Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Modest Proposal

So I ended up watching the new Star Wars movie yesterday (this being a thing that my mother considers a much higher priority than other, more ordinary movie franchises), and I have to say it was pretty decent. (I was very happy, when all was said and done, with numerous casting decisions, with certain writing choices, and with choice of superweapon.*)

Which isn't to say it was perfect. Out of the things I can think of that aren't some manner of spoiler, I think the biggest problem I had was the... rather fuzzy sense of motion and spatial relationships that the movie had. Not counting the scene that was total nonsense in terms of astrophysics (and not in a "but this is a fictional universe" way) but was also a spoiler**, there were a lot of scenes where there was an odd sense that the arrangement of characters and objects was just not quite right, and there were a few scenes that really stood out as not making any sense.

Say what you like about the prequels and the unfortunate editing decisions from the special editions, but George Lucas is an amazing director when it comes to motion and space, and they had a consistent action style with each other and with the original trilogy. Never did I watch a Lucas-directed Star Wars movie and wonder what the hell was going on with respect to where Group A and Group B were relative to each other, but it happened to me two or three times during this film. And based on my completely unprofessional survey of a single comment section discussing the movie, I was not the only one who had this problem.

Unfortunately, I think the approach Hollywood takes to directing movies is probably the wrong approach. Having a single director monolithically control a film is going to get you a product that's not as good as if you had a team of directors actually working together.

Michael Bay, while he makes drecky movies, is also a special effects/physics director nearly on par with George Lucas, but, well, everything else about his movies tends to be pretty bad, and he's also kind of a disgusting sexist pig. J.J. Abrams' directing is solid at plenty, but just isn't quite up to complicated science fiction action scenes. And I'm sure there are other cases of directors who are pretty good at this and that and the other thing but not at something else that's potentially important.

And during an admittedly wonky moment on my part, I found myself suggesting to my sister that the solution was probably (thanks to Hollywood being full of big egos who are unlikely to enjoy being forced to get along in the way I'd prefer) to create a Frankenstein's monster out of a whole bunch of different directors, picking and choosing their best traits and combining them into a single supreme director who would then be in charge of every big-budget film.

I find myself thinking it'd probably be the easier way to get better movies.

*If you're not concerned about the SPOILER aspect... (Relatively minor spoilers below.)

I like the amount of diversity in the cast. I mean, I think they probably should have had a few more alien characters who were more prominent, but the amount of human diversity in the film was very nice.

I also like the degree of sympathetic and interesting that the stormtroopers were allowed to be. And I liked that one guy with the vibro-tonfa, he was a badass. (And I just have to shake my head at the people who complain about the scene. It was there because it was awesome, you jerks.) On the other hand, I thought that the character death was SUPER predictable and pretty meh.

Finally, while I thought that the bit of phallic comparison during the analysis scene was pretty terrible (see this little thing? It's the old superweap-NOW HERE IS THE NEW ONE SEE ITS HUGENESS AND BE JEALOUS), I kinda thought the over-the-topness of the Starkiller was awesome (I'm aware that quite a few fans of Star Wars didn't like it at all). It actually stems back to a conversation I had back around when the EU was handwaved out of continuity; I was being annoyed about it and about certain smug internet personalities who were crowing about the fact that the EU was gone because it meant that the Galaxy Gun and the Sun Crusher and other ridiculously powerful EU superweapons were also gone. In a fit of pique, I'd turned to my sister and shouted something about hoping a rapid-firing Galaxy Gun with Sun Crusher ammunition would show up in the film. If you've seen the Starkiller scene and know anything about those EU superweapons, well, the Starkiller is surprisingly close to actually being that. I joked after actually watching the film that the next superweapon was going to be a weaponized gas giant that ate galaxies as fuel.

**I'd like to know just how one of the planets that blew up was approximately as visible in the sky of the planet the characters were on as if it were as close as a moon orbiting the planet would have been. I'm willing to accept all the target planets being visible during the superweapon firing scene as artistic license, but that other bit was just a hot pile of BS. If there'd ever been any evidence that Star Wars astrophysics were similar to, say, Treasure Planet astrophysics, I'd probably have been fine with it, but there's never been any such; we're usually led to assume that physics in Star Wars are similar except where they're shown to be different.

-Signing off.

