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THE_DRUGGIE Blog

Indie Gems: Yume Nikki

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Indie games have been getting quite the great deal of attention lately, particularly due to the recent rise of DLC. With that, small publishers have been able to make a name for themselves by distributing their titles via online services such as Steam, Xbox Live, and like services. However, there are still folks out there who make games for the sole purpose of expressing their creativity. Yume Nikki (aka Dream Diary in English) is an example of a developer making a game for the sake of conveying a message over monetary gain, and does so wonderfully.

Yume Nikki is a free psychological adventure game created by Japanese developer Kikiyama in 2005. Through the course of Yume Nikki, the player will assume the role of Madotsuki, a severe shut-in who spends her time sleeping, staring at the test pattern on her TV, or playing the same depressingly monotonous game over and over. The player will not be able to have Madotsuki leave her self-imposed prison, shaking her head in disapproval at every attempt to make her go outside. Since playing the soul-crushingly boring minigame and staring at a test pattern will most likely bore (and maybe even depress) anyone with a pulse, escaping to a dream-like state via sleeping is the best option.

Existential dread is what tethers the events of Yume Nikki to one another, giving off a constant feeling of sorrow and doom. In fact, the intensity these themes is outright upsetting at times due to the inconsistent and obtuse imagery. In the dream world, Madotsuki can "leave" her room, but what is on the other side is not the real world. Instead, a series of loosely-themed worlds can be accessed via a hub with various doors. In each world, the level design and looping level layout will be more than enough to dizzy even the most clever of players. However, when this effect would be a negative for almost any game, this aspect works very well in its favor, enhancing the Wonderland-like nausea the game consistently imposes on the player.

If there was ever a game that would be an accurate representation of a dream, it would be Yume Nikki. Everything is so random (yet strangely coherent) that playing through in one sitting is not recommended. Fatigue is something that will come quick to those expecting a linear playthrough due to the hands-off approach in the game's instruction. The player will be entrusted to figure out everything beyond the controls on their own, leading to bizarre scenarios that flow between one another at a confusing pace.

In all honesty, the most difficult thing to describe about Yume Nikki is how the gameplay works in the dream worlds. Every area seems to have its own small set of unwritten rules and obtuse features, save for the simplistic movement controls (arrow keys) and using menus. Yume Nikki is something that needs to be experienced to gain full appreciation of, and a written description of what happens can be more confusing than the actual game.

Then again...maybe not.

Description of gameplay aside, what makes Yume Nikki such a great game is how indescribably compelling the entire experience is. The flow of the story is akin to experimental films like Eraserhead in that there is plenty of interpretation to be had when trying to get a grasp on what exactly is going on. Nothing is ever laid out for the player clear as day, and more often than not the plot will (seemingly) advance by accident. No dialogue is present throughout, making Madotsuki a silent protagonist. Although the silent protagonist tool is a pet peeve of mine, it actually works well for Yume Nikki since it draws more attention to the surreal imagery and leaves more up to the imagination of the player.

Something that should be siad about Yume Nikki is that the level layout is either frustratingly inconsistent or brilliantly varied...I honestly have trouble telling with this one. The maze (pictured above) is only one section of the game that is usually visited in parts rather than a whole due to every level connecting to it in one way or another (kind of like an extra area hub). Most other sections are sparse in architecture, leaving the player to go on walks through vast expanses of emptiness (with appropriate music for added effect) with the occasional peppering of strange, skewed structures and life. The variation is mind-numbing at times, bouncing the player back and forth between mazes and empty areas at an uneven pace. Still, this serves to contribute positively to the overall experience.

In the end, Yume Nikki is one of the most unique games I have ever played in my life. Everything from the character design to the sound and everything in-between is pulled off wonderfully. What makes it all even better is that this game is available from the developer, free of charge. If you think you can stomach some upsetting, unsettling, and downright confusing imagery, give this game a go. This game is a work of art.

How to Create a Better Game-Based Movie (expanded)

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The video game-based movie has had a horrible history, to say the least. In fact, its history is so abysmal that I was convinced that no decent video game-based movie would ever be anything more than a disgusting pile of tripe circling the drain that is creativity. However, Prince of Persia made me more optimistic about the video game-based movie.

