Let's discuss Avengers: Infinity War -- a movie BOUND to make you feel so good!

December 28, 2012

Let's (briefly) discuss Far Cry 3.

Far Cry 3 is a weird game.

I was willing to give it a pass and a polite dismissal based on its less-than-appealing E3 showing; it didn’t look like anything special besides Call of Duty in the jungle with more knife action.  But then again, almost everything this past E3 looked like some variant/bastard child of CoD and Uncharted, so I hope you’ll forgive me for being a little jaded.  Still, the fact that my brother hyped up the game to an insane degree -- i.e. saying “Far Cry 3 is gonna be so awesome” in the same tone he’d used to describe Darksiders 2, Borderlands 2 and Resident Evil 6 -- didn’t inspire much confidence.  Doubly so when he mentioned the co-op option; I started having PTSD flashbacks to RE6 and its room full of explosive Beyblades. 

So Far Cry’s been out for a while now.  What do I think of it?  Well, let's see if I can sum it up in three points.  This should be a piece of cake.

1) Ignore multiplayer.  It completely misses the point of the single-player game.

2) I like the campaign.

3) The campaign is notably flawed from the outset.

This is a game that’s incredibly easy to nitpick and chide.  Incredibly easy.  But you know what?  It’s not a deal-breaker.  Well, not yet at least.

December 27, 2012

Django Unchained: One More Thing...

I’m not a hundred percent sure I should be bringing up this topic, but since I left it off the main post I figured I’d be doing a disservice if I just ignored it.  So let’s quickly go through this…and pray that I don’t make myself look like a fool.

But hey, what are the chances of that happening?

*looks at sidebar on right*

Oh.  Pretty high, I guess.

(Hey, what do you know?  No spoilers in this post.  Well, unless you’re the type to intuit entire story events from a handful of words.  In which case, quasi-spoilers!

...Or if you prefer, quasar-spoilers.)

Django Unchained: Can We Talk This Out?

Fancy that.  For a guy who once went years without going to the movies, I’ve done pretty well this year.  The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Cloud Atlas, and Django Unchained -- that’s quite a bit of a haul, at least from my perspective.  And I actually saw two movies in one month.  For me, that’s like the planets aligning, or people unanimously deciding to stop making jokes about Uranus.

With that in mind, I figure I might as well rank the movies I’ve seen.  It seems like a tradition to do that for end-of-year posts, and I’ll go ahead and do the same.  So, from bottom to top, here’s how the movies I’ve seen stack up, with a one-sentence “gist” of what I thought of each (and of course, in-depth looks under the Movie Magick tab).  Make of my thoughts what you will…just don’t fire up your Hatred Engines.  This is a happy place.  Usually.

#7: Cloud Atlas
Three hours of philosophizing is a true-true way to test your patience.

#6: Prometheus
An awe-inspiring adventure into an alien world…that is, until the plot happens.

#5: The Hunger Games
It’s far from hazardous to your health (barring Katniss poisoning.)

#4: The Dark Knight Rises
You did well enough, Nolan -- now, about that spinoff for Commissioner Gordon…

#3: Looper
Commendable merely for not creating a time paradox with its existence alone.

#2: The Avengers
Do I really need to say anything besides “Puny god”?

#1: Django Unchained
This one’s gonna require some explaining…so let’s get right to it, yeah?

(WARNING: SPOILERS, as is my usual standard.  Also, this is going to take more than one sentence, so you might want to kick up your boots and take hold of a tall bottle of sarsaparilla.  Similarly, have your trusted six-shooter in your holster, because there’s no telling when some varmint might hassle you, and you’re thrown into a real hootenanny of a hoedown.

Being a pre-Civil War tough guy.  Am I doing it right?)

December 25, 2012

Behold! Happy Holidays!

Best wishes for all of you this Christmas Hanukkah Kwanzaa Observation of the Winter Solstice Preparation of One's Body for Several Dozen Gallons of Egg Nog holiday season. 

Also, a quick note: look forward to a special holiday chapter of I Hraet You.  It'll be as exciting as it is non-canon!

(But no Spirit Showdown this week.  You can blame that on a viewing of, AND an upcoming post on Django Unchained...and me getting yelled at for doing anything in PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale playing video games with friends for Christmas.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to continue being tormented by Majora's Mask in an alternate dimension of despair and failure straddling the boundary between reality and fantasy.  It's part of a story arc, you see.

And THAT'S how you stay in character. 

December 19, 2012

Spirit Showdown #8: The Soldier

“Hey, it’s your favorite band!”

My brother Rich recoiled at the sound of Linkin Park bursting through the speakers of his car.  It’s a running gag between us to say “it’s your favorite _____” when something either of us revile  or don’t care about shows up, like when I’d hold up the Wii installment of Deadliest Catch during a GameStop run and say “Hey, it’s your favorite game!”  But the mere mention -- the mere thought -- of Linkin Park made him positively livid.  Why, I couldn’t begin to guess.

Of course, he was quick to explain.  “Everyone’s allowed to like one shitty band when you’re young,” he said.  “I remember back when I was taking bass guitar lessons, my teacher told me to bring in a song to play.  So I brought in Linkin Park, and he was just like, ‘Ughhhhhhhh.  All right, let’s get this crap over with.’  I mean, they’ve gotta have the worst bassist ever.”

Not being a guitarist, I wasn’t about to debate with him.  All I knew was that at one point, he liked Linkin Park -- to the point where, when I’d come home from school, it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear him blasting some of their tracks.  Whether that was just to hone his skills or just because he loved hearing their music remains a mystery…though I suspect his discovery of the band was helped by stumbling upon a Dragon Ball Z AMV set to “Forgotten.” 

It goes without saying that, by virtue of audio-osmosis, I ended up liking Linkin Park for a while as well (it certainly helps that Rich left one of their CDs in my CD player after an extended borrowing period).  While those days have long since passed and I’ve moved on to some better stuff since then -- metal in particular -- there was a time when their music had a real effect on me.  Not the “CRAWLING IN MY SKIN” sort of affect, of course, but just enough to shape me just a tiny bit.  To change my perspective, outlook, and of course, creative processes.

