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draqq_zyxx The meaning of life is to be aware.
The breath of life is to remember.
-Self

Title: Oh, snap. I actually wrote a review.
Posted: April 09, 2006 (09:41 PM)
For Facade. Crazy. I know. It's like popcorn without butter.
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Title: Samurai Champloo - Episode 11 Review
Posted: April 08, 2006 (12:21 PM)
Title: Samurai Champloo
Genre: Japanese Animation - Series
Episode: 11 - Gamblers and Gallantry
Release Year: 2004

--------------------------------------------------


Refining Perfection

Content - 10.0 (S)
Art - 9.6 (A+)
Sound - 9.4 (A)
Value - 9.9 (A+)
Tilt - 10.0 (S)
Final - 9.8 (A+)

Think about every movie that deserved to win "Best Picture" but off-handedly won "Best Screenplay". Witness "Sideways", "Lost in Translation", "Spirited Away", and, if it was a movie, "Gamblers and Gallantry". Perhaps overshadowed by the mass popularity of the legendary "Ballad of Fallen Angels" (Cowboy Bebop, Episode #5), "Gamblers and Gallantry" is absolutely and undeniably the best 20 minutes of Japanese animation this hardened critic has ever experienced. Thoroughly intriguing, the script involves and interprets more symbols than Egyptian cryptography: the passionate freedom of the red umbrella, the sorrowful rain and clouds, the bridge crossing, the divine eel, and invariably more than enough for the eye to scour and behold. This kaleidoscope of imagery brings forth the refined complexity yet restrained depth in the relationship between Jin and Shino. From its opening shot descending down the canal, the scenes shift and flow from emotion to emotion with unexpected layers of disbelief and power. Historical nuances such as Kabuto sumo and divorce sanctuaries weave into the narrative intelligently. Masterful handling of lighting and direction accentuate each wave of expression with delicate strokes. Enlightened sympathy and enticing dialogue intertwine and expand across the screen, washing out even the most seductive chance for boredom or cliché from each and every frame. The relative silence near the beginning pulls us into the story, and the ending melody with its soft, melancholy, and romantic tones pulls us in even further. Completing the package are scenes that finally move the relationship between the three forward. Unlike most episodes of Samurai Champloo, "Gamblers and Gallantry" does not ride on just one or two highlights. It is a bona-fide masterpiece.
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Title: I hate Java.
Posted: April 01, 2006 (07:50 PM)
I'm going to have to relearn Java all over again for this ridiculous user interface I have to design. Ugh. So annoying. We have to make a number wheel like we're a part of a low-end casino or something. Hopefully, I'll be able to eek a crap program and actually pass this darn course.
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Title: So what has happened to be?
Posted: March 29, 2006 (08:44 AM)
Fiction is hard. That's what happened.

Eloquence is mind-numbing.
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Title: The Veteran
Posted: March 21, 2006 (05:45 AM)
Pale silver papercut
Nail-strangled eyes
Bloody smile, bloody shores
Never dawns on me
Skin-deep veins
Friendly fire
A uniform washed clean and dry
Proud to disguise
Tone-deaf wise
As numb as evergreen
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Title: Community Contributions Wins GoScer for Best UCB/Union
Posted: March 19, 2006 (05:30 AM)
As some of you know, I am the head officer for the Community Contributions Union on GameSpot. We critique, write ReviewSpotting, discuss game-related issues, report and moderate reviews, and gather gamers with well-thought-out arguments together. As such, we have an adequate following. So I was surprised for our union to win the GoScer for Best UCB/Union. I'm just glad that we are appreciated on GameSpot.
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Title: Review - Anime: Full Metal Panic
Posted: March 15, 2006 (09:53 PM)

The socially-challenged, teenage mercenary. The strong-willed, long-haired, sexy girl. The guy not understanding girl. The girl beating guy over the head. The blond-haired, sharpshooter of a lothario. The wise, mentoring veteran that knows everything but can't tell anyone. The passive, petite, clumsy, white-haired girl. The sharp-eyed, mafia-strutting villain. The secret military force. The mobile suits or "AC"s. The "Whispered" powers the women possess, but they… just… can't… remember…how…

With more clichés than a movie set in a high school, Full Metal Panic would seem as generic as pop music. But it is surprisingly adequate (read: tolerable). It is not going to knock you over with innovation, multi-dimensional characters, or startling plot twists. Nor is the dialogue complex or the script construction intricate. It is a straightforward, simple, and humorous anime that will, at least, engage you to the very end. A casual undertaking for a casual purpose. Maybe, too casual.

