Monday, December 12, 2011

SC On Escape from Bug Island (Wii)

Not a Universal Studios ride.

In my never-ending quest to find a survival-horror Wii game worse than Calling, I now come face-to-face with a rather infamous title.

Ha!  I wish.

Let's get this over with.  Escape from Bug Island is known as Necro-Nesia in Japan.  I'm not sure why they changed the name, but I'm guessing whoever is responsible only watched the first few minutes of the game and said "The island has bugs on it!  The characters must escape from this place- HEY WAIT A MINUTE!"

That's my best guess because Escape from Bug Island, while it has giant bugs, also has flying fish, bear trap-like plants, spiders, giant frogs, and giant gorillas, all of which are most definitely not bugs.  How do you- fuck it, moving on.

The game centers around Michelle, a woman (I'm assuming) who is studying insects and came to this island to find a few rare species that only live there.  She's... over-enthusiastic about it, to the point where I fear she may have the brain of a sugared-up five-year old.


Mike is the token tough guy douche bag who totes a shotgun and is supposedly Ray's best friend.  He constantly aims the shotgun at everyone and everything and, at one point, it sounds like it fires mid-dialogue and no one acknowledges it.  He's on the island because... uh...

Not this shit again.

And then there's Ray.  Ray came to the island with his smilie-faced backpack despite his crippling fear of insects, wearing shorts might I add, because he has a crush on Michelle and Mike is a friend of his.  Mike, however, uses his horribly written/translated dialogue to make advances on Michelle right in front of him, to which Ray mopes around and falls asleep.

I want you to guess which of these three characters ends up in the camp alone and we have to play as in this game.  Keep in mind which one has the best and worst reasons to be there, as well as the most and least knowledge of the surroundings and the best and worst physical abilities.

If you said Ray, congratulations!  You get to suffer like I did!

"With limited skills and ability..."

You might think it would go without saying that, since this is a Wii title, the graphics aren't that great.  However, I am going to dwell on this. The visuals are on par with an early Dreamcast title, and even with the flashlight on you'll rarely see more than forty feet in front of Ray.  Turning the flashlight off helps Ray not get noticed by enemies as fast, but it also turns most of the environment into a blurry gray blob.

In fact, before I go any further let's get one thing out of the way: controls.

May or may not be a better control scheme.

Despite having a massive tutorial at the beginning of the game which explains absolutely everything Ray can (sort of) do, the controls are still rather hit and miss.  Movement, while it takes some getting used to, works okay.  However, shaking either the wiimote or the nunchuk too hard (read: slightly) causes Ray to roll left or right.  The motion-sensitive three-hit melee combo is sometimes sketchy about detecting the final attack, and almost always reads one swing as two.

The worst part, however, is trying to do anything in first-person view.  It's set up so that wherever you point the wiimote, Ray looks in that direction, and pointing directly at the TV has him look straight ahead.  The downside of this design choice is that the looking is extremely sensitive and makes using ranged weapons (which must be used in first-person view) unnecessarily difficult, especially since throwing weapons depend on how hard the wiimote is swung.

The one thing I will give the controls credit for is having a left-handed option (despite Ray always holding a weapon in his right hand).  Thanks for realizing not everyone is right-handed.


 That's assuming you can see what you're doing, which isn't always guaranteed.  There's a flashlight Ray carries which lights up everything, including things that the light isn't pointed at.  When it's off, everything becomes a dark grey amorphous blob about twenty feet in front of Ray.  I understood why they limited the draw distance in games like Silent Hill 1, but this game from the last 2000's not only uses the same trick, but does so worse than those early titles on far less powerful systems?

And the environments aren't detailed or complex enough to warrant this trick, as they consist largely of the same three trees and a few different ferns most of the time.

And speaking of variety, the enemies are varied enough to stay interesting, as the section-by-section progression introduces one or two new enemies at a time, usually as the same over-dramatic music starts, stops abruptly, then starts again.  However, these enemies tend to be named incorrectly.  I'm quite phobic of insects and usually don't bother learning specific names for things, but I can tell the difference between a roach, an earwig, and a centipede, which this game can't.

SCXCR 1, Escape from Bug Island who cares?

Look!  It's a wild Beedrill!

More importantly, they aren't even strong enough to be a threat.  The "centipedes" are understandable because they're smaller, crawl on the ground and can be killed with one whack of a stick.  The giant mantises though?  Just hit them with a stick five times and they'll go down.  Hell, they recoil after every shot so there's no risk of getting hit either.  And this is assuming you didn't use the hunting knife found at the beginning of the game, which kills them even faster.

Giant crickets?  Throw a rock at them.  One rock.  That's all it takes to kill them despite their being much bigger and allegedly tougher than the shoebox-size "vampire" moths, which take two to four rocks to kill.

Spiders?  While they do move at Sonic-esque speeds, they are easily foiled by the wildly-swinging-at-the-ground-until-they-jump-into-the-melee-weapon-face-first strategy.

And even if the enemies do hit Ray, they don't do that much damage and there are enough healing items laying around that dying is almost never an issue.  Whether they're in cabins or boxes or growing at the base of or in the canopies of trees, healing items like mangoes, cans of food, red mushrooms, brown mushrooms, purple mushrooms, and oranges are everywhere.  Playing through on normal I had over a dozen oranges, a few mangoes, four red mushrooms, a brown mushroom, and two cans of food by the time I hit the second "boss" fight, enough to refill my entire health bar about five times.

