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Hohojirozame's blog

1:53 PM on 04.01.2013

DAE Play this Gem??

I feel like I'm the only one! I also recently found this in my attic, literally!   read

5:42 PM on 04.08.2012

Dreaming: It’s Time We had a Talk Level-5

Level-5, I love you. As a company you’ve been responsible for some great games in the last decade. Right now you have some of the most anticipated titles coming out in Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney and Ni No Kuni and in the past you have developed a wide range of games each unique in their own right like Rogue Galaxy and Inazuma Strikers. I also know that you love me back, these quality games have been made with me and the rest of the fans in mind, but I’ve got to level with you…Level-5. We’re hungry. I know, I know…you know exactly what I’m talking about, but it has to be said Level-5: give us Dark Cloud 3.

You've hinted at this thing back in 2009 and you still haven’t put out any word of it since. I’d be surprised at this point if you guys are actually working on it, I would probably throw up from disbelief if you had a build of it at the Tokyo Game Show. I know you guys have a lot on your plate. I’m not demanding the game be done by the end of the year, not at all. I just want to know that it exists, just give me that. I remember hearing that you guys would be starting this thing after you finished the White Knight Chronicles series…yet nothing has surfaced. It wouldn’t be hard either; the tools are there all you need to do is put them to good use Level-5. Here, let me share my ideas with you, in case you’re having trouble getting started.

Let’s start with the game itself. I’m sure you guys have thought about this, but a direct sequel to [/i]Dark Cloud 2[/i] is not the way to go. It should be like the Final Fantasy series, a new realm, characters, and story; the only thing that is sequential here is the number in the title. I’m sure you guys will come up with a clever idea to incorporate the Georama system and I know I’m in good hands when it comes to town building. Having worked on the Professor Layton series, I’m sure you guys can come up with some fancy new mini-games, but keep spheda please. In a 2009 interview you pleased us with news that Akihiro Hino, the designer from the previous games, will be onboard this project and I hope this is still true. The only personal idea of mine that I’d like to see implemented is a darker story perhaps, the other two games were great, but give us a more adult protagonist and story. Your fans have grown Level-5; we are not kids like the protagonists from the first two games.

In terms of art and music, you have amazing tools at your disposal. In terms of art, get Studio Ghibli back. I can only imagine the creation of a world for a game like Dark Cloud with that much creativity on the team. Having Ghibli will add a whole new level of charm and character on top of what was presented in the first two games. As for music, I’m sure you guys have already spoken to Tomohito Nishiura and he is composing madly as I write this. The game absolutely needs him at the helm for the music, no question. I’m looking forward to anything he has planned for us in the new game. Here are a few songs from different games to give you a quick refresher: Dark Cloud, Dark Cloud 2, Professor Layton, Rogue Galaxy, Jeanne d'Arc, and White Knight Chronicles.

I think that’s it really. I have faith that the fighting system will be a mix of the first games and maybe bring in some ideas from White Knight Chronicles. Also there is the issue of including online connectivity or keeping the game single player. Something similar to White Knight Chronicles' system would be nice, visiting other players’ towns not just as a lobby, but maybe a connected world would be cool. I would also love to see how you guys utilize Yasumi Matsuno in the game’s creation, a joint development between him and Hino perhaps? There's still sadness in our hearts over the loss of True Fantasy Live Online, but we have faith that this project will come to fruition in the near future, and when it does we will be there on the first day. Anyway I hope everything is going well and wish you luck in your future endeavors. Hope to see you at E3.


Hohojirozame   read

8:49 PM on 02.12.2012

Training: To be the Best

Back in 1998 there was one thing on most kid’s minds: to be the very best, that no one ever was. Back then when Pokémon Red and Blue released, every kid on the block and in class was the so called best. Every kid was a master because they had the level 100 legendaries, the strongest moves, and the words to back their play. I was one of those kids. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I realized how rusty I was when it came to Pokémon.

Let’s start from the beginning with Pokémon Red and Blue. The proverbial “bees knees” of the franchise for most gamers, but in my elementary school it was the end all be all for glory. You were either the champ or the chump. Things were fast back then, no time for strategy and thinking. Whoever had the faster, stronger Pokémon was the victor. There was no time for Sleep Powder followed by a surprise super effective move. You had to be quick, the moves are still ingrained in my head: Blizzard, Hydro Pump, Fire Blast, Thunder, Psychic, and the end all be all Hyper Beam. The Pokémon were always the same – Legendaries, Dragonite, Gyarados, Starters, and for some lucky bastards Mew. I was the lucky bastard. I somehow managed to procure a Mew from a kid who used a Gameshark to get him; however, I was different from the others. I didn’t load my Mew with all powerful death dealing moves. My set was simple – Recovery, Psychic, Thunder Wave, Horn Drill (with more PP using PP Up). The start of my strategic career in Pokémon, no one expected it. Paralyzed with Thunder Wave then hit with a Horn Drill, an instant KO. Did it always hit first time? No, but it did make me different, I began to think outside of the box. I learned that it did take more than just strength and speed, it took skill.

Pokémon Gold and Silver followed a few years later. With the second generation of Pokémon came new moves, types, and of course Pokémon. I also had grown a little older, well into my middle school career. The transition to the next stage of Pokémon brought my favorite Pokémon, Houndoom, and a new way of thinking about the game. As I learned by the end of my Red and Blue years, it took strategy to win. I learned this with the new egg system, trying to craft Pokémon with innovative move sets learned from their parents. It came with the new moves, giving my team moves that they could fend off their superior element with, for example my Houndoom with Solarbeam. I also became conscious of a Pokémon’s stat strengths and weaknesses, for example Houndoom has a massive amount of points in its Special Attack stat, but an average Speed stat.
I also had the Pokémon Stadiums to practice with. These were great at helping me establishing a “battle range”. The Poke Cup was my favorite, a Pokémon League sponsored event that was made out to be similar to the tournaments in the Pokémon show. I loved the idea of only being able to use level 50-55 Pokémon, no Legendaries, and a total Pokémon level of 155 for the three Pokémon chosen to battle. This level range was great in that most Pokémon had not learned all of their moves yet and some had not fully evolved. Again it added to more strategy finding, level maxing, and move optimizing.

