Editing Audio and Subtitle Tracks in .mkv Files with ffmpeg

I have been trying to consolidate a bunch of servers recently, and one of the ones that I am looking to sunset is a box that has been used as a BD ripping and media encoding box.  The reason it HASN’T been sunset yet is that, well, there are a bunch of things on it that have been ripped but not yet encoded for playback on an AppleTV and I needed to get on that.

Anyway, that’s in process, and I was deleting a bunch of source files that had already been encoded and that’s when I ran across Maken-Ki.

If you’ve never seen it, it’s a really forgettable show whose chief draw is a violent pettanko who may or may not be a dragon.  I kind of regret watching both seasons of it, and I am very unlikely to ever watch it again, but finding the source files made me remember something about the series that had REALLY annoyed me; which was a frustrating typo in the subtitles in one of the episodes.

So I thought to myself, how hard could this be to fix?  I’ve got ffmpeg, which is like a Swiss army knife on steroids when it comes to video file manipulation, I’m sure I can sort it out.

What could possibly go wrong?

My first step was to look at how the original file was laid out, which you can do just by throwing it into ffmpeg, like so:

ffmpeg -i MakenKiS02E08.mkv

And this gives a lot of output:

    Stream #0:0: Video: hevc (Main 10), yuv420p10le(tv), 1920×1080 [SAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 23.98 fps, 23.98 tbr, 1k tbn, 23.98 tbc (default)
      _STATISTICS_WRITING_APP-eng: mkvmerge v30.1.0 (‘Forever And More’) 64-bit
      _STATISTICS_WRITING_DATE_UTC-eng: 2019-02-10 22:33:00
      BPS-eng         : 2583237
      DURATION-eng    : 00:23:42.046000000
      NUMBER_OF_BYTES-eng: 459185284
      NUMBER_OF_FRAMES-eng: 34095

    Stream #0:1(eng): Audio: aac (LC), 48000 Hz, 5.1, fltp (default)
      title           : English 5.1 channel AAC
      _STATISTICS_WRITING_APP-eng: mkvmerge v30.1.0 (‘Forever And More’) 64-bit
      _STATISTICS_WRITING_DATE_UTC-eng: 2019-02-10 22:33:00
      BPS-eng         : 440524
      DURATION-eng    : 00:23:42.036000000
      NUMBER_OF_BYTES-eng: 78305206
      NUMBER_OF_FRAMES-eng: 66658

    Stream #0:2(jpn): Audio: aac (LC), 48000 Hz, stereo, fltp
      title           : Japanese 2.0 channel AAC
      _STATISTICS_WRITING_APP-eng: mkvmerge v30.1.0 (‘Forever And More’) 64-bit
      _STATISTICS_WRITING_DATE_UTC-eng: 2019-02-10 22:33:00
      BPS-eng         : 179997
      DURATION-eng    : 00:23:42.087000000
      NUMBER_OF_BYTES-eng: 31996579
      NUMBER_OF_FRAMES-eng: 66661

    Stream #0:3(zxx): Subtitle: ass (default)
      title           : Signs/Karaoke [Hatsuyuki] – [WHW]
      _STATISTICS_WRITING_APP-eng: mkvmerge v30.1.0 (‘Forever And More’) 64-bit
      _STATISTICS_WRITING_DATE_UTC-eng: 2019-02-10 22:33:00
      BPS-eng         : 470
      DURATION-eng    : 00:23:04.820000000
      NUMBER_OF_BYTES-eng: 81502
      NUMBER_OF_FRAMES-eng: 601

    Stream #0:4(eng): Subtitle: ass
      title           : [Hatsuyuki] – [WHW]
      _STATISTICS_WRITING_APP-eng: mkvmerge v30.1.0 (‘Forever And More’) 64-bit
      _STATISTICS_WRITING_DATE_UTC-eng: 2019-02-10 22:33:00
      BPS-eng         : 562
      DURATION-eng    : 00:23:37.210000000
      NUMBER_OF_BYTES-eng: 99571
      NUMBER_OF_FRAMES-eng: 897

