I Play Porn Games For The Story // 13.11.2011

Oh hey, didn’t see you there, welcome to my weekly blog! Here, I take approximately 30 minutes out of my day to hastily write down my opinions on videogames I’ve played and visual novels I’ve read over the last week. Sometimes, I’ll even throw in bonus content such as anime, programming, or really whatever I feel like. Now, I make a point to never go into any angst, woe is me real life issues in this blog, cause really who wants to read that? The more perceptive of you will notice I haven’t added that part in a while, but it’s really so I can segway into this tidbit, nd this will be the only thing I mention. I had to sign an NDA this week. It’s almost like I’m actually doing something with my life! But until that comes to any fruition, or really if it does, let’s get on with the blog!

Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call

The Professor Layton games and I have a weird relationship. I love them, well, for the most part. The universe itself is fantastic, the characters are also really well realised and work well together. What those characters do in that universe though? I mean... Ok, right, before I go on about this new game; let me share my opinion on the previous three games and their stories. The first game, Curious Village, had an amazing story with a really great twist, with the entire goddamn village turning out to be robots. It was great, and I feel since that one Level-5 have felt the need to one up it. The only problem with that is that, every attempt since then has been on the wrong side of the great/stupid line.

The great thing about Level-5 and the Layton series is that they’re pretty much on par with visual novels, and I feel it is not full of myself to say that I’m somewhat a connoisseur of visual novels. Visual novels also tread the line between great/stupid when it comes to their plot twists, that is, if they have any at all. On one hand they can be the stupidest thing ever, like for instance Hitomi –My Stepsister- where all of a sudden it’s revealed your stepsister seduced her own father and then caused her mother to flip out and try to kill her. Or they can be absolutely amazing like Devil on G-String, where the game shows how the ‘devil’ and the main character is the same person, only to reveal 20 hours later they were fucking twins that just happened to never be in the same place at the same time.

The first Professor Layton game, as I said, was amazing, and then everything after that has been terrible. The second game, Oh I Guess Time Travel’s twist was everyone was high, pretty much. Like, sure, I guess, they had to explain away time travel in some way and that’s a slightly sensible way to do it. I still didn’t think it was a good ending. Then the third game came out, Oh I Guess Time Travel 2: Electric Boogaloo, with an ending that WAS FUCKING TERRIBLE.

I’ll try and be calm, so, the ending for three explained away the time travel in the STUPIDEST way that could ever be conceived, that whenever they were in the future they were actually in a giant replica of London built underground, and that the time travel clock was just an elevator. Now, you may have a different opinion, but I feel that’s fucking stupid. But whatever, so again time travel doesn’t actually happen, and Layton was just partying at Future London Underground. One mech fight later, because apparently every Layton story needs a mech, and everyone lived happily ever af-SUDDENLY TIME TRAVEL..

FUCK.

YOU DON’T COME UP WITH THE STUPIEST JUSTIFICATION FOR HAVING A FUTURE LONDON THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE TIME TRAVEL ONLY TO TURN AROUND AND SAY ‘WELL HOW ABOUT TIME TRAVEL’.

So I didn’t like that ending. So how does Spectre’s Call stack up? Well what if I told you it was a Layton game?

Even ignoring the ending, this is a Professor Layton ass Professor Layton game. You solve puzzles, you talk to people, you advance a story which eventually blows up into something incredibly stupid and you unlock a few different interesting mini-games that are only really there to be something that isn’t puzzles or visual novel story.

Having said that, dude it’s another Layton game! That isn’t a bad thing, either. The story at least fools you into thinking it’ll go in an interesting direction, so that’s cool. The puzzles themselves are also really great, something that is rather surprising considering this is the fourth game and somehow they still haven’t ran out of ideas. If anyone is looking for more Layton then yeah they delivered on that. They also have that London Life thing in there that, despite the only reason I imported the American version was because I heard a rumour it was getting cut from the UK release, I still haven’t touched yet. Maybe next week?

Pokemon Black

One of the many games I’ll randomly go back and play, Pokemon Black is still the best Pokemon game, in case anyone was interested. When Pokemon Black came out, I figured this would be as good as time as any to get another perfect Pokedex save. I’ve only ever managed it once before, and that was in Pokemon Blue. Catching a grand total of 649 pokemans seemed a lot more daunting than 151, but still I pressed forward. Oh, I haven’t done it yet, I’m currently sitting on 532, I just wanted to talk about Pokemon.

Dude how crazy is Pokemon? I didn’t really get into Pokemon that much growing up. I had both Blue and Crystal, and then fell off, just stealing copies from my friend whenever a new generation came out. I got back into it with HeartGold and was quickly introduced into the crazy underbelly of intense strategy that the Pokemon series has. Pretty soon my friends and I were sharing strategies, comparing the best places to EV farm, and generally talking a whole bunch of crazy. I bought both HeartGold and SoulSilver, the latter of which I gave to my little shota so I could have another avenue to completely humiliate him in. I had a pretty great all dark team, for no real reason other than I liked abiding to a gym leader-like team system. Then, almost out of nowhere, I stopped giving a shit.

Then came Black, which I bought as soon as it was on sale, and did the exact same thing. The only difference is that, instead of playing what was a remake of a game I had already played, it was all new. New pokemans, new places, some new mechanics, and thanks to that I’ve clocked more than 300 hours into the game.

Like I said near the beginning of this section, I’ve been set on getting a full pokedex. I have about 100 pokemans still to get, but unfortunately quite a few of them are legendaries from the previous generations, so at some point I’ll have to commandeer copies of them again, and beat the entire game just to transfer pokemans to the new game... That’s rather silly now that I type it out like that.

Generation 5 is, in my opinion, the best generation of Pokemon. They did a lot of things right, which is rather amazing considering just how terrible generation 4 was, the difference between these two are, well, black and white. Generation 4 tried to capitalise on first and second generation, by having the majority of the new pokemans just evolutions of previous pokemans, and then threw in a bunch of legendaries just cause. But in generation 5, at least before the Elite Four, you don’t even see any pokemans from the previous generations. It’s a great little touch that forces the players to use and in theory like the new generation of pokemans, and not just fall back onto the ones they already know.

Da Capo

This week I delved into the crazy work of Da Capo. When I started this visual novel I didn’t really expect much, since I hadn’t done any research into where it was coming from. I later found out it was made by Circus, the same team behind Suika, a visual novel I read a while back now and absolutely loved due to its absurd plot, so my expectations were heightened. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t’ve done any research.

The story revolves around a character called Juinchi, and his typical high school life which includes him barely committing to his studies, living with his sister Nemu who just happens to actually be adopted, hanging out with one wise cracking male friend and having a plethora of females around him at almost any given situation. The story takes place on the fictional island of Hastunejima and features a never dying Sakura tree. Suddenly, Junichi’s cousin, Sakura, returns from a six year trip from America and starts living as Juinchi’s neighbour. As well as these two, there is also Kotori, the head of the school choir, and Moe and Mako, two sisters that fill the tomboy and sempai roles respectively.

Something the game does right is the choices it gives the player. You feel a lot more in control of what happens in this visual novel than most I’ve played, even if the choices don’t seem to have that much impact on what happens. Every morning you decide when Junichi want to wake up, every lunch hour you decide where he eats, and after school, where he goes to hang out. After a while you’ll get used to where each of the heroines will be hanging out. For instance Moe and Mako will be eating lunch on the roof, so if you’re gunning for one of their routes, that’s the best place to go. After about two weeks on in game time, the game will sort you into a route, sometimes whether you like it or not. It seems that there isn’t any way to actually fail at the beginning and find yourself without a route to go down. Whenever I purposely tried to do that, the game would always throw me into Mako’s route, which rather weirdly, seems to be the worst route of them all, due to it feeling like it was rushed.

As far as crazy goes, the two main routes, Sakura and Nemu, have more than their fair share, with the rest not really delving that far into the crazy bucket. The whole premise of the crazy is the never dying sakura tree. The sakura tree, as well as obviously having a connection to your cousin Sakura because duh, grants people magic powers. The main character Junichi has two magic powers; firstly, he can produce sweets out of thin air for some reason, and secondly, when he’s asleep he can enter the dreams of other people. The second power is used a lot more throughout the story but it’s really as excuse for Junichi and the player to learn about the backstory of each of the heroines, and rarely expands beyond that. Each of the heroines have their own power thanks to the tree two, but like I said, the only ones that go crazy with it are Nemu and Sakura, the rest aren’t that consequential to the story.

I guess that’s where I find most of the disappointment for this game. In Suika, the game Circus made before this one, there was a bunch of crazy all over the place, ranging from ghosts to time travel to psychic manipulation and everything in between in some capacity. The game also establishes that Suika and it takes place in the same universe, by straight up having one of the heroines from Suika show up in some scenes saying she’s lost. There’s also a scene in the high school that your idiot best friend says there’s a door that is always locked. When he unlocks it, he falls into the town from Suika. So that’s silly.

After you complete the five routes, you unlock an extra two routes, which can be accessed via a new choice given to the player near the beginning of the story. These extra routes are pretty silly all things considered, one featuring a background girl from the first five routes falling into a coma and being replaced by a goddamn robot, and another featuring a completely new character who just so happens to be a cat... So that’s also silly.

As I said from the start I think I would have enjoyed the story a lot more if I wasn’t expecting much from it. The story, at least in the main two routes, goes in rather interesting directions. But after playing those two it feels that there wasn’t as much care or even attention given to the remaining three, which makes it absolutely crazy that there are bonus routes unlocked afterwards.

And wouldn’t you know it, that’s the end of the blog! Now, the week coming up is going to be a very exciting one for my personally. On the Monday, I will be releasing the flash game I’ve been working on for the past 15 months, Bullet Bill 3. I’ll be writing up a blog on the Monday full of information on the game, which I’m sure at least one person will find interesting. So, stay tuned for that, and of course, you’ll find another edition of this blog in a week’s time!

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 06.11.2011

Hello everyone! Welcome to the wonderful world that is my weekly blog that I totally don’t write within an hour of when I post because I completely forgot about it until said hour before I post it due to hanging out with friends at firework displays and whatnot. Anyway, this is my blog in which I talk about videogames I’ve played, visual novels I’ve read, and then maybe other things including but not limited to programming, anime and whatever really tickles my fancy at the time of writing. So while I count down the days until Future Snoop Dogg appears in front of me and asks if I want to go to the future, I better get started on this blog!

Absolute Obedience

Well I’ve been wanting to talk about this one for quite some time now, but I’ve never really found any good reason to focus a week on this visual novel. But you know what the hell, this week I delved into the world of Absolute Obedience, and oh boy, what a world it was.

So, let’s just get this out of the way at the beginning, this is a gay visual novel. Not gay as in “oh boy I’m so edgy using this a derogatory term” no, this visual novel is about homosexual men having sex with both homosexual and non-homosexual men. As stated before I actually prefer yaoi to yuri, for reasons that you readers have probably figured out by now but for obvious reasons I’m not going to state outright. Oh right, and also.

So, let’s continue.

This game stars two protagonists, Kia and Louise, in West Germany post World War 2 as they run an agency you can pay to get back at other men. Not by killing or anything like that, of course not, instead by getting one of these guys to have sex with them. Now this is a pretty great and stupid premise for a visual novel, as it allows the whole having different characters to get with conceit to exist without ever having to replay the game for anything. It also allows each character to get their own unique story, albeit a short one, to really flesh them out. Then again, due to the fact that there are ten different stories, the guys you go after don’t really evolve past their initial stereotype. When you complete all ten routes you can choose between the Kia ending and Louise ending, in which they both have a really important client or something. Again, I think it’s a rather interesting approach to take and lets the main aspects of a visual novel shine.

And I haven’t even gotten to the unique part of the game. So, you start off the game with these twelve options, making the intro rather overwhelming and incredibly tempting to just go with the guy you think looks the hottest (which for me was a tossup between a footballer and a spoiled shota brat looking kid... no regrets). However, you can’t really do that if you want the best ending in the game. Each mission has an ending date, and if you take different mission, the first one could just straight up expire and you won’t be able to see that story. On top of this, each route has different ending ranks. You get ranked on your performance, which is completely based upon what choices you make in the usual visual novel fashion. This means it’s entirely possibly to fail a mission, get a D rank, and continue on with the game. Some choices will only appear if you play the missions in a specific order, which I can only guess means the character you picked uses logic from a different mission on the current one or whatever videogames, meaning there is a proper set order to get the highest rank in the game. While this is really cool, it did just force me into looking up a guide to tell me which mission order to go in, because at a point there was too many things for me to screw up and not get the best ending. This also means that there are four endings to every single mission, ranging from the A rank completion to the D rank completion, so it’s pretty time consuming to see everything the game has to offer.

Overall I thought the visual novel was really good, but quite obviously not for everyone. Thanks to the mission structure the game can go in rather different directions for every character you try and seduce, and of course make the main characters rather interesting in their “This is only a job” attitude to the majority of missions. And honestly, the idea behind this is absolutely amazing. Instead of killing someone to get back at them for wronging you, there is some kind of weird agency that will seduce them into a gay relationship? Most of the reasons are pretty great too. One of the missions involves a prince, in which his uncle has ordered the ‘hit’, in the hopes that it will disgrace him and get him banished from the country, so that the uncle can take his place on the throne. Another is to hurt a footballer so that his team will lose the final match or something like that. A lot of really silly justifications all around.

Also there’s this guy.

