I have kitty cat paw print analog stick covers on my Vitas.

Just look at these things.  They’re glorious.

 

Also, considering how slippery the Vita’s analog sticks are, they’re way more practical than they have any right to be.  I wish I’d gotten these a few years back.

Low effort post is low effort post.  I’ll put more effort in to the next one.

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Is it still OK to save princesses?

I have a weird relationship with most of Nintendo’s big franchises.  I started gaming in arcades in the late 70s, bought my first home computer in 1982 or so, and completely failed to notice that there WAS an industry crash – if you were a PC gamer, the American console business almost completely disappearing barely registered.

So, the NES phenomenon more-or-less completely passed me by, and I didn’t actually own any Nintendo hardware until I bought a SNES so I could play Street Fighter II without it eating quarters.  I eventually bought an N64, and the Big Franchise games for that system, and I didn’t play them, and then I bought a Gamecube and more or less did the same thing.

Anyway.  To get to the point here: despite a gaming history going back four decades, I’d only ever finished two Mario platformers.  Still, my most recent 3DS purchase came with Super Mario 3D Land installed, and I got a birthday coupon for 30% off a selection of Nintendo games including New Super Mario Bros. 2, so I figured I would give those two games a play-through.  I confess that this was at least partially motivated by recently reading a heartfelt essay by someone who felt very strongly about the problematic nature of a game in which the object is to rescue a damsel in distress, and I am nothing if not a fan of problematic games.

Now, I have a policy on this blog – I don’t say anything negative about Nintendo, ever, because the one time I DID write a snarky blog post about a Nintendo game, I wound up with an inbox full of vitriol and a dawning realization that, while I may not have grown up with Mario as a father surrogate, there are a lot of people who did and who take their close personal relationship with Nintendo very seriously.

So, I cannot say much about New Super Mario Bros. 2, other than that it is a video game and that I was able to play it from beginning to end credits without it crashing even once.  It has graphics, and sounds.

I can say quite a bit more about Super Mario 3D Land, because I wound up really enjoying it.  I’m still dreadful at platform games – a side effect of mostly missing the 8-and-16-bit console generations, and the in-game counter thoughtfully reports that I sent Mario screaming to his doom a total of 144 times before I finally dropped Bowser into a lava pit and took Peach back home to her castle, presumably to give her a stern lecture about not getting kidnapped again.

That’s an awful lot of deaths for any game without “Souls” in the title, and I will not pretend that there was not the occasional slow intake of breath through tightly-pursed lips, like a reverse whistle of vexation.

The thing that kept me going through the frustration is that it is a ridiculously cheerful game, and designed so that any given level won’t take more than a few minutes to play through – assuming you don’t fall in to too many bottomless pits, of course, but I think that’s a given.  For those of us whose platform skills never developed, it has well-placed checkpoints to save you ever needing to replay an entire level, and will even offer you some ridiculously powerful buffs should you die 5 or 10 times in a level.  It’s rendered in a color palette made of bright, primary shades, the music is chipper almost to a fault, and everything has its own happy sound effects.  It doesn’t have any story to speak of, and doesn’t really ask you to consider WHY you are jumping on top of turtles; you just have turtles between you and your girlfriend and jumping on them is taken as a natural thing to do.

There are a couple of things about the game that I’d change if I had my preference, but I get that they’re mostly present for tradition’s sake at this point. Most games, for example, don’t really have a “lives” counter any more – but, without it, there wouldn’t be any particular joy in picking up a green mushroom or vaulting to the top of the end-of-level flagpole.

Final rating: Like eating cotton candy in electronic form, would recommend.  Problematic themes and all.

Posted in videogames, 3DS | Leave a comment

2017 is turning out to be a heck of a year

After playing “Horizon Zero Dawn” back in March, I figured that I had my personal GOTY slot locked down.

Then, I finally got around to playing Nier: Automata, and now it’s a little less certain.

I’ve never played a Yoko Taro game before, but I understand that he claims to make “weird games for weird people”, and Nier definitely hits the mark there.  It’s half super-gritty post-apocalyptic endless war ANGST DARKNESS EVERYONE DIES game and half surreal goofiness (moose wrangling!), with a fair bit of third-wall shattering and bleak-but-gorgeous visuals thrown in.

