Play All the Games!

Generally my free time is all but devoted to reading, but since the majority of my time the last few months has been due to either being sick or injured I actually have spent far more time playing video games. Not surprisingly, I have thoughts on this!

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Okay, let me just say it: I was obsessed with this game when I first got it. Alsatian has blossomed from a sleepy little town to “the perfect town” that “nobody wants to leave.” Er, except all the animals I’ve become close to because peculiarly the game is coded that way. I guess it makes sense if your AC goal is to meet as many of the characters as possible, but considering it’s generally a chore to become besties with your neighbors and often by this point you’re really fond of them I find that incredibly irksome. Every couple of days I have to run around and make sure no one flags me about moving lest it be one of my favorites, including the single “normal” character I have who is the only one in my town that will provide me with suggestions for fantasy-themed projects like benches and bridges. So far she’s only ever given me the streetlamp as a project, which I love since it matches my town hall and train station.1

Anyway, after three months of visiting my town daily, I started to feel really burnt out, which I think was partly because I had run out of new things to do. So, I haven’t really played it much in the last few months, but eventually I’ll pick it back up even though I’ll have to deal with the ramifications of neglecting it.2 In any case, I have had an absolute blast with this game and it is easily the best of the Animal Crossing series.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix

I never played the original Kingdom Hearts so I can’t really compare the two. In fact, I really didn’t know anything about KH games before I popped in this disk and so my resounding feeling is that of bumbling about and stuff just happens. The game is pretty linear, but I never seem to know what to do next or, well, at all. If this were any other game I’d say that was incredibly frustrating, but something about KH just makes all that almost amusing. I guess it’s hard to find lack of direction out of place when your main character is swinging a giant key at stuff. The logic seems to be pretty much inline with LEGO games: when in doubt, bash stuff!

Now that isn’t to say there aren’t elements that I find frustrating because hoboy do I! First, there’s the platforming: it sucks. Sora routinely doesn’t jump when you want him to or you need to be at the very tippy edge of something to actually make the leap or the camera gets in the way, etc. And your party members are stupid. Actually, I can’t even call them party members because to me such a name implies I can control them and no matter what options you chose in the menu here, the AI controls their actions. Sure, there’s the “assist me” button, that can either call them over to aid you or direct them to attack the enemy you have targeted. But that always seems to do the opposite of what I intend and generally I find they help me more when I’m not trying to tell them to. It’s really confusing. I can only say that there must be something about the wacky combination of Disney and Final Fantasy, though, because for all its faults I just love this game!

Final Fantasy X HD Remaster

It should be noted this is not a remake, but a remaster. Essentially, it’s FFX with a shiny new coat of paint. And I guess that’s why I don’t really have strong feelings about it one way or the other, since FFX isn’t one of the standouts to me among the Final Fantasy series. I like it well enough, but it’s not one of my favorites. And so, I sort of got distracted by a slew of other games and unfortunately abandoned Tidus and company with about a third of the game to go. I’m sure I’ll get back to it at some point.

Final Fantasy III

This is one of the lesser FF games in my opinion. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely an NES era game. It’s an RPG that can be very grueling in punishment. Unlike modern games, there isn’t a handy save point right before a boss or phoenix downs to be purchased and so often you make a trek through a dungeon only to make that same trek again because you wiped. It can be very tedious, but it’s to be expected given the time it was made. No, what I dislike about this particular FF is that it’s gimicky: you can only go through this dungeon miniaturized; you can only beat this boss as a party of dragoons; you can only fight these enemies with a specific type of weapon or they multiply continuously, etc. I think the idea was to showcase the diversity in spells and the fancy job system, but I feel like too much of it is forced on the player. Plus, FFV just does the whole thing better.

Anyway, after trekking up and down the final dungeon more times than I cared to count I had to take a break. I’ve yet to feel up to the task of dealing with the tedium.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

This is easily the biggest Dragon Quest game ever, which is kind of ironic given it’s also the first to be on a handheld platform. The main story is okay, though, somewhat of a departure from the usual. Also, it lacks some explanation of specific plot points that really bewilder me.3 Gameplay is pretty much what you would expect from a DQ game to the point that I found there was almost no strategy to the battles. Yeah, some have an elemental weakness or resistance and I know the post-game has some very difficult bosses, but within the main story you usually don’t have access to those spells/abilities yet.

