Thursday, November 24, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Wor... wait... Canada. (AKA Justin De Lucia vs. his love for Evil Exes.)

For starters, happy late thanksgiving and all that good shit, I hope you pigged out and ended up in the bathroom for hours (JK).

But what I'm here to discuss is the ever-so-famous Scott Pilgrim series from Bryan Lee O'Malley. Yea that Malley. The one that treats his fans and followers like total garbage. Not exactly one of the nicest authors, despite being quite well-known in the mainstream thanks to his six-volume series and it's movie adaptation from Universal. What's going to happen right here is me explaining how I got into Scott Pilgrim and it's fanbase.

To speak the truth, my first viewing of the series came when I went on a trip to New York City in August 2010 (wanted to go again this year, but ran out of time). As me and my family (mom, sis, cous, and cous' mom) walked and walked and walked, we passed by a comic book store that stated "READ SCOTT PILGRIM COMICS HERE". and from there, I just interpreted SP as an obscure indie comic book series that somehow went mainstream around that time. Though it wouldn't be until around Fall that year when I heard about the live action film, and the looks of those seven "Evil" Exes (prepare two story arcs of this post) caught my mind right away.

Take note I haven't read any of the books, just watched about 60% of the movie. Throwing that out there in the hopes of not arising any trouble.

As you can tell, my favorite characters in an instant became the Seven Evil Exes, mainly Matthew Patel due to his mysterious appearance and pyrokinesis. Gideon and Roxy were runner ups, and the others I only showed minor anticipation for. When it came to the other characters, the only ones I cared for (and still do) were Scott and Ramona. After all, they were the main protagonists, despite Ramona being a big plot device and the reason Scott became an amateur killer hunting down goths, psychics, Japanese band members, and whatever I'll use to describe Gideon.

The other "story arc" that I wanted to mention is I never interpreted the Evil Exes as being "evil," more or less just big enemies to Scott. If they really were evil, they'd go slaughter random people and those that dislike(d)/oppose(d) them (whoops too violent) while also going after Scott and his allies. Another thing that could be a bit strange for some was that none of the Exes shared the same screentime , except for the Katayanagi Twins. Certainly I could go on with the Exes for years and it wouldn't make the least bit of sense, since I'm a free guy. I could also jump to different topics and confuse everyone the heck off.

Like here for instance. I felt as if the Evil Exes didn't spend enough time in the movie than they should've. Perhaps besides Scott being told by Ramona about the Evil Exes, we could've have a few scenes (aside from the animated flashback parts) with Gideon assembling his team to face Scott, or maybe two separate battles with one Ex.

Just for another off-topic setting, I did see how the movie opened, and therefore I know about the major characters and the setup to the plot with Scott's love interest in Ramona; them first meeting in a dream, dating in the park, and how Scott had trouble confessing to Knives that he had secretly broken up with her to go out with Ramona. And if I recall correctly, I do remember when in the movie Ramona explained to Scott about the Exes on the bus. And I know the movie was based on the comics, for one thing, and I have no intentions on altering the original story to meet my dreams. Sent you into confusion? Good. Let's rewind a bit.

Adaptations don't usually have to follow the film exactly, and there were sometimes (but not always) alternative versions of a single film, ya'know, like the Director's Cut, the Uncensored Edition, etc. What I'm explaining here is what I felt would have improved on the movie following Matthew Patel's introduction into the film, not when he wrote the e-mail to Scott but when he bursted through the roof of the club, interrupting Scott and the rest of Sex Bomb-Omb as they began to perform, thus leading to the first big battle of the film.

Not only would this idea primarily allow Matthew Patel to stay alive a tad bit longer in the film, but it'd also have two Exes besides the twins on-screen at the same time. What would happen here, is both Scott and Matthew would have a long fight, practically wounding one-another to the point of passing out. Just as Scott is ready to launch a sneak-finisher move, the second Ex, Lucas Lee, bursts through the wall and KO's Scott, landing him on the wall, out of commission. Lucas then pulls up Matthew, chats with him for like a few seconds, before escaping with Matthew clutched on his shoulders. Once again, I know this doesn't happen in the book, so I wouldn't be surprised. Just letting on my thoughts.

Another thing that kind of disappointed me was Michael Cera, the actor for Scott Pilgrim himself. While I have nothing against him, and he did portray Scott well in the film, I thought his voice was too soft for someone that was portrayed as having almost a "wild" and carefree expression sort of like how I envision my own character Aozora. I'm not going to say whom I would've preferred for my own good, so take your pick of the preferred Scott.

Otherwise, that's pretty much all I can think of to say, so I'm cutting it here so I don't end up repeating the same things I've already said. But basically put, Scott Pilgrim, even if Brian Lee O'Malley isn't the brightest man on the ball with his personality and art style, (in my words, you're allowed to like something even if you don't like the author or vice versa), is a good series, but not a total godsend in the visual novel era. I like it, and I'm keeping that word to myself.

Good day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"What do you mean I can't get 100% in this game?"

Let me just come up and announce that for the past two months, I had a sort of brick-breaking fetish playing games of the classic "paddle and ball" genre, established by Atari, but re-invented and revolutionized by Taito. This revolution sparked the interest in many game developers, and I repeat many of them. All throughout the late 80's and early 90's, many developers, both well-known and obscure, released numerous clones for arcades and home computers, both as basic 16bit Windows applications and DOS programs, the later compatible with modern-day OS's thanks to DOSBox. These games vary in presentation, usually with how their hazards are handled, and the ball-meets-paddle physics incorporated, which is how the player can aim the ball. The worst is Aquanoid, which doesn't even allow you to steer the ball with the paddle, and by far the best is Ricochet, with extremely accurate ball aiming physics.

