Sunday, November 8, 2015

With Liberty and Justice for All

If there is one thing to be learned by reading my blog, it’s that they probably shouldn’t just give a blog to anyone who asks. I didn’t have to get a license to do this or pass any kind of test. I just asked Google and they let me put my words on the internet forever. So much for “Don’t be evil”. But if there’s anything else to be learned from reading my blog, it is that I’m a pretty big fan of Skullgirls.

It's probably the one thing I've referenced on this blog more often than this image.

But Skullgirls is done; the last of the DLC characters has been created, and everything’s been fine-tuned to the satisfaction of the creators and the fans. Skullgirls is in the past, and I intend to discuss the future. And the future is Indivisible, Lab Zero’s next project. Before you read on, I recommend that you click that link and give the game a try yourself. There is nothing that I can say about the game, or really anything in general, that is as compelling as actually playing it. Now, you might think it a bit suspicious that Lab Zero managed to create a game in the year or so since they finished Skullgirls. Well, the truth is that they didn’t; the game isn’t technically “made” yet. What you can play currently is just a prototype, albeit a damn fun game in its own right. The game proper won't be made unless the Indiegogo campaign meets its goal. Rather than desperately plead that you help fund this project so that I can have any hope for video games as an art, I will have some modicum of chill, and just normally plead you to do that.

C'mon man, just check it out.

So what is Indivisible, actually? It’s an RPG. But it’s also a lot more than that. It’s an RPG with combos. You play as Ajna, a young woman who, for story reasons, must do martial arts at Bad Guys. Along the way, she discovers that she has the power to absorb certain people, called Incarnations, into herself, and have them fight at her side. So they're kind of like Personas, except you have to absorb their powers by eating them, like Kirby, and also it's probably nothing like that at all. Your party consists of Ajna and 3 of these incarnations. Each of your 4 party members corresponds to a face button on the controller, which is used to execute attacks. Each party member has 3 attacks, which you can use to chain together combos. There are no turns; you have to wait between attacks, but combat takes place in real time. When enemies attack, you can order an Incarnation to guard by holding down their corresponding face button. This uses up Iddhi (your super meter, essentially), which is built whenever you attack or successfully block. By taking risks and only blocking at the last second before an enemy attacks, you can minimize Iddhi consumption, and use it to perform special moves. In a lot of ways, the combat is the most interesting part of the game, and trying to describe it with words is only doing it a disservice. I really recommend you try playing it for yourself.

In addition to being an RPG, Indivisible is also a platformer, drawing inspiration from Super Metroid, according to creator MikeZ. I know the platformer-RPG pairing isn’t a common one these days, or really any days that I know of, but the platforming is damn smooth, especially for an unfinished prototype. Though I don’t particularly care for the word “Game-feel”, (It has a terrible “mouth-feel”) I can’t think of a better one to describe what I’m trying to get across. I don’t think I’ve played a platformer with a “game-feel” this satisfying (OK using that word was a mistake) since Super Meat Boy. It even pulls off SMB’s sadistic challenge, if you elect to find and defeat the prototype’s secret boss. It might seem like any platforming challenge would be trivial after you get the axe, which allows you to scale vertical walls with ease, but only until you learn what it truly means for a wall to be more than vertical.

Like any RPG, Indivisible is going to have story, characters, ect. Since it’s just a prototype, the current version of the game offers little insight into these matters. But, as someone who’s played Skullgirls, I can 100% vouch for Lab Zero Games on this. Skullgirls’ story isn’t just good “for a fighting game”. It’s good for any game, period. Each character’s story mode works as its own standalone narrative, while also contributing a unique perspective to the central plot of Marie’s rise and fall as The Skullgirl. I don’t think I’ve ever changed my mind about anything as radically as my opinion on the ending (Double’s story). And that’s pretty impressive, since everything I do, I do radically. I don’t want to spoil it, but if you do play it, be sure to keep an eye ever on The Shadows. Actually, this advice works pretty well for real life, too.


Skullgirls has some of my favorite worldbuilding in all of video games; it knows that sometimes less is more, and each detail is intriguing enough to compel you to want to learn more. Indivisible could be Lab Zero Games’ chance to show that, sometimes, more is more (actually, all the time, according to how words work). Basically, imagine a world that’s as interesting as Skullgirls’, but you’re actually in it. It’s happening, all around you, and you can explore it. Plus, it has more esoteric mythology than any game this side of the Shin Megami Tensei series, so if you’re a nerd who likes modern fiction based on mythology, then it should be right up your alley.

OK, this paragraph is probably going to make some people (white males) roll their eyes. You know, the ones who just rolled their eyes at me singling them out. The ones who will construe what I’m about to say as pushing “The SJW agenda” and accuse me of somehow sleeping with Zoë Quinn (I think this blog itself is evidence enough against any claims of anyone sleeping with me). Indivisible is a game that promotes diversity, and in my opinion, that’s good. I think it’s kind of sad how notable it is when a video game stars any human other than a white male, particularly a woman of color. Like, I am a person who plays a lot of video games, but I’ve played very few as a woman of color. The only ones I can think of are To The Moon, The Walking Dead (Season 2), and Splatoon (while the ability to customize your character to be any race or gender is nice, this hardly counts). I almost feel bad for liking Indivisible that much more just because its protagonist looks like this:

But one character isn’t enough to promote diversity. That’s not what the word means. But Ajna isn’t the only character in the game. (At least, as far as we know. This may change depending on how my predictions regarding the title “Indivisible” pan out.) There are set to be more than 25 Incarnations in the game, representing all kinds of different cultures and mythologies. Basically, imagine if Street Fighter weren’t overtly racist. Here are some of my favorites that have been shown so far.

If that last one looks familiar, it’s probably because he’s Juan, the main character of Guacamelee!, a somewhat similar but also completely different platformer Metroidvania game with fighting-game elements and interesting, uncommon mythology that I really love and you should totally check out also. And he’s not the only guest character. Shovel Knight (from Shovel Knight) and Annie (The best Skullgirls character who isn’t a character in Skullgirls) are also confirmed, as well as other characters from games I haven’t heard of.

I’m really sorry if this reads like some kind of sales pitch, like I’m desperately trying to part you from your money. I didn’t want it to sound like that at all. But I did make it sound like that, because that’s exactly how it is. In truth, I have not even a modicum of chill; it was all a facade. If the campaign had already secured its funding, it’d be a different story, but it hasn’t, so it’s this story, and it may not have a happy ending. In fact, going by the numbers, success may seem outside the realm of possibility. (as I’m typing this, about half of the goal has been fulfilled, and less than a quarter of the time remains) But that’s why it’s more important than ever to not give up. One might ask “What’s the point of donating if it’s not going to get funded anyway?” But you can just as easily turn the question around: “What’s the point of not donating?” If the campaign succeeds, then you just got a cool game that you helped to make. If the campaign fails, you’re basically just giving a gift of cold hard cash to your future self. (Despite being on Indiegogo, this is a fixed funding campaign, so you get the money back if the goal isn’t reached) It’s a win-win. And the financial situation may not be as hopeless as it appears. While it may be unrealistic to expect that half the goal will be raised in the next week, there is another hope. The deadline can be extended by up to 20 days. However, this can only happen if a certain percentage of this goal is reached, so it’s still important that people contribute as soon as possible.

