First of all, I’m happy to announce that I am now a member of the team of writers over at Norwich Retro Gaming! My first post was a small piece on a new Pokemon typing game for the Nintendo DS, but I’ll be doing a weekly feature about all the great games that are out there that no one’s ever heard of! (ok, I’ve heard of them, but more people should be playing them!) You can check out my Pokemon typing post here.
Now, this post has really been a long time coming, that’s for sure. I’ve been involved in discussions on forums debating the pros and cons of the Final Fantasy series, what defines the series, all of that. Because Final Fantasy is so dear to my heart as the series that got me into gaming, I’m going tell you all what I think about the franchise, what makes the games good, and why I can’t bring myself to finish Final Fantasy XIII.
I’ll have to begin with a disclaimer–I have only played Final Fantasy VII through XIII. Though I have seen VI played and dabbled in the DS port of IV, I feel that I don’t have the authority to really talk about the older installments in the series. This may turn some people off, claiming that I’m not a “true” Final Fantasy fan, but I don’t think how many games you’ve played or which is your favorite has any basis in whether or not you can call yourself a fan of the series (mine’s IX, if you were wondering, but that’s for another post).
Cloud from FFVII
Final Fantasy is undeniably the most popular Japanese RPG (role playing game) series worldwide. While Dragon Quest may have more notoriety back in its home country, it’s Final Fantasy (hereafter referred to as FF) that sells consoles and makes the news. Most gamers have probably played at least one Final Fantasy game, or know enough about the franchise to recognize iconic names such as “Cloud” or “chocobo.” Final Fantasy VII marked a revolution in the series and was the first game to utilize full 3D graphics in its cutscenes, and is still regarded as one of the best by many fans. It was this game, in fact, that turned me on to the series and opened my eyes to the world of gaming.
So what makes these games different from other Japanese RPGs? First, I have to talk about the graphics. From FFVII on, Final Fantasy games set the bar for high-quality game graphics, with each new installment looking prettier than the last. FFX was the first game to feature fully-rendered lip movements on its characters, and XIII went even further to introduce lifelike eye movements to the world of gaming. The environments are detailed and immersive, and both Yoshitaka Amano and Tetsuya Nomura’s art direction has created some unique and memorable characters over the years.
One of the most well-remembered cutscenes from FFVIII
Though for the most part each FF game is in separate world with new characters and story from other installments, each title can be linked to one another through familiar enemies, items, and even characters. Chocobos and moogles are perhaps the most iconic recurring creatures in the series. In practically every FF game there is a character named Cid, as well (though this doesn’t mean the Cids have anything to do with one another). The battle system may be revamped and tweaked, but generally there are core elements, such as magic and summoning, that remain very similar. I could go on and on, but for the purposes of this article I’m going to have to stop here.
An illustration by Yoshitaka Amano of Zidane and Dagger from FFIX (source)
So, you’re probably still wondering why I haven’t played much of FFXII if I’m such a self-proclaimed Final Fantasy lover. Well, the first thing that struck me about FFXII was the lack of towns. I actually never realized how much I loved exploring and talking to NPCs until Square Enix decided to eliminate that element altogether. Sure, there are cutscenes and dialogue, but when the player is in control it is a constant hack-and-slash fest until the end of the area and the next cutscene. Then it’s just rinse and repeat until about 20 hours into the game where it finally opens up and provides you with an area to explore, complete with a few sidequests (this is what I’ve heard, I never even got this far). I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the time or interest to invest 20 hours into a game before it lets me do any exploring. I could talk about my relative distaste for the characters in XIII, or even how I’m not sold on the fast-paced “can’t-believe-it’s-not-real-time” battles, but it’s really the lack of exploration that made me put the game down for good.
FFXII is undeniably pretty, but does it have substance?
