By Video_Game_King 31 Comments
Parappa the Rapper( If you guessed Bushwald Sexyface....well, you'd be wrong.) His sexiness may be enough to destroy empires, but he's not that good at video games. The real answer is me. Yea, I know that the GB version is lower, but I put a disclaimer at the top, remember? Anyway, more on that later. Now is the time for Parappa, the tale of a dog trying to impress a girl. However, he encounters many obstacles along the way, like a chatty douchebag, a series of bathroom guardians, his own pathetic nature, and possession of about 9 pounds of blow. How oh how will our intrepid hero ever overcome these odds!? With the power of rap! Ya gotta believe!!!
At least that's what Parappa would have you believe. The reality is that you (the player) are gonna have to rap your way through all of these ridiculous scenarios. Don't misunderstand me when I call them "ridiculous"; in fact, consider it my compliment towards this game. As I stated before, Parappa features an array of quirky characters and scenarios that make the game. I'm sure you were expecting me to add the phrase "stand out" at the end of that, but no, I meant to end it without said phrase...that wasn't said. The point is that for a game like this, the shell around the gameplay (here, consisting of story and music) is actually far more important than the gameplay itself; without it, nobody would play this game. Don't believe me? Let's play a drinking game: every time you see Simon Says mentioned anywhere near Parappa the Rapper, take a shot of Cognac. Your liver will be wishing that rhythm games weren't so damn simple.
But you know what? Fuck your liver. What's that lazy bastard ever done for me, huh? GET OUT OF ME AND MAKE SOMETHING OF YOURSELF, LIVER!!! Wait, I forgot what I was talking about. Oh, right, the gameplay part of this game. As I hinted earlier, it plays like Simon Says; a character will rap something to you, and you have to rap it right back at them. However, unlike Simon Says, it's set to a beat, meaning no two parts will feel the same. At least that's the theory; I usually stumbled across the same beat several times in a song, but I don't fault the game for that. What I fault it for is the difficulty. Maybe it's just me, but about half the time, I had a chicken chef bitching at me because I screwed up her precious cake. This game can be fairly unforgiving at times, either throwing a wide array of button combos at you (usually leading to me mashing the wrong buttons at the wrong time) or just being a dick. There were times when I hit the button EXACTLY WHEN the game asked me to, but it lowered my score anyway, forcing Parappa to crap his pants.
The odd thing about it, though, is that Parappa is really, really short. Usually, hard games should last a long time, even after they've made out with my chainsaw, but Parappa was incredibly short. There are only six levels in the entire game, and even after you've done an excellent job on all levels, all you get is one more level. That's it. I didn't play it (because I'm lazier than that liver prick), but I don't feel like I missed out on much by not playing it. There aren't that many twists to the original Simon Says concept; in fact, there are only two. Near the end of the game, you no longer get a warm up from the support characters, you just go straight into the rap. It caught me by surprise at first, but at least I can see why they included it. It is supposed to feel like improvisation and make you think on your toes, something it does really well. However, the double bar feature doesn't get off this easily. Again, I can see why they included this in the game, but unfortunately, there's a delay between the bars which always seems to throw me off. In a game that's entirely dependent on rhythm and flow, a delay like that can (and usually is) the difference between Good and Awful.
If all of this has made you think that Parappa isn't a good game, don't get the wrong impression. It's a fun game with quirky scenarios and cool music, but it's just really short and without many variations on what it does. I'd recommend borrowing it from a friend, if you can........Well, thats the end of the blog. Oh, no, I forgot something. Hmmm....oh, right, the Christianity Award. Why? Ya gotta believe!!! (Eh, I like the joke.)
- Poor little Parappa. He has to put up with a lot of crap just to get with the girl of his dreams.
- While fairly hard for me, the rap is still unique 12 years after its release.
- Shorter than Parappa.
Quick: what's the first thing you'd do if you could defy reality? If you said "screw with annoying sidekicks", congratulations! You win this video!
