Closing the gap a bit

I’m a terrible blogger. I haven’t written an entry in months! But I have reasons for that.

Number 1: I’m taking Japanese classes again. I’m shooting to take 日本語能力試験2級 at the end of the year. But then I heard that 3級is now more like 3.5 and makes the gap between 3 and 2 much smaller than before. Maybe I should take it again instead of 2 so that my odds of passing is better which will encourage me to take 2! Actually, I think I should be more diligent and give myself an hour every day to study. From now until December, that should be enough study time for 2. I hope.

Number 2: Work is ramping up towards the end. The title that my team and I are working on has a Beta deadline in 2 weeks, and I’ve been working my ass off trying to tie up loose ends and making sure my team prioritizes their tasks appropriately. It’s only 2 weeks after Beta until Gold Master, so we don’t have much time left! In any case, they deserve pie!

I’m happy to say that our title will be exhibiting at E3 this year with Nintendo! It’s definitely exciting, and I hope it will be well received. Too bad I won’t be there because I’ll be busy hitting a deadline! 😛

So with classes, and late nights at work, there isn’t much time to study either, or socialize! Glee is probably the only excuse I have for socializing, and even then, it’s a weekday, everyone has to be sent home soon after it ends, and then it’s sleepy-time for a semi-early start.

I recently just got the Saboteur. Hopefully, I will get more time to play it more, but I’m really not motivated to. The controls are too sensitive, so movement can sometimes be jerky, and imprecise. Plus I’m at the flashback intro, so there’s not much to do right now.

Tomorrow, Yakuza 3, Bayonetta, and WET are coming in the mail. Yakuza 3 and Bayonetta were $20 off their release date price, and WET was less than $20. I really wanted to get Ace Attorney Investigations for the DS, but it wasn’t on sale… I’m cheap.

Speaking of DS, I was asked what shwag I was planning to get my team. It made me think what the coolest shwag I ever got from a project, and that was a DS Lite. It was after making one of the last titles that was for GBA/DS, and I still use it today. So how about a DSi XL with a customized scratch resistant skin? And if you’re asking, “What about the 3DS?!”, unless it gets released within 2 months, it’s out of the project’s budget. Too bad…

Making Chocolates

My sister has a yearly subscription to, 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?

Full immersion!

My pre-ordered copy of Heavy Rain arrives tomorrow, thanks to my Amazon Prime free trial! I’m looking forward to finally play this game after it’s been hyped for more than a year! I played the demo last week and it was fairly intuitive, and I like the reactive gameplay design they threw in there. The Crime Scene sequence, however, felt pretty tedious…

The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure is probably the selling point of the game, as it was for its predecessor, Indigo Prophecy. Its realism and dip into the uncanny valley encourages more emotional investment on the player’s part than any other game out there. I’m actually interested in watching other people play it and see where their moral ground is, and whether they’ll get rewarded or punished for how ethical they play the game.

There’s been quite a number of great PS3-exclusives and more are coming. I’ve been most excited to play Metal Gear Solid 4, Uncharted 2, Heavy Rain, and Yakuza 3. Friends have chimed in and said, “Final Fantasy XIII!” While FFXIII certainly looks amazing, I didn’t accidentally leave it out of my wishlist. I’m not particularly fond of strategy games.

A friend of mine noticed that his girlfriend felt the same way about realistic cinematic games vs. cinematic fantasy RPGs. My own SO is in the same boat. She just likes being immersed in the game, or challenged by a simple objective. And I can understand that. Who has time to think about how to kill a fire-resistant boss enemy with just confuse and restore magic? There are more important things to do than leveling up and grinding, like actually advancing to the next part of the story!

I’m a passive gamer. I’m not really invested in building up my characters or playing strategically, I’m just more interested in what I can do with them, what’s going to happen to them, and ways they can die (because there’s only one way they can win, and that’s no fun).

Tales of Monkey Island for Mac

Telltale Games just recently announced that Tales of Monkey Island is now available for Mac. Gah! I wish they did this earlier because I bought Chapter 1 for Wii and it was terrible. The graphics were not crisp, grainy, and there were definitely some visual performance issues because the overall experience did not feel smooth at all.

