Check-in Post, 12/27/14

Now that you’ve had a full two minutes to marvel at the awesome title of this post—

With weddings to go to on the opposite side of California, holidays with family, a two-week cold, and planning for upcoming travels, I haven’t made much time to post on this blog or work on my novel in recent weeks. Here’s a brief update:

Traveling Again

Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton - Ray and Debra Barone in ItalyAs I’ll be going back to certain countries in Europe and Asia soon, I wanted to do some A.D.M. Was Here posts about my past trips before setting out again. That’s not going to happen, but I might write those posts while I’m revisiting those locations (I do like going to cafes in different countries and doing work there—feels a bit more like you live there, doing regular stuff while also taking in the local ambiance).

Coincidentally, as I sat down to write this, I chose a random season of Everybody Loves Raymond on Netflix and ended up with the episode where the Barones go to Italy (where I should be soon).

State of the Novel

I’m about 20,000 words into the second book of my series right now, and I’m currently waiting on some beta reader feedback before I go back and edit my first book yet again. Then, I’ll send out another batch of queries to potential agents. Hopefully, I can get some of this done on my many impending train rides, and also do some more research for indie publishing.

A Superhero, the Post-apocalypse, and World Domination

Infamous 2 - Cole MacGrath - Sucker PunchWhile sitting at home to nurse my cold, I’ve been going through a backlog of PS3 games I never finished, including Infamous 2 by Sucker Punch and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West by Ninja Theory. On top of that, I’ve been playing hours upon hours of Sid Meier’s Civilization V on the PC.

Infamous 2 has some questionable character designs and the story kind of fizzles out at the end (no matter which ending you go with), but the game is enjoyable. Enslaved is also fun, though the story isn’t as intriguing as reviews led me to believe (but it was compelling enough through the majority of the game), and there are a few glitches here and there (none of which are game-breaking, so it’s fine). Finally, judging from the many hours I’ve spent on Civilization V, it’s fairly safe to conclude that I think the Sid Meier game is worthwhile.

Advertisements

Major Influences #6: Post-Atari and Pre-Wii Video Games

I’ve covered a good amount of influential TV shows in my prior “major influences” posts, and it’s about time I move on to another medium: video games.

The Gateway Consoles

Growing up, my siblings and I had the privilege of owning a few video game consoles. Our first console was the Sega Master System, which I can only assume we got many years after its launch; I wasn’t born yet at its release, but definitely could talk and walk by the time it showed up in our home.

As far as I recall, my favorite titles on the Master System was Alex Kidd in Miracle World (which featured rock-paper-scissors as a primary game mechanic) and My Hero (in which the player character is KO’ed by some jerk in a mohawk two seconds after you press start, and you spend the entire game punching and kicking people to get the player character’s girlfriend back).

Ice Hockey and Bad News Baseball NES

Ice Hockey and Bad News Baseball. Guess which is which.

Later, my family also got the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Yes, I played Mario games, but my favorite games were a bit more obscure: Bad News BaseballIce Hockey; and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Three Kingdoms is a “historical simulation” by KOEI based on a Chinese historical fiction novel. Along with true sequels, KOEI also later released related titles based on the same source material, the most famous of which would be the Dynasty Wariors hack’n’slash games. Over the years, I continued to play many iterations of the Three Kingdoms series, with my favorites being VIII and X.

A less obscure NES favorite of mine is the original Final Fantasy.

All in all, I wasn’t really all that into video games during the NES era.

Golden Age of the JRPG

It wasn’t until the Super Nintendo (SNES) that my video game addiction truly began.Through the SNES, I started getting into fighting games via Capcom’s Street Fighter II (and its many reincarnations), but what I really became hooked on were Japanese role-playing games (JPRGs). I was drawn to RPGs because they had stronger narratives, stories, and dialogue than any other video game genre at the time.

In particular, I liked Final Fantasy III (with many characters developed beyond any level I’d seen previously in a game), Chrono Trigger (so much time-jumping awesomeness), Lufia II (the ending’s rather dramatic), Breath of Fire II (you play a dude who transforms into a dragon and blows people away, ’nuff said), Earthbound (hilarious and quirky), Robotrek (you’re an inventor-kid who battles monsters and other things using robots; somewhat humorous, but not quite as much as Earthbound), and Harvest Moon (you farm and milk cows—oh, and get married and have babies).

Eartbound SNES

Earthbound‘s four young heroes: three psychics and, uh, an engineer.

Earthbound might be my favorite game on the SNES due to its off-beat humor. You play as Ness, a kid who witnesses the death of an alien that looks like a fly. Before dying, the fly sends you on a quest in which you use your baseball bat and psychic powers to save the world from a bleak future. Some of the enemies you face include the New Age Retro Hippie, Annoying Old Party Man, and Insane Cultist. To compare its sense of humor to something contemporary, I’d point to Adventure Time. It’s mathematical.

The Rise of Cinematic Video Games

The Golden Age of JRPGs continued well past the time of the SNES and into an era during which Sony absolutely dominated the market with the Playstation and Playstation 2.

Still avid fans of JRPGs at the time, the sole reason my siblings and I got the Playstation instead of a competing console was because we were chasing Squaresoft and its Final Fantasy franchise. To hold us over while we waited for the next iteration of Final Fantasy, we started our Playstation experience with Battle Arena Toshinden, a clunky but lovable fighting game, and Wild Arms, another JRPG. While fairly awesome in its own right, the wild west-themed Wild Arms simply cannot hold a candle to the masterpiece that is Final Fantasy VII, though Wild Arms does have a ridonkulously impressive opening theme (particularly if you’re an anime nerd):

Final Fantasy VII has one of the most compelling RPG narratives of all time topped off with beautiful musical compositions by Nobuo Uematsu. Due to its popularity and general awesomeness, the game spawned several spin-offs (including my favorite PSP game, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, and an impressive feature length motion picture). Subsequent Final Fantasy games were rather hit or miss, but I’ll say I loved Final Fantasy Tactics, and liked VIII and X more than the others (likely because I didn’t have a pre-pubescent aversion to love stories).

Final Fantasy Advent Children Zack Fair Aeris Gainsborough Cloud Strife Tifa Lockheart

Continue reading

PS4 Exclusive, Bloodborne Gameplay Trailer

Bloodborne Promo ImageIt looks so creepy. Maybe too creepy.

The Action-RPG Bloodborne is being developed by From Software, the creators of the infamously “challenging” Demon’s Souls  and Dark Souls. The game is being published by Sony Computer Entertainment as an exclusive for the Playstation 4.

I kind of wish I could play something with Souls-like gameplay that isn’t horror-themed (not a huge fan of being scared out of my pants), but as is obvious from the name of this game and the gruesome trailer, that’s not going to happen any time soon. Continue reading