So if not for Linkin Park, this next character likely wouldn’t exist.  And if not for the years that followed, and all the music therein, this next character wouldn’t be who he is today: quite possibly my favorite of them all.

December 18, 2012

RE: How I Met Your Mother

Wait a minute…two short posts back to back?  What sorcery is this?!  (Don’t worry, it won’t last long.)

“Yikesy mikesy” is a phrase I don’t use very often.  I came up with it back when I was six, and for a while I had every intention of making it my catch phrase.  Didn’t pan out, exactly; I pretty much didn’t use it until my brother reminded me that I once coined it.  And even then it wasn’t exactly a common utterance.  But I’ve entertained the thought of putting it into rotation -- after all, there are few phrases that capture the supreme, heart-stopping, breath-stealing affectation of something truly remarkable.  So for future reference, if you see me use “yikesy mikesy” to describe something, chances are it’s to describe something I found really, really great.

Such is the case with How I Met Your Mother.  

December 16, 2012

Horror Movies -- An All-Points Bulletin

I’ll get straight to the point: I don’t like horror movies.

I feel like it’s a genre that has a lot of faults by nature (though there are exceptions, I’d assume).  You know what I’m getting at -- the jump scares, the use of gore rather than actual horror, the almost-supernatural ability to include some bare breasts at any juncture, the situations predicated by stupidity…and most of all, how so much of so many horror movies is just a progression from one kill to the next.  It all turns into a slog; a nigh-invincible monster has his way with scores of mostly-attractive people, only to lose out at the very end…OR DOES HE OMGWTHLOL HE’S STILL ALIVE ROLL CREDITS!

As I’ve explained before, I don’t hate horror movies because they’re scary or gory; I hate them because they’re stupid.  But time and time again, I end up sitting in front of the TV with my brother and my buddy, sitting through what should ostensibly be a tense, paranoia-inducing creep show, only to realize how bored I am the whole way through.  And that’s assuming that I don’t go into Nitpick Mode -- something I’m more likely to do if I’m not being entertained, or there are some grievous gaps in logic, or it just drags on and on and on because, oh no guys, here comes the chainsaw-meister!

So after watching a pair of horror movies with my pals last night, I was about ready to swear off horror movies for the rest of my life.  If they found one on TV, I’d raise an objection and say, “Nope.  Change the channel; we’re not watching this.”  But that’s not fair.  Not fair at all.  I know -- I KNOW there are good horror movies out there.  I know there’s a reason people keep making these things.

And that’s where you come in, fair reader.

I’m issuing an APB -- a call to arms -- for some good horror movies.  Name one in the comments, give a little description of what makes it good, whatever you have to do; prove to me that there’s something worthwhile out there.  I know there is, but the fact that I’m consistently exposed to dreck has left me weary and jaded.  I need someone like you (a presumably-brilliant and beautiful young warrior noble) to guide me to something good.  Tell all, speak all, discuss all; give me something to look forward to, or check out on my own.  Give me a reason to believe in the genre, or to know the true meaning of fear and despair.  Show me that I’ve been missing out on the good stuff.

I’m in your hands now, guys.  Don’t let me down…and also, don’t run me through with a chainsaw or machete.  I assume that would be relatively unpleasant.

December 15, 2012

Final Fantasy 13: Target's a Target (Part 4)

So.  Let’s talk about this game again.

I know it’s been…what, half a year since the last post dedicated to this game?  And I’m pretty sure I promised that I’d be hitting some of the high notes (relatively speaking) well before that.  But I got distracted by other stuff, and then the next thing I know, I can’t quite summon up enough bile to give the game a licking.  That’s not to say I’ve forgiven it by any means; it’s just that I couldn’t bring myself to summon the right bile.  It would have been lukewarm at best, I think.

That problem no longer exists.  I’ve played through a few hours of Final Fantasy 13-2, and…hmmm, what’s the best way to describe it?  A disappointment?  A disaster?  Dead on arrival?  Dumber than a lobotomized turkey after several decades of inbreeding?  Well, any one of those would likely do.  What I’m getting at is that for all of 13’s faults, 13-2 is on a whole different level of terrible.  Is it worse than its predecessor?  Well…there’s a lot I want to say about that game, and I will.  Believe me, I will.

But in order to talk about that game, I want to tie up some loose ends.  I need to wrap up this game first…and then, maybe I’ll be able to make fewer jokes at its expense. 

And then I can start making jokes at 13-2’s expense.  Circle of life, I guess.

(It goes without saying, but there are going to be SPOILERS.  You know, if you care.  I certainly don’t at this point.  I seriously -- like, I can’t even bring myself to care.  I don’t -- I really don’t feel like -- I AIN’T EVEN MAD!

…Okay, I am a little bit.

Excuse me; I need to smoke the equivalent of the combined weight of China’s population in cigarettes.  And if I’ve done my job right, by the end of this post you will too.)

December 12, 2012

Spirit Showdown #7: The Agent

Killer7 is a weird game.  I just want to make that clear.

It’s as much a rail shooter as it is an adventure game, fusing Resident Evil’s item-collecting sensibilities with the pinpoint-striking gunplay of any given light gun arcade game.  If that were it, then I’d be fine with calling it innovative and leaving it at that -- but in case you haven’t heard, Killer7 is a game where you shoot mutated, explosive, laughing suicide bombers in their weak points to absorb their essence.  You play as eight characters, seven of which are more or less rolled into one body and you switch between them as needed.  There’s a conspiracy involving an afro-haired TV personality with a cardboard office in Texas, a pastiche of the Power Rangers that’s come to life and kills their creator, and a plot partially orchestrated by two Japanese politicians who shoot brain matter at you after having their heads blown open, and the only way to beat them is to shoot at one of their ties.  Oh, and a harvester of the bodies of orphans who has an anime schoolgirl daughter with eyes the size of sand dollars, submachine guns, and super-speed. 

I’m pretty sure that the developers -- Suda51 well among them -- made it up as they went along as part of their drug-fueled fever dream; I dare not imagine the man who could come up with the final hours of that game while in a normal state of mind.  But what’s important to take away from Killer7 isn’t that it leaves you saying “Wow!  What a delightfully weird-ass game!”  What’s important is that it leaves you saying “Wow!  What an imaginative game!”  That’s probably why I admire Japanese games as much as I do: they don’t give a damn if you don’t understand them in the long run.  They’re just out to act on their creative vision -- act without limits, just as any good story can and should.

