Demon’s Souls – First Impressions

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Demon’s Souls is not only difficult, it is unabashedly so. It flaunts its difficulty with as much pride and panache as it flaunts its gorgeous graphics and deep level design. If a player is to survive, they must play with the belief–nay, the expectation–that death will come from any angle, at any time.
  • The game’s lack of save feature is an unbelievably cheap way to make the game harder than it should be. Although the game saves your progress every time you pick up an item or change equipment, if you die, you go all the way back to the beginning of the level, and all of the enemies respawn. It wouldn’t be that bad were it not for each level being an hour long at least.
  • While it is a very deep gameplay experience, the plot is bare bones so far, and I don’t get the feeling that this is a very story-driven game. You go into dingy dungeons, fight bad guys, and collect souls (XP) while trying your best not to die and lose all your souls. Every once in a while you get the main NPC in the game giving you snippets of story about this horrible demon apocalypse brought about by a terrible Lovecraftian entity called “The Old One”.
Categories: Reviews, Video games Tags: ,

Full-Time Gamer: Now on PS3!

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

I am sorry that the blog went dark over the last couple of months. I’ve been hard at work searching for a job as well as rearranging my house to make room for the new addition to the family coming next month. That said, I want to revive this blog, and I’m back on GameFly to continue receiving a steady stream of games to review.

The first game I’m going to do is a great, but difficult, RPG for the PlayStation 3. That’s right, I’m doing PS3 reviews now, thanks to my Xbox 360 deciding to finally crap out on me and chew games like bubblegum. I’d prefer the RROD, which lets me know my machine is dead, over the constant wondering that results from my Xbox sporadically deciding to take a bite out of my discs, so I’m not giving another dime to Xbox.

Demon’s Souls
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Developer: ATLUS
Released: October 6, 2009

Stay tuned!

Categories: Reviews, Video games Tags: ,

My 2010 Fantasy Football Team

Tonight, I drafted my fantasy football team on I’m participating in an NFL managed fantasy league for the chance to win real prizes! Let me know what you think of my team.

Matt Leinart (#7, Cardinals)
Donovan McNabb (#5, Redskins)

Matt Forte (#22, Bears)
Chris Johnson (#28, Titans)
Jerious Norwood (#32, Falcons)

Devin Aromashodu (#19, Bears)
Kenny Britt (#18, Titans)
Randy Moss (#81, Patriots)
Steve Smith (#89, Panthers)
Hines Ward (#86, Steelers)

Zach Miller (#80, Raiders)
Visanthe Shiancoe (#81, Vikings)
Jeremy Shockey (#88, Saints)

Stephen Gostkowski (#3, Patriots)

Chicago Bears

I’m currently in the process of trying to drop Shockey to obtain Chad Henne (QB, Dolphins) from the undrafted heap, but I’m last in waiver priority, so I have to wait for my move to be approved by the other nine owners.

Categories: Fantasy, Football Tags: ,

I Break Promises Quite a Bit, Don’t I?

I haven’t checked in with my faithful readers in a while. I apologize for that. It’s been a long couple of months, with job hunting and household chores taking up a lot of my time.

So…I’ll quickly review Final Fantasy XIII, like I promised I would. The game is beautiful. The first thing you will notice is just how fantastic the graphics are. We are nearing an age where video game visuals are near photographic in quality, and FF XIII is yet another huge step in that direction.

The game’s story is fantastic and a lot more character-driven than previous iterations. The characters grow on you, even ones that start off being somewhat annoying like the ever-perky Vanille. The gameplay is the weakest aspect, but the battles are still fun and fast-paced enough that only controlling one character in combat is still enough to keep you on your toes.

Overall, I’d give the game an 8/10. It is below average for a Final Fantasy game, and the game’s changes will continue to polarize the fandom for years to come, but it’s still a great game that I would recommend to any JRPG fan.

Now, as for Firefly…you don’t really want to torture me with more of this crap, do you? Well, I’ll torture myself for your benefit. Because I like you so huggy-muggy much. The next few episodes will be done this week. I think. I’m sorry, it’s just that looking forward to these torture sessions is next to impossible. Whenever I sit down and get ready to watch one, I always find something I’d rather be doing or should be doing. The show is terrible, and it isn’t showing any signs of getting better.

An Appeal to Reason

Frontier Elementary School here in Payson, Arizona, is a performing plus school. It is one of three elementary schools serving the Town of Payson. It’s a rather unique school in terms of layout. The school is divided into domes that double as both classrooms and all-weather PE halls. My mother-in-law volunteers there and sometimes I join her, eager to obtain some classroom experience before I test the waters of a degree in education. The children here are remarkable, and the school has some of the lowest class sizes I’ve ever seen. The class I serve in, a small room full of bright third graders, has only eighteen students. Even this small amount is enough to keep the teacher, myself, and my mother-in-law on our feet most of the day.

