Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Scalded

As you probably haven't surmised from my too-clever-for-its-own-good title, I have been burned by Steam's summer sale, which I was excitedly raving about in just the last post. Now here I am, a week later (plus shipping and handling) and I find myself with about 70 fewer dollars, and about 20 more games, suspiciously few of which I am actually excited to play. Not included in that amount of dollars is the controller that I still need to purchase if I wish to play some of these games effectively. And on top of that, I need to buy Shin Megami Tensei IV for the sole purpose of registering it and Fire Emblem Awakening so I can get a $30 credit with which to buy Fire Emblem DLC And I guess I'll talk about it now? Is that what I do here? Jesus Christ

I've only played a small handful of the games I've purchased, and maybe a small fingerful of them have been played for any real length of time. Despite this, I think I already know enough to declare Recettear 2013's Steam Summer Sale MVP. As I briefly mentioned in the previous post, it is a game about running an item shop. The main character, Recette, is the result of a genetic experiment, conducted by The Professor from Nichijou to create a being even more cute than herself.


It was a landmark study in the correlation between ties and cuteness.

Well... while searching that picture, I noticed that one of the autocomplete options for "Recettear" was "Recettear 34". (This refers to the infamous "Rule 34 of the Internet", which states that there is porn of it. No exceptions) Needless to say, I found this stupendously distasteful. Then, when I searched, I saw it. It was there. In the top left corner of the screen, it showed images for "Recettear 34". So, when you see that image, just know that it was purchased with my soul.

Recette's father takes out a loan of almost one million Pix, (The currency used in the game) with the house as collateral, then disappears to go adventuring. A fairy named Tear shows up to collect on the loan, and Recette is forced to open up an item shop to pay off the debt, or else live in a box on the street. Recette, hilariously misunderstanding her relationship to this loan shark, names her shop a portmanteau of their two names that sounds an awful lot like "Racketeer". You buy low, sell high, and rent out thugs for paltry sums to kill stuff on your behalf, while making off with all the loot. Standard business stuff, really.

Recettear is by no means a perfect game. Sometimes I question whether or not it is even a good game. But it is certainly a fun game, a distinction I first appreciated upon answering the question "Is 999 a fun game?" with "Well, it's a good game". And to top it all off, it has a soundtrack that, while not terribly varied or complex, is quite excellent. All in all, getting 50 hours of gameplay out of $5 is a pretty impressive feat of shopping savvy, in my book.

The only other game I've really played too extensively is Cave Story+, which is different from Cave Story, because I paid money for it. It is, without a doubt, the best freeware game I have ever paid money to play. It's a retro style platformer-shooter reminiscent of the SNES era, and it was entirely made by one man, who goes by the pseudonym "Pixel", which is appropriate, because he would probably be made of money if he charged anything for this game. Actually, he might still be, considering all the paid versions that have been released.

This game has a character named Curly. Curly Brace. I think we're done here. And to make matters better, the game is abbreviated as "CS", which often stands for "Computer Science", which is a branch that uses curly braces. So if you're in the mood for a fun game with no cost to you, feel free to click here.

If, for some reason, that wasn't enough to convince you, I guess I could talk about the gameplay or whatever. Though I feel I should warn that this is easily one of the most frustrating games I've ever played, and I've played a lot of Mario Parties. Getting the true end without a walkthrough is damn near impossible. Not that I'd want to. The ending I got was harder than a diamond encrusted carbon nanotube, and I wasn't even playing on the most difficult setting. And if the true ending is any harder, (It absolutely is) then it would be harder than... look, I'm running out of comparisons here, but I just want to impart to you that it would be very, very hard.

As you might guess from the name, the game does have a story, and it's pretty good. It also has music, and it is some of the best, made all the more impressive by the fact that it was also all made by Pixel. It's also available for free, legal(?) download on the same website where you can download the game, so that's a pretty groovy thing.

The final game that I've finished, entirely in the time between starting this post and finishing it, is The Walking Dead. In general, one plays a zombie game with the expectation of gameplay that centers around killing zombies. The Walking Dead bravely subverts this expectation, with gameplay that consists mostly of watching people die and then feeling bad about it. It's like someone's attempt to make the Catholic Church into a video game. (DISCLAIMER: I go to a Catholic school, and I know about as much about Catholicism, and religion as a whole, as I do about writing concisely. If nothing else, it garnered a "x'D" out of my content manager, so feel free to blame her for any offense) The game is entirely unrelated to Cave Story, despite the similarity in mechanics. {Spoilers?}

Trust me, there's a joke to be found somewhere in all this.
 As Payton Knobeloch already said, The Walking Dead is a game about story, about slow pacing punctuated by frantic button-mashing, about losing everything you hold dear, and wondering why you don't even have enough left in you to hate the person who took it from you. Is it a fun game? Well... it's certainly a good game, perhaps making it a nice foil to Recettear up there. It is, more or less, a visual novel or adventure game, and as anyone who has read some of my earlier work can attest, I eat that shit up. So if you want a story-driven experience with interesting characters and choices, similar to the Zero Escape series, but are for some reason unwilling to play Japanese games, (At this point I'd like to give a shout-out to a man that I am arbitrarily referring to as "Bong Hardeners") then check it out.

