Friday, November 8

The Tech-geek in me is pleas-ed.

My cable channel has finally acquired TechTV, which is, in my opinion, the best channel for gaming programs and news. The centerpiece is the gaming program Extended Play, which features up-to-date news, reviews and previews of various games, with excellent commentary and quality footage. Aside from EP, there are also other programs that feature gaming that really satisfy my hardcore gaming self. I once had TechTV with my former cable service, but it was taken off (making me force my family to switch cable servers). My new cable service turned out to NOT have TechTV... until yesterday. WOOHOO! I've been forced to have to rely totally on the European-flavored NOW channel for gaming stuff, primarily from their shows Gamer@Now and Game Sauce. Unfortunately, the former (which was their best show) seems to have been taken off the air, while Game Sauce is prone to replaying old, old episodes. Worse, there are HORRIBLE shows like a stupid videogame-based gameshow (we want to see GAMES, not people talking about game trivia) and a show that features Quake III. Plus overall, they seem to have an extreme fascination with soccer...
Aside from the gaming shows, TechTV also features interesting PC knowledge, lots of future tech stuff, and more. Bliss. It just goes to show that all things come to those who wait...

Thursday, November 7

Taking Roleplaying too far...

Does anyone here remember the film Mazes and Monsters? I don't expect a lot of you to, since when I saw it first I was probably not yet even in high school. Anyway, it was all about this gang of friends who love playing a Dungeons and Dragons-type RPG called, well, Mazes and Monsters. Well, since this is a drama/scare movie, something goes terribly wrong; one of the friends goes bonkers after a particularly intense moment of play, and this results in him actually taking his game character's persona... permanently. Oh, and the actor who played the role of that guy is some actor named Tom Hanks. I guess that prepped him up for Forrest Gump.
Anyway, this post isn't a cautionary thing on how RPGs can make you crazy... Well, not in that way. It's more about what should be in an RPG, and what we leave out. For example, when you go on a fantasy adventure with your party of fighters, thieves, clerics and sorcerers, you don't really have to see them going to the toilet, right? Or doing the laundry? Or cooking food? Well, then again, cooking food can be a pretty funny minigame...
Well, trying to fit in some very menial things into gameplay is something that the game Shenmue tries to do. FYI, Shenmue is a 'cinematic' game where players take the role of Ryo Hazuki, a young martial arts student out to avenge his father's murder. Initially, the game seemed a milestone. A fully-immersive and interactive world where you take on the persona of the character and actually LIVE in his shoes. It sounded great. On PAPER. Well, in execution, it turned out to be, at least for me, BORING. No, we don't get to see Ryo going for a pee, but we do see him doing manual labor like lifting crates, driving a forklift and waiting for paint to dry. You, know, hero stuff.
It's a different thing to be exploring a dungeon and opening chests and searching for secret passages. But Shenmue is all about going into a present day room and fooling around with other peoples' everyday stuff. Man, I do that every day at the office! Though I don't usually lift up a cup and look at it from every angle saying, "Hmmm." Unless it's one of those cups where a woman's dress melts off when you put hot water in it... Ahem. Anyway, it's this slow pace that turned off a LOT of people to Shenmue, part of the reason why it never really took off, which is actually a shame since a lot of work went into it.
But the dialogue is simply horrible. A usual conversation goes like so...
Ryo: "Are you Ben?"
Ben: "Yes, I am Ben."
Ryo: "Have you seen a black car?"
Ben: "A black car? No. But maybe Mr. Hojo has."
Ryo: "Where do I find Mr. Hojo?"
Ben: "He lives next door."
Ryo: "Are you Mr. Hojo?"
Hojo: "Yes, I am Mr. Hojo..."

The trouble with Shenmue is that there is too much tediousness in between the thrilling action and the good stuff. Plus a lot of the action is actually pretty boring. Walking across a plank? Woohoo. Sigh. Anyway, despite all that I've said, the game is still an accomplishment, and I know quite a few people who really got into the thing. But it's not for me. I play to get away from normal life, not live someone else's normal life. That's why I don't like The Sims either.
But then again, at least The Sims has sexy babes in it. Mr. Hazuki is pretty much neutered. Haha. Whatever.
Comic to Movie Translations

