Friday, September 30, 2011

Chrono Trigger 2: Crimson Echoes - Part 2

Guess what?  I beat it!  Yay!  So now we can conclude this epic two-part review of "Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes", the only RPG so hot that playing it could potentially make its creators liable for tens of thousands of dollars in copyright damages.

In Part 1 I ultimately decided that the game could not develop an identity of its own distinguishable from the 1995 RPG classic it was romhacked from.  It plays the same, it looks the same.  All the best features of "Crimson Echoes" are not the work of Kajar Labs, but instead Square Enix's original Dream Team.  So as a sequel, it has to suffer in the shadow of "Chrono Trigger 1".mostly because its creators simply lacked the technical skills and possibly the ambition to make an experience that could properly be called its own game.  I'd say "Crimson Echoes" is less a sequel than an expansion pack.  A very long expansion pack with a story the length of a sequel, but an expansion pack still.  You can't really appreciate this game on its own without having played and loved "Chrono Trigger", that much should be clear almost immediately.

The ultimate goal of Kajar Labs was never to make a new game, even though they called this game a "sequel".  They wanted to make an extremely elaborate platform by which to tell the story of what happened between "Trigger" and "Cross".  That's not to say they neglected the gameplay, they did an excellent job creating a full-length RPG full of dungeons and bosses.  But making an original experience was never their aim.  Honestly this comes up in the storyline too, which somewhat of a disjointed adventure because the story constantly has to go out of its way to explain one of "Chrono Cross"'s many mysteries.  If only Misato Kato wasn't in such a pretentious mood when it came to "Cross" then maybe this game could go ahead and be something of its own instead of doing the plot-building work he refused to.  Honestly, Kato doesn't need any help, he needs a kick in the ass.

Well, Kajar Labs still did the best job they ever could, we have to remember that.  But is their best good enough?  We're about to find out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Lion King 3D

"Chrono Trigger" is a classic, but come on.  This is "The Lion King".  There are some things just considerably more important than a video game, no matter which one.  "The Lion King" is only the first name that comes into your head when you think of the Greatest Animated Movie of All Time*.  We've all seen it a million times, we probably still have a copy of it on VHS in a box someplace in the basement.  You know the lyrics to "Hakuna Matata", you wept before when Mufasa died, and when your kids are born you will lift them up to Providence's divine rays at some point.  This movie defines classic, there can be no doubt about it.

And if for any reason you haven't seen "Lion King" yet.... You better run, because I'll find you.  I'll find you and make you pay what you owe.

I, of course, absolutely love "The Lion King".  I've seen the movie roughly ten thousand and a half times.  I even went to see the Broadway musical, which is an incredible experience.  Actually, the musical is several shades better than the movie, probably the best show you'll ever see in any medium.  It is beyond fantastic, stunning in every sense of the word.  So since "The Lion King" means an immeasurable deal to me and every child of the 90s, when it was released in theatres this month as part of a cheap 3D gimmick to better advertise the BluRay release next month, I had to go see it.  This was not a choice like most movies I see, this was an obligation.  It was a religious pilgrimage, a life-affirming act of the deepest personal and philosophical significance.  Yeah, I went to Israel, land of my forefathers and breadbasket of civilization, earlier this year, but that was just a vacation.  "The Lion King" in theatres - that's what's really important.  That's where true meaning lies.

There's no point in reviewing "The Lion King", because we all know its a perfect movie.  I would do it a disservice to even try to review it.  But I guess I can give an assorted bunch of thoughts and whatever.  So enjoy:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chrono Trigger 2: Crimson Echoes - Part 1

"Chrono Trigger" is one the greatest video games ever made.  If you're looking for an absolutely perfect example of a JRPG, this is it.  The craftsmanship of this game is beyond reproach, perfect pacing, excellent sprite-based graphics that hold up even today sixteen years later, a great simple battle system that can be picked up, played, and understood in minutes.  This is the classic of classics, a fantastic achievement in 2D RPGs, which I do not think will ever be topped.  This is the Concorde Moment of the genre, a masterpiece which has not been topped since.  You can argue that games like "Final Fantasy VI" or "Final Fantasy VII" were actually better games, but they simply do not have the grand vision, the unequivocal balance of tone, difficulty, and story pacing that "Chono Trigger" has.  And "Chrono Trigger" doesn't have random encounters.