The third generation was probably my weakest outing into the Pokémon universe. I had no Gameboy Advance and was unable to partake in Ruby and Sapphire. It distanced me from the series a bit. I did not fall behind in terms of what Pokémon were new and what new techniques were available, but I couldn’t practice. I didn’t have the game in front of me to actually try out combinations of Pokémon and see what move worked best with the new Pokémon. I would peek and listen to younger kids on my bus play the games and talk about the new Pokémon, trying to gain any knowledge I could, but also trying to maintain my “cool” as a high school student. It wasn’t until late into this generation’s life that I jumped on board, but it was too little too late because the next generation would soon be making its debut.

As with the other iterations, Diamond and Pearl brought more of the same new fare to the table. This time I was much older and wiser. I learned of something that completely changed the game for me: Effort Values. Effort Values, or EVs, had been in the game since Red and Blue; they are attributes that boost a Pokémon’s stats and increase depending on what Pokémon is fought. This meant that years of using Rare Candies were pointless, as Rare Candies offer no EV upon a level increase. EVs and Pokémon Natures, personalities that boost and decrease stats, added an unexplainable amount of depth in terms of raising Pokémon. I had to essentially beat the game and start raising Pokémon from scratch once I had access to the entire map. I also had to pick and choose which Pokémon would be the best EV fodder for my competition team. I feel these values and depth are what make Pokémon similar to a Pixar movie, they are both accessible to children, but adults can also enjoy them for the nuances a child cannot catch.

This brings me to present day, a new generation same old spiel. I still haven’t acquired the new Black and White games, but I have been looking into them. This time I have gotten practice with a few of the new Pokémon unlike my Ruby and Sapphire stint. Pokémon Showdown is a site where one can jump on and battle people over the internet with their own made team or random battle with random Pokémon and random moves. This, to me, is the best way to train. You are given a random team and are thrust against an opponent with an equally random team and are forced to make on the fly decisions to win. I can’t say the move sets and squad selection always end up in a fair outcome, but I’ve surprised myself with what some Pokémon can do in a tight spot. You might have to use a Pokémon who’s at a type disadvantage, but is able to take a hit, only to be able to use the one move in your whole squad that can damage the opposing Pokémon.

What does any of this have to do with training? Out of all the games I’ve played, I feel like I’ve put the most time and effort into the Pokémon series, almost 14 years. Memorizing names, type matchups, strategies, moves, items, and ways of obtaining Pokémon, I’ve done it all alongside following the show (I haven’t watched an episode of the show in a few years, it’s pointless) and collecting the cards (I recently obtained the Charizard from the first set of Pokémon cards). Every generation was a new learning process, a reconfiguration of old methods and new ideas. The only other games I put that much energy into are fighting games, but Pokémon still beats those out by a landslide. I feel like an aging sports player, trying to keep up with the times and adapting to the new styles the young guns throw at me. At this point the only thing putting me ahead of them is wisdom, who knows where I’ll be two Pokémon generations from now...   read

6:08 PM on 12.04.2011

Tales from Skyrim: Khajiit Zaide's Journal

[Disclaimer: First, spoilers will be found here. I want this to be read like a journal you would find in the game; therefore no pictures will be included because I feel it takes away from the effect. Since I can’t write in the game this will have to be my character’s “journal”. Here is a picture of the inspiration for my character: Mittens. In any case, enjoy!]

The Beginning:

I was born in Elsweyr and lost my parents early due to clan rivalry. A caravan, lead by Ahkari, heading to Skyrim found me on the side of the road hungry and abandoned, so they took me in. I traveled with them and learned the art of trading, but most importantly I gained a hunger for adventuring. During my travels I became interested in books and other writings left behind by the people of Tamriel. I learned to appreciate all kinds of writing and the elder Khajiit taught me how to read and write. I loved collecting the notes and journals of others because it is like having a piece of history in your hands, a way to forever remember the person who took the time to write something down. Currently my houses around Skyrim are filled with such books and personal writings. In Skyrim I learned about the racism that plagues the land. Throughout my life I have been associated with a mere house cat, threatened to be made into a rug, and always looked down upon as a common thief. In one instance I received a scar under my right eye from the mace of a Nord in what was called a “misunderstanding”. I was merely trying to help the Nord’s wife locate her ring, when I found it the Nord believed I had stolen it and swung his mace at me in punishment. The elders told me not to involve myself with such trifles, but I could not resist. I felt my life had more purpose than a common caravan trader, I knew I was destined to change the way the world viewed the Khajiit. I was to better the name of our race and bring honor to my ancestors.


After having spent many years with Ahkari's caravan, I left to seek my own fortunes. I believe they still travel around Skyrim with their wares; I recently helped Kharjo recover a stolen amulet from a band of thieves (an easy enough request). I had little successes alone. I was in dire need of money and looking for any kind of work. One day a man offered me a job: to keep look out as he stole a horse. It was against my morals, but I had no choice. So I agreed to earn a meager 10 Septims to keep watch. The Imperial soldiers began marching through not long after, and seeing an idle Khajiit they became suspicious. They saw the stables and the horse thief and easily put two and two together. I was bound and thrown in a cart with other prisoners, a famous one, Ulfric, was gagged so as not to speak. I was told we were all to be executed. Although I did not want to die, I was not afraid. I felt upset that I accomplished so little, but I was glad to leave this world full of prejudice and hate. The dragon gave me a second chance though. I was nearly killed in the process, but was glad the Gods permitted me life. I ran as fast as I could and left with an Imperial named Hadvar. I believe I chose him because I wanted to begin with a fresh slate, to return to the world anew. I gathered all the food and alchemy supplies I could as we left Helgen and headed toward Riverwood.

