Can’t get enough of Final Fantasy 8

Posted on March 29th, 2006 in Music,Video Games by andrija

Yes, I finished the game a few weeks ago, but just yesterday I had a 12 hour marathon watching the recap of the game that I got off Ebay.  It’s basically as if you’re playing the game, sans random battles.  Must’ve been a lot of work to make it.  Anyway, the fact that I managed to spend the day watching it should say enough about how much I liked the game.  I really should’ve played it back in 1999 when it came out.  But I only had a PC back then and wasn’t interested in console games at all.  I guess I probably didn’t miss that much anyway, except for a few Japanese RPGs such as Chrono Cross and Final Fantasies.  These days PC gaming is a pale shadow of what it once was, and unless you’re into online games (which I’m not) or first-person shooters (which I play even if they’re bad, like Pariah) the only reason it is still viable are a few and far apart exclusive games such as Half-Life 2.

The main reason I’m mentioning FF8 is because I’m hooked on the theme song “Eyes on Me”.  The song is very nice melody-wise, though lyrics are hit and miss (some rather strange sounding english at times).  However, because it ties directly into the
story of the game, it gets a boost from it that makes it bigger than it is on its own.  Poor Laguna, is all I can say.

I need to write a review – what I have right now on the website cannot be called a review, it’s utter garbage – but I’m just incapable of writing anything acceptable right now.  Hopefully soon, as I want to rewatch Final Fantasy X movies so that I can write the review of that game as well.

Stanislaw Lem Dead, Honey and Clover 2

Posted on March 27th, 2006 in Uncategorized by andrija

I guess you can’t have good news without bad news.  Sad news of the day is that Stanislaw Lem, one of my all-time favourite Sci-Fi authors, has died.  He was pretty old – 84 – and hasn’t written anything that I can recall since 1988 or so, but his books were fairly important to me at some point of my life.  He’s most famous for “Solaris”, though I prefered his last book “The Fiasco”.  Perhaps his best book in my opinion was “The Invincible”, though “Solaris” is probably the closest to mainstream literature of all of his works.  Do read the book, regardless of movies.  It’s a powerful piece of work.  But never mind movies and “Solaris”, he was much more than just that.  He also wrote a bunch of stories about pilot Pirks in his earlier days, and this character even made it in a very clever way into his last book (“The Fiasco”).  Then there was the early book “Eden” as well as “Voice of our masters” (or something close to that).

Just checked, and reminded myself, he also wrote Star Diaries (of Ilyon Tichy, mispelled but I read it in a different language).  Invincible seems really hard to find, unfortunately.  Well, Fiasco is available, and along with Solaris and stories about pilot Pirx – and Star Diaries – these will do.  I haven’t read many of his works myself either, as they were unavailable in my native language before I moved to Canada.

Good news of the day is that season 2 of Honey and Clover, probably the best anime of 2005, has been annonced!  Coming this summer in Japan!  I hope it’s at least half as good as part one was.

Finished Area 51

Posted on March 26th, 2006 in Video Games by andrija

I finished another game.  This one was fairly short – though as a first-person shooter, it’s not expected to be nearly as long as an RPG.  Still, it should’ve been longer.  Luckily, I haven’t paid full price for it.

I have to say it – majority of game designers these days seem to be freakin’ morons.  I’d love to yell “idiots” at them!  Games are supposed to be fun.  Test my brain or my reflexes, not my patience!  This one, like so many others lately, equates fun with frustration.  So their words start with the same letter.  Oookay.  Uhm, that doesn’t mean they’re the same.  I mean, what else would you call a game where you don’t die in either of two boss fights (in other words, you defeat the boss on the first try), yet you have to replay certain “normal” sequences a dozen times?  Unbalanced to the max.  Normally in a PC game you can work around these design errors by using quicksave feature.  Unfortunately, there isn’t one in this game – yet another one of those “multiplatform” games where everything caters to the lowest common denominator so the PC version ends up having the functionality of a console version.  Oh, and you can’t skip the cutscenes (such as they are) either.  If you have to replay the sequence that comes just after the cutscene, God help you.  If anything else can be defended, there is no, absolutely no defence for not being able to skip cutscenes in a game, at least on the second go through any given one.

Perhaps it’s because game designers don’t have lives these days.  How can one expect originality or common sense from people who do only one thing other than sleep and eat?  Work is their life, and whether they recognize it or not, they suck at anything that requires more than just use of their craft.  Unfortunately, creativity arises from diversity, not conformity.  No wonder most games these days lack it to an extreme.