And with that in mind, here we are.  A story, and a heroine, that likely wouldn’t exist without the reckless imagination of Killer7.

Hope you’re ready.  The first member of the “Tech Trio” is here.

December 8, 2012

Let's discuss Ratchet and Clank.

No one is more than aware of my aptitude of making crushingly long posts.  So in an effort to try and get over that bad habit, here’s everything you need to know about this post condensed into one sentence:

$8.99 is all you need to own one of the most enchanting and rewarding games ever created.

…And now to spew six thousand words explaining my claim.  Nobody said that breaking bad habits was easy.

(My love for you is like a truck SPOILERS!  And potentially, BERSERKER!)

December 5, 2012

Spirit Showdown -- Round 2 Recap

Hey guys, what’s up?  I’m guessing that a bunch of you are getting into the holiday spirit (or lamenting its mere existence and the contaminating effect it has on society and media at large).  And what better way to celebrate the season than with a much-needed update on the Spirit Showdown?

Now, don’t flay me with your trusted javelins just yet.  I’ve been cooking up some new stuff on the Showdown front, and if you’ve been keeping up you may have noticed it.  There’s a story arc a-brewing within the confines of that segment, and if things go as they have so far, the entire world -- and worse yet, the internet -- is facing a complete meltdown!  What’s a blogger to do?  You can bet I’ll have my hands full trying to figure out an answer, but time’s running out…and characters that I once considered allies may turn out to be the most dangerous of all!  Breathless gasp!

So yeah, if the original character (DO NOT STEAL!) angle isn’t doing it for you, rest assured that there IS something bigger going on in the long run, and if I can summon up the proper skills, I can give it a hopefully-satisfying conclusion.  That aside, I’ve prepared another four-minute recap to bring any newcomers up to speed on the “Speed Trio”.  Observe:

And of course, the recap on the “Power Trio” is still up and ready for viewing.  You can pop over there at your leisure and see that video if need be.  Alternatively, you can read the in-depth stuff on Cobalt, Shino, and FX whenever you’re ready -- or just place your votes at the bottom of this post, or once it appears on the sidebar in a day or two.

That aside, I want to take steps here and now -- while there’s a slight reprieve -- to open things up for at least SOME form of discussion.  As I said when I started this thing, I’m not just doing this to show off my super-duper characters or my so-so at best art.  This is a way to get people thinking about what they can do and want to do with their own work…or at least think about the things they like in a new light.  A good story, in my opinion, has a strong and definable spirit -- an essence, or an array of ideas and proofs that helps to give a story a genuine and unique feeling.  I think it’s something that is pretty easy to point out, when you think about it; to paraphrase Mr. Plinkett of Red Letter Media, “You may not have noticed, but your brain did.”  So I’ll go ahead and leave a question for you visitors to my virtual space:

What’s your spirit?

I would assume that there are a handful of would-be writing heroes who have my blog on virtual speed dial, so if you’re one of them (or have inexplicably come here by virtue of searches for sauerkraut), then tell all.  If you’ve got a story in mind, talk about its essence.  What makes it tick?  What makes it special?  What makes it your own, and your best?

And for you gamer-types, don’t think you’re off the hook either.  Even if you’re not actively writing a story, you still have easy access to tens, hundreds, or even thousands of them across at least a half dozen mediums.  So in your case, I’ll ask you this:

What kind of spirit gets you excited?

I’ve made my distaste for gritty stories known, but maybe that works for you.  Maybe there’s something you see in them that I don’t -- not just aesthetic and tonal choices, but the one-word essence that sums up everything that makes the tale what it is (I’d argue that the spirit of Looper, for example, is “selfishness”).  Basically, you can gab on about why you like the things you like; if you’re anything like me, writing about what you enjoy will give you a better perspective and appreciation of it.  Or just make you hate it more than the limits of human emotion and decency can allow.  Could go either way, really.

In any case, the stage is set.  There are six characters up, and four more to go.  The story arc is starting to motor.  Soon enough, the Hero of Heroes will be crowned.  But we’ve still got a ways to go before we reach that point.

In the meantime…

And that’ll do it for now.  See you guys around.

December 4, 2012

The Walking Dead: So That's What's Going On

Thousands of years ago, I did a post on The Walking Dead.  It’s amazing how much things can change (or not change) over the course of a few seasons.  But it’s worth noting that I not only stuck through Season 2, with the many, many, many problems therein, but have successfully watched Season 3 to its midpoint.

So.  What can I say about this show now?  Uhhhhhhhh…well, I kinda like it.  It’s not perfect -- by the nine rings of Draupnir is it not perfect -- but I don’t mind watching it every Sunday, and I certainly have more of an investment in it than I did earlier this year.

It’s worth noting, however, that my opinion of the characters therein has changed somewhat.  Namely, that I’ve been rooting for the wrong guys.

(Spoilers -- and brains, maybe -- to follow.  So I guess if you’re a zombie that hates spoilers but loves brains, tough luck.  You’re not getting my brain anytime soon.)

December 1, 2012

Let’s discuss PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale.

Funny thing about this post -- it wasn’t supposed to exist.

That is, it wasn’t going to be a single-game discussion; it was part of a batch that I’d started working on beforehand.  But one thing led to another, and I noticed that the section for this game ended up being bigger than the other three combined.  So here we are, in a dedicated post on the game.  Kind of beneficial on my end, because it gives me plenty of space to focus and talk about my findings -- and ultimately find out where I sit with the so-called “Smash Bros. Clone”.  Which it is; it really is a clone, no matter how much you try to deny it.  That’s not a bad thing, but there should be no attempts to try and say otherwise.

With that in mind, I don’t know what to make of this game.  Really, I don’t.

November 28, 2012

Spirit Showdown #6: The Convict

Hey, have you ever heard of that anime Kikaider?

