dorchadas: (Toon Link)
2017-06-12 06:02 pm

Game Review: ゼルダの伝説:ふしぎの木の実 (大地の章)

I'm not sure I had even heard of Oracle of Seasons--in Japanese, fushigi no kinomi -daichi no shō-, "The Mysterious Seed -Land Chapter-"--before I set out on my Zelda chronogaming quest. It was twinned together with Oracle of Ages and released in 2001, the height of my anti-console snobbery. My loss. But the march of time and technological progress means I can go back to those games that I missed and play them now, when I'll appreciate them. Truly, we live in the the golden age of gaming.

Oracle of Seasons is another weird portable entry, starting a trend that began with Link's Awakening and continuing to this day. The mainline console entries, with the exception of Majora's Mask, are the traditional Zelda games where Link fights Ganon and rescues the Princess, and the handheld games are the ones where he talks to a psychedelic winged whale, rides trains, and plumbs the depths of the same dungeon a dozen times. Or here, uses the progression of the seasons to save a land where the seasons have been thrown into disorder.


Link's dancing was already disordered.

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dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
2017-06-04 01:25 pm

It never rains on Mibu no Hanadaue


This weekend is the date of two of my favorite festivals in Hiroshima--Tōkasan in Hiroshima City and Mibu no Hanadaue in Chiyoda (とうかさん and 壬生の花田植, respectively). There's video of Mibu no Hanadaue here

It's really making me miss Japan. We went to both festivals all three years we lived in Hiroshima, because while we sometimes had a hard time knowing that any particular event was occurring, Tōkasan was the talk of the town for months, and our students invited us to Mibu no Hanadaue the first year we lived there. And now that social media is so big in disseminating information, I follow a bunch of Facebook pages like 北広島ほっと情報 (Kitahiroshima Town Hot News Updates) or the Tōkasan page. That means I have a constant stream of updates on festivals I went to, festivals I knew about but never got the chance to attend, and festivals I've never heard of but really wish I had. Plus pictures, of course. Get Hiroshima, the gaijin-run local events news source, posted this picture of Mibu no Hanadaue.


Source.

Re: my subject line, today's weather in Chiyoda was sunny and clear, with a 0% chance of precipitation.  photo sparkle_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re35.gif

Also, last night I installed Heroes of the Storm after my attempts to play an AI-enabled DotA Allstars in Warcraft III did not go well. It's the only map I've ever found that crashed WCIII, and some searching found that the map has problems with certain heroes' abilities. There's no way I'm playing DotA on Battle.net. Those days are done. I played DotA games for thousands of hours when I was a university student and have no desire to go back to the world of racist insults and people dropping the instance the other team scores first blood against them.

HotS seems to solve a lot of my problems with MOBA games. There's no items, so there's no need to memorize item combinations. There's no gold, so last-hitting isn't a thing. XP is team-wide, so jungling and people demanding solo mid don't exist. Also, it's free just like the original DotA Allstars was (WCIII was a sunk cost at that point), so there's no harm in trying it out. And you can play against AI so [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd might try it out with me and see if she likes it.

I don't know how long I'll stick with it, but I'm glad I tried it out. It's much more fun than I thought it would be.
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
2017-05-28 10:39 am

Game Review: MOMODORA:月下のレクイエム

I heard about Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight on Bonfireside Chat, as a game that was similar to some aspects of the Souls games that they really liked. Then I heard it was a metroidvania game. Well, that's all I need to hear. Sign me up.

I bought it, loaded it up, and took in the beautiful pixel art and moody music. And then I moved forward and was brutally murdered by a chibi with a shield.


A deadly ambush.

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dorchadas: (Slime)
2017-05-27 06:06 pm

Back then, we were heroes

Checking twitter this morning and I found out that there was a commercial for a new Dragon Quest game in Japan, and it's fantastic.



I don't really have any nostalgic attachment to Dragon Quest. I haven't even played any of them other than the original Dragon Warrior and, recently, Dragon Quest IV. But I got a little misty-eyed when the music started, and I know what it's like to huddle under a blanket in the night, to tell your family that you'll be done soon, just a little bit more.

