How much Final Fantasy can one man handle?

Finally finished Dragon Warrior II. It was definitely an improvement over I. You finally get 2 other party members, and the story is slightly (and I mean slightly) more interesting. However, it still devolves into a grind-fest near the end. But I still mostly enjoyed it. Now I'm pretty excited about III. From what I've read, it sounds like an actual, real improvement over the previous 2. But, I doubt I'll actually play it for many months.

I just received my order from Amazon containing Final Fantasy I and II: Daen of Souls, and Final Fantasy VI for the GBA. I'm super excited about all 3 of these games. I'm leaving for Tokyo on Monday, and plan on seeing how far I can make it into FFI. The second game will be VI, and lastly I'll play number II. I'm doing I first because, well, it's the first game. I'm actually more excited about VI, but I know it's much longer and involved that I, so I'm waiting a little bit to play it. Anyway, I've got about a million things to do before Monday. Until next time...


Let's Enjoying Movies: The Deer Hunter

What can I, a newly arrived blogger, possible say about a classic film that hasn't been said already. The Deer Hunter is one of the big 4 Vietnam movies, at least in my opinion. The other 3 are Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and Full Metal Jacket. I knew a little bit about The Deer Hunter beforehand, but this movie proved to be nothing like what I expected. For some reason, I thought the movie focused on the character's lives almost completely AFTER their time in Vietnam. But really it has a pretty traditional 3-act structure: 1.) the setup of the relationships among the three main characters (this brilliantly shows their friendship), 2.) the pure hell they go through in Vietnam, and 3.) the effect this experience has on both themselves and their Pennsylvania hometown.

Some random good points: The Deer Hunter is intense. Russian roulette is an absolutely insane game. I can't even remember the last time a movie scene made me this nervous. At the time I watched this, I had forgotten that DeNiro had the brilliant (or crazy) idea to sometimes include a live round in the gun! Come on! Talk about dedication to your craft. Even though the gun was carefully checked, I would probably have pissed myself with fear! Christopher Walken won a well-deserved Oscar, which was of course before he went crazy and became a ridiculous parody of himself.

Finally, The Deer Hunter is further evidence that Robert DeNiro is one of the greatest actors, ever. He's just brilliant in this film. A true classic, The Deer Hunter definitely deserves a spot in your film library.

Verdict: BUY!!!


Dragon Quest I - Complete!

Alright! The grind-fest that is Dragon Quest I has finally been completed. It wasn't bad, but it definitely suffered from being one of the first big RPGs. The gameplay is just nowhere near perfected yet. It's basically a minimal, super simple story, with a ton of level-grinding. The grinding is made even more boring by the fact that there's only 1 character, and there's little strategy beyond simply attacking, casting Stopspell on mages, and healing when you're injured. Overall an ok game, but it is a good feeling to gain a level and suddenly be stronger than the group of enemies you were fighting.

At any rate, I moved on to Dragon Quest II. I haven't made it too far yet, just far enough to get the third and final member of my party. So far it's still similar to DQI, but improved in some ways. There is no longer a STAIRS command or a DOOR command. But there still is SEARCH. I can't wait to play a Dragon Quest game where you just press the A or B button to search in front of you, but I don't know when that is. I'm not trying to start a DQ blog, or steal Artadius' thunder over at Blogging DQ, but I'm just starting to really like this series. I was always a Final Fantasy fan myself. I'm glad I ran across Artadius' blog, or I may never have started playing these games.


What I'm Playing Now

My intent when I started this blog was to mostly be playing Twilight Princess. I've played and made it up to the 5th dungeon, but I have yet to go in and check it out. Hopefully I should finally get around to beating another dungeon next week. However, this is not to say I haven't been busy with other games.

Most of my time recently has probably gone into playing Dragon Warrior I. Why? Well, mostly I was inspired by Artadius over at Blogging Dragon Quest. I really enjoy reading that blog. I've always loved the Final Fantasy games, but had never played any of the Dragon Quest games. Finally, something clicked in my brain and convinced me to check them out. I'm nearly done with Dragon Quest I. It's quite boring, since it's mostly just a big level-up party. But it is quite addicting when you gain a level, and are suddenly stronger than the enemies in your current level-up spot. Can't wait for #2.

