I’ll Never Forget You, Saya

Rarely do games leave such an impact on us that we remember much of it weeks after playing to its conclusion. Even less often do they make us wonder about how fragile our mental state really is .

“Saya No Uta”, from the minds of developer Nitroplus and writer Gen Urobuchi, literally gave me nightmares after almost every session. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the game hated me for playing it, as if Fuminori and his friends would still be alive if not for my ceaseless curiosity. Despite that lingering thought I marched through the vicious narrative night after night and arrived at the only three possible narrative endings. None of them made me feel any better.

When asked what “Saya No Uta” is, I usually began with a line about its disturbing nature and follow it up with “It’s also a story about love and Lovecraftian insanity.”. This could have been just an alright game if it stuck to basic tropes of losing friends and keeping your love, but it becomes so much more because of the way it utilizes its setting. The game wastes no time throwing us into the deep end of Fuminori’s hellish world with depictions of grotesque creatures that we’re told are his friends. The walls are colored a vivid blood red and flesh pink that hurt to look at after a while, and when we see them closely, we’re disgusted at the sheer amount of blood, guts, and pieces of human anatomy that litter the area. There’s such care placed in making the the everyday sights look plain wrong. Bedsheets are stitched together entrails. Walls have eyes. It made me afraid to sleep at night because I was scared that the next time I opened my eyes I would see all this myself.

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The audio treatment is even better. When Fuminori’s friends try to speak to him an extremely distorted guitar slogs its way through the background, compounded by the bottomed out bass and distant drums that give off the feeling of drowning in an alien world. Fuminori’s life is a literal hell.

Fuminori’s salvation comes in the form of Saya, a girl that he meets while in the hospital. While he loves her unconditionally there’s an uncomfortable feeling that surrounds her. Saya, a perfectly human looking girl amongst these creatures, is superimposed against those blood covered walls and furniture made of entrails. It’s hard not to wonder about why she’s the only one that looks that way at first, but the longer the game locks us in Fuminori’s perspective the more alright it begins to seem. She speaks normally, acts normally, and is exceptionally nice to him. Over time, we become desensitized to the disturbing sights and sounds and, like Fuminori, learn to work around them. We press on and almost forget about all the grizzly landscapes as the story tightens around the characters. About halfway through however there comes a shift in the narrative perspective with Fuminori’s friend Koji.

While there are moments early on where we see the same scene from multiple angles, it’s the inversed shift to Koji that’s the most dramatic. We see the way Fuminori acts around his friends after his accident and understand what he’s going through because of what he sees. We see him fall deeply in love with Saya and find something normal in his world to cling on to. The world of Fuminori and Saya becomes our own, and then we’re ripped right out of it and back into reality.

The third person perspective (as opposed to Fuminori’s first person viewpoint) forces a physical disconnect between us and Koji. It’s hard not to feel like we’re merely watching him as he unearths the truths of Saya and tries to stop his former friend. The game gives off this feeling that we’re not supposed to become as invested in Koji’s life as Fuminori’s because of this. He is the outsider. He hasn’t seen the world Fuminori can’t get out of. He doesn’t understand.

Once Koji crosses paths with Fuminori’s doctor Ryoko, who’s looking for answers about Saya’s origins, he begins to learn a bit about that world. She’s the gateway that lets Koji try to understand what Fuminori’s life must be like. By finding the research of a doctor that initially discovered Saya she peered into the impossible reality, the truth, and it changed her forever. She never sleeps, she keeps a gun next to her at all times, and she remains emotionally distant. While her main drive is to figure out what Saya is, the more interesting aspect of her character is how she acts after what she’s seen. The way that Fuminori clings to Saya as hard as possible makes so much more sense when it’s his only way to keep any sort of humanity in his life. Without it, he becomes someone like Ryoko; cold, calculated, and yet utterly terrified and broken on the inside.

