So, this is a short, not-a-real-post post. I just wanted to say that it’ll be a few days before I post anything new since I’m currently dealing with a medical issue, and all my time is spent either at work or rolling around on my bed in suffering and agony. I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the energy to write anything right now. Thanks for the understanding!
When I was a child, I only had one gaming system; a Game Boy Color. The first game I ever got truly invested in was a little game called Final Fantasy Legend II, and that one game has influenced my taste in games ever since. The JRPG genre is what dominates my gaming life, and when I go to a store to buy a new game, they are often what I look for first. So it was that I happened across this game, Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia. Can I say “game” anymore in this paragraph? Yes, I can, because Ar tonelico is one of the gamiest games to have ever gamed.
I don’t mean that as a bad thing, though it can definitely be taken as one. Ar tonelico is definitely not for everybody. I’m still not quite sure if it’s even for me. It’s one of those games where you don’t need to think a whole lot, and it doesn’t want you to think a lot. It holds your hand the whole way, never giving you any real mystery to the plot and never giving you any mechanics that require real skill or talent. It is a “game” by the strictest definition, in that you play it, it’s possible to fail, and you may or may not get any real satisfaction or joy from it.
First, I want to point out that this game was released in 2007, near the end of the Playstation 2’s lifespan. Ar tonelico itself does not look like it was even released on the PS2. It’s got a very simple graphical style, comparable to the Atelier Iris games, except without the cartoonish charm of the latter. It just looks dull and uninspired, with every scene (with a handful of minor exceptions) playing out with waist-up portraits of characters speaking, as opposed to any real cutscenes. It can detract significantly from the experience.
In fact, this game is essentially an Atelier Iris game in all but name. The combat is almost exactly the same, except it trades the nuance and forethought in the Atelier battle system for a much simpler version, which allows you to cast a powerful spell at any point in the battle so long as you sat there waiting long enough. It’s tedious and boring, and I often find myself using items to ward off battles after a long time playing.
Ar tonelico also took Atelier Iris’s crafting system. It just took it. The game didn’t change anything about it, except now all items used in crafting are drops from enemies, with very few overworld spots with items. All crafting takes is being able to tolerate slogging through enough enemies to get the required items.
Map navigation is boring and, at times, confusing. I’m not even sure how to describe it, as you move through names of locations on a general map, only you’re always centered on the place you’re currently looking at, with only adjacent area names shown. Then you use the directional pad or left stick to choose which direction you want to go. I truly pray for you if you don’t remember which direction a certain location was, as you might get lost trying to find it.
Dungeon navigation is no better. There are no clear borders on any of the screens, so at some random point you’ll just find yourself moving to the next screen. This is even true of dungeon-exit borders, as well. The game doesn’t designate them at all, meaning you could also just find yourself out on the world map again, without even a prompt asking if you’d like to leave. It’s such a simple thing that could save loads of frustration with just an easy fix.
Ar tonelico is very shoddy on a technical level, as well. The lag in cutscenes can get so bad that voice-overs and music will pause while the game loads the rest of the scene, which again, are little more than still-portraits of characters that occasionally change expression. The lag is present in battles as well, as casting any spell with your Reyvateil (i.e. the central mechanic of the battle system) will result in slowdown and even moments of complete standstill, which can make trying to perform any well-timed spellcasts practically impossible.
Speaking of the voice acting, I’m not sure these actors even care. They aren’t even comparable to blocks of wood, as wood would have more inflection and nuance. The only one who isn’t entirely terrible is Vic Mignogna, who suffers from the entirely separate problem of being Vic Mignogna.
All this is without even touching on the big reason for this game’s existence, the Dive mechanic. You Dive into the souls of your Reyvateil companions to help them through their inner demons and such, which is treated as being as awkwardly intimate as sexual intercourse. Once inside their “Cosmosphere,” you basically play through a linear visual novel to reach the end. There aren’t any dialogue options or choices to make it difficult or interesting, it just serves as a means to further the character development of the Reyvateil in question.
The characters themselves are actually interesting, and I do occasionally feel for them, but it does little to lift the drab mess surrounding them. They have secrets and fears and relationships with each other, none of which seem stupid or exaggerated, and it really helps to make them feel like actual people. The exception to this would be Lyner, the main character, who suffers from Protagonist Syndrome, in which he has the bare minimum personality so you can insert yourself into his position better.
