Friday, December 29, 2017

First Impressions: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NS)

This Christmas, I received a physical copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild from Conklederp's parents (for future reference, we'll refer to them as BikeLaws, and RangerBike, which is what their names are in my phone and makes sense if you know them).  I told myself that I would just start the game up to see what the intro was like as I am still working my way through DOOM and did not want to start a game that I know I would easily lose myself in.  That plan failed shortly after I put the cartridge in the Switch and selected the game.

Dr. Potts' First Impression's article from April is pretty accurate from what I have been able to explore so far.  I recently received the para-glider, I have four hearts, and two additional spirit orbs, so those familiar with the game will have some idea of how far I have have not yet gone.  And I fully plan on increasing my stamina after I collect the next two orbs because there have just been too many instances where I just missed being able to reach a ledge or reach an island via para-glider due to my stamina running out.  It is a bit frustrating, but still a lot of fun.

Presently, I agree with Dr. Potts' sentiment that I too do not mind at how seemingly empty the world is, although it really isn't.  While there are not as many monsters as you might have found wandering from screen to screen in the original Legend of Zelda, the world is populated by various wild animals.  Herons peck the ground off in the distance and take flight at your approach.  Frogs hop through shallow ponds to get out of your way.  Link can be swarmed by bees after knocking a hive out of a tree.  On approach to a village, I came across a trader who was also walking along the roads.  One of my few critiques at the moment, is that the map, or at leas the areas that I have explored, are too mountainous; or maybe I just find myself climbing mountains because it is a damn gorgeous view.

Leading up to last week, I could kind of understand all the hubbub about Breath of the Wild and how it was touted as being this great game, and even why it won Game of the Year at the 2017 Game Awards.  But only after immersing myself in this new and massive re-imagining of Hyrule have I fully understood the why portion.

There is a lot to this game, and even more that I have yet to experience and further unpack.  I like the weapon durability mechanic, something that as far as I know has never been present in a Legend of Zelda game before.  I like the explanation for the not-at-all-different "Go Rescue Princess Zelda" formula that you are introduced with early on in the game.  And I even captured a video (damn the Switch's video capture tool is awesome) that for the first time ever, I felt like a complete bad ass playing a Legend of Zelda game.  Sure the end of Wind-Waker was a bit of a "Holy DAMN!" moment, but you almost expect that to happen during a boss fight, this was during a run of the mill encounter with some Bokoblins.  Total. Bad ass*.

And that is where I want to leave it.  I do not know how much time I have put into the game yet as the Switch will not tell me (only that I started playing in on December 25th), but I would hard pressed to believe if it were fewer that 15 hours already, and I am looking forward to the next 200+.

So thank you, thank you, thank you, to BikeLaws and RangerBike!!


*P.S.  I will upload the video here after I figure out how to that; or pull it from facebook and upload it to Youtube.

P.P.S.  I also wanted to mention that so far the music, when it is present, I very much enjoy.  There are times during overworld exploration that only a few flickers of the piano are heard, but I find that to be not uncommon with openworld games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim where what music is present is there for atmosphere and intermixed with ambient noises from the environment, which I do appreciate.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Ingame 2" - Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (PC, Wii U, XBLA, PS4)

"Ingame 2" from Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams  on the PC, Wii U, Xbox Live Arcade, & PlayStation (2012)
Composer: Chris Huelsbeck
Label: Black Forest Games
Developer: Black Forest Games

Dr. Potts got me this soundtrack (along with a handful of others a few years back) and it is from one of those games that I have had sitting on the back burner for a number of years but just have never gotten around to playing.  Listening to the soundtrack though, especially "Ingame 2," definitely makes me want to play whatever type of platforming game this is.  If I did not know anything about Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (which I really do not), this music would make me think of both Castlevania and Super Meat Boy; and after watching one of the trailers, a bit of Guacamelee too.  Something about the semi-baroqueness of the melody as the song starts off just screams to be played on a harpischord by an 80's hair metal band; or maybe I am off on that comparison, but at least the sentiment is there.  

