Vita Means Love Live

I like rhythm games and idol anime, so naturally I picked these up the last time I was in Japan:

BUT, since I’d never actually watched the series, I figured I should watch the first two seasons of it so I’d know the characters and plots, and it took me a little while to get around to that.  Fortunately, it was a pretty good show and went well with my recent fitness kick.  I still have the movie to watch, and then I understand that there’s at least one more show with a completely different cast of characters.

The rhythm games, well, I haven’t really gotten the hang of the system yet so I’ll reserve judgement.  It’s nothing like the Project Diva games or IA/VT – rather, it’s very similar to The Idolmaster iOS games, and I suspect it may have been designed for mobile and ported to Vita.  I’m especially having trouble realizing when a note is a hold note, so I drop a TON of combos when one comes along.  The music is catchy, though, and it’s got a fair bit of customization as far as outfits and stages go, so I think these were worth the 12 bucks or so each cost me.


Posted in anime, videogames, vita | 2 Comments

Sony’s marketing department is on point.

I finished Nioh a few days ago, and had been meaning to do a quick postmortem post about it, but one thing and another came up.

Then I got another of Sony’s little “congratulations!” emails, which they send out occasionally.  I’ve only gotten them for Bloodborne, Horizon, and now Nioh, so I guess they tend to skew towards titles that are console-exclusive and a little on the difficult side.

So let’s talk about Nioh real quick-like.

I mentioned a few days ago that I’d been surprised at how smoothly the game had been going after a particularly nasty boss fight in the third mission.  I was expecting to hit a real cliff at some point, and, well…

…you know, this may be easier in graph form.

It turns out that the final story boss is just a little on the trickier side, because some of the cheesier tactics you can use on earlier bosses aren’t very helpful on him.  It took me at least half a dozen tries – probably more, to be honest, but I wasn’t counting – before I figured out a way to take him out, and it’s a good thing that he dropped when he did because I was running out of the consumables that made up the core of my winning strategy.

As an aside, if there’s a Nioh 2, it should really restock your potions and such from the storeroom when you die.  It restocks healing items by default, but that’s it.

Anyway, to explain the final dip on that graph, there’s another boss AFTER the credits, but he was a much less troublesome affair.  Beating him unlocks the game’s NG+ mode, which I am not going to mess with because I suspect it would be very humbling.

With that said, I firmly believe that Nioh would be an excellent entry point for anyone looking to get in to Souls-like action RPGs.  It guides you through a set of missions with fixed levels, so doesn’t have the often-lethal freedom of movement of the Souls games, where the designers delight in letting you accidentally stumble into situations you are not prepared for, it has a mini-map with an indication of what direction you are generally supposed to be heading in for your next objective, and you can even get items that make enemies, secrets, and treasure show up as dots on the mini-map.

While that last one sounds a little broken, I really treasured it for the “and, in this level, spiders will jump on you from the ceiling” level, because it let me see where the spiders were and shoot them off the ceiling with arrows BEFORE they jumped on me.

Furthermore, while there are a good half-dozen kinds of weapons, and each has three separate move sets depending on the stance you’re in, and you can really get deep into combos with switching stances and weapons and on and on and on… I got through almost every encounter in the game using a spear in mid stance.  Enemies really like to run directly at you, and they are awfully vulnerable to being poked hard in the midsection with sharp objects.

Oh, and a little bit of investing in the game’s magic system will give you access to the “Sloth” spell, which lets you slow any enemy’s movements to a crawl for a few vital seconds, and you have a “Guardian Spirit” which is basically a berserk button that gives you massive temporary damage absorption and boosts your attack.  You don’t have all of these tools from the very start of the game, but you can pick them all up after the first few missions.

So, seriously.  I’m not downplaying the fact that this game will kill you with zero hesitation, but you can make it a lot more easy on yourself if you want to.

If I have a complaint – and, to prevent this from being a completely shameless rave post, I SHOULD have a complaint – it’s that Nioh is an amalgamation of the Souls games, Ninja Gaiden, and loot-based dungeon crawlers like Torchlight or Diablo, and that third bit is really not very fun.  You are constantly drowning in loot, and sorting through all of the stuff I didn’t want and breaking it down into bits for selling and forging new things from the bits I didn’t sell took up WAY too much of my play sessions.  It also meant that none of the loot was particularly memorable, because I’d pick up, say,  a cool spear that shot lightning… and then, ten minutes later I’d get a slightly BETTER spear but this one catches things on fire, so I’d swap to the fire spear, and then I’d get a neat sword and have to decide whether I wanted to stick with spears or give swords a try, and there are a ton of different stats and percentage modifiers and situational buffs with none of them being terribly well-explained…

Well, that was a lot of words to say that I wasn’t a big fan of the loot system.  But the rest is great, and I strongly recommend it.  Just don’t give up when the third boss kicks you in the teeth a few times.  She’s just there to make sure you’ve understood everything the game has been trying to teach you up to that point.