    Stream #0:5: Attachment: ttf
      filename        : HeyGorgeous.ttf
      mimetype        : application/x-truetype-font

    Stream #0:6: Attachment: ttf
      filename        : INCOLHUA_R.ttf
      mimetype        : application/x-truetype-font

I’ve cut a lot out of this because what I want to know about is the Streams, which are all of the different components that make up the video file.  This file has one video stream, two audio streams, two subtitle streams and a bunch of embedded fonts.  I’ve cut off all the fonts after the first couple because the output was already long enough.

The English audio track and the “Signs/Karaoke” subtitle track are unnecessary, so let’s get rid of those first:

ffmpeg -i MakenKiS02E08.mkv -map 0 -map -0:1 -map -0:3 -acodec copy -vcodec copy -scodec copy tt.mkv

Breaking this down:

ffmpeg -i

just tells ffmpeg which file to read.

-map 0

tells it to copy all streams from file 0 to the output file.  ffmpeg starts counting everything from 0.  It’s annoying but you get used to it.  Except, we don’t want the English audio or signs and karaoke subtitles, so we use two more map commands to exclude those.

 "-map -0:1 -map -0:3"

is telling ffmpeg to drop streams 1 and 3 from file 0.

-acodec copy -vcodec copy -scodec copy

tells ffmpeg to copy the remaining audio, video, and subtitle streams without transcoding them.  This is very fast and doesn’t affect quality.

Finally, the last thing on your ffmpeg command line is the filename you want ffmpeg to write to.  “tt.mkv” is just my regular shorthand for temporary output files.

This cheerfully made a new mkv file, and I threw it into VLC to confirm that the subtitles and audio I wanted were present.  It was also 80 megabytes smaller without the English audio so you could use this to reduce the size of mkv files where you don’t care about some of the languages.

Then I needed to separate the subtitle file from the mkv file so I could make changes.

ffmpeg -t tt.mkv -map 0 -map -0:2 -acodec copy -vcodec copy tt_nosubs.mkv

Again I’m using the -map -0:2 command to exclude a stream, in this case the subtitle stream.  This gives me a file with just video, audio, and fonts.

I also extract the subtitle track to a text file with a .ass extension, like so:

ffmpeg -i tt.mkv -scodec copy script.ass

ffmpeg is smart enough to know that you can’t put video or audio into a .ass file so it drops those and we’re left with just the script.

After that, I made my changes to the script and needed to mash it all back into one file.

ffmpeg -i tt_nosubs.mkv -i script.ass -map 0 -map 1 -acodec copy -vcodec copy -scodec copy ttt.mkv

Two -i commands to tell ffmpeg that it needs to read from two input files, two -map commands to tell it to take all streams from file 0 (the mkv file) and all streams from file 1 (the subtitles file), copy them without transcoding and put everything into another file called ttt.mkv.

I am not particularly inventive with my file names.

I was then able to throw ttt.mkv through Handbrake and it gave me a lovely AppleTV-compatible .m4v file that I will probably never actually watch because Maken-Ki was not really worth a second watch, but damnit I fixed the typo and this was very important to me.

Though Himegami – that’s the violent pettanko’s name, had to look it up – WAS a hilarious character and it might be worth watching a couple episodes.  Someday.  When I get through all of the other shows in my queue.

Posted in anime, video encoding | Leave a comment

I Am Afraid of a Certain Number of Ghosts.

A few days ago, I mentioned that I had celebrated my lack of a games backlog by buying Luigi’s Mansion 3 during the Nintendo eShop sale.  I hadn’t played the first two games in the series, but it looked fun and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive and how often does Nintendo first party stuff go on sale anyway?

