Mind Zero – Needs more variety

mind zero choose a weaponThe Amazon blurb for Mind Zero says: “Mind Zero is an action-packed dungeon crawler RPG for the handheld entertainment Play as Kei, a Japanese high school student, whose life turns upside down when he gains the power of “Mind,” a weapon/persona with deadly powers.” Wait, “action-packed”? Now I know the copywriter is just doing his job talking up the game, but is really okay to lie so blatantly about a product page? If this game is action-packed then I’m the queen of England!

mind zero spirits path floor 1

Whee?

No seriously, I’m enjoying Mind Zero so far, it has its charms and I can think of many positive ways to describe it, but “action-packed” it is definitely not. Granted, this game doesn’t have a timer (or at least I can’t find one) so I don’t know how long I’ve been playing for, but it’s a minimum of 6-7 hours and almost nothing has happened in the game.

Our group discovered they all had “minds” (persona, not brains) and met two other people who also had minds. Everything else has been slow dungeon crawling through the most boring dungeons I’ve ever seen. Even Conception had better dungeons, and that was a dating sim. Square room, rectangular room, loooong pathway, more long pathways, a treasure chest or boss every once in a while but mostly just path after featureless path after featureless path. Very uninspired and uninspiring design.

mind zero first battleOn top of that each dungeon only seems to have three or four kinds of enemies in it. I’ve only done two dungeons, so maybe it gets better later but I went through three floors of Spirit’s Path fighting just three kinds of enemies, then they added the soul balancers around floor 4 and the scorpion things around floor 5 and that’s it so far. It’s been enough to make me yawn a few times, and once I scratched my arm because a mosquito bit me, but that’s hardly what I’d call “action-packed.”

The lyin’ blurb also says I will eventually “master skills and become even more powerful,” but right now I’m fighting the enemies with the same three or four skills (Power Break, Strike, Candle, Arcane whatsit) so it’s not exciting at all. Unlike the SMT games Mind Zero is clearly modeled after, you can’t change minds or summon demons, so you have to watch the same monsters executing the same attacks using the same animations over and over and over again… and I’m only a few hours in. Oh boy. As the game goes along I’m sure more dungeons will open up and more skills will become available and things will liven up on the battle front. They do just that and me and Mind Zero will be totally cool.

Aww right, blushing stage! He's mine now! ...oops, wrong genre.

Aww right, blushing stage! He’s mine now! …ack, wrong genre!

After all I’m fairly happy with the story and characters so far. As I said, nothing much has happened plotwise yet, which means its still full of potential. Potential disaster or potential masterpiece or something in-between, only time will tell which way the coin lands.

The characters are the usual wacky band of anime high-school students with all the attendant bickering and sniping at each other that you get in any high-school anime/video game. It’s only a matter of time before they start talking about the bonds that tie them together that will enable them to overcome any force of evil, blah blah blah. The familiar is so comforting sometimes.

In the meantime I’m enjoying playing an ordinary turn-based RPG for the first time in a long time. Since Rezel Cross in January, in fact, and before that was SMTIV in September. I need more ordinary RPGs in my life, so it was really nice of Aksys Games to port this over to the PC so I could play it without buying a Vita. I’m going to try to incorporate more such games into my schedule, even if it means digging up unplayed gems on the PS1 or GBA or older systems. But first, one thing at a time, I’m going to play a little more Mind Zero and see how it turns out. Wish me luck!

