Kwaidan: A Different Type of Horror (Part II)

Hoichi the Earless is the third story in the film. The longest story out of all the four stories and the most complex to dive in, but artistically on point.  I watched the segment repeatedly, analyzing every scene from the painted red/orange sky to the watermelon.

It starts off with a gloomy song about the last battle fought between the Genji and Heike clan. Three thousands people total fought along the shore of Dan-no-ura.  In the song, it mentions how the Heike clan got defeated.  And thereafter, the sea became haunted for 700 years. To console the dead samurais, a temple was built.  And thus is the beginning of the strange haunted story between Hoichi, the blind musician and the supernatural.

Hoichi plays a musical instrument called biwa. He surpasses his master at reciting the battle’s story. One day, he is called by a spirit to perform at Akamagahara, which is actually a cemetery for the Heike spirits, located near the temple. Hoichi agreed to visit Akamagahara thinking it is an honor to play in front of a high rank.

The next day, a dead body appears on the shore—the villagers blame the sea ghosts for taking the life, and we later find out another ship has sunk on that very same night Hoichi recited the battle story. Apparently when the story is recited, a life on the sea is taken.

Hoichi’s encounter with the dead causes him to become pale. He would sleep during the day and visited Akamagahara at night. The master of the temple and everyone begin to take notice of his disappearance at night and his odd behavior and wonder if they could trust him.

One pouring night, Hoichi left again to Akamagahara. They found Hoichi reciting the last “Battle at Dan-no-ura.” This section is beautifully well pieced in the story. Throughout each disappearance at night, we don’t see Hoichi reciting the battle. It is until the last portion where he is discovered, the recite from the beginning is played.

It is then, the master of the temple confronted Hoichi that he has been lured by a menacing spirit. Soon, it will possess and kill him. In order to save Hoichi from the spirit, scriptures were written all over his body except for his ears. He has been told not to respond to the spirit when it calls for him.  And so, during the evening, just when the spirit is about to call for Hoichi to attend the cemetery, the spirit got angry because he could not find Hoichi but only his ears (the scriptures made his body invisible). The spirits then tore his Hoichi’s ears apart. The strange tale between Hoichi and the supernatural has made him rise to fame to the point that the living lord requested to hear him perform the Heike Tale. Hoichi did not decline. As long he is alive, he will play his biwa with all his soul to mourn those thousands of spirits.

How is this a haunting tale, you might wonder. It’s haunting in the sense that the spirits could never be put to rest without replaying the whole battle at Dan-no-ura over and over and over. For 700 years, the shore where the battle took place between the Genji and Heike clan, has been haunted.

In summary, it’s kind of frightening to know that one can be lured by a spirit without knowing. That alone, sends me chills. I hope when the time come for me to depart from this world, I hope it ends naturally–not sorrowfully like those from the Heike clan.

Kwaidan: A Different Type of Horror (Part I)

What does haunting mean exactly? Does haunting consists of ghosts and terror? Haunting is like a whiff of cigarette smoke lingering in the air which won’t subside, or an ancient ruin that once stood proudly in splendor only to be left abandoned and rotten as time progresses. This is the feeling I get from watching the film. It’s a film comprised of four haunting stories.

The first story is called Black Hair. It’s a tale about a man who abandons poverty by leaving his kind loving wife to gain higher social status. Like most ambitious men, the husband desires to rise the social hierarchy. Unfortunately, when he did achieve his new social status by marrying a woman belonging to a wealthy family, the man realizes that the grass is not always greener on the other side. He found his new wife cold and selfish, which makes him yearns for his former wife. What makes this story so haunting is the regret that the man felt–choosing to abandon real warmth for shallow security. His thoughts of his old wife haunted him to the point his conscience begins to eat him up and eventually break him down. In the end, his unwise decision to abandon his former wife indirectly killed her, leaving her alone to die in poverty. All of these points mentioned are done with few words. There is not a lot of talking. Each frame illustrates these points. It’s beautifully well done.

