Results of No-game November

I’m back! And I was going to write a lot about all kinds of things, but a photo speaks a thousand words:

That’s right folks, there’s gonna be some changes around here! But, uh, not till next week because that’s when I’ll buy a TV ^_^; Until then the PSTV will just have to look pretty in its box. I bought a Vita memory card too, but it’s so expensive my camera melts when I try to take a picture of it. Either that or I’m hallucinating due to sticker shock. What on earth was Sony thinking?

Top 5 discoveries of No-game November
  • Every single game on my backlog has been cleared off. Yes, even the Atelier games. If Xenoblade Chronicles 2 fell from the sky in front of me I would play it, but that’s about it. The rest have all been made redundant and sent home to reapply for their positions. Having too many games on my “To Play” list was stressing me out, so I decided to start afresh. The successful candidates will probably show up on my New Year’s Resolutions list for 2018, assuming we all make it that far.
  • I missed treasure chests! I missed action-packed combat! I missed colorful vistas! I missed otome games! I’m not sure how these things all go together, but it might provide some clues as to the kind of games I should be pursuing from now on.
  • That said, I discovered I can live without games pretty well. They’re not an idol or an emotional crutch and I certainly won’t fall apart if I can’t push a few buttons every once in a while. It wasn’t totally easy though. The hardest point was mid-November, around the 14th-15th. That was when I had been gameless for 2 weeks and had another 2-week drought to look forward to. Even visual novels started to look good, haha. But I hung in there. Second-hardest point was the last few days of the month because I felt tempted to cheat. Especially on the 30th, it was like I’ve been so good, surely one little peek at Paradise Bay won’t hurt, will it? I guess knowing it was only a month-long fast was what made it bearable. I know for sure that I wouldn’t want to quit forever, at least not at this point in time.
  • Gaming doesn’t really interfere with my daily life. I tend to play late at night when I wouldn’t be doing anything productive anyway. So you would expect that I went to bed much earlier in November, right? Nope! I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to fill the time with other worthless pursuits instead. I blame my smartphone. No-smartphone December? Ummmmmmm… <_>
  • Gaming mainly at night explains why I’m so impatient with talkative games these days: I’m sleepy! All this world-building, immersion, character development stuff is like a lullaby. I don’t mind if the story comes along once I’ve been playing a while but the lengthy prologues drive me crazy. Blah blah, the evil demon king has done this and that and this… Relax ma’am, I’m a hero. I’ll take care of the demon king so let me play already!

And some other stuff I learned about myself and video games that would take too long to explain right now. The long and short of it is that the break has left me hungry for games and the PSTV is about to satisfy that hunger. I’m so spoiled for choice I don’t know what to play first (OreShika? Demon Gaze? OreShika???)

For the rest of the week I’ll just pick and try games at random. I started Black Rock Shooter for the PSP in late October, figuring that if anything could get me to change my mind it would be an Imageepoch game. The combat is like Last Ranker gone wrong, the world is bleak and the characters are colorless. But there were glimmers of hope in there. I’ll fast-track its application and give it another hour to wow me. After that it’s PSTV time!

No-Game November!

I’m taking November off from playing games. It’s already been Day 3 of my self-imposed gaming fast and I feel fine. Actually I haven’t played much of anything since mid-October so it’s not too much of a difference. Not being able to check into Paradise Bay at least once a day itches a bit, though.

As for all the games I mentioned giving a second chance to a couple of posts ago… yeah, they’re all dropped. Good riddance. From December I’ll be starting anew with a fresh batch of games.

Why a break now? Because I’ve virtually exhausted my DS and PSP libraries. There are a few RPGs and otome games I haven’t played yet, but they’re mostly things I’m not really interested in. If I were interested I would have played them by now, see? After all I’ve had a DS for over 10 years and a PSP for over 6. That’s plenty of time. The 3DS is largely in the same boat, sadly enough. There’s SMTIV Apocalypse, DQ7 and then maybe I might try the Etrian Odyssey reboots but that’s about it. Wii and PS2 are on ice because I don’t have a TV any more (long story. Very long story).

Basically I’m out of things to play. That I really want to play, that is. That makes this is a good time to evaluate whether I want to move on to new consoles and handhelds or just clean up odds and ends and call it a day when it comes to gaming. Right now my mind is pretty firmly made up to get a PS Vita before the end of the year and Switch before the end of 2018 (Xenoblade 2!!!!). But that’s because I’m taking it for granted that I want to keep playing games. But do I really? Or am I just coasting off inertia?

No-Game November is an experiment to see if I’ll miss playing games this month, and if so how badly. I’ve done a gaming fast before a couple of years ago, but the circumstances were a bit different (another long story). November is a month for exploring other hobbies. It’s also a time to get in touch with my inner feelings and listen to the voice of the games with me… NOT! 😀

Okay, kinda. It will be useful to know know exactly what kind of games I feel like playing and when I feel like playing them. I’ve already learned that I miss Paradise Bay a lot, so maybe that means I should experiment more with cheerful, low-pressure casual games in future. I also realized I feel like playing games when I’m bored (duh) but also when I’m cranky or tired or have a lot to do and need to procrastinate. Obviously that means I should experiment more with more casual games. And I’ve realized I don’t feel like reading a lot any more, I just want to jump in and play as soon as possible. Yup, more casual games!