His previous games have a bit of a reputation for having great stories but coming up short in the gameplay department.  This one is a fortunate exception; it’s by Platinum Games and that’s a name that is pretty synonymous with super fast and flashy movement and combat systems.  Running around the ruins of human civilization and beating stuff up is an absolute joy, and I occasionally had to remind myself to get back to the, you know, plot.

It has five endings that you need to see to actually finish the storyline, and 21 joke endings that you can trigger by disobeying what the game tells you to do – for example, if your allies are making a huge heroic sacrifice to hold off enemies so you can get a door open, and you opt to fight alongside them instead of opening the door, it will eventually tell you that your attempts ended with everyone dying and roll end credits.  Another comes when an NPC asks you to eat a fish because she’s curious what effect it will have on you.

Spoiler: It’s not a good effect.

It’s pretty rare for a game to give you more than the illusion of choice, and I was quite tickled whenever I ran into one of these endings by accident.

But, back to the story endings – like I said, there are five, and this is normally a massive turn-off for me because games with multiple endings often make you play through the exact same events from the exact same viewpoints, satisfying arbitrary conditions along the way, just to see all the different ways the story can diverge in its last ten minutes.

Nier isn’t like that.  The first play-through, which took me about 13 hours, tells one story.  The second took me about six, and was split between experiencing events from the first through a different character’s perspective and seeing entirely new events.

Endings 3, 4, and 5, which come after the parallel stories of the first two routes, took me another ten hours or so.  It turns out that rushing the second story was a bad plan, because my character was woefully under level when starting the third story and I had quite a time just getting up to the point where I didn’t feel like I was made of tissue paper.

Anyway, if you like really pretty games with stylish action and swords and that occasionally switch into bullet-hell style shooters or abstract maze games with chiptune soundtracks, or if the thought of riding a moose or debating philosophy with a robot appeals to you, Nier will give you those things.  Set aside about 30 hours to see it all, though.

Posted in PS4, videogames | 3 Comments

Pink Wolf

Pink wolf.

PINK WOLF

PINK WOOOOOLLLLLLLLF

PIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNK  WOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLF

Pink wolf.

OK, that was worth a couple of nights of playing Kritika Online.

 

Posted in MMORPG, PC Gaming, Tera, videogames | 2 Comments

In which, I weep for my bank account

So, another September, another iPhone reveal.  This year, both an iPhone 8/8+ and an iPhone Executive Edition, neither of which I will buy as my 6s+ is still a ridiculously good phone.

Also a new Apple Watch which is slightly more tempting as it is actually a standalone product now instead of something serving as, basically, a remote terminal to the phone in your pocket.  Still probably will not buy it.

AND a new Apple TV, which itself is nothing too amazing but which comes with the promise of free upgrades to 4K for any HD movies I own through iTunes.

I have 101 iTunes movies.  Mostly from digital copy codes, some from Apple’s regular 4.99 movie sales, a handful bought at full price because they came out weeks before the physical version and I wanted to see it Right Now.  22 of them are SD movies, but that leaves 79 movies that are eligible for free upgrades to higher resolution.

I have been buying movies for far longer than it has really been a good idea – VHS tapes and laserdiscs in the early 90s, DVD as soon as it became available, Blu Ray as soon as it became evident that the HD format war had tipped completely in its favor – but this is the first time that a format bump is coming with free upgrades to the better version.

So… well, OK, Apple, nicely done.  I take back at least half the snarky things I have said about you recently, and it looks like I’ll be buying a new Apple TV.

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The End (of 32-bit apps) is Nigh

Next week’s iPhone presentation is going to be an interesting one.  Apple has never been shy to ditch features (the 30-pin connector, the headphone jack), but it’s known that iOS 11 is going to mean dropping support for 32-bit iOS applications and it’s heavily rumored that the iPhone 8 is going to remove the fingerprint sensor… something I’m going to be very chuffed about if it’s true, as I really rather enjoy the ability to unlock my phone and sign into sensitive applications (banking, etc) with a thumbprint.

Fortunately, the  32-bit application I was most worried about got an update last week, so I won’t need to try to find a new Japanese dictionary.  Imiwa? (formerly Kotoba) was the dictionary that got me through four years of college Japanese and still gets frequent use.  The developer also updated it to add support for all modern iPhone resolutions and screen formats AND added a feature where it automatically auto-translates anything on the iOS clipboard.

That last feature is a lot more impressive if you manage to get the macOS/iOS shared clipboard feature working, because it means that I can have my phone sitting next to the computer, highlight anything on the Mac, press Command-C and suddenly a translation pops up on my phone.