Where is the series going from here? I think it’s clear from Square Enix’s public statements that they’re taking hints from popular Western RPGs and trying to tweak their image into something that just doesn’t match up with the Final Fantasy so close to my heart. They’re moving away from open-ended exploration to fast-paced linearity, and while FFXIII was received with mixed reviews, it clearly garnered them enough sales to do a direct sequel–something that has only happened one other time in Final Fantasy history. With all of their various spin-offs (think FFVII: Crisis Core for the PSP, FFXII: Revenant Wings for the DS, and many others), Final Fantasy is becoming a big franchise that is trying to cater to more and more different kinds of gamers–but is it at the cost of their existing fanbase? If anyone else shares my opinion, then I’d say yes.
But enough about me–what do you think? Loved FFXIII and think I’m full of it? Have a soft spot for FFIII? Let me know in the comments!
Today was the Queensland leg of the AU Pokemon Battle Competitions, so Shaun and I made the trek via public transport (a tiring endeavor, indeed) to the Chermside EB Games so we could catch a glimpse of the action! I originally had big hopes to participate myself, but though my love for Pokemon knows no bounds, I don’t think I’m cut out for competitive battling. I have too great a fondness for all of the immeasurably cute yet virtually ineffective Pokemon to stand any chance of making it past the first round. Still, I had fun watching the battles and StreetPassing with the other 3DS owners in attendance. Jamie, the friendly announcer, was even kind enough to do a shout-out about StreetPass Brisbane’s first meetup on the 14th!
The competition was fierce at EB Games Chermside
When I first heard that there was going to be an official Pokemon competition nearby, I thought for sure I would want to compete, so I began doing some research on what strategies/Pokemon were the most effective. I won’t go into much detail seeing as most of my readers aren’t big Pokemon fans (and those who are probably know more than me already, anyway), but needless to say, it’s a lot more complicated than one might think! Though we didn’t stay too long, I noticed an abundance of Jellicant, Amoonguss, Haxorus, Chandelure, Conkeldurr, Reuniclus, Gigalith, Thundurus, Tornadus, and Whimsicott. That may seem like a lot, but with the amount of people competing, you did start to see a lot of the same strategies (from what I’ve read of the coverage of other cities’ competitions, they’ve all seen many of the same Pokemon). I’m surprised I didn’t see any Excadrill, actually, and would’ve liked to have seen at least one Stunfisk.
It as fun to watch the battles up on the big screen!
One of the best things about having so many Pokemon fans together in one place was the fact that there were so many 3DS’s to StreetPass with! In the hour or so we were there over the course of the day, I got close to 25 StreetPass hits. I also had the chance to promote StreetPass Brisbane, and as I mentioned before, Jamie even made an announcement over the mic for me after I summoned up all my courage to go up and ask him. I met a few people from a forum I frequent and chatted with a guy who organizes Pokemon tournaments in Brisbane who seemed interested, so I hope to see some of them at our meet next weekend.
All in all, it was a very fun event, though it was a shame they held it in such a small store, as there was no space to move around and the room got very hot extremely quick. I hope to attend more events like these in the future, and maybe someday I’ll even compete, too!
Just a quick update today–I’m currently finding myself swamped with translations I need to finish and my internet has been finicky all day.
I was really depressed when I broke one of my favorite cups while cleaning a while back… It had traveled with me from Japan to America and then all the way here to Australia. That’s 5 years of traveling the world together! I remember I got it as an impulse buy for 300 yen (about $3) because it said “coffee milk crazy” on it and gave really bad English instructions on how to make an iced coffee. I’ve been looking for a replacement cup ever since its untimely demise.
I actually found this cup a couple of weekends ago while Shaun and I were perusing one of our favorite vintage shops. I think we’d even seen it in a previous visit, but hadn’t really given it much notice… I have no idea why! I absolutely LOVE this cup. And it was only $1! The design is so kitschy, honestly. I think Shaun’s jealous of it, though, so we’re going to have to find one equally kitschy for him in the near future. Not gonna argue with that, but I’m telling you, it’ll take a lot to contend with this one:
I wish I could’ve gotten a slightly better shot of the white design. It honestly looks like something you’d see on a Grecain Urn. And the red horse and buggies circling around the top? Ahaha, I love it!
