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    An Open Letter to Ellie and Joel

    By Softballchic10

    There are certain games that come along from time to time that really get your attention. It could be for the action, the graphics or game play. However, it is a rare occasion that a game grabs you for all of these, plus the amazing experience of becoming emotionally attached and involved in the actions of characters. It is to this that I write this open letter to Ellie and Joel. I met them in the “The Last of Us.” *(Please note that I've tried to write this to contain no spoilers. Personality of the characters is mentioned as well as reference to generic type actions that happen in game.) Dear Ellie and Joel, I want to thank you for letting me join you on one of the most amazing adventures of my life. I know the journey was long and brutal. There is never a reason a death should be simple or a casual thing. But a person has every right to fight for their own right to live. It is to that I acknowledge and understand why at times death followed in your footsteps. Know that I don't blame you, nor do I condemn you for it. Joel, you said yourself along the way “It was him or me.” Simply stated, but true to fact. We all wish that we could walk again in relative harmony the way we once did. That time may come again, but not now. Not now. Joel, at times you were a hard man for me to like, but you had your own personal reasons, your own demons that you fought every day. But even when I disagreed with your words, your actions always spoke louder and with greater heart. There were moments when you were an enigma to me. You could be harsh and bitter one moment, protective and wise at another. As I think on it, I believe it is because the man that knew a world before everything went to hell is still there inside you, wrestling the man you have had to become to survive. Ellie, you are an amazing young woman. I refuse to acknowledge you as a girl as most people do. Yes, there are times when you were goofy, silly and playful. But those are wonderful traits to carry on, even as you get older. It was refreshing to watch as you, for the first time, saw the world as it used to be, even if it was only in shattered pieces. Your wonder was childlike, not childish, and full of amazement and wonder. I smile now thinking about some of those moments. But that is only part of who you are. You are also fierce, tough, loyal and caring. These traits to me and your actions when times were tough are what shaped you into the young woman I have come to know. You have such strength of character. It didn't matter if it was Hunters, the army or Infected, you always were there, looking out and helping out. You never ran away from danger when you could have given up. Your determination to see every situation though, no matter for good or bad, it is inspiring. We adults could learn so much from you, if we only would accept the fact that sometimes the best of what we are lies in the hearts of people like you, not warped and changed by a world gone sideways. A final thought before I close this letter to both of you. Joel, I know the world as it is now has forced you to build up walls around you. It would be almost impossible to survive as long as you have without such things happening to the best of us. I hope that you find, however, that letting a little light in, be it found in people or in something else that makes you happy, there is still good in the world and the good man that you’ve buried inside you deserves to see and enjoy it. Ellie, I firmly believe that you will never give up. The world may be violent and brutal but its people like you who give us hope that we can be better then what we've become. Whatever happens though, don't ever lose that since of amazement that you get from seeing things for the first time. I hope you always have a joke and a ready smile. Oh, and one more thing. Don't trust people that do acupuncture, they're back stabbers. I know you'll understand. Once again, thank you for letting me come along on your adventure. It wasn't easy and I hate some of the things we had to do. But since we had no choice, I'm glad we went through it together. Godspeed to both of you.
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Video Game Review: Final Fantasy III (DS)

