Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ghost's Kitchen: Italian Breaded Fish

What's Cooking Today?
Italian Fish (and sides of your choice)

Hello everyone and welcome to another segment of...

Buying food is weird especially if you're only cooking for a couple people.  Generally when you're buying frozen chicken breasts or frozen fish fillets you end up getting enough to make between 3-7 meals worth of that same meat.  While that's not really a problem, only knowing or utilizing one way to prepare a meat makes for some very boring eating.  I love the Italian chicken that I make but if that was the only kind of chicken I made I would be so sick of it I wouldn't want to eat it.   The same is true for my tilapia fillets.

When I purchase my fillets I usually end up getting the 4lbs bag of them meaning that my wife and I have enough fish to eat for a month!  Using the same seasonings and pan searing that I showed you in my How To Prepare A Fish Dinner post over and over would make me sick of the things and nearly did.  So off to Google and Pintrest I went to find new ways to fix fish so we could have some variety.  Since I loved my Italian Chicken so much, perhaps I would find a way to make Italian Fish... and before too long I found just the thing.  

Gather Your Ingredients and Tools
  • 2 Thawed Tilapia Fillets
  • Italian Style Bread Crumbs
  • Zesty Italian Salad Dressing
  • 2 Bowls
  • Baking Pan
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Cooking Spray
  • Oven Mitts

1. Foil and Spray Pan and Preheat Oven
Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.  Set to the side.  Preheat oven to 400°F

2. Fill Bowls
Take your two bowls and partially fill one with zesty Italian salad dressing and the other with Italian Bread Crumbs

3. Drench Fish in Dressing
Simply take your fish fillet and drench it in the salad dressing making sure to get a very good covering of dressing over every inch of the fillet.

4. Dip in Italian Bread Crumbs
Once the fillet is covered in dressing place the fillet in the bowl of Italian bread crumbs and make sure that the entire thing is covered in bread crumbs.  Leave no exposed raw fish.

5. Place on Baking Pan

6. Cook for 20-22 minutes.  
Place in the oven and bake for 20-22 Minutes.  My oven does better with 22 minutes especially for large fillets like those pictured here.

7. Prepare Side Dishes.
During this time prepare some side dishes to go with your fish.  I chose garlic bread and broccoli.  The garlic bread I prepared following the instructions for my toaster oven, and the broccoli was just a simple microwave bag.  You don't need to get all fancy for side dishes.  I didn't picture them here because it's so simple to do something like that.

8. Serve and enjoy!

Hopefully this will add a bit of variety to your fish dinners as it has ours.  Actually this has become the more preferred method of cooking fish in our house now!

This is Ghost fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other food topics and recipes then simply click here!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ghost in the Case: Holy Knight

"Lilith, down a forgotten path protected by thorns and beyond the flowers lies a stone monument engraved with the legend of your heritage.  You must find it, then you must decide whether to accept your fate or not."

 Ghost here, Thanks for joining me today and I welcome you to another

Anime is a unique entity in the entertainment world.  There are few things that captivate so many people while simultaneously being so vehemently hated by others as that of anime.  I tend to feel that most of the hatred for anime comes from simple misinformation or ignorance.  There are many folks who say "I don't like anime" with only sampling one show or seeing the people who like anime and not wanting to associate with those people.  One thing that anime "haters" don't understand is that anime isn't just one kind of show there are multitudes of shows that are completely different from each other.  Death Note is completely different from Sailor Moon which is completely different from Cowboy Bebop.  That would be like claiming Survivor, The Bachelor, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and The Real World were all the same thing because they were Reality TV.

That being said, for every excellent piece of anime such as Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, there are half a dozen anime that are just OK or terrible and are only there for a true anime fan to appreciate. Today's entry is not exactly one of the greatest ones.  I'll come right out and say it rather than make you wait for the conclusion.  I started this portion of my blog to introduce people to excellent material that you should check out but I can fully see many people not enjoying this one because there are a lot of problems which I'll discuss in a later section.  However it's not a horrendous train wreck by any means.  There is a lot of good potential and some gems hidden within this anime that make it deserving of at least one watch to see what they were trying to do.   That and I have other motives for reviewing this one but I'll get to that later.

The Story
 
As a family of three are walking through the town, bells chime as a warning.  Before too long the town is on fire as the mother leaves to take care of the attackers.  The father hugs his daughter Lilith and instructs her to leave and be safe.  She climbs into a boat and is dragged away by the sea as her father fails to defeat the attacking swordsmen.  Later we see that Lilith has been taken in by a woman named Camilla who explains that there is a sort of prophecy that she can choose to fulfill this destiny or choose her own path; a destiny where she must conceive a child with a vampire hunter's descendant, then kill both father and child to bathe in their blood thus bringing her line of vampires into power.

