Saturday, October 1, 2011

Creation Myth


I decided to start posting my random fiction.  They'll be labelled under "My Stories."  I hope you enjoy them.

There were two great gods, Heles and Alial. These stars hated each other. Even though the sky is endless, these two stars could never get far enough away from each other to be happy. Heles gave in first.

Heles dashed towards Alial with all his might. If Alial was dead, Heles could finally have some peace. They grappled for eons, throwing chunks of each other across the sky, until they crashed onto the world, in the far, far east.

In those days, there was only water in the world. Water and fish. Heles and Alial crashed in the Westmost sea, but their fighting did not stop. Annoyed at the disturbance, the fish pushed them to the surface, where the two gods continued their battle.

They fought each other across the surface of the sea, tearing each other to pieces across the way. Each discarded piece of their bodies became an island of our world. Each blow they landed added land above the sea.

Heles and Alial were shells of their former selves by the time they reached the Eastmost Sea. Heles only had his head, neck, and left arm remaining. Alial had most of his frame left, but had lost the entirety of his head and left leg during the fight. Heles, who still had his head, paused to think. They had reached the end of the world and Heles had some trepidation about falling off. The thoughtful moment was all it took to end the fight. Alial, who had lost his head much earlier, was fighting only by instinct. When Heles paused, Alial unleashed its fiercest attack of all, directly towards Heles's head. The blow was so mighty, Heles head flew all the way to the west most end of the world.

Exhausted, Alial collapsed and laid to rest eternally in peace. Its body became the impassable Eastern mountain range. Alial's neck and arm became the Satryos islands.

But neither Alial nor Heles were killed. Heles's head awoke in the west and is still trying to come to the east to kill Alial's resting body.  This is why the monsters come from the West, seeking only destruction.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tumblr

So, I set up an image blog at Tumblr.  It's really easy to post images there, so I've been posting a ton of stuff there.  Mostly anime related stuff, but also some math jokes, funny stuff, and animated gifs.  Check it out!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Decompressing Archive Files

I've been decompressing archive files recently.  It's a lot of fun; it makes me feel like a detective.  I started after I read this blog post (http://briancarper.net/blog/475/) about extracting resources from a Final Fantasy PSP game.  I had wanted to do this sort of thing when I was in high school, but I didn't even know where to start.  I wondered how I'd fare now after years working as a programmer.

I followed that blog's links for a while and came across this useful guide (http://www.xentax.com/downloads/multiex/Definitive_Guide_To_Exploring_File_Formats_MW_2004.pdf) and this great forum (http://forum.xentax.com/).  After reading the guide and following the Quake example, I felt I was ready to try an archive on my own.  It really wasn't very hard, just time consuming.  I found it was generally true for all the different archives I ended up working on.

Decompressing an archive is reverse engineering how the data is compressed, so most of the challenge is in detecting patterns and guessing at data structure... which is pretty fun.  Things go better with good tools and more experience, but there's always a lot of trial and error.  Success can rely heavily on luck.  Sometimes the archives can just be too confusing or sometimes the encryption is too hard to reverse.  I haven't come across too many "impossible" examples, but I haven't done too many archives either.

I decided to document (with some side comments in orange/brown) how I solved my first solo archive to hopefully help people who are just starting out themselves.  This isn't the best or most efficient way of doing it (in fact, it may not even be completely correct), but it should be a good starting point to understand how it can be done.  I did this on a Windows XP machine over a (long) evening.

I chose the game Half Minute Hero, which is a sprite based PSP game.  It's a great great game, so I suggest you buy a copy.  You can get it on XBox Live too.  It's one of my favorite games, although that's probably due to my increasing ADD tendencies.  It's a mashup of a puzzle game and JRPG, as well as a sort of a deconstruction and parody of NES/SNES JRPGs.


My goal was to rip the sprites from the PSP version of Half Minute Hero.  This is how I did it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Half Minute Hero Review

* The previous owner of this blog wrote up this review and wanted it posted up.  I've also played the game and think it's great.
Half Minute Hero is an awesome game and you should buy it. At the very least, you should watch some video gameplay or try the demo. This game is an innovative mashup of different genres (primarily JRPG and puzzle) and I think it's very, very entertaining. If you enjoyed the PSP original, ever enjoyed JRPGs in your life, like to play puzzle games, or like quirky/innovative games... you should just stop reading and buy the game. If you're on the fence, I'll do my best to describe to you what this game is and what this game is not. I'm going to write a lot, but it's necessary to give a good picture of this game.

(If you've played the PSP version before, skip to the end of the review for a list of changes made.)

As you can tell, I'm a huge fan of this game. I enjoyed it a lot on the PSP and I enjoy it even more on the xbox. I'm going to be very enthusiastic in this review since I don't think many people even know the game exists and it can use all the hype it can get. But I seriously encourage you to at least try the demo, it's such a interesting concept that I think most gamers should at least experience it.

I can't guarantee you'll like it. But who definitely won't like Half Minute Hero? People who loathe solving puzzles, the JRPG concept, quirky games, or non turnbased games. People who like the genres they're already playing and don't want to try something new. People who buy it expecting it to be a traditional JRPG. People who hate quirky games or who need top of the line graphics and voice acting to enjoy a game. People who need to spend more than 60 hours on a 10 dollar game just to get all the achievements.

By the way, this game does not take 30 seconds to beat. It's not a 60 hour game either, but there isn't any fat... no grinding hours for items or toiling on mindless tasks.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lost Odyssey Dream Transcripts


Lost Odyssey is a JRPG for the XBox360, with music by Nobuo Uematsu and direction by the father of Final Fantasy.  It was a decent RPG... but what really made it stand out were the "dreams" scattered throughout the game.  The dreams were short stories about the life and experiences of the immortal main character prior to the game.  They are nice, melancholic reads.  You don't have to play the game to understand them, they're completely stand alone.

You can read all of them here: http://lostodyssey.wikia.com/wiki/A_Thousand_Years_of_Dreams/Dream_Trigger_Locations

Sunday, August 21, 2011

History of Scanlation

I've been interested in manga since high school.  I got into the scanlation scene as it was starting.  Someone made a website documenting scanlations... reading it was very nostalgic.  I thought it was really well written.

Here's the link to the History of Scanlation.  It's definitely worth a read.

Here's their list of interviews too.  It's really interesting if you were involved at all during the early period of scanlation.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Random Non Conventional Cosplay

Keroro Gunso (Sgt. Frog) Cosplay

Sen to Chihiro (Spirited Away) Cosplay

Unintentional Dragon Ball Z Cosplay

Cute One Piece Cosplay

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rimu

I found these on my hard drive. I'm not entirely sure what they are, the files were like 10 years old. I had a translation file and these scanlated pages... I think I made them for practice when I was thinking of getting into doing scanlations. If the folder name is to be trusted, it was from a comic called "Rimu." It looks pretty funny, I wish I could figure out what it is and where I got it. Heh heh. There are 8 scanlated comics here total, you have to follow the break. Read the comics right to left.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ico Comics

Found these on my hard drive, thought they were hilarious so I decided to share, along with completely unnecessary translations. These are comics related to the game ICO.

