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.

Made it to level 40 in Granblue Fantasy

granblue fantasy kina currentThe honeymoon period is over and now the grind begins. I will give credit where credit is due and say there’s a lot to do in Granblue Fantasy at all times, but that doesn’t change the fact that to get anywhere fast, you’re going to have to do the same tasks over and over again to get them. Want to uncap your characters’ levels? Grind the trial/Angel Halo quests, grind the co-op quests, grind for crystals and treasures to trade for them, grind for crystals to roll for cerulean sparks to trade for items, etc etc. Want more weapons? Do quests for crystals, do quests for tickets, grind raids and hope to get lucky, then when you’ve done all that, grind for another 3 copies of the same weapon so you can unlock its true power, and on and it goes.

Which is not to say that it’s not fun (for a certain definition of “fun”) or that I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started Grindblue Fantasy. I had some downtime last week, so I played from 8am to 8pm on Thursday, got some good time in on Friday and Saturday and played a little more on Monday and now I’m level 40! I feel a little bit stronger. I can do the Hard trial/Angel quests with ease now (though Grand Order always helps) whereas I got slaughtered the first time I tried them. That’s good. But with that kind of investment, I could have finished or gotten pretty far in another RPG. It would be one thing if Granblue had a definite endpoint, but it’s going to go on forever. I’m not willing to put that kind of time and investment in an endless grind, so I’m dialing back my commitment here.

Aha, so the Black Knight joins you, does she? Thanks for spoiling!

Aha, so the Black Knight joins you, does she? Thanks for spoiling!

Besides, with the way the game works, unless you pay through the nose, people who started years before you (i.e. the majority of Japanese players) will always be stronger than you and run around one-shotting lv. 100 raids like they were nothing. I’m an all or nothing kind of person, so I’d be totally demoralized if I tried to keep up with that.

So my ‘goal’ right now, as far as you can have a goal in this kind of game… was going to be seeing what happened in the story, but since the game is endless, the story is bound to be endless as well. That’s why everyone’s acting all mysterious and not sharing what they know. And it’s kind of ridiculous how every tiny bit of story is preceded and followed by a battle against monsters. But I don’t have anything else to aim for that isn’t a grindfest, so we’ll go with that for now.

Atrocious translation aside (seriously, the developers ought to sue their translation agency) the story isn’t that bad. I’d describe it as “comfortably cliched”. It hits all the usual RPG tropes without trying to do anything radical with them, which is only to be expected when you’re trying to write something that will please millions of people of all ages and keep them spending tons of money on your game.

So stop inflicting it on me!

So stop inflicting it on me!

The upside of that is I can progress without worrying about unpleasant surprises or betrayals (can’t have someone’s favorite character turn bad! They might stop playing!) or deaths (same) or similar dark turns of story. The downside? It’s pretty boring and predictable. There are some interesting characters in there so a good localization could have made something truly memorable out of this, but well, it is what it is.

Unless something really major happens or I drop the game, I don’t think I’ll be giving many more updates on Granblue Fantasy. There isn’t much to say, you see. Day 1: Grind. Day 2: Grind grind. Day 3: GrindOoh, shiny weapon drop that is actually totally useless because it’s the wrong size/shape/color, grind, grind. I don’t mind playing through it (it’s a lot more exciting than I’m making it sound, honest) but it would be boring to write about, so just assume I’m playing it. My agenda for the next couple of weeks/months/till I get tired:

  • Play Unite and Fight and another other events that come my way. Especially if they involve raids. Raids are awesome!
  • Uncap all my characters and watch all their fate episodes, just because.
  • Continue the story whenever I can find the time. Just finished chapter 28. Die, Mithra, die! (Psst: if Mithra ensures that all promises are fulfilled, then why doesn’t the Chancellor just say “Lyria! I promise to capture you and take you back to the empire!” and leave the rest up to the primal beast?)
  • Leech raids because raids are fun.
  • I hate co-op but the rewards are too good to pass up so, ugh, do co-op every day.

And that’s about it. Nothing that requires urgent grinding. My ID is 11330337 if anyone wants to add me, with the caveat that I’m really weak with no intention of growing stronger soon.

Next up, I don’t think I have it in me to finish my Stranger of Sword City replay, so I’m just going to be honest with myself and shelve it. Sakura Taisen 3 I’ll get to it when I get to it. Which leaves me with starting something new on the PSP/DS/PC. I’m thinking Shiren the Wanderer 5 or something similar where I’ll die quickly and move on. We’ll see.

Okay, so I started Granblue Fantasy

granblue fantasyBecause I said I would, and because there’s a joint event with Sakura Taisen going on. Said joint event is really boring, so I just grabbed Sakura and got out of there. I’d rather play the real thing if it’s all the same to you. The fun in ST is watching all the different characters play off each other, and you don’t really get that here.

But I digress. So I started Granblue Fantasy two or three days ago. I skimmed briefly through the guide teasel sent me, but I really prefer to play games blind where I can. The way I see it, if I can’t figure the game out just by playing it, then it’s the game’s fault, not mine. So far it’s easy enough to understand. Grind for rupees, grind for crystals, grind for uncapping items, grind for weapons, grind grind grind. It’s not that different from other free-to-play browser games, just with nicer music and graphics. Also there’s a story in there somewhere. I like stories, even done-to-death “Mysterious girl with mysterious powers and the valiant hero who throws everything away to follow her to the ends of the earth” stories like this one.

granblue fantasy2Right now I’m not sure how long or how seriously I’ll be playing Granblue Fantasy. I don’t find the battle system all that exciting, and all the limit breaking and upgrading and uncapping and class leveling sounds like a massive pain in the glutes. I’m only at Rank 13 right now so AP refills easily, but I’m soon going to run into the old “Play 5 minutes, Wait 5 hours” issue that characterizes most free-to-play games, at which point I’ll either stop completely or just log in a few times a week.

Because of that I’m a little hesitant to join a crew (a guild by any other name) even though that option just opened up to me a few minutes ago. I’ll see how far I can go crew-free for now. If I play another couple of days and get more excited about the game somehow then I’ll think about taking things to the next level. I really should finish Sakura Taisen 3 and Stranger of Sword City this week so I can move on to other ‘proper’ games.