Sunday, April 25, 2010

blood donors wanted

First week of sem break was okay. Grandpa's still in hospital now. Have been visiting him these few days. His leg was swollen but the doctor said it would be okay soon. Hopefully he'll be able to walk after 6 months, physiotherapy included. Bad news, we owe the hospital blood so we're looking for blood donors. Anyone interested? Lol. So far there's only one person from my family who's able to pay back. Others all have impure blood (thyroid problems, blood pressure, insufficient blood) What a pity. 

Had the opportunity to attend Great Eastern's Annual Dinner or some Wings Associate Annual Dinner thing. I don't really know the exact name for the dinner. I just attended it because my godmom/aunt is an insurance agent and she had extra tickets so we went there to support her. Was quite an eye opener. Didn't know insurance firms have these type of events. Selling insurance can be fun. You'd think so if you were there. The amount of trips they go per year! Korea? Taiwan? 

Anyways, here I bring you the highlight of the evening! A parody of Wondergirls' Nobody. The chick in the middle is hot, the one with curly hair. No, I'm serious. Check out his-errrr I mean her dance moves. :)

And since we're here, a shameless promo for my latest cover of Snow's Theme from Final Fantasy XIII's soundtrack.

Signing off to watch X Japan Live in Hong Kong.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

VGL in Malaysia - 17th Apr 2010

Note : Wrote this yesterday because I was afraid that I'll forget, lol and posted this after 24 hours? Haha.

Before my I start sleeping  and all, (because I'm kinda bleary after the whole day), let me blog about my first ever VGL experience which was held in KL Convention's Centre, Plenary Hall today. My mom and I attended the afternoon session which started at 2.30 but  we went there early just to be safe and I wanted to check out the booths (don't want to miss the merchandise!). And I have no idea why the smallest shirt looks like it's catered for oversized people.

Entered the hall at 2 because it was already opened by then and we were told that the cosplayers would enter the hall before the show starts. So here's the hall before the crowd came in, stage isn't that big, so is the hall itself. It was comfortable though, not too cold. 

Cosplayers came in about 10-15 minutes before the concert commenced. Sadly, not many cosplayers turned up. My seat was far away so this is the closest picture that I can get. Surprise, 2 Final Fantasy characters! What's more surprising, if you look closely, you can see a girl who cosplayed as Hope from FFXIII! I'm gonna give her the credits for doing so, it's not a very wise choice, in fact, it's risky. First of all, FFXIII has been hated ever since its release and next, Hope isn't a very likeable character but nevertheless, I think she did well (a bold move indeed!) What's even sadder, the crowd looked confused when she introduced her character's name, only a handful few clapped, including yours truly. The guy on the far left emerged as the winner, it's obvious which game character he was cosplaying as; thus, the victory.

Parodies of video games and a bit of anime were shown to excite the crowd. They started off with a tribute to classical games. Throughout the whole song, there was a video montage of those good old games including 8-bit ones! The crowd was overwhelmed with nostalgia! Imagine those who grew up playing those games. Listening to the music being played live will surely evoke memories, be it good or bad. 

Tommy Tollarico introduced himself and his group of performers, including our  very own local National Symphony Orchestra and the conductor, Jack Wall if I'm not mistaken. Tommy talked a lot throughout the afternoon, gave many interesting or funny remarks. Many interactions took place. He talked about how many people out there think that video games are only for kids, video games music is nothing but just beeps here and there and how video games are blamed for violence and bad influence. When he was listing down these points, we boo-ed and there was one guy who said, "Kill them!", followed by laughter and agreement from the crowd. The irony.

After a pretty long tribute to classical games, the next song was Metal Gear Solid's main theme. A short clip of Hideo Kojima was shown before the orchestra team started playing the song. Bloody hell, I was so happy. Here's a video that I've recorded. Video quality ain't that good but audio-wise, it's tolerable. Check out the box, you'll appreciate that part if you've played MGS games. 

