But she has ICE powers...!

As much as it pains me to jump on the bandwagon, Chrono Trigger has got to be my favorite game of all time.

The game's strongest suit is that it's incredibly tight. It's really short, but you get the feeling it's so short because they cut as much of the unnecessary material as possible. The game is much shorter (in fact, it can be beaten in less than 15 hours, I've done it), but, despite getting less game time for your dollar (compared to, say, Disgaea), the experience of playing the game is more enjoyable. At this point it becomes impossible to translate into dollar-to-enjoyment-ratio, but that's not really a concern of mine.

As I already said, the best part of Chrono Trigger is that everything you do is in service of the main plot. As I mentioned in my extended review of Breath of Fire 2, the part that stopped me on that game was the moment at which I said, “What am I doing?” and didn't have a good answer. At every step of the game in Chrono Trigger, it's fairly obvious how what you do next will contribute to stopping the apocalypse. Even when you have to find the dreamstone, which amounts to pretty much just a fetch quest, you end up fleshing out the main plot in the meantime, not to mention meeting another party member.

This brings me to the other big plus about Chrono Trigger. There are six additional party members, all with their own separate backstory, but all of the backstories (Robo is a little iffy, I admit) tie into the main story directly. Barrett from FF7 has an interesting little story behind him, about his town and Dyne and Shinra moving in, but aside from the fact that it involves Shinra being evil, you could cut all of those events from the game, and it wouldn't change the main story at all. If you cut Ayla and the Reptites from Chrono Trigger, you'd have no explanation for how Lavos showed up, if you cut Frog, you'd end up cutting most of Magus and the Masamune, which would leave you without a connection to Zeal.

Because the game is so short, there's very little room for rambling, and most important plot developments double up as an important moment for a character as well. Curiously enough, if they had split everything up, making the game much longer, I think my total enjoyment of the game (and therefore enjoyment per hour and enjoyment per dollar) would be drastically less.

This is precisely what the problem with Chrono Cross was, I think. Virtually nothing you did seemed to be directly in service of the main plot. I'm trying to find this artifact, and then eventually fight Lavos again, so... First I'm going to run around the island looking for parts of a clown skeleton, then rig a casino on a ship, and finally stage a concert for ghosts.

Sigh... at least the music was good.


The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem

Just so we're clear: Daft Punk is awesome. Furthermore, Interstella 5555 is particularly awesome. First of all, (explaining my jump to this from “Moonwalker”) music videos that tell stories are awesome, and more involved stories are more awesome than less involved stories.

Interstella 5555 is an album long music video created for Daft Punk's “Discovery”. It tells the story of a band from another planet, who are kidnapped by an evil sorcerer turned record producer, who markets the band to human audiences via mind control devices planted in the band members, eventually using their energy (and gold record award-ish things) for some sort of amorphous nefarious purpose. Eventually, a member of their original race receives the distress signal, crash lands on earth, and saves the band. Their true identities revealed to humanity, they're hugely popular anyway, and end up salvaging the hero's ship (who was unfortunately slain during the rescue) to return to their home planet, establishing positive interstellar relations on the basis of kick-ass house grooves.

This plot is ridiculous, I know this, but everyone I know (myself included) loves this movie. It's not good or interesting enough by itself to be worth watching if you dislike Daft Punk's music, but as I hinted at before, music and story have a magic synergy that shortcuts the logical processing part of our brains. As I said, this plot is completely ridiculous. I have a lot of difficulty imagining a movie, game, or book that featured a plot like this that I wouldn't immediately laugh at, and yet, because I'm rockin' out in the meantime to Daft Punk, I swallow this stuff hook line and sinker, and so, I bet, would you.


BA-AUU! (Part 2)

I find it interesting that I'm so prone to going off on tangents about the nature of branding, despite its (at best) tangential relationship to storytelling. Perhaps that's something that can be changed...

Yesterday, Carol mentioned that maybe Michael Jackson's magic powers (or the suggestion of) was one of the things that made young boys part of his audience. I certainly wished I had magic powers when I was a little kid. All that being said though, I don't feel like I can speculate too much on exactly what Michael Jackson's core fantasy is (or at least the core fantasy of “Moonwalker”) without seeing “Moonwalker”, which I haven't done since I was about 6. Still though, we can look at a couple of aspects of it.

First of all, his current condition aside, Michael Jackson is a good singer and an amazing dancer. Without some amount of talent to begin with (all comments about the cult of celebrity aside), it's difficult, if not impossible to become a huge success as an entertainer, and while it's not exactly a one to one correlation, more talent helps.