Oranges 1, Bugs- *dramatic music*

Other characters are introduced either in cutscenes or via journal entries found around the island, though these characters are even less developed than the leads.  Additionally the cutscenes are voiced over, but cut off and tell the rest of the story in text, accompanied by the same 7-second loop used for the in-game menu, for no apparent reason other than to keep the game under budget and/or on schedule for release.

Oh yeah, this was released on Wii launch day in Japan.  How would you have liked this to be your introduction to the system?

Dynamic entry!

The funny thing is, this game has multiple endings.  All involve Ray escaping the island, but I just find it funny that someone thought this game would be worthy of multiple playthroughs to find everything.  This game is Resident Evil-like in terms of unlockable extras; unlimited ammo for weapons, a "samurai" weapon (a sword, not the Samurai Edge), and even game endings are grades up to A and S-rank like in most survival-horror games.  Heaven forbid they try something different.

This could very well be one of the worst games on the Wii I've played so far...


I'd say that Escape From Bug Island is still better than Calling.  The only reason I say that is because things happen on a more consistent basis. That and the game in general has a tendency to be hilariously bad as opposed to Calling's "watching competitive fishing in real time is more exciting than this" bad.  As such this is now my favorite game to play on streams.

"What is this?!" -Blondeguygamer

Teaser - Bloody Roar Marathon

It's about that time.

No, this won't just be an Arcade Mode marathon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Adventures with Eyes: Contacts

The following is a self-indulgent log of my attempt to wear contacts.

I never thought I'd wear them, but for the sake of convenience and being able to see when doing things like riding rollercoasters and/or cosplay, I'm giving them a shot.  This is no small feat for me as I A) Have never used eye drops, or put anything in my eye, and B) had a bad experience when I was 4 where I got a cinder stuck in my eye on a train ride, and then C) several years later got gnats stuck in my eye.  Gnats!  And you wonder why I hate bugs so much!

May or may not be a dramatization.

I'm going to try and update this as things do or don't develop.

Friday, October 21st 2:55 pm

-Visit the doctor's office and am given a walkthrough on how to put in the contacts.
-Spend about fifteen minutes trying to get one contact in, and failing.  Secretary/current contact coach tells me to put the contact down and get used to touching my eye with my finger.  Do so after "what the fuck" feeling passes.
-Spend another ten minutes trying to get one contact in, eventually succeeding.  Now my vision is all kinds of screwed up with one eye that can see and another that's still legally blind.
-Try getting the other contact in for about twenty minutes, then discover I was supposed to use my dominant hand (left) to put them in.  Great!
-Secretary leaves the office saying to come out if I get the contact in.  Fifteen minutes later, I still don't have it in.
-Five minutes after she comes back I finally get the other one in.  Now I have to take a contact out and put it back in.  this takes another ten minutes to get it out and five minutes to get it back in.
-Total time in contact training: 1 hour 15 minutes.

Could be worse I guess... 

-Drive home without wearing glasses for the first time.  Put my finger between my eyes to try and adjust the glasses I'm not wearing twice on the way home.
-Make that four times by that evening.
-Need to take out contacts after 5 hours as my eyes aren't used to wearing them yet.  7 the next day, 9 the next, and so on.
-Successfully take out contacts after about eight minutes of trying.  That didn't take as long as I thought it would.

Saturday October 22nd

-Get one contact in after about six tries, but it's folded on my eye and off-center.  Holy shit that hurt.  Eventually get the lens nudged into position and unfolded.
-Attempt to put in other contact and realize it's not on my finger anymore.  Fear for a moment that it dropped down the sink, only to find it sticking to the mirror.  The hell?

No, after you!

-Get the other lens in after a bit.  Total time getting lenses in: about... 15 minutes?  20?  I forgot to check the clock before trying it. Either way I need to keep them in a bit longer than yesterday while my eyes adjust to them.
-Take out both contacts later in the day in under ten minutes.  Only problem is I put both contacts in the same storage thing and don't know which one is the left lens and which is the right.  Considering my eyes are different not just in prescription but in shape and the lenses reflect that, this could end badly.

Sunday October 23

-Call the doctor's office and confirm that putting the lenses in the wrong eyes won't do anything worse than potentially blur long-distance vision a bit.  Hey, I like to be absolutely sure, okay?

Monday October 24

-Don't put the contacts in at all.  Didn't wake up soon enough to put them in and didn't remember to do it after (eventually) getting home.

I'm here to sell you Oops Insurance!

Tuesday October 25

-Forget to time how long it takes to get the contacts in, but get them out in a little over five minutes.  Most of getting them in was me dropping the left contact and trying to find it.  For some reason it takes longer with the left eye than the right.  Cosidering I'm left-handed, that means I'm struggling with what should be the easier eye.

Wednesday October 26

-Decide to wear contacts to classes.  Only takes about five minutes to get them in and, again, the left eye takes longer.  Debating calling mom and asking if it was the left eye I got a cinder stuck in when I was a kid.  The thing is, the contacts don't hurt to put in at all, they just feel a little odd at first.  But when I try to put one in my left eye, it keeps closing almost every time the contact makes... well, contact with it.

