September 20, 2012

My Parents and Gaming

Posted in life tagged , , at 1:50 pm by riulyn

My parents are coming to visit me Saturday and we are going on vacation for a week, so I won’t be here updating my blog regularly like I have been these past few weeks. I’m glad that I’m doing regular updates; it seems that when I start regularly engaging in an activity, whether it is playing games or watching sports or whatever, I need to regularly visit forums and/or blog about it. I guess those things substitute for friends?

Anyway, there’s little chance that I’ll be playing close to the 20 hours or so that I’ve been averaging weekly. I’m only bringing the PSP so it will be Persona 3 Portable and maybe Jeanne D’Arc. It’s not that my parents necessarily disapprove of me playing videogames, but more like they rather not watch.

It’s their attitude towards anything they see as not “helpful” for me as a person. If I’m reading a book, no matter what type, it’s okay if I’m reading for hours. I could probably knit for hours in front of them though usually I’m also watching TV or talking to them. If I was doing work on my computer that would be fine. They enjoy listening to me practice the piano or whatever. But more than 2 hours in front of the TV and they are like “why are you watching so much TV?” I was really into watching tennis at that point and I hadn’t even finished watching one match! Videogames are the same way. But if I was livestreaming tennis on my laptop in my bedroom instead of watching on the big TV in the family room, they don’t know/care. I also used to spend weekend afternoons in the basement playing games on the PSX, SNES emulator, or Gamecube. But I never dared to do that with the family room TV. What if my parents needed that TV to watch some cooking show? Who knows for sure.

My parents definitely knew my siblings and I were playing games. They bought us a PS2 for Christmas, and they saw all the game cases sooner or later. They knew about me transcribing sheet music for videogames and even tried to tell a classmate of my age who was visiting our house about it.   They got us tickets to the “Dear Friends” concert.

But it’s been a while since I’ve gamed in their presence. It’s really only recently that I have gotten into handhelds and the PSP, so now I have the means to game anywhere. But if they truly knew how much time I was gaming… They’d be disappointed for sure. After all, they wanted me done with this Ph.D. already and anything that I’m doing that appears to be holding me back would be a big disappointment to them. I’m sorry that I don’t have many career aspirations. I’m sorry that I’m happy being a grad student. I’m sorry that I’m not trying to socialize instead of playing games.

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September 17, 2012

NieR, how I love you right now.

Posted in video games tagged , , at 9:56 pm by riulyn

I have no idea how I heard about NieR because it came out in 2010, which was one of the years where I was barely videogaming, but I do remember reading or hearing somewhere of its cult favorite status and I looked into buying the game late 2010. I believe I got it eventually when I found it for $19.99 for Xbox360, since I don’t have a PS3 yet. I was pretty stingy with my money back then, so I wasn’t going to spend more than $20 on this game that I was unsure about.

Finally in 2012 I am actually making decent headway into my backlog. My brother says he wants to take the Xbox360 back. I’m like “crap better finish off those games before I have to return it”. And thus NIER became a priority, because I bought the game so I wanted to at least play it once.

But this isn’t a game you just play once, unless you hate it. There’s a lot of depth and meaning gleamed from a second playthrough. Well, the second playthrough is actually a second run through the part after the time skip, which is pretty short, especially if you didn’t have to bother with finishing up more sidequests like I am doing. They add more narrative and you get more background on a certain amazing character. Anyway things make more sense and also more dark. Yes, this is a dark game.

Even though I rather have the happy ending, I still love this game because the characters really come to life in it. In every story-related scene there doesn’t seem to be a wasted moment. Between cutscenes your characters may converse about the current happenings, whether it is related to the main plot or the sidequests. And in the loading screens you get a little bit of Yonah’s diary. Yes, even loading screens aren’t wasted.

Other people have written much more coherent essays on why NieR is a great game for character lovers. Really, I find it hard to see how anyone who played the entire game and paid attention to the dialogue would not get into these characters. The hard part, I guess, is getting into the game at the beginning. Once you get invested in the characters, you don’t care that the whole plot feels like a series of fetch quests, with a significant number not feeling fruitful. You just want more banter! Seriously, how else can I be so happy playing a game the second time after knowing the depressing twist?

Anyway, I will be going for Endings B and C these next few days (darn weekday limitations). I’m not sure if I will go for the infamous D ending yet… We will see.