Gallacher Morlock gets his dressing tips from Donkey Kong.

Maybe check it out?

What the end user can’t see

The most interesting thing about programming for me is what the end user can’t see, and while that might classify the majority of programming; I’m talking about a very specific part of games. There are a lot of tricks programmers use to achieve a certain effect, and most of that will go completely unnoticed by the end user, and that fascinates me.

In the past, I’d absolutely hate doing these tricks, because even if the end user can’t see the tricks, I know that they are there. So, because of that, I would never be able to remove myself as the programmer or designer on a project, because, well, I knew too much. Now-a-days, however, I know that this approach is completely pointless, because after all, what the end user doesn’t know can’t hurt them, right? Right. So I’ve started doing more and more tricks as of late.

In my latest game, Bullet Bill 3, I do a lot of these, and I’ll share some of the sillier examples. First is in the koopa enemies. In my game I try to make the Mario enemies act just like their actual game counterparts as much as possible. So, when you hit Koopas in this game, they go into their shell, and can attack enemies as they fly to the right. This created the first major problem I’ve had with the programming side of this game. Basically, the Koopa has two different states, normal movement, and in their shell. When they’re walking around they act just like Goombas do, they walk at a certain speed and if they collide with another enemy, they turn around, if they notice there isn’t any ground beneath them, they turn around, or if they are floating in air, they drop until they reach new ground. Pretty straight forward stuff. The problem arose, however, when they switch to being in their shell. In the shell they move faster, detected when they hit an enemy and kill that enemy, fell if there wasn’t any ground beneath them, bounced when hit bricks, yadda yadda. The shell was the main problem; I did a check every frame if the shell was hitting anything in the enemy ‘umbrella’, so to speak. Of course it was, as this check just checks if it’s colliding with anything there, and it was of course hitting itself. Therefore, it would try to kill itself, every frame. I added a rule to exclude itself from the search, but then because the shells move a lot faster than when they are walking, it would sometimes completely pass through enemies, and never detect them actually hitting. I literally couldn’t do a check in between the two points as I would have to do two things. One, it would detect itself again and then stop the check, and two, determining if it hits all of the enemies on every frame would lag the program considerably, especially when there were multiple shells in play at once. My solution was to completely remove the shells from the enemies ‘umbrella’, and create an entire different subset called ‘projectiles’. This solved several problems, as I could check all of the enemies without fear of it detecting itself, and it wouldn’t lag when trying to kill other shells or whatnot. The problem that arose from this, because in programming when you solve one problem you create like three more, was the enemies check would just completely break whenever a koopa would be removed from the game, and a shell got put in its place. I really don’t know why this problem exists, but I’m no doctor. My solution was to not actually delete the koopa. In my game, when you kill a koopa, the code tells it to spawn a shell at the exact same x and y value, and then moves the koopa to x value -65536. To the end user, who will never know this unless they happen to read this, absolutely nothing seems wrong. It looks as if when you hit the koopa, it goes into its shell and happily rides along. But in truth they are completely different objects in the game, because otherwise everything breaks.

Another instance of this was something I talked about before, about how I completely redid a bunch of code in the game to make it prettier for me personally. It’s kind of weird when your goal in re-writing code is to make sure that the end game looks exactly the same as it did before.

Again, I don’t really know where I’m going with this, but it’s always an interesting thing that’s in the back of my mind when it comes to coding. I make terrible games that no-one in their right mind should ever play, but just imagine what random stuff is happening in actual games that get released on consoles. I remember rather vaguely on one of the 2011 E3 podcasts a Naught Dog programmer was talking about the flooding mechanics in Uncharted 3, and how that entire level is inside a giant cube or something incredibly confusing like that. It’s rather incredible to think how many weird tricks and tips programmers actually use to get these effects to work.

Oh god you guys, I didn’t play any videogames this week! Pretty crazy right? I really don’t know how it’s already Saturday, but hopefully I’ll have more content for you next week. This week has been rather crazy, which all ended on Friday with my only finding out I had to hand in a 1000 word essay literally one hour before it was due. So really, I should be incredibly thankful I write these blogs, because it’s helped me write a lot faster! Before, that would have taken me about 5 hours to write, and even then I still wouldn’t be happy with it. Now, however, I got that done with 20 minutes to spare. Let’s just hope it was slightly higher quality than the terrible shit I write in this blog. Proof reading is for suckers!

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 30.10.2011

Boy I sure do love videogames! Hey hello and welcome to my weekly blog, where I talk about three of my five favourite things in the world, and then also sometimes anime. What are three of my five favourite things you ask? Well good sir, they are of course My Little Pony, drinking copious amounts of vodka and replacing lyrics of Beatles songs with video game references.

I am here as Toad is here as Peach ain’t here she’s in another castle.

You may ask why my interpretation of I Am The Walrus not about Robotnik, due to ‘I am the Eggman’ being in the lyrics anyway. Well, that’s the kind of amazing observation that we need around here! You eagle eyed readers may also note that this blog is not about any of the above subjects, I so fooled you there!

Data Jammers: FastForward

Imagine if you will for a moment, that I was just minding my own business looking at Steam, as I am want to do when I don’t have any friends, only to see that there was a new indie game coming out relatively soon! And it was one of those good indie games, you know, not RTS based. So I decided without knowing exactly what I was buying, to grab myself a copy of Data Jammers: FastForward as soon as it was released.

In retrospect I’m glad I didn’t read anything about this game before I played it, because no doubt it would have confused me even more than the game itself did. In the game you control a character travelling along the internets, and try not to get hit by viruses or something. Since I’m probably going to find this incredibly difficult to explain, here’s a screenshot to help both of us.

Videogames!

The game automatically goes forward at fixed speeds, so your only control is moving left and right to each of these different lanes, and then also up and down in the screen. The object of the game is to just survive until the end of the level, which is a lot easier said than done. In these different lanes you can find normal data packets, that are completely harmless and just there to take up space, and evil programs or however the game justifies them. These can come in a lot of different forms, but their attacks are usually the same, if they hit you, you take damage. The most basic enemy that appears in every level is a shark fin like enemy that flies towards you, two hits of this and you’re dead. On top of that each level has a different kind of enemy, these can range from other ships that will try to ram you, to tanks that can shoot at you, flying enemies than drop bombs on you or the worst of all, enemies that bounce you around the level and sometimes even off the level to your death.

Your character doesn’t really have any form of attack against these enemies, making the game a lot more about survival than killing. You start each level with two bombs that will destroy any enemy, or data packet, in the close vicinity, and you can collect more of these throughout the level, though you can’t really rely on getting a lot of bombs in a level. Therefore, the best way to kill the enemies is to get them to kill each other. The enemies will attack everything, which includes other enemies, if you can set them up right. For instance, the enemies that just try to ram them, you can lure them into a shark fin, killing both enemies. The enemies that drop bombs will kill any enemy they hit, and if there are two of them on the screen, getting them to collide with each other will destroy them both too. This is a really cool mechanic and makes survival a lot more interesting.

As you go through the level there are multiple things to collect. One of these things is rings. These rings will appear in one of the eight lanes, and will be in a long line of rings. Each ring is worth 50 points and if you collect an entire line of rings, you get another 1000 points. There are also power-ups throughout the level that will net you a fair amount of points too. These power-ups include bonus bombs as stated above, shields, fire shields that will kill enemies upon impact, and full health. Another way to get points is to kill enemies, which can be a rather interesting strategy. If you get a head on collision with the shark fin enemies with full health, you will kill the enemy, net some points, but will have almost no health. However, your health regenerates rather fast in this game, so if you have full health, it’s actually a good idea to get in some head on collisions to try and maximize your score. Though that’s just me talking, only the guy that as of time writing is #1 on the leaderboards for this game.

There's an achievement for getting in the top 1% of the leaderboards which I've held since release... so technically, I'm the first person to S rank this game.

It’s a fun game if you can wrap your head around the core concepts of the gameplay, and is a fun distraction for the price. It’s a pretty hard game to play muted, however, as a lot of the power-ups are telegraphed by audio cues, which I found a lot more helpful than the visual cue of the lane lighting up green, but that might just be me.

Crash Team Racing

It’s well established that I also associate myself with the best that human kind has to offer, so when one of my friends invites me over to his flat to play 4 player Crash Team Racing you bet I showed up and picked Fake Crash before anyone else could.

So first of all, I have a huge affinity for the Crash Bandicoot series, and Crash Team Racing is quite a large part of that. Crash Bandicoot 2, however, is the reason I am who I am today. It was the game that made me realise I wanted to work for videogames when I grew up. The style, the amazing gameplay and just sheer fun of that game, qualities that Naughty Dog still nail to this very day, in my mind made it one of the best games of its time and in fact still a really fun game to go back and play. Crash Team Racing, I felt in many ways was a superior kart racing game to the Mario Kart series, and thanks to the Playstation Classic initiative from Sony, a game I go back to play very regularly on my PSP, despite owning Crash Tag Team Racing for that system, but the less said about post Naughty Dog Crash Bandicoot games the better. Anyway where was I?

So here I was, in a room with three other dudes playing Crash Team Racing, surely, life doesn’t get much better than this. What I didn’t anticipate, however, is that my friends are really good at Crash Team Racing. Like, in some ways better than me, and I can’t accept that at all! We played once on every single track and I came in overall second. However, the person that came in overall first was playing at Penta Penguin, who is extremely broken, so really it was a moral victory for me. The weird thing is in some levels my friends had no idea about some of the shortcuts, a fact I only found weird because I naturally used them in every single lap. The sewer level in which you can powerslide boost and jump up the side to reach a high level path was completely new to them. And the amount of rage in the room that surfaced at the end of a super tight race on the Aztec level when I triple boosted, jumped and skipped the entire last U-turn corner, going from third to first in an instant, was rather overwhelming.

Playing this game really makes me wonder what the Uncharted racing game will be. As everyone knows the traditional Naughty Dog cycle per console. It’s make a trilogy of rather amazing games, and then make a goddamn racing game based on said trilogy. The original Playstation was Crash 1 through 3, and then Crash Team Racing. Playstation 2 was a similar story, the Jak trilogy came out and was also rather amazing, but admittedly out of the three this was probably their weakest. This was reinforced by the rather not-good Jak X. This generation it’s the amazing Uncharted series, and now that the 3rd instalment is upon us, my attention at the very least is turned to what they could possibly make the racing game about! There are two ways they can go about it. One is just go incredibly crazy, make it the most generic kart racer ever, complete with bobblehead versions of the characters and levels inspired by places in the games. If this is what they do with it I would be forever in love with Naughty Dog, and I’d call bids on the blue dude.

Blur

After playing way too much Crash Team Racing, we decided to play a lot more Blur, a game that up until that point I had never actually played. The game is essentially a kart racer, collecting power-ups and trying to screw over the opponents by using the lightning attack in the last lap. The only difference in this game is it uses actual cars and actual places in the world. As a ‘gimmick’ for a kart racer it’s honestly a rather poor one, as it wasn’t as if the cartoony super exaggerated art style of many kart racers were what put me off them.

Quite possibly the most fun about playing Blur was not actually anything to do with Blur itself. My friends and I set up a playlist of songs that played instead of the in game soundtrack. This soundtrack, I have to tell you, might have been the greatest collection of songs ever to race to, despite some of the weirder entries. While I can’t remember every song that played, it did go from the final boss music from Super Mario RPG, to Tiny Tim’s “Living in the Sunlight, Loving in the Moonlight”, to the final duel from The Phantom Menace, to Girl Generation’s “Gee”, to the battle music from Bastion. Like I said, it was the greatest soundtrack to anything ever.

Symphonic Rain

In another attempt to talk about a visual novel that I hold rather dear to my heart, this week I’m going to talk about Symphonic Rain.

The game stars Chris, a Fortelle player, which is some kind of magical keyboard from what I can figure, and is a student at the famous Piova Communal School of Music. He lives in this city where rain falls all the time, a phenomenon that all the local residents are used to, choosing not to carry umbrellas with them and they live their lives as normal. He moved to the city to go to the famous school to become a better Fortelle player, but due to this he has left his childhood love Arietta, whom he keeps in contact with via weekly letters. He is also friends with Arietta’s younger twin sister, Tortinita, who lives with her grandma in the city, and Asino, his male best friend, because apparently every visual novel needs a male best friend. The game starts mere months before his final graduation examination, in which he has to pair with a singer to play with him during his examination. He meets Falsita, the former student council president, and Lise, a talented yet shy younger singer. Oh, and he lives with a fairy that only he can see or hear, and has an amazing singing voice as well.

After meeting each character, you’re left to do sort of whatever you want. Each character will be in certain rooms on certain days, and each day Chris is at school you can decide where he goes and subsequently who he meets that day. The person you end up interacting with the most will more often than not end up Chris’ partner for his examination, but on top of that you can still totally mess it up by selecting the wrong choices during the actual meetings. As well as the standard visual novel gameplay, this game is also totally a rhythm game. Every so often Chris will practise on his Portelle, which will start the rhythm game. The rhythm game is rather similar to Guitar Hero and the like. Keyboard keys will appear on the right and you have to press them when they reach the left of the screen. On the hardest difficulty setting the game will use almost every character on the keyboard, so that’s pretty interesting. It’s possible to fail out of these songs and that will have an effect on the story, and in some routes it’s possible to fail on the final examination to get a different ending to if you passed the song, which I think is rather awesome. Songs are available to play via the main menu too, if you just want to play the rhythm portion, which is a nice feature.

