The Sunshine Blogger Award Challenge, Part 2: Return of the Sunshine Blogger

I am honored to have received another nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award, this time from Angie of Backlog Crusader.  Even if, once again, I have to stress that the term “sunshine” really can’t apply to me in any sense other than the sarcastic.

Here are the rules of the game, as usual:

Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog.
Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

Also, there’s a Final Fantasy VII spoiler in this post.  The game is 22 years old and everyone already knows exactly what “spoiler” I’m talking about, but I’ll put up the standard disclaimer just in case.  There’s also an SMT3: Nocturne spoiler.  No surprises there.

And here are Angie’s questions:

1. If you could have a pet from any game you’ve played, what would it be?

I have two answers.  The first is Skye from Grandia II, the talking falcon who accompanies the world-weary mercenary protagonist Ryudo.  But he’s not just a talking bird – he’s an intelligent talking bird.  Skye is basically a human in terms of personality, and he has a comedic dynamic with Ryudo that lightens the mood nicely.  He even helps out Ryudo with a move where he picks up an enemy in his talons and drops it at Ryudo, who swings his sword at it like he’s hitting a baseball.  If I had a pet like that, I’d be unstoppable.  Well, Skye isn’t exactly a pet but more of an equal companion.  Okay, I want to be friends with a talking falcon, how about that?

My second choice would be Eevee.  Because it’s cute.  I know I put up this bitter, depressive persona on this site sometimes, and that’s completely genuine (I wish to God it weren’t, but what can you do) but I do like cats and fluffy things to some extent.  I’m not completely dead inside, or at least not yet.

2. What game unexpectedly surprised you or surpassed your expectations?

Doki Doki Literature Club!!  The fact that this very standard-looking visual novel was so hyped up on Youtube and among all kinds of gaming boards made me a little skeptical, and I really didn’t like those two exclamation points in the title of the game (edit: there’s only one, my brain is scrambled today.  Still please don’t put punctuation in your game title.  More on that subject soon.)  But this game really surprised me, both in terms of its quality and the twists that waited in ambush for me.  I wrote an in-depth review of the game at the link above, though it does have spoilers past the first couple of paragraphs, so be careful if you want to go into the game raw, which I highly recommend doing.

It’s just a nice cute dating sim, I promise.

3. What game would you like to see be made into a film?

The prospect of seeing a game I like made into a film is too scary for me to even consider. I like the Sonic series, after all (well, some of it at least) and look at the abomination Paramount came up with.  Apparently the movie’s development is being delayed to change Sonic’s design, though, so maybe it will end up being more bearable than we think.  And even if it ends up almost completely sucking, which seems likely, at least we’ll get Jim Carrey hamming it up as Dr. Robotnik.  He was the only good thing in that trailer.

If an anime series counts, I guess I’d like to see another adaptation of the Disgaea series.  I’m surprised NIS hasn’t gone this route.  Maybe their games are just too weird and niche to make it work commercially.

4. What was your most meaningful relationship forged through video games?

My experience with video games has been a mostly solitary one.  I don’t play multiplayer games at all anymore, and I haven’t for a long time.  I do have a few friends who I met thanks in part to our shared interest in certain kinds of games (i.e. the weeb ones) so I guess those are the relationships I’d have to go with.  My gaming certainly hasn’t been a factor in my relationships with any of my family.  That’s an aspect of my life that I never bring up because most of them would look down on it and think of me as immature.  No sense in even opening that door.

5. What do you think will be the next fad in video games? (Ex: Battle Royales right now, season passes, zombie games in the past, etc.)

I’m tempted to say that virtual reality is going to be the next fad, but people have been saying that since I was a kid myself back in the 90s and it hasn’t happened yet.  The technology is getting there, though.  Once we get to a point where the tech is good enough and affordable enough to become popular, I can see it becoming the new standard in gaming, at which point it won’t really be a fad but rather an established thing.

But I have to admit that I just don’t know.  I’m not nearly as connected to video game trends as I used to be.  These days, I only have time to play what I’m fairly sure I’ll like, so I pretty much ignore whatever’s hot at the moment.  I’d love to see tactical RPGs or visual novels get popular, but since that’s not going to happen, there’s really no point in hoping for it.

6. Of all the games you have played, what scene was the most memorable?

I have to go ultra-obvious and boring here and say Aeris’ death scene in Final Fantasy VII.  Probably for the fact that it’s so talked about, but also because I was about the right age when I played that game for it to stick in my head.  Looking back 22 years later, it’s easy to forget how damn impressive FF7 was when it came out, during the dawn of the 3D age of games.  Also, I put actual work into leveling up Aeris because I like having a good healer in my party in an RPG, and the game just straight up kills her off.  Come on!

Now that the remake is confirmed and has a release date, I guess we’ll get to experience that scene again, but somehow I feel it just won’t be the same.  I guess we’ll see when Square-Enix puts out the first episode of the remake next year.  It would be more of a twist if they kept her alive this time, wouldn’t it?