The ending where Koji and Ryoko finally confront Fuminori and Saya is where the real horror lies. Koji sees what became of his friends and his very understanding of the rules that govern reality are shattered in front of him. In that moment, all that mattered to him was destroying every possible molecule of the creatures in the vain hope of restoring his sanity. In the end though, the only thing he can do is stand there while Ryoko mercilessly kills Saya and rids herself of the nightmare that’s been consuming every good moment of her life before violently dying herself. The way she laughed about it haunts me still.

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The aftermath of that event all but broke Koji and left me with the horrific images of everyone who knew and loved getting either killed off or changed into something inhuman. As he walks to the medicine cabinet in his apartment while calmly talking to the hallucination of Ryoko asking what he’ll do now, it becomes clear why he loaded his gun with a single bullet, held it to himself, and put it back for another night. The fantastical world of the interdimensional being Saya was never meant to meet our universe of hard rules and facts.

What’s great about “Saya No Uta” is the way it conveys the unknown as terrifying, not amazing. Rather than assuming people can handle otherworldly places with enough courage or motivation, it tells us that confronting things so far from what we understand as “normal” is impossible. It’s not a very positive outlook, but likely a pretty accurate one nonetheless.

Let’s Play Dying Light: Locked Doors And Video Stores

I’ve probably put roughly 15 hours into this video all told. That may seem impossible for just an edited video with few overlays or cutaway gags but it’s mostly in taking the hour and a half or so of footage and paring it down to the video you see here. There’s a constant rhythm of watching a scene, making a cut, re-watching the scene with the cut, and then keeping it, changing where it cuts, or reverting back.

I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy making this video; quite the contrary. Even now I’ll continue to keep making this videos a lot tighter with better production work (and much better audio), but this was the one that hit my current limit. Between my day job, the blog, the podcast, and other work something is going to have to give for these to get exponentially better without taking months to do.

On Fifty Shades Of Grey

I don’t think I’m going to blow anyone’s mind when I say I think the 50 Shades Of Grey film was pretty awful. I saw it so I could figure out what all the interest was about and since I had virtually no expectations for the movie itself I didn’t come away disappointed. That being said I did find some aspects of it rather interesting.

First off though, the obvious bad parts. The acting in 50 Shades, and to a slighter lesser extent the writing, is abysmal. Aside from some key scenes where tensions get high and voices get loud most of it just about put me to sleep. The female actress playing Anastasia Steele suffers from the Twilight lead’s problem is speaking most of her lines much too softly in an attempt to sound vaguely sexual. The male playing Christian Grey speaks loudly enough for me to actually hear him clearly but never sounds like he’s trying. He always speaks with a really dull tone that, like Anastasia’s actress, sounds like it’s trying to come off as “cool”, or “professionally sexy”. It doesn’t work for either of them.

In fact there was one moment that I vividly remember where Grey was hitting on her and he said a line that literally made me laugh out loud in the theater.

“I’m going to fuck you into next week.”

It reminded me of something I’d read in a bad internet fan fiction.

As far as the backdrops and such I did notice a particular scene that caught my eye in which Anastasia is seated in her would-be bedroom (should she decide to stay with Grey) and she learns that many women before her have been here. In the background the wallpaper is a repeating image of a bird resting in a cage with the door wide open, and at first I thought that was some clever imagery.

At the very least it was more subtle that a scene earlier in which Anastasia is biting on a pencil that I didn’t think much of until my friend leaned over and said “It says Grey Industries on it.”

“Oh that’s clever,” I thought since the pencil was slightly out of focus and not the center of the shot. Then it cuts to a super tight shot of said pencil just to hammer in that very detail and make sure I couldn’t possibly miss it. Careful shots are not part of most Hollywood director’s repertoire.

Anyway while I initially thought the bird wallpaper worked much better the more I mulled it around as the movie went on the more muddy the metaphor got and the more it bothered me. My understanding is that the bird represents Anastasia, always able to leave but choosing the safety of the cage even with it’s confining nature. The problem is that while Grey is always keen to remind her that she can leave at any point, he doesn’t represent safety to her. Anastasia doesn’t need Grey in her life and she was in fact doing pretty fine emotionally without him. With the story being more about loving someone in spite of being emotionally and physically hurt by them the bird in the cage metaphor goes right out the window.

