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Shepard don’t fear the Reapers

July 29, 2014

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So that was about 70 hours, mostly well-spent I think.

I should put more words here.

I was a bit skeptical about the Mass Effect series before I started it.  To be honest, I was mostly turned off because it seems to have collected the sorts of fans who Take Things A Little Too Seriously, and also it’s from Electronic Arts and I still haven’t forgiven them for dropping support for Atari 8-bit computers in roughly 1984.  That’s fair, I think, it’s only been 30 years and I can’t be expected to forgive them quite yet.

Did I just make fun of other people for taking things too seriously, and then say that?  Really?  Let’s move on and talk about the actual games before I’m forced to examine that last bit too closely.

I won’t spend too much time talking about Mass Effect or ME2, but it would feel weird skipping straight to the end.

The first was an action RPG with 3rd-person cover-shooter mechanics, Diablo-style random loot drops, seriously janky vehicle physics and mechanics that you are largely allowed to figure out on your own.  Considering how many games I’ve played where the tutorial level stretches through, roughly, the first half of the plot, it’s kind of refreshing to have a game that gives you some of the basics and then kicks you out of the nest to fly or fall.

I didn’t necessarily see it that way at the time, mind you.

I didn’t give myself any time to relax between finishing the first game and starting the second, and the transition was just a little bit jarring.  It was the same universe, sure, and I had a kick seeing characters from the first game again, but the controls were just different enough to throw me for a loop and I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t know who these “Cerberus” people were.  It turns out, as an aside, that they’re a niche group you butt heads with three or four times in the first game if you go around looking for side missions, but it’s very possible to miss them if you focus on the main storyline.

Even with those complaints, it was a huge improvement over the first game.  I was not a fan of ME1’s combat, which ME2 tightened right up, and I had a lot of fun with the story, even if the first third of it was “let’s get the band together” and the second third was “let’s run some errands for the members of the band so they like me more”.

It also had the Best Character-Establishing Shot in recent memory, with Legion’s first appearance.

Somehow I managed to make it through ME2 without losing any of the Important Crew Members (let’s not talk about the half of the Less Important Crew Members that didn’t make it), and followed that up by immediately installing ME3 and going through Yet Another Jarring Opening Sequence.  If I am completely honest, it wasn’t until about 90 minutes in that I stopped believing that it was just another cliched nightmare sort of thing and that Any Minute Now there would be a scene where Shepard bolted upright in bed, covered in sweat, and the ACTUAL story could get underway.

Yes, It starts off that bleak.

It’s hard to separate Mass Effect 3: The Game from Mass Effect 3: The Assorted Nonsense, and much of the bad press the game got was because of The Assorted Nonsense, and I will admit that rather a lot of that bad press seems to have been quite deserved.  It’s hard to feel that gamers didn’t have Origin forced down our throats, and the multi-player likewise felt tacked on for the sake of selling online passes to used purchasers.  Worse yet, the game feels rather ephemeral – so many of the features require various servers, or are at least enhanced by various servers, and at least one companion tool has already been pulled out of the iOS app store.  The notoriously controversial ending may have been replaced with something that patches up plot holes and gives the player more closure, but that version isn’t on disc, not even on the recent Trilogy release.  Five years from now, it may not be possible to play the same game.

Setting that aside and looking at the game only as, well, a rather enjoyable 3rd-person shooter with light RPG elements and one heck of a storyline is pretty tricky and I wasn’t always able to pull it off.  I managed to do enough surveying planets and doing side quests and odd jobs to get the Not Entirely Happy But Still Pretty OK ending without being forced into the multi-player, but it always vexed me to look at my war assets knowing that their impact was being halved because I was only playing the single player campaign.  Thankfully, the glaring at the war assets screen represented a relatively small part of the game, with the vast majority spent running around alien worlds and blowing stuff up.  THAT stuff was pretty much as good as it gets.

So, about 70 hours, mostly well-spent.  Probably won’t jump right into the recently-announced sequel until ME6 hits, of course.  :)

 

 

 

Still playing Mass Effect

July 27, 2014

Finished ME2 and launched right into ME3 and immediately got a sense for why there was so much griping about it when it came out.  Still, it’s pretty amazing and I’ll put something up here about my thoughts on 2 and 3 combined once I’m done.  I think that playing them back to back like this is really the only way to do it; I can’t imagine having had to wait a couple of years between them and trying to remember who all the minor characters were.

