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

April 30, 2012

Shadow of the Colossus: The (Awful) Movie

(The following is an old, old, old man file I had stored away on my laptop -- but the principles still apply.  Read on and let me take you back to the simpler time of 2010...only...remixed, with images and captions and on a blog now.  So...not really all that different.)

Lucky, or unlucky?  That’s the biggest question here.  On the one hand, today I don’t have school thanks to a pleasant snowstorm.  On the other hand, that gives me time to scour the movie channels for something to watch.  As fate would have it, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li happened to be on.  I knew from the instant I saw the sublime SF logo mixed with text so bland even I could generate it (or anyone with Word, for that matter), I wasn’t just about to view garbage.  No, this was a rare opportunity – it IS a rare opportunity, because as I’m writing this, I’m watching the movie in question.

Oh great.  Lana Lang is back.

Despite being a part-time follower of the SF mythos, I had no interest in seeing the movie when it came out a year ago.  I knew it’d be bad – a special kind of bad.  It seemed impossible for so many screw-ups to appear in such a short time span.  For exa-

Oh crap.  Vega just appeared onscreen.  Or at least, someone like Vega.  His mask is all shiny, he’s wearing all black, and memories of Vega’s ASIAN actor popped into my head.  And – oh boy, Chris Klein just made his first onscreen appearance.  “Call me Nash,” he says.  As in Charlie Nash?  Hell no!  You put on the glasses and throw a sonic boom, and then we’ll talk.

“You just inherited a big problem,” he says.  I lol’ed.

Better to inherit a problem than that forehead.

April 29, 2012

Kingdom Hearts: Another Herp, Another Derp





…All right.  Let’s talk about Birth by Sleep.

April 26, 2012

I Hraet You

Beat 1: The Prince of Love Dies

“I’ve found you at last.”
He stepped away from the boardwalk’s railing and walked towards his next conquest, making sure to wear his infamous, heart-melting smirk.  Doubtless this young lady would fall to his charms; already he could see her face reddening, her breaths quickening, and her legs weakening.  He had her in his grasp -- if he asked her to jump, she would fling herself atop a skyscraper.
How could she resist his charms?  He stood among plebeians as a crown prince -- a tall, lithe young man whose every motion flowed like a silken cloak.  His plum-hued hair glimmered, and bounced just enough to give him a wild mane.  His sharp face and sharper eyes focused on his prey, his hazel eyes targeting her from behind low-cut glasses.  Each strut-laden step teased his shirt, daring to undo another button and exposing another sliver of his chest.  Yet not a wrinkle teased his outfit; as a prince should be, his dress shirt, his khakis, and his Oxford loafers had been cleaned, pressed, and straightened to perfection.  Only his bracelets moved out of line, chiming and gleaming in the setting sun.  But even the shine of his jewelry proved inadequate -- no force on earth, or heaven, could resist that flawless smile.
He seized her hands in his own.  He could feel their warmth, and the quivering of her skin as she stared into his eyes.  Yes, he had her now.  Her blue eyes glazed and widened, unaware of the trance he’d placed her in.  Even as the hot summer wind ruffled her blonde hair and rosy sundress, she remained still.  Fortune was on her side; any given vampire would have plunged his fangs into her neck.
But he was no beast -- merely a man out for this girl’s heart.  “Your name, my dear,” he said in a soothing voice.  “I would like to know the name of the girl who so touched my soul.”

Dead or Alive 5 Prepares for War

So.  DOA5.

You'll forgive me for this quick little diatribe, but I just can't help but discuss this.  Maybe complaining a bit, but I'd prefer to remain optimistic and call it an...observation.

A new trailer came out this morning, and the title of several posts on other websites demanded a click.  "Bayman's back?!  Mommy yes!" I cheered to myself, frantically mashing my left mouse button.  "More grapplin' action!  More ninja-strangling!  More rolling on the ground and grabbing dudes with my legs!  Oh, and Christie's back too, but who cares!  IT'S A BAYMANANZA!"

Note the orange vest.  It's critical for any social arrangement with the suffix "nanza."

So I booted up the video, my optimism mounting.  And to my surprise, it was more than just a showcase of the updated characters.  It was a chance to show off the new level, the "Hotzone."

And...well...it looks very familiar.

