Sunday, May 28, 2017

Play Log: Lapses

The whole point of writing Play Logs was to give myself a way to continue writing, using a short-form style that would be easy to manage.  This past month or so has been so busy I guess I couldn't even manage that.

Company of Heroes 2
The PIAT change has really changed UKF's mid-game for me.  Now I don't feel nearly as much need to rely on the AEC or Bofors to deal with vehicles.  Luchs are still a big threat, but I can live with that.

I'm finding myself slowly revising my opinion of the vanilla Sherman.  It's still kind of crappy at dealing with other tanks, being equal if not slightly inferior to the Panzer IV in a straight matchup, but the combination of HE rounds and a top-mounted MG make it a killer infantry tank.  If you think of it as a unit for blasting away vehicles and infantry that can also defend itself against enemy tanks (if necessary), it becomes a more compelling unit.  I'm actually curious if the Easy 8 (which lacks the ability to switch between HE and AP) has the same splash as the regular Sherman's HE rounds.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2
On to the sequel.  It occurred to me that I'm not sure I've played a series of games where the stories are so tightly interlocked.  Most of the time when games have sequels, the individual games' stories still stand apart from each other.  Take Kingdom Hearts, which I think is the closest example of a JRPG series following a single overarching plot.  The original Kingdom Hearts had kind of a mysterious ending, but it was an ending all the same; Sora rescues Kairi and Destiny Island, and manages to briefly reunite with Riku.  Then you have Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts 2, which explicitly follow up on the overall story but are still individual sagas in and of themselves.  The same goes double for games like Birth By Sleep and 358/2 Days, which plug fairly neatly into the series' narrative but still tell standalone, focused stories of their own.

Trails of Cold Steel (and presumably Trails in the Sky) isn't like that.  Trails of Cold Steel 2 is chapter 2 in the same book.  Cold Steel 1 essentially didn't have an ending.  A whole lot of stuff happens, and then the game is over.  Picking up Cold Steel 2 is like coming back from a commercial break mid-way through a TV episode or movie.  They even start you out at level 40 (which is about 25 levels lower than I finished CS1 at, but remarkable all the same), with all of the crafts you learned in the previous games.

I just... Don't know what I think about that.  If you buy Cold Steel 1 intending to finish it, you're basically locked into buying and playing the whole saga if you ever want to see a proper conclusion.  It's like if each episode in a Telltale game was 70 hours long and cost $40.

Bloons TD 5
I'm sure I've mentioned before my enduring fondness for Tower Defense games.  I played Bloons TD 5 a long time ago and didn't think much of it.  The cutesy visuals the premise of popping balloons didn't really ring home with me.  Well, for it's had a consistent following over they years so I figured I'd give it another shot.  It still feels a little hollow to me, but what eventually got me into it was the tower variety.  There's about 25 different units, ranging from planes that patrol the battlefield to super monkeys that blast balloons at ludicrous speed with eye beams.  The amount of enemies thrown at you and number of resulting projectiles flying around the screen means that the game can get somewhat hectic.

It's not bad.  In other news, I finally decided to wash my hands of Kingdom Rush.  I gave it its fair shake, and it's not for me.

Lara Croft Go
I couldn't get into Hitman Go, as much as I wanted to.  While the visuals and presentation were slick as hell, the core game just wasn't doing it for me, and at the end of the day didn't actually feel much like Hitman.

Lara Croft Go is way better in this respect.  It has just as much if not more visual flair than Hitman, with colorful, exotic environments and slick animation.  But to me at least, it truly evokes Tomb Raider.  I haven't played the PS1 games, but the trilogy Crystal Dynamics made during the mid-2000s were as much about quiet exploration as they were about blasting away at hostile wildlife.  I would even say they had a meditative quality about them.  Lara Croft Go captures that perfectly.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Play Log: New Semester

New semester has started for me and as a result I've suddenly gotten considerably busier...