Each note is colour coordinated to tell you which finger to use too, which is helpful!

As with most visual novels I really enjoy, I really like the soundtrack of this one, though that’s quite possibly more impressive here as it is a rhythm game too. I like the soundtrack so much, in fact, that I have hunted down sheet music and the CD for this game ever since I first played it. Also, unrelated, but I also have the official art book for the game too, because I also think the art style is incredible, but I digress. I do know quite a lot of the songs in this game on both my bass guitar and piano. The soundtrack, however, is the rather depressing part of this visual novel. The composer, Ristuko Okazaki, unfortunately died during the production of the visual novel, a fact I only found out after tracking down the CD soundtrack. A really depressing fact made even sadder due to the, in my opinion, extremely high quality of the soundtrack.

What makes this visual novel stand out above all else, however, is the story. The story goes in rather incredible directions, both with each character path and with an overarching story that is only unlocked once the player has witnessed all the other routes. The amount of twists and turns the overarching story takes near the end of the game really makes any other play through of the story completely different than the first time, one of those instances that any other playthroughs of the story will feel completely different. I really don’t know how to describe it, to be honest, but it’s a really great experience all round, and one I highly recommend you check out. The gameplay is good and the story is great, even if you can’t work rhythm games there is an option to autoplay the rhythm sections so you can just focus on the story which, again, I highly recommend you check out.

And that’s the end of the blog! Now if you’ll excuse me I need to change the lyrics for ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite’ to ‘Being for the Benefit of Captain Price’. This might be the silliest thing I’ve ever been a part of, and, well, that’s definitely saying something!

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 23.10.2011

Against all odds I’m here for another edition of my weekly blog! Here is where I take some time out of my week to tell you about the games I’ve played, visual novels I’ve read, anime I’ve watched, and stuff like that. I say against all odds because when I usually post this blog every week; I’m now deep asleep, probably dreaming about my perfect waifu Viola Cadaverini as I usually do. This is because my sleeping pattern has been completely shot by Pascual, his awesome charity event and his tendency to make me sing Space Oddity at 4am. But that was last week! Who can even remember what happened a week ago?! I sure as heck can’t! So let’s get this started before I forget it all!

Psychonauts

It’s been a while since I’ve told myself to play through Psychonauts. I installed it quite a while back now actually, and told myself I had to play it. However, back then I didn’t own a wired 360 controller, and only got to the second or third level before hating playing platforming games with a keyboard. Fast forward to, like, a few weeks ago or so now and Double Fine, being the awesome bunch they are, added achievements to the game. This just reinforced my desire to play it, and finally I set aside some time in my busy schedule of doing nothing, and played some Psychonauts.

The game is still a lot of fun, hell I don’t need that qualifier, the game is a lot of fun. The characters are amazing, the gameplay is top notch and the story just keeps ramping up each time. The game never has a peak because each moment somehow just gets better and better than the part previous. My favourite level is probably a tossup between two different ones, and for two completely different reasons. Firstly, the level that made me laugh the most was probably the Milkman level, and that was all from the weird secret agents you could interact with with different items. All trench coated up and talking in monotone, part of me kept imagining Castiel in those roles, which made it even funnier. That level also looked brilliant too, with its weird twisting and no centre of gravity roads. However, the best level in my opinion based on aesthetic was the bullfighting level. The sharp black shadows looked really cool, and made that level is particular stand out. Having said that almost all of the levels had their own little style that made them interesting, and while sure there weren’t that many levels in total, having each one differ that much really makes up for that.

Like I said I never played the game before now, so I never got to experience the Meat Circus in all its amazingly cruel glory. After beating it I thought it wasn’t that hard, but I couldn’t tell what they could have possibly changed to make harder. Talking to a friend it seems that the original choices were crazy. First off, falling to your death in the tent in the patched version doesn’t result in a death in this patched version, which, admittedly, I thought was kind of weird. When you have to protect Little Oly, from the sounds of it the patched version makes him a lot more resilient to attacks, so you don’t have to practically speed run to reach him in time. Apart from those two it seems that the Meat Circus is still intact, and I did get super annoyed at one part that took me several tries to beat, so it’s not like they just made it into a straight line to the goal.

I only got to rank 70 or so, so I’ll probably be playing through the game all over again. With the new achievements there are achievements for doing certain things at certain points of the story, which admittedly can be a pain, but gives me enough reason to go heads first into a second playthrough. But I think before I do that I’ll try and get up to rank 101, which involves me finding all of those god forsaken fragments, which involves me playing Mila’s race level and missing, like, two fragments because my eyes aren’t the best in the world and the colour of the fragments easily blends in with the track and GOD DAMN IT VIDEOGAMES.

After 6 years, Psychonauts is still a great experience, and quite possibly one of the best 3D platformers out there. If you’re like me and waited for some bizarre reason to get this game, it’s pretty cheap on Steam, and with all new achievements! Let us all just hope that with Double Fine now owning the IP outright that this means a Psychonauts 2, because oh god that ending.

Snow Sakura

This week for no real reason other than because I felt like it, I took a look at Snow Sakura, a relatively old release from the group behind Family Project. Nothing has really brought me to this release other than it exists, so my expectations aren’t that high. I mean, it’s even officially translated, which means the translation is probably going to be terrible, as most official visual novel translations are. Oh well, let’s go!

Snow Sakura follows the life of Yuuji Tachibana. Actually first of, before we go any further, I really hate it when visual novels name their main character ‘Yuuji or ‘Yuuichi’, I mean come on can you get anymore on the nose than that? Anyway, where was I... Right, Yuuchi, the typical student with no life ambitions (I swear to god) has suddenly been moved to a small village in the middle of nowhere, while his dad moves to Hawaii for ‘business reasons’. As a result, he is now living with his uncle, and his cousin, Saki. This eventually blah blah visual novel plot their way around the town and Yuuchi gets himself a group of friends in which the number of female drastically outweigh the number of males. Along with Saki there are Misaki, who has a crush on Yuuji, Kozue, who has a crush on Misaki, Rei, the shrine miko, and Misato, Misaki’s older sister and somehow a teacher.

You may have noticed I stopped talking about the plot of this visual novel some while back. Well, the reason behind that is, that’s really all there is to the plot. Every so often Yuuji’s father sends him videotapes about how awesome Hawaii is, but apart from that it’s really just a set up to justify ‘new setting new people’. Apart from that this visual novel is pretty much a slice of life type deal. The entire story is set on the different character branches, and well even then it’s not really that big of a deal. You’ll go through one character’s route before encountering the ‘hey we need to add some drama in this game so here’ section, which that in itself gets blown over pretty fast with the ‘happily ever after’ brigade.

The one story beat that is does have isn’t even consistent. Yuuji remembers visiting the town as a child and meeting a girl under a famous Sakura tree that blooms in the winter. Now, despite this being a flashback, the girl he meets under that tree will change depending on what route you’re currently going down. This actually irritates me to no end. The weird thing about it is that in some routes, they say who the girl was that Yuuji met, but then never reference it ever again. As if they felt that that flashback was only important for some routes, and the others just had to close that story beat before getting on with their completely separate story.

I feel like I’m being hard on this story, in all honesty I enjoyed it, and surprisingly enough a lot of that was due to the translation and the characters. There are a lot of really silly characters in this game, Yuuji’s dad, Uncle, Saki and best friend Sumiyoshi dealing out the majority of the jokes. The translation work, much like parts of Family Project, do delve into meme territory in parts but the characters are so ridiculous that it makes sense for them to do to, unlike when it happens in Family Project.

Overall Snow Sakura is a fun, albeit simple visual novel that is pretty funny in spots, but pretty light in terms of proper story. Oh, and there’s this little fairy girl too that shows up once you complete all the other routes I don’t know. Maybe she controls the snow? Who can say really.

A Tendency to Overhaul

A weird aspect of programming is the ability to take all of your hard work, throw it on the ground, and start from scratch. It’s a practise that’s both encouraged and expected, at least that’s what I’m taught. I have a ‘get it right the first time’ attitude to the whole situation, and the idea of throwing out hard work seems incredibly silly, unless it’s absolutely essential.

This question was brought forth by one of my university friends, during a Direct X lesson. We’ve been given a framework to use to learn about how different aspects of Direct X works, it’s a fairly basic framework, used to teach us 3D rendering, shading, alpha blending and apparently lighting. My friend, however, took one look at that framework, and deleted it, only to build his own framework. Last week he had finished said framework, and could do a lot more than the stuff we had been asked to do, due to the flexibility and the knowledge he has of his own framework. I haven’t done this myself, opting to see how far I can get using the default framework, and to be honest I probably should have made my own framework too at this point. I should have seen how poorly written the framework was at the start like my friend.

In a different class I’m straight up not doing the tutorial work given. After talking to my lecturer about the things I can already do on the PS2 hardware (oh, this class is PS2 coding by the way), he gave me the ending framework to work on instead. As it turns out, every few weeks in that class for the next few months, we are going to be given different frameworks to use, thus rendering (ha, programming humour) all the previous work completely moot. I sort of figured this, and therefore only did the barely minimum work to show I knew what I was doing, before just getting the final framework. The reason being, well, what was the point of making sick ass classes if they were going to be obsolete later on?

I’ve overhauled several times in the past, and multiple times on the same project. A more recent example is the game I’m still working on, Bullet Bill 3. Originally there were two different level generation functions, one was for the actual level and the other was for the creation tools. They worked fine but they were completely independent of each other. This was because the creation tools needed different files than the level so that they could be dragged and dropped and all that kind of stuff. Then I figured it’d be cool to render the level in the save files, as a preview of the level, and a quick reference guide so the user knew if the level they’re saving over was the same one they are working on or not, and this required a third generation function. Then I thought the same idea would work with loading levels from the main menu, bringing it to a total of four functions, three that all pretty much did the same thing. So I scrapped the entire thing, and made two giant functions instead. One that generates the level in a specific place and specific size, and another that derives from the previous function, which replaces all the objects with their moveable equivalents, for the creation tools. This means that if I have to change the generation code, I’ll only have to change it once instead of four times. Have I had to change the generation code since I recoded it? No... No I have not.

All four of these levels are generated using the same function. Impressive? ...Not really.

This is only one part of the code; there are other parts in which I took the completely different approach. The main game code looks like some kind of programming based Frankenstein’s Monster at this point. There are parts of the code that started being completely definitive as something that always happens in the level. Now though, after adding so many effects and abilities and the like, there are more exceptions to the rule than there are thing it applies to. Similarly I recently added a new effect to the game, but in doing so, it broke every other effect. My solution was to make an exception to everything else so that when this latest effect is happening, none of the others can until it’s finished. Looking over the code there is an if statement that covers the majority of the code that uses a variable that is never not true, there are exceptions to some rules to accommodate features I’ve completely scrapped from the game, which call variables that no longer exist. It’s a case in which I probably should redo the entire thing so that the code looks good, but whatever, the game still runs, and that’s what matters right?

As with most entries in the programming section of this blog, I don’t really know where I’m going with this. Scrapping code when applying new features makes sense, as it in theory will make the code a lot better to look at, but for the projects in which I’m the only programmer, making my code look good isn’t really the top priority. At the same time, scrapping code in favour for more compressed and better optimized code makes perfect sense to me; it’s just weird to have this idea in my head that even though I’m having a hard time trying to get this code to work, that at some point in the future I could even without thinking, delete the entirety of it just to redo it. Still seems weird to me.

Trotstarr

Since I started making mashups, and I guess since people for some bizarre reason listen to them, I’ve always liked the idea of making mini-albums centred on one core idea. The giant half an hour long mashups are a lot of fun but take a long time to make, so that’s why I figured I’d star making a few mini-albums too. The theme for the first one is, as is probably expected of me at this point, My Little Pony. But not just My Little Pony, but My Little Pony mixed with Taio Cruz.

An odd pairing but I thought it worked, in total there are 5 songs, 4 of which feature backing tracks from ‘Rokstarr’, the album I based the cover art from. The fifth song uses a backing track from a fan made Luna based song and overlays it with the newest David Guetta joint, ‘Little Bad Girl’.

You can download the mini album here, hope you enjoy it!

Once again this brings an end to another long winded blog post. Now if you’ll excuse me, Viola and I need to go collect some debts... if you know what I mean.

(What I mean is I’m going to sleep.)

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 16.10.2011

Alrighty! Welcome to another weekly blog written by yours truly. Here I talk about visual novels, videogames, anime, programming and other stuff I guess. This week admittedly I’ve not being doing much of anything, but the show must go on, so I’m writing stuff anyway!

Have I used that song before? Probably... whatever.

Like I said a while back I started another year at university, and it really feels like I’m doing nothing at all. If I wasn’t so in love with procrastinating I’d take this opportunity to do a lot of programming, but instead, I’ve been sleeping in until 6pm, so whoops!

Sonic Adventure 2: Battle

The best kind of game is the one that after a whole lot of random conversation with friends, someone can just go “screw it, let’s play X”, and everyone cheers in agreement. Well, that was how my friends and I started playing Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.

Now what can I say about Sonic Adventure 2? It seems that in my circle of friends it’s in agreement that this is the last good 3D Sonic game, despite us constantly hating on it as we were playing. So there’s that, and as it turns out I can do a pull off a pretty decent Shadow voice and remember way too many lines from that game.

