Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lost

So, I'm hanging out with Spencer this week while I finally finish up my college stuff. His roommates own season one and two of Lost on DVD. The episodes are twice as long as a normal show, so it's more like 4 seasons worth of material, but I'm determined to finish watching it all on their big screen HD TV. It takes a while to get into, the characters develop very slowly, and each character has a complex background story to tell through flashbacks of their life before the crash, but that's what makes it so great to watch. I love character driven stories. There's also a lot of suspense and mystery concerning the island and the 'others.' The music is incredible too, without it there would be a lot of silence and awkwardness.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Avatar Online Game

I can just imagine this game, beautifully cell shaded graphics, inhabited by all those crazy animal hybrids, you chose one of the four nations to start out in but they all work together against some outside force. That would be the tricky part, coming up with some storyline for them to fight together. All of them would be able to multi task, but water benders would be the best healers, earth benders would be the best tanks, fire benders the best DPS and air benders could be like ninja/redmage, casting buffs, debuffs and evasion tanking. And somehow you would have to fit in melee combat so you could have the Sokka types fighting too. The Avatar games that have been made are pretty disappointing, if only they had made the games as good as the Naruto games that have been made.

Fiesta Online

I've played a lot of free online games, Maple Story is the only one that I liked enough to invest a serious amount of time into until I found this one.

Like many of these Korean made games, there are only four classes, Fighter, Cleric, Archer and Mage. Fighter can tank with one hander and shield and DPS with 2-handers once they become available at level 20. Although it's expensive, potion spamming is an option for most situations, potions only have about a 5 second cooldown. But for boss fights you need Clerics to heal and cast buffs. Clerics get the only offensive and defensive party buffs. They make decent off tanks and they can even take hits from a boss, but they can't main tank because they don't have taunt. Archer, at least as far as I've played it (level 17) has pretty weak DPS compared to Mage. I guess they justify Archer's lower DPS because they have higher accuracy and evasion. Mage is the funnest class, they level faster than any other class and do the best DPS, but if you don't put any points into endurance (increases max hp and defense) and only put points into intelligence for max damage, you'll get one shot by bosses and 2 or 3 shot by a lot of enemies.

Fiesta Online has some elements of World of Warcraft, it's 3D and movement is somewhat similar to WoW, you get a variety of abilities with different cooldowns on a convenient tool bar, the crafting system is reliable (you get consistent skill-ups and you don't get random failures that can cost you painfully large amounts of money like in Final Fantasy XI), there are item collection quests and kill quests and lots of them are repeatable, and there's challenging and fun group dynamic between healer, tank and DPS. There are also mounts! You can get a mount at level 1, though I haven't bothered figuring out how they work yet because it looks like they run on some rather expensive fuel and I can get a more fuel efficient mount at level 20.

Kingdom Quests are the equivalent of Maple Story's party quest and WoW's instances, there's a new one about every 10 levels, there's a boss at the end and you get good loot at if you win. The catch is, you can only join Kingdom quest once every couple of hours. 15 people can get in every 2 minutes for a half hour window, so you actually can go more than once if your group finishes in under half an hour and there are still open time slots, this is pretty rare though. You also can't join as a group as far as I can tell, and it doesn't automatically put you in a party when you join.

Like Maple Story there is no auction house, you have to set up a shop, but unlike Maple Story where you can only sell items, you can set up a shop to buy items as well and you don't have to pay real money for a store permit. There are several ways of upgrading weapons and armor. You can quest for items, do kingdom quest for really good items, buy them from shops (weapon and armor vendors actually sell good items unlike in WoW) and get rare world drops. You can further upgrade items with stones and weapon licenses (like scrolls in Maple Story or like a leather armor kit or enchantment in WoW). Stones increase a weapon's damage or an armor's defense. There's a chance of destroying or damaging an item when you upgrade it with stones. Weapon licenses increase a weapon's damage against a certain type of enemy, they start at 15% and as you use the weapon on that enemy the effect increases to a maximum of 35%.

You can chose 2 of the 5 craft skills, Stones, Scrolls, Potions, Composition and Decomposition. Scrolls give stat buffs just like scrolls in WoW, except they're more important because scrolls are the only way to get those buffs. Composition and Decomposition just turn certain materials into other materials.

