Aether’s Best of Aether

So, these are busy times for your main man again, and I haven’t had as much time to sit down and write lately as I’d like. Now, I could just skip making a post for now, or I could phone it in and put together a quick bit of nothing, but I love you all too much for that. What I’m going to do instead is lean on my long blogging history and create new content all about my old content.

I’ve been blogging now for eight years. Eight years. That feels freakin’ impressive. I have seen multiple generations of bloggers rise and fall during that time. Now, I’m a decent writer. Good, maybe I’ll allow you to call me. Even great. Sure, we’ll let that go. If you wanted to say stellar, I wouldn’t argue. Awe-inspiring would be an adjective some could use. “The Best Blogger in all of Human History” if you wanted to go there, I suppose. Incredibly sexy, of course, but that goes without saying. I do well enough at what I do. Enough people seem to like and respond to the things I create to give me the spark to keep doing this thing I enjoy doing. But some posts are better posts than other posts. That’s just the way it goes. Even for absolutely gorgeous geniuses like me. I do go back through my old writings occasionally and I’ve got my favorites. So I thought I’d highlight my favorite posts of my own work, and we can all either run back down memory lane or get introduced to some things I did before you started hanging around these parts that I really like.

This is actually a page I’ve been wanting to add to this site for a while. Something to help draw more attention to what I consider my best work to people just recently finding this place, rather than just relying on my newest posts to be most visible. So don’t be surprised if you see this list reappearing on this site later, in some form. And for that matter, for the more long-term projects, I’m only going to be including the stuff I’m mostly finished with. I’m loving the Project G series I’m doing so far, as well as the ongoing Persona Retrospective, but I’m moving through them slowly so they’re far from their final form yet. Seems unfair to include them when I still can’t be sure I’ll be happy with the final product. Anyways, here we go. Aether’s favorite posts and projects on Lost to the Aether.

  1. The Dark Souls screenshot Let’s Play

If I had to choose a crown jewel for my blog, the bits I think are absolutely the best quality, this would be it. When I was first typing up my runthrough of the early bits of Dark Souls, I was just expecting it to be a one-off post, but I had enough fun with it that I decided to come back to it, still not expecting to take this tack through the whole game. But I did. And it’s a series I go back and read through every once in a while. I really enjoy screenshot LPs, and I feel like I managed to capture everything I wanted and get it in just the style that I love to read. And it’s a series I’m really proud of. Making LPs is tough, and this took me 70 hours of game time and more than two and a half years to do, but I got through it, and I feel I made something glorious in doing so. It’s a long read, but if you’re into anything I do here, I’d highly recommend going through that. First post is linked to in the header here, while the whole series is available in its category in the sidebar. For that matter, I think the Fallout LP was going really well, too, but unfortunately my computer died and took the save with it right when I was getting into the end game, so I can’t recommend it too highly, given it doesn’t reach the end. Well-known perils of LPing.

2. The LeftHanders of Video Games

I’m left-handed. In spite of how I act in those posts, it’s not a big deal, not something I really give a lot of mindspace to. But it is a part of being who I am, and it boggles me that for all the variety and creativity we see in our characters in most forms of media, something that’s present in 10% of the population in the real world has nearly no representation among fictional characters. So I wanted to take some time to highlight the left-handed characters that have gotten some show in my chosen medium. At thirty-five characters between these three posts, I’m pretty sure I have the most comprehensive list of left-handed characters in video games on the internet. And I’ve still got more to do. I’ve been collecting notes on further characters showing up to eventually get together a 4th post in that series. So keep your eyes out.

3. The Right Time to be Sexy in Video Games and the remaster, Good Sexy, Bad Sexy

Sexuality is awesome. There’s long been loud voices absolutely hating any hint of sexiness in media. I know, I grew up with some of them. There’s the moral guardians, there’s the pearl clutchers, there’s the culture warriors, all abhorring the scantily clad characters and the sex scenes and the fan service and the titillation. Moral judgments get placed often. Being as drop dead sexy as I am, I’m pretty enmeshed in sexuality, and you’re never going to convince me that it’s a de facto bad thing. But it is often misapplied to the detriment of the work it’s in. In these two posts, we take a lot at that, working out when sexuality does and does not work in all the various forms of storytelling.

4. Visual Novel Theatre: Doki Doki Literature Club

This is my favorite review I’ve ever written. Was fun to write, it’s still fun for me to read, I really dig it.

5. The Saints Row Retrospective Series

I really enjoy doing these deep analyses and retrospectives, but trying to make a summation of whole games like this is really time consuming and intensive to create. Still, although I probably won’t be getting back to it until after I’ve hit a good stopping point with the Persona Retrospectives, I still made a really good take on a bunch of games in one of my favorite series, and this was one of the biggest things bringing people here early in the blog’s life.

6. Your Primer to NJPW’s G1 Climax 28

This post is one that’s way outdated now, but I got to talk at length and put together an introduction to one of my big passions. I feel I put a lot of spirit into that one about a subject I was really excited about, and although it’s probably not going to interest most who visit the same way it does me, that’s one of the posts I’m most proud of, personally.

7. All up in Nintendo’s Business

People have a lot of opinions about company’s actions, and Nintendo’s choices have often seemed very unusual. I don’t work as a business consultant anymore, but it’s still fun for me to step back into those shoes an analyze the internal cultural and organizational factors that might make a business move the way they move. I’m probably super wrong on a lot of it, but the mental exercise is still fun to go through, and I hope, to follow along with.