Early Travels and Being Dragonborn:

Upon arriving in Riverwood and finding help amongst Hadvar’s family, I decided to help the townsfolk. Due to my travels I had come into contact with most of the towns in Skyrim, but was unable to help the people. I went to the inn to discuss the latest rumors and undertake any jobs that needed to be done. One in particular, which set my destiny in motion, involved finding a Golden Claw for the general store owner. It was located at Bleak Falls Barrow, not too far from the city. I was happy to help as the trip was a short walk from Riverwood. I arrived and cleared out the bandits residing there only to find that the task, and what I found inside, was much greater than a simple retrieval request. Battling my way to the depths of the crypt I came upon the claw and came upon a door that needed opening through a clever puzzle. After reading the note of a fallen adventurer, I looked on the palm of the claw to find the solution. I fought the “master” Draugr and defeated him through a ferocious battle, using every ounce of strength and all of my resources. While recovering from the battle I happened upon a stone tablet and a wall of writings. I had never seen such writings, but I was able to decipher a word from the wall, which I later learned meant Force (Fus). Upon returning with the claw, I set out for Whiterun.

There I was told the meaning of the tablet and explained what I had seen at Helgen to the Jarl. I was soon told to help the Jarl’s men investigate a recent dragon attack on a local watchtower. We arrived upon smoldering ash and burnt bodies when the dragon appeared. It was in the middle of the night and had to use my keen night vision to properly fight. The battle raged on for the entirety of the night with our side basking in the spoils of glory. As the sun rose, a flash of lights and sounds converged upon me as the others stared in amazement. I learned that I had absorbed the beast’s soul and was a “Dohvakin”. The soldiers were in disbelief and we hurried back to the Jarl with news of the battle and my new title. I was told to travel to Ivarstead to learn more from the Greybeards. Before my next journey I joined the Companions to see if I could learn anything whilst traveling in the company of other brave adventurers. Instead I ended up becoming a werewolf (to my annoyance) and found myself in the middle of a small war between the Circle and the Silver Hand. I hope to rid myself of this curse in the near future...

My Current Affairs:

After gaining the wisdom of the Greybeards and their master as well as the Blades', I understand what I must do: stop Alduin. The Greybeard’s ways are just, but I do not want the world to end. Perhaps when this is all over I will return to them and study their ways in further detail…For now I am working for the Thieve’s Guild. It’s strange, this conflict inside me, I want to help, but I am currently fulfilling my own stereotype. I try to justify it as a way of getting back at all the hate throughout my years. Hopefully I will be able to satiate this hunger of mine and return to helping the people of Skyrim, regardless of the hate. I have become the thane of a few Holds throughout Skyrim, it shows how hard I've worked to help the people of Skyrim and allows people to see me in a different light. Each time I become a thane, it is one step closer to my goal.

I have undertaken various tasks for the Daedra, with some more…interesting than others. I am currently helping Azurah (Azura to non-Khajiit) and have helped others like Sangiin (Sanguine) and Sheogorath. The Daedra for the Khajiit are represented differently than to others. There is no bad or good divinity and most represent important ideas related to the world and our lives. Sangiin’s was perhaps the most entertaining, traveling around Skyrim reveling with a divinity was more than one could hope for. Sheogorath was testing - delving into the mind of a madman was no easy task, I yearned for Skooma upon my return. Seeing the statue of Azurah for the first time was amazing, the caravan never had time to visit due to the strict schedule. I hope I am able to come out of this task having met and becoming familiar with the great Azurah and possibly learning more about our great ancestors.

There are too many other events to describe in words, my adventure has been a grand one and being able to reflect upon my trials and tribulations in the comfort of my Whiterun home makes me believe in a greater tomorrow. I have not given up hope in bringing honor to the Khajiit and creating a more unified Skyrim. I hope to write more if I ever find myself idle.

Zaide   read

11:22 PM on 10.19.2011

Sonic Generations Demo: I’m…Optimistic? (Short Blog)

Is it too early? Maybe I’m delirious from school or Organic Chemistry is starting to get to me. I played the Sonic Generations demo today and yes, I am optimistic. It’s a different kind of optimism than I’ve had with previous Sonic titles. It reminds me of how I felt about seeing Sonic 3 after carrying around the Sonic 2 booklet everywhere I went, learning about the enemies to each stage…and coloring them in (I was little). This optimism scares me. I mean it’s only the first stage that I’ve played, who’s to say the rest of the game is good?

First let’s talk about the game. From my 8 or so play throughs the game controls very well. The controls are tight, the movement is much more respectable than the looseness that was Unleashed. They modified the rail switching button from the bumpers to moving the analog stick left or right, a minor inconvenience that can be adjusted to. The controls are the same from Unleashed, except for the “trick stick” feature instead of QTEs. The game throws a few automatic sections at you, but there is enough variety when it comes to the different paths you can take to keep you active.
The audio and visuals are great as well. The level looks gorgeous in HD, with lots of colors and a nice looking background. The remixed version of Green Hill Zone fits in great with the pace of the "faster" Sonic. Omochao is back from the Sonic Adventure days and gives you advice if you run by him. It gets a little annoying but his voice is easy to tune out as you’re blazing through the stage (he’s also in pudgy Sonic’s area).

Overall I’m satisfied with what they’ve brought to the table so far with the demo. I know its early and I’m still a little hesitant, but I hope that the game does well. Signs of demise are on the horizon with Rival races, the inclusion of Silver sent a shockwave through the community, but I don’t want it to bomb. I want to be able to enjoy this Sonic game as much as I did with the Sonic games of old. Although the Night stages in Unleashed were a bore, the Day stages were great fun. Unleashed was the most modern Sonic affair I played since Adventure 2 Battle, maybe that’s why I’m this optimistic…Regardless give the game a try, and let’s hope that Sega will come through! Thoughts? Comments? Bueller?