Text

Girl: There's lots of room...

Text

Child 1: *kid noises, sorry, I'm not sure*
Child 2: *kid noises, sorry, I'm not sure*

Text

Girl: Let go~~
Police Officer: Stop!

There's also the awesome "Training Day" comic.

And of course, the classic Penny Arcade Ico Comic.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Caramelldansen Taunts - A Brawl Hack

I told you yesterday that I was saving the coolest Caramelldansen for last... and here it is.




It's almost every Super Smash Brothers Brawl character doing the Caramelldansen dance as their taunt! Sure beats the animated versions (here and here.) And the best part? As long as you have an SD card, you can easily mod the taunts into the game for your own use.

Brawl modding is pretty easy and the results can be pretty cool. (hmm... i maybe should have chosen another example.) Just follow this guide and, if you can read directions, you'll be set up in half an hour. Once you're set up though... If you just want the Carmelldansen taunts, that'll just be copying one directory to your flash card and you're done. But see if you can stop at just that one mod... you can easily spend days sorting through assets and configuring your Brawl hacks.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Top Ten Caramelldansen

It's Caramelldansen Time!

Caramelldansen is a meme combining a Swedish song of the same name with a very simple dance. The dance originated in Japan, where it's also called ウマウマダンス (uma uma dance) / ウッーウッーウマウマ (ua- ua- uma uma) due to confusion about the lyrics. I like the Chinese names for it. In addition to 焦糖舞 (caramel dance), they call it 兔耳舞, which means Rabbit Ear Dance. That's a pretty good description of the dance. People will release videos of their favorite anime characters doing the Caramelldansen dance.

Anyway, there are literally thousands of variations you can find on Youtube or Nico Nico Douga. I'm going to list my top ten favorites. (top 10s are good, right?) My favorites are mostly videos that are either themed or have large amounts of characters. As far as I care, this list is the best of the best. Well, except for the one I think is the absolute coolest, which I'll save for tomorrow's post.

3D-CG Vocaloid Nendroids




One Piece (cast up to 2010)




Full Metal Alchemist




Rurouni Kenshin




Lupin




Evangelion (there's also a second part if you click this link)




Haruhi




Gundam 00




Yu Yu Hakusho




Lotsa Random Characters


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Harry Potter Schools

I think it's pretty amazing how you can take a photo of Emma Watson as Hermoine, change the color schemes, and make it look like she belongs in a completely different Hogwarts house.


To Gryffindor go the bold and brave,
while Ravenclaw keeps the genius.
Slytherin claims the most ambitious,


and to the rest go Hufflepuff.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2 comes out July 15th... it's so strange that the movie series is going to end.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Flame of Recca Review

This manga takes place in the modern day.  16-year old self-proclaimed ninja Recca, a girl he chose as his master, and a group of friends who become increasingly close fight against an incredibly evil business man trying to find a certain magical artifacts, which are called madougouin this series.  This manga focuses on fights, character back stories, and small bits of comedy.  Each character has their own madougou which they must cleverly use to fight against their opponent.  The characters strength comes from learning new abilities from their madougou and due to their determination to protect each other.  It has a very good, diverse cast of characters who get good development throughout the series and are given good backstories.  This manga does include a lengthy tournament.

I was introduced to this series through fansubs several years ago.  I felt that the series started off very strong, then got linearly less interesting, but then ended strong.  Years later, I found that the anime series (which was 42 episodes) was based off of a manga series (episode 42 was roughly equivalent to volume 16 out of 36.)  I found scanlations for the manga and finished the series.  Later I read the first 16 volumes as well, after the series was released by Viz.

This is a highly recommended series as long as you're not tired of shonen cliches.  In my opinion, it is one of the top shonen fighting manga because of the great detail in defining the character's motivations and the pure awesomeness of the main character's power.

There are three points which I count as weaknesses.  The first is the art quality.  The first 16 volumes are not very fun to look at, in my opinion.  However, if you view this series as I did with the anime transitioning into the manga, this point is negligible.  The second is the fights themselves.  Many of the fights really aren't that interesting, specifically the ones where the victor is determined by "Oh, I suddenly found a new ability of my madougou that I didn't know about before."  This is not so bad though because there are a fair number of fights that are determind by the fighter cleverly using their known abilities.  The final weakness is the tournament in the middle.  While I understand why the author did it, it lasted too long and pales in comparison to the less cliche feeling and more revelation filled story arcs of the beginning and the end.

In any case, this series is in my top ten manga list.  Seeing these characters struggle and achieve their goals have motivated me, somehow.  "I must Protect my Princess" is a great life mantra, in my opinion.  Plus, thinking about summoning flame has done wonders for my imagination.  Definitely take a look at this one.

[warning! ending spoilers follow]







In addition to the three points of weakness I gave before, there is one more.  The ending.  This is probably just my preference, but... when you think about it, the whole series took place in less than a year.  I would have really liked a look into the future to see how the characters turned out in the long run.  Yes, I realized that the story was over and the whole thing isn't real anyway, but I would have enjoyed it more if the author showed the lives of the characters a bit after things got calm.  It's easy to grow, develop, bond, and such during a large crisis... but what happens once life is no longer crazy?  True, I'm asking for to much, probably, and it's probably just because I get too interested and involved with the characters in the story.

As a counterpoint, the ending does completely "end the story" without any lingering mysteries or any chances for continuation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Onani Master Kurosawa


One of the best obscure manga out there is a doujin (amateur) work called "Onani Master Kurosawa"... or translated more completely, "Masturbation Master Kurosawa." Despite the name, it's not a pornographic story. It's a very good manga about growing up. The art itself is a very sketchy style, which I personally really like. While this manga is not porn, it does deal with mature issues and is probably best for late high school age and up.

If you want to read it, here's a file with all chapters of the manga as well the special short story that takes place after the last chapter. I highly recommend it. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Final Fantasy 13 Prologue

Ah, Final Fantasy 13... lots of opinions on this game. Personally, I thought it was pretty bad. I did really like the battle system and the battle music. If it used the old traditional system, I probably would have hated the game. I didn't like the characters and I didn't like the story at all.

Anyway, a prologue light novel was released before the game. You can read it translated here. If you like Final Fantasy 13 or have nothing better to do, it might be worth you time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chinese Poster

I like this poster. I found it on reddit and thought it was hilarious. The text is supposed to mean: "It doesn't mean anything, but it looks pretty." You're supposed to hang it up somewhere and when people ask you what it means, you can truthfully say "It doesn't mean anything, but it looks pretty." Hehe... I'd like a calligraphy version that looks a lot fancier though. Maybe later.