I'd like to think that, even though I take shots at Call of Duty every now and then (like any rational gamer), I'm still mostly tolerant of the franchise.  I don't like it per se, but I do respect the fact that it can make so many people happy, and put video games in society's limelight for something besides Prostitute Buster 2000 (better known as Grand Theft Auto).  But when you're showing off a fighting game and the first thing that gamers think of is Call of Duty, I have to raise a yellow flag.

Part of the joy of fighting games is seeing those colorful, active stages. Street Fighter 4 has the Solar Eclipse stage, featuring an African Savannah, observant hippos, and the titular eclipse while you shoot fireballs in the foreground.  Tekken 6 has the Fallen Colony, some funky floating area with a tilted capital building in the background, with clouds and a bit of vegetation boxing you in a two-tiered arena.  From Street Fighter Alpha 3's stormy, grassy arena where you face off with Bison, all the way up to Street Fighter X Tekken's Pandora's Box stage (which must be seen -- and heard -- to be believed), it's traditional for fighting games to have stages as lively as its cast.

Maybe so, New Bayman, but without that vest you'll never enjoy another party.

Which brings us back to DOA5.  It's looking at that stage that I realize that Japanese developers' attempts at westernization -- appealing to their perception of CoD-loving Americans -- are more real than they've ever been before.  The stage is given that CoD-inspired disarray, sacrificing its color in the process.  Bombast typical of the series (of a Michael Bay movie, if you prefer/really want to spew bile) swarms the arena, making sure to include explosions, radio chatter, smoke, gunfire, explosions, collapsing buildings, and explosions.  It's part of Tecmo/Team Ninja's aim of delivering "fighting game entertainment" which I admit I'm curious to see more of; yet, the fact that their idea of entertainment includes emulating one of the most loathed names in the past fifty years makes me want to boot up my Street Fighter Anniversary Collection and head to Dudley's stage.

Is DOA5 codifying the trend?  Is it really helping bring about the end of Japanese-style games as we know it?  If you're a cynic, Bayman's redesign, the shift from stylized characters to realism (faces and breasts alike), this stage, the need to make the game -- a fighting game, dependent on player input and reflexes -- more cinematic and set-piece-heavy, then yes.  If you're an idealist, then the fact that there's still a semblance of style, other colorful stages, and Akira Yuki means there's still hope and lots of it.

He shoulder-checks any argument in his favor.

Is DOA5 going to be awful?    If you're a cynic, then the fact that the game has a bad reputation for being casual-fare button-mashing combined with these (as far as some are concerned) unneeded flourishes, combined with the perceived ineptitude of the company after "ruining" Ninja Gaiden 3, then maybe so.  But if you're anything like me -- the Eternal Optimist -- then you look at this game with apprehension, but also great anticipation.  It's another fighting game, one of the last great bastions of Japanese developers.  It's bound to have its strengths, only improved, and delivering a flavor only DOA can tap.

And with any luck, I'll get to smash ninjas out of the sky with my man Eliot.  If he's in, it'll be an instant buy.


April 24, 2012

Final Fantasy XIII: Target’s a Target (Part 3)

I hope you’ll forgive me for bringing the FF13 hate train back to the station so late.  As you’re no doubt aware, I had to make a brief stop at Birth by Sleep Junction.  I’ll return there soon enough, but I figure I should take this one step at a time.

It’s the only way to keep my blood pressure down.  It’s a hereditary thing -- stories that irritate the hell out of me shorten my life span by several years.  Given that, I’d wager I only have six minutes left to live.  So I’m going to make them count.  It’s time to discuss one of 13’s most divisive characters. 

And who knows?  In my discussion, I just might find something to make me feel better -- something to boost my lifespan, like some holy elixir of li-

April 22, 2012

Kingdom Hearts: A Deep Dive

I’m starting to suspect that Square-Enix is the patron saint of faffing about.

Since my PSP fatally overheated a few years back, I haven’t been able to get my hands on Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep.  A shame, really, because between me and my brother that was the only game that could convince us the PSP had any games worth buying.  I still had fond memories of the KH series, if a little tainted at that point; the first one was great (in my opinion, of course), and I remember how eagerly I awaited the second game.  And I remember how, by the end of the second game, I was sorely disappointed.

