A Quiet Moment of Regard

Here’s a nothing of a post for a moment. This post doesn’t have to be nothing. It could be a whole lot of things. It’s about time for another one of those Godzilla things, for instance. Or there’s a couple of those viral blog awards I need to get up on. Or there’s any of a hundred thoughts I have on the games I’ve been playing lately. There’s lots of things I could do.

But I happened to notice recently that after my most recent post, I had written a total of 399 posts for this blog. Which makes this post 400. A milestone, it feels like. And some might feel the need to mark that milestone by making something grand. But I feel like doing quite the opposite today. I want to celebrate my 400th post by doing something understated.

Which is odd for me. Few would describe me as shy. I am bold, and brash, and rakish, and sexy. I am out there and in your face and I love making my mark in the most spectacular way possible. But not today. Today, I’m just surprised it’s come this far. Because really, small as this blog’s readership is, it’s still an awesome thing that people come here and read it at all. Like, I am wise, but there’s wiser out there, talking about the same subject. I’m funny, but there’s funnier all over. I’m beautiful, and there’s nobody more beautiful, but it’s not like anyone gets to see me over the internet. And even so, my thoughts here mean enough to people that they take a bit of time out of their day to read over them and engage. All of you gift me with just a little bit of real estate in your minds, for just a bit of time. And that’s a powerful thing to me.

So really, 400 posts in, all content people have engaged with in some way, shape, or form. All of you, friends, fellow bloggers, commenters, and even you lurkers that don’t make your presence known but my stats show are consistently out there, thank you. Thanks for taking the time to read the random thoughts of one incredibly amazing and gorgeous soul at there in the sea of the same. I enjoy doing it, and knowing it’s got somewhere to be, that people are willingly taking it in, makes it all worthwhile.

Hope to keep great things for you going down the road.

Gaming Gripes

You ever have those days where you’re just in a bad mood for no real reason?  I’m hitting that right now.  I’m generally pretty good-natured, because I am awesome at life so crappy things don’t come up that often.  But, even if there’s nothing out there that can beat my shine, I guess the human psyche just needs to get in a funk every once in a while, because that’s where I’m at now.  So, apropos of nothing, I’m just going to gripe for a bit here about some things that video games sometimes do that consistently ticks me off.  

Let’s go.

Automatic Difficulty Adjustments

You know what’s a feature I’ve really come to love?  Getting to change your difficulty at the start menu.  Or even if a game just offers you the option to lower the difficulty a bit when you’re consistently getting your pleasantly shaped rear end handed to you.  I don’t generally take it, but I both love challenging myself and hate getting stuck in a game and unable to advance, and this seems like a great solution to that.  I’ve noticed I will more often plunge into the deep end of difficulty when I know I have the option to scale it back when things get too hot to handle.  I always have to swallow my pride a bit to take it, but that’s generally a small price to pay to keep doing something I enjoy at an appropriate difficulty level for me.  


But I hate when games just decide to do it for me.

I’ve been playing a fair bit of fighting games recently, where this feature seems common.  You’re on a campaign, and you lose, and it just pulls the challenge back when you try again.  Rinse and repeat until you get past it.  Or, you select a difficulty level, but it actually starts you below that, and makes you earn your way up there.  Which I find frustrating.  Smash Bros aside, I am officially not good at fighting games.  When I go up against the standard difficulty, I tend to lose a lot.  Which is good.  If I’m not losing at times, I’m not challenging myself, and that would mean I’m not getting better at the things I’m wanting to get better at.  What I would like to be doing, when I hit a challenge that is too much for me, is to ram myself into it again and again until I get good enough to overcome it.  But recent fighting games say no.  You want to fight against a level that will test you, in the arcade/story/mission/campaign modes?  You have to earn your way up there against the foes you know you can beat first, and then you only get one shot before we pull that away.  

Now, sure, I could just go into the one off fights, where I get to chose the difficulty straight out, but that’s not as engaging to the way I want to play as the arcade modes.  And I understand a bit of the motivation behind it.  Fighting games are notoriously inaccessible, so having the mode the beginning players most gravitate towards have this on-the-fly performance-based difficulty so they’re sure to reach the ending with persistence makes sense.  But I want to be able to turn it off.  And I never seem to be able to.

Forced Grinding

I’ve griped about this a couple of times before.  So, probably nothing new here.  But I’m ranting, so I’m going to rant.

I think I’ve figured out why I don’t mind the grinding in Disgaea as much as I do in pretty much anything else.  In most games, when its grinding time, you just end up mindlessly milling through combat over and over, fighting the same enemies in the same areas with nothing really stimulating occuring.  Disgaea on the other hand, puts you into a new challenge area.  It requires mental engagement, although you might be doing it to grind you have a goal beyond the grinding itself, and you get a sense of progress beyond just watching numbers go up.  You might be stepping into grinding in Disgaea, but it’s not just grinding.  You have things to do beyond that, and the grinding just happens incidentally.  

