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)
So I started to wonder if I should send back a letter of thank you to the publisher. If it had been a straight-up rejection letter, I wouldn't have. But the fact that they included comments and asked me to re-submit it once revised, so I'm wondering if I should send a letter of thanks.

I'm lost when it comes to the etiquette of these things.

I've been working on an outline all week. I really need outlines, because otherwise I tend to lose the thread of what I'm trying to say. A lot of the criticism came down to the lack of focus, and it's true - day in and day out of writing, I tend to lose the thread of one idea and go down random paths. I'm doing a preliminary outline, and then a more structured one in a short time. That should keep me on topic.

In the meantime, Final Fantasy XIII is keeping the writer's block at bay. It's an excellent game overall, but even if it weren't, it would be impossible to hate a video game where you can make magical spears, boomerangs, fishing poles, and weaponized jacket decals more magical by slathering them in alien mucous, attaching fossilized bones, and stuffing the whole mess into a hand-held, one-use, disposable particle generator set, apparently, to "fricasee."

I'm not sure the weapons are so much "magical" as they are "radioactive."
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
It's been a chaotic week, so I've had no chance to post since our Yule party, and we had a pretty good turnout.

[livejournal.com profile] rougemacabre got me a game called Martian Fluxx, which is very strange and a lot of fun. From [livejournal.com profile] montrealais I got some excellent books, as well as some decent clothes. [livejournal.com profile] jenjoou got me Mass Effect, which I've heard great things about and I'm looking forward to as soon as I've got a new motherboard for my desktop computer. [livejournal.com profile] maidenofirisa got me a Shin Megami Tensei game, which is the series I've been playing now, and really enjoying. And [livejournal.com profile] archdiva brought his stories, which are always a wonderful gift. Thank you to all ^_^

I was going to review Shadow Hearts: Covenant in this space, but I've got to call a taxi in five minutes to make my flight to Victoria. Maybe next time. But to the Montreal crowd, I hope you have a good holiday, and we have to get together when after I get home - January 3rd this time. See you soon!
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I'm playing Phoenix Wright again, and I'm wondering if in the entire history of modern law enforcement, has there ever really been one of those Sherlock Holmes/Perry Mason/Phoenix Wright-style murders...?

You know the ones - where some genius murderer creates an absurdly elaborate plot to pin the murder on someone else with disguises, fake planted evidence, and fake scenes staged to fool innocent bystanders into thinking they saw the dupe kill the victim?

I've heard of murderers using gloves, and police faking evidence when they were sure they had the guilty party, and things like that, but never the real mastermind murder that's been with us in fiction since Sherlock Holmes.

I tried googling and came up with nothing but movies, TV shows, novels, and video games. I'm just curious because it happens constantly in fiction, but I've never once heard of a real-life case, and I wonder if anyone ever really did try it and got caught.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I really have to send off my short story and poetry on Wednesday - Thursday at the latest - for the CBC literary awards. The short story needs a lot of work especially, though the poetry's almost ready to go.

And I'm still working on all the material that has to accompany my novel to the publisher.

So naturally my brain shuts off tonight, and I'm internet-surfing. And not even useful, good stuff like answering e-mail, or reading well-thought-out blogs and articles.

Tonight's interesting fact: the makers of the Silent Hill horror franchise are not only returning to psychological horror, they claim their new game builds a psychological profile of you and adjusts the story and characters accordingly, presumably for maximum horror.

(Frightening and not-worksafe trailer here.)

I'll believe it when I see it. But if they do pull it off, it'll be the scariest in the series, if for no other reason than that it'll mean something as low-tech as the PS2 can understand a human being and react accordingly. This is Turing test material right here.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I'm not dead, and I did make it back safely from the Wet Coast. I've had very little internetting time, though, and what I've had I've used to go back through my friends-list and read. I wanted to read everything I missed, but LJ only lets you go back 480 posts.

(I'm beginning to think I should maybe re-think my policy of not posting until I'm up-to-date on friends' posts. But it just seems attention-whorish to post but never read.)

The trip was good. I got to see a lot of [livejournal.com profile] node357, though not as much as I would've liked. I also finally got to see my sister and [livejournal.com profile] infinitecomplex. They've got a lovely new home, all windows with a sundeck that gives a beautiful view of Vancouver's mountains.

