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

September 30, 2012

The Return of Jafar: A Kingdom Hearts 2 Retrospective (Part 3)

I’ve written more than two hundred posts for this blog, and I’ve noticed a certain trend.  I’m not about to crunch any numbers, but if I had to guess, a fifth of them would be about fighting games, a third would go to writing, and the rest to JRPGs.  It wasn’t exactly my intention, but I’m willing to roll with it for now.  It’s much more rewarding and pleasing to talk about those than shooters.

And on that note, I have to ask: do you know why I prefer JRPGs to shooters?  If you’ll let me make a blanket statement, it’s that shooters (especially today’s shooters) are eerily similar.  If you’ve shot with one machine gun, you’ve shot them all.  If you hide behind one wall of sandbags, moving to the next one becomes second nature.  And the less said about the narratives attached (Gears of War 3 being a prime example), the better off we’ll all be.  That’s not to say that all shooters are stupid and identical -- Bioshock and Borderlands say hi -- but in theory, JRPGs are the more varied genre.

Don’t get me wrong, the genre’s LOADED with clichés and trite elements -- Magnacarta 2 says hi -- but the lynchpins of JRPGs, the story and especially the gameplay, are what make each one distinct from one another.  Turn-based games.  Strategy hybrids.  Real-time combat.  ATB systems.  Speaking as someone who’s played his fair share of JRPGs, I’d argue that if you’re running away from battles, you’re not getting your money’s worth.  Fighting, and getting stronger, and turning your ragtag team into harbingers of destruction are as valuable as the story itself.  At least, they should be if the game is doing its job.

Which brings us to Kingdom Hearts 2.  

Readers, you might want to go grab your favorite snack.  This is gonna be heavy.

September 28, 2012

Spirit Showdown # -1: A Distinction

So apparently, this whole “Spirit Showdown” feature is a thing that’s happening here on Cross-Up.  I think I’ve done the lion’s share of the work, in the sense that my (so-so) art is all finished.  Likewise, the announcement video and the first teaser are done -- and contrary to what I suggested in the post, it took me a long, long, long time to get all the components in place.  Honestly, it was going to be even more complex…but as I’ve said before, I find art to be a tedious (though rewarding) practice.  That’s not to knock any artists or would-be artists; it’s just that as a dabbler, I’d rather stick to writing.

Anyway, the first hero will be revealed in full very soon.  My current plan is to stick to a once-a-week schedule on that front; I don’t expect each post to be as in-depth (or long) as, say, posts for the Kingdom Hearts Retrospective or random video game discussions.  Hopefully, they’ll be about the same length as a chapter of I Hraet You, which generally run to 2,000 words -- well, give or take.  So they won’t be too strenuous, and I’ll be sure to balance out the humor with the twinkly-eyed sales pitches.

But before I get too ahead of myself, I want to make sure I’m clear on what’s going to go down -- a definition, of sorts.  So let’s make sure we’re clear on what’s to come before I make a fool out of myself on the internet.  Let’s go over what I mean when I say “spirit”.

It has nothing to do with horses...yet.

September 27, 2012

I Hraet You (41)

Beat 41: It’s Just Not a Story without a Wacky Chase Scene

And in her hysteria, within that maelstrom of chaos and destruction, she found her answer.

A blissful aura shrouded her, lifting her, as if to ferry her to the Promised Land above.  A serene smile teased her lips -- a smile bred of release from mortal desires or concerns.  Released from her mundane shackles, she could hardly give thought to the disasters around her.  The sirens that should have wailed and screamed dulled to a near-mute chorus; the armored truck’s tremulous motions became little more than the rocking of a cradle; even the sight of aiming weaponry did little more than invite greater bliss.

And with that bliss, in that perfect moment of universal harmonization, Trixie held fast to the truth.  And with a swell of Zen-like precision and tranquility, she spoke her answer to the world:

“This is stupid.”

And with those three words, Trixie realized something: she’d been thrown into a pretty crappy situation and didn’t want to be there anymore.

September 25, 2012

So it's Come to This: The 200th Post

*fires up Blogger dashboard*

*notices 199 posts have been written*


*scrapes something together*

...And here we are.

September 24, 2012

I Hraet You (40)

Beat 40: Such is the Essence of the Power Slide

“This charade has gone on long enough!” Lloyd stamped his foot atop the armored truck, and thrust his finger at Rosco once more, momentarily wishing he could turn it into a flaming arrow.  “Rosco!  Unshackle my father, for he has committed no crime!  Certainly he deserves fairer treatment than being ensnared by cold steel, and put on display like the town buffoon!”  He raised an eyebrow and stroked his chin.  “I know I’m one for theatrics, but STILL!  This crosses a line that the common citizen was never meant to cross!”