But I was willing to love again.  I remembered the wonder I felt from the first game -- of a simple, lighthearted tale hearkening back to my days as a Disney-watching lad.  Of an honest search for Sora’s friends, combined with the ability to tag-team with Aladdin and Tarzan, and take on Cloud and Yuffie.  It was a crew of Disney villains teaming up, and my best bet was to rely on Goofy and Donald -- and my Keyblade -- to see me to victory.  I could fight.  I could glide.  I could roll and jump, guard and even deflect blows.  I took on enemies as simple as a Shadow, and as monstrous as the titans from Hercules.  Like the theme song suggested, it was “simple and clean.”  Nothing too overwrought, nothing too complex.  It was just a story of a kid visiting strange new worlds, making new friends while searching for old ones.

Such sweet memories.  So much so that, years later, I decided that even if I didn’t have a PSP I’d experience Birth by Sleep the best way I could.  I’d watch every last bit of it online.

Thus far, it has not been a good experience.

"It's morphin' time!"

April 21, 2012

Street Fighter X Tekken has left me with...

*deep breath*

PROFOUND...SADNESS!  SADNESS!  Sadness!  Sadness!  Sadness!  Sadness!  Sadness!  Sadness!

I took the beatdown of a lifetime when I tried online play today.  No matter what I did, nothing seemed to go right with my Heihachi/Marduk team.  You could argue that it was because of lag that I couldn't get anything started (and indeed, that probably factored into it a bit), but all too often it seemed like my efforts were thwarted by

a) mashed-out jabs and reversals

b) shenanigans with Hugo, Rolento, and/or Ryu

c) me trying to anti-air an opponent, but eating a cross-up for my troubles

d) a never-ending string of attacks

e) my utter confusion as I think to myself "Where did all my health go?"

To be fair, this was the first time in about a month I'd played the game.  It was the first time I'd tried online play.  And I'm still trying to get used to an old MadCatz pad.  But all those are just pansy-pants excuses; I lost, and if I'm ever going to figure out how to turn my luck around, I need to figure out why.  And how to get better.  And fast.

In spite of all my losses -- or maybe because of them -- I'm already thinking about jumping back into the fray.  I need to fight harder, and smarter, and fiercer; I know I can win if I just go a little bit farther.  I just need something that works.

But enough of that.  I've got some more new content coming up soon -- as you know, I've got the market cornered on Final Fantasy XIII hate, and rest assured you'll have a new post on that by...no later than Tuesday, in the worst-case scenario.  And I've got some chipper little fiction ready for you to read, if you so desire.

Be a hero.  Come back soon for some hot stuff!

April 18, 2012

God Save Us From Toonami: Anime's Faults

Back when I was in high school, I was under the impression that I had to hide my enjoyment of anime.  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t all that smart; if I’d been honest, then yeah, I probably would have scared off a few people.  But on the other hand, I could have grouped up with fellow anime fans -- between casual and hardcore viewers in my class and an actual club that met Fridays in the art room, I missed out because I was too embarrassed to be open.  (Incidentally, my plight would be mirrored by Sasahara from the manga series Genshiken -- heh, imagine that.)

While I’m more open about my…dissident tastes more than I used to be, I’m not about to go yelling how awesome it was when Heroman finally managed to push back the Skrugg invasion.  Because -- most of the time -- I have a little thing called common sense.  I know what I like, but I’m not going to force people to like anything they don’t want to.  I know there’s a pretty big difference between Western and Eastern sensibilities; I learned that very quickly when I brought some manga to school for a project.  I handed a volume to a girl sitting next to me, and (rookie that she was) she started reading it backwards.  What was the first thing she asked?

“Why is this girl in her underwear?”

Twelve years old -- just the way you like it.

Yep.  A middle school girl in her underwear -- in a series ostensibly about a loser forced to become a mafia boss by way of a talking baby hitman-turned home tutor.  Remember how I said anime is weird sometimes, and listed that as a positive trait?  Yeah, nobody’s gonna think that’s cool when they’re still wrapping their heads around baby hitmen.  The sad thing is, it’s actually one of the tamer stories in terms of sensibility; there’s much, much, much, much, MUCH weirder out there.

He fights with his nose hair.  How very...rational.

You could argue that she would have thought more highly of anime if she knew the story (or if I had the foresight to NOT bring a volume with a non-decorous tween within spitting distance of the cover).  That’s likely the case.  But even fans have to admit that, even though anime can provide inspiration, entertainment, awesomeness, and just plain fun, there are a LOT of issues.  There are times when everything just falls apart, or there’s some attribute that makes even zealots groan and facepalm.

So here I am, ready to regale you with another list -- an anti-list, as it were.  So hold on to your hug-pillows, guys -- things are about to get messy.