My favorite moments:
  • 0:50: The girl saying 時には我慢も必要です。 ("Sometimes patience is required") and then the taped-up paper that says, "Until I get into college, Dragon Quest is prohibited!"
  • 0:55: The kid drawing a slime and saying 授業中も冒険してた "Even during class, we had adventures."
  • 01:10: The man and woman saying 勇者は挫けない "Heroes do not get discouraged" and then でも、余り[?]には勇者だって泣いていいでしょう "But it's okay for even heroes to cry sometimes."
  • 01:35: The bit at the end 僕らは、夢中で勇者だった。そして今、ふたたび「勇者の時」が動き出す。 "In our dreams, we were heroes. And now once again, the time of heroes has come."
This is how you make a commercial that banks on nostalgia.  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
2017-05-21 11:08 am

ACEN 2017

​I was incredibly nervous for basically all of Thursday and most of Friday before I went to ACEN and I still don't know the reason why. I've had a great time at the last there ACENs I went to. What did I think would happen?

Well, nothing went wrong, but here's my chronicle of what did happen:

At length, but with lots of pictures! )

This is the most actual convention-related stuff I've gone to in a long time, and we would have done even more if storytime hadn't been cancelled. I described it to friends as me scanning down the list and saying, "Alright, which of these panels at an anime convention aren't about anime" but that was...well, pretty much my thought process. Most of the cosplay pictures I took weren't from anime either. I don't go to anime conventions for the anime part.  photo Emot-chocobo.gif

Looking forward to next year!
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
2017-05-18 09:02 pm

Game Review: Another Metroid 2 Remake

Metroid II is the only Game Boy game I've played for longer than a few minutes. One of my sister's friends had a Game Boy, and for some reason that is still opaque to this day, her mother asked me to babysit for them. That mainly consisted of the friend watching TV while I played Metroid II, confusing myself with the changes between that and Metroid. Having to hunt metroids? Jumping morph ball? Trying to play a metroid game on a 160 x 144 pixel screen? I played for about half an hour, got nowhere, and then never played it again.

When I heard about Another Metroid 2 Remake, I figured it would end up vaporware like the various 3D Link's Awakening remakes or shut down before being released like Chrono Resurrection. To my utter astonishment, however, it was finished, released, and was out for almost a month before Nintendo DMCAed it. That was more than enough time for the internet to seize hold of it, and it's easy to find if you spend any time looking.


Threat detected

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dorchadas: (Majora A Terrible Fate)
2017-05-13 10:46 am

Game Review: ゼルダの伝説:ムジュラの仮面

Majora's Mask almost completely passed me by. I think the first time I even saw any of it was at the first Symphony of the Goddesses concert I went to, where the gameplay footage of a moon with an evil face, Link turning into some kind of plant monster and flying around using flower umbrellas, and mysterious giants assembling to defend the city completely confused me. What was this? What was even happening here? And what is it about Majora's Mask that leads Zelda Dungeon to have a huge philosophical exegesis on the game?

(The answer to that is "When there's only one Zelda game every 3-5 years, they've got to publish something")

When my sister bought a Nintendo 64, I played Super Mario 64 and I played Ocarina of Time, and sometimes I played Blast Corps, and then I played Quest 64 and that was basically it for me. The N64 was not the system for an RPG-lover like myself, so I went back to my PC games and that's why I didn't know anything about this game until I played it.

I feel like I'm still missing a lot, honestly.


"You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?"

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dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
2017-04-25 08:55 am

In lieu of a game writeup, some ramblings

This is normally a day when I'd be writing up a summary of our Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom game last night, but it was called off at the last minute when one of the players came home to find their apartment had been broken into! The thiev(es) didn't take much, fortunately--they even left the WiiU behind, which seems like a joke itself--but that's not that much compensation. And they are moving in a month...  photo emot-ohdear.png

So instead, I spent most of last night playing Majora's Mask doing the Woodfall Temple. I'm not sure how I feel about Majora's Mask's yet--I've already lost about an hour of time due to freezing and the save system only allowing saving by restarting the three-day cycle, but I love the focus on a small city and the people who live there. I can definitely see a continuation of Link's Awakening, with its weird characters doing strange things and Link stumbling into the middle of it all and trying to sort everything out. I just wish I had a better sense of what's going on.

It's the problem with trying to learn a language. I don't want to read children's books or play games with little dialogue, because then I'm not actually getting any practice in. Studying requires pushing into areas I don't know. But that means that I'm never quite sure I understand the plot. I've got a walkthrough open in the background because of these issues, and I've already made a couple major errors that confused me until I went to check, like thinking that the monkeys in the swamp had captured someone instead of being captured by someone (Xに捕まえられています). The broad strokes I understand just fine, but in a game where it's very important that I'm in particular places at specific time, I need to understand the nuances to be able to play.

