Sunday, May 29, 2016

Odds and Ends - On Wolf Hall, Castlevania and Suikoden

Just a couple of bits and pieces for this post;

I just finished Hilary Mantels "Wolf Hall" today and must say I am quite underwhelmed. It has been hauled as a masterpiece by... people. I'm not really sure who says so, but she did receive the Booker Award for it so clearly there is someone who likes it. For some reason I came across the TV-series first and then found out it was based on a book. As I quite like historically based fiction I decided to watch it and absolutely loved it. Mark Rylance, whom I had never heard of nor seen before, was great in it and I immediately started watching a load of other movies he's been in. I also decided I wanted to read the books the series was based on to see if it had more to offer, as is often the case when books become series or movies. Unfortunately that is not so here. If you have any interest in the era or historical stories overall, I definitely recommend the TV-series over the books as it is more comprehensible and as such a lot more enjoyable. Mantel simply employs a writing style which might be commended for it unconventionality, but it often left me confused as to what was going on and who was doing what. Apparently this is something other people have found a problem as well, so it wasn't just me being slow-witted (this time).

Overall the story is a good one though, based in facts but Mantel has of course taken some liberties with the characters and she's done a fairly good job there. The little quirks she's given these historical figures may be somewhat founded in actual sources, but either way they feel believable and justifiable in the context. Apparently she aimed to set the reader directly into the event of things, to make you feel like you're there. I do feel like she has succeeded in this but some of the comprehensibility has been lost instead. She's removed too much exposition, and I'm usually the last person to want more exposition. Commendable effort but still, watch the series rather than suffer through the book is my recommendation.

I also just finished Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and that on the other hand was just as good as I've been told it to be. It had a few very minor issues, so small they barely even deserve to be called issues to be honest. For instance the way to use items is a bit round-about and I missed the slide move that is in some later Castlevania instalments. But overall it's the masterpiece it's being hailed as, especially considering it was pretty ground-breaking when it was released. There isn't much to dislike actually, except maybe the dialogue in general and the voice acting in particular. The artstyle is great, the music is absolutely phenomenal and the gameplay is great fun. If you haven't played it for whatever reason you really should. It's just too bad it's so expensive to get hold of nowadays.

One of the VGM podcasts I listen to mentioned Suikoden 1 & 2 and I realized I've only ever played Suikoden 5 which I've tried to get into several times without succeeding. I can't even put my finger on what it is that makes me lose interest only a few hours into the game, but it has a slow start (although not as torturously slow as Star Ocean 3), boring characters, story, gameplay... well yeah it doesn't really have much going for it. I've only gotten 1,5 hour into Suikoden at the moment but so far so good. I already like the characters better, the story seems pretty standard so far and the gameplay is promising. I definitely prefer the Playstation sprite work over the ps2 polygons, there is just something about the ps2 era RPG polygon artwork that really turns me off playing those games. Star Ocean 3 as already mentioned is another game where the aesthetics really don't appeal to me, Breath of Fire Dragon Quarters had this issue too somewhat. Final Fantasy X just barely gets away with it, but it has so many other issues... well I digress.

I intend to check out at least Suikoden 1 & 2, and if they are fun I'll see if I'll move furher down the list until I hit 5 at which point I might give it another chance. Who knows, maybe having played the other games will make the fifth one more enjoyable?

I've also hit a metaphorical brick wall in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. I've come across a boss event that is silly difficult, especially compared to the challenge so far, and I was certain it was the final event. I thought it would make the game a bit short so I decided to see if I was right. I was not, of course. Turns out this event is just barely half way. There is still loads of game left to play and I want to get there! But ramming my head against this boss, which has to be killed in a very specific way, is wearing a lot on my patience. What'll happen though is that I'll stop playing it for a while, get back to it, one-shot the boss and wonder what I made such a fuss about. I've also got SMT: Devil Survivor 2 and SMT: Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2 to play after that but that feels like far off in the distance now.

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