Fiesta's biggest weakness is little character customization, both style and stats. There are only 3 hair styles and 3 hair colors to chose from, I'm sure this will change once they add a cash shop. When you level up you get one stat point to spend on one of the five stats, Strength, Endurance, Dexterity, Intelligence and Spirit.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Tokyo Game Show 2007


Mario Galaxy looks absolutely epic, the first serious Mario game since Mario 64. I Played Mario Sunshine, it was fun, but it was a little funky using that watergun thingy all the time instead of more classic Mario gameplay. The FFIV remake on the DS looks amazing, I hope the English dub isn't as atrocious as their other game dubs. I wonder if the "you spoony bard" part is gonna be voice acted. FFIV has always been one of my favorites, Cecil is ten times cooler than all the whiney teenage heroes of the more recent titles. The bad guys are another story though. They don't introduce the real bad guy until close to the end, you find out he's been controlling who you thought was the bad guy, who's actually your father (Star Wars anyone?) it's kinda lame. You know, it's only a matter of time before SquareEnix is ready to remake FFVI! I need to hurry up get a job, start making some money, so I can catch up on all these games.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Welcome to the NHK

Tatsuhiro Satō is a hikikomori, or NEET, something I can kind of relate to since I'm a bit of one myself right now, still living at home with my parents. The show is really amazing, it shows a lot of the darker side of human nature; the way people look down on each other, look for someone to blame for the unfairness in life and look for fantasy worlds to escape into. But it does all this with a sense of humor that I love, making fun of anime and videogame fan stereotypes and social awkwardness. The animation quality (especially during Satō's hallucinations) is great and I'm addicted to the soundtrack. The voice acting is good too, I especially like the old timey cartoon voices of his appliances that talk to him during his hallucinations. Here's the wikipedia entry for more info.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Smash Bros Brawl speculations

I’ve been watching the Zelda and Metroid retrospectives from gametrailers.com and remembering my favorite old school games. There was another video at gametrailers.com of their list of the top ten game franchises. Their list was good, but left out a lot of my favorite franchises and ones that I hope will show up in Smash Bros Brawl. Aside from being an incredibly well made game, part of the popularity of Smash Bros is that fact that it pulls all of Nintendo’s franchises, both popular and obscure, into one game. Now that they’ve opened the doors to 3rd party characters (Konami’s Solid Snake) it seems odd that he would be the only one. Characters I’m hoping to see are Sega’s Sonic and Tails, a character from Castlevania would make sense since Konami is already contributing Snake and Capcom’s Mega Man and Zero would certainly fit in. I’m sure everyone is happy about Zero SuitSamus, Meta Knight, Ike, Pit, Wario and Solid Snake, but you know there’s gotta be more. Here and here are some other interesting possibilities.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Club to Death Angel Dokuro Chan

This show is so absurd it cracks me up. Everything is just so exaggerated and extreme. This review put it well.

"Dokuro-chan is a violent show; a show that revels in its filth. It enjoys being dirty. Stuffed within its approximate 114 minutes is gratuitous fanservice, comically graphic violence and gore, and jokes about puberty, sex and pedophiles, repeatedly coming at the viewer at the speed of a bullet train."

Every time Dokuro kills Sakura (every time you say? Yeah, it happens a lot) she brings him back to life with the magic words "Pipiru piru piru pipiru pi!" If I ever start playing an MMO again, I'm gonna put that in my raise macro and see if anyone gets it, even if they don't I'll get a kick out of it.

Silence by Shusaku Endo

A very memorable novel that brings up interesting issues concerning Christianity in Japan. It's about Sebastian Rodrigues, a Portugese Jesuit in Japan in 1638 and the trials he faces there. According to wikipedia, Martin Scorsese is going to make a movie! But the wikipedia article gives away the ending, which was the best part of the book for me, so I say don't read the plot summary if you plan on reading the book or seeing the movie.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

This is one of my favorite books of all time. In college I planned on making an abridged/simplified version of it for English Language Learners, but sadly that project never got very far. It’s the story of Siddhartha, the son of a Brahman, a holy man in Hindu society. He knows he is very blessed, that he should be happy, but feels like there is something missing and decides that this way of life cannot bring him happiness. So he leaves his father and becomes an acetic monk, then seeks the Buddha, then finds a lover and a job and gets rich, then escapes from those worldly pleasures and becomes a simple ferryman and tries to teach his life’s lessons to his son, but his son runs away. In the end he is enlightened in a way that is very Zen or Taoist, he realizes all is one, too much striving is futile, happiness has to come from within and that this is wisdom that cannot be taught, only learned by experience. As usual, the wikepedia article is well worth reading.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Google Reader

... is my new favorite thing. It makes the internet come to me! Bwahahaha! I guess it might not be too amazing to some people, but for me, someone who is on the internet all the time, a swivel-chair potato, it's a huge time saver. It's like TIVO for the internet. It tells me when sites are updated and gives me exactly what I want from that site.

