My Thoughts on Shenmue: Short but Sweet

Today I feel especially happy. So happy I was skipping from work to home. It might be the effect of the booze I had during social hour at work (it’s a way for the company to get us introvert workers to mingle and talk) that is giving me this happy feeling. But more so, I think it has to do with it being Friday and I completed the first Shenmue installment. To my surprise, I didn’t know that I was so close to completing it. Wow, I kind of like how short the game is compared to games these days which require over 50 plus hours.

Despite it being short, I can tell the developers carefully craft the game. It’s a fine cup of tea. I enjoyed the thoughtful dialogue. Each NPC is different and not mass produced like Final Fantasy X.  There is nothing more annoying than bumping into clones. I like some imperfection and some distinction between the characters I interact with.  I was also quite fond of the changing season and the changing time.  Overall, I felt satisfied buying a” ticket” to  Japan with my gift card that I earned from work. Just play Shenmue, it feels as if I have been transported to Japan.  Life is so much simpler without the traveling part.  Plus in the game, I only need to sleep and investigate. There wasn’t a time I need to eat or use bathroom. Those two things I can live without.

So to celebrate my accomplishment (yes, I beat a game, and therefore it’s an achievement) I will share some of the special moments I enjoyed about the game that made me reflect on my own life and what I’d like to improve. After all, video game to me is just time out from reality which I often like to refer to as my cigarette break. So I list three:

1) Work– There was a period in my life where I had a hard time looking for a job. It doesn’t help that I have a soft personality.  Over the years, I learned to be assertive out of desperation just like Ryo who literally asked everyone at the harbor for work.  Most of the people would tell him they are not looking for new people and that work at the harbor is not easy.  I hate such discouragement because it reminds me of my own life–I was often told I can’t handle the work.  At that point in the game, I got a little frustrated because every person I turn to wasn’t helpful. One example is the homeless guy who said: “Son, do I look gainfully employed to you?” He later on said if you want to be unemployed just come back and talk to him.  I really appreciate the humor.  Perhaps in real life, generally speaking, if you looking for something–you ought to associate yourself with those who can provide you the tools and answers you need for success.  There are some people out there who can really give you bad advice and have a negative influence on your life. Personally, I think I have met some very wonderful people whom I can called my second family.  Without them, I think I would be a lost soul. They are always encouraging me to step up and grow. I am in fact, in the process, of refining my skills for a new venture.

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2) Health–The statement below is so accurate. “Health is the most important thing,” so take care of yourself.  I try to live a somewhat healthy lifestyle. I get my dose of exercise by walking to work.  In addition, naturally I like to eat vegetables. Good for me. However, what is not so good is my struggle for protein. I don’t like to eat meat. If I eat meat, it will cure my lack of energy for gaming? Hehe.

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3) Partner– They say loneliness is the number 1 killer. It’s more toxic than consuming cigarettes. Unfortunately in my life, this is the part where I need work the most. Although I am a bit hesitant to get into a relationship. I am perfectly content being single.  If you are single, you get a lot of pressure from family, and even from the opposite sex.  Just because I am single, some guys think I am lonely. What an insult.  To be honest, the reason why I am single is because I have a lack of interest in dating. The chance of meeting the right person is slim.  The solution? I thought of meticulously designing a fake boyfriend so people will stop pestering me.   But if I were to choose an actual partner, I’m not all that picky, like Mai, I just want an honest, hard working man–a guy with a big heart. No crazy people please! I am sensitive to stress.

I really had  a good time with Shenmue.  I did struggle a bit with quick time event and the fighting part. But that is to be expected.  I had fun. It kept me alert and focused. I like that feeling!

Until next time, I’ll be in Hong Kong. Maybe this time I will finally get to meet the mysterious girl in the cover of the game. Oh how I appreciate some romance! Life without it, is kind of boring and dull.

Shenmue Continues…

Currently I am playing Shenmue as Ryo Hazuki. He is a teenage schoolboy. He doesn’t care much about his studies. He is more concern about being a detective, investigating his father’s death. I sympathize with him. Losing a parent is very difficult. Ryo wants to avenge his father’s death. I would do the same, if I were in his shoes.