Sort of anyway.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Second Impression: Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation (DS)

After reading about Dr. Potts' First Impressions article about Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, I developed a yearning to play a Dragon Quest game as well, and since I had two games in the series that I had not finished, I had some decisions to make.  My choices lay with either Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation which I had previously started back in August, 2014, but put down in March the following year after only playing for 16 hours; the other choice was Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies which if it follows the Dragon Quest series I through VI, is the third part of the VII, VIII, IX trilogy (it actually may not be a trilogy, but I have not looked into it, which I probably should do).  So obviously, I decided to go with DQVI:RoR, which you by now have gathered.

So last month, I started up DQVI again, but started a new character rather than try and figure out where I left off two years ago; considering that I stopped playing because I was lost in the story, starting over seemed like the best way to further enjoy the game.  And from what I recall, everything progressed in the game more-or-less as I remembered it during my first playthrough.  Last week, I reached the point in the game when I had first stopped and immediately recalled being lost, which I was currently.  Earlier yesterday, while wandering around both worlds, I surpassed the 16 hour mark, but was only a little closer to figuring out where I was supposed to be going, or so I thought.

The interesting thing with DQVI is how much of the game they seem to throw at you so early in the game.  It is a bit overwhelming not only having so much area to explore, but since this game deals with traveling back and forth between different versions of the same world where even the world looks a bit different can get confusing.  "Which Somnia am I supposed to be going to?"  "Was Luca in starting world or the second world?  And where in fact was Luca's hut located?"  DQVI does attempt to do a decent job at helping the player along when the goal is seemingly unclear, with being able to manually activate conversations with the members in the party, or seeking out a seer named Luca who can direct you towards your next goal.  However, most of the conversation hints are usually only revealed when you are often context sensitive, or instead of being able to hear your party members, you may only hear your horse 'neigh,' which does not mean anything.  There are hints, but very little hand holding, which I obviously appreciate.

And just this morning, I caved and looked online to find out where my next destination was, which happened to be southeast of a village that becomes accessible only after acquiring a ship.  It was definitely one of those moments that made me feel a little guilty and at the same time a little dumb that something was as simple as crossing a bridge.

So now here I am. 18 hours in and enjoying the game like I had always hoped that I would.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "20th Century Blues" - BioShock (Nearly Everything)

"20th Century Blues" from BioShock on the PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac, iOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
Composer: Noël Coward
Performed By:  Al Bowlly with Ray Noble And His Orchestra
Label: X5 Music Group

Like a lot of the music in the Fallout games, BioShock introduced me to a lot of early 40's and 50's music, some I had heard brief snipits of and others, like "20th Century Blues" ("Twentieth Century Blues" according to the original listing from the 1931 play Cavalcade) I had simply never heard before.

Now, I do not recall hearing this song during the game, as some of the songs are heard while making your way through Rapture, but I know this song cropped up frequently during loading screens during one of the chapters.  And until I downloaded the music from this album, I was really only familiar with the first 45 seconds or so.  And like a number of the other songs in BioShock, it seems pretty obvious from the lyrics that the song was not chosen at random or because it fit within the time period that the game takes place.  And depending on your general outlook on life, it could be appropriate for today too.

I kind of also wanted to find out more about the historical context of the song, but that is a bit beyond my drive right now.  So just enjoy it for what it is.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Film Review: Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017)

Partly because Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi was released today and partly because I am not really happy about spoilers, or feeling like I need to reveal events from the movie just to be one of the first (thousands) of people to be able to claim to talk about the movie, I am going to just talk about my impressions rather than specifics.

First off, I was very happy with SWEVIII:TLJ (hereafter referred to only as SW8* for simplicity sake) over all.  The best way I could think of to describe the film to someone who has not seen it yet (The Kid earlier today), was that it very much felt like a movie in the Star Wars universe, but that it did not feel like any of the other Star Wars movies.  Similar to the same way that Rogue One felt like a Star Wars movie, but not of the numbered seven.

Another way I feel that better describes (sort of) the movie, is that its tone and the way the story was told reminded me a lot of The Clone Wars animated series.  The way that the story followed certain characters, actions of characters who were not part of the main cast, all reminded me of the way that The Clone Wars would often tell their stories, if the particular story did not follow Ahsoka, Anakin, or Obi-Wan.  Even a couple of the sets looked almost too clean, like they were computer generated, but were in fact real objects, but I suspect that that was a visual choice by the director.  And having only seen Looper, I think Rian Johnson did a pretty good job with this IP.  My childhood Star Wars is still intact (Ewoks and all), and I look forward to what his plan is for the next Star Wars trilogy.

