Next episode is the special holiday episode, so no. However, I’m having difficulty coming up with things to interview gail about, so today is RBR day!
MMMMMM SUPER DELICIOUS!
Alright, I’m sure you remember the line up I had planned for today, so I’ll just go ahead and start on the review. I hope nobody minds, but I decided to review Phantasy Star Portable instead of Angels & Demons. My choice was mainly put on by the fact that Vampire Hunter D had similar flaws and stuff, and I didn’t feel like doing what would ultimately be the same review twice. So instead, I thought I’d review a game I played recently. I knew you’d understand <3.
R: Phantasy Star: Portable (PSP)
Phantasy Star: Portable (I’ll just call it PS:P for the rest of the review, I’m pretty lazy that way) Is a sequel to the game series’ last installment: Phantasy Star Universe. Despite being a sequel, you don’t need to have played the last installment to know what’s going on, as they bring you up to speed with a quick movie that outlines the events that have transpired. That is to say, decades of war and conflict between all the races. The races include Humans, Newmans (elves basically), CASTs (robots), and Beasts (giant ewoks you do NOT wanna piss off!)
As far as “this” game goes however, I’m sure you can guess the plot if you’ve played either PSO episode 1 or 2. You’re a new recruit for GURDIANS who’s just finished his/her training and is now going to be given a first assignment. So they pair you up with a synthetic human called Vivienne, whose cuteness and innocents makes Hatsune Miku look like a rugged tramp.
All character interactions are displayed in a visual novel like format. You get a background, and pictures of the characters appear in poses that changing accordingly. This may seem like a cheep excuse to skip out on full-blown CG cut scenes, but when you consider all the important conversations that take place, (which are fully voiced and sound pretty good I’ll add) the “laziness” is understandable to make things fit on such a small disk.
The assignment requires you to uncover the mystery on why these guard robots are going crazy and destroying everything. A few mobs of creatures later, and you come face to face with a goth chick called Helga, who likes small hats, and laughing evilly. But she has a sexy voice, so it’s all cool. She’s supposedly a terrorist, and the one responsible for making all these robots go bonkers. Later you’ll discover that this ties in with the appearance of an alien race called SEED that morphs wildlife into more sinister creations.
That’s about where the similarities end, and the story starts to get impressive. It should be noted that I’ve never played PSU, so I’m not sure if that also has a plot superior to the old PSO games. PS:P may not be Final Fantasy Seven, but it does have some interesting plot points that keeps you from feeling like your just running a gauntlet of mobs followed closely by a boss battle.
Perhaps the best part of the game is how articulate the creators were when crafting their universe. All of your party members are clearly more than just generic stereotypes, who all have their own strengths and faults. There’s reason and depth in all of the races political systems and behaviors. The world just comes to life with all this extra detail that’s been painstakingly crafted into every NPC.
Now, I’m well aware that you probably remember me bashing last week’s review because of how it talked about useless information. I’m afraid I just wasn’t being very clear on that. You can make details as vivid as you like regardless of the media the story is. However, Blood lust did so in a very boring way, choosing not to shed light on far more interesting subjects like how the relationship between the vampire and the girl started. PS:P however makes sure you hear about all the interesting bits and leaves you satisfied, or in some cases, begging for more.
When I first played PSO episode 1, I was too young to comprehend how bad the game play was. It wasn’t so much that it was bad, but the enemies all had boringly repetitive tactics like marching at you in a straight line. It was also MANDITORY that you just stood there and grinded hours on end until you were strong enough to just barely survive one of the bosses “undodgeable/unblockable” moves. You were also very lucky if you spent less than 20 minutes getting set up. Honestly, it took that long to do all that running around if you wanted to sell your useless junk, re-stock on potions, check for more powerful equipment, deposit/withdraw money, buy said equip, deposit your leftovers, then make your way over to the main portal/telipipe and beam down and actually start playing!
I’m happy to say that a solution to the long drawn out task of getting ready has come. Instead of doing all that walking in a 3d environment you don’t appreciate anyway, you now have a map with little icons on it that represent all the NPCs and shops you can talk to. Simply select a shop, and badda bing badda boom, you’re shopping! There have also been may other improvements, like it actually has a compare mode so you can see exactly how good rod X is compared to rod Y, so you don’t need to back out of the shop to look at your gear. Another time saver is that NPCs icons glow if they have something new to say, so you don’t end up talking to people you’ve spoken with before. You also don’t drop all your money upon death, so you only need to deposit things if you can’t use them or just don’t want to sell them. Now the shop/deposit/play sequence takes more like 5 minutes instead of a half hour!