In contrast to Black Hair, The Woman of the Snow is a tale about a warm but cold wife. Woman can become so cold it can send real winter shock to the spine if we are not attentive ( I am guilty of it sometimes). The story is about a young woodcutter who was in near death from the blizzard cold while attempting to cut woods with his father. The father died from the cold, but the Snow Woman, which he encountered in the shelter, pity the young man. She kept him alive on one condition–to never tell anyone that he has faced the Snow Woman, or else she will kill him. Long story short, a year later, when he recovered, he met a beautiful fair skin woman (Snow Woman) just passing along mysteriously. The woodcutter fell in love with her, and had three children together. One evening, while he was making sandals for the children and for his wife, the woodcutter innocently smile at his wife and told her how he met Snow woman in the shelter on that snowy day. The wife got upset because he has broken the promise to never tell a soul–she got up and attempted to kill him, but couldn’t because they had children together. So she left the children and the husband. It’s a shame that a happy family can get destroyed because of one broken promise. It’s an unfortunate tale that we see quite frequently in couples. Sadly, he spoke wrongly unintentionally, as he meant to compliment her on her beauty.

Note: For this film analysis, I will break it into three posts. It’s a long film which runs about 3 hours. I have a lot to say and writing a long post is not my style.

Reminiscing Friday the 13th (1989)

I don’t know why I always confused the word survivor with survival. They sounds so much alike. For a long time, I kept thinking Survivor Horror instead of Survival Horror. Well I guess technically…Survival Horror genre is all about the survivor. I wrote a post reflecting my childhood experience with Friday the 13th for the NES in celebration of Halloween.

I recall the first game my brother and I played together was Friday the 13th on the NES, released in 1989. I believe my love of Survival Horror games started with Friday the 13th because of its memorable Cabin Theme music. I am still surprised my parents allowed us to play considering my dad disapproved anything scary. But the more you tell a kid no, the likeliness the kid will break the rule. As my dad said, “Children are damnation.” Apparently, all children are a pain in the ass to raise. But I often wonder, how the heck did we end up with this game! Oh wait, it’s because my brother’s a mama’s boy, and mama’s boy always get what he wants.

First off, the game takes place on Crystal Lake campground. There are three male counselors and three female counselors that the player can control. The player controls one counselor at a time. There are fifteen children total but they are all spread out and can be found in the cabins. The main objective of the game is to destroy Jason because he kills children! If all the counselors and children are dead, it’s game over. This game is harder than Dark Souls. No kidding.

The game sounds straight-forward and you might be wondering why the game is scary to a kid. It’s the environment. Looking at the map, the way the campground is laid out, it forces the player to go round and round until he or she dies or destroys Jason. My impression of the campground reminds me an eternal hell. All the cabins look the same, and the landscape doesn’t change much other than there is a shift from day to night time, and backtracking seems never ending. Strangely, this game made me recall a time when I was about 5; my family visited a family friend during the summer. I remember all the houses looked the same in the neighborhood. I don’t know why I stood out in the porch but once I stepped out into the yard, closer to the street, I lost my way. It was the most terrifying feeling. I often wonder, when the developer created Friday the 13th the way it did, did Jason kill children in the movies? My only conclusion is they did it to scare children. From an adult perspective, I cringe just thinking if I had a child who is like me–a child who loves to wander off and go to places independently. I was lucky I never ran into someone like Jason because Jason “doesn’t play favorites.”

Looking back, I thought it was clever that the music sounds upbeat on the trail, but sounds eerie in the cabin because naturally if you are running from something, you probably want to hide. I think home is the place where we all feel the safest.  But these cabins have no furniture, and it felt like a maze just walking through it, pressing the button forward, left, right, then coming to a dead end, to a window or sometimes to a fireplace. I felt nervous that Jason could appear anytime and when he did, the sound always startled me. I would threw the controller to my brother and then he threw it back to me. Just look at the picture below? It’s a toddler trying to run away from a big purple monster!!! I guess Mom was always right, adults can be really scary.

Overall, the game was difficult and felt never ending. Jason kept getting stronger. Player has to beat him three times in three separate days.  But once the pixelated Jason is defeated, he looks cute and reminds me of a distress child. I want to pick him up and cradle the poor thing and say, “Stop being a bully. Learn how to be nice to other kids for crying out loud!”

Anyway, Happy Halloween to those who celebrate it. Stay safe little children because a good mother is only trying to protect you.