Lupin the 3rd


I was browsing pixiv the other day and was surprised at how many cool Lupin pics there were. I collected a bunch of them that you can download here. The image above is the image collection contents. (The screenshot of the scrolling window was created with FastStone Capture, which is a pretty nifty tool.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Final Fantasy 7 Plot Analysis


Final Fantasy 7 is almost certainly the most popular Final Fantasy. I played it when it first came out and really enjoyed it, although it's not my favorite. Due to the translation (or perhaps my age at the time), I didn't really grasp the entire story. After reading this incredibly well detailed plot analysis, I firmly decided that Final Fantasy 7 had the best story of all of them. There was a lot of cool stuff in there even without understanding everything.  After getting it all, it's even more interesting. That plot analysis is worth reading even if you hadn't played through the game. Final Fantasy VII's story was well thought out and (imo) had a better plot line than most manga out there and the plot analysis goes over this story well.

Advent Children (the CG movie) was a fun visual feast, although it was pretty confusing to follow what was supposed to be going on. An accompanying prequel light novel was released along with it, which you can read translated here. The novel is a series of shot stories, each focusing on a different character. The novel is only okay, but if you're a Final Fantasy VII fan, they're worth a read.

Fate Zero Anime Trailer

The Fate Zero anime, done by ufotable, is coming in October. The trailer was released yesterday... see the website for the anime over here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Castlevania: Harmony of Darkness


Got this game during a recent sale, which was good because it meant there were a lot of other new players. It's really fun; simply put it's multiplayer Castlevania. When you die in multiplayer mode, you become a really weak skeleton. You'll do 1 damage when you might normally do 70.

The scenario in the comic happened to me last night, it was really fun. One low level guy was randomly wandering around the castle we cleared out while we were fighting Dracula on Chapter 6 Hard. We all died from an attack we weren't expecting. The other guy was still alive so the stage wouldn't end. So we started throwing bones at Dracula, expecting to run out of time and lose. Suddenly, Dracula died, and we all shouted at the last guy to rush up and open the treasure chests (we only had 5 minutes left). He made it. Hehe, it was really funny. The last guy was playing Jonathan too.

By the way, if you like Metroidvania (yeah, we all hate the name, but it works) games, this page has a fairly complete list of them.

Densha Otoko

Read Densha Otoko online!

Densha Otoko is a fun story. It focuses on a Japanese geek who helps out an elegant woman on a train, then begins the unlikely process of courting of her. He's pretty clueless when it comes to women, so he turns to a huge Japanese forum for help. The (allegedly true) story is told through these forum posts. It's a fun read and not too long. You can read it online or buy the official English localization.

By the by, Densha Otoko was a pretty big property. It got a novel, a movie, a drama, an anime spinoff of the drama, and a manga. I watched the drama and highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cave Johnson is Awesome


WARNING: SPOILERS FOR PORTAL 2 BELOW






Portal 2 is a pretty fun game and has pretty amusing dialogue. I kinda see it as a two-for-one deal: Game and Comedy. Out of all the dialogue, I think that Cave Johnson's parts are the best. As you've probably heard, his best scene is the following test sequence, where he talks about combustible lemons.




But all his stuff is pretty hilarious. Here's a link to an mp3 with all of Cave Johnson's lines (unfortunately not in order), as well as the new ending song.

On that note, I also enjoyed Jonathan Coulton's new ending song, "Want You Gone." Originally I wasn't so fond of it, but I have to admit that it grew on me a lot. I don't know if "Still Alive" is even a better song, or if it was just a better surprise.

By the way, if you're more a Wheatley guy, this link goes to voice clips of all the personality core lines: http://soundcloud.com/betarepeating/sets/portal-2-cores/

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hatsune Miku Sings the Heart Sutra


I know this song can be annoying to some people, but I love it. Not only do I think the song itself is catchy, but I'm this close to memorizing the allegedly best known and most popular of all Buddhist Scriptures in Japanese ^_^.

What is the Heart Sutra? Well, I'm not a Buddhist and a lot of this is based off of Wikipedia (so don't be offended if I'm not 100% right)... But from my understanding, the Heart Sutra (Prajna-paramita Hrdaya Sutram) is a well-known Mahāyāna Buddhist sūtra. Sutras are more or less dense religious messages in the form of a poem, which allows them to be be easily chanted and memorized. The Heart Sutra is basically about the insights and liberation the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara discovered after performing deep meditation in order to awaken the faculty of wisdom. Um... now you know!

Hatsune Miku is a popular female character combined with a singing synthesizer application. This virtual idol has even performed successful live concerts!

This video is obviously (if you watched it) Hatsune Miku singing the Heart Sutra. This rendition got really popular on Nico Nico Douga and lots of variations of it were created. The following is a random list of Miku-sung Heart Sutras in slightly different musical styles. There are many, many more out there.

Pop - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CcIH7oxBP4
Rock - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkPXe4yb1W4
R&B - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJfPGBC0h1U
Hardcore - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbcW5L91HzY
Ballad - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73qiCtOGdDM
Dark - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJxDrJpIQVE
Anime OP - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6tRm60b9Qo
Mixture - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRG9QwqSS34
Techno - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TFMNknlZ-M
Electronica - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GbTezkm1FU
Rock DC - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0s3L1xvymE
Samba - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iym9GbimD_U
ElectRock - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvL0tmLiqj4
Lovers - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2r4LzlTSaM
Gumi cover - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spep37x6poI
Loud Park 2010 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_o43YYpk8_k
Punk - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXFVJuWkzas
Pikopiko - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJM8g0GrB3g
UmiNeko - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkjsAGZpA3c
Luka - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-uZkeUeYHM

Friday, May 6, 2011

Free Neal Stephenson Stuff

Neal Stephenson is a great writer who is able to put deep ideas and pretty technical detail in his entertaining stories and essays. He has a lot of works that are available freely on the internet, so you can give his writing a try. If you like these samples, you'll almost definitely like his novels.

Jepe and the Paranoid Chip - A freely available short story involving AI.

Spew - A freely available short story about... hmm... infomation and trending?

THE GREAT SIMOLEON CAPER - A freely available short story about currency.

In the Beginning, there was the Command Line - An essay mostly about Neal Stephenson's experiences and thoughts about computers. This is very long and slightly out of date, but it's still interesting, especially if you don't know much about the early days of computers.

Mother Earth, Mother Board - A cool, long essay that talks about the literally huge wires that connect the world.  It's about Neal Stephenson following FLAG, a global undersea fiber optic cable. He comments a lot about the history and politics around FLAG, as well as about his surroundings.

Snow Crash: A fictional cyberpunk novel about the metaverse, Y.T., and the sword toting Hiro is perhaps the novel Neil Stephenson is best known for.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jokes from a Dilbert Thread

Okay, a long time (2007!) ago I copied the jokes I liked best from some old dilbert blog thread to a text file. I was cleaning out my computer the other day and came across it. My tastes in jokes haven't changed too much and I still think it's a decent list, so I decided to post it. So here you go.

WARNING: Some of these jokes are pretty crude. They're jokes though, so they're not meant to be taken seriously. Still, don't read them if you just want PG related jokes... Dilbert blog readers apparently aren't PG joke people . ^^  Here are some awesome clean jokes, if you want.  Some jokes from reddit.  And even more reddit jokes.  And some pretty funny comments from a thread I've long lost.

