Sympathy for the Devil

Last night we got a much needed reprieve from the onslaught of tornado spawning super cells.  As a result I tried my best just to chill out and relax.  So much is going on right now relating to the tornado effort in Moore, but other than the links I posted yesterday I am not really going to dwell much on it.  It is still pretty much the only thing we are thinking about, but I just needed to relax last night.

Now I Remember

The other day I was talking about restarting Final Fantasy 13 on a whim, and not really being able to remember why I stopped playing it in the first place.  Last night I continued my journey into the game, and reached a point where now I know exactly why I stopped playing.  Basically FF13 is this super relaxing game, that does most of the work for you by managing your abilities based on what “stance” you are currently in.  This is does a great job of taking the tedium out of a JRPG and letting you just sit back, relax and watch the events unfold before you.

This all goes extremely great until you encounter your first Eidolon fight.  Basically all the gaming vocabulary you have learned to that point becomes completely useless for the encounter.  You have to do one specific gimmick, over and over… and do so with flawless timing or you die.  Basically the Eidolon fight goes against everything you have experienced in the game to that point.  On top of this, usually the gimmick you have to perform is something you would never do in another fight after this one. 

Ultimately the Eidolon fights become these cruel precision mini games, that are forced upon the otherwise very casual experience.  You cannot avoid them, and they usually occur at key times in the storyline that are unavoidable.  The Shiva sisters fight shown above for example occurs after a minion battle and two cut scenes.  So each time you attempt the fight you have to slog through those to get back to the boss fight.  If the numbers over snows head tick down to zero, the fight is over.

I remember the last time I played the game I managed to slog through several of these fights, but ultimately it was one near the end of disc two that got the best of me.  I simply did not care enough about continuing the game to learn whatever pattern needed to executed flawlessly to get through the fight.  I don’t mind the concept of battles like this, I just mind them greatly when they are so drastically in contrast with the super causal gaming experience as a whole.  It feels like the game does exactly zero training to this point in the skills needed to succeed at these egregiously gimmicky fights.

Sympathy for the Devil

After attempting the Shiva sisters a few times, I decided that I needed to retreat into something warm and familiar…  and thanks to the wonders of the PlayStation Network, that happy place was Symphony of the Night.  I am not sure if I can quantify it, but this is as close as I think I will ever find to my perfect game.  It has awesome side scrolling exploration, fun fast paced sword melee combat, the ability to collect gear and level your character up, interesting abilities to unlock, and non-linear progression.  This is literally everything I want in a game wrapped up in one gorgeous package with an amazing hard rock inspired soundtrack.

I think more than anything the soundtrack is what sells the experience for me.  I own an original copy of the Japanese soundtrack that was released, and have listened to it over and over.  For ages this was my defacto coding soundtrack, and was not really replaced until the Tron Legacy soundtrack.  Interestingly enough, Tron Legacy has now been trumped and The Secret World has become my default background music at work.  Everything about this game screams a level of attention to detail that you just don’t see much in games.

I can happily fall back into this game at any time, after playing any other game.  Last night I continued onwards with my game, trying to remember where things were in relation to other things and start gathering up the relics needed to progress further.  I completely surprised myself last night… with my ability to keep from taking damage.  I was going through an area of the castle I remembered, but completely forgot the fact that I was about to get trapped in a room with a shadowy clone of myself.  I only had 15 hit points going into the fight, and somehow managed to make it through defeating the boss with 5 to spare.

My favorite version of the game so far is the PS3 Emulated one.  I just wish that it supported the digital stick, rather than gamepad only for movement.  Someday I will hook back up my Saturn and play the Japanese import version again.  It has the unique features of being able to play as the default Alucard, but also Maria and Richter from the start of the game.  My only problem with the Saturn version is that while it has all these extra features, the controls are nowhere near as responsible as the PSX rendition.  Also when you get a large number of creatures on screen at a time, there is a bit of slowdown and hitching.  This combined with the fact that there was never an english version released…  definitely put the PlayStation version on the top of the heap.

MMO Vacation

Other than the game that must not be named due to a super strict NDA, I have not really been playing a lot of MMOs over the last week or so.  This is really a combination of two factors…  firstly that I now have this awesome apartment like game loft, that I can go up to and chill out in without feeling like I am taking the television from anyone else.  Also thanks to the quirks of acoustics, my wife can be sitting downstairs on the sofa, and we can hold a conversation at normal volume.  So it doesn’t really feel like I am that far away from her when I am playing.

