza that large. Even though some people wanted to get their own stuff, we ended up ordering the huge pizza just for the novelty. It also turned out to be a great deal, money-wise. Right after ordering, one of the stoe employees switched the OPEN sign off; I don't know if they did this since we'd be using up the entire oven, or if they were upset that we ordered something so large so late. In any case, we ordered half pepperoni and half olive. We had to move 4 tables into a square to accommodate the monster. Out of 8 college-age guys, we only finished about half of the pizza and took the rest home. It would be eaten over the next several days, though unrefrigerated. Matt W. and Errol called up Vidgmchtr where Matt literally asked for "Vidgmchtr" to Vid's dad. Amazingly, the guy said "Oh, Vid-game-cheater" and passed off the phone.

Hotel

Luigison arrived that night with a TV as well as games, so we were finally able to play GameCube without having to break anything on the hotel TV. We played the obligatory Super Smash Bros. Melee, where I indeed was the best (except for the Big Blue oddity where Chup reigned, at least after I had stopped playing Pika/Pichu). We also played Pac-Man Vs. where David appeared to be best. After this I got on Errol's computer to post here as well as access my computer (which failed since my IP address had changed but DynDNS updater wasn't running), but the others continued playing Donkey Konga and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Drew went to bed early again. Though I went to bed after everyone else, some people were still awake-- David wouldn't stop talking about Nintendo.


Pics! May. 21st, 2005 @ 12:44 am
I've been too tired each night to update this in written form, but here are days 2 - 5 of the trip in picture form. I'll write about the rest of the trip when I get back home later today.
Day 2 - Convention Center and Farmer's Market
Day 3 - E3 Day 1 and Giant Pizza
Day 4 - E3 Day 2 and Star Wars Episode III
Day 5 - E3 Day 3 and Bat Cade

Day 2: Rest day May. 19th, 2005 @ 01:07 am

We weren't expecting to do much of anything on Tuesday except for picking up passes, and that didn't even work out properly... We didn't get up until the afternoon. Hotel guests get complimentary issues of USA Today, and featured on the front page was the Nintendo Revolution. Now this was exciting, so we went downstairs to check out all of Nintendo's E3 announcements. It turned out there were a lot, so we spent a couple hours posting on TMK.

We walked over to Target to get some food to try to save money from eating out. Also I had forgotten my toothbrush/toothpaste and my comb so I bought those as well... I got some mint gel toothpaste filled with confetti made of breath strips. (?!) Unfortunately, we didn't have a fridge in the room, so we used the air conditioner top temporarily and got a bag filled with ice later. Of course, it had leaked everywhere by morning. Later, the plan was to pick up our E3 passes and then go to Farmer's Market for food. We rode with Matthew's parents again, to downtown LA.

We got to the convention center after 4 and it was basically as it was 2 years ago. The large Atari logo was even still on the top of South Hall, though it was Matrix-ified this time. We arrived during one of the scheduled times and I called Serenity to pick up our IGN credentials. As the old saying goes, you can't spell ignorant without IGN. First, the room number in the info e-mail was wrong; luckily they were in the same room as Gamespy was 2 years ago. Then nobody was there, though we were actually allowed past the security guard, something that we were never able to do 2 years ago when we had similar trouble. I called Serenity and she said that they weren't scheduled for that time, but the e-mail clearly stated the time, so she told us she'd meet us in 20 minutes. After not showing up, I called again and was told that it was too close to closing and we wouldn't have time and to come back in the morning ... what a pain that would end up being.

Afterwards, we went to the Farmer's Market, but it didn't seem to be the same one as we visited 2 years ago. They scope of food and produce was impressive nonetheless. We had mediterranean food. While we were at Farmer's Market, Errol (Watoad), the source of our semi-free room arrived. We rode through large parts of the greater LA area, thanks to Matthew's parents.... navigational skills. Eventually, we got back to the hotel and met Errol.

David Dayton joined us in the evening with his set of "credentials." The plastic blocking the coax TV connections remained through the night, but there was plenty of DS gaming.

Most of us didn't end up going to bed until somewhere around 4 in the morning thanks to general socalizing and some ridiculous a capella Mario songs by some of the TMK staff (they'll likely be posted later). Drew nearly killed them.




Day 1 pictures (More Friends concert) (WARNING: unedited pics are over 1MB each)

Day 1: Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and More (Friends) May. 18th, 2005 @ 04:53 am

The drive

Our flight was scheduled for 7:40AM in Charlotte, so we left at 3:45AM. I had several last minute things to take care of-- figuring out what classes I could TA next semester, getting stuff together to potentially obtain E3 media passes. I only had one hour of sleep and Drew didn't have any. Drew drove 80% of the way to the airport, stopping and telling me to drive after apparently almost killing us several times. Of course, driving a car I'd never driven before with touchy steering on a busy 5-lane interstate wasn't terribly safe either, but we got there.

