We don't always like being nonplussed

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pokemon Weekends: Gained in Translation

Well, we were initially thinking about doing a post on the evidence for and against Pokemon Black and White's being set in Shanghai or New York, but then Nintendo had to go and give a definitive answer and spoil the internet's fun by killing all the speculation. So instead, a random factoid!

There have been more than a few games in the past that have gotten cleaned up on their way to the US. And I don't mean "censored," though that often happens too- I mean refined. While the story and music to Dragon Warrior were the original game's, the graphics and interface were largely based on Dragon Quest II, and its revolutionary changes. Changes like "having different sprites for facing in different directions" and the related change of "not having to choose what direction you were friggin' talking to." Likewise, the unreleased version of the original Mother (AKA Earthbound Zero) had a number of changes and upgrades which were finally released back to Japan as part of the Mother 1 + 2 compilation for Game Boy Advance. Square makes a modest killing by releasing International Versions of the Final Fantasy series- usually with advances we didn't get in the US. (And it annoys me mindless that we didn't get the Zodiac Job System version of Final Fantasy XII, which is my favorite post 16-bit Final Fantasy.)

But more to the point: the same thing happened for Pokemon Red and Blue. While the Pokemon rosters and such were copied from the Japanese Pocket Monsters Red and Green, the game engine, with its changes to the sprites and Pokedex entries (and final dungeon layout) all hail from the Japanese version of Blue, the first of the now-traditional Third Version games. So while the English-speaking world often misses out on some cool stuff, the stuff we do get has the virtue of having been playtested and upgraded from the original Japanese versions.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Flailthroughs - Jump Superstars! (Part 10)

So I move onto the next stage in the hopes (which were not dashed, this time) that I would not be seeing any boxes for the time being. Honestly, I like the fighting system, so I'm looking forward to more normal battles, and I happen to think this stage looks about right. I'm fighting a giant albino with a blond fright wig, but I'm sure he'll be an interesting battle... like all of those fright wig-wearing, albino villains that came before him.

I enter the stage in the hopes, as I said, of a normal combat with a cool enemy. This guy does turn out to have some cool moves, and I'm dodging, using Goku to the best of my ability (when you have something that works, don't knock it) and am just about to kill him when he walks up and pokes me... and I die... what? Oh, I see! I'm not supposed to get hit at ALL on this stage! Lovely! Excuse me for a moment while I go and bang my head on something, as a concussion will help me concentrate...

And I'm back! Ow! I try the stage again, this time intent on killing the bad guy and winning! I keep my distance, keep to ranged attacks, and do my best to stay away from our albino fiend who is thankfully a bit slow... Until he turns into Sasuke, who can dash across a screen in half a second, FUCK!

Fifteen damn tries! Fifteen goddamn son of an everlasting spun-glass whore times! I have seen the face of insanity, and it is my own, dear reader!

*cough* Sorry about that, I'm back. Anyway, I did manage to beat the stage finally, and it wasn't that hard once i learned that Tag was the answer, and just threw fireballs at him from across the screen, then ran away. Much like a kid who walks up and throws dirt in your face, I found that the best idea was to hide behind the teacher and look innocent. Anyway, another pile of panels or furniture are my gift, though I think I've earned a cash reward after that, and it looks like I've opened a new Boss Stage! And it's Jojo's Bizarre Adventure related! Neat!

So this being a Jojo stage, I'm not surprised at all that my opponents are Yugi, and Nult. This has been a trend for a while now, and I should just accept the fact that the stages are rarely related to... wait... is that... Jojo?! It is! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! (he chortled in his joy) This is wonderful!... And oh my lord, Jojo is a tiny god of death, and I am his nemesis! This is seriously one of the harder fights that I've been in thus far, and I have no idea how I managed to beat this stage! I feel accomplished on levels I can't even count!

And on top of that, I'm greeted again by our friend, the monotone furniture thief! He has complained now that the bedroom set is sub par, and now seems to be after my credenza! I will never allow him to have it, though, for it is a just and true credenza! I will also not fall for the obvious trap of a tornado that he has opened up and... Ok, yeah, I will, that looks like it was the last level on this stage, and the game would get pretty boring if I didn't go through... devious bastard...

Is this happy, bright world truly a Dragonball Z world?

Ok, this world is a lot more happy-looking, and bright, so I can only assume that it's Dragonball Z related... Why do I assume that? I have absolutely NO idea, but I get that vibe, and you can't argue with a vibe, because that's the LAW... Or so I'm told.

