September 30, 2013

I Hraet You (96)

Beat 96: The Capper

With its shift on the wane, the sun began its usual commute into Porbeagle’s horizon.  The day’s heat subsided bit by bit, but the hint of salt in the air still wafted regularly past the townsfolk.  As always, the sky welcomed and displayed streaks of gold and orange, with the sun’s rays peeking through thick, slate-hued clouds.  The town might have known no shortage of frenzy -- in the past, present, or future -- but as it citizens shuffled off for their homes, a sense of tranquility pervaded throughout.

Lloyd smiled.  He was exactly where he wanted to be -- outside a supermarket holding a girl’s hair as she puked repeatedly into a trash can.

“MRFRAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!” Sheila’s body quivered and buckled for the thirty-second time that day, and the splatter of liquefied lunches echoed out of the can.  When she finished, she pushed herself up from the rim and gasped for air.  “Okay…okay…I think that’s the last of it.”

“You’re sure this time?” Lloyd asked.

Sheila stood a few inches higher and sniffled.  “…Nope.  Still more.” 

Her ear wiggled, but Deirdre didn’t get the chance to say a word; she just bent back down and fired off another sickening salvo.  “MRFRAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!”

“Is that the last of it?” Lloyd asked.

Deirdre stood up slowly.  “Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah, I think…I think that’s it.”  She stepped away from Lloyd and patted a hand against her stomach.  “So I guess I learned something new today: I REALLY hate puking.”

September 27, 2013

Let's discuss Devil Survivor 2: The Animation.

Hey guys!  Did you know I like Devil Survivor?  Bet you never would have guessed, considering how I like working into any possible conversation I can.  And I AM the chief authority on the games, considering that I’ve beaten exactly zero of the hidden bosses.  (Beating the late-game Bels of DeSu1 was hard enough.)

In any case, the DeSu2 anime is a thing that happened not that long ago.  And the mere announcement of it made me excited; after all, the creation of an anime meant newfound recognition and promotion.  More people would get exposed to the anime, and more than likely get excited about and ultimately try the (dope-ass) game.  That was setting aside the fact that the anime, in its own right, could make a good case for itself.  The game laid the groundwork, and the anime would capitalize on it with its own high-quality, demon-busting, cell phone-brandishing adventures.  Awesomeness would ensue on all accounts.

Or so I thought.  But on the plus side, the main theme is pretty cool.

Incoming spoilers.  Hope you’ve got Shield All equipped, because you’re going to need it to protect yourself from a Maziodyne’s worth of revealed plot points -- for both the game and the anime.

Also, get ready for a crapload of bias from someone that has played the game too much to be healthy.  If you’re looking for a more balanced look, head over here to this blog instead.  It’s much less insane.

September 26, 2013

I Hraet You (95)

Beat 95: A Hunting We Will Fear

“Hard to believe that my brother had the same idea as someone who’s supposed to be a genius,” said JP, shaking his head slowly.  “You are actually smart, right?  Not just relative to Lloyd?”

“I’ve got the report cards to prove it,” said Arjuna.  “Well, they’re not with me at the moment, but there should be plenty of them back at my house.”

“That’s all right.  The fact that your response actually made sense is proof enough -- for now.”  JP leaned against the car’s back seat, and stared coolly at Arjuna from the corners of his eyes.  “So let’s hear it.  What’s so special about this town?  Why is it a place someone like this masked freak wants to screw around in?”

“Can I answer that with a question?”

“I’ll allow it.”

“This masked man -- where did you first meet him?”

Mrs. Overdose looked over her shoulder, and swished her reed about.  “I met him first a while before this thing started, what with me bein’ a bounty hunter and all,” she explained.  “But JP here met him over at that old mansion.  You know the one, don’t you?”

Arjuna nodded.  “Haldane Manor.  So, it’s just as I thought…though I’m starting to think that that’s not exactly something to be happy about.”

I Hraet You (94)

Beat 94: Consider Disconnections, Consider Connections

“More than friends,” Lloyd repeated.  “Oh.  You mean lovers, right?”

Sheila pulled away from Lloyd, as if his denseness had pried them apart.  “W-well, what else is there?” she asked.  She lowered her head and pressed her fingers together, her face reddening yet again.  “I mean…you know…if you want to…I-I-I wouldn’t mind.”  But she jerked her head back up, and held her hands out in defense.  “Oh, but only when you’re ready!  I don’t mind waiting -- we really should take things slowly, shouldn’t we?  I am pretty new at this, after all.”

“You want to be my lover, huh…?”  Lloyd folded his arms and stared absentmindedly at the sky.  For once in his life he went silent, with the only noise coming from him -- and indeed, the only noise in the plaza’s alley -- being the shuffling of feet across oil-splattered concrete.  And when he’d done that a few dozen times, he glanced to the east, mouth covered and gaze airy.