In the end, I can’t really recommend this game. I had some fun with it in the start, but the further in I went, the less anything interesting happened. Ar tonelico has so much promise, and on the outside, looks incredibly interesting, but the packaging is deceiving. It hides a sub-par, confusing, laggy mess of a game, which steals far too much from better games that came before it. Even if you’re a die-hard fan of JRPG’s, there’s not much for you in this game. Just get Atelier Iris instead, and avoid this at all costs.
Console: Playstation 2
Developed by: Gust Corporation
Year Released: 2007
Genre: Active Time JRPG
Did I mention that this game is priced upwards of $50? That’s way too expensive for this drivel.
Poring over the pop charts every day can be tedious and tiring. To begin with, I’m a rock man myself, and there’s not too much rock on the charts these days. Even the rock charts are filled with songs that aren’t actually rock, or songs from fifty years ago. That’s not a joke, either. There are four songs by The Beatles on the rock charts this week. Nothing against The Beatles (one was even “Come Together,” my favorite Beatles song), but we need a breath of fresh air to come and revitalize rock.
Lo and behold!, our rock saviors have descended upon us in the form of… Joe Jonas?! Yes, Joe Jonas-fronted band DNCE is the topic of discussion today, but don’t let the Jonas name trick you; this is basically an early Maroon 5 song, if Maroon 5 hadn’t been fronted by one of the worst vocalists of the generation.
I often feel that, when you hate a song, you do need to be able to explain why, while if you love a song, the “why” can often be indescribable. Such is not the case with “Cake by the Ocean.” It’s one of those songs that wouldn’t work if even one piece was out of place, but because they managed to get everything right, it plays out beautifully.
First, they chose to bring the bass into focus with one of the tightest basslines in pop music. As a bassist myself, I always enjoy when the instrument gets the chance to take the spotlight, but it definitely deserves the chance in this instance. It gives the song a funky flavor that really makes the song danceable. Then, they used the guitar as more of an accent instrument. In fact, the next time you listen to the song, look for the guitar. It doesn’t play a single chord until the bridge, instead allowing the bass to carry the entire first verse. Doing so allows the bassline to get engraved into your mind, letting it take over as the dominant while the guitar is content to be more subdued until the chorus punches in.
And let us not forget the drums. The drums perfectly match the bass, working in tandem to create one of the greatest rhythms of the year. I just… I love it all so much. I don’t even mind continuously playing the song while I write this article. I’m kinda half-dancing the whole time and looking like a moron. The beat is just such an earworm, I can’t help it.
And that’s without even mentioning the overwhelming presence of Joe Jonas. I was a Disney Channel kid, and I was a teenager while The Jonas Brothers were a mega-popular teeny-bopper band, so naturally I had quite a bit of contact with their music. I’m here to tell you, right now, that Joe was always the most talented brother. He has a voice with a wide range, allowing him to sing all kinds of songs and be amazing. His regular pitch is perfectly suited to this kind of rock, with a tone that’s suave but just a bit sleazy. When the chorus starts and he has to hit those higher notes, he’s perfectly capable of doing so.
The Following Paragraph is NSFW. All Sentences NSFW Will be Written in White, and Need Highlighting to be Read.
Lyrically, the song is just as metaphorically raunchy as the music it’s influenced by. There seems to be some sort of contention about what the song is about, so here’s my personal interpretation. This song is about a girl Joe likes that won’t do anything with him in bed. He’s talking to her, trying to convince her to “live dangerously” and “eat cake by the ocean,” which sounds like a euphemism for giving him a blow job, with lines like “eat icing off your hands” supporting this. Apparently, it could also mean the opposite, with him proposing she let him eat her out. Regardless, it’s all very well-written and conveys the sleazy mood of the song amazingly, while allowing some interpretation. There was no point in the song where I thought a line didn’t work, or thought it was completely stupid, which is pretty rare.
All in all, this song is one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had listening to pop music. It’s just a fun, danceable song with great musicians behind it, and a positively explosive performance by Joe Jonas. If you’re at all interested in music, you should definitely give this song a listen or fifty.
Genre: Pop-rock; funk; disco
Billboard Rank at Time of Writing: 41
“Roses” is no different than any other EDM club jam, except in one major way; somehow, it reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. This is not where this song belongs, in any way. This is purely dance music, with no other possible way to enjoy this atrocity. How this ended up as an actual hit song blows my mind.
