Sunday, January 30, 2011

Duck Comics: "Having a Panic" (plus, bonus Ludwig von Drake discussion!)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Duck Comics: 'Stories'

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fuck the Steelers and all of their works

I just can't bring myself to not hate a team on which the starting quarterback is a serial rapist. I dunno; I guess rape just bothers me more than it does most people. What can I say?

Yeah, okay, that was a dickish--and extremely passive-aggressive!--thing to say, but wow. Wow wow wow, do I ever hate that Röthlissburger motherfucker. Look, professional sports is what it is and you could almost certainly find awful people on any team you can name, but having as your most important player this obnoxious, grotesquely over-entitled fratboy who--in case you somehow forgot--rapes women--that's just above and beyond, especially for a team that constantly gets lauded for its "integrity." Sorry, guys, but you either have integrity or you don't, and if you're capable of selectively turning it on and off depending on whether it helps you win super bowls, it's pretty clear that you don't (note also that the Roonies are apologists for domestic violence).

Meh. I am so fucking disgusted right now.

UPDATE: But seriously, now, imagine if the Steelers had actually gotten rid of Harrison and Rawthlisburgrr when they revealed themselves to be the kind of people they are. I'd've been all like, holy SHIT, you totally went with principle regardless of the consequences! There's no denying it: you've got a metric fuckton of integrity! I admire the hell out of you and will root for you in all non-Eagles situations. Would've been genuinely inspiring. But noooooo...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Every rose has its thorn.

And sometimes the thorn turns on the rose and fucking stabs it and almost ruins it, even though it's otherwise a totally sweet-ass rose.

What I'm trying to say is, Parks and Recreation is back tonight. It's a likable and hysterically funny show and the two new characters that they introduced at the end of last season are a great addition to the cast which ought to help to make this third season the best yet and I so badly want to love but the show unconditionally, but it has a massive, gaping flaw, and it's impossible for me to understand how nobody involved in the show recognizes this: it's the recurring "joke" about how everybody holds the totally-inoffensive Jerry in utter contempt and barely even recognizes that he's a human being. A lot of people on the AVClub think this is funny, due to what I can only imagine are serious personality defects of some sort, but for normal people, it really damages the show. They seemed to be feinting at addressing the problem in the episode last season where Jerry lies about having been mugged in order to avoid his coworkers' abusive mockery and Mark points out that this might be indicative of deeper problems with this dynamic, but that seems to have gone out the window. At the beginning of the first episode of this new season, Leslie hurls a painting Jerry's working on into a lake. I mean, what the hell, Parks and Recreation writers? I was so stunned that I wasn't able to laugh at anything 'til after the first commercial break. Leslie's supposed to be a likable character--and she is, generally. But then, you have these bizarre lapses into sociopathy from her and pretty much everyone else on the show. Goddamnit. This would be, like, my fourth favorite TV show ever (The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad) if not for this crap, but you are forcing me to feel highly ambivalent about my love, and I hate that. Grrr!

Flogging Molly, "Don't Shut 'em Down" (2011)

So Flogging Molly has a new single from their upcoming album. You can download it for free from their website. Woo. However, while I hate to be overly negative (or do I?--see how I created suspense there?), I have to say, "Don't Shut 'em Down" is pretty awful.

I'm a big fan of Molly's first three studio albums, and in particular the first one, Swagger. I recommend them unreservedly. Their fourth, Float, I never particularly got into. It was always just too monotonously heavy for me. It had its moments, though, and the first single, of the same name, was a pretty darn good song.

But this first single; my lord. I suppose it's kind of catchy in a sing-songy sort of way, but it's basically just limp. Very little energy. The lyrics attempt to be vaguely topical, about our poor economic conditions and general contemporary badness. It's not as risible as the Tossers' political opuses, but it's still pretty bad, with insights that don't get any more penetrating or poetic than "lately the twenty-first century's been crazy/It's a sign of the times." All delivered with very little noticeable passion or emotion of any kind. I think it's instructive to compare it to "Life in a Tenement Square" from Swagger--that song also laments economic decay, but with real feeling. It rocks, and the melancholy is intensely palpable. The fact that the lyrics don't suck helps, too. The contrast puts the new song's shortcomings in stark relief.

