For the Love of Zelda

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Recently, I’ve gotten the urge to revisit (and download) a good chunk of Brentalfloss‘ music. For the uninitiated, Brentalfloss (aka Brent Black) is a musician whose claim to fame is the “With Lyrics” series on YouTube, where he adds lyrics to popular video game tunes. I’ve been subscribed to him for ages now and first found out about him through his “Legend of Zelda With Lyrics” video. Anyway, as I’ve been going through his library of work, I rediscovered my love for his “Ocarina of Time With Lyrics” duet with DemonTomatoDave. The song is basically an overblown argument between a fanboy and anti-fanboy over why “Ocarina” is great/sucks. It’s a brilliant, funny song and easily one of my personal favorites. It also got me thinking again about how I ultimately became a Zelda fan, which I touched upon in this blog.

On the topic of “Ocarina”, I played the N64 version a couple times a few years after it was released, first by renting it and later by receiving it as a Christmas gift. I know now that it doesn’t hold up quite as well as it did then (not helped by the 3DS remake being technologically better by comparison). However, my nostalgia with the game isn’t quite the same as it is for others. Many people who played the Zelda games prior to it loved “Ocarina”, and the innovative 3D at the time was something to marvel at. But as someone who played SOME of the previous Zelda games and didn’t care for them, “Ocarina” is what I consider my true entry into the series and how I came to understand the appeal of it.

By that, I mean the adventure/quest aspect. Being able to go around a big overworld fighting baddies, solving puzzles, and traversing towns and dungeons never felt so good to me as it did playing “Ocarina.” Now, of course, other games prior to it had the same aspects, so why didn’t I like them? Well, to start off, I never had many SNES or Gameboy games growing up, so I basically missed out on “A Link to the Past” and “Link’s Awakening” (I played both well after “Ocarina”). As for the NES games, “The Legend of Zelda” and “Zelda II: The Adventures of Link”… I could never get into them. For a kid like me, they just felt too hard. Sure, exploring was fun, but I never liked how easily I died. Prior to trying the first game, I’d only played a lot of Atari fare and “Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt”. Having this big adventure to go on in “Zelda” was cool at first, but I just found it frustrating to get far in a dungeon only to get a game over and have to start the game all over again. Basically, 2D Zelda games didn’t make me appreciate the series. It was only when I experienced “Ocarina” that I finally saw what was so great about it.

Ever since then, I’ve played nearly every Zelda game to date (though I have yet to tackle those first two games again). While many have issues with the series sometimes seeming linear or repetitive, I love it mainly for the adventure-like atmosphere each game gives me. So, yes, “Ocarina” was never about the then-innovative leap in graphics or nostalgic love of Zelda for me. Whether I still consider it my favorite or not (“Majora’s Mask” and “A Link Between Worlds” are definitely up there), I still love and respect “Ocarina” for the simple reason that it’s what got me into and helped me appreciate the Zelda franchise, newer and older games alike.

My Current Obsession: Asagao Academy: Normal Boots Club

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I originally was thinking of making this a review post instead of a “Current Obsession”, but I prefer to review games when I’ve fully beat them. That said, it’s probably still going to sound like a review since I have mainly good things to say, but I digress. So, what is “Asagao Academy: Normal Boots Club” (or “Asagao Academy” for short)? It’s a anime-esque visual novel game similar to Japanese ones of the genre. The game was funded via Kickstarter and developed by Illus Seed, which was founded by Danielle Hargrave and Cara Hillstock. The game combines traditional Japanese visual novel tropes with the likenesses and personalities of web/YouTube video producers from the sites Normal Boots and Hidden Block.

The basic gist of the game is this: You play as a transfer student named Hana during her first year at the prestigious Asagao Academy. There, you meet your energetic roommate and quickly-made best friend Mai. However, you also run into the all-male members of a popular gaming club called Normal Boots and soon befriend them. Through a series of choices, you then get to decide which guy to pursue as you also practice for a gaming tournament to determine if you’ll join their club. There are good and bad choices, but it’s up to you to make the right ones to get both the guy and the club membership.

When this game was announced roughly two years ago, I was excited. By that point, I was (and still am) watching most of the Normal Boots crew and some of Hidden Block as well, so I was well-versed in their personalities and in-jokes. I’ve only completed two of the available paths so far, but I can already tell that the game’s team took great pains to capture each person’s personality pretty faithfully. The characters also have references to their real life counterparts, such as ProJared’s love of D&D, for example. The only thing really separating them from the real deal is their age (high school teenagers in-game) and their roles in the visual novel setting (the pretty one, the nerdy one, etc.). I love all the little references they added and have gotten a few chuckles from them both in the dialogue and background art.

You get your choice of all the boys in the picture above, namely ProJared, PeanutButterGamer (or PBG for short), Jirard (The Completionist), Continue? (specifically Paul), JonTron, Shane (from Did You Know Gaming?), and Satchbag (aka Satch). There are also a couple hidden routes that for the sake of spoilers I won’t divulge. These guys also kindly lent their voices to the game, as did the team from Hidden Block, in the form of a few audio clips. They add just the right amount of “character” to it, I feel. At any rate, there’s quite a lot of game here, with the first chapter serving as an intro and allowing you to choose your guy to pursue by the end, and each guy has three more chapters aside. Plus, as is the norm with this type of game, you can get various endings ranging from the best to the worst. You also slowly unlock scenes within each chapter, CG artwork and music as well to replay/peruse any time you want. Needless to say, I plan on 100% this game. I just can’t help myself.

As for complaints so far, I’ve found I’ve only had minor ones on the technical side of things. The first could be more my computer than the game, but I’ve noticed at times the audio clips will sometimes be choppy. The other noticeable thing would be occasional typos I’ve spotted. This IS a visual novel after all, so they do stand out. However, they haven’t be frequent enough to be bothersome and I’ve found myself caught up in the story enough to not care.

