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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: ,

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.

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.

Firefly Ep. 3: Our Mrs. Reynolds

I just finished watching Episode 3 of the show I love to tear open, Firefly. In this episode, the beloved crew of Serenity take on a castaway named Saffron who ends up proclaiming herself as Mal’s wife because of some baroque ritual on her planet that he participated in, ignorant of its deeper meaning. If this sounds familiar, congratulations! You have a passing familiarity with a lot of really bad one-off episodes of a lot of mediocre sitcoms!

In all honesty, this episode was a fair deal better than the first two. It’s still barely passable and nowhere near the critical acclaim it has been handed, but we’re working toward almost being…respectable! That’d be a milestone that ol’ Jossie-boy has yet to earn from me. I’ve hated everything to ever come out of this bonehead’s noggin.

A lot of what redeems this episode is guest star Christina Hendricks, who plays Saffron. You might know her as the sassy broad from Mad Men. Her acting is phenomenal, she is a hell of a lot more believable than 90% of the cast, and she’s just downright awesome toward the end. I won’t spoil what she does to earn this, but trust me: it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.

I’m usually not one to pick on poor pacing, but for fuck’s sake: we are three episodes in and there is still not an overarching plot narrative to be found, or even a hint of one. Now, I admit, I love a lot of anime where the themes of the main narrative take several episodes to be revealed, but those are half-hour shows with a great deal of action and fun to keep everything interesting. Here, the only interesting things are Christina Hendricks’ boobs, and I’m sorry: they aren’t enough to carry an entire episode (though not for lack of ampleness).

Wherever a true plot narrative might be uncovered, we’re left with naught but confusion and poor writing. I think I am getting closer to the identity of the “Companion” chick (should have figured Whedon would make an interstellar whore character!), but I’ll be damned if I can remember her name, or why she’s on the ship, or even what her deal is. Besides that, there’s really nowhere for this season to go. There’s nothing that happens that lasts from episode to episode. There’s no reason to pay close attention to each episode. Everything is status quo from the beginning. For a supposed drama, going nowhere and expecting your audience to stay motivated to follow along is a sizable bill of goods.

Whedon’s author filibusters have been some of the most egregious in the entirety of modern Western fiction, and they are no better here. Mal is Whedon’s Gary Stu, and it shows through the very atheist/feminist views this supposedly battle-hardened captain spews on a regular basis. And I’m not saying there’s anything at all wrong with being a feminist or questioning the existence of a Supreme Being, but it sounds very tacky and out of place for characters in a science fiction show to preach controversial social commentary. Call me old-fashioned.

Anyway, back to my specific nags with this episode. I called the plot twist about ten minutes in, and I wasn’t the least bit surprised when it turned out that I was vindicated twenty minutes later. After a while of watching Whedon, you start to get a feel for how his creative mind works. Jossie-boy is a fan of the trite, the familiar, the ever-so-subtle hijack of themes from other, better forms of media. As soon as you realize that, you can pretty much call him out anytime.

Another actor from this show that is starting to become very good is Alan Tudyk, who plays the pilot. Again, this show is nowhere near compelling enough for me to start remembering names, so don’t ask. He’s still a little hammy, but he looks like Humphrey Bogart compared to the over-the-top, commercial-grade cheese of Jewel Staite and the Baldwinmeister.

So, that’s about all I’ve got. This series is starting to kill brain cells, so I think the next episode needs to wait a week. Stay tuned: something tells me we’re nearing some good old-fashioned badness to sink our teeth into.

iPad Review

April 8, 2010 4 comments

In order to be awesome, I have decided to write out this blog post using the fine piece of technology I am reviewing. This is made possible through the very effective and efficient WordPress app.

As a rather strident Apple skeptic, the only reason I even entertained the idea of getting an iPad was because the University of Arizona bookstore decided to be generous and allow interested customers to come in and charge the device to their bursar’s account. As a lover of technology and a curious party to this device, I decided to go ahead and try it out. At $499.99, the machine is far from an impulse buy, but what the hey, I thought? I was leaving the University later this week anyways. Might as well get myself a going away present as well as something I might be able to use for my upcoming tenure at University of Phoenix.

If you want the short and sweet of it, here it is: The iPad is going to change the way a lot of people look at computing, possibly forever. And that may or may not be a bad thing. This device does just about everything. It is more than an oversized iPhone, and I cannot recommend it enough to just about anyone who wants to do more with their computing and has the discretionary income to do so. You may not be able to figure out a use for it before it is already in your hands, but trust me: you will eventually. And then you will wonder how you ever did without it. While I must stop short of calling it a fully-functional computer, it is so close to one that many PC users will not be able to tell the difference.