For now, though, here are the toys I bought in Japan.  All but one of these were from secondhand, so this really wasn’t as expensive as it looks – actually, half of them were Y500.  The Tony Taka “Peacekeeper Daisy” figure was, um, a little more, but I think it was worth it.  Sorry for terrible photo all in all.

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Daisy is also my first 1/6th scale figure so she pretty much dwarfs everything else on the shelf and just barely fits.  Kotobukiya is teasing a sequel figure with another Tony-designed fairy so I’ll be saving my nickles while I wait for that to come out.

 

Streetpass Effect

July 22, 2014

I mentioned a month or two ago that I’d taken to collecting Streetpasses on my Pretty Princess Pink 3DSXL, and that I’d gotten a few Special Miis thanks to E3.

That was cool and all, but really I wasn’t getting very many passes. I was sitting at maybe 30 unique Miis in Mii Plaza and only had a sprinkling of puzzle pieces.

Then I went to Tokyo. If you find yourself in the same situation as I was in, I must recommend this as a tactic.

I have to say, first off, that I didn’t see nearly as many portable game systems as I used to. Smartphone gaming is a Thing, even in the Land of Nintendo, and I saw an awful lot of folks playing Puzzle and Dragon on their iPhones and Sony Xperias.

(As an aside, though I did see a ton of Android phones, I didn’t see so many Samsungs. I think Sony has the home field advantage.)

Even so, I went past many, many people who at least had 3DSs buried in their bags, because it took me no time at all to rack up about 500 streetpasses. I even managed to get the 100 Streetpasses-in-a-day achievement, though admittedly that took going to the Tokyo Pokemon Center and then wandering around Akihabara for about three hours.

Now that I’m back in the States, of course, my pass rate has slowed to virtually nil again. I found out that I can get passes over the free WiFi at McDonald’s and Home Depot, so I’ve been picking up about 10 a day from those at least and I’m up to 650 pieces of a total 1113.

Hey, as far as life accomplishments go, it’s not a great one but I do enjoy seeing the boards slowly fill up.

I Geth I Was Mistaken

July 21, 2014

I spent another four hours with Mass Effect 2 tonight, and I’m happy to report that the Geth DO show up.

This entry in the series feels a lot more like a shooter than the first one did.  That’s far from a complaint, mind you – in ME1, I spent most of the time using various pistols because they seemed more effective than pretty much anything else, but I’m finding that every weapon in ME2 is worth using.  Also, since ME2 dropped the infinite-ammo mechanic, I’m NEEDING to switch up weapons in order to keep myself in ammunition.

The pacing is a drastic change, too.  I’m 10 hours in, I’ve spent most of that time getting the band back together, and I still have several people to go find and recruit – and after I find them all, each of them has a technically-optional mission that I can run to fully gain their trust.  I also need to get upgrades, and they’re not in shops any more so I need to collect components and research schematics.  The whole saving the universe thing seems to have fallen by the wayside a bit in favor of getting old buddies out of jams and scanning planets for minerals.

Oh god I just realized that this might technically count as doing trade skills.

KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNN

Mass Effect 2: I Am Disappoint.

July 20, 2014

Let me start of by saying very clearly: I am not disappointed with Mass Effect 2, the video game. Rather, I started it intending just to see how it tied into the first game and then played for six hours straight, which is a pretty good sign that I consider it an excellent game.

I was extra glad to find out that the thing I’d spoiled for myself accidentally is a thing that takes place (and is explained) in the first hour or so of play, so I don’t need to sit in my chair wondering when I’m going to get hit with it.

What I am disappointed in is that the villains have changed – not the Big Bad villains, but the minions that are presumably working for them. This game introduced a new kind of minions, and honestly I’m not really disappointed in the new minions either – they’re nicely creepy and it’s good when your bad guys aren’t too familiar.

The only reason I’m disappointed, then, is because I had planned to title a post “Mass Effect 2: Geth Again” and it doesn’t look like I’m going to get to do that since the Geth don’t seem to be in this one.