Nintendo has shut down the wifi service for DS and Wii games, so I can’t comment on any of the multiplayer aspects of the game or even a good chunk of the post-game additions. Even so there is a ton of stuff to do after the main story. Except a lot of it just seems to be random fetch-questing or really odd tasks that involve fighting something with a ridiculously low level skill. Granted a lot of these quests can be done before finishing the main story, but without following a guide it’s pretty much impossible to trigger all of these beforehand. And even so the tedium isn’t lessened all that much. Still, this is definitely one of the best DQ games I’ve ever played and I really enjoyed it.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

I cannot stress this enough: this game is just breathtaking. Level 5 is truly the master of cel-shaded graphics and this game honestly just blows me away. I find that I’m driven to distraction by it. Anyway, Ni no Kuni has a lot of traditional RPG elements mixed with Pokemon-style monster collection. I’ve never played a monster collection game, so I can’t really compare the two but I find the evolution element in this game is very reminiscent to the fusing in Persona games. It’s certainly almost as complex. The addition of the various monsters makes for very intricate battle strategies and after hours of play I’m still finding out new things. I will say it can be somewhat chaotic with party members and monsters all running about during battle and I sometimes wish I had a touchscreen to select things.

The one thing about this game that kind of bugs me is the fact that the main character is essentially on a quest to bring his mother back from the dead. The story itself is actually really interesting, but this driving force for the protagonist just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. That aside this is easily one of the very best modern RPGs I’ve played.

Persona 4 Golden

Persona games are basically an RPG version of The Sims. And honestly it was that description that kept me far away from the series and boy oh boy was I missing out! This is the first of the series I’ve played and I think I picked very wisely: P4G is an enhanced version of Persona 4, which I think has the best story of the series.4 The gameplay is a mix of daily life as a high school student — go to class, hang out with friends, etc. — and dungeon crawling. What’s surprising is that both of these are equally enjoyable! And that they both actually relate to one another. People you meet and befriend may well end up being the same ones you battle your way to save. It’s an incredibly deep game and very rewarding. And, of course, the whole idea of the game is that your social life only enhances your powers in battle and so one element just reinforces the other.

It’s also a LONG game. Even if you don’t do all the optional side-questing, which is generally very much advised since often times those lead you towards additional Social Links which in turn grant you more fighting ability. I’m just astounded how much is packed into this game and it’s one of the very few I can see myself playing again and again just to see how alternate paths might pan out.

Bravely Default

Despite the bizarre name, this is essentially Final Fantasy. A fact I didn’t know about until I started playing and what a pleasant surprise to discover! It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a classic FF game: turn-based battle, airships, crystals, an intricate job system. However, Bravely Default has a few unique elements, most notably the battle mechanic for which the game is named for. I really like the battle system in this game. There’s just as much, if not more strategy involved than the active time battle (ATB) system that FF games are more-or-less known for and I can still walk away and make a sandwich if I want without my whole party winding up dead.5 Plus, it has two things I wish every RPG had: you can fast forward through battle animations and tweak the random encounter rate.

Unfortunately, for all this game does right it still has some drawbacks. Mainly that the last third of the game is quite a slog and incredibly tedious since you are essentially replaying the same dungeons again and again. I’m really surprised by this and sincerely hope the sequel does not fall into the same trap. Also, it’s unabashedly linear to the point the game literally chides you for trying to explore outside the story. Despite this, I still think it’s an excellent game. And I am absolutely thrilled to hear that its success has shown Square Enix that RPGs are enjoyed over here in the West!

  1. The train station is another project that is a pain to get since it requires 100 visits from friends via wifi.
  2. AC games run in real time, and take into account time not played. This particular version isn’t as harsh since you can elect an ordinance that does away with some of the negatives like weeds and cockroaches, but you still get reprimanded and guilted by your neighbors for “ignoring” them.
  3. Why is it my character is tasked with saving the world when I’m the only one who essentially loses her powers? And, why exactly did I lose them in the first place?
  4. P3’s story is equally good, but there are some thematic elements that just aren’t my thing. Plus, the mystery element gives P4 just a slight edge for me. Both are incredibly emotional and riveting stories, though.
  5. I was sick for a majority of the time spent playing these games and there were a few times in FFX that I randomly fell asleep and woke up to full party wipe. Oops!

The World is Ending (Or Maybe Not)

[Guest post by Uschi.]

There are times that I think humans are pathetically obtuse. Last night, for example, we had a tremendous thunderstorm. The rain pounded against the windows. The sky was pitch black, only lit up with great streaks of lightning. And there was, of course, thunder. One monstrous clap sounded that jolted me awake from a cozy nap.

