Friday, November 30, 2012

Pretty Sure There Was A Lot More Than That, Too

So how can you overwhelm my capacity for listing off nerdy things?

Well, you could be the predecessor to Studio Gainax and make an animation like this one, which followed an animation I've previously mentioned.

While I was able to follow just about everything in the previous video and name it off without looking stuff up, this one is just too much. Xenomorphs? Chibi-esque anime Yoda? Doctor Nazo? One of the mutants from Metaluna?

(Yes, it's in there somewhere, in one of the massive character crowds. You have to be sharp-eyed.)

I'd meant to talk about this before now, but I don't really have much to say except 1) "Holy Pop Culture References, Batman!" and 2) I love the quality of animation. It's got little to do with how the gal in the bunny suit looks, no matter how distracting she's trying to be-those buildings blowing up? The explosive verdant growth? The big energy blasts? Yeah, I enjoy watching that kind of stuff, especially when it's just so darned sharp.

-Signing off.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It Was Inevitable There Would Be An Official One

There's currently only rather lame phone recordings of it, but apparently, there's an official commercial for Transformers: Prime that uses and parodies Gangnam Style.

Incidentally, I thought that Gangnam Style's view rate was staggering before, but since it's made #1 on YouTube, the number of views it's accrued seems to be even faster (it's now almost 850 million, and it was less than 805 million when it hit the number one spot about a week ago-that's at least six and a half million views a day), and if it keeps up, it's actually well on track to hit a billion views around New Year's Eve.

So, yeah, crazy.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#69)

Hum, this turned into possibly the blandest article in this series. I guess that's what happens when you get so many tiny entries at once, and I've been pretty burned out on "too short entry" jokes for a while.

681. Mephitisians. This four-armed race lacks noses and has special eyelids as adaptations against their homeworld's "obnoxious" atmosphere. Apparently, this mostly means that it smells bad.

At least one Mephitisian was a "Turf Boss" on some planet other than his native one; apparently, Turf Bosses are something like crime lords with official power, which makes me think a bit of Boss Tweed. Said Turf Boss held a birthday party for an Imperial Moff (Moffs being a sort of regional governor in the Imperial government).

Rating: 3/5. There's really not a lot, and the implication that they're adapted against their homeworld smelling bad is kind of hilarious, but it's rather amusing overall.

682. Mephouts. Mephout males apparently are too hotheaded to be trusted with any kind of responsibility, so the females are the ones who do all the important stuff. How very egalitarian.

Anyway, it looks rather like they haven't actually appeared, only having been in a story that was canceled, and mentioned in a semi-related story.

Which is barely a step better than being "ambiguously canonical."

Rating: 1/5. Nothing to see here. Move along.

683. Mere. The Mere are amphibious and come from a planet that's rather amusingly named Maramere.

Rating: 3/5. They look reasonably interesting, and I like when a planet and a species have related-but-less-obviously-so names.

684. Meris. Just to clarify, "Meri" is the singular, and "Meris" is apparently both the plural and the adjectival forms, or so I'm led to believe.

Anyway, they have cartoonish big, manly heads, and are apparently associated with at least two religious groups, one of which is known for its assassins.

Rating: 3/5. They look reasonably distinct, and the detail of their associations with two different religious groups is interesting.

685. Mermen. There were mermen (of the "has fish tail instead of legs" variety) on Mon Calamari (homeworld of Admiral "IT'S A TRAP" Ackbar) at some point in that planet's prehistory, but they're now extinct. It's possible that members of the Iskalonian School might be generically called mermen as well.

Rating: 2/5. Extinct fish people.

686. Meshakians. They're famous for "exquisite" jewelry.

Rating: 1/5. So is Kay's Jewelers.

687. Mhingxin. Rodent-faced sapients with an uncannily Chinese-looking name, they apparently tend towards low self esteem because so many other races talk about their uncanny resemblance to vermin and treat them badly because of it.

Rating: 3/5. I've rated a lot of the "they're rodents" aliens pretty low, but something about the particular way these guys have been approached, combined with their unique name which gives no hint of their rodenty natures, is a bit more appealing.

688. Midi-chlorians. They're apparently sapient.

Rating: Whatever/5. Apparently, midi-chlorian-related material was present as far back as 1977. That's kind of interesting.

689. Mielps. Mielps, who are described only as "small," live on Ansion, and apparently shop there.

Rating: 1/5. You don't say. Do they eat there, too?

690. Mikans. Mikans are shapeshifting jellyfish sort of things that disguise themselves (in the case of the known individual) as alluring almost human women, then devour those that they fool into coming to them so they can steal their stuff. One used clothing stolen this way to go out into sunlight unharmed, as a Mikan exposed to sunlight apparently turns to stone or something.

Rating: 3/5. I find that terribly amusing.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Game Review: Monsters TD

Monsters TD is a game with a lot of potential that falls short in a number of ways.

It's a rare animal, the side-scrolling tower defense game. It's one of the better such games I can think of, but that's not really high praise, because they usually turn out lousy in one way or another.

The game features a variety of enemies, most of whom have various abilities that set them apart, and three families of towers that each have a basic form and three branches of high-level tower. It also has a selection of "instant" abilities that you can use at various times. Where does it go wrong?

Well, the first place it goes wrong is the limited tower placement. There's only a number of fixed emplacement locations in the game, and thus you may have trouble finding places to concentrate your towers, because there are only so many places to put them and a level may have only one or two places where it's even possible.

And it's important, nay, key to having any kind of success in the game to concentrate your towers correctly. The three basic towers are the Steam Tower, which is kind of lame, though its upgraded forms can be useful, the Tower of Fire, which has what seems to be a much higher damage per second in the form of a continuous beam, and the Eye Tower, which fires slowly but stuns targets. The Steam tower is only useful in specific situations (i.e. once you can upgrade them), while putting Eye Towers and Towers of Fire together handles most enemies in the game rather successfully-several Eye Towers can virtually paralyze an enemy for several minutes, almost always enough to kill most enemies with a Tower of Fire.

The problem is that all these towers cost the same amount. They all upgrade for the same amount. The only incentives for picking different towers come from their abilities, and as I've suggested you want to use the Steam Towers and their upgrades rather sparingly. While a fully upgraded tower from this family can be very powerful, upgrades are incredibly expensive, and will set you back comparably to the cost of a dozen basic towers.

And herein lies another problem: The game's economy is weak. It's particularly so because all enemies except "boss" enemies give you the same amount of money, whether they're the toughest or weakest. And all "boss" enemies also give you the same amount of money whether they're the weak, pathetic basic bosses or the nigh-unstoppable ones.

This weak economy makes using the "instant" features (something that you spend money on that is a temporary effect) almost worse than useless. You'll have a bit of extra money to spend, and so you will... and then you'll discover that you don't have enough money to do anything else, and a wave of tougher monsters will overrun you. And that's often the best-case scenario, when whatever instant you used actually did what you wanted it to-it's possible that the monsters you were after escaped unscathed. The game's instants are only for when you've already got every tower you can, and then they can still be worthless because they just can't contribute enough to stop anything, and they also have painfully long recharge times.

Anyway, what of the monsters themselves?

Well, there's the obvious basic ones. There are fat blue cyclops creatures called Gluttons that heal themselves over time, which is a modest challenge, but usually not very effective against properly placed Eye Towers. There are these hilariously stupid-looking guys who ride on rocks and are essentially heavily armored, reducing the damage they take from every attack, and share the same weakness to Eye Towers. There are purple Slugs that turn invisible for fifteen seconds the first time they get hit, which really just means that you need to get defenses built towards both the beginning and the end of your path. And then there are these guys:

The quirkily named Ricky-Ticky, Juggernaut (the armadillo-thing), and Imp (the winged fuzzball) are all (well, not the Juggernaut, for reasons I'll explain) really darned annoying at best and horribly game-busting at worst, because each of them is highly resistant to particular families of tower, and unlike the other kinds of monsters, their resistance ability can't be taken away by the Tower of Greed (an upgrade of the Tower of Fire).

