Legally Retro.

There's an applet on the interwebs known to some as vNES. It was created by Jamie Sanders, who, along with the support of a small company, takes original NES cartridges and puts them through a legally sound process known as ROM dumping. They essentially strip the cartridge of all it's game data and then store it on their computers for the theoretical purpose of digital preservation. Distrubiting these ROMs freely, however, is deemed illegal, since people who don't own the original copy could download the ROM regardless and play that data in an emulator.

However, and here's the super awesome part, it's not illegal to stream the output data, because any and all of that data is randomized byte code that the computer creates based on the instructions in the ROM. If I told you how to get to Krispy Kreme in Union City from here in Fremont, would I get to eat the donut? Nope, and hence Nintendo can't eat my freely distrubted retro donut, or retro-nut. Seriously: Jamie Sanders can take any game for which he has the cartridge and put it online. For free, legally. No way, but totally, effing way.

So, yeah, I've been into this legal emulation scene as of late, and I'm enjoying myself. Of particular note is the very solid gameplay I find in games like Super Mario Bros. and Metroid. They aren't all that innovative in their design, but are superb in their technical gameplay and level design. I was listening to Trigames Podcast numero 102, and found that I agree with Austin's monologue regarding innovation in game design. He said that innovating and reinventing amounts to nothing if your game isn't technically sound and lacks good level design. Innovation isn't a bad thing, but you should be able to back it up with good production values, like Gears of War, which innovates here and there, but has most of it's excellence beneath the solid controls, high production values and well-structured level-design. That is, if you're talking about the single player. The mutliplayer is lagshit-crazy-fuck-noodles.

And with that, good sirs and ladies, I bid you much ado.


Welcome home, Shenmue `Tres.

So I wrote a tearful blog post a few days ago concering the departure of Yu Suzuki from and that there was no more hope for my grandest gamer wet dream, Shenmue III. Turns out that Simon Jefferey "misspoke", or was bullshitting crap-crap.

Now Shenmue III can go back to being a tiny, slightly possible entity. Oh how far we've come.


Are JRPGs "flawed"?

Mass Effect's dynamic dialogue system.
American role playing games have been on the receiving end of a lot of mainstream interest lately, primarily because of their attractive, grand promises: Dynamic worlds, multiple endings, a plethora of side quests, and an overall streamlined role playing experience. Occasionally some of these games, like Oblivion, make good on their promises, and the moment they do, people use that game as the standard for what a “good” RPG should be. It’s impossible to talk of RPGs without the words “Bioshock” and “Oblivion” coming up once and again.

But with innovation comes re-evaluation: Gamers are beginning to question the “tried-and-true” concepts of JRPGs, like: Grinding- the act of tediously fighting monsters to level up your character; a lot of statistical data regarding your character and his strengths; action sequences instead of action taking place during and after exploration; and more grinding. The question in question is whether or not these genre staples are flaws.

You might be surprised to find that many of these concepts, most notably grinding, are also common in western RPGs, albeit presented in a simplified and more streamlined form. Herein lays the question: Are subtlety and streamlining necessary in making a good game? Are games bad if they have an abundance of data and blunt use of common game concepts? 

Level grinding in Pokemon: Yellow.

Firstly, I’ve slightly exaggerated the quality of western RPGs. JRPGs have made some great technical strides in their system of “common” concepts (see Final Fantasy: Tactics and Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis; or hell, even Final Fantasy XII). I just feel that western developers are a little bit more abstract in their way of approaching design, in that they look at slightly broader, larger concepts, and then work their way down to the role playing, technical level.

Secondly, developers like 2K Games, the good fellas behind Bioshock, tried to take several concepts, (like upgrades, hacking mini-games, respwaning, first person combat) and make them all work on a technical level, together. Japanese developers aren’t trying to shoot as “high” because, JRPGs, along with their established style and structure, have been an integral member in the mainstream Japanese game industry for quite a long time, whereas RPGs in are only now showing their mainstream appeal. Since the market for JRPGs has had the time to decide what they want of the genre, innovation becomes a much more difficult thing to achieve.