But Rosco just shrugged and smiled.  “Oh, don’t worry.  We’re gonna let your dad go…AFTER he gets shipped off to…”  He reached into the pocket of his overalls and tugged out a crumpled sheet of paper.  “Prison?  Aw, is that it?  Wouldn’t mind puttin’ him in a loony bin or in an ocean -- least, as long as I’m gettin’ paid.”

“You’re more wretched than when last we met -- and that’s quite an achievement!”  Lloyd thrust a finger (again) at the Neanderthal.  “For shame, Rosco!  FOR!  SHAAAAAAAAAAAME!”

September 22, 2012

Tales of the Abyss: The Rundown (Part 2)

--Ion confirmed for dumbass-tier!

--Villains?  More like awesome-ains, am I right?

--Princesses and bros and trolls, oh my!


And there was much talk about characters and ideas being good on paper, but suffering in practice -- along with a rational defense of angst in JRPGs.  But that was right around the time when the rocket-powered dinosaurs launched their attack, so I had to grab my Thunder Halberd and fend them off.

But they’re all extinct now, so here’s Part 2 of the rundown.

(Spoilers to follow, as always.  If you haven’t played the game yet but intend to, why not eat some delicious sauerkraut instead of reading this post?  It’ll be good for your medulla oblongata.)

September 21, 2012

Manly Songs: Now You're a Man

You know, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a songwriter.

I’ve entertained the thought a couple of times.  I used to play the violin, and my mom taught me how to play the piano (and by “taught” I mean “gave me a lesson and I never bothered to ask for another one”), so I know a little bit about music.  And as a writer, I’d say I’d fare a bit better than if I were the one singing.  What is a song but a poem set to music -- an assembly of lyrics with meaning, rhythm, and a catchy chorus that’ll likely be the only part of a song somebody remembers?  In theory, it seems entirely possible.

In practice?  Who’s to say, really?  Lyrics and music are a package deal, I’d wager.  Give me a tune, and I can probably put lyrics to it (I’ve done it before, back in the days of Cross-Up’s infancy), but a full-on song?  Well…maybe I could swing a couple of tunes, but they’d likely be pretty cheesy.  And while I have some MIDI software, it has gone untouched on the grounds that it’s “really hard” and/or “too much work.”  And if you asked me to make a song out of the blue with zero preparation beforehand, I guarantee you a song so clumsy and atonal that it’d make Urkel sound like an angelic chorus.

Which brings me to the latest addition to The Manly Song Repository.  Because you see, I’ve learned something today:

A real man can make his own song, no matter what it takes.

September 20, 2012

I Hraet You (39)

Beat 39: Operation “Stop that Guy from Murdering Everyone”

Lloyd adjusted his tie and cleared his throat.  “Ahem!” he shouted, starkly refusing to use his inside voice.  “I believe we’ve dilly-dallied enough for one day, Miss Walters.  Now is the time for us to spring into action -- to defend this sacred burg from the malicious clutches of evil.”  He extended a hand to Trixie.  “I trust I can count on your support?”

Trixie sighed.  “Well, I wish ya wouldn’t use that flowery speech o’ yers, but…”  She nodded quickly.  “Don’t worry ‘bout a thing.  I got yer back.”

“Excellent!  Then let our advance begin!”  He thrust a finger forward.  “We will march onward, and act as the noble sentry this town so deserves!  Vile villains, on your guard!  For we come with thunderous steps toward you, wherever you may hide!  Be you north…”  His finger spun around…along with the rest of his body.  “Or south!  Or east!  Or west!”   And he kept on spinning in a circle -- at least until he twisted his legs and tumbled to the ground.  “Or even the skies above…or at least the highest roof in town!” he declared, pointing at the ceiling.

“Are we…are we really gonna be okay?” Trixie asked.

September 17, 2012

I Hraet You (38)

Beat 38: The Impetus of a Crapshoot Hero

Trixie slid the painting back on its hook, clutching the frame tightly as she adjusted it.  “Wonder if it’s straight now?” she asked herself, stepping back and observing her work; sure enough, she managed to hang the painting in the perfect position -- maybe a few degrees straighter than it had been before, judging by the wall discoloration.  Still, she couldn’t help but scratch her head.  “Who the hell hangs up a picture of an anvil?”  She sighed and shrugged.  “I just don’t get art…”

But to her credit, she could pass for a fine interior decorator.  She’d singlehandedly returned the Hoigleheimer den to its former, immaculate glory.  The chairs and sofa, back in position; the coffee table and stands upright and perfectly-aligned; the TV in place, and even dusted; the rug somehow managing to look a bit cleaner than before, and the carpet smelling a bit fresher.  “Looks like everythin’s back in order,” she said as she clapped her hands clean.  “That didn’t take too long.”

