Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Chicken Soup for the Beer Drinker

Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drink I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, "It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver." – Jack Handy

I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day.
– Frank Sinatra

The problem with some people is that when they aren't drunk, they're sober.
– William Butler Yeats

An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.
– Ernest Hemingway

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.
– Ernest Hemingway

Time is never wasted when you're wasted all the time.
– Catherine Zandonella

Reality is an illusion that occurs due to lack of alcohol.
– Anonymous

Drinking provides a beautiful excuse to pursue the one activity that truly gives me pleasure, hooking up with fat, hairy girls.
– Ross Levy

A woman drove me to drink and I didn't even have the decency to thank her.
– W.C. Fields

What contemptible scoundrel has stolen the cork to my lunch?
– Tee Mans

When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.
– Henny Youngman

Life is a waste of time, time is a waste of life, so get wasted all of the time and have the time of your life.
– Michelle Mastrolacasa

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.
– Tom Waits

24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence?
– Stephen Wright

When we drink, we get drunk. When we get drunk, we fall asleep. When we fall asleep, we commit no sin. When we commit no sin, we go to heaven. Sooooo, let's all get drunk and go to heaven!
– Brian O'Rourke

You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.
– Frank Zappa

Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.
– Winston Churchill

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
– Benjamin Franklin

If you ever reach total enlightenment while drinking beer, I bet it makes beer shoot out your nose.
– Deep Thought, Jack Handy

Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.
– Dave Barry

The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.
– Humphrey

Sunday, November 24, 2002

What's Up?

Currently reading: A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (I've been putting off reading the whole Wheel of Time series in one go...)
Currently playing (PSX): Arc the Lad (from the Arc the Lad Collection CDs)
Currently playing (PC): Shining Force (well, actually, on an Sega Genesis emulator called GENS)
Currently waiting for: The Two Towers motion picture (who isn't?)
Currently taking up: Master of Science in Computer Science, Cognate in Information Technology (if all goes well, I should have the degree by October 2003...)

Game on, all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Retrogaming SNES

Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals

Just finished this great game. At first, I was a bit skeptical about the whole game, mainly because they revised the battle system and made quite a few changes here and there. Now, having spent about 90 hours finishing the game (that's about 60 hours of actual storyline and nearly 30 hours spent in the 99-level Ancient Cave minigame), I can say that Lufia II truly is a sequel worthy of the Lufia name.

The battle system benefitted from the addition of the IP system (Item or Ikari Points; not sure which) which assigned different special abilities to all the weapons and other gear that the characters can equip. They trigger these IP abilities by spending from their IP Gauge which is a expressed as a percentage. Their IP Gauge increases as they get damaged, the amount gained depends upon the character's GUT attribute. So a whole new dimension is added to gameplay because sometimes you'd have to pick between a better item with a crappy or even no IP ability, or a lesser one that has a very useful IP ability. Sometimes, proper management of a character's various IP Abilities can make the difference in winning a tough battle.

Another notable change is the increased amount of puzzles (called "tricks" by the translation team) present in dungeons. Lufia 1's dungeons featured a rudimentary form of puzzle, implemented via switches that open new areas as well as teleporters that move the heroes to otherwise inaccessible places. Lufia II took those puzzles to a new level. Blocks that must be arranged in a certain order, pillars that must be moved, and many other new dungeon elements add to the gameplay. Instead just hacking their way through the dungeon until they get to the final boss, Maxim and his companions had to solve the dungeon's puzzles. Most of the puzzles are of easy to medium difficulty (thank the designers) though I've been stumped for a few hours by one or two tough ones. Also hidden in one of the final dungeons is an optional killer puzzle they call "The Most Difficult Trick In The World" which actually took me a whole weekend to figure out (I was so frustrated about it, I almost surfed for a gamefaq).

With the various puzzles sprinkled through its dungeons, Lufia II has changed its encounter system. Back in the previous game, you'd have encounters every few steps in the dungeon. Now, Lufia II's dungeons featured monsters that walk in the room, which means you can avoid them if you don't want a fight. And who wants to fight when you're too busy trying to figure out that pesky puzzle?