Phantasy Star Collection( This is going to be fun, isn't it?) The fun lies in what the game actually is: a Japan only compilation of the big 4 Phantasy Star games, along with some extra artwork and similar things. I didn't bother looking at any of it, but that's not the point. The point is that I've played all 4 games, and I'm going to review every single one. Naturally, this will make for a long blog that some will look at briefly before responding to it with the four douchiest letters in the English language: "tl;dr." So just to make sure that doesn't happen, I'll cater to these people by fitting at least one low-brow sexual joke into each review. First up:
Phantasy Star( Wait, there's something very weird about this introduction.) What was it?....OH, right! I was playing the Japanese version, and the music I have here is the non-Japanese version. Hold on, I'll fix that. * changes music* That's better. A lot better, in fact. The Japanese version of the Master System had a really high quality sound chip that wasn't in the other versions, for some reason, accounting for the difference in music. Of course, if you don't like this near-Genesis quality, you can switch it off in favor of the original music. That's just one of the reasons why this is a great compilation.
Anyway, the basic premise of Phantasy Star is this: it's the future, and some evil guy named Lassic killed your brother, Nero. You're never really told why they kill him, so I assumed it was because he burned half the planet. Before he dies, though, Nero tells his sister to go find Odin and to beat up Lassic. So she embarks on an epic quest, enlisting the help of the aforementioned jock, a talking cat ( sound familiar?), and a magical tranny. "This sounds like the weirdest porno ever", you're saying to yourself whilst typing your letters, but the reality is that for its time, the story was actually very decent. There seems to be structure to the story; the characters interact with each other (sometimes), they have their own pasts and personalities, and....OK, that's all I can think of, but trust me, the story is much better than most other games at the time. Plus in this version, you get to choose which type of Japanese you're reading, which is a benefit, I guess?
Again, I can't read Japanese, so let's move away from the story and onto something else: the graphics. Again, it kicks the crap out of everything else from the mid 80s. OK, it may not look like if you see pictures of the battles (and how similar they are to the original Dragon Quest), but there is one key difference: animation. Sure, there may be only one enemy on screen at a time, but at least that one enemy will move when he attacks you. Outside of battle, however, things get weird; everything has this weird, washed out look to it, and nobody in the game ever moves. Did they become frozen with fear when they saw the Storm Troopers kill Nero? Or did Sega forget to program animations outside battle? Either way, it's just creepy, especially when you see NPCs who should clearly be moving somewhere.
Oh, and the dungeons are presented in first person. Apparently, this was the one thing people remembered about the original Phantasy Star: the dungeons. It was a huge technological achievement back in 1988, but it hasn't really aged well. Sure, it may sound good, but a first person perspective is severely limiting and makes the dungeons hard to navigate without maps. I'm lucky that I have the Internet, but keep in mind that those who originally bought it didn't have such a luxury. Still, though, it's far too easy to get lost. Don't think the game doesn't know this, either; there are several parts of the game where it's very possible to make things impossible ( like near the end of the game), and about half the dungeons contain trap doors, sometimes placed directly in front of where you need to go. Unfortunately, while the first person perspective died off in later games, the dickish nature is a recurring theme for the series.
Another recurring theme in the series is a streamlined, incredibly quick battle system. OK, so it's traditional turn based without many frills, but it doesn't need any frills, it's fine on its own. A lot of the battles clock in at under half a minute (compared to the hour long battles of yore), which is very convenient when you consider how many battles you'll see by the end of the game. I can understand if you didn't comprehend what I was getting at in the previous sentence, so let me just say that there's a lot of grinding in this game. I wish I could say it was only in the beginning, or that it was just that one "Big Grind" (you know the one, where you're level 30, near the end of the game, and have to jump to 65 in 10 minutes), but the amount of grinding you have to do throughout the game is pretty consistent. It was during this heavy amount of grinding that I began noticing a few things, like the Talk command. It confirms what we've known since childhood: talking is for pussies, and real men solve problems with their fists (or guns, in this case). Also, I noticed that there's an HP counter in the corner, something that I wish caught on with every other RPG ever.
Not even the other games in the series have HP counters! What the hell, Sega? You got rid of the HP counter, but you kept the dungeons that can only be described as "labyrinths?" Did you take advice from your future selves, or have you always been this stupid!? *passes out from anger* Do I have to do this again? Queen here, let me finish up his review. He planned on giving it the Phantasy Star II Award for Frustrating Dungeons, just so he could use that as a transition into the next Phantasy Star.
- For its time, the story is fantastic.
- Remember how frustrating the dungeons were in the original Dragon Quest? Well, in Phantasy Star....no, wait, they're actually less frustrating. But...no, they're still much better than the Dragon Quest dungeons.
