Monday, 30 September 2013

BLOG -- Recap of September

I gotta be quickish this time. I'm running on 4 hours of sleep and feel I could crash at any moment. September was a busy month. A bunch of changes were happening around me, and I wasn't too enthused about them all, blahhhhhhh...

Outings/Events in September:
- Attended the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses with my friends and my sister -- 'cuz you don't want to go alone! No blog this time about it.

- Celebrated my grandfather's birthday.

- Drank to my co-worker's last day at work.

- Had a sleepover at my sister's place x1.

- Hung out with my friends x 5 (2 of those times were with my sister).

- Celebrated a friend's birthday.

- Went karaoking by myself x3 (I had a lot of stress to vent this month).

- Had a work-related Team BBQ (Oktoberfest themed).

- (restaurant) Ka Chi -- The place is pretty neat. The food is decent and the atmosphere is nice.

- (restaurant) W Burger Bar -- The burger was okay. I really like their pulled pork poutine.

- (TV Show): The Walking Dead - Season 2 -- You know... I don't remember many of the characters being as irritable and reckless in the graphic novels... sometimes it just seems like they're asking to get killed in the TV show. Favourites on the TV show for me are Glenn and Darryl. Glenn's always been a favourite since reading the graphics novels. Darryl's just cool. I hope they come back to Fan Expo next year -- I want their autographs now, lol. 

- (Anime): Fruits Basket -- I finally got a chance to watch this series. It's pretty cute, and Kyo is soooo cool. I wanted more romance, though, haha.

- (Movie): Kick-Ass 2 -- I enjoyed this. Gritty, thought-provoking, funny.

- (Movie): Twilight Part 2: Breaking Dawn -- I recently got the Blu-Ray. After watching it again, I think this is one of the more weaker movies in the series. 

- (Movie): Easy A -- I finally got myself the Blu-Ray. I've been wanting to watch this movie again for months.

- (Movie): Silver Linings Playbook -- This movie wasn't really for me. It was kinda touching at the end, but I couldn't sympathize with the main character. To me, Jennifer Lawrence was the only good thing about this movie. She's great in her role as Tiffany. I loved the way she delivered this line: "I opened up to you and YOU JUDGED ME!" It was a line delivered with great conviction and sincerity.

- (Movie): Chronicle -- This movie's kinda gloomy but worth seeing once, in my opinion. The camera was a little too shaky for my liking. Some of the movie experiences were really cool, though.

- (PS3): Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f (at least, in Normal and Hard mode. Enjoyed almost every minute of it. By the way, my ridiculous Edit Play is uploaded now. The Edit Play name is MonochromeBaku; ID: 1871; My Online Name: ACFTM)

Nothing this month.

Playing (not all at once):
- (PS3): Folklore 
- (PS3): Borderlands 2
- (PS3): Sleeping Dogs (stopped. A lot of it seemed like finishing missions and then travelling to the other end of the city to activate the next one)
- (DS): Legacy of Ys: Book I & II
- (DS): Contact (stopped. The plot and gameplay wasn't doing much for me after a while. I tried to get into it, but no dice...)
- (3DS): Shin Megami Tensei IV 
- (PSP): Persona 
- (PSP): Crush 
- (Wii): Fortune Street
- (PS2): Atelier Iris 2
- (PS2): Shadow Hearts
- (PC): UnEpic
- (PC): King's Bounty: The Legend

- (TV Show): The Walking Dead
- (Anime): Yu Yu Hakusho 
- (Anime): Shakugan no Shana 
- (Anime): Dragon Ball
- (Manga): Judge by Yoshiki Tonogai
- (Manga): Mars by Fuyumi Soryo
- (Manga): Azumanga Daioh by Kiyohiko Azuma

That's it for September. Here's a couple of random photos from this month:

The front of Ka Chi. I'd like to go back there at least once.

Kinton. I went there to celebrate my friend's birthday. 
I've been there before, which is why I didn't list it in my Exposures.

 Kinton's Karaage. Soooooooooooo goooooooooood! <3

Somebody my sister streetpassed at the Zelda symphony.
The Streetpass game that's shown here is Warrior's Way.
Pretty crazy, isn't it?

Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to comment or ask about any of my experiences / exposures :)

Now I gotta craaaaaaash!!!! D:

Sunday, 29 September 2013

BLOG (PERSONAL) -- My Music Timeline [Part 1 -- ???? - 1996]

So this is a BIG swerve away from the structure I was anticipating back when I thought about blogging about my music tastes. I blame it on my sister -- she mentioned wanting to put together a playlist chronicling the music she's listened to frequently through the years. I thought that was a great idea, and thought doing a blog of it would be a great way to keep a record of it all.

And here's Part 1 of my music timeline. It's a little foreign, so please bear with me.

Overview of ???? - 1996
During my young'un years, I was exposed to a lot of Cantopop (AKA Cantonese pop). That came from my parents listening to Chinese radio stations and my grandfather watching Chinese TV dramas pretty much everyday. I didn't have a radio of my own or a walkman or any kind of music device, so my music exposure was a "take what you can get" experience. Even then, I came to recognize and enjoy certain songs, despite me being completely in the dark about the songs' meanings. Simply put, I enjoyed the melody and emotion of the songs I liked. I'll bet this largely attributed to my being able to listen to and enjoy foreign music today.

Around 1994, I had a really nice homeroom teacher who let us have parties at the end of each month. This is where I got my first exposures to English music -- at least, my first memorable exposures. It's funny to say, but to me back then, English music was considered "foreign music" to me. Every month, the same classmate would supply the music. I'm sure there was a variety of tracks, but I only remembered Ace of Base and Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You.

And that's ???? - 1996 in a nutshell. In my next chunk of years, I veer more into English songs, and develop my love for boy bands (hahah!). :)

My Playlist
Just to note about the Cantonese songs, I am 110% sure that I've forgotten to mention some artists and songs. I was so young back then, and not well-versed in Cantonese (I'm still not well-versed, but that's besides the point). I never paid attention to the artists or song names. Any song name you see listed here is from me either googling / Youtubing it or me copying and pasting it from a Cantopop CD collection I bought years ago.

This is also kind of the same for the English songs. I just never paid attention to artists or song names when I was young.

-Danny Chan --
-Samuel Hui -- Too many songs from too many albums to list!
-Leon Lai -- Many songs; don't know their names
-Arron Kwok -- Don't know their names
-Andy Lau -- Don't know their names
-Deric Wan -- Don't know their names
-Vivian Lai -- 一人有一個夢想
-Faye Wong -- 容易受傷的女人
-Vivian Chow -- 天荒愛未老

-Ace of Base
    -Beautiful Life
    -The Sign
    -Don't Turn Around
    -All That She Wants
-Whitney Houston -- I Will Always Love You

Sample Playlist
Just a heads up that ALL of these are Cantopop songs. I really did spend more time being exposed to them than any other kind of music. Without further ado...

Vivian Lai -- 一人有一個夢想

Faye Wong -- 容易受傷的女人

Vivian Chow -- 天荒愛未老

Leon Lai -- 我的親
I do the hand motions during the chorus whenever I watch this now, lol.

Sam Hui -- A medley of some of his songs 
(it's about 15 mins long, with one track muted for Copyright reasons)
Of this medley, I particularly like:
0:00 半斤八兩
2:28 打雀英雄傳
6:16 天才與白痴
7:11 天才白痴往日情
7:52 雙星情歌
8:32 知音夢裏尋
9:10 印象
9:56 心裡日記
12:28 日本娃娃
12:59 最佳拍檔
13:28 鐵塔凌

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment about anything. If you'd like to recommend some music to me, please do! :)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

BLOG -- Sorry, No Blog This Week!

There will be no blog this week -- I've been having a pretty crappy week, and need to tend to myself. I'm sorry!

Since you're here, here is my new favourite Hatsune Miku song. It's been kinda my healing salve for this week. The song's been around for years, but I've only just heard it recently. I love the lyrics, song, and video. To read the lyrics (they don't look so legible in this size), watch the video on Youtube (click the little Youtube button).

"1/6 -Out of the Gravity-" by Pokariodo-P (AKA Odo-P or Nao).

Thanks for stopping by. There will be a blog next week for sure! :)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

BLOG (PERSONAL) -- Some of my Life Goals / Things I want to do

During these past weeks, I've been thinking a lot about the things I want to do. They're not necessarily things that would pull me away from my current work, but a lot of them require Time -- Time that I often don't feel I have enough of these days.

