Archive for February, 2011

02/28/2011

A Song Given Voice (うたわれるもの)

by wfgodbold

Utawarerumono, the first departure from Aquaplus’s traditional visual novel games, wasn’t all that much of a departure; sure, it had a big strategy component, but in between battles, the visual novel trappings remained.

Which is not to say that the strategy sections were badly done; they were typical SRPG isometric battles, on a grid (much like Final Fantasy Tactics); the main thrust of the game, though, was Hakuoro’s quest to protect the people who cared for him (oh, and to find out why he has a mask stuck on his face and can’t remember anything). This results in first fending off small forces, and eventually culminates with Hakuoro heading an empire.

Since the original Utawarerumono was an adult visual novel (yes, that means what you think it does), this results in several “It’s good to be the king” scenes (because gratuitous sex is the best kind of sex, I guess). The PlayStation 2 release removed those scenes, but added voice acting and changed up the battle system a bit.

The opening to the PC version of the game (it’s SFW, don’t worry), captures the feel of the game universe pretty well, and the tribal motif fits with the setting (since it’s based (however loosely) on Ainu myth).

02/28/2011

This does nothing for my burgeoning paranoia regarding the government

by wfgodbold

The FBI fought tooth and nail to avoid releasing its files on the late, unlamented Ted Kennedy. Even though none of the material is particularly relevant to situations today, they still didn’t want anyone to know about Kennedy’s contacts with far-left communists or brothel exploits.

Ed Morrissey notes that this is not the first time that Ted was linked with Communists; he contacted the Soviet government to inquire as to what they could do to help him get elected president.

I understand that some things must be kept secret; the Manhattan Project would have been far less useful had regular updates been printed in the papers. That’s a far cry from covering up someone’s deeds that have nothing to do with national security, just to keep them (or their family) from looking even worse than they already do.

If the feds were covering this up (and it’s pretty benign), what else are they covering up, and how much worse could it be? How are we to know what any of our elected officials get up to if anything that might be embarrassing is redacted?

On the other hand, I’m probably overreacting. The federal government has only our best interests at heart; it will take care of us, and my suspicions are completely unfounded.

02/27/2011

Flying 飛翔

by wfgodbold

Castle Shikigami II, the second of three Castle Shikigami arcade games, is probably my favorite shmup.

Shoot-‘em-up (shmup) games, the original shooters (before that genre was coopted by FPS games), have come a long ways from the days of Galaga. Castle Shikigami is a member of the sub-genre known as danmaku (弾幕), or bullet-hell (literally, bullet curtain), shooters (other examples include Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun, Psyvariar, Espgaluda, Mushihimesama, and DoDonPachi). In these games, the screen is flooded with enemy fire, and in addition to shooting down enemy craft, the player must also maneuver through the cascades of bullets without being hit.

Various games have their gimmicks; in Ikaruga, you can switch the color of your ship from white to black (and back again) to absorb bullets of the same color and deal extra damage to enemies of the opposite color. Espgaluda (and the other Cave shooters) are more traditional, in that you pick up powerups throughout the stages to increase the power of your ship.

Castle Shikigami’s gimmick is different; there are no explicit powerups. Instead, you do more damage (and gain score multipliers (up to 8x!)) when your character is in more danger. Instead of merely dodging the waves of enemies and bullets, savvy players will get as close to them as possible; if you look up gameplay videos on youtube, you can see characters fly close to bullets, following them on their path through the screen.

02/26/2011

Sophisticated Fight

by wfgodbold

While Tracks in the Sky was originally billed as Legend of Heroes VI: Tracks in the Sky, it’s gained enough of a following in Japan for Falcom to release three more games in the series (and a spin-off Super Smash Brothers style beat-‘em up where Tracks characters face off against Ys characters).

Instead of an action RPG like Ys, Tracks in the Sky has a more traditional JRPG feel.

And with traditional turn-based battles comes that JRPG staple: battle music!

02/26/2011

This union mess in WI codifies Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy

by wfgodbold

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself.

Even his example is about how teachers’ unions ensure that bad teachers are just as employed as good teachers.

Hopefully people are paying attention; it’s not often that we get to see the proverbial sausage being made.

02/25/2011

Haunting Melody

by wfgodbold

Tears to Tiara, the western mythic fantasy SRPG follow-up to Aquaplus‘s Utawarerumono (which was an SRPG that drew heavily from Ainu myth), was completely redone for the PlayStation 3 (it was originally released on the PC); the engine was remade, the characters were redesigned, and the various CG stills were all redone in high-definition.

Tears to Tiara draws heavily from The Mabinogion; characters include the Demon King Arawn, Gael priestess Rhiannon, her brother Arthur, fellow Gael warrioress Morgan, Talisien, several elves (Llyr, Epona, Elf King Pwyll), and Octavia, Lydia, and Gaius (of the Holy Empire).

