Was there a point?

That last post got very scattered, yes, I know. There was a point I had intended to make in there when I started writing, and it all got buried. That point was – while I was talking about the quality of the speakers in the Nintendo DS – I was struck by one instance in particular.

I’m still playing Etrian Odyssey II – Heroes of Lagaard. As you know, I’ve typified it as an old school dungeon crawl (which I lurvs), where the lower screen is used to map the dungeon as you travel through it. In this particular labyrinth, you start at the bottom and work your way up, and it has become so overgrown that it is a forest into and of itself – no stone walls or caverns. Seasons seem to change with every five levels or so, and when I got to the third stratum, where it is perpetual winter, there it was, captured with perfect fidelity, one of my favorite sounds in the world: the sound of boots crunching in snow.

Yeah, yeah, I know, you folks in the more Northern climes, like my pal Ken Begg in Chicago, are doubtless sick to freakin’ death of the sound, but as a lifelong Texan, it remains quite exotic to me. I seem to make it to Chicago every two years or so to visit snow (and Ken and B-Fest), and on the rare occasion that snow does not coat the ground… man, I miss that sound.

And since we are speaking of Etrian Odyssey II and my time-wasting activities: I finally got past the twin bosses that were giving me so much grief and continued to advance into the game. At this point, I am starting to mess with the makeup of my party, so here comes some gaming geek stuff. If you’re not interested, well, there’s some links over to the right. See ya later.

Lagaard allows a party of up to five characters, and by and large I’ve been pretty traditional in the makeup. There’s a jack-of-all trades warrior (called a “Landsknecht” here), a tank – high hit points, high defense, decent damage (called a Protector), a “War Magus”, so-so damage but some great healing and buffing magic, a dedicated healer called a Medic (fancy that) and a Gunner. Yes, a character with a gun in a fantasy game. It happens all the time. And once you start leveling a Gunner’s attacks, that character starts kicking ass without bothering to take names.

I’ve been using the War Magus as a backup healer, but that’s really only utilizing half his potential, as many of his special attacks do extra damage to targets that another character has placed a status effect upon – a monster that has been stunned, or had Sleep or Fear cast upon it.

What this means is I should be leveling up a Hexer… a character whose sole function is to cast Curses upon opponents. Yet, so far, I am not. (Though if the Hexers attacked with canes, and were called Curmudgeons, nothing would stop me from fielding a party of five of them)

Minor digression: Lagaard has some attacks, both on the player and opponent side, that “bind” various portions of the target’s body. A Bind on the head lessens accuracy and damage. A bind on the arms prevents the fancier, higher-damage-dealing attacks and magic. Bind the legs, there is no escaping (and that’s card I’ve had to play several times).

Minor digression 2: After a certain number of battles, each character is able to perform a Force Skill. If you’ve played Final Fantasy, you’ll recognize it as a Limit Break. A devastating attack that costs no points to perform. For the Gunner, it’s a Riot Gun, for the Landsknecht it’s All Out, which deals heavy damage to every target onscreen.

Now that you have that information, I can try to tell you about what is distracting me from that Hexer I seem to think I need. Cuz I’m leveling a Dark Hunter.

From the website:

“The Dark Hunters of High Lagaard are similar to those found in Etria; they can still work with either whip or sword to focus on bindings or status ailments, respectively. The key difference comes in their ability to set potentially deadly traps: in High Legaard, Dark Hunters can react to either physical or magical attacks, no matter what weapon they use.”

But wait, there’s more.

Force Skill: Bondage
Using every binding technique at its disposal, the Dark Hunter will bind an enemy’s head, arms and legs, rendering it completely incapable of acting in battle.”

Attacks that bind the opponents legs, arm and head, individually? They are called Shackles, Cuffs, and Gag. Higher attacks in the tier are named Climax and Ecstasy.

I’m leveling up a dominatrix.

The game supplies four possible portraits for each character, but I think this one says it all.

Did I mention this game is rated E – 10+ ?

I guess this may be the “Suggestive themes” alluded to in the ratings box….

God, I love Atlus Games!

EDIT: Now that I’ve gotten a chance to use it, the Dark Hunter’s Force Skill in-game is called “Dominate”, not “Bondage”, as it says on the site. I’m not sure if that’s more or less explicit…

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Now playing: Haggard – Larghetto / Epilogo Adagio
via FoxyTunes

Bodies Electric

As everybody knows, I remain perpetually behind the curve. For instance, perhaps by this time next year, I will have finally seen The Dark Knight.

Which is why I am here to proclaim my love for the Nintendo DS.

Before I bought a used one a little over a month ago, I’d had very little time with one, but I distinctly recall reading the pre-release stuff and thinking, “Two screens. Huh.” And also recalling any number of NES peripherals that went unsupported and wound up on the Toys’R’Us clearance aisle. The Powerglove still looked cool, though. And dig that proto-Wii gameplay:

Time has, of course, proven me wrong, especially if the number of DS Lites I saw being pulled out while people were waiting in line at Disneyworld. Lots of kids, sure, but several adults, too.

The most remarkable thing to me – besides the actual utility of two screens – is the quality of the speakers on this dang thing. Little, tiny thin things, and they sound fabulous. At least one writer called them “surround sound”, and I scoffed… but the dimensionality of the sound coming from these things is awesome.

