Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shakoora Turned...

...and used his evil magic-

-Signing off.


So, yesterday a thunderstorm swept the area, and it may or may not have been related to the Internet outage I had at the same time. Which is why there wasn't even a pre-prepared post-I didn't get a chance to set it up.

And I think my blogging rhythm has been thrown off.

Ah, well.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Game Profiles: Septerra Core

Septerra Core (official and frikkin' old homepage here) is a rather interesting sort of game; it's an effort by an American game studio to essentially create a Japanese game.

It really isn't a particularly well-known game; it spent enough time in development that it basically was one of the last sprite games, contemporary with an army of full computer graphics games. It was three-dimensional enough in its environments, but technically two dimensional.

But enough about the game's technical problems. The game takes place on a unique world called Septerra (hence the title). Septerra is a massive, physics-defying construct that consists of a Core (obviously) surrounded by seven layers of magic floating continents.

Yes, magic floating continents. In the sky. One actually bands the planet at its equator.

Each layer, called a "world shell," has its own distinct flavor.

The "first" shell, Shell One, is the highest, and is inhabited by technologically advanced and sophisticated people who call themselves the Chosen, who built a single huge city around the planet's spine (the axis around which the continents rotate, which can be tapped for energy).

Shell Two is a post-apocalyptic desert region that was made so by Chosen infighting.

Shell Three is a semi-medieval fantasy setting, with swordfighting and zombies.

Shell Four, with its massive world-banding continent, is the World Bazaar, the seedy center of trade for the whole planet, where there is no government and everything is legal. (No joke. For a significant portion of the game, your headquarters are in the Red Light District there.)

Shell Five has two advanced nations on it, whose relative proximity to the Core has made them wealthy, as the Core can be mined for a diamond-like material called Corite (an NPC remarks "It's like diamond, only better!"), but they have long squabbled over the rights to mine there.

Shell Six is sparsely populated, but is a den for pirates.

Shell Seven is an alien fungus world (if you've ever seen the film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, it's like that) inhabited by mutant monks called Underlost (no, seriously).

Each world is radically distinct and beautifully crafted. The only real flaw in the worldbuilding, which is always nice and occasionally breathtaking, is that Septerra is actually quite a bit smaller than it looks. (There are also a lot of little pointless spots, like empty backalleys, that make you wonder if the problems with the game's production interfered with them constructing the world.)

The plot is fairly straightforward (a game reviewer on one site complains that it's far too much so), at least in that there's a single main villain, Doskias, from the beginning to the end (telling you that Doskias is the main villain isn't even a spoiler), and it has twists and turns but they have little to do with that villain directly. (There are a few other nice twists, though, the main one that comes to mind being that SPOILER the daughter of the Chosen Emperor [the Emperor had been killed by Doskias's flunkies earlier] is helping you with evacuating an area about to be hit by a Doomsday Device, then suddenly turns on you and announces that she intends to marry Doskias because he's made her a better offer.)

The combat system in the game is pretty similar to a standard turn-clock-based system, but has a few twists to it, such as a three-tiered combat system where you can let characters "charge up" to do more damage or use better attacks and skills. Central to the combat system are the Fate Cards, which can (almost) all be used to cast a spell alone, but are more powerful in combinations. Each character can only use one Fate Card at a time, which means that it's actually necessary to use all three members of your party to cast the strongest spells. (Actually, it's apparently pretty similar to Chrono Trigger's combat system in that way-it even has similar map-based combat characteristics.)