Posted in PS4, Souls, videogames | 2 Comments

Finding missing Lord of the Rings Online characters

So, let’s get this out of the way: I am NOT playing an MMO.  That is the quickest way to not get anything else done this year, and I am going to try to get things done this year.

But.  My wife was talking about some older MMOs she kind of missed, and mentioned that she wanted to give LOTRO another try but had heard that it was owned by a new publisher now and was worried that she would log in and find that all of her characters and stuff were gone.

So, I volunteered to check it out on my account, since I didn’t have a ton of attachment and wouldn’t be devastated if I found out that everything was missing.

(I did like the game, mind you, but I kind of plateaued around level 65 because soloing was a bit tedious and there’s no group finder for us socially-stunted types to PUSH BUTTON GET GROUP.)

Anyway.  I let Steam download the client, and dug up my old login info, got to the server list, and realized that I had no idea where to go.  The game launcher recommended “Crickhollow”, so I logged on to that server and was greeted with an empty character list.

I did a few quick searches, mostly of the form “How do I find my lotro characters” and found that not knowing where your characters had gone after recent server consolidations was a pretty common complaint – and that the commonly-accepted solution was to log in to the client and press the “Transfer” button, which would bring up a list of all the servers in the game, even the decommissioned ones, and allow me to get my old characters to a currently-active server.

There was only one problem: When I did this, the transfer window looked like this:

This actually isn’t a weird problem – it’s a kind of bug that I used to consider almost a “freebie” back in my software QA days, because it just means that the program you’re using wasn’t designed around Windows font scaling.  Font scaling (“Large Fonts” in older versions of Windows) USED to be an accessibility option for people with impaired vision, but it’s damn near a necessity with high-DPI displays.  Any modern program should handle font scaling, but LOTRO is not very modern and I don’t expect Daybreak will be putting a single penny in to it that they aren’t forced to.

So, I went into Control Panel, and turned the font scaling down to 100% (from 150%) and assumed that the problem would be fixed.

It wasn’t, so I next tried lowering my desktop resolution to 1920×1080.  I still had the unusable transfer window.

I went back to searching, with a frustrating lack of results, eventually finding someone suggesting that I needed to override the font scaling options on the application level.

This seemed worth a try, so I figured out where Steam had put the Turbine Launcher:

(Your location may vary.  Once you find it, right-click it and choose Properties.)

Then I went to the Compatibility tab of the application properties for TurbineLauncher.exe:

One you’re here, check the box for “Override high DPI scaling behavior” and choose “System” rather than “Application”.

The end result was far more useful:

Anyway, I was able to find my characters on their old server, transfer them to an existing live server (it took less than 5 minutes), and then log in and find them waiting at the character select for me.

Then I closed the game, because I cannot get sucked into an MMO right now.  Still, if I feel the urge to run around and beat down some orcs, I have that option now… and, with any luck, my few minutes of frustration will come in handy to someone else in the same boat of staring at a blank character screen and wondering where their hours and days of progress disappeared to.

As an aside, this seems to be limited to Windows 10.  I tried the Turbine Launcher on Windows 7 with no problems, and I’m going to bet that the Mac version is smart enough to deal with font scaling considering it’s of much more recent vintage.  So, this issue is probably limited to the very small set of people who are good at keeping up with the latest Windows versions but for some reason have nostalgia for a mid-2000s MMO.


Posted in MMORPG, videogames | 2 Comments

Nico Nico Nioh

2018 has been a very calm year so far. I went more than a little nuts trying to finish ALL THE GAMES in 2017 – and, while I’m quite happy that I was able to get through a hundred and thirty different titles by the time December wrapped up, I’m not feeling anywhere near the pressure to do the same in 2018.

So, I’ve been chipping away at Nioh, doing all the side missions along the way instead of rushing to the end, and I just got to the final mission area.  Another three or four nights should have it wrapped up with a pretty red bow.  Probably.

It really is a brilliant take on the Souls formula, but it has been a little too cheesable at times.  Apart from Hino-enma, who is the game’s “So, have you learned how to play yet?” boss, pretty much everything has been a matter of sloth talismans + chip away at boss health with spear + push guardian spirit button when boss hits 50% health.