Has anyone here seen the Daredevil trailer? I absolutely HATE the costume design for Elektra. Okay, a red swimsuit and red thigh high stockings probably aren't the most practical things to wear for a ninja, but this is a superhero movie, for crying out loud! Black leather worked in The Matrix, but that doesn't mean EVERY single comic book movie has to follow suit. The Elektra look is just WRONG. Worse, they seem to be trying to match the comic books with it! If the Elektra comic changes her costume to the black leather she wears in the movie, I will stop buying it, regardless of Greg Horn's cover art. BAH.
One translation I have to enjoy though is Rebecca Romjin-Stamos' Mystique in X-Men. The process that turned the model/actress into a scaled, yellow-eyed, red-haired, naked shapeshifting martial arts fighter took about 10 hours in the first film's making. Since the paint and makeup went over every inch of the actress' body, she basically has to bare every part (all her makeup people are probably women or gay), she had to endure a lot. Plus, the fumes reportedly made her faint or puke blue vomit... Eww. Anyway, in a recent interview, she revealed some stuff. Thankfully, Mystique will STILL be naked and blue, but putting on the makeup has now been shortened to about three hours. And she's gotten used to the fumes. Maybe she's addicted already.
Haven't seen The Incredible Hulk in his movie form yet, not that I'm excited. So many comic book movies and videogame films are coming. Compromises are probably a given, but sometimes I think creators and filmmakers just have to be brave and do the seemingly impossible. Yes, maybe we DO expect yellow spandes, Cyclops.

Wednesday, November 6

I am Isildur, high king of Gondor.

Or, I can be his heir- Aragorn, the valiant ranger and hero. Or Legolas, the elf and hearthrob. Or Ghimli the funny but gruff dwarf. That's all possible in the PS2 game, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. I got the game along with Suikoden III, which means I have pretty much neglected it, but I tried it and it looks pretty cool.
Basically, LOTR:TT is a straight-up action-fighting game. You choose your hero from the available badasses of the Fellowship and hack away in various situations against Mordor scum. The interesting part is that despite being named 'The Two Towers', the game actually involves battles and events shown in the first LOTR movie as well as scenes from the second film.
This may be a bit of a spoiler, but here... the game opens with the same monologue by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), along with the same images from the movie. When we reach the battle between the elves and humans and Mordor though, the cinema images morph into actual gameplay! Remember that cool scene with the orcs charging the line of elven soldiers with the cool double-headed spears? You get to PLAY that scene as Isildur, right up to the point where Sauron shows up and starts taking down names with his mace.
The graphics and frenetic gameplay is cool at this point, though the atmosphere of being inside the actual LOTR movie is kinda ruined by an in-game voiceover giving you directions like, "Use your Fierce Attack!" or "Use your Quick Attack!" ... I don't think that's how the Dunedain and the Elves give orders... Heh... But that's just nitpicking. It IS a videogame after all, and it DOES really show off really great PS2 graphics that capture the look of the films. Plus, the actual actors recorded new dialogue for the game, so it sounds as authentic as it looks.
I stopped playing though since there are lots of spoilers and film clips from the second film, and I want to see that stuff in the theater, not from some DVD game (this from the guy who watched a bootleg DVD of Fellowship weeks before the theater release...).
Anyway, it looks cool. Not exactly Suikoden, but it's not meant to be. Just a mindless hack and slash that cashes in with the release of the new movie. But kicking Sauron's butt IS cool. Heh.
This one's a kipper!

Okay, now for something pleasant. The past week or so I've been frequenting having dinner from Kipp's, a food outlet at Megamall's food court that specializes in chicken. Aside from the usual chicken pieces, they also have chicken nuggets, chicken patties and spaghetti- none of which I have ever tried. Nope, whenever I eat at Kipp's I just make it a point to order my usual- two pieces white meat chicken breasts with two helpings of Spanish rice, some gravy and a small bowl of cold macaroni salad. The good thing about Kipp's chicken (especially the white meat, IMO) is that there's a ton of meat in it. Some chicken in other restaurants are layered in dough and extenders. Kipp's has that too, but there's more than enough meat and the skin is always crispy to the extreme. The gravy's very savoury, and after each spoon I have some macaroni salad (the sweetness is a good contrast and counterpoint to the meat, rice and gravy). Haaa. Actually, while it does taste good, I have to say that Kipp's is probably a 'default' food I have; which means this is what I get if I can't think of anywhere else to go to or am just so hungry I don't want to think. Which is good for them, I think. Plus it's the chicken place I can go to where they allow me to choose the pieces I want- namely, two breasts. Hmm. And there I thought I was a leg man. Hehehe.... Yes....
Better Late than Sorry...

Professionalism be damned. I made it a point to wake up early today for a nine o' clock meeting at the office. I really didn't want to go to that meeting, but the Account people pestered me and forced me into a promise to go, so I went. Woke up at quarter to seven, got up at seven, was out of the house by seven quarter. This despite staying up till about, oh, three AM playing Suikoden III. I was on a crowded bus despite heavy traffic and was at the Cubao MRT station by eight. Reaching the office should be a snap.
Guess again. The DAMN MRT was busted. Worse, it only got busted when I finally squeezed into the throng of evil people (all other people are evil in commuting. It's a law). Picture having to stand literally belly-to-back with other people, as in, sardine-close, in the MRT... which was NOT moving at all. For something of fifteen minutes, I stood there in a mass of flesh while the damn train just sat there, not moving. The operator kept saying 'Sorry, train delay...' in irritating intervals.
When the train finally moved, it was at a snail's pace. We were actually matching the speed of the bumper-to-bumper traffic beneath us! We hadn't even gone halfway to the next station when the train stopped. 'Sorry, there's another train still at the next station.' apologized the operator uselessly.
The train was there, in the middle of the track, still stuffed to capacity, for something of twenty minutes. By this time I had tuned into my dreaming stage... my defense mechanism for such an ordeal. However, it still stunk. GAAAAH.
I finally called the office, informing them I would be late.
When I reached my desk, it was about nine-thirty. When I asked about the meeting, I was told that it was okay... they could manage without me. So I went through all that for nothing. SIGH.
This would never have happened if I remained a slacker. Just goes to show sometimes the harder you try, the harder things get. Heh.