The game play in PSO was always very linear, regardless of the class you chose:
Hunter: Hit and run
Ranger: Above, but with more range and less damage. And less HP
Force: Above, but WAY more damage and you need to worry about running out of money to buy TP potions with. And even less HP.
Hard to believe I was actually able to play a character for over 200 hours through 3 difficulty modes. You can cry, I know I did.
PS:P has a lot more variety in terms of attacks, not that that’s saying much. PSO had 3 kinds of attacks for weapons. You could do a normal attack, a power attack, which is slightly delayed but deals a bit more damage, and some weapons have a special attack that inflicts a random attribute. These attacks can be arranged to form a 3 hit “combo” of your choice, with special inputs dealing slightly more damage than the attacks would deal separately or in a different order. In PS:P, you don’t have a silly power attack. You do still have a 3 hit combo, but anytime during that you can use a special attack that you LEARN. No more holding onto weak weapons because you like the life-stealing/death-dealing attribute.
But that’s just the melee attacks! The guns also have special bullets that you can learn, but instead of firing them in a lame 3-hit-combo sequence, you go into first person view and aim down the sights! The only drawback to this is you can’t move while in this mode, so don’t expect Medal of Honor or Halo style FPS action out of this.
Spells are also far more complex. Not only does EVERY one now deal some nasty abnormal status (burn, silence, poison, freeze) but they behave differently as well. Foie is a fast moving fire projectile that deals massive damage, Barta is slow but moves through people, causing multiple hits and potential freezing, Diga may be slow and only hits one person, but this earth spell will silence and knock smaller creatures onto their backs or stagger larger ones. My only gripe with these is that you can’t lock onto people.
Still, you can imagine that even with these improvements the gameplay can still get stale. So I’m proud to announce that they’ve incorporated 2 things that might make things more interesting for you. First, the game has easily accessible quick slots for changing weapons or using potions on the fly in combat. Before going into battle, just select some weapon/spell combinations and you’re ready to go. Put a saber and pistol in one slot with spin slash and mele hit (a HP stealing attack), a sword in the other slot, and why not? A massive staff with 4 pwnsome spells attached to it. The only bummer with this is that if you’re a magic specialist like myself, you want to have all your spells at your disposal. But you can only equip 4 spells to a staff and you can’t change the spells on the staff from the quick slots, so you need a bunch of very good staffs if you want to cast all of your spells at max potency. So us mages will just have to get use to manually changing spells out of battle, or accept the fact that we may need to cast some spells from a weaker weapon.
The second thing (which is better than the quick slots imo) is that your character can change classes whenever he/she wants outside the mission aria. Sure, you’ll have to level up these classes if you want them to be as good as your main one, but it’s still faster than having to start all over again at level one.
There is some bad news however. Despite the attempts to make the game play better on the player’s side, the enemies are still very bland and lack decent tactics. If you’re ever attacked by a mob, the groups of creatures are almost always the same as each other, or share the same elemental weakness. Their attacks are always very limited, as each enemy only has about one or two different attacks. This makes them predictable, and easy to over come. Only the bosses offer any interesting sort of challenge, and if you do lose to them you’ll have to start all over again and fight your way back. Telipipes don’t exist in PS:P, and every enemy will re-spawn after you die. You’re back to square one. Of course, the game is easy enough that you won’t die very often. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when it does happen. On the up side, you keep your money, and you don’t have to venture back down there to retrieve your weapons.
The problems don’t end with the bad guys however, as your allies aren’t much smarter than doh doh birds. All they do is stand beside you and attack people when they get too close. So if you choose to fight from a distance, they will idly stand beside you and get bombarded by spells your foes are throwing your way. Another interesting aspect is how your allies are continuously screaming to “spread out” and “surround the enemy”. That’s all fine and good, but how do they expect to do that remaining at my side 100% of the time?
And speaking of friends, it wouldn’t be a PS game without a multiplayer component. The game is considerably more enjoyable with a human player. Not only are the dumbest players far brighter than the crappy NPCs, but they are also far more entertaining in combat. Hearing my brother roll play as his CAST supremacist is far more entertaining than any of the in-battle quotes the NPCs keep reusing. There are only 2 downsides to this mode. Number one, you can’t play story mode with friends, and number 2, you can only play locally. So unless you have a friend who’s willing to play the game with you *looks coldly at Cast* you’ll probably have to stick with single player mode.
