Tag: Storytelling

Dragon Quest 1&2 SFC

I've occasionally been poking through the Super Famicom remake of the original Dragon Quest on my cell phone -- you know, when I've had downtime and haven't had my PSP or DS or suchlike with me.

First of all: man, onscreen D-pads suck, even for games that require as little precision as DQ. I have to savestate-spam just to get around the outside wall of Rimuldar without accidentally walking out.

Second: there's so much that's wonky about the interface of this remake. The stupid little half-steps you take instead of moving a full tile at a time, the bizarre decision to stick the action button on X and leave the menu on A (something they stuck with on up through 7 on the PS1!)...frankly I'm almost inclined to tip the Game Boy remake as the superior version of the game despite its inferior graphics and sound, just on its smoother interface.

(Also I recall the GB version having a more charming translation. I probably snorted out loud in class when I took the Princess to an inn and the keeper remarked the next morning that we'd sure been up late last night.)

(Yeah, I played Dragon Quest in class for most of CSE122. If you'd ever tried to sit through a lecture with that instructor, you'd understand.)

More Random Thoughts

Got an E-Mail about a Win7 update needs doin'. Only a four-day job but it'd still be nice to get.

Dizzy again today. It had been awhile. Don't know what caused it; did not like it.

Those Threadless shirts came in, and so far they seem like quality merchandise! I am happy with them. The Groupon deal still appears to be going on; it's worth checking out. (Though I now find that both shirts have been marked down to about the price I paid with the coupon since I ordered -- oh well, it happens.)

Ate dinner at Cornish Pasty. Good food, good beer.

Arrow has turned out to be a surprisingly good show, but man the dialogue on tonight's was overwrought. Geoff Johns? Oh.

Doctor Who: The Green Death

Originally posted brontoforum.us, 2008-12-03.


The Green Death is pretty good. By-the-numbers story, with too much wandering around in caves and futuristic businesses, but the Third Doctor and the Brigadier are in top form, and the villains are pretty awesome too.

The environmentalist bent to the story is obvious but still takes a backseat to rubber monsters and an evil computer. It does do a decently fair job of setting out the green-versus-labor dilemma and pit the down-to-Earth miners against eccentric hippie scientists, with the Brigadier somewhere in the middle, ever the pragmatist. It also strikes a chord in that the evil polluting corporation is so powerful that it has the full support of the PM, and in one scene the villain threatens to have the Doctor (I think it was the Doctor) arrested under the Emergency Powers Act.

There are some problems with the transfer in places -- I streamed it, so I'm going to chalk all the artifacting up to that, but there are bits where there's flickering light at the bottom of the picture and a couple of places where it looks like the master tape was crinkled. Nothing deal-breaking.

Anyway, it's become one of my two favorite Pertwee serials (the other is Inferno); must-see (streaming on Netflix!) and worth buying.

Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet

I am very tired, so here's another old Doctor Who review. Originally posted Brontoforumus, 2008-11-18.


The Pirate Planet is not what you expect either from the title or for the writer (Douglas Adams). The pirates are not of the traditional variety (though the leader has robot parts), are never referred to as pirates, and it is unclear until halfway through or more why the serial is called "The Pirate Planet".

But all that's part of a series of mysteries in the serial that are quite cleverly revealed. Some are obvious, others (why do gems fall from the sky right before the stars change?) are not.

Adams crafts a story with far fewer laughs than you would expect, but it's quite clever and plays out at a good pace, and features an interesting cast of characters (particularly the villains). As usual, he wears his environmentalist cred on his sleeve, but uses it in a way that makes the story interesting.

For $11, it's on the "worth owning" list.

That said, I have zero interest in watching the rest of the Key to Time Series. I've already watched 200 minutes of a collection quest; I don't really see following the remaining 450. Frankly, as much as I love Baker I think I'll take a break from him, maybe watch some more Pertwee or Davison.

Tron Lives

Tron: Uprising is like an amalgamation of all my favorite cartoons from the 1990's.

Like Batman Beyond, it's the story of a familiar character, a shadow of his former self but still formidable, training a brash young successor.

Like Sonic the Hedgehog, it's the story of a small group of rebels waging an asymmetric war against a ubiquitous technocratic dictatorship.

And like Beast Wars, it uses the fact that its characters aren't actually human as an end run around standards and practices in order to be the most violent children's cartoon on television.

Seriously, it turns out that if you change "kill" to "de-res" and change blood to little blue cubes, you can show a dude with half his face cut off and the outline of an eyelid still blinking over an empty eyesocket. Game of Thrones wasn't that graphic when Tyrion took an axe to the face.

Also: Fred Tatasciore's impression of Jeff Bridges is uncanny.

Anyway, in case you haven't caught the show yet, here's the first episode (which thetvdb classifies as a "special" instead of the first episode, thus offsetting the numbering of every single episode by one -- so thanks for that, thetvdb). It's hosted on the official Disney XD channel, so that means it's not liable to be taken down any time soon, but also means it's probably region-locked -- sorry 'bout that.

Heart of Frankenstein

Watched Young Frankenstein tonight -- it's that time of year.

Certainly one of Mel Brooks's all-time greats. And certainly there's plenty of pure spoof and slapstick, with corny jokes and wonderfully, gorgeously over-the-top performances from its impeccable cast.

But there's something in there that keeps it from being the straight-up trifle that, say, Spaceballs is (and I like Spaceballs). It doesn't have the social satire of Blazing Saddles, but it does have heart.