- Animated enemies, quick battles, HP counts, and many other features that should have been in all RPGs after this.
Phantasy Star II( As my wife said in the previous review, this game has some frustrating dungeons.) But I won't begin the review with that. Instead, like the previous review, I'll start with the music, as this was the first thing I noticed upon starting the game. I entered the "select game" screen, and was immediately greeted by somebody beating drums like a pinata that slept with their wife. It may have been just me, but the drums in this game seem louder than in any other version I've played. Just about every song I heard had overly loud drumming. DRUMS ARE A SUPPLEMENTAL INSTRUMENT!!!
Anyway, that's really the only flaw I found with the music. Like the graphics in Panzer Dragoon Saga, the music in Phantasy Star II is decent on its own, but fantastic when you account for the technical limitations. On a system that sounded like a robot having phone sex (as in having sex with a phone), the fact that the music is clear and discernible automatically makes it good. In fact, the only flaw I can think of with the music doesn't even have to do with the music, but rather, the sound effects. They sound muted, especially Nei's kitten sneeze attack.
I'm aware of the odd juxtaposition of Nei and kitten in the same sentence due to her pretty much being a cat woman. And if that isn't creepy enough, she's always wearing a one-piece bathing suit, for some reason. Don't worry, though, she dies about halfway through the game, spoiler alert. Oh, that reminds me: story. The game begins with a dream of Alis beating up Dark Force. You know, because nobody owned a Master System to play the original. However, in this dream, she's losing. Not that it means anything; Rolf is the one dreaming this, and he doesn't have any connection to the girl yet. He wakes up, goes to work, and beats up somebody for stealing his horse. Oh, no, wait, he goes on a quest that ends with him taking down Mother Brain. Again, it was all in Japanese, and while I am slowly learning a few of the characters, I still had barely a clue as to what everybody was talking about.
Yet again, the storytelling in this game was actually ahead of the curve by a few years. It contains dark moments like suicide and Nei's death, even if the latter isn't necessary. It also does a lot of things that other RPGs haven't bothered trying ever, like narrated cutscenes and pre-rendered pictures for cutscenes. Yea, I know the previous game did that, too, but Phantasy Star 2 does it more often. Not as often as Phantasy Star IV (more on that later), but still, it's fairly often. Or at least it felt that way; the game is so short, that maybe the events felt more clustered than in the first game.
However, I think this is for the same reason the original Phantasy Star was short: because I'm an awesome gamer. Oh, no, wait, I meant to say "quick battles." Returning from the original is battle brevity, improved for the new generation of consoles! There's now an easier-to-use graphical interface, equipment with battle-spells, and an automatically-automatic battle sys-* record scratch*. This is where things started to fall apart for me, a little. You enter battle, press a button, and that's it. There's little interactivity with any of the battles; I actually spent more time taking notes on the game than I did doing things in battle. It's like Final Fantasy XII, where the entire gimmick was that you didn't actually have to play the game at all. OK, it's not as bad as FF12, which locked gameplay in the car on a hot summer day; you can pause battles at any time to order your characters what to do. This is where the game shines, oddly enough, in two ways.
First, there's a lot of well-developed characters, each with their own purpose. There's a robot killer, an animal killer, a guy who ignores defense, a thief, and enough character to create your own distinct team, ready to tackle whatever challenges you may face. Second, the boss battles in this game demand that you actually have some sort of strategy. Unfortunately, there aren't enough boss battles in the game (only 4, and the last one is piss-easy). Most of the game is spent in regular battles, grinding your ass into a fine powder. It's not as bad as it was in the original; it's worse. Every weapon you find costs enough money to buy a used car, and the monsters only carry $20 on them at any given time. Do the math. Done? Then you found out that this leads to a paradox where you spend a lot of your play time not playing the game, right?
During this paradoxical period, I discovered some good things about the battle system, mostly graphically. For example, enemy animations (thankfully) remain, but now there are idle animations. Weird idle animations, like a zombie bunny packing its guts into itself, or a dragon's jaw bouncing up and down to an other-wordly rhythm. Your characters don't have any idle animations, for some reason, but the very fact that you see them in battle is a great addition to the series. While I'm on this subject, let me wrap things up by saying the graphics are good, at least from an artistic perspective. Sure, they may look simple from a technical perspective, but the charming feel and little touches (like how NPCs aren't glued into place, like the last game) have helped Phantasy Star II weather the passage of time. Something else that has helped the game is the dungeon layout. See, told you I'd get back to it.
