Archive for February, 2009

Discipline – The Broccoli of Life

February 27, 2009

This being my first year as a teacher, I am bound to make mistakes. At lunch, one day, my principal and pastor addressed to me the mistakes I was making. Obviously, it does not feel good to be disciplined about a mistake, especially if that mistake is sizable enough. However, I am very thankful that these mistakes were addressed, that they would not happen in the future.

Discipline is like broccoli. Most of us, when we were kids, did not want to have anything to do with broccoli. Instead, we go for that tasty ice cream with lots of chocolate syrup on top. Ice cream is like that feeling that we’re doing all right, but we don’t know (or want to know, in some cases) that there’s something that we are doing wrong. Ice cream, although sweet and tasty, can be unhealthy for you. Broccoli, on the other hand, doesn’t have a texture many people would desire to enjoy, and it has that aftertaste to it that kinda makes you want to go grab a mint. However, broccoli is very nutritious. It keeps us healthy. Broccoli is the approach we need to take, when it comes to discipline. If we focus on the nutrition and not on the taste, we will yield healthier results in return.

Some of us, like myself, enjoy broccoli with a topping, like ranch dressing. Ranch dressing really helps with the taste, and when it comes to dipping, broccoli is an excellent vegetable to dip into dressing. Allow me to place some words of wisdom on your heart, so that you will have ranch dressing for your broccoli moments.

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
   but he who hates reproof is stupid.”
Proverbs 12:1 (English Standard Version)

Also, let me share the same verse from The Message:

“If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it— how shortsighted to refuse correction!”

Anyone who is willing to become a better person in life must also be willing to keep this verse in his heart.

Retro Game Challenge (Nintendo DS)

February 20, 2009

I am a big fan of 80’s games, most notably games of the NES era. The graphics may have been simple, but the challenge was gold. Retro Game Challenge is an attempt to bring back some of the awesomeness that came from the NES era. Although some of the 80’s feel did not seem to be there, I still enjoyed this game for what it is. Being a collection of games, rather than being a single game, in itself, I’ll briefly review the game outside the games then get in-depth with each game within, if that made any sense. 😛

Retro Game Challenge contains 8 games that are inspired by real NES games from that era, including Galaga, Dragon Warrior, and Bubble Bobble. These games also include challenges thrown at you one at a time by the Game Master, who has sent you back in time to the 80’s, when the Famicom was the current-gen console. The challenges are, however, quite easy, and it may not take an experienced gamer very long to breeze through all of them. A few added bonuses to the games are their own manuals, game magazines, and a memo to take notes of any cheat codes or secrets you find within the magazines. The magazines are entertaining, but there is a slight bit of potty humor contained within the magazine, as fictitious people with names, such as “I.P. Freely” appear in the magazine to ask questions, not usually about the games, though. Young Arino can be fun to talk to, except you might not bother chatting with him, much. The game cheats, themselves, are pretty big, not like the wimpy cheats you might find in a game, nowadays, if there are any in-game cheats. Some cheats give you infinite continues, while others give you automatic powerups, invincibility, and even a warp to the final level of the game! Now, for the games, themselves.

Cosmic Gate is the first game you will encounter, and hopefully, you are already familiar with this game, as it is heavily based on the classic shooter, Galaga. The game spans 64 stages, with asteroid stages appearing every three stages. The difficulty is quite light, however, due to the fact that racking up big points is quite easy, making it even easier to earn extra lives. There is one powerup within the game, and it changes your ship’s shape and it allows you to fire a laser-missile-laser combo. The missile cuts straight through the enemy ranks, allowing you to score good points. The asteroid levels are pretty much bonus levels, as shooting asteroids racks up tons of points, including the large asteroid, which gives you 15,000 points. Now, back to the difficulty. So, you’re probably wondering why I call it light. Well, apart from the fact that there are no kamikaze fighters as in Galaga, getting into a corner is actually an advantage in this game. I have actually gone through all 64 stages, without warping, and I didn’t start actually losing lives until stages 60-64. Of course, I lost lives earlier on, but I easily won them back with points. Thankfully, the developers added a Hard Mode to the game. The difference in difficulty will be tough to judge until I go through all 64 stages again.

Haggle Man is the second game, and the one you will be familiar with the most throughout the game. The game is a platformer with several enemies and doors about. You are Haggle Man, robot ninja, and you can attack these enemies with doors, your shuriken, or by jumping on them. Personally, I don’t use the shuriken much, as they usually stun enemies, rather than kill them. Besides, what other game allows you to kill enemies with moving doors? You can also pick up scrolls to summon allies. However, I don’t usually bother with those, since if you pick up all three scrolls, the ally is summoned automatically. Haggle Man 2 is not much different from Haggle Man, except that the stages are bigger, the enemies are tougher and more abundant, and the challenge has increased. I personally like the second game more than the first, mainly due to the stages’ ability to scroll up, down, left, right, anywhere it sees fit.

