The return to Paradise! And other stuff.

Hey hey hey, how’s it going? Did ya have a good Chrissamas? Great!/Oh no! (delete as appropriate) Look, wow! A lame snow effect! (please disregard if you’re reading this outside of December)

Sooo, I’ve been in this mode for a while where I write some stuff down, save it to drafts, and theeeen… totally forget about it. 😛 I remembered I wanted to write about Rhythm Paradise Megamix, so I came back here and found I’d already written a bunch of stuff down. Then I also found a draft for Super Mystery Dungeon which’s been here for about 2,000 years. Oops! So, let’s take ’em out of drafts, finish ’em off and actually post ’em! 😛 I’ll start with Rhythm Paradise Megamix, since that’s more recent. 🙂

Oh, by the way, I might throw some spoilers, but I’ve blanked out any major ones by making text the same colour as the background. If the background isn’t near-black for you for some reason, then my spoiler-hiding won’t work, yay! 😛 If it does work, though, you should be able to read them if you highlight the text. Here, try it: Well done, you successfully highlighted some text but just lost The Game. I would use a bit of JavaScript and HTML so certain bits of text are only shown when you click on a link, like a “spoiler” tag on forums, but WordPress removes any useful HTML automatically because it SUCKS!!

Rhythm Paradise Megamix

It’s been a few many many weeks since Rhythm Paradise Megamix was released in the European Union and the UK. 😛 Japan had it ages ago, of course; it was released over there as Rhythm Tengoku: The Best+, and I was much jealous. Then it was released digital-only in America as Rhythm Heaven Megamix, and I was even more much jealous. By the way, I never really got why it’s called “Heaven” over there and “Paradise” over here. Must be a copyright issue or something. ANYHOO, yes, it was finally released in Europe in October. 🙂 We also got a physical release for some reason. YA JELLY?! 😛

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I’m a huge fan of Rhythm Paradise. I’ve never played the first game (because Japan only) but I have the DS game and the awfully-named “Beat The Beat: Rhythm Paradise” for Wii (it has a much better title in America, “Rhythm Heaven Fever”). I love the zaniness of all the games; how they came up with some of their ideas, I’ll never know. 😀 I also love how it’s challenging, but really fun at the same time. In the run-up to Megamix’s release in Europe, I made an effort to get 100% completion in Rhythm Paradise, and a few days before release, I finally managed it:

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I was rewarded with the barista’s immense praise and the ability to listen to every BGM in the game. Getting all 50 Perfects wasn’t easy, so it felt like a pretty big accomplishment. Rhythm Rally 2, man… I found it harder than Remix 10.

A few days later, Megamix was delivered to me, and I was like EEEEEEEEEEEE! 😛 Of course, I didn’t have huge expectations of it or anything. It was basically a compilation game after all, with a few bonuses added on. However, one of the first things I noticed when I started playing was that Megamix did something… weird. It has a story. No other Rhythm Paradise game has a story; it’s just a bunch of musical minigames. I don’t believe it needed a story, since each game tends to have a micro-story behind it anyway, but they decided to add a game-wide story anyway. Hmm. Okay.

The next thing I noticed was that it appeared they’d changed the progression. Normally, each “stage” consists of 4 games revealed one at a time, and then a Remix consisting of those four games mixed together with different music. Then, after a certain Remix, you get the credits game, and from then on, each stage contains 4 games which are harder versions of previous games, followed by a Remix that contains an assortment of previous games. The game culminates in Remix 10, which contains every game, and sometimes things you might not expect, like the credits game and the rhythm game you played in the tutorial. Megamix, though? At first… there are four games, and no remix. Clear all four games and you get to advance to the next stage, where there are four more games… and no remix. After every second stage, there’s a Gate, guarded by three gatekeepers who challenge you to get a certain score in an Endless Game. Each gatekeeper sets a challenge of a different difficulty; the harder the difficulty, the less coins it costs to try. Beat any of them and you can advance to the next stage. Hmmmm. No remixes… okay…

Another thing… the difficulty. The lack of it, that is. At first, I thought I was the problem, because excluding the ones from Rhythm Tengoku (GBA) and the games exclusive to Megamix, I’ve played all of these rhythm games before. But no… it wasn’t that. Many early games were familiar, but they were set to new music, and they were so easy you could probably clear them with no sound. I got 15 straight Superb ratings before finally getting an OK on Tongue Lashing, one of the new games (which is actually kinda tricky). For comparison, on my first attempt of the first game on Rhythm Paradise DS, “Built To Scale”, I got a Try Again. On my first attempt of the first game on Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise (BtB from now on 🙂 ), “Hole In One”, I got an OK. Hmmmmmmmm…

