Month: March 2023
On Drake Street in Downtown Vancouver. Summer of 2018.
Front Mission 3 | Classic Review
A few years ago, when the first fire emblem games started coming out in the US a lot of people were telling me to try them out. They said things like, if you love RPG’s, you will love turn based strategy RPG’s. So, I rented the Gameboy Advanced version and, it did not click with me. It was not the perma-death I just would get bored. The fights take a long, long time and being thrown into the deep end with large units, you spend half an hour fighting a battle and then loose and have to start all the way at the beginning of the battle. I tried other games in the genre thinking I was just missing something. Like Phantom Brave or early Sega Shinning Force games for the Genesis, but it just never clicked with me. That was until I played Front Mission III. What made the difference for me? Why did it click when all the other games simply did not?
First, I really liked the story, at least one of them, let me explain. Set in an alternate future, not that different from our own you play as Kazuki on a mission to rescue his adopted sister or her real sister and save the world from the threat of Midas. Midas is the code name for a nuclear style weapon with the capability to level cities without the damaging fallout radiation. You team up with seven other characters to fight genetically enhanced super soldiers and world powers from all over the world to accomplish your personal and far-reaching mission. The story can play out in two ways depending on a seemingly ordinary decision that you are presented with in the opening minutes of the game. In fact, for a long time, I did not even know there were two campaigns as I always made the same choice in the narrative. Allies in one campaign become enemies in the other and vice versa. That said in neither campaign do you play “the bad guy” or the “good guy.” Kazuki is a good person and desires to do the right thing, but his potential allies are morally grey characters that are positively influenced by him as the story progresses. The two campaigns act as a, what might have been, to each other and are different narratively and even influence the battles and locations where you fight. That said I definitely prefer one campaign to the other, but it is cool that you have some options.
The main method of warfare consists of piloting Wanzers, large powerful mechs that you take control of, four at time, in battle against the many enemies you will face. It is epic stuff with all the combat, espionage and intrigue to make a Hollywood blockbuster. It is too bad that it all told through text boxes and the few cut scenes it has have not aged well. Especially the ones using the in-game engine where the humans look like they were cut from cardboard pieces. In short, the story is good however not terribly well told. Some of this is down to the PlayStation hardware, but the rest, well I will get back to that. I really did enjoy the story; I just wished more emphasis had been placed on its presentation.
Cut scenes and character models aside the game look pretty good even by today’s standards. It may lack in the color department, but it portrays a realistic gritty world marred by war. The Wanzers look great, and it is clear they received most of the budget for 3D models and 2D sprites. Both of these are presented together for wide battlefield shots and closer combat views. The transition between these two modes holds up to this day and is impressive given hardware limitations. However, background texture mapping suffers from the texture warping common on the hardware. Music fits the game though sitting here writing I cannot recall any of it, though I never felt removed from the experience by it. As stated, most of the story is told through text boxes. The dialogue is pretty wordy and none of it is voiced, but the character portraits are good and the backgrounds for these scenes are rarely reused unless it is appropriate to do so, as in we are in the same place as before. Easily the most impressive presentation piece is the internet feature. Throughout the game you will have access to a fictional internet service with email, web addresses, shopping and more. This is expanded through exploring and interacting with the few NPC’s, main characters and even in battle. It is fun to poke around in and is a unique experience.
Typical to the genre, all of this game is menus. In a town? Menu. In a battle? Menu. Shopping? Menu. So, the skill gap for the game is low, precision platform skills are not needed. That is not to say that the game has no challenge or that it is easy. In a battle you can control four Wanzers. Rarely you may have support, but you cannot control their actions, always you will have enemies and from the start you will almost always be outnumbered and outgunned. The challenge comes with maximizing your damage dealt while minimizing damage taken and meeting your objectives. Usually, the objectives are always “destroy all enemies,” but occasionally you will have others as well. Best of all though you can fight with all your strength without fear of consequence. Playing Shinning Force, I was always afraid to commit the main character to battle because if he dies game over and in Fire Emblem, with the threat of perma-death that becomes true of every character. So, you hold back your best characters, which means they don’t level, and they become useless. In Front Mission there is no experience just money which you use to upgrade equipment. You can earn abilities for characters through ability points earned in battle, but it is not the main focus. But best of all if the main character goes down, you can keep fighting and he will be back for the next battle. The challenge is just not losing all Wanzers, which is plenty because of how often you are outnumbered. Many times, I wished I could field all my characters, having seven total, but the challenge of the game is in the four character limit. So, things are balanced and if you do not mind a lot of menus then the control is very applicable to the game play style. This also makes the game more manageable. Battles are still long but with so many moving elements like damaged parts needing to be repaired I found the combat more engaging.