Now, even though I am old (you know, my birthday passed about two months ago), I still believe that I'm of the age where I can still adjust my lifestyle. Well, you're never really too late to change things around -- at least, that's how I feel. So I thought I'd make this list as a solid reminder of some of the things that are still on my to-do.

Those who know me personally will already know many of these goals / things I want to do. Much like how I'm like with celebrities and other media (I still really like Emma Stone and Helen Mirren! Adaptation and Cruel Intentions are still some of my favourite movies), once I have a desire, that desire rarely ever changes. If anything, any new desires / goals just get added to my existing list.

And... here are some of my Life Goals / Things I want to do:

-Learn Japanese

-Learn a programming language (preferably Python and C++)

-Create a video game (preferably more than one)

-Create a song (preferably more than one)

-Write something and have it published (preferably more than once)

-Learn to cook more than just rice and chocolate

-Travel to Japan (which will happen. I have enough saved -- just gotta get my passport and find a good anime-themed or video game-themed tour)

-Eat a melon-filled melon bread (agggg, I just have to try one!!!)

-Treat myself to a ridiculously expensive restaurant (that has good food!)

-Attend a Hatsune Miku concert

-Attend a Glay concert (please still be together years from now!)

-Experience / Expose myself to all the media that I own (I make things difficult for myself by buying more media every year)

I sure hope that I will be able to accomplish all of these (and all the other goals / desires I'll have in the future). Wish me luck! :)

Thanks for reading! If you'd like to comment, feel free. What are some of your life goals / things you want to do?

Have an awesome week! :)

Sunday, 8 September 2013

REVIEW/THOUGHTS [VIDEO GAMES] -- Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F [PS3]

Approx. Length: 6 hours to unlock all the songs on Normal; have currently spent over 30 hours
Language: English menus / instruction texts; Japanese songs
Played on: PS3
Type of Game: Rhythm
Overall Impression: I love it and highly recommend it!

PERSONAL STANDING (Pre-exposures, thoughts, etc.)
As mentioned in earlier blogs, I am a huge fan of Hatsune Miku and vocaloids. I also greatly enjoy rhythm games (Dance Dance Revolution, DJMax, Ouendan, Elite Beat Agents, Audio Surf, Daigasso Band Brothers, Kira Kira Pop Princess -- I've played them all). Put the two together and I'm in paradise, hahaha. Having played the Project Diva games on the PSP, I was super excited when I read that Project Diva f was being localized -- a most definite day one buy for me!

There is no main storyline, and that's fine. Most rhythm games don't have one, the gameplay being the main focus. Many of the songs carry their own storyline -- some sweet and touching; some sad and dreary; some just plain ridiculous and funny. Some don't have any storyline at all, at least from what I can tell.

An example of the gameplay in Arcade mode.
Hit the "X" button when blue "X" overlaps the grey "X".

In terms of gameplay, the Arcade mode (AKA "Rhythm Game" mode) is the meat of this game. 

Here's a brief outline of the gameplay in Arcade mode:

1. You select a song you want to play 
2. The song's music video will start up
3. As the music video plays, grey buttons will pop up on the screen
4. Coloured buttons will start scrolling towards them
5. Press the corresponding button when the coloured button overlaps with the grey (so if a red "O" overlaps with a grey "O", press the "O" button on your controller).
6. Succeeding at a Technical Zone (there are two in each song) will give a boost in your overall mark
7. Succeeding at a Chance Time will give a boost in your overall mark AND adjust the music video slightly

The main goal in Arcade mode is the same as in any rhythm game: pass the song! Passing a song, as with many rhythm games, doesn't just mean to "reach the end of the song"; it means to "reach the end of the song with a passing grade". For example, if I reached the end of the song above, but only acquired a 50-point grade (because I messed up a lot through the song), I will not have passed since I received a failing mark.

In the beginning, you have a very limited songlist to choose from. As you pass different songs, you unlock more songs. You will also earn Diva Points, which can be used to buy outfits and accessories for your vocaloid characters, as well as furniture items for their rooms. You can also use Diva Points to aid yourself for a certain song, or to give yourself an added challenge.

