I love Ivalice. At first I thought I loved the Ivalice games because I like tactical RPGs. While I do like them (woo, Fire Emblem!), only three of the five "Ivalice Alliance" games are tactical. No, it's the world I love. The lore, the legends, the in-jokes. The fact that every thing you touch in the game, from the bow your archer draws to the smallest scrap of metal, has a tale behind it. Ivalice is the most in-depth world Square-Enix has created. Spira comes close (and impressively does it in only two games), but Ivalice is just deep, man.
When the opportunity came to play yet another Ivalice game, I jumped at it...four years after the initial release. What? I'm busy. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2: Grimoire of the Rift is well worth my time. Essentially, they took almost everything that worked in the first two tactics games and added to that more great stuff. More races! More jobs! A job-leveling system that doesn't involve either grinding for dozens of hours or just focusing on five characters! A main character with a personality!
As much as I've come to appreciate Ramza's altruism and Marche's determination, the fact of the matter is they're pretty bland*
. Luso is a mouthy snarker, but not to the point that you want to smack him. He's altruist and determined as well, but he's never a jerk about it. Not that Ramza ever was. Marche on the other hand...
Unfortunately, while they inserted a personality into the protagonist, they forgot to tell a story. Well, there are tons of stories in the sidequests and they are awesome, but the main plot feels like the beginning on an old school Final Fantasy game where you just wander around and hope you have experiences. Actually, that's the literal plot: Luso can only return to his world if he has enough experiences to fill the titular book.
I think I'm about half done with the game and a story is forming, slowly. Honestly though, the stories in the sidequests are better. So far anyway.
One more, related compliant: it's seriously easy to overlevel in this game. There's one main quest early on that will slap you silly unless you get to a point that feels like overleveling, but if you prepare for every main quest like that you find that you really are too strong. In the earlier games, you could pick up some low level recruits to balance yourself out, but the recruits in A2 come in around the same level as everyone else. The game has a few tricks to keep some difficulty in the proceedings and keep things interesting, but I hate feeling like I either have to bang out the main mission or enjoy the side quests.
Short review here
I've yet to play to PSP version of Tactics. Maybe Ramza got better. Being voiced by Phil LaMarr can only help.
Nearly 51 weeks after I began it
, I finished Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. I didn't plan that, but I wish I had. Incidentally, this entry is going to have mild spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.
Because I don't want to meander and ramble all over the place here's my brief thoughts on a few aspects of the game.STORY
As per usual, the story is convoluted even for a Square-Enix game. The hero is a kinda sorta evil twin who has his own kinda sorta evil twin. That's not a riddle or a They Might Be Giants reference: that happens. Still, after 4 or so games the confusion is a feature, not a bug. Once you get your legs under you, you'll find a game that fits snuggly into the existing continuity with enough new stuff to warrant making a full game out of what could have been handled in a 5–10 minute cut scene.GAMEPLAY
Here's where this game excels. Okay, yes. The controls suffer from the decreased number of buttons on the DS vs a Playstation controller. Yes, if you need a spell or item you don't have shortcutted you're a little screwed. That said, they finally made another Kingdom Hearts were strategy matters.
In both KH2 and 358/2 you have to fight Saïx. In the former, you basically run in circles waiting for him to do something really stupid (if he never did the stupid thing, he'd literally be invincible). Then you press Y several times, then you wail on him for a bit. Lather, rinse, repeat. Don't get me wrong; it's a lot of fun and one of my favorite KH fights ever
, but "run around in circles and press Y" is basically what you do for every fight in 2.
Compare that with the 358/2 Days fight. You can pelt Saïx with magic from afar. You can block and counter
. You can out-berserker him
. It's however you want to play the game.
The big exception to this is the final battle where, you are forced to use a certain keyblade. I understand why for plot/theme reasons, but each keyblade attacks differently so you have to learn a new style while fighting the final boss. Still, it's nice to hear that familiar *tink* with each hit.MUSIC
The conversion from PS to DS is much better than the conversion from PS to SP. I would have loved to hear a revised version of "The 13th Dilemma" while fighting Saïx, but the remixed "Deep Drive" works. Another highlight is the remixed and extended "Another Side" which plays during the final fight
this game is a must play for old fans and junkies and a good pick for newbies.
One quick ramble before I go: as confusing as everything is Square-Enix has done a great job of making every Kingdom Hearts game accessible to newbies. No matter where you start, you'll have just the right amount of questions to answers to make you understand and want more.
