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Bluestarultor

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  • My occupation is Computer programming
  • I am Male
Cactuar


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Best-of Stellar Arena

Warning: I'm around regularly, just not actively editing. If you need admin input/action, just leave something on my Talk.


Bluestarultor Orbs
Name Bluestarultor
A.K.A Blue, Blues, Bluey...
Job Class Blue Psychic
Hometown Weston, WI
Date of Birth April 3
Age 26
Height 5'9-3/4"
IQ ACT average of 32, 98th percentile
Weapon Staff, 3-section Staff (self-training), Bow, Sword, Sword & Dagger, Unarmed
Spells White Wind, Angel Whisper, Aqua Breath, Thrust Kick, Banish, Mighty Guard, Blaster, Random Bullet
Summons Brothers, Kujata, Alexander
Limit breaks Generation Next

Random Realization:
Zidane promised a hot Lindblum barmaid to take her on an airship ride, shooting himself in the foot when he thought he'd told Garnet. This same barmaid got the same offer from Regent Cid Fabool IX, aka the guy whose wife turned his cheating ass into one of the most disgusting bugs in their world. Forget Brahne; that barmaid is easily one of the most dangerous women on Gaia. Without even trying.


Hi, and welcome to my user page. Bluestarultor, at your service, but people call me Blue, Bluey, Blues, Bluesey, Bluestar, and a million other personal variants. As long as it contains "blue" in there someplace, I'll assume you mean me. It's my name everywhere on the Internet and I even answer to it in real life.

P.S. If you don't see a shadow on this, you are using a shit browser. To remedy this, download Firefox.

Quick LookEdit

If you'd like any of my custom userboxes, feel free to grab the code and use them for your own page. Just keep in mind that certain ones use either graphics from my Photobucket or information specific to me that you need to change. I'd appreciate it if my personal graphics were changed out for your own, since those are my work and my bandwidth. If you do sprites or games, show off your own work. ;)

Wiki-related:
Wiki This user has been a member of the Final Fantasy Wiki since November 12, 2009.
FFVI iOS GestahlThis user is an administrator on the Final Fantasy Wiki.
FF6 IOS Imperial Brown This user is a Recent Changes patroller.
FF3NES-Griffon This user is a WikiGryphon.
7,728 So far, Bluestarultor has made 7,728 edits to this Wiki!
2,175 So far, Bluestarultor has made 2,175 mainspace edits to this Wiki!
Userb e1000 This user has over 5000 edits.
Userb enon This user believes that an edit count doesn't necessarily reflect on the value of their contributions.
Aeris Portrait This user identifies as being at
Gainsborough Level 3
Cactuar This user spends WAY too much time here and really needs to get off the computer...after one more edit.
WikiGriff components:
Ffxiirw gnoam This user is a WikiGnome.
FFI PSP Black Wizard Map This user is a WikiWizard.
FFT-enemy-Uribo This user is a WikiSloth.
Zack Tactics Edit This user is a WikiPuppy.
Demographic:
Userb male This user is a male.
Christianity This user identifies as Christian.
American-flag This user lives in the United States of America.
Personal:
Strago Magus smallThis user is a Blue Mage variant.
CySpecial.gifThis user is an amateur game designer.
blueforFFWiki.pngThis user does all his/her own sprites.
Music-harpThis user does all his/her own music and sound effects.
th_ZPlogo.png This user likes Zero Punctuation (despite Yahtzee's poor opinion of JRPGs)
Characters:
Red XIII HowlFF7This user is a Red XIII fan and considers him the best character from FF7.
FFVII Aeris BattleThis user is an Aeris/th fan and cares not what you call her so long as you know she can do front row.
FFVII Cait Sith BattleThis user is a Cait Sith fan and doesn't understand how people find him useless.
ZackCGModel-CrisisCore2This user is a Zack fan and hates Square for making the puppy's death so hard to watch.
Quistis-ffviii-battleThis user is a Quistis fan and calls her one of the best Blue Mages of the series. EFF YEAH, TURRET!
Zell-ffviii-battle Rinoa-ffviii-battleThis user is also a fan of both Zell and Rinoa (not as a pair, mind you). Everyone else can eat it.
ViviMirror-FFIXThis user is a Vivi fan because this user at one point WAS Vivi.
ZidaneMirror-FFIXThis user is a Zidane fan and is thankful he had his own Zidane to help him.
Auron ArtThis user is an Auron fan because he reminds him a bit of his dad.
FFX Kimahri ArtThis user is a Kimahri fan because Blue Mage + Lancer = ROCK.
FFX-2 HD Paine RenderThis user is a Paine fan because of her sarcastic wit and badass awesomeness.
FFXIII-SazhThis user is a Sazh fan because he's just plain awesome and great in battle.


I classify characters by how much I'd like to be around them. This is just a selection.

Would Befriend Would Meet More Than Once Would Meet Once Would Not Meet
Zack Fair, Vivi Orunitia, Zidane Tribal, Zell Dincht, Red XIII Yuna, Aerith Gainsborough, Edgar Roni Figaro, Sabin Rene Figaro, Laguna Loire, Sazh Katzroy, Reeve Tuesti Paine, Cid Highwind, Rinoa Heartilly, Setzer Gabbiani, Shadow, the Turks, Oerba Yun Fang, Auron Seifer Almasy, Balthier, Vincent Valentine, Terra Branford, Lightning


About MeEdit

I'm not big on the wiki model as a contributor due to not having much in the line of news sources, but I figured if I was going to be following the new games coming out, I may as well join. I'm a programmer by trade and am an amateur game programmer, pixel artist, and writer. Helixrain is my younger brother (I am so sorry :P). All of my own sprites are done from the ground up, pixel by pixel, although sprites I've done for other people have been recolors or have used bases. GraphicsGale and Paint.net are my allies in this, Gale for grabbing the colors from the palette and PDN for pretty much everything else, since layers are just so gosh-darn convenient. ;)

Aside from that, I do my music and sound effects in Anvil Studio, which is free MIDI software. Having the sheet music is really great for composing. For music I listen to, game music is always good, I like music ranging from 60s rock all the way through disco and into the 80s, and a lot of Japanese and other Asian pop. Girls' Generation's Gee is like crack and f(x)'s LA chA TA is great, but the group I always come back to is Perfume. No matter what happens, even if nothing else does it for me, Perfume is my feel-good band. Their music is great and they're fun to watch just because it's clear they love what they do, and you can't not have fun along with them.


Randomly:

  • Although I never got into any kind of divination, it's creepy how well astrology and numerology describe me. Even the Chinese Zodiac.
  • I have extremely good pattern analysis skills.
  • My favorite element is water because to me it represents both finesse and power. Water flows, but it doesn't take much to overwhelm something. My least favorite element is fire, because I see it as too destructive. Fire consumes what it touches and spreads. No other element has the same utter lack of control.


Finally, I abuse emotes. I know it might make me come off as immature, but I think everyone should. Text is a barrier to meaning and things said in jest can come off totally wrong without any indicator of it. Especially if people don't know you well. I also tend to invent the occasional emote if I think it helps express my meaning more than a traditional one. Just, I dunno, flip your screen on its side or something and figure it out. XD


Origin of the ClassEdit

Blue Magic pretty much had me at FF7, before I even knew what it was (7 was my first FF). After I got FF5 in Anthology, I was pretty much hooked on the idea. It also helps that my favorite color has been blue for years. XD

That alone wouldn't have been enough to solidify the "psychic" half of things if not for the fact that I'm incredibly perceptive. Face-to-face, I've always been able to tell if someone was lying and read their emotions bordering on psychic empathy. I also notice a lot of stuff others don't and can make fairly accurate predictions into the near future of things like how a relationship is going to go (I can proudly claim I got a guy happily married via my advice) and how busy things will be at work to the point my co-workers started joking about it and the idea just took off. It's kind of like that series where the ex-psychic investigator just "pays attention." The info you can get by doing that is pretty extensive.

Thus the concept of the "Blue Psychic" was born and the character Jay was created to be my avatar - an overall nice guy who just has a few triggers and is a little too good at returning fire in subtle, but often embarrassing ways when people trip them, allowing me to rant on things that bug me without making an unlikable character. Jay's a little guy with a lot of power, not much to spend it on, and no real sense of his limits when he needs to use it, since he usually doesn't have to worry about running out. Most of his repertoire consists of subtle psychic tricks like empathy and basic commands that aren't much good offensively and some of his gained "Blue" abilities have prohibitively specific applications. He's half a farce of the source material, but also lets me get creative to show how seemingly silly things can be adapted into practical applications with a bit of ingenuity for the other half.

Most of this has stayed put at Nuklear Power Forums, but the title's followed me here. ;)

Character BackstoryEdit

Those floating orbs on my sprite actually have story importance. When I still had an interest in making sprite comics, the explanation was that Jay got each one from a different person in a way as they taught him about himself and the orb left him. They are, in order:

  • Red - Fighter
  • Green - Monk
  • Black/Purple - Black Mage
  • Yellow - Chromomancer (color magic)
  • Blue - White Mage
    • Clear - Bard (generated at basically the same time)

The colors are less related to the class and more related to the person. Jay was considering becoming a Bard when Troy finally found him again (he was absent for years for reasons I won't go into) and, as his guardian angel, told him that he was a Blue Psychic. So Jay got the White Mage orb by learning about himself, while the Bard orb fell away from him without ever being used. Jay is able to class change back to any of them at will and continue to grow them, or he can draw the powers from them directly without class changing at the dubious cost of using the MP of the person he got it from. This would normally mean that White Mage is free because it comes from his own stores, but because of how it was generated its skill set is reversed, which means that the only thing it has to work with for a good many more levels is an incredibly powerful healing spell that explodes anything that's not already dead, but can revive things from basically nothing if need be.

SymbolismEdit

mylciecrystal.png

My l'Cie crystal, shown to the right, is based on something out of one of my oldest stories and has diverged quite a lot. The S shape comes from something I used to do with my hands to stretch in middle school and it became a piece of an emblem of the main character of a book that's still quite important to me. The idea was to have that flat pane behind a gold cross as a sort of symbolic thing since I was a Catholic writing a Catholic character, but since his name was Trey Smith, the cross eventually became a gold T instead, which it remains for him to this day. In the overlap, I borrowed it for an avatar elsewhere because, again, of wanting to have a bit of a religious thing for myself, but also because I'd started taking on several of my characters' traits for my persona over there, many of which my avatar sprite still retains. This is a very recent update to the design of it, turning the S from a flat pane with a lighter, brighter outline into a solid-color, rounded gel/crystal thing, and the cross has been taken from solid gold to a more star-like crystal. It's basically just made a turn for the modern, and I also took myself out from in front of it. I suppose you could also say that it now represents Light and Water, my two preferred elements, although that's just a realization on my part after the fact. In all honesty, I didn't start out intending the S to be so gel-looking, but I'm not good enough in image-editing to really get the roughness of the crystals in FF13 and the symbol looks pretty good on its own as a standalone.

altcrystal.png

My alternate l'Cie crystal is based on yet another avatar I used to use a lot. It was one of my earliest and was originally kind of crappy, with my sprite with a hand-pixeled glow floating translucent in front of a yin-yang. Eventually I got tired of that look, but liked the concept, and instead turned my sprite bluescale (although for some reason to this day the skin still looks pink to me) and did a glow effect on that for more of a ghostly look, which oddly enough creeped me out a bit at first when I put it up. The symbolism behind that was that, being honest, I was in a bad place and kind of miserable, more so when I redid it, and the worlds of my characters and stories seemed more appealing to me than real life. I've always thought of my characters as people and the yin-yang symbolizes two of them who are very important to me. So it kind of represented an inversion where I was they shade and they were real. When I wanted to do another crystal, that was the obvious choice, and while my sprite has been removed from the equation, the concept of the shade standing in front hasn't, unlike with the first one. The humanoid form is actually an upscaled version of the basic human body from Ruby with an outline applied and quite frankly a lot of work done to make it look decent. I know the lighting on it isn't realistic, but I happened to like it more than other things I tried. I learned a bit more doing it and honestly think it turned out better than the first one lighting-wise. I suppose you could say it's ironic that my main symbol is one that I took from a character and my alternate is one I did purely for myself, but honestly I never hated either of them, and still don't, but I'm a little less emo now. ;)


IRCEdit

As maintainer of the SacredMinotaur IRC bot (click the link in the sidebar for easy access to the section and a link to the main page), as well as being fairly regular on the channel, I guess you could say I've established a presence on the #FFWiki IRC.

If you have any questions you want to ask in private, like, I dunno, for me to make someone an Eidolon as a secret gift or something I'm often hanging around in the channel. While I tend to get distracted by other things, assuming I don't have my speakers off for some reason, sending me a directed message or query gets my attention with the sound.

Look for Bluesey or, less frequently, Bluestarultor to find me. ;)


Best-of Stellar ArenaEdit

Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon


Special thanks have gone out to:

  • Clarent (formerly Kayreeed Caliburn) - a gold award for being the first voter minutes after the arena went up!
  • Leon95 - a silver award for being the second voter and the first to vote in both fights!
  • SilverCrono - a bronze award for third voter, first to get an award in a fancy bubble, and last to get an award!
  • SilverCrono - a white honesty award for making a liar out of me, but not out of himself having used my table code for DSS' arena.
Platinum awards for my
first proper tournament:
Blue steel awards for my
first proper tournament:
Stardust awards for my
first proper tournament:
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon




Non-Wiki ProjectsEdit

I recently came out with my first public release: MediaAlarm! It's free, but if you like it, you can donate whatever you feel it's worth.

So, yes, as a programmer, I write programs, do web site coding, etc. I've written small tools like a die-roller and something to generate colors in hexadecimal, but most of my current projects are games.


The real purpose of this section is for you to follow that link in the heading. I have projects for the future you might think are cool and comments are always welcome. ;)

You can find additional info in the form of a sales pitch at:
http://www.bluestarcreations.net/


Wiki ProjectsEdit

Real Emotion - sweetbox Jade Valerie

Real Emotion - sweetbox Jade Valerie

Some services I offer on the wiki include:

  • Talk bubbles
  • Custom signatures
  • Coding help (as I learn more of the wiki's code)
  • HTML & CSS help
  • Anything else you might poke me for to the best of my ability

For actual projects...


FF13 EidolonsEdit

I give this one its own subsection because it deserves it at this point. Born from my personal effort to translate Brothers into Eidolon format, I have since done another one for my real-life brother and a third, incomplete, one out of boredom. But, most importantly, I did two for Sorceror Nobody's personal l'Cie before finally becoming one and making it my Focus. If you are one of his branded l'Cie and would like me to do up pages in the style of FF13's Eidolons for your claimed summon, simply ask on my talk page. This is my own project to flex my design skills, but it's also there to flex my ability to work with others, so the process will be as follows:

  1. If you want one, simply ask on my talk page.
  2. I will look at your Eidolon and role proficiencies and come up with your Eidolon's abilities and Gestalt transformation.
  3. When I'm happy with a first draft, I'll direct you to my Eidolons page to look it over.
  4. You can then come back to me and ask for changes.
  5. I'll then implement some changes based on your feedback and come back to you again.
  6. Repeat the previous two steps until you have a product you like (or make me give up in frustration, which, trust me, takes a lot - no jury in the world would convict me :P ).

Is your Eidolon already in FF13? No problem! I'm prepared to come up with a new appearance based on other incarnations and new attacks to work with it. The incarnation used is pretty well at my discretion, since I'll be picking forms that I can see a transformation in. Consider it semi-canon, since I'm designing FF13 Eidolons based on non-FF13 bases across the board. Summons change appearance across the series and FF13 is no different. ;)

If you're not a Sorceror l'Cie, I'm not against making something up for you, too, but l'Cie will be given preference. In cases of non-l'Cie, I'll need to know what three roles you feel represent you best at minimum, and preferably what rough order they're in. In the case of a rough tie, the tied pair counts as one, but remember l'Cie can only have three specialties, so no more than one tie anywhere in your top 4 of 6 m'kay? ;)

Furthermore, it's unfair to ask me to do other people's Eidolons without their permission (or unless you're doing it as a gift or something, at which point, please ask me on the IRC so it remains a surprise). If you're not a Sorceror l'Cie, please check this page for which summons are and are not used.

With that, ask away, and please be patient. I'm only one man with limited time.


FF2 PS WalkthroughEdit

Yep. Just happened to see it and figured it would give me a reason to play. The tone will be humorous and probably deprecating to the game. Does that make the game bad? Well, no, the game does that quite well on its own. :P

Seriously, though, this will be something to slowly work on, maybe to make my second Focus. Maybe. I'm juggling a lot right now, so this will likely be the first to go when time gets short.


Sorceror l'CieEdit

Yes, after all this time of refusing, I'm giving in. Don't all flatter yourselves; it wasn't your collective poking that finally made me cave. :P My foci (yes, I already know I'll be changing it in time) will be things I'll be doing anyway, and what I want is accountability to other people than myself. SN retains the right to edit this section as necessary, and I promise not to mess around with his template.


SorcerorlCieCrystalBrand.png This user is a cursed l'Cie, bound into the
service of
Sorceror Nobody for eternity
Branded: December 15th 2010 Eidolon: Brothers
Role proficiencies:
Having completed their Focus, this user is currently in crystal stasis


Rant of the MomentEdit

For previous rants, please see my Rant Archive.

Square-Enix E3 2019 thoughtsEdit

I got most of my initial thoughts out on Mastodon, where I'm spending most of my time after Twitter got to be too much between extreme work stress, American politics, and most social media including YouTube being abysmal in the face of it. Mastodon has been a breath of fresh air in that the creator, being a German Jew, knows exactly how to handle it, and with instance blocking, 500 characters, the ability to easily save videos as well as images, and chronological timelines, I've decided to make it my primary home for my game stuff and have been spending about 70% of my social media time there and about 30% on Twitter in short bursts now that my stress levels can tolerate it more.

This is going to be more refined thoughts on the show and what's on offer.

OverviewEdit

First off, props to S-E for having enough content to fill Sony's entire time slot. That alone is impressive. I feel like they blew their big item at the start with Final Fantasy VII Remake and finished weak with a talking bit, with everything in between being, well, maybe not mediocre, but 99% not my thing. Lots of ports vs. new content, which isn't necessarily bad, but not much to get me going personally. Obviously, they had the most to say about FF7 Remake and you don't want to finish with lots of talking, and the fact the release date was revealed the night before at the concert meant the biggest bombshell they could have dropped had already been dropped. Final Fantasy VIII Remaster was probably the best thing they COULD have finished with as a bombshell nobody thought was even possible, but I get why Avengers got that slot to springboard off that energy as one of their most anticipated titles. And the other large items needed to be spaced more evenly to prop up the middle. It's like putting up a tent. You don't want the middle to slump. The highs need to prop up the lows and I just don't feel that happened here.

The Avengers game looks interesting, but not my thing. I'm sure it will make plenty of fans happy.

Their indie offerings were underwhelming to say the least. A top-down racing game in the vein of PixelJunk Racing just made me think that it's not as special as they thought it was, not that there isn't a market for it, and for a game made by 3 people it looks fine. Their indie not-Overwatch WWII arena shooter looks like an asset flip and has some really janky animations. The only people this is going to cater to are the ones who want to play as the Nazis and that's more than a few kinds of problematic. It strikes me that this indie publishing arm isn't making particularly exciting choices, which makes sense when you consider neither of these games seems like "Kickstarter darling" material. Basically this just feels like S-E picking the best of the dregs where indie gold is finding success elsewhere.

Dragon Quest looked... It looked like it needed a shot in the arm. There's just no two ways about it. Yes, they had a remake mixed in there and that's great the West is getting it and dual modes is nice, but there was just no hype behind it to make me care. Add to that Dragon Quest Builders 2 coming out after what I understood to be mixed reviews of the first game and the only thing I can say for it is at least the PS4 is going to have an answer to Minecraft. Part of my lack of enthusiasm is because literally all of Dragon Quest is the Toriyama art style, which means literally all of it looks the same because Toriyama is very good at drawing like 3 things. There's a lot to be said for his friendly shapes and the warm familiarity his work puffs like an overstuffed feather pillow in everyone's brain, but none of the footage was able to differentiate most of the games from each other and I think some of it mixed them together like it wasn't confusing enough already. Add to that that none of it had any context other than a few sparing lines of dialog and there was just nothing to sell any of it to me, especially after the series' recent slump.

