Monday, August 24, 2009

Yet another appointment, Howl's Moving Castle audiobook, Ponyo, fanlistings, "My World, My Way", Wii Sports Resort

I had another appointment today with Dr. Feder, the guy I am seeing to try to get an Asperger's diagnosis. This is the third appointment and we haven't gotten a diagnosis yet, which kind of frustrates me, especially since I felt I met a lot of the diagnostic criteria I saw in a table in a book on Asperger's Syndrome that I consulted for my sociology project (which involved creating a center for youth with autistic spectrum disorders). He's going to e-mail my dad with some observations, so we'll see how that goes. The next appointment is for September 23, which is the same week as the writers' conference I want to go to. With that, school, and the appointment, I'm thinking I may just take my vacation time that week, rather than trying to get so many days off in that week.

Yesterday, I finished "reading" Howl's Moving Castle via the audiobook version of it I got with one of my "free book" Audible credits. It's an interesting book, much more detailed than the Miyazaki film based on it (which was my first encounter with the story, and the motivation for me wanting to read the book). The basic storyline is pretty much the same, but most of the details are different. Howl seems more heartless, Calcifer seems more like a demon ought to be (he seemed a little too lighthearted in the movie, especially in the English version where he was played by Billy Crystal), and even Sophie is a little more interesting. The novel also has more of a traditional fantasy novel feel to it, and it even utilizes the classic novel technique of naming chapters for what happens in them, like "In Which a Royal Wizard Catches a Cold" or "In Which Sophie Expresses Herself with Weed-Killer" or "In Which the Moving Castle Moves House." We read one such novel in my U.S. lit class last semester, and I found it somewhat annoying, because it felt like you were told what was going to happen before it happened, rather than finding out on your own. But when doing study guides and essays these chapter titles are rather useful, because it can be a pain in those situations to remember what chapters something happened in. It also utilizes some fairy-tale tropes, like the idea of setting out to seek one's fortune and Sophie believing that nothing interesting will happen to her because she's the eldest (invoking the common fairy tale trope of only the youngest son succeeding in seeking his fortune). The author also cleverly uses John Donne's poem "Song" as the words of the Witch of the Waste's curse on Howl.

Speaking of Hayao Miyazaki, I saw his most recent film, Ponyo (called Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea in Japan) at the theater last Friday. It was very well done. The English acting (since this was of course the English dub done by Disney) was very well done. Liam Neeson was the best in my opinion, though the film's two young stars -- Frankie Jonas, the Jonas Brothers' kid brother, and Noah Cyrus, Miley Cyrus's little sister -- did really well too. Disney does cast these films really well. The last Ghibli film I saw before this, My Neighbors the Yamadas, had John Belushi in it as well as Daryl Sabara (Juni in Spy Kids).

Having seen Ponyo, I have now seen 9 of the 18 Studio Ghibli films: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbors the Yamadas, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo. The ones I haven't seen yet are: Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday, Porco Rosso, Ocean Waves, Pom Poko, Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns, and Tales from Earthsea. All of these have been released in the U.S. except Only Yesterday, Ocean Waves, and Tales from Earthsea. Only Yesterday and Ocean Waves have never been released in English, though Ocean Waves is set to be released as a subtitled DVD in the UK next year, with the theatrical release of Ponyo. Only Yesterday has been "shelved indefinitely" for dubbing by Disney due to some not-family-friendly content in it. Tales of Earthsea, Studio Ghibli's most recent film before Ponyo, is due to be released in the U.S. next spring. It's also the first film to be directed by Hayao's son Gorō.

I managed to get my first fanlisting up, a Hina fanlisting called Forgotten Girl, but the join form isn't working (you can enter data into it, but it doesn't go anywhere). I need to figure out how to fix that, and I hope to be able to do that with the fanlisting I'm working on at present, a Mamoru/Hina ship fanlisting called Earth and Sun (because Mamoru has the kanji for "earth" in his name and Hina has the kanji for "sun" in her name). The PHP stuff for fanlisting scripts, scripts that are supposed to help you manage your member list, I can't make any sense of.

