Happy New Year 2018! And lots of resolutions!

Happy New Year, everyone! I had a bit of a mixed 2017, but it was pretty good overall. I’m still here, aren’t I? Here’s praying for even better things in 2018!

Without much further ado, let’s jump straight to my gaming resolutions for 2018. I already mentioned the guiding principle a few posts ago: “It’s enough to play just a little bit of a game.” In other words, it’s enough to just see what a game has to offer, I don’t necessarily have to finish the whole thing. It’s the game developer’s job to make me want to finish their game, not my job to force myself to do it.

The reason I bring this up is because it’s a 100% reversal from my policy in 2017, where I promised to do my best to finish more games. I gave it my best shot, I really did, but I think my game selection was bad to begin with. Though I couldn’t have known how meh Summon Night 5 or Operation Abyss would be when I started them. When it came to the stuff I liked, I blitzed through them in short order. Nayuta no Kiseki, for example. Stella Glow. And OreShika yesterday afternoon. More on that one another day.

So here’s my list of games to try – but not finish unless they deserve it – in 2018:

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Nintendo Switch) – I have to play this somehow, I just have to. Even if there’s nothing else on the Switch I want to play, I just have to make this happen.

Atelier Totori Plus (PSVITA) – The next logical step after Shin Atelier Rorona, which I enjoyed more than I’d expected to. Nothing much to say about this one.

Sakura Taisen 4 (PC) – I meant to find the time to play this last year. Quite looking forward to putting the Tokyo and Paris teams together and watching the fur fly. I’ve thought better of forcing Oogami to pair up with Kanna every time, so the race for his heart is wide open now.

SMT IV Apocalypse (3DS) – 3DS still has a couple of RPGs I haven’t played, but when it comes to stuff I want to play this is the only one that comes to mind. This, and maybe one of the Etrian Odyssey remakes. Unfortunately my 3DS is suffering from a catastrophic battery failure (I thought it was odd that my brother returned it without prompting) so it will have to wait till I get round to replacing the battery.

Demon Gaze (PSVITA) – For all my dungeon crawling needs. It looks like a cute, colorful skin on top of the usual Experience Inc. games, can’t wait to try it.

Luminous Arc Infinity (PSVITA) – Rest in peace, Imageepoch… Even though they didn’t have anything do with this one and it was done by Felistella. The same guys who ruined Summon Night… But I must play it, for the sake of closure. It’s not like there’s much to ruin about Luminous Arc anyway, though 3 was pretty good.

Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Curry God (PSVITA) – Roguelike! Cute roguelike! About food! I’ve been wanting to play it since the day it was announced. I just hope there’s an Easy mode so I can actually finish a roguelike for a change.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana or Zwei!! or Tokyo Xanadu Nayuta no Kiseki was legit my Game of the Year for 2017. I want to try another Falcom ARPG but there are so many that I’m spoilt for choice. I’m leaning towards Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection (I like the look) or Tokyo Xanadu (I like the setting) but nothing’s really pulling me in. I might end up playing something from a completely different company– Aaah!

Phantasy Star Nova (PSVITA) – How could I forget one of the reasons why I wanted a VITA? No need to talk much about this one either, except to wonder forlornly why it was never localized. Sometimes it’s because the game sucks, but that can’t be true of my beloved Phantasy Star, can it? I’ll play it for myself and tell you.

There we have it, 9-11 games to try this year. They’re just guidelines, really. In practice I might end up playing none of these and all of some other games instead. But at least it gives me something to shoot for whenever I’m wondering what to play next.

There’s no edition of “Games that didn’t work out” this year. The only games that would go on such a list are Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment  and Black Rock Shooter, and I haven’t quite given up on either one just yet. Especially the latter. If the whole year passes and I haven’t touched them again, I’ll bundle them in with the 2019 edition.

Welp, that’s it from me. Enjoy your day and the rest of 2018!

OreShika update – How do you solve a problem like Nueko? (spoilers)

  1. Last time I said I’d seen enough of OreShika and wanted to try something new. I spent the rest of that day trying to think of what else I’d like to play, but my thoughts kept coming back to OreShika. The art, the music, the atmosphere, all the things I’d left undone and unsaid. I’m not ready to move on after all.