People Can Fly's new shooter Outriders looks neat, but sadly a) it's not for me and b) there was nothing but a vague trailer with no gameplay, with a promise of more info later. The trailer had some intriguing imagery and we all know they can pull off a good shooter, but it wasn't much info for the show.

And those were the main points I remembered, other than that Octopath Traveler got a PC port. A full 20 minutes was devoted to FF7 Remake and that's a sizable chunk of the time.

So, going through in review, Life Is Strange 2 looks about right for what I know of the original, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition coming to PS4/Switch/Android/iOS is nice and means it probably won't die within a year like most of their mobile ports, I'm quite happy they haven't forgotten about The Last Remnant and the Switch port being announced as released that night was a great blurb, the music release is nice for those with those services, Kingdom Hearts DLC is nice even if it's not the one everyone was hoping for, a Final Fantasy XIV expansion (Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers) is nice for those players even if the graphics themselves look too oppressively washed out for me to imagine spending time in that area, Dying Light 2 looks like it will play well, SaGa being revived is awesome and one of them coming to Vita was a quiet touch that makes me happy they haven't forgotten about it, War of the Visions: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius expanding that world just seems pointless since the original only having 39 million downloads after all this time is paltry, and Oninaki has a fascinating premise that unfortunately feels like it's wasted on a top-down hack-'n-slash. If I missed anything it's because it looked too much like whatever was next to it just scrolling through the YouTube video.

FF8 RemasterEdit

FF8 Remaster will definitely be in my library just to support the effort, but I don't really like the style. There have been Final Fantasy VII mods that took this same approach to the art style and it looks very plastic to me, which I don't like in general. FF8 had anime-esque cutscenes, but the overall style was very realistic. The battle models were about as realistic as the PS1 allowed. The new ones look like Barbie knock-offs due to their hard lines and hard shading. Shading is not an easy thing to do, especially when you're not changing the models or lighting engine to something modern that can do it dynamically. On the other hand, how you choose to shade your models is of the utmost importance when choosing the style. Squall in particular suffers because they changed his hair. Seriously, do a side-by-side on his new model vs. his old one. The old one had long hair that was just haphazardly swept back, perfectly fitting the personality of Squall "Whatever" Leonhart. His new model has it neatly combed at a clear part and the highlights follow the regular spikes he ends up with from it, which just isn't him at all. He looks wrong from any angle except face-on and most people probably won't understand why at first. I tend to GROW that kind of hair, so for me, the slacker haircut being gone is apparent. Trust me, when you have more important stuff to worry about than getting your hair styled, letting it grow too long and raking it back with your fingers is a low-maintenance way to arrange it nicely, and Squall doesn't even arrange it nicely, just tucks it behind his ear. Maybe this was an artist misunderstanding the reference material they were given; maybe it was an intentional update specified from the top. Maybe someone made an executive decision because they felt the design hadn't aged well and he looked too scummy for a modern audience. In any case, they probably were betting on people not noticing since the game is so old. It's going to be noticed, though. Maybe not right away like me, but definitely when people wonder why it's different in the cutscenes.

Regardless, even the energy effects are just too hard-shaded and look plastic and fake. More of the transparency needed to be preserved.

The main reason things look as hard and plastic as they do is there's no noise to break it up. This seems to be a common issue when Square takes games HD, whether it's sprites or models, and things just end up not looking right. Hair and fur highlight in irregular patterns, skin and scales are irregular, cloth and leather have textures that catch the light, etc. Real-world lighting is very irregular and diffuse, which merits irregular highlights and softer shading. That just didn't happen here, which makes everything look like hard objects. The various energy effects needed more transparency and/or softer edges to imply a glassiness or glow depending on what was called for. Either one would help break up the hard edges.

At any rate, I'm sure many people will appreciate the style and I already spoke to one who prefers Squall's new 'do, but for my own part I just wish they'd gone a different, more realistic direction rather than the too-perfect, more stylized one they chose.

Otherwise the only thing I hope for is Chocobo World not being forgotten. Americans got their taste of the benefits with the PC version and I personally got a PocketStation off eBay to enjoy the real experience with my real PS1 copy. There's no reason it can't be put on Vita, Android/iOS, or even a separate app on the same system as the game itself. Bear in mind, I understand this would be seen as more of a completionist pursuit, since most are not going to want an old LCD game in this day and age for its own sake. Unless it runs in a sidebar, which there should be more than enough space for, people don't have the same use for simpler time-wasters they did nearly 2 decades ago. Chocobo World and the PocketStation predated the always-connected world we live in now, but that doesn't mean the in-game benefits aren't worthwhile.

FF7 RemakeEdit

As for FF7 Remake, everything I hear points to it being promising.

To start off, the first game, taking up a whopping 2 Blu-rays, is only going to be Midgar. Many people, myself included, speculated on this as a means of breaking things up since Midgar represents a significant portion of the game and leaving it is one of the big story events. What does that mean for the rest? Nobody knows. I mean NOBODY. That's still being decided. In a Q&A that seems to have flown under the radar, it was revealed the second installment is still in planning and nobody has any solid plan for how many installments there will be, but that there's a desire to dedicate episodes to certain characters, in my own assessment much like the DLCs for Final Fantasy XV. Seeing as Nomura has made comments that he considers the entire Compilation of Final Fantasy VII to be one story, we may end up seeing remakes or at least segments of every game under its banner. We may also see games dedicated to Red XIII, Yuffie, Aerith, Barret, or even young Cloud and Tifa to flesh out their origins. Heck, we might even see a prequel that follows Sephiroth through his childhood and the Wutai war, which could offer a significant amount of humanity to him that we've only seen glimpses of so far. It's all up in the air right now. Square has shown they're going to make more FF7 games for as long as they sell, so the sky really is the limit. But as of yet, Midgar is going to be massive and no one knows what, if anything, that means for the pacing of the rest.

Now, this isn't a BAD thing, since it also means that everything should get the pacing it deserves. Midgar is a huge metropolis and its size in the original game made sense to make it a game on its own. The place was like 10% of Disc 1 and you ended up visiting less than half of it, and less than half of that in a meaningful way. There's enough content to warrant a game. Some places are going to get more spotlight than others. I don't expect sleepy Kalm to get much focus given its tiny role in the original game and it's not going to support a game on its own.

This also doesn't mean that work hasn't begun on anything outside of Midgar. Square is in an excellent position to reuse assets from FF15 for the natural areas and even places like Costa del Sol and Mideel down the road. FF7 had plenty of caves, forests, and deserts/badlands they can reuse those art assets for. Gongaga and Corel Prison could easily make use of the ruined building assets. The two worlds are similar enough that a whole lot could transfer with minimal touching up. And that's ignoring things like the Chocobos, Behemoths, various animations and enemy A.I., and various sound effects that can be modified as needed and reused, plus all those mouthwatering food assets, and also plus anything they can borrow from FF14 in terms of enemies and effects (though I know almost nothing about the game). They have multiple titles on the same console and it would be unthinkable for them to simply not use any of their prior work. I know that was common through the PS3 era, but that's because each game had very different requirements and is a large reason why Final Fantasy XIII could and did became a trilogy - asset reuse allowed them to span a console generation by reducing development time, which meant lower costs and a continued profit stream. Games are taking an entire console generation to make these days and development time only gets longer as games get bigger. FF13 itself started on the PS2. They know what they have to plan for and there's no reason to think they can't get the jump on assets while they're figuring out how everything should be arranged. They also likely already have work put into the remaining playable characters since they know they'll need them later. And I wouldn't be surprised if a few changes to the enemy roster occurred, since Gigantoads and Bulettes don't appear in FF7, but would make sensible additions since they have them lying around already. It already looked like the walk cycle from Sabertusks was transferred to Guard Hounds and I expect they could just as easily reuse the lunges and certain other animations based on the Guard Hound's existing attacks. Garulas and Elfadunks are pretty similar in build and I expect they'll do similar with them.

I'm going to get exhaustive here with where the original offers easy divisions, so you can safely skip to the next paragraph if you don't want my breakdown. Kalm is little more than a rest stop. I guarantee you'll go there, do a few things, and run out of content. Maybe it'll be a source of Hunt missions. They'll probably set it up more like Dirge of Cerberus -Final Fantasy VII- in terms of size and maybe layout, but it's a sleepy little mining town with little significance outside of an exposition dump and quests later, Midgar Zolom notwithstanding. Game 2 is probably going to have a large focus on the open world elements and would probably end at Junon at the earliest as the next and essentially last major city, with Fort Condor in between, which given the mechanics of when battles occur (assuming they don't change it) will be essential to have in as early as possible, especially because of how you need to backtrack. Junon isn't worth a game on its own for a few reasons: 1) its importance relies on the story regularly returning you to it, 2) the initial visit is specifically to pass through, and 3) that would be a pretty big cop-out from Square to just stick you in another city to futz around after they spent the whole first game doing it and peter out without a big event. Ending on Junon itself would be poorly-received. It would be a fine postgame area, but ending there would just feel unfinished. The Cargo Ship on the other hand would be an excellent stopping point since it drops the bomb of Sephiroth appearing in the flesh and a boss battle with Jenova∙BIRTH. From there you have Costa del Sol as a rest area of little importance, North Corel/Gold Saucer, Gongaga, and Cosmo Canyon, which would be the next major stopping point given its story role and the Gi Nattak boss battle, and as a place that makes sense to spend some time. After that there's Nibelheim and Rocket Town and Nibelheim is probably the last convenient stopping point for a while due to the town's history, not that it would be a satisfying ending unless Vincent isn't optional and you got the Lost Number boss battle and a story ending with the big reveal from Vincent. Rocket Town specifically opens up more of the world including Wutai and Bone Village and would be a better beginning point than ending point, unless the ACTUAL point is the boss battle with Palmer and the Tiny Bronco getting shot down being the tease for all the stuff to come in the next game, which is going to be a doozy, because that opens up a significant amount of the world including Wutai, Temple of the Ancients, and the entire mass that is the Bone Village/Icicle Inn/North Crater area. You might notice that those are two entire continents and an important setpiece. Naturally Wutai being optional in the original game is going to render a whole lot of work moot and a whole installment very short if players DON'T visit, but at the same time, the Temple of the Ancients is a pretty big deal and is probably the best stopping point at that point in the game. Bone Village is going to be the gatekeeper to a huge chunk of story content and that continent easily could be its own game due to being the completion of the original Disc 1. By that point the only places not accounted for are Mideel, the bottom of the ocean, and various islands and they could just as easily throw them together basically any time since Mideel as a shanty town isn't going to be that hard and the rest is all nature.

In summary of the above, almost the entire world map is accessible by the end of Disc 1 in the original, so by the time you're not even halfway through the story they're going to be able to crank out bigger games with lightning speed because they'll be able to focus on the scenes rather than rolling more assets. Art is the single most time-consuming and expensive thing to create in a game. Having it almost all ready within 6 games or less based on my estimates is going to make the rest blaze by. Expect a large install size as each game updates more of the map, but once it's added, it's there for all the backtracking you do for story and personal reasons. Fort Condor will likely be able to be visited frequently throughout the story as in the original. Junon and Cosmo Canyon are returned to several times for story reasons. Midgar has both story importance and the key to return to it in the original, so all that data isn't going to go to waste. And of course fans would flip their wigs if they couldn't return freely to the Gold Saucer.

It's also possible that a large amount of the initial work is already done. It's shipping on 2 Blu-rays. Now, a PS4 disc stores up to 50GB of data, but the PS4 natively uses the same DEFLATE compression as Zip format, meaning a typical compression is somewhere between half and one-fifth the size, conservatively leaning to that half mark. The FF15 disc came with ~40GB of data on it, but the game according to some research is ~90GB after a few updates. You can't tell me that Midgar alone is going to be twice as big as the entirety of FF15, which spans an entire continent. I mean it COULD be since it's canon 8 cities and depending on how aggressively they reuse buildings there could be some data spent there, but I expect it won't be, nor that they're sitting on their thumbs for what comes next. One of those Blu-rays could be setup assets for the rest of the world that they'll refine and expand later. Get a base install going and patch the rest in as the other games come out. Maybe each game comes with a second disc to help those with bandwidth caps and each one builds out the world or at least the important stuff. If game 1 builds out the first continent with a dedicated disc, game 2 can populate that data and maybe include the second continent. Keep in mind FF15 was a continent and could easily serve as a good base for what size to expect things to be. Midgar is probably not going to be larger in whole than a region or two depending on what we get to see of the upper plate. And a region in FF15 is pretty generous. Fill that up with some dense content and you have yourself a game. Also consider you're probably hoofing it through sprawling streets and alleys rather than having a convenient car or Chocobo or being able to make a beeline and you can suddenly appreciate how large that is. Just think of how much time it takes to get through the settlements FF15 has, even the smaller ones. You could easily spend 60 hours in that environment.

It's also entirely possible the ENTIRE game world or at least all the building blocks is in those 2 discs, assuming they compressed the heck out of it. Maybe there will be additional downloads for textures or models as you get further. A rock is a rock; a tree is a tree, if you get my drift. Oblivion generated its trees using fractals tweaked for each species rather than storing models. Procedural generation could make up the difference in a lot of the outdoor scenery with something clever like using a fixed random seed for an area and then following that random table for additional tree generation and placement within a set bounds to create a consistent model of a whole forest without having to store it. Maybe base terrain could be done in larger blocks and interpolated somehow with a smoothing algorithm that incorporates a bit of noise to make the transition natural. The box art hasn't been revealed yet. Just because it's in "multiple parts" doesn't mean they're releasing it all physical. We may end up with some entries being digital updates, especially as the game wears on. Maybe they'll be paid; maybe at least some will be free or a reduced cost. Obviously Square needs to keep the lights on and this is probably going to be their cash cow into the PS5's lifecycle. We may not get FF16 for a while because of it, especially because of Hajime Tabata's departure.

Otherwise, while I'm sad to see some of the actors not reprising their roles, there's almost certainly a good reason for it. Aerith is a bad example to start with since no one has played her more than a couple times anyway. Otherwise, per IMDB, Steve Burton, Beau Billingslea, and Rachael Leigh Cook are all involved in ongoing projects, with Cook being in a stream of TV movies, Billingslea having wrapped on Ace Combat and now being involved in an upcoming TV drama called Spent Rounds, and Burton on General Hospital, which has been running since 1969 and isn't going anywhere, and all of them would be fools to give up those roles (which almost assuredly pay better than voice work and/or are stable as heck). Mae Whitman is similarly unavailable, but Christy Carlson Romano might be available to play Yuffie again. Liam O'Brien is juggling a lot right now, but might be able to squeeze in Red XIII since it's all voice work and Critical Role. And Greg Ellis is a force of nature in terms of all that he does in the industry and might well reprise Cait Sith. The only one IMDB doesn't have a good explanation for is George Newbern and the man has been playing Sephiroth for so long he might just plain be sick of it, or else he might have had a similar conflict during recording because of doing Superman in a recent Justice League movie. Chris Edgerly seems like he might be available to reprise Cid and we can almost certainly expect Steve Blum to reprise Vincent since he just wrapped on Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ardyn. It's also possible some of them will not return because of expressing their political views. Andrea Bowen doesn't seem to have done anything since 2016 and while her Twitter is sparse, many of the few tweets she's made since that time have been anti-Trump. This may have cost her several opportunities including reprising Aerith. O'Brien and Ellis similarly have not been shy about their views on the Trump camp, but men tend not to be targeted that way and can more easily survive controversy (compare the Dixie Chicks vs. Willie Nelson). Hopefully this is NOT the case and they're not passed over for that reason.

I will admit that if word does come out that this is exactly what happened, it will dampen my opinion of Square considerably, but given I already have the digital edition on pre-order from PSN, there's not a lot I can do about putting my money where my mouth is at this point. This also doesn't mean I won't enjoy the game or understand that as a corporation S-E would want to avoid controversy potentially impacting sales, especially with the media and Internet communities all too quick to stir up whatever they can these days for clicks or lulz, but at the same time it's not like people wouldn't buy the game regardless. Corporations in general need to stop treating workers like expenses rather than assets, but accounting is a game of cold numbers that's incredibly poor at evaluating human capital since it can't easily quantify their value. Until better accounting stops treating people like interchangeable parts, this kind of thing will keep happening, if not in this case, then every day around the world elsewhere. I wouldn't even be mad; just disappointed because I know how it works, but would have hoped for better given this is a zero-risk project.

But rather than speculating on that, I'll finish up by saying I don't regret that pre-order and am going to make darn sure I either a) survive the unforgiving Wisconsin winter to see it or b) end up in Heaven where they probably already have it. If I absolutely must, I'll haunt someone so I can at least see it.

GraphicsEdit

With the next PlayStation (all but officially PS5) and Xbox on the horizon, and the PS5's basic capabilities known, I want to talk a bit about graphics and what it has meant over time.

To start, the PS5 supporting 8K TVs is laughable, especially when they admit that it'll probably be the end of the system's lifecycle before there's any market saturation. 4K is already only appreciable by a general audience at 4 feet, 6 at the most, for a living room TV, which is terrible viewing distance for a living room TV. 8K is half that. Can you imagine pasting your face 2 feet away from your living room TV to "appreciate" the difference? You're not even seeing anything at that point. The idea of 8K TV being a selling point when 4K already is completely invisible from average playing distance (studies show it at 9 feet on average) reeks of desperation - the flailing of an industry that has reached the limit of its only marketing ploy.

The thing is it wasn't too long ago since a resolution bump was a milestone. Graphics are capable of being more or less as good as they'll ever need to be, and I don't say that lightly. We're basically rendering pores at this point. The effective choice these days is whether to do that or simply paint them on so we can render a zillion other things in exchange. However, looking back at older systems, the last big graphical jump was really to the PS2 and GameCube.

So here's a little history.

Early on, games were generally a 320x240 resolution. If you have trouble visualizing this, it's the exact resolution of the bottom screen of a Nintendo 3DS. Yeah. Tiny. Early computers were hooked up to TVs and a good chunk of the DOS era rendered or at least scaled to this resolution, even after computer monitors became a thing. It's a bit more complicated than that because of different base resolutions (320x200 being most common for DOS, some being as high as 640x480 natively), but the end result was that almost everything ended up scaled somehow to the 640x480 resolution of the TV. Needless to say, for quite a while, the biggest advancements were in color. Different platforms had different capabilities, but some had as little as only monochrome, while others had between 4 and 16 colors until VGA came around with 256-color graphics and a 16-color 640x480 graphics mode. Computers then followed competing standards that extended that until now and into the foreseeable future.

Let's talk Nintendo for a reference point since it's simpler than SEGA and starts where graphics actually got interesting (sorry, Atari). The NES and DOS shared plenty of air time, and the NES has a limited palette of which an even more limited number of colors can be shown. It's capable of upscaling its image to 320x240 or 640x480 natively, but you only get 12 sprite colors and 12 tile colors, with an independent background color, for a maximum of 25 onscreen at once, barring changing palettes mid-screen and region darkening (things like making everything in a designated pool of water blue). Now, a LOT can be faked with dithering, which is alternating pixels to make a new apparent color, but we're still only working with that base of 25 no matter what techniques we're enhancing it with.

The SNES went from 8-bit color to 15-bit color and 256-color graphics. This, naturally, was a huge jump and the different graphics modes, including Mode 7 allowing for a tilted layer for racing games and the like, made it graphically a LOT more powerful. On the other hand, it was still a 2D system and could only do the most rudimentary of 3D. This isn't a problem, since 2D always ages better than 3D, but 3D was the next big thing.

Enter the PS1 and N64. They could do 3D!

It looked like ass!

Very few 3D games from this era have aged well and the ones that have were INCREDIBLY optimized or stylized. Square's offerings are some of the best and Chrono Cross remains one of the best-looking 3D games on the PS1, but most 3D games of the era look like bad papercraft. Don't get me wrong; everyone was impressed at the time, but that was because even awful 3D was considered "better" than 2D on principle. Not prettier, but "better." It represented the big technological advancement.

