Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Going home to be with (and take care of) my mom and dad

I feel kind of strange mentioning this here, since it's awfully personal and not at all about gaming, but I can't help myself.

My dad had a stroke last Thursday night. Actually, he had three strokes--two "mini" ones while at home and a third, more serious one shortly after he and my mom arrived at the hospital.

My mom tells me that if they hadn't been at the hospital when the third one hit, he likely would have died.

I don't know enough about strokes to be able to tell you how severe this last one was. Regardless, it was bad enough that he had to have surgery to remove the clot that caused the stroke. Also, it seems as though he suffered some amount of trauma/paralysis to his left side. His mind seems OK--he hasn't suffered any memory loss, nor has he lost the ability to communicate or understand language--which is a miracle in and of itself, but he's hardly in the clear at this point. He's still in the ICU and we're unsure as to when he will be moved out of it--or when he will be discharged (likely to some sort of therapy/treatment center until he's strong enough to return home).

I've been devastated by this surprising turn of events, as have my mom and brother. Ever since I heard the news, I've been alternating between bawling my eyes out and feeling like a zombie.

My original plan was to keep this to myself, and to continue updating this blog as I always do. This morning, though, I decided it would be best to take a few days off--especially since David (my husband) and I will be flying home late tonight and the next few days are sure to be filled with trips to see my dad, phone calls to family and friends and hopefully a bit of rest.

I'm not expecting to stay away for long. In fact, I plan on returning to some sort of normalcy--on this blog, at least--next week (thanks in large part to a slew of posts that were written before all of this happened).

Anyway, I just wanted all of you to know so that you won't worry that the lack of posts over the next few days means that something has happened to me or that something is happening to this blog.

Also, I'd greatly appreciate it if any of you would be able to spend even one second today or tomorrow or whenever you're able to send positive energy/thoughts/vibes my dad's way.

Let's Play: 'Which Box Art is Better?' (Sugar Shooter 2 edition)

Just so you know, I'm going to change things up a bit for this round of "Which Box Art is Better?" Rather than discuss the merits of the pieces of cover art produced for a single game released in various regions, today I want to discuss the merits of cover art produced for a pair of games released in a single region.

The pair of games we'll be dissecting today: Dudedle Studio's Sugar Shooter, which hit the streets in late 2010, and its sequel, Sugar Shooter 2, which is expected to make its way into gamers' hands (in Japan) any day now. (Awesome aside: Folks who buy the limited edition get this ass-tacular face towel.)

With that said, here's the art that graces the cover of the Japanese version of the first Sugar Shooter:

And here's the art that will greet folks who buy the Japanese version of Sugar Shooter 2:

Although I'm pretty fond of the former game's box art, I much prefer the imagery created for the soon-to-be-released (in Japan, at least) sequel. Sure, it's composition is a bit typical, but it's so colorful that it's not at all difficult for me to overlook it.

What do all of you think? Do you prefer one piece of Sugar Shooter cover art to the other?

See also: Previous 'Which Box Art is Better?' posts

Monday, February 20, 2012

I'm going to get with Isami Kondou if it's the last thing I do (or, I'm currently making my way through Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom)

Those of you who have been paying attention to the little "Now Playing" list that resides on the right-side on this blog should be aware that I recently acquired a review copy of Aksys Games' PSP-based otome title, Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom. (And those of you who tend to ignore said list? Well, I guess you're in the loop now.)

I believe I've played it for about four or five hours, give or take an hour, which according to the proprietress of the Chic Pixel blog (aka apricotsushi, who you've likely come across if you've ever posted a comment here) means I should encounter one of the game's many endings sooner rather than later.

I don't want to give away too much in this post, as I'd rather save the important details for the "somewhat gay" review that will be published shortly, but I will say this: Hakuoki, while not exactly everything I had hoped for, is interesting and engaging enough that I'd recommend it to those who don't mind controlling a female protagonist and those who enjoy a good page-turner.

The second point above is especially important, as reading is pretty much all you do while "playing" Hakuoki. Every once in a while you're allowed to steer the story in one direction or another, a la those Choose Your Own Adventure books you plowed through as a kid (if you were anything like me), but other than that the main thing you'll be doing during this "visual novel" is hitting the X button on your PSP to advance the story.

As for the content of said story: It's a bit too detailed to go into here, but the long and short of it is that you have to search for the missing father of the aforementioned protagonist, Chizuru Yukimura, alongside the Shinsengumi, a tight-knit group of samurai who protect the citizens of Kyoto.

Although the bulk of your time is spent digging up clues as to the whereabouts of Chizuru's dad, a small bit of it (too small, in my opinion) is spent getting to know the studly members of the Shinsengumi better, if you catch my drift.

Personally, I only consider three of the many men in this game to be anything close to studly--which would be all well and good if it were possible to hook up with all of them. Instead, only one of them--the least appealing of the bunch, of course--is at all open to Chizuru's rather stilted advances. (Just in case anyone is curious as to which characters I'm talking about: Isami Kondou and Shinpachi Nagakura are my top two picks, while Saito Hajime comes in a somewhat-distant third.)

If any of what I've said here has piqued your interest in Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom, I'd highly recommend heading over to the game's official site, hakuoki.com, as well as this NeoGAF thread. (If you're really curious about it, you may want to check out this recent interview with Ben Batemen, a senior editor at Aksys Games, too.)

Buy: Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom (Standard Edition) or Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom (Limited Edition)