MOS Burger certainly isn’t lacking in great design!
The minute I heard a MOS Burger had recently opened in the nearby town of Sunnybank, I knew Shaun and I would have to make a trip there as soon as possible. MOS Burger is none other than the single most popular hamburger chain in Japan after McDonald’s, with its own unique twist on the traditional burger and lots of famous items on their menu you can’t get anywhere else. They’re most famous for their teriyaki chicken burger, which I honestly hadn’t tried before this Saturday. Other notable items on their menu include a selection of rice-bun burgers, where the usual bread bun is replaced by two onigiri-like rice patties. According to the Japanese MOS Burger website, they have over 200 stores outside of Japan (all located in Asia), but the one in Sunnybank is the first in Australia. For those of you not from the area, Sunnybank is well-known as being a mecca for Asian things, so in many ways it makes sense that they chose to open a shop there rather than in the Brisbane CBD.
Though there were numerous other delicious eateries I frequented while I was living in Japan, I have many fond memories of the MOS burger near my host family’s house in Nishinomiya. Since they were open late (later than the local McDonald’s, I might add), I would often hang out there with friends after having a couple drinks at a nearby bar, or, since my house was only 5 minutes away, meet up with girl friends for a late-night chat over an order of fries. One of my first memories with my now husband was at a MOS Burger, even! I had the special, Osaka-only takoyaki (breaded octopus) burger and took many pictures similar to the ones I’m sharing with you now.
Enjoying my yakiniku rice burger. The rice buns are pretty tasty!
So, out of nostalgia’s sake, my husband and I made the 45 minute trek out to Sunnybank on Saturday. What was supposed to be a 45 minute journey actually ended up taking close to 3 hours, due to some train closures and my inaccurate directions, but we made it there all the same.
Since the shop only opened at the end of March, the line has the tendency to get rather long. Had we arrived at lunchtime, I assume it would’ve been a longer wait, but since we got so lost and only arrived sometime after 2, that wasn’t too much of a problem. We still had to queue up, but we probably only waited about 15-20 minutes, though the ladies at the counter taking orders did seem rather slow. I was psyched to get a curry croquette burger, but is was nowhere to be found on the menu. I’m sure they probably opted to go for a limited selection of the usual Japanese menu to start, and unfortunately for me the croquette burgers didn’t make the cut. We were also disappointed to find that melon soda was nowhere to be found, and had been replaced with more popular Aussie alternatives. I ended up going for the rice yakiniku burger set with a Sprite, and Shaun ordered the teriyaki chicken burger set and a matcha latte. The total was a little over $20, and my set was about $8.50, if I recall correctly.
Fries that came with our burger sets. Love the logo on the bags and the serving baskets.
All in all, the experience was very much like one that you would having going to MOS Burger in Japan, with a few minor cultural differences. I thought it was cute that they also reused some of the original Japanese banners, though the painted wall designs were different from any I’d ever seen in a Japanese MOS Burger. The writing on the walls actually clued me in to the answer to one of my often-pondered questions: What exactly does “MOS Burger” mean, anyway? Well, folks, apparently the MOS stand for Mountain, Ocean, and Sun. There you have it!
Adorable paper placemats warn you not to take your burger out of the bun to avoid spilling the special sauce everywhere
I’d definitely recommend anyone that has the chance to go pay the Sunnybank MOS Burger a visit, even if you’ve never been to one in Japan before. Nay, especially if you haven’t been to one in Japan before! MOS Burger should be experienced at least once by anyone that likes a good burger. It’s a little more expensive than your usual fast food fare, but all their food is made with fresh, local ingredients, and is quite a bit tastier, too. They even have a few soups and salads on the menu, though I have yet to try them. I really hope they are well-received and consider expanding to the rest of Australia in the near future!
