Monday Morning Roundup

Another week bears down on me, a week of preparation here at work for next Monday’s insanity. How did I spend my weekend?

Vienna Teng is doing a series of concerts on StageIt, and I caught the Dreaming Through The Noise concert on Saturday evening. Once a month, she plays half an hour’s worth of songs from one of her albums, in new solo piano arrangements. I cringe when I look at that sentence, though, because that sounds like I’m selling them short. It would be more accurate to say she’s performing new solo piano and bizarre technological device arrangements of her classic songs. I read a Sting interview where he talked about the challenge of playing the same songs night in and night out without starting to hate them, and that that’s the reason why we have so many different versions of Roxanne. Vienna’s performance showed a lot of that same creativity; “1 br/1 ba” found new life as a multi-tracked piano-percussion piece, with Vienna recording and mixing herself making no end of hilarious noises live, and “Whatever You Want” became an energetic beatbox revenge fantasy with some real fire behind the chorus. She also played “Recessional,” the first song that really broke my heart, so that was worth the price of admission by itself. She’s got three more performances over the next three months, with the incredible Inland Territory up next, then Covers and Rarities to close it out. She will play her solo piano version of Fields of Gold in one of those and I will sit, entranced, and it will be wonderful.

Magna Carta 2 did not hold up for very long. There’s a set of voice actors that show up in most every game that I play; Nolan North, Troy Baker, Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthal, Steve Blum, Nolan North, Jamieson Price, Michelle Ruff, Nolan North, Steve Blum, Nolan North, Steve Blum, and Nolan North. Bosch, Ruff, Lowenthal, and Price feature heavily in Magna Carta 2, and to be honest — and it pains me to say this — they’re all pretty flat. But I don’t blame that at all on the actors, I blame that on the direction. I play and adore the Dynasty Warriors games, and one of my favorite characters is Sun Shang Xiang, the tomboy princess with the wind and fire wheels. This is despite her voice; she was shrill and unpleasant from Dynasty Warriors 3-5. I just liked the character design. Then I played Warriors Orochi, which had a different voice director for the localization, and he or she let the actors loose, and SSX suddenly became a fiery tomboy with real energy behind her voice as she yelled at Sun Ce about their forced servitude. “Do you think I LIKE fighting in this army? I don’t! But I know better than you that I can’t just turn my back on my family and my responsibilities!” Since then, the DW games have been of a much higher quality for the acting, and I’ve heard Michelle Ruff give incredible performances in Persona 3, Tales of Vesperia, and others. Magna Carta 2, on the other hand, is much closer to the other Michelle Ruff, the flat and uninspired one. Much of that is the material, too; this did not even approach Vesperia’s quality.

They also shouldn’t have named a character after male enhancement drugs. Schuenzeit? Shoe-Enzyte? Really? Really?

Last week in this spot I said that Titan Quest let me “hit a centaur with a club so hard he went sailing at least fifty feet in the air, landing after I killed two other guys.” I found a mod that drastically increases this. I can now spin in a circle, maces swinging, bones from the undead rocketing through the tombs and bouncing off of everything in sight. It is, to be technical, pretty great. Thirteen hours in and I’ve just landed in Egypt — time to go shoot the sphinx in the face over and over again.

I played an entire season of Madden NFL 12 in a weekend. I don’t want to talk about it.

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