Thursday, May 30, 2013

Long Day, Am Exhausted

So please, as is tradition, enjoy some K-Pop.

It's been a rough week, but hopefully things should start getting better from here, aside from it being Summer and all.  I am eagerly looking forward to June 9th when I finally get a 3DS XL to play around with, and Animal Crossing:  New Leaf to do the playing around.  I -was- actually going to write something along those lines tonight, but that'll be for tomorrow when I can focus.  Because I can't really do that now, what with being sore and achey and hot and tired.  Simultaneously.  So, yeah, g'night, folks.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Let's Dream Up Some Fun Things

With all the negativity that we've been putting ourselves through since the XBone announcement, I think it's a good idea for us all to sort of try and remember why we like games in the first place and realize that these all still exist and will continue to exist without worry.  I think for a lot of us, the thing about it is just that games have the potential to just do really neat things.  To be honest, Nintendo has really had the ball in their court this generation and last (because the Wii U is Next Generation which is technically -this- generation now) in terms of having really neat things possible, or at least they started with them.  The motion controls thing never really saw truly innovative work done with them in a repeated fashion (I maintain that Shattered Memories' Flashlight and Phone things were amazing conceptually at least and that Sorcery with the Move Wand was amazing in practice) and the GamePad integration is still up in the air.  Sony is jumping in a little earlier with that than they did with the Move, which is wonderful  It's irrelevant if Sony is "copying" Nintendo, because it's a good idea and good ideas shouldn't be 'owned' by any one single thing since that completely limits the scope of who gets to use it.  (I'm talking ideas and practices here, not games what are 'exclusives', because that's a whole other thing)

Sony confirmed today that Remote Play on your Vita will be mandatory for PS4 games unless your game heavily focuses on the Playstation Eye or Move or what have you, which is kind of a huge deal.  Which, first, let us discuss that for a moment, since I'm not convinced that the understanding of Remote Play/Off-TV Play is quite understood on the grand scale just yet.  Speaking in broad strokes, since I know there is more technical finesse to it than this, the bulk of what Remote Play/Off-TV Play (let's be honest, they're the same thing and if you want to be a technical bitch, Sony did Remote Play with the PSP before the Wii U but we're not being technical bitches) is directing the video output elsewhere than the TV it is hooked up to.  It's still the core machine doing all the work, it's just sending it to a different place.  Instead of your TV, it's sent to your Wii U Tablet over the machine's built-in wireless thing specifically made for that purpose.  Instead of your TV, you'll be getting the feed directly to your Vita from your PS4 over your wireless network.  The Sony method is more flexible in distance, but it could also be hampered by latency, but that's a problem for the then, not the now.  So PS4 games aren't going to be hampered by this Remote Play mandate and to suggest that is silly.

Now, I only bring up the Remote Play thing to point out that Sony has already, with that one move, established a co-existence between the PS4 and the Vita.  One that doesn't -have- to simply be on the level of Remote Play, but can transcend to the Wii U level of interactivity, making use of that for fun things just like the possibility exists for the Wii U.  With any luck, out of both consoles, -someone- will come up with a really neat idea as to how to make use of this second screen and such, and -that- right there is a neat thing.  That is, in fact, -the- neat thing that got me thinking tonight.  In the vein of doing something that I've done before, I kind of wanted to just put a few ideas out there that I think could personally be interesting and/or neat.  At worst, they'll be like my MoveShock ideas and will just go on being unused which will just make me sad.

Perhaps it's because I've been playing Soul Sacrifice still, which lets you turn Librom's pages manually instead of advancing them with X (which you can do, it's just a neat touch that I make use of), or perhaps it's because I've read just about every digital manual for the games on my Vita, but I can't help but think of a book interface for an off-screen.  Specifically one that'll likely house your options, but be a big part of your gameplay as well.  Let's take L.A. Noire for example.  I haven't played it, but if I'm correct, then a large portion of the game focuses on your notebook, in which you keep notes about crime scenes, suspects and the like, all of which you eventually use to attempt to solve the case you're working.  Again, if I'm right, things just sort of get put into your Notebook for your perusal at a later date, but what if that was under your control?  What if it was defined by difficulty? 

Assuming L.A. Noire just requires you encounter an event to have it added to your notes (again, I don't know for sure, but you can see why I would assume this), that could be the easiest difficulty.  The next step up would require you actually input when a note has to be made.  Attach an ink meter to this or something so that you can't just tap the GamePad/Vita input over and over again for everything on the off-chance that you'll actually hit something you need to take note of.  Perhaps for the hardest difficulty, you have those things, but when you bring up something to take a note on, you actually have to decide on what the note is about.  So you notice something strange about the crime scene chalk outline and if you're on the normal difficulty, you just tap the screen and it puts down the note.  But if you're on the hardest difficulty, it becomes a sort of multiple choice thing.  You have to pick not only the chalk outline, but what's wrong with it.  Which means you could, of course, have false notes, making the game that much harder for yourself and requiring that you actually think and pay attention.

Even turn this into another kind of functionality entirely.  Instead of a notebook for a detective, it's a spellbook for a sorcerer.  Take a sort of Soul Sacrifice version of things and assign up to six or so buttons for your spells, but also have the spellbook as a way to quick-swap them during gameplay.  That way you're not inherently tied to using some, however trying to access your book in the middle of a fight would, realistically, be a dangerous prospect, since something could very well start eating you as you are flipping through the pages of your book to assign a fire spell to Square or whatever button that corresponds to on the Wii U Gamepad.  Just sort of a Quality of Life upgrade that introduces something a little faster and more tactile than scrolling through menu after menu with control sticks and buttons.  Granted, it might be a sort of semantics thing at work, but it's different enough I think.

That's just if you use the screen of the device you're using as a book instead of the innumerable other types of input things.  The Wii U already has some rather inventive uses for it - take a look at Lego City Undercover - which takes a whole other angle on it by making it a camera/X-ray device of sorts.  There's a ridiculous amount of usability for these things, and I desperately hope someone dips into the potential given the two system exposure.  Three if you count SmartGlass for Microsoft, but I....don't know if it'll actually work in the same way.  Or at all.  In any fashion.  I really don't know anything about SmartGlass.  What I do know about is the GamePad and Vita's Remote Play.  And I am really, really excited for a generation where this sort of thing is possible and, with any luck, heavily thought out.  Because that would just be fantastic and would hopefully ignite a few more imaginations out there.

did I seriously do a post where I wasn't negative about Nintendo, what is happening

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fuck's Sake, Microsoft, Stop Double-Talking

So, at this point, do we really know anything that the XBone is going to do other than have a controller, Kinect and play Ryse, Forza and some sports games?  The answer is "No, not really" because just about every damn thing that's been said about the console has either then been taken back or generally muddied up with otherwise conflicting information from sources within Microsoft itself.  The used game thing, the always-online thing, the required Kinect thing, they've all been contradicted in some way or manner and it's all just sending out this awful clusterfuck of a message that is more damaging than any single one of those, on base value, would be.  It's almost like, at this point it's not even a perception, but a reality, that Microsoft just doesn't know what the fuck when it comes to the XBone and that is worrying on just about every single level one could imagine.

The latest thing to add to the pile that is actually a pile, jesus, is the whole Indie's Self-Publishing issue.  Time was, that you could Self-Publish your title through XBox Live Indie Games which was, of course, the red-headed step-child of the Arcade for the last few years and is being phased out for the new 'unified' XBLA Games section that will just be "Games".  So, it's no surprise that they word was that you won't be able to self-publish on the XBone.  I mean, yes, he muddied it up with a lot of "but we're exploring other avenues" and this and that, but the core statement was that going the way of XBLIG is no longer an option which is a big deal since that's actually the way On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4 is making it to the 360.  Sure, it's a niche game, but it's probably the last big Indie game that will hit the platform, and could've been used as a spring-board to tout your Indie Channel if you were Microsoft.

So of course, now the statement is "Woah, hey, wait, we're actually totally going to have a program and tools and shit".  Or, more....'eloquently':
“We’re going to have an independent creator program,” Mattrick said. “We’re going to sponsor it. We’re going to give people tools. We’re going to give more information.”
And that's it, more or less.  There's some more fluff in the Kotaku post that Siliconera sourced, but it's basically "Indies are really cool, of course we're going to support them".  Which, at this point, I can only envision 'support' as 'gouge harder than current XBLA titles' because good goddamn, I cannot -not- see it that way.  Really, the way it's been this generation is that if you really want Microsoft's boon of support, you have to keep your title exclusive to XBLA for a year at the very least.  Which isn't too bad, admittedly, but there are all sorts of rules and regulations that we don't know the full extent of that -really- pushed devs away and towards PC and, eventually, PSN.  So if the alternative to 'no self-publishing' is entering one of these potentially pitfall-laden deals with Microsoft through a more incorporated version of XBLIG that kind of misses the point...well, I'm not sure how that's a net positive on the whole thing.