Wednesday November 2

Have been wearing contacts on and off lately.  Mostly off.  I can't look at things close up in detail like I can by taking my glasses off.  Considering the amount of cosplay work I've been doing, that discourages wearing contacts.

Thursday November 3

I head to Youmacon today.  Put in my contacts before heading to class/work.  I admit that a big reason I got contacts is so I wouldn't be blind when in cosplay.  I have no shame.

Could be worse, I guess.

It only takes a few minutes to get the contacts in now, and again, the left eye is harder than the right despite my using my left hand to put them in.  How work does?!

Friday November 4 through Sunday November 6

Successfully got contacts in and out the entire time in under five minutes in spite of sleep deprivation.  Now the only bad news is, I have no idea where my regular glasses went.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Youmacon 2011: I Am a Machine (Allegedly)

After getting home and realizing I took a grand total of three videos at Youmacon 2011, I figured a blog post would be the least I could do to preserve the memories of the dumb stuff I do at cons, or at least what I can remember.  Let us begin.


I stopped at home to finish packing the car after work and left some time between three and four in the afternoon.  I went straight to the Renaissance Center, made contact with Russ (the guy I've shared a room with for two years now) as well as TigerUchimaru and Blondeguygamer, and got all my backseat luggage into the room.  Eventually I had to pick up WellUnreal007 from the airport, only to find out that I'd gone to the wrong terminal.  Upon arriving, traffic promptly stopped and/or turned into a massive clusterfuck as everyone tried to pull over to pick up arrivals while the police yelled at everyone and everything to keep moving.  Unreal was in the arrival area, but with my being unable to find anything resembling an opening in that area he ran out to my car while it was a couple lanes out and got in with his luggage.

We fought our way out of airport traffic only to find out that part of the highway leading back was closed, meaning three lanes of traffic were being funneled into a one-lane exit ramp.  Needless to say, we powered through my one-hour long mash-up of Bear Force One fairly easily before getting back to the hotel.

Mixed with Kriss Kross and Benzaie among several others.
No, I'm not kidding.

So we get back to the hotel and, with help, unload everything.  I also give everyone a copy of the Semblance of Order CDs I'd made for NerdPow! that I have left.  Then around 11:00pm I start going through my stuff and realize I forgot part of a costume I'd been trying to do for, no lie, about two years.  This is when I had my moment of crazy.

I used that night to drive all the way back home, pick up what I'd forgotten, and drive back to the hotel.  As I waited for an elevator going down, a Joker cosplayer (who had complimented my goggles earlier) asked if I had any alcohol.  I said no, and he kept going down the hall.  The hall which goes in a goddamn circle.

After about six-and-a-half hours of driving I was back at the Ren Cen, the time now around 6:30 in the morning.  I only got about two to three hours of sleep before...


With my missing the chance to pick up pre-registration the night before, I had to wait in line.  Let's get one thing straight right now.  The registration line was far, far worse.  If the registration line was the final level of Dante's Inferno (the story, not the game) then the pre-reg line was somewhere in space, orbiting several miles away from the Gates of Hell.  Still, the line was several hundred feet long.  It moved fast, though.

After that I went back to the room and, since Linkara was there this year, reprised the role of 90's Kid, this time with the right color of hat and carrying around Blondeguygamer's Genesis as a prop.  The sunglasses (which I can wear and still be able to see now that I have contacts) helped hide the massive rings under my eyes, though I was strangely not as tired as I should have been.  I think that means I've been doing this way too much.

I was stunned by how many people recognized it and/or asked for photos, and even got stopped for an in-character three-minute long conversation by a couple of Dr. McNinja cosplayers.  Then Linkara's live Atop the Fourth Wall happened.  This was taken immediately after:

I am only responsible for 1 of 4 TOTALLY AWESOME things in this photo.

 I went back to the hotel room to finish working on parts of Long's costume that I didn't finish before making the trip.  At the same time, Blondy took my Duke Nukem comic, which was already signed by Jon St. John, and got it signed by Linkara.  The thing I had to fix for Long was the weights on his ankles.  To put it simply, they wouldn't stay together.  I'd said to TigerUchimaru I would do it for the fighting game photoshoot later that day, and I wasn't about to go back on my word despite the problems I was still having.  

When Russ lent me his superglue, I kind of went nuts with it and (sort of) got everything together while they were wrapped around my ankles.  The backs of them looked ghetto as fuck, but that was better than them not holding up at all.

 Goddamn, I have no muscle mass.

When we met up and went downstairs, we discovered the clusterfuck that was doing a photoshoot at Youmacon 2011.  The photoshoot area was the Winter Garden, a food-like area at the bottom floor near a large glass area looking out on the river separating Michigan and Canada.  The sign indicating when these shoots took place, however, was on the third floor overlooking the Winter Garden.  Oh, and the Winter Garden didn't have much space in it, meaning groups frequently would meet there and move somewhere else entirely, or organized online to not meet there at all.  And to add to the confusion, two other photoshoots were scheduled at the same time as the fighting game shoot.

Marble Hornets Photoshoot: 11 AM behind the fake plants 
overlooking the Winter Garden.

