Dragon Questing V Part XVIII [Game Overview]
May 28th, 2010 by Dan

Grandmaster Nimzo from Dragon Quest V

Grandmaster Nimzo looks kind of like a Namekian, doesn't he?

This is it, the final confrontation for Dan and his family against the forces of evil that have plagued his entire life. After a brief stop in an underworld town, Dan, Debora, Dave, and Beca all headed for Mount Zugzwang (ridiculous name for the final fortress, I know). The monsters were all at their toughest, but they were no match for the party and they quickly reached the holding place of Dan’s mother, Madalena.

After a tearful reunion, Mada decides to give up her life to weaken the final boss, Grandmaster Nimzo (Grandmaster, get it?). Just before she can finish her sacrifice, the first boss of the dungeon, the man who had tormented Dan for his entire life, Bishop Ladja, appeared to disrupt the sacrifice by murdering Madalena before it could be completed. After finally defeating him, Mada somehow calls upon the light to finish him off before he could escape yet again. With her last bit of life she called upon the Goddess to lend strength to Dan to help him kill Nimzo. She died and Pankraz’s soul appeared. The two of them said goodbye to their family and disappeared into the afterlife.

With a renewed sense of purpose, Dan and his family pressed onward to the Grandmaster to strike him down. Like other characters in the game, Nimzo had an accent, but it was super bizarre to emphasize just how otherworldly he was. Instead of using the normal, in-game font, Nimzo spoke with symbols and custom, super alien-looking script that was actually really difficult to understand. No matter, his words were unnecessary as the party teamed up to fight his two forms and defeat him, ending the underworld threat forever and concluding the Zenithian saga (DQ VI is part of the Zenithian Saga, but it takes place before IV and V).

With Nimzo dead, the Zenithian Dragon, AKA Dr. Agon, carted Dan and his family throughout the world to get some closure with the various people he knew from his travels. They visited Harry, Bianca, Nera, and many more before returning to Gotha and settling down to live happily ever after.

So concludes the epic tale of Dan and his family’s journey. There will probably be one more post for me to address how I felt about this game and conclude this feature.

Maeda Does It Again: Yesterday’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
May 28th, 2010 by Dan

Hiroshima Carp Calbee

I don't have any pictues of Kenta Maeda to put up, so this is the next best thing.

I don’t know why I’m surprised to see Maeda pitched when I see the Carp played a shutout. He really is the best pitcher in the Central League so far.

27 May

Chiba Lotte Marines (0) at Hiroshima Carp (3). Maeda scatters four hits over 8 while Yokoyama notches the save. This brings Hiroshima’s record up to 20-29-0 in fifth.

Rakuten Eagles (3) at Yakult Swallows (3). Both teams battle into a tie in the 12th, unable to break the deadlock. Rakuten’s record kind of rises to 22-28-1, tying them with the Fighters in fifth.

Washington Nationals (4) at San Francisco Giants (5). The Nats lose the game in a disastrous 7th inning pitched by Stammen, Burnett, and Walker. Their 24-24 record ties them for fourth with Florida.

Oakland Athletics (7) at Baltimore Orioles (5). Mark Hendrickson blows this game in the eighth by giving up three. It’s no wonder the Marlins got rid of him. Baltimore’s record falls to 15-33 on the year in last.

Atlanta Braves (8) at Florida Marlins (3). Ricky Nolasco has a mediocre start cut short at four innings by a rain delay and the Marlins relief corp couldn’t hold on. Their bats couldn’t contribute either, so the Fish went down, yet again, to the accursed Braves. They are now playing 0.500 ball again at 24-24

Chicago White Sox (1) at Tampa Bay Rays (5). It’s important to establish dominance yet again after the embarrassing sweep the Rays just suffered. Not to mention the fact that Jeff Niemann is the last remaining lossless starter in the American League. He holds on to that title, improving to 5-0 while the Rays increase to 33-15.

Swept!: Yesterday’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
May 27th, 2010 by Dan

Tampa Bay Rays vs New York Yankees at Tropicana Field

Q: When is it ok to get swept by the Red Sox?

