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Malik (1/26/09)

This was, overall, a lame weekend. I mean when you spend time at work on your day off and then spend another day off doing work of the constructive nature (home repairs/maintenance), you know you're doing something wrong.

On the bright side, I did get a fair amount of time with Valkyria Chronicles. I'm now only a half dozen battles from the end of the game. I'm also able to start seeing some obvious things about the game. Most of these are how the game is obviously one that will not get a sequel, despite how much it deserves one. It's a great game that will not find, at least in the States, a target demographic beyond having a cult following. Not enough people will find this game, with it's limited advertising and hype, so the sales will not help it in finding a sequel.

Another thing I found is, without using much in the ways of spoilers, that the scout class is broken. I mean with a few CP (you number of actions per turn is determined by how many CP you use to give a unit an action) to buff a scout, you can find too many missions that can be cleared in one or two turns just by spamming a single scout's actions. Need to take out a tank? Send a scout. Need to capture a base in a hurry? Send a scout. Need to spam a skirmish (bonus repeatable fights for XP and money) for some grinding? Scout it is.

At least this exploit still doesn't break some missions, but it does make them far easier. It's like finding the "I win" button. Of course, you can also ignore this and play like the game teaches you through tutorials. I've been doing just that, and it's still far more rewarding...even if it leads to a few more game over screens. After all, the final battles do get very hard and even frustrating without scout spamming.

Anyway, once I finish VC, I'll finally be able to move on to Uncharted. That game has been sitting on my shelf since I got it with my PS3. I know it is supposed to be awesome, and it will be my first HD PS3 game (since it has 1080i support). However, until I finish VC, I just cannot break the allure of VC.


Malik (1/27/09)

I'm now only two chapters from finishing Valkyria. I can see the end of my obsession coming ahead. The only problem is that the last few chapters are hard as hell. Maybe my strategy is wearing thin, but I've been having some epic fights that have eaten a good two hours, when I don't have to restart. The worst battle was the end of chapter 15. That one required three failures that took about an hour each...then three other failures that lasted only about twenty minutes while I was formulating a battle plan.

Ahead is a spoiler for the last battle of Chapter 15. You have been warned.

Still here? Because a spoiler for the most insanely obvious strategy is coming.

If you haven't left, then it's not my fault.

The battle that ends Selvaria's reign as a general is so frustrating to start. You have non-stop counter attacks and cross fire coming at you the entire battle. You start with a mini-gun pointed at half your troops, and you should expect an movement by back line engineers or snipers to lead to an instant death from Selvaria's Gatling/mini gun. It is flat out broken.

I tried many tactics to beat this fight. Most involved wasting a few turns to allow my tanks to stop any large ground floor weapons, like tanks and gun installations. However, some time is wasted also on healing as snipers come out each round to pick off anyone who is even remotely exposed. You could expect at least one death on your first round, even if you think you've protected everyone.

The next few rounds involve moving a single trooper, maybe two or a scout/trooper combo, up into the first upper level. All the while, snipers and well hidden troops and guns will be taking you down in health. If you're very lucky, you'll find a way to get a single trooper to take a second base to plan your offensive from. If you're like me, this is also where the plan goes to crap and you face certain doom as reinforcements overwhelm your sad little squad.

If you save between rounds, you can always try to correct any oversight by constantly reloading. However, if you're like me, this is just too cheap and you'll soon restart the battle.

Of course, with a little strategy, you may find an easy solution. Or you could be cheap and beat the battle in five to six CP. That's what I ended up doing. The only three things you have to remember is the following;

Selvaria will be hit by the first shot from a soldier, but will dodge all successive attacks from that single person.

Selvaria is exposed (no behind cover) to start the battle. She's not even crouching, so head shots count.

Smoke rounds can have another use in the game beyond the first time you have to use them on the beach mission you get them on.

The easy way to finish this battle in less than a whole round is to start with a smoke round focused just in front of your starting position. Next, take your snipers (start the mission with four, but you probably only will need three) one at a time into the north most edge of the smoke. From here, you cannot see until in aim mode. In aim mode, your gun will stick beyond the smoke and still leave you in protection. Fire at Selvaria's head. Four shots are needed with low quality guns, and three if you've gotten some weapons as royal rewards or picked off a few ace snipers in previous missions. That's it. You're done in five to six CP.

I felt really stupid in this mission until I realized these facts could all play together. Valkyria really does give you two options in most battles and they are usually like night and day. One is to fight a hard fight and try to win on the offense. The other is usually more along the lines of finding the weakness of the enemy and exploiting it. Of course the second option usually is hard to see and is typically overlooked...and if you find it, boy do you feel stupid.


Malik (1/28/09)

The new Grateful Dead Pack 02 on Rock Band is definitely fun. However, it's also definitely different than the previous Dead pack. The new one has music that's more, on the guitar side, in line with chords than single note slides and hammer on thrills. In other words, the new songs are a lot more in line with whole band than with being songs that showcase only the guitar and vocals. That's not a bad thing, but it's not what one would normally expect from the Dead if their only exposure was from Rock Band.