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The tone of the game is far from serious despite the seriousness of the situation. The game took on a macho approach. Ryo is called to action right off the bat. This sort of plot is cliche. If you are familiar with Hong Kong action films, most of the time, it has to do with vengeance. Despite how I feel about the plot so far, I am actually enjoying the game on a personal level. 1) It brings back to my earliest childhood memory: My mother used to put me in front of the T.V to distract me so she could do some housework. I think I was about three years old. I became addicted to Hong Kong action films ever since (thanks Mom). 2) I am a fan of quick time event and racing games. I like chasing after bad guys and punishing them. 3) I like Ryo’s assertiveness. He was so adamant about finding work at the harbor, he harassed just about everyone at the harbor until he got a job, moving crates. Before the actual work starts, we do a little race with the forklifts. I thought that part was actually fun.

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But of course work is not all fun. There is some fighting involved. Work bullies are the worst. In Ryo’s case it was a necessary. His main purpose at the harbor was to sniff out the Mad Angels, which is a group of foreigners thugs. Wow, I just realized Ryo is the ultimate Japanese police, seriously. It’s not a bad thing. He puts things in order and he is quite fair. I can understand that from a nationalist perspective. Lastly, the story is engaging and simple enough for me to follow. I don’t care for complex things lately. I am trying to be kind to my brain.

Overall, I really enjoy the casualness of the game even though I know the targeted audience is for children. Hey children know how to have fun. I will always be a child at heart. A child’s heart is less critical and open to new things. I just want to enjoy games. Life is already so serious. Can we all just find a time to laugh about it?

My final thought for tonight goes to the silly motorcycle scene. It’s silly because it is so long. For a second, I thought I was watching a movie. I don’t mind it. Well, I guess Nozumi should have her farewell ride with her crush. After all, she is leaving for Canada. Oh my Ryo, such a gentleman for rejecting a girl kindly.

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Dark Souls: My Adventure Continues

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As I entered the boss fight area, Chaos Witch Quelaag greeted me with a flirtatious smile. She may be beautiful but her seductive smile has no effect on me. I was determined to take her down so I can ring the second bell.

Overall boss fight was not difficult; it lasted about 10 minutes. I summoned Maneater Mildred (have to kill her first in evil phantom form) to speed up the process. I wore the red cloak found in the high area near the waterwheel route, which leads to Blighttown and back into Firelink Shrine. From what I can recall,  the armor gave me a decent fire defense. I am surprised Manter Mildred in her peasant two-piece swimsuit  can take more damage than me. She was rolling in lava and hacking her butcher knife away and yet her life bar was still high. It was an effortless fight, but more so, it had to do with the environment being spacious. It gave me enough room to steer away from her lava attack and her swipe attack.

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After defeating Quelaag, there is a hidden path that leads to her sister. I entered the covenant with her and she gave me Great Chaos Fireballs.  The Fair Lady won’t talk to me. I got to use a guide for this part as I can’t recall how to get her to speak.

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My next destination is  Sen’s Fortress which will lead to Anor Londo.  The Blacksmith said the lunatics are attracted to such a place. I can agree (sorry if you are one of those people). I think the part is more unforgiving than Blighttown.  I don’t like the thought of being chopped off by big swinging blades because at the bottom are big muscly enemies. The area reminds me of an old Dracula movie I watched when I was a kid. In the scene, a young lady was trying to escape from the bad guys and found herself on the ledge. Beneath her were something like insects. I can’t remember well. All I know it was gross and I was scared for her. Yeah, I really don’t like Sen’s Fortress, it’s my least favorite area. But as soon I rang the second bell, I knew I had to go there because the cutscene told me so! Maybe I will visit the Dark Root Garden area first. It’s better to be surrounded by trees than inside that fortress for the time being.

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I highly doubt I will get all achievements in the PC version. My intention playing this game is to prepare myself for Artorias of the Abyss DLC.  I never got the chance to play the DLC because I got sidetracked with other games during that time. I have always been very good with completing all the games I’ve purchased, but games  just kept getting longer and longer so my backlog kept growing bigger. I still need to complete Dark Souls Scholar of the First Sin (PS4), but I don’t really like dealing with a great mob of enemies. It sort of ruin the fun.