And with it, the power blew.

Clearly, this was not a good sign. What I’ve gathered from my companion’s aversion to horror films is that loud noises and darkness are a recipe for very bad things.

Uschi lying on the sofa, hiding her face from the cameraI expected her to be right on my heels as I bolted off to my safety zone underneath her bed. I’ve burrowed a nice area there behind the various storage containers and dust bunnies. I even have a few bones and toys I’ve left there for emergency purposes. I had a blanket tucked in there but my silly human friend removed it and washed all the smell from it. (Obviously, I’m way better at hiding than I was when that picture to the left was taken.)

No, instead, she stayed firmly outside of my protective area, trying to coax me out like some treacherous viper. Ugh!

The power came back on a few minutes later so I ventured out to check on my stupid human partner. I was still a bit shaken and was obviously trembling a bit from the shock of it all. Cyndy was concerned, but still didn’t quite grasp the danger we were in. Since she seemed reluctant to utilize the hideout I’d created, I joined her on the sofa. snuggling up and then deliberately positioning myself directly across her. This would just have to do, I guess.

While I protectively pinned her to the sofa, the funny box under the TV kept flicking on and off and then the power went out again.

My human companion thought I was stressing out as I lay across her lap, but she just didn’t get that I was trembling and panting because I was in such a high state of alert! Well, okay, maybe I was a little scared and maybe I used the close proximity of my partner to provide just a tiny bit of comfort. But don’t let that diminish my diligence in protecting us from whatever ominous events might have occurred.

Luckily this seems to have just been a test run of sorts for the coming end of days because the storm was pretty much over and the power eventually returned a few hours later.

I’m relieved, but no less wary. I mean, my crazy human partner spent the entirety of our potential doom reading a book!

“Sailor Moon Crystal”

Sailor Moon was the very first anime I watched. It’s not the very best nor even especially a favorite of mine, but I’m a fan nonetheless. Actually, when I was taking Japanese for school, I read the original manga for practice which was a mostly pleasant experience.1 Suffice it to say I’m pretty well-versed in the series. Anyway, Sailor Moon is currently going through a reboot and there’s a brand new anime series currently airing. Here’s the snazzy trailer:

My initial thoughts were surprisingly brief. It’s pretty, which is part and parcel with SM and the overarching “magical girl” genre. But I found myself really distracted by the art style. I just finished watching Persona 4 The Animation, so you’d think I wouldn’t find the long-and-lean look so alarming, but I do. Not that the original anime is exactly short and chubby or even the source art from the manga. I just find this particular design alarmingly lanky and disturbingly awkward like these Sailor Senshi have stepped out of A Nightmare Before Christmas.2

And, unfortunately, I am no less off-put after watching the first episode, which is entirely due to the jerky animation. Not to say that the animation itself is bad, as it has some really nice touches here and there. It’s just not as fluid and crisp as I tend to expect from Japanese animation. And I’ll throw my hat into the ring of Internet uproar about the “dead eyes” and lack of expression. I suspect that’s at least partially intended since this version has a distinctly less whimsical vibe, but Usagi seems very one-note and, frankly, not as likable. Then again, I’ll be the last person to complain about the absence of whining because I find that grating in any situation even if we’re talking about a self-described crybaby. The CGI is pretty underwhelming and I found the slow-motion style of the transformation sequence made it seem overly drawn out.3

The plot is straight from the first act of the manga and since this is the umpteenth version I’ve seen of this I can’t help but stifle a yawn. This particular version is such a faithful recreation that it borders on unoriginal. Honestly, its such a carbon copy in some respects that even though I wasn’t specifically trying to compare the two anime, I kept finding myself doing exactly that. This is really a disservice to the reboot because it left me pining for the more dynamic characterizations from the original. Mamoru, for instance, is just a blank slate in this version rather than the mildly irritating and somewhat mysterious figure he is in the original. Maybe this works for someone who is completely unfamiliar with SM, but even so it’s still pretty flat. And given that the odango covers warning system and the supersonic crying powers are only ever seen in Act 1, I really don’t understand why these things keep getting translated into every adaptation. It just seems sloppy to me.

I’m still on the fence about the music. I don’t exactly dislike it, but neither am I especially fond of any particular piece save for the ending theme “Moon Rainbow.” Not much of a surprise about that since it’s composed by Akiko Kosaka, who also composed two of my favorite songs from the original anime: “Tuxedo Mirage” and “Moon Revenge.” At the very least, none of it is nearly as memorable as past music, which seems especially true for me having just come off Persona 4‘s amazing soundtrack.