Overall, though, I would recommend “Asagao Academy” easily to fans of Normal Boots and Hidden Block (though it heavily leans towards the former, of course). I would also suggest people who like this style of game give it a shot. While some may not be fans of these guys, you don’t need to know who they are to enjoy the game. Sure, the names are odd and there are definitely references in there for fans, but I feel anyone could play this without having seen any videos of them. Of course, if you DON’T enjoy visual novels or games with a ton of reading, this won’t change your mind. But as a final incentive, the game is free! That’s right, you can easily download this game for Windows, Mac or Linux at no charge. So, all in all, I adore it. It’s a game with a good bit of replay-ability, nice artwork, likable characters, original music (that’s very soothing, by the way), and some fun writing. And for me, as a fan of these guys, it’s feels like a great tribute to them.

10 Years Ago…

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Well, the inevitable has happened. Today, I was added to a Facebook group with my fellow high school grads to throw around ideas for our 10 year reunion. I honestly don’t know or care if I’ll go. Money is one potential issue since I’ll be plunking down cash for myself and my fiance to have a private hotel stay during his now-planned trip in July. But the more pressing issue is my lack of interest in seeing some of my old classmates.

I never had a huge group of friends growing up, and that extended into my high school years. Outside of high school, I’ve kept in touch with only a few of those friends, with some seemingly disappearing to another town/city altogether and others being busy with their own lives. I was never a “popular kid”, though the consensus around others was that I hung around smart, bookish kids and was one myself. And, technically, they were right. The problem with that, however, is that the most I’d do is say hi to or hang around other people through class projects or events like the school play. And once high school ended, I had no immediate desire to stay in touch with people who didn’t hang out with me, nor follow up with them later on via Facebook.

Another thing I always prided myself on, especially in school, is that I try to stay out of people’s business/drama. Because of that, I honestly could care less about playing catch-up with people, no matter if I see them around town or if for the first time since graduation. I still dislike my lack of a career throughout these years and being pretty much forced to live at home as a result, so that’s one topic I wouldn’t want to repeat to people. If I hate doing it within my own family, you can bet I’d hate it moreso with a bunch of people I haven’t seen in years. The only bright spots would be having my fiance with me and at least having plenty to talk about with the fun trips he and I have spent together, and also possibly seeing my best friends again (which has been non-existent because, again, busy lives). But even that feels like a waste of time to me, as my fiance would only know my friends and I’d rather spend time with each of them instead of among people we may or may not remember.

I don’t know, maybe I’ll change my mind once something is set in stone for it. But for now, all I can think about is how old I feel. Being out of school this long really puts your life in perspective, whether you feel you’ve accomplished a lot or not much at all. It also makes me realize how easy social networking and the Internet in general has made checking in on old classmates. If Facebook didn’t exist, I wouldn’t know a thing about what many in my grad class have been up to. But thanks to it, I can tell (usually) what job they have or had, schools they’ve been to since high school, whether they’re married/dating/single and have kids, etc. Things have changed a lot (for better or worse) since I graduated in 2006, and it’ll be interesting to see how else things change in the next 10 years.

Attitudes Towards Female Leads (AKA the Star Wars Rant)

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You know, I’m getting really sick and tired lately of people crapping on female leads. While it’s not a new attitude by any means, I’ve found it’s become more prevalent as the Internet continues to grow. But this attitude has also gotten especially noticeable with the inclusion  of female leads in popular franchises, and it’s getting old fast.

Instead of going for the obvious target of the “Ghostbusters” reboot, let’s focus on a major franchise that recently had two female-lead movies in the works: “Star Wars.” When they first announced “The Force Awakens,” the outcry seemed to be twofold: one, there was a black Stormtrooper, and two, the other was female. Things have gotten worse with the recent trailer of “Rogue One”, where the main character is also female. Now, obviously, not everyone is against these films starring women. Many, like myself, just prefer to see strong characters that aren’t necessarily defined by their genre. As long as they interesting to watch, who cares if it’s a man or woman? But, as always, there are many others who want things to be just so because of the films that came before.

The funny thing is that these are the only two to have female leads. In the six films preceding them, EVERY main character has been a man. The few female characters that existed were supporting, even standouts like Leia and Amidala. And yet, people complain that either these newer films have ruined the franchise or have basically kicked male leads to the curb. Well, sorry, but that’s the stupidest argument I think I’ve heard in recent memory. You’re basing these claims off of two, TWO films, even though one of those hasn’t even been released yet. I’ll admit, as a woman, I’m pleased to see this fresh direction being taken with “Star Wars.” But honestly, I’d be happy to see this become a trend in any genre of film or series. Women being crapped on by Hollywood and the like has been an ongoing problem, and if a writer or director comes along wanting to challenge the status quo, I say bring it on.

Do you know what this argument comes off as to me? Entitlement. In this case, I’d say it’d be of the nostalgic variety. Sure, this type of thing runs wild for other forms of media and on the Internet in general, but what does it say about a person? To me, it looks like the attitude of someone who can’t move past even an inch of nostalgia for the series to allow change. Perhaps, in the eyes of some, it’s also a prevailing thought that “Star Wars” is supposed to be aimed towards men and thus should star men all day, every day. Both of these attitudes are just plain toxic. I’ve been guilty of dismissing something based on nostalgia for its predecessors, but I’ve never done so based on a character’s gender. So, to wrap up, I can understand people holding “Star Wars” in high regard. However, when you’re spewing hate at a film because the decision was made to change the lead’s gender (even while still retaining a strong character), then I can’t help but think you need to take a page from MST3K.

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