Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bee Train Medabots: To Fight Monsters We Created Metabee

(It's funny, I only started jumping on that meme like a year after the movie came out, even though it's easily the best thing that happened in 2013.)

One of the all-time greatest super robot/mon anime, and one of the least well-remembered, is the original Medabots. Part of what makes those 52 episodes what they are is that the studio that made them, Bee Train, has some of the craziest work policies in the world, chief among them being that they apparently brainstorm by getting drunk.

Regardless of their methodologies, the series was incredibly fun because it loved taking stupid or crazy ideas and running with them.

For instance, when the main villain breaks out a gigantic baby-shaped robot (yes, really) to destroy whatever city it was they were in at the time, the roughly-knee-high-to-a-normal-adult protagonist robots of the series were pretty helpless to stop it. So the helpful professor guy whose company builds Medabots says "I thought he'd try something like this" and orders his employees to unleash...

...a giant version of Metabee, the main character robot.

But rather than being autonomous like most of the robots, this one needs a pilot, that being Metabee.

...Who wasn't quite on board with the idea of piloting himself at first, though the beam-up ray didn't exactly give him much choice, now did it.

When he ends up in its cockpit, it turns out that this chamber has a lot in common with the cockpits of some of the later '80s-era Gundam mobile suits, which is only one of the numerous references to other anime that sneak into the series. (There's an amazing sequence from the first episode that blatantly references Guyver and also arguably Sailor Moon and Pokèmon in the span of a minute and a half... and then towards the end of the episode there's a reference to Evangelion. There's probably others I didn't recognize.)

But controlling a Medabot is a multi-person effort, especially when it's gigantic. The protagonist, Ikki, would usually use his Medawatch to "control" Metabee*, but it wouldn't be compatible with this thing, right? So what's he going to-


Ikki comments that it's a little big for his wrist, but it turns out...

...that's not where this one goes.

By the way, the other protagonist Medabots all climbed into the giant Metabee and helped copilot it.

*The scare quotes are because Metabee isn't exactly open to being controlled.

-Signing off.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Game Reviews: Hut Defense 2

The incongruously named Hut Defense 2 does not seem to be a sequel of anything. Also, it is not a very good game.

At first blush, Hut Defense Only 2 appears to be in the same family of "build a garrison, get little guys to fight" game as Incursion and Kingdom Rush. However, it isn't quite the same.

For one thing, your troops don't respawn; you just have to buy new ones when your guys die. This makes a huge difference.

But a bigger difference is that there's practically no limit on the number of guys who can spawn at a single hut. No limit besides the total limit of guys you're allowed to have at a time, anyway.

Concentrating that many dudes into a single spot throws game balance way out of whack. While later levels have split paths that force you to cover more areas, it doesn't make that much difference overall. Enemies are going to get mobbed by fifteen to thirty guys at once, and they will usually die instantly.

Have I mentioned that it's possible to upgrade your stuff in between missions? Not that there's a point to it.

The balance gets worse: Ranged guys slaughter your guys wholesale (that is, any conflict between them and your guys is incredibly one-sided) unless you're paying attention*, and even when you do pay attention they're going to drop like flies. It might have just been a quirk, but at one point I saw a basic ranged enemy kill fifteen guys with one shot.

And if you recruit your own ranged guys, turns out they have less range and/or take longer to draw their bows (or at least, it did the first time I played it-I'm not sure what's up with the apparent differences, but I was playing it on a different computer before).

It's possible to gain enjoyment from this game, but not through playing it the way it's meant to be played. See, the game has some amazing music, so if you cue up a level and then just ignore it, you'll get to hear this awesome soundtrack that, knowing Flash games, was probably stolen from somewhere. I wasn't paying attention so I can't be sure, but I think you even get the best music if you just let it play forever.

So, um, you probably don't want to play this game unless you're doing it for the music.

*Also, your controls for moving your guys around are terrible. All you can do is tell them to stay where they start or to advance or retreat to one end of the path. So ordering your guys around to get rid of ranged enemies starts with ordering them to retreat, wait for the ranged guys to follow them, and then order your guys forward. And the ranged guys will sit off screen and attack if your guys are at the start of the path, so that's completely unhelpful. I wanna tell guys exactly where to go, not order advances and retreats.

-Signing off.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#129)

The Massive Index (Posts #1-#100)
The Less Massive Index (Posts #101-#110)
The Second Less Massive Index (Posts #111-#120)

1281. Yuzzem. Yuzzem are very similar in numerous superficial ways to Wookiees, these ways including large size, furriness, an inability to speak Basic/English (but no trouble understanding it), great strength, and essentially universal enslavement by the Empire that doesn't tend to work out well because they're intractable and dangerous (but which is persisted in because they're very good workers when they're not rebelling). They also have the whole slightly uncomfortable honor code thing going on.

This leads to the bizarre in-universe belief that they must be related to Wookiees.

They don't look much like Wookiees, though, with long snouts, huge beefy frames that would make a bear blush (and none of the chub), and definitely not being adapted to tree-living the way Wookiees are. It's also worth noting that the Yuzzem featured in the one story with them that I've read are jerks in rather hilarious ways, such as hocking king-sized loogies at an Imperial governor.

It's notable that Yuzzem originate in Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the first piece of true Expanded Universe fiction, which was originally intended to be easy to adapt into a fairly-low-budget movie on the assumption that any sequels to A New Hope would have to work with comparable budgets to that first film. Ah, I can taste the irony from thirty-five years away. (It ages like a fine wine.)

Anyway, I like 'em.

