Starting Da Capo 2

Normally I don’t follow up a game with its immediate sequel, but I decided to dive into Da Capo 2 and see what it was like.

Short answer: This is some Assassin’s Creed II level of going from “Meh, it’s OK” to “WOW”.

It’s running at the same resolution as the first Da Capo, but the character art and shading are gorgeous.  These three are dialog scenes, not CGs:

Koko must get pretty good reception with TWO antennas.

Look at those clothing details.

More clothing. I may have just discovered that I have a thing for cute girls in ties.

The CGs are also more frequent and more dynamic than the first game.

Your sisters.  Your STEP sisters.  Who you don’t live with, because your grandfather had the sense to kick you out of the house when you hit puberty.

Kotori-from-the-future.  PAN-TSU. PAN-TSU. PAN-TSU.

The male sidekicks in Da Capo 2 are also more fleshed-out and have more personality, and I’m kind of rooting for this guy.

He, on the other hand, is rather upset at my luck with girls.

It’s not just the extra detail and effort put into the character art that really stands out.  It’s this:

Characters have backs, and the scenes are laid out with the characters on multiple levels and scaled to give an impression of existing in 3D space.  I don’t have a TON of experience with visual novels, but this is the first one I’ve seen that did this and it just shows how much extra effort was put in.

I also liked the effort put into the environmental art, and here’s an example.  The main character’s room is a pretty common location in any visual novel, and it’s almost always an almost-too-perfect student’s room.

The detail here that just knocks it out of the park is the asymmetrical stereo speakers.  The reflection of the room in the window is also one of those things that just feels like a lot of love was put in where it wasn’t absolutely necessary.  It’s a little sterile – if I had any complaints, it’s that there aren’t any decorations – but it’s believably imperfect.

Finally, my biggest complaint from the original Da Capo – that you can’t tell who you’re going to run into when you are making choices about where to go – was addressed by the improved movement selection screen.

Sadly, Default Girl doesn’t seem to have a personality beyond “sweet and cute”, and there’s no clear Best Girl from the other three.  Right now I am leaning towards Team Anzu but I’m not 100% sold on that.

Anyway, enough raving.  Just had to gush a bit.

Posted in eroge, PC Gaming, videogames, visual novels | Leave a comment

I finally played “Da Capo”

Today I would like to talk about Da Capo, an 18-year-old visual novel that is heavily responsible for my current state of degeneracy.

Not through the novel itself, mind you.  The thing that actually set me down this path was the 2003 anime adaptation and its 2005 sequel.

Anyway, Da Capo was the first anime I watched that was based on a romance visual novel, and the first time I got really invested in deciding on Best Girl.

AND IT WAS OBVIOUS

But, despite this, the protagonist wound up with the NOT RELATED BY BLOOD little sister character, who would have been Worst Girl even if she hadn’t been the stepsister.

Between the two seasons, I sat through 52 episodes of KOTORI IS RIGHT THERE, DUMBASS before the main character finally decided that Nemu was the love of his life, and my sheer incredulity at the ending resulted in a brain-melting epiphany:

“If this show is based on a game, then I could play the game and ensure that Nemu dies alone and friendless and the main character winds up with the right girl.”

So, about a year later, I was in a Sofmap in Nagoya and bought a copy.

 

I have never installed this game.

And then a couple of years after THAT, it was licensed by a translation company but they were charging way too much for it and the whole Nemu rage thing had pretty much died down so I didn’t buy it until it was super cheap during a MangaGamer sale.

And five and half years later I finally played it. I think we’ve covered that I am a bit of a procrastinator.

It’s… well, I didn’t really like it much.  It plays a lot like ToHeart2, where you go to school in the morning and then decide where you’re going to go on your lunch break and where you’re going to go after school, and adds a question of when you are going to get up in the morning.  The combination of these choices determine which girl you are going to run in to on any given day, and once you have stalked a particular girl enough times you are locked into her storyline which leads inevitably to some HOT AND STEAMY HAND HOLDING ACTION.