Whatever the case, the only thing that looks well in this game is its visuals.  They aren’t original but they do look fine.  Other stuff just doesn’t work.  The so-called mutant mode is useless – or if it isn’t, then where is a tutorial or at least in-game text explaining how to use it properly?  They never explain what the hell are two of the attacks you can do for (other than the melee which they do explain but which is useless as usually there’s lots of enemies around you and it’s a one-hit-kill if they get near you).  And then there are ultra-frustrating sequences, mostly involving a particular kind of shielded enemy that keeps generating other enemies ad infinitum.  It is very hard to kill its shield, and while you’re doing that you have to mind (and when necessary fight) the enemies it creates – but that is not the main problem.  As if it wasn’t difficult enough, they make sure you can’t use circle-strafing by putting you on a narrow path hanging above the abyss.  And blocking even that little space you have with obstacles (though they can and should be used as cover).  Oh and did I mention one-hit-kill from both melee range and from long range (grenades)?  While you’re attacking the enemy that generates other enemies, those other enemies can and will do attacks that will make your cover useless.  Is that all, you ask?  Of course not!  Imagine then getting a supposedly very powerful gun, and even reading from a console found on one level that it’s supposed to work great against those annoying shields.  In fact when you fire it, it basically kills all the enemies currently present on screen, even if they’re not very close.  And it lasts at least 5 seconds.  You’d think it’d at least weaken the shield, right?  Wrong!!  It will have – as far as I could determine – no effect on it whatsoever!  Additionally, if you fire such super powerful weapon at an automated turret – it won’t have any effect either.  What was again the purpose of it?  Even as explained by the information found in the game?  Wow, some really sick mind was working on making this game.  Fun!  Yeah, right.  People with such sick minds need to be fired, on the street, with no friends, and forced to reconsider their sins.  No, I’m not joking.  Out of the gaming industry!  Give us our fun back!  Or at least provide quicksave so that we can work around your stupid designs.

As you can notice, I was thoroughly pissed off by this game.  If it only was the only one of that type.  If only.  Wild Arms 4 has a whole bunch of ultra-stupid platform sequences.  Uhm, hello?  These aren’t games for the pokemon crowd.  Only idiots think that plenty of timed jumps – especially when you make the hardest one the last and a mistake means all over – are fun.  Idiots or small children.  C’mon people, grow up and put some intelligent puzzles in games.  Not cheap jump-o-crap.  And if you really want to do so, at least make sure that one mistake doesn’t undo all of previous hard work.  Because having to redo everything isn’t funny.  That right there reveals your stupidity or malicousness, either of which have no place in a $69.99 piece of entertainment software.  Jerks.

Ergo Proxy Anime

Posted on March 24th, 2006 in Anime & Manga by andrija

I watched three episodes of this anime so far and I’m intrigued by it.  The show has definitely succeeded in creating an atmosphere that a friend said reminded him of a Phillip K. Dick novel – to which I added that he should add William Gibson’s Necromancer to the mix as well.  I also heard of comparisons to Blade Runner, which also stand.  This atmosphere is created mainly by show’s very impressive visuals – there is a great contrast of dark and bright, where dark scenes are full of shadows and bright scenes have some strong colors (like glow of electronic equipment) that seem to be the only nice thing in the otherwise bleak city.  Story wise, it’s fairly mysterious and hard to follow although we seem to be getting some answers as the time goes on.  So the judgement must be reserved, because though visually it’s a five-star anime, and sound is pretty good as well, the story could be hit or miss and so far doesn’t seem to be in the same class as production values.

Which brings out a practical issue – make sure to get either a really good fansub, or simply wait for DVDs to come out.  Because of many dark scenes where shadows play an important role, if you have a highly compressed video you won’t be able to see much and your opinion of the show will suffer significantly.  Shinsen subs seem to be good, for which you pay in increased file size.  There’s another argument for waiting for official DVDs – this show is difficult to understand, and bad translation can completely ruin it for you.  And it’s easy to translate this show badly as it looks to me like advanced knowledge of Japanese is required, not to mention the translator should know what’s going on.  And until the whole show has aired, and with no access to the production team, the quality of translation will depend primarily on intelligence and language skills of the translator; this isn’t a high school show with “ittadakimasu” and “itterashai” (I’m probably misspelling Romaji here).

Finished Radiata Stories

Posted on March 23rd, 2006 in Video Games by andrija

I finished Radiata Stories yesterday.  Steven said “so soon?” but it’s more like “only now?”.  You see, the game is supposed to be short by RPG standards, around 20 hours, but I ended up playing it closer to 35 hours.  Yet I shouldn’t have done so, because I didn’t have much to show for it.

The game had a lot of potential, which I felt was wasted by utter lack of polish – for a Square Enix game this is unacceptable.  My main issue was the lack of balance.  A properly balanced game will provide reasonable guidance and equipment that a person that is not interested, capable or has no time to investigate every nook and cranny, still can finish the storyline without too much trouble.  Radiata Stories unfortunately makes it really hard to get by in certain parts of the game because it doesn’t provide basics – a balanced set of default characters and an easily accessible level up region with a save point nearby.  Given that the game mechanics are fairly different from most other japanese RPGs, it makes it really difficult to play unless you have the strategy guide, or a lot of time on your hands to discover things for yourself.  This feels like cheating – they made a short game and would make it last longer by forcing you to waste time on non-productive activities.  Of course, some people like trying to discover everything on their own but I believe they are in minority.  Those people should be given rewards for spending so much time with the game (e.g. kickass equipment or cool optional characters,
that help make boss battles a breeze) – but regular players shouldn’t be forced to do so.  The problem was made worse by the fact that freely available guides and FAQs for this game are severely lacking and full of incorrect information.