Really, though, that's the problem.  There's absolutely nothing stating that this program, these tools or anything are going to be inherently different than XBLIG, which was basically regarded as "okay" even if the bulk of the titles were Minecraft rip-offs or horribly offensive things.  Or Avatar games.  But with how everything's been lately, it is -impossible- to be objective when hearing yet another piece of conflicting or otherwise negative piece of news about the Xbone.  It's a vicious cycle of negative begetting negative begetting negative and to stand in the center, to try and counter it, is folly.  You're not going to be taken seriously, you're not going to get your point across, it will just not end well.  It's an impossibility at the moment and will likely remain that way until E3.  Perhaps thereafter, depending on their showing.

What Microsoft has done is made the XBone toxic at this point.  The people who actually want to talk about the good points of the system (it -does- have good points) get out-talked (rightfully) by the people who are positing about the inherently terrible aspects of the device, of which there are plenty which is far too many.  One is far too many.  So I'm sure you can see how 'plenty' is not doing it any favors.  Even with a strong E3 showing, saying "Oh, hey, this isn't true, this isn't true, I am 100% serious on this, here is proof" will just have the word be "Not as bad as we thought!" instead of the overwhelmingly positive reaction the console -could- have gotten had they not wobbled it so intensely on every conceivable level.  Of course, the worst thing to come from it could be "It's exactly as bad as we thought and the exclusive games are all Kinect shovelware".  So E3 will be highly interesting regardless.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Is Final Fantasy Type-0 Still a Possibility?

Probably not.  Still, hope springs eternal and all that.

If' you're unaware of what Final Fantasy Type-0 is, then you're likely part of the overwhelming majority which likely includes at least half of Squeenix itself.  So, for the uninitiated, Final Fantasy Type-0 is the renamed Final Fantasy Agito XIII, which was one of the three games announced back when Final Fantasy XIII proper and Versus were also announced, all as arms of the Fabula Nova Crystallis branding.  In 2006.  And, as we all, know, that has gone so swimmingly with one and a half of those three titles having actually seen release.  I say half, of course, because one of Final Fantasy Type-0's many changes, aside from the transition from a Cell Phone game to a full-fledged PSP title, was its name to Type-0 for its Japanese-only release.  In 2011.

Being that it's been so long since its Japanese release on a platform that didn't particularly do well in the West, most everyone has just assumed it will never see a Stateside release.  Or rather, if you still believe that it will see a release in the West, you're one of the outliers, since there's almost no reason, no incentive to do it.  Except making fans happy and selling a product, but who the fuck cares about that.  Certainly not Squeenix unless it's Eidos-developed, sells more than any iteration in the entire franchise it's a part of, yet is still 'underwhelming' which I am not bitter about at all, no sir.  None of this is helping, however, and is only tangentially related to the game, so let's shift gears.

As stated, Agito XIII began its life as a Card-based game for Cell Phones and eventually transformed into a sort of real-time action RPG with online and social elements that eventually was known as Type-0 on the PSP.  A game so large that it required two UMDs, and remains one of the few titles that have ever needed this functionality.  To say that it grew and evolved into something quite different than it started is an understatement, and that's not only for the game itself.  In its humble origins as a Cell Phone game, nobody seemed to really care for it, as it would just be another After Crisis or similar - a game that wasn't very good and we didn't get it anyway - and it was only after it started evolving, became a PSP game and went unreleased long after XIII came out to its polarizing opinions and Versus became considered vaporware that it was turned to, latched onto, even.  There had to be one project from this Fabula Nova abomination that wasn't going to cause some sort of rift, the same opinions as XIII or the same nebulous assurance of quality unseen with Versus.  Type-0 was all at once something more tangible and more tantalizing than either of the other projects.

With that set of circumstances, it's not hard to see why the game has a sort of cult undercurrent of support and hope behind it.  From its pre-release information, the videos that showed it off, it seemed to have the things that are missed from older games, that it had some itch of the Final Fantasy Formula in it.  A story that seemed genuinely heartfelt, or at least keyed to play on your emotions.  An overworld that you eventually gain an airship to traverse, as well as Chocobos to do the same in a much more limited fashion.  It felt like taking those classic games and actually 'evolving' them with the multi-player aspect to it, rather than taking a game and tacking on something to it.  Or attempting to attach it to every single mechanic the game offers.  Or at least, this is all the impressions I've gathered since I've barely heard a peep about it since it was actually released in Japan.

It's not impossible to consider that Type-0 has become much more than it actually is because of all of this, and that, should it ever actually see a release, it might be taken as "underwhelming".  In fact, I would almost bet on it, since we are a fickle bunch like that.  Still, we can all be proven wrong on things.  If this trademark registration of "Final Fantasy Agito" (dropping the XIII entirely) is, in fact, indicative of a re-release of Type-0, a Western release at that (or even an international release that is actually international), then it will prove enough people wrong there to believe anything.  But I personally don't buy it.  Perhaps I'm overly negative of Squeenix these days, but this seems to easy.  It would be a soft-ball pitch to just do this and have it mean an actual localization of the game.  Or even an enhanced Vita version of it that would actually be released to the west.  I'm betting on them taking this opportunity and striking out, and in a spectacular fashion. 

So really, I'm either betting on a PS3 HD Remaster that will stay Japan-Exclusive, or that this is just for a Cell Phone/Tablet game and will actually be the card game promised all those years ago.  Prove me wrong, Squeenix.

no, seriously, prove me wrong and while you're at it, announce a Drakengard 3 localization so that I can love you forever

Sunday, May 26, 2013

In Which I Really Enjoy Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

We were exhausted.

The weathered sword in my hand felt suspiciously heavy as I stared up at the beast more than twice my height, looming over us with a weapon that could have simply been a tree re-purposed, smoothed from days, perhaps weeks of use into a cudgel.  Days ago, I had been a simple man, and yet here I stood among two others, beings who I still don't comprehend, with a Cyclops as our quarry.  And now, locked in battle with it as we were, only now did I consider the notion of it as ridiculous.  Not when my blade had tasted the blood of two foul harpies before our current foe announced itself.  Not when I watched a man, or what looked to be a man, appear from nothing and introduce himself as Rook and as my servant.  Not when I awoke with a hand to my chest, yet felt no heart beating within.

It was a bad thought to have, of course, as I barely noticed the club coming down on a location that would have held me, had I not run to the side to avoid it in time.  I barely had time to catch my breath, knee-deep in the waters of a stream running off the nearby cliff, before a voice I knew all too well already ripped the air about us.

"Be careful!  The beast is wrought with fury!"

I watched with a grimace as Zero did not heed her own warning, finding the wind knocked out of her by a sharp blow that sent her flying feet behind her and intently looked to see if she still drew breath.  The poor girl, I felt for her so.  She had appeared much as Rook, and upon introducing herself as Zero, I could almost see the wince that years had not yet trained her expressions to contain.  I knew that her name troubled her so, that it hung over her head as almost a curse, a silent reminder of what she could be in the eyes of any.  Yet I had come to learn that it was more powerful a motivator than anything I, the Arisen, the man she swore the utmost fealty to, could have provided.  It was her life's goal to see that her name was not an indicator of her being and, much to my benefit, it made her a warrior that was as much my equal as any could have hoped to aspire to.

Relief washed over me, mixed with my anguish, as I saw her struggling to stand, panting heavily with the effort the action took.  The fire burned brightly and hotly in her eyes and said to me that she would die before she ever willingly failed me, even though I had not wished as much of her.  It was that fire, that passion, that brought new life to my body once more, a new grip to the hand that bore my sword and a new intention to every stitch of my being.


I am no hero.  I am sure I will be hailed as one, that I will be spoken of as a saint, a God among us, but I am no such thing.  I am simply a man, apparently caught up in the cruel threads of fate, who is doing the only thing I can in these times.  I fight.  I destroy.  I kill.  Any who stand in my path, be they wolves, be they beasts from the beyond, or even a giant as we fight now, I will end them, because it is what I must do.  Because the very tale, the legend, of the Arisen, tells only of violence wrapped in the shroud of 'justice'.  I care not for it.  I care for nothing in this moment but to sever the tie of this Cyclops to this Mortal realm.  Yet it was a harder goal than I would have liked.

"The creature is most dull!  Magic will be effective against it!"

Rook shouted this to myself and Zero, only to find the both of us silently glaring at him.  He knew that he was the only one among the three of us that could weave the arcane and oftentimes I wondered if he touted his ability as a mark of superiority.  Zero and I, we had naught but our swords, our shields for combat, yet he could summon fire from nothing and set our foes ablaze as if it were simple as a yawn.  He could set our blades alight with fire that did not harm us, but made us more deadly, that burnt the insides of our foes as we ran them through.  Truly, magic was something that was all at once amazing and terrifying, and it had not been my boon to bear it.  I am thankful, however, for I would likely see it a curse.

As ill-suited as his information was for us both, the momentary lapse did bring new vision to my eyes as I looked about the field where we fought.  By no small fortune, the creature stood next to a cliff that I could climb to, and I knew that if I timed a jump correctly, I could land upon him and bring him a swift death.  I already knew that my hands could find purchase on the beast's leathery skin, that I could climb his back that I might sink my steel into the flesh of not his legs, not his feet, but his chest, his shoulders.  My earlier attempts had hacked off the two tusks he bore that made attempts at his eye difficult, yet now it stood open.  With my new course in mind, it was almost providence.  This whole battle had been drawing to this very moment, and it was my time to grasp victory.