"Chrono Trigger" is a magical experience.  I'm not talking out of blind nostalgia here, I only first played this game a few years ago on the DS, when it was able to hold its own against far more advanced games like "Final Fantasy XII".  By the end of "Chrono Trigger", I could not conceive of a single failing, not one.  It was a perfect game, bringing forth its time-travel based storyline with clever originality and style.  There was nothing missing, aside for Schala's plot thread, which honestly is a minor B-plot.  Everything, from the cast to the exploration to the soundtrack was done with the unrepeatable flourish of a master's brush.  Square Enix took a Dream Team of the greatest RPG names in the world at the time, gave them a limitless canvas to work with, and what was created was true art.  A cartridge of "Chrono Trigger" should hang next to the Mona Lisa.  Leonardo Di Vinci never made a sequel to that painting, how can you make a sequel to "Chrono Trigger"?

Square Enix tried with "Chrono Cross", a game I have yet to play.  Its inferiority is too obvious, its story too much of a jumbled mess, its cast a bland sea of underused characters, its battle system complex and confusing compared to the undeniable simple brilliance of "Trigger".  Some day I'm sure I'll have to try it out, but its going to be on the backburner for a long time.  What I have here instead for you is "Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes", the unofficial fan sequel that SQUARE ENIX DOESN'T WANT YOU TO PLAY.

Oh, and this is a huge review, I suspect, so this is only Part 1.  Here we're going to discuss, among other things, the technical details of this game, its controversial history, and whatever else I feel like.  Part 2 will be a more direct qualitative review, where I finally decide if you should play it or not.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

I'm exhausted, been up since six in the morning.  I promised a post, I'm giving a post.  It wasn't easy to find time, but I did.  You're welcome.

If you haven't seen "The Princess Bride" yet, I really don't know what to say about you as a person.  You're incomplete, that's for sure.  But living this long without seeing one of the great pillars of modern comedy film points to me as a more extreme failing, a sign of deep personality disorders.  Perhaps extreme psychopathy.  Whatever it is, if you haven't seen "Princess Bride", you need to go see it now, then cut off a pinky in penitence.

But like most movies, it was not an original creation.  It was actually based on a William Goldman novel, which was in turn based upon a work by the famous Florin author, S. Morgenstern.  He's the most famous Florin author because he's actually the only Florin author.  William Goldman completely made Morgenstern up for the purpose of a bizarre frame story and various jokes.  Some people hold the mistaken belief that there actually is a real S. Morgenstern original, they are extremely wrong.  The idea is that the book I read is some kind of abbreviation of an older book, though even a cursory read would show you that nobody could have made a book as weird as Goldman describes.  However, as for the book, William Goldman made a classic masterpiece of his own.

If you thought the movie was good, "Princess Bride: the Book" was at least ten times better.  Yeah, I did the math, I laughed exactly ten time more reading this thing than I did watching the movie.  And since the book is barely 250 pages, you can basically read it in the exact amount of time it would take to watch the movie.  You can finish this thing during any trip to the beach, airline ride, or night in jail.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bleach Recaps: Ep. 222, Elephantitis

I'm Tite Kubo.  I am the lord successor to Akira Toriyama, and the greatest manga author of my time.  Fuck that, I'm the greatest author of anything ever.  Check out how boss my sunglasses are.  Oh, you're unimpressed with these shades?  Watch me take them off.  See that style.  You wish you had that kind of style.  Here, I'll put them on and take them off again.  Super cool.  What was I talking about again?  Oh yeah, the most interesting subject ever: me.  Yeah, I'm not just stylishly cool, I'm also half-dragon.  Yeah, my mom was a dragon, its cool.  This episode here is based off a chapter I drew for "Bleach".  Because I made it, its the most awesome episode of anything ever.  This episode is especially special for me, because I drew it while two Thai prostitutes were having sex on my coffee table to give me inspiration.  Unfortunately, I didn't get any because they weren't sexy enough.  So I murdered them both and got my publisher to mix their blood into the ink of every copy.  I just want to say, I dedicate this episode to those prostitute, and myself for being so great.  I'm Tite Kubo, and I'm just that awesome.

Fuck that guy.