At the end of the day, all I can really do is ask you to click this this link. If you have the time to read my blog, I think you can probably spare a few minutes to check it out, unless you’re here on business for your job at The Lab That Studies Dumb Idiot Nerds. If you like what you see, that’s great. If you like what you see enough to pay money to make it happen, that’s even better. If you like what you see enough to spend an actually unwise amount of money on it, the kind of money that would make your parents say “wait what?” if they learned how much money you spent on it, then, well, you’re probably me. But if it doesn’t interest you, that’s cool, too. I’m not entitled to a say in how you spend your money. Hell, I’m not entitled to a say in how you spend your time, either. But I’d really like it if you went back and clicked the link at the beginning of this paragraph right after you read the last word in this paragraph, which is "be", surprising as that may be.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

You're a kid now, ect.

I am writing this new blog post, something I suspected I might never do again, because I have it on good word that I am a veritable wealth of new and Fresh opinions on Nintendo’s new game, Splatoon.

Not to be confused with Nintendo's other hot new property

What is Splatoon? Well, you’ve heard the memes, I’m sure. You’re a kid, you’re a squid, you're a kid, you're a squid, you're a kid, you're a squid, and your hips are more truthful than Shakira after overdosing on Veritaserum. I don't know what's less realistic: The fact that none of the sea creatures can swim, or the fact that creatures with allegedly no bones can break it down as hard as Callie and Marie.

Staring at this image for long enough has revealed to me Great and Terrible Truths.

Splatoon is a 3rd person shooter on the Wii U, made by Nintendo, as well as an S+ rank pun in its own right. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be the very one that the game itself overuses: Fresh. If cleanliness is next to Godliness, then to the denizens of Inkopolis, Freshness is above it. And what is it about Splatoon that makes it so fresh? Well, I could copy/paste my joke from earlier about how it’s Nintendo’s first new IP since Pikmin, which they’ve already driven into the ground. But what makes it even more exceptional is how supremely not Nintendo it is. Just one year ago, Nintendo was infamous for being incapable of providing a competent platform for online play. Hell, they probably still are. Remember how terrible trying to play Brawl online was? Neither do I, because I couldn’t even get it set up. Yet there are few console games out there as reliant on online play as Splatoon. Certainly none that I’ve played. Other than a short “campaign” that takes maybe 4 or 5 hours, and a 1v1 local multiplayer mode that requires you to arrange 5 Wii remotes into a pentagram to summon a real controller, everything is online play. But the online works. At least, it works when it works. When it doesn’t work, you’re a catastrophic disappointment to your team and yourself, but that doesn’t happen too often. Unless it does. But that’s probably because you have a shoddy internet connection, and your dad is good at computers, so any attempt to fiddle with the router is about as good an idea as trying to change the thermostat at a deck-building convention. But for real, the online is pretty fluid (lol) if you don’t have connection issues.

If you’re wondering why I said “lol” after fluid, don’t worry, it’s not because I’ve finally cracked and lost my grip on the concept of humor. Er, well, I mean, it’s also because of the mechanics of Splatoon. It is a shooter where the goal is not to kill your enemies. Your goal is to cover the most ground with ink of your color, using a wide assortment of weapons to do so. Killing enemies can help you accomplish this goal, as it sends them back to their respawn point, allowing you to capture their territory, but it is not necessary. However, ink is more than just how you win the game; it’s also how you play the game. Firing your weapons takes up ink, which is restored much more quickly while swimming in your own ink. Swimming in ink also allows you to move far more quickly and stealthily than walking. And even though it gives you almost no points, you can ink vertical walls and climb up them, allowing you to take strategic positions and get the drop on unsuspecting foes. In other shooters, most of the time isn’t spent shooting. If you’re good, then it’s probably spent taking key positions and doing, I don’t know, strategy or something. But if you’re me, it’s spent wandering around waiting to shoot or be shot. In Splatoon, there is no downtime. If you want to win, you have to make sure that each of the 180 seconds in a match is well-spent. Should you stay behind and make sure your base is thoroughly covered while your team charges ahead? Should you charge at an enemy who is entrenched in their territory, or sneak off to claim the ground they’ve left unguarded? Should you actually try to be good at the game, or just use a bucket to kill people without even deigning to see them first? (FULL DISCLOSURE: That wasn’t a jab at other people who do that, that is 100% my most effective strategy) You are making these decisions all throughout the game, and each one can mean victory or defeat for your team. Unless your team is made up of 3-4 bumbling chodes about whom you will say devastatingly clever things like “Inklings? More like stinklings!” The upshot to having a terrible team is that matches are short; you never have to put up with the same bunch of losers for more than 3 minutes, unless you’re like me, and there’s always that one loser on your team whom you’ll have to put up with for 80 years, if you’re lucky.

I'm a female inkling because they have a BETTER DESIGN, alright?

One of the great things about Splatoon is that there are so many ways to be good that there’s a good chance that you can manage one of them. Hate getting up close and personal? Rain death from afar with a Splatling gun. Can’t aim? Just use an ink roller and cover everything. Like killing people before they even know what’s happening? Haha, me too, man, but we’re talking about the game right now. Go with a .50 cal- er, I mean, .52 gal or .96 gal. Just bad at video games in general? Play during the day, when you’ll be against Americans.

Another thing I found notable about Splatoon was how it almost felt like an indie title, in a way that’s mostly good. There isn’t a lot of stuff, (The game shipped with just 5 stages, though there are now somewhere around 10, with more being added) but the stuff that is there is fun. The game has a quirky style that I’m going to compare to Skullgirls because you can’t stop me from doing that. I’m also going to compare it to Dangan Ronpa, and not just because neither game has very realistic-looking blood. Both games have a concept that’s very original and fresh, (it seriously took me like a week to start using that word unironically) yet seems so obvious when you hear it. For those of you who don’t know, Dangan Ronpa is a game where between 15 and 16 (inclusive… or is it?) high schoolers are trapped in a school, and the only way they can get out is by committing a murder and not getting caught. If you’re caught, you die; if you’re not, everyone else dies, and you go free. It’s what a physicist might call “elegant”, or what a philosopher might call “kinda fucked up”. Splatoon is a lot like that. Kinda fucked up. I mean, the inklings don’t even have bones. How do they carry those ink tanks (cartridges?) around? And the Squid Sisters? They’re not even sisters. They’re cousins. They could have called themselves the Kid Cousins, but they didn’t. They chose to lie to us.

Speaking of lies, I lied to you about the topic of this post. From here on out, it’s all about Etrian Odyssey, which you may recognize as the origin of this screenshot of a girl saying “lady boner” which has featured in an astounding 100% of the blog posts I have written this year.