I’ll admit to coming into this review with a fair amount of bias. I’ve never been a fan of EDM, as I feel it is a soulless genre, filled with people who have mastered the technical art of music but never had the true passion for it. The Chainsmokers don’t even have that going for them, though, as you’d know if you ever heard their previous “viral” hit, “#Selfie,” an abysmal waste of time equal to forcefully running a cheese grater over your ears for four minutes.
My problems with “Roses” are different from the problems I had with “#Selfie,” though. For one, this song doesn’t seem to be sending me subliminal messages to kill myself. “Roses” is far too bland for that, with a drum beat that hasn’t been fresh since the 60’s dominating the brunt of the song. The lyrics to the song are at least sung, as well, and not a disgusting cash in on a trend of the times.
No, the biggest problem with this song is the synthesizer breakdown. It bleats out in stagnant notes so forceful it would vibrate even the best speakers at medium volume levels. It happens more than once across the song, as well, seeming to be the main reason for the song’s existence. The synthesizer just drones on like that for something around thirty seconds at a time, and it just baffles me. No human ear could ever find that song pleasing.
Past that, a trend common in EDM is to take a bite of the vocalist’s performance, just a single note, and use it like a chord, repeated ad infinitum across the song. It does nothing but remind me that ROZES could actually be singing something more, had you left enough room for her to do so. The “ah ah-ah-ah-ah-ah ah ah-ah ah-ah-ah-ah-ah” noise is not fun or interesting.
ROZES is actually a good presence on the song. She has a nice, willowy voice that I would love to hear more of. She does slur about half of the two verses she was given, making it practically unintelligible, but she’s probably the best-sounding instrument on the song, so I can forgive that. In fact, the song probably rose so high on her strength alone.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that this is an EDM song, meaning you should be able to dance to it. This is not a fun, danceable song. “Roses” is one of the stiffest, saddest, most joyless songs I’ve heard in a while. It is a slow trudge through murky swampwater, only the swamp doesn’t even have any alligators to run from. This song has no business being in a club or on the radio, and it definitely has no worth on the pop charts. Avoid this song like the plague, but maybe check out ROZES. That’s what I’m going to do.
Also, did they seriously name the song after the guest artist? Who does that?
What am I doing with this blog? Well, I’m glad you asked, me. I started this blog so I could speak about things that interest me, and have a medium with which to share my ideas and viewpoints with others. I chose to do a blog rather than continuing my previous attempts at a YouTube channel for three reasons: first, while I have no problem portraying a character on camera or for an audience, being myself was scary, and so I was an awkward presence on camera. Second, I didn’t like filming it as, due to my limited budget, I wasn’t exactly able to do anything interesting with a visual medium. Finally, and most importantly, I found I preferred the writing of the review to the filming and editing process of the video.
Why didn’t you already know you liked writing, Wombat? First of all, stop talking to yourself, it’s weird. Anyway, I did know I liked writing. I’ve been writing since middle school, when I attempted my horribly awful first attempt at a novel called Attack of the Pens, in which the regular household items would be sentient and wish to kill their owners. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. In the past year or so, though, I’ve been busy trying to piece together my life. I got a job, moved out on my own, bought a lot of things I had always wanted to but never could on my parents’ dime, and dealing with a lot of issues in my life that cropped up as a result of all that. So I wasn’t really writing, and part of me kind of forgot how much happiness I get from it.
What are you going to be writing about? Seek help, me who keeps asking these questions. I look in the mirror and I’m worried. I intend this blog to primarily be for video game and music reviews. The reason I’ll be doing both is because, if I just do video game reviews, I won’t be able to post as often as I would like to (even now, I’m not far enough into any game to write a review on it). Music is also a bigger passion for me than video games, being a musician myself, and I’d like to talk about why I listen to what I listen. Other than those, I do have plans for different, more creative forms of writing in the future, but I’d like to cement myself as at least a half-decent reviewer before I attempt to do so.
Why haven’t you written a music review yet, then? I’ve already called you a doctor, just relax, you’ll get help soon. I haven’t written one yet because I was planning to start with year-end top tens as a lead in to the music reviews. The problem is… I didn’t consider how much work they actually throw on you. I quit halfway through the research phase. So I’ll write one when I find a song about which I actually have opinions. So, basically, I’ll listen to the radio a bit today instead of my CD’s and write one soon.
So, anyway, that’s the reason why this blog exists and what I intend to do with it in the near future. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll answer it as soon as I can, or you can find @DogAndWombat on Twitter and I’ll probably answer you quicker. Thanks for reading, friends!
Oh no, I made light of a serious problem in this blog post! Now I’ll never get any readers….