7. What older or retro game most deserves a remaster or sequel?

I already mentioned Skies of Arcadia in my first Sunshine Blogger post as a game I’d like to see a sequel to, so I should pick something else this time.  I’d love to see Shin Megami Tensei I and II get remakes.  These games were originally released on the Super Famicom, then upgraded for the Playstation in the mid-90s, but even the PSX remasters retain a lot of the annoyances of the originals that are typical of old JRPGs.  Not that I don’t like a real challenge – after all, SMT3 is one of my favorite games, and I enjoyed Strange Journey despite the beating it gave me.  But SMT1 and SMT2 would both benefit from graphical and quality-of-life upgrades.  I’ve seen a lot of people calling for remakes of Persona 3 and 4, but as much as I loved those games, I don’t see the point; they’re both still pretty modern games, whereas the first two SMT games most definitely are not.

Or maybe a remake of SMT if…  I still love this cover, by the way.

That said, if it’s a choice between remakes of the first two SMTs and Shin Megami Tensei V, I’d go for V.  Come on, Atlus.  Give us something.  Anything.  I’m happy about Persona 5 Royal coming out next year and all, but please.

8. What game meant the most to you on a personal level and why?

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, this answer will be no surprise to you given the fact that I never shut up about it (including in the answer to question #7 above.)  It’s Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.  People say the plot and characterization in Nocturne are thin, and when compared to, say, a Persona game, they’re right.  But what this game lacks in those areas it makes up for in the strength of its themes.  A while back, I wrote a piece about some of the themes of Nocturne, focusing on Isamu’s concept of his ideal world in which each person lives in their own separate universe constructed as they see fit.  If you don’t feel like digging through that essay, the gist of Nocturne is that the old world has ended and a new world is ready to be created.  Three remaining humans consisting of two of the human-turned-demon protagonist’s schoolmates and the one asshole cult leader who started the whole mess get the chance to shape the new world according to their beliefs and desires, and they have to fight it out inside an inside-out spherical demon-filled Tokyo world for the right to create their ideal world.

This was me throughout high school, minus the hat and the chest-faces.

Isamu’s world of isolation seems to be based on solipsism, the idea that you can only be sure of your own existence.  The game’s thin characterization means that we don’t really know why Isamu wants to build this kind of world, but it seems like he holds some bitterness towards society and just wants to be left alone.  And holy YHVH can I relate to that.  I’ve gotten better socially since getting out into the professional working world, but purely out of necessity.  I can still totally understand Isamu’s desire for a world of isolation.

9. Who is your favorite voice actor/actress?

I can’t say I have one favorite, but I’m a fan of Mamiko Noto, Rie Tanaka, Eri Kitamura – the list could go on a while, but they’re among my favorites.  I also like Masane Tsukayama, the guy who apparently plays every gravely-voiced old man in an anime or game, including Washizu in Akagi, Hyodo in Kaiji, Zouken Matou in Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night, and Igor in Persona 5.  Here’s a sample of Tsukayama’s brilliant work as Washizu (sorry that the subs are in French – the gist of the clip is that Washizu wants the protagonist to make a mahjong deal that he thinks will lead to his own victory.  Also, spoilers for Akagi.)

As far as English-language VAs go, I don’t have any particular preferences.  Most of the regulars seem to be highly professional and good at their jobs, though.  Much respect to them.  I’m sure they don’t get paid enough.  The gig economy is god damn rough.

10. If your favorite video game protagonist suddenly became a kitchen or cooking utensil, what would they be?

I admit, I would have never thought of this one myself.  I think my favorite game protagonist might be Garrett, the main character of the Thief series.  Garrett is an anti-hero who usually looks out for himself alone but who always ends up on the right side of the fight when the chips are down.  And true to his nature, he returns to the shadows to keep stealing from the rich and giving to himself after the fight is done.  Since Garrett is such a stealthy guy, he’d have to be a very sharp knife, something that can be wielded silently and quickly.  Wielded against tomatoes, I mean.  Then again, Garrett is a pro who doesn’t kill people, so maybe he’d be a pestle, since that somewhat resembles the blackjack Garrett uses to knock his enemies out.

11. How many more Final Fantasies do you think will be made before they finally reach the Final, FINAL Fantasy?

Ten thousand years in the future, the ruins of human civilization are crumbling.  Nature has reclaimed the land and oceans, erasing the marks of our very existence.  Yet somehow, Square-Enix headquarters is still standing, and they’ve just announced the release date of Final Fantasy MMMCCLXXVIII.  That’s the true irony: no matter how many Final Fantasies are made, there will never be a Final Fantasy.

***

Right, so that took a dark turn at the end.  Sorry.  Now to get to my questions.  This time I’ve geared them more towards game-related subjects.

1. Do you have a favorite game composer?  If so, who is it?

2. Same question as above, but for game artists/art directors.

3. Is there a character you’ve encountered in a game that annoyed you immediately?  If so, did that character grow on you over time, or do you still dislike them?

4. If you could own any vehicle from a game, which one would you own, and would it be a practical form of transportation?

5. How do you feel about contributing to crowdfunding campaigns for games and other works?

6. Reversing a question I was asked – what movie would you want to see adapted into game form?

7. Do you buy physical copies of games?  How important is it to you that the publisher releases a physical copy of a game, or does it matter at all?

8. If you could have dinner with/hang out with any one main cast of characters from a game, which one would it be?

9. How important are a game’s story, characters, and overall message to you when weighed against the quality of its gameplay?