Secondly, and this is the big one…  I wrote awhile back that my ISP is discontinuing residential internet access.  I have a feeling that they have begun throttling users to try and get them to switch faster.  Essentially my ping times have been horrific in any game I play, and this has lead to more than one extremely frustrating death.  This has caused me to completely swear off League of Legends until this has changed, and even in Rift doing daily quests has become annoying with lots of mob warping.

Luckily this will be remedied tomorrow.  I have them scheduled to run a new line to the loft, which will then host the wireless router for the house.  It is a good centralized location, and the limited obstacles will make it prime for internet access from the living room downstairs.  So as of tomorrow I will be going from roughly 4 meg internet to 25 meg, and going from single room dvr to whole house dvr.  I am extremely pumped, and ready for not having to worry about streaming slowing down everything else on the network.  We are starting with 25, but may at a later date bump up to the full 50 meg connection.

I imagine that once this goes in, I will be having a renaissance of online gaming… as I can not only download patches much faster but not have to worry so much about my ping going to shit.  I know this will not be the be all end all cure for bad ping, but it will certainly take a step in the right direction.  Also the ability to watch anything we have recorded on the DVR from the livingroom, loft and bedroom is a huge boon.  There are a ton of shows that I like to watch… that my wife has zero interest in.  I can pop up to the loft and watch the show til my heart is content, while she is watching whatever she wants to watch.

Wrapping Up

On top of the new internet, we will be getting our sectional delivered tomorrow.  So it is going to be a super exciting day, when a lot of realities change around our house.  However, it is also going to mean a super busy night of prep work to get ready for the furniture movers and the cable installer.  Additionally right now I have a cat trying to tell me that I should stop typing and pet her.  So I am going to do just that. I hope you all have awesome days, and that you get accomplished everything you need to.

To Boldly Go

I am extra groggy this morning.  Last night was another episode of that familiar Oklahoma… try and sleep while also listening to the weather forecast because you are under a Tornado Warning.  It is a fun game for a large group of players.  The negative side effect is that you either don’t really sleep deeply at all, or you end up dreaming about a tornado hitting your house.


I have to marvel at just how good the weather is here in Oklahoma.  We had been warned about this outbreak of tornados on Friday, and the warnings got steadily more and more dire until yesterday when the show finally began around 5pm.  Additionally it is pretty miraculous that over the course of the evening there were 29 separate tornados and uncountable miles of destruction…  but only one single fatality.  It is just staggering to me that so much destruction could be caused, yet only one life be lost.

Here we live in a culture of constant preparedness for that big tornado, so early in the evening we had prepared our hidey hole, and I was texting people to make sure they were also aware of the imminent danger.  Now like many nights, this ended up much ado about nothing…  but it is because we take it seriously… that there were so few lives lost.  We rolled the dice and lucked out on the path of the twisters, and had the conditions been slightly different they would have hit us for certain. 

The closest tornado spawning super cell passed about 30 minutes to the north of our house.  When that cell was extremely active over the Wellston area, there is footage of it being roughly a mile and a half wide.  Think about that for a moment…  there this is thing destroying literally everything in this mile and a half wide path.  Tornados feel like a giant eraser tool, smudging out everything in its arc.  We fared the night just fine, but this evening is supposed to be worse.  Additionally, todays show is supposed to start at roughly 3pm, just in time for the drive home.

To Boldly Go

We had to do something to take our minds off the impending doom, so we went around noonish to a matinee for Star Trek: Into Darkness.  I have to say I loved every minute of it.  I’ve always been a shirt tail fan of Star Trek, watching whatever series happened to be on the air at the given time.  However I have never really reached the point of ravening fanboy, because I just didn’t buy the “utopian experiment” aspect of the franchise.  Deepspace 9 was my favorite of the series, because they were essentially in a constant state of war and chaos, it felt like it was Star Trek for the Star Wars fan.

J.J. Abrams has taken this very neat and tidy Star Trek universe and messed it up a bit, producing something that is far more enjoyable for me to watch as a whole.  Just like the first one, I loved every single minute of the movie, and cannot wait to see it again.  However as I am sitting there watching the movie, I am getting super excited in the back of my head.  If Abrams can do this for Star Trek, a series I have always felt was a bit too sterile…  it makes me absolutely giddy to think about what he can do to Star Wars.

If you have not seen the film yet, you definitely should.  It was a great rollercoaster ride to go on.  Essentially from the first moments of the film to the last there is nothing but nonstop action.  Additionally it has some truly amazing moments in between that will play on your emotions like a harpsichord.  There are purists that will hate the film, and I have already heard enough negative clamor about it… but it is just plain movie fun.

