Friday, 29 November 2013

On a trip to Never, Neverland

  I awoke to some rather horrid news today, folks:

  I`m linking to an article by Liam Doolan at NintendoLife (UK), but rest assured that this news has already made the rounds locally, and every outlet is reacting with shock.

  The gaming industry has seen too much of this lately.  Neverland was hardly in fine form as a company, but Rune Factory 4 has apparently seen a good traffic.  It evidently wasn’t enough, though, hence the tragedy.

  …   I … haven`t seen a lot of coverage for Rune Factory 4 everywhere.  Which is a shame, as the game is brilliant work in the JRPG field.  The team involved announced immediately that they were to being work on the next, Rune Factory 5, soon.  The fate of this game is now up in the air, and its stalwart fans may never see it either.

   …Then again, this report shows that Sega Sammy may intend to *gasp* leave Atlus/Index to work on their IPs in peace.  After watching Sega in horror these last few years adapt to the merger, news that Sega (the new company) may be ready to return to gaming, to really commit to the creative process instead of churning out poor Sonic cash-ins is heartening.  There may be hope for all the struggling companies yet.  Then again, no bidders are yet confirmed for Neverland.

  It sure isn’t good news.  It is trying news, as no one needs this kind of threat hanging over their jobs.

  …This doesn’t feel like a full post, but I think a moment of silence is in order for Neverland. 
My last words on the matter: Faith.  It’ll all work out, and things will pick up again.

  Cheers Neverland, and thank you!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The following is a reaction to Extra Credits season 7 episode 12 “What is a Game?”

  The following is a reaction to Extra Credits season 7 episode 12 “What is a Game?”

  I find it clever of you guys to come out swinging at this question.  Don’t get me wrong, you are entitled to your opinion and critically, I don’t think you guys are wrong either.  Are perhaps simply, you are asking the question mu (wrongly).

  Extra Credits finds the question to be the wrong question.  According to EC, there is no meaning to be teased from asking “Is (title) a [category].”  Is a AAA blockbuster experience like Assassin’s Creed IV a game?  Is Thomas was Alone?  Is Loneliness?  EC then heads into treacherous waters with more categories – can a AAA mass market product really be a game, if it is so different from Loneliness?  Can Loneliness be a game, same again?  I know this was inspired by a problematic forum thread, but … well hang on.

  And in so far as the question gets dismissed, they are right.  Categorization is a way of boxing a concept and limiting that concept’s potential reach from its hypothetical full reach.  A category is also a word that you can plunk into a search engine and ask for more things like (title).  Sure, we know a lot about games in our specialized little corner of the larger meta culture, but we learned dozens of category names as the necessary rote memorization to find more things like what we love.  We couldn't have had full access to this hobby without categorization.  New people just joining this community need these categories, or they need a healthy skepticism about the utility of those same categories.

  An attempt to fix the question:

  Are our categories, such as “game,” “interactive experience,” “casual,” and “hardcore,” meaningful in some way?  In any way?  That is a fair question and the answer is going to be a round no.  You can’t love Bioshock, search for more “interactive experiences” in Google and get a hit for Bioshock Infinite

  Can we design new, better categories?  I trust (read: search for) games by a particular company, and when that company (Nintendo) got too big and diverse to keep tabs on effectively anymore, I started looking for names to follow.  Names of designers, or names of teams (Tokyo EAD FTW! Woot!).  This works as a beginner to intermediate level, but I think I hear the criticism coming – you’re only going to get games from one company like that.  I can suggest that you can search game like favored brand names, but that gets you a grab bag of quality that is usually hit or miss.

  I think that we need better “search strategies” and yeah, I think that includes better categories of games.  Extra Credits long three video mini-series on the Western and JRPGs (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for the curious) is excellent and should put the rest questions of why our “genre” categories are also flawed.  Certainly only pursuing games that are all “hardcore” or “casual” nets you little, and I am having an allergic reaction to the category “must play.”

  Do we need the category “Game” ?

  That is a tough call.  Everything is a store is a box these days, and I guess you need categories to figure out what you need a video player or eBook reader to display.  Certainly there is currently a huge gulf in behind-the-scenes hardware needs caught up in everything we call a “game.”  I don’t support belittling anybody’s hard work, but at the same time:

  - you need a mobile phone to play an app (not a hard and fast rule, you can totally download apps on to platforms that can’t run them)

  - you need a specialized, proprietary TV tuner to play a blue-ray with game data on it (and you could totally get a current box, like a WiiU, that won’t play blue-ray movies).

  The generic category “game” is presently the catch-all category that gives the consumer no real idea what device is needed to access the content, and does not assist in finding more content like it.  It is perfectly reasonable that the term game come under question – and – when we question what a term means, we start from our own experiences.  I grew up playing plastic cartridge games and AD&D, to me those are games.  For others, for a whole new generation, the idea of game means digital download you play between texting sessions on an always connected device. 

  I contend that the problem is semantics.  We (that is everyone) feel that games are open to ourselves, that they are things that it is okay for us to open up to and enjoy.  We all approached these diverse forms of content because they were called games!  How can anyone tell me my type of “game” isn’t a game anymore?  How could I say that to anyone else?  It’s like having Pluto no longer be a planet!  Suddenly, the unlovable chunk of rock and ice is everyone’s favorite planet.  Because our ideas of Pluto the planet, not the celestial object itself, are now under attack! 

  Because our ideas of games are under attack, even if not the games themselves.

  But clearly we sense the problem, as the word “game” which, we find linguistic value in, is too generic to be useful.  Set aside Google and consider the clerk at Target.  We've got $50 to blow on a great new game, so what is in stock?  The clerk will probably start with the popular stuff like Battlefield or Grand Theft Auto V.  And why not, they are still games.  Getting rid of the label “game” for “interactive experiences” didn’t broaden our minds in this example.  How’s the clerk to know that we are a sucker for deeper, meaningful experiences that he happens to have in the bargain bin, like Plants vs. Zombies or something like that?  We didn’t specify it!  We had no language to specify it!  I feel that is where the artificial labels of “casual” and “hardcore” come from.  Game X’s content is different than my definition of game, so I’ll give is a specialized category.

  And from this idea, is born every racial, gender, and difference slur ever born among speaking beings.  I am not going to defend the practice, nor can I pretend to be outside of it. 

