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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Baccano! - Review



To be honest, I didn't really notice Baccano until it came out onto DVD. I had heard the name in passing but that's really about it. I somewhat regret not watching this earlier.

To start us off, Baccano takes place in the 1930s when there's a rumor around about a group of people known as the "Immortals." It seems that it's impossible to kill them and no one knows who they are. All people really know is that they exist. In the meantime, a information gathering shop posing as a newspaper company is trying to piece together the truth about a major event that occurred onboard the transcontinental train "The Flying Pussyfoot." Coincidentally, it seems that the Immortal, many mafia families, hired hitmen, and thieves were all involved in this fiasco, and the first episode starts us off with two omniscient characters discussing who the main character is...




It's actually a great starting point and I tip my hat off to the director and author of the base material. Just from the opening alone, the introduction of the characters is almost overwhelming. What's even more unfathomable is the development of these characters and more throughout a 16 episode series. The first episode brings a brief introduction to the cast as well as the setting. It's a bit disorienting at first since it starts somewhere near the middle of the timeline but I'll get to that later.


To be honest, I haven't heard of the animation team known as Brains Base before but their style is really catchy. There's a bit of the original art they have to consider but overall, it's a relatively high budget anime with nice eye candy. It's a bit more gritty than clean but style seems to suit the anime very well.

The music is fantastic. The jazzy themes incorporated really give the anime its 30s feel. It's really too bad that Makoto Yoshimori didn't do much else. I really wanted to more of the music he could think up.


And here we come to the meat of the review: The direction and voice acting.

It seems that every episode had an individual episode director headed by one main director. The way this anime is directed is quite interesting. One could say that it's of epic fashion with pockets of flashbacks, but I'd say that it's more focused towards the characters and time simply flows around them. In that way, it seems to also emphasize the lack of focus on time itself which is a pointless concept for the "Immortals" themselves as they live forever without aging.

In general, it actually takes time for the show to pick up. To be honest, I was a bit.... (fine, I'll admit it) bored with the first couple of episodes. The pacing was dreadfully slow and having to bring in all the characters together to a seemingly pointless point in time seemed bland but I regret putting off watching this for so long because once it picks up, it doesn't stop. Just like a runaway train, scenes change to different times, stories are intertwined, and suddenly characters are brought together before your eyes in the most outrageous situations all the while the Flying Pussyfoot continues to chug along with no one noticing what's going on around them.

The biggest point of interest is how disconnected scenes and episodes are. Rather than following standard convention of following a timeline and going in chronological order (which is something we're more comfortable with, rather than believing it's "better") it forces the viewer to see the show in a different way. "Throw away all conventions of that thought process you know and follow us, just this one" the anime seems to say. It doesn't disappoint. Episodes feel right and seem to follow the pace of the company piecing together information. "Ok, so there was this guy on the train. How far back can we trace his history? What is he doing now? What did he do aboard the Flying Pussyfoot?" It's also a bit disorienting (but in a good way) that the show jumps around in time but it didn't bother me too much. It allowed me (the viewer) to associate relationships and assess character groupings better since these jumps focused more on the characters themselves than trying to impose a sense of linearity.


Voice acting was beautiful by everyone, Japanese and English. Voice acting these characters are particularly hard and I applaud the voice directors who found the matches. Each character brings to the show a different tone and color, and once all mixed together, they create a painting. But the colors themselves need to be rich and filled with an eye (or in this case "ear") catching richness that complements the others. I'm pretty sure every character had at least one monologue that rivaled that of the multi-personality disorder messes that are Shakespearean plays. Every character had a range of emotions to cover and I'm sure it really gave voice actors something interesting to work with.


There are problems of course. Certain characters seemed to have minor cameos despite being a crucial part of the story. It brings the question of "just exactly where the hell were you during all this?" There were a handful of characters I wanted to see more of but oh well. Certain names also didn't ring well with me. Certain first names didn't match last names (conflict of origin of nationality. Mind you this is still the late 20s-early 30s). Something that also happened was that I ended up forgetting parts of the beginning simply because in my mind I considered it to be pointless exposition although I'm pretty sure there were parts that hinted at relationships along with some foreshadowing. Regardless because of how droll the start was, it caused a problem for me to continue. I'm not saying that all shows should start with a bang, but there was a lack of a certain "hook" that made it worth it. When I have to say "You have to watch the first few episodes before it gets good" it leaves a bad taste in my mouth because the rest of the show doesn't really justify a bad start. First impressions are very important and what kept me watching was the opening theme as well as small quips of slapstick comedy from Isaac and Miria...



Must watch. That's all I gotta say. I'm angry that I missed this show.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Update!

I've got one more final to complete before I'm officially free. I've quit DFO for K Dnf. DnF has recently had a new update which allows players to get one free level 40 character (what to choose). I've finished watching Baccano! (and have an urge to review it), and any other free time is spent either studying or staring in awe at just how much more awesome the korean version is compared to the american version....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Borderlands - Review



Excuse me for the late review. I've finally finished my work for a while and I've recovered most of my sleep debt, which means now I can actually start writing again (woohoo!). This week's review is on Borderlands.


Borderlands is a First Person Shooter with RPG-like elements. I would consider it to be a game similar to Mass Effect with a bit more freeflow and less protagonist to environment dialogue (actually there's no dialogue between the protagonist(s) and the environment).

Borderlands is about 4 treasure hunters looking for this entity referred to as "The Vault." It supposedly exists on Pandora, a planet under the supervision of a research corporation, who have abandoned their mining operations there leaving it to be controlled mostly by bandits who once were prisoners working there. A guide, referred to as the "guardian angel," tries to lead the treasure hunters to the Vault. The plot itself is very open ended and leaves room for a lot of content (some of which is apparently DLC now)but I'll get to that later. In this kind of game, I believe highlighting gameplay is key here.





As I said before, it's a First Person Shooter with RPG like elements. What does that mean? Well, this game is generally played like a first person shooter. Your HUD shows your compass, HP, Shields, EXP, Class Mod and ammo. Also when you switch weapons, stats for your weapon temporarily appear.





All your weapons have in-depth descriptions such as the weapon's damage, accuracy, fire rate, and magazine size. The item name's color indicates rarity going from least rare to most rare: white-green-blue-purple-light orange-dark orange-pearlescent (which is actually white, but the weapon comes with special traits). The modifiers in the weapon description don't mean additional modifiers, but describe the stats which have been modified from the "base" model. Any red text refers to a special trait the gun may have.

Accuracy actually refers to how large the crosshair is and determines the spread of the bullet when in iron sights/scope. That is to say, you can't just aim in the general vicinity of an enemy and assume it'll hit because the weapon's accuracy was 80%. To be honest, I'm not even sure if the number next to the accuracy refers to a percentage, just a general number system to use to compare one weapon's accuracy to another.



All the characters have been broken down into 3 "subclasses." These subclasses generally determine how you play as the skills (all of which are passive) affect certain weapon types or boost a certain stat that would make another weapon type better to use.

All characters are given on active skill referred to as the "action skill." Needless to say, this action skill varies per player and most likely each character has one subclass tree dedicated to boosting the action skill.




In addition to skills, there are items known as "class mods" which modify skills and apply other effects to complement a certain skill tree or class type. Like skills, these class mods will enhance a certain playing style and generally do not have any adverse effects. The only one I've seen to be a problem is Brick's berserker mod which occasionally gives negative bullet resistance.



Finally, you have the Proficiencies tab which basically tells you which weapons you like using, since the more enemies you kill with a weapon type, the higher your proficiency is with that weapon, the better the boosts you get for that weapon. Just exactly how you can improve weapon damage by using a certain type of weapon multiple times is beyond me, but I really couldn't care less.



If I were to put it bluntly (and I will), the entirety of the game consists of fetch quests, kill x amount quests, go here or "kill this guy" quests. Yes, gameplay wise, that's all. It's actually that monotonous. It's probably one of the most linear "MMO-style" games. There are hardly any cutscenes. There's a lack of plot (or rather, it's so weak, you hardly realize there's a plot) and it tries to pick up but just crumbles.


