Archive for January, 2010

30
Jan
10

‘Dawn of the New World’ offers RPG Goodness

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World” happened to be a random game I came across during winter break.

As a sequel to the “Tales of Symphonia” Nintendo GameCube/Playstation 2 title that I completed awhile back, I felt “Dawn of the New World” deserved a shot because the first title was an enjoyable gaming experience. Though the title was a year old when I played it (released in November 2008 in the states), the title actually turned out to be a solid game.

Developed by Namco Tales Studio, “Dawn of the New World” is a Japanese RPG that involves the story of Emil Castagnier and Marta Lualdi as the two journey to save their world from destruction. To do so, the two must revive the monster lord named Ratatosk to re-establish the world’s mana flow.

Basically, the story plays out like an anime series with its share of interesting, but predictable plot twists. It is highly recommended that the first game be played so players will have an inkling about what happened in the previous plot to tie everything together.

In fact, the characters from the first “Tales of Symphonia” also make a return to help these two heroes, setting up some interesting situations and interactions. The OK plot combined with anime-style character designs and passable voice acting all result in a decent, yet never amazing presentation. However, a gripe I had with the graphics was how the game did not even try to push the Nintendo Wii’s graphical engine to its limits. Sure, it was a step above the previous title, but that was a gaming generation ago. Some of the voice acting came off as ridiculously cheesy or unenthusiastic.

In terms of gameplay, “Dawn of the New World” utilizes the standard RPG formula with some twists. The significant difference from this RPG is how battles are not structured through turns but instead take place simultaneously. The computer-controlled allies and the player engage the opposing enemies within a restricted battle stage. Players can string together combos, use magical spells and even unleash powerful character-specific signature moves to swing clashes in their favor.

“Dawn of the New World” also incorporates a Pokémon-like gameplay mechanic where the player forms “pacts” with monster enemies so they can join your party. The monsters can also level up, gain new abilities and also evolve to different forms.

The gameplay elements work quite well. Battles feel interactive because the player gets to fight alongside other allies in real time, making each encounter a bit more enjoyable and rewarding. I found myself actually looking forward to getting into battles because they can be so fun. Players can also approach every battle in a variety of ways because of the monster allies who can be recruited.

Then again, there are some minor issues that should be mentioned For one thing, the Nintendo Wii’s motion controls are hardly used at all. Players can target a cursor for puzzles and shake the Wii’s remote and nunchaku for in-battle skill shortcuts. Innovative … not really. What was the point of making the game for the Nintendo Wii, only to not use the system’s main gimmick that well? Also, computer-controlled allies can be downright stupid. It is not uncommon to see your allies whiff their attacks by considerable distances, use their skills in awkward situations and sometimes they even let enemies beat them up without putting much of a fight. Granted, a lot of the annoying problems occur with monster allies more, but this is a tad disappointing due to how the monster allies act as a key element that was not in the prequel.

Overall, “Dawn of the New World” does not excel as an RPG, but it is certainly not a horrible one. Everything amounts to an above-average Japanese RPG that caters more to fans of the first game as opposed to all gamers. The game relies heavily on its backstory, so playing through the first “Tales of Symphonia” is a must if a player wants to appreciate this title. If playing through an anime adventure sounds appealing, give “Dawn of the New World” a go.

Nhan-Fiction Score: 4/5

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30
Jan
10

Washington Idaho Symphony Young Artists Concert features WSU student

Photo courtesy of Washington Idaho Symphony Web site

Two upcoming concerts with the Washington Idaho Symphony will feature WSU Junior Angela Brown, a voice student and music business major from Yakima.  The shows will feature Brown’s performance of Mozart’s aria “Una donna a quindici anni”, as well as performances by a harpist and violinist, from Oregon and Idaho respectively, all of whom competed in a competition in the fall for a chance to perform at the event.  The first show will take place on Saturday, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m. at the Gladish Community Center in Pullman.  The second show will be on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 3:00 p.m. at Lewiston Senior High School.  Tickets are $18 for general admission.  For more information about tickets or other details about the show, click here.

29
Jan
10

Strange Attractors at U of I

Photo courtesy of GoogleMaps

University of Idaho takes the stage in the upcoming production of Strange Attractors, directed by Mattie Rydalch, an MFA student at the University of Idaho, focusing in dramatic writing.  Strange Attractors is a play about two individuals, a chaotician named Layne and an amateur science fiction novelist named Brynne, meeting and attempting to develop a relationship despite the influences of those around them.  The show runs from Feb. 3 through Feb. 7, with showings at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 3 to Feb. 6, and 2:00 p.m. showings on Feb. 6 and 7.  All showings will be held at the Kiva Theater, and tickets are $7 for non-University of Idaho students.  For more information on purchasing tickets and showtimes, click here.