Anyway, let's hope this song is just an egregious but momentary lapse of taste, 'cause otherwise the album is just gonna be gruesome.

Duck Comics: "Anti-Dollarosis"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sword of Kalin (1987)

What to do while laid up with an intense, energy-sapping cold over the Martin Luther King, jr Day weekend? How 'bout Sword of Kalin, a 1987 RPG released by Square (under the DOG label) for the Famicom Disk System? Given the release date, it's no surprise that it's a fairly simple game, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of polish that went into it. It's worth the time of anyone looking for an undemanding yet entertaining little ride.

In this game, you control a knight-type-guy who has to do evil-defeating-type stuff. You start at a castle; you enter it and talk to the stationary guards and the like to get various simple quests. Then, venture out and wander the countryside seeking to fulfill these quests and obtain various magical items, visiting a handful of tiny towns (three houses, generally, though one of them has only one) along the way. Eventually, you'll find an item that lets you visit a dark-world-type place, where you go through caves to find a few more items and then venture into the final level. Then, you win. There's very little specific direction as to where you should go when, lending a small bit of non-linearity to the game; necessary actions are sometimes a bit obscure, but I don't think there's ever a situation in which you are given no indication of what to do next.

The game IS a little grind-y in parts--though I made it more hard on myself than necessary by the time-honored strategy of not bothering to figure out exactly how various items work.* This is okay, though, because the battles are actually quite good. You see monster sprites wandering around the map (yes! No random battles!); come into contact with them to enter a battle screen, in which you will face a randomly-selected number of the monster in question. There's no attack button; you crash head-first into them to damage them (with a satisfying THWACK sound), as in the well-loved Ys and the somewhat-less-well-loved Hydlide. There's a good bit of strategy involved here; you can burn through weak enemies easily, but when facing stronger ones, even if you're theoretically plenty strong enough to take them on, you can easily find yourself overwhelmed and killed if a bunch of them are able to gang up on you at once. This can sometimes actually feel a little cheap, but this is substantially ameliorated by the presence of a quick-save option that allows you to, well, quick-save; dying will just boot you back to the last point at which you've done this. You can't do it in dungeons, however, which can make them a bit (agreeably) hairy. Special mention must be given to the monster designs; even though they're only tiny sprites, the same size as your character, they're very well-designed, and very distinctive. It's easy to tell what sort of things they are, and there are a lot of them; you'll constantly be meeting new ones throughout the game (and no palette swaps!), ranging from standard fantasy-type monsters to Lovecraftian horrors. It's not something you'd tend to think about in a game of this type and vintage, but the bestiary really contributes a lot to the game.

*Protip #1: you can use the amulet to warp out of dungeons in the dark world, rather than having to fight back through all the monsters again; Protip #2: the white idol lets you heal yourself.

So does the ending, of which I will say nothing beyond noting that it's surprisingly good--I mean, really surprisingly--for such an old and primitive game. It just underlines how much work went into the whole enterprise. It may be old and obscure, but it's far from hackwork, and it's still extremely playable today--certainly more so than the first Dragon Warrior or Phantasy Star.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Duck Comics: "September Scrimmage" celebrate the Eagles' sadly-predictable failure. I might also note that I've done a few posts there that I didn't note here (because they weren't connected to a single comic), if you're interested.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Gabrielle Giffords

Nothing too profound to say about this horrific tragedy. It's pretty obvious that this act of violence is almost certainly directly correlated with the pervasive violent rhetoric on the right, but things are still pretty hazy, I suppose.