Related side note: My roommate had never played a Sonic game before this and enjoyed fast Sonic’s stage.   read

6:34 PM on 08.10.2011

Women in Games: Sports Edition

It is without saying that soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Call it what you will, a “child’s game” or “3rd world country sport”, but at least someone you know has played it in some form or another. This summer, as an avid watcher and follwer of soccer, I feel that there have been a large amount of important tournaments and national games being played like the Under 17 and Under 20 World Cups, the Women’s World Cup, the Gold Cup, and the Copa America. In particular I’ll be referring to the Women’s World Cup as I try to make an argument for why EA should make a women’s soccer game/DLC.

Mascot is...a cup of coffee? Actually...its a parrot.

As I was saying before, this summer had a surprising amount of national soccer games for a few different tournaments. Currently the Under 20 World Cup is being held in Columbia, while the Beach Soccer World Cup is coming in the first week of September in Italy. The most noticeable of all the tournaments this summer was without a question the Women’s World Cup. I usually tend to not follow women’s soccer, but due to national pride for two countries, USA and Brazil, and my own soccer drought I decided to follow along. The games were great, with the group stage providing some interesting games. As always, the knock out stage was where the tournament got interesting. Japan defeated the 2 time reining champion and home country Germany and the USA defeated long time rivals Brazil (heart breaker for me). With the hype train at full steam and national pride and emotions at an all time high, Japan and America squared off for a rematch of epic proportions dating back to Pearl Harbor and WWII…or so the various Facebookers and Tweeters called it. In the end Japan won, a much needed morale boost for a country with recent issues with Mother Nature, and the USA women’s soccer fandom was furious.

Good day in sports.

How does this relate to gaming? I believe EA should make a Women’s Soccer title. I bold claim that many won’t agree on, but I’ll try to defend my case with honor.

For one, many might argue that women’s soccer isn’t all that popular in the US. This is true, as I stated earlier although I follow soccer I have no idea about the inner workings of women’s soccer aside from the World Cup and my college’s team. Let’s take a look at some facts from the recent tournament: It has the 6th most views of all soccer matches with 13.45 million. The game wit the highest amount of views: the Women’s World Cup Final of 1999. ESPN provided coverage on multiple platforms including its X-Box Live service. On the Twitter front, the Japan vs USA game holds the record for most tweets per second with 7,196 (followed by the Copa America match between Brazil and Paraguay with 7,166). Names like Hope Solo, Abbey Wambach, and Alex Morgan became huge in just a few weeks. To say that the game isn’t popular is rubbish.

Secondly, FIFA as a franchise is one of EA’s most internationally known titles. Even in the US the sales numbers don’t lie when they cause a 5% jump in EA’s stock values after its opening weekend. In the US and Europe alone the game sold 2.6 million copies earning the title as the fastest selling sports game ever (couldn’t find any US only numbers). The title is familiar to soccer fans and if the women’s version sold under the same franchise name as DLC or a stand alone title it would do well. Personally the game could be DLC since EA has a soccer “engine” there and would just need to create new skins and rosters, but I feel a stand alone title could work as well (maybe at a 30-40 dollar price range?). It wouldn’t have to include the various leagues and individual clubs, just the national teams from the recent tournament and qualifying rounds.

Finally, why EA? As a publisher, developer, and marketer EA has an influence over various demographics of gamers and even people who don’t play games have seen an EA ad somewhere in their daily lives. I’m sure that EA could muster up a PR campaign and bring in some solid sales numbers, while bringing in more new people into the varying demographics it has an influence on. The only other game that could do something similar is the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise, but as it is not as well known and is not as well received by gamers and critics alike.

So, what do you think? Can EA do it, should EA do it?


-   read

4:53 PM on 05.31.2011

E3 Approaches: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

Changes, as gamers we love them and hate them. The main gaming conference we all look forward to every year is no different when it comes down to being affected by change. I would love for E3 to see some changes. I would love for E3 to be open to the public again, and have the community be a bigger part of the event. I would love it if Kiss opened up E3 with "Lick it Up" amid blazing fires and midgets dueling with machetes. I would love to see E3 be different, change up the main press conferences from being these meme-filled high school power point presentations to more exciting and comfortable talks. The question is, are these changes necessary? Would changing something that is already well established help the conference at all? Perhaps some of these changes are appropriate while others should just be fleeting dreams and ideas.


Picture you sitting and waiting for Miyamoto to come on stage and discuss the latest Zelda game. You're eagerly awaiting the God of Nintendo to come on stage with that big grin of his and show off the new game, but the lights quickly shut off. Smoke fills the stage and lasers illuminate the walls. People begin to walk on stage from both sides and stand next to each other in an orderly and precise fashion. You hear music, its still an instrumental so you can't identify it, but you try to liken it to an old Nintendo theme. A circular platform rises from the middle of the stage, and you hear the voice of Lady Gaga.

This is something that is totally plausible at E3. What developer wouldn't want the support of ridiculously popular pop star being the voice of their company? An icon like Gaga or Kiss backing a company would increase sales towards the specified demographic, but would it be a smart move? Frankly, I think not. There really is no point in making E3 into this celebrity filled convention when gamers already have our own celebrities to look forward to like Miyamoto or Gabe Newall. This kind of entertainment would be annoying, and cause more of a distraction than help. In terms of stage performances, E3 would do well to stay on track with what it has already.

The new faces of Microsoft??

I think the biggest disappoint for me in relation to E3 was the elimination of the public from the convention. Why would the consumer, the fan, be eliminated from their own event? Sure there was E for All, but that died after 2 years. PAX is event we can go to, but it just isn't the same (I've never been before so please correct me if I'm wrong). This is something that E3 should change. It’s not something that needs to be done tomorrow, or next year, but it would be great if the public could get involved again. I'm not familiar as to why the event was made invitation only, but removing the people that support the industry is not a smart move in my opinion. Not only does the company lose out on potential profit, but it makes the event feel more exclusive and arrogant, like an exclusive country club.

