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Not much to report. My gameplay roadblock was just due to overlooking a certain pathway, which I located easily enough through being methodical; once back on track, I encountered an Otherworld section, then buzzed through a therapy session and left Harry in front of the high school.

The Otherworld sections do get more challenging, by the way, albeit not in a desirable manner; in the latest one, I had to negotiate more or less back to my starting position, around a circular path and through several different lodges. Unfortunately, with everything dark and iced over, the terrain is indistinguishable, and given that I wasn't running in a more-or-less straight path this time, it was nigh-impossible to get my bearings. Harry can pull up a map on his smartphone, but the controls are fiddly, and you constantly have monsters breathing down your neck. Plus, even if you have your flashlight turned off to minimize monster attention, for some damn reason, Harry will automatically turn it back on once he puts away his cellphone - which, given the multitude of overlapping situational functions mapped to just a couple buttons, got me caught in countless loops of accidentally turning the phone on when I meant to turn the flashlight off again, then accidentally opening up the contact list or camera app in my attempt to turn that off, then getting jumped by monsters in the interim and dying. Between all this and the incessant little-kid monster screams on the soundtrack, the sequence really got on my nerves. It's a change of pace for Otherworld segments, I'll admit that - metaphorical fast zombies in place of slow - but not one that I enjoy.

I gotta also say that the whole Vince McMahon, psychiatrist thing is really starting to undermine the game. He even talks like a sleazy wrestling promoter, even when he's allegedly offering therapeutic treatment to a patient. I mean (spoiler warning for the video description below the play window - I was spoiled on that before I started playing), look at this - the one session right at the timecode I've linked. It makes Tender Loving Care look APA-approved in comparison. The game so far, in fact, is generally stupid in its treatment of allegedly Mature Topics - as per the video, it actually thinks that real-life teenagers fall into the categories of "virgin" and "slut" (with Vince's leering line readings underlining the alleged titillation factor), and there have been three fairly elaborate rape references in as many hours of playtime. At least Tender Loving Care had John Hurt with a weird dye job.

The new piano puzzle, the replacement for the "Birds Without a Voice" gem from SH1, involves Harry plinking away on a toy piano to match a tune played by Cheryl in a phone message. Unfortunately, to mimic the notes, you have to listen to Cheryl's mom verbally abuse her over & over. It was realistically done, for once, but, brother, was it unpleasant, in a visceral real-world way. At least it was a respite from being chased by screaming mannequins for a bit.

My save did actually reload from right where I left off, though, which is a relief. Nausea did kick in, but playing the game just before bed helped. I'll try the same thing again tonight - maybe it'll inspire another Henry Townshend whodunit.
Note: If you play Shattered Memories late at night then stay up correcting a Silent Hill 4 interview translation while listening to an LP of Resident Evil 2, then you will have a dream where Henry Townshend is tracking down William Birkin for murder while being sporadically menaced by iced-over Otherworld segments.

I may have taken too much survival horror in one dose.
Hot motion sickness update: For the last session, I sat almost as far away from the TV as the controller cord would reach, and it seemed to improve matters, at least initially; I didn't feel ill during gameplay, but it did kick in after I stopped, and though I didn't have to go lie down, I was still feeling nauseous three hours later. My last session with the game was a bit more intriguing, so I'm motivated to keep at it, but it's not practical for me to keep on wrecking my evenings by continuing to play, so we'll see where it goes.

Upon loading the game, I made a new discovery: the "save anywhere" system doesn't work as advertised. I'd made my save after meeting Fargo Cybil and making a few phone calls, but my loaded game flung me back before the Cybil cutscene, leaving me to have to go through the tedious phone call rigmarole all over again. If technical limitations won't let me save anywhere, fine, but don't pretend I can save anywhere when I can't.

The Otherworld actually made its appearance in my last session, and...man, is gameplay lazy in this title. Harry's in an iced-in area; your suggested route and exits glow blue. Child mannequins patrol the area and attempt to latch on to Harry. Harry's job is to run at a constant mad dash through the area and, if a monster grabs him, press X to not die. If he's caught too many times, not even X will save him, but he'll just instantly start over at the beginning of the level, so who cares. No fighting, no exploration, no staring at disturbing imagery; with a good run, the first Otherworld section is over in three minutes. That's it - just a series of quick copypaste QTEs. It was something to do besides yell "Cheryl" constantly (which is actually mapped to a button early in the game, and which I felt compelled to do a couple times in each new area just to stay in character), but, brother, not much more.

More successful was the game's second therapy session, where Vince McMahon had me color in a house, and due to the presence of only kindergarten colors in his Crayolas, I made it purple & blue with a pink mailbox. Then, in the very next cutscene, Harry found himself in the usual broken-down, grimy-filtered Silent Hill milieu, only before a screaming-bright purple & blue house with a pink mailbox. I laughed out loud at that one.

(The Vince McMahon thing is getting distracting, by the way. I hope they justify it by having Kaufmann run over someone with a car soon.)