I see trees of green. Lady boners, too. I see them bloom. For me and for you. And I think to myself...
Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on your proclivities) Etrian Odyssey takes the term “lady boner” more figuratively than some JRPGs.  But that’s not what I came here to talk about, so I am hereby banning myself from using the word “boner” for the remainder of this post. Alright.
In particular, I’ve recently been playing Etrian Odyssey II Untold, a remake of Etrian Odyssey II, but with actual story and characters this time. Unless you prefer to play in Old Testament mode, where it’s business as usual; you’re free to pick your party however you like, and the only canon is headcanon. So, essentially, it’s a choice between having a party consisting of 5 little girls, and having a party with only 1 little girl, but she has a personality and a voice and weaves the thread of life.

Chloe in one word

If I had to describe Etrian Odyssey II Untold in one sentence, it would be “Etrian Odyssey II Untold is a game in which you can get headbutted by a hedgehog.” Given two sentences, I would go on to say “You then have the option to compliment said hedgehog on his headbutting skills”. My third sentence would probably just be “The defense rests”, because I really don’t know what more you want from me.

I don’t think any game has understood me on a personal level as much as EO2U since Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker (I realize now that I should probably just abbreviate that title, but I don’t want the effort that went into typing all that out to go to waste) featured a boss fight against a Billiken who tried to take all my money. (The joke is that I go to a university whose mascot is the Billiken. But student debt is no joke, kids) One example of this is when one of the characters said that eating is kind of bullshit. And you know what? I agree. Eating is kind of bullshit. Like, I’m a busy guy. I’ve got stuff to do. Theorems to prove. Shit to write. Other, stinkier shit to write. I don’t always have time to rend the remains of formerly living beings with the sharpest part of my skeleton, driven by the strongest voluntary muscles in my body, and… you know what? Screw what I said earlier. Eating is fuckin’ hype.

Alright, dim the lights, it’s time for a Real Talk about what makes Etrian Odyssey a good RPG. To do that, we must ask the question: What defines an RPG? Role playing, you say? Haha, OK guy who plays games from countries other than Japan. We’re talking about RPGs here, not Role-Playing Games. Get it together. In my opinion, RPGs are primarily characterized by growth. You start with a character or party who is weak, and as the game progresses, you level up and become stronger. This comes with a sense of achievement, as fictional accomplishments are the only thing you are capable of achieving anymore. No RPG that I’ve played has handled this more effectively than Etrian Odyssey. This is primarily thanks to FOEs (pronounced “Eff-Oh-EE”, which stands for “This is an Atlus game, we don’t explain our acronyms”). An FOE is a powerful monster that can be seen on the map, unlike standard random encounters. An FOE is more than just a boss; when you first encounter a new species, you will almost certainly be hopelessly outmatched by it. Fighting it simply is not an option. FOEs usually will move in predictable patterns which you must use to avoid them. Oftentimes you must use the environment to avoid them or incapacitate them without fighting them. Before you’re strong enough to take them head on, dealing with an FOE is often much like a puzzle, and they’re often well-crafted ones. But they can still be a bit of a headache, which makes it all the more satisfying when you are strong enough to take them head on. With enough cunning and patience, you see the enemy that once terrorized you fall, often giving material that can be used to craft cool weapons or armor. Become stronger still, and the once-dreadful FOE is little more than a nuisance, just another monster that takes a bit longer to kill than the others. This gives you a very concrete way of measuring how much stronger you are now than you once were. The ultimate example of this is the dragons of Etrian Odyssey IV. For much of the game, they are less monsters than they are Acts of God. The idea of trying to fight them is as ridiculous as trying to duel a hurricane. If they so much as touch your airship while you’re exploring the overworld, you’ll find yourself exploring The Underworld in no time. This makes it all the more satisfying when you finally get the chance to fight them. Memories of all the dozens of times you’ve carelessly strayed into their path and been reduced to rubble come rushing back. From Hell’s heart, you stab at them, but it’ll take so much more than that to emerge victorious. It’ll take cool weapons, and an even cooler head to prevail.

Back to Splatoon for a bit: The hat shop is called "Cooler Heads" This is The Greatest Thing.

OK, turn the lights back up, because, while this is still Real Talk, I’m making this one a lightning round. Maps: They’re cool. When you’re drawing a map, that’s how you know you’re having an adventure. There’s a reason that no Zelda game to date has given me a stronger feel of exploration than Wind Waker, and that’s because you drew a map. There’s a reason that no game to date given me a stronger feel of exploration than Etrian Odyssey IV, and that’s because you drew hella maps. That game has more maps than C(). (That’s a math joke. The punchline of the joke is me, the Worst Nerd.) When you draw a map, you’re not just wandering through a labyrinth; you’re conquering it. You are turning the vast, untamed wilderness into your home. You are making Nature into your Bitch. And, in the end, isn’t that the human success story? Homo sapiens looked at nature, with all its bullshit trees or whatever, and said “No. This will not do”. And then you know what he did? He made video games. For more information on the subject, please read my forthcoming essay: “Yggdrasil is Nature: Etrian Odyssey as a Metaphor for the Military-Industrial Complex”.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Most Punderful Time of the Year: Music

Now, it's time for the same list as last time (remember last time? An entire semester ago? Remember when I measured time in increments other than semesters?), except instead of describing the gameplay, story, or other merits of my favorite games, I will be focusing exclusively on the music, about which I can say little more substantial than "IT'S REALLY GOOD YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO IT BY CLICKING THIS LINK". But damn if that'll stop me from trying.


Persona 3: FES Opening
Persona 4: Like A Dream Come True (Reincarnation remix)
Persona Q: Light the Fire Up in the Night (P3 Version)
Persona 4: Dancing All Night: Dance!
Every Persona Game: Poem for Everyone's Souls

If there's one thing you should know about Persona, it's that it's a game about shooting yourself in the head to summon demons while rap music plays in the background. Seriously. (Well, one of the games, anyway) But if there are two things you should know, the second one is that the menus in the Persona 5 trailer are unreal. If you had told me 10 years ago that menu technology would have advanced so far in such a short time, I would have told you to tell me more interesting things about the future, honestly. But if there are three things you should know, the third one is that Persona has some seriously cool music. If you're in the market for J-Pop with lyrics that you can almost understand, then Persona is like an all-you-can-eat buffet, provided that you can only eat 40 or so songs. Of course, that's just a completely fabricated estimate of the number of vocal tracks. There's plenty more instrumental music, which is, in some cases, just as tasty. Add in the -Reincarnation- albums “Burn My Dread” and “Nevermore”, and you have a bunch of music of a quality that might be described as “unfair”. Seriously, just listen to that rendition of “Like a Dream Come True” and tell me that you don't feel a twinge of pity for all other music for having to try to measure up to that.

Child of Light/Cœur de pirate

Child of Light: Aurora's theme
Cœur de Pirate: Golden Baby

The main draw (absolutely nothing to "get" here [see: the previous post –ED]) of Child of Light is the verse. Virtually all text in the game rhymes. It's the reason I got the game in the first place, but it's not the reason you should get it. It all rhymes, for the most part, but it's more written in yard than it is written in meter, if you're catching my drift. And while the quality of the poetry isn't the best, the sheer quantity of it is impressive, and just about everything else about the game is fantastic; the combat is fun and interesting, the art is beautiful, the story is alright, and, most relevant to this post, the soundtrack is great.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My first thought upon listening to the full soundtrack on Spotify was "man, I'm glad I didn't pay money for this". But, in my defense, I'm a college student with enough things to spend money on, and I'm quite content with listening to good music for free with minimal inconvenience.