Unknown terrorists plan to capture Chidori, an ordinary girl in an ordinary school, for her recently released "Whispered" powers. Memories of "Black Technology", of advanced systems beyond human comprehension, have been planted in her mind. How does she know these things? Where do they come from? Frankly, no one knows and no one cares. But that doesn't stop the submarine-based force Mithril from sending a trio of mercenary bodyguards to protect her. And who better to disguise as a student than the boot-campin', mercenary-since-he-was-eight Sagara Sosuke.

Full Metal Panic rides on their inharmonious relationship to sell you the story, while shamelessly using humor and sex as lubricants. (And everything that makes a guy go wee.) No matter what's going on, there's always an unnecessarily elongated sex shot, a sex joke, or a wisecrack at Sosuke's social incompetence and insensitivity to a women's needs. Everything boils down to "throw the mercenary and the schoolgirl in a painfully ridiculous situation". Have Sosuke misinterpret a girl sneaking up on her friends as a terrorist attack and you've got a winner. Fortunately, these mishaps work as they are intended - to keep us laughing so we can absorb whatever they throw at us.

But beyond the antics for popularity, Full Metal Panic is hollow.

If you have seen Inuyasha, Bleach, Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or any regrettably popular anime, Full Metal Panic is only one notch higher. Wanting to be a mech-anime one minute and a romance the next, the story shifts between moments of brilliance and moments of redundancy. During episodes fifteen through seventeen, Sosuke is sent on a mission to defeat Gauron with a couple of adult mercenaries that act high and mighty. So in a change of setting, Sosuke is placed from a school where he is too militant into a battlefield where he isn't militant enough. But that's where the fascination ends.

For an anime that is supposedly "Full", it mostly depends upon scene rather than depth. Sure, we'll laugh along and be caught up in the action. Enough happens in every episode and there are so many threads - the "Whispered", the ACs, Sosuke's troubled past, and military secrets - that the story is sellable. But analyze any character or dialogue and it borders on boring, if not cliché. The villain Gauron is straightforward evil. We never see a human side, and his motive to die magnificently is more psychotic than believable. And regardless of whether he gets stabbed, shot, blasted, or caught in a two-mile explosion, he never dies. So our stereotypical heroes always have a reason to fight, even if it is the same reason a million times. And then all of a sudden, it starts raining. Weather as omen is blunt. Thunder just happens to appear for dramatic effect and dark clouds drift in as if they aren't noticeable.

Furthermore, lack of elaboration and missed opportunities abound. Whispered powers are never explained. Why the passive, white-haired girl is the captain of the ship - to protect her - is puzzling. Where Mithril comes from is left blank. The reason for the existence of AC units is as substantial as "just because". And as cool as the turn-spirit-into-energy Lambda Driver is, why does the final AC-battle include it only once?

Take an overview of the series and cohesion - it does not. Ala Dragonball Z, you can chop the series into: The school saga. The airplane hijacking saga. Behemoth saga. Desert saga. And the submarine saga. But once a chapter ends, it's forgotten altogether. (Except for one moment where Sosoke mentions everything in six seconds.) The soundtrack is as forgettable as lounge music. And while the artwork pays attention to color, shading, and contrast, the animation frequently employs computer graphics that don't blend into the scenery. Landscapes are smooth enough and the transitions are unexpected enough - using blur effects, fade-ins, the moon, and even a hawk - that CGs only serve as a distraction.

Full Metal Panic is accessible but too understandable. Sort of like a V-neck T-shirt. One-note characters respond like one-notes. The opening song is J-pop. The ending song is slow and somber. And, oh yeah, the weakness of the Behemoth is the cooling system located at its groin.

Don't worry about panic. Worry about shrugging your shoulders and casually walking away.

Rating: 6.3/10

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Title: Anyone know of a good anime review site.
Posted: March 12, 2006 (12:31 AM)
I'm thinking of not doing a Psychonauts review anymore. Because, well, I don't really care about it. Anyway, I'm going to go back to writing anime reviews for a bit. Anyone know of a good anime site where I can post my upcoming review for "Full Metal Panic" - which thankfully hasn't become a game. Yet.
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Title: The Beat-'Em-Up Genre is in Acoma
Posted: March 11, 2006 (05:45 PM)
Jeff Gerstmann recently wrote, "The Beat-Em'-Up genre is dead." And while Final Fight: Streetwise was truly a disappointment, I don't think the genre is dead. It's just been knocked unconscious. Ever since The Bouncer and Final Force came out (or as Jeff's puts it - "ever since [gaming] has went polygonal"), the industry sees the genre as a curse. For those that do delve into the genre, no one has really stepped up to the plate. Not even Jade Empire, The Matrix, Shaolin Monks, or The Warriors.

