Disney · Editorials/Opinion Pieces

iTunes Rental and Audio Description Review

I hear a lot of flak given to Apple products nowadays, and especially, iTunes.  Honestly, I don’t understand why, because a lot of the reasons – the DRM protection, only able to use it on one device – is rather cross platform for any sort of digital media.  I don’t use it too much, but if I want to buy something digitally, I tend to use iTunes as an option because it’s nice to have the software just right on my computer for me to open and browse the store.
My main reason for keeping iTunes when I rarely use it however, is the sheer amount of audio description content that is on iTunes.  It far trumps Netflix, and you can actually own the things with said audio description if you’re so inclined.  I’m not one for buying movies and TV shows, but I’ve been wanting to try the audio description features, and iTunes rentals, for a long time and have a lot of movies I’ve been wanting to watch, since I don’t really go to the movies and pretty much I haven’t seen a loooot of stuff from the past six years or so.

 

So, put your hands together!  This will be a review of both the iTunes rentals and how it works, and the audio description on iTunes, and how it works.  Let’s get into it!

 

The Rental Process

 

Renting on iTunes is just like buying anything else on iTunes.  Search for the title, and results will pop up.  You can also just sift through categories, but what’s the fun in that unless you want to just hunt down something you may not have known existed before for a good watch.  For me, I’m very behind in my Disney and Pixar watching, and had seen a review about it recently critiquing it a bit harshly, so I wanted to see what all the hub bub was about Brave and decided to rent that.  I enjoyed it far more than I expected, if you’re wondering, but that’s another topic for another post.

 

So I searched for Brave in the iTunes store, and went to the page.  It has two options:  To buy, or to rent.  Buy is the first option, and the far more expensive option, and rent is underneath it.  Underneath all of the buying functions, there’s an HD and SD option for the quality of the video.  I want to point this out especially to blind and visually impaired viewers, because SD is 1 dollar less.  If you don’t have enough vision to see the graphics and animation of the movie, I’d suggest saving the extra dollar and getting the SD quality.  Every penny counts, right?

 

 

After that you’re prompted to buy the media, if you have the prompt set in your preferences.  Then buy it, and you’re good to go!  If you go back to the movie page, then it shows you how many days you have left to watch the movie.  Go into your iTunes library, check movies, and pick Rentals, and bam your rental is there!  A very easy process, if I do say so myself.  I had to reset up my iTunes account so it took a bit longer, but when actually having everything setup, renting was a breeze.

 

Playing and Watching the Movie

 

Go down to the section where all of your movies are when you’re ready to play it.  If you’ve left that section selected and closed iTunes, it will still be on that tab which is nice.  There’s a section that says “Grid” and that’s where the movie is.  You have the option to simply play the movie, which is streaming it via iCloud, or to download it, which gets it directly to your hard drive, so you can watch it offline.  I didn’t do download, so I assume that’s what it does, correct me if I’m wrong.

 

It’s pretty straight forward from there, hit play, the movie takes a while to load, then play. The movie has its own window independent from iTunes, so you can use all the normal media controls over there.  I didn’t want to chance anything until the credits, but I played around with it when it got there and hitting pause or rewind and fast forward does nothing to affect your rental.  I rented something from iTunes a loooong time ago, and that wasn’t the case before, so it was nice to see they had fixed that with the new version of rentals.

 

How Rentals Work After Playing Them


This is another feature of rentals that wasn’t here when I rented before, but you don’t only get to watch the movie once, which is nice.  When you go to hit play, a pop up dialogue shows up and says “If you start playing this, you’ll have 48 hours to watch the movie.  Are you sure you want to play?”.  Hit yes, and you get to watch the movie as many times as you want within that 48 hour period.  I’m not one to watch a movie more than once, but I just thought it was a nice feature.  Like I said, I really did like Brave, so I’m tempted to watch it again before I lose it in my rental library.

 

Before you hit play, you have 30 days to watch the movie.  If you hit play is when the 48 hours start, so if you just don’t have time to watch something and rented it, you have 30 days to do so before you lose it.  I personally don’t rent a movie unless I know I’m going to watch it soon, but figured I’d mention it for anyone who has a busy life and wants to make sure they have ample time to watch a movie rental.

 

Audio Description

 

Now for what I was most excited to try, the audio description feature!  iTunes has made it really easy to make sure you know something has audio description before you buy it.  On the movie or TV show page, it has an icon that says “AD” on it, underneath where it would say if it has closed captions.  This makes it really easy to see if you get audio description, when on other platforms like Google Play, when I’ve looked to see if movies had audio description, it was impossible to see if something had it or not.  iTunes has the info right up in your face, so there’s no if, ands or buts to whether or not it has audio description – see AD, and you’re good.  Knowing what companies do audio description on their media helps tons too:  I picked a movie from the Disney conglomerate of media, because I know they all have audio description.  So you’re pretty much safe if you want to watch a Marvel, Disney, or Pixar movie.

 

To make sure audio description plays when you start streaming your movie, first go into Edit:  Preferences.  There’s an option that you check that says “Play audio description when available” and all you have to do is check that, and it works on your PC or Mac.  Keep in mind, I did all of this on the PC, so your experience  may be different, depending on what sort of device you’re using.  For me, I had no issues on the PC simply checking the box, hitting ok, and having it work when I streamed the movie.  I made sure to double check preference’s just in case, but I’m the cautious type.  Absolutely no issues with the audio description not working throughout the entire movie, and no issues with the movie stopping midway or anything:  was a 100 percent smooth experience, and I really enjoyed every part of the process.