Disney's romp into the world of video game-based movies was certainly more graceful than most, and there were plenty of things going for it. In fact, Prince of Persia is one example of how to do a video game-based film right, and there are certainly things directors of future movies based on games should take note of:

1. Casting

You've got everything set up for a movie and all you need to do is make sure that you hire the best actors you can for the job. Thing is, this is something that can make or break a movie, especially when making a game-based movie. Since live-action movies don't have the benefit of simply copying the character model and getting a good voice actor, you have to make sure that the actor you'll hire will look like a convincing real-life version of the character he or she portrays.


In the case of Prince of Persia, Jake Gyllenhaal, despite the obvious issue of him not being Persian, acted out the prince's lofty attitude and charming arrogance quite well. From his interactions with the princess to his attempting to swindle ostrich racers, Gyllenhaal helped make the prince look like a funny, enjoyable character without attempting to make him into a blatant thief. In fact, his performance gave off the same air of Jack Sparrow in which the lead wasn't an angel, but he knew when to make himself look like the good guy and appeal to the audience.

The polar opposite of good casting comes from the Max Payne adaptation, specifically Mila Kunis as Mona Sax.

I've heard people rag on Mark Wahlberg being the worst actor in the film but, after watching it, Kunis is clearly the worst. This is due to some very serious issues: first, you may remember that Kunis is the voice of Meg from Family Guy...and does nothing to disguise that voice. When playing the strong female Mona Sax, the last thing that needs to happen is for the actor playing that character to have the voice of a teenage girl. In the game, Sax had an adult, seductive voice that goes hand-in-hand with the film noir that inspired the games. Kunis, on the other hand, has a voice that would be better suited for a high school flick than anything remotely serious. It's the same kind of effect you get when you try to have Jim Carrey be the lead in a horror movie: it just comes off as funny...sadly, Kunis's performance was far from humorous. Her acting was jarring, considering the source material, and dragged an already seriously flawed movie even further down.

Tip: When creating a game-based movie, always consider the appearance and voice of the actors. We don't want Rip Torn being Duke Nukem.

2. Source Material

If there's one thing about video game-based movie audiences that's consistent, it's their ability to nitpick anything that seems out-of-place from the original source. If you make a single error in the motivations of the characters, types of settings, mood, or dialogue, someone will call you out on that. Since people who have played the game the movie was based on is a good chunk of the audience, a few flaws here and there could prove downright fatal in the box office.


Prince of Persia, as good as it was, did have a few odd mistakes here and there. First, as seen in the picture above, the costume for the prince on the box art is not consistent with the costume in the movie. Instead, Gyllenhaal is wearing the outfit from Warrior Within when the movie has the subtitle Sands of Time. Thankfully, errors like these can be overlooked in the big picture and, since the rest of the movie stayed within the spirit of the game, this was forgivable. The Prince of Persia movie had decent story progression, even with the logical errors that come standard with the concept of time travel. By focusing more on the human aspect of the films while making the fantasy elements toned down in comparison to the original material, the movie moved along at an enjoyable pace and used the instances with the Dagger of Time sparingly to be more like highlights than a regular occurrence.

But what happens when you make too many of these mistakes and let them pile up? Well, you get any Uwe Boll movie, but you also get the Silent Hill movie.

Let me get this out of the way before I go any further: I'm a massive Silent Hill fan. One of the appeals of the games was how the majority of what was being presented was up to interpretation. I've referenced Silent Hill 2 more than a few times in my previous entries, and for good reason: it has one of the best stories I've ever seen in a video game. Gushing praise for the games aside, I applied the same train of thought to the movie. Sadly, that did not turn out well.

The main problem with the Silent Hill movie is how many needless changes were applied to the material. First, the story follows the first game in that a parent is looking for their lost daughter...but for some reason changed Harry into a woman. Second, the monsters were all from Silent Hill 2 (with the exception of the bathroom monster), which made no sense given that those monsters were based off sexual repression and extreme guilt, something that the main character in this movie never, ever hinted to having. Third, the sections with Sean Bean were completely irrelevant and drew away from the feeling of isolation that the games used with gusto. In the end, I was left bewildered by the aforementioned changes and couldn't properly focus on what the movie way trying to convey which took away any terrifying potential it had.