Upon starting it, however, and watching the opening cinematic, I was forced to realize that I had many unanswered questions that might hinder my enjoyment of the game.  Like, why does Luigi have a ghost dog? Furthermore, why is Luigi in the ghost catching business in the first place?

Obviously I needed to dip back into the history of the franchise, and that meant spending a couple of evenings playing through his original adventure on the Gamecube, through Dolphin since I wasn’t going to go to the hassle of digging out the original hardware.

As an aside, I hadn’t really ever messed with Dolphin before and it turned out to be a very civilized experience.  Luigi’s Mansion looked very good upscaled to 1080p and could easily have been mistaken for a much more modern game.

In short, I’m glad I did this.  Luigi’s Mansion turned out to be a tremendously charming and enjoyable experience.  At the end of it, I still didn’t know why he now has a ghostly dog but at least I understood the reason behind his one-plumber war on the spectral realm.

Wikipedia says he picked up the dog in the sequel, and I considered playing through that as well… and then I read reviews that mentioned mandatory balancing sections involving motion control and I put that notion right out of my head.

So I’m ready for Luigi’s Mansion 3 and if you are the sort of person who does not like to see any criticism of Nintendo first party titles we will both be happier if you stop reading at this point because I am about to say unkind things about a 19 year old game that was probably a fundamental part of your childhood.

Still with me? Good. Because, man, despite how enjoyable Luigi’s Mansion is, it is basically a showcase for all the worst elements of gaming in the late 90s/early 2000s.

You’ve got your forced-inverted-Y-axis control for aiming up and down, tank controls for horizontal aiming and movement, unstoppable cutscenes even on a repeat viewing, a fixed camera that is usually pretty decent but occasionally decides to be awful, no checkpoints and oh my god the backtracking.  Every time you save and re-enter the game, you have to start from the mansion’s foyer and then slowly walk through several floors to pick up wherever you left off.

Luigi doesn’t regain health when loading a game or after fights, which isn’t really an issue – there’s an easily accessed healing item in a room just a few doors away from the foyer – but walking over to pick that up every time I needed to heal up was (again) more backtracking.  Apparently in the 3DS remake of the game you can heal Luigi if you own the Toad Amiibo, which at least indicates that the remake team realized this was a pain.

There are also no pre-boss checkpoints, so dying to a boss means that you have to load your last game, putting you back in the foyer for an annoying walk back to the boss, where you will watch the pre-fight cutscene again.  The flip side of this is that MOST of the fights are very easy, so the odds of dying to most enemies are very low… and then you get to the fourth and final boss.

Without spoiling the particulars of the fight, the last boss comes out of nowhere in terms of challenge and obtuseness, and I had to finally give up and look up how to damage him after three or four abject failures at the fight.  Once I knew HOW to hit him, it still took several tries to figure out how to bait him into an attack I could punish with a counterattack.  Once I had that down, it wasn’t that bad of a fight but it could seriously have done with a little more telegraphing.

I am very grateful for save states, once I looked up how to use them in Dolphin anyway.  They meant that I could start the boss fight over from the beginning without the load screen -> walk through the mansion -> cutscene sequence every time.

The 3DS version lets you skip the final boss cutscene after the first viewing, by the way.  Another significant quality of life change there.  AND it lets you play with regular Y-axis controls.

What I’m saying is that Luigi’s Mansion is a really fun game and if you have somehow missed it then I quite recommend playing the 3DS version.


Posted in gamecube, videogames | Leave a comment

Phantasy Star Online 2

The final F2P game I’ve been trying out recently is JUST a little larger in scale than the mobile games I talked about over the last couple of days.  Phantasy Star Online 2 is one of those games that was stuck in Japan for ages, with seemingly little hope of a localization, before getting  a surprise drop during last summer’s Xbox E3 presentation.

It didn’t actually launch until April of this year, and it’s taken me a few months to get around to seeing what it’s all about.