In one of their brightest moments, Sega decided that nobody likes first person dungeons, and made sure those relics stayed as far away from PS2 as possible. We're back to top-down dungeons, which are easier to navigate, easier to remember, and best of all, no more booby-trapped chests, or indeed, any traps! Hooray! Now instead of worrying about treasure emitting mammary-death-rays, I now have to worry about getting lost. Yea, I know I said that the dungeons are easier to navigate, but there are still some that deserve the moniker "labyrinth", partly because most of the dungeons have this annoying foreground that blocks much of your view. Still, I'd rather have it for two reasons: they're enough to earn the Most Distinctive Phantasy Star Dungeons Award, and not having them is part of the reason the dungeons in Phantasy Star III were so mediocre. Oh, look at this...
- Kind of the last moment in Phantasy Star history when the story was slightly ahead of its time.
- The battle system is like FF12, but thankfully, less FF12-y.
- Sega obviously spent a lot time refining the graphics and music in this entry.
Phantasy Star III( *glares at Phantasy Star III*) There's a reason I didn't use Phantasy Star III music for this particular portion of the blog, and it isn't because the music is crap. OK, that factored into my decision as to why I went with Mother 3 music. The soundtrack to PS3 is the antithesis to PS2: while PS2 was clear and enjoyable to listen to, PS3 is a tinny, generic mess. You want proof? Listen to this. Sure, it's only seven seconds long, but it plays at the beginning of just about every battle, bosses included. It gets especially grating when you're doing things like writing notes on the game or issuing commands to your characters.
Speaking of characters in battle, the count has been bumped up to five members now, most likely because FF4 did it and Sega wanted to be popular. However, that's pretty much the only thing Phantasy Star III rips from Final Fantasy; just about everything else is ripped from conventional RPGs of the time. For example, the game begins with a rescue the princess plot. You start as Rhys, about to marry Maia, when a demon bursts onto the scene and steals your bride! Rhys spends some time being pissed, and his kingly father sends him to jail for reasons the plot never adequately addresses. Already, things start off as both weird and mundane, but in time, the game manages to work past the "rescue the princess plot." In fact, about a third of the way through the game, you rescue her and are given a choice: marry her, if you're feeling cliche, or marry a plain-looking girl you just met, if you're feeling like an asshole.
I felt like an asshole, so I married the average looking girl. That's the main feature of Phantasy Star III: at certain intervals, you're given a choice of who to marry. You choose your girl, the characters have sex, and spawn a child who manages to bring chaos and ruin upon the various worlds of the game. It's a good idea that adds needed variety and replay value to this game. It would make the game last a long time if it wasn't incredibly short as it is. I beat it in 2 days (without the glitch that skips an entire generation), and there are ultimately only 4 scenarios. That means you can experience everything this game has to offer in about a week.
And unfortunately, there isn't much that this game offers, especially when compared to other RPGs of the time. Battles are traditional turn based, essentially the same as it was in Phantasy Star II. However, several of the things that I loved about PS2, like seeing your characters in battle and enemy animations, have either been removed or severely dumbed down to a basic level. In fact, the only thing that remains is the quick battles, but given how embarrassingly short it is, I'd opt for slightly longer, more involved battles. At least then, I may not have noticed how weird this game can be at times. For example, instead of decent enemy animations, you have animated backgrounds. However, every single one is a parallax scrolling background, even when it makes no sense (caves, castles, deserts, etc.). Also, the enemies in this game are really weird; half of them are generic RPG fare/robots, but then there's another half populated entirely by Cho Aniki rejects. They're cut off from the waist down, but knowing what happens in those games, I'm guessing that was best for everyone.
