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Don’t Stop Beheading

July 28, 2015

ngs_boxI finished Ninja Gaiden Sigma this weekend, though I was eventually forced to swallow my pride and drop down to Ninja Dog level.  In retrospect, it was the right decision, but I might have held on a little longer if there were a few more save points, or at least more reasonably-placed save points.

Say, directly before the first Alma fight.  That would be an excellent spot for a save point.

AFTER dropping down to easy mode, I still managed to die often enough that I felt some sense of accomplishment when the credits rolled.

I understand now why this game has gotten such praise.  Setting the combat system aside, I loved the way the world is laid out once you get to Tairon.  It’s not quite open-world – the story is very linear and you can’t go looking for side quests – but it’s almost always opening up new parts of the city without closing off old ones.  There are a few places you can’t get back to, of course, like the chapter 3 airship, but most of the city remains available to you right up until the penultimate level.  For example, I was all the way to chapter 16 when I remembered a chest in chapter 5 that I’d missed during my replay, and I was able to run back through the city to collect its contents.

The mandatory magma level was a pain.  I will say that.  Also, the level which involved a lot of swimming through tunnels, that was a pain too.  That’s two levels out of 19 that I wasn’t fond of, so that’s a pretty good ratio.  I’m also not fond of the control scheme tying one of the game’s most critical attacks to pressing the square and triangle buttons at the same time, because I couldn’t find a way to hold the controller comfortably and still hit these regularly.  I’m going to chalk this up to the limitations of 42-year-old finger joints, and use the excuse as a salve to treat the burning feeling of needing to drop the difficulty level.

I immediately started Ninja Gaiden 2 Sigma (Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2?) after finishing, so I think that speaks to how satisfying the first was.

projectdivaf2ndI also managed to hit my first “completion” goal with Project Diva f 2nd, getting GREAT+ on all songs on Normal, and I’m actually a little down on the game.  I kind of get the sense that the Vita version took second fiddle to the PS3 version – the heavy use of scratch notes makes a lot more sense if it was designed around the dualshock, and the game is much more forgiving of late notes than early notes, which makes sense if it’s trying to adjust for LCD TV lag.

I’m not fond of the Technical Zone mechanic in this iteration.  It didn’t strike me as too bad when they implemented it in Miku’s first Vita outing, but I had far too many runs in 2nd where missing a note or two at JUST the wrong time dropped me from getting a low GREAT to a high STANDARD.  Looking back, I really think the second and third PSP games had the best scoring/progression system.  The first was great for an introductory outing, but overly dependant on getting huge combos during Chance Time.

It’s a bloody shame, because the song list is fantastic, but I really think the series took a step down in fun level and it has me worried about future games using the same engine.

journeyFinally, one advantage of taking forever to get around to games is that I got to play through Journey for the first time with the recently-released PS4 version.

It’s a really pretty game and doesn’t take more than a couple of hours to play.  It could use just the VAGUEST hint of a tutorial on how the jumping/flying works, but I may just have been being particularly thick-headed on Sunday morning.

I’m not a fan of the semi-enforced multiplayer mode, and eventually wound up going offline in order to feel comfortable exploring the world at my own pace.  Surprisingly, the multiplayer DID work even though I’m not a current PS+ subscriber, so apparently there are some exceptions to needing to pay for play online.

I’m hesitant to say anything about the game other than that it’s terribly good.  If you’ve got hardware that it will run on, I’d say it’s a must play.

Cult of Personality Test

July 27, 2015

Pretty much every job I’ve had in the last decade has had me take a Myers-Briggs test, and I always score as an INTJ or ENTJ, depending on what my mood is on the day when I’m taking the exam.  It’s nice to be predictable, I guess.

It’s not a terribly useful thing to know about yourself, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a manager adapt their managerial style to me based on my category, so I usually just take the ubiquitous folder of vague personality trait descriptions, read through it a couple of times, and set it aside until such time as I shred it with the rest of my personal files and move on to the next job.

This test turns out to be MUCH more useful:

Quantic Foundry’s Gamer Motivation Profile

It leaves out a motivator of “I will play a terrible game to completion if the character designs are cute enough” but I liked it otherwise.