The only level design to speak of is the battle maps. These are varied and add challenges through terrain and cover. Say your character is getting pummeled seeking cover behind objects can affect the enemies aim and give you some time to recover and heal. Range is a factor to every action thanks to varied enemy types and range is easily affected by the unique environments and obstacles. A few maps can be revisited in the simulator to earn more money and try out new skills or weapons. I wish there were more simulated maps, or even if all of them could be unlocked, but this does not seem to be the case. In brief I never encountered a map where I thought that it was unfair or uninteresting.
I have finally found a strategy game that I can get into. The combat feels snappy and rewarding and the battles are, for me, fun. The story is full of intrigue despite its limited presentation. I find myself going back to replay it fairly often. I picked up part one on the DS and part 4 for the PS2 and I am looking forward to trying both of them. Maybe all the formula needed for me was giant fighting robots. I would absolutely love a modern remake of three though it will probably never happen. I fully recommend the game.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) – Sam Raimi | Review | AllMovie
In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, director Sam Raimi (Army of Darkness) takes a script by Michael Waldron (Loki) and creates an eye-popping masterpiece that combines horror and fantasy. Though the story suffers a bit from underdeveloped characters, the fantastic musical score and various visual components easily overcome its shortcoming.
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has nightmares of a horrific version of himself. Despite this, he tries to go about his daily life and attend the wedding of Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). The nightmares come to partial reality after the ceremony when America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), the girl from his visions, becomes a stark reality in his universe. Now, Strange must combine his talents with those of sorcerer supreme Wong (Benedict Wong), and also the witchcraft of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), to prevent the destruction of the multiverse itself. But the first step is finding out who wants to steal America’s hidden talent and why. The answer is as shocking as the intent.
Waldron has created a skillfully written, multi-layered story that is neither short on horror nor action. But he has done so at the expense of the individual characters. The focus, of course, is on Strange, and Cumberbatch continues to improve his game as the character. But despite introducing other heroes old and new, as well as the two female leads so prominently displayed on the poster, the characters are not fully developed; and so, the spotlight remains on Strange. It is also notable that anyone who hasn’t seen the limited series WandaVision will be lost with the motivations of the Scarlet Witch. Nonetheless, this issue does not entirely take away from a thrilling storyline. Also, knowing Raimi’s history as a director, chances are there wasn’t any issue until the studio called for 35 minutes of cuts. Another reason, perhaps, is that the studio didn’t want to take too much focus away from the lead character and shine it on those that will be more developed later.
The real co-stars of the show are the amazing visual effects and incredible score. In the past, there have been issues with CGI not looking organic. This is never the case here, whether there is a horror from another dimension on the screen or the characters are hurtling through space. Even by Marvel standards, this is a triumph. Every bit of music throughout, whether beautiful or discordant, fits perfectly with the action, especially one particular battle scene. The score demonstrates that Danny Elfman is still a master of writing for the strange and unusual, and, in fact, this is one of his best.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a visual feast with a great menu but small portions in the character-development course. The story is multi-faceted and visually stimulating, and every other aspect of the film more than overshadows any issue.
Review of ?i?The Saturn Game?/i? by Poul Anderson
Theater, war reenactments, Star Trek conventions, cosplay, video games, and several other aspects of society—new and old—feature adults consciously participating in a reality with an entirely different context than the accepted version: an imaginary reality. Taking the idea and running with it, Poul Anderson’s 1981 novella The Saturn Game asks readers to not only suspend their reality to participate in the story, but to try to understand the realities the characters themselves are participating in. The story perhaps capable of being improved in the hands of another writer, Anderson nevertheless tells a tale with a conclusion relevant to humanity on our side of the looking glass.
Opening on a bizarrely mythic note wherein characters speak to one another of epic matters in archaic English, the story quickly settles in to describe a group of explorers arriving at Saturn’s moon, Iapetus. The five member crew, having spent the preceding months in transit, prepare to land and explore the iced-over rock which floats against the backdrop of the massive ringed planet. The crew who land on the surface are participating in a game in which they agree to improvise upon unfolds in reality. The only one who is not playing stays behind to watch over the lander while the remainder head off to explore the icy crags. A small catastrophe occurring after the explorers mount an ice ridge, it quickly proves potentially deadly. Their game interfering with the rescue, whether or not they will get back to the lander safely becomes a matter of reality.
The basic story of The Saturn Game is, in fact, quite simple: a planetary rescue. Anderson adds depth by interweaving story segments from the characters’ imagined perspectives on reality. Filled with archaic syntax and starring characterizations mythic in stature and tone, these segments appear and reappear like a sine curve. Coinciding with the end of the story, the truth they come to is the heart of the story. Not wanting to spoil matters, I will simply say that what seems odd, does converge to give the preceding juxtaposed pieces of text harmony and meaning.
