Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fantasy Novels: Prudence

You know like any nerd I enjoy fantasy novels. I also enjoy writing them. And because this is my blog there are some things I'd like to complain about. I have some scars left by fantasy novels that I have read that really betrayed me. Most of them were recommended by friends who clearly do not know my tastes as well as they think they do.

The hero of the story is meant to represent an ideal that the reader relates to or disagrees with. There is something that the reader sympathizes with or else they don't enjoy the book. What's even worse is when the reader sympathizes and relates to the character and then the character makes a change for the worse and the reader is lost.

There are a few times this has happened when I was reading a book and unfortunately I remember those books better than the stories I truly enjoyed.
One book starred a girl who wanted to become a knight. This was something I related to. I admire women who enter male dominated spaces like the games industry or medical field. (Since that's what I have been trying to do!) However, at one point when she starts puberty, she receives a charm that prevents pregnancy which is almost immediately abused. The character lost my admiration and I never finished the books.

Another had a character that was a Catholic priest in the middle ages and an elf. He was intelligent and fought to remain faithful to Catholic teachings...until book two when he finally gives into the wiles of a woman. (By that time he had actually left the priesthood.) I was doubly betrayed and even a bit hurt by this because I am Catholic myself. He was so good and tried so hard, I hated that female character so much for what she did. (And this is just a book for gosh sake!) She had turned him into something terrible. In the end, Saint Francis of Assisi comes along to save the day...sort of.

There was another time when the character was not ruined until I read the second book which was not about him. In this case, it was the author who betrayed me and ruined a good character by revealing his past and revealing that his love interest in the first book and future wife...was his cousin. Not to mention that his mother was a terrible character and I simply could not relate to any of the protagonists. I was totally rooting for the bad guy. (I really, really sympathized with him. Poor guy. His wife cheats on him AND he had to kill his horses.)

Clearly, I was NOT in the demographic these books were intended to please. I'm too prudent and too Catholic. I want my priests to remain celibate just like ALL the priests I know and all the Saints I have read about (Edit: Yeah I know most saints weren't perfect but usually they were more risque BEFORE conversion and afterwards they manage to resist temptation). I like my female knights to prove their prowess outside the bedroom. I like my characters not to marry their cousins please. Thanks.
And I really like to avoid sex in novels unless it's just implied and really not a gimmick or self-satisfaction for an author. (Actually, I don't mind it if the characters are married...I'll still skip those pages but as long as they tied the knot first it's cool.)

So in short, don't betray your characters, especially female characters. And if the character is one of those goody-goody prudes that goes bad...DON'T RECOMMEND IT TO ME!! (Yeah I didn't like Grease either. What's SO bad about being GOOD?)

Monday, September 8, 2008

A few of my Favorite Games

I'm stretching some of my memory here to try and remember some of my favorite all-time games. I will try to limit it to my top 8...there may be less. They are not ranked in order of MOST FAVORITE GAME EVAR to least. My most favorite game changes with the times and my mood. So let's get digging.

1. Designasaurus 2 - This one stretches back to hallowed antiquity. It ran on MS-DOS and was stored on 5 hard disks (which are floppy.) The premise of the game was you got to pick a dinosaur or make your own out of parts, go back in time, and survive. This was in some lab in the far future. 2601 ad or something. There were two modes. Practice Mode and Adventure mode. Adventure mode was basically teleporting your dinosaur hero to every level and finding "gene prints" to the ultimate dinosaur. It was a weak-ass story, but at age 7 I gobbled it up. I found it on an abandonware site and still enjoy the simple pleasures of pretending I'm a dinosaur, roaming around a pixelated jungle searching for pools of water.

2. Legend of Zelda Series - There are specific games in the series I like best, Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, and the Oracle Series. In short...all the Zelda games I was able to beat. I've played others but have yet to conquer them. And really I think it is the simplicity of the game that make it so wonderful. There is joy in recognizing a pattern and having it follow in every episode after. Some of the "stories" are more intriguing than others, thanks to the improvement of visuals and cinematics in games. And I can't help that I have an elf-ear fettish.