The difficulty curve is also pretty bad. If you actually play "normally" and generally kill enemies as you progress the story, more often then not, there's going to be a major gap between "recommended" levels and your actual level with you being a good 3-5 levels higher than the target level. Each quest has a "recommended" level that is a marker of the general level you should be. After running through the game with a few characters, my friends and I have figured out that you will BARELY be under the difficulty curve if you ONLY complete the quest and kill NOTHING unless required. What does that mean? The beta testers were picking their noses and twiddling their thumbs when testing this game. More often than not, it's the enemies that initiate attacks (unless you're a sniper) and so the most logical course of action would be to shoot back until said danger was no more.

There's an easy fix for this, either increase the experience tables or reduce the amount of experience you get for completing quests.

So what's keeping this game from being scum of scum?

4 player coop. Probably the saving grace. This kind of gameplay warrants multiplayer and 2k games delivers.

Next would be the unique art style. Cel-Shading isn't anything new, but it's not common either. The art in this game is really well done and the textures are really nice. Animation wise, everything is extremely clean and very visually appealing. It's easy to just throw something like this away for another game when it attempts to go for some kind of realism, but it's worth noting when there's a bit of artistic value to it.

Next would be immersion and flavor text. Despite the core of the game being really boring. The extra effort for dialogue, sound clips, and quest justifications make the game quite amusing. More often than not, I found myself chuckling at certain moments in the game. The developers know how to write well (to an extent. Like I said, the main story sucks). Reading quest descriptions and listening to sound recordings are definitely worth your time and improve the overall experience.

The game mechanics are well organized. They're simple, relatively easy to use and don't require a massive learning curve. The developers know what they wanted from this game and the players can expect the same thing.


This critique isn't so blatant but after a couple playthroughs is very noticeable. The developers play favorites with the characters, particularly Mordecai, the hunter. Upon close inspection, nothing seems wrong. His skills are relatively fine, and considering his weapon types, nothing is drastically overpowered. But certain weapons throughout the game make him a very cheap, broken character. Each one of his skill trees combined with a certain mod can allow him to generally stand still and watch everything around him explode. The trees at full skill allotment Allow him to effectively be a one man army at long and mid-to-short range, or short and mid range with damage dealt easily giving him 1 hit kills. If you look above at the screenshots, you'll notice the sniper rifle equipped along with my proficiency. The red text allows me to fire the sniper rifle like a fully automatic rifle (Meaning, I don't have to press the mouse button for each shot). Combine that with my proficiency and I can fire 13 shots faster than the Soldier class with battle rifles. Not only that, I deal more damage and if combined with a passive skill that decreases cooldown time for my action skill per hit, can use my action skill endlessly. THE ONLY drawback ( and I hardly call it a draw back) is that At the end, players can only have 120 sniper rifle ammo. Meaning that ammo is the only thing holding this character back from completely annihilating the game, but that's easily fixed with at least 1 character having a ammo regeneration support mod.


Overall gameplay is really short. One playthrough takes about an hour and a half, and second playthrough takes shorter totaling around 2 weeks. DLC will probably extend it but gameplay is exceptionally short. The only replay value this has is the post game monster modifications. All enemies enter a third tier of difficulty and are set to level ranges from 49-51.

It's fun for a short while but may not offset the price tag. The coop is definitely fun but with people generally being computer illiterate, joining an online game is somewhat boring. People don't really talk much and voice settings are either on or off. It's better to play with friends then trying to find a good online game.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just a little while longer......

I've got this one paper left. And once I'm done with that I can get posting again. I REALLY wish professors wouldn't assign everything at once and have it due all on the same day..... Anyways. I'm going off schedule and I need to get back. I've actually got some new material and I'm prepping some as I write this. So check frequently.


Things to do:
Borderlands review
(maybe) buy Romeo x Juliet DVDs by Gonzo and compare the english dubs to the Japanese dubs.
Preorder Final Fantasy XIII DONE.
Finish up drafts of reviews that I've started but never completed....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Record of agarest war delayed.

I dunno. I can't help but feel that sometimes people try too hard. No doubt Atlus is guilty of such antics but this feels too forced......






MASSIVE WARS, BOUNTIFUL WOMEN, AND A CORNUCOPIA OF DEBAUCHERY, NOW ON TWO CONSOLES!

Record of Agarest War receives a simultaneous release on the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system AND Xbox 360®video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, Spring 2010!

Torrance, CA (Friday 13th, 2009) – Aksys Games, a publisher of interactive entertainment products, announces its first epic SRPG, with Record of Agarest War for the Xbox 360 to coincide with the previously announced PLAYSTATION Network version. In this game developed by Compiled Heart, Red Entertainment, and Idea Factory, SRPG fanatics will finally be able to play a game worthy of the genre. Sporting over one hundred hours of gameplay, Record of Agarest War invites players into a gorgeous, expansive world of hope and despair. Players will wage war against the evil forces of darkness, take a bride—actually, several brides— and extend their lineage across five generations!

“In truth, we had Record of Agarest War ready to go up on the PLAYSTATION Network months ago,” [Ed.'s note: That's a lie.] says Ben Bateman, Editor, Aksys Games, “But when a haggard man emerged from a ball of crackling energy that materialized outside our office with dire warnings from a dark future, we decided to reconsider. As it turns out, a PLAYSTATION Network-exclusive release of Agarest was—or rather, would have been—the catalyst for World War III. The gaming community was torn apart—literally—by this apparent favoritism, and from that schism poured the infinite minions of Satan himself, the Lord of Lies. The man told us, his eyes blank with the 1000-yard stare, of the horrors of this future war. He had been sent back in time, the last hope of a desperate human resistance, to prevent what the people of this desolate future Earth called, simply, 'The Breaking.' As the last spark of life passed from his body, broken and battered by his journey through the time vortex, we swore to honor his final wish.”

“This is why Record of Agarest War has been delayed,” Ben continues, his eyes wet with tears, “So that we may release it on both consoles, and in doing so, save the world.”

Record of Agarest War Prologue
War darkened the skies of Agarest. Not a simple war between mortals, easily ended by divine intervention, but a war that split the gods themselves. Armies such as the world had never seen before, and would never see again, clashed in the skies of Agarest, across its surface, and even in the caverns that wound their way through its interior.

As is the way in war, many died on both sides, gods and mortals alike, and the war left Agarest broken, blackened, and dead. The gods wept for their paradise, and in a final act of creation, sacrificed themselves to bring life back to its charred and twisted surface.

Although the gods are long dead, the withering darkness that began and fueled their war is not. Imprisoned for millennia, its bonds have begun to weaken, and as they do, a shadow once again spreads across the surface of the world.

Born into this world perched unknowingly on the brink of the apocalypse, a young man by the name of Leonhardt and his descendants are the last, best hope for Agarest. Their journey will span generations and continents as they strive to once again bring peace to their beleaguered world, even as the cost of their own souls.

Record of Agarest War Key Features:

* Soul Breeding!

Tired of just living through one lifetime in typical RPG titles? Then witness the Soul Breed system! Choose a bride at the end of your adventure and give birth to the hero of the next generation!

* Collaborative Attacks!

Position your forces on the battlefield and wait for the right moment to string together massive combo attacks using multiple party members—both in melee and at range!

* Affection Rating

Curious how one of Agarest's lovely ladies feels about you? Look no further than the Affection Gauge, which gives you a quick and easy visual representation of her opinions! Is she smiling? You must be doing something right! Frowning? Uh oh... If only real relationships were this easy!

* Newly Engorged with Content!

Enjoy an enhanced version of the game based on the Japanese release of Record of Agarest War: Reappearance! Hot pix included!

* Exclusive Trophy and Achievement Support!

The North American version of Record of Agarest War is the only version in the universe, and all the other places too, to have trophies and achievements! [Ed.'s note: I think you'll find that the universe pretty much covers everything.] [PR's response: Shut up, woman, get on my horse!]

Record of Agarest War has not yet been rated by the ESRB. More information about Aksys Games and Record of Agarest War can be found at www.aksysgames.com.

Playing Borderlands

Rather.... I started yesterday and I won't be able to post for a while again.....
Midterm japanese project + 10 page research paper + computer science project = absolute mayhem until thanksgiving break.

To top it all off, thanksgiving break is the first break my college has had in this school year. Sonova.....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm holding out on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.... i think

It's not that it's too expensive or that Infinity Ward doesn't deserve the sixty dollars of quality that they put out, it's Activision. I know it's stupid, but currently i'm not too happy with how Activision is presenting itself as a company, so I'm really on the fence here. I love Infinity Ward and what they've done and from the previews, it looks beautiful. I can't wait to see the story and how they've twisted it.