April 17, 2012

Why I Hate the Ocean

My brother and I went to the mall earlier today.  Just a typical GameStop run, of course; we weren't exactly there to line our pockets with jewelry, and I'm more than willing to wear my clothes until they're just a handful of cotton threads.  Along the way, we went to the pet store to look at the animals; my brother was (jokingly, hopefully) trying to coax me into bringing home a third dog.  I...objected, knowing how much of a hassle two could be.  We're like an old married couple sometimes.

Whatever the case, everything was going great.  We saw dogs.  We saw cats.  We saw hamsters and gerbils, and birds unfortunately classified by the color of their butts.  And then we went to the aquatic pets section -- otherwise known as the topmost layer of Hell.

I never realized how impossibly ugly fish are -- that is, until you get nice and close to them.  Empty eyes.  Wobbling bodies.  Cheeks, puffing in and out.  If there was ever an argument to disprove the existence of God, it would be the fact that fish exist.

And then there were the sea anemones.

Let's pretend for a moment that sea anemones were, in fact, more popular than dogs or cats as a pet.  Pretend that you bring one home in a tank, set it up in your room, and decide to call him Fido.  Imagine waking up not to the jingle of your dog's collar as he shakes his body, or his paws as he stretches his arms atop your torso, but the sight of this:

Tentacles.  Gaping maws.  Stems that keep them rooted in whatever they're latched onto, rendering them immobile.  Some species are even poisonous.  


Man, forget what The Little Mermaid taught you about the sea.  The moment you go below the surface, you're in their house now.  You don't want to be there.  Horrible, awful creatures live under there -- and in some places, you'll find the Portuguese Man-o-War, a creature that (if I ever saw one) would haunt me till the end of days.  Its tentacles -- the stinging, paralyzing tentacles -- can grow up to fifty feet long.  


And lest you forget, there are still your standard fare giant jellyfish.  

My opinion?  Mankind would do well to stay away from water.  The land is ours, but only because that's where we're safest.  The more we dabble in the affairs of Poseidon's kinsmen, the more likely we are to be swallowed by the crushing, godless, bloodstained azure depths.

...You should not go scuba-diving, is what I'm trying to say here.

April 14, 2012

Why Anime is Amazing: An Addendum...

...and other things to follow.  But first, what you all came here for:

If I have one regret in this world, it's that I didn't get into One Piece back when I had a fairly reasonable chance.  I opted to become a Bleach fan, and at the time the path served me well.  It was a road filled with swords and spirits, souls and samurai; it taught me the glory of bankai.  Before the Great YouTube Crackdown of 200...whatever year that was, I watched entire seasons of Bleach in the original Japanese, and would watch the episodes again when they came to the States in English via Adult Swim.   I was an impressionable teenager; when I said (to confidants so close you'd have an easier time spray-painting The Noid across the walls of the Oval Office) I loved Bleach, I meant it.

Now?  Now my passion's cooled.  I still like it, mind, but I'm never in any rush to catch up on the latest happenings.  I've stopped watching the TV broadcasts entirely, outside of one or two isolated incidents. I'd hardly call it my favorite anime anymore.  Maybe it's because I'm growing long in the tooth, and Bleach offends my old-man sensibilities.  It's very possible, I think.  Or maybe it's because Bleach has some really freaking stupid developments at times.

I know it's par for the course for shonen, but it seems like far too often the only way to beat the bad guy isn't through ingenuity or planning ahead (unless you're Shikamaru), but by how much bullshit level-grinding you've done beforehand.  Bleach's lead has had no less than five separate training arcs of varying length, yet his tactics haven't evolved past "move super-fast" or "shoot sword lasers."  There have been one or two points in the series -- early and late -- where he's actually taken note of enemy attack patterns, which is awesome...and then other times it's just a matter of blowing them away with raw power and steely-eyed resolve.  It creates an endless cycle of "I'm not strong enough!  Now I'm strong enough!  I'm not strong enough!  Now I'm strong enough!"

But it's okay, because he's beautiful.

