Making Chocolates

My sister has a yearly subscription to shockwave.com, about $30, which lets you play any downloadable flash game for as long as you want, without having to buy it. This is a great model for the casual gamer who just wants to play games to its completion, and then throw it away. Honestly, these games aren’t worth playing again, with all the sequels and iterations that they go through. I wish they had this type of purchasing model for Mac.

On one of my visits home, she introduced me to this strategy simulation game called Chocolatier. It’s a great concept for anyone who loves chocolate, and allows a high level, albeit romantic and fantasy, look at the chocolate industry. The setting is in the first half of the 20th century, where they still use trains and ships for travel. You play as an apprentice to young family member of a chocolate empire family who wants to rock the boat. The gameplay features in this game includes a wide variety:

1. Quick response organization: To make chocolates, you have to “set up” your factory to make a certain amount of inventory. Depending on your recipe, you recreate a template of ingredients into trays. The trays move around and you shoot whatever the next ingredient is into the appropriate tray. The recipe can range from 3 to 6 ingredients, so you have to make sure each tray gets the right number of ingredients, otherwise, it may get thrown away. To add another layer onto this, each ingredient is color coded, so if you make a tray with all blue, red, or yellow ingredients, you get bonus inventory.

This gameplay is pretty addicting, especially if you know you could do better and make more chocolates by achieving bonuses, so you’re given the chance to organize your ingredients as many times as you want

2. Collect them all: The player is given a recipe book to make chocolate square, sauces, pralines, truffles, and exotics, each with 12 different recipes. Many are locked, and you’re expected to unlock new recipes by testing ingredients that you’ve found in a tasting lab, or by encountering people with secret recipes that you chat up with in pubs and landmarks in the locations you can visit. The more you mix up the chocolates you make, the more money you can sell them for. It’s like introducing a new product to the market and getting big bucks for it.

The hook here is discovering what new recipes are available and what new ingredient you’ll have to hunt for next.

3. Shopping: There is definitely an element of shopping in this game. Every location has a market: locations near the equator sell cacao, almost every location sells sugar, and almost every ingredient has 2 locations where you can pick them up. Special ingredients sell only at certain places, like Cognac is only available in France, and every location that sells regular cacao also sells their own local version of cacao. Prices go up and down a couple ways: Items can be seasonal, or random events can happen, such as failed exports/imports or unexpected surplus (which is only messaged to the player through simple text).

For a flash game, Chocolatier is fairly robust in its story and gameplay, and the art is simple, though sometimes inconsistent, especially with the character art. It definitely kept my interest, and is easy to play when I have 15-30 minutes to kill. Saving is automatic, so you can pick up where you left off.

Probably the most important lesson anyone will ever learn is this game (if they haven’t already) is networking. Networking gets you places, it gets you sources, it gets you support. Money becomes no object when you’re making good use of your connections.

Where have all the seiyuu gone?

When I used to watch anime religiously, figuring out which series to watch next meant knowing which one had my favorite seiyuu. Since Sailor Moon was my #1, I kept an eye out for Hisakawa Aya, Mitsuishi Kotono, Tomizawa Michie, Ogata Megumi. Other greats included Inoue Kikuno, Hayashibara Megumi (The queen!), Midorikawa Hikaru, Takehito Koyasu…

I’m just going to take a moment to share some of these people’s awesome resumes: Hisakawa Aya was the straight-laced Ami, Sailor Mercury. She was also the voice for sexy Devil Hunter Yohko, and tough girl Iria, who hunted Zeiram. Mitsuishi Kotono, who was Usagi, Sailor Moon, also voiced the complicated Kusaragi Misato, guardian of the Evangelion pilots, and the shamelessly ecchi, but loyal hamster Ebi-chu. Tomizawa Michie, who was Rei, Sailor Mars, was Ebi-chu’s object of affection and abusive mistress. Consider the parallels of Rei and Usagi’s relationship compared to that of Ebi-chu and her mistress! Those two definitely had a lot of fun performing, I’m sure! The illustrious Ogata Megumi, Tenou Haruka, Sailor Uranus, played a huge range, from the brave and delicate Princess Emeraude of Rayearth, to the cowardly and begrudging Evangelion pilot, Ikari Shinji. Now consider the contrast between the relationship between Usagi and Haruka and that of Misato and Shinji. The roles have switched!

The impressive thing is that not only do these artists have such a wide range of characters, but they have opportunity to work together in different roles and create a new relationship dynamic that I’m always eager to watch unfold in their performances. Pulling it off successfully is what makes them so amazing.

Where have they all gone? I find myself having to get used to this new generation of seiyuu because there’s a ton of anime out there, many that are crap, and it’s hard to find quality voice actors who are not typecasted. But I’m keeping my eye out for Romi Park. She’s done a ton of characters, including Ed (Full Metal Alchemist) and Nana Ozaki (Nana), top-notch popular characters.

Surprisingly, she is the first Japanese seiyuu I’ve discovered to be of Korean descent.

And for the video game tie-in, Romi Paku is the Japanese voice for Amanda Valenciano Libre from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.

Madison’s opening scene in Heavy Rain (SPOILERS)

I gotta say, that opening scene in Heavy Rain (when you finally get to play Madison) is like a girl’s worst nightmare. Seriously, you’re alone in your spacious abode, and all that surrounds you is silence and ambient sound. As you get used to the silence, you get this weird feeling behind you, as if someone’s watching. And then out of nowhere, you get attacked by something strong, and they drag you down too quickly for you to respond. I couldn’t get it out of my head that Madison was going to be violated unless I got those button motions right. After missing a couple, I was sure I was going to get a bad scene, but somehow Madison managed to get by and lock herself in the bathroom… Only to have her throat sliced.

I have friends who take self-defense classes, they’re tough and serious about it. But when it comes down to it, if they’re against a big guy, there’s no way they can match his strength. It’s nice to be able to play a video game where your skills only lie in how fast your reaction and hand-eye coordination is, and being able to kick butt, but in reality, a woman can only do so much to help herself. Assholes, jerkwads, and male scum of the earth ought to control themselves or be shot.

I should play that scene again and see if there is a better outcome.

Adventure games

After watching this clip, it got me wondering. Did anyone count the female gamers who play single player games? I’m definitely one of them. Guys wonder why they don’t see more women playing games, but are they really wondering why they don’t see more women playing games online?

Let me tell you some of my favorite games: the Police Quest series, the Leisure Suit Larry series, the Monkey Island series, Day of the Tentacle, the Gabriel Knight series, the Onimusha series, Sam and Max Hit the Road, Indigo Prophecy, the Yakuza series, the Metal Gear Solid series,

That’s a lot of series. And a lot of adventure games. I know a lot of girls who like adventure games, too. Are adventure games not gamer enough?