In terms of gameplay structure, this is more or less a standard rhythm game. Buuuut... it is super fun! Almost all the songs are a delight to hear; almost all the music videos are a delight to see, and the difficulty for Normal mode is just right (at least, in my opinion). And if Normal mode isn't enough, each song has a Hard and Extreme mode. Extreme mode is very extreme!

In Edit mode, you can create your own music video and share it on PSN for others to play. The neat thing here is you can actually use your own MP3s as the music track -- you're not restricted to just the Project Diva f songlist. However, when you upload your video on PSN, the song DOESN'T get uploaded with it (most likely to avoid copyright infringements). It's okay, though -- you can always mention what song goes with the video.

Unfortunately, most likely because I'm not too savvy with editing-type programs, I had a hard time using Edit mode. It just wasn't intuitive and the in-game help / tutorials weren't helpful enough. Currently, I'm trying to put together a video that's intentionally crappily made. When it's done, I'll upload it on PSN...

Playing around with Edit mode is your best bet of learning what each thing does.

A shot of how Edit mode looks like.

When you meet certain requirements, you unlock diva rooms, one room for each character. When you visit a diva's room, you can do several things:

1. Customize their room with purchased furniture pieces and items.
2. Select one of certain specific items to see the diva briefly interact with it.
3. Possibly access the arcade, jukebox, TV or Art Gallery features (if you purchased the corresponding items)
4. Interact with the diva by giving gifts or patting their head, possibly raising their friendship level.
5. Possibly play a rock-paper-scissors / look that way mini-game with the diva if you patted their head well enough and enough times.

When the diva's friendship level goes up, more character-specific room items are unlocked. Overall, I think this feature is pretty cute.

A shot of Kaito's room in my game.

I guess watching videos isn't exactly gameplay... but I gotta mention this feature (for the possible amusement factor). When you pass a song for the first time, you unlock the ability to watch its music video.

Now... even before unlocking the music video, you're able to switch out the character(s) (or "performers", as they're called in the game) featured in the video and adjust their outfits. The vocals don't change, but that's okay. I only mention it now because you'd probably be able to appreciate it more when you can focus on watching the video, instead of both watching the video and trying to hit a bunch of scrolling buttons.

I think this is a really neat option! You can switch out the performer in every music video with your favourite character. Or -- you can switch up duets / trios, changing the character dynamics / relations in that specific song to suit whatever you want. For example, "Acute" is a song about a love affair and features three performers -- one guy and two girls. If I really wanted to, I could change all the performers to girl characters. I can't really change them all to guy performers since there are only two guy characters -- but I could change all three performers to the same character, altering the overall meaning of the song (from a love affair to possibly a song about inner struggles and conflict). I think this bit of customization allows for a more personal, relatable, or amusing experience with each song.

An amusing combo to this song. 
Original performers: Hatsune Miku and Megurine Luka.

As you're watching music videos (or doing anything, really), you have a choice of taking a screenshot and it'll be saved to your PS3's photos folder. I really like this option! Since it's saved to the PS3's photos folder, I can put the screenshots onto a USB and then copy them over to my computer. Almost all the graphics in this blog were screenshots I took from the game. The process of taking a screenshot, though, is a little weird.

1. Press your controller's Home button
2. Go to the Photos section of the PS3's dashboard
3. Scroll to the "Save Screenshot" option
4. If you select "Save Screenshot", you'll be taken back to the game, but the screen is frozen in place. You can only take a screenshot of whatever you saw before you pressed the Home button. It makes it a little challenging to get a screenshot of a scene that only lasts for a few second -- you'd have to time it so that when you press Home, the screen will freeze at the scene you wanted.

Here's a couple of screenshots I took, after switching out the original performers:

Kaito and Hatsune Miku in "Fire Flower."
Original performers: Kagamine Rin and Kagamine Len.
This is my current PS3 background.

Kaito in "Time Machine".
Original performer: Hatsune Miku.

The main difference between Photo Studio and taking a screenshot is... well... everything. In Photo Studio, you're using static backgrounds and I think only one character can be taken at a time. You can have the character pose in many different ways. The cool thing here is that you can use photos / graphics from your PS3's Photos folder as the background. So if I really wanted to, I could use a photo of me sitting on a bench and I can place Kaito sitting right next to me (...!). Hahaha, it's pretty cool.