Final Fantasy III had never gotten an official US release prior to the release of the DS remake of the game. The Famicom version had received an unofficial fan-translation, but there was no way to play it legally, until the DS release of the game. Even the somewhat controversial sophomore outing of the series had gotten by that point two updated remakes, for the Playstation as part of the Final Fantasy Origins collection, and for the GBA as part of Dawn of Souls. Final Fantasy III for the Famicom (as opposed to VI – which was released as III in North America) was the title that introduced the Job system as we know it (with the ability to change jobs almost on the fly), to the Final Fantasy series. The original Final Fantasy had a class system, with the characters upgrading to a more advanced class halfway through the game. However, in the original game, once you chose your class, you were fixed on that path for the whole game. With III, after you unlock a batch of classes, you can change your classes to any available class after that point. This is great, as it gives you an opportunity to change your builds based on what equipment you have at your disposal, what opponents you’re going up against, and what abilities do you need for the dungeons you face. Narratively, the game expands some on the story from the original game, with more narrative cutscenes expanding the game’s story and building up the supporting cast, and giving a personality to the members of your party, who would normally be just a batch of blank slates. Graphically, the game eschews using high-resolution sprites, as were used in the Playstation re-releases of the 8-bit and 16-bit Final Fantasy titles, and the PSP remakes of Final Fantasy I and II. Instead, like with the DS release of Final Fantasy IV, the game uses polygonal sprites and gameplay environments. However, from a gameplay standpoint, the shift from a console to a handheld isn’t quite optimized. While the game introduces some quality of life features for the a handheld version – like a single slot quicksave for use in case of a dying battery – there are innovations from other titles in the series where the game would benefit from their inclusion. Tents are completely absent (in spite of being present in the first two games, and almost every subsequent title). There are also no pre-boss or mid-dungeon save points, as was used in the 16-bit titles. For most of the game, this isn’t particularly an issue, as I didn’t have any issues getting through most of the dungeons in about 30-to-45 minutes. And then there’s the last dungeon. The last dungeon is about 3 hours long, if you know where you’re going, and don’t get screwed on random encounters or get lost. It also has at about 6 boss fights, and several long cutscenes. Once you get through those and reach the final boss fight, if you die, you have to start that entire dungeon all over again to find out if you were under-leveled, your strategy for the final boss was off, or if the RNG gods just didn’t like you that day. If you’re sitting down at a console, this isn’t as much of an issue, because you’ve basically blocked out a chunk of time to replay it, so this could basically be your next play session. If you’re on an emulator (or using an emulation based console like the Retron 5), you have save-states. However, handheld gaming generally gets broken into chunks – on the bus or train to and from work, in the waiting room at a doctor’s appointment, and so on. Having the final dungeon be that long, without any real way to break it into chunks causes some very real issues. Other than that, the game plays very well, and I found it really fun to play. However, “Skip the last dungeon, find a Let’s Play on YouTube and watch that” is not something I feel like I should be saying about a game that gets a recommendation. In short, this game does not respect your time. Also, the box art for the US version of the game is incredibly bland, compared to the European version, which looks beautiful. Should you decide to get the game anyway, it’s available from Amazon.com
Filed under: Video games Tagged: Final Fantasy, Nintendo DS, Video games

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Anime Review: Dallos

Dallos is an anime that reminds me a lot of what got me into anime in the first place. I came into anime as a fan of science fiction and fantasy, and I came in through OVAs and films like Akira, Demon City Shinjuku, Ghost in the Shell, and Record of Lodoss War. So, when I found out that Dallos, an anime considered to be the first OVA (or one of the first alongside the Cream Lemon series), and which was directed by Mamoru Oshii (who also directed Ghost in the Shell and Angel’s Egg – which I’ve previously reviewed), had been licensed by Discotek Media, and later made available for streaming on Crunchyroll, I put it on my to-watch list. As far as the premise of Dallos goes, it borrows a little bit from the concept of Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, in particular the book’s first act. The anime is set on The Moon. As with Heinlein’s novel, the moon has been built as a colony to provide needed materials (ore and other raw materials) to Earth. However, in Heinlein’s book, the moon’s colonists were political dissidents and prisoners, while in the original colonists were workers who chose to work to build the lunar colony, with the agreement that they would settle there. The protagonist of the series, Shun Nonomura, is a third generation inhabitant of the colony or “Lunarian”. While the first two generations have a distinct sense of loyalty to Earth – the first generations having gone to the Moon to work for the betterment of Earth, and the second generation having inherited their parents sense of obligation – the third generation Lunarians don’t have the same sense of obligation. They have never seen Earth – indeed, the colony is on the dark side of the moon, and the Lunarians are forbidden to travel to the moon’s near side so they could see the Earth. The main unified belief among the three generations is a reverence to “Dallos” a mysterious giant head, built with incredibly advanced technology, that was uncovered during the development of the colony. The lack of personal experience of Earth or ability to travel to Earth, combined with the poor treatment of the colonists by the administration, has lead to a revolutionary movement in the settlement, and this leads to the focus of the story, as Shun and his childhood friend Rachel, are caught up in the separatist movement lead by Dog McCoy, which is contending with counterinsurgency efforts by the civil administrator, Alex Leiger. The first half of the anime borrows a lot from films like Battle of Algiers, as it follows the efforts of the revolutionaries as things escalate further and further, and Shun is brought more and more involved, before the last two episodes in the series bring things into open revolt and almost into something resembling a real-robot anime. I can’t really review this show without getting into the ending. The ending of the series feels like the end of an act break, as opposed to an actual satisfactory conclusion. There has been a narrative arc, with rising action to a climax, and then some denouement, with characters being in different places than they were at the start of the series. However, it doesn’t really have any resolution. The moon is still under the thumb of Earth (and things are about to get worse), and in spite of Dallos itself becoming a major part of the conflict which changes things dramatically in the series final part, not only do we not know what Dallos is, no-one is taking this as an incentive to make a more concerted effort to find out what Dallos is. It feels like this show was pitched as a 12 episode OVA, and early in production they decided to make it a 4 episode series instead, and if it did really well, it would get another 4 episodes, but it never did quite well enough to get those final parts. Unfortunately, co-writer Hisayuki Toriumi passed away in 2009, so I don’t know if we’ll really get a resolution to this story. If you’re planning on picking this up, Dallos is available from Amazon and RightStuf.
Filed under: Anime