Having said that, I am absolutely setting myself up for hitting a brick wall at some point between now and the end credits. Expect a much more humbled post in future.

I also went back to Gravity Rush 2 to do photo hunts until I had the 6000 Dusty Tokens needed to unlock, well, all of the stuff you need Dusty Tokens for. I’m still very frustrated by the direction the game went, but at some point I know I’m going to want to go back and do the bonus chapter, and the impeding server shutdown meant that it was either get the token hunt done now or never have the chance.

And, of course, I am working on Getting In Shape, which is the sort of thing you’re supposed to DO in January and completely give up on by February. I was doing a sort of truncated weight routine last year (all upper body, I have shame), but this year I have a plan, with alternating days for different muscle groups and everything, and I am no longer skipping Leg Day. This has me back on the stationary bike as well, and I have been watching Love Live! School Idol Festival to help me power through sessions there. It’s the perfect anime for working out to, because it is just SUPER genki and has a lot of good music.

Though, with all apologies to William Shatner, Nozomi is indisputably the best girl.

Umi is OK. I guess.

Posted in anime, PS4, Souls, videogames | Leave a comment

Switching on the Cheap

I realized a few days back that several of the games on my 2018 wishlist are Nintendo Switch games. This is a problem, because I rather like not paying full price for any game and Nintendo first party stuff has a real tendency to stay full price for years.

I have Best Buy’s loyalty program, and that at least takes 20% off new games, but there’s still a bit of a gap between what I want to pay and what they want me to pay. 🙂

But, I got a coupon from Best Buy for an extra $5 off any game, and that was enough to convince me that I should get a copy of Splatoon 2 in my life, and then I realized that I could save even more if I didn’t mind being a little bit of a terrible person.

See, I live in a state with a very aggressive recycling program. We have a 10 cent deposit on all beverage containers, and one of my vices is soda. So, since I tend to let the deposits pile up in my Bottle Drop account for a few months before redeeming them and never empty it completely, there’s usually a couple hundred bucks in there.

I drink too much soda.  Let’s acknowledge this and move on.

One of the benefits of using Bottle Drop, btw, is that you can redeem your account funds at certain grocery stores and get an extra 20% back – so 12 cents a can – as long as you then spend the refund money at that store.

The lightbulb moment was when I realized that some grocery stores sell Best Buy gift cards.

It turns out they do not LIKE selling you a gift card in exchange for Bottle Drop credit – it needed a manager’s approval, and I got a little bit of a glare for it – but the end result was that Splatoon 2 cost me a little under $37 worth of can deposit money.

So. Now I will get to see what happened to Callie and Marie after the final Splatoon 1 Splatfest AND I didn’t break the bank to do so. Wins all around!

Well, first I guess I should finish Nioh. Sadly I have gotten hooked on the online co-op and helping other people with boss fights, which is a TON of fun but is not getting me any closer to seeing how the story goes. The last thing I fought before getting into the co-op was a giant frog, and I think that puts me barely at the halfway mark.

Posted in Switch, videogames | 7 Comments

2017 was great, and I wanted to gush a bit.

I don’t usually do a “Favorite Games of the Year” post, because there really haven’t been a lot of years where I’ve played games that actually came out that year. Usually I get around to titles after they’ve been priced down a few times, or I buy them at full price and STILL wait a couple of years.

2017 was different – not only were there a ton of fantastic games released, but I actually sat down with a controller in-hand and played them. (Down side: I pretty much completely neglected any other hobbies or projects. There are clearly some balance issues that need to be resolved next year.)

Now, before I get going, I wanted to list the 2017 titles I actually finished. I’ve been hooked on reading various people’s takes on their personal favorites, but it’s become something of a pet peeve that “Top 10 Lists” rarely include “and these are the ones I played”.

Blue Reflection
Dark Souls III: The Ringed City
Doki Doki Literature Club
Faces of Illusion: The Twin Phantoms
Ghost Files: The Face of Guilt
Gravity Rush 2
Hell Girls
Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds
Nier: Automata
Queen’s Quest 3: The End of Dawn
Sakura Agent
Sakura Gamer
Sakura Halloween
Sakura Magical Girls
Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash
Space Live – Advent of the Net Idols
Super Mario Odyssey
Sweet Fantasy
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Secret Order 5: The Buried Kingdom
Twins of the Pasture

So, basically a lot of trashy visual novels, some hidden object games, and some actual big hitters. I don’t legitimately have a way to make a “Top 10” list out of this, so I’ll go with “Top 6” to get all of the ones that I really loved in there.