So hey, I've been married for 10 days. Yeah, that happened. It felt like we were planning the damn thing for years (It was only a year). Everything worked out beautifully and it was a lot of fun. That said, no way in hell am I doing it again. ...You know what I mean!
Because I enjoy sharing such things
, here is the playlist of the music we played before the ceremony so our guests weren't just sitting there in silence. Incidentally, we choose "I Will" for our first dance. I wanted the Anthology version, but settled for the album as we only picked a DJ 2 weeks from the day of the reception and had other things to worry about.( 19 songs played before our weddingCollapse )
With a few cuts in Audacity those 19 songs came out to be about 59 minutes, so all we had to do was ask the sound guy to start it at 4 and we'd be ready to march at 5. I was very proud of myself. Of course, the guy didn't start the music until 4:04 and the wedding party wasn't ready until 5:20 so he had to loop it. *shrug* Weddings.
So I knew there would be lulls in posting when I switched over to the new format, but I wasn't expecting that. Sorry, life and stuff. Plus, I dropped Riley.Tos like a dumbass in January and was stuck using the reliable, but glacial Riley.Ace until Riley.Hew here popped up. But that's a story for another time (or never. It's not that interesting.). Let's talk comics. Next time will be the series that I'm loving, but let's dispatch with the bad first.Disappointing disappointments below( Disappointing disappointments belowCollapse )
Okay, my problem with Flashpoint
as a final send-off to the old DCU: Flashpoint took place in a completely different world which altered the classic characters completely. That would be like calling Watchmen the send-off for the Charleton Comics characters. They're completely different characters. And since Watchmen and Flashpoint were limited run series set in their own universes the actions within each didn't effect the new versions of the characters that were published in later DC books. Sure, DC said Flashpoint would have repercussions, but other than the hooded lady playing Where's Waldo what are they?Spoilers and Karen I love you but you only have 60 seconds to save the Earth below( Spoilers and Karen I love you but you only have 60 seconds to save the Earth belowCollapse )
Hello, friends old and new. Perhaps you saw my profile over on Made of Fail
. If not, go ahead and take a look. (I'm really proud of our little growing website. There's so much there there now.) If you saw it and followed the link expecting lots of posts here, well, not so much. I'm on Twitter a bunch and here and there Facebook too, but I don't write full blog posts as much as I use too. I have ideas and things to write about, but I just don't get to them as much as I would like.
Oh great. I'm doing that annoying "here's why I don't write" whine. Sorry. Point is, there is a there here, but not a lot.Speaking of Made of Fail
the next episode is scheduled to record tomorrow. I don't think I'm spoiling anything to say that it will be about the latest Twilight movie, rather, mocking it gleefully. From the pre-game chatter on Twitter and over email everyone seems wicked excited and there's going to be a lot to goggle at. Apparently there's an inadvertent breast expansion fetish scene. Breast expansion or BE is a kink which is exactly what it sounds like. Just look at this and the related videos
(not at work though). The things you learn listening to Savage Love.
I hope to knock out the editing over this weekend, but we'll see. It will definitely be up by the 30th.Two interesting takes on pop culture criticism
which might tie into the next episode. From Linda Holmes: why talking about Kim Kardashian
isn't the end of Western Civilization. From the AV Club: getting upset at Twilight is kinda silly
. My thoughts on the latter—I'm not upset at Twilight or its fans. I mock it with a little bit of love. That said, if you think any of the principles are good role models in terms of love, seek help.I might have plugged this before
, but whatever. Greg Rucka does a webcomic. He writes, Rick Burnett draws, and magic happens (as of the latest update, maybe literally). The first chapter was a bit slow as each creator is more used to working on comic books. If you read it in one go, the way you would a comic, it's fine. The second chapter was a huge improvement in terms of reading like a webcomic. It's also a master class in how to write badasses. Don't have people around talking up the badass. Just let the badass work
MUSIC BREAKI want to hang out with
this Blue Beetle and She-Hulk
.This picture frightens me
. It's not that Archie Panjabi has a bad smile, quite the contrary. I just know if her character, Kalinda, ever smiled like that at anyone it would be the last thing they saw.
Remember that pile of comics from the period after the reboot was announced, but before any of the new comics came out? Just forget about them. Pretty much anything published by DC between June and August was just filler nonsense and not worth the paper it was printed on. Move on.
Okay. That was too harsh. The biggest reason I haven't gotten to these books here yet is because they are for the most part a slog. Rather than do something to celebrate the ending of 20+ years of whatever age of comics we were in (Post-Crisis Age? Too Many Crises Age?), the editors and creators dumped out filler stories that could have come from pretty much any point in the past 5 years. Some went the goodbye route, but most just went with filler.