Trails of Cold Steel
I'm finally at what appears to be the final chapter, and it's clear that in the grand scheme of things the story is only just getting started.  I'm not sure how I feel about putting 80-hours into a game and basically only having the prologue to show for it.  On one hand, it helps establish the sheer scale of the story the developers are trying to tell, but on the other, it makes me feel a little ticked off that I put all this time into the game and ultimately there's no payoff unless I keep going to the sequel.  Like, there's nothing wrong with multi-volume stories, but a good series doesn't just leave you hanging between works, and that's what I feel this game is doing.  It's setting up all sorts of plot strings that are very obviously not going to get resolved before the end of the game, and that sort of sucks.

Company of Heroes 2
I've been playing a lot more USF lately.  They're a hard faction to play on this setup because I don't have any keybinds, but their versatility and mobility is always a breath of fresh air coming from UKF.  And while I don't think much of USF's vanilla armor, the Easy 8 and Pershing can get a ton of work done.  I'm finding the Pershing's cannon to be astonishingly good against infantry, perhaps comparable to the IS-2 or King Tiger in splash radius.  And the ability to triple equip bazookas on Rangers does wonders for your roaming AT capability.  Most of all though, it's so nice having such a highly mobile mortar team.  The range got nerfed pretty bad last patch, but the lightning-quick set up and pack up times almost make it worth it.

I've also been experimenting with using my Major more on the frontlines.  The Major is traditionally a valuable unit because he can act as a secondary retreat point.  Pair him up with an ambulance and USF players can essentially pick anywhere on the map to retreat to for full-service healing and reinforcements.  But the Major can also call in air recon and artillery barrages, which makes him a pretty valuable asset on the frontlines as well, despite not really being cut out for heavy combat (he's really squishy, and unless you give him a BAR or two his damage sucks).  Lately I've been doing a sort of three-musketeers style thing with him and the Captain and Lieutenant.  Since all three can sprint at full veterency, they work well as a first-response unit before my full force of Riflemen and/or Rangers arrive.  I also use them as point cappers, which saves other, more combat-oriented units from having to halt their advance.  Normally I use Rear Echelons for capping, but lately I've been relying on them to provide light AT with bazookas, so I run into a lot of situations where I'm torn between having them stay behind to cap a point, or allocating them to help with a nearby enemy tank or vehicle.  Plus Rear Echelons have a number of things in general that only they can do, so I've found that giving them bazookas suddenly makes them perhaps the busiest unit in my army, constantly running between engineer tasks and frontline combat.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Spice and Wolf Synopsis: Volume 6

"You won't go quarreling with your companion over anything quite that foolish again, will you now?"

In the grand scheme of things, not a lot happens in volume 6.  It's a transitional story, focused mainly on foreshadowing volume 8, introducing Col, and, as always, developing the relationship between Lawrence and Holo.

And yet I struggled to keep this one from getting too long.

Play Log: The Ride is Over

Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Well, it's finally over.  The ending... wasn't very satisfying, but I guess I can't complain too much.  I think IBO is going to go down in history as a pretty polarizing show among Gundam fans.  It's very different.  That's not unusual for an AU show, but IBO really has a fundamentally different feel to it from even most other AUs, in terms of everything from mechanical design to tone of its story.  Okada brought something very new to the franchise, and in the end I think that's a good thing.

After War Gundam X
I finish watching one Gundam, and promptly start up another.  Coming from IBO I was very worried that older shows would suddenly feel very dated (even though I've already seen and enjoyed plenty of them), but X is hitting it off with me right away.  I like Garrod, and I really like the overall set up of the show.  "After War" turns out to have been a very apt timeline title, as the show takes place only a few years after humanity has already largely destroyed itself in an all-consuming war.  It's the typical Earth vs. Colony feud, except this time nobody was around to stop both sides from going all the way.  Now it's just scattered remnants trying to pick up the pieces in a Mad Max-esque world.  As a result the show is weirdly dark sometimes.  Like for example, there's a scene early on when a bunch of bandits are trying to steal Gundam X from Garrod, but they're not united at all and the moment one of them falls over or is defeated by Garrod, the rest dogpile him/her and finish them off, just to reduce competition.