So far, so… not good. The story was shaping up as pretty much throwaway, and it was weird in a not-really-charming way (Donut Land, Jesus fucking Christ I can’t facepalm hard enough regarding that character). There didn’t seem to be any remixes, and loads of the rhythm games from previous games were set to new, worse music, and were much easier. On the plus side, a few of the new games were good. First Contact, LumBEARjack, Tongue Lashing and Super Samurai Slice were all fun to play, even though I got Superb and “No Miss” in three of them on my first attempt. 😛  (No Miss is basically a Perfect, but not really a Perfect, because to get a Perfect, “Go for Perfect!” has to be active on that game when you play it. 😛 )

When you reach Lush Woods, the final area of Earth World, things look up a little bit. In this area, there’s a tower containing four games and a remix, just like the previous games. The remix was pretty decent (the highlight of the five games was definitely Sumo Brothers, though; it was hilarious. :D). But then you get the ending! WHAT?! Of course, anyone with a brain would realise that there’s no way this is the end of the game, because there’s supposed to be 100+ games and you’ve only played 32 at this point. 😛

After the first “ending”, the game starts to pick up the pace. Six more towers show up, which contain both harder versions of previous games, and new games which are more challenging. Rhythm games from previous Paradise games return with their original soundtracks and difficulty. The legendary Ringside returns. And each tower has a remix. One of them even has vocals! When you clear those 30 games, you get the ending… to the Earth World arc of the “story”. Tibby goes home to Heaven World, that’s pretty much it. Nothing surprising. It’s not the end of the game, of course, because there’s supposed to be 100+ games and you’ve only played 62 at this point. 😛

No, Heaven World comes next, with 12 more games, followed by an endless game challenge, followed by another 12 games and two remixes, and then the epic Final Remix, nearly four minutes of awesomeness which I’d say is better than the awesome Remix 10 from BtB. 😀 No, it doesn’t end in this brilliant way, where the developers just screw with you. I’m glad, since that was kind of a one-shot gag. 😛 Instead, Final Remix mixes in each of the themes of the Rhythm Paradise games, which is such an awesome tribute if you’re a fan of the series. If they were going for a good sense of closure to the series, they did a great job there. Then comes the ending to Heaven World. You find out Heaven World is all messed up is because Tibby’s mum (who is a palace, yes you read that correctly, she’s literally a palace), was holding her breath to get rid of her hiccups. So yeah, the story was a totally throwaway, unnecessary waste of time and money. Some of the dialogue was funny, I suppose. 😛

Speaking of money… I think they lacked some of that. I was disappointed to find there was a huge lack of new vocal tracks. They tend to be the highlights of Paradise games for me, because they’re often really good. 😀 I mean, there’re so many I remember and love… Struck by the Rain, Young Love Rock ‘n’ Roll and That’s Paradise from Paradise DS, and Tonight, Lonely Storm, Beautiful One Day and Dreams of Our Generation from BtB. All awesome! 😀

If you exclude the strangely hilarious track from Karate Man Returns which isn’t explicitly marked as a vocal track (HEY BABY, HOW’S IT GOING?! THIS. BEAT. IS NON. STOP!), Megamix has… one new vocal track, “I’m a Lady Now”. That’s it. It’s decent, wasn’t super-keen the first time I heard it, but it kinda grew on me. But still, that’s it. We’re lucky we even got that. Why? Because any English vocals you hear are actually from the Japanese soundtrack. You can prove it by changing to the Japanese soundtrack in the café (which is a really nice feature, by the way). Their soundtrack actually has three new vocal tracks (in Lush Remix (which is really good with vocals!), Honeybee Remix and Machine Remix), but the non-English ones weren’t translated and re-recorded for the English soundtrack, which is a massive shame. No, wait, they have four, cuz the ending theme has vocals on the Japanese soundtrack! Gah, what a waste! One upside, though: the Machine Remix’s Japanese vocal track is terrible. 😛 I prefer the instrumental for that one.

Oh, and if you like to sing along to what vocal tracks we have, they’ve added the lyrics as subtitles into some of the games! Well, not all of them. Only a few. For some reason. Shrug.

