Dave’s E3 2005 Journal: Calm Before the Storm

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Dave's E3 2005 Journal

So, I woke up today at around 6:30 and took a shower. When I got out of the shower, I got dressed and then called AJ. After I told him he was coming with me, I drove over to his place, and like we had decided last night, we went to go eat somewhere, but first AJ had to get batteries for his camera and some cash. Afterwards we went to eat some doughnuts. Anyway, there wasn’t too much traffic on the way there, since we caught the last bits of rush hour I believe. When we got there, there was no trouble parking, but I can only imagine how hard it’ll be tomorrow for that.

When we got in, we got our media badge holders, and looked around. Everything was still being set up, so nothing was actually being shown yet. Its a good thing we got our badge holders and everything really easily, because it’ll probably be hell tomorrow morning.

Me Standing In Front of Cardboard GTA Chick

After we got our badges we went back down to the lobby and looked around some more. I called Dan to tell him we were there. They said they were parking right then and that they’d call when they got to the lobby. So we hung out around the lobby some more, and AJ walked around behind the escalators, and low and behold we found the new Batmobile for the upcoming “Batman Begins” movie.

The New Batmobile from “Batman Begins”

When AJ and I met Dan and Marcus for the first time, we shook hands and stuff, then they asked where they could get the media badge holders. On the way there, they asked what was going on today, and we said nothing except the Nintendo conference. While they were getting their badge holders, AJ and I figured out that the Nintendo Conference wasn’t even at the LA Convention Center. Needless to say, we were kinda mad. So, since that was the only thing even happening today for the most part, we didn’t know what to do at all.

We looked at the event list and saw that there was an Educational Game conference hosted by MIT or something like that. We decided to just go, since nothing else was happening, and while AJ and I were looking around some place else, we lost Dan and Marcus. They didn’t say they were going right in, but we assumed they did. AJ was saying we should probably just leave since nothing was happening, but I thought we should at least tell Dan and Marcus before we actually left.

So we went inside the MIT conference thing, and saw Peter Molyneux (game designer for Fable, Black and White, and Black and White 2) talking about his new game where you can make a movie and then share it with people. It seemed pretty interesting. He was talking about how educational games can still be fun, as well.

He was talking about how educational games can still be fun, as well. He talked a lot about all the different things that game developers making educational games had to deal with, and the rising costs of development for the next generation consoles (upwards of 20 million dollars). The main points he made during his main talk was that he wanted games to be used in the classroom to teach. He made a reference to how he learned more about world history from the Civilization games than he had ever known previous. He also mentioned he liked to make games that gave you a choice of being good or bad, because people could see the consequences of their actions whether they be good or bad and see how things happened, similar to real life. He mentioned that in America, 75% of the people chose to be good in games if they were given the chance, but in Europe it was the exact opposite, with them saying 75% of them would chose to be evil. After a while of him talking, he took some questions from the audience. All together that probably took a good 45 minutes. Or at least it felt like it.

A funny part of the conference was that Marcus asked a question about what markets they hoped to appeal to with educational games even though they cost so much because of increasing next-gen development costs. After he answered the question with saying there are enough people out there who would buy an educational game (or to that affect), later on someone else in the audience stood up and made the statement that educational games always sell well, and that “they” (meaning Marcus) should check their statistics again, because she hates it when people say that educational games don’t sell well. I wanted to tell her to stuff it, cause it seems like she was trying to snub Marcus for asking that question, though she really didn’t know who he was. She probably worked for a company that made educational games now that I think of it.

Peter also made a reference to Leroy Jenkins from World of Warcraft, if you know who he is. Molyneux said that he supported the Xbox 360 (but not specifically ONLY) because of its abilities regarding multiplayer games, which he is all in favor of, because people would be able to go on quests with each other and stuff.

He said that major thing in the next-gen platforms was how they could bring people together to play with each other, and that was a very important value for him.

Another question that was brought up in the conference was about the fact that with increasing quality of games, it would be hard for schools that will always have outdated PCs be able to use the games that are top of the line. Molyneux responded with saying that a remedy for that problem would be using video game consoles instead of updating all the PCs every year, since consoles only come out every five years or so.

He also said that there are many games that could help teach courses, such as the Civilization games for world history, or using the Half Life engine (which he said was very useful) to create educational games.

After Peter’s interview/conference session was over, people started to get up and leave, while people stayed for the next conference by Leap Frog. AJ and I already decided we’d just leave after we told Dan and Marcus, and we stayed for the whole conference to do so. So we told them we’d just go since there wasn’t anything to do. They’re probably just hanging around there still, taking pictures and stuff.

 

Stronghold 2 (PC) Review

Developer: Firefly Studios / Publisher: 2K Games || Overall: 6.0/10

Nowadays, it’s debatably hard to find a real time strategy (RTS) game that can compare to the classics. Games like StarCraft, Age of Empires II, the Command & Conquer series, and the Krush Kill n’ Destroy series (one of my personal favorites) really set the standard for me to judge other games in the genre against. Firefly Studios’ Stronghold 2 pales in comparison to the aforementioned, outright. While Stronghold 2 does have some interesting aspects to it, they are not executed as greatly as they could have been. While it can create a minute interest for the long-time RTS PC gamer, Stronghold 2 falls devastatingly short of being what it strives to be: a good RTS game.

The biggest thing about any RTS game is the actual strategy you use to thwart your enemies. There are two ways to play, either militaristically or economically. If you chose the military route, your castle will concentrate more on creating units to fight against your enemies. While you still have to keep your economy up, the main point of it is to fight. If you chose the economical route, you’re in for a more or less long game. You’ll focus on making your castle a bustling center of economic activity, creating enough food to feed your people with, as well as gathering resources to build up an army to attack or defend against invaders.

The kind of style you pick will affect the kind of game you play, whether it is in Campaign or Free Build. Campaign will take you through objectified missions where you will complete a mission given to you by your superior. How you get to that point is up to you, but the purpose of it is to get to that point. Unlike most RTS games, once you complete a mission, the next mission you undertake will use the same map and base you had just built, still being able to use what was created. During campaigns, you will always be able to see the whole map screen, being able to keep an eye on neighboring estates and castles. In the Free Build mode, you’re able to just create your castle and watch it bloom. Or you can undertake the task of going head-to-head with a computer player. There is also a Multiplayer mode and the ability to play user-created maps made by the in-game map editor.

Castle towns in Stronghold 2 revolve around three important buildings: the Stockpile, the Granary, and the Lord’s Kitchen. The Stockpile holds all the materials your peasants gather from the surrounding environment, and bring it into the storehouse until it is used. There are many types of resources that can be gathered, such as wood, pitch, stone, iron, etc. The most vital resources you will use (mainly to build buildings and castle parts) will be wood and stone. Other resources are used to create weaponry or other different objects. The Granary stores all the food that your peasants will harvest, including apples, meat, dairy, and wheat. Your granary can hold an infinite amount of food, and will also control how much food you distribute to your people. The Lord’s Kitchen is the storage house for the finer foods of back in the day, such as pigs, eel, geese, wine/grapes, and vegetables. Using the Lord’s Kitchen, you can hold feasts in your name, thus increasing your honor. To gather all the different types of resources, you have to build different buildings to which your peasants will automatically go work in as soon as you build them. Whenever you run out of jobless peasants, you can build more housing space (called a Hovel) for more people to live in and wait for new jobs to be undertaken.

How well your town does depends on the two important factors of Popularity and Honor. Popularity is basically how much your peasants like you, and if there are any displeasing or pleasing things happening in the way you’re keeping your town going, it will be shown. To achieve more popularity, you can do things like increase rations or not tax. The maximum amount of popularity you can have is 100, so if you’re at 100 and there’s no loss of popularity, it’d be to your benefit to reduce rations to normal, so that a larger stockpile can be gathered in your Granary. Things that can damage your popularity, making people leave in eventuality, would be if you taxed them (more tax will have more popularity loss) or left piles of “gong” around without having someone clean them up. Another aspect is “honor” in which you gain a certain amount of to use mostly for military needs, and to “buy” more plots of land from your king to use for yourself and expand your ventures. A very good way to increase your honor is to hold feasts, using the food held in the Lord’s Kitchen. There are a few other ways to increase your honor, such as attending church, getting married (to a woman, if you’re wondering), holding a jousting tournament and holding medieval dances to name most of them. The “industries” that create particular types of resources may be turned off fairly easily, should the need ever arise, but there is no option to stop just one building from doing what it is doing, resorting to having to destroy the building to stop it.

Laying down this framework, just like every other RTS game, you build a mass of soldiers and spend a good deal of time trying to take over the whole map.

Experienced RTS gamers may find a few very annoying parts to the game, to say the least. Probably the most apparent thing is that you can’t control your peasants at all. They are controlled by the computer at all times, and even if they were being attacked by a wolf, you can’t tell them to run away. There’s also a non-traditional way of seeing how many resources you have. Other than the ever-present information about your Gold, Honor and Popularity, you have to click on your Stockpile to see how much of each resource you have. If that wasn’t enough already, the most important part of an RTS game, combat, is slow. Half of the problem would have been remedied if your units didn’t move equally as slow as well. So if you’ve got a wolf problem or an invading army already attacking a building of yours, chances are a few bad things are going to happen before you have a chance to do anything about them. Also, it will take some memorizing (and frequent reference to the instruction manual) to use all the buildings, as there are a lot of buildings whose names don’t clearly reference to what they actually do. It may be hard to figure out that the Fletcher’s Workshop is for making bows and arrows or the Hop Farm is used to make ale. Unless you just happened by this information in your ventures through education beforehand, it might be kind of hard for you to remember which building does what.

The graphics utilized in the game are not very pleasing overall. While I did enjoy how the environment looked like (mostly because of the trees), I came to the realization that the graphics were not that great, especially when I zoomed in closer to objects I was looking at. In the game there are buildings, humans, and animals, all of which look lackluster unless you zoom in. Though, there are many different views to look at your castle and land in full 3D. The sound is about average quality. The best part about the sound would be the music and sound effects. The voice-overs included in the game are some of the most horrible stuff I’ve ever heard. Everyone in the game sounds like an idiot, to be frank. I hate to hear the stereotypically dumb peasants who like to say “liege” when referring to you, and hear about how “the rations are not good, but they’re not bad and that’s about all there is to say about that.” But, you can learn to live with it if you try to restrain in ever clicking on your peasants to see their status.

The two big complaints I have about this game stop it from attaining a decent score. First is when you start up the game; it takes forever to load. You’ll be sitting there for what seems like ten minutes, wondering why it takes so long to load a menu screen, only to see that it’s been loading a five minute movie, which you have to press escape to not see and go to the menu screen. The other comes with the atrociously low frame rate your game will inevitably have as you build more buildings and create more living space for peasants. The low frame rate makes the game very unpleasing to play, nor is it avoidable, even if you have a computer that far outweighs the minimum (and recommended) requirements of a 2.0Ghz processor, 512mb RAM, and 64mb graphics card. The computer I use actually is the minimum and recommended settings combined, and I still had problems with the long loading and slow frame rates. Though there is an update that increases the version number to v1.1 (currently), these vital issues are not fixed.

I really wanted to like Stronghold 2, but the unfortunate result is a lackluster RTS that will be easily forgotten. If the developer is able to fix the game’s major flaws and tweak the game play (it wouldn’t hurt if the graphics were made just a little bit better) in a possible second sequel, then it would be worth another look, but in its current state, Stronghold 2 is a game any self-respecting RTS gamer should stay away from.

 

Metal Gear Acid (PSP) Review

Developer/Publisher: Konami || Overall: 8.7/10

If you’ve ever thought a Metal Gear game would fail to deliver an amazing experience, shoot yourself now. Metal Gear Ac!d takes a completely different spin on the franchise in what can be best described as a “card-based-strategy-board-game.” Similar to strategy games like Final Fantasy Tactics, the major difference between this game and the rest of the card-based genre is that Ac!d is not an RPG, as cards (and luck of the draw) dictate every part of the game. Metal Gear Ac!d delivers a truly unique experience, while still including all the major elements from the Metal Gear Solid series its fans have come to know it for, including interesting characters, and an entertaining storyline.

Like most people who heard about the game being card-based when it was first announced by Konami, it was left to question whether the game would catch on as the “normal” Solid games did. For me, it was hard to imagine what the game would actually be like, and whether or not the gameplay would measure up to the Solid series. When I finally loaded the game for the first time, I went in with lackluster hope that this game would be as good as the Solid games, but I kept an open mind about it. Recently becoming a fan of the Solid series, and just finishing Metal Gear Solid 3 about a month ago, I was ready to get into another Metal Gear game; Metal Gear Ac!d exceeded my expectations.

Taking place in the future (the year 2016 to be exact), the game starts with an airplane being hijacked. The person or persons behind the hijacking are not known, nor is their intent. The plane is filled with a muscle relaxant called vecuronium bromide that could be fatal if inhaled in excess. To make matters worse, a major presidential candidate named Senator Hach is aboard the airplane. The hijacker demanded only one thing: the prompt delivery of the mysterious project known as “Pythagoras.” This is where you (Solid Snake) enter. The stage has been set, and Snake is sent to a secret base owned by a corporation in the Moloni Republic, located on Lobito Island. It is here that Snake will try to figure out what exactly “Pythagoras” is, as well as uncover the mystery and past events which occurred on Lobito Island, in which Snake plays a big part. About a quarter of the way into the game, you’ll join up with a female agent named Teliko, who will help Snake along the way, and act as a team together. She is also a big part in the story.

The way the story is delivered, Metal Gear Ac!d seems like it shares events from the Solid games, because there are light references to them. For instance: “I’ve been in worse than this before.” All in all, the story is completely different from any other Metal Gear game, and seems like it could be the beginning of a completely new story arc for Snake, but I wouldn’t reject the idea of Ac!d being another part of the main Metal Gear storyline. However, it seems at times like they were trying to make a new Metal Gear story detached from the main timeline, so one has to wonder. Story is either shown as in-game animations or through the usage of drawn stills. While it was initially a let-down there weren’t any traditional CG cutscenes, the artistic style of the stills is fairly appealing as an alternative, and it helps in creating a different approach for Ac!d in storytelling devices when compared to it’s console brethren.

The actual gameplay itself takes a little bit of getting used to, so it’s good that the first couple stages serve as a tutorial; it helps out tremendously in learning the games basic functions. There are four different types of cards you can use through the game: Weapon, Item, Support, and Character. A card can usually be used in two ways: for the special ability grafted into it, or to move. While most cards have this basic option, there will be a few cards that only allow you only one option.