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

A few things I’d like to mention that I couldn’t fit in some categories are the volume of the movie.  I thought it was a bit low, and that’s a major pet peeve of mine.  It wasn’t hard to hear without headphones with nothing on, but if you were say, doing housework and wanted to have a movie on while working, you’d have to hook it up to some sort of Bluetooth speaker to be able to hear it with any sort of volume.  I had everything maxed out and it was still kind of annoying how low the movie was, but not enough for me to feel the need to put on headphones.  I watched it in bed, so was rather chill and doing nothing while doing so, but if you like to multi task take that into consideration.
The audio description was very well done.  There are a lot of visual things in Brave, and the way the audio description described it, paired with the audio of the movie really made the mannerisms of a certain character come to life in my mind.  Whoever Disney Pixar uses, their studio is great and I can’t wait to watch more.  Next on my list is Coco, really can’t wait to catch up with what I’ve missed animation wise.

 

I hope that if you don’t like iTunes, or don’t use it, this review lets you see one of the benefits to doing so.  For blind users, I hope this info is useful to you if you’ve been on the fence about trying iTunes audio description, and to sighted users, I hope this was interesting information to read!

Cartoons · Editorials/Opinion Pieces

My Problem With Voltron: Legendary Defender and Its Writing

I’m an avid fan of Voltron:  Legendary Defender, if my past reviews of a few of the seasons isn’t any indication.  Recently, seasons 6 and 7 dropped rather close together:  Season 6 on June 15, and season 7 on August 10.  Now usually I write reviews about each season, but for these past 2 I didn’t (I had my computer out of commission for season 6, but that’s beside the point).  I held off reviewing both seasons because honestly, there wouldn’t be much else I’d say about it that I haven’t already said.  I enjoyed it, plot points met their assumed conclusion, and new ones came up…only to be resolved rather quickly.

For me, this has been an ongoing issue with VLD.  There’s a lot of good character work, and the plot is interesting, with lulls here and there.  But it always brings itself back to being what it started as at its core:  a space opera, with drama, character development, and awesome mecha action scenes.

 

But can the show evolve past this point?  I’ve found myself asking this, especially with the last 2 seasons.  Season 7 was a full 13 episode season as well, and I feel like we’ve just gone back to status quo, as far as the characters are concerned.  Can the writing get past the basic premise of Form Voltron, save the universe?
I’m going to be talking about plot and character specific stuff beyond this point, so if you’re not caught up with Voltron:  The Legendary Defender, don’t read past this point.

 

Spoilers!  Spoilers!  Proceed at your Own Risk!!!

 

So the biggest plot points I’d like to address as far as the issue of not taking risks when writing are the Pidge’s search for her Dad plot, the Evil/Clone Shiro Plot, and the Lotor’s deception Plots.  All three of these aren’t the only plots I feel like the writing could have been better with, but they’re the biggest ones that I think had the most missed opportunities’ with them.

 

The Search For Pidge’s Family

 

I forget which season Pidge actually finds her Father, but there was such a big build up to this plot point.  We find out Pidge’s brother and Father went missing a few years before in season 1, and her entire story arc for the first half of the series is her drive to find them, wherever they are.  Through intel from Lotor, she finds out their location, goes on a hunt to find them, and ultimately does find them.  Her Father has been captive in the Galra Empire for the past few years, building tech for them.  In the end there was a skirmish  that resulted in saving Papa Pidge, but like…to me it would have been a lot more interesting if perhaps, there were more stakes than saving him?

 

 

What if it turned out that Sam had been indoctrinated into the Galra Empire, and used as a sleeper agent or mole?  Then they send him back to Pidge, and he’s secretly sending them intel from the other side of the war.  Pidge finds out, and has to make a tough choice of what to do with her Father.  She has to re-evaluate whether or not looking for him was the right choice.  Maybe she should have never gone down this path?  But instead, Sam is just instantly good, he’s saved, and no harm no fowl for our heroes.

 

Along with that plot, why couldn’t Matt, Pidge’s brother actually be dead?  There were so many red herrings that pointed to just that, but ultimately, once again, oh wait Matt is alive and all is well, he’s ready to help Voltron! I’m not saying every plot has to end in doom and gloom, but making some of the characters morally gray, or not what they seem would make the Voltron Paladin’s have to rethink and refocus, growing more as characters, and reacting differently to situations in a way that isn’t just them being the heroes of the story.  This constant cycle of the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad doesn’t work all of the time and it feels like the writers just want to keep it that way, with scarce reasons to throw a wrench in the main characters plans by shaking it up a bit with supporting characters that are actually close to them.

 

And on that note…

 

 

The Shiro Clone Saga

 

Voltron likes to build up multi season long arcs, and end them almost instantly as soon as the actual details are revealed.  We had this plot thread of what’s up with Shiro?  For 2 to 3 seasons and as soon as the cat came out of the bag, the thread was wrapped up in a matter of three episodes.  We found out Shiro is a clone, oh no!  That’s fine, cuz Kieth fought him and brought him back.  After that, we find out Shiro’s soul has been hanging out in the Black Lion, how will we get him out?  Oh Allura is magicXmachina, it’s fine.  She got him out literally in the last five minutes of the final episode of season 6.  Then in the first episode of season 7, he wakes up and is back to normal, all be it his soul is now in the clone body because his is missing…or something.