Whining and Gaming

NintendoHalf of 2016 has gone by and I haven’t played a single game in my New Year’s Resolutions. Losing the 3DS has done a real number on my gaming motivation because it had all the Stuff I’m Really Excited About on it. I still have a DS, PSP, PS2 and Wii, but I’ve had them for years so I’m way past the excitement stage and well into ‘Stuff I’ve Heard About’ and ‘Stuff I’m Somewhat Curious About’ and ‘Stuff I Might Play Someday If There’s Nothing Better Available’ territory. That last category includes Summon Night 5, the only non-3DS game on the list, which also falls under ‘Stuff I Feel Obliged to Play Because a Company Went Through The Trouble of Localizing it.’ (It’s complicated between me and SN, don’t worry about it).

nintendo 3ds xl nes editionI hadn’t realized it until now, but it’s the Stuff I’m Really Excited About that gives me the energy and motivation to play all the other games I’m interested in. It’s like how in the some companies a few low-risk, high-return products subsidize lower-return products and riskier experimental stuff. In my mind at least I always had something good to look forward to so it didn’t matter if Random Game X sucked because Super-Mega-Hit Y would make it all better soon. In practice the games I expected much from often let me down while I found surprise favorites in unexpected places, but it turns out the mental anticipation factor was more important that I’d given it credit for. No wonder game companies spend so much money hyping up their new releases.

Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying I’m still mourning the loss of the 3DS. Or more accurately I’m mourning my carelessness in losing it… or getting it stolen, not sure, either way it’s still carelessness. I WANTED TO PLAY 7TH DRAGON III!!!! But I’m not going to mope forever, just for another month or so. If I don’t find it by the end of July I’m buying another one and then we’ll be back on track. Actually I’ll be buying two other ones, one as a replacement and one for myself. Let this be a lesson to all of us that it never pays to be cheap. If you like something, buy your own! Just glad I learned this lesson before I borrowed someone’s $10,000 Cartier watch, aha aha haa…

game pianoIn the meantime I’m going to whine and mope a little longer. Waah, woe is meeee, why always meeheeehee~ I am obviously the victim here even though I’m the one who damaged and then lost someone else’s handheld, boo hoo hoo. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I’ve channeled a lot of that gaming energy into other pursuits, especially the piano. I’m finally starting to regain the form I had before I quit all those years ago, and it feels incredible. Go me! And of course I’m still dabbling in games here and there, so here’s a little update on my recent progress (or lack thereof):

Shiren-the-Wanderer-The-Tower-of-Fortune-and-the-Dice-of-Fate-artShiren the Wanderer 5: Only 3 deaths so far, but that’s because I’ve only gone on 3 more adventures. When I hit Fortune Tower proper, I discovered it features the same day-night cycle as Shiren 4 did, and I don’t know if I want to go through the stress of juggling all those skills and trying to survive all night against enemies that can OHKO you, etc etc.

It’s a good addition for people who enjoy the more intellectual side of roguelikes, i.e. not just brute forcing your way through battles but using wits, items, evasion and a lot of luck. It’s fun when you get the hang of it, but also more work than I’m willing to put in right now, so I’m taking it really slow.

granblue bingoGranblue Fantasy: Level 62. I’m taking it easy here as well, because I’m in for the long haul. Currently cleaning up a few quests I hadn’t done, also enjoying beating up on Sagittarius, Vohu Manah and other Extreme bosses that wouldn’t give me the time of the day last time I tried them. Who’s your daddy now? I mean mommy. I’ll keep taking it easy till Unite and Fight at the end of the month, try to complete my fancy dagger, then go back to taking it easy again. That’s the way to play this kind of grindfest mobage without going crazy.

Sakura Taisen 3: Picked it up again after a short break. I could knock it out by the end of the week if I played it seriously, but I’ve hit the part of the game where I have to fight stronger versions of the same bosses I beat  in the first half of the game, and I’m just not feeling it. But I’ll hit the endgame if I can just push through this slow bit, so I’ll give it my best shot.

That’s it for what I’m working on. Once I clear either Shiren or ST3 from my queue I’ll feel free to start something new. Until then/until the end of the month, don’t expect much by way of updates.