Anyway, this is a "Bleach" recap.  While Tite Kubo was busy murdering prostitutes, he forgot to actually make this part of the story good.  What happens in Episode 222 is two battles among the fifty-three we have going on at this point.  One of the fights is actually exciting, the other is two big dudes yelling at each other.  The most exciting conflict however was my right hand desperately looking for a beer, which sadly I ran out of.  To fight off the pain, I started drinking shaving cream, which certainly made me semi-conscious, if nothing else.  Then I beat myself over the head with stapler.  When I came to, life was a little bit better.

But then I had a "Bleach" recap to write... Crap.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sin and Punishment 2: Star Successor


I may have never told you guys this before, but I love light gun arcade games.   To this very day, if I got ten minutes to burn and there's an arcade nearby, I'll freely sink a dollar or two into any shooter machine.  Give me a plastic gun, a screen to shoot at, and a bunch of Nazis/aliens/Nazi aliens to blast in the face, and I am in heaven.  Yeah, for some reason FPS games are all the rage these days, but you can take your "Halo 4" and shove it.  The real hardcore shooters are "House of the Dead 2", "Area 51", and "The Ocean Hunter".  Nothing but beautiful memories in those things:  if you're a kid at the Jersey Shore with a buddy, and there's an hour of of zombies or dinosaurs to slaughter, that's paradise.  I am serious when I tell you that I will have sex with any human being on Earth if they give me an old 90s light gun arcade cabinet.  You could even be that mumbling chick from "Twilight", and I'd have sex with you - twice.

But I honestly, I don't want to have sex with that walking corpse people call "Kristin Stewart".  Sadly though, its probably the only way I'll ever get to play those light gun games.  Rail shooters are a dead genre, and arcades are twice as dead.  The world has moved on*.  Luckily, however, there is one console on the market today that has motion-based controls that would be perfect for a light gun shooter game:  the playful little Wii.  There plenty of light gun games on the Wii, its a like a white plastic Renaissance.   We got two "Resident Evil" games, "Dead Space: Extraction", a brand new "House of the Dead", and most importantly, "Sin and Punishment 2", which is so important because its the game I'm reviewing right now.  I know one day I'll have to play the "House of the Dead" stuff (which includes remakes of "House of the Dead 2" and "3" - yay!), but for now I got this incredibly awesome game in front of me.  Oh, "Sin and Punishment" is good.  Not just good, but great.  Not just great, but stopreadingandbuyitnow-fucking-unbelievably-kickass!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bleach Recaps: Ep. 221, In Which Everybody Fights Everybody Else

I'm an alien parasite.  My name is Xxxzious  I live inside Blue Highwind's head.  I was sent to this world to conquer and add its natural resources into our glorious intergalactic empire.  Sadly, I'm about the size of a penny and look the slimy white hard thing you sometimes find a bad Chicken McNugget.  I did try to conquer a litter box in Milwaukee a few years ago.  Let me tell you:  cat pee hurts.  I never was cut out for this "galaxy-conquering" stuff.  I wanted to be a dentist.  Since that time, I managed to sneak inside this college-age kid's head, and now spend my days sitting behind his eyeballs while he watches these fucking terrible shows form Japan.  My tentacles ache by just thinking of these things.  They make no sense!  I once saw a Quarble from Planet X-531 make love to an entire Venusian middle school marching band, and that was a more coherent experience!  So, this is it.  I'm packing my bags, leaving this kid's head, and flying back to the home world.  We don't need Earth.  Bye.

What is deal with Ichigo's recap?  Do we need a recap to start up another recap?  Which ultimately leads to you reading MY recap?  This is insanity!

To describe to "Bleach" three nights ago, I can only use this phrase:  "Holy clusterfuck, Batman!"  Everybody just started fighting everybody else, basically at random.  The Powerpuff Arrancars decided to fight Hitsugaya and that set of tits he calls a lieutenant, Starrk and Lolinette went to fight Shunsui and Captain Tuberculosis, and Barragan managed to pull two more Arrancars out his ass to fight Soy Phone and her idiot.  So I guess that's like twenty-nine episodes worth of fighting to do, along with all the battles that are happening in Heuco Mundo right now.  Oh, and remember that the Visoreds are on their way, the Big Bad Trio are trapped in a fireball, and then there are all the characters that Tite Kubo simply forgot about.  And finally, Ichigo has to save the day somehow.  We're going to be here for a very long long long time.  Better get comfortable, its "Bleach" time.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bleach Recaps: Ep. 220, Hot Puppy on Wailord Action