The Juggernaut actually isn't too terribly bad. Why not? It's resistant to the brown tower family (Steam Tower and upgrades), and since you're not worrying too much about using those, they're just less-tough versions of the armored guys who are a smidgen faster.

The Imp is a huge pain. It's immune to the red tower family (Tower of Fire and upgrades) and is danged fast. Upgraded brown towers can kill them, and Eye Towers can slow them down some.

Then there's the Ricky-Ticky. I hate them so. Immune to Eye Towers, which are the staple of your defense, they just march past while other monsters get paralyzed, and they're also faster than average.

The problem with these monsters beyond what I've mentioned is that for some darned reason, it always seems like the towers that don't work well on them focus on them obsessively, wasting their efforts. It's very frustrating.

It gets better: Each class of enemy (except possibly the Ricky-Ticky, but I'm not sure on that) has a "boss" version, which is bigger and tougher, gives more money, counts as five monsters when it reaches a gate, and has a vastly amplified version of its base form's abilities... and there's no information on them in the guide. I had to have it pointed out to me that the bosses take extra lives, because I was too busy screaming in rage at them.

Just how much are the abilities augmented? A giant Glutton heals so fast that multiple Eye Towers concentrating their fire on it can't even weaken it, much less kill it, and if it gets "trapped" somewhere by the paralysis effect, it will heal up to full health while out of range of other towers. A giant rock guy takes virtually no damage from most weapons. A giant Slug will turn invisible for probably a full minute, slipping past almost all your defenses virtually unharmed (and retains a lot of health). And a giant Imp just has way too much darned health for something that fast.

And as I said, the in-game guide doesn't bother to explain a word of this.

Topping it all off is the sometimes atrociously frustrating level design.

In this particular level, enemies come from four different entrances and move to one of four different gates. Their paths are fixed-enemies from one gate always go to one gate-but it's a chore at best to figure out which is which, and only a few tower spots can be close enough to hit the monsters along any given path.

So why am I talking about this game?

Well, it does have a few redeeming features. It's got amusing cartoony graphics, and the music is pretty entertaining.

More significantly, this is the game designer's rather obvious first game, and there are two other tower defense games which are clearly descended from this one. So this is essentially a series review, except the games aren't truly a series.

I'm pretty sure I'll do the next one next week.

If you don't mind a tower defense game practicing cheap shots on you, I suppose I can recommend this game to you. If you do mind, I'm afraid I can't.

-Signing off.

Monday, November 26, 2012

But Hopefully You Figured That Out For Yourself

A note to my readers: This video is a work of fiction.

Thank you.

-Signing off.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tiny Rants and a Video

Is it just me, or does it seem like YouTube is bound and determined to become the most unpleasant video site on the internet? Lately when I visit it, it seems like each page is from a different version of the site, eighty percent of them have ads that will interrupt the video, and some of them (but not all of them) don't autoplay anymore.

Whatever. End tiny ranty aside #1.

Second... Black Friday is not a holiday. Gah! Stop doing that, media! There are actually people who really believe it's an official holiday now! It's just the term retailers use to describe the day when they've finally made enough money that they're not in the red anymore ("in the black Friday"). In other words, it's just the day they're talking about finally having made enough profits off of you, the silly-headed consumers. That's why it has a media push every year now.

Whatever. End quite small ranty aside #2.

Today, I'm going to share somebody else's exceedingly British discussion of sleeves in the "beat-'em-up" genre of video games.

Because it's funny and British, that's why.

-Signing off.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

If you're one of those people who celebrates Thanksgiving.

Frankly, it's not one of my favorite holidays, if for no other reason than my dislike of most traditional Thanksgiving food. I don't like cranberry sauce, stuffing, turkey, yams, or... hm, I can't even think of much traditional Thanksgiving food. The only Thanksgiving food item I really like is mashed potatoes, which are a special event at my house because 1) my mother makes the best mashed potatoes in all of existence, and 2) doesn't make them often anymore.

Not much else to say, because I never feel much like blogging on this kind of holiday, so I guess...

Well, I suppose I'll point out that Gangnam Style is poised to take YouTube's top spot before Monday. That's something, because it'll technically mean I can watch any video on YouTube again. Not that I'd want to watch the lone video that's currently most popular, it's just the idea of the thing.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Don't Even Mention What The Trailer's About

A sign of how few movies I really watch:

Even though the poster's username is "movieclipsTRAILERS," I didn't realize until about halfway through this that it was made up of preexisting movie clips.

And I only recognized the movie clip thing because I remembered seeing a trailer/advertisement for the movie Powder, and you don't soon forget seeing a trailer with a guy with weird-looking skin and telekinesis.

It's pretty clever, though.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#68)

671. Marasans. Marasans are uniquely ugly, with oddly jointed arms and kangaroo-like body shapes (including pouches) coupled with a rather reptilian head and skin. They apparently have essentially universal cybernetic implants in the form of computers linked to their brains, and use them to augment their navigational skills, as silent walky-talkies, and to control appliances and things.

These computers turned out to be their weakness when they were found in their isolated home nebula by the Galactic Empire, and one Imperial devised a way to attack their minds through their implants, forcing a rapid surrender of power. It looks rather like their status is in something of a limbo, because, well, there's no information on them past that point.


Rating: 4/5. They're interesting in appearance and they have a cultural trait that indirectly explains why cyborgs are pretty rare in Star Wars. That they've been forgotten is no fault of their own.

672. Marits. Marits are basically frilled lizard people, though only some of them apparently have frills. They apparently have mildly iridescent scales and have the custom of eating their own dead to "recycle" them.

Their planet was ruled for a time by a human government, but the Old Republic decided to help overthrow said government, and gave the Marits arms and other assistance; they are said to have taken naturally to the assembly and maintenance of high-tech weapons.

Rating: 4/5. There's no indication that anyone sees the Marits as evil or savage, even if their habit of eating their dead might be seen as a bit creepy by some. This is to the credit of any series creators who worked with them.

673. Markul. They don't look like Kowakian monkey-lizards.

Rating: 1/5. They don't look interesting, either, even if the only known individual of the species was eaten by Jabba for helping someone write an insulting book about him (Torture Observed: An Interview with Jabba's Cook-and yes, this is a thing that happened within the framework of the Star Wars universe).

674. Mavinians. The Mavinians created the cluster-wedding organ, which sounds intriguing and vaguely dirty. Unfortunately, all we know about the instrument is that it was considered trendy and innovative during the Clone Wars.

Rating: 2/5 for the odd and slightly disturbing name of their instrument.

675. Mawan. The Mawan apparently have pale, near-translucent skin which often shows their veins; to have visible veins is considered refined.

I have a joke (or at least the germ of one) that involves varicose veins, but I'm not going there.

They also apparently have two hearts.

Rating: 2/5. A simple act of turning something cultural on its head is not enough to get a good rating by itself, but it's not too bad a start.

676. Meeks. They're three-eyed little orange lumps with antennae, making them remarkably like various cartoon aliens from over the years, though I'd be hard-pressed to name any specific ones.

Apparently, Lando Calrissian and a cheap droid he'd purchased named Flek once inadvertently saved a village of Meeks from a rancor after falsely trying to convince the Meeks that they'd saved the Meeks' village from a rancor. (He was trying to scam them into thinking they'd been saved from a rancor that he didn't believe existed, but then accidentally caused the rancor that was really there to go running off and probably drown itself trying to find other rancors with a rancor call. [Rancors are apparently frequent victims of the galaxy's exotic animal trade, hence their randomly showing up on disparate planets, which is awful because they're intelligent enough to have a language. But I'll talk about that more some other time.])