27 May

Chiba Lotte Marines (9) at Hiroshima Carp (1). When you give up four home runs in one game, it takes some mighty fine offense to catch up. Hiroshima’s offense is so streaky, this will never happen when they need it. The Carp record declines to 19-29-0 in fifth. I want to see them be < 10 games back for the rest of the season. Come on, guys! Rakuten Eagles (3) at Yakult Swallows (2). Rakuten just gets it done against the heavily struggling Yakult squad. Their manager has stepped down due to the ridiculous skip the team has faced so far. Rakuten's record improves to 22-28. They're getting there. MLB
Oakland Athletics (6) at Baltimore Orioles (1). After a stellar start to the season, Brian Matusz has been having some serious struggles, giving up all six of Oakland’s runs. Their record rests at 15-32 after the bloodbath.

Atlanta Braves (7) at Florida Marlins (3). When I left this game it was 1-0 Marlins. Then I check the scores after my softball game and they’ve somehow managed to blow it! The Hopper, Burke Badenhop, just isn’t getting it done for the Fish these days. This loss costs them second place with their 24-23 record.

Boston Red Sox (11) at Tampa Bay Rays (3). What is going on with the Rays these past three days? I would never have thought Matt Garza would give up six to the Sox. Baseball’s a game of ebbs and flows, but the Rays need to start flowing again and soon! Their 32-15 record is still good enough for first, but they can’t keep losing like this if they want to hold on to it.

Washington Nationals (7) at San Francisco Giants (3). The only team that I follow here to win last night, the Nats put forth a great effort against Tim Lincecum, of all people, notching six of the seven on his watch. They are now in a three-way tie with Florida and New York for third with their 24-23 record.

Dragon Questing V Part XVII [GO]
May 27th, 2010 by Dan

Debora and Madchan from Dragon Quest V DS

Don't mean to spoil, but...

Roaming around the temple, I was hit by two blasts from Dan’s past. The first was running into a man among the cult who seemed to recognize me. Imagine my shock when I learned that it was Georgie, now grown into a man after being abducted by evil forces in Dan’s statue period. The funny part was that he recognized Dan as the old statue.

Dan also ran into the skeletal remains of a person in the back room of the temple. When he examined it closely, he found a note addressed to Maria. It was written by her brother hoping for her happiness and safety. This was the same guy who helped set Dan, Harry, and Maria free, but here he was, now dead. It was good to see the conclusion of both of these tales, even if this one ended on a sad note.

The team entered the labyrinth and met up with its boss, King Korol (more chess theme!). Defeating him revealed that Dan’s mother was being held in the underworld, Nadira. Dan’s mother tried to make him promise not to go after her in Nadira, but the gesture is obviously going to be futile. He’s dedicated to rescuing his mother, especially since his entire life has been defined by the mission to save her. To let her languish in Nadira would dishonor Pankraz’s memory.

On the way out the team finally ran into the petrified statue of Debora. One quick Zenithian item usage later and the family was finally reunited after ten long years of struggle. The family returned to Gotha to celebrate, Beca made some jokes about how Debora seemed to have softened up based on stories she heard from Sancho, and Dave fought back tears of joy at finally being reunited as a family. Dan ran into Dave at another point in the night and he told his father that, despite Madalena’s insistence that they didn’t, they had to go rescue her from Nadira. There was no argument from Dan, so the party was ready to head into the underworld the next day.

At the portal point to Nadira, there was a fantastic moment as it was revealed that Dan and Debora’s wedding bands were the key to opening the portal to Nadira. Their incapacitation as statues all made sense now as it kept the rings separated and far away. The party stepped through the portal into the shadow world and saw a vast purple, foreboding, dark land.

At Least We Split: Yesterday’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
May 26th, 2010 by Dan

i believe lions on Seibu Lions jersey

Seibu gets its revenge.

Hiroshima takes an ugly loss from the first place Lions, but at least they won the day before.

25 May

Saitama Seibu Lions (10) at Hiroshima Carp (7). Takeya Nakamura blew this game open in the third with a grand slam. Hiroshima desperately tried to recover in the 8th with a five-run rally partially fueled by a Kenta Kurihara blast, but it wasn’t enough. The Carp record drops to 19-28-0 in fifth.

Oakland Athletics (1) at Baltimore Orioles (5). Markakis homered and Baltimore managed another win, but there’s nothing less interesting to me than the Oakland Athletics. Sorry Oakland. Baltimore’s record climbs to 15-31 in last.

Atlanta Braves (4) at Florida Marlins (6). Atlanta is surprisingly not that great this year, despite everyone’s predictions to the contrary. Kenshin Kawakami has been beat up and sports an 0-7 record after this game. I really did not expect that at all. Florida ends the day with a 24-22 record in second, two games back.