Before I get to that, though, some honorable mentions:

Best Hidden-Object Game: Ghost Files: The Face of Guilt. It’s rare to have ANY hidden object game set in the modern day, and this was a particularly fun murder mystery with an unexpected story twist or two. If you’re HOG-curious, this would be a good place to start.

Best Trashy Visual Novel: Sakura Gamer. It’s a game about cute girls writing their first game, which itself just happens to be a trashy visual novel. It’s not exactly high art, but it’s full of 4th-wall-breaking humor and jabs about whether visual novels (and itself, by extension) should even count as games in the first place. I laughed often.

Best Extremely Naughty Harvest Moon Knock-Off: Twins of the Pasture. For being an extremely naughty Harvest Moon knock-off.


#6: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Thanks to the success of the Switch, Nintendo is having a bit of a phoenix-from-the-ashes year, and launching with a new Zelda certainly helped. It also helps that this new Zelda makes liberal use of familiar design metaphors – I’d never been able to get in to any previous entry in the series, but BOTW dropped me into an expansive open world full of towers to climb and a main quest line to follow or ignore as I saw fit. It felt comfortable and welcoming (Even if I did die an awful lot).

Also, having the main character be an amnesiac meant that NPCs could do some serious lore dumping, which was huge for a new player. I grew up on Michael Moorcock novels, and finding out that Link was basically a Moorcock-style Eternal Champion was a bit mind-blowing.

It’s only this far down the list because the villain was remarkably unmemorable. You constantly have NPCs telling you how much of a Big Bad Guy he is, but mostly he just sits in a castle until you come knocking. I can’t even remember if he had any dialogue or if he just kind of went RARR! and jumped me.

#5: Super Mario Odyssey
When I’m griping about Breath of the Wild’s lack of a decent villain, realize that I played it AFTER Super Mario Odyssey. Bowser is pretty much the archetypical video game antagonist, and it turns out that putting him in a tux makes him even better.

One of the things I look for in any game is how much fun it is to just move around the world, and Odyssey taps right in to that inner six-year-old who wants to run around the playground until he gets dizzy and falls over. The possession mechanic helps mix it up even more – there’s so much variation in what you’re doing from moment to moment that it’s impossible to get bored.

That’s TWO Nintendo games on my best-of-the-year list, which is just unprecedented. Amazing showing from them this year.

#4: Doki Doki Literature Club
I mentioned liking Sakura Gamer thanks to its fourth-wall-breaking story, but Doki Doki Literature Club turns that up a notch or ten. It presents itself as a light-hearted romantic comedy riffing on the “goofy but likable guy surrounded by cute girls” trope, but there’s a Disturbing Content Warning when you launch the game that you absolutely should pay attention to… and that’s really all I can say or want to say, because you owe it to yourself to go into this only knowing that things aren’t what they seem.

It’s also only about three hours long. If there was any game this year that I’d like to sit every one of my friends down in front of and force them to play, it would be this one.

#3 Nier: Automata
I will not lie: I downloaded the Nier: Automata demo mostly because the main character was a hot robot girl.

Then, the demo had a really fun mix of Oneechanbara/Bayonetta-style character action combat mixed with bullet-hell dodging, and a great cliffhanger ending, so I bought the game.

After that, I learned that there were multiple endings and that you were expected to play through the game at least three times to get the full story, so I stuck it on the shelf for months. When I finally pulled it down and cracked the shrink wrap, it was with the expectation that I would get through the first ending, watch the rest on YouTube, and be content with that.

Forty+ hours later, after getting all five of the main endings and after going through one mother of an emotional roller coaster, I DID go to YouTube to watch the other 21 endings. Ending E finishes with the main characters actually at peace, and it felt more than a little blasphemous to put them through any more pain.

#2 Nioh
Technically, putting this on my list is breaking my rules, and putting it in my #2 spot REALLY feels like cheating – I still haven’t finished it and just started a week ago, so I don’t know if it falls off a cliff at some point or if I’m just affected by recency bias in liking it so much.

What I DO know is that I got thoroughly addicted to From Software’s formula for somewhat brutal, but endlessly satisfying action RPGs last year, and that Nioh gives me more of that experience, with just a little tweaking here and there, and puts it in Japan during the waning days of the Sengoku period with all sorts of really cool creatures from Japanese mythology to fight.