Anyway, off to our first stage!

I'm met with a real battle, so things are looking up. I'm also met with Bobobo, so I'm guessing that things aren't going to be Dragonball related quite yet... It also seems as though being hit doesn't mean I instantly fail the stage, so YAY! Kittens and puppies and wombats and junk! Off to the battle!... Ok, killing him doesn't beat the stage, but now he's Luffy, who is a bit harder to beat. Still, my good old Kamehameha takes him out pretty quick, and I'm feeling like a boss... The stage isn't over, but there's Stoner Kid from Shaman King, who is a tiny god of death in his own right. He is fast, strong, and WAY too focused for someone that looks like they think Sublime's song "Smoke Two Joints" is an instruction manual, but I still manage to beat him, which ends the stage, so yay again.

Now let's go back to look at panel creation for a bit, since I haven't touched that in a while. I have new panels all over the place, and I keep trying to find what goes in them, succeeding here and there, and learning... that for starters, the symbol that I thought was Jojo, because the art styles are similar, isn't. The series seems to center around some form of green ball, possibly a pokeball, but doubtful. The symbol for Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is, it would seem, Jojo's hat, since as we all know the series is about his hat... Oh, no, I'm thinking of The Wizard of Oz... or possibly the Ten Commandments, I don't really remember. I do, however, know that Jojo seems to hang out with some sort of horrible squid made of fists, or is one, according to this panel... and to be honest, that frightens me straight to my core. He is a murder machine, no two ways about it.

More on the Dark Lord Jojo next time!... Probably not.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Flailthroughs - Jump Superstars! (Part 9)

Well, this is a bit interesting. The world map is interesting and educational! Did you know that the Fire Country from Naruto is directly adjacent to Ancient Egypt? I can only imagine that it's the edge of Suna territory in the Wind Country. The other thing that bothers me is I'm pretty sure that desert doesn't just end at high grass. I thought there would be some more subtle, natural looking way that it slowly changes from one to the other.

Well, onto stage 1-7, which also reminds me to tell you that every world seems to start at level one, just to keep things interesting. I enter the stage and am met by Sakura from Naruto, and I'm kind of looking forward to beating her in the head and telling her to do something useful for once. And I do... but apparently beating her in the head isn't the goal of this stage, which is a shame because I think it should be the goal of every stage. Nope, the goal, as I figure out three seconds before the timer runs out, is to destroy barrels... Ok... How does this count as winning a fight? I beat the barrels, but it doesn't even matter if I collect the fruit in them. This is the oddest war of attrition I've ever been in, but I think more battles should be run that way, to be honest.

Onto the next stage, which is another explosion stage, though this one has the Naruto symbol!

by a waterfall, I'm mocking Sasuke's hair.

Ok, now this is interesting. On all stages there are objectives that you have to complete not only to finish it, but also to be rewarded with panels for each you complete. On most stages, I get one or two out of usually three to five, but this time I managed to get them all... I don't know what they were, but after a bit of thought I think I figured them out:

1) Win stage
2) Stand in a corner
3) Push people into pit
4) Watch Sakura run into pit
5) Make fun of Sasuke's hair.

I don't know if these really are the objectives, but they're what I did, so it must be something close to the truth. It was a kind of sad stage, since I was fighting all of the tween ninja clan, and they just all ran at me without thinking... Sort of like the manga, actually, hm...

So I unlocked two stages from that little adventure, onto the east and one to the south. Stages 1-9, and 1-10... so much for numerical order. But hey, who really needs to listen to what numbers say anyway? They can't hold me back with their... counting correctly! Yeah, that's the ticket!

I move onto the next stage, curious to see what might come up, and lo and behold what to my wondering eyes appears? I'll give you a hint, it wasn't a sleigh, and the reindeer, unless you're looking at some Christmas pageant shit. Yes, that's right, it was more damn cardboard boxes! I thought I had seen the last of them, but no, I was wrong. These boxes will follow me around until the day I die, waiting, watching me... melting slightly in humid weather, but watching all the same. Thankfully, all I have to do is kill them very quickly, and then everyone is just as happy as a clam on a Ferris wheel.

Well, I'm going to take a break for today, since I'm starting to twitch again. More tomorrow!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Flailthroughs - Jump Superstars! (Part 8)

And on I go!