I’ll lead with some positives, because there are a lot of nice things to say about this game.  For a start, the character creator let me put together a red-haired pigtailed robot girl with glasses, mahoosive hooters, and a pronounced absolute territory, and that’s just the sort of quality product that I look for.

Also, while individual game zones are fairly tiny – this was a Vita title at one point, after all – the art direction is just designed to make me happy.  Lots of alien worlds and floating islands and glowing sci-fi interiors.  It reminded me of Scarlet Blade in that way, and I’m sure that all three of the other people who played that particular MMO will agree.

The hub zone / base ship.  So much neon.

Floating islands are like the least realistic things ever but so pretty.

Love me some alien ruins.

Also there is a Ye Olde Timey Japanese City zone for reasons?

I didn’t get much into the game’s story missions, but I did play through a bunch of “expeditions” which are fairly linear affairs where you grind through a massive number of random mooks and then face off against a satisfyingly huge boss at the end.

Got a sort of samurai-Oni-thing going on here.

Gotta have dragons.

PSO2 scratches a very real itch, which is the need to beat the hell out of a boss that then explodes into a literal shower of color-coded loot.  This is what I was greeted with at the end of one of the game’s “urgent quest” which are massive multi-stage affairs for a dozen or two people.

I don’t have to share ANY of this loot.  I get it all.

Even smaller-scale bosses have pretty nice lootsplosions:

There’s like four weapons here, a bunch of money, and some skill boosts.  You get to run through it all mashing the “pick up item” button and hear happy little pings as it’s all added to your inventory.

Finally, the combat system is really fun.  It’s action based, so you are dodging around a battlefield paying attention to your character and the enemy rather than staring at a hotbar full of stuff and waiting for it to come off cooldown.  There’s a little bit of skill involved in timing your attacks in combination, and there’s a dodge skill with what feels like a generous helping of iframes.

If you just want to beat the stuffing out of weird and wonderful alien critters and sort through mounds of loot, PSO2 has LOTS to offer.

On the downside, it’s been out for eight years.  There is a huge amount of content, and just a crazy number of systems to try to absorb.  After playing for less than 20 hours, my character’s bank storage was full to bursting with random weapons and items that sure SEEM important but aren’t usable by the “Hunter” class I started with.  They’re probably useful for one of the game’s other 8 classes, and I can choose to level any of those classes at any time, so I should probably hold on to them.

There are also a lot of daily and weekly missions and NPCs standing everywhere asking me to take on vitally-important tasks and it is just a little overwhelming.

In the final analysis, I think it’s a little late to jump on the PSO2 train.  The good thing is that they’re launching something called “Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis” next year, which uses your PSO2 characters in some fashion but that promises a fresh start.  I’m going to put my robot-fetish-fuel character on ice while I wait for that to launch.


Posted in MMORPG, Xbox One | 2 Comments

Fire Emblem: Heroes

OK, so I am somewhat late to the party on Fire Emblem: Heroes, being as it’s a mobile game that launched in February 2017.  At the time, however, I hadn’t played an actual Fire Emblem game (we will set TMS#FE aside) and the initial impressions I got of the title from watching online chatter was that it was pretty harsh to play if you weren’t willing to put some real money down, and fast.

I also saw far too many accounts of people starting and resetting the game over and over again to ensure that they could start with a 5-star hero for a leg up, and that just sounded far too tedious.

I eventually DID play a Fire Emblem title – three of them, actually, because I’d bought the Fire Emblem: Fates collected edition cartridge on a whim.  It was a pretty damned good time, and that led to me playing through Fire Emblem: Awakening and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon.

Apparently I like going backwards, or something?

This still was not enough to make me play FE: Heroes.

This, however, was:

Corrin is the main character in all three of the Fates games, and she is simultaneously both Best Girl AND Best Dragon, since her story begins at about the point where she discovers that (a) she’s adopted, (b) her adoptive family is a bundle of dicks and (c) she tends to grow wings, scales, and a pointy tail when she is under stress.

Plus fire breath.  Really, she’s the whole package.

