Sunday, June 29, 2008

Get outta here Uwe Boll!

Time for a real story! I had kind of suspected the it from some rumors a few days earlier, most revolving around a new enty screen to Blizzard's main site, but now Diablo 3 has officially been announced as of Saturday! It is 100% teh awesome. If it was coming out this year, the same year as Spore, the PC might overload from having two such awesome games debuting at the same time after such a long stretch of having nothing worthwhile except some strategy games and Crysis. Here, watch this gameplay video:

Isn't it awesome?! And, if for some reason you didn't watch the second one, they show that the bosses you can fight are HUGE (One guy gets his head bitten off!) and you can do 4 player co-op alla Gaunlet Legends. Seriously, it looks like they're playing Gauntlet Legends, but with Diablo 3 characters and abilities. How awesome is that? Oh, plus destructable terrain. See that loose wall next to the zombies? BAM! RumbleCrumbleCrashSplat! 15 zombies dead. Enemies crash through banisters and railings on bridges and ledges. Heck, the fact that enemies go flying at all is an improvement on Diablo 2, though its fairly standard for games now so I guess to be expected. Also, they're keeping the old 3/4 isometric view, which is a VERY good idea. Free Roaming camera works in some games, but Diablo wouldn't be the same if you had to manage a camera.

There's no realease date yet, but that's hardly surprising. As a final treat, watch this cinematic clip:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Holy Warped Reality!

So I'm still playing through Chrono Cross. I've finally gotten over obsessing about field advantage and just try to hit enemies with the opposite element, which actually works rather well. Well, except for stupid enemies like that Sun of a Gun (Actual name of enemy... Actually shaped like a sun) that have monstrous defense. But at least I got the "Holy Light" element from it, which totally killed a later boss.

As for whats happening in the story (Since I'm guessing pretty much everyone has either played this game or will never play it by this point) my character (Serge) has just switched bodies with the villain Lynx (Actually looks like a humanoid Lynx in a dark elaborate outfit). So now, returning to my original world, pretty much no one believes that I'm Serge (Surprise surprise). Though one aspect I do like is that the one person who believes you after a fair conversation is the main character's mother, I thought that was a nice touch. And after we convinced the village chief he decides to accompany us to a nearby town so we might actually be able to get something done. The story got a lot more interesting once the charcter switched bodies, before that it was a pretty standard "Lets get that bad guy!" adventure. Now they're throwing out all these questions about the nature of identity "How do you know you are you and that you are not really Lynx?" Its interesting fo' sho.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Right Stuf!

No, thats not a typo. I just finally decided to check out the best place to buy all things anime . Seriously okay? I got 4 DVDs + a soundtrack CD (-Shipping) for the price that it would cost to buy 1 Anime DVD (+Tax) at Barnes & Noble or FYE or pretty much anywhere except Best Buy and anime speciality stores. I mean, with shipping costs the total was $40. $40! That comes out to $8 an item! Its hard to find quality DVDs for that price at a used DVD/CD store, and this is unopened product! Sure I have to wait maybe 2 weeks for it to get here, but I'm playing through "Chrono Cross" and "The World Ends With You" so its not like I can't wait. And its not like the DVDs I got were some ancient series that no one likes, the rather recent and well liked "Speed Grapher". So yeah, I was satisfied with that.

Speaking of Chrono Cross, thats my latest project in my "Play old RPGs" series. Firstly, the awesome opening can be viewed here for those of you unfortunate enough to have never heard of the game: Opening . Getting to it, as usual, there's more than I remember right off the bat, like just how many non-essential characters there are, and just how very non-essential many of them are... Its kind of sad. Like I'm really not sure why some of these people are joining my character's party. Like this exorcist priest type guy (Who is dressed like a Mexican wrestler) was sort of like "Hmmm, you are a spirit who is dead in this world. That interests me so I'll follow your group." Back tracking note, in Chrono Cross you travel between two parallel worlds with the split point being the main character's death ten years ago. Hence why he is a "spirit who is dead in this world". Its interesting. The other thing is the variety of accents, and how they aren't entirely complete. I think this one character is supposed to be Australian accented... But I'm not sure because there are British acents that are similar. Some of them just have strange phrases that they work in to sentences, like the giant living Voodoo doll (who joins you so this guy will stop wasting his life worshipping him) who puts "Boogie" and the suffix "-oogie" in strange places. And then there's the doctor who talks like a surfer dude, unfortunately even during serious conversations... And of course this is all text that you have to read and try to figure out how these people sound (Well, you could be boring and not I suppose, but like I said, boring). I'm still trying to re-adjust my mind to the gameplay. I keep trying to get myself elemental field advantage, which is accomplished by casting a successive series of spells of the same element. This gives characters you control of that element an attack advantage, makes enemies of the opposite element weaker, and strengthens any spell of that element. However, I keep on forgetting to cast more powerful spells in favor of elemental advantage, which ends up hurting me more than helping I think. It also didn't help that I had two characters with opposite elemental alignments in party which meant that field advantage for one made the other really weak. Since one of them was my main character... Well, Mojo moved on to other things. The story is at least as good as the early parts of Final Fantasy 9 so far, so I'm hoping it stays good.