I get it. There was more potential in marketing to new/returning readers than satisfying people like me who were going to buy the new stuff no matter what. And honestly, the filler—at least what I read—wasn't completely terrible. Still, there had to be a better way to send off the universe...and don't you "Flashpoint" me. More on why that's not a goodbye to the previous universe later. Let's crack into these.Spoilers and nostalgia below( Spoilers and nostalgia belowCollapse )
The latest episode of Made of Fail
came out about a week ago. It's a conversation about comics, more specifically, the DC reboot. My favorite part is that we have three women discussing comics and they all have different opinions. Women read superhero comics, you guys. But you knew that.Pop Culture Happy Hour
also covered the reboot
and it might be my favorite thing they've ever done. The panelists have a range of familiarity with comics from never read one after elementary school to fell out of them years ago to gets paid money to read and review them on a weekly basis and everyone gets in a good insight.Speaking of NPR related things
, I really enjoyed the latest episode of Radiolab. It is about loops
of all sorts and features amazing sound design and editing which is always high quality, but they really topped themselves. They had me at Kristen Schaal
.Last week's Community
was magic and a great jumping on point
. It's an examination of the characters by seeing what happens when you remove one from the main group. The episode is both roll-off-the-couch funny and slightly sad, which is basically Community in a nutshell.Swinging back to Made of Fail
please check this
out and consider donating. Screw cancer.
Friendship = Magic > PhysicsI started Portal 2
last week and I've been trying to steal time to knock out chambers here and there. So far I'm impressed. Confused, but impressed. Then again I'm only on chapter 2 of 9 (10?). Valve is making good on its promise of making the game much longer than the original and they are doing it without tasks feeling like padding.358/2 Days on the other hand...
Actually, I'm cool with the padding here for the same reason I was cool with the padding in Revenant Wings: the gameplay is so fun I don't mind spending extra time in the world. To a point. I don't plan to grab every single bonus mission/objective as some of the things are just too hard or too time consuming.
Too hard is a nice change from Kingdom Hearts 2. There's a lot more strategy to fights than press triangle or button mash through a combo or overdrive.
I also appreciate the first few hours of KH2 more than before though it still feels a bit clunky where it is. It would be a cool bonus playable ending to 358/2.
I still don't know what the title means, but I have a theory. We'll see if I'm right.
(No, I'm not re-numbering this series because shut up. Besides, I'm not changing much here which is the main reason I changed the main series' numbers.)
(I might be putting too much thought into this.)I Kill Giants
is the love child of Daria and Scott Pilgrim. Linda Danvers was the midwife.
...You're still here? Maybe you missed the link to Amazon up there. Here it is again
. You can get it used for about 9 bucks, including shipping.
...Still? The sarcasm and self-assuredness of Daria. The reality warping of Scott Pilgrim. The courage and magic of Supergirl. All under one roof. That does nothing for you?
How about gorgeous manga-esque art that easily flows between lunch table politics, a schoolyard scuffle, and a world of tiny fairies on the edge of reality? How about elementary school characters that look and act like elementary school-aged children. How about 184 pages of a story featuring a female protagonist, only one of which has her talking about boys? A story you can feel comfortable giving to children the protagonist's age (though some part are seriously dark)?
Okay. Bringing in the big guns. Glen Weldon (who got blurbed on the back cover of my edition) is a fan
. Here's my favorite line from his piece: "...the conflict between the book's dread-infused tone and its cartoony, downright sunny art makes the act of actually reading the thing all the more disquieting, intriguing and memorable."
Okay, okay. I didn't want to go here, but you forced my hand. There's a moment in the last chapter that made me put the book down and bawl my eyes out. A full five minutes of sobbing followed by several minutes of laughter. I was laughing a little at myself, but mostly I was happy. I was happy to be alive, experiencing the moment. I was happy that a work of art was able to affect me so.
Are you happy now? Will you now go look for this story? It should be in your local library and if not it should
be. It's on my list of things to give to my future children
(One warning. Several of the reviews I've seen and even a few of the ads spoil major plot points with no warning. There are several things hidden in the life of Barbara Thorson. Getting to the bottom of them is a part of the fun.)
Because my fiancée loves me and because she's great and because her employer owns the venue it was held in and offered discounted tickets we saw the So You Think You Can Dance tour's Cincinnati show last night. Rather than bombard everyone's Twitter feed—which I very easily could have with "WOO"'s and "THAT WAS AWESOME"'s—I decided to somewhat organize and dump my thoughts here.