More games need to do that.  I find myself suffering through the end game of Xenoblade Chronicles, in which the enemies of the final area are of a much, much higher level than anything you ran across before, coupled with a mechanic that if an enemy is five levels above you, you just don’t get to hit them anymore.  So bam.  Hit the final area, you have to spend several hours grinding your levels up so you can actually defend yourself against the enemies your stats say you should do just fine against.  So just hours I’ve spent, running in circles, fighting the same enemies over and over again, barely paying attention to what had formerly been an incredible game for the first two thirds of it.  I despise it when games waste my time, and especially so when they seem deliberately designed to do so.  The only reason I stuck it out was because I’d already invested 60 hours into it, but even so, it killed all the good will I had left for the rest of the game.  

So.  Forced grinding.  Don’t do it.  

Player Controlled Suicide

I loathe when this comes up.  Superhot does it.  Superhot VR does it so much worse.  Yandere Simulator does it.  Distraint does it.  Spec Ops: The Line does it, albeit only in a route choice there.  Situations where a player character is going to suicide, and you have to press the buttons to do it to advance.  

It disgusts me.  And I admit that’s because it hits my personal triggers.  It bothers me in a way that controlling other video game violence does not.  Not because I think it’s especially harmful; much like garden variety video game violence isn’t going to lead to real world violence where that tendency isn’t already there, simulated suicide isn’t going to lead to suicidal ideation away from those who are already in deep.  But it does rub against my personal values so hard to be in control of an avatar’s suicide that I find it sickening.

So, look.  Video games often involve simulated violence.  And generally, if I’m not up for the particular violence a game has to offer, that particular implementation of simulated violence is made apparent before I make a purchasing decision.  So I can choose the content I expose myself to.  There’s never any warning about being put behind a suicide.  That’s always just thrown at you.  And that’s not how it should be.

Impatient Reminders

You spend enough time playing games, you develop a set of instincts around them.  One of those instincts is if you get given a quest arrow pointing you someplace, you check out absolutely everywhere else you have access to before you follow the quest arrow.  That’s just how these things work.  When there’s somewhere you’re clearly supposed to go, you actually want to go everywhere else first.  Because that’s where all the cool treasure is.

That’s all well and good.  But apparently, some developers thought it’d be a good idea to make their games bug you about that quest arrow.  Like, some people’s jobs were to program the game’s AIs to get impatient with you.  That’s a thing they did with their lives.  So you get persistent in your face reminder text of what your supposed goal is when you’re rifling through side rooms looking for cool loot.  NPCs start bugging you about how you’re having fun slaying random jobbers instead of pressing a button to do something you’re not ready to do yet.  The game itself will give you grief for trying to explore the setting fully rather than seeking the next event flag directly.  As if you don’t know what you’re doing.


You know what?  They can all just take a chill pill.  I’m being thorough.  Because you find some sweet item in one out of the way place, that’s going to spur you to check them all.  Progress is often the enemy of sweet loot.  

Not Being Mr. Shifty

This is something I didn’t notice games did, until I tried out the game Mr. Shifty, but it really opened my eyes.  You know how, every once in a great while, a game comes out that does something unique, creative, and interesting that ends up moving the genre or the whole medium forward?  Super Mario Bros. did it with the scrolling screen.  Mario 64 did it with effective 3D game play.  Final Fantasy VII did it with the cinematic storytelling abilities with games.  Mr. Shifty does it with being Mr. Shifty.  

Since I played Mr. Shifty, I really started noticing how much most games are not Mr. Shifty.  I’ll pick up a random game, play it for a while, and I might have a good time with it, but I’ll be realizing just how much Mr. Shiftiness it lacks.  I’ll be like, “Man, this plot is deep, and this gameplay is solid, but I’d like to be able to Mr. Shifty it up right now.” But I can’t.  Because even though Mr. Shifty offers an excellent example of how to incorporate being Mr. Shifty into your game, so far, developers don’t seem to be picking it up adequately, sticking with the tried-and-true, traditional but inferior ways of not being Mr. Shifty.  We can only hope the medium picks it up with time.

Return of the Destined Battle! Aether vs. Yandere Simulator, Round 2

Our destinies intertwined.  Fate had posed us against each other.  Our titanic battle sent shockwaves blasting across the seas of time.  Nothing has been the same, since then.  

And now, we’re going to do it again.

Some of you who’ve been following the blog for a while, or plunging into the archives, or who might otherwise call yourselves “Aether Historians” might recall the first time Lost to the Aether faced off with our fated rival, the always-in-development murder playground known as Yandere Simulator.  The feud everyone finding my blog through a search as well as destiny itself demanded.  Our clash was titanic.  My victory, overwhelming.  So overwhelming, in fact, that it actually made the search terms for this blog normal for a good long while.  Which was something I wasn’t prepared for, really.  C’mon guys, let’s get this stuff weird again.

