felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Among the things on my to-review pile is that latest entry of that exemplar of the Japanese RPG, Final Fantasy XIII.

This is my favourite series, as those who know me well know. I have four major life goals, to which I added a fifth (only half-jokingly) playing every Final Fantasy. I've since amended that to every Final Fantasy in the main, numbered series, after the flowchart of Final Fantasy only became expressible through a fractal equation.

Review continues - moderate spoilers, though no huge ones )

So yeah. Looking over the balance, the good is all character development, story, and theme, and the bad is mostly gameplay and localization. Since I play these games for the stories, I'm definitely recommending it, but there's no reason we shouldn't be able have both. I'd like to see what FF13's cast and writers could do with the programmers and translators of FF12. That would be wonderful.

I've been mostly without video games lately, due to computer failure. Though I did get to try the Scott Pilgrim game last Saturday - which even has a Super Mario-ified version of Toronto for its overhead map. And I got to guide the ever-wonderful [livejournal.com profile] em_fish through her final battle with a dragon-god last Saturday, which is always a lovely way to spend a weekend ^_^
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So in my continuing series of reviews, I thought I'd tackle Bioshock, the anti-Ayn-Rand video game.

The short review: brilliant. I mean, I would've played anything that allows me throw lightning bolts and bees at well-dressed Objectivists. But it also had a brilliant story, and (dare I say it for a game?) cinematography. It has a very Orson Welles feel to it. An anti-Atlas Shrugged meets Citizen Kane, 20,000 leagues under the sea.

Review continues, with mild spoilers only. )

So, yeah - nearly perfect. I'm looking forward to the sequel. I hope the anti-Objectivist stuff continues, though I've barred friends from spoiling it for me. So who knows? Maybe the archvillain will be Alan Greenspan? He did his part in crashing the world economy with Ayn Rand as his co-pilot, so if anyone deserves to be covered in psychically-generated bees, 'twould be him.

On a completely note, here's the best use of stop-animation ever - the last 14 billion years, summarized. Ray Harryhausen, eat your heart out. This must've taken a decade to produce:

felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've been wanting to review the game Dragon Age: Origins for awhile, now. It deserves a review. Every time I start, though, it gets too long. I've pared it down here, and it's still long.

Overall - no spoilers )

Still, there are a few elements dear to my heart that deserve a closer look. The review is long - really an essay - and very spoilerful under the cut. Don't read it if you're planning on playing but haven't beaten it yet.

The Bad, the Good, and the Strange - Homosexuality, Wicca, and Canada in Dragon Age )

As I said, almost an essay. Sorry about that, but the game hit a lot of nerves, both good and bad.

And unlike the novels I read and review, it's safe to say very few people are looking at games that closely. Which is a shame, because there are more and more games out there deserving of a closer look.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Happy Christmas to those who celebrate it, and a belated Io, Saurnalia to those who don't. It's also my fourteenth year of being a Montrealer - I arrived on Christmas Day, 1995.

This is the first year that Yule has felt bigger than Christmas. I've been Pagan more than fourteen years now, too, but it takes a long time for a new set of traditions to become visceral, if that makes any sense. The last two years, I've held rits here when everyone is asleep. I don't know a single other Pagan in Victoria, though I know the community is huge, here.

I've been visiting Sean almost every day. He and his brother have a huge collection of games. One that's really captivating is Mirror's Edge, particularly if you like the Cyberpunk aesthetic - you play a courier running information for democratic dissidents over the rooftops of a shiny corporatist dystopia. I get a little vertigo watching that game, though.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Breaking radio silence again here. I've been completely wiped out lately, because all the extra work hours - I did eight days out of nine, ending Friday, and collapsing asleep most nights. The last two days I was scarcely online.

I did visit [livejournal.com profile] jenjoou, but mostly I've been in bed sleeping, working on a draft for the CBC Literary Awards, and occasionally playing The Sims 2 for PS2. I beat that game.

(I can understand the appeal of the game - it strikes just the right balance between realism and wish fulfilment. Beautiful people you can dress like dolls, in beautiful houses you can renovate for cheap so long as they are not actually on fire.

I also like how the grim reaper can be bribed - he gets really excited over receiving $100 earth dollars* - as a system for getting your Sims back to life. But it's also depressing how quickly your friends forget you in that game. I mean, a few days away, and they forget who you are.)

Today, I'm going to finish a draft for my short story for the awards. Then I'm going to pull out my usable poetry and see what I can refurbish for the said contest. I'm determined to enter two categories this year. If nothing else, it'll increase my chances.

*Bonus internet points for those who get the reference
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
It's summer, and construction is in the air. In particularly, there are places in northeastern Verdun where the roads look like they've been turned over to the Silent Hill urban planning committee -- every day, the possible path through the labyrinth of deep gulches changes, and only one road ever takes me where I need to go.

Speaking of Silent Hill, I finished the first game in the series this week. Good, and very scary, but still not quite up to the standards of the second game.

For those who don't know, Silent Hill is the scariest work of fiction in any medium. Each game, some ordinary person is trapped in an empty city in an unspecified part of New England, looking for some lost person. The town is semi-aware, and every once in awhile the hero/ine falls out of the world and into its twisted dreams.

Description of the series continues, not for the squeamish )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I promised a review of the Persona 4 game awhile ago, seeing as I'd just beat it. The only problem was that I hadn't. A long story, explained below.