But every dollar i send to infinity ward for call of duty modern warfare 2 is a dollar to activision to continue being an ass......

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Persona 3: PSP

If you haven't heard of it already. Persona 3 for the PSP is now out in Japan. Why should you get it? Probably because it's a great game and you're now able to change the gender of your character.... and it incorporates most of Persona 4's battle system including the side effects of getting a high ranked social link (helping others up, knocking you out of the way if you're about to die...). Movement is a bit restricted (like Persona for PSP) but they've made a lot of improvements to compensate that. If you can't read Japanese.... well, i highly doubt Atlus USA is just gonna let this go, so all we have to do is wait a little while.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nexon USA (Soon to be named Block Party) - Review

I've been trying to find a good way to start this review. You see when something is bad, it's almost too easy to blind yourself over all the bad components, and writing a review for it is simple: Just label the fault, make a witty comment and move on, but there are always certain topics that are really hard to write. Not for long list of faults, or the jokes to begin with, but with simply finding a starting point (Ar Tonelico II, Cross Edge, a handful of anime that I can't seem to name off the top of my head....) and no doubt, Nexon USA (and the Korean branch for that matter) is one of them.


You see. Nexon is a company. A company hosting free-to-play (seemingly the new definition for the acronym FTP....) online games. They stay afloat via micro-transactions (small payments that are based on the whim of the end user). With these transactions they receive site-based money that they can use in game to purchase "premium" content, exclusive content for those who invested into the company. There are many other hosts of this sort (Aeria Games, IJJI, NC Soft, Ogplanet, Ntreev USA) and yet this one is the company I choose to review. Why? Because despite all their flaws, poor service, and lack of end user support, they somehow not only manage to stay afloat, but prosper and continue to buy rights for other games....


I'm afraid I may be providing very little context so as an example, I will use their newest game Dungeon Fighter Online (DFO) to provide information. DFO has been officially released to the public under the status of "Open Beta" about a month and a half ago. During the Closed and Early Beta, there were many issues brought up in the forums (and probably on support tickets) referring to many changes in the game that struck previous DnF (Dungeon and Fighter) players as unusual.

For starters: It seemed that this uncleaned version of DFO had traces of code that originated from the Korean, Japanese, and Chinese servers. When players joined a party, the connecting screen would be written in chinese, when players tried to join a Passworded PvP arena, the confirmation button would be written in Korean, and some bots (because they stayed in the same spot and idled all day) obtained a title that said "rooted to town" in Japanese. Not only that, a friend of mine set his non-unicode support to korean and to his surprise found all the text to be in Korean. We, the US branch of players, received some freaky Frankenstein'ed version of the game where bugs existed from some bosses in early versions of DnF while other character balancing was already set.

This probably set off the first large warning signal in my head.

Only about a month later, did Nexon then decide to patch in the "item shop" ( a general term for the foundation of the microtransaction process in many Free to play MMOs. Often referred to as an item shop as site based item shops would usually transfer the premium item bought to the game server. Other games implemented the item shop into the game itself).

Most of the game was still bugged, quests and dungeons needed to be fixed, client issues arose and yet Nexon decided to patch the item shop first... Not only that, they implemented the Japanese system of "Gachapons" (in reference to the Gachapon slot machines where people would insert an increment of money to receive a capsule that would contain a collectible. Needless to say, it was a lottery and the money required to "complete a set" would be based on your luck) for low ranking (low quality compared to the other servers) premium items and greatly inflated prices. In addition, items that were supposed to be bought with the in game "gold" were being sold for cash. The Mentorship system (a simple system in which higher levels will be able to support lower level players by running dungeons together and recieving boosted rewards) was removed. In its stead is a "noob-o-meter" which diminishes the experience that both high levels and lower level characters receive when they party togther. Guilds don't exist yet. It's as if Nexon was attempting to remove any sense of community in the game.....



I could go on, but I won't, because there are issues on the surface that require attention.

I'll start off with the forums, the home for many of Nexon's users. From what I can tell, there's only one moderator for the entire forum spanning multiple games...
That's right, a single account responsible for cleaning up all the drivel on site as well as performing the duties of Public Relations. I've seen text based web games feature more administrators than this. And considering the age demographic that Nexon seems to be targeting (based on the games they host) there's going to be a greater need for administrative staff. No doubt the moderator -Hime- has his/her a rough day each time he/she has to walk into the nexon office.

These forums are extremely primitive resembling a loose variation of the old fashioned BBS coding used by Geocities (may god rest its soul) and Angelfire (theirs too). When you run the forums through a google search, you can then see the foundation of the forum... and it doesn't look very pretty. In addition, I'd like to note that YOU CAN'T EDIT YOUR POSTS. So if you notice something is wrong with your post, or you missed a typo. It's there forever. You can't delete it either and so you're usually forced to either double post or deal with the fact that a point you missed won't be spoken. The lack of any sort of post-comment function is definitely unusual and quite old. I certainly wouldn't expect a company like nexon to skimp out on features that players use... (oh wait, yes I do.)




Events hosted by nexon are fake...





As you can see, not only do they not follow their own rules but half of those accounts including the 30k NX winner doesn't exist. I have proof of it too. Accounts and characters of the same name were created me and my friend AFTER the announcement of the winners. We even have videos of ourselves doing it. It will be uploaded soon as soon as we're finished with another video.

Events are ways to improve popularity for a game. Usually, when companies host events, they don't LIE about it. Notice the winner for the 40k milestone. The prize is probably 10k because that name actually refers to a player/character in the server. I also have experienced some poor service by nexon. I was a winner in the Mabinogi: Say hello to G1 contest in which we had to post on their forums the URL for our blog post that had two of the embedded videos in their terms. I won, but never received an email. I contacted them vis support ticket a few days after my name came up and this is the following response:

"Inquiry: My forum name is Zerreth and I was a winner in the Mabinogi Promotional Video Contest.

http://mabinogi.nexon.net/Event/View.aspx?boardNo=202&contentNo=0008l&pageIndex=1

Unfortunately, I have yet to receive any details as to how I can claim my prize."



I'm not stupid. I've checked my spam folder as well as my inbox. I never received such an email at any point in time. Which leads me to believe that they never sent it.I specifically mentioned that I didn't "receive any details as to how I can claim my prize." I had assumed that whoever was in charge would understand what that meant and attempt to work with a customer, but that doesn't seem likely. At that point I tried looking through the forums to see if anyone else had any issues and vaguely remembering a nice list of posts commenting on it with less.... grace.




That said, I'd like to move on to customer support, or lack thereof. My friend recently lost his account which had over $6,000 worth of NX. At one point he needed to do a password recovery except that it sent the password to an email account doesn't exist anymore (the server hosting the email account is gone). He tried making an account and filing a support ticket concerning the matter at which he received a response of "In order to have this issue reviewed, you must file the ticket on the account in question....." Makes me wonder if they even read the tickets. He then called their "contact us" number in which he received a reply, in vocal form, that "this number is not to be used for customer support" and was then immediately cut off. He is now gathering all of his receipts to make a case and filing a lawsuit. There's one issue. Nexon's transaction logs only log transactions as old as 90 days. Meaning any transaction that was made via nexon point card that's older than 90 days doesn't exist... lovely.

In addition, if players didn't realize it yet. Nexon points disappear after 1 year as rights for it expire in such a time. Meaning if you have any points in your account that you want to save for another game that nexon may be releasing or saving up for newer content, it better be under one year, otherwise it will be removed from your account. MOST companies, notify you of such rights expiring around 30 days before expiration. IJJI even has that in their terms of service:

"Regardless of any terminology used or any name freely given by NHN USA at any time with reasonable notice on the Site, rights granted in the Virtual Money, Game Point and in the Items are a limited license right available for one year or less as the case maybe. NHN USA may charge fees for the right to use Virtual Money, and any right of use in the purchased Virtual Money will be terminated within one year from the date of purchase. We will use reasonable efforts to notify via your registered e-mail thirty (30) days before such termination."

By the way, Nexon doesn't have such a term in their terms of service. they just remove it at will and you can't do anything about it because their transaction logs only 90 days. Therefore, using a nexon card will end up hurting you.