Anyways, in case you missed it, we just finished up October.  Which is a well-regarded time for getting into spooky/horror media, and I got caught up in that myself.  Wanted to pick myself up a good horror game.  And coincidentally, at the same time, Yandere Simulator came out with a big content update.  The game’s been in development for seven years by this point, and the developer feels that he’s almost ready to complete the game, having got about everything done that he can on his own.  But to really get the game finished, he’ll need to hire people to do the parts of it outside of his capabilities, which will require a crowdfunder, but after the standard cycles of long development time plus short internet patience, he feels he’s not poised for a successful crowdfunder right now.  So, in order to demonstrate the product and build up faith and interest in it again, he’s used the assets he currently has to develop a full story mode for the game, for the first time.  Albeit not the story mode everyone was expecting.  That’s the one he needs to hire people to do the animations and the voice acting and the whatnot for.  Rather, we’ve got a fully-fledged prequel story mode.


Anyways, I was looking for something horror-themed to play, and a game where you’re basically a horror-movie villain sounded pretty solid to me at the time.  And I can get behind the idea of putting out a show of good faith for your audience, work to show you’re taking them seriously with a lot of new content.  And besides, it was probably my victory over this game years ago that cost it a lot of it’s positioning.  So I figured it’d be a good time to jump back into it, and see just how much the game has grown since I defeated it last time.  We’re still fated opponents, but maybe destined rivals this time, rather than enemies.

Here we go.  For a good comparison to our old post, rather than jumping in to the prequel story mode, I’m going to be going for the main, incomplete story.  Because that’s what we did last time.  The full game will have ten rivals, but the current edition only has one that’s fully set up, so only a single level’s equivalent of content.  But that’s fine for the sample we’re going for.  After all, I’m trying to make amends, of some sort.  Don’t want to crush this game too fully again.

Starting up, the first thing it has you do is customize your senpai, the absolutely heartthrob that will be the subject of your and at least ten other girls’ affections.  I love customizing characters, and I know super well what makes the female mind fall in love with someone, so you can rest assured that I will create a being who is the pinnacle of attractiveness.

And there.  There he is.  Ladies, you may take a number, and form a line to your left.  He won’t have time for you all but don’t worry, there will be consolation prizes.

And then we get a cutscene detailing the premise of the game.  So, if you’ve spent too much time around certain parts of the internet, like, you know, this blog, you’ve probably heard of a few of the ‘dere’ types of characters in Japanese fiction.  Yanderes are characters that seem sweet and lovely, but then turn around and inflict horrific violence out of a hidden insanity driven by their affection.  Or something like that.  People find that attractive, apparently.  I’ve got at least two posts on this blog touching on that.  Well, three now, I guess.  Anyways, that’s us.  We’re one of those.  We spend our whole life feeling nothing, until one day, we run into senpai.  Then all of a sudden, a feeling blossoms through.  Complete, all-encompassing love.  Or something that ol’ Yan-chan confuses for it.  

Anyways, Yan-chan is so enraptured by that feeling that she immediately resolves to inflict bloody horrors on anyone who gets between her and the object of her affection.

So she stalks him.  Some other girl catches her doing so, and texts her some information on another girl with designs on him.  And kind of encourages her to take drastic action.

I’m guessing there’s lots of people in this scenario that could use a bit of professional help.

And with that, we’re in the game proper.  We start off in our bedroom, with a few interactables, but so far, only one that’s really meaningful, an anime we can watch to teach us new murder methods.  Which seems kind of inappropriate for a high schooler, frankly.  From there, I can check out the basement, so I do so, and find it a perfectly equipped murderhole.  Also has a cassette tape in there, of which I can figure out no way to play.  Because it’s 2022.  Who has cassette players anymore?

I do. In my car. In the real world. Aether.  That’s who.  

Anyways, not a lot to do at home, so I head to school.  I get there, and immediately make two impressions.  The first, last time I played the game, going to school meant I spawned in with the camera buried underground and staring up my own skirt.  That seems to have been corrected in the years since then.  And second, holy hades are there a lot of people now.  I find myself in the midst of a sea of students.  All of them individually designed, and as I find out through playing the game further, all of them with their own schedules and pathing.  That’s an impressive thing to see coming together, really.

This is my first time with full control here, so I start messing around, seeing what all the buttons do.  I find a button that makes me laugh.  This creeps out everyone around.  I do it again.  Senpai hears that time.  And my laugh was apparently so creepy that he never wants anything to do with me again.  I got a game over within like thirty seconds of starting the game proper.  Harsh.

Ok, starting that over again.  This time, no laughing in public.  I start formulating a plan.  But not much of one.  First step is to find my rival/target.  I do this quickly, as she’s talking to senpai just off the walkway into school.  Second step is to find a reason to… you know, do something about her.  Because although Yan-chan is down for wanton murder, Aether’s really not.  I have a hard time playing the bad guy in games, particularly when it comes to inflicting horrors on the innocent.  Like, I don’t have any moral compunctions with it, really; I’m not sinning by having my electronic avatar commit simulated violence on collected bits of graphics and ai mechanics or anything, but it does require going somewhere that just doesn’t come naturally to me.  I usually go for the super good moral choices in games.  That’s just more satisfying to me.  