8. Lagging Behind on the Leading Ladies

I get tired of having to play as characters that look basically the same all the time. As I kid, I got frustrated with being a mascot, as a teen, got bored with being a random anime dude in most every game, and at the time I wrote this, I was just plain done with being a brown-haired 30-something schmuck in most every game. I’d like to see more female protagonists in the games I play, to give it more variety. But I also hate people pushing for simple solutions to complex problems. And as I thought about it, the choice of a protagonist’s gender is quite complex. I go into detail on just what those complexities are here, as I see them. Things that can be overcome, certainly, but I’m not going to go pushing for more gender diversity in my protagonists without acknowledging that they’re there.

9. Visual Novel Theatre: Yandere-Chan and Yandere Simulator: The Destined Battle

According to my site stats, I’ve had hundreds of people move from the first post to actually checking out the game’s site. I’m not really big-time enough to swing audience numbers for most things, but given the magnitude I’ve had with that post and Yandere-Chan being an independent, amateur project, that feels like I’ve made a difference there. Of course, that started up a strange thing with the searches that drew people here, with hundreds of people now finding my blog while looking for either the similarly named Yandere Simulator or porn of the similarly named Yandere Simulator. So I feel by that point, the Yandere Simulator post is obligatory. I had a lot of fun with it, though.

10. The Fantasy Prejudice Problem and Constructed Worlds vs Civil Rights Metaphors

This is a huge pet peeve of mine, when creators will have their aliens or mutants or monsters or what have you face discrimination and try to relate it to real-world discrimination when they’re really cheapening the discrimination people face in real life by having their beings be actually different or actually dangerous, and introducing a whole lot of unintended counterarguments as well. I talk more about it in these two posts, and it’s something I wish more creators were aware of.

11. Inspiration for the Legend of Zelda Currency?

This is a little nothing of a post. Just an idle thought I had, put down, and never went back to. I found a Japanese Rupee, which they used when they occupied Burma during World War II, and related it to the Legend of Zelda Rupee. Obviously, there’s no actual relation there, it was just a thing I through out into the world based on the vaguest of connections. I don’t know that the post is even all that interesting or entertaining. But it is my most popular. This post gets more views than anything else I’ve done on this blog. So, for that alone, it merits a place on this list. I guess that’s something people really wonder about.

12. Freytag’s Pyramid vs. Non-endings in Storytelling

I am darn proud of this post. Get to explain foundational plot structure to you way better than your English teacher ever did, and bag on that punk Frank R. Stockton while I’m doing it. I feel really good about the things I discussed there. Think I talked about a smart but dry thing in a really entertaining way. There’s also been a fairly prolific writing vlogger who’s referenced the post and used the multi-climax pyramid I created for the post in a few of her videos, and it is incredibly fulfilling to me to have created something for other people to use and build off of. That was one of the things I had in mind when I was starting this blog, wanting to be a creator of content, not just consumer, and it’s really nice to see something I made contribute to something else. The left-handed posts did as well, but I can’t find the posters folks made off of them now.

So there. Go check out those posts. I like them, and I’ve got phenomenal tastes. You should too.

A Grinding Pain

I don’t like grinding.  Controversial statement there, I know.  Not exactly a whole lot of outlets out there being all like “This game has tons of beautiful grinding therefore 11/10!”.  Once upon a time, I actually rather enjoyed grinding.  Because I was a weird kid.  But particularly on handheld games, there was just something satisfying about having the GBA in my hands and the TV on and being able to pummel goons mindlessly as background noise while watching all my numbers go satisfying up.  I ground my way to a full 150 in my Pokedex way back in the day which is a hugely time consuming feat and don’t let anyone tell you different.  Of course, that was back in an era in which I had few games but copious amounts of free time.  Now, the situation has reversed.  And so too has my opinion on grinding.

The act of doing repetitive activities over and over past the point of enjoyment with minimal new content introduced in order to incrementally make your numbers bigger or gain desired resources.  Looking back, I realize I’ve done it a lot over the years.  The aforementioned full Pokedex.  Getting the Sword of Kings in Earthbound.  Building myself up to be able to take on the post game superdungeon in later versions of Final Fantasy VI.  Running back and forth in the sewers to level my party up until they have the skills I wanted to take down Matador in SMT: Nocturne.  Going through huge long ordeals to get the materials needed to craft better equipment in Dragon Quest VIII, which ultimately killed my interest and led me to quit the game just before it allegedly ‘gets good’.  Spending over an hour dodging lightning bolts in Final Fantasy X.  And I can go on.  Actually, it’s amazing how many distinct memories I have of grinding in games.  Like, all my gaming experiences, and that’s what I devote mental real estate to?  Weird.  Anyways, Red Metal had a game review a while back, I don’t remember which one but will probably update this with the link if he’s kind enough to remind me in the comments, where he talks about grinding as resonating with the Japanese cultural values of seeing results from hard work, and something that’s been frequent in JRPGs because of it.  And that makes a lot of sense to me.  At one point, I shared in it.  A lot of those memories above I look back on fondly.  But it’s not anything I want much to do with now.  

And my recent experiences show this is a practice that’s far from dying out.  Two games I’m currently playing, one from last year, one from a decade ago, both hit a point where grinding was necessary, for very similar reasons and for very similar results.

So, RPGs, right?  Some have more room for strategy and skill and alternate approaches than others, but at some level with all of them, you’ve got a set of numbers and you’re mashing it up against another set of numbers until you get the result you want.  But usually you’ve got plots going up alongside them too.  And when you’ve got gameplay and you’ve got plot, you want them to kind of sort of go along with each other.  Plot climaxes should follow or be followed by gameplay climaxes, generally.  So when you’ve got a game about numbers, that means big important characters should have big important numbers.  Now, your numbers are the most important, of course.  But they might not be the biggest.  So you have to grind to make them bigger.  