The Meeks then gave him an artifact or artifacts he was after in exchange for saving their village, but it turned out that these were fake. Lando could appreciate a good swindle, though, and was pretty good-natured about it.

Rating: 3/5. That's an amusing little story.

677. Meerians. Meerians are basically human, but have pale skin and silvery hair (oh, wait, can't some humans at least have those things?), can be helpful and nice or bitter and selfish (oh, wait, don't humans have significant variations in temperament too?), and apparently adapted a way of keeping from dying in their atmosphere rendered toxic by pollution with some kind of adaptation involving their tongues and noses (...I didn't really need to know that).

Rating: 1/5. Not really that interesting.

678. Melodies. Melodies hatch out of eggs looking suspiciously human. They are cared for by other, older Melodies, but the adults are nowhere to be seen, because the adults are basically mermaids (and mermen), and at some point they metamorphose into them.

Apparently, sometimes their metamorphoses are interrupted by giant predatory water spiders, who eat them if they're undefended.

They're native to Yavin 8, a different moon of the gas giant that the Death Star had to clear to fire on the Rebel base in Episode IV, and that world was later taken by the Yuuzhan Vong, who probably killed rather a lot of those poor mermaids (and mermen) and humanlike children of mermaids (and mermen).

Rating: 3/5. I have to admit, the actual reason for this rating is the thought of mermaids (and mermen) having to worry about being attacked by giant spiders.

679. Melters. I'm trying to figure out what the heck the article on Melters is trying to tell me. Apparently, the Melters are energy beings who use a mineral called "meltmassif" as a physical body, and try to absorb other beings into the meltmassif to "gain access to their energy."

So, they're energy, and they live in rock and use it as a body, and they eat people?

Their minds are supposedly more alien than even other mineral beings. (The article gives a specific example, but I'm not of a mind to say anything about it because I haven't had a chance to talk about them yet.)

Rating: 3/5. I guess being people-eating rock monsters can get you surprisingly far, even if it's really obliquely described.

680. Menahuun. The Menahuun are basically lemur-people according to their description, but they look a lot more like something mildly demonic. Apparently, they were driven from their ancestral lands and even to the brink of extinction by outsiders, and seemed to disappear, but they continued to cause trouble to outsiders as nigh-mythical "gremlins" or something.

Rating: 4/5. That's kind of interesting, even if their article has stupid junk in it like "they [have] sexual dimorphism, meaning that males [are] different from females." NO DUH GUYS, that's the textbook definition of sexual dimorphism, and if you want to make sure people understand it, just link Wikipedia like you already darned well did. Gr.

-Signing off.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Game Review: Onslaught2

Onslaught2 (which does not seem to be related to another game by the name of Onslaught on the same site-apparently the "2" is just to distinguish it in searches and such) is a fun tower defense game with depth that isn't immediately obvious.

When I say "depth that isn't immediately obvious," I mean "either you must experiment endlessly to figure out what's what, or look up stuff on various web pages and YouTube." The in-game tutorial level is simply abysmal, both in information it supplies and in explaining things beyond telling you what to find.

When I first played it, I looked at the four basic turrets (cannon, laser, rocket, and tazer-and yes, taser is misspelled even though the common misspelling of "lazer" isn't present). After some initial examination, I decided "well, the laser is awesome, but I can't figure out why anybody would use the other ones."

Why would I use lasers in the maniacal fashion shown here?

Because before upgrading turrets, lasers are the most obviously cool and nifty turrets in the game. When multiple lasers are close enough to each other, some of them will use their own fire to power up the others, allowing a map crammed full of lasers to bring most of its power to bear on a single target.

Unfortunately, even with extensive upgrades, the endlessly stronger waves of the game will wipe you out somewhere before the hundredth wave. (Incidentally, waves in this game are linearly stronger-near as I can tell, their hitpoints and the amount of money you get from killing them progresses in a simple whole-number progression, corresponding to their wave number. So the first enemies give you a dollar for killing them, the second wave's give you two, and so forth, though you can't see their exact hitpoints but instead the percentage of their health. On the subject of enemies, it's clear that the game's creator wasn't too concerned with realism or anything, as the enemies are disparate unanimated objects such as motorcycle helmets, masks, cockroaches, octopodes, printers, eyeballs, spaceships, and little stars with faces on them. There are minor variations between them-some are slower and tougher while others are faster and weaker-but they aren't important.)

So I couldn't figure out how things were supposed to get better. Sure, you could try other turrets, but the damage potential just doesn't seem to be there. In fact, the game claims the others have special abilities the same way that the lasers do, and I couldn't figure out what they were actually supposed to be doing, because they never seemed to go off. And what are these "combos" that the guide claims you can use, anyway?

After slogging through the tutorial (which isn't any fun), I found out that upgrading turrets was necessary to gain access to any of their special abilities besides that of the laser's. This is not a good, intuitive way to put a game together, guys.

If you upgrade a cannon or a tazer in a certain way, it will gain the ability to "frenzy," which means that periodically, its firing rate will spike sharply and it will be able to deal a lot more damage for a few moments (and look like they're having turret seizures). Happily, they do this often enough that you can actually set them up so that if you have enough of them and time their upgrades properly, there will nearly always be an active "frenzy" going.

A properly upgraded rockets will launch missiles that, when there are no targets in range, will go into a "holding pattern" and wait until there's something available to attack. In the right circumstances, this can lead to dozens of rockets hovering in mid-air at a time and wiping out the first few guys in a wave.

So yeah, much better than first impressions.

It gets better: If you put turrets with fully upgraded damage next to each other, they will periodically fire off "combos," special weapons or attacks that are basically the main point of and most powerful thing within the game.

So the game is fun, but only if you can figure out and learn all this stuff, with either guides from other sites or by trial and error.

There's actually a bit more. There are numerous "utility" turrets that amp up your other turrets and must be unlocked after a certain number of waves/kills, but I can't bring myself to use them because they're boring. There are also three massively expensive "super turrets" you can unlock, and a special turret called the "combonly" that magically absorbs other turrets nearby and "learns" an attack based on what combo those turrets perform in the correct circumstances. (That makes no sense without context, but it's actually a fair bit more intuitive than it sounds, once you've seen somebody else do it. For information on this kind of thing, go to this site.)

The purple turrets in the above screenshot are a set of combonlies that have been set to the powerful "black hole" combo, which is the only attack in the game that doesn't score kills or make money because it wipes things out regardless of hitpoints. If it did score kills, it'd be pretty simple to play the game forever once you had enough of them set up. (In a rather neat touch, the black holes not only eat all enemies in their reach, they also gobble up weapons fire and mines. Those little gray circles you can see on the path in some of the screenshots are mines, which are among the combos you need multiple cannons for.)

If the game isn't progressing quickly enough for you, there's also the fairly standard "send next wave" feature. I actually have lost more often by overzealously clicking or accidentally double-clicking this button than probably any other way, because there's no limit on how often you can push that button. Case in point:

This technically wasn't actually one of the times I lost... because the game crashed Flash Player within seconds of taking that screenshot because of the sheer volume of enemies.

In fact, Flash crashed so badly that when I refreshed the page, it didn't get better. So I restarted Firefox.

It still wasn't working.

I had to restart the whole computer to fix Flash Player.

Anyway, there are some bad things, too. First, the interface is straight-up awful. The basic menu that you use to select your turrets can only show one at a time and must be clicked through one at a time, and so you have to use another dialogue box in the game which is only marginally better (well, it's much better for browsing through turrets, but it's awful because it gets in the way and is generally obnoxious unless you minimize it). You're supposed to be able to move turrets, but even with the online guides, I still haven't figured out how to do so. And as noted, the game's balance and design is basically completely unintuitive.