My feet worked faster than my mind and I swiftly found myself charging towards the hulking brute, currently focused on Zero and Rook below who did their best to distract it.  Perhaps they knew of my intents, or perhaps they simply expected more out of me than I would myself.  Or perhaps they simply only knew of fighting til the end, not of retreat, and that ignorance shielded them from any action but the one they took at this time.  I ran up the rock that almost seemed built for this very purpose, this single moment and leapt as time slowed for me.  The wind whipping through my cloak, my hair, it was if I could feel every wisp that breezed by before I landed upon the shoulder of the Cyclops, gripping tightly to stay attached to the beast.  He thrashed, he fought with rage, but I was unshakable.  I drew my blade, I hefted it back and surged it forward.  I hacked away at the single eye of the beast, over and over again, bringing shrieks of pain to the hills around us.  I was winning this fight.

"Master!", Rook again.  My mind told my ears to not listen, to allow my single focus to remain on my task, but I was too late.  "Its eye is vulnerable!  Strike it!"

I could not help myself.

"Rook!", I shouted through gritted teeth, staring down at the man, the 'pawn' of mine with a look of fury that out-paced that of the creature I was trying to slay.  "I swear by my very title of Arisen that the next blood my sword tastes will be your own if you do not be silent!"  It was the wrong thing to do.  Not because of any effect it might have had on the man who looked quite chastised below, but rather because it gave the creature a moment of respite and that was all it needed.  My hand failed as it shook this way and that, throwing me from it and very nearly off of the waterfall that I could not even see the bottom of.  Drenched in the waters of the river, yet burning with rage, I climbed to my feet once more.  I would not be denied.  My sword would not be denied.

I scarcely remember the details now, but Zero did later describe to me the vigor that I displayed in my assault.  Caring not for his weapon, not for the high ground, for strategy, not even for my own regard it seemed, I charged the beast and jumped til I gripped the flesh of its belly.  I slashed my sword along its skin as I climbed up and up, seeking my prize once more.  She spoke with pride the next part, the three sword strikes to the eye that I landed next, followed by one last strike that surely would've rent the beast in twain had it been a much larger blade.  She described the creature as dead on its feet, yet only for a moment, as my final strike, the final touch that brought our conquest to the ground was a single swipe of steel along its heel, taking the very footing out from under it.  I do remember it crashing down, the sound of it, the shock it sent through us, being so close to it.  And I remember the breath I took thereafter and exhaled in a sigh.

And then I remembered the Guild charge that bid us to slay one more of its ilk.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hooray for Niche Game Announcements!

There were a few things that have been announced in recent times that I have at least a little bit of interest in, so I figured today was as good a day as any to bring them up and do a little speaking on them.  Mostly since it's a far more interesting topic of conversation than yard work, which is what a good portion of my day was spent doing.  Also because I haven't done a good ol' fashioned news dump in a while (which, I mean, format-wise is what this type of post is) or at least that's what I'm going to tell myself to ensure that it's a good time to go with it.  Just, you know, whatever works.

XSEED (Marvelous isn't changing XSEED's name, Joystiq) is releasing Ragnarok Odyssey Ace sometime this winter for not only the Vita, but the PS3 for this go around.  The game will be, unsurprisingly, a re-release of Ragnarok Odyssey for the Vita, but with all the included DLC that's since come out as well as Cross-Platform play between both versions of the game, as well as a host of other things.  New costume pieces, weapons and items are almost a given, but one of the more interesting things mentioned is that there will be a new "Tower of Yggdrasil" dungeon.  Perhaps because of the explanation of the dungeon, I cannot help but think of Tartarus in that the dungeon creates rooms in a randomized style as you traverse upwards for what I can only assume is a rather long time.  Because Yggdrasil was kind of a big tree, you know.

Most interestingly for me is the mention of an upgraded battle system, because I'm a little confused on what it's going to address.  On the one hand, Ragnarok Odyssey's battle system was rather fast-paced and enjoyable and I don't think it needs retooling, exactly.  For what it is, it works extremely well - you get around fast and you attack monsters with vigor - but there's a rather unfortunate disconnect in what you're actually doing and what the game is doing.  Really, it's not the battle system that poses the problem, but the mechanics themselves that drive it, that crunch the numbers for the uncrunchable exploits you're performing.  This is a hurdle every game must jump, of course, but I can't help but think of Ragnarok Odyssey as grazing that hurdle on the hop over, only barely skirting it.

As an Assassin character, my priority was movement.  Gotta go fast, gotta get up to things, gotta hit fast, gotta get back.  Having tested all the characters, this is the playstyle that fits -me- the best and even though I can technically replicate that with any other class because of the flexibility of the system, the Assassin was built around it, so play to its strength.  Only, I could dash around enemies and slice them in the back four times while they were swinging a paw or a weapon or what have you and dash away before they even started turning around, which you might think would be a lot of damage, all things considered.  But it wasn't.  It was functionally the same as running up to their face and hitting them like that.  And it's because it's not really about -your- character, but your gear and how far into the game you've gotten, since every chapter clear boosts your stats (which are almost superfluous given that's their only boosting time) that determines how 'good' you are at monster-slaying. 

Imagine any game where the gameplay relies on you picking up stronger weapons for stronger enemies.  Yes, I understand there are a lot, that's not the point.  Imagine that instead of being able to pick up those upgraded weapons (since they're all functionally the same), you only upgrade after every few chapters.  You start out with a pistol and your first upgrade is a magnum.  Something along those lines. You can go back to the first chapter after you've upgraded to your shotgun and everything's so much easier, or you can go back to that boss that gave you a hard time in chapter 4 once you unlock the RPG, but what's the point?  You already spent half an hour plinking away at it with a dodgy Assault Rifle because it was the only thing you could work with.  If the game is about forward progress and not getting better things, then there's no reason to go backwards when you're forward and going forward ultimately ends up becoming more and more of a challenge as you face scenarios that are inopportune for your current state.  It's why you can grind in RPGs (most of them) and why you can scavenge for ammo for any gun you can carry in most shooters.  Because there can't just be "This is what you are" at any given time, but rather "this is what you can be", and Odyssey missed that. 

Still, despite that, I'm a bit optimistic, as it can only really improve instead of dial back really.  Or even just sort of maintain, which isn't as -bad- of a thing as I may have made it out to be.  There are, of course, ways around the 'never upgrading until you do far far after you needed to' system that I simply didn't care to put much effort into since they are basically "Switch classes to something more fitting and/or play online and hope the increased difficulty is mitigated by seasoned players and with the game coming to Vita -and- PS3 with Cross-Play, you'll have that much larger of a pool of potential hunting partners to attempt missions with.  I'm not quite sure if I'll be picking up Ace as I still haven't finished Odyssey's base game and I might not anytime soon, but I would still recommend it as a game to watch, if nothing else.

The "Best of Playstation Network, Volume 1" is also something that I sorely overlooked and almost regret doing because of one very important element.  If it's not quite obvious, the Best of Playstation Network, Volume 1 is a disk-based (this is key) collection of some of Playstation's neatest, strangest and most talked about games, both in the recent past and reaching back a ways, though not in as balanced of a way as I would hope, unfortunately.  So if you're worried about a digital future, or you simply find it difficult to find space on your HDD for all of these little games that add up quite fast, then this is certainly an avenue of purchasing to investigate.

My own interest comes from the inclusion of Tokyo Jungle which is a game I have been enthused about in the past, but never got around to purchasing because of the prohibitive 2.4 gig file size the game carries.  Well, that and because I just inherently like bundles because they are amazing things, but really it's mostly the Tokyo Jungle portion of said bundle.  Especially since I already own the Fat Princess and Sound Shapes portion of it.  I mean, how can you just not want to at least -play- a game that lets you run around an area of ruined Tokyo as a baby chick who can actually grow up and fight other animals for dominance in this new, strange world for them?  How can you just not want to at least -play- a game that allows you to put construction hats on your dog character that you are playing as and then pit you against a crocodile in a fight that you can actually win?

Though I will say that I hope this yet-another-inclusion of Fat Princess in something means that they're actually going to revisit that series.  Say what you will about the "controversy" (making such big air quotes here) and what have you, the actual -game- was solid and I still say that if it had come out a year or two later when PSN was much more 'established' as a digital distribution platform as well as a multiplayer one, it would've done much, much better than it did.  It's a simple, fun, challenging multiplayer game that I actually -wanted- to play because of how much fun it was.  That is certainly saying something.  Being as simple as it is, there's really no reason why they couldn't do up a version for the Vita (there's a PSP version, even), which I would hope would be Fat Princess 2 and also on PS3 with Cross-Play.  It's Sony's IP to play with, clearly, but I do think they have to find a studio to make it as the studio that made Fat Princess has been restructured....twice now, I think?  Renamed one or both times, and I really don't know what they do anymore.  Still, it is honestly worth a shot after the PASBR inclusion and now this.