I’ve talked about Yakuza: Like a Dragon in this space before.  For the most part, my opinion is unchanged on it; I love most of it, but dislike the combat.  But I’ve also spent 55 hours in the game to this point, so you can take that for what you will.  Anyways, the game is divided into chapters.  I’m currently midway through Chapter 12, which so far, seems like the biggest chapter as far as the plot goes.  The game spends all of its early and mid acts setting up a complex and somewhat nonsensical set of dominoes, some of which it inherits from previous games from idly, and Chapter 12 is where it feels like it starts giving you all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to get the full picture and put together your gameplan for moving into the endzone.  I mix my metaphors like a boss.  Anyways, it’s a big momentous chapter.  And it starts by saying “HEY WE NEED 3 MILLION YEN FOR REASONS AND ALL THE CRIME LORDS ARE BROKE HOW ABOUT YOU GO GRIND FOR IT?”  Well, I didn’t grind for it.  Because as I said, I hate grinding.  Instead, I just spent 20 minutes running my bomber businesses, and got that 3 mil much easier.  So then, after that, it takes you some place.  And you’re like, “Oh man, I wasn’t expecting the game to go here, this is awesome!”  And then it’s like “OH HEY HOW ABOUT I TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO INTRODUCE YOU TO THE PERFECT PLACE TO GRIND.”  And you’re like, “No, thank you, grinding totally sucks.” And then your party members start encouraging you to GRIND but you ignore them because you’ve had no problem with any story encounter up to this point.  So you get back into the plot, which is really moving, and you’re heading to resolve a plot point that’s been hanging over things literally all game, so you move through the dungeon to do that, but then you run into some guys I don’t want to name because of spoilers but you’re like “Oh these guys are here? Things just got like 10 times more awesome now.  And I get to fight them?  That’s sweet!”  But then you realize those awesome guys who absolutely should be a challenging fight are ten levels above where you’re expected to be by this point and have some absolute bullhonky numbers that you can’t do anything about so they wipe the floor with you.  Like, not even trying. If you follow the game path as intended, even doing almost all the side content available to you up to that point, you’ve got no chance of beating them without grinding.  Your numbers just aren’t high enough to match theirs.  And Yakuza: Like a Dragon isn’t a game where strategy and prep work make a huge impact on the momentum of combat.  So you can’t smart your way out of it.  No, you have to take all that story momentum and all those awesome feelings at seeing those two badasses, for whom you’d be honestly disappointed if the boss fight was easy, and put them on hold while you go back and grind.  

And a blast from a decade earlier, at about the same time I hit that point in Yakuza: Like a Dragon, I also hit something similar in Devil Survivor.  Day 3, for which anyone who’s played the game instantly know what I’m talking about, but there’s a boss there that’s already been well established as one hard beefcake, who has shown up in gameplay before and left you no choice but to flee for your lives before him, and who is already prophecized to straight up murder your party at exactly that time.  This fight has to be tough.  And it delivers.  The general monsters around you are a step above the ones you have been facing up to this point and could potentially overwhelm you on their own, but the boss himself goes well beyond that.  Offensively powerful, can hit every member of your group on the map, and invincible to absolutely everything except for a single attack your protagonist has just for this battle.  Now, Devil Survivor is an SMT game, which usually has a heavy emphasis on the mental work over just raw numbers, so there’s still plenty of room to strategize your way past challenges without having to do a huge amount of grinding, but the only attack you have that can damage him?  It’s a physical attack, which means if you sacrificed physical might to make your protag an arcane powerhouse like I did, you still need to back off for a while to go hammer out a few levels you can put in your strength to do some decent damage.  Once again, at a big climactic plot point, but I had to run it back to go spend time doing something of minimal value only to go at it again feeling much more irritated.  

So, I’m not going to say there’s no value to mandatory grinding in a game.  I absolutely hated Dark Souls stupid checkpoint placements, but I do remember feeling early on in the game that there was an odd benefit there in needing to practice with the jobbers and slowly build up resources over the course of replaying familiar sections of the game again and again every time you lost.  But I am going to say I hate grinding, and if it has to happen, it needs to be well placed.  Both these examples landed their difficult spikes, and thus the necessity of grinding, right when their story momentum was reaching a height, and the necessity to take a break from the plot in order to get what I needed to move through it robbed the big moments of a lot of their impact and emotional gravitas.  It was horrible for plot pacing, in short.  And both of these have big story moves following those spiked battles, but it lost a bit of narrative continuity because I needed to stop and grind.  I don’t have a good solution to that.  Both of those fights needed to be hard, and needed to be harder than anything else you’ve faced.  But I do know that grinding is not the solution there.  Both of those imposed grinding at absolutely the worst place, and the stories suffered for it.  

Snap Judgements: Springfell

You get those strange feelings sometimes.  Those urges.  Those unusual desires which can only be fulfilled in one way.  You don’t need to speak them, I know.  Deep inside you, you have a passion, a craving, a drive, screaming at you for relief.  In polite society, you ignore it, pretend its not there, but its never far from your thoughts.  It’s more than a want, you need it to feel whole.  You find yourself saying in private moments, in hushed tones “I wish Aether would explain his thoughts on a bunch of video games in relatively short form.”  And it makes you feel dirty.  But it doesn’t need to.  Those desires, they’re perfectly healthy.  You don’t need to be ashamed of them.  Besides, I’m here to satisfy.  So go ahead.  Get yourself ready, and relax.  I’ll take the lead from here.