The thing is, in Da Capo these choices play out on screens that look like this:

While in ToHeart2, the same screen looks like this:

So you can easily tell that Manaka is in the Book Storage room and you should go there to spend time with the most adorable girl in school and not be distracted by any of those other, less desirable mate options.

DON’T HOLD HANDS WITH CRAZY.

There’s a cruder way to put that, but this is not that sort of blog.

Anyway, point being it is very easy to figure out where to go in ToHeart2, while making sure that you stalk the heck out of Kotori and don’t accidentally wind up confessing your love to your step sister is hard to do in Da Capo.

Putting that aside, however, once you DO get locked on to the route of your chosen Best Girl you have a few days worth of story with no choices in it and then a happy ending and end credits roll.  In Kotori’s case, her story deals with helping her cope with the loss of her telepathy and also some stress related to her sister’s wedding.  It’s a little bit of drama and mostly sweet and at the end you agree to come and meet her family and proclaim your undying love and so on and so forth.

Also she catches a cold. Note proper use of mask.

Oh, right, spoilers, Kotori’s a telepath.  Most of the principle characters have some sort of weird psychic power.  The main character has the ability to create Japanese sweets out of thin air.

It probably wasn’t worth waiting 13 years to finally see the story come to its PROPER ending, but now I can put the anime ending out of my mind forever.

Because this is the girl that WON.

Next up, Da Capo 2, which is set a good 50 years after the first one and features the grandchildren of the main character from the first game and – sadly – Nemu.  So in theory he did eventually at least give his stepsister a pity tumble.

Sorry, Nemu, that’s my head canon and you’re stuck with it.

 

Posted in eroge, PC Gaming, videogames, visual novels | 2 Comments

I just played, like, sixty hours of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

It was OK.

I should put more words here.  Also it was rather better than OK and that is an unfair way to start today’s post.

Finishing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, or ASSODD as I shall call it henceforth, marks the first time since 2013 that I have actually been caught up on the series.  At some point, I stopped playing them and they kept right on making them, but fortunately the company decided to skip a couple of years to make the catching up easier.

The thing is, sixty hours to play ASSODD is maybe a little rushed, which is a sentence that I am having trouble believing even as I write it.  This is a ridiculously BIG game.  Over my playtime, I managed to uncover about 80% of the map and finish all three main storylines.    Knocking out the remaining 20% of the map would probably take another forty hours, and I don’t think that’s time well-spent.  Then there’s the huge stack of free post-launch story DLC and the six paid DLC chapters that came with the Big Damn Ultimate Edition With Everything package, which is the package I bought as soon as Ubisoft knocked it down to thirty bucks.

It really is frighteningly close to an MMO in its ability to always have something else to do when you’re done with whatever you were doing.  Very dangerous.

Fun, though.

Over the course of my time with Kassandra and her Extremely Dysfunctional Family, I murdered close to two thousand random mooks who I swear had it coming to them, defeated an ancient cult, faced off against a Greatest Hits of mythological Greek monsters, sailed all over a somewhat scaled-down version of the Aegean Sea, banged a couple of …

wait that is not very PC

…HAD ENTHUSIASTICALLY CONSENSUAL intimate relations with a couple of chicks, toppled a few governments and in general had a grand old time in an extremely violent sandbox.

And then there was a random mook named… I don’t actually know if he had a name.  He was a Spartan guard who saw me darting from bush to bush while I was sneaking through a military fort.  We’ll call him Bob…krates.  Bobkrates.  That’s a good Ancient Greek name.

Bobkrates stopped in his tracks, stared at the bush I was in for a minute, said (quite loudly) “Whatever it was, it’s not worth the trouble” and then walked into a building and laid down to go to sleep.