The second problem with Bleach -- and a lot of anime, by extension -- is that too often they go out of their way to introduce character after character, and then try to manage them all at once.  Fans will latch onto the most obscure character they can find sometimes; they need to know who's doing what, and when, and how early they'll be available for some "close-quarters combat" with the lead.  Bleach started off with about five core characters, a few side characters for comic relief/development, a mascot character, and a few nasty monsters.  In the next arc, a bare minimum of twenty-six characters were introduced.  In the next arc, there were twenty more new characters -- and make no mistake, that's not including cannon-fodder enemies and henchmen that take multiple installments to dispatch.  In the next arc, there were another nine introduced.  Now in the latest (and final) arc, there's undoubtedly going to be some new characters.

The problem is that out of the fifty-plus characters now gallivanting about, most of them are just placeholders, exhibitions for cool designs or powers, or -- again -- just cannon fodder.  That won't stop Tite Kubo from trying anyway; when (if) he focuses on characters, it's the latest ones, and shallowly at that.  It's hard to get a feel for far too many characters, and the attempts that fleshing out/molding opinions are either contradictory fluff or rammed in like a rhino shoving its face into a Prius.  Meanwhile, characters that have been around since the beginning and have either unexplained, untapped powers and backstories continue to grow less and less important -- a fault only multiplied by one character going into god-mode against another god-mode villain while the others get to faff about and go on cheerleader duty. To say nothing of fans begging to see their favorites return.

More popular than reality itself.

This is why I should have gotten into One Piece.  As far as I can tell, it's the strongest and most competently written of the Big Three (alongside Bleach and Naruto, in a spot once occupied by Dragonball).  It's also got a MASSIVE cast, but focuses more heavily on a core few, and even minor characters and details make reappearances.  (As the meme goes, Oda never forgets.)  While it's no stranger to tear-jerking scenes, the amount of comedy and levity is almost staggering compared to its brothers.  Most of all, even at a cursory glance it offers a sense of fun and adventure that neither Naruto nor Bleach have even tried to match; invariably, it's a series featuring superpowered/skilled individuals duking it out, but the places they visit and the experiences they have are more important than fights you can set to Linkin Park and post on YouTube.

Supposedly, liking One Piece in Japan is synonymous to liking water.  You just do, and no one bothers questioning why or how.  And I feel like I'm missing out big time.  I made my choice -- and if I want to bounce back, doubtless I'd have to go through some six hundred fifty chapters, or some four hundred episodes, or spend hours upon hours reading wikis and summaries and oh god I'm having a panic attack just thinking about it.

And you know what?  The worst part about it is, even if I spent every hour for the next month catching up, even if it meant losing sleep, I know it would be absolutely fucking worth it.

Well, that's enough of a rant for now.  Anyway, a few things!

1) I'm working on a few things right now outside of Cross-Up, so if updates seem a little thin for a few days, that's why.  In the meantime, why not enjoy some delicious hot dogs of the other posts I have on the site?  They're just as lengthy and rambling as you desire.

2) In spite of that, my plan is to write the darkside version of "Why Anime is Amazing" very, very soon.  Just because anime CAN be good doesn't mean that it always is -- and trust me, if you don't know much about the medium and/or its faults, you will.  Also, more Final Fantasy XIII hate analysis.

3) Go buy Xenoblade Chronicles if you haven't.  It's great.

4) I like the number four.

Thank you, and good night.  

April 12, 2012

Final Fantasy XIII: Target’s a Target (Part 2)

You know, I’m starting to wonder if there’s a place in the industry for Final Fantasy anymore.  FF13 was announced in…2006, I believe, and came out in 2010.  To date, it’s one of the most hotly-debated and put-upon installments in the series (with good reason).  Versus 13 -- in a glowing example of “Why would you?” was also announced in 2006, if I remember correctly.  It’s 2012 now, and there’s no telling when, or if, it’ll make it here before everyone shifts focus to the PS4.  13-2 was a sequel nobody asked for, but got anyway -- arguably, at the cost of Square-Enix’s credibility.  Of course, you could argue that decision came from a need to recoup losses from FF14, the dead-on-arrival MMO that’s gotten slammed in reviews, required lots of work from the developers, and necessitated an apology.  Probably should have kept that one in the oven a bit longer, eh Squeenix?

Let’s check the score card here.  That’s one game that’s extremely divisive (yet universally acknowledged to have faults).  There’s another game that fixes some problems while adding several more -- an incomprehensible story, adding the controversial DLC plan into a once-adored franchise, and an ending suggesting another sequel.  There’s a third game that’s such a mess, Square-Enix has to do some serious clean-up work just to make it passable.  And there’s a fourth game that was announced no less than five years too early, with hardly anything to show for it since.  Do you see how this might be problematic? 