As most of you might know, public education in Arizona has seen brighter days. From kindergarten all the way up to the state universities, budget cuts handed down by the Republican-dominated state legislature have sent administrators scattering to fill the gaps. Here in our small town of about 18,000, the result has been enormous layoffs. The school district no longer has any librarians. The vice-principal of Payson High School was laid off less than one year before his scheduled retirement day. Even with a budget override of $1.2 million passed by the town, the schools have been told that all of them will have to make do with shared principals, reduced staff, fewer teachers, and larger class sizes. Nine faculty and staff were laid off last month. Had the override failed at the ballot box, the result would have been close to 30. Worse yet, there is no word from the local school board on whether or not these positions will ever return.

Arizona Prop 100, a temporary one-cent sales tax increase sent to the ballot by the Arizona legislature and Governor Jan Brewer, is a needed measure to help balance the budget without resting the brunt of it on the backs of our educators and public safety officers. Education is a fundamental part of a successful economy, moreso than just about anything else. Should this measure fail, the coming onslaught of cuts would decimate the system beyond repair. The cost of doing nothing would be a lot worse than one penny on every dollar spent. Frontier Elementary, a school that has become rather dear to me in the short time I’ve been in Payson, would be on the chopping block permanently. Its 200+ students would be uprooted from the school they enjoy and forced to go across town to Payson or Julia Randall Elementary, bloating the class sizes there by perhaps as much as 35%. The hardworking staff would be out of a job. I can’t imagine the prospects would be much brighter in other parts of Arizona.

Do I think hiking sales tax is the right answer to solving our budget woes over the long term? NO. Arizona needs to get serious about corporate and property tax rates and ending its over-reliance on a shaky, regressive form of revenue. Sadly, the right-wing extremists who’ve controlled the state legislature since 1993 are not inclined to get tough with their pals in corporate boardrooms across our state. Hell, most of the state legislature didn’t even have the testicular abundance to pass the sales-tax hike themselves despite seeing the trouble the state is in financially. Instead, they were too busy passing bills prohibiting centaurs, dehumanizing people and denying them basic rights, and revoking sensible concealed carry laws. These robots have never seen a spending cut or deregulation they didn’t fall in love with, and they’ve never seen a tax they didn’t want to end forever. They are the root of the problem.

That’s why I present this appeal to you, readers in Arizona, to preserve our schools, our highway patrolmen, our streets and our social safety net. Get out to the polls on Tuesday, May 18, and vote YES on 100. And then, on November 2nd, kick out the bums who didn’t have the nerve to pass this themselves.

Thank you.

Firefly Episode 4: Jaynestown

With the fourth episode of Firefly, we are finally hitting something resembling character development. It might just be a red herring, but for once it seems that things are finally happening to shake up the crew of Serenity. Things are actually…you know…happening? It’s about two episodes too late, but I guess we can forgive a bit of tardiness if it has a reason. That remains to be seen.

In “Jaynestown”, Mal’s crew visits a planet that specializes in the manufacture and sale of mud. Because this is a sci-fi show where western themes are shoehorned in, it is replete with your typical wild west cliches: filthy taverns harboring all manners of dirty-looking people, all manners of cruel and unusual punishments for criminals, and so on. It’s like a bad episode of Bonanza meets Star Wars every week. It turns out that Meathead visited this planet with his partner named Stitch four years before the events of the episode, stealing sixty thousand hillbilly dollars from the town magistrate. As he was attempting to get away from the planet with his ill-gotten gains, his ship was having maneuverability problems and they were forced to jettison everything, including Stitch and their plunder. Stitch was caught by the magistrate, arrested, and placed into a box for four years (how he ate, slept, kept himself strong enough to toss Mangina around like a ragdoll, and voided himself of waste matter is never explained). Meanwhile, the money that Meathead tossed off the ship found its way to a town of “mudders”, the indentured servants who work in the mud fields. As a result, the folks consider Meathead a hero, even dedicating a song detailing his legendary escapade. What was a simple robbery to him was an act of profound charity and goodwill to them.

I need to give credit where it’s due. The premise is interesting enough: what happens when someone is morally torn about using an egregious misconception to ease his way toward his objectives? What is the right thing to do? I could see this going somewhere, but it really doesn’t. The potential is spoiled because Meathead is a two-dimensional cardboard cutout whose emotional and mental range goes from stupid and angry to stupid and snarky.