Let me just say this: hey--you--teabagging candidates burbling about "second-amendment solutions"--this is what a "second-amendment solution" looks like. A whole bunch of people dead and injured for no goddamn reason; with no earthly political accomplishment resulting. And you teabaggers hauling assault rifles to town hall meetings cuz hur hur raght ta bear arms hyuk hyuk hyuk--this--and nothing else--is what you're feinting at. Fear and pain and blood and death. You own this. If you refuse to repudiate this kind of rhetoric with such an immediate object lesson of what it means staring you in the face...well, you're a pretty monstrous individual. But unless you're in favor of today's events, I don't see how you have any other choice.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

My Official Completed RPGs List

Sometimes I ask myself: how have I wasted my life? And the answer comes back: well, ONE way is by playing a whole goddamn LOT of RPGs. Another way is by making long, pointless lists, it would appear. Well, my RPG intake is much less lately, but out of curiosity, I wanted to try to figure out where I stand. Obviously, I'm defining "RPG" here as loosely as I WANNA define it, 'cause it's my list an' I can do what I want. This ought to be complete, but I'm probably missing something. If I think of anything else or beat or almost-beat (naturally, what constitutes "almost-beating" is another pure value judgment) anything else, I will update.

Mario and Luigi IV
Paper Mario Sticker Star


COMMENTS: Yup. I beat Cadash. Probably as the ninja, because how do you not choose the ninja? It was fun. That is all.

Doom RPG
Orcs and Elves II
Wolfenstein RPG

COMMENTS: There's a Doom RPG II now, but I dunno--these things are super-fun at first, but they DO lose some of their charm after the fourth one (counting the DS port of the first Orcs and Elves)

UPDATE: Okay, I DID beat Doom II RPG after all.  In bits and spurts.

Grandia II
Skies of Arcadia

Seventh Cross Evolution

COMMENTS: Man, that Evolution game is kind of weird and cool, but then it got too hard.

Final Fantasy Adventure
Final Fantasy Legend
Final Fantasy Legend II
Final Fantasy Legend III
Gargoyle's Quest
Great Greed
Knight Quest
Link's Awakening
Lufia GBC
Oracle of Ages
Oracle of Seasons
Rolan's Curse II
Sword of Hope
Sword of Hope II
Ultima: Runes of Virtue
Ultima: Runes of Virtue II

Legend of the River King

COMMENTS: The reason there are no Pokemon games on this list is because Pokemon is, objectively speaking, stunningly boring, and all the millions of people who like it are in the grip of some inexplicable brain disorder. I got stuck in what might have been the last dungeon in Shantae and convinced myself that I might have done something to irreparably fuck myself over, though this was probably not true. Mysterium is this cool, weird game with alchemy, but there's no save or password or ANYTHING, and I was all set to win but then the system froze up and I lost the goldurned alchemy charts and that was that.

Wind Waker
Paper Mario 2

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

COMMENTS: Man, we got just about to the end in FFCC, but apparently we hadn't been doing the thing you need to do to upgrade your equipment, so the second form of the boss--which might not even have been the LAST boss, in retrospect--was literally impossible to beat. And now we can never play it again because the set-up is a bitch and who knows if we could find the proper cables or dig out the necessary GBAs. GOD FORBID a DS work instead.

Game Gear
Crystal Warriors
Defenders of Oasis
Phantasy Star Gaiden
Shining Force: Sword of Hajya

Ax Battler
Sylvan Tale

COMMENTS: Am I the only person in the world to have finished that GG Phantasy Star game? Sad to say, it's super-lame. Crystal Warriors rocks, though! Ax Battler is every bit as blatant a rip-off of Gargoyle's Quest as Golden Ax Warrior is of the first Zelda. The last level is SO HARD.

Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire II
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Final Fantasy II (remix)
Final Fantasy IV Advance
Final Fantasy V Advance
Golden Sun
A Link to the Past
Lufia GBA
Mario and Luigi
Megaman Battle Network
Megaman Battle Network II
Megaman Battle Network III
Megaman Battle Network IV
Megaman Battle Network VI
Minish Cap
Mother 3
Shining Soul

Golden Sun II
Sword of Mana

COMMENTS: Lufia GBA is the worst RPG I've ever played to completion, hands down. That was what first got me thinking: ya know, you aren't REQUIRED to play games through if they suck. By contrast, Mother 3 is the BEST RPG I've ever played, to completion or otherwise. Yup, the GBA BoF's are really the same as the SNES versions (except for new portraits and--hurrah--a run function), but I beat them anyway, 'cause I love them. I should get double credit for the GBA Link to the Past, because I played through the multiplayer Four Swords, which is short but FUN AS HELL, plus playing it unlocks a cool bonus dungeon in the regular game. PROTIP: only the first three Megaman Battles Network are worth playing. IV is especially not-worth-playing. If you ARE going to play V, though, I highly recommend the DS version instead of the GBA--it includes both variations, and more importantly, the extra screen is used for a map, which you will find is hugely convenient.

