Sunday, August 24, 2008

This is odd.

This article is rather odd. It was posted on the Yahoo! Sports page six minutes ago, and talks about how the closing ceremonies were a success, and that the torch has been extinguished.

Except that the closing ceremonies are still going on (Jackie Chan just sang something), and the torch is still lit.

Japanese TV and the Olympic closing ceremonies

Okay, so the Beijing Olympics closing ceremonies are on, and the Japanese announcers WON'T SHUT UP.

The bit where the London 2012 crew did a cultural presentation was odd, but interesting. It started with a modern dance performance...representing a queue at a bus stop. They laid a zebra crossing down on the track and everything. A double-decker bus (marked "London--Beijing--London") pulled up, and everyone jostled to get on board...but they all fell to the track as a girl got off the bus.

She walked to the zebra crossing where she was presented a soccer ball (this will be relevant later), then a crossing guard walked her back to the bus -- on the backs of the people who were waiting in line. (?!)

Then the top of the bus opened up and out, and some famous British singer who I don't know popped up on a lift and sang some wordless song. This was followed by Jimmy Page on a scissor lift, and they swung into "Whole Lotta Love". And THIS is where I noticed that the Japanese announcers weren't shutting up.

There are a lot of moments of drama in a closing ceremony, and each one was ruined by the Japanese commentators over-explaining everything. I don't need to hear a brief history of Led Zeppelin, I just wanna hear Page and (singer's name here) do the song!

Anyway, after that, another scissor lift popped up with the aforementioned little girl standing next to David Beckham, who took the ball and kicked it into the crowd of athletes, while the modern dancers had all grabbed LED umbrellas (rains a lot in London, explain the NHK people) which lit up to show animated London 2012 logos.


They just showed a dance routine on a large climbing structure mid-field; the Chinese dancers were wearing body suits that were silver in back and red in front, so that as they twisted on the bars, they would create swirling patterns. As soon as it started, the NHK guys started shouting "OH AMAZING! THE UNIFORMS ARE RED IN FRONT! IT'S MAKING PATTERNS!"

I wonder if they're using the NHK radio feed for audio by accident?


Edited to add: Okay, it's gotten a little better. The announcers shut up for three whole minutes just now.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Shiny Foil Card

In that last wall 'o text post, I mentioned SHINY FOIL ENHANCED CARDS!!!. This is an example of one of them.
Lorelei (text added by me, of course)

She's the ultra-rare card for the Scale Guild (mostly sea creatures). The actual card art is cooler looking than this, but hey.

Lorelei (I'm not sure how to spell her name, actually) is a level five creature with fairly impressive stats, but I've found that she's not that great in actual game play. First, she takes 5 points to get out on the screen, and that's half your creature strength right there. Plus, when she gets killed, it takes a long time to get five points to be able to re-deploy her...

Still, if I wanted to sell the card, I could get around thirty bucks for it. Not bad for a three dollar investment.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And now for something completely different: An arcade game review

Last year, Square-Enix (of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest fame) tried their hand at making an arcade multi-player game. They partnered up with Taito (of Space Invaders fame) and came up with an interesting concept: A collectible card roleplaying game. They called the result 悠久の車輪〜Eternal Wheel.

The concept is pretty simple. You are a summoner, doing battle with another summoner on a small battleground. You place your characters onto the battlefield by laying out their character cards on the lower screen of the game console. The console scans the cards (I have only a vague idea how that works) and their position on the playscreen. Each card has a level from one to four, and you can only have up to 10 levels worth of cards on the playfield.

There are three varieties of characters: Keepers, Seekers, and Masters. Keepers are stronger than Seekers, and are mainly direct fighters. Seekers are stronger than Masters, and have high speed but lower attack stats. Masters are stronger than Keepers (yes, it's a "rock-paper-scissors" kind of thing) and specialize in distance attacks.

Aside from beating the crap out of your opponent's characters, you need to set up a zone of control on the playfield. Note the green area marked off on the minimap in the lower corner of the above screenshot. The bigger your ZOC, the stronger your grand summons ("Ambassador") is.

Angel of Healing Raphael

Your "Ambassadors" are basically your big guns, and calling on one takes a lot of power. Once you call one, it crosses the battlefield, basically ignoring the enemy creatures, and directly attacks your opponent. Your creatures can also damage your opponent, but not nearly as much.

Nemesia of the Western Meadow

There is a wide variety of characters, split into six clans, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Every time you play, you get a new character card, so the more you play the more strategies you can try. However, the game itself is rather expensive -- ¥500 for a starter pack of four cards, ¥300 for each game (continues are ¥200). Even though it's a fun and interesting game, I was going to stop playing after the first couple times. However, on my last play-through, I got a shiny foil-enhanced RARE card!!! Squee! so I put off the play stoppage for a while. (As it turns out, the rare card wasn't all that much stronger than some of my common cards...)

Knight of Hades Durahan

It's a fun game, easy to play, yet complex enough to offer a lot of variety of gameplay. Everything you need to know about your characters is printed on the card, and also self-evident from the playscreen (attack range, etc. show up as highlighted areas around your cards). Plus, there's a nifty screenshot button on the console that allows you to download game screens from the internet (note the player name on that first screenshot).

So, following the success of Eternal Wheel, Square-Enix decided to try their hand at designing a follow-up on their own (while still using Taito's hardware). The result, "Lord of Vermillion". . . kind of sucks. They took what I thought was best about Eternal Wheel -- the simplicity -- and removed it completely. Among other things, your characters have a very limited attack zone, and if they're facing the wrong direction (i.e. the card is turned the wrong way), they won't attack. Plus, there are several different attack options, including a "sacrifice" attack, which require you to micromanage your characters. Woe betide you if you hit the sacrifice button by mistake...

(No screenshot button on Lord of Vermillion, by the way.)

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Google Street View debuts in Japan

(No, that's not a Street View pic, of course.)

Well, it appears that Google Street View has come to Japan. Now you can find images of Japanese neighborhoods in Google Maps, including the candid shots of people doing things that they wouldn't be doing if they knew they were on film, just like Street View anywhere...

...and that may be a problem.

In a lengthy blog post (translated here), Japanese IT professional Osamu Higuchi points out:

The residential roads of Japan's urban areas are a part of people's living space, and it is impolite to photograph other people's living spaces.

This is because traditionally, Japan's residential areas have been very crowded, and it became the cultural norm to "not see" some of the things around you, such as clothes hanging out to dry, old men sitting around in their underwear trying to keep cool...

According to the morals of urban area residents in Japan, the assumption that “it is scenery [viewable] from public roads and therefore it must be public” is in fact incorrect. Quite the contrary, [these morals state that] “people walking along public roads must avert their glance from the living spaces right before their eyes”.

One wonders if Google will take this cultural difference into account and change their practices for Japan. After all, they haven't hesitated before trespassing into private property for better pictures in other countries...

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Gas price update for August

Regular gas prices surge as high as 196 yen per liter after wholesale price increase - Mainichi Daily News

Here in Tottori, it's ¥183 a liter. At today's exchange rates, that's about...$6.44 a gallon.

It's a GOOD thing that the really cool game center, which was underneath the nice movie theater, both of which are a good 40 minute drive away, is closed for remodeling.

Of course, when I say "remodeling," it's in the extreme Japanese sense of "knock down the entire building and put up a new one from scratch."

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