Second, I think you need to pick an audience that you can actually reach, and nail it. Michael Jackson was less overtly sexual than Prince, so generally given the thumbs up by mothers with teenage daughters, but still “dreamy” enough to be a teen idol. Likewise, whoever concocted the “Moonwalker” magic powers thing delivered on the younger male audience.

Third, I wouldn't say you need to do something nobody's done before, most pop stars, huge sensations or not, don't, but I certainly think it helped Michael Jackson. Is the fact that the movie was named “Moonwalker” not clear enough?

Still though, all of these things make you a pop sensation, not necessarily a larger than life brand. Not only did Michael Jackson start making that jump when he was sold as having quasi-mystical powers, but someone hinted at something very insightful in a comment about Core Fantasies to me a long time ago. Commercials are the most effective when they contain a mini-narrative. My hunch tells me that the reason why people connect with mini-narratives in commercials is the same reason why people connect with anything even vaguely narrative in form.

Next, Music and Narrative: What Makes Interstella 5555 Great.



Just... wow.

I could talk about the specifics of this game, or the story or... lots of things, but more than that, I'm curious about the jump from musician to game. There are a few others worth mentioning (Aerosmith and “Revolution X”, the hilariously terrible Journey arcade game), but none stand out in my mind as much as the Moonwalker games (there was an arcade version, in addition to the Genesis one).

The question that jumps out at me here is: “Why did Michael Jackson inspire a game, and plenty of other equally talented musicians and performers didn't?” Plenty of musicians have inspired movies, self-indulgent ones at that, and I have the vague childhood impression of “Moonwalker” being somehow more legitimate than anything that's come out since, but in all likelyhood, that's because I was 3 when it did. I'm aware of how ridiculous it is, I assure you.

Even given that, though, Moonwalker is just a game about Michael Jackson. Someone was able to make a Michael Jackson game (which was a decent enough game, not great), but nobody would be able to make a Prince game, or a Bruce Springsteen game, or a John Mayer game. They're all exceptional performers and exceptional musicians (as Michael Jackson was), but they're missing some quality that Michael Jackson had.

For your approval, ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you the Michael Jackson Moonwalker Intro. You know, the one where you see his shoes walking in the spotlight, and they start dropping little sparkles. He does a little twirl, and goes up on his toes? Remember that?

No? Well, how about now? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Quite simply, I think he was able to make this jump because someone on his PR team came up with the brilliant idea to sell him as if he had magic powers. By tapping into the supernatural, he becomes a larger than life figure, and (brace yourself) begins to stand for something larger than just himself. That's what separates a product from a brand. To repeat a tired example: Canada Dry is a soda. Mountain Dew is a lifestyle. Bono is a performer. Michael Jackson is... something else.

The question, of course, is “What?” More on that tomorrow.


World of Explosioncraft

Unfortunately, I'd like to attribute my recent absence to some sort of staggering financial success and critical acclaim, but no, I might just be a lazy jerk.

On the bright side, I can now be found occasionally writing for the good folks at www.wowhead.com

My introductory post can be found here.


At Least My Mom Thinks I'm Funny...

Okay, okay, I've got a joke for you. You wanna hear a good joke? Okay, here it is:


Seriously, I've been trying to keep this to games that were important in my childhood because they were really good. Even Breath of Fire II, despite it's huge problems, was a big influence on my childhood.

Sadly, so was Electro-Cop, uh, well... kind of. I didn't realize it until recently, but this game was terrible. I could explain what it had going for it, or what it did wrong, but really, everything about this game reduces down to one simple aspect of the game.

As you travel around the building that the game takes place in, you run into a number of locked doors. Doors are locked with a four number password, so there's no chance of you guessing them. If you want to unlock a door, you can run an icebreaker program, which will (fairly quickly) run through every possible combination of numbers, eventually stumbling onto the password and unlocking the door.

I know what you're thinking, if you could do this for every door, what's the point of searching out the passwords in the first place? Get this: There are no passwords. You cannot ever get the password for any door in that game ever. Why do they give you the option to input the password manually? You will never use it. Once you've opened a door, it stays open, and the passwords are generated randomly each game, so you can't use them more than once. The end result is: you have to use the ice breaker program on every door in the entire game.