Spotify: Music for Poor People!®

But another thing I can thank Child of Light's soundtrack for is introducing me to the composer, French-Canadian musician Cœur de Pirate, literally "Pirate Heart", which I would call dibs on for a band name if it weren't, you know, already in use. In addition to composing, she sings in both French and Canadian, and is very good at both.  Also, one of her albums has #skeletons on it.

My #Twitter #Brand

The Giddy Limit/Professor Elemental

The Giddy Limit: Please Don't Feed The Trolls
Professor Elemental: The Quest for the Golden Frog

I off-handedly mentioned Professor Elemental a while back, when I said that I may have to preach about him someday. Well, his newest album, "The Giddy Limit" dropped last year, so the day has finally come. Professor Elemental is a steampunk rapper of sorts, a prominent artist in the genre known as chap-hop. Chap-hop is, more or less, an imagining of what rap would be like if it were invented in Victorian England. Rather than rapping about drug use, gang violence, or how to use the power of dance to save your local community center (I, uh, don't really listen to a lot of rap), Professor Elemental spits rhymes about incredible contraptions, fantastic adventures, and silly hats. And while his songs are mostly silly and humorous, they are by no means just a joke. As a poet myself, I am fully qualified to assert that his flow is in fact most "fresh" and, uh, "dope". So if you're a doughy white boy looking for rap that won't upset your parents, (or, more likely, upset your parents for a whole different reason) or you're just a fan of poetry and music at the same time, I highly recommend that you check him out.

“The Giddy Limit”, despite sounding like the title of a calculus course taught by me, is an album that I paid actual money for, putting it on par with the Frozen soundtrack, Bastion Soundtrack, and like two other songs I've ever paid for (see: the previous entry. Er, the Spotify part, not the “Pirate” part). Actually, I retract the “despite” from that last sentence; that's probably exactly why I paid money for it. The reason for the unusual title is... quirky and British, probably? I honestly have no idea.

Bravely Default

Final Boss song: Serpent Eating the Horizon

Remember Attack on Titan? Even if you don't, you probably watched it; a lot of people did. Called “Japan's answer to The Walking Dead” by people who enjoy angering fans of Attack on Titan and fans of The Walking Dead, Attack on Titan is an over-rated anime. But that's not to say that it was completely without merit. One of my favorite parts of it would have to be the opening, one of the hypest songs I've ever heard. I'd have no problem throwing myself at a 50 meter behemoth with no hope of survival if that song were in the background pumping me up. Now I want you to imagine an entire soundtrack composed of songs that are as hype as the Attack on Titan opening. If you're having trouble dreaming up such a wild fantasy, then, well, I can hardly blame you. But such a thing truly does exist in this, the realm of Man, and it is the Bravely Default soundtrack. It's composed by the same guy, Revo, and much of it has the exact same flavor. There is variety in the music, so it's not all comin' at ya hot and heavy, but when it is, it's comin' at ya the hottest and the heaviest. This all culminates with the final boss theme, which is over-the-top excellent enough to keep one of the longest boss fights I've ever fought from feeling like it was being dragged out.

Yet all good things must come to an end, which is why Bravely Second, the just-as-stupidly-titled sequel, has a score composed by someone else. And while Ryo has some tasty tracks to his name, most notably some of the most celebrated Miku songs of all time, it seems unlikely that he'll be able to measure up to Bravely Default, because, honestly, I don't even know if Revo could top his own work. Bravely Default is probably my second favorite video game soundtrack of all time, and likely my favorite video game soundtrack that doesn't cheat (Sorry, Smash Bros.)


We All Become

Transistor had good music. Was it as good as Bastion's? In my opinion, no. Was it good enough to get on a list of my favorite music of the year? Evidently, yes. It particular, I think that the instrumental tracks in Transistor aren't as memorable as Bastion's. At least, I don't think they were. I don't really remember. The vocal tracks, on the other hand, are so good that you'll (incorrectly) swear they weren't recorded in some dude's closet. It really is a testament to the talent of Supergiant Games that they can make better music with two people and a closet than some musicians can make with a million dollar studio and a name that kind of almost rhymes with “fever”. And, speaking of the people behind the soundtrack of Transistor, I'd like to talk for a bit about Darren Korb, the composer of Bastion and Transistor's soundtracks.

The thing between the muttonchops and behind the horn-rimmed glasses.

Now, that image says all you really need to know. Darren Korb looks like the stern yet ultimately kind-hearted police chief to whom #HipsterCop reports. He described the genre of Transistor's music as “Electronic old world post-rock”. Now, that's not a direct quotation, (I left my paraphrase marks in my other pants) but it was definitely something along those lines. [NOTE: I managed to find the source, and I actually got it exactly right, except the order of the words -ED]. He's in a band called Control Group that's inexplicably underground, despite containing the composer of perhaps the most beloved indie soundtrack of all time. I gave their stuff a listen, and I can't really think of any way to describe their sound other than “indie”. Except, perhaps, by saying that it is much more believable that it was recorded in some dude's closet, but in a way that I can't help but dig. Because, in the end, despite looking like the poster child of the most hated group on the internet since furries, Darren Korb is pretty damn cool, which just goes to show that you can't judge an album by its cover art.

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Super Smash Bros. For Wii U

Main Theme
Best New Remix: Cynthia's Theme
Runner Up: Dedede's Theme
Cool song that's only in the Japanese version because Japan can eat it: Ashley's Theme Ver. 2

There's really not much more to say about the Super Smash Bros. Soundtrack. If you know the words, you can join in too.

Etrian Odyssey IV

Battle Theme: Battlefield - Storm
FOE theme: The Fall of the Final Enemy
Town Theme: Day and Night

The Etrian Odyssey soundtrack is really good. Listen to that song, and keep in mind that that's the ordinary battle theme for random encounters. Now, battle music is supposed to be hype, so it's not too unusual, but towards the end, you get the sense that the composer forgot that this was for common mooks, and pulled out all the stops. And, to be fair, if a battle goes on for that long, you deserve some triumphant fanfare to get you through the day. The fact of the matter is that for the first few hours I played this game, I grinned like an idiot every time I listened to this song. And I still do. I love it.

But not every song in the game is as ridiculously hype as the battle music. For the first few dungeons, the intense battle music provides excellent contrast to the dungeon music, a serene piece that calls to mind a peaceful forest. There’s no way anything could go wrong in such a mellow melody accompanying you. And then it happens. You make one wrong move, and WHAM! You’re in a suburb of the greater FOE area, Population: 5, and rapidly declining. And the music lets you know just how badly you’re screwed, right off the bat. Of course, the tables turn once you’re hardened adventurers who have been to the foot of Yggdrasil and back; the panic in the song belongs to the beasts you hunt, as you remorselessly dismantle them as vengeance for the trouble they gave you at the start.