It's only now that I've noticed that there's a symbol in the bottom right corner of the map screen that seems to show me what series the stage I'm going to is from. Since I didn't have too many stages like that in the first world, it's not too odd to have missed it until this point, but boy, I'm feeling special.

This next stage is Yu-Gi-Oh, which I know fairly well, (don't judge me) and I'm interested in seeing what it has to throw at me... The answer to that is: a lot of pits, and people with knock back attacks. It is likely one of the more annoying stages just because of how fast it is, and how the other two players don't seem to care how much you beat them as long as they beat you worse. This is a pain in the ass, yes, but on the plus side it means they don't pay that much attention to how close they're standing to the pits. I think I passed by about one kill.

Oh yes, and I should mention that only one of them seems to be a Yu-gi-Oh character, that character being Yugi himself. I mean, aside from the floating platforms made of Millennium Puzzles, I can't really see it being a Yu-gi-Oh stage, more of a mixture, like a fruit salad with a cucumber in it... Ew.

Denial: not EVEN a river, at least not in Yu-Gi-Oh Egypt.

Onto the next stage. This one doesn't seem to have a particular theme, but it does have Yugi again, so I guess he's what this world is suppose to be? Yes, now that the map moves, I can see that there are pyramids, so it all is starting to make sense. The Nile River is obviously the small lake to my left. I am thoroughly beaten by Yugi and Luffy, because it seems if you are killed just once the stage ends. Lovely! This is the reason I stopped playing Soul Calibur. Still, I come back and give it another shot, then learn that all I have to do is kill 2P again, like in previous levels. Obviously 2P is a dick, and I don't have anything against killing him over and over... Still, it does make me wonder who's hiding around here and fighting against me on their DS? Shouldn't it say "CPU" or something? Well, no point in arguing over semantics.

The icon for the next stage, which is another explosion stage, seems to be... a kitty? Am I going to have to beat up a kitty? Because if so, I'm not sure I like this game anymore, and I will call the humane society about these people... How do you report digital animal abuse anyway? "Hello, I'd like to report someone hurting a digital code that is in the vague shape of a cat! I think that you should... Hello?"

Ok, I have no damn clue what I'm looking at. At the start of every boss stage, a number of panels from the relevant manga pass by the screen. The manga in this case was... I don't know, but I will have to call it "Doughnut Vest Vampire," since that's all I can think of when I see this character: gangs, and a vest that looks like the man is deathly afraid of falling over, and decided to use jelly doughnuts as some sort of makeshift airbags... I don't think I would like this series, even if it is delicious.

Well this is lovely chaos. The stage itself seems to be a quaint little house of some sort, one would expect it to be made of gingerbread almost. The platforms certainly look like they might be made of it, but that's about all I can say for the moment as the beatings in the head that I received seem to have removed most of my long term memory of the event. I am victorious, but only just. I think I managed to make one of the criteria for beating this stage, and presumably "bleed a lot" is what it was, because I doubt it was "glorious victory."

That's all for now, stay tuned!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Flailthroughs - Jump Superstars! (Part 7)

Onward to the new world!

The big damn desert of Jump Superstars nothingness.
I enter the tornado with great hope, planning to see and experience a world with hopefully much less boxes, and more fighting people. Less fruit pirate would be nice as well, but I'm not holding out for that one since I could use the healing items to be honest. I enter the tornado, expecting there to be some sort of cut scene, or perhaps a bit of information... Nope, doesn't look like it. I am, however, standing in the middle of a big damn desert, and there is one stage in front of me... This game isn't as linear as it sounds, it's just a straight line most of the time, where you can only go forward or backward... not linear at all.

I enter the first normal looking stage and am met by... no boxes! No, it's true! I'm fighting the unusually proportioned girl from One Piece, and it looks like it's just a plain old battle, yay! And then there are the fruit boxes, which I should have known. Those guys got around, didn't they? I mean, this is a damn DESERT, not an ocean in sight. There's some sort of oasis, but I don't suspect there are very many pirates that inhabit a body of water smaller than the average Ford Topaz.

Well anyway, I beat Nami with little trouble and am given... stuff, I think. Likely more panels. I've actually collected a few more, since I've gone back and beat past stages a few times again, because I think I've figured out what the katakana is telling me. Usually I'm wrong, but one of the other options somehow gets covered too, so the net gain is worth the headache. Anyway, on to the exploding B stage, which seems to be the next option.

