OreShika early thoughts – The complainers have a point

I say “early thoughts” because I’m only on my second in-game festival, but I’ve been playing for at least 10 hours. I am also well and truly stuck until I can take Nueko to the festival in June (it’s now March) so this is a good time to pause and dash off a few thoughts on OreShika: Tainted Bloodlines.

Both OreShika and the game it’s a sequel to have the same premise. They tell the story of a family burdened with two curses: one that makes them age five times as fast and live their entire lifespans in 24 months, and another that prevents them from having children with anyone except the gods or a similarly cursed family. Their only hope for release is to find the guy who put the curse on them and defeat him.

Unlike most Western players, I approached the game from the simultaneously enviable and unenviable position of one who had played the original Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke. “Enviable” because it’s an excellent game I had a wonderful time playing. “Unenviable” because I now have all these expectations and mental baggage weighing me down.

It’s especially bad because of my “first cut is the deepest” personality which sees me clinging to the first installment of whatever I play even when the second is clearly better (see also: Phantasy StarPortable), And from the hue and cry that erupted in Japan when OreShika came out, I knew I wasn’t alone. But just because someone’s a clinging whiner who can’t let go of the past doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

The stuff I like about the sequel:

  • You really can’t get the OreShika experience from anywhere else, so it’s good to have more of the same. The sequel is largely similar in concept and experience to the first game so I still get to do the breeding and fighting and exploring that drew me to the series in the first place.
  • More of the same, but prettier! Really, really pretty. I’ve always liked watercolor art, and this works especially well with the old-timey feel of the game. The character portraits can look a little washed out and indistinct sometimes, but that’s all part of the charm.
  • The music is stuck in my head! Especially the music from the Garden of Purrfection. But all the dungeon music is good, and the festival/red flame music gets my blood pumping.

Now on to the complaints. When OreShika came out, fans of the first game had two main issues: Nueko and limited progression. Nueko is a mysterious new character you’re forced to have in your party in order to progress the story. She was sprung on the original players as a surprise so their resentment is justified. Luckily I’ve had years to steel myself, so I’m too not bothered. Okay, it is a bit irksome to have this unpleasant outsider with her own agenda squatting in my family quarters and taking up a precious party slot. As I said when laying out the description, it’s supposed to be the story of your family. But it’s okay, I can share the spotlight.

Yes, rub in your infinite lifespan, why don’t you.

The issue of limited progression, though, that I cannot forgive. It sucks. It would suck even if I hadn’t played the original. First, and suckily enough, you can’t just go straight through a dungeon. You have to find various keys and tags and other things to unlock doors  and gates. This would be standard dungeon crawler fare except! the stuff you need is scattered all over the place, often not even in the same dungeon or the same land. The order you find them in is not logical, the places you find them in are not logical, and that’s if you even find them at all when you need them.

I’m stuck in almost all the dungeons right now because I need some kind of key at some point everywhere. I’m strong enough, my party is well-equipped, everything would be fine if they would just let me progress, but noooo~. I’ve been playing for hours and I haven’t finished a single dungeon not because I’m not strong enough but because OreShika just won’t let me. That’s not how games are supposed to work.

Second, and even more suckily, story progression is limited behind yearly “festivals” you have to attend. Miss a festival and you’re stuck until the next game year. Make it to the festival without the right character? Same problem. And since your characters only live 2 years, if you’re unlucky most of them will be hitting old age or dead before the next one rolls around.

That’s assuming you can even find the festival in the first place, since you’re only given vague guidelines about where to find it. It’s a huge comedown from the first game which turfed you out into the field and let you decide how quickly or slowly you wanted to take things. You could still get stuck sometimes, but it was stuckness of your own making, not imposed from above. That’s how I like my games.

Left to my own devices, I would rather not come down so hard on my first PSVITA game ever. I even delayed this post a day or two hoping to make a little progress so I could say something a little more upbeat. But, honestly, playing OreShika is tedious. My only hope right now is that stuff will open up further once I take Nueko to this dumb festival thing. I’ll keep playing till then and see what happens. If things don’t shape up, I’ll take a break and try Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Curry God instead. That’s my assignment for the weekend. See you guys next week.

Update already: Introducing Nueko to Seimei opened up two new dungeons, which I am busy exploring now. No new keys yet, but the next festival is only a few months away and my whole party is young and strong. Things are looking up!

La Corda d’Oro 2 – Kaji Aoi and Ousaki Shinobu GET!

Feeling much better now, so let’s get back to regular business. I’m not really sure how I got better, all I know is I zonked out on Friday and Saturday may or may not have occurred and then I woke up on Sunday feeling better. Chalk it up to the grace and mercy of God. Actually if I’d known I would be better so quickly I wouldn’t have alarmed my kind readers with that dramatic post last time. Sorry guys ^_^;

Right, carrying on where we left off, I did indeed buy a TV early last week. 43 inches is huge! It didn’t look that big in the store, but once I set it up, it was like whoaaa. I had to scoot way back just to take it all in. Going from 21″ to 43″ takes some getting used to, but I kind of like it. It’s very… modern. Like I’m also part of the hoi polloi, you know?

Anyway, once the TV was set up, I also set up the PSTV and the PS4 controller. Took like 5 seconds, nothing exciting at all. I don’t know what I was expecting. After that I thought I’d hook up the PS2 just to check if it could still work with this newfangled technology. Okay, it seemed to be working. I’d better try a game just to be certain.