At the same time I wouldn’t mind playing an ARPG with a lot of loot and a lot of weapons in it. Something like Phantasy Star Portable or Rune Factory in terms of both mood and difficulty. I already have a couple of titles in mind so… No! Bad Kina! No games till December!

TL;DR – This blog is on hiatus until December while I decide whether to buy more consoles/handhelds or move in a more casual direction. See you guys next month!

Ace Attorney Investigations 2 – Faster to read spoilers online.

I “finished” Ace Attorney Investigations 2 last night by reading spoilers for the last two cases online. It’s not my fault. I was reading and reading and reading and reading and still the game wasn’t ending. And then this really gross-looking character called Blaise Debeste showed up like, ewwww, you know? Not the kind of guy I want to see at 1 in the morning. So I read summaries on a wiki. Hmm, hmm, ah so… Ya don’t say. A balloon eh, that’s new. Hmhmhm, I see I see. Okay, that’s a wrap! And that’s how I finished this bloody game at long last. I should have done this 6 months ago.

Brief final thoughts: It SUCKED. There’s no court scene in these games so the investigation and interrogation should make up for that, but it all takes so long. You can’t investigate until the game lets you. As soon as you’ve checked a few things, the Investigation auto-completes, whether you’re ready for it to end or not. Even before that, you can’t take two steps into a scene without that dumb Debeste kid and his irritating handler showing up to ruin your parade. And that’s not getting into how dumb it is of all of you to be traipsing around a crime scene with the body right there, no gloves, no protective shoes, no nothing, just grabbing bloody artifacts and shoving them into your pockets.

Every case dragged on waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long. And you have to argue every little case with every minor witness just to get them to tell you the time of day. Whyyyyy??? And the cases are so convoluted, and this one killed that one and hid him in this thing for this long and everyone’s carrying bodies left and right like there’s a two-for-one sale, and then that character was supposed to have done this thing but actually did that thing over there and on and on and on and on. AAHHH get to the point already!

And the accusations never make a lick of sense. Jeff Masters is arrested for killing a contestant just because they were in the same building. But then anyone else could have been a suspect, but noooooo, he’s the first one they found so it’s gotta be him.

And the prosecutors are so hypocritical. There’s a case where they accuse Kay of killing the victim because she may or may not have entered a room with her. But another character who definitely entered the same room says “It wasn’t me” and that’s the end of the matter. Well what were you doing there? “Stuff.” “Oh, okay.” And the matter is dropped just like that. You can’t prove Kay was there but I can prove you were there, but somehow I’m on the losing end?! Just because that one character can overrule anything she wants to no matter how much sense it makes? RRGHGHGHGH.

But if I start questioning that, I might as well stop playing the whole series. A lot of it is done on purpose to highlight just how corrupt the system is, but what’s the point of going that far if you end up turning the player off as well? Whatevs, I’m done. Not even gonna think about this game any more. At least now we know why it wasn’t localized. As with Soma Bringer, sometimes companies are doing us a favor when they let a game stay in Japan. Think on it.

BRB restarting FFXIII

It’s been so long since I played Final Fantasy XIII that I’ve forgotten how the battle mechanics work. Especially what Paradigms are used for and double-especially whatever that mechanic I was supposed to use to beat some scorpion-like mecha that wiped me out about 5 times. So I thought I’d start again, skip all the cutscenes till I get there and then resume my old save once I’m sure I have the hang of things again.

Incidentally the reason I stopped playing FFXIII was because of the controls. Somehow the keyboard controls just didn’t feel right even after several hours. I entertained the thought of buying a controller just for it, but it didn’t seem worth the trouble so I just quit. Recently it occurred to me that I could get one of those USB doohickeys that let you connect your PS2 controller to a PC. So that’s what I did. It’s not perfect – I’m going to need to remap the keys and the analog sticks to make them point where I want them to, but it feels much, much better than using the keyboard. As a bonus I’ll be able to use the controller when I’m emulating PSX games on ePSXE in future.

The problem right now is… replaying FFXIII is a dreary experience. TBH I haven’t missed it at all these past months. But my memory tells me I was starting to enjoy the battle system and the Crystarium thingy when I quit. Besides I’m not replaying the whole thing, just a little bit until I’m back to speed. Skipping all the cutscenes really makes you realize the “Corridor Simulator” claims aren’t far off at all. Run run run, fight, run run run, fight, run run run…

While that’s going on, I just remembered I haven’t finished Ace Attorney Investigations 2 either. I’ll be playing it on the side as well and will probably finish it long before I catch up in FFXIII. Details on this story as it progresses.

Oukoku Shoutengai – Being a mayor is more boring than I’d thought.