While the basic idea of how to use the cards is easy to get a hang of, they tossed in a bunch of different card characteristics and the vital feature of the game, “Cost.” Cost, as defined by the game, is the amount of time it takes to do a particular action, and is represented on the cards you can play as a big number in the right corner of the card display. Cost directly affects the order your characters and enemies take their turns in, so the more cost you accumulate during your turn, it’ll take longer for you to have your turn again. While Cost is the only aspect of a card I ever really paid attention to, each card has a characteristic called “Interference.” Interference only matters when you equip things to an equipment slot. The Interference of an equipped card can affect cards equipped next to it, such as the power of a weapon and other fairly unimportant things. I never worried myself with Interference, as I hadn’t directly noticed anything different that happened with Interference. It will take a few stages before being able to fully understand how to use the cards efficiently, but once you get used to actually using the cards, your only problem will be in what order the cards are drawn in.

Packed with nearly 200 unique cards, Metal Gear Ac!d offers lots of options for the cards in your deck. When you start out the game, you are able to place 30 cards in your “deck” (which you can compile through the “Intermission” screens between stages of the game), but as the game continues that number will rise higher and higher, allowing for a more customized deck. If you don’t want to deal with manually customizing your deck, you can have the game create the best deck you can have from the cards you currently have.

There are a couple ways to acquire cards through the game. The primary way you’ll achieve cards is by buying them in 3-card Packs from a deck that contains cards that are name after and unique to prior games in the Metal Gear series. Each pack costs a certain amount of points which are achieved after completing a stage. In total, there are four card packs to choose from, but they’re only available to buy after certain points of the game, and each new one costing more per deck than the one before it. You’re told as to when you’re able to buy packs of cards from new card decks because a commercial-like advertisement will pop in after completing a stage/viewing a story scene. You can also gather a few cards by collecting the Packs that are floating around in-game and earning them as a clear bonus.

Using some “special” cards activates a special cut-scene from the game of the deck was based on. For instance, when you use the Cyborg Ninja card, you will see a cutscene from Metal Gear Solid. During the beginning of the game, you will only see characters from the original Metal Gear Solid (the PSOne version). Not until later in the game do you actually see cutscenes from the PlayStation 2 Metal Gear Solid games. It’s impressive that the PSP can replicate the graphics of the PlayStation 2 so well.

The Metal Gear games have always been know for their unique, over-the-top bosses who are usually require doing things that are out of the ordinary to beat. While there wasn’t a whole group of bosses to fight in Ac!d like in the Solid games, Ac!d only had two bosses to really speak of (excluding the final boss), and only one of them actually stands out from regular gameplay, requiring you to do something completely different. To say the least, the amount of bosses worked into the story is not fulfilling, as much of the game is taken up by regular game play. It would have been nice to see more boss stages where they used the aspect of the cards to create a unique situation. This isn’t the only annoyance either. There are instances early in the game where Snake will stop in the middle of his move in order to show some story. This can leave you screwed without any cards to use so that you can move. Fortunately, the occurrence of these situations stop around one third of the way into the game.

As noted above, there are a few cutscenes of characters from the Solid games, as well as a few from the original Metal Gear games on the NES. However graphically, the game isn’t too shabby, especially for a launch game. Ac!d sports graphics that could be best described as “a smoothed out PSOne game.” When one considers the graphics are coming from a handheld, they’re pretty amazing. As I said before, there are no animated cutscenes, so the only movies you’re going to be seeing are the ones from the character cards. I also mentioned that most of the games story scenes are told through in-game animations and still-drawn pictures. I personally liked the still pictures, but they do give off a feeling that the game was rushed to meet the PSP’s launch date, as there isn’t a lot of variety in the pictures you actually see.

The musical score is nothing less than what should be expected in a Metal Gear game; in other words: great. The music accompanies what is taking place on screen, carrying the mood of the game and the specific events that are unfolding, whether they be on Lobito Island or in the airplane. While the music is great, the fact that there are mostly no voice-overs detracts from the experience. As a whole, there is very little actual voice-work at all. The only time you’re going to hear someone talking is during the “commercials” for the new decks that come out, and one word that a boss says before an attack. David Hayter-enthusiasts (the voice actor who plays Snake) might be disappointed at this fact. Once you get used to having no voice-overs in the game, it won’t be that big of a deal, but again, the game feels more rushed because of it.

Metal Gear Ac!d is an excellent extension of the series, and provides an exciting, new way to play the Metal Gear series. The somewhat experimental use of cards in the game can be make it hard for players to get into right off the bat, if you stick with the game, a rewarding experience will develop, as will a new storyline. Metal Gear Solid enthusiasts will definitely enjoy the game, but may find it hard to adapt; it isn’t part of the normal stealth-action genre Metal Gear Solid helped to define. Hardcore fans of the series will find more differences between Solid and Ac!d, but in the end will likely find the game to be worthwhile.

 

Deadhunt (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: REL Games || Overall: 8.6/10

Usually when you play a first person shooter (FPS), you play through elaborate levels full of enemies trying to complete a particular objective. However, Deadhunt takes a completely different approach to the FPS genre, in this crazy and all-around hectic game with an arcade flavor. Some may see similarities between Deadhunt and Serious Sam, but what makes Deadhunt great is the fact it challenges your FPS skills with each progressing level in their campaign mode. However, Deadhunt has nothing in it that can be claimed as innovative. For this reason, I see the game as more of a “training platform” for other FPS games, and little more than that, as Deadhunt is a fairly simple FPS, that goes back to the basics, while executing it very well. In Deadhunt, you kill zombies 90% of the time. The hordes of zombies you will encounter carry varying types of weapons and armor, at times making them more difficult to kill, and more dangerous. Other enemies you’ll encounter consist of skeletons and various types of spiders (ranging from big to small), but what you’ll mainly come upon in the game are zombies.

Deadhunt offers a number of game play modes that will keep players entertained for a lengthy amount of time. Tutorial isn’t hard at all, and if you’re completely new to the genre, it’d be a good idea to go through here and learn how to play, as Deadhunt plays exactly like every other FPS you’ve come across except for a few particular things (but we’ll get to that later.). Greed, just like the name implies, will put you into the game shooting zombies to get as many points as you can before you die, but before you die, you have to kill one particular zombie. Survival mode, even though you get to pick what weapons and power-ups you get, is very hard, and you just try to kill as many zombies as you can before you die. Survival is sort of like Greed, except Greed has a little bit of strategy in it. Campaign is the best part of Deadhunt, hands down. With three difficulty levels, Campaign will eat up most of the time you play Deadhunt.

Deadhunt is quite different from most other first-person shooters. Every time you start a new game, you’re assigned one weapon that they chose, and that’s basically it. There’s no changing weapons (except for when you get a “power-up” that changes your weapon for a limited amount of shots) at all. There are also no melee attacks, so if you’re in the middle of reloading and there’s a zombie about to hit you, you’re not going to be able to hit him with the butt of your rifle. However, what “covers the bases” when it comes to these facts is that you have an unlimited amount of ammo to use. Some may say “well that makes it easier,” but Deadhunt is hard enough that even with unlimited ammo, you’ll be having a tough time regardless. There are a wide-array of guns to be assigned with, such as a Desert-Eagle powered Pistol, an Uzi, an Assault Rifle, a Shotgun, an Auto Shotgun, a huge Machine Gun, and a Gauss Rifle (which is pretty much a sniper, but there’s no zooming in), so it does make it interesting when you play through with particular weapons, because (based on the weapon) it will tell you how many monsters will come at you and how hard they will be. You’ll also have to be good at running while shooting, because that’s what you’ll be doing — a lot. Most of the time you’ll be shooting the horde of zombies behind you, so you have to run backwards and shoot, while trying not to get hit by zombies running at you from the front. Once you eliminate all the zombies that spawn throughout the level, you basically win that level.

During Campaign mode, there are a few interesting challenges given as you play. While the ultimate objective is to kill all the zombies that spawn throughout the level, depending on the level (usually you can guess the challenge by the name of level after you played through it or if they explain it in-game, but sometimes they don’t), there will be different challenges along the way for particular levels. A few examples would be: the more you kill zombies the slower you run, rate of fire is down, every zombie you kill hurts you, and different kinds of challenges that will make the particular level

harder for you. Once you complete a level, you’re allowed to go on to a new level, which may or may not have a new challenge for you. Once in a while you’ll come across a level that doesn’t have any challenge to it other than killing all the zombies that spawn.

While Deadhunt can get pretty addicting, there are only two maps to play on, and they’re big, wide, open areas for the most part. One map is a green area with a Stonehenge-like structure in the middle of the map, and dead bushes and trees to get in the way of you’re backwards running. The other is a dark valley area in the middle of mountain with a big altar on one of the sides of the map. While these maps are good, they become very worn out, because these are the only maps you will see in the entire game. If there were more than two arenas in the game to play on, Deadhunt would have been a lot more interesting to play.

Deadhunt requires a good computer to be played on without crashing/slowing down, especially because of the graphics and sheer amount of zombies at one time they put into the game. The graphics, considering the game’s price of roughly $20, are actually fairly good. You can change the settings for how detailed they are in the options, so you can avoid some problems by doing so. While the graphics aren’t the absolute best ever seen (the gun animations are sweet, though), they will need a considerable amount of computing power, and a good video card. Not that it’s a problem, but when you’re up close to a zombie and you shoot them with your gun, instead of making a “bullet hole,” a big dark spot appears at the place where they got shot, making it somewhat obvious that you shot them in that spot, but also unrealistic (as much as the game is to start out with, it shouldn’t be a surprise). The music in the game is also pretty good, but I can recall only about one song for the menu, and one for each of the different maps. You won’t be paying too much attention to the music because you’ll be blasting away at the zombies with your guns almost nonstop. Speaking of sound effects, they couldn’t have been much better. Each gun sounds exactly as it should, and even have a little bit of an echo (to make it more believable that you’re firing away in a large open area).

Deadhunt is well-worth the investment of $20. If you’ve never been good at FPS games, Deadhunt will help you with your reflexes as well as aiming. Deadhunt is an addicting, arcade-like game, and if you just want to kill hordes and hordes of un-dead creatures, this is the game for you.

 

Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade (PSP) Review

Developer/Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment || Overall: 8.2/10

Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade is one in the batch of launch games for Sony’s new handheld. If the PSP were a piece of bread, Untold Legends is like the butter spread on top of it. Being a purely hack and slash RPG developed by Sony Online Entertainment, you can tell right off the game is like their other series Champions of Norrath and Everquest, but still has some imperfections. However, the formula of being assigned a quest and going to a dungeon to defeat a bunch of monsters transitions almost perfectly for handheld gaming, as many of the quests can be completed fairly quickly. Since handheld gaming usually consists of short bursts of playing (unlike console/PC gaming), this formula works out very well. Untold Legends serves up an enjoyable experience for many new PSP owners.

When you first insert the game, there is a little bit of loading before you see a Prologue scroll on the screen, telling a little bit of the background of the city of Aven and the character that you will play as. The story in Untold Legends is fairly simple, as it is obvious that the game was not to be played for the story. However, while the story isn’t that great, it does spark a little interest in where they do lead you with it as you play through the game, dungeon after dungeon, thus making the game more enjoyable. Most of the quests that you get through the game boil down to a few categories with different variations, such as get-that-item, kill-that-guy, or save-that-person. While it isn’t all that creative, the particular situations are unique enough (and the story interesting enough) for you to complete the quest and see what happens afterwards.

When you actually start the game, you’re given the choice to play as one of four different races: Knight, Berserker, Druid, and Alchemists. When you first create your character, you’re given some customization (such as hair type, that kind of thing) as to how your character looks like, but it’s not really anything special. Each have different abilities that can be used during the game, and are fairly unique in terms of how you will play the game, and most of all, battling. The shining star of all the parts of Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade is definitely the battle system. The game’s battle system is surprisingly very fun, as there are many different enemies to kill, with hundreds of weapons, armor and accessories to gather and improve your character with and use during your hacking and slashing. The many types of items you can gather makes a big difference when you play the game, because, depending on the type of character you chose in the beginning of the game, as some items you pick up can only be used by a particular race, and also dictate particular battle abilities. You’re also only able to hold a certain amount of “weight” of items, as each of the items have their own unique weight, and you can only hold as much as the weight allows you, so you’re going to want to go in with a light pack when you enter a new dungeon.

Taking your journey through caves, tombs, underground tunnels and the like will be a challenge, as there are many different types of enemies to stop you along the way. You won’t have too much of a tough time as long as you have good enough equipment, but what you should be prepared for is the boss you will ultimately encounter at the end of each level. I recall only a few boss battles that were “out of the ordinary” in terms of what you actually do. For most of the bosses, all you have to do is smack them enough times with your main weapon to kill them. It isn’t too often you see a boss that you have to do something unique (or semi-unique) to defeat them. An example of one boss that doesn’t require you just hitting your “X” button as fast as you can is when you go against a giant spider that climbs up and attacks you for a few seconds, then climbs back down. There is a little bit of strategy involved in it (with timing, mostly) to make the boss a little bit more challenging, but for the most part you won’t run into too many of those. One thing you can be thankful for is that when you defeat a boss deep inside a dungeon, you can easily return to the city of Aven by selecting the command from the Start menu. If they hadn’t added this to the game, it would have made quests twice as long, as you’d have to backtrack through the whole dungeon you had just gone through, but fortunately don’t have to. When you return to Aven, you basically have to talk to the people who sent you on the quest to get some rewards for completing it, and then continue in looking for another quest to go on. If you’re ever not sure about what to do for a particular quest, a helpful quest journal is in the status screen that helps you remember or direct you where to go.

Another great part about the game is the amazing visuals and sound, albeit because of the PSP’s own abilities. Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade displays more or less smoothed out PlayStation-quality graphics, and amazing stereo surround sound (with the headphones). Adding onto the visual aspect of the game, the 16:9 LCD screen of the PSP makes the game look better than it actually is. Considering this kind of visual experience is coming from a handheld, it makes it all the more better and really one of the forerunners in graphical abilities for the platform. There isn’t much to complain about the graphics, as they are beautiful and very detailed, but an annoyance that I’ve found through playing the game comes when you zoom into the character. The annoyance is not because the game doesn’t look good – it’s because when you are zoomed in, you are at a weird angle, and not able to actually see any enemies coming at you. Though it is nice they have the option for you to zoom into your character and feel as if you’re right in the action as you slay monsters one after the other, being at the weird angle puts you at too much of a disability in playing the game to really warrant its use. As for the sound, the game has good sound effects and a nice soundtrack. While the soundtrack pretty much sounds the same, and there isn’t much change in the mood as you go from area to area, it’s still a good accompaniment to the journey you’re on. Unfortunately, the sound is not actually implemented in the game all that well. I’ve noticed through playing that once a song ends, it will take a while for it to actually go back and loop the song, leaving you in silence and listening to the sound effects. This problem is more overtly seen (or heard, rather) when you’re walking through the forests outside of the city of Aven (and where most of the dungeons of the beginning part of the game are). Another nice aspect of the sound is that it’s in surround. When you come closer to an enemy, you can hear its noisemaking in the general direction of where it is, as well as listening to environmental factors in the general direction they come from as well. Yet again, the surround sound does not get pulled off seamlessly. While in dungeons, you will hear a lot of environmental sounds, which sound fine at first, as you can hear it in both ears, and it slowly fading in one ear faster than another as you get away from it, but too often does the sound cut off abruptly, making it fairly annoying, as most dungeons are full of these environmental sound effects. And if you were wondering, there are no voice-overs for characters as they talk.

