Milking Fantasy

Back in 1997, they released the game Final Fantasy VII on Playstation and on the PC. It was a very good game with depth and character, and its probably the best in the Final Fantasy series. Almost 10 years later (wow, such a long time ago) they released a sequel in form of a movie. Since I loved the game, I was compelled to buy the DVD, last Tuesday (April 25th). So I watched it, was blown away by the action scenes, and scratched my head at the ending.

The story is shallow, whatsoever, and doesn't present any transitions or developments from the video game. The origins of Kadaj and his brothers, the villains in the movie, were never given any depth because, as Vincent said, "You don't wanna know". The other characters from the video game also appeared from out of nowhere to battle Bahamut without any explaination of how they came. They're just there to revive the crumbling camaraderie with the fans of the series.

The art and animation of the movie, however, is stupendous. Cloud's new bike and sword is cool looking. The 3D version of Tifa never looked so good, but I would have liked her better if they eschewed, or just unzip, the leather vest so she could sport her lovely...tank tops. The fighthing scenes were astounding to watch. Although sometimes it gets too fast and intense that it raises my heart beat to the point I wanted to inject atropine on myself.

At this point, I don't know what to say about this movie. I hate the story, if there's one, but I love watching it and Tifa within it. But the whole DVD package is great. It includes game trailers, the making of the movie, and a story digest from the Final Fantasy VII game -great for those who haven't played the game.


First Impressions: Galactic Civilizations II

Three more weeks until I graduate! That's why I've been busy in the past few weeks -writing resumes, studying for the boards and the Illinois Constitution test, doing proficiency sheets, and preparing for my presentation. But now, that some of them are out of the picture, I need to unwind and got myself a game.

Dreamfall was the game that I wanted. Unfortunately, my current graphics card won't be able to run that game. Instead, I got Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords. I haven't played the first Galactic Civlizations because, for some reasons, I can't find a copy of it. But Dread Lords is very impressive and is similar to Civilizations series, the most celebrated turn-based strategy game. Except it's only sci-fi themed and has a couple of fun features.

Like Civilization, you always start out small and primitive. In Galactic Civilizations case, small and primitive is a colony ship that carries a tiny number of people and a scout ship that doesn't go to far. But as your civilization expands -through economics, research, or other methods, you will be able to upgrade or design your own ships that will be faster, powerful, and with longer range.

You'd be able to choose your own alignment. Sometimes, when your civilization grows bigger, or if you colonize a planet, a problem will arise -in a form of text question- and you will be asked to reach a decision. You have three options and each will change your alignment (Good, Neutral, and Evil). You can gain or lose something depending on your answers but I don't really know how it affects the game as a whole.

I find Galactic Civilizations II fun and addicting. Just like Civilizations, it gives you the "one more turn oh my god it's morning already" syndrome. I just hope I'd be able to steer clear from it since I need to study for the board and final exams.


Graphics Upgrade

I already missed The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion because my Radeon 9800 PRO died on me a month ago. But that's fine by me, I can miss Oblivion. But Dreamfall: The Longest Journey 2 is coming out next week and I found out that it demands the same high requirements as Oblivion. Knowing that I can't play Dreamfall because of my system makes me uneasy...and maybe a bit depressed. That's why this morning I tried to look for a mid-enda and mid-priced, AGP graphics card suitable for gaming.

Right now I had my eye on the Sapphire Radeon X1600 PRO. The price is right for an excellent graduation gift ($299, there goes my iPod). But I haven't throughly researched about it. Some of the benchmark testing seems to satisfy me but it was compared with other ATI cards, such as X700 and X1300, which are inferior. I have yet to see it on a benchmark test with nVidia cards such as the 6600 GT to fully convince me.


Neverwinter Nights 2 Site Launch

Finally, the official site of Neverwinter Nights 2 went live last March 28! The site offers a lot of information but nothing new to me, or to others who've been hounding the development of this game. Still, it's reassuring to learn that the information in the site displays consistency with the past interviews. Especially in regards with the new toolset. Also, the site launch hints that the game is near completion.


Of Mice and Ghosts

Here's some graphic novels that I've just recently read.


Kwaidan, which translates to ghosts in English, is set in 14th century Japan. A faceless orphan and a blind painter are both being used by a ghostly samurai and princess to fulfill their own destiny. Some people would say that the story is complex, but I'd say the it's poorly translated or really muddy. The story just left me too many questions after reading it. The artwork is amazing though, and -as a japanese graphic novel- it steers clear from the "standard" manga art style.

Maus: My Father Bleed's

Maus is one of the best and important graphic novel I've read so far. It's both a comic book and a memoir about the most horrific man-made tragedy. Art Spiegelman, a comic illustrator that resides in New York, tells the tale of his father -about surviving the holocaust. It is very realistic and personal since it is told on the account of one person and his struggle to survive. The graphic novel also showcases the effects on the survivors and their family to this date. I'd suggest this comic to people who loved The Diary of Anne Frank or The Pianist.


First Impressions: Call of Cthulhu

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, I've been waiting for this game for almost an eternity but they finally released it, and I have a copy installed in my PC.

Since the development of Call of Cthulhu started sometime in 2003, the game engine -which is a tweaked Morrowind engine- is quite old. So don't expect any Oblivion-like graphics in here. But to me, or to any person who doesn't really care about graphics, the visuals of the game is quite decent.

The 1920's setting is very atmospheric, and perfect for a dark mystery game. Even from the start, the game made my hair on the back of my neck and shoulders raise like needles. I don't know if it was out of excitement or horror, or maybe both. But this game is pretty scary even in its simplicity.

The "Sanity" system lives up to the hype, and really affects you -as the player. Screens will blur everytime your character gets scared, and the intensity of the blur will increase depending on the magnitude your character's fear. I don't know if there are other ways to combat the bluriness or your fear except there are drugs -like morphine- to help you cope with the horrors that you see.

All in all, I'm loving the game. The problem is, other than my hectic schedule, I usually don't or can't finish horror games. I haven't finished Doom 3 and F.E.A.R. because I thought they were to intense. I just hope I'll have enough courage to finish Call of Cthulhu, and write a review of it.


The Book Table

I've already found two good book stores (Borders and Barbara's) near my train station. I didn't know there was a third one, The Book Table. The store does not carry a lot of book selections but it offers enough. What's special about The Book Table is that all books here are sold at discounted prices. From used to new, at least everything is sold at 50% off. I'm also delighted to know that they also carry graphic novels, and so I bought two for myself: Maus and Kwaidan. I'm currently reading these books and will post a short review of them shortly.