Monday, December 28, 2015

And Now, A Little Nightmare Fuel

Courtesy of RPGMaker MV's demo (MV being the most recent version of RPGMaker), one of the most genuinely horrifying demons you're ever likely to see:

What's amazing about this is that it's described only with the generic moniker "demon." It's not "parasitoid demon" or "wearing-a-hapless-angel-as-a-tail-ornament demon." It's just "demon."

I'm kind of iffy on a lot of MV's creature art in terms of art style, but I actually really like the design aesthetic it brings to the table; it's probably the most imaginative art in any of the RPGMakers.

-Signing off.

Friday, December 25, 2015


No real post today. Srry.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dora Dora Dora Dora Bandora

Reminder: The character from whom Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers villain Rita Repulsa was derived, Bandora, was known for at least occasional music numbers.

I apologize for the general catchiness of the song.

-Signing off.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Demon God Is Moping

If the title seems incongruous, well, it actually makes perfect sense in its original context.

By far my favorite thing about playing with RPGMaker VXAce Lite so far is configuring the Dragon Quest-style* text notifications for the skills and status effects. (There's other messages that are hypothetically editable which the Lite version won't permit to be edited; a bit disappointing, to be true, but I can tolerate it until I decide if I want to purchase it or not.) There are default styles that can be configured automatically for the skills, but custom messages are much more fun.

Case in point:

"Demon God sings a horrifying song! The party found the lyrics offensive!" (Demon God is, in this case, me using a preexisting enemy design-art, name, basic concept-in a similar but also somewhat different way to the default design. I'll give the VXAce base package this much: Its enemy battle designs, i.e. skills, vulnerabilities, etc., are a big improvement over RPGMaker XP's, which are universally generic and boring as heck.)

And of course, there's also the status effect I came up with that has notifications including "[name]'s heart was broken!", "[name] is moping.", and "[name] got over that broken heart." Hence the title of this post, "Demon God is moping."**

*Dragon Quest was a rather odd hybrid of pictures and old-fashioned text-based adventure games, all things considered. Of course, it's also the most popular JRPG series inside the borders of Japan itself, to the point where it's basically the generic symbol that represents the concept of video games in Japan. As such, the basic configuration of VXAce feels like it's essentially supposed to be a Dragon Quest clone, to the point where I described it to my sister as "Dragon Quest Something: Dragon Questier."

**Actually, my version of Demon God (which is a lot stronger than the default version*** to compensate for the stronger player characters and freely flowing experience points in the practice game I've been building) can't use its strongest attack while that status is attached. So when Demon God is moping, the party's a lot safer than they might be otherwise.

***Roughly a million hitpoints (the most the default engine permits) and innate regeneration at roughly ten thousand hitpoints a turn (which is actually the lowest regeneration rate that the engine will permit for an enemy with so many hitpoints), just for starters. Stronger negative status effect infliction than the original Demon God's (who was pretty good at it), for another. I'm actually still tweaking that "strongest attack" I mentioned above, because it's hard to get good damage calculations, though realizing that this Demon God is basically always going to fight a level 99 party will eventually help a lot, once I've built new equipment for the characters. As it is, the default characters can use basic equipment and a playtest item or two to beat it pretty consistently even though each character currently has exactly one skill that they can only use as a sort of "limit break." Even without the playtest item, they can still beat it most of the time just through judicious use of the Guard command and lots of healing and attack items-I do still need to configure more of Demon God's status resistances.

-Signing off.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Seemed Like A Good Idea to Revisit This Subject Before New Year's

On one occasion, I mentioned that there was a game with some really weird stuff in it that was supposedly set in 2015.

How weird is said stuff?

Pretty flipping weird.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Make Up Your Mind, Breath of Fire Series

I've mentioned the Breath of Fire JRPG series a few times recently, and because I've been watching a lot of junk on YouTube about it, it's rather at the forefront of my mind at the moment.

Thus, under this embed of a piece of boss music I'm going to do a little bit of aimless rambling about it.

I mentioned on a previous occasion that one of the things about the Breath of Fire series is that it seems to like game mechanics that other JRPGs avoid for the most part, most notably the fusion systems found in the first few games.

Each of the games' fusion systems was a bit different (I mention this here). This is perfectly acceptable in and of itself, and as the games are mostly nonlinear stories seemingly set in the same world, not generally a big deal. Except...