Surprisingly, the one thing I expected to have issue with didn’t really bother me at all and that’s the voice-acting. Kotono Mitsuishi is the only original seiyuu to return, which I feared might only emphasize the differences in the rest of the cast. But for the most part I hardly noticed the changes, though, sadly I suspect that’s because of the low-key nature this version seems to have. And to be honest I was somewhat placated by Kotono’s familiar portrayal of Usagi that even though she’s far less dramatic than her counterpart from the original anime, I wasn’t bothered so much as I was just aware there was a difference.

At present, I’m underwhelmed, but I’m not disappointed and for now I think that’s good enough. Certainly this reboot isn’t groundbreaking, but at least it’s not tarnishing anything that came before it. For that I am deeply relieved.

  1. My tastes in manga are pretty much inline with my tastes in comics in general and so I found Inuyasha far more interesting to read than Sailor Moon.
  2. I can make references to this now since I finally watched it!
  3. A fact, I might add, that also bothered me with the live-action show and, while not the main factor, it was one reason I only managed to stomach a few episodes before giving up entirely.

Is This Thing On?

Once upon a time there was a girl who used to blog all the time. On nearly a daily basis, in fact. And for some reason that completely eluded her, people read the blog and presumably enjoyed it.

Um, and then some stuff happened . . . and . . . erm, well . . . uhh . . . there should probably be a segue here . . . ahem. . . .

Okay, that’s just sad. I’m a writer for goodness sake. I should certainly be able to come up with something more epic than “stuff happened,” right? Except the sad thing is that “stuff” is pretty accurate since none of it was especially interesting and mostly it just seems like a lot of time has gone by with nothing encompassing it. So, in essence the lack of content is pretty accurate to my life as late. So, in fact, I’ve saved you all a lot of boring reading. You should thank me!

“But Bleu,” you say because even though no one really calls me that any more I still associate that handle with my presence online, “we miss you when you’re gone!” Aww, how sweet of you to say that.1 I miss you all, too!

“So, what’s with the disappearing act every now and again?” you query, leaving me feeling decidedly sheepish.

True there are those times I just need some space from the intarwebs. But generally the radio silence can’t be helped. Unfortunately, the reasons for this latest bout into whatever the written equivalent to static are the same ones I reported before. I had relapse of mono that knocked me on my ass for a few weeks and then I literally knocked myself on my ass when I fell down my basement steps. I ended up with a broken coccyx, which makes for a third time that has happened and sadly the second time in a row wherein basement steps have been involved. Then, just as I was finally able to sit at my computer without keeling over in exhaustion or pain, my hard drive bit the dust.

Well, to be fair that happened several weeks later. First my computer just started acting all crazy like it had taken my hiatus to mean it could go off on a vacation of its own that I’m guessing included lots of drugs and alcohol. At any rate, I clearly returned to the keyboard before it had sobered up and the hangover proved too much for it to handle. The straw that toppled it over was a power outage that fried my external hard drive.

Before I can lose myself in this woebegone tale, you interject once more: “What about all your other wifi-enabled devices?” Oh, you are an astute bunch, gentle readers! This is a true enough fact and if I were less witty and more cunning I’d weave a yarn about the whys and hows. But the truth is I’m lazy and also easily distracted. Weeks of being all but bedridden left me with quite a lot of time to read books and play video games. Both things that I can and do with those tech toys of mine. Especially the PS3 stationed perfectly within line of the sofas in my living room. It even has the word “play” right in its name, like it’s daring me to do anything but with it. Which by the by seems to be the majority of what I post over on Tumblr. When I actually do post on Tumblr, that is.

Anyway, all that aside, I shall do my very best to rid the virtual dust that has settled upon this blog. Not that I’ll be shooting myself in the literal foot by promising daily posts or anything so grandiose. Especially as my computer is still in the midst of repairs. However, I’ll at least work at being more consistent with updates lest virtual vermin take up residence here. Oh, also, I’ll probably natter on about the dog sometime in the near future because somehow I managed to prattle on with only but this one mention of her!

  1. I’m blushing. Yes, really, I am.

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival #15: Freedom

[Note: My deepest apologies for the extreme delay in getting this posted. Much gratitude and thanks to Brooke of Ruled by Paws for compiling the submissions and writing up this edition of the #ADBC.]