Aside from the naked men with tuna can helmets, the only other thing that makes this game stand out from others is the spell system. Rather than learning an array of incantations, each character has one or two classes of spells they can access. You have access to every single one from the moment you get that character, but the only way to make them stronger is by visiting a tech shop and playing something akin to Columns 3: What the Hell Happened to Columns 2. You adjust how powerful a certain spell is, but in doing so, you weaken another spell on the other side of the spectrum. This sounds good in theory until you realize a few things, like how the Antidote spell is thrown into the mess. What happens is that now a spell that should always hit now misses for some reason. I didn't like it when the RNG screwed me out of a healing spell in Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, and here, it's even worse. How? Let's say you're in battle, and one of your characters gets poisoned. Fortunately, they know Anti, so they can cure themselves, right? Well, you go to your menu, find out that the number next to the spell isn't the MP cost (what?), and then watch as your Anti spell fails on you. You try it again and again, but you've run out of MP and are still poisoned. "I can just go to an inn," you think to yourself with your naive mind. So you go to the inn, sleep, and find out that you're still poisoned and still have no MP.
That's the thing about Phantasy Star III: everything's either heavily unpolished or more generic than The 7th Saga. In fact, this is one thing the two games share: a banal, plastic-y look. You know the look, the one you saw in Light Crusader, Conker's Pocket Tales, and Mystic Ark. The only one of those to do it successfully was Mystic Ark, and that was because it was a slightly cartoony game where at any given time, you could be exploring a variety of areas, ranging from a land of feline pirates to Fairy Tale Central. In Phantasy Star III, the worlds range from "medieval desert world" to "medieval tundra world", the middle ground/majority being "medieval world without any major fringes." After the first two Phantasy Stars showed me how ahead of their time they were with their memorable storylines, interesting plot points, and heavy sci-fi elements, it's disappointing to see Phantasy Star III resign itself to being a drab, mundane JRPG completely lacking in any identity. Sure, it does some things differently from the competition, but seeing as how they're never really done right, they barely amount to enough to give this game any sort of individuality. I'm gonna have to give this game the 1950s Award for An Appalling Lack of Any Individuality Whatsoever.
- Speaking from a purely technical standpoint, this game's a step backward for the series.
- The marriage thing would have been cool if the game wasn't already 6 hours long.
- The only noteworthy thing to say about the battles is the spell system, which needed a lot more work before it was released in its current state.
Phantasy Star IV( And so we come to the riveting conclusion of this incredibly long compilation of reviews!) And what a place to end: Phantasy Star 4. If the recent Venture Bros season trailer is to be believed, then the number four is the most awesome thing in the history of ever, and this game is no different. Maybe my expectations were lower after experiencing Phantasy Star III, or maybe it's my long history of loving the number four, but I found PS4 to be the best in the series.
It all started with the music, as it always does. I believe my main complaints with the previous game were "tinny" and "nondescript." Phantasy Star IV fixes this, offering music that's actually clear, memorable, and sounds good. Just like Phantasy Star II. OK, not entirely like that; there are a few songs that edge on tinny, but for the most part, it's a good soundtrack. OK, we're done with that? Nice, let's move onto the story. It's the future, Motavia has gone back to being a desert hellhole, and there has been a (supposed) resurgence of monsters as of late . However, none of this concerns you at the beginning of the game. You, Chaz, an apprentice hunter under the ice-cold Alys, are only on a mission to clean up the basement in a local college.
Somehow, this turns into a quest to stop Zio, who is a deadly combination of cult leader and magician. Creepy. What's also creepy, probably to you, is that I actually understood the story. Well, this time I was smart enough to grab a script off GameFAQs, so now I know what I'm talking about when I say that the story is decent. There are plenty of twists and turns, like jumping between "destroy the villain" (the villain changing every few hours) and "let's fix the weather" (something it sticks with a bit more than PS2 did), and it does the series justice by wrapping up quite a few loose ends left in the previous few games. However, unlike the games before it, I wouldn't call it ahead of its time anymore. Sure, it has the most/best cutscene pictures of all four games, but the actual story quality isn't notably ahead of anything that was available at the time. OK, after a bit of research, I found out that it is a little bit ahead of its time, but not in the same way as before.
Rather than containing storytelling elements that would become commonplace years, it turns out Chrono Trigger just ripped off this game a year later. Don't believe me? Rune blasts open a hole to a cave, Zio sprays black goo on Alys. Also, the battle systems are similar in one regard: teamwork. One thing that sets these two games apart from most RPGs is that rather than feeling like four one-on-one fights with minimal support between characters, both of these games actually feel like characters cooperating in heated battle. Chrono Trigger did it with geometry and toads high on their own acid, while Phantasy Star IV does it with the Macro system. Remember the last two games, where you were given the option to turn on auto fight and deprive the system of any meaningful gameplay? Well, Macros are an evolved version of that.