No, I’m not having relations with another man… I’m talking about a certain big-headed blue alien of recent movie fame! Why doesn’t anyone seem to care about Megamind? I’m going to say it right now, loud and clear: Megamind is the best animated film I’ve seen in a long time! Rango? Meh. Despicable Me? Saw that yesterday. Eh. Toy Story 3? Cute, made me cry… But no. How to Train Your Dragon? Good, but it just can’t hold its own when compared to Megamind. Granted, I have yet to see Tangled, which everyone is raving about, but somehow I doubt I will be able to say I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed Megamind.
So what’s so good about Megamind, you ask? First and foremost, beyond anything else, Megamind is hilarious. My husband and I went to see it in theaters for my birthday back in December and were oh-so-pleasantly surprised by what a funny film it was. Just the other day we popped a rental copy in the DVD player and found, to our glee, that it was just as funny, if not more so, than the first time we watched it.
After much thought and deliberation about what makes the humor in Megamind stand out from other similar films (Despicable Me, I’m looking at you), I’ve come to the realization that Megamind is a lot more adult, and I dare say, sophisticated, than many other recent animated films. There’s very little slapstick comedy–instead, the humor is largely dialogue-based, and the script is brilliantly written. The comedic voice actors such as Will Ferrell and Tina Fey really went wild with it, and it shows.
This brings me to my next point: Megamind has great characters. I think almost everyone who likes Megamind would agree that you don’t watch it so much for the story, you watch it for the characters. Will Ferrell is a genius as Megamind, and I don’t even like Will Ferrell. He and his minion, referred to as, well, Minion, have some great interactions that are just hilarious to watch. Brad Pit does a perfect satire of the classic superhero as Metro Man, the hero Megamind is always at odds with. And let’s not forget Titan–the true villain of the story, whose awkward, stalker-like behavior towards the Lois Lane-inspired female lead is at times both gut-wrenchingly funny and cringe worthy. His character is the first to make me feel genuinely creeped-out by an animated villain in a long, long time.
If there’s so much going for Megamind, why don’t we see more people raving about it? This is a question that plagues myself, my husband, and many other fans of the film. Granted, the film did pretty well in the box office and for its DVD release, but it still feels under-appreciated. The first reason could be chalked up to poor marketing. I, perhaps fortunately, only ever saw the teaser trailer, and not the full trailer, for the film. From what I’ve heard in cyberspace, subsequent trailers basically give away a main plot point of the film, leaving little up to the viewer’s imagination before they actually go see the movie.
Megamind seems to be plagued from start to finish with bad advertising decisions, as even with the DVD release we can see major discrepancies in the representation of the film from just the DVD cover alone. First and most notably, Megamind doesn’t have a goatee anywhere on the cover. Come to think of it, in almost all of the promotional material he appears sans goatee. In the film, he clearly has one. This may seem like a cosmetic mishap, but I think it appropriately illustrates the lack of attention that was spent on advertising the film. Not only that, the Minion on the back cover of the DVD is shown carrying a bazooka, something that also never appears in the film. What gives?
Perhaps Megamind just wasn’t released at the right time. At first glance, it appears to have many similarities with Despicable Me, which seems to have done much better in the box office. Maybe it was too smart for its own good. While advertised as a relatively average kids’ film, Megamind has a sensibility that I’m sure many adults would appreciate, but perhaps alienates some of the younger viewers.
If anything, I urge anyone who enjoys a good superhero film to rush to your video store and rent Megamind as soon as you can. It puts a great spin on the traditional superhero flick, in more ways than one. And to anyone else who enjoys a good laugh–I can’t guarantee you’ll love the sense of humor Megamind brings to the table, but if you like Will Ferrell, I see no reason why you won’t be charmed by Megamind’s character, even if he is an animated blue alien.