I can't really remember the exact tracklist but if I'm not wrong, God of War's theme was played next. The female vocalist, Laura Intravia did a fantastic job! The audience was in awe, my mom kept praising her. Little did we know she was also a flutist, this was eventually revealed when she performed music from Zelda, heck, she even dressed like one. Tommy invited one of the audiences to go up to the stage to play Space Invaders while the musicians play the theme song. A 43 year old guy volunteered and he did a pretty good job, we were all cheering for him. His movements were tracked so he had to move from right to left while using some kind of controller to attack the fiends. It was amusing. He didn't win the main prize though but he got a goodie bag.

Not sure what exactly was the next song but it should be music from Legend of Zelda  or Super Mario, followed by Shadow of Colossus and Megaman. It's quite difficult to remember the order of songs because I was utterly entranced. To be fair, I'd say the volume wasn't loud enough, there wasn't much "surround" effect that you'd expect to experience when you listen to this kind of music in a hall. It lacked the "oomph" so my mom and I were complaining throughout the first half of the concert. It was a waste because they played really well and the video footages complement the music.

What's great about this concert, it's actually educative! Tommy explained to us the origins of video games, the genius behind the whole concept, Ralph H. Baer! We were shown a black and white video of Ralph introducing the first ever Pong video game and after that, he was connected to us via Skype. I'm actually skeptical about that being live since videos like that could be timed but still it was pretty cool how we clapped and he told us to enjoy and waved at us. 

We had a 20 minutes intermission for toilet breaks and my mom actually went to speak with one of the performers. She complained about the volume but the violinist said he couldn't do much about it because his task was only to play the violin, not controlling the overall sound so too bad but it's weird because the volume during the second half was increased and it had more "oomph" as compared to the first half. My mom was being smug about this, I'm not sure myself whether it was a coincidence or what. Nonetheless, it was more heart pumping during the second half, maybe it was also because Tommy joined in together with his electric guitar so the distortion or gain gave the extra kick.
When Jack asked whether there was any Disney fans, we immediately knew that the next song would be a piece from Kingdom Hearts! They played Hikari, I was literally fangirling throughout the whole song for several reasons. Yes, KH was an enjoyable game but Hikari has a very special place in my heart (for the record, the original song is performed and also composed by my one and only J-Goddess, Utada Hikaru). This rendition sounds really beautiful when performed live, I was close to tears.

Tommy also invited the winner of Guitar Hero competition that was held earlier on before the concert to play with him on stage. Van Halen's song was played. That little boy has leet skills on that fake guitar thing! I swear it's harder to play on that toy than a real guitar, (even Slash said so himself!) At first he was only required to play on Hard mode but he insisted on Expert to show off his skills, quite a cocky boy ey? But really, he was quite amazing except for the solo part, he screwed up a bit. 

Other tracks include music from Sonic the Hedgehog, Warcraft/World of Warcraft, Halo. As if one MGS song wasn't enough to satiate the fans, we have Norihiko Hibino who specially flew in. He's the man behind Snake Eater which was used for Metal Gear Solid 3. One of my all time favourite video game songs, not to mention MGS3 was the first MGS game that made me a MGS fan that I am today. I kept replaying Snake Eater during my final terms break back in Form 1/2. Mr. Hibino performed Snake Eater on his saxaphone and oh boy, that rendition was really sexy and even more melodic than the original one. It reminded me so much of my secondary school years.

When Tommy said that the next song will be from a game by Square, it instantly hit us that it'll be a Final Fantasy song. Everyone was stoked and he kept asking us which Final Fantasy will it be. Everyone shouted their favourite FF and guess what, some shouted FFI, FFVI, (Terra's theme would be so epic), FFIX (this one has the most, I mean in quantity, great music out of all FF games) and most shouted FFVII (as expected-duh! fanboys never die). Guess which one they selected? As predicted, it was FFVII and before he could finish saying the composer's name, we shouted Nobuo Uematsu! Damn, that guy is REALLY an icon in the video games music industry. Hail Uematsu! (lol) and so my dream came true after waiting for ages, I was able to witness the profoundness of One Winged Angel live! Holy shit, I had goosebumps. Definitely an overrated song but it's just so sinfully addictive to listen to, especially the parts with choir.

