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Rondo of Swords

Rondo of Swords published on

(I wrote this a few days ago but couldn’t get it to post. I’ve now played enough that I know some of my theorizing isn’t totally accurate, but I’m going to go ahead and post it anyway.)

In the game, the holy sword wielded by the King has been cursed. I’m sure the Universal RPG Protagonists consider this a refreshing change from all those other RPGs where the holy sword has been lost, or the holy sword has been broken, or the holy sword has been transformed into a monster you have to fight.*

The-Hero-With-High-HP Serdic goes to The-Wizard-With-Like-No-HP Arios to try and get it un-cursed, and we are treated to this fabulously subtle piece of humor.

Arios: I’m interested in your body.

Serdic: What!?

Arios: When we have a spare moment, may I perform a thorough examination of your body?

Serdic: E-er, that is… Ah yes! You must see this!

Arios: This is the Holy Blade of Bretwalde, isn’t it? I’ve always wanted a good, long look at this.

Come on, Atlus localization team, get on the ball, here. If you’re going to do this joke, you’ve got to say long, hard look. Do I have to do everything around here?

The game’s humor is mostly like this (and the romance stuff is thus far equally unsubtle), but there’s actually some really interesting meta stuff going on in the story. Basically, you get the story from four sources, and all of them have a slightly different view of what’s going on:

1) Narration before stages, which is very serious-sounding stuff about the progress of the noble Prince Serdic and his command of the valiant army of Bretwolde. Third-person omniscient, scrolls across a screen with a weathered map on it, so as to convey the vague impression that we are reading a historical document.

2) Cut-scenes at the beginning and end of battles. Basically, these consist of the characters have little conversations where they tell each other the Latest Big Plot Points, and what the next battle’s going to be about. Town X has been invaded by pirates – go kill them all while preventing the villagers from taking damage! The princess and one of our most valued bishounen have been kidnapped by a guy who kinda looks like Wolverine – rescue them! The desert is hot – leave!

The cut-scene conversations mostly seem to be held in public, with all the playable characters and a few non-playable ones apparently listening in on them.

3) The dialog you get within a battle, most of which happens when two characters stand next to each other for a second. Sometimes you’re required to talk to an NPC or a bad guy to beat the stage, but most of the in-battle dialog is “optional.” It’s possible to miss a lot of it if the “right” characters never line up, or you don’t take the ones who have something to say into battle with you.

These conversations seem to be private – people hit on each other and bicker and make fun of characters who aren’t present. Occasionally someone will even have a thought that they don’t share. (“Man – my identical twin brother so does not perform masculinity in a traditionally heternormative manner! It’s a good thing I wear this purple cape, otherwise people might confuse us!”)

And – sometimes – they say shit that’s really important to the plot that doesn’t show up anywhere else.

4) The character bios, which sometimes contain stuff that you’d call a spoiler if you were posting it on LiveJournal. There’s a stage where, if you click on one of the enemies and look at the bio, you’ll find that it describes him/her as “friendly with [party member A].” If this A talks to the enemy, the enemy will agree to join your party after a short conversation, apparently never having met A before. Did the people writing the bio jump the gun, and forget that Enemy is the enemy when he/she first shows up? But if you happen to have party member B with you, and B happens to line up with ex-enemy, they’ll have a conversation that seems to hint that A and ex-enemy have met before.

(Actually, this particular stage and enemy are interesting in all sorts of weird meta-ways. Though Enemy’s bio establishes him/her as being a member of the Evil Organization, and the player can clearly see that Enemy is highlighted in bad-guy-red (and can, I think, even kill him/her, though I didn’t try), A and B’s conversation make it clear that Enemy’s redness isn’t evident to them. So the game mechanic itself tells a part of the story not indicated by the dialog or art.)

5) The sound effects. Everyone has little phrases they say when they die, attack something, or perform certain other actions. Like the bios, these also tend to contain information you’re not “supposed” to have. An enemy in stage seven whispers, “I’m sorry, (spoiler) Princess…” when he dies, which tells the player they need to redo the stage and make sure the Princess talks to him.