Now, I could go on about how fun the town theme is, or how smooth it is at night, but all you really need to know about the Etrian Odyssey IV Soundtrack is this:

The ESRB has deemed this content generally suitable for children ages 13 and up.

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA f (& F 2nd)

Hatsune Miku: Secret Police
Rin and Len Kagamine: HachiHachi Flower Fight
Meiko: Nostalogic
Kaito: Ashes to Ashes
Megurine Luka: Glasses

I mentioned Miku in my last Top Music list, but I'mma level with you: When I wrote that, I probably knew less than a dozen Miku songs. I really liked the songs I knew, and I could get behind the concept, but I was never really motivated to look for more. But that changed when I bought a Playstation Vita just to play Persona 4 Golden, and needed to buy more games to justify the purchase. Enter Project DIVA, a rhythm game starring everyone's favorite electronic singer.


Project DIVA's gameplay is simple enough. Playstation buttons fly all around the screen, and you have to press the corresponding button when it reaches the target. This is done to the rhythm of the song that is playing. It's kind of like Guitar Hero, (Does anyone remember that? I do) but with buttons coming from all over the place, instead of down a single track, and with animations in the background. It also does away with the clunky peripheral, so there's nothing between you and the rhythm, save Miku's... gyrating.

The game has 32 songs, and while most are sung by Miku, a few of the other vocaloids get in on the action. And while I used to scoff at the notion of other vocaloids, I must say, I've taken quite a shine to them. Each of the 6 has their own distinct voice, allowing some variety in the musical style. The music is also kept fresh by the breadth of composing talent. There are almost as many different composers as there are songs, with no composer having more than 2 songs to their name. This even applies to the all-stars, like Ryo (Who eventually quit the Vocaloid biz and ended up scoring a certain RPG series [This is called "aftshadowing"])

Since this is a music list, I suppose I should talk about the actual music. It's great and I love it. I concede that it's not for everyone. But if you're the type who enjoys fast, fun J-pop, well, here's a playlist with all the music. You may notice that that playlist has a lot more than 32 songs; this is because it also has music from Project DIVA F 2nd, the sequel with more songs, more sparkle, and more Satan.

There's actually another significant number. Blink, and you'll miss it.

And you know what? Since it has more, perhaps even better, songs, I think I’ll list some more of them here. IDGAF

Miku: SPiCa -39's Giving Day Edition-
Miku & Luka: Akatsuki Arrival
Luka: Luka Luka ★Night Fever
Rin: Roshin Yuukai
Len: Paradichlorobenzene
Meiko: Break it, Break it
Kaito: Cantarella -Grace Edition-

Now, it may seem unnecessarily cruel of me to keep heaping all these vocaloids on you after you thought you were done, but this is actually a kindness. I’m only mentioning F 2nd here so that I won’t have an excuse to make in an entry on my 2015 music list (Coming soon in the year 2018). Now, Project Mirai on the other hand…

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Most Punderful Time of the Year: Video Games

Well, it's that time of year again. Time for me to talk about all the things I like (as if that isn't all year). Luckily for you, my school schedule has been ensuring that such things are in rather short supply. But I did manage to play some games through all the tears. You may have noticed, since that's all I've really blogged about this year (for all the dozen times I've blogged). As such, most of these games I've already discussed, so I'll mostly just be re-writing things I've already written. and since ranking things is hard, the order is by no means meant to reflect which games are my most favorite; rather, they have been ordered so that I can use the transition "speaking of..." as many times as possible.

8. Super Smash Bros. For 3DS/Wii U

As some of my sharper readers (you'll get yours, Pinhead Larry) may have noticed, my last post, which was about Super Smash Bros, was published on the day Smash for 3DS came out. So it's not too much of a mystery why I haven't made a post since then. I've been pretty busy. With, uh, school. And stuff.


The new Smash Bros is cool. You didn't need me to say that, but I needed me to say. It's remarkably balanced compared to Brawl. Even if all the characters aren't competitively viable, they're almost all usable and fun to play as. 8 player smash often goes about as terribly as you'd expect, but it can be fun if played on the right stage. Also, I once caught five enemies in Ike's final smash, which is probably the coolest thing I've ever done in my life.

haha whatever poetry's for nerds anyway

Speaking of new modes that I was kind of wary of going in, Smash Tour (Mario Party but in Smash) is pretty alright. The gameplay is somewhat more skill-based than in everyone's favorite friendship ending simulator, but that doesn't mean that it's any less easy to completely screw over your friends. It just saves you a trip to change the disc in your console when you inevitably have to Settle it in Smash. And while I gotta say that I'm kinda disappointed in a lot of the new stages and seeming lack of new music, (especially on the 3DS) there's always old favorites. And the all the new music they do have is really damn good. But that's a story for another post.

7. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

Speaking of fighting games starring beloved characters from some of my favorite video games, (as well as some other characters [Yukari]) this is a game that also fits that description. Well, kind of. I've honestly only finished one Persona game as of the writing of this sentence, but it could be as many as three by the time this hits the presses. (Two, as of this revision)

I seem to remember mentioning this game in my last post, and, if memory serves, I was more than a little salty about it. Not too long after those complaints, I managed to beat Classic mode on the highest difficulty with several characters. What can I say? I'm just that good at video games. Still not good enough to remember all the controls, but baby steps.

I'm really glad that I bought P4AU, and not just because it was required to complete my Persona tarot deck, which I value somewhere between my life and my scientific calculator. It's a fun game with a lot of depth. It's not easy, but that just serves to make it more satisfying when you get a clutch counter or pull off a sick combo. (something that I'm sure I'll manage when I get back to playing it) And the One-Hit KO moves, while seemingly overpowered and game-breaking, are actually, in fact, totally overpowered and game-breaking when you're too much of a scrub to avoid them. I'm probably also too much of a scrub to hit with one, but you have to win a round to use them, and that almost never happens when I'm fighting a real opponent. But at least it's satisfying to kick a CPU into space 5 seconds into a round, or brofist with your Persona so hard that you do 10x as much damage as they have HP. Because as I Reach Out to the Truth, I firmly grasp that it's just fun as hell to destroy those who are weaker than you.

6. Persona 3 and 4

Speaking of Persona, I played Persona 3, my first real Persona game, this year. Persona 3 is arguably the first real Persona game at all, at least by the modern standards that define a Persona game. Yes, there were Personas 1 and 2, but those were... different. How different? Well, I'll turn over to Space Hitler to answer that question.

The things you fought were called demons instead of shadows.
I spoke about Persona 3 before, and most of the things that I said then are still true now. But don't worry; all those feelings of "damn, I'm going to shape up and be a better friend to the people I know" have subsided, and I'm still the same schmuck as I was before, because if there's one thing I learned from Frozen, it's that "people don't really change". If there's two things, then the other is that people who complain that "Let it Go" is over-rated really don't like being told to "Let it Go" for the 237th time. 