Well, I suppose technically it should be that franchise Kikaider; as I understand it, there was a live-action version that predated the anime by a few decades.  But I know the anime -- few episodes that there were -- best, thanks to its Adult Swim run.  I liked the show; in fact, I liked it so much that I thought, “Hey, what if I made a story like that?”  And it didn’t take long for a story to start taking


form.  And by “form” I mean pretty much a carbon copy.  Only instead of a grim and introspective yet gentle fighting machine, it featured a grim and introspective yet gentle fighting fox-boy.  And instead of fighting furious robots, my guy would fight furious mutated animals.  And of course, it wouldn’t have been a story without that much-adored “I have amnesia that obscures incredibly vital details” angle.  And he would be such a deeply-disturbed and fragile little flower; hell, the


plan was to actually call the story “Altered Soul.”  Consider yourselves fortunate that it was just a phase, and that the story never got too far past the concept and initial planning; call it an evolutionary dead-end.  That story has long since been buried, and the characters therein have either been erased or transformed into entirely new entities with entirely new personalities.  Is it better now?  I think so, most definitely.  Is it good now?  Theoretically, I think it stands a chance.  Do I like it more this way?  Well, I have to say


Uh…do what now?


Okay, now THAT I understood.  So what do I do about it?


Oh, you’ve gotta be…!  I haven’t even started on my bucket list!

[ESTIMATED TIME UNTIL UNIVERSAL COLLAPSE…well, who’s to say, really?  It could happen today, tomorrow, or even yesterday.  Don’t you just love how unpredictable the fabric of reality can be?

Oh nuts.  It’s that time again, isn’t it?

November 26, 2012

Bored with Power

You know, I’ve been thinking.  (Cue the frenzied screams of a thousand innocent orphans.)

I like video games.  I like a lot of video games -- and say what you will about the industry today, but there are still LOTS of gems out there, so it’s safe to assume that I’m going to keep gaming for a while longer.  But even with that in mind, I find a lot of games today frustrating.  Aggravating.  Inspiring sadness and exhaustion, rather than solace and elation.  I don’t like feeling this way about one of my favorite pastimes, but it’s becoming increasingly common.  And I think I’m starting to figure out why I have problems with so many games.

I’m tired of feeling powerful.  Dead tired.

November 25, 2012

Back on the Grid...and other stuff.

*holds envelope to forehead*

Rage-inducing cabinets, a last-resort tranquilizer, a dog paw on a stick, the stupidest plumbing system ever created, inherent social awkwardness, a milk-chugging contest, an overzealous plate-server, the boots of life,  a baby monitor that regularly instills fury, thousands of digitized words, and theories related to the effects of entropy on time.

*opens envelope*

Things I saw at or near my grandma's house Turkey, and my failed conquest therein. 

November 19, 2012

BRB Getting Turkey

Visual puns!  

(I'll be back in a week.  Or less.  Let's just see how my conquest goes.)

November 18, 2012

I Hraet You -- A Reconsideration

You know, I’ve been thinking.  (Cue the ear-splitting wails of a million virtuous maidens.)

Warning: real talk imminent.

November 15, 2012

I Hraet You (55)

Beat 55: See You Space Heart Boy

“Ha HA!  And now for that foot…rub…?”

Lloyd sat straight up, eager to make good on his promise -- and he likely would have, if not for the blanket of night shrouding the room.  What sorcery is this?  Where has everyone gone?  Where has the sun gone?  He started counting off on his fingers.  Let’s see…I remember welcoming Lady Overdose into the group…and then I went to wash my hands…and then I remember everything going dar- oh, that explains it.

He slid off the couch and stood up, with the distant street lamps providing just enough light to move through the den.  Did I really sleep for this long? he wondered.  He scratched a few of his bangs.  My goodness.  I must have been more tired than I thought -- if the rest of my life is going to be as hectic as today was, I may need to consider joining a gym. 

November 14, 2012

Spirit Showdown #5: The Hunter

“I've got a story idea for you.”

I turned toward my brother, barely able to hide the disdain on my face.  “Another one?  What happened to your last idea?  You know, the one that was pretty much Cowboy Bebop?”

“Forget that one.  I’ve got a new idea.”  He folded his arms and smirked, nodding to himself at the thought of his idea’s inherent brilliance (as he often did).  “Okay.  So there are these guys…with cybernetic implants…and they’re all bounty hunters…and…”

I tilted my head.  “You sure love pushing that cybernetic implant angle, don’t you?”  I turned back to the computer screen.  “And I’m pretty sure you’ve already pitched this idea before.  Something about cyber ninjas, or assassins, or whatever.”

“It’s a good idea!  You should write that -- forget about all your other stories and write that one!”

I shook my head.  “I’ll tell you what.  If you can give me a better pitch -- one that’s fully thought out, doesn’t just copy Cowboy Bebop or Outlaw Star or any other anime, and DOESN’T have cyber-ninjas -- then I’ll think about it.  But you’ve gotta put in a little work. Give me something to work with.”

“Oh yeah, I’ll give you something good!”  And to this day, I await that “something good.”

To say that my brother and I have divergent tastes is like saying maple syrup is different from wet cement.  We tend to have clashing worldviews, as expected of two brothers; he’s the cynic to my optimist, the pride to my self-deprecation, the Ken to my Ryu (quite literally, across a number of fighting games).  But the one point that we’ve never seen eye-to-eye on is the concept of ninjas.  He’s always been a fan of them, proclaiming that they’re the ultimate badass warriors; I’ve always put more stock in the samurai, and I’ve gone on record explaining why I have such a strong distaste for ninjas in fiction.  And of course, he’s tried dipping his hands into my stories -- trying to make them nastier, more mature tales full of sword-swinging spectacle, without understanding what made the stories he likes (or stories in general) work.  I assume he’s gotten wiser in the years since his pitches…but then I remember that he bought Resident Evil 6 at full price, and I’m filled with near-lethal amounts of shame and apprehension.

But you know what, bro?  You finally got your wish.  You wanted cyber-ninjas?  Then for once, I’ll indulge you. 

November 12, 2012

I Hraet You (54)

Beat 54: Good Communication Begets Good Relationships (In Theory)

The light bulb swayed left and right above the table.  If not for the afternoon sun and the half-exposed windows, it would have been the only thing keeping the kitchen alight.  Trixie sat at the edge of her seat, legs shoved together and clutching Mrs. Overdose’s shotgun; just the sight of it made her uneasy, and the fact that she held such a deadly instrument (and in the presence of the trouble-magnetic Hoigleheimers) made her want to bury her head in the sand.   So she ran her eyes over the magnets on the fridge.  She counted their number over and over, hoping that strange circumstances wouldn’t lead to a misfire.