Rating: 4/5. You'd think that there wasn't room for two big furry non-English speakers in one 'verse. You'd be wrong. Now, three might be stretching it...

1282. Yuzzums. ...Especially when one of them has nearly the same name as another. I've no idea if this is continuity weirdness or not.

Anyway, Yuzzums (note the different vowel and the more anglicized pluralization) are huge furry guys, but they're lanky, long-legged creatures and not really known for having impressive strength, though they do seem to be known for being rather fleet of foot with their huge strides. Because they've been depicted in a lot of different media and aren't especially well-known, they vary a lot in appearance, though gangliness seems universal.

Being a primitive species from Endor (where they naturally are known as antagonists to other natives, i.e. the Ewoks, whose children they are occasionally known to eat), they're mainly known offworld as pets, which as usual is disturbing. The singer from the Special Edition revision of ROTJ who did the big bellowing yelling note-holding was an unusually small Yuzzum, and they apparently have a certain reputation for being good singers.

Also, supposedly the language which C-3PO used to communicate with the Ewoks was actually a Yuzzum dialect.

Rating: 4/5. I like the Yuzzums, actually, mainly because they're less generic than a lot of the Ewok enemy set.

1283. Yvarema. Yvarema are pseudo-hiveminded entities which are difficult to class as anything in particular, although they're definitely not insect-derived, instead having reptilian/amphibian skin and shaggy manes. They are not universally bipedal.

They're "pseudo-hiveminded" by virtue of having a "queen" of sorts called the Majjvara, an apparently dominant entity in their collective, who is considerably larger and essentially immobile in the manner of an ant queen and originally laid eggs from which the other Yvarema were hatched; over time, successive Majjvara developed quasi-cloning technology and now have cut the egg-laying out of the process, but she retains her mental dominance. Each Majjvara lives for around four hundred years before replacing herself.

Other Yvarema are bred into specific castes, and while they are individuals and have distinct individuality, they are heavily reliant on proximity to other Yvarema, for their collective effectively amplifies their intelligence. A single Yvarema is a nonsapient creature and incapable of functioning. On the other hand, their collective causes their emotions to run rampant amongst themselves, and so some castes are designed to be unemotional to lessen the effects of a mass terror/euphoria feedback or the like. While only telepathic with each other, Yvarema can sense some degree of intent/feelings from non-Yvarema.

Rating: 4/5. While I think it's a bit silly that the entire species has only one "breeder," other than that I think these guys are really well thought out and neat.

1284. Zabrak, or Iridonians. It should be noted that it is unknown for certain whether the Zabrak are the same Iridonians as these Iridonians.

The Zabrak are a "near-human" species, which in this particular case does mean they can interbreed with humans; the hybrids are known as "Dathomirians" because the Clone Wars show could be ridiculous the majority of known individuals were found on Dathomir. (This is screwy because in the past, "Dathomirian" was any native of Dathomir. I guess it's a better explanation for why so many natives of Dathomir have been depicted with monochrome skin than most... It's still screwy.)

Interbreeding with humans feels a bit... squicky in this case, because Zabrak have horns. Think about that for a moment. (Of course, they actually grow in at puberty, but still...) Anyway, Zabrak also have a wide variety of racial groups, with numerous different skin colors, ranging from jet black to chalky white and a lot in between, and they're also infamous for wearing tattoos, the most eye-grabbing of which are Darth Maul's (yes, he's a Zabrak).

Anyway, Zabrak have two hearts and great resistance to pain, which explains at least partly how they fanficked Darth Maul back to life. (Aside: There was a fancomic made, like, probably less than a full year after Episode I, and almost literally the first thing that happened in said fancomic was Darth Maul biting his lightsaber to overcome the pain of being cut in half and then super-healing himself. ...It's kinda part of why I can't take the Clone Wars show seriously.)

It's claimed by the Rakatan construct known as the Mother Machine that the Zabrak were among the species it created in an effort to figure out why the Rakata were losing their Force powers; since other species of which this claim was made predated the machine, it's a bit dubious. However, the Zabrak had already colonized a number of other planets by the time they made contact with the post-Rakata galactic society, and the Elomin may be descended from a lost Zabrak colony.

Zabrak are generally known for being kind of fiercely independent and competitive, and the inhabitants of Iridonia are also known for being a bit more warlike and aggressive than other Zabrak, which actually lends credence to the idea that the other Iridonians are in fact Zabrak. Iridonian Zabrak are even known to be among the best hand-to-hand combatants in the galaxy, which makes it funny that Darth Maul is actually supposed to be one of the Dathomir Zabrak. (Then again, Obi-Wan did totally punk him.) Their independence meant that as a people, they strongly resisted the Empire, and continued to do so despite the occupation of their planets, the destruction of their industries, and the taxation into impoverishment that the Imperial government tried to use to subdue them. They thus became a more united people after the Empire fell, joining the New Republic for the sake of ensuring they'd never be dominated again.

It is worth noting that there have been a lot of Zabrak Jedi and Sith, including the incredibly named Jedi Master Wolf Sazen. (It's also worth noting that Wolf Sazen has quite a mane of hair for a Zabrak.)

Also, Zabrak have often been playable species in Star Wars RPGs.

Rating: 3/5. Well, they really are just humans with horns and crazy skintones...

1285. Zambarti. Zambarti sound as if they're mostly big, bulky human-ish beings, except they have wing-shaped ears, lavender skin, and multiple hearts.

One, an old associate of Han Solo's, was known as Big Bunji. Take that as you will.

Rating: 2/5, because at least there's a few details.