I guess Gundam X is fresh in its own way just because how cynical it seems to be in its portrayal of humanity.

Amagi Brilliant Park
I ended up watching the 14th episode of this for reasons, and enjoyed it.  So I decided to come back and give the actual series a try.  I'm already having a blast with it.  It goes without saying that it's a beautiful show (with lots of beautiful women, hue), but it's got a lot of character.

Black Lagoon
Another one of those well-known shows that I haven't seen.  Let's fix that.  I'm only a couple episodes in, but it's not bad.  I think I might have a soft-spot for anime set in places in the southern hemisphere, in places like Malaysia and South America.  Those are places that I know little about and don't have much interest in visiting, but there's an exoticism to them that I enjoy seeing portrayed in fiction.  And if nothing else, it's a nice break from the endless stream of anime set in Japan or facsimiles of it.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
Now that some of my Master Quartz are maxing out and I'm getting some really good slot quartz, combat's been kind of a breeze.  I'm in Roer now, that's a cool place too.

Company of Heroes 2
So, the balance patch is out.  Penal squads have anti-tank rifles now, which... Isn't totally strange I guess, but I didn't feel like Soviets were really hurting for extra AT options, and giving Penals PTRS rifles makes Guards less attractive.  The fact that satchel charges can stick to vehicles now is hilarious, though.

The PIAT got a big buff too.  Overall, I'm happy with the changes.  The shots home now, which is silly in action, but makes the weapon much less frustrating.  This is counterbalanced by a big reduction in range, which makes it easier for enemy armor to kite you.

And, well, right on the heels of this patch, it seems another one's cooking.  This time Relic's finally giving in to the whiners and nerfing the Comet and Cromwell.  Personally, I felt the Cromwell was in a great place, so it stings a ton to see it get nerfed.  The Comet was a really good tank, so good that it rarely made sense to choose the Churchill over it, but the balance changes currently suggested seem way too harsh.  Especially buffing the population cap up from 16 to 20.  That's right in line with a King Tiger.  It's one thing to make it cost more popcap, but they're also reducing its overall effectiveness at the same time, so we're getting a worse tank for higher popcap.  I think the ride might really be over for me if this is the future of UKF.

So a new expansion came out recently, Tempest of the Gods.  For me, the most exciting cards came for Swordcraft, but it feels like almost every faction got some pretty scary new additions.  Dragoncraft in particular got buffed like nuts.  But what seems to really be shaking up the meta is Heavenly Aegis, a new Havencraft card.  Heavenly Aegis is an extremely strong card just looking at its attack and defense, but the kicker is that almost nothing can kill it.  It can't be damaged, it can't be banished, it can't be removed by spells.  Theoretically, the only way to deal with it is to use a a card with Bane.  It seems like with every expansion, Cygames pushes the boundary of what ought to be permissible for a balanced meta, and they're really stretching it this time.  There are some factions that, as far as I'm aware simply do not have cards with Bane (like Havencraft, heh), so Heavenly Aegis becomes unstoppable.

Granted, Heavenly Aegis costs 10 points, so you're not going to see it until very late.  This means you can realistically kill a Havencraft before they ever get a chance to play it, especially because Havencraft decks often have a slow start anyway.  That said, I feel like if your strategy to defeat a card has to be "beat the player before they can play that card", that card might be a little too strong.

I'm not even sure what Cygames hoped to accomplish by introducing Heavenly Aegis, as it's not like Havencraft was a struggling faction.  In fact, I've long considered Havencraft to be one of the strongest factions; even though it's not my favorite faction (that'd be Swordcraft or Forestcraft), it's the one I usually win the most with.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Play Log: Fun Times

I spent a good portion of this month traveling, hence the break in activity.

Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta
I believe I commented earlier that this show was pretty easy on the eyes.  That was an understatement.  The animation is honestly pretty damn topnotch sometimes.  And Kotoha is awesome.  I like her character, I like her design, I like her ability.

I went and did a bit of research concerning just where this anime sits in the continuity, and apparently it is actually supposed to be generally covering the beginning of the manga.  It sure as heck doesn't feel that way, though.  Take the vampire twins, for example, or the cop.  The story treats them as familiar characters, but they never had an introduction...

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
I think I finally understand what's been throwing me for a loop with IBO.  I don't want to make Gundam sound like some super intelligent franchise, but I do feel like they're usually more cerebral than IBO.  It's a franchise that loves to portray clashes between various philosophical and political ideals.  IBO has this as well (mainly in McGillis and Rustal), but on the whole it's less about a bunch of high-minded individuals fighting to change the world and more about people fighting to preserve what's important to them, or better their own lives.  So the battles are more emotional, more base, and more brutal.  What the show lacks in complexity it makes up for in raw impact.

Company of Heroes 2
I'm probably lying to myself even as I write this, but I don't know how much more of this game I have left in me.  It's still fun, but the community is insufferable, and it's obvious Relic's not going to add anything more to it beyond perhaps the occasional skin or balance patch.

Cowboy Bebop
This is a great show and I'm glad I finally got around to watching it.  However, as mature adventure stories go I think I liked Michiko and Hatchin more.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Play Log: War Rages Again

Company of Heroes 2 
Whelp.  I feel like by getting this game working my Surface I've re-opened a forbidden well.  I don't think I realized how much CoH2 was cannibalizing my time with other games until I found myself regularly turning to it instead of continuing Trails of Cold Steel or Grandia.

Sadly, while the game is workable on here, I think I might have to veto maps like Sittard Summer.  I love the occasional bridge game just as much as the next guy, but my poor Surface can't handle all the action that gets compressed onto that bridge.  I ended up in a 4v4 custom game with 200 popcap and double resources, and my FPS would regularly dip into slideshow territory.

In other news, Relic is inching closer to another significant balance update.  Very little of it is of much interest to me, but they're completely overhauling the PIAT, which is a godsend.  They also seem to be nerfing the AEC vs infantry which is a little bit of a bummer since unlike every other faction, Brits don't really have a mid-game option for dominating infantry.  But on the other hand it's getting a boost to its overall vehicle hunting capabilities, which is probably the bigger boon in the end.

Cowboy Bebop
This show continues to be good, but at the same time my enjoyment of it has waned a little.  I'm not sure why.

So I saw this.  It was good, but this is one of those movies that I think I enjoyed more for the visuals and animation than for the content.  The story was fine, the songs were fine, and I did like Moana as the main character.  But it's a really colorful movie, which made it fun to watch in and of itself.

Inside Out
I guess I'm playing catch up with animated movies.  I didn't think much of Inside Out based on the pitch and trailers, but I ended up really enjoying the premise.  There were a few beats here and there that I found predictable, but it was overall a pretty imaginative movie.

I also found myself rewatching Frozen in Japanese, as it was airing on TV.  I had forgotten how charming that movie was.  They clearly did an outstanding job on the Japanese dub.  I vaguely remember hearing that Frozen was absurdly popular in Japan, maybe even more so than it was in the US.  That seems to hold true, as my dormmate said he's seen it five times, and also apparently had memorized the lyrics to every tune in the movie in the process.  Him and anyone else that walked by would happily sing along to the music as it cropped up.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Play Log: Easy times

They put out a pretty big update yesterday that finally added some new story chapters.  I've only played a bit of the new Swordcraft chapters, but the AI sure did open a can of whoop ass on me, despite the fact that I think my decks are a lot more developed than when I first beat the story.  I did beat it, but I'm not looking forward to the new AI difficulties they also added.  Elite was already quite a pain.