The One-Armed Swordsman (1967): The Servant Leader

It’s so difficult not to fall in love with the one-armed swordman as he exhibits all the masculine traits on what it means to be a man. Ideally, he really is the perfect man. I watched this film several times–not just for the poetic concept of masculinity, but for the cinematography. It’s a visually attractive and soothing film to watch in the evening, just when the sun is about to set.

The story is about an orphan, the son of a servant belonging to a prestigious martial arts school that is famous for its swordsmanship. In the opening of the film, the assassins attempt to assassinate the headmaster, teacher Qi, but failed. Instead the protagonist’s father dies in his place. At the mercy of the protagonist’s father, the headmaster promises to train the orphan like one of his nephews as his disciple.

Even though the orphan is treated well by the headmaster, our hero, the orphan, never sees himself above a servant and continues to accept his social status as a servant. This hard headed “arrogant” personality irritates the headmaster daughter because she has taken a liking to him but he refuses to acknowledge her by her name, suggesting that he is aware of his social status. The protagonist remains distant from her, not because he finds her repulsive because he is a true gentleman.

Rejecting the headmaster’s daughter who resembles a spoiled brat princess causes lethal consequence. They say, a woman’s wrath is quick tempered, unforeseen and unpredictable like the changing weather–one moment it’s sunny and then in a flick of an eye, it’s pouring rain (I hear this generalized statement often in martial art films and I have to disagree with this statement, but I will use anyway because the story is told from a heterosexual male perspective). Out of anger from losing in a duel using just bare hands, she chops off the hero’s right arm, leaving him maimed.

Time and again, being a gentleman, the hero will not lay a hand on the headmaster’s daughter even though he just got his arm chopped off. Instead he flees and falls into a boat that belongs to a beautiful woman, who happens to be an orphan herself. This is one of my favorite scenes. Fate is kind enough to bring him to a kind-heart maiden who not only nurses the hero back to life, but who is able to help him gain his strength.

Humiliated at the fact, the hero cannot defend the maiden when they were harassed by two martial arts disciples, the maiden offers him a powerful martial arts book which contains only the left-handed portion. We learned the martial arts book was thrown into fire because the maiden’s mother blamed the book for taking her husband’s life. Magically, it seems that it is fated that this book is meant for the hero. Ironically, he becomes stronger with the new martial arts technique than he was when he still has his right arm.

This new technique not only helps the hero defend himself, but also came in handy when he learned the headmaster’s daughter has been captured by the dangerous martial artist named Smiling Tiger. To make the story short, the headmaster’s daughter is saved, and the bad guys are eliminated. The hero is then given the praise for being a true martial artist worthy to become the headmaster’s successor. But this recognition and leadership got turned down. His father died because of martial arts. The maiden’s father died because of martial arts. The hero chooses to abandon the martial arts world and become a farmer, living a peaceful life with the country girl, who saved him.

How noble, isn’t it? Willing to die for your fellow brothers and deny the recognition and the leadership role offered to him. The hero, is a farmer, maimed, and a simple man. What I find so admirable about the protagonist is how he sticks to his true self. He has always identified himself as a servant, and he continues to fight like a servant. It’s hard not to fall in love with such a character. You use your strength to protect and not use it to harm other. He really is a true leader. I realized from watching the film that sometimes the most manliest of men is the one who lives a quiet, simple life.

 

Death Mark Review (PS4)

Horror tales are not always scary but regretfully sorrowful. Death Mark depicts the dark side of reality and the sad truth for women and children living in a man’s world, particularly in a patriarchal society like Japan.

I finished playing Death Mark (PS4 version), a visual novel game. I was pleasantly surprised by the game because I didn’t expect what I was expecting. No, this game did not give me the chills, did not mess with my mind, or give me a cheap haunted house thrill. Instead, the game left me pondering about Japan’s society as a whole. There were many mature themes posed in the game.

There are 6 chapters total in the PS4 version (I don’t know about the vita version). The content of the game is decently proportioned (I hate playing long games). Story flows well into each chapters. One thing I really enjoyed about the game is the characters illustration. All of them are interesting, including the monster designs. In the game, people just keep popping up in the mansion at night. The mansion resembles the mansion in Resident Evil. Unexpected visitors arrive at the mansion after obtaining a mysterious mark. To get rid of the mark they must defeat the spirit that gave it to them in the first place. Time is ticking. So there is some urgency in the game; your life and those around you are on the line.

