By Pepsiman 20 Comments
With Japanese, ironically the very last of my finals, out of my way, summer vacation has commenced as of yesterday and with it the beginning of my roommates moving out and returning to their homes. Although this means that I'll pretty much have this place entirely to myself for the next three months, I'm still going out of my way to ensure I at least accomplish a few things in their absence so I don't die of loneliness and/or depression and/or lack of human contact and/or being a drama queen. Such is the underlying theme of today's discussion, even if the individual topics hardly mesh. You have my thanks in advance if you stick for the entire read.
I have a lot of unfinished games I should probably get around to taking care of.
Like the second Professor Layton game. I really enjoyed the first one, even if I ended up resorting to a guide just so I could advance the plot and not be stuck figuring out more sheeps-and-wolves conundrums. I spent about five hours with this new installment soon after it came out because I figured I could give a little extra love to Level 5. But then studies and (presumably other games) caught up to me and save for one modest attempt to get further, I've pretty much been at the same point in the game as I was months ago when I bought it. It's sad. It seems like a lovely game and that voice acting is still really good and fitting for the setting. Hopefully I'll complete it.
Muramasa on the Wii is another game that needs completing. Months and months ago, I nearly finished Momohime's campaign and really enjoyed what the game had to offer on her end. I never got around to playing Kisuke's storyline, but since the combat is almost certainly going to be more of the same, I'm perfectly fine with that. Muramasa was the first Vanillaware game I didn't have serious gripes with, which is a good accomplishment on their part since I felt that they always came really close with all their other games. Considering each character only takes up about 10 hours to finish if you don't do sidequest stuff, Muramasa will probably be addressed first before Layton, if only for efficiency reasons.
Then there's the DS version of GTA: Chinatown Wars. I bought it for $20 when that was still just a sale price about a year ago and I'm baffled as to why I haven't given it more attention. It seems like a really good rendition of the GTA formula for a portable platform since they finally caught on that the Stories side series just wasn't executed all that hotly. The touch screen stuff works well with the spirit of the series and the plot, while not particularly spectacular, seems serviceable enough. Someday, I tell myself. Someday I'll get past that first hour.
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 also bears mentioning in here. Despite the rather lacking story of its prequel, the gameplay has some of the better mechanics pre-Persona and was enough to keep me going for the 20-ish hours it lasted. Unfortunately, that last dungeon really did a hell of a job of undoing all that goodwill. Really sporadic difficulty spikes coupled with way more teleportation puzzles than necessary and an anticlimactic final boss make for an iffy ending to an otherwise enjoyable game. That trauma acquired at the end seems to have carried over into the sequel. Although the plot seems to have finally gotten genuinely intriguing even in the beginning stages, I think I just need more cooldown time before really sitting down and going through it. At this point, it still feels like I'm playing the same game even if it is mechanically different in a few areas. Atlus would have ultimately been better off just releasing the whole saga as one game instead of experimenting in episodic content, but what's there works well enough.
The PSP port of the original Persona game is another Megami Tensei game that needs finishing. In this day and age, it is by all means rough around the edges. Combat could have definitely been streamlined significantly and the exploration mechanics are so 1990s that it's not even funny. It's all functional and the game in fact features one of the few demon negotiation systems I haven't utterly loathed, which is a pretty big plus in my book. As a Persona fan who got on board with FES, though, it's still nice to be able to experience the prequel and pick up on references that still obliquely show up in the later games I'm more familiar with. Having committed 20 hours to it, I'll probably go back to it eventually. I liked enough of what I saw and I can put it into a 90s era context enough to still be okay with how the game operates.
Strange Journey is the last SMT game I'll list on here, promise. I've committed around 30 hours to it, but the current boss I'm stuck at has me so frustrated that I decided to put it away for a while before I maul my DS out of rage. Main SMT games are notorious for their difficulty and it's especially true for the area where I'm at. Up until that point, I was really enjoying the game. I always like seeing how Atlus experiments with their RPG formulas so each installment always feels distinct and this game has enough new ideas I'd love to see incorporated into future Megami Tensei games. Hell, it's technically the first one in the series to have an achievement system. Wrap your head around that one. But again. Difficulty. I'll tolerate it for quite a while, but there comes a point where I just have to put it down and tackle it later when my mind is refreshed again and this is definitely one of those times when it comes to Strange Journey.
There are other games, but those are my main concerns. To quickly wrap up the other ones, there's Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. The game has a nice sense of style and the gameplay is a relaxing, well-done Zelda clone with a lot of heart and charm to it. Pokemon SoulSilver will probably also re-enter the fray at some point whenever I can get over my anger at the Elite Four. Screw Koga's Muk. Bully on the PC is also another game I'd like to tackle again. Despite finishing the PS2 version, it's nice to revisit the game a few years later and, hey, it actually runs just fine on my rig. Fantastic.
But instead of all that....
