Saturday, March 31, 2018

Wild Arms Alter Code: F Original Score

I was a fan of the original Wild Arm's music by Michiko Naruke, and two console generations ago I was excited when its remake would be coming to American shores. The remake's soundtrack is significantly expanded over the original games, with some tracks being replaced entirely, such as one of the dungeon themes, and others such as the Curan Abbey theme have been remixed into almost different tracks or have their genre altered, such as the sailing theme, which isn't a bad thing, as it helps the remake's music stand out from the original, although those who think the original game's music was the greatest thing since sliced bread might be disappointed. Recommended.

Henceforth I'll be listening to future videogame soundtracks via this RPGFan feature.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender

Voltron - Legendary Defender logo.svg
A reboot of the old '80s anime, done by the same studio that did Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, where the Paladins of Voltron gather the robot lions necessary to assemble the titular humanoid machine and battle the Galra Empire. Has some decent twists, though the series isn't yet complete, which I think it will be after the next season this summer.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Good Doctor

The Good Doctor 2017.png
I mostly got into this series since its titular protagonist is on the autism spectrum, which I am as well, although Shawn Murphy's diagnosis is autistic savant, my own being high-functioning autism, and I can say that not all autistics are created equal, given the dissonance in our social capabilities. The first season was definitely enjoyable, ending on a high note, and I would definitely recommend this series that shows that autistics can be just as successful as neurotypicals.

Baten Kaitos Original Soundtrack

I haven't played this game, but I'm a bit of a fan of Motoi Sakuraba's style, and this soundtrack was generally enjoyable. Recommended.

Art Trade, 26 March 2018

My half:

Audrey (Art Trade)
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Their half:

by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Myths of Safe Pesticides

Dr. Vandana Shiva prefaces this expose on the myths of “safe” pesticides, which goes through roughly a century of pesticide use from killing humans in concentration camps to killing pests damaging food, by mentioning that pesticides are a byproduct of war, and notes a cancer epidemic in Punjab, India. Health issues such as diabetes and neurological issues such as autism have been on the rise, with Shiva insisting that agriculture free of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides (which she indicates can create more resistant pests) can create more income for farmers.

In his own introduction, Leu indicates the toxicity of rain in certain areas of Europe, noting that agricultural chemicals have threatened biodiversity and created health problems in humans. He follows with five chapters dedicated to five major myths of “safe” pesticides, the first of which debunks their supposed testing for safety, mentioning xenoestrogens that can increase the risk of breast cancer. Other alleged myths include that stating minimal exposure to chemicals is harmless, that chemicals break down, that regulatory authorities are reliable, and that pesticides are essential to agriculture.

Leu concludes by stating that unborn and growing children are the most vulnerable to pesticide use, that change in testing methodology on chemical toxicology is necessary, and that health must come first. Overall, this expose somewhat hit home for this reviewer, who is on the autism spectrum despite having no family history of the condition, had a grandfather who died partially due to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War, not to mention a stepniece with celiac disease (all referenced in the book) with the author definitely showing his work and mercifully staying away from politics.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Myths of Safe Pesticides by André Leu
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 168 pages
Genre: Educational / Nature / Science
Publisher: Acres USA
Release date: September 15, 2014
Tour dates: March 12 to April 13, 2018
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

The chemical-based conventional agriculture industry claims that the synthesized concoctions they sell as pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides are safe when used as directed, but does the scientific evidence truly support their assertions? Organic agriculturist and lecturer André Leu delves into a wealth of respected scientific journals to present the peer-reviewed evidence that proves the claims of chemical companies and pesticide regulators are not all they seem.

Leu translates technical jargon into layman's terms to break down the five most repeated myths about pesticide use: independent scientific analysis shows that pesticides are not at all as safe as industry leaders and regulatory agencies claim. The pesticide industry argues that human agriculture, and thereby the global population itself, cannot survive without using pesticides and herbicides, but Leu warns that human health is at great risk unless we break free of their toxic hold and turn to more natural methods of pest and weed regulation.