Well, the first game's primary use of fusion involved certain specific relatively specialized characters. Once you had enough characters that the whole party couldn't participate in a battle at once, one of the more specialized characters (i.e. one with narrow uses normally) gained the ability to cast a spell that would let him merge with two other relatively specialized characters, which gave him no new combat abilities but did send his stats through the roof. Over time, he'd gain more spells of a similar nature, until he finally got one that let him merge with all three of the potential fusion candidates at once, the result being even more of a combat monster. (Since the game featured eight playable characters, this fusion character represented half of the game's roster, and since you could only have four characters in the party, having that final fusion character was kind of like having 75% more characters in your party at once.) Then, towards the end of the game the game's Ryu gained a dragon form which was also a fusion form which included the entire party. (While generally awesome, it should also be noted that this turned the battles where you could use it into something of a simplistic "I hit you, you hit me, repeat until I need to heal, start over at step one" affair, because the mega dragon fusion didn't have any actual special combat abilities, just massive attack power and comparably impressive defense. Fortunately, the Breath of Fire games have an autobattle feature that means you can just sit back and watch.)

The third game's only use of fusion (there's a reason I'm going out of order) was when that game's Ryu unlocked certain dragon forms and fused with party members; this worked a bit like the first game's fusions, though from what I can tell the fusions had many more special characteristics than brute force.

The second game's use of fusion went in a completely different direction. Rather than involving multiple party members, each fusion involved a single party member and one or two of a certain group of NPCs. This basically was a big power-up that tended to give a new ability as well as greatly enhanced stats (depending on how you mixed and matched the NPCs with the party members) and a new appearance. But there's a key difference: The game's Ryu is one of two characters* not able to fuse properly, and this is explicitly because he's a dragon. Specifically, being a dragon means that any attempt to create a fusion with him will cause not only a failure but a massive explosion from the power overload.

Now, this actually wouldn't necessarily be inconsistent with the first game's lore, where the dragon fusion not only ROFLstomped a goddess but needed an awful lot of worthiness-testing to achieve the ability; one could speculate that without that testing, it was just too hard to control such a powerful form (and Breath of Fire II's Ryu hadn't even fully awakened to being a dragon yet, much less learned any significant control). But from what I can tell, the fusions from the third game were fairly casual matters, and certainly didn't seem to need all the testing and whatnot that the first game involved.

So make up your mind, Breath of Fire series! Are dragon-based fusions difficult, impossible, or easy?

(Of course, each game takes place in a different time period, so there's a possible explanation involving dilution of dragon bloodlines [and II's Ryu had a non-dragon father], but that's honestly a bit... meh.)

*The other Breath of Fire II character who is unable to fuse is Bleu/Deis, a mysterious sorceress/goddess and secret character who is actually the same person in all three games, unlike Ryu, Ryu, and Ryu (or Nina, Nina, and Nina). In Breath of Fire III, she's actually an NPC, but in the first Breath of Fire she's (obviously) also a part of the full-team dragon fusion, which means by the second game's standards that's a doubly impossible fusion.

-Signing off.

Monday, December 14, 2015


Then there was the time that the laborious effort of clearing out a garden was represented in Breath of Fire II as part of the game's battle system.

And yes, it was an actual battle, though as far as I can tell the "enemies" don't have any way of hurting the party.

-Signing off.

Friday, December 11, 2015

This Probably Qualifies As A Mashup Post

Apropos of little beyond the fact that I've been looking into the Breath of Fire JRPG series generally, have a video somebody made showcasing some of the characters' fusion forms* set to the German version of the Digimon Adventure 02 Fusion/DNADigivolution theme. (Well, that's the first half-ish of the video, it trails off into regular gameplay after that.)

It's kind of astounding to me that German dubbers chose to 1) keep the Digimon series' original soundtrack and 2) give it new German lyrics.

*In the first game, there was a specific party member who could fuse other party members into himself; this actually put a special status on the other characters and changed his stats and appearance, and I believe it let him use a few of their abilities, though it was also rather heavily a form of brute force-the fused characters didn't have very versatile combat abilities, but they did have a lot of muscle, the normal attack damage potential only outdone by the main character using a boomerang because the boomerang could hit every enemy in a battle (seriously).