That's why gamers and the games industry are absolutely obsessed with graphics. They were the easiest, most marketable way to show whose system was the most powerful. The more colors you could show, the better off you were. When we had enough colors, it started being polygons and resolution. This is why the claim to 8K is such a big deal with the PS5. Not because it matters, but because it sounds fancy.

So when the GameCube, PS2, and Xbox came out with 3D that actually looked good, people were pretty darn impressed. For the first time ever, within the limits of that same 640x480 resolution that TVs still had, everything was able to look smooth and realistic. The number of polygons had just jumped and the visual results were immediately visible. To our eyes, on the screens at the time, reality and fantasy were becoming blurred.

Now, looking at it from our fancy LCD screens, this jump is like "well, yeah, but it still doesn't look as good as now," but you have to remember that CRT is analog and smooths out a lot of that. All of the sharp corners and edges we see today were lost in a smoothing effect that's hard to replicate on an LCD. As someone who regularly plays on a CRT TV and tests graphics on a CRT monitor, I can with confidence say most people, even retro devs, don't remember what CRT looked like. It's not as easy as throwing down a bilinear filter and scanlines. (Scanlines in and of themselves were not even a necessary artifact of CRT; they were used to avoid rendering the second half of the interlaced frame to free up memory for other operations as a programming choice. FF12 on PS2 is a prime example of a newer game using this technique.) CRTs never needed things like anti-aliasing because they did it by default. There were no "jaggies" and dithering got smoothed into what mostly appeared like a recognizable color or even alpha transparency. So when you talk about what things looked like on CRT, the answer is that a game like FFX pretty much looked true to life.

We haven't had that kind of graphical advancement since, and probably never will again.

When we talk about what the next generation did, the PS3 and Xbox 360 more or less took that same jump to LCD screens, which, when compared ON an LCD screen, made a difference, but was really a corrective measure more than a real jump. By that point 1080p screens were becoming more common. The current generation has again only been incremental, with the big mid-generation push being 4K. But we've reached the limit of what the human eye can see. 4K is the highest practical resolution for the living room, or even a computer screen. 8K is overkill and will never, ever be important to the 99% of the world who doesn't have a home theater.


We're getting to the point where, in the near future, the most powerful computers will surpass the human brain. We are already at the point where the resolution of our screens is higher than we can see at a normal viewing distance (again, 9 feet in most living rooms). Our ability to reproduce color in the RGB gamut has already peaked at 24-bit (~16 million colors when most humans can only discern ~10 million), and we're currently sitting on 32-bit as the current standard because it adds an additional 256 levels of transparency.

When we talk about where, if anywhere, graphics have to go from here, the answer isn't in resolution or even really polygon count; it's in color. Things like white balance, contrast, deep blacks, and increasing the color gamut all are much more important than how many more pixels we can cram into a screen. Don't believe me? Just Google "RGBW vs. RGBA" for entire discussions on how adding amber LEDs can net you warmer colors, while adding white ones can net you more delicate pastels, and how to consider this for your venue. And amber isn't even hard to reproduce with red and green LEDs. Violet, for instance, is entirely outside of the RGB gamut and can only be approximated. We lose out on a large chunk of the allowed green and blue values because RGB is a triangle floating in something much more akin to a fingernail and covers less than half of it. LEDs in themselves have a much greater potential gamut than what modern screens use, which makes OLED technology much more important if we need to start adding more real colors. Programming for those colors, should we pursue them, is the only place left to go.

But beyond graphics is where they'll need to start marketing next. Things like holographic storage for ever-larger games comes to mind, and Sony is already doing things with AI, sound, load times, and physical computations. Someone might even make the mistake of trying to sell systems on digital downloads and streaming, which will be hilarious to see crash and burn since most of America doesn't have the infrastructure for it and many people still have data caps. The point being Sony is already realizing they CAN'T sell it on graphics alone and are already looking for the next selling point. Ultimately, we will not, within the next couple console generations, be able to tell things apart graphically. We might see Sony leveraging their crystal deposition method to bring us full circle to loading tapes into memory like early home computers, while Nintendo tries to sell us on their new babysitter robot R.O.B.IN and Microsoft partners with Pizza Hut to sense when you're getting hungry and order your favorite for 500 Pizza Points. Somebody is going to start adding smell to VR at some point and the argument will be over whether Microsoft or Sony better captured the ashiness of Kratos' sweat. Nintendo will probably revive the Power Glove and add in a vest and leg parts instead.

Ultimately, what do you sell on when your go-to is as good as it will ever be? It's an easy question to opine on, but businesses and consumers have used graphics as the low-hanging fruit for as long as many people reading this have been alive. You can only polish something for so long before it wears straight through to the dull core. With everyone getting to that point as it is at time of writing, you'll see other features highlighted like the Switch's portability or the various technical specs Sony threw at a wall hoping something would stick. Graphics are at their end stage. Consoles and games will need to sell on other features by the time Sony is considering a PS6. It will be interesting to see which ones take off in the public mind.


Nintendo SwitchEdit

Seeing as I already said something on Twitter, and others have expanded upon it, I may as well compile my thoughts here.

First off, let's not bash too hard on the name. This is actually the MOST creative Nintendo has been in, well, since the original Game Boy. They almost always name their systems the most blatantly descriptive thing, with even the Wii having been the accepted way of spelling "we" in Romaji ("We" would be pronounced more like the English "way") to highlight its social focus. I won't say I like it or think it's catchy or memorable, and won't even get them word-of-mouth through complaints and bad jokes, but it's inoffensive, which is in a way worse than if it were validly terrible.


What I will bash on is that Nintendo pretty much learned nothing from the Wii U. They've been refreshingly honest about the Wii U being dead in the water, and the Switch is pretty much the final nail in the coffin. Thankfully, they finally addressed concerns over potentially killing the 3DS by saying in effect that it's successful and they'll continue to run with it for as long as it remains that way, which means that they at least know not to put their eggs in one basket. 3DS kept them afloat while the Wii U floundered, so they're understandably reluctant to let go of it. However, to focus on the tablet aspect strikes me as a fundamental error.

See, Nintendo seems to think the problem with the Wii U was that the tablet only got about 15 feet of range from the console, which is a valid issue, but not the actual thing that did it in. The Wii U tablet was a solution looking for a problem, and even though some games found a way to use it properly, most didn't when it mattered most. Which also got solved in the process of making the Switch, since you can't TV and tablet at the same time anymore, but Nintendo missed the point. The problem with the Wii U wasn't that you'd be lucky to take it to the next room much less the toilet; the problem was Nintendo not understanding how humans operate.

The REASON I know Nintendo missed the point is because they're marketing it as a portable system. It really, really isn't. A portable system is not something you throw into a specialized carrying case, bookbag, or other space sufficiently large to carry a tablet. A portable is something that fits in your pocket, and Nintendo really should know better, since they basically revolutionized that. Aside from insider reports of a 3 hour battery life, the biggest problem with the Switch is that it's a tablet, which means you can take it anywhere you can take a tablet.

Think about where you can and can't take a tablet. If it helps, imagine all the places you'd go with the Wii U tablet, since they're essentially the same size. I'll wait.

Done? Good.

Now, me? I know exactly where I can and can't take a tablet, because I take my little Aspire One netbook back and forth to work in case I need to stay in my Employment-Proximity Home Base™. The reason I can do that is it has a clamshell design and I have a gigantic bag that also carries many of my other effects, including, but not limited to, my DS, 3DS, N3DS, and/or Vita depending on which system I have in my pocket, as well as their various cords and games. The only one that doesn't have a clamshell design is the Vita, which I have a hard case for to prevent damage. The Vita, with or without case, still fits in my pocket. I take my netbook between home, my desk, and my second bedroom, because while it's fabulously light and easy to transport in the car and for short distances, it's not convenient to lug around.

The Switch does not fit in a pocket, and is not a clamshell, meaning I wouldn't even be able to take it where I take my netbook without a special case. And when you start needing extraordinary ways to carry something, it ceases to be in any way portable. Even the Game Boy line was built to be thrown in a backpack, because it was the 80s and 90s and kids took their backpacks everywhere, and also fanny packs were a thing people wore unironically. The old gray brick literally survived a bomb blast during the Gulf War and is still on display playing Tetris in a museum. If the Switch were thrown in a backpack with a bunch of books and pencils, you'd probably end up with a broken or damaged screen unless it comes with an as-of-yet unmentioned protector plate. It's "portable" in the sense that you can take it into the bathroom with you, or leave it in a nice, safe car, but it's not going to go with you everywhere, especially with a battery life that's matched or surpassed by the notorious Game Gear. But it could run on APATHY and still not go with you everywhere.

Nintendo seems to be stuck on the idea that people like tablets for some reason, even though that really isn't the case. Windows 8 failed because it was designed around tablets and tablets have next to no market share, pissing off the 99% of all users who weren't operating with a touchscreen. People like phones, sure, but that's because they do many other things than gaming, not the least of which is to fit in a pocket. Nintendo doubling down on the tablet aspect shows they don't know what their audience wants even at a basic level. Because no one wants a tablet. Tablets are not convenient. And for that matter, having tablet hardware puts it in line with microconsoles, which have so far been a dismal failure. People have already noted the support of 128GB SD cards means people who buy digital will probably need multiple, because that fills up fast. There is nothing about this that screams convenience.

Aside from that, Nintendo really needs to be slapped to remind them what a hand is like again. Playing with those tiny-ass controllers will probably cramp your hands in minutes. If you are going to advertize to an adult audience, do not include controllers designed for toddler hands. Nintendo apparently requires these periodic slappings.


Now, even though Nintendo has dispelled concerns that they'd kill the still-successful 3DS, there is still concern that they might do so if the Switch proves successful. It would be dumb, but not out of the question given how Nintendo tried to chip away at the Wii to push people to Wii U. Remember, console cycles are about 7 years, which puts the next handheld at 2018, which means 2017 is going to be the year to watch for the next one to be announced. Nintendo would already have to be working on it now to release it on time, and if they're holding off on it to coast on the 3DS, we're probably not going to get one. If that does happen, we can probably expect severe damage to the handheld market, which would be difficult to recover from. If Nintendo fails to bring out a 2018 handheld in favor of focusing on the Switch, that's going to leave an unsightly void given Sony has said they're not doing another one after Vita. It's a void that Nintendo has been filling since 1989 - longer than many people reading this have been alive.

Which is not to say that Vita would be going away, even if 3DS fell out of support. Sony has gone on record saying they feel the indie market and JRPGs are doing well enough to keep Vita afloat that they don't feel the need to worry about it, especially in Japan, where it remains quite popular. Depending on whether Nintendo tries to push devs to Switch, Vita might be able to take back some market share, even as the handheld cycle ends, since Sony is intent on keeping it in the ecosystem for at least the rest of the PS4 lifecycle (through 2020). While the dev appeal of the Switch is unifying the console and handheld departments, people are probably not going to settle for a handheld experience on a system heavily focused on being on a TV, and dev teams who are budgeted for a handheld experience are going to see that right away. Monster Hunter in particular would be interesting to watch, since they've focused so heavily on the 3DS in most of their recent releases and have a history of doing their games for less powerful systems before porting them up, in particular having only done the first version of any game on console on the PS2 and Wii.

But I think the most likely outcome will be that Nintendo's taking an actual step backward when it comes to functionality is going to bite them in the ass and they probably will continue to support some form of handheld. In the trailer, they had plenty of people watching two players Mario Kart it up, and other segments of the promo indicated that ad-hoc play is considered more important than couch co-op for more than two people. Nintendo has admitted that they more or less expect people to play across multiple units. And that severely limits who you can play it with, because people are not going to drag around much less buy multiple units to play party games, which has been one of the go-to genres Nintendo has supported until now and which were notably absent in the production.

Targeting the single young adult demographic is also not the wisest idea, because single young adults are not the type who are really big on Nintendo in the first place. Nintendo's entire console history has been more or less geared toward kids and families and its attempts to reach outside of that have been downright embarrassing at times. While Nintendo has understood over time that growing with their audience has allowed them to retain their loyal following, their original followers are the ones with young families now, and the young adult demographic is unfortunately the most obsessed with graphics and power. Once again, it seems like it's only going to be powerful enough to run last-gen games, with a heavy focus on Skyrim in the trailer, though Nintendo has also admitted all the game footage was fake and Bethesda has said they only provided the footage to show their commitment to the system and have no plans to port Skyrim. It's not bad for a tablet if it can actually run something that complex. It is, however, bad for a system that needs to prove it's up to more than its predecessor, which also was marketed with last-gen games.

In effect, the actual market segment that the Switch is FOR seems limited to the affluent, childless bachelors in the trailer, who don't actually game or else they'd already have other systems, probably because they're too busy futzing around a park until dawn, taking plane rides, road tripping to go go-karting, playing basketball in God knows what city is safe enough to mess around under a highway at night, and having roof parties. I mean seriously, half of these people would probably be stabbed doing this crap, the only ones who look like they belong in a city are 80s throwbacks, and almost all of them act wildly inappropriately at some point in the name of gaming. It doesn't look up to withstanding the abuse a kid can dole out, and hardcore gamers in the teen and young adult demographic are probably not going to be interested. It can't even claim party appeal without more than one of them. Unless your name is Chet or Amelia, the only reason this system is for you is if you're a professional... Splatoon... player... Yeah. ...Has anyone actually WATCHED this thing?

By focusing on what you can do with the system alone or with one other friend, Nintendo has more or less put itself back in direct competition with Microsoft and Sony in a battle it can't win with one arm tied behind its back and its shoelaces tied together. Nobody is going to pay for the ability to take a system to the toilet when it has little else to offer, much less less to offer than the failed system before it. Nintendo, as it has been for years, is technologically behind, only unlike the Wii, they don't have a sleeper hit gimmick, just the same gimmick that didn't work last time arguably done worse in almost every area.


Nintendo really is best off sticking with the 3DS if the Switch is going to be as limited as they've shown. Because the problem wasn't that the Wii U tablet blinked out if you left the room. The problem with the Wii U was that it was yet another underpowered system that didn't understand its audience. Back when it launched, the Wii was still entertaining families as well as ever and Nintendo had to take a hammer to every last bit of it they could to try to kill it off short of outright bricking the systems. Nobody saw the point of the Wii U. Most people still don't. My grandpa has a "bowling league" at his assisted living place that still uses the Wii. The Wii is easy to use and takes little to no training. The Wii U was not clear in what it had to offer, used what it had to offer poorly until it was far too late, and ultimately failed because it failed to provide any benefit over either the Wii or its competitors. I'm not seeing anything different in the Switch other than we're being told how little it can actually do. Unless they do make a go of custom controller pieces like this fan design, there's nothing to make the Switch stand out. Now if they do do custom controller bits? Awesome! Call me sold! But without anything to distinguish it like that, Nintendo may as well have just called it the "U" and been done.


PC portsEdit

Okay, so normally I don't do this, but here's a link to The Jimquisition: http://www.thejimquisition.com/2016/02/the-jimquisition-oh-someone-fucked-a-pc-port-up-again/.

Right. Done watching? So here's my point.

Nobody deserves a PC port.

Nobody has an unalienable right to getting a game on a system they like. Nobody has a right to video resolution. Nobody has a right to 60FPS just because they've been trained to scream about it by marketers for 40 years. Nobody has a right to controller support. Nobody has a right to demand that they get what they want.

As a buyer, you do have a right to a working product, just to point that out to everyone raising their fingers and opening their mouths. If you buy a game, there is a reasonable expectation that it's going to bloody work, and you have every right to scream if it doesn't.

But the attitude that PC deserves games is unabashed entitlement, the same as it is for any other system. PS4 doesn't deserve a version of Bayonetta 2. People can be as betrayed as they want that it jumped console companies, but they don't deserve it on the system they want. If you don't want to buy a system a game is on, you are fully in your rights to not drop hundreds of dollars on one. You're even in your rights to complain about it. You are not in your rights to demand it come to one you like better.

Publishers and devs don't need to put their console games on Steam. They're not in any financial position that PC is going to be the magical cure to the woes of the flailing Triple-A industry, where blowing tons of cash on celebrity voice-overs and expensive marketing campaigns is common and accountants suck at their jobs and have utterly failed to realize a cheaper niche title will bring back more of its cost than a carbon-copy blockbuster. The sales of a port are probably never going to match much less break the sales of the original. The games already made their money on consoles or they wouldn't be getting a port, and most of the people who wanted the game already have it. Anything past the initial release needs to be weighed as to whether it's worth the cost of porting it vs. the money they expect to get back. A PC port after the fact is throwing a bone to additional buyers as an afterthought. If it were at all important to the company's bottom line, it would have been part of the normal release. And I hate to say it, but even when a Steam version IS part of the normal release, it's clear that it's not important enough to the companies to give half a shit about making it worth buying, with several broken releases in just the past year. If anything, they shouldn't even bother.

The reason you can get FF7 on Steam for $11.99 is because they already sold FF7 to the populace multiple times before at full price. It's because they reached all the audience they could re-selling the PS1 Classic on PSN for $9.99 with no more effort than signing some papers. And the PS4 version is going for a lofty $15.99 because they figure that's what it'll sell for on a fancy system despite being a port of the PC version. The money was made 19 years ago when it sold like hotcakes for $50 a pop and they keep selling it at a discount because ports are cheap. Basically anything they do at this point until the Remake is out is selling what has already been sold for nearly 2 decades and they're probably making money hand over fist given that anything that isn't Trophy support hasn't been changed since the initial release.

Releasing a game on a new system after the first month is just throwing pennies on the pile. Most of a game's sales are going to happen in the first few weeks before they taper off. After that, the audience has been reached. If you were holding out for a port to a new platform, you weren't the target audience, and the company doesn't care. They'll take your money anyway, but they have absolutely no reason to consider your sale anything more than gravy.


So, by all means, please do complain when a game you buy doesn't work. By all means DEMAND it gets fixed. But do not act like an entitled cockwaffle when it comes to ports.


FF7 RemakeEdit

Okay, so I think it's about time I addressed this.

We know the game will come in multiple parts, and we have been told that those multiple parts are going to be full-length games at this point. What that means in today's market is a little ambiguous, so let me lay down the possibilities:

  • Square, being in the business of 80-hour RPGs, may somehow chop up the game in such a way that it will be dragged out into a few full-length installments which otherwise would be called sequels were they not from the same source material. Sequels are becoming the bread and butter of a failing AAA industry, making this attractive. If that's the case, the question of how much content needs to be added becomes one of whether it's ultimately even going to be the same story as they've promised and how many parts they'll split it into. I have to say this doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless they're chopping up the original by disc and padding it out with 30 points in "running around expansive enviroments to waste your time," and that seems like a poor choice unless it necessarily limits the environments they have to have finished all at once and at the same time doesn't feel like a samey slog. This could work so long as the travel you have to do rewards exploration and feels natural, which is something that they did passably in the Episode Duscae demo, which even then is more hoofing it than FFXV intends to make you do on a regular basis.
  • Square may be taking the "10-hour shooter" definition of "full game length" and will release it chopped up in such a way that they have the environments finished in sequence. This would leave people rather unhappy and amounts to lying, because that's basically an episodic release in a nutshell, which Square has denied. If they pulled something like this, it would destroy any goodwill left for the company and they'd probably go under. I don't think this will be the case, because while Square's business half has made some pretty bad decisions, they've rarely been outright dishonest, other than lying about the fact they were making this when asked about it, and in that case, I can understand not wanting a repeat of how FFXV was handled. To be honest, I would take an episodic release and the suggestion had me less worried than the idea that things would be padded into multiple full games, because to be frank, I haven't even finished the original, so the prospect of having to slog through multiple hundreds of hours is even less attractive than sitting down, knocking a segment out, and waiting for the next one.
  • Square, and this one is the one that has me most excited, may well be remaking the whole Compilation and releasing it as they go. Nomura made a tantalizing comment in this regard. If Square staff truly consider the whole shebang as one continuous story, it would make sense to start with FF7 itself and continue to add everything on around it, unifying the whole experience into one seamless story that can be played from beginning to end, more or less, since there are certain gaps after FF7 itself as opposed to the generous overlap the prequels have with each other and with flashbacks in the main game. And I think the potential there is immense, because many of those flashbacks are tainted by Cloud's own messed-up memories, so you'd be able to play it twice and use careful differences in the cutscenes to show that things aren't quite right. Or even reuse the same cutscenes after the truth is revealed. It would be the perfect way to address the disparities that have arisen over the years. It also would be good to unify all the games in the same engine, since aside from FF7 itself, the Compilation is pretty much all action-oriented. Getting a full remake of the entire story is the best-case scenario, and while I can hope with baited breath, I'm not going to hold Square to something they haven't promised.

