Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Variety of Random Topics

Okay, I kind of put off posting for a while, so now I've just got a wide variety of things that I sort of had a lot to say about, but by this point I've forgotten most of it, so once everything gets added together, it will probably be pretty decently long.

Let's see, I think I want to start with...Chuck. And Jordana Brewster. Well, I guess mainly Jordana Brewster. So, the dear Ms. Brewster is playing Chuck's long mysterious ex-girlfriend. Now, we've been dying to meet Jill Roberts since, oh, um, 5 minutes into the first episode or so. We've wanted to meet her, primarily so that Chuck can finally get over her, but also we just want to meet her. Okay, then when we found out that she was to be played by Jordana Brewster, then we really wanted to meet her. We will also stop using the royal "we" at this point, because we all know just how annoying it is, don't we?

Anyways, last week she finally appeared. Now, I had mixed feelings, but I wasn't about to hold that against her. Most of my problems arose from the fact that Jill apparently got a Ph.D. in Biochemistry after ditching Chuck and, well, putting glasses on Jordana Brewster...isn't quite enough to make her look even remotely intelligent.

I mean, it's not like she looks incapable of being intelligent, but she just doesn't feel right in that role. I first met her in The Faculty, where she's playing the bitchy prom queen-type girl. I think she also had a major role in The Fast and the Furious. She's not meant to be playing smart. Olivia Wilde can sort of pull it off in House because, well, I've never really thought doctors were all that smart anyways, so I don't hold them to very high standards (it's part of being a chemical engineer, you become an asshole and lose respect for stuff that seems easy compared to the problems you had to solve). But, a Ph.D. in biochemistry, that's a little different.

But, aside from, I was unsure about how I felt about the way they were treating her character. Not surprisingly, Chuck pretty much forgets about Sarah as soon as he sees Jill (remember, he's not over her). And of course Sarah gets jealous and all that's fine. But, I just wasn't sure what they were actually doing with her character. I mean, she's still kind of into Chuck, then finds out that he's still a nobody and loses some but not all interest in him.

Then, and he's where I really got more than kind of frustrated, he informs her that he's actually a spy. I mean, seriously? She's the first person from his real life that gets to find out he's a spy? That's just...not right. She doesn't even earn it. He's basically just letting her know to impress her (right after talking about how cool it felt to have a girl be interested in him who doesn't know he's a spy...which hasn't happened since, like, midway through season 1 with Rachel I'm bringing up two different O.C. alums in the same post...freaky).

So, I came out of it feeling like if they actually wanted to keep her around and have us like her, then they would let her figure out that Chuck is a spy (since she's all super smart and stuff). And her figuring it out would give her the benefit of the doubt (in other words, if she was awesome enough to figure out Chuck's secret on her own, then we, as the audience, not as royalty, would pretty much be willing to forgive her for breaking his heart, all those years ago). But, they took that option away from her, so she doesn't really have a good way to earn our trust and respect, so she's probably going to be gone quick.

Then we had this week's episode, where they were kind enough to inform us that, yes, she is an evil bitch and we're not supposed to like her, even if she is being played by Ms. Jordana Brewster. Of course, the way they decided to do this was completely irrational and makes no sense at all, but that's okay. We're used to it in this show (and Heroes managed to botch up at least as much stuff last week in their flashback episode, so the standards had been lowered pretty significantly, but I'm not talking about Heroes right now as I sit, very tentatively optimistic for the upcoming episodes, I'm talking about Chuck). They decided that she's a spy for the bad guys.

Yeah, I know. Really freaking stupid decision. They end the episode by informing us that she's a government agent, who's actually a spy for Fulcrum (the bad guys). Obviously, this makes no sense. It doesn't make sense because if she worked for the government (which they informed us she did) then they would have informed her that bad guys were making a move on her boss and, furthermore, they would have alerted Casey and Sarah to work with Jill. But, no one told anyone that she's a government agent.

Even more ridiculous: Chuck didn't flash on her! Oh my God, people, are you that incompetent?!? I swear, it's like you wrote last week's episode, filmed it and completed it and then while working on the very next episode, decided this would be a cool idea. You completely ignored everything that had just happened. I mean, when Heroes screws up, at least they're continuous with the previous week's episode. You're not even close.

