If you were a SuperHero, what would your power be?

Recently, I've started watching Heroes. What a freaking amazing show! Possibly, I mainly love it because I grew with comic books and super hero cartoons, because my girlfriend has absolutely NO interest in the show whatsoever. I heard the buzz about it last year on the Internet, but that was also during my first 3 or 4 months in Japan. So, that was a huge adjustment for me, and I had little access to American TV. Now, however, I can find and watch whatever I want. Anyway, I'm trying to quickly watch season 1 before the 2nd season starts in late September.

This show is awesome. People are slowly discovering they have super powers, and working out what they can do. There's also a mystery involving shady, powerful figures, a big conspiracy, and a serial killer that is apparently a super-super powerful villian. A round of bullets didn't stop him at all. As for powers, there's flying, physical invulnerability, passing through walls, reading minds, predicting the future, adopting the powers of nearby heroes, and some that are not yet fully explained. This show has all the mystery of Lost (and other similar shows), but Heroes already feels like it's answering some of the questions, instead of just wandering around aimlessly. The characters have a real purpose: save the cheerleader, save the world!

I love this show. The only downside so far is there is regular over-dramatic, bad, cliched acting. But that's just a small bump in the road. I particularly love the 2 Japanese characters. They're fantastic. Off to watch more Heroes...


Bioshock: The Art of Reviewing

A week or so ago, I read the review of BioShock on IGN. Most reviews I read seem to be churned out in a cookie-cutter fashion. But this BioShock review by Charles Onyett was one of those rare pieces that has stuck with me since it was published. The question I have to ask is, why?

Of extreme importance is that BioShock was so well-received at IGN. It scored a 9.7. A game that got an average, pathetic, or even just a very good score would surely not lead to such a memorable review. Furthermore, BioShock is one of those rare, 1st class, highly-anticipated original IPs that seems to actually be living up to its hype. It's received solid scores almost across the board.

And I think the IGN review is doing much more than simply heaping piles of hot, steaming praise on the developers of BioShock. They're calling attention to it as a rare example of where the games industry should be heading; towards more unique, innovative, original games and away from derivative sequels, spin-offs, and never-ending streams of the same old shitty games year after year. As Onyett says,

This game is a beacon. It's one of those monumental experiences you'll never forget, and the benchmark against which games for years to come will, and indeed must, be measured. This isn't merely an evolution of System Shock 2, but a wake-up call to the industry at large. Play this, and you'll see why you should demand something more from publishers and developers, more than all those derivative sequels forced down our throats year after year with only minor tweaks in their formulas. It's a shining example of how it's possible to bring together all elements of game design and succeed to the wildest degree.

Furthermore, I just finished reading IGN's Metroid Prime 3 review, which received a 9.5, barely lower than Bioshock. However, the review was identical in scope, and especially tone, to any number of other reviews. I think this could be due to a couple of reasons.
  1. MP3 was reviewed by someone different, Matt Casamassina, who probably has a completely different writing style from Onyett.
  2. More importantly, MP3 is the third part of a trilogy, and admittedly only brings a few new tweaks, features, and adjustments to the Metroid experience. On the other hand, BioShock is completely new, and relatively innovative. According to IGN, it's a giant leap forward in terms of what a gaming experience can (and should) be.
What is the point of this look at a game review that has stuck with me far longer than it should have? The point is that more game reviews should be this memorable and unique. Or, to put it more accurately, more games should be unique and innovative experiences that allow for reviews of the caliber of IGN's BioShock review. It's a shame that more games just aren't worthy of the praise that BioShock has received. And ironically, there's a good chance I'll never even play this game. I don't own a 360.


Let's Enjoying Movies: X-Men 3 - Where's Bryan Singer?

I'm a huge fan of superheroes, with my all time favorite being Spider-Man. However, a close second is the X-Men (and Batman). I loved the first X-Men film, and thought the second one was a nice step forward. They were really character-driven stories, with some great special effects and action scenes for all the comic nerds out there.