The way nexon USA conducts itself is pretty shady. They provide poor service, and seemingly try to rip you off at any price, and really try to do anything with a minimum amount of effort. Any attempts at actually trying to make nexon a good company would require the shutting down of said company. Not only do they basically have no idea what they're doing, but they're not even trying to fix it. They're simply rolling around in the money that kids with their parents credit cards are giving them. It annoys me to no end that shitty companies such as nexon stay afloat because it then crowds out better companies who could do a better job, earn the money they deserve, and release titles with quality service.

Here's the thing. I know nexon's a company which means they want money. That's OBVIOUS. Making profit is a fundamental point for a company. There are, however, many ways to go about doing this, none of which involve being the epitome of the American population.


Take a look at Valve. They quite well known for the support they provide for their games and customers. My account was hacked and they were able to recover it within 4 days. Look at the guard dog in TF2. It was a joke/fan made content and they actually thought it would be a good idea to implement it.

Look at Atlus. They have a set of administrators who actually take time to read the forums and provide their own input. The Atlus Online newsletter always has a section called "forum quoteables" which include 3 quotes (usually humorous even out of context) from the forums.

The reason starcraft is so famous is because of the time that Blizzard spent the time taking user feedback to balance units out.

In terms of other microtransaction hosts look at AeriaGames. They have a handful of games, GMs that actually spend time with players and they carry "mature" rated games. They even admit to mistakes they made to the players, and establish a sense of trust.

Look at IJJI. They're not too great in advertising and forum maintenance, but their game maintenence is pretty solid and their in-game GMs do try to establish a bond with the players.


To top it off. Nexon's swear filter sucks. It's so bad and primitive that "sucks" is censored as well as any combination of letters (regardless of whether they're in another word or in MULTIPLE words) that may or may not allude to a slur or a swear. They also have some personal touches such as "4chan".....

Simply put, don't buy cash from nexon. If you have to, buy $5 worth so that you're not targeted for when they do their arbitrary account wipes/bans. You're only supporting their bad practices and cheap tactics to make money. There are better companies out there that deserve to host the games nexon has.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

DFO review in need of a revision

Now that nexon has opened up the item shop for Dungeon Fighter Online, they have reared their ugly head of incompetence showing to all just the kind of moneymongers they are. I'll be updating the DFO review soon to reflect how nexon's poor hosting capabilities can kill a game (and its community).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

DFO Fan AMV WIP

I've got music, and I've got a handful of gameplay footage. Problem is. I'm actually missing someone who can supply me with some decent footage for the Spitfire.

I'm looking for a lvl 30+ Spitfire for my video. He doesn't have to be amazing but he should be able to handle himself in most dungeons and be well composed. Preferably, I'm looking for a PvP build, but strict PvE is fine as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Domain

I recently bought thesecondopinion.info to link to this site. So no longer would you have to type in zerreth.blogspot.com or refer your friends to a combination of words that they may or may not remember. The .com domain was like... you know hundreds of dollars so I wasn't able to register any common domains but it's a start.

So yeah. Spread the word, thesecondopinion.info will now be under my control and easier to spread through hearsay than the blogspot reference. Now to wait for the update to take effect.....



edit 16:07 :
I just noticed that there are fewer votes than before. Does everyone's vote on the poll have a shelf life of a year or something?

Edit: 16:11 :
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I broke it. Poll needs to be reset. Goddamnit.

Edit: 16:22
Polls are broke dude.....

Edit: 16:32 :
Temporary fix involves 2 polls at one. I can't remove the broken one and relocated it. Sorry.

Edit: 16:51 :
Fixed.... finally....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

WET - Review



I actually ordered this much earlier, it's just that both college and DFO have been taking up a bit more time than I expected. So it took much longer than it should have to beat this game.

Wet is a third person alternative shooter developed by Bethesda Softworks, responsible for some pretty recent titles such as Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Fallout 3. They've also had a hand in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth which is a first person shooter based on the HP Lovecraft novels.

Wet is about a gun for hire named Rubi Malone who is famous for her acrobatic gunplay which resulted in people likening her to a monkey.


Wet was more of less everything I expected it to be. It's a stylish third person shooter where you (and mostly a set of dual pistols) take on everything. (sigh) Because Rubi is badass and tough as a brick and people who are badass and tough as a brick don't care about anything....
The gameplay in the game is pretty solid. While the flow of it is pretty much the same throughout the game, it mostly involves firing two guns while jumping through the air, firing two guns while sliding on the ground and seemingly not wreaking your jeans, or using a sword to remove people from the game. Of course, Rubi also has some skills that allow her to move from point A to point B more efficiently, while firing two guns. She can wall run, hang onto cliffs and then run along it, slide down ladders hanging by her feet, run up and jump off of enemies, use enemies as launching platforms and enter a state of pure "pissed-offedness...." to wreak havoc. (I don't see how the last one relates of movement.)

The flow the game seems to generally follow a pretty structurized level design. There's a small gunfight that usually doesn't mean much and is just there to make sure the trek from point A to point B isn't too boring, then there's some form of arena fight. Rinse and repeat and add a few action scenes that involve a lot of quick-time event usage.

You get four weapons, all of which have their purposes and add more fun to the game. Unlike Wanted, where you're stuck with two weapons, which basically do the same thing, while the the enemy has a variety, you have about the same amount of weapons the enemy has. I think the only thing you're really missing is an assault rifle, and instead of that you get twin bowguns that fire explosive bolts. Good trade. They all have somewhat specific uses but after a while, that seems to matter less as it almost feels like ammo is attempting to tripwire you everywhere. Simply break open a box and you have about 1/4 of your total ammo.


The action packed quicktime event scenes are honestly the highlight of the game for me. The very first time I encountered this, I basically wet my pants. Rubi Malone is basically trying to hunt down a guy who stole her package and through a series of events, you find her on top of a car, driving along a bridge. In the meantime, there are other cars with enemies trying to kill you. You take control of Rubi and every so often she has to jump from car to car or pull off some flashy stunts to avoid getting roadkilled. So it's a combination of a rail shooter style gameplay combined with quick time events that appear frequently.

Speaking of which. I think that the quick time events handled in this game are probably the best I've seen. The quicktime command is pretty intuitive as the buttons aren't randomized and they generally correspond to basic controls. For example, let's say the car Rubi is on is about to crash into another car. The game goes into slow motion, and X (the button to jump) appears. She jumps and wall runs a truck, vaults over and jumps to another car with a guy sticking out of the window. As she's in mid-air, time slows down again to display the square button (the button for sword attacks). Once the event clears, she slashes the guy in midair and lands on the car.
In addition, I feel that the game gives players pretty ample time (about 1-2 seconds) to press the command. There are times that I simply fumble because I wasn't expecting it but it's not that big of a deal. In addition, the cut-scenes that include quick-time events are pretty well done. After a quick-tiome event is cleared the camera usually stays in the same "shot" so the transition looks very smooth. It also doesn't transition the moment you press the button so when you clear an event, a green circle appears around the button you have to press and the event continues on until the timer runs out. Because of that cutscenes aren't really choppy, the main problem I had with Resident Evil 4.


Music rocks. Enough said. Dialogue is pretty solid and the voice acting is really nice. Eliza Dushku voice fills Rubi with life.

The loading screens are actually kind of creative. I didn't realize until about halfway through the game that they were loading screens. Excluding the main loading screen chapters where there's just a single shot and a small loading animation at the bottom, in chapter loading screens consist of 70s movie theater commercials and small shots of what Rubi does when she's waiting in an elevator. It was humorous and entertaining so I didn't think much of it, but when I considered that at one point, the animation was looping and that they were placed in key areas involving doors, I realized it was a loading screen. Pretty clever.


Of course, there are issues with the game. One such issue would probably be the obscene precision required to move from place to place (feels reminiscent of Tomb Raider...). Rubi generally has a set running speed. It doesn't feel fast but when she jumps it's much further than expected. So what usually happens is that either you jump too early and fall to your death, or you screw up a simple combination of movement tricks which also features you falling to your death (wall running, jumping off, and then hanging onto a cliff). Other times the frustration of missing a simple chain in a link of moves during an arena fight warrants a save load. (Jumping off a ramp, killing two guys before swinging on a pole.... only to miss the pole and land on the ground where your combo has now been trashed). Because this game is so combo/chain-time sensitive, it's as if the developers were expecting you to know how to pull off everything you do at the start.... which is ridiculous.