Shiren the Wanderer 5 – Waiting for death

shiren the wanderer the tower of fortune and the dice of fateIncy-wincy Shiren went up the Fortune Tower
Down came the monsters and knocked the Shiren out
Out came the finger and turned the DS off
And the incy-wincy Shiren went up the tower no more

How do you like my song? ^_^ Strictly speaking I haven’t quit yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Since the first Shiren game I’ve been coping with the sheer number of KOs by myself a mental target for number of deaths and then quitting when I reach it. This time it’s 25 deaths. If I haven’t cleared the game by that point then it just wasn’t meant to be.

That’s especially true this time because Shiren the Wanderer 5 is quite generous with the Revival and Take home herbs, at least at this early stage. Story-wise I’m supposed to help some guy Jirokichi save his girlfriend’s life by facing the god of fortune at the top of the Tower of Fortune. To even get into that tower we have to get the dice of fate from three lower towers, the Tower of the Past, the Tower of the Present and the Tower of the Future, in order of difficulty. Past was nice and easy, just the way I like it. Present, died once when a monster put me to sleep. Stay away from the sleeping monsters!!! But the next run went pretty smoothly. Next up is the Future. The game gave it a pretty scary write-up at the start, but I’ve got some good equips and items, I should be okay. Maybe. If not, there’s always the 25-death limit to fall back on.

shiren the wanderer 5 psvita versionI should note that strictly speaking I don’t have to do the Tower of Fortune, at least not right away. Unlike the other Shiren games I’ve played, there are several side dungeons open already at the start of the game. There’s the usual tutorial dungeon, and one where you get to pick which level to start on (with your level scaled to match) and another based on Minesweeper and another with stone statues that do… something or the other. I only heard the descriptions from the dungeon keepers, never tried any of them. If there’s a main story dungeon then I feel compelled to do that one first, whether I’m forced to or not. If you’re really curious you can find out for yourself in a month’s time when Shiren the Wanderer 5 comes out in English on the PSVITA.

shiren the wanderer 5As for new gameplay features, I haven’t noticed very many so far. Nothing that really stands out, at least, especially compared to the day/night system in Shiren 4. I would definitely notice a change of that magnitude! I’ve seen a number of “Good against X-type enemies” weapons around. And there’s the option to buy friendship items that befriend all enemies of a certain type. E.g. all Mamul-types in the game will start fighting for you instead of against you. That’s interesting. I would experiment with it, but if the friendly monster dies the enemy that killed it will probably get a level up and then I’ll have a big problem on my hands. I think I’ll stick to my party members, thank you very much. At least they aren’t as frail as past companions have been.

Apart from that it’s just Mystery Dungeon business as usual in Shiren-land. The major differences will mostly likely come from the side dungeons and post-game bonus dungeons, which is why the main quest throws all these companions and useful herbs and stuff at you with abandon. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be able to finish this one, but since the game is being so nice I’ll give it my best shot. I’ll be back when I hit the limit or finish the game, whichever one comes first.

Hit level 50 in Granblue Fantasy

granblue fantasy four-sky bladeNo, PartymePlox, I am not dead. So sorry to disappoint you. :-p I just haven’t played anything in the past two weeks that isn’t a mobile game or a browser game, and as I mentioned before I find them quite boring to write about. Especially for games like Granblue Fantasy where posts by higher-level players are so full of jargon like MLB (baseball?) and ‘mats’ and ‘pools’ and so on and so forth, even a fellow player like me can only take so much. Still, for lack of anything better to write about, and so people don’t think this blog is dead, here goes nothing:

I reached level 50 in Granblue Fantasy. The first 30 levels fly really quickly as they tend do to in this sort of game. The next 10 levels, not so quickly but not too slowly either. 40-50 was a chore. It didn’t take that long but it was a slog because only my main character was getting EXP. All the other party members were just sitting there kind of watching me.

More stuff to grind for, whee.

More stuff to grind for, whee.