Batman: The Telltale Series

So there was that #LoveYourBacklog event we did a while back.  Answered a bunch of questions, talked about my giant but slowly shrinking backlog.  One of those questions was leading up to the #MaybeInMarch deal, where you take the game that’s been on your backlog for the longest time, Hitman Absolution in my case, and play through that in March.  I didn’t do that.  You might notice this about me, but I don’t play by your rules.  In fact, I don’t play by your rules so hard, that I instead played through the game that’s been on my back for the least time, instead.  So take that.  

In that post, I expressed that I had grown tired of Telltale’s usual “Everything is suddenly awful because we said so but really it’s your fault” style of storytelling, but held out hope that, given that they’re working with a property in Batman that’s generally more optimistic than their usual licenses, they’d be avoiding their usual habits with this.  And in large part, they did!  It trends towards the darker end of Batman stories, overall, and there’s times where things just go clumsily sour and there’s nothing you can do about it, but in the greater context where it’s not trying to beat you over the head with how awful everything is all the time, I had a much better time with it than I had with many of Telltale’s other narrative adventure fare.  It’s definitely not perfect, it still has a lot of the omnipresent Telltale Games writing flaws, false choices, and a sloppiness that grows the further the story progresses, but it also has a pretty strong beginning and does some unique things with the Batman property, and I did end up enjoying it much more than I though I would.

One thing I did absolutely love about this game was how it changed the standard Batman status quo.  Batman is one of those properties that, whatever your medium of choice, everyone knows, and knows fairly well.  You know Batman’s story.  You know his character traits.  You know his major antagonists.  Comics, film, tv, video games, books, beyond, Batman has been in them all.  It’s hard to make Batman stories in new mediums feel fresh.  Whereas Marvel’s Spider-Man (the PS4 game) surmounted this problem by highlighting a really solid villain from the relatively more recent comics that hadn’t been around long enough to gain such a hold in the public’s consciousness for most of the game in Mr. Negative, Telltale’s Batman gets over it by taking their most famous antagonists and changing them up entirely.  Batman and his usual circle of support are all the same, but the typical famous villains for him are completely different.  Two-Face arises in a situation rather different than what we usually find him in and as a result you don’t really know where things are going with him until they get there.  Penguin has a lot of traits in common with usual depictions of him yet is still completely unrecognizable.  Other famous villains show up in roles pretty far askance of what you’d usually find.  And the central villain of the piece is both a brand new character and is not at the same time.  I loved seeing how they shook up the traditional Batman characters, and that really got me much more interested in it throughout.

And for the record, I’m partway through Season 2 of Batman Telltale now, and although it still does some nice things with continuing shaking up the villains and supporting characters, but, although it was clear they planned for a season two initially, it’s just not as strong as the first.  Season 1 ends conclusively, minimal problematic sequel hooks and all, so it’s not diminishing the quality of the first, but it’s still a bit of a disappointment after how much I enjoyed the initial.  Maybe it’ll bring it back by the end, though.

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Eyes on Transistor

Hey, Supergiant Games has been getting a lot of attention with their latest release.  Apparently, Hades is a good game.  So I thought today, we’d take a look at… something completely different.  

A while back, we took a look at Supergiant Games’ first published effort, Bastion.  I like the game, a lot. And I wrote a lot about it, once! Today, we’re going to follow up on that, by taking a look at their follow up, Transistor.  

Transistor is a pretty obvious spiritual successor to Bastion, working off of the same DNA while really doing its own thing.  In Transistor, you play as a woman without a voice using a sword that is also her lover in a world that’s cyberpunk as all hell and maybe is inside a computer or is a virtual reality thing or something to fight beasties that are probably computer programs gone wrong.  Uhh… it gets a little weird when you phrase it all out like that.  Let’s start over.

In Transistor, you find yourself in the city of Cloudbank, a city where absolutely everything, down to the weather is democratically determined, and as a result, has a bit of a problem with constant meaningless change and mediocrity.  Whatever’s the lowest common denominator catches on the most, and never sticks around to make an impact.  Nearly everyone is registered and set towards two determined goals, and individuals rise and fall all the time with barely anyone caring.  You play as Red, a popular singer and maybe something of an activist who’s become ‘the voice of the people’.  The local illuminati, the Camerata, who want to break Cloudbank out of that democratic quagmire it’s in, attack you, trying to stab you with the titular Transistor.  Your romantic partner, a mysterious man who’s somehow entered Cloudbank without anything about him being registered, takes the hit for you, and his soul is absorbed into the Transistor.  And then the Camerata take your voice somehow.  You escape, get your hands on the Transistor, through which your boyfriend is still able to speak with you, and then you get attacked by computerized beasties as a result of something called the Process running amok.  So, there’s the background of the game.  In much more accurate and describing wordy-things this time around.  

It’s never especially clear what exactly Cloudbank’s nature is, what’s outside of the city, etc.  The game’s short on details in general.  We’ll get into that later.  Anyways, programming themes abound, which does lead to the impression that it’s all software.  Most of the potential interaction points are highlighted using what looks like code, all your moves are code terms, your enemies and so much about the setting are computer terminology, Red, at least, seems rather adept with programming language, etc.  It overall gives the piece a somewhat surreal tone.  Visually and auditorily, the world hear is very somber.  Colors are high contrast, but very muted, and the music, although nearly as good as we heard in Bastion last, are much less solely listenable, serving more to set the mood in combination with the story and the game, rather than standing on their own as great listens.  Between that, the game feels a lot more lonely and oppressive than even Bastion’s post-apocalyptic romp with less characters than this game did.  The music, they do some really interesting play with that I have to commend them for.  Red, your character, is a singer, and you can unlock some of her songs.  Moreover, even though she lost her voice, she can still hum, and will do so along with the background track at the press of a button.  So you get your lead pretty heavily involved in the game’s soundtrack, hearing her voice where you can’t hear her otherwise.  It makes for a really interesting tour through the game’s soundtrack.