Kaito posing in an iDOLM@STER 2 screenshot that was in my PS3 Photos folder.

From left to right: Luka (pink hair), Rin (blonde hair with bow), Meiko (brown hair), 
Miku (green hair), Len (spiky blonde hair), Kaito (blue hair)

As mentioned in my last blog, vocaloids don't have any set personalities. I think that makes them way more personable. You decide how their personalities are like. You decide if you see something you can relate to. In a way, they're faceless... but capable of expressing so much, if you let them. ;)

My favourite character is Kaito. I place him in a lot of the more emotional songs so I can relate to him more, and I really like his song "Ashes to Ashes". Close seconds are Miku and Rin. Miku was the one who made vocaloids super popular, so I'll always love her. Rin has some really edgy songs and her voice works so well in them. 

Kaito! <3
This is my desktop wallpaper right now.

The graphics are amazing! I'd say it's about the same ilk as the iDOLM@STER games, but with a slightly different colour palette. Both are anime style and in 3D, but iDOLM@STER's colourization has a more anime feel while Project Diva f has a more realistic feel. Maybe it's because iDOLM@STER uses more outlines?

It's anime come to life!

Kaito in an amazing background.
Something about it feels more realistic.

Regardless, the graphics for Project Diva f are great, and most of the music videos are really well done.

I have to mention this as well: the loading screens art are amazing, too! And guess what? All the loading screens art are fanart -- made by fans. Well, actually, I'm going to save my butt here and say some of the loading screens art are fanart by fans. I think that is just too cool.

There's about 40 songs in Project Diva f, and the genres vary from industrial, punk, baroque-like, rock, traditional, to J-pop style (the most prominent genre). There's a little something for almost everybody. The nicest thing about the songlist in Project Diva f is that it wasn't Americanized in any way (not like Ouendan being released / developed here as Elite Beat Agents). The songlist is still the original Japanese songlist, and I like that -- A LOT

Here are some of my favourite tracks. I'd list them all, but that would be way too many, haha. I can't seem to share them, so here are their Youtube links:

"Tengaku" (vocals by Rin):
Love the rockish feel, and Rin sounds sooo full of power and conviction when she sings this.

"Ashes to Ashes" (vocals by Kaito):
The song sounds dark and gloomy, but I like that. Kaito's voice sounds so nice here, too.

"Monochrome Blue Sky" (vocals by Miku):
I like the video and the meaning of the song. I can really relate. I often switch Miku out with Kaito here.

"Torinoko City" (vocals by Miku):
I didn't like this in the beginning, but the rhythm and melody are growing on me.

"Time Machine" (vocals by Miku):
This song is so bittersweet. I switch Miku out with Kaito here as well. Sometimes it makes me cry a little, haha...

"Tell Your World" (vocals by Miku):
I still love this song a lot. I kinda feel connected with the world and this sense of belonging when I hear this.

Well... I unlocked all the songs in about 6 hours, and I'm still pumping more hours into this game -- either to try passing my favourite songs on Hard or Extreme, trying to perfect them on Normal, or just plain re-playing the songs to hear them again and watch the music videos. Sometimes I have the game running just so I can listen to the songs (I'm doing that right now!). Other times I'm interacting with Kaito in his diva room. And of course, I'm still trying to unlock the rest of the characters' outfits and earn enough Diva Points to buy them. 

So there is a ton of replayability with this game.

If you enjoy rhythm games and don't mind the anime style, pick up Project Diva f right away! Most of the songs are catchy, fun to play, and the music videos don't disappoint. If you're still not sold (because I just suck at selling), just try the free demo that's on PSN. Come on -- I dare you! :)

Thanks for reading! If you have any comments, feel free. Hope you all have an awesome week! :)

Usually I would have a "Spoilers" section here, but I think I covered everything I wanted to talk about.

Monday, 2 September 2013

BLOG -- Me and Hatsune Miku

Finally! Here is my blog about Hatsune Miku. I've been anticipating this for quite a while. I just never had a good chance to write about her.

This blog will talk briefly about Hatsune Miku and why I like her. And of course, I'll start off with my initial thoughts and first exposure.