Oddly, the gameplay reminds me of a guessing game I had with the former boyfriend who is Japanese. Cultural differences was the downfall of the relationship. Let’s just say, I am used to speaking my mind as that’s what Americans are encouraged to do. One time we went out to eat and there was a fruit fly in my rice so I told the boyfriend, thinking we could get a new bowl of rice. He just took my rice bowl and gave me his. The right thing to do was to continue eating without letting him know, so I don’t offend him. They say a person with sense know how to read air. You can see honne tataemae taking effect in the game. For instance, in Chapter 2, we find a suicidal man in the woods, on the verge of killing himself. Player is given a selection of choices to answer his questions. Finding the right words to ease an emotionally unstable person is hard. What are you suppose to say to a stranger who wants to take his life? I just kept guessing. I guess, I just don’t have much common sense.

I have found some of the choices sort of irrelevant from time to time and wouldn’t say the gameplay is its biggest strength: after all, this is a visual novel. But then, again, I am relatively new to the genre, so I can’t critique much on the gameplay. The game is engaging enough to keep me “flipping the pages”. It’s the player duty to read the text in each chapter carefully. Reading the text in each chapter closely provides clues on how to defeat the boss. The gameplay style is definitely not intended for muscleheads who like to push buttons out of nervousness and expect to win. Now that is not a derogatory statement I just pointed out because I can be a bit of a musclehead myself. Having good reflexes don’t matter in this game. Instead, the game leans towards detective skills. This is the type of game would be fun to play with a group of female friends or with your significant other, or alone in the dark is okay too. It’s not that scary. Trust me. If I can do it, you can too.

Overall, I enjoyed the game. My only gripe about this game is the portrayal of women. The frail woman is not that weak. She is stronger than she really appears. But that’s okay, let the boys do their manly job. I’ll just sit and watch Satoru Mashita do all the work.

 Note: Revised 1/27/2021

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

Cursed in Ash Lake1

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.

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 below, 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.

maneater

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.

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.

DARK SOULS

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.

DARK SOULS

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.

ash lake

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.

Dark Souls Blight Town

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!

DARK SOULS

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.

DARK SOULS

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.

Taking a rest at Dark Souls' Ash Lake

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.

The Last of Us of Review

I think I am quite unfair sometimes dismissing a game because of its popularity.   Back in 2013, there was this huge hype about The Last of Us. At that time, I was too busy playing Dark Souls II to drop the game to see what the hype is all about. Thanks to my purchase of the PS4 back in 2015 (the main reason I bought the console was for Bloodborne), it came with a digital copy of The Last of Us.  I decided to give the game a whirl because I want to challenge my preconceived notion about the game.

To my surprise, I must admit, I did enjoy the game to some extent.  The biggest strength about the game is the father and daughter like relationship.  I found the father and daughter bonding between Joel and Ellie more believable than the father and daughter relationship I saw in Resident Evil Revelations 2, The Evil Within 2 and even Nier Gestalt (another topic I will go into detail at a later time).  Partly it’s because Ellie was side by side with Joel most of the time so I saw the father and daughter relationship growing closer.

Even in combat, Ellie is not useless like Sheva in Resident Evil 5.  Throughout the game, teamwork is heavily emphasized in order for the two characters to survive. The most memorable part in the game to me is when there was a switch from Joel to Ellie. At that point in the game, I didn’t know if she was all alone, until later, I found out that she was nursing Joel back to his health.  I was relief. When she drove the bad guys away from harming the injured Joel–that’s when I began to sympathize with Ellie because I would do the same for my dad without a doubt. I felt Ellie’s urgency to protect Joel. When the role was switched to Joel, I felt the very same urgency to protect Ellie from David, the potential rapist. That part really did strengthened their bond and implied how much they need each other to survive, but more importantly, how much they trust each other.

As Joel and Ellie relationship deepened in the game, I felt sympathy for them. So towards the end of the game, my reaction when I had to shoot the doctor to save Ellie was plausible even if Joel was seen as a monster. Similarly,  Ellie is not that innocent and saintlike either when she hesitantly accepted Joel’s answer about the fireflies. For one, she trusts Joel with her life and grew attached to him. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing him, as we saw in the earlier scene where she threw a little tantrum and ran off with the horse.  But at the same time, she felt tremendously guilty for not being able to save human lives as she mentioned her best friend was the first to go, and of course there was Tess.