So the game is broken up in three separate kinds of games, first there is the usual Sonic/Shadow platformer type stuff that somehow they managed to break after this game (but then again, it was Sonic Heroes, so makes sense). The weird thing about this game is that after the first level, none of the levels are really that... good, per se. I guess this is happens with most games, like for instance most people remember World 1-1 than anything else, but the rest of the levels are largely forgettable. The bosses are also pretty whatever, especially the Sonic vs. Shadow boss battle early on in the game. By rapidly pressed ‘A’ we managed to beat the other hedgehog within 15 seconds, making the entire thing rather silly. There are also a lot of weird things about the timed levels. Shadow getting 2 minutes more than Sonic, the rocket Sonic has to catch just taking off as soon as Sonic reaches the rocket as opposed to waiting for the entire countdown to end. You know, things that shouldn’t annoy me, but they do.

The next type of gameplay is the Tails/Robotnik mech type stuff, which might be the most boring type out of all three. This involves looking around the level, holding down ‘A’ to target enemies and let go to shoot at them. It’s sort of Rez like in a way, but it’s pretty boring for the most part. The camera, while not good at any point in this game, is the worst in this mode, mostly because of the platforming sections using these terrible mechs. Also, maybe it’s just because my friend is terrible at games and couldn’t tell what was a platform and what was OBVIOUSLY QUICKSAND but I digress.

Lastly and certainly not least, you have the Knuckles/Rouge levels in which you have to try and find shards of the master emerald. After spending way too long trying to figure out how much of a badass Knuckles is, being able to punch the master emerald into shards that fly all the way across the world, and even into space, and in some cases even manage to embed themselves into the ground and walls of these areas, and somehow always manage to show up in groups of three, and also videogames. So like I said, this is the best of the three gameplays, why you ask? Well let me answer your question with:

Despite my friends managing to beat the first Knuckles level in 40 seconds, he got stuck on Pumpkin Hill for like 20 minutes. I wasn’t opposed to this, mind you, as as it turns out I know all the lyrics to Pumpkin Hill. Then after that there was Aquatic Mine, which feels like someone in the design team said “Hey guys, you know how everyone loves the Water Temple? How about we do that!”

I hope he got fired.

So I’d be silly to be talking about Sonic Adventure 2 Battle without talking about why it makes it an amazing game, and that is the Tails and Rogue racing levels! So some of my friends couldn’t even remember these existed if you can believe that, so we got up to those in the story to unlock the mini game, and then played the mini game for way too long. The cars in that mode had two extremely different modes, the racing mode and the drift mode. To drift, all you had to go was let go of ‘A’ for a brief second and then start holding it again, and it allowed your car to be super goddamn drifty. That mod is the way to go, so much so that when racing them in the story, I was drifting left and right for the entire level. The mini game version is also pretty great, but I found it rather stupid that to unlock the mini game you had to beat one of the races from the story, but you had to complete both races to unlock a two player split screen version, for no real reason.

Ok yes the only reason we were playing the game was for the Chao Garden. Somehow most of us remembered where the majority of the Chao keys were in every level, and thus managed to get into the garden after every single level. My friend was insisting about raising a chao as straight neutral, and would therefore complete a few as hero and then as dark and kept doing that for an hour or so. However, he had to go to class at some point, and I was left with the controller. So what did I do? Nothing really, I was playing as Robotnik, and petted the chao, for 30 minutes straight. Now, this maxed out the chao’s evil bar within the first minute or so, but the real reason behind the sabotage was it made the chao incredibly confused and sleep deprived, so every time my friend went into the chao garden and tried to give the chao anything, he’d always fall asleep in between every vile of energy. Completely worth it.

Also chao racing is still amazing.

Katahane

When it comes to gay relationships, I’ve always preferred men when it comes to women. Honestly, I don’t really know why, because despite not having any reason to think this way, I’ve always viewed male gay relationships to be a lot more innocent than female. This might be from certain anime that I watch, or my own personal experiences but I really don’t know why I think that. Why am I talking about this? Well, this week I decided to tackle a yuri game, the first yuri visual novel I’ve played, called Katahane. Now, while I do play porn games for the story, I don’t really seek out yuri games, so I never bother reading them. Also, this game was made by Tarte, the creator of Which Girl Should I Choose, which I did not enjoy at all. This is a fan translation, as opposed to last time in which the translation was done by MangaGamer and was terrible, so my expectation level was rather average.

The game takes place in a world with the distinct kingdoms, the red, blue and white kingdoms. The Blue and Red kingdoms dealt mostly with trade, while the much smaller White kingdom dealt with research into dolls. Dolls, also known as Sisters, are highly-advance human-like creations. These dolls require a ‘tuner’ to help maintain them. Each kingdom co-existed peacefully, that is, until a leader of the White kingdom, called Christina was assassinated by one of her closest allies, named Ein, in an attempt to make the three kingdoms go to war. As a result, Ein has gone down in history as the biggest betrayer of the three kingdoms.

The story is broken up into two distinct parts, the first of which is called Shirohane. This story follows Wakaba; an amateur playwrite is coming up with a play based on the events of Ein and Christina. This idea is nothing new, but all plays put on about this event seem to have some kind of MacBeth type curse about them and something always seems to go wrong. Wakaba’s version is different, however, as her version of the story does not portray Ein as the villain, and instead makes him into a loyal supporter of Princess Christina. At the same time, a boy named Cero gets a letter requesting him to meet with Lein, a famous tuner, for a check-up on a young looking doll he takes care of, called Coco. Cero, after reading about Wakaba’s new play, invites her along to try and find people to star in her story. The majority of this arc is seeing Wakaba somehow managing to recruit more people for her play, eventually culminating in a performance. The role of Christina is played by Angelina, an amateur actress who had been shot down for a role as Christina in a different play just before meeting Wakaba and the gang, and the role of the Sister by the Princess’ side is played by a Sister called Belle, a one winged sister who has been Lein’s daughter for 50 years.

About two fifths into the story, the story shifts into the other part of the story, dubbed Kurohane, which just so happens to be the story the play is based on. The story here starts with Coco’s arrival at the white kingdom castle, where she meets Christina, who looks a hell of a lot like Angelina, and the Sister Efa, who looks identical to Belle, except from the fact she has two wings instead of one. There is also Ein, Christina’s regent, and Dua, the head of the guards, who obviously are on the lookout for anything suspicious. Christina is organizing a play, designed to strengthen the relationship between the three kingdoms. For this, she has Coco from the Blue Kingdom, and Efa, a national treasure from the Red Kingdom. However, during the performance, there is an assassination attempt on Christina’s life from a Red Kingdom representative, an attempt that is blocked by Efa, costing one of her wings. This arc focuses on the relationship between Princess Christina and Efa, and shows the truth behind Ein’s betrayal.

Something that I find really amazing about this visual novel is the idea of history being wrong. In the present day of this world, Ein is seen as the biggest betrayer in history, which is backed up by Cero, a would be historian, pointing out that Wakaba’s idea of showing Ein as a nice character is completely farfetched. Then, after accepting this, the player is shown the events of that assassination, and how it totally wasn’t Ein in the slightest. In the Kurohane arc, there is a small group of people within the White Kingdom that plot against the Princess, whom the mastermind is actually a representative of the Blue Kingdom, a man who is eventually killed by Ein. I won’t spoil exactly what the true history is, but, it sort of makes sense that the true events aren’t the ones that become the accepted history of that era. It’s a crazy thing, and something that I personally am fascinated with, the whole idea that history could very well be wrong. It sort of goes back to the whole concept of history is written by the winners, like, obviously as far as history goes, the winners of any war were the good guys. It’s also pretty funny seeing the characters from the play and the people they are based upon, and how much some characters are the same, with the same voice actors even. Though as a funny aside Ein looks pretty much identical to a con artist called Tonino, which is in purpose as his partner, Silvia, also looks exactly like Dua. Wakaba casts Tonino as the Blue Kingdom representative instead, and gets a famous actor to play Ein instead. I thought that was pretty funny, considering how obviously similar the characters were made, only for Wakaba to screw it up.

You may have also noticed that I haven’t said who the main character is, which is good to notice that, as it brings me to another good point about this story, there isn’t really a main character. The story switches perspectives all throughout the story, making no one character feel like the centre of attention, which is a great thing. There are two routes for the get go, the relationship between Cero and Wakaba, and the relationship between Angelina and Belle. The story does a great job in making the routes feel like they are both taking place at the same time, which as a result makes the entire story feel a lot more complete. Periodically throughout the story there with be options to decide on whose perspective you’d like to see next, it’s a really great system to help decide what part of the story you want to witness, and again, makes it feel like there is more going on than what you see.

I feel that, despite the main Shirohane story dragging on for a bit, which that in itself is only brought into sharp contrast due to the seemingly rushed pace of the ending, the story here is really well told. The Kurohane arc even, is good enough to check out on its own, this combined with really nice looking art and an interesting lore, I feel that this game is worth checking out.

The Office

For what feels like several years but is actually just the last few months, a certain magical Manthorp has been trying to convince me to watch the US version of The Office. I’ve never really been interested in watching it for two reasons. One, I’ve never been a fan of adaptations, wherever I can help it. It’s something that I’ve said in this blog quite a few times in reference to anime adaptations of visual novels, but I feel that the core conceit remains the same. Second, I’ve never been a fan of awkward comedy; in fact I really don’t like it at all. That’s just in my style, I don’t find watching people embarrass themselves particularly funny, in fact I’m the kind of guy that when moments like that happen in movies, I’d mute it outright.

Having said all that I figured I may as well check this out, and I’m glad I did. I really like the whole never talked about documentary style the show does for, and the characters are larger than life yet still kind of believable, with my favourite being Kevin.

HEY THERE GURL

And that’s all I want to say about that! I’m only three seasons in but knowing my marathonning style I should be caught up pretty shortly, provided I don’t get completely distracted by other stuff.

And with that this week of absolute nothing has finally come to a close! Maybe next week will be more exciting but who really knows, I have a feeling that by the end of this semester I’ll find out I’ve been not going to one of my lectures or something and then everything will go real bad real fast. But until then I’ll be sleeping in until 6pm and filling in wiki articles for My Little Pony iOS games.

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 09.10.2011

Oh wouldn’t you know it, it’s time for another blog entry! Hello everyone and welcome to my blog, a place where I put a gratuitous amount of misspelled words and tense changing sentences to form some kind of opinion on one or more of the following; including but not limited to video games, anime, rap music sampling Megaman 2, My Little Pony, programming and, of course, visual novels. Normally there would be a humorous anecdote here vaguely about something that’s happened to me in the last week but in all honestly, hardly anything has happened at all! I have, however, tried to make a conscious effort not to swear as often as I have been, a task made all the more difficult every time one of my friends tries to make me play some fucking League of Legends.

The Binding of Isaac

I’ve spent a large portion of this week, and admittedly last week, playing The Binding of Isaac, I was going to talk about it last week but at that time I still didn’t know what I thought about the game. At the time I didn’t really like the game that much, yet I was compelled to keep playing over and over again. Now that another week has passed I think I like this game? Maybe? To be honest I’m still not sure.

The game, for those of you that don’t know, is from the messed up mind of Edmund McMillen, whose previous work includes Super Meat Boy, Gish and Time Fcuk (all of whom appear in this game in some capacity). The actual gameplay consists of 8 floors, each of them being a randomly generated Zelda dungeon. You control Isaac, the son of a religious nut job who is trying to sacrifice Isaac because god said so. Isaac’s main form of attack is his tears, and he uses that to kill enemies, finds bombs that can be used to access hidden rooms, coins to buy things at the item store, stuff like that. The game starts off pretty slow, with a lot of simple enemies and room designs, and Isaac himself being rather plain. As you progress, however, Isaac gets rather messed up with all the powerups you can find.

The powerups work rather curiously in this game, as you don’t ever equip anything, instead as soon as you find powerups they are automatically equipped and stack with whatever you have already found. This is where the genius of this game comes into full fruition. There are four kinds of powerups in the game, passive, specials, tarot cards and pills. The passive powerups are the most fun, as they can completely overpower Isaac right off the bat if you are extremely lucky. These range from basic stat boosters like range up or damage up, or letting you fly over holes in the floor, giving you a third eye for a multi shot, or getting as crazy as the Dr. Fetus powerup, which replaces Isaac’s tears with bombs. The second powerup set consists of special attacks, assigned to the space bar. These range from the rather basic reviving health, to the downright absurd, like “My Little Unicorn” which turns Isaac invincible and multicoloured for a few seconds, or the teleporter which randomly warps Isaac to another room of the floor, but will sometimes teleport him outside the floor into a glitch room full of the best powerups and coins. The other two, tarot cards and pills, are one off attacks via the Q button. The tarot cards have a set effect, for instance the Emperor will teleport Isaac to the boss and the Hanged Man will make Isaac float, but these effects only last for that one room. The pills are random each play through, but their effect carries for the rest of that run. These can range from stat increases, to stat decreases, or making you drop all your bombs at once. The pills are the only way you can debuff in the game, and due to that are pretty risky to use most of the time.

So like I said I’m still unsure if I even like this game or not, and that simply boils down to the Roguelike nature of the game, it’s very hard to go from being super powerful and making one tiny mistake and having to go back to the start with the terrible starting stats and no passive powerups. Again, that’s just the nature of this game, and the game wouldn’t work if it didn’t do this, but at the same time it means I can never immediately jump into a new run as soon as I’ve beaten the final boss, or at least gotten so close to the final boss and died that the shift back into the default stats is super noticeable.