1286. Zandor Rockers. Okay, what's your mental image when you hear "Zandor Rockers?"

I'm curious.

Is it...


Just curious.

Anyway, as you might be able to guess, these guys are from a comic tie-in to the Ewok cartoon, and thus more natives of Endor. As with most of the smaller and "cuter" inhabitants of Endor, they're friendly to the Ewoks, and also actually fairly dangerous, as they can disguise themselves as normal rocks, jump at enemies to strike them with their bodies, harming them with their mass and density, and rapidly spin at sufficiently high rates to drill through the ground. I wouldn't screw with them, myself.

They don't like it when people throw rocks, either themselves or ordinary ones, for what should be obvious reasons.

Rating: 4/5. I'm terribly amused.

1287. Zanibar. The Zanibar look a bit like Greys by way of the mind of H. R. Giger.

Which is appropriate, because they apparently follow a religion demanding sapient sacrifices, and take bounty hunting jobs which only accept sapients as payment.


Rating: 4/5. I really like how they look. They're frankly hilarious.

1288. Zarian. They're straight-up frog/toad people. In fact, they apparently prefer to move quadrupedally, and are slowed down when they need to carry things.

At least one Zarian was a con artist who knew that he looked funny and nonthreatening, and used that to his advantage.

Rating: 3/5.

1289. Zarracines. The Twelfth Pius Dea Crusade was when an axe-crazy government of the Old Republic decided to lay waste to the Zarracines' homeworld for resisting their attempts to conquer the place. The Teirasans objected, and so the government messed up their stuff too.

The Zarracines would maintain hatred of the Old Republic for roughly twelve thousand years, and many joined the Separatists during the Clone Wars, particularly a group of assassins.

Rating: 2/5. That's quite a grudge.

1290. Zeetsa. The Zeetsa were symbiotes to the X'ting, originally essentially playing nonsapient aphids to the X'ting's ants; however, over time they developed sapience for whatever reason, some of them joining the Cestian society.

Zeetsa are apparently ball-shaped, "knee-high," and have malleable faces that they can use to mimic human faces. They also apparently get around by bouncing and such, which together with the face alteration ability makes them sound rather a lot like they're basically cartoon characters.

And they aren't even from the Ewoks or Droids cartoons.

Rating: 4/5. That's super-entertaining.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Game Reviews: Giants and Dwarves TD

(Normally, I'd avoid more than one game review in a week, but eh, there's a lot coming, and these articles are easier to do quickly.)

Giants and Dwarves TD (real sensitive name choice there, guys) is close to being a Kingdom Rush clone, although to call it such is deriding the genuine creativity that went into it.

Granted, that creativity is basically just "throw in some Shadow of the Colossus and season to taste," but how many properties out there are basically mashup properties anyway? Lots.

There are huge enemies in Kingdom Rush, proportionately bigger than this fellow, who is the "basic" giant enemy (yes, he's entirely a generic foe) and in a completely different class from the non-giant enemies (almost derisively called "minions" in-game), but one of the key differences is that, with this game's side-scrolling format, rare in tower defense, that makes how your stuff interacts with the giant enemies different, which is generally somewhat lacking in Kingdom Rush. (For instance, the largest boss in Kingdom Rush's main influence on gameplay is that he blocks your ability to click on your towers, not only with his ability (which is annoying, but sort of tolerable-note that you can click, but you have to do it repeatedly before clearing off his effect, and the tower can't do anything until such time as you "fix" it), but with his height and girth (which is both annoying and quite intolerable).

Specifically: Your little dudes have to climb up the giants and attack them in the face. (And all things can only attack their faces.)

There's other neat touches, such as the basic "easy" spell you have is actually a gust of wind that physically lifts things (not giants) into the air; it's sadly not super-useful, but kind of neat nonetheless.

This is a game I really enjoy aspects of, and I really like, but there's a problem beyond some minor lack of polish:

It escalates a bit too quickly.

The first two screenshots are from the first stage, and this one is from the second. And the next screenshot is also from the second.

And the giants depicted within these two screenshots are different individuals.

That's right: The second stage has three giants. And it gets worse quickly.

This game is frickin' hard, with a much sharper and harsher difficulty curve than Kingdom Rush (which itself is notably nastier than Incursion), and that's a shame, because it's charming and has interesting ideas.

Even with advice I've seen, such as not investing anything in archery towers (which are fairly blatantly not that useful), I haven't beat the third stage, and I'm pretty sure that I only beat the second by luck the first time, because I'm having trouble replicating that success.

It really is a shame, because this game ought to be fun. If you can put up with the difficulty level, I could recommend it.

-Signing off.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Game Reviews: Kingdom Rush and Kingdom Rush Frontiers

After my recent (and rather belated, as I'd known the game was out for ages) review of Incursion 2, I felt the urge to see if I could find any more games in the same "tower defense but with little garrisoned soldiers" genre, partly because I'd seen a couple of others and knew that they probably all had a common origin point. (Naturally, this led to a lot of potential reviews, to the point where I'm going to have trouble keeping track of it all.)

Probably, that common origin point are the Kingdom Rush games. (All screenshots taken from Kingdom Rush Frontiers, because Kingdom Rush is a pain in the butt in terms of difficulty. Well, they both are, but Frontiers is less of one.)

Like Incursion and its sequel, the Kingdom Rush games have garrisons that spawn and endlessly respawn soldiers, are ripping off take clear inspiration from Warcraft, and many maps have unique features.* Unlike Incursion, there are still regular towers, and these towers are actually your main damage dealers, while your footsoldiers are merely meatshield distractions to slow down the enemy.