Okay, this last one isn't exactly a niche game, but taking everything into account, it just might as well be one really.  Epic Mickey 2 didn't exactly set the world on fire, nor did it even come close to stoking a modest blaze like the original, so the announcement that it's going to see a late port to the Vita is....a surprise.  We'll go with that.  Because a surprise sounds positive, right?  Right.  Let's....let's try to be positive about this because at least someone is porting a game to the Vita, even if it is a little after the fact.  More Vita games breed more Vita games, and that is the goal, of course.

Obviously, the game is based on the PS3 version of it and in lieu of using a Move ala the PS3 version, it's been tweaked to accept touchscreen (front and rear) inputs which makes so much damn sense it hurts.  (Seriously.  Capcom, pay fucking attention to this:  Okami for Vita.  Look how much fucking sense this makes.)  And really, the game is just going to be seeing all sorts of control tweaks and improvements to fit the unique offerings that the Vita has for that which is a good thing.  The game is being tailored for the system, which is precisely what developers should be doing when they port it to something.  This is something to be celebrated, if nothing else really.  Something else to be celebrated is that it's actually releasing fairly soon for just being announced recently.  June 18th is the date, and $34.99 will be the price, effectively giving that Digital Discount that only certain Vita games actually offer.  Though the game will be Digital-only for Vita which...well, I'm not complaining about five bucks off the expected MSRP.

It's always fun to hear about more games getting released, no matter the destination or the time-frame.  Even if they're re-releases, ports of games that didn't sell well, or a collection of games that seem....a little slapped together from an informed consumer's point of view.  They're all still worth your attention if you're looking at things from a certain point of view and might not get the attention of those people depending on what they get announced around.  Since this was the XBone week, well, perhaps a little extra visibility (I'm not going to pretend I offer much, if anything, really) can't hurt them.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Men's Room Mayhem is a Dollar, Kind of Worth It

Men's Room Mayhem came out just this week for a mere 97 cents (for Plus members, or at least, that's how much I paid according to my receipt) and I, being eternally irresponsible with money, decided it was worth it to give it a try on concept alone.  "This sound suspiciously like a cell phone game", I told myself.  "But then again, so is Jetpack Joyride and I rather enjoy that."  I was still a little wary, but the pricing and the fact that it is, in a sense, a simulation/management game made the choice all-too-clear.  As part of a completely irresponsible PSN shopping spree in which I picked up this, REVENGEANCE's DLC, Discounted Sleeping Dogs story DLC and Far Cry 3:  Blood Dragon, none of which I'm actually sure I can download, or at least feasibly so, I picked this game up.

The wariness....was somewhat warranted, though to what degree, I'm not quite certain.

As discerned, Men's Room Mayhem has a very 'Cell Phone' feel about it in that it's meant, literally, to take mere minutes of your free time when it is scarce, rather than ask for your time while it is plentiful as most other games.  Your play options are Normal and Blitz - the former is a more nuanced approach to understanding the game's mechanics, where the latter is putting those to the test to make the most of chaos - and that's roughly it.  There's no real depth to it, much like Jetpack Joyride, relying on repetition with random-generation to make a new game experience for each play, and that sort of gaming is an acquired taste, I should say.  The gameplay is basically waiting as people enter the restroom and directing them to the facility they require.  A yellow droplet means urinal where toilet paper means the proper toilet stall.  For extra points, keep a space between occupied urinals and make sure to direct everyone to the sinks before directing them out the door while making sure that no one person touches another at any point because it will cause a fight and six of those in a round (which happens surprisingly easily eventually) means game over.

Another way in which it alludes itself to Jetpack Joyride is with the 'medal' system, in which you have up to three tasks at a time to perform through your playthroughs of the levels.  Completing the challenges unlocks those medals for you, bringing you that much closer to the next rank, but they're only marked as complete when you finish (read:  lose) the level you're currently playing.  Mind, there's no way to 'win' Men's Room Mayhem, I don't believe, you simply play to see how far, how high you can get in its hierarchy before it catches up with you.  Where Men's Room Mayhem gets it wrong is that these challenges start off -far- too easy to complete, in that you'll complete them after a few waves....and the game doesn't get challenging (and barely even then) by wave six.  So you have a choice of either taking a dive to get more challenges (since Bronze to Silver takes -25-) or ride it out to see just how far you actually can get.  Which purely depends on what you're trying to get out of the game, really.

Unfortunately, what I want out of the game is its delicious trophies.  From what I can tell, they're not too terribly difficult to obtain, and if I get them, I can safely delete the game without looking back.  I have two levels unlocked, but I believe I have experienced what the game itself has to offer and I'm not particularly interested in it.  If I want a pick-up-and-go game in that vein, I still have Jetpack Joyride and Plants vs. Zombies, both of which offer a more stable experience as it ramps up.  Men's Room Mayhem has no concept of a difficulty curve in that it will slow-feed you one patron at a time and then in the very next wave, you'll have them entering one after another, making fights easy to break out while you're trying to instruct everyone to proper stalls for Etiquette bonuses and the rest of everyone to the sinks to wash their hands and then out the exit.  All of it becomes incredibly difficult in short order purely because the amount of characters that will simply be milling about the screen is ridiculous when you have to be mindful of the routes of everyone at once.

Still, it's a dollar and it's perhaps your cup of tea even if it's not mine.  There's something in it that makes me want to like it, which again might just be the silly concept, but I'm not sure.  It certainly can be strategic if you're a bit more focused on controlling the chaos it becomes, which is clearly the goal, but I can't bring myself to actually care as much as it wants me to.  It is trying something, however, and it's not a bad game by any means, simply a small one that reinforces the idea that you do, indeed, get what you pay for.  I'm not expecting hours upon hours of content from it, nor should I, but what I will get from it will be fun enough, and then we'll be through and that will be that.  And I will be able to say that I played a game where I directed people to take a wee that wasn't a Sims game.

do I need to put something here?  It's a game about pissing

Bonus Post - Man At Arms is Amazing, You Should Be Watching It

There was a post on Joystiq that showed off, what was explained as "a guy making an 80-pound replica of the Buster Sword" (which is linked in the article, so it's not embedded above, but rather one of the neater projects from the same guy) but is in reality much much more.  This isn't just some guy who slapped together a thing that looked like the Buster Sword and was 'kind of cool, I guess'.  No, no, no, no, no, this is much much different.

The 'guy' is Tony Swatton and he is the subject of a youtube-based mini-show series called "Man at Arms".  The show, as you might expect given the context so far, is all about replicating weapons from pieces of fiction, be it movies, TV shows, comics or video games, but not only replicating them, but making them actual, viable weapons in their own right.  Every weapon this man forges using his 30 years of experience is an actual, honest, deadly weapon that just happens to be modeled after something that you see and can't fathom it as being an actual thing that is made to be like that.  Hilariously, in at least one, perhaps two of the episodes of the show, he makes something that's based off of a cheaply made thing you can order to display your fandom with, to have something that is -actually- what it's supposed to be.  Specifically, the example I'm thinking of is the Bat'leth from Star Trek, which is an incredibly dangerous piece.

Completely divorced from the fact that he's actually making weapons from games we recognize, like the mentioned Buster Sword and actually a Diamond Sword from Minecraft, or cartoons we enjoy like Finn's Golden Sword from Adventure Time, this is just a legitimately cool thing.  There's just something inherently cool about being able to watch a show about something being made from scratch, so you can see what it came from and how it ended up.  This goes the next level as not only is that thing being made something that is of extraordinary quality (from being forged correctly, with function in mind), but it's something that most of us generally have no idea on where we'd even start on making it.  For instance, I certainly didn't know that metal gets de-magnetized at 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit, but I know that now.  Or that, in the instance of Finn's sword, that tempering metal in a 385 degrees for five hours gives it a golden sheen.

Being that it's a new show, there are only a few episodes (as of this writing, there are 12), and the short-form grates on me a little, mostly because I want at least a half-hour dedicated to these episodes, or like 22 minutes with commercials because I would watch it on television, but it's definitely interesting.  I don't implore you guys to watch that many things, but this is one of those times where I'm going to have to insist.  Mostly because I'm sure none of you will blame me.

Caim's sword from Drakengard anyone?  ....anyone?  shit, it's just me, isn't it

Thursday, May 23, 2013

XBox One - The Fallout

Yes, it's off-center, yes it bugs me

So, Tuesday was the day.  The day when Microsoft threw off the veil of the NeXtBox and dispelled all of the negative rumors that were swirling around it, tarnishing its image before it was even anno-

Oh, right.