When we got there, admittedly late, no one was on the third floor.  Or the second floor.  Or the ground floor.  Not only that, the only photoshoot we COULD see going on was for Homestuck, which I think is like if the Smurfs were all massive dicks to each other.  After wandering around for awhile and not finding anything we spotted an Ermac and a Smoke.  Upon asking them what was going on, they also had no idea what happened to the photoshoot.  After going upstairs to the sign and attempting to call in anyone we could (temporarily gaining a couple other Mortal Kombat characters) we decided to call it off.

Then we moved on to the food court, with me finally learning how to walk so that the ankle weights didn't slam into each other.  Amazingly enough someone stopped me for a photo, though I doubt he knew what the character was.  It was at the food court that, after watching a guy with his arms down his pant legs dance to rave music, I had Subway to cap off the night.  This just in: eating a sub with bigass weights around your wrists is kind of difficult.  I said I'd save the remnants of the other half for later, only to forget I had it and throw it out late Saturday.

 This foot-long is what all true con-goers strive for!


Fun fact: the first thing I agreed to in regard to Youmacon cosplay was that I'd be a part of Youmaslam!, a group of cosplayers doing classic WWF stars.  So, around 9 in the morning, Russ was getting into his Macho Man Randy Savage costume while I slapped on a kilt and went as Rowdy Roddy Piper.  Fitting, seeing as how I'm part Scottish.

We met with his other friends who were in the group, which included guys dressed as Virgil (who was Static Shock part of the previous day), The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, and Hulk Hogan, as well as a girl who was Elizabeth.  What I didn't realize at first was that not only was this group going to be together for awhile, Russ and the others got in touch with Team Four Star and we would be doing a run-in gag right after the finish to their Patty Cake Championship match at the start of their panel.

... Yay?

All botches were intentional.  No, really.

We met with Takahata101 and Kroze before their panel started and got a basic rundown: Taka and Lanipator would have their match, then when they shook hands Kroze would lead me, Virgil, and DiBiase in to beat them up in badly-choreographed fashion.  Then Hogan's music would hit and he and Macho Man would make the save.  This worked alright, though I think I might have stomped Lanipator in the stomach by accident.  The idea was to make it look really fake anyway.

The save could have gone better, though.  We organized before that Hogan would have a big boot spot on Kroze and Macho Man would do a double-axe handle off the stage on me.  Hogan's boot spot never happened.  When Russ rushed me to start the save, he accidentally caught me below the left eye with a forearm while running at me.  We worked it out and got to the double-axe handle spot, only for him to twist his ankle on the landing.  Then to end the spot, I get up and don't see anyone around me, until I look to my left and see Kroze getting rolled into my legs, knocking me over like a goddamn bowling pin.

How do I keep getting involved in semi-TGWTG-related shit?

All in all it went over okay, and they were appreciative of us helping out with the PCC ending.  However, the wrestling shenanigans didn't stop there.

After the panel we all went out together and got stopped for photos multiple times on the way to Deathcom's photo area.  When we got our photos and ordered a print, one of the guys running the booth stopped us and asked if we'd each do introductory segments for the videos they were shooting.  We were more than happy to oblige, so sooner or later there will be a clip of me attempting (keyword: ATTEMPTING) to be Rowdy Roddy Piper introducing Deathcom Multimedia's coverage of the Youmacon 2011 masquerade.

The best was Ted DiBiase's segment though.  To make the character look better onscreen, the guy running the booth pulled out about three hundred dollars in twenties and gave it to him to pose with as he did his intro.  Good. God.
Screw you guys!  I thought it was amazing.

I hung out with the guys a bit longer, hearing about how Hogan's mustache apparently felt like he had sandpaper taped to his face, and getting a photo or two of me getting elbow-dropped by Macho Man and/or putting him in a sleeper hold.  At one point a pair of cosplayers, one being an admittedly-cute black Chun-Li, challenged Hogan and Macho Man to a tag team match with me as the referee.  I responded with a rant about how they had a deal if I could get Macho Man's Intercontinental title and, mid-rant, black Chun-Li kissed me on the cheek.  

I didn't know what to say then, and I don't know what to say now.  I just kept on talking and then hauled ass to the food court with the others, where I eventually parted ways with them to switch costumes.

Everything will be... fine...

 It was at this point that I went through the pain-staking process of reprising the Connecticon nightmare that was cosplaying <name removed> again.  I had bad razor burn on my face and that bruise from the wrestling spot earlier, but I went through with it anyway.  If anyone asked about the latter, I could just say Billy hits me.

Unreal was dressed as Barry Burton too, so it was appropriate if nothing else.  TigerUchimaru said I was convincing, which I'm still not sure if that was a compliment.

I saw a bunch of Resident Evil cosplayers the previous day, but a lot of them were still around Saturday afternoon.  We met with a group of S.T.A.R.S. members, the main four of Alpha Team to be precise, who seemed surprised to see me as <name removed>.  Apparently there was another <name removed>, but it wasn't as recognizable.  They told us about the panel that night involving Resident Evil and Silent Hill, which I ended up missing because I was so damn tired.

At one point while in line for the dealer's room someone walked up to me, checked the name on my badge (SCXCR), and walked away.  I'm still not sure what exactly that was about.