Was it a perfect movie?  No.  In one instance, there was part of a story-line, that while I liked it, I was not particularly happy with how it played out.  I also wish that some characters were handled a little differently, but that is the way a Star Wars movie goes.  Maybe it is because I either did not listen to fan theories about characters and their yet undisclosed backstories, or that I just dismissed them outright.  And after the initial teaser, I did not watch any of the trailers, partly because Conklederp was not watching them, but I heard that some of the subsequent trailers contained spoilers and I personally wanted to try to remain spoiler free for as long as possible.

But it was still a Star Wars  movie.  Entire planets are still treated like a single city, time is still handled pretty loosely, and John Williams music is still there.  And actually, I felt that the score for The Last Jedi overall sounded more Star Wars-y than his score for The Force Awakens, and I am not just saying that after watching the movie, but listening to the soundtrack as well.

The point of all of this is, is that I really enjoyed TLJ and while I would love to see it again, there are three other movies that are currently out that I would like to see as well before they leave (1, 2, 3).  Will you like it?  Maybe.  Unless of course you were one of those people who was banking on Chewbacca being Rey's father, and that Emperor Snoke was really Arvin Sloan's twin brother who was running a secret black ops organization out of SD-6 under the guidance of Jack Bristow, but that is something we will talk about next week.

Until then, keep your cups full, but your minds fuller.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Administering Control" - Dead Space 2 (PS3, 360, PC)

"Administering Control" from Dead Space 2 on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC (2011)
Composer: Jason Graves
Label: Electronic Arts
Developer: Visceral Games

I have been listening to the soundtrack from Dead Space 3 a lot recently at work, usually when the boss is out because it is not the most melodic at times and music composed around being attacked by hordes of reanimated and mutated dead probably is not best suited for an office environment.  So today, before The Boss arrived, I had on the soundtrack to Dead Space 2 instead, realizing that I have kind of written off this game as it is my least favorite of the four Dead Space games I have played.

What struck me about "Administering Control" was that while I cannot specifically pinpoint where in the game this track comes from, and honestly after a while the spastic and frantic sounds start to blend together, I had a very vivid image in my head of where I thought this track came from.  I cannot be for certain, and I apologize if I am very wrong on this, but in my head, I had the scene near the end of the second to last act in the game where you are riding on top of a drilling machine and being attacked by Necromorphs.  Basically, the game for this short portions is on rails, which I think is the only time in the game that this happens.  I also find it interesting that the end of the song is so quiet and subdued compared to the first two minutes.  It is very easy to miss if you are not paying attention.

I think that is why I decided to use this song for today, because it created this mental image of a scene in a game when the rest of the soundtrack seemed to meld together.  But do not get me wrong, the fact that Jason Graves uses a full orchestra to create a music that would not be out of place in a big budget and well received science fiction movie is pretty damn impressive in and of itself, "Administering Control" just stuck out more than some of the other songs, even if I did not have the correct scene down in my head.


Monday, December 11, 2017

First Impressions: DOOM (Nintendo Switch)

If you find yourself here and are looking for specs about how DOOM runs on the Switch, or anything technical, I regret to inform you that you have arrived at the wrong address.  There will be no side-by-side comparison videos showing DOOM on the Switch and a top of the line PC running at 60fps with all of the video sliders set at Ultra High.  I tried running the DOOM Demo back in July of last year and was barely able to run the game at 15 fps even on the lowest graphical settings.  

This is where my First Impressions come from.

So this was my first time having to deal with a Day One Patch, something that I have not come across amongst the PC games that I have, or even some of the 3DS games that have used an online connection like Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.  I was a little annoyed at not being able to play a game immediately upon receiving it in the mail, even if the patch contained the ability to play online multiplayer that I really had no interest in, but more on that bit later.  The point is, after about an hour and-a-half or so, the patch downloaded and I was finally able to enjoy DOOM.  Except that I did not enjoy it right off the bat.