Having said that I have beaten the full game twelve times now, and am only one secret away from getting them all too. It’s definitely a fun game and I recommend checking it out, though it might not be for people who are easily frustrated at games.

Oh man that reminds me, I was playing Rock of Ages with a friend of mine. I used all my money building a giant mammoth and wind trap near one of the giant cannons that was in the level. He managed to escape the first time, and as I hit his castle and went back to the overhead view, I typed “Not so fast criminal scum” and used the castle catapult attack to destroy his boulder literally frames before he hit my castle.

It was glorious.

Portal 2

Speaking of friends who are terrible at videogames, I played the new Portal 2 co-op rooms with another friend of mine, while we were both getting incredibly drunk mind you, because as everyone knows the best science is drunk science. The DLC pack was rather straight forward for the most part, there only being one or two points near the end that we got completely stuck at for an extended period of time, but at that point we were also pretty drunk so you know.

Overall it’s a pretty great group of puzzles, most of them making my friend and I have to think for a bit before realising what the hell we had to do, maybe not as much as Ryan and Patrick did during the TNT, but still. Also the story is pretty stupid, but in a good way. Portal 2 stupid is the best stupid, I just wonder what that means for more DLC!

I also tried my hand at the challenge mode stuff for single player. The challenge mode gives certain puzzles from the single player a time attack mode and a ‘least portals’ counter, but it seems like the ‘least steps’ from Portal is missing, for better or worse. The only annoying thing is it seems that I have friends that are way too good at Portal 2, which means I’m not the top of my personal leaderboards for the majority of the levels I’ve tried, and that infuriates me to no end. Oh well, I guess it’s a good thing because that means I have good reason to keep trying these levels over and over again. The only problem with that is, judging by the levels I’ve tried already, restarting the level, going through that loading screen, the GLaDOS dialogue and the hard pause to load the leaderboard gets super tedious, which is rather disappointing. What is also disappointing is that there weren’t any new single player maps, but hopefully they’ll show up in some capacity in other DLC packs.

Super Mario 64

On one of those random uninvited visits to my friend’s flat, codename Magic: The Gathering Of Nerds, I put forth this seemingly harmless idea.

“Hey” I started of my idea with, full of optimism ”You know what would be a better idea than watching you die over and over again in Monster Hunter Tri?”

“What’s that” My friend replied, with a hint of anger that I was impeaching on his valuable hunting time.

“Speed running Super Mario 64, of course!” I eagerly stated while pointing at the virtual console version of Super Mario 64 on the Wii device. This plan was met with many a critics, there were four people in the room at the time, as we all went from playing a three hour game of Catan to the Wii, and only one of us had played Super Mario 64 this year, and that person wasn’t even me. A little bit later another member of the flat opened the door and said “Hey what’s going on in this room?” and joined us. So here we were, at 1am, 5 guys sitting around a TV trying to speed run Super Mario 64. I optimistically guessed two hours, due to no-one really remembering the fastest way to go about this game, which was met with “pfft no way, four hours at the very least”.

It turns out no-one else there knew about the stair glitch.

So we got up to 31 stars, and we were all having a good time. A lot of great jokes, I was being all “yeah this star is faster so go grab that one” and stuff like that, making good time. The system was when you got a star; the next person got the next star, and continued on from there. Almost as if I meant this to happen, my lovely shota was the guy who played before me, and he beat the second Bowser battle. At 31 stars I took to the third part of the castle and tried to do said stair glitch, with everyone else looking on with bewilderment. That look soon dissipated, however, when I finally got it working, because then their minds were blown. I proceeded to do the same to the endless stairs and got into the final level, decided to throw the controller to the next guy and said “There you go, final level, go get ‘em”. Needless to say at that point everything was amazing.

He beat the level and everyone else died at the boss, coming back round to me on the last life, beating him relatively easily, clocking in an admittedly terrible run of 2 hours and 21 minutes dead. We were ecstatic though, watching the end credits featuring levels we didn’t even go in, it was an amazing end to a rather amazing night.

It’s come to me attention that I am a really bad writer, no, I know it’s shocking, but it’s true. Due to this I’ve been extremely hesitant to talk about any visual novels that I really really enjoy. And sure I’ve enjoyed a fair few of the visual novels I’ve covered thus far, but there are a few that I’m sure I’ll have a hard time explaining just why I enjoy them so much. This week, I’m going to at least try.

Cross†Channel

If you’re like me and you’ve spent a fair amount of time on the internets playing bad flash games, you may have come across something called Nanaca†Crash, it was a weird flash game in which you stopped two meters, one for angle and one for speed, and let a guy go flying, the object of the game being to get as far as possible. For me it was the first one of these kinds of flash games, of which there are approximately an infinite number of, I had played, and in fact really enjoyed, it being the go to game to play during a computing class in high school. Little did I know that everything about that game is from Cross†Channel.

The genius of Cross†Channel lies in its story, and it’s one of those stories that the less you know about it going in, the better. If I could entice people by just saying “shit gets real” and drop the mic I would, but obviously you’re here for more than that. So with that in mind if this paragraph interests you, I advise you to not read anything after it. Anyway, the game stars Taichi, who is a member of the broadcasting club at school. The school he goes to is a school designed to be a place for the misfits of society, and Taichi is no exception, as he is extremely perverted (which makes sense for a visual novel protagonist). The story starts with Taichi looking down upon the city after reminiscing a bit about his friends. It revolves around Taichi and his interactions with the rest of the broadcasting club who all pretty much are doing their own thing. The club president Misato and her brother Tomoki spend their time on the roof of the school building a broadcasting tower. Other members include the best of friends Miki and Kiri, Miki being the only character that is seemingly ok with Taichi’s incredibly perverted ways and Kiri who hates Taichi completely and utterly for some reason. Touko who is really just the stereotypical tsundere and finally Youko, a secretive member of the club who just shows up at random times, and is usually without any emotion whatsoever. Oh, and there’s some dude called Hiroshi, but whatever, he’s just sort of there. Anyway, after a week, the tower is complete, and the entire club sans Youko gathers to celebrate. Taichi in his infinite wisdom discards the all of the broadcast notes he was given and starts to test out the tower. He starts his broadcast rather simply.

The story starts with Taichi looking down upon the city, he had organised a camping trip for the broadcasting club in the hopes that they’d bond, or something. But unfortunately the exact opposite happened, and everyone ended up hating everyone else. Oh, and the rest of humanity has disappeared, Taichi is pretty upset by that. The club president Misato and her brother Tomoki spend their time on the roof of the school building a broadcast tower, in the hopes that there are not the last people left alive in the world. Anyway, after a week, the tower is complete, and the entire club sans Youko gathers to celebrate. However, Kiri gets suspicious of the rest of the group, and aims a crossbow at them, saying she found a corpse, and suspects Taichi of killing him. As a result, she states her plan of barring her and Miki off into one district of town, and the rest of the club in another. In amongst all the hatred, Taichi ends up dying. The story starts with Taichi looking down upon the city, he had organised a camping trip for the broadcasting club in the hopes that they’d bond, or something. But unfortunately the exact opposite happened, and everyone ended up hating everyone else. Oh, and the rest of humanity has disappeared.

So if you’re getting a slight Groundhog Day vibe from this then well done, the only difference is no-one, or seemingly no-one, has any idea that this loop is happening. The whole concept of being stuck in the same week over and over again for a visual novel is the smartest thing ever, as it ties in to everything the genre is about. By taking the concept of the player replaying the game to see every route and making it a core aspect of the story, this visual novel really stands out among the rest. The story has a few more great twists and turns so I don’t feel too bad going to this point in the story, but this core conceit is really what makes it great. As a result of this there are no real bad ends to the story, as almost everything you do each week will progress the story is some fashion. Then even if you don’t hit all of the flags in a particular route, the story itself will play out the week and then you start over again, because while the character doesn’t know about the loop, the player does.

I also feel I have to mention the music. The music in this game is also great, too great in my opinion. Ever since first reading this back in 2009, I’ve been using the music from this game to go to sleep on nights I don’t have a podcast to listen to. While this is probably a great testament to how good the music is in my opinion, it also means I got pretty tired when re-reading it, just because of the music.

This album beats Justin Timberlake's "Futuresex/Lovestoned" as my most played album... but only just.

You should definitely check this one out. The story is fantastic, the characters for the most part are really well realised, and the whole thing eventually concludes in what might be the most emotional epilogue I’ve ever read.

Blog out yo! If you’d like more of my rambling but thought “Gee Psycosis I really wish I could hear more of your extremely sexual voice” well then you should keep your ears peeled for the next episode of Pass the Whiskey! Or at least, I think I’m a part of it. Sparklykiss just sort of went ‘Hey, come join us in this Skype call’ and all of a sudden she started the intro to the podcast. It was a set up I tell you!

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 02.10.2011

Now I know y’all be loving this shit right here! Time for another edition of the giant wall of text in which you can rather non-committingly scroll through that is my weekly blog. Here I talk about some videogames I’ve played this week, visual novels I’ve read, and maybe mashups or anime or anything that tickles me fancy really. University life can’t stop the porn game train, baby, no matter how many random flat parties I find myself at for no good reason, so let’s get started!

Crazy Taxi

So Steam, being the evil bastards they are, decided put that Sega Dreamcast collection on sale. I bought it for two reasons, one being I have never actually played Sonic Adventure DX, and the other so I could always be a few clicks away from making some curaaaazy money.

So before we get to me saying how awesome Crazy Taxi is, I had no idea that this re-release has so many changes to it, namely two of the best parts of the game have been completely removed from the game. One being the soundtrack, replaced with some shitty shit shit music, and the other being the real life locations people want to go to. Kentucky Fried Chicken being replaced with Fried Chicken Shack is incredibly stupid. It’s almost as if this game was owned by a company that doesn’t know what its fans want!

Oh right, yeah, Sega.

At the very least, the Steam version can help with the first one. It’s surprisingly easy to replace the song files in the Steam version, so as soon as I didn’t hear YA YA YA YA YA, I quit out the game and proceeded to do just that. I managed to replace the files with the majority of the Offspring greatest hits album, since I felt that’d be the best fit. While there were Bad Religion songs in the original game, that’s like complaining I only listen to Iron Maiden and not any Sentience songs when playing Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now. In other words shut up.

So, yeah, Crazy Taxi. I can usually last 15 or so minutes in Arcade mode, but to be honest I prefer the Crazy Box mode for short bursts of gameplay. Most specifically whenever I load up the game I almost automatically go straight for the S-S track of racing around the entire city in less than 4 minutes. Guess it’s not too surprising that I prefer a throwaway time trail mode, but still, it’s a lot of fun, especially since for me in normal gameplay I hardly ever see anything past the long bridge in the middle of the city.

Gundemonium Collection

So I really had no idea what this was. But it featured anime girls so of course I bought it as soon as it was released!

Gundemonium Recollection

The first of this collection, Gundemonium Recollection, is a bullet hell, but instead of a vertical perspective it’s from the side, more akin to shoot ‘em ups. The game is definitely a bullet hell, though, which you’ll be able to tell straight away. You control one of two characters, the second character being customizable for a lot more variations, on your quest to something something something anime girls.

As almost a prerequisite for bullet hells, this game is mad hard. The game defaults to three hearts, and once you get hit three times, you’re dead. No continues. You can change that to five if you don’t care for high scores but still it’s rather challenging. You can, however, continue from the main menu on the stage you died on, but even that can get brutal in the last few levels. The characters also have bomb attacks, which differ from anime girl to anime girl. The bombs are good for dealing a decent amount of damage to everything on screen, and getting rid of all the bullets on the screen as well. On the easiest difficulty, bombs will automatically be deployed if you get hit, and of course if you have any bombs available. You get bombs by collecting them from seemingly random enemy drops, or by getting hit, each hit gives you one bomb back, which is pretty cool I guess. The REAL dick move here though, is the last few bosses actually punish you for using the bombs. One of them for instance launches what can only be approximated at as “a fuckton of shit” whenever you use a bomb, the last boss will do this and then also heal all of her health. Fuck.

Normal difficulty.

Apart from the difficulty, it’s a pretty fun start to the collection. And while I barely managed to scrape by on normal, I really want to play the highest difficulty just so I can hate myself.

GundeadliGne

Remember the last section? Yeah this game is pretty much that! GundeadliGne is the second of this collection, and is another side perspective bullet hell. The differences between this and the previous are rather minimal all things considered.

First off, in this game you can turn around, which also means enemies can come from both the right and the left of the screen. Thankfully, at least on the difficulty I played on, the left hand side of the screen was still the best place to be, as most enemies would just fly from the right to the left as opposed to appearing right behind you and fucking you up with hella bullets. Another super small difference is the art style is slightly different, softer maybe. Though parts of it just looks like the same graphics with some kind of filter over it.

The big difference is this game has continues! I totally died like 4 stages into the normal stage, and the game popped up a continue prompt and I was all “hell YES I’m going to continue!” I have no idea how many continues there are, if there’s even a limit, but I used two and beat the game without going back to the main menu. This is in huge contrast with the previous game, in which I died and had to restart so many times I lost count. Due to this the game felt significantly easier than the previous game, but I imagine without said continues I’d be complaining. Oh well, more bullet hell goodness!