10. If you were exiled to a desert island and could only bring one game console with you, which one would it be?  Not counting the PC – you’re allowed to have a PC on the desert island.  You also have access to power sources.  This is a really convenient desert island, isn’t it?

11. How much money do you think you’d get for your entire game collection in Gamestop in-store credit?  (This one might not be comprehensible to people outside the US.  If you’re not familiar with Gamestop, look up “gamestop in-store credit” on Google and you’ll see why I’m asking this question.)

And here are my nominees this time around.  12 again instead of 11 despite what the rules say.  Look, it’s my OCD, okay?  Just as before, if I haven’t included you on this list but you want to answer these questions anyway, please feel free.  And if I have included you, but answering these kinds of award challenge things isn’t your style or you’re having them thrown at you left and right, feel free to ignore it.

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2019 mid-year review

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before: post an update reviewing what I’ve done so far this year regarding the site and what my general plans are for the rest of the year.  I know there are bloggers in the community who do this weekly or monthly, and good on them.  I don’t post nearly as often as they do, so I can only really justify this kind of post about twice a year.  I’ll also be going all the way back to December, because why not.  I think that was when I truly revived the site again, so it makes more sense than an arbitrary Jan. 1 cutoff date.

Game reviews

Since I started posting on a regular basis again, I’ve written several full game reviews, some of which have been reviews of free games because fuck my current financial situation.  But not all of them were free.  And a few of the free games are among the best I’ve played this year, so it’s not like that’s been a bad thing.

 

Disgaea 1 Complete – A PS4 remaster of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the very first game in the series.  A lot of fans were clamoring for this one, partly for the reason that it has the most beloved cast of all the games.  There’s a reason Laharl, Etna, and Flonne keep popping up in NIS games 15 years after their debut.  I liked Disgaea 1 Complete, though it’s definitely a better deal for players new to the series than for old veterans, because it really doesn’t add much to the original experience.  The game is still a classic, though, and it’s the definitive version of the first Disgaea, so I do recommend it.

Doki Doki Literature Club!! – This is a popular free-to-play western-developed visual novel – perhaps the only game in the world right now to fit all those descriptors.  DDLC fully lived up to the hype in my opinion.  I already knew going in that the game wasn’t quite the lighthearted dating sim it claimed to be on the tin, but it still managed to surprise me.  If you’re the type who gets anti-hyped over games that get tons of attention from popular Youtube LPers and Twitch streamers (something I totally understand, by the way) you should do yourself a favor and try to get over that, because DDLC is really worth playing.  And it’s free.  Did I mention it’s free?  The above-linked review is packed with spoilers, though, so just be warned if you haven’t played it yet.

Momodora II – Another free game.  Yeah, my bank account was suffering the last few months, so I had to make some cuts to the game budget.  Things are better now, thanks in part to all the work I’ve gotten lately.  But if I hadn’t gone through a difficult period earlier on, I might not have sought out Momodora II, a free action-platformer by independent developer rdein.  Momodora II is not as polished as its successors, but for a free game it’s excellent.  Another recommendation.

OneShot – Like DDLC, OneShot is an ultracreative indie game that really threw me for a loop with its twists.  The obvious comparison to be made here is with Undertale – they’re visually similar and share some themes – but OneShot really is its own game, different from any other game I’ve played before.  I’ve never played a game that made me care about a protagonist as much as OneShot does, and the best part is that the game achieves this without a lot of cheap heart-string-pulling.  That’s not to say there isn’t any sentimentality in OneShot, but that sentimentality is totally earned.  I highly recommend the polished and expanded OneShot for sale on Steam, because it’s more than worth what you’ll pay for it.

Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight – These Persona 3 and Persona 5 dancing game spinoffs were disappointments.  They were too expensive, they didn’t have enough tracks, and both felt like the result of an Atlus board meeting about how best to milk these Persona games while they worked on Persona Q 2 and whatever other Persona spinoff they have in mind next (a cooking game?  I’ll put my money on that.)  Also consider the fact that these two games are essentially the same game with different casts of characters who don’t even interact with each other like they do in PQ2, and you’ll end up asking yourself why the hell these were each priced as full games. If you’re dying for a Persona rhythm game, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a much better choice.

Even so, I couldn’t give P3D and P5D failing grades.  They’re functional, the music is still good despite some unimpressive remixes clogging up the tracklists, and I can’t hate any game that features my battle android waifu dancing to “A Way of Life”.  Just keep in mind that these are fan-only affairs.  If you’re not addicted to the Persona series, I can’t recommend them at all unless you find them for a real bargain.

Saya no Uta This isn’t exactly a review of Saya no Uta, but rather an analysis of the game as a horror/romance.  It’s full of spoilers as well.  Suffice it to say that Saya is a really good game that you should play unless Lovecraftian body- and mind-horror is a turnoff for you, in which case you should stay as far as possible from it.

Sonic CD – A lot of fans consider Sonic CD a sort of lost classic.  It was first released in 1993 on the failed Sega CD, then brought back a decade later on the Gamecube-exclusive Sonic Gems Collection.  And now we finally have the definitive version of the game on Steam remastered by the man himself, Christian Whitehead.

