Minecraft (PS3) Review

Before we get started, let me set the record straight: I like games with a plot. Sandbox games leave me with a sense of despair because I don’t know what to do or where to go. Games that direct me to objectives are nice because I feel like I’m moving forward.

With that out of the way, let me talk about Minecraft. It’s a game that’s available for pretty much every single platform you can get your hands on right now. Its parent company was recently bought by Microsoft, but that’s another story that I really don’t care about. What I care about is what Minecraft is.

To the uneducated eye, it looks like an eye-searing mass of low-resolution pixels crudely slapped onto blocky 3D models. When I saw screencaps and videos of the game, I couldn’t ever picture myself playing it. What is it, I asked. Why is this popular? Sure, I saw things that people built. Skyscrapers, cities, vessels, whole worlds existed in those blocks. I never thought I could build any of those things. The most I could do, I thought, is crudely map out the layout of the Descent (from Trust) so readers would have a frame of reference for the action.

When Minecraft was released for the PS3, I rented it from the redbox. I figured I’d give it an honest try so I could say for sure that I didn’t like it. It’s one thing to talk badly about something, but I wanted to be able to say that I tried Minecraft. The very next day, I returned it to the redbox. I marched right to my workplace (walmart) and bought a copy for myself.

With that backstory out of the way, let me explain why I, a gamer who hates having no guide, bought Minecraft.

The tutorial world was a nice touch. I played through it so I could get the hang of the game, but after a while I decided to create my own custom world in survival mode, I plopped down into the middle of a clearing with some trees nearby. I followed the basic steps: create a shelter, build a workbench and tools, survey the area for resources. At a loss for what to do after that, I decided to take the name of the game to heart. I mined.

It was that sense of discovery that hooked me. In Minecraft, each world that you create is randomly generated. Even the same “seed” (a word or number put into one of the boxes at world creation) yields very different results every time. When I used yaoi at my fiancee’s house, it at first created a very stacked world with a ton of mountains that looked like pyramids. The same word at my house yielded the environment I described above.

I started digging into a nearby hill and discovered a cavern. I followed that cavern down and mined… and mined… and mined. When I had enough stone in my inventory to make a mortal man pass out, I decided what I wanted to build. My first building leaves much to be desired and also doubled as an Enderman trap. Endermen, in short, are scary as heck because they teleport and don’t like being looked at. If you look at them, they attack you. I had a good jump scare when I went to continue building and saw an Enderman inside walls I thought were safe.

Another thing that kept me playing was the ease of the controls. On PS3, your various menus are mapped to the buttons. Your inventory pops up with one button, your crafting menu with another. The trigger buttons on the controller make your character mine or place blocks. Despite opening the inventory plenty of times when I was after the crafting table, I had no issue with making whatever it is I wished.

Why is it addictive? I can’t really say. In creative mode, my fiancee built a ship and started to build a house while I decided to put jack-o-lanterns in the ocean. It was a completely random decision that nonetheless kept me occupied. It could be any number of elements. The graphics leave much to be desired, but at the same time their simplicity has a charm of its own. It could be that it lets you create your own story. I decided  that I wanted to build a tunnel from one end of the world to the other. I decided to build a pyramid that really didn’t turn out as a pyramid as well.

I suppose this wasn’t so much a review as a narrative of how I played. However, this game is deeper than it appears from observation. I highly recommend getting your hands on it and trying it for yourself.

Observations In Gaming

I got a guy to like me yesterday. 

We were doing the usual things and I wanted him to really like me. I heard good stuff happens if you get people to like you. Getting his affection was happening too slow, so I did something I normally wouldn’t.

I drugged him.

After the drugging his affection for me increased exponentially. We even had a nice little chat. He didn’t seem to mind being drugged, which made my guilt even worse. 

This guy’s name is Jude Mathis. He’s a character in Tales of Xillia and its sequel. It was in the sequel that the drugging happened. I gave him friendship potions and it didn’t even seem to bother him. It bothered me a lot, though. I realized something about myself: I think about the most minor details of games far too much. I found myself thinking about this thing that sounds so simple, but in practice has horrifying consequences.