As most of you know, I grew up playing consoles and my first real introduction to First Person Shooters was Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and Goldeneye 007 on the N64, so using a controller for FPS' is not a new thing for me.  And I did not really start playing FPS' on PCs until DOOM 3 back in 2009 and from that point on I have tended to favor Keyboard/Mouse controls over a controller in most cases; there are exceptions like Assassin's Creed, and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor though.  So playing with the Switches Joy-Con's took quite a bit of getting used to.  I replayed the first stage because by the end, I felt that I was a bit better and figured that I could use the practice anyway.  And now, at the end of the fourth stage, I finally feel like I am getting more comfortable, but not completely.  There was a Rune Challenge that only solidified my position that KB/M is superior to a controller for precise aiming, especially in timed situations where timing, speed, and accuracy are paramount.  The point is that it took some time before I felt that I could really enjoy the game because of the controls.

Once I reached the second stage (having gone through the first stage twice already) on the Hurt Me Plenty difficulty (being the normal setting for the game), I was finally starting to enjoy the game.  During this time I did notice that the graphics did not look as crisp as the trailers I watched for the 2016 release, but it was far from being a blocky and washed out mess that some parts of the Internet would prefer you to believe.  And yes, I could tell that the game was not running at 1080p, and that some of the textures were not as detailed as they might be running on a computer purchased in the last six months.  But since my current computer could not run the PC version, I do not feel that the Switch version felt inferior while playing it.  For the most part.

Oddly enough, the only times I have felt that the game did not look as detailed as I would have liked was during the melee gore kills.  Sure, I could tell that I was pulling an Imp's jaws open like a Ziploc sandwich bag constructed of flesh and demonic bone, but the colors did seem a bit blurred.  I have also not noticed any slow down in the game, although this could possibly be because I do not have an fps counter up in the corner like I do for Steam, so I may not have been able to tell if there was an fps dip from 30 down to 20. 

As far as bugs and glitches go, I have read about people experiencing audio issues, but I have only had it happen once in the fourth stage when I was wandering around some heavy equipment looking for the location of one of the hidden DOOM Marine dolls.  There was a semi-disruptive tone that was not related to any ambient sound that lasted for less than two seconds.  The game otherwise seemed unaffected.  The only other glitch that I have experienced is pictured to the right.  The second or third time I started the game, I was greeted with the inability to move the joystick either up or down.  I was then told, upon selecting the Campaign (single player option), that I had "exceed[ed] your matchmaking communications quota. . ." and that I could try again in roughly 23 days.  Not having tried multiplayer at this point I was a bit confused at not even being able to continue my single player game, and after frantically searching online, I discovered that all I had to do was exit the game, then restart the Switch.  For whatever reason that cleared everything up.

Speaking of multiplayer which I briefly mentioned above, I have actually played a number of rounds with the rest of the beginners, not that you are relegated to play with other beginners, but that is where I feel my multiplayer skill level is at with console based FPS'.  I also love, at least currently, that there is no option for voice chat.  One might argue that in teamed combat, that communicating with your fellow teammates is integral to survival, but I say that it will would only drive a divide between people who want to better learn the game, and an already toxic community who seems hell bent (eh!?) on being ass-hats to say the least.  I am not saying that everyone playing DOOM multiplayer would call everyone who looks like they are dragging down the point total for the team (often me), a "fucking n00b cunt who can't shoot his way out of his mom's ass."  I just do not want to deal with that.  Ever.  Which is probably why I do not do a lot of online multiplayer gaming.  The point is, as long as voice chat remains either non existent or the option to not have it at all, I will continue to dip my toe into the DOOM multiplayer from time to time.

So that is what I have to say at the moment about DOOM on the Switch.  It is a pretty fun game, well thought out compared to the original DOOM, but not the horror experience I think of when I think of DOOM 3.  It is not a perfect game, and someone who needs a 1080p 60fps experience should probably look elsewhere, but for someone who wanted to play a well designed and fun FPS on the Switch, this is exactly what I was looking for.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Mountain" - Mario Kart 64 (N64)

"Mountain" from Mario Kart 64 on the Nintendo 64 (1996/1997)
Composer: Kenta Nagata
Developer: Nintendo EAD

Okay, sure.  "Mountain" is from the Choco Mountain track in Mario Kart 64, and on the Mario Kart 64 Race Tracks album it is listed as "Choco Mountain / Battle" but this specific track is just the regular racing music and does not not include the Battle section at the end; which is the long winded answer to why I have titled this "Mountain" and not "Choco Mountain / Battle." 

Moving on.