Boston Red Sox (2) at Tampa Bay Rays (0). A very well pitched game, but Lester was better than Jamie Shields. I really hope Boston doesn’t return the favor and sweep the Rays at home. Come on Tampa Bay! The Rays are now 32-14 after their two game losing streak.

Washington Nationals (2) at San Francisco Giants (4). Liván Hernández has another bad day and the Nats bats can’t keep up. Washington is now tied for last with the Mets with a 23-23 record.

The Great American Ballpark Tour: Citizens Bank Park Review [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
May 26th, 2010 by Dan

Citizens Bank Park facade

Home of the (evil) Philadelphia Phillies

Believe it or not, I didn’t always hate the Phillies. One of my earliest baseball memories is watching Darren Daulton in the 1993 World Series, don’t ask me why that name sticks out, but it just does. I was even on a little league team that took the name Phillies (even though I desperately wanted to play on the Marlins). My childhood hatred was mostly directed toward the Atlanta Braves, the most dominant team in the NL East, and baseball in general, throughout the 90s. It wasn’t until I was in college that I began hating the team, mostly due to a co-worker’s insane degree of love for the Phils. Now that I live in Maryland, the proximity of the state of Pennsylvania doesn’t help things either, meaning I have to deal with fans of Philadelphia teams all year round. Couple in their bad fan reputation and their winning ways the past five years and you’ve got yourself genuine hatred for the division rivals.

Phillie Phanatic on the wall of Citizens Bank Park

The face of evil?

All that preamble just to say that I wasn’t exactly looking forward to going to Citizens Bank Park. I decided that I would wear my Marlins jersey to the park, but I was genuinely worried that I’d have to weather insults, jeers, thrown beer, or possibly worse. I mean, three days before I was set to visit the park, a fan was arrested for vomiting on an off-duty police officer and his children. I had no idea what I was in for, but after coming out of it alive, I’ll begrudgingly admit that Citizens Bank Park is one of the nicest parks I’ve ever been to.

Center Field at Citizens Bank Park

The batter's eye is really nice looking.

Like all ballparks designed after Camden Yards, CBP (as it will be abbreviated from here on out) was designed with that faux-retro aesthetic in mind. It means lots of brick, lots of open spaces in the concourses, and plenty of sight lines pointed toward the plate. When you’ve got a nice, historic organization like the Phillies, you can afford to go this route. I think that’s the chief reason why Nationals Park stands out among its peers. The team had no real history, so there was no reason to call back to the olden days of the Senators (although they probably should have). Philadelphia’s park features statues of Phillies greats scattered throughout the entire park, a restaurant dedicated to Harry Kalas, and whole regions, like Ashburn Alley, named for the organization’s greats.

Ashburn Alley

I always want to call it Crashburn Alley because of the Phillies blog with that name.

It’s an unspoken rule that all of the new ballparks need some kind of gimmick to make them stand out, architecturally, from their peers. Camden Yards has the warehouses, Citi Field has the Ebbets Field rotunda, Nationals Park has that weird, circular scoreboard, and CBP achieves this with a giant, replica Liberty Bell beyond center field. Whenever a home run is hit by the home team, the Liberty Bell actually rings, kind of like the Big Apple that rises out of the outfield after Mets home runs. It’s a neat little quirk that does give the park some flavor.

Liberty Bell at Citizens Bank Park

This one is cracked too?! What are the odds?!

Another little visual thing that I love are the flower planters along the left field wall. There’s not much more to say about them other than that they’re very pretty and add much needed color to the otherwise dominant red and green in the park.

Flowers in right field at Citizens Bank Park

I like flowers. So what.

Also like other new ballparks, a lot of CBP’s food options are actually local restaurants. There is a Chickie’s & Pete’s stand, one local cheesesteak restaurant is rotated into the park each year, and the ice cream comes from the local Turkey Hill Dairy. Unlike some other parks, CBP has a super liberal policy about food from outside the park. So long as there’s no glass, they’ll allow it in the ballpark. I saw a guy who was bringing in three boxes of pastries. The people sitting next to me pulled out sandwiches from a local deli, an entire bag of potato chips, and drinks to go with their meal. I’d like to see more blue collar policies like this with respect to out of park food. Sure, you lose a few sales at the concessions, but you earn so much goodwill I think it’s worth it. I wish I’d known how liberal their policy was, I had a whole cheesesteak hidden in my pockets.