I hadn’t gotten even 5 minutes into La Corda d’Oro 2 when I realized, “Ahh, this is it!” This is how I wanted to feel when I picked up a controller. I just want to play something good, I don’t want to think so hard. No fancy controls, no convoluted stories, no new systems to adjust to, just pick it up and play. The PS2 is a masterpiece console, it really is.

And instead of jumping straight from a long break to a new system + new TV, it’s better for my delicate constitution if I ease myself back in with something I’m already certain I’d like. That’s why I spent Tuesday-Thursday blitzing my way merrily through this game. Thanks to that I’m now eager to sink my teeth into the Vita’s library. Once I can stay sitting for longer than 20 minutes at a time, that is.

So how was La Corda 2 itself? Excellent. Koei’s Neoromance line makes the finest otome games out there. Whenever I doubt my love for the genre (and there’s plenty of room for doubt) I just have to play one of their titles and my love is restored. The graphics are always lovely, the guys are usually nice guys and in the case of the Corda series, the music is exactly my kind of thing.

I was a little worried going in that this game would be boring, seeing as it has 99% the same cast as the first game and is set very shortly after the contest ended, but it turns out I had little to worry about. The music is all new, the gameplay has been lightly overhauled and there’s still plenty to discover about my favorite characters so I’m a happy camper. I’ve already decided which order to conquer them in: Tsuchiura > Hihara > Yunoki > Tsukimori. The Kaji and Ousaki-sempai endings I got this time round were just byproducts of my initial runthrough. I didn’t really want them.

Key gameplay changes:

  • It’s not a competition any more, instead you’re playing in ensembles of 3-5 persons. You play in concerts and get rated based on complexity of pieces, number of attendees, etc.
  • This means you will have to master your own piece quickly, make sure the other people have practiced their parts as well and then perfect your ensemble act all before the date of the concert. It can be pretty tight, but there’s an Easy mode this time.
  • Although it’s not a competition, you still have objectives to meet like a certain number of people to bring to your concerts and a certain kind of piece to play.
  • The game has more clues about what events you need to see and how to access them to get a guy’s true ending. But of course you will still need a guidebook or FAQ to get everything.
  • Certain areas of the map give you boosts to certain activities, .e.g practicing in the auditorium makes your ensemble get better quicker.
  • Riri the fairy sells all the scores and items you need, no need to run over the map hunting them down. Also the rest of the cast knows about the fairies and about your doping and completely approve.
  • Stuff is expensive and BP is tight! By the time you’re good enough to rake in lots of BP, it’s time for the concert. Then quickly you have to start practising the next set of pieces for the next concert. In subsequent playthroughs I will only buy the barest minimums of scores and dresses and take better advantage of the stat-boosting areas.

In short, it’s the same time/resource management gameplay but in a happier, friendlier package because you’re all allies now instead of rivals.

Instead the true enemy is the new Board Chairman – not datable despite his devilish good looks, instead you’ll have to buy the fandisk – who wants to separate the normal and the music high schools for greater profits. If you follow the story you’ll realize he has a good point, but what’s a good point in the face of a few classical concerts? We just play music at him until he sees the error of his ways and presto, problem solved! I love video games.

So much for the story and the gameplay, now for the guys I got without really trying.

Kaji Aoi

He heard MC playing the violin in the park a while ago and liked it so much he left his old school and transferred into hers.

Okay, it’s a free country, he can go anywhere he wants. And he’s a lot less creepy than a guy with that kind of motive would normally be. It turns out he used to play the violin but dropped it and picked up the viola after some kind of incident. It’s probably explained in Kaji’s true ending, or in the Kiniro no Corda 2 Encore fandisk, but I didn’t care enough to probe.

Dating/hanging out with Kaji is very normal, for better or worse. He’s a nice guy who may or may not be hiding something not-so-nice underneath, I dunno. I never saw any of that though, all his events are bland. He takes a hit for MC and falls into some water, or MC falls over and he picks her up and so on and so forth. Generic nice guy stuff. Eventually he confesses on Christmas Eve that he’s been in love with her since he saw her play in the park (we knew that) and that he transferred to be closer to her (we knew that) and that he wants to date her (we knew that) and she says yes, the end. Boring.

Ousaki Shinobu

Speaking of boring, look who’s here!

My old buddy Ousaki-sempai who I thoroughly ignored in the last game. Actually I really like Ousaki, just not as dating material. This time he manages to be more interesting, maybe because he spends most of the game halfway around the world in Vienna. Most of your interactions are via email and phone call. If you’re nice enough to him, he’ll win an international music competition, which is seriously awesome.

Same deal as Kaji, he confesses on Christmas Eve and says how much you mean to him. “Ousaki-sempai, you’re world-famous now! You’re gonna be rich. We’re gonna be rich!” *glomp*

My girl knows where’s its at! But he’s such a nice guy, I was genuinely thrilled to hear he won in Vienna. He’s not just Generic Supportive Sempai, he’s a super-talented musician in his own right. +5 to Respect (and Future Prospects). He’s still a distant fifth behind the rest of the other guys as far as romance goes, but I was happier for him than I thought was possible with a fictional character. Ganbare!

Right, I think I’ve hit my typing limit. I’m still a little woozy. This isn’t the end for me and La Corda d’Oro 2, though. I plan to sandwich the rest of the routes between other games. E.g. OreShika -> Tsuchiura route -> Sorcery Saga -> Hihara route, etc. Real life has a way of coming between me and these plans of mine, but if all goes well that’s the schedule for the rest of the month and into the new year. Let’s see how things go.

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!