What's worse is that last week's episode could have worked just as well with everyone knowing that Jill was a government agent. I bet it would have been better even. Casey and Sarah would be working with Jill to protect/interrogate her boss and they would be trying to keep Chuck secret since he's the Intersect and all. Of course, Chuck would be chomping at the bit to see her and say hi and be all "Hey, I'm the Intersect. Have sex with me." And, yeah, it would work fine (but, then I guess the twist in this episode wouldn't be a surprise, but that's alright since the way it is now, it's a twist where the audience just goes WTF?).

So, yeah, I'm kind of sad that I'm frustrated with Chuck right now. But, really, it's not Chuck, it's me. Clearly, I'm not cool enough to be watching it if things like this bother me. But, I'll keep trying, because I do love it so much.

Let's see, next on the list is, um, Valkyria Chronicles. Sometimes, it makes me sad that I play video games so slow. I've already put a good 15-ish official game time hours into that game, which probably translates into 20-25 real hours. And I think I'm just about halfway through it at this point. But, no, I was too slow to start having impressions that won't just sound like me jumping on the "Valkyria Chronicles is so ridiculously amazing everyone should play it. No, really you should even though you don't own a PS3 or like strategy RPGs, it's just that good" bandwagon. But, well, there's a reason this bandwagon formed and it's not because people like to love PS3 exclusive games (in fact, I think people seem to prefer to either hate or ignore such games).

That bandwagon formed because this game is freaking brilliant. Let's pretend for a moment that it isn't one of the most beautiful games I've ever played. Let's just judge it based upon the gameplay. Okay then, it's the best thing the console RPG genre has ever produced, pretty much hands down. I've been addicted to Fire Emblem. I've been addicted to Disgaea. I've been addicted to Advance Wars and I've played a fair amount of Final Fantasy Tactics. All of them are very good and tons of fun. Gameplay-wise, though, not even close, except maybe Advance Wars, and that's just because it's so ridiculously complicated. Valkyria Chronicles' gameplay is almost simple compared to those other games with far fewer unit types and modifiers. But, the way you interact with it, is so much better. Sega didn't start with Chess and make it more complicated. They started with, maybe Star Ocean and Gears of War, and added a little bit of Chess to it. And it feels so right.

I never want to have to move characters around on a grid again (that is a blatant lie, by the way, I'll be playing more Disgaea in a couple months, I'm sure). That's how cool it felt to actually take control of my characters.

On an only vaguely related note, I think there's a question that some of the reviewers need to ask themselves. This would primarily be the reviewers complaining that there's lots of cut scenes. While playing the game, there's a point where you get the option to spend 50000 gold to access some extra cut scenes of your characters on vacation. Around this time, I had about 80000 gold, so this was a significant portion of my money (which goes towards funding better weapons and armor and stuff). Now, if you see that option and you immediately spend the money before even realizing that this vacation will involve going to the beach and seeing the female characters in needlessly skimpy bikinis, you are the type of person this game was made for. If you think, for even a moment, about the fact that you're going to fall behind in the research category and not be as powerful and get effectively nothing in return, then please, don't review this game. We don't care about your opinion of the cutscenes.

Also, only very vaguely related, I was just hoping that if anybody else populated their entire army solely with cute young girls (yes, there are a couple Japanese schoolgirls, but they're typically more like scouts than heavy lancers, to my ever-so-slight disappointment), they'd let me know, just so I don't feel like the only weird loser doing that. For that matter, people whose Rock Band bands are entirely populated by girls would make me feel better too. Although, for the record, I don't make those characters wear as little clothing as possible. I spend the time to find cool costumes for them that look good without removing significant amounts of clothing. I think that, at worst, that only makes me slightly sexist and possibly vaguely feminist since I'm not objectifying these female characters (who, let's be honest, actually are just objects...err, rather, digital objects but you get the idea) and am instead choosing to interact with the game through those avatars instead of my own gender and I have no idea where I'm going with this at all. Moving on...