Persona 3 is a good game in a lot of different ways which, on their own, might not be individually impressive, but come together excellently when taken as a whole. As just an RPG, P3 doesn't stand out on its own. The Answer (The post-game story in Persona 3 FES that doesn't have social links) makes that clear enough. Similarly, if it were just the social aspects, it's easy to imagine one getting lost in the maze of relationships and losing motivation. But with both parts, you can choose your pacing however you like, and the game stays fresh. Until the full moon comes up, because you better be ready or you'll learn real quick whether or not death is a hunter unbeknownst to its prey.


Since I haven't finished Persona 4, it's getting lumped in with this entry. It's also getting lumped in with this entry because, despite what I said at the beginning, I actually have a lot of games to talk about, because that's what I did to escape my schoolwork.

I'm really liking Persona 4 so far, despite my questionable decision to play Persona 4 Arena Ultimax beforehand (Big shoutout to Atlus for having one of the characters meet the murderer in arcade mode and say "Hey, isn't that the guy who did all those murders in Inaba? You know, the murderer whose murders were the main plot of our game and whose identity is the biggest mystery? That very murderer") Since I haven't finished it yet, I can't really compare it much to P3 in terms of overall story or social link quality, but it seems to me like, as an RPG, Persona 4 is a significant improvement upon Persona 3. Persona fusion is more streamlined, dungeons seem less tedious, and you can give direct orders to your units. Honestly, I have pretty much finished the game by now, but I haven't the space to devote to comparing the two games. If you really want my opinion on the matter, I guess you can see me after class.

I also really like the symbolism of Persona 4. When people are forced to confront their Shadows, the shameful thoughts and feelings that they try to hide, even from themselves, they deny them. This only makes the Shadows stronger. Only by making peace with their faults and accepting themselves for who they are, flaws and all, do they grow as people and gain the power to kick fuckers into space(!) And in the end, that's what life is really all about. (the power to kick fuckers into space)

5. Persona Q

Speaking of Personas 3 and 4, we have Persona Q, the most crossed over game I have ever played. It is a crossover between Persona 3 and Persona 4, as it features characters from both games embarking on a quest to give the fans what they want. And, despite the fact that it is mentioned no where on the package or in the game, it is also a crossover between the Persona and Etrian Odyssey series. And speaking of Etrian Odyssey not being mentioned, it seems that I have never once mentioned it here, yet I seem to have memories of passionately describing its cartography RPG mechanics to a disinterested blog audience. I guess if you want more context, skip ahead to the Etrian Odyssey IV entry and come back to this.

Persona Q is an idea that first sounds like it should work on paper, then sounds like it really couldn't work after you think about it for a bit, but then ends up working pretty damn well in practice. They're both RPG's made by Atlus, so, you know, why not? But one of the notable quirks of EO is that your party isn't really made up of characters; just nameless randos with no dialogue or characterization beyond their portrait. Persona, on the other hand, is intensely character driven. Atlus does manage to reconcile the differing styles, and Persona Q is a great game, but I will say this about it: Persona Q doesn't do "Persona" as well as a real Persona game, and it doesn't do "Etrian Odyssey" as well as a real Etrian Odyssey game. Before I explain what I mean by that, I'd just like to clarify that I've actually only played one game from each of the respective series, so I'm pretty much just talking about my ass.

As I said before, the main draw (haha get it because of cards?) of Persona is the characters. Growing bonds with them and watching them develop as characters is very satisfying. Persona Q uses characters that are already known, and because of the wibbley wobbley timey wimey way that it takes place in the middle of P3 and P4, there isn't much room for character development. Most of the characters are more 2-dimensional, like caricatures of the people you know and love. But it's not as bad as all that; there's plenty of fun banter between all the characters, and there's plenty of Persona wisdom towards the end.

Sometimes the true manifestation of your inner self is a giant green phallus?

In my opinion, the main draw (haha get it because of... drawing maps?) of Etrian Odyssey is the sense of exploration. Exploring uncharted lands and discovering unknown treasures and dangers provides a thrill many other RPGs lack. Without an overworld or sub-dungeons, much of this sense of exploration was lost in Persona Q. But I must compliment Persona Q's dungeon design, which, although frustrating at times, included a lot of interesting and neat puzzles.

What I'm saying is that despite some flaws, the game is good and also the music is good. At this point, the chain of "Speaking of..." transitions splits in "Choose your own Adventure" fashion

For "Speaking of crossovers", skip to entry 4
For "Speaking of Etrian Odyssey", skip to entry 3

4. Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney

Speaking of crossovers, Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney is another great crossover game that I played this year. And while the games are so different that it's impossible to directly compare them as games, I will say that, as a crossover, PL vs. AA surpasses PQ. It is both an excellent Ace Attorney game (Maybe even one of the best) and an excellent Professor Layton game. And I have more credentials on this matter, as I've played the entire Ace Attorney series, and two games of Professor Layton. It has all the courtroom drama of an Ace Attorney game, and all the grand mystery of a Professor Layton game, as well as a level of "feels" uncommon to either series. The "witch trials", featuring magic and cross-examination of multiple witnesses at once are a fresh new take on Ace Attorney, and it's always satisfying to reduce a puzzle to a modular system of linear equations and spend 15 minutes inventing new math to solve a puzzle about pushing buttons with triangles on them.

Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney does a great job of exemplifying all the qualities of the respective series, both good and bad. It's also highly accessible for anyone who hasn't played one of the series. There aren't really any spoilers on either side, so it could make a nice introduction for someone who's played one game but not the other, or even a total newcomer. Persona Q actually did a pretty decent job in this department, with minimal spoiling of things I didn't already know (Hi, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax)

3. Etrian Odyssey IV

Speaking of Etrian Odyssey, I also played an actual Etrian Odyssey game this year, Etrian Odyssey IV. I bought it on a whim during an Atlus sale when I also bought SMT Devil Survivor: Overclocked. I kind of regretted it, since it took me so long to get around to playing it. And if I wasn't forced away from Persona 3 by a trip to visit my family, there's no telling how long that would have taken. But I did end up playing it, and I'm glad, because Etrian Odyssey IV is pretty baller.

Really baller
What really sets Etrian Odyssey apart is that you draw your own map. As you explore dungeons, you have to draw walls and the like on the bottom screen so you don't get lost. This sounds like a pain in the ass, and sometimes it is, but it really gives the sense of exploration that's rare in other games. In the beginning, at least, you're not The Chosen One on his Quest of Epic Destiny to destroy all Evil. You're not a rag-tag bunch of scrappy rebels fighting for freedom against the Evil Empire of Tyranny. You're just a couple of dudes and lady-dudes going where no one's been before, trying to figure out what's up with that big-ass tree in the distance because the Count said to. It's almost more of an explorer sim at first. And the initial lack of characters and story just makes it that much cooler when the plot starts to kick off.

Another strength of Etrian Odyssey IV is the combat system. I liked it. Each of the 8 (starting) classes has a definite role within your 5 member party, and you can customize the skills they learn and invest in to suit your strategy. Or you could just say "to Hell with strategy" and make a bunch of people who hit as hard and fast as possible. Nothing's stopping you. By the end of my playthrough damage was dealt almost exclusively by a single mage, with the rest of the party devoted to maximizing her damage and keeping everyone alive. Probably not the best strategy, but a valid one nonetheless.