The selling point of this series was supposedly the witty banter and themes of camaraderie amongst the crew of the Serenity. What does this mean to Joss Whedon?

“You’re like a trained ape! Without the training!”

HURR. HURR. HURR. Stop it, Joss, my sides are hurting!

Whedon’s trademark preaching about the evils of religion continue in “Jaynestown”, only this time it’s our resident nutcase River sounding the call for universal atheism, and Book serving as the Alan Colmes strawman to her arguments. An opportunity for Whedon to actually explore the themes of religious faith in the light of its own illogical conclusions is smothered by his need to expound his opinion as the only one worth hearing.

So, this episode also goes on about a supposed budding romance between the ship’s mechanic and Mangina. Of course, Mangina’s about as smooth an operator as…well, as I am, so he manages to bag Kaylee and then sufficiently piss her off enough that their relationship toward the end is left to interpretation (or fulfillment in future episodes). I guess it’s a workable sub-plot, but it seems shoehorned in, since the two characters have hardly had much opportunity to get to know each other on-screen since the series began.

What grinds my gears, though, is that I still have yet to receive a reason to care about the cast. The characters range from infuriating (Meathead, Mangina, Nutcase) to just plain boring (Shuttle-Whore, Mal, Reverend Colmes). There doesn’t seem to be any larger themes behind their travels other than to create chaos and steal from the governments of all these different planets they visit. It’s quickly becoming repetitive as well as disheartening. There’s no impetus to empathize with the crew at all, period. On the surface, they’re cold-blooded outlaws who are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way. When you dig deeper…they’re still cold-blooded outlaws who are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way. The only difference is that sometimes they engage in that aforementioned witty banter that’ll have you rolling down the aisles!

An amusing thing that I hadn’t realized before now is that this series single-handedly ended the careers of the entire main cast except Fillion, who now stars on the ABC series Castle. Rightfully so, c0nsidering he’s the best actor on the show by a huge margin. The curse of Seinfeld has got nothing on the curse of Firefly. Gina Torres has had one supporting role on a show that didn’t last one year. Alan Tudyk, whose acting I praised last episode, has had nothing but voice-acting roles and bit parts since 2002. Morena Baccarin has suffered the same fate. Adam Baldwin is on Chuck and still chewing entire sets of scenery, but before that he was more-or-less out of work. Jewel Staite can’t find work outside of the Syfy Channel backwater. Sean Maher’s been hit especially hard, having failed to land even one role lasting longer than one episode anywhere. I knew Summer Glau from Sarah Connor Chronicles before I knew her as Nutcase, and that show got terminated toot-sweet. Old Ron Glass got his first role in three years in Death at a Funeral. Joss Whedon still gets work, but none of his shows since Firefly has lasted longer than two seasons. Despite the claims of “rampant success,” this series hindered the careers of everyone involved in it.

I will continue my adventures in shit-tastic Firefly-land next week. Stay safe, kiddies.

Oh, and Devin McCourty better be a damn good corner.

Patriots’ 2010 Schedule Released

With the draft less than 48 hours away, we now know the order of the Pats’ opponents for the 2010 season. The schedule is the sixth-hardest in the league, with all five other AFC playoff teams slated to oppose Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork and company.

The season kicks off September 12 with a home game against the AFC North champion Bengals. After that, a stretch of all three divisional opponents lasts from Weeks 2-4. The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins will all look to make a statement against the defending AFC East champs. After the bye week, the Pats get a chance at revenge against the Baltimore Ravens, who recently handed New England their first home playoff loss in 31 years. The Chargers and Vikings, teams that both secured division championships and playoff byes with their high-octane offenses, come next.

The Pats then take the road to start November against the Browns and Steelers. The Pats then come home to face Peyton Manning’s Colts for the eighth straight year. Win or lose, only three days separate that game from a sojourn to Detroit to play the Lions on Thanksgiving break.

On the next Monday night, the Jets come to Foxboro in December for a rematch followed by games against the Bears in Chicago and the Packers at Gillette. The season ends with a stretch against the Bills and Dolphins. The Pats are 35-7 in December under Bill Belichick.

The schedule is undeniably difficult, with the Patriots needing to improve upon their 4-2 divisional record from last year as well as forget their awful 2-6 road mark if they want to return to the playoffs. The Patriots with Tom Brady at QB have not lost a home game in the regular season since November of 2006, but that streak may be coming to an end with the Vikings, Colts, and Packers coming to the Razor in 2010.

Categories: Football, Patriots Tags: ,