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Reflections on That One Scene in Peter Pan

Today, I thought we’d talk about something light.  Something casual.  Something easy.  So let’s do that.  Let’s talk about racism.

I’m planning a Disney World trip in the coming months.  In preparation for that, I’ve gotten myself a Disney+ subscription and have been marathonning through a bunch of the classic Disney animated movies.  I’ve found, over the years, I like going through the works of different cultures and different times.  It feels like it opens my eyes, just a little bit, to different ways of life, to different sets of values.  And going through the classic films, which pull from a lot of different cultures and are both made and use source material from a wide variety of different time periods, so the Animated Canon has been a real trip on that.  

A lot of the classic films on Disney+ have a bit of a racist warning at the beginning.  Which is understandable.  Values change with time, our comprehensions of race and people have changed with time, and the things Disney presented then may not match what they want to present now.  And generally the content they’ve been warning of has been pretty benign, in my view.  

And then I got to Peter Pan.  And that was… something.  Now, to be perfectly clear on my own lens on the issue, I wouldn’t consider myself hypersensitive to racism in media.  I’m vehemently against categorism in general, which tends to put me at odds with the mainstream anti-racism lens on things that drives a lot of the outrage that crosses at least my sphere, and I think context and understanding are important before leaping to offense.  And yet even with all that, the intensely stereotypical Native American tribe in Peter Pan and the extended goofy savages show we got out of them was incredibly cringey to me.  The hooting and backwardsness and the extended segments essentially making jokes about a wholesale collection of real world people, I found it uncomfortable.  

“Well, I don’t think we’re ever watching that again,” said one of my family members when we were done.  But I don’t agree.  I actually found the racial insensitivity here enlightening and thought provoking.  The original Peter Pan play was released in 1904, explicitly based the Native American tribe more on what the average child at the time expected of them because of their portrayal in media rather than any actual fact, and was considered pretty noncontroversial.  Because, after all, most people had no knowledge of Native Americans outside of what was displayed in fictional works, and this lined up with that.  Most people didn’t know any better.  That portrayal was then interpreted through the lens of 1953’s American culture in the Disney film, and that goofy savage portrayal described above was actually considered a pretty positive portrayal.  Because in films of the time, Native Americans were generally vicious enemies, whereas this one, although briefly antagonists and possessed of strange ways, showed them to be generally amicable and competent.

Of course, looking through the modern day lens on it, it seems abhorrently insensitive.  And rightfully so.  As we are coming to understand, anything that implicitly represents “this is what this group of people are like” is going to run into that because human beings aren’t stereotypes and dealing with groups rather than individuals leads directly to insensitivity.  There’s a lot of dialogue out there being rather judgmental on the creators.  And if it came out today, I might agree with a lot of that basis.  As is, though, given the context of the time it was made in, I find it hard to make personal aspersions for people who at least seem to have made this is good faith, creating something that was viewed as being in the right direction at the time.  Even if it did turn ugly in the future.  But, I did find this ugliness thought-provoking, as I said.  

Twelve Years a Slave is the auto-biography/memoirs of Solomon Northrup, a black man who was born free in the pre-Civil War north, and was then illegally kidnapped and lived in the south as a slave for twelve years before being rescued.  All that.  Anyways, the first person to buy Solomon, never knowing he was born a free man, was William Ford, who was, as Solomon describes him, a gentle, God-fearing man who was full of kindness and generosity to all.  Solomon really respected William, and thought of him as a great person.  In his view, William was a good man doing evil simply because the environment in which he lived was such that slavery was normalized to the point that it couldn’t occur to him that it was wrong.  

After going through the Native American scene in Peter Pan, I ended up reflecting on that.  The creators of this scene were, I’m just going to assume, generally well meaning people making something in good faith that seems to have been unusually good for the standards of the time.  It’s wrong now, and we know better, but they didn’t back them.  Solomon Northrup went so far to say that slavery would have lost a lot of its sting if all slavers were like William Ford.  But slavery was still evil, and William and his environment were such that they largely didn’t know better.  So what now are common thoughts, actions, behaviors, ways of living that are acceptable at the modern time, but become absolutely abhorrent and seen as evil in the future?

It’s a question with no answer, as yet, but I found the mental exercise valuable, and I’m glad to have run into the racially insensitive spots of Peter Pan to have prompted that.  Several times over, I can recall running into outrage over screenings or reprintings or whatever of old works of media that feature views less controversial at the time but abhorrent to many today.  Lots of calls to either not expose or outright censor those views, so people don’t have to confront them today.  I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it.  I don’t begrudge decisions such as Disney’s determination not to release Song of the South, if it made a statement then they don’t want to now, but I do believe that facing the insensitivity of the old both as a means of seeing what things were like then compared to where we have gotten now and as a means of reflecting on what might be wrong with current habits that will be viewed in the future just like we do on the past is a much better way forwards.

Project G: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

More Memorable Title: The one with MECHA-KING GHIDORAH!!!

Yeah!  It’s Godzilla-time!

