Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Savage Dragon Quest Apocalypse

If you asked me to pick my favorite JRPG series, it would have to be a tie between Lunar and Dragon Quest. But since no one made a good Lunar game in a while, I'll talk about Dragon Quest. It's one of the few RPGs that retained a that classic feel, even after many tweaks and modernizations from other RPGs, including its rival, the Final Fantasy series.

Actually Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy have a very entwined history together. Final Fantasy ranks first as Square Enix's most popular game, which Dragon Quest is a close second (Dragon Quest has a bigger following in Japan than in the US), however, Dragon Quest came first and, it can be said, that Final Fantasy rose to came to be because of its former competitor.

In 1982, Enix sponsored a national contest for aspiring video game programmers. The winners of this contest would form the core of the Dragon Quest team, headed by Yuji Horii. The prize for winning was a trip to an Apple convention in San Fransisco, where Yuji discovered the Wizardry series. Being inspired by this and the Ultima games, Yuji decided to work on an RPG of his own. Other talent joined, such as composer Koichi Sugiyama and manga-ka Akira Toriyama (of Dragon Ball fame), who did the character designs. Dragon Quest skyrocketed when it was released. Japan found a new obsession and Yuji Horii became the father of japanese RPGs.

Another game company, Square, was facing bankruptcy, due to poor sales. Hironobu Sakaguchi, a programmer at Square, decided to put the company's future on an all-or-nothing gambit. Inspired by fantasy games, most notably, Dragon Quest, Sakaguchi made his own fantasy epic. He named it Final Fantasy, which some people attribute to it being Square's last chance at a success while others to the fact that Sakaguchi planned to retire after making it (so much for that). Seeing how Dragon Quest used a great composer and character designer, Sakaguchi would do the same, employing composer Nobuo Uematsu and artist Yoshitaka Amano, both masters of their respective arts. The rest is history, but only in Japan did it become so apparent that Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy were like twin brothers, fighting an evenly matched battle for supremacy in the gaming market.

When it was brought to the States, Enix changed the name to Dragon Warrior, due to a trademark conflict with an obscure tabletop RPG of the same name. It did well, but really didn't hit off the RPG kick in America like Final Fantasy did.

By the turn of the millenium, both Square and Enix took huge financial blows - Enix for long delays in their game releases, and Square for the box-office nad-shot resulting from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. The two companies expressed interest in a merger and, in 2003, the two companies became SqEnix, um, Square Enix. Because of this, the rivalry between the companies flagship RPGs changed. In fact, after the merger, the company brought Dragon Quest back to American audiences. The two series have coexisted since, with Final Fantasy being more of an avant garde RPG for the kind of person who thought life before Sephiroth sucked (whatever) and Dragon Quest for the RPG aficionados who like to go back to their roots (and probably played at least one tabletop RPG not made by White Wolf).

Anyway, back to Dragon Quest. It is still classic, after all these years. Just like Final Fantasy, it's seen its offshoots. Dragon Quest Monsters, Rocket Slime, Dragon Quest Swords, Torneko's Mysterious Dungeon (starring one of the characters in Dragon Quest IV), etc. But it's the core games that really keep to a lot of the formulas they used back in the '80s, which is good. Personally, I'm an old school kind of guy. I own all of the NES games, even Dragon Quest Monsters 2 for Game Boy, and I just picked up Dragon Quest IV for the DS. Dragon Quest proves the old addage, "If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it."

Well, that's it. I'm gonna go back to playing IV before bed.

Kaiser out

(Update: For those of you who regularly come to check out this post for your own faptastic reasons, I have some news for you.  Basically, I use StatCounter to track which posts are being viewed and how much traffic I get.  Which post is the most popular on my site?  You guessed it - Dragon Quest for Pervs.

Not anymore.  You see, most of the people who come check out the naked boobies never really go any further into my blog.  They don't check out Random Weirdness, or Games You Should Know About..., or my Savage Worlds RPG reviews. I've been constantly updating this site to keep fresh content and a steady stream of awesomeness delivered to you, but if all you do is look at a post I made several months ago, then what the fuck's the point?