I'm Blue Highwind.  I do not have the ability to see Spirits, I am not an ordinary high school student, and I do not have orange hair.  One day I started a long-running series of recaps of the anime series "Bleach", mostly because the current season, the Amagai Arc, was so indefinably awful in every sense of the word that something needed to be done about it.  Since then I have recapped very nearly a year's worth of episodes.  I've seen things that would make most men change the channel, yet I have pressed on.  For what ultimate goal?  I have no idea anymore.  I could say that there is a hot chick who needs saving from an evil dude, and somehow all this typing and image-capturing somehow would rescue her right into my twin-sized bed.  But that would be lie.  Instead, I keep on fighting, not to protect the World of the Living, but for the name of fuck.  An all-out war was not about to begin.

Why the heck was the deal with Ichigo's random recap of the entire show at the start of thing?  Its not like there isn't enough recaps in this show already.  I do one, the Narrator does one, its complete insanity!  What, did the producers realize that Ichigo, the supposed hero of "Bleach" had been missing for nearly a month now?  They sure didn't have a problem during the Turn Back the Pendulum Arc.  I have no idea what to make of it.

Anyway, that's how "Bleach" 220 started, and honestly, it didn't really get much further than that.  Some episodes take off and crash, this is one that crashed into the side of the hanger while still on the ground.  Last week's episode was a true feast for your eyes.  This one was... a "Bleach" episode.  It was so unimpressive that I found no less than five days' worth of stuff to do before I even wrote the first word of this recap.  Ouch.

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

I'd like to point out that technically Summer doesn't end until September 23rd.  Yeah, everybody says its Labor Day, but I'm going to follow the specific cycle of Equinoxes so that I can sneak in another installment of the Dragon Quest Summer!  (Which already is the Dragon Quest Half-Year, and may indeed wind up becoming the Dragon Quest Year).  Just know this, I'm not a complete failure, despite how long my "Bleach" recaps seem to take to come out these days.  I can work at a schedule, but only when I'm doing something I truly love.

"Dragon Quest V" is wildly considered the very best Dragon Quest game ever made.  Whenever people begin listing the finest games of the franchise, "Dragon Quest V" is usually the first or second to be brought up.  Even nineteen years after the game's first release, "Dragon Quest V" remains one of the very best JRPGs ever made.  And having played this game myself, I have to say, everybody who said this game is great were absolutely correct.  Anybody who claims to love RPGs need to play this game immediately.  The Super Nintendo, which was already home to incredible games like "Chrono Trigger" and "Final Fantasy VI", now clearly had a third role-playing masterpiece, and that was "Dragon Quest V".

This was the first Dragon Quest game on the Super Nintendo.  And upon moving to a stronger system, Enix and Yuji Horii definitely took their franchise to the next level.  Rather than a typical adventure, this game tells the story of your Hero's whole life, from birth to childhood, to adulthood when he finally defeats the final boss and lives happily ever after.  You get married, you have children, all in an incredible saga* that spans three generations.  But not content to simply amp up the scale of their story, the creators also invented an entirely new way to play RPGs:  recruiting monsters.  Yeah, "Dragon Quest V" is the granddaddy of Pokemon.  But not only is this a milestone in RPG history, its also a great game, even so many years later.  Of course, I'm playing the DS remake, which makes the transition so much smoother.  I'd say you need to buy this game now.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dragon Quest X Trailer

So here's what me and everybody else were hoping for:  an update of "Dragon Quest VIII" just with a few fixes here and there.  "Dragon Quest VIII" was a great game, but far from perfect, could have used some tweaking here and there.  No random encounters, an easier crafting system (why do I have to wait an hour for a sword to be made?), and maybe a somewhat larger-scale story.  Not a huge update, but a modest step forward, including the ideas that "Dragon Quest IX" brought to the table.

What we didn't want, and what nobody wanted, was an MMO.  So Square Enix made one.  Some people are saying this isn't an MMO, its an "online RPG".  Well, its the online mutliplayer aspect that is exactly the thing that makes me not play MMOs, so it makes no difference to me.  Not playing either way.