  But I contend again that this result is only because of the arbitrariness of the categories, the insensitivity of these particular categories that can be, frankly wrong!  You can find apps with similar content to full games, and you can find meaning in both types of content.  Our methodologies for talking about games is wrong here, not the need for having more meaningful and balanced categories.

  To my knowledge, there is no reason why you cannot use one of our more reliable, well tested categorization systems for games, something like the Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress systems, because those systems rate the content of the works, not the systems or broad mechanics or the like.  They come with their own baggage, no question, but given how thoroughly tested these academic systems all are as categorization systems… I wonder…

  … surely we have done worse!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Impending Troubles for Nintendo and Ubisoft, and How I Can Only Wish That I Could Help

  Well, the writing is certainly on the wall isn’t it?  Most fellow Nintendo gamers would surely ask me to hold off this gloom and doom report until next year, but I think the possibilities of reverse this trend are increasingly inescapable.

  This post is a reaction to Emily Rogers excellently written article on the business relationships of Nintendo and Ubisoft, together with other North American and European gaming companies.  She certainly proves the point categorically that there is a problem.  I might criticise only that somehow her model of building an elaborate, nuanced gaming library excludes how things used to be done in the classical age of gaming, but holding out that point of resistance seems to miss the obvious point.

  Ubisoft cannot profit on the WiiU as things stand right now.  Their profits from the Wii are diminishing, and they are not getting any better off.  One of Nintendo’s last, strongest holdouts of support for its consoles is no doubt feeling the pain, and failing a large turnaround, will surely pull up stakes early in the new year.  As it stands, many of its Mature rated games are already not being designed for multiplatform including the WiiU, and as such will come (if ever) as lackluster, delayed ports.  The writing is on the wall, folks.  So, who’s up for a rousing game of “Whose fault is it anyway?”

  I can’t shake the sense of blame centered on me.  I love Nintendo and cannot see value in a purchase that takes me further away from Nintendo’s brilliant game designers.  I enjoy Ubisoft games, and I will define myself in that list of interested, eager gamers who would of put money toward Splinter Cell: Blacklist, if only it didn’t come with a hefty $300 buy-in price.  I should be exactly the sort of gamer both companies need to make their little partnership work.  So why can’t they motivate me?

  In a word, sustenance.  The archtypical first world problem, the first and most terrifying, is to be surrounded by choices and have to weigh each against my long term well being.  Sucks to be unemployed, then, I guess, but I wasn’t any better off last year when working full time.  Then I had a minimum wage income, from which I derived skillful savings on which I survive now.  But then, I had no free time!  I have lots now, but every expenditure that can’t be defined as “essential” feels like food from my mouth!  Then I could spare an expenditure here or there, but however shall I benefit from this when I have to hurry up and go to work and never return?

  Well, I obviously returned once I was unemployed…

  As much as I would like to make Nintendo and Ubisoft’s problem my own, I really cannot afford it!  I can’t shake the feeling that there are lots of people just like me, too.  Nintendo falls who want to help, Ubisoft fans eager to make the purchase, but circumstances are just not working out for us.  For whatever reason, the other platforms are not held back by these challenges, and Sony and Microsoft are able to find non-deadbeat players to sustain their army of video game partners.

  Well, I’m just not going to make this my problem, Nintendo, Ubisoft.  You’ll just have to do what it takes to balance your own houses.

  Things do look bad for the WiiU.  It now competes directly with both the PS4 and Xbox One, and indirectly with a great number of other worthy competitors, like the Steam machines, like the Mobile market, like the 3DS family.  Initial rumors of the 2DS proclaim the standout hit of the year, far outstripping even the lofty hardware numbers of the HD twin consoles by a country mile.  Nobody wants to say it, well, I’ll say it.  I gotta say it:

  The 3DS is all the console that I really need.

  GameCube levels of power?  Check!  Stand up library of classics?  Check!  Backwards compatibility with the DS library, and all of its great hits?  Check!  It is by far the better deal than anything else on the market right now.  Unless you want HD, which I still can’t see the value of.  Or how about shooter arenas?  There aren’t too many shooters on the 3DS!  Yeah, I’ve sworn off shooters – angries up the blood, you know.  

  Maybe you want BIGGER experiences?  Ha, trollololololol.  Like there is even one experience on PS4 or Xbox One that answers Fire Emblem Awakening for sheer volume.  Big experiences are efficient with their resources; wasteful experiences with lots of flash and no substance do not faze me.  This point of view works all the better for my artistic appreciation of sprite art, which seems to be a dying art form among the Triple A game makers these days. 

  Child of Light by Ubisoft looks fantastic, and I would love to support it.  

  *Sigh* Looks at favored copy of Beyond Good and Evil on the GameCube.  Just the way things go I guess.  There are winds of change, and I can’t really blame Ubisoft for taking the actions that they need to in order to survive.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

To Make a Classic...

   If my initial impressions leave any doubts as to what I think about A Link Between Worlds, let me dispel those doubts presently.  The game is a brilliant nostalgic throwback and all of the edges are beautifully sanded off and polished until they shine.  Today, I want to tackle a larger issue with the game: what it means for gaming generally.

   Let’s clarify a few things:

   A Link Between Worlds is not a rehash of A Link to the Past.  The sheer volume of new content, new dungeons, character designs, enemy tactics (if not original enemy designs) and fresh puzzles make the game at least as original as any other Zelda, especially Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past themselves. 

  Zelda II: Adventures of Link can be claimed to be original, and it is called out as a black sheep to the franchise, of deviating from what makes Zelda great.  There are certainly more than enough other games in the franchise that didn’t go this far from the model.

   And yet it is slavishly A Link to the Past.  Enemies may have new tactics, but they are all visually and by their behaviour identifiably monsters from the 1991 game.  The perspective is derived directly from that classic, seen from top down and slightly to the front.  The new Link is a 3D object as opposed to sprites, but is carefully and lovingly remade in the image of his predecessor. 

   The design is tongue-in-cheek about it too, carefully setting up scenes that look exactly like the SNES game would set them up, before tearing them down by introducing new themes, content, and powers.  Standing on its own merits, players would miss so many of the iconic moments of the original.  Seen in the reverse order, some of those iconic moments would be weakened.  The game design and narrative design is built around not only defying, but mirroring expectations set by its inspiration.