Yes, I know I'm leaving out more popular examples like Boll films and the Resident Evil movie series, but I think those have been ragged on more than enough to let directors know that you don't make game-based movies like that.

3. EFFORT

It should go without saying, but if you're going to make a movie, put some heart into it. Let the audience know that you actually thought of them without making the whole thing look like a cheap rip-off flick that you wanted to make because you couldn't afford a new jumbo jet. If everyone does their part and the director takes considerable time, thought, and effort into making the end product as polished as possible, then everyone will be more compelled to see it.

Prince of Persia followed this principle more than any other video game-based movie before it. It may be in part to Disney's ability to pump a large budget into the process, but the movie certainly has some soul. The story of the original was followed marvelously, which is more than can be said than any other game-based movie. Every actor, big or small, turned in at least a decent performance. Ben Kingsley, who played the main antagonist, followed his role particularly well by making his character more dynamic than the stock characters that would be under the same umbrella. In all, Prince of Persia cared about the audience and did a legitimately good job in delivering a fantastic game-based movie.

But for every game-based movie that cares, there's a million that don't. Case in point: Alone in the Dark.

Yeah, I said before that Uwe Boll's movies have been ragged on more than enough for their rancid quality to be common knowledge, but Alone in the Dark deserves special attention for being the absolute bottom-of-the-barrel of commonly known game-based movies. I say this with every serious fiber in my body when this is the movie equivalent of Superman for the Nintendo 64.

...Actually, that's a little harsh.

To Superman 64.

This movie can serve as an itemized list of everything that can be done wrong in a game-based movie: Horrible casting (Tara Reid as a scientist), boring characters (Christian Slater utterly phoning it in), complete disregard for the source material, and just about everything else that could go wrong does so in craptacular fashion. I feel genuinely sorry for anyone who had the displeasure of seeing this in theaters, and even moreso for fans of the games. In fact, as a horror game fan, this movie outright offends me. Alone in the Dark was one of the first notable horror games ever...and Boll comes around to take a huge, steaming dump on it.

Honestly, just take a look at this film (I personally don't reccomend doing so) and you'll know everything about what makes a game-based movie horrible. Even the Super Mario Bros. film was better than this. At least it had a stupidly fun quality to it despite all the consistent errors in translating it from game to film.

When your movie makes me look back on the Super Mario Bros. live-action film lovingly while watching yours, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Extra. CG

An interesting quirk of the game-based movie is that, when it's done in CG, the overall quality of the movie is likely to rise. Take, for example, Resident Evil: Degeneration.

Although Prince of Persia didn't utilize CG models, it should be worth noting once more that audiences for game-based movies will be more receptive to the end product if the character looks exactly like their video game counterpart. The easiest way to achieve this is to simply take the character model from the games and place them in the film. Admittedly, this is not a surefire way to make your movie a smash hit with the intended audience (Spirits Within can attest to that) but you will be more likely to have the audience draw a subconscious connection to the games with ease. Once this connection is established, the director will be able to have more room for taking liberties with the property, perhaps even introducing an entirely new scenario.

Conclusion

While the video game-based movie has had its ups and downs over the years, there are gems like Prince of Persia which remind us that the future of this genre isn't entirely desolate. Sure, there are plenty of horrible game-based movies to go around, but directors can make a decent live-action adaptation if they try hard enough and actually try to stay faithful to the source material both in casting and the spirit of what they are drawing from.

Perhaps even making more game-based movies in CG would make audiences more receptive. Only time will tell.

EDIT (3-9-11): Expanded a bit on the Casting and Source Material sections. Also, added an extra bit on CG. Thanks for the comments!

Take a guess at what I bought

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I used Amazon to buy some more film for my Photography class but I also took the liberty of buying a couple leisure purchases while I was at it. Since I don't have much money to begin with, I decided to spend what little expendable income I had on a couple books:

In an earlier blog, I noted how much I liked the Azumanga Daioh anime. It came to my attention shortly afterward that there was a manga series of the same name. Since I liked the animated series so much, I decided to pick up the complete, 670+ page volume of it for $15. I can honestly say that it was worth every last penny.