Finally, I watched Pan's Labyrinth and Silent Hill last night. I hadn't watched Pan's Labyrinth from the beginning before, and I liked it SO much more now that I've seen the beginning because I didn't realize that they had set up the fairy tale aspect from the beginning. Before I came in on the part near where the guy's face gets smashed in, so I thought it was just a story of a girl escaping horrible circumstances through a fairy tale. The beginning TOTALLY changes things. Speaking of beginnings, Silent Hill's first 10 minutes sucks. Its so bad. I always end up liking it by the end because it gets better as it goes (By which I mean, more Silent Hill-y), but I've decided that you should start watching the movie from the gas station scene before they get to Silent Hill (I'd say later, but then you don't know who Sean Bean's character is so much). The parts before that, especially the opening scene, feel like they were added for the stupid audience member who needs to be told verbally why they're going to Silent Hill in the first place. Actually, something I was thinking while watching was "This is such a fan movie, I'm not sure why someone who hadn't played the games would watch this." I mean, its kind of like the Final Fantasy VII movie: There is something there for the non-fan, but its for the fans. The non-fans will be treated to the wonderful monsters and awesome world transitions from the games, but they won's pick up on the music from the game, the copied camera shots and other general references. Though I do want to show someone the movie fresh, from the gas station scene and see if the opening scenes are even necessary, because they feel like something a studio executive told them to add.

Well, I've spent enough time on this post. Off to Chrono Cross.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You stand before the final dimension...

Okay, thats another Final Fantasy down, lets keep things a rollin' here. In other words, I just finished Final Fantasy IX and will thusly either move on to 10 or maybe slip to the side and try Chrono Trigger instead... Hmmm.... Well, either way I'm watching Battlestar Galactica Season 3 first since I'll burn through that in like.... tomorrow. I am a hardcore marathonner my friend, just not the running kind. I spent all day Sunday burning through extra stuff on Final Fantasy IX, I'll spend.... Well, maybe not Wednesday. Thursday is gonna be all abouts the BSG, basically whatever is left over from Wednesday.

Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand: I beat Final Fantasy IX and am coming to the conclusion that I'm really liking all these games. I mean, for a time I had it held in my mind that Final Fantasy was generally a notch above most everything else, but after just playing through 8 and 9 again.... Just so good. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to start making note of the games' flaws because comparing high points is too difficult. Which one has a better story? Psh, very difficult. I can tell you that VII is my favorite, but thats because I love the characters and world its set in. VIII is a hands down romance set against a saving-the-world backdrop, and I thouroughly enjoyed it. IX I finally understood this time through, there was so much I had forgotten or just not understood the first time through... Though the ultimate final boss, while very impressive, is rather random. Hey, one difference between Stephen King and Final Fantasy? Final Fantasy knows how to do an ending to a long tale right (Which I hear Mr. King doesn't)... Though VII's coulda been longer. Seriously, so much of my satisfaction with IX came out in this ending part. Sure my Zidane, Garnet, Freya, Amarant party was flippin' sweet at that point, and the battles were truly epic, but the story aspects and philosophy concepts they throw at you in the end... Its good but maybe a little over the top. Final scene? Perfect ending. And, of course, Crystal theme at the end. Interesting note, near the end there's a tripped out version of the Crystal theme playing. Weird eh? Well, not really considering the last area I guess.... But thats beside the point. My one great complaint against IX is its ability system which, at times would require that you equip inferior equipment for a long period of level grinding, just to gain one ability. Did you always need that ability? No, but you'd be kicking yourself later for not getting it. Oh, and then some of these abilities you have to equip. So even if you spend all that time learning them, you don't really get to use them unless you have the crystal points to equip it. *Sigh* Oh well. You get a high enough level and it doesn't matter so much, but its still something that I'm glad has yet to be repeated.