And herein lies the flaw that keeps me from liking the games as much, even without the fact that Incursion feels better balanced: While Kingdom Rush has a few genuinely entertaining towers, such as the "DWAARP," an earthquake-generating tower...

...its infantry are usually boring but necessary.** (In the above environment, for instance, there are enemies who are immune to attack until they've been intercepted by infantry, which is a jerk move when one is in a situation where infantry are hard to keep alive, such as the desert environment featuring the same enemy and random emergences by a giant sandworm that instantly devours everything it attacks, friend or foe.)

The game also has heroes and spells, and I will admit that the systems of spells and heroes Kingdom Rush use are better in many respects than Incursion's; Incursion's spells and Incursion 2's heroes both have certain flaws, that being random acquisition of spells and being a bit of a pain to micromanage, respectively, while Kingdom Rush's spells are consistent and reliable (being on a simple cooldown timer instead of being random, infrequent enemy drops) and its heroes don't actually need micromanagement (and can't actually be micromanaged, for that matter, which for me is largely another plus).

On the other hand, Kingdom Rush's actual spells are terrible. (Its heroes also aren't terribly intuitive; the game defaults their positions to in front of one's gate, but they really ought to be at either an enemy crossroads so that they have the chance to attack as many enemies as possible, or, if there's only one enemy entrance, as close to that as they dare. They die a lot more, but they have to be close in to get the experience they need to level up. Incursion 2's heroes, on the other hand, can be useful no matter where you put them.)

Well, no, they aren't that bad, but they're too concerned with being "balanced" to be very good. One of them drops "reinforcements," a pair of little soldiers who vanish after half a minute or so, who are handy for blocking enemies in desperate situations... and need to be upgraded a lot if you want them to have enough health to actually be useful after the first few missions. The other is a slow-striking area-of-effect spell that does some pretty decent damage... and actually hitting anything with it takes a lot of work. (It actually seems stronger in the first game, but they changed it for the second, and it feels a lot weaker.)

That's not to be all down on the games. While I like Incursion better for aforementioned gameplay reasons, Kingdom Rush is a teense more polished and has a bit more humor. For instance:

The guy who is more or less the main villain seems to have a vocabulary made up almost entirely of jokes and referential quotes. If one looks at the above desert level, there are also some things that anyone with pop cultural awareness from the last thirty-some years ought to recognize, for that matter.

These games do have a lot of cool things in them, and if one likes Incursion, one is likely to like Kingdom Rush just as much or more. Which one likes best is dependent on personal taste.

*Part of my relative dislike of Kingdom Rush is that many of these features feel much more like jerk moves; for instance, there are several maps, including one of the above, where new enemy paths just appear without prior warning, and usually in positions that let them bypass most of one's defenses. Kingdom Rush Frontiers in particular also has random "debris" cluttering up the build points in later maps so that you have to pay extra money to build your towers. On the other hand, while they're also harder to beat, Kingdom Rush bosses are also generally more entertaining.

**The first game's Barbarians manage to be pretty unique and interesting, actually, which is surprising, because the first game is usually a bit more generic.

-Signing off.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#128)

The Massive Index (Posts #1-#100)
The Less Massive Index (Posts #101-#110)
The Second Less Massive Index (Posts #111-#120)

1271. Yevetha. The Yevetha are one of several different species which would later serve as a blueprint of sorts for the Yuuzhan Vong (and I'll finally get to talk about them later in this very post). That's their main claim to fame, to be honest, but let's look at them on their own merits.

Yevetha look like gaunt, almost skeletal near-humans of some sort, but they have some seriously weird physiognomy. First off, their brains are in their rib cages and they have long (like, Wolverine-sized) dewclaws that pop out of the insides of their wrists. Second, female Yevetha apparently lay huge weird eggs called birth casks. Birth casks need external nourishment, and receive it in the form of Yevethan blood. Normally, the mother would provide it, but it doesn't need to be the mother; low-ranking Yevethan males may seek honor by offering to provide their blood to the children of a high-ranking male-which usually involves the low-ranking individual being killed.

This crazy aspect of their society-that people can be killed to nourish children and it's seen as "natural"-contributes to the most defining cultural trait of the Yevetha, that being their (excuse the pun) bloody-mindedness. They don't see anyone who doesn't have Yevethan blood as being really people, and even if they did, it probably wouldn't make a difference, as this quote from one of their leaders shows:

Your wars are decided by the death of a tenth of a population, a third of an army. Then the defeated surrender their honor and the victors surrender their advantage. This is called being civilized. The Yevetha are not civilized, General. It would be a mistake to deal with us as though we were.

Yes, among other things the Yevetha reject the idea that they're a civilized people. They also had never been aware that there were stars other than their own because their homeworld was in a place where individual stars in the sky were impossible to make out, and so the idea that there might be someone else "out there" was foreign to them-they actually explored other planets without hyperdrive for a while, finding only unintelligent life-before first contact, which appears to have been with the Galactic Empire, natch.

Anyway, all that is bad enough, but then there's the fact that they're naturals with technology. Their tech base wasn't especially sophisticated when the Empire rolled in and made their homeworld into a shipyard, using the Yevetha for slave labor.