We also saw Stanley Park, which was much more wild and primal that I'd remembered it. I got to thinking of it like Montreal's parks, where the trees are so small and feel so tame by comparison. I'll have to re-write some scenes in my novel.

Last week was stressful, for reasons I'd rather not get into on LJ. This week has been calm so far, so I've caught up on my editing -- four-fifths finished version six so far -- and let myself finish Persona 4. But I'll post more about that some other time.
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)
So I was listening to an interview from last week on a show called Spark -- CBC Radio's internet-culture and new technology program.

And they had this man named Tom Armitage on it talking about how the next generation of world leaders will all have been raised on video games, and speculating on what video games might have taught these future leaders. The tone was very optimistic.

As a life-long gamer myself, I thought I'd compile a list of things future prime ministers and presidents and chancellors might have learnt from video games that might be applicable to the world situation. To wit:

  • The only defence necessary is a three-foot wall around your country. No one can jump over that.
  • Ammunition is a useless expense. Even if your guns aren't the kind with infinite bullets, clips and rounds can be found scattered about the landscape.
  • The best training for new soldiers is massacring rabbits.
  • All outposts and research centres must be designed as a series of barely-jumpable platforms interspersed with occasional treasure chests, and sometimes chicken legs concealed in the bricks of the walls.
  • Wars aren't won by armies, only by small ragtag troupes of two to eight members who each have their own distinctive skill set, uniforms, and hair style.

Health Care
  • It's not necessary to set residency spaces or hire doctors. By the mere act of picking up a medical kit, anyone can instantly heal the most grievous bullet wounds.
  • Death is a minor inconvenience.
  • All hospitals will eventually become battlefields, or haunted by zombie nurses wielding lead pipes. In other words, don't build any.

  • If a species is made extinct by overhunting, it's only necessary to zone out two screens away for them to re-spawn.
  • If the land is becoming desert and the water turning poisonous, it's merely necessary to find the four crystals and drive out the fiends.

  • Homosexuals only exist in Japan, or among space aliens. If from Japan, they are probably vampires.
  • In nomadic tribes, military troupes, and even whole cities, it is very common to only find one woman. All the women are in the lost amazon tribe.
  • It is unnecessary to ever perform more than one survey or census. People just keep saying the same thing over and over again. It is often "Welcome to Corneria."

Political Systems and Elections
  • When on the campaign trail, remember -- eating the mushrooms makes you tall, and eating the leaf means you can fly. Wearing a teddy bear costume makes you immune to all harm. Actually, this all probably only applies to politics in British Columbia.
  • There are no bad monarchs except usurpers. Anyone in a direct line of royal blood is pure-hearted and excellent in battle, and have special swords that only they can use. Elected officials, by contrast, are corrupt.
  • That said, there's no point in actually having a monarchy, constitutional or otherwise. When the time comes to get royal assent on any legislation, no matter how hard you look for her your princess is in another castle.

Feel free to add your own.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I'm bored and unable to focus on editing, which means being unable to focus on anything else since my attention span collapses on any day I haven't worked on my writing.

video games, art, and Mideast war )

Meanwhile, for the anime group -- [livejournal.com profile] jenjoou and I were talking about getting together either Tuesday or the weekend of next week. Would that work for everyone?
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

Like the rest of the 62% majority who voted to the left of Harper last election, I'm very much hoping for the coalition. Harper seemed genuinely shocked that his attempt to kill off the other parties by destroying their funding has provoked a passionate reaction.

This is a great time to be an NDPer. I'm really hoping that parliament doesn't get prorogued. And in this most anti-Harper city of Canada, I keep catching that rarest of creatures, the cheery conversation about politics. Whether Liberal, NDP, or Blocquiste, those who follow federal politics in this city are almost giddy.

I feel sorry for Michaëlle Jean. I figure that governors general are like retired superheroes -- they likely don't think about their special powers, and then they only hope never to have to use them.

Video Games

The excitement didn't keep me from finishing Shadow Hearts, yesterday. This is a game made by the small company Sacnoth, founded by alumni from the Final Fantasy franchise. Someone told me they thought the Final Fantasy series was too repetitive, and felt it needed something else.

