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Here’s my take on Destructoid’s STFUAJPG:

Amaterasu on her back

Max Galactica says STFUAJPG

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Snowglobe for OSX

I found this nifty bit of freeware last year. Just particle effects, but still a neat idea because it’s:

  • Portable – You can email it other OSX users or post somewhere for them to download
  • Personalizable – Drag and drop your own jpgs, gifs, pngs or pdfs
  • Interactive – Shake it!

Thank you Freeverse for the fun toy. Happy Holidays from me! 🙂

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Rule of Rose – I Beat the Mermaid!

God DAMN, I hate the mermaid.

There are very few games that make me want to throw my controller, but this miniboss fight definitely put Rule of Rose up there for me, despite its charms.

After my sixth death, I kept asking myself, “I’m playing this instead of Okami?”

Using the meat cleaver against her seemed most appropriate, even though the steel pipe had the best range. Here’s what worked for me:

Stand still until you hear her screaming, the computer will position her above your location so be ready to move before her initial puddle of vomit drops down.

Once she does, try to run around to her back if you can, then quickly attack with whatever weapon you prefer. You should be able to get two hits in if you’re fast enough. Her flailing attack is preceded by “Hiiii Yahhhh!”, so haul ass if you hear it.

Just about all of the time, your two hits will prevent her flailing attack and she’ll go up again.  Just make sure you run after you land two hits, maybe even one once she starts moving faster or dropping into further parts of the room.

Take your time and she should be sushi before long.

I almost gave up to go nuzzle Okami, but this forum post on Gamespot gave me heart and made me laugh. The first post has the sound effects down.

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Best Reason to Buy a Wii: Okami

Before anybody gets misled too far by this post title, Okami is not coming to the Wii. As far as I know anyway.

This post on Joystiq got me thinking however.

What does Okami mean for all the smack talk and philosophizing about graphics vs. gameply for next-gen consoles?

Okami is a title that fully embodies the pinnacle of both graphics and gameplay (OK, maybe not entirely, but damn close). And this is a title not only from the current generation, but the tail end of it. Come to Processor Hierarchy for the Wii, GameCube and PS2think of it, God of War fits this category too.

The GameCube has better graphics than the PS2. And the Wii has a slightly more powerful processor than the GameCube. Does it follow, then, that a breathtakingly beautiful game like Okami could look just as good, even slightly better on the Wii?

My point is, if hardware limitations in the PS2 are what inadvertently led to Okami’s distinctive art style, then whatever graphical limitations Wii haters are heaping on Nintendo’s next console ring much more hollow to me now. Check out this video for a comparison of the more realistic style the developers originally intended vs. what the hardware forced them to go with instead. HUGE difference in the feel of the game, not just tactile, but emotional too.

And on the other side, Nintendo’s gameplay argument doesn’t necessarily hold up as well either. Sure the Wii-mote could easily be the best thing for the Celestial Brush, but I got along just fine with the PS2’s dual shock controller.

Amaterasu's wolf buttThe vaunted promises and expected “weaknesses” of each next-gen console, i.e. Wii graphics will suck or Wii games will PWN you and the controller will change video games forever, the pissing contest between Sony and Microsoft, all of it somehow seems ridiculous when compared to the serene countenance of a white wolf shining benevolently down from the sky.

UPDATE: Clover Studio has been dissolved. RIP. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part, it seems that the bulk of the talent has gone off to do their own thing, so all isn’t lost. Interesting interview on 1Up where Clover’s prez talks about their game design philosophy and how the Wii may or may not fit into it.

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Okami – Amaterasu Has a Posse

Okami coverDon’t bother reading this. Just get it.

Once I slipped the disc in, I panicked that all my expectations outstripped anything this game could possibly deliver.

As soon as I gained control of Amaterasu, something seized me, however. I yelled out, “I’m a wolf, baby!”and began tearing around the screen.

I’m more of a kitty freak than a wolf lover, so this reaction was strange. In all the games I’ve played, in the past 10 years at least, I can’t think of any where I took on the role of an actual animal.

K reminded me about Cookie & Cream, those cooperative, time-addled bunnies we played with many years ago, but this isn’t the same. Nor are the various Donkey Kong don't count eithercompanion beasts like Epona in Ocarina of Time or Arokh in Drakan. In addition to these ancillary roles, the playable animals in my gaming experience have either been cartoonish or humanoid.