Beggar Prince
Beyond Oasis
Crusader of Centy
Monster World IV
Phantasy Star II
Phantasy Star IV
Shining Force

King Colossus
Phantasy Star III
Sword of Vermillion
Wonder Boy in Monster World

COMMENTS: Phantasy Star III is just BORING; what can I say? Monster World IV, on the other hand, is under-known and awesome and you should play it. Actually, I probably didn't really "almost" beat Sword of Vermillion, but fuck me, it's SO LONG AND TEDIOUS, and it's all SO IDENTICAL that it sure FELT like I might as well have.

Geneforge II
Might & Magic
Might & Magic II
Might & Magic III
Starflight II

Cave Story

COMMENT: Cave Story is so good; there's just no excuse for me not having beaten it by now. There are two more Geneforges, but honestly, two were enough. Also, the fantasticness of Starflight II cannot be overstated.

Away: Shuffle Dungeon
Castevania: Dawn of Sorrow
Casltevania: Order of Ecclesia
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
Chrono Trigger DS
Dragon Quest IV
Dragon Quest V
Dragon Quest VI
Dragon Quest IX
Dragon Quest Rocket Slime
Etrian Odyssey
Mario and Luigi II
Mario and Luigi III
Megaman Battle Network IV
Orcs and Elves
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon

Shiren the Wanderer

COMMENTS: Okay, so I did play ONE Pokemon game, but that's just because it's a Mystery Dungeon. Better than any other Pokemon; worse than any other Mystery Dungeon, mainly because, unlike other MD games, which are hard, it's super-easy, so as to appeal to the brain-dead Pokemon-fan demographic. Whee!

Majora's Mask
Ocarina of Time
Paper Mario

Ogre Battle 64

COMMENTS: Fuckin' N64--how does it work?

100 World Story
Battle of Olympus
Destiny of an Emperor
Dragon Warrior
Dragon Warrior II
Dragon Warrior III
Dragon Warrior IV
Dragoon X Omega
Dragoon X Omega II
Dream Master
Earthbound Zero
Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy II
Final Fantasy III
Gargoyle's Quest II
Glory of Herakles II
Hydlide Special
Just Breed
Legend of Zelda
Silva Saga
Spiritual Warfare
Startropics II: Zoda's Revenge
Sugoro's Quest
Sword of Kalin

Adventures of Link
Chaos World
Destiny of an Emperor II
Rainbow Silkroad
Swords and Serpents

COMMENTS: Damn straight I beat the unlicensed Christian Zelda knockoff. I converted hordes of unbelievers by hurling fruit at them! Epic times indeed. But it just told me, well, see for yourself:

Not cool, Wisdom Tree. Playing all the way through your ludicrous game should get me into Heaven for free. The Dragoon X Omega games are "just" romhacks, the former of Dragon Warrior and the latter of Final Fantasy, but they're really utterly different games--completely new graphics, maps, stories, items, enemies, everything. Super-impressive. Try them, and you will see. 100 World Story is easy to "beat," if by "beat" you just mean "play through a single game," so maybe it shouldn't count, but I've played through it in multiplayer dozens and dozens of times, so I'm including it. Startropics II is fucking impossible.

Baldur's Gate+Tales of the Sword Coast
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn+Throne of Bhaal
Breath of Death VII
Cthulhu Saves the World
Dink Smallwood
Icewind Dale+Heart of Winter+Trials of the Luremaster
Might & Magic IV
Might & Magic V
Might & Magic VI
Might & Magic VII
Might & Magic VIII
Super Daryl Deluxe

Planescape: Torment

Fallout II

COMMENTS: Alas, Fallout II and M&MVI were victims of computer meltdowns. There's no excuse for that Planescape game, though. It wasn't, and it's awesome.