I recieved a "poor" ranking in the first major fight that involved spawn points because I didn't utilize all the acrobatic tricks properly which would also help my time as the acrobatic elements help you reach the areas that contain the targets which you need to cut to kill the spawn point. COME ON.


Another issue would be how rigid the gameplay is. You hardly see any enemies when you're moving from one "arena" to another. While the gameplay is linear, and there's nothing wrong with that, having too rigid gameplay only emphasizes how linear the game is. In addition, I want some practice during the transition from point A to point B. It's somewhat annoying that I can't try out certain moves unless there's a target I can test on (i.e. flipping off enemies, or going for a super fast slash from a wall) and the game doesn't accommodate me with such a chance other than in an area that's grading you for your performance. It's as if you just learned how to drive and know the fundamentals of driving, but the only time you can drive is when you're taking a test. Unless your ability to adapt is that of god, OF COURSE YOU'RE GOING TO SCREW UP.


Another thing I was unhappy about was that there wasn't a "new game +" after you beat the game. Meaning after you complete the first runthrough of the game, you can't start a new game without removing the upgrade data from the old character... which is annoying because I'm pretty sure a bunch of the extra mini-stages that you unlock after, use the story mode clear data. You also don't get multiple save files, and there's no chapter select screen. I guess, if you count the Point attack mode (how many points can you score in a particular screen), that would count as "chapter select" but I would prefer something a little less competitive.


Some of the characters have VERY short appearances despite their importance to the storyline. Other characters aren't explained properly which almost makes you feel as if you're missing something or skipped a scene or entire game. The storyline, while fairly thought out is missing key plot points and explanations. As a result, what would have been a classic, yet overdone, story is filled with holes and information leaks that aren't necessary. They degrade the feel of the game overall and to top if off, it seems as if they left it as a cliffhanger for a second game...



Overall, Wet has that kind of Kill Bill feel to it, except that instead of a sword, Rubi is more about guns. The music sets the game's tone really well and I think because of it, I like the game a lot. There are a handful of game flaws in terms of technicalities, but in terms of flow, it plays really well. It's shorter than expected but it's nice. It's much better than the Strangerhood and being able to shoot two people at once, and seeing how well she changes the direction of the guns is pretty awesome.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dear Zerreth, How was NYAF 2009?

NYAF was last week, and this week I was swamped with projects due, so I haven't had much time to post. Sorry.

NYAF this year also had the World Cyber Games (WCG) national finals, so the booth vendors and attendees were actually mixed. Samsung had a booth near WCG as well as Sega, and I think that by hosting WCG at NYAF, it attracted a somewhat bigger crowd than last year. There was no maid cafe this year unfortunately. Next year, Comic-con is co-hosting with NYAF on the same day and share the same space. My thoughts are mixed about that, but I'll dive into that later.


This year, ATK wanted to go to the artist's alley again. This time, however, he and a few of his new friends in college wanted an artist's alley table as well. Prices actually went up in the artist alley by about 30%, whereas booths took a lesser hit. So instead of buying a table at the artist's alley, he decided to buy a booth and share the space with others. He contacted a new found friend at last year's NYAF, RedShoulder, and I contacted one of my college friends, Neolight, who was majoring in animation. Adding one of ATK's college friends we had 4 artists all sharing work at the booth.

Around August, ATK had to think of a name for the booth, so I proposed "Medley" as it was a group of artists with different styles and mediums all sharing work.


The first day (Friday) was relatively slow (as expected). All of us were all over the place trying to determine a better layout for the booth, we eventually ended up with a S shape with 3 tables. The table at the front would display all of our work while the tables to the side and back made an opening for others to enter the booth and allow attendees to extensively look at the artwork of each artist.


We had some support the second day. TheGunrun and his friend brought over some electronic equipment for us to try and advertise the booth better. At first we decided to have a small space dedicated to DJMax Trilogy so that we could try and hook some people in, but what ended up happening was that we were drawing a crowd of the wrong demographic, mainly those of the "join crowd because there's a crowd and leave once point of interest is now boring" group. It ended up distracting any onlookers from looking at the work, so we switched it to a stream of Neolight working on his animation on his tablet, and ATK's speed paints. For the later half of that day, I had to set up a playlist with my Zen as TheGunrun's PC on shuffle didn't really give us the music we needed.


The third day, we switched the setup so that there was only a monitor of DJMax playing and those interested would have to walk into booth to try. This shifted the crowd over to one side and freed up the front table so that it displayed everyone's artwork better.


I didn't track everyone's sales but I believe everyone at least once had a major sale one of the days. What surprised me the most at the convention was this one person who took a liking to ATK's Vocaloid crayon fanart (They're originally on this 17" X 22" paper) and bought them each for $50. We weren't intending to sell them, simply to display them to attract customers but who knew someone would take such a liking to it?

I feel that ATK and I should've also ordered DJMax Trilogy in bulk or something. The number of DJMax fans as well as those interested in buying the game was enormous. If only I linked them to this blog first, I could've probably gotten some commission from Play-asia...


I gotta say though. I was dead tired on Monday. I almost fell asleep in class and my performance in Kendo was atrocious. Regardless, this year was a good experience as well. Maintaining a booth and setting up a table at the Artist's Alley were on whole different levels.

I'm not sure what ATK should do next year though. Because NYAF is co-hosting with Comic-con, there's gonna be a larger number of attendees that will probably head on over to the artist's alley. At the same time, there's also going to be significantly more attendees. The closest thing to Comiket that we have here in the States is probably Otakon but nothing really focused on the artists. Hopefully, we'll get something like that soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NYAF 2009

Tomarrow is NYAF, and once again ATK and I will be there presenting artwork. This time, we'll be at Booth 131 along with 3 other artists who all do independent work. Aptly referred to as "Medley" we intend to try to make this bigger and hope to have more artists collaborate next year.

The Artist's Alley is fairly out of the way and cluttered which was a slight problem. In addition, prices increased and ATK decided to take advantage of this by buying a booth and sharing it among other exhibitors. Not only would this cut costs, but it also gives us prime space and more potential attention. Be sure to drop by.

Monday, September 14, 2009

DFO Early Beta Key results

Considering only one person commented. MrLucky77 will get two keys.

That means that I still have 5 remaining. If anyone else wishes to get a key at some point between early beta and open beta. Comment and I'll see what i can do.


In other news. I've pre-ordered Wet which looks like it's going to be that game that I wish was made already. Can't be sure though, and DFO begins tomorrow. Luckily, college hasn't roundhouse kicked me in the face yet.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Artwork

I just got a chunk of work from ATK.



Another crayon sketch that blew my mind.



A nice piece of acrylic work. This one is pretty balanced in terms of contrast. My eyes are moving all over the place and I'm having a bit of a problem find a focal point, but it's good work nonetheless.



A good use of basics. A nice black and white piece with some really nice detail.



I had to "smart sharp" on photoshop on the original image. I think ATK took a hasty shot in capturing this image. Another interesting black and white using the dark background to highlight the tree.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Government spending is too much....

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8252939.stm


First off. I JUST realized today was Saturday. ooooh boy. Second, I have an RSS feed to BBC and this happened to be the latest headline.
After reading the article, I'm a bit vexed at the situation. From what I understand, Obama's being criticized for spending too much money. I'm a bit troubled considering that this is coming from conservatives and from a certain president who likes guns.


I understand that Obama HAS spent quite a lot of money for a lot of stuff, and he's most likely going to spend even more. Considering the rate that he's spending and ASSUMING he continues this rate, somehow recovering from that is going to get hairy and most likely result in higher taxes, which by the way is a necessary evil.

A certain John Maynard Keynes created a macroeconomic theory that mostly involved deficit spending. It worked because the spending helped stimulate the economy. That spending was for jobs such as bridges. Because people got jobs, they then spent money, and that spending helped other companies and so forth.

Currently that's what Obama is doing. I'm not saying that we're going to revive immediately, nor am I saying that this kind of spending is a great idea. Certain criticisms on what he spend the money on, somewhat bother me.