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As for stuff on the side, Megamix has a lot more than previous Paradise games… but also a lot less. The biggest thing is the Challenge Train, and I’d say it’s the best part of the game. It’s basically survival mode. You can play multiplayer, but no-one owns this game, so you’ll have to wait until partway through the game before you can play solo. 😛 Each course on the challenge train consists of several rhythm games, each of which has a goal: “Score”, “Life” or “Monster”. Score goals challenge you to clear the song and attain a certain score (basically an accuracy percentage, which is shown on all results screens in Megamix along with the traditional, coarse rating scale of “Try Again”, “OK” and “Superb”; it’s kinda nice). Life goals challenge you to clear the game within a certain number of lives; you lose lives by missing cues. Monster goals are strange; the rhythm game appears in a window which begins shrinking, revealing a monster in the background. If you hit a cue perfectly (known as an “Ace”), the window grows. If the window shrinks too much, the monster will eat it and you’ll fail. Rhythm games on a Challenge Train course may have their tempos increased, too. Passing a goal lets you move to the next game. Failing a goal costs a life. Clear all the goals within three lives to clear the course and earn one to three Flow Balls depending on the course difficulty (Flow Balls are special currency used for unlocking new rhythm games). Courses on the Challenge Train eventually get stupidly difficult, mainly thanks to the Tempo Up modifier. It has varying levels of “tempo upness”… er, what’s another way of saying that which isn’t retarded…? Varying levels… yeah, Tempo Up has varying levels, but it doesn’t tell you how much it increases the original tempo. Sometimes it’s about 10% more, but other times I swear it’s about 50%. Frog Hop with Tempo Up nearly crippled my thumb, and I lost seven lives to the same stage in a certain course (Air Rally 2 with at least 30% Tempo Up in two lives, wtf). It’s an awesome addition, though, because it’s even a challenge for people who’ve played all the previous games. Paprika almost craps himself when you clear them all. “Maybe we can be friends.” Haha.

Next to the Challenge Train, there’s the Perfect Campaign, which isn’t really anything new, it’s just a central location for going for Perfects, because the map is a pain in the arse to navigate. 😛 Also, when going for Perfect, Megamix ends the rhythm game the moment you miss a cue, which is nice. Oh, and you can skip the intros to rhythm games now, after you’ve played them once. 🙂 Getting a Perfect in Megamix only gets you a Flow Ball, not a gift. Gifts in this game are Rhythm Items, which are unlocked in the shop with coins, so you don’t need to perfect everything to get every gift and read the funny descriptions. 😀 What else… oh, yes, there’s a long-term Pachinko metagame which involves some turnips and a goat that lays golden eggs. Shrug. 😛 It has absolutely nothing to do with rhythm and unlocks nothing meaningful, but does generate lots of anger past Level 90 or so. 😛 Oh, there’s also a StreetPass game, which is a kind of “versus” mode of Rhythm Fighter. Again, no-one has this game (no-one even has a friggin’ 3DS in this city apparently; I’m lucky if I get a StreetPass once a week), but it gives you a fake opponent at least every day. It can be absolutely hilarious. GO GO GOOOOO! AND ONE TWO! ONE TWO! AND GO GO GOOOOO!! 😀

There’re no Rhythm Toys like the previous games, which is a slight shame, but as for Endless Games, there are… four. That’s it. You unlock them by beating all three of the gatekeepers at a gate. The best one is “Sick Beats” originally in Rhythm Tengoku (GBA), but… it doesn’t feel particularly “endless”. You have one life, and after the third wave, the tempo increases every wave. Once you reach 128 points, the tempo of the wave that follows is so high (around 225BPM) that it becomes nearly impossible to keep the beat, so there’s no point trying to break your record. I tried to demonstrate the insane BPM using my right hand to hold a phone and my left hand to press the D-Pad, and nearly succeeded on my fifth try. I was one wave short of my record. But the vid gives you an idea of how impossibly fast it gets. 😛 The other three Endless Games are Coin Toss (from Rhythm Paradise DS, and it was never particularly notable), Clap Trap (from BtB, I don’t think I played it back then cuz I don’t remember it, but it’s barely a rhythm game) and Charging Chicken (new, but not really since it’s based on a Rhythm Toy from Rhythm Paradise DS, but it’s pretty good nonetheless). It’s a shame. No Tunnel, Shoot-‘Em-Up or Glass Tappers from Rhythm Paradise DS? I know Tunnel was basic, but hitting a cowbell repeatedly in front of someone trying to drive a car is strangely hilarious, even more so because she only gets mad if you do it wrong. 😛 Shoot-‘Em-Up was a good Endless Game, and Glass Tappers was epic. And no Wake-Up Caller or Munchy Monk from BtB? Wake-Up Caller was kinda slow but it was a great rhythm-keeping test, and Munchy Monk was absolutely friggin’ hilarious! ONE EGG! ONE EGG! ONE EGG! HANDFUL’A PEEZ!! What’s with the weak selection? Did they pick the most popular or their favourites, or did they pick the easiest ones to develop? Probably the latter. Sigh.