The bosses are the biggest enemies, but many of them are also the trickiest enemies. One early "tricky boss" is a device that sits in a lava pool. You can't attack the center (which can attack you, by the way), but you can destroy its three legs (each of which can also attack you) to knock it into the pool and destroy it. Simple, right? Well, not as much so as it sounds, because it can heal and resurrect its legs, and the legs are really tough. When my sister was recently replaying through this battle, her characters were considerably lower levels than the first time that one of us first encountered this boss (there was a bit of questing roadblock, and I spent a lot of time levelling up, such that one of the characters in her recent save had only acquired the skill "Steal" after this battle, while in my original save he had not only had "Steal" for a long time, but had mastered the more advanced skill "Mug"). She had also taken a less appropriate party member (one of the best for the fight is the character Grubb, whose "Repair" skill can be used both to heal mechanical allies and severely damage mechanical enemies-to the point where this skill does more damage to the boss than its elemental weakness) than I had. Did she get curb-stomped? No, it just took her longer (and cost her more items and hitpoints), because she followed the right strategy-wearing down the legs while using big magic to finish them.

One of the things that sets Septerra apart from similar games (i.e. actual Japanese RPGs) is that it has voicework. ("Over 5 hours of recorded dialogue.") For fans of newer games, one of the voice actors had a more recent and famous role-as the voice of Halo's Master Chief.

Septerra Core is a game that hasn't really aged terribly well (the often long load times for combat and scene changes can be really annoying), but if you're a Japanese RPG game buff, you should investigate it, because while it probably won't work with newer versions of Windows, it's a strong American pastiche of those games which doesn't command a high secondary market price.

I don't play terribly many games (except for Pseudolonewolf's and other flash games, since those are good games that are also free), and this one, along with Total Annihilation and a game called Revenant, pretty much defined what I look for in PC-based games.

Also, my sister totally ships Maya and Araym.

-Signing off.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Character Distillation: Wolverine

Been a while since I've done one of these, and I might as well throw this one out, though it's incredibly obvious.
  1. Wolverine has "animal-like" powers and temperament, and metal claws and bones.
  2. Wolverine has a long, dirty history because he's old, and his memory is terrible (though terrible memory is an animal characteristic, so whatever).
  3. Wolverine is the bestest ever. Or so Marvel's marketing department has been led to believe, and so the writers like to present him as a result.
Yes, that's the core of the character. I'm sure plenty of people would disagree with this assessment, but the first two are deeper and more central to him than any other characteristics, and the last is the most important in terms of how he gets treated.

Of course, the last part is what drives a lot of comic book fans (and Wolverine fans) nuts these days. Wolverine has to do all these really insane things and kick everyone's butts all the time, and if he ever gets his butt kicked it's not good. And thus he gets to do things that totally ruin logic as a result.

Although there was that one time when Magneto ripped the adamantium out of him, which amusingly arose (according to Peter David) from a random comment Peter David made that he didn't think it made much sense to have a big fight between the two characters, because Magneto could just pull his skeleton out. (He didn't think they should do it because Wolverine would die after that, but obviously they disagreed. And Wolverine disagreed with the dying part, of course. Because he's frikkin' Wolverine and can ignore death.)

As for the animal powers, metal bones/claws, and old man thing? I think one of my favorite things about Wolverine actually is that for all intents and purposes, he's a grouchy old man.

-Signing off.

Friday, May 22, 2009

With Possibly The Most Startling Image Of Stan Lee...

...that isn't from the '70s, Ultimo returns to Shonen Jump.

Ironically, unlike last time, now I think I might be looking forward to it a little bit.


Because "Vice," the less girly, more evil (or at least cranky) robot, turned into a huge sword demon thing that was really pretty awesome.

So I'll attribute any excitement about it to "the Kelley Jones effect." In effect, if Vice keeps turning into huge insane-looking demon things, I'll be happy.

That, and "Lord Dunstan" looks like he'll be pretty ridiculously amusing if he keeps showing up.

That's right, Stan Lee's self-insertion character (or Hiroyuki Takei's homage character-I'm not sure which) is actually literally the immortal Stan Lee, so to speak.

Ultimo (reminder: not that Ultimo), by the way, is hecka creepy.


Vice is less creepy.