The Gaels have to defend against the predations of the Holy Empire, led mainly by Gaius; eventually, they flee the island of Erin (Ireland) for the island of Albion, where they then take refuge in the legendary elf castle of Avalon. All in all, the series does a pretty good job combining Arthurian legend, Welsh/Celtic/Gaelic myth, and Roman history; some characters are greatly changed (so much so that only the names are the same), but I think their main goal was to get the feel of the world.

In between missions (which range from hunting for food to raiding Londinium to facing off against beings of incredible power (hey, it is an RPG, after all)), Aquaplus focuses mainly on character development between Arawn and Arthur, with asides on the madcap hijinks Arawn’s many female followers get into.

Haunting Melody plays over the opening animation for the PS3 version; while the elves aren’t immediately obvious, the Roman and Arthurian influences are blatant.

And the song’s pretty good, too.

02/25/2011

Those evil libertarians!

by wfgodbold

They want to take over and leave you alone (H/T Instapundit)!

Truly the Koch brothers are insidious megalomaniacs and must be stopped at any cost.

Of course, it’s in the best interests of certain parties which shall remain unnamed (you know who you are) that libertarians be painted as far right reactionary power hungry evil overlords in waiting; that only makes those parties look reasonable by comparison.

I detest politics (and yet I keep following it, like a dog returning to its vomit).

02/24/2011

To Zanarkand (ザナルカントにて)

by wfgodbold

Final Fantasy X, the first of 2.5 (XI doesn’t count as a full game; 3.5 if you count X-2) FF games released on the PlayStation2, hit stores nearly ten years ago, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth…

Wait, that’s not right. FFX was a huge hit, and firmly set Square on its current FF development path (in which gameplay matters less and less and cinematics matter more and more, with each iteration). That said, it was a good game; the characters were mostly not annoying, and even if the plot was a bit weird (spoilers at the link!), it mostly held together.

To Zanarkand, the game’s main theme, plays during the opening narration, and the melancholy it evokes is appropriate, given the eventual truth behind the game’s world.

02/24/2011

Gas prices here have jumped 25¢/gal since yesterday

by wfgodbold

The unrest in the Middle East is partly to blame; oil production in Libya is precarious (so what if Libya is in northern Africa and not the Middle East, exactly), and the Saudi government is quaking in their boots.

Our own government bears some of the blame, though; domestic decisions (arising mainly from the Deepwater Horizon spill) have led to a de facto ban on offshore drilling (in violation of the law!).

This is a great overreaction; while the 206 million gallons of spilt oil is a large amount, compared to the size of the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not even the proverbial drop in the bucket.

The Gulf is roughly 660 quadrillion gallons (660 x 10^15) in volume; that’s entirely too large to visualize, so let’s scale it down to something that’s easier to picture.

An olympic-sized swimming pool holds 660,000 gallons of water; if we were to spill an analogous amount of oil into the pool, we would have to dump in not quite 1/5 of a teaspoon of oil.

While the oil spill itself was roughly the size of 312 olympic-sized pools, the gulf is on the order of 1 trillion pools; the amount of water clearly dwarfs the amount of oil spilled into the gulf.

Fear of another spill (even if they are relatively benign, they still play poorly in the court of public opinion) has led the Obama administration to illegally cease all offshore permitting. In addition to depriving our markets of readily available oil, this ban has resulted in the loss of many jobs.

Since that oil is no longer available, we have had to turn ever more to the OPEC nations and their supply of oil; unfortunately for us, those countries are all in the midst of unrest. I wouldn’t be surprised if dissidents took out oil production equipment to deprive the government of their oil revenue.

And so, the price of gasoline spikes; a cynical man would speculate that the Obama administration is refusing to get involved in the burgeoning conflicts in the birthplace of algebra (and not much else since) as a favor to their oil industry cronies. After all, by not getting involved, look at how much the price of oil has gone up!

Correlation, bitches!

In all seriousness, if we are going to refrain from further entanglements in the OPEC world, we ought to focus far more on developing oil resources closer to home; oil rigs aren’t built and wells aren’t dug overnight or for free, and if we don’t start on them now, we might not be able to build them when we don’t have a choice.

02/23/2011

Finish the Promise

by wfgodbold

Tales of the Abyss was released with much fanfare for the PS2 (thanks to the 10th anniversary of the Tales of series), and was well received; in its first year, it sold nearly half a million copies in Japan alone.

It was decently reviewed in the US as well; my main issue with the game was the long load times. If it hadn’t had those, I’d have enjoyed it far more; that’s one reason I’m looking forward to the 3DS port.

Finish the Promise is an adaptation of the main Tales of the Abyss theme, Promise; this arrangement (as you might guess) plays during part of the final boss battle.

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