27
Jan
10

Click on this: Lastfm.com

To the naked eye, LastFM may seem a lot like Pandora:  it plays your favorite music based on bands that you select.  But what LastFM has that Pandora lacks are lots of fun gadgets to go with your preferred tunes.  While listening to the latest and greatest of the Black Keys, you could also be looking up their music videos, pictures, albums, and even concert times and tickets.  While the music plays, so do epic slide shows of the band you’re listening to.   You can personalize your different stations as well as your profile page.  Don’t know what you’d want to tune into first?  LastFM has already-made stations to choose from like indie, rock, metal and hip-hop.  Just skip a song if you don’t like it and ban the track if it’s no good.  Give it some love if you fancy it.

27
Jan
10

Listen to this: Party Foul by Danger Radio

Danger Radio, originally from Edmonds, Washington never seems to get the recognition they deserve.   From their album Punch Your Lights Out—which is not as violent as it seems—comes its first track, Party Foul.  Though the tunes sound a lot like British pop, the lyrics tell a story that is not unlike something from a college party: Guy meets girl, they dance, they go home.  The upbeat tempo is accompanied by charming, not sissy, vocals.  This 6-man band gives rock a bubblegum sound without sounding juvenille.

27
Jan
10

Dig this: Riverfront Park in Spokane, Washington

A one and a half hour trip north is worth the scenery and setting that you’ll find during any concert held at Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane.  Located next Eastern Washington’s only IMAX Theater— worth seeing even if it’s just from the outside— Riverfront Park is a sloping concert venue that has welcomed bands like G. Love & Special Sauce, Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson.  If you’re quick enough to get a set up near the front, you’ll have a great reach-out-and-touch-them view of the performers, and if you end up on the grass, it’s a perfect place to lounge with a cool drink and warm company.  Find a place to sit early though; a view that isn’t obstructed by a crazed fan or a smooching couple is hard to find after the warm-up band makes its entrance.  Though food vendors are few, you won’t recall being hungry once you catch sight of the glittering lights of the city behind the surprisingly large stage.  The picturesque area surrounding the venue was created for Expo ’74 at a World’s Fair event, and the vintage flair is enhanced by the Riverfront Park Carousel, made in 1909.  If music, nostalgia and big-screen movies aren’t enough to entertain you, there’s a hiking trail, ice staking rink and gondola rides over Spokane Falls to keep you busy.

25
Jan
10

Led Zeppelin: Shadows Taller Than Our Souls by Charles R. Cross

The led is out.  And this time it’s a masterpiece in book form.

Led Zeppelin: Shadows Taller Than Our Souls, the biography of who is arguably the world’s number one heavy metal band, is a glorious read for any Zeppelin lover.  Penned by music journalist Charles R. Cross from Seattle, Wash., this book covers less of the drug-induced, sex-infused rock and rock culture of the band and more of the actual music, which is the very thing that attracted us to the Led in the first place.

For every music enthusiast who thought everything about their favorite bands has already been recorded, this read comes with more than text.  The book is chock full of “souvenirs” like ticket stubs, posters, and press releases.  And for those of us born in the decade after the Led boom, these things make us finally feel like we were really there.  Fold-out pictures complete the experience.

The book follows the band from its earliest recordings all the way to the death of epic drummer John Bonham and covers their last album releases like Coda.  Cross manages to bask in the band’s glory while also covering their criticisms and defeats. Though an obvious fan, Cross writes also as the music critic he is.

This book should be a treasure that every Zeppelin lover—heck, every music lover—should keep on their shelves.  And for those who haven’t gotten the led out, it’s the perfect way to spread the word.

For every music enthusiast who thought everything about their favorite bands has already been recorded, this read comes with more than text.  The book is chock full of “souvenirs” like ticket stubs, posters, and press releases.  And for those of us born in the decade after the Led boom, these things make us finally feel like we were really there.  Fold-out pictures complete the experience.

The book follows the band from its earliest recordings all the way to the death of epic drummer John Bonham and covers their last releases like Coda.  Cross manages to bask in the band’s glory while also covering their criticisms and defeats. Though an obvious fan, Cross writes also as the music critic he is.

This book should be a treasure that every Zeppelin lover—heck, every music lover—should keep on their shelves.  And for those who haven’t gotten the led out, it’s the perfect way to spread the word.




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