Now, the very serious-sounding narration between stages focuses heavily on the brave Prince Serdic’s attempts to de-curse his sword and get himself properly coronated as King, so he can take back his kingdom from the evil empire. The player, however, learns at the end of the first stage that (spoilers for that, and for the beginning of stage eight) Continue reading Rondo of Swords

DS still trying to kill me

DS still trying to kill me published on

Thus far, I like the dialog and character designs for Rondo of Swords. But it is insanely hard. I can’t even get through the whole of the tutorial.

Conversation had on my fourth or fifth try on the first level:

Fuzzy-san: No, wait, you had another guy, on a horse –

Me: He died just now! I think in one hit!

Fuzzy-san: I did not even see that.

Me: It was one of the three guys in armor who are right behind me. And look, look at this, there’s like five more right behind them! And a bunch of wizards waiting to ambush me when I finally get over here – there’s more guys over here –

Fuzzy-san: These at the bottom aren’t wearing armor. So are they just some random villagers? Are they safe?

Me: They’re highlighted in red, so they’re just some random villagers who want to kill me.

Fuzzy-san: The one in blue is the important one, right? So if you can have the one in gray sort of guard him –

Me: Blue guy just died.

Fuzzy-san: Oh, he’s giving a nice death speech!

Me: Yeah. His voice actor’s okay.

I hope you die on the second disc.

I hope you die on the second disc. published on

I rescind the stuff I said about Golden Sun. It doesn’t have the worst dialog of any RPG ever. Luminous Arc does. Luminous Arc is what you’d get if you tripled the banality and length of Golden Sun’s dialog and threw in a bunch of disturbing lolicon character designs, and voice actors. This game should not have voice actors. This was a poor tactical decision.

I didn’t even make it past the opening cut-scene, I had to turn it off. There were five separate named characters with creepy lolicon designs, and they were all clearly important to the plot, and two of them said, “yes, master!” Another was in a maid uniform, and another was menaced by a Cardinal. And there were eight or nine other named characters, three or four different secret organizations (not counting the Catholic Church), and they were all clearly important to the plot. And there were four time-skips. During the opening cut-scene! Which I stopped at about the twenty-minute mark.

I need a new Phoenix Wright game. My DS is trying to kill me.

It is weird when World of Warcraft has server problems.

It is weird when World of Warcraft has server problems. published on

I climbed up a mountain, and walked down the other side to find the world empty. The hedgehog men had all vanished. The velociraptors, too. I thought they must at last have gone home, numb with the final, cold realization that they were not, perhaps, setting-appropriate to the Serengeti.

Thinking this was part of some kind of scheduled event (though it completely threw me off that the music didn’t change – the music always changes when weird stuff happens in games!), I explored for five or six minutes before realizing that the items, NPCs, and other players were also all gone.

Then it shut down and told me I’d been disconnected.

Today the Japanese government made me get a chest X-ray.

Today the Japanese government made me get a chest X-ray. published on

They make you do this when you get a student visa, I guess to make sure you’re not smuggling in any tuberculosis. (If that’s actually why they were doing it, I think Bruce Schneier would have words. It’s not like the god of tourists protects recipients of tourist visas from disease.) They sent some trucks with X-ray machines around for this, the trucks sat in the school parking lot and people formed whiny lines, and I took my bra off ahead of time so as to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible. I’m very grumpy about this.

As apparently I do not yet waste enough time on video games, I set up a World of Warcraft trial account last weekend. I have been running around being an Orcish warrior with a purely mercenary interest in geology. World of Warcraft espouses the controversial idea that orcs, however much that Tolkien guy went on about them, present an only slightly greater threat than does the cunning and ruthless zebracorn. That’s kind of a zebra-unicorn, I don’t know if you caught that.

My level-twelve orc has been repeatedly killed by level-thirteen zebracorns. This is in part due to my refusal to believe that I actually just got killed by a goddamn zebracorn, which means I have to go back and fight another one to make sure. They don’t even use the horn! Using the horn is basic unicorn strategy! They just step on you and snort, and I’m wearing all this armor and some of it’s magic, and it’s just really inappropriate.

The game has a lot of weird and unpleasant ethnic stereotypes. For some reason the trolls all have pseudo-Jamaican accents and a lot of voodoo-related catchphrases. Also, comical witchdoctors. The Tauren, who are big cow people, are supposed to be Native Americans. Their catchphrases are all seepy comments about living in harmony with nature, and they have placid-stoned-ish-sounding voice actors. There’s also an opportunistic merchant race with big noses, big ears, and nasal voices. The men have catchphrases like “Time is money” and the women say “Like see you later” in valley-girl-speak and appear to be wearing too much makeup. I wonder what that’s about.