September 14, 2012

JRPG Composers Briefly – Yasunori Mitsuda

Posted in music tagged , , , at 11:49 pm by riulyn

Alright, after my mini post on Hitoshi Sakimoto, I’m going to start a mini-series where I give a brief evaluation of different JRPG composers and recommend soundtracks and songs to listen to. First up is my favorite composer, Yasunori Mitsuda.

  • Style – Adapts his style based on the mood of the game, but has clear love for Celtic-style. Best example of this is his Chrono Cross music. Usually an easy-to-identify melody and a piano/guitar/harp accompaniment for town themes, lots of strings in battle and other moving themes. Uses a lot of piano and guitar overall. Pretty “traditional” if that’s a correct term to use.
  • Strengths – Town themes. Chrono Cross may be the best example of this, but Xenogears has some great ones too. Other “gentle” themes if that’s considered a legitimate category.
  • Weaknesses – Normal battle themes. Personally I find that his battle songs aren’t quite as catchy as other people’s. He tends to go more for rapid strings to create more tension instead of a soaring melody. Usually sufficient enough but not outstanding. However his special boss battle themes are kickass!
  • 5 of my favorite songs by him – Time’s Scar (Chrono Cross), Light from the Netherworlds (Xenogears), Shevet (Xenogears), One Who Bares Fangs at God (Xenogears), Last Battle (Xenosaga 1)

September 11, 2012

Hitoshi Sakimoto – I should love your work but…

Posted in music tagged at 9:48 am by riulyn

If you don’t know who Hitoshi Sakimoto is, he is a videogame composer that, for people who play RPGs, is most famous for his work on Final Fantasy Tactics and all the games in that verse. He’s also the main guy for Valkyria Chronicles, and has scattered works all over the place.

Sakimoto’s style overall is orchestral. It’s rare to find anything of his that is strictly piano or a melody with guitar accompaniment, or really anything with less than 3 instruments. Something about his style is grand but yet very background.

What I’m saying is that his work does great things for the game, namely it works within the game, but it doesn’t seem to shine on its own. How many people who play JRPGs would be whistling/humming a Sakimoto tune versus a Uematsu, Kondo, Shimomura, Mitsuda, Tanioka (holy crap her stuff is catchy), etc. tune?

I think ultimately what’s missing from Sakimoto’s work is the iconic song that gets stuck in everyone’s head. What does Sakimoto have that compares to the Final Fantasy theme that Nobuo Uematsu has written or Time’s Scar by Yasunori Mitsuda (which was used by an Irish dance group that one of my college friends was in, to my surprise)? If you have that song, please tell me all about it!

September 7, 2012

Being a female in a JRPG isn’t so bad?

Posted in video games tagged , at 2:19 pm by riulyn

I just read an article about everyday sexual harassment so this came to mind. As much flack as JRPGs get for making creating a lot of female characters with little/no personality and ridiculous proportions to make them look sexually appealing to heterosexual males, the treatment that these characters get isn’t actually too bad most of the time compared to girls in real life. Of course, when I’m talking about JRPGs I’m talking about the standard types where the adventure ends up saving the world. Not those visual novels like School Days…

Anyway typical JRPG girls are:

1. Sheltered princess, usually lacking in real-world experiences. May be used in hostage situations, in which she may be shackled but otherwise kept rather comfortably. People are almost always on her side.

2. Priestess or healing maiden. Usually not a great physical attacker, but respected/necessary for healing abilities and knowledge. Sometimes a target for kidnapping but usually also not treated harshly.

3. Tomboy who tends to have a fiery temper, will also tend to be he person to cheer the party up when things get tough. May get some verbal criticism that may border on harassment, but usually not.

4. Mysterious girl. Many times she wears ridiculous clothes, which may be noted [and emphasized by camera angles] but otherwise not used as a means to actually harass someone.

5. Others I’m too lazy to type up.

See a theme here? Unlike real life, girls in JRPGs really only have to fear great danger from monsters, diseases, war, and kidnapping by people who need money/power. In comparison to real life, there is a much lower rate of sexual harassment, abuse, and rape. Girls don’t have to fear walking down the street alone. The appropriate person (usually a male) who does more than just say “that girl is smoking hot” is usually branded as an awful person, not the girl.