Edit: It’s possible that the cage simply represents bondage in its purest form, in which case the open door as the opportunity to leave the physical bondage and the relationship makes a good bit more sense.

The bigger topic at hand however is the way the films deals with, or rather doesn’t deal with, the concept of BDSM in a relationship. The only thing the film seems to do well is the idea of the non-disclosure agreement. People in today’s society still have a major problem with the idea of BDSM as a sexual interest. Some feel that way because it’s “weird”, and others because wanting to hurt someone or be hurt for sexual pleasure doesn’t sound like something a mentally well person would want. To that end it makes sense that Grey doesn’t want anyone to find out about it; his professional life would be all but destroyed. More interesting however is one of the final conversations in the movie in which Anastasia repeatedly presses about Grey why he’s so dead set on causing her pain for his pleasure. The first film alone doesn’t explain this in any real way and I think that works to its benefit. The intricacies of human sexuality are far more complex than most people understand so I don’t think there needs to be a specific qualifier for why he wants to do this to her. Sadly I do get the impression that it will boil down to “I was abused as a child so I want to hold control over someone else in my life.” or something to that effect, and that would really kill the fantastic possibility of an ambiguous narrative thread:

Grey being unable to please Anastasia’s endless torrent of questions because he himself doesn’t understand the phenomenon.

I didn’t really enjoy watching Fifty Shades of Grey, but while I thought before going in it would be for the bad acting or plot, it ended up being because of all the wasted potential. I wish the series would delve deeper into how an avid interest in BDSM related sex acts can ruin or just deeply change someone’s professional and personal life. I worry that the story will ultimately conclude in one of two ways though. Either Anastasia will learn to love the pain and stay with him or Grey will overcome his “problem” and no longer feel the need to engage in these acts. I don’t want another love story about someone changing part of their self for their lover. I want a deeper narrative about why humans would bother to take part in such intricate setups for pleasure and how it affects those around them. This is not that movie.

It’s just a love story with a slight raunchy twist, and adding just a little change to the same tired tale is getting more boring every year.

A Week Away From Twitter

Twitter has been a part of my life since I started my second semester of college back in the beginning of 2013. Since then it’s only become a more dominant piece of my daily routine. I would wake up and check my feed, check it after showering, any time I got a break in work, whenever a load screen came up, or just whenever there was a single dull moment in any part of my day. Then this past Saturday I had one of my busiest days ever and I decided when I woke up Sunday I didn’t want to deal with anyone. I deleted the apps off my phone and kept Skype closed so I could just enjoy myself for a bit. It was really nice to be honest. When Monday came around though I thought what it might be like to stave off Twitter for a whole week, and so I did.

I’ve read so many stories about how people who ditched Twitter being more productive and then talking about how they never realized how much social media accounts were ruining their lives. Nothing so drastic happened to me. I worked just a bit more than usual and I obviously didn’t find myself stopping every minute or so just to check whatever new was going on with everyone else, but there was no real noticeable change. One thing that became really apparent after just a few days was that I became much more aware of the my space and what I was doing day-to-day. When you spend a good portion of your time always seeing what everyone else is doing it’s easy to not notice what you’re up to and whether or not it’s any good. I felt like a had wrung another hour out of my free time and while I just used that mostly to play video games I was happy with that. I suddenly noticed how much (or little) I was working every day and I began to do just some small extra things before my evening shifts would start. I would get a bit more video editing done, I do some more laundry or run some errands all around town. I’m now very much aware of how much time I have every day to just do stuff.

While it did take most of my time off to fully understand this I did also feel much more emotionally stable without constantly peering into the lives of others. Sometimes my day was somewhat boring without seeing all these neat game updates, but I also never saw the absolute worst of the gaming community put right in front of me. I felt just emotionally fine; never too excited, but never depressed by the actions of others.