In all of these games, the main goal is simple. Destroy all the basic destructible blocks, go to the next level, and the process just repeats. Pick up powerups and be careful not to scoop up powerdowns, watch out for enemies that try to get in the way of your ball, or enemies which even try to fire projectiles which can stun or kill the player's paddle, or hinder the level in some form or way. Though many Breakout clones get things right, some of them don't.

To sum this up in a nutshell, a Breakout clone that takes on Arkanoid should have several things. Three or more lives to start the game, a good variety of powerups (with the basics: Catcher, Extender, Divider, Shooter, Slow, and 1up), fair, non-cheap gameplay, and fights with enemies and bosses.

This clone in particular is pretty unique in that it's currently the only Breakout clone I know of that crosses with the Role-Playing-Game genre. This particular clone is known as Alpha Bounce.

As said, it's a little fun RPG that takes on a never-used concept. In the far future, in an universe flooded with aliens and blocks, you're put into a prison term doing the best thing to break you out: Breakout. Just imagine how genius the guy in the story thought this was a "punishment" for prisoners. Anyways, you want to get the heck out of imprison and end your term with cleanup missions. Of course, since it's an RPG, you'll have to find, earn, and buy equipment to prepare for the harder levels and traps that await you via an endless universe of levels, though we mostly recognize only 2,400 levels, numbered by their X and Y coordinates. Enemies and powerups are present, though this doesn't really become common until you start moving away from [0][0], otherwise your origin point. Without the right equipment, you'll be good as dead in these later levels.

The equipment and other helpful objects you can acquire include different strengths to the ball, missiles to fire at blocks incase god forbid you are impatient, drones to dissemble blocks that will harm you in some way when hit, pieces of a map to Earth, engines and radars that allow for faster movement on the overworld, extra paddles to start each level with, and stars, which upon finding all seven of them, will allow you to modify existing levels. Though you can't really create your own ones from scratch, just re-arrange the blocks in a particular level. Yea kinda of a downgrade from World's Biggest Pac-Man, where you simplify made new levels which get attached to the main game, while here, every level is pre-made, though you can change them. The reason for this is to keep the initial level's overall difficulty, so that newcomers closer to the starting point don't have to face harder levels.

Now let me stop and say that Alpha Bounce is now considered "finished" and is no longer giving out updates to the game. I tried going into the forums and writing down some of the things that bugged me about Alpha Bounce, but primarily no one agreed with my suggestions to make the game "fair". Looking back, the challenge comes from the harvesting of minerals, or currency if you will, so you can spend them in shops for items you may need to survive the harder levels and therefore advance in the game. I can see now from my mistakes when suggesting features. Though there is a very, very slim chance of Alpha Bounce being updated somehow at this time, aside from the lack of a good no-limit level editor and browser (ala Time Fcuk and Gap Monsters on Newgrounds), I have three common scenarios about Alpha Bounce, one more severe than the others.

For the first part, let me draw your attention to this photo.
The above image shows a player's stat page with every possible item collected and every feat achieved, therefore resulting in a 100% completion file. The downside is, that by default, you are unable to obtain every possible item from the current version of Alpha Bounce. And this is due to a choice that you must make early in the game.

The (name not announced) galaxy is ran by two different opposing clans. The ESCorporation (or just ESCorp), and the FURI. The former is the clan that houses the prisoners and forces them to do the cleanup missions to end their imprisonment term, while the FURI is a rebel clan with mostly no restrictions, whose main goal is to thwart the plans of the ESCorp and rescue the prisoners they've abducted and forced to break blocks in space. As it's an RPG, you can only side with one of these clans, and once you make your choice, you cannot change it. Whatever clan you choose inflects the missions you can get, and therefore can also affect what item(s) you obtain.

Part of the game's format is deciding what of the two clans you'd like to be affiliated with, and depending on your overall choice, you will receive items that the other group doesn't give you, and since you cannot find those items in shops that the other clan gives out, you are forever forbidden from claiming all the available upgrades. From what I can tell, you're also forbidden to create a spare account that joins the team opposite of your main profile's choice, just incase you don't like your choice and want to go with the other side.

The first clan, the ESCorp, which you start as already a member, but can break away before doing 52 "cleanup missions", which after those, you become loyal to the clan and can earn the ESCorp-exclusive items, which include mines you plant on the bricks, a longer paddle, and the 4th and stronger missile type that can wipe out up to 25 bricks of any type. But on the other hand, the FURI, or the "rebel clan" as I like to call it, sacrifices all those, but instead gives you a stronger ball that can go through a few blocks at once, the ability to start with two balls instead of one, and gives you a bonus free play per day alongside the three, thus giving you four per day. Not much worth it since you can already gain quite a number of plays just by paying $7+ for 100 plays, or a slightly higher amount for much, much more plays. Yeah, clearly Motion-Twin knows how to make good offers unlike Zynga's Far... err. ...S**tVille, and that's one of the many good things that this title has to offer.

Aside from that, I have a lot of faith in this game and hope that the admins return to updating Alpha Bounce, because it's a great online game right now, and even with a few minor things to make note of, it's addicting, visually appealing, great controls (except for the fact that you can move the paddle off-screen), and has a great story. You may have to pay to play more in less time, but that's supporting the developers for working so hard to make a gigantic universe with thousands of levels.

If you want to join the best online Breakout/Arkanoid clone (aside from DHTML Arkanoid), you can get the link here. Be sure to input "Superjustin" into the sponsor's field, if it's there.