What I really like about "Mountain" is that without using any theme from "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain," this is the first thing that I think of whenever it comes on.  It probably has something to do with the harmonica-esque tone of the melody leading instrument, coupled with the fact that you are driving around a mountain during the majority of the race.  And now that I think about it, this track could have benefited scenery-wise if the train from the Kalimari Desert chugged through part of the stage.  Something about the drum throughout the song and the banjo that comes in around 27 seconds just screams "TRAIN" to me and all this song is missing is a train whistle at some point before it loops back on itself.

But this track is about mountains, and one resembling if not actually created from chocolate.  And thanks to The Kid for giving me the idea of using this while I was. . .riding home on the carriage from work, and not at all talking on the phone while driving, because that's illegal.  Obey the law kids.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Stardew Valley

Hello guys! Today I would like to talk about Stardew Valley, a game that Jaconian got me for our anniversary--something he probably regrets because it's all I do now! Anyway, this is just a short piece to show my appreciation for the game rather than a review. So Stardew Valley. The story goes that the developer created this game 1) to teach himself coding, and 2) because he loved Harvest Moon but wanted more out of it. Harvest Moon was one of my favorite games as a kid, and Stardew Valley does a great job of using that nostalgia while still creating something new.

The concept is that you inherit a farm from your grandpa, and you leave your boring cubicle job at a soulless corporation in order to live a chiller, more fulfilling life in Pelican Town. You start with a property that's covered in debris, not knowing anybody, and it's your mission to create a thriving farm, get to know the community, and discover all the cool weird shit that Pelican Town has going on. Did you know you can befriend a wizard? Hatch a dinosaur? Grow fruit from ancient seeds?

Now look, I love my job. And I have no illusions about how hard it is to run even a hobby farm IRL. BUT! the escapist in me loves this. Anything is possible and everything is positive. Even the mean characters --ahem, Shane-- are good at heart. Consequences are few and far in between (unless you run out of health in the mines, DO NOT do that), but you do still have to work for your rewards. I think I'm at the point now where I've completed all of the main story line and am just cruising through, harvesting pomegranates and turning goat milk into chevre cheese.

 I guess some people get really serious about it and make spreadsheets planning out maximum farm efficiency, but I don't like to play that way. Because after a long day of slogging through traffic like the city slicker I am, I just want to relax, pet some chickens, and hang out at my farm in Stardew Valley.

JRPG's and Random Encounters

Despite the title, I am not about to make any doctorate level thesis related claims or anything that will win us here the 2018 Pulitzer Award for Mixed Media Journalism.  What I am here to write about is something that I noticed recently while playing Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation on the DS, and Final Fantasy III on the SNES Classic.  What I noticed while wandering the overworld and dungeons in these games, and JRPG's to a larger extent, was that I was getting sleepy.

But before you go jumping to the conclusion that JRPG's are by their very nature boring, sleep inducing hunks of not an FPS, or that the very act of grinding in a video game just to progress the story is a cheap way to artificially extend the playtime, let me remind you of a few things; because why not artificially extend the read time in this article?  I grew up playing Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior on the NES in the early '90s, so JRPG's and grinding through wandering monster encounters is nothing new to me.  

At a certain point, probably high school I would imagine, I would stay up late on the weekends (yup, that was me) playing Final Fantasy III, Paladin's Quest, and Chrono Trigger on the SNES, which are all typical JRPG's with turn based combat.  Usually sometime around one or two AM, I might start to doze off because of how late it was, but usually around that time is when I was grinding for levels.  I may not have even needed to gain levels to proceed through the next area, but I would usually want to be at a level at a factor of five, just because it felt right.  If I was at level 23 when I cleared a boss, I would tell myself that I would probably need to be at or around 25 before going through the next story lead cave, and be at least level 30 before fighting the next boss.  And gaining levels also meant unlocking new abilities that seemed to happen at specific levels that I could never remember, so gaining another level meant possibly gaining a new cool spell or special attack.

Having that mentality ingrained in my brain, playing a JRPG like Final Fantasy III (again), or Dragon Quest VI means that I am going to be grinding for levels makes me wonder if I managed to condition some part of my brain to be in a relaxed state become sleepy.  It is not that I am not enjoying my time with the game, far from it.  Conklederp can attest that while reading, I will often doze off and not because I am bored by H.P. Lovecraft, but because I often read at night and is a pretty consistent way for me to fall asleep.