We checked out a video game voice actor panel in which I found out that Reuben Langdon, who has done motion capture work for numerous videogames, tore his ACL multiple times during work for a game.  Afterward he, as well as Jon St. John (Duke Nukem) and Josh Keaton (Ocelot, MGS3) did autographs for everyone.  Not having anything appropriate for them to work with, I had them sign my one of the powerpoint presentations for my Geography class.  No, seriously.  Jon's message read "I've never lived there."

Gotta go fast!

After much dicking around in the game room, chiefly on Rock Band 3, Gauntlet Legacy, and The Simpsons arcade game (which Blondy had never played until then) we resumed wandering around the con until the panel Everyone In Your Wagon Has Died, an 18+ playing of Oregon Trail.  We noticed that TGWTG contributors 8-But Mickey and PushingUpRoses were in the crowd, but both left before the game actually started.  After everyone died, twice, mostly because the audience kept voting to ford rivers that were a couple dozen feet deep, we'd had enough and went to sleep.


We'd actually started packing the previous night, and had just about finished packing before saying goodbye to TigerUchimaru, who had to catch an early bus, and heading to a Monster Hunter panel.  Unreal, Blondy and I all played an arena match against Great Jaggi, Barroth, and Royal Ludroth respectively with different partners.  We all succeeded in taking the monsters down and, between all of us, only fainted once.

During a final sweep of the dealer's room we pooled some money together to buy Fighter Maker (it's a long story), which Unreal would hold on to.  Meanwhile I got a Monster Hunter figure of Ceadeus and, thanks to Blondy's generosity, a Bomberman coin bank almost as tall as my computer monitor.  We also helped Unreal afford a K-On plushie.  Fuck me if I can remember which one it was.

At an escalator we were stopped by a black guy asking if we ever watched Star Trek.  This eventually turned into a conversation on the existence of intelligent life outside of our planet and how he was selling CDs of his raps about it.  He took what change I and Blondy (his Canadian change, mind you) had left and gave us a CD in the most mind-fucking homemade slip case I'd ever seen.  More on that later.


After eating one last time in the food court with what little money we had left, we all got our things packed well in advance of checkout and started moving shit to my and/or Blondy's car.  The elevators were all packed so we took the stairs down to the third floor, then made for the lobby.

We shared a lobby elevator with a creepy-as-fuck Brony in a Rainbow-whatever-the-fuck-she-is hoodie whose face was stuck in slack-jawed mouth-breathing mode.  To make it worse, the lobby elevators move much slower than the regular ones since they only go between floors 1 and 3.  Not a damn word was spoken the entire ride.

... Nope, not as creepy.

Upon arriving at the parking garage, I realized I'd made a fatal error; my car keys were in the messenger bag I'd left at the hotel room for trip #2.  Unreal stayed by the car to watch our stuff while I raced back to the hotel room, only to get a call saying Unreal was on his way to help finish the last load and Blondy would watch my car.

After saying one last goodbye to Russ I entered the hall with a duffel bag in the wheeling position with two boxes stacked on top of it, something I really didn't want to take down the stairs.  However, a non-full elevator wasn't coming, so I didn't have much of a choice.  While trying to go down the first flight of stairs two girls asked if I needed help because what I had looked like "a disaster waiting to happen."  I said yes and one of them carried the boxes (nothing heavy, mostly some food and sewing gear) down to the third floor, for which I thanked her.

After finally getting to the car and loading everything up, Unreal and I parted ways with Blondy and proceeded to open the mystery CD on the way to the airport.  The slip case was a bunch of folded paper held together on all sides by scotch tape.  Random pencil drawings covered it, though calling them drawings is generous.  There was no rhyme or reason to most of the lines, no pattern to follow, and nothing recognizable save for the occasional crater or one abstractly-drawn face and the word "SHADOW KLAN" in the upper right. On the back we could only make out a few words that we guessed were track names, namely "BUMS."  I had to rip the case in a couple places just to get the CD out.

The CD itself was covered in a plain white label.  By this point I was already concerned about the CD potentially infecting my computer or Unreal's laptop.  Now I was worried it would either open the Gates of Hell or kill me in seven days.  Still, I put the CD in and heard... something.  

Jesus loves me this I know,
for the Shadow Klan tells me so.

The music itself was a bunch of sci-fi inspired backing tracks with what I assume was rapping over them.  I say assume because we couldn't understand a damn word the guy was saying.  I don't know if it was the car noise mixed with the guy's low voice, that he wasn't projecting or enunciating enough, or the voice not being mixed properly in the track, but it all sounded like incoherent mumbling to us.
Still, I'm going to try getting this guy's music to play during the breaks on Adult Swim.  It would fit right in.

Unreal got to his flight, I got to driving home, and switched to Initial D music so I'd get home just a little faster.

Let the countdown to next year begin!

Monday, October 31, 2011

My Show at NerdPow! 2011

-Wow, I have the stage presence of a sheet of cardboard.
-I screwed up a lot.
-I'm amazed there was any audience at all.
-Can say that I was the only act to perform a jazz song that entire weekend.
-Quote of the Night: "Your puddi scared me."

Unrelated to the video above, apparently someone got one of my CDs and played it for some of the other artists.  As a result, I wound up giving out all but about five of them, amazing considering I brought about fifteen "just in case."