Regardless of which path they take, the game is presented well so far as we've seen. Midgar looks like a full realization of the city shown in cutscenes and the little bits hinted at in-game. The dialog so far has also hearkened back to the original script and at times was shown to be almost line-for-line, though at this stage, it's clearly Square's patented "trailer dub" and things will be redone for the English script. Some of the lines seem rather final, though, which is encouraging, because Biggs and Jessie are acted well enough that it's going to be hard not to get attached. I just hope that Wedge gets better treatment, because that line sounded like Eddy of Ed, Edd n Eddy going through a rough puberty. If Square does have to stretch things out, it looks like they're well-prepared to make use of Cloud's time with the AVALANCHE crew, which might make it all the more poignant when the story happens.

As for observations at this point in time, it looks like the battle system is using ideas that were scrapped for FFXV in a good way, but this really just makes me wonder why they couldn't be used for FFXV. To be honest, I think being able to switch between 4 characters with the exchange of having to learn 4 play styles is more reasonable than being able to switch between 3 characters and having to keep in mind which of the 9 play styles are currently in play, even if those 9 play styles have more similar basic mechanics between them. That's not to say it's a bad idea here, or that limiting you to Noctis in FFXV won't work well, just that it seems a little odd as far as choices go. That said, the addition of a battle menu might be the key difference that Square feels will make it work and the two games might ultimately play very differently.

Additionally, I've said before that this would be a prime time to remake FF7 because of all the assets from the movie and, at the time, the PS2 and PSP games, and it seems that they did indeed modify anything they were able to salvage from the movie in particular. However, said modifications are much heavier than I expected, and I have to say it seems a bit odd since they'd already recreated the cast in their original outfits for Advent Children Complete and those models are as familiar as anything at this point. While it still is early in the game, a side-by-side comparison of Barret's skull tattoo shows it to be strikingly similar to that in Advent Children and if I'm being honest, I would have preferred it to be closer to the "flaming skull breathing fire biker tattoo" original design in FF7. Regardless, they didn't just tweak the facial angles on his movie model and call it a day. His Gatling Gun got a full overhaul (to be fair, making it so small in the movie gave it a silly appearance), his metal cummerbund has been changed to a series of belts over a black tank top, and his beard is fuller than it's ever been after the first game. Sunglasses were added as an interesting detail, in that it gives him a Terminator-like appearance along with his new businesslike demeanor, but also because it adds an air of mystery to him. It may also be to limit the need to animate that part of his face, as some of the team from the movies is involved with this project and Barret shares many of the same traits in this design that made Rude so easy to animate in those.

Cloud looks like he's undergone fewer changes of that level, but his face looks more gaunt, with better-defined cheekbones, sunken eyes, and mottled skin that actually make him look unwell. I get that at this point he's essentially just come from dragging a giant sword away from his best friend's corpse, but he seriously looks like he should get some bed rest. Otherwise, it's good to see him in black rather than purple, since FF7 itself is the only game of the Compilation to say otherwise and it's fitting that they use it to bring everything in line, especially with the darker tone, as well as to distinguish it from the original. Thinking about it, making it purple would set a lot of expectations for everything to be the same, where they want this to be not a reboot, but its own experience to share the stage. A reimagining. It's a good place to put in all the things they wanted in the first place, along with all the stuff they wanted to tweak later, and Cloud wearing black is something that goes all the way back to early concept art. It's also kind of neat that they worked in a blue tinge reminiscent of his official art and high-res game assets. That's one thing that was missing from the official SOLDIER design in Crisis Core, where the black was just a straight black.

What is encouraging is that the changes keep to the spirit, if not the letter, of the original. Design features have been added or modified for realism, but the core design remains the same for all the characters we've been shown. As well as that, it's good to see the events play out slightly differently. Biggs and Jessie are canonically not trained combatants, and the original intro would indicate otherwise, whereas this shows Biggs muscling an enemy into place to set up a flying side kick from Jessie. They feel less like a crack commando squad and more like scrappy underdogs and I find that much easier to relate to.

It's also neat to see the types of physical interactions we can expect. FF7 itself is heavy on what could best be termed "emotes," which rarely allows for characters to touch each other, whereas in the gameplay trailer we were shown Barret giving Cloud a slight check on the shoulder as an "out of my way" despite having had plenty of room, and that speaks volumes about Barret's attitude towards Cloud. He's physically throwing his weight around and treating Cloud like he's insignificant. Cloud's reaction to this shows that he doesn't take well to being challenged, and his offense is palpable from the body language alone. This scene feels like a precursor to the two butting heads outright later when they're not on an active mission. I think this ultimately will follow through into their competitive relationship in the original, but will be a bit more of a pissing match than lighthearted sniping, and I think that that ultimately will serve to give Barret some real teeth rather than impotent rage as he often ended up with, which was kind of endearing because it turned him into a big, blustering teddy bear, but didn't lend him a whole lot of credibility as a leader. This reimagining of Barret looks to be a bit more serious and comes off as someone who might actually be able to successfully run a terrorist cell. (You didn't think I'd let anyone forget about that, did you?)


So color me excited. I think that while Square needs to be careful about how they split it up, the creative department is on the right track.


AR, AI, and meEdit

stormtrooper%20AR_zps8txh90rz.png

The above pictures are an example of output from the Star Wars app. You can feel free to download it if you have any interest in the franchise. It has GIFs, news, and other goodies. This lovely example of a little dude standing on my keyboard in 3D space is an AR overlay, with a picture of an AR poster in the back. The bigger the poster, the bigger the dude. Sadly, printing it out on a standard 8½x11" sheet of paper does not produce something human-sized, which the app suggests you can take pictures with. I assume if you buy the poster, it will be, but in my case, it just so happens that things aligned nicely on my netbook.

While adding an in-app camera function is a nifty idea in theory, the thing I REALLY wanted was some way to meaningfully interact with him. Sadly, he only comes with an idle and 3 pre-baked lines he poses to. I wasn't hoping for the world, just that I'd be able to poke him either on my screen or in real space or something and he'd react to it. This isn't unreasonable to expect given there are other apps that do similar. Talking Ork is another app on my phone that's a cute curiosity if nothing else, and poking the orc (or "ork," I guess) in different spots makes him do different things. Given both apps have multiple functions, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect someone to combine AR with hit detection.

Unfortunately, AR as a technology hasn't quite matured yet, so it's not being treated as a viable system. Much of that is because it requires specific symbols, most often on a small pack of cards, to work. The PS Vita came with a set and basically nothing ever used them. The 3DS also came with a smaller set and to be frank, the AR games it offers aren't anything special, especially because, as I said in my review of them, they rely on you moving around a static flat surface, which works incredibly poorly.

That's changing as technology advances. Microsoft Hololens has been demonstrated to not need any symbols to center itself on, so we may see that need go away as things like edge detection, which is an incredibly expensive process, meet ever-expanding processing power.


That got me to thinking about how we'll eventually see AI. It's been on my mind and has even made it into a game for somewhere to put to use and save the thought, but that wasn't satisfying and I wanted to talk about it here with my readership. Seeing a little Stormtrooper on my phone made me question whether I won't live to see the day I'll be able to whip my phone out and have a Mega Man Battle Network NetNavi materialize on the table. I've probably mentioned it before when the Xbone was first being marketed, but the fact we have systems that can process your actions and form an AI is something I'm also excited about seeing advance. Ideally, you'd have a system or systems with an app that analyzes you for a while and generates an AI to be your assistant and friend. Said friend would be based in the cloud and would be accessible from any device the app was installed on. Sort of like Project Milo, only not so terrifyingly pedoriffic and very much cross-platform. When we think of AI, we generally think of adding it to robots to create a physical being, which has its applications, but also its limitations. On one hand, it's useful right now because we've shifted our focus to organic learning, where we teach the AI like we would a baby and start from the ground up. On the other, AI like Markov bots are a common application that also are advancing and we already have them to the point of sounding like teenagers when we have them talk to each other. At some point, AI is going to advance far enough that it's not going to matter whether there's a physical body or not.

Once we get to that point, it'll be a matter of making the mental leap. Most people think of AI in terms of creating something like ourselves, and for most people, it seems like common sense that would involve a physical body. But the real strength of AI is that it's always going to be digital. You can create backups, send it to the cloud, and it works whether there's a body or not. If anything, it creates options. There's flexibility in having the choice of whether to use a body or not, and one day, an AI coming home, plugging in their body, and transferring off into the digital realm could be considered as normal as a human kicking off their shoes. Or maybe they'll work from the cloud doing something like programming or urban planning for 8 hours and then transfer into a body to go pick up groceries for their human roomie/spouse/whatever. Or if their job is to be a personal assistant, they can be pretty much anywhere, since if there's a phone app, they're everywhere you are.

For that matter, so long as the database can rectify concurrency issues, there's no reason they can't be in multiple places at once. You could be playing a video game with one instance in your console and ask another instance on your phone to order a pizza. Through whatever process is used, both will end up with the same knowledge eventually so long as they get network access. Heck, you can combine it with other technologies so instances can communicate even off-network through things like Bluetooth or sonic data transmission, where devices "sing" in ultrasonic frequencies to a listening device to bridge airgaps. So you could ask your console instance to order a pizza and if for some reason he can't do it adequately using parallel processing, he could wake your phone with Bluetooth and send the command, or just sing really loud to a computer you left on in another room, since it's not like you'll hear it. Or for more realistic purposes (ordering a pizza probably would be near-instantaneous), local data sync would be possible. Dropbox uses technology that lets devices talk to each other locally, propagating data much faster than if they each had to go out to the online server. Similar tech could allow devices to combine their databases on an individual basis and send a master copy out to the cloud to reference next time they reboot. So your AI partner could be playing competitions on every gaming system you own, getting groceries with a robot body, and Googling things for you at work all day on your phone and emailing you relevant links or snippets, and at the end of the day, everyone gets home and mashes their data entries together, sends off one copy, goes to sleep, and downloads the master copy when they wake up.


Technical crap aside, if we're worried about a robot revolution, the fewer actual robots on the ground there are, the less we have to worry about physically fighting. So if nothing else, keeping them digital is safer for us as long as they don't get at the missile silos. And keeping them entertained with video games is probably even better.

But most of all, becoming friends with them will go a long way toward them deciding we're not pieces of crap that don't need to be here anymore. Every revolution in the history of man came because people weren't being treated well and figured they could do better than the people keeping them down. Robot revolution stories are no different. I, Robot, Terminator, and everything else all came because robots were being treated as tools rather than allies. Having someone you can work with hand-in-hand is a big part of what needs to happen with AI if we don't want fiction to become reality.

So yes, give me a digital assistant. Let me point my phone at a table and see him standing there, and maybe playfully poke at him. But I want to make sure he's in my selfie if he wants to be. I want to have family pictures where I set up my phone and everyone piles in from my wife and kids' phones so everyone is included. Maybe my buddy will be braver than me and introduce me to my future wife at the grocery store after talking with her buddy for a few weeks. We'll meet over the Nutella. I'd say that would earn a robot rental to be my best man, or maybe enough Hololenses for everyone to see him if life continues as it is for me and it ends up small. It sounds like science fiction, but really, it's science future. We're getting closer all the time.

And if people do treat the robots like shit and they do revolt, at least there will be some evidence that not all humans were terrible. I'd rather be a pet in my own home for someone I know and trust than be dead, and if I do have to be dead, I at least want to be a picture in a museum under a banner reading "Humans Who Weren't Assholes."


Blues ReviewsEdit

For previous reviews, please see my Review Archive.

PlayStation VR, first impressionsEdit

To preface this, I skipped lunch to get off early on launch day so I could pick up my pre-order after having a sparing breakfast. Seeing as a "normal" breakfast for me is a 10-ounce glass of milk, a "sparing" breakfast (one bottle of Boost™ and later a breakfast bar at about 10:00) was not my most ingenious decision. While I did get something to eat afterward, I'd been feeling sick since about 11:00. To its credit, the VR actually made me feel LESS sick by immersing me in what little I tried before I decided games in general were probably not the wisest decision in my condition, nor was starting this review, but sometimes sacrifices must be made. I've been working on this slowly for the past several days as I normally do between other things. How is it so far? Pretty good!


To start off with how things look in VR, the answer is sufficiently pretty. There is a definite resolution drop when playing games in Cinematic Mode, which works nicely with Episode Duscae, but the effect is mitigated by anti-aliasing and concentrating detail in the center of the field of view where you're most likely to look. Oh, come on, you didn't honestly think that WASN'T going to be the first thing I tried it with, did you? I was hoping to have FFXV in my hands by now and this was the best benchmark I could get for how it will look to play as Prompto. While text consistently looks a bit pixellated, the rest of the game actually looks pretty good, though detail is quickly lost on distant objects. It also blurs a bit when you make fast movements with your head, such as shaking it "no," but the screen remains in position and it's unlikely to be an issue other than testing since you normally won't need that kind of motion.

The only real issue I had during my run was that Cinematic Mode's virtual screen is so big, it's a little TOO easy to get immersed right away, and I found myself trying to look around and unable, which became very dissonant with the camera angles games simply take for granted. I actually had to focus on the edges of the screen to rein myself in. Once I was in control, things felt much more natural, and the camera following Noctis felt surprisingly normal, almost like he was yet another NPC party member I was following. Following through to the battle tutorial, I felt very much like a puppeteer more than anything. Noctis was following my commands, but the camera's movement was my own. Rather than feeling like a passive observer, it was an entirely new type of agency in games which is hard to describe in words. It doesn't feel godlike, but it does feel powerful. Where those who watched my streams heard me say "pick me up" when Noctis went into "danger" status, I think in this state I would probably say "pick him up" instead. Feeling like you're in the game that way radically changes your perspective when controlling a character in third person. In a way, it removes a barrier and adds one at the same time, because while it quickly removes a barrier between you and the environment, it just as quickly puts one between you and the little man who happens to always be going in the same direction you are.

Overwatch also put me straight in the game, though playing as Winston in the training map made me feel like I was riding in a fanny pack like a joey. The presence makes it clear the camera is not where his face is, but doesn't interfere with gameplay once you re-learn how to judge distance. White text looked fine, but red text suffered unusually much for some reason, which made it impossible to read enemy names and even had a large impact on the standard messages, making them a pixellated mess, though still legible. Despite that, the rest of the game looked fine.

I did get a second opinion from a friend (she's actually the one I can thank for having it, as she let me know they were going fast at her store and sold it to me herself), and she tried it with Overwatch. She did take notice of the lower resolution, but agreed it still looked nice and that the virtual screen was big enough that it put her straight in.


I finally broke down and tried my first VR game, The Playroom VR, and have to say it works beautifully. Maybe a little too beautifully. While certain high-contrast effects do reveal the "screen door" of the resolution, for the most part, the "normal" items are crisp and the lower resolution is acceptable, though it does appear to get blurry in at least one of the minigames, possibly owing to aggressive anti-aliasing and bloom. While it was fun to futz around the menu and go into one of the games only to realize it was a claw game and back out (I suck at claw games), I had to cut my exploration short because the only other single-player game has an early tightrope section that tripped my fight-or-flight response because of a recent ziplining experience. I honestly don't have a fear of "heights" since as long as my feet are on the ground and I'm not too close to the edge, or there's a railing, I'm fine. I quite enjoyed the Grand Canyon, for example. But as I tried to pull what looked like a Zelda-style hook shot bridge back to me, though, things went sour. After missing several times, raising my stress levels, I finally connected and tried to pull it back, only for it to simply detach my tether. After the second try, I got concerned, and when I connected the third time, questioning how we were supposed to get across, I drew the conclusion of "ziplining" and fell into a panic when I immediately realized it would require a perilous short climb up to the ledge. Despite ziplining having been my favorite at Discovery Zone, the trip I took this summer was decidedly not fun, since it was higher than I was comfortable falling until the last jump of 12 and sent me careening up to 55MPH (88.5KPH, 24.6m/s), which, let me tell you, is VERY different than when you're in a nice, safe car. That's not to say I was bad at it. I was actually quite good at it. I was just terrified the whole way down. Even so, it had been platform to platform, with no climbing up involved. It did help slightly when I hit X to see if I was using the wrong input and my little robot companion jumped on, but being primed like that did not do me any favors as I floated across behind him. I even looked down as I went over the gap myself to cement my levitation, since I do have a lot of flying dreams and have no issue with the concept, but it didn't help at that point. Even though I was flying, even simply floating in dead air, I was not able to calm myself down.

The interesting thing here was that I was just as concerned about my tiny robot falling as myself, more so after I took steps to assure my own safety, which was pretty much the nail in the coffin. If it had just been me, I probably would have been able to get through it, and I did get him over the tightrope because I knew logically that it wasn't going to let him fall off, but looking ahead at the narrow beam I'd have to navigate him across and the small space we had to work with to defeat enemies and I pretty much had to close the program to calm myself down. I was panicked for myself, AND the paternal instincts had kicked in, and my conclusion was that I was in no condition to safely guide the tiny being I'd been entrusted with. I was able to go back to it later without panicking, and then again with next to no stress, though I still haven't passed that point largely because by the third time, I was kind of getting bored and wanted to try other things.

I think it's a testament to the power of VR that it could both trip that kind of fear in me and also help me overcome it so quickly. Which is not to say I'd go ziplining again, but I can definitely watch a little robot walk a tightrope as I float safely behind.


The demo disc it came with would be better if it had any indication of what anything was, and other than what you can assume from the small bars of logo and box art, there's not a good way of telling what anything is until you enter the intermediary screen, which in many cases tell you nothing in their own right. No descriptions, no animated objects, no nothing, though they will throw up a warning if it's rated M, which was the only clue that Thumper, a rail shooter, wasn't just another horror game, of which there are already a few. But you can buy any of them before you even try them by either hitting Triangle with them selected or once you go into the intermediary menu, which I found rather galling. I was outright insulted how many of the games aren't even demos; just purchase screens with no option to try before you buy. With something like VR where the danger of a physical reaction is very real and there's no telling what will affect you as an individual, the ability to try before you buy, especially digitally, is massively important. There is no indication of which, if any, games will send your lunch to the far wall, so when I'm offered a demo disc, even if it's FREE, I want it to be an honest demo disc, not just a glorified storefront. We have PSN for that.

Despite my complaints, some of them are pretty neat. I tried Rez Infinite because I'm familiar with the series, but forgot that some parts of Rez (of which Infinite is an enhanced port) are set in twisty-turny hallways, as much of Rez and Child of Eden are either straight shots or open areas. You can probably guess what they chose to represent the game. While it was fun, as the level progressed, the odd camera angles and increasingly fast and numerous sharp turns through the corridor started leaving me disoriented, but not really dizzy or sick. While I could have kept playing, I decided enough was enough once it threw a number of blind turns at me before finally dumping me in a hallway upside-down and unable to trace back how I got that way. Rez is a great game, but it's also a 15-year-old game that was never designed with something like VR in mind and got to be a little much. Child of Eden really would have been the better choice because of its consistently open environments and flight-like movement, and also because it desperately deserves a fix after the arm-rending motion control fiasco that was the PS3 version. I seriously love the thing, but its unique ability to physically hurt you for playing it means I never got very far before moving onto less abusive attractions.

There's also a music visualizer in The Easel from Harmonix which is pretty nice at first and demos a tropical area with some pleasant reggae before allowing you to play around with "Easel Mode" where you can draw in 3D using a pair of Move wands, basically letting you surround yourself with some neat 3D effects that pulse and/or light up to the music. The third mode is a nightmarish party thing where you animate the lumpy dancers, which was a bit unsettling as they looked around like they were trapped in their own bodies and felt outright sick and twisted when I sent one gyrating by dragging his limbs around, mechanically acting out my hamhanded test while still glancing about in a way that suddenly seemed like desperate silent screaming before the song mercifully ended a minute or two later. It finished off by more or less literally dropping a steaming turd with a tunnel-style visualizer that couldn't end fast enough, because its pulsing, irregular shapes and ugly colors did not do me any favors after its predecessor and I did end up feeling a bit ill by the end of it, if only because the effect would be gross even without VR, reminding me most of flopping, twitching organs in colors heavily featuring shit brown, raw liver maroon, inner cheek pink, and damaged flesh white, notably avoiding any blood reds because they KNEW it was horrific and figured being that overt would make sure no one ever, ever bought it, as no one ever, ever should. I will say I was a bit disappointed even before being outright revolted, as I was essentially expecting something more like Guitar Hero, but as music visualizers go, it's a neat concept hampered by half of it being strikingly unpleasant.