So, instead of looking at the plethora of individuals who are here for nothing more than abusing the pink bishop, I decided to take down the pictures I had up here.  If you have actually taken the time to check out the rest of my blog, accept the Kaiser's appreciation and sincerest wishes that you enjoy my blog and come back often.  If you're just here to see what Jessica from Dragon Quest VIII looked like naked, there's a whole wide internet out there.  Find that shit elsewhere.

The Kaiser has spoken.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Metal Moment Follow-up

Ever since I posted the inaugural Metal Moment last night, I've been thinking about one of the other projects Dio was in, Rainbow. Formed by Ritchie Blackmore after the frustration of having the rug pulled out from under him in Deep Purple, He decided to work with a band that Deep Purple had toured with before. That band was Elf, a bluesy rock outfit fronted by Dio at the time. Blackmore kicked the guitarist out of Elf, and set himself up as replacement, changing their name to Rainbow. After the release of their first album, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, which was best known for the song, "Man on the Silver Mountain," Blackmore fired everyone from the band except for Dio. Blackmore got replacements and started the band anew with the album, Rising, which accelerated the band to new heights with Blackmore's expertly laid guitars and Dio's powerful voice over mystical sword-and-sorcery lyrics. I actually dug up Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, their next album, from my collection. It's an awesome album, but there's a schism etched into it. About this point, Blackmore wanted to do more "commercial" rock, which Dio thought was retarded. So half the songs, like "Lady of the Lake" and the kick ass "Gates of Babylon" still have Dio's influence in them while other songs, like "L.A. Connection" and "Sensitive to Light" have a more radio friendly (and weaker, in my opinion) sound to them that Blackmore wanted. Of course, this would be Dio's last album with the band, as he quit and then got asked by Tony Iommi to join Black Sabbath after they fired Ozzy. Rainbow would continue with more albums, with more personell changes. Despite making some good songs, the band didn't have the same power that they had with Dio. Despite some of the "weaker" songs, LLRnR is still a solid album because the songs that Dio influenced are just that good. One thing about this album made me laugh my ass off. Long Live Rock 'n' Roll has a gatefold sleeve, featuring a picture of a crowd going crazy at a concert, holding up a banner that read "Long Live Rock 'N' Roll." According to Wikipedia, that photo was actually taken from a Rush concert (my all time favorite band) and you can tell the wording on the banner was doctored. The original wording was probably something like, "The Holy Trinity of Rock," or "Neil Peart is God Incarnate," or something like that. I just thought that was fucking hilarious. So there you go. These albums are proof that Dio is more than just some Ozzy wannabe. Kaiser out

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kaiser's Metal Moment - Black Sabbath's Dehumanizer

Here we go with another new segment. I've been putting more of a focus on video games recently, which isn't bad, but I don't want to neglect the other awesome things featured here, such as metal. So, every so often, I'm gonna showcase some of my favorite metal bands and albums. This is Kaiser's Metal Moment. If you remember a few weeks back, I mentioned that Heaven and Hell (the new name for Black Sabbath Mk II, fronted by Ronnie James Dio) released a new album, The Devil You Know. when I picked up the new album, I also grabbed Dehumanizer, which I've realized is my favorite Sabbath album (I'm gonna be controversial here, but I prefer the Dio years over Ozzy).Dio once said that this was Sabbath's most underrated album and, quite possibly, one of the most underrated albums ever made. Though it was better received than the albums released between it and Dio's last romp with Sabbath, Mob Rules, it still was largely ignored in the wake of the grunge movement of the '90s. This is, quite possibly, the darkest, heaviest of Sabbath's albums. The highlights of this album start with "Computer God," which, with the album cover, paints a dystopia that combines the Apocalypse with The Terminator. "After All (The Dead)" is a dark musing of the afterlife, with Vinnie Appice pounding a death march as Iommi and Butler lay down a stygian riff that grabs you by the legs and drags you six feet under. "TV Crimes" is a scathing romp about televangelist scams preying on the spritually deficient. "Master of Insanity," the only song penned by Geezer Butler alone (Dio had his hand in the writing of the rest of the album's lyrics), hearkens back to the songs of madness that permeated Sabbath albums of yore. The remastered CD contains two versions of "Time Machine." The extra version was taken from the re-recording for the Wayne's World soundtrack, which I find is the superior version, due to a more polished sound and much tighter and cohesive lyrics than the studio version. Then again I did grow up with the Wayne's World soundtrack, so I may be a bit biased about that. My favorite song on the album is simply called "I," a selfish and egotistical song that kicks all kinds of ass (I even consider it my personal theme song). It was said to be an album rife with difficulty, as Dio and Iommi struggled against each other on song writing, as well as Dio flat out refusing to have Sabbath open for Ozzy on his first "farewell" tour, due to their feuding. The band went their separate ways after the tour for the album with Dio and Appice going back to Dio's eponymous group. We know what happened after that. Despite the struggle that arose from the album, it is a great Sabbath album. If you area fan of Sabbath Mk II, or if you'd just like a really good metal album, Dehumanizer is a great recommendation. (This post was made, up to this point, with the utmost restraint, because reading all the dumbasses on the forums who think that think that Dio's a joke and Ozzy's the fucking king of metal makes me want to pull these guys' heads out of their asses. Dio is a legend in his own right and you're a fucking tool for thinking that Ozzy made Sabbath. Iommi and Butler have always been the driving force of the band and Ozzy was fired from the band for being an useless dopehead. Get used to it.) Kaiser out