“Um, Lloyd?  Do you -- are you --?”  Sheila shuffled in turn, but not nearly as long.  “We can be more than friends, can’t we?”

Lloyd turned back to her.  “Why?”

September 24, 2013

High-Level Housekeeping! (AKA the 401st Post)

First off, I want to use this space to officially thank you readers for sticking with this blog for as long as you have.  I couldn’t do it in the last post because I was “in character”, but I feel like I HAVE to take some time out to say thanks to anyone who’s even bothering to read this.  That big 400 isn’t exactly a number worth paying attention to, given that said number’s been inflated by content in one file being spread into two or three (or nine) posts, and of course tons of I Hraet You chapters, buuuuuuuuuuuut what I do value are the comments and readership of viewers like you.  So consider this milestone a celebration of all of you.

And in the same breath, a provocation of all of you. 

Yes, that’s right, the Spirit Showdown is back after a months-long hiatus.  Those of you who’ve seen the blog in the past…oh, roughly eight seconds might have noticed a tab over there labeled Spirit Showdown.  For the five of you who actually cared enough to look at it, it’s a bit of blog fiction -- for lack of a better term -- that puts the characters I’ve created over the years into a brand new scenario.  A story outside their stories, as a proving ground for their mettle, their potential, and of course their spirits. 

…At least, that would have been the case if it didn’t suck

September 19, 2013

I Hraet You (93)

 Beat 93: Should’ve Thrown Her in a Rubber Room…

Lloyd trotted out of the gas station at a brisk pace, holding up a plastic bag like a stolen treasure.  In his haste, he nearly became the new hood ornament of a passing truck -- but a quick swivel of his feet put him back on track and heading across the street.  “Miss O’Lea- I mean, Sheila!  I have returned with good news, and a greater bounty!” he cheered, and stumbled toward her after tripping on the curb.  “Behold!  The fruits of my -- which is to say some factory somewhere in the depths of this continent -- labors!”

“What did you get?” Sheila asked.

“Ha ha!  Prepare yourself for a grand treat, my dear!”  He reached into the bag and pulled out his bounty: a honey bun, with its glaze and sugars sticking to the crinkled wrapping.  “If what I’ve heard is true, there’s nary a woman in this world that can resist the allure of sweets.  Therefore, I offer this, a swirly tribute, to your magnificent being!”

Sheila’s head tilted slowly.  “Do I…have to say some kind of poem before I take it?”  She scratched her temple.  “I don’t think I’ve got it in me to talk like a super-flowery dandy all day long like you do.”

She’s on-point with her offhand insults, Lloyd thought with a sigh.  In spite of that, he handed her the honey bun, and watched in silence as Sheila took a few delicate bites.  “Well?  How is it?”

“It’s good.  Really good.”

Lloyd snapped his fingers.  “Heh HA!  Excellent!  So it would seem that the words of men wiser than me have come to pass!  I’ll be sure to rely on their wisdom in the future, that I may continue to win your favor!  Mayhap some day in the future, I’ll be able to offer you a cake of the highest caliber.”  He stroked his chin.  “Perhaps one with a distinct cantaloupe flavor?  I’ve always felt as if it’s a bit underrated in the fruity pantheon, you see.”

September 17, 2013

September 16, 2013

I Hraet You (92)

Beat 92: Romance Never Dies (Except When it Does)

Deirdre took note of Lloyd’s blank stare, and sidled up to him as fast as she could (if only to save face).  “Oh?  What have we here?  You look like a boy who has excellent taste.”  She sashayed her hips, and tossed a hand through a few bangs.  “So.  Do you like what you see?”

Lloyd pointed to her face.  “Your nose is running.”

Deirdre wore her sultry smile for as long as she could -- at least until a stream of snot dribbled down her bottom lip.  She ran a forearm across her face and leapt away, turning her back on Lloyd once more.  “Damn it, Sheila!  Why isn’t that spray working the way it’s supposed to?  I can be sexy, but not when I’ve got a nose like a broken faucet!”

Her ear wiggled, and she turned her head left.  “I gave you all the good stuff already,” said Sheila.  She pumped her fists up and down.  “By the way, that good stuff wasn’t cheap, so don’t expect to see too much of it again.”

Her ear wiggled, and she turned her head right.  “THAT was the good stuff?” Deirdre yelled.  She stomped a foot against the ground.  “That crap barely lasted for an hour!  And it burned the hell out of my nose!”

“You mean our nose.”

“Whatever!  Just do something about your nose already so I can work my magic!”

“I don’t think there’s anything I can do -- unless you feel like spending a half hour in the bathroom.”

“Doing what?”

“W-well, they usually have plenty of toilet paper…”

“Oh, screw you!  I’d rather clamp my nose shut than spend a second in a germy public bathroom!”