To aid the heroes bypass the obstacles in dungeons as well as solve certain puzzles, you find several "tools", starting with the Arrow, which can trigger switches from afar as well as immobilize monsters it hits. You'll find more as the game progresses: the Bomb, which can be used to collapse certain parts of the wall, as well as blast weeds apart; the Hook, which can be used to get the heroes across chasms and pits; and many more. These definitely add to the gameplay, incorporating a Zelda-like dungeon action.

Graphics are better than the first, and is definitely quite top-notch as far as SNES goes. Heck, sometimes, it even looks better than Square's Final Fantasy VI! However, the translation team goofed up somewhere, resulting in a couple of messed-up areas (Level B99 of the Ancient Cave where you fight the Master, and the Submarine Shrine where Maxim tries to get the Dual Blade). I don't actually go for graphics as far as games go, but a bug is a bug, and it's really annoying. Kudos for the Sinistrals though. They've never been more larger than life than ever.

Story-wise you get the standard console RPG romp through the world's various continents, fetching this McGuffin and delivering it back to whoever wants it, or just going through dungeons to get to the next town. What makes it enjoyable is all that Lufia heart. This is Lufia and the Fortress of Doom's prequel. It tells the story of that hero Maxim, the final tragic chapter of which we witnessed in the prologue to Lufia I. There are certain sequences that made me smile, and one that almost made me cry. This is epic heroic fantasy at its best.

Lufia II is a very different game from its predecessor, but it is these same changes that enhanced it, making it perhaps the greatest console RPG on the SNES.

Fudge Ratings (Scale of -3 to +3)
Gameplay: Great (+2)
Graphics: Great (+2)
Story: Superb (+3)

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Back to the Future...

Hey, all... Just got back from Friday night gimmick.

I've realized all these search for niftiness is preventing me from releasing actual content. I'm going to have to put on hold my plans for a site facelift and start writing the meaty stuff. Random Punk will always remain my vent for new ideas, insights, and experiences. I'll rave and rant, express my emotions--the works.

Also, I'd like to announce that I'll be opening a new blog for my serialized story... an anthology of sorts with an over-arcing epic storyline tentatively titled Fate and Fortune: The Trials of Light and Darkness. I'm just finalizing the series bible/notes a bit before I launch it into the fray. I'm excited with this project, and it will be dedicated to my muse. I've finally found her again.

Game on, all... stay tuned.

Friday, November 15, 2002

New Thingies On My Bloggie...

Well... not really. Just added a site tracker to count the readers of my li'l blog here. There's also a guestmap—which is something like a guestbook except you sign on a map. These two new gadgets are courtesy of bravenet which also has a nifty button at the bottom right.

I'm still debating over getting a messageboard and stuff to allow for greater interaction between you and me, but for now that's it...

Game on, all!

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Unsealing the Chamber of Secrets...

Got to see the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber Secrets as it opened on local big screens today.

It was a great movie, highlighting most of the events from the book, and a few times at least, managed to convey the same grim and eerie atmosphere of Harry Potter's second year at Hogwarts.

The book was spookier, in my humble opinion, though I'm thinking this can be more ascribed to my propensity to let my imagination run wild. Also, the exclusion of certain scenes from the book may also have contributed to the movie's lesser fear factor. Then again, this could have been the intent of the producers who are, obviously, aiming for a younger target audience. The tragedy of the various petrified victims and the suspense of impending doom, while given screen time and scenic development (no matter how brief), was certainly downplayed in the movie.

I am well aware of the various differences between the books and films, and the obligatory "loss" of data as one converts from one media to the other. Still, if it had been my movie, I'd really try to include every scene from the book, though, admittedly, that might make the movie a bit on the dragging side.

Anyway, to each his own, and the Chris Columbus has once again delivered a superb adaptation, as well as a worthy sequel to the first Harry Potter film. I've heard somewhere that he won't be helming the next Harry Potter movie anymore. Let's hope he handles Harry Potter 3 with as much mastery of the craft as Columbus did, if not more.

Sadly, Richard Harris, the sterling gentleman who played Albus Dumbledore, also won't be able to re-join the cast. He will surely be missed.

Game on, all.

Niftiness...

I'm messing with the site code, so Random Punk's going to look weird at times in the next day or so. Right now, I've gotta go and get some sleep.