 

And all I have to say about this is, why couldn’t evil clone Shiro have been a full or half season arc?  After all of that build up, why was this story resolved in four episodes?  In season 7 after Shiro wakes up, all we get from it is a few jokes here and there but nothing more.  Real Shiro is back, it’s fine!  Don’t stop watching the show fans, it’s ok.  I mean I’m only half kidding here, with how they rush things that is indeed how some of these plots feel.  The characters don’t have time to react to their trauma, or plot developments, and the audience is just left wondering how they feel.  It’s sloppy writing, and makes the show a bit confusing as far as it’s themes go:  Does it want to be an ensemble character piece, showing these characters fighting through a centuries long universal war and growing and dealing with it?  Or does it just want to use its characters as the engine for the plot.  Either thing is fine, but trying to do both and only do both halfway is a bit jarring.

 

Lotor’s Deception

 

This leads into my next and final point.  The characters, when faced with a problem, never react in a way you wouldn’t expect them to.  There is never any sort of second guessing, never any doubt.  Allura, after being shown that Lotor was using and lying to her, instantly went gasp!  How dare you!  I’m totally on the side of my friends!

 

Lotor and Allura had a teased romantic relationship, to the point where the two have them shared the first on scene kiss.  So why, when confronted with the information that Lotor was lying to her, didn’t she ask Lotor to explain?  Why wasn’t she like wait guys, I have an emotional attachment to this character, why don’t we slow down and figure out what’s going on before turning on him.  She finds out this information right after the kiss too, so I feel like she would be a little more cloudy with her judgement.  But, we need to get to the season finale, so she just instantly believes her friends and turns on Lotor.  All in all some interesting character growth that could have been stretched a bit longer, but wasn’t.  It was rather disappointing, and even though I still adore Allura, why can’t she grow as a character through events in the plot happening to her?

 

And that is my main problem with the overall writing in Voltron: Legendary Defender.  It isn’t willing to take risks.  Why can’t we have dynamic character moments not linked to forming Voltron.  Why can’t our characters grow, and learn from their mistakes?  It just shows that our characters never had anything to learn, and overall this plot is about saving the universe, not them evolving into better people while saving the universe.

 

I won’t say that no character has grown:  Lance, Keith, and Hunk especially have grown as far as outward character traits.  But there’s no internal character growth there we see through them reacting to external plot events, every character who started out good remains good, and every evil character stays evil.  I didn’t mention this, but why couldn’t Lotor also be morally gray?  It seemed like they were going to go that route with him, but then they decided not to and make him the typical power hungry evil person.  Which, we already had with Zarcon, so why have more of the same?  Sure Lotor was different in their motivations, but ultimately they both ended the same way:  their narrow minded focus on getting what they want, when they want it.
That also is a problem with the show.  There’s a lot of flip flopping with our characters motivations, that doesn’t feel like it’s as much a fault with the characters, but a fault with the writing.  Or perhaps the format of the show?  Maybe the six to seven episode format has hindered the story telling, because I really don’t feel like this was a problem in seasons 1 and 2.  But who knows, maybe if I went back to those seasons I’d see those problems there.

 

Voltron:  The Legendary Defender is still my favorite modern animated series, but it’s lack of willing to take risks with its plot twists and characters is a problem I’m always going to have with the show.  For what it is, it’s enjoyable, but I just really wish the show would do a little more to be engaging.

 

What do you think though?  If you watch the show, do you have these problems with it as well?  Would you like the writing to take a bit more risks, or are you fine  with how the show is progressing?

Video Games

Let’s Talk About Dissidia Final Fantasy NT

The internet as far as gaming goes is very, very toxic at its worst, and kind of tolerable? At its best.  I enjoy having so much access to gaming content, but as far as dealing with actual communities, there are more toxic ones than positive ones out there and it makes me want to stay away from online gaming most of the time.  That, and online gaming doesn’t really have an appeal for me unless I’m playing with friends, but that’s another topic for another post.
The problem with the internet is, there can be huge bouts of bad press for something before it’s even released, or the opinions of the loud minority become what’s heard and people who may have differing opinions feel like they can’t speak up.  This causes major bouts of games that perhaps don’t deserve a ton of harsh critique, or simple statements of “This sucks” directed towards them.  I mean, at the end of the day, all gaming is subjective:  You like a certain genre of game, I don’t, vice versa.  You saying a game sucks will mean absolutely nothing to me if I pick it up, play it, and enjoy it.  That’s why it’s super important to play a game yourself  Or, look up videos of actual gameplay on YouTube, and decide if you’re willing to give the game ago.
Final fantasy:  Dissidia NT is honestly a game I think got entirely too much of this bad press for no reason.  For the reason that people, for some reason, were upset that it was labeled Dissidia and not like the past 2 Dissidia games, when every FF game labeled “Dissidia” is just the franchise for FF crossover games.  You don’t see anyone complaining about Dissidia Opera Omnia, do you?  I mean maybe they are, who knows.  But I think people are letting their disappointment that this game isn’t exactly like the first 2 Dissidia games overcloud their view of Dissidia NT.  I never played the first two Dissidia games, so have no frame of reference for this one.  But honestly, to be blunt:  If you want to play old Dissidia, then play it.  Please stop harping on a game that exists that people like.  If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but don’t attack everyone else that does.