 A few years later in Japan, a young man named Shinta is waking up late for school.  Getting ready in a hurry he meets his friend Chizuru (who has a crush on Shinta) outside but as the pair walk to school together, they run into Lilith who is now attending Shinta's school.  She asks him to meet her in a sort of chapel where asks him to conceive a child with her.  Obviously freaked out by this random request he informs her that he will not as a baby comes from a union of love and they had only just met.  Determined to follow the plan of her destiny, Lilith returns home and talks to her wolf guardian, Plum about what to do.  Plum informs her that perhaps she is coming across too strong and should be gentle around this one.  The next morning she meets Shinta and Chizuru outside of Shinta's place and  kisses him.  She then pulls Shinta down the road but walks straight into bright sunlight and passes out.

Shinta carries her back to his apartment so that she could be safe and offers to fix her food.  As they talk and eat Lilith keeps getting flashbacks of the love of her father manifested in Shinta's kind nature.  She leaves for the day to think.  In the meantime Chizuru has decided to tell Shinta how she feels but is stopped by Plum's human form.  Plum bites Chizuru and she leaves quickly but notices all the bleeding has suddenly stopped.  Lilith later returns to Shinta's place and asks once more for a child.  Noting her fear, Shinta once again refuses although he has started to fall for her.

Meanwhile at Lilith's house, three men who were in the village when she was little break in to finish what they had started those years ago only to be beaten by Plum.  They regroup and formulate a plan to bring her down and "awaken" Shinta.  Shinta's cat Cammot is with them and runs off.  Cammot begins to play with something Shinta's grandfather had given him.  As he pulls it away from the cat he notices a small gem inside.  Upon gazing at the gem his head begins to hurt and Cammot begins to speak to him and transform into a girl who has taken it upon herself to protect Shinta.  

The men who attacked the first time show back up at Lilith's room and use a silver rope to subdue Plum and take Lilith captive.  Cliff, their apparent leader, keeps her hostage in a nearby chapel with the intention of having Shinta kill her, sending the other two men to retrieve the young man.  Shinta arrives at the chapel to see what they had done to Lilith.  As they force him closer to Lilith holding both his hands and sword, Shinta screams that he doesn't want to kill her resulting in his full power awakening at last.  With a small skirmish, the men leave and Shinta hands his coat to Lilith saying he's glad she's safe.

What's Good and Bad About It?

Have you ever encountered something that has several really good things but a lot of really bad things about it and you're not quite sure what to think about the entire thing so you just stand there going...
That's kind of what Holy Knight does.  At this point I usually talk about what's good about it then talk about what's bad about it in separate sections but Holy Knight needs a different approach.  It's like a double edged sword of good and bad.  For every good thing I could say about it I'd have to follow with something bad about the same topic and vice versa.  So rather than try to divide everything and risk repeating myself I'm going to talk about it all at once.

The animation is quite good.  It's on standard with some of the best anime made in my opinion as it can perfectly portray the weird silliness that anime often has but also can show shadows and dark tones.  Even when bad things are happening on the screen the actual animation of those actions is quite beautiful. That being said this is yet another ecchi like High School of the Dead (how do I keep talking about these??)  For the most part the first episode has a few shots of underwear but nothing too bad.  Then they decide "screw it" in episode 2 and give us multiple boob shots of Lilith for little to no reason as is common with fan-service moments in anime.  So just know that if you plan on watching this you're going to end up seeing that as well which can be a little awkward.

Speaking of awkward.  I applaud when art tries to push boundaries sometimes or try to be different or edgy.  It's nice to see something not so cookie cutter and clean.  However there are certain moments that just get incredibly creepy in this anime.  For Example...
When Plum confronts Chizuru outside of Shinta's room he keeps talking about her body and keeps getting in close and the whole thing is very rapey
And then there's human Cammot who looks about 12ish sitting in a playground with her panties showing often while a grown man keeps taking photographs of her.   I know it's meant to be played off for laughs but that's just INCREDIBLY creepy.

The story as a whole is pretty good.  Yes it's another school anime but in all reality the school is just a backdrop to the actual story and has little to do with that.  It's interesting to see Lilith's struggle between following her set destiny or doing what she actually wants to do.  It's interesting to see the dynamic of Shinta falling for her and still caring for her despite who they both are.  The dynamic of the vampire having a werewolf sort of creature as a bodyguard while the vampire hunter has this cutesy cat girl is fun.  There are a lot of little things here and there that could have made for an incredibly interesting watch.... Why do I say could have been?

Well, this is Holy Knight's greatest sin.  Holy Knight is a 2-episode OVA and not a full series by most anime standards.  As such everything is really rushed and disjointed.  It truly needed to have been at minimum a standard 12-13 episode run where they could have given time to the relationship, explained more things about what's going on, given side stories an actual conclusion, allowed fight scenes to actually happen.  Instead we get a 2 episode run trying to cram everything from a 17 book manga into an hour.  It comes out cluttered and a bit of a mess.  Here are just a few examples of what I mean.