Humour was mostly good, and it’s a shame that I wasn’t able to lay back and enjoy it – because most of the time I was frustrated with getting my ass kicked far and having to replay at least half an hour worth of gameplay due to lack of savepoints.  Can you believe it, that usually there is only one savepoint at any given time, on the whole map?  A game that’s about humour shouldn’t be too difficult or otherwise unforgiving.  If this was a design decision, then somebody should be fired.  No, seriously, get them on the street so they can meditate upon their failures.  If this was a business decision (lack of time or money for development or QA), then it’s upper management that should be kicked out on the street; a company such as Square Enix should never spoil their name by publishing unfinished games.  Ultimately, the game didn’t know if it want to be taken seriously or humorously – it wanted both, thankfully not at the same time.  While I think the story itself worked out ok, the game overall was only above average.

Finished Wild Arms 4

Posted on March 15th, 2006 in Video Games by andrija

Whew!  For the first time in ages – no, really, years (which are effectively ages when you consider human lifespan – wait, does what I’m saying make any sense?) – I did not finish all subquests in a game.  Well, that wasn’t too difficult considering there really aren’t any as far as I can tell – unless you want to replay the game.

Random Update

Posted on March 9th, 2006 in Uncategorized by andrija

So we had a veritable blizzard here in Vancouver last night, and it was snowing pretty strongly most of today’s morning.  Yet it was sunny in the afternoon!  What a crazy city this is!

I continued watching Vandread, and it’s still funny and interesting to watch.  Lots of action, very
good looking action too!

Oh, and I finally updated the website/”>”>website – only one theme available now but at least it should work on many more browsers, it is less demanding on your hardware and – what you don’t see – it’s built from templates.  Which means I can now change or add stuff far more easily without having to change manually a dozen
or two files.  This was a requirement I had to fullfill before embarking on adding more content.

Sakura season has started!

Posted on March 6th, 2006 in Vancouver by andrija

I have seen a few trees around town beginning to bloom!  Come on guys and girls, let’s organize a watching picnic (hanami).  Who’s up for it?  Check this website first.  They finally updated the site and confirmed there’s stuff happening.  Forecast for bloom – I’m guessing only of Flowering Plum and Whitcomb cherry – is Mar 10 which is like in 3 days!!  Though plums aren’t really cherries, but then we aren’t really japanese either.

After a bit of reading, there are very few of Whitcomb cherries in Vancouver.  The most numerous are Yoshino and Kanzan cherries, neither of which is blooming yet.  I’m guessing one good spot to go to would be on SFU mountain, Centennial park, because there should be space, it’ll be less crowded, and I think most of us haven’t been there often – or ever.  Or Queen Elizabeth Park, which I’m guessing will be crowded.  You may want to go and take a walk alone in one of the many streets that have cherries or in one of the crowded areas, and reserve picnic for a less crowded areas.

So, as far as I see, one can go to view Whitcomb cherries alone this weekend, and wait for the picnic until at least the next one, if not even later.  I’d still recommend taking a day off work later in March, it should be a far better experience when it’s not crowded.

Oh, and do yourself a favour and follow the reccomendation of the guy from memento – check out Nakashima Mika’s song and PV that is related to sakura.  I cry every time I see it (the PV).  I don’t quite know why.  I guess I’m like my mother.  But she sings wonderfully – you can recongize how amazing her voice is when she holds a tone for a long time (e.g. at the end of the verse that goes like Douka kigitachi dake wa); that’s where lesser singers have to use a fill-in or processing.

Wild Arms 4 Starting

Posted on March 5th, 2006 in Video Games by andrija

And no sooner my cheeks have dried up from Final Fantasy Eight ending, I already started playing Wild Arms 4.

My first thoughts – whoa!  Did that guy just speak?  Maybe I’ve been playing old PS1 games a bit too much?  You think?

Anyhow, so far it most definitely fits within cliches mentioned on that”>”>that site.  A young boy, skipping class in the morning, making a promise with a girl he never saw before, the village gets destroyed, something crashes up from the sky spectacularly, you name it.  And finally a cutscene at the end of it all – none in the beginning by the way.  The cutscene looked like a genuine action anime opening, except a bit longer.  But it really looked like that – many scenes cut from the future episodes, rather than something related directly to the story so far.  Interesting, I can’t say I recall seeing an into like this in a game before.  In the loop before the game starts, yes.  Not as part of the actual game story.

Anyway, the story looks decent so far, but not more than that.  The gameplay itself though is not bad, if for no other reason than because it’s different.  We’ll see where it goes from here.

Annoying VIM

Posted on March 2nd, 2006 in Hardware & Software by andrija

While working on creating build scripts for my website – I started with some tricks off a website dealing with a substitution preprocessor I ended up getting really annoyed by my editor vim, up to the point of trashing the keyboard.  This was caused by so-called “smart” audoindenting.  There is just no way to turn it off, even using the options panel, if you can call it that.  So I after wasting good part of an hour trying to dig someting in the help, I decided I had to get to the bottom of this.

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