The story aimed at taking the realistic approach in life, depicting real human behavior. Every day humans make sacrifices and face tough decisions. With a stern face, Joel already made the decision to carve his own fate.  Any normal human being who underwent a traumatic event will never be the same.  He never recovered from the tragedy in the beginning (losing his daughter) but at least he has someone to fight for, which is Ellie.  It makes perfect sense why the title is called The Last of Us.   The game is about two people who lost everything–and they are not willing to give up on each other even at the expense of saving humanity.  From my understanding, the writer is trying to write an epic script where all human beings can relate to.   Joel is considered a romantic, chivalric modern day man who embodied the utmost masculine energy.  Ironically, some people argued that he is a bad guy.  It appears the writer must have agreed with the ancient thinkers that humans are fickle.  Joel is neither good nor bad.  But the moral of the story is not what bothered me.  The heart warming story and gameplay weren’t properly stitched together to bring out that quality game experience.  The game feels like a book, but plays like a movie.  There’s nothing really exciting about the gameplay.

Typically,  I am not much of a stickler for story in video games.  Most of the time, if the gameplay is fun enough I will keep playing even if story is lacking.  The gameplay in The Last of Us is very stale and tedious. There were only two instances I thought was exciting.  One part is when Joel got separated from Ellie for a brief moment, forcing him to dive into the water and navigate in the dark enclosed area to find a keycard. In the area, there were clickers.  At first, I was a little nervous as I dislike dark places, filled with lurking monsters, but as soon as I realized I have many different types of weapons, my nervousness went away as there weren’t many obstacles to overcome in order to reunite with Ellie. I blasted the enemies away with my shotgun.  Once I obtained the key, I bypassed all of them and got out quickly.  Not much of a challenge there.  The other part is when Joel was hanging upside down shooting the infected. That part reminded me of a section in Resident Evil Revelation, where Chris Redfield fell from the cliff and was pinned down to the ground, having to defend himself from the approaching wolves while waiting for Jessica to make her way down to help him. The only difference between the two games, is that Last of Us gameplay is forgiving. The game autosaves frequently.   So if you die constantly, it puts you in a decent spot in the game to try again. If you get stuck in the game, push L3 button when it appears. This will give you a hint.  The game is very generous, but that consideration actually kills any challenges that the game has to offer, and what is even worse, it makes the gameplay become dull quickly as gameplay becomes predictable.  I think I would be just content watching a movie version of the Last of Us than go through all that unnecessary trouble.

Honestly, I don’t have much to say about the gameplay in The Last of Us.  It’s very basic and simple. There was a lot of sneaking, hiding,  and some shooting.   There were plenty of  beautiful scenic areas in the game which stirred up some personal old memories. The realistic setting in the game aligned well with the mature undertone of the game.  I didn’t mind the flow of the game.  I could play the game at ease during the weekdays.  I even completed the game on normal difficulty when I thought I was playing on easy mode the whole time.  Although I am not going to lie, there were a few times I died in the game.  The controls don’t feel as fluid as other games that I’m used to, which made the gameplay experience frustrating.  I admit, I  was swearing at the last section of the game when I was unfairly ambushed with flying bullets.  I rarely get mad in games by the way. The last section made it difficult to explore without getting spotted.

To summarize my experience, the game felt very genuine to me as it amplifies the American identity–a free and rugged individual who has a choice.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That’s for you to decide.   The more I think about it, the game is just a political statement more than anything.   I was entertained while the game last, but not entertained enough to demand for a sequel.

My Video Games Shopping List (Part II)

There were only a few games I am interested  from watching E3. It’s a good thing. This will give me a chance to clear my backlog and help me save up money for bigger things.  I got some big plans at the end of this year.  It all work out just fine.

So I will name the games I am looking forward to here. Not all of them are from watching the E3 event.

#1 Bayblon’s Fall

Reminds me of Xenoblade Chronicles/ White Knight Chronicles.