Once the “what am I going to play” question was answered, one more question remained: “How”? How to solve the little logistic problem I raised last time? How to kill Nueko off without putting the rest of my party at risk? The answer hit me out of the blue around 1am: “Why not make it look like a suicide?” >:-) Instead of depending on the benevolence of my enemies, why just make her kill herself? Nueko has several powerful skills that sap her vigor. Put her in the front row with only one backup and let her fight herself to exhaustion, problem solved. My parents must be so proud of the creativity and problem-solving skills I’ve developed from long years of gaming.

Although the plan went off without a hitch, it made me understand once again again the reason fans of the first game have a beef with Nueko. On one hand you have a game about the brevity of life and the pain of loss. Each family member is unique. Each one lives as best as they can and then dies full of regret and unfulfilled dreams, never to be seen again. It hurts, but you try to move on. …And then, on the other hand, you have this character for whom dying is just like a summer vacation. It’s like a Dragonball character wandered into our game by mistake. And she’s not particularly gracious about it either.

She doesn’t even try to fit in with the rest of the family.

Well anyway, I killed her off early, re-raised her a few months later and created a super-team of mighty warriors. The March festival went off so easily I can’t even remember what the boss was like. Some kind of crow, I think. Then the bad guy Seimei captured a princess and I went off to rescue her, also a piece of cake. I confronted Seimei in a tower and beat him, beat another boss and now I have to climb to the top of the Stairway to the Moon to meet the queen of the gods. My party is full of strapping young fighters with great equips and lots of good spells so I expect to get pretty far before needing to rest and regroup.

This seems like a good enough time to try and sort out what we know of the story so far. This will involve some spoilers, hence the warning in the title. It’s a good point to stop reading at if you plan to play OreShika (and I highly recommend that you do so).

1. Hundreds of years  before the story started, a human? demon? named Nueko married a god and had a child with him.

2. The child eventually became Abe no Seimei, who framed our family for failing to protect 7 Instruments of Festivity and had us killed. This was his way of luring Nueko out of heaven.

3. Somebody wearing an oni mask killed baby Seimei at some point. Nueko resurrected him. Now he can’t die any more.

4. Abe’s father created the Instruments as a way of circulating energy between the heavens, the earth and hell. For some reason, Abe’s father was thrown out of heaven and disowned. He was also sealed under the Imperial Palace by Nueko herself for reasons unknown. Seimei’s current goal is to get him out of there and get some answers.

I’d like to get some answers of my own, especially about these points:

  • How does my family come into this? Seimei killed us to lure Kitsuto and Nueko into reviving us, but he could he be so sure they would take the bait?
  • Why does Nueko have amnesia? What did Nueko do that was so good that she became a goddess? How did a normal human/onmyouji have the power to raise the dead? And why was she bound and gagged at the beginning of the game?
  • What did Abe’s father do that was so bad that he was banned from heaven? Even his name is redacted so no one can say it.
  • How come Abe no Seimei can’t die any more? My party was raised by Nueko too, but we still die normally.
  • Seriously, what does my family have to do with any of this? Apparently the answer will turn out to be “Nothing.” The creator Shoji Masuda wanted to make a game about his light novel character Nueko but didn’t think anyone would buy it, so he hijacked Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke 2 instead. He could have done a better job integrating the two stories, IMO. But we’ll see how the story plays out before passing final judgment.

Plans for the rest of the game:

  • Push as far forward as I can with my current party. It will take me a while to get another party this good once I lose them.
  • Take on some onigami and release some gods. The Rite of Union roster in this game is pretty anemic.
  • Explore some dungeons once I can’t move forward any more. I’ve barely explored Ash of Heaven and Hellfire Way.
  • Eventually finish OreShika sometime before Armaggeddon. It’s so much fun that dropping it is not on the cards any more.

The year is almost over, so my next post will probably be my New Year’s Resolutions. Advance spoilers: 1) OreShika. 2) OreShika 3) OreShika, and on and on and on. Happy New Year in advance!

Christmas Greetings & OreShika update

Merry Christmas everyone! How gameful was your day? I had planned a full day of OreShika and nothing but OreShika, but Candy Crush Soda kept giving me free life after free life after free life, before I knew it half the day was gone. W-what a terrifying game! I finally tore myself away and played a little OreShika, ate some cake, relaxed, basically did the same things I do every weekend and holiday… and every single chance I get, come to think of it.