In recognition of his STUNNING work ethic, I murdered every single other guard in the fort, leaving Bobkrates unharmed and letting him get some rest.  Because, frankly, I have been Bobkrates on many occasions.

Summary: Kassandra is cool, (maybe cooler than Bayek? Bayek was so cool that it is hard to put anyone above him on the AC protagonist tier charts), Ancient Greece is gorgeous in 4K/HDR, stabbing mans has rarely been more fun, looking forward to Vikings in the fall, let’s all have a big hand of applause for a global pandemic making sitting at home playing video games the responsible thing to do.

Also it inspired me to watch the Harryhausen Jason and the Golden Fleece, which was a good time.  Going to maybe watch 300 next.  Never seen it.  I understand a guy gets kicked into a well.

 

Posted in videogames, Xbox One | 1 Comment

Evidence that the new “Star Wars Squadrons” game will be an excellent game and beloved by all:

There are three Y-wings in the teaser art:

THREE.  There are also at least three A-Wings, assuming that the nose in the extreme bottom left is an A-Wing, but let’s just ignore those.

Besides, it’s hard to make fun of the A-Wing for its cinematic moment of glory being a human torpedo move into the bridge of a Star Destroyer when Y-Wings are chiefly famous for flying down a trench and getting blown up without making even a token attempt to defend themselves.

Did any B-Wings even HAVE a defining moment on-screen?  Apart from kinda looking cool when they locked S-foils into attack position?  Maybe I should rewatch the Death Star battle from Jedi again.  I don’t remember them doing anything particular in that.  Not that there are any B-Wings in this image as far as I can tell.

Anyway I have gotten off the topic, which is that this art has an acceptable number of Y-Wings and that the game is certain to follow this up by being excellent, or at least acceptable.

Posted in videogames | 1 Comment

I’m actually running out of backlog

…well.

Technically I have so many games on Steam and various console platforms that I could probably play the ones I have until such time as I die or finally grow up.  Let’s just admit that.  When I say that I’m “running out of backlog”, that’s because there are a ton of games that WERE on the backlog that I have admitted that I’m never actually going to finish.  Most of them were bought during Steam sales or when heavily discounted on PSN, at least, so I have a little less guilt.

ToHeart2 was one of the longest-lasting bits of guilt on the backlog, and I was happy to finally get around to it the other week.  I didn’t feel like a single runthrough was enough, so I went back to it for long enough to play through one more story route, mostly because Manaka is adorable.

Loves books.  Hopelessly responsible. Makes tea and snacks. Lacks glasses.  Nobody’s perfect.

I also spent several hours today going back to Blue Reflection, an amazingly girly Gust JRPG that I originally finished in December 2017.  At the time, I carefully kept a save file from the last moment before the Point of No Return, with the intention of coming back to the game and wrapping up all of the side stories needed to get the platinum trophy.

So… it took me 2 and a half years.  Nobody’s perfect.  That’s my phrase of the day.  Nobody’s perfect.

With those two out of the way, I’ve started digging in to Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.  I’m about two hours in and I can already tell that this is one of those games where you can just lose yourself for days at a time.  Origins was damned good, and thus far Odyssey is everything I liked about Origins but with less sand.  Ancient Greece is colorful and gorgeous and filled with all of the BEST “hey, we know you’re on the main quest line, but did you notice this bandit cave over here?” distractions.

I’m not sure whether it can top the main character of AC: Origins though.  Bayek was pretty cool.  Kassandra isn’t bad though.

But not, let me be clear, perfect.

Because nobody’s perfect.

I’m down to under 20 entries in the List of Shame.  Most of them are pretty beefy games, though.  Maybe I’ll get through them this year?  Maybe in 2021?

We’ll see.

Posted in PC Gaming, PS4, ToHeart2, videogames, visual novels | Leave a comment

New Desk Pic & ToHeart, 2

It’s been a while since I’ve put up a new desk picture, I’m pretty happy with the state of things and it’s a pretty easy way to actually update this blog.