Oukoku Shoutengai is a 2010 simulation game made by Japanese indie developers inutoneko. I’ve had a blast playing their earlier games and was really looking forward to this one, but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. A marathon 5 hour session yesterday was enough for me. I’ll explain why in a second, but first the story/premise:

The city-state of Ishwald is in dire economic straits. Sister Sophia and her superior at the church of Ishwald decide to revitalize the rundown local shopping district in order to create jobs, generate funds and raise public morale. Unfortunately her superior has to leave almost immediately on official business. It’s all up to Sister Sophia to save the district, with a little help from her friends and a lot of bribery.

The reason I didn’t enjoy Oukoku Shoutengai as much as the others is because it requires much less micromanaging. There’s always something to do every day when you’re farming or running a restaurant or a shop. Managing a shopping district is a lot less labor-intensive and thus a lot less fun.

At the beginning of the season you have two main jobs to do. The first is to lease shops to interested businesses. In selecting the best fit for the spaces, you must consider a number of factors. Can you afford to pay them to set up shop? You pay them a signing fee and make it back with a cut of their profits, so you’ll be looking for profitable shops with a high demand for their services.

The percentage sign shows the level of demand. You also have to think about store quality, target demographic (young, old, male female), seasonal popularity (e.g. a swimsuit store will do better in the summer) and a few other things along those lines. You want a good mix to keep different people coming in. But in the end it’s all stuff you get out of the way on day one of the season.

After that you just kind of sit there and watch the customers roll in for the next 30 days. Morning to evening, morning to evening, just sitting and watching customers going in and out and slowly making money. Morning to evening, sitting and watching, sitting and watching, sitting and watching, sitting and watching, sitting and watching… If you don’t get the picture I can repeat “sitting and watching” another hundred times until you do, feel free to ask. It will be more interesting than actually playing Oukoku Shoutengai, I guarantee it.

The other thing you do at the start of the season is meet the newest members of the City Council and try to establish friendly relations with them. That’s a euphemism for “bribe the hell out of them so they’ll pass the legislation you want.” Oh wait, it’s only called bribery when it’s done in third world countries right? Lobbying, that’s the word. You lobby the fine upstanding ladies and gentlemen of the Council once a month.

The star next to a member’s name means you’ve already “taken good care” of them that month. The percentage shows how much they like you, which goes up faster if you get them stuff they prefer. Some of them want money (err “political donations”), some of them want land, some want free labor, others want your hard-earned Guild points. It’s not really optional either, since you have to go through the Council to get a lot of things done. Want a grant? Pay us. Want more land? Pay us. Better security? Pay us. They’re like the Mafia but even more blatant.

The higher a council member’s level (D > E > F etc.) the more weight they carry at council meetings, so you want to lobby them first and foremost. You can pass legislation to raise the level of the members, but this is a bad idea if you do it too soon. I learned that the hard way. More powerful members can give you bigger benefits, but they also have outrageous appetites. Stick to the petty criminals at the start.

Council meetings take place on the 14th and 28th of the month and you can see above that they rejected my humble appeal for more GP because they didn’t like me enough. No refunds for the money I spent wining and dining them either. Plus the council gets shuffled every season, presumably to prevent corruption, so you have to work with a largely new council every season. The good news is that affection is cumulative AND the pool of members is limited. Keep up the bribery long enough and eventually everyone will hit 100%. Phew!

So those are the two main activities Oukoku Shoutengai offers. I’ll admit that bribery lobbying is kinda fun, but it only takes a few seconds here and there. Same with picking shops. The other 95% of the game is just sitting and watching and sitting and watching. Oh sure, there are a few more things you can do like:

  • They added half-body portraits for cutscenes, which is nice. But Tico’s chest is just… ???

    Play mini-games and chat with people who stop by. The characters have made a bit of progress in their relationships (Eve is finally getting the message that Fill doesn’t like her) but the story moves so slowly that it’s not worth reading.

  • Expand your stores using forage materials like sticks, stones and water.
  • Buy maps and send adventurers to forage for items. This is an extremely dreary process you have 0 control over. Adventurers will pick up very little at the start and will frequently die to bosses, resetting exploration progress to zero.
  • Occasionally assign extra staff to stores to cope with demand.
  • Research forage items so you can make your own via a magical garden.
  • Do a little meaningless alchemy with items you have lying around.
  • Do a little shopping for items to expand your store.

But all these still take up only a tiny fraction of your time. The rest of the game is spent sitting and watching. And I don’t play games just to sit and watch. The developers should have added the option to skip up to a whole season at a time and give you a rundown of your profits. They could also have added more things to manage like sanitation, inspections, advertising, hiring assistants, charity work, active participation in festivals, taxes, etc etc etc.

This is one of Inutoneko’s lazier efforts and barely qualifies as a game. I’m happy to cut them a lot of slack in recognition of past achievements though. After all even the late great Imageepoch of Time and Eternity fame made the occasional dud. Besides, meager as it was, Oukoku Shoutengai did scratch my simulation game itch. I’m ready to get back to more robust game systems now.

Next up: We’re into the last quarter of the year, which means it’s time to clean up loose ends. Time to take another look at games I stopped playing but haven’t definitively dropped yet. Off the top of the head I can think of Final Fantasy XIII, Legend of Legacy, Summon Night 5 and Operation Abyss. The point is not necessarily to finish them but to arrive at some sort of conclusion with each one. First up is FFXIII.