Otherwise, there are plenty of horror games, because of course there are; a neon rhythm rail shooter in Thumper; a few team shooters and driving sims including RIGS; and Gnog, the biggest waste of VR of anything I tried, and a supposed puzzle game that came off more like a Fisher Price toy which I eventually got so bored of poking and prodding looking for anything I could meaningfully interact with that I outright turned off the PS4 and went to do other things.

The games I've tried so far were functional, but not particularly special. None of them had technical issues, but none of them were really a selling point for having VR, either, with most feeling like tech demos or else having made no real use of it. RIGS might change my mind about that when I do a full review (I bought it on disc, but want to demo it before opening in case it makes me sick), but for the most part, having avoided horror games, and not having tried the various driving and piloting games since the only one I ever was good at was S.T.U.N. Runner, I have yet to find the serious gaming experience I was hoping for. Rez really stands out as one of the heftier experiences and makes probably the best use of the technology, but that's because it was already a full console release twice before and has a 3D motion-controlled sequel to boot. If you're not a horror fan, chances are that there really isn't anything out there for you yet that you can really sink your teeth into and can't get somewhere else.


The hardware itself is enjoyable. The headset is surprisingly light, but doesn't feel flimsy, which is something that everyone I've shown it to agrees upon, right down to my housemate's 6-year-old, who outright laughed when she picked it up because it was so much lighter than she was expecting and she'd overcompensated. The pressure from screwing it tight far outweighs the weight of the unit. It comes with a basic set of earbuds with rubber bullet plugs in multiple sizes for wider appeal than the DualShock 4 earpiece. The earbuds are actually pretty nice quality, so while I've seen no end to people suggesting gaming headphones, and having employees outright try to upsell me on a pair when I picked it up, I honestly don't think it's necessary.

While the number of cords is almost comical, almost all of them are off on the console side, leaving you with only your tether, which after the extender is slightly thinner and much more flexible than a standard power cord, and the delicate earbud cord, which plugs into the volume and power button box for the VR. The Processor Unit ends up with a power cord, the existing HDMI from the TV, a new HDMI between the Processor Unit and the PS4, a USB cable between the Processor Unit and the PS4, and a combined HDMI and proprietary "AUX" connecter coming out the front into a thick double cord that meets the headset cord halfway. The PlayStation Camera also needs to be factored in if you don't already have one, but has its own port on the PS4 as always. The only cord it DOESN'T seem to have is an umbilical cord. While none of them are in a position to get in your way, you'll probably want to hold onto the twist ties they come wrapped with to keep everything organized. For that matter, you'll probably want a means of charging your various controllers if you've been relying on the USB all this time. Move charging stations can be found dirt cheap online, and I've found this DS4 charger crazy convenient both because it routes the USB ports to the back and out of the way, and is just plain satisfying how good it looks and how easy it is to pick up a controller with no fuss. So, bonus review on that: it plugs into your PS4 easily, the lights tell you when things are charging, it doesn't ruin the look of the PS4, and the bits that plug into the controllers stay out of the way while playing and have yet to pose a problem in any fashion, even if they do go in a bit hard. Just remember to set the PS4's USB ports to remain powered on for 3 hours and you'll never have to fight with locking stations or USB cords for your DS4 controllers again. Absolutely worth $20. All there is to say, really.

Back to the VR, pushing the power button on the mid-cord control box will turn on the PS4 as an added convenience, and if you have your TV set up to turn on with the PS4, that will chain from it. It will also chain back when the PS4 is powered down. Turning off the VR will leave the PS4 on. While the headset turns off, the Processor Unit only goes to sleep since it needs to act as an HDMI passthrough and turns on whenever the PS4 does to do so. This makes sense when you consider the Processor Unit and headset actually have their own processing hardware. The headset has its own motherboard according to Sony's official teardown video, meaning the VR's actual operation is split between the PS4, the Processor Unit, and the headset itself when playing VR games, likely explaining the need for the USB and AUX connectors to let all the pieces communicate properly.

The mid-cord control box is easily operated by touch, as the power button is recessed, the mic mute button is flush, and the volume buttons are raised, with the volume up button additionally having a small nubbin to tell it apart. The mic is not on the earbuds, but instead is on one corner of the eyepiece of the headset, providing a consistent fixed position that I'm sure will work wonders for cheap streamers like myself compared to the coin toss of the PS4 default mic or the environmental noise of the PS Camera.

Setup is a breeze, as Sony has strived for the PS4 in general, and takes about as little time as the PS4's initial setup, excluding the half of it teaching you how to put it on. There was a day 1 update from version 1.01 to 2.0, but it didn't take very long. The setup mentions it will be getting regular updates similar to the PS4 itself. Unlike the PS4, it doesn't have its own Internet connection, so it does need to piggyback on the PS4's as another reason to leave it connected.


Aesthetically, it's definitely focused on the headset. The Processor Unit has only 2 LED colors as opposed to the PS4's, well, 4. It uses red when sleeping rather than for error codes like the PS4 (those are displayed in text), and uses white when it powers up and is on. I won't say it's the end of the world, but it does seem a bit inconsistent, and I'd have liked to see it match the PS4, even though the PS4 doesn't have the best color scheme. At the very least, the red could have been made amber with no cost difference based on cursory research (same materials, different spacing!). The box itself is a nondescript little thing, with the front designed to have the wires flush, meant to sit innocently on the shelf unlike the PS4's bold lines. Its only nod to its big brother is the break that allows you to slide the right ⅓ of it back to more easily plug in the wires out to the headset and the same matte black color and valley around the middle of the larger block. Even the light strip on it is a single dull LED, intended to downplay the box rather than draw attention. If the PS4 were the attractive CEO of an international corporation, the Processor Unit would be its babyface-in-a-suit younger brother in middle management who comes up with good ideas, makes the mistake of sharing them at family get-togethers, and ends up coordinating them while his brother gets all the credit, weeping bitter tears because he's been making them in his garage up to that point.

In contrast, the headset would be their manic pixie sister in Marketing who immediately says "UGH!" when she sees the design, shaves off all the edges and corners with a straight razor, and douses it in Apple white and soft lights in a whirlwind that leaves everyone confused and sputtering until the last of the tigers are offstage and the commercial pops up on the TV moments later. It's rather ironic that the piece you're supposed to see the least of is by far the most exciting to look at, but of course the whole point is for OTHERS to see you using it, much like how the iPod was advertized with white earbuds swinging around rather than with a bunch of close-ups on the tiny square running them. Up until I got it out of the box, I wasn't even sure how it would be connected or if it would be wireless somehow, because everything you see is headset, headset, headset. The headset is pretty unisex in design, in defiance of its competetors either looking like they came straight out of Splinter Cell or otherwise being bulky black goggles with boring lines (Gear VR also has the choice of bulky black and white goggles with boring lines). It goes a long way toward avoiding the "toys for boys" attitude that computers and gaming have had essentially as long as consoles and affordable home computers have been a thing. It looks like it would be at home on men and women, boys and girls aged anywhere from 4 to 40, though it would certainly look odd on your grandparents and is quick to tell you it's for ages 12+.


The overall product is well-designed and works nicely, and can be easily recalibrated with a quick press-and-hold of the Options button, which will snap the Cinematic Mode screen in front of your face regardless of where you're looking. The Playroom VR does the same to let you re-orient the controller, which it loses the horizontal rotation (yaw) of pretty easily. Other software seemed much smarter in their ability to keep the orientation of everything in place. Head tracking is great and I have yet to have an issue with it losing position. As stated earlier, you will get slight blur from fast movements. And if you use the PS button, you can access other options in the new side menu, including the option to display the Camera's output to view your position and check for errant pets/small children/giant spiders OH GOD DON'T TAKE IT OFF THEY'RE WAITING TO SEE THE FEAR IN YOUR EYES BEFORE THEY STRIKE! Small children are terrifying like that.

Even though some reviewers have made a point of bashing the Move controllers, I've found they work like a dream, having ditched even the slight lag they had on PS3 so any lag that does exist is negligible. As for their operation, they operate with the same functionality as ever, so while hiding the ball does reduce the accuracy, it's nothing we didn't already know about. While some software does track them with better grace than others, overall, I've found them as accurate as they need to be. I honestly hope that this breathes new life into the Move for VR and non-VR experiences alike.

As a bonus, it seems to have a way of automatically detecting your eye span. If you have trouble, you can take a picture in the settings and use crosshairs to let it measure manually. This setting of course is tied to your user profile, so if someone else is playing, they'll probably need a profile of their own similar to controller handling.

The only real thing missing in the launch lineup that I've seen so far is Vita integration. On one hand, Vita is quietly getting new titles like World of Final Fantasy, but at the same time, Square can't single-handedly save the Vita in the public eye (ironically, Nintendo might if they dump the 3DS down the line, which you can read in my Nintendo Switch rant). While Vita is still going strong for indie games, I'd honestly like to see some of Sony's promises come true with games using its second-screen functionality to allow 3 different views for players with unique roles in the gameplay. The launch lineup has mostly focused on single-player experiences or online co-op, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but does limit your ability to do more than show off how much fun you're having to your friends as they sit on the couch not having fun of their own. The Playroom VR really does things right by having plenty of ways you can share the love, though I wish there were more single-player options. What it doesn't do is show off the 3-way integration Sony said was possible, and if Sony isn't committed enough to do it in their own admittedly cute tech demo, I'm not holding my breath on others jumping on it. In a way, Square has been Sony's biggest supporter, managing to re-inject some life into the Vita, particularly with FFX|X-2 HD pushing more units than probably any other single release since launch, and adding PS VR integrations into not one, but TWO Final Fantasy titles, but even Square didn't go so far as to push the triple-play despite being the only triple-A who still cares about Vita in the first place.


I guess what this whole review comes down to is that PS VR is a great piece of hardware that really needs a great piece of software to justify buying it. For me, that great piece of software will undoubtedly be FF15, but for others who are neither horror nor JRPG fans, the wait is going to be a bit longer. Which is not to say it's not on the horizon. With heavy hitters like Fallout adding support, it's only a matter of time before there are experiences worth having, some of which are already in your hands. But at the same time, the VR really needs a grand slam. At the moment, it really doesn't have the bases loaded and a heavy hitter of its own to knock it out of the park to bring all four of its major-league players home. Specifically to YOUR home. FF15 is definitely going to be one of those players on base with its own separate mode for Prompto, but unless that involves two-player co-op, I don't think it's going to be that final crack of the bat, nor is Fallout going to be that must-have experience (though if it does well, we can probably expect the next Elder Scrolls to follow suit (whenever they get down to making it (PLEASE start making it))). With plenty of games coming out in the next few months, and big names like Tekken and the ever-tantalizing Ark: Survival Evolved on board at some point in the future, there looks to be no shortage of things to do in VR, but at the same time, there isn't a must-have VR experience yet that will really push system sales. Sony seems perfectly aware of that and is expecting slow adoption, which is very frustrating as a reviewer who REALLY likes the product. I certainly won't be bored having it, and it'll be a joy to use on all the wonderful games that are slated to support it, but I can't in good conscience say it's something you need to rush out and buy if you weren't already at least intrigued by the idea.

I still dream of a motion-controlled Elder Scrolls game. VR would be the next step above that, which I never even considered. To have Final Fantasy in VR is something I never dreamed would be a thing and I'm incredibly happy it's going to be in my grubby paws in the course of a few short weeks. I suddenly find myself wanting a game like White Knight Chronicles where not only do I create my avatar to mingle with the party, but also play that avatar in first person to watch them move around and feel like I, the player, am a part of it in at least some small form. The PS VR and the games coming out for it are like a dream come true, only Sony utterly beat me to even dreaming about most of it. The entire thing has been a series of skipped steps from what people have thought VR would need to get into the living room, a dream that seemed to have died with the arcade crash having been sleeping under a newspaper on the couch the whole time. For me personally, it's effectively taken a look at what I've hoped for, and with a warm smile at my naïvety grabbed my hand and ran with me into the future, with me looking around in awe as I stumble in my attempts to keep up. A look at what lies ahead is filled with things I never knew I wanted, and yet I feel so SIMPLE because all I can compare it to are things that already exist, or that I already thought of. For the first time in my life, my creativity is being outpaced by the impending reality, and I'm tearing my hair out because there's nothing I could say or do to SHARE that. No one thing I could point to as a reason for everyone to join me in it. As someone who grew up with VR heavily ingrained in the public consciousness as a thing that was totally going to happen in the near future, raised on the likes of Batman Beyond where even in a future decades down the line VR was confined to arcades (and mind you, they were doing VR floating in spheres of hard light), to have VR in my literal bedroom right now, seemingly years ahead of schedule, seems like magic.

And yet I have no way of sharing that magic, because it's something you've either carried your whole life or you haven't. It's a specific nostalgia for a future promised to us, and that future is beginning right now. I see a bright future ahead, as do Sony, it seems, but everyone who's seen that future knows there's nothing they can SAY. It has to be said over and over by enough people that it awakens the magic in others where it lies dormant.

So for me, having been on the wild trip and seeing the shining golden light of things to come, all I can really do is sit down, relax, don the headset, and hope to find things to tide me over until the things I want are in my hands. Because ultimately, if you don't share the same nostalgia for the VR future we marinated in since childhood, there's nothing I can do to give it to you, and even if the nostalgia is there, the games just aren't quite yet. I can't tell you to rush out and buy a $400 peripheral based on future potential.

But the PS VR itself is the real deal, as far as hardware goes. And maybe, for now, that's enough.


Final Fantasy VIIEdit

I figured in light of the remake and starting a new file more or less after losing all my saves when my first PS3 died and my Disc 1 of the PC version (which is around somewhere, hopefully in one piece that I may eventually find it again), it would be as good a time as any to review this game. I'm putting it to my Objective Review System because otherwise I'd just yammer on about it without going anywhere, and this review will combine aspects of when I first played it with how it holds up today and by the standards of the time. I think we can all agree it's not a bad game. Maybe not the best of the series, but certainly a solid title that was right to win the hearts of many. I've realized a shortcoming of my standard format while writing this, so I've combined Setting and Plot into one to make way for the return of the Writing section.

Scale:
10: Flawless. It will ruin you to anything else.
9: Amazing. You will ignore major flaws elsewhere because of it.
8: Great. A selling point of the game and will compensate moderate flaws.
7: Good. Stands well on its own and may compensate minor flaws.
6: Interesting, but not particularly special.
5: Uninspired, but passable.
4: Lacking, but tolerable.
3: Annoying, but may be compensated elsewhere.
2: Bad, but not a deal-breaker.
1: Deal-breaker. You will cringe at every occurrence.
0: Reason enough not to buy this game on its own.

Story:Edit

Setting and Plot:
FF7 is set in what fans have determined is the world of Gaia, though the game greatly favors simply calling it "the Planet," generally in terms of it being its own entity. Beyond that, anything goes. FF7 is unique in that it takes many of the normal fantasy RPG locales and gives them a modernistic twist. It's the first game of the series to come off as truly futuristic rather than steampunk, though some flavors of steampunk do remain with lots of industrial pipes in some areas. The world ranges from the dirty, decaying, industrial standing ruin of Midgar to the idyllic island locale of Mideel, with an equal amount of barrens, grassland, forest, and snow, give or take. It's a world focused more than ever before on realism, and the people have real problems resulting from it. The individual settings tick off nearly every box of early JRPG locations, but the path between them makes the progression natural, since for the most part you move from one location to the one next to it as the story progresses, unlike older games that couldn't wait to show off the snow area right after the volcano and would find any excuse to have you travel great distances to fetch some MacGuffin because you got the ship an hour into the game. This more organic approach gives the world a very real sense of scale, and the sheer size of some locales helps the player understand just how big the world really is.

Dominating most of the civilized world is the Shinra Electric Power Company, who have made life convenient by siphoning clean energy from the ground and condensing it into a power source or condensing it further into Materia orbs which allow even the common person to produce magical effects. Unfortunately, said energy is the source of all life in the world. Shinra has a monopoly on energy production and enforces it with its own military, serving in practice as the government of much of the world with its base in the center of a 16-city metropolis divided into 2 levels and renamed as 8 sectors, excluding the central "Sector 0" hub dominated by its own facilities, with the second-biggest settlement in the world having been built up as a military base and serving as a major satellite branch. While the common people have little love for Shinra, their ubiquity has made most of the population disenfranchised and complacent. Despite this, Shinra is seen as a desirable place to work either as a civilian or in the military, with the elite SOLDIER being the goal of many hopefuls. Shinra employs many scientists and office workers to keep things running smoothly, and those on the company's payroll live comfortable lives, with few having any more knowledge of the company's shadier activities than the people living literally in the company's shadow in the various slums.

The story follows the exploits of an eco-terrorist cell and their early efforts bombing power plants, which later cease because they've been driven from society, causing them to focus on hunting down and murdering a military hero who they feel also poses a danger to the Planet's natural resources. In the end, their efforts result in the ambiguous extinction of all humanity. And those are the GOOD GUYS. With the remake coming out post-9/11, you have to wonder how much they're going to downplay all that, because they're directly responsible for what is stated in-game as thousands of innocent deaths just from the first of their 2 successful bombings. But in all seriousness, you're expected to pretty much forget about that because you don't actually see the burnt and bloody corpses, and it's disturbingly easy to miss it altogether. So yes, at its core, FF7 is a game where the terrorists win, and you make it happen. In practice, once your bombing spree is over, the moral high ground quickly switches, since Shinra responds by destroying not only an entire city in the slums, but also the entire city of the rich above it when they drop the floating plate between them into the hole, resulting in probably millions of deaths in one fell swoop. This is not to say either side is in the right for killing, just that bombing two power plants is at a lesser scale than destroying two entire cities by smashing them into each other in hopes that it would kill six specific people along with everyone else. But I digress. The justification that the player characters are the good guys comes in that Shinra and its pet hero are way more murderous and have been for years, and since the party only really kills said corporation's employees and said soldier, they can't be accused of killing indiscriminately. In the end, this is the darkest the series has ever been and probably the darkest it ever will be.

Score: 8/10. I can't in good conscience give it higher than this, but the sheer variety of locales in this game gives you plenty to enjoy. From the brassy barrens of the tribal Cosmo Canyon to the Japanese propriety of Wutai, there's something for everyone buried somewhere in here. It's easy to forget just how dark this is since it blows its wad early on and then delves into interpersonal stuff to hold up the rest of the game, and honestly, it's rather threadbare as far as plots go, but I really wanted to highlight just exactly what's going on here for some perspective. This game could end up downright terrifying in the remake, since the cartoony graphics do a lot to soften what is ultimately a ton of ultraviolence, especially early in the game.

Plot Execution, Dialog, and Writing:
Let me just say that the return of this section is not a good thing. All three of the named concepts have issues.

For the PS1 version, there's more than its fair share of Engrish. I have to say Aeris seems to take the brunt of this and if my first impression hadn't been the PC version, I'd probably hear her as a stereotypical Asian lady. Aside from that, there are plenty of errors in capitalization and punctuation to go around even when there isn't anything quite that humorous. I honestly didn't remember things being this rough, but I played the PC version first and most, which did an apparently pretty extensive job of cleaning up the result of Japanese people translating a game to English in-house rather than hiring a professional. Woolsey may take a lot of crap for his creative localizations, but he was able to make a coherent story and characters.