When Tommy and others made their disappearance, we all kept cheering  or an encore. Soon enough, they came out and was ready to deliver more yummy songs.  Castlevania's song was played and it had that rock or a bit of metal edge to it, I really love it even though I haven't played this game throughout 19 years of my life. (yeah, yeah, I know how much I'm missing out) He also had us sing Mario's Overworld theme together, it was ridiculously stupid and cute.

Before the evening came to an end, music from Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross was played and apparently, this was due to so much demand from fans all over the world. I'm glad they actually considered what the fans want because Chrono Cross has such beautiful music though I haven't finished the game, put it on hold when I received FFXIII, lol. It started out soft and tranquil withJack and Tommy on the acoustics, and suddenly the tempo took a turn. The ever-talented flutist and Norihiko joined in and so did the rest of the musicians. One word to describe it-- EPIC. Oh my God, it was easily one of the best piece delivered. All the instruments blended together so perfectly. Even my mom kept complimenting this piece after the concert was over.

The concert lasted about 2 hours 30 minutes long, I was beaming as I was walking out of the hall, in other words, I was ecstatic. Like I said earlier this month, it was like a dream come true for me, the opportunity to listen to video game soundtracks played live. Paying RM 153 was definitely worth it,  you get such a different experience that you won't be able to get from attending usual concerts.  Imagine all gamers who truly appreciates video games and the music gathered together in a hall, all with the same purpose, to just have fun and enjoy the music like how we've enjoyed the games. But I might be wrong because I saw people in their 40s - 50s as well, perhaps it'd be more precise to say that the same purpose is to have fun and enjoy the music! :D

Oh yes, video games music is just like any other good music. In fact, they're better than some shit that they play on radios these days. You can actually feel it when you listen to video game soundtracks. This applies to certain animes/dramas/movies soundtracks as well. Video games music has evolved to the point where players criticize or refuse to play certain games just because of the music composer. Fanboys and fangirls can be so faithful (lol). If you haven't listened to video games music before, I'd suggest you do so because you're really missing out a lot, I'm dead-serious.

The only drawback was the audio system, they could've done better. Do realize I'm not referring to the skills of the musicians, they played well and the co-ordination was great, the choir members especially. If only they raised the volume. I do not have much knowledge about acoustics and all, perhaps it's the material of the walls or the positioning of the speakers. Either way, if this was improved, it would've been flawless.

And if they were to drop by in the future, I'd relinquish RM 200++to get front seats and hopefully by then they will play music from not so popular games such as Persona and Max Payne. Someone actually shouted Persona when Tommy asked what song to play next. Besides that, I was actually hoping to see Martin Leung but too bad he wasn't there because I really dig his rendition of Tetris's theme. Oh well. :)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

final fantasy XIII post-game thoughts

Aww, I just finished Final Fantasy XIII and I'm feeling really emotional. Like every single damn thing on the face of Earth, there will always be haters. I do not fathom the reason behind people's hatred and if they hate it then why do they still play it? 

Finished the game's main part at 57 hours ++ without touching most side quests unless required and without grinding. I have to admit I've enjoyed every single second spent in game, from the first time I inserted the disc until now. What a fantastic experience it has been. 

My Hands by Leona Lewis is really suitable.  Gotta admit I was skeptical when I first heard that her song will be used but now I've totally changed my mind. It fits the game alright and dear fans should stop being so adamant. Not all western things are bad, stop saying that the song sucks just because it's western and not japanese shit. It's okay that you think it's suck because you don't like the song but you think it sucks just because it's WESTERN? Sounds so silly, no? Yes, I listened to the japanese theme song as well, pretty good. I'd say both are good so please, stop the hate, it's sad. I feel bad for Leona Lewis because of the amount of fans bashing her.

So these are my thoughts after spending 2 weeks, trying to balance out my gaming and study time. Just gonna list down anything that comes to my mind. :

1. This game is totally worth it. Finish the game --complete sidequests for obtaining trophies and so on. High replay value. I'm considering playing it from the start again since it will be easier after learning various strategies and whatnot.

2. Battle system is fun fun fun! Flaws only make battles more challenging, the inflexibility of changing paradigms contribute to the difficulty factor as well. Easily the hardest FF I've ever played.