The game also lacks music, but I reckon you can take care of that yourself with a YouTube window or a playlist or an iPod or whatever.

So in sum, a fun game with significant problems that can mostly be worked around if you're willing to look things up and learn stuff. If you have a fair bit of energy to invest in it, this is a good tower defense game, but if not, you should probably avoid it.

-Signing off.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Some Drawing Thing

I was a little busy doing things to take care of and comfort my sick kid brother for a while today, so here, have a speed drawing YouTube embed by the guy who made the Armed With Wings games. (It has music.)

He apparently never used this design in a game, or something... It's a drawing of Vandheer Lorde, though, so it's automatically awesome even if it doesn't look like any version of him from a specific game.

-Signing off.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Never Thought They'd Make That Prequel

So apparently there's a prequel to Disney's The Wizard of Oz coming out sometime in the pretty near future.*

And I have to say, while I'm not a big fan of Disney's Oz (I'm making the distinction because my sister is familiar with the Oz stories beyond the movie and the Wicked novels/plays), this looks pretty fun, especially with the munchkin stack gag. "Take five."

*If you thought I was going to talk about Star Wars related things, well, no, although I'll say that the fact that they chose the Toy Story 3 scriptwriter is a plus for me, because that movie was an exceptional sequel that picked up a series well after people thought it wasn't going to continue. You're free to disagree with me on the status of TS3 as one of Pixar's best movies, but if you do I can't ever be your friend.** The rumor that Darth Vader's coming back, though... That's kind of ick.

**I'm kidding. Mostly.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#67)

I'm a little short on time, but I'm going to do this, darn it.

661. Malagarrians. The Malagarrians exploited a high proportion of the resources of their homeworld, being rather advanced.

Then they turned their planet into a reactor, and it blew up.


Rating: 3/5. Yeah, that's amusing.

662. Malarians. The Malarians don't appear to have anything to do with tropical diseases; instead, they're a member of the Malarian Alliance, which apparently also had the Ansionians, who are boring and annoying guys who apparently donkey laugh (if I recall correctly) as members.

Funny that the Ansionians are considerably better known and actually, y'know, have pictures of them, while the members that the alliance is named for are almost completely unknown.

Rating: 2/5. I've got nothin' to say. (Actually, I'm probably going to skip commenting much on the ratings unless I've got something particular to say, because I'm in a hurry.)

663. Mallif. The Mallif are descended from another race. They have a weird religion that they like to share with others. In the event of some form of need, they have access to an old, old fortress, which has cryogenically preserved warriors of their ancestral race waiting to be awakened.

That's... kinda cool.

Rating: 3/5. Quirky.

664. Maltorrans. Stocky. Oddly jointed limbs.

Rating: 1/5. Boring.

665. Mandallian Giants. They're bigger than Wookiees, and look really awesome.

This didn't keep Chewbacca from trouncing a Mandallian bouncer, though.

Rating: 3/5. They look cool.

666. Manikons. The Manikons, despite their ominous entry number, are unfortunate primitives who became alleyway savages on Coruscant somehow after some form of civil war (whether their own or someone else's is unclear) rendered their world uninhabitable. They're quadrupedal but can stand on two legs, and also have some kind of blinding, stinging venomous spray.

Pretty handy when you're a troglodytic inhabitant of Coruscant's gigantic and rather terrifying underworld, really.

Rating: 3/5. I wish there were pictures.

667. Mannovans. Apparently gray-furred, they are described as "sardonic" and "apparently unruffled" by the fact that their planet is now a polluted cesspool of general nastiness.

Rating: 2/5. It wouldn't take much to make that a 3/5.

668. Mantellian Savrips. Mantellian Savrips are rather huge and burly-armed creatures who are mistaken by most for particularly cunning animals, to the point where they're hunted as pests and even raised for their apparently savory meat (uh, yikes-although that didn't pan out). Their lack of technology and the bum deal they've been handed (which led to their population being pretty low) don't keep them from being clever or awesome. The big, scary piece that we see growling triumphantly after Artoo used it in the holochess game that he and Chewbacca were playing was a Savrip, incidentally.

Anyway, things got even worse when their homeworld was invaded by the Yuuzhan Vong ([expletive deleted] Yuuzhan Vong), but they still survived, because a hundred-plus years later, there was a Mantellian Savrip Sith.


Rating: 5/5. The Mantellian Savrips are a little obscure, but very cool-looking and with compelling backstory. I like 'em. (They may have gotten a pity point for the fact that, even outside of the movies' universe, they tend to get treated as unintelligent animals.)

669. Mantilorrians. Apparently some were "rat-catchers," and their expertise was called upon when the Kowakian monkey-lizard Salacious B. Crumb was loose on a space station causing trouble.

Rating: 2/5. Eh, I dunno.

670. Maoi. The Maoi are some kind of strange species from the Kathol sector, which is (as I've mentioned often) the epicenter of Lovecraftian things in the entirety of the Star Wars galaxy. They were banished to inhospitable places by the DarkStryder, but survived, apparently through sheer cussedness. They had access to the Ta-Ree life energy (a Kathol sector twist on the Force) and used it to immobilize prey while they forced themselves into mouths and down throats so that they could digest the prey from the inside.

Rating: 3/5. Yeah, that's pretty entertaining, though obviously also disturbing.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Exactly What It Says On The Tin (Which That Armor Is Not Made Of, Probably)

(Thanks to snell of Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep!! for making this post possible.)

I'm not a fan of Monty Python.

I say this because in order to be a fan of something, you need to have at least a little bit of familiarity with it, and despite the prevalence of familiarity with it among Internet circles, I'm not. (My mother dislikes Monty Python, so I don't really have any good opportunities to watch it.)

But this-

-is entertainment.

I'd say more, but all I can think of to say would be explaining the joke.


-Signing off.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Game Review: Heir

Heir is a game I played some time ago and came back to recently because I was thinking about the Armed With Wings series, mainly because I'd mistakenly believed that Heir and Armed With Wings were created by the same guy. They aren't (obviously, since I just said that they weren't), but they have some odd similarities in their construction and style.

In Heir, you play as a little dude who is basically a white silhouette, and it's fairly obvious if you watch him in motion that he's been designed this way to make him simple to animate.

That's him there, in a kneeling, praying position. That's his default resting pose, which is certainly interesting in a game like this.

According to the story, the character is a "pale man from the North" or some silliness like that; this reminded me of the unnecessary justification for Armed With Wings to explain the silhouette people, and this is the primary cause for the aforementioned assumption I'd made on their mutual origins. While I can understand this case a little better (as it's a little more egregious that the character looks like this in a world full of color), I still think it's pretty silly, and honestly I didn't feel the need for a justification. (Then again, my blasè attitude might just come from playing a lot of visually simplistic flash games. I dunno.) He does tie it into the story a bit with the plot essentially being driven by the fact that apparently the "pale men" are widely hated in the region where the game takes place, but... eh. Whatever.

Now, you might notice that the guy is sitting on a boulder that's next to several other boulders in an oddly regular pattern. There's a reason for this: They're toes.

This thing's toes.

And that little white speck in front of it is the protagonist.

Now's about the time that I ought to mention that the game's creator explained that he created it as a tribute to Shadow of the Colossus, the game in which you fight over a dozen monsters that are so big you have to climb them to attack them, and has no other enemies in it at all. This game is somewhat similar, in that you "fight" a total of three giant monsters.

Note the quotes. This is a platforming game where the platforming environments are designed to look like monsters, with periodic shaking and roaring distracting you, and when you reach a goal point, your guy pulls that sword off his back and stabs it into it...

...and because it's apparently the monster's weak point, the monster will then die in a spout of blood and a series of explosions.