 

I went on a bit of a tangent there with my intro haha.  But onto my review of the game!  Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoy it.  I’m not going to go into major gameplay details about it, because I feel like you know the basics of the game if you’re familiar with it.  But simple version:  It’s a 3 v 3 team based brawler, where you play as 1 of 4 classes and run around on stages fighting with characters from all of the main line Final Fantasy games.  You have lots of fan favorite attacks, and the summons from the series act as a sort of Super Smash Bros stage hazard each team can summon once per match to trip up your opponents.

 

So far, the summoning is the only major beef I have with the game.  At times it makes the matches way too chaotic, and from a blindness standpoint, if I’m close to the summoning range I rarely can hear my character and can’t tell what’s going on.  That being said, I think that would just happen in general, whether you’re sighted, or blind, and that’s part of what’s so refreshing about this game.  Other than the menus, which are always a hurdle for any blind player without reading vision, once you get into a battle, the playing field is very even and it’s a matter of skill, team composition, and all in all having lots of fun playing as your favorite Final Fantasy characters.

 

When first loading up the game, it can be majorly overwhelming.  I still haven’t figured out all of the menus, and have been working my way through them.  A good example is the customization menus, for putting on EX skills, and changing chat messages.  I had to Google how to pull up the menus, and when I figured it out, it was a sea of other menus that I’ve yet to care to navigate.  Now EX skills, in my opinion, aren’t a necessity to mess with if you really just want to pick up the game and play like I did, but once you get past that point, and start leveling up characters, and hearing your little Moogle assistant tell you you have a ton of EX skills to customize with, you’ll want to work on figuring out how to use the EX skill and chat menus.  I’m lucky enough to have a pair of eyes that’s generous enough to help me read things when I go “Mom, can you read a menu?” but I can see it being a problem for a blind user who doesn’t have any sighted help.  You definitely need that to get your baring’s in this game, because every menu is designed differently.  When you figure them out, they’re easy to navigate, but it’s just that blindness learning curve that comes with picking up a new game, plus the abundance of menus that makes this game a tad overwhelming after coming from the ease of BlazBlue:  Cross Tag Battle’s menu system.

 

The character select is pretty easy to figure out, but make a note that it’s laid out differently in the tutorial than in any other menu.  In the actual game modes, the characters are in a descending list and you can just scroll down and count in chronological order, because the characters are laid out according to franchise.  So the first character you start on is Warrior of Light, the last one in the list is Ace.  It’s fun to put my Final Fantasy know how to the test with my counting, but sometimes I count wrong because I forget of one game or another, or forget some games have 3 characters.  But to me that’s no big deal – I’ve gotten a lot of crazy parties made that worked surprisingly well because of that.  Today I accidentally made a team of Rinoa, Kain, and Kefka and it worked super well, won five matches in a row with it.  Would it work online?  Probs not, but it’s still fun to see what parties work, and a lot of fun to be able to use characters you may not want to physically use yourself by having them in your party.

 

I really like how story mode is formatted.  Instead of having to sit through a 2 to 4 hour story like most games, you unlock cutscenes and battles by playing Gauntlet mode.  You go to story mode, and then use Memoria to unlock cutscenes and battles, and if you want you can do 1 battle, watch the cutscenes after it, and move on.  Leveling up characters in Gauntlet mode is a must for some fights, as the first two story mode battles I’ve done were a bit of a hurdle because I haven’t been using certain characters, so went back to Gauntlet mode to level up and see how it goes.  But I prefer this format over the sit and watch a ton of scenes then do like eight fights and really without cutscenes story mode would be like twenty minutes.  Set up in the way it is in Dissidia, you can play multiple modes at once and enjoy them all equally, and not feel obligated to sit through story mode.  You can’t unlock any cutscenes out of order either as far as I can tell, so from a blindness standpoint, it’s easy to just pick a scene and see that you unlocked it – because when you unlock something new, it makes a special unlocking noise.

 

 

 

I really like the leveling up system too.  You play the offline Gauntlet modes to get EXP.  You get EXP no matter if you win or lose a battle, which is also nice.  So you really can just go to Gauntlet mode and grind and test out characters and parties and earn experience to unlock story mode cut scenes, EX skills, summons, treasure.  Pretty much everything that’s an add on to the game, you win by battling.

 

The battles feel like you’re playing an actual active time battle in a Final Fantasy game.  I will say there’s some lag sometimes with moves, and the load times between fights and character selecting can get a bit much for me.  Because the battles are so chaotic, Dissidia NT has a targeting system that works super well for blind gamers.  Just lock on with L2 and R2, and you instantly are directed to the closest enemy.  You’ll want to practice listening in for someone coming close to you so you can react accordingly, but the sound design is great in this, so you’ll have no problems with that.  I tend to fight as the marksmen, because that’s been my playstyle since before I lost my sight, and it’s very easy to just walk as far as hearing far away voices, and start launching off attacks.  I’ve used some closer range characters and they’re a little more tricky, but I’m sure you could get them down if you worked on it because like I said, the sound design in this game is superb.  You can tell what’s going on all around you with no major issues, and all you have to do is be attuned to your surroundings and fight, just like any other gamer would have to do.