Mind you, I could have dusted or done something with the cable mess before taking this.

In a way, I’ve downgraded my monitor solution.  I was using a 28″ Samsung 4k monitor, this is a 10-year-old 23″ Dell UltraSharp flanked by a couple of laptops.

HOWEVER.  The Samsung display was very annoying in a few ways.  It didn’t like to switch inputs smoothly, it was frustrating how difficult driving a 4k display for gaming is, and the VESA mount location was at the very top of the back rather than in the center, making it very difficult to mount.

The Dell monitor here was originally bought for my wife when she was working from home and I always get her things that I would eventually like to have handed down to me so it is a very nice screen, if slightly smaller and considerably lower-resolution.

The MacBook on the right is my 2018 MBP.  I buy a new Mac roughly every 3 years, but I think this one is going to break that pattern.  It’s a ridiculously thin and fast piece of kit, and the sole problem I have with 13″ MacBooks was resolved by hooking up a cheapish eGPU box and slapping an RX 590 in it.  In addition to the eGPU, it’s connected to a CalDigit TS3+ Thunderbolt dock that handles ethernet and audio and has every kind of port you could ask for.

On the left is a Dell G3 gaming laptop, which came to me because my wife’s gaming PC had a power supply blow out and developed all sorts of faults afterwards.  She got a new gaming PC built with the components of my former desktop, and I got this thing.  “Laptop” and “gaming” are not words I often associate, but this has an i5-9300H and a GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q video card and was easy to add a second SSD and 32GB RAM to.  At 1080P it is a bruiser and has chewed up everything I have thrown at it.

Also, Best Buy had a very nice deal on the G3s.

It’s 100% plastic and could use a second USB-C port but these are minor quibbles.

You may note that I am playing ToHeart2.  Really, I should say that I am FINALLY playing ToHeart2.

The first time I went to Japan was December of 2005, and the PC version of ToHeart2 had just come out.  Konomi’s smiling face was EVERYWHERE in Akihabara, and honestly the character designs and music were cute and cheery in just the right ways to make me want to spend time in their world.

I didn’t actually buy it then, because I had a pretty good grasp of my Japanese level and knew that a visual novel was well beyond what I could manage.  It took a couple of years before I could delude myself into buying a copy, and I may have gone a little overboard with the merch.

It wasn’t enough to buy the first press limited edition of the PC version of the game.  I also needed to have the limited edition of the PS2 version and several figures. All of this stuff was bought second-hand, at least.

I tried playing it a couple of times.  It was extremely slow going.  I have a notebook around here, somewhere, with several pages of very painful translations.

A couple of years ago, someone finally put out a full translation patch, and I am a little embarrassed by how long it’s taken for me to get around to starting it up and going through the complicated process of determining Best Girl to woo.

HOT AND STEAMY HAND HOLDING ACTION

I may have to go back and play through a couple of other routes, because Sasara was a character added for the PC version and I get the feeling that her storyline branched off from the main plot considerably.

I also have to pray that the main character is SLIGHTLY less clueless in the other routes, because the only reason I managed to get to first base with Sasara is that the rest of the cast eventually got tired of my whining about how I wasn’t worthy and devised a complicated scheme to get me to stop waffling and just get on with it.

Also the other girls may be less… complicated.  Sasara had some serious family baggage and some very unusual hobbies.

It wasn’t cosplay.

 

Posted in eroge, mac, PC Gaming, PS2, ToHeart2, videogames, visual novels | Leave a comment

On Date Formats

Bit of a departure from the norm today.

I spend a few months of 1999 working on a Y2K project that had… some issues, but eventually wound up being deployed before the New Year and was still working over a decade later.

Sadly, I know that it was still in use over a decade later because the company was involved in a massive public data breach and the system I worked on was also the one that the attackers used to get in.