And then there's Fez. I have... complicated feelings about Fez. After several days of my sister egging me on to play it, simply by virtue of the fact that fezzes are cool, (It seems she shares my love of references, for better or for worse) I played it, and I wasn't terribly impressed. Now, I wouldn't really say that Fez isn't a good game, but I'm not sure that I could say, in good conscience, that it is a fun game. Fez is a game about a 2D character who flips dimensions around to solve puzzles, in a way that sounds similar to Super Paper Mario, but is really quite different. And when it works, the gameplay is fantastic. The way that it defies our understanding of a three-dimensional space is pretty cool. That said, all the puzzles seemed to either have a difficulty of "just keep flipping stuff around, and you'll get it eventually" or "I'm quite convinced that, with the right tools, I could prove this to be mathematically impossible.", with nothing in between. It might be that I'm just too stupid to appreciate its genius, but I thought that it was just a pretty good game, not worthy of all the hype I heard. Then again, I still haven't finished it, and likely won't for awhile, so keep that in mind.

But the part of Fez that really whips my cream is the soundtrack. Now, you'll probably never catch me saying that a game has a bad soundtrack, but for some reason, it seems like every source I've seen is praising Fez to high heaven for its beautiful music. And yet, when I actually played the game, I noticed that I was spending a lot of time listening to nothing but the occasional sound of Gomez falling to his death. Well, maybe a bit more than occasional. The point is that, while you could say that the silence is an artistic choice meant to represent Gomez's loneliness and confusion, that doesn't make it a good soundtrack. And when there was music, it was often far from what I'd call "Listenin' Music" (I don't believe in the letter g). It mostly felt like ambient sound, meant to set a tone. And it did that well. If I'm being honest, most of Zero Escape's music was like that: Listening to it on its own is kind of dull. But I didn't praise 999 for its great music. Well, I guess I did, but... I had to come up with 9 reasons, and I couldn't come up with anything better. I think that charging $6.99 for this soundtrack is an outrage, because I don't believe in paying for things.

There are a few other games that I spent a bit of time with. I attempted to play Castle Crashers with my friend, foolishly believing that it seemed like a game that could conceivably be handled with a keyboard. I was surprised to find that they A, B, X, and Y buttons on the Xbox controller actually corresponded to the A, B, X, and Y keys on the keyboard, at least for the menu. Here's a fun experiment. Try putting your fingers on all of those keys. Done? Congratulations! Now go call a chiropractor. You have arthritis.

I also played Bastion for a bit, but not really for long enough to learn anything other than the fact that the narrator's voice is top-tier, which I had already known. The gameplay seemed pretty fun, if a bit challenging. Not much else to say.

I'm kind of running out of Steam here, (Hah! Get it?) so I guess I'll just wrap this thing up now. My Steam account username is the same as my blogger pseudonym, (Havoc Mantis, in case you hadn't noticed) so feel free to find me, if you're hankering for the companionship of internet strangers.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Steamy Birthday Surprise

If you came here looking for disappointment, prepare to be disappointed. Despite my expectations to the contrary, it seems that I have kept my promise to update today. Rather than going through the hassle of half-assing this post on my birthday, (It's the only fraction of assing that I'm capable of) I have opted to first write a draft of it on the day before posting with pencil and paper, like some kind of barbarian. The reason for this primordial technology is that I am currently in a car, on a road trip from “Sick Ruckus” to “Good Morning”, and due to a nasty combination of poor planning on my part and short laptop battery life, I have nothing better to do than scrawl my ramblings in layered carbon like some kind of damn, dirty ape.