However, X3 just doesn't have that certain something that made that first two films seem so faithful to the X-Men universe. While there are some decent action scenes and set pieces in X3, they don't feel nearly as big or involving as those in the first two movies. Also, the pace is so brisk that character development is non-existent, and many characters seems to be struggling just to have more than a couple minutes of screen time.

But I wasn't disappointed. Primarily because my expectations were so low and I knew what to expect. But I'm a big enough fan of the series to want to see X3 regardless. I guess X3 just doesn't feel as cohesive and unified as the first two, and is much less compelling. However, I was pleasantly surprised that two main characters were killed in the first section of X3. Although, in a popcorn movie like this, I couldn't help wondering for the final hour whether or not they were truly dead. They were. Or rather, 1 definitely was. A short post-credit scene revealed that perhaps one of them was alive after all, although that definitely reduces the significance of his death. Otherwise, this was a rather bland, cut-and-paste superhero movie, with very little that hasn't been done already.

Verdict: Worth a Rent if you're an X-Men fan


Final Fantasy VI...Nearly Perfect For Me

Final Fantasy VI (Advance version) is an absolutely incredible game. I've almost finished the World of Balance, and am eagerly looking forward to the completion of this major plot point. (As you can tell, I happened upon a good bit of the plot prior to playing the game, by accident.) But there are a few small things that detract from the game for me.

The biggest thing is that I don't like how easy it is for every character to be able to learn every spell. In RPGs, I've always preferred having a party that has mostly different roles, abilities, and jobs. Granted, the characters in FFVI do each have a unique command slot in their menu, such as Edgar's tools, Sabin's blitzes, etc. That's a great part of the game. But it's starting to feel like every character is the same, especially as I start to use magic more and rely on those early skills less and less. Plus, with such a large number of magic spells available to every character, I often forget which characters have which spells. I somewhat remedied this in my playthrough by primarily using 1 or 2 characters as spellcasters, except in very unique situations. I like the unique commands, and the deep personalities of each character, but the Esper/magic system feels a little overwhelming.

In this regard, I much prefer FFV. Although every character can eventually master every job in V, the nature of the job system limits each charater to 2 ability slots, thereby forcing you to give the characters different roles in battle (unless you're attempting some sort of specialized challenge playthrough.) On the other hand, FFIVs characters were even more specialized, with no customization at all. Even FFVIIs materia system limited you somewhat, in the sense that a character could only equip as much materia/magic as they had slots available, rather than being able to potentially learn and cast any spell in the game at any given time.

However, despite this small issue, FFVI is a fantastic game, and I can easily see why millions of people defend it as the best RPG/game of all time. I'm playing through with the traditional, core party of Terra/Locke/Celes/Edgar. Because the game is good enough that I look forward to playing through it again with different characters, and trying to find every secret. One last note: Kefka is definitely one of the best villians ever created.


Scattered Thoughts After a Long Vacation

It's been quite a while since my last post. Vacation is over and I'm back to the dismal, boring, steaming hot days of sitting at my desk. On vacation I saw Tokyo (again), and Kyoto and Nara for the first time, which were simply beautiful and amazing.

In other news, pretty much all of my somewhat-limited video game time at the moment is going into the wonderfully charming and brilliant, Final Fantasy VI (Advance). I've heard about how great it was for years, but never fully believed its ardent supporters until now. I'm not too far in yet (maybe 10 hours or so), but I absolutely love it. Fantastic game. I'll most more of my thoughts on it soon.

I've also seen a few movies, but not too many. Ratatouille (or Remi's Delicious Restaurant as it's know in Japan) was charming and a very good animated film. However, I was more impressed by the incredible technical job the Pixar team did than anything else. On the whole, I enjoyed The Incredibles and Finding Nemo far more than this one. But it's still very enjoyable. What other movie has such an incredibly realistic looking rat as the main character?

Until next time. Which will hopefully be less than 3 weeks.