There were a lot of times where I did something or had an idea and thought “Oh I should tweet this!” and couldn’t. After enough of those I began to wonder about how important those thoughts were. Twitter caused a weird sensation in me where I would began to tell everyone almost everything I could think of in a given moment. When it really came down to it I thought about how while those thoughts may be interesting to me, most of them weren’t so in the slightest to most everyone who followed me. Who honestly would care about me telling them I beat a particular Vocaloid song on Expert? Who would think “Oh I’m so glad to have learned this” when I said I was going to work for the umpteenth time? Having to harbor these thoughts to myself brought on the realization that I tweeted a lot of total garbage over the years. I know I hate seeing things completely irrelevant to any of my interests in my timeline so why should I force it on others?

During the small handful of times I did go on the site to quickly post a link to a new video from one of my series’ I saw quite a few tweets like that and got pretty angry about it. I honestly I have no idea how that’s going to affect who I follow going forward.

All that being said I’m not going to up and quit Twitter anytime soon. Unlike some people who have quit social media and said they started engaging in more one on one conversations with those same people I have a group of friends who I only speak to there, and that’s fine. I will stop using as much if I can help it though. I like my extra free time even if it just feels like I have more of it. I also don’t plan on tweeting so much random crap that doesn’t pertain to anyone but me. There’s a difference between letting others peer into your daily life and just never shutting up about it.

I don’t think Twitter or any other big social media platform is ruining my generation. Even when I used it a lot I was still present in my own life, just a little less so. Plus Twitter has made me some great new friends may not live where I do but do share similar interests to mine. I like talking to them and I’ll continue to use whatever platform they do to do so.

Social media in most forms is still a great platform for people who otherwise couldn’t do so to keep up with each other. From today on I’ll keep using it for that, just a little less so.

Hyper Play: Spintires [Part 1]

Forgot to post this one back when it first came out, so here it is now.

Like with my articles I try to put just a little bit more effort into each new video I edit and this one is probably a new milestone. Originally this was about a hour’s worth of footage and over a few days I managed to condense it down to roughly 12 minutes. The title card near the beginning was also the first time I tried to mess with layers to make the text blend in with the background and it’s the first time I grabbed a scene from a different part of the game to try to create a flow to the humor. Set up the first 30 seconds with a fast joke, drop the title, and get back into it.

I think this video was also the first time I discovered that I really like video editing and I hope to do a lot more in the future.

The Texture Pop Episode 27: My F***ing Panty Party [Annotations]

I’m writing this to give some thoughts on a few things the guys brought up during the latest podcast because I wasn’t able to make it myself. Long story short I worked two shifts on little sleep and drove to Atlanta and back all in the same day; I wouldn’t recommend it. Anyway I’ll be back next week but for now enjoy this little written companion to the cast itself.

And thanks so much to Brandon and Garrett for being present as always and special thanks for Chris for hosting, editing, and uploading it this time.

Anyway…

I saw the Persona 5 trailer as soon as it came out and to say I got extremely excited would be an understatement. Not only because it’s a new Persona game and I’m a huge fan of the series but because it didn’t look like a direct rehash of P4. I’ve mentioned before on the podcast and Twitter that while I’m happy that Persona 4 created a whole new slew of fans who will continue to support the series I worried that its popularity would make ATLUS feel like they shouldn’t take a risk with a whole new idea. Especially since we already have Persona 4 Golden, Persona 4 Arena and Ultimax, Persona Q (Technically P3 and P4), Persona 4 Dancing All Night, and two different anime seasons. Luckily that doesn’t seem to be the case as P5 looks nothing like P3 or P4. I’ll have to take Brandon’s word that the idea seems more in line with the older games as I haven’t gotten to them yet but I’m all for it. Good on ATLUS for just moving on with the series and I hope that the supposed new platforming and stealth mechanics work out well. If anything though the new dynamic camera angles will likely make the story bits and setting a little more interesting visually.