She leaned to her left, hoping to get a peek at the hall’s innards -- and with it, the first look at Lloyd getting ready for action.  But of course, he didn’t show.  He hadn’t shown his face, or even made a (likely ridiculous) sound in the past half-hour.  Frustrated, she rubbed the back of her neck and groaned.  “Gaston must’ve really spooked him bad,” she muttered, pacing absentmindedly through the room.

September 16, 2012

Tales of the Abyss: The Rundown (Part 1)

If there’s one series I can count on to put a smile on my face, it’s the Tales series.  I’ve had a fixation on JRPGs ever since my fateful encounter with the (supposedly inferior) PC version of Final Fantasy 7 back in 2000, but I find myself disappointed as often as I am delighted.  I’m not just talking about FF13, even if it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back and then made liberal use of a jackhammer to its spine for good measure; I may be more analytical than I’ve ever been, but even a younger version of me can tell when a game is putting me through some grade-A bullshit.

Everything past the first quarter of Grandia III.  The hiked-up bromance in Kingdom Hearts 2.  Trying to pass off Vaan as the main character in FF12.  Corgan’s “I have no knowledge of such things” shtick in Septerra Core (even though that’s not a JRPG, but close enough).  I don’t give Past Me a lot of credit -- and can you blame me? -- but I wasn’t exactly a lost cause.  I knew what I liked, and what I didn’t.  I knew what I thought was good, and what I thought was bad.  And in terms of the Tales series, it could only be good in my eyes.

But I had to put it through the paces.  I had to give the games -- Abyss, first and foremost -- a shot to see if they were as good as I thought, and if they were still good today. 

And the answer?  To put it simply, it’s a game that’s easy to love…and easier to hate.  Know what I mean, Asch?

(Warning: spoilers to follow…although it’s, like, six years old now.  Is it really necessary to add a spoiler warning?  And would you really be here if you weren’t interested in an informal analysis?  And a commanding knowledge of the game is nothing but a boon.  

On the other hand, midriffs.)

September 15, 2012

Let’s discuss some more video games.

Because…hey, why not?  (And that mentality’s never brought harm to anyone before.)

Once again, I find myself in a position where there are a handful of games I want to talk about, but don’t feel like going into any of them in the extreme depth I would with Skyward Sword or Kingdom Hearts.  But in the interest of keeping the content flowing -- and keeping the blog from becoming wall-to-wall posts of I Hraet You (which you should probably read if you love wrestling southern belles, bug-obsessed misanthropes, and improbably buxom schoolgirl commandoes) -- I’m going to do a bit more talking about some of the games that have been on my mind recently.  I’m pretty sure there’s no more than an 83% chance of injury for potential readers.  So sayeth Barney Stinson.  And if you can’t trust a man who’s willing to stage elaborate hoaxes just to get a friend to watch a YouTube video of a dog pooping on a baby, who can you trust?

Click on the jump, and let’s discuss some games.  It’s going to be -- wait for it…a decidedly pleasant experience.

September 13, 2012

I Hraet You (37)

Beat 37: Back to Reality…Tentatively Speaking

“Pardon me, but I’m afraid it’s not quite time to start our ‘battle’ just yet,” said Lloyd, pulling back his hand and laying it atop the kitchen table.  “I hope you haven’t forgotten our current state affairs…or to be more precise, the affairs of my kin.”

“Ah, where is my mind today?  I’m afraid I was just so excited to see you that I let that little bit of information slip my mind.”  Gaston stroked the tip of his masked chin with a few slinking fingers.  “Now then, let me see…where did I leave them?  I didn’t do something so cliché as throw them into a wood chipper or incinerator, did I?”

The corners of Lloyd’s mouth tightened.

“Oh, don’t you worry, Lloyd.  I was merely trying to get you riled up a bit; I so hate it when my enemies get too lax; staying in one’s comfort zone for too long breeds sloth and sluggishness, you see.”  He folded his arms and cocked his head.  “Your father has been left unharmed; I suspect that he’s gallivanting through town as we speak, trying desperately to find his son no matter the cost…though his noble efforts may very well make him his own worst enemy.”  He motioned with his head toward the hallway.  “Your guest should be very close by.  Though I wonder what you’ll do, in light of the glimmer of truth you’ve earned through that little demonstration.”

September 11, 2012

“This is a Kid’s Game, Right?”