Since running through all ten thousand possible combinations takes a while, the game gives you small mini-games to play while you're waiting. You can solve a 3x3 slide puzzle, or play a bastardized version of asteroids of break out. Cracking the password takes two to three minutes each, and virtually every door in the entire game is locked. I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that in any given game of electro-cop, you spend 75% of your time playing smaller, shittier games!

I know I say this a lot, but who could have possibly given that the thumbs up?! It boggles the mind that someone was able to assemble an entire production team of people who do nothing but play video games developed in the early 70s.

Well guess what, it gets better. If you're lucky enough to solve the slide puzzle, beat all three levels of break out (there are only three levels, yes), or destroy all the asteroids, the game says, “You won. Big deal.” and then starts you over. The game makes fun of you for playing it! Electro-Cop's audacity is... boggling.

It's like the Emperor's New Clothes got condensed into a cartridge for the Atari Lynx, and they're trying to see how much time you have to sink into the game before you realize the game sucks and the makers want to hurt you personally. It's like Andy Kaufman hauled himself out of his grave to make a game, just so you couldn't quite decide for sure if he was making a game, or just attempting to damage people emotionally in an obnoxious piece of performance art. As for me, I choose the latter.


A Wizard has Turned You Into a Whale

After the opening, which we've heard so much about, Breath of Fire 2 drops you in a town, with you and your friend Bow trying to find work. You end up doing a number of odd jobs as mercenaries, before eventually traveling out to a town where a gladiatorial competition is being held, where you unearth an attempt to fix the fights. Right about here, the game just kind of... breaks down. One of the good organizational parties behind the fights gives some speech, aided by your characters, realizing that some sort of black tide is growing, because you fought a bunch of demons in various places, which he may or may not relate to some ancient prophecy.

Personally, I think this sucks as much as it sounds like it sucks. It gives me the impression that somebody came up with the general overlay of demons coming back, dragons being fated to battle them, your main character being a dragon, and so forth, and then came up with the opening, but kind of fell asleep at the wheel for connecting the dots.

Okay, reader poll: That was the best metaphor ever: (Y/Y)

Seriously though, I remember finally putting the game down for good when I was in a cave below a town, trying to kill a fish that was causing earthquakes, when I stopped and thought “Why the hell am I doing this?” I mean, I was doing it cause Ryu is a generally nice guy who doesn't turn down people who need saving from earthquake fish, but for the life of me, I couldn't see why it mattered for the main plot. I guess earthquake fish messing up towns is also part of that amorphous black tide, but I felt like I had sunk nigh onto ten hours into that game, and still had no idea what I should be doing or where I should be going in the long run. I've pushed through moments like that before in games, but every time a player thinks that, I'd say it represents a significant failure on the part of the writers.

I'll be picking up on that one early December. Back to our regularly scheduled program.


Dreams and Reality

So, I never actually beat Breath of Fire 2, but nevertheless, the opening remains high on my list of best game openings.

(The scrolling text part of the opening can be found here)

I'm not sure there's much I can say about the “piques your curiosity” angle. Anybody who's ever played Breath of Fire knows that your main character has to be a dragon, so the “you have dreams about your dead mother when you sleep near the dragon” is very unlikely to go anywhere other than “This dragon is your mother, or at least a blood relative”. However, it's worth noting that when your character does actually take a nap, you get a brief flash of a reptilian eye, and then you wake up in the village where no one recognizes you. It shows a decent amount of subtlety (something usually missing from games) to not show the dream, or even answer the question of whether or not you dreamed about your mother. Likewise, I don't know if some explanation is provided later on in the game (I haven't beaten it, remember?), but for the moment, nothing is offered in terms of explanation for why no one recognizes you, and because your character doesn't speak, you don't make any big protestation of “Woah, where am I? Why doesn't anyone recognize me?” You might find out later what's going on, but for the moment it's not important, because you've absorbed the information of everything that's happened so far.

Regarding the text of the written opening: the writing is fine, nothing to elevate it particularly high or sink it particularly low, but I'm particularly struck by two things. First, the demon that kills you doesn't appear to have any malice, suggesting that it's more out to force you to embrace your destiny than just tear you a new one, which was a nice touch, back in the 90's when it wasn't so common. Second, the fact that the text ends with how reality fades away and the dream takes shape, only to dump you at the title screen, and then the main game. Much like Godot and His Mask, you have no idea what the reality of the situation is, but it's not important. It's very possible (I'd even say I hope that it's the case) that the entire game is, in fact, a dream about your mother that you had from closing your eyes near the sleeping dragon.

And yet, I never beat the game. Tomorrow: Why?