Cammot decides that she is going to protect Shinta after starting his awakening process...but then we don't see her anymore.  Plum bites Chizuru and she mentions how she is healing at an abnormal rate and is afraid she's becoming something other than human...yeah that goes absolutely nowhere.  There's a semi mysterious girl named Akira Sakamoto who seemed very interesting as a sort of quiet observer but she doesn't really do anything at least not in the anime.   The fight between the men and Plum happens off screen.  There's some old guy we see for half of a scene who doesn't do diddly squat.  We never get a real explanation of Shinta's powers.  The "fight" between Shinta and the men at the end is down to like two punches and they leave. 

And the creators knew how to make a scene stick and have weight.  The scene where Lilith confronts Shinta for the first time in the chapel is really well done in how forward she is and how awkward that situation would be.  The scene where Lilith is trapped at swordpoint in the chapel at the end is really creepy and well paced; it has an excellent atmosphere that sucked me in to the scene that had absolutely nothing to do with Lilith's toplessness.  They had the talent to create something great but they just didn't have enough episodes to tell a cohesive story and it's a real shame cause there is some excellence buried within that could have been exhibited.

Based on those comments you may be asking yourself why I chose to talk about this particular anime.  Especially when the normal selections for Ghost in the Case are movies and television shows which I feel that almost everyone should be able to enjoy.  Well that's because I want to talk about the English dub...and Anime dubs in general.
Yay for ulterior motives.

Let's Talk About Dubs

If you become an avid anime fan then it won't be long before you run into THESE sort of people.

That's right folks.  Anime fans were among one of the first groups of people to contract the Hipster Disease on a wholesale level or at least the first group I encountered on a large scale.  Just like music hipsters have heard of the band before they got popular and only liked their stuff before they were mainstream, Anime Hipsters knew about the anime before it was out of Japan and only like it in Japanese with English Subtitles (Note: I shall continue to refer to people of this mindset as Hipster Anime fans for the rest of the review).  Now I fully realize that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and it's good to have differing opinions, but this can be incredibly closed minded.

Dubs, I feel, are an essential part of anime as well as any foreign film or television show finding a new or different audience.  Providing audio in the native tongue of another person makes it far more accessible to that individual.  Obviously it is much easier to understand and become engrossed in a film if you are able to understand everything written and spoken on the screen.  Now here is where I and the Hipster Anime fan differ completely.   The Hipster Anime fan will proclaim that crossing the culture and language barrier is as easy as simply placing text along the bottom of the screen to translate what is written or said.  While this certainly does get the job done it is by no means the most efficient method.  Why? Well I'll dumb down my problem with subs into one simple photo.
BAM and there we have it. You can argue semantics of translation and the type of voice the original Japanese had for a character till you're blue in the face with some slight validity but it all goes down to the fact that film is supposed to SHOW you what happens and not tell you what happens.  The action happening on the screen doesn't stop just because people are talking and you have to look at the bottom of the screen to see what's going on; it keeps flowing as it should.  If I wanted to read about a story and have the action stop for me to be able to read what's going on and take in the scenery I'd pick up a copy of the manga and read that as it would be more effective.  The drawn pictures in manga don't continue to move while you stop to read what they said and you can fully absorb everything that's happening as it's happening.

Contrary to English Subtitles, English Dubs are available for many anime and are a way of keeping you invested and able to watch EVERYTHING on the screen while understanding what is being said.  By doing this, the viewer can stay more invested in what is going on instead of having to half-see what's going on while reading what's being said.  Dubs offer you the same experience that productions of that language provide; giving the impression that you are looking through a window at someone else's world.  It's simply more engaging that way.  That's not to say that anime or foreign film which is only presented with English subtitles are bad.   I watched all of High School of the Dead, Demon King Daimo, and Pandora Hearts (which I plan to cover at some point) with the original Japanese Audio because that's all that was presented at the current time and had a perfectly pleasant experience for the most part.  I just have to set aside time to really pay 100% attention to what's going on as opposed to how I usually watch television.  It's like Pan's Labyrinth.  I'm sure that's a wonderful movie and many people have praised it but the fact that it's English subtitle only has caused me to shy away from it because I don't want to miss the stunning visuals to have to look at the bottom of the friggin screen to read what they are saying.

Dubs often time don't get the respect they deserve because I don't think people sit down and realize the amount of work that has to go into them.  First you have to translate what's being said.  Then you have to modify the actual dialog so that the voice fits the animation happening while keeping true to the intention of the original dialog (if they are a good dub company anyway.)  Then you have to choose a voice actor who can portray the kind of voice that character should have or could potentially have.

