Problem Fixed… sorta

After a bit of messing around, fixing it was just as simple as disabling Realtek HD Audio in the device manager. Yaay.
Though either my hearing got used to low-sound whilst I was working on it, or the computer’s volume levels are shifted up somewhat. Computer volume is very low for everything, and WinAMP is set pretty low too, at the moment, and I can still hear things clearly. I’ll work on fixing that tomorrow, or at least get to working out whether it’s a problem in the first place.

Realtek may be evil

So like a dutiful Windows XP user, when I get told that there are updates for XP that need to be installed on my computer, I let the computer install them.
To be honest, I don’t really have a choice. Either I install when it prompts me, or it installs automatically whenever I try to shutdown or restart, and it’s far too much of a bother to be always-vigilant.

Unfortunately, this seems to have broken sound on my computer. Somewhat.

See, following the install of Service Pack 3, Windows started telling me that it’s detected an audio device is connected. Well, duh. I listen to music practically the entire day on my to-this-day-faithful-and-reliable headphones. It says it can search for drivers. After the first few times clicking ‘not this time’ to the Windows driver-search-and-install thing on startup, I fall to the same flaw of mine that led to SP3 being installed.
Cue, post-driver-install, sound for clips or videos viewed online breaking. Oh, and viewing clips and videos online – clips from YouTube, Vimeo and other popular sites like that just started failing a few seconds of soundless motion in. Skipping ahead? Wherever I picked, it worked for a second or two… then stopped, just the same.
Then, one restart later to see if THAT cleared up, I have no sound at all. Well, save system sound effects. I suppose ‘no music at all’ is clearer. This is effectively no sound, though, as I habitually disable each and every sound effect for most things with the option to do so, Windows itself included.

So here I am, going a little spare with only the hum of the computer’s fan, the tapping and clicking of the keyboard, and the distant noise of traffic to comfort me. Just in case something I do manages to fix things, WinAMP is running in the background, vainly trying to play something random.
I can’t help but want to blame the ‘Realtek HD Audio’ thing, the driver XP saw fit to want to install. Previously, XP ran fine with just a generic ‘USB Audio Device’. Apparently other people have been having problems with this, but most proposed solutions I’ve seen thus far involve checking to make sure it isn’t muted – it’s not, I checked, and I have seen things that have set things to mute by default, or like my ‘USB Audio Device’, which shifts everything to FULL VOLUME whenever it’s (re)connected to a computer, so… I’d prefer muteness – or checking some hidden option for audio devices as Realtek apparently disables devices on a whim, or something like that, but the steps given to found that thing seem not to be possible, here.

Gaaaah. I want my music back. A friend suggests just System Restore-ing the life out of whatever gremlin caused this. Tempted to do just that, but I can’t help but want to know what caused the problem in the first place, so I don’t hit it again.

Blaze & Blade (2): Boss Musings

…huh.
You know, I distinctly remember the Griffon/Gryphon/creature-of-so-many-spellings – the boss of the Valley of White Silver – being tougher. As a Sorceress, the only problem I had was in keeping out of the centre of its wind-buffeting attack – which deals multiple hits. The whole fight took only… two Healing Potions, and both free Healing Pins. I’m around level 70-80~, and fought the whole thing with Blaze, though a decent amount of time was spent running in circles to let my MP recharge.
Still love the music, though.

I know I’m some way away from level 100, still, but I’m thinking about how to take on the Kraken – bossing around the lizard men and wyverns at the Ruins in the Lake – at this point, or at least when I can survive more than two hits and have a full stock of healing items. Blaze doesn’t work all the time as it’s subject to gravity, and the head, unlike tentacles, seems to have a habit of moving randomly out of reach after the spell’s cast.
Plus the range isn’t brilliant, leaving me a sitting duck for splashes of water, and the dreaded Blizzard spell, when casting. Lightning Bolt will probably be the spell of choice for my next attempt – unlike Blaze and Blizzard, it only affects a more-or-less straight line, and the slightly-random nature of the spell that occasionally has it curving around enemies I want to hit (…maybe, could just be poor aim) makes it less than ideal, but the range of the spell is unbeaten as yet, and it’s piercing. If push comes to shove, I could maybe sit behind the spell-tablet-rock and throw lightning at it until it cries.

…also, on the subject of items, Blood Extract is annoyingly described. I always read the description as filling HP back up to maximum.
Not so! It increases the maximum HP of the character using it. Which is brilliant, but if you’re counting on it for healing in a boss fight, you may end up in trouble.

Blaze & Blade: Differences between UK and US versions

…well, a difference between them, anyway.

I’m reasonably certain, on the second level of the Crypt, in the UK version, you have no music before you solve the first puzzle. In the US version, you do.
Bah, I think the UK version did it better. It’s creepier when the music isn’t there. I admit it’s nowhere near the creepiness more modern games can achieve, having atmospheric noise in addition to music, but at the time it was really quite good.

Blaze & Blade

So I got Blaze & Blade working, emulated. I swear it runs better on the computer than it did on my Playstation, back when that was still functional.

I’m currently trying to run through the areas as a Sorceress, as usually I tended to go for and Elf, Priestess or Rogue.
Sorceresses are… versatile. They don’t have much in the way of physical strength, and their weapon generally has a very poor range, but that’s more than made up for with the magic they have access to; the first set of spells alone has fire, lightning, water and earth element spells, functioning at varying ranges and not costing enough to even dent a character’s MP. Oh, and an attack self-buff, in case none of those elements work.
The second level has a more offensive spells – Light, Dark – another self-buff for hitting stuff (Enchant Weapon), and… Magic Missile. Functions just like you’d imagine except it’s always just one projectile; it moves very quickly, it’s homing, it flies, and it doesn’t actually deal elemental damage, in case you run up against something tough against all elements.

