Save Point

Money can buy everything except “love”, “friendship” and “exp points”.

Jakuri Pod January 21, 2009

Filed under: Specific games,Translations — haounomiko @ 12:08 pm
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A mini-update, since I know a few of you are big Ar tonelico fans.

Apparently there was some concern that “Musume Power” was going to be translated as “Hymn Code”, which would be weird, completely irrelevant, and misleading since 3rd gens don’t have Hymn Codes. Worry not– it’s actually been translated as “Girl Power”, after all.

Some other translated names: Luca Trulyworth (which I hear is an error, as “waath” is “rebirth” in Hymmnos), Cloche (probably correct), and Jacqli (don’t worry, Ayulsa will brainwash you out of it). Sadly, everyone’s favourite snack is called Funboons.

 

Project A.T.2 begins January 19, 2009

Filed under: Specific games — haounomiko @ 2:14 pm
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The reason I’ve blogged so little this month is that I’ve been spending my gaming time on Second Life, which is a lot of fun but mostly doesn’t spark gaming-related thoughts (unless you count thoughts about its user interface for 3-D modelling). My home internet is currently down, though, and my pre-ordered copy of Ar tonelico 2 just arrived. This suggests a certain obvious activity to keep me busy while I can’t get into Lindenworld.

I’ve only played an hour or so into the game, and most of my comments have already been observed by fandom: the dialogue could use less innuendo, the main character is considerably more sensible than Lyner (although perhaps a little too cool to seem honestly comfortable), and so on. The opening is rather fanservicey, but it can also be read as cooperative and nurturing: two Reyvateils working together, not in competition for the dating sim protagonist. As for the opening plus the game beginning, I’m already curious about a few matters and a few flashes of things I’ve briefly seen. If AT1 is any indication, the briefer the glimpse of something, the more important it’ll be in the end.

 

Thank You For The Music December 30, 2008

Filed under: Hacks,Metagaming,Specific games,The gaming industry — haounomiko @ 10:43 pm
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In the past week, I’ve been playing a ROM of Mother 3/EarthBound 2, with a translation patch by the dedicated people at fobby.net who gave their time to rework this game for the sake of the fandom. As someone who liked EarthBound, but not enough to try to play the sequel with a walkthrough/script or read up on it or anything, I am one of those who would never have experienced the game without their translation. These people have worked hard in their free time without being paid to translate and patch an entire game, just because they cared about it that much, and because of that they’ve been able to bring it to more people who can appreciate it. Such an admirable, dedicated group of fans deserves praise, and I intend to deliver them some, as soon as I dare set foot on the interactive part of their site where spoilers are everywhere.

I have to say I’ve been quite impressed with the translation so far; as I would expect from a group of such dedicated, enthusiastic fans, they’ve done a great job bringing back the feeling of the Mother 2/EarthBound 1 translation. I can’t speak for how close they are to the original, but I trust them to be faithful. Even things like enemy names and English-language puns ring true. These translators deserve a giant helping of applause, and possibly jobs in the industry translating more of our RPGs.

As far as that industry goes, I’m in chapter seven at present, and discovering one major potential reason why Nintendo said they had no plans to bring it over to America: censorship and political concerns. The Magypsies are a group of magic-wielding, millenia-old, flamboyant lipsticked men with five o’clock shadow, and they’re turning out to be a huge part of the plot. They’re sturdily-built limp-wristed men who sit in giant pink heart-shaped glittery chairs. You can’t pretend they aren’t transvestites, and you also can’t pretend they’re really women, no matter what you make the dialogue say. They’re an extremely noticeable, important part of the game, and they are definitely the Good Guys. In Japan, people probably just laugh, but in America’s political climate, I don’t know how Nintendo would bring this game over without a lot of conservative Americans having a fit at the idea that their kids might play a game containing some transvestite characters (and ones who are good people, at that).

Gameplay is a little frustrating because the ROM– and its sound– aren’t perfectly synched with my button-pressing, which makes the rhythm-game aspect of the battles disappointingly chancy. I can actually hear the lag between the sound of my pushing a button and the sound of an enemy getting hit; emulation lag has never been this severe of an issue for me because my timing is often linked to also-lagging cues, but now it’s getting all up in my gameplay by interrupting rhythms that aren’t lagging in my head. Of course, the rhythm isn’t always meant to be smooth, either– the composers have made a great soundtrack full of battle themes that change tempo all the time. Some of these songs are going to take a lot of memorising to begin with. At least I have something to do during the random encounters.

At any rate, I’m enjoying this game (I did mention heaps of appreciation, right?) Due to life circumstances, I might have to put it on hold for a while in January, but part of me wants to just keep on playing.

 

At What Price My Digital Life? December 12, 2008

Filed under: Genres,Metagaming,MMORPGs,Specific games — haounomiko @ 12:40 pm
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I don’t usually play MMORPGs– I had a brief flirtation with Final Fantasy XI a few years ago, but my friend’s sister was always on it, which kept me from putting in enough steady time to get addicted. I’m kind of glad I didn’t blow too much time on it, because I don’t think that MMORPGs are my thing: the social world is too full of inarticulate teenagers, and the objectives are insufficiently concrete (and insufficiently motivated) for me to feel like I’m working towards something satisfying.

