Staycation

My work usually gives us a generous winter break: all the days off between Christmas and New Year’s.  This year I took a few extra days to make it 2 weeks solid.

I’ve slept nearly every day until noon, and then stayed up gaming until 2am.

Sloth(FMA:B)
This is me on vacation.

It’s a really excellent schedule when I have nothing to do.    I’ve been catching up on some LEGO games that I’ve had for a year, but never got to play because our Xbox suffered the red ring of death back in spring.  We also got some new games for Christmas that we were excited to start.

Or maybe this version is more accurate?
Or maybe this version is more accurate?

One such Christmas gift was Beyond: Two Souls.  This game is by Quantic Dream, makers of Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy (or Fahrenheit, as I call it–its original name, and one that fits better).  And it is every bit as good as those 2 games.

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It’s basically like watching a 10-hour choose-your-own-adventure movie.  It stars Ellen Page as Jodie, a young woman with an “invisible friend” named Aiden–an “entity” tethered to her, that the player can also sometimes control (but really only to directly advance the plot).  It also stars Willem Dafoe as her mentor–I just referred to him as Norman Osborn the whole time.

The acting, both voice and motion-captured, is great.  So is the music.  The gameplay is forgettable and sometimes irritating.  You can play with 2 people (one as Jodie and one as Aiden), and you can even use an iPad as a controller, which my husband and I tried.  It was fun, but a little limiting.  I actually just preferred watching him play.

The story requires a little work to follow; it’s broken up into non-chronological segments of Jodie’s life.  Overall, I would describe it as paranormal thriller, but each story segment varies, spanning zombie-style horror, scifi, political/spy, and mythological themes.  My favorite segment was “Navajo.”  They could have made a whole game just from that segment.

Most of the choices you make along the way are pretty cosmetic.  The real crux of the story is the ending.  There are several different ones, and by now I have seen them all.  My favorite is “Zoey.”

Let’s get started, ready steady go!

Continuing my love affair with Fullmetal Alchemist (aka Hagane no Renkinjutsushi, which is super fun to say), I finally saw season 5 of FMA Brotherhood over the weekend.  Netflix has seasons 1-4, and if you’ve seen them, you understand that you just gotta know how it ends!!  A coworker graciously lent me the final season, which my husband and I watched straight through until 1am.

We liked the ending, which is actually happier than I thought it would be (and more satisfying than the ending of the original series).  The pacing is different, because the majority of the season takes place within a few hours; it has some great action, but doesn’t sacrifice the focus on interpersonal relationships.  And there are several episodes that don’t even have the Elric brothers in them, showcasing the excellent side characters.

I highly recommend both the original series and Brotherhood (which I understand follows the manga more closely). Netflix allows you to watched either the Japanese audio with subtitles or the Funimation English dub, which is quite well-done.  In fact, I often switch back and forth between the two, comparing the voices and figuring out how Al actually addresses Ed (it’s “nii-san” in case you were wondering).

My love affair started when I watched the original series in college; I knew I was going to love it as soon as I recognized L’arc~en~ciel’s “Ready Steady Go” at the opening.  In fact, I think FMA overall has some of the best openings and endings of any anime.  (When CN aired the dub of the original series, they unfortunately pared it down to only two openings, but at least they picked the best ones: Ready Steady Go and Rewrite.)

FMA Brotherhood continued that wonderful tradition.  I am mildly obsessed with the first opening, set to “Again” by Yui.  I dare you not to get chills around the 0:49 mark.

The songs really add so much emotionally to the story.  For example, I love how the season 4 Brotherhood ending is very energetic, kind of preparing you for the final battle to come.  But then the season 5 opening, on the other hand, is less energetic and more melancholy, unique among the openings.  It gives a more serious, thoughtful tone to the finale.  And the season 5 ending helps the series end on a hopeful note.