I can’t call Sonic CD a classic on par with the Genesis games.  There are too many problems with the game’s level design, and all the bosses are pushovers – Dr. Robotnik was really phoning it in this time.  Still, Sonic CD is pretty fun, and I’d say it’s well worth buying the Steam version, especially if you’re a fan of 2D Sonic.

Yume Nikki – I finally got around to replaying Yume Nikki, a seminal RPG Maker game that’s now available free to play on Steam.  YN is a cult classic that’s influenced a lot of other indie titles and is a must-play for anyone who’s into surreal or unconventional games.  This one’s more of a retrospective than a review, if there’s any difference between those at all.

Features

Best of Windows Entertainment Pack (Parts 1, 2, 3) – Around the end of January I got nostalgic for the old days of Windows 95, so I loaded it up on a virtual machine and played every game in the Windows Entertainment Packs on it.  That’s 29 games in total, each of which got a short one- to two-paragraph review.  Some of them are really good games worth checking out, while some of them are… well, not.  If you’re curious about which of these 90s equivalents of mobile games are worth playing today, check out the above links.

Essays on the Megami Tensei series (#1, #2) – Here’s a real surprise coming from me – two pieces I wrote about themes in the Megami Tensei series that I found interesting.  I might write more of these kinds of posts in the future about other series.  I basically got both of my degrees in bullshitting, so I’m good at this sort of thing.

Games for broke people – I revived this series that I briefly started and then dropped all the way back in 2016.  Not sure why I quit writing these, because I like reviewing free games by amateur developers.  There are some real gems to be found on sites like itch.io (perhaps on Steam as well, though the well of decent-looking free games that aren’t MMOs seems to have dried up there recently.)  While there is admittedly a lot of unplayable garbage among these games, there’s also some stuff that no professional publisher would ever dare to put out because they’re too afraid to take risks.

Music reviews and related posts – I won’t go through them one by one, but I’ve recently written a few reviews of mostly game OSTs along with a few posts about music in general.  Music has always been a secondary theme on this site, and I’ll keep posting music-related content (especially when I don’t have the time to play a new game, like for example when I have to work through the damn weekend.)

Upcoming content (backlog reviews, new reviews, etc.)

My backlog never seems to decrease, especially since I keep buying new games on sale on itch.io and Steam.  Here are some games I’ve got on deck to review once I finish them:

Our World Is Ended. – This is an all-ages (well, sort of, but more on that later) visual novel set in modern-day Tokyo with a science fiction flavor and an eccentric cast.  If you’re thinking that sounds a lot like Steins;Gate, you’re not wrong.  I’m only three or four hours in right now, but Our World Is Ended is already pushing all the right buttons.  Aside from a less-than-stellar translation job – some lines are awkward, and I’ve seen at least half a dozen glaring typos so far.  Was the publisher really so stingy that they couldn’t bring themselves to hire a proofreader?  For fuck’s sake.  The game’s also starting to run a couple of jokes into the ground, mostly at Asano’s expense.

The game seems to think Asano is unappealing, but it’s doing a real bad job convincing me of that so far.

Just one more note about the game before the review proper: I’m playing the PC version on Steam.  Physical copies are also available for PS4 and Switch.  Normally I’d spring for a physical copy, but I don’t have a Switch, and given Sony’s current track record when it comes to demanding the removal of certain elements in localization, I didn’t want to get the PS4 version lest it came to the States all hacked up.  Also, a digital copy of the game is $20 cheaper than the physical package being sold on Amazon and in stores, and I’m still doing my best to economize.

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight – I’ve had this game in my Steam library forever, so I feel like I really have to take it on now.  Momodora II was a lot of fun, so I expect Momodora IV will be even better.  It looks a lot more polished, anyway.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles – I bought this old classic during a Sega Steam sale last month, and so far it lives up to the original (except for the hideous “SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis Classics” shell that surrounds it, with the virtual bedroom and Genesis and shelf full of games – I get what they’re going for with the nostalgic look, but the actual game is all the nostalgia I need, thanks.)

Senran Kagura Estival Versus – I bought this PS4 game a while back, but somehow I haven’t touched it until now.  It’s a fun beat-em-up that makes for an excellent escape from reality.  If I have anything to say about it, I’ll write a review at some point.

Rakuen – I bought this RPG Maker game during a Steam sale a few weeks ago.  It always gets mentioned in the same breath as Undertale and OneShot, so it must be good.  I’ll play through it once I feel up for another experience like that, which shouldn’t be too long from now.

That’s about it for now.  I’m not planning to slow down my pace this year, and in addition to the above reviews, I’ll keep writing free game and music-related posts.  If I’m productive enough, maybe I’ll even start writing these update posts on a quarterly basis.  Just like the Form 10-Q that corporations have to file with the SEC.  In conclusion, be sure to visit the sites in the sidebar as well – they’re all excellent bloggers who post way more often than I do.

 

Why write?

It’s been about eight or nine months, so it’s time for another one of these complaint-ridden introspective posts, isn’t it?  This time, I’m asking myself – and you, if you’re a writer as well – the question in the title.  Seemingly a simple question, but it’s one that all writers have to ask themselves.  Why write?  What am I really doing here?  I don’t make any money off of this blog.  I don’t have any plans to use this site as a springboard to write for outside outlets, either; my day job keeps me busy enough, and the people I know who make their living writing have a rough time of it.  No, I’m happy to keep writing a hobby instead of a job, though I’m still not averse to taking a freelance job here and there when I have the time.  I’m also happy to stay primarily a W-2 employee, because doing taxes is hell on freelancers in the US.