I decided to start playing Picross 3D instead. My history with the Picross series ironically started with a homebrew PSP version that I spent a lot of time playing just last summer, but after coming to fall in love with the series' formula with that, it didn't take much to convince me to buy this new edition. The Quick Look on the site finally enlightened me as to how the game operates and I was intrigued by it so much that upon seeing it come out for only $20, I was convinced into buying it.
I do not regret this purchase in the slightest.
It takes the Picross formula into some pretty logical directions, but it's just all so eloquently executed that it's ultimately an even more intellectual game with less of the gambling experimentation you'd sometimes have to do with the old formula. That still happens from time to time, but more likely than not, it's because you haven't exercised absolutely all of your options. The game's tutorials, while a bit lengthy and excessively segmented at times, are very good primers to get you into how it all works and it's very much so necessary you familiarize yourself with it, since the numbering mechanics in particular have changed quite a bit compared to the older games.
I'll probably review it eventually, but here's the tl;dr: Just go buy it. At the very least, try out the demo, but for $20, it's a very worthwhile package. Nintendo has always been one of the best companies when it comes to puzzlers both Tetris and non-Tetris and Picross 3D doesn't break that trend. Besides, HAL Labs made it. They usually do a pretty great job, no?
In other news....
Let's quickly talk about other stuff going on for the duration of my summer. The lack of money has unfortunately forced me to stay put here instead of returning to Japan, although considering that I'll be returning next year for a very lengthy duration, I can be patient. In the meantime, much like with last summer, I'll be spending part of this one reviewing all of the grammar points I picked up over the year. This is mostly so that when the new school year starts again, I'm not playing catch up like a lot of other students; as I major, I feel I can't necessarily afford that. Being able to chat with natives on places such as Facebook and SharedTalk negate that issue to an extent, but when it comes to languages, I prefer to be prepared. This is also the summer where I'll probably be kicking my verbal skills into significantly high gear, as I feel that I'm comfortable enough with my writing where I should now be focusing my attention on conversational stuff. Lucky for me, that's apparently what third-year Japanese is mostly about at my university, but it doesn't hurt to get a head start.
The review stuff is mostly a side project, though, as I do actually like to enjoy the fact that I have a break from schooling. My brain appreciates the rest. Translation work will probably resume soon enough, but first I need to be reminded what not being in school actually feels like. Considering my last one essentially ended a month early because of study abroad, this is an opportunity I'll gladly take.
On the side, I'm also trying to find work so I can keep saving up money. As much as the government and my school like to throw grants and loans at me for being a good student, more of it would be handy and I'm not against going part-time to accomplish that. Unfortunately for me, there isn't a whole lot available right now in my city and thanks to a lack of a driver's license, I'm more or less stuck here. I can manage without the job if I have to, but it wouldn't be ideal, The sooner I can nab one, the better.
Regardless, this summer will probably be about my cooking and photography for the large part. I don't really discuss either one on here very often, but their both hobbies I greatly enjoy. I inherited the former from my mother, as I spent a lot of my younger years watching and helping her make meals. My skills aren't nearly as high or as diverse as her's yet, but now that I have more free time than I know what to do with, hopefully that can start changing over this summer. Recipe difficulty doesn't really scare me as I have enough experience to have the right intuition for that stuff, so thankfully I should be able to start getting creative sooner rather than later. I yearn for a lot of old food I used to have at home, so those will probably be the first things I memorize first. I have no specific order in mind, though, as I'll probably just improvise somewhat as I go along anyway.
As for photography, it was something I started taking a serious interest in after reading a lot of Danny Choo's blog. The quality and artistry of his photos made start taking the medium really seriously and after getting my own modest point-and-shoot and really experimenting with the technical stuff on it, the way I look at and interact with the world has changed quite a bit. I appreciate being able to capture things in the moment and giving people all around the world a look at what I call home, so I fell in love with photography pretty soon after I started getting into it. I'm looking to replace my regular Nikon Coolpix with a higher end DSLR that'll let me change the resulting photo a lot more, although finances again, prevent this from being an immediate thing. As it is, what I have works just fine for now, but the potential for what my photos could become quality-wise is enough to ensure that I will make sure sooner or later to replace it. At the very latest, this should happen before I move to Japan next year.
I'm pretty much done here.
Oh, did you see that Mario video on the front page? The one with the guy beating it with a DDR pad? Fantastic stuff. I even followed him on here, since I sure as hell still haven't beaten the original game with even a regular controller. Mad props to him.
Also, this potential Threadless shirt looks fantastic. It damn well better make it to the storefront, since I'd sure as hell buy it and fully intend it to as soon as it happens. I subscribe to their newsletter already, too, so I can stalk the shirt's progress even more.
On a final note, I got a copy of Black Dynamite for my birthday recently. It's easily the best not-blaxploitation film I've ever seen. Fantastic stuff. Here's a YouTube video summarizing some of the reasons why, but really, you should just go out and watch it. Such a good parody of both its genre and the 70s in general.