Never again...

Finally I wish E3 could be different, change the set up once in a while. The presentations for the games are about as exciting as watching a high school play. For the most part the only reason most people I know watch the conferences is to hear about the announcements of the various games, consoles, and accessories not Sony's 10 year plan or Microsoft's new marketing campaign to bring in kids. Sure these things are informative and interesting; perhaps make that portion a separate conference or get someone with more enthusiasm (other than Reggie and Kaz) to speak and give the conference a more genuine feel. I'm not familiar with the showroom floor, but if it’s the same layout every year why not change it? I think the reasons these portions of the show stay the same is due to familiarity and economic reasons. Keeping the layout the same takes less focus away from a trivial problem and gives the planners time to figure out other important details of the show. Economically the companies need to show off their marketing strategies and plans for the future to a wide audience (since millions are watching at home as well) rather than present those in a separate conference few outside of the event will see.

All in all I think the people that run E3 know what they're doing. There are many changes worth exploring, but it is probably best for the event if it is left untouched. The one change that I think really needs to be explored is allowing the public to visit again. E3 failed by taking away the ability for the fans and consumers to visit the event given that they help fuel and influence the industry. Hopefully everyone's expectations for this year's event are met and see you on the other side!   read

4:03 PM on 05.26.2011

Leave Me Alone Nostalgia: StarTopia

Let me begin by saying, phew! What a week; trying to finish this game up in the midst of thrilling playoff basketball action while having to study for an organic chemistry exam and visiting old high school friends really takes some doing. That’s summer though! Anyway this blog will be about a recent bout with nostalgia and the resulting experience.


This incident with nostalgia first took place on the 21st, during the supposed Rapture. I wasn’t running around telling people to repent for their sins and accept Christ into their lives, rather I was trying to recollect the past events of my life, you know incase the world did end. While I was visiting the C-blogs and reading the various Rapture related blogs, I began to remember my past gaming experiences. There are always the main ones people remember like their first console or first RPG, but there are some experiences that are obscure and go unnoticed unless you dig deep and try to remember that special game you had when you were a kid. This obscure game for me was StarTopia. If you haven’t played StarTopia then read on as I attempt to fill you in on this underappreciated PC gem. If you have played it, read on and see if we’re on the same page!

The station that the player runs in the game.

The game came out in 2001for the PC and was created by Mucky Foot Productions and published by Eidos. If you remember, this was a time when the “tycoon” style of game was increasing in number thanks to the success of Roller Coaster Tycoon. StarTopia can be described generally as a “tycoon” game, but it had more character than your average build and manages style game. The premise of the game was for the player to be an administrator of a toroidal space station; building and maintaining this station in order to attract the various species of aliens and create a flourishing destination known through out the galaxy.
The game was set up with various missions for the player to undergo, from learning the basics to waging full scale wars inside the station, in order to gain recognition as a good administrator and move on to the next task. The station is divided into 3 levels, or decks: Engineering, Pleasure, and Bio each with their own set of equipment you can use to build and expand. The Engineering deck consists of buildings that deal with basic amenities (“inns”, eateries, lavatories, and hospitals) and production related facilities (cargo bays, factories, and recyclers). The Pleasure deck provides entertainment for your residents and visitors in the form of bars, motels, “love shacks”, and discos. Finally the Bio deck contains an artificial environment that the player can manipulate to create specific environments to grow supplies and remind the aliens of home. Now that the general stuff is out of the way, let’s jump into the meat of the game!

A nice view of the Bio deck.

The "main" deck, Engineering deck, is where aliens arrive and the essentials for a space station can be found.

Since it’s the first thing that you notice, lets talk about the sounds of StarTopia. The music in the game is great. Each deck has its own sound that keeps the pace of the game going even though there are only a few tracks per deck. The Engineering deck has an upbeat sciency-techno sound, the Pleasure deck has more of a club-techno theme, and the Bio deck has a mix of ambient noises and relaxing beats. The music makes you feel at home in each section and the selection of tracks are memorable. As the player transitions between decks the songs seem to meld together, like a DJ mixing the tunes, and flow well from deck to deck. The various buildings each have their own music as well, with some, like the disco, that can be altered so that the player can hear the room music without having to zoom in to the building. This small touch adds a bit of character to the game, giving the player reason to care about the layout and maintenance of their buildings.
Some of the game's music:

The relaxing sounds of the Bio deck.

One of the more...interesting tracks from the Pleasure deck.

There are essentially two voices in the entire game with the rest of the voice acting being alien gibberish. The two characters in particular are VAL and Arona Daal who were both voiced by William Franklyn. The alien gibberish is similar to Similish, but it makes more sense and makes the aliens seem more lively and familiar. The two voiced characters are great. VAL is that all familiar NPC that is just a voice that helps you through these types of games, though VAL is…different. His stinging sarcasm and wit coupled with his dry tone offer up some good laughs that can help liven up any dull moments. Over the course of the game, however, the player and VAL form a sort of bond, where VAL will express concern in losing his job along the player. This is significant because it creates this idea that you’ll be dragging down your helpful NPC in your miserable loss. The other character, also voiced by Franklyn, is Arona the merchant. He is a typical black market dealer that will visit the player offering goods and supplies at higher prices. At first you tend to think Arona is a sleazy prick, already having a poor reputation among other station owners, but as the game progresses sometimes you yearn for his next visit hoping he is carrying the item you seek. Arona’s dialogue also provides some laughs, but his lines tend to repeat a tad bit too much to the point of skipping some of his conversations. The next point of the game worth exploring is the game play.

Say hi to Muarg!