–The crowd was, as I expected, overwhelmingly female and white. It was also mostly teens, but there were a good number of "older" people like Rachel and I. I think it reflected the typical So You Think You Can Dance audience and the typical American Idol audience. Both shows are run by the same people and draw similar viewers. That's one reason I find it amazing that the American Idol finalists and the SYTYCD ones differ so much in terms of race and gender. That's a whole 'nother post, probably better written by someone else but I'll wind up giving it a try anyway on another day.
–I think every superhero comic book artist should be forced to watch a few late season episodes of SYTYCD to learn how to handle sexiness. Everyone one the stage is fit and gorgeous and in some (a lot) of routines is wearing very little, yet they never cross the invisible line into "too much." One dancer (to no surprise to viewers of this season it was Jordan) rode that line hard during a solo and it was amazingly hot and not creepy. Incidentally, she was wearing a lot (comparatively) while she was doing it. Covered up can be sexy as hell. Take notes.
–A male dancer, Tadd, rode the sexy line as well, but it was more the Bieber/Beatles teeny-bopper sexy as opposed to the more adult version Jordan was working with.
–Again, no surprise to the regular viewers, Jess is a large ham live and it's a lot of fun. He was flirting with the front rows left and right.
–Why isn't tap a bigger thing? Is it because it has a dorky rep? It's adding a beat to a track. It's watching a DJ work with his whole body.
–Is there a single film that wouldn't be improved by a Bollywood routine? I say there is not. I want to see Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman working their arms in full Death Eater make-up.
–They showed American Idol videos at intermission. HOORAY CROSS-PROMOTION. Lauren Alaina finally found a stylist that works for her. Some of her looks towards the end of the season were truly tragic. Someone on my Twitter feed accurately described one as "a Confederate war widow."
–There was a mix of old routines from the show and new ones. My favorite of the latter was a bit involving "painting" on the jumbo screens that made up the back of the stage to "Viva la Vida." Man that song was over-played, but hearing it again after so long with such beautiful things happening to its beat felt great.
–My favorite part of the night was being surrounded by super-fans. The young-ins*
behind us had a rich discussion about dancers' career tracks and the strengths and weaknesses of various performers. One woman 3 rows ahead of us l let out an "Oh my God" after a particularly dexterous move that sounded like she would need a cigarette after the routine. There's a moment at the climax of a piece where Melanie turns herself into a human missile and leaps a good five feet into the arms of her partner (around 1'17 here
). When the audience saw her set up for it they started clapping like a crowd at a baseball game waiting for the last pitch. When she landed we exploded.
They're really nothing like sharing a positive emotion with that many people.*
I think middle schoolers. Rachel swears they were high school aged.
One Tumblr I float in and out of is ANIMALS TALKING IN ALL CAPS
. There's silly stuff
there, sure, but a lot of it is tinged with an underlying melancholy
. I hate to sound like the pretentious jerk who thinks anything worthwhile has to be a bit upsetting and who uses phrases like "tinged with an underlying melancholy." I don't think that; however, I do like a little pain with my laughter. Maybe that's why I have The Onion article "Fire Consumes Big Happy Farm Where Families Send Sick Dogs to Run Free and Play"
bookmarked. Of course you can split the difference and have something completely ridiculous collide with something completely terrible like "Circus Train Wreck Not Funny, Investigators Emphasize"
But I'm not here to talk art theory. I'm here because I just listened to a bunch of dubstep on YouTube and I want to share. Like the cardinal
I don't completely understand it. It's club music that uses a lot of wobbly sounds then drops the baseline out and uses new wobbly sounds. Then again, I've been playing and listening to classical music for pretty much my entire life*
. I don't completely understand it either (what's the difference between a gigue and a bourrée?), but I still love it.
I've discovered a few things while listening. There are a lot of nerds who are into dubstep. Go to YouTube and search for any video game you can think of plus "dubstep." Odds are you'll find something, though it won't necessarily be good. Like everything else, there's a some good and a lot of middling dubstep out there. I haven't heard anything I completely hated, but there are songs I got bored with fairly quickly. I'm not going to share anything I dislike because why would I? I don't know near enough about the style to snark on bad examples. I will note that my fellow Kingdom Hearts fans need to step it up**
. There are other songs on the soundtrack besides "Dearly Beloved" and "Sanctuary." "Tension Rising
" (aka SO MANY DUSKS) and "The 13th Dilemma
" (aka Demyx is going to own you, yes that
Demyx) are just sitting there.
