Monday, December 29, 2008

Not-so-secret-project sketchpad #1

"Behold, unintelligent earthlings! I am Commander KIJUJU of the Space Invaders Forces, and I come bearing gifts of doom! You may be surprised, even flabbergasted by my three-dimensional form instead of the usual sublime 2D plane that we Invaders come from. After much research and trawling of your information superfeed, we have decided upon this form, as according to your datastream it is the most eye-catching and attention-grabbing of all! And it says a lot about you, you perverts!"

Joint project with Ryan. X3

Friday, December 26, 2008

Dying inside, and hello, 2009.

1. I once read in a book somewhere that people cannot claim to know other people as they are, at any present moment.

It is because that body cells are always dying, replaced regularly by new cells. At any given time, a person is instantaneously shedding their former identity and is being born into a new one even while they talk to you about the most trivial of things. Thus, the person you knew at 10:31 am is not the same person, biologically speaking, as the one you have spoken to in the following evening.

Almost everything you've known about that person no longer holds as fact, but memories of the person who died shortly after 10:31 am, to be replaced by another one who thinks, acts, and feels like their predecessor.

That said, there's no need to write "I want to become a new person" in your New Year's Resolution list. It's a fact of life; you constantly die only to be reborn all the time, every so often. It's just a matter of not acting/thinking/feeling like the same guy who died inside you a few hours ago, whom you, as you are right now, have replaced.

Perhaps a better item to add to your New Year's Resolution list should say something along the lines of "I will be that person who I was on December 21, 2008, 10:31 am, when I was actually productive, when I didn't complain as much, when I actually felt good about myself, and remained non-judgmental."

It's interesting, the things that realizes when thinking on different perspectives.

2. I wonder how different this coming year would be; I've stopped adapting a brighter outlook every turn of the year, because I've realized that I can do it every day. In the same token I'm (still struggling to) fight off the temptation of being pessimistic every once in a while, because I'll never know when things will turn up for me, whatever fuck ups I've committed.

What do you have in store for me, 2009?

Christmas '09 Wish List ♥

Managed to read my former officemate's Christmas wishlist on his Multiply page, which reminded me that I haven't come up with my own because I was busy having Christmas...well, on Christmas day. I wouldn't get into the "spirit" or "real meaning" of the holiday, because I wouldn't want to go all Ayn Rand and debate the fact that Christmas was, in fact, a pagan holiday stolen from the Romans. And I really hate Ayn Rand, but don't force me.

Now, let's get into the real meat of the holidays: capitalism and commercialism!

Anyway Santie, the stash I got from you is already awesome, but I think you could do better. A LOT better. So let me give you a jumpstart towards the right direction for next year's Christmas. ♥

1. Galapagos Tortoise

Taken from Wikipedia:
The Galápagos tortoise (or Galápagos giant tortoise), is the largest living tortoise, native to seven islands of the Galápagos archipelago. Fully grown adults can weigh over 300 kilograms (661 lb) and measure 1.2 meters (4 ft) long. They are very long-lived with a life expectancy in the wild ?estimated to be over 150 years.
Why do I want a giant tortoise, especially when I'm already steeped in acrid envy at its immunity from rent prices? Why do I want something that would most probably consume my year's supply of apples in a matter of days?

Because with a little ingenuity and a dash of know-how, I can turn this:

into this:
Who needs rabid pitbulls if you've got cannon-toting murder turtles? Sure, they're slow movers - but with their patience and the fact that can make the earth grovel under their feet with each step, robbers will know that no matter how far they get away, murder turtles (okay, tortoises) WILL catch up with them and WILL eventually fire one of their huge-ass cannons point-blank, no matter how many years that one task may take.

Scrap big dogs if you need one for home security. No one will ever dare breach your home if doing so will mean having to stay awake each and every night for the rest of their lives, feeling for any telltale tremors or listening for any heart-gripping growling that may signal the coming of the fearsome murder turtle, which is taking revenge for the lightbulb that was stolen from your garage ten years ago.

2. F-22 Raptor

I've already grown tired of singing Queen's One Vision in karaoke bars. Singing that hotblooded anthem while zipping through the skies in one of these babies, however, is the right way to do it. Yes, it's the wrong aircraft, but who cares? The F-16 is so '70s.