Random encounters too are their own beast.  They happen fairly frequently so that you are unable to get through a single phrase of the overworld or dungeon theme before being attacked.  This is just a part of the game and the genre.  I guess you could opt to find a game that lets you go from Point A to Point B (after being exiled from your village for pulling flipping the switch on the forbidden machine located in the center of town) where you are not required to fight any monsters, but the monsters are there (often inexplicably) to both present some perceived danger, but true enough, to extend the playtime a bit.  And then you have Final Fantasy Mystic Quest where the enemies in dungeons and caves were all visible (with the exception of one ice related stage if I recall correctly), and I became afraid at the finite number of enemies possibly meaning a finite level I could reach; especially hazardous if a party member dies and loses out on that sweet sweet XP.  The beauty with random encounters coupled with turn based combat is that being able to mash the A button to simply fight your way through is so easy.

So what am I getting at?  That maybe I inadvertently hardwired myself to get sleepy while grinding for levels during random monster encounters while playing RPG's apparently.  Maybe it's true, or maybe it's something that I just made up in the last 47 1/2 minutes.  Either way, it's not like it's going to stop me from playing JRPG's.  I just love the genre too much.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Monthly Update: December 2017

So first off, apologies for us missing the first MIDI Week Single since September 14th 2016, but at least we made it more than 52 weeks without missing a post, just not quite a calendar year.

So my excuse for my lax posting in November had to do with Conklederp and me moving into a the house we recently signed a 30 year mortgage on, refinishing some hardwood floors before being able to set up an integral room designed for sleeping, getting said house ready for a family visit, moving more stuff out of the old house (we had a month overlap), and cleaning the old house before we turned the keys in.  I don't think we've gotten take out as much as we did last month, what with being exhausted after doing maintenance, moving boxes and bags, and some deep deep cleaning in hopes that we might get at least 17% of our deposit back.

Now that we are fully in our new house (for the next 30 years?) posting should become more regular. . . oh wait, there are these holiday things coming up at the end of the month and oh yeah, we still have a lot of boxes taking up a lot of room in the kitchen, living room, and basement landing.  And I am looking at a blue plastic bin that has our Dungeons & Dragons books in it, and I know there is another blue plastic bin upstairs with most of my Tolkien books in it; and I need to bolt a small bookshelf into the wall so that it doesn't tip over during the big one in the next 50 years.

Anyway, the point is, now that we only have one house to deal with, I can get back to talking about my playthrough of Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, my attempt at Castlevania: The Adventure, my current goings on in Wolfenstein 3D, or my time with DOOM on the Switch; holy hell I'm even playing multiplayer against my better judgement!  Or even my hunt to find a new physical copy of Fire Emblem: Awakening for less than $40 because bloody hell resellers, y'all're asshats, and Nintendo really needs to have this (and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Star Fox 64 3D as part of their Nintendo Selects series.

Alright, that's my post for today.  Written partly because I felt I needed to post an update and not just one of the monthly variety, but also because I felt that I haven't written in a while and it generally feels good to be able to sit down and write something, which was part of the reason for us existing here.  That and because Dr. Potts and I live 650+ miles away and it's a way for us to keep in touch on a regularish basis.

So being back is good.

Let's keep it this way.

The Mountain I Must Climb

Thursday, November 23, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "In the Town" - Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelations (NDS)

"In the Town" from Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelations on the Nintendo DS (2011)
Composer: Koichi Sugiyama
Album: No Official Soundtrack Release (That I Could Find for the DS Version)
Developer: Arte Piazza

You know, why not make November Dragon Quest music month here at Stage Select Start?  After reading Dr. Potts' article about Dragon Quest VIII, I recalled that I had put down DQVI some time ago and thought it deserved another shot, so that is what I have been playing for most of the month.

I decided to use "In the Town" because it intrigued me a bit.  Aside from your starting village, "In the Town" plays for every town that you go in, which is pretty standard when it comes to video games and specifically RPGs.  But what it is that I find interesting about this song, is that even when you visit the Dream World, the town theme is the same.  And even in the Real World (I've forgotten if it is referred to as anything else), there are rumors of the threat of Murdaw and his armies taking over the world.  It is a rather cheerful song, which is what I am getting at.  Koichi Sugiyama has written another song that just sounds like a small town or village theme, but you would not know that anything wrong is happening in the outside world.