Hitogata Happa

The third and final game in this collection is actually not like the others! In actual fact, Hitogata Happa is in fact a vertical bullet hell shooter! Completely different! This game features a doll maker who something something anime girls. You start the first level with 9 copies of the most basic doll, who doesn’t have that much maneuverability. The first stage continues in a rather basic bullet hell fashion, enemies come down and shoot, if they don’t die they fly away, and then suddenly boss. The boss is on a timer and if you don’t beat the boss within the time limit, all your remaining dolls, which act as lives (also it’s one hit kill), disappear and the boss starts spouting a barrage of bullets at you, making it almost impossible to beat. And even better, even if you shoot the boss for the entire time limit, it won’t even be at half health by the time the time limit ticks down to zero.

The interesting mechanic here is that each doll can explode. After a set amount of time alive, the doll has the ability to explode on contact with an enemy. This sacrifices the doll, and therefore a life, but as a payoff it does monumental damage to the enemy, and thus is the only way to actually beat the bosses in the game. This can be incredibly annoying as the bomb only works if you actually hit the boss with the doll, not if the doll is hit by a bullet. This forces you to try and navigate the maze of bullets all the way up to the boss’s body to deal the damage, and trust me when I say if a boss shoots a bullet at you when you are just pixels away from hitting it, it can be mad frustrating.

Another big part of this game is the dolls. During each level you collect gems from destroyed enemies. At the end of each level these gems are used to buy more dolls. There are 8 dolls total that you can buy, and you can buy up to 12 of each. Every time you buy one type of doll, the cost of that doll goes up, meaning it’s preferable to jump between different dolls over the course of the game. Each doll has different abilities, for instance the default on from the first mission can slow down time, one of them shoots lasers, one homing missiles, and stuff like that. I eventually found myself just using one kind of doll for the majority of the game, due to me preferring spread shots as opposed to straight shots, which meant the cost for that one doll was extravagant by the end, I could only get two or three. Fortunately, if you continue the game from the main menu, the costs revert back to the start. However, the amount of gems can really hinder you when continuing, so watch out for that I guess.

Overall this is a fun game, and a lot different to the previous two in the collection, which is kind of a relief after playing all three back to back to back. A great collection for people who love bullet hells and hate themselves!

Then again hating yourself is pretty much a prerequisite for loving bullet hells.

Fighting Games

Everyone’s favourite Rmanthorp is surprisingly kinda a big deal. He hosts a videogame club for geeks and nerds like himself every Thursday, running from half 7 ‘til midnight, confined to a corner of his university’s union while real men occupy the space all around them drinking beers and watching football. I decided to show up because I had nothing better to do, and proceeded to beat him over and over again at Super Street Fighter IV and Mortal Kombat 9. He did get his revenge, however, by beating me at Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which for the record the only reason he managed that is that I’m pretty sure he’s been practising every day and night ever since I beat him last time we got together to play fighting games. Well, that and the fact that I had completely forgotten all of the controls for the game.

We bailed early to get ready for the Trackmania 2 TNT, in which Rmanthorp managed to break the top 16 once or twice. If you watch the TNT at 20:37 when Jeff says “This guy has played 54 hours on this server.” he’s talking about Rmanthorp, dudes crazy.

...Though I’d totally beat him if I had enough money to buy Trackmania 2.

Rin ga Utau, Mirai no Neiro

If you remember the heady days of last week, I talked about a doujin circle that made a visual novel based on the Vocaloid series. Well guess what, they made more than one! The second on their series features the ever lovable “Not as good as her twin brother LenKagamine Rin, so let’s find out if this story is also just Chobits!

The game starts off with main character walking around what is presumably the exact same city from the last game, passing a singing android. Thinking nothing of it he heads back to his apartment to find that that same android has broken in and slept in his bed. After trying to kick her out, and realising that she is in fact a singing android, she finds out that the main character is in fact a music producer, and requests that they become partners. He agrees, somewhat reluctantly, to make one incredible song for Rin, who says all she’s ever wanted is a song to be composed specifically for her, and then after that, she’ll leave. The two work together on the track, and Rin decides that they should enter the song in a contest to try and win some money, and that the main character should also sing along with her. Some drama here and there and you’ve got yourself another Vocaloid-based visual novel y’all!

The game also features an incredibly short side story featuring Miku and the main character from the previous game. Here Miku is now a famous singer and they two have to make a new EP for the fans. It’s an incredibly short throwaway scene and doesn’t really expand on anything, so, there’s that.

There is a third in Supplement Time’s Vocaloid visual novel series, but unfortunately it hasn’t been translated yet, so until that’s translated I guess this brings a close to my coverage of their work. Man, first Downhill Night and now this, maybe I should wait until all three parts of a trilogy are translated before I talk about them.

The World God Only Knows II

Getting back into the swing of watching anime when I’m meant to be at lectures, I decided to marathon the 2 season of The World God Only Knows, an anime that’s so appropriate for this blog you guys don’t even know.

The anime follows Keima Katsuragi, known as the ‘capturing god’, a master of visual novels, who has completely ignored the real world in pursuit for the better 2D girls of visual novels. In season one, he accidentally makes a deal with hell, after thinking the e-mail he received was just spam, and is therefore joined by Elsea, a demon sent up from hell to capture loose souls. These loose souls attach themselves to the emptiness of a girls heart, and is it up to Keima to put his visual novel skills to use in the real world and win the hearts of the affected girls, and thus revealing and capturing the loose souls.

Each soul takes two or three episodes to capture, with the second season comprising of 4 souls being captured. The anime also sometimes just goes on about visual novels, sometimes is really amazing ways. One such instance is the final episode of the second season, which for the majority of the episode just pokes fun at Clannad, and Key in general.

It's kind of depressing when I knew exactly what the anime of parodying as soon as it showed up.

I really enjoyed it, for what that’s worth. Keima and Elsea have a rather silly rapport with each other, and it’s a rather inventive way to have the typical harem anime without an actual harem. In the first season it’s said that the girls forget about what happened when they are possessed by the loose souls, and therefore after Keima is done wooing them, he doesn’t actually have to keep in contact with them at all, since at most to them it was like a dream. However, in this season, it’s revealed that Keima still occupies their hearts, but for the most part the girls seem to be oblivious to this, and Keima even more so. Two girls from the previous season reappear in this one, one of them does the generic shying away from Keima when they’re talking, and the other is a teen pop star sensation, whose song lyrics just happen to be exactly describe Keima, but even when listening to the songs he can’t tell in the slightest. It gives the impression that eventually all of the stories could come back around in some fashion, but I’m still on the fence on whether or not that’d be a good approach to take. Regardless it’s a good series, and even has a teaser for the girls that will feature in the third season, so that’s a thing!

And that’s probably it! Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go back to coding that project I’ve been working on for over a year. It’s funny how I now have the drive to finish that just when university starts and I have a whole lot of work to do there. What’s the fun of having projects if you can’t procrastinate?

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 25.09.2011

What’s up guys?! Welcome to another edition to the blog that the enemy doesn’t want you to read! In this blog you might be so lucky as to find my confused ramblings about video games, visual novels, programming, anime and other stuff like that. So this week marked the first week of university. This marks two things, it means meeting up with friends and playing silly videogames until 3am, and it also marks the realisation that videogames are dead, I hate videogames, everything sucks and I hate you, fuck you leave me alone... but I digress. I should probably start typing about stuff!

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

Part of me feels bad that, until this week, I hadn’t actually played Crystal Chronicles before. Mostly due to the fact that I never really played a lot of multiplayer games, and having enough equipment to actually play a four player game of Crystal Chronicles is so insane that I didn’t know anyone crazy enough to be able to set it up. So now in university, I am lucky enough to know the most insane people in the world when it comes to games, who obviously have enough equipment to set up a Crystal Chronicles game on a whim.

Not really much to say here other then we ended up spending the better part of a night playing four player Crystal Chronicles loaded from an old save. This meant there wasn’t really any story context, and I was told to go the completely overpowered tank with ~60 attack and “just charge in and attack, I’ll heal you whenever”. Due to this I probably missed a huge chunk of the game, but I still had a lot of fun. The chalice carrying mechanic is super interesting, and a really great way of solving the problem of people just splitting away from the party. The only problem with it I could find is just how goddamn slow it makes movement. This was only intensified when my friend suggested we stop and cast haste. After spending TWO WHOLE MINUTES trying to figure out how to cast haste, when we started moving again I wasn’t even going any faster. In fact, if we HADN’T stopped to caste haste, we would have been to the boss of that level within those two minutes.

Fuck my friends.

Mario Party

At about 1am or so, having more games than common sense, we decided to switch to the Nintendo 64 and play Mario Party. The first thing we did after loading someone’s save, was go into the shop and buy the fly guy mini-game. The second thing we did was play the fly guy mini-game, aww yeah.

So for the three of you that don’t know what the fly guy mini-game is, you basically have ten seconds to rotate the Nintendo 64 control stick as many times as you can, to get the fly guy to fly around the room. The more rotations you made, the further the fly guy flies. Each of us had two turns to see who can get the highest score. After the first round, I was standing victorious, with 8 rotations more than anyone else. The second time, however, I got beaten by ONE ROTATION. I wouldn’t’ve minded this that much, if it wasn’t for the fact that in my second attempt I got the exact same amount of rotations as the first attempt. Not only that, but my palm burst the fuck open and was bleeding not but two seconds into the second attempt. I spent the rest of the game, and the rest of the night, not being able to close my hand without being in rather intense pain. Due to this, I ended up losing the actual game rather poorly, falling back into last place. We also had like 2 chance times per turn it felt like for the majority of the game, so in case you were wondering, Mario Party is still totally Mario Party.

Mario Party 4

The next day, most of us met back up (and by met back up I mean I walked in unannounced to the flat and just sat down in the living room until we played games) to play Mario Party 4. Not really much to say about this one because it’s still totally Mario Party. My hand had healed by this time, which means I completely and utterly dominated the entire match. Due to this I showed who the goddamn boss was by getting the most stars in the game, and then getting all three bonus stars as well to further show my party superstar dominance. Not any chance times in this game which is probably for the best, but meant that the game wasn’t as crazy as it could’ve been.

A few silly moments though. One of my friends managed to land right next to the star with 68 coins, and with no-one even close to him, there was no way he couldn’t get that star, or so he thought. He managed to get the short stick and was using the controller with a pretty unresponsive control stick. My turn was just before him, and landed on a battle circle, and would luck have it it was a 50 coin wager. I purposely chose the mini-game that involved rather precise movement using the control stick, meaning he was in dead last by an incredible margin. By the time his turn came around, with 2 coins short of getting the star that’s right in front of him, I’m surprised he didn’t kill me.

Space Station Silicon Valley

So something that I have been educated about is the existence of Space Station Silicon Valley, and I still can’t process that this is an actual game. Everything about it is just incredibly stupid in the best way possible and I... ok, let’s see if I can remember what this game is actually about.

So the game takes place in the year 3000, in a giant space station zoo that was created 1000 years ago and ended up drifting into space. The space station ended up drifting back to Earth and an astronaut and his AI companion is sent to investigate. Oh also the entire zoo is made up of robotic animals. Anyway when they two head to the space station they end up crashing and the AI companion gets destroyed. You play as the destroyed AI companion, as one of his chips survived, and you control that. You can possess the robotic animals to solve a bunch of puzzles in puzzle platform gameplay, while the astronaut just chills in the crash landed rocket doing nothing.

“So what I’m saying is this is the greatest game ever made.” Said my friend after he was done explaining this to me, as I sat there with an incredibly perplexed look on my face, looking at the TV screen as a king penguin was ordering smaller penguins to throw snowballs at a polar bear and then used a rocket propulsion out his ass to fly up to a higher platform to collect music notes.

Video games!

So there’s a weird aspect to Japanese culture that doesn’t seem to have a parallel when compared to western culture, and that is doujin circles. What these are are groups of people who create content on an amateur level, as opposed to anything professional. This has fucking fascinated me for the longest time, as it seems to be the next level up from people who draw fanart or write fanfiction, or delving into any level of groeuvre. Some of these circles do eventually go on to a more professional level. One such example is the amazing EasyGameStation, makers of Recettear and Chantelise. Before they made those, however, they made a completely unofficial sequel to the PS1 RPG Threads of Fate called Duo Princess. Pretty crazy if you ask me. Another doujin circle, and in fact is the focus of this week’s visual novel, is Supplement Time, a doujin circle that has made a number of visual novels based on the Vocaloid franchise.

Mirai no Kimi to, Subete no Uta ni

The first of their visual novels features the most well known character, Hastune Miku. The story follows another one of those generic university aged guy who lives by himself in a world where incredibly human looking androids are a commonplace. During a trek back home, he stumbles upon a girl asleep on the ground, and starts panicking. After his phone dies on him, he decides to carry her back to his flat, to take her out of the cold night. He then notices the fact that she has a number on her arm, which makes him realise she is actually an abandoned android, and decides it’s not really worth his time. His conscience gets the better of him, however, and ultimately decides to take her home anyway. He finds that the android’s name is Miku, and also picks up a CD that was with her. When he gets home he finds that the CD is in fact Miku’s install CD. After installing, Miku finally wakes up, but can’t speak, which is pretty much a prerequisite for a singing android. The story revolves around the two of them, them getting to know each other and the protagonist writing songs for Miku to sing.