Dad says I cuss too much.

Dad says I cuss too much. published on

Man, pirating software is hard work. I have like a whole new respect for message board assholes.

I made Mom play the first chapter of Phoenix Wright the other day. She yelled inscrutable legal stuff at it the whole time and refuses to touch it again.

I also totally broke the blog the other day trying to do a test-run of copying it to a new server. I’m all grumpy at WordPress now. What is this forwarding bullshit you do? This is massively inappropriate, and the solution is fucking non-intuitive and for some reason broke all my Unicode characters. I’m not upgrading to this fucking 2.5 of yours until it’s been out at least three months and I know I can recreate all this work I’ve done messing around with PHP and hacking these fucking plugins to make them fucking work like I fucking want. Fucking.

The Mexican restaurant in town always has Star Trek playing. It’s really depressing to me I can hear a random line of dialog from Voyager and go, “Hold it, that totally contradicts that stupid episode where the Doctor’s fucking registry got corrupted or whatever!” I need rewrite privileges for my brain. That is space I could be using for kanji.

Apparently I was wrong.

Apparently I was wrong. published on

I started playing Apollo Justice last night. It looks like the torch singer dream did mean something. It just wasn’t apparent until I started the game. I don’t know what it means yet, but surely this will become clear as I progress.

(Seriously, I must have read some spoilers at some point and then got them lost in my brain, because the dream knew way too much about the plot.)

Kaiware suck.

Kaiware suck. published on

Last night, apparently in reaction to yesterday’s terrible dietary crime, I dreamed about eating sprouts. I had bought several varieties from the store, and I removed the roots and ate them. That was the whole dream. It was pretty vivid. I could taste and smell the sprouts and everything.

Figuring that my brain was probably trying to tell me something*, I bought some sprouts when I went out to buy curry stuff today. Unfortunately, I accidentally got daikon sprouts. Which taste like, you know, daikon. I hate daikon. I’ve covered them with kimchi and am determined to work my way through them today. My subconscious went to a lot of trouble on this one.

* Probably an unwarranted assumption. I had another dream earlier in the night where Apollo Justice was a 20’s torch singer. I don’t think that means anything.

The healing power of huge parfaits.

The healing power of huge parfaits. published on

There’s a shopping center near the dorm called “Wing Town,” and in it is one of these cafes specializing in cuteness that Japan has a lot of, and it is called “Cat’s Cafe.”

A bunch of us went there today, and the whole time I was very concerned that my clone was going to show up in a shower of feathers and/or flower petals, rip my eye out of my head and eat it, and then disappear into another dimension wielding a massive sword and an unfathomable expression. Fortunately, this did not occur, nor did anyone become a vampire or lose their memory for reasons.

We ordered and consumed most of a bucket-sized 4000-yen parfait.

I mean, this parfait was totally huge.

If you have eight people, this parfait is a slightly better deal than the cheapest individual parfaits, but not if you have seven. I calculated it out. Professor Layton is damaging my ability to engage in activities without doing math at them.

(Edited a couple times to fix the picture’s size. Flickr is maybe changing its interface around today?)

published on

You’d think the people who localized Professor Layton would be paying attention to what the people who localized Phoenix Wright were doing. But I guess not. Evil women with mysterious doubles should clearly always be named Dahlia, and the double’s name should be that of a purple flower.

Anyway, this game is really cute, but I have to have scratch paper around when I’m playing it.

For writing class today, we made posters describing where we’re from, because language school is sort of like pre-school, but with more emphasis on vocabulary relating to intoxication. A scene from today’s class:

*I am dubiously considering the way I wrote “marijuana,” because I think it might be wrong.*

Great Artist-san: What is the kanji for “kami”?

Dragon-san: What? “Kami” for paper?

Great Artist-san: No, no, “kami-sama” – “kami” for God. I have to write “Brazil: God’s Country!”

Me: What?! No! America is God’s country! Don’t you people have TVs?!

Fuzzy-san: Hungary is obviously God’s country.

Great Artist-san: Is Taiwan God’s country?

Dragon-san, disgustedly: No.