At its core, you are trying to run a business in StarTopia. You are given a space station and are required to transform it into a prosperous mining rest stop, hospital, or jail. To complete these objectives you have to manage your money, building space, and work force. There are 9 main races (8 that can work) that will visit the station and potentially become residents if hired. The races all have their own mannerisms, preferences, and job specificities. The Grey race, for example, is the stereotypical alien looking race and specializes in medicine, so they work in hospitals. Each individual alien also has a set of information ranging from home planet to crimes committed. After familiarizing one’s self to the various races, its time to play the game. The main story mode is not that long, but each mission offers varied game play as to how they are completed. It’s great that Mucky Foot was able to create these various scenarios while making the game feel fresh with each mission. One mission involves employing various farmer type aliens and creating goods on the Bio deck. These goods are then stored and traded with other traders in order for the player to earn 100,000 energy (energy = currency). The game it self is not too difficult to grasp and play, although there are hectic times when the station population increases and other players are trying to take over your portion of the station. Aside from the missions there is a sandbox mode and a multiplayer mode (which I have yet to try).

A well furnished Pleasure deck is a good way to earn some dough. Disco, Disco!

Overall this game can best be described as quaint; it has enough charm to draw me back after years of neglect and fails to disappoint me. I think the main thing that I was thinking about during my play through was how games are similar to pictures in that they can conjure memories from the past when you last played them. When I played StarTopia I remember my computer I used to run the game, the place I used to live, my standing in school and other warm fuzzy memories that make me smile. There are games that are contrary to this, however, and frustrate the player due to poor aging and work well as a fond memory rather than a recurring experience. There are things that I didn’t touch upon about this game because if people do decide to play it, I would like them to discover, or rediscover, the small touches that make this game a quaint underrated gem able to stand the tests of time.


3:29 PM on 05.17.2011

What's an Intro?

So the voice inside my head that I use to personify my thoughts has been bugging me to do this, but I went against it. I figured other people were introducing themselves and I didn’t want to be a jerk and fill the blogs with intro posts. I know I already wrote a few articles, but inspiration wouldn’t stop bitching at me…so I slapped her on the butt and calmed her down, we then wrote a few musings and a random blog. Anyway, let’s act like this is the first thing I wrote and move on!

My name is Steven Oliveira and I am an only child, unless 3 wiener dogs can be considered siblings. I am a Brazilian-American currently enrolled at USC in Los Angeles. I just finished my third year in my pursuit of a Biology degree in order to become a veterinarian. I was initially trying to become a biomedical engineer, but Statics and Calc 3 got the best of me, so I chose something else that I had an interest in. I began my gaming “career” with the Genesis and Super Nintendo. My personal view about life is that everyone in the world has the possibility to do something great, no matter how small, in their life time (might have come to this because of Freya’s ideas about despair). As ambitious as that may sound, I still tend to enjoy sitting around and being lazy…

To begin with, here are some personal, non-game related things. My five favorite animals have to be dogs, peregrine falcons, cheetahs, sharks, and penguins. My favorite genre of music would have to be Hip-Hop (currently into Lil B and Odd Future), but I don’t limit myself to just that and have a wide range of musical tastes (J-Reggae, 70s Soul/Funk, Brazilian Music). I grew up watching cartoons, with Looney Toons being my all time favorite “show” and Bugs Bunny my favorite character. Movie wise I’m definitely not as savvy as most seem to be on here, but I do like old school samurai movies (Mifune ftw), 80s movies (Breakfast Club, Beverly Hills Cop, Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and blaxploitation movies (Black Dynamite [lucky enough to see it in theaters] and currently trying to see Boss Nigger).

I listen to hip-hop, so I must be hip...right?

Next, some gaming related stuffs. Like I said earlier I started off with the Genesis and SNES, playing some obscure and well known games from Robot Justice to Sonic 2, Tin Star to Donkey Kong. I also went through the PS1 and N64 stages similarly playing things like Robo Pit and Final Fantasy 9. I went through the following generations with a little more maturity, but once the current generation rolled around I had to pick and choose my games carefully as my tastes had changed dramatically from when I was a kid. Box art, robots, and dinosaurs, were substituted with reviews, friends’ opinions, and other media when deciding what games to choose…man times were simpler back then. Some favorites of mine include Jet Force Gemini, the Dark Cloud series, Final Fantasy 9, Personas 3 and 4, Smash Bros (and fighters in general), the Banjo Kazooie series, Pokemon, and many others.

Lastly, but not leastly (obviously correct), D-toid related fare. I began coming to this site about 3 and a half years ago as a mere lurker. After frequenting the site for a good amount of time I decided to create an account (steveoweeman) and became a commenter on main page articles. I changed to my current name not long after (means great white shark in Japanese) because I wanted a new identity (I used steveoweeman since middle school) and I wanted a name without numbers or random X’s. I was a little hesitant at first to join the c-blogs because I thought my writing wouldn’t be good enough or I wouldn’t be able to write about much, but after reading a ton of blogs recently my opinion has definetly changed. I hope to contribute some decent writing (which I actually enjoy doing) and give back to D-toid what little I have after providing me with so much info and incite into the world of gaming over the years. I also hope to gain some new friends and experiences here on the c-blogs and at events in the future. So if you’re ever in the Ft. Lauderdale area in the future (manly summer months and Christmas time), C.C. and I invite you to join us for dinner!


3:57 AM on 05.11.2011

A Yarn of Sorts, from the 10th of May

As I sip on this warm sake, a yarn I will weave. A tale of epic proportions; when the trolls invaded and the blogs were thought dead. All hope was thought lost, courageous and kind blogs falling to the depths of forgetfulness and woe. At the darkest hour, hope shone through, as the Community stayed true. They fought back the horde of trolls from whence they came, leaving only but humor and goodness as the day wane. This is the story of…The Lord of the Trolls.