Oh, and a bunch of math jokes.

Joke 1

Q: What is the difference between a chick pea and a garbanzo bean?
A: No guy would pay to have a garbanzo bean on him.

Joke 2

A Steelers fan, a Browns fan and a Titans fan were all in Saudi Arabia, sharing a smuggled crate of booze. All of a sudden the Saudi police rushed in and arrested them. The mere possession of alcohol is a severe offense in Saudi Arabia, so for the terrible crime of actually being caught consuming the booze, they were sentenced to death!

However, with the help of very good lawyers, they were able to successfully appeal their sentence down to life imprisonment. By a stroke of luck, it was a Saudi national holiday the day their trial finished, and the extremely benevolent Sheik decided they could be released after receiving just 20 lashes each of the whip. As they were preparing for their punishment, the Sheik suddenly said, "It's my first wife's birthday today, and she has asked me to allow each of you one wish before your whipping."

The Titans fan was first in line (he had drunk the least), so he thought about this for a while and then said, "Please tie a pillow to my back." This was done, but the pillow only lasted 10 lashes before the whip went through. The Titans fan had to be carried away bleeding and crying with pain when the punishment was done.

The Browns fan was next up (he almost finished an entire fifth by himself), and after watching the scene, said "All Right! Please fix two pillows on my back." But even two pillows could only take 15 lashes before the whip went through again, sending the Browns fan out crying like a little girl.

The Steelers fan was the last one up (he had finished off the crate), but before he could say anything, the Sheik turned to him and said, "You support the greatest team in the world, your team has some of the best and most loyal football fans in the world. For this, you may have two wishes!" "Thanks, your most Royal highness," the Steelers fan replies. "In recognition of your kindness, my first wish is that you give me not 20, but 100 lashes."

"Not only are you an honorable, handsome and powerful man, you are also very brave," the Sheik says with an admiring look on his face. "If 100 lashes is what you desire, then so be it. And your second wish? What is it to be?" the Sheik asks.

"Tie the Browns fan to my back."

Joke 3

Q. What do you call a Cleveland Brown with a Super Bowl ring?
A. A thief.

Joke 4

Q. Why doesn't Columbus, Ohio have a professional football team?
A. Because then Cleveland would want one.

Joke 5

Q. What's brown and sticky?
A. A stick.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

obama

It's kinda timely to post this picture by spacecoyote. In case you don't get the reference, it's a parody of the Okami box art. If you've played that great game, you're probably hearing echoes of the title call in your head by now.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kyon Likes Ponytails


Kyon says things like "You know... ponytails turn me on"... but doesn't his sister... umm...

Hyadain's Kakakata Kataomoi



So, I like Hyadain's music and he's come out with something new. Namely, he's done the opening to an anime called "Nichijou" (imo, it's only an okay anime.) I really enjoyed the song and the music video. Hyadain looks a lot more normal than I was expecting, especially for a guy who writes such frantic songs and always sings the girl voices. If you want the single, you can buy it or download it from over here. If you want more, a list of a bunch of his lyricized video game covers have been posted on this blog before.

Monday, May 2, 2011

PCSX2 0.9.8!


Playstation 2 Emulator PCSX2 0.9.8 has been released! This release in particular is a big improvement (usability-wise at least) from the previous version.

If you haven't tried out PCSX2, you really should. It's a very good emulator and most of my PS2 games run at 60fps on my machine without any problem (granted, I have a pretty newly built system.) What's the benefit of using an emulator against using your own PS2? For me, it's simple: Save States and Cheats. These features let the lazy gamer I've grown up to be finally finish up my old games stress free. ^^ It's really easy to install this emulator, just follow the directions. You'll need a ps2 bios, but that isn't too much of an issue to find.

If you want to play the games using a Playstation controller, I suggest using your PS3 controller along with MotionJoy. It works very well for me. I plug it into my USB port, but you can do it over Bluetooth too.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

List of Jin Yong's Wuxia in English

(last updated May 26, 2011)

A few years ago I started reading Jin Yong's wuxia stories and really enjoyed them. Wuxia is a broad genre of Chinese fiction that focuses on the adventures of martial artists; the stories are usually period pieces. Jin Yong (also known as Louis Cha) is one of the most famous and loved Wuxia writers. He wrote 15 stories that are well known throughout the world. I don't want to spend too much time here giving an overview of wuxia and Jin Yong, but if you're new and want to give the wuxia genre a try, I suggest you start with The Legend of Condor Heroes.

The sites where I found Jin Yong English translations stopped updating years ago and it wasn't until recently I found out that his stories were still actively being fan-translated. I decided to take a few hours and make an up-to-date list of the various Jin Yong translations I could find. I'll try to periodically update this translation listing. I hope having an easy to read list of Jin Yong in English will be helpful. Please post a comment or e-mail me if you notice I'm missing or misreporting anything!

But before I go into my list, let me provide some general links. Pretty much all the English translations (not to mention worthwhile wuxia discussion) that I know about come from the spcnet forums, specifically their wuxia sections. It is a huge forum though and takes some time to wade through, so it's worthwhile for me to point out more specific links.

Spcnet Wuxia Translations - All the active wuxia translation projects I know about take place here.
http://wuxiapedia.com/ - This site no longer seems to be updated, but they have a pretty nice layout.
http://members.cox.net/foxs/home.html - This site houses translations of Jin Yong's Condor Trilogy in pdf format. The translations themselves originated from spcnet.
QiQi Jin Yong - This site has all of Jin Yong's novels in simplified Chinese.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jin_Yong - For all further information, wikipedia is as good a place as any to start.


Legend

Green: Complete and pretty well edited. Ready to read!
Yellow: Not yet complete and well edited. Some translations are actively in progress.
Red: Very little to no progress.
*: I've read this translation and really enjoyed it. ymmv

I didn't provide any summaries because I think they'd be distracting for this list. Instead, I added links to the wikipedia entries. They have pretty good summaries, but be careful because there are massive spoilers as well.

It should be easy to navigate this list. The link names are generally shorthand for where the link goes to. I listed the links in the order I preferred to read them. (Although spcnet is great and very active, it is a forum and I'm not used to reading such huge blocks of text in a forum layout.) I've also added notes where I think it's appropriate.


Chronological Listing of Jin Yong Works

1. * The Book and the Sword / Book and Sword, Gratitude and Revenge (書劍恩仇錄) (Wiki)
COMPLETE Qiqi / New ending from the Third Edition
COMPLETE Official English Edition
Notes: The Official English Edition is an edited version of the qiqi link. This was the first Jin Yong translation I read and I enjoyed it.