I've also made much more progress on Puzzle Quest. I don't know how close my druid is to the end, but it feels like it's nearly over. I also bought the Japanese version of Clubhouse Games for the DS. I love it, although I haven't been able to put much time into it yet. So far, I love spending a few minutes on Backgammon every now and then. I'll be back with another update next week.

****In other news, E3 is currently going on. Since there are a million updates on other websites, I don't really see a need to cover it. Except things that look really awesome. And that thing is: Metroid Prime 3! It's definitely going to be amazing.


Top 5 SNES Games I Missed as a Kid

I'm nearly 25 years old. I think I got a NES when I was around 7, so I have quite a few memories of the fun to be had with just a two button controller. But my heart will always belong to the SNES. I was a little older, and could therefore better appreciate what I was doing. Barely. I was still just an ignorant kid, so I inevitably made more terrible game choices than good ones. With that said, here are 5 SNES games I wish I had discovered when I was younger.

5. Earthbound. Quirky humor. A modern setting. And a supremely bizarre story. That's all I need. If I could only read Japanese, I could get all 3 Mother games (as they're named in Japan) on the GBA. But I don't. So I'll (hopefully) wait for a release on the Virtual Console.

4. Final Fantasy IV. Unique among the games on this list, I actually beat the GBA remake of this game about a year ago. I totally loved it. It's a classic SNES game, although I think I like Final Fantasy V a little better. But since I was completely oblivious to the original release, FFIV makes it on to my list.

3. Super Metroid. I just finished Metroid Fusion, which was much more linear than other Metroids, but still most satisfactory. I loved the reinvention of Metroid with Metroid Prime 1 and 2, and consider those to be two of the best Gamecube games. I also think Metroid Prime 3 will be one of the best games of the year of ANY system when it's released next month. But I missed every single one of the older Metroids. This game stands out as a classic that should be required playing for everyone, regardless of personal preferences. With the Virtual Console, I should be able to finally delve into this game in the not-too-distant future.

2. Chrono Trigger. This is a classic RPG that many gamers consider the "best game of all time." I've actually played maybe 1/3 of this game a few years ago. The last thing I remember is going back to 65 million B.C., or whatever year the prehistoric time period was called. What I have played of this game was simply amazing. I definitely want to finish it, and it fully deserves its place in the upper echelons of gaming. Hopefully, there will be a Virtual Console release or a port (like the Final Fantasies) that I can purchase, and finally finish this one-of-a-kind game.

1. Final Fantasy VI. Ahh. The other RPG that many gamers also hold up as the best of all time. I've never even played it. Well, to be fair, I've played a little bit of the beginning a few times, but that hardly counts. This game is still high on my list of "Games-To-Play," even 10 years after its release. With an epic story, a large and colorful cast of characters, and many RPG characteristics that have carried Square (now Square Enix) into the 21st century, how could I have been stupid enough to miss this game? I was just a stupid kid. Luckily, I've ordered the GBA remake and will finally play this classic game within the next couple of months.

Honorable Mentions: Actraiser (I've been hearing a lot about this game since it's release on the Virtual Console); Super Castlevania (see #3 above); and Secret of Mana (I played the infinitely disappointing Secret of Evermore instead).


Japan: Worthy F*cking Adversary

Welcome to the first of my (hopefully) regular columns about my trials and tribulations while living in Japan. I really love Japan, but just like living in any foreign place, I am often confused and disoriented. Sometimes it's as if Japan and I are in a never-ending battle, and I have yet to win a single victory. Even the simplest task in Japan can pose a monumental challenge, such as renting a movie.

Fact: I live in Japan. Fact: Japan always emerges victorious, leaving me confused and bewildered. Case in point: For quite some time, I had been wanting to rent Copland from my local rental shop, V&C (Video and CD, obviously). Last Saturday, they happened to make almost all rentals 100 Yen. Hooray! This was a perfect time to rent Copland for cheap. Before going further, it's important to note that I have yet to visit the V&C and NOT leave completely befuddled as to the price of my rentals. Therefore, I was surprised to be able to walk out of there with my 5 rentals for the price of...500 Yen! It's about time.

All seemed well. But the V&C still got me good in the end. I discovered the problem a few days when I tried to play Copland (it was a VHS tape). My first clue was that the voice over was in Japanese. "Well, that's OK. I could see them only dubbing the voice overs," I thought. First scene: Japanese language attack. The entire movie was dubbed in Japanese! This is the first time I've seen this here in a non-animated film. There were 2 copies at the store, with a barely noticeable difference in covers. My theory is that the other copy is subtitled. I'll check next time.