See, I’ve reached a point in the game where all my characters’ levels are capped and they need items known as Champion Merits to keep leveling up. Champion Merits are hard for weaker players to get (meanwhile higher-leveled ones constantly whine about having too many. I hate those guys) but I heard after level 50 I could get into certain raids where the boss dropped them “like candy.” So I worked hard, patiently grinding story mission after event battle after story mission, finally reached 50 and then… nada. Nothing. Not a hair nor hide of a Proto-Bahamut raid. Mr. Bahamut? Mr. Bahaaamuuut? Nope, no sign. ………..not even sure how to feel. Well he’ll show up when he’s ready.

Luckily I’m enjoying the rest of the game apart from that little hold up. I got lucky and picked up some useful units and weapons from the lottery at the end of May. With a nice dark weapon from the current event and the addition of Yuri and Vaserga to my team, even the Extreme light Vacheron doesn’t stand a chance against me. Ahh, I remember the days when even “Normal” battles were a slog, and now I’m soloing Hard summons (okay not all of them) and beating Extreme bosses, so sweet.

This is my dark team, btw:

granblue fantasy kina dark teamAnd this is my dark weapon pool:

granblue fantasy weapon poolAnd my summons for what they’re worth. Anubis is actually really useful, because that boost to critical triggers more often than not. It’s especially sweet during a Charge attack, where it makes mincemeat of the Extreme boss’s overdrive.

granblue dark summonsI also have decent water (Silva is just plain awesome) and wind teams and crappy everything else. Of course the veterans will go on about how hard it is to fill a dark weapon pool and blah blah Bahamut blah Unknown weapons blah blah Omega, etc etc. Just ignore everybody and play how you like, is my ninja way. In a random game like this you have to do your best with what the game gives you, and what I’ve been given so far is good dark weapons, so I’m sticking with them.

granblue fantasy hard yggdrasilHaving come this far and spent the better part of a month on Grindblue Fantasy, I think I’m qualified to make a recommendation about whether to play it or not to potential players. First, it really is all about grinding. You really will have to do the same things over and over and over again to get anywhere. Events, casino, trials, it’s all the same thing. Even the story quests and free quests all boil down to fighting the same monsters several times in a row. If that’s not your sort of thing, don’t even bother.

granblue main page bSecondly, getting strong is a long-term prospect. Unless you’re willing to plow several months of work into the game or pay a lot of money, don’t expect to be soloing or even MVPing Omega and higher raids for a long time to come. I suppose that isn’t news to anyone familiar with MMORPGs, but it’s taken me a while to wrap my head around the concept. If I poured the same amount of time into most ‘regular’ RPGs, I’d be long done plus post-game content plus bonus content and everything. “I’m working so hard and I’m not getting anywhere. What is wrong with this game?” Nothing, that’s just the way it’s designed.

If you can look past those two issues – or if that’s the exactly the kind of thing you’re looking for, welcome aboard! Despite the slowness and the grind, I can clearly feel my party getting stronger by the day. That’s what keeps me playing because I just love that sense-of-growth feeling in games. That’s the only thing you play Granblue Fantasy for anyway, since the story is not that good (plus the translation quality is so spotty) and there’s nothing else to do in the game. Grind, get a little stronger, grind better mobs, get a little stronger, and on and on.

The key is to pace yourself so you don’t burn out. And I should really take my own advice, but first I want to grind out all the rewards from this Tales event, especially that cool-looking katana, THEN I’ll pace myself. So another 3 days of Granblue and then I’ll get on to those games I’ve been meaning to start all along. Uh, probably. See you sometime this month. Uh, maybe.

Kirameki School Life SP – Masaru GET! (lol)

kirameki school life spKirameki School Life SP is a bonus game that came bundled with the limited edition of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Portable. In-universe, Kirameki School Life is a thinly-veiled parody of Tokimeki Memorial that the characters of the Boku wa Tomodachi anime play in episode 2. The anime itself is just okay, but that episode is a fun watch for anyone who enjoys videogames/visual novels. It’s all downhill from here so you can quit after episode 2.

