Monday, November 26, 2007

A Tale of Two Tactics

With Final Fantasy Tactics: The Lion War out for the PSP worldwide and Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Fuuketsu no Grimoir out for the DS in Japan, I have decided to play referee in a battle royale between the two titles. I have divided the competition into seven fair and comprehensive categories. Reap the benefits of my opinionations: It's time for A Tale of Two Tactics!

ROUND 1: Touch Pen Functionality

The DS game comes out of its corner swinging, but no punches connect. Although FFTA2 is a DS title, it makes no meaningful use of the touch screen. This isn't necessarilly good nor bad; I'd much rather a developer elect to ignore the DS's touch screen entirely than try to force touch pen functionality into a game where it doesn't belong. If you're looking for a scribbling good time, however, you'll have to find it in a different franchise. So at the end of Round 1, we have no score.

Round 1 Result: DRAW

ROUND 2: Run Speed

As you may remember from my angry post back in May, Square Enix's sloppy, emulation-dependent PSP port of Final Fantasy Tactics suffers from some pretty shameful slowdown. The animation associated with something as simple as dumping a potion over a partymember's head causes the game to get arthritic. When the annoyance factor of a game's slowdown exceeds the merits of playing through the game, the game ceases to be worth the time it takes to play it. FFTA2, on the other hand, is DS-native, and was therefore developed with the DS and only the DS in mind. It feels much more like the kind of polished product gamers have come to expect from Square Enix. A2 scores a point this round.

Round 2 Result: Final Fantasy Tactics A2

ROUND 3: Character Design

While I'd like to praise both games for being devoid of Amano Yoshitaka's shitty artwork (seriously, look at his box art for Front Mission will probably be the last thing you ever see), I have give this round to the PSP title. Yoshida Akihiro's character designs for FFT are child-like without being too cute, while the hodgepodge of kids, anthropomorphic rabbits and dog-alligator hybrids that populate FFTA2 is just a little too Pokemon for my tastes. The PSP game wins this round with room to spare.

Round 3 Result: Final Fantasy Tactics: The Lion War

ROUND 4: Magic Casting

In the original FFT and its PSP remake, casting a magic spell entails waiting a turn or two while the magician "charges." Because the turn of the spell's target sometimes occurs before the magic actually happens, the player must constantly consult the turn list to make sure that the knight he's about to zap with lightning isn't about to walk into a crowd of friendlies, causing collateral lightning damage. Where I come from, that kind of micromanagement is more often associated with work than games. Thankfully, FFTA2 does away with this charging system so that a fledgling mage can still lay the magical smack down on his foes without worrying that he might be setting his party up for humiliation. Point, FFTA2.

Round 4 Result: Final Fantasy Tactics A2

ROUND 5: Undoability

In FFT, you can't undo the "MOVE" phase of your turn, even if you haven't yet finished the "ACT" phase. This unnecessarily unforgiving aspect of the game engine can make the "tactics" feel more like "craptics." But with the extra-yasashii battle rules of FFTA2, those "craptics" have changed into "fantastics!" Or, at least, "reasonabletics."

(Remember, after walking in the woods, you should always check yourself for "deertics.")

Round 5 Result: Final Fantasy Tactics A2

ROUND 6: Map Visibility

Although FFT boasts 3D maps that can be rotated and tilted for a total of eight possible viewpoints (and sometimes every single one of those eight viewpoints is unsatisfactory...but I digress), FFTA2 is all 2D, all the time. Of course, the maps are all designed with that in mind, and so shouldn't have blind spots, but sometimes the positions of characters on the map conspire with the map itself to make things hard to see. I'll give this point to the PSP game, but both titles should take a lesson from Wild Arms Crossfire, which features a much more useful in-game camera.

Round 6 Result: Final Fantasy Tactics: The Lion War

ROUND 7: Random Encounters

I HATE random battles in any and all role-playing games. They should be banned from the industry, especially in turn-based strategy RPGs where a single battle can take a half an hour to finish. Since FFTA2 doesn't have little bands of mountain lions, goblins and squid-men jumping out from behind every other bush and boulder while your party is walking around on the map screen, that game takes the winning point in the seventh and final round of my battle royale.