I suppose a title like that warrants some kind of explanation. You see, when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, sometimes the only adequate method of expressing their love involves razors, lasers, tazers, or some combination of the-- huh? Oh, right. It probably warrants a relevant explanation. You see, for the longest time, I never used Steam. I didn't know how dates work, so I couldn't get my debit card to work, no matter how much I wiped it on my jeans. And perhaps I was a better man for not using Steam. I mean, just a scant few days ago I read a Cracked article about how the author would just buy games on Steam, despite knowing he would hardly play them. Of course, I'd never have to worry about something like that. What kind of chump buys things just for the sake of buying them? (SPOILER ALERT: It's me. It is a Havoc Mantis Type Chump©. But I also might have accepted “Girl type chump”, depending on how misogynistic the audience is that night.)

So, let me tell you about a Type Havocmantis Chump (Abbreviated to “THC” from here on out). As you may know, Steam's summer sale started on the 11th, and it is certifiably insane. No jury would convict this sale. Almost everything in their entire library of games (a library dwarfed only by Alexandria's) is at least 50% off. In addition, daily sales and 8 hour flash sales cut prices even deeper.


So here we are, two days in, and I've bought 8 games for a princely sum of about $18. The first game I bought, the one domino set off the sinister chain reaction that toppled my psyche, was Recettear: An Item Shop's tale. My friend always seemed like he was having all kinds of fun with it, and he said it was on sale, so I decided to check it out. Near as I can tell, it's an RPG, except instead of being an adventurer, it tells the story of the person behind the counter: The owner of those item shops that heroes love to frequent. I think there might also be adventures to commit, because shopkeepers have to get their wares somehow, and the world isn't ready for a game about graverobbing (but I'm willing to wait). The plot seems fairly similar to Animal Crossing, where buying a place saddles you with an enormous debt that you must spend the game paying off, except that this time, the debt is owed to a fairy, rather than a niggardly 'coon.

No, it's alright. Some of my best friends are figures from esoteric Japanese folklore.

EDIT: Oh man. This game, you guys. It may not be on sale as hard as it used to be, but at $8, it's still a steal. This game combines all the cuteness of the word "yayifications" with all the intensity and fun of paying the rent on time. If this sounds at all like a game you'd like to play, I'd highly recommend it. It describes drinking alcohol as being "Not entirely dissimilar to attempting to drink a tree". It is fun times on all fronts.

And all of that for just 5 bucks. Next, I bought a pair of games I've never heard of. Why? Because they were just $0.50. For the pair. Just to really make sure that everyone is pickin' up what I'm puttin' out: I purchased two games, and it cost me less than a single chicken wing from Buffalo Wild wings. A chicken wing that is also on sale, mind you. To top it off, they're adventure games, (In the vein of 999, Ace Attorney, and everything else I've been playing of late) self-described as being “like books, only good”. The names of the games are “Ben there, Dan that” and “Time Gentlemen, Please!” Puns? Gentlemen? Time Travel? Niceties? Sign me up!

After that, it was kind of a haze, so I'm not sure what order everything else came in. All I know is that once the dust cleared, I found myself owning Scribblenauts Unlimited, Bastion, Cave Story+, Hotline Miami, and an as-of-yet unquenched thirst for more games. Of course, no matter how cheap these games might be now, they'll end up costing a pretty penny when I have to buy a computer that can actually play them.

If you intend to get in on this action, here are some tips from a man who has no business giving advice: First off, set aside a certain amount of money that you intent to spend on the summer sale, (Ends June 22nd!) and when that money runs out, stop buying games. This should prevent you from snowballing out of control with your spending and waking up in a ditch to find that your molars have been sold on the black market. Unless that kind of stuff happens to you regardless of your money situation, in which case I'm afraid I can't help you.

On top of that, it pays to be patient. The 10 day blanket sale is punctuated by shorter, more precise sales that offer even greater savings. By holding off on jumping a game you want right out of the gate, you might be able to catch it during a daily or flash sale, and save even more money, which you can then spend on even more games.

And I think that's about all I have to say about my newfound addiction. But before I go, I'd just like to give a big birthday shout-out to Patrick Stewart, Harrison Ford, and some guy named Hunter whose last name I don't remember, but I remember he was born on the same day as me. Have a good one, guys!

Man. All of these paragraphs seemed a lot longer when they were written out in graphite. And to lengthen this one just the tiniest bit, I'll mention that this is the 42nd post on this blog, and I'm sure you guys all know what that means.


Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to spend the rest of this car ride breeding Shroomish and having fun. And I'm all out of fun.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Screw Clever Titles: I'm Talking About Pokemon Stuff

For some reason, I've really got it in my head recently that I should try to update regularly. Whether or not this will actually happen is anyone's guess, but if it does, I guess I'll try to update once a week, or something like that. And since today's Saturday, I guess that might mean that Saturday is my tentative day for updating. So if you're a fan of disappointment, be sure to check back here next Saturday.