 

 

And that’s my biggest take away from this game:  It’s addictive, fun, and levels the playing field for anyone to play.  Other than the menus, which will always be a chronic blind gamer issue unless companies start integrating text to speech in their games, the gameplay itself is strategic, enjoyable, and I find myself playing it for hours on end without any major issues.

 

The game has a lot to do in it, But I will say the pricetag of 60 dollars is rather high.  I waited to get it used for 20, so I could get the season pass for its 30 dollar price and spend 50 dollars on the game.  But to have the game be 60, and the season pass be 30, making getting everything in the game if you buy it new be 84, then to me that’s a bit much for what you’re getting in the game.  But I paid 70 for Cross Tag Battle so…I guess it just depends.  All in all, games nowadays are going for 60 dollars, so I’m sure it’s a fine price but if you’re on the fence about the game I’d say buy it used, you can get it cheap.  But honestly the argument of “I want more content” is a little silly, because if you want to play a game and it’s at a certain price, then you’re going to buy it lol.

 

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is the only other game I have for the console, and as far as content goes, I feel like Dissidia has more to offer.  As I stated earlier, I think the distain towards it was far too unwarranted.  Like why compare a new game that’s built from the ground up to an old one anyway?  There was plenty of footage of Dissidia NT before it got ported over to the US of what the gameplay was, so saying it’s not what you expected is silly.

 

Accessibility wise, get past the menus, and you’re good to go.  The selecter stays on the last character you were on, so make a major note of that if you’re a blind gamer.  Also, in the offline play modes, it saves your party so the last characters you were using are the ones selected when you reload the game.  Which is nice when you know it’s happening, but when you don’t it’s baffling haha.

 

The menu layout is very aesthetically pleasing for sighted gamers, but for the blind it’s a little weird, because it’s set up in 2 columns of 3 options, instead of just a descending list of six options.  It’s workable for sure, but know that your first load of the game is going to be figuring all of that stuff out before you can play, along with figuring out the character select screen.  It’s easy enough to get to the tutorial though,  and just figure out characters and have fun with the game.

SO if you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend this game!  I’m a huge Final Fantasy fan and seeing my favorite characters 3D rendered with voices, and seeing them interact with each other in story mode is a huge kick for avid Final Fantasy fans.  If you want a fun team based game, I’d suggest giving it a go! This isn’t even remotely close to all of the features of Dissida NT, or all of the accessibility tips for NT because I’ve been playing it for about 2 weeks now, so feel free to talk about your tips and experiences playing it in the comments below!

 

Uncategorized · Video Games

My Experiences with Text to Speech Features on the Playstation 4, and a Basic Run Down of said Features

Hello everyone, it’s been a while!  My long absence is due to a lot of things.  Mainly, I’ve been putting a lot of work into my YouTube Channel – I always have posted video game and anime covers over there, but in the past few months I’ve also started vlogging and been enjoying that thoroughly.  It kind of took over the blogging, since that and vlogging are very similar.  I enjoy both however, and have something to talk about now, so here I am again!  Honestly no clue when I’ll post over here again, so if you like my content, probably subscribe to my YouTube channel for more frequent updates.
I’ve noticed a spike in followers over here, and would like to say thank you!  I’m honestly surprised, considering how long ago my last post has been, but I’m very happy to see you here, nevertheless.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the content here, and will continue to enjoy it, no matter how infrequent I post!

 

I talk about a lot of nerdy things over here.  In fact, my last post was about how awesome the web series RWBY is.  I also talk a lot about gaming over here, but have never actually had a modern console…until now!  Me and my brother both went in on a Playstation 4 recently, and the very first game we bought was for a very specific reason.

 

Team RWBY in a fighting game Team RWBY in a fighting game AHHH AHHH AHHHH!!!!!!
I was so pumped!!!  As soon as I heard that, I was like “We are buying that game”.  It was so funny, because my bro had told me about the BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle trailer and was like “There’s some girl named Ruby in it?” and I just figured it was a new BlazBlue character until I was recommended a RWBY reveal trailer on YouTube, because I haven’t played BlazBlue since Calamity Trigger.  So imagine my surprise when I saw my girl Ruby Rose in a trailer for a fighting game!  And my favorite character Weiss alongside her!  It was so cool!

 

So, that was the first game we got for the console, no contest.  I had been gushing about RWBY to my brother for months, but me saying we needed to get the game because they were in it got him to finally check out the series, and now he’s just as hooked on it as me woooooo.
But that tangent aside, we haven’t had a newer console for years.  Not only that, but text to speech options weren’t even a thing the last console we had.  So, it was a major learning curve setting up PS4 accounts, learning the ropes, and all in all getting back into modern gaming, and how it works.  Thankfully, my Mom is always willing to read things for us just in case we get lost, but I wanted to focus more on the text to speech features in this article, because in all honesty I see them get a lot of flak by the blind community, and as a person coming into the newer era of gaming, I’d like to share my experiences as a new blind user of the text to speech features on the PS4, and of the PS4 in general.

 

Getting Started

 

Getting text to speech up is the tricky part I feel, because there’s no way around needing a sighted person to select the text to speech feature.  You have to go into settings, accessibility, and pick text to speech, and turn it on.  After that, it’s rather smooth sailing, and you can do everything the text to speech has access to.  I will say, I think Sony should set up some sort of feature where you can turn it on at system start, maybe some sort of button command, like apple devices have, but honestly, I’m used to this sort of stuff.  When dealing with PCs, you initially need to have sighted assistance to set up your screen reader, so I don’t see it as that big of a curveball thrown at blind users:  It’s something they’re used to doing, and have probably adapted to getting done easily at this point.