#2 Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Honestly, this trailer makes me worrisome as it reminds me of Nioh.   Even though I have a hard time getting into Nioh, I will attempt to play it again.  When I was playing Nioh  last year, my brain was already fried. I had way too many  things going on in my life.  I realized I have my limitation.  Brain is overheated. Need sleep.   I am willing to give Nioh another try though.  Some people prefer Nioh gaming mechanics over Dark Souls. I am a bit surprised because I didn’t really like how fast Nioh moves in comparison to Dark Souls. Every time I play this type of game, I do get the adrenaline rush–droplets of sweat dripping down my forehead.  Game can’t get intense sometimes.

I must admit, I am glad  FromSoftware is not making the same thing.  There are so many games out there that imitate Dark Souls success. It is rather annoying.  There is even a twitter account dedicated to that.

#3 Soul Calibur VI

I like fighting games because I like watching martial arts films.  Soul Calibur is my favorite fighting game franchise as it involves swords. I like hitting, cutting, hacking, and slicing things very much.  A great game to play to blow off some steam.

#4 Shenmue 1 & 2 Remastered

I never got the chance to play the first two installments. This will give me a chance to experience the game before Shenmue 3 release. I heard that the game came into development after being inspired by a musical piece.  I think this one of the games that have that romantic quality.  It reminds me so much of the international films (Hong Kong) I grew up watching as a kid.

That is my list of games.  These games will keep me busy for next few years.  Every time I told myself I am quitting games because modern games disappoint me, some new game come out looking all flashy, grabbing my attention, I find myself back to where I started.   So that’s why I give up trying to give up games.  It’s like telling a person to stop drinking tea.   Now if only have the proper time to enjoy them–it’s very difficult these days.  Adult life is so demanding.

P. S

My co-worker is excited for Last of Us II and asked me if I feel the same.  I actually  turned around so he can’t see me giggling.  People do have different taste in games surely.  Even though Last of Us never did appeal to me, I am actually currently playing the game so I can give my proper thoughts on it.

Rule of Rose Review

Some people have the tendency to gravitate towards a tale that makes them weep instead of ones that brings them joy.  If we take a step back and look at ourselves, we are a strange creature that innately want to be happy, but find comfort in bittersweet tale.  Perhaps, some of us are attracted to such entertainment because it acts as a mere reflection of our own psyche.  We want to fix something that is bothering us so we evaluate the little things that trap us in a psychological loop.  It’s almost a never ending loop until we find the answer that has been buried deep within us. Some painful childhood memories are better off suppressed.

Yes, I’m speaking of Rule of Rose, a psychological survival horror game released back in 2006 for the Playstation 2.  Player experience the perspective of an orphan named Jennifer with her pet dog Brown as they unravel a suspense, sorrowful tale.  I highly do not recommend this game to those who have a deep love for animals. The game actually brought some great discomfort to me even though it has a good moral message–for those who are passive and/or those who were bullied in their youth.  It forces me to think about society in general–the relation between children and adults. Now I understand why it did not get a release in North America (the video game store I went to never got the game. Only the case was on displayed).  Some of the themes are questionably cruel and not suitable for young people.  Even the older audience might find the game hard to comprehend.  I went to bed feeling as if my heart has just gotten broken after completing the game.

The game is artistically crafted and designed in a way where all things have a purpose including the monsters design.  Yes, gameplay and story are intertwined.  At one point, I was so frustrated with the gaming mechanics, but learned to appreciate the game design as I realized the order of finding weapons in the game (e.g  fork, kitchen knife, butcher knife, shovel, axe) gradually became more menacing as the undertone of the story deepened.   Gameplay wise, it’s far from being monotonous.   Exploring/investigating, in my book, is a type of gameplay.  Brown, Jennifer’s fury companion, is a great hunter and protector.  If you are the type that like to play detective, this game is a good treat.  You get the bigger picture of the whole game in the end, if you get the good ending that is.

The game overall, is quite well-balanced in terms of story, gameplay, music and visual.  I would consider the game on par with Silent Hill 1 and Silent Hill 2, which are great games! I plan to re-play the game.  Artistically, I’m quite fond of the atmosphere and the way how the story unfolds.

Rule of Rose is the type of timeless game that is on equal level with great books.  It is a good representation on how the medium can be viewed as a mature, artistic expression that has the ability to dive into the human soul.

P.S

Now I really need to go find myself a pet dog–hug it and tell it: “I love you, and will always protect you until I die!”