Sony Ericsson Backstage Event

Last week I have attended a Sony Ericsson blogger event and got a chance to ‘speed date’ some of their recent and upcoming devices.  I must say, the last time I owned a Ericsson phone was more than a decade ago.  Back then, seemed like everyone around me was either holding a Ericsson 688 or that banana-Matrix phone.  Back then, battery packs were easily changeable.  Even the antennas.  Look how far wireless phones have evolved.  It never ceases to amaze me whenever I stop and ponder upon it.

Forward to 2010, the five Sony Ericsson phones I have had brief moments with are the Google Andriod powered Xperia X10 mini pro, Xperia X10 mini, Xperia X10 and the Vivaz and Vivaz pro (picture above from left to right).  I suppose if you are into Google Andriod, Xperia series may be your cup of tea.  For those who are familiar with the Symbian OS, you may feel at home with the Vivaz series that is able to capture media in HD format.  Sony Ericsson Vivaz comes with a 8.1 megapixel camera while the pro version comes with 5.1 megapixel.  I guess with a QWERTY keyboard, there are some trade-offs users have to make.  But still, 5.1 megapixel is pretty decent, in the context of wireless phones.

During the blogger event, quite a few of us fell in love with the Xperia mini and its little brother “pro” that comes with a keypad.  The pro version does remind me those cute little phones that were used in the TV series Gossip Girl, as one good friend of mine has pointed out.  The colorful mini series is designed with simplicity in mind, easily operable with one hand.  At the four corners are the shortcuts for popular functions.  As for me, I prefer larger screen – like the Xperia X10.  4 inches large with a resolution of 480×854.  That is pretty impressive.  I have yet to fully understand how do the Timescape and Mediascape work in real life.  There is this “infinite button” – a magic button that helps you organize your contact communications and favorite friends and artists related contents within and beyond your phone.

So tell me, are you a Sony Ericsson fan?  How do you like your Sony Ericsson phone?

So You Want A Final Fantasy XIII “Growth Egg” As Early As End Of Chapter 11?! Yes You Can!

Arguably one of the most important items to obtain in Final Fantasy 13, “Growth Egg” doubles the Crystogen Points (or experience points) you earn that are needed for your character development.  Who wouldn’t want it as soon as possible?  To obtain a “Growth Egg”, you need to complete a class A mission that is opened for you at the end of chapter 11.  It is a very hard mission and I reckon it is designed as an end game activity.  But if an average gamer (me!) can do it, there is a high chance that you can too!  Here is how I made it, not without blood and sweat.  And in the mist of it, I have obtained a 5-star rating and unlocked the “Limit Breaker” trophy or achievement.  That is a 100,000+ damage in one shot!

Prerequisite

After the final boss in Chapter 11, instead of moving forward and trigger Chapter 12, move backward and obtain Mission 55 “Can’t We All Just Get Along” from the rooftop of a deserted school.  I chanced upon this because I have missed out one of the components to repair Vanille’s toy (another pretty rewarding thing to do).  If you need a guide to obtain that mission, click here.

Key Strategy

For this class A mission, you have to face a very tough boss called Neochu that can take down casters with one shot.  And it has quite a few hyperactive adds called Picochus that hit very hard, very fast.  The encounter is very much like its little brother nearby (which I hope you have tried).  Take down the boss first, and then worry about the adds later.  To do that, you will need Vanille (hence picture above!).

Battle Team Setup

Interestingly, Neochu is not immune to Death spell.  So the key is to have Vanille picking up that ability (under Saboteur role) after the expansion of Crystarium at the end of Chapter 11.  To have a better chance to pull off this debuff strategy, upgrade the Belladonna Wand to Malboro Wand.  I have upgraded the weapon level to close to 40, which may not be necessary.  I have Snow equipped with Paladin and Hope equipped with Hawkeye.  Both equipments are at star level.  By the way, all the upgrade components I have obtained from mob drops (or spoils).  It is very doable if you have been doing some side missions.

I set up Snow as the tank (Sentinel) and Hope as the healer (Medic).  As for Vanille, she switches between Saboteur (for debuff), Ravager (for damage), and Medic (for extra heal).  So in total, only 3 Paradigms are required.  To manually execute the Death spell, I have picked Vanille as the leader.

Prior to the final boss of Chapter 11, all my characters have maxed out their Crystarium for three roles (out of six, for all six characters).  After the boss fight, I choose one role to specialize and max that out.  I didn’t make any special purchase for this mission.  I suppose wearing accessories for extra health points would help in some ways.

Stage One – One-shot the Boss

Preemptive strike is out so left with the options to either use the shrouds to buff up your offense or defense before engaging the boss.  I walked into the battle with neither because I forgot (see, I am your average gamer).  In retrospect, buffing up the haste level may work better.  It may speed up the process.  The target time to finish the battle is 28 minutes.  I have earned the 5-star rating.  So I must have taken lesser time than that.