I just upgraded WordPress in hopes that it will make comment notification start working. Thus far it seems to have broken my ability to preview in-progress posts and use the Open-ID thingie. Fuck you, WordPress.

I Just Beat That Game (I had to use a guide sometimes)

I Just Beat That Game (I had to use a guide sometimes) published on

The platonic ideal of a fandom-breeding piece of canon is a story that’s full of massive holes which, 1) nonetheless do not damage the story’s emotional structure, and, 2) could be filled in without making it collapse under its own weight.

That is an excellent description of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

This game has two of those particularly large holes. One is the one I mentioned before: that, though the game generally acts as though it is not aware of this, Phoenix Wright is a deeply unethical, self-absorbed, and, when unguarded, really creepy individual. He steals most of the evidence he uses in court, or else lies to or manipulates people to get it. He is capable of empathy, but rarely exercises it willingly or comfortably – whenever he is forced into some insight into another character’s inner life, he breaks a sweat, grimaces, and makes smart remarks to himself.

He’s apparently only really comfortable with dealing with other people’s feelings as weapons – that is, “motives.” In general, only when he’s accusing someone of a crime or a lie is he entirely comfortable in engaging their humanity.

What makes this more dramatic is the way he behaves towards the single character for whom he does willingly and consistently exercise empathy. Here, I shall cut for spoilers for episode 4 and up.

Continue reading I Just Beat That Game (I had to use a guide sometimes)

Video games are also important

Video games are also important published on

Oh, my god, Phoenix Wright is such a jerk. This is probably the most realistic thing in the game – that the trial lawyer in his early twenties who’s won all his early cases is a borderline sociopath with no respect for any of his colleagues, including, apparently, his genius mentor.

But I can’t figure out if the game realizes he’s a jerk. I think it sort of does? People mock him a lot. And the puzzles are set up so as to make him seem less observant outside of the courtroom than inside. Inside, when the player solves something, Phoenix’s dialog is such that he seems to have solved it himself. Outside, when the player solves something or triggers an event, the NPC’s, particularly Maya and Mia, tend to be ahead of him.

Which is kind of weird, in that outside the courtroom, the player does everything from Phoenix’s POV – you never see him, only the NPCs and the settings he’s moving around in. When in court, though, whenever the player makes a decision, the POV switches to 3rd-person, and the player watches him talk. Intuitively, this seems kind of backwards, but I actually think it works really well. (Though I cannot explain why – maybe I need to actually play some other adventure games before I try and start analyzing the design decisions here.)

Well, no, wait I have a theory – outside the courtroom, nothing Phoenix does really matters. The stuff that happens out there is just preparation for whatever case he’s working on. (“This blurry photograph is intriguing. I won’t show it to anyone – I’ll save it to use as evidence.”) The storylines always resolve inside the courtroom. Not showing Phoenix himself during the out-in-the-wild sections depersonalizes his actions by making it feel like the player is alone with the puzzles. This lessens the emotional intensity of these parts of the game. When Redd White punches Phoenix and threatens him in his office, it has less force than when Edgeworth makes fun of his skill at cross-examination in front of the judge. In the courtroom, you can see Phoenix and his facial expressions and reactions. That personalizes the proceedings, and makes it clear that This Part Is Real.

I guess this is why you can’t see yourself in an FPS or the Myst games – it depersonalizes the stuff you’re doing, and makes you concentrate entirely on whatever the game thinks is most important, rather than on your character. In the FPS’s, that’s the killin’, while in Myst, it’s the environment. And I can’t offhand think of an RPG, even a 3D one, even one of the ones where Protagonist doesn’t talk and has no personality, where you can’t see him/her on your screen.

(Wait – am I all a crazy person, or is the default view when you first log into World of Warcraft one where you can’t see your avatar? Or is it just that that was the way thegeekgene set it up, and I ended up with her settings…)

Magical Starsign

Magical Starsign published on

I’ve been playing Magical Starsign. I have just left The Lava Planet. I don’t know why, when bad guys get spaceships, they invariably have to rush right off to The Lava Planet. On some level, I think they must understand that, if you are bad guys on The Lava Planet, you are going to fall in some friggin’ lava. I mean, they’ve got to have figured this out by now.

But apparently there’s just this compulsion.

The game has this sort of thing where you decide at the beginning whether your main character is going to use Light Magic or Dark Magic. There is day and night in the game, and Light Magic works best during the day, and Dark Magic at night.