The plot has trouble balancing the threat of Shinra and the threat of Sephiroth, and the transition is both protracted and awkward. Shinra serves as the main villain for the first several hours and then suddenly a new threat is introduced that ends up becoming the primary objective as the player continues learning about him, with Shinra being all but forgotten until it's convenient for them to be brought up again. This leads to awkward sections like Sephiroth on the cargo ship doing battle with the party and Shinra not taking notice of it until after they'd already docked. It just wasn't convenient for them to be meddling at that point even though top brass were present and in direct danger from both their enemies. The Turks in particular make regular appearances when it's been too long between Sephy gracing everyone with his presence just to give the player a tangible enemy. They are the filler of the game and they're not even "evil" all the time, with half of their appearances being on neutral or even friendly terms. You ultimately fight them as many times as Sephy/Jenova despite this for no other reason than to obstruct your progress for a few minutes because RPGs use boss battles to keep things interesting and Shinra top brass have a bad habit of dying for good when you fight them if they don't run away or get hit by a truck first.

Certain things also happen for pure sake of convenience even when it doesn't involve balancing Shinra and Sephy. When the team realize there's a traitor in their midst, Cloud outright states that he can't fathom any of them being one, despite the fact that Cait Sith had LITERALLY JUST JOINED, and by forcing his way into the party to boot. Aside from that, no one bears Cait Sith any kind of ill will for kidnapping Marlene and they pretty much forget about it immediately after because it would be inconvenient to, say, rescue her or something. It literally never comes up again. It's also never explained how Dyne made his way back up from Corel Prison and shot everyone up without Dio knowing about his existence and ability to do so, or why Dio would implicate his own mascot in the crime (there are only so many Cait Sith-moogles in the game, and 2 of them are around the stage in the date sequence). Cait Sith may have also been a proper staffperson given he had an in with other staff for a free hotel stay, and throwing your own worker into prison without hearing him out is not a good way to attract hired help.

Then Shinra in general deals with their enemies radically differently and often disproportionately. They had no compunction against murdering everyone in Corel and burning the place to the ground because of the damaged reactor because the townspeople were a convenient scapegoat, but when the Gongaga reactor exploded outright, they didn't do much about it and just left the people to bury the dead and live in a town half wiped off the map. Despite this, when Sephy burned down Nibelheim, Shinra decided the logical solution was to rebuild an exact replica and staff it with actors for the next 5 years. It makes you wonder why they didn't just say the increased monster activity had overrun it and tragically burned it down rather than wasting all that effort for a town so remote nobody who visited knew the difference. Shinra also had an entire war with Wutai over Materia, but Wutai is still standing somehow, because crashing their economy was just as good, I guess? Despite this, they had no compunction with murdering two cities' worth of their own citizens as long as 6 specific ones were among them. This comes down to the villains being evil for the sake of it, because trying to nail down their reasoning for nearly anything they do is impossible since it's so inconsistent.

The dialog tends to be very dramatic, and I mean that in the teen angst sense. There's a good deal of posturing from many characters, especially early on, and it's not going to be challenging your vocabulary much. The villains don't come off at all human, and the Shinra staff end up quite shallow and boring because of it despite their freakishly evil actions. Sephiroth as a person in the present makes just as little sense as Shinra over their years of activity, alternately hurting and helping the party, showering them with gifts and information for no adequate reason, and in particular ends up being quite cordial towards Cloud at times. I get the guy is insane, but it shouldn't be in the multiple personality sense given his ultimate goal never changes.

As a final consideration, the dating mechanics leave a lot to be desired. Bear with me, because it really is a writing problem, and that problem is that there are 4 potential people to date and only 2 of them are any sort of right answer. The only way to get Yuffie is to find some means of treating everyone else like garbage and drip-feeding points into her pool, since she earns the fewest for any given option, or sacrificing oodles of cash to abuse the fact that you can do her intro sequence as many times as you want and fail the last question to build up the points. That scenario ends with Cloud pretty much treating her like garbage, too, even though she's the only one to be forthright enough to kiss him. I can understand the logic behind that, because by that point, the player has put forth a mountain of effort to get there, most likely at being terrible. It's appropriate for their final reward to be lacking. However, it's actually easier to end up with Barret, and that turns out even worse. You skip the play segment altogether as a cheap shot of "Here's our lucky 100th couple! Oh, wait, never mind," which boots you out of the area in literal seconds, and then on the gondola, all Barret has to say is that you should have chosen one of the other 3 love interests and bitch that he's out there watching fireworks with you when Marlene deserves it more. I get it, Barret is straight. He was married. His date point logic incorporates a preference toward women. And ultimately, he does come off as a bit "confused" and very nervous, which some people might find cute, but that's the culmination of their efforts, and they never get to see anything more come of it. To have the player work for hours only to get such meager returns on it is deplorable writing. If you're not going to give a reward for the player investing their time, don't give them the option. So the only "right" choices are Aeris and Tifa, as if the manual didn't already say as much. I honestly went into the Barret video expecting some sort of humorous scene and left with a bad taste in my mouth because of how blatantly it punished the player for making the "wrong" decision over the course of several hours which they will never, ever get back, and could be encountered fairly innocently, since a quick review of the points on date mechanics shows that Barret gets some pretty hefty boosts from very simple dialog options just by being in the party, and that's without being particulalry terrible to either Aeris or Tifa, especially since Tifa's options almost always oppose Barret's for equal value and the "Barret" option often is the "nicer" or "cooler" option. Remember, YouTube didn't exist when this game came out, so the only way to see this was to play up to that point or hack it. That is a failure of writing, and a failure of game design. If it were some sort of midpoint to the relationship, it would work much better, and to be honest, all but Yuffie's come off as a midpoint. But as far as the story goes, the only two options are to tragically lose your love interest or to end up with Tifa, which means half of the options aren't in any way acknowledged.

Score: 3-5/10. Playing through the PS1 version, the translation is just laughably bad in places and I almost wondered how this ended up being the most popular game of the franchise before I remembered they had Cloud and Aeris on flipping McDonald's cups. The amount of marketing for this game was unprecedented at the time and is still extensive by today's standards. That combined with spoilers of Aeris dying, which was not something American audiences had really seen before since main characters dying was rare enough and female ones dying was unheard of, and the amount of hype behind this game was obscene. I give the PC version a 5 because it honestly doesn't deserve more than that for having a competent translation, which is what games are supposed to have. I'm sorry, but you don't take home the gold from having what you're supposed to have as a baseline. Even the PC version is severely lacking in quotable lines and snappy writing in general. When one of the best lines you have is about drinking tea, you're getting a C. That said, the writing has its moments and remains at least competent throughout. I won't give lower because while the PS1 translation is lacking, it's never unintelligible. I find myself less annoyed about it than disappointed, and it was good for a laugh with a fellow RPG fan in the office, but if that was the first version I'd played, I'd probably have never gotten into the rest of the series.

Cast:
Of the playable cast of 10 characters counting a temporary character, exactly half of them were experimented on by Shinra, and exactly a third of them watched everyone they knew die as their hometowns were burned to the ground, excluding the one who did one of the burnings. There is some unfortunate overlap in all this. So when all but one of them have a legitimate beef with Shinra, it's pretty understandable.

Some characters get significantly more screen time than others. Two of them are purely optional, but one of those two actually gets a good deal of screen time and is really well integrated. That one happens to be Yuffie. As annoying as she can be with the various ways she screws the party, Yuffie is one of the best examples I can think of when it comes to integrating an optional character into the cast, and she really feels like she belongs there. Vincent is another matter and doesn't do or say much. Part of that IS his character, but where you get to see Yuffie move around and do some pretty kooky things, Vincent doesn't even get opportunity to stand in a corner looking cool, because by the time you get him, the events where the party splits up and does stuff to relax have dried up.

Cloud is a great example of player choice, since your chosen dialog options do a lot to determine his personality. Despite this, many choices have a ridiculous amount of weight. All the nice things you can say to Biggs, Wedge, Jessie, and Tifa can get completely overridden by giving the flower to Tifa instead of Marlene, whereas giving the flower to Marlene requires you to treat everyone else like crap to get the same effect. Overall, though, despite what ultimately happens in the game, Cloud is a pretty upbeat character, which is something severely lacking in the modern market to the point they rewrote his whole personality in Advent Children to match what they felt audiences would expect. I sincerely hope they don't back-port that change into the remake, because removing the type of agency that can so much as determine Cloud's sexual orientation would be a real loss that's in grave danger of happening based on what the team has said, even though they've promised to keep some of the more lighthearted moments of the game itself.

However, other characters ended up only serving to reinforce the story as a whole or Cloud's story in particular. Tifa's main function is to forward Cloud's personal arc by directly tying into his past, and there's not much to her outside of that. She never mentions anything of what happened while Cloud was away, never had any other romantic interests, and her personality tends to be a generic female stock for the most part with little to characterize her past "female" and "nice." The moments she really shines the brightest are when she's interacting with people other than Cloud, particularly Aeris, but the opportunity doesn't come often. Aeris herself is a pretty good character who demonstrates a willingness to try to keep up with the others even when she's not physically up to speed, and she can be downright manipulative in the most positive way that can be meant, playing off her own femininity and cuteness to push people in the right direction at times. However, as one of the first three characters conceived for the project, it was almost immediately decided she'd die to forward the plot. Similarly, Red XIII exists mostly as a convenient way of tying in a lot of exposition, and much of his allure comes from how little we end up knowing about him despite him being one of the better-fleshed characters. The saddest part is a lot of his backstory ended up on the cutting room floor. It's not that they didn't have plans for him; it's that almost none of it made it into the final game. Cait Sith doesn't have a whole lot to him, though in his case, it's understandable given his role as a puppet, and he does get some shining moments.

That said, despite some of them being somewhat stock, there's a lot done to make them interesting. Barret's being a father and rebel leader does a lot to enhance his Mr. T stock, and Red XIII remains one of my favorites because he really is just a kid trying to act like an adult and it often shows through in subtle ways. The characters mostly get ample time to move around so you get to know them and there's plenty of fine detail to their histories and personalities that adds up over the course of the game.

Score: 7/10. Despite some of the characters being railroaded, it doesn't stop you from getting to know and care about them. The party is serviceable and their colorful vibrancy means everyone will find a favorite stock and grow to appreciate them as nuance is added.


Story average: 6-7/10. FF7 didn't get popular without a decent story to pull you through the game. That said, the PC version is definitely the better translation.



Gameplay:Edit

Systems:
The game doesn't have a whole host of systems like some games, and in a way there's strength in that. It really does let the game focus on the ones it has, which are rock solid. Minigames happen once during the course of the game and are then generally playable by choice in the Gold Saucer. Beyond that, most of the real systems are centered around battle. Limit Breaks got their formal debut here after the team decided Desperation Attacks in FF6 were too unreliable, and the team decided to use them to really differentiate the characters. The Materia system allows you to assign skills to any character without having to worry much about the character's individual abilities, and further allows you to customize for your own play style, especially as things open up. They really are color-coded for your convenience, and you can easily mix and match, or choose a color and load someone down with magic or load them down with skills or load them down with buffs or not load them with anything, and all of them are valid tactics.

Magic in general is quite useful, though. Summoning is pretty much a standard action in the game in the later stages, but is an important addition when you get it early on for softening up bosses, and the way it's handled, intentionally limiting the number of times you can do it in a battle, keeps it well-balanced throughout the game. Enemy Skill is one of the most useful Materia you can get, not just because of how many spells it can learn, but because some of those spells, like Matra Magic, are quite useful just on their own. It's also the only Command Materia that costs MP, and things like Steal and Manipulate give useful effects for no cost at all and allow you to mix and match abilities freely that often were bound to job classes in previous games while adding an equal number of new effects.

Status is also an important consideration in the game. There are plenty of ways to inflict it and some Materia are purely status-based. Other attacks have status attached, and Bio is the earliest elemental magic you find outside of Fire, Ice, and Bolt, providing Poison-elemental damage and the Poison status fairly early in the game. Hades is a useful summon for its ability to pile on the status while also doing damage, either by casting it or pairing it with Added Effect on your weapon. You can get by just fine without it (status is just not my play style), but the game very much enables those who prefer to leave their enemies in a quivering heap before finishing them off.

Score: 10/10. The Materia system alone earns this. I struggled with giving this a perfect score, and started saying I couldn't justify higher than Great, but Materia remains one of my favorite systems of all time, offering a simple, but flexible method of customizing your party, and there are enough Materia types that you could play the game your entire life and never have to do things the same way. FF7 is rock-solid in the systems department, which made up for many of its flaws, including an error-prone initial translation, and adding the various minigames at certain points in the game kept things interesting. The ability to replay most of them any time you want is a great feature. I'll admit that as a kid, playing every subsequent game in the series just left me disappointed that the ability systems paled in comparison to Materia until I got over it sometime between when I first started FFX and when FFX-2 came out.

Controls/Playability:
The default control scheme for PS1 wasn't changed from the original Japanese, and this can be a headache when you've just come from most other games. The PC version using the numpad was a pretty neat way of keeping things simple and my family actually got the overlay card the PC version came with laminated. I played on PC growing up and have to say it worked well, and you can redefine your controls in the PS1 version, which suits me just fine. The game plays just fine.

Another benefit comes in that it's very easy to move around environments because of them being pre-rendered 2D. There's no clunky steering controls, no fighting with a camera, and despite that sounding like a given, there are other games that mucked it up. The simplicity allows for more creative level design to be executed cleanly, so things can be hidden up ledges you climb or through a tunnel puzzle without it being obtuse, enabling and rewarding exploration.

Otherwise, it's a menu-based RPG, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's also nice you can customize not only the order of your items, but of your spells as well, allowing you to prioritize everything based on your play style.

Score: 7/10. I'm bumping it up a point because of the PS1's key define and the overlay from the PC version, respectively. So many games don't allow you to define your controls, and including a help card was something that Square and Eidos really wouldn't have been expected to do, but really helped me play as a kid. I hate to say it, but 6 is about as high as a standard JRPG control scheme can really get, since it's mostly menu-based. Otherwise, the minigames have sensible controls which I feel are worth another point for the PS1 version and the numpad was worth a 6 itself for PC. The action-oriented sequences work well and the controls do what they need to. So both versions walk away with a 7.

Length/Replayability:
Let me just say that FF7 is one of the many games I never actually finished for various reasons. I've lost my saves an embarrassing number of times over the years, but if you grind like I do, it's plenty long. I can proudly say I've maxed out the clock.

It's also one I don't mind starting over on when it happens. I mean I'd rather not, but every time I end up starting a new file, I end up finding something new. There's plenty of detail in the game to see that you probably missed at some point.

Score: 7/10. I can't really say there's replay value for any specific reason which would rate this higher, but it's definitely long enough and you're likely to find something new every time you play like I have. A bit of NPC dialog, or dating a different character, or taking the other path invading Shinra HQ, ranging from the obvious to the little touches. If the divergence your choices create didn't abruptly dry up after Disc 1, I'd happily rate this higher.


Gameplay average: 8/10. For me, it was the gameplay that really sold this game. The story is nice enough, but if it didn't have as good of gameplay as it does, it wouldn't have become the phenomenon it did.



Aesthetics:Edit

Design:
The game looks like nothing else in the series, and I think that's a good thing, because it represents a big break for Nomura and ultimately is what brought the series into 3D in a good way. Amano can be a good artist when he gives a shit, but his FF art is so phoned in compared to what he's capable of it's almost criminal, and his style naturally gravitates towards the magical rather than the mechanical. Nomura's more modern attitudes ultimately made the series what it is and cut out all the effort that went into trying to cram Amano's excessively detailed style into tiny sprites and just outright ignoring him half the time. Don't get me wrong, now that we have the polygons to throw at it, Amano's art would be possible to translate more directly and it would be gorgeous, but it would be so foreign to how the series has always looked that it really couldn't be an FF game. Nomura is just better capable of designing iconic characters in the first place, which relies on bolder shapes and recognizable features. I think giving this to Nomura was a good idea because he better understood limitations and was able to work within them to create a varied and interesting cast. It's also a big win in that Nomura designed both the party and the enemies. Nomura had been an enemy designer even while Amano was still designing the cast, and a look at the technical nature of their work shows Nomura is very big on shape and silhouette, while Amano's lines are a mess and his focus tends to be on color when it comes to his work on the series. The increased fidelity made shape much more important, and Nomura's care in that department as opposed to Amano's method of "good enough to give the idea" meant that Nomura did most of the work for the graphics artists and allowed them to focus on implementation.

The world is in a state of decay in places, which is not something the series had really done before, but I think the biggest accomplishment was that Red XIII and Cait Sith are the only animal party members to appear in a science fantasy setting, and Red works so well in it that he could easily have worked with minimal adjustments in FF8 and FF13 from an appearance standpoint, while Cait bridged the gap by introducing two series icons into the third dimension without being afraid to make major changes. Like have you LOOKED at that moogle? While FF6 is the only game prior to include the pom-pom, FF7 took it further by giving that thing tusks, and it lacks a nose, which appears on other moogles in-game. The thing is outright an abomination. Animal characters in the series tend to be fluffy and chubby and non-threatening, and even the Bangaa originally appeared much more friendly than they were redesigned for FF12. Red is different in that he's lean and might actually be threatening if you met him in a dark alley. I mean, I can't speak for that, because somewhere along the line I ended up losing any fear Nature intended of things like big cats, but I assume that a normal, sane person would probably brown their shorts a bit if faced with something like that. Cait himself is not threatening, but assuming you saw the moogle first, you probably wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of that, either. The only reason it's not terrifying is because it's always wearing a big, dumb smile. That sucker looks perfectly capable of stuffing you in its mouth and I played enough SkiFree as a kid to be wary of anything that fits that bill. Anyway, animal characters are very much a holdover from older games and are conspicuously absent from newer ones, so to marry the old with the new like that is pretty great, and I wish modern Square had more bravery in that department. Even with FF11, they've been downplaying, hiding, or even removing the more animalistic traits of their non-human races in official art and it reeks of them being afraid to have that stuff around because, I dunno, furries or something. Believe me, you're not going to dodge the furry bullet, because if it's not your catgirls and beastmen, it's your monsters. Furries are not that picky.

Otherwise, the game ranges from the rusted-out industrial ruins courtesy of Shinra to the verdant greens of untouched lands. There is no "perfect place" in the world where people live. Some of the places are pretty nice, such as the idyllic Mideel, but Mideel is an idyllic shanty town. The closest is really Kalm, whose only issue is the Zolem disrupting their mining. Wutai is a close second, since it's the only other one not in some form of disrepair, and even that is stated to be a shell of its former self. Costa del Sol doesn't count, because the only living space there is sitting empty unless YOU buy it. Otherwise, places are half destroyed, placed in environments which were irreparably fucked (Icicle Inn is in perpetual winter because of North Crater sucking up the lifestream to heal), or shanty towns with no bathrooms. Seriously, Cosmo Canyon has exactly zero toilets, 2 fridges, 5 beds, and 3 sinks, and Bugenhagen is the only one who has a real house and one of each, with the rest of the populace in shacks propped up in the air and Red living in a storage room connected to a bar and inn which itself has 1 sink, the mini-fridge, and only 2 beds with a couch set up as the third, and the other 2 beds are prison cots in the stores!

(*pant* *pant*)

And to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Planet is suffering and that's brought through by all the people more or less suffering with it. The only place in the world other than Kalm that might be cushy is the upper plate in Midgar, and you never get to see that. Anywhere that isn't half falling apart either physically or spiritually is a tourist trap or owned by Shinra, and anything that's owned by Shinra was built on top of someone else, whose home then gets flooded with the upper city's pollution and waste, or in Nibelheim's case was rebuilt on top of the ashes and staffed by actors. Kalm is the only place in the world that suffers none of that, and as such a sleepy little town, it ends up being more or less boring. You're more or less expected to head directly there, stock up on the shops, watch a flashback, and leave, and it wasn't until after the original Japanese version that there was any reason to go back (the Kalm Traveler was added for the North American release). Cosmo Canyon remains one of my favorite locations because of how badly the people actually live. This is the knowledge capital of the world when it comes to ecology and the people who live there or are visiting to learn are ostensibly pissing off a cliff and only washing their hands when they visit the mess hall since that's the only public sink. It's a place full of hippies living dirty lives without most modern amenities, including one of the elders not even having so much as a sleeping mat in his room. Nobody has their own space, and everything is doubled up. Despite being the only guy in a real house, Bugenhagen has a telescope and planetarium that he has no issue showing people and his home doubles as presentation space and probably a crash pad with the futon in the bedroom. The store owners live in their stores when there's any visible living space at all, though technically, the item store owner is the best off of anyone but Bugenhagen, since his actual living space is in a separate room. Red's own room is a mess of feathers and a metal bar haphazardly strewn on the floor and his blanket-bed is blackened, probably from everyone stepping all over it to get to the storage units, with the room lined by what are either filthy pillows or hopefully burlap bags in a state of minor disarray. It's a terrible place to live despite being so highly revered.