That is not what Microsoft did at all.  In fact, it only seemed to confirm a bunch of rumors that were almost laughable to consider as rumors, not to mention the actual, honest truth.  And what it didn't outright confirm is still in a sort of nebulous half-truth-nobody-is-sure space that only Microsoft (and to a degree, Sony and Nintendo) can actually manage to do with this sort of thing.  Perhaps it's inherently tactile, some of this knowledge, but not a whole lot of it.  Certainly not the information that is the most important, which is what I'm going to head this up with - the information about the Anti-Used Game deal.
Much like the Always-Online thing, I don't know what to say about the Anti-Used thing going forward.  I sort of already said how I think they might spin it if they run with it, with the "Incentivised Purchases" or however they'll state it, but it's a hard thing to consider, because it's hard to figure how they won't make it positively Draconian.  Project Ten Dollar, the thing that sort of started Online Passes (for consoles at least) to 'combat the Used Market' is officially being put out to pasture but, being EA, nobody is very interested in thinking that this move is because EA cares.  Which lends credence to the idea that the NeXtBox might have this functionality (so that EA won't have to mandate it themselves) and as a result, EA/Microsoft might be really really tight Next Gen.  Which would, of course, give Microsoft a very nice incentive right there to do it, since it'll likely mean a lot of stuff that is exclusive to the NeXtBox from EA as a whole.  It'd be an unprecedented partnership (ha!) and it would be very, very dangerous for Sony and Nintendo (though not the PC market, since they'll likely get it on Origin anyway).

-Me from This Post, "Let's Speculate About the NeXtBox"
I am going to say that, more or less, I friggin' called how this was going to play out....if not for this particular sentence that finished off that paragraph.
For my part, I'm saying it won't be there, but whether or not that's more hope than thought is up in the air.
Oh, how naive I was.

To be fair, the only part that I was 100% on for sure that we know of at this point is that EA and Microsoft have that 'special partnership' that I speculated about, what with coming out in force to the event today, speaking of and showing off no less than four games, while also stating that something to do with the next FIFA will be Exclusive to The One.  Depending on how this whole cluster-fuck plays out (seriously, 24+ hours later and we still don't have a clear fucking answer because Microsoft doesn't even know), that may very well just be the norm for the generation, since this functionality is built directly into the XBone (that is what we're calling it, btw) and may or may not have been EA's dark bidding if we're buying into conspiracy theories.  Though the curious thing is that a lot of defenders are coming out and saying, "Well if the XBone has it, the PS4 -definitely- has it." and no, it doesn't definitely have it.  Allow me to quote myself.  Again.
Let's all remember something about EA. EA wasn't at the PS4 reveal. EA was at the One reveal in force. So, yes, maybe we can assume that Sony might not actually adopt this Used Game thing. And maybe we can assume Microsoft did it to score a ton of EA exclusives for the entire up-coming generation. Because if you are EA, this is fucking majestic.

-You can still release whatever you want for both the PS4/One.
-People -might- choose the One version of EA Sports Game because of Exclusive stuff, but you're still getting people buying PS4 versions of your games. Namely, everyone who didn't want to buy the One.
-Sweet, sweet Microsoft cash.
-You get to do away with a program that was only causing sustained PR backlash against you and was confusing your customers.

It is Win-Win-Win for EA. Microsoft thinks it's Win-Win for them as well since the Exclusive content might sway some buyers between versions. It still might be.

-From my post on the matter in the Penny Arcade thread for the XBone
It is a ridiculously good coup for EA if this is the scenario that's going forward, which I could really, truly imagine is the case.  Game and Console developers have selective and short-term memory, so they will take the fact that third-party software has sold the best on the 360 this gen and literally make decisions about next gen on -that- piece of information alone.  It's like the Wii U situation, but in reverse, yet it is still a large thing of bet-hedging and it still carries the massive risk for backfire.  So, is it possible that Microsoft went "Hey, EA, we sold a bunch more of your games than the PS3" and EA went "Oh, yeah, you did.  So, hey...let's talk shop" and thus the idea was born.  It is entirely possible that a Microsoft/EA partnership is an attempt to solidify Microsoft's tenuous hold on this generation and to make a foothold in the next that will leave Sony out of the equation entirely.  It is entirely possible that this is going to backfire tremendously!

It occurs to me that I haven't even explained this whole Used Games thing, so I should rightly get to that.  Of course, I will only be explaining the version that Phil Harrison initially stated (I am loathe to source Kotaku, much less Jason Schreier, but everything since is running with the back-peddled statements) because it is the only version of this whole scenario that was coherent and while it was later contradicted by Phil Harrison himself as well as like every single branch of Microsoft's Gaming Division PR, it was only contradicted in opposites ('oh no, this is not the case at -all-') or with vagueness ('we will reveal the actual plan at a later date') and is thus unreliable contradiction even though it casts doubt on the original statement.  You might want to strap in for this one.

So, the example provided is that you go and buy the latest greatest game for your XBone, go home and open it up, eager to play.  You slot the disk and it 'instantly' rips the contents of the disk to the HDD, much like a PC, while also asking you for the code that's located in the case.  This is something we're use to by this point.  Then something else happens, however.  The code authenticates through the internet and that game, and that disk are tied to your XBox Live account.  That means exactly what you think it means - that disk is -yours- now.  Furthering the example, you take that disk to your buddy who also has an XBone and slot it in.  "I want to play it on my account", he says, which is perfectly reasonable since it is his XBone.  The prompt comes up an informs him the game is tied to a different account, but if he would like, he can pay the Full Retail price of the game to have access to it forever.  His friend has essentially become a GameStop delivery-boy, bringing him the disk so that he may spend the dollars in the comfort of his own home, sparing him all of the hassle of the outside world and possibly physical currency.

This is obviously the step put in place to keep you from just installing the game onto your XBone and selling it straight-away.  PC gamers have been used to this for 10+ years.  It is obviously the step EA feared implementing with Project Ten Dollar, as they simply resorted to making your disk worth -less- (rather than worthless, see what I did there) without a slip of paper that hadn't already been used.  Which is pretty much why I'm still suggesting that this is an EA idea through-and-through and that it's attached to the XBone which just so happens to have EA's full backing (whereas the PS4 and especially the Wii U don't) through no coincidence.  People thinking that Sony will reveal similar plans around E3 time are only moderately right to be worried (which basically accounts for paranoia and the thought that anyone, Sony especially, will always screw up given a golden ticket to -not- screw up with).

This is unquestionably the biggest thing that came from the conference, which is hilarious since nothing was actually said about it -during- the conference that went on for-fucking-ever to no avail for people looking to be interested in anything.  In fact, no single thing aside from the name are things that came from the conference itself that are actually being talked about.  Nobody cares about the NFL partnership, especially everyone who doesn't live in North America, nobody cares about TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV, especially everyone who doesn't live in North America, and the games they showed off were not only expected, but wholly underwhelming in terms of number shown.  Because the number (EA not counted because, again, SPORTS) was three.  Two of them exclusive - Forza and Quantum Break - with the third one being Call of Duty:  Ghosts which was announced, what, a month ahead of time?

It's an unfair truth that people care more about negativity than positivity, but it's a truth nonetheless and you are always in a constant need to overcome that when you're announcing anything.  Microsoft didn't consider this at all, or, worse, they honestly thought being able to play Fantasy Football on your XBone while integrated with NFL '14 would be exciting enough to pull away from some of the other things they decided to speak on after-the-fact.  That being able to use a TV Guide through Kinect would make up for the used games thing.  That a Halo TV series directed by Spielberg was going to assuage the fact that it has to check-in once every 24 hours so you can use it.  That the new-and-improved (supposedly) controller with a better D-Pad would make up everything else because I cannot glean any other single good point from the whole of it, manufactured by them or not.

The unfortunate reality to it is that Microsoft simply did not pull off a good presser on any level and anyone who doesn't have the utmost confidence and faith in Microsoft's ability to put out a 'good' product (subjective use, of course) can see that.  This isn't a 'fanboy' thing even though it's very obvious that I have a very Sony slant and openly admit that.  There simply wasn't enough in the presser (hell, even in the after-talks where a couple nice things actually were mentioned, like Ryse being confirmed as a game exclusive to the XBone and the friend limit getting increased to 1,000, which is actually kind of staggering) to make it entertaining for anyone.  Gamers, tech-heads, sports fans, none of them.  I'm well aware that there are the defenders of it out there and I'm not even saying they're wrong - they're just excited for the system and more power to them for that - I just don't understand it, even on an objective level.

I can't even say "We'll just have to look forward to E3 and see how they fix it" because I don't see how any of this can be fixed unless the actual system is completely changed - which would be a worrying idea this close to launch anyway.  Their showing at E3 will certainly be interesting however, and while I'm sure at least one of their exclusive games will be a big deal (I hope, at least), I don't rightly think they can pull out anything, anything that will be holy-shit-big-enough to do anything to really improve themselves in the public eye.  Still, I think it's, hilariously, going to be less about the games and more about the damage control that will keep things from getting too catastrophic for them.  Yet, I'm just curious if they'll manage to say and promise the right combination of things (and mean them) to get back to the level where their machine actually makes sense.

really, the 24-hour check-in is the most offensive thing to me personally at this point, but the rest is still bullshit

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oh Boy, That NeXtBox Presser

I had a long day today and while I worked on a breakdown post, I just didn't have it in my tank to finish it tonight.  Instead, I will share this, which I got from Chance.  Mostly because it is amazing, but also because it's fucking true, holy shit.  Really, that whole showing and the information that's come out from it and since then has been fairly dire, and the only interest I'm deriving from it, personally, is dumbfounded laughter here and there as I come to terms with the rumors that are now reality, for the most part.  But that is a post for tomorrow (barring thunderstorms), and today is a post for this video.

