Nerdvana shopping guide

Geeks are an expensive lot to care for. Ask my wife. They like their gadgets and their Interwebs. So I’ve compiled a few resources:

  • I’ve started a Wish List at Amazon that can serve as a shopping guide for that “special” someone in your life. (Don’t bother buying me anything – there’s no shipping address. This is just for brainstorming, people!) There are also some ideas here in our Nerdvana archive.
  • You might also want to check other Tribune blogs – specifically, Tweenish and sammit! – for the young-at-heart and fashionistas in your life.
  • Cool Finds and Home Turf over in the Tribune’s At Home section should inspire shopping for the homebody.
  • Of course, you don’t want to miss all the cool advertising supplements that can be found stuffed in your Tribune. Do you?

Good luck – and may the Force be with you!

afro samurai action figures

Four action figures based on the Spike TV show Afro Samurai were released this week. Created by DC Direct, the characters Afro Samurai, Kuma, Ninja Ninja and Justice are brought to life with amazing detail and capture the style of the hit anime in every possible way. The scale of each figure is also impressive, ranging from 7 to 8.25 inches tall. If you’re not familiar with the show, Afro Samurai (played by Samuel L. Jackson) is an epic tale of a black samurai’s hunt for Justice (played by Ron Perlman) who murdered his father. Composed by famed artist RZA (from the Wu Tang Clan) Afro Samurai blends traditional Japanese culture, funky technology and hip-hop to create a brutally fresh experience.

It’s never too early to start thinking about the perfect holiday gift for the geeks in your life. Especially when one side of a Target aisle is littered with spooky Halloween accoutrements and the other holds Christmas decorations like this bad boy pictured above ($29.99 @ StarWars.com, $19.99 at Target).

If faux snow Death Stars ain’t your geek’s bag, he certainly will grok this:

The Star Wars Vault is a book with rare photos from the Skywalker Ranch archives and two CDs of content including clips from the NPR radio drama adaptation and the entire soundtrack to Disneyland’s Star Tours attraction.

Numerous inserts include reproductions of rare posters, tickets, concert programs, T-shirt transfers and other collectibles. Editions bought through the Web site ($84.99) will be signed by the authors – making this the ultimate collectors item for any Star Wars fan. (If autographs aren’t a factor, Amazon has the unsigned version for $53.55, qualifying for free shipping.)

The 30th anniversary year of Star Wars is about to come to a close, and this package is sure to help it go out with a bang!

Finally, who can resist these little fellas: Yoda Soft Slippers ($29.99 @ StarWars.com). -Jayson Peters

cod4 cover

Video games

Life is good if you’re an Xbox 360 gamer who’s into first-person shooters (FPS). In the past few months their have been a bunch of really good FPS games released. Games that top the list are BioShock, Halo 3, The Orange Box (Half-Life 2), and the most recent release Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare that could best them all. From the first mission to the last, the game offers the most beautifully rendered, pulse-pounding action I’ve ever seen in a shooter game. And that’s not all. It’s also got a great story, wonderful cinematics, super-smooth gameplay (with 60 frames per second for those stat-geeks out there) and several “holy s***” moments that you will never forget. While previous Call of Duty games focused on WWII battles, COD4 is set in modern day, giving players access to more than 70 authentic weapons and high-tech gear they must use to fight rogue enemy groups threatening the world. – Scott Kirchhofer

Published by: Activision
Developed by: Infinity Ward
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Number of Players: 1-18
MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Content Descriptors: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
Also Available On: PlayStation 3, PC

smallsupermario.jpgSuper Mario Galaxy is getting rave reviews. Was there ever any doubt that would happen?

The story is familiar: Mario must rescue the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom from the evil Bowser Koopa. The twist is that this time Bowser has made off not only with the princess, but her castle as well – he’s ripped it right out of the ground and hauled it away into outer space!

Now Mario must mount a rescue, and that means helping a mysterious astronomer restore her space station to its former glory and meeting lots of other interesting characters along the way. As you progress, collecting stars, you unlock new galaxies to explore and in turn earn more stars.

New powers include a spin attack – much like Link’s in many of the Zelda games, except that it has added utility as a way to activate various devices throughout the universe – and the ability to transform into Bee Mario, Boo Mario and Ice Mario in addition to the traditional Fire Mario. -Jayson Peters

Published/developed by: Nintendo
Genre: Action Number of Players: 1-2
MSRP: $49.99
Rated E for Everyone
Only available on Nintendo Wii

wiifit2.jpgNintendo of America images
The Wii Balance Board, the next peripheral for the Wii, will hit stores May 21 when Wii Fit debuts with a retail price of $89.99.

That’s a far cry from the $24.99 of the Wii Zapper with Link’s Crossbow Training — although to be fair, that was just a plastic frame to hold your existing controllers in a gun-shaped form. The Balance Board is a sophisticated instrument that gauges your center of balance, body mass index and more. Other games will also make use of the device, such as We Ski.