I think I will do Chrono Trigger next just because I'm afraid that 10 will some how betray my memory of it, and I know that Chrono Trigger is good... And I have an early save file of it that I found so I can skip the parts that I've played 10 times before in my previous efforts to replay it. And I've been enjoying giving my little PSOne a work out since the PS2 has been somewhat iffy as of late.

Well, they're going to start tiling my room tomorrow so I guess I better sleep or something.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dangerous Days

So I just got the Blade Runner 4 disc special Final Cut... Thing yesterday. For free mind you, thanks to our wonderful buy 2 get the 3rd free DVD sale. So I watched the movie through and they did change some stuff, and all of the changes were definitely for the better. If you've only ever seen the original theatrical release, well, its hugely different from that. But if you're someone like me who has largely watched the Director's Cut, there are still some differences you will be able to notice I think. Longer shots with Edward James Olmos' character Gaff for instance with his wonderful made up language (Which he made up almost entirely by himself according to the special features disc). And they finally fixed the bird scene! Yeah, you know what I'm talking about, the one tiny scene in the film that sticks out like a sore thumb of "Oops, we forgot to finish this properly". So much better now.

So after I watched the movie I decided to watch the special feature disc, which, I didn't realize sticking it in, was 4 hours long. But it was very interesting. Like even the parts I didn't think I was going to find interesting like the set design and stuff was really interesting. The most interesting stuff was the different forms the story took and some of the scenes they didn't include. For example one of the original opening scene ideas that came about was somewhere entirely outside the city that Harrison Ford's character, Deckard, went to in order to "retire" an older model replicant that was living on a farm out there. And it sounded interesting, but by comparison to the movie they finally made.... It would have felt completely different. Like it would have been about the detective who "retired" Replicants, whereas the final version was about that, but also about a vision of the future and the questions about synthetic life and what makes us human. Yeah, so very different original concept. They had also originally intended to cast at least one of the two replicants who you hear about dying but you never get to see. They were going to use a girl who had tried out for Priss, but was too slight to fit the bill of someone who could believably fight Ford. So they were going to have a sort of death scene for her, but time and budget constraints denied the possibility. I'm not sure if it would have helped or hindered the film in the end actually. Apparently one problem was that people didn't get it, which is a big reason the original version had the weird sort of film noir voice over. Its good for the first time you watch it if you aren't in to deep or artsy movies, because it helps you understand what is going on (Like a tutorial mode for a video game). But after you watch it through once with the voice over, I'm not sure why you would watch it like that again, especially since the ending is completely tacked on and different. And really the only voice over bit that I ever remember being useful was the comment made about Gaff's gutter speak or "City Speak" to explain that this guy doesn't speak English, he speaks a weird mash up of languages. I have a feeling that I'd be as frustrated with it as Harrison Ford and the other people who were nay-saying it in the documentary if I watched it through again with the voice over.

Oh, I'm also like 10 times more impressed with the visual effects and such after watching the documentary and realizing nothing is digital. I had forgotten that it came out in 82. It doesn't look like it came out in 82. Also, the visuals are probably better than you could get with CG anyway. You know how it is, you can always tell that something is CG. Matte paintings all the way my friend. Ha, I remember seeing some in Halo 3 and being like "Yes, a painted background! Awesome!" Probably the main reason why I like Final Fantasy 7 and the other 2 late 90's Final Fantasies is that they use paintings as their backgrounds a lot. It just has a detail that you almost always lose with full 3D games. I mean, nowadays we're getting to the point where surroundings are that detailed, like I expect FFXIII to totally floor me visually, but I will always have a spot in my heart for matte paintings... Or entire set paintings. But anyway, the point I was trying to make was that a whole heck of a lot of what was possible with Blade Runner was made possible because of matte painting and a really skilled modeling crew.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is.... You should watch the final cut of Blade Runner. I dunno, NetFlix it or something.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Beware the Stroper! (It rhymes with Groper!)

So, two things are rather recent for me to write about: Samurai 7 and Final Fantasy IX (or 9 for you sorry folks who can't read roman numerals).