I’ve been posting on a regular basis (at least by my standards) since the end of last year, when I ended my months-long on-and-off hiatus.  Since picking up the pen again and committing to it, my life’s gotten more tolerable, and I think there are two reasons for that.  The first that occurred to me was that I just like writing about subjects that interest me, and video/PC games and music have been my favorite forms of entertainment since I was a kid, so it seemed natural to write about them.

The other reason I continue writing here is that it’s the best way I’ve found to cope with my depression.  I don’t feel like I have any control over my life, and I hate most every aspect of it.  I used to drink to try to cope with those feelings – I drank way too much, in fact.  Since I thought I didn’t care about living, it seemed only natural to drink until I went numb for a while.  Sometimes literally numb, but more often figuratively. I probably don’t have to mention that since alcohol is a depressant, it can deepen depressive episodes and promote certain thoughts that might crop up during them.

Sure, whatever you say

I’ve basically quit doing that, and I’m trying to stay on course. It’s hard not to fall back into old habits when that high wave of depression hits, and it always does hit without exception. But that’s where writing comes in. My writing projects, as piddly as they are, give me at least one goal in life to pursue that I actually care about. And since there’s no ultimate goal to writing, no end destination, these projects will hopefully continue until my life ends, whenever that happens.  It helps that the subjects I’ve chosen to write about also provide an escape from the shitness of everyday life.

I hope this post doesn’t make it seem like I’m trying to get any sympathy.  That’s not useful to anyone, and in any case, I’ve always just tried to be sincere on this blog.  Seems pointless not to be, since I can’t get away with true sincerity out in the real world.  I also know well enough that since I’m not currently starving to death or living under a dictator, I have it better than a whole lot of people.  Having that knowledge doesn’t help with depression, though, as much as it seems like it should (and don’t use this line on someone who’s dealing with it as a way to try to give them perspective – it doesn’t work.)

For some reason, I always get this way around the holidays.  Ramadan starts on Monday, and even though it’s not a big deal where I live, it’s a big deal in my family.  A whole month of fasting and repentance.  I know a lot of people think it’s just an ancient custom not worth bothering with anymore, but I do think there’s value to the fast.  Self-denial of that kind puts me in a weird mindset – not weird in a bad way, either; it’s the kind of mindset that’s best for writing.  Thankfully, the fast doesn’t include games, so I’ll still be playing them this month as well.  That and having a feast at the end, because I’ll sure as hell feel like it by then.

I’ll still have a beer sometimes, I’m not going all cold turkey or anything.  Also hope Irina doesn’t think I’m trying to bite her style here, putting related anime stills in my post

Well shit, that was another rambling bunch of nonsense.  My next post will make more sense and actually be about something.  In the meantime, if you feel like it, I’d like to hear about your own motivations.  What drives you to write?

Answering and posing 11 questions for the Sunshine Blogger Award

Nobody who knows me in real life, or who even reads this site for more than a few minutes, could possibly use the word “sunshine” to describe me, except sarcastically.  Even so, I have to thank Red Metal of Extra Life for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award.  As part of this nomination, Red Metal put eleven questions to me and the other nominees, which I’ve done my best to answer below.  If any of my answers seem like cop-outs, rest assured that that is completely intentional.

1) In which cases would you deem the manga superior to the anime on which it’s based?

Mahjong Legend Akagi is still near the top of the list of my favorite anime series, but the manga is better if only for the fact that it’s continuing to tell the story of Akagi’s mahjong deathmatch (a literal deathmatch) with the insane billionaire Washizu, while the anime had to cut the story off partway through… because the damn manga wasn’t done yet.  More generally, I’d say any work that goes through what TV Tropes calls “adaptation decay” falls in this category.  I’m not a big manga reader, though.  I can definitely say that anime series based on video games usually are not as good as their source material.

2) Which game do you feel has the best soundtrack?

There are a lot of great game soundtracks out there, so it’s hard for me to pin down one that’s the best. I’ll cheat here and say NieR:Gestalt/Replicant and NieR:Automata together. The two soundtracks do have some thematic links, just like their respective games, so I think it works to lump them together. Everything about these soundtracks is amazing.  In different parts they’re delicate and emotional, sweeping and operatic, powerful, crushing… well, I can’t really do it justice with words, so you should just listen to the music.  You can find most or all of their contents on Youtube, though they’re both well worth a buy.

As a pair of very close runners-up, I’ll put up the Persona and Ar tonelico series.

3) If you could revive a dead video games series, which one would you choose?

No need to even think about this one – Skies of Arcadia. Since there was only one Skies of Arcadia game (I’m not counting the Gamecube remaster) it’s not exactly a series, but I’d love to see a sequel, even though the chances of that happening now are lower than the chances of my winning the Powerball.

Well, a man can dream, anyway.

4) What game/film/album/book did you have a particularly difficult time adding to your collection?

I really had to dig around for a physical copy of a single album by Tokyo Active NEETs.  They’re a doujin music group based in Tokyo (obvious I guess) and their stuff typically has to be imported, if it’s even available for sale online.