Also for me saying that that's it for tonight because good lord, I am tired, it's hot and my allergies are making my mind work like...uh....something to do with molasses.  Thus, this is good night, folks.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Oh, Right, I'm Back

In the excitement of having fully-functional internet and being able to actually use it and play games with it and the like, combined with the excitement of there being all sorts of news flying about, I never really made a "Hey, I'm back and stable" post.  Though, to be fair, I did not to jynx myself by making one since I was convinced something would wreck right after such a declaration as that is how things tend to work out.  And to further being fair, tomorrow is kind of a big deal to have internet which leaves it as prime "Murphy's Law" territory for my net shitting the bed for absolutely no reason.  Or, you know, any of a dozen other issues.  Basically, I'm just saying that it's Spring and shit happens in Spring to drive me even -more- crazy than I am dealing with the fucking heat and allergies.

Still, it's worth it to bring up that I was gone, I am back now, and I have things I can marginally discuss for now, likely to further elaborate on in the future.  Since, thankfully, I was not forced to be idle during my internet break despite, you know, not having internet whatsoever in the grand scheme of things.  My games all still worked (which I hope to hell won't become a 'Novel Concept' in the next decade) so it was simply a matter of playing them without the luxury of being able to look up a single bit of information on them (which...was honestly and unfortunately harder than you might think).  I did have the net for the majority of one day which was spent mostly as a waste which I will describe below, but that night saw its demise and plunged me definitively into the 90s existence.

I want to get into that one day with internet before anything else, however, to explain the friggin' comedy of errors that day took.  As I stated previously, I have a copy of Deadly Premonition:  Director's Cut and I was slightly worried about the framerate and such when I started hearing complaints throughout the internet of it, but I had a relatively cool day and decided it was prudent to throw the game in and give it a shot.  So my thought process was basically thus:  The game came with Pre-Order DLC, that means a Day One patch to include it, right?  That is the case in 99% of situations, so I prepared myself for this scenario.  I tried to open the Store and it claimed that there was a system update.  Fair enough, I initiated it and let it run and install with no issue.  So I try to open the Store again only to find there's an update for the Store.  Which is pretty frustrating but I would be alright with it if it improved the Store's performance.  (Spoiler alert:  It doesn't.)  Regardless, that downloads and installs and I am then afforded the opportunity to download my Espresso Suit DLC which I had assumed was...more than just that.  (I don't think it is.)

So, I downloaded the DLC and installed it, since that usually works, and was more than ready to download yet another update, this time for the actual game that this whole endeavor was centered around.  Yet, when I put the game in and started it up there was no such update that occurred, only a message telling me the Game Data was incompatible and to delete it and try again.  That confused me, but I did it anyway (The DLC created Game Data, of course) and tried again.  This time it tells me there's not enough HDD space for the Install.  Urgh.  Deciding that I can live without a few choice Game Datas for games that have even bigger patches waiting for them, I go into the game one final time and let it install.  That works.  I exit, re-download my DLC, load the game again to make sure it's compatible and it is.  Thereafter, I was more than able to play the game with the realization that I was also more than able to do so at any point in the two hours spent doing all of the above because there was no game update.

I....didn't play Deadly Premonition that day.  Though I did play it a couple days later and am happy to report that, aside from one of the hub areas, issues with framerates don't seem that bad whatsoever.  Now I just need cooler weather or a cooler environment to actually resume playing the damn thing.

As is likely obvious from the screenshot at the top of the post, I also put a good bit of time into Soul Sacrifice and have come around to seeing why some people don't like it.  It's not to say that I'm starting to enjoy it any less, but rather that I feel like my enjoyment has reached its peak and will remain a constant which, in a sense, will bring it down.  I've reached the point of the game where it's only going to get exponentially harder with every leap, as it likely assumes I'm spending the time that I'm spending grinding up Offerings (and Levels in the meantime), but grinding up Offerings....well, it gets a little rough after a while.  Especially when you're playing a Glass Cannon since you either bring along allies and merely suffer getting smacked around (thankfully for no damage) by their AOE attacks that they love to spam, or leaving the allies at home and potentially losing a 10-minute battle because of a cheap shot.

The problem is that, I'm at an area where the second-tier of spells is the normal expectancy, and getting those buffed up is not nearly as simple as it was for the first-tier since getting second-tier when you don't have a recipe means involving a lot of first-tier.  Using the above picture as an example - that's the second-tier Ice Arrow skill.  Without a fusion recipe, I can still get more Ice Arrow (M) spells because I got that one from boosting Ice Arrow (S) a bunch.  And by a bunch, I mean four levels.  Which means getting two to boost to One-star, getting two One-Stars to Boost to Two-Stars, getting two Two-Stars to boost to Three-Stars and finally getting two Three-Stars to boost to (M).  Shit is exponential.  That is sixteen Ice Arrow (S) for one Ice Arrow (M).  Which means thirty-two for a One-Star Ice Arrow (M).  It's honestly just must simpler, of course, to find a level that offers the damn spell, or to stumble across the fusion recipe, but, well, both of those require treadings into areas where I should already have the spell and it gets all contradictory there.

Still, the actual game part is still fun, which is what matters of course.  It's just that I feel myself getting more into the thought-process of playing the game rather than just playing it, which is the trap I fell into with Disgaea 3.  Though, to be fair, you have to do that with Disgaea if you plan on doing anything but stumbling your way through the lackluster main story.  Still, just because the things you have to do to conquer even little parts of the 'bonus' content (which is lined up, in my case, as the epilogue to the game and doesn't read as 'bonus' to me whatsoever) are 'extra', that doesn't mean you can do whatever the hell you want with them.  Which is something I've been meaning to bitch about, but haven't gotten quite around to it just yet.

I've talked a few times about The horrors of Mushroom Baal and the horrible grind to get close to his level, but something I've really failed to break-down here is the actual context of what's going on here.  Mushroom Baal is the last fight of the epilogue which is basically just a lot of fan-wanking as you fight a bunch of characters from the game and games previous who have 'lost' something to a 'mysterious' Overlord.  As an example of that, the last fight before Mushroom Baal is Laharl, Etna and Flonne along with a field of crazy prinny soldier things.  Without exaggeration, I could throw Dinah as she is into that fight all by herself and she would win it.  Laharl and Co. are somewhere in the Effective Level of 2000-3000 and honestly are not all that impressive.  Dinah is, of course, Effective Level 9999, but her Sum Level is 30,000 and change.  As you've seen, she comes nowhere close to the Effective Level 4000 Mushroom Baal that has 1.2 Million ATK and is the fight directly after Laharl/Etna/Flonne.  I want to make that clear.  You have normal battles against previous characters like Axel and the mentioned trio and then immediately after, NIS just decides to punch you straight in the dick with a character that you cannot kill unless you've been grinding like a motherfucker.

It is further compounded by the issues that have summarily sprung up from my plans to just raise a really good Majin for Dinah to eat for an all-around boost of no small quantity and the Evilties that come along with that.  Majins, as I have stated in the past, simply require more Experience to level up.  Why this is is entirely beyond me because restricting them strictly because they get good Evilties seems a little overboard, but at the same time, the Evilties are literally all the Majins have.  Their stats being overall the same is nice, but unless you buff them with Class World and feed them someone for weapon skills, they're not going to be useful except for in the most specific of circumstances.  There is a lot of work to put into a Majin to make it 'good' even if it didn't have the EXP restriction.  With that, it's just fucking ridiculous.  I mean, I guess the benefit of an automatic 50% boost to all stats because of an Evilty is pretty crazy, but not fifty-hours-just-making-this-asshole-useful crazy.  When all that's going to happen is that he'll end up getting eaten by Dianh for about 100,000 (MAYBE) stat points (in full, not counting HP/SP and distributed between the stats) to be added to her well, and getting the Evilties she so needs.  And I will still have grinding to do to bring Dinah up to combat-readiness with Mushroom Baal after that.

There's absolutely no getting around the stupidly long grind either.  Either I grind this method, or I hop into a Legendary Item or Weapon's Item World and do all one hundred floors of it (not counting floors I have to redo because I went into a mystery panel) all so I have the 'privilege' of trying to Reverse Pirate the item for Statisticians who are the innocents that grant you more EXP when on an item that you have equipped and are, of course, a fucking rare spawn.  Reverse Pirating, by the way, requires that I have a Pirate Ship, which I do have, but if I didn't, that would mean...being in the Item World -again- relying on random chance that Pirates will show up on one floor at some point and I can murder them for their ship.  So I do all that for Statisticians and then I go through some sort of dupe thing with a particular weapon for more of that or something (which I will have to Item World beforehand) all just so I can grind my Majin more, hoping that the statisticians bring him up to normal, if not better, EXP gains.  It's one of those things that helps in the long run, of course, since it means free EXP for anyone when I'm specifically grinding them since I can just give them the item or move the innocents, but it's so fucking monotonous that it's not worth it.