Now I fully know there are horror stories out there about dubs.  I'll admit that there are some pretty lackluster ones out there.  There are companies that disregard what was actually being said in the original Japanese, making incredibly stupid localization changes, miscasting voice actors for roles they weren't the best in, or simply booking a famous screen actor and hoping their presence will boost the anime based on star power alone even though the actor can't really voice act.  I have no idea if they are doing this deliberately or not but they do exist.  What I would suggest is that you do a little bit of research.  See what people are saying about a dub and whether it's mindless Hipster garbage or if there has been some terrible decisions made about the anime.  If you think the majority of the voice actors aren't doing a good job then take the time to look at the credits and look up the voice actors.  It may be that this is one of their first projects and they are still getting their feet wet in the trade.  Very few people start out as strong as they finish.  Everyone looks back at their old work and realizes the limitations and inefficiencies they had while doing whatever it is they did and they can see how they've grown since then.  Voice Acting is the same.  Try to keep that in mind if you run across an anime that doesn't sound the best.  If there are many new faces to voice acting then take that into consideration.

It's like watching Classic Doctor Who.  If you had only been been watching the modern series since 2005 then you would be used to a certain caliber of acting and effects.  Going back and watching a classic series episode without taking the limitations of the time into account would result in laughter or general dislike.   For Example - The Silurians
Both of these creatures are the same race and species.  The one on the right is from the modern series which most people are used to.  The one on the left is their original form.  If you had just randomly popped in the episode of their original form you would say that it was horrible but that was their starting point and they only got better since then.  If you pop in an anime and you notice a fresh face... sure they may be rough around the edges and not that splendid like the original Silurian above... but with time they could very well become something quite wonderful given the time.  Look for the qualities in the voice acting that stand out.  Find what makes the voice for that character fit or be unique because you could be listening to a stepping stone towards a future favorite character of yours.

That all being said.....to try to put us back on track slightly.  Holy Knight isn't without it's dub problems.  I can see why people haven't been so keen on this particular dub.  It's not awful by any means as Ive seen much much worse.  The voices associated with these characters sound plausible and effective and do a decent job.  Nothing absolutely outstanding but it gets the job done.  Many of the voice actors in this anime are in their "Freshman or Sophomore Year" as far as their VA career and you can kind of tell it.  There's just a hint of a rough quality to some of the lines which will, more than likely, polish out over their careers.  There are a few lines that are delivered very awkwardly making me wonder why they chose that particular take but nothing so bad that it makes me want to single out any particular moment.  It's not a fantastic dub but it's not all that bad either.

Conclusion

If you are an avid fan of anime and don't mind watching an ecchi then you should give this a try out of sheer curiosity.  I highly doubt it will be anyone's favorite anime but there are enough interesting pieces and personality put into the project that it can be a strange but somewhat enjoyable ride.  It's not the greatest but it'll do.

If you are only a casual anime fan or you haven't really watched any anime then I would probably avoid this one.  It moves way too fast without much explanation and wouldn't do anyone any good if it was one of the only anime they had ever seen.

You may be asking yourself why I talked so much about Voice Actors and Dubs in this review.  You may even be wondering why I chose to cover something that I ultimately decided a general audience probably wouldn't enjoy much.  Well the whole reason I went into that and even watched this anime to begin with was a very personal one.

The male lead of the anime is voiced by none other than one of my best friends and an all over awesome guy, Daman Mills.  I first met Daman on a Super Smash Bros forum in 2007 and we have talked at least weekly ever since.  I knew him back when he was just a Dragonball Z fanboy who liked to do fandubs of Cell on YouTube all the while bugging us all to watch them.  They were very impressive but none of us thought that only eight years later he'd be voice acting in various indie video games and his first anime, Holy Knight.

He's got a real talent and I'm not saying this because he's my friend.   I have critiqued his fandubs and demos from a purely amateur standpoint (obviously) for years and he just keeps getting better and better.  I'm looking forward to the projects he is involved with, a few of them you will probably see on this blog.  Consider checking out this anime if for no other reason than to hear him.  If not look up other projects he has worked on and check out just how versatile he really is.

Holy Knight is rated R (for the pointless boob shots mostly) and is currently available on DVD from rightstuff.com and is streaming for free on Crunchyroll for all members which can be found here.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.

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If you want to see what Daman's been up with with is voice acting you can check out his website or his Professional Facebook Page.
If you want to see my other Movie and Television reviews/recommendations then simply click here!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ghost's Arcade: Dishonored

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Early in the morning          
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This is your standard spoiler warning.  If you don't want Dishonored spoiled then you should probably move along.

I knew it was only a matter of time before you showed up again to take your revenge on me.  Revenge is what you do best, after all, just like Corvo.  I just hope I have the stomach for you this time around.
This is Ghost, thanks for joining!

In 2012 I made a blog post about Why the Modern FPS is Killing Gaming.  In that discussion I called out Dishonored an an example of publishers wanting something done quickly and cheaply and how I was utterly disappointed in Dishonored as a whole; my hype for it being killed completely once I found out that it was just a bunch of episodic missions.  I wasn't altogether fair with that criticism... at least not in that particular aspect as I was judging something based on purely what others were saying and not my own findings.  That and I shouldn't fault a game for being different than the other Bethesda products I had played since I was comparing it to Skyrim... a problem that wasn't helped by the fact that the same character appears in both games.