Now, onwards to the end: Just like the process of screenwriting, assembling an RPG shouldn’t require a lot of originality; the developer should just structure and present it well enough that it feels “fresh”. and Bioware have games that incorporate concepts as tame and simple as “an open world” and “an abundance of planets”, which they then amplify with good programming and presentation that suits their game. That last bit, that’s why I think it’s a-okay for JRPGs to stay primarily the way they are: The design teams want to create an arcadey, seemingly simple and rewarding game.

And that’s fine. :)

Feel free to let me know if you disagree.


Nightwing #147 - Review

Nightwing #147

Written by Peter Tomasi.

Pencilled by Don Kramer.

Cover art by Rags Morales.

The opening monologue of this issue can pretty much be summed up to: "I'm pissed, and people are pissing me off." The story is just as brash: Wordy, but with both fists up and throwing punches. To be honest, Nightwing has never really resonated with me quite as well as Tim Tracy or Batman. Don't get me wrong, he's as dynamic as they come, I just don't fashion him. It doesn't help that a few of his one-liners gave me good reason to twinge, but Tomasi earnestly makes up for it with his ability to skillfully structure an entertaining story, brimming with action and sometimes smart conversations.

Nightwing is just thinking about how pissed off he is all the time, when suddenly his signal lights up the night sky. Nightwing finds the transmitter to be none other than Harvey Dent, or Two-Face. He interrogates Harvey, who tells him of Carol Bermingham, the DA from NY that Harvey was once infatuated with. She witnessed an "important" person murder another such person, and now she's the target of several assasinations that Nighwing must stop, or not be told the location of innocent civilians that Two-Face trapped and left to die.

The story doesn't strain itself to tie into Morrison's R.I.P yet, but opts instead to give you your Nightwing fill before Grant Morrison throttles the lives of Dick and Bruce into devastating chaos. It's an ironic treat, watching Nightwing team up with Two-Face, a foe whom he encountered earlier, as Robin. Don't worry though, Nighwing does more than just talking, he kicks ass from start to finish. The panels are chalk-full of fists, blood and guns; you can indulge as much as you feel necessary. It's a great issue to pick up if you want a fun introduction to Nightwing and Two-Face.

Three out of Four.


Cars and dog-hitting!

So, two days ago, my dog was hit by a car. He wasn't harmed much, just got hit hard and scraped his wrist. I'm still going through it in my head. As to how it happened, I'll just say that this incident is the product of an amazing set of coincidences and awkward circumstances. I don't feel comfortable talking of it, because I've still got that post-event trauma. I made a spelling mistake on a comment of mine, and I immediately I got that feeling I did when he was hit. He's fine.

He's my best friend. :(

Also, for those comic book fans, I'm going to do a huge retrospective review of every "crisis" or retcon event in the DCU. This is my first time going through them, although I've already read the juicy plot details. Just finished reading Invincible Iron Man #5, expect a review shortly. The dialogue is damn good.

Happy Braiding!



Geometry is free!

I refuse to pay for Geometry Wars 2! I'm super-liberal and cool and shit!

Actually, I can't afford Wars in the land of Geometry right now, so I'll be getting down on the grid! Grid Wars 2, that is! A freeware clone (of the first) so good, Microsoft asked the creator not to link to it on his site!


Nothing But Love

9:52 P.M, Wednesday, July 23, 2008:

Bleep-- Bleep-- Bleep--

My father turned slightly on the bed. "Did you hear that?" he said to me, with his eyes still fixed on his laptop. "I think it was our alarm system. Go check it out,"

I stopped reading the Sonic page on Giant Bomb, looked to him, got up and said, "Yeah. Yeah, okay." I scanned my desk for a blunt weapon and took up my cat's hair brush. With it in hand, I started out the door, when suddenly I collided with my husky cousin.

"Did you hear that, Aaghaaz?" he said very quickly. I looked at him for a few seconds and then turned back into my dad's room, who's door I had left half-open.

"Mony (husky cousin) and his mom heard it, too." I said, approaching my desk. "What should we do?"