So, last time we left of Godzilla with Godzilla vs. Biollante, an ambitious film that ended up falling short of its financial goals.  Longtime series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka wanted to follow it up with something safer, using more material that had proven successful in the Heisei era, leading to the more familiar King Ghidorah returning.  Unfortunately, his failing health limited his involvement, leaving this film and most of Godzilla’s future works in the hands of Shogo Tomiyama, who had co-produced Biollante with him.  Tomiyama continued bringing the film back to its Showa-era roots, establishing a more fantastic atmosphere and simple story with this film, taking it away from the gritty trailblazing of the past two Heisei era works.  Director and writer Kazuki Oumori, thinking that the real reason Godzilla vs. Biollante fell short in the box office was because of being outshone by Back to the Future, added a time travel story to it as well, thinking that’s what people were going for.

So that’s how we ended up with this film.  Now you know.  

As you might guess from the above, it is a bit of a hodge-podge.  Feels like it has a lot of puzzle pieces going in that it has a hard time matching up with each other.  Has a lot of cast members (although not as much as Biollante), a lot of moving parts, and moves at a pretty quick pace.  The Heisei era had really started to find its own identity with the last film, and this movie sees it turn a corner into something more rooted in the Showa era, although it still carries a lot of Heisei establishments along with it.  

It also serves as a retcon of sorts in the Heisei era.  It retells Godzilla’s origin in a way that’s firmly different than that of the original 1954 G and his Showa successor.  From what I understand, there was still some question of continuity by the time this film originally came out, whether the Heisei era lined up with the Showa or not, and this firmly establishes it as something of its own.  Although it also messes a bunch up.  Whatever.  Also, Heisei Godzilla was already canonically bigger than either of the other ones, but apparently Toho wanted him even grander than that.  So they do that here.  Makes him more terrifying for the monster fights to come.

So, how does it all come together?  Well, read on to find out.  

The year is 2204.  We’re underwater.  A submarine is investigating some sort of giant monster corpse.  People are saying mysterious things about it that we won’t realize what they mean until later.  And then the camera moves so we can see just what kind of corpse they’re investigating.  And it turns out, it’s GHIDORAH!

And then all of a sudden the year is 1992 again.  Do you remember that year?  I sure don’t.  Anyways, the world’s all afluffle because a UFO appeared and is flying around.  A bunch of news outlets are covering it.  So there’s this guy who used to write really successful sci-fi novels and now writes for some magazine or other.  And there’s this girl who obviously wants up ons and she goes up to him and goes “Dude!  Aliens! You’ve totally got to write about this!”  And he’s like “Pfffft!  What do you think I am?  A rich and famous sci-fi author?”  And she’s like “Yes.  It turns out that’s exactly what you are.” But he’s still like “No.  I don’t care about the fact that we’ve got proof that so much of what we thought about the universe is wrong and there’s new and exciting forms of life out there.  I’d rather write about what that one crazy loony was raving about in the middle of nowhere, about how he saw dinosaurs in WWII and Godzilla is really one of them and saved his life or something.”  Let’s call the guy Fred.  Because I don’t remember his real name and no descriptor is coming to me, but he totally looks like a Fred.

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The Hollow Generation

Man, I feel like I’ve done this sort of thing before. Getting into a new generation the complaining about the games there being less different than I expected. Maybe it’s because I’m too closed-minded. Maybe it’s because new games early in a console’s life are generally much more modest than what we’ll see later. And maybe it’s because an update in hardware is making less and less of a difference as the gaming medium progresses and matures and the natural course of diminishing returns sets in.

That can be left for the experts. Even though those last two are totally true. Either way, what we’re left with is a now familiar feeling of me stepping into a new generation of video games, and me wondering why they even bothered with the hardware separation.

Of course, this year, it’s a little different than it’s been in the past. Previous generation changeovers, it’s always been a game that lured me through. I picked up an N64 because of Super Mario and Mario Kartt 64ses. ‘Twas Smash Bros that lured me through to getting a Gamecube. Then the whole spat of releases for the Wii, followed by Dead Rising showing me the worth of an Xbox 360. And finally, Fallout 4 and Breath of the Wild brought me to the previous generation of consoles.

This time, though, it was simply the trials of time. Consoles tend to be hardy, but computers not so much. Since it released, I’ve been waiting for my opportunity to pick up a PS5, but that never came. Been sitting on enough credit card rewards to essentially get one for free at MSRP, but an opportunity to buy the console at MSRP is quite rare. Supply shortages, plus the shakeups to the market on both the supply and demand side due to the pandemic, ensures that only a lucky, privileged few who can wait for supplies to drop and be on top of them when they do are able to pick one up. For the rest of us, we have to wait. And so I did, until my hand was forced. My previous PC started showing wear and tear and indications that it wasn’t going to last much longer. So I needed a new one. And while I was doing that, I figured I’d pick up one capable of playing modern games.