   Nintendo designed the 1991 product to use the Super Famicom/SNES hardware to fully outperform the original game, and consciously chose the first Legend of Zelda to the exclusion of Zelda IIA Link Between Worlds is once again excluding some details, such as three dimensional combat, time travel, open world sailing, turning into things, or shrinking to micro (minish) size.  A lot of the series greatest hits are intentionally removed, sitting on the cutting room floor, to focus on the core experience.

   In many sense, this is the Zen garden approach to game design: cook up as many original game mechanic concepts as possible, then remove the ones that feel cluttered, leaving only the best behind. 

   The new ideas of ALBW are top notch, for instance the new turn-into-a-drawing changes the ubiquitous walls that constrain the experience into roads that expand the experience.  So why not make a completely original game?  Why build these new experiences into a game clearly trying to be A Link to the Past?

   It helps that A Link to the Past is a classic, but then so is the Windwaker, which recently Nintendo re-released as an HD remake with some new social and speedrunner bells and whistles.  For all the HD remakes and Director’s Cuts out there today, more could stand to copy Nintendo’s approach to the Windwaker, which was a brilliant game without the new content, and flows better with the light touches that they have added.

   A Link Between Worlds feels a little like the long lost sequel to the classic that time forgot.  But Nintendo did not forget to make a sequel, The Ocarina of Time was released in 1998 (in most regions).  There has been a whole series growing out of the game that succeeded, and by some accounts surpassed A Link to the Past, running for well over a decade now.  There couldn’t be anything wrong with that line of sequels could there?  Or is that the wrong way to look at it?  Maybe the best reason to go back to 1991 is to change and improve a few things that in retrospect Nintendo feels they could do better.

   Much changed in ALBW is the gentle evolution of the narrative.  The sages now have names and personalities; they do more than thank Link for saving them.  They offer token assistance early in the game for their own reasons, and promise more help when they can (which in game speak is foreshadowing the climax).  The narrative is strongly similar to Ocarina of Time, wrapped in a package that features a good bit of new art techniques (3D models) with a strong visual and tonal does of A Link to the Past.  It is vaguely like Nintendo trying to remake A Link to the Past using what they have learned since, main from Ocarina of Time.

   Is A Link Between Worlds is ‘sequel,’ or is it an effort to update the classic with new design, visual arts, and narrative techniques?

   Only one other game I can think of has ever had this kind of reconstruction: Resident Evil REmake for the GameCube.  Here, Capcom took a classic game from the Playstation that never before reached North American Nintendo platforms, and rebuilt every part of it.  Replace the dated visuals?  Check!  Tighten controls?  Check.  Add new rooms and puzzles?  Check.  Completely rework the voice acting and script?  Check.  I’m on record as saying that REmake is the sort of effort we never get from game devs, and wishing that more companies would attempt it.  After all, what’s a Windwaker HD when I’m in the middle of a beautifully redone edition of one of my childhood favorites?

   Is this a fair comparison?  Is A Link Between Worlds better described as a top notch REmake of a classic than a chapter 2 (or 3.5, or whatever)?  It surely feels like a great second edition of the original, one that deservedly stands alongside it.  Of course, the official word from Nintendo is that it is a sequel to an earlier game, and that is that.  It certainly covers them about the numerous thematic changes, like the Fire Dungeon in the Lake of Terrors (Lake Hylia in Lorule), or the Ice Temple where the fire themed Turtle Rock dungeon used to be.

   While I certainly don’t council anyone to give up their copy of LttP anytime soon, ALBW sure feels closely linked to it…

   …And I like it!

Friday, 22 November 2013

First Thoughts on A Link Between Worlds

         1)      Wow, I sure stayed away long, almost 4 hours!  I dove in, mainly through some moral weakness, mainly because blogging helps me alleviate anger. 

         2)      ALBW is so awesome.  Everything about its first hour or so of content is amazing, and perfect.

  The game is a near perfectly polished jewel of gameplay and aethestic.  Nintendo has drawn from some choice new lessons in gameplay design to improve on the Link to the Past base.

         1)      The overworld is exactly the same, with subtle tweaks to throw off memories of the original.  A persistent gripe you may hear is how small this makes Hyrule feel.  In truth, LttP Hyrule was a little small when it was new, and ALBW chains itself to a map that feels like other portable Zeldas have already outsized, for example the Oracle twins. 

          2)      The first dungeon has everything in the right proportions, but a different build.  There is still a trap disgorging marbles at you, there are still paths running back and forth in the high roads and low roads, and there are still shortcuts that can cut down on the backtracking, or greatly extend it if you jump down wrongly.  Each room is a puzzle, and is realized perfectly.

        3) Ravio hasn’t yet set up his shop, and so he’s only lent me his bow.  I’ve just obtained the power to merge into a painting, and I’ve had little time to master this new ability, but already, just in leaving the Eastern Palace, the puzzles built around this power are clever and enjoyable.

  On the question of help, description text runs a trifle long, but only appears once you’ve gained a new power.  Mastering the use of that power is the job of the player, and the game (and it’s mysterious voice from nowhere) back off and let the player explore fully.  There is no helpful partner character this time out, recalling the good old days of the Oracle games and Link’s Awakening in more ways than one.

  The script is well written so far, and characters talk in a believable manner.  Time will tell how deep the characterisation goes, but this is Nintendo we are talking about; I’m happy with quirky Zelda characters and everyone is good, except the one root bad guy.

  Perhaps I should take a moment and discuss the aesthetic in more detail; it will come up, and it will start fan wars, so let’s have it out, already.

  For my generation, which is a word that makes me feel old, but is only supposed to mean the 1986 crowd, the presence of colorful, happy, and exciting worlds is the norm.  A Link Between Worlds satisfies this aesthetic beautifully, and I think it is because of the skilled use of emotion, of foreboding, and tension, of happiness and helplessness.  You’re never helpless for long, in other worlds, before a helpful cut scene comes along to steer you right.  The example is the helpless scene in the boss room at the Eastern Palace.