3. The Lancer (Gears of War series)

Santie, red looks really good on you. Check this video to see how good:

Just kidding. You can get me the gore-less Lancer here. ♥

Much love,


PS: I'm so sick and tired of getting coal every year. Please. It's not helping your reputation as a jolly, fat bastardenefactor. Plus, you need to work on your laugh a bit. It scares my dog.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

First impressions: Ragnarok Online DS

Originally written for Gamer Blag. 
(Author's Note: Considering that I played the game's Japanese release and I didn't want to force myself to "read" moonspeak by squinting at the text for long periods of time in the hopes of understanding it, I may have missed some options that would have improved my gaming experience.)

Finally managed to get my hands on Ragnarok Online DS, the miniature version of Gravity’s surprisingly resilient MMO. Despite my enthusiasm towards the concept of finally getting an RO experience (more or less) in the pocket, an hour or so of playtesting the game left me feeling a bit... "meh". Not too awesome, but not too crappy. 

Graphics: At first glance, the whole game looks like it's been ripped out from the original PC version of Ragnarok Online. Now, this is good: imagine being able to walk through the familiar Pronteran fields with the same trees, the same pathways and waters, and the same plop-plopping Porings, all in the compact handheld console that is your DS. Fields and dungeons are broken down into small parts so the player can go through the environments piecemeal with minimal lagging between areas and/or slowdown. 

Judging from the first dungeon I played through (DS exclusive; I'm not sure if I came across an underground dungeon solely populated with Porings and the Culvert theme playing in the background), expect some areas to be sparsely decorated. No pillars, no trees, no rocks; just you, the floor, and the poor Poring. Now, if you're a nitpicker you'd certainly go anal-retentive at the sore lack of background elements.

But what really gets to me is how the sprites look crappy when you zoom out your view. Surprisingly, the GungHo Works managed to make the zoom in/out function available in the DS incarnation, but it pretty much gives a mediocre result. The 3D background and textures still looks more or less the same, whether zoomed in or out, but the sprites become horribly pixellated when you crank up the zoom out view. And when I say pixellated, I say disfigured beyond recognition.

All things considered, liking Ragnarok Online DS' graphics its just a matter of nostalgia versus quality.

Interface/Controls: GungHo Works, the new console gaming arm of Japanese MMO publisher GungHo Entertainment, certainly made an effort to mimic the user interface of the game, at least to a certain level. They implemented the shortcut bar (or however you call it), where players can opt to hotkey skills and/or items for use during battles. Like the later version of the shortcut bar in the original RO, you can configure and swap between three bars with just a nudge of the stylus.

Now, here is where things go a bit wrong: it seems that in order for you to use skills, you have to tap the icon of your chosen skill in the shortcut bar, then immediately perform the needed motion to activate the skill (check related screens here). I see this as redundant - the developers could have opted a more streamlined control scheme akin to The World Ends With You, where players can just perform stylus motions anytime they like without having to push any buttons or tap any icons. I can see myself getting flustered at the game if ever I'll encounter a higher-level mob, tapping icons and doing random stylus motions, and maybe break the touchscreen in frustration. 

That said, the in-game controls of Ragnarok Online DS are mostly stylus-based, and the DS buttons are only used as shortcuts to the following windows:
Y - equip
B - stats
X - items
A - menu
R - notepad
The Notepad function is a cute addition to the game - I'm not sure if it's main use is to let players scribble important notes for quests, but I used it as a nifty drawing tablet. Seriously, though, its a convenient touch and most RPGs should make use of a similar function (like Phantom Hourglass and Phantasy Star). Hey, that's what the touchscreen and stylus is for.


Gameplay: I haven't gotten that far into the game to give pertinent impressions about its gameplay, but suffice it to say that it has a decent combat system similar to Soma Bringer. You control your newbie character, while your party member (you get a Shaman at the first part of the game) is controlled by AI. 

Since I couldn't make heads or tails of the moonspeak menu, I'm also not so sure if you can assign certain actions or behavior patterns on your teammates. It would be nice if you can order your partner, who has less that 1/4 HP, to defend himself or to concentrate on healing the party. That would really be a big plus towards the game.