UPDATE: Totally beat Planescape. I rule.

UPDATE AGAIN: I beat M&MVI! Vindication!

Arc the Lad
Arc the Lad II
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain
Brave Fencer Musashi
Breath of Fire III
Breath of Fire IV
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Chocobo's Dungeon II
Chrono Cross
Dragon Warrior VII
Final Fantasy (Origins)
Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy Tactics
Legend of Mana
Lunar II
Saga Frontier II
Suikoden II
Tactics Ogre
Threads of Fate
Vandal Hearts
Wild ARMs

Beyond the Beyond
Monster Hunter
Saga Frontier

COMMENTS: Woulda beaten Beyond the Beyond, but got frustrated by pitfall cave near the very end. Woulda beaten Saga Frontier if not for that stupid fucking maddening boss where you have to do a certain number of combos (I DID beat five of the seven characters' quests). Woulda beaten Persona if the horrifically tedious gameplay hadn't overwhelmed the neat-o atmosphere. Have no excuse for having beaten fucking Xenogears and motherfucking Hoshigami, or "Oh, shit! 'Gami!" as I prefer to call it. Legacy of Kain is the most morally reprehensible game I've ever played all the way through! Whee! Impressive voice acting, though!

Dark Cloud
Dragon Quest VIII
Final Fantasy X
Suikoden III
Suikoden V


COMMENTS: I was kind of amazed to find I'd beaten so few PS2 games. And I don't even particularly LIKE FFX or SuikoV. I totally played all the way through the pointless bonus dungeon in Dark Cloud, though. I should get extra credit for that, I think. I should go back to Okami, because Okami is awesome.

Panzer Dragoon Saga

COMMENTS: Yup--got a Saturn JUST TO PLAY a copy of PDS that I got preowned, discs only, for fifty dollars, because everyone spoke of the game in hushed tones. And you know what? They were SO right. A stunning game. It's a travesty that this has never been rereleased in more accessible form anywhere.

Golden Ax Warrior
Phantasy Star

COMMENTS: Hurrah for beating obscure-ass games like Golvellius! Boo for the original Phantasy Star having dated so badly that it's virtually unplayable if you're not running on pure nostalgia! Which I wasn't! But I beat it anyway! Because I'm insane! Actually, I felt like I was morally obligated to beat it before I was allowed to play PSII. Did not run into that problem with III and IV, however. Because IV's a fantastic game for the ages, but man, if you have to play through III first to get there, it might not be worth it.

7th Saga
Ancient Magic
Bahamut Lagoon
Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire II
Chrono Trigger
Dragon Quest (remix)
Dragon Quest V
Dragon View
EVO: Search for Eden
Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy V
Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
Gulliver Boy
Gunman's Proof
Holy Umbrella
Illusion of Gaia
Link to the Past
Live A Live
Lufia II
Madou Monogatari
Magic Knights Rayearth
Mario RPG
Metal Max Returns
Mystic Ark
Paladin Quest
Romancing Saga III
Secret of Evermore
Secret of Mana
Seiken Densetsu III
Shiren the Wanderer
Tales of Phantasia
Taloon's Great Adventure
Treasure of the Rudras
Treasure Hunter G
Wanderers from Ys
Ys 5

Big Sky Trooper
Dragon Quest III (remix)
Dragon Quest VI
Harvest Moon
Ogre Battle
Sailor Moon
Tecmo's Secret of the Stars
Wonder Project J

COMMENTS: Man, I've played the living hell out of MAD SNES games, including ones I'm sort of embarrassed about like Magic Knights Rayearth and Sailor Moon and…okay, I guess those are the only two, really. Have you played Big Sky Trooper? You have to fight off alien slugs by opening fast food franchises. It has this sort of Fisher-Price-ish aesthetic that may turn off the gender-insecure but which I think is really cool. It's weird and fun and HOLY SHIT does it get impossibly hard.


COMMENTS: Hey, look, I beat this Zelda knockoff!


Super Paper Mario


218 beaten
44 Almost

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Duck Comics: "Secret Resolutions"