However, Second Life is an exception. It’s perhaps the only MMO game that doesn’t actually involve combat unless you go out of your way to join an RP group. Most of the focus in the world is one’s personal image and/or artistic creation. In short, it’s one of the few games that actually has creativity as a primary objective– most games, by nature, are not set up for it– and that intrigues me. I don’t play consistently, but every once in a while I pick it up for a bit and spend several days totally immersed in it.

When I first joined Second Life, I felt a little odd about the way it encourages people to spend money on it– even creating content costs you in-game currency for the necessary uploads, and because it’s creative you have a lot of people selling things, so there’s a big emphasis on spending currency to buy things. And the easiest way by far to get the in-game currency is to pay Linden Labs for it in US dollars, because although you can get a job in-game or “camp” to earn money, these things earn you a tiny pittance, and never enough to afford anything good. Although you can certainly play the game without spending any money and you can find lots of nifty things for free, being stingy in-game is not fun, because the nicest things always cost something.

So my biggest disappointment was that I felt like I was paying money to have fun in this game even though it was supposedly free. I have never liked the idea of spending real-world money to buy game items. Admittedly, you don’t have to spend very much in terms of real-world currency to have plenty in-game, and it’s not going to hurt my pocketbook to shell out the equivalent of $2 US to buy a dragon avatar and fly about the world as a giant golden hydra. I simply had some mental resistance to it.

Lately, though, I’ve been seeing signs in Second Life about digital content creators’ associations and about resisting art theft. I think it finally sunk in for me that these people are artists who would like to get paid for their work. And it occurred to me to examine my resistance to spending money in the game. I realised that I was resisting based on an old idea I had about traditional MMORPGs: that equipment should be earned and not purchased with real-world money, and that using your credit card to equip yourself was a cheater’s trick; that if you spent enough time in the game to need good equipment, you should already be spending enough time actually playing the game to afford it with the money you got from quest objectives; and that if you had to spend real-world money to get enough equipment just to survive the beginning quests, then the game itself was poorly calibrated. But that situation was different. That was paying the game owners for your equipment, which you could also be earning by simply playing the game as it was meant to be played for the things that you were meant to enjoy. The situation is different in Second Life, where you’re really paying the digital artists who spent so much time to make these creations, and where my normal objections do not apply. I usually like to support artists and buy things from them because I believe that art is a job that people work hard at and should be paid for what they accomplish. And, now that I reflect on it, it would be good to support the artists of Second Life by making occasional purchases from them, as well.

So I suppose I no longer feel cheated that I might have to shell out actual money if I want to buy something nice in Second Life. I’m not being ripped off or cheating; I’m doing my part to support the hard work that people are putting into making nice things.

 

Flashback: The Quest For Believable Physics December 1, 2008

Filed under: Genres,Retro games,Specific games — haounomiko @ 4:20 pm
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I finished Flashback: The Quest For Identity, and I have to say it’s actually quite good. The game mechanics– the graphics and scale, and the motions and puzzles– reminded me a bit of Prince of Persia for the SNES, and that makes me very happy. I loved Prince of Persia, and when they came out with the modern sequels, I was so excited– until I discovered that it involved a lot more fighting, and the series has only gone further in that direction since then. I enjoyed the original for the puzzles, and the focus on fighting made it seem rather mundane and rehashed, rather than the unique thing it was. However, I digress.

Flashback seemed, from the credits, to be mostly the brainchild of the director, who had input in many different areas of the game, and my guess is that said director was a big fan of 80’s sci-fi movies in a certain vein. Visually as well as plotwise and thematically, the game seemed like a mashup of some familiar films. Which was a good thing in my estimation, since I think that kind of sci-fi was quite creative. The one thing that didn’t quite match the image was that some parts of the game were actually prettier and less pessimistic than the stories it was probably lifted from, and honestly I liked that too, since the gritty cynical depressiveness of those stories is the only thing I don’t like about them. In sum, the Flashback world and atmosphere was nice for me; however, I can see other players objecting to the fact that the game is neither this classic tone nor that one, so my praise here should be taken as conditional based on one’s own preferences.

I won’t explain the ending in great detail so as not to spoil it, but I was left thinking it was a little awkward in plausibility– the protagonist is in big trouble unless he has a much better idea of how to pilot and program an alien spacecraft than of how to read their star charts, which seems a little unlikely. Still, it was bittersweet, exciting, and not bad at all.

There is one giant hole in the plot that I can’t quite fill, and that is the Bad Sci-Fi Physics. We are told that the aliens disguise themselves as humans, and the way to tell who they are is that the aliens’ molecular density is a thousand times ours. Therefore, they weigh a thousand times as much for their size. If they were actually a thousand times as heavy as humans, they would crash through the floors of all the elevators, subways, and even second floors of the human buildings, which doesn’t support the premise that their disguise works. Therefore they must be very small– probably no more than 1/2500th the size of a human, unless the architects of the future are designing lifts to a much higher specification than presently– with their disguise being mostly a hologram constructed around them. In this case, why are all the buildings in their homeworld, their spacecraft, and so on constructed for creatures that are roughly human-sized? Inquiring minds want to know.