So… all in all, I think Rhythm Paradise Megamix is… a decent compilation. It could have been an amazing compilation, but I have a feeling they didn’t have enough resources. Or they did a half-arsed job. Not sure which one. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, cuz I don’t regret getting it or anything; it’s been a lot of fun to play through and I’ve got a fair bit of playtime out of it, but I can’t help but feel like it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, y’know? Maybe it’s my fault for playing too much Project Mirai, but the difficulty of Megamix just wasn’t enough for me. Yes, even though I mentioned that the Challenge Train gets stupidly difficult, it didn’t feel stupidly difficult enough. 😛 I mean, I cleared all the courses but I only failed about 5 times in total. Then, when I perfected the Final Remix after my 9th attempt (failures mainly consisted of blunders and one particular part of the song: Cosmic Rhythm Rally to Jumpin’ Jazz, followed by the three cues in Clap Trap), it felt good, but I realised that I’d just beaten the last big challenge the game had to offer. All the other Perfects won’t be as hard to get as that one.

As for recommending it… hmm. It’s difficult. I’d carefully recommend it to fans of the series. If you really liked the previous games, there’s a good chance you’ll like this. Actually, I might recommend it more to people who’ve never played a Rhythm Paradise game before, since there’s way more to discover and the chances of you getting Superb on everything on your first try is much lower. As long as you like rhythm games, that is, and you’re not expecting something intensely difficult like Beatmania or Project Mirai, and as long as you like a bit of crazy humour. So yeah, a fair few conditions for recommendation, there. 😛

Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon

I wrote about this way back when I was more than halfway through the game, but never followed it up with a “I’ve finished the game now!” post.

My thoughts on the game haven’t really changed much since then. 😛 It’s… probably the second best game in the series… although I’m kinda torn between making it second or third best, actually.

The worst game for me was the original, Red/Blue Rescue Team. I played Blue, not like there’s a difference in the story or anything. 😛 It was just… lacking. And the story was completely fucked. There was literally no purpose for anything you did until about half an hour from the end when you suddenly find out a meteorite is heading for the planet, which is also the part you find out that the reason you were brought to the Pokémon world was to stop said meteorite. But then the one who actually saves the world is Rayquaza; he busts the piss out of the meteorite with Hyper Beam while you stand around and watch. All you did was ask him to do it. Of course, when you did, he was all like “FUCK YOUUUUU I’M A DRAGON type” so you had to beat him up before he realised and said “OH SHIT LOOK A METEORITE THAT’LL KILL US ALL”. Of course that’s not exactly how it went down. Effectively the same, though. 😛 After Rayquaza saves the world, with your role fulfilled, you disappear and your partner loses it. This would be sad, as it is in the sequels, but the dialogue was quite sparse and the story was so short I didn’t have time to connect with any of the characters. I finished it in less than 16 hours, which is crazy. RPGs generally last way longer than that, I mean… Explorers of Sky lasted me around 60 hours, Gates to Infinity was about 50, and Super Mystery Dungeon about 40. Sure, there’s a bit more to do after the main story, but it’s not obvious, or very interesting. You just go around into harder dungeons and meet Legendary Pokémon who don’t join you the first time, and only join you the second time if you have the correct “Friend Area”, a retarded system that makes it stupidly painful to get members or set up the team you want to use in a dungeon. Besides, after the main storyline, the game disconnects you from your partner pretty much entirely; they no longer follow you around and their character becomes generic. Guh. I’m glad I didn’t play this one first, because I reckon it would have killed my interest in the subsequent games. Oh, now that I think about it, there was one good bit in Blue. Hehe. 😛

That leaves either Gates to Infinity or Super Mystery Dungeon to rank as number 3… naw, what am I saying. Super Mystery Dungeon has to be number 2. 😛