2. Sword Stained with Royal Blood (碧血劍) (Wiki)
INCOMPLETE Spcnet Thread (Chapter 3-6)

3. * The Legend of the Condor Heroes / Legend of Eagle Shooting Hero (射鵰英雄傳) (Wiki)
INCOMPLETE Wuxiapedia (Chapter 1-27)
COMPLETE Spcnet Thread / PDF Version / PDB Version
Notes: First part of the Condor Trilogy. I'd highly recommend reading this Jin Yong novel first. The translation reads nicely and the story is very easy to get into.

4. Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain / Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain (雪山飛狐) (Wiki)
COMPLETE Official English Edition
Notes: The English Edition's translation is generally reviewed pretty negatively. I haven't read it and can't judge it myself, so I decided to list it in yellow.

5. The Return of the Condor Heroes / Divine Eagle, Gallant Knight (神鵰俠侶) (Wiki)
COMPLETE Wuxiapedia
COMPLETE Spcnet Thread / PDF Version
Notes: Second part of the Condor Trilogy.

6. Other Tales of the Flying Fox (飛狐外傳) (Wiki)
INCOMPLETE Spcnet Thread

7. Swordswoman Riding West on White Horse / White Horse Neighing in the Wind (白馬嘯西風) (Wiki)
COMPLETE Spcnet Thread 1 / Spcnet Thread 2

8. Blade-dance of the Two Lovers / The Lovers' Sabres (鴛鴦刀) (Wiki)
COMPLETE Spcnet Thread

9. Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre / Heavenly Sword, Dragon Slaying Sabre (倚天屠龍記) (Wiki)
INCOMPLETE Wuxiapedia (Chapter 1-22)
COMPLETE Spcnet Thread / PDF Version
Notes: Final part of the Condor Trilogy.

10. A Deadly Secret / Secret of the Linked Cities (連城訣) (Wiki)
IN PROGRESS Spcnet Thread

11. Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (天龍八部) (Wiki)
IN PROGRESS Spcnet Thread 1 (Chapter 1-24)

12. Ode to Gallantry (俠客行) (Wiki)
INCOMPLETE Wuxiapedia (Chapters 1-10)*
COMPLETE Spcnet Thread 1 (Chapters 1-10) / Spcnet Thread 2 (Chapters 10-21)
Notes: The second spcnet thread was translated by Abhay, primarily using online translating tools.

13. The Smiling Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖) (Wiki)
COMPLETE LannyLand / Spcnet Thread

14. The Deer and the Cauldron / Duke of Mount Deer (鹿鼎記) (Wiki)
IN PROGRESS Spcnet Thread ( unabridged thread, has no comments but is not up to date )
COMPLETE Official English Edition Book 1 / Book 2 Book 3
Notes: The Official English Translations are very difficult to get a hold of. They are out of print and are pretty expensive. I was able to obtain them, but in my opinion, they're not worth the price. Not only is the translation only okay, but the story is very abridged.

15. * Sword of the Yue Maiden (越女劍) (Wiki)
COMPLETE ErrantCluster
Notes: This was Jin Yong's final wuxia work. Unlike his other works, this one is a short story.


Lists of other Wuxia Translations

So far I really only enjoy Jin Yong's wuxia. I'm not a fan of Gu Long, nor a few other short works I read. But other author's works have been translated and you might be interested. These links will help you find English translated wuxia by other authors, such as Gu Long or Huang Yi.

Spcnet Translation Links - The second post in the thread starts a good list of translated wuxia work.
Wuxia Society - This place also hosts translation projects. You can wade through this section.
http://www.spcnet.tv/readingrooms/default.php - This is a well formatted list of translated wuxia work.
Spcnet Translations - This is pretty much the definitive collection of English translated wuxia, but it'll take a while to wade through everything.
http://wuxiapedia.com/ - I enjoy the layout of this site. Although it seems like it's no longer active, I prefer reading stuff from over here to other sites.

If you've run out of stuff to read and still have an wuxia itch, you can give the dramas a try. You can find torrents over at d-addicts.  I've personally watched and enjoyed Demi Gods and Semi Devils 2003 and Legend of Condor Heroes 2003. I did not enjoy Return of Condor Heroes 2006.

Sword of the Yue Maiden


*** Originally translated by an anonymous translator at qiqi.com (http://qiqi.com/cgi-bin/bk2.pl?fd1=book&fd2=wx&fd3=jinyong&in=jy02).  I changed the proper nouns to pinyin (personal preference) and tried my hand at some editing (mainly the grammar but also some localization.)  The anonymous translator also included an introduction and background essay, which I've retained.  This is a Chinese martial arts fantasy story by the internationally renowned author Jīn Yōng. You can find more of his translated works at http://errantcluster.blogspot.com/2011/05/list-of-jin-yongs-wuxia-in-english.html. ***


- Background -

Liveried: Wearing a livery, which in this case is distinctive clothing worn by retainers.

Qi: Chi; Chakra; Internal energy.

This is the only short story written by Jīn Yōng. Because of its short length, you can't really see Jīn Yōng's full talent at story-telling. However, this translation can give you some idea of what a martial arts story is like. My clumsy translation can't really do the original justice, but I hope I have stirred your interest enough that you'll go out there and find out more about Chinese culture, history, and legend. It may not be easy, but I assure you, what you find will never be dull.

This story is based on real historical events that occurred during the 5th century B.C. It's a period between what's known as the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring Kingdoms period. China was yet to be united under the First Emperor. The so-called Hàn race didn't exist yet. China was divided into big and small kingdoms, dukedoms, and counties which warred with each other constantly.

It all started when the king of Chǔ slept with his son's fiancee. Bad move for any era. The king feared that his son would turn against him. His fear was fanned into action by the allegations of an ambitious minister who wanted to destroy the crown prince's faction. The resulting purge destroyed many clans and families. One of the family, almost peripheral to the whole thing, was the House of Wǔ. The youngest son, Wǔ Zǐ Xū, escaped and vowed bloody vengeance.

After a long and dangerous journey through several kingdoms unwilling to help, he arrived at the newly founded kingdom of Wú (No, the Chinese characters for the Wú in Wǔ Zǐ Xū is actually different from the character for Wú in the Wú kingdom). He helped Prince Hé Lǘ assassinate his cousin the king in a convoluted power struggle. Then he built up the kingdom of Wú from a barely civilized kingdom to a modern kingdom with the best trained army in the known world. Sun Tzu, who wrote the immortal Art of War, served in Wú at this time.

When Wǔ Zǐ Xū was ready, he managed to convince King Hé Lǘ to invade Chǔ. At the time Chǔ was a superpower and Wú was an upstart kingdom, but the upstart kingdom managed to utterly destroy Chǔ's army. Unfortunately, Wǔ Zǐ Xū's vengeance was hollow. The object of his vengeance had already died several years ago. In his rage, Wǔ Zǐ Xū exhumed the body of the dead king and flogged it until it fell to pieces.

The kingdom of Wú proved itself incapable of absorbing the far larger kingdom of Chǔ, so Wǔ Zǐ Xū had to take his army back to Wú. Then Hé Lǘ began a series of wars to establish hegemony over the rest of China. During one of those wars he ran into the kingdom of Yuè. The Yuè people were even more primitive than Wú was a few decades before, but they were great fighters. They were ruled by King Gōu Jiàn. In a pitched battle, King Hé Lǘ was struck by a poison arrow and died.