But now I am somehow on Nova, The Planet That Is Inside Of The Friggin’ Sun. And sometimes it’s night.

And the robot goes, “Danger! Danger! My sensors detect that there has been an exceedingly large explosion in the area!” And the fire guy or the anthropomorphic rabbit goes, “You’re kidding!”

You guys. You are inside the sun. There is always an explosion there.

Objections

Objections published on

I have my Yarrr Card working! I played Diddy Kong Racing today. All those years of playing it on the N64, and somehow I had no idea that this game had a plot. I have no idea why this game needed a plot. The opening cut scene was long and unnecessary.

I think I at some point suggested that Mom play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. I must now rescind this recommendation. Actual lawyers – or even people who live with actual lawyers – or even people who have read a John Grisham book – must never, ever play this game. These people will attempt to act in accordance with basic legal ethics, and will thus be unable to advance in the game. You play a defense attorney, and in the second section, in which you’re representing a woman accused of murder, you have to:

1) repeatedly manipulate a gullible police officer into giving you information and evidence

2) pump a witness for the prosecution for information

3) go through said witness’s things while she’s in the bathroom

It is also strongly encouraged that you,

4) tell a woman who lives on a mountaintop and doesn’t understand how lawyers work “yes” when she says, “Are… are you my lawyer?” (You’re not. You’re not a public defender. This game is down on public defenders.) One of the other dialog options is to say that it’s up to her, but the reaction I got when I did this strongly suggested that I should have chosen to lie.

Also, the game thinks that fuchsia suits are bad. Both the first two murderers wore fuchsia suits. I’m pretty sure Mom has at least one fuchsia suit, and whatever I may think of the choices she’s made in this matter, I can see that this game would only offend her.

I’ve been trying to try all the different wagashi at the Seiyu. Today’s was a pink thing with a leaf wrapped around it (I think it’s called a sakuramochi?). They were remodeling, so my wagashi smelled like industrial sealants. I ate it anyway and now fear I’ll never be able to eat a pink wagashi again without associating it with caulk.

Why I Have Pretty Much Stopped Playing Pokemon (Though I Still Read The Manga?)

Why I Have Pretty Much Stopped Playing Pokemon (Though I Still Read The Manga?) published on

I captured my Dialga which was a really nice feeling of accomplishment. I decided to try taking my new an improved crew online via Battle Revolution to see if the addition of an ancient dragon with the power to warp space and time would give me the edge I needed to win. Turns out no.

Mister Gabriel

Well, among other reasons. (Seriously, given how hard it is to catch some of them (LATIAS), the Legendary Pokemon aren’t always that -ing great. My Espeon always got more use than my Lugia.)

And in Kingdom of Loathing-related news, I don’t like a lot of the writing for NS13 – some if it wanders perilously close to serious, and there’s all sorts of stuff that’s much wordier than it needs to be, particularly during the Holy MacGuffin quest. (I’m also annoyed that the battle queue changes broke KoLMafia, but I can’t exactly blame other people for my botting addiction.) And there are still lots of places that are either buggy or just really user-unfriendly. I’m particularly annoyed with all the heavily-nested island maps where you click a place you can’t get to yet, get taken to a “No-no” screen, and aren’t given a link back to the last part of the map you were looking at. No! Incorrect!

…and the Black Forest is problematic.

Oh, and I clicked wrong buying the paint and accidentally bought a second exotic parrot egg. It should not be possible to do that. That’s just vicious.

‘There is always a useful item at the dead end.’

‘There is always a useful item at the dead end.’ published on

Courtesy of zarla and the makers of Earthboundthe most meta dungeon-crawl ever.

The only thing you really need to know to understand those screen shots is that ‘Brick Road’ is a non-player character who is obsessed with user-friendly dungeon design, and Our Heroes have encountered his work in the past.

Crap.

Crap. published on

I dreamed someone on LiveJournal was talking about Golden Sun‘s terrible dialog and plot and said, “But if you can make it to just past the halfway point in The Lost Age, everything changes completely. I can’t tell you what happens – no, not even under a cut, because it is just that mind-blowing – but I will say that the dialog is suddenly awesome and hilarious.” And I ran to find my game.

And I awoke and found me here,

On the cold hill’s side.