Like the original Ragnarok Online, you can assign stat points to attributes such as Str, Int, Vit, etc. Sadly the stat attributes are labelled in kanji, so I couldn't tell which is which :/ I don't think I'll be able to play the game if my stats are stunted, so I think I'll just have to keep an eye out for FAQs for reference before I play again from scratch.

Sounds: Not surprisingly, Ragnarok Online DS makes use of the same soundtrack found in the original PC version. However, the background music is midi-fied, meaning that instead of the awesome SoundTEMP-produced orchestra and guitars you'll hear mostly techno bleeps and bops trying hard to emulate the original music, but they do a great job anyway. Except to hear the usual plop-plopping of Porings, and other sound clips that can't be mistaken for anything else but Ragnarok Online.

Miscallaneous but still important: Here's what really disappointed me about the game: I was duped by one of the game's cutscenes into thinking that I could walk around Prontera, showing clips and scenes of familiar Pronteran streets and landmarks, such as the fountain. After the cutscene, however, it turns out that I couldn't traverse the Pronteran alleyways (and maybe find a scamming vendor or two). To go to shops, inns, or go out of the city, all I have to do is talk to Ms. Pavianne, who would warp me to my chosen location.

What also ticked me off are the extremely long cutscenes. Sure, they're needed to build the game's story and all, but having to go through five full minutes of watching the characters talk, bump, or hit each other is nothing but tedious. Even more so when I'm allowed to do a short piece of actual game time after a lengthy cutscene, only to launch into another borefest again. I'm starting to think that Ragnarok Online DS is actually a parody of Metal Gear Solid 4, only without the Kojima touch. At least you can opt to skip cutscenes in his game.

Overall Impression: As I said before, it's not great, but not bad either. Yes, it looks like I'm weaseling out in this review, but let me reiterate that I'm playing a Japanese version of the game; there's a chance that I'll actually like Ragnarok Online if I can actually understand the menu, etc.

Pros: Good job in retaining the look, feel, and sound of the original game; character customization is enabled to some extent (naming, equipment, stat assignment...not so sure about being able to play as other classes, though. All the screenshots I've seen is the main character wearing a knight sprite); small things such as the inclusion of zoom in/out function as well as the notepad.

Cons: Crappy sprites on zoom-out, redundant battle controls, extremely long cutscenes, not being able to explore cities like the original Ragnarok Online.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Battle of the saddest: Japan versus US, FIGHT-O!



Words are not needed.

Gadget review: Space Invaders 30th Anniversary Headset (Pink) and Raglan Shirt (Pink)

(Author's Note: This review, also written for Gamerblag , is actually way overdue; I've received the items the other week but was too caught up with work and other stuff until recently. Also, many, many thanks to Zuri-chan for letting us place this Play-Asia purchase on his credit card. You so rock, dude.)

It's already apparent by now that I'm a big Space Invaders fan, but despite the glut of sweet, sweet Invader merchandise created to commemorate the franchise's 30th Anniversary, its still hard to procure many of these items - Space Invaders alarm clock, pillow, Kitkat , etc - solely because I don't live in Japan.

But we make do.

In any case, I was able to sniff out and pre-order the Space Invaders 30th Anniversary commemorative headset and Raglan shirt months ago in Play-Asia, and after a long wait (thanks to pushed back release dates), the Space Invaders care package was finally delivered to my doorstep by a Fedex guy wannabe.

QualityPros: The Space Invaders headset is solidly built and is made of lightweight plastic and faux leather for the padding. The pink paint on the actual ear pieces are thankfully not prone to scratching thanks to its top coat, which also seems to protect the black lettering and Space Invaders design from chipping off. The padding on the headband and the underside of the earpieces are extremely comfy; unlike my old Hesh Skullcandy headset, the Space Invader pair didn't give me any sore ears after a considerable length of usage.

Another plus is that the headset can be folded to let you stow it without taking up too much space. However, the hinges are too loose, giving a floppy feel to the earpieces.

Cons: The white adjustable stems are made of plastic commonly used in cheap toys, and may not appeal to those prefer only high-quality material on their stuff. While the whole thing is sturdy and doesn't look like it'll break under moderate usage, the choice of material for the stems look somewhat flimsy. Also, what doesn't appeal to me is the white-colored cord, which is dirt-prone and will never fail to turn grayish after weeks of usage despite proper handling and care.