On the great frame rate debate let me be clear here: Before building my own computer I really didn’t care or notice the different between 30 and 60 frames per second. Once I did however I found it hard not to notice it, but the thing is I’m not all too bothered by it. So when I go on one of my tirades about how developers should always go for 60 frames per second it’s not because I won’t play the game otherwise or I think it’s terrible without it, but if it all possible it’s nice. Just to give an example I recently picked up Need For Speed Rivals on sale on Origin and it’s a racing game that’s locked to 30FPS. I notice it almost constantly but I’ll still play the game regardless. I know a lot of people say shooters being at 60FPS isn’t the biggest deal but I think that’s because it comes down to fidelity or responsiveness. Fidelity is easier to notice at a glance and is much more marketable, while responsiveness is something you have to feel. At any rate I won’t lose sleep over Uncharted only running at 30FPS. It’ll likely still be a great game with a well told story and decent shooting mechanics, but I’ll always call for better responsiveness. No game suffered from more frames.

In regards to the monitor/TV discussion I think my friends and many others saying “it’s difficult to notice the difference in frame rate” thing is very dependent on your setup. Mine has my TV only slightly further away from my chair than my monitors. Also I’m not entirely sure of this but I would imagine that the built-in “frame smoothing” feature most TVs have these days helps to make it look a good bit better than it would otherwise. Again though I don’t know for sure because I haven’t messed with it much.

I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone when I say that I think the Nintendo Creator’s Program is a terrible idea. I agree with everything the guys said here so the only thing I’d add is if you’re wanting to do Nintendo videos on YouTube and are thinking about joining this then I’d personally suggest you stay far away from it. I don’t want any other publishers getting the idea that this might be a good system. YouTubers work hard for very little as it is so don’t burden yourself even more just because you want to show a few matches of Smash 4.

Related: Thank you Devolver Digital.

Garrett’s game idea sounds pretty interesting to me, and part of that is because I’m a huge fan of the Steampunk style. It seems to be just an idea at the moment so I’m not going to prod him about how different parts of the game would work, but at least as far as I know it’s original. Our industry could always use more of that.

On the topic of names I rather liked the title too and it immediately made me think about some of the stories I wrote back in high school and how the titles changed to reflect the narrative changes they went through. In my mind a good title looks nice on paper, is catchy and memorable to say out loud, and is (arguably most importantly) related to your concept. To that end it seems fine.

And as for the copyright thing I kept thinking about how long ago on the Bombcast Jeff Gerstmann said that companies actually won’t let you pitch an idea to them unless you’re working for them because apparently if they use that idea, even by total accident, you can sue them. It’s weird.

I’ve never played Final Fantasy 6 so I honestly can’t say much on it beyond the fact that I really want to play it some day. Being an RPG it would’ve been great to experience that when I was younger and had much more free time but back then I wasn’t really into RPGs of any sort. I’ll find the time eventually and maybe it’ll be the first Final Fantasy I actually finish.

I lost most of my interest in Borderlands about when the sequel came out so I’ve got nothing on this.

I’ve messed around the Majora’s Mask DLC a little bit but not quite enough to make any substantial thoughts on it. This is mostly because I’m still working on leveling up the characters from the prior DLCs and I’m still on the first adventure map. Before I even get to the new Termina map I’ve still got to get through the Master Quest map and the Twilight map. One thing I can say this early is for whatever misgivings I may have about Nintendo’s online services and shops, YouTube related stuff, and whatever else, they know how to throw together a season pass. In a world where Call of Duty charges $50 for a bunch of maps and few weapons I think this might be the best season pass I’ve ever had the pleasure of purchasing and playing. Not because Hyrule Warriors is my favorite game ever with one, but because all the DLCs come with loads of new content that’s fun. New characters, maps, weapons, costumes, and other such goodies. Even without that though there’s still new patches every few weeks that raise the level cap and add some new gear and tools as well. If you own and enjoy Hyrule Warriors I’d highly suggest the pass just for the characters and maps alone. They’re awesome.