So I did. And now I’m looking at the modern spate of games, and I’m not really interested in many of them that I couldn’t have gotten on my PS4 or my old PC already. Invested in a highly powered gaming laptop with all sorts of features and settings I don’t even understand to ensure it can get the best resolution and framerate possible, and most of my time spent on it so far has been in a ported PS1 game and a sprite based indie game that released like 5 years ago. And it’s not because new games aren’t new. I’ll definitely be getting to them eventually. But they don’t take full advantage of the new hardware. They don’t give me any new experiences. So many new hardware generations really expanded on what a game could do. Until last gen, where the updates were mostly graphical. And then comes this new one, where again, the only real update people are pointing to is that graphics are slightly better, loading somewhat smoother. Heck, most games I’m actually looking into next generation for, such as Lost Judgment, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the Final Fantasy VII Remake, and on, are still available on my Playstation 4 for basically no material difference from the PS5 versions.

Which does make me wonder what’s the point to the new hardware. I’m sure the fact that most new releases for modern consoles are also available on last gen’s machine owes something to the aforementioned inability for mass markets to equip themselves with the most modern gear, but even so. If I can get a game brand new game for my last gen consoles that’s almost exactly the same as those on the current gen, what’s the point? Maybe we moved on to a new hardware generation too quickly.

I’m sure eventually, a PS5 will wind it’s way onto my shelf. And I’m viewing my new laptop as an investment, enabling me to keep up with the new releases when inevitably they do move on from last gen’s hardware. But for now, we’re already a year into the next hardware generation, and as far as I can tell, it may as well have not happened at all.

If Left is Wrong I Don’t Want to be Right. The Left-Handers of Video Games, Part IV!

One of the things I pride myself on with this blog is having the most complete listing of left-handed video game characters on the internet.  A series of posts, documenting the rare representatives of the genetically superior laterality that appear in our electronic entertainments.  Kind of a silly little thing, but as a leftie myself and it being a perennially hard time finding representation of that among my chosen medium, it means something to me.  But it’s been years since I last wrote something up about this, and you know, part of having the most complete listing of anything is that you need to update it once in a while as time passes and more examples of that subject emerges.


So let’s correct that now.  The previous three posts include all the left-handers I’d personally encoutered up to that point in games, at least that I knew of.  But now, years later, I’m just as young but significantly wiser, and let’s put that updated wisdom to use, in this, an addition to the list of those characters in games who are just innately better than everyone else.

Nero-Devil May Cry

The son of Virgil, the traditional way-cooler-than-the-actual-protagonist rival character, Nero takes over main character duties from that right-handed goober, Dante, for the few most recent mainline games.  And dude is a beast at that.  See, his right hand has some devil grappling powers, letting him style on his enemies then pull them back in when they get knocked away, reaching combos that Dante and Virgil have to struggle more to achieve.  Nero heads up two mostly good games in the series out of his two shots at it, whereas Dante only has one out of his three.  Now, you could say that’s the result of Nero leading the games at a point where what makes a good DMC was more firmly established and the Capcom team was more versed in it, but we all know really it’s that left-handed blade- and gun-work that leads him to success.

Soda Popinski-Punch Out

There’s a couple of Punch Out character that take southpaw stances, but Soda Popinski, aka Vodka Drunkinski, is the only one who consistently does that throughout all his appearances, so outside of the previous post’s Super Mac, he’s the only one from the series I feel confident enough in to count here.  The others are just posers.  Anyways, Soda Popinski might not have been the first boxer to give you trouble in the old school punchout, but he might have been the first one to make you cry, with the combination of his high speed and great defense making him hard to score counterpunches on, the foundation of most of your offense.  Much like real life southpaws, his left-handed offense makes him hard to read for your weak right-handed mind, and he benefits from that greatly.

Patrick Galloway-Clive Barker’s Undying

What’s this?  We’ve finally got a second left-handed character on this list from a game that was developed outside Japan?  I never thought I’d see the day.  But here we are.

So, I’ve barely played Clive Barker’s Undying, so I can’t really hype up Patrick Galloway that much.  Instead, let’s talk about why he’s left handed, because mechanics-wise, it’s pretty interesting.  Undying is a PC FPS where you’ve usually got both a weapon and a magic spell ready at the same time.  Usually, it’s left-click to shoot, and Undying has Patrick Galloway left handed so that visually corresponds with your left mouse button.  Your right click, and his right hand, are dedicated to the spells.  It works out very elegantly.  And I really don’t know why more FPSes haven’t taken that same tack.

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Now Playing: Check-in Edition

Things have been quiet here this month. You may have noticed. Time has been fighting against me. And losing. Like it always does. But it’s still putting up a fight. And that has cramped my schedule something fierce. I had started another post for this blog, a follow up on my old post on New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 covering this year’s tournament, only to run out of time to make anything notable about it before the G1 actually started. So it’s been a while, with no new content. And I don’t have the time to make anything new and notable.

So instead I’ll make this. A quick little number on what’s been going on in the games I’ve been playing. And hopefully it’ll be amusing for you. But to be honest, I’m mostly doing this for me. Because posting is a thing I want to keep doing, and when there’s something you want to keep doing, it’s best to make it a habit and then continue the habit, even as times get tight. So me posting this little thing now makes it more likely I’ll be in the frame of mind and decision-making capabilities to be making more serious posts later, capische? That’s a word I used. It means something. I think.