In a feeble attempt at defense, our concern at the time was “can we still ship product on Jan 1 2000?” and not so much anything else.

Anyway, between that and the upcoming “You thought Y2K was an issue?” excitement we are all looking forward to on January 19th, 2038, I have a mild interest in how humans choose to encode dates in computer systems.

I think I have hit a new low point.  I discovered today that one of the products I work on stores dates internally in the following format:

YYMMDD

Where:

YY = Number of years since 1970, in hexadecimal.

MM = Month of the year.  Also in hexadecimal.  0-indexed, so values from 00 (January) to 0B (December).

DD = Day of the month, in hexadecimal.

As an example, the upcoming summer solstice (June 21st, 2020) would be read “320515” which is just the most amazing way to make a date as impossible for a human to read as possible without obviously getting into obfuscation tactics.

In addition, if the goal was to save table space by avoiding using a 4-digit year, they should theoretically have dropped the leading 0 in Months unless we are worried that the world is going to add a few more months into the year at some point.

There are times I wonder whether we are actually employing human developers or not, and this puts a solid X mark in the “evidence our programming team is made of space aliens” column.

Anyway, sorry for the out-of-nowhere rant.

Posted in work | 2 Comments

YOU LIKE DRAGONS?

Compared to the original DS, I never really made my 3DS into a constant pocket companion.  By the time I’d owned one for a couple of years, I had to admit that I’d spent far more time collecting puzzle pieces and playing Find Mii than I had playing any actual purchased games.  Its clamshell design and general feeling of indestructibility DOES make it the perfect system for travel, so my bursts of activity on the thing correspond pretty well to times when I’ve been stuck on planes or in hotels for hours.

So, it’s a rare thing to pull out the system and do a deep dive into a long strategy RPG when I am at home and surrounded by so many other high tech devices that are objectively much better platforms to play a game on.

It helps that Fire Emblem: Awakening was a genuine treat.  At its core, it’s a familiar gameplay loop of carefully moving your little sprites around the battlefield and planning attacks to clear out a level while hopefully not losing any of them in the process.  That hasn’t changed a ton since Shining Force on the Genesis.

Where FE:A really excels is the way that it turns your tiny minions into actual characters with personality, through a massive number of conversations that unlock as they fight side-by-side.  The majority of games make everything related to the player character in some way, so there’s an almost voyeuristic glee in watching your soldiers build friendships and have discussions that have absolutely nothing to do with you or the whole, you know, saving the world from Ancient Evil plot.  I got a particular kick out of watching a rather foppish character flirt with every woman on the team until one of them decided that his playing days were over and he was going to marry her.

He didn’t get much of a say in this.

It also let me break the system in a really enjoyable fashion, and I appreciate games that let you have a degree of leeway in how you approach the ultimate goal.

Let me tell you about dragons.

FE:A is …notorious? for having a character, Nowi, who is an ancient dragon who likes walking around in the form of a cute little girl.  This makes it extra hilarious when she faces off against some massive knight in armor, transforms into her natural scaly and fanged form, shouts “YOU LIKE DRAGONS?”, and melts the aforementioned knight into slag.

At times, I would just send Nowi into the middle of a cluster of enemies, all of which would attack her and all of which would die to her counterattacks.

Because of some weird plot points involving time travel, you can get Nowi married to one of your other units and then recruit her daughter from the future into your army.  Her daughter is possibly even harder to kill, and just as happy to wreck havoc, and then you can recruit a third cute-little-girl-oh-oops-that’s-not-a-girl-it’s-a-dragon in a side mission.

So I wound up with three charming little massive hulks of flaming destruction, and they formed the base of my offensive team for late game missions.

This leads me to the final boss, which I will talk about only in the vaguest of ways in order to avoid spoiling an admittedly eight-year-old game.

A couple of missions before the final boss, you finally complete the Big Damn Quest to unlock the Hidden Potential of a couple of Ancient Magical Swords.