Curse You, Dr. Wily!

Okay, so does this box art make anyone else think of the original American Mega Man 2 box art? Way too muscled and old and scary?

I'll just leave it at that...

The absolute best part of Breath of Fire II, in my experience, is the opening. You begin in a small village with your sister and father, and have to search for your sister, who's gone missing. You find her at the base of a mountain on the outskirts of town, being watched over by a sleeping dragon. She informs you when she sleeps near the dragon, she dreams about mom. You try it as well, only to wake up to a town where your father and sister are gone, and no one has heard of you or your family. You meet Bow (your first other party member), and you and he leave the church, only to be defeated almost immediately by a monster in a nearby cave. After losing, the screen blacks out, you're treated to the following text (with a slow, upwards scroll of a tower):

It was like waking from a long dream...
But, now his father and sister have disappeared, and no one else recognizes him...
He dreamt of a horrific demon who ripped his heart and body apart...
But it remains just a dream.

Yet, the vision remains strong.
Deep within the corners of his mind, he hears it calling.
A different world...
A world of silence...
A world of darkness.
He moves towards it, feeling both fear and exhilaration.
He succumbs, and the darkness welcomes him.

“You are the one”, the demon screeches.
Reaching deep within his heart, he realizes that it is true.
Then, in that moment, reality washes away, and the dream takes shape...

Tomorrow: Why this works, and why it doesn't.


Consistancy and Thoroughness

The Last Blade 2 is most likely my favorite fighting game of all time. This is not a genre I'm a huge fan of, the list of fighting games I enjoy is pretty much this one, Guilty Gear, and Capcom vs. SNK 2. My problem with fighting games is a feature for another day, but for some reason, I enjoy this one nevertheless.

What it has going for it:
First and foremost, I like the character design. Each character has their own (obvious) personality, which matches with their fighting style, and is animated very well for its time. I will be the first to admit that the characters in Last Blade 2 are cliché, but when departing from clichés gets you “I'm an 11-foot tall rock-and-roll doctor with a giant scalpel and a paper bag over my head, who is also a humanitarian, serial killer, and maybe a child molester”-

Well, let's just say that I'll take “powerful but inexperienced protagonist, stand off-ish rival/blood relative, and the woman that tries to stop them from feuding” any day.

The basic format of the game involves choosing whether to play your character is “Power” or “Speed” mode. Power does much more damage and has more special moves, Speed unlocks significantly more combo trees. Nevertheless, the two forms are balanced surprisingly well. Additionally, since combos don't go on excessively long, the game becomes more about using a combination of high and low attacks, rather than successfully entering a difficult combo that the opponent can do nothing about once you've connected with the first hit. Perhaps it's not for everyone, but I drastically prefer this style of play.

What it doesn't:
With a few exceptions, most characters seem to have been designed with one mode (speed or power) in mind, and work significantly better in that mode than the other, so the ability to play any character in either mode is not quite as helpful as you'd think.

Oh, and did I mention that this is an SNK fighting game? Those of you not familiar with fighting game history might not know this, but SNK final bosses are bullshit. They are bullshit, and they engage in bullshit, consistently and thoroughly. I cannot imagine who okay-ed the final boss for this game having no ducking animation, so you can't tell if he's going to hit you high or low until he's already hit you! Your reflexes are worth nothing, and the final boss turns into a glorified guessing game with 50/50 odds, where you get massacred by an ancient Japanese tornado god if you pick wrong.

Defining Moment:
I'm not sure, given the game is so short, that I can pick a particular moment that defines my experience with this game. I think I'd have to pick the night where Natalie, my brother, and I stayed up until 3 AM playing an emulated version of it on my computer.

Well, that or the time I found a copy of it for sale at my local Game Dude, and discovered that by “For Sale” they meant “For Sale for over seven hundred dollars”. At least I won the bet for “who could discover the most expensive used game at game dude”.


"Blah-blu Blah Blah-blu-de"

Did you ever have those big wooden boxes, with the knobs on two sides of the box, that you turn to tilt the top of the box slightly, and the challenge is to navigate a ball through the maze, while avoiding it falling into one of the many holes dotting the surface of the box? Did you hate it? Did it frustrate you endlessly with your utter inability to navigate past the most rudimentary obstacles presented to you? Did you lack of hand eye coordination and inability to estimate momentum permanently damage your pre-pubescent psyche?

If you answered yes to at least one of those questions, then ON THE BALL is for you.