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Savage Ultimate Metal Fighting Game Apocalypse

Let it be known that I am a fan of fighting games. Granted, I am not a fighting game god (I can only focus my godly powers on metal, sex, cosmic powers, metal sex, and cosmic sex metal), but I do enjoy a good hardcore brawl from time to time. There are a lot of great fighting series out there. The Street Fighter games are classic. King of Fighters? Sure. Soul Calibur and Samurai Showdown are among my all time favorites. But if you asked me, "Kaiser, what is the most Metal fighting game series out there?" my answer would be Guilty Gear. Guilty Gear was birthed in 1998, when video game developer Arc System Works decided to celebrate their 10th anniversary (they were founded in 1988) by threading passages from the long thought lost, esoteric text called the Libris Metallum into the programming code of their upcoming game. No one knew what this unholy union would produce. When it was finished, they put the game into arcades all over Japan. The result: Metal bands from across the globe had an unprecedented rise in their Japanese fanbase and Japanese women suddenly had bigger tits. Gamers went nuts over the lightning paced action, heavy metal influence, awesome soundtrack, and cast of characters named vaguely after rock stars (Axl Low) and metal bands (Chip Zanuff and Testament). Atlus released the first Guilty Gear in the States to a lukewarm reception (because most Americans in the 90s wouldn't know metal if it fucked their face and left a little present to gestate in their bodies before bursting out of their chest). Over the next 10 years, Arc System Works disciplined themselves to fine tune the crazy formula they have concocted, hoping to cure cancer, end world hunger, and make women orgasm on command with each successive game (they were unable do the women orgasm thing, but two out of three ain't bad). All of this culmitated in the finest tuning of the game. After making Guilty Gear X, Guilty Gear Isuka, some portable games, and a dozen different versions of Guilty Gear XX, they celebrated their 10th anniversary of the game in 2008 with Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus (originally titled Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus the Square Root of the Master Future Guardian Blade Awakening Super Battle Gonzales Gonzales the 3rd: The Reunion). The character roster is crazy. There's futuristic police paladins, sky pirates, asassins, a ninja, some samurai, some robots, an old man with a huge sword, some goth kids, a guy possessed by ghosts, a vampire, a cross dresser, a weird doctor, a slave-soldier of an oppressive nation, a braindead homunculus, an all around bad ass, and more than a couple of hot chicks. If you don't want to play this game after hearing all that, there is something wrong with you. They also created Guilty Gear 2, which is not a fighting game, but a action/real time strategy hybrid, which sounds weird to me. But whatever floats their boat. (Update: The reviews for GG2 were a resounding "meh," so don't bother.) It seems that Arc System Works is finally putting a cap on Guilty Gear, as their next fighting game, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, is very similar to Guilty Gear, but with a new story and roster of characters (Update: they're also releasing a quirky, fantasy-themed fighting game called Battle Fantasia). Then again, they also made a Fist of the North Star fighting game (which I fucking want to come over to the states, but that's a fat chance in hell) and that didn't slow the franchise down. Anyway, if you've played it, you already know all this. But I know some of you out there have not known the sweet metal feel of Guilty Gear. By all means, if you're a fighting game fan, you owe it to yourself to play this. Heaven or Hell: Let's Rock! Kaiser out BTW: that Libris Metallum book I was talking about earlier - I wrote that. Seriously, I traveled back in time to the Hyborean age and penned this little book to plant the seed of my infinite wisdom into the minds of the proto-humans and build an advanced civilisation. Needless to say, they destroyed themselves. I told them not read chapter 5.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Games You Should Know About (But Probably Don't)