I’m resigned to being late to the party.  By the time I get into something big -- new cell phones, Facebook, using email in general -- people have already moved on to something bigger and newer.  You’d think that a guy who plays video games like a Cocoa Puffs addict would be well-off in that department, but that’s not the case. 

A few months ago I played a Ratchet and Clank game for the first time.  It’s not like I never heard of the series, but when it started out I didn’t have a PS2 (and the same problem would repeat itself thanks to the leap from PS2 to PS3).  Still, I’d heard some good things about the series.  As far as I know, the games have gotten consistently good reviews -- there may be, what, one or two that’s gotten below a 9?  There’s been a lot of praise for the franchise assorted weapons over the years.  And the fact that the duo will -- in the worst case scenario -- be referenced in Playstation All-Stars means that Sony wants to give one of their major players a bit of recognition.  A part of me still can’t divorce the gun-toting Ratchet from, say, the gun-toting Jak, but I know there are plenty of differences.

Chief among them, a distinct lack of weasels.  Or weasel aliens.  I don't know, I only played Jak 3.

September 10, 2012

I Hraet You (36)

Beat 36: Now That’s What I Call Gentlemanly

Gaston held a hand in front of his mask, and then waved coquettishly at Lloyd.  “Oh, you,” he said with a chilled chuckle.  “You’re making me blush.”  He sashayed a bit, throwing his ruler-wide hips left and right.  “Don’t you know I have to maintain my girlish figure?  And why on earth would I want to consume the plebian slop of your kin?  Your brutish father…your miserly brother…and the delusional prince of love himself…ku fu fu…I’m afraid even a taste of your gruel could corrupt me beyond aid.”

Lloyd folded his arms and frowned at Gaston.  “You force your way into my home and insult my family…though I am obliged to be a good host, I would ask that you be a good guest in kind.  Otherwise, you may find yourself facing dire circumstances.”

Gaston leaned forward; if he’d shown his face, he’d no doubt have plastered a yard-long smile atop his face.  “Oh?  So you fancy yourself a warrior prince, I take it?  How delightful!  Ah, if only I’d remembered to bring my rapier with me!”  He leaned back and pressed a palm to his face, while his other hand continued its writhing motions.  “Ah, what a shame!  An oversight!  A tragedy!”

He glared at Lloyd, his mask’s eyes nearly radiating with a red glow.  “I would have loved the chance to run you through.”

September 9, 2012

The Return of Jafar: A Kingdom Hearts 2 Retrospective (Part 2)

A funny thing happened the other day when I went to Best Buy with my brother.  We wandered over to the games section (as we often do), and while faffing about I happened to catch a glimpse of the player’s guide for KH3D.  It was surprisingly weighty; a part of me thought about flipping through, but since my intent is to one day play it I decided not to risk getting spoiled.  And this is coming from someone who normally has no problems with reading spoilers; that should tell you just how much hope I have for this series, regardless of missteps.

Anyway, I held up the cover and showed it to my brother.  “Look, it’s your best friend Sora,” I said jokingly.  I imagine he’s more of a Riku fan than a Sora fan -- if only because I feel the opposite way.  Still, I wanted to see his reaction.

He gave the guide’s cover a skeptical glare.  “Man, Kingdom Hearts would be so much better if they took out all the Disney stuff.”

It took all of my willpower to resist doing this.

September 6, 2012

I Hraet You (35)

Beat 35: A Counting Lesson for the Ages

Lloyd stroked his chin, eyebrows raised as he ran an eye from one Trixie to the next.  “Hmmm…I can see that this will require a bit of creative restructuring.”

“I think yer a little too calm about all this, pal,” said one of the Trixies.

“Well, panic and bewilderment will get us nowhere, Miss Walters.  Er, that is to say…”  He pointed feebly at the Trixie that had just spoken.  “Which one were you, exactly?  I can’t recall if you were Stabby or Grabby.”

“I’m Stabby.”

“Ah, yes, yes, of course.  Then I suppose that would make you Grabby.  And therefore, we’ll call you, our third entrant, Sleepy.”  He took a few steps aside, and gestured toward the couch.  “Now then, my dear -- er, dears -- if you would be so kind as to take a seat, I believe we can settle this once and for all.”  He scratched at a few bangs.  “Probably.  Maybe.  Hopefully.  Well, I suppose we’ll just have to see how it goes.”

September 5, 2012

Manly Songs: I’ll Make a Man Out of You

…Really?  Do I really need to say anything?