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Project G-Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

More Memorable Title: The last one of the original series OR The one that’s not Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II

Here, we come to it, the final, ultimate movie of Godzilla’s Showa era. And for that matter, the one that brought back Godzilla’s original and best regarded director and composer. In fact, this was director Ishiro Honda’s end to an extended break in production, and reportedly the guy was so into being able to work again that he was taking on way more tasks on set than usual for someone in his position, leaving some of the staff with nothing to do. Its script was picked through a contest, and was scriptwriter Yukiko Takayama’s first produced effort. Positioned as a direct sequel to the previous Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, it also takes a markedly more introspective tone, using its sci-fi elements to explore thoughts of what it means to be human outside of just the form one’s body takes. Ishiro Honda seemed to regard this film highly, feeling it was very refreshing and injected new life into the Godzilla model.

It was also an absolute bomb, in its day. One of only two Godzilla films to sell less than a million tickets, and, depending on whose reports you’re using, is the least profitable Godzilla film in history. On the contrary, it’s also one of the favorites in the series for a lot of people now. But it didn’t really come out of a good environment. The Japanese film industry in general was experiencing a downturn in 1975, giant monster movies in particular were dropping fans all over the place, and it’s coming off a time where the Godzilla franchise wasn’t exactly clear on what type of film they were wanting to make. First the series was psychological horror, then it was fun monster movies with heavy, thoughtful themes and undertones, then it just threw ideas at you for a while, then it was simple kid-friendly movies, then it was adult oriented ultra-violent for its day stuff, then it was… this. So it was a little hard to follow the throughline unless you were a big giant sexy nerd like myself Except they didn’t really have those in the 70s. So rough sales time in there.

But hey, lots of people like it. Does Aether as well? Let’s find out.

The film opens up with a montage of the Godzilla against MechaGodzilla fights from last time. No mention of King Caesar, however. Brother has just been memory holed. Cut to a year later, and there’s a submarine searching the sea floor where Godzilla dropped MechaGodzilla to try and find his remains. Because apparently nobody thought that they should go check out the big giant alien monster up until now. So the submarine gets there, and then there’s this lady on the shore who’s watching them with her magic eye. And then some giant fishy monster starts beating his tail, which causes a whirlpool that forces the submarine up to the surface. And then said fish monster pounces on them, and drags them back down. Where they get destroyed.

Looks like that was an Interpol sub, and now Interpol is investigating what just went down. With a whole bunch of people who aren’t particularly creepy. After last movie, I would have guessed they had those. They call in Dr. Loverboy, a marine biologist, to help them figure out what they’re dealing with. When he heads in for the meeting, he’s greeted by Inspector Average. The two of them are old college buddies, thus elegantly avoiding the need to spend time building a relationship between them. Anyways, the Interpol captain then plays the sub’s final transmission, where the captain’s screaming something like “Oh my God! We’re getting attacked by a dinosaur!” Then Dr. Loverboy deduces “You know, perhaps they were attacked by a dinosaur.” This is why he gets paid the big scientist bucks.

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Vaccine Adventures

We’re going to interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcast this week for more talk about dumb life stuff. You know, real life. That place where you keep all your video games when you’re not playing them. And we talk about it, because as I’ve mentioned many times before, this is not a video games blog. This is an Aether blog. And Aether’s life has been too busy to talk about video games lately. So we’ll talk about life. If you don’t like it, go complain about it in the comments of the last YouTube video you watched.

Your main man got the COVID vaccination over the weekend. And lets talk about that for a bit. Most medical professionals in charge of saying things say that you should get whatever COVID vaccine is offered to you, as soon as it’s offered to you. And the rollout for who’s getting the vaccine is kind of messed up. So! I didn’t take that advice at first. This isn’t the first time I’ve been offered the vaccine. As I’ve mentioned in previous life posts, I work for our local government, the same local government in charge of getting that vaccine out in our community in the first place. In fact, that department basically shares my workspace. So I get so see, somewhat second hand, some of the weird things that ends up going on in getting that vaccine out. And there’s some really odd complications there. But that’s besides the point.

So I had an earlier opportunity to get the vaccine. After they finished the phase where they were getting all the top priority people vaccinated, but before they started the second phase, I got notice that I should go in for a vaccine. And I didn’t. I was struggling with the morals of that at the time. I’m young. I’m strong. I don’t have any major risk factors. And I didn’t want to take a spot from someone who was more at risk than myself. It would be great to be safe from COVID, liberated from some of the overhanging worries we’re all facing in this situation, more able to operate in public and I didn’t want to add to how messed up the distribution of it was. And it was messed up. In talking with people about my conflicts there, I learned that there were plenty of folks in the medical system who never had any contact with patients yet still leveraged a technicality to get them in, or even that there were people who took that opportunity at my own organization, yet still announced they would refuse to come into the office or have any public contact no matter how many safety measures were in place. So yeah, essentially, I wasn’t wanting to be another of those delaying the virus from getting to the people who, at least in my view, needed it more than me. I reached out to a number of people I know and trust, and people informed on the whole vaccine distribution timeline and goals, and what not, and every single person, down to a one, told me that they understood my ethical complications with it, and it was really for the best that I just went ahead and got it. And again, this is not from people who are selfishly minded. If it’s offered, you need to take it. Apparently, that holds through.

