November 29th, 2006

#193: Intrigued by Wii

...I have to admit that the TV commercials make it look good.

Having read a few things on-line about it, now, though, it sounds like it's even more entertaining. Ars Technica says that Wii concentrates on being fun rather than the ultimate best in high-tech gaming, and that Wii manages to be fun quite nicely.

The immersive quality of the "Wiimote" control system appeals to me, as mentioned in a prior entry, and the discussion of its "real world" use in the above article seems to indicate that Nintendo has done its homework on the development of this system.

Even better, the low retail price of $250--especially for a system which is backwards-compatible with the Gamecube!--puts it within the grasp of the relatively impecunious and non-hardcore gamer types, like me, who just want to have fun playing video games once in a while.

I have thought about buying a GameCube and I have thought about buying a PS2. The PS2's MSRP of $130 seems steep for a system that's been superseded, and there are no seriously compelling games for the PS2 that make me care enough about owning a PS2. The GameCube, at least, has the "Zelda" franchise going for it; I've played "Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past" on my SNES for hours and hours and really enjoyed it. I'd like to play the more modern iterations of it, too....

The GameCube runs $100, and I have been mulling such a purchase for over a year. (I got my SNES when it was $100.) But I just might be tempted into saving a few pennies here and there in order to buy a Wii, especially since it's like getting two systems for the price of one.

I would not buy a PS3 or an Xbox 360--not with MSRPs well over $400 for any configuration which is likely to be well-supported in the future. (You don't buy a car without options; and you don't buy the basic configuration of a game machine. Either way you can expect disappointment down the road.) The idea of spending $650 for a video game system--even one with a Blu-Ray player in it!--just makes my brain ache. I am hoping against spending more than $500 for my next computer for crying out loud. $650 is more than I paid for my car.

Overall I think this is probably why Nintendo is kicking ass in terms of "installed base". Their system is relatively inexpensive; $250 is a good price for a "toy". It lacks the super-high-end graphics and processing power of its rivals, but it does not lack fun, and that's the entire point behind a video game in the first place. Nintendo made sure there were plenty of them available for sale, too; on their respective launch dates, our store had twelve PS3s but 90 Wiis. And so, after a week on the market, there are more installed Wiis out there than Xbox 360s, which have been on the market over a year.

But then I think about it: I have a SNES and a PSOne--and several games for each--sitting in a box in the living room, untouched for at least eight months. How long would it be before a Wii ended up collecting dust?

When I was 11 I wanted an Atari game console. My mother told me I would get tired of it pretty quickly, and I believed her; and these days I know that the fact is that I don't tend to stick with games too long. I get frustrated and quit playing; I just lose interest; or else I beat the game--either legally or via cheat codes--and never return to it. (There was a motorcycle racing game that I beat the first time I played it. Oh well.) Diablo II is an exception; I've run through it countless times and still return to it time and again.

Good role-playing games are few and far between for any system, let alone video game consoles, and I utterly suck at "twitch" games which require fast reflexes. I have no idea what games for the Wii cost, but would I want to risk, say, $50 on a game I might not like?

...so it'll probably be quite some time before I buy a Wii. Oh well.

#194: Mahoromatic and some other comments

...yeah, it's a keeper.

I can't really say all that much about the series since I've watched only five episodes, but I had to make a conscious decision not to watch more of it. I'm very pleased with what I've seen.

My only real complaint is with the translation. I've got a "region 0" sub of the thing (read: "Taiwanese bootleg") done by the same company which did the box set of Studio Ghibli films I have. They are not bad--at least I've seen no super-howlers like the "region 0" bootleg of Marmalade Boy ("...bite out the seared tomato..." for a line which is generally translated, "Is love like the bittersweet taste of marmalade on burned toast?")--but they're not very good, either. Most of the text is not translated, and since most of the characters are introduced with text cards rather than via spoken lines, it means some guesswork for the viewer.

Most of the characters are described in Steven Den Beste's review of the series, but not all.

The set I have is the first season. I expect I'll have to either go looking for the "region 0" second season, or put up the cash for the box set. *sigh*. The latter is, of course, preferable, particularly since the translation will be better.

The series is by Gainax, and the above review mentions that Mahoromatic contains the usual Gainax train wreck warp core breach ending.

Den Beste says that they couldn't have made it a worse ending if they had been trying to ruin it; but I honestly wonder if they actually did try to make it like that.

The avant garde in art seems to center on the proposition of shocking and/or angering the audience. Anime is no different, and Gainax has already demonstrated time and again that they don't mind taking a good series and turning it into compost; and the viewing public never fails to laud them to the heavens for it even when the result is an utterly worthless cop-out that neither explains nor resolves anything in the story. (I'm talking about Neon Genesis Evangelion [NGE] here.)

The probem is that it is very easy to provoke shock and anger in an audience. It is much harder to move someone to tears with beauty than it is with horror; and most of the avant garde isn't interested in beauty, anyway, precisely because it is so hard to manage.

Some modern art is striking and thought-provoking; but Sturgeon's Law comes into play with a vengeance: "90% of everything is crap." And in some cases, some modern art is literally crap (Ofili's "Madonna", anyone?).

The process of building up characters and then wrecking everything in the last few episodes has become a tiring and clichéd technique, especially when applied by Gainax. It was hard enough to care about any character in NGE, but the few that were likable were killed the quickest and least sensically. I'm not looking forward to the end of Mahoromatic.

* * *

For some reason I downloaded the sountrack CD for Mahoromatic in 2002--from the usenet group alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.anime--and it has managed to survive on my hard drive for nearly five years. Considering that I hadn't seen any Mahoromatic before 11/28/06, that's interesting to me. I have cleaned out the hard drive from time to time, copying music files to CD-ROM rather than delete them entirely, but somehow the OST for Mahoromatic survived.

* * *

The 13-year-old main character of Mahoromatic, Suguru-kun, is lusted after by his buxom 25-year-old teacher; and she also has some lust for the other boys in his class in general.

I have to note here that Steven Den Beste doesn't seem as revolted by Shikijo-sensei as he does by Kimura-sensei from Azumanga Daioh, even though Kimura merely looks at high school girls and doesn't plot ways to molest them. Kimura is interested in girls above the age of 15 in general, and he has a crush on a specific girl later in the series, but he never lays a finger on her or makes any advances. Shikijo, on the other hand, is after a specific 13-year-old boy (Suguru-kun) and actively fantasizes about giving him a little "private tutoring" from the first episode in which she appears. She also gloms onto him repeatedly.

Of course, Kimura is presented in an entirely unflattering light, which is part of the whole point of the character in the first place. Shikijo's primary function is to give Mahoro a rival for Suguru's affections.

Well, I'm kind of the opposite, I guess. Kimura seems harmlessly eccentric to me; Shikijo's actions are kind of annoying. But neither one keeps me from enjoying their respective series, particularly since they drive some good comedy scenes.

* * *

I'm looking forward to seeing more of it.