For those who haven't played it, Persona 4 could best be described as a combination of Final Fantasy, Silent Hill, and The Sims. It's the story of a serial killer whose weapon of choice is the repressed emotions of their victims. The killer hurls his victims into a world inside the TV, where everything a person hates about themselves takes physical form and kills them on a reality TV show. And everybody's watching.

Review continues, with only minor spoilers )

I tend to focus on the negative in my reviews, but except for the points mentioned above, it's a very solid game, and yet another entry in the video-games-as-art tally.

That's a rapidly-growing category, but there's barely a word about that in mainstream media. In newspapers, TV, and radio, video games are portrayed the way novels were three hundred years ago -- anywhere from frivolous to a threat.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Happy Canada Day! It's been 142 years since Confederation, and depending on how you count, we could four hundred years old or longer. John Ralston Saul argues we're effectively thousands of years old, because our usual way of counting leaves out aboriginal peoples who contributed so much to this country.

But still we like to think of ourselves as a young nation, naive in everything we do and likely to fail at any time.

I've done very little lately, aside from writing and working and researching -- I've half-written another article for my historical website. This heat has made me feel sluggish.

I've also been playing a fair bit of the Persona series. The third was brilliant -- one of the best endings of any game -- and the fourth game is even better, and even stranger. For example, I just defeated a giant decaying teddy bear that kept quoting Postmodern philosophy and hurtling bolts of pure nihilism at me. I defeated it with game's patented Jungian psychology combat system.

Using Jung to beat Foucault -- I doubt John Ralston Saul has ever played a video game, but somehow I think he would have approved.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've worked overtime the last two weeks at my main job and my occasional moonlighting job, so I've been largely absent from the internet. I haven't even signed on to Facebook in a week.

Yesterday, I took a day to just relax. I worked on my second novel -- I'll be finished version one today, but at 50 pages (100 novel-sized pages) much too short, and there's a lot that can be expanded upon.

I also played Persona 3. I'm far from finished it, but some initial thoughts:

  • The main character is an emo kid who gains his powers by shooting himself in the head repeatedly. In other words, it's basically the band Franz Ferdinand done as a video game.

  • The combat system is based on Jungian psychoanalysis. Which is as surreal as it sounds, but it really works, and I'm just glad it's not based on Freudian psychoanalysis. I'm not sure what that would mean, though I imagine the swords and guns would be very big.

  • You build up your personae to fight the shadows through social interaction in daily life. This includes a friendship simulator that's a close cousin of the dating sims that are popular in Japan, but never make it out here. And it's good as far as it goes -- it seems to be teaching the younger portion of the audience how to be a supportive friend without encouraging your friends in self-destructive or outright stupid behaviour -- but I'm not sure I'd want kids taking away life lessons from a game in which you repeatedly shoot yourself in the head.

  • At night, the main character's school transforms into a nightmare tower that spews hellspawn and becomes the site of some truly horrific violence. In other words, a pretty standard high school experience, except for the "at night" part.

  • In many ways, it's a wonderful throwback to the old Sierra games, where conversation and intelligence -- rather than button-mashing -- determined victory. We rarely make games like that in North America now. I also appreciate the turn-based combat. It's an excellent game so far, and I'm really enjoying it.
Today I'm going to work on getting this apartment clean. I've been pretty lazy about it for the last few weeks, but seeing as I goofed off yesterday, I really have no excuse.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
It's been a quiet few days.

Writing progresses. This heavy edit is about 70% of the way through. I've heavily altered the tone. There's a couple of characterizations of secondary characters I'm not entirely sure about, and the dream sequences are always a sticking point, but I notice there haven't been any massive structural changes in the last two re-writes.

I don't think there will be any more full re-writes, just more edits.

Otherwise, I've been reading Drawing Down the Moon. I also finished the video game Okami, a strangely beautiful Japanese game in which the hero is the sun goddess Amaterasu, and the style of art is drawn from traditional illustrations of Japanese myth.

It's funny -- if a game like Okami were made here with Christ as its protagonist, or in the Muslim world with Mohammed, the studio's main offices would get bombed. In Japan, you can use Shinto's chief deity this way without fear.

And in spite of the game's many little irreverences and its playfulness, it proves to be very pious in its own way by the end -- an update of myths rather than a negation or parody of them.

Now I'm playing another game frequently mentioned on people's lists of video games that can be considered high art -- Shadow of the Colossus. And it is a sweet little jewel of a game, almost eerie in its unclutteredness, and more a lyric than narrative. It has a very Ursula LeGuin feel to it, and something of a dream, while being disturbingly realistic in all the ways that count. Here's the opening scene.

It's such a strange game, though. The RPG genre is usually so cluttered. This is an RPG with no levels or stats or menus or magic or lines of attack or random encounters or limit breaks or stores or money or treasure or towns. Just a teenage boy who can't do much of anything you can do, except maybe use a short sword passably well, and ride horseback. His only magic is a sword that points the way to things.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I finished Final Fantasy XII for a second time today. And I've come to the conclusion that it's the Star Trek: Voyager of the series. It's not as bad as Star Trek V -- that'd be Final Fantasy VIII. But it's not at the standards of the best in the series -- VII and IX, and VI and X.

review continues, riddled with soilers )

I think that's the longest review I've ever written for a game. But this series is close to my heart.

While playing all that, I haven't been slacking on my writing, or anything else. I'm nearly three-fifths through my novel, and have managed that while doing extra hours at work (we're badly short-staffed right now).


felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

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