So in 2013 I got the game... and my disappointment stayed with me.  There were a lot of things about the game that just didn't make me want to continue with it so I boxed it up and put it on my gaming shelf to sit there beside Phantom Hourglass in the line of games that I don't want to play ever again but don't want to sell back to Gamestop out of the chance I might get a brain aneurism and decide I want to play something painful for some reason.  Jump to 2015 and I was watching a Games Done Quick episode of Banjo-Kazooie for my review of that game and ran across Decidedsloth's Non-Lethal Ghost Speedrun of Dishonored.  It honestly made me want to play the game once more since I had only gotten to the second mission in my one and only playthrough.  I was determined to get to the end of the game this time no matter how irritating it might end up being.

So... is there hidden greatness in this game or will I remain completely disappointed like I had for those other two years?  Let's take a look!

The Story
Corvo Attano has just returned from a mission by the Empress of a land that resembles Revolutionary Era France if they had started to develop steampunk technology.  He was sent to find out what has caused this plague spreading through the land turning people into zombie-like creatures called Weepers.  As her personal bodyguard he completed the mission quickly and returned back to her sooner than expected.  Within minutes of returning, Corvo is subdued by assassins who kill the Empress and kidnap her daughter Emily.  The assassins vanish just as quickly as they appeared and Corvo is blamed for killing the Empress.  While in the interrogation room, one of the political leaders explains to Corvo that they knew he didn't do it but are letting him take the blame so that they can change how the country is run.  Corvo is sentenced to death.

Later that evening Corvo is released from prison by a group of Loyalists who still believe in what the Empress stood for.  They need Corvo's skills to find Emily and get revenge on the corrupt leaders in power.  As Corvo prepares for the next day, he gets a visit from a man known as The Other who brands Corvo with his mark and grants him the ability to use arcane magic.  Using his natural skills and his new found power, Corvo sets out on several missions for the Loyalists.  Along his adventure he must eliminate two of the highest ranking political figures in the city, eliminate two brothers who hold power in the "senate" of their world, eliminate the corrupt figure head's mistress, and kidnap a brilliant scientist.  Thankfully during this ordeal of backstabbing, sneaking, and deal-making, Corvo finds Emily being held hostage and rescues her taking her back to the Loyalists.

After all of his missions are complete and everything seems to be going the right way, Corvo is poisoned by the Loyalists who plan to arrive at the capitol triumphant that they found Emily and killed the man who killed her mother.  Thankfully the boat man, Samuel, who had been assisting with your missions only gave Corvo half of the poison so that he would live and sends your unconscious body down the river in a boat.  Corvo is then taken captive by the group of assassins who murdered the Empress.  After breaking free from the assassins and returning to the Loyalists' camp, Corvo finds that they have taken Emily away with them.  Breaking into their stronghold Corvo must eliminate the Loyalists who betrayed him and rescue Emily so that she can become the new Empress with Corvo guarding her till the day he dies.
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As far as the main storyline is concerned it's not bad... it's just nothing new and I along with many other people saw the "plot twist" about the Loyalists turning on you from across the continent.  Now it's not a bad thing to fall back on tested and true storytelling devices but I was just expecting a little bit more from my French Revolution steampunk zombie apocalypse stealth revenge game but I'm probably just being nitpicky here.  I also have to find a bit of amusement that this is the second video game in a row that's reminded me of The Last of Us.  If you want to have zombies in your game then just have zombies.  I realize that including zombies in your game in this day and age is on the same level of the Creativity Scale as including healing potions in the game, but if you're going to go the zombie route then stop dancing around the topic with silly names like Infected and Weepers.

While the main storyline is mostly the same old formulaic plot we've seen over and over, there are a fair amount of side missions and subplots that DO bring some interesting creativity to the mix.  There's a sort of weird turf war between the leader of a street gang named Slackjaw and a blind semi-immortal witch named Granny Rags.  In one segment you catch your weapons creator being a creepy pervert and scold him for it which was fairly amusing.  There's humorous conversations between guards and other NPCs that can catch you off guard like this one conversation I heard between two guards where one was asked how old his sister was, and he responded with "blow off, choffer!"  There's an old fashioned pistol duel at a masquerade... the list goes on.  It's all the side content in the story that really makes this an interesting experience.  The strangest of all is the Art Dealer who is tied up to and electrocution machine at a brothel because that's just his fetish apparently.
I'm not actually joking...this is a thing

Most of the characters you meet through the game aren't anything outstanding.  The villains are fairly generic corrupt politicians while the loyalists are mostly generic noblemen and military men with an agenda.  Even some of the more amusing characters like Emily and Slackjaw are still nothing extremely unique, just a semi-standard girl and mob boss.  The only two who really stood out to me are Granny Rags and Samuel.  Granny Rags comes off at first as just a rambling crazy old bat who's just a little weird, however she later turns out to be a threatening presence once the turf war between her and Slackjaw comes to a close.  You just have to trust me on that one it's bizarre and creepy.  Samuel is your boat driver who carts you to and from each mission.  He's a wonderful character who is that kind older man who knows his place in the world and hopes for the best with a little bit of humor along the way.  He's really great and he's probably my favorite character in the entire game!  The rest are nice just not all that memorable to the point that half of them I don't even remember their names.