I’ve since discovered that many of the Fire Emblem games contain cute girls that turn into dragons from time to time, but Corrin is exceptional in that she actually LOOKS like an adult rather than looking like a 12-year-old who claims she’s actually over a thousand and that gives her some serious points on the waifu scale.

At any rate, I obviously had to play this game, and I obviously had to keep resetting the game until I got her as one of my characters.

If you start a game of Fire Emblem: Heroes today, you get handed about 40 of the currency used to summon characters.  Each summon attempt costs 5 of these, and you have about a 5% chance of getting a 5-star character like Corrin.  There are multiple 5-star heroes in this event, however, so the actual odds were pretty bad.

I didn’t actually count the number of times I installed FE: Heroes, went through the tutorial, summoned a bunch of characters and then deleted the game, but I spent about three hours at it before this finally popped up:

I may have punched the air and exclaimed something along the lines of “woo” at this point.

After this, I ran through the rest of my currency and all of the other free summons that Nintendo handed me, and wound up with a lot of characters to choose from.  I had two other 5-star units from Fates (Camilla and Rinkah), and that formed the basis for a pretty strong team.

I was used to typical Fire Emblem maps being huge, sprawling affairs that can take upwards of an hour to clear.  Heroes battles are more tiny skirmishes on an 8×6 map.

This is my second team.  It’s more more focused on characters from Awakening.

The battles are likewise fairly streamlined, but most of the considerations from the full-sized games are in place.  You want to try to bait the enemy AI into coming into range of a unit that will have a tactical advantage, you need to consider the weapon triangle, your flying characters seem to have an amazing affinity for arrows, really it’s the whole Fire Emblem package with the exceptions being that there are no critical hits and there doesn’t seem to be any notion of a hit chance lower than 100%.

The actual battle screens are pretty adorable and full of energetic shouts as you engage in combat.


Thus far, I’ve played for four or five days, done a bunch of story missions and a bunch of side content and am very happy with what the game gives me for – as of this point in time – exactly zero dollars and zero cents.  There are a ton of game modes, maps are gated behind a stamina bar BUT it refills pretty quickly, you collect a bunch of new characters just from completing quests and doing daily maps, and it seems like you get a new summon for free every time a new set of characters comes into the rotation.  The latest one gave me yet ANOTHER 5-star healer.

DEFINITELY not Tom Hiddleston.

Let’s be perfectly clear here.  Nintendo, Intelligent Systems, whoever is responsible for this game, they have decided that the average players are very likely male and easily influenced by the power of 2D hooters.   This is even more apparent when they get wounded in combat and their “battle-damaged” versions look like this:

If I’m honest, I can’t fault their judgement on this issue.  I’m a little unsure on the whole greaves-but-no-boots aesthetic though.  Even girls who are dragons probably wear shoes of some sort.

Also the way Corrin’s waist is twisting here gives me a little pause.  It doesn’t look ENTIRELY comfortable.

If you’d rather avoid the more scantily-clad characters, there ARE plenty with more modest outfits.  Anna, here, was one of my favorite units in Awakening and I have been using her a lot.

Anna does NOT turn into a dragon.  On the other hand, she has a big axe and likes to hit people.  It’s a pretty reasonable tradeoff.

I probably would not have enjoyed this game when it came out.  Reading some impressions from that time, it was super grindy and not very forgiving if your characters died in combat – you didn’t lose them, but they lost any experience they’d gained on that map.  It also didn’t have nearly such a generous approach to handing out high-tier units.  Really, starting this over three years into its lifespan means that I am playing on Super Baby Casual Mode.

I am perfectly OK with that.


Posted in Uncategorized, videogames | 2 Comments

Pokémon Café Mix

Now that I’m out of backlog*, I have been playing around with a few f2p games that had been on my radar but that I hadn’t wanted to delve into while I was trying to play games that I’d actually paid for.  There will be a few posts in the next few days as I give my impressions of each, starting with the Switch version of Pokémon Café Mix.  Apparently it’s also available for iOS and Android devices but there’s no cross-save functionality there.