In other news, there's a Granblue fantasy crossover event going on.  I haven't played Granblue because the mobile version's still Japan-only, but at least this means more rupees and card packs!

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
So, I finally got to the part where the prologue takes place.  It's been well over a year since I started this game, so I had completely forgotten that the prologue had in fact shown a bit from the middle of the game.

The state of technology in this world is a real hodgepodge.  They have guns, armored cars and main battle tanks, but air power and automotive transportation is still in its developing stage.  Meanwhile you have the Internet in its infancy, and people still running around with swords and staves.  I'm definitely thinking about this too closely in terms of our own world's technological history, but what they have going on in Zemuria is very interesting.

Company of Heroes 2
Had a compstomp game yesterday where we were so thoroughly outpaced in tech by the AI that they had tanks on the field before I had my first light vehicle.  I'm dumbstruck how it happened.

I've been tinkering with more Soviet commanders.  I'm usually all about Armored Assault tactics, but there are some commanders that give Conscripts submachine guns, and that seems like a match made in heaven.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Spice and Wolf Synopsis: Volume 5

The girl giggled. “There is that, but there’s something about you that just makes a girl with a bit of confidence want to have a go. Do you get that a lot?”

I haven't seen the anime in a while, but I'm pretty sure this comprises the second half of Season 2.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Play Log: Surface Gaming

Company of Heroes 2
I tried running this on my Surface a long time ago, and was discouraged by the results.  But I couldn't stay away from it, so I decided to try tweaking the settings some more.  It's... playable.  I had to lower the resolution a ton and most of the quality settings are at low-medium, and I also had to download AutoHotkey because Relic can't be bothered to implement proper key rebinding in-game.  Also it's probably never getting more than 30 frames.  But it works.

Endless Legend
This game was on sale and an alternative to Civ V sounded attractive to me, so I decided to give it a shot.  It's interesting, not sure how I feel about it.  The biggest mechanical difference that jumps out at me is how open-ended the research is.  In Civ, you have a branching, but linear chart of research.  One technology leads to another, and some technologies have prerequisite technologies.  In Endless Legend, it's not like that at all.  The techs are organized into Eras, and you unlock new Eras as you continue your research.  But within each Era, there's no structure.  It's just a giant pool of techs, that you can research in whatever order you want.  You can even opt to pretty much ignore techs if you want, as you only need a fraction of each Era's techs to unlock the next Era.  It's very different from Civ's "no research left behind" approach.

This here's basically SimCity, but for Android.  And not SimCity 4, either.  Something earlier, more basic, like SimCity 2000.  It really does feel like like a SimCity game, through and through, complete with the fact that I basically wasted a whole evening staring at my phone playing it.  It's also completely free, which is cool.

The Legend of the Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
The more I play this game the more I somewhat wish I had the background of having played the Trails in the Sky games.  Once you get to Heimdallr and later Legram, the references to the older games get more common.  It's not in any way affecting the main story at hand, it's just that sometimes you have scenes or bits of dialogue that I can tell I might have gotten more of a kick out of if I had played the earlier games.

As a side note, Legram's a pretty cool place.  It's the first field study location that I really find myself admiring.

I bought this game a long time ago, back when it was basically in its fund-raising phase.  The promise of a way-expanded Terraria was too enticing to pass up.  I played it briefly a couple years ago and wasn't pulled in by it, and it has since then evidently had a lot of ups, downs, and big changes.  I finally decided to give it another, more serious shot and... I like it.  It kinda does feel like an expanded Terraria, but I've only just scratched the surface, so I don't want to get too into comparing the two.

Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta

So, I watched some of the first adaptation this series got back in... 2007, was it?  I remember thinking it was decent, though I never got around to finishing it.  Anyway, the visuals of this one attracted me to it.  It's a fun show, with charming characters, clean animation and colorful designs.  But watching it, it really does feel like I've been dropped right in the middle of a story.  These characters already have established traits, histories and developments, and it's clear that some stuff has already happened before episode 1.  It's like picking up a 50-episode show at episode 25.  Funny enough though, this hasn't really impeded my enjoyment of the show, because I just like watching the characters.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Play Log: Quality phone time

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
For whatever faults IBO has, the one thing I really must praise it for is how consistently it delivers on the fights.  This series has pretty much never gone more than one or two episodes without some kind of battle scene, and this frequency combined with the high quality of the choreography make it really entertaining to watch, regardless of anything else.

Cowboy Bebop
I just watched episode 15 today, which was a Faye-centric episode.  I didn't find Faye to be that interesting up till this point so I had held off on watching it, but it was better than I thought it would be.  I guess I shouldn't have been so quick to underestimate this show.

Train Conductor World
I installed this a while ago but never got around to trying it.  It's actually really fun!  It kinda reminds me of Flight Control, a game from the early iOS App Store days where you had to manage incoming flight traffic.  Train Conductor World gets incredibly hectic and challenging, but in a sort of exhilarating way.

Fire Emblem Heroes
Well, this is a thing.  It's okay, I guess?  The core gameplay is definitely Fire Emblem, but heavily simplified.  The in-app purchases seem exorbitantly expensive, but at least for now there's enough to do without spending anything.  To my surprise, it also has a bit of a story, though it's not like Fire Emblem games have a history of engrossing tales, so I'm certainly not expecting a lot here.

I never had a PS1 or SNES so the often-called "golden age of JRPGs" was mostly lost on me.  I'm not on some quest to fix that, but I do like JRPGs and wanted to try something different from the modern fare I'm used to, so I popped in Grandia.  I'm already impressed, it has such a lighthearted, easygoing tone.  And it has voice acting, which is surprising.

Muramasa: Rebirth
I played several hours of this game closer to when I first got my Vita.  There's even a brief writeup about it somewhere on the site, I think.  Anyway, it's been on my mind a lot lately so I decided to come back to it.  After spending a couple hours playing it, I already feel like I remember what eventually drove me away from the game in the first place.  The combat is cool and challenging in a way that's just right, but the game pretty much has nothing else going on.  You're just running from place to place, killing enemies and sometimes talking to people.  I had the same problem with Dragon's Crown, but that had the excuse of being a beat 'em up.  I'm starting to wonder if this is just how Vanillaware operates.  Makes we want to try Odin Sphere, and soon.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
The story in this game is getting pretty interesting, and the combat's reasonably fun too.  Yet something about playing it feels a little monotonous.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Play Log: Switching gears

For the past couple months I've been playing primarily on my 3DS, but a lot my Vita games were calling out to me.

God Eater Resurrection
Well, I finally beat every single story mission.  Not that there's really any more story after you beat Arius Nova.  I like to think I've kinda extricated myself from the trophy hunting game, but I've come to like this game a lot over the months, and I'm reasonably close to platinuming it.  I even managed to do the solo rank 14 survival mission trophy.  The rest is essentially grinding out missions and completing a set of rank 14 gear.  One of the things I like most about this game is that you can really feel your progress.  When you first start out you're fighting Ogretails and other small fry.  You move up to medium size critters like Gboro Gboros and Kongous soon enough, but it's a long time before you feel like you're a bad enough dude to take on a real aragami solo.  By the end you're the top dog in the branch, and there really isn't much that can push you around.  I can only think of 1 or 2 enemies in the whole game that I would give me a hard time 1v1, and plenty that I could take down by myself even outnumbered, as long as I paced myself.