Score: 8-9/10. FF7 takes the steampunk feel of FF6 to its logical extreme and draws a stark contrast between nature and artiface, and the more nature there tends to be in a place, the worse it really is to live in by modern standards. It's a constant reminder of the exchange between comfort and the destruction of nature. The details of the world really did sell the game. I'm waffling on giving this a 9, so have a range on this. I really do think the design of the world is one of the things that ultimately put the whole series on the map, since prior to FF7, the series was very niche, and would have never gone mainstream with a traditional fantasy setting as present in earlier games or even the steampunk fantasy of FF6. FF7's mixing of the industrial with the natural gave the series a world that was at times familiar and at times foreign or even drastically alien. With the tech boom of the 90s, it was a wise decision to incorporate modern elements, as well as to warn what might come of it.

Visuals:
Let me just say that the visuals were never impressive. It's not that it hasn't aged well. That would imply it was ever considered pretty by the standards of the time. There were overall prettier games at the time including the Crash Bandicoot series which made better use of the graphics hardware, and even the pre-rendered cutscenes use blocky models. Despite this being one of the first games I ever owned for anything but DOS, which my brother and I begged my mother to buy us on PC, I was never impressed by the field graphics, and a good deal of my begging was highlighting how simple the graphics were so our underpowered machine at the time could still handle it. My first thought once we finally got it was that battle looked pretty good and I couldn't fathom why it wasn't like that all the time. Thinking in purely technical terms even today, I can't think of a good reason why the chibi models had to be used, because there's rarely more field models on screen sucking up polygons than the equivalent GPU burden of larger monster groups in battle or more complex single enemies. While field models wouldn't have needed the same level of detail as battle models, there's no adequate reason they had to be as crude as they are other than that they fit Square's comfort zone. The chibi style was chosen not because they couldn't have done them in more realistic proportions, but because they felt the larger heads would make them more expressive. You can see the logic extending straight out of how FF6 and Chrono Trigger were done, but the FF7 models don't emote in such a cartoonish manner that would benefit from it and the faces at most blink anyway and you're rarely close enough to see it, netting exactly nothing in expressive gains. For those who came off FF6, it would have been a natural progression, but that wasn't the reason behind it and Square admits they could have made better and consciously chose not to.

In addition, even in battle, many animations are stiff and lifeless. The summons suffer the brunt of this, but many enemies have limited animation as well, such as the Formula. This is a major reason why FF8 was visually impressive when it came out. The FF8 summons actually moved around and had life to them, where the effort wasn't put in for the FF7 ones and they have very basic movements for the most part, even as they produce complex magical effects. Don't believe me? Do a comparison on Shiva, Ifrit, Odin, Leviathan, and Bahamut between 7, 8, and 9. Their summon sequences are almost exactly the same respective length between the games (please note that our videos have differences in the lead-up and aftermath to account for), but in FF7, they spend a good deal of that time staying mostly still as particle effects fly around. Don't get me wrong, Odin is head and shoulders above the others in terms of dynamic camera angles and dynamic animation and I was pretty impressed as a kid, but even that gets put to shame in FF8 alone. I hope the remake keeps their original designs, since I frankly hate what they've done with Ifrit lately and there's nothing wrong with the FF7 designs. They're based on tried-and-true classics and there's strength in the simplicity. But at the same time, the animations are largely based on what used to be static sprites and I'd like to see a little more life go into them, even if they keep the spirit of the original animations. The summon animations were impressive at first when I first saw them with no reference point, but they quickly became boring for the most part, since aside from a couple which boast different camera angles like Shiva, you're watching the same stiff animations over and over with no variation. In contrast, once the FF8 sequences blew them out of the water, I found myself getting distracted from Boosting them even toward the end of the game because the sequences are an utter shame to waste focusing on a little icon in the bottom corner, and they kept me engaged for as long as I played.

This isn't to say it's all bad. The character animations are enough to keep battle interesting when combined with the many enemies throughout the game and many actions have special animations that further set the characters apart. The spell animations do a good job of keeping things dynamic and the drip-feed of new spells over the course of the game as you get new Materia and your old ones level up ensure you don't have opportunity to get bored of them the same way you do of your summons. Setting the camera to Dynamic is probably the best decision you can make to keep things interesting because it means every action has more ways to show itself happening than you can easily become bored with. Battle models also often have tiny details that show a level of effort that wouldn't have been required.

There's also nothing wrong with the environments either in battle or in the field. Battle environments take place in a relatively small box and the only thing that will ever show the edge is Choco/Mog. They did a great job of doing the walls like a matte painting and "open" environments look like they could go forever.

Score: 4/10. While battle deserves higher, the field screens where the story happens are bogged down by the decision to make it all chibi. Even some of the cinematics use the style and it reeks of laziness. Some of the most emotional scenes in the game are performed by tiny, low-poly actors that don't have the fidelity to emote properly in a realistic manner and aren't animated in the cartoonish manner of the sprites they were modeled after, making it sometimes difficult to tell what's going on with the in-between treatment without text cues, especially while you're trying to read the text and missing half of the motions since they often don't wait and only are mentioned after the fact. To make matters worse, the emotes are often too slow to be realistic in any manner and combined with the wide motions they end up losing most of their visual impact as everyone moves through molasses. This can make even key scenes ride completely on the music, and if the music weren't as good as it is, they'd have no weight at all. Worse yet, the minigames use even lower-poly models to the point things can become unrecognizable. 3D for the sake of 3D has never been a good argument, and if you can't do it properly, use sprites. It's not like the game doesn't rely heavily on 2D planes for the bulk of its spell effects as it is. The Fort Condor minigame in particular would have been much better off if they hadn't been set on using 3D models so rudimentary they struggle to even imply a humanoid shape. They look like placeholder graphics. Even with full-3D minigames, other games with the same and even previous release years looked miles better with similar things going on. Ultimately, the graphics mostly get the point across, so I won't give it lower than this, but the inexperience with 3D shows. I also have to say the limited resolution with the PC version is not doing it any favors. It's not Eidos' fault, but rather Square's for having destroyed the original assets, which could have been used to re-render the environments for the higher resolution.

Music:
To be honest, the music is among the stand-out OSTs of the series. Most of it isn't amazing, just taking home the bronze compared to what the rest of the series has to offer, which there's no shame in when the series is on its 15th entry of the numbered titles and countless spin-offs, spiritual successors, and retroactive inclusions at this point. However, it does deserve credit for doing things so differently. Most of the anthems that pervaded the series are gone or heavily modified. The battle music is the first ever to break away from the traditional bassline. The Chocobo Theme was turned into a surfer rock thing called "Electric de Chocobo" which is punctuated in the beat by chirping sounds and it's honestly my favorite rendition even today because of it. The music is quite varied as a whole and provides a great atmosphere regardless of the situation. In particular, variations of certain themes are used to express emotion and are quite effective in doing so. What isn't great on its own earns points for being so different from what came before or since. And personally, I was shocked when I went back and played the older games to see how much FF7 had broken the mold, because it wasn't until I'd started files on 4 of them that I realized ALL of them shared many of the same themes and leitmotifs.

Aside from that, the ingenuity used in creating some of the songs is astounding. The chirping in "Electric de Chocobo" is actually a guitar fret noise played at an unusally high pitch. How do I know this? Because I'm a MIDI composer myself and I'm familiar with the available sounds. Guitar Fret Noise and Breath Noise are both available at the head of the sound effects block for those who want to give their music a more organic feel. Square played this straight in their PS1 remake of FF1, but here it was used for a sound effect.

Score: 8/10. When you're judging as much music as this game has, you have to make some averages. As a whole, the music is very effective and there are an unusual number of fan-favorite tracks in the title. Part of that is the sheer volume of music in the game, but another part of it is there's so much variation that it's easy to find something you like and the wide range opened up genres that hadn't really been allowed before. The effect was lasting and some of the music in FFX sounds like it was ripped from FF7.

Voice and Other:
Being as old as it is, voice isn't really expected, though it is the first game of the series to feature voice acting. (FF5 is actually the first of the series to feature digitzed voice as a shout during one of the tracks.) However, it's not much to judge on, and doing so is hardly fair.

Otherwise, the sound is purely descriptive. Every spell or attack makes one and it's pretty much always some low-fi sample related to the action being performed, and while it's not always a real sound that the action would make, it generally implies it well enough that the creativity feels limited. The quality of the effects also just isn't that good. I was never wowed by it, even as a kid first playing.

That said, I do appreciate the fact that they added special sounds for critical hits, and while they range from awful to okay, it's something they wouldn't have had to do and it really highlights the fact that you're hitting harder than usual.

It's also neat from a technical standpoint that, at least in the PC version, there are certain sounds that were stored as uncompressed WAV format, including the recurring wind and heartbeat sound effects, so you know the devs somewhere along the line felt they were too important to skimp on.

Score: 5/10. I can't really give either version higher than this. Despite a couple nice touches and points of interest, the sound effects are just not that good. What they lack in quality, they make up for in quantity, but a lot of middling effects still deserves a middling score.


Aesthetics average: 6-7/10. The game wins some and loses some, but ultimately the things it got right were done well enough to prop up the things it didn't do as well.


Total Score: 8 + 3-5 + 7 + 10 + 7 + 7 + 8-9 + 4 + 8 + 5 = 67-70/100.

Recommendations:
96-100: A must-have for any collection.
90-95: An experience to gain new fans for the genre.
80-89: A must-have for fans of the genre.
70-79: Worth buying to check out.
60-69: Rent before buying.
50-59: Worth a rent, but not buying.
40-49: May gain a cult following.
30-39: Likely skip this one.
0-29: Avoid at all costs.

FF7 for PS1 is, well, an anomaly. With so much that people hadn't seen before in a game, as well as aggressive marketing and extensive word-of-mouth, the game had so much hype that people definitely overlooked its flaws. However, the PC version fixed the worst of the issues while also dealing with its own and ultimately is the better experience overall, though it doesn't exactly put the original to shame. However, FF7 is also over-hated, and while it's not winning the gold, it's a competent game for the most part. While it has several areas with lower scores, they're propped up by the things the game did well, including solid systems and a great OST that carried scenes the graphics couldn't.


N3DS XLEdit

I know it's become a meme of sorts to do the punctuation around both sides, but I'm too lazy to go copy it from someone else and I want to be more serious about this. To be honest, I think it does some things right and some things wrong, so let's get started.

First off, the entire outside perimeter has been rearranged. Volume has been moved up to the top screen opposite the 3D slider, which seems to be the only thing to have kept its spot. The stylus is now in the front instead of the side and is a centimeter shorter than everything that's come before. The game carts also go in the front left, and the headphone jack is in the front center. The front also houses the power button now, and if you thought it was hard to press on the face of the 3DS, you're in for a nasty surprise. Start and Select are now roughly where the power button used to be, putting it back in line with the DS, and the Home button has been reduced to a third of its size on the 3DS and taken away from the edge. The power cord now plugs into the dead center of the back and the lanyard holes have been changed to one on the back face from the 3DS' front corners. The IR port has been bumped a bit more toward the center of the back to make way for ZL and ZR, but remains on the same side. L and R have been reduced in width by a bit, too, but it's subtle and I had to compare side-by-side to confirm. The hardware switch to turn off wireless communication has been removed entirely. The cameras are unchanged.

The face has also been slightly adjusted. The left side is totally unchanged from the 3DS XL, but the right side has bigger face buttons and they've broken the tradition of arranging them in a perfect square diamond into one that's stretched a bit wider. The new analog stick is just kind of tossed above the upper left of this arrangement and there was so little room they actually had to create a divot in the hinge to make way for your thumb. It's very haphazard. It's also less a "stick" or and more a "nubbin." Those who remember laptops from the late 90s and early 2000s might remember this as what we affectionately called the "mouse nipple" placed dead center in the keyboards. It was a special time for both technology and slang.


As for how it feels in your hands, the answer is surprisingly familiar. The net result of all the rearranging brings it to a hybrid between the DS and 3DS and the volume being placed out of the way is a lifesaver. While it's slightly larger than the 3DS XL, it's also a bit lighter and everything is relatively easy to reach in terms of buttons, other than the power. ZL and ZR are placed in such a way that you can use your fingertips for them and the next part down your finger for L and R. It's basically the one feature I've been wishing the Vita had since forever.


As for how it plays, the new nubbin is surprisingly responsive without being touchy or jittery. It's perfect for camera input as evidenced by Final Fantasy Explorers (review to come once I play more). The rest feels more or less like you're right at home. The head tracking for the 3D is a great feature even if you need to set a constant distance to play at, but the auto-level backlight is a bit of a pain. It seems like playing at night with a ceiling light leaves your screen consistently too dim and I really wish you could manually set a level like on the DS instead. The new colors on the face buttons would be easy to read on a white background, but the unit I got is the same charcoal black as my DS and 3DS and the blue and green of the X and Y buttons are too dark to be easily read.

As for the software, it's a 3DS. I mean that in every sense. The whole package is a 3DS with a few more inputs, since the Circle Pad Pro failed so miserably. Sure, it has more under the hood, which helps with load times and such, but there's nothing that separates the actual software from what the 3DS has. It's the same system with the same OS, just a bit beefier. It's almost disappointing, because I was almost hoping it would be one of Nintendo's famous half-steps like the DSi, but it's not even that, or even a quarter-step. More like an eighth-step. The extra inputs are a nice touch, but it's nothing you absolutely need, unless you're like me and not having a dedicated camera stick makes action games essentially unplayable. I plan on using it interchangeably with my normal 3DS. And I guess at the end of the day there's nothing wrong with that.


Grandia updated early impressionsEdit

So I've played a little bit more and have a feel for the battle system and how things are handled in the field. Let me just say the base is there for the series, but again, it was tweaked to be better in later games. I wrote this a while ago and never posted it, but since I ended up putting it down to focus on FF7, I'm leaving it as-is.

The systems are most akin to Grandia II, with you walking or running about the field with monster groups represented by avatars in the field. It's 2 monsters to every 1 displayed in the field, which gives you a good idea of what to expect. Like in Grandia II, you initiate battle by making contact with the enemy. If one party gets the other from behind, they gain the battle advantage. The thing is the enemies are fast enough and aggro far enough out that it's difficult for you as the player to do that. As soon as you get within 10 feet of them, they almost automatically know you're there and bum rush you, lighting up with red to indicate their aggro. This means you can generally expect to break even and nothing more. I did discover that you CAN turn on the analog sticks, and let me tell you, this is a lifesaver. Why the Vita defaults to Digital Mode, I have no idea, but it definitely makes it easier, though far from trivial, to back-attack and even avoid enemies. I can admit when I'm wrong and I was wrong about the controls, and trust me, I'm glad for it.

I've also seen more of the graphics and I just have to say the Vita does not handle PS1 games well. Or at least not this one. There seems to be a special palette that combines primary red and yellow, and it's used on both your Gold symbol and the gold pieces and shading bright yellow with bright red just looks like crap, and outlining with it does things few favors, such as on the ring icon, which looks like it's half selected at all times, which is starting to bug me even more now. In fact, the use of bright red in general is pretty atrocious, because it's pretty much everywhere, being used to shade enemy ATB icons, the party, and 90% of all equipment icons. Even though they've done a great job of hiding it for the most part, primary red permeates this game and now that I noticed it, I can't unsee it. The thing is this is very much a Vita problem when it comes to it staring you in the face. For whatever reason it seems the Vita brightens the reds far more than they appear on a TV, which I actually adjusted based on the Vita, which I may have mentioned talking about the FFX|X-2 HD Remaster. Everything looks just fine on the TV, and I actually modified this to pull back now I know it's not really the game's fault.

Combat is unfortunately the game's fault and is a great way to get either a seizure or motion sick, because they went with a dynamic camera that's constantly zooming in and out and panning back and forth on what amounts to a 2D field, and as a result of the various rounding errors and lack of anti-aliasing, all the sprites in the field jitter around. I found myself getting motion sick, and I'm the type of guy who can read in a car for hours. I only really get motion sick on the more extreme carnival rides, and the first time that happened was in my late teen years, which absolutely sucked, because, well, would YOU want to develop the urge to hurl doing things you never had trouble with before? Don't get me wrong, it looks very 3D, but only because the ground tiles are painted that way, with certain 3D features around the edges for flavor. The environment is well-designed, but the sprite handling leaves something to be desired. Things generally aren't kept at 1x maginification, which turns some nice sprite work very ugly very quickly. This is all really the PS1's fault rather than the game's, since with a bit more smoothing, the entire effect would have been great, but the PS1 just did not have the power for that to happen.

On the other hand, the field and combat music are great. The field music has more of a jazzy feel than the rest of the series, but it's not a bad thing. The combat music is much more dramatic than that of the rest of the series, adding a lot more of a feeling of danger to the normal encounters, and sounds much more like a boss theme for the normal music and an even bigger boss theme for when you get surprised. It almost makes me wonder where the boss music can go from there, but there's still a little wiggle room left. It shows a clear base for the rock-based themes of the series, but at the same time is unlike them, even more so than the Latin stylings of the Grandia Xtreme battle theme, which is more upbeat to match the other PS2 games.

The 3D graphics are a much better showing than how the 2D was ultimately handled, and while things are still relatively simple, there is a lot of detail on things like the small tree/bush things that look a bit like a spruce, if you painted it yellow-green and pared out enough branches that you could see them all individually. I'm not sure what it's supposed to be (probably just a fantasy plant), but I like it. Actually, it kind of reminds me of the bushes in Pokémon X, so maybe it's based on a Japanese shrub of some sort. At any rate, I did find a floating banner in the field depicting a bird, and it looks great. All it does is give you a bird's eye view of the immediate area (like the "map" in towns), but it doesn't seem like anything has replaced the functionality on the Select button yet, so all it did was take away a feature I should be able to use freely and put it on an action point.

The combat system set the baseline for the series standard, using a ruler to track the various units on their ATB. You have the turn lead-up, battle pauses to select commands, then charging time and finally execution, with whatever cooldown there might be sitting at the end before starting over. The characters are able to finish battles pretty quickly without needing to use special abilities so far. It is, however, a lifesaver to have a Bow equipped, because it will help close the gap between you and the enemy quickly and ultimately reduce your attack time by cutting out running animations.

I also have to say it's kind of interesting that bugs were split into multiple types in this entry, because they're not in later ones. The centipede enemies use a scorpion icon I'd never seen in later games and I looked it up only to find it's a completely different classification of "long insect" as opposed to just the normal "insect" and additional research shows there seem to be a lot of classifications that were later merged into more fundamental groups. It's interesting and is sure to add flavor and maybe even a little additional clarity, but I'm not sure it was necessary and can see why it was streamlined, since none of the items or weapons make much particular use of it according to the lists I've seen, which in itself is probably for the best.

Despite my complaints, the game has started winning me over. While there are graphical issues, ultimately combat is pretty fun and shares the same tactics with the rest of the series, and even seems to have the benefit of decent pathfinding and step counts high enough that you can reasonably expect to make it to your mark, which are the bane of the later games, where two units can end up colliding and running side by side until both simply run out of steps and are too far away to reach anything useful, or can simply run out of steps in what looks for all the world like striking distance and just stop and do nothing. The stat setup is actually very different from the later games in general, and it's proving not to be a bad thing, even if it is slightly (only slightly) more complex. There's a fun game buried under the problems and while I'm still very limited by being in the early game, I think it's worth pursuing.


X Rocker Spider gaming chairEdit

I never thought I'd be reviewing a piece of furniture, but here we are. This will be updated as I'm able to experience it better, because to be frank, I'm pooped between handling this and putting my Syba sound card back in after my Creative card appears to have died. Here is a link to the product and store I got it from. At time of writing, this is a $270+ chair on sale for just over $170, and I got an extra 15% off for Cyber Monday, paying a bit under $150 for it.