In particular, GM. In general, Conservatives' policies with the government and economic involvement is to stay out of it. If the government doesn't do anything the economy will work itself out. This is capitalism, where bad companies are supposed to fall and companies with good policies thrive. At least.... they're supposed to do that. Apparently, when companies are doing well, they complain to the government to butt out of their business. When their policies fail and companies have to start using the red ink, they complain that the government isn't doing enough to support them. And if the government doesn't support them, they threaten the country with unemployment and argue that it's not the workers fault that they entered a falling company, THUS the government should help the company.... Of course bonuses are basically unchanged.... I think that's being spoiled.

To then criticise the government for them bailing out certain US based auto companies for their poor standards on vehicles really annoys me.


Then there's a certain shrub who was elected nine years ago who decided to have fun with the middle east. This person, (let's just say "bush") retaliated against Afghanistan and left immediately saying that it's not the U.S's job to "nation build," a term that involve the in US spending billions of dollars smothering another country and then rebuilding its infrastructure which would (is supposed to) result in a more stable country.

(Funny enough, because we left so quickly, we have to go BACK to Afghanistan.)

Of course this shrub then decided to attack Iraf and guess what.... more or less attempt to nation build Iraq and ruin a certain Powell's chances for presidency. War is bad in almost all regards. Economies spend vast amounts of money and often result in many issues later on. Things that benefit from it: Population control, military companies, and fuel suppliers.



This is what we call a double standard. And it's even worse since Bush isn't that far behind. Your hindsight doesn't need to be 20/20 to see the mistakes. You LIVED through them.


By the way. During World War II, the upper echelon of the income bracket was taxed heavily to try and reduce the debt that war builds. Taxes were cut when we went to Iraq.

I'm not gonna shed a tear for everything Obama does, and if this does continue, we're going to be in a bigger problem. At the same time, I don't stand for hypocrisy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

DFO Beta Key Giveaway Contest

Gamespot has "only" 50,000 keys available, and 1up.com apparently has now stopped releasing keys.

Considering that there were keys distributed at PAX, I find it hard to believe that anyone WOULDN'T have a key if they wanted. Regardless, I have 7 keys at my disposal to distribute. So I decided to host a contest to distribute keys. Here's how it works.


Simply post a comment with your e-mail address. There are restrictions however:

1. When you post a comment you are not allowed to choose anonymous. Anonymous

2. If you choose Name, you MUST type your email address or blog site as the URL.
2a. Name must be appropriate. You don't have to type your actual name, screen names are fine. I will completely disregard nonsense. You know who you are. I have some tolerance, but I still can't stand stupid.

3. No repeat entries. I understand that there are trolls and griefers, so it's best to use either an Open ID account (Live Journal, Word Press, Type Pad, AIM) or a gmail/blogger account. Because this is more easily traceable, it will guarantee you a slot.



Results will be revealed on the 14th where you can then download immediately and wait the next day.



Good Luck to you all.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Braid - Review



Braid is a platformer that my friend notified me about. It's a fairly basic one in terms of game mechanics in that it's a straight up 2D sidescroller. You jump on enemies to kill them and to go to jump higher.

What's unique about it is its mechanics with the other function: the rewind/fastforward function. If you do happen to die the game will politely ask you to press a button (in this PC gamer's case: shift) and time will rewind until you let go. At first I thought "Oh how clever" but then I came to realize that the rewind function was going to be one of the main parts of the game.

Levels are divided into worlds which then have smaller segments (rooms) that focus on a certain platforming puzzle. Worlds themselves have rules that change up how the game is played. For example, some rooms are designed where time will only move if you move (left or right) which can result in dead enemies respawning and some stubborn key mechanisms of the game.



A good portion of the platforming puzzles rely on the rewind feature to help you progress. There are puzzle pieces along the way that if you collect all of, will form a small picture that I will assume is a memory of our protagonist "Tim." Technically, you can breeze through the levels not particularly caring for any of the puzzle pieces but that seems to ruin the fun of the game as many of the pieces are the heart of the game and utilize the worlds' messed up rules.


The story itself is laid out in a sort of book format. It's an all encompassing room with books on pedestals. Each book represents a page and you, the player, moves forward onto each pedestal to go to the next page.

To be honest, I haven't finished the game yet, but I'm near the end and I've loved the platforming aspects of it. Some puzzles have a very particular timing to the platforming which is mildly irritating but none are too hard that I've simply quit, yet. I would write a longer review but I'm actually tired as I'm writing this late at night before this is actually published. I will be away for a week and return next sunday which means there will be no post next week. I hope you all have a good start to your school year (if you're starting school) and I'll see you all next week with a modified review.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fat Princess - Review





As you can see Fat Princess is about two princesses who found a cake growing out of the ground. These two princesses then overstuffed themselves to problematic proportions. Believing it to be a curse, the king wages war on the other kingdom to secure his princess's hand in marriage which would supposedly break the curse.


A friend of mine first showed me the trailer on PSN and almost immediately I realized I had to get this game. The "main" game mode is a basic class-based capture the flag style gameplay. What makes this unique is probably the running speed of your character based on the weight of the flag.....


You spawn as a peasant, with customizable eyes, hair, facial hair, hair color and voice. As the peasant you need to pick up hats from nearby hat factories or off the corpse of a dead enemy to change job classes. There are five job classes which are fairly straight forward: worker, archer, warrior, mage, and priest. Workers are equipped with an axe to chop down trees and mine for metal. By collecting these materials, workers are then able to upgrade factories to improve job classes or build siege weapons.

All classes have an upgraded form which also gives them a second weapon. Workers are given bombs for small anti-gate/personnel AoE (area of effect) and their hat factory also drops a larger version of the bomb for anyone to pickup and throw. Archers have access to fire arrows and are given a shotgun-esqe musket rifle as a second weapon for short range attacks. Warriors are given spears which have a longer range and give them a dash attack. Mages are given an ice staff in addition to their fire staff and their hat factory now pumps out potions that turn players and enemies alike in a small area into chickens... Finally, Priests are able to turn into dark priests and steal health from enemies instead of healing allies.


There are four game modes if I remember properly. There's a capture the flag mode in which all you have to do is take the enemy princess from her throne and toss her into your dungeon. Conquest mode, in which you have to rescue your princess and have her sit on her throne while having the enemy princess in your dungeon for a certain period of time. King of the hill, where both teams have "life points" and players have to capture and hold more outposts than the other team for a certain period of time to reduce the enemy team's life points and finally deathmatch mode where there are a total number of points on a team representing the total number of lives on a team and the objective is to simply kill.


The unique (and amusing) part about Capture the flag (princess) and conquest mode is the ability to feed the princess (whether it's the enemy princess in your custody, or your own princess) cake pieces that appear all over the field. By feeding the princesses cake, they get fatter making it harder to actually carry the flag back to your base. This is where teamwork shines, because other players can help increase your carry speed by "escorting" (escorts are indicated with a heart talk bubble above their heads) you and thereby helping you get back to the castle. If I were to somehow logically justify the concept. It would be like... they're helping you carry that fat princess and occasionally letting go to use their weapons...


What really surprised me was the blood and gore in the actual game. I thought it was weird when PSN asked for me to input my birthday before seeing the trailer and later, it made sense. To put it simply: so much blood. For any hit, blood splurts out and dyes the ground for a while. Many players in a confined area = pools of blood.

The menu system is made with a bit of wit. The top menu listings are "Play with yourself, Play with Others, Bragging Rights, Twiddly Knobs." The thing that got me though was when you were playing a single player custom map and in the options, it said "25 imaginary friends."


There were some things I didn't find that great. First off would be the quick tips and the tutorial in general (rather, lack of tutorial). Running the storyline on single player helps you familiarize yourself with the game, the maps and the different game modes, but I noticed I had spent significantly more time in the first level than the rest of the campaign. I read through the in-game manual only to realize it didn't really help much as there wasn't any interactive element to help you understand the concept better.

Some of the maps are very small and seem a bit cramped in a 32 player game. The best way to see what "cramped" means is to load up the soccer mini game and watch all the AI swarm the soccer ball resulting in a chaotic mess. Other maps are more suited for more players and so the maps vary in size and players simply have to estimate a suitable amount of players.