Oh god, they're learning! This time they come in pairs, Nami and the other guy that isn't Luffy, and while one of them fights me, the other one does its damnedest to collect all of the fruit on the stage, healing itself and then switching out with his partner! Games aren't supposed to be that smart!... Well, at least not ones with fruit pirates and floating, scolding pirate heads (I see a theme here, do you?). I manage to beat the two of them with only a little bit of effort, but it's still a pain in the butt, especially since both the enemies have two forms, each has its own health bar.

I move on to the next stage, it's fairly unremarkable, I just have to kill the person that has "2P" above their head... But I noticed something at this point. One of my helper characters that runs across the screen when I use it is a Japanese schoolgirl, likely from "Generic Romance Manga," like the other girl. Her special power was something I ignored aside from it's usefulness, which was it made the enemies stop so I could run away or attack. I finally noticed this time around that her power is to MAKE THE ENEMY CRY. She runs at them, falls to her knees, and starts talking. In response, the enemy then begins bawling like a three year-old that just got punched in the eye, and they fall to their knees. I can only assume that this girl is telling them some sort of hear-wrenching tale about her Plot Cancer, and they are so overtaken by high school angst that they lose their will to live. Or at least that's how I see it.

Note: I am not making light of the dreadful disease that effects millions of people worldwide every year: High School Romance Manga... No! I mean Cancer! ESPECIALLY Plot Cancer, a disease that appears suddenly, and can strike at any time, as long as it's a dramatic moment, or if it's an upbeat romance manga, (I've seen them, they do exist! Unicorns too!) It can go into remission at any moment, thus bringing up the mood... then come back and strike like an aardvark in the night, silent and deadly.

I fiddle around with panels for a bit more now and get a few new ones. Nami, some other girl from One Piece (they're like pencils with breasts, I swear to god) and what I thought was another of Stoner Kid from Shaman King, but turns out to be someone that just looks a great deal like him. I probably should have noticed that the names weren't even remotely the same symbols, but what the hell do you expect out of me? I'm obviously totally insane.

I think that will conclude this day's update, as I'm starting to wonder where exactly it is that I put my pants. More tomorrow... if anyone's reading!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Flailthroughs - Jump Superstars! (Part 6)

So I begin this play through by deciding to take the new bomb stage that has unlocked, I kind of suck of boxes at this point and itching for some real combat. I'm greeted with what seems to be an icon that is either a steaming cup of coffee, or a hot spring, who knows?... Ok, probably people that can read Japanese know. I decided to go with the Goku team again since they've done well by me, and start the stage only to see an intro where I'm fighting Stoner Kid from Shaman King! Neat! Finally, someone that's not on my team! I start the battle and am immediately greeted by Luffy, who falls down onto my head. Lovely, so it lied... no wait, there's Stoner Kid too! Shit! Both of them begin to try to tear me a new one, and I bounce around the screen like a ninny as I attempt to fend them off. Somehow, through use of handy pirate fruit, I beat them by one kill just as the clock runs out. This masterful strategy involved: getting beaten, running to a box, throwing a Kamekameha at them, then getting my ass beaten again.

After the stage I seem to have won or unlocked a number of things, probably some sort of furniture set that will go well in my living room, or more likely more comic panels.

Ok, now what the dick was that?! I was just greeted by some frightening monotone man who seemed to be telling me... maybe when my furniture will be delivered? He however did look a bit like an Akira Toriyama bad guy, so I guess... HE STOLE MY FURNITURE! I will teach you to steal a comfy sofa from a god!... Just as soon as I figure out who and where you are!... And who and where I am too, while we're at it! After he babbles at me, possibly cackling from his new recliner, MY new recliner, I am sent back to the world map where I have opened two new stages... I think. One is a stage, I know that for sure. The other is what looks like some sort of tornado, and if I know anything about tornadoes from Japanese video games, they're a more common form of transport than city buses, or even trains.

I'm tempted to try my luck with the public transit hurricane, but for now I decide to take a trip to the new stage I've opened up...

Championship Boxing in Jump Superstars

This stage I am not greeted by one box, or two boxes, but THREE! We have evil eyebrow box, Groucho-chaun Box, and the new one, which I can only describe as having a face made entirely of sphincters. I have NO idea what I'm supposed to do, but the boxes aren't attacking, and they are following me around like lost puppies. I almost feel sad for them as I begin to slaughter them, but that ends the second I see the small counter in the bottom right hand part of the screen start to count upward... and so began my own personal Order 66. Cardboard ran in the streets that day, people will tell their children, and funny eyebrows and comically large noses could save none of them. It was a truly horrific day, made only more horrible by the fact that they just kept running up to me and sitting there.