The second game's fusion system actually involved fusing NPCs into the characters, causing them to transform in various ways; among the more notable transformations are of the party's dogman member into what appears to be a robot with a cannon arm, the transformation of the party's monkey-like member into what rather strongly resembles a genie, the change of the giant, vaguely rhino-like armadillo man into a tiny, cartoonish pink rhino/armadillo, and the versatile transformations of the party's gender-ambiguous/agender plant person into 1) a tiny flower bud, 2) a literalized "snapdragon," and 3) a magical girl.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Theme of An Undertale Character Who's Not Sans

Going to have an annoying day tomorrow (my refrigerator's freezer section will no longer tolerate anything being placed in it, so it's getting a replacement), so here's some music and that's all for tonight.

-Signing off.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Also, The Main Character Is Always A Dragon (Hence the Title)

It's been a bit weird looking into the Breath of Fire JRPG series, because it's not one of the more popular ones overall, despite being mostly pretty good that I can tell.

Yes, it seems to have some issues, but there are certain parts of it that easily offset that; perhaps my favorite is that it happily uses certain ideas that don't get used nearly enough in JRPGs, most notably the series' fairly signature fusion abilities. In the first game, you can combine your weaker party members into more versatile party members. That's pretty awesome.

(Also, I'm pretty sure bits of it actually inspired bits of Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Ancient Egypt arc; it'd be a bit too much of a coincidence for it not to have done so. It wouldn't be the first time I found that something had clearly inspired an aspect of Yu-Gi-Oh!)

-Signing off.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Let's Split Up Into The Worst Possible Groups, Gang!

There's a particular moment in Septerra Core that I have to say is one of the most amazing ideas in the whole game; it's the sort of thing that I can never decide if it's a great idea or a terrible one, but it's certainly an idea.

During the final battle, the party splits up into three groups of three, because there are two things that need to happen before you can go fight the final boss, and Maya says this:

(Maya [because the world is about to end and the piece of it they're standing on is about to become very unlivable]: "We don't have time for that! Lobo, take Araym and Led and knock out engine room one. Grubb, you take Runner and Badu and kill engine room two. Corgan, Selina and I will head to Doskias' bridge."

Screenshot taken from this video.)

This is an... interesting way to divide up the party, because it seems like a terrible idea. Let's review the teams:

Lobo, Araym, Led: Lobo and Araym are pretty much literally best friends, actually; no problem there. But Led hates Lobo because he's physically a Jinam combat cyborg and she's from Jinam's old enemy nation, Ankara. In fact, she will literally attack him at random intervals if they're in the party together during battle. (To Lobo's credit, he doesn't reciprocate this behavior, even though this is easily Led's nastiest character trait. She's not really a particularly nice or sweet person and I see no reason to hold that against her, but then she treats one of the nicest characters in the game horribly because he looks like a category of entity she's been taught to blindly hate. Racism metaphor much?)

Grubb, Runner, Badu: Grubb is a tiny nerdy guy, good at building and fixing things and casting spells. Runner is a gigantic (slightly larger than a Smart Fortwo) robot he built, with the dazzling intellect of a dog and a laser cannon in his mouth (I think it's self-explanatory why that combination of features is unnerving). Badu is a great warrior/hunter from a primitive culture/mutated human subspecies from the deepest part of the world, adapted to live in a Nausicaa-esque Mold Forest, completely blind and reliant on sonar, has Poison Spit and Vampyre (health drain) as attacks, is about as large as Runner, and armed with "knives" that together are about the size of a surfboard... and is also completely unable to speak Septerra's lingua franca. In a non-video game party situation, that would have been a bizarre and hilarious scene.

Maya, Corgan, Selina: Maya's the party leader. Corgan is from Shell Three, which was a pretty nice place until the Chosen invaded it to make its largest city into an airship base to give their living airships the water they needed for long journeys into Septerra's depths*. Selina is a former Chosen general who was nominally the leader of a unit that destroyed some outlying towns that were potentially mustering resistance... most notably Corgan's hometown. Like Led, Corgan hates Selina so much that he'll randomly attack her during battle. (Like Lobo, Selina doesn't repay in kind, mainly because she didn't actually give the orders even though she was nominally in charge, and feels personally responsible for the slaughter even though she couldn't actually have stopped it. I reckon Corgan's somewhat more justified than Led, even if it makes putting him in a party a pain in the arse sometimes.)