Whatever, let’s go.

Disgaea

You can check the full write up on this thing here. In that post, I highlighted how my original plans were to largely eschew the Item World grinding and focus on the main plotline through the game. That hasn’t exactly worked out. I’ve found myself stuck in this loop. I go into the Item World to make a piece of equipment I like much stronger. But if you do good at setting off Geo Chains, you can win more items within the Item World. And some of those are also pieces of equipment I like and want to make stronger. So I go in there. And get more items I really like and want to make stronger. And so on. The item world offers really complicated combat setups and battlegrounds, so I’ve actually been really enjoying the grind. Is it even really grinding if you’re having a good time with it? I don’t know. Going by definitions I’ve established before, probably not. So there. Disgaea’s not grindy at all.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy

I dated someone who was super into Fullmetal Alchemist. Hence how this game ended up in my collection. This was my camping game, recently. Because the DS I’ve been using for travel has been the worse for wear and it’s L and R buttons don’t work well anymore, and this game uses L and R for functions you can do on the touchscreen, so it actually worked out very well. I have multiple DSes. For reasons. It’s all Nintendo’s fault.

Anyways, this is about the sort of game you’d expect if you had an anime license and a bit of creativity but very little time and money. It’s a two hour game that runs through the entirety of the 51 episode Fullmetal Alchemist anime (the original one, not the Brotherhood version/Manga). So as you can imagine, it sums up quite a lot and doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you’ve already seen the anime. But I have to say, I found playing an FMA beat ’em up rather refreshing, even if it was simple as all get out. And didn’t explain functions vital to progression in game. But more things should have beat ’em ups attached to them. I kind of miss beat ’em ups.

Xenoblade Chronicles

I really like Xenoblade Chronicles overall. Beautiful scenery and an excellent soundtrack, mostly likeable characters, Dunban and his sexy self, it’s a really great game. I’ve started it up a few times over the years, but never got all that far into it, comparatively. Because I always focus on doing all the great many sidequests the game has. The copious amounts of sidequests. The hideously huge amount of sidequests. I’d get started, get focused on doing absolutely everything, and then burn out 10-20 hours in and give up on it.

This time, I’ve taken some advice telling me that the sidequests are toxic, and played the game only completing the quests that were on my way or particularly interesting to me. And it feels like a completely different game that way. Plot’s progressing at a good clip, I’m constantly seeing new areas, it’s a lot more fun this way, overall. It’s always been a great game, but I’m feeling now that I never really got to see it at its full potential until I stopped worrying about the sidequests. It’s really as transcendent as its reputation suggests, now.

Way of the Passive Fist

Speaking of beat ’em ups, here’s a beat ’em up where you barely beat any of ’em up. It’s a game that grabbed me by its concept and how well it seemed to play out in video. You don’t have any regular attacks, and instead have to parry, dodge, and poke your way through a goon-filled wasteland, letting your enemies tire themselves out with their own attacks until you can simply knock them over. Each specific enemy has their own specific attack pattern, and streams can get quite complicated, particularly when you have a number of enemies packed in against you.

The game was fun, and lasted a couple of hours, but I felt it would have worn out its concept if it was any longer than that. It has just enough content to fill those hours, but even then, it started to feel a little stale by the end. Still, though, the combination of beat ’em up with a reaction type of gameplay similar to rhythm games was certainly not bad for most of it.

Scribblenauts

Scribblenauts is an amazing game. That doesn’t make it a good game, but it is really impressive the amount of content and viable options they gave you here. The central idea is that there’s an in game dictionary that is really quite expansive, and anything that’s in there, you can just create and insert into a scene to try and solve whatever puzzles or challenges are placed ahead of you. The amount of things you can work with are huge, and the game really opens itself up for some delicious lateral thinking. Like, for example, one mission has a bunch of soldiers against a group of zombies, and your goal is to get all the soldiers zombified before they kill all the zombies. You could set up a wall blocking their shots, and just remove it when the zombies get close. Or you could set up a series of blocks and ramps to give the zombies cover as they approach. Or you could just do what I did, and create a new zombie and just drop it right on the soldier’s heads. It also has a lot of possibilities for self-imposed challenges, and really shines when you get into parts where you’re expected to solve the same puzzle three times in a row with different solutions each time. And this is all in a DS game.

I just which it was more fun to play. The amount of things you can create is staggering and the puzzles offer ample opportunity to use them, but it is so fiddly and such a pain to control, and it relies on a physics engine that seems to hate all logic and good sense. The mental work you need to do is great, but I’ve had so many perfectly valid solutions ruined because they game just wasn’t taking input the way it was supposed to or something weird happened with objects knocking into each other. It’s a shame. This could have been so much more, had it had a better game behind it’s concept.