I went in with Snow tanking and Hope healing (for the entire fight).  As for Vanille, I spammed Death spell.  If Neochu hits Vanille first before Snow grabs the aggro, it is game over.  If Vanille unable to land the Death spell and one-shot the boss within 5 rounds, it is also game over.  The combined damage of Neochu and its annoying little creatures is just too much for one healer to take (before end game that is).

I read that some spent hours one-shooting the boss (only to be overwhelmed with the little ones – how sad!).  It didn’t take that long for me.  Maybe upgrading the wand helps.

Stage Two – Heal Up!

Once the boss is down (which is the easy part), it is time to survive the group of cute little Picochus.  Even with two healers and a tank, my team could barely survive.  Especially when my tank lost the aggro.  You could either fast switch Vanille between the Medic and Ravager roles to heal and to spam the area of effect spell Firaga.  Or if like me, the tank was down and soon faced an inevitable wipe, I called in the cavalry.

Stage Three – Summon the Eidolon

Some say Eidolons in Final Fantasy 13 are pretty useless.  It is quite right that these god like creatures don’t seem to be as powerful as they should be (given the fact that it is such a pain to make them yield and be your own).  As for me, Eidolons have turned the tide in the past when I faced with seemingly insurmountable battles.  And I must say, I love the over-the-top animation for these Eidolon encounters.

After Vanille summons her Eidolon, Hecatoncheir, your job is to keep both of them alive for as long as you can (which is not long).  Before Hecatoncheir gets decimated by these little adds, switch to Gestalt Mode and unload some punishment to the Picochus.  I manage to half their health points, which in retrospect, it is really not bad.  Meagre amount of damage dealt aside, the beauty of summoning an Eidolon is that when Eidolon leaves the battle, all the party members are back up with full health.  Time for round two!

Stage Four – Taking Down the Adds

This is the most nail biting moment.  I mean, I have come that far.  I really don’t want to fail here.  With Snow tanking the little mad Picochus, Hope can barely keep him alive (he is my best healer in the game).  I have to switch Vanille between Medic and Ravager mode to balance between staying alive and killing off the enemies.  It is a painfully slow process.  The good news is, as you wear down the number, it gets progressively easier.  Later on I found out that I could cast Imperil debuff on the little ones to lower the spell resistance.  That made the job done much faster.  If I am to do this again, I would cast the area of effect debuff, Imperilga, before the area of effect spell Firaga.  You may be tempted to one-shot the little ones with Death spell.  I don’t like the extra aggro on Vanille.

Some find it hard to take down the adds.  At bare minimum, if you have Snow on tanking position and both Hope and Vanille on healing, you should be able to last indefinitely.  Hope should also be able to solo heal Snow most of the time (there is some randomness in FF13 after all).  If you can’t, you may need to further develop your characters and gears with the side missions.  If you can, it is simply a matter of patience.  And “Growth Egg” is a reward you would love to have.

Heavy Rain (PS3) – Immersion Can’t Get Better Than This!

How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love? – from the theme of “Heavy Rain”

It is hard to define the genre of this critically acclaimed title “Heavy Rain”.  It is not exactly an action game, though there are some elements of action.  It is not exactly an adventure game either, though it plays like one at times.  Certainly feel like watching a self-directed movie with full fledged orchestra soundtrack – a movie of a serial killer to catch and a kid to save.  172 days of casting, 90 actors selected from 457 auditions.  You get to switch between different key players according to the key story events.  And because you as a player get to decide your course of action and to participate in the action, the story unfolds based on the decisions  and the mistakes you have made.  Believe me, if you are not an expert in using the game controller or if you are like me who tend to press the wrong buttons or move the motion sensitive controller to the wrong direction when you get nervous, you bound to make mistakes.  Making too many mistakes may lead to an alternative storyline.  Continue to make too many mistakes may lead to a character’s death.  I have learned my lesson the hard way.  I thought I could sit back on my sofa and relax, I was grossly wrong.  And because it is one continuous play-through, you have got to live with your mistakes, for better or for worse.

The characters on the screen reacts to the sequence of buttons you press as guided by the game.  Some motions also take into consideration of how fast or slow you move the game sticks or shake the controller in certain directions.  Some scenes require you to press and hold a set of buttons in a sequential order.  How tricky the combination is depends on the situation.  For timed event, you really do not want to make too many mistakes.