Okay, enough chatter. Grab some glowsticks, stick a pacifier in your mouth, and let's dance!***( Click the cut to drop the beatCollapse )*
By "classical" I mean "Classical, Baroque, Modern." Basically "instrumental." I'm not going to die on that hill"
No pun intended.***
Is that what kids do nowadays? Are my impressions of clubs so Y2K?
Friends, I am sad to report that the heart rate machine in emergency rooms does not make a constant beeping noise. It makes several beeps when it's first connected, then nothing. I really wanted to act out this commercial:
What is does do is connect to your chest via very sticky tape. Your chest and chest hair. My torso now looks like a British wheat field.
Let's back up. I've been having slight chest discomfort since about last week. At first I wrote it off as indigestion since I had eaten two very spicy dinners in a row, but when the pain persisted even with time and Alka-Seltzer I decided to call a doctor. I was told that a general practitioner would not see me for any sort of chest pain without an emergency room ruling out any serious issues first. Long story, wait, and length of medical bill later the ER doctor ruled out anything life-threatening. He thinks it's a pulled muscle and is having me take horse-sized Motrin pills. Maybe I have been going a bit too hard at the gym and I definitely need to find a better way to sit with my laptop. Too bad I couldn't figure that out without the needles and uninvited manscaping.
Last Sunday, Rachel and I were being lead to our table at Arthur's when I spotted someone in a Syracuse fleece.
"Alright! Go Orange!"
"Huh?" The guy looked down at his shirt. "Oh. Er, right."
"You know," Rachel said as we made our way past the bar, "people kept doing that to me when I wore your t-shirt."
"Hey! Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival!" A pretty blonde woman was walking with her group, towards the exit.
"Huh?" I looked down at my shirt, a fundraiser for the group. It says "Be." on the front and has the famous monologue on the back. "Oh. Right. HEY!"
She smiled as she passed.
"What was that about?"
"She's an actress with the company."
So that's it. The first full month of the new DC Comics universe has come and gone. Enjoy some semi-organized thoughts.
Comics are a serial medium. Much like a TV show, things can and will change from the pilot (first issue). Right now as I type, DC people are checking sales numbers and (to a lesser extant) reviews to see what works (sells). They will tell the editors what's working and what isn't, then the editors will start demanding changes of the creators. By the third or fourth issues we will have a better sense of what these books will be, that is, what DC thinks it can sell us. By the sixth we will see our first cancellations.
Also, individual comic issues are generally just parts of stories. To use the TV analogy, we just watched up to the first commercial break. It's possible that things are going to get much better for some of these books or much, much worse.
Basically, what I'm saying is change a constant in comics, even (probably, "especially") in this new world. Take my thoughts with a grain of salt because I'm going to change my mind a lot. Maybe.
Overall I'm impressed. This is the most excited about comics I've been in years. My favorite part is that a large number of comics featuring non-superhero leads like Grifter and Frankenstein: Agent of Shade are getting pushed along with the "traditional" capes. They retain some superhero book tropes, but they are also doing their own thing. Hopefully this fusion will attract new fans and re-energize old ones.
Where did these artists come from? I can't think of a single book I read that had bad art. Yes, there were some artists who drew like they were doing a porn book, but the art wasn't ugly. Good on DC, finding that much talent and getting everyone to press on time. So far. Let's if they they can keep it up.
What? Oh, I mentally blocked Liefeld. And Brett Booth. Then again, I didn't read anything by them so that's still a true statement.
If I only had $15 a month, I'd buy...
Action Comics: The first issue lived up to its name. Most action-packed issue of the reboot.
Animal Man: This reboot needs more families. Beyond that, it's a good story.
Batwoman: A new reader friendly continuation of an instant classic.
Demon Knights: Winner of my Blue Beetle:Comics Can Be Funny and Good prize.
Wonder Woman: Only Batwoman keeps it from being my favorite overall and only just barely.
Biggest surprise (in a good way)
I, Vampire: Twilight didn't have to be bad. There's a good story in immortal love and betrayal.
Biggest surprise (in a bad way)
Voodoo: I thought this was going to be "young woman discovers powers and must figure out whether to use them for good or evil." Instead it's "alien masquerading as a young woman will do anything to keep from getting caught." Fine, there's a story there. Why dedicate the first half of her story to pointless T & A then? I wanted this to be a story that people attracted by I, Vampire could branch out to. It still could be in time, but right now it's (to steal someone else's line) the book your mother thinks of when she thinks of comics.
We can do better.