3. Harvest Moon Series - An honest simple farming game. For once it is a game that is not about setting off to DESTROY the evil in the world, but to build up from something considered dead or uncultivated. Through out the series there have been notable flaws and bugs with every game release which unfortunately has become a staple for the series. (Which is truly unfortunate). Again I have favorites, N64, Another Wonderful Life, Magic Melody and Island of Happiness. N64 I believe has wonderful game balance and simplicity. It's not "too hard" like some of the later additions to the series. Another Wonderful Life had a female heroine (and most of the bugs worked out from the boy version) and I loved the graphics. The animal farming was also more realistic in that cows needed to be bred every so often or they stop giving milk! Magic Melody actually balanced out the most exciting aspects of the game. There was much more to do and for the first time had multiplayer action (and the horse race!)
The most recent HM game I bought is Island of Happiness. For the portable series, so far I think it is the most well-balanced yet challenging game. The controls can get "sticky" but it's an improvement from DS: CUTE. Again...having a choice for the gender of the player character is a thumbs up.

4. Sims 2 - User custimazation for such a sandbox game. There's actually very little I could say about the Sims.

5. Summon Knight Series - I found this little gem through a recommendation through Amazon.com. It was the ability to choose the gender of my player character that attracted me at first. It turned out to be a delightful little RPG adventure game with a wonderfully done action combat system and a bit of romance added on. I've just finished the newest addition on the DS and can gladly say they've only been improving on the system.

6. Prince of Persia Trilogy - This was actually another gem I picked up based on the sudden urge to want to play it. I had seen my friends play it and watched some videos online. And hey, always enjoy playing a ruggedly handsome dude who strips as the game proceeds. (PANTS OF TIME!) Granted I've only played the first and last game of the trilogy based on the fact that most of the reviews on Warrior Within are harsh. The battle system was improved but the story, characters and music were all ruined. I am incredibly dubious about the new instalment since it does not involve the "original prince" (the original actually being a pixel dude). The female player and new prince do look like Final Fantasy wannabees. DISHONOR ON YOU! DISHONOR ON YOUR COW!! Anyway point is, that I enjoyed the graphics, story, and battle system for what it offered.

7. Odin Sphere - This game is actually what motivated me to buy a PS2. I was browsing the Atlus website because they made the Summon Night series and I've become a little fangirl. The ART on this is what completely sold me AND the interesting game mechanics. What I found upon actually playing the game that it will now forever hold the place as my favorite storyline and some of my favorite characters. I found something to like about the personality of each one. It was just so artistically amazing that there are no words.

8. The Lion King (Game Gear) - Another one pulled out of antiquity, the first game I got on my game gear was the Lion King. Not only do I adore the movie, but playing the characters was so fun. Nothing to me is more soothing than watching an animal run animation. That and I got to play as an animal.


My Favorite Trends in Games

There are a couple of themes in games that I like and usually cause me to buy the game.

1. Player plays as a non-human character. Twilight Princess, Okami, Lion King and Designasaurus all offered me the role of a non-human character to play. When I was little I was dead set on becoming a Vet up until 8th grade...after biology and discovering that I may need to do more math to become one.

2. There's a horse riding portion of the game. The Zelda Series, Harvest Moon, and a few other games I have offer horse riding as a portion of the game. I used to own a horse so that's where that love comes from.

3. A choice to be a female main character. Some days I like to gender swap, other days I want to play the role of the gender I actually am. Female. Doesn't mean the story or game is better, it's just something I look for in games.

4. Elves/Handsome men - Eye candy...that's what the biz is about isn't it? Appeal to my likes and I'll forgive some gameplay flaws.

5. Pattern repetition - DDR, Zelda Series, and most puzzle games require you to recognize a pattern to solve puzzles or beat the game. I feel so achieved once I recognize a pattern and it works in various situations.

6. Easy Pacing - I need to play games where I can have a easy place to stop and pick up again later. A game that is too intense wears me out.

7. NO QUICK TIME! - This was ONE flaw I found in the PoP games. The quick kill that required PRECISE timing that I just could NOT get. It was pure luck that I beat the first boss. Bosses after that were pretty easy...thanks to online guides. (Okay the last guy was a challenge I'll admit.)

8. Well Developed characters with some romantic spice. A story becomes a good story when the characters are real enough and there is romantic tension. I'm not a fanfic writer (or supporter really), but I am really drawn to games that let me choose a "romantic partner" or sets up romantic tension between characters. (Again, Prince of Persia was GREAT for this. Granted I sort of skipped the "bath scene" because it was making me uncomfortable.) Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time SORT OF do this with the teasing and ovious relationship that buds between Link and Midna or Link and Princess Ruto (which was comedic).