I probably will put this game down when I get my copy of Shenmue I and II remastered (PS4).   I bought it with a gift card I got from work.  I work hard so I can play hard. I think that’s quite fair.

I will leave you guys with one of the coolest quotes from the Blacksmith: “It’s okay to be undead, just have a level head.” I really like the Blacksmith! Until next time, take care now.

 

 

Dark Souls: What I’ve Learned in Ash Lake & about the Sexual Creatures

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I learned many things in my stay in Ash Lake because I got careless and greedy for the hard to reach item and eventually got cursed by two basilisks that greeted me when I entered into one of the enclosed area. What is interesting about Ash Lake is the way how the basilisk’s toxic black smoke turns into a crystal mist once the creature is out in the open area.  You still can get cursed if you let the mist consumed you, but the amount of time to get toxic is not as fast as the black smoke. I wonder if the effect has to do with my current stats, or there is something very special about this holy ground.

And so my progress in the game was stalled because I had to farm for Purging Stone, but I didn’t mind. The developer didn’t make it difficult to search for the stone because the Maneater Shells that drop the item can be found nearby.  On the plus side, the creature also drops Twinkling Titanite, a precious stone for upgrade purposes.  Having a lot of the stones gives player the freedom to enhance weapons and test it.  In my head, I am always thinking: “What weapon shall I use to kill my enemies?” The game sure knows how to respect the players’ time and give us that flexibility to make our own decision. Thanks Darks Souls for not making it dull, but at the same time, not overwhelming me with choices.

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The magical thing about games like Dark Souls is its ability to keep my mind focused and entertained while offering educational benefits. I naturally like to study.  In the game, the symbolic meaning behind the Maneater Shells tickled my brain as soon as I understood what it meant.  The moral lesson of the Maneater Shell is if you poke your head at every attractive clams you encounter, you might get your head chopped off.   As you can tell from the picture above, there are a pile of skulls in its gaping mouth. So learn how to be a wise player because Dark Souls’ universe will punish you if you are careless.

Luckily, in the area, there are only two Maneater Shells. One is by the medusa Black Hydra. The placement of that Maneater Shell is meant to make it difficult to defeat the hydra upfront.  So the best solution is to shoot it down with arrows from afar.  I found a place just for that.  Unfortunately, I ran out of arrows so I couldn’t kill it.  I’m making a mental note to visit the place again once I unlock the teleport ability.

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For such a small area, I really enjoyed my time in Ash Lake.  As I mentioned before, it’s an oasis.  I was bullying the poor giant mushroom with my Poison Mist spell and watched the confused mushroom heading for the water.  Eventually I got killed by its punch.  Obviously, it didn’t like me near it.  So then I collected my souls and headed back up to the big tree (The Great Hollow) and entered back into the swamp. The erected mushroom may be cute, but cuteness is also deadly, but more importantly not all enemies are hostile. They are merely just defending themselves.  No need to kill everything that crosses your path. Lesson learned.

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Back in the swamp,  I realized I equipped the wrong armor because I was just too eager to try on any new armor I came across. I do appreciate practical fashion that gives me good stats. The appropriate attire is Tattered Cloth Robe because of its high poison resistant. The armor is lighter as well–good for rolling.  I must confess though,  I was getting rather annoyed changing armor in this area because peeping tom Giant Mosquitoes can’t control itself and decided to pester. They can be such a pain.  In real life, mosquitoes gently land on your skin and rarely do you feel bitten.  In this game, the mosquitoes are obnoxiously vicious; they will repeatedly try to poke you even when your shield is up.  They can’t take “No” for an answer.  Running away would only worsen the situation as the number of them increased. It’s best to blast it with fireballs and get rid of them once and for all.  Confrontation is sometimes necessary.  Lesson learned.

There are many reasons why I love Dark Souls. One of the big reasons is its depiction of the world. It is not all that different from our world even though it’s a fantasy.  I love this type of storytelling because it tells stories without being outright offensive. Now don’t get me wrong, this game is not entirely perfect.  But I will mention my dislikes at a later time. For now, it’s time for me to stop fooling around and go defeat Quelaag.  I just hope I won’t lose my sanity in the process and turn completely Hollow.  Whatever humanity is left, I will fight for it.