The layout of the series is mostly done in sunday paper-styIe 4-panel strips that are read vertically from top to bottom. This allows for the story to be condensed and have the jokes come out at a faster pace than the animated series. In fact, there's so much content in it that it saddens me that not all of it was translated over to the animated series. It's certainly a fantastic and flat-out funny read. I highly recommend it.

Also, you'll notice that I bought the 9th volume of Yotsuba&!. Well, seeing as this was made by the same author, I decided to give this series a try earlier this year. I. Freaking. Love. This. Series.

The entire story of the series revolves around the titular energetic little girl who lives with her adoptive single father in a city. The artwork is absolutely stunning, espescially the environments and set pieces. If there was ever a series that embodied the term "scenery porn," this would fit the bill perfectly. The characters all have their own distinct personality and the entire series has hints of Calvin & Hobbes peppered throughout, save for the philosophy. This is honestly one of the most entertaining, relaxing, and endearing graphic novels I've had the pleasure of reading. I own all the volumes insofar for good reason: it's all just so damn enjoyable. If you're into graphic novels, light reading, or just comedy in general; this is definitely something you should pick up.

Oh for the love of ****

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It has come to my attention that Megaman Legends 3 will be coming to the 3DS only...what a flat-out slap in my face.

Why is it only on 3DS? I'm not willing to shell out $250 for it, so I'm just going to have to pass on this. I don't feel too bad about it, though. Inafune left Capcom so they had to resort to opening the project to the public. Due to this, I think that the end product will be underwhelming at best.

Regardless, it still angers me that it's not even coming to PSN. Sure, not having a hard copy released on PS3 and simply releasing it on PSN would've been fine, but making it a single-platform game on a system that I would least expect to host it is damn terrible. I've been patiently waiting for a sequel to the cliffhanger ending of the second game and I get blindsided by the fact that it's going to be on a system I had no plans to get.

I won't buy it. I'll just wait for it to come out and read the plot summary so I can find out what happens. I mighrt look up some videos of cutscenes as well, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

Dengit...

I am now money

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I have become Zenny. Apparently, you can collect me if you bust open some Reaverbots while digging in the ruins of the Megaman Legends games...which would then rename the currency in the game to DRUGGIEs.

On that note, Capcom should create a third game in the series already because that cliffhanger ending from 2 never fails to enrage me when I think about it.

And now: I give out my first 1.0 review

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linky

I gave Desert Storm for the PS2 a rating of 2.1, which was my lowest until the repressed memories from the linked piece of **** game came around...so I decided to empty a bit of my rage into this review. I could probably expand on it in the future, but I had to stop writing about it to avoid having an aneurysm.

Sometimes, I Amaze Myself

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I have a knack for finding rare games for low prices, that's a fact. I found Eternal Darkness for only $10, Fatal Frame II for $18, and the Silent Hill games (about a few years ago when they really were a bit rare) for under $5 each. The best part of all this is that the used media stores around my area all have disc resurfacing equipment so everything I buy used is as good as new. Now, after using a $20 gift card (and some extra cash I had) for one of those said local stores, I have acquired some pretty damn good games:

Primal Rage (Genesis) for $2

College Slam (Genesis) for $2...even came with an old Genesis poster!

Shenmue (Dreamcast) for $7

Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (Gamecube) for $8

last but not least, the highlight of the haul was this:

Resident Evil (PS1 original version) for $7

I have never, ever, since I saw it in a rental store when I was 6, seen a copy of this. Sure, I already own the Director's Cut on PSN but I absolutely love this cover. The hand-drawn art looks awesom and, quite frankly, I'm considering putting the manual and disc in a frame to hang up on my wall. Funny thing about the original version is that there's a different Capcom logo at the start-up and I think the opening cutscene is a little different (though that might just be my crappy memory catching up on me) but it's generally the same game with a lot fewer features. Still, I couldn't believe I found this.

