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Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy
Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy
Offered by ffdistantworlds
Price: $12.95
32 used & new from $6.78

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great arrangement, horrible mastering, September 24, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This CD is a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, the orchestra arrangement is impeccable and powerful. On the other hand, the album is horribly mastered. Most of the reviews focus on the individual pieces, and for the most part, I agree that the tracks are great, especially highlights such as Liberi Fatali, Aerith's Theme, Memoro de la Stono, the Mario and Draco Opera, and One Winged Angel. Instead, I will focus on the mastering problem, which diminishes the enjoyment of listening to these otherwise wonderful pieces.

The album is far too compressed during the mastering process. For those of you who are not familiar with audio compression, I am not referring to compression of CD or WAV to some lossy format such as MP3. Audio compression is the process of taking a recording and making everything louder, and in the process, loud peaks within a track gets cut off, which means you're essentially losing audio data. For an idea of its effects, please refer to:


One (out of many) example of this heavy compression killing the music is in One Winged Angel, at 0:39, when the big drums hit. In a live setting, that produces a loud, thundering bass sound compared to the rest of the sounds. Instead, what we get in the CD is a distorted mesh that only sounds nominally louder than the other sounds, in essence, losing whatever dynamics the original sound had.

It's unfortunate that the producers of this album decided to go this route, especially considering that classical recordings (the closest genre this album comes to) typically have the most dynamic range and least compression.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 12, 2015 8:12 PM PDT

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
Offered by PriceBite
Price: $16.69
169 used & new from $4.50

669 of 830 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Starcraft 2: The Love-Hate Relationship, July 28, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Blizzard's (now Activision-Blizzard) obvious success today was hardly a guarantee over a decade ago, and I believe two unshakable tenets of the company back then were responsible for taking them from small game developer to the huge juggernaut that they are now: polish and care. The polish is still there, but the care is gone.

Let me begin by addressing the good stuff in Starcraft 2 first, namely, how polished the game itself is.

Graphics, sound, and game play:

You have to hand it to Blizzard, their art direction is amazing. With such comparatively low polygon count for modern mainstream computer games, there is a world of details coupled with aesthetic color schemes that could make anyone smile. I really cannot stress the attention to detail enough, such as the Terrans laying down their barracks and seeing the beams and foundations go up in real time, the lighting effects of Protoss attack beams, or the reflective organic surface of Zerg bodies. It makes the game feel alive.

The musical score and sound effects aren't fodder to the pretty graphics either; the production values are high and one can hear all of the treble and specific timbre that goes with every explosion or laser beam that gets fired with a clarity and sharpness that's to be expected of Blizzard's products. As any of the Starcraft veterans know, the music perfectly complements each of the three distinct races very well, from the mellow alternative rock motifs of the Terrans, to the new-age majesty of the Protoss, to the sci-fi horror-themed screeches of the Zerg. You may not personally enjoy listening to the background music per se, but it's undeniable that the pieces fit with each race.

The single player campaign, from the missions I have played thus far, are engaging and wholly satisfying, with the feel of an epic trilogy along the veins of high-budget Hollywood trilogies. I have always adored Blizzard's attention to story and lore, even if the same themes (betrayal, vengeance, contrition, forgiveness, etc) are used over and over again in their other franchises, but who's to complain? They're classic, timeless, literary themes.

The game play is fast and action-paced, save for maybe the first 3-5 minutes of the game where everyone is building up. I can't say that Starcraft's brand of fast-paced, high-lethality game play is for everyone, as the learning curve to be considered moderately good is quite high. Thankfully, Bnet2.0's matching service somewhat mitigates this difference by pairing you with someone similarly skilled by considering total games played, win-loss ratio, level of opponents, etc. How well this matches players is up to debate, but so far I don't have any complaints.

Now for the bad stuff, which may sound confusing to new players of Blizzard games, but veterans will instantly recognize the problems addressed.

Omission of obvious Bnet2.0 features, RealID support requirement, lack of LAN support, and cost:

The original Starcraft, and each subsequent rendition of [...], has several key features that is conspicuously missing from the Bnet2.0 used in Starcraft 2, namely:
-Private channel support
-Private game features missing
-Named custom games
-Regional server options

Private channel support:
Why is there no private channel support? If Activision-Blizzard were honest with their words that they wanted a [...] experience so good that we wouldn't want to play offline or on LAN, why leave out such an obvious feature? Private channels allow clans or friends to gather in a chatroom in [...] to organize events, discuss strategies, or just shoot the breeze in general. The lack of private channel support is a huge offense, since this was a standard feature in the days of the original Starcraft, over a decade ago.

Private game features missing:
As it is currently, to join custom games, two players would have to have each other's game ID, and add each other to their respective friends list. Not only that, ALL friends can see and join games that are created by a user on the friend list. What if you just wanted to relax and host a random custom game with complete strangers, or host a custom game with certain friends but not others? Well, you can't easily do this, since any friend on your list can see the game you've made, and can subsequently join it if they wish.

Named custom games:
Anyone who has played Starcraft or Warcraft III on [...] knows that custom game names are important. "2v2 LT no rush 20min" or "DOTA Cali ALL RANDOM" tell game seekers exactly what they're getting into when they join these games. This is no longer possible with the current Bnet2.0, as you are only privy to the game map name, and speed of the game.

Regional server options:
In the old [...] if you had friends in different parts of the world (North America, South America, Asia, Europe), you can switch your [...] server to hop over to any of those servers and play with/against them, albeit probably with much more lag, but nonetheless, the option is there. In Starcraft 2, you are locked to the region of your purchase, so there would be no way for you to change region servers. If you're in the east coast and want to play a few [...] games at 2am and it's too late in the night to find many games on the east coast, you would not be able to hop on over to the west coast where it's only 11pm, and likely more players are still on.

RealID support requirement:
The Orwellian requirement to link one's real name and location to their PUBLIC support forum profile is ridiculous; the potential for abuse is endless, as it is for anything that reveals real, personal information. I guess one could make the argument that it is in the game's disclaimer, or just don't buy the game altogether.

Lack of LAN support:
This cannot be stressed enough, LAN is an integral part of modern multiplayer RTS games, even if the majority of players will not be using it often. Just because most people don't use Radians on calculators, does that mean we should get rid of it entirely and use only Degrees? The point is, LAN settings could range from fun, social gatherings with friends, to tournaments hosted at some internet cafe; being 100% reliant on [...] to be up is hardly reassuring, especially considering that tournaments require the low latency that only LAN environments can provide.

At $60, and with all of the previous issues addressed, Starcraft 2 is too much for its worth. I hate to say it, but as much as I love the game play and the level of polish, the price tag does not justify the clear omission of certain key features.

I love Blizzard's RTS franchises, but it seems that Activision-Blizzard has stopped caring about the long-time fans that catapulted them to their prominence today. I love Starcraft 2's game play and level of polish, but I cannot get past some of the egregious offenses that the game possesses.
Comment Comments (51) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 28, 2010 4:13 PM PDT

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