Hé Lǘ's son Fū Chā became king. He was intent on avenging his father. A personal guard was ordered to remind him of this fact periodically by saying, "Fū Chā, did you forget to avenge the death of your father?" Fū Chā eventually rallied his army and destroyed the army of Yuè. King Gōu Jiàn became a prisoner of Fū Chā for several years. However, Fū Chā was not a brutal man. Instead of annexing the kingdom of Yuè and turning Gōu Jiàn into a slave, he released Gōu Jiàn after extracting an oath of fealty from the king of Yuè.

Unfortunately, that gesture of mercy was completely lost on King Gōu Jiàn. Gōu Jiàn, like Wǔ Zǐ Xū and Fū Chā before him, was possessed by a burning desire to avenge the wrongs done him.

Gōu Jiàn hired two wise men from the kingdom of Chǔ. One of them was Fàn Lí, the other was Wén Zhǒng. The two began to build up the barbaric kingdom of Yuè so one day their king could challenge the power of Wú. Many legends are associated with this period of history. One of the legends was the legend of the Yuè Maiden.


- The Sword of the Yuè Maiden -

"After you."

"After you."

The two swordsmen turned the points of their blades downward. With their right palms grasping their sword hilts and their left palms covering the back of their right hands, they bowed deeply to each other in a warrior's salute.

Before they fully raised from their bows, there was a sudden flash of white, followed by the sound of clanging. The two swordsmen each retreated one step as the audience gave out a soft cry.

The swordsman in blue slashed three times; the liveried swordsman blocked each slash. The swordsman in blue shouted and slashed his sword from his upper left straight downward. The slash was powerful and fast, but the liveried swordsman was too agile to be caught. A simple jump got him out of the way, his body barely bobbed after his left foot touched the ground. He immediately followed with two slashes. The swordsman in blue stood still with a grim smile as he lightly moved his sword to block the attacks.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The World Tortoise


 Just a cool picture. Sorry, but I don't know the source.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Girlfriend is a Geek

My Girlfriend is a Geek... or as a more accurate translation, My Fujoshi Girlfriend. 'Fujoshi' refers to a girl who is not only very interested in Japanese anime/manga, but is also interested in romantically pairing their favorite male characters. (Haha... that's such a formal way of defining a Boy's Love (BL) fan.) 'My Girlfriend is a Geek' is about a pretty normal Japanese college guy who starts dating his boss... and she turns out to be a closet fujoshi. The book is in the form of anecdotal blog posts.

I thought the books were great. They're very light reading and I found them hilarious. I felt somewhat sad actually getting most of the geeky references without having to resort to the glossary... but the laughs made up for that sad self-introspection. I think the best way of reviewing the book is to give an short excerpt. If you enjoy it, you should rush and buy the two books now.


While I was putting together an extremely taxing and annoying report, I got a phone call from Y-ko, who was supposed to be hanging out with her fujoshi friends.

Me: Yeah? What's u-
Y-ko: Bonjour!! Listen, listen, listen!!

Ringggg.
C-could you turn down the volume?

Me: Sorry, could you tone it down? You're really hurting my ea-
Y-ko: Big news!! Oh, and when I greet you in Italian, I want an Italian response!!
Me: ...I'm sorry. Are you drunk? You're drunk, aren't you?

Plus, bonjour is French, not Italian.

Y-ko: So what? Anyways... I hear they're going to open a butler cafe!!

...What?
Really?

Me: That's incredible!! It's going to be a smash success.
Y-ko: I know, I know, I know!! Yes!! This weekend's plans are set!!

...Now you're getting ahead of yourself.
This place probably isn't even open for business yet.

Y-ko: Oh my goodness, it's going to be a festival! We're going to open that bottle of wine we've been saving, Sebas (ed. She calls him Sebas, short for Sebastian, because he reminds her of the butler from Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler).

...
Um...

Who are you calling Sebas?

Me: Come on! We don't even have a bottle of wine!
Y-ko: Yes we do! I'll go and pick one up!!
Me: That's not the same as "saving" a bottle...
Y-ko: Hey, what was it called? That one bottle that was really good... Oh right! I remember! Moe Moe Chandon?

What kind of name is that?

They might be able to sell a few bottles by riding that fact, but I certainly don't want to drink it.

Me: Nice try, but not quite. You're thinking of Moet & Chandon.
Y-ko: Oh, who cares? It's only one letter. Don't be so fussy, Sebas!!

I think I just got scolded!
And she called me Sebas again!

Me: ...Um, I'm sorry. Would you stop calling me Sebas?
Y-ko: Huh? Why?

Great.
The vaunted "why?" defense.

Me: Well, because my name is -
Y-ko: Oh, sorry. Did you want to be Shota?

I wasn't done with the sentence!
And why are those my only two choices?!
Plus, Shota isn't even a name!!

Y-ko: Yeah, of course... You're more the uke type.

...!!
Um... I'm sorry...

Is that how you've seen me all this time?


You can find some more excerpts here http://forums.animesuki.com/showthread.php?t=62208. There are two books total to buy (Volume 1 and Volume 2). The books are complete. There is also a shoujo manga series, which I haven't read.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yakitate!! Japan Tsukino Omake

When I wrote the Yakitate!! Japan review from yesterday, I remembered some Tsukino related images I played around with years ago. Since blogs are all about sharing, I decided to clean/finish them up and post them. They're nothing special, just me playing around with photoshop.

The image above is a compilation of all the Tsukino cover inserts. They come from the Japanese covers. It's kinda fun seeing them all at once. Maybe you can resize it and make a wallpaper or something.

The image below was me playing around with creating animated gifs in photoshop. It comes from the omake (bonuses) from the 1st and 2nd volumes. The images didn't match up as nicely as I thought they would.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Yakitate!! Japan Review


So, since the final Volume of Yakitate!! Japan has been published in English. I thought I'd give a short review of the series and Viz's localization.

Here's the brief version: Yakitate Japan is great! Buy it and read it! At the very least, read the first volume and if you like it, read to the end of Volume 14.

Now for a slightly more formal review.

Yakitate!! Japan is an award winning manga about... making bread. At times it can be fairly technical, which is nice because you can actually learn something. This series blends a lot of genres, but technically, the series is a very Japanese comedy manga. (That's my way of saying there's a lot of wordplay humor. Still, there are lots of visual, sarcastic, over-the-top, and universal gags as well.) The reason I love this series, though, is because it cares a lot about its story and characters. It uses its theme and humor to flavor the story and characters, not the other way around. And that's something I really didn't expect out of a comedy cooking battle manga. The story is well done, the conflicts are exciting, and there's strong characterization. The subject matter is interesting, the art is good, and the humor is funny.