As platformers go, it's an interesting and inventive one, since it actually makes sense for there to be these daft stuctures that you're leaping across (albeit naturally also suffering from its own form of illogic), and the instant death spikes make a kind of sense as the immune system/defensive adaptations of a giant monster against pesky little adventurers, certainly more sense than there being somebody with a deadly spike fetish scattering them all over the land for the sake of making places treacherous to traverse. Making less sense in world-logic terms but a lot of sense gameplay-wise is the fact that there are save points scattered all over their bodies as well; this is the main reason the game is playable, because I sure wouldn't want to play a game where you had to start over from the beginning crawling all over a great big darned giant monster every time you died falling off/into spikes or ended up being set back somehow.

The platforming is also much more fair than it is in certain games (*cough* Red Moon *cough* Armed With Wings *cough*), although there's a particular place on one monster that makes me a little crazy, because when you die there, you tend to then randomly teleport-fall into a save point that happens to be positioned in just the wrong spot and then finish dying, and this save point is on the wrong side of some of the trickier platforming. I'm willing to chalk that up as a fluke and move on.

Aiding you in platforming across the great monsters is a "scout" button. Since these monsters are so large and oddly shaped, it can be difficult to see where you're going, and to alleviate this, you can use the scout button to zoom the camera out a bit. There will still be places where you'll need to make blind jumps, but the game is fair about this once again, and you'll rarely jump to your death this way. (If you do, it'll be because you goofed and missed the target; it's generally just a slap on the wrist, though, so don't worry about it.)

As seen above, at certain points, the camera zooms out automatically. In the case of the above screenshot, it did so because of a particularly long fall, but it will also do so when you slay each monster. This is the only way you can get a good look at the second and third monsters, in fact. (The zooming camera bits are yet another thing that made me think of the Armed With Wings series, incidentally.)

I decided to be nice and show off screenshots of the remaining two monsters. It's actually kind of fun to play a guessing game and figure out what they are.

I didn't have much trouble figuring out that the second monster was a turtle.

There were some rather obvious clues in the shape of its back; it was either a turtle shell or stegosaur plates, and the turtle was a more obvious choice for a fantasy setting.

The hard one was number three.

Number three had been underwater, and suddenly rose up out of it. I wondered at first if this meant it had just stood up.

Then I saw something flapping. A bird, perhaps?

Then I saw its head, and it reminded me of an elephant. Had those been ears?

No. None of those things.

This monster...

...was a flying seahorse.

That's kind of cheating.

Anyway, on another note, there's kind of a neat thing that goes on with the underwater/out of water transitions. The water largely behaves as one would expect, with you moving differently through it (though hardly swimming), and you have an oxygen meter. The real thing that makes the water feel different, though, is that all the sound suddenly muffles and goes silent, and starts again when you come out. That's the real thing that makes the water segments feel unique and water-like.

To wrap up, the story (SPOILERS LOL) involves an heirless king offering his throne to whoever could slay the monsters who were supposedly causing trouble (we see no actual evidence of the trouble in question, by the way); a "pale man" shows up and offers to try, and so even though his people mock the pale man because people hate pale men, he silences them and tells the pale man to give it a shot. Then, when the pale man comes back to the king on his death bed after taking care of those monsters, the king stabs him and throws him out a window, because he certainly wouldn't give his throne to a pale man after all.

And that's the final reason why this game reminded me of the Armed With Wings games; story that cheats you of accomplishments, like about half the final boss fights from those games.

So, yeah. I don't like the story.

On the other hand, the game is interesting and has solid gameplay, and I personally think it's pretty fun. The monsters are a little bit... I don't want to say boring or poorly animated, but they're certainly not particularly complex, and except for the seahorse's wings, they don't really move at all, though you don't generally notice much because you're usually only seeing a tiny bit of them at a time. Considering that the game was created (as I understand it) as a class project, though, that's really not too bad.

The game's atmosphere is wonderful. It conveys a feel very well, and I think the game is worth playing just for that, even with my complaints about the story.

-Signing off.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Favorite YouTube Comment On The Video Joked That The Princess Had Not Yet Been Kidnapped

I'm glad I mentioned tool-assisted gameplay earlier this week, because it means I don't have to explain as much about how Super Mario Brothers is being played at such speeds it might induce seizures. (There's apparently a little more than normal going on here, but not that much.)

Note also that the backgrounds are glitching out, in a way almost worthy of Eversion.

Yeah, I don't have much else to say but "WOW DAT'S FAST."

-Signing off.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tetris Is Not My Kind Of Game...

...but these videos are still awesome.

You might be wondering what's going on there. Well, it's not a fake video, and neither is this.

What's actually happening is that these games are being played on an emulator (a computer program designed to mimic a game console) and the players have slowed down the game's running speed to perhaps as low as fifty percent of normal, while using an emulator feature called "saved state" to essentially rewind the game repeatedly until the random block picker gives them the block they want, so that they can more easily screw around/acquire a high score.

(People who do this call it "tool-assisted" playing and insist that it's not cheating. While the point could be argued, it would definitely be questionable on the "cheating" front to claim a tool-assisted playthrough as not tool-assisted. Of course, cheating at video games is kind of moot, though I'll point out that whenever I used the phrase "cheat code" or something similar when talking about video games/computer games with my mother growing up, she would become deeply offended at the idea that I was considering cheating at a video game. It's a generational thing, I think.)

Think of it as the hypothetical best case scenario, assuming that a player has superhuman reflexes.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Recent Star Wars Events

It's a little late for the initial furor, but I'm going to talk about a recent announcement that got a bit of a reaction out of people. That's right, I'm going to talk about Billy's recent choice of Halloween costume.

Okay, no, I'm going to comment a little on the whole "Star Wars belongs to Disney thing."

(An additional bit of proof that I will watch Darth Vader doing anything.)

Now, I could talk about how raging at Disney over this is pointless, and how putting Star Wars in the hands of a company currently helmed by John "Makes Anything He Touches Better" Lasseter is probably the best choice that George Lucas could have made regarding making Star Wars into a legacy project. Unfortunately, creators giving control of their works to their children very rarely works out, and so choosing a company that's been doing very well in terms of getting things right lately is a pretty good choice.

But I'm not really going to talk about that.

No, I'm going to talk about where I think the scheduled Star Wars films ought to go.

There are several categories of Star Wars expanded universe fiction: That created by Timothy Zahn, the good stuff not created by Timothy Zahn, and everything else.

Timothy Zahn's work is very important in the Star Wars canon, even if it's somewhat contradicted here and there by aspects of the prequels, because for good or ill it was the root cause of George Lucas regaining interest in the franchise. Even with the contradictions, Zahn's work also provided the rather classic name that was acquired by the prequels (and all subsequent Star Wars fiction) as the name of the galaxy's capital planet, Coruscant.

While the actors from the original trilogy are now too old to do a live action adaptation of Zahn's novels, the things that were established in those novels are very important to the greater Star Wars canon, even if they don't perfectly mesh with everything that has been added since.

Regardless of what one thinks of the Zahn novels' quality (which is very good, in my humble little ol' opinion-Zahn, Brandon Sanderson, and fellow Star Wars EU novelist Aaron Allston are vying for my favorite living prose authors), they are a little too significant to be glossed over. Thus, any new Star Wars films set after Return of the Jedi should be written to acknowledge and accommodate elements from those novels.

Now, the other good stuff. Dark Empire was pretty good (primarily the first bit-Dark Empire II gets kind of silly), I was surprised revisiting it later how good The Courtship of Princess Leia really was, the Lando Calrissian Adventures were surprisingly good (okay, that might just be personal bias), and any alien species that I rate as a five out of five deserves a shot at appearing in a movie if it hasn't already (technically barring a joke rating or two, such as the five I gave the fuzzy dice aliens). There are individual elements from here and there and everywhere that have some degree of appeal, but those are the big ones.