Disgaeadventures

I’ve had some interest in Disgaea for a while.  It’s a Tactics-style Strategy RPG, and I’ve never met one of those I didn’t like.  I’ve heard tales of the grind involved in this game, the levels going into the thousands, the massive amount of time required, and well, that’s kind of a turn-off for me.  A while back, though, AK did a series of his Deep Read posts on the Disgaea series, and certainly made them sound quite appealing.  So, that, coupled with the promise that the grind wasn’t really that bad unless you’re going after the side content, convinced me to give it a try.  So I picked up the first Disgaea.  And added it to my copious PC game backlog.  And there it sat.  Because that is the fate of anything added to my backlog.  Until, eventually, it gets pulled out, dusted off, and played with joy.  And it was Disgaea’s turn for that recently!

I’m about 5 hours into the game now.  I approached it with trepidation, but what I found there really wasn’t what I expected.   And I found things interesting enough that I felt like sharing my experiences.  So, we’re going to have this, half first impressions post, half after action report.  Something similar to that first post of my Dark Souls Let’s Play.  Except this one, I don’t really plan on turning into a series, but hey, we’ll see.

I played a bit extra to grab screenshots after typing this up, so yes, these don’t always line up with my narrative here. Don’t @ me.

So, a bit of story to start us off.  Our main guy is Laharl, son of King Hardtospelllongname, who ruled over the demon world.  While Laharl was taking a two year long nap, his dad died, passing his rule down to him, except he kept sleeping, so his kingdom all split up into arguing warlords fighting for the scraps of it.  Eventually, Etna, who super obviously has ulterior motives for it, wakes him up and sets him to go beat up all the other demons and put his rightful kingdom back together.  Got it?  Ok.

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Project G: Godzilla vs Biollante (1989)

More Memorable Title: The one the MPAA rated PG for ‘Traditional Godzilla Violence’.

Usually, I lead into these things by talking a bit about the development of the film.  This time, I’m going to take a bit of a different tack, and talk about getting this movie instead.  Toho licenses the western distribution rights for the Godzilla franchise on a film by film basis.  Which leads to tons of different companies having the rights to different films in the franchise, which, for a long time, made it rather difficult to just pick up and watch through the whole Godzilla series.  It’s gotten better in recent years, with Criterion Collection securing the western rights of all the Showa Era films and making those readily available, and Sony holding longtime rights over all the rest of the Heisei era after this as well as the complete Millennium era and releasing some very handy and affordable compilations, but there’s two of Toho’s film from the pre-Reiwa eras that are still largely left out of easy accessibilty.  There’s the Return of Godzilla, which has been out of print for a while but it seems Kraken Publishing still released enough DVDs to make them affordable today.  And then there’s this one.  Miramax licensed out a few limited runs of DVDs, but Toho eventually pulled the license from them, and now nobody has the Western distribution rights to Godzilla vs. Biollante.  There’s no streaming of this movie, and the DVDs fetch a pretty high price, making this the absolutely hardest Godzilla film to get your eyes on.  I managed to find it for what I thought was a reasonable price, but even then, I ended up paying more for it than you would for any brand new, modern day home video release.  

So just keep in mind, what I’m about to relate to you is a rare Godzilla delicacy.  

The Return of Godzilla was financially successful, but not wildly so.  They wanted to do a sequel to it, but the minimal success there, coupled with the failure of some other high profile monster movies at the time, convinced longtime Godzilla producer Tomoyuki Tanaka to wait for a bit, until the market was better for such films.  That ended up being a pause of a few years, before other goofy sci-fiish films, primarily Little Shop of Horrors, started seeing success.  They chose the script for their upcoming film from a contest, taking submissions from a bunch of randos, looking for something that they could use for some traditional kaiju tai kaiju goodness that also took a different tack from the beastie brawls of the showa era.  They ended up settling on the script submitted by a dentist, which was really recycled from a script he had submitted as a teenager to a similar contest for Ultraman and won there.  Director Kazuki Oumori then spent the next three years changing and editing it, using his background as a biologist to correlate Godzilla’s typical anti-nuclear themes with the heavy genetic engineering themes seen here.  In so doing, he also ended up creating and codifying what would really be going on in Godzilla’s Heisei Era.  In a lot of ways, it’s always the second entry that defines a series, and that’s no different here, with Godzilla vs. Biollante’s heavy use of continuity, psychic characters, and CGI beam effects being establishments that would continue for the rest of the series.

In release, Godzilla vs. Biollante was doomed to repeat it’s predecessor’s mild success, leading the franchise to take another small pause before returning to more familiar territory with its next entry. Toho reportedly regarded this film as ending up having too niche an appeal. It is, however, a well regarded one among fans, with a lot of commentary saying it played with some really interesting ideas, even if the actual execution of them is subject to opinion.  How does it fare in the most important opinion of all; mine?  Let’s read on to find out.

I should say, heading into this though, this is a busy, busy movie.  There’s a lot going on here.  So many characters, so many events, so much stuff.  I’m going to be selectively trimming things in a lot of this, so we’ll move pretty quickly, and there’s also going to be a lot of content I don’t touch.  Because I don’t think anyone wants to read a giant  summary of this, and I don’t have time for that anyways.

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