The evolved part (other than it only being a one-turn affair now) is that you can customize what exactly your characters do when you issue a Macro. So where's the teamwork part I was just talking about? Well, enter a specific series of actions, and your characters will perform a mega attack on anything nearby. It's a cool system that encourages experimenting in battle and can suddenly turn a routine random encounter into something badass. By that, I mean it's possible to stumble across an Ultra Death-Destructo combo tech, almost making it something that doesn't hinge on using a guide. I said "almost" because there are certain combinations that require techniques being done in a precise order, something you can't always do. The order of attack is pretty much rigid for the entirety of the game, so if one of your combos requires that Rune goes first, you either have to plug PS4 into a Sonic & Knuckles cartridge or succumb to the charms of GameFAQs.
However, I'm willing to overlook a few of these flaws if only for some of the things it does right, like vehicle battles. After the disappointment of the previous two games, vehicles are back and better than ever! What's more, they now have their own special battle mode where you blast nearby insects off your windshield. I know that sounds disappointing the way I described it, but trust me, it's awesome. Also awesome: the return of animations. And I mean real animations, not the "paper figures taped to a popsicle stick" crap that I suffered through in the last game. They, along with many other things, make this the best looking game in the series. Gone are the The 7th Saga-esque graphics, and back is the anime look and spells that destroy half the planet. Of course, with these improved graphics come load t-* record scratch*.
Hold on, why are there load times? I understand that this is a CD based game and that one system emulating another can be hard, but none of the other games had load times. Why this one? Granted, it's only in and out of battles, but there are A LOT of battles in this game. Oddly enough, this means little to no grinding, so....good? OK, it's not all good, since it somewhat feels like artificial lengthening. Like every game I've listed here so far, Phantasy Star IV is short, but unlike the other games, it actually tries to fix this with side quests. At about any time in the story, you can head to a certain town on Motavia, sign up for a side quest, and waste time finding some dog or again, making Chrono Trigger seem unoriginal. I didn't accept most of them, but from what I've read (and the few I've played), they're actually quite interesting and have decent reward. Hell, maybe if I took the time to complete some of them, I could afford the fanciest weapons without having to make 9 species extinct first. But I was in a hurry, so I decided on the grind, even if the side quests would make the game better. Not that it needed to be any better; I've listed all the reasons why this is the best game of the original four, haven't I? Now all that's needed is a nice little award.....I've got it! Aeris Gainsborough Award for Freudian Female Deaths! Oh, and the entire Collection gets the Orange Box Award for Great Compilations.
- The battle system is exactly what the previous games were building up to.
- Phantasy Star IV's story, while no longer ahead of the curve, is still pretty good.
- Somehow, it manages to reverse-rip-off Chrono Trigger. What the hell do I call that?
800 Game Celebration( Finally, I have...wait...) Somebody mixed up the music again! I said Song 1, you idiots! * music changes* There, that's better. I have reached 800 beaten video games, another important milestone. I've seen this type of thing many times before, but this is the first one on Giant Bomb. Anyway, I feel that I should mark the occasion with something big and special. I think creating my own Parliament would qualify as such. Yes, it's....
What does this mean? Well, first, YOU are going to be members of my new Parliament! That's right, all of you will be made The Parliamenty Fresh! Now then, we again arrive at the question of what this means for you. Only one thing: you get to recommend games to me that I go back and replay. Already, I see some of you twirling your mustaches, donning your old timey top hats, and saying, "Nya-ha-ha! Now I can get him to repl-" I know what you're gonna say, so shut your stupid-spewing face hole. Also, you're dead. I gave that game a rating, and that's the only rule: you can't suggest something I've already rated.
Of course, it is entirely possible that you were going to mention something else. Hell, you may have been thinking of another game, like Earthbound. If that's the case, I hate to break it to you, StarFoxA, but I'd still reject that game. I reserve the right to reject games, but I'll usually be fair about it. Maybe I don't own the game anymore, maybe I never owned it, or maybe, in the case of Earthbound, I plan on playing it in another form at a later date. So, my Parliamenty Fresh, go forth and tell me what games interest you for this purpose! But please, no RPGs.