The flight

The plane was an Airbus A321, different from all of the Boeing jets I've flown on previously, but it was quite similar to a 757. We boarded the plane without any problem, but then sat (and slept) there for a while. After a while of not taking off, we were notified that our plane was leaking (just water, nothing exciting) and we would have to take another plane. We didn't end up leaving until around 10. The flight was uneventful (we were sleeping) except for Drew's head nearly imploding. For some reason the first flight to the west coast does hoes horrible things to pressure in your ears on descent. I don't even remember what movie played. We were met at the airport by a volunteer... long story short, we fed 20 hungry children.

The train

We took a shuttle from LAX to the nearby metro rail stop. Luckily we had just enough change to get tickets to the main station where we picked up our weekly metro tickets. We ate at The Angry Burrito where I ate an angry burrito and then took the metro rail up to Universal City.

The bus

The bus stop location wasn't exactly obvious, but a helpful cop let us know where it was. After waiting what seemed like an excessively long time in the on-off sunlight, we took a bus downtown. Once there, we had little idea of how to get to the actual hotel. After wandering around downtown Burbank for a while, we finally found the right bus to take us to the hotel.

The hotel

We finally arrived at the Courtyard Marriott a little after 4PM. Matt W. (Lizard Dude) and his friend Tyler had arrived only a few minutes prior since they flew into Burbank airport from Montana. There's not a lot to say about the hotel, except their TV's coax input had an annoying chastity belt, preventing us from hooking up a GameCube.

The van

We met up with the other Matthew (Chupperson Weird, Matt McC.), his parents and his little brother. They drove us back to Universal City, where the concert was taking place. We walked around CityWalk, which happens to be the location of the DS Launch that I got to go to last November. Drew and I ate at Wasabi, a Japanese restaurant, and the others ate elsewhere. CityWalk was much more enjoyable without the torrential rains.

The concert

Unfortunately, I was unable to find anybody to sell my extra tickets to. The massive crowd entering the area was informed by security that cameras were not allowed (at least they didn't care about cell phones, unlike the website). After being herded through a small walkway, everyone was padded down. I was carrying a camera, and was told to check it in or take it back to my car (which I didn't have). I opted to not take this advice and just entered the amphitheater.

Before the concert started, everyone had their DSes out, enough to fill up all of the chatrooms. I used my DS at first as a cover for my camera, but after seeing other people not even bother to turn their flashes off, I eventually stopped caring.

The emcee of the show was the voice actor for Tidus from FFX, an annoying little guy. The concert started off with several orchestra pieces, which were excellent, except for the popping sound coming from one of the speakers. They played several songs, including Aeris's Theme, the FF7 Battle music, and Terra's Theme. During the show, there was an excessive amount of clapping and cheering; that's the price you pay for going to an event with major fans. The view from mezzanine was was nice, it took in the scope of the amphitheater, except that Uematsu was not visible in the back stage because of the large projection screens.

The DS conversations during the intermission were fairly amusing, consisting mostly of POP, representing the annoying speaker sound, Uematsu pictures and praise, and Uematsu karate chopping the POP. The conductor came up with a new chocobo theme rendition called Swing de Chocobo, which was great except for the audience cheering every time a chocobo showed up on the screens (they showed a chocobo scene from every FF game). The Black Mages came out with strobe lights and played two songs, Maybe I'm a Lion and The Rocking Grounds. While this was less than I would have liked, they would make another appearance at the end of the show.

The first singer, Rikki, sang Suteki da ne from FFX. The second singer, Emiko Shiratori, was especially impressive because she switched from Japanese to English in the middle of the song and didn't really have an accent. She sang Melodies of Life from FFIX. Following this was the opera from FFVI, with actual singers.

At the end Uematsu came out to talk, thanking people and mentioning that he wanted a beer. He then brought Black Mages back out along with a choir and the orchestra to play One Winged Angel. After several false starts, Uematsu left the stage for a while, prompting the audience to yell out all sorts of comments like "have my children" or "start the wave." The lead guitarist ran across the stage several times and eventually Uematsu came back out for an awesome One Winged Angel performance. Then everybody left and we went back to the hotel.

It's really late now, so I'm going to wait until tomorrow to actually upload the concert pictures/movies and comments for Tuesday.

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I just wanted to say that we arrived safely in Burbank yesterday. The More Friends concert was great! I'll post a lot more tonight when I have a better computer to use.
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