Unboxing an iPad is an experience in itself. You tear the shrink-wrap off the cream-colored box, open it up, and there it is in all its glory. One pull-tab later, the device is in your hands and (almost) ready for use. The sly devils at Apple have made iTunes, a service I am very mixed about, a mandatory part of having an iPad, and you cannot even get to the home page without going through the iTunes rabbit hole when you boot it up for the first time. The iTunes asks if you would be so kind as to let it sync all your music, movies, and pictures to the iPad, but at a mere 16GB and already being the owner of another device devoted to multimedia, I took a pass on that.

iPad then whisks you away to the home page, which looks exactly as advertised on the box and a lot like that of the iPhone. You’ve got your image of choice in the background, and a bunch of little square icons in the forefront for all kinds of exciting tools. Notes, Calendar, Safari, Contacts, and so on make up your factory-loaded apps, but the real strength of this beauty lies in the tantalizing offerings in Apple’s own App Store. The programs in the App Store allow you to customize the iPad to do anything you want, from being a gaming system to a work tool to a New York Times digest. Or all of the above. While I have yet to download any paid apps, I am very satisfied with several of the free offerings. These personal apps show up on a second page you can access by sliding your home page left with the touch screen.

And before you ask, yes: The iPad has one of the most sleek, functional, responsive, and polished touch screens you will find. Everything just feels right and it makes for a truly pleasurable experience. I have not touched my laptop since I got this, and it’s not because it does anything that my old machine couldn’t. It’s because using iPad is exciting and fun, and it could not be either of those things without a solid interface. Typing can be on the sluggish side, but it’s forgivable.

The screen on this thing is HD, high-resolution, and beautiful to behold. The Netflix Instant app allows me to stream movies in HD, which is fantastic. The colors look good, the pixels are crisp, the zooming utility is very sharp, and it is clear that Apple went out of their way to perfect this aesthetic. It’s also not a pain to stare at the screen for hours at a time the way doing so with a laptop or desktop monitor is.

Now, on to my criticisms. This device is lacking one of the most important tools for multimedia in today’s Internet, and that is Adobe Flash. Without it, a great deal of the things that I personally do on the Internet (watch That Guy With the Glasses, Spoony Experiment, play Armor Games etc.) have to be done on my laptop. It has been said that this is because Apple distrusts Flash’s rather considerable CPU intensity, but to completely remove it from the device seems a little harsh. Also, you’ll need to download the Facebook app to use it, because loading the site in Safari creates trouble for Facebook chat and generally slows down the entire device.

Another problem is the lack of multitasking capability. You can have apps keep multiple things going, but you can only look at one at a time. The iPod app allows you to play music while performing other tasks, but that’s the limit of this thing’s ability to really keep up with strenuous use.

Are these marks against it enough to outweigh the benefits? No. The iPad is fantastic at serving as a bridge between computer and smartphone. I firmly believe that Apple will carve out another market niche that imitators will only be able to vaguely mimic. And I believe that anyone who peruses the Internet and consumes multimedia like I do owe it to themselves to try out an iPad.

Firefly Ep. 2: “Bushwhacked”

Well, here it is, the first of my “Live Blogs” of Firefly. Feel free to follow along. I’ll list the timestamp that I see each of my observations if you’re playing at home.

0:13 – You know, the Alliance doesn’t seem so bad. It isn’t any worse than the kind of shit the United States has done throughout its 300 year history.

0:26 – “People struggle to get by with only the most basic technologies.” Yes, because a bullshit political statement is totally worth reverting from space-age ubertech back to the 1700s, amirite?

0:39 – “Find a crew. Find a job. Keep flying.” Taunt everybody you meet. Spew one-liners like Reb Brown.

1:02 – Nothing calms down a tense crew like a tough game of idiot ball!

1:41 – River looking around like this silly recreational activity (can’t really call it a game) is the most interesting thing she’s ever seen. It makes me laugh.

2:33 – Yeah, that scene? Entirely pointless.

5:09 – Zzzzzzz…Am I supposed to give a shit about what’s happening here?

5:56 – Yeah! Stealing things is awesome! We’re the good guys! Go team!

6:23 – “Where do you think you’re headed?” Any direction away from your crummy acting, Baldwin.

7:16 – You know, this guy’s whole “tough guy” routine would be a lot more credible if it weren’t for the fact that the medic just buckles like a belt in the presence of this ham.

7:31 – STOP. Stop, stop, stop stop stop…What the fuck’s with the metallic shoulderpads on their spacesuits?