Overall, not a bad weekend.  No idea if I'll do this again, though.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

SC On Alan Wake (360)

And that's when the chuds came after me...

You ever have one of those games that you intentionally avoid for a long time so you aren't influenced by what the media and their parrot-like followers say about it when you finally play it?  Welcome to Alan Wake!

The game centers on famous writer Alan Wake, who is suffering from a two-year long case of writer's block.  His wife Alice takes him on vacation to Bright Falls, Maine to try and get him past it only for a strange dark presence to kidnap her when he steps out of the cabin they stay in.  Alan's first attempts to rescue her lead to confusion about where he is and what's going on as the locals don't know what he's talking about.  He also discovers several pages lying around of a manuscript he doesn't remember writing which details events that have happened or will happen as the game progresses, as well as the thoughts and motives of the people around him, indicating that his story is coming to life as he tries to find a way to get himself and his wife out of it.

So to recap, the game is about a writer (red flag) who travels to a small town in Maine (red flag!) and is met with a long-dormant supernatural force (RED FLAG!) that has been ingrained into the town to the point where the locals largely don't realize it's there or write it off as an old wives' tale (RED FLAG!!!) which kidnaps his wife. (RED FUCKING FLAG!!!)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Stephen King: The Video Game!

The only things missing are a cemetery for pets and Tim Curry.

 The bulk of the game is spent running around Bright Falls, usually through the woods, in the dark.  Thankfully there are enough stops either in town or at construction sites/farms/gas stations/other places to break up the potential monotony.  During this time various townspeople warped and possessed by the darkness called Taken attack Alan in ways similar to, but more threatening than the villagers from Resident Evil 4, because even though they have similar weapons like axes, sickles, sledgehammers and chainsaws:

1. Taken exercise group tactics more effectively.  Attacking a couple Taken in front of Alan only to get blindsided by another one is fairly common.
2. Taken are much, much faster.  If Alan tries to run away, not only will he get tired before getting away from them, they can chase him down at a full sprint anyway.  Some of the smaller ones can even turn into Predator-like blurs and dart around the screen almost at random.

These enemies are complimented by several poltergeist items, which hover and fling themselves at Alan and range in size from trash cans to bulldozers, to several reoccurring murders of crows (Hitchcock much?).  When all of this is combined with the swirling darkness that occasionally envelopes the town at night, making it difficult to do anything but hear approaching Taken, it can be a little unnerving at times to play.

There is however one thing far more frightening than the enemies Alan faces in the game:

His wife's smile.

Why didn't Alan write a story about his wife's creepy smile?

I have to think that this was some kind of accident, or different people directed the art for every scene she was in, because Alice smiles way too goddamn much.  In fact, it was only in searching for the image above that I was able to remember a time I didn't see her smile.

But there's another level of creepy on top of that thanks to the facial animations.  Simply put, they are sporadically Muppet-like and will go out of sync at random.  That and when people smile while talking in this game, 95% of the time their upper lip doesn't move.  This becomes unintentionally creepy to watch, and unintentionally funny when Alan is screaming something as I hear him yell "ALIIIIIICE" but it looks like he's saying "HAW HAAAAAW!"

This is the picture I got when searching "Alan Wake HAW HAW."  I won't question it.

The idea is to run from light source to light source (usually generator-powered lamps) during the night, fighting through areas blanketed in darkness to recover Alan's manuscript and find a way to end the story so that he and his wife escape.  Despite the usually wooded environment, I almost never got lost because of the "radar" in the upper left.  Taken and other enemies are defeated by being doused in light to penetrate the shadows around them, then taking them out with one of a limited amount of guns: a revolver, shotgun, hunting rifle or flare gun, as well as flares and flash bangs.

Hey, I'm not complaining about the weapon variety.  Rocket launchers are pulse rifles wouldn't exactly fit.

Besides, the light ends up being more important most of the time.  Alan gets several different flashlights from standard store-bought ones to heavy-duty lanterns, all of which can have their light focused on Taken to not only drain their shadows faster but also stun and/or slow them down, allowing him to bolt for the next checkpoint/light source and save ammo.  This drains the battery pretty fast, but there are batteries (at least on Normal) laying everywhere from the cafe at the beginning of the game to the blatant product placement down the road.  As a result there's not much of a challenge unless you go to the highest difficulty.

Verizon: We never stop working for you, even when your town is being consumed by evil.

 Combat is generally fast-paced and requires the player to be able to dodge attacks and constantly be aware of the surrounding area, as Taken will climb down from rooftops or appear from the shadows. This, however, is usually preceded by an orchestra sting and a slow-motion shot of the enemy approaching Alan, usually giving just enough time to spin around, hit it with the light and put it down.

Good thing they do this, too, otherwise I'd get really tired of being ninja'd every two minutes.

Control-wise there isn't much to complain about, even in the driving sequences almost entirely on dirt roads.  Like most of the Silent Hill games the idea was to have an average person thrust into this largely-dark world and largely that feel is there.  Alan is not very athletic as he can't sprint very long and his dodging, while effective, is also clumsy-looking.  There's no crosshair or laser sight for aiming (unless you use the flashlight with it.  Holy crap, a game that finally does that!) so his shots aren't always on-target.