I don't want Grand Theft Auto without weapons. I don't want a game where blood tries to splurge from every direction it can possibly splurge.

What I want is hand-to-face, punch-to-stomach, knee-in-groin action.

And is it really so much to ask? Turn Def Jam Vendetta's raw gameplay into a beat-'em-up, put in a street, and it would work. What about wrestling? Just work on the hit detection, work on the movement controls, and there, and voila! Sure, it's easier said than done, but it seems that all it would take is a few tweaks to the core mechanics. And plenty of games have tempted us. Tekken 3, 4, and 5 have been toying us with Tekken Force and "Jin: The Devil Within". But they are so poorly executed that I feel like someone is dangling a carrot in front of my face.

I mean, the 2D fighting genre is painfully similar. Why hasn't Street Fighter had a beat-'em-up spin-off yet? It has a puzzle game for Pete's sake! And if we're going to get technical, the very first Street Fighter was a beat-em-up. Why can't it return to its roots? Why not extend the playing field of Street Fighter III? It has the flow, precision, and accessibility. Is making a beat-'em-up such a sin?

So what would it take to have a great beat-em-up? I think it's going to take "Fight Night Round 3 on the Xbox360" hit detection. It doesn't have to be detailed to the point where I can see faces ripple, but at least let us see some blood, some bruises, some cuts. You know, damage?

More improtantly, it's the repetition that needs to be cracked. Urban Reign, Final Fight, and The Bouncer are too repetitive - it's what to be expected coming from a game that involves mashing buttons. But then again, the genre can learn from his brethren like God of War. Kratos is essentially a beat-'em-up character except with axes. What was so great about it? That you could lay the smackdown in the most bad ass of bad ass of ways. Let's translate that to this genre. Don't just punch the minotaur but get into a mini-game and thrash the beast. How? Let your imagination go wild. Pulverize the minotaur in the stomach, kick its head off, split its skull open with your hands, or get all Scorpion fatality on its ass.

Think visceral. Think Wolverine. Think Condemned without the weapons. You can hear your footsteps in the mist. Heaving between the teeth. Your enemies can taste you, but you have your fists ready. A beast gnarls, rushes without mercy. But you stiff arm. You mount it and get all UFC on it, bludgeoning its face from left to right.

You can hear its pain and your exhaustion. And as you can hit from behind, you spew out blood from your mouth as your head hits the wall. But it only makes you angrier. As you leap off the wall, your eyes see the guy's neck, and your hands seizes it, slamming him onto the tiled floor. Your friend, a black belt clasped across her waist, sends her hand through your enemy. And his ribcage cracks.

What more does it take?

Make it crisp. Make it serious. And you've got yourself a hit.

It's time the beat-em-up genre woke up.
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Title: Why are there...
Posted: March 10, 2006 (10:06 AM)
I thought this was honestgamers. Where's the review of Psychonauts????!!!!

I'm mad. And I'm going to do something about it. And no, it's not making hot chocolate. Ooo!
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Title: This is the blood of my dreams...
Posted: March 07, 2006 (07:45 PM)
Candlelight marshes
Translucent skies
Rusted snow and meteors
A battlefield in neon black
Blotches like settled gasps
Crackling whisper dashing snaps
Canvas on a chandelier
A graveyard of comets, splash
Kaleidoscope shavings
Unfiltered pins
Sapphires and rubies
Mineral scars
Port wine shattered
A dustcloud, a mirror.

Close your eyes and you will see.
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Title: David Sirlin believes that World of Warcraft teaches the wrong things.
Posted: March 03, 2006 (10:49 AM)
In words of a friend, who graciously led me to this article on Gamasutra:

"So we return inevitably back to his World of Warcraft soapbox, in which he makes several claims against the game - such that it encourages time spent over natural skill, and that it teaches game players "the wrong thing." He seems distraught that the game - as he sees it - encourages almost pointless banding together when people should be striving to better themselves and hone their own skills to become a champion. He's disgusted at the thought that in order to succeed in this game, you in fact must band with others and really can't choose to play amongst but not with others. In other words, "playing alone - together."

My response?