Gameplay
The gameplay for the most part is pretty solid.  Character movement was not delayed or clunky; climbing around on walls and barriers was also easy to master and simple enough to use.  This game is in the first person so the camera was never an issue.  Everything seemed pretty fluent.  The only issue I had with generalized movement was once you unlocked the Agility perk and got the double jump ability.  Sometimes for no reason whatsoever the double jump just refused to work.  Actually it just flat refused to work in any aspect more often than not.  I've never seen anyone really complain about this so maybe I'm just doing it wrong but it became quite annoying especially in some of the harder segments of the last mission.

Combat is pretty decent as well.  You have various avenues of taking people down be they magical or weapon-based attacks.  You always have your sword with you but you can also have a crossbow, pistol, grenades, and these sort of land mine things.  You also have some pretty awesome magic to help you eliminate enemies such as summoning a hoard of rats to devour your targets or sending out a blast of wind which blows away targets slamming them into walls etc.  There's even a skill that turns anyone you've killed stealthily to ash.  The only issue I ever had was depth perception with using the sword.  Your sword is deceptively short and I ended up flailing around with my sword hitting nothing for quite a while before I got used to the distance needed to actually strike an opponent.  I'd suggest saving your game and running head first into a small group of guards to practice your swordplay in the first mission so that you're prepared for later levels when there are more of them.  I don't have a lot to say about the combat because one of the core mechanics of the game is that of stealth.

Being stealthy is key to this game as being spotted instantly results in several burly men rushing towards you to fight to the death with very few opportunities to really lose them and hide for awhile.  There are some added bonuses to doing things stealthily such as gear enhancements that make you silent, and sleep darts which knock people out instantly.  You can sneak up on people and choke them into a state of unconsciousness as well.  Once you have knocked someone out (or killed them) it's best to find a place to hide them because if another guard spots an unconscious or dead body they'll start looking around for you for quite some time.  It's better to never have that happen.  Thankfully you have some magic that helps with moving around stealthily such as Dark Vision which allows you to see through walls and see the scope of view enemies have.  You also get an incredibly useful skill called Blink which teleports you to the place of your choosing instantly.  Finally, you get Bend Time which,  when fully upgraded, completely stops time so that you can get around tricky situations without being seen whatsoever.

The stealth is quite good, however there are a couple problems with that.  The first of which is the choking mechanics.  Choking while crouched utilizes the same button as blocking with your sword.  Sometimes for no reason whatsoever you'll sneak up behind a guy and attempt to choke them only to wave your sword around performing the blocking action like you're doing a street performance novelty act and ultimately making such a noise doing so that you get caught.  The second problem is with the AI of the guards and other enemies.   With many stealth portions of games, wherever the body is pointed is where the cone of vision lies making it easy to walk around enemies... NOT IN THIS GAME.  Many of the guards have random head movements meaning they can be walking in one direction but for NO reason whatsoever just look over to the left or right meaning you will get caught out of sheer dumb luck.  Why is getting caught a problem in this game?  WELL... that leads into my next section and the biggest problem with this game hands down.

The Moral Choice Problem
That's right ladies and gentlemen, go ahead and wail in torment because this game has a morality path. Now I've played games with a morality path in the past and most of them have ranged from fairly good to absolutely awful; this game is on the lower end of the scale for morality paths.  You see, in this game there are two different ending scenarios... well three technically but you have to actively choose the worst one of the three.  The morality choices you make not only affect the ending but it also affects little things in the game like the number of enemies, the presence of terrible storms, the number of plague rats, and the personality of Emily which is a really nice touch that you don't see very often.
In order to get the good ending you have to have low chaos throughout the game. If you have high chaos through the game then you end up with the bad ending.   Being the person I am, as soon as I learned that there were two different endings, I wanted to get the good ending.  That shouldn't be too hard should it?  Little did I know the tedious horror that awaited me.

In order to get the good ending where the plague is stopped, Emily is on the throne, and the land enters a golden age of peace you must have low chaos in most of the missions in the game.  How do you achieve low chaos? Well first off you have to not kill the civilians.  That's not a problem whatsoever as civilians don't actually attack you once they spot you; they either run away screaming or just ignore you for the most part.  Easy enough.  You also have to deal with all of your assassination missions in a non-lethal manner.  That's fine as well because there are ready-made ways of doing that for each and every one of them hidden in the mission somewhere that don't require a ton of extra time in all reality.  I do have to question the "good morality" in not killing the targets however because some fates are far worse than death.  Personally I think death would be a more kind and better option than being exiled to eventually become a zombie, having your tongue cut out and placed into a slave labor mine, or being held against your will for the rest of your life by a man who has the hots for you... I'll let your mind wander on that one for a moment.  If those were the only calculations in the morality choice then I wouldn't have a problem but NOPE there's more!