  The now recently ended “brown” generation of gamers will find nothing here to savour.  Bear in mind, I don’t share their aesthetic vision, but the reasoning, as I heard it, was that games should favour immersion over iconic.  You should be able to smell the world, feel its textures’ grit, and by imagination transport yourself there.  ALBW’s textures carry a certain sense of unreality to them.  The walls for instance are helpfully tiled over in brick wallpaper, and they abruptly break down to represent a region of the walls that Link cannot traverse as a painting.  Otherwise, meter after meter of the wall structures look like they were made of monochrome legos with a different color for the mortar.  Chain floors have a steel look, but otherwise could be “Made In Isle Delfino” for all the texture they carry; there is no rust, no grit to speak of.  Nintendo’s made the differences in the aesthetic be functional, not ornamental nor historied.

  What about the current generation?  The one that favours games like Tearaway, or Knack?  Or Little Big Planet, or Kirby’s Epic Yarn, or Puppeteer.  Man I could go on naming these for a while.  These games certainly have no more story in their art than ALBW, but their art departments appear to have been directed to try something completely new.  There doesn’t seem to be much difference in their art styles than difference itself, and the quest to stand out in a crowded market.  This new generation is just coming into its own, with recent hits building their gameplay out of their visuals.  Does ALBW answer to this art system?

  Not really, no.  Skyward Sword is likenable to this new generation (loosely) because of its use of Impressionistic arts.  Some of that shows up in ALBW, but by and large, the game is strongly visually familiar to A Link to the Past on the SNES.  Unless we formally acknowledge ‘SNES game’ as an art style, then it doesn’t fit.

  So these are my first impressions.  More is coming, and man the game is good.  Everything feels just right so far.  The controls are spot on, the sound effects are perfect pitch, the cooldowns from using tools is just as I remember it.  The making-every-tool-dependent-on-the-magic-meter design is new, but it works; Link can use his tools freely as long as he can pay the magic cost, and when he can’t, he needs to start defending while the magic meter recharges.

  I love this game so much.  I’d say Nintendo’s art direction is bang on, and I cannot wait to see what else awaits me!

A calm reflection, I hope

  Sorry to upend my plans folks!  I have rage and you guys are going to get a post full of it! >:0
It concerns my pre-order of A Link Between Worlds, and it is the epitome of “first world problems.” I debated about steam rolling my wrath and just going forward with a cursory review of the game, but darn-it, there’s no denying my anger, so let me just spill it and get it out!

  Okay, calmly…

  So I pre-ordered Zelda: A Link Between Worlds at BestBuy for today.  Facts are facts, and they still speak well of BestBuy overall.  They delivered it through the regular mail, on time, day 1.  As is well and good.  And then I realized that the mailing envelope looks a little thin. 

  The pre-order bonus is no included in the package!

  By this I am referring to the small, musical treasure chest that was shown online.  As soon as I started hearing that North America might miss out, I became fearful of this.  And then I heard that BestBuy had the bonus, where only some companies, like EB Games/Gamestop were going to miss out.  I reacted.  I placed my pre-order there.  I backed up the order after it was approved.

  Stupid me.  I should have backed up the page that advertized the pre-order bonus.  I wasn’t included on the order confirmation, and BestBuy has since updated their page for the product; this much is reasonable as the pre-order is logically no longer possible on the shipping date.

  So yeah.  I have a good dose of anger over this exclusion, and no proof that it was ever offered on BestBuy through online, though I swear that I saw it.  If I had been smarter about that, I would think nothing about walking in their front door and giving some poor clerk a terrible day over this.  But I hate having no proof.  

  I’m pretty angry at BestBuy, but I can’t hide how angry that I am at myself, too!

  I might mention that I’m a little angry at Nintendo too, but for different reasons.  Let’s not imply this anger should go anywhere near the familiar, named, friendly faces we know from Nintendo Direct, like Eiji Aonoma, or Mr. Iwata.  I’m more angry at the still-quite-hidden distribution workers.  The musical treasure chest is a real thing for some gamers out there, probably Europe.  Any anger that I have for Europeans is simple jealousy, by the way.  Yeah I’m pretty petty overall.

  But darn it, this isn’t the first time customer relations in North America have felt strangely strained.  The person who decided to ship the musical treasure chest to mark ALBW is a genius, worthy of promotion.  The person who decided only some gamers were going to see them is a jerk.  The same sort that decided the Operation Rainfall games would not be published here.  What do I need, a petition drive like what brought Xenoblade here.  Is XSeed, the heroes of unlocalizable content, going to get into the plastics trade now?

  I can be pretty angry at Nintendo of Canada but … who am I kidding?  I just feel sad there.  All of my anger at NoC is simply because slavishly copying everything Nintendo of America does didn’t work out for me this one time.  Better to leave that alone, I guess.  Shine on, second stringer!  Yeah, so I’m just going to be mad at Nintendo of America, then.

  And reality hits me like a ton of bricks.  It’s just a plastic treasure box that plays like 8 notes max.  That’s hardly worth getting in a snit over!  And yet I am in a snit.  The heart wants what it wants, I guess.  It should pass, soon.

  This leads me round to the real problem, for me.  I don’t want to crack the case open today!  Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is about the closest spiritual successor to Zelda NES we’ll ever see, and I don’t want any part of this out-of-context rage to touch it.

  I know that this is going to suck for faithful readers.  Bear with me.  I’m sure you’d agree with me that Zelda isn’t a launch hype sort of game; I wouldn’t have any excitement to buy now as opposed to Boxing Day (Dec 26 for non-Canadians) without the plastic extra.  Zelda is now and forever a classic, something that is best to slow down, take time with, and appreciate fully.  Nintendo may have claimed that they are not in the business of making art, but I don’t believe that for a minute.

  A Link Between Worlds is worth more than the plastic treasure box.  It’s also worth more than a temporary bit of consumer rage, or jealousy.  I might be having a bit of a meltdown, and still perched on my outraged consumer soapbox, but this, like all nerd rage, will pass.  Zelda is forever!

  I have a bit of content for ALBW up soon.  I have a post that I was working on before it arrived that I could return to.  I just need to get into the right mindspace again.  Thanks again for hearing out my diatribe folks. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Fresh Update:

  Sorry that I have been delayed: I’ve been writer’s blocked!

  Not much has changed since my last post.  I’m still plugging away at Rune Factory 4, now on the last stage of the second arc and pushing forward.  There’s a lot left to do, and some terribly vexing step switch puzzles that I can’t figure out how to keep depressed, as items won’t do and allies won’t hold still.  I’m also pushing along in Code of Princess, and well balanced brawler of a game from Atlus that I got on sale.  It is good stuff so far, though the story is still pretty ham fisted and silly, overall.