Now, Dark Empire has a problem. It's essentially designed to be a comic book, and a lot of its appeal comes from its quirky, moody style, which would be hard to capture in live action. (It also suffers from the "actors got old" issue.) On the other hand, it introduces quite a few neat bits of technology and machinery.

The Courtship of Princess Leia has the same "AGO" issue, and also is a little too... erm, let's call it internal event topical. Its main contribution would have to be in its EU worldbuilding-while Dathomir has become surprisingly influential on the wider EU, I don't think Hapan, the matriarchal insular nation that sends their prince to woo Leia, has made much in the way of interacting with the wider EU, and it probably could stand to.

The Lando Calrissian Adventures just have a bunch of cool things in them, most of which I've not had the opportunity to talk about in my ol' massive list because of alphabetical order. (Heck, most of it will eventually be covered by my saying that high-rated stuff from my Guide ought to be considered for inclusion.)

High-rated stuff from the Guide is, I hope, self-explanatory.

Now, the rest.

I've professed hatred for the Yuuzhan Vong on a ridiculous number of occasions. I hate them so. I can't forgive them for what they did to the EU, though I will admit that the unified, planned storyline approach was refreshing at first after the rather haphazard novels that had preceded it. The Vong were entertaining at first, as well, but they just completely ran things into the ground by making them essentially an amalgamation of every remotely interesting EU alien that had come before them, with features from dozens of other stories mashed into a rather incoherent whole (They're from another galaxy [except they aren't really]! They're invisible to the Force! They're obsessed with death! They use organic technology! They want to kill everybody that doesn't yield! There's lots of them and they're very militarily powerful! They have a name with a Y and a V in it! [I haven't talked about the group that was the second-greatest influence on the Yuuzhan Vong after the Charon, the Yevetha, for obviously alphabetical reasons-in fact, I won't be getting to them until only a little before the Yuuzhan Vong themselves, possibly in the same article.] They're psycho warriors who hate weakness! They throw stuff! They can stop lightsabers with their own material weapons!) which showed both creative fertility and creative sterility at the same time-quite a feat.

Here's the crazy thing, and it comes from a suggestion from my sister-I think I might be interested in seeing somebody do something with the Yuuzhan Vong in some of the upcoming films. Why?

Because they might actually get them right this time. There's the germ of something very interesting in the Yuuzhan Vong, and you could fill two or three lengthy sourcebooks just with material on them alone. I would even be interested in a comic/novel/film about the Yuuzhan Vong during the period of their isolation from the Star Wars galaxy, so that we can see them wreak havoc on each other instead of on much more beloved characters and settings. (I'm pretty sure that they had quite a few civil wars in the extended period where they were isolated from the galaxy.) The Yuuzhan Vong may be the single most developed "alien" species (I'll note they're basically just "Star Trek human alien" in terms of how "alien" they are) in the entirety of the Star Wars canon. There is a lot to work with here, even if it kind of spoiled the rest of the fruit, if you know what I mean.

That aside... Well, the main thing I don't want to see are the Celestials/"Force wielders"/whatever the heck they're supposed to be called. I've had enough of those guys forever now, and I've never even seen or read any stories with them in it. You guys dislike the idea of midi-chlorians*? Those guys are much worse. (I suppose I should clarify: As mysterious, poorly understood entities who left stuff behind, they're pretty interesting; as beings that we've actually seen bits of face to face, I hate them kind of a lot.)

Given all of that, I of course wouldn't be much surprised if Disney decided to throw the whole EU out. Annoying, if true, but what ya gonna do?

...I really don't have anything else to add except "Wait and see, guys." I'm cautiously optimistic.

*I'll note that I think people misunderstand the idea of midi-chlorians. Qui-Gon Jinn's explanation smacked a bit of being a simplification you tell a young person and a bit of superstition. Regardless of that, just because a midi-chlorian count is an indicator of one's power in the Force doesn't necessarily indicate that they "create" the Force, only that a correlation between Force ability and midi-chlorian count exists. There are lots of things that are factual things in science that we don't really understand why they're facts, we just know from observation that they are, e.g. the exact reasons why electrons and protons have equivalent and opposite charges.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#66)

651. Lyunesi. The Lyunesi come from a homeworld with a total of six native races, but the other five have never been identified. Oh, boy, the unidentified alien species section is going to be fun to go through. ("Unidentified Ryoone Species #1. All we know is that they exist. Rating: 1/5. Unidentified Ryoone Species #2. All we know...")

Anyway, the Lyunesi are fragile "humanoids" who have a special affinity for translating languages and reading body language. Kinda depressing when your specialty is shared by a mass-produced appliance, isn't it? It's especially problematic for the Lyunesi, because it sounds like they have... stability issues, shall we say, that arise from the fact that apparently they're prone to becoming obsessed with single individuals as a result of their sensitivity to body language, in a state that is apparently called "hyper-eros," which apparently can affect the subject of these attentions reciprocally.

One particular Lyunesi got in trouble for having an affair with someone's "alpha concubine," and the bounty was enough that Boba Fett and an entire team of bounty hunters got together to catch him. (It turned into a trap set for Boba Fett by a crazy Hutt from a group of Hutts that had agreed to protect the guy... or something.)

Rating: 3/5. The idea that a race would be more prone to having obsessive infatuation behaviors than others makes a certain kind of sense, even if the explanation is a bit silly. I also like the fact that their homeworld has a bunch of different sapient species, even if it's not really explained (which, as noted, is setting me up for a bit of awkward later).

652. M'shinni. The M'shinni (singular M'shinn) are also known as Mossies because of their symbiotic plant body coverings (which do provide them with some nourishment, and as such they technically go naked). They apparently are all female and reproduce by parthenogenesis, in ideal environmental conditions (i.e. the right diet, weather, etc.) giving birth about once every three years. Because this means that they're mostly indistinguishable from each other, they are careful to accessorize in unique ways to set themselves apart.

Apparently, they have a friendly rivalry with the Ithorians as masters of the various agricultural arts, and also have control of multiple planets, more than one of which are dedicated "agriworlds."

A bit unusually, the M'shinni preferred either neutrality or the Galactic Empire during the time period where the Empire was in power.

Rating: 3/5. The idea of what amounts to an agricultural "belt" existing in the Star Wars galaxy makes some sense, and the fact that the M'shinni built theirs before making contact with the Old Republic makes a single-species one make more sense than it might. The pro-Imperial facet is also somewhat interesting.

653. M'ust. The M'ust are apparently a primitive subterranean group. They look... rather unfortunately like racial caricatures with saber teeth and head fins thrown on. Shame, Marvel Comics, shame.

They interacted with a guy called Cody Sunn-Childe, a goofy-looking guy who apparently was the public face of the Rebellion at some point, because he fell into their home caves and had amnesia there at some point, and it kinda sounds like they worshiped him a bit because he was fireproof or something.

Rating: 2/5. If you get rid of the caricature aspect and just make them guys with saber teeth and head fins, they'd be really cool-looking, and there's no reason they m'ust must be drawn the same way if they appear again.

654. Ma'alkerrite ape-men. I find it odd that they're "Ma'alkerrite ape-men." That implies that there are other kinds of Ma'alkerrites or something.

Anyway, apparently some were in a bar as part of the ugly, rough crowd, and when Boba Fett suggested that a young fellow in the bar was a Jedi and that he should be killed, they participated. As this was in a pick-a-path book, this presumably means the kid died horribly at their and others' hands in at least one path.

Rating: 2/5, for the implication that there are multiple varieties of Ma'alkerrites and nothing more.