I'm not sure whether this would be a bad thing or not, but it's very simple. Not in terms of concept but the overall game is one of those games that you just pick up and play for a little while and leave after. With so few maps, it somewhat limits game longevity. Seeing as there's a "fat downloads" option, I assume that downloadable content will arrive soon, so it must be simply a matter of time before more maps and features are introduced.



In related news. A PSP port is said to come out.

I must not make posting on sundays a habit....

I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....
I must not make posting on sundays a habit....

















damn it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lucky☆Star



Lucky Star is an anime by Kyoto Animation with their shining star Aya Hirano as one of the protagonists.

It's about an otaku gamer by the name of Konata Izumi who goes on with her daily life along with her close friends Tsukasa and Kagami Hiiragi, and Miyuki Takara. The entire series is very slice of life-ish with the highschoolers going on with their daily lives.

That's it. There isn't anything else besides the Lucky Channel segment at the end of the episode. The entire show itself is about highschool girls going on with their lives with various references to other anime and culture. It often also makes use of the voice actors and their previous roles (the most notable one being Konata/Haruhi).

The animation is sorta clean? Backgrounds are low budget but characters themselves are noticeably clean and often detailed better. There are also segments that show an outstanding budget (it's kyoto after all).


To be honest, the entire show is sub par in terms of "story" or "plot." I haven't read the Lucky Star manga but considering how scenes are constructed with a structured build up and gag line, it's very reminiscent of a 4 panel style manga (kinda like Azumanga Daioh!).

Voice acting for the main characters is very well done and there were some surprising performances from not-so-well known voice actors. My main gripe about it is that all background characters that have 1-3 lines are all done by the same person. I get the joke, it's clever, but it's also very annoying. It's clearly obvious is one person but it makes me cringe everytime cause it's purposely poorly done. It's even worse when there are multiple people cause then it's just one guy talking to himself.....


The gem of the show in my opinion has to be the Lucky Channel. The Lucky Channel is a small segment that has direct correlation to the show (except in terms of 4th wall breakage) about an idol that goes by the name of Akira Kogami. She hosts the Lucky Channel segment with a co-host, Minoru Shiraishi. who occasionally appears in the actual show.
The genius of the segment is that Akira is clearly tired of the "idol" life and goes on to show her true colors frequently complaining about the idol life and the expectations. There are also occasional moments when the co-host is talking to the producer.

To be honest, a good portion of me liking this show is the lucky channel because it seems at this point is when the director and script writer shine. The ending themes are also quite amusing to listen to. About halfway through the series, I heard the director was switched and it's very noticeable as the entire episodes "seem" different. I'm not sure if it's because of the source material either, but I was laughing much more often in the latter half of the series.

The music is nothing to astound yourself with. It works fairly well with no real outstanding tracks.


As a final note. Lucky Star is one of the few anime where I'm not really content with some of the voice actors. Particularly those who voiced Kagami's classmates and.... Patricia Martin. They fit, but I still don't like them.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Current Status

Watching:
Baccano!
Romeo X Juliet
Canaan
Valkyria Chronicles

Playing:
Disgaea 3 (still)

To do:
Second run of Persona 4 (complete all links)
Finish Stella Deus
Finish Ar Tonelico II
Disgaea 3 (I'm never gonna finish this......)
Wait for DFO Open Beta/Full release
Clean my Room
Finish Catalog for my Camp Director
Complete Kendo Club Website
Watch Higashi no Eden in preparation for the 2 Full length feature films.
Prep the second PS3 for reselling (CECHE01 Model)


Finished:
Lucky Star (Didn't watch OVA)
Frekazoid (again..... though I don't think that counts....)


There's only one month left and so much to do.....
That's life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dungeon Fighter Online (DFO) - Review



The reason I've been away for a while is because I've been in the Dungeon Fighter Online Closed Beta for the US Nexon. I gotta say, this is a highly recommend from me.

I first heard about this from a korean friend of mine who played it for a while. He said its popularity was mainly based on PvP as it was highly balanced. So anyway, this past week has been spent beta testing straight and here's my review.


Overall (in its current state), Dungeon Fighter has the potential to be an amazing and long lasting game.

The basic story is about how there is a world known as Arad. People from other worlds in someway or another find this word that acts as a hub with no real way to get back out, but each person who enters the world has some purpose.

The artstyle for the game is really clean. Apparently, when the game first came out in Korea, it was looked down upon by other developers for using sprites, but I never understood that. Many famous fighters use sprites and many games still use sprites (Grand Chase to name one). To ridicule a game for its art seems odd. I'd understand if it was poorly done and very choppy but animation-wise, but Dungeon fighter is extremely clean. and the sprites are very nicely detailed. Let's think of it this way, for some odd reason, when one mentions the word "sprite" in reference to a game, people seem to assume it's going to look bad... like the original Wolfenstein. The thing is, fighters have used sprites for one of the longest times and it's been studied by gamers to the point where most mid-pro gamers refer to "clashing frames" referring to the actual coding of when a hit connects and the number of frames certain moves have. Odin Sphere used all handdrawn sprites and it too shows how beautiful sprites can be. To say that 3D and modeling is new gen and therefore rendering everything else obsolete makes no sense to me. One prime example would be Rainbow Six Vegas (the first one). Compare that to Gears of War and you'll notice how horrible the texturing in Vegas is. So is the modeling, I noticed that some trees were using interlaced flat low resolution textures. Even Counter-Strike Source looks better than that.... but that's enough of this tangent.


In terms of character creation, there are 5 characters (6, if you include the female gunner, and 7, if you include the new thief that's announced in the Korean version) each with their own specified job classes that branch out later on. You have a Slayer, Fighter, Gunner, and Priest. Each class is specified in amplifying one specific characteristic of the original job.

Slayers are swordsmen with a demonic arm that fuels his skills and abilities. As he gets stronger he can then branch out to Weapon Master, Soulbender, Asura, and Berserker. Depending on what players eventually choose, the classes go from extremely fast slashes of the berserker to large elemental strikes as an Asura.

Gunners obviously use guns but once they hit lvl 18, it branches off into many different directions. For example, you can have a mechanic who specializes in summoning robots to fight for him or you can be the ranger who specializes in flashy close combat melee moves combined with stylish trick shots. Then there are Launchers who take out big guns (literally) and fire gatlings, lasers and flame throwers to kill the enemy while spitfire focuses on elemental damage and specializing in focused shots.

Fighters are basically masters of hand to hand combat branching off into spiritual Nen Masters who excel at buffs and spirit attacks or Grapplers who specialize in.... grabbing and throwing. There's also Strikers and Brawlers who also are very distinct. Strikers are professional martial artists who link skills together and have some "famous" moves such as a one-inch punch or the chun-li rapid kicks whereas brawlers (or "street fighters" in other versions) use whatever tactics necessary to win (ie. sand, poison).

There are also Mages, who are generally spellcasters but can turn into Battle Mages who excel at linking skills together with combos. I feel that Mages (or Fighters) have probably the most diverse range of classes in terms of gameplay. There are elementalists, summoners, battle mages and witches each specializing in one specific thread of the cookie cutter mage types. Elementalists are the basic toss large AoE spells, Summoners summon mobs of monsters that wipe out entire dungeons, and Witches fly on broomsticks tossing pumpkin bombs and potions and changing parts of dungeon layouts...

Then there are the Priests who I find to be most interesting as they generally veer towards monks than the usual stand back and heal types. There can be Exorcists who case area of effect spells that hinder enemies or they can be monks who lay down area of effect buffs and go hand to hand with enemies.


Here's a nice playlist that showcases all the character classes (with the exception of Avenger)



The gameplay is reminiscent of old school beat em up fighters where players walk on a plane beating stuff up as they advance. It's less like Grand Chase as it isn't a platformer and more like 3D fighters (Like Tekken or Dead or Alive) where players walk along an X and Y axis and jump along the Z. Characters have to beat all the monsters in a certain room to advance to the next and to complete the dungeon, they must beat the boss at the end.

As players obtain skills, those skills can either be hotkeyed to one of 12 hotkeys or activated by inputting the command (similar to a fighter). So it's possible to call more than 12 skills at a time without ever having to bring up the skill menu. I think that this is probably one of the best systems in gameplay that's been implemented. Let's say I was surrounded and wanted to do a windmill attack but my hotkeys were filled with other skills and buffs. All I would need to do is press the key stroke command for it (down+down+X) and he would pull off the skill. I believe the PSP version of Guilty Gear tried it but its execution in gameplay was a bit lack luster.