Side note: I’m not entirely sold on the é in Café but it’s that way on the title screen so what the heck.  Have I been spelling this word wrong all my life?

Anyway.  I’m just going to refer to it as PCM for the remainder of this post because it will be shorter to type and will help relieve the anxiety I am feeling about the accent mark.

I’ve played a couple of the portable Pokémon games, and will probably eventually pick up the latest Switch game, but I don’t have a particularly strong attachment to the mythos as it presents itself through the Epic Journey Of A Young Boy (or Girl) As They Subjugate Many Small Creatures And Battle To Become The Best.  I’ve also been actively turned off every time I’ve dared browse forum threads about the games, because they tend to devolve into a morass of impenetrable acronyms and jargon.

However, the actual critters are cute.  There’s no getting around this.  And I am weak to cute, and so I have a modest amount of Pokémerch in my house.

PCM, as far as I can tell, does not lend itself to complex theorycrafting about Pokémon and training and matchups and all that nonsense.  It’s a simple puzzle game that puts the player in the role of running a restaurant that caters to Pokémon and that employs Pokémon as chefs and servers and it lets you dress Pokémon up in hats, and frankly that’s enough for me.

Heck with it.  Prepare for MORE POKÉMON IN HATS.

According to Bulbapedia, which I am given to understand is something of an Authority-With-A-Capital-A on All Things Pokémon, Celebi is “a Mythical Pokémon, known in legend as the “Voice of the Forest.” It is able to travel through time and exist simultaneously throughout time, and plant life flourishes wherever it has been.”

In PCM, Celebi just wants to make pancakes and Celebi is DAMN GOOD at making pancakes.  Honestly, the food in this game looks delicious.

…OK, some of it looks suspiciously like Pokémon butt.  MOST of it looks delicious.

The gameplay loop is pretty simple.  Pokémon walks into a restaurant, Pokémon orders some food…

Snubbull would like a Rowlet-shaped pizza.

Also, she would like you to KILL ALL THE JEDI.

…you have to play a little game where you match up strings of icons so they explode with all kinds of happy little pops, eventually food comes out of this somehow.

A typical goal screen looks something like this:

And matching up icons looks like this.  They aren’t your typical match-3 icons that stay put while you make your selection, these bounce around and move other icons around and can be a little annoying at times actually.  Sometimes you need to use this to move icons around the screen to complete goals.

Side note: PCM is a touch-only, handheld-only game, so you won’t be playing it on your TV.  I think this is the first Switch game I’ve run across where that’s a THING but I can’t see how they could have done the controls any other way.

For a F2P game, it’s pretty generous with what it gives out.  There’s no real “stamina” bar unless you fail puzzles, so you can easily sit down and knock out 15 or 20 of these in a row for a happy little dopamine hit without spending a dime.  There’s a in-game currency (“golden acorns”) that you can use to get a few extra moves if you need them, and I’ve done this on occasion, but you get a decent amount of acorns from just playing the game.

You can pay four bucks for some acorns AND a Pikachu-in-a-DIFFERENT-hat, and I can totally see people dropping four bucks on that, I guess.

Note: Not my picture, I stole it off twitter.  I did not spend four bucks on “Sweets Pikachu”, but I am not going to judge anyone who does.

To condense all of that into a shorter version: It’s a cute little time killer that will probably make you smile.  If that sounds good, I recommend it.

Also apparently there is an actual Pokémon Cafe in Tokyo.  Going to have to check that out the next time I’m there.

* When I say “out of backlog”, I am ignoring the fact that I was weak and bought Luigi’s Mansion 3 during the most recent eShop sale.


Posted in Switch, videogames | 1 Comment

Apple Content Caching, Secret Wallpapers, and Desk Porn

I have been doing a lot of tweaking my home tech setup recently, and I wanted to share a few random Apple / iOS tricks today.