So the next time, when the Public Health department told me that a newly eligible category for the vaccine applied to me even though I wouldn’t have applied it to myself, I trusted the judgement of those I talked to earlier and went and got it. I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which I imagine is going to be the most available vaccine as the rollout continues. Mildly less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna ones, which is putting some people off, which is somewhat ridiculous. Take what the vaccine that’s offered to you. It’s herd immunity that’s going to get us out of the danger we’re in now, not one person having a 10% higher chance of protection. Anyways, J&J is a one shot vaccine. Everyone makes a lot about the side effects, which were significant. Had a fever and chills the same night I got the vaccine. And lightheaded. That’s a side effect that’s apparently common but nobody talks about it. That stuck with me for a couple of days.

And now, so far, not much is different. People congratulate me for being vaccinated. As if it’s something I earned by merit and not by luck of being in a job that fell into the right category. I know a lot of people look at it as a sort of status thing, when it’s really not there. Although, I supposed with recent CDC guidances, it is making us something of a separate class of people as far as social distance requirements ago. Either way, the most important part is that I’m one more step to us kicking this COVID’s ass down to the annals of history alongside the Black Plague, Spanish Flu, and all these other massive outbreaks that are barely a thing now. So yeah. Everyone, get your vaccines, when you get the chance. Let’s fight this back together.

You’re the Only One, One World, One Love! The Persona 3 Retrospective, Part 6(d); Characters-Fuuka and Aigis

Fuuka Yamagishi

The Priestess

Starting here, every Persona game is going to have a member of the party that doesn’t become a playable character themselves, but rather frees up your mission control member to focus on combat.  In this game, that’s Fuuka.  When you get Fuuka, you really get Mitsuru.  Fuuka just takes Mitsuru’s place as the voice in your ear.

Anyways, Fuuka is demure, shy, and physically very small.  She apparently spends a fair amount of time in the hospital, and that’s where Akihiko and Mitsuru first come to realize her potential to use a persona.  However, she doesn’t seem to be especially sickly.  She’s also revealed as missing a lot of school, although not due to illness.  Her parents are relatively average folk among a family of high achievers, and out of jealousy of their more successful siblings, put a lot of pressure on her to succeed and raise their social standing.  At school, she’s rather horribly bullied by the local ganguro girls, culminating in them locking her inside the school gym and leaving her there.  Anyways, the game doesn’t make it clear, but I imagine that all her time out sick is really time trying to escape from the stress she’s facing at both school and home.  If that’s the only place she has that’s safe for her, I can see why she’d be finding herself there with frequency.

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#LoveYourBacklog 2021

Normally I don’t take part in these blogging community things unless someone delivers them to my doorstep, because I am a stone cold lone wolf that only plays by my own rules, or something like that.  But, well, Solarayo at Ace Asunder and Kim at Later Levels are running a #LoveYourBacklog challenge yet again this year.  And, well, you may have noticed posts have been a bit thinner, because I’ve been a bit busy with life stuff.  And I’m still busy with life stuff.  And I’m working on the next post in the Persona 3 retrospective, and those take some time, and I don’t want to do another two weeks between posts.  So I need some quick content here.  And I also really need to learn to get more comfortable with my backlog.  To have affection for it.  So maybe this would be a good exercise for it.  In any case, I’ve got reasons.  The sort of reasons a big sexy behemoth of the mind like me would have.  So let’s get down to it.  Let’s go through this exercise, wherein I learn to love the big, giant game base that’s taking up so much space in my virtual library and my soul.  

Let’s go!

Ok, so first, gotta lay the groundwork.  Expose just how large my backlog is, and… ugh.

Image courtesy of Later Levels

Ok, don’t like looking at that.  But that’s what this is for!  Learn to love it!  Anyways, I’m at 533, to be exact.  Although what I consider my backlog is a bit different than most people.  I’ve mentioned it some times around here, but years and years ago, I decided to try and playthrough all my games, beating every single one I could, by console generation, starting with the earliest.  I used to do it all the time as a kid, so I figured I’d give it another try as an adult.  Give some time to all my games, play stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise, build up my experiences and appreciation, and all that.  Thing is, as a kid, it didn’t take all that long.  As an adult, I have more money, and therefore, a lot more games.  And much less free time.  And I’m better at games, so I can actually stick through the whole thing rather than getting stuck and giving up partway through.  So it’s taking me years.

Anyways, what I consider my backlog are games that I haven’t completed as part of that quest to beat all my games organized by console generation.  So, a lot of them are games that are completely untouched, but there’s also plenty that I’ve already played and possibly beat, some more than once, that I still consider as being on my backlog because I did it outside of the console generation I was working on at the time.  I’ve gone through every game I owned at the time I started this quest, so that 533 number is just a shocking sign of just how many games I’ve bought or otherwise acquired in the past years.  I’ve slowed down on that quite a bit, starting February 2020, but man, I really need to pump the brakes even more.  Also notable is the composition of that backlog.  Of those 533 games, 142 are on consoles.  Almost 400 of those are in my Steam, GOG, or UPlay lists on PC, where the PC gaming ecosystem, between deep sales and bundles and giveaways and whatnot, makes amassing an absolutely massive collection of games very, very easy.  And that’s not even counting the games I have in my Amazon Games and Epic Games lists, where they constantly, unceasingly throw free games at me.  The console games, I’m trying to beat them all, while I’m only expecting myself to give a try to all the Steam, GOG, and Uplay games.  I put money towards most of the games on there, somehow, so that feels like I’ve made a commitment to try them, but if I’m not into it, I’m not expecting myself to beat all of those.  Amazon and Epic, it’s whatever I feel like.  I would never be able to keep up with the rate they give me more games if I expected myself to touch them all.  

Anyways, from that, it’s question time.  Or, more specific topic time.  Yeah.  That.

1: The effect that the 2020 apocalypse has had on your backlog.