After an arduous day of testing and studying, I laid my eyes on the kingdom of Toid, hoping to find an interesting read to satiate my crippled mind. As I stared at the country side of the kingdom, a dark wave of terror set its sights on the peaceful empire. With daily attempts at disturbing the order, the trolls were only a bother at the kingdom boarder. But on this day they amassed in droves, toting banners scrawled with the words Zero and Wedge. They came en masse, taking down the innocents of the kingdom, removing them from the outer more visible parts of the kingdom to the forgotten realms of the empire. The denizens became weary and fearful of presenting their thoughts and ideas, keeping inside the safety of their homes. Soon the tides would change, as the Community came from the far reaches of the realm to smite the evil that was the troll.

It was Kanye, with the bleach white shine of his teeth and sparkle of his “shades”, who created an opening in the wave of darkness, allowing for the rest of the forces to charge in.

Kenan of Thompson let out a monumental roar that commenced the charge of the Community into the maw of the troll forces.

Cage led the charge, flipping burgers and leaving the enemy in a state of bewilderment when they gazed upon his expressionless visage.

The Brothers Pudge followed the charge swinging their popsicle flails like mad men, wiping out dozens of trolls at once and finishing with a pose Captain Ginyu would be jealous of.

The barrage of soccer balls from the butt of the mighty archer Ronaldo continued uninterrupted, there were enough balls to…blot out the sun.

From the skies rode Chunk, bearing his epic gut, on his trusty steed, Falcor. The duo struck fear in the heart of the troll horde, maiming and decimating thousands.

Pooh-Man, entered the fray late, crippling the remaining forces with his mighty lyrics and terrifying song, Sex, Money and Murder.

Lastly, the Shoe of Truth, struck down the final trolls and landed the final blow with its gleaming white soul.

As the battle drew to a close, the mighty Moderators came from the Heavens, carrying mighty Hammers of Banning. They closed off the boarders of the kingdom with mighty blows from their hammers, preventing any more trolls from entering...for the time being. The sun had set, and the scene was gruesome, but the citizens of the kingdom need not live in fear any longer. The horde had been pushed aside and flattened by the brave warriors, known collectively as the Community. The kingdom was happy again and the revelry soon began.

As I finish knitting this epic yarn, I know that the attacks are not over, only time will tell when the next one will occur. The Community is prepared; however, with lessons learned and new tactics planned for when the trolls appear again, hopefully nipping the problem at the bud. Thank you, Community and Moderators, for allowing this story to be told and keeping the kingdom of Toid peaceful and safe for posting.

(Thank you Beyamor for collecting the pictures, etc! This was just something fun I wanted to do, being done with finals, packing, and slight drinking. Seeing the amount of anger and trollery was annoying and saddening as a reader and newer community member. Here's to getting back on track!)   read

5:16 PM on 05.02.2011

P2 Press Start: Love, Hate, and...Smash Bros.

So I will begin this blog with a video:


The video above shows my friends and I (the initial and final camera holder) being very loud and ridiculous at Dunkin Donuts after closing. You might be asking yourself, “Hoho, why are all your friends black? Why do you say ‘dawg’ so many times? Identity crisis much?” None of that is important though, what is important is our behavior. This write up will be about how my particular group plays Smash Bros.

To begin, I met these guys in 07 after merely knowing of them through owning hacked Playstation 2s and owning pirated versions of Narutimate. Once we actually got to know each other, we became really good friends, we just clicked. One thing we all shared in common was our love for Smash Bros.

Since the first iteration, I’ve always played Smash Bros. with others and formed either new friendships (at tourneys or parties) or solidified old ones. That’s what I love about it most. There’s this sort of recognition of another’s skill and respect is formed based on their style of play and if they have good sportsmanship, it’s hard to describe. I know it sounds crazy, but being a competitive guy (at least with fighting games) it’s a big deal.

Since I was in the 3rd grade this game has been a big part of my life

A big chunk of this ridiculous gaming came when we played Smash Bros. Melee, it was still the game to play back then before the Wii came out and Brawl respectively. We would always gather at one of our houses, the guy in particular is known as Insd here on Dtoid, and play for hours on end. There were joyous, raucous, and trying times, but somehow we managed to keep playing.

Many times we would be yelling in excitement as the turtle on Termina rose out of the water and caught one of us as we plummeted to our death. This would result in an immediate pause of the game and prancing around the house. Fighting on Hyrule (the one with that cave area) we would gloat about our abilities to ukemi with high amounts of damage, or our abilities to catch items in the air with an air dodge. When someone got off a nice combo, you’d think there were monkeys and apes howling in that apartment.

Sounded kind of like this...

There were also times when controllers were thrown in frustration. Losing to someone without killing them once (perfect stocking I think it was called?) warranted mockery from the winner, and the loser being reminded of the event later on. Arguments between friends over who was being “cheap” and not playing “fair”, edge hogging is a good example of this. Friendships put on hold for a month in order for the two opposing parties to simmer down because of an argument of who got a perfect match and when.

Overall there we were just being loud, one time the police actually came to my friend’s house when we were all playing Smash Bros because we were being so loud. They actually came in ready to fight because people called in saying there was a domestic squabble. Now my friend lived in an apartment complex on the top floor, so it makes sense why this happened. When the police found out it was a group of kids being ridiculous, they just chuckled, told us to chill out, and not cause any more trouble. Maybe they were sympathetic because they had similar shenanigans when they were younger, or they thought we were a bunch of crazy nerds.

Not this funny, but you get the point.

In the end high school finished and I left for California to continue school, essentially splitting the group for a few months twice a year. The loudness didn't stop though, at least for me. I found another group my freshman year and when we played Brawl I was the loud one at first, but others joined in as well. Whenever I go back home for both summer and winter breaks, however, we get together and play fighting games and other multiplayer fare. This results in similar events occurring when we played Melee, but not to the same extent. When we do play Smash Bros (Brawl or Melee), we tend to warn the neighbors that shit is hitting the proverbial fan…otherwise we bake them an apology cake.   read

1:58 PM on 04.30.2011

Aaamaazing: Learning - Quality and Fun

I'll start off by writing that my gaming started at an early age thanks to my mom (<3). What my parents always labeled an addiction was just something to have fun with, by myself and with others. I think my parents never realized that being an only child with working parents and having no neighborhood friends, that I needed another way to spend my down time from learning times tables and playing with Beast Wars action figures. Please don't think this is a parental rant, cause I wuv my folks!