I knew Yaiba was a bad game, and I kind of knew about the blatant misogyny in it, but hearing Chris talk about it made me realize that it’s much worse than I thought. Like a lot of people I cannot stand sexist remarks for the sake a of joke, and unfortunately like a lot of people I have a certain tolerance for it because so many games and movies have said jokes. That being said I’d still like to add Yaiba to my bad games collection for some kind of future critical analysis, but I don’t think I’ll be playing it any time soon.

As for what I played? I dabbled in a lot of stuff but since I’m really bearing down on my editing and writing I didn’t get too deep into anything I hadn’t already been playing for a while. Some things I played a bit but not enough to say much about are:

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 on PC.

It sure is a game… I think? If anything the English voice acting is hilariously bad. I actually laughed out loud at some of the lines.

Grim Fandango Remastered

I love the setting and humor of this game but there’s no way in hell I’d play it without a walkthrough. It’s very much an old adventure game that gives you no hints on how to progress and I quit (for the time being) the moment I had multiple areas to go to at once. I’ll get back to it eventually.

Grow Home

Super neat small game from Ubisoft. Once someone pointed out how oddly sexual everything seemed throughout the game I couldn’t stop noticing it, but it doesn’t seem intentional. I like the climbing system and atmosphere, but I feel the music is a little too ambient and game makes the game feel kind of boring after an hour or so of playing in one session.

As for everything else I got all the collectibles in Far Cry 4 because I want to 100% the game so I can write about the experience, and I got all the songs in Hatsune Miku Project Diva f 2nd because I really like that game. It also gave me some talking points about rhythm games but I’m not gonna promise too much since I’m still catching up on old articles and videos as it is.

Speaking of which the Saya No Uta article first draft is done and will be up within a few days, then The Walking Dead Season 2, and so on. Also a Dying Light Hyper Play and more Interactive Friction are coming soon so look forward to all that.

Until next time everyone I’ll see ya later.

Going Back To Madness (The Animation)

The first time I watched the “Madness” animation series was back in middle school and back then there were only four episodes. The first was just a short animation of a guy dancing to a cheery internet song and killing anyone who go in his way of doing so, including Jesus? It was weird. Actually it’s still weird today, though not for the same reasons. Back then I thought it was strange because I wondered why all these people wanted to stop this guy from dancing. Now it’s because all I can notice is just how old this animation is. Being pretty close to the dawn of Newgrounds flash animation it’s pretty noticeable just how frame-y it is. The background doesn’t move, the only sounds are the one music track and some stock punching and grunting effects. No one has faces and Jesus is the only one with any distinguishing features whatsoever. It’s very much a remnant of its time.

Only a short time after (back then) I watched all the sequels that had come out. Parts two, three, four (and now up to ten) starred an actual story “Somewhere In Nevada”. It began as a guy hunting down a sheriff for no discernible reason only to be killed by none other than Jesus who was alive once more. Upon watching three and four I really began to notice how much of a relic these episodes were. Not because of the animation, which is fine even today though nothing spectacular. It’s because all the background posters and eventually the text overlays are fully steeped in old internet culture. The flyers tell people to “Join the l33t agents” and the clown character always speaks with horrid spelling using “teh” and “hay/hai”.

And yet this is all set up against the backdrop of a dystopian world where some of of evil corporation is enthralling citizens to join them and become “perfect”. From episodes five to ten the story begins to try to weave itself into the journey of the now named main hero Hank and his comrades trying to stop this evil company that looks like it’s run by the literal devil. All the while zombie Jesus and zombie clown and causing all sorts of other havoc.

It eventually does culminate in the devil (devil figure?) amassing the bodies all of the dead people from the prior episodes to stop the half monster/zombie/hero Hank and his buddy with the stiff lower lip, but in the end he accidentally absorbs the clown and blows up. And that’s the end?

Madness started as a guy dancing around in a field beating faceless dudes up, then changed into a half joke about action movies with dumb early 2000s internet humor and eventually folded into it’s own action story played mostly straight.

Madness, and to an equal extent early flash animations, are weird.