I originally read Yakitate!! Japan through scanlations from the site SnoopyCool. Scanlations don't tend to care much about localizing to demographics and generally try to keep the translation as close to the Japanese as possible. Also, it's easy to put very lengthy liner notes all over the place. Viz's translations generally try to avoid forcing their readers to have a strong background in the Japanese language or culture. Translation/Localization is very tricky business and I have no problem with Viz's approach to it, although sometimes I feel that approach comes at the cost of charm. I did not feel this way about Viz's Yakitate!! Japan translation. I thought they showed a lot of consideration in their translation and were able to keep the heart of the story and jokes.

For example... in the Viz translation one gag relies on a horse screaming out "Mag-Neigh-Ficent" after eating some bread (seriously, read this manga.) The original gag was the horse shouting "U~mai", which means delicious. However, the "u" sound is written with the character for horse instead of the homonym character that's supposed to be used. I feel this is a good example of keeping the heart of the joke, but making it easier for American culture to understand... which I think fits their goal for localization. Personally, I prefer more direct translations (like Snoopy Cool's), but I still really enjoyed Viz's localization.

(As the series goes on, the wordplay gets increasingly ridiculous to the point I think it barely makes sense in Japanese. For a lot of these jokes at the end, the Viz English Translation seems to give up trying to localize the joke and instead give a direct translation. I don't have any problem with this... as I said, those end jokes are a HUGE stretch even in Japanese.)


As for the cover art... I really hate Viz's cover art department. The spines for this series simply don't match, which really bugs me because it looks messy on a bookshelf (yes, I'm picky like that.) As you can see, after Volume 18 Viz switched from their Ugly "V" emblem to an uglier "S" logo.

Somewhat surprisingly, Viz does a thorough job of keeping the original Japanese book's special right cover insert bonus... the cosplay drawings of the main heroine Tsukino. They place these on the back cover. I guess this is really just an example of "sex sells" and not an example of Viz's cover art team having any attention to detail. (Heh heh... I speak harshly, but it's all in fun!)

vs.


That's all the non-spoiler stuff I want to say. The rest of this "review" contain light spoilers for the second half of the series. I don't give any details, but I discuss my opinion on the direction the story takes.

SPOILER WARNING ALERT: Contains Spoilers for Yakitate!! Japan







I just kind of want to vent a bit. The second half of the series is much, much weaker than the first part. First off, the art is less detailed. Second, most of the jokes stop making sense and the originally creative reactions become ridiculous. The reactions go from skirting the edge of reality to full blown deep end impossible. Third, the story changes from an interesting mashup of genres to a very straightforward battle manga. And finally, the characters end up becoming one-dimensional caricatures of their former selves. I don't think the series becomes bad... it just isn't as good as in the first half. In short, Yakitate!! Japan 1-14 is like Dragonball whereas Yakitate!! Japan 15-26 is like Dragonball Z.

I do have one huge problem with the second half. That's the treatment of Kawachi. He turns into a pure gag character with no redeeming qualities or cool moments. As ridiculous as the final boss turns out to be and as heartless as I feel the author ultimately treats Azuma's opponents, nothing is more disappointing than the character Kawachi became.

I'd understand stopping after Volume 14 if you're not a huge fan of the series by then. The events ending that volume are as good as the series gets. But even with the decline in quality, I still mostly enjoyed the final arc. Yakitate!! Japan is a great series and is worth attention.

Monday, April 25, 2011

One Piece - Fight Together


Thought I'd post up the new One Piece opening, for your listening pleasure. It's an Amuro Namie song, I think it's pretty nice. The animation isn't bad either, at least for One Piece. Contains spoilers for Saobady and beyond.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Shichibukai are Giants!

Shichibukai Height Chart
This is a fun picture for One Piece fans. The Shichibukai (or, as Viz's translation calls them, the 'Seven Warlords of the Sea') are not ordinary people. But... until I saw this picture I didn't realize how monstrous they really were. This drawing takes the member's heights from the guidebooks and compares their heights to real things. They're all giants! Even Boa Hancock is ridiculously tall (6'3)! For those who need it, here are the heights in feet/inches:

Hancock (31) - 191 cm (6'3.25")
Mihawk (43) - 198 cm (6'6")
Crocodile (46) - 253 cm (8'3")
Jinbe (46) - 301 cm (9'8")
Doflamingo (41) - 305 cm (10'0")
Kuma (47) - 689 cm (22'6")
Moriah (51) - 692 cm (22'7")

Friday, April 22, 2011

Community: Paradigms of Human Memory

SPOILER WARNING ALERT: Contains Spoilers for Community Season 2, Episode 21





"Paradigms of Human Memory" was an awesome Community. Awesome enough to make me take a few minutes to blog about it. It doesn't beat episodes like Modern Warfare or anything, but it was good enough to put me in a good mood.

This episode is a clip/recap episode, except all the flashbacks are stuff that has never been shown. Although fake recap episodes have been done in animation like the Simpsons or Clerks... it was so much more impressive in a filmed show. I was amused from start to finish. There was so much fan-service in this episode it felt really rewarding to have watched all the episodes (especially for the alternate version of Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas). Highlights? Pierce stealing Abed's food and the Dean entrance montage.

One thing most watchers won't realize is that the Jeff/Annie and Abed/Pierce montage video is a playful parody of a fan-made community music video. It's really awesome... it explains that Troy in black and white part.

Hmm... this post was pretty sloppy and pointless... but oh well, I wanted to write about the episode.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes

Crimson Echoes is a Chrono Trigger fan game. Its background is important to understanding what it is. There's a lot of middle-school drama surrounding the game, so I'll try to be unbiased in my explanation. Basically, ZeaLity of the Chrono Compendium organized a project to create a fan based sequel to Chrono Trigger. The goal was to make a fun game that was true to both Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. They would also further develop romhacking tools targeting Chrono Trigger.

They worked very hard for years, despite many problems during development. Some alpha copies and demos were released into the wild. Occasionally, groups used those releases to work on their own versions completely independent of the Chrono Compendium, such as the team behind Frozen Echoes. Right before Crimson Echoes was ready to be released (they say at 98% done), Square allegedly served them a Cease and Desist, so the Chrono Compendium removed as much Crimson Echoes related materials as they could from the internet and the game was never released. The only relics of the project were a youtube playthrough of the 98% completed game and some development notes. Until a year later, when a rom that built upon the 98% Crimson Echoes build was released. The 98% build can be played all the way through, my guess is that balancing issues and small touch-ups are the only 2% remaining. This blog entry is a review/discussion of that build.

Crimson Echoes is a very big game that can easily last 20 Hours. Its odd history begs the question... is this leak of Crimson Echoes worth playing? My opinion? Only if you really, really enjoy the Chrono Trigger game style and are willing to put up with a lot of pain for a chance at some new adventures. If you haven't played Chrono Trigger, don't even think about playing this. The rest of this review are my thoughts of the game and should help you decide if you want to try it. This review is story spoiler free.