I think that he believes too much in himself. It's not that World of Warcraft teaches the wrong things, but that it teaches different things. Experience as well as skill is equally valid, and experience takes time. Being able to coordinate and manage a guild has its worth in the corporate world or any task that involves a team. Delegating tasks, dealing with others, and ensuring stability are all skills that are not just honored but necessary. In fact, World of Warcraft may be teaching the right things.

In the real world, success isn't just built around yourself. Yes, you have to be confident, strong, diligent, and wise. But if you want to succeed, you need a team. It is just a fact of life. Koby Bryant needs his agent, his publisher, and his coach. A-List actors also need their agent, their publisher, their secretary... And name one military force that doesn't promote teamwork? Besides, haven't we learned since the wee days of Saturday cartoons that teamwork and cooperation is good? You know, the Power Rangers, the Ninja Turtles, and even Yu-Gi-Oh's friends combine their forces to protect peace. Furthermore, from an economics point of view, trading amongst each other, be it material possessions, skills, or time, means more for everyone. Interacting and exchanging with others is beneficial to both parties, beyond just "being alone together".

You can only do so much by yourself.

And while he says that the game forces cooperation - well, that comes directly from the game design, its purpose? But just the idea that they have to cater to everyone is wanting too much. Why should World of Warcraft lighten its hand to introverts, as he says? I mean, would you ask role-playing games to be more endearing to the multi-player, or extroverted players? And aren't MMORPG's supposed to be a response to this?

No matter how much something is tweaked, there's always going to be players that aren't going to like the game. It's natural. And though there's always room for improvement, I feel that his argument grabs too much in this respect - saying that the core rules of WoW are intrinsically incorrect because he doesn't like the game and "I'm going to force my opinion with back-handed knowledge".
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Title: Verses on Link
Posted: February 27, 2006 (01:27 PM)
Since this poem review was rejected within reason, I present it here in full form. Note that this will be the last time I will writing a review in a poetic form, not because it is untraditional or it was rejected, but I feel that I have expressed everything that I needed to with this style with this poem. For a game that I find flawless, this is all that I can give:

Stop talking and thinking
And there is nothing
You will not be able to know.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is One
Nothing is lacking and nothing in excess
Everything becomes clear and undisguised
And for once, Zen is not difficult to understand.

It is action speaking louder than words
It is the sound of the sky, of rivers and fields
It is the sword grasping peace with war
It is time passing through music
It is blood spilt clear on steel.

The fate, the challenge
Does not leave you to dream
A child of three jewels, of sun and dance
Fades beyond winter in your slumber
For six medallions unsaved
Ganondorf dreams in nightmares, past your memory and doubt
And Zelda is lost, forgotten to a lullaby
Purpose and guilt stain your hands.

But the Master Sword rests
Without tranquility
To awaken a savior bound
Bound to blade
To free your world of blight.

Frozen waterfalls, twisting branches
Fire cracks the mountainside
Shall you return, return to peace?
You walk in the land of the dead.

Fallen from heaven
You take the ground to save
Every dungeon and treasure will become
In changing, you find repose.

The bottle keeps, the spell spreads
The Hookshot sends, the boomerang returns
The fairy sings, the lens unveils
The weapon brings, the shield repels
The name of the bow is life, but its work is death.

Each, a note in a masterpiece
The Ocarina of Time
Transports you, reaches you
Reminds you
Every breath and fear
As you live before the end.

But cast the stones before it and you are free
To ride a stallion, for the breeze
To fish an afternoon, away
To stare upon the clearest lake
To beat the beaten path.

A single thought becomes a thousand years
A grain of sand, a shadow
One journey, one man.

Why, the essence captures you
When you try to stop
Your very effort fills you
The more you talk and think about it,
The further you wander from the truth.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is perfect.
But it does not care itself so.

This truth is eternally valid
Yet some are unable to understand.
Not only before hearing it
But even after they have heard.

Title: So it's done.
Posted: February 27, 2006 (01:19 AM)
So my masterpiece is done. (But knowing how great poetry is received around here, it'll suck. But.) I love it. Before I drown in a journalistic style for the rest of my life, I want this work to represent my voice in combining poetry and prose. I'm more than proud about it, even more so that it's for The Ocarina of Time. Anyway, hope you all like it (and don't bash it to kingdom come). Although, I am a semi-masochist... or at least, what my anima says to me in my sleep. (Shouldn't have said that.)
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Title: I am going to review...
Posted: February 24, 2006 (01:16 PM)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Oh muffins, am I going to need a prayer... (yes, muffins)
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