Biggest "what the" moment: A guy goes into a pawn shop or something looking for something to buy for a girl he's crushing on, and there in the pawn shop is the robot Ultimo. And the pawn shop owner is the old man who found Ultimo after Ultimo crashed and burned in "chapter zero."

And I have this strange feeling that the guy will try to buy Ultimo for his crushee. That actually would be kind of stupid awesome.

(Stranger still, my sister points out that the guy is apparently a reincarnation of a dude who shows up in the 12th century sequence. Weird.)

My sister also remarks that Ultimo strikes her as seeming rather more evil than Vice, who comes off as a petulant, cranky child. (She also mentions that when she looked into what people were saying when "chapter zero" came out, a person remarked that "Wow, and I thought that everyone [in the cast] was gay for [the main character of Hiroyuki Takei's previous manga].")

A bit more content:

A Note from Stan Lee
Hi, Heroes!
Wanna know why I'm more excited than a monkey in a banana tree? It's because starting with this issue, which you're gratefully holding in your eager hands, the ultimate battle of good and evil plays out monthly in Ultimo, the magniloquent manga I co-created with Heroic Hiroyuki Takei!
And what better place for the terrific tale of two fantastic robots, battling it out through space and time, than the home of the greatest manga on Planet Earth-SHONEN JUMP. Fans across Japan and America can now experience the indescribable wonderment of seeing Ultimo literally JUMPing off the page!
And wait'll you see the dynamic Dr. Dunstan! This incredibly handsome guy might just remind you of my very favorite writer, though my legendary modesty prevents me from mentioning his name!
So don't waste a minute, True Believer! The fun and fantasy lie just ahead!
Your Man Stan

It's amazing that he still can talk like that after all these years, innit? I mean, wow.

Not much else to say, really.

-Signing off.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Goodbye Primetime

Someone once said that tragedy makes for a more memorable and moving story than a happy ending.

Well, once again, Criminal Minds went too far. But this time, just about every show in that category had a horribly depressing finale which implied an additional character death in the last ten seconds. (CSI: Miami fell short of this, but only because it's still too goofy and confusing to make sense.)

So it's goodbye, evening television. I'll find my escapism somewhere else, thank you. (Eleventh Hour, if it has another season, is something I might consider watching again willingly, because its season finale, while ominous, was ultimately upbeat and feel good.

Speaking of which, I'll talk about such again tomorrow, but I've got too little energy again tonight.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Don't Live On Mogo

From Wikipedia:

"...Mogo has allowed alien races to live on its surface and has been willing to change its climatic conditions to suit them. These inhabitants of Mogo may not always know that their home is alive and watching them."


Sorry about the shortness (was busy today), but yeah, creepy.

It occurs to me that this is the second time I've mentioned Mogo in a week. Weird.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tweet, Tweet.

Today I'm going to talk about (quickly checks against old articles for the same subject) Twitter.

When I first heard of Twitter, I was totally neutral on it, mostly because I only heard of it in the vaguest sort of way. When I heard about the length limit, I rolled my eyes, because it sounded kind of dumb.

Then I thought about it some more, and realized that Twitter is for the terminally attention span-deprived. And I thought to myself, "Not for me."

It doesn't even have anything to do with the fact that it's for the cell phone crazy people who carry around cell phones and are constantly using them (I hate cell phones on general principle). It's just because, unlike a lot of people, I have an attention span, and "tweeting" sounds like it'd be annoying.

That, and anything with "twit" encapsulated in its name can't be good for your intellect.

But the real thing that makes me truly and deeply hate Twitter (at the moment) is that it's somehow so insanely popular (read "well-sponsored" or "made friends in the right circles") that on the news, which is usually horribly annoying on a good day, they mention Twitter every fifteen seconds and talk about how useful, awesome, and cool it is to use Twitter for this inane thing or that inane thing. There was even something on the local news about using Twitter to lose weight.

It figures something evil would come of something named after bird talk.