655. Maccabree. The Maccabree are allies of another couple of species (another example are the Faruun, who are connected) who share a quite rare distinction-they are from a galaxy other than the main galaxy in which Star Wars takes place (a galaxy whose name I've seen for the first time today-"Firefist" to its natives, "Companion Besh," which is like saying "Companion B," to those in the Star Wars galaxy itself). Apparently at some point, a very large number of Maccabree were outfitted with cybernetic battlesuits and trained as air/space-droppable shock troops. The particular advantage this gave them was that, in addition to having big, heavily armored frames, the suits were designed to make them appear more humanoid than they actually were-particularly, the Maccabree lack heads, while the suits had heads mounted on top as decoy targets.

This is very amusing. Marvel Comics, I forgive you a little for the drawings of the M'ust.

Rating: 3/5. Because fun. Their suits could also detach their legs in order to fly.

656. Maelibi. The Maelibi (singular Maelibus) are also known as demons. They're from the same planet/system as the Diathim, the "angels" mentioned by Anakin in Episode I. There's a rather silly misuse of the word "attributed" on the page-"they possessed natural claws, razor-sharp teeth, and horns which attributed to their demonic appearance." Contributed, guys, contributed.

Anyway, apparently they're extremely resistant to blaster fire and many other conventional weapons, live underground, and have hypnotic singing that they use to draw other sapients into their territory, where they kill and eat them. Nice.

Rating: 3/5. It's a little too stereotypical for one planet to have both "angels" and "demons," really, but they're kind of scary cool. (The stereotypical-ness of it is why it's not 4/5, actually.)

657. Maerdocians. Apparently, they don't speak Basic (English) and their voices are possibly entirely roaring.

Rating: 2/5. They're mentioned during the Caamas document crisis, incidentally.

658. Mairans. The Mairans of Maires apparently have two "eye membranes," over forty tentacles, and prefer to be aquatic but can survive on land as long as they remain properly moisturized, which they achieve through carrying big sprinkler devices around in backpacks, a fact that makes me laugh. They can speak Basic but also have their own musical language which involves actually using an instrument, and which they apparently prefer.

Rating: 3/5. They sound very entertaining, especially since they also apparently are passive aggressive with at least one other group in the galaxy, building an embassy on top of an area that group wanted to mine on just to deny them.

659. Majan. They appear in a podracing game, and as such apparently their home planet is the location of one of the tracks.

Rating: 1/5. At first I thought that they looked like an interesting group of aliens, but then I looked closer and realized they were really just humans in funny clothes.

660. Makurth. The Makurth are horn-bearing saurians, some of whom serve as high-profile bodyguards for underworld figures. They're also known for having a particularly intimidating scream that they utter before combat.

One was a member of the Sith group whose destruction was later orchestrated by Darth Bane; in fact, that Makurth was the first of the other Sith that Bane killed, though for pettier reasons than most of his Sith victims.

Rating: 4/5. I like the Makurth because their four large horns give them a distinctive appearance among the scaly beings of the Star Wars galaxy.

-Signing off.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Game Review: (Armed With Wings:) Culmination

(Armed With Wings:) Culmination is what appears to be the currently final game in the Armed With Wings game series, which is made up of (in internal universe chronological order) Red Moon, Armed With Wings, Armed With Wings 2, and Armed With Wings 3. (Considering that the chronologically last game involves the protagonist killing the villains, resurrecting the heroes, and declaring he'll eradicate all "evil" from the world forever, it kinda seems like there isn't much room for further continuation.) I was a little surprised to see a new one, but then I realized it didn't have "Armed With Wings" in its actual title, so I suppose it's not that much of a surprise after all.

As near as I can tell, Culmination takes place in the middle of Armed With Wings 3, during a rather hilarious/stupid bit of the story where the protagonist is trying to get help from the protagonist of this game, and he runs off to chase down another villain who's running around instead of being remotely helpful.

One of the things that immediately struck me about Culmination is that it's probably the most artistically polished of any of the Armed With Wings games. (I'm not sure when it was made, but it feels like the last game, and its title suggests further that it must be the last game.) Look at this screenshot and try to tell me that it's anything less than beautiful, and I'll insist you're prevaricating and suggest that your leg garments might in fact be rapidly oxidizing.

You have the ability to turn on color, which is also rather pretty, but I don't think it really adds anything.

This game is very good at making you feel awesome when you're doing well, and awful when you're doing poorly. I've complained about the jumping puzzle bull in this series in the past; it isn't quite as awful as Armed With Wings (the only game I've ever played with jumping puzzles where you can't actually [grawlix] jump) or the second half of Red Moon, but it's still often very annoying. On the other hand...

...sometimes the jumping puzzles make you feel fantastic. To elaborate: In the above image, the lines and circles represent the path taken by your most powerful attack, which pulls you to the location of each enemy in turn to attack them... so these enemies are arranged like this so that you can kill them all to ascend this jump. This is terribly fun.

On the other hand, I personally miss jumps all the time and fall to my death, and in Hard Mode you can't double jump except when you've got at least half the possible amount of Special (which you can only get from rare items or from beating up enemies), and when you die you automatically lose all your Special, and so, well, not fun because you need to start over and now you can't jump as well as you could when you died.

Oh, yeah, there's a funny thing about this game. In all his appearances in other games, the protagonist (who was sorta called Armed With Wings in the first game, in AWW2, and the first bit of AWW3, but is here known as the "hero of the earth" or the "lone warrior") cannot jump, even when he's manifesting his full powers as the avatar of a creator god. Here, he's able to jump as well as the protagonist of Red Moon or even a little better, and she's an awesome jumper.

(That's probably why the game's creator felt justified in giving her such horrible jumping puzzles to get through. If it weren't for those [grawlix] puzzles, Red Moon would unequivocally be one of my favorite games of all time.)

Even more hilariously ironic is that he talks about how he's "improved upon" a jumping technique "invented" by Vandheer Lorde (and sounds like a total boastful jerk and butthead while doing it). Dude, how do you even know how to jump all of a sudden? YOU ARE NOT IN A GOOD POSITION TO BOAST ABOUT YOUR JUMPING SKILLS.

(Neither is Vandheer Lorde, mind you, as the worst jumper in these games who can actually jump, even with his "attacking to get air" and super jump, but ah well.)

Okay, let's talk about good stuff again. Aside from the awesome ultimate attack, and a combat system that is similar in terms of how it enables your abilities to the system in Xenos (which is a happy coincidence, as it means I don't need to explain it very hard-you build up power by beating on dudes, and it gradually drops over time, meaning you need to stay in combat to keep it charged), which has a lot of fun potential itself, there's also the combo meter, which is wonderful for lifting one's mood after the jumping puzzles get you down.

When you land hits in sequence, "[x] HIT COMBO" pops up on the screen. What makes this fun is that the more hits you land, the bigger your combo meter's font is. Observe:

Incidentally, I only managed to get the combo meter to about 90 because it kept getting slightly interrupted, but I juggled that poor shadow monster for around two hundred hits. This is intensely satisfying, especially with the combo meter gradually expanding.

Now, a bit more bad: I hate the enemies.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with them; as this is the prettiest game in the series, they're graphically beautiful, especially these gorgeous miniboss monsters, whose only flaw is that they're a little too small.

Seriously, those guys ought to be huge. Instead, they stand slightly shorter than the protagonist if you're not counting the arms.

Anyway, the problem is that even the most basic enemy is very tough, and for some reason all of them are very good at countering your attacks, and that's in Normal Mode. (Ironically, the basic and most common enemy is tougher than any of the other common enemies; the other common enemies are smaller and quicker things. There are only three common enemies in this game, which is a bit on the low side even for a flash game. It doesn't hurt the game, though.) This isn't so bad, even if the basic enemy can counter you close to twenty percent of the time, though it is annoying.