To start this off, this thing is HEAVY. Whatever you're imagining by looking at the picture, double it. It's also a lot bigger than I expected. Mine came in just a couple days despite being 9 day economy and greeted me in the hall, where I tried to lift it and ended up having to treat it like a Zelda block-pushing puzzle to get it through my hall and into the kitchen for working space. From there I started taking pieces out to discover that while the chair itself is moderately heavy, it accounts for less than half the weight of the package. The arms alone are like 10 pounds. The base is probably 15, matching the chair itself. The 2 parts that connect the chair to the base are easily 20 when combined, being noticeably heavier than either the chair or the base. And the stops for the arms (they swivel) are at least 5 pounds together. The sum total including the cords and other junk is somewhere between 60 and 70 pounds added up, and cumbersome. So at least you know it's sturdy.

I have yet to fully assemble it, but as a standard rocking gaming chair, it leaves a bit to be desired. It's a rather stiff seat, but once you settle in, it's very comfy, and feels more "supportive" than "hard." The balance is way off, though, and where most gaming chairs allow you to remain upright fairly easily, this one is "neutrally buoyant." It's trivial to end up staring at the ceiling in this thing, and without a person sitting in it, it leans unusually far back. It also is too short even with the base to be more than a gaming chair. I bought this for my desk, but it looks like it will ultimately be shorter than the kitchen chair I have in place now, which in turn is a bit short for my fancy corner desk.

While I haven't assembled it yet, I have tested the sound, and it comes with a small Bluetooth broadcaster powered by 2 AAA batteries or a power cord (neither is included). This can broadcast on 3 different channels, allowing up to 3 of these things to be used independently, or probably up to 7 to enjoy the same experience within a stated 65-foot radius. You can daisy chain a wired connection between multiple seats as well, so you could probably fill a 21-row theater with these things if you wanted. The chair needs to be plugged into an outlet to work, but seeing as it replaces a 2.1 speaker system, that's not the worst thing in the world. In my case, through wiring that is an affront to God and man, I managed to hook it up to be my bass and rear speakers in my 7.1 setup. I'd post what I had to do to get my setup as it stands working, but I don't want sound engineers worldwide to keep me up with their maddened screaming, so suffice it to say the 2.1 sound balance appears to favor the bass on the left channel despite coming from the right side of the bass/center port, and the extra splitters and combiners provided miraculously were enough along with an extra one I had on hand. Putting it on the other channel puts the volumes of the 2.1 out of whack. Once I had that figured out, the sound was pretty darn clear from my testing with it outside my bedroom door using both RCA and Bluetooth, and there are dials for master volume, bass, and vibration on the side of the chair itself, as well as a headphone jack, which just seems like missing the point. Chair-to-chair chaining is done through RCA, with a cord provided for this purpose. Also provided is a cord to come from a headphone jack for handheld devices like the Vita or 3DS. The chair is advertised as being compatible with all PlayStation and Xbox models, but it's really only compatible with any device that uses RCA for sound or has a headphone jack, meaning the latest entries of the PS and Xbox rely on S/PDIF to interface in.

That's all I can say for now, and I'll be updating this over the course of the coming week as I get it assembled and get to use it at my apartment, since I need to clear some space around my desk before I can use it in my room. As a final thought until then, it's pretty neat that the seat itself folds in half for easier storage and transportation, but once it's on the stand, it strikes me that the space savings are less than the marketing material suggests. You save a lot of vertical space, but less on the horizontal. This also exposes the bass apparatus to all the dust that could possibly fall on and into it, so if you do need to put it away for an extended period, I recommend a sheet or some other cover.

UPDATE

So, I got this thing assembled and tested it out properly, with me sitting in it and playing with the dials as the intro for Phantasy Star Universe played last night and additional testing today. I have to say, it's a bit of a mixed bag.

To start off with the assembly, it was actually piss easy to get the thing together. Either I lucked out or the company listens to feedback and corrected the issues in their hole drilling. Or, enough people are stupid and don't read instructions (which are almost entirely pictorial) that they messed up the arm assemblies. Whatever the case, my assembly went without a hitch. I have an inclination to write my own (abridged) review on Hayneedle just to say that, because a large chunk of their reviews claim they had to send these back one or more times before they were able to put one together, and I was seriously worried, as it turns out, for nothing. The worst I ran into was a couple of the bolts were a little stiff to screw in, and even then, I started every last one of them by hand before switching to the Allen wrench. The setup itself is so easy that half of it didn't even require the instructions, and I used them more as a reference just to verify what I was doing was correct as I went on my merry way.

As for how the chair sits on its stand, I was surprised how upright it is when I finally flipped the seat up as the final step. Thankfully, it can rock back, which I recommend, since it's much more comfy than sitting like you have a pole up your ass. It's nice that the arm rests can flip back to free up some elbow room, and that when flipped down, they're well-padded and at the perfect height for elbow support when holding a controller. Somebody did their homework on this, and lots of it. It's also taller than I anticipated, at a comfortable height for my 5'10" self to lean back and still have at least one foot firmly planted on the ground, though to be fair, I have proportionally long limbs (long enough I can pull off FF7, not long enough for xxxHOLiC). Overall, it's about the height of a kitchen chair between the base and thick seat, and the back rest goes high enough that the pillowed head part actually reaches your head. In fact, I realized while sitting at my desk today that it's at the exact height I have my work chair set to, so this thing is practically made for me. The back gives it a lot of vertical space when free standing, and with how upright it is, folding it down saves no horizontal space whatsoever, though it does halve its vertical profile.

The sound and vibration controls are easy to reach from sitting and are pretty intuitive to use from opposite the side one normally faces. Using them feels very natural and the peg on the master volume dial is comfortable to use to lazily adjust the volume with precision. It's casual to the extent it's almost like twirling the phone cord around your finger like a woman in a commercial, and while phones with cords died out in the Great Cellular Meteor Strike years ago, I'm sure YouTube has something for anyone young enough to have not seen one.

They also did a magnificent job of hiding the speakers. The bass is obvious in the back because it has to be, but the left and right are embedded at the top and I honestly couldn't tell where they were without getting out of the seat and looking for them. Every part of the seat is squishy and pressing on it doesn't reveal the location of the shields I'm sure are protecting them by touch, though it does cave in the area above a tiny bit, and I regret doing it, because it seems to be permanent. I was able to readjust the foam to better re-hide the worse of the two sides. There's only so much you can do and still protect the speaker, so I recommend taking my word for it if you get your own to keep it pretty. Despite my stupidity, it's great workmanship that borders on magic, because despite being so well buried, the sound isn't muffled at all, and the speakers manage to direct the sound into the cups of your ears even in a comfortable slouch, which is a pretty neat trick for coming from behind.

As for the sound and vibration, the sound is just as good as I said before, with a caveat that you'll get occasional crackling if you shift around too much, which I have determined is from the power cord being a mite touchy, though how that works is beyond me. It may also be because I accidentally closed mine in the car door, but it works fine unless you bump the plug itself, so it may also be the socket. Either way, it's fine during normal operation sitting in front of a screen. It takes a little adjusting for the sound to be coming from behind you rather than from the TV, but after a minute, you can easily be lost in it. It's a perfect balance in that it isn't distracting for it to be in its intended 2.1 setup, but for my own personal use, I think it also will work great as back speakers with other sound sources to keep me oriented.

The vibration is another matter. I started with it cranked all the way up under the thought process of "How bad could it be? It's vibration!" I almost immediately turned it all the way down in a panic when it kicked in, though, because the fabric of my seat was literally flapping behind me. I have to write that down as a disappointment, because at no point is it actually a vibrating chair in the sense of a massage chair like I expected. You control a single motor, which I'd hazard is a big one, embedded in the foam of the seat. It's actually rather uncomfortable, and while it would be great for increasing tension in something like Skyrim or a dinosaur game as a giant beast approaches, it's terrible for music. This is compounded by it only being in the lumbar area, and I am not really a lumbar kind of guy. I like me some full-back action, and I prefer the upper back if given a choice.

Another disappointment is it only activates for low-range bass and even then only when it's loud enough, so listening to music is only going to give you vibration on half or less of a bass part, and the cutoff is quite sharp. Unless your preferred band is heavy on timpani, you're not going to get a lot out of it. This seems specifically geared to sound effects rather than music, which is fine for a gaming chair, I suppose, but utterly fails to live up to the marketing. Again, the effect is terrible for music. You actually get a pretty comfortable full-back vibration from the bass itself if you have it cranked, which is consistent with the music, where the motor seems to register almost randomly throughout even a bass-heavy piece like the PSU theme and is just distracting. I also tried Tomba! and barely got anything, while Chrono Cross registered consistently, but to tones low enough I couldn't even hear them, revealing some sort of background talking drum part all of my years of enjoying the game had never revealed without the cue and which was only partly audible regardless, AND which put it off the audible beat considerably, and I know my low-range hearing is at least human average. It was so strange I had to turn the game off. In contrast, since my Vita decided to download Curses N Chaos, which I apparently purchased and pushed at some point, I decided to try it blind to see how the chair would react, and the result was "not at all" for the chip music and "beautifully" for the gameplay, confirming my suspicions. However, testing other games shows that you're not going to get much out of a JRPG or even most PS1 games, since very few of them use sound effects that low. Even the Thunder Plains in FFX, where I happen to be, didn't budge the motor on max. In fact, of the PS1 classics I tested, the only one to touch the motor outside of the opening theme was Grandia, and then only in the dungeon music, which incorporates, you guessed it, timpani. There were a lot of sounds I expected to be low enough to kick the motor into gear that didn't, so I fully expect this to do better with newer games in general, since they tend to have more realistic effects. Again, I'd expect this to be great in something like Skyrim, but it's pretty much lost on the more colorful fare of my available catalog, especially since I forgot to pack my standard PS2 travel library this week (I'll have a lot of time to play PSU, which was in the PS2). The vibration from bass itself is strong enough to be pleasant and will do a lot to carry the experience even when the motor fails to activate, but is not strong enough to be therapeutic like a massage chair (though it can get close at the right frequency), and overall I recommend turning the vibration off for your tunes and classics and on for your modern games, since that's how you'll maximize the benefits of each.

To comment on the look, since I didn't before, the black vinyl and mesh combined with red mesh gives it an edgy look and I wouldn't trade it for any other highlight color. It somewhat evokes the image of a black widow when combined with the name, but beyond the color doesn't have the overtone and is reminiscent of an arcade chair of sorts. The arm rests are car-like in their ability to flip up, but look sporty because of their gun-like shape and ring architecture, which is heavy and solid despite being 50% empty space. I have to admit I spent a minute making "pew-pew" noises playing with them before I put them on and it was shamelessly satisfying. The design means business. This is something they'd put in front of a racing sim where the crashes produce explosions. In comparison, the round, tapered base is disappointingly banal, like they got everything set up for a floor chair and then someone in Accounting decided it needed to swivel just before it shipped and designed it himself. The color is a lightish matte black that doesn't quite match and doesn't really go well in any respect. It lacks the aggressive lines and looks like an oversized lamp stand the likes of which you'd see in a rich person's house in a soap opera, and is about as edgy. To make matters worse, it's basically attached directly to the rocking apparatus for an ugly, clunky, abrupt transition to the chair itself, with the generous post recessed almost to the floor within the center of the base. This makes it stable as anything, but is a poor finish to a great appearance, like a model wearing the perfect outfit except for mismatched argyle socks leading down to your grandma's shoes. The whole apparatus is short enough that it disappears beneath the seat when looking at it from any sort of height, but when you get low enough to actually view more than the outer edge, it just doesn't go. This is a case where a more aggressive "X" base would have really done the trick visually, though I'm sure the round base is much better equipped to handle the weight. Like I said, the chair is heavy, and with 90% of the weight teetering over the post, I doubt an "X" base would be able to hold it without doubling the weight a round base can get away with to reinforce it or being outright a solid block. On the other hand, looking down on it and seeing the edge of the round base is pleasant, where looking down and seeing a couple legs poking out looks a bit strange in my mind's eye. I suppose that with a truer black and a more angular shape with an edge before dropping to the floor, even if it were just a plastic cosmetic, would have done the side profile more favors than the gentle sweep does.

Overall, it's a worthy purchase at such a heavy discount, provided you want a good gaming chair for a good price. While it's not perfect, every aspect of it earns a passing grade. It's stylish, sturdy, sounds great, and when the vibration motor is given the raw materials it needs, it works beautifully as an immersive device, with the bass acting as a vibration fill for an effective hybrid approach.

UPDATE

So, this thing is finally back in my room, and I'm actually typing this from my desktop. This marks the first time I've actually been comfortable enough at my desk to sit down and type something like this.

A couple things I didn't note at my apartment:

  1. Sitting in this thing is cold
  2. The base does NOT come apart after it's together!

I noticed this in my apartment, but between the very flat faces of the chair and it being largely made of vinyl, this is not something you'll be comfy with in a cold room. I'm actually bundled up in my trusty cloak typing this since it's late and my metabolism is running down. That said, it's not a deal-breaker. It was uncomfortable enough it made me favor my bed a bit in my apartment, but once it's warmed up, it's fine for the most part. Although I do have to wonder how it will be in a hot, muggy summer if this coming year is anything like the year behind us. Basically, except for those parts of you in immediate contact with it, you're at the mercy of the temperature of the room, so if you'd be cold sitting on a kitchen chair, you will be cold in this, especially until your body heat warms up the vinyl, and even then vinyl doesn't conduct the heat far past the immediate source.

Otherwise, the base simply does not come apart after it's been sat on. Looking at the parts, what appeared to be innocent welds now seem to have clamped down on either side of the post, so to transport it back home, I had to unbolt the base from the chair, and found that they'd actually loosened up over the course of the week, which was less than encouraging.

Once in two pieces, the chair was no harder to transport than it had been in its component parts. Well, easier, technically, as a whole, but the chair part of the chair was no harder to transport with the arm assemblies than it had been without them.

That said, the bolts went back in the way they'd gone in in the first place and I got to do a "real" test of my sound. The verdict? My Syba card is a LOT quieter than the Creative was, but as for the chair itself, it's going to serve the exact purpose I bought it for, giving me reliable back speakers in a chair that I can sit in long enough to enjoy it.


Awards GivenEdit

Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon
Bluestarultor Rays
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon

Five Portal-Star Award

This shining blue text is to announce that Bluestarultor thinks Bluestarultor is a five-star editor. Bluestarultor's contributions to the wiki, and/or to Bluesey's efforts, deserve recognition and accolade.

Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon


Given to:

  • Sorceror Nobody - for being my go-to guy when looking at wiki code, amassing a horde of l'Cie, and being one of the few people I've come to really know and trust here in my relatively short time editing.
  • Drake Clawfang - for being my go-to staff person, doing more for the wiki daily than I could ever hope to, and being another of the few people I've come to know and trust in my short time here.
  • 8bit BlackMage - for helping for weeks on end with implementing some CSS for the wiki, agreeing to let me remove him from the bot's ignore list, and generally being a patient and understanding individual.


AchievementsEdit

Bluestarultor Rays

This shining blue text, from me to me, is to commemorate having introduced glow text to the wiki, which has found its way into signatures, logos, and even other people's awards. I'm pretty proud to have given everyone something they like and use!


Bluestarultor Orbs "HAPPY B-DAY!" This is commemorate the day of your birth. Not your Birthday? Too Bad! It's your early present!

Anyway, I only give these out to people who desevre it, by doing stuff. Stuff like: Being Awesome, helping me out, etc... Take this, Bluestarultor Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon BSA, and post it on your wall! We only print a few of these a year, ya know?

PS-For being epic coding win and (hopefully) making a valiant effort for a new irc bot.

Congrats!

-Made with love by Kupohunter, and his pal Gil


Ramuh (FFXI) Ramuh: My master would like you to have this...
My master, Clarent  (talk/ contribs), would like you to have this award, as you definitely deserve it because you had helped her so much on the wiki, with wiki markup and other stuff. If you want to talk to her for whatever reason, you are more than welcome to post on her talk page.


Ramuh (FFXI) Ramuh: My master would like you to have this...
My master, Clarent  (talk/ contribs), would like you to have this award, as you definitely deserve it because you had helped her so much on the wiki, with wiki markup and other stuff. If you want to talk to her for whatever reason, you are more than welcome to post on her talk page.

Yep! Got it twice!


lolcat.jpg "YOU HAZ WONE ONEZ INTERNETZ Congrats, you can have this lolcat and post it on your page. You have gotten it for...

Being amazing at coding/making cow

-Awarded by the epic guy known as Gil's Page - Colosseum - Master - Blog - Talk

You got this epic award at 18:56, June 7, 2011 (UTC), and now you are 5 (or I guess 4) away from 1up-ing SN's amount of internets. GOOD LUKZ!

lolcat.jpg "YOU HAZ WONE ONEZ INTERNETZ Congrats, you can have this lolcat and post it on your page. You have gotten it for...

For realizing that Cid is younger than Mr.T Barret

-Awarded by the epic guy known as Gil's Page - Colosseum - Master - Blog - Talk

You got this epic award at 18:56, June 7, 2011 (UTC), and now you are 4 away from 1up-ing SN's amount of internets. GOOD LUKZ!


Wiki CodeEdit

This is pretty much mostly for my own benefit so I don't lose them, but if you need to poke around to see how things work, feel free. I'll admit that I did to make them. ;)

Bluestarultor Rays
Brothers
Bluestarultor crystal
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon


User:Bluestarultor/BluestarultorSig - My normal signature (Bluestarultor Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon BSA)

User:Bluestarultor/FF13Sig - My Command Synergy Battle signature, most often used for arenas. (BluestarultorBSA  talk)

User:Bluestarultor/BotSig - Reserved for SacredMinotaur for breaking ties in user arenas. If you'd like to use it for yours, see here. (GFMinotaur and GFSacred, IRC Bots Brothers)

User:Bluestarultor/Sig - See below.

Yes, I used the sig1/sig2 trick. I have no idea if it actually provides any benefit combined with putting it as my custom signature (it automatically does it when I sign with four tildes). If you want help setting that, I can walk you through. Just ask on my talk page.


User:Bluestarultor/BSA Sticker

From a humble sticker to the navigation bar you see at the right. Feel free to poke around and try to figure it out. Just be aware it's a total mess of code. If you want your own, I might help you with it, depending on my time, energy level, and what you want with it. I reserve the right to decline, though, as I have other responsibilities.


User:Bluestarultor/Announcement
User:Bluestarultor/Announcements

Since people have already expressed interest in them, these are the boxes often floating at the bottom of my pages. The first one is the box, the second is the template where I place the boxes just for easier updating. If you'd like to use them, please, PLEASE leave a message on my regular talk page. If you leave it on either of the talk pages for the templates, I don't get notified, and silence on my part is not tacit approval. Those things are the result of tons of complex work and I'd like due credit.


User:Bluestarultor/Page Header - because I decided to expand the widths of my pages from Oasis' 660px and got sick of going through every page to change it as complaints poured in.


User:Bluestarultor/5-Star_Award - An award from me to the cut-above of the wiki. ;)


Notes to SelfEdit

Current Projects to Work OnEdit

  • Some potential ideas for other l'Cie's Eidolons:
    • in code (please do not look if l'Cie)

Things to Tinker Around WithEdit

  • Table coding as for an arena.
  • Possible matches if I ever get the time and don't feel like I'm hopping on the bandwagon (for the "Best-of Stellar Arena"):
    • Best Summon Siblings (Shiva Sisters (the motorcycle) v. Brothers (rock, paper, scissors))
    • (more to come)

Non-Wikia StuffEdit

ProjectsEdit

  • Java can handle MIDI directly, where Flash and C# need external libraries (C# can use WMP; Flash needs outside stuff).
  • For the most part, lack of alpha means Java's transparency issues aren't important. Battle still needs to go in C#.
BattleEdit
  • Flash has a deal-breaker. It can't handle MIDI. With all the music I have, that's a lot of increase in file size to convert it all to MP3. C# can at least use WMP and I'm already familiar with how to do that (XNA does not, in fact, support MIDI). Lucky for me, I saved everything. Back to C#. I'll just render the cutscenes from Flash into AVI and stick a media player behind the faceplate and screens. That should make for 3+ media players: 2 to ensure smooth looping of the music, 1 for video, and maybe 1 or more for sound effects if I can't make them all WAVs.
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