Until next time, thank you for reading. Take care now.

Dark Souls: Exploring Is An Achievement

Normally, I dislike traveling in games because it seems rather pointless, but Dark Souls knows exactly how to design stages and build the perfect momentum to control the pacing of the player. Exploration serves as a preparation for the next boss fight.

After I defeated the Gaping Dragon, I spoke to the NPC, bought a Crystal Straight Sword from him. That sword helped me clear the beginning of Blighttown, until it was on the risk of breaking. In that area, I slipped and fell several times, but it wasn’t all that bad. By mistake, I fell down with the creature onto a ledge; from there I found myself a whip. Although it didn’t do much damage, so I had no choice but to use the Drake Sword and hack my way down to the bottom of that treacherous town, built on steep cliff. Eventually, I fell into the poisonous swamp as the narrowed path made it hard for me to swing and attack the Cragspiders.

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I don’t have the right stats so I was easily poisoned. I clumsily rolled on the sticky swamp, hacking my sword at every one of those giant-sucking mosquitoes that spit out a bucket of blood. They come in pairs. What a pest. Somehow, I managed to roll myself in that disgusting filth and found myself some good items, but at the expense of encountering scaly snake-like big leeches. They are so gross looking. I hurriedly found an escape from those leeches by stumbling into an opening of a tree trunk, which led me to The Great Hollow, one of my favorite areas in the game because I love trees!

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Have you ever been on a tall slide in a shape of an “S”? When I was a kid, I used to beg my parents to take my brothers and me to the neighborhood’s slide. It’s a lot of fun going down the slide. The Great Hollow reminds me of that slide, except you don’t slide, you drop below onto each branch, until you hit the bottom. Certain branches have shiny items that appear attainable, but at the same time out of reach. Most of items are materials for weapon/armor upgrade. I died several times, slipping off the branches thinking that I am so close to grabbing one. When I looked at the time, I realized I was spending about an hour or two in the area, trying to collect all the items.

Apart from falling off the branch because I misplaced my foot, I also had to face the big yellowish, orange bulging-eyes basilisks. They are cute but ugly at the same time. It released black smoke which will curse you and reduce your life to half. So you got to be careful and stay out of the smoke. Once cursed, you’d need a purging stone to normalize yourself. I don’t bother killing them with my sword. Instead, I lured them so they will stupidly jump in the air and miss the ground and fall straight to the bottom.

As soon as I made my way near the bottom of The Great Hollow, I started to get hungry for pine mushroom soup as these little cute mushroom creatures toddled its way towards me. It’s not friendly as it appear because it attacked me. So I sliced it up with my sword. It squealed and died. Then appeared the mama and papa ( I assume because they were bigger in size). I should have known better to kill someone’s children. One punch from the giant mushroom was an instant death for me because my life bar was already halfway empty. It’s back to the bonfire. I had to make my way down again.

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The more I think about the stages in the game, I had to climb down from that awful town and into the swamp to find an oasis. Out of this area is Ash Lake, a beautiful undersea-like world. Such a beautiful calming place. Exploring is a form of achievement. You never know what is at the end of that long, disgusting path that seem to never end. You will be rewarded greatly as soon you find a breath of fresh air. Likewise, I think of life the same way. There will be times you may feel uncomfortable and feel as if there is no end to your adversity, but there is. You just have to make the effort to get there. At least, this is the experience I got from Dark Souls.

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Now I don’t want to climb back to the Firelink Shrine or face Chaos Witch Quelaag. I just want to stay low underground far from human civilization with the Everlasting Dragon in Ash Lake. I have gotten so used to the solitary lifestyle of a solo traveler and I am a bit tired. For now, I’m going to curl up next to the dragon and shut my eyes because tomorrow will come another battle. Certainly, I cannot stay here for too long. Eventually, I have to report back to Quelaag as I am actually her apprentice, training to become a smoking-hot sadist. I’m just kidding!

P.S

There will be more Dark Souls content to come as I find this game to be an enjoyable pastime and a pleasure to write for this blog.