I redid the background image on my Dreamwidth page so it's locally hosted and shows up in 1080p. I tried a couple images of Tokyo in the rain, but they didn't display up well--with everything else on the page, it was just a blur of neon barely visible in the background. Which I suppose is accurate to some nights I've spent in Tokyo, but it doesn't make for a good aesthetic.  photo emot-fuckyou.gif

Looking forward to a low-key weekend and hopefully being able to finish Majora's Mask!
dorchadas: (Gendowned)
2017-04-20 07:44 pm

Game Review: Blaster Master Zero

One of my favorite games for the original Nintendo was Blaster Master. I played it for hours doing the same levels over and over again, because it was extremely hard. About half of my games never got past the boss of level 3, and those that did never got past the crab boss in level 5. Only once did I ever manage to beat the crab boss, and that was the last time I played Blaster Master.

So when I heard that there was a remake coming out for the Nintendo Switch, I was almost more excited for that than I was for Breath of the Wild. One of the main games of my childhood brought into the modern era? The same gameplay and areas, still with pixel art, but with modern conveniences like the ability to save and Switch's suspending the game at any time? That sounds amazing.

And it is. We ordered the Master Edition of Breath of the Wild, but I'm not playing that. I'm playing Blaster Master Zero.


Blasting again!

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dorchadas: (Default)
2017-04-12 09:07 pm

Game Review: Owlboy

Owlboy is a gorgeous game with great music and a touching story that I can't recommend because it doesn't know what it wants to be.

Owlboy first came to my attention the same way Hyper Light Drifter did, by reading an article on Rock Paper Shotgun about it. A later review cemented it in my mind, with John Walker, who hates everything except puzzle games, gushing over the gameplay and story. And, of course, the art.

Well, I'm not sure how far Walker got into Owlboy. I suspect he never beat it, because if he had, he would have written one of his rants about difficulty preventing his enjoyment of a good game. I did beat it and that's what happened to me. I had nothing but goodwill for Owlboy when I started, but it was slowly worn away by the course of the game, and for the last hour or so I just wanted it to end. And then it finally did, I and I put down the controller, and I deleted the game, and I'm almost certainly never going to play it again.

 photo 20170408181606_1.jpg

This game is beautiful, though.

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dorchadas: (Equal time for Slime)
2017-04-08 12:46 pm

The Mammon Machine: When Localization is Better

This post is partially inspired by the eternal complaining about "censorship" and localization, and partially by this article about Vagrant Story's localization.

One of my favorite games of all time is Chrono Trigger, and my favorite part of Chrono Trigger is the Kingdom of Zeal, where dreams come true. It's the lynchpin of the game, the only part that isn't inspired by a historical era, and the most overtly fantastical. The Enlightened live on a floating continent above the clouds and away from the ice age below, using their magic to create a post-scarcity society and leaving their Earthbound cousins without magic to fend for themselves on the ground below. With the goal of surpassing even those limits and ensuring the eternal glory of the Kingdom of Zeal, they build a great machine.

In Japanese, this is just the 魔神器 (majinki, "Demonic vessel"), which is awful. For one, it gives the game away immediately and lets the player know that the Kingdom of Zeal is corrupted. For another, it's silly. No one thinks that they're evil, and the people in Zeal who mention the majinki talk about it as a means to attain greater power for helping Zeal, but with a name like that, how believable is that? Why would anyone name the machine designed to power their society the "demonic vessel"?

It's possible to read it slightly differently, as 魔・神器 instead of 魔神・器, but that just means "evil sacred treasure," which isn't any better.

In English, the majinki was localized as the "Mammon Machine," which is a fantastic name. It's alliterative and slightly ominous, but doesn't immediately make you wonder why all these people are okay with a demonic vessel powering their society. The people in Kajar and Enhasa spend their time in magical research or idle dreaming in their utopia, fed by cornucopia machines and with magic to do all the work, and talk idly about how the Mammon Machine will make their kingdom even greater, and it sounds a bit strange. And then you get to the Zeal Palace, and this music starts playing, and you know something is very wrong with the Kingdom of Zeal.


Of course, the name "Mammon" already gives it away, but subtly. Mammon, the pursuit of wealth which is the root of all evil. The people of Zeal already had a utopia, where no one needed to work and everyone could spend their days in the manner of their choosing. It was a bit like Omelas, it's true. There's a quote about how the Queen conscripted a bunch of Earthbound to work on the Ocean Palace, though the man phrases it in an obvious euphemism for slavery:
"The Earthbound Ones are being allowed to work on the construction of the Palace. So they do have a purpose after all."
But it's not directly build on the suffering of others, just on social exclusion, which is at least marginally better than active oppression. The Kingdom of Zeal had everything they could want, but in their pride and greed they wanted more. So pushed on by their Queen, they reached out to the power slumbering beneath the ocean, and they built a machine to tap into that power to push them beyond their already lofty place. And because of it, they lost everything.