Learn about:
The “Rigorously Tested” Myth
The “Very Small Amount” Myth
The “Breakdown” Myth
The “Reliable Regulatory Authority” Myth
The “Pesticides Are Essential to Farming” Myth

Buy the Book:

Watch André Leu discuss a better way to grow our food:

About the Author:

André Leu is a longtime organic farmer in Australia and a director of Regeneration International. He served as president of IFOAM Organics International from 2011 to 2017. He speaks widely and regularly testifies to governments and NGOs worldwide on pesticide safety and policy. He is the author of the award-winning book, The Myths of Safe Pesticides.

Connect with the publisher: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Author's Twitter

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Art of the Day, 25 March 2018

Year of the Dog - Doughboy Cole
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - The Original Soundtrack

This was one of the more aesthetically-pleasing Japanese roleplaying games of the last console generation, with production values by Studio Ghibli and a soundtrack by their composer, Joe Hisaishi, which is absolutely epic, among the strongest themes being the overworld music, which is one of the best in the RPG genre. This particular theme also has English and Japanese lyrical accommodations, both being beautiful, and accounting for a highly-recommended soundtrack.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Art of the Day, 24 March 2018

Meowch - The Great Cat Detective
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones Netflix.jpg
A Marvel Cinematic Universe series about the titular character who has superhuman strength and runs an investigation industry. Sort of borders more on human interest, but is still worth a watch.

Romancing SaGa -Minstrel Song- OST

Many of the tracks in this soundtrack are not straight remixes of themes from the original Romancing SaGa soundtrack, with Jamil's theme, for instance, sounding much different from that in the Super Famicom version, although that isn't a bad thing, as they all sound excellent, with plenty of central themes and numerous variations on a single tune with the "from a window" tracks. I haven't played the remake myself, but I just might in the future. Highly recommended.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Art of the Day, 23 March 2018

Fanart Friday - Dottie Dog as Raquel Applegate
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Soul of the Fire

Soul of the Fire.jpg

The fifth main Sword of Truth novel occurs where its predecessor left off, with Richard and Kahlan newly married, celebrations abounding, although something mysterious is happening among the Mud People’s chickens. When Kahlan saved Richard’s life towards the end of Temple of the Winds, she unintentionally summoned fourth a deadly force known as the chimes that is causing magic in the world to fail. Other odd occurrences occur among the Mud People, with a chicken attacking a boy and a baby’s stillbirth, with the mentioned chicken said to be a Lurk.

Meanwhile, the Haken Fitch works in borderline slavery for his Ander masters in the country of Anderith, where Hakens form the majority but the Anders rule, given the alleged misdeeds in the past of the Hakens. Several chapters deal exclusively with these people, with the enigmatic Stein, wearing a cape composed of human scalps, serving as a minor antagonist, and Bertrand Chanboor serving as the country’s Minister of Culture, the Sovereign on his deathbed. A woman who threatens to blackmail the Minister is murdered by Fitch and friends, with her death playing part in later events.

Back with Richard and company, Du Chaillu comes back to the Lord Rahl, claiming to bear his child, and the group gets sidetracked into visiting Anderith, a likely target of the Imperial Order, and which supposedly holds the solution for banishing the chimes. Defending Anderith is a series of bell-like weapons of mass destruction known as the Dominie Dirtch, with a minor female named Beata ultimately being thrown into the position of Sergeant and having a duty to man them.

There are also some scenes dealing with Sister Alessandra and the deposed Prelate Ann, while back in Anderith, Minister Chanboor sees Lord Rahl as a threat to his country’s sovereignty. A referendum is held to determine whether the country would join the D’Haran Empire, and some twists and tension abound towards the end, accounting for a satisfying continuation of the series. There are some things left unresolved, such as the circumstances of the dying Sovereign, although those who enjoyed this book’s predecessor will likely have a good time reading.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Art Trade, 21 March 2018

My half:

Mango (Art Trade)
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Their half:
Jmg124 AT
by Storm398 on DeviantArt

Salt and Sanctuary


This reviewer will admit that he’s not a big fan of FromSoftware’s Souls series, despite the adulation among mainstream videogame critics, and was appalled that many other developers would bother imitating its masochistic formula. Thus, he was hesitant at first to attempt Ska Studio’s Salt and Sanctuary, which too received critical acclaim, although he ultimately discovered it had two-dimensional instead of 3-D gameplay, accounting for a markedly different experience on account of the divergent dimensionality. It’s not perfect, given some shared negative aspects with the Souls franchise, but this game was a welcome surprise.