God Eater 2 Rage Burst
I finally bit the bullet and decided to move on to GE2, now that I've seen largely all that Resurrection has to offer.  It feels like I'm going 100+ hours back in time, starting from square one again, it's brutal.  Jury's still out on how I feel about the game compared to Resurrection.  In Rage Burst devouring doesn't seem to be nearly as important, and the burst mechanic is just kinda there.  To be fair, I felt largely the same way about the devour mechanics in Resurrection until I really started playing around with Predator Styles, but at least here at the outset, devouring seems like much more a complementary mechanic than it is in Resurrection.  I like the idea of Blood Arts; the one I'm using on my hammer that gives back stamina makes that Boost Hammers on the whole feel more viable than they ever were in Resurrection.  But it seems like Blood Arts take a lot of grinding, so it'll be a while before I can see how it really pans out.

I decided to make a character that, in my headcanon, is the sister of my character in Resurrection.  It made that scene where Alisa first showed up more fun, that's more sure.

Oh, and it was weird as hell fighting a Ravana in rank 2.  You don't encounter one of those in Resurrection until like rank 7 or something.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
I'm a little irritated with this game because it took so long to really get on its feet, both in terms of story and mechanics, but now I do find it pretty engaging.  The character writing is tropey but still manages to lend some depth and context to the characters, which is impressive because I think that's a pretty tight balance to walk.  I have zero interest in 100% completion but I still play with a guide in hand because I don't want to miss any chance for extra character interaction.

Thomas Was Alone
This game has been sitting on my Vita for ages, and I finally sat down with it for a couple of hours to see what it's all about it.  I see what this game is doing and I find it interesting, but eventually the tedium of playing a puzzle-platformer overtook the charm of going through a story inhabited solely by a cast of quadrilateral shapes.  It's unfortunate, because I read the synopsis of the game on Wikipedia and it sounds like it goes to some ridiculous places.

I also liked that each level had developer commentary.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Spice and Wolf Synopsis: Volume 4

I'm a big fan of the Spice and Wolf anime, and started reading the novels some time ago.  As a way to keep writing, and also as an exercise in reading comprehension, I decided to try keeping a synopsis of the books as I read them.

The goal is to provide a reading that is as brisk as possible while still providing a thoroughly detailed understanding of the story events in each volume.  What I specifically try to avoid doing is covering character interaction in great detail.  There are two reasons why.  One is because doing so is an incredibly easy way to end up with an unnecessarily bloated summary.  The other is that character interaction is the series' greatest strength, and arguably what you're really here for, and I don't want to spoil that.

So, why am I starting at volume 4?  Because the idea to do this didn't occur to me until I was reading that volume.  Then, without further ado:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Play Log: Back to God Eater

God Eater Resurrection
I played a tooon of this game last summer when it came out.  Just recently decided to get back into it. It's super fun.  I'm on Rank 14 now, finishing up the story and maybe going for the Platinum.  I played through most of the story using spears, blast guns and (in the later half) assault guns.  I've finally gotten just a little bored with my loadout though, so I decided to revisit other weapon types.  I still think hammers are really damn cool, but what I've really fallen head over heels in love with now is scythes.  I didn't think much of them when I was first starting out, but they're synergize so well with certain Predator Styles and skills.  I use Predator Style bonuses that boost oracle with each hit, and with the scythe's long range and ability to hit multiple times per sweep, I can rack up tons of ammo really quickly.  So now I use a scythe and blast gun, with custom shotgun-style canister rounds.  My scythe also has a chance of stunning enemies.  So I play the mid-range game, zoning enemies with the scythe while harvesting absurd amounts of oracle.  Than as soon as the paralysis kicks in, I move in and unload shell after shell into their face.  It does massive damage and usually breaks a lot of armor.

I've been doing a lot of tinkering with shotgun shells in general, mainly to make sick-looking airburst rounds.  Unfortunately, it seems like the game always calculates shell damage based on the distance between the player and the enemy, even if the mechanism firing the shell isn't actually the player, but a control orb launched by the player.  That's pretty unfortunate.