“Might I offer a solution, ladies?”

September 13, 2013

Why Anime is Amazing: Because Hideyoshi

YouTube is a very dangerous place.

It seems like it wasn’t that long ago when you could load up a video -- a song, or maybe an out-of context clop -- and be done with it.  But recently, it seems like every time I load up the site (which is often, given that I listen to video game music when writing), I end up getting sidetracked by the “recommended for you” cache that inevitably pops up.  It’s like a measure designed specifically to make sure my time gets wasted.  It’s either that or ensuring that I fall prey to the siren song of nostalgia.

One of the things that happened to catch my eye one day was a song from Sengoku Basara.  I’ve always had a fondness for the franchise -- for obvious reasons -- and Samurai Heroes helped secure that fondness thanks to its great soundtrack.  But thanks to the anime tie-in and YouTube’s dark magic sorting algorithm, “This is a Fight to Change the World” ended up getting recommended.  I’ll do you a solid and offer up a courtesy link…along with an assertion.

As it stands, the character that song belongs to -- one Hideyoshi Toyotomi -- is my favorite anime villain.

September 12, 2013

I Hraet You (91)

Beat 91: All Hail Puppeteers (and also Makeovers)

“A date?” JP shouted.  “You want to go out on a date?”

Lloyd nodded and resumed his business.  “Well, of course.  At the moment I’m hard-pressed to think of any other way to interact with Miss O’Leary.  Not to mention that she was the one that propositioned me; it would be outright callous of me to…”  He lifted his head and stared at JP with wide eyes.  “Oh!  So this is what they call a date!  My, I’m starting to get a bit excited!”

“Lloyd, are you KIDDING ME?  Don’t go out on a date with someone that almost killed you!”

Lloyd tilted his head back down.  “It was an act of near-homicide bred of misguided adoration.  Nothing more.  Or if you prefer, a misappropriation of effort.  But as I explained to you, I’ve managed to sort out a number of Miss O’Leary’s issues.  And beyond that, my adventures with her don’t end just because she’s reached four stars; I made her a promise, and I intend to make good on it, being her comrade for as long as I’m able.  So what follows next is a matter of…of…”  He furrowed his brow.  “I can’t quite seem to figure out how this mechanism is supposed to work.”

JP covered his face.  “Over and under, Lloyd.  Over and under, then you make two loops and --”

“Ah, so that’s the key!  Yes, that makes perfect sense!”  Lloyd nodded rapidly, and finished tying his shoes.  “There we are!  Fully threaded and ready for a day of true merriment!”

“Have I ever mentioned how much of a disappointment you are?  Because I get the feeling that I don’t say that as much as I should.”

September 10, 2013

Let's "discuss" Star Ocean: The Last Hope (Part 2).

Now here’s a question for you: have video games lost their sense of adventure?

The simplest answer I can come up with is “no.”  But even an answer that’s one percent more complex is “no, but…”  People -- including me, distressingly enough -- like to dump a lot of hate on this generation and hearken back to the days of old.  Games used to let you explore!  Games used to give you worlds!  Games used to mean something!  Games used to have character, man!  That was true of past games, sure, but even today we’re still getting games that rival and even surpass the hall-of-famers.

On the other hand, we’re going to keep getting games that…well, I’ll use the phrase “missing the point”.  For one reason or another, I feel as if a lot of developers are missing the point about why we play games -- and in exchange, substituting in their own, severely misguided point.  Star Ocean: The Last Hope is a good example of this, and not just because it’s utterly snared by its anime trappings.  It’s a trek through space that forgets it’s a trek through space, choosing to opt for planets straight out of an NES JRPG until suddenly remembering “oh right, space!  We can throw in whatever we want!”  And instead of exploring the possibilities of its admittedly-cool villain/concept, we’re given the same story arcs all over.  Young heroes with a mysterious power.  Rescuing the mystical waif from the bad guys.  Revenge diffused by a mere misunderstanding.  Until the main villain is revealed, there isn’t much in the way of a consistent threat from one planet to the next -- which wouldn’t be so bad if the game offered up more meaningful episodes.  It didn’t.  Its cast is almost uniformly embarrassing, and yet the focus is on them instead of making the worlds AND the characters fully developed.  It’s a Spark Notes page that only has every fourth word written.

So.  How about that gameplay? 

September 9, 2013

I Hraet You (90)

Beat 90: The Only Viable Response to Rejection

Lloyd sat on what remained of the den’s couch, scratching absentmindedly at his temple.  Thankfully, he’d gotten over his grogginess -- though he couldn’t deny a hidden desire to go to the hospital, or at least see a school nurse -- and at the moment had little more than a rumbling stomach.  If he wasn’t half-covered in bandages, wounds, and a forcibly-made pair of shorts, he might have looked as if he’d gained inner peace.

