Title card

As a comics fan and a blind person, I guess it’s all but imperative I share my thoughts on the Daredevil series.

It’s no secret that I’m rather nitpicky about adaptations of things I’m a fan of, but that pales in comparison to how rigidly I scrutinize the portrayal of blindness in entertainment. There are many misconceptions about blindness and as a blind person I am constantly reminded how prevalent these are. I can’t count how many times in my life I’ve been told that I don’t seem blind. Maybe part of this is because I was born blind and I’ve always seen the way I do that such statements confound me so, but I think it’s more that the general public is often astonished to discover how capable a person without 20/20 vision can actually be.

In any case, I’m very pleased to say that Charlie Cox’s performance is without a doubt the best sighted man playing a blind person I’ve seen. Sure there are niggling things here and there, but for the most part he’s incredibly natural and it’s a refreshing treat for me to watch. Now, of course, Matt Murdock isn’t your typical blind person and if you really wanted to quibble the point I’d argue the character himself plays at being blind. His heightened senses have more than replaced his loss of eyesight and that’s the whole point of his alter-ego, Daredevil.

I actually like this particular interpretation of Matt because it’s actually closer to the reality of blindness. There’s a common and very inaccurate belief about blindness and better hearing, but the truth is that the two aren’t correlated. That’s like saying going deaf would make your vision better. In truth all of your senses will compensate for a loss of one, but not without work to do so. There’s a very quick scene with young Matt that explains this concept perfectly when he expresses his difficulties learning to read Braille. He’s confusing some of the letters because at this point he hasn’t developed the sensitivity in his fingers to be able to easily differentiate them. The gravitas of that may be lost on many, but it’s the truth of learning Braille. Anyone can memorize the Grade I alphabet, but recognizing those little bumps with your fingertips takes practice.1

My spoiler allergy kept me from following any news about the series, so I missed the whole descriptive audio kerfluffle. I watched the series with the descriptive track partly to critique it and mostly because this show is absurdly dark and I can hardly make out anything. For the most part it’s done quite well. There are some amusing and awkward grammar choices that sometimes made following along mildly confusing. Also at times it’s a bit out of sync with the action and describes things that happen some thirty seconds after a prolonged silence. It’s also worth noting that it definitely expects you’ve watched the series in order by referring to unnamed characters by their initial introductions. Granted I don’t expect many people to just randomly jump into the show anyway since it is unforgivingly serialized.

With all that said, the show itself is incredibly good. Of particular note is the action. It’s well-choreographed and an enjoyable departure from the over-the-top acrobatics that has been done to death. These are more-or-less regular people trading painful blows. And sometimes microwave ovens. The villains, for the most part, were another treat. They’re a colorful and interesting bunch, capped off by D’Onofrio’s Fisk who is fascinatingly odd.

Not everything with Daredevil dazzled me, though. The standout being the feud Matt and Foggy have. Especially that it’s quashed even more randomly than it’s started. All it really accomplishes is biding some time between some really nice flashbacks, which in turn only emphasize how absurd the fight itself is. To be fair, I did like the bit with Karen on the phone with Ben in a pure “mommy and daddy are fighting and the kids are upset” moment. Which, by the way, is about the only thing I can say I enjoyed when it comes to Ben. I’m sad to admit this because I really like the character and the actor, but he doesn’t do anything. To the point that his own death isn’t even caused by his actions, but Karen’s.

As a whole the show is a mixed bag in terms of style. It’s a lot of things from crime drama to noir mystery and I most favor the direction it starts in and am baffled by where it ends up in the final episode. It’s rooted in a gritty realism that is far better than anything Nolan’s put on screen, but by the end of the arc when Daredevil dons his iconic red costume it’s veered a bit off course and seriously what was up with the Wilson v. Matt fight? I don’t quite understand how that ties together with the action from say the second episode, but at least the majority of the time there’s a fairly good balance of all that this show is trying to be.

I’m eager to see where season two goes.

  1. This is why after learning Braille almost 30 years ago, I personally struggle with reading it these days.

“Guardians of the Galaxy”

I finally watched Guardians of the Galaxy last night. Yes, I am very late the party. The sad thing is I’ve owned it since the home release.

Movie poster

Anyway, it was absolutely fantastic.

I can’t comment on how faithful it was the original comic because I know absolutely nothing about it. Like everyone who isn’t a comic nerd — and the vast majority of those of us who are — I hadn’t even heard of the Guardians before this film. Turns out they’re no different than every other superhero grouping and are a ragtag group of misfits. Except they’re also space pirates. Also, in Star-Lord’s own words, they’re losers. You know, they’ve lost stuff.

What amazed me is that it was a movie that literally sucks you in completely. I had debated live-tweeting my initial reactions while watching since I was astonishingly completely unspoiled for this and went in with zero context. I opted instead to text a friend, who remarked that it was going by quite fast and I looked down to discover there was less than a quarter of the run-time left. It truly felt like a fraction of that had gone by.