The Most Inappropriately Named Game Series

With the return of having an Xbox console in my loft, I wanted to play a game on it.  While over the last few days I have played a good deal of my old friend Castle Crashers, I felt like I wanted to play something more substantial.  For whatever reason I never managed to finish Final Fantasy XIII, I just stopped playing it and got out of sync with the storyline… never to return.  I have this love/hate relationship with the series as parts of me are super nostalgic about the Nintendo and super Nintendo era titles… and other parts of me are frustrated with what the series has become overall.

The game as a whole feels extremely rehashed at this point.  Something is causing the world to end, and only your team can stop it… with the help of super unrealistic armor and needlessly intricate weapons.  It will somehow involve god like creatures that you can either summon or will help you in some fashion, and also include insanely unrealistic armor, needlessly intricate weapon designs… and quite possibly take up large amounts of real time to manifest themselves.  The game is just drowning in the same tropes every single time.

The final fantasy trope that just kills me though, is the fact that they give you this one character that they want you to hate.  In FF13 this is Hope… when you use him he is markedly weaker than every single character you have gotten to that point.  He literally has half of the hitpoints of Vanille the character that is introduced to pair with him.  Additionally he wields this goofy boomarang, and seems to do far less damage than Vanille. 

To complete the arc of hatred, he is annoying as shit…  and throws the game into this entire arc of falsetto emotion.  I think we are supposed to feel sorry for him, or identify with him in some way…  but all I see is a kid with goofy hair, crappy weapons, no hit points and no personality.  Final Fantasy as a franchise has a history of setting up completely useless character and intending for us to like them… need I mention Edward the Bard from Final Fantasy IV?

All this bitching aside, I rather enjoyed playing FF13 again last night.  The story is kinda lame, and the characters are overly dramatic…  but I still enjoy it for whatever reason.  I think one of my impediments from enjoying console games in the past is that I always felt rushed when I played one.  Since it was hooked up to our main television, I always felt like I was somehow imposing by playing the game.  Now that I have a television of my own, set up in a gaming area of my own…  I can take as much time to play whatever I like and not have to worry about rushing through the cut scenes to get to the action.  I don’t feel like I have to hurry and get my fill so I can return the television to its intended purpose.

Alucard Again

I find it completely unsurprising that my favorite game right now on the PS3 is the same favorite game I have had ever since first playing it.  Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is that game for me, that is so far ahead of every other game I have played in matter of deep personal enjoyment.  No matter how many times, and on how many different platforms I have access to it… I still return to playing it.  Thanks to the PlayStation network, there is a really great emulated copy of it running inside my PS3.

I had started the game just prior to the whole tornado madness last night, so only made it past the first boss before shutting it down and heading downstairs.  I am sure I will be tag teaming back and forth between this and Final Fantasy 13 for a few weeks.  The funny thing is, that while I can remember large chunks of the game, every time I play it I cannot remember the exact order and locations of items I need to get… so the gameplay never gets stale.  This is for me as close to a perfect game as it gets, and sadly nothing has ever really come close.

Guacamelee! does a really good job of invoking the same feeling.  But for whatever reason I just don’t feel as connected to the Luchador, as I do to Alucard the son of Dracula.  I won’t lie, I love vampires… I always have.  I was a pretty rabid player of Vampire the Masquerade, and did not really get disenfranchised with the genre until the last few years and the whole “vampires are people too” movement.  So the thought of running around in Castlevania as this sword swinging badass that you also played in Castlevania 3… is pretty much the pinnacle of awesome.

I need to hurry up and finish my net top PC so I can also be playing Super Metroid from the loft.  I feel like I am old now, because I would rather play a side scrolling sprite based game, than any of the new shiny 3D titles available for the console.  I think this is ultimately what the process of getting old feels like, mind crushing nostalgia about the things you used to love and still do.  I can remember thinking about consoles like the Gamecube… that no one will feel nostalgic about this…  but sure enough the generation that grew up with Super Smash Brothers is going through the same exact thing.  Oh well I guess we just have to enjoy whatever we can when we can.

Constant Vigilance

I need to wrap up and get on the road.  It looks like we are going to have another beautiful day of thunderstorms ahead of us.  All indications say that today will be far worse and far more likely to hit the Tulsa area.  The thing that freaks me out the most is the fact that the deluge will be hitting as we begin the drive home.  Here is hoping if it ends up looking bad enough, that we can duck out early.  I have so much to do this week, and so many non-work things to try and arrange for.  I hope you all have a great week, and I hope you too can get done all the things you need to do.