Yes, the Empire gave them access to their own tech base. You can guess what happened at some point after the Empire began collapsing. In fact, thanks to Imperial complacency, the Yevetha actually captured the entire fleet that the Empire had in the area. They would then spend about a decade and a half consolidating their forces and advancing their technology, eventually beginning a campaign known as the Yevethan Purge, which resulted in the extinctions of several sapient species, including the Corasgh (...I had to type it again, dang it). The Yevetha lost their Imperial capital ships when some Imperials that they'd kept as slaves on their crews rebelled (oh, the irony), and their timely departure was basically the only reason that the New Republic was able to to stop the Yevethan fleet. (Rather comically, the spherical capital ships that the Yevetha built for themselves were known to New Republic forces by the call sign "Fat Men.")

The Yevetha would later be rendered virtually extinct (with a population in the tens of thousands at most) themselves by the very race that they were a prototype to, the Yuuzhan Vong, in a bit of special irony. Even more ironically, the Yevetha had been building up an even larger fleet than they'd had before at the time, and presumably the Yuuzhan Vong had to spend quite a bit of resources taking them out, so that may well have made a critical difference in the Yuuzhan Vong war itself.

Rating: 4/5. Aspects of the Yevetha are actually very interesting, even if they're bloody-minded savages to a degree that's pretty unsettling.

1272. Yimi. The Yimi are indigenes of the planet Kathol that were created by the DarkStryder. They have large, complex brains that serve only one purpose, that being to have skills flash-imprinted into them. As a result, Yimi can't learn new skills; it's speculated that the DarkStryder created them in the image of the Kathol themselves as a sick joke.

Incidentally, if that's true, then the picture of the unfortunate Yimi slaves from the page is the best guess we have at what the Kathol look like. It's a little predictable that they look like tiny big-brained flying saucer aliens.

Rating: 3/5. ...I've mentioned way too many times that I love the Kathol Rift, right?

1273. Yinchorri. Yinchorri are described as turtle-like. Surprisingly, they have cultural characteristics, such as a society built around "might makes right," that one would expect in lizard people. On the other hand, they don't actually have shells and their heads don't look very turtle-like (they look rather more like poor renderings of dinosaur heads), and so they're arguably not turtle people at all, just kind of chubby lizard/dinosaur people.

It is known that at least some female Yinchorri have "prominent breasts," which Wookieepedia, classy as ever, feels the need to bring up. Despite this, Yinchorri are also known to lay eggs.

The Yinchorri are also known to be among the species immune to Jedi mind tricks.

At some point, the Yinchorri rebelled against the Galactic Empire, who promptly bombed them back to the stone age. They received aid from the New Republic later, but the Yinchorri refused to ally with another galactic government at the time. Their homeworld would come under the control of Darth Krayt's Empire at some point, and whether they were as a whole allied with his forces is ambiguous, but at least one stormtrooper in his forces was a Yinchorri.

The Yinchorri invented a flight pack with dragonfly-like wings, which makes for a rather amusing contrast with the rather portly Yinchorri.

Rating: 3/5.

1274. Yonnas. In an early draft of what would become A New Hope, Yonnas were something that danced, apparently expensively.

Rating: 1/5.

1275. Yourellians, or Ureallians. The old Jedi general Han Solo was a Yourellian.

Yes, another part of an early draft.

Amusingly (to me, at least), Yourellians are hulking and slimy and apparently hunted Wookiees, making the old Han Solo pretty antithetical in some respects to the one we got.

Rating: 3/5. This is probably my single favorite piece of weird old world-building from the early drafts.

1276. Yrashu. The Yrashu are primitive green-furred primates who are also all Force-sensitive.

Their page picture, incidentally, doesn't seem to mesh with this idea, being a sort of bulgy, vaguely furless dog-thing that looks like it was drawn by Rob Liefield on acid.

Anyway, they apparently have a naturally gentle disposition except for a tribe called the Low Ones, who are dark siders who presumably are largely made up of the outcasts of the other tribes.

Of considerable significance to their culture is a ceremonial training in survival skills that include learning how to make a certain kind of tree root into a club; this is apparently a dangerous journey of sorts, at least some of the time.

The Yrashu opposed the Galactic Empire because they could sense its dark side nature.

Rating: 2/5. Eh, I dunno.

1277. Yresilini. All that's really known of the Yresilini is that a Chiss once successfully recruited a group of them into an army that was very loyal to her.

Rating: 1/5. Well, I like their name, anyway.

1278. Yunu. They're basically primitive ape/bigfoot people.

They apparently allied with a group of Jedi refugees led by the amazing K'Kruhk.

Rating: 2/5. It's kind of funny to see references to K'Kruhk anywhere, to be frank, just because he lived over such a long period of time.

1279. Yuuzhan Vong. The Yuuzhan Vong are among the most infamous aliens of the entirety of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and with good reason: They've got the concentrated bastardry of a whole bunch of other species in there.

To wit, the Yuuzhan Vong take elements from the Charon (death cult, organic technology), the Ssi-ruuk (mysterious outsiders from an unknown location with horrific technology, their tendency to enslave their victims), and the Yevetha (their particular brand of warlikeness, contempt for other species, their general brutality, being humanoid and ugly, their military strength, aspects of the arms race between sides, their name having a Y and a V). That's a lot of general nastiness in one package; add terrifyingly over the top sadomasochism to that and you have the Yuuzhan Vong.

They also notably borrow from the ysalamiri (Force invisibility) and cortosis (in the form of having lightsaber-resistant solid materials usable in personal weaponry and armor), which just goes to show how much creative bankruptcy can coexist with creative fertility all at once. (Momentary aside: I don't like the Yuuzhan Vong themselves very much, but their technology almost invariable fascinates me. It's just so quirky and different from even the typical weird organic tech one often sees. They also have a heck of a lot of cultural details.)

