Symphony of My Weekend

The bulk of Saturday I spent helping Brian’s mom set up her new 17 inch iMac. Niiiice machine. I went over expecting to update software and fix preferences; little did I realize that there was also a printer and a scanner waiting to be hooked up. Scanners and OS X didn’t get along for the longest time, so we ended up downloading half (argh) of the drivers off the internet. Hopefully downloading the other half won’t be too difficult, since I kinda missed it the first time through.

Perhaps what was most surprising about the entire experience was how little I noticed the effects of a machine that should be about twice as fast as mine; part of that was because I wasn’t doing too much with it, and part might be the difference in internet connections (modem versus cable), but the final bit—I suspect—was the amount of RAM stuck in the computer. I bought RAM hand over fist when it was dirt cheap, and I think it extended my computer’s useful life something fierce.

The reward for my efforts was a plateful of brownies, which was easily the best payment I’ve ever received for helping set up a computer.

Mom and Dad had gone to Washington for a barbecue featuring my cousin Matt and his new wife, Iris, so in the evening Marin and I had our aunt and grandma over to watch Spirited Away in Japanese with subtitles (we had first watched it with our parents, dubbed in English). The dub was quite good, IMO, but I enjoyed the subtitled version a bit more. My aunt was impressed with how detailed the film was, for being animated (it really is! There’s nary a still frame to be found, unlike, say, Evangelion); my grandma enjoyed hearing Japanese—and she stayed awake and attentive the whole way through. Afterwards her eyes were shining; it was great.

Marin and I then watched the last episode of the first disc of Full Metal Panic, which ended with the most evil cliffhanger ever. (I was so glad that I preordered the second disc the night before. That’ll show them!) We then watched the first episode of Master Keaton, which was oddly slow and featured a much-older animation style. Keaton is an archaeologist, a professor, ex-SAS, and an insurance agent, who goes around solving insurance-related mysteries while critiquing the various artifacts he trips over. It didn’t really do much for me, though some others seemed to appreciate its non-teenage protagonist.

Rather than going to bed at a decent hour, I decided to try out the new video games I had picked up on Friday. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night really does appear to be something along the lines of a more-modern version of Simon’s Quest (Castlevania 2, for the NES), and looks to be an enjoyable way to kill time. The game begins with (what I presume is) the end of the previous Castlevania game, where you get to play a Belmont [the Belmonts are the traditional vampire-hunter family, in Castlevania] and kill Dracula…and then fast-forwards to “present times” where you assume the role of Alucard [Dracula’s son, of course]. Complete with this transition, though, is a complete change in the arrangement and display of the various status bars, as if you really were playing a different Castlevania game at the beginning. I spent quite a bit of time leveling up Alucard (yes, it takes cues from RPGs), only to watch the fish-men mercilessly put the stomp down on him before I could find a save point. Sadly, I did this twice.

Mega Man X6, in my initial testing, far surpasses Nintendo Hard. In fact, it appears to have reached the difficulty level of legend: Nintendo Sequel Hard. Games that define this level of difficulty include Final Fantasy II (J) and Super Mario Bros 2 (J), out in the US as The Lost Levels.

Oddly enough, Mega Man 2 for the NES was probably the easiest Mega Man game ever.

Anyway, you know X6 is aiming to beat you up when it features a whole bunch of spiked platforms that drop down and try to kill you—in the opening stage. [Aficionados of the Blue Bomber will understand that spikes are the most deadly thing in the world to Mega Man; they’re kind of like kryptonite to Superman, or Propecia to women.] I miss the old days, like in the original Mega Man X, where the opening stage’s most difficult obstacle was learning how to slide slowly down the sides of walls.

Once you clear that, you wade through twenty minutes of exposition on an ill-defined plot. The twist, this time, is that Capcom left the original Japanese audio alone and only provided their traditional half-assed translation to get you by. I had to refrain from laughing (it was rather late at night) when I read their translation of someone saying “X!” as something along the lines of “Eh-Ku-Su!” Of course, this is what you hear. Yay Capcom. (One might argue that this was done because that particular cry of “X!” was supposed to be dramatic, but to that one I say “feh!”) Outside of that, the dialog was no better written than the average sentence in my blog, the sun was not as hot today yay.

Today was e-double-x-tremely unremarkable. I exercised (!) in the afternoon, after chatting with Brian and reading the Insert Credit report on Project FF Dog (complete with videos, which can be quite entertaining). Post-shower I collapsed into a three- or four-hour coma, and then awoke to watch two episodes of Geneshaft and the skating arc of Ranma 1/2 season 2.

Geneshaft is a paradox: it simultaneously throws you into the middle of a large cast of characters and gives you a laundry-list of things you don’t know but the large cast of characters refer to repeatedly, and it moves incredibly slowly. The music sounds as if it were composed by a drunk man with a guitar fetish, featuring many guitar riffs punctuating long periods of background-music silence. The ending theme is about a junky camera that the singer is thinking about throwing away.

You see, we’re in the future. Humans have mastered gene manipulation, and built a new society with an ideal ratio of women to men of 9:1. Despite the gene tweaking, men (supposedly) have some predisposition towards destruction, and so the males that are around (and so far I’ve seen three males, and probably not quite 27 females) each have a woman (or is it a robot?) who follows them around. [Yet these followers don’t apparently do anything, ’cause one got shot in the head by the male she was supposed to be watching, without doing a whole lot. I dunno.] Despite the relative rarity of males, they seem to be in charge of everything—I know my ethics professor would find that interesting. Some gals with superb “Skill” levels are being assembled for some “S” mission; one of those gals is disparaged repeatedly for being “white” (they all have pale skin, so this is ostensibly something deeper than racism); there’s a giant ring floating in space; terrorists attack some exploratory mission to the ring; a dog types messages to its owners; the ring creates a beam that destroys a space station and the western United States. There’s a whole lot more going on than just that, and this is all in the first two episodes.

I’m sorta bored, sorta curious what in the world is going on and how things’ll turn out. I don’t think that I’m curious enough to plunk more money down for the next disc, though.

Ranma, on the other hand, was just plain, simple, fun. It was a nice contrast to Geneshaft, and probably benefitted from Geneshaft’s foil.


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