"Ah, it's probably nothing." he mumbled to me while watching a trailer for a movie on iTunes.

"Hell no, dude!" I exclaimed, with tongue-firmly-in-cheek. "Mony and I are afraid. What if someone broke into the house?!"

My dad laughed and continued to watch his trailer. "Dad, you need to handle the situation", I said, approaching him. He mumbled something to shrug me off, which is when I started to shut his laptop.

"Alright, alright!" he said and pushed off of his bed. He followed Mony and I through our hallway, into our kitchen, past our stove, our knives, our oven, our toaster and our microwave to the very end of the dining table, where there was a rectangle-shaped alarm system, slightly concealed by a reddish-brown cabinet. Father walked to it drowsily while I comforted my dog, Rocky, who'd been barking throughout this perdicament. My dad examined the machine for a while when we heard the mysterious beep again.

I watched my Dad as he punched a few keys, immediatley unarming the system. He turned around and started to walk back. At first a bit a startled, I recollected and caught up to him as he walked forward, towards his room. "What just happened?" I asked him.

"Nothing. The alarm was on. I unarmed it." He stated matter-of-factly. I turned to Mony, who was standing in front of his room.

"That scared me." Mony said, and I nodded as I entered my dad's room. He got onto his bed and continued to watch his trailer. I fell into my chair and watched him.

"So what'd you do, Dad?"


"I mean, like, did you turn the alarm off?"

"Yes, I did."

"Yeah, but it was on."

"I know. And I turned it off."

"Yeah, okay, but dude. It was on."

"I am aware of this, because I turned it off."

I finally realized what I was trying to say: "Yeah, but why was it on?"

Father paused for a moment. "I turned it off," he said again.

"You turned it off because it was on, yeah, I know. But why did it go off?"

"I dunno."

"What?!" I exclaimed.

"Huh." He shrugged.

"Someone must've broken in, Dad."


"Dude, someone must've broken in."

He mumbled something.

"Dad, give me your attention! I'm scared, dude."

He stopped watching the trailer and looked at me. "Alright, it was probably a mistake made by the system," he said. "You know, wind or something." I believed him, but still denied it, in my state of paranoia. "Okay, whatever. But can you please take care of Rocky?"

I agreed to that, and went outside to inquire as to why he had been barking. When I came, he sat down for me and looked at me with his infamous puppy-dog eyes. I went to my room and called for him to follow me, but when he didn't, I assumed that the baloon outside my room was frightening him. I grabbed the baloon and ran outside. I looked to Rocky, who'd followed me outside, and said, "Look!" And let go of the baloon. "See, all better-" For some reason, I hadn't expected the baloon to float away. But it did. Watching it, I remembered what happened earlier in the day:

My dad and I went to Fry's Electronics to pick up a new hard drive. The one in my computer was corrupted, and my dad wanted to wipe the drive clean, because it was nearly impossible to remove it from the system. I didn't want to lose whatever memories I had collected on it in the past 7 months I'd had it, so I dilligently refused. When at Fry's, we found the process of disassembling the computer and buying special screwdrivers to be much too difficult, and went home empty-handed. At the time, I didn't understand why it didn't matter to my dad whether or not those memories were there. I always had a very bad feeling whenever I lost memories or things that represented them.

I had this very same feeling when the baloon drifted away. I think it had been in the house for a couple of weeks, and while I didn't pay much attention to it, I wanted to watch it "live" and "die", or deflate. I continued to stare into the sky, until it completely disappeared from my sight. I sighed and turned to my dog, who started to wag his tail when he saw me looking at him. I smiled at him and trudged back into the house. In the kitchen, I prepared some hot cocoa. I took a sip or two and began walking back to my room, when I called for Rocky to follow. When he didn't, I walked back into the kitchen, where he was sitting, waiting for me. His tail wagged at the sight of me. In that instant, I realized why clearing my hard disk didn't matter to my dad. In that instant, I realized why Rocky had been barking throughout the night. In that instant, I realized why I was afraid of a burgalar that I knew probably didn't exist. In that instant, I realized, in Rocky's eyes... nothing but love.

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