So I'm a little mystified at the exact logic. I mean, the plot dictates that you should use certain specific weapons, a pair of legendary magic swords, in the final battle, and Corgan and Selina are your sword people, so I pretty much get that, even if it seems a little suicidal.

That's where it gets to the brilliant/terrible/certainly an idea part:

There are three special sidequests in the game that are intended to help build up the relationships between your party members. You can complete the game without them, but they're largely intended to make this little stretch of the game go more smoothly.

Specifically, two of these sidequests require the "hated" member of the party to do something positive for the people of the "random attack jerk" party member, and that'll offset their hatred and remove that random attacking factor. Considering how the combat engine works, completing these quests is a little less "helpful" and a little more "friggin' mandatory."**

Then there's the third sidequest, which involves getting Grubb to notice that Led is totally into him, which gives the two of them some rather neat love-powered combination attacks (that are ultimately overshadowed by the magic system of the game, which is basically itself entirely a complicated but awesome combination attack system). And... those two are in different parties in this chunk of the game for whatever reason.

I think that even if Septerra Core hadn't made much of an impression on me otherwise, I'd probably have remembered it just for this.

*Septerra is made up of a bunch of floating continents arranged into seven layers or shells which move like a huge, deranged clockwork. The highest shells have the lowest numbers.

**The battle system is loosely based on the clock-based "ATB" system found in many JRPGs. Each character has three "ranks" of attack strength, and to a point, the longer you wait the stronger your attacks will be. This is most vital for the spell system, the Fate Cards, where you combine multiple characters' moves to create spells of up to three parts to unleash the strongest attacks in the game, generally things like summon magic and the fancy and visually spectacular Destroyer/Big Bang/Black Hole spells. While you only need one character to have a full three-rank bar to get the full effect of a three-part spell, it still involves a lot of waiting... and thus the random attacking that Corgan and Led do can deprive your party of a link in your magic chain at a critical moment even if the damage done by the attack itself is negligible. Even worse, usually when Led's in the party with Lobo, it'll be under the assumption that she's that party's primary caster and using her Repair skill to be Lobo's medic.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ristar Smashes Things With His Face*

Learning about the regional differences between video games is always one of the odder things involved in looking into the subject. Games getting harder because something important got dummied out, overseas releases being more polished because they had more time to finish the product, cultural references being removed because they're "too foreign," and occasionally the "American Kirby is Hardcore" effect (characters being at least partly redesigned to look "cooler").

The game Ristar, which I recently became aware of because of the tiny Sega Genesis collection console my sister picked up, has a fistful of these things...

...which is all the stranger because apparently the two versions were actually released about a day apart.

I don't have much else to say about Ristar beyond the fact that I rather like the game overall; out of the games on the console, I've probably played it more than any of the others because its playstyle, at least on the first world, is fairly easygoing and doesn't punish patience, which is suited to me. (The other competitor for my most-played game is Mean Bean Machine, which I probably shouldn't play as much as I do because I'm bad at it, the computer cheats, and I'm enough better than everyone I might play two-player with despite being bad at it that it wouldn't be fair, and also I don't think Mean Bean Machine is a game that should be played between friends.) Never gotten past the first little tiny stretch of the third world, though-my kid brother got to the fourth world today, though, so good for him.**

Anyway, have the final boss theme. Ristar generally has good music, and Kaiser Greedy's theme is particularly so.

I actually kind of like Kaiser Greedy himself, for that matter; he's got kind of a "Castlevania Dracula" vibe, but is also a cartoony space demon.

*He crashes into walls, smashes his foes, bops around like some sort of deranged pinball occasionally, and flies face-first like a comet through space. He's pretty hardcore for a guy with four hitpoints.

**He was using a strategy that I came up with, though I don't think he remembered me suggesting it, that involved farming lives on the first bit of the first stage. There's a hidden extra life you can get a very short distance from the starting area, and an obvious extra life that you can find a little ways further in. Grab both and lose a life on purpose and the extra lives respawn, letting you get one more extra life for each loop than you're losing. Kid bro gathered about two dozen before plunging into the best run he's had on the game, getting to the main boss of the fourth world before he had to head home for the night.

-Signing off.