Even the box art is broken.

Square-Enix and Final Fantasy have stumbled this generation -- and as the premiere JRPG company/franchise, the entire genre has taken a hit because of it.  “JRPGs are dead!” the naysayers claim.  “JRPGs are stupid, boring, and clichéd!” the detractors yell.  They wouldn’t be saying that if we had a good, generally well-received Final Fantasy on our hands.  If we had an awe-inspiring, meaningful adventure, people could still point to the franchise as a bastion of the genre.  But we don’t.  All we have are a series of tubes that look pretty, a sequel befuddled by time travel, and an MMO that’s the laughingstock of gamers everywhere.

It’s like nothing else matters but that one name -- in spite of all the other games that have eclipsed it since.  Persona 3 and 4 are utterly amazing.  The recent Xenoblade Chronicles is similarly astounding.  There have been three releases in the Tales Series this past generation (and another one still lies in Japan), delivering consistent quality.  Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon did JRPGs right years before 13 screwed it all up.  Even weaker releases like Infinite Undiscovery and Star Ocean: The Last Hope had their moments.  You’d expect a big release, one with ten times the resources and pedigree than some companies combined, would be able to pull something together.

You’d think wrong.  And now here we are, sitting at our computers, scouring the internet for information about Versus 13, hoping -- praying -- that the magic finally comes back.

Will it?  God, I hope so.  I want to heal these wounds that 13 inflicted upon me; I want to believe in Square-Enix again.  I want this wait, this tale of a game in the works for more than half a decade, to have a happy ending.  I want others to be able to believe.

Well, enough about that.  Let’s get Austrailian.  (That was my best segue ever.)

April 10, 2012

Capcom and the Art of “Why Would You?”

…And the war on Capcom continues.  Their defense?  Again, from EventHubs:

“While Capcom did not advertise this feature with respect to the Xbox 360 version, it understands that some fans may have believed this mode to be available across all platforms. Unfortunately, due to time and resource constraints, Capcom was not able to include that feature in the XBox 360 version and it apologizes to those players who were looking forward to it. Because of the scale required to implement this feature, Capcom has decided that it will not do so, and will not be providing a patch for this feature.

Further, while none of the packaging or other advertising collateral for the Xbox 360 version of the Game advertised the ''4-player co-op mode,'' Capcom has discovered that the game manual included in the SFxT Special Edition package inadvertently references that feature. (We note that the manual is not available for customers' pre-purchase review, so do not believe that the manual could have influenced any purchasing decision.)”

Sigh.  I’m not mad, Capcom.  Just disappointed.

I'm also capable of distorting my face like Silly Putty.

April 9, 2012

God Bless Toonami: Why Anime is Amazing

…Yep.  We’re gonna talk about anime in this post.

I don’t blame you if you want to start running.  I’ll even give you a head start.  I’ll give you a full five seconds before I start up a little discu-

TOO LATE!  Ha ha!  Now you’re obligated by law to hit the jump and read on!  You FOOL!

April 8, 2012

King of Fighters XIII: You Gonna Get Punched

Ralf Jones is the manliest character ever to appear in a fighting game.  Manlier than Guile.  Manlier than Paul.  Manlier than even Mike Haggar, MAYOR OF EARTH.

Let me give you a quick rundown.

This is not a man content with just punching his enemies (though he does indeed do that very, very well).

This is a man who punches enemies with enough force to make explosions come out of his knuckles, and blow them halfway across a field with the force of a sonic boom.

This is a man who doesn't have a tried-and-true "dive kick," but instead utilizes a dive PUNCH, in which he nosedives for an opponent with arm outstretched, ready to blow his foes away.

This is a man who punches the ground and makes micro-nuclear detonations a reality, encompassing himself in a mushroom of flame and smoke and walking away unscathed in the midst of a fight.

This is a man who can punch so quickly, it's as if he has six arms at once -- a skill he's all too eager to display as he mounts you and pounds you several dozen times and ends in a cataclysmic explosive knuckle sandwich (complete with napalm chips).

This is a man who can do...THIS.

Don't even try to compete, gents.  By the time you finished watching that, you've suddenly grown six inches of hair, your voice is now a creamy soprano, you have a sudden urge to watch Bride Wars, and you're thinking about calling your gal pals on which dress is in season.

Save yourselves the humiliation.  Ralf can kill you with his testosterone alone.  If you know what's good for you, steer clear of this man.