8:18 – I see they were shameless enough to pillage Joss Whedon’s backyard for junk to litter this abandoned cargo ship. A bicycle and a beach ball?

8:42 – I’ve seen this scene before, and it ends with “I am assuming control.”

9:00 – In the future, all on-board ship’s computers will be 1980s-era Macs!

9:24 – “It’s a personal log. Someone was in the middle of an entry.” I guess they couldn’t afford the Captain’s Log from Star Trek, so they’ve got DOS Box loaded onto these tiny Macs for writing their diaries.

9:46 – You know, Jayne has a point. Why are the meager, supposedly barely-subsistent crew carrying around this waste of space that just walks around, clutching her head and screaming at nothing in particular? I’d have sent this nutcase through the airlock last episode.

10:06 – “In seven days, you will see the ring!” See, I can say vaguely scary shit, too.

10:22 – It’s the 26th-century, but we’re still using six-shooters? Really?

10:58 – I get the feeling something bad is about to happen to our Mangina Medic.

11:16 – OK, what the hell was the point of those stupid spacesuits if they were just going to take them off inside this ship? And when the hell did Kaylee get down there? EXPLAIN, WHEDON! EXPLAIN!

11:35 – Oh, wow, Jayne pulled a prank on Mangina! What a bunch of kooky characters! Aren’t these guys adora-I just felt my faith in humanity die again. *sigh*

11:50 – Kaylee and Mangina are going to be a team? Really, Mal? You don’t want to assign anybody, you know, halfway competent to escort these morons?

12:33 – “Keep the engine running, we shouldn’t be long.” Is Mal genre blind, or what?

12:48 – ALL HANDS ON DECK! WE’VE GOT CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF NUTCASE FORECASTED TONIGHT!

13:01 – This…won’t end well…

13:50 – Meathead’s got a soft spot for C-Rations. He’s like Solid Snake minus the charisma, and the credibility, and the badass.

14:09 – You know, this is really Mass Effect 2 all over again. Only Mass Effect 2 was enjoyable.

14:20 – Mal breaks out his “Dr. Insano’s” custom welding goggles.

16:07 – You guys…um…you gonna respond to Nutjob who just sorta invited herself aboard the derelict ship? No? Didn’t think so.

16:28 – Did I really just see Jayne get his ass slammed by some skinny-looking twerp? LOL!

17:38 – Mmmm, that trail of ketchup just might lead to the french fry kingdom.

18:22 – Yeah, Mangina gets points for that.

19:10 – OK, maybe Mal is a bit more genre savvy than I give him credit for.

20:24 – “Reavers?” Ugh, it makes me sick to think that my favorite western RPG of all time was inspired by this tripe.

20:39 – I wish I knew what the budget was for this show. The confines of Serenity look like Joss Whedon’s man-cave.

21:52 – Glad to see our fearless meathead cowers in fear as soon as something bigger than him comes along. This character is unlikeable in the worst way.

22:25 – OK, stop just a second. This is part of what I was talking about when I said that Nathan Fillion was rather miscast for this role. I hate to say it, but he just isn’t enough of a “leader” to be plausible when we’re talking about the captain of this particular group of social retards. He buckles about as often as Mangina.

22:55 – “Just when I think I’ve got you figured out.” Yeah, that’s not because he’s an enigma, it’s because he’s a poorly written character.

24:13 – Those Reaver bastards got BILLY IDOL! GRR…

25:15 – Yeah, way to get that blatant lesbian fanservice pumping, Joss! You da man!

No, actually, you suck.

26:35 – Shut up, Adam Baldwin.

28:06 – See that, Mal? That’s what leadership looks like.

28:58 – This guy’s about as annoying as Tidus. You’re about to join Meathead on my shit list, Mangina!

29:36 – I daresay the only thing more stupid than the crew of this ship walking around with revolvers is the Alliance carrying M-16s. Has weapons technology really just completely stopped evolving for the last 500 years?

29:59 – Yup. That there’s my collection of car batteries.

32:16 – That’s cute and all, but I still have no idea what a Companion is, what your role on the crew is, or why you’re even here.

35:25 – The bitch is grinning. That can NOT be good.

41:09 – They’re doing all they can to make these Alliance guys look evil, but they’re not. They’re just lawful neutral.

43:08 – Um, why does the Reaver guy have pepperonis stapled into his face?
And that’s the end. Wow, that was pretty shitty. I’m still not sure what the hell’s going on in this series, and after two episodes, that doesn’t bode well for it. Next one will be coming once I’m back in Payson.