Valkyria Chronicles is really awesome. Oh, and did I mention the art style? Gorgeous, really. It achieves its goals admirably. It doesn't feel real, but it feels powerful. Some of the best parts at the beginning show these idyllic, peaceful countrysides in this watercolor/penciled-style suddenly getting destroyed by the bad guys. Those are times when it really, really works.

Lastly, I just have a quick thing to say. So, apparently on MTV there's some stupid game show where people play Rock Band in front of an audience and get judged and if they do well then they win prizes. I'd heard it mentioned here and there, always with lots of negative connotations, but I just watched it and it was so amazing. Like, I was falling off the couch laughing at the bands and the performances were totally fun to watch as well. They do this cool thing where it's like watching people playing Rock Band, except instead of the computer generated performers and audience, it's the actually performers and audience (but you can still see the note charts and stuff like that).

Anyways, I highly recommend it. The host is kind of lame (it's kind of obvious he thinks he got stuck with a crappy gig), but everything else about it is so funny. The best part is when they go behind the scenes and interview the competitors and these people are so cool and funny. I mean, they totally love Rock Band and they're excited to be playing in front of an audience, but they're totally aware this is just for fun. And they're having fun. There were two great quotes from the episode I saw. The first one was a response to why they got into Rock Band. I'm paraphrasing but the band leader explains that they got into it because they totally sucked at real instruments, at which point the drummer pipes in and says "That shit is HARD, man!". Trust me, it was funny. The other quote started with the cliched "Rock Band is not a's an experience". But, then after a couple moments of thinking about what he just said, the guy continues, "but if it was a game, it would be, like, the GREATEST GAME EVER!". Yeah, that's a memorable quote.

Let's see, real quick I can mention that I've tried Guitar Hero: World Tour and it pretty much sucks compared to Rock Band (okay, that's a slight, changed my mind, no exaggeration at all). The primary problem is that they made the conscious decision to make it a multiplayer game that doesn't play like a multiplayer game. You're not a band when you're playing as a group in this game, you're just a group of people all playing the same song at the same time on different instruments. I mean, I think it even gives everyone separate scores (or at least it feels like it does since they eliminated anything like cooperation from the gameplay). The secondary problem is that they decided to make the rule be that if someone fails out, then everyone fails out (even though everyone else can't really do anything to prevent the person who failed out from failing out). This is frustrating, in case you're curious.

Otherwise, it's all just slightly different design choices that are neither right nor wrong, just different (so, since I'm way too used to Rock Band, they all feel wrong, but I know they're not necessarily wrong). Neither game has come up with just the right way to do vocals, but I think Rock Band is a little closer. On drums, it's nice to activate star power whenever I want, but I miss the drum fills as well. On bass, supposedly the note-less strums grow on you once you get used to the idea a little bit. Hmm, well, I failed at being real quick, but it was still kinda quick.

Well, the only other thing I can think of that might be worth mentioning (read as: really is not worth mentioning, but I'm going to anyway) is that I saw the most recent Hellsing Ultimate DVD and it was just okay. A lot of people rag on the original anime for completely abandoning the story in the manga about halfway through. So, the Hellsing Ultimate DVDs are pretty much just for those fans, since they promise to stick with the manga all the way through. I'm now two DVDs past the halfway mark in the original, and well, I'm still up in the air. Neither one finishes is all that great.

The original anime tried to go out in a rather different direction with bigger and scarier and weirder demons appearing. This doesn't really fit with the theme in the manga, but it's not inherently bad. This one, which I assume is following the manga that I haven't read, is just repeating the same theme over and over again. That would be the theme that Alucard is way more sinister and evil and demonic than any of the evil things he gets called in to fight. After the fourth disc of that, I'm kind of starting to understand why the anime wanted to do something different. There's only so many times we can watch the bad guys doing horrible things only to crumple into snivelling creatures at Alucard and the horrors he's capable of. So, we'll have to see. This one was kind of a transition one, so it's possible that the next disc could do some interesting stuff because he'll fighting Nazi vampires that he thought he eliminated, so these are bad guys who actually faced him before and are relishing the thought of facing him again, not because they think they can win, but because they relish the amount of horror and evil this confrontation will bring into the world. Like I said, this could be interesting.

I also like that we get to see more of the crazy priest dude who works for the Catholics. I like him too.

Alright, that is all.


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