Know what I dislike?
Any enemy that can throw off the Magic Missile spell in Blaze & Blade. The first thing that killed me and forced a game over was a blasted goblin mage in the Wood of Ruins. Magic Missile does PAINFUL damage when cast by any enemy, and it’s very difficult to dodge.

…so, yeah, I’m stuck trying to beat the Dark Elf in the Tower. Every other spell he uses is negligible, so long as I keep moving. He just gradually wears me down with Magic Missile each time.

Man, I missed this game.

Random DS Game Miniview: Dungeon Explorer

…miniview. Mini-review. Wherein I pick on two or three points that strike me shortly after starting to play the game.
Okay, moving on.

I only picked this one up today because it was a cheap (…for a given value of ‘cheap’) generic-name hack-and-slash type RPG. I’ve found that kind of game entertaining since Blaze & Blade on the Playstation. The ‘cheap hack-and-slash type RPG’ bits, not the ‘generic-name’ bit.
‘Dungeon Explorer’? Isn’t that the name of a roguelike?

For a DS game, Dungeon Explorer has poorer graphics than I’ve grown accustomed to on the system; it looks like an early Playstation attempt at 3D graphics, all Final Fantasy VII on a tiny screen, without the benefit of the much-better-looking background graphics that game had. To make things worse, the game is in isometric view without the capacity to change the direction you’re looking from… and walls don’t get blanked out when they obstruct the view of your character, that treasure box over there, or that skeleton with a scythe that would just love to rip out your throat. The 3D graphics are not brilliant.
However, that’s only the 3D graphics. Menu boxes and backgrounds, and character portraits – both player and NPC – are all very nicely done, bearing detail easily equal to Rune Factory’s, or… hmm… Dawn of Sorrow? Haven’t played many other games that had great portraits rec- ah, I know. Ys on the PSP.

Interestingly, DE makes absolutely no use of the DS touch screen. I’ve played quite a few DS games that only pay lip-service to that screen, allowing the use of it in menus or name-selection screens, but nothing more. By this point, I’m assuming every game on the DS uses the touchscreen for SOMETHING… which left me tapping at the screen wondering whether it had broken overnight.
On the one hand, text entry (only names, thus far) seemed a little tedious, compared to how, say, Rune Factory or Animal Crossing handles it. On the other hand, it’s a safe guess that I can safely put the stylus away when I’m playing, and don’t have to either keep putting it away and taking it out later (awkward), hold it in my hand as I play (uncomfortable after about ten seconds), or leave it ready on a nearby surface (easy to lose things that way… and, again, awkward.) Not using the touchscreen at all neatly sidesteps those problems, and also hideous-awkward implementation of touchscreen controls. Kudos for taking the safe path, I think.
Dungeon Explorer simply uses the extra screen as… an extra screen. They even give you the option to switch the menu/map window with the action window, if you play better that way.

Finally, it comes with its own dictionary of terms, covering both IC concepts (races, locations) and gameplay concepts (such as ‘Art Frag[ment]s’, used to raise the level of arts). For a hack-and-slash game, it’s turning out to have a decent amount of backstory and chatter to it.
Which is why I like Blaze & Blade much more than Gauntlet.

Rune Factory

In the past year or so, a couple of different entries to the Harvest Moon series have been released; Innocent Life on the PSP, a science-fiction-styled Harvest Moon wherein you played as a robot, and Rune Factory on the DS, a more-fantasy-styled-than-usual Harvest Moon wherein you play as an amnesiac conned into working on a farm.
Yes, seriously. Most of the introductions to the NPCs begin with the lines ‘Oh, so YOU’RE the one Mist conned into working on her farm?’, or some variation thereof.

Slightly-stereotypical RPG amnesia aside, though, Rune Factory is a solid and interesting addition to the series, with both the usual growing crops and romancing NPC women activities, and an interesting if slightly tough attempt at modern-Ys or classic-Zelda-style combat and exploration.

In short, this is the perfect substitute for Mabinogi as you can’t import THAT.

…damn

It’s that puppet thing. CASTING DRAGON SLAVE.

Noooo… it’s a significant character… and it sounds like male-ish Lina in the incantation…
Nooo…

EDIT: And it glides like… Klonoa. Huh. Lucky association.

Anyway, not doing anything for the closing sequence.

“Heh. Looks like they’ve got something.” “Lina-san, that’s a line for villains.”

Okay, I don’t know what’s going on or WHEN this is happening… but I like it.
Though I get the idea someone has purple eyes and is hiding it, somehow. Could be the closed eyes, smile and hint of purple colour when he opens them a little.

Could be intentional.

Huh

Maybe it IS a continuation. Amelia and Zelgadis recognise them (…and those two are travelling together), Lina’s famous for destroying Sairaag (twice), and the pirates (and ‘Miss Mermaid’) are absolutely petrified of her when they recognise her.

Ah, well. Still good. Except for ‘Dravoid’. That’s how they translated ‘DRAMATA’. We got that as ‘Dragon SPOOKER’ when Slayers was translated officially here; Dragons Step Past Out Of C(K)lear REvulsion.
Also, Lina was banned from Hell. Go Lina!

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