I find this visual novel’s existence interesting, but then again as I said before the whole doujin circle culture is interesting to me so that makes sense. The visual novel itself is pretty straight forward. By which I mean the story doesn’t have any branch points so the story is literally straight forward with no player choices. It’s also pretty short all things considered, as you could probably get it finished in a few hours or so. I will say however, as rather slice of life the idea of ‘this Vocaloid character and a guy making music’ can get, the story does go in a rather clever direction in its quest for drama and to invoke some kind of emotional response.

Again this is a rather basic yet enjoyable visual novel that is worth checking out if you’re a fan of all this weird extended life that Vocaloid has manage to make for itself. Sometimes I even forget that Vocaloid is actually just some weird music program thanks to all of this.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

So earlier this week I embarked on the incredible journey of watching every episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and I ended up tweeting my reactions as I was watching, for added fun. I tried to keep my tweets as spoiler free as possible, while still giving people who have watched the series enough information to know exactly what parts I was referring to with the tweets. I won’t be delving too much into the big story points near the end of the series in this blog, but I will talk about some of the early stuff, so be warned I guess.

The story starts off with a dream sequence, the titular character Madoka sees a mysterious girl fighting a monster in a torn up city. A talking cat appears, telling her that she has the power to help the mysterious girl, as she is clearly not winning the fight. Eventually, Madoka wakes up, and heads to school. At school, as it turns out, there is a new transfer student, who just so happens to be the mysterious girl from her dream, called Homura. Later on that day Madoka hears a voice crying for help. When she goes to investigate, she sees the talking cat from her dream, being chased by Homura. Once rescued from Homura, the cat, known as Kyuubey. After being rescued by upper-classmate Mami, Madoka, along with her best friend Sayaka, learn about the world of the Magical Girls. Kyuubey reveals that he can turn girls into magical girls, and to do so the girl also gets one wish. The catch is, however, Magical Girls have to fight monsters known as Witches. Not only that, but beating Witches can be met with hostile Magical Girls, who want to destroy the Witches themselves. This is because defeating Witches produce Grief Seeds, items used to restore a Magical Girl’s magical powers. The majority of the story revolves around the idea of the Magical Girls, the hidden truth behind what the Magical Girls even are, and the interactions between Madoka and Homura.

As far as the overall story goes, I think it’s really well done. The story goes through many twist and turns, including one that just completely blew my mind that for the remainder of the episode I was sat there with my mouth agape. One of them that was super interesting was, and this is obviously a spoiler so if you’re interested in watching this series you should probably skip this paragraph, was what happened to Miki. Miki, as I stated previously, ended up saving Madoka and Sayaka from a previous witch encounter. However, in episode 3 during another witch hunt, she ends up getting decapitated and subsequently eaten by the witch they were hunting. Luckily, Homura was present, despite being tied up by Miki earlier, and ended up saving Madoka and Sayaka before they could make a wish and become Magical Girls, a fate that Homura is trying to prevent them doing. I found it interesting as I was almost completely convinced that the next chance she could, Madoka would use her wish to bring Miki back, but she never does. Instead using her death almost as a reality check, making her realise just how dangerous being a Magical Girl could be, and ends up not making a wish. It was a really interesting approach, and made me like the anime quite a bit more for not taking the obvious route, at least in my opinion.

The art style is also pretty crazy, whenever the Magical Girls fight these Witches; they go into what is quite possibly the Shadow Realm. In this realm the art style takes a drastic change, into Monty Python territory. Basically, the realm is animated using cut out images, as well as all the enemies, yet the main characters are still in their normal anime style. The contrast of these two incredibly different styles looks fantastic, and it’s something they use in pretty much every episode. While this isn’t as weird and disorientating as something like Bakemonogatari (which, rather unsurprisingly, was made by the same company, Shaft) it does give the anime a unique look and it is definitely better because of it.

The contrast really makes the weird witch realm seem like an uneasy and strange place to be for all the right reasons.

Overall Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a really cool anime, and it’s annoying that I feel that I can’t talk about what makes this anime really amazing here due to the fact that it’d be huge spoilers. I managed to get around to watching this anime without seeing any spoilers for it, despite some of my friends raving about it, and I feel like I was extremely better off because of it. So yeah, if you’re looking for some insane magic girl anime then I recommend checking it out!

And with that brings an end to another edition of my weekly blog. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go back to hating everything about videogames!

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 18.09.2011

Hello and welcome to my blog! Here, I talk about videogames, visual novels, anime, mashups and other junk. Well, when I put it like that, this is really just my place to tell you my terrible opinions on things, and obviously the internet needs more people to share their terrible opinions on things! Look at me, writing the words for a blog that no-one will hear. Why do I care? Regardless of the reason, just sit back, and enjoy all the stupid things that my brain tells my fingers to type onto this really loud and broken keyboard.

Stuntman

So following an argument on Twitter over the recent release of Driver: San Francisco with everyone’s favourite “Hater of good games” Slowbird said “what over games let you relive 70’s cop show chase sequences?” My answer? Stuntman, and because I’m either crazy or dedicated to playing nothing new that isn’t from an indie developer, I decided to play a little bit.

So, if you don’t know, Driver is a franchise in which you play as a stuntman, hence the name, as he is hired to drive the chase sequences in several movies. The game is presented in this weird behind the scenes documentary style in which you see the main character being interviewed about how the stunts work and sometimes just how he goes by his job. The first movie he works on in a 70’s cop show spoof, in which most of the stunts involve breaking through piles of boxes that just seem to be stacked up in the most convenient of places. The game is both checkpoint based and completionist based, which means you have to reach the checkpoints in time to advance through the car chase, but you won’t be able to advance to the next segment if you, for instance, miss too many stacks of boxes. The game is pretty good at letting you know what to do but the timing can be a little off depending on how fast you’re going. For instance, in the second movie, a cowboy-esque film, you are tasked with jumping through two trains as they pass by each other. The trains are timed so that the best gap will be available only if you execute the previous part flawlessly, as any accidental slowdowns, while completely fine for the checkpoints, will mean you reach the jump and just end up crashing into the trains. This is even done again shortly after that sequence, but the jump seems to be near impossible to hit. Luckily, you don’t have to pull off every last stunt to complete the level, so it’s possible to just let the train pass by and still progress through the game.

After every film, in which each film has five different sequences for you to pull off, you are greeted with the trailer to said film which might be the best part of the entire game. The trailers include some random shots of gameplay intercut with bag CG models of character spouting stupid clichéd lines at each other. So in that regard they pretty much nail all terrible movie trailers. After the trailer you get a mission in a giant sandbox area which includes things like drive up this ramp and hit this tower of cars. After one of these you move onto another movie. The movies seem to get ‘better’ as the story progresses, ending with a totally not Indiana Jones movie and a totally not James Bond movie.

The sandbox area is actually a whole other section of the game. As you complete action sequences you gain more items to use in the sandbox mode, such as flaming hoops and vertically placed cars. This mode is just here for goofing around, as the name forebodes, which is a nice addition but probably not the draw of the game.

Luigi’s Mansion

In my efforts to figure out where the hell my Gamecube game collection went, I stumbled upon Luigi’s Mansion, a game which I adore and one of only five games I own for the Gamecube that aren’t Sonic related or Mario Sports related. I’m sure I had a better Gamecube collection than that, it’s incredibly depressing.

I decided to play just a little bit, and decided to go for a no money run. What this means is, well, exactly what it says. I would try to go through the entire game without picking up any money whatsoever, and therefore getting the lowest score of 5000G, which is collected upon defeating the final boss and therefore obligatory bling... oblingatory.

There are several ways to go about this, one is by simply not collecting any coins or any anything, which is pretty much impossible due to the placement of a lot of the coins. Or just avoid as much as you can and keep getting hit. When you get hit in Luigi’s Mansion you lose a set amount of money you were carrying. Therefore, if you can game it right, you can collect a certain amount of coins that would be just too difficult to avoid, and then open a fake door, losing most of said coins in the process. The great thing about this system is when you lose coins; those will eventually blink out, saving you the trouble of avoiding them. However, the coins seem to have an impressive knack for bouncing straight back at you as soon as they are scattered, so multiple hits can be required to bring your score down to the oh so glorious 0.

The other problem with this is the boss ghosts. In Luigi’s Mansion there are certain ghosts that have patterns and 100 health. Once you start sucking them up, they will drop pearls for you to collect. Now, if I was playing the game the way it was meant to be played, I’d be trying to suck up the boss ghost in one go, thus making them drop the more valuable pearls. However, since I’m playing it in a rather perculiar way, I have to in fact avoid all the pearls, as these cannot be dropped when you get hit. Luckily for me, however, the pearls will only blink out eventually. So my strategy for the boss ghosts was just to take down a third of their health without picking up pearls, waiting for the pearls to blink out and repeat until they are dead. This all seemed like such a good idea before I started playing.

Final Fantasy X-2

Speaking of ideas that sounded good before I actually started them, I decided to play some Final Fantasy X-2, which is quite clearly the best Final Fantasy game. IN this game, you play as Yuna, P!nk and Twilight Sparkle on their quest to supplement Yuna’s batshit crazy obsession over Tidus and maybe save the world in the mean time or something.

So I believe Final Fantasy X-2 has the second best fighting mechanic out of the entire Final Fantasy series, second only to Final Fantasy XIII, and a rather weird jump from Final Fantasy X, which I consider having one of the worst fighting mechanics.

Final Fantasy X-2 battle mechanics pairs together two previous mechanics, Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy VII. In FFIII, you could assign any one of your four characters any class. Once you’ve selected a class, the more that one character uses that class the more proficient they will be. So while this does invite some level of switching about in between fights, there is also a good reason to assign each character their specific role, as they will be better in that role than the rest. Final Fantasy VII had a real time element to the battles, meaning instead of you choosing all of your party’s attacks and then watching them attack in some kind of order, each character had an action bar that would fill up, and be able to attack once this meter is full.

As I said, Final Fantasy X-2 marries these two concepts together. The game uses a dress sphere system, which means as that character’s turn, you can tell them to change class, or “change dress” if you will, allowing them to access different abilities and often have incredibly different stats. The Final Fantasy VII influence is in the real time aspect of these changes and the battles in general, as there is no punishment for changing classes in the middle of a match except from that character having to wait for their action bar to refill. Switching dresses can also boost the character’s stats in certain conditions. Throughout the game you will find sphere grids, and these dictate what classes the character can switch to at any given time. Each character has a sphere grid equipped, and these grids will contain the dress spheres themselves, all connected by lines. In the middle of a battle you can only switch to a dress that is directly connected to the dress that character is currently using. For example, if the dress sphere has White Mage connected to both Black Mage and Gunner, and Gunner Connected to Thief. A White Mage cannot directly change into a Thief, and will instead have to do two swaps to get to there. On top of this some links will have stat boosters, such as 5% more defence or 5% more magic attack. This means you can start a match and immediately switch dress to get these stat boosting effects for the duration of that battle.

I said earlier that I feel X-2 is the second best of the Final Fantasy series, battle system wise, thanks to the release of Final Fantast XIII. XIII is the straight evolution of X-2 when it comes to the battle system, and is a lot better off for it. In Final Fantasy XIII, instead of choosing different classes for each character individually, you create paradigms that have a set party of classes all at once. While this does narrow down the options for the player to choose from, I find it is in fact superior in every way. With this system, switching from ‘Attacker, Attacker, Attacker’ to ‘Attacker, Tank, Healer’ is a lot faster and easier than in X-2, and while playing I found that the lack of ability to customize every individual character’s class was completely erroneous, as with this ability a la X-2, I found myself going to very similar presets every time.

Also opinions.

Narcissu

I have a weird relationship with this visual novel, Narcissu is one of those starter visual novels that is probably one of the best recommendations to people who want to start reading visual novels as a whole. It’s a sweet, short tale, and best of all it’s completely free to download. The first time I checked out Narcissu was when I was just starting to read visual novels, and back then I didn’ much care for it. Now, unfortunately it’s the same situation.

Narcissu stars an unnamed protagonist called Yu Atou, a typical 20 year old university student who has been diagnosed with lung carcinoma. Because of this, he is admitted to hospital care, where to meets Setsumi Sakura, a terminally ill 22 year old. After a few meetings in the hospital, they team up to break out of the hospital, after realising they refuse to die in a place like that. The story is about their journey away from their family and the law, trying to make do with what they can steal and piece together.

There isn’t really a lot else to this story. The story is very much an experimental piece designed to make it seem that you, the person playing, is the main character in this story. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but that’s just not the way I play games. I can’t for better or worse put myself into the position of the main character in any game, even visual novel in which most are designed with this in mind. This, I think, is the reason I personally don’t have any real attachment to this visual novel, despite it being incredibly well received, spawning both a sequel and a prequel.

Having said that, I still believe this is a visual novel to check out. While brief, the way the two characters play off each other is rather well done, and makes their journey a rather believable one. IF you can put yourself in the main character’s shoes, maybe you’ll find out just why this visual novel is as loved as it is. And you can find the visual novel legally free by checking out this link here!

The Internet Is For Music

So this has been my pet project for the last, let’s call it, three weeks now. It started when I was just minding my own business, mashing together random songs for inspiration. Suddenly, the two songs I had chosen were Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Disturbed’s “The Game”. I thought this was pretty hilarious and decided to add a third song, “You Spin Me Right Round”. The final song was ok but was pretty stupid in retrospect, but it got me thinking. Could I in fact make an entire giant mashup using only internet meme songs? I was pretty sure at least someone had already done it, and even now I’m pretty sure than someone had beaten me to the punch. Despite that however, I set off, making what could possibly be the stupidest thing I’ve ever made.