It's not just that it's a love letter to the original Frankenstein films (and the whole Universal Monsters line), though it's certainly that, too. It's that it's a story about family, about fathers and sons. For all that Frederick tut-tuts that it's Fronkensteen and his grandfather's work was doo-doo!, he's already followed in his footsteps to become a neurosurgeon and the very first thing he does in Castle Frankenstein is ask where his private library is. He's well on his way to taking over the family business before he ever chants "Destiny! Destiny! No escaping that for me!"

And of course, crucially, the difference between Frederick and Victor is that Frederick shows love to his creation -- even risking his own life, as the Monster points out in the climax. Because as anyone who's read Frankenstein can tell you, Frankenstein's crime isn't in creating the monster, it's in abandoning it. Mel Brooks carries that sentiment to its logical conclusion and gives us a Frankenstein who is a good father -- and so instead of the standard Tragic Ending where Everybody Dies, we get the standard Comic Ending where Everybody Gets Hitched.

Plus I doubt it's a coincidence that Wilder and Brooks wrote it around the time the former was raising a daughter and the latter fathered a son.

Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation

All right, so I'm phoning it in with another Doctor Who review I already wrote. Just because I've got free time doesn't mean I've got ideas for things to write about -- hell, the opposite may even be true.

So here goes. Originally posted on Brontoforumus, 2008-09-03.


The Ribos Operation is a mediocre story saved by interesting characters. It's probably most remarkable as the first appearance of Romana, who isn't one of them. At this point she's just a know-it-all college girl and general ice queen (as made less subtle by her costume). While this is the only serial I've seen with Mary Tamm in the role, I can reasonably assume she and the Doctor warm up to each other over time -- but I can also reasonably assume she never achieves the same chemistry with Baker that Ward had, what with Baker and Ward sleeping together and all.

This is the first part of The Key to Time Series, AKA Collection Quest: The Movie, wherein a generic good-guy overlord tells the Doctor he has to collect a series of MacGuffins before a generic bad-guy overlord can get to them first. The plot from there is simultaneously simple and needlessly convoluted: as the Doctor and Romana seek the first piece of the Key, they find that a royal exile and a pair of small-time thieves want it too. The series shows the pacing problems faced by so many early Who serials in that nothing really happens until it's half-over.

That's saved, as I said, by a good cast of characters: the lovable con-men, the ambitious villain, an alien version of Galileo, an entertainingly over-the-top augurer, and a rubber-suit monster that doesn't get nearly enough screen time.

It ends with what I've so often complained that RTD simply can't seem to do: a short but satisfying goodbye scene.

All in all, it was probably worth the rental but leaves me fairly nonplussed about the whole Key to Time series. I assume I will find the next serial, The Pirate Planet, much more impressive, as it was written by Douglas Adams.


I expect I will get to reposting my Pirate Planet review at some point here; suffice to say it had its moments but I was largely disappointed and I didn't stick around for any of the rest of the season arc. I did watch the Black Guardian Trilogy from the Fifth Doctor Era, and wished I'd stopped after the first serial.

Argo

The other flick I caught last weekend was Argo. I hadn't seen the last two movies Affleck directed, but I hear they're good, and I enjoyed this one.

Nitpicky stuff out of the way first: I thought he piled too much on at the climax. I sincerely doubt that -- minor spoiler -- the real-life Houseguests had guards speeding after them with machine guns on the tarmac.

I was also a little disappointed that they filed the serial numbers off the fictitious Argo film. In the movie, it's just a generic sci-fi B-movie -- but in real life it was a failed adaptation of Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, with production designs by Jack Kirby. I can see why these details were changed, and they're not essential to the story of a CIA exfiltration operation masquerading as a film crew, but I love that background and have been fascinated by it since I first read about it in a 2007 Wired article. Indeed, there's currently a Kickstarter going to make a documentary about the aborted Lord of Light movie.

But those quibbles aside, Argo succeeds on its own merits. It's well-acted and suspenseful, and brings attention to a largely-unknown sequence of events that happened as part of the better-known Iranian Hostage Crisis. And it's a truly crazy story -- the kind that would be unbelievable as the premise for a fictional spy movie. Truth, as they say...

And even if it's disappointing that the likes of Kirby and Zelazny don't get their due in the movie, legendary makeup artist John Chambers (played by John Goodman) sure gets plenty of props.

All in all, Argo is recommended. I caught it at a matinee; it's not going to lose much if you wait to see it at the cheap theater or on Netflix or what-have-you. In the meantime, check out that Wired story; it's fantastic.

ParaNorman

It was a busy weekend! I had a friend in from out of town, then had my cousins over for cartoons and games, then had more friends out of town and went drinkin' with them.

Caught a couple movies, too, including ParaNorman at the cheap theater. I liked it!

First of all: it's a kids' movie that does shit you're not supposed to do in a kids' movie. My favorite gag involved the rather gruesome image of the ghost of a dog who had been hit by a car. It's funnier than it sounds.

The flick does some fun things with genre conventions, has the usual kids' movie message that it's okay to be different, adds the rather more complex message that bullying is caused by fear and begets more bullying -- but mostly it's just a damn pretty, weird, creepy, funny, unconventional kids' horror movie, from a couple of directors whose resumés include Flushed Away, Coraline, and Corpse Bride.


Playing: Oh so very many things. This weekend we threw down on Scott Pilgrim, Gears of War, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (purchased used -- my boycott remains unbroken), and most recently Batman: Arkham City, which my cousin loaned me. I was going to buy the PC version to use with my sweet PC graphics card, but on finding out it had SecuROM I decided not to pay for it and just borrow the Xbox version instead -- you listening, Square Enix? Of course you're not.