Anyway, I clear the level and there are more rewards I don't understand, so I'm guessing by this point that they're panels. I should go and take a look.

So it looks to me like I was right, and it really was panels for the page creation that I was winning. That's a shame because I could really use a new foot stool right about now, but I digress... and I digress without a foot stool. I played around with panels for a bit and manage to create one that i think is Nami, the girl with the inhuman body shape from One Piece, and also learned that I can name my personal panel collection in English so I know what pages I'm looking for. As a joke, I tried to name one Derp, but managed to spell it "DErP" entirely unintentionally... I feel special right about now.

What's this? While working on DErP I've put two panels next to each other, and watched as they became shiny for a moment! This is a new aspect of the game, holy crap! I'm actually really interested to see what happens if I put another near by it now, so I go off searching for someone else! YES! By putting the one guy, and then the other guy from One Piece next to Luffy, I made all three blink! Neat!... Now I just have to figure out what's going on and maybe I'll learn what I'm doing really means!... But probably not.

I move on to stage 2-2, since I don't feel like going in the tornado yet, and I discover, to my dismay, that yes there are in fact more boxes. I don't seem to effect anything by killing it, since it simply re-spawns, so instead I get bored and start moving around, beating my head into objects... Yes, as Nult, this is in fact an option. After I bash my head into a few oil drums and a treasure chest or two, it tells me that I've completed the first objective... Ok, so my objective was brain damage? Yay!... Wait, sorry, I mean Hurr Durr! But sadly the stage isn't over yet, and this time it seems to have a time limit. Oh yes, and this box... this box is an asshole! It is fast, and it is beating the piss out of me in all kinds of ways I don't like... which are any. I decide to stick with the theme and headbutt the barrels into the box... and it seems that I won. So brain damage does seem to play a big part in this game, but that's ok, because I've already been practicing on the table. I've gotten pretty good at it, too.

More tomorrow guys!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pokemon Weekends: Evolutionary Dead-Ends

I read this opinion piece about Pokemon Black and White at Games Abyss earlier in the week, and while there's some interesting ideas presented, I have to disagree with the direction that Ryan Hauser thinks the series should take. I wrote a little bit about it there, but I'll try to expand on it here.

Primarily I have to disagree with Hauser's assertion that the super-deep aspects of Pokemon that the game "hides" are its true colors. They are part of the spectrum, but so is the friendly, fluffy exterior that allows children to enjoy the game. In fact, I don't think we should forget that children are likely Nintendo and Gamefreak's target audience for the game. But if that is true, which I assume it to be, it's to their credit that so much lies under the surface of Pokemon- unlike an awful lot of "kiddy" games, Pokemon rewards reading and math skills, and expects interested players to rise to the challenge*. Likewise, the deeper game of Effort Values and the like are there if you want them, but if you don't, you can just play the surface game, a friendly little RPG with entertaining social elements. To throw away the surface game and make a super-deep, carefully tuned Pokemon experience exclusively for hardcore gamezorz would be a disservice to the other 75% of Pokemon players- and thus also Nintendo and Gamefreak's bottom line. The existing format is a game with a gentle learning curve and a game that can grow with you.

Pretty much I feel the same way about the suggestions that Gym Leaders need to have uber Pokemon and more intelligent strategy. But you know what would be nice, and is well within the scope of a game of this type? A Second Quest. If you wanted to see if you could get more players to play the deeper game that's always been there, a Second Quest or Hard Mode would be ideal: the player restarts their Pokemon journey with all their original Pokemon intact, and new menus and dialogue would instruct the player in EVs and how to use them.

If you were going to try and elaborate on the Pokemon formula- and I still have doubts that anybody involved with the making of the game even thinks it's necessary -this would be the way to do it.

*Have you noticed that you don't hear grumpy old people- and I was one of them -say "Kids just aren't reading as much anymore" as frequently as they did in the `90s? It's pretty hard to say that now, and the internet, Pokemon, and Harry Potter (and even, Primus help us, Twilight) have all contributed to at least changing the perception that kids don't read. And all it took was for companies- the people who create markets while claiming defensively that they only cater to existing ones -to stop assuming that kids and people in general were dumber than they are.