The only real complaint about the novella is one which, unfortunately, results from comparison. Having read Kim Stanley Robinson’ Mars trilogy, The Saturn Game’s science of planetary exploration, geology, and climatology feel half-baked—lacking in authenticity as it were. I do not know enough of the sciences to say for certain whether Anderson knew what he was talking about or if he was simply appropriating the lingo for story purposes, but regardless, a simplicity exists which hurts rather than helps the story. Or, from another perspective, Robinson has spoiled it for everyone.
In the end, The Saturn Game is an interesting piece of science fiction for its play and examination of realities we know are not real yet willingly to participate in to create a perceived reality. No better setting to elucidate this difference than the mortal danger of being the first group of intelligent astronauts to explore a planetary moon, the resulting story is the only one that could be told under the circumstances. Anderson well known for his love of myth, fantasy and science fiction, it seems increasingly appropriate that such a story come from his fingertips. The characters may be slightly wooden in profile, but their sentiments and conclusions take one more than one dimension.
Dark Souls Remastered Is Trash
More like Dark Souls Recycled.
Just finished watching Dark Night Of The Scarecrow (1981) and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)…
What the Shadow of the Colossus Remake Doesn’t Understand About Art [siegarettes]
Bluepoint’s got a big bucket of particles effects and fur shaders for ya, all rendered at 4K 60FPS in HDR. That’s gotta make a great game, right? Right?
Historic Areas of Istanbul
With its strategic location on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul has been associated with major political, religious and artistic events for more than 2,000 years. Its masterpieces include the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 16th-century Süleymaniye Mosque, all now under threat from population pressure, industrial pollution and uncontrolled urbanization.
Strategically located on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul was successively the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the Ottoman Empire and has been associated with major events in political history, religious history and art history for more than 2,000 years. The city is situated on a peninsula which is surrounded by the Golden Horn (Haliç), a natural harbor on the north, the Bosphorus on the east and the Marmara Sea on the south. The Historic Peninsula, on which the former Byzantium and Constantinople developed, was surrounded by ancient walls, built initially by Theodosius in the early fifth century.
The Outstanding Universal Value of Istanbul resides in its unique integration of architectural masterpieces that reflect the meeting of Europe and Asia over many centuries, and in its incomparable skyline formed by the creative genius of Byzantine and Ottoman architects.
The distinctive and characteristic skyline of Istanbul was built up over many centuries and encompasses the Hagia Sophia whose vast dome reflects the architectural and decorative expertise of the 6th century, the 15th century Fatih complex and Topkapi Palace – that was continually extended until the 19th century, the Süleymaniye Mosque complex and Sehzade Mosque complex, works of the chief architect Sinan, reflecting the climax of Ottoman architecture in the 16th century, the 17th century Blue Mosque and the slender minarets of the New Mosque near the port completed in 1664.
The four areas of the property are the Archaeological Park, at the tip of the Historic peninsula; the Suleymaniye quarter with Suleymaniye Mosque complex, bazaars and vernacular settlement around it; the Zeyrek area of settlement around the Zeyrek Mosque (the former church of the Pantocrator), and the area along both sides of the Theodosian land walls including remains of the former Blachernae Palace. These areas display architectural achievements of successive imperial periods also including the 17th century Blue Mosque, the Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque, the 16th century Şehzade Mosque complex, the 15th century Topkapi Palace, the hippodrome of Constantine, the aqueduct of Valens, the Justinian churches of Hagia Sophia, St. Irene, Küçük Ayasofya Mosque (the former church of the Sts Sergius and Bacchus), the Pantocrator Monastery founded under John II Comnene by Empress Irene; the former Church of the Holy Saviour of Chora with its mosaics and paintings dating from the 14th and 15th centuries; and many other exceptional examples of various building types including baths, cisterns, and tombs.
Criterion (i): The Historic Areas of Istanbul include monuments recognised as unique architectural masterpieces of Byzantine and Ottoman periods such as Hagia Sophia, which was designed by Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletus in 532-537 and the Suleymaniye Mosque complex designed by architect Sinan in 1550-1557.
Criterion (ii): Throughout history the monuments in Istanbul have exerted considerable influence on the development of architecture, monumental arts and the organization of space, both in Europe and the Near East. Thus, the 6,650 meter terrestrial wall of Theodosius II with its second line of defence, created in 447, was one of the leading references for military architecture; Hagia Sophia became a model for an entire family of churches and later mosques, and the mosaics of the palaces and churches of Constantinople influenced both Eastern and Western art.