However, what really teases my paranoid brain is that the employee who checked me out might have KNOWN Copland was dubbed. She also knows that I can't speak much Japanese because I can rarely communicate with her, but she let me rent it anyway just to get under my skin. This is probably all self-delusion, but I like to pretend she pissed me off on purpose so I can be mad at someone other than myself. In the Japanese spirit, the only thing to do is try my best again next time.

Parallel Worlds: Is More Zelda Always a Good Thing?

In a comment on the Blogging Zelda blog, I found a little link to a hacked and completely redesigned version of Zelda: A Link to the Past, called Parallel Worlds. I've been bingeing on Zelda recently (completed 1, started 2, working on Twilight Princess), so this immediately caught my eye. The many contributors who helped put this fan development together have spent 4 or 5 years working on it. That's definitely commendable, and shows a true love of the game. Many of the graphics, as well as almost all of the overworld map and dungeons have been completely redesigned. And I've also read that the difficulty has been increased significantly over the original. It's so hard, some people have given up on the game before they've even acquired the sword.

But I've heard good and bad things about Parallel Worlds. On the one hand, I've heard it's lots of fun discovering what is, in essence, a whole new world. And that the difficulty is a welcome addition to a series that has been quite easy in recent releases. But, I've also heard complaints that the difficulty is due to ridiculous and over-powered enemy placements, very poor level and game design, and a terrible script/plot.

I haven't even played it yet, beyond making sure the game actually works. And I doubt I'll have time to get to it soon. Right now, Twilight Princess has taken priority. But as soon as I check it out for myself, I'll post my opinion. I loved the original Link to the Past. It's probably my favorite Zelda game, and I feel like I have it almost memorized. Hopefully, with that background, I'll be able to appreciate this fan-made version. Or it will be total shit and I'll hate it. We'll see.


Let's Enjoying Movies: A New Bond

Welcome to the first ever edition of "Let's Enjoying Movies," my semi-regular reviews of movies I've seen recently. For a brief explanation of my rating system, please see an earlier post. This time I've been thinking about Daniel Craig as the new James Bond in Casino Royale.

Casino Royale is an excellent change of pace from previous Bond films. I think I only saw one of Pierce Brosnan's outings, because I felt the Bond franchise was growing very stale and boring. As far as Daniel Craig is concerned, who cares if he's blond if he can pull off the role? True, he may not be the best-looking Bond (my favorite was always Connery), but he's certainly a tough son of a bitch in this film. Simply put, the new Bond is brutal. It feels like there's less over-the-top action and set pieces, but Bond dishes out and receives much more physical punishment than I could ever imagine.

The best thing about the new Bond is the mistakes he makes. He's not perfect by any means. This fits in perfectly with Casino Royale as Bond's origin story. We see his errors, and he even falls in love (which has only happened in one other Bond film to date). Best of all, this film shows Bond's transformation from regular MI6 agent to the methodical, heartless, let's-finish-the-job-no-matter-what 007 agent we've known for so many years. As implied by the title, a large portion of the film centers around a high stakes poker game, which surprisingly has some of the most tense moments in the entire film. The only thing I didn't like about this movie was the love story. I think the idea of Bond falling in love is fantastic. But I didn't really believe it in this case, and felt those scenes fell a little flat.

Overall, this is an intense, kick-ass movie. I hope they can keep the rest of Craig's time as Bond as fresh and exciting as this one.

Verdict: BUY!


My Movie Rating System

Tomorrow, I plan on adding the first of what I hope will be many short movie reviews. For the most part, these will not be of new releases, but I will instead write a review anytime after I see a movie. I was trying to think of how to rate these movies. Most reviewers use a number system, often 1-4 or 1-5. But I thought I would try something a little more different, and practical. So, here follows my 4-point rating scale.