For reference, my results.  I don’t think I’ve ever taken one of these sorts of tests and come out quite so one-sided, wow.

chart

Short version: I like it when stuff explodes and I don’t want to work very hard for it.  I also appear to be really concerned with WHY stuff is blowing up.

Followup: My wife’s version.  Turns out, we have pretty similar philosophies for the most part, she just doesn’t like watching stuff blow up as much.

chart2

How to Derail a Meeting

July 27, 2015

I inadvertently started something beautiful and terrible at work today.

I have a regular 8:30 meeting, which we have because someone got the idea that daily team meetings were a great idea. That person doesn’t attend the meetings, mind you.

At any rate, I made an off-hand comment that the US could be divided up into basically four parts: the West coast, which is civilization, two cities in the East coast (NY and DC), “granaries” and “industrial”.

I may have been doing this specifically to tweak someone who identifies strongly with his hometown in the “industrial” part of that.

He, predictably, accused me of painting vast swaths of the country with too wide a brush, and I acknowledged his accusation as fair and amended my definition to include “cheese-producing states”.

There was a pause, and someone else at the table was roused from their morning coma just enough to contribute, as follows: “I went to a cheese factory this weekend. It was pretty neat.”

The rest of the meeting was spent in a hearty debate over the relative qualities of different varieties of cheese and their production methods. At one point, two people had the wikipedia article on “rennet” open to provide authority to their firmly-held convictions. 

Nothing else work-related was accomplished.

It was the best meeting I’ve had all year.

Once, Twice, Three Times a Ninja

July 24, 2015

ngs_boxI have now purchased Ninja Gaiden for the third time, this time in the form of a $6.39 copy of Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the PS3.  At some point, I am expecting my wife and friends to stage an intervention.

That said, it was super cheap and has a lot of things to recommend it over Ninja Gaiden Black, so I don’t feel TOO bad.  The improved graphics are, of course, the most immediate thing that pops out, but things like the quick select wheel for potions and the ability to reverse camera controls are little quality-of-life things that remove a ton of frustration.  I’m also liking what I’ve played so far of Rachel, who was a non-playable character in previous releases.  She’s a lot slower than Ryu, so it took a little bit of adjustment, but her vault-over-enemy-decapitate-him-in-the-process move gives me a good giggle every time I pull it off.

What more could I ask for from a game about ninjas and demon hunters?

I’ve been really impressed by the changes made to levels.  I was expecting a much more straightforward port job, and Tecmo really improved the pacing of what I’ve seen so far.  The Ninja village level, for example, got a few extra enemies and a new area to make it feel more fleshed-out, and getting to fight Doku at the end of the level instead of getting my rear end kicked in a cinematic felt a lot less cheap.  Likewise, the game drops a silly  fetch quest in chapter 4 in favor of a mini-boss fight, which is just more fun in general.

And, YES, the game’s most notorious change is that you can, after every third death, take the option to drop down to the lower-difficulty “Ninja Dog” mode, and I probably am going to do this at some point.  For now, I’m still on the normal difficulty, dying enough to make victories satisfying but not so much that I’m wishing bad things to happen to the developers and their families.

Miku is a harsh mistress

July 23, 2015

projectdivaf2ndI’m usually playing one or two console/PC games and one portable game at any given time, so I needed a new walkabout title after finishing Spirit Camera.

Somehow, Project Diva f 2nd leapt off the shelf and wound up in my Vita’s card slot.  I am weak and easily fall in to old habits, and having a Miku game sitting around unplayed was too much of a temptation to resist.

This is my fifth Project Diva rhythm game on Sony portable hardware, and the series fills a unique role for me – it’s the only series where I start each entry with the intent of playing it on the harder difficulty levels, rather than being satisfied with the entry-level settings.