Phantasy Star Portable is a surprisingly good game. Although the game play is a bit lacking, it still manages to impress with its gloriously detailed world, decent graphics, and variety of combat moves. I would categorize it as a “Grand Theft Auto” kind of game; you really have to make your own fun. Don’t swear never to use a firearm or laser sword just because you’re a mage, because the game will be less repetitive if you occasionally use these things. Grand theft auto is considered a good game because of all the things you can do, despite the fact that none of them are executed to the best degree. It’s not perfect, but is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys the PS universe or wants to try a multi-platform-action-RPG
Phantasy Star Portable gets 4 perverted GUARDIAN officials out of 5.
“So, would you go out with me if I took you to a romantic candle lit dinner?”
Player selects “maybe”
“I’ll wait as long as it takes!”
B: Gimmicks, stereotypes, and fads. (media)
It’s the weekend and there’s nothing to do. You don’t feel like doing anything outside and you’ve caught up on all of your favorite web comics. Break is updating RBI late and there aren’t any posts worth making in the rp section. You turn off your computer and move over to the couch, but we all know that only re-runs and infomercials play during the weekends. Still, Christmas is just around the corner and you’re holding off on buying any new games should they maybe be delivered via Santa. You start channel surfing.
Re-runs of newfangled cartoons, reality shows, dramas, it’s almost as if they’re begging you to turn off the TV. But you keep surfing, hoping that there will be something good on. Just a bit further, all this looking will pay off.
Then you get to the Sci-Fi channel, which now goes by a different name I can’t recall. On the screen surrounded in darkness is a hot yet clearly inadequate actress, bound and hog-tied. Despite her attempts to look like she’s struggling, a series of long, vine-like appendages reach up her semi-transparent dress and coil around her legs. She is powerless to stop it from pulling her inside a hole on the side of a dilapidated country house. With a few more clearly acted out twitches, the woman disappears entirely inside the womb of the house, and the hole shuts with what must be the work of poor CGI.
You’re chuckling a little bit. And if you’re not, you will when the cheesy red eyes and face appear where the hole was. That music isn’t helping either.
As it turns out, the plot is that these 5 incredibly hot babes (not including the one that was “sacrificed”) decided to go on vacation on this island. On said island, there are tribes of Indians that worship a plant that has grafted itself with an old house. One of the Indians pretends to be a tour guide, and takes these five babes into the house, in hopes that the plant will accept his sacrifice. The plant then barricades the doors, trapping all these girls inside the building.
They have all your favorite stereotypes, the all-important blond, the bitchy brunette, the “smart” red head, the fun bad-babe, and the lesbian, who also plays the roll as the goody-two-shoes character.
As the movie goes on, these girls split up to look around the house for a way out, while the plant finds kinky ways to ensnare them one by one. Usually it fails a few times, teasing off a shirt here or a skirt there, until finally capturing them successfully.
The real plot twist to this movie however is that the plant is actually an alien. The alien’s true goal is to find a suitable mate by taking all the girls and making them fight each other in a huge “bowl” made out of vines and filled to about waist level with a strange goo. The winner stays in the pit, the loser is pulled out, plastered to a wall, and then is rigged to serve as a sort of battery that the alien runs on by sticking a large vine into their belly button and mouth.
The lesbian is of course captured last, and is told by the woman introduced at the beginning of the movie (she’s a pit fighter I guess) that this is the last battle, and that the winner will make love to the alien. (how does she know that?) The lesbian says that she would rather have the woman than the alien, and then they kiss. This enrages the alien, who then tries to take both girls and tries to absorb them like it did her friends. The Lesbian is able to pull out her pocketknife, slice a vital vein on the alien, and it’s game over for the alien.
Shortly afterwards, they escape with the bad girl and the red head. The brunette and blond were too far-gone to be saved, but nobody cared for them anyway.
Needless to say, you were chuckling to yourself the whole time, mocking the poorly coordinated fight sequences and use of dramatic music. This isn’t something you would ever buy if you saw it in a store, or ever re-watch again. Yet of all the crap that was playing on the TV that day, you actually chose to watch that. All of it.
Gimmicks, stereotypes, and fads, I’ll say it again, are they all they cracked up to be?
To save you some face, let’s pretend that you kept looking and stumbled across an old movie that you haven’t seen for a while, something epic like Gladiator. My guess is you wouldn’t even consider flipping between the two would you?
So we know that a good movie > a bad movie with tons of gimmicks. But is a good movie as good as an okay movie with gimmicks, or even another good movie with gimmicks? Do they even have a bearing on anything if the movie is already good?
I suppose we should take a look at how history has treated Gimmicks.