Same goes for any limited-release physical copy of an album I want.  I was very happy to get the CD release of Moe Shop’s Moe Moe EP, even though I had to import it from Japan.  The damn thing sold out in a few hours.  It’s probably stupid that I’m into collecting physical copies of albums, games, and books, but there’s always the chance that a Carrington Event could happen and melt worldwide electrical grids and damage equipment, and there go your precious mp3 files.

5) Do you prefer to see a film at home or in the theaters?

When my depression is tamped down enough to get me out of the house on a weekend, I’ve always enjoyed going to the theater. Even if the movie turns out to be lousy, it can still be a good time if I’m with friends, especially if it’s a “funny bad” kind of movie. When I’m at home, I prefer to play games.

6) In what cases did you find yourself siding with critics over fans about a work’s quality?

This is a hard one. I guess I like some of the 80s pop stuff created by formerly ultra-artsy prog-rock bands like Yes and Genesis that’s praised by critics but shunned by a lot of hardcore fans (Yes a lot more, honestly – 90125 is a legit good album.)  This answer is one of my cop-outs, though, because I like most of their 70s prog work a lot more than their 80s work, and Genesis was total crap from Invisible Touch until they broke up.  Just listen to a Phil Collins solo album and you’ll get the idea.  (Better still, don’t.)

7) In what cases did you find yourself siding with fans over critics about a work’s quality?

The Sonic Adventure games. I haven’t reviewed either of them here, though I did take a look at a related soundtrack a while back in which I called them a mixed bag. I still feel that way, but on balance I do have a lot of fun playing them, especially Sonic Adventure 2. No, they’re not perfect games by any means; yes, they do have absolutely stupid plots that make no sense (especially SA2.) But they don’t deserve the evisceration they get from critics today.

More generally, I side with Sonic fans about the series’ quality for the first ten years of its run, and I’ll fight tooth and nail with critics who claim that Sonic has “never been good.” Sure, there have been plenty of mediocre to poor Sonic games, but that’s no reason to paint them all with the same brush. The Genesis games are still absolute classics.

8) What is the most difficult game you’ve completed?

In terms of cheapness factor, probably Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, though there may be a few old RPGs I played that I’m forgetting about. Nocturne features a lot of old-school difficulty in the sense that it almost never holds your hand or tells you what’s coming next. SMT: Strange Journey is even more difficult, despite the fact that it lets you save almost anywhere – but I’m ashamed to say I have not beaten it yet.  YHVH damn you, Mem Aleph.

9) Which game series have you been following for the longest amount of time?

The two series I still follow religiously are Megami Tensei (starting with Persona 3 in 2006) and Disgaea (starting with Disgaea: Hour of Darkness all the way back in 2003.) In a broader sense, I’ve been following the Mario and Sonic series for longer than either of those, but I’m not an ultra-dedicated fan of either, not even of Sonic, despite all the praise I was heaping on the Genesis games up in answer #7.  I still follow Megami Tensei for the variety of gameplay and stories the series offers, from the crushing existentialist terror of Strange Journey to the schlocky fanservice of Persona 4: Dancing All Night and the Arena games, and Disgaea for the characters and the insane level of post-game content available in every game in the series.

Etna is one of my favorite characters in any game, period. Not very trustworthy, though.

10) In what ways do you feel video game critics to be ahead of their film-loving counterparts?

If we’re talking professional video game critics/journalists, I certainly have my problems with them, but I do think they tend to be more in tune with the tastes of the consumer.  A lot of it comes down to the distinction between high and popular art that I consider totally artificial.  There’s good art and bad art (of course, these definitions are subjective) but how do you draw a clear line between “high” and “low” art?  Good art is good art, no matter what other labels you care to hang on it.  PC and video games are still a young medium, a medium that’s looked down upon by many critics of other media.  So I think a lot of video game critics don’t make that same high/low distinction with games that critics of film, music, theater, etc. make.

As the medium continues to “mature”, though, I think that will change.  We’ve already been seeing this with pieces by game critics calling certain kinds of games “unacceptable” and “immature”.  If maturity means that PC and video games generally become more mainstream, corporate, and safe, I think I prefer immaturity.  But nobody asks me what I prefer when it comes to video games or anything else in the world.

11) How does hype factor into how you ultimately feel about a work?

I’d like to say it doesn’t, but that wouldn’t be true. When a game turns out to be less than expected in quality, I’m more disappointed according to the level of hype the game was receiving beforehand. Mighty No. 9 is a good example. I did not give a single flying fuck about all the drama surrounding the community manager genderbending the main character in fanart or whatever that controversy was about, but I ended up disliking the game anyway because it wasn’t that great in terms of level design and control, and I think the game probably received more hate than it deserved just because expectations were so high at the outset. As I get older, I grow more cynical, though, so I don’t buy into hype quite like I used to.

*****

I held up my end of the bargain.  Now here are my questions.  Almost everything I write about on this site is on games and music, but I tried to keep my questions open to fans of all kinds of media.

1) What’s your favorite or most-used medium for entertainment?

2) What character in a work of fiction would you inhabit and why?  (Assuming you’re experiencing the entire storyline of the game/novel/film/whatever as this character.)

3) What work would you wipe all memories of from your brain if you could so that you could experience it all over again?