  But I’m sure no one wants to know all of that stuff.  Everyone wants to know about Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.  I know that I do!  Zelda is coming out in two days, and for me it cannot be released soon enough.  I’ll probably be delayed even at that, as it is released on a Saturday and being delivered to my door.  My money is on a Monday receipt.  But it will be worth it for the musical treasure chest!  If I get it, then I shall nominate Nintendo for a write in award.

  Best Pre-Order Bonus: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

  There isn’t much that could rival such a nice bonus!  I’m sure someone else will mention various DLC promotions, but that always feels more impermanent and impersonal!  I’ll take the silly plastic goodie any day! 

  Speaking of orders from Nintendo, when are they going to get around to releasing my Majora’s Mask Sound Track CD for Club Nintendo Platinum members? *checks Club Nintendo*  … No change!  Curses!
Ahem.  So yeah, not much changes, but a lot of potential all around me.  I haven’t decided how to mark the occasion for a new Zelda game yet.  You might see something special done around here!

  Hmm… this doesn’t feel like a complete post.  Alright, just for you guys, here’s the best I got to fill the gap!  The second most fervently desired game on my wishlist, in silly comic form!

The comic above is my own work.  Good lord this took a while.  And, yes, I know it looks terrible and simplifies terrible subject matter for humor.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

How to hamper a party

  Well, it’s the morning after, and true to form, the Internet is weighing on my enthusiasm.

  Funny how time does that.  A Nintendo Direct launches choked full of fun new games announcements and I am stoked.  I admit I checked a few articles about the PS4 and others, but really, nothing has changed overnight on that score.  The only thing dampening my spirits for Nintendo is the overarching negativity of the Internet.  Well, that and a few legitimately confusing actions by Nintendo.

  I don’t play in multiple regions, but I, living in the American region, in Canada specifically, have found plenty of instances when region locking has become a pain.  Can anyone else remember the Operation Rainfall?  News breaks today that Nintendo is indeed moving slowly towards unified accounts, but its regions remain disjointed; specifically, users who have a balance in multiple currencies will lose the currency of their non-homeland.  Wiped clean.  Goodbye.  You don’t have to be affected by this directly to get all kinds of bad vibes from it.

  There’s no good reason for Nintendo to talk about deleting balances; even if there was a balance that couldn’t be reconciled with the total, you could wipe the balance and offer equal eShop credit.  Ta da!  Potentially embarrassing story about Nintendo stealing children’s lunch money solved.

  The bigger questions revolve around how region locking is causing this problem in the first place.  Superficially, Nintendo isn’t a bank and isn’t in the business of buying currency – it would be the easiest way to lose money, and for a company that barely balances this quarter, and has harsh news coming at the end of the fiscal year to explain why they can’t move 9 million WiiU consoles, the logical idea is that they want to keep the bad news to a minimum for shareholders.  But this is still my best guess, and smacks of Nintendo not trying hard enough to outthink the trap rather than bite the bad-news bullet.  Surely there is something else I haven’t seen causing Nintendo to contemplate petty theft.

  All of this can’t crimp my joy going into the holidays for the 3DS, including Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.  Nor does it change my view of Nintendo, much.  While Nintendo’s family of gaming companies continues to be in my view the best in the business, the business side of the family continues to give me pause.  Who thinks up this kind of policy, even as it pertains to customers who are “breaking the rules.”  It would be a lot easier to see Nintendo’s side of the story if we knew why these are the rules. 
Why should there be region locking?  What does region locking deliver to the business?

  I leave my readers with this thought:

  Sony recently had region locking in its business (as in the Playstations 3 and 4; the Vita TV is region locked and only announced in Japan).  Sony likewise did not balance the books this quarter, and this is because of the weak yen, while their Xperia brand cell phones sold well.  The Playstation 4 is not yet available as of this writing.  This probably shouldn’t be meaningful … Sony not profitable?  When did that become news?  But still … its company I’m sure Nintendo doesn’t want to keep.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

My Thanks, Directly to Nintendo

Well folks, I am feeling really good about this Nintendo Direct.  For a 30 minute video focusing on the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo detailed several important pieces of news:

 1.     Bravely Default (3DS) launch date and collector’s box information

This trailer is eye wateringly beautiful, showing off visuals on the 3DS the way they should be made.  I fully expect Square-Enix to flub the business side of the equation somehow, but this looks like an amazing game with plenty of heart.  My only real concern is that I may not need or know that I will enjoy bonus content like a music CD or art book; the ones that I have on my shelf go unseen/heard virtually all of the time.  Considering recent challenges that I`ve had with playing JRPGs, I feel like a hint book or guide to get me started might be a better investment. 

 2.      Plenty of new info and launch date for Mario Party 3DS

Honestly this game isn`t really on my radar, but the focus on online play and the ability to play with friends without the game (as long as I have it) … doesn`t really change things for me.  Sorry.  Internet age … I have no friends!  Poo!

 3.    Another trailer for Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS), which surprised me

I’m a little surprised about the Zelda trailer: the game goes live later this month and has had a ton of coverage so far.  True it debuts the same time as Mario Party 3DS, but that game is comparatively unknown.  While some spoilers now fill the Internet, I can’t help but feel all the better about my decision to purchase Zelda.  I love the range of characters in every Zelda, and I truly adore Link to the Past, ensuring that I will find plenty to love in A Link Between Worlds, despite its visuals (which seem a little off-putting even for me.

4.     Unified balances for the eShops, allowing us to formally start talking about the Nintendo eShop

Keep calm people!  Nintendo has only announced that the balances on the respective eShops will be shareable.  This was already true for the eShop cards, which I favor as a safer alternative to pay online for content than providing a credit card.  Now, the balances deposited on one Nintendo machine will count towards the balance on the other machine, allowing consumers to move money between freely.  Or at least, that`s my reading of it; Ninty`s psyched me out before.  While it sweetened the deal for me to buy a WiiU and play some fine eShop and Virtual Console games, I confess that I am still waiting for the day Nintendo announces that we can transfer games freely from one console to the next.  I know, right, pie in the sky dream!  Honestly, that is the only feature of the Playstation Network that I envy – I`m okay with hosting my content locally.  It`s PSN-hack proof!