First off, we all know fads suck. Just look at disco, it’s as dead as the 80’s. The first star wars movie was also made in the 80’s. Do you think it would be remembered and loved the way it is now if disco music played during the dramatic duals and space battles?
Stereotypes have always been there to lend a helping hand to both experienced story writers and newbies. Usually a work becomes quite popular and people start using “similar” characters in their own stories. If you need a look at what I’m talking about, look no further than anime. In every story with even a semi-romantic element that has 3 girls, there’s always a serious duty driven woman, a cute, friendly woman, and a bitch. You’ve covered the 3 kinds of girls all men dream about.
The sad story with stereotypes is that with each one that is used, it loses its influence. I was watching a “currently popular” anime called fate/stay night, and it has that generic girl set up. That originally turned me off, but then as the anime progressed I started to realize that these weren’t just stereotypes and were actually unique characters. This only seems to be that way for adults however, as children enjoy repetition. This was proven when ABC decided to play the same episode of blues clues five days in a row. The parents eventually called up to complain, but their ratings were higher than ever! Stereotypes can have a mixed reaction on an audience, especially when the characters themselves have hardly any elements to distinguish them.
And then we have general gimmicks like sex, scantly clad babes, glowing lights, patriotic appearances, etc. However, for something to qualify as a true gimmick, it has to be “a quirky feature that distinguishes a product or service without adding any obvious function or value”. You may be drawn to sword fights, but in a mid-evil fantasy world divided against itself, you’re going to have sword fights! However, it doesn’t mean that those combatants are going to be woman fighting in chain mail bikinis in a tub of mud. But can it count as a gimmick if it’s important to the story, and it’s not being used to sell the product?
I say no.
Nip Tuck, Mad Men, these are all provocative shows that portray sexual activities going on during the commercials. Despite claims of high views, I notice Nip Tuck is falling out of popularity…after it’s fifth season. But will these shows be remembered?
How about Betty Grable? She appeared in all kinds of movies and was the inspiration for just about every pinup you saw during the word war 2 era. Nobody remembers her? You remember Marilyn Monroe though and she was from the same era.
The bottom line is that gimmicks provide interest, that’s it. It can make you click on a web add, look at the back of a book/videogame/movie, and it can make you stop and watch for a few seconds. However, It will always be remembered for its content and construction.
R: Ataque de Pánico! Panic Attack! (Short film)
I love short films, especially ones that feature exquisite cinematography and effects. But they are hard to review because of their short duration. I can’t really explain it to you without giving away the entire five-minute film. All I’m going to say about it is that it’s a live action film that features giant robots from another world, and some stuff blows up.
Moving onto a far less touchy part of the film, The CGI is really the best you could ask from a buncha collage kids armed with all the school’s professional 3D modeling programs. This includes 3D max, which is considered one of the most powerful programs with a price tag of 3000+$. I actually think my free Blender program is a bit more powerful looking at Big Buck Bunny, which is twice as long and made in about the same span of time. But that had 7 guys working 24/7, so perhaps it’s not a fair comparison. But as for Panic Attack, the Robots not only looked very convincing, but you could see their effect on the environment. This includes reflections, splashes from stepping in BIG puddles of water, and…some of the stuff that blows up. That looked really cool. I also like the fact that they used a shaky high-speed camera like in “28 Days Later”. It made the clip that much more dramatic.
Speaking of 28 Days Later, they also borrowed their music for use in Panic Attack. Although the music sounds good and works very well with the clip, I’m a little disappointed they decided to slack off during the editing process. Why go through the work of creating a visually stunning clip, just to skip out on getting an original music score? I’m sure the collages music club would have gladly pushed something out for the short film.
I thoroughly enjoyed Panic Attack, and I’m sure everyone else will too. Although it didn’t have a deep storyline with an underlying moral like similar films, it had great visuals and held your interest the whole while. You really can’t ask any more of it.
Panic Attack gets 4-sub-nuclear-robots-fusing-together out of 5.
Also if you like Panic Attack, then maybe you’ll enjoy Project London when it comes out mid 2010!http://www.jawbone.tv/featured/2-featured/330-project-london-the-most-ambitious-no-budget-effects-movie-ever.html
Alright, that’s the end of today’s episode. Let’s take a look at what we have lined up for the Christmas special.
R: Some cristmas movie/game/thing (????)
I’ll be looking for something, don’t you worry!
B: The dreads of Christmas. (winter holidays)
I unleash my inner scrooge and point out the darker things about the most wonderful time of the year.
I: Santa Clause (folk lore)
That’s right! I’ll be interviewing Saint Nick after his annual runs around the globe.
Untill next time, keep it taisty!