-Signing off.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

Movie/Comic Crossovers Are Dumb...

...and I mean that in the cruel way, not the kind way.

Let's look at any of the crossovers between the Alien or Predator franchise and DC comics.

Predators pose a threat to Martian Manhunter? Riiiiight. (Martian Manhunter can counter the Predators' invisibility with his own, one-up them with his intangibility, find them and immobilize them with his telepathy and telekinesis, and even if they tag him with a spear or whatever, it's not like they could kill him so easily as they could humans via dismemberment.)

Aliens stand a chance against the Green Lantern Corps? Suuuuure. (According to this, the xenomorphs caused damage to the ecosystem of Mogo. I can accept this, but Green Lanterns have forcefields, energy beams, and more, while the xenomorphs have quick adaptation and acidic blood. Woooo, acidic blood! Scary! The Green Lantern who gets killed by a xenomorph was either completely surprised and severed from his ring, which would have protected him from mortal harm, or an incompetent buffoon.)

Of course, the reason we see this kind of utter bull is because the movie franchises have tons of clout and it wouldn't be "cool" to have the comic book characters curb stomp the movie characters. Even though, to me at least, it'd be highly entertaining.

I mean, even the Yars, who are really "video game characters," would pretty much not be threatened by the likes of a xenomorph or Predator at all. While I can accept that an unprotected Yar might be killed if caught alone and by surprise, they have energy missiles that can vaporize solid rock and can fly from planet to planet under their own power. Sure, it takes a lot of bullets or whatever to stop a xenomorph (I suppose-I confess I've never seen even a bit of the movie, and the only part of the franchise I've seen was a little bit of the one where they bring Ripley back as a half-Alien clone thing or whatever the heck was going on in that, and a few hits in the head with an assault rifle seemed to stop them pretty good), but if a Yar can vaporize solid rock, it's not going to be very threatened by something that can be stopped by bullets.

And even if the xenomorphs or Predators or whatever the heck were dangerous enough to make living with them too unpleasant, the Yars could just leave.

So, yeah, if there are going to be crossovers between these franchises and comics, they should be "by proxy," for instance the Brood. Because they can be made to make sense there with some effort.

-Signing off.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

And Indeed, Our Powers Are Extraordinary!

There are days I wish I had this power.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lessons You Can Learn From Videogames

Pac-Man: Performance enhancement is good. (Power pills.)

Defender: Human beings can withstand giant energy and missile blasts if you merely set the difficulty level to easy. (Atari version only.)

Vanguard: It's simple to engineer a starship with multiple lives. (Atari Vanguard handbook. There's actual story dialogue to this effect in the booklet.) Also, Kemlus snakes are slow-witted.

Yars' Revenge: Being in an exploding starship will turn houseflies into incredible superbeings. (Incidentally, I love that old comic. The art's nicer than it has any right to be.)

The Empire Strikes Back (Parker Bros.): There's actually a reason the big walker that fell down blew up in the movie. (An open bomb hatch, if you're wondering.)

Platypus: A creaking antique fighter can defeat the armies of a huge industrialized nation. (Then again, movies and cartoons will teach you this kind of stuff too.)

-Signing off.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

Revenge of the Summer Movie

I'm with Bumblebee...

I'm pretty excited too. (Okay, that's the first time that weird piece of formatting's happened to me. Since it's not going to actually be preventing any clicking and will have moved down a lot later, I'll let it be, since the particular video I found doesn't have a narrower version than that.)

I mean, not jumping up and down excited or anything, but the movie version of Devastator promises to be one huge scary piece of awesome.

Well, six or seven huge pieces, but you know what I mean.

-Signing off.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Additional Thoughts on Mozilla Firefox

Having mentioned the other day that I switched browsers to Firefox, I thought I'd mention that it still seems to be better, with only one or two problems.

First, it tends to be fussier about timing out on some sites than Internet Explorer.