All three Hoigleheimers sat at the table, with Mrs. Overdose leaning callously against the far wall -- and she’d have to get past Patton if she wanted to escape just the kitchen, much less the entire house.  JP leaned back in his chair, hands tucked behind his head and eyes closed as if trying to doze off.  Patton rested his meaty elbows on the table, resting his chin behind his hands and groaning ever louder.  Lloyd sat in place with his arms folded, and one leg crossed over the other.  Trixie could only see him from behind, but she caught glimpses of his hand tightening round his arm. 

She glanced aside for a moment.  Why does this scene feel so familiar?

November 11, 2012

Housekeeping Get!

You got the Reference!  This string of game-associated words can put a smile on your face whenever you see it.  You can set it to X, Y, or Z from the Start Menu.

Anyway, a couple of minor things I want to bring up.  First of all, if you’ll look at the rightmost tab of menu bar, you’ll notice that there’s a new feature: the “Let’s discuss” section.  I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now, and in light of my eight thousand word treatise post on Halo 4 and the upcoming post on Majora’s Mask (which I’m sure will have no repercussions  on the safety of mankind) I figured I might as well start filing all the LD posts under that tab.  This way, you’ll quick access to all of the other discussion posts I’ve done, as well as get a look at what I’ve got planned next time.  In this case, it’s Majora’s Mask, and I hope to have Xenoblade Chronicles come soon after.  Pretty handy, yeah?

Moving, on, I have another announcement to make: after this Thursday, I Hraet You is going on hiatus.  I said before that I’m putting it aside, and once the 55th chapter goes up that’ll be the end of it for now.  But don’t worry; it’ll be back one day.  In fact, you can think of Thursday’s chapter as the “one hour season finale” -- it’s a big one, and while I won’t declare that there’s some over-the-top action (there was already a wacky chase scene), it does bring the arc to its conclusion and set up for even more insanity.  I don’t want to commit to an exact date for its return, but I can tell you right now that you won’t be seeing Lloyd and company for the rest of the year.  Maybe some time in March or April I’ll pick up the story again -- but I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep.  I’ve got some other stuff I want to work on in the meantime, up to and including spreading awareness that IHY even exists.

Whatever the case, you can take solace in knowing that there are going to be 55 chapters -- a good 100k words’ worth of content divided into fun-sized portions -- for you to read whenever you’re ready, and can read for free.  I’ll sprinkle some extra content into the blog when I can (I have something planned for later this week), but know that when you’re in the mood for some laughs, some ham, and some hearty-McHeart-heart action, Lloyd will be waiting for you.  Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut with that in mind, I want to hear from the lot of you about what would be best for you -- basically, what you want to see that would make IHY a better experience.  Administrative things, user-friendly things, new-reader-friendly things, even things related to the story -- whatever comes to mind, I want to hear it.  I want a lot of people to feel the love, and it’ll be a whole lot easier with a little help from you guys.  So if there’s something you’re itching to say, say it in a comment.  I’ll see what I can do.

And that’ll do it for now.  See you guys around.

(See?  I can make short posts every now and then.)

November 8, 2012

I Hraet You (53)

Beat 53: Well, That Proved Effective

Lloyd led the way through the school’s halls, wearing something faintly resembling a smile.  He’d managed to garner a win -- albeit a slight one -- out of what could have been a much messier situation.  He’d taken a stand against Gaston, saved his brother, won over his nemesis’ henchwoman, and managed to do it all without a single shotgun blast to the face.  He’d earned the right to strut a bit (and indeed, his lively steps reflected that).  He had every reason to show a bit of cheer.

A shame that he had two professional killjoys in his party.

“So let me see if I got this right,” said Mrs. Overdose, lugging JP around on one shoulder like a rolled-up rug (and stepping over a splotch of spiders).  “You say you’re gonna be my servant, but I’m the one who ends up carryin’ your kid brother around?”

Lloyd turned back toward her and nodded.  “Truth be told, you are considerably stronger than I.  It’s only natural that I leave him in your capable hands; I’d assume that even his slight weight would be enough to rip my arms from their sockets.”

November 7, 2012

Spirit Showdown #4: The Hoodlum

And here we are at the fourth installment.

I find it kind of funny that this next guy would pop up in an instance like this.  I’ve mentioned before that four is my “lucky” number (though “coincidental” would probably be the better description).  It’s certainly my favorite number, in spite of -- or maybe because of -- the death-infused connotations that come alongside it.  Whatever the case, it’s a cool number, and certainly meets my qualifications of being able to tell odd numbers to piss off.

What I find interesting is that on this, the fourth post, there’s going to be a marked change in a number of ways.  The last three heroes focused on the “Power Trio” -- characters that belong to (theoretically) simple stories, and make their way through them with strong offenses.  The next three belong to the “Speed Trio” -- their abilities are centered on skill and maneuverability.  More importantly, their stories aren’t quite as squeaky-clean as the last three; we’re starting to slide into some “shades of gray” territory here.  And who better to kick off the transition than this guy -- someone who’s done such a massive flip-flop in character that he might as well be a different character?  With character?

You might want to have your inhaler ready, people.  It’s about to get friggin’ weird.

November 5, 2012

I Hraet You (52)

Beat 52: So This Here’s the Falling Action, Right?

Mrs. Overdose jerked her hand back, as if she’d just been stung by a wasp.  “What in the hell was that?!” she yelled, eyes wide; if not for the shotgun in her opposite hand, she would have taken to nursing her palm.  “You some kind of wizard or somethin’?”

Lloyd stroked his chin and nodded, with a huge smile plastered across his face.  “Well, I suppose that’s as fitting a title as any.  For you see, by many accounts you could call me the wizard of lo-”

Mrs. Overdose readied her shotgun.  “Let’s see if you wizards know how to deal with bullets.”

November 3, 2012

Cloud Atlas: Reach Out to the True-True

Oh jeez.  Where do I even begin?