A game intended to build on the console’s reputation for getting gamers off their couches and moving around, Wii Fit has four training modes – balance games, aerobics, yoga and strength training.

wiifitmodes.jpg
The game also adds a Wii Fit Channel to your console. This means you can perform some Wii Fit activities, such as a fitness test, without the effort of reinserting the Wii Fit game disc. So, you’re set if you’re too lazy to take out Super Mario Galaxy or Super Smash Bros. Brawl and slip in Wii Fit … in which case you probably aren’t going to go for this thing anyway.

A daily test measures your center of balance, body mass index and body control, tells you your fitness age and stores the information to let you compare results over time and against friends and family.

wiifittest.jpg

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Link’s Crossbow Training, which comes bundled with the Wii Zapper attachment, is short but sweet, and it’s full of old-school, arcade shooter action.

Crossbow Training uses environments and characters from the Wii launch game The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Most of the targets are just that — digital representations of painted wooden archery targets. That makes much of the game family-friendly. However, it’s worth noting the game is rated T for Teen, probably because later levels include more violence and targets such as skeletons that rise from the ground en masse, fiendish birds that spit molten rock and goblins that wield wicked clubs or fire flaming arrows at you. There is no blood, but your fallen enemies burst into flame and disappear.

The game can be played by up to four people taking turns with one Zapper, which helps give it replay value considering there are only nine levels. It’s a great party game. Unfortunately, your scores from multiplayer mode aren’t stored for posterity – only single-player standings count if you’re really obsessed with achievement!

wiizapp.jpgAbout the Zapper itself: It’s not a controller per se, but rather a plastic, gun-shaped frame that holds the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. It stands up to the rigors of life with a toddler who loves “playing Targets.” Crossbow Training could potentially be played without it, but it wouldn’t be as much fun without the tactile element.

The next step for Zapper addicts? Probably Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. There aren’t a lot of games out right now that support the attachment, but I’d love to see some old arcade classics like Area 51 revisited.

The Wii Zapper with Link’s Crossbow Training has a suggested price of $24.99, but you can easily find it at major retailers for $19.99.

kubrick collection hd
As the HD DVD and Blu-ray high-definition disc format war wages on there have been many victories and defeats. HD DVD fans were blessed with the exclusive release of Transformers, while on Oct. 30 Spiderman 3 was released only on Blue-ray. Now five of Stanley Kubrick’s films are available on both high-def formats making all of us 1080p-geeks winners. The movies being released are 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. These are definitely Kubrick’s best movies (except I’d have to trade Eyes Wide Shut for Dr. Strangelove or Sparticus) and seeing them in high-definition will be a treat. I’m most excited about 2001: A Space Odyssey which I still think is one of the best science fiction movies ever made. Check out this great website to get more info on high-definition movie releases. HAL would approve. -Scott Kirchhofer

Set phasers to stun! Or rewind. Or pause. You can, with the new remote control for Toshiba-brand HD-DVD players. To get one, you have to buy one of the players ($250 and up) AND the dual-format boxed set of “Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1” (about $200, releasing Nov. 20). Live long and prosper … hopefully, lots of prosper to afford toys like these! Source: Philadelphia Daily News

Star Trek remote control for Toshiba HDDVD players


Jump ahead to the 24th Century … It doesn’t come with any costume ray guns, but the complete series of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner et al released Oct. 2. Can you believe it’s been 20 years since the series was resurrected? What a shock to see a Klingon on the bridge! And a ship that split in two (on purpose). Now J.J. Abrams is reimagining the original series for the big screen. List price: $455.95. Engage!

-Jayson Peters

The Star Wars trilogies are full of fantastic ideas – lightsabers, cyborgs, droids, hyperspace and more. A few months back the History Channel came out with a one-hour special called Star Wars Tech that explored many of these concepts from a realistic perspective – and it’s now available on DVD.

Was it great? No – don’t be too proud of this technological terror. Many would say it’s better than some of the prequels (and I wouldn’t go that far), but it was fun and digestible. And the DVD cover looks nice.


Now here’s something a little more hands-on: A Star Wars-themed LEGO set that is billed as “The first LEGO product from the upcoming Clone Wars TV series!” Shipping soon, the LEGO Anakin’s Starfighter (Clone Wars Preview) costs $19.99 at StarWarsShop.com and contains 153 pieces – including minifigs of R2-D2 and a new Anakin Skywalker from the CG animated series.

It’s not too different than other toy versions of the Jedi starfighters that have been released in recent years, but it’s sure to be a collectors item!

Speaking of LEGOs, the excitement is building (get it?) for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It’s not coming out until May, but several LEGO sets are available now or soon: Temple Escape, Race for the Stolen Treasure (above), Lost Tomb and Motorcycle Chase, ranging in price from $11.99 to $59.99. They aren’t sneak peeks of the new movie, but rather re-creations of scenes from the classic Indy films. But one thing is for sure – merchandising is alive and well in this long-dormant franchise!

-Jayson Peters


If you have $1,800 to burn, you can push the envelope – around the new MacBook Air, that is. It’s an ultra-thin, mostly wireless powerhouse with an optional flash-drive upgrade.

-Jayson Peters