Sound Quality: The sound quality that the Space Invaders deliver is nothing fancy, but nothing crappy either. Having owned a Skullcandy Hesh, I can safely say that they both have more or less similar sound output, and audio doesn't crack as long as one does not crank the bass too much. A good benchmark that I use is Kajmaster Kajet's Ninja Info Cards - if the sound doesn't crackle in the middle of the track and has ample bass, then it's good.

Packaging: The packaging for this item, while not in the least elaborate, is pretty cool-looking in its black-colored glossy carton printed with multi-colored happy little Invaders. The box window doesn't show much of the merchandise, however, and the headset's color (pink or black) is poorly indicated by a color dot on the box's top flap. The cords placed smack in the middle of the box is conveniently hidden from plain sight by a circular piece of carton with a pink Invader printed on it (which I used as a deco sticker of sorts for my HP Mini).

Pricing: The headset is pretty affordable compared to most other headsets of similar build - and with this I mean those with huge earpieces - costing only US$ 20 or about 900 pesos. With the free shipping option in Play-Asia (available in selected countries), getting the Space Invaders headset is actually a cheaper and more awesome-looking alternative than getting...say, Sennheisers. If you're into the Skullcandy brand, then this sweet headset would be right up your alley in terms of pricing and style.

Verdict: Space Invaders fan? Get this. Looking for a good yet affordable headset? Get this. Want only the best materials for your stuff? You may have second thoughts before buying this baby. Want to scalp something other than Hannah Montana tickets on eBay? Oh yes, yes, get this.

Space Invaders 30th Anniversary Raglan Shirt (Pink):

Quality: I may be a fan of the series, but that doesn't mean I won't call a spade a spade. Let me get this straight: the Space Invaders 30th Anniversary Shirts are poorly made. From the initial advertising months ago to the final product, the shirt I got is surprisingly disappointing.

Pros: It's Space Invaders, and the design is love.

Cons: I pre-ordered the pink shirt months ago, but for some reason the one I got is...well, red. Sure, pink and red belong to the same family of color but what the heck, if I were in the US I'd sue Play-Asia or Taito for false advertising (as my item was put on pre-order and shipped to me immediately after they were stocked, not informing me of the color variation nor giving me a chance to change my order). Dammit, Taito.

The cotton fabric used for the shirt is also low-quality. One look at it and I knew that the fabric fibers will get frayed after a few washes, and that the design will easily fade after a short while *sad face*. I was advised to hand wash it instead of throwing it into the washing machine, though I'm not sure if it will help in making this shirt look good as new for several months.

Packaging: The packaging is similar to the one used for the headphones, and you can see the bottom half of the shirt design through the box window.

Pricing: Considering that my DJ Max Syriana shirt is cheaper by a couple of dollars and is of a much, much higher quality, I'm not so sure if this Space Invaders shirt is worth your US$ 20. If you're a rabid fan of the franchise like I am, you'll probably brainwash yourself into thinking that the price is justified, but since I've bought shirts of better quality for a fraction of a price, it's mostly a guilty purchase.

Verdict: Rabid Space Invaders fan? Get this. For the's a nice novelty item, but not worth the money. Even those who buy this off eBay may feel cheated after getting the item, despite it being an official merchandise.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New fiction here:

re: Beyond Black Doors 

It's been a long while since I last wrote fiction, and it's really hard to pick up the pen again after a year of not writing anything that isn't work (or game) related.

The title of my new thread - Beyond Black Doors - may be very familiar to those who've followed my old works. This time, however, the story takes place in contemporary settings, and there's not much swordfighting or magic involved. Just a lot of weird people (either alive or dead), and some strangelove all around.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Status messages.

His YM stat message while at work:
Running on nothing but guts and fumes.
Me: I hate to say it, but
Me: your stat message sounded cool, until I read it the second time. Then it made more sense.
Him: What does it mean to you nao? XD
Me: that digested innards and fart serves as your fuel?
Him: Er...You were thinking too much into it.
Me: I'm sorry D: but you get gas so easily, so...
Him: It originally means something like a car running on an empty gas tank
Him:  i.e. fumes of the gasoline that's left in the car, guts is just sheer stupid bravado
Me: thanks for giving me the correct image, but it's too late.
Me:  I was thinking of the more visceral stuff: guts = innards, fumes = gas
Him: Well Mai-Mai you just ruined that status message
Me: I'm sorry. Is the fact that I'm laughing right now making be look bad? D:
Him: BLAST OFF *farts out an EXPLOSION*

Monday, December 8, 2008

Good riddance. Not a well-deserved good riddance, but still good riddance.