If you like the mashup then please tell people about it! I’m fairly certain a mashup of internet memes has some form of audience on the internet, but I can’t seem to crack that very well. So yeah, sharing it would mean a lot to me, and please tell me what you think! I still have a lot of silly ideas for future themed giant mashups like this, and any input will, hopefully, improve those whenever I get a chance to make them.

And another week in the bag! I have no idea what’s going to happen from now on because Monday I officially start another year at University. What will be different? Am I going to completely change? Or will this year be exactly the same as the same as the last two and I’ll end up spending all of my time secluded in my flat playing porn games? Well I know which answer I’m going to be rooting for!

Oh and also.

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 11.09.2011

Hey and welcome to another blog entry! Here is where I reflect on my sad pitiful life of playing visual novels all the time, by trying to justify it by written about them in some kind of fashion. Accompanying this I also sometimes talk about videogames I’ve played, animes I’ve watched, or any projects I’ve been working on be it programming or magic DJ stuff. None of that stuff this week unfortunately because I’m so incredibly lazy. Oh well, hope you like it!

Rock of Ages

I decided to pre-order Rock of Ages on Steam only a third the way through the quick look on the game. I had heard some things about it but didn’t really know if I wanted to pony up the money to buy it from the trailer alone, but thankfully the quick look was compelling enough, and I just had to wait a week for it to be released on Steam, which happened to be on Thursday, hooray!

If you haven’t heard what Rock of Ages is, or the amount of “it’s this paired with this” is completely confusing you then... yeah, I don’t really know how to explain it either. It’s tower defence, Super Monkey Ball and Monty Python all rolled into one crazy package. The gameplay revolves around two different stages despite the game itself being all real time. Firstly, as your rock is being made, you have time to place your towers around your map, in the hopes to stop your opponent’s rock. Once your rock is completed, however, you start rolling your rock down your opponent’s map, trying to balance destroying the opponent’s buildings and towers and gaining enough momentum to deal damage to the opponent’s castle door. Once you’ve done this a few times (usually 3, if your rock doesn’t get destroyed) you’ll break the opponent’s door and be able to squash their leader, winning the game. Simple.

The emphasis is about 10% tower defence and 90% on the rock gameplay, so much so some games can easily be won by just ignoring the tower defence entirely, and using your money instead to buff up your rock to deal more damage to the opponent’s base. This is supported by the game including a time trail mode, where you can try for gold medals, getting through the maps as fast as possible. What this ultimately means is the game doesn’t have a very traditional tower defence aspect to it. Instead of the typical mentality of trying to destroy the enemies, or in this case the enemy’s rock, the tower defence portion should be more used to just inconvenience the opponent. Once you realise you can’t stop the rock you can’t stop, the rock, can’t stop the rock, shake that paranoia, dancing like Madonna, into the groovy, stop the rock you can’t stop the rock.

And instead all you stop be doing it making the level harder to navigate by blocking off shortcuts and using wind to knock the opponent off the edge, the game becomes a lot easier.

At least it does in the story mode. I found the story mode incredibly easy, not losing a single match, despite the rather broken AI. The AI is broken in two ways, and in some sense both ways balances each other out pretty well. First of all the AI is stupid when rolling their rock, usually slowing down for no real reason, even when you’re like me and leave your entire map blank of obstacles for the most part, and more than once will be completely confused with the concept of stairs, and just roll next to them and if they had a voice I’d imagine be shouting “OH GOD WHAT DO I DO I’M NOT GOOD WITH ROCKS” for a minute or two before jumping up and continuing on their way. This is beneficial for you, obviously, as if the opponent was great at navigating the map, it’d be rather hard to stop the rock, can’t stop the rock YOU CAN’T STOP, THE ROCK, CAN’T STO-

The other way leans more to the bullshit side of the scale, and that’s with the tower placements. The enemy starts off with a lot more money than you, even if you can’t see it it’s rather obvious, putting down the majority of their towers and obstacles before the first boulder has been made, and sometimes even having enough money left for the fire upgrade, just to rub it in even more. Comparatively before the first rock is made you will have enough money for one conglomerate of towers somewhere on the map, or spread extremely thinly throughout. It can be pretty annoying but like I said this sort of balances out with the bad AI rock controls, as war mammoths and wind contraptions at the very end of your map will beat almost every single opponent easily, and then war mammoths near canons (since some maps just have canons on them by default) is a great trap that the AI can never seem to figure out.

I haven’t played online at all, apart from a mutual agreed one win one lose “let’s get that trollface achievement” with a friend of mine) because I can see this game being incredibly bad for rage quitting. While comebacks can happen, if you know what you’re doing and you manage to hit their castle before they hit yours, the odds of them quitting out even at that stage I can see being extremely high. At the very end of a match when your castle door is destroyed and your character revealed, I can also seeing a very prominent “oops my internet cut out” point. Due to this I think I’ll just be playing against friends, and since I don’t have any friends... oh well, at least I got the trollface!

Once you complete the game there is the time trail mode, which I talked about before, but there are also collectable keys in each level. You only need 12 or so to get to the end of the game, but with 3 keys in every single level, there are a total of 54 in the game. These keys have three different kinds of placements. Some are placed in shortcut paths, teaching the player about what jumps they can make. Then some are placed in places not on the critical path, requiring you to go exploring a little bit. And then finally some are put in places designed for you to FUCKING DESTROY YOUR COMPUTER IN A FIT OF RAGE BECAUSE THEY ARE LIKE IN COMPLETE BULLSHIT PLACES AND THE TOP OF THE KEY DOESN’T HAVE HIT DETECTION SO YOU COULD TOTALLY GO THROUGH THE KEY WHEN TRYING TO COLLECT IT AND IT’S SO FUCKING BULLSHIT THREE HOURS IT TOOK ME TO GET THAT LAST KEY WHAT THE FLYING FUCK AAAAH CAN’T STOP THE ROCK.

I like this song if you couldn't tell.

Moero Downhill Night 2

So last week I talked about the amazing world of Downhill Night and all if it’s fake racing visual novel-ness. Well, as it turns out, there’s totally a sequel! So with that in mind, what better visual novel to talk about than that, the rather predictably named Moero Downhill Night 2.

While this is a sequel the only thing that really carries over is the idea of mixing racing decisions with the visual novel format, everything else has been tweaked. The game takes place a few decades after the events of the first game, and this time the main character is Akito, a rather average college student working part time for money, which he spends away at a local arcade playing a plethora of racing game that may or may not be Initial D. One faithful day Akito is in a car with his friend Rinka, who just so happens to be a racer in her own right, when suddenly she is challenged to a race. Akito is roped into helping her by being her navigator, a skill he seems to be pretty good at from playing arcade games all the time. Rinka and Akito eventually get noticed in the racing world and find themselves in a lot of downhill races along the path to eventually become the greatest racing team in the city.

The main difference in this game when compared to the first is that how the game is structured is completely different. Each day you get to choose what to do with your time, which boils down to ‘which girl do you want to hang out with’. The girls in this game, like the previous one, are racing rivals throughout the game, but with this system you can happen upon them before their appearance in the main storyline, and while it doesn’t really affect how the storyline goes, is preferred from the first game’s way of never mentioning girls after you beat them in a race.

The racing parts I found a lot harder in this game too, which might just be the more weird racing jargon that gets thrown out. Again, the main character is the navigator for the races. So in a race you are given a number of different choices to tackle, let’s say, a corner in the track. The options may range from trying speed up next to your opponent and force them onto the outside lane or taking it steady and try to catch up in the next straight. These options are accompanied with a timer so you only have a few seconds to make your decision, adding a bit of tenseness to the proceedings, but sometimes this just makes it hard to actually read every option before coming to a decision.

Not really much else to say about this one. All of the previous trappings of the last game are here too, such as the awesome 3D cutscenes and story trappings of wanting to be the very best racer in the world. While the very start of the game seems to completely dismiss everything from the first game story wise, the characters eventually find their way back to the ridge from the first game, racing against the daughter of the main characters from the first game, which I thought was a need little addition. There is in fact a third game in this series, Moero Downhill Night Blaze in which you actually do the goddamn racing! But right now it’s still not translated so... I’ll get to that one eventually!

Fan canon

A fan’s interpretation of canon, or I guess one could say the canon of a fan, or fan canon. I prefer to call it groeuvre.

Groeuvre

A groupie’s take on oeuvre is a curious one indeed, and it’s something I’ve never been too… consistent on, I guess. You can relate this to anything you want, because anything and everything has fan work written about it, but because I’m me you best get ready for some My Little Anecdotes. Anyway, on one hand the original stories are what happened to those characters, and those characters are written as they were originally intended to be by the author of those characters. Meddling with that and trying to apply different and convenient personalities to already established characters pretty much goes against everything that groeuvre should be. At that stage using already established characters is more of a hindrance to the story, as the reader would expect these characters to behave in a certain way. The other side of it, however, is stories that take place in an already existing universe and capitalize on that, but then place original characters for the story. This can be better or incredibly worse, as these original characters could become Mary Sues, which is what in my opinion ruins most groeuvres.

I’ve got a few examples of both bad and good. The first, bad one is in the form of most adult doujinshis, and I figured since this is a blog featuring porn games I can sort of get away with it. Most adult doujinshis I’ve read, for the story… of course, manipulate character personalities to an incredible degree, so much that it really takes away from the… story. An example I can recall is a doujinshi in the Final Fantasy XII universe, featuring, and I know this is only going to make things worse for me, Larsa. If you’ve played Final Fantasy XII you should remember Larsa as the completely confident little brother of the game’s main villain, the guy who despite being, like, 12, was more mature than Vaan and pretty much showed up at the end of the game and kicked the main villain’s ass to save the world. Incredibly confident and never surprised at anything the story would throw at the main party. It’s a really amazing characterization and he’s probably second only to Balthier for the award of most badass part of that entire game. But does that matter to the fan community? Nope! Whenever Larsa ever features in drawings or doujinshis (which I may or may not have on my hard drive DON’T JUDGE ME) he is reduced to the generic shota archetype; shy, timid, scared and naïve, a complete reversal from his actual personality. It goes against everything to do with that character and really shows one aspect of how bad groeuvres can be.

A good groeuvre I recent read came in the form of a My Little Pony story, one that was over 250 pages long and took me approximately 6 hours to read all the way through. In this story the Great and Powerful Trixie returns to Ponyville to challenge Twilight to a duel over the right to the title “Great and Powerful.” This sparks of an incredibly long plot in which Twilight and Trixie eventually become a couple, there’s a journey of self discovery and eventually culminating in a rather grand ending. The things that make this story really well done is that it takes small aspects from the original story, maybe twisting them very slightly, but just running with what has already been established. For those that don’t care, first of why are you reading this, but Trixie is a character that appeared in one episode of the first season, where she boasted she was the most magical unicorn in all Equestria, but then ultimately got shown up by Twilight. There isn’t really a lot of depth to her character shown on screen, making her rather apt for groeuvres to fill in the gaps, while still retaining all the elements that are already in place.

It was one of those stories that actually made me look at the character in a completely different light, but not in the sense that it’s changes anything. The story picks up on a few things in the episode that I didn’t think about in the slightest. Basically, in the episode Trixie claims she defeated a creature known as an Ursa Major, but when one comes to town (and what actually ended up being a baby, Ursa Minor) she admitted her lies but still went to attack regardless. When this is pointed out in the groeuvre as one of the reasons Twilight took an interest in her, it made me realize that if Trixie really was as stuck up and boastful as she was potrayed, she would have fled the town as soon as she could. Another thing this groeuvre does is say Ocatvia, a background pony in the last episode of the first season playing the double bass, is Pinkie Pie’s sister. I immediately scoffed at this being incredibly stupid, but then looking at the episodes it blew my mind. Pinkie does indeed have a sister with very similar coat and eye colour as Octavia (I’m willing to believe her hair darkened later on), and when Pinkie crashes Octavia’s band when they’re playing, she is the only one not shocked at what Pinkie Pie is doing, almost as if she’s already used to Pinkie Pie destroying everything.

I'M NOT CRAZY YOU'RE CRAZY SHUT UP

Anyway, I just wanted to bring this up and try to form it into some kind of question. What are your opinions of groeuvres? Do you think it’s the worst thing ever and these universes should not be tampered with by people not involved in creating them? Or do you think it’s a good way to expand on these universes and in fact is a compliment to the original that the original characters are so liked that they could inspire other stories written about them? I myself am sort of in the middle of both. I’m really not a fan of liberties taken with the original characters without some form of justification, but at the same time I’d come across a groeuvre so well realized that I can’t help but feel sad that the original source material might try to fill in those holes itself and contradict what happens in said groeuvre.

And that’s all I can be bothered writing this week! I don’t really have much of anything to say here other than I should have another mashup done next week. If you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll notice some references to Internet: The Mashup, and I might just have that thing finished sometime soon, depending on how many more terrible things I can fit in there. The whole idea is mashing together terrible internet songs, like Never Gonna Give You Up, Space Jam, Nyan Cat and stuff like that. If that description makes you hate everything then try listening to it. Oh god. I hate the internet so much. Ever since I’ve started this mashup I’ve had every single catchy song stuck in my head at the same time. You try going to sleep when all you can hear is Epic Sax Guy, Girl Generation’s “Gee” AND Banana Phone all at once!

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