3. Great character design. From the kick ass ones to those annoying little brats, I love them. Despite how annoying Hope and Vanille were in the beginning of the game, they get better. In fact, annoying traits are the ones that make the characters memorable. Light of course is my favorite among all, followed by Fang. Best female protagonist I've ever come across. From her VA to her costume design, how she fights in battles, she's close to perfect. I like how females are so damn strong in this game.

Best 2 female characters in the game.

4. Grinding is pointless. Even if you max out skills and stats, dying is still easy if you don't strategize. Timing and strategizing have not been this important! 
5. The game has TOWNZ. Stop saying the game has no towns. The bloody towns are everywhere and we're in TOWNZ most of the time. Just because you get attacked in towns, that does not tantamount to no TOWNZ because Nautilus is really a town. So called having no TOWNZ is relevant to the plot because players are considered as the baddies; thus being chased around in townz and no resting, please use common sense.

6. Eidolons are not entirely useless. True potential is revealed when used at the perfect moment in battles and I totally love how tough eidolons battles are because it wouldn't make any sense if we were to obtain them so easily. God, those battles make my blood rush! And the summon scenes are dead gorgeous, never skipped them. There's no reason to skip.

7. Vanille and Fang are lesbians. I officially declare them lesbians. Good friends don't go hugging each other that way. To be more precise, hug while resting your hand on one's breast. And lifting your friend's skirt to see a scar on the thigh? Really? Ending scene utterly convinced me that they are gay. Just because they didn't say "hey, we're lesbians" does not mean they're not lesbians. People can say whatever they want but this is my final stand. Glad SE is taking this approach. *coughs*

 I told you they're gay.
8. Music is good. Not mind blowing but still good. I'm satisfied. Yes, I know how all FF fans miss Uematsu. That guy is a genius but please, life goes on, not like he's dead but... give chances to other composers alright? Hamauzu's works ain't that bad and he deserves praise. Overall, the game's soundtrack is really pleasant to the ears and there's actually variety in the ost per se. Though most tunes aren't as memorable as Uematsu's works, Hamauzu's music is still brilliant. It fits FFXIII's world. In fact it's wayyyyyy better than X-2's ost excluding Eternity Memory of Lightwavesblablasomething. The music is so pleasant that I'm actually looking around for the ost, I'm talking about the physical copy. Someone let me know if they see the ost in Malaysia? Because I remember seeing XII's ost sold in Rock Corner. Whether it's bootleg or not, that I do not know but hopefully it's fully original. Worst case scenario, I'll need to find someone to order it online for me.

9. Superb voice acting. Worth noting --- Vanille's voice is so irritating that I can still hear it ringing in my ears. It's as if she's having sex during most parts of the game. Fortunately I do not use her much. Light's VA did a great job, I saw the interview and she actually sounds so different. She managed to deliver a few memorable lines, "Worst birthday ever". All the voice artists managed to bring out the personalities of the characters, which is what makes the game so realistic. Luckily no stupid male voice acting this time. All the guys sound perfectly normal. As the game progresses, characters also have new lines during battles.

10. Game is pretty family-oriented. How Light goes all out to save her sister and her caring gestures, how Sazh wants to save his son, how Hope gets more mature and overcome his fears and troubles after his mom's death and opening up to his dad --- I really like the direction of this game. The only cannon pairing is Snow and Serah. No redundant lovey dovey scenes or stupid lines.

The only cannon pairing. I'm happy they didn't pair Light with Snow. Light and Snow already don't sound nice together, verbally.

11. 10/10 for overall eyecandy.

12. Light doesn't get too much spotlight till she overshadows the other characters. All of them get sufficient coverage. It's just that Light gets a bit more attention and more lines, that's about it. Very balanced I'd say.

 For the 992828171231th time, Light does not look like Cloud and she's not a female version of Cloud, looks and personality-wise. 

Okay, I cried a bit but it wasn't as bad (most probably because my mom was having her lunch beside me) as how I cried during Crisis Core's ending. FFXIII ending can be interpreted as both sad and joyful. Not gonna include spoilers but fortunately the fun-filled journey isn't exactly over, I'll still spend my time finishing sidequests and visiting newly unlocked areas and riding chocobos of course!

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