I guess I could complain that they changed the key bindings around and I’ve had a couple of deaths due to mixing up the functions of space and left shift, which were swapped for no logically explained reason, and changing quick save from F6 to F5 also makes no bloody sense, but uh. That’s pretty pathetic stuff to gripe about.

Short version, then: the graphics are better, they’ve sanded off some of the rougher bits of the original, and I was able to import my save from ME1 and have it pick up on all of my story choices, and it really feels like this is My Story as a result. I’ll just have to work a little harder when I make up a funny title for the next post about it.

Don’t Drink, Don’t Smoke, What Do You Do?

July 20, 2014

The problem with games with morals systems is that I only ever really see the nice guy path. I mean, sure, it might be fun to see a bit more of the, let’s say, “morally ambiguous” path, but when the mouse pointer is hovering over the “throw the puppy into the blast furnace” option, I can never bring myself to click it.

I blame Lord British, to be perfectly clear. I played Ultima IV at a young and impressionable age and was uh…

…impressioned? I’m going to call that a word, anyway.  Having to play a game by a set of eight virtues is pretty heady stuff for a 12-year-old kid, particular after the empty-all-the-chests-kill-all-the-guards gameplay from Ultima III.

But enough about old Origin games and more about something a little more recent:

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I’ve been putting off starting Mass Effect for a few years now, for a variety of reasons – no controller support in the PC version, knowing that the trilogy was unfinished, not wanting to commit quite THAT much time to an RPG in favor of playing quick-to-finish action games – and I probably would have kept putting it off except for recently needing to stay up for about 32 hours to set myself to Japan time before getting on a plane.

Since I started Mass Effect about 24 hours into this, my memories of the earlier bits of the game are a little fuzzy.  Mostly I have vague memories of following objective markers across alien planets and feeling completely outgunned most of the time.

I made the mistake, you see, of not having anyone in my away team with the skills to open all of the assorted secured lockers we were walking past, so I wasn’t getting money or upgrades very often.  Once I figured out that, hey, I should have a tech guy along, the game got WAY easier.  Not that I didn’t still die an awful lot, because apparently I love the spicy taste of plasma cannon, but I stopped dying quite AS often.

Anyway, I played the second half while NOT sleep-deprived, and had quite a good time.  I’d MOSTLY managed to avoid being spoiled, though I did ruin at least one plot point for a later game for myself by foolishly browsing Amazon’s selection of related plastic trinkets, but that’s all on me and I can’t fuss too much about it.  Mostly all I knew going in was that a) the first Big Bad Guy I met wasn’t the REAL Big Bad Guy, and that b) it had managed to make the pearl-clutching set clutch their pearls all that much more tightly by including girl-on-alien-girl romance action.

It gets significant points for occasionally having solutions to conflict that did NOT involve insert bullet A into mook B, and getting to skip one boss fight completely purely on charm brought back happy memories of talking my way through the final Big Bad Encounter in Planescape: Torment.  I will take some points OFF for being able to accidentally gimp myself by forgetting a tech guy, but not many.

Mostly I play RPGs to get to feel like The Badass Guy (or Girl) who gets to save the world, drive back ancient evils, and generally secure a bright future for people who never appreciated me along the way.  This one gave me all that AND let me romance a blue alien girl with tentacles, so I will mark it off as mission accomplished and try to get to the sequel games before I forget everything that happened in the first one.

 

Much derp in Tachikawa

July 18, 2014

I’ve been known to go quite a bit out of my way to go to places I’ve seen in anime.  I went all the way to freakin’ KOCHI, of all places, just because I really liked Umi ga Kikoeru, and I was very happy to find several real life locations that had been used in the movie.

I will also admit that my trip to Kyoto was drastically improved by having watched the Kyoto-field-trip episode of Lucky Star.

With that in mind, when I went to Tachikawa to find a Book Off Bazaar store, realized that the station was rather distinctive looking from the front, and took a picture…

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I kinda wish I’d realized where I’d seen it before so I could waylay a pedestrian and get them to take a photo of me from a different angle:

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Oh, well.

Utsutsu shimasu and all that.

 

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