Taken from Associated Press :
Toy giant Mattel Inc., after a four-year legal dispute with MGA Entertainment Inc., touted its win in the case Wednesday after a federal judge banned MGA from making and selling its pouty-lipped and hugely popular Bratz dolls...The ruling, issued in federal court in Riverside, followed a jury's finding that Bratz designer Carter Bryant developed the concept for the dolls while working for Mattel.
While I've already taken to rolling my eyes whenever I hear of the usual ridiculous lawsuit spawned yet again in the US (being pretty common in the gaming industry), I couldn't help but breathe a small sigh of relief now that the infernal pouty-lipped dolls may most probably be taken off toy shelves and away from impressionable kids.

I wouldn't launch into a longwinded rant against the Bratz line-up, and instead I'll just tell you to look at Baby Bratz to see why I rage at it, so much:

I'm not so sure why the Baby Bratz dolls portray babies as total skanks, but there they are. I have nothing against babies who crawl or waddle about in spaghetti-strapped baby doll dresses or even butt-naked, but I sure am appalled at how Baby Bratz are made to look like hos with the impossibly adult pouty lips and eye liner that shouldn't even touch a toddler's pristine skin.

Don't get me wrong; merely owning a Bratz won't turn a young girl into a wanton prostitute, but there's the fact that the doll's target market are the mostly young, impressionable girls who'd most likely want to emulate the lifestyle that their favorite doll exhibits.

Okay, so playing around with lipsticks and eyeliner pencils are fine (don't let your kid poke her eye out), but I don't want my child acting out the characteristics that the Bratz dolls uphold: vapid, shallow...and yes, practically a Brat.

At the very least, I can rest easy knowing that I wouldn't have my daughter-to-be throwing a tantrum over one of those creepy disembodied Bratz heads . If Mattel doesn't decide to cash in on the IP, of course.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Space Invaders Get Even: This time they mean business

(originally written for Gamerblag)

Most of us know about the attempted invasion thirty years ago, and how the Core Cannon - humanity's greatest hope back then - successfully fended off the threat of UFOs and pixellated aliens. Victory against the Space Invaders means peace for humanity right? Wrong.

Three decades have passed, and humans being humans, started to fight amongst themselves over the Core Cannon, the weapon that was supposed to bring peace to the world. Seeing that the Earthlings are too busy bombing each other to notice any alien threat, the embittered Space Invaders have started plotting their revenge. Now with better planning and attack formations, Taito's Space Invaders are back...and this time no bunker will save anything who gets in their way.

Invade You

Thirty years ago, the only thing that came between the Space Invaders and the conquest of humanity is a lone Core Cannon, and a handful of bunkers. Now, Earth technology has vastly improved, and humans now have a lot of high-tech and agile weaponry to shoot you down with, such as helicopters, tanks, laser turrets, even destroyer ships and huge robots. Well, nobody said anything about invading being an easy job.

For every mission, you are given only a limited amount of time to fulfill mission objectives and carve up a path of destruction as you go along. Swift, decisive attacks naturally are keys to a successful invasion, and fortunately for you, leading the invasion isn't all that complicated. Any form of micromanagement is absent in the game - all it takes to take over the world is just the UFO, a massive invader army, and some well-coordinated attacks.

Time to get even

You take command of the UFO, as well as the hundred-strong Invader army standing by at your disposal. In lieu of weapons or firearms, your Invader army itself serves as a shape-shifting weapon whose form depends on any of the five attack formations they assume: Shot, Homing, Burst, Drill, and Hopping.

The attacks are pretty much self-explanatory: Shot launches Invaders units straight towards the enemy, Burst drops massive Invader-bombs at a specified target, Drill lets Invaders arrange themselves into a drill to inflict continuous damage, etc.