 

Retrofest Continues November 25, 2008

Filed under: Retro games,Specific games — haounomiko @ 3:28 pm
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I finally finished Drakkhen, and I must admit I’m a bit relieved, though also proud of myself for sticking with it until the end this time. I feel accomplished. The best part of the game was being amused by the incoherent text, which actually was pretty good entertainment. The music wasn’t bad, and there were times when I thought the game could have been poignant if the designers had put a little more work into drawing players in, making it personal, and making us care about the world. I wonder if Drakkhen II/Dragon View is any good.

I also finished Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts properly. It’s worth a mention that this game seems to have been made by sexist developers. There’s a status ailment that turns your character into a girl, rendering him almost helpless– much in the vein of Bunny Link from Zelda 3, but misogynistic. The princess is also even more objectified than usual; beating the game gets you her measurements; and this in an age when there were plenty of female video game characters out there who could do as much as the male ones, like Samus and SMB2’s Princess Toadstool. I’m put in mind of all the media hype of game companies trying to make games for girls– those games usually suck, and any serious female gamer is more likely actually playing “boys’ games”, but developers seem to overlook this fact. Instead of assuming girls want to play a special different kind of game designed just for them, perhaps developers could try assuming that girls are playing the default games as well as boys, and not put in sexist things. I bet that would go further to address the gender imbalance in gaming than any amount of pink consoles or Barbie’s Little Mermaid Horse Race Babiez games. I know quite a few female gamers, and they all choose their games by whether they’re fun, not by whether the box is pink.

Am now playing Flashback: The Quest For Identity. I remember getting this game pretty late in the SNES era, when I already had a PSX and everything, and I think I wandered off to play something else as soon as I got stuck, which was within the first ten minutes. I think my attention span for video games was at an all-time low in that era; with Sony on the map, suddenly there were many more games available than I could ever keep up with, I could afford to buy more of them, and I couldn’t play them as fast as they were accumulating on my shelf. I wasn’t used to budgeting my time with only the games I really liked, and I was a bit overwhelmed.

Holiday weekend coming up. Anyone playing anything big over the weekend? (Or am I the only one who schedules the perfect time to immerse myself in certain games weeks in advance?)

 

I Left My Magical Item In Playthrough Two November 20, 2008

Filed under: Retro games,Specific games — haounomiko @ 1:04 pm
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I’ve continued my run of playing through old SNES games as ROMs, because it’s nice to revisit nostalgia for both the individual games and the feel of the whole system, and also because I feel a sense of accomplishment finishing something that I never previously stuck with. I am using save states and walkthroughs, so it’s no great accomplishment of skill, but I like to feel that I’ve explored the whole game and not left it hanging halfway through. To me, that’s more important than proving my skill, at least for most games. The theme of today’s post, however, is endings that are far inferior to the rest of the game.

So I finally finished Jurassic Park, which I’d previously mostly rented but had nostalgia for. It’s comprised of two distinct parts: indoors, where the camera is 3-D, and outdoors, where it’s top down. The indoor part is rather easy since you can take out most threats before they react to you, and healing items and ammo respawn whereas enemies don’t. So the only part that’s physically difficult, reflex-wise, about the game is the outdoor segments, where you are at a huge disadvantage because the dinos all move faster than you do and many of the most deadly ones run out of hiding when you get close.

The reason why this game can take a long time to complete if you don’t know it well is the complexity of the maps. It’s the sort of game where you can easily get lost, especially indoors, but there is no map– you have to map it yourself, or hold it all in your head. I’m pretty good at these things if I take them out methodically, but I did get lost a few times; I didn’t use the walkthroughs for maps, but rather just to tell me where to go next. I did feel accomplished when I eventually finished the game– no thanks to the ending, which consisted of a bad zoom out of a map that’s more poorly-rendered than anything else in the whole game, and a message saying, “Congratulations you have escaped Jurassic Park.” Woo hoo.

After that– because I only want to devote so much time per day slugging through Drakkhen– I started up Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts. I had thought I’d never played it on the pak, even though I had it, because I couldn’t remember it at all; but once I started playing I realised I had most definitely played it a little. There were things I don’t remember and think I probably would have recalled had I seen them, but I also do distinctly remember some other things. Perhaps some of them are similar to other games?

At any rate, I know I didn’t complete it. I would have remembered THAT ending, such as it were– the ending where the princess says that to beat the final boss you need to replay the entire game. At a higher difficulty level. What? Okay, it’s a short game, and the first time through it isn’t terribly hard, but talk about a cheap trick. She seems to have dropped her magical bracelet in hundreds of places throughout the second playthrough of the game, not just in level 1; couldn’t we just backtrack a little to get it? Sigh.