The controls were bad at first, but I got over it and found my comfort zone at some point.

The worst part of this whole download was the audio. There are these constant weird pops when a new dialogue is about to play or possibly when the song loops. The audio quality wasn’t clear and very grating

To sum it up, the game felt slow, horrible on the eyes, and annoying to listen to. The story itself was interesting and clever, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy the next episode on Wii. It’s also not worth it for the price point it was at. The 5 episode series is $35 on PC/Mac, and, and $50 on Wii. It’s too bad that Nintendo did not give TellTale an exception in its pricing policies. I will probably get the entire series for Mac at some point, since there is such a dearth of games on Mac, but I’m hoping for a sale to make buying the whole season including Chapter 1 worth it for me.

In any case, I hope that Sam & Max is the next series to be ported to Mac. I bought the series for PC a while back, but I rarely ever use my PC anymore, so I never finished the season. Hopefully they will extend the same Mac deal for those who bought it for PC!

Rockband and lesbians

When Guitar Hero came out on PS2, my housemate and I spent one night jamming for hours, trying to unlock as many songs as we could, imagining we were actually in a girl band. Her, the stoic bassist, and I, the crazy string picking, fret-surfing guitarist (we played on Hard). This was after watching Josie and Pussycats, the campy, live movie adaptation of a side story in the Archie comic book world. Rachael Leigh Cook was our hearthrob, and watching this movie got me into learning some guitar.

Fastforward several months later and I’m invited to play with some new friends, all female or womyn-conscious people, who discovered Guitar Hero 2. The energy was wild with a group of people, and there was a good mix of known and unknown classic songs for everyone there to enjoy.

Then RockBand came out, and players found out that there were also drums, and it was over. Everyone was playing this game.

Dara and Karman sits with a RB kit for their VLOG on featured an RB episode for their VLOG. had an RB competition at the hottest lesbian party in the US, Dinah Shore. (Forgive them for putting up a Guitar Hero screenshot, for they know not what they did!) RockBand Battle of the Bands Competition

What’s my point? Not only do girls play RockBand, queer girls LOVE RockBand. They have just as much ambition to be sexy heart throb rockstars as Fallout Boy and more. You know what would really make them happy? Give ’em bands that have musicians with a queer vibe. There are enough punk rock bands out there to choose from that fit the game’s style. Lesbian musicians aren’t only Melissa Etheridge and kd Lang.

Music games, you’ve got a loyal following here, wouldn’t it be fair just to throw in some Le Tigre, Sleater Kinney, The Cliks, Gossip, the Butchies, Tegan and Sara???

Nadia and the Secret of Blue Water

I caught this classic back in the mid to late 90s through some fansub distributors.  Evangelion was a big thing back then, and every fan knew (or should know) the name of its director Hideaki Anno and the production company GAINAX, so it was only natural that upon learning that he also directed Nadia as well, I had to make it a priority to catch it at the annual local anime convention. The first two episodes I saw were intriguing, but I didn’t have the resources to collect them at the, and the title stuck with me for years. When Disney’s Atlantis came out, I balked at the idea that the company did not once again pilfer another anime classic, like it did with Lion King. There are probably still websites out there that explain the similarities between the two.

I finally decided that it was about time to get this whole series to finish it, and got a nice box tin DVD collector’s set and am now on episode 19. Unfortunately, this collector’s set has been discontinued by the manufacturer.

The first season of 13 episodes were really exciting, but in the beginning in the second season, you can definitely tell that these were filler episodes. Some episodes were irrelevant to the plotline, and while there was some character development, it was mostly a waste of time to watch.

Things are starting to pick up again now, but there are still 20 episodes left to watch…

不思議の海のナジア also had an RPG turn-based video game that resembles a Zelda/Final Fantasy game for Super Famicom as well:

A digital comic for the PC Engine (which I can’t help but notice that it’s published by Hudson Soft) that includes a new blond character. Reminds me of Evangelion’s Iron Maiden PC game…

And a PS2 game with yet another blonde character…