In this edition, we look at three games that are more suited to a niche audience and, therefore, have not received much attention by the populace at large. Today, RPG video games are a different animal than they were when I was young. For the most part, things seem to follow either the SquEnix model of flashy, graphically impressive JRPGs (because RPGs in Japan are in a league of their own) or the hybrid RPGs that incorporate aspects from other genres, such as Oblivion or Mass Effect (both of which are great games). However, these games tend to be much easier than their predecessors. Five years ago, I collected all four Dragon Warrior games for the NES and played through them again. Those games were tough. I still have my copy of 7th Saga, for SNES (also made by Enix), but I won't start up a new game because I know it's just going to beat the shit out of me. That's the thing that's missing from RPGs as of late: a sadistic amount of challenge and difficulty. Enter Atlus. They released three RPGs on the Nintendo DS guaranteed to break a foot off in your ass and screw your girlfriend while you're at home, crying in your pillows. And these are no modern RPGs, they're 100% old school dungeon crawls. The first one is called Etrian Odyssey, which allows you to create your own guild of adventurers and take them, five at a time, into a deep, mysterious forest labyrinth filled with ravenous monsters. As you go through deeper levels, you discover the mysteries that lay hidden in the canopied dungeons. While you're plumbing the depths on the top screen, you can (and must, if you want to survive) draw out a map of the level on the bottom screen, noting all the doors, treasures, and dangerous enemies you encounter. While this is created by a japanese company and has an anime style to the characters, it is by no means your little brother's JRPG. There is no big, sweeping story, no CG cutscenes, not even mind-blowing graphics (that's not to say the graphics suck, by any means). This game hearkens back to the days of playing the old RPGs, and it's just as tough. Levels are big, monsters are plenty, and save points are few and far between. For the first few hours, if you want to save your game, you have to travel all the way back, without teleporting, to the town outside of the labyrinth. Eventually, you do find a spot to save and quickly return to town, but getting there is an uphill battle. Let's say your party made it to level 2 and are low on health and magic. You need to backtrack all the way to the entrance of the labyrinth, fending off the monster encounters that plague you every couple of steps to reach the town and rest up at the inn, heal the mortally wounded, and buy/sell items. The thing is the more you use the inn or the healer, the more expensive they get the next time you go there, making you use those resources sparingly. Not all the monsters in the game are random encounters, either. There are these, let's say, mini-bosses called FOEs. When you are close to a FOE on a level, you can actually see their location, both in the labyrinth and on the map. The reason why you can see them is that they are hard as hell. Eventually, you can beat some of them after enormous amounts of leveling, but some of them are too hard for you to take on until way later in the game. The only real option when faced with one of these high level FOEs is to run past them while they chase you down (and they do follow you). Since everyone thought that Etrian Odyssey was such a good time, they decided to make another one. Etrian Odyssey II is very much like it's predecessor, though they did add a couple of extra touches: new features, new classes, an updated map creation system, oh, and new dungeon and story to make things more interesting. If you do like Etrian Odyssey, the sequel will give you more of the same, which is not a bad thing. The third game is more like a spiritual successor than a sequel to Etrian Odyssey. The Dark Spire just came out recently and, frankly, it's the hardest one yet. Where Etrian Odyssey gave you a place to fight tough monsters, The Dark Spire ups the ante and also adds lethal traps, more enemies at once during a battle, and a system that throws you into the thick of things without holding your hand or even telling you what to do. This game feels more akin to the Wizardry games as well as old school Dungeons & Dragons, having a darker, more western RPG feel. Unlike most RPGs, magic users don't have magic points. They actually go the D&D route and let you cast a certain amount of different level spells, depending on the level of the character. Leveling up also has to be done manually. You buy skills and levels with the experience points you gain from battles, but you have to go back to the guild hall to purchase a new level, giving you another reason to backtrack through the multiple levels back to town. The map in this game is different, too. You can pull up the map screen at any time and see what you have explored so far without having to draw anything, but, without using a certain spell or item, the map screen doesn't show you where you are in the dungeon. You have to figure that out for yourself (just like everything else). This game also has two modes of play, though the difference is purely graphical. You can play the modern mode, shown below in the video, or you can switch to classic mode, which looks more like the old Wizardry games with the wire frame dungeon walls and simple sprites for NPCs and monsters. Here's the thing. These games are not for everyone. Only the most hardcore may apply. All of these games will beat you up, kill your family, and sell them to a body farm if you're not careful. They are hard. If you have not the balls to take these games on, you will only find frustration. However, if you like a little pain with your RPG, these games are great fun and provide months of old school satisfaction. Until next time, keep it old school. Kaiser out