 

What is a little frustrating is setting up your PSN account.  I had to have my Mom walk me through the process, because it reads out pretty much nothing but the keyboard when you’re typing in commands.  You can go do all of these things on the website, I’ve noticed from further investigation (playstation.com) but I find it a lot easier to do all of the setting up on the console.  So pretty much, you need a sighted person to sit down with you and set everything up if you are a brand new Playstation owner, but once you get past that point, you can do pretty much anything that you’d do on the Playstation store, on the web browser.

 

Buying Games, Themes, and DLC

 

 

 

Another minor ding I have to give the text to speech, is that the Playstation store on the console doesn’t read at all.  It’s pretty obvious when text to speech won’t work in an area, because the console will instantly say “Text to speech not available”.  The work around for this, is to buy everything from store.playstation.com, which is so awesome and cool, and something my teenage brain would have never imagined being able to do.  When we first tried to buy BlazBlue on the browser, for some reason it didn’t work:  I have a feeling it had to do with the PS4 not being verified as ours yet to the webstore, because as soon as my Mom bought the game on the console itself, I went and  bought a theme from the PSN store and it worked just fine.  I don’t like the basic theme’s music on the PS4, it was driving me nuts!  So I did some searching for, you guessed it, a RWBY theme and am so happy I did because it changed the music to one of my favorite RWBY songs, so I always wind up humming it while I’m on the menu screen, and can’t wait to explore more avatar’s and themes.

 

Buying from the webstore is just like buying from Amazon or Ebay.  Add the game to your cart, and purchase.  I will highly recommend adding your payment options before purchasing, because it was a huge headache trying to add at checkout and I found myself just linking my paypal before purchasing to save that time, because for me putting in the info at check out wasn’t super accessible.  Some buttons weren’t registering when I clicked on them for some reason or another, but Payment options is a link you can just click at the top of any PS Store page, and add a credit card or link a paypal account easily, so I just did that.

 

Downloading a Game

 

Downloading the game was by far the easiest, and coolest part.  You can download remotely from your web browser, technology is magic!  After purchasing the game, go to your download list.  Click “Download to PS4” and in real time, you get to see your game download to your console.  You need to turn your PS4 on first for it to work, but if you click it without the PS4 on, the browser page just says “Waiting” and once the PS4 gets on, it switches to “downloading” after a bit of time.  The page doesn’t tell you how much time it will take to download, but the PS4’s text to speech does read it out.  If you keep the webpage open while downloading, and the download finishes, “Downloading” changes to “Playable” and I’m sure this is average to people but like I said new console, new hardware to me, super super cool because I  remember having to have my Mom buy eeeeeverything on the Wii Eshop back in the day, so even though this is technically a work around, because you can’t buy on the PS4 itself, I don’t care because it works super well and allows me to download games digitally.  Of course, a physical copy is still an option, but you would still have to have some sort of labeling system for the discs, when…

 

Text To Speech Features on the PlayStation 4 as a Whole

 

The text to speech reads the games in the library, so you can navigate and start them yourself!

Does the PS4 read every section on the console with text to speech?  Not by a long shot.  I’d say it probably reads about 25% of the features on the console.  There are a lot of apps, you can’t use without some work around.  Does it read the things you would need to access the console?  Yes.  For that reason, I think the text to speech suits me fine.  I know this is a topic of contention amongst blind users, but I think the PS4 reads everything you’d need to fully function the basic use of the Playstation.  I know we’re used to having multi media everything on every device nowadays, but at the end of the day, the PS4 is a gaming console.  Can I easily access my game library without sighted assistance because of the text to speech voice?  Yep, no problem.  Can I send messages to friends, and add friends?  Yep, no problem.  Can I adjust most of the settings as far as gaming goes?  Yeah.  One thing I will say is there are some odd areas where the text to speech decides to not be available on some features.  Like I added a friend who sent me a friend request, but when I clicked to see who it was “text to speech wasn’t available” so I had to have my Mom read who it was, and make sure I was on ok so I didn’t accidentally decline said request.  Now, I know there’s a friends section on the Playstation.com website, but I haven’t used it.  Generally though, the web version and console version of the site work generally the same, so I’m sure you’d have no issues just adding friends via the site, since that’s how I changed my avatar.

 

Third party apps are a whole different story, and something I’m not going to hold Sony itself accountable for.  Sony, I’m sure, has made developers aware text to speech is on the console, so they can develop accordingly and it isn’t their job to build accessibility into those apps.  For example,  I was surprised to see Netflix works with text to speech really well.  I haven’t found a way to search, but you can browse through titles, pick them, play/pause, and change the language.  This means you can change it to have audio description and watch on the PS4, which is cool.
I was also surprised to see that both Spotify and YouTube aren’t accessible through apps, though YouTube is accessible through the Internet Browser app on the console.  Spotify is a completely graphical interface, and the work around I found to use it was to sync my account through the desktop app, and that way, I can remotely control my Spotify on my computer, and hear it on the PS4.  It works super well, and I’m honestly fine with this work around because I use Spotify mainly on the computer anyways, no biggy.