Much more evocative than the "demonic vessel." A localization isn't a literally translation, and it shouldn't be, because sometimes it adds something that the original was missing.
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
2017-04-04 10:18 am

Game Review: スーパーマリオ RPG

Before Kingdom Hearts, there was another time that Square created a strange hybrid RPG with action elements!

I first played this with my sister and another kid who lived across the street, and we got almost to the end. If I remember right, we nearly stalled out in the volcano and then couldn't beat the Smith Gang when we went on to the final boss, which strikes me as almost unbelievable now that I'm replaying through. Was I ever that bad at video games? Is my memory just bad and we actually won?

Well, I won this time.


Shine get.

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dorchadas: (Kirby Walk)
2017-03-30 03:39 pm

Game Review: Kirby Super Star

This is my favorite Kirby game!

I haven't played that many Kirby games, admittedly. Just this, Kirby's Adventure, and maybe five minutes of the original Kirby's Dream Land. But of those three, Kirby Super Star is definitely the winner. It doesn't have the complexity of Kirby's Adventure's wide levels and multiple secrets, or the simplicity of Kirby's Dreamland...but then again, in a way it has both. The real strength of Kirby Super Star is that it contains multitudes. It's structured as a series of smaller games, each of which is played and beaten individually. The first, "Spring Breeze," is a remake of Kirby's Dream Land, and the only one where King Dedede is the enemy. Another one, "The Great Cave Offensive," replicates Kirby's Adventure with its poking around every nook and cranny and using Kirby's various power-ups to unlock secrets through the medium of a treasure hunt. That's just two of the available games.

And, in perhaps the best part of the game, it's multiplayer.


Riding together.  photo emot-glomp.gif

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dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
2017-03-26 04:59 pm

Game Review: Wasteland II

This is the first thing I ever kickstarted, back in the heady days of 2012 when Double Fine Adventure blew up on kickstarter and revealed the wonders of crowdfunding. I had only ever played the original Wasteland for maybe an hour, but I had read multiple let's plays of it and, more importantly, I'm a huge fan of the Fallout games which were its spiritual successors. So I kicked in for a physical copy of the game (with cloth map!) and waited. And then when it came out, I heard there were some bugs so I waited for them to be fixed. And then I heard there would be a director's cut with new mechanics, so I waited for that. And then I was playing other games. But now, five years later, I finally sat down and decided that this would be the next game I would play so I could taste the fruit of that kickstarter long ago.

It's okay.


All in a day's work.

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dorchadas: (Slime)
2017-03-12 01:07 pm

Game Review: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

I was one of the Final Fantasy fans that failed to make Dragon Quest popular in the West. I borrowed a friend's copy of Final Fantasy and played it to death, even beating it after weeks of work, but I saw someone playing Dragon Warrior and I just wasn't that interested. Simplistic sprites? Shakespearean English? Dying to magicians when he tried to head out to Garinham to buy stronger weapons and armor? No thank you. It wasn't until I went to university that I tried playing Dragon Warrior again, and I thought it was fun enough, persisted to the end, and then left the series behind.

Until I saw that some of the Dragon Quest games had been ported to iOS and I had a two-week-long trip to Japan coming up. I had vague memories of seeing Dragon Warrior IV in Nintendo Power and I'd heard good things about it, so I bought it, downloaded it, and loaded it up during the flight. And while I didn't beat it during the trip--I decided that writing thirty thousand words in daily blogging about it was a better use of my time--I've beaten it now! And it was pretty good!


The operative word here is "try."

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dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
2017-02-23 12:46 pm

High scores in the age of the Robot Job Apocalypse

Yesterday I saw an article on Twitter about how video games are better than real life, and it got me thinking.

I'm lucky enough now to have a job with reasonable pay and excellent benefits, but something I'm always conscious of is that my job exists as a stop-gap. I do data quality curation, so my day is checking the results of machine algorithms and dealing with what they can't handle--since we get millions of records a month, there's no way they could all be checked by hand and no need to do it when well over 99% of the work can be automated. But automation keeps getting better, and that means the space for what I do now is continually shrinking. Eventually, it'll be gone. Not this year, probably not in the next five years, but almost certainly before I retire.