And I cannot....cannot stress enough that this is not even the biggest fucking challenge of the game, this Mushroom Baal fight.  Because it's not the Land of Carnage version of the fight.  In which Mushroom Baal has about 20 Million in most stats.  I am not doing that fight for obvious reasons.  The most obvious among them being fuck you, Nippon Ichi Software.

I just wish I was fucking done with this grinding good goddamn

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Let's Speculate About the NeXtBox

With just a scant couple days left between now and when the world will know of the NeXtBox in an official capacity, it seems like now is a better time than any to revisit the rampant speculation and rumors as they stand now in comparison to a month ago when they announced the reveal announcement.  To be fair, a lot of stuff hasn't really changed in the given time frame, but we can also use this as a jumping point to discuss a few other things about the NeXtBox that weren't previously covered, as well as giving me a chance to be horribly horribly wrong about things in a hilarious fashion as I have done in previous times.  Yet I insist on trying because one of these times I will be 100% right on predictions and it will be amazing until the universe implodes in on itself and for that, I apologize in advance.

Since I'd much prefer to speculate than regurgitate the rumors, let's just go ahead and list them out, both as they've appeared in the past post, and any that have come up new or expanded in the timespan.
  • There are heavy suggestions towards some form of Online DRM for your games.  Whether it's an Always Online requirement and/or a Check-in system that transfers Unique Disk Data that will prevent playback if it doesn't match has yet to be seen
  • As an extension of the previous point, there may be a built-in Anti-Used Games measure
  • Backwards Compatibility might happen in the form of a Mini-360 that attaches to your NeXtBox (This is looking pretty dead), otherwise there is likely no Backwards Compatibility
  • It's going to have a Blu-Ray Drive (this one is kind of a given and barely matters)
  • Two Models at launch - A full-featured stand-alone model (possibly $499) and a Subsidized Model ($299) that will require a 2-Year XBox Live Commitment at $10 or $15/month
  • Kinect 2.0 will be included with every model, ensuring you have it
  • In some cyclical speculation, originally the PS4 didn't have as much RAM as it announced, wanting to be ahead of the NeXtBox's specs (in quality if not quantity), but speculation is now that Microsoft has likely increased the RAM of their machine to be at least 8 Gigs as well (though perhaps not the same quality) so look for the NeXtBox to be close to par with PS4's specs
So really, not a whole lot with that list is different and we have really less-than-no indication on the truth to any measures of it.  Which means looking at it extensively for the best and worst possible outcomes and then picking from both since there's no way it's going to be the best or the worst of all of those rumors.  There is also an entire other facet of the whole thing to speculate about that really...doesn't have a lot of rumors, per se, and that front is the games.  Basically all we have is what we can guess for that, and I'll be doing a lot of that, you can bet.  Since that is what I do.  And it usually doesn't end well, as previously indicated.

The elephant in the room is definitely the Always-Online thing, and as such, that's what I want to address first, but I just...I don't know how to be honest.  It's going to have to come up during this thing or else there will be absolutely zero faith in the NeXtBox moving forward.  But with my current opinion that there is -some- form of the Always-Online thing in it, I'm trying to think of some way that they're going to try and spin it that won't subsequently get them laughed off of the internet.  And it is not working in the least.  It would honestly be easier to say that I think they're going to 'surprise' everyone by going "Hey, so yeah, no Always-Online stuff, phew that was silly right?", but I have absolutely zero faith in that.  I suppose what I'm going with is that they'll spin Always-Online as "XBox Live Full Integration - Allowing you access to your Content wherever, whenever, however", allowing you to do sort of a Remote Play thing (that won't let you play games, btw) which honestly isn't too offensive aside from the....well, the Always-Online thing.  As for the Online Check-In system, that'll be like "Developer and Publisher Incentivised Purchases, Allowing them to push Content to you as soon as it's available", which basically means you can only buy games new, but patches will download automatically and you might get free DLC every now and again once in a blue moon okay like once.  Ever.

Much like the Always-Online thing, I don't know what to say about the Anti-Used thing going forward.  I sort of already said how I think they might spin it if they run with it, with the "Incentivised Purchases" or however they'll state it, but it's a hard thing to consider, because it's hard to figure how they won't make it positively Draconian.  Project Ten Dollar, the thing that sort of started Online Passes (for consoles at least) to 'combat the Used Market' is officially being put out to pasture but, being EA, nobody is very interested in thinking that this move is because EA cares.  Which lends credence to the idea that the NeXtBox might have this functionality (so that EA won't have to mandate it themselves) and as a result, EA/Microsoft might be really really tight Next Gen.  Which would, of course, give Microsoft a very nice incentive right there to do it, since it'll likely mean a lot of stuff that is exclusive to the NeXtBox from EA as a whole.  It'd be an unprecedented partnership (ha!) and it would be very, very dangerous for Sony and Nintendo (though not the PC market, since they'll likely get it on Origin anyway).  For my part, I'm saying it won't be there, but whether or not that's more hope than thought is up in the air.

The Blu-Ray drive and Kinect 2.0, at this point, are about as close to confirmed things as they can be.  I absolutely believe that Kinect 2.0 will be shown off for a good 10 minutes or so at the reveal and that it will be included with every system.  And you know what?  It should be.  You cannot afford to pull a Nintendo with accessories and peripherals by releasing them to a market that simply won't adopt them because you can't afford to -make- them adopt it.  This last gen saw a lot of Nintendo-Pulling with Kinect and Move, not to mention the Motion Plus on Nintendo's own front, and going forward, the Circle Pad Pro is literally already the Motion Plus of this generation.  So even if the Kinect 2.0 never sees some truly innovative use or something, at least there will have been the genuine offer instead of the half-hearted attempt to put it out there for developers to make something out of that'll position it as a driving force.  (Protip:  Such a thing will never ever happen.)

As for the last three rumors, well, I pretty much absolutely believe those to some degree as well really.  We won't get a price at the event - that's specifically for E3 - but we'll find out about Backwards Compatibility and the Technical Specs there.  I just don't see the NeXtBox offering Backwards Compatibility in any fashion, as unfortunate as it might seem.  What I do see is there being a "Promise" of "Some of the Highest-Rated titles" seeing a NeXtBox release where you -might not- have to purchase them again, based on your account history.  That means things that are almost synonymous with XBLA will see a port thanks to a little green incentive that might be available on launch, so you'll be able to download Geometry Wars or Shadow Complex for the novelty of it, but not a lot else.  The spec sheet that I have no doubts will reveal a machine close in technical power to the PS4 (though I'm still hedging with less RAM) which means games will basically have to be properly ported to be on the NeXtBox and aside from some First-Party efforts (As On Demand titles) I just don't see that happening.

Though, speaking on the games, that's where it really gets hard to figure out.  Obviously, they'll want to show off -some- games at the event, but obviously, E3 is where the majority of things are going to be announced and shown off.  Still, you have to have -something- of a demonstration and so far, only Call of Duty:  Ghosts has been announced as a thing that will be there which makes sense, and I have no doubt that they'll announce some timed exclusivity stuff there.  Destiny has sided with Sony unless they're going to double-dip and make Microsoft-Exclusive content as well which is almost unheard of.  Other than that, it gets a bit tricky, because....what does Microsoft really have?  Halo 5 might have a teaser trailer as an attempt to generate hype, but that probably won't get really shown off.  Forza or their other racing franchise is a good bet, I suppose.  I guess we could dream of New IPs since that's one area where they sorely lacked this generation, but even if we do, what sort of lines will they run along?  Hopefully not more First/Third Person Shooters, since that is an image that Microsoft should be downplaying in an attempt to create a vision of game diversity that....they actually have in a sense, but never draw attention to in a real way.

So, I suppose my predictions for the show are basically thus:  They'll address the Always-Online thing with serious amounts of spin, and I'm anticipating at least a 'Check-In Validation' type of DRM.  I don't think they will include any Anti-Used Games measures because even if EA pays them a bunch or they anticipate a bunch of money through an EA partnership, it won't be worth the backlash.  Kinect 2.0 will get a good showing off with extra attention paid to its ability to detect more subtle motions and will be included with every NeXtBox at launch because they want that shit out there if just for the Dashboard.  No Backwards Compatibility, even akin to Sony's Streaming idea, but 'select titles' will be ported to the NeXtBox's Arcade from both the Arcade and the On Demand section, possibly available at launch.  Technically, I think it will be slightly underpowered in the face of the PS4, mostly due to RAM.  And Call of Duty:  Ghosts will be shown off alongside exclusive DLC announcement, Halo 5 teaser, a couple new IPs of some type and possibly a new Forza title that might show off the tighter Kinect 2.0 as an added benefit.  Now we wait for the 21st to find out that I am at least completely wrong on three of these points.

for the record, I have no predictions on the name because 'Infinity' and 'Fusion' are the rumored ones and they suck

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sega and Nintendo Are Getting Cozy

If you've been paying attention to Wii U news at all in the last day or so, then you've seen the above screenshot.  You know what it is.  You know -why- it is.  So you know why I'm using it - not only because it's like the only damn screenshot flying around (I believe), but because it's already created a little bit of a buzz on its own merits.  For those in the dark, the above is a screenshot or concept shot of Sonic:  Lost World, the newly announced Sonic game that will launch exclusively for the Wii U and 3DS at some point in the near-to-far future.  However, what it represents is something far bigger than just one game, no matter how good or not the game itself will be.  Personally, based on Generations, I'm hedging towards "really good", but we'll just have to see on that one.