The same couldn’t be said for Sheila.  She might not have taken as much punishment as Lloyd, but as she sat across from Lloyd on the remnants of a coffee table, she looked about ready to pledge herself as a slave to the first person that walked past.  She kept her head hung low, and gripped her knees with the force of a vise.  Said knees wobbled and knocked together on occasion, and her uplifted shoulders trembled enough to dance out of their sockets.  The only thing she could get to come down normally were streams of snot dribbling down her nose -- and as always, she sucked them back up at perfectly-timed intervals.

Trixie leaned toward Lloyd’s ear from behind the couch.  “I got a real bad feelin’ ‘bout all this, pal.  Ya sure this is all gonna work out?”

September 6, 2013

Let's "discuss" Star Ocean: The Last Hope (Part 1).

So, it looks like a miracle has happened.  Temporarily.

For months, my “How to Make a Good Street Fighter Movie” post has taken top honors as the number-one most-visited post on Cross-Up.  And while there’s no doubt it’s got the highest view count by a WIDE margin, only recently has it been supplanted.  One of my posts on The Last of Us managed to do it -- and is still a top-scorer -- but more recently, the one I see (or did see) taking the top spot is a post on Tales of Xillia.  And frankly, I’m happy with that.

It is criminal that the Tales Series doesn’t have as much recognition as it deserves.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Final Fantasy has long since been surpassed as the greatest JRPG franchise.  And if you ask me, the one who’s been sitting on its shadow-shrouded throne is the Tales Series.  It’s a strange day, indeed, when you wake up one day and realize you’ve played more Tales games than FF games…at least, it’s strange for me.  And stranger indeed when three out of six FF games were enjoyable, while six out of seven Tales games are significantly closer to my heart.  (We do not speak of Dawn of the New World.  Ever.)

So I’ve been thinking.  Recent comments -- and spotting old files strewn about on my machine -- have reminded me of games past, and words that still need typing.  And I figured it’s about time to bring them to the forefront.  So let’s have a look at one of the corpses stepped over and left picked clean by vultures in the desert: Star Ocean: The Last Hope.

Fair warning, though: you might want to make sure you don’t read this where anyone can peek over your shoulder.  This game has some…things in it.  (And also SPOILERS.)

September 5, 2013

I Hraet You (89)

Beat 89: No Victory for Old Psychologists

“Combine?” Lloyd repeated.  “Wait a moment.  So does that mean…?”

“Uh-huh.”  Sheila gestured toward Deirdre.  “It’s like she said.  She can’t beat you.  And neither can I -- so I guess you can call this your win.”  She pressed her fingers together.  “A-a-although I’m sorry you had to work so hard to get this far.  It’s -- i-i-it’s not like I wanted to cause so much trouble.  It just kind of…happened.”

“Think nothing of it.  Although…”  Lloyd’s eyes shifted to his left.  “Am I really the one you should be apologizing to?”

“But…but I…”

Lloyd flashed a smile.  “I would consider myself lucky to be in your position, Miss O’Leary.  I imagine very few people ever get a chance to have a conversation with their imaginary friends.  I’d bet there are more than a few kindergarteners that are jealous of you -- so why not take advantage of the opportunity?  You might never get one again.”

Sheila nodded -- and with an unsteady step, she turned to face Deirdre at last.  “I…s-sorry, but I…I don’t even know where to begin.  I mean, this is all so unreal, I…”  She rubbed the back of her head.  “Gosh, this is really gonna be hard…”

Deirdre just stared at Sheila, her smirk long since gone.

September 3, 2013

Go see The World's End...also, I Hraet You.

*gestures to first half of post title* 

And there you go.  The shortest Cross-Up post yet.

…Sigh.  Never mind.  Let’s chat for a little bit.  About The World’s End -- and I Hraet You, too.

September 2, 2013

I Hraet You (88)

Beat 88: The Greatest Euphemism

“The madam…?” Deirdre asked.  “You mean --?”

Sheila nodded slowly.  “My mom.  He’s…he’s talking about my mom.  Though I don’t really know what he’s getting at here.”

“Worry not.  Everything will become clear soon enough,” said Lloyd.  “Rest assured, she is as much the key to your transformation as the concept of dreams.  But in order to expound on either of them, there’s a topic that we have to discuss at some length.  One that’s been on my mind for quite some time, even before her entry and departure from this audition room.”

“Wh-what’s that?”

“Isn’t it obvious?  Child-rearing.”

For a second it looked as if both the girls might fall right off the stage -- and if Deirdre hadn’t been fused to said stage, she very well might have. 

“My.  That’s quite a reaction from a pair of ladies that had aims to do something so scandalous,” Lloyd said as he stroked his chin.  “Could it be that in spite of all your bluster, neither of you are quite ready to take that fateful plunge?”

“Don’t get smart with me, boy!” Deirdre snapped.