You also have to avoid killing as many of the city guards and zombies as possible in this game... less than 20% of them can die at any given time through the game period.  WHAT?!  That's right, both the city guards and zombies who instantly attack you in gross the second they spot you have to be spared as well.  Now let's take a look at this little problem.  The only way to take out someone non-lethally is to use a sleep dart or choke them.  Choking takes time and you can be spotted by random head movements while doing so making this occasionally fail.  Sleep darts only work while you remain unnoticed and make the person drop where they are.  If the person falls and makes noise they'll start looking for you.  If someone turns their head and sees their unconscious coworker they will start to look for you and if they find you you can't use sleep darts or choke them to knock them unconscious the only way out is killing them which you want to actively avoid in order to get the good ending.  Now it's true that you can purchase an upgrade that make your sleep darts effective during battle so if you're spotted you can still knock people unconscious but in many sections there are a large number of guards who come running to attack you so you'll have to use the majority of your sleep darts as you can only carry 10 of them with no way of increasing your sleep dart capacity.

So basically if you want to get the good ending you're going to have to save often.  This game ends up being a saving and loading simulator if you aren't perfect at it.  Very often I ended up getting caught by someone resulting in him calling seven other burly men there to shoot at me.  At this junction in most other games you would either do what comes naturally and take the men down to continue your mission or find a way out of it organically and naturally as one would need to do if they found themselves in this situation, however because so much work and effort were being put into getting low chaos and having the good ending I just ended up sighing, shouting an insult at the game and loading my previous save point since I didn't want to waste all that effort simply because Captain Meathead decided to turn his head slightly to the left and caught a glimpse of my elbow hiding behind a trashcan.  It was absolutely tedious and frustrating.  90% of the game consisted of me taking out a guy stealthily, dragging his body to a hiding spot, saving the game, taking out another person dragging his body to a hiding spot and saving the game etc etc.

Now obviously if you don't care about which ending you get and are willing to accept the bad ending where the plague continues to happen and Emily is only remembered as a failed Empress with a twisted sense of reality then you have no issues.  Just slit throats wherever you wish and be gone about your business as usual.  However if you want the good ending it's a real chore and it didn't need to be.  There was one easy way to fix the whole issue of the morality choice and that was to simply eliminate the City Guard and Zombies from adding to the chaos calculation.  That's it!   I appreciate a game trying to think of the whole of humanity here but few if any games ever do this sort of thing.

Take Fallout 3, another Bethesda Game for example.
If I walk up and kill someone who's just standing around you get bad karma for making a bad morality choice.  If I decide to poison the water supply to kill all Super Mutants in the game I get bad karma for making a bad morality choice, but if I run across a pack of Super Mutants intending to turn my insides into a kebab for simply breathing the same air as them I'm at full liberty to redecorate the walls with their blood at no risk of making a bad morality choice because they were hostile first.  That's what this should have been.  Don't kill civilians who aren't attacking and find nicer ways to take out your assassination targets... anyone who attacks you on sight is considered a hostile and doesn't count toward your morality.  BAM!  Just made the game 10 times more enjoyable and satisfying.

Conclusion
Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw said it best.  "I left Dishonored disappointed, not angry, disappointed.  Like if someone I respected forgot which part of the body piss comes out of.... It's like someone took a box of Ferrero Rocher and randomly distributed them throughout a spherical mass of damp toilet paper. Not a painful experience, but it just makes sense to get Ferrero Rocher at a different sweets shop." 

That's pretty much how I feel about Dishonored.  There's a lot of creativity and ideas in this game between the setting, some of the characters, the powers and the designs.  It's honestly something that under normal circumstances I would return to time and time again like Fallout 3 and Skyrim but how they implemented the morality choice just killed it for me and killed my enjoyment of the game.  It's sad when there can be so much right with a game but then colossally mess up one aspect so bad that it destroys any enjoyment you might have had.

If you don't care about having the bad ending and are perfectly fine with having a bleak outlook of the human experience and future then you probably won't have as big of a problem with this game as I did.  If you are like me and are striving for a good ending then I doubt I can recommend this as it  becomes quite a tedious frustration.... not bad just a real disappointment of what could have been something absolutely wonderful.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ghost's Kitchen: Loretta's Cheesecake Pie

What's cooking today?
A very simple cheesecake!
(no, I didn't get the best angle in the shot)

Hello, and welcome to another segment of

I don't make many desserts in all honesty.  I'm not entirely certain why either.  I love desserts as you can obviously tell since I don't exactly resemble the ghost pokemon above that are my M.O. but rather like another famous pokemon.
There is, however, one dessert that I make which I want to share with you all.  It takes a little bit of time depending on the kind of equipment you have but trust me, it's worth it.