  • Buy! --This is the highest rating. A Buy! movie means I feel it is worth owning. Most people buy way too many movies, and often never watch them more than once, if that. I try to be a bit more selective with the movies I buy. If I'm spending $20 or so on a DVD, I want it to be one I will watch over and over again. So, these are movies that are good enough to own, and watch at least once a year.
  • Ticket-Worthy --This is a movie that is not quite worth owning, but is still very good and worth seeing. In fact, this movie would be worth a trip to the theater, complete with expensive tickets and food, and possibly annoying crowds and screaming children.
  • Rent --A movie that's only worth a rental is just not that great. They're just average movies. They're only worth watching if you can see it cheaply or for free. This category also includes movies you might see for free on cable, or accidentally at a friend's house. Or, movies in this category may be worth while if you particularly like a certain genre, director, actor, or source material, regardless of what I think.
  • Avoid at All Costs --Pretty self-explanatory. These movies should not be watched under any circumstances. They are terrible, and an embarrassment to movies in general. Don't waste your time. Your time would be better spent drinking curdled milk, or perhaps trying to punch a hole through a concrete wall.

One final note: I'm usually pretty careful when I select movies to rent or see at a theater. I have a general idea of how I expect to feel about most movies before I see them. So there probably won't be too many low ratings. The few low ratings will likely come from movies I accidentally see.


Mark Your Calendars: October 1st, Time for some DS Zelda Action!

Over at Infendo.com, they just posted this little bit of news that Zelda:Phantom Hourglass is coming out in the US in only 3 months. Excellent.

Infendo | Zelda: Phantom Hourglass release date: October 1st: "Let the countdown begin! Nintendo has announced an October 1st North American release date for The Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. The game was a massive hit in Japan when it was release in June.

Are you excited for this portable adventure?"

That's Bush League!

Welcome to That's Bush League, where I criticize, vent, and rant about some aspect of a video game that is so annoying and stupid, it's in a league of its own: the Bush League.

Recently, inspired by Blogging Zelda, I've been playing some of the Zelda games. I'm currently working through the hell that is Zelda 2, the Japanese version. It's bad enough this game can be painfully difficult, but the Japanese developers only added to the punishment with an unforgiving save system. Unique among Zelda games, Link can earn experience points and level up 3 attributes: Attack, Magic, and Life (or Defense). You CAN level them up in any order, which is nice, and was cut from the American version. BUT, when you lose all your lives, you can almost see a sadistic smile on the face of the designers. If your 3 attributes are not even when you save, the game averages them out by ripping away your higher levels so that all 3 are the same. Why take away your levels? I have no idea. It's one of the stupidest ideas I've ever seen. At least this save system was changed for the American release.

For example, after beating the 1st boss, I had 3 Attack, 2 Magic, and 3 Life. I regrettably, I immediately wandered off the path in a desert, and lost my last life to a strange, erect "worm." After restarting, I found that this ridiculous system had reduced Link to 2 Attack, 2 Magic, and 2 LIfe!!! That's about 600 experience points' worth of levels! And, to piss me off even more, the boss stayed beaten and the first temple sealed, so I couldn't regain the experience from the stronger enemies in the temple.

Why design a system that inherently pisses off the player, brutally punishes exploration and carelessness, and takes away from the sense of adventure that pervaded Zelda 1? I don't know. Sometimes games just aren't fair. It's sort of like going to a job interview, giving perfect answers, but then losing the job because you accidentally farted on the way out. It sure does stink, but you just have to try again. You're better than that, Zelda 2. That's Bush League!


What I'm Playing Now

I'm always trying to work my way through several games at once, although I usually focus on one at the expense of the others. Here's what I'm trying to finish now.

Twilight Princess. I've been working on this game since I got my Wii in December. I thought it got off to a slow start, but now it's freaking awesome. By about February, I had made it throught the 4th dungeon, the desert one. I recently got back into it and am well on my to the 5th dungeon, so I should be nearing the halfway point. Man this game is huge. And I'm loving every minute of it.

Puzzle Quest. This game is so addicting, you'll find yourself in a pool of your own urine when your DS battery dies. I'm nearly done with my first playthrough as a druid. It gets a bit repetitive near the end, because with the right spells, I can keep casting them over and over, and the enemy gets very few turns. But still very fun.

Zelda II. Still pretty fun. But incredibly hard. Especially the Japanese version, which is what I have on the Virtual Console. I'll explain my anger about the Japanese version in a future post. This doesn't even really feel like Zelda.

Picross. A fun little puzzle game. Starts out easy but gets very hard on later levels. I have the Japanese version, but I think it's coming out in America soon.

That's what I'm playing at the moment. I have many more games on my shelf waiting to be completed. I always seem to buy games and not finish them. Hopefully I'll make some good progress on these games this week. What games are YOU playing right now?

My girlfriend's played this video a million times. It's Amazing!!!!