4) What’s the most annoying trend occurring in your favorite medium today?

5) What’s the most promising trend occurring in your favorite medium today?

6) How much or how little romance do you like in your games/films/novels/etc.?

7) If you had to be the ruler of one country in any work of fiction, which one would you pick?

8) Do you think virtual reality will improve anytime in the near future to the extent that it’s actually worth using?  Or are we already at that point?

9) I’ve heard people say that the novel is a dying form of art and that changes in attention span length and the constant multitasking our generation is involved in will make them obsolete.  If you have an opinion on that matter, do you agree or disagree?

10) Are you optimistic about the future of the human race?

11) Cake or pie?  (There’s only one right answer.)

And here are the 11 (edit: 12.  I can’t count.) people/sites I’m tagging.  Yeah, for once I’m following the rules of the game.  If you’ve already been tagged, or doing this kind of thing just isn’t your style, feel free to ignore my questions.  Of course, anyone else is also free to take part if they feel like it.

Retro Freak Reviews

Otaku Orbit

Strange Girl Gaming

Games Revisited

Otaku Alcove

Home Button

Blimps Go 180

Hi-Fi Adventures

The Bibliophagist

NekoJonez

Wordynerdbird

Shoot the Rookie

An open letter to my friends in the practice of law

Today I’m doing something I’d typically never think of doing: showing some goodwill to my fellow humans.

What a ridiculous thought

Okay, I’m really not that bitter and miserable all the time. But sometimes I am, and it’s easy to forget at those times that I rely upon other people, just as the rest of us do. The most excellent Irina from the site I drink and watch anime (who also happened to take one of the best ideas for a site name that I didn’t think of myself) reminded me of this when she nominated me for the Blogging Chums Award established by one beams19. The rules follow:

This may seem like a bit of an odd award but I think it’s so important to tell the people closest to us how much we care about them, and in a world that is so full of hate and division, it’s the little things we do that can help make a big impact – so go tell someone you love them!

This award isn’t compulsory by any means but if you decide to take part, it would mean the world to me. I wonder if there will ever be a day when I’m scrolling through WordPress Reader and I see the Blogging Chum Award floating around on other blogs!”

The Rules:

Be sure to use the award image! (note: made by the author of Daring to Impress, which seems to be focused on fashion and such)
List the rules & about paragraph!
Thank whoever nominated you!
Write a letter to someone who means a lot to you to spread some positivity around the Internet – anyone will do!
Nominate 5 more people for the award and go let them know about it in their comments!

 

That’s some challenge. I could certainly thank any one of my fellow writers for their support and for doing what they do, and I do want to give my thanks to them. As the title suggests, though, there’s another group of people I want to thank today: my friends at the bar.  (The legal bar, not the bar you drink at, though I sometimes go to that kind of bar and meet friends there.)  I’m certain none of them will read this post, but if any do out of pure coincidence, it would make me happy, even if I am maintaining my anonymity here.

The practice of law is rough, frustrating, and dirty for many attorneys.  Some of us work in family law representing husbands and wives in the process of divorcing, splitting goods and property and the custody of children.  Some of us represent clients before administrative agencies with massive backlogs.  Some of us prosecute criminal defendants and some of us defend them in a criminal justice system that often seems twisted and backwards and stacked against the poor and working people, despite our stated standard of justice for all.  A few of us – fewer than most people realize – work at large firms for corporate clients, making big salaries but billing unbelievable numbers of hours per year, to the point that our free evenings and weekends are reduced or vanish altogether.  And 99% of the law is extremely unglamorous, no matter what part of it you practice.

“Counsel, please stop shouting and pointing at everyone.”

We all have one thing in common, though: we’re all subject to more or less the same rules of ethics, and we all bust our asses to make our clients and bosses happy.  And sometimes the effort required to perform the necessary work and maintain our ethical standards causes a lot of stress.  There’s a reason law is one of the highest-ranked professions in instances of depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide.  I’ve gone through experiences in my brief time as a lawyer that made me seriously question my decision to go to law school and sit for the bar.  Our own state bar association is finally acknowledging the problem, but aside from a help line and a referral program to mental health professionals, it doesn’t offer much in the way of aid.  And to be honest, it can’t – this profession is what it is, and there’s only so much you can do about the level of stress it causes its practitioners.

That’s why I’m writing this post to my friends in the practice of law.  I won’t lie – this profession does contain assholes, blowhards, and backstabbers.  But it also contains a lot of faithful, trustworthy, and classy people.  From my experience (and despite popular opinion) the second type of lawyer is more common than the first.  The friends I made as a law student and an attorney have given me a great deal of help with their support and advice, perhaps more than they know.  To those friends, I can only give my thanks and express my hope that I will always rank among the second type of lawyer and not the first.

As for the nominations – this is where I hit a wall.  As I’ve said before, this blog is a bit of a dead end since I’ve been out of the networking loop for the last, uh, five and a half years or so.  That’s something I’m trying to change, but for the time being, I will go ahead and tag The Otaku Judge and also Pete over at MoeGamer – no pressure, of course, and I haven’t seen the good Judge around for a while, but hopefully he’ll make his return soon.