So why is this called Loretta's Cheesecake Pie instead of just Cheesecake Pie?  Well this recipe was given to me a few years back by a good buddy of mine, Clinton Peterson.  This was his mother Loretta's recipe.  He gave it to me under the idea that if I found a way to make it better I would let him know, so I'm doing the same with you all.  If you find a way to make this better than it currently is let me know so I can try it out for myself.

Pre-Warning: This recipe has a little more waste and uncertainty than normal.  Due to how things are packaged and the amounts of this recipe you will probably have some leftover ingredients that you'll either need to be creative with or just end up throwing away.  For example, I used a regular pie crust but had I bought the larger pie crust I might have not tossed away any of the actual cheesecake mixture.  However it doesn't matter what size crust you choose or how creative you are, you will end up wasting about 1/3rd of a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Just get used to that fact now.

Gather Your Ingredients and Tools
  • Graham Cracker Pie Crust
  • 2 8-ounce packages of Cream Cheese
  • 1 Cup of Sugar
  • 1 Cup of Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/4th Cup of Lemon Juice
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vanilla
  • Knife
  • 2-3 Measuring Cups
  • Tablespoon or Tablespoon sized measuring spoon
  • Cooking Pan
  • Oven Mitt(s)
  • A way to mix the ingredients (depending on what you have available)
    • Good Sturdy Blender and Silicone Spatula  OR
    • Large mixing bowl, hand mixer or wooden spoon and elbow grease
PLEASE NOTE: if your blender is not a very good one I would suggest using a hand mixer or wooden spoon and a bowl.  The mixture is incredibly thick and difficult for many blenders to handle.  Mine is a fairly expensive one purchased by my parents and it still barely gets the job done.  Use caution if going with the blender option.  There is no shame in stopping the blender and pouring the mixture into a bowl to finish. 

1. Soften your Cream Cheese.
Cream Cheese is so much easier to mix when it's warmer than the refrigerator.  Set your cream cheese on the counter for a good 10-20 minutes before starting this so it's nice and pliable.

2. Preheat your Oven and prepare crust
Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Remove the cover from your graham cracker crust and place it on a baking pan.

3. Mix half of your ingredients together in blender/bowl
I have a good blender (thanks to my Mother) and so I will be showing you what it looks like from that perspective.  If you only have a bowl and mixing spoon or a hand mixer the texture should look the same as what you're seeing here.  Take one package of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup of sweetened condensed milk and mix them together.   Do yourself a favor and cut the cream cheese up into segments rather than trying to mix the whole lump at once like I did here.  Mix them until they are of a uniform texture with no lumps or clumps similar to the picture below.
 If you are using a blender you will more than likely need to use a silicone spatula to help the very top portion of the ingredients get mixed in with everything else in every single mixing step of this process.



 4.  Mix the other half in
Take your second package of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup of sweetened condensed milk and mix them in with the existing mixture till it's all of the same uniform consistency with no clumps.   I even cut the cream cheese up this time! 


5. Add Vanilla
Add your 1 Tablespoon of Vanilla and mix it all together



6. Add Lemon Juice
Add 1/4th Cup of Lemon Juice and mix it all together

7. Add Egg
Add one large egg and mix it all together.

8. Ensure Uniformity
Make sure that the whole mixture has no lumps or clumps.  It shouldn't have any different colors it should just be one mixture that's very smooth.

9. Pour Filling into Pie Crust
Pour the filling into the pie crust till it's almost to the top of the crust.  The mixture will rise slightly when it's baked but not that much.   If you use a standard pie crust like I did, you will have some leftover filling but perhaps if you use the larger crusts you can fill it completely.  Do what you want with the leftover (I just tossed mine)

10. Bake for 30-ish minutes
Here's where you need to keep an eye on the thing.  30 minutes may be enough for your oven or it may be too much or too little.  What you're looking for is for it to be darker than the normal "golden brown" that most people say to cook things to.  Mine took around 28 minutes total to bake and was slightly darker than I normally make it so start checking somewhere around to 25 minute mark to see if it's ready or not.  You don't want your cheesecake to burn or it will be nasty!

11. Cool Cheesecake
Once it has reached a look similar to the picture above, take it out of the oven and let it cool on the pan for around 20 minutes.

12. Cool Cheesecake even more
Once it has reached a temperature that you can pick it up with your bare hands it's time to cool the cheesecake even further.  Place the lid that came with the crust on the cheese cake and place it in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.  If you are planning on eating the cheesecake sooner then place it in the freezer for one hour.

13. Cut, Serve, and Enjoy!


I hope that Loretta's recipe will continue to spread and that you all enjoy this (kind of) rich dessert just as much as Clinton and I have!  I'm sure Loretta would be happy to know that a recipe of hers would be making people smile years after her passing.


This is Ghost fading into the darkness.

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If you want to see my other food topics and recipes then simply click here!