5.     Balances are tied to the Nintendo Network ID, and finally, that ID can be obtained with a purchase of a 3DS, including full access to a Miiverse app.

Miiverse is a social software that debuted exclusively to the WiiU last year.  I`ve been very interested in trying it, as I have always felt isolated in my love of Nintendo.  It was ported to iOS, mobile, and the 3DS a long time ago, but all you could do was watch posts; to post yourself, you need a Nintendo Network ID.  I can`t wait to set mine up and see the network in action.  So … does Nintendo send us an email when it is ready, or is it done through Club Nintendo?  Common Nintendo, don`t leave me hanging!

6.   We got a great new sizzle reel for indie content.

Nintendo of Europe got such a trailer during the E3 direct last summer, and I certainly agreed with criticisms that Nintendo of America should have done likewise for us.  Honestly, I can sort of see why Nintendo is not pushing indies harder – they are at least indirectly competing for dollars.  Still, Nintendo needs to change the story about its lack of third party support on the WiiU, and this was a great minimum to do for the effort.

7.      New content for Pikmin 3 and Animal Crossing Plaza (WiiU)

I love Animal Crossing, but I`m still unsure what ACPlaza is.  I may need to do a blog series on it, just to describe what it is for fellow fence sitters once I have my WiiU.  The new content for Pikmin 3 is icing on the cake I can`t eat yet, but I`ll be glad to see Louis again.  Someday.

8.      A significant new trailer for Super Mario 3D World (WiiU)

This trailer was long and impressive for a 3DS focused Nintendo direct.  I am so excited.  Clearly, Nintendo`s WiiU fortunes are ridding on SM3DW first and foremost.  Those outside the hype engine, understand that we inside are very excited.  Full puzzle paced stages using the Toad Captain?  More challenge stages like Super Mario 3D Land?  Play as Rosalina?  And … wait … that’s a straight foot race!  I`ve been waiting for two decades for Sonic to try foot racing again; it figures it would be Nintendo`s Super Mario to get it right first!  It`s so simple, and I love simple racing concepts, like Sonic 2`s or the Gourmet Race (Kirby Superstar, SNES).  It's the simplest concepts that make the most amazing and replayable gameplay! This looks so great, I cannot wait!

This Nintendo direct had no features hosted by the staff in Japan, but I recognized Animka, formerly of IGN who left earlier this year to join Nintendo`s staffers ranks.  You go Audrey Drake!  Keep living the dream, and you`ll banish that fool Bill Trinen to the non-speaking parts before you know it. 

I kid, Bill Trinen can stay … I guess.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Lull that I can’t look away from

  Sorry guys,

  I blog when I get either the time or the ambition.  The early stages of Rune Factory 4 inspired me, but that inspiration has since dropped off.  I’ve completed the first “arc” of the plot, and my version of Lest is now waiting around for the second arc to kick off.  Much of the stuff he is doing in between is killing time, watching the mini-missions, and farming, crafting, and cooking. 

  The mini-missions really represent a nice supplement, as they introduce and detail the characters of the npc townsfolk.  It just feels a little dry, safe.  I really don’t like that the content can only be watched, never gamed.  Easy tasks like “I’ll go and round up …“ (blank) sounds like a made the measure mission or side quest, but even these are not playable.  Scene fades out, scene fades in, and all of the characters are already assembled.  If we are lucky we witness a scene in between, but there is nothing for the player to do but watch.  This part surely feels like a waste, like there is nothing to do and even less that the developer, Natsume, trusted us to do.

  I’ve quite forgotten a lot of the plot’s fine points, so I really am not going to continue giving out a blow by blow narration; the game is pretty good and keeps me checking in, and I feel that if anyone is on the fence about trying this game, this deep lull of boredom is not going to change their minds.

  I’m over my dislike of the main theme; while it played continuously throughout the whole town in a loop, it changed officially at the start of summer, so that’s a plus!  If it keeps changing season by season, we may just be able to bear it. 

  In other news, I got word of a deal on the eShop: Atlus is offering their greats Etrian Odyssey 4 and Code of Princess, online at $20 again.  I already purchased Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor and didn’t like it.  With my heels cooling on JRPGs generally, and already cool on Atlus specifically, I chose Code of Princess and dropped the eShop credit that I’ve been saving for over a month on it.  I don’t have any current/recent brawlers, so we will see how that goes.  My only complaint so far is that my 3DS has taken all day to download!

  And in still other news, my pre-order is in!  Wow, I haven’t pre-ordered much of anything this year.  Anyway, I now have Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, complete with the musical treasure chest bonus, coming to my door.  Expect good things from me November 22nd (adjusted for delivery times).

  Now all that I have to do if get busy buying gifts for other people.  Sigh!  I have this problem every year!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

And if everyone was jumping off a cliff...

  I guess that I am still doing this series... I must be enjoying Rune Factory 4 more than I am aware.  Don't be too surprised, it is the mark of a good game!

  Left pondering his dilemma, and unsure where to go looking first for rune spheres, Lest is accosted by a chip squeak monster in the middle of town.  The little pest steals a Ventuswill feather, a gift to Lest that defensibly means a lot to him.  Lest certainly can’t let this minor monster steal such an important trinket, and his new mission to chase after the chip squeak, south and out of the main gates of Selphia.

  Further chasing causes the chip squeak to visibly move to the next region ahead of Lest, over to the east towards the forest.  Alright I’ll say the cliché line:

  Ha-ha-har-hmm.  It’s almost like it’s leading me somewhere…

  Chasing it again leads to more scenes where the chip squeak leads the way right into the forest, and further chasing leads to more scenes where the chip squeak just leaves as Lest enters, once to the north, then once more down a … cliff?  That’s new!

  The chip squeak scenes draw the player’s attention to a passage down from the cliff top and into a cave network, a long one with far more dangerous and filled with level appropriate enemies.  The Yokmir cave network is a tough challenge for the unprepared, prompting me to immediately regret rushing after the chip squeak and not blowing the whole thing off for time forging.  One blessing, though, is that there are only a few regions in the maze that block further progress until you destroy the enemies.  I found it amenable to run through cave zones rather than stand and fighter in every region, and I found getting lost in the maze created a maddening, near constant supply of monster to fight.  Advice: save your sanity – kill the ones you have to, and leave the ones you don’t.