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (#ADBC)Our friends Cyndy and Uschi have been dealing with ongoing computer problems, so they have asked me, the Rogue Hurricane, to take care of sharing the many great entries that were submitted for the 15th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

This will be the very first time I have been given this amazing honour, so hopefully I do okay.

First up, we have our friends, Karyn and Thane, from the blog Through A Guide’s Eyes. Karyn writes about the wonderful changes she has experienced over the past six months, both with her personal health and in her partnership with thane while taking part in a program centered in the science of neuroplasticity. Please take a moment to read about the journey in their post titled “Now this is Freedom.”

Now let’s go visit Flo over at the blog, A Mutt and His Pack. In an entry called “Freedom,” Flo writes about the things a service dog handler must consider before going out each day with their canine companion, and about how to her, it’s all worth it.

I totally agree, I think I’m totally worth the constant worry and public annoyances, don’t you?

Next, we’ll go visit our Swedish friends, Nadja and Hera, over at the blog, Leye-Shprintse Oberg. In a post titled: “Freedom,” Nadja talks about the freedom of choice. She writes about her feelings of not being ‘normal’ wile using a white cane and how choosing to work with Hera has changed the way others think of her.

Mommy says she can really relate to this post because when she lost her sight at 13 and had to learn to use a white cane, she hated it and hated the way people thought of her. She told me that when she got her first dog guide, Gryphon, in 1997, she put her cane on the shelf and has never looked back. Now people see her as the “woman with the dogs”, and stare at us instead of at “the “blind woman”.

Here’s our fellow Canadians, Carin and Tansy, of the blog, Vomit Comet. In her entry, “The Freedom I find in a Guide Dog,” Carin writes about how her dogs have made life a lot easier, but if needed, she would still be able to survive without them.

Mommy says she can also relate to this post, but in my canine opinion, I think they’re both wrong…how could they ever survive without a cute, four-legged friend, like me, to watch over them?

Now it’s time to get a little more serious with our friends, L-Squared and Jack, who have written about the issue of irresponsible dog owners and the differing levels of prosecution from state to state if a service dog were to be injured. In their post, “Freedom Comes With Responsibilities,” L-Squared shares some frightening experiences her and jack have had with off leash dogs and irresponsible owners.

BIG SHIVER I am SO glad I wasn’t there. Mommy has encountered scary dogs and bad owners with both Phoenix and Cessna, but thankfully it hasn’t happened to me.

Next, we have Sharon Wachsler who has some wonderful news to share with us all… In her entry titled: “Freedom! I’ve Recovered My Health!” Sharon writes about the amazing changes her health has undergone through a program that involves a behavioural neuroplasticity brain retraining program. Please take a moment to read about her spectacular journey towards recovery.

Now let’s take a moment to welcome Natalie of the blog, Still I Can’t Be Silent. This is Natalie’s first time participating in the Carnival, so please take some extra time to leave a comment on her post. In her entry titled: “Freedom,” Natalie writes about the different ways in which service dogs provide their human companions with a sense of freedom.

Here’s another new carnival participant, please try and take some extra time to leave a comment for Joe. In a post titled: “Gaynor,” Joe tells us about his daughter Siobhan’s service dog. He writes about the first time Siobhan meets gaynor and about their partnership, as well as, about having to find her a retirement home and about her recent passing.

Awe, this entry had me teary, I am only 3 and don’t like reading about dogs passing away…in my short life, I have already had to say goodbye to my friends Phoenix and Aspen.

Guess who’s next…?

It’s our turn!!

Come check out our blog, ruled by paws. In a post titled: “Rogue is Freedom,” Mommy writes about yours truly!! She talks about what a difference I have made in her life and how even before I arrived, I was forcing her to go outside of her comfort zone and take back her independence.

Not sure how many of you know this, but Mommy and I went on a trip alone to Wyoming on an airplane in May. Mommy was a bit nervous about the trip, but I took charge and showed Mommy how amazing I am. I even passed the dreaded public access test with flying colours!!

So, that’s it. there are no more posts for me to read and write about. thank you Cyndy and Uschi for allowing me to take over your blog for a bit and help you out, it was fun learning about everyone.

OH!! Just one more thing to tell everyone. From now on, the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival will be organized by Cyndy and Mommy, so keep an eye on our blogs to see when and where the next Assistance Dog Blog Carnival will take place. We hope to see you all at the next one.