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Month: December 2009

My First Click-Fest: Torchlight

I have never really been a big PC gamer. Other than some SimCity 2000 and Castles II: Siege and Conquest back in the Mac OS 7 days and a little bit of the first Sims, I have been almost exclusively a console-based gamer (including portable systems) my whole life. I suppose the only “reason” was that I never really got into FPS games (as detailed here and here on the blog), and that was all I saw on other folks’ PCs all throughout college (specifically Unreal and Counter-Strike).

It was not until 2007 that I suddenly had even the faintest hints of interest in gaming on a computer again. Working with computers all day for work-work and hobby-work, it was generally not my preferred location to game, but I could not avoid the growing hype surrounding The Orange Box. Sure, the Team Fortress 2 character introduction videos were hilarious and I might as well test that out… and sure, Half-Life 2 was apparently some hugely-loved game that now had two extra “episodes”…

It really was just Portal that pulled me in, all on its own. Ignoring the humor and ignoring the setting, the idea of a puzzle game veiled behind the appearance of a first-person shooter intrigued me beyond belief. I have talked at length about my experience with that game on the podcast and here on the blog, so let us fast-forward to today’s random PC gaming fascination.

After hearing it get endlessly praised on podcasts like Gamers With Jobs, and even from my buddy Bryce, a half-price $10 Torchlight steal on Steam sounded like a good idea.

Based on how I began this entry, it probably goes without saying that I have absolutely zero familiarity with any kind of Diablo game, clone or otherwise. The entire genre of the action/adventure/RPG “click-fest” is entirely foreign to me. You may remember my first attempt at playing an MMO lasting all of five minutes or so. Even knowing that going in, I figured that with people whose opinions I respected and resonated with all enjoying the game, I should at least give it the ol’ college try.

I have put just under two hours into the game, and my most recent achievement is “Over The Brink“… there was something about some guy being turned into an evil monster by some other guy down underground and returning to town to talk with some woman about me being corrupted. I think. I’m not entirely sure. I think I’m at level five…? And opened up a bigger (permanent?) portal back to town…?

It has taken me this entire play time to figure out most of what is going on, how to change character attributes, how to enchant items, and how that all fits together. Some of it I picked up on quickly — the number keys correspond to items to use such as refilling my health or mana, for example. Click somewhere to go there. Click something to attack it. All of that is pretty simple. Other aspects have been hidden away, waiting for my mind to wrap itself around the game as a whole before I can even begin to understand what they mean. I am successfully sending my dog to town to sell off extra items. I am upgrading my strength and special attacks. I am identifying items I find underground and having that wizard in town enchant them (at a cost, of course!) to allow for better statistics and open slots. I am talking to the horse at the front of the town every time I return in hopes that it will bestow some sort of wisdom upon me.

There is just a lot of “stuff” to click on; it is a little overwhelming. It is certainly not the most complex game ever (higher numbers are generally better than lower numbers), but there is a lot to take in, especially so if the entire genre and presentation is entirely new to you, as it is to me.

I am enjoying myself so far, though. My character (Hagrid) is a “Destroyer” class, and he has a dog (Fang). I am still figuring out this whole “fame” thing, all the extra techniques, skills, and items that are available to me, not hoarding items since I have a limited number of slots in my inventory (even with the chest in town)…

There is a lot going on, but so far it seems to have the perfect balance of drop-in/drop-out game play that I am looking for while at the PC (the floors of the dungeon are just the right length), and the single-player experience is what I crave for this type of universe (though I hear an MMO is in the works). Have you tried out the game? Do you have any familiarity with this type of game at all, and how has it shaped your experience? Do you know of any resources for a newbie like me to read up on it all?

A Very Zelda Christmas Memory

It was Christmas 1998. I was a junior in high school. While I had a semi-part-time job, I was not raking in much of my own cash and could not purchase every single game I wanted. That’s OK, though. Ocarina of Time would have only been out for a month, so I could wait until Christmas for it.

The last game in the series had been Link’s Awakening, which by now you know well is one of my favorite games of all time. Also adoring Super Mario 64, I was beside myself with excitement over the latest game in the series coming into the world of 3D.