I guess I can start by saying two things.  One: this might actually be a short post, because I know almost exactly what I want to say; you won’t be seeing a week’s worth of content like you did with The Dark Knight Rises.  Two: I don’t really want to make this post -- like, I want to, but I don’t want to.  I feel like there’s not much I need to say, and only so much of merit.  And unlike other posts where I’d pretty much spell out the whole movie, I don’t think that’s necessary or appropriate this time around, as you’ll see by post’s end.  Whenever that may be.

So let me start (again) by saying this: I went into this movie not knowing what to expect.  I mean, yeah, I saw the trailer for it for the first time when I saw Looper.  I didn’t think much of it, except a call back to a joke made on The Editing Room: “I couldn’t decide which movie to make, so I just made ALL OF THEM!”  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it’s not like I automatically hated it.  I just had the same neutrality I often do with movies, and more so for trailers (remember when the Prometheus trailer made the movie look sick as shit?  And then the movie happened?).  But apparently, the trailer -- and the presence of Tom Hanks -- was enough to win my brother over, and he had designs to go see it with me as soon as possible…or as soon as Assassin’s Creed 3 came out. 

So I went with him, and sat down in the theater with him.  And after about seventeen minutes of preview trailers, I watched the movie.  I sat there and watched that movie for nearly three whole hours.

Three whole hours.  Huh.  I feel like that reminds me of something.  Something…magical.  Something worthwhile.  Something that I owe myself to experience again and again and aga--

Did I say worthwhile?  Sorry, I meant a complete mess.  I’m sure that has nothing to do with my opinion of this movie, though.

(All right, people, you know the drill.  Spoilers of every persuasion are going to follow, so if you’re not in a mood to get tailed by them and stabbed in the face, you’re better off hiding in a stack of hay and hoping the Redcoats don’t find you, or else you’ll desynchronize and have to start the mission over.

No, I haven’t played Assassin’s Creed 3 lately.  Why do you ask?)

November 1, 2012

I Hraet You (51)

Beat 51: A Steel Heart and Smelting Tears

For a moment, Lloyd could help but shake; chill after chill ran through his body, and for a moment he thought he might buckle over again.  But he didn’t; he held his ground, and in spite of his cooled body he felt a surge of heat from his toes all the way to his crown.  I’ve almost done it, he thought, his smile tingling as it embraced that surge.  I just need to press onward.  I’ve got all I need; it’s just a matter of reaching out and touching her heart!

Unfortunately, Mrs. Overdose looked anything but receptive.  With a face like hers, she could scare off a horde of mountain lions -- clenched teeth with lips curled into a snarl, hair bristling and sharpening, and even her eyes seemed to shrink a few sizes.  She held her position on the stage, but with her forward lean she looked as if she might pounce onto Lloyd’s desk.  Even her mole-faced mask looked incensed, in spite of its hidden eyes.

“You seem to have grown a bit agitated, Mrs. Overdose,” said Lloyd as he pressed a hand to his chin.  “Could it be that your lack of a husband could affect you that deeply?”

October 31, 2012

Spirit Showdown -- Round 1 Recap

How’s it going, everyone?  Hope you’re all having a merry Halloween -- perhaps you’ve got your routes for the night all planned out to optimize both your candy runs and late-night shenanigans…?  And I’m willing to bet that a few of you out there has a costume so elaborate Lady Gaga would look like a gruel-munching pauper.

In any case, I thought I’d take a week to do something a little different with the much-adored(?) Spirit Showdown here on Cross-Up.  I remember a certain someone suggesting that each post in the series would likely only be about two thousand words.  Imagine my surprise, then, when one of the posts reaches the seven thousand mark.  Even for me, that’s a little excessive, especially considering that this is arguably a vanity project -- a chance to go “Look at me, I’m GIFTED!” and try to argue towards that point.  It’s something that I want to do, because I feel as if I can offer something meaningful in spite of the project’s nature.   But on the other hand, it’s something that I don’t want to do, because it IS ultimately just a bit of grandstanding.

That said, I’m leaning more toward the “want to do it” camp, because…well, I think it’s fun, and I hope that through my little profiles and explanations, I’m offering something that’s fun for you readers, as well as something educational, and most of all inspiring.  I strive to get others to take action, or at the very least think about things they wouldn’t have before, or perhaps in a new light.  If the Spirit Showdown can do that, then I’ll keep it going.

That said, I want to try to make this a bit more reader-friendly -- something that’ll benefit both parties with greater ease.  The other three posts are going to stay there (and the basic format will continue as-is), but right now I’m going to make it so that you don’t have to commit an entire afternoon to read what I have so far…unless you want to.  That’s cool.

So here’s a quick recap -- a five-minute abridged version of everything so far...with a song!

And of course, you can check out each character’s page in-depth here, here, and here.  Swordsmen, she-beasts, and superheroes, oh my!

It’s also worth noting that in terms of popularity, currently Ursa has a slight edge over the competition, with Ocelot V in second place and Deias in third.  Surprising results, in my eyes…though maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, given that one of those characters has some extra equipment to give her some extra leverage.  I never would have guessed that people would respond so positively to women with horns.

In any case, I figure I might as well reiterate the rules of the Showdown.  Remember, the idea here isn’t just to show off; it’s to promote discussion and reactions.  Comments are not only welcome, but encouraged -- because the person who comments the most smartly and aggressively will be the one to earn special bonuses, courtesy of Cross-Up.  And even with that tantalizing(?) bonus aside, this is a great chance for you to cast your vote, and take your favorite hero one step closer to becoming the “Hero of Heroes.” 

And speaking of heroes, here comes another one now.  How fast!

All right then.  I’m about ready to bail out of here for now -- but before I do, I’ll start a preliminary vote.  Cast your hat into the ring, and vote for your favorite thus far.  One press of a button is all it takes to decide where your loyalties lie -- so if ever you felt undying love and affection for a handful of concepts given (digital) form, this is it.

That’ll do it for now.  See you guys around -- and make sure you get lots of Pixie Sticks in your goodies bags. 

Next: Gotta go fast.

All right, the Spirit Showdown's been around for a few weeks. Who's your favorite hero so far?

October 30, 2012

Let’s discuss video games…while I wear a silly hat.