Instead of managing stats, as a player, you need to manage skills and allocate the SP (skill points) you get properly for a good build. The thing is, players can cancel normal attacks into skills but they need to buy the ability to cancel to skills using SP. These cancels are often twice to nearly three times the cost of the skill itself meaning, that once players reach higher levels where they have to upgrade many more skills simultaneously, they need to consider which skills are important enough to get cancels.

It isn't necessarily possible to completely screw up a character (such as allocating int stats for a physical attacker as an example) but it can hinder your progress, which in turn affects your efficiency in dungeons.

Maximizing efficiency is actually very important in Dungeon Fighter Online. Unlike other dungeon crawlers (such as on consoles or MMORPGS) there's this element known as the Fatigue system. For each new room players enter, it uses up one point of a certain amount of total fatigue points and once a player runs out of fatigue points, they have to wait until the next day to be able to run dungeons. This system then promotes efficiency and opposes grinding. Players who maximize the use of their dungeon runs, and complete as many quests in the fewest amount of dungeon runs will advance significantly faster than those who, for example, do a dungeon run for each quest (or from a review I read elsewhere, did full dungeon runs and waste fatigue on unnecessary rooms). Players also receive more experience in dungeon runs if they are in a party and receive experience according to the number of members there are in the party promoting party runs rather than solo runs.

If someone dies, they're allowed to use coins, arcade style, which are allocated everyday and if everyone dies there's a countdown.


PvP is really fun. Room Masters can choose individual, team mode or elimination mode. Individual is more or less a deathmatch and team mode is team deathmatch. Elimination however is where there are two teams and one player from each team engages in a one-on-one duel survival mode style where a small bit of HP is regenerated for a victory. Elimination mode is where one tests their skills and shows off their ability to juggle, link skills, move well and combo.


The music is great. I'm always entertained by the BGMS that play as I progress dungeons and areas. It is a bit repetitive as multiple dungeons have the same music, but they're always upbeat and keep me energized.



Of course there are some quirks with Dungeon Fighter as well.
Many quests are given when a certain character reaches a certain level, and quests give enormous amounts of experience. Therefore, if there were a group of 4 friends and one wasn't able to play a day when the other 3 were, the result is that they're probably higher leveled than the last guy who had to join up with others and solo and end up gaining less experience for the same amount of fatigue. This results in a near eternal gap that doesn't close until they all hit max level. Therefore, friends that party together need to set up times to play so that their efficiency is the same with other members in the group, otherwise irreparable gaps form.


Although the PvP aspect is well done, the options for rooms are actually quite limited. For example, nearly all individual and team deathmatches involve one life (or two if a specific map is chosen). Roommasters can't change time limits on anything, and the maps are very limited (this might be referring to Dungeon Fighter as a whole). Any elimination map is set to tavern, a small flat map suited for 1v1 deathmatches with no gimmicks. Every other map has some sort of environmental hazard that make the match based more on luck than skill and unbalance matches usually favoring ranged classes. Then there's this one map that's simply stupid. It's a map known as "Motor Fan" and it has two fans on either side of the map. These fans push ALL players on a certain half of the map in one direction (it isn't even top half or bottom, of the fans blow in some area around the middle). Even if you try to run against the fan, you make EXTREMELY slow progress and usually results in a giant cluster on one side of the map. I don't know if the developers beta tested this, but it's absolutely horrible.


Like all other games, DFO also has grinding elements to it. If a party is "too efficient" what usually ends up happening is that all the available quests which are supposed to be recommended for higher levels are completed and party members are stuck dungeon running to get the next level so that they can unlock more quests.

I personally don't mind. Because the combat is so active, the grinding is less of a pain for me. If I were to give an example, I'd say the grinding in Dungeon Fighter Online would be on a similar level to the grinding in a Tales Of.... game. It involves more input from the player keeping them more interested, and so it "feels a lot less like grinding" despite it actually being what it is.


The English dub is killing me. I feel as if microtransaction companies look for people on the streets to pickup to do bad voices, similar to how Dell outsources its tech support to India. I like the Mage and Fighter's voice but that's really about it. I know what you're thinking. "But Zerreth! That means you must like about half the voices in the game! Half is a very big portion." No.... no I don't. I said I like the Mage and Fighter, but unfortunately every NPC in existence has a voice (a repeating one at that) as well each equipped with around 5 lines of earbleeding atrocities that repeat every 10 (less actually) or so seconds. Once again, I'll probably be forced to download the korean version and swap the voice files....

You know... voice actors could at least try to give some effort and the directors could at least try to match voices to the character. For example, there's this one dark elf who says "I like... knoweverything.... about magic-k." Then there are the battle sounds from the slayers who sound like they lack a soul and are reading off of cards..... (Say "hushaw" here.....)


Let me just get this straight. I'm not some purist who automatically thinks that foreign voices are amazing and that the US sucks (partially true). At the same time, I'm well aware that too many voice actors are probably just movie extras who have next to no talent in acting. I'm also aware that there are very talented english voice actors (I think Amanda Winn Lee is outstanding. I know why Yuri Lowenthal is in so many games. He's good, just over used.) The problem is, the degree of effort and skill between actors who are chosen for major and secondary roles, and those chosen for tertiary and extra roles is about the difference in height between those standing on top of the Grand Canyon and those who are at the bottom, and I think that's the major issue here.


Regardless. This is a must play from me. I can't say that casual players could get into this very well, but any sort of gamer that plays more than casual games should have at least a little fun. Of course, if you're not into fighters, that's perfectly okay but it is something that you can do for a few hours (since that's about how much the fatigue lasts) and it isn't something you have to devote vast amounts of time to be good.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

25,000 Hits Celebration.



Since I didn't do much for 20k hits, ATK decided to draw an exclusive banner for 25k hits.




Speedpaint.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Prototype - Review



I want to apologize for these past two weeks. I've been sick and thus away from my computer. In addition, I've screwed up my sleeping schedule to the point where it's in dire need of being fixed, but you don't care about that. It's time for a review.



Prototype is about Alex Mercer who wakes up in a morgue only to realize there's something wrong with his body. It has the ability to consume others and give him superhuman powers. This is because of a virus that was loosed where he died somehow worked with his biological system to help him. Now, with many holes in his memories, he tries to find out who he is what happened.



My friend probably gave one of the best comparisons for his game calling it a mix between The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man. Prototype is a game which in many ways is brainless fun, but it's brainless fun done well. Once you complete a small set of necessary starting missions, the game enters free roam mode in mid-to-downtown Manhattan. Considering it takes place in New York, there are so many references to other games and movies that I could make, but I won't.

You have a pretty wide set of powers to unlock each with their own smaller set of melee combat and special abilities. There's also an expanded hand-to-hand combat that you unlock later that gives you a bit more freedom in controlling your enemies.


If you don't feel like doing a mission, you can do a set of events that you unlock throughout the story which give you points to unlock upgrades or you can just raid military bases because you can. Or you can just free roam and find some landmark points.

The controls for the PC version are very well done and I'm quite glad that it's more than just a port. They're intuitive, easily manageable and incorporate the combination of the mouse and keyboard very well. I never had any problems in terms of controls, although I can't say the same for the Xbox, which involved a lot more holding buttons to go into certain branches, as well as the lack of precision joystick control required to climb the spike on the Empire State Building (or for any other climbing to be exact).


My main problem with the game has to be the bosses and their "I refuse to flinch" condition. Fighting major enemies in the game have always been a pain, and it isn't as if I was underpowered (I usually went into those fights with almost every available upgrade) but bosses have this problem where they don't' flinch if they take damage which means that you have to do hit and run tactics (rather... run and throw, then run and consume as many enemies until you have devastator....), which mildly irritates me as they deal obscene amounts of damage per hit and knock you off your feet which gives them time to land another hit as you're stuck falling.

Oddly enough. I feel like that's it. The story isn't really worth mentioning. Aspects of the game that try to emphasize the "depth" of the story (known as the Web of Intrigue) but since the game actually places very little focus on it, how do they expect the players to care?


It was a fun sandbox game with cool abilities to try out. The combat is well done and the powers are pretty cool. I never got tired of hijacking apaches.