It’s goddamned sorcery, I tell you what.

I had another application update today, one that was TOTALLY unexpected:

Vay was originally a SegaCD title, but got an iOS release in 2008 and a patch in 2009.  I don’t think it’s seen a single update since then, so having it suddenly get a 64-bit patch in 2017 is a bit stunning.    It’s a pretty bare-bones port of a super-obscure JRPG, and I doubt they see a ton of sales from it, so serious credit to SoMoGa there.

Sadly that leaves me with a few things under the gun as the days count down to the appocalypse.  I do have an older iPad that can’t run anything newer than iOS 9.3.5, so I guess that gives these somewhere to live for now…

…but, if a tiny JRPG house from Florida can update their games, it’s really not a good look for a company like Sega to let things wither and die.

Finally, have a picture of a cat. This is Blue. He’s a colossal bully to our other three cats and a bit of a nightmare to anything small and breakable or large and scratchable, but he makes up for it with cuteness.  He likes sleeping on his back a lot and hasn’t seemed to grasp that this is a terribly vulnerable position for any cat.

Of course, trying to rub the exposed belly puts your soft and meaty hand parts directly in reach of all four paws and the teeth, so it’s best not to take too much advantage of it.

Posted in iOS, japanese, videogames | Leave a comment

Stuff I bought in Japan 2017: Non-Gaming Edition

It’s no coincidence that my trip to Japan this year overlapped Comic Market.  It’s been a solid decade since the last time I went, and that was apparently enough time for me to forget how absolutely miserable it is to deal with Tokyo summer temperatures AND half a million people in a confined space.

I’m never going to Tokyo in August again if I can help it.

Still, one goes to Comiket because you can buy stuff there that you can’t get anywhere else, even if the vast majority of it is stuff that I wouldn’t want to explain to a customs agent on my return to North America.  On the plus side, fastidiously avoiding the tables selling naughty manga did mean that I could browse a lot faster and spend a lot less money.

So, pictures!

While the middle, mmm, third of Re:Zero was pretty painful to get through, I liked the rest of the series.  I couldn’t buy any of the Comiket-exclusive T-shirts, but I bought a handy tote bag featuring everyone’s favorite Oni…

…and a boatload of other small Rem keychains and badges.  I bought a lot of small character goods this trip, and no figures – I recently realized that I had way too many figures and they were taking over my office space to an alarming degree.

Ram got a pity keychain.  Emilia didn’t even get that.

I really liked Kobayashi-san chi no Maidragon.

…and Konosuba, which is what a Legion of Substitute Heroes anime would be like.

…and Eromanga-Sensei, which regularly nearly killed me with laughter AND a dance-inducing ending theme.  One keychain, one mouse pad, one uchiwa.

Speaking of uchiwa, I had a bunch handed to me.  They’re both cute souvenirs and actually practical, so I brought them home.

The green one is an ad for “Kaspersky Security”, which is an antivirus company.  They had a booth at Comiket promoting their security software, complete with a couple of Kaspersky-tans (live and 2D) to drag in the otaku crowd.

They’re Russian, I think? So I guess that’s why they have a bear mascot.

I legitimately thought that I had bought a TON of Kemono Friends merch, but I think I kept talking myself out of stuff by saying that I would find something cuter later.

Splatoon stuff, with the little cloth being for cleaning glasses.  Sadly there was no Marie merch to be found.  The original Splatoon idols seem to have already slipped off the radar in favor of the new pair.

Some other random keychains.  I went to see a baseball game in Osaka while I was there, and the little tiger guy in the upper right is one of the team’s three mascots.

Despite Comiket being a doujinshi convention, I hardly bought any doujinshi.  The three from the same series were published by Kenichi Sonoda’s circle, and I am not ashamed to admit that I stalked the table periodically throughout the day waiting for the man himself to show up.

 

When he did show, he was kind enough to sign my Idol Janshi Suchie Pai Special cover AND draw a sketch on the reverse for me.  My introduction to anime featured a LOT of Sonoda character designs, and this game is responsible for my mahjong addiction, so these are pretty significant to me.

That’s most of the interesting stuff.  I bought some other random things, like a doorbell that plays the Family Mart chime and a bluetooth trackball, and I got sent to Baby, The Stars Shine Bright to buy purses, but I think I’ll cut the shopping report off here.

 

 

Posted in anime, comiket, Japan | Leave a comment