I picked up an affordable used copy of Final Fantasy III (the one that had gone untranslated for many years, for those keeping score). Uematsu’s music sounds very rich, even coming off a tiny chip. There are some things about modern times I wholeheartedly endorse.

Etrian Odyssey has gone by the wayside for the moment. There was sort of a story in there, but only released in small, puzzling droplets. SquarEnix excels at sort of thing, so I’ve been engrossed in FFIII’s story quite happily.

Also: when Etrian would eventually serve up a boss that ate my lunch, I would go out and grind levels until I was strong enough to take it on. In Etrian, I would think in terms of 10 levels or so. Final Fantasy, generally one is sufficient.

Viewing wise: Watched the first disc of The Wild, Wild West, Season One, and you can’t go home again. Love the steampunk spy gadgets, adore Michael Dunn as Dr. Loveless… but twice in two episodes we’ve seen Jim West turn women from the dark side by simply being Jim West and having smoldering good looks, thereby saving the day. I find I didn’t buy it with James Bond and Pussy Galore, either.

Hadn’t seen The Battle of the Bulge in many years, either, so thank you, Netflix. I liked it, but it still doesn’t beat Tora! Tora! Tora!, in my book. Though TTT seems equally crowded, it had a marvelous, semi-documentary feel. Bulge has a lot of extraneous material that could have been cut with no detriment to the story, and I really have my doubts about that final battle at the fuel depot. Still, good stuff, and it is wonderful to see the Cinerama moments, comparable to the roller coaster sequence in This is Cinerama, which did not translate at all during my first viewing on network TV, in pan-and scan. Blech.

Lastly, saw the first disc of the new version of The Andromeda Strain, which was one of my favorite movies because the science fiction is so darn hard. I had my doubts about this, as the travails of the scientists working inside the underground bunker of Project Wildfire has taken a back seat to thoroughly modern tropes like competing agendas of various government agencies (including the Office of Homeland Security, an unthinkable concept when Crichton first wrote Strain), a cocaine-addicted investigative reporter, and ground-level views of the unfolding effects of Andromeda. Taking the story largely out of the bunker has limited the pressure-cooker race against time feeling the original movie possessed, but darned if it ain’t still compelling viewing.

Blog, Monkey, BLOG!

Well, there’s not much else going on with my life right now, so I might as well.

The job search continues. Much as I’d like to say I’m looking for work 24/7, that’s just not possible, or maybe even sane. I’m starting to get “You have already applied for this position” messages, not to mention entrepreneurial spam in my inbox.

Not having to get up at the crack of dawn has some benefits. I’ve returned to my movie-before-bedtime habit of yore. This does not, alas, mean I’ve watched anything new or exciting. No, it means I’ve revisited some time-consuming stuff I’ve been meaning to for ages. Just finished up the extended versions of the Peter Jackson-directed Lord of the Rings last night. My lord, but Return of the King is a loooong movie. Still loved it.

Viewing them in the course of three days was enlightening. I picked up on a lot of stuff I could not have in a theater, each a year apart, or on DVD, released on pretty much the same schedule. Awesome stuff. Sadly, it also reminds me of how much I wanted to love Jackson’s version of King Kong, but could not. Maybe it’s time to revisit that, as well. But not tonight. Tonight… well, it’s been too damn long since I last watched The Seven Samurai.

In other time-wasting news: Back when I thought everything was hunky-dory, I bought myself a used Nintendo DS. Used, for the price, and not refurbished, because only the DS Lite was available refurbished (and at a price only $20 lower than a new DS Lite, at that). I prefer the size and heft of the original unit.

I had gotten to play a bit on a DS back when I bought one for my son for his birthday, back during the original launch. He’s been through two to date. He keeps losing/getting them stolen, so he and his hoodlum friends are coming nowhere near this one.

The purchase was spurred by one game, which got a mention in the Penny Arcade blog, called Etrian Odyssey II. First person dungeon crawl on the top screen, and virtual graph paper on the bottom screen so you can draw your own fucking map. One forum post said, “Looks okay if you like old school.” Well, it’s absolutely perfect if you are old school.

Turn-based combat, which I prefer. Another complains that you don’t get to see your party. Again old school. Given that your party portraits are mainly anime-style urchins, I find this a blessing.

Since it’s going to be a while before I can afford the DS port of Final Fantasy IV, this is a fine substitute, and I’m really enjoying it.

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Now playing: 20 – The Little Boy Blues – Mr Tripp wouldn’t listen
via FoxyTunes

Ladies and Gentlemen…

To get your gaming geek teh awsum on, you can do far, far worse than checking out Monty Oum’s new animation over at Game Trailers.

Thanks to Penny Arcade for pointing this one out, since it is, as I mentioned, teh awsum.

W00t Redux

DING! Level 50!

Now gimme my damn squid.

W00t.

Ah, it has been a rare 24 hours. Firstly, before hitting the sack last night, my main character in City of Heroes hit level 49. That means nothing to most of you (i.e., the sane people), but the level cap in the game is 50 – once you hit fifty, you can go no further, but you do gain the ability to create a new character – a human/alien fusion with special powers. Gee, it only took me a year – and twenty-five characters – to reach this point.

Then I wake up this morning to find that Tom DeLay has retired from politics. My word! It seems I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to vote him out of office, and now he is scampering quietly into the night. Man. Now who will I be pissed off about?

I’m sure I’ll find something

Digital Sweatshops Again

Wage Slaves is an expose from 1UP.com that almost reads like an article from The Onion, but is all too true.