Chickie's & Pete's at Citizens Bank Park

I didn't know I was supposed to try the Crab Fries here. Next time, I guess.

This year Nationals Park started having a starting nine group of children come out before the players to add some local flavor and help introduce the team. I saw the same thing in Japan a few times, but in Japan and at CBP, they intelligently have the players each come out holding a baseball. When they reach their tiny counterparts, they sign the ball, give it to the kid, and then the kids leave the field after the National Anthem plays. Everyone loves kids. This is always a success no matter where I see it done.

Kids at Citizens Bank Park

Like all other ballparks, they grab (cheap) local talent to do things like sing the National Anthem.

No article about CBP is complete without mentioning the most ostentatious feature of the ballpark, the Phillie Phanatic. The green monstrosity is one of the more controversial mascots in baseball. His antics have made a few enemies, most notably Tommy Lasorda, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they’re mostly harmless pranks that seem to go a few steps beyond what mascots in any ballpark would do. It’s the kind of thing that fits the city of Philadelphia and their team aesthetic well and it’s insanely funny 99% of the time. In the one game I witnessed, I watched him mock Marlins players throwing, attack the Marlins broadcaster, get shoved by Hanley Ramirez, steal fan caps, mess up countless people’s hair, and ride all around in his little car. He’s a pretty cool mascot, even if he is evil.

Phillie Phanatic speeding along

This is my absolute favorite picture that I got of this evil bastard.

Citizens Bank Park is a great place to see a game, what can I say? The fan base is passionate and devoted to the team, the park is nice and new, and they have great food policies. They’re also ridiculously close to Maryland, so if you’re a local reader, you really should just pop up there if you’re interested. I was there and back before midnight after the game.

Gaby Sanchez on the Citizens Bank Park scoreboard

Another reason I'm sure I loved this park: Check out the Marlins score right now. This gap did not appreciably close all night.

Light Schedule: Yesterday’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
May 25th, 2010 by Dan

On-Field Fan Celebration

The Rays were the only MLB team I follow with a game yesterday, which they promptly went ahead and blew.

24 May

Saitama Seibu Lions (0) at Hiroshima Carp (3). Eric Stults is really starting to bring it all together. His second win comes against a tough first place Seibu team. Hiroshima’s record improves to 19-27-0 in fifth.

Rakuten Eagles (0) at Chunichi Dragons (3). Can’t totally blame Rasner for this one, especially not when the Rakuten bats are silent. He turned in a quality start, after all. Rakuten is now 21-28-0 in fifth.

Boston Red Sox (6) at Tampa Bay Rays (1). Wade Davis has really been knocked around since his first few starts. The loss puts Tampa Bay at 32-13, only 5.5 ahead.

Lost Was So Good: Yesterday’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
May 24th, 2010 by Dan

Hu go

Ok, so this space isn’t really about Lost, but how great was it? Oh yeah, there was baseball played too.

21 May

Hiroshima Carp (7) at Softbank Hawks (1). Kenta Maeda is a beast. Really. This guy is the best pitcher in the Central League with his 1.59 ERA and he’s consistently dominant.

Yomiuri Giants (4) at Rakuten Eagles (5). Always good to see the Giants lose.

Baltimore Orioles (5) at Washington Nationals (3). Shocked that the Nats dropped any to Baltimore, but I guess it can happen sometimes.

Tampa Bay Rays (1) at Houston Astros (2). This was an even worse loss. At least it wasn’t a blowout.

Florida Marlins (0) at Chicago White Sox (8). Mark Buehrle really dominates Florida teams and Ricky Nolasco had a terrible outing.

22 May

Carp (4) at Hawks (7). Hiroshima gets some runs in on the starter, but it’s not enough to hold back the Hawks’ strong offense.

Giants (5) at Eagles (3). Rakuten can’t afford to lose games Iwakuma starts. Sure, he gave up three, but the relief core gave up the winning runs.

Marlins (1) at White Sox (4). Another bad game for the Fish. The offense just couldn’t solve White Sox pitching.

Orioles (6) at Nationals (7). Sloppy pitching by both teams, but the Washington offense came out on top.

Rays (4) at Astros (2). This is much more like it. No more losing to bad teams, Tampa.

23 May

Saitama Seibu Lions at Carp. Rained out. The Carp end the weekend 18-27-0 in fifth.