When I think of Christmas and games, I can’t help remembering the Christmas I spent playing Xenoblade Chronicles. When was it, 2015? Wait, what, 2012?! That long ago?! No wonder it feels so nostalgic. I went back and forth with Xenoblade for a while, trying to decide whether I liked it or not, but by the end of November I was well and truly hooked. And yet it was such a busy December that year, so many activities and family events. I had to shelve the game for almost a month because I couldn’t get any solid gaming time in. I thought to myself, “When I’m 80 years old I’ll regret all the time I didn’t spend with my family, not the time I didn’t spend gaming.” That’s what I thought, but now, 5 years later… I wanna play Xenoblade again! If there’s any way I can make it happen, I will definitely play XC2 next year.

Well, enough looking back into the past. It’s not like I did anything to make the time pass. I just lived one day after another and presto, here we are! The more interesting thing is how much my extended family has changed in that time. Lots of cute little additions, people I didn’t even imagine might exist someday back then. A few very painful subtractions, I didn’t expect those either. What kind of post will I write here in 5 years? Will I even be around or will I be “subtracted” too? Only God knows, so there’s no point thinking about it. On to video games!

Following on from last time, I gave OreShika more of a chance and it got better and worse all at the same time. At least I was able to resolve the matter of needing various keys and tags in the dungeons. There’s a room in the Garden of Purrfection dungeon (locked by a tag in the Heptacolour Springs dungeon) that contains almost every key in the game. You’ll need a guide to get it, but the fact that such a room even exists shows the developers knew what a terrible mistake they made in their dungeon design. In that case, instead of the cheat room, why not design the game better in the first place? Somehow their little admission of guilt makes me more angry, not less.

This is my angry face. Grrr!

Anyway, so I successfully took Nueko to the festival and made her meet bad guy Abe no Seimei. Apparently Nueko is his mother and she has amnesia. The most festivals we take part in, the more of her memory she will recover. There’s just one catch though: every festival you complete raises the difficulty of all the enemies and reshuffles the lands and dungeons you have access to. I have to regrind on Hatafuritaishos and Dakkontaishos all over again. …Which is fine with me. It is a dungeon crawler, after all. This does mean I have to delay going to the next festival while I do a little more exploration and leveling up, but I’m not in a big hurry right now.

I’m beginning to understand the complaints about Nueko, though. She plays havoc with your family plan if you raise her at the wrong time. I have a festival to attend in March and I carelessly raised her in May. This wouldn’t be a problem except I was planning to go to the festival the March after the next one, almost two years in the future. She’ll be dead by then. The plan was:
-Use current party to grind up lots of devotion.
-Create 3 new kids and raise Nueko between February-May the next year
-Raise them for a year till the following March, picking up lots of skill scrolls and weapons in the meantime.
-Take on the festival with fresh, strong kids in the prime of their lives.

And I would have gotten away with it too, if I hadn’t raised Nueko too early. She will almost certainly be dead or dying by the time my plan comes to fruition. Rrghh! So then I decided to kill her off prematurely. When very young characters die in battle, they have a chance to perma-die when you take them back home. I put Nueko alone at the front and made sure she died a few times (yes, I learned entirely the wrong lesson from the story of Uriah the Hittite). In the process one of my treasured veterans also died once. No problem, she’s a tough old biddie, I thought. I get home, Kochin says someone’s about to die, I’m like YES, YES, YES…. NOOOOOOOOOO! Wrong victim, OreShika! Wrong victim!

Crime doesn’t pay, guys. I had to reset without saving and lose over an hour of very solid progress. Now I either have to revise my plan and take on the festival this March or hope Nueko dies early enough to be resurrected in time for the next festival. Nueko really does ruin everything.

It’s a little early, but I’m going to introduce my gaming philosophy for 2018 right now: “It’s enough to play just a little bit of a game.”

Yes, it’s enough to just experience what a game has to offer, I don’t have to finish it or even get very far in it. It’s enough that I tried Final Fantasy XIII and saw what it was like. It was enough that I got some dungeon crawling done in Operation Abyss. It’s enough that I saw what Felistella has done with the Summon Night series. I’m not saying OreShika is dropped or anything, but I’ve seen enough. It’s nice. I like it. Now I want to try new stuff while keeping this on the backburner. What “new stuff” will it be? I can’t decide… but I’ve got some time to think about it, so I’ll figure something out in the next couple of days.

Merry Christmas again and Happy New Year in advance!

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.