(Incidentally, this is one reason why I save so much of our income. I'm trying to get ahead of the curve while I can  photo latest.gif)

And then I think about the last year we were in Japan, after Suzugamine cancelled its contract with Lang due to a shrinking student body (shrinking so much that it later merged with another school and changed its name), when I was out of work. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told me to treat it like a vacation, and that I could get a job when we got back to America and she was in grad school. We made an attempt to look for work closer to Chiyoda, but there wasn't much to be found, and in the end that's what I did. I taught the eikaiwa we had, but otherwise I studied Japanese, walked around the neighborhood, and played video games.

Like the article says, it was fine. I really enjoyed much of that year, though in the end I was having serious sleeping problems and it was clearly having an effect on me. But while I regret not doing more Japanese studying during that year, playing games was fun. It was interesting and challenging. The lack of a job didn't bother me at all. And why not? Unlike life, video games are fair. They have understandable rules that can be challenged and mastered, and predictable results from those rules. And if they don't fit those criteria, they're often bad games, and there are other games to play. There's no other lives to life.  photo darksouls.001.gif

That's one of the few things that provides me some hope about the automation apocalypse. Large groups of unemployed young men is usually a route to massive social unrest, if not outright revolution. If those young men are fine without work as long as they get to play video games, and if robots can do the work, well...why not let them? With some kind of basic income scheme rather than having people fight over increasingly dwindling jobs, which is what we're currently having people do? There will be massive social hurdles to overcome--"what do you mean, I'm working and my taxes are paying for him to play World of Warcraft 2?!"--but it seems like the only option that doesn't end in massive bloodshed or social unrest.

That part I'm less optimistic about. But at least I have a little hope.
dorchadas: (Grue)
2017-02-08 09:29 pm

Game Review: Solar Winds I: The Escape

For all the time I spent on DOS games in my youth, I don't go back and play them very often nowadays, even compared to how often I go back and play old console games that I used to like. Some of that is because many of the games I liked were, objectively, not very good. Replaying Jill of the Jungle reminded me how inferior it is to Super Mario Brothers 3, with the central conceit of changing forms seemingly like an afterthought and the save system removing all challenge except for going for the maximum score possible, but without the bragging rights of playing in an arcade.

But other games were great, and Solar Winds is one of them.


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dorchadas: (Office Space)
2017-02-08 09:51 am

Ach, mein discourse!

Multiple people have sent me this article about a parody of Wolfenstein 3D that relates to the current controversy. It is not subtle, but neither are Nazi calls for genocide. Hiyooo!  photo emot-sun.gif

Though actually, I think this is an excellent example of games as art, using the mechanics of the game to support its central point. "Isn't fascism just another political ideology?" you consider. What about their free speech? Isn't the best way to deal with bad speech more speech? If you resort to violence, aren't you no better than them?

And meanwhile the Nazis keep advancing, and keep shooting, and keep shooting, until you are dead. Because they don't care about free speech except insofar as it allows them to subvert and destroy liberal democracy from within. As the article says:
Naturally, people playing by a completely different set of rules will take advantage of this, and you’ll suffer.
This and a version of Papers, Please set in Dulles Airport are the games of our time.
dorchadas: (Link and Zelda together)
2017-02-04 08:13 pm

Game Review: ゼルダの伝説:時のオカリナGC裏

This is the game in the lineup I was most worried about replaying.

I mean, even a cursory search on the internet will find an enormous crowd of people who think that Ocarina of Time is the best game ever made, or at least in the top five. I still remember the first time I played it--I have my original gold cartridge sitting by our television--and how amazing it seemed coming from the first Zelda game, since I had only played Zelda II on a brief rental and never owned an SNES or Game Boy. Going from 8-bit self-contained screens to a giant expansive world? Running across Hyrule Prairie that first time, seeing Death Mountain in the distance and getting that "you can go there" feeling that Todd Howard mentioned in an interview about Skyrim? Combat trading sword blows, dodging and circling? It was amazing!

It was amazing, I won't deny that. At the time I first played it, I thought Ocarina of Time was the greatest game I had ever played. But I figured that it was mostly nostalgia and that since much of the amazement was based on technical innovation that had long since been obsolete, I'd have to force myself to play through this to get to Majora's Mask and then other Zelda games I haven't played.

I'm glad to say that's not the case. It's not the greatest game ever made, but I had a lot of fun with Ocarina of Time.


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dorchadas: (Green Sky)
2016-12-31 11:16 am

Game Review: Hyper Light Drifter

I first became aware of Hyper Light Drifter a couple years ago, after the kickstarter had finished but before there was much more info available about it, when I saw this promotional image that seared itself into my brain.


 photo emot-gonk.gif

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