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Vlog: E3 2017 Sold & Unsold

This time I’m doing a one-month belated-due-to-technical difficulties Vlog ( Vlog because I don’t want to get clobbered under ContentID) of my thoughts on the 5 things I was sold and unsold on from this last E3. Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/
Filed under: Video games Tagged: E3 2017, vlog

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Documentary Review: Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution

It’s been a while since I did a review of a music documentary – the last one that comes immediately to mind is a documentary review on the career of Pink Floyd. Well, this year is the year that the Beatles concept album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band has it’s 50th anniversary, and the BBC did a documentary on the album, which also broadcast on PBS, which is where I saw it. In broad strokes, the documentary goes briefly into where The Beatles career was before the album came out, before getting into the album itself, both in terms of the mechanics of how the album was put together, and the artistic influences of the album. In particular – this is the first album the Beatles put out after they stopped doing live performances. They had experimented with the process of building an album in the studio before (in Rubber Soul), and other performers and producers had been inspired by that (as with Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys and Pet Sounds). However, the thesis that the show puts forward is that Sgt. Pepper was meant to be an album that would basically justify to their fans the end of The Beatles touring – you’re going to get an album that could never be replicated live – and it’ll be worth it. The documentary from there goes more or less track-by-track through the album, with only “Fixing a Hole” being omitted from discussion, and the title track and “Lovely Rita” getting the shortest discussion time. The documentary goes in depth on the influences (getting song concepts from newspaper articles and – in the case of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” a Victorian Circus poster) and the details of how the album was put together, especially considering the recording technology of the time. Unlike most music documentaries, the presenter – Howard Goodall, is on camera for a large portion of the documentary, and as he has some musical talent himself, he uses that to illustrate particular points of the album – breaking down several musical parts into their relevant tracks, and how they overlap to get the final result. We don’t get any new interview footage with the surviving Beatles. Instead, their voices are present either through archival interview footage or through audio from the studio recording sessions. Probably the most interesting part of the documentary is a discussion of the song “Within You, Without You”, where the documentary delves into Ravi Shankar’s earlier career, George Harrison’s time with Shankar, and how the track merges Western song structure with traditional Indian instrumentation, complete with studio audio of Harrison talking with the Indian musicians as the track was laid down. The documentary makes for a really interesting portrait of the Beatles creative process, and how albums were put together in the late ’70s, making for a spectacular documentary – especially for those interested in music history, not only people who are interested in the Beatles. The documentary has yet to receive a physical release. Until then, should it come up on reruns on your local PBS station (which you should totally support), or on the BBC (for any UK readers), you should definitely check it out.
Filed under: film, music Tagged: Documentary, music, pbs, The Beatles

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Book Review: Log Horizon Book 2 – The Knights of Camelot

When I reviewed the first Log Horizon book, I mentioned that were a few plot concepts that were set up in the next book in the series – a general malaise filling Akiba, along with the state of food in the world – and in turn a new discovery by Nyanta related to that. With the second installment of the series, the book dives further into that, and shifts genres somewhat. In the previous book, we learned that while living in the world of a MMO – the titular game “Log Horizon” has it’s perks – you can’t die, you’re living in a land of fantasy adventure with phenomenal powers, there’s a lot of things that suck. For starters, the food – all of the food, tastes like ash. That’s not a misspelling of “ass” – food simply doesn’t taste like anything. Further, the fact that the game is no longer really a game has put a crimp on things as well, with various bad actors causing problems throughout Akiba – though nowhere as bad as they were in the North in the last book. So, Shiroe, Nyanta, Akatsuki, and Naotsugu have to work together with several of the other guilds to put together a plan to save Akiba – a plan that (without getting into spoilers) based on the fact Nyanta has discovered how to make food taste like food, and which requires a lot of money, and will require the unity of the majority of Akiba’s guilds. The narrative is great, with author Mamare Touno, who also wrote Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, doing a great job of building up the economics of this world. After the last volume was a conventional adventure story, this gets into more of his traditional fare of a (for lack of a better term) a fantasy economic thriller. This arc generally played out the same way that it did in the anime, though the anime tells the story in a much more compressed fashion than the book does. Also, some of the character traits in the book are much more exaggerated in the anime. For example, Naotsugu makes less risque jokes, Henrietta’s obsession with Akatsuki is less creepy, and so on. As with any good light novel, it also tells a mostly self-contained story, with a few hooks set up for future works: we learn that the People of the Land – the NPCs – are now self-aware and sentient, Shiroe has started his own guild (the titular Log Horizon), and we learn a little information about the group that Shiroe and Naotsugu were part of – the “Debauchery Tea Party”. And there are still some lingering mysteries that the series can get into: How did the players get caught in this world, why were they brought here, and how can they get back. Log Horizon Book 2 is available from Amazon.com & RightStuf.
Filed under: Books Tagged: Books, fantasy, light novels, Log Horizon