Also, funny thing about the used copy of Shenmue I bought: it's the exact same copy I sold to the exact same store when I was a kid. It got bought from there before since I didn't see it in the visits after I sold it but it somehow turned up in the same store again. How do I know this is the same one? I remember having the exact same crack over the front of the disc case...not to mention I found some of my handwriting in the manuals. Quite the strange event.

Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments on the previous blog, I appreciate it.

I'm Finished with OT

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Seriously, OT is the most boring place on the Internet. I honestly haven't seen a single solitary interesting thing happen around there in a dog's age, what with the overwhelming amount of threads consisting of bickering breathlessly about politics and religion with nobody presenting anything resembling a well though-out idea regardless of stance. I've been lurking around there on and off for the past month and I honestly can't find anything worth posting in anymore. Instead of making a large, tl;dr-worthy blog, I'll just give a list of what I find wrong with the place:

1. Overly strict rules that are supposed to apply to people 12 and under, even though most users I've seen are at least over 18.

2. Moderators (not pointing out anyone specific) that take the ToU too literally and won't let much (if anything) slide.

3. Religion threads that consist of "OMG U WERSHIP GAD OLOLOLOLOLOL," "O U HATIN ON MY RELIGIN YR IGNRNT OMGOMGOMG," and, worst of all "WATCH ME WHILE I PULL THIS PHILOSOPHICAL ARGUMENT OUT OF MY ASS!"

4. Political threads that have such horribly misguided and uninformed opinions that it would make a Political Science professor commit suicide.

5. Humor so stale and predictable (mainly due to the strictness of the ToU) that I found myself being forced to either repost a joke that I made a thousand times before or wait for someone to come up with something original...which takes a ******* eternity.

6. Users that become easily offended and like to abuse the "Report Abuse " button so much that I want to call social services on them.

7. Related to 3 and 4: people who will completely ignore your post regardless of how level-headed you are and look for an argument that doesn't exist.

8. "OMG HOW DO I TAK 2 THES GURL OMGASMIDUNNOLOL," or, in other words, girl help threads. I would sooner ask a convicted sex offender than inquire OT about how to talk to the opposite gender. What drives someone to that degree of desperation is beyond me, but it looks like every other ******* user on here can't seem to figure out how to talk to a woman. Is it really that difficult?

9. Specific users. No, I'm not going to name anyone in particular (but I will say that the folks that have been commenting on my blogs for the past few months are nice and pretty cool) but it may surprise you who I exactly hate...not that I'll tell you or anything. In fact, there's at least one user that you'd expect me to dislike that I frankly don't have any strong opinion on. In any case, there are specific people around here that bug me because they like being involved in the previously stated reasons.

10. The board comes off as a neverending popularity contest. Being popular on an online forum such as OT is nothing really to brag about (not really all that shameful, either) and there are users who just love to garner as much attention to themselves by sticking around the place all the time and posting boring-as-**** comments on nearly every thread that comes up. Once again, not going to name anyone in particular but I will hint that a good deal of them hang around in Roll Call. Sure, there are maybe one or two people in Roll Call that I don't have any real dislike for, but there are more than enough in there that I dislike to make my posts in there rare.

Will I come back to OT? Maybe, but that would be a long ways off. I'll use my blog at the most when it comes to activity on this site but anything beyond that is not likely at the moment. Maybe this is just an overdue break, maybe this is a permanent vacation, I don't know.

If you want to talk to me, just leave a comment here and I'll get back to you. I'll still check up and post on my blog every now and then.

Also, you could add me to PSN if you want. My username is listed on my profile.

fudge my existence

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I thought I'd try and get into PC gaming this winter break so I went and bought Star Wars: Best of PC for $40. It's a little pricey by my standards (broke-ass college student) but it had Empire at War, Knights of the Old Republic, Battlefront, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Academy, and Republic Commando so I think it was worth it...until I found something out about my laptop that I hadn't known.

It has no 3D graphics card...meaning I can't play any of the games.

I looked up how much one of those costs and I can say with full confidence that I simply can't afford one. I already paid what little disposable income I had left on this pack of games so I'm left with a $40 collection of games I can't play. I tried to find a way around it, and I did after a little bit of research, but when I start up the game...well...it lags so horribly that it's practically a slide show. So yeah, I just wasted $40.

Fan-*******-tastic.