Apparently that something else included 13th-century English scientist Roger Bacon and his pet imp, wild historical inaccuracies, daughters of married Catholic priests, gay acupuncturists with very little professionalism, gods of death, anatomically correct monsters, anatomically very incorrect monsters (how does that thing stand?), pretty vampires, steampunk treadmill-operated teleporters, and space-alien gods.

It is a very fun game, with some highly original elements, and well worth the playing. It's incredibly campy, but when your Dickensian orphan is taking down an space god in orbit with his slingshot, you're too distracted to notice how strange the game is. Very absorbing.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've been getting a lot done -- with my writing and other things. I've got a rough draft of the short story I'm sending out next week already put together, and now begins a rigorous editing process.

It's a good thing real life has been going well, because my entertainment has taken a turn for the disturbing. See, I don't like to switch novels or switch video games when I'm in the middle of one, and I made the mistake of reading Oryx and Crake at the same time as playing the horror game Silent hill 4.

Oryx and Crake really is the most frightening kind of "what if" -- not the "what if the bomb is dropped?" or "what if we opened a portal to another dimension," but just "what if we simply just keep doing what we're doing." At first it seemed pretty lacklustre, but now it's become pure Atwood, and I have to keep stopping to digest the more brutal passages before I move on to the next.

She's brilliant though. I'd like to splice her vision and psychological understanding with Heather O'Neill's style. The resulting writer would be able to re-write all of creation with her words.

And Silent Hill 4 is most disturbing of the series of that series of video games. Not because of walls that bleed angry spirits, or the post-apocalyptic empty urban landscapes, or the undefined fleshy things that slither through those landscapes. It's because the only place of safety in it is a locked, sentient room which gradually becomes more and more hostile to you the more the game progresses -- its air becomes toxic, and the room decays, and the atmosphere itself injures you.

The idea of having no place of safety, and no home to return to, is scarier to me than all the gore-encrusted prisons and hospitals that are a mainstay of the series. I honestly don't know if I can finish this game.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I finished Psychonauts today. Brilliant game, and very much deserving of its reputation -- or its reputation among the few people who've played it.

Poor Tim Schafer. He writes brilliant, funny, intelligent games that everyone likes, but no one hears about them because he doesn't have the serious marketing machine the big game companies have. He broke away from LucasArts to have some creative control, and even in his LucasArt days he was churning out wonderful little creations that no one would ever hear about.

Psychonauts is art -- not high art, because comedy needs a good two centuries of respectability behind it before anyone will dare classify it as such -- but art nonetheless. I'm putting it with Final Fantasy VII, Planescape: Torment, and Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri as proof that video games can be (in the words of indy Canadian programmer Denis Dyack) the "eighth art."

But only if it chooses to be. And if people support the good ones when they come out, and not just the overhyped games.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I'm struggling with a particularly delicate part of the massive edit, and so I'm sort f mired down at about 70% of the way through. This might take awhile -- I'll probably be hammering out the same four pages repeatedly over a period of several days. They are newer work, so I expected they'd take longer, and it's hard to get the tone and dialogue precise.

In between these works, I've mostly been playing Psychonauts. For those who haven't heard of it, it's about a kid at a boot camp for psychic soldiers who can project themselves into other people's minds. It takes place mostly in the deep subconsciouses of some pretty eccentric characters.

The game is hilarious -- instead of the usual adventure-game treasure chests, you're sorting through emotional baggage. You power up with positive mental health, fend off inner censors who try to suppress you, and battle other people's personal demons. Every once in a while, you get a look at their embarrassing dark secrets or buried memories. The dialogue is flawless.

A small taste from early on in the game (although I happen to like Tiffany lamps):

felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I just thought I'd pop in to wish a Happy Lughnassadh to all those who observe it ^_^

I'm very slowly getting caught up on LJ again. Mostly I've been wrapped up in writing, in work, in Timothy Findley. I tried Psychonauts today -- I saw it at [livejournal.com profile] node357's -- and it deserves its reputation.