(And Maxima.  Maxima's cool, too.)

April 5, 2012

Dreaming: FM Punks

This is probably going to be the most hypocritical post I’ve made in a while.  (Also long.  Strap in.)

Not too long ago, I went on record saying that games don’t need combat -- swordplay, gunplay, Kid ‘n Play, what have you -- to succeed.  Video games are a medium with plenty of possibilities, and the moment we start to limit our understanding of what they can do for us is the moment all of us start to lose.  So I advocated a sort of “alternate universe” Mass Effect as an example of how you could have a game without combat.  Playing as a researcher and exploring the galaxy in a modern-day, beefy-budgeted adventure game sounded pretty good on paper; if it were real, it might be a dream come true for some ironsight-weary gamers.  And now my theoretical game puts an undeniable, almost shameful focus on combat.  Contradictory?  Yes.  But I wouldn’t comment if I didn’t think it had potential.

And that is why I unveil my dream game here and now!  Like, right now, as soon as I finish this sentence -- can you feel the suspense, knowing that as soon as I add a period to this string of words, I’ll have revealed to you the game that I’ve had brewing in my heart of hearts for genera…

Okay, enough hamming it up.  Let’s talk about FM Punks.

April 4, 2012

Final Fantasy XIII: Target’s a Target (Part 1)

So apparently, this is a thing that’s happening now:

Why?  Just…why?  Final Fantasy characters wearing Prada clothing?  That doesn’t…I mean, why?  I can understand downloadable content putting characters in costumes from games like Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed, because different as they may be they’re still from videogames.  They appeal to the consumer base.  But Prada?  Is that something that gamers are running out to buy nowadays?  Is that something that needed to be associated with Final Fantasy?  Did Square-Enix really want to associate another clothing brand with its games?

This…this confuses me.  The more I try to understand the thought process behind some of the company’s decisions, the more my head hurts.  But really, that just leads into a big problem with this “Fabula Nova Crystallis” project that they’ve been boasting about for years.

Final Fantasy XIII -- and its brothers, arguably -- is too easy to make fun of.  You could poke fun at the bland gameplay and endless array of tubes.  You could poke fun at the melodrama that drags out over several family generations, spinning in circles like a Fast and Furious reject doing donuts off-camera.  You could poke fun at the increasingly absurd character/world designs and delusions of grandeur taking precedence over telling a competent (or even sensible) story.  You could poke fun at Square-Enix for announcing Versus XIII about six years too early, and materializing a sequel to one of the most divisive (read: awful) games in the franchise out of nowhere to peddle DLC and set the stage for another sequel answer questions no one asked, and leave the questions people WERE asking locked away in datalogs.  You could poke fun at the developers for trying to make a strong, competent female warrior -- they failed, but at least they tried -- and then in the sequel making a swimsuit an alternate costume for its sole female character…while giving the male one a suit of armor.

It's still a slight improvement in terms of practicality.

I have a lot of issues with XIII, and that same disdain has started bleeding into other aspects of both the FNC project and Square-Enix/the Final Fantasy franchise as a whole.  Like any teenager, I held the games in the highest esteem; I thought of them as amazing stories, rivaling any given classic novel.  Now that I’m older and slightly wiser, I know that’s not the case; Final Fantasy VIII is full of morons and an absurd plot.  X has several levels of stupidity centered on a teenage boy’s angst.  XII tried to be sophisticated and smart when really it was just stuffy, boring, and pretentious (and had trouble defining its lead character -- seriously, there had to be at least four people vying for the role).  Dissidia told the same story for nine out of its ten playable heroes (friendship!  You’re not alone!  Believe in stuff!) while shoving the important bits -- plot, explaining what’s going on and who these people are -- into the last few hours  and hidden files.  Not even golden boy VII is immune to criticism; ignoring the fact that it birthed hellspawn like Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus, it started trying to turn RPGs into overblown spectacles, forgot who its villains were early in the game, and made tropes like massive swords, amnesia, and sub-textual homoerotic relationships standard for the genre.  Also spiky and/or white hair.  And villains with…er, family issues.

He's gonna poke someone good.

So I have a theory that, if I played any given Final Fantasy post-VI, I’d probably get as frustrated as I am with XIII.  But for what it’s worth -- for the sake of keeping up my status as the “eternal optimist” -- I want to find some good in XIII.  Not just “it looks pretty” because you shouldn’t be playing RPGs to enjoy their graphics; I want to find something legitimate to latch onto and say “Hey!  That’s…that ain’t bad.”