Oh, and the Vita's Party function works pretty well!  I used it to play this game for a couple of hours with friends over the weekend.  We would run missions and just chat about stuff.

Had someone I played send me a friend request the other day.  I'm not sure what the point of friending random people in this game is, since there's no chat system, and no way to interact beyond private battles.

Matchmaking's still rife with Shadow and Blood players, but at least I played a somewhat unusual Blood player recently.  He used all neutral cards.  I've been thinking about trying out a neutral card deck myself lately, as there are neutral cards that are very explicitly designed to synergize with other neutral cards.  Trouble is, I'm not sure which character would be best suited to a neutral deck.  I mean, they're neutral cards so maybe it doesn't matter.

Switch Stuff
Nintendo made a number of questionable calls here with the Switch.  The fact that they're doing paid online doesn't bother me in and of itself, but what they're offering for the price seems a little insulting.  NES/SNES games that you can only keep for a month?  A phone app for voice chat?  Come on, guys.  And while they teased a lot of upcoming projects, both 1st and 3rd party, the actual launch lineup seems pretty sparse.

That said, it's a really interesting gizmo, and I want one.  And that Breath of the Wild trailer was truly amazing.  I went from being largely uninterested in that game to wanting to play it immediately.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Play Log: Happy 2017?

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations
Started and finished the first case.  So far, so good.  It's just as good as I remember.

I'm finally starting to come into some decks I can have a bit of confidence in.  Though right now this game's meta is pretty frustrating.  It feels like almost every player I run into these days is playing Bloodcraft or Shadowcraft, and it's getting really old, really fast.  That said, there are some interesting Forestcraft and Dragoncraft decks coming up too.  And we can't forget the all-powerful Dimensional Shift Runecraft deck.  With a bang and a boom!

Tiny Rails
This is one of those "games" where once you get up and running, you basically only boot it up a couple times a day to check in on it and spend any accumulated resources.  I like it well enough, though.

Super Toss the Turtle
Apparently this is a souped up version of an old Newgrounds flash game.  When I saw it, it instantly reminded me of this browser game I once played on Cartoon Network's website.  Basically, you have a cannon or catapult of some kind, and a hapless animal, and the goal is to launch it as far as you possibly can, using the environment and a limited amount of manual nudges.  This one's extra silly.  My poor turtle got shoryuken'd by a walking banana, suicide bombed by a Mad Max-style biplane, and had the stuffing kicked out of it by Super Saiyan Goku.

Cowboy Bebop
I've seen more than my share of anime, but this has long been one of the gaps in my completion list.  Don't get me wrong, I've seen Cowboy Bebop.  But only what episodes I would sometimes catch on Adult Swim back when I was a kid.  I've never done a proper, continuous viewing of the series.  Anyone who's even dabbled in anime will have heard plenty of praise for this show, as it's widely considered to be not only one of the greatest series of all time, but a very good gateway into the medium.  It's not uncommon for products to buckle under such prestigious reputations, but from what I've seen so far Cowboy Bebop really does earn every ounce of praise.  I'm only a handful of episodes in and it's already one of the most charming, engaging shows I've ever seen.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
I powered through all of season two a week or so ago.  I'm still not sure what my overall opinion of IBO is.  There are things I think it does better than most other shows in the franchise, there are things that I think it does well, and there are things I think it does poorly.  For example, the action is top notch.  Or more specifically, the choreography is top notch.  The animation, however, often looks cheap.  The music is also great, and I really like the character dynamics.  Yet at the same time, I find it difficult to even remember many of the characters' names, even as I enjoy watching them interact.  The show does dialogue and interaction well, but the characters themselves aren't very interesting individuals, with some exceptions.  I also am still not really taking to the show's mechanical design.  The only suite I really like so far is Vidar.  Barbatos is cool, but that has more to do with it having a lot of cool scenes rather than it being a particularly cool MS, at least to me.