Game on, all...

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Console RPGs 2...

I'm currently playing through Lufia II: The Rise of the Sinistrals right now, having just finished the first installment one or two weeks ago. So far it's a fun game, with more gameplay elements added (particularly the Ikari/Item Point system which is like a sort of Limit Break available in most equipment), as well as the random 99-level Ancient Dungeon challenge (which I've been through twice already, burning up a total of 26 hours of my playing time; don't have any plans to go back yet as I've finally managed to defeat the Boss on Level B99).

As its subtitle suggests, Lufia II tells the story of the Sinistrals' rise to power, as well as that of a young hero called Maxim, and how both were connected by the mysterious but powerful Dual Blade. Yep, it's a prequel. Finally, you'd get to know how Maxim began his adventuring, fillinf in all the blanks in between until the final battle on Doom Island (which was featured in the first Lufia game).

I'll be adding my review and ratings (in Fudge, once again) when I finish this wonderful game. In the meantime, game on, all.

Console RPGs

Last month was the first time I've played the classic SNES RPG, Lufia and the Fortress of Doom. It had a solid design: gameplay was enjoyable if not a bit simpler than most of its contemporaries, graphics was sufficient and I guess is quite standard for early games on the SNES (the cutesy art style is a plus as well), and the soundtrack evoked feelings of heroism, plunging the listener into a world filled with magic, mayhem, and monsters.

The story few twists to vary the standard fantasy console RPG fare, but all told, in its time, the game would have stood up to other RPGs (particularly the fan-favorite Final Fantasy IV to VI which were also first released on the SNES). Lufia's epic story opens up with the final battle of Doom Island: the great hero Maxim, his wife Selan, the warrior Guy, and the elf Artea. Together the four friends took the fight into the bowels of the Fortress of Doom and confronted the four Sinistrals, evil beings of god-like power. As the battle ended, the Fortress collapsed around them and Doom Island crashed into the oceans. Artea and Guy were the only ones to make it out, Maxim having chosen to stay by his wife's side. Then, the game fast-forwards almost a hundred years into the future and the new hero, a descendant of Maxim, starts his epic journey.

The dungeons were quite old school and featured extensive twists and turns. Enemies often attacked, but the combat is usually quick: most of the time taking but 2 or 3 rounds of Lufia's turn-based system. Boss battles are a different matter all together, as they will surely wipe-out an ill-prepared party of adventurers which has not leveled up sufficiently. Most of the quests merely involved travelling to the next town and dungeon, but at several points you'd have to backtrack to a previous town to complete a quest.

Lufia and the Fortress of Doom is a game that you should have played if you fancy yourself a fan of console RPGs. For me, it handles its own respectively enough even when confronted with the other "classics" that always spring to mind when SNES RPGs are talked about: Breath of Fire I and II, Chrono Trigger, the Dragon Quest series, and the Final Fantasy series. Here's a summary of Lufia's Fudge ratings. The ratings are based on my feeling that RPGs should have a top-notch story and/or gameplay first and foremost, rather than breath-taking graphics (which, if good, does add more enjoyment, but cannot really help improve poor story or gameplay).

Lufia and the Fortress of Doom: Great Story, Great Gameplay, Great Graphics.
(rated according to Fudge's seven-scale system going from Terrible [-3] to Superb [+3])

Monday, November 11, 2002

Rabies


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It Begins Again

Second sem starts today. I've got a pretty light schedule set up for this sem: 9-10:00am Wednesdays is Graduate Seminar, 7-10:00am Fridays is Special Topics, and everything else is time for my Master's Thesis. I'm writing the proposal this sem though I don't have any idea as of yet what my topic will be.

The d20 Modern SRD just got released! I'm still waiting for my copy of the actual d20 Modern RPG to arrive by mail but judging from a skim through the SRD, the rules rock! Now, if only I've got actual time to game... *whine*

Also, looking forward to seeing the second Harry Potter movie when it opens here this Wednesday. Already got the date reserved for some quality time with the S.O. Now the next movie I'll be waiting for after Harry Potter is The Two Towers. Woohoo! It is a good time to be a fantasy lover indeed.

Well, that all for now. Game on, all!