I guess you could say that is my one and only criticism of this song, but again, it is a damn good town song.

Now as to the "Album" section above.  I could find no mention of this song on the Super Famicom 2009 soundtrack release, but the 2009 Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest VI: The Phantom World album does contain "In the Town" as part of a medley.  Surprisingly too was that there was  no soundtrack released for the 2011 DS release, but that seems to have been the case with the DS remakes until the Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King 3DS remake last year.  


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

MIDI Week Singles - "Overture" - Dragon Quest 8 (PS2)

"Overture" Dragon Quest VIII - PS2
Composer: Koichi Sugiyama
Publisher: Aniplex

Given I'm still not that far into the game, I've decided to share the opening theme of Dragon Quest VIII.  The song is very grand, and I'm sure there are some musical terms I don't know to describe the beginning which has sort of a call to attention, before settling into a steady theme full of big horns and cymbal crashes. I like that the song comes to a conclusion rather than fading out or repeating.  It gives it a sense like the opening of a play, introducing the world before the action begins.  This song sets the tone for what has been a light and colorful cartoon adventure.   


Friday, November 10, 2017

Monthly Update: November 2017

Hmmmmmm, November.  I had thought about participating in NaNoWriMo, as I usually do every year around the end of October.  This year I was planning on either writing a new D&D story since novel writing is not entirely my thing, although I probably could have adapted "The Breaking of the Dawn" into a full fledged story if I focused a bit on the background of Bellamon and the history of the First Order of the Ever Dawn.  However, as is typically the case, November kind of snuck up and excuses abound, I am working more than I was last year (considering last year I was in the middle of my internship) so I do not really have the time to write no less than 1,667 words every day when I also have to sleep, wake up, make coffee, hang out a bit with Conklederp, leave for work, work, leave work, spend time with Conklederp while decompressing from work, eat dinner, spend time with Conklederp, then sleeping again.  My days are kind of full, although I guess you could say that if I were to cut out some of the time I spend during the day playing video games (which is usually during the "spend time with Conklederp time" as we are both playing something), I might be able to make it work.

Oh yeah, and I like spending time here too, obviously as I am writing this on Sunday morning while I have water boiling for that ever loving coffee and considering cooking some bacon because BACON!

And BOOM, just like that it is Monday night.  Stuff happens.  We get caught up doing non video game related activities (like stripping paint off of roughly 200 square feet of hardwood floors, and entering bills and invoices into an online accounting program).

So let's make this (or at least the rest of it) a quick one.

It seems like I was the most productive on the 3DS in October, finishing Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, as well as starting and finishing Metroid II: Return of Samus.  I also started up Castlevania II: Simon's Quest and am enjoying being lost and frequently dying possibly even more than in Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition.

Other games I started last month were the new season of The Walking Dead from Telltale Games and if the game would stop crashing I would probably enjoy the game a lot more, and Wolfenstein 3D because it has been a while since I last booted up Castle Wolfenstein way back in the early 90s.  And yes, I am playing the edition (the only one that is available on GOG) where you can save as frequently as you like and yes, I am playing it on the default Bring 'Em On.  I have also been playing Darkwood off and on, but mainly because it is a pretty stressful game and at the moment, I am not sure how well I am playing the game and I cannot see what the end game is, so I find that that is a bit of a drag on the motivation.

Movies last month too were more abundantly covered than in the past and I was on the verge of posting another article on Friday about two Stephen King movies that are on Netflix, 1922, and Gerald's Game.


Now we are firmly rooted in Friday because apparently that is just how fast the last seven days have decided to be.  I am eagerly awaiting Amazon to deliver my copy of DOOM for the Switch which was released today, but for whatever reason, will not arrive until the 14th.  Lastly (not really, but let us put this thing out to pasture because this is getting out of hand), I am about 12 hours into Final Fantasy III on the SNES Classic.  It might just be my favorite game of all time.