School Days

I was gonna make this blog post back on September 28th but I left it as a draft because it's such a messed up show I wasn't sure if I wanted to mention it on my blog or not. I watched episodes 1-3, then skipped to 11 and 12, from stuff I read online though, the main character, Makoto, sleeps around with lots of girls during the episodes I skipped. This show is so messed up... that ending was totally disturbing.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fighting Games


Fighting games have come a long way in controls and mechanics. I never cared about Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat for one main reason; the moves were just too complicated and cumbersome. I could never figure out that slide your thumb from down to forward thing, or that slide from back to down to forward thing and even when I did get it right, it wasn’t satisfying, it hurt my hand. I also hated the never-ending combos that you had no chance of escaping like in Killer Instinct. People could keep killing you forever, even after you were dead, just to rub it in your face. How messed up is that? Naruto and Smash Bros, on the other hand, have beautifully simple controls so anyone can pick it up and start playing. Naruto’s chakra mechanic lets you escape those endless combos, and in Smash Bros you can air-dodge, roll away, attack while getting up or a number of other things to avoid combos. But I hate those elitist moves (like L and Y cancel and wave dashing) that people figure out because they have too much time on their hands. I want a fighting game that’s as fun and balanced as Naruto or Smash Bros, but doesn’t have the crazy freak moves that only people with turbo hands can pull off. Hopefully Brawl we be like that.

Dubs VS Subs

Often the topic of debate among anime fans is which is better, the original Japanese dialogue with subtitles or the English dubbing. I usually prefer subtitles. Dubs are not ALWAYS bad, they're just USUALLY bad. Various problems crop up, like matching words to lip flaps. This is absurd since in many cases the Japanese dialogue doesn't fit the lip flaps either. It also kills the emotion or humor because unless it's translated really well and creatively, the timing of the line in English will not fit the Japanese. They feel the need to match high squeeky obnoxious voices with equally high squeeky obnoxious voices, which somehow become even more obnoxious in English. Humor is difficult to translate, Azumanga Daioh goes from being hilarious in Japanese to being annoying in English. Another odd occurrence is that Kansai dialects get turned into southern dialects, it makes no sense whatsoever.

That said, some dubs actually improve a show. A scene that was only a little funny in Japanese is given a new twist to make it funnier, typically this happens with good one-liners since there aren't a lot of lip flaps. Some of the best dubbing I've heard is Kyon in The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi because he's not bound by lip flaps (you hear his thoughts a lot) he can just speak in naturally flowing English. The more recent dubs done by Disney of the Studio Ghibli movies are amazing, because they put more effort into making it work. Sadly, most dubs though are done in a quick, sloppy manner to meet a deadline and end up ruining the enjoyability of the show.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi


One of the crazy things about this show is that it was not originally aired in chronological order, it has been sorted out since then, so I watched it in chronological order, but I can see how it would work out of order too. I love the beautiful animation, music, comedy, mystery, suspense and overall coolness in this anime, but what makes it a classic in my book is that it also has some intriguing ideas to think about and employs some really unique story-telling techniques. My favorite parts are Kyon’s monologue in episode 1 about accepting reality and Haruhi’s monologue in episode 13 about feeling so small and insignificant considering the population of the world, and of course the ending.

The show even has a bit of a cult following, you can find dozens of videos on youtube of people doing the Hare Hare Yukai dance and fans calling themselves SOS/ASOS Brigade members. Check out the wikipedia article for more info.

What I think of FFXI

I've stopped playing MMOs for now, I'm just really tired of all the current popular ones. I might come back to them when they get new expansions, depends on who is still playing, how much time I have, and if the new content looks interesting enough. I wrote this a about a year ago, the games haven't really changed much, so I still feel the same way.