I can't explain it. I hated that little box with a passion, and yet I love this game, despite the fact that they're basically just the same thing in digital form.

What it has going for it:
On the Ball fills out the gap in the “Entertaining Ball Based Games” genre nicely after Marble Madness, but before Katamary Damacy was on the scene. Aside from your ball's mysterious ability to change how bouncy it is when you hold a button, the physical are also remarkably convincing and consistent, which is basically all a game like this needs to be entertaining. Also, as a plus, you can get revenge on the stupid wooden box that rouses you from sleep in a cold sweat to this day.

What it doesn't:


There are two things to talk about here. First of all, the music on the first two levels. What the hell is that? Make no mistake, I love this game, but it doesn't somehow blind me from knowing that one of the tracks just sounds like a drum machine, with somebody going “blah-blu blah blah-blu-de” over it.

Second, as you may or may not have noticed, unless you keep your eyes on the ball in the center, watching this makes you motion sick almost instantly, which, of course, leads inexorably to the-

Defining Moment:
which would have to be the drinking game that was created by my friends and I late in my college career. The players were forced to drink after every level they competed without needing to continue, thus leading to a plateau of inebriation, where the game becomes too difficult, and you stop drinking. Sadly, as it turns out, my ability to beat all ten levels of the most difficult course was a function of my brain prioritized far above things like balance, fine motor control, or the finer points of most social graces.


Toejam Jammin'

I remember seeing Toejam and Earl in 20/20 video as a kid, and thinking “This game cannot possibly be any good. This cover art is ridiculous and terrible.” To this day, I maintain that the cover art is ridiculous and terrible. The game, however, fares much better on hindsight. You control one of two aliens trying to reassemble their ship which crash landed on earth, while avoiding being harassed or killed in some way by the hostile denizens of this planet. Also, Toejam (the red one) and Earl (the one with glasses) happen to be two exceptionally funky aliens. Who knew?

What it has going for it:
There are a lot of things. The basic exploration format and the randomized levels ensured a different game every time, and most of the enemies were a not-so-subtle parody of some ridiculous human behavior, which was entertaining. However, it really all comes down to one thing:


If that doesn't get your red, sneaker wearing spaghetti alien bumping, I don't know what will.

What it doesn't:
Dealing with enemies in this game consists of two behaviors: Running away from them, or hoping that you happen to have some sort of weapon in your inventory (mostly consisting of tomatoes), using the weapon, and running away from the enemy anyway, because the control you have over throwing tomatoes is terrible, and you can't hit the broad side of a funky alien barn. Likewise, earth apparently consists of a bunch of floating islands vertically arranged, connected by space elevators, such that if you fall off the level, you end up on the previous level. Given your slow walking speed, this can become tiresome very quickly.

Defining Moment:
You know how I said that when you fall off one level, you end up on the previous one. Well, that's not entirely true. Every level is the same size, so when you fall off one level, you end up, on the previous level, in an area roughly corresponding to where you fell off. If there happens to be a pit in the area where you fell off on both the level you fell off and the previous level... well, you know where this going. I'd have to give my defining moment as my record of successfully falling through 11 levels in a row. Given that your progress is measured pretty much entirely on the number of the level you've gotten to, that'll turn you off a game real fast.


Return to Fort Birdman

EVO is something vaguely akin to an action RPG, where you play a lifeform that tries to... uh, I guess evolve, which apparently can be done in real time now. You start out as a fish, going through the phases of amphibian, reptile, and mammal, eventually emerging as a human if you play your cards right. You accumulate EVO Points by consuming the meat left behind after you defeat an enemy (apparently herbivores can't evolve), and use those points to acquire more damaging jaws, higher defense, more HP, horns, and any number of other features.

What is has going for it:
The basic system of “gain EXP by killing enemies, spend EXP to improve specific areas of your character” is a system I've always kind of preferred to “gain EXP by killing enemies, once you have enough EXP, you gain an all around boost in power”, because it affords you more control. The end result is the same: By the end of the world you play as a particular kind of animal, you have the best in every category. If everything increased at once, it would have the same end result, but this way I can customize to my play style.

Curiously enough, the music in EVO was also of surprisingly high caliber. The fish music in particular really hit the spot of “Not entirely safe, but not entirely threatening, vaguely wondrous water environment”.

What it didn't:
If you ever need to grind for EVO points in this game, it's one of the most boring grinds you'll ever experience. Likewise, to avoid the game being almost cripplingly difficult (or maybe I'm just terrible at action RPGs), you need to gain enough EVO points to evolve a few times during a boss fight, because evolving restores your HP. When you have to grind to get those, your patience can wear a little thin.