I frequently go to to see how long a game is going to take before I jump in, and Nioh was listed as a 35 hour game – on the long side, sure, but doable. As of right now, I think I’ve spent at least 30 hours with it, but between all of the side missions I’ve done and all of the experimenting with different weapon types, I’m not even halfway through the main story missions – and I’m still not bored and don’t feel like I need to rush through the story at all. That’s a really good sign that a game is something special.

#1 Horizon Zero Dawn / Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds
Way back in 2009, a co-worker loaned me his copy of Killzone 2, and my only memories of it are that a) there was a trophy for obsessively reloading and b) at one point, my PS3 crashed and I didn’t even care enough to reboot it and keep playing.

I have no idea how Guerrilla Games went from THAT to making a game that I lost 65 hours of my life to with no regrets. On the face of it, it’s a pretty standard open-world climb-towers-to-unlock-map game, but the world is amazing to run around in and the story just kept making me think I’d finally figured out everything that was going on, only to sock me with yet another twist.

I’ve mentioned villains a lot in this list, because I am a sucker for a good bad guy. It takes ages before you discover the REAL villain in Horizon Zero Dawn, and he is easily the most face-punchable character from any game I played this year (possibly this decade), due in large part to how pathetically banal his motivations are.

Oh, and you can’t punch him in the face, or even thwart his plans, because he’s been dead for centuries and his plans went off without a hitch.

Horizon got a LOT of hate this year, and I think some of that came because it dared to launch the week before the Switch release and threatened to divert some media attention during that system’s launch window. Basically, it didn’t Know Its Place.

For me, its place is at the top of the heap in one of the best years for gaming in my memory. I can’t wait for a sequel.

Posted in PC Gaming, PS4, Switch, videogames, visual novels | 7 Comments

New Year’s Gaming Plans

So, I had a “my favorite games of 2017” post all written, and then I just had to go and start playing Nioh, which is basically Ninja Gaiden meets Dark Souls and is probably going to mean that I need to do a little bit of rewriting.

So instead of that… here’s a short list of the games I am looking forward to adding to the backlog in 2018.  Most of these are actually from this year (or even earlier), but I already bought too many things at full-or-near-full price this year and am waiting on sales and price-downs.  The only 2018 game I am fervently looking forward to is Code Vein.

Splatoon 2 (Switch): I loved the first Splatoon and apparently the sequel has a campaign where you face off against the squid sisters from the original game, who have turned evil or something?

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch): Every review of this I’ve seen has been along the lines of “it’s an amazing epic RPG if you can get past the way the camera always seems to be lingering on the main heroine’s butt”, and I think I can get past that.

Nights of Azure 2 (Switch): After playing the first Nights of Azure and Blue Reflection, I may be turning into a Gust fanboy.

Mario / Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (Switch): I actually really love the Rabbids and I liked 2 out of 3 of the Mario games I played this year, so the combination sounds really fun.

Super Mario 3D World (WiiU): It’s already been priced down to 20 bucks and I liked Odyssey a lot.  Seems worth it to give the last game a try.

Call of Duty: World War 2 (PS4): Every year, I buy the new Call of Duty so I can play through the single player campaign.  I didn’t do that this year, because I realized that I can probably just get it from Redbox and get the full experience for a lot cheaper.

Star Wars: Battlefront II (PS4): Again, I just want to play the single player campaign, so I will hit up Redbox.  Fiscal responsibility!

Cat Quest (Switch): It’s an RPG with cute cats.

School Girl / Zombie Hunter (PS4): It’s called “School Girl / Zombie Hunter” and it’s set in the Oneechanbara universe.  School. Girl. Zombie. Hunter.

Rime (PS4): Apparently it’s basically Ico?  Anyway this is mostly on here because a friend recommended it to me and it’s cheap.

White Day: A Labyrinth Named School: I love me some asian horror games, and there’s no new Fatal Frame on the horizon.

So that’s basically a dozen games, and a startling proportion of them are Switch games.  That’s a pretty good sign for a new console, and it goes to show that Nintendo really did learn SOMETHING from the last few years.

Mind you, if reading end-of-the-year retrospective articles on gaming sites has shown me anything, what it’s really learned is that the ideal market for getting your console talked about is the “urban tech blogger who has just turned 30 and has a new kid and has NO TIME for gaming any more but the Switch has changed their whole life and now they can play Mario on their 45 minute train commute every morning” demographic.  Seriously, I have read so many articles along these lines that I’m starting to wonder if there’s a template somewhere that they’re all working from.

Also it’s making me wonder why all of these people who had no time for gaming anymore were still writing for video game news sites, but that’s probably a rabbit hole it’s best not to go down.

Posted in PS4, Switch, videogames | 2 Comments