Archive for September, 2009

September 28th running log

Same as the last couple times, but with Adrienne again finally! Yay!

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September 26th running log

Same as last time, soundtrack was Bound Together this time.

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September 24th running log

Same as the last couple of times – 10 min. run, 1 min walk, 4 times around, listening to a playlist from Gid’s albums again. How I love the Best of Shape Asellus (SaGa Frontier) last battle arrangement! Next time should be back to running with Adrienne, hopefully.

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September 20th running log

I haven’t been running much at all! For all Adrienne calls me a demon, I guess the gig is only good when I’ve got someone to torment. Luckily she’s coming back soon. Today I went for 10 minutes run, 1 min walk repeated four times, accompanied by a mix I made from all the songs Gid sent over a while back.

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Why I Adore Granhistoria

So I’ve been over the reasons most retro game fans would take one look at this unknown game with the bad music and just load up Chrono Trigger again instead. Even in Japan it seems mostly forgotten – there are some fansites (most notably a full novelization treatment), some fanart, but there’s no 15th anniversary plans for a fanbook like there are with Live A Live. Various commenters call for a remake, but we all know it’ll never happen. And yet here I am, working hard on a translation and considering it all in some depth, knowing full well everyone’s going to wish it was Romancing SaGa 2 or some other game. Here’s why.

I’m completely suckered in by the characters. Maybe that seems like an odd thing to say when the guy you think is going to be your main character gets skewered in the first five minutes, and you’re actually playing an otherworldly intelligence animating his corpse… Well, I like the otherworldly intelligence. I dare say he’s just about the nicest otherworldly intelligence I’ve come across. These days he’d probably be written as a silent hero, but I’m glad he’s not because he’s sweet and his single-minded approach to his task can come off as pretty funny. A lot of the characters have that Fire Emblem chivalrous appeal, and their interactions are usually well written. At the beginning, having read the timeline, I was curious as to who these people would turn out to be, and as the game progressed I came to care a lot about all of them.

It’s true that the choices you make don’t affect the big picture — the endgame events, the sudden twist in the middle — but they do affect the way things play out. There’s a couple incidents (minor, mostly) where the game overrides your choice, and I do wish you could respond to some things in a better way. For example, if I was the otherworldly intelligence and not our friend Red Sphere, Kaiser would have been thrown out immediately, just on the strength of knowing that in one future he works with the invading country and they make him the king. Even if that future never happens, who needs a guy like that as your advisor? But some of the choices do really affect your gameplay, and the final choice you have to make in the game changes the ending; one of the things I really respect about the game is that neither choice seems to be “right.” Besides that, some of the twists are really nicely done. With a chronicle of the future in your hands, it’s easy to think you’re on top of things, but of course it’s never that simple… Sometimes it’s your own actions that change things in unexpected ways or allow for things to be changed, and sometimes things just don’t go according to plan…

I’m real into the whole religion aspect. It’s not as simple as the standard RPG “the prevailing religion turns out to be the enemy!” stuff: between the two main religions, there is no “good” religion and “bad” religion. Sure, a bad guy might turn to the animistic religion to accomplish his goals, but so do you, and your best friend – a lifelong devotee of the other religion – cheers you on. So it’s a lot more about what people do with these two forces, even though the forces themselves undoubtedly exist and exert a lot of influence over the world.

It’s a very gloomy game, with a lot of mysteries — OK, some due to so-so writing, but some just there, left unsaid. Whatever successes you have are overshadowed by the prospect of the world still ending, as the game helpfully reminds you all the time, and even knowing the future doesn’t always mean you can make things better: things are outside your control, people behave unpredictably, unknown forces are messing with you. As I mentioned before, there’s not a “good” ending and a “bad ending.” That’s because in their own special ways, they’re both complete downers. The website I mentioned before that turns the game script into a novel just can’t help but tack on a slight happy ending, and it isn’t even all that happy. In any case, it’s given me a lot to think about.

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September 12 running log

I’ve been slacking off, especially with Adrienne out of town, but I made it to the Y this morning and ran 10 minutes, walked 1, repeated four times. Listened to my Metal Max playlist, but really all I need to be happy is a way to have this song repeat for an hour. Thanks, Machiya-sama!

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Reasons you probably won’t play Granhistoria

So I love this little game, but as with anything I have to get the negative parts out of the way first.

Frankly, with about a dozen people living in each kingdom, the world doesn’t hold up at all. If it looked like FFXII, with lots of crowd scenes and many people you didn’t need to talk to, a player could buy it more easily, but when you say “Three kingdoms are going to attack Ashina!” I envision about twenty soldiers waving guns. It’s no surprise that an RPG’s main character has the potential power to kill everyone else in the whole word, but something about the sparsely inhabited towns makes me think that I could actually do it, and just get the end of the world over with already.

The much touted ‘changing history’ aspect is a little weak. Your decisions make some impact on what happens, but not very much overall, and in the end the game is pretty linear. The more annoying thing, for me, is that you would think that with a chronicle of the future at your fingertips you would find more sensible ways to change things than reacting at the last minute. There is not much one can do about this, but I fully intend to write the main character in the best possible light so he doesn’t come off like an idiot. Well, technically he’s from another world, so a little slowness isn’t unexpected…

The gameplay is boring. With no Zoom spell or transportation mechanism you just walk from checkpoint to checkpoint all the time, and the battle system is pretty standard stuff. There’s no interaction with the environment, minigames, sidequests or other surprises, you often can’t go to any area besides the one the game wants you to go to, and near the end, you can choose one person to be in your party – but you can’t change your mind. I played with the fast-forward button in frequent use.

The music sucks. Now, Brian would probably play about twenty seconds before reaching for the off switch on his hearing aids, but he’s real critical about music. I have a higher tolerance for such things, and if I can’t stand a game’s music, then it’s really, really bad. Maybe I’ll give it another chance, but I played about 3/4ths of it with the music off. Actually, the Tenshi no Uta soundtrack fits really well, if you play the right song at the right time.

There are many confusing / unexplained things. I’m not just saying that because I’m not a native Japanese speaker – I’ve read lots of discussions / blog posts with people asking “Why did this happen?” or “What was that?” and so on. There are some things I’m not sure about because I haven’t done a second draft of the translation, and the first translation is so rough it doesn’t really count as English – and then there are some things I’ve pondered for hours and I’m still not quite sure about them. There is at least one thing I am going to make a little more obvious in the translation that comes into play right off the bat.

See? Now, in my next post I can praise its good parts honestly without holding any of the bad back.

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