I focused my attention on Jude for a simple reason: He’s cute, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him and Xillia 2′s protagonist rolling around somewhere, preferably without clothing. Most people will get squicked out by that, I know, but we all like what we like. After drugging Jude, I couldn’t help but wonder: what if I’d used those friendship potions on female party member Leia? Or Milla? How would that have sounded, then? 

Games that have a mechanic that let you drug your party members into liking you seem innocent enough. In most cases, you do something genuinely nice for that character. Pokemon lets you massage your pokemon once per day, which is a nice thing to do. It provides a valid reason for your pokemon to gain affection for you. Star Wars: The Old Republic allowed you to buy your companions gifts to win their affection. 

Those are all okay. You’re doing something nice for that character, so it stands to reason that they’d like you more for it. 

It was different with Jude, though. As I used those potions, I imagined the ways in which Ludger was getting Jude to drink them. Perhaps it was mixed in with another drink. Maybe they’re actually pretty good drinks in their own right and Jude didn’t mind drinking them on his own.

What if Ludger was forcing those potions down Jude’s throat?

Affection from a potion, not from an act of kindness, has that sort of vibe. It feels all kinds of date-rapey and not very honest. I wish this system had been implemented in a way that didn’t drag out these sorts of impressions. After the sixth potion, Jude initiated a private skit with Ludger (aka me, the player) and told me how much he was growing to appreciate me. I wish I could take those potions back. That convo made me feel even worse.

Next playthrough, if my attention span holds out, I’m going drug-free. Those friendship potions are going into a salesperson’s inventory (might as well get some gald for that hefty debt the game throws at you, am I right?) I’ll win Jude’s affection the hard way, by agreeing with him, fighting at his side, and making sure monsters don’t mess up his pretty face.

Con Report: Mechacon X

Hello again! I haven’t put up any promised reviews yet because I’ve been busy preparing for the title of this post. Mechacon X was a blast! Disclaimer: My experience is not indicative of anything but my experience.

My first day, there weren’t many panels I wanted to go to. I ended up hanging around Artist’s Alley, where Trust was on sale alongside my mother’s crafts and my cousin’s artwork. The first day I made no sales, sadly. When I wasn’t in Artist’s Alley, I was walking the con floor. My major disappointment was with the game room. It was moved off to the side this year and it lacked its defining feature. Without the mecha simulator pods, the game room was just another game room. Sleeping Samurai was a good addition in its stead. I took my fiance on in a bout and won him. Things I learned about myself: I go for the gut. Even so, fake sword fights and a round of Dance Central couldn’t completely fix the mecha pod disappointment.

On day two, I’d planned to cosplay the whole day. However, an early Yu-Gi-Oh sealed deck tournament took up a ton of my time. It was okay. I got a pretty good stall and token deck out of it. (Translation: I could bring up stuff to absorb damage while I got my own attackers out of it.) It was fun, but I felt like it took too much time from me. I had to skip a few panels I’d wanted to go to. After the tournament, I went up to the room and got into my cosplay. Only one person recognized me as Quatre Winner from Gundam Wing. I went to the Eien Strife concert as Quatre and found out something cool. I share a birthday with the lead singer of the band! I told her about it afterwards and it was like, birthday bonding moment is go! The rave was fun. I don’t dance, so I sat to the side with my fiance and enjoyed the music. I had glowsticks!

Day three was the winding down day. Vendors were discounting things, people were leaving, and I sold a few books. I didn’t cosplay that day. I went to two panels throughout the whole weekend on sunday: Eien Strife’s retro gaming challenge, where I failed horribly at Contra, and Spike Spencer’s voice acting panel. I gave Cheydra of Eien Strife a copy of Trust for her birthday. There was some disappointment as well. I got Spike to sign my copy of Tales of Vesperia without issues on Saturday. On sunday, however, I walked away from two actors when they demanded my hard-earned money for their signature. I told Scott Menville to his face that if they wanted my money for their signature, I’d be walking away – and I did.

