This week I'm still talking about Yakuza, so to make up for that I've got TWO albums to talk about! Granted, they're both indie rock from the late 90s, but still! Two! That's wild!! Also from now on the links will be on the images rather than the words "game" and "album", just a heads up :) Enjoy!
So yesterday I finished Yakuza and overall, I really loved it. Maybe not as much as I did in the beginning, but I would still easily recommend this game to anyone who likes turn based battles and twisty stories. The combat stayed satisfying, if a bit long winded, the writing stayed top notch, the voice acting was great, and the visuals were equal parts mind-blowing and cozy. Hell, the third act of the game even introduces a little bit of challenge with some bosses, including one in particular I ended up fighting four or five times. There were just some stumbles along the way.
For example, one of my biggest gripes with the game is actually related to that challenging boss fight; When you get to said fight, if you (like me) had been mostly focusing on the story, doing some sidestories as they've come up but not going too far out of your way, you'll be about 15 levels underleveled for this fight, which makes it damn near impossible. Now, right before the fight, the game shows you a battle arena that seems perfect for grinding and says "Hey isn't this cool? You can grind here! Maybe you should polish up you skills!" to which my response was "Wow, maybe if I'm at a less high-stakes part of the story I'll come back and do that" before promptly getting walloped bt said boss. I just love mandatory grinding in games 😬
My other big issue is a pretty standard one for games of this nature, and one that this game isn't even remotely the worst offender with, but... there are not many women with agency in this story. Saeko has a good amount, Hamako is pretty good too, and Eri has, like, some? Oh and Seong Hui is good too. But this is a story populated 80%-90% with men putting on tough faces to hide their soft interiors, just like the mafia movies it's story takes influence from.
That being said, the game's themes are really great. It takes my favorite theme from before, sympathy towards sex workers, and expands it to everyone in a so-called "grey zone"; the places people end up when they are left behind by society, where often the only way to survive is to turn to crime. The recognition that people who commit crimes aren't bad people is such a nuanced theme that this game gets right on the money, even making it the crux of the whole story, and I'm so happy about it. The other big themes, the idea that familial love transcends bloodline and that power and abuse of power often go hand in hand, especially when power is sought for its own gain, are more standard, but still well explored.
Alright, I think I've written enough words about this game now lol. It's not without its flaws, but it's still a joy of an experience that I can't recommend enough. It seems like a pretty good starting point to the series too, even though the last chapter is chock full of nods to the earlier games (I assume; I haven't played any yet haha). So yeah, play this game!!
This week we've got two somewhat similar albums up: Sad Sappy Sucker by Modest Mouse, and We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes by Death Cab for Cutie. Both of these are early, somewhat lofi albums in very acclaimed indie band's careers, both have their fair share of midwest emo influences, and they're both damn good, if not underrated.
First I'll talk about Sad Sappy Sucker. This was supposed to be their first album, but it didn't end up getting released until after album 4, and came with some bonus tracks. It's an interesting album in the Modest Mouse canon, being shorter than their other albums by a wide margin, and scrappier than even their actual debut. All of these are positives for me honestly. I love scrappy DIY sounding albums (see: The Microphones' Tests) and long albums are hard for me to sit still through. However, this album is also kind of undercooked. The hooks don't quite stick, the lyrics aren't memorable so much as just kinda opaque, and calling most of these songs "structured" feels like I'm overselling it.
That being said, it's an album filled to the brim with charm, a collection of near-demos that're just fun. Now the bonus tracks they added for the release are from a Dial-A-Song thing they did around the same time, and they just don't add anything to this experience. They sound like they were recorded from a phone, so they have phone call-quality audio. It's a bit much even for me, and the songs here are even more half-baked than the rest of the album. I'd recommend listening to this album if you already like early Modest Mouse, or if you just like that kind of lofi indie/midwest emo jangly guitar music. I also recommend stopping the album after Blue Cadet 3 to avoid 10 minutes of voicemail messages.
On the other hand, We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes is a much more polished album, much less DIY sounding, but it's polished in a way where it still sounds like it was recorded at home, just with a lot of know-how. What results is a very full sound, with vocals deep in the mix and a gentler, more low-key sound than most indie rock. The lyrics are kind of unintelligible most of the time as a result, but it doesn't detract from the album at all for me. Instead it just reminds me of slowcore, a la Red House Painters. The guitars sound warm and creamy, the drums sound good, if a bit plain (but its a home studio so it's understandable), and the overall sound of this album is just c o z y. I'll be listening to it for a good few more days if trends hold, and I think they will. I wish I had more to say about this album, but it's just really enjoyable to listen to in a way that makes me not focus on the flaws, which is probably the best thing an album can be. Anyways I might have a shirt with the album cover on it by year end so... yeah I recommend this album lol
Alright another successful blog post!! Hopefully I can keep this pace up, though I just started playing Persona 4 Golden, which is notably a Long-Ass Game. Might do some retrospectives for the next few weeks, at least on the games front. Thanks for reading!!