Sunday, July 13, 2008

Etrian II, Voyagers!, Moonlighting and Pain  

Games: I’m in the middle of Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard on the DS right now, and I’ve got to say that it’s one hell of a game. I’m in the process of playing it for an official review at GameCritics and I thought I’d be able to get it up in a pretty reasonable amount of time, but I’ve already sunk over 20 hours into it and I don’t think I’m even quite halfway. I may have to do one of my extremely rare ‘unfinished game reviews’ but in this particular case, I feel pretty comfortable with that if my deadlines start closing in.

The first few hours were heartlessly brutal, bringing a difficulty that I haven’t seen since the 16-bit days, but once my characters hit level 10 things sort of evened out and the constant smackdowns from random encounters started to ease up. I’m not going to talk a lot about it except to say that it’s an extremely fine piece of software and that although I can see how the appeal might be stronger with people who grew up in the old school, the designers of the game have got a pretty damned good handle on what they’re doing. It’s a total thumbs up at this point, and a very strong recommendation for anyone who can get into dungeon-crawl RPGs.

Easily one of my favorite games this year.

DVD: A couple of weeks ago the wife and I were cruising through the DVD aisle at a local store, and since I don’t do a lot of movie or TV watching these days, I was a little surprised to see how many old TV shows have become collections on DVD. One thing in particular caught my eye- the complete series of Voyagers!

This show ran for exactly one season in 1982 and for whatever reason remained embedded in my memory all this time despite the fact that I was only about six when it aired. Funny how the brain works, eh?

Anyway, Voyagers! was sort of a more kid-friendly precursor to Quantum Leap. Time traveler Phineas Bogg meets wiseacre kid Jeffrey Jones on accident, the two of them stumble through a rough introduction, and then they set out on a hopscotch trip through history to correct problems in the timeline. For example, in the second episode the gladiator Spartacus is bought by a wealthy Roman and taken away from the slaves he is meant to lead in an uprising. In the same episode, Phineas and Jeffrey come to the aid of Harriet Tubman in the deep South, parallels of slavery between the two separate times being drawn in between the adventure-flavored shenanigans.

It’s not a very heavy show and it doesn’t seem to really want to take itself too seriously (nobody has died in the first four episodes, language barriers are never a problem, and so on) but it’s got a cute tone and my son -- coincidentally also six and seeing the show for the first time -- has really taken to it.

One really neat thing about Voyagers! is that it gives me as a parent multiple opportunities to say so-and-so was a real person, or this/that event really happened. Of course, I preface it by saying that the show itself is fiction and only parts of it are fact, but it’s still a great leaping-off point and is straightforward enough for even young children to grasp. It's hyper-cheesy at times and definitely has that 80’s on-the-cheap vibe to it, but it’s got a good heart and has given us a few hours of TV that I can say felt like honest quality time.

Also, I picked up seasons one and two of 1985’s Moonlighting on DVD as well. Not going to say a lot on this one for the moment since we just started watching it tonight, but I will say that I was a huge fan of the show back when it was still on, and as I held the DVD in my hand I started to become a little afraid that it might not hold up.

It does.

The writing is sharp and snappy, and Bruce Willis’ character, detective David Addison, is absolutely on-point as he swaggers his way through Cybill Shepherd’s aloof model persona, Maddie Hayes. The point/counterpoint dynamic still clicks, and the mix of comedic and serious bits is superb.

Seriously, it’s as good as I remember. Maybe even better.

Misc: Last but certainly not least, the month-long summer visit with my son is nearly at an end and I’ve got to say that this part never gets any easier.

It’s been a fantastic time, and I’ve honestly loved every minute of it. My little man is growing up into a little man and he’s becoming more of a unique individual with his own thoughts and feelings every time I see him. It’s a hoary cliché, but this is one of those instances when I genuinely wish this time would never end.

Besides the fact that my son is a fantastic kid, I’m thankful every day that my wife (the most wonderful lady on the planet) and he get along famously… there is genuine affection between the two of them, and I thank my lucky stars every night for it. I’ve had friends who’ve come from dysfunctional step relationships and I’ve seen firsthand the fallout that can occur, but in this particular case I can say that the three of us feel like a real family. Couldn’t ask for much more than that.

Still, as good as spending time with him is, the clock counting down the remaining days and hours he’s got left with us never really vanishes from my mind -- and there’s so little time left on the clock right now that it’s really all any of us are thinking about.

Being on the losing side of a custody battle is a horrible, painful situation and not something I’d wish on anyone (except one particular person I can think of...) It may not count for much, but to any of you readers who are in the position of being ‘the parent that isn’t there’, you can rest assured that there’s at least one other person out there that feels your pain.

What next?

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