The best part of my weekend was on Sunday. There was a Mecha Maid and Host Club on the third floor. I went there with my fiance in part because we wanted to see what it was and in part because we were hoping for free food. The food wasn’t free, but we had fun. I mentioned that it was my birthday and about halfway through the show all proceedings were brought to a halt. I’m not sure who she was, but one of the maids who wasn’t in a dress was on stage making this huge spectacle about secrets being kept. The next thing I realized was that I was surrounded by maids and hosts. They got on the floor and sang Happy Birthday to me. I got the cutest little treat for free and it was overall just very adorable.

Next best thing was seeing a booth for TeeTurtle in the Dealer’s Room. I got a Pocket Fury shirt – in short, when I where it, it looks like I have Toothless in my pocket. His tail with his prosthetic sticks out of the pocket and down the shirt. It’s officially the cutest thing I own.

I had a good time during the weekend, in short. There was some disappointment, but overall it was a very positive experience. I already can’t wait for next year.

Things are happening

Hello again! It’s taken a lot longer than the expected few days to get the ball rolling, but here things are. I have set the official release date for Trust at July 26th, 2014. When it’s officially available for release, I’ll post again to let my wonderful followers know.

After that, it’s back to the grind with normal stuff. More books to write, you know. More writing will be happening. More reviewing, too! My next review victims shall be:

Minecraft (PS3)

How To Train Your Dragon 2

The Lego Movie

Any others you can recommend!

Seriously, I’m kind of waiting for other stuff to come out. If you want me to watch a particular movie or play a particular game, just let me know in the comments. I’ll be happy to do everything I can. 

Until next time~

Not A Hiatus, Just Busy

Exactly what it says on the title. I’m working on several things outside of WordPress. I’m an aspiring author, or so my blog title says. Give it a few days and I’ll be an honest to goodness published author! My book Trust is being re-published due to things. I’ve done all the technical things and within a few days, Trust should be available for sale. Wish me luck! 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I’ve decided to take a break from video game reviews. Let’s do movie reviews, instead! As you may have guessed, this review is devoted to the latest Marvel movie. Without further ado, let’s jump right into the meat of this review.

When this movie opened, I expected something that would blow me away. It started off strong with its opening, but quite early on I could see its flaws. The scenes outside of the new helicarriers screamed, “I’M FORESHADOWING!” and it was really jarring. I didn’t like feeling slapped in the face with something that would be better served as a surprise.

The part of the movie that really turned me off, though, was the overly long car chase starring Nick Fury’s car and a bunch of implausible stunts. It could have been half the length it was and still got the point across. From there, I just hung around to see how the plot points I predicted turned out. I guessed just about all of them. Predictability is not good for a movie whose intent was to invoke suspense.

The only thing I didn’t predict was the Falcon. I fell in love with those wings of his at first sight. It’s true that they aren’t likely scientifically possibly, but neither is Asgard. Disbelief, suspended. Jaw, dropped. Envy, thy name is Thea. His sequences were the best in the movie.

There will be light spoilers ahead, so be warned. I’m going to talk about the Winter Soldier now.

For having the movies subtitled named after him, Bucky seemed more of an afterthought than the main article. His character could have been replaced with any other’s with no effect on the plot. Rather than focus on the hidden Hydra agents in the movie, it should have focused on the dynamic between Bucky and Steve. This is the same studio that handled Thor and Loki, so it could have been done.

Instead, we get bare seconds of Steve and Bucky interaction before they’re ripped apart again. Then, Bucky forgets about it, and they have a battle that anyone can see the resolution to a million miles away. Only of slight surprise was the fact that Bucky survived to another movie. Given the events of the movie, however, I might suggest another subtitle: Hydra Lives. Perhaps Zola Strikes Back. The movie certainly wasn’t about the Winter Soldier.

Overall, I wasn’t impressed with this movie. The acting was superb, and the little bit of Bucky we got was wonderful. However, it’s best viewed when it arrives on Netflix.