Eagles (7) at Chunichi Dragons (2). Something happened to Chunichi’s starter, because he was pulled after 3.2 after only giving up three. It’s strange to see Rakuten’s offense awaken at random times, but it does exist. They close the weekend at 21-27-0 in fifth.

Orioles (3) at Nationals (4). Washington wins this one in extras on a walk-off home run by The Hammer, Josh Willingham. Washington closes the weekend at 23-22, tied for third with the Marlins.

Marlins (13) at White Sox (0). The recent trend is for the Fish to kick major ass whenever Josh Johnson is on the mound shutting out the opposing team. Johnson destroys the Sox over six while the Fish hit five home runs, two by Cody Ross alone. Their record sits at 23-22 in third.

Rays (10) at Astros (6). David Price has an uncharacteristically bad start, but the Rays offense helps him out by scoring a ridiculous amount of runs while the bullpen held the Astros to only one. Tampa Bay’s record jumps to 32-12, putting them a HUGE six games up on the Yankees.

Nats Let a Wild One Get Away: Yesterday’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
May 21st, 2010 by Dan

Citi Field

There was much rejoicing in Citi last night.

Luis Atilano has his worst start yet, giving up the game.

20 May

Off day.

Florida Marlins (2) at St. Louis Cardinals (4). Nate Robertson just wasn’t good enough to hold the Cards down while Wainwright had all the right stuff to keep the Fish from putting too many on the board. Florida remains in second place with their 22-20 record.

Tampa Bay Rays (8) at New York Yankees (6). The Yankees are always a tough, potent team to face, but Tampa manages to sweep New York in this two-game series thanks to some serious offense from the Rays. Carlos Peña mashes two and the Rays record jumps to 30-11, becoming the first team to reach 30 wins this year.

New York Mets (10) at Washington Nationals (7). Luis Atilano’s six earned runs are what doomed the Nats. They return to playing 0.500 baseball in fourth place with their 21-21 record.

Baltimore Orioles (7) at Texas Rangers (13). Ouch. The Birds get stomped by Texas in a surprising loss. Why so surprising? Brian Matusz should be way better than this. 13-29 for the Orange Birds.

Dragon Questing V Part XVI [Game Overview]
May 21st, 2010 by Dan

Dragon Quest V

I have no idea why I’ve been sitting on this completed installment. Just remembered it was done and decided to post it this week.

At the top of Talon Tower Dan, Dave, Beca, and Sancho meet up with a very familiar face. Slon the Rook, the second third of the duo that murdered Pankraz. Dan already killed Kon the Knight right before being turned into a statue, so I was on my toes worried about what might happen after Dan took out Slon. Thankfully, nothing did and I was left feeling a little relieved and gratified that I had enacted Dan’s revenge on yet another of his father’s murderers. On a whim, I decided to check in with the party to see what they had to say about the fight.

Dave’s response: “What’s wrong dad, you look like you’ve seen a ghost?”

Poor Dan was repeatedly being forced to relive his tragic childhood by facing the creatures who killed his father and sold him into slavery. It wouldn’t end there either. The next room contained the Bishop Ladja, third member of the squad who killed Pankraz. Would Dan get a chance to completely avenge the murder of his father? After a tough fight I thought I’d see payoff, but, predictably, Ladja ran away. Dan was now equipped with the tools to revive the Zenithian Dragon, so he returned to Zenithia to find the residents antagonizing Dr. Agon.

There was no Dr. Agon in Zenithia before it was banished underwater, they said, so this man must be a monster of some kind. They were half right. Dr. Agon (if you haven’t gotten it yet, smash the two together) was the Zenithian Dragon and Dan’s quest finally allowed him to assume his true form yet again. Next stop: the temple that Dan spent his entire life slaving to build and also the location of the Zenithian Armor. How would he get there? By riding his new, sweet Dragon.

It was strange to return to the temple after so many hours, but stranger still when I noticed that it was full of cultists who had given up on the world and were worshiping the evil presence that was corrupting it. Dan and his party quickly found the Zenithian Armor and forced their way to the stage of the shrine. Upon the shrine sat…Madalena?! She asked Dan and co. to join her, but when they refused, she cursed them. Turns out she was actually Queen Ferz in disguise! I believe it’s at this point that I finally realized that there’s a chess theme to the bosses (Queen Ferz, Slon the Rook, Kon the Knight, Bishop Ladja). Anyway, with the Queen defeated, it was time to explore the temple a bit more and delve into the labyrinth that lied beneath.

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