Monday, November 4

The Devil's Voice...

Just a short post... Was on my way to Megamall to meet someone on short notice. I rode an FX taxi to Cubao. Nope, I didn't get held up again, fortunately. As we were near Araneta Coliseum, with the taxi almost empty of other passengers, a guy hopped on. He seemed to know the driver, and they began chatting. He sat in the rear seat, so I was between him and the driver as they spoke. Now, what they were talking about was irrelevant... it was his VOICE. He has this really odd, grating voice, like it was a humanoid frog speaking. It had a metallic quality, and was strangely amplified, as if he was talking through a small mike. IT WAS PAINFUL TO HEAR IT. I was toying with actually asking him to shut up. I half-covered my ear to try and blot out the grating sound of his words. DAAAAAMMMMN his voice was UGLY. DAAAAAAAMMMMMNNNN.
Gah. Got that out. I hope I never meet him again. Why can't they all sound like that one odd cigarette vendow along Edsa, who speaks with a modulated deejay's voice? Sigh.
Later then.
I'm a young barbarian, a female knight and a one-eyed mercenary.

I just got a copy of Suikoden III for the Playstation 2 over the weekend, and I have to say I am hooked (which is part of the reason why I haven't been able to blog). I loved the first two games in the series (which came out on the PSOne), each of which ate up hours and hours of my life as I battled to save a world from evil.
Suikoden is so named after the ancient Chinese legend/epic which tells about 108 Stars of Destiny- heroes who come together to fight a corrupt empire or a great evil. Each game is a fantasy RPG which has you taking the role of a reluctant hero who must rally together these 108 heroes together. In realtime terms this means lots of travelling all about a large continent, talking to everyone in sight, going on myriad subquests, battling hordes of enemies and eventually building a homebase where all the heroes can hang out. While the original game set the world, the game system and the style of play, the sequel, Suikoden 2, upped the ante with deeper characters and storylines (with lots of political plots and subplots- I think Suikoden is one of the RPGs that really does conspiracies and politicking well), handling the clash of empires and armies in a fun (yes, war is fun here) way.
The third game in the series continues what worked in the previous games but has many new elements. For starters, it's the first to be on the PS2, so the graphics are revved up. The world is in full 3-D, and thankfully, the representations of the characters (which have an anime style to them) aren't too deformed and cute; plus they actually are able to show off a lot of emotion despite being anime cartoony figures. Anyway, once you put in the DVD into the PS2, you'll be treated to an incredibly beautiful and evocative anime intro movie that shows off the various characters; I have to say the quality of the intro's animation looks almost movie or OAV quality; lovely art and character designs (though I have to say the duck people still irk me...).
Anyway, aesthetics aside, the best part of Suikoden for me is the story. Here, you don't just take the role of one hero; you actually have the chance (or is it a necessity?) to play through the game through three different heroes and factions, and see the unfolding adventure through three different viewpoints. This is called the 'Trinity System'. You play through a hero's chapter, then after it you shift to another, and then another. Once you finish all chapters, you move on to the next. Once you complete all three initial chapters for each of the heroes, the paths join and you move as one to the story's final two chapters.
The characters you play include Chris, a female knight and leader of the human forces of Zexen. She's arguably the most powerful and easiest to play of the characters (since she starts off with the best armor and tons of cash and her own army). Next is Hugo, a barbarian from the grassland tribe of Karaya and the son of the Chieftain. He seems to be the lead hero, and has to go through the worst of the trials (since he loses his village in the process). Finally, there's Geddoe, a mercenary who comes from a third side in the conflict. He's pretty fun to play since he has a crew of colorful mercs with him with various abilities and personalities. Mysteriously though, there's a fourth character whom you eventually must find in the course of the game...
In terms of gameplay, the fighting is fast and quite fun, but it IS an RPG, so basically it's still a menu-driven turn-based system... or as a friend of mine would say, a slap-match. Still, the load times are only a few seconds, the animations are quite good and the story so far is enthralling and engrossing to the extreme. All I can say is that I started playing just after lunch, and when I finally decided to call it a day, it was midnight. Oh-KAY!
Anyway, this is a bonafide winner. Fans of the previous games MUST play it. And best of all, you can use your previous save from Suikoden 2 to unlock bonuses in the new game.
Okay, I'll just play another hour before I go to bed. Just one more hour... Heheh... HAHAHAHAHAHA!