Well, that's one game I won't be playing then.  Thanks, SE, keep me waiting with my feet on my tippy-toes for two years for you to reveal this game, and instead you completely screw me over.  If you're going to make an MMO, announce it as an MMO from day one!  Don't just say "oh, there's going to be a DQX, we'll reveal it later".  No, when you say the words "Dragon Quest X", you say "MMO" in that same sentence.  I didn't get mad about "Final Fantasy XIV", but I'm mad about this.  So that's where this post is going to end, because there are a lot of things I can say now that I don't really want remembered for posterity.  Just know this:  SE, you fucked up.

When is "Dragon Quest XI" coming?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Apollo 18

Have you ever given much thought to the Moon?  You might be making that one small step for man and one giant leap mankind, completing a revolutionary step forward in the exploration of the universe.  But, you're still alone on a dead world.  You're little spaceship is the lone blip of life in monochromatic desert of craters and dust.  This isn't simply being alone at night in a big empty house, this is being alone in a big empty world.  The Moon is not simply dead, it has never been alive at all.  Neil Armstrong is the first living thing ever to walk on its surface.  So what the Hell can it mean if something is knocking at your door?

"Apollo 18" is the movie that dares explore this level of horror.  As I pointed out before, the Moon is actually something of a surreal place, as weird a place as any human being has ever gone.  Oh yes, it might seem quaint to our eyes now, since we've been watching clips of Apollo 13 since childhood.  The Moon is one of the most recognizable locations for all of humanity, we know the white broken landscape with as much familiarity as the Grand Canyon or the New York skyline.  Even if we've never been to the Moon itself, its such a long-standing memory from our childhoods that we probably never even noticed how truly scary our only natural satellite can be.  How bad can the Moon be?  Its the only world to have a face!  Mars always gets the horror treatment:  "The Angry Red Planet", "Ghosts of Mars", "Red Planet" the entire "Doom" series, and even "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians".  But the Moon, even lacking that atmospheric bloody tint, can be just as scary a place as any other heavenly body.

Unfortunately, "Apollo 18" is also a 'found-footage' movie.  Think "the Blair Witch Project" but... IN SPACE!!  Usually these movies, as stated in Issac Newton's Fourth Law of Motion:  "found-footage movies always suck", always suck.  But we all know Newtonian Physics is hardly a completely picture of the universe, so "Apollo 18" actually is a nicely scary horror movie.  If you're looking for the definitive motion picture in Moon-based terror, look someplace else.  But if you just want something that can eat away an evening, there you go, it fits that niche greatly.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Angel Beats!

How long has it been since I reviewed an anime that wasn't "Bleach"?  Awhile, I think, mostly because I haven't seen an anime I really liked in about the same time.  Yeah, "DURRR!" is really good, but I haven't seen the ending yet, so there's going to be a twelve week wait for that review.  Ultimately the problem is that most animes are completely terrible, and there's no point reviewing them.  Nine times out of ten you'll see a new title, it will be mediocre and uninspired and mildly depressing, and that's it.  No more needs to be said.  Should I review "Victory Gundam" even though I was so bored of it that I didn't make it to episode 3?  Nope!

Now "Angel Beats!" is actually good, so here's a review:  There are a lot of "high school" animes out there.  Pretty much all of them suck, as far as I'm concerned.  I guess there are gems here and there, but honestly, that's a genre for somebody else, not me.  Maybe that's why I didn't like "Persona 3"?  Who knows?  Anyway, "Angel Beats!" isn't actually a high school anime, though it sure looks like one.  Actually the high school is some kind of Buddhist Purgatory, all the high school kids are dead, and for some reason everybody is acting like they're characters an RPG.  Their goal - which could not be more "Shin Megami Tensei" - is to kill God so that way they don't have to be reincarnated as sea cucumbers.  Luckily their war isn't all that difficult to fight because if you die in the afterlife, you just come back to life in a few hours, good as new.

"Angel Beats!" is notable as being one of the very few animes that is legitimately funny.  There are a lot of animes that make me laugh, but I don't think that's what they intended.  No this is a truly funny show.  They wrote a joke, it got translated into English, and it worked even across the Pacific.  The characters are pretty much all insane, except for the hero, they all die in hilariously brutal ways only to come back seconds later.  But then, the show is able to switch gears and get actually really really depressing and emotional, and you're not laughing at all.  As a matter of fact, you might even cry.  Its an all around good show, one of the best animes I've ever seen.  (Well, up until the last episode, but we'll get to that later.)