If there was one thing that I’d pick out to be the biggest displeasure of the game, it would be the loading times. There’s quite a bit of loading as you jump from dungeon to dungeon and back to the city, about twenty or thirty seconds worth as you travel to a new area. As you’re traveling through the world, you will run into a loading screen a little more often than one would like, but it is sort of tolerable, considering that Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade is an earlier title and they haven’t yet perfected the art of loading on the PSP yet. There is also a little bit of character concept art that you can look at while there is loading. I usually take that time to give my fingers a rest from using the buttons and analog stick. You also confront some loading time when you go to your menu screen to look at the items you have. The control scheme of the game is fairly straightforward, and is quite easy to learn. You’ll basically be hacking and slashing within a few minutes. Movement in the game is dedicated to using the PSP’s analog stick. While the stick isn’t as great as the PlayStation 2’s analog stick, it does take some getting used to before you won’t give the fact a second thought. Personally, I think it is really cool that they included an analog stick on the PSP for controlling movement, and gets the job done very well.

While the game has its advantages and disadvantages, for a launch game, it is a very well executed one. While you’re able to play by yourself, there is a way to “hook up” with your friends through a Wireless LAN connection (known as Ad Hoc) to allow interaction in the game with up to four other friends (who have a PSP and a copy of the game) to play with each other in the same world. If there’s one thing to say about Untold Legends as a whole, it’s an extremely good time waster. If you’ve got an hour or two to burn once in a while, this game is really for you, as you will be sucked into the game play and not even notice how fast time goes by. For a launch game, I am very impressed with the outcome, and as a part of a grip of other launch games debuted for the PSP, Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade is a definite candidate for your first game as a PSP owner.

 

Hearts of Iron II (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Paradox Interactive || Overall: 8.2/10

Hearts of Iron II, like all World War II games, aim to be realistic and mirror some aspect of the time period. While Battlefield 1942 places you physically on the battlefield and Axis and Allies focuses you on particular battles, Hearts of Iron II aims to represent the war as a whole, on a worldwide-scale grander than either of the aforementioned games could accomplish. Hearts of Iron II places you in the dictator’s seat, looking down at the whole world as more than 2,700 land and sea provinces ready for you to conquer with imperialistic greed, or to stop those who aim to do so.

When you first start the game there are three modes to chose from, Tutorial, Single Player, and Multiplayer. Simple enough. That is, until you actually start to play. If you hadn’t played the first Hearts of Iron, and not really knowing what to expect when playing the game, like I had been, you will be overwhelmed within your first thirty seconds of play. There is so much information given to you right off the bat, that when they just toss you into the scenario, you won’t be able to keep up with what’s happening in the game at all. The sheer magnitude of what hits you is daunting. Until you actually build up enough courage to brave the overwhelming feeling that Hearts of Iron II gives you right off the bat, will you find a very fun and very realistic representation of World War II that you don’t see pulled off too often.

The main view looks like one of the tactical maps that you see in a war documentary, showing an army’s movements in general, without the specifics. Depending on which country you chose to play as, you will basically declare war on countries and take them over. What happened in history has no real bearing on what you can do in the game, such as actually being able to successfully invade the Soviet Union with German troops or take over the United States with the Japanese armed forces. However, when you’re on your imperialistic rampage, you have to constantly look out for all of your borders, as you may not have enough troops to occupy each province you annex into your country. Because of this, you have to deal with constant annoyance of having occupied territories taken over by your enemies and having to retake them over. The process repeats itself over and over, and you can’t get ahead too easily when it comes down to it. To make things somewhat harder, time progresses in an accelerated real-time (which can be slowed down or sped up according to your preferences), so not only do ten things happen at the same time, but you have to decide what to do with a relatively quick fashion, definitely keeping you on your toes. However, if the game gets too far ahead of you, you’re able to pause the game and deal with what had just happened. With a ton of provinces to take over, you’ll definitely be busy trying to advance your troops, conduct trade agreements, protect your borders, fend off pesky airplanes, produce more units, advance your technology, keep an eye on your supplies to make sure you don’t run out, tell your provinces what to build, and keep up with the ever-changing situations that arise, that you’ll constantly be checking on certain things while forgetting about others. It really takes a lot of initial practice to understand how the game works basically, before you can really understand how to play the game efficiently. For those who have a hard time getting into the game, the developers graciously put in a Tutorial mode. For those who try to jump into the game and see how it works, but just come out of the experience confused and on the brink of depression, the Tutorial is definitely for you. The Tutorial is broken up into smaller chunks, and if you want to concentrate on warfare (which IS the main aspect of a war game, after all), you can, and come back to find out about the other parts of the game later. Using the Tutorial to learn the basic mechanics of the game will definitely help you understand.

Being purely a strategy game, you do not really see your units actually fighting with your enemies. There are animations for your armies to show that they’re currently in a battle, but for the most part you just have to know that you are attacking. An annoyance that happens with the game when you’re controlling your units is that not all your units are actually displayed on the screen at all times. When units like airplanes or naval craft are in their respective ports, you have to click on the port itself to even be able to take control of them, instead of just dragging your mouse over it like you would with other units. This becomes annoying because it becomes hard to actually know how many units you have on the map. The map also has different views to it as well, allowing you to see different characteristics such as terrain, wealth, political boundaries and much more. I tend to use political boundaries the most, because it’s the most direct as to who owns what and what you have to take over.

Being able to take the head of nearly any country in the world and rule it how you see fit during this time allows for some very interesting information you otherwise probably wouldn’t have known about. I personally never thought about what Afghanistan, India or some other pretty much insignificant country was doing during this time. The only countries you really even hear about fighting in World War II were Germany, Italy, France, UK, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the USA, though they were the major players. This gives the chance for you to read up on the very in-depth information about the world and the different countries. Each country has their own technologies to develop, and loads of information down to the finest detail. Very historically accurate events do occur during the game, but can be changed drastically by how you control the game.

When it comes to the artistic points of the game, the game delivers a satisfying experience. There’s an excellent musical score that goes well with the game and what is happening (a world war), so it seems fit that there’s orchestrated music playing that feels, for the most part, empowering. The graphics, however, are not that great. The provinces throughout the world are nothing special, as they’re usual just solid colors, and don’t actually show any “real” terrain on it. Everything is color-coded, thus making it fairly simple to look at. There are also many black and white pictures from history of authentic tanks, people, technologies, and the like, which adds some more educational value to the game, seeing as you may not have known what a particular model of a tank looked like back then. When it comes to how units look on the map however, it gets very bland as the unit animations are nothing special, to say the least. You don’t see any action, per say, except you see the units looping their animation over and over to just show that they’re under attack or attacking something. It can get fairly boring, but like I had said before, you’re preoccupied with so many different things, like planning ANOTHER attack on a different front that you will kind of not even care that you don’t see any explosions.

Another part about the game is that things may not happen for a while, because in actual history, things took days or even weeks to happen. This is reflected by the gaps of nothing happening during your play time that can occur if you’re not constantly attacking someone, or waiting for a certain unit to be built, in which it’ll take a month or so for it to actually be built. Regardless of the accelerated time, a month is a long time to wait, so you definitely have to plan ahead whether or not you’re going to need a bunch of infantry troops all of a sudden, or if you’re going to need a particular technology researched in enough time to help you out. On a side note, from what I’ve seen, you’re not able to commit genocides or stick a whole race in a concentration camp (like the Germans did to the Jewish and the Americans did to the Japanese). I guess you just kind of have to assume its happening, as the main aspect of the game really relies on military and political difficulties.

Being a PC game, the game’s recommended requirements say that you should ideally have 512+ mb of RAM, a Pentium III, and an 8 MB video card or better. So if the only computer you have is the old hand-me-down you got from your great-aunt whom just passed away, you’re probably going to have to invest in a little better of a computer to play Hearts of Iron II. With the sheer vastness, complexity, and consistent evolution of certain events that occur during the game, it makes sense. The minimum requirements are less demanding, but in all honesty, you probably won’t have as good of a gaming experience when it comes to Hearts of Iron II, or many of the more demanding games being released.

Boasting the capability for 32 people to link up in multiplayer, one can only imagine the crazy games that can unfold. Hearts of Iron II itself reminds me of the User-made World War II scenario maps for StarCraft multiplayer games. If you’ve ever played the World War II map for StarCraft, the basic fundamentals of this game can be seen. However, those multiplayer maps could never accomplish the complexity (or even display historically accurate units) that Hearts of Iron II has done. During multiplayer, when you deal with another country diplomatically you’re going to have to take into account you’re playing with a human, and the chances that they know what they’re doing better than you know what you’re doing is probably going to be higher, unless you become a seasoned veteran through many many sleepless nights.

If you’re looking for the most historically accurate representation of World War II, Hearts of Iron II is your game. Hearts of Iron II is a history lesson in itself, and you can really learn a lot of the abstract, mostly unimportant facts you don’t come across too often without really looking for it. World War II history buffs and the like will absolutely love the game for the sheer amount of historical value included in the game. Being able to go through World War II from day one to the last day of the war is an arduous task that only a fanatic would probably want to undertake.

 

Ys: The Ark of Napishtim (PS2) Review

Developer/Publisher: Konami || Overall: 7.6/10

The scene opens up with a tavern. A man with a patch over his eye and a pony tail walks into the noisy building from the cold night with a shorter companion by his side. The companion, shrouded in a cloak and with her face hidden simply follows the man. Across the way from the entrance of the tavern, a red-haired adventurer, named Adol, is sitting down with a friend of his. The man with the patch over his eye goes over to Adol, and asks him to accompany him on an exploration around the world. Just then, two soldiers come in, looking for the “red-haired Adol” wanting to arrest him! I don’t want to give away the crappiness of the introduction of the story to Ys: Ark of the Napishtim, so I’ll fast forward to my summary of the opening part of the story; the beginning of the story of Ys: Ark of the Napishtim is trash.

It’s not often that I exclaim obscenities when trying to understand what is trying to be conveyed, but it seems like the beginning of the story was tossed together as an afterthought. The beginning movie is pretty much the only movie the game has for the most part, and it’s badly voice acted. Though there were some very nice graphics exhibited, I counted about three instances of fan service, in which the underwear of the annoying-peppy-blonde-girl character that has some sort of crush (I’m guessing) on Adol is shown. They really know how to pack that kind of thing in. Had I rented the game, the beginning movie alone would make me seriously contemplate whether or not I should return it sooner than I had intended. However, what really saves this game from getting a horrible score is the game-play, and the story later on in the game actually helps it, as well (but after being in the gutter from the beginning, there’s nowhere to go but up, and the bad taste of a poorly set up story always lingers).

I would have to say what the main point of the game would be that it tries to pull off an “old-school” approach to gaming. Ys: The Ark of Napishtim seeks to accomplish this by having relatively simple controls, as well as old-style (but not completely crappy-looking) graphics, a silent main character, and the story itself just being set in a fantasy world (more specifically, the world of Ys, where all the games in the series has taken place). However, because of this “old-school” approach encased in the game, there are many enhancements over the games from back in the day. In Ys: The Ark of Napishtim, every single word displayed as dialogue from a character has a voice-over and rightly so. Every character, even the unimportant characters in a town you find in a back alley will have a voiced dialogue. The voice acting isn’t half bad, and everyone talks except for Adol himself. You’re just supposed to assume what he says by the one-sided conversations people have with him. However, there are a few instances (I think about ten times) where it says Adol “explains to (character) everything that has happened so far.” So, you’ll just have to assume that Adol tells them every single little part of the journey you had just been on, down to how many slime creatures you killed on the way over to see them. The only downfall with the voice acting is that there are a couple of very annoying characters (such as Professor Raba who talks in an over-exaggeratingly old-man’s voice), and that you can tell that there were only a few voice actors doing the voices for all the different characters.

At various times throughout the story you will meet characters (like Professor Raba) whom have met Adol in the past or have known him through his “legend” or whatever it is. I don’t even know what it is, because it made no sense to me when they talked about “when we were at the Tower of Whatshisface” or “you may not recognize me now since I’ve grown into a beautiful woman” and many other instances of back-story that are never actually explained. It was only until I researched the game a little bit online that I found out that this is the sixth game in the series. So it makes some sense as to why it came up repeatedly about people, places and events that seem to be completely random after knowing this fact. Even though it isn’t very important to the story of THIS game, it would have been nice to actually understand what they were talking about.

Story faults aside, the actual game that is inside Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is interesting to say the least. The main feature of the battle system is that there are three different elemental swords (wind, fire, and electricity). It’s up to you to use the swords to your liking, constantly “upgrading” them by collecting enough stones called “Emelas” (or Emel) so that you can use each sword’s special ability more often, or acquire the unique skill attached to the sword. Even though having three elemental swords implies (to me, at least) that there would be enemies that are immune to one sword but not another (forcing you to use the right sword to kill them), you will find this to not be the case for the most part. For how much the game relies on these three swords, it comes out to being which sword you fancy using the most. There are times where you can notice an increase in damage from one sword over another for a particular enemy, but all-in-all the swords were not used to create much of a type of strategy for playing the game. If it weren’t for the story actually requiring there be three swords, it would have been better to just have one sword with a bunch of different abilities. Other kinds of items in the backend system add to the game-play as well.

Unlike most RPGs, there aren’t hundreds of things to collect, rather just a few accessories, pieces of armor, items, event tools, and other such things that are somewhat rare. It gets to the point that it almost influences you to really look for as many items as you can and buy all the items you can. There are a lot of unique accessories to collect throughout the game that will make a big impact on the game itself, such as an accessory that will increase your HP by 50% or another that will increase your attack and defense a little bit. There are also EXP, Emel, and money enhancers so that you can milk out the highest amount of things from every enemy you beat. While you only start out with one accessory holder, you can find more throughout the dungeons, up to a total of five slots for accessories.

Like I said earlier, the whole game itself is very simple and the learning curve isn’t that long at all, and you’ll be able to master the fighting aspect of the game in no time, since the only button you really press is “Square.” Sometimes you press the “Circle” button to use a magic attack associated with the sword you’re using, but this is basically all that you do to fight. The “Square” button is also used to talk to townspeople and investigate treasure chests.

Although the game is pretty easy to learn and get into (playing-wise), there are a couple of annoyances here and there. A minor annoyance is that when you’re in the field or a dungeon, there is no on-screen map to help you find where you are in reference to the place you actually are at currently. So if you’re in a dark cave that is pretty much a maze, you might end up going in a circle or not remember how to get back to a particular part of the dungeon you had been to before but died in. However, the most annoying thing about the game is the bosses.