That house was supposed to be Harry's house, by the way, but when he got there, he discovered that it was actually home to a different family. This Harry has a few screws loose; not only does he forget until he speaks to Fargo Cybil that he has a smartphone by which he could've called for help when he discovered that his daught was missing, but he also forgets that, wait, he's not on vacation in this town, he actually lives in Silent Hill. I suppose they're trying to play up an "is Harry nuts, or is it Silent Hill???" angle, but the way he's acting, the scales are tipped to, no, he really is nuts. Which kind of saps the tension out of the story, in a way: why should I hurry to find Cheryl, but who knows if Harry even has a daughter in the first place, really. (I do wonder what's going on here, though - just in a more-abstract, less-urgent sense.)

I do have to say that the game looks great for a PS2 game. I know that it was originally a Wii title, so it comes from a system with (a little) more processing power, but they did a great job with the port visually. I'll also reiterate that it does really nail that "walking through a snowy night" feel. On the other hand: I suppose all the snow piled up in the roads is a more realistic obstacle than abrupt hell-chasms, but at some point - c'mon, Mason, just climb over the damn piles. You've climbed like 20 head-high fences two hours into this jaunt; it's not like you're gonna fall through heavy piled-up snow, despite what anyone on the dev team thinks.

Anyhow: I'm currently stuck. I'm in this little snowed-in outdoor area with about four locations, but it all just leads in one big loop, and I can't figure out where to go. Furthermore, I've triggered all sort of phone messages and whatnot through exploration, but I haven't had a cutscene in about an hour's worth of gameplay, so I'm nervous as to where the save system is gonna dump me next time I fire up the console. We'll see, I guess.

I'm gonna play my next session right before bed, so even if I get motion sick, I can just sleep it off. Wish me luck.
As I write this blog post, I am lying on the sofa trying hard not to just curl up with my head in my hands. Shattered Memories is all over-the-shoulder 3-D, and it's just making me utterly nauseous. Maybe I'll adjust, or maybe I'll move my chair back from the TV a bit...or maybe I might be ditching Mr. Mason 2.0 for Mr. Townshend shortly.

Outside of motion sickness triggers: I have to say I'm on the "rubbish" side of the divide so far. The controls are atrocious - kind of a weird half-tank control, half-"regular"-style where one analog stick moves Harry back & forward, but only in this really stiff, cardinal-directions-only way, and the other analog stick twists his body slowly around. It's way worse than either of the established survival horror control schemes, and I'm shocked that the folks who cry foul over tank controls haven't screamed bloody murder over this. Gameplay is largely limited to "press X to not die" moments - or, rather, "press X to open door" or "press X to listen to answering machine" or "press all kinds of buttons to operate mundane household objects in a mundane manner." I can see that they're going for puzzles with the last part, requiring you to figure out what kind of analog-stick rigmarole will cause Harry to shake a key out of a soda can, but, you know, I've never really felt the need to play a soda can-shaking simulator. (I know that this is probably meant to set up "can't get the car keys in the ignition" moments of tension in chases later on, but - really, come on.)

Also, you have to mash buttons to open doors. That is the stupidest thing.

I understand that the game's "psychological profiling" takes into account how long you look at certain items & whatnot. I was initially worried when I heard about this mechanic, as I'm a completist who likes to take my time examining everything, but there's no point to doing so in this game - there are no items to miss, and I can't control Harry well enough to look at anything that well. That says a lot about the game, doesn't it? "I can't look at anything, and furthermore, I don't care to try" - there aren't many worse complaints.

The game isn't exactly subtle about its "psychological" material elsewhere; its opening scene is of Harry & Cheryl at an amusement park putting their heads through a knight & damsel cutout, which is repeated three times in a row, just in case its significance eluded you. I answered the opening psych questionnaire, saying "yes" to abstract ideas and schedules and "no" to cheating on partners and drinking to relax, and it resulted in Cybil looking like Marge Gunderson from Fargo (and being a condescending git, all ho-hum handwavey about Harry's missing daughter) and Harry being a bespectacled dweeb. But then again, the psychologist (the Kaufmann analogue) is a Vince McMahon lookalike who knocks back whiskeys before sessions, so perhaps I shouldn't hang too much on the game's psychological pretensions.

My heart sank when I saw Victor Ireland wannabe Tomm Hulett, the man behind most of the cut-rate U.S. knockoff Silent Hill installments, with a producer credit in the opening. His presence was keenly felt early on in a lovely (and quite huge, just so you won't miss it) bit of restroom graffiti about gang rape.

Living in New England with snow season coming down the pike (making its debut this week, actually), I have to say that the "snowy night" setting was probably the most unsettling part of the game for me. Not much more says "urgency" like no more light and snow coming down. It's tough for me to find ice scary, though, and that's what the Otherworld is apparently made of this time around.