Now back to games. As a child I played some games that...might not have been considered the best games of all time. Just to name a few of the games I played, the Bubsy series (yes 3D included), Beast Wars (PS1), Puggsy, Tins Star,Wrestlemania 2000, Cyborg Justice, Robo Pit, and Mega Man Soccer. Now please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm not really sure these were "great" representations of the gaming world. I never played Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII, Super Mario RPG, Super Metroid, A Link to the Past, but when I did, like Ocarina of Time, I never fully got it.
Not until a few years later, after I replayed OoT (I jumped on the boat kind of late), did I understand its contributions to gaming and what it was worth as an experience. My point is I was a kid. I wasn't some philosophical child that understood the intricacies of games with crazy stories full of sub-plots and twists, I was just a kid. I'm not going to sit here and lie to everybody how my aaamaazing experience happened with something that I never played or fully understood. I wanted fun, but I learned over the years about the mesh of quality and fun.

I remember the time well, a friend of mine and I had just finished running through Twisted Metal 4 for the millionth time and playing through the first Tony Hawk game (I think it was in 2001 maybe 2002, I was just entering middle school). My friend's mom shows up with a new game, don't remember what the occasion was, and this game happened to be Final Fantasy IX (I remember it having the Greatest Hits label, so it might have been 02 or 03 even). Having only played Final Fantasy VIII at a Sears' demo kiosk, I knew little of the series, but was intrigued nonetheless.
My friend popped the game in his Playstation and we went through all the opening ads, eagerly awaiting to see the opening cinematic (at least I was). I was disappointed when my friend skipped the opening cut scene as soon as the melodic music began to play. Not having a save we pressed onward with a new game, I in particular growing restless.

Luckily for me I was instantly hooked to the game when I witnessed the opening cinematic(s). My friend chose not to keep the original name (Argh!) for Zidane but I still watched intently as the events of the story unfolded. After my friend got owned by Baku and learned he was part of a band of theatrical thieves, the second part of the opening centers on another character, the beloved Vivi.

Portuguese text...but the point is the opening is cool!

There are plenty of things thrown at the player, which is what drew me in. What was the deal with that vision that girl saw? Who is that girl? So I'm a guy with a tail named Zidane? Who's the dude with no face and yellow eyes? These were all things that I wanted to know and couldn't wait to find out once the game started up.
Once the second cinematic plays, you take control of Vivi (no name yet when you start). Here you are trying to get a ticket to see the play where Zidane and Co. will make their move to capture the princess (on her Sweet Sixteen too, oh-em-gee!). This was one of my favorite parts of the game, being able to play all the cool mini games around town and getting items for doing well in them (later did I find out you can get some pretty rare stuff through these). There was something about that jump rope mini game...two hours trying to get a really high score between the two of us...

N-no...actually...maybe one more time wouldn't hurt...right?

After securing the Princess (Then known as Garnet) through some pretty cool scenes, loved the battle between Blank and Zidane (which I didn't realize was part of the play), we arrive at the first area where a party is formed and things can be fought. We had a newly formed party of Garnet, Vivi, Zidane, and Steiner and things had gotten interesting: Blank, coolest guy ever, gets petrified (noooooo) in a daring escape from the Evil Forest, we made it through an Ice Cavern, got through the sneaky village of Dali, and made it to the grand city of Lindblum all the while fighting the dreaded Black Waltzes!

An epic, but touching moment early on in the story.

We were engrossed. The characters drew me in through their conversations and interactions with one another. I wanted Zidane to get the girl, I wanted Vivi to find out the roots of his "race". It was like a book, I couldn't stop reading, in this case playing. All the while I was just a spectator, unable to take control of what the characters did, unable to decide their fates. I wanted to continue reading, but the fate of the story was not in my hands.
I soon found my friend had stopped playing Final Fantasy and I knew that I needed to find out what happened to the heroes, it was too soon to stop. I promptly exchanged games with my friend and borrowed Final Fantasy with haste. I began the story again, revisiting locations, scouring for items and learning the story one more time. But you know something, I didn't mind doing it all over again.

I found myself playing through the game and noticing things I hadn't before, not just hidden items, but listening to the music. The soundtrack for Final Fantasy IX is great. It helped set the tone for cut-scenes, it helped set the mood for conversations, it helped introduce new characters, and it helped getting me pumped for certain parts of the game. One instance in particular is when, as Steiner, the game has you running around through one of the game's central locations, Alexandria, dispatching waves of huge worm monsters. Beatrix, an enemy initially and Steiner's love interest, joins the fray. She helps Steiner get through the horde with a great track playing all the while, although I made it my prerogative as Steiner to defend my love...even if she was more powerful than I was.

I'm going to end this here because I can go on and on about this game and its influence on me and how many times I've replayed the beginning and have still never finished it to this day (came close but did not grind enough to get through Terra properly) or seen the ending, but this post will be longer than A Tale of Two Cities. If this post receives enough attention, or I have the time, I might add on to it because there are still many things I haven't touched upon, but I feel the overall gist can be digested: the game is great. I played through my fair share of "bad" games, but never really cared because I was young and loved those games nonetheless (Primal Rage was one of my favorites).
As I grew up and became more jaded and craving more from my experience, I wanted the games that I played to reflect that. At the same time I wanted to have fun, even if I was the only one thinking I was having fun. Thus I feel that Final Fantasy IX did just that with its story, characters, music, and themes; I discovered my first fun, quality game. The great part is, almost 10 years later, I still find new things about the game drawing me back to it (beating the game at level 1?!?!). Hopefully, I can play this game again and finish it once and for all...

Also this:

Quina FTW

And this:

Thanks Jim!   read

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