Criterion (iii): Istanbul bears unique testimony to the Byzantine and Ottoman civilizations through its large number of high quality examples of a great range of building types, some with associated artworks. They include fortifications, churches and palaces with mosaics and frescos, monumental cisterns, tombs, mosques, religious schools and bath buildings. The vernacular housing around major religious monuments in the Süleymaniye and Zeyrek quarters provide exceptional evidence of the late Ottoman urban pattern.
Criterion (iv): The city is an outstanding set of monuments, architectural and technical ensembles that illustrate very distinguished phases of human history. In particular, the Palace of Topkapi and the Suleymaniye Mosque complex with its caravanserai, madrasa, medical school, library, bath building, hospice and imperial tombs, provide supreme examples of ensembles of palaces and religious complexes of the Ottoman period.
The Historic Areas of Istanbul include the key attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value of Istanbul as the parts of the city that had escaped major changes and deterioration in the 19th and 20th centuries and were already protected by national legislation at the time of inscription.
Vernacular timber housing in the Süleymaniye and Zeyrek quarters, was recognized as vulnerable at the time of inscription. Despite the threat of pressure for change, many efforts have been executed in order to conserve and strengthen the timber structures within the site since then. Changes in the social structure within the area have also affected the use of those structures. The urban fabric is threatened by lack of maintenance and pressure for change. The Metropolitan Municipality is attempting to rehabilitate the area to revive its degraded parts. The revival of the Süleymaniye and Zeyrek quarters is a long project which demands a long and careful process of cleaning, conservation and restoration. The Suleymaniye Complex has retained its structural and architectural integrity, except some minor changes in the commercial part of the compound. Zeyrek Mosque, originally the Church of Pantocrator, has suffered from several earthquakes.
The integrity of the major monuments and archaeological remains within the four Historic Areas are largely intact but they are vulnerable due to the lack of a management plan. With the management plan, which is under approval process by related authority, it is aimed to address all the issues and solve the problems within the site gradually.
The setting of the Historic Areas of Istanbul and the outstanding silhouette of the city are vulnerable to development.
The ability of the monuments and vernacular housing to express truthfully the Outstanding Universal Value of the Historic Areas of Istanbul has been compromised to some extent since inscription in terms of their design and materials. The conservation and restoration works in the setting of the Historic Peninsula are being led and followed by the central and local authorities as well as newly established institutions with the financial funds provided by the legal amendments.
The setting and distinctive skyline of the Historic Peninsula continues to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. However the ongoing ability of the wider maritime setting to do this depends on ensuring that development does not compromise views of the skyline.
Protection and management requirements
The Historic Areas of Istanbul is legally protected through national conservation legislation. There is no specific planning legislation to protect World Heritage sites. The management structure for the protection and conservation of the properties includes the shared responsibilities of national government (The Ministry of Culture and Tourism General Directorate of Cultural Assets and Museums, General Directorate of Pious Foundation) local administration and several state institutions. The approval of the Conservation Council has to be obtained for physical interventions and functional changes in registered buildings and conservation sites.
The Site Management Directorate for Cultural and Natural Sites of Istanbul was established within the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality in 2006 to coordinate management planning processes for World Heritage Sites of Istanbul. The work of the directorate is supported by an Advisory Board and a Coordination and Supervising Board. A site manager has also been appointed. A department was also structured under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to coordinate the management issues of the World Heritage Sites in Turkey and to collaborate with relevant authorities for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and the Operational Guidelines.
The first conservation plans for Zeyrek, Suleymaniye and the Land Walls were prepared and approved in 1979 and 1981. A new conservation plan including World Heritage sites was endorsed by the Council of İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality and submitted to the Conservation Council for approval. The impressive skyline of the Historic Peninsula with the Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia and Süleymaniye is preserved by planning measures. The legal protection and the management structures are adequate for ensuring the proper conservation of the properties. The national government has allocated a large amount of funding for restoration and conservation projects within the site as part of the European Capital of Culture campaign, in addition to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s, the Istanbul Special Provincial Administration’s, General Directorate of Pious Foundation’s and the local administration’s annual budgets.
Finding a balance between change and preservation is a delicate issue in the Historic Areas. The Management Plan, which is currently being prepared in collaboration with all stakeholders in conformity with the related legislation, will address this issue. It will address the traffic and transport plan for the city, the urban regeneration strategy and tourism management, and will provide a proper framework to ensure that construction and infrastructure projects respect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. It will also include policies for conservation, standards for restoration and rehabilitation, management responsibilities, accessibility, visitor management, policies for increasing the perception of the site, increasing the quality of daily life, risk management, awareness raising and training.
Barry Lituchy on American support for Croatian fascists
Barry Lituchy is a history professor at Kingsborough Community College.