In addition, look at all these girls who have opinions that are respected! You happen to be the best sword-wielder in the game? Men are like “I want to be as awesome as she is!” and not like “she must be secretly a man because only men can be strong”. You happen to be the smartest person in the area? You happen to be good enough to save the world? Let’s all help you, not try to say you can’t do this and that because you are a girl. Yes, there is still the whole “guys tend to be seen as protectors” mentality but if a girl can kick ass, no one sees that as a bad thing.

As much as JRPG creators may be misogynists, they sure treat the ladies in game a lot nicer than in real life.

September 5, 2012

Reboot time

Posted in video games tagged at 4:02 pm by riulyn

Soon I’m going to go through my previous posts and delete the ones that are too much about my website and/or about my personal life. I’m going to try to make this blog more focused on RPGs and RPG music, and also hopefully update it more often.

By the way, I’m loving the NiER music so far. Even if it’s only been like 4 tracks. The game is interesting too, even though I kind of such at it 🙂

September 2, 2012

Post-PAX and my backlog

Posted in video games tagged , , , , , at 6:15 pm by riulyn

PAX sure was fun! I went to the Pink Party the day before I had access to PAX and found someone to meet up with at PAX, which was cool. Even though we only spent a few hours together which was in Nintendoland, it was cool. Before that I wandered around, looked for things that didn’t have a line and weren’t PC games/using a keyboard to play them, because I am a coward like that. No, seriously, I didn’t want to spend my demo time being confused on which keys to hit the entire time.

There wasn’t too much console RPG fare that wasn’t a shooter-type or a MMORPG, but I did try out Persona 4 Golden, Ragnorak Odyssey, and Dragon Fantasy. If there was something I obviously missed, well I guess it was too bad. The best part of PAX for me was trying games in genres I rarely play because I am hesitant to spend money on a game I don’t see myself putting 20+ hours into. Even if gameplay mechanics are a bummer I will play through most RPGs if I like the characters and/or story. I’ve already said multiple times on this blog that I play games for the story and characters, and to find hidden info. I mean, that’s why a videogame can be more fun than books; books focus on telling the main story and don’t have the room in the narrative to go off on so many tangents into the world or specific characters. The people who love JRPGs are most likely the people who want to do the sidequests and talk to all the NPCs and search for character-specific items, maybe because they love collecting things or maybe because they just want to know everything about the characters they have fallen in love with.

Anyway, it’s hard to tell from a demo whether or not you’ll instantly buy a game. It’s more for telling whether or not you’d hate a game. None of the games I tried, besides some weird rhythm game involving ships, were games I’d never play again. And even that game wasn’t bad, it’s just rhythm games aren’t really my thing, even less than shooters. I had heard that Persona 4 Golden was on the Vita because they wanted to allow you to move around freely and stuff, but in the short period of time I got to play the game, I had no chance to move. JRPGs and their cutscenes are against me, I suppose 🙂 For Ragnorak Odyssey I did a quest just to try out battling, which seems relatively standard action RPG fare (I did not do too great at it, just so you know). When I visited Dragon Fantasy, I was able to talk to the guy at the booth while playing a bit of it. There wasn’t much to the demo; only had 2 spells, one party member, and turn-based battle system like Chrono Trigger. Supposedly in multiplayer you can play together and each person issues a command for the individual they play in the party. Could be interesting if I had friends…

Played a little bit of Kirby and got a Kirby massage ball. Also tried Pokemon Conquest. I’m sure it is fun, but I have a decent-sized tactics backlog – Jeanne D’arc, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Growlanser Generations, and I haven’t quite finished off Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume. Also I plan to do a Suikoden replay session starting late this year/early next year so Suikoden Tactics is on the list for being replayed in the near future.

I think the biggest thing I took away from PAX is that the Vita, 3DS, and Wii U are all good systems but they need new RPGs for me to play. Persona 4 Golden is not selling me the Vita and Kingdom Hearts is not selling me the 3DS. The Wii U looks like a great party system but an overly complicated (I failed so hard at Zombie U) single-player system. Consoles are too expensive to buy if you are only going to get 3 or 4 games you want out of them. Of course I thoroughly enjoyed Lost Odyssey and Tales of Vesperia and I like NieR so far but I don’t think these games changed my life. The PSP is eventually worth its money to me, and same for the DS. I still continue to buy PS1 and PS2 games because there were so many I missed. Maybe there will be that day for the PS3 or the Xbox 360. The Wii has Xenoblade, so I’d probably get a Wii if my brother wasn’t going to lend me his. Maybe I can convince him to let me keep it?