Of course, the problem with regular scheduling is that I have to write an entirely new post every week, which puts a major strain on my incredibly tight summer workload of playing adventure games, catching pneumonia, half-heartedly writing romance stories, and being too beta to steal my brother's job. But the biggest challenge of writing a new post every week is by far coming up with new things to write about. As I've reiterated many times before, I am terribly bad at thinking up things to talk about (half the time I end up talking about exactly that). So sometimes, I just decide "To hell with it: Pocket Monsters". This is one of those times. And it's definitely because I'm lazy, and not because I'm an attention-grubbing asshole who happened to notice that my first post about Pokemon managed to net more than double the views of any of my other posts.

Nothing too major has been announced that hasn't been discussed elsewhere on this blog, but a fair few Pokemon have been revealed that I could probably say some things about. The first is the most recent Pokemon to be announced, Honedge.

"Master, I predict a 70% chance that no one will get this joke."

As you can see, Honedge is a sword, as well as a name that kind of seems like it's trying to be a pun, but just isn't trying hard enough. And a sword is a pretty cool thing to be, as long as you try not to think too hard about how it gets around. Does it just float around while physics looks the other way, like a Geodude? Of course not! It's a ghost, so it probably floats around because it's a ghost. Nothing unreasonable about that. Premiering as the world's first Ghost/Steel type, this thing has a pretty mean defensive typing, which is pretty ironic for a Pokemon that is literally a weapon. It also ruins the opportunity for a Fighting/Dragon to come along and wreck everything with unresisted STABs. (Same Type Attack Bonus, referring to the 50% bump in power that comes when an attack's type is the same as a Pokemon that uses it. So a Fighting/Dragon's STABs would be Fighting and Dragon.) It does nothing, however, to change the fact that a Fighting Dragon would cooler than Kyogre's OHKO move, so Gamefreak should still make one posthaste.



This thing is a panda that fights. It's pure fighting, but I'd say there's at least a chance it'll evolve a Grass secondary typing, or perhaps a Dark typing, with that attitude it's clearly sporting. It's name is "Pancham", which I have no strong feelings about one way or the other. What's really important about this Pokemon, though, is a new move that it learns, "Parting Remark". I'm about to talk about some high-level concepts in Pokemon theory, so you may want to step outside if things get too hot and heavy. Parting Remark is similar to U-turn or Volt Switch, in that it is a move that forces the user to switch out. However, instead of doing damage, it lowers the opponent's Attack and Special Attack. I'm honestly not that good at Pokemon. And even the top minds in the field have difficulty accurately predicting what Pokemon and moves will impact the metagame. But it seems to me like this could be a Big Deal. If properly used, this move could allow a player to safely bring in a setup sweeper against a weakened enemy. While the enemy is all but forced to switch out, the player gets a free turn to boost his Pokemon's stats. (With moves like Swords Dance, Quiver Dance, Calm Mind, and an assortment of other moves that you probably never used when playing the actual game.) I earlier compared it to U-turn, but it's actually more like Memento, an oft-forgot move with a similar effect except that it harshly lowered the enemy's offenses, and instead of switching the user out, it straight up killed them. I can't say for sure that this will revolutionize Offensive playstyles in Pokemon battling, but if it does, just know that I totally called it. Anyway, thanks for bearing with me and reading that whole rant. As a reward, here's a really good and funny song that isn't terribly safe for work.



The new generation has a bird Pokemon. It is Normal/Flying. It is based on a robin. I thought of using this as the basis of a "Holy ______, Batman!" joke, but decided against it. There is nothing remarkable about a new Normal/Flying bird, because there's one in every generation. What is remarkable, however, is what it evolves into...



Talonflame, the Pokemon whose name fully convinced me that the death of Pokemon's creativity is nigh. As you may have guessed from its flame decals, it is a Flying/Fire type. And it looks like Gamefreak did its homework for this one, because those flames clearly allow it to go a lot faster: 310 mph, which is about the speed at which a nerve impulse travels. This means that if a Talonflame flew straight through you length-wise, from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head, by the time the signals registering pain from your feet reached your brain, your entire body would be immolated. It is for this reason that death by Talonflame is considered the most humane method of execution in the Pokemon universe. Unfortunately, despite it's fearsome appearance and award-winningly badass classification as the "Deterioration Pokemon", Gamefreak decided to set it apart from the rest of the generic birds by giving it the worst possible secondary typing. With a double weakness to Stealth Rock, this thing can bank on losing a good half of its HP whenever it switches in. In competitive battling circles, this kind of Pokemon is referred to as a "pizza". Pizza shit.