Er, yes -- how about ancient Roman Graffiti from the city of volcano-buried Pompeii.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've been violently ill for most of the past couple of days. Today, I'm propped up at work thanks to the power of Dimetapp.

On the other hand, being on the verge of delirious does mean a lot of the teachers' paperwork almost makes sense.

I never got a chance to thank everyone here for coming to my party, and for the wonderful gifts -- mostly books and manga, and none of it I've read. Also, décor -- "lj user="matt_mcl"> got me a gorgeous stained-glass window display, and [livejournal.com profile] em_fish a lovely stauette.

There is also Star Ocean, though I am not sure yet if I should thank [livejournal.com profile] maidenofirisa and [livejournal.com profile] rougemacabre for such a dangerously addictive game ^_^
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So, to clarify, I think as usual the party will be kind of a drop-in, since afternoon is better for some, and evening for others. I was thinking about opening the doors around one in the afternoon on Sunday ^_^

I've been offline for the better of three days, the beginning of my usual internet detox period. If anything crucial has been happening, I apologize for not noticing.

Writing progresses. I'm trying to hold myself back to two pages a day -- that is, re-writing two, then editing them two to four times before progressing. This is the best way to ensure I don't force passages that shouldn't be rushed. It seems to be working -- my improvement in some areas is much greater than it usually is.

It also means I'll be able to integrate suggestions from my editors before I get too far in.

In the meantime -- with all the extra time that normally goes to writing and internet -- I'm reading Beowulf and trying to muddle through the Anglo-Saxon without cheating by looking at Seamus Heaney's translation.

I find that by drawing on archaic English vocabulary, my intermediate (and very rusty) German, and knowledge of the runes, I can sometimes get the gist of a sentence. I've also been able to figure out some words from context, like ymb (around) and ellen (force or power).

I'm also about halfway through the poaching sidequest in Final Fantasy Tactics, which has made my characters too powerful for any of the story-battles to last more than a minute.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I was an absolute zombie yesterday -- I wasn't feeling well, and lack of sleep finally caught up to me. I slept for about 14 hours. I can't remember the last time I did that.

Today I've been taking it easy -- a lot of writing, some reading, but little else.

Replaying Final Fantasy Tactics again. The poaching sidequest is one of those aspects of their pop culture that has me wondering about the Japanese.

I mean, it starts off normally enough -- the object is to collect and breed creatures that fight for you. Fair enough -- seems to be an attempt to jump on the Pokémon bandwagon.

But then they have you flay your creatures alive and trade their pelts for items. This is particularly disturbing, as several of the species are clearly sentient. Both the goblins and piscodaemons wear clothes, for instance, when you find them in the wild.

On the scale of disturbing Japanese pop culture, I think that one has to be high.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I'll have a more serious update some time this weekend. I first wanted to wish happy Ostara/Equinox to everyone who celebrates it ^_^

This week, I went to Toronto overnight, and pored over old trial records. Nothing much was there -- these were ordinary people, their crimes uncontroversial, and they were dispensed with quickly.

Still, I got some information that can help reconstruct the circumstances: names of witnesses, for example, which help create a sense of the context of the crime. It's enough that I can probably say what what happened in two of the trials.

While I was going to Toronto to look up these very serious and real trials, I spent much of the train-ride playing the very strange courtroom-drama game, Phoenix Wright 4 (or, I guess, technically Ace Attorney 4).

Spoiler-laden review follows -- don't read if you intend to play this game )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Yesterday not only broke the record for snowfall in Montreal on December 3, it actually doubled the record. It's a blizzard out there, and quite beautiful ^_^

I've spent these past couple of days quietly indoors for the most part, though I have been out in it a few times. I've been working on more poetry, and a fourth short story (after re-writing my first).

I also beat Dirge of Cerberus, which is -- well, not the most homoerotic video game out there, but makes the top ten thanks to a single scene after the second-to-last battle. Someone should probably have told Squaresoft the slashiness in those shooting games was supposed to stay subtext. Everybody's supposed to pretend that the big men pumping their big guns isn't supposed to have any hidden meaning.

I wonder if that's part of why the game got such bad reviews? Their target audience they were aiming for out here is mostly straight, male, and nervous, after all.


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