Nor does it seem to matter, as I didn't notice headshots or limb shots doing any more/less/specific damage.  Whatever, I don't expect beings composed of darkness  to function by the same logic as a typical FPS.

And no, aiming down the sights wouldn't help this game.

You know who you are.

For a game about a writer getting lost in one of his stories, though, the dialogue is unusually poorly written at times, to the point where I thought it might fit better in the original Resident Evil.  See, one of the oldest (and most frequently broken rules) in writing is the old "Show, Don't Tell" rule.  Breaking this rule in a video game cutscene basically means you're explaining things that we just saw happen.  It's ham-fisted, unnecessary, and to a degree insulting to the player.

Alan does this all the goddamn time.  And God help you if there's a movie reference in a cutscene, because it tends to go like this:
(actual example from the game)
*Taken with an axe attacks a door Alan just went through.  Camera angle is almost exactly like the one scene in The Shining*
Me: Oh hey, that's just like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
Alan: blah blah blah Jack Nicholson in The Shining blah blah escape.

In fact, let's pretend for a moment that every obvious allusion to something is one punch to the face.

Alan's name can be abbreviated A. Wake.  Best attempt at subtlety since Other M. *punch*
This game themed around light -vs- darkness takes place in a town called Bright Falls. *punch*
Alan's wife, who is taken by the darkness which she has a crippling fear of, is named Alice.  Wonderland aside, they're both named A. Wake! *punch*
One of the antagonists is an FBI agent named Robert Nightingale.  Sorry, let me retype that:  Robert Nightingale. *punch*
Several times Alan needs to turn on generators or restore power to places to get the lights on.  Did I mention one of the other protagonists is the town's sheriff, Sarah Breaker? *punch*

For the sake of brevity I'll stop there, but it can become grating rather quickly.  Or maybe it's because I'm an English major?


Aside from those mentioned earlier, the game also references things like H.P. Lovecraft (directly by name), The Twilight Zone (a TV show and easter egg game called Night Springs), Twin Peaks (see: everything), and perhaps unintentionally, other survival-horror games such as Deadly Premonition (similar characters, some enemies reminiscent of the Raincoat Killer), Silent Hill (can't say without spoiling parts of the game), and Resident Evil.  I mean, what else am I supposed to think when it turns out one of the supporting characters, Alan's agent, is a protective guy in a red jacket who helps Alan in various ways named Barry?

WHAT?!  What is this?

In terms of replay value, the game tries to add elements that can only be found either through obsessive exploration or multiple playthroughs.  There are collectibles like coffee thermoses scattered all over town, as well as radio broadcasts to listen to, the aforementioned TV show to watch, boxes of flares and other supplies to find, and beer can pyramids to knock over (seriously).

And yes you whores, there are achievements tied to all of these.

There are also some manuscript pages that can only be found by playing on Nightmare mode, so a second play is necessary to see everything in the game.  In addition there are a couple DLC chapters, but my problem with them is that, just like the game's ending (which I won't spoil), it seems blatantly set up as sequel bait.  Say what you want about Stephen King shelling out books at the rate he does/did, at least he knows when a story should end!

 I'm not good with this thing called subtlety.

In fairness though, the developers have said in interviews that the game's story was "bigger than one game" and there would be a follow-up to Alan Wake, beyond the aforementioned DLC.  Given the open-ended conclusion, this surprises me very little.

Still, I'd be lying if I said I didn't like this game.  It's by no means bad, it's just lacking in some areas that, given the subject matter and the main character, seem like they should be better than they are.  If they ever do create a follow-up that isn't only on X-Box Live Arcade (I don't have X-Box Live) I'll most likely check it out.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mail Time!: The Return

Not trying to go Phoenix Wright or anything, but this was the letter I got back from Nintendo:

Nothing to see here... right?

It's the same letter that everyone who sent something to Nintendo asking about any of Operation Rainfall's big three titles (and even some people who never mentioned the games) have gotten.   Nothing is unusual about the message itself, as it's the usual ambiguous PR talk that no one likes to say or hear.

Look closer, though.  At the bottom of the letter is some faded discoloration which, upon closer inspection, is the same message from the middle section of the letter upside-down and backwards.  Then I checked the inside of the envelope and found the letterhead had rubbed off on the inside of it:

I think part of it says "odnetniN"

Obviously the ink on the letter wasn't even dry when the letter was sent out.  That leads to several assumptions, not all of which may be true:

1. Nintendo's customer service has a very specific, streamlined way for dealing with this particular message.
2. This arrived a week after my letter was sent, which considering I'm in Ohio and it was mailed to Washington means it would have taken about three days to arrive.  The method is so efficient time-wise that letters go straight from the printer to the envelope,and this needs to be the case because, possibly,
3. They're getting a lot of messages like this.

 What I imagine the consumer service reps look like after
a few thousand letters.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mail Time!

Dear Reggie,

As a Nintendo fan since my parents first got my brother and me a Nintendo Entertainment System, as well as an owner of every Nintendo home console, including a Virtual Boy, I implore you to localize Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora's Tower.

Please take my money,

Hope this finds you well, Reggie!

Operation Rainfall

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SC On Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii)

This is yet another game I wound up trying because someone in a Skype call mentioned it.  Where oh where do I begin with this one?

Sure, why not?