The Yuuzhan Vong have a raging hatred for "traditional" technology and especially droids, arising from the fact that the Abominor and Silentium wrecked some Yuuzhan Vong worlds whilst fighting a war with each other. Supposedly, they actually drove the Abominor and Silentium from said galaxy, but I have my doubts; the Silentium particularly were pretty danged dangerous to a degree that makes the Yuuzhan Vong look like wimps. (My own opinion is that the Silentium must have whipped the Abominor and then left of their own volition.)

Being from a different galaxy (at least sort of), the Yuuzhan Vong had their own ways of making war and their own technology, and this complicated efforts to fight them. They also were a pretty big group overall, and their whole people were involved in the effort to some degree; they built huge worldships that made the intergalactic journeys.

I note that they're "sort of" from another galaxy. It's a bit ambiguous, because their original homeworld had an "offspring," Zonama Sekot, which lived in the Star Wars galaxy. Whether Sekot had moved or what is ambiguous, at least from what I've read. The Yuuzhan Vong are known to have exterminated most of the native species of their own galaxy.

They may or may not be related genetically to humans.

There's a ton more, but I'm out of time and it'd take ages.

Rating: 4/5. I don't like the Yuuzhan Vong "event." I do, on the other hand, find a ton of the material surrounding them interesting. Their religion, for instance, has an interesting creation story.

1280. Yuvernians. Yuvernians are massive two-headed giraffe-snakes.

Rating: 3/5. That's an amazing description.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Those Guys Need A New Copy Editor

So, minor confession: I hate bad weather, so I'm prone to compulsively checking various weather sites for information on bad weather.

I take bad weather pretty seriously, and frankly I'm borderline phobic about the idea of a storm blowing down the house I'm in or a lightning strike destroying a computer that's on. That said...

What the heck, guys?

Also that said, dang but overreacts a lot. I don't know about this particular storm system because I'm in the wrong part of the country, but it seems like all it takes is a single storm cloud for them to declare there's a severe weather threat for six states.

-Signing off.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Game Reviews: Incursion 2--The Artifact

Incursion 2 is the sequel to one of my all time favorite Flash games.

In my review of Incursion, I noted that Incursion showed a clear line of descent from Monsters TD and Keeper of the Grove, previous games created by the same individual. Incursion 2 is a further evolution.

Most aspects of gameplay are identical (and this is a good thing), but the biggest change to gameplay is one that I'm ambiguous on: The spellcasting style that carried over from Keeper of the Grove has been replaced by heroes.* (Note: These pictures are durned tiny, so you'll probably want to open them in new tabs/windows to view them if you want detail.)

Now, I'm not against heroes in principle, and there are clear advantages to them. The main problem is that their interface is a bit clunky compared to the old spells, and it might be just me/my computer, but particularly on certain missions I'm prone to not having my clicks go through and getting stupid results out of the guys (I can't tell you how many times I tried to select a hero's ability and it just didn't take, resulting in me trying to give a hero an order to use said ability and instead having him march off somewhere stupid). There's also the fact that your heroes can die, and while they come back to life free of charge, if one is trying to rely on their abilities this is a problem-there's no way for an enemy to prevent you from using your spells in the previous game, even if you aren't guaranteed to have any at all. They're also prone to running out of mana if one is like me and doesn't bother buying them potions.

That aside, I mostly like them. Each hero has some spells that he can cast; the main hero has a wide variety depending on which of four schools of magic you choose, while there are two other heroes that help out on specific missions. The first one of the "allied" heroes has some pretty sweet archery-inspired abilities, while the second, a member of the "Strygweers" (see below), is... kinda subpar, and tricky to use to boot.

Thus far, I'm quite partial to the Mors (death) school of magic the main hero can use, which grants abilities built around summoning undead minions. These abilities are super-useful because you can summon meat shields wherever you need them; while all the guys summoned this way have timers that make them evaporate after a while, it's often not relevant. I'm kind of curious about how the Vita (life) school plays, because it's got a couple of pretty nifty abilities too.

I don't think these particular guys are my favorite Mors summons in terms of gameplay, but they're definitely the cutest little chestbursters.

Most of the rest of the game is additive, such as its addition of a whole new category of defenders, the Strygweers, who are some sort of blue catfish/salamander people with potentially unfortunate accents. The Strygweers don't add a huge amount to the game, being used for, like, one stage, but they are at least different, and I do appreciate that, anyway.

I think their main problem gameplay-wise is their uniformity; it's hard to tell which Strygweer units are supposed to do what, and they ultimately all cost the same. Using them for more than one mission would be awkward, as well, because they don't interact with the game's upgrade system, and that combined with the fact that the basic Strygweers are very noticeably more expensive than the upgraded mages (who are the most expensive normal units-note that when I say this, I'm referring to the out-of-battle upgrade system, which involves reducing said infantry's cost, and I'm not counting the in-battle individual unit upgrades-admittedly, the Strygweer only upgrade twice per unit, while normal units upgrade up to five times per unit, with branching paths after the second upgrade), and a fully upgraded mage-family unit is still the strongest thing in the game by far.

In fact, while the Archmage has been toned down a touch with the addition of a timer on his summon so that they don't just act as indefinite meatshield puppets the way they did in the first game, he and the (one step down the upgrade path) Lightning Master are still the strongest things in the game, as chain lightning is just so good; arguably, the game could use a little shaking up to keep it from being all about amping up to Archmages (which, if one looks at a later screenshot, one will notice that I am very prone to, having filled five garrisons with three Archmages apiece).