Firstly, Samurai 7 is an anime series based on Akira Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai". Its a rather good anachronistic telling with real-type samurai juxtaposed to giant robots (In the role of the bandits). Basically.... Think of a "The-long-way" telling of the Seven Samurai where they're still protecting an Edo-era rice producing village but the town they travel to in order to find Samurai is Steam/Cyber-punk as is much of the technology outside of rural villages... And the bandits are giant robotic beings... So far as we know. I only have the first two discs right now, so I'm not sure how they'll end it exactly, but I'm betting on a plot twist involving the bandits as "The enemy is not what they seem!" tends to be a common anime plot twist when dealing with large foes that don't directly interact with the heroes (And sometimes even when they do!). Anyway, its good, Netflix a disc or something!

Secondly, I've been playing through Final Fantasy 9 and am already on the 3rd disc. Now I will tell you up front, right here, that anyone who says they love FF9 but hate 10 with a main reason being "You don't get to even use a world map till late in the game, its so linear" (Which I've never heard, but I'm sure some fool has made it) has NO point to make. I just got to disc 3, about 25 hours in, and feel like I'm not being led around for the first time all game, like I actually have a realistic choice of where to go and what to do. Sure there were some minor instances here and there earlier on, but the first continent you're on is constructed in such a way as you can't go very many places EXCEPT your next destination... Which I don't really have a problem with, but I know that something a fair number of people try to pin on 10 is its lack of world map exploration, and I say "Good Riddance". World maps have a nice nostalgia to them, but they are ultimately impractical now that we have the technology to render actual levels all the way inbetween towns and such. Speaking of impractical things: Tetra Master. I don't know if I mentioned the card game in Final Fantasy 8, but for some reason I remembered this one's being better... Well it isn't, its an inconsistant random mess that is kept intentionally vague because I don't think the creators fully developed it properly! The problem comes when two cards have to "Battle". You can have two cards with the exact same values attack each other, and some unknown background factor affects the numbers that actually come into play. AGH!! Thankfully I read something that said "Yeah, the card game will never really win you anything." Thank goodness, because I'd much rather waste hours on a worthwhile mini-game like "Chocobo Hot/Cold" in which you hunt for treasure with the aid of everybodies favorite yellow bird:

Isn't it adorable? You know what isn't adorable? The Stroper, an enemy in the Lifa tree. I would describe its appearence in detail, but women visit this site... I hope. I will say that it is a blatant tentacle monster, which you will either understand or not. I've noticed that a LOT of the enemies in this Final Fantasy are kinda... Odd. For instance the enemy that seems to based on an ancient Japanese horror monster, and the Snake woman who is ironically ugly to contrast the fact that in the old SNES final Fantasies she was quite hot. *Sigh* I guess that Square was just making a giant series of references to its older games with this one since, based on an FAQ I read, there are more references to previous games in this Final Fantasy than any other, which I can believe. But anyway, I was talking about mini-games. The Choco Hot/Cold is so much better a game because 1. Its fun. 2. There is serious rewardage when you find the treasures. However I'm not sure I'm going to indulge too much because I kind of want to get through the game and move on in my rampant replaying of Final Fantasies past which I've kind of decided to just go ahead and do: Play all the Final Fantasies that I haven't played through more than once. I've played 4 enough that I'm not going to play it again, but I need to play 6 again, and I'll try to bring myself to play 5 though of the ones I have played its currently my least favorite. Also 10 which, I may have played through twice, or maybe I just did it once and then watched someone else do it a second time. Heck, its skill system beats 9 at least, which I really am not a fan of because you have to let equipment sit on your characters until they get enough Ability Points to permenantly learn it, so you have super weak armor sitting on your high level character that wasn't able to learn the skill early on because the game forced you along a certain plot line where only the main character was playable for a while...... They just better be glad I really like the art style and music and am liking the story because nary but the core Final Fantasy gameplay goodness aspects am I liking of the combat... Worst limit system ever and the turn meter'....slowly.... Oh well, its still fun, and some people will try to convince thats all that really matters.... When its cheap or free they are correct, so with a game that you bought 8 years ago I guess it applies too.

In other good news, tomorrow I'm going to buy the Blade Runner 4 disc set, the Criterion Collection version of "The Seven Samurai", and Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica. Why such a big purchase? Because for the entire month of June all DVDs are Buy 2 get the 3rd free. As my manager said "I spend $500 easy." I won't spend quite that much, but I do plan to take advantage of the deal at least once more this month. I'll see how much more I can spend after Ninja Gaiden 2.