The game revolves around a post-apocalyptic world in which most of humanity has disappeared and the world as we knew it has fallen into desolation and disrepair... except for some kid voiced by the green ranger (no joke).  After a short and somewhat eerie monologue about burying his dead grandpa in front of the house, he sets out to find anyone else who might still be alive.

Right off the bat it's apparent that basic movement tends to be sketchy.  It's the simple enough scheme of move with the stick and point with the Wiimote where you want to face for turning, but with the third-person perspective it means:

A. You can end up pointing the flashlight behind Seto, suddenly stopping him,
B. At times the detection of each turn for some reason causes Seto's character model to briefly (and I mean split-second briefly) glitch and end up staring back at you while leaning to the side Smooth Criminal style,
C. Navigating narrow pathways (which you'll have in several underground/ruined locations) becomes harder than it needs to be.

This sequence?  With Fragile Dreams' controls?  That'll replace the whale in me nightmares.

Combat also tends to be a bit off at times as the majority of it involves Seto swinging things like sticks, bamboo swords, pipes, butterfly nets (yes really), staffs, and other melee weapons at various ghostly enemies like dogs, jellyfish (?), crows, and later on robots.  Thanks to the viewpoint most of combat is spent aiming off to either side of Seto to try and judge distance and, you know, be able to see what you're trying to hit.

This and movement still functionally work, especially with ranged weapons, but both tend to fall into the "could be better" category.

Killing said enemies gains experience for leveling, thereby becoming stronger and getting a larger health bar (always good), and yields "mystery items" which are usually health items or things that can be sold for money to the randomly-appearing chicken man with a stroller.

No, really.

Back away slowly...

This is done at small fire barrels that are found all over the land which completely refill Seto's health, keep away enemies, and reveal what any and all mystery items are, assuming he can Tetris them into his backpack-which-is-actually-dangling-in-front-of-him-for-some-reason.  Why can't Seto figure out what they are when he picks them up considering he has a goddamn flashlight he can use to see what it is?

Oh look, a minor inconsistency!

The aforementioned merchant is a bit creepy at first, but once you realize that (A) he will buy all the otherwise useless shit you pick up, including buying certain mystery items (read: gems) the moment Seto sits in front of a fire whether he's there or not, and (B) he's voiced by Kakashi, he just becomes a goofy-sounding money flow.  Of course, that's assuming you didn't change the voices to Japanese because you want to have Johnny Yong Bosch's voice rattling in your head endlessly while playing the game for the Internets.

Got some rare things on sale, stranger!

Seto meets all kinds of different characters along his journey, including several ghosts of deceased people, a talking computer, a robot, an old woman, and others.  Most of them tend to come and go (read: "die" in some fashion) and at times it is a bit emotional.  Not to me since I'm only programmed to express emotion six times daily, but when their scenarios play out in environments littered with several drawings, mementos, and last wishes of the people who lived there, combined with a piano-heavy beautifully-composed score of music, coupled with the constant themes of loneliness, death, and the search for companionship, this experience became the main reason I played the game to completion instead of tossing it aside at the halfway point.

The dialogue however tends to range from unintentionally creepy, to unintentionally funny, to unnecessarily wordy.  The latter is particularly true for the Personal Frame character, a backpack-style computer which goes so far into detail it- you know what?  Here's a conversation from the game between the frame and Seto.  I am directly copying this word-for-word:

(after finding a key)
Seto: Whoa!  Is this what I think it is?
PF: It is a key.  After analysis, I can report that there is a 75% chance that it is the key to the turnstile shutter.
Seto: Great!  Then that means we can open the shutter now!
PF: Wait.  Please hold on.  At a probability of 75%, that means there is a 25% risk that it will not open it for us.
Seto: I'm sure it'll work.  I mean, 75% is way more than 25%.
PF: I suppose that is a valid statement.  Yes, it might work.  Indeed.  A 75% probability.
Seto: Yeah.  We'll be fine!
PF: Yes!  We will be fine!

After hearing various forms of this same conversation over and over, or hearing the Personal Frame continually state the obvious and/or what a tutorial window has already explained, and not even getting past the first section of the game, this becomes grating.  Fast.

I don't have your dividend resulting in a 
remainder of two, and FUCK YOU ANYWAY!

If there's one sticking point for me in the rest of the game, it would be the ending.  I won't spoil it directly, but I am going to mention specific themes.  Skip the next paragraph to avoid them.

You essentially beat the final boss, (Yes, there are bosses.  I probably should have mentioned that earlier) find something you were looking for almost the whole game, are given a severe downer of a monologue from the future, then the ending continues as it was.  The game all but says, 'You won the prize, but in the end the prize will be gone.  Then you'll be right back where you started.'  While I get how that applies to real life and don't expect the happiest of happy endings for a game like this, it is a bit of a buzzkill.

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon.  I'd say I've played better JRPGs, but that would be one hell of a cop out excuse to not play this.  You should at least try it if you're an RPG fan, especially if you're looking for one on the Wii.  And no, I'm not just saying that because there's a storm cell brewing near Nintendo of America with an unknown amount of rainfall imminent.

No, I'm not making an Operation Rainfall reference.  I just checked the  five-day forecast for Redmond, Washington and it says there's a chance of rain next Monday.  Really.

I'm just saiyan...