Archmage spam doesn't keep the game from being fun, though. The game retains nearly every enemy from the first (lacking only a boss), and then adds over twenty new ones, resulting in more than fifty different enemies. Some of them are stage-specific, and a few of them are bosses.

I should note that there are unit names here and there that are pretty odd; the first game had "Shaman the Patron," who obviously makes a comeback here, and this game also has "Queen of the Spotless Mind," which somebody thought was an appropriate name for a mind-controlling alien lady.

Anyway, while a few of the new enemy types are just additional vanilla variety enemies, a high proportion of them are unique in one way or another, and they add a lot. The aforementioned mind-controlling enemy varies between being hilariously harmless (oddly enough, in her introductory stage, where a feature of the area makes her a lot less likely to do much damage) to really darned annoying, which is what generally happens when she manages to hit the hero. (Although the hero's special abilities are still under your control regardless of the mind control.)

The game also has an honestly hilarious unique scenario where the enemies are actually derivations of the units the player controls.

It's actually kinda painful because the game's creator seems to be assuming that a lack of the annoying abilities the enemies have would make the level too easy, and so they just come in ridiculous droves instead... and whenever enemy Lightning Masters/Archmages/honestly any ranged units (though the chain lightning boys are the worst) show up you're generally in for a hurting.

Anyway, as noted when I talked about the first game, another thing that keeps the game addictive is that it not only has solid gameplay otherwise, but it also has varying scenarios wherein there are different special hazards, allies, or support powers to spice things up. Such as this hilarious machine gun that you get when you successfully reach the end of one mission, which you can "rent" the use of in the item shop afterwards.

There's also some story in there somewhere, with an actual narrative of sorts, but it's pretty basic.

The final verdict, predictably, is that Incursion 2 is a game that you'll enjoy if you enjoyed Incursion. I don't think I'd ever say this is a better game than Incursion, but I can't say it's actually a worse one either.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that, with the heroes particularly, this game shamelessly rips off borrows heavily from the old RTS Warcraft III, of "this game was the main inspiration for World of Warcraft" fame.

-Signing off.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#127)

The Massive Index (Posts #1-#100)
The Less Massive Index (Posts #101-#110)
The Second Less Massive Index (Posts #111-#120)

1261. Yalarans. The Yalarans were apparently primitive sapients that some Jedi was worried weren't ready for contact with the galaxy, so said Jedi somehow built a cloaking device intended to protect them by... hiding their planet... maybe?

At any rate, it didn't work out too well, because later some Noghri Death Commandos were apparently sent to their planet to take possession of the cloaking device, and they apparently massacred the Yalarans while doing so.


Rating: 1/5.

1262. Yalor. The (technically unlicensed) Yalor were from Yaloris.

Rating: 1/5.

1263. Yam'rii, or Huk. The Yam'rii are basically giant praying mantids. Because the original puppet needed somewhere for someone to sit inside it, said puppet was essentially wearing an immense billowy dress, and later Yam'rii appearances sometimes depict them wearing similar clothing despite only appearing in other media, which is rather amusing. Because of artistic inconsistencies, some Yam'rii look less like mantids and more like mantid-gremlins.

Being mantis people, Yam'rii eat meat and eggs, supposedly including the flesh of their own species and the eggs of other sapient species. They're also just generally straight-up assholes, having invaded a planet and enslaving its inhabitants, the Kaleesh. When the Kaleesh rebelled against them with great success (and turning the name "Huk" into a pejorative meaning "soulless bug"), to the point where they started pursuing them to other worlds despite having started it all as primitives, the Yam'rii retaliated by convincing the Old Republic that the Kaleesh needed to be stomped on. (To be fair, the Yam'rii were apparently in danger of extinction. Ironically, the end result of all this was the "creation" of General Grievous [or rather, his conversion from Kaleesh hero to menacing Separatist minion], who ended up being recruited by the Yam'rii's allies. Although when Grievous in his cyborg identity found some Yam'rii on some world or another, he apparently quite gleefully had them slaughtered.)

While the Kaleesh apparently still caused them problems here and again, the Yam'rii were still around many decades later, and were one of the many species who fell under the sway of the Killiks.

Rating: 3/5. I've often talked about how some jerky aliens kind of need to be around to make antagonist fodder. These guys are such, and they're nasty enough that they end up in my "love to hate" category even if they are mantids.

1264. Yammosks, or war coordinators. Yammosks are huge tentacled creatures created by the Yuuzhan Vong (who are finally going to get an entry next article, barring unforeseen circumstances), and related to the dhuryam. Some of their longer, thinner tentacles can be about sixty miles in length, though most of them are much shorter. They each have a single immense "tooth" that emits acid in the manner of a spider's chelicerae emitting venom; one yammosk used this to burrow through the icy crust of a frozen planet into its interior ocean, so obviously they're very powerful physically.

However, a yammosk's strength isn't in its physical abilities but in the fact that it is essentially an immense brain designed to aid the Yuuzhan Vong in combat with its telepathy. Yammosks will actually telepathically link with every soldier in range and guide their military actions with eerie coordination, determined to protect the soldiers and ships it has linked to as if they are its offspring. While the Yuuzhan Vong are essentially invisible to the Force, yammosk telepathy interacts with Force-based telepathy quite strongly, begging a few questions.

Yammosks are seen by the Yuuzhan Vong as the physical incarnations of their war god Yun-Yammka.

Rating: 4/5. I've noted that I don't care for the Yuuzhan Vong, but I kind of adore the yammosks (I also feel I should have given the dhuryam a higher rating at this point).