My Initial Thoughts and First Exposure
I think I first heard about Hatsune Miku around 2008. Actually, it was more like, that was the first time I saw her... and she was everywhere. Where I frequented online, I often saw fan work of a girl with long green pigtails.

She must be very popular, I thought, and didn't give her a second thought. I usually stay away from super popular things, thinking, They already have a lot of fans -- they don't need another. When Project DIVA was released (a rhythm game featuring Hatsune Miku) for the PSP, I dismissed it completely (despite my love for rhythm games).

Now fast forward to late 2011, when I imported iDOLM@STER 2 for the PS3. When I saw that getting one of the DLC costumes would unlock a Hatsune Miku song, I thought, I guess I really should try a Hatsune Miku game... see what she's all about...

About a month later, I imported the first Project DIVA game. I tried the first song on the list, "The World is Mine". The song was edgy. Hatsune Miku's dancing was edgy. I really liked it. Since then, I've more or less explored her songs, culture, and world. And now I am a huge fan.

What is Hatsune Miku?
 Hatsune Miku!

Before, I thought that Hatsune Miku was just a video game character, but that's not it at all. Hatsune Miku is a singing synthesizer (also known as a vocaloid). It's a program you use to create singing vocals to go with music (most often music that you created). The girl with the green pigtails is like a character / persona of that specific voice. Crypton (the developer of Hatsune Miku) was very smart to do that, because now that singing synthesizer isn't just a singing synthesizer -- it's a singing synthesizer with Life.

Later on, Sega developed the Project DIVA games, featuring songs created by the Hatsune Miku program, and featuring the Hatsune Miku persona.

That's Hatsune Miku in a nutshell.

Other singing synthesizers (vocaloids) with persona exist (like Meiko, Luka Megurine, Kaito, Lin & Ren Kagamine), but I'm just gonna focus on Hatsune Miku for this blog.

Why do I like Hatsune Miku?
In one word: cute. Hahahaha, well, that's not the reason at all. She is cute for a character, but nah, there's more to it than that.

Her songs are user-created and can be freely shared -- I really like this. Anybody who has the program can try creating a song with her vocals attached to it. Then they can upload the song and share it with everybody. I think it gives people a chance to be creative and express themselves. In a way, I think it also encourages creation, seeing others trying the same thing.

Lots of song variety -- What can I say? I like variety. Since her songs are created by so many people, they should fall under many different music genres.

Her character can be very relatable -- Since Hatsune Miku's persona doesn't have set personality traits, I'm free to perceive her however I want. I can relate to her however I want. That also means that my perception of her could greatly differ from somebody else's perception, and that's fine. This is how I see Hatsune Miku:

To me, Hatsune Miku is the embodiment of confidence, energy, and intensity. She can be very strong (like in the song "The World is Mine"), but also display moments of fragility ("Rolling Girl") and shyness ("Melt"). She's kinda how I'd like to be: saying what she wants, dressing whatever she wants, and still possessing another side (her moments of fragility and shyness).

Fan creations of her are welcomed -- It's not everyday that you see developers encouraging fans to use their copyrighted characters. Anybody is free to create and share fan works of Hatsune Miku, whether it be graphics, videos, whatever. I think it was through fan creation that Hatsune Miku now carries an association with leeks / spring onions. It's just another form of encouraging creation, and I support that greatly.

There are more reasons as to why I like Hatsune Miku, but those are the major ones. Soon enough, I'll be giving my own shot at creating songs and attaching Hatsune Miku's voice to them. The English version of Hatsune Miku came out a couple of days ago, and I'm gonna get it.

Thanks for reading my blog! I hope you have an awesome week :)

To end off, I'll share some of my current favourite Hatsune Miku songs. I'm sure I've shared some of them in the past, but whatever. It just means I still love them.

"Dear" by 19's Sound Factory.
Love the bittersweet lyrics and sound.

"Love is War" by Supercell.
This is almost like my signature Hatsune Miku song. I sing it often at home.

"SPiCA - 39's Giving Day Edition" by Toku-P.
This song is still my ringtone!

"Rolling Girl" by WOWAKA.
I sing this song quite often. I mean, I try to sing it. 
Some of the notes are crazy high for me, unfortunately.

"Tell Your World" by Livetune.
This sounds so hopeful and heartfelt to me.