Endearing, isn’t it?

Well, whatever.  It’s that time of year again -- Halloween’s just about in full swing, and even though I don’t have a costume, I’ve still got a lot on my mind and a lot of games I want to talk about.  Good games, in fact.  Very good games.  That said, I think there’s another trend to this little quartet, just like there was last time.  If the last “Let’s Discuss” post was mostly about “hate”, then this one is more about “pressure”.  What sort of pressure, you ask?  Well, you’ll just have to read on and find out, won’t you?

I’ve got my sleeves all rolled up and ready to write -- and you know what?  I’m in high spirits.  It feels like we’re going to make some seriously good progre-

What the heck?  What was --?

Huh.  That’s odd.  Wonder if it’s a problem with Blogger’s --

That can't be good...

October 29, 2012

I Hraet You (50)

Beat 50: Slobberknocker of the Soul

Mrs. Overdose sighed heavily.  “Well, isn’t this just great?”  While she massaged a temple with her palm, she cast an eye down to the ground floor -- to the desk where Lloyd had collapsed, and had completely stopped moving.  “Damn kid couldn’t even answer a few questions.  I knew this was a waste of time…but I had to go and be nice.  Last time I’m ever doin’ that, that’s for sure.”

She leaned forward, ignorant of the golden stars spinning around her, or the mole-faced mask hovering before her chest.  “Hey.  If you’re not dead down there, I wouldn’t mind you tryin’ to prove that this wasn’t a crappy way to spend an afternoon.  You have any idea how many of my stories I’ve missed because of you?  Not to mention my court shows…damn, I hope I caught ‘em all on my DVR.”  She turned aside, teeth grinding and hands clenching.  “And if I missed Family Feud, someone’s gonna die tonight.”

No answer from Lloyd, of course.  He just laid there, one arm stretching across the table while the other remained clamped against his chest.

“Huh.  Well, somebody’ll come pick you up eventually.  See you around, kid.  Hope you get a nice funeral.”  And with that, she spun on her heel and started on her way.

“…Since when were you under the impression that we were done here, Mrs. Overdose?”

October 27, 2012

Let’s discuss Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns.

Me, discussing a TV show?  It’s more likely than you think.

I want to start off by saying this: I am black.  I’ve made many allusions to my on-again, off-again afro here and elsewhere, and a few jokes about how I’ve willingly eaten fried chicken (and enjoyed it).  Even though I could potentially pass as a really-tanned white guy, I’d say I’m in a good place with my race.  I certainly have no problems making jokes about it, as you may be well aware.

I have a sneaking suspicion that my family always thought otherwise, though.  I remember how my mom would line the family bookshelves with books about black culture, and stock the bathrooms with magazines solely targeting African-Americans of varying status and concerns with beauty tips.  I remember how my mom would always tell me that “I need to learn more about my people”, and how I would silently wonder if she actually hated all races except our own.  I know it’s important to consider the difficulties, characteristics, and triumphs of one’s culture, but I’ve always taken a laissez-faire (read: lazy) approach to it.  I’m black, yeah, but more importantly I’m a human being.  THAT’S the race I belong to, and I don’t want to form any sort of divide between myself and others, well-meaning and subtle as that divide may be.

It'd help if I was more than a collection of pixels, but one thing at a time.

But with that in mind, I feel like there are certain…pressures.  Like there are certain things that African-Americans are expected to like and do.  I’d argue that things are starting to get a bit better thanks to media portrayals (barring examples like Grover from the abhorrent Percy Jackson movie), and I know for a fact that just as there’s truth to some stereotypes, there are more than enough examples that split off from them.  I’m an example of dissent if there ever was one, and I’ve known and met plenty more who could say the same.  We’re all human beings with different characteristics -- some similar, some unique.  Some expected, some unexpected.  That’s all.

Why do I bring all this up, you ask?  Because I want to offer a framework.  I want people to understand where I’m coming from beforehand.  Because I’m about to discuss a certain show, and the bile might really start to spew. 

But it won’t spew because of anything related to race.  It’ll spew because the show seriously pisses me off.

October 25, 2012

I Hraet You (49)

Beat 49: The Lowest of the Low Blows

Everything proceeded as Lloyd expected.  Stars appeared and began to orbit Mrs. Overdose’s body, moving in silent order as a mask started to take form.  So far, everything is as it was with Miss Walters, Lloyd thought as he leaned forward.  Certainly a far cry from the incident with Miss O’ Leary.  But I wonder what sort of shape her mask will take?

He didn’t have to wait long for an answer.  It appeared outside a wisp of gray gas, and bordered by rigid chains: a mole.  Or some kind of rodent, at least; Lloyd only vaguely knew the hairy face and long nose, but could make a good guess based on the hidden -- if not absent -- eyes.  Not the most expected of animals for a woman such as this, but who am I to judge?  He stroked his chin.  Doubtless I would have something along the lines of a wiry peacock. 

October 24, 2012

Spirit Showdown #3: The Vigilante

I don’t know if I’ve made it clear yet, but I have a thing for heroes.

Maybe that’s why I have so many issues with gritty stories.  If you’ll let me make a blanket statement or two, they’re largely about terrible people in terrible situations and terrible places doing terrible things.  Why not give me amazing people in a terrible world?  Or amazing situations and terrible things?  Or terrible situations with people doing amazing things?  And why not have the entire story (bar a few dark moments) be geared towards a happy ending, rather than a gritty story that heaps on the doom and gloom only to go “hey, maybe things won’t be so bad after all!” at the very end?  I know there are exceptions (Looper, The Dark Knight, and…well, arguably True Grit), but I’m pretty friggin’ sure there are a lot of gritty missteps.  O hai Gears of War 3, Max Payne 3, and Resident Evil 6.

I don’t mean to harp on gritty stuff all the time -- sometimes, but not all the time -- but I just want to make it clear where I stand.  Ideas and themes can be explored in any way, not just through certain aesthetics and conventions.  The moment you start to limit yourself is the moment you start to fail -- as a writer, as a creator, or just as a human being.  A show that’s (ostensibly) for children can be as deep and subtle as any other story out there if it wants to be; all it takes is a little ingenuity, some effort, and of course a strong spirit.  And in my opinion, a surefire, almost-universal way to appeal to everyone’s sensibilities -- young or old, naïve or jaded, silly or sophisticated -- is through the lens of a hero.  They inspire.  They excite.  They struggle, yet succeed anyway.  They move toward a conclusion by their own power.  A hero done right can be a tour de force; they have the power to make any story more amazing, more special, more meaningful, and of course more memorable.