1265. Yao. Some friend of Han Solo and Chewbacca was a Yao.

Rating: 1/5.

1266. Yapi. The Yapi are doglike creatures (heh-"yappy") who were created by the DarkStryder, creation of the Kathol of the oft-mentioned and much-adored (by me, at least) Kathol Rift.

Some served the DarkStryder; others rebelled against it. In general, while they obviously warred among themselves, they actually were capable of meeting peaceably on a regular basis for trade and exchanging information. They believed that only "a tribe's shaman" (which is an odd, ambiguous statement) could manipulate Ta-Ree energy (a Kathol Rift twist on the Force which was made of Kathol souls), which... wasn't true. When the FarStar, the main shipful of protagonists associated with the Kathol Rift, showed up to stop an alliance between an Imperial moff and the DarkStryder, at least some Yapi, along with the Charr Ontee and a sapient species that the Yapi regard as food (reportedly, allying with such was tricky for the Yapi) allied with the FarStar's crew against the moff and the DarkStryder.

Rating: 3/5. Even minor players among the Kathol Rift are generally entertaining, and these guys are about as uninteresting as the Rift gets, to be frank.

1267. Yarin. Yarin resemble trees despite being a mobile, sapient species.

One individual was the harbormaster of a resort on the planet Dac/Mon Calamari.

Rating: 1/5. There are more interesting tree-beings in Star Wars.

1268. Yarkora. The Yarkora are camel aliens.

They apparently have redundant internal organs, which contributes to them having very long lifespans and being much less likely to die of natural causes than many species. They apparently are rather solitary by nature, rarely living together, and have a very slow reproductive cycle that makes it impossible for them to have more than one child every fifteen years, which creates a societal pressure for all female members of the species to have at least one child. Their homeworld's location is a deep secret, which as I've mentioned is a thing often used in science fiction that doesn't make much sense in the the crowded Star Wars galaxy.

Yarkora have excellent eyesight and hearing, and are believed by some to be able to affect the emotions of others; they are known to be creepy and off-putting.

Rating: 3/5. The Yarkora are really odd, and I think of them as mostly being one of the "texture" species, i.e. they create "texture" to make the general feel of the universe they're in more interesting.

1269. Yatir. The Yatir are "humanoid" and were sympathetic with the Rebellion, causing them to be suppressed by the Empire, initially without much success (though they didn't last forever). Their planet may have been only relatively recently contacted by the Old Republic (in the last thousand years), although we don't really know.

Rating: 1/5.

1270. Ychthytonians. Ychthytonians have four arms and an awesome name.

Rating: 2/5. Not much else to say.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

(I'm Tired Today)

Reminder: This is a thing that exists.

That there's a country that casually uses tokusatsu heroes as advertising mascots makes me happy.

-Signing off.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Probably Inverse Ninja Law

So there are two things about this clip from the Armor Hero Emperor movie that I find really funny.

One is the guy in the clown mask just in general; he's basically a Western comic books supervillain/terrorist with a hilariously stupid voice.

The other thing is that it takes the Emperor Hero about six minutes (and multiple ridiculous flashy finishers) to beat the beetle monster, but defeats the hundred-plus strong "cockroach army" barely a full minute after they appear, effectively with one attack.

Keep in mind that in the Armor Hero series, the Emperor Hero form (this incidentally appears to be the third character* it's been attached to) was able to beat a Cthulhu-esque eldritch abomination made up of at least five of the other villains who could fly in space and make himself over a hundred feet tall at will.

*Depending on how one counts. The second Emperor Hero, who is the one mentioned as defeating the big freaky monster noted above, seemed to actually be the combined form of the other five Armor Heroes from the first series, although exactly what was going on was kinda ambiguous from the clip I've seen.

-Signing off.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July

For reasons having absolutely nothing to do with the Fourth of July, I'm skipping my big Star Wars post for the Fourth. (I might do a makeup post on Monday, but no guarantees.)

Have a random Power Rangers song by that guy who did the huge medley.

...It's very short compared to the last one.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Planetary Annihilation is a Literal Title

So there's a spiritual successor to the game Total Annihilation called Planetary Annihilation*.

It's currently in the "playable beta" stage, and features heavily TA-inspired gameplay (and music, and basically everything), but has a critical difference: Instead of being played on bitty square maps, it's played in bitty solar systems, with actual spherical planets.

And as one can see in this trailer, space travel and planet busting are things; in fact, one can build giant, vaguely Kirby-esque engines** and use them to drive planets into other planets.

While this doesn't strike me as the most efficient way to go about wrecking planets, it does strike me as being one of the more awesome ways to do it.

*This is confusing for someone who was in the Total Annihilation community at its height like I was. There were three big sites back in the day: TAUniverse (the big, well-policed fansite that hosted many smaller sites and was generally the best site period, which is the only one that's really still around), Estrella (the shady, dodgy site, where I'm pretty sure you could pick up some stolen content, such as an illegal copy of the game), and PlanetAnnihilation (a site modeled after TAUniverse that was part of a larger, corporate webhub called GamePlanet or something, which despite its corporate sponsors always actually felt like it was more questionable content-wise and significantly less friendly and usable). It might get better, seeing as how I've only heard of Planetary Annihilation days ago, but I'm still blinking in confusion whenever I read it.

**I'm probably looking at them and thinking they're Kirby-esque because they're square. They really aren't that Kirby-esque, but they inexorably remind me of the engine that Galactus put on Ego the Living Planet in the '90s-era Fantastic Four cartoon, which was almost certainly Kirby-derived artwork.

-Signing off.