Second, the interface has a tendency to turn whatever tab I'm working in into something I've opened from the bookmarks if I use the "open all in folder" command. Frustrating, although I'm getting used to it.

Other than that, though, its speed is superior, it doesn't freeze up the way IE does, and I love being able to drag links into tabs. (You'd need to do it to quite get what I mean.)

Not much else to say.

-Signing off.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cheesy Sci-Fi Movie Review: Cosmos: War of the Planets

Also occasionally called Cosmos War of the Planets or just plain War of the Planets for no apparent reasons.

There are some pretty good reviews for this movie elsewhere online, so I'll make two quick notes to preface:
  • The movie is public domain, or so I've read, so you can find it free by searching for it (it takes pretty little effort).
  • Look here for an aforementioned review which loosely summarizes the plot of the movie sorta well. (Heavy snarks ahead.)
Something that the reviewer totally fails to mention: There's a lot of implied sex in this movie.

There's one scene where a couple lay down on two separate beds, smile at each other, and turn on a machine. (The machine happens to resemble the Death Star by total coincidence. The movie was made at the same time Star Wars was, too, so it was coincidence.) Then we cut to the captain, the main character, making out with his lady friend, and then we cut back again to the couple using the machine, and they're gasping suggestively. Then we cut back to the captain and his lady friend, and the lady friend says "I don't think I'll ever use a machine again."

Aaaaeeeuuurrrghhh. I did not need to hear that.

And then we see that same couple use the machine again later in the movie.

This alone makes it the only movie out of the old movies I've been talking about I would never show a kid. There's also the disturbing possession stuff, which involves a guy getting increasingly horrible looking as they repeatedly shoot him with flashligh-er, disintegrators-while possessed, and he doesn't die because he's been possessed (by a super-powerful computer), and he strangles a bunch of people.

Also, the phrase "war of the planets" was a totally arbitrary description for this movie. It was really about an evil computer trying to repair itself so it could conquer the universe. And it may have been invincible.

Something the reviewer doesn't mention (though it is mentioned in Wikipedia's summary): At the end of the movie, it is possible the evil computer possessed their spaceship. So, yeah.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


...was astonished, when-

-Signing off.

Monday, May 4, 2009


The other day, I got fed up with Internet Explorer, and downloaded Firefox to try it.

It's better.

Was very busy today, so this is all for now.

-Signing off.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cheesy Sci-Fi Movie Review: Assignment Outer Space

Also known as "Space Men," "Assignment Outer Space" is an unusual old science fiction film directed by Antonio Margheriti, AKA Anthony Dawson, famous (or infamous) for films such as Battle of the Worlds. (Never seen that one, but any movie with the line "I have one advantage over all of you. Calculus!" must be pretty entertaining.)

This movie, like some others, is in the public domain, and is worth checking out (if you're tolerant of slower old movies) because it represents an achievement (if this page is to believed): "Less than 30.000 US$ [US$ 30,000], and it was completed in 20 days, including the special effects."

Watching the movie, it was fairly easy to dismiss it as simply being a rather more thoughtful science fiction flick. It featured space travel portrayed in relatively realistic fashion, the only things that appear odd now (other than the cheap effects) being things that newer ideas have rendered obsolete (e.g., use of a fueling cable-spacecraft couldn't dock in the film). The most insane and impossible thing in the film is an invisible forcefield that vaporizes things, but it's the only part of the film that feels "truly" impossible, and even that is a relatively small order of magnitude harder to believe than the rest. (There is some weird technobabble here and there, but that's forgivable.)

The character Al (spacesuit number X15) was a somewhat older black guy, and my sister positively adored him. He was certainly a striking character; probably the only one with his head screwed on straight.

Not really much to say about it, because it's not actually that crazy a movie. Either you'll be pleasantly surprised by it because it's actually a halfway decent movie, or you'll hate it because it's dull as can be.

-Signing off.