Not a whole heck of a lot, really.  Here’s the thing, the coronapocalypse hasn’t exactly given me more time to spare.  I still work, my commute was never that big a deal, and a lot of the outside the home stuff I used to do, I replaced it with some other non-video game stuff.  I’m pretty much on the same schedule as far as gaming goes.  2020 has been the best year I’ve had in getting on top of my backlog in years, but I think that has more to do with some decisions I’ve made pre-pandemic to, you know, stop buying so many freaking games until I’ve played the ones I’ve got.  

2: The oldest game in terms of release date.

On my backlog, at least what I consider as such, the oldest game I’ve got that I haven’t worked off yet would be Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar.  I didn’t have a computer as a kid, and didn’t get a solid gaming battlestation until well after I started my ‘Play all the Games’ quest.  So I used to be really interested in classic PC gaming, this whole sphere of my favored entertainment medium that I really missed out on.  And I’ve tried a bunch of them, and it turns out, I really don’t like most classic PC games.  I don’t know that I’d be able to eloquently explain why, I think I’m spoiled by modern games and the old school PC ones don’t have the nostalgia factor with me that makes one willing to look past the chinks and flaws and whatnot that old school console games do.  Although I’m able to pick up a lot of old NES games that I never had history with, and thus shouldn’t have nostalgia for, and have a grand time with them, but not old PC games.  For whatever reason.  Anyways, I’ll give it a try at some point.  Can’t say I’m holding out a lot of hope for it, particularly given what I’ve heard about how complicated this game gets, but hey, maybe it’ll surprise me.  

3: A game you bought on day one, only to not play it.

Nothing!  Hahahahahaha!  This is one area in which I’ve defeated you, backlog!  I rarely ever buy games day one.  If I do, that means it’s one I’ve taken a particularly strong interest in, and I play it as soon as I get the chance.  So, no, I can’t think of a single game, in all my glorious life, that I’ve bought on day one and then hadn’t started up soon after.  

4: The game which has spent the most time on your backlog

There’s been some long ones.  Looks like the absolute longest would be… Hitman Absolution.  Purchased in 2013.  7-8 years ago.  That’s… rough.  I’ve got to get on that.  I remember playing the tutorial level of that, but then didn’t dig the changes to some of the mechanics, so I didn’t go any farther.  Whelp.  Let’s knock that one up the list, a bit.  See how it tastes now that it’s had some time to age.

5: The most recent addition to your library.

The Batman Telltale Series!  I dig Batman.  Telltale’s writing style wears a bit thin on me, but I heard it wasn’t that bad in Batman, and given that it’s a more optimistic subject matter than most of the licenses they scraped up, I was hopeful it’d avoid the “Everything’s horrible now because we say so” problem a lot of their games often ran into.  I’m kind of looking forward to this.  But I don’t have space for it in the schedule, so onto the backlog it goes.  That’s kind of a problem.  Part of the reason I’ve been better in 2020 is that I started teaching a class on personal finance as part of my case management offerings, and teaching stuff is a really great way to polish it yourself, and one of the major lessons in there is to not do that sort of thing where you’re buying stuff just because it’s accessible only to let it sit on a shelf for a while instead of actually enjoying it.  So I’ll need to make sure I’m getting into that in the near future, to justify that purchase.  

6: The person responsible for adding the most entries to your backlog, due to their good recommendations.

That would be, back when they were active, the Super Best Friends let’s play group were the biggest one.  They put out a lot of content, and did a really great job of covering relatively unknown obscurities, up and coming indie games, and whatever hotness they were most passionate about rather than constantly hitting up the most popular new games that would get them the most views, and they opened my eyes to a lot of great things.  Otherwise, I’ve gotten a fair few added to my library by my fellow bloggers, like Red Metal and AK.

And……….. that’s that.  Do I love my backlog yet?  No.  Not so much.  But it made for an interesting conversation piece here.  That’s got to be worth something, right?

Snap Judgements: Year On Edition

At this point, it’s been almost a year since we entered quarantine.  And it’s had its ups, times when I’ve been able to live up to my magnificent self, and its had its downs, times when I’ve been reminded that we’re still living in a dystopian future.  There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a long tunnel, and we’re still a ways from the end.  So you know what?  Let’s take that time to play some games.  Here’s what I’ve been working through lately.  

Chroma Squad

So, here’s one of those games I never really knew existed, but when one of the various give-you-games services landed it into my library, it really stood out.  Chroma Squad is a Tactics-style strategy RPG in which you’re playing out battles for a Power Rangers-esque Super Sentai show.  It lets you customize a lot about your show, from team and character names to the colors of your rangers and everything in between, which gives me incredible freedom to amuse myself with the powers of my own mind in ways absolutely nobody else will find funny, probably.  From Kickass Blaster Studios, in the prime after school viewing block, hang on to your hats, boys and girls, it’s time for the totally child-appropriate show, Tooty Fruity Kill Squad!  When evil is afoot, these five heroes, with a shout of “It’s Murder Time!”, will activate their Moon Prism Magic and transform into Killer Red (because every sentai group has a red leader), Killer Black, Killer Gray, Killer White (because it amused me to have a chunk of the usually colorful sentai squads be completely monochrome), and Killer Purple (because nobody ever has a purple ranger)!  They’ll fight their way through hordes of goons, and then, when things get too hot to handle, unleash their team-based special move, the Eat Shit!  And when their might alone isn’t enough, they’ll pilot their giant robot, the Killborg 10,000, to victory!