As for the difficulty, on expert guitar...these are not hard songs. There is nothing approaching the solo nightmare (or dream if you're a sadist for fun, yet challenging, solos like I am) of Franklin's Tower. However, there are a few songs with quick enough of chord shifts that they can keep you from getting five stars just by preventing any combos.

Overall, I'd have to say, assuming you like this music, you will not be disappointed. However, if you're only out there for the difficult songs, then you should just play GH:WT. Sorry...I mean you should look for another pack. Still, I feel like challenge is not the flavor of Rock Band games. Challenge is more in GH games while RB are more about the experience, and this pack is full of fun experiences without the pure adrenaline pumping challenge.

On the concept of music, I'm surprised by something. Right now the world is in disorder in many ways. The economy, on a global scale, is in the crapper. Iceland just threw away it's government due to it's economic collapse. Countries are unable to find a solution to a problem that was caused, in a large part at least, by one sector of the US economy being greedy (I'm talking about the banks). It's a time of uncertainty and there's definitely some fear coming along as more and more people face questions on how to even survive intact. I mean there's not more than a few days between news stories of people killing themselves and their families, with the economy being blamed in suicide notes.

What surprises me is that, since this was gone on for a little time already, that punk and other socially motivated types of music are not getting more into the mainstream. Punk, and the social music one would find in groups like System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, and other groups is perfectly at home in this type of climate. I guess Rage and SoaD are more about war and corruption, but that's also running high as the governments look for solutions to the question of how to save the global infrastructure from further collapse. Punk, in particular, is perfectly at home in times of trouble.

Maybe it's just because I'm feeling a lot of the gloom and doom myself, but I keep expecting more of this to be targeted by the arts. Since I don't see this being something covered by Hollywood (people tend to not want to see depressing movies while depressed...or is that recessed?), music is the ideal genre of arts to focus on this. I guess with how music is handled in the modern world, as opposed to the simpler and smaller scale operations of the 1970's, it would make sense for music studios to avoid the subject. Then again, it's also slower in the modern age for music to go from mind to instrument to listener. Still, it wouldn't surprise me to see, in the very near future, a modern punk movement start to emerge. Of course that would assume that the studios and radio can stop playing just Nu-Metal and all the other sub-genres that are being shoved down our throats.


Malik (1/29/09)

The Super Bowl is almost here, and I'm actually finding myself a bit emotional about this one. It's not like Super Bowl XL when the Seahawks faced the Steelers and I would constantly feel that tinge of excitement as my home team was finally in the big game. No, this is one of mixed emotions. I don't want the Cardinals to win since they are division rivals. However, the Steelers are the closest thing to a bitter enemy that the Seahawks have, so I sure as hell don't want them to win.

So, I'm looking at this game like it's a rematch, in spirit at least, to XL. It is NFC West (the supposed weakest division in the NFL...I think there's enough "weak" divisions to challenge this...AFC West anyone?) against the rival that played in one of the goofiest Super Bowls (and I don't just mean the calls...the whole game was sad and pathetic) in recent memory. I think, while it tears me apart, I need to see the Cards pull out a win. I mean they have three receivers that, individually, make any team envious and together are a force of pure doom. They also have a QB in Warner that just shouldn't be. Where the hell did Warner come from after his years of mediocrity? Apparently he was aiming for a come back to rival any amazing come back season.

I will not be watching alone. I don't think I could. I would feel a little sad and lost if I did, since drinking alone is never good and these emotions will require some beers to keep me in my place.

Next week looks pretty good for Rock Band DLC. Yes, there is more Nickelodeon crap (that's what Nikko least that's what the interwebs seem to say)...but that can be ignored with the obvious line of thinking; if you don't like it, then just don't buy it. However, it's easier to ignore this type of fluff when you have three from Thin Lizzy (The Boys Are Back In Town will rock!) and one each from Pat Benatar (I'd love to see Heart Breaker in the future, but Hit Me With Your Best Shot is a classic) and The Pretenders.

Anyway, as usual, the price is standard issue with $2 per track, $5.50 for the Thin Lizzy pack, and $1 for the Nickelodeon crap.

I still think the same way I did when the Naked Brothers Band crap came along. This music is not right for this game. A game rated T, geared/aimed towards older players than the Nikko/NBB demographic, and having no initial install base of these 'tween songs should not be getting these songs. It's all up to Harmonix, and I can't fault them for doing what their masters (MTV/Viacom) probably want, but it still is out of place. It makes me think of a car commercial that uses children to sell the product. It's the wrong age group and demographic. Like seeing a bunch of little kids at my work today...a setting that has safety precautions set in place by higher powers than my own work, which include a minimum age to be present in "hot" areas...and these kids I saw were not "tall enough to ride this rollercoaster" if you catch my meaning.

Speaking of kids, I'm an uncle as of today. Not a bad way to start a weekend.


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