So all in all, the text to speech does the basics.  Let’s you open up games, add friends, join parties and communities, check notifications and trophies earned.  Could it do more?  Sure, but we’ll see what comes later down the road now that this feature is on the console and can be worked upon.  Anything can be made better, and I’d rather praise Sony for what it is doing right, then go on a crusade over what they are doing wrong lol.

 

Final Thoughts

 

I’ve only had my Playstation 4 for about a week, so I’m sure I’m no expert on using the console.  There are probably more work arounds, more features I just haven’t used, more hiccups as far as accessibility goes.  But as I said before, does text to speech allow you to play video games easily?  It does, and although watching Netflix, playing YouTube  and Spotify are cool features to have on the thing, I have other devices I can do that more easily on, and would prefer to do it on.  Gotta say it was fun rocking out to some RWBY songs I thought should be in Cross Tag Battle via Spotify while playing, but I was able to do that via remote access.  Anything you’d want to do on the console is doable, with an easy work around, or with the text to speech itself, which honestly I’m impressed Sony had the forethought to make things workable via using the web browser.    Honestly, living my entire life by doing visual things alternatively to be able to experience them, this is a huge step up from what I used to have to do to access console features, and I’m happy to see a huge break through, no matter how big or small.

 

So, if you want to pick up a console and are blind, I’d highly recommend the Playstation 4!  I will say I have no experience with the Xbox 1 and do know they have text to speech features as well, but if I’m being real with you guys, I really don’t care for the exclusives on there and prefer the PS4 ones, and anything I’d want to play on Xbox 1 is on PS4.  Playing games blind is always going to be a hurdle, and I think it’s important to show developers and hardware makers that we are willing to work with them, because just telling them to fix things when they are fixing things gradually just puts an air of negativity out there and doesn’t make them want to collaborate, or help the blind community.
I really hope this very long article helps someone, or interests someone haha.  I hope I made up for my long absence with this article!  Now if you excuse me, I’m off to use my girls against some Blazblue characters, can’t escape from crossing fate, Fight!

 

Anime · Uncategorized

Why I Dropped Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card After the First Episode

I tried to like this, I really did.  I was a huge Card Captor Sakura fan back in the day, when it aired on WB simply as Card Captors.  When I saw there was a new series, and it wasn’t a reboot, and that there was a simudub, I figured I’d check out the first episode sooner rather than later to see if it was a series I’d want to watch the rest of.

 

Sadly, Card Captor Sakura:  Clear Card totally misses the mark for me.  I’m not sure if it’s my nostalgia glasses, or if the show is just disinteresting, but I do feel like there’s some of the magic from the original series lacking in this one.  I liked the old WB dub, but when I thought about it I wasn’t like “Ugh this isn’t like the original dub I grew up with!  Lame”.  I think the new dub is good, and matches the Japanese voices well.  Do I like Sakura being so high pitched?  Not really, but I get that that’s pretty much how she sounds in Japanese.  With that out of the way, what else would make me dislike this series?
I usually watch a show for 4 episodes before dropping it, but this one, I stopped after one.  The first episode was slow paced, but I don’t mind slow paced shows.  The action didn’t happen until the end, but it wasn’t enough to make me hop right on over to episode 2.  So what is it that bugs me so much about this series?

 

Honestly, when it boils down to it, Card Captor Sakura:  Clear Card just doesn’t capture the same magic Card Captor Sakura did.  In my opinion, Clear Card tries to capture the magic the original series did, while not realizing what exactly was so great about the original series.  Sure Card Captor Sakura had cute moments, had slice of life aspects, had magic, but at the end of the day it also was about different aspects of love, how different people dealt with relationships, and without that aspect of the show there, I think Card Captor Sakura:  Clear card just falls into the category of “Generic, fine enough but not interesting magical girl anime”.  Now granted, that’s my opinion about it after watching 1 episode, but I feel if a show can’t grab you after the first one, it isn’t doing its job right.
But what do you think about the show as a whole, was there something about it that kept you watching?  Should I give it another go because it gets better?

Anime · Cartoons · Uncategorized

Why You Should Give RWBY Another Chance if You’ve Dropped it

A group shot of Team RWBY: Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang

 

I watched RWBY a while ago, when volume 3 was the last volume out.  It had gotten my attention enough to give it a shot, but it took a lot of time to get there.  Literally, it was the end of vol. 3 that made me go “Oh, this show is actually interesting now” when volumes 2 and 1 just seemed like a generic hot chicks with swords sudo anime web series, tropy characters and all.
So because of that, I dropped RWBY.  I had watched the first four episodes of volume 4, and there was so little going on I got disinterested.  I was watching it when it aired, and I’m just not a watch an episode one at a time person.  I still would see people talking about how great RWBY was, and a friend told me volumes 4 and 5 were great and they had just watched them.  So I had taken about 2 years off from watching the series, since I was watching volume 4 when it was airing and a volume comes out once a year.