It rather helps that there’s a pretty simple but mechanically solid gameplay system behind it too.  It’s a really basic tactics system in all, it’s grid-based and you’ve got your basic movements and attacks, a few weapons and abilities that depend on your characters classes and equipment, and an option to assist that’s really one of the things that adds a surprisingly large amount of depth to the gameplay.  By assisting, your heroes will set themselves up for others to leap off of, adding a lot of range to their movement, and will also attack in unison with other rangers targeting enemies in mutual melee range, more than doubling their attack damage.  If you pull off having all five members attack one enemy at once, they’ll do the team special move, the Eat Shit! in my case but you can call it something lamer if you’d like to in your game.  But that’s supposed to be a finishing move, and if you use it as anything but a coup de grace, the anticlimax will make for a worse episode and you’ll lose fan power for that.  Which is a thing.  You need to have built up a certain amount of fan power to be able to transform from your lame everyday forms to your Killer selves, or whatever your team is named, in the first place, and beyond that, it plays a part in your overall studio management.  That component feels a lot like a management sim, where you’re laying out and dealing with the resources for your own studio, but everything you do has a direct, in-combat effect, so it’s not really that in practice, more like just a really elaborate means of equipping your team in an RPG.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the character of the game, it does a lot of wink-wink nudge-nudge humor that seems likes it’s just trying too hard, and a lot of the enemy design is a little lackluster.  You’ll be tired of fighting the same jobbers over and over again, but the bosses are frequent and varied, which works really well to keep things fresh.  And the visuals, in spite of me deliberately toning down over half of my team, are very vibrant and coloful, and the music is pretty nice.  Captures the old 90’s vibe really well in a primitive almost-chiptune set.  Overall, I enjoyed my time with the game quite a bit.  It moves quickly, and although it can be a little cringy or basic in parts, it’s a simple, fun time in all.

Aztez

From a very vibrant game to one that’s carefully not.  Aztez uses the old Madworld color palette of black, white, red, and nothing else.  It’s a hard game to describe.  Particularly given that I don’t especially understand it myself.  It’s half board game, half smackdown?  Something like that.  So, in a given game, you’re playing in ancient Mexico, trying to do… something.  I thought you were trying to take over cities and force out rival tribes, but then I won the game without doing that.  Anyways, you start with board game parts, managing your towns and resources and what not.  One of your resources are your warriors, and you get to do one major thing per warrior per turn.  So more warriors equals more turns.  The bulk of the things in this are combat challenges, where you get to the smackdown gameplay.  I don’t know why, but that part of the game reminds me a lot of Viewtiful Joe’s post-game challenge levels.  It has a similar feel to combat, and a lot of it is based on keeping track of enemies and making appropriate reactions to their telegraphed attack, much like Viewtiful Joe.  Except you can absorb your opponent’s blood and use that to summon your god to smack them around.  As you do.

Anyways, in my game, I spent most of my time campaigning against my rival tribes, pushing them back and stealing their territory, aiming to eradicate them as is usually the win condition in those types of strategy games.   I almost got to that point, but then the Spanish arrived, with their armor and their guns and their better equipment than me, and they started completely crushing my guys.  With clever use of items, I managed to push them back to the borders of the map, then devoted all my remaining warriors to taking them down so I could smash my rivals in peace.  They killed all but the last of my warriors, but that last one brought down the guy with the biggest feather in his helmet, and that apparently meant that I won the game, even though my rivals now were in a perfect position to retake my land after I spent all I had in fighting the Spanish.  So, I guess there’s a moral to the story.  And that moral is that the true path to victory runs through beating up the Spanish.

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Project G-Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1974)

Alternative Title: The one that used all the fireworks in Japan.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla!  Where do we start with this one?  For some reason, trivia on the development of this movie seems to be much less available on the internet than for the other films, so… well, we’ll have to resort to conjecture for some of this, probably.

What we do know is that the Godzilla franchise had been making largely kid-oriented fare since Destroy All Monsters saw the original creative team leave the series for various reasons.  It’d also been waning in popularity for a while, never reaching the lofty peaks of commercial success established by King Kong vs. Godzilla.  Meanwhile, other kaiju productions were soundly beating the film in the very genre Big G had established.  Some of them were kid-friendly, sure.  Others proved there were a sizable audience of adults out there for kaiju films.  So, dudes here saw that, and figured, ‘You know, the whole kid thing isn’t exactly working out for us.  Maybe we should go after that market.  Those who can enjoy the big dumb giant monster battles on a whole other level.

And so, this film was made with that in mind.  Adult oriented.  Actioned way the heck up.  No more stock footage, because they’re not just playing to dumb children for whom they can get away with that.  More violent and gory than the series has been before, and possibly has been since.  Explosions and pyrotechnics up the giant monster-sized wazoo.  Life and death stakes, and people getting straight up killed on screen.  And not a single childly shortpant to be seen.  

This… ends up being a really weeeeeeeeiiiiiiird movie to watch.  Inconsistency is rampant throughout.  Do you love explosions?  I hope you do, because they are HERE with a statement.  The pyrotechnic work here is gratuitous and glorious.  The overlays; the beams, atomic breaths, aliens transforming, etc., look cartoonish and absolutely horrible.  Mechagodzilla looks amazing!  King Caesar is kind of ok, and the aliens are absolutely awful.  The action between the monsters is strong and exciting and visceral.  Everything going on with the people makes no sense and has way too many moving parts.  And a lot of the things that happen just don’t make any darn sense.  It’s amazing in parts, and laughably bad in others, and almost never anywhere in between.

Also, I’ll say it again.  Explosions.  If you love things blowing up in your movies, man, the work here is obscene.  There’s one part in particular that had me in awe at just how spectacular it was.  There’s corners cut in this movie, yes.  But they did not spare the pyrotechnics in any way.

Let’s dig into this bombfest, shall we?

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