Defining Moment:
I'm gonna have to go with this one:

That is all.


The March of the Black... Menu?

Ogre Battle, or “Menu Battle”, as I have taken to calling it, was originally a SNES release. It featured huge tactical battles, in which you designed, equipped, and deployed units (consisting of between 3 and 5 characters), then moved them around to engage enemy units for the purpose of eventually pushing them back enough to fight and kill the boss, usually in a castle.

What it has going for it:
Do you love fiddling with a ton of details? Do you love attempting to maximize the effect of way too many variables at once? Likewise, the recurring tarot card theme gave the game a nice flavor. I don't know much about the history, but it was also the first game I ever played where you had an alignment, which significantly affected how people responded to your army, and eventually the ending of the game.

What it doesn't:
Oh, was my sarcasm regarding “way too many variables at once” lost on you? It's called “Menu Battle” for a reason. It's not until the game reaches the last handful of battle that there become so many enemies that the balance of “time you spend setting up your army” to “time you spend fighting with your army” even barely approaches one to one.

Defining Moment:
Every character in your army has a class and a list of statistics. Once you reach a certain level, if you have the requisite stats, you can promote to a new class. Fighters can promote to wizards, knights, beasttamers, etc, and some of your classes, if you're lucky enough to find the required item, can promote to special classes. One time, I was lucky enough to find the item to promote a wizard into a lich, giving him access to better spells, and then, immediately, discovered the item to promote a lich into a greater lich. I was ecstatic, and when I completed the battle, and went to my menu to promote Warren, my mage, only to discover I couldn't do it. I couldn't figure out why. He was a wizard, he was high enough level, his intelligence was high enough, his alignment was... wait a second. In order to become a lich, you need an alignment of between 20 and 60, 100 being the highest possible alignment. Warren has an alignment of 0?

Wait, stop. My incredibly high level sorcerer was too evil to become a lich of incalculable power? In the words of XKCD: “Fuck. That. Shit.”


The Month of November

So, for the month of November, I've decided to do something a little different. I'm going to (hopefully) be posting between five and seven times a week, short little snippets, almost-but-not-quite-reviews of the games that formed my childhood (with a few more recent examples thrown in).

To begin:

Star Control is a top down shooter, where you engage a single other ship in battle, usually centered around a planet. Each ship has a primary weapon, usually some sort of cannon, varying in power, and a secondary weapon. Every ship has it's own speed, HP, fuel (used to power your guns), and a wide selection of ships.

What it had going for it:
I'm sure games of this variety existed before I played Star Control in 1991, but the battles were endlessly entertaining. The variety of ships available was impressive, and it showed a great amount of imagination in the variety of weapons available. Kind of like Super Mario World, Star Control took a really simple idea, and gave it a few extra layers of complexity, but didn't mess with the fundamental format that makes for an endlessly entertaining game.

What it didn't have going for it:
There's no real... well, game. The game consisted of dueling spaceships, and pretty much nothing else. No doubt realizing this, the developers slapped in some sort of nonsensical tactical, civilization-esque game where you colonize planets and use them to build ships, which fight with other people's ships. I know I was very young, and most of the intricacies of it were utterly beyond me, so I just kind of figured the game was good, but I couldn't understand it yet. This is untrue. In retrospect, it just sucks.

Likewise, when you're picking ships for just facing off against your brother, they weren't designed with the idea of “all of these ships are balanced for one on one combat”. If they were, I could probably balance ships better with a paper bag over my head and boxing orangutans for arms.

Defining Moment:
My brother and I are dueling, and his ship, the smallest, fastest, weakest one available, as best as we can discover, has no secondary weapon. Halfway through our first duel, his ship explodes for no reason, and he loses instantly. He picks the same ship next time, hoping to discover what happened. Again, we trade shots ineffectually, and after about 25 seconds into the match, he explodes again for no reason.

This happens two more times before we discover that apparently, the “secondary weapon” on the ship is a self-destruct mechanism, and in order to ensure that you don't do it accidentally, you need to activate it three times before it goes off. Seriously, who gave that the thumbs up? I know, let's make the worst ship in the game explode when you use its secondary weapon! It'll be awesome!

Also, curiously enough, some of you may be familiar with http://www.nablopomo.com/ which involves blogging every day for the month of November. Oddly enough, I was not when I began this exercise. Funny thing, that...