What is bad is that over time, it seems like the rates at which everything counters you increases. Over time, that rate seemed to jump to perhaps fifty percent or more for the common enemies. The bosses are proportionately worse (well, not those miniboss guys-they're actually pretty inoffensive on this front). By the time I reached the final boss fight in Hard Mode (you can't play Hard Mode until you've completed Normal Mode in one go, and this issue continued through my entire playthrough), it was basically impossible for me to land a normal hit on the final boss, and I didn't have a way to perform any Special attacks as a result.

It's possible that it's just a fluke that was afflicting me, but it affected my experience with the game, so I needed to mention it.

Anyway, now it seems like a good time to talk about the boss fight at the end.

In both Normal Mode and Hard Mode, you play as the "lone warrior," who is basically my least favorite character from the entire series because of his terrible jumping skills and just generally being a stupid self-righteous jerk.

(Incidentally [WARNING: RANTY ASIDE INCOMING], I learned what the trick to the painful boss fights in the first Armed With Wings is supposed to be to keep them from smashing you into instant death spikes/pits is that you're supposed to block.

I learned this, and then I thought " can block in that game? What?" And after a little more thought, I remembered "oh yeah, there was some kind of mention of blocking in one of the introductory levels, wasn't there?" And then I thought "including an important feature but not coming up with ways to encourage the player to use it more often earlier in the game is bad game design."

There is no goshdarned use for the stupid block up until the first boss fight, which is halfway through the game, and there's no way that the game hints to you that you ought to be blocking. By the time I'd slogged to the final boss fight with Vandheer Lorde, I'd totally forgotten, and that's the only way to survive being hit by Vandheer Lorde's ultimate attack in that game.

I am never going to make use of this information, by the way, because if you'll pardon my plain speaking, there's no way in hell that I'm ever going through the living hell of playing that game again.

Ahem. End ranty parenthetical aside.)

Anyway, after playing through the various stages, you come to the final stage, and have a chat with Vandheer Lorde. Now's a good time to mention that Vandheer Lorde is probably my favorite character in these games, because he's so unabashedly villainous and so casually and brutally batman that it makes me smile. (He also often fails to make much sense, which is also endearing.) This means that I was rather delighted at the bait and switch that follows in Normal Mode:

During the final battle, you suddenly switch to Vandheer Lorde.

It isn't all fun; you need to re-learn how to play, because Vandheer Lorde handles differently from the lone warrior; he's a little slower (as near as I can tell), his specials are completely different, and his ultimate is just terrible. (On the plus side, I'm not absolutely sure but I don't think his Special bar drains the way the lone warrior's does.)

And like nearly all the boss fights from all of these games, if you fall, you're dead, but if your opponent falls, he escapes. I will give the game maker kudos for making the escape animation more interesting than the generic teleport that every other boss from the games use, even if it once again reminds me of the irony of the lone warrior being so good at jumping.

Anyway, I had a hard time with this boss fight at first; when I used the basic special attack, Vandheer Lorde teleports over to attack the lone warrior from behind... and it turned out that took him off a cliff. Died immediately.

I tried using the next special... I don't remember what it did, but it didn't work very well.

I used the ultimate several times... It's so slow it never even came close to hitting anything, and the style of attack demands moving into place to use it (heck, it's a teleporting attack itself, so you ought to just teleport into the correct position to hit with it anyway, especially since it's your darned ultimate), so it pretty much just stinks.

Then I figured out the trick. Get your Special level built up to the basic level that lets you use the aforementioned teleportation attack, and use it several times in rapid succession. (I was able to get a few hits in, but the counter creep thing I mentioned made it unsuccessful; using it at a higher rate let Vandheer Lorde finally connect.) Then just MASH THAT S KEY LIKE THERE'S NO TOMORROW.

What follows is probably my favorite sequence from any of these games ever, so wondrous that I had to get help from my sister to make an animated gif (which... doesn't seem to be working here on the blog, darnit, so my sister helped out again with her Photobucket):

armedwithwingsculminationanimation, Vandheer Lorde is ter bestest

Teleport spam juggling. Even better, Vandheer Lorde (my favorite character) is teleport spam juggling the lone warrior (my least favorite character).

Of course, in Hard Mode, you play as the lone warrior for this fight; this is totally unfun, as Vandheer Lorde is basically the same version from AWW3, a tough and powerful foe, he does that super-countering thing I've mentioned so that you can't build up your Special bar, and he of course teleports to safety in the event that you knock him off a ledge. And which one you play as doesn't change the ending-Vandheer Lorde stabs the lone warrior through the chest by telekinetically flinging his neat hooked sword, and then goes off to fight the protagonist of AWW3 as that game's final boss.

So yeah, no matter what, you're playing most of the game as a character who gets brutally stabbed to death at the end, and there's no way to affect that, although as Vandheer Lorde goes on to be the final boss of AWW3 rather than disappear mysteriously partway through, of course it's not going to end well for the poor dope.

So this game is yet another in this series (the other offenders are Red Moon and AWW2) which renders your arduous boss fight victories completely irrelevant in a cutscene. Guy, this is bad storytelling for a videogame. It really is.

Anyway, seeing as how this is a bit of a retrospective on the whole series, I suppose I ought to comment on each of the previous games and compare them. Specifically, since each game's saving grace is whether or not fighting is fun in it, I'll be commenting on that.

Armed With Wings has a terrible one-dimensional combat system (literally, since you can't jump). Armed With Wings' combat system is a boring grind at best. It really is.

Red Moon's combat is light and easy. The word that keeps coming to mind is breezy. It's perhaps too easy at times, though my memories of the boss fight with Vandheer Lorde from that game aren't of an easy fight, they're of dying lots of times and of his attacks randomly teleporting both me and him around (which is obnoxious). Its easiness isn't a bad thing, though-it makes the game fun, at least up until the second half when there are these bizarre environments that you need to jump through that don't make any sense.

Armed With Wings 2 has a combat system which gives you lots of options (and also lets you play as Vandheer Lorde). You can kick, punch, swing a sword (and you can change swords several times in the game), grab and toss, fire a magic blast, and use a special magic attack/ability that's derived from your sword. Vandheer Lorde feels direct and brutal when you use him, from his animations to the effects of his abilities. Armed With Wings 2's combat system is visceral.

Armed With Wings 3 has a combat system that takes successful elements from the previous games (mainly aspects of Red Moon's breeziness and the customization of AWW2) and further adds an experience/leveling system. It's not quite as easygoing as Red Moon (thanks to a wider selection of actually competent enemies) and the character is nowhere near as brutal-feeling as Vandheer Lorde in AWW2, but gameplay is still very solid and fun. The keyword here is flexibility.

So how does Culmination compare? When you're doing well, you're soaring. When you're doing poorly, it's grindy, though thankfully not as bad as the first Armed With Wings, since you can slip past many enemies if you can't quite beat them. Culmination is a game of highs and lows.

Where would I rank Culmination relative to the others? It's pretty much above only Armed With Wings, which isn't difficult. If it hadn't been for the oddity of getting thrashed repeatedly by enemies that would have been easy prey in any of the other games, even the first one, it might well have been a lot better, possibly even the best.

It really is a good game in terms of gameplay and especially graphics, even with its rather inexplicable flaw which might not be a real thing. If you're a better player than me, you'd probably have even more fun. (As I've noted many times, I'm not a great player, and probably not even a "good" one, thanks to my fairly abysmal reflexes.) I like it, even if I'm not going to play it as often as the other games in this series.

-Signing off.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Yet More Proof I Will Watch Certain Characters Doing Virtually Anything

A Dalek chilling and taking a puff on his favorite type of cigar after running into some stairs.

Yes, that is all.

-Signing off.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Best/Worst Thing Ever

I don't really know anything about Tekken, but this looks both absolutely hilarious and at least a little terrifying.

The hilarity comes from the mushroom powerups. The terror comes from those Mario brothers (or whatever they are).

-Signing off.