Plans for the new year

I don’t usually make these kinds of posts, but I wanted to wish my readers a happy new year and to put forward a few of my plans and intentions for 2019.  Not massively vague resolutions that will be dropped within two weeks, but actual, viable plans.

1) Get through the stack of music I was planning to review.  The new year means a return to work, and a return to horrible downtown commutes, and an opportunity to listen to all the new albums I’ve got (and some old ones I’ve had lying around unlistened to.)

2) Post on a more regular basis.  Not every day or necessarily even every week, but no two-to-three-month hiatuses anymore.  I won’t pull a Spoony on you (in fact, I couldn’t, because Spoony skipped out on patrons who were giving him $5,000 a month to produce content and I don’t make a god damn penny off of this site.  Which is fine with me – it’s not my day job or even my night job.  But I won’t leave it behind, all the same.)

3) Try to shift from a constantly negative attitude to a cautiously positive one.  My disposition was never anywhere close to cheery and it never will be, but I’m tired of feeling miserable all the time.  Depression feeds itself, and its appetite grows by what it feeds on.  I’m determined to get out of my hole somehow.  Maybe a little less drinking is in order.

4) Try to affect some kind of positive change in society this year.  That’s something we can all do.  My tendency is to shut myself off, to reject and deny other people.  But that approach clearly hasn’t served me at all.  It’s not like I really want to be that way, but it’s hard to avoid sometimes.  This goal goes hand in hand with #3.

However, I promise not to compromise on my sincerely held beliefs.

In the meantime, all my best wishes for a good new year.  I can only speak for how it is in the United States, but people here seem to be optimistic despite everything that’s happened last year – and despite the sorry state of our leadership.  The only thing to do is push forward.  Let’s all do our part, no matter where we are.

Don’t drink and go to Amazon

So, some explanation is in order. I was out with a friend drinking on Friday night after a week at the legal grind, and we got a little farther gone than usual. I ended up getting home late and then drinking a lot of seltzer straight out of the bottle as I am wont to do when I’m in that state before passing out for good. The weekend proceeded normally. Monday morning I returned to work, and what should I have found when I returned home but a box from Amazon.

The problem: I wasn’t expecting a box from Amazon.

Yes, I ordered and paid for this Aigis (or Aegis, as she’s called here) figure in the “Parfom” line I bought through Amazon Prime on my phone that night, a fact that only came to my attention after I checked my order history on Amazon. I dropped $70 on it.

The Latin phrase In vino veritas, or “In wine, truth”, is a popular one. I tell outrageous and unbelievable lies about myself when I drink too much, so maybe it doesn’t apply to me in a certain sense. In a deeper and more profound sense, however, the saying is definitely true for me. I wanted to buy this figure of my robotic waifu from Persona 3, and I only had the nerve to do so when I was wasted.  Because fuck the electric bill.

The back of the box is interesting.  Mostly in Japanese, which makes sense – one of the few bits of English printed on it states that this product may only be sold in Japan, which… I don’t live in Japan, so I guess they aren’t enforcing this rule too closely.  Then again, it is in “like new” condition, so it must have been resold.  At any rate, Aigis had already made her way to the US when I ordered this, because it shipped over the weekend with Prime.  I won’t worry about it, though, because according to the box:

Now that’s some prime Engrish.  Will I receive a happiest moment, however?  We’ll see.  This figure was made by a manufacturer called Phat! in conjunction with Good Smile Company, the latter of which also makes the high-quality Nendoroid line of figures (a.k.a. those far far superior versions of Funko Pops that are also a lot more expensive) so I think I probably will.

Before we take Aigis out of the box, there’s one more piece of English text to examine here.

At first, I misread this warning and got sad and slightly ashamed of myself.  But then I noticed that there’s a period between “toy” and “for”.  You’ll see it if you squint.  See, Mom?  It’s not a toy, and it’s not for kids.  The box says so.  Just… just leave me alone!

After some struggling to get her to attach to the stand, here she is, looking ready for action.  This Aigis figure is sort of an intermediate design between the realistically proportioned Figma figures and the super-deformed Nendoroids.  Just like a lot of those figures, this one is extremely posable and comes with different faces and various hand attachments.  Aigis being a weaponized android, she has both regular hands and gun-finger hands, and also cannon, giant fist and rifle attachments for her right arm that I can’t figure out how to get on yet without breaking her arm clean off.  Let’s try changing out her facial expression, at least.

Is it a terrifying abomination from one of your nightmares?  No, it’s just Aigis without her face.  I wonder if she can canonically take her face off like this.  Nice trick to play on the SEES crew, though she might scare the dog.

That’s better.  Her other expression is a pretty cool-looking pissed off, but I like this one best.  Aigis is hanging out on my desk in this form now, keeping watch.

So, I guess the point of this post is to not log onto Amazon when you’re drinking.  Except I’m not really unhappy with the result of my boozed up Amazon misadventure because I actually really like this figure.  I do like Nendoroids a lot – the only two other figures I own are Nendoroids – and this is sort of a larger, differently-apportioned version of that sort of figure.  And I couldn’t ask for a better gift from my inebriated self than a figure of Aigis, even if that lousy fucker did spend $70 on it that I should probably have spent elsewhere.  Like on food.  It’s a myth that all lawyers are rich.  Good God do I wish it were not a myth, but it is.