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Legends of the Force: Episode X – Tales of the Jedi Part I

This time we travel into the ancient past of the Star Wars universe with Tales of the Jedi. Opening Credits: Star Wars Theme from Super Star Wars on the SNES.
Closing Credits: Chiptune Cantina Band from Chiptune Inc.
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope footage property of Lucasfilm Ltd., a division of the Walt Disney Corporation. Used under Fair Use. Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/
Filed under: comics, Star Wars Tagged: comics, Dark Horse Comics, Star Wars, Star Wars Expanded Universe

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Book Review: Deities and Demigods (1980)

Probably one of the first sourcebooks put out for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was Deities and Demigods, a book with a collection of beings that would provide something for your Cleric to be, well, a cleric of. However, it doesn’t really hold up very well, particularly compared to later deity books for later editions of AD&D and D&D. The problem with the book lies with the fact that the book is very much at odds with itself. The first chapter or so of the book talks about the nature of deities, how they can be used in game, and admonitions about using the book as a de-facto monster manual to sic your players on. And then, unfortunately, the rest of the book’s descriptions of gods are written up in the same format as the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio, with the deities written up using the same stat blocks, and descriptions focused entirely on physical appearance and their battle tactics. This is a shame, because later editions of AD&D and D&D would get much more in depth of what effects deities have on player characters, in terms of their agendas, and in terms of what it means to worship them. We don’t get information on in what ways gods prefer to be worshiped (and how frequently). If my cleric of Tyr prays to his deity before every battle, will that actually get his favor (which will help my party in battle), or will that annoy the crap out of him – or is praying before every battle the default state and I will be penalized if I don’t seek his favor? By comparison, later editions of D&D put a lot less focus on the idea of the Heavens (and Hells) as the ultimate epic level dungeons, and instead put more focus on the hows and whys of worship – why would you be a cleric of this god, and how do you show reverence to this being? In particular how do you properly worship this deity in a manner that fits with the adventurer’s lifestyle? This is especially the case with the introduction of spell spheres in AD&D 2nd edition – a little bit of added crunch that tags spells with keywords that in turn are attached to various deities. Clerics who worship a particular deity get (depending on the edition and GM) a spell list related to those spheres that you are either limited to or which provided additional spells you can choose from. The 1st Edition version of Deities and Demigods, on the other hand, leaves players with significantly more grunt work to do… so much more grunt work that you’re almost better off not picking up a copy of the book and instead just researching the pantheon you want to incorporate in the game. If you want to pick up the book, the revised edition (which excises the Cthulhu and Melnibonean mythoi) is available from DriveThruRPG and the Dungeons Masters’ Guild.
Filed under: Role Playing Games Tagged: AD&D, book review, Dungeons & Dragons, Role Playing Games

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Movie Review: The Legend of Hell House