Have you seen Megamind? Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments! And if, after reading this, you’ve been inspired to check it out for yourself, please let me know what you think! Thanks for reading!
Scone, favorite cup full of tea, and a Japanese text to translate! What’s not to love?
Do you love scones? I know I sure do! One thing I love about Australia is that they sure appreciate a good scone and tea around here. This picture is a little old, but I never managed to post it. I found a nice recipe for British-style scones on a lovely food blog here.
In the proper Easter spirit, Shaun requested chocolate scones this morning. “Chocolate scones? Blasphemy!” I thought, but actually they were quite good! And even though we were virtually out of butter, they still tasted quite nice. I use regular milk rather than buttermilk as well, and I find I like them just as much as any buttermilk scone I’ve ever had.
For all of my international readers, tomorrow is Anzac Day here in AU, which is much like Memorial Day in the US (I believe; I admit I don’t know too much about Anzac Day history). Shaun and I will be attending the parade in the Brisbane CBD, and you bet I’ll have my 3DS on sleep mode to see if I can collect any StreetPass hits!
Some feedback on my previous 3DS impressions post has led me to believe that perhaps I came off as a little too harsh… To clarify, though I am still not entirely impressed with the 3DS’s launch lineup, I am very content with the capabilities of the system on the whole, and am excited for numerous games on the horizon such as BlazBlue Continuum Shift II (NA release May 31) and Legend of Zelda: Ocarena of Time in June. I’ve even gotten a little more play out of Nintendogs + Cats, and I have to admit that it is quite cute. It’s always exciting to find, after having the system in my purse on sleep mode all day, that I’ve encountered another 3DS user and exchanged puppy pictures with them.
Official image illustrating how StreetPass works
Which leads me into the meat of this post, where I’d like to talk a little more about the nifty StreetPass function of the 3DS. While considered a “useless” addition to some, I was intrigued by the idea of the StreetPass from the moment it was announced. Not only can you randomly exchange Mii data with other 3DS owners as you pass them innocuously on the street to fill your Mii Plaza, but you can send and receive game-specific information that allows you to trade items, battle, and more, depending on the game. Of course, the inherent problem with all of this is that you actually have to encounter other people who own a 3DS, have it with them, and have it in sleep mode, for the data exchange to occur. Some have criticized this function as being useful in an extremely densely populated nation as Japan, but not as much so in larger countries such as the US and Australia, where you might be one of a handful of people in your town to even own a 3DS.
With StreetPass Network, that problem has been solved. Gamers from all around the world have started creating their own grassroots StreetPass groups using the page function on Facebook, and they are all cataloged by the man behind the first StreetPass group to gain fame, Joshua Lynsen. Who said gamers weren’t social? If you have a 3DS, or even just a DS, you can go to the network website, find your city, and there’s a good chance a group has been made. If not, why not create your own?
In the Mii Plaza, you can view all the different Mii’s you’ve encountered! (source)
That’s what I did! Introducing StreetPass Brisbane, the first and only StreetPass group for Brisbane, Australia! Excited about meeting and trading data with other 3DS owners, I searched the StreetPass Network’s website for a local group for me… Only to find that the closest one was in the Gold Coast. The kind owner of the Gold Coast StreetPass page suggested I create my own for Brisbane, and the rest is history. Don’t mind that right now I’m the only one who “likes” it…
I contacted Joshua at the StreetPass Network and inquired about getting StreetPass Brisbane listed, and within an hour it was up on the site! His website is really much more informative than I could ever hope to be, so I really encourage you all to go check it out! I’m hoping that through some networking, StreetPass Brisbane will be able to grow and succeed like so many of the other groups around the world already have.
Besides joining a StreetPass group in your area, Gamertell has a nice article to help you get started with StreetPass, and hopefully exchange some data with other 3DS users.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that StreetPass Brisbane will be successful enough to do an actual meetup sometime soon! And I hope this post has helped anyone who is looking for more information on how to get involved with StreetPass. Let me know in the comments!