This Pokemon is called "Gogoat", and you've probably seen it, because OMG gaiz, you can totes ride Pokemon nao! I mean, you could before, but that was only when you were soaring through the skies, or effortlessly crossing large bodies of water. Now you can ride Pokemon in all the places that you can walk, which is clearly more exciting. Also, since this Pokemon clearly exists only for riding, and its combat abilities merit no discussion, I might as well take this opportunity to say that the Pokemon you ride aren't actually yours. You don't teach them an HM move or anything. You rent other people's Pokemon in order to ride them around. Because Pokemon totally isn't like slavery, you guys. We addressed that in the last game, remember?



Helioptile is another case of a Pokemon too stupid looking to not be given a Normal type. I guess the name is kind of OK, at least until you try to pronounce it out loud. As the name suggests to those of us familiar with  Greek roots, Helioptile is a reptile capable of photosynthesis, but totally different from every grass starter for every previous generation. Much like Pancham, Helioptile learns a notable new move, Parabola Charge. Despite taking the name of Parabola in vain, it's actually a pretty neat move. It's basically an electric typed Giga Drain. While Electric Pokemon usually aren't thought of as being too bulky, there are a few outliers. Washing Machine Rotom, who is already a top tier threat, probably stands the most to gain, as it is a bulky electric type that struggles to heal itself, and often only has Volt Switch as an electric attack. Parabola Charge could solve all of its problems, giving it a reliable electric attack, while also giving it a decent way to heal outside of Pain Split.



And for this generation's caterpillar bug pokemon, we have... Jesus Christ! Oh, sorry, I just lost my composure there for a second. The next Pokemon to carry on the heritage of Caterpie and Wurmple is not Jesus of Nazareth, though the truth might just be stranger. It's Scatterbug, which looks like it just dropped in to say hi on its way from some kind of horrific torture porn directly to your nightmares. In addition, its classification is the "Powder Blowing Pokemon", which, to me, is just aching for a cocaine joke.



And these are the Pokemon that Scatterbug evolves into, Spewpu and Vivillion. Besides the unmatched grossness of Spewpa's name, there isn't much to remark on. They're not as creepy as Scatterbug, but I still think there's something a little off about Vivillion. And Spewpu doesn't seem nearly crusty enough to be an intermediary between a crawling bug and a flying bug.


No, its eyes are actually placed right behind its nose, in an arrangement that does not seem very evolutionarily sound. That was the answer to the question that I'm sure you all asked, which is "Dear God in heaven, are those thing's eyes inside out?!" The "eyes" on Noivern's face seem to be membranes that it uses to hear, because that's totally what bats do, and it's probably a good thing that Bruce Wayne didn't try to emulate this. Noivern is a Dragon/Flying Pokemon with a pretty decent design, once you get past the freakish eye things. Next Pokemon.

Oh Gods, not this guy again. I've said everything I care to say about this thing. Next Pokemon.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you took a Kingler, removed its ability to feel anything but hate, and changed it to an entirely different species? (A water gun, if the classification is to be believed) You'd probably get something pretty closed to Clauncher, who probably has the best name of any Pokemon revealed so far, though it's honestly not a tight competition. It actually might be my favorite Pokemon so far. There's just something magical about how legitimately pissed off it looks.


Using masterful camouflage, Skrelp disguises itself as a piece of kelp by making itself look like nothing of this Earth. Seriously, this thing could pose more convincingly as a Lovecraftian Horror than any kind of plant life. Also, while I understand that Pokemon are color coded for your convenience, being purple to indicate that you're poisonous is not a good business strategy for blending in. If I had to guess what this looked like, I'd say it kind of resembles an artist's rendition of a banana that was left in the refrigerator of The Bebop for too long. 


And for the last Pokemon of this post, we have Flabébé, the only Pokemon that I know of with accents in its name (Other than, you know, the actual word "Pokémon"). Flabébé is apparently the new smallest Pokemon, a recognition it won by swearing that the flower totally isn't part of its body. It's one of those new Fairy types you've probably heard so much about, and there seems a decent chance it'll snatch up a grass type when it evolves. It apparently comes with a variety of different colored flowers, making it kind of like Gastrodon and Basculin in terms of having differently colored sprites that aren't shiny. That stamen in the middle looks vaguely dirty, but you didn't hear it from me.

And that's just about all I have to say. I wanted to give this post a proper conclusion, so it didn't seem like I just quit as soon as I ran out of things to talk about, but I'm afraid that's exactly what happened.