“Heavy Rain” runs in 720p graphic quality.  Although it seems inferior compares to 1080p games such as Final Fantasy XIII, it is by and large acceptable.  The motion sequences are realistic (due to filming using real stunt men).  My only complain is the rendering of characters.  The real actors behind the scene look so much better (I thought it should be the other way round).  The interaction between characters – like the kissing scene with the mouths not exactly locked together – has much to desire for.  Still, consider the complicity of the game based on player’s interaction and the sum of all possible paths, the game play has made up for some of these flaws.

My first play-through does not take long to complete.  Such is the characteristic of a non-linear game.  For one play-through, I have probably only seen a quarter of what the game is.  I will need to replay this game multiple times if I wish to explore different storyline, different endings.  Bonus materials are unlocked based on game progress, such as the making-of videos that are entertaining to watch.  Believe it or not, being able to play this exclusive title is one of the major reasons why I bought a Sony PS 3.  And I am very much satisfied.  I will for sure play it again but not right now.  For such a dark game (and the constant rain) – the mood, the suspense, and the sorrow, it can get a bit depressing.  Such is the beauty of immersion.

Barking Seed Is One Mobile Games Community To Look Out For

Last week, I have had the opportunity to meet with one of the Indie game developers Breakdesign through a blogger event.  Originally from South African, now based in Singapore, it is inspiring to meet the co-founder of Breakdesign Rick and his team talking about game development with so much passion.  If indeed one of their visions is to offer free mobile gaming to all parts of the world – rich and the not so rich – looking at the latest list of top countries in the battle arena, I think they have more or less achieved that.

Mobile gaming is not new.  But what is special about this Indie game developer is the mobile games community they have created – “Barking Seed”.  Imagine, each time the game is over, you are given the opportunity to upload your score to their website, perhaps add a little comment to shout to the world.  You play to be amongst the top players.  And you play to represent your country as one of the top, stand a chance to win phones and accessories.  Just how additively fun this concept is?  During the blogger event, as our scores were posted to the website in real time, none of us were talking.  We – guys and girls – were going all out to score.

I have tried out three of their games on my touchscreen phone.  These are Flash games – responsive, pretty to look at, and does not take long to play.  Good soundtracks too.  “Monsterilla” (featured above) is my favorite.  It is a colorful puzzle game that has a strong appeal to either sexes.  There is another game that you keep squishing roaches (erm … I know) until you are overwhelmed.  It does get pretty intense and Cynthia got a real shock when she accidentally looked into my screen.  So many crawling roaches!  Looking at “That Roach Game” at a philosophical level, I agree with the co-founder Rick.  You just can’t win.  The third game I have tried is “Ninjani”.  Guys would love this.  This game tests your reaction time as well as your anticipation skill.  The fact that you can get better as you play repeatedly perhaps makes “Ninjani” one of the most addictive games of the three.

I look forward to more new game releases for the community “Barking Seed”.  I have high hope for them.  Three years it has taken this small team to bring this innovative offering to the world.  I still have no clue on how they generate revenue when the games are free and come with no advertisements.  Only time will tell.  Meanwhile, if you have a Nokia phone, head to OVI Store and download these free games.  If you have not heard of OVI Store – surprisingly many friends of mine who use Nokia phones fall into that category – there are many free applications and games for grab.  Have fun with these featured Flash games and good luck in winning!  As for me, I am going to work Cynthia hard and win me some “Monsterilla” points using my login ID.  Girls are supposed to be better at this sort of cute colorful puzzle games, yes?

External Links: Barking Seed Community Site and Breakdesign Corporate Site.

Targus Laptop Bag And Mouse!

Has it come across to you that some brands are there but you are not noticing them and when you start looking, they are everywhere?  Out of the blue, I have received a request to try out the Targus products.  I seldom try out anything without knowing if it is good.  Coincidentally I was in the Funan IT Mall and all of a sudden, I saw Targus brand everywhere!  The laptop bags look stylish and of good quality.  So I replied: Sure, hit me with a backpack please!

And inside the bag, there is a mouse.  What a nice surprise!

Now, back to the laptop bag.  I have recently used it for our Fraser’s Hill trip (more photos to share, I promise).  It is surprisingly light, soft, comfortable to the shoulders, and it is built with water resistance materials too.  Don’t take my words for it.  Visit a store and check out the bags.  It is great for everyday use.  And if something more formal is what you would prefer, they have other ranges for just that.  I have quite a few formal laptop bags.  So I picked the casual sporty one instead.

It is said that Targus is the world’s top-selling laptop computer cases and accessories maker, renowned for quality and style.  I have to admit that the mouse (picture above) does look stylish, small enough to carry around, and its battery life is supposed to last for 15 months.  What impress me most is the tiny USB receiver.  I can practically leave it attached to my laptop all the time.

The recommended retail price of the backpack is S$119.90 and as for the mouse, S$49.90.  You may wish to check out its range of products here.