Here is an anecdote of a memorable experience I had in EO IV. I was going to cut it, but my brother insisted that I not, so all culpability for this is his. I was wandering around some dungeon when I noticed that an otherwise unexceptional patch of water had a prompt to press the A button. Thinking that it might allow me to take a rest and heal or something, I pressed A, and it asked me if I wanted to catch a crayfish. Naturally, I did, so I had the first member of my party try to catch it. She was too slow, and got a nasty pinch, slightly damaging her. So I tried again with my fastest unit. Pinched. HP gone.At this point, I gave up, but when I happened upon the same spot while traveling through the same dungeon, I steeled my resolve and tried again. And again. After each of my party members, one by one, fell victim to the cruel pinch of Man's folly, one of them succeeded. The guild immediately erupted into cheers and celebration. It was a rare outburst of human emotion from characters who were really just grunts with a name and a face. But then someone asked the question: "Why did we even want it in the first place?" All at once, everyone realized that they were getting excited over nothing. The cray fish was thrown back into the water with disgust, and the adventure moved on like nothing had happened.

Also the music is like really good

2. Bravely Default

Speaking of... RPG's, I guess? Yeah, Bravely Default, whatever. The game that, earlier in the year, I said would probably be my game of the year if not for Super Smash Brothers, because I hadn't anticipated that I'd be playing so many amazing games this year. But that's not to say that it isn't an amazing game, because it really is. It's probably my favorite non-Atlus JRPG (which honestly might not be saying a whole lot). And while it does have a few setbacks, (If you refer to the part where the plot "shits the bed", almost anyone who's played the game will know what you're talking about) if Bravely Second is basically just Bravely Default, but without all the bad parts, it could easily be one of my favorite games of all time.

I believe in you, Square. You know what must be done.

I didn't have much time to talk about Bravely Default in that last post, because I was too busy talking about other games made by Atlus. Luckily, this time I- oh. Oh geez. Oh ding dang darn. Better make this a lightning round.

The thing that really stands out about Bravely Default is... well, nothing, actually, because it's just holistically good. The brave and default combat system allows you to default (guard) on one turn so that you can perform more actions on a later turn. This allows you to strategically attack and defend when the moment is right, or, more realistically, have everyone save up all their brave points to maximum and then hit as hard as you can all at once. The characters and story are interesting, (except for that one time) but in a way that I can't talk much about without spoilers. There's a thing that happens that's really, REALLY cool, but I also can't really describe it much without spoilers. You'll know it when you see it. Maybe. It also has the best use of augmented reality of any game I've ever played, which is to say that it uses augmented reality, which no other real game I've ever played did. But still, it was really cool, and I don't anticipate it being topped any time soon by anything other than maybe Bravely Second.

1. Transistor

Speaking of absolutely nothing in particular, Transistor is a game that I played and really, really liked. In fact, of all the games here, my liking of Transistor is probably the most well-documented, so I should be able to wrap this one up quickly.

One thing that I would like to add, though, is that I did play Bastion after playing Transistor, and I am now no longer so sure that I prefer the former to the latter, especially after reading a far-too-long article about some of the Philosophical Ideas in Transistor. I still think Bastion's soundtrack is substantially better, (While Transistor's was good, it was a bit of a disappointment) and the story was powerful in a way that was easy to understand, but Transistor had a much deeper combat system, once you got used to it. The bottom line is that both are excellent games and you should seriously consider playing them if you ever get the chance.


Basically all of the games I've played this year have been pretty great (except for one. You know the one). Guacamelee, Devil Survivor Overclocked, and Child of Light were all great games. But, as you've probably noticed from the fact that you're not reading this because you got bored and left halfway through this post, this post is too damn long as it is, so I'll just leave it at "great games"

Tune in next time, when I talk about my favorite music, most of which is going to be from these same games.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Unnecessary Second Half of that Post that I Just Didn't Finish

Sometimes, when you land a particularly powerful KO hit on someone, there's a visual effect that kind of looks like black lightning, which is why I decided to call it black lightning. (Which it just now occurs to me sounds very much like a blaxploitation film) It doesn't add anything to the gameplay, but it's a nice touch; it makes your hypest kills just a little bit more hype, and that's really what Smash Bros. is all about. And with that in mind, I'll be dedicating the remainder of this post to all the pre-Smash fanfare that has been missing from my blog, laying out what is and is not hype about the new Smash in explicit detail.

Remember back before X and Y singlehandedly killed my interest in Pokemon? How I'd bitch about all the new Pokemon that were teased? Well, that's happening again, except with Duck Hunt Dog this time. Remember that dog in Duck Hunt who laughed at you every time you missed a shot? The one that you've probably made jokes about hating, despite having never played Duck Hunt, because what are you, old? Yeah, him. He's a playable character. Why? The only reason I can come up with is for pandering. (old) People still hate him for laughing at their every missed shot, so Nintendo's given them the opportunity to take out their rage by way of black lightning. There's really no other excuse for him to be there. If you defend him, you are wrong. Sure, he was in a popular game, but that was over a quarter of a century ago, and at no time in that game was it ever implied that he was capable of fighting. In fact, there were probably only a few dozen sprites of him, just laughing at you. I guess I shouldn't say “Duck Hunt dog”, because the ducks are also there fighting with him for some reason, because, you know, whatever, I guess. I know Smash isn't really big on continuity, but it seems like a stretch to make something happen that should not have happened.

I just hate that kind of thing.

And while I'm bitching, I might as well bring up my other major gripe with the game: the seeming return of clones. Brawl clearly made a departure from clones (fighters with nearly identical movesets, like Fox and Falco). Pichu, Roy, and Dr. Mario were axed, and characters who started as clones (Like Captain Falcon and Ganondorf) were changed to be more different. Smash 4 seems to reverse this trend with Lucina, Dr. Mario, and Dark Pit, who, as far as I can tell, are clones of Marth, Mario, and Pit, respectively. I haven't actually played the game yet, so I don't know how closely these clones resemble their counterparts, but it seems to me like they could all be alternate skins for other characters (more on that in a bit). Hell, Lucina (SPOILERS AHEAD) literally takes the name “Marth” when you first meet her, so it's not that much of a stretch? So why is she in the game? One conjecture I heard was that she was included so there'd be more female fighters. I don't like that idea. I realize that sounds like it was written from the top of a literal mountain of privilege, and maybe it was. I'm not saying that video games shouldn't make an effort to be more inclusive of everyone, but I do think that there are better ways of going about it. If they really wanted a female character from Fire Emblem, there are better options available.

I'm a slasher... of prices

Anna's the only character who's been in every Fire Emblem game since the beginning,  and she just made her debut as a playable character in Awakening, so she's a natural choice.

Anyway, that's quite enough negativity. I'm still more hyped for Smash 4 than I have been for any game since Brawl, despite the fact that, when I really think about it, there are only two characters that I'm really excited to play: Robin and Rosalina (& Luma). Robin, because Fire Emblem Awakening is one of my favorite games of all time, and Rosalina, because I've always been a big fan of The Bard.