All right.  Let’s pretend you’ve never heard this song.  If you weren’t a child of the nineties (or you childhood was just kind of blah in general), then that’s possible.  And let’s pretend you don’t know which movie the song is from -- also possible if you have an aversion to movies in general…and happiness.  And let’s pretend you don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet.  No Facebook, no Twitter, nothing; while we’re at it, let’s assume that you’ve never watched The Disney Channel, ABC Family, ABC whenever they show certain movies, Toon Disney (or whatever it’s called now), certain movie channels on extended cable, have no contact with anyone who is either a child of the nineties or has access to all of those things, and have an unspoken ban against anything related to China in your home.  Fair enough.  I’m not here to judge.

Even with all that in mind -- even with a hypothetical embargo against any number of informative outlets -- there really is nothing more I need to say about this song.  I could end this post right now without even embedding the video, based solely on the title and an implication of “take my word for it.”  In fact, I’m probably doing you a service.  If you have heard the song, you know that there’s no need for words explaining why it’s manly.  If you haven’t heard the song, then even the slightest dosage -- even a half-second of the chorus -- is lethal.

Still, I suppose I wouldn’t be much of a webmaster if I didn’t entertain the thought and threaten my readership’s well being.

*sigh* All right.  Let's get down to business.

September 4, 2012

Let’s discuss The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Fi is the worst part of Skyward Sword, without a doubt.

After riding high with the successes of Twilight Princess’ Midna, you’d think that Nintendo’s masterminds would want to make an even better, even more delightful sidekick -- one that had a more overt personality and style than everyone’s favorite nightcap-wearing knight, Link.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case; Fi has zero personality.  She has a token arc (and I use that term loosely) where she goes from unfeeling automaton to a partner enamored with the idea of love and camaraderie…and likely enamored with Link himself.  She talks a lot, yet has nothing important to say.

Fi is especially jarring when she stops the flow of the game to give you information you just heard from an NPC/dialogue box, or otherwise takes the adventuring part out of the adventure game.  She exists to make absolutely sure -- or at least 85% sure, in accordance with her speech pattern -- you know where you’re going and what you’re doing and where you are and what this item does.  It wouldn’t be so bad if you could turn her off, but you can’t.  She’ll automatically appear no matter what, and give you “advice” no matter what.  But she outright pissed me off during the Silent Realm trials; apparently if you screw up more than three times, she’ll say something to the effect of “I’m starting to doubt you’re cut out to be a hero.”  This, in spite of Link (i.e. the player) having conquered several dungeons, slaughtered monsters at least three times his size, pushing back rival swordsman Ghirahim, and sealing away a horrific, shambling, evolving beast of pure malice and evil.  I’m not cut out to be a hero?  Back off, you knockoff vocaloid piece of shit.

With all that said, Skyward Sword may be one of my favorite games ever.

(Warning: there will be spoilers.  And blood.  But mostly spoilers.  But mostly blood.)

September 3, 2012

I Hraet You (34)

Beat 34: Face to Face to Face…to Face

Trixie lurched forward with a sadistic grin, tossing the carving knife as easily as she would flip a coin.  “I’ve decided to do you a service, Lloyd,” she announced, her fingers squirming.  “Tell me where you want it most.  The gut?  The eye, maybe?  Come on, it’s not polite to keep a lady waiting -- show some initiative!”

Lloyd backed into the kitchen table -- though with the wood now lodged into his spine, he’d long since run out of places to retreat.  “Miss Walters!” he shouted.  But he couldn’t bring himself to say any more.

“Oh, so you finally acknowledge me?  At long last, you accept the truth?  Ah, it’s such a relief to hear you accept reality for once; now you know that the one who awakened the killer in me is -- and shall forever be -- the would-be emissary of love.”  A high-pitched giggle escaped from her lips, freshly moistened with a sheet of hunger-bred saliva.  “I suppose this is your last epiphany.”

Lloyd -- already soaked with sweat -- felt waterfalls of the stuff gush from every pore.  Trixie was trying to kill him!  Or was it her?  But who else could it be?  And how did this happen?  Did he truly unlock some buried murderous intent?  Was it all just a ruse by Gaston?  How, and why --?

September 2, 2012

Let’s discuss a whole bunch of video games.

In the immortal words of Chef Gordon Ramsay, “I’m going to do something I’ve never ever done before.”  How often that’s the case is up for debate, but who am I to deride such a well-renowned chef?  And by the same token, a man whose rage constantly keeps him in Super Saiyan mode?

In any case, there are a number of things that I’m in the mood to talk about, but only tangentially; that is, I don’t feel like there’s enough meat right now to turn any one of the games into a three-thousand word dissection.  Plus I’m working on some other projects right now -- I Hraet You, The Manly Song Repository, and a “certain something” especially -- so I’d prefer not to get too distracted.

So let’s get this thing going, yes?  Expediency, ho!