In all my years of playing video games, I have never seen such cheap, stupid bosses that literally make me throw my hands into the air and say “how do I beat this stupid freakin’ boss?” I understand that boss battles are an important part of any game, but these bosses are, for the most part, so out of place and so over the top in terms of what they can do to kill you that it’s practically amazing that I even beat some of them. Just to tell you what kinds of bosses you have to deal with, you fight a wall. You fight a wall with big, long, skinny, rock arms and a face that can launch flowers that blow up and shoot a large energy beam from its mouth, while swinging around the arms and slamming them on the ground so that rocks can fall from the sky to fall on top of you. If that’s not crazy enough for you, how about a big frog that can roll up into a bowling ball, crap out slime that makes you slide around, as well as use its tongue as a spiked-ball mace? Oh wait, I forgot to tell you that the frog has STEALTH CAMOUFLAGE – it can seemingly disappear! Even if you have the greatest skills in the world at playing this game, you will not beat any boss if you’re not at the right level. A general rule about boss battles is if you haven’t beat a boss after fifteen tries, level up at least five or ten levels, and you’ll see that the boss is all of a sudden a lot easier than they had been before. However, regardless of whether you’re even at the right level, it may take a couple of deaths to get a hang of what the boss actually does. You really can’t expect the things they pull out of the air when it comes to the boss’s abilities. Just when you think you figure out a boss, it surprises you with a new ability it hadn’t used the first time you faced it.

Regardless of all that has been said about the game, Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is a game that really grows on you. One may be displeased by the out-of-the-ordinary old-style graphics incorporated in the game or even the weird set-up for an underwhelming story full of references to past games in the series, but for those who suck it up and go on to actually try and complete the game, you’ll find the game to actually be fun, and actually get caught up in the story a bit. Being a title that is priced less than a “premium” title definitely may influence some people to pick up the game, especially if they are fans of the series (whom haven’t had a Ys game brought to North America since the Super Nintendo days). Even though the game doesn’t take very long to finish, you may end up spending around 20-25 hours on the game as a whole. For those that actually venture far enough as to beat the game, there are a few extras included in the game, which affect game play, audio, visuals, and other things that can be activated by entering the cheat code before playing a new game. In the end, however, Ys: The Ark of Napishtim may only appeal to fans of the series.

 

Star Ocean: Till The End of Time (PS2) Review

Developer: Tri-Ace / Publisher: Square Enix || Overall: 8.8/10

As a trend, there only seems to be one Star Ocean game made every generation. The first Star Ocean was released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), and the second Star Ocean was released on the original PlayStation (PSOne). Through its unique battle system, interesting storyline, and immense item system, the Star Ocean series has gained quite a following. Originally an Enix-published game, the Star Ocean series’ third installment shows nothing but improvement after the merging of Squaresoft and Enix, largely due to the fact that Tri-Ace develops the game. The series has been revamped and improved to above and beyond what its predecessors had even dreamed to accomplish.

What really sets the Star Ocean games apart from all of its competitors are, instead of the turn-based system, real-time battles in a 3-D setting while mixing in traditional RPG elements. What also sets the Star Ocean series apart from others is that its storyline is science-fiction, one you rarely see in the RPG genre. No game in the Star Ocean series pulls off what Star Ocean is known for better than Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Amazingly fun real-time battles, an overwhelming yet very fascinating story, and unique characters makes Star Ocean: Till the End of Time an amazing game and an unforgettable experience all at the same time.

Taking place in space itself, and on many different planets, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time creates a grandiose experience as you delve into the story visiting vastly different places that could only be experienced in a science fiction story. For at least half of the game, however, you will spend all of your time on one particular “primitive” planet that is in a state of war. Even though this major detour from the overall story may seem as something that the game could have done without, certain elements of the game are progressively introduced while on the planet, allowing the player to also get used to the battle system, learn a little bit more about the overall story and actually build an interest in whether or not the main characters of the story will make a difference in the escalating war. The “sub-story” on the planet ends up taking an important place in the overall story, so it doesn’t seem like it’s a total waste of time.

Included within the game is extra information that allows the player to further involve themselves in the universe of the Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, in a dictionary that adds words automatically whenever you run across information. The dictionary adds a lot of depth to the game and you begin to create an overall picture of the kind of universe Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is like. To fully understand the dictionary though, you may have to take a course in Physics, as many scientific terms are used, and even though they are explained in the game itself, you would still have a better understanding if you took a class. Something you can really appreciate with the game is that much of the information is actually believable as to how things work, and you can tell that the game developers did their homework when it came to the specifics of Astronomy and Physics in their dictionary terms, and in-game references to the topics. The extra effort of Tri-Ace adds to the believability and possibility for the events in the game as they unfold.

The actual story starts out when a teenage boy named Fayt is vacationing with his parents and a childhood friend named Sophia. While on the planet, the current state of the universe that is known about is explained, as well as just starting to learn how to use the battle system. You also learn of Fayt’s personal life a little bit and who he knows and holds dear to his heart, most namely his father, mother, and Sophia. This is all fine and dandy to begin with, because no conflict is actually introduced except for the fact that the Earth-founded Pangalactic Federation (which is more or less an alliance of many planets with many species) is in a seemingly everlasting war against another superpower named the Aldian Empire. When the planet Fayt is on is attacked by a third party, named the Vendeeni, this is where the true conflict in the game really begins. For a long time you will be kept in the dark about why the Vendeeni came to attack the planet Fayt was vacationing on, but when you’re finally told why they did it, the story begins to get even more interesting. As the story progresses, it gets better and better.

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time has a fun and involving real-time battle system, and this is where the game really shines. The real-time battle system is one of the most fun battle-systems ever created. Instead of a strict turn-based game, you take full control of your character, and, along with your other allies, beat the crap out of your enemies as fast and as hard as you can without taking too much of a toll on your characters.

Your character’s stats in battle rely on three different types of gauges: HP (Hit Points), MP (Mental Points), and Fury (a percentage that dictates how many moves you’re able to conduct before recharging. Some attacks take up more Fury than others). To succeed in the battles of the game, it would be wise to keep your HP and MP as high as you can, and conserve Fury enough so that you’re able to use your attacks effectively. Unlike most games, when your MP gauge is completely depleted, the character becomes knocked out. This adds to the strategy of your moves and being able to use the time you have to keep yourself and your allies from knocking out.

As your characters level up you can learn new abilities that will have to be used if you even want to have a chance at defeating some of the later enemies in the game, and learn how to use them effectively. When you use special abilities (depending on the kind of ability) it will take away HP, MP, or both. The amount use is usually not very significant, but when used without moderation, it can create difficulties for future battles. During battle, every attack used takes away a percentage from the Fury gauge, dictating how many times you’re able to conduct attacks in a string or other moves without recharging for a bit. The consideration of conserving Fury when you can during fast-paced battles becomes a part of the game’s challenge. Simply being able to mash the buttons on your controller won’t get you too far, as you will really have to know what you’re doing to progress in the game. The real-time battling also creates the challenge of keeping an eye on your allies, as well as trying to defeat the enemies you’re facing. How you actually play becomes paramount to winning battles, rather than just simply leveling up.

The faults of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time comes in how the story is formulated in certain aspects as well as how it’s delivered. Too often do you see unneeded parts of story that just seem like its fluff and not really even that interesting or important to the overall story. Most of the “fluff” stems off from playing as a character that comes off as fairly flat and not very well characterized. The “fluff” seems more like a failed attempt to truly characterize the main character. The same sort of feeling rubs off on some other characters, but the main character Fayt suffers the most from this sort of characterization flaw. There are other very unique characters in the game however, most notably being Cliff, Nel, Albel and even the little kid Roger (who seems to just be a comic relief character). There are other recurring characters that are not playable, and still take an important impact on the game’s storyline that are somewhat more interesting than Fayt. Adding to the “flatness” of Fayt’s character is really the voice acting for the character. It seemed to me, at least, that the voice actor had something to be desired in the acting, and really the dialogue in certain cases across different parts of the game needed some improvement. However, for the most part, the voice acting is a very good part about the game. At times, the music or sound effects in the background shrouds the dialogue being spoken, or take away from the concentration of listening to what characters are saying. On a side note, fans of the sci-fi RPG Xenosaga Episode I will also notice familiar voices in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time that were in Xenosaga Episode I. Quite a few of the voice actors who were in Xenosaga Episode I also worked as voice actors in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. This may or may not be a good thing, but I don’t feel it matters to the overall quality of the game at all. Another fault of how the story was formulated is that through the first disc of the game there wasn’t enough space-oriented things, and you spent the vast majority of the time on a primitive planet fighting with swords and dealing with dragons and things that had to do with the planet you were on, and didn’t really have a whole lot to do with the main overall story other than the fact that Fayt is there and things happen there because he was.

On how the game actually looks and sounds like, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is not the absolute best you’re going to find nowadays, but all the graphics are definitely smooth, and during the movies, very polished and very nice. There are a lot of space ship battle scenes that are shown throughout the game as well, and if you’re interested in the whole sci-fi scene you’ll appreciate the kinds of ships and action sequences concerning them. Music takes a weird place in the game, because even though a lot of music actually goes with the mood of the game, there are instances where there’s all of a sudden a rock song that doesn’t mix in with anything about the game. I have to say that this is the first RPG where I have seen flat out rock music with guitars and drums playing during the “exploring” parts of the game (though its not too bad in itself). It seems so out of place to me, considering that the battle music, background music during dialogue and all the other kinds of music used do not have the same kind of genre of music at all. It also depends on what planet you’re on, as the music arrangement changes for the most part, and there is different music being played during “exploring” parts later on in the game.

Another part about the game is the Invention System. This is more overly an optional part of the game you don’t have to participate in, but you are given the ability to create items to be sold in shops by patenting them. Items created by you or items created by other inventors will help you out on your quest by being able to buy better weapons and items that are better than the ones you usually used beforehand. Just the sheer amount of items that can be created is astounding, and actually fairly overwhelming. The part some people may like about it though is that because there are so many items to create, you’ll always be trying to create a new item that hasn’t been patented yet, if you so dared to actually care enough about it. Creating your own inventions is entirely optional, and you really don’t even have to make any inventions at all, but it is an extra part of the game that utilizes the massive amount of items that have always been included in the Star Ocean games.

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time displays a very good mix of all the elements an RPG should have, and taking a different approach at the whole genre by its use of real-time battles as its battle system. The amazingly fast-paced and challenging battles are something to be reveled, especially when it comes to how much the game has improved upon its predecessor. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is definitely an excellent game to have, if you enjoy RPGs or enjoy Action games, as it is a unique experience all-around.

 

Quote #20805: Stupid Story About Scantrons

This entry is part 14 of 26 in the series The Retail Report

::Lady comes over to davepoobond’s register::

Lady: You can do returns here, right?

davepoobond: Sure.

Lady: Ok, well I want to return these 2 Scantrons and buy the folder.

davepoobond: Do you have a receipt?

Lady: No…

davepoobond: Sorry, I need one to do it, its so easy to just pick them up off the shelve and just —

Lady: Oh no, I PAID for those… I had them for a long time.

davepoobond: I know, but I still need a receipt.

Lady: Ok, fine, I’ll just have to talk to a manager about it then, just that one up.

davepoobond: 74 cents.

Lady: FORGET IT!  I’M NOT PAYING MORE THAN I SHOULD!

So the fucking lady gets upset over the 40 cents for Scantrons she didn’t get money back for, and goes over to the Customer Service desk.  It’ll be hilarious if I lose my job over something like that.

Why does someone ever want to return things like that without a receipt?  Its fucking 75 cents for the God damn folder, and keep the Scantrons, you dumbass, they’re only 40 cents.  You probably have more change in that fucking purse than you’ll ever use, what good is more gonna do?

 

Civilization III Complete (PC) Review

Developer: Firaxis Games / Publisher: Atari Inc. || Overall: 9/10

Sid Meier’s Civilization III: Complete is the latest installment of the Civilization franchise. Cvilization III: Complete is the complete set of Civilization III and its two expansions, Play the World and Conquests. Civilization III: Complete places you in a randomized world (after selecting which race of people you’d like to be) with up to seven other races to trade, negotiate and have wars with. The game includes ancient civilizations such as the Rome, Egypt, and Babylon, as well as those in the modern world, such as Americans, Russians, and the British. The ultimate goal of Civ3 is to progress your race of people and complete at least one of pre-set winning objectives that are set before the game starts. A unique characteristic of Civ3 is that each time you play the game from the start, you’ll encounter a scenario that is completely different from the last time. Events in the game never occur in the same order, and some seen previously may not be encountered at all a second time through. Every new game you start will be a new experience, with events happening in different orders or not even at all. You play a whole new game every time you start one.

Major enhancements to Civ3 from Civ2 are everywhere. Almost every part of the game has been revamped and updated from Civ2, from upgrading the graphics to adding more game play options that make Civ3 have more realism and variety than Civ2. Civ3 has more types of governments, units, unique resources, improvements, difficulty levels and much more that make this the best Civilization game in the series, still holding true to what the series has come to be known as. At first glance, the game is exactly the same as the other Civilization games, which is good, but once you start playing the game more, you begin to notice all the enhancements and improvements that really make for a better all-around experience when playing than any of the other Civilization games.

When you want to start a new game, you get many options to customize the kind of game you want to play. You can choose if the world you live in has small or huge oceans, a Pangaea, how many races (players) are in the game, winning conditions, difficulty and other slight adjustments that make for a wide variety of unique games and styles. You can tune the game to your own abilities, if you’re just starting out, to make the game play at its easiest level, and choose a lesser amount of races to be in the world. If you don’t want to mess around with all the options of making a new game, however, there is a “quick start” option on the menu screen that puts you right into a new world, randomizing everything and playing in a world that is randomly selected/created by your computer.

The vast customization allows for even the newest player to slowly get into the game and learn all of its inner workings through immense trial and error. Throughout the whole game, you can always refer to the “Civilopedia,” so if you don’t understand what a particular thing does; you can read a tutorial-like in-game supplement that helps you learn about whatever you may have questions for. The “Civilopedia” included in the game is very useful, as the learning curve on this game is huge, if you’re just starting out with the series. You will be spending a lot of time trying to figure out everything that makes the game work.

Civ3, being a turn-based game, allows for you to move all your units and take as much time as you like to plan out your moves. The downfall of this, however, is that later in the game when you have many units and cities on the map that you have to command/watch move, the relatively short turns that are seen in the beginning are virtually non-existent. You could sit at your computer for five whole minutes watching units move and not even be able to do anything. So, you could go grab a snack, or have tea with your neighbors while you’re waiting for the excruciatingly long times for your turns to take place. Another thing is, is that you can’t press escape or do anything AT ALL while you’re waiting for your turn to go by. So, it may be hard to remember that you have to fix a city’s problem, or if you need to save and quit the game because you have to go somewhere, as you’re going to have to wait until a unit is waiting for you to tell it what to do or if the turn ends. All in all, this is the most annoying part of the game, and literally will plague all games inevitably (especially in longer games), unless you go into the preferences and change it so you don’t see the full length of all your turns, but then you won’t be able to keep track of what all your units are doing and you may not want a unit to still be doing something. Even though I’m glad that they have a preference allowing you to change the length of time you have to wait for your turn to be over, you are then at the disadvantage of not knowing what things had actually taken place.