In a sense, a good hero IS the story itself.  And I intend to prove that -- with this series, and ESPECIALLY with this post.

October 23, 2012

Manly Songs: Highway to Hell

Wow.  Been a while since I’ve done one of these.

In my defense, I have a good reason why.  I’m coming up on the final chapters of the current I Hraet You story arc and while I’m glad to have made the progress that I have (in the sense that I’m starting to feel like this is a project with some real potential), I know it’s about time to put it up on the shelf and work on something else for a little while.  So I’m motoring towards the arc’s climax, and between that and other themed posts -- the Looper post, the Tales of the Abyss posts, and the Spirit Showdown posts, all of which are a bare minimum of four thousand words -- I’m firing on all the cylinders I can.  You would think that I’d rather work on shorter posts and save the longer stuff for later, but…well, I can’t say I’m always the most logical person.

But enough chatter about internal affairs.  You’re here to listen to some manly songs, and use the lyrics to drone out the incessant rabble of a thousand-word post trying to rationalize it and subsequently take out all the magical elements.  Or if you’re from Bizarro World, you’re here to studiously imbibe every word I offer in my analysis and digest it, in the hopes that you’ll be able to offer your own thoughts and deductions, and hope that the stream of words flowing from your brain is enough to blanket the harsh sounds of soul-enflaming music and reality itself.  But then again, if you’re from Bizarro World, I wonder if you can even read in the first place.

So with all that said, let’s talk about a little-known, under-appreciated Australian band that has long since faded into obscurity and will never ever be referenced again after this post.

October 22, 2012

I Hraet You (48)

Beat 48: Showdown Time!  Don’t Hurt Yourself, Now!

Ha ha!  Success!  At last, I have returned -- and it only took thirty chapters!

Lloyd couldn’t help but feel a swell of joy at the sight of the audition room, appearing before him in all its colorless, outlined glory.  The curtains, the stage, the wires, the lights, all of it eased his mind…but only for a moment.  Almost immediately, he jerked in his the director’s chair and stared at his lap -- nothing there but some well-tended pants.

Fortune smiles upon me, he thought with a quick swipe at his brow.  Not only have I returned, but I’ve done so without an assault on my senses, as was the case with Miss O’ Leary.  He jerked his head to the side.  I really need to look into that -- but for the moment, I should just be happy that I’m not in the midst of guarding my loins from a potential grandmother.

October 19, 2012

Tales of the Abyss: The Rundown (Part 3)

Whew.  It sure has been a while, hasn’t it?  I hope I remember enough from the game to even start talking about it; I like it, but I really don’t want to do another playthrough just to review.

--Poor communication starts wars and nearly dooms the planet!

--Nobody can shut up about fonons and junk I could care less about!

--This is one of the only times when I care about politics!

--A sensible, well-organized religion?  Not in THIS JRPG!

All right.  Let’s give this thing another go.

(Spoiler alert involving several important details about the story -- which, as you know, is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside-down and I’d like to take a minute just sit right there I’ll tell you how I became a prince of a town called Bel-Air.

Anyone know where I can get one of those spinning throne things?  I could stand to spruce up my room.)

October 18, 2012

I Hraet You (47)

Beat 47: The Best Laid Plans (Kind of Suck)

Lloyd ran his eyes up and down Mrs. Overdose’s body.  Normally he would have taken an extra half-second to appreciate the female form, but he suspected it would have to wait.  He just folded his arms and covered his mouth, nodding and humming to himself as he kept his eyes locked on the gunwoman.

“You know, now would be a good time to actually help me,” JP grumbled as he squirmed across the stage.  “Just grab me and bail.  Grandma over there is just after the money -- I say let her have it, and we fall back to fight another day.  Sounds like a plan, right?”

Lloyd didn’t answer.  He just kept staring and nodding.

“Oh, right.  I forgot you’re allergic to logic.”  In spite of the ropes binding him, JP rolled a bit to face Mrs. Overdose.  “Hey, Grandma.  You’ve got your money, and your boss has got his entertainment by now, right?  You’d gladly let us go, wouldn’t you?  As long as we don’t interfere with your transaction, you’ve got no beef with us.”

October 17, 2012

Spirit Showdown #2: The Monster

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but I used to think that I was some pretty hot stuff back in the day.  I was young (well, younger), I was excited, and I figured as long as I had a few meager ideas and some fighting spirit, I could become the greatest writer the world had ever seen.  It certainly helped that I actually started writing proto-versions of my stories -- stories that I’ve long since buried somewhere in the annals of my room and hope to never read again.  I know where they are, but I won’t say where -- you never know who’s reading your stuff online and might decide to storm your house for the sole purpose of exposing your embarrassing neophyte-bred material for all the world to see in an earnest effort to defame you before you can begin your long-imagined journey into the heroic pantheon of ages.  Or, you know, just laugh at you.

Anyway, I remember a time when I was at a friend’s birthday party, and I was talking with his sister -- a girl my age, and another close friend.  By then, I’d come up with five potential stories (proto-proto-versions, so you just KNOW they were high-quality), and saw fit to brag about them a bit.  But of course, I wasn’t quite satisfied.  I’d been dreaming up a sixth one, based on a certain inequality I’d perceived.  All of the leading heroes were male.  So I boasted that I had aims to make a sixth story starring a cool heroine, in spite of having little more to say than that…or that I was formulating the heroine’s design based on Soulcalibur II’s version of Sophitia.  It’ll be easy, I told myself in the midst of my grandstanding.  I’m smart enough -- writing a strong female character will be as easy as [insert whatever activity was common/popular at the time here]!

I mention this because in the near-decade since that party, no other character has changed as much as this next one.  And it’s extremely likely that she’ll change again before I even type her first words.  But for now, I’m in a good (or good enough) place with her. 

There’s just one tiny problem.  She’s a bit…extreme.