I did NOT realize that the whole point of unlocking the hidden potential, yada yada, was that the swords in question would now do triple* damage when used against the final boss. They really wanted you to charge up to the Big Bad Guy, magic swords in hand, and mete out justice with stereotypical fantasy stabbity stabbity.

I rolled up the dragons and melted him instead.

I am probably Fire Embleming wrong.

Good game, though.  And it finally convinced me to try out Shadow Dragon at some point, which is an older game that actually has the permadeath thing the series was known for back in the day.  We’ll see how that goes.

 

 

* It’s probably technically supposed to be written “treble damage” but I couldn’t write that with a straight face.

Posted in 3DS, videogames | 2 Comments

Fire Emblem: Chrom has his priorities straight

Thanks to the combined forces of Corona-chan, heavy rains locally, and a rapidly-dwindling work ethic, I have been getting some significant work done on pruning the backlog.

The most recent “big” game I’ve finished was Assassin’s Creed: Origins, which was an incredibly immersive experience that completely failed to stick the landing, to the point where I was very glad that there was an achievement that popped up to let me know that I’d finished the main story.  Still a very good game for the first 95%, though, and it means that I’ve finished every mainline AC game except Odyssey.  I may even be able to be completely caught up before AC: Vikings comes out in the fall.

Setting that aside, I’ve put about a dozen hours into Fire Emblem: Awakening so far, which I’m given to understand means that I have at least twice that to go.  Leaving TMS#FE aside, this is either my second or fourth Fire Emblem game, depending on how you count the paths in Fates, and it’s been a lot of fun so far.  Robin is kind of personality-free compared to Corrin from Fates, and Awakening has nowhere near the same waifu quotient, but the strategy gameplay is top-notch.

Looking back, I didn’t really understand the relationship system in Fates, and I’m not sure that any of my characters ever wound up married until I was playing the third game.  I’ve been focusing a little more on pairing characters up to boost their support ranks this time, and it has led to some really funny support conversations.

I am particularly fond of the way that Chrom expressed his undying love for Sumia.

Sadly, I missed my opportunity to recruit Tharja.  Since she features so prominently in TMS#FE, I assumed she was one of the main characters in Awakening and I was startled to find that she basically shows up in one battle and vanishes forever if you don’t recruit her at that point.

Anyway, it’s good times.  Now, if I can just get past the Chapter 12 battle that has me temporarily stymied…

 

Posted in 3DS, videogames | Leave a comment

A weird bit of Apple ephemera

Was digging through my drawer of assorted USB drives recently and stumbled across this thing.

Small plastic bear for scale.

If you bought a 2010 MacBook Air, which didn’t come with an optical drive, you got this in case you needed to reinstall the operating system.  Of course, they couldn’t give you just ANY pedestrian-looking USB thumb drive, so it’s tiny and slim and doesn’t have any ugly protective metal shield on the connectors.

I’ve never owned an Air, mind you.  I have this because, in 2010, I was working for my local university, and there was a professor who had a 2008 MBA and really wanted an upgrade.  As occasionally happens in these instances, they accidentally left their laptop on top of their car and then ran it over while backing out of their garage.

No, I’m not sure how you have something fall off your car while backing up and THEN run over it, especially in a way that would leave a perfectly-centered and flawlessly-parallel tread mark along the length of the computer.

It was not, however, my place to point this out to them.  My job was to take in the shards of what had once been a computer and issue them a new laptop.

Anyway, when I was setting up their new Mac, I asked them if they wanted the recovery key and they vaguely waved it away, which I took as justification to keep the thing.  I had to find a dodgy Chinese utility to unlock it and make it writable, but it’s a perfectly usable 8 GB thumb drive with a little story behind it.

Presumably, the computer it belonged to was dropped accidentally fell into a bathtub as soon as a newer model came out, but by then I was no longer working for the university.

Posted in gadgets, mac | Leave a comment