When you are first placed into a new world, you’re usually given three “advancements” for your society based on what race you picked. Each race has pre-determined characteristics that have been dictated by the developer’s who look at each race independently and see what profiles fit them best. A race could be scientific, commercial, militaristic, etc. There are usually two or three characteristics for each race, and different advancements are usually given to races depending on actual historical records/observations. Every race is given the abilities of agriculture and road building, so that the society can develop. Because there are so many little parts to the game, it would take an absorbent amount of space to actually describe all the technical things that you do, but you should just keep in mind that what you do is basically further your particular civilization by creating more and more cities and building improvements within and around those cities.

You also have to protect your cities with armed units against barbarians or other computer players that have been placed on the map. As you research more and more, you are able to build more things within each city, including buildings and units, and advance your society through different “ages,” them being Acient Times, Industrial Ages and Modern Ages. To achieve a new societal “upgrade,” as it were, you need to research all the particular things needed to research before going on to the next “age.” This is a huge premise of the game, as vital things that have impacted the growth of our own societies also take place in the game. Throughout the game, you will be negotiating with your foes, acquiring and securing resources, and getting as much land and population as you can so that you can win in the end, while using the important societal upgrades to your advantage.

Single games can take a very long time, depending on how many races and maximum turns there are, which makes the actual length of a game vary. It can get boring however, doing the same basic thing over and over. But, thanks to the inclusion of many different types of play, Civ3 will keep any world history enthusiast (or Civilization-enthusiast) busy for long hours, such as “situational” maps (like the Rise of Rome, or fighting World War II, as well as being on any side you want) and online multiplayer, there is really an
endless amount of playing to be had. A problem that I have seen with the “situational” maps is that they try to play like an RTS (Real Time Strategy) game, when it is a turn-based game, with a large amount of units needing to be moved in the same general direction, and having to tell each of them where to move/attack independently (for the most part). This tends to make it a lot more boring than it actually should be, even though it’s historically accurate.

Civilization III: Complete is a game that’s definitely not for everyone, however. Civ3 is not the most exciting game, nor is it a really fun game, but what makes it so good is how it is a very high-quality and interesting representation of how real life civilizations began and progress today. Not to say you won’t have fun playing this kind of game (depending on what genres you prefer), but Civ3 is really for those who understand enough about history and take an interest in workings of society and ancient/modern civilization.

 

Supernova: Galactic Wars (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Winter Wolves || Overall: 4.5/10

Space. Never mind how we got there, but do mind that there are two warring factions: the Blood Legion and the Blue Army. Now I don’t exactly know whose army the Blue Army is, but I’m sure they could’ve made up a better name than the Blue Army for their army.

SuperNova: Galactic Wars is a mediocre representation of a form of “galactic chess” which tries to toss in some sort of strategy, and “arcade fun” with real-time battles. However, the end package ends up becoming something not worth too much of your time, nor will it even take up that much on the other hand either.

Graphics: What is that? Oh, It’s a spaceship…I think…
In terms of graphics, the game’s menu screens have more detail than the amount of detail in-game ships have. Graphics are not that good at all, but still manage to get the job done without having any bad memories of it. Everything is smooth for the most part, but there isn’t any animation to really speak of except for lasers going in a straight line and a picture of a missile moving around, or a ship glowing with a shield. The game boasts no lag time, however.

Music: This is a one song soundtrack
When it comes to sound, it is not noticeable at all except during the menu screen. The music is pretty boring, and doesn’t exactly fulfill much more than being a fill-in for the sake of something actually being there. I’m pretty sure that the same song is used repeatedly through the whole game in all the different situations you go through.

Galactic Chess, a wonderful premise! Not really…
The whole premise of the game is that there’s a blue team and a red team, and they’re fighting. Each side has unique ships, in different classifications, such as scout, cruiser, battleship, and interceptor. Each side has their own repertoire of ships to boast, each with somewhat cool names and somewhat cool designs. You will notice by playing the game that each side have ships mostly named after a classification of certain things that have some sort of relation with another. A few of the Blue Army’s ship names are Tornado, Shark, Dolphin, Stinger, Scarab, Eagle, and Arrow, while the Blood Legion’s ships are named Spinner, Ogre, Crab, Panthera, Turtle and Lightning.

It is pretty obvious what each ship’s counterparts are, by the kind of weaponry they use. This is simply because of balance issues, and either side really doesn’t have much more to offer over the other side, other than just a variety in the style of ships and what each weapon may be paired with. There are a few unique weapons to particular ships, but these will have counterparts as well. The best part about this game is the pure variety of the ships that have been included in the game for each side.

While not totally boring, SuperNova does deliver a somewhat amusing experience with the real-time battles that can only be accurately described as an Asteroids-type of game, except there is another ship that you duel with. However, the whole game isn’t exactly like this. You play a form of Chess on a map with a bunch of hexagonal spaces that are occupied by your ships and your opponent’s ships. You are usually on one side while your opponents are on the other.

The game is based around turns when it comes to how the game is structured. You are allowed to make only one action during your turn before you give your opponent a chance to do something. Every turn you get to move, repair, or buy a new ship. Different challenges are given that make you have to use your turns wisely, or else you’ll fail the mission.

While you’re in Chess board mode, you can spend “credits” to repair ships that have been dealt damage during the real-time battles, or buy new ships. New ships can only be bought when one of your ships are occupying a planet, with the most basic ship costing ten credits (each ship above it costing ten more). When you have a ship occupying a “Gaia” you acquire credits depending on the planets wealth. You also acquire credits during real-time battles, as they’re just pieces of different colored (and valued) gook flying around on the game screen.

To enter a real-time battle from the Chess board mode, a ship must land on top of a square that has another ship from the opposing army on it. As I said before, this mode is most closely described as an Asteroids-type of game where you duel with an enemy instead. Though you may not actually get much frustration out of it unless you adjust the computer’s difficulty really high, it is not a very involving feature of the game, nor is anything else about the game once you think about it. In the real-time battle screen, you’re presented a map of the area you’re allowed to fight in (I say allow because there’s a wall surrounding it), randomly flying around asteroids and rocks, and gook credit things. You fly around shooting things and that’s basically it. You can acquire power ups by destroying the asteroids and fight your opponent. Fighting your opponent becomes very annoying and long because it is not too much fun at all. Its so much easier if you are able to just ram into your opponent, and destroy it like that instead of using your guns. Unless of course your opponent has more hit points left, then you would use more than one of your ships to kill it.

In terms of actually playing the game, that is all that the game has to offer.

Story? What story?
Unfortunately, there is a very boring story mode in which you have no actual reason for fighting the other side other than the fact that you’re trying to do something and they’re not allowing you to do it. The “story” is delivered through text, and you only see one person representing the other side. The graphics used to make the people are actually nice, but that’s probably because the rest of the game is pretty much crap.

There are about ten missions you have to go through, each forcing you to exhibit some sort of strategy (or make you retry the level over and over until you get lucky), which ends up being not very hard to figure out at all. Once you actually beat the game you get nothing more than a “congratulations, you helped us out” sort of thing, and that’s about it. No extras, no real incentive for ever playing the game again after beating it for each side. Sure there’s the “quick battle” option but its just the same boring game again.

Though there are two campaigns you can go on, one for each side (each with different stories), it will not take you that long to complete either campaign. It took me a little under an hour to complete the Blue Army’s campaign, and half of the Blood Legion’s.

Overall Thoughts
SuperNova: Galactic Wars should not mislead you into thinking there is more than one war. There is only one war, and it’s extremely sad, intensely boring, and not worth your time at all. One would think that the game’s price tag of $19.95 (online) would be comparable to paying a hundred dollars for a new pair of underwear. Once you play this game, you won’t go back to it, as it has nothing more to offer you other than a semi-hot-looking Queen of the Blood Legion that gives you orders to kill the blue guys on the map.

 

I Hate Degrassi

This portion is done by Return of the Dragon:

Before you embark on the greatness that is my writing, let me just clear a few things up. If you don’t know me, I often have very little compassion or respect for things I don’t understand. This leads me to saying certain things that may or may not be inappropriate. If you are easily offended by language or explicit content in any definition of the word, now is the time to stop reading and hit the back button. For those of you who have a sense of humor, please continue on what may be perhaps my most rage-filled review…ever.

To understand what I’m about to say, one needs a background understanding. There is a show network called “Noggin” that basically creates programs for pre-teens/teens ages 10-18. They focus on barraging this group of impressionable young minds with programming crap that I could best describe as an imitation of programs that are on MTV/FOX. The vomit-inducing programs on Noggin run the gamut from pathetic girls vs. boys competitions a la men vs. women on the Real World Road Rules Challenge to the obviously staged dating show called Best Friends’ Date. Sitting atop of this mountain of programming dog shit is a show called “Degrassi: The Next Generation”

Some of you may know about this show, some of you may not. For those who do, bare with me cause I’m about to explain the clusterfuck that is Degrassi. As you may be able to infer from the title, there did exist a first generation of Degrassi. It was an original show that ran during the 80’s that covered the lives of teenagers dealing with teenager-like problems. The show garnered little success and even less attention. Instead of letting this show die, the show creators at Noggin thought “Hey, Degrassi is a great show that would appeal to our target audience as shown by the great reviews given by our 10-18 year old focus groups. Let’s bring Degrassi back from oblivion!” And hence forth came the current disgrace “Degrassi: The Next Generation” into television.

Those of you that needed the explanation, I envy your ignorance. At one point in time, I too did not know what Degrassi was. But thanks to my sister who watches shows like Degrassi, I was quickly absorbed into the nether regions of terrible programming.

If you can’t tell by now, I fucking hate Degrassi. Degrassi is the embodiment of everything that is anti-american. The Degrassi show creators support terrorism, they pimp out their actors to collect rent money, and they do lines of coke off the wad of blood money that they have sacrilegiously earned. On top of all that, the show is made in Canada (insert your own joke here). Degrassi is, in a sense, everything t.v. should not be. How did I come to this conclusion you ask? Simple. I watched many episodes of it.

“But Rubin,” you say, “you are a hypocrite if you watch the show so often and still degrade it,” and to this I say “not true.” I didn’t want to watch the show. Really, I didn’t. But, I was strangely drawn to it, wanting to watch how the shows creators constantly fucked with the lives of these chraracters in this pseudo-drama. I realized that by watching this show, I could more fully understand the bullshit. After hour upon hour that I have wasted of my life watching this show, I have finally been able to come to conclusion on why I hate Degrassi so much. The plot line that the creators have made is so twisted, so fucked up, it more than blatantly contradicts its obssession to seem “real” to its audience. But then again, what can’t you sell to snot-nosed, self-absorbed, arrogant pre-teens and their older counterparts.

Let me begin with the cast of characters. Originally, the show began with a few kids who were a bunch of goody two shoed bastards. Let me introduce to you Ashley the queen of those do-gooders…

This bitch you see is the poster child for good girl gone bad. First she was this believeable character who always followed the rules, never got in trouble, and kissed ass whenever she could. Then all of the sudden, she got tired of the bullshit, and decided to be bad. What did she do? You guessed it, drugs. But not something predicatble like weed, oh fuck no, predictability is too good for the screenwriters of Degrassi. Ashley decides to fucking take ecstasy…at a lame ass house party. Who the fuck takes ecstasy at a house party? It seems apparent no thinking went into the creation of that one episode…but the tragedy doesn’t stop there. As for Ashley, she fell off and is no longer on the show. Good fucking riddance.

Then there is this bitch.

You would think by the innocent looking smile that the shows creators imbued her with some sort of fucking intellect (and yea, she has a thing for black guys). WRONG! Degrassi:1 Your Judgemnet:0. This girl, named Emma, thought it was a great idea to meet one of her e-mail pals at some local hotel. So what happens to her? Instead of meeting the young boy she thought she was conversing back and forth with, she is greeted by this middle aged molester who almost screws this little bitch, but somehow she gets this sudden influx of intelligence and locks herself in the bathroom and proceeds to call police. Unrealistic to say the least. If some dumb 12 year-old thinks its a good idea to meet her “friend” at some hotel on a friday night, odds are she isn’t smart enough to escape from her molester. If I had to write this script, I would have ended the show with the police finding Emma’s body severed from her head, molested in every hole possible with clothes strewn all over the floor. That should fucking send a message to those pre-pubescent assholes watching Degrassi. But hey, the hell do I know, right?

Moving on, I would like to introduce everyone to the obligatory fat person on Degrassi, meet Terri.

As you can guess, Terri is fat and has no self-esteem. She constantly degrades herself, and I find it rather refreshing that a fat person knows she is fat and doesn’t try to hide it with large clothing. So because she is fat, she takes abuse rather well and because of this personality trait, finds a boyfriend who is totally into the dominatrix shit. I will get to this later…just know that Terri represented a person that might actually exist in society, so the Degrassi creators killed the character off.

Next on my list is this bitch.

Let me put it succinctly, she has no place in the show. She was described in one episode has hating Muslims. That’s right she hates people who follow the religion of Islam…her own nationality she claims is Jamaican. Understandable? WRONG AGAIN! Degrassi: 2, Your Common Sense: 0. THIS BITCH TURNS OUT TO BE A MUSLIM HERSELF. She was depicted in this one episode as picking on the one muslim in her school, but it turns out she was just trying to hide her real past, which was being a follower of Islam. Who the fuck turns on their own people like that? I could totally see like a jew like me who is tall and intimidating picking on some muslim, but a small black girl with an attitude problem? Good job Degrassi creators, because now you have really sold me on the believability of the show.

Now introducing the uberbitch, Paige.

Paige is that blonde-haired bitch who thinks she is fine and popular and shit. Known to everyone as “that bitch,” the producers of Degrassi actually struck the right cord when they made this character. But they pull no punches, as they to do the best they can to fuck with this character. So what happens to her? She gets raped. Yea, some dude she thought was hot invited her to some party, took her upstairs and proceeded to rape her. Nothing out of the ordinary for Degrassi, this type of shit happens all the time. Sure she wants to do something about it, but she’s afraid, and the show writers, realizing that they wrote themselves into a fucking corner, drop the story line and don’t continue on with what happens. Basically, this dude raped some girl, and nothing happened as a result of it. God what a great world those people. I’d love to go live there…rape someone and not even think twice about it…*sigh*

Everyone, meet the emo shithead character Elle.