And there it was, ready to be unwrapped under that glorious tree on Christmas Day in 1998. Not only that, but it was the golden cartridge version, a limited-edition version that could only have been obtained with a pre-order, and a toss-back to ye’ olden NES days of golden Legend of Zelda and Adventure of Link cartridges.

I later heard the hilarious tale from my mother. She fought through a crowd of people at Toys ‘R Us to get up to the front. Somehow she learned or overheard that there was a golden-cartridge version, which is the version she asked for at the desk. The person behind the desk asked her if she pre-ordered. She said she did. My mother lied; she had done no such thing. The goal was clear, and she would accept no other outcome. She walked out of the store that day with the limited-edition golden cartridge version.

We are greedy and clueless as children, and have no understanding of the nonsense our parents go through. I can reflect on that now and try to put myself in her place. I wonder if and when I have children if I will ever fight a crowd of equally-annoying parents for the golden-boxed virtual reality car flying simulation kit as a gift. Knowing me, I’ll make up a wonderful story about how the clerk put my pre-order under someone else’s name, and I will be victorious.

The real shame here is that Ocarina of Time never truly captivated me. In fact, I was completely lost as to what to do for a couple hours after first starting it. To this day, I have never made it past the Water Temple. I have made many valiant efforts over the years, but I simply get bored earlier and earlier in the game each time. I appreciate the game for what it is,  love many of its elements to death, and certainly hold it in the highest regard and with fond memories. Thankfully I found a wife who prefers and has essentially mastered all of the 3D Zelda games, so her 3D Triforce of Power matches up well with my 2D Triforce of Widsom.

I guess we’ll need a kid one day with their Virtual Reality Triforce of Courage.

Why the “Frieza” Spelling Drives Me Nuts

Know this, dear Internet readers: it was painful to type the name as such into the blog post title.

Anyone who has followed my wacky adventures online for any amount of time knows how much I squirm at FUNimation’s spelling of the name of this character:

フリーザ
freeza_top

I once wrote up a somewhat-detailed explanation on how to romanize the character’s name that I inserted into Wikipedia articles, which were then deleted and re-added to some pretty terrible DB Wikia articles, getting re-written and distorted along the way. If you read any of those sites, perhaps this explanation may sound familiar.

Like his brother and father, Freeza’s name is a pun on all things relating to the cold. As both Freeza’s and Coola’s names end in a short “a” vowel (rather than the long â/aa which usually signifies “er” in kana spellings of English words), Freeza’s name is typically spelled with an “a” at the end (as opposed to “Freezer”). Logic would of course follow that his brother’s name should in turn be spelled in a similar fashion as “Coola” (rather than “Cooler”). FUNimation chooses to spell the names as “Cooler” and “Frieza”, removing the consistency between the names and their final vowels.

The actual English word “freezer” would be written out in katakana as フリーザー / furîzâ, so it would stand to reason that we should spell the DragonBall character’s name as “Freeza” instead of “Freezer” (note that in Japanese, the Pokemon we know as Articuno is actually フリーザー…!). There are other, similar examples in the series. イレーザ / irêza is typically adapted as “Eresa” instead of “Eraser”, while the ミスター in ミスター ・サタン / misutâ satan should pretty clearly be adapted as “Mister” rather than “Mista”.

This all ignores the elongated î/ii sound in the middle of the name, which is dandy and all, except that it ignores the point of this post. That’s fine. With knowledge in hand (and knowledge is, of course, power), here is a breakdown of why “Frieza” irritates me so:

(1) Lack of consistency
As noted, if you are going to end one character’s name with “a”, it should follow that the other character’s name should end in the same way. Instead, FUNimation provides a name spelling of “Cooler”.