Extremely Vexed We Were

P.S.  If you've made it this far, I hint that there might be something ghostly in our new house that may only be visible with a camera of the 3rd dimensional kind.  That's all I'm allowed to reveal.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Unknown World" - Dragon Warrior (GBC)

"Unknown World" or "Go Out on the Plain" from Dragon Warrior I & II on the Game Boy Color (2000)
Composer: Koichi Sugiyama
Album: No Official Album Release
Developer: Chunsoft

A lot of what I could say about Dragon Warrior I & II that was released on the Game Boy Color back in 2000 I already covered last year in the MIDI Week Single article about Ladutorum / Tentegel Castle.  The same applies here too, but additionally so with the song title.  The original title that was given to the song from the 1986 Dragon Quest Symphonic Suite album was "Unknown World" although the title given on the unofficial soundtrack release out there in the ether is "Go Out on the Plains."

So I have wanted to use this song for a while and Dr. Potts' post yesterday about Dragon Quest VIII was just the kick the keester I needed to pull this one out.  The main difference between this 1993 Super Famicom arrangement and the melody written back in 1986, is that the original song only lasted 30 seconds before it would loop back on itself.  The 1993 arrangement is also just a bit slower, where as the original song lasted about 25 seconds.  The additional music that comprises the rest of this arrangement was created for the 1993 arrangement.

Confused yet?  I guess that is the problem when referencing music that was originally written in 1986, re-arranged in 1993, then converted to another arrangement using another sound chip in 2000.  Either, way, this is one of those songs that I could just let play over and over.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

First Impressions: Dragon Quest VIII (PS2)

Yes, I'm just going to quietly write a first impressions article as though I haven't taken the better part of a year off from posting anything.  Also, this technically isn't my first impressions of Dragon Quest VIII, I had some experience with the game about ten years ago when my friend and roommate Zor The Red played through it and I watched him, intermittently.  However, that was a long time ago, and the game feels pretty new to me.

Jane watched me play for the first hour, and the thing that made the strongest impression on her was how very adorable the enemies are.  She's not wrong, they really are cute.  I never really noticed this in the earlier NES Dragon Quest games, but here in PS2 High Fidelity, SquareEnix chose to really highlight the cuteness.  In fact, I can now see how easily a Pokemon clone could be born from this universe of adorable monsters.  

The Dancing Devil's Sultry Dance would make Jane lol every time

Play-wise, I find the games retro-turned based approach to combat to be soothing.  It's a throwback with updated graphics, and sometimes that's just the thing.  Turn based combat can lend to some pretty hairy situations where you must make very careful decisions.   The voice acting is really good too, full of earnest overacting that reminds me of any great mid-budget cartoon.  The world in general is very light and optomistic in tone, a nice antidote to the dreary worlds of other media.  

Coming off of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Dragon Quest VIII's world is markedly un-interactive, but this is only occasionally frustrating; when I run into a small obstacle I can't simple jump or climb over.  That being said, the view distance is really great, and I get the impression that, much like BOTW, what I am seeing is actually there, not simply part of the backdrop.  

All in all, I'm pretty happy to be playing this game just after the end of Daylight Savings, and moving into the winter where playing a retro RPG on the couch is just the ticket. 


P.S. a HUUUUGE thank you to Jaconian for giving me this copy to play!  Thank you thank you thank you.  I have no excuse for having been silent so long.  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Wondering About My Loved Ones" - Wolfenstein 3D (PC)

"Wondering About My Loved Ones" from Wolfenstein 3D on MS-DOS (1992)
Composer: Robert Prince
Album: No Official Release
Developer: id Software

First off, it was semi-surprisingly difficult to find this particular version of "Wondering About My Loved Ones," which is the version that plays in the 1992 MS-DOS version of the game that is available through GOG.  And because this song is as well known as it apparently is, there are dozens of arrangements, re-orchestrations, remixes, and covers, but what I wanted was the stripped down version that is in the game, not necessarily the version that composer Bobby Prince had written "as is" for the game.  And then there is a semi-soundtrack available with music from Wolfenstein 3D, it contains the music that Bobby Prince originally wrote.

So I landed on "Wondering About My Loved Ones" because while playing the game, I would hear about 10 seconds at most while in the process of saving my game and that was it.  The song in its entirety is not too different from those first 10 seconds, but there is another full minute of music before the song clips back into the beginning.  Plus Conklederp thinks it is a pretty funny song out of context (or even in context for that matter) and it is what I thought would be a good showcase going into November.