Look at her, I swear to god I want to body slam her into a brick wall so bad it gives me a headache. Go ahead, look at her and her self-righteous “I don’t care what other people think of me” pose. Sure she could be the foundation of tomorrow’s Women Empowerment movement, but apparently she has a problem with cutting herself. That’s right, she gets masochistic pleasure out of cutting her arm and seeing how much it bleeds. At this point in time, you’ve got to be saying to yourself what the fuck have these kids not already gone through? Believe me it gets better.

Everyone, I’d like y’all to meet the Degrassi’s slut Manny.

In the beginning, this girl was young, not interesting, and had no tits. Four to five years later, she has developed into a subject that any grown man would take full advantage of. Personally, I would love nothing more than to hate-fuck this bitch so hard that I would make the sodomy scene in American History X look like consensual love making. Seriously, it would be so hard, I would brake the bottom of her spinal cord, she would never be able to walk again. She starred in this one episode where she decides to show off her figure by wearing low rider jeans and thong hiked up as far past her hips as possible. Basically every guy she passed by in that episode popped a boner in less than two seconds, and needless to say, her character tries to whore herself to as many boyfriends as possible. Now I will admit, I myself paid little attention to other people 9th-12th grade, but where the fuck was this girl in my high school? I was looking for a “Manny” around where I lived for a quite some time, but to no avail. Oh, I know why, BECAUSE FIFTEEN YEAR OLDS DON’T FUCKING WEAR THONGS UP PAST THEIR HIPS WITH LOW RIDER JEANS IN HIGH SCHOOL. Where did the show’s creators get their material, some fucking wet dream they had? How come they just don’t make softcore porn for teens while they’re at it, huh? All very good questions. My guess is that they probably figured out that too many young boys were masturbating to Manny’s antics and had to change the direction of the show for fear of a spinoff show that stars Manny where all she does is striptease. I would pay to see that show, I don’t care if that is pedophilia.

Whores galore on Degrassi. And shit is only gonna get better from here as I introduce the mellowdrama that is the guys of Degrassi High.

Take a look at the future of the meatpacking workers industry.

Yea, its that common everyday shithead annoying skateboarder kid. Every high school has them, in fact, every high school has a group of them. I can’t remember how many times I have had this one dream about beating the shit out of a skateboarder…but I’ll leave that to another blog. On top of being an annoying shithead, this guy steals from his best friend because he is jealous of the things he has. What kind of best friend is that? If my best friend stole something from me, he would have to die. That kind of shit doesn’t make sense to me, but to hell with reason. In Degrassi, anything is possible.

This leads me to the said best friend as I mentioned before.

What can I say, the guy is black and therefore good in sports. Degrassi loves to continue the stereotype. I will continue more on stereotyping later. Just know that this guy gets shot up.

Next comes this joke of a character.

Mister “wrong side of 8 mile,” this is Sean. He is a white kid with a bad attitude. His underdeveloped arms and overdeveloped testosterone-filled attitude make for a tough kid who is all talk. I hate these people almost as much as skateboarders. And here is a fucking shocker, if you had to guess this guy’s age, how old would you guess? 14? 15? WRONG AGAIN YOU FUCKING IDIOT. Degrassi: 3, Your Judgement: 0. In real life, this guy is a full year older than me! UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE HUH? Yea, look at his arms. I can’t see any muscle definition at all. I looked like that when I was in the 7th grade. If I had to bet who would win in a fight, me at 13, or this guy at 19 (which he is) I would choose myself at 13. Look at this guys eyebrows…I’ve seen images of Neanderthal humans whose eyebrows aren’t nearly as thick as “Sean’s.” This character is laughable. When I first saw this guy, my bullshit detector went off like no other. Good job Degrassi talent recruiters.

Then comes this guy.

You can tell he’s working the boyish charm thing. Keeps clean shaven, just how the ladies like it. Only one problem. This dude comes from a broken home (insert collective sigh here). His mom is dead and is dad was controlling and abusive. God forbid Craig came home 5 minutes late or else he would get the shit beaten out of him. You know what, it looks like he deserves it. Just when I thought there was at least one good part of the show, Degrassi slaps me upside the head with the sledgehammer of plot twist. Turns out this guy’s dad is such a fucking psycho, one day he just peels out in his BMW after a rage-filled diatribe against his son where he proceeds to get into a car accident and kill himself. That’s right, even more shit ass drama turns out to be just another day at Degrassi. But it gets better, Craig blows off his father’s death as if it were nothing and what happens to him? He gets not one but two girlfriends. And he manages them both for an extremely long amount of time. Mind you, this guy is like 16, manages two bitches, and doesn’t get caught. Grown men spend their lives to even achieve half of the success that Craig has. Congratualtions Craig, you might as well wear a fur fucking coat and a purple hat with a feather in it because you are a P.I.M.P. Real fucking realistic Degrassi, keep up the good work.

I’m going to be real short and to the point with this one.

This is Marco. As you can see, he is gay. A gay character on a show for kids. When did he decide he was gay you ask? At the ripe old age of 14. Yup, he decided he was gonna take up the ass reeeeeeaaaaaaal early. This just makes me sick. I think there were gay people at my high school, but I’m not sure. I really would not like to know either. I just shudder everytime I see this person.

Finally we have Rick.

Look for this kid in your local high school shooting. Rick’s character is a fuck up. Simply put, his life is just fucked, thats all. Remember Terri? Yea, he had a thing for her. He’s really into being abusive/possessive and did everything her could to intimidate the fat bitch. This is the thing that REALLY put me over the edge. The way that they made him act seemed too mature. The way a 15 year-old is possessive and the way a 40 year-old is possessive is very different. They made Rick seem like a scheming sadist with his FIRST girlfriend. So he is basically ostracized by the Degrassi community, but he tries to get back in their good graces. But his efforts fail. Being constantly picked on, he did the only thing the Degrassi writers thought he could do, HE WENT ON A SCHOOL KILLING FUCKING RAMPAGE. This dude brings a .22 and puts a hole through the black kid (sterotype) before he gets into a struggle with the fake ass tough kid (Sean) and shoots himself where he later dies. Fucking pussy. If I got shot in the stomach, I would laugh it off, but then again, thats just me…

After all the drama that has happend on Degrassi, the show ends the season with a school shooting…what a way to go out. I could just see the directors in some room writing this show, digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole. Now I don’t know much about directing, but I produced two movies totalling 5 minutes of film over a one year course in film during my senior year in high school. The two movies I created were shit, and I still got an A in the course (thank you bobby bongos). I can honestly say, with no ego, I put more storyline content in the 5 minutes of film that I created than the amount of storyline that exists in 4 seasons of Degrassi.

If it were God’s will for me to die right now and go to hell, and I had a choice of what to do for the rest of eternity, either watch every episode of Degrassi ever created or fellate a hot curling iron, I would cry. I would cry because I would not be able to determine which is the lesser of the two evils.

I hope that the creators of Degrassi stumble upon this one day. I hope they read every fucking word and then proceed to commmit suicide.

Degrassi… I hope you people choke and die.

This portion is done by davepoobond:

As an addition to Return of the Dragon’s very well written article, he did forget two of THE most annoying characters on the show, which I will introduce in my part of this article. All others pale in comparison to how much of a killing spree that I MYSELF want to go on after seeing an episode of this drivel with them in it. I would so wish to just run down the halls of Degrassi MYSELF and shoot everyone in the head. Unfortunately, Rick beat me to it, but didn’t get the job done right since the show isn’t exactly over. I haven’t watched Degrassi for a long time, because I can’t take that shit, plain and simple. If I watched it every week my blood pressure would become so high that I would get an aneurysm instantly. I’d have three heart attacks, go blind, go deaf and then have my balls fall off all at the same time if i watched a whole season in one day.

It is so annoying to watch the relationships go through the best of times and worst of times in this show. For the longest time, Ashley and that black guy Jimmy went out. And then Emma and Sean liked each a lot, but then Sean started hanging out with some bullies from the high school or some shit like that. Then Ashley and Jimmy break up, and Ashley goes “bad.” Then Emma finds out she likes 10 inch cock instead of Sean’s 2 inches. And the next two characters I will explain had some sexual tension between themselves, which makes it even MORE annoying, because those two interacting together is worse enough. The mere THOUGHT of seeing them together as a couple or even kissing would be worse than Hiroshima AND the Tsunami that everybody’s and their dog donated money to.

This is Tobi. He’s Ashley’s brother.

You could say that this guy was pretty much the main star of Degrassi for at least a season. Ashley and himself go to the same school, and they hate each other, rightfully so. This guy is such a turd burglar its not even funny. He’s a kiss-ass through and through and as soon as something goes down that he doesn’t like he tells an adult. He’s a fucking snitch, a fucking loser, and has/had only one friend. But then he told on his friend for doing some stupid shit, but Tobi couldn’t keep it a secret because of his “morals.” Tobi’s friend was the only TOLERABLE character on the goddamn show. But then they had to make Tobi’s friend fucking annoying by making Tobi and his friend hate the fucking guts out of each other because of that earlier incident.

This is Liberty. When she comes to mind, I think of a secretary. A stupid fucking secretary who has no job opportunities other than being a secretary for the rest of her life.

Liberty is the MOST annoying piece of shit character on this fucking show. She acts like she’s smart, but she’s really just a fucking stupid morron who doesn’t know shit. I hate her, I hate Tobi, and Tobi hated her. But guess what? Liberty was all after Tobi’s ass for like a whole season. And then they kissed I THINK. I think I saw that shit, too. None of these people described deserve to be on a television show at all. The people who made this show need to die, the people work on the show besides the best boy and the gaffer need to die. All copies of any episode of this garbage need to be burned or destroyed, and every television set that has Noggin should block it from their channel listings.

FUCK DEGRASSI, DEGRASSI: THE NEXT GENERATION, AND FUCK NOGGIN!

 

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2) Review

Developer: Rockstar North / Publisher: Rockstar Games || Overall: 9.6/10

It’s arguable that no gaming series in recent history has had an effect on the gaming world as much as Grand Theft Auto. By giving players the option to do a number of different things outside of the linearity of the game’s story, there’s just an incredible sense of freedom found in GTA. This carries over to the newest game in the series, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, maybe more so than any previous game. It expands on things to do and the realism of it all by an incredible amount.

The story of the game itself starts when the main character CJ comes back into San Andreas from Liberty City because his mother died. He gets in a taxi to go home, but is pulled over by Officer Tenpenney (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) and his team of corrupt cops the moment he gets back into Los Santos. When he finally gets back to his home neighborhood, CJ (voiced by rapper Young Maylay) finds out the streets his gang once ruled have been lost, and the gang itself in shambles. His crew shows distrust towards him since he went to Liberty City instead of staying in Los Santos. Once part of the gang, he is viewed as an outsider since he doesn’t fully understand what happened before his return.

Jacking Cars and Living Life as a Criminal Has Never Been So Fun
San Andreas introduces an amazing amount of new terrains to a huge world containing three massive cities. In the game, you’ll see country sides, dirt tracks, woodlands/forests, and deserts. However, these are just among the many additions the game includes. Gameplay features such as gang wars, pimping, burglary, physical conditioning, and having abilities improve in a (more or less) traditional RPG style are just some of the many things that have improved and expanded in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The enhancements and additions seem to make a list a mile long. It is truly amazing to experience how many new things have been added.

The main cities in the game all mimic actual places in real life and how they look. Los Santos is the equivalent of Los Angeles, San Fierro is the equivalent of San Francisco, and Las Venturas is the equivalent of Las Vegas (complete with casinos of all types). Being from California, I’ve been to all three real cities and live near Los Angeles. First hand, I can say that everything is closely replicated to the styles of housing and how things actually look. There are even some noticeable structures that may not be important to someone who doesn’t live in the area, but is easily recognizable to someone who does. The same holds true for the other GTA games, as people who live in or around the city(s) copied will notice those minute details.

Through the first part of the game, most of the missions you do will exhibit one new improvement or addition Rockstar has made to GTA: San Andreas. Some missions teach you basic skills that have already been introduced in the series, like when they show you how to drive a car while doing a drive-by. More often than not, however you will learn something new that has been added to the game. A difference that is immediately noticed is as you travel around town, rival gang members will all of a sudden start shooting you. This forces you to find a different way around to your destination, since you’re trying to avoid them, thus adding to the difficulty of the game. If you’re in a car, they could possibly pop one of your tires during the attack.

Though everyone knows who CJ is already, if you want to attract even more attention from your rival gangs you can wear your gang’s colors. This increases the respect you have among your gang as well, though it’s a trade off. In the long run, respect is a lot more important among your gang than worrying about heat from other gangs.

The game play itself has been tweaked just enough to make it better than its forerunners. Using some of the ideas from Rockstar’s Manhunt, the targeting system has been improved. Also, some techniques that have never been used in this series before, like stealth, are used throughout the game.

Instead of just being thrown into the game with a basic set abilities and no way to improve them (like previous game’s in the series), San Andreas features an “RPG-like” level up trait increases your stats as you gain more experience from actually performing many of the game’s actions.. For example, the more you drive, the higher your skill gets, and your lung capacity skill will increase as you dive underwater more. The same method applies for muscle, weapon skills, respect, cycling skill, motorcycle skill, stamina, and a few others. It isn’t very expansive, but it is a nice addition to the game, and you will begin to notice slight changes in how well you handle your car or beat someone’s ass using your bare fists with fewer strikes than before.

To build up your muscle, stamina, and learn some new abilities to use in melee fighting, there is a gym in each city that you can use. As you advance to new cities, you are able to train at the more advanced facilities in each progressing city. Eventually, when you kick the “master” of the gym’s ass, they will teach you their fighting style, thus learning newer advanced fighting styles that you can use when you’re locked onto someone in addition to another style of melee attacks. This is a new addition to the series, as before, you only had one set of melee moves. Of the possible fighting styles you can train to learn, there is boxing, karate, and “dirty.” You don’t switch between the styles on the fly, but you are able to use the fighting ability of the master you had last won against, so you’re able to keep your favorite style.

Some Improvements Become Problems

There are only a few nuisances that I’ve noticed throughout the game, but they’ve appeared in the other GTA games as well. There are only one or two new problems I have noticed that are unique to San Andreas. It’s hard to see how much ammo you have left for the particular gun you have equipped, because the font for the counter is so small. You can estimate how much ammo you may have by counting how many digits you have in your reserve, in regards to whether there are two, three, or four digits for your reserve count. If you have four, you probably don’t have to worry about the count. When this actually affects the game play, is when you’re down to your last few shots, and you don’t know how much you have to conserve.

The load times experienced in other GTA games had as you traveled to different cities have been totally done away with. The game will continuously load any new area you go to as you are going there. The only problem with this however, is that you may notice that the details of particular buildings will not load that fast, especially if you’re going into a new area. This makes it seem less realistic. Sometimes if you look off into the distance, you will see nothing, and then a building pop in out of nowhere. This can also affect the game play at times, like when you’re trying to follow someone that is far away. They’ll disappear and you can’t see where they go. There’s also the annoyance of having the game pause for a few seconds to load a new area you’re going into if you get there too fast (like if you’re driving really fast in a car). There are other times where there is slowdown, but not very often. For the most part, the game loads well, and shows improvement over the other GTA games. The only “real” load times are before missions.