The gameplay of Crimson Echoes is the same as Chrono Trigger, which is great. The battle engine is the same, feel of exploration is the same, the effects and music are the same. The "new content" it offers are some new enemies (and a new, well-made, big boss), lots of new (generally very well made) maps, some new techs/weapons/armor, and of course a brand new story. Crimson Echoes is best described as high grade fanfiction + good ol' Chrono Trigger engine.

Good ol' Chrono Trigger engine is almost enough to make it unquestionably worth sinking the time into this game. I nostalgia'd all over the place and enjoyed re-finding characters and seeing the updated world the Crimson Echoes team created. But the things Crimson Echoes does wrong made it almost unplayable.

Things that I've generally seen complained about: Crono speaks. Frog doesn't use an accent. The game balancing is horrible and only gets worse as the game goes on.

Character dialogue didn't bother me a bit and the Crimson Echoes teams rational behind their decisions makes a lot of sense. This story is fanfiction, but it's well thought out fanfiction. It does of good job of serving as a heavy handed bridge between Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, providing answers for any lingering questions after playing Chrono Cross. You may or may not like the writing (I think people get overly critical over fan works) and story or devices (there are nuclear missiles in the game at some point), but I thought it was fine. From what I could tell, the creators of the game cared very much about and showed a lot of respect towards the Chrono games.

My problem with the story is that I didn't feel it meshed well with the gameplay. In my opinion, Chrono Trigger is a fast paced adventure-y game and Crimson Echoes is generally not that. There are occasionally huge walls of text. There are very analytical sections. The time travel mechanics are more thoroughly dissected / complicated. I feel the wordiness interrupts the "fun" feel of Chrono Trigger. I think that lots of things are best left up to the imagination (especially with "magic"), but the Crimson Echoes team tried to explain everything in pretty great detail. It makes the game seem like less of a Chrono Trigger adventure to me.

While some story arcs were awesome, there were many story arcs that did not work well in a game. There would be chapters that were very short and consisted of very little actual game play. Towards the middle of the game, I often got very bored. I did want to see how the main story resolved and fight the main villains of the game, but I felt I was doing a lot of pointless and boring quests. There are also sections that split up the characters. I hated those sections, especially when they were solo character sections.

Which leads to the huge problem with Crimson Echoes: The difficulty. I'd call this game impossible without the use of emulators (save states) and hacks. The missing 2% probably mostly referred to fixing balancing. Enemies have WAY too much life and your attacks do WAY too little damage. Getting techs requires WAY too much SP. The game starts out pretty bad and gets worse and worse. The only saving grace was that running away from battle is very easy.


I was playing for the gameplay, not the story (otherwise I could just watch the youtube videos or read the plot points at http://crimsonechoes.com). I wanted a small challenge in the game (so no level 99 or invincibility hacks for me), but I did not want to spend hours grinding. Here's what I did:

The Chrono Compendium originally had a large section about how to romhack Chrono Trigger, complete with some very good tools. However, that section was removed after cease and desist letter. But the section is still available via the Internet Wayback Machine. Any links to tools that don't work on that site can easily be google'd.

If you want to know exactly how I modified the game:

1. Gave myself an absurd amount of money and kept myself fully stocked with items. You can see this youtube video for an easy to understand explanation on how to modify memory. Find the value representing your money and max that out~ (Alternatively, you can use Chrono Shop Editor to make all items costs 1G.)

2. Used Chrono Tweaker to modify stats. I basically went through and halved the life of every enemy. I also edited enemies to give at least double the SP.

3. I'd reference the youtube playthrough occasionally to get through puzzles that I don't think were very well designed, such as the drum mini game.

With these changes, the game was pretty fun and, for the most part, I enjoyed playing through the game.

Well, these were my thoughts on this well made fan sequel. I hope I helped you decide how you want to treat the game.

BTW, here's a link to the 98% build ROM: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=CR6ZTVXG

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is a pretty great sci-fi/fantasy author and, from reading his interviews and blogs, a really cool guy. His prose doesn't strike me a particularly great, but his plots/stories are some of the best. The stories are kind of like the ideal of what video-game stories or anime/manga try to go for. Saying that kind of sells it short, but that's how it is in my opinion. His stories always have great plot reveals that were foreshadowed throughout the book and magic systems that were well designed. He's also a very prolific author... it's great following an author who's able to regularly release really good books.

He has a few works online for free, the most notable of which is his novel Warbreaker. He's also got pretty good short stories.

Once you get into his writing, check out his blog and read the rest of his works, especially Mistborn.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Rurouni Kenshin Collection

So... 2011 is the 15th Anniversary of Rurouni Kenshin. Kenshin is, without doubt, my absolute favorite manga. In celebration of the 15 years, there's been a bunch of stuff announced and released (BTW, the PSP game was pretty bad, I would not suggest picking it up if you want a good Kenshin game. Go for the PS2 game or the awesome PSX rpg.) On top of all the releases and games, a new anime project has been greenlit. It still remains to be seen what the project is, but I'm crossing my fingers that the Jinchuu arc will finally be animated.

Anyway, all the Kenshin stuff this year made me want to do a post about it... so I decided to post pictures of most of my Kenshin stuff. I'm pretty proud (and simultaneously embarrassed) of the stuff I've collected, so here goes.


I picked up a set of the original Japanese tankouban as they were released, oh so many years ago. I also picked up the info books, Kenshin Hiden and Kenshin Kaden. The thin book is a guidebook to the PSX Kenshin RPG game (again, really fun game with an interesting battle system.) The Shonen Jumps on the left contain (29) the last color chapter, (43) the last chapter, and (3-4) Yahiko's Sakabatou.


I also picked up the original Viz translations as they came out. I wish they tried to match the Japanese spines... and I REALLY wish they didn't change that bottom Viz logo after book 17. I also have the VizBig version Volume 9 because it has the Yahiko's Sakabatou and Haru Ni Sakura chapters not available elsewhere. Kenshin Profiles and Kenshin Novel are in the shot... but those were both pretty disappointing purchases. You can see Busou Renkin to the right there... it was another good Watsuki series. I used to have Gun Blaze West, but I got rid of it because it was really, really bad.




It seems somewhat ridiculous to have three sets of the same manga... but I do and I don't regret it. My last set of the Kenshin Manga is the Taiwanese edition of the Kenshin Complete (Kanzenban) books. This is an awesome set and was much cheaper than the identical Japanese prints. The books themselves are larger than the original edition and use higher quality paper. On top of that, the color pages are kept intact. Watsuki created new covers for all the books and did fun reimaginings of all the characters under the dust jackets. You can find high quality scans of the covers, color pages, and reimaginined characters at this site. I collected the scans and resized them at a lower resolution. You can download the entire batch zipped up over here, if the low resolution doesn't bother you.




I've got some other stuff too. An old gashapon set, the VHS Memorial Box for a special final recap episode of the anime, the PSX RPG, and a bunch of postcards and other images (not all pictured.)

And, that's all I've got. If you're interested in finding other Kenshin stuff, head over to http://the-oro.com. They've got all the info you'd wish for as well as an awesome collection of images.

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