  Also noteworthy is the immense material wealth of this region.  Anyone short on iron, stone, bronze, and other metals could return her indefinitely and find a wealth of metals to harvest.  Trouble is, I’m now kicking myself for not stopping by and using Prince points to order that my backpack be increased!  I have so little that I can carry!

  The chip squeak continues to lead the way, but Lest will have to deviate in his path.  Switch gates block the way forward, and switches are typically close, but seem further away than any region that I’ve ventured through yet.  Careful pacing is needed to adventure here safely, and the chip squeak is fairly obviously now stopping to make sure Lest finds it again.

  The exit from Yokmir cave is conveniently located just south of the boss chamber in Yokmir forest, where Ambrosia/Amber was fought earlier.  The chip squeak again takes all of the guesswork out of this game, and leads slowly into the boss chamber.  If this sojourn ended with another tussle with Ambrosia, it might be anti-climactic, but as it happens, Ambrosia, who always showed up on successive days to challenge Lest to rematch before, got the day off today.

  Dead Tree is the boss waiting for Lest today, and it is a lot more powerful.  Like Ambrosia, it is fairly slow moving, but it hits for a fair bit of damage and has a few tricks Lest will find hard to dodge.  Careful timing and pacing is needed to stay in this fight to the end, but like all of the others so far, Dead Tree is only stalling.  Rune Factory 4 has yet to bring any true challenges.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Secret

  I’ve found a breakthrough!  Arthur sells lumber!  Now I can purchase the lumber that I need to build structures for the farm and crafting system.  At hideously inflated prices! … That will exhaust all gold set aside to actually pay for the structures … |:(

  Moving right along |:(

  What follows is a story from memory – I took notes but my note-taking skill is obviously too low.  I might have remembered some of the finer details wrongly.  My bad, give me a shout out in the comments and I’ll review.  But I think that I’ve got it all, mostly accurate.

  Pico challenges Ventuswill (loudly) about doing all of this for her.  Ventuswill booms her response that she is aware, but she must do so anyway.  The new girl Dolce is already on the ground.  Ventuswill casts a spell, and then announces that it is done, and now Dolce shall never again desire to be a monster.  Pico is at first very pleased, but curious at the unspecified gift Ventuswill is refusing.  Belated Lest enters the scene, having heard enough to know that the secret is out. 

  Ventuswill knew all along who the mysterious monster people were.  They were … are … no wait, were, her friends.  Venti is a distant and guarded character, and she holds that distance because every one of friends feels committed to her, to sacrifice themselves for her, so that she can live.  There is a heavy handedness in this plot, as the humans made this sacrifice so that Ventuswill could save their world in some unspecified way.  Ventuswill has had enough, and wishes for the cycle to end.  And Lest has already defeated three of them.

  Lest’s conundrum is now presented: he wishes to protect everyone, including Ventuswill.  Ventuswill, in contrast, is resigned to death.  She has lived knowing that her life costs the lives of people dear to her.  Venti is responsible for the amnesia gripping the three so far saved monster folk, a deliberate tactic to prevent them running off and becoming monsters again (for her sake).  Lest cannot accept this turn: no literally, three separate dialog choices are offered, each with three selections available, encouraging the player to twist out of this inevitable conclusion as much as possible.  From the dialog, this turn wounds Lest greatly. 

  Ventuswill collapses, the majestic dragon exhausted from some effort (presumably her memory charm), but as her own perspective puts it, by the elimination of her life support.  Lest has brought her to the point of dying already.  She implores him to find the fourth monster-person, and sever her link to life totally. 

  Amid all of this twisting, Lest wrangles only one piece of useful information: Rune Spheres.  Ventuswill doubts that any effort could find enough rune magic to keep her alive, and her living would cause the land to go fallow over time (which is unrelated to the current state of my farm, which will apparently be cured by non-specific fertilizer).  With nothing more to gather from Venti, the actors (Pico, Lest, and the awakened Dolce) gather outside to let her rest.

  A tense encounter with Doug reveals him to be knowledgeable of the Rune Spheres, but evasive.  He swears to collect them first, keeping them from Lest and condemning Ventuswill.  Doug presents a very different, vindictive side of the characters, and implies Ventuswill is deeply responsible for his lost clan.
In the end it is Barrett the traveler who comes to help.  Pointing Lest towards the Water ruins in the south.  It is certainly easy enough to travel there and find a new boss to fight …

  But here’s where I have to cut it.  Sorry kiddies, from here, all I can tell you is that Dr. Jones and Nancy are quite generous with the recovery costs.  Finding that the monsters are beating me down repeatedly, I resolved to try and catch up on the forging and crafting, and to try to overcome the boss through smart fighting.  So far, it hasn’t worked!  But I’ve found it so difficult to even get started with crafting and forging, that I have much further to go.

  This seems like a good time to call this little story telling blog series.  I can revisit it later, but I think that I’ve now laid out the common challenges of this game pretty completely.  It’s aggravating being stuck in a losing fight, and more aggravating that other advantages are locked away behind a deep and complex crafting system, one that requires a ton of craft specific gathering to advance.  The tension between the two halves of the game is acute besides, as both halves are compelling and full of meaning, but completing one requires a very indirect, very different way of thinking.  All of this is in addition to the, honestly fully expected, cultural differences; they aren’t hard, but they are counter-intuitive.  But it is a JRPG, so what else is new?  I certainly knew about it going in.

  Am I best pleased with the purchase of Rune Factory 4.  I think that I will see my value in time.  Will I be lining up for the next?  Hard to say “yes,” easier to say “What else is on offer?”  There was always going to be some buyer’s remorse, held up against Pokémon X & Y and Ace Attorney.  Did I find something different?  Ha, no question!

Monday, 4 November 2013


  I have achieved something near monumental today … no, not in Rune Factory 4!  Who would want me to return to that project?  Instead it is Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the game no one can ever leave.  After months of spending all of my bells to upgrade my town to perfect status, spending on scores of unwanted clothes to satisfy giraffish fashionistas, and regularly gifting every citizen in town with the surplus useless furnishings in a vain attempt to ingratiate them for their pictures, I now have all but one room upgrade.  I am a mere 598 000 bells away from having a full size house.  That I can’t live in.  What do you think of my priorities now?