Gangsta’s Paradise (Not the Coolio Song.)
The music featured in the game is made up of 90’s music, as well as a few classic tunes from before that period. Most genres are covered, including alternative rock, classic rock, 90’s rap/hip-hop, classic hip-hop/rap, house, funk, country, dub/reggae, soul, and the ever-popular talk radio. The music makes the game feel as if you’re really in the 90’s.

The game’s voice acting has a quality comparable to Vice City’s, though by no means is this bad. The dialogue stays true to the atmosphere of the game, so players should be sure to expect a load of swearing. It’s safe to say that this game isn’t for those offended by language, as San Andreas uses swearing a lot more freely than any of the other Grand Theft Auto games. Also, the cast of celebrities providing the voiceovers is the series’ most prolific to date, including the already mentioned Samuel L. Jackson and Young Maylay, as well as others like comedian David Cross, Ice T, James Woods, amongst a few others. The auditory in San Andreas is exactly what should be expected from the series, a game with an awesome soundtrack and high profile celebrity voice acting.

More of the Same, Visually
Visually, San Andreas doesn’t look that much different than Vice City, but a few things do look noticeably better. The most obvious enhancement visually is the improvement of how the cars look. The cars can now be modded to fit your likes, from nitrous to hydraulics to having a different style hood. Nothing is better than driving a pink taxi with a spoiler, nitrous boost and hydraulics that is taking people to their destination in the Taxi Mission game.

There are other visual effect changes that have been made in San Andreas, as well. For instance, the rain that had once been very visible in Vice City is now more like a light drizzle. Granted, it doesn’t rain nearly as heavy in San Andreas as it does in Vice City, but it can be hard to tell if it’s even raining. Having the effect of rain splattering against the screen in Vice City has been dropped in San Andreas, since it actually impaired your vision while playing. There is now fog/smog depending on what city you’re in. This adds to the realism of GTA: San Andreas, as real weather conditions are replicated more accurately. Similar to arcade racing games, when you’re driving very fast, the area around you becomes blurred, adding to the feeling that you’re going fast.

Final Thoughts
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is without a doubt the best GTA to date. New challenges are exhibited in nearly every mission, and with a huge quantity of new improvements, additions, and challenges involving all the skills they provide you, this is one hell of a game. There is also a very involving story that keeps the game moving along, as it keeps you wondering how things will turn out and why things are happening. While the other Grand Theft Auto games still hold their own by being set in different cities and having distinctively different atmospheres (from being a mercenary in GTA3, to a part of the mob in Vice City), GTA: San Andreas manages to be unique, having the whole aura of the main character being completely different, making itself a definite must-have.

 

What I Should Write About?

This entry is part 1 of 26 in the series The Retail Report

This was originally written on nearly 40 sheets of quarter-sized paper. I wrote this while I was at work, because I had absolutely nothing to do. At all.

What should I write about? How about how my crappy job is today and tomorrow? So, today is a part of Thanksgiving vacation, as we get the whole week off. I work today for 6 hours and tomorrow for 8. If that isn’t shitty enough already, I have to be cashier today and do inventory tomorrow. I can’t even stand 3.5 hours of cashiering; let alone thinking I can survive 6. And they’re going to throw me at doing inventory for 8 hours, too? I don’t even know how to do it or what it is. I guess you just have to count all the shit in the store no one is going to buy this week. No one is going to fucking come today, everyone is out enjoying their families while mine go out on an RV trip (which I have no interest in going on anyhow) and won’t actually see them until Thanksgiving (which is somewhat good, since they’re all annoying in their own stupid ways). You will never find anyone as stupid as them, frankly.

I’m amazed I came out the way I did, given the circumstances. I know I’m already pretty messed up because of them, but I think I’m a’right. At least I’m not as ignorant as some other people in the world, but I know I’m probably still just an ignorant American who will become stereotyped for being an idiot that voted for Bush (I voted for Kerry). Damn foreigners, think that we’re ignorant, when they’re just as much.

Well, anyway, here I am writing and griping about the world now, and it all started with my job. There is literally nothing to do but write this, and look pleasant when one of the supervisors walk by. This is a shitty establishment, I must say. They definitely need a total reorganization of the store, their rules, their everything, from the ground up. Any “improvements” or new rules they make up just break down in the end.

I’m going to get fired anyway, and it wasn’t even my fault. Let me start at the beginning since I have exactly 5 hours and 11 minutes to go. We had this meeting about a month ago, which the main purpose of these meetings is to gather around in a big circle with all the other cashiers in the department, listen to Chuck, my boss, “remind” us about some particular rules such as fire safety, sexual harassment, the like. But the main purpose of this particular meeting was to show all the things we did wrong. It was funny at times, but it was pretty bad. There were credit slips not signed (the only truly bad thing that was shown, as the rest were just byproducts of their stupid procedures unique only to this store and no other). Oh God, they’re playing Locomotion now on the PA system, and someone else sang with it a little as they passed by me. The infection melody is making me tap my feet!

Well, anyway, one of the credit slips not signed was mine. It was for 212.59, the second highest quantity not signed. When I looked at the date that was on the receipt, it was from August, the day before the first day of school. It was basically my first day on the job not training. So, I didn’t blame myself, as I was trying to get used to the system. Since then I hadn’t had any other mistakes. I should be “Employee of the Period of Time Between After the First Day of Non-Training and Eternity,” but I wasn’t. So, after the meeting, he told everyone to talk to him about the status of their employment the next week. When I went in, he told me I hadn’t been late ever, and I hadn’t missed a day of work. The only thing that tarnished my record was the stupid credit slip. So, I was put on PROBATION, which sounds worse than it actually is. You don’t get a parole officer or anything, you just have to sign a piece of paper saying you acknowledge you fucked up, and if you fuck up again, they’ll fire you, take your first born, as well as your soul, and any copies of Death Race 2000 (co-starring Sylvester Stallone) you may have. Oh look a customer. She walked past me…well, she asked me a question, if we had disposable cameras, and then if we had any with flash. Who needs flash anyway? If you’re in bad light anyway, its not going to come out well anyway. The flash is used to soften the light. Well, I sent her to the other end of the store, saying we might have some with flash over there. Hopefully she won’t come back and give me a smug look for sending her into the wrong area. Teeheehee. Well, on to the reason I’m getting fired.

After getting on probation, about 30 days in (after 90 days, you get out of probation), a guy came with his daughter to buy a visor and a shot glass. His daughter was about 3 or 4 years old, and after the purchase, he said to her “yeah, daddy’s going to go take some shots when he gets home.” Instantly, I thought “this guy is a jackass, talking about taking shots to his daughter.” I wonder how many times he molested her when he was drunk. Well, after he left, I found that he never gave back the credit slip he signed. “Oh FUCK” I thought. “Now I’m going to lose my shitty minimum wage job with no benefits with shitty break times.” Speaking of which, we only get 10 min. breaks and 30 min. lunches. That’s what happens when the store isn’t unionized. I won’t talk about unions just yet, but they’ll be dealt with in due time.

So, now its 10:35. I started writing at 10:09 a.m. Only 2 transactions the whole time. Well, I just had 5 more transactions since I wrote that. Kinda funny really. Unions are ghey. There, I dealt with them. In alterance to unions, I propose Alliances, which will work for the betterment of its workers while not trying to tell them what to think/vote. Who says you have to go on a strike or vote no on a particular proposition just because your union says so?

Most people are stupid. When I finally realize this, analyze this, accept it as fact, do I become a better person myself? No, it doesn’t it makes me something different. Something…else. It’s the kind of people that ask where something in particular is when they’re standing right next to it, or they want a big honking bag for some item they can hold with no problem, or they want to give the EXACT change and hold up the line just so they can get rid of a dime and get 4 pennies (what’s the use in that?) back, or shop after they bought something, or ask if I’m “open” when I’m standing next to the cash register doing nothing.

“Are you open?”

“No, I’m not, I just like to stand by this fucking cash register like a jackass and watching paint peel off the ceiling that has no paint on it.”

That’s what I would love to say to them. They also ask if they “can pay for this here.” No, you can’t, you have to suck dick for it here.

I guess I can’t TOTALLY blame them for the infectious confusion that rampages in this store. There are registers spread out throughout the place, and the different sections make it sort of imply you have to buy things in that section at that register, which you don’t. I blame the store for the shitty placement of its registers. If they just put registers AT the exits instead of sort of near them, it would work better.

10:57. The time just keeps rolling by, don’t it? I hope I have enough paper to write on. I don’t think I could go on more than 20 minutes without it right now. Another shitty thing about this store is the hours. They usually only give about 4 to 8 hours a week to me. I don’t know if they’re trying to slowly ween me off because I’m going to get fired after they need me to cover for Thanksgiving. Maybe they won’t fire me. Its been about 3 weeks since then.

There’s this weird 25 year old “janitor” guy with this huge afro. He’s not even wearing a Cal State Fullerton uniform. Who is he? He’s been here for like an hour. He might be plotting…to steal from the registers…or kill me because I’ve got the power to see things clearly and how they are. Therefore, these may be my dying thoughts. If this makes it on Squackle, I guess I’ll be fine, unless someone assumes my name as successor to my creation and not announce my true demise.

11:06 now. What else do I have to write? I started out not knowing at all, but I got this far didn’t I? Man, I really have to blow my nose. They don’t have anything here I can use. If I were to go to the bathroom, chances are, with my luck, someone will be looking for me so they can buy their stupid shit. NO ONE IF FUCKING HERE! I CAN ACTUALLY HEAR THE MUSIC THEY PUT ON EVERYDAY, the same EXACT ones, from the same genre: classic rock. And its stuff from the 60s, 70s and very early 80s. Nothing too spectacular.

I am the almighty. I am the successor to the world’s throne. Bow down to me! Can you even understand this? Do you speak English or is English the language they made to contain me here in this world they created to keep me down? Is this why I don’t travel ever? Not because I don’t want to, but because they trained me to not want to go anywhere but a few miles away from home? Is that why I’m going to a local college? Are people even people? Or are they video cameras watching my every move.

11:17. Wow, that was deep for only 11 minutes. I wonder what other crazy shit I’ll think of…

11:18 I think I may run out of paper. I only have about 30 other pieces. I’ve already used 13 in less than 2 hours. 2 freaking hours, GOD DAMMIT. The time of the year that shows our colors more than the 4th of July, the Holiday season is nigh. Its not even Thanksgiving, and its all about Christmas/whatever people buy things for, as always. This time of year shows what we value the most: Gluttony, materialism, and the empowerment of corporations. One day government and corporation will be the same, I believe. Whether either turns into the other or not.

Corporations care nothing more than making money. If they had a billion dollar profit after expenditures each day, they would still want more. The reason why the media is so nice to the government is because the FCC is about to deregulate the media’s owning limits and unleash their terror across the world. They’re nicer to the Bush administration than they should be because Colin Powell is in the administration, and his son heads the FCC. But now that Powell resigned, who knows what’ll happen? I hadn’t deducted that myself, however. I have to give credit for it to (BOY CRIED IRAQ LINK). Its something that everyone should read. It took me a good 2 hours to read, and is definitely worth it to see what path we are going down. However, it makes assumptions that there were actually terrorists behind 9/11 and Osama did it. I have my reservations about this, but I’m not very likely to side with Osama, since he clearly wouldn’t care if I had these thoughts. At first, he was saying he didn’t conduct 9/11, and then took responsibility. Why would he do that? He would be too proud of what did to say he didn’t do it. But, how am I supposed to know how he thinks? He may have just as well done it. Or maybe Bush did it so he could take our rights away. Maybe gun control is a bad thing, as according to this page (NWO THING), it talks about how in the New World Order, ruled by rich white asshole fascists who would love nothing more than having everyone do as they say and never say anything against them, have the agenda of creating the world into hell.

12:23 Well, I came back from my shitty break. I was watching some of Laguna Beach, while I was in the break room. This show is complete bullshit, I’ll tell you flat out. It is NOTHING like reality at all. How can any of those rich kids act normal when there are cameras around them all the time, and cars with the filming crew following them everywhere. How does it even make sense?

I’m writing this with a small, very expensive pen right now. I shouldn’t be writing with it, but I am. What are they gonna make me do? Buy it? No. This proves that any pen you buy may have been used by someone else already, and you wouldn’t even ever know it. It could amost be out of ink, but what are you gonna do? Nothing.

12:28 I stopped writing with that pen. It hurt me. Why would anyone make that pen? Must be for people with no bones in their hands or really small bones.

12:29 Why do I even need this freakin job? Its not like I work enough to make it worth my while. Inventory tomorrow is going to be a bitch. Speaking of bitches, this devil girl who complains to no end, and has her eyebrows pointing directly up at the ends, like a vampire, was talking about how they were sending people home early when they were inventorying, where I’m going to be tomorrow. She was screaming about how she wanted to go home and shit. Maybe they’ll send me home early so I can jack off. Or something of that sort.

12:33 This is my 18th page. Aren’t you happy for me? What else is there to talk about? I’ve been to the world and back again with this rant. Another thing I hate about cashiering is people who don’t have their wallets out already to pay. Its like they think they’re going to get what they want for free. Its not that its just in their back pocket, I have no problem with that. Its when its buried in the portal to Hell they call their backpack, purse, satchel, or fannypack. They watch me ringing everything up and don’t get their wallet out. And when they look for it, they can’t find it, so I’m waiting 5 minutes and they still can’t produce. Also another thing is how people store their money. 85% have wallets, which is good. The other 15% have it crumpled up in their pocket or in an envelope (like they just came from the bank and couldn’t exert the energy it takes to crumple it up or put it into a wallet) and then insist on finding some change to take even longer. If they want to get rid of their change so badly, why don’t they just dump it all out and then pay the rest off with a bill? That’s the only way you can get rid of change efficiently.

12:42. I guess its working, its been 3 hours so far, and I haven’t died yet. What’s working, you may ask? Well, that’s the beauty of it. It is.

12:44. I’m ashamed to admit it, but whenever I work, I have to wear an apron. Yes, an apron. I have to wear it, because I “work at a book store, and book store employees wear aprons.” Bullshit. Just because other book stores have their employees wear aprons, doesn’t mean we have to. We are more than just a bookstore, we sell clothing and supplies, too. Granted, the books are the biggest and most important part, we’re not solely a bookstore. Fuck this store.

12:46. Nose and Elias are coming back tomorrow. I haven’t seen them for a while, so it’ll be interesting to see how they’ve been. Can’t find too many bigoted, movie and music loving, food appreciating friends such as them.

12:49. had another transaction. The guy used a credit card for a 2 dollar purchase. Sometimes it makes me kind of mad that someone doesn’t have 2 dollars to buy eraser refills. They have to use a card for it. …………

If my boss were to find this 21 page rant, I’d probably get fired on the spot. Maybe I should leave it on his desk. Mwahahahahahahaaaa.