Gates to Infinity was great. The gameplay was a little bit dumbed down due to the removal of the hunger system and the addition of the Team Attack, which was essentially a rechargeable Get Out Of Jail Free card. If you stumbled into a Monster House with the Team Attack charged, the Monster House might as well not be there. 😛 I also didn’t really like building up Paradise. You could only take one quest at a time, and there was no guarantee that the rewards for any of the available quests were materials you needed. It was really annoying. But the story was awesome, as were most of the characters. I especially liked Victini, Hydreigon and Rampardos (even though Rampardos and Victini were basically shopkeepers 😛 ). Virizion was cool, too, as was Espeon and Umbreon (always a great pair), and Emolga, and the partner Pokémon, and Quagsire, hmm? 😀 If I can fondly remember nine characters, I’m pretty sure they’ve done it right.

Although… I said the story was awesome, but honestly, when the Bittercold came into play, the story suddenly became… odd. I don’t remember a great deal after the major twist in the last half of the story, where it turns out the antagonist was actually Munna; she’d been manipulating your dreams to make it seem like Hydreigon was evil, but in actual fact, Hydreigon was the one who called you to the Pokémon World. WHAT A TWEEST! No, seriously, what a fucking tweest. I never saw it coming. It blew my head open. 😛

Super Mystery Dungeon had a good story, but it did take a while to get going. When you leave the village to join the Expedition Society (god fucking damn it that part is so sweet), that’s when the story starts to pick up the pace, and it begins feeling like it has a bit more of a purpose. Then the ending, where the writers turned everything upside down from the previous games and decided that your partner is the one that disappears this time? MIND EXPLODE. Didn’t see it coming. Didn’t see ANY part of the story coming, if I’m honest! The story might’ve been a bit “out there”, way more wild than Explorers of Sky, but if they can keep me guessing for the entire length of the story, then they’ve totally won.

I remember the very beginning of Super being presented in a really cool fashion, actually. Traditionally, there’s been an intro video followed by menus, but this time it feels like they’re trying to suck you into the world almost as soon as you press Start on the title screen.

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The return of the personality test was a nice surprise, too. 🙂 In Time/Darkness/Sky and Red/Blue, you were asked a series of questions before the story began, mainly situational and personality-based. Asking you how you’d respond to a friend who made you a meal that tastes terrible, how you feel when something you bought yesterday for full price is marked down to half price today, whether you’ve ever accidentally called a teacher “Mum” or “Dad”, things like that. 😛 Based on your answers, the game guessed your personality and assigned you a Pokémon. After that, you could select your partner from the remaining Pokémon, with the restriction that they can’t be the same type as you (can’t pick Squirtle (water) if you get Totodile (water), for example). I think it was a great idea, and it somehow really got me hyped up when I first played it. The problem with it, though, was that… well, the game’s decision was absolute. Sometimes you got a Pokémon you really didn’t want to play as. If this happened, you could restart the game and try the test again to see if you got a different Pokémon (the questions you got were randomly selected from a pool). But it was a pain, and that’s probably why they removed the test in Gates to Infinity and allowed you to choose. In Super, though, they brought it back and made it the best of both worlds. You take the test, but the game only recommends a Pokémon to you. If you disagree with its choice, you can change it.

Super also had some great gameplay, the best in the series, I think. The Looplet/Emera system was really good… um… no, well… not entirely good, actually. I found one huge issue with it. Seriously, huge. One day, while playing through the endgame, I found an Emera called Ally Reviver. It’s literally the most overpowered thing since The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’s 100% Chameleon bullshit and I seriously hope it can’t appear during the story. When you have Ally Reviver in the leader’s Looplet, your teammates are effectively invincible. When they reach 0 HP, they’re automatically revived with full HP and PP. It doesn’t revive the leader, but there’s no limit to the amount of times it can revive your teammates. Seriously. I told them to wander around on their own and the amount of times they fainted was ludicrous, but it didn’t matter because they just got right back up again, like they were using friggin’ cheat codes or something. 😛 When you have Ally Reviver, the only thing you have to worry about then is the leader, making the rest of the dungeon trivial, unless you run into a Monster House like a moron, or if some twat with a room-wide move enters your room and you have no way of escaping or fighting back. Hell, if you find two Ally Revivers, you can put another one in a teammate’s Looplet, then when the leader is looking like he’s gonna get owned, change the leader, let the old leader faint and revive for free, then switch back. Practical example of how overpowered it is? I played a dungeon that ends in