I confess that I may have been a little smug about this when I put the game card in and fired it up.  Hard difficulty isn’t available from the start, so you have to pass Normal on all songs to get the more challenging version.  I figured that it would take me one quick play-through on Normal to unlock all the songs on hard difficulty, a second pass to get GREAT or better rankings on the handful of songs that I cleared with only a STANDARD ranking, and then I could get down to the srs bzns of playing on Hard…

…and then I started blowing songs, even on Normal.  In the course of clearing the 40 base songs, I had 20 failed songs out of 60 attempts.  There are some note charts where the markers just don’t seem like they’re following the music, some songs where the tempo just skews all over the place, and WAY too many sequences using the touch screen instead of buttons to hit notes.  I’ll be going through the songs on Normal a couple of times again before I’m ready for Hard, I think.  I may even do a quick pass on Easy so I can actually see the videos behind the note markers.

I’m still loving it – it looks fantastic, and it brings back a ton of songs from the PSP games that were sadly absent in the first Vita game – but there’s no way I could recommend it to anyone who hasn’t had a lot of time with at least one previous game in the series.

It looks like Sega will be giving Miku a break after this release.  The US still has the 3DS port to look forward to in September, but that’s just an enhanced version of a couple of 3DS games that are over a year old at this point.  They are releasing Miracle Girls Festival this winter, which is a game that uses the same rhythm game engine but ditches the vocaloids for an assortment of cute anime characters.  Somehow, I doubt this will come over to the west – but, in a world where I can pick Hyperdimension Neptunia games off the shelf at my local Fred Meyer, I guess anything is possible.

That’s Enough Internet For Today

July 20, 2015

From an article on the impending release of Devil’s Third for the WiiU:

enoughinternet1

Read more…

Speed Camera

July 19, 2015

spirit_cameraWhen I originally bought my 3DS, the store I was in didn’t have Kingdom Hearts in stock, and I felt silly leaving without any games, and I’ve always had a fondness for the Fatal Frame games, so I bought Spirit Camera figuring that it looked sort of like a Fatal Frame knockoff and that it might be worth a go.

Turns out, it’s actually NOT a knockoff – it’s a real Fatal Frame game, it just has a different name for some reason.

“Game” might be stretching it a little, too.  It seems mostly designed to show off the features of the 3DS, with the Fatal Frame elements slapped on top to justify charging money for a long-form tech demo.  It pretty much ignores traditional controls – you need to scan the included book of AR cards to advance the story, fighting off spirits is done with the rear-facing cameras, and all aiming and looking around is done by holding your 3DS up in front of you and physically turning and bending and, well, looking rather like an idiot in the process.  I had to clear a good bit of floor space to play this one.

I would DEARLY love to watch someone play this on public transit, which is the normal place one plays portable games.  I think it would be damned entertaining.

Leaving that aside, it does have an interesting premise – for once, the player is NOT a helpless Japanese girl forced into some sort of ancient ritual, but rather is a person who happened to get sucked into an evil diary ALONGSIDE a helpless Japanese girl who has been forced into some sort of ancient ritual.  You just happen to have a Camera Obscura, and your new friend Maya seizes upon you as someone who might be able to break a curse that she happens to be suffering from and, oh dear, you seem to be suffering from it now too.  Whoops?

The AR stuff also works pretty well, and it even manages to pull off a couple of jump scares.  It’s perfectly instinctive to, if you see stuff dripping on to a book in front of you – and when I say “you”, I mean “you, the human being playing this game” – to look up, bringing the 3DS with you as you look up, and having a creepy ghost kid jump out of your own ceiling at you is, well, a good scare.

Headphones mandatory of course, this would have basically zero impact through the 3DS speakers.  Really, enjoyment of this game is probably directly correlated to the player’s ability to suspend disbelief and to accept the world seen through the 3DS screen as the actual state of the world…

…for about three hours, which is a bit short for a game that was originally sold at full retail price.  There’s an “Extra” story mode unlocked after your first play-through, at least, and (to be ABSOLUTELY fair) holding a 3DS up in front of your face for “only” three hours straight is a bit of an endurance test in itself, so it’s probably a good thing that it’s not a full-length Fatal Frame game, which tend to be more in the 8 to 10 hour range.

Overall, probably nothing I’d recommend to anyone who wasn’t a fan of the Fatal Frame series in the first place, but a fun side story at least.

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