Aside from the five attack formations, there are no other weapons up your arsenal with the exception of the Special Move, a massive laser beam. This particular lack of weapon variety is actually a good thing, since it grants an intuitive control scheme that lets you switch between attack types without much thought. This is a very important thing considering that a lot of your attention will be concentrated on dodging a plethora of projectiles in any given second.

There are practically two things to watch out for when carrying out an invasion aside from the enemies: time and number of units available.

While its tempting to just dawdle along destroying buildings and delivering 8-bit pixel justice to just about any enemy unit you see in-game, you must keep in mind that your time is limited, and you need to accomplish your mission chop-chop. However, invaders are given a certain number of seconds for each building and enemy unit destroyed, so you can also opt to delay your mission and destroy anything in sight provided that you're fast enough.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your alloted time will be diminished if you take hits. The stronger the enemy weapon that manages to hit the UFO, the more seconds that will be taken out of your counter. You will also lose some of your Invader units for every hit taken, so be careful. You can always replenish your army by waving your Wiimote and Nunchuk up and down, but doing so will leave the UFO open to further attacks.

Cute Invaders are cute indeed

One of the first few things that players will notice upon booting the game is that Space Invaders Get Even doesn't take itself too seriously. From the campy Star Wars-like intro to the cheesy victory shouts of "Victory for humanity!" whenever the Invaders are shot down, it's pretty obvious that the game is a self-parody of the entire Space Invaders franchise, albeit a well-made one.

Those familiar with the Katamari series of games will undoubtedly experience a bout of nostalgia while playing Space Invaders Get Even. Aside from the obvious similarities, such as alloting only a limited length time for every mission (as well as the timer itself) and the cute protagonists, the game exudes the same aura of bizarre, yet brutal cuteness. This eerie semblance is especially noticeable when you hear screams while your obedient Invaders cheerfully level buildings and destroy your enemies.

Another Katamari-ish touch to the game is the beaming up of cows for research purposes. We're not sure what goes on in the alien research facility, but 15 seconds are added whenever the UFO acquires a cow. For some reason, cows in Space Invaders Get Even find themselves wandering in the unlikeliest of places possible, such as in the middle of a weapons facility, or floating in the middle of the ocean wearing inflatable rings.

Adding a layer of campiness are the comic book-style text sound effects (like "DOOOOOM") whenever the Invaders bomb down buildings, as well as the brilliant voiceovers that can be heard as Invaders intercept the human's radio transmissions.

Eavesdropping on your enemies' messages to each other reveals a rainbow of personalities behind every bunker, helicopter, or pretty much any structure that you destroy. There are the annoying, cocky pilots, hopeful and naive operators, stalwart commanders, and civilians who tend to be vocal about having their cows stolen.


Space Invaders Get Even is actually one of the better WiiWare purchases available in the current selection. However, the entire package is offered piecemeal: one can get the starter pack for 500 Wii Points, while additional stages can be attained by buying the three other stage packs also worth 500 Wii Points each.

Compared to the add-on packs, which contain two levels (each level has two areas and a boss fight each), the starter pack only contains one, giving off the impression that paying for the starter pack is akin to paying for a demo. While this may be true to some extent, one must consider that the game's overall price - 2000 Wii Points for the starter pack and all add-on packs combined - as a steal. As it stands, Space Invaders Get Even offers a lot of bang for the buck compared to...say, My Horse and Me.

How can I invade you?

After beating all the stages, accomplishing all missions, collecting all hidden items as well as beaming up all the cows, what then?

Taito came up with a scheme that assures its replay factor for at least a few weeks to a couple of months: global rankings. Players can upload their scores and compare them with the best players from around the world, and those who want to beat the highest score would have to resort to playing the game again and again, similar to its sister flash game Space Invaders World War.

Global rankings are good, but its better if the game offered a hard mode instead to those who've finished it. In any case, there's always a possibility that Taito and Square Enix would offer additional stage packs or more unlockable items for Space Invaders Get Even, so who knows.

All things considered, Taito and Square Enix managed to come up with a solidly built title that more than gives justice to a time-honored IP. However, the general opinion towards Space Invaders Get Even is marred by its microtransaction business model (thank you, Square Enix), but it shouldn't deter most people from getting the entire deal.