  I haven’t let myself get too rushed.  AC is a lifelong game, so it seems.  One game I sure hope doesn’t take forever is Rune Factory 4.  Sorry, is that not how you guys wanted that to go down?  Rune Factory is leaving me with some troubles, and I’m starting to really resent the arbitrary locked state of its every opportunity.  But I paid full price on it, so, yeah, I’m stuck and I better make the most of it.  It’s like I’m six again (*smile*smile*)!

  I’m going to go a little out of order to outline this issue.  While I charged headlong into the adventure, I quickly found my every effort stymied by constant defeat.  I was still using level 1 gear after all, and it has taken me a while to grasp the complicated upgrade system.  The most in demand resource is lumber, which is at once easy and and painful to obtain.  Farmland left fallow collects debris, typically weeds and dead grasses, but sometimes useful things like iron clumps and sticks.  Large areas of fallow land can collect dead tree stumps, and sometimes whole live ones (…? How does that work?).  This remains the easiest way to find lumber.  Random drops from enemies and on the path feel tedious as ever (I hate random drops from enemies!)

  Managing fields to keep some fallow and others harvestable is a skill that I’m still working to perfect.  It helps that there is another field outside town, just to the south and west.  Every day I wake Lest and harvest the main field, then trek out of town to harvest the other.  The main field has crops (presently) while the field to the south has rocks, iron, and lumber.  The lumber I can obtain in this way is a pittance, only a few a day, and everything in town needs 30 lumber to build.

  Just as I come to my first 30 lumber, I resolve to build a forge and put some of these extra iron lumps to work for me.  I’ll need another 30 lumber for my fridge: that doesn’t even make sense – pre plastic age fridges were stainless steel furniture.  Sadly, I can’t reason with the game, which is terribly counter-intuitive at the best of times.  Lumber it is, no matter how slow it is to get more. 

  Forging, at least, is a lost less trying.  Lest cannot even purchase a forge until he passes a three question quiz.  Passing gives him his forging license; failure would send him back to school, assuming there was such a thing.  It would be nice is Bado, or any other NPC really, bother to teach anything about forging, but at least once its begun it is blessedly simple.  Lest can forge weapons, tools, or upgrade an existing weapon/tool.  Just for kicks, I forged one again of every tool that Lest currently has.  I spent my entire collection of iron and scrap metal and upgraded every tool I could to level 10, the arbitrary level where they cannot be upgraded further.  Barrett is a traveler who helpfully reminds Lest the materials used in reforging tools and weapons; his announcement may hint at the final trick:

  Weapons forged and upgraded with better metals should be of better quality.  Everything I have still says “Poor …” so I helped myself to forging with iron and scrap, and built up over 15 blacksmithing levels in no time.  The other trick of forging is the cost to the rune points; when gone, Lest is exhausted and vulnerable.  I’ve found a Heal spell (spend RP to recover HP), but I’ve yet to find a potion that can recover RP properly.  While the Fridge has priority, I can sense that I need a Potion lab soon!

  I know that I’m barely scratching the surface here, but again, I’m resenting the arbitrary limit.  There just isn’t that much in the way of harvestable lumber about, and that means that I need to slow down and take my time, no matter what urgent case is rocking Selphia.  And now back to our regularly scheduled beat down…
Ghost sightings abound throughout Selphia, sending shivers down poor Forte’s spine.  After a short bit of furtive running around, the ghost stops to confront Lest at the town gates.  It introduces itself (herself) as Pico, and mutters impatiently about what is taking Lest so long to save “her.”  With precious little time taken to explain anything, Pico is off like a shoot, announcing that she will be waiting for Lest where the bridge used to stand.

  That bridge is long gone, its remnants tumbled to sheer cliffs to the south and west of the gates (and the farm land outside the gates).  New tools, such as the hammer, permit Lest to crumble barriers and clear paths to it, but his own skills would be useless for getting across this obstacle.  Volkanon to the rescue then, as he appears right behind Lest and sets himself to work rebuilding the bridge.  This guy is scary effective, and his skills put mine to right miserable shame.  Like the fishing competition!  Why do they need me again?

  Across the bridge, Pico is as impatient and talkative as ever.  What does she know of Lest, and why has she been looking for him?  What did she mean by claiming that he (I) was taking too long?  Tough question, and the only answers come by chasing after her.  I was smart enough to replenish my potion supply, but I really should have taken the opportunity to run back to town and drop off the goodies.  I left a lot of nice things behind!

  Pico beelines for a mansion in the woods, run down and decrepit.  As Lest ambles after, he no sooner enters, but is trapped.  Typical!  Aside from a few tricks, the mansion is more or less a straight run back to the east.  Monsters within a tough though, and advancing is a test of endurance, doubly so as most of the doors forward are blocked by visible shield walls that are only cleared by killing all of the enemies. 
The boss at the end is Marionetta, a demonic doll with a host of powers to make Lest’s life difficult for him.  Pico is cornered only so long as to explain that she has fetched Lest to save her friend Dolce, and everyone, down to Lest himself, are no familiar with how this must mean he is in for a fight.  Range is a non-factor for Marionetta, so hanging back and blasting with runes is a non-starter for strategy.  Better to get up close and personal with a favorite melee weapon, and then run away before Marionetta prepares a counter.  The doll also has a favorite tactic of flinging herself bodily at Lest, and if she scores a hit than she can rack up a good number of combos.  Good armor helps, but staying out of Marionetta’s clutches is vital!  I burned through my healing items several times!

  With Marionetta’s strings cut, Dolce takes shape once more and collapses, and Lest and Pico carry her south out the door and into the light.  There is yet no explanation forthcoming, not until Dolce awakens anyway, so Lest is left puzzling many things.  Who are these people who are monsters, anyway?  Just outside, Volkanon has been busy, and has built a staircase down from the door in the Obsidian mansion … to the fishing hole just outside Selphia, the very spot where Amber has placed her pinched flowers.  In the moment I suppressed a cry: I’ve gone a long way to a place quite close as to be convenient going forward.  I was exhausted by this long trip to nowhere, and was pleased enough not to have to go back the way that I came.

  Dolce takes up residence in the Little Bandage clinic with Dr. Jones and Nancy.  And like Dylas before her, she ends up in Ventuswill’s chamber.  But this time, Pico’s presence gives Lest a chance to do some eaves dropping, and explanations are finally forthcoming.  Next week.

  Happy (delayed) Halloween everybody!