When the characters played Kirameki School Life SP, it was funny to see them doing the exact opposite of everything you’re supposed to do in a real dating sim (i.e. being nasty to all the girls, focusing on one stat to the exclusion of all others, ignoring events), with predictably bad results. The problem is the Kirameki game itself, in-universe and in real life, is a fairly serious and totally bland Tokimemo copy. Without the snarky commentary and bad decisions, it’s really not worth the time to play.

To remedy that the game comes with a Commentary option and a No Commentary option. I wanted to see if the game could stand on its own (psst, it can’t) so I started without commentary. This was a mistake because the writing is so dull and pedestrian it really needs someone poking fun at it to liven it up and keep readers awake. On top of that the game has plenty of other problems, such as:

  • Yozora is the sourpuss on the left.

    Yozora is the sourpuss on the left.

    High school is supposed to be three years long, but anime character Yozora forcefully takes control of the game in the first year and chooses the meanest, nastiest responses possible while spending the whole year studying. You only regain control in year 2 with 0 affection from all characters and a high education stat that actually means nothing.

  • Even worse, (and I didn’t know this at the time) although there are 7 girls you can romance in-game, you can only get to year 3 with the two main heroines, Akari and Yukiko. Everyone else gets an ending after year 2. In other words most of the time the game only covers one year of high school.
  • Good... Mourinho?

    Good… Mourinho?

    This is made worse by the fact that the supporting girls are way more interesting than the main two. Nothing against Akari and Yukiko, but they’re just Generic Nice Girl and Generic Quiet Bookworm respectively. The other girls are much more interesting. For example I discovered during the Christmas party that there’s more to Tsundere Rich Girl Karen that meets the eye. Then there’s some family drama going on with Akari’s little sister Miho that I’d love to learn more about. And Aina’s messed up Japanese is so over the top it’s funny. I’d much rather have had full routes for those girls than for the mains.

  • kirameki school life stat raising successI usually like stat-raising sims, but this one let me down. Stats affect events, what answers you can give and what ending you get so it’s not like they’re unimportant, but the raising process is ridiculously boring. You just train, train, train week in, week out on and on and on till the game ends. Stats only go up, they don’t go down. You can’t fail an activity either, you either do well or not so well. Not exciting at all.
  • MC is also ridiculously fragile so you have to keep his stamina above 75 all the time or he’ll fall sick. A lot of time is wasted just watching Mr. Delicate lounge around in his pajamas. Isn’t there some paint drying that I could watch instead?

kirameki school life nagata yukiko at the festivalSo the game wasn’t that much fun to play, and on top of all that I got a bad end instead of the girl I’d been aiming for. I went after Nagata Yukiko (any resemblance to Nagato Yuki of Haruhi is purely coincidental) but failed to get 720 Intelligence before the start of my third year, so the game ended right there and there. The day before I was hanging out with all the girls and we’re all buddies and stuff. The very next day they’re treating me like something stuck on the bottom of a shoe. It’s too cruel, I tell you. So I went and complained to my buddy Masaru and he’s like “Women, huh? Don’t worry, I’ll stick by you. Let’s be FOREVER RONERY together.”

And then Masaru was a real bro.

kirameki school life masaru end*snf* Thanks Masaru. I’m sorry I was such a jerk in my first year. After this first run the plan was to replay the game with commentary this time, but now I’m not confident I want to date the kind of girl who would turn on me so coldly and so suddenly. …Although it just occurred to me that maybe Masaru spread rumors about me to kill my popularity so he could have me to himself… or maybe to pay me back for my rudeness in freshman year…? But how could I ever doubt my dear friend Masaru, good old Masaru. Besides, it’s the girls’ fault for believing him even if it’s true. I’m still done.

So Kirameki School Life was a vaguely amusing diversion but not a good game in its own right. And in its defense it wasn’t meant to be anything of the sort, that’s why it was bundled with the main Haganai game instead of being released on its own. I was and still am looking for something relaxing and grind-free after Granblue Fantasy and Stranger of Sword City so this was a good start. Next up, maybe an otome game and then Shiren the Wanderer 5.