Tales of Legendia

I was browsing a group on facebook today when someone posted a pic of a game character I rather like. The character’s name is Senel Coolidge, and he’s from the game named in the title of this post. I like it when Tales games get mentioned, but I have a distinct opinion of this one. My comment sparked a comment war, and so, I figured, it’s game review time!

Tales of Legendia was originally released on February 7, 2006 in the United States. I can’t remember when I originally played it, but it was many years after that release date. As a Tales series game, I was excited to pick it up! I love the Tales series (see my Tales of Xillia review here: http://kurahikari.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/tales-of-xillia/). However, this game was markedly different from the others in many ways.

First, this game had a very peculiar art style. I had become accustomed by this time to games such as Tales of Symphonia (its direct predecessor) and Tales of the Abyss (released a few years later). Its characters exemplified the chibi art style – tiny bodies, oversized heads, and large hands and feet. Its battles were on a 2D plane, as opposed to Symphonia’s 2D on a 3D plane format. There are many more differences, but those are the few that stuck me as odd.

However, this is a game review, so let me address three main points: Story, Gameplay, and Art Design.

As far as stories go, this is a pretty standard game. Brother and sister are on a raft, they get shipwrecked, a future party member finds them. After a while messing around in the hub city of the game, your sister, Shirley, gets kidnapped. Okay, fine, you go rescue her. In true Tales fashion, your journey to save Shirley ends up revealing secrets about your continent and nearly killing everyone. Awesome – that is, if most of the character development wasn’t hidden after the game’s end.

In Symphonia, your characters were not simply present for the events of the game. As you explored the world, you learned that key members of your party weren’t as you seemed. There were betrayals, unexpected saves, and overall you came away learning something about your characters that let them feel real. Legendia has none of that in the main story. The only characters that get development in the main story are Senel, our lead, and Jay, the mysterious and genius knife-knut. Everyone else feels like part of the scenery for all the personality they have. By the end of the game, once I saved our quaint little island, I was quite fed up with this game overall. I didn’t play through the character stories – which, by the way, is the only part of the game that you get Shirley as your party member. This is justified for plot reasons (kidnapped?), but it was still odd. Even Symphonia gave you control of characters that you would eventually lose for plot reasons. Abyss handled this situation (with Ion) by making the eternally-kidnapped character an NPC party member. It worked much better – but, as Legendia came first, it can be forgiven for not having hindsight.

The gameplay in this title felt like a step backwards for the series. Coming after Symphonia, I expected something grand. I know that this series started off with combat on a 2D field, but evolution had already occurred. Rather than falling back on a gameplay style that was already outdated, the game should have pushed boundaries. We shouldn’t have had to wait until Abyss to get a truly 3D tales experience. Even for being a 2D game, Legendia felt stale. The attacks and spells in this game lacked the flash that other games had. Some of the weapons felt distinctly odd, if not inspired. In what other game would you find bubble straws, quills (pen quills, that is), and urns?

Outside of battle was just as stale. Again, Symphonia had come ahead of this title. There is no excuse for random encounters that had no warning. As you walked around the field, the comforting sight of monsters was absent. The empty game world would grab you out of your innocent wanderings and thrust you into combat. Instead of a whole world, you were left with only a continent – and it showed. Everything felt cramped and needlessly complicated. The quick-travel system was non-intuitive, as well, making travel even more of a nightmare.

The art style was as un-Tales-like as chocolate and white chocolate. As mentioned, the character designs were odd. In addition to the chibi-style, the colors were completely different. Tales games normally used a pale, near-pastel pallet. Legendia had colors that were dark, and bold. The lack of texturing on the models made everyone look like plastic dolls wandering about – again, with Symphonia as a predecessor, this was jarring. It looked like a project that someone did for their college course, not a professionally-made game.

Overall, Tales of Legendia is the red-headed stepchild of the Tales series. It lives on alongside Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World in Tales series infamy. It had plenty of potential, but it was squandered. Its few high points are not enough to save it.