There is something to be said for this. The wolf Amaterasu is the primary character in Okami. Not somebody’s pet or mode of transportation. She’s not anybody’s backup, or quarry, or cuddly respite from the rigors of adventuring. She’s entirely herself, a reincarnated goddess of the Epona and Linksun rendered and drawn exquisitely; posessessing skill, intelligence, grace, and yes, artistry. Amaterasu kicks serious ass as a game hero.

During the opening movie, which takes its time with its reams of text that can’t be skipped through, I submitted willingly to the aesthetic of Japanese water color paintings that saturate the game. I felt myself being drawn in, as with Ico, to a play experience that insisted I adopt a different frame of mind.

Not rushing around from place to place, hurtling towards the next objective or fight. But taking the time to look around me, to wander. Thankfully, the camera facilitates this, though it took me a while to get used to it. You can rotate it to get a full 360 degree view of the gorgeous scenery, including when you’re in “brush mode”, which is really handy.

I am content just moving in Okami. Amaterasu’s lope that turns into a dash, with the sound of rustling leaves and green stalks sprouting in her wake is exhilirating for different reasons beyond just speed.

Amatersu smilingRestoring nature and color back into the world is a clichéd story device to be sure, but it fits so snugly into the world of Okami, executed brilliantly into the story Clover Studios has created. Tree-hugging tendencies aside, it’s one of the most gratifying play experiences I’ve ever had. This game is absolutely stunning. Even the fog looks cool.

Many of the same kinds of fetch quests, or help-the-NPC missions, are present here. But without the annoyance or resentment they typically engender in other games. One, because moving around from place to place is so enjoyable, and two, because all of these elements come together so well. You want to earn Praise from the whole wide world around you, people, animals and vegetation alike. It’s what enables you to save them all.

The quiet interludes when feeding animals are so unexpectedly gentle and sweet. Though the game lets you, I never skip them. Like so much else in Okami, they encourage you to slow down, experience the role of caretaker. These contemplative moments comprise so much of what I love about Ico.

This side quest is something K and I have taken to with great relish. Poor thing spent a really long time with a radish side quest because he thought it would help him feed some bunnies. But the little hearts the various creatures emit after you’ve successfully chosen the right type of food for them is so cute.

I’ve even figured out that like my approach to the game, my brush technique also benefits from being relaxed. Slashes and circles flow more effortlessly from my brush when I release the tension in my hands.

K’s playing it now. I’m trying to savor it. Hoard those bright moments for the rainy winter that will be here soon. But this is a game I’m just as happy to watch as play. Or wander around in, caring for the world, painting color and light slowly back into existence.

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Rule of Rose – Beastly Creature


This one almost slipped past me. Though I’m trying to figure out if I should let it go.

It’s my latest rental, and the opening movie elicited a wicked cackle from me, promising ghoulish delights bearing no small resemblance to Edward Gorey at his Gashlycrumb Tiniest. Though set in a different time period, the dirt fetish in the game reminds me of Imperial Leather by Anne McClintock.

Dieter from SNL's SprocketsBut can we just get rid of the shambling gait we have to assume in these survival horror games? It certainly adds something to not be able to move around these creepy environments like, say, Dante or Kratos. But the amount of frustration it creates when traversing the game world, exploring or on a fetch quest, quickly outweighs any immersive benefit.

Maybe I’m just impatient to get to Okami.

Reaching certain plot points that move the story forward keeps the promise of the opening cinema, but the pacing is heinously slow. The play mechanic of having Brown (the dog) sniff out items is clunky since it forces you to go into your inventory to try item after item. Drag ass over here to find a scone, then drag ass over there to find a minced pie. Oh, and the key item that advances the story is on the other side of the airship.

This forces a very linear approach to the game and artificially accelerates the story when I want to take the time to enjoy sticking dessert forks into punkass babies.

I’ve met the second “boss” and died a stupid death because my player character’s limp grip on a steel pipe was no match for a “mermaid’s” green vomitus.

But there is definitely something twisted in Rule of Rose that’s crooking its finger at me. Something like Drusilla in Buffy, who speaks about one of her dolls thusly:

Miss Edith speaks out of turn. She’s a bad example [turning her to face the wall], and will have no cakes today. Shhh.

When those sick moments occur in the game, I’m all atwitter with evil glee. “Leveling up” takes on new meaning in The Aristocrats Club, and I hope for some black transformation in Jennifer once she attains the rank of Duchess.

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