It was a fun ride. Though, I can’t pick out anything that specifically stands out in my mind.1 Rocket was a treat and they did a thoroughly amazing job animating him. Groot was interesting and very amusing. I especially loved the little dancing baby a la the music-activated flowers of my childhood.2 It was appropriately action-packed and humorous and my only complaint is that the exposition dump that’s given doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And if you’re about to say “it’s answered in Avengers 2” I don’t want to hear anything further because I haven’t seen that yet!

So, yeah, it was super fun and I enjoyed it greatly. I’m also glad you can all kindly get off my back about finally watching it. :-p

  1. It’s always harder for me to natter on when I can’t pick things apart.
  2. Yes, I had one. It was incredibly mesmerizing.

DQI Final Thoughts

Dragon Quest box artThere is no denying the phenomenal impact Dragon Quest has had. It was the beginning of a prolific series and the first in an entirely new genre. Even so, the first time I played Dragon Warrior I just wasn’t very impressed. I suppose I wanted another Final Fantasy or expected something as epic as Tolkien, but whatever the reason I just wasn’t all that interested. Several years ago I played the NES version again and, well, I still don’t love DQI, but I do have a greater respect for it.

DQI is simple. There’s just not a lot to it. You’re the hero. You’re tasked with saving the world. You talk to people in town, buy equipment, rest at the inn. You fight monsters. You fight a lot of monsters! You level up. You travel to a new town or explore a dungeon. And you just repeat this until you crush the Dragonlord.

It’s the narrative that sucks you into the gameplay. You’re given the plot in bits and pieces as you journey along. Yes, it’s a simple and cliché plot, but games at that time just didn’t have a story. Or at least what little story they did have were relegated to a small blurb at the start of the game or a few pages in the manual. And none of that was crucial to actually playing the game. By today’s standards DQI certainly shows its age. The story is predictable and most of your time will be spent grinding in one-on-one battles that are more-or-less interchangeable.

However, I find the simplicity itself to be charming. Plus, it’s a rather short game and takes a fraction of the time the average JRPG requires to complete. And I really enjoyed the SFC remake I played. The game is fundamentally the same, faults and all, but the improved system allows for a much better representation of both Akira Toriyama’s character designs and Koichi Sugiyama’s score. It was just an all around pleasant experience.

I don’t think of this as a must-play game. It’s fun enough, but I don’t know if it’s interesting enough for a casual player or someone wanting to try out JRPGs for the first time. Obviously any DQ fan should play this, though, chances are they already have. Retro game enthusiasts and JRPG fans might want to give it a go just to experience the history.

“Bleu, why you no blog about Firefly game?”

Those with a keen eye might have noticed that my birthday went by with almost no mention on my part. This should strike you as odd because usually I am all about my birthday to the point of bordering on being obnoxious. I know it’s just marking the fact that you’ve survived the Earth rotating around the sun yet again, but really, I love my birthday! Seriously, there is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating that you aren’t dead yet.1

Maybe it was part of the aftermath of major depression, but I was just blasé about my birthday this year. I didn’t have any plans in mind and in the end it was a pretty ordinary day, which suited me just fine. But you might have caught the passing mention of receiving some Firefly-related goodies.

Among this haul of fandom glory was the card game Firefly Out to the Black. Here’s a shiny picture:

Firefly Out to the Black

I’m not entirely up on all the details, but the long and the short of it is this game was a Kickstarter that got pulled at the eleventh hour. I vaguely recall someone linking me to it last year and that is only because the board game and role-playing game were announced not long before that. Honestly, I all but forgot about this until it was gifted to me.

So, why haven’t I gushed about it before now? Well, that’s simply because I’ve only played it the one time, which probably wasn’t the best experience to use as an example.

First, none of us had played before so it felt like it took us until 2517 to actually get everything set up. As you can see in the picture above there are a lot of pieces to this game and the rules are just slightly different depending on the number of people playing. And nothing is labeled even though the instructions list a number of what you’re supposed to have of each thing.

Also, while the game is advertised as 3-5 players, it’s really does not seem intended for three people because the one big rule change in that particular setup is you play two characters rather than just one. And, you guessed it, it was just three of us playing. Two characters makes an already confusing first playthrough doubly more confusing. Also, it should be noted that there had been a not small consumption of wine beforehand so we were all of us maybe not at our peak cognitive abilities.

So, you have your character(s) and you get cards and then you put a bunch of other cards in the middle to be drawn. There is no board or anything to move around and instead it is all the various cards that are drawn which dictate the events and vice versa. It’s fairly straight forward. Each character has various skills and strengths and all in all the whole game is quite well thought out. I can’t say I was disappointed by it since I had no expectations at all, but for the most part the enjoyment was more about the Firefly references than the actual gameplay.

However, I will say that it was maybe just a bit over the top. The entire instruction book, for instance, is written in a style emulating slang from the show which sounds cool. But personally I found it difficult to follow, like trying to decipher netspeak or something. Certainly, there’s a great attention to detail here and everything is very nicely designed, but it’s not a sturdy game since everything is made from card stock.

Anyway, I’m just waiting to play with some more people before I can comment with any confidence. It’s definitely not a bad game, though.

  1. Plus, I didn’t get to celebrate my birthday as a kid.

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!