I finally managed to get past the part I was stuck on in the DS game My World, My Way, which was to beat the Succubus Queen. She has, like all the bosses thus far, WAY too much HP compared to the player character (200 compared to the 85 HP I had at the time) and her attacks hit pretty hard. I figured out a strategy of not attacking her with my weapon (since that does very little damage) and cooperating with Pinky, the mimic slime that follows you, to alternately use damaging items like Holy Bombs and Ice Bombs and use magic spells like Ice Shards to whittle down her HP. So, to beat her, I recommend:

1. BUY POTIONS. This seems obvious, but it is really useful. Having Potions will allow you to heal so you don't have to waste your MP using the Heal spell. I bought 5 I think, which is generally enough for this dungeon since you also have a healing spell handy. If you're lucky enough to have some Magic Potions (which heal MP) handy, bring those too. They're rare because you can only buy them in some of the shops in the game, though monsters occasionally drop them. Plus, they cost a lot. If you need money for potions, fight a bunch of enemies with the "I hate being poor" pout in effect (which temporarily makes the monsters give you more money) or sell off those useless monster drop items like False Boar Fur and Venombug Down, as well as weapons you and the mimic slime don't need. You can also choose the cheaper meals at inns to save money.

2. Try to avoid other monster fights on the way, unless you need experience. You can do this by using a pout while walking in the dungeon that makes the monsters go away (I forget what the pout is called) or by using the "This is annoying!" pout at the beginning of battles. Before getting to the Queen, most of the monsters on the dungeon's bottom floor are hard-hitting regular Succubuses, so you will want to avoid those. This will allow you to keep your HP high and save your MP.

3. The Succubus Queen is rather weak to Ice-type spells, probably because her own spells are primarily fire-based (except for Reaper Slice). To exploit this weakness, buy some Ice Bombs from shops (or hold on to any that were dropped by monsters) and make sure Paro (the bird that casts all your spells for you) learns the spell Ice Shards from the snake-archer monster in the flower-filled room on the first floor of the dungeon. The Queen is also weak to Holy Bombs (as one might expect), so get some of those too. Unfortunately, unlike some other holy-magic-weak monsters, she's not affected much more if you use the Holy Sword spell (which imbues your weapons with holy power) than she'd be if you just used your weapon on her normally, so it's not worth it to waste MP using it.

4. Make sure to heal frequently, either by using the Heal spell or by using Potions. This will help you survive when the Queen uses Reaper Slice or Fire Curtain, spells that both hit for a lot. Also, have the mimic slime primarily cast spells, if it has the ability to do so, to save you from wasting your own MP (since it tends to have more MP than you).

5. Once the Queen's HP gets down to around 80 or so, you can probably risk using your weapon (although this won't do much damage) or other spells, such as Magic Arrow (which Paro can learn early on from Wizardrills). One benefit of using your weapon is the random chance that you will cause a status effect, preferably stunning (which makes the Queen temporarily unable to attack). If you got the Snake Bow from the snake-archer guy, use that as it has a chance of causing the Poison status, which takes 1 HP from its victim per turn. Another benefit of using your weapon is that most weapons have a 2-4% chance of landing a "critical," a hit that does a very high amount of damage (sometimes as high as 300). However, the chance of a "critical" happening is random, and you have no control over when or how often one happens.

Anyway, once you beat the queen, leave the dungeon via the shortcut near the lower floor entrance. Then return to town (you can do this instantly by pressing L, which lets you cast the Return spell) and speak to the innkeeper, who gives you the key to the next gate. Fortunately, you don't have to fight a boss at the next gate (like you did at the other gates) since Nero (the guy who's been shadowing you and setting up the gate monsters and the dungeon) decides to let you off easy. After going through the gate, you can return home.

I thought that would be the end of the game (even though the story up to this point only takes about 10 game hours), but the cutscene at the end has the adventurer guy Elise was trying to impress by going out on an adventure dump her YET AGAIN, stating that the Succubus Queen is only a minor enemy and that any amateur hero could take her down. So Elise decides to try again, and a whole new "adventure" begins! It's essentially the same as before, the same sort of stuff, except in new locations.

We'll have to see just how far this game goes, I guess. It's a good game, with classic RPG elements mixed in with a unique twist on character development and gameplay using the pouts and such. The monsters are not terribly creative, with many being variations of previous monsters (like the Firedrills I'm now fighting, which are essentially Wizarddrills with red outfits and firey bows, and the Firebug and Venombug, which are variations of a normal green bug monster). But it's still interesting.

Last but not least, I finally picked up Wii Sports Resort, which I had reserved at GameStop. I traded in a bunch of games the same day, adding up (with extra credit thanks to my Edge card) to $41.45 in store credit, meaning I only had to pay about $13 myself for the game. I've played it, it's pretty cool, though the Wii MotionPlus accessory (which comes included with this game) is still new to me. I've played Swordplay, Cycling, and Table Tennis so far.

Well, I'm going to go have some lunch (I requested the day off from work today for the appointment, so I am at home). Bye for now!

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