Going Back to Dark Souls

I don’t think I can last long without playing games. I was beginning to feel irritable. But more so, I was craving to play something that will prevent me from mind-wandering.  So I went back to Dark Souls Prepare to Die Edition (remastered version is not worth the purchase).  I realized the sound effects in the game are superb.  It is so soothing to my ears.  I’m in Blighttown at the moment, and I realized the sound effects can make the world in Dark Souls feels massive or enclosed.   Sound effects really matter to me more than the visual presentation.  It’s a huge determining factor whether I will enjoy a game or not.

Two things I learned from watching myself play the game.  I realized that I am not a skilled player–I just have a lot of patience.  I see my flaws on what I could have done better and how I could have killed the boss faster from watching the video clip below (sorry for the low quality clip).  The whole time I was observing my surroundings and thinking when to attack.  I do get impatient at times, if you  noticed how I swing my sword more than three times.  Two might be good, then back off.  Paying attention to your surroundings is important, especially when trying to study its move. Your environment is also your weapon.  Overall, the boss-fight was sloppy. I give myself a D+ for poor performance.

The second thing I learn about myself  is  the type of video games I enjoy the most is really just problem solving (how do I kill the boss efficiently.)  Honestly, I just want to kill the bosses in Dark Souls over and over and skip the exploration, so I can perfect at killing bosses.  I really don’t care about how difficult a game is. That sort of thing is a bit overrated. I just want to be entertained–not stressed. Okay, I admit sometimes my mindset do scare me a little, but you know kittens like to play with their food before they eat it.  I think I’m the same way.  I am just exercising my brain cells. So I expect a fun gameplay.  Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate a good story in games.  It’s just normally, if I want a good story, I prefer reading a book or watching a TV series. If video games have a mind blowing story, I might literally die from happiness because books + video games= lifelong companion.

P.S

I can’t wait to see Beauty and the Beast next month. One of my co-workers is performing.  Going there to give her my support.  So most likely, I will write my thoughts about the play on this blog.

I’m Not A Pervert! It’s The Developer’s Fault!

Even though, I have no intention of becoming a game designer or create my own games, I find it quite fascinating to learn about the thought process behind it.  The whole creativity process  is not so different from the way I approach to songwriting, which is something I do as a creative outlet.

Yesterday, my friend visited me and wanted to watch me play games so I picked Virtue’s Last Reward (PS4 version) of all the games because I find this game quite relaxing to play on a lazy evening.  As my friend and I were solving puzzles together, one particular part stood out to me: the pinned photo.

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In this section,  I understand the importance of creativity in games.  In the Crew Quarters, there are four rooms, which contain four lockers. I have to find all the passwords in order to unlock the lockers.  In one of the rooms, I was given a coin, after entering the right set of numbers to a locker.  The coin is used to scratch off the woman’s clothes which reveal a different set of numbers to a password for a different locker in a different room. At that moment, I was thinking, indeed,  I’m playing a scratch lottery ticket.  As I was so focused on scratching off her clothes, my friend, (who is a prim and proper type of gal) looked at me and accused me of being a pervert.  In my mind, I was just trying to find all clues so we can progress in the game.  Even though, I am not a guy and can never understand what’s so appealing about half naked women, the experience was exciting as I was one step closer to solving the mystery underneath her clothes. To my surprise, the numbers were never underneath her clothes, they were located on her arms and legs!   It was then, I realized a great game is highly creative and has the ability to engage the player against his or her own will on a subconscious level.  I say this because I am not a gambler or a pervert, but I was lured and trapped into the developer’s craft.  And strangely, it put a smile on my face and made me laugh.

After completing this section in Virtue’s Last Reward,  I realized that authenticity is important to creativity, which is the intent to create and capture the audience. In some ways, I think developers should have more control over the medium and listen less to the consumers, but please be mindful.  Honestly, I  don’t think consumers know what they really want. They just want to play a good game.  Lastly, I want to make an argument that a game is a game, a medium to itself.  All the fancy stuff such as the art and music only enhance the overall experience and bring it to life.

P.S

[To my friend if you are reading this] Sorry this was supposed to be a secret between you and me that we found ourselves playing a pervy game, but it was a lot of fun solving the puzzle together.