Rally King is your generic top-down racing game, with the ability to Drift Boost, much like in the Mario Kart series. There are four courses in the game, and each one gets tougher as you go. There are rival cars on the track, but they seem to serve a bigger purpose in giving you damage, rather than actually racing you. As a matter of fact, the courses are more threatening than the rival racers. I understand that this game is based on the NES/Famicom era, but I can’t help pointing out that top-down view just doesn’t work well for me. It’s like racing in Mr. Magoo-vision. Thankfully, the geniuses at Nintendo created Mode 7 on the Super NES, allowing games like Mario Kart and F-Zero races to be displayed as they should. In my opinion, without Mario Kart and F-Zero, the racing genre could have died off before the N64 era. As for the the “Special Edition” Rally King, Rally King SP, it is really not worth getting in a contest. It is basically Rally King with more obstacles on the course, blue deserts, and advertisements, lots and lots of advertisements. This game may have been inspired by a special edition Gradius game, whose only real overhaul were the advertisements.

Speaking of shooters, Star Prince is next up on the list. The game was absolutely beautiful in terms of a shooter. There was plenty of stuff to blow up, not just the enemies. There were multiple types of powerups, and the Cosmic Gate feature, ship-transformation, reappears, as well as the 1-Up Tomatoes. The game spans eight levels (the last four being harder versions of the first four), filled with enemies and destructibles, and the bosses were huge. Then again, the bosses were mainly a defense system with a bunch of projectile-shooting weaponry, a starship that appears at the end of each stage, save for the final stage, and a surprise attack from a huge robot that is in the process of assembling itself. I end up getting blown up one too many times when the bottom part darts onto the screen. One feature I really liked was the ability to create a projectile-absorbing shield by holding A, then releasing a storm of projectiles when three projectiles hit the shield.

Guadia Quest was the RPG I was blazing through the game for. The game is heavily inspired by the Dragon Warrior series, and the unique feature in this game is the ability to form pacts with Guadia monsters, who will increase their power to fight against you for the pact. I was slightly disappointed with the frequency of levels-up. Unlike Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior I, where even one level up made a big difference, the levels increase quickly, and the stats rise more slowly. However, the side quests aren’t that bad. The only real challenge in Retro Game Challenge appears in this game: you must defeat the first boss. As easy as that may sound, the first boss is hard and can attack twice. He is also found pretty deep in the dungeon, so level-grinding becomes a must. Oh, one last thing. Your weapons, along with base damage, hit with varying attack power, depending on what shape stops over the enemy when your character attacks. This can affect the tide of battle, especially boss battles, when you are relying on good shots.

The last game is Haggle Man 3, a game much different from its previous incarnations, while still keeping the core gameplay intact. The game reminds me of Ninja Gaiden, and the story is darker than in the previous two games. Doors in this game do not defeat enemies, but they do lead to shops and hints. Haggle Man can equip powerups, which come in three different sizes of gears. That, along with large levels that involve exploration, give Haggle Man 3 the Metroid feel. My only con to this game is that most of the bosses are the same: a giant wall of who-knows-what with three faces on them that you must destroy, with minor differences in terms of defenses. I believe this is the best of the Haggle Man series, and possibly the best game in the list.

Overall, my experience with the game has been quite satisfying. However, I am looking forward to seeing a sequel released here in the states. There is a sequel to be released in Japan, and I have seen one game that looks like a Mario platformer, only it seems that you can use enemies as skateboards, kinda like riding a Koopa shell. Hopefully, Retro Game Challenge will sell enough for XSeed Games to localize the sequel over here.

Shoelaces

February 13, 2009

I usually do not like to put up blogs like these, mainly due to their controversial nature, but recently, something caught my attention while I was coming back from getting lunch. My shoe got untied, as shoelaces usually do after a while. But then, I thought, how could a neatly executed double knot wind up becoming completely undone? Well, this is a real life example of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: That everything has a natural tendency to turn to a state of disorder. So, why do I still hear today that the origin of life came from the simplest organisms, that they eventually became more intricate and complicated? I mean, even in a single cell of any type in the human body has many organelles, each with its own specific task.

There are also an innumerable amount of factors that make even reproduction alone an impossible task without some sort of intelligent design. First, there are the group of factors directly relating to the child, itself. This includes the child looking like its parents (meaning, a human child looking like a human being), the growth process, and the egg and sperm cells, themselves. There are also the factors revolving around the method used to deliver the baby from its mother. Oh, and that reminds me of another group of factors: the baby’s own reproductive system, so that when it grows up, that baby and its spouse of the opposite gender will be able to reproduce, as well, resulting in taking the odds of simply reproducing once, and adding an exponent to those odds for every time the event happens. And that’s just a fraction of the reproductive part of life. Even if you were to suspend every particle that makes up a  supercomputer within a small sphere, and if they were to continually force themselves together randomly, they would never reform to successfully recreate that supercomputer. At least, not without someone with the brains to put everything back together, which would still take plenty more than one lifetime’s worth of work.

Anyway, back to the shoelaces. In this world, everything naturally gets undone: wood decays, metal wears out, the details on sculptures fade. Even so, wood is still recognizable as wood, metal is still recognizable as metal, and even as people and animals grow old, they are still recognizable as people. Technically, everything has its own hard coding. While there are variations in traits, the classification is still the same. A reptile will not change into a mammal. A boulder cannot change into a tree. Without intervention by man, nature will stay the same, though decaying under influence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Summarizing, the enormously complex nature of reality defies random chance. Even the intricacy of a cell’s structure cannot be explained truthfully without respect to the amazing and effective design. Everything in life has its own hard code. Even through the most dramatic natural changes, the core structure still remains the same. That said, you can tie your shoelaces, but they will never tie themselves, nor would they become something other than shoelaces. At least, they won’t become something other than shoelaces without your influence.