 

And man, waiting and binging volumes 4 and 5 was a great choice.  The show, although I see some people complain about the slower pacing, really reached a depth I didn’t think existed when in volumes 1 and 2 it was nothing but big fighting set pieces.  Volume 4 took the time to slow down, let the aftermath of volume 3 take its toll on the characters, and allowed them to grow, breath, and develop.  When the fights came into the picture, they had weight behind them, because the story had built to that point.  I can’t see the fights, and honestly would love for audio description to be added to the show, because there are huge chunks of just awesome music, no dialogue, and then I have to read the RWBY wiki for transcripts to see what happened in the stretch of the episode that has little dialogue.  They have a lot of show, not tell in the series:  which totally works, not knocking RWBY for doing that.  But those stretches of show not tell have no audio queue’s, and usually just footsteps for a few minutes with flashy sound effects that don’t really tell you what’s going on in the scene.  Like I said, you just have to deduce what happened, or look up what happened via transcripts.
I guess that’s also a big part of why I liked the slower pacing.  Less fights, meant more auditory going on because the characters were talking, and moving the plot along with dialogue.  And then, the fights had weight, and were a liiittle easier to figure out about half of what was going on.  Volumes 4 and 5 were both slower paced, and getting our heroes back together so the overarching bigger plot to take place with every character having grown through their trials in the volumes.
It was just…nice.  No other way to put it.  I felt a connection with the characters I hadn’t felt before, and didn’t see them as “The cool one, the one who’s a tomboy”  Characters that I didn’t even like before had arcs that made me like them.  If for some reason, you were turned off from RWBY volumes 1 through 3, but saw that there was a spark of something there that interested you decently, but not enough to want to continue watching, try watching volumes 4 and 5.  The show really starts there if I’m being honest, the first three seasons just feel like a prologue.
You an RWBY fan?  Did you like it from volume 1, or did it take a while to grow on you.  Would love to hear in the comments!

Cartoons · Uncategorized

Voltron Season 5 Review

So it looks like we’re stuck with this 6 to 7 episode format for a “season” when it comes to Voltron, thanks a lot Netflix.  I totally get why they’re doing it though, they get more content and can spread it out over a few “seasons” and it’s more lucrative for them.  I will say that season 5 fixed the format a little, and gave us a concrete beginning and end to the season, even with its short run time.  But with only 6 episodes to a season, was it enough to make season 5 worth the watch?
Spoilers:  Yep!  Now onto the review~

 

All in all, we were given a pretty solid season.  The character development front was a nice boost from prior seasons, where I feel we had a pretty big focus on plot centric stuff, and a back burner to character growth.  Did season 5 strike the perfect balance between good plot pacing, and good character development? I don’t think Voltron quite hit the mark there.  I find that it has a problem with giving us a plot point, having a few episodes not even remotely related to a certain plot point, and then bam out of the blue hey that plot point came back even though it wasn’t mentioned at all because we were focusing on other stuff.  Like a good example is the whole Shiro plot point from season 3.  We had all of these other plots going, and then hey at the end of the season, remember that Shiro plot?  Here’s how it’s going to go down!  That, along with the Pidge’s Dad plot I feel like just came out of the blue when we were focusing on other, more interesting plot points and characters.  I think it has a lot to do with wanting to have a conclusive “season 5” but come on Netflix, why not just give us 13 episodes so the pacing is a little bit better?

 

But plot pacing aside, I really enjoyed the characters in this season.  The strongest writing in this season was the relationships between Lotor, and the Paladins.  Spoilers ahead, you have been warned!
SO I really enjoy what they’re doing with Lotor in season 5.  He’s the most interesting character by far, just because of how unpredictable he is.  He sides with Team Voltron for self-preservation purposes, but does wind up gaining their trust.  But the real question is, is he manipulating them?  Is he sincere in some aspects of his words, and others not?  Or is he 100 percent on board with helping Team Voltron win the war.  It’s a really interesting dynamic that keeps the viewers on their toes, and even though I’d like Lotor to have genuinely changed sides, I also have a feeling of unease that the other shoe is going to drop as soon as Lotor gets what he wants.  I do believe his feelings towards Allura  are genuine, at least, but I’m just waiting for him to kidnap her, or try and lure her over to his side or something.  Lance in that regard grows immensely, along with his feelings for Allura (to me, at least, I love that ship but LotorXAllura I love too so I really really hope he’s legit).  Lance’s development in this season reached a point that I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the pilot of the Black Lion, just really enjoy how he’s matured over these five seasons.

 

Now the writing isn’t flawless, by any means.  The one thing I’m going to call out with the writing is how predictable it is.  We always know the paladins are going to win, we always know that even if a situation gets dire, they’ll come out on top.  Other than Lotor being more of a neutral chaotic, anyone else who we have heard about and assume is good, we meet and is good.  There was one character in particular that I would have liked to see them do something different with, and had be a secret Zarcon loyalist when they thought he was on their side but alas a missed opportunity and of course he turned out good, because that’s how he was initially presented to us.  I still enjoy the show, but it’s just such a predictable good vs. evil battle, granted with awesome fight scenes in it, but still some diverse character motivations would be nice.

 

So We find out something interesting with Keith in this season as well that I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Was a little bummed he only got one episode, and as of now he isn’t a Voltron paladin, but at least we got to see him a little in the season, even if it was one full episode with him.  But once again his character is developing nicely, so can’t complain.
Voltron season 5 seems like it’s a transitional season towards more heavier material to come in later seasons, it was a lot slower paced and focused more on the characters than anything else.  Since I enjoy character pieces over plot, I liked this season immensely, and can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

Have you seen season 5 of Voltron:  Legendary Defender?  I binged it all in one sitting!  If so, what did you think of the season as a whole?