Monday, May 11, 2009

Random Weirdness - Every Monday

No, seriously, you really should check out the new Cutlery Barn. They got some pretty cool stuff.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Savage Barsoom Apocalypse

Edgar Rice Burroughs is best known for his character Tarzan, which elevated Burroughs' career as a writer. While I enjoyed Tarzan of the Apes (which was written in 1912), the ending kinda put me off and, from what I've heard, the following books aren't really worth my interest. Before Burroughs wrote Tarzan, he was working on another project that would cement him as one of the founding fathers of the planetary romance/sword and planet genre. It was originally serialized as "Under the Moons of Mars" in pulp magazines, but became known later as A Princess of Mars, Burroughs first foray into the world of Barsoom and it's most notable champion, an earthling named John Carter. This artwork, by acclaimed fantasy/sci-fi artist Michael Whelan, was what drew me to A Princess of Mars in the first place. It evoked a strange, savage world where a man could slay a six-armed green alien in battle and claim a scantily-clad hot woman as his own. Okay, so I'm being the captain of the S. S. Obvious here, but let's just say the artwork did a damn good job of advertising. This has got to be one of my favorite series of books (next to Robert E. Howard's Conan stories). Every one of these books has gallons of action bleeding from the spine. It's got everything a savage tale could ever need: Daring feats of strength and skill, bloody and lethal battles, bizzare, bloodthirsty monsters, heartless mad scientists, devious cults - the list goes on and on. I will say, since the series of novels was written during the first half of the 20th century, that it does have an old fashioned view of the sexes, as most women are usually depicted in more of a passive role or as the target for slavers, kidnappers, and horrendous science experiments. So some of you gals out there might see this as archaic at best. Doesn't stop me from loving it, though. It's called the Barsoom saga because that's what the native races call the planet. It's better known as the John Carter of Mars series, although Burroughs never wrote a book with that title. A book with that name was published after Burroughs' death, containing two separate stories, but most consider that book an afterthought to the series. So far, I've read: A Princess of Mars The Gods of Mars Warlord of Mars Thuvia, Maid of Mars (noticing a pattern here?) and The Master Mind of Mars I also have: Swords of Mars (which I'm reading now) Synthetic Men of Mars and Llana of Gathol (no "of Mars" here) Which leaves for me to get: The Chessmen of Mars A Fighting Man of Mars and John Carter of Mars Anyway, this series got me into delving deeper into the genre. Though the only sword and planet book I read outside of Burroughs was Robert E. Howard's Almuric, which, surprisingly, dissappointed me. Nonetheless, if you like good, pulpy stories, then Barsoom will satisfy. And if you think that this would make for a great roleplaying game, you're not alone. Adamant Entertainment made a game simply called MARS, which they just released for Savage Worlds (hey, hey). Though it does take liberally from numerous sources of martian fiction, including H. G. Wells, it's main inspiration is the Barsoom books. If you're more of a purist, check out Savage Barsoom, a blogger page dedicated to converting the world of Barsoom into Savage Worlds as well as other resources (online books from the series and a link to a company that does Barsoom miniatures). Until next time, Kaiser out