Sonic:  Lost World is the first of a three-game exclusivity deal titled as a "Worldwide Partnership" that Sega and Nintendo have decided on with regards to the Sonic franchise.  This was announced during the Nintendo Direct from the other day and, as mentioned, made something of a splash considering Lost World -seems- like it's going to be a big-deal Sonic game.  Of course, Sonic games coming out exclusively on Nintendo consoles isn't anything new - look at Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic and the Black Knight and Sonic Colors, all exclusive to the Wii, with at least Colors being fairly well-regarded.  So to find out that they're running with that (ha!) still isn't much of a surprise, even after Generations skipped the Wii (and I believe the 3DS version wasn't quite full-featured).

The second game of the three-game deal, you might be wondering?  Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games for the Wii U.  It's the fourth installment of that particular franchise that I really don't see how it has seen four iterations.  It's...probably going to release sometime around Winter.  Moving on...

Switching gears for -just- a moment, and offering a nice little segue in the process, another part of the Nintendo Direct was the announcement that the 3DS' Virtual Console is getting more classic Game Gear games.  And classic in this case actually means classic, and not 'classic'.  With just about every Sonic game that came out for the device announced - Sonic Blast, Sonic Drift 2, Sonic Labyrinth, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the tangentially related Tails Adventure - and a few other things to write home about surely - Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, Shining Force II:  The Sword of Hajya and Vampire:  Master of Darkness - it's more than a little bit of a welcome development.  Announced all at the same time, it sort of elevates it by that much more, and makes me wonder how Sega can manage to get that many games up at once (or at least lined up at once), given how....difficult it seems to be to actually populate the Virtual Console.

Getting back to that third game that was mentioned as part of the deal, you're probably wondering what it is.  Truth is, we -all- are, since it's yet-to-be-announced and is likely going to be an E3 hold-over (even though Nintendo still isn't going to have an official E3 presser, just an obvious presence).  But simple knowing that it's going to be -something-, and that it's going to involve Sonic in some fashion leaves the door wide open to a whole network of possibilities.

From my little bit of investigating and a little bit of my own thought, one prominent theory seems to be a Mario Kart/Sonic All-Stars Racing Cross-over.  Which, I personally think is rather brilliant.  For some reason, to me it's felt like the Mario Kart series has been going a little downhill, though I'm not quite sure if I base that on my own personal opinion or opinions I've gleaned from portions of the internet.  Still, regardless of quality or lack thereof, the Wii U has not yet seen a Mario Kart game and with Nintendo's pro-crossover stance (as evidenced by Pokemon X Nobunaga's Ambition, Fire Emblem X Shin Megami Tensei, etc.) combining what are, in fact, two actual popular franchises into one with the added effect of that extra impact seems like a no-brainer.  Who -wouldn't- want to hop into a vehicle as Knuckles and Dash past Bowser, for instance?  Or, maybe even drive Luigi right past Sonic to pick up a last-moment first place?  It's definitely the thing I would expect from the last game of the deal, but we won't hear anything about it til about E3.

Now, my own personal hope would be for something a little more....inspired.  Which is a funny thing to say since my idea is basically Sonic Generations, but with Sonic -and- Mario, but, hey, Generations was pretty damn inspired, really.  Both franchises have seen shining installments in side-scrolling and fully 3D games and doing a mash-up of their various levels and styles would be something to see, especially since you have to find a happy middle ground for their clashing design philosophies.  Since Sonic is 'Gotta Go Fast', meaning he's got to have a longer track to go on than most of the classic Mario levels could offer, perhaps they could do a sort of system where all levels of a zone are connected end-to-end (as they are in the game, really) so Sonic speeds through an entire zone in a go rather than just 1-1 or 3-2.  Alternatively, having Mario bounced around by bumpers in a 3D, brightly-lit Casino-themed level from one of the Sonic installments with badass music in the background just brings some sort of sensation of joy to my brain and I'm not sure why.

If nothing else, that just goes to show just how open speculation can be on this sort of thing since details are very very sparse and we're just given a few things that are, likely just meant to inspire certain avenues of thought.  I know people are already thinking Lost World might be in the vein of a Mario Galaxy-type game because of the look of that single screenshot and Nintendo's involvement, and hell, that might actually be a good idea.  And even if the third game is 'just' a Mario Kart/Sonic All-Stars Racing Cross-Over, well, that's not a bad deal at all.  Of course, the game doesn't -have- to involve Mario at all, but it would seem a bit silly to announce two Sonic games...roughly at the same time, which is what they'd do, so unless he's partnering up with a different character (which isn't a bad thought), then look for -some- sort of Mario involvement.  Just one more reason to eagerly await E3, I suppose.

Sega also announced Yakuza 1&2 HD for the Wii U in Japan only and I couldn't think of a way to integrate that since it means nothing for North America, goddamnit Sega

Friday, May 17, 2013

REVENGEANCE is Officially Heading for PC

You know how sometimes there's news for a game that you -really- want to talk about because it's something that you're really excited for, but the news is essentially a single sentence?  Like, "Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE is getting a PC Release" and that's really the whole of the news available for it?


This is one of those times.

Of course, me being me, I want to be able to say more than just that because of the reason why I bring it up in the first place.  That being:  REVENGEANCE is sweet-as-hell and you should all buy it because there's literally no excuse now.  Er, soon.  No excuse soon.  Ish.  Unless you're a weird person who solely games on Nintendo things. But, as stated, those people are weird. (I'm mostly kidding, clearly)  Really, with the game soon-to-be-available on all of the major platforms (Wii U notwithstanding) then there really is very little reason that you could not pick up the game, though whether or not you -should- is clearly where the question lies.  If you will allow me, I would like to make a very strong argument as to why you -should- buy it on PC if you truly do not have the means to have already purchased it on PS3 or 360.

Metal Gear Rising:  REVENGEANCE is probably my Game of the Year at this point.  That I haven't actually sat down and written about it in a manner that befits it is criminal and I don't really know -why- I haven't done that aside from creative barriers and the like that have suddenly cropped up.  However, I have meant to, and I have alluded to that fact several times by this point.  It doesn't make up for it, of course, nor does it excuse it, but it at least makes it less of a 'surprise' at this point.  In all reality, it might be that I simply have a hard time quantifying what I feel when I actually play REVENGEANCE and, hell, when I -remember- playing the game.

When I say it's probably my Game of the Year at this point, I say that with full knowledge that I've actually played quite a few new releases already this year with many more on the horizon.  I say it because there are few words that can effectively convey the fun and joy that I experience when I actually play it, though I suppose mentioning fun and joy is a good start.  Playing the game, actually playing just a dream.  It's less about playing the game, about the mechanics, about anything than it is about using everything you have to just have as much fun as you can.  Every room full of enemies is a new chance to pull off some sort of amazing combo, if not in numbers, but in executions.  A chance to dismember every one of them in a different way if that's your thing, or a chance to find new and exciting ways to take them out as you get new weapons added to your armory.

The thing about REVENGEANCE is that, despite its fairly linear structure by nature, there's a staggering amount of freedom when it comes to the fights because of how freeform it can be.  Not only with weapons, with sub-weapons, but with little things like appearance and style as well as the Wigs that enhance your abilities in some fashion.  Throw on the Brown Wig and become a Grenadier.  Stun everyone with whatever's handy before you eviscerate them.  Stay back and pelt everyone with rockets because you have a rocket launcher in your pocket and you ain't even -care-.  Do whatever you want.  Do whatever makes the game fun for you because there is a way for that.  I cannot fathom someone playing REVENGEANCE and not, eventually, finding a way to play it that makes it an enjoyable experience for them.

Beyond actual confirmation from both Kojima and Platinum saying that REVENGEANCE will be on PC, there's...really nothing else that we know.  No release window, no price, no anything.  If it's towards the end of the year, we could probably hope for a Not-$60 pricetag or, if it has one that the Sam and BladeWolf DLC packs are included with the purchase.  Being that they're both already out -now-, it stands to reason that they are going to be part of the porting process and, one would hope, bundled with the game to make it a more enticing purchase.  But regardless of any of that, the game should be an enticing purchase because it is friggin' Metal Gear Rising:  REVENGEANCE.  Buy it when it comes out.  Enjoy it.  Because it's a hell of a ride.

I still recommend "The Frank Jaeger Experience" as a method of playing REVENGEANCE