Round 7 Result: FFTA2


FFTA2 for DS: 4 points

FFT for PSP: 2 points

There you have it. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is better than the PSP remake of the original Tactics. Ah-ah-ah, no arguing. It's settled. I've proven it scientifically.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Japan's Safety Level Same As Before

Today marks the first day of Japan's newly tightened airport security procedures (fingerprinting, photographing and interrogation) for all foreigners entering the country -- even those with legitimate visas. Japan is the only other country besides the US to introduce such measures since 9/11.

Visa holders like myself have cause to be annoyed. With these new "safety" measures, all foreigners are required to go through the same tedious re-entry process and invasions of privacy associated therewith, regardless of whether they live in Japan or are just visiting. This, in turn, makes foreign residents in Japan angry, which makes the country less safe.

Nice going.

Bear in mind that Japan hasn't yet suffered a terror attack at the hands of foreigners. If that happens now, it proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that anti-terrorism legislation doesn't have a positive impact on actual safety. The new rules are also being prematurely touted as having a crime reduction effect. Guess we'll have to wait and see whether or not another English teacher gets put down for a sandbath by some crazy, disappearing Japanese guy. Come to think of it, wouldn't crime in this country decline if Japanese police stopped sending the message, "Don't worry, we'll never catch you?"

[the story]

Monday, November 19, 2007

Best Idea I Didn't Ever Have

In case you haven't heard, there is now a website called This website is devoted to the task of collecting and presenting all the titillating material that Fox News (America's favorite non-news organization) injects into their daily broadcasting. How much titillating material does Fox inject into their daily broadcasting? Well, enough to make a separate website out of it, apparently.

Keep in mind, doesn't show anything that Fox News doesn't show, and Fox News is a basic cable station (which means there isn't really any porn, per se). But after viewing some of the site's videos, one wonders why Fox hasn't changed its name to "News Gone Wild."

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Portrait of a Badass: Johnny

Character: Johnny Lawrence
Actor: William Zabka
Film: The Karate Kid (1984)
Badass Moment: Sweep the leg.

Johnny Lawrence was just an ordinary, everyday, all-American boy growing up in sunny California. He was an exemplary student in his karate dojo, he hung out with the popular crowd at school and he was dating Elizabeth Shue. Everything was going great for Johnny Lawrence.


Until that little Jersey slimeball Daniel Larusso showed up with his short temper and his Crane Technique and his intentions to steal Johnny's girlfriend.

This summer....William Zabka IS....The Karate Kid.

That's how the trailer for this movie should have gone.

If The Karate Kid taught me anything, it's that sometimes the protagonist of a movie is not likable in the least. Sometimes he's an annoying, little punk who is doomed to be picked on because he just can't steer clear of trouble. Daniel Larusso is that kind of protagonist and Johnny Lawrence is that kind of trouble. No matter where Larusso's "stupid bike" takes him, all roads lead to a Johnny Lawrence beat-down.

For young viewers of The Karate Kid, an appearance by Johnny elicits the feelings of dread that only a real-life bully can prompt. And for cynical bloggers, watching Johnny beat up Daniel can be a satisfying form of entertainment. In Johnny Lawrence, the filmmakers have thus found a winning combination that transcends age gaps.

Some might say that Johnny's sensei, the diabolical Kreese, was the true villain of The Karate Kid. After all, just like Mr. Miyagi says, "No bad student. Only bad teacher." And it's not as if Kreese wasn't trying his damnedest to be a villain in the movie. I mean, look at him:

That ain't the face of a sane man. But since Johnny has a far more direct influence on the tribulations of Daniel Larusso, I cannot justify awarding Kreese the badass crown. And since Johnny has the guts to defy his insane teacher in the opening scene of The Karate Kid Part II, it's a done deal.

Johnny, you are a badass. When a man meets you on the street, he's an enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy WHAT IS THE PROBLEM MISTER LAWRENCE.