A reference all the way back to my first post. No, not that one. No, not the one titled "First Post!", either. Yeah, that one!

You know, I thought that leaving that cliffhanger in my previous post would motivate me to finish this one as soon as possible, but in a much more real way, I knew for absolute sure that it wouldn't. The fact of the matter is that I have nothing to say about Smash that you don't already know. It's cool. Really cool. Cooler than superfluid Helium. Cooler than a quantum refrigerator. Perhaps even cool enough to help me recover from the traumatic feels incurred from reading Brawl in The Family's concluding strip.

"I'm gonna get you, feelings"

But, as cool as it is, it's not the only fighting game happening these days. Just three days before the release of Smash, I picked up Persona 4 Ultimax. I mean, I'm a fan of the Persona series now, so the tarot card deck pre-order bonus was awfully appealing. And I reasoned that if I could get good at Skullgirls, then surely other fighting games would be within my reach. I have never been more wrong in my entire life.

And I once liked Pokemon Mystery dungeon.

P4U is a lot like the ocean: it's pretty cool, but there is just too goddamn much of it. While its roster isn't nearly as big as Smash's, each character in Smash has maybe a bit more than 20 moves. In P4U, each character has a hell of a lot more moves than I care to count. There's weak attacks, strong attacks, weak Persona attacks, strong persona attacks, 2 versions of each special attack, plus charged versions, furious attacks, sweeps, one-hit kills, throws, bursts, skills, Awakened skills, shadow frenzies, and God knows what else.

Don't drag me into this. I don't know what those kids are up to these days.

I wouldn't say that it's bad, or that it's not fun, but it's deep enough that learning how to really play is a serious investment. I could probably get pretty good if I had enough time, but between school and Smash Bros., I don't really. But at least I have half a deck of tarot cards, so there's that. And, speaking of not having enough time, Smash bros. happens in just a few hours, and I should really put this out before that happens. So, until I'm done with Smash Bros, (never) this is Havoc Mantis, signing off.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Summer was Ending when I started this, alright?

Summer's ending, and you know what that means; The Earth is moving away from its orbital aphelion and towards its perihelion, where the Northern Hemisphere is pointed away from the Sun. But, more importantly, I have to personally go to some collection of buildings to listen to people talk and write things on papers for several hours almost every day, learning confusing new words like "aphelion" and "perihelion". So, in a feeble attempt to avoid the fact that I'm taking way more math and physics than I can handle, I'm going to reminisce about summer. The good days. Not the ones I spent crying in the corner about quantum mechanics.

So, what did I do over the summer? Well, besides probably disappointing the physics lab professor and making jokes about my brother being in space, Persona 3, mostly. So how did I like it? Enough that I'm considering buying all 4 Persona games being released over the next few months, as well as a Vita pretty much just for the ability to play the enhanced version of Persona 4.

If only there were another way...

Persona 3 is the kind of game that makes me almost wish I had friends. In contrast to the mainline Shin Megami Tensei games, which teach lessons like “If your friends have different beliefs from you, you should kill them”, Persona is all about friendship. Part high school sim, and part dungeon-crawler RPG, you spend your days hanging out with friends and developing social links, and you spend your nights fighting monsters called Shadows. So kind of like Batman, but with prettier hair. I actually first made that comparison in jest, but when you take into account the dead parents, the fact that persona are often likened to masks, and how he can gain his power from Lucifer, (I, uh, don't actually read that much Batman) the similarities are more striking than Kenpachi Ramasama's piercing grey eyes.

Huh? Was I saying something? I lost my train of thought

More than just being fun, Persona 3 is the kind of game that can change the way you see your friends, yourself, the full moon, robots with feelings, and the inevitability of Death. And at just $4 at the time that I got it, it's probably the best value of anything I have ever purchased in my life. And I bought Skullgirls for $10.

I REMAIN making dumb references no one will get.

Despite my insistence at the beginning that I would be speaking of good days, I guess I'll make the natural progression to talking about Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne (SMT 3). But maybe I'm being too harsh on it. I certainly wouldn't say that Nocturne is a bad game. In fact, I'd say that it's a great game, if it weren't for all the times while playing it that I found myself thinking “Wow, this is literally bad game design.”

Someone call my name?

See that asshole up there? That's the Matador. But he should be called the mad-ador, because that's exactly what you'll be when you're fighting him for the third time after two hours of grinding. He just shows up out of nowhere early on the game, maximizes his evasion, sharply lowers your party's defense, and just goes to town on your party. The town is Painville, Hell; population: 4, and rapidly declining. And the worst part is that he totally hustles you, and he's far from the only boss in the game to do it. For the first half, they toy with you, using attacks that you can resist so you think that you have a chance, but once it's game time for real, all your people get stabbed over and over and over until none of the remain to be stabbed. I had more trouble with the Matador, the first fiend in the game, (of 10 that you have to fight to get the coolguy demon ending) than I had with Lucifer, actual King of the Demons, who takes 25% from all kinds of attacks, (including almighty attacks, the element whose entire point is that no one resists it) and has as much HP as they could fit into 2 bytes.

Besides the frustrating bosses, the game had dungeons that I'll admit were cleverly designed, but only begrudgingly. Because, as cool as some of the things were, spending 2 hours wandering a dungeon because you have no idea where to go next is very much uncool. Just ask those (totally hypothetical) kids that I totally implied that I chained to chairs in my basement a few posts back.

The one that got away NOTE: DON'T PUBLISH THIS

But that's all in the past, now. What really matters is the future. And there's only one thing in the future that matters right now: Super Smash Brothers. And while the demo might be available to the public by the time I actually finish this, (hell, the game might be out for the Wii U by the time I finish this) I would like the record to show that I got a totally legitimate early demo for being a platinum member of Club Nintendo. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm kind of a big deal.

inb4 "You're a real pizza. Pizza SHIT"

Of course, as I said, by the time this reaches the presses, most of you will probably have had an opportunity to play the demo for yourself. Not to mention the fact that the game's out in Japan already, and there are plenty of people sharing details about that. Regardless, this Smash demo is just about the only thing I've got going for me, and I intend to milk it for all it's worth, and then some. And of course, by the time I get around to writing this very next sentence, the demo's already upon us. So, now that you have the opportunity, do yourself a favor and find a friend to play Smash Potato with right now. What's Smash Potato? Well, Smash Potato is when two people face off, both playing as the Murdere- er, Villager. They are only allowed to use two moves: His down B, where he plants a tree, waters it, and chops it down, and his regular B, which allows him to pocket just about anything, including trees. What follows is an intense game of timing, strategy, and throwing trees at your friends, where even a single slip-up can result in a spectacular black lightning death. What's black lightning, you ask? Well, I feel like this post is disjointed enough as it is, so I think I'll leave this as a cliffhanger for my next post, if for no other reason than to motivate me to finish it sooner.. So, as my physics professor would say, you'll have to wait until the next exciting episode to find out. Or you could just play the demo.