It’s not gonna be easy though.  I want to talk about each of the main characters in turn; I already did Lighting, so that’s one out of the way.  Now that’s just five more.  But let’s be honest: who’s “the best” and who’s “the least annoying” are always going to be subjective measures; someone who enjoys one character may hate another.  In the same sense that I revile Lightning, others may think of her as the coolest thing since the hoverboard from Back to the Future.  Whatever the case, what I say here is my opinion alone, and if there are people who would speak in her defense, then that’s cool.  But for now, I’m going to do my damnedest to make a point.  So let’s get started.

But first, I need to go smoke a silo’s worth of cigarettes.

April 2, 2012


Oh wow.  Someone actually filed a complaint against Capcom?  Someone actually got the Better Business Bureau involved?  I...wow.  I mean, I saw some comments saying that they'd do it, but I thought that was just grandstanding.  Jeez.  Some people take their games really seriously.

Here's a snippet from EventHubs on their response:

"SFxT has an enormous amount of content, fully developed and available for play and enjoyment immediately on-disc. Given the 38 characters available for full play, as well as multiple play modes, SFxT provides great value for all players from day one. While Capcom is sorry that some of its fans are not happy about the chosen method of delivery for the DLC, we believe that this method will provide more flexible and efficient gameplay throughout the game's lifecycle. There is effectively no distinction between the DLC being ''locked'' behind the disc and available for unlocking at a later date, or being available through a full download at a later date, other than delivery mechanism."

I disagree.  See, one way, the content can be hacked and people can play it until you hammer down on them for their -- for lack of a better word -- vigilantism.  The other way, the content stays in Capcom's hands so they can tweak it as needed, and people believe you're actually putting something new out there for everyone, instead of just making them wait for something that, many have argued, is already theirs.

Do you see the distinction?

Capcom, Capcom, Capcom.  What are we going to do with you?  Anyway, my additional thoughts are over here if you're interested.  

April 1, 2012

Mass Effect: Of Games and Combat

If there’s one thing I've learned from my brother, it’s how to beat a dead horse so much that it starts trailing me as a pus-spewing, shambling skeleton of an undead equestrian.  So while people (I hope) are starting to move away from their anger at Mass Effect, I want to keep talking about it for a little while longer.  Bear with me here, I haven’t beaten it yet.

I guess I have no one to blame but myself.  I peck away at it every now and then when my brother isn’t using the Xbox (and when I can tear myself away from Devil Survivor 2), but I’ve been spending a lot of time in a sort of black hole within the Citadel.  I headed there after I got a message from Ashley, thinking to myself “Oh, I got a message from Thane, too.  Guess I’ll check on him while I’m there.”  I met with both of them, but ended up having some lengthy conversations with Bailey and Joker and EDI in her improbably sexual android body.  And before I know it, I’ve triggered a sidequest with a guy looking for his MIA son.  And then I’m working with a Salarian soldier, trying to uncover some shady dealings.   And then, I’m trying to recruit the mercenary groups for the war effort -- a motion which involves me running all over the place, acting as a negotiator and mediator between parties, getting weapons from the black market for a C-Sec officer, and heading to another damn galaxy just to get an artifact for a dealer.  And then when I finally -- FINALLY -- get back to my ship, a conversation with Traynor reveals that there’s a military academy under attack.  Maybe Bioware figured that nobody would even reach the ending; in my experience, I can’t complete one mission without eight more cropping up.

But that little experience in the Citadel got me thinking.  I had to have spent more than an hour going from one corner of the place to another, running errands like a fusion between an unloved Dickensian orphan and the average intern.  I was supposed to be saving the galaxy; I was supposed to be throwing myself into firefights and ducking behind walls before sniping Husks and Cerberus operatives between the eyes (at least I would be if I could aim).  And yet, I hardly missed the shooty-shooty-bang-bang aspects of the game.  I had just as much fun, if not more, walking around and talking to people.  Groovin’ in Purgatory and chatting it up with James.  Overhearing stories at the gift shop and talk of a Turian’s daughters taking dance lessons.    Telling people in distress that they could support the war effort besides shooting at robo-zombies; they could lend a hand in kitchens or medical bays.

It’s thanks to moments like that where I asked myself a question: why do so many games need fighting to establish themselves?