First of all let me say FFXI is a great game, I’ve played it for over three years, and I still play it now and then to check out new content and help friends with missions. There are many aspects of it I love and haven’t found in any other game. I like how so many battles, (like bcnms, hnms, pop nms, missions) take so much teamwork and everyone has to know what they’re doing. I also like how most of the best gear is rare/ex (like soulbound in WoW terms) so you actually have to go out and do something to get it. Most of all, I like the sense of community, after being 75 for a while you get to know most of the people on the server and enjoy making friends/rivals and watching/being a part of all the drama that inevitably unfolds.

I love playing the game more casually as I am now. The exp grinding, dynamis grinding, hnm grinding…it gets so old. There are so many things they could change to make the game more fun, and when I thought about it, it all comes down to two things.

1. User Unfriendliness

I recently saw several programs that add useful things like timers for when spells will wear off, how many shadows you have left, the cool down time left on spells and abilities, mini maps in the corner of your screen, it’s a shame SE doesn’t allow and encourage these things like they should. It amazes me how the same old arguments and inquiries about FFXI stats come up again and again. What affects treasure hunter, what stats affect what weapon skills, what stats certain food gives, what activates an item‘s latent effect and so on… In other games they’re kind enough to tell you what everything does! Imagine that! But at least it gives you something to talk about while you’re enduring hours and hours of…

2. Downtime

FFXI is all about downtime. 3 hour hnm camps, lines for a bcnm, waiting for airships and boats to arrive and depart, conflicting dynamis times, 72 hour wait between each dynamis, raise sickness, simply looking for a party… The majority of the time you spend “playing” FFXI you’re not even playing! You’re waiting to play. A lot of the downtime is unavoidable because other players cause it, but there’s way too much downtime built into the game that doesn’t need to be there. After coming back to FFXI from playing other games, even the speed of the fighting system feels slow. The delay of two-handed weapons is just ridiculous.

WoW and Maple Story are the only other MMORPGs besides FFXI that I’ve played, both are better than FFXI in these two aspects. Imagine what an awesome game FFXI would be if it were a little more like these games. I heard a rumor that SE is going to make a Secret of Mana Online, hopefully that will be a better game.

a real update

Well, it's fun to talk about blogs and review anime, but I guess I should actually give everyone a real update as well. I'm currently living at home with my parents very slowly getting the last few things I need to do finished so I can graduate. I've been done with classes for a while now, I just need to write a few papers, take a test, have a couple interviews and document some internship hours I completed over the summer. Once I graduate the plan is to get a job teaching English in Japan. I love teaching English (as a second language that is) working at Hometown USA was a blast, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Haibane Renmei

This anime has been on my mind pretty much every day since I watched it a week ago so I want to spread the word to anime fans and non-anime fans alike. Let me start by saying I cry a lot. Movies, books, anime, music, talks in church, closing ceremonies, they make me cry. This anime made me cry harder than anything I can remember. Just thinking about it for too long makes me cry… I’ll probably cry at some point while writing this. Don't let me give you the wrong idea though, Haibane Renmei is not sad, if you want something sad watch Grave of Fireflies. I cried because Rakka and Reki’s struggles, their doubts, fears and regrets so closely mirror my own and so their discoveries and triumphs are even more inspiring and uplifting. Okay, I know that was really vague, but I don’t want to give anything away. The music and animation are outstanding, the characters and the world they inhabit are well developed and interesting, and the story is definitely one you'll remember. If you want more info you can read the excellent wikipedia article about it.

Blah Log

Being the word nerd I am, I looked up "blog" on merriam-webster.com

blog
Pronunciation: \ˈblȯg, ˈbläg\
Function: noun
Etymology: short for Weblog
Date: 1999
: a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer

I was hoping it would be short for blah-log, oh well, I'm afraid my blog is going to be a blah log. Seems to me like that's what they're good for, venting, ranting, telling stories and jokes, blah blah blah. Recently I've noticed my mom looking at blogs a lot, I guess maybe I got a little jealous. Sarah Benac has an awesome blog btw. I think I would've made a blog eventually anyways, I love throwing things out on the web via forums, online games, instant messengers, etc. and seeing what people think. I just read an article called One big, blog-happy family, about the Benac Family's blogging and then found and looked at my mom's own blog for the first time. I've never been great at keeping in touch with people. Sure, I've got an email address, a facebook account, a myspace account, but a blog is different, I think it's more my style, we'll see how it goes.