I recently discovered a YouTube channel named マメ (“mame”) that is full of short and very well-produced videos, and the first two tricks come from this channel.

The first is this short review and how-to on an application that is just so VERY Japanese, because it allows you to replace your existing nerdy wallpaper with a boring, work-and-society-approved wallpaper that you can then press to show your REAL wallpaper whenever you need a personal pick-me-up.

I found myself empathizing with this a lot, since I have a Very Serious Face that I wear at work and being the boring guy has been a big help to my career.  On the other hand, I love my Uzaki-chan wallpaper and it never fails to make me smile.

Anyway, I watched this video and decided that I needed the app, but the application name was obviously in Japanese and I didn’t know if it was available in the US App Store or how to find it.

It turned out that searching on やは嫁 brought up the English version, which was completely unexpected.

Another of マメ’s videos was this roughly nine minute long bit of minimalistic desk porn, which I mostly watched because I am a huge fan of minimalistic desk porn and that turned out to have a really clever idea in the middle of all of the product shilling.

The iPhone has a feature called AirPlay that you can use to stream your screen to an Apple TV or other device that supports the AirPlay protocol, and he set up an iOS shortcut to turn on AirPlay and point it at his TV, which isn’t the brilliant part but which I didn’t know was possible.  Here’s the video and you can skip past it if you just want to know the brilliant part without watching the whole thing.

The brilliant part is that he then set this shortcut to activate by touching his phone to an NFC tag, so he can just tap his phone against the edge of his desk and suddenly his display is being mirrored to the TV.  Moreover, if you have an Apple TV and have enabled HDMI-CEC, this will turn on your television and receiver etc.

I’m not huge on home automation, but this is bloody magic.

The last thing I wanted to mention today is something that I would like to take credit for,  but that I have trouble feeling too proud of since it has probably been staring me in the face for years.

Basically, I noticed that there is a checkbox in the macOS Sharing Properties called Content Caching that I had somehow never seen, and that it had a very interesting description.

What this does is simple: it turns one Mac on your network into a caching proxy for OS and application updates.  We have a lot of Macs, and a lot of iOS devices around, so now whenever one device downloads an update it is stored on the Mac with Content Caching turned on.  If any other devices want the same update, they get it from the content cache and NOT from the internet.

Over a month, it’s a pretty good bandwidth savings.  Our assorted iDevices requested a little over 54GB of data during the last 30 days, and about 40% of this came off the server and didn’t chip away at our bandwidth cap.  Granted, the bandwidth cap is a solid 1 TB and we’ve never exceeded it, but I just FEEL good about this.

You can apparently set this to cache all iCloud content as well.  I’m not sure if that applies to streaming movies off iTunes or not.  If it does, then this could be a huge savings if you like to rewatch the same thing.

I’m not planning to turn this into a weird tech productivity blog – there are enough of those already – but sometimes I find things I just want to share with other people, and hopefully this wasn’t too weird of a topic.

Posted in iOS, mac | Leave a comment

Girls’ Last Tour

I’ve been turning off subscriptions to streaming services lately, with the idea being that I probably have too many going at any one time and that when I actually DO feel like binging some series or another I can always turn them back on.

Amazon Prime was the most recent to get turned off, but before I pulled the plug on it I spent some time going through their catalog of subtitled anime.

That’s how I stumbled across Girls’ Last Tour, which sure looked like yet another show about cute girls doing cute things.  This time, the hook seemed to be that it was two girls driving around in a kettenkrad, a sort of weird German motorcycle/tank hybrid thing from the 1940s.

I’m always up for some CGDGT, so I settled in to watch an episode or two… and wound up watching the entire twelve episode series without a break.

Soooooooo.  If you have ever opened your pantry or refrigerator, surveyed a dozen or more food options, and said something along the lines of “oh, man, there’s nothing to eat” and closed the door… you might want to be careful about watching Girls’ Last Tour, because you are going to feel miserably guilty before the show hits the halfway point.

Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, it’s set about 1200 years in the future, at a point where we have finally managed to kill off every living thing on the planet, and the two girls in their kettenkrad are constantly moving forward looking for anything they can eat and any source of gas to keep their wheels and treads turning.

Most of what they find to eat is non-perishable military rations in various flavors, and there’s a recurring gag about “this one is xxx flavored.  I wonder what xxx was?” where xxx might, for example, be chocolate or cheese.

And yes, it eventually makes sense why they are driving a vehicle from before the semiconductor age.  One of the not-terribly-subtle themes of the show is that weapons can long outlive their makers.

This is not normally my type of show.  Normally, I want crazy upbeat shows about cute girls becoming idol singers or painfully nice guys getting saddled with a harem consisting entirely of mythological creatures with improbably-oversized knockers, and the only upbeat things about Girls’ Last Tour are the opening and ending songs.

Which are just impossibly catchy, to be fair.


There, I feel much happier now.

One thing that IS positive about the show is that, while the girls do occasionally run into other people, they’re generally pleasant people.  It’s super common for post-apocalyptic media to fall into the trap of Every Other Human Is Out To Kill You, Don’t Trust Them, but this particular apocalypse seems to have been so thoroughly apocalyptic that the few remaining people are just trying to get through their days.

It also ends very well, with an episode that gives a lot of hints about just how the world got into its current godawful state and gives you just a little hope for the future of the main characters.

Basically, this isn’t my sort of show in general and yet I really enjoyed it.  There are enough moments of tiny happiness that you can almost forget the oppressive setting, and it definitely gives you a certain sort of perspective on life.

Like, I dare you to watch this show, open the aforementioned pantry or fridge, and NOT be  overwhelmed by and thankful for the sheer variety of food staring you in the face.

Posted in anime | Leave a comment

I cleared my backlog. (Now what?)

OK, it took a global pandemic AND admitting that I owned dozens-if-not-hundreds of games that I needed to put on the metaphorical “never going to play this” pile, but I finally achieved this:

If it weren’t for Backloggery, I doubt I ever would have pulled this off.  Apparently I joined ELEVEN years ago, just a couple of years after starting this blog, and I have been slowly chipping away ever since, admittedly with a ton of backsliding along the way when I couldn’t resist Steam sales or the allure of new console releases.

For the record, the last game I played was “Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon” which I absolutely should have played before playing Tokyo Mirage Sessions.  Told myself I wasn’t going to reset even if I lost characters.  Caved on that vow a couple of times because Caeda just kept eating arrows and I was bound and determined to get her to the end credits.  Lost, like, 8 dudes in total before getting to the end.  Did not like the way the WiiU virtual console presents DS games.  Would really have preferred playing it on my 3DS, but Nintendo gonna Nintendo.

Good game anyway.

In addition to the nice progress bars, I accumulated a handful of badges:



Now, I’m really not sure what to do next.  The tagline of this blog has been “A blog, mostly about video games, written by someone who is frankly rubbish at video games” for so long that I barely remember a time before that.

I might not even be rubbish at video games any more.  I probably am.  LEAVE ME MY ILLUSIONS.  I PLAY SOULS GAMES, even if it is just by grinding until I am hopelessly over leveled for the content.

I’m thinking about working on some video content, if I can get over being crazy levels of camera shy.  I think the Internet absolutely needs to hear from a dumpy, middle-aged guy nerding out over anime.  I also have a book-in-progress that has been stuck at “I finished the outline and wrote about 10k words” status since, uh…


Oh dear.  It HAS been that long.

Maybe I should just start an MMO and work on really moulding myself into the shape of my computer chair.  That sounds like a life goal I can achieve.


Posted in 3DS, videogames, WiiU | 2 Comments

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.


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.


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 | 3 Comments