Really, though, 45 minutes in, there's nothing compelling here - no letters from dead wives, no living nightmares about knife-wielding kids in alleys, no rooms chained from within and mysterious holes in the walls and God knows what else. It's a very humdrum experience that's nearly devoid of actual gameplay and is making me physically ill. I don't know if I'm going to be able to tough this one out.
So I'm starting this. I'd wanted to play something seasonal and was thinking about replaying Silent Hill 4, but I concluded that it was too soon! (not really since my actual first playthrough, but I've been watching some LPs & listening to the soundtrack a lot). I've no interest in any of the entries in the series farmed out to Western developers after Team Silent broke up, but I find Shattered Memories' concept of a "reimagining" of the first game's story interesting. Not that SH1 was grievousy broken or anything, but I think the idea of remkaing a title by taking the premise and running in a completely original direction could stand to be applied to more games. (Mostly ones that weren't all that hot in the first place - *cough cough* Phantasy Star III.) Plus, as a standalone remake, Shattered Memories has no impact on the "actual" series storyline, so who cares.

I've heard only extremes about this game: that it's brilliant or that it's rubbish. Nothing in between. I also know a couple of the plot twists thanks to some indiscreet blog commenters. I'm going in mostly blind, though.

My PS2's been acting up lately - unable to read certain DVDs and in general showing signs of a weak laser - so I hope I'll be able to play the and that this playthrough won't be derailed by technical difficulties like some others (more on Mystic Ark later). I got it for $15, though, which is significantly less than going internet prices, so if this goes south, I can at least recoup my investment.

ETA: The tag abbreviates as "silent hill: shattered memo". Perfect.
11 October 2015 @ 10:29 pm
Akari Funato's Booth shop; nothing of interest in stock as of this writing. (The excellent 201108A doujinshi is listed as part of a two-pack but is out of stock right now.) Funato says that she plans to put her PDFs up on Booth eventually, so stay tuned.

ETA: Funato has a Twitter and Tumblr, apparently, but outside of a pic of the covers of what were apparently her first Lunar doujin (with just a little sketch of Lemina), the accounts don't have much but a) pics of that goddamn Chain Chronicle iPhone game and b) a "don't scan ANY of these comic panels!" notice Funato put in her Under the Rose books that she retweeted like 10 different times.
03 October 2015 @ 08:40 pm
Breaking radio silence to promote this excellent retrospective on the Mortal Kombat movie, as told by those who made the film. The article even gives special attention to the soundtrack. No Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, but I suppose one can't have everything.
03 September 2015 @ 10:29 am
Sorry I declared my return a bit early - I'm concentrating on translation projects, plus my dog's health is acting up - but I wanted to drop by to post on my belated discovery of Pixiv's doujinshi market, Booth.pm, where Pixiv artists can sell their doujinshi items directly. It's a real intriguing concept, but there's not much to report, at least for the series I like: a sold-out 20th anniversary Lunar 2 doujin from Garden Garden (which is still at it, and which hasn't improved artistically); a few scattered Angelique tchotchkes, mostly of an Oscar/Lumi nature (and it goes to show how unaccustomed I am to that new Lumiale design, because I was looking at that charm and thinking: "who's that chick with Oscar; is she from another game?"); and...some picture (not a doujin; a picture) of Alis Landale and some other warrior chica biting a catgirl's ears. The most curious discovery was of a bunch of Clock Tower doujinshi, but I don't think I'll bite; it's predominantly Jennifer/Edward, with both characters drawn - well, I was going to say "very young," but the characters' physical ages during the game are 15 and 10 respectively. Yes, I know that [Spoiler (click to open)]Edward is an age-old demon, and hints of that dynamic are an effective creep factor in the novel, but...well, try explaining to that to customs, at the very least. Someone did make replicas of Yu/Alyssa's amulets, though, which is remarkable.

(I also came across this remarkable artist while searching for 999 stuff - which is nil, apparently. There are some very odd omissions in Booth's stock, though - no FF4, and no Ib, which was a cottage industry on Pixiv last time I looked.)

(Also, I feel obliged to mention that if you like FF6, you might enjoy these fan artbooks. For Chrono Trigger, have a Magus postcard set.)

(I must also link this.)

Of course, most of the series I enjoy have been around for a few years and are unlikely to see the release of many new books or items; you might have better luck yourself searching for the titles you enjoy. You'll have to use Tenso or another forwarding service if you decide to bite, of course.
24 August 2015 @ 10:29 pm
The Mystery of the Blue Train: The solution to this mystery hinges on a) the unforeshadowed fact that one of the female characters is a professional male impersonator and b) the idea that "all women look alike nowadays" (yes, this is a sentiment that is actually voiced in the book).

The Lost City of Z:
Author: I am a city dweller who has literally never camped once in his life! I am going deep into the Amazon to locate a missing family of Victorian explorers and find the lost city of Z for which they were searching!
Professor: Hey, that's interesting. I know this anthropologist embedded with the natives down there who was working on that exact same question. You should meet up with him.
Author: Hey, we need bravado for this mission, not facts. Well, I've bought every single gadget REI SoHo stocks; I see no reason why I will not solve this mystery single-handedly! I'm off!
A couple days later:
Author: Man, a lot of the Amazon has been cut down, but hiking is still hard. I'm going home. Hey, might as well look up that dork that other dork told me about.
Anthropologist: Oh, yeah, we totally found that city. I can take you to it. We've already mapped it. I even wrote a book about it, in fact!

Chasing Butterflies: This author wants to become intimate with butterflies beyond a level that is healthy or mechanically possible.