12:52. I’m not going to give this to my boss. They’ll probably send me to the psychiatrist again. They’ll never take me back! NEVER! I was never there to being with…

12:55. There are only 14 possible more pages of this before I go onto the colorful pages. When someone is looking for scratch paper, they’ll be screwed. Haha. Hallelujah, I found 3 more pages, and a stack a mile high of pink pages. I’m set for the oncoming hours.

12:57. Wasn’t it Halloween just last week?

1:01. One o’clock hooray! Only 2.5 hours!

1:02 Does having a baby when you’re 60 constitute creating an old baby? I feel sorry for this kid sucking on a big saggy tit and not knowing the difference between sour breast milk and good breast milk. Anyway…

1:04. its amazing how much I’ve written. I could publish this as a book, sell it with the gimmick being some sort of new philosophy and make a profound impact enough as to make me famous, have a wealthy sum of money and have people analyze my work in-depth when there is nothing more than the face value I present. Should I try it? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t think anyone would care, they’re too into Plato and Descarte, those losers.

1:09. Geez, reading back, I can’t believe what I wrote. Talkinga bout the world being ignorant all the way to how my family sucks. And I will gain nothing by the end of the day.

1:10. I have decided this is now an endurance contest, to see how much I can write and for how long, time-wise. I commend you. You actually want to see if this will go anywhere. I won’t lie to you, I hope it does, too. I doubt it will though. Why are they even open today? No one is buying anything! I get like one person every 30 min. Borrrringggg.

1:13. Borrrrrrrrrrrringggggggg….

1:14. I just let one rip. It was smelly. Luckily NO ONE IS HERE….pew…smelly…

1:16 That guy with the afro is back…he went into the bathroom. Probably to get his AK-47 out of the urinal. He picked the wrong day to rob the store, none of the cash registers even have that much money in it.

1:18. I started to put bags away because it was fun for about 30 seconds. Then there wasn’t any left, and I got bored of putting bags away.

1:19. I don’t like it when people make money jokes or “signing credit slip/agreement” jokes. They’re all the same, stupid, and shows me even more that people are stupid. Earlier, someone was wearing a Christmas sweater and you could hear bells every time they walked. WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Asian Santa Claus’s wife? MAN!

1:22. None of the stupid supply reps are even talking to me. This is horrible. I think its finally coming. I’m going crazy and I’m getting tired of writing. Why meeeee?

1:27. Wel, I got over my little breakdown, I think… I have to pull myself together…I think that the supply reps are onto me about what I think about them…them being stupid…

1:30. I think I have figured out the hierarchy here. There is the head honcho, Jerry. Then, in each department, there is a manager. Each manager has their own stooge/bitch that initiates all the things that need to be done in each department. The biggest and most powerful out of the departments are the cashiers, which I am part of. The stooge under the cashier manager (Chuck) is Jerry B (a different Jerry). He has a group of bitches called “receptionists” which are basically the Elite Cashiers. That’s it.

1:34. There is a hollow part in the wall I usually lean against. Rather, a whole jut of the wall is hollow. When I look on the opposite side, there is no use for this hollow part of the wall. Its use eludes me. It must have been to bury someone behind the wall. Why they didn’t make it a real wall, I couldn’t say. They must have gotten cheap.

1:38. I just found an open bag of a ‘trail mix” type of snack combination called a “yogurt mix.” I do not know how long it has been there, or if it is anyone’s here.

1:39. How stupid can you be to still be selling a Windows 95/98 keyboard? Very. Well, that’s what we’re doing. When it becomes vintage and sold for $5, maybe it’ll be sold, but not in this decade. Weird thing is, is that Memorex made it. I don’t know how they think since they make good blank CDs/DVDs they know how to make a good keyboard.

1:48. I now know how to get a free iPod that can do photos, too. Its simple, its brilliant, its amazing. All you have to do is say you already paid for it, when you bought “your iBook.” You don’t even have to prove it!

1:53. Well, I sold something to a jackass, and I forgot to demagnetize it, so the gate went off on him. Hahaha! I have exumed my terror! My revenge!

1:55. We sell these big pencils. They are RALLY big pencils. They’re about the size of your arm and as thick as your wrist. Oh, the things people always ask about is:

Q: Does it actually write?

A: Yes

Q: Wow, really?

A; Yes

Q: How do you sharpen it?

A; You bite it.

Q: How do you sharpen it?

A: You can bite it…

Q: You sell sharpeners for it?

A: Not “you can BUY it,” jackass. BITE it.

2:02. 2 o’clock! 1.5 hours left! 1 hour of torture, .5 of fun fun counting out the register. I’m going to end up helping only 20 people by the end of the day. What a waste of time. What kind of a job is this? I wrote this whole thing in there!

2:08. I can’t even remember most of the stuff I wrote. I know when I type this stuff up, I’ll be like “what the hell?” the whole time, but still acknowledge the wisdom of my past self. By the way, hello future me. Get a girlfriend, loser.

2:12. I have concocted a plan to freak out everyone in the store. To get the P.A. system in the store, you have to dial ext. 6599 for. What I’m thinking is that if I were to call it from an external source, I could exert some hate towards everyone in the words consisting of the following: fuck.

2:14. I just had a bitch dig through her purse for her change wallet and say “I forgot my glasses. I’m blind…but I can see!” Bitch.

2:20. Waiting for this day to end during the last stretch of time is the worst. It seems like an hour becomes 5 hours, and 20 minutes becomes an hour. My hands are stained with cash long forgotten, passed to the stupid people whom I will never see again. The security guy spooks me out a bit. He just walked by for no apparent reason. Him and his kind are all scary. Those security police-in-training officers…they use the computer for hours on end, and you don’t know what for. I’m trying to be cryptic here in case you didn’t know.

2:24. I am afraid. Afraid of losing my sanity. I haven’t sat down since lunch break. I’m so tired, physically and mentally. This is very mentally hard on me. Its difficult for me to just do nothing. That’s why I’m writing so much. Do I have ADD?

2:28. I’m in my quiet place now. It’s the dark little nook created by the fake wall. Its comfortable if I lean against it, and hide from the world…

2:30. Only have an hour of boring Hell, and 30 min. of “fun”

2:31. I have seven piece of paper to write on now, including this one. I’m amazed by how much I’ve written. The security guards watching me might think I’m planning a terrorist attack. I must be cautious…

2:33. If you asked me who I’m more afraid of in the security guard force, the guy sor the girls, I would have to say the girls. There’s just something about how they go after people who steal stuff, their biceps pumping, and their walkie-talkie sticking out of their back ocket of their tight jeans. It intimidates me that they could probably kick my ass, and basically have that weird, demeaning look to their faces as they chase someone down, like they enjoy it. “The chase is on!” They must scream as their war yell. Sitting down for most of the day and then seeing some guy bolt out the door. I don’t want to be in that position. Ever. Being the one chased down, that is…

2.39. I hate this horrible apron. The papers I wrote on sum up into being a stack. Its werid seeing all my writing on so many pages.

2.40. I think I want to hang myself with the apron tying tails…

Alas, it is 2:41. I have decided not to kill myself, as I believe in at least trying at life instead of just dying. Oh God, its Kansas on the P.A. I’m killing myself now.

2:43. The only part of this store they should keep are the escalators

2:45. Bookstore will close in 15 minutes. Someone passed by me, and said “I’m going to be back.” Like I fucking care, you idiot.

2:46. I wrote a short novel today, it seems. Funny ain’t it?

2:55. As much as I have truly enjoyed this experience, it is time for its end. Maybe I’ll do this whenever I work if I don’t get fired. Good day to you, and everyone else who has read this the whole way through. Bonswa, arirverderci, chao, bye, bon voyage, later, peace out the guy that said he’d be back came back. What a faggot, we’re CLOSING!

11/23/04. The next day I had planned to do something like I had done the day before because it helped passed the time.

8:40 Well, it looks like I’m cashier today after all. They’re playing stupid Christmas music for a change. Lucky me?

8:41 They’re playing the Charlie Brown theme song. How is this Christmas?

8:42 When I originally thought I was supposed to do inventory, they told me I was supposed to. But they changed jobs on me! Why the fuck am I here at 8:30 when the store opens at 10:00?

8:43 It was a challenge to find paper this time, as I had to use secret ops skills to find some in the next drawer.

8:44 How many versions of the same song do they HAVE?

8:46 Santa Claus is the conspiracy created by parents so they can keep their kids quiet for a month, so they can fuck.

8:47 Some girl is probably going to work next to me. Hooray. She hopefully won’t be annoying as fuck.

8:50 They put me upstairs. I just saw the Afro Guy. We have a cockroach problem with the magazines…

9:55 Well they replaced that girl with a guy. I still have oh 6.5 hours…

9:56 I had no breakfast today. So I ate 2 of the mini candy canes they have out here for customers. They’re not gonna do anything.

3:32 Almost time to go. Had a friend for about 5 hours. We bonded, but we’ll never talk again.

 

Jets’n’Guns (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Rake In Grass || Overall: 9.0/10

Jets’n’Guns is a side-scrolling shooter, very similar to games like R-Type. Everything in the game, including its gameplay, graphics, music and nifty little innovations, make Jets’n’Guns one of the best space shooters I’ve ever played.

If you took World War II planes, equipped them with homing rockets, megaton bombs, and lots of other flashy weaponry and put them in outer space, you have Jets’n’Guns. This game is all about saving a professor named von Hamburger, and killing a huge force of Pirates (called the Xoxx), and occasional bug-type aliens (for about two levels), to save him.

Von Hamburger is more than just a scientist that makes a mean Teriyaki Hamburger. He helped the Xoxx’ Pirate leader/captain guy to create a huge cannon that has the potential to destroy the universe. Of course, it’s up to you to save the professor, kill the pirates, and kill the Pirate leader.

When you start out the game, you have a dinky little ship that has one gun on it. You don’t start out with much money to fool around with, as this is one ridiculously hard game. After losing about ten times on the normal difficulty setting, I set it down to the “easy” setting. Even though it was easier, it was still pretty damn hard.

Every level you progress to presents new challenges, different enemies, different areas, more weapons, and much more and as you advance, things get more frantic, forcing you to invest your money wisely. Luckily for the player, when we buy and then sell weapons back, we lose no money. This allows the player to experiment with weaponry and whether or not it’s better to buy a new weapon or upgrade an existing one. Once you get the better ship in the second level, you’re able to have three “front” weapons, one “bomb” weapon, one “missile” weapon, and one “rear” weapon. Jets’n’Guns is all about playing your cards right, and if you do so well enough, you’ll get through the game in good enough time and relative ease (unless you increase the difficulty).

When you actually play the game, you’re able to use your mouse or keyboard to control your jet. Until you upgrade your engine and wings, it will be much wiser to use the keyboard, as it will respond to your commands much better. The primary shooting button is the space bar, and will shoot all of your weapons except the bombs. Pressing the B key will unleash the weapon you have in your bombs slot to wreak havoc on those bastard pirates. The only thing that is confusing about these basic controls is that there is no tutorial of any kind to help you out with actually figuring out the basic controls. Later on, other keys are used (such as Shift, Z, and X) to utilize your other abilities.

Innovations that can be seen in this game come in a few ways.These are mostly put in affect when you buy special abilities. Purchasing an item called the “Rotary Cage” allows players to change the angle of your front weapons to shoot in about five different angles. This is very useful when enemies are at an angle and you otherwise can’t shoot at them. Another innovation comes with something called “RemCon.” During the game you can take control of special objects (like gates and trucks) and work them to your advantage. Most of the time, they’re done automatically, and you don’t have to do anything physically yourself except for being able to send your signal long enough to the particular object so you can hack into it and take control of it.

Graphics are nothing short of a spectacular light show you can enjoyably indulge yourself in. This game features some very polished off 3D animations, diverse weaponry, and hundreds of explosions every minute of play-time. Nothing in the game graphic-wise needs to be polished any more than it already is, as it shows that a lot of effort and creativity went into the process of making it. Especially for an independent company with a small budget, the graphics really impressed me. Even though they aren’t the absolute best in PC gaming nowadays, by any means, the graphics and enemy designs (which the game boasts to have more than 200 enemies) make this for one hell of an experience.

As if great gameplay, great graphics, and new innovations weren’t enough, a heavy metal band named Machinae Supremacy conducted the whole soundtrack. This makes for some really entertaining killing music as you mercilessly destroy hundreds of thousands of Pirates flying out of their spaceships after you blow it up, only to shoot them with your huge guns and have their blood and guts spray out across the screen. Each of the 21 levels have their own song, making for absolutely no redundancy in music choice, except when it came to the title screen, setup screen, and the game over screen. One mission that you invade a Pirate concert to kick some ass for no better reason other than because they were Pirates, the background music had vocals in it. It made it seem like you were at an actual concert.

The few faults this game actually has come with its story. The story itself is unimportant, as you could skip through it without any repercussions. Even though it was fleetingly interesting, it could have been better. Before each mission, you got a new set of “contacts” from which could be the annoying daughter of Von Hamburger, a six-eyed alien, or your general that seems to like to send you on solo missions all the time. If you ask me, there is no “force” of any type that the general has command over. You also get “bulletins” about convicts that can be turned in for a bounty. Another problem with the story came with the actual wording. Too often did I see simple words misspelled or grammar errors that could have been picked out by a fifth grader. However, where it loses ground in story definitely makes up for in random humor. I don’t know how they did it, but they made this game have at least one ridiculous joke per level, and weapon pictures as if they were advertisements in a magazine. You can get “25% off” on bombs or get a “free popular game” when you bought a plasma weapon. Through one of the levels I even saw a disk floating in the middle of ceiling, and next to it says “Universe Boot Up Disk – Use If Universe Needs to Be Rebooted” and integrated in the description, there was a Microsoft joke. It’s not that hard to find the random jokes, but they are easy to overlook. Even though the game is supposed to have at least some sort of seriousness to it, the random jokes don’t detract from this, as you will still feel inclined to kill as many stupid Pirates as you can. When you beat the game, you float through an asteroid field, similar to the ending of “The Neverending Story.” It’s hilarious, because you see the Crystal Palace floating in the background, and then you see the dog creature guy (his name escapes me at this moment) flying across the bottom of the screen with Bastian on his back.

Even though Jets’n’Guns is another game in a seemingly worn-out genre, it definitely breathes new life into side-scrolling-space-ship-shooting-an-endless-amount-of-oncoming-enemies type of games. The game becomes fairly addicting, as I have spent the past few days playing this until two o’clock in the morning because it’s that fun. When it comes to price I was actually surprised that it was only $19.95 (for download only) or $24.95 if you bought the CD to get shipped to your house (including download). I can think of equally priced games that are nowhere near as amazing as Jets’n’Guns, which is truly an enthralling experience.