(2) Lack of common sense
Leading up to the written-form appearance of the character’s name in the TV version of the series’ title cards (original, edited, dubbed episode 34: “The Ruthless Frieza”), every single instance of the name written in our alphabet used the commonly-accepted “Freeza” spelling. If you turn on the closed captioning for TV broadcast recordings of episodes before (and even sometimes after!) #34 from 1997, during any case in which a character speaks “Freeza” by name aloud, it is written with the double-“ee” spelling… clearly indicating that there was no style guide provided to the closed captioning transcribers, and that they obviously thought it was the “correct” spelling.

freeza_dub_cc
In the closed captioning for season two, it was almost always written as “Freeza”

frieza_dub_titlecard
Original FUNimation DBZ dub episode 34 title card

Furthermore, Bandai actually released versions of the “Super Battle Collection” figures in 1997 in North America, which was the very first run of licensed (through FUNimation!), domestic figures. Which name spelling appeared on the box?

freeza_1997_figures

(3) Lack of fans’ ability to even spell the misspelling properly
Freiza. Frezia. Frizea. (Insert Maximum the Hormone joke here.) Even the dub fans have no clue how to spell it.

(4) Lack of pronunciation guide
How exactly do you speak aloud “Frieza”…? You may think it’s simple, but take a listen when you view GameTrailers’ video review of Raging Blast. “Saiyan” is pronounced as it should be (which is to say, not as FUNimation pronounces it), and “Frieza” comes out as something like “Fray-za”.

(5) Lack of other English-language production support
In the subtitle track corresponding to the Japanese audio on all FUNimation releases, the character’s name is spelled as “Freeza”. Thankfully, Viz was releasing the manga at a time when FUNimation consistency or alignment was laughable, and so the standard “Freeza” spelling also made its appearance.

freeza_funi_subs
FUNimation Japanese-Language-Track Subtitle Example

freeza_viz
Viz Manga Translation Example

(6) Lack of any Japanese precedent
It goes without saying that no Japanese product had ever spelled the name with an “i” leading up to FUNimation’s release. When written with our alphabet, the spelling of “Freeza” was always and consistently used.

freeza_jp_sbc
Japanese “Super Battle Collection” figure; image courtesy of dragonballtoys.com

freeza_daizenshuu2
SOURCE: Daizenshuu 4, “WORLD GUIDE”

freeza_landmark
SOURCE: “LANDMARK”

(7) Infestation of later Japanese products
It was painful to see websites for then-upcoming Japanese games, and even the final releases of games such as Battle Stadium D.O.N. and Jump Ultimate Stars, using the “i”-spelling. Since it was not consistently used before and even after, it appeared to be cases of the Japanese developers referencing official English products and not realizing the lack of accuracy.

freeza_bsdon
Battle Stadium D.O.N. (PS2/Gamecube), unreleased in North America

You may try to make the argument that since a direct romanization of the name would be furîza, which does use an “i” due to using our alphabet, that there should not be any problem with using an “i” in an English adaptation/spelling of the name. Unfortunately for those making that argument, your logic is horribly flawed. A romanization is not necessarily the same as a name adaptation. We may spell “Kuririn” as such, but that is because the romanization aspects of it work perfectly fine in conjunction with the intended name pun (kuri meaning “chestnut”, a play on his head and shape). We spell the name as “Cell” because seru simply does not make any sense when trying to adapt the name into our alphabet, especially considering that the pun is based around the fact that he uses cells from other characters.

“Kuriza” is an interesting example. At Daizenshuu EX, we have decided upon a spelling with an “i” it in (rather than “Kreeza”), but this has nothing to do with FUNimation’s name spelling, and everything to do with preserving the same type of kuri pun as used in “Kuririn”. Toriyama abandoned the “cold” pun scheme for the character, and therefore we did the same with our spelling adaptation.

freeza_kuriza

“Frieza” seems like a completely arbitrary spelling change, contrary to all common sense, for completely inexplicable reasons. Did someone think it made the name look cooler (pun completely intended)? I simply cannot think of a single reason why it could or would be changed.

At the end of the day, this is nothing more than endless whining by another purist, and if you read this far you will fall into one of two camps: (1) you loathe me more than you already did, or (2) you’re shaking your head in recognition that I am just preaching to the choir. I realize this. I truly do. I will change nothing. “Frieza” will always haunt me, just as horribly as misappropriated apostrophes in non-possessive words do on a daily basis. At least now I can endlessly annoy someone with a link to a single resource when they ask me why the spelling bothers me so.

Remember, kids: “i” before “e”… except in “Freeza”.

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