I enjoy a good haunted house film – like Poltergeist and the Woman in Black. When this film, adapting a novel by Richard Matheson which was in turn inspired by a Shirley Jackson novel, came up on my radar.  The plot is pretty basic. An eccentric millionaire, Mr. Deutsch (Mr. German – cute), hires a selection of people with various talents to investigate a haunted house that has come into his possession, but not just any haunted house, but the ostensible “Mount Everest of Haunted Houses” – The Belasco house. The previous owner, Emeric Belasco, called “The Roaring Giant” reportedly held orgies and engaged in various other forms of debauchery before his mysterious disappearance following the deaths of everyone else in the house. A previous attempt to investigate the house in 1950 resulted in the entirety of the team being either killed or driven mad, with the exception of the team’s physical medium – Ben Fisher (Roddy McDowell). Deutsch has roped Fischer into returning to the house, along with Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin), a Spiritual medium, and physicist and parapsychologist Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill). Barrett’s wife, Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), has also chosen to come along with her husband. As they investigate the house and attempt to get to the bottom of the haunting, and to hopefully “cleanse” the house, the ghost – or ghosts – within the house begin to fight back through various means. The film has an incredible (though very small) cast, with Revill, McDowell, and Franklin at the forefront. With the cast being so very small – effectively just four people, it’s important for the cast to have strong chemistry – which they do. Their performances do a remarkable job of overcoming some of the film’s other issues, especially related to effects. McDowell’s performance is particularly great – as a person who was incredibly traumatized by his experience in the last expedition, who doesn’t want to be here because he knows exactly what this house is capable of. Similarly Franklin does an excellent job putting forward Tanner as a character who is involved in this (as she’s also a minister) because she’s legitimately concerned about the souls involved in a haunting, and wants to help them pass on. That said, having seen Poltergeist and The Woman in Black, I have to say that this film has one tremendously fatal flaw – it’s just too well lit. It’s not that there aren’t scenes in shadow – there are, it’s that far too often the haunting takes place in a well lit room. This can work if you’re confident that of your haunting look good in clear lighting. Unfortunately, a lot of the effects of the poltergeist are basically stuff being thrown at the main characters from off camera which, due to the framing, lighting, and some of the continuity, makes the effects a little rough. Also, while this film has a balance between male and female members of the cast, the female characters are not treated well. Both female characters, over the course of the film, are sexually assaulted by the ghost. One is compelled to sexually come on to one of the other investigators, and another is raped as an avenue for a partial possession. A possession that, I should note, predates the release of The Exorcist. So, keep that in mind going into the film. I still thought the film was good, but it didn’t exactly scare the pants off me the way The Woman in Black did. The Legend of Hell House is available on Amazon.com on Blu-Ray and on Amazon Video.
Filed under: film Tagged: film, Film Review, Horror film

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

The fragile ego of the magazine scanner

Someone wiser than me once said, "never blog when you're drunk."  But this isn't a blog, so I'm exempt from that advice thank god. I just wanted to put this out there now, while I'm too impaired to be concerned with how insecure and needy it makes me look.  Scanning a magazine is hard work.  Because it isn't just scanning, it it?  First you've got to de-bind the mag.  Then comes scanning.  And after that, the most time intensive process of them all - editing.  Depending on the length of the mag, you're looking at a total of 3-6 hours of work, most likely.  And did I mention that the mag is destroyed and ultimately trashed in the process?  The magazine scanner gains absolutely nothing from the process of scanning - they only lose.  It's nothing but sacrifice - both of invaluable time and of the magazine itself, which is lost in the process of making a scan available to the rest of the Internet, free of charge. Why then do we do it?  Good lord, if only we had a nickel for every time we asked that of ourselves... The truth is, there is NO GOOD GOD DAMNED REASON.  Except vanity. The reason we scan is because it makes us feel good that someone out there appreciates our efforts.  If I uploaded a meticulously scanned and edited mag and no one downloaded it, you can be sure that I'd think twice before ever doing that again.  The more downloads our mags receive, the more we feel vindicated for having wasting hours upon hours of our time and destroyed part of our collection. But downloads aren't enough.  A download without comment is just an anonymous leech.  There's no telling if that person appreciated the mag - they certainly didn't appreciate it enough to say so.  I don't expect or even hope for an actual written comment from everyone who downloads a mag I've scanned, but there is a conveniently placed "like this" button that only takes a second to click.  There is simply no excuse to NOT click that button when you download a mag, unless either you are unhappy with the scan's quality, or else you're an ungrateful leeching asshole.  Seriously, it's just a button.  CLICK IT.  Jesus christ...I "like" releases that I don't even download, just because I'm grateful to whoever scanned the mag for putting in the effort. It seems like a small thing, but it isn't.  Maybe not everyone is as needy as me.  But I doubt it.  We've had scanners go so far as to thank themselves in their new release posts, simply because if they didn't, no one else would.  That just isn't right. If you're frequenting this website, chances are you like downloading scans of old gaming mags.  If you'd like to KEEP doing so, the next time you download a mag, do yourself a favor: There, was that so hard?

kitsunebi77

kitsunebi77

 

Video Game (Vlog) Review: Dragon Quest IV – Chapters of the Chosen

This time I’m doing a Vlog-style review of the fourth Dragon Quest game, and the first of the older titles to get re-released on the DS in the US. Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/
Filed under: Video games, videos Tagged: Dragon Quest, Nintendo DS, Video games, video review

Count_Zero

Count_Zero