When starting a new game, the player can select one of many starting classes for their character, which mostly determines starting equipment, although players can branch out to other occupations as the game progresses. Character development depends upon the titular Salt acquired from defeated enemies, which players can use, once they’ve acquired enough, at the cotitular Sanctuaries to advance a level, which provides them one point they can use across a Final Fantasy X-esque grid to acquire a stat increase or unlock weapons and armor to equip, some of which necessitate more than one point.

As in the Souls games, there is risk associated with the acquisition of Salt, as when the player’s character dies due to losing all HP or a long fall (with lesser but lengthy falls costing some hit points), they lose all Salt and revive at the Sanctuary where they last recovered health, stamina, and health and stamina-restoring items (with some Sanctuaries only allowing for recovery but no level advancement). The player can recover their lost Salt by defeating the enemy that killed them or by slaying a special bat-like foe that spawns due to death after a long fall.

Death again after the loss of Salt means that players permanently lose that which they acquired due to their prior demise. As in the Souls games, this can add a semblance of fake difficulty, although fortunately, Salt and Sanctuary is a tad less brutal than FromSoftware’s masochistic efforts, likely due to the fact that gameplay occurs only in two dimensions, whereas in three, the player has to worry about things like a camera that stays close to their character and leave them blind from behind. The biggest strike against the gameplay is perhaps its inconsistent difficulty, with this player, for instance, dying more due to regular foes and falls than to bosses, most of which, including the final, he beat his first try. Even so, the gameplay is actually surprisingly bearable.

As in the Souls games, furthermore, there are no in-game maps, which too seems to add a semblance of artificial challenge, inexcusable since games from many generations ago such as Super Metroid had this feature, although again, things are more bearable in two dimensions rather than three. However, Salt and Sanctuary like the Souls games doesn’t allow players to pause (although putting the Vita into sleep mode seems to rectify this). Exploration, though, can actually be somewhat enjoyable, and as in RPG Castlevania titles, there are a few new abilities that enhance exploration. One minor quibble is that the player can only view playing time when loading their game, but even so, the game actually interfaces quite decently with players.

Like the Souls games, however, Salt and Sanctuary sports minimalistic storytelling, with a blank-slate protagonist, although there are different endings depending upon the player’s creed and NPCs talked to through the contiguous 2-D world.

Another shared shortcoming with the Souls games is the stingy use of music, with the exception of a few ambient rocky tracks that really don’t fit the fantasy setting, although the sound effects slightly fill in the aural gap.

However, Salt and Sanctuary definitely excels from a visual standpoint, with a gorgeous hand-drawn style containing fluid animation, although there is slight choppiness at times.

Finally, the game will last players one to two days’ worth of total playtime, with plenty of side content and a New Game+ to pad out playtime.

Overall, coming from someone who didn’t care much for the Souls games, Salt and Sanctuary proved a welcome surprise, with the FromSoftware franchise’s mechanics seeming to work far better in two dimensions rather than three, the multiple endings depending on creed, the enjoyable visual style, and actual motivation to go through the game again, given the tolerability of the gameplay. It does, however, share a few flaws with the Souls series, such as the unbalanced difficulty, the total lack on in-game maps, and the minimalistic storytelling and aural presentation. Even so, this game would probably be ideal for those that enjoyed RPGs such as the Castlevania titles.

This review is based on a playthrough starting as a paladin.

The Good:
+Enjoyable Metroidvania gameplay.
+Multiple endings.
+Nice visual style.
+Plenty replay value.

The Bad:
-Inconsistent difficulty.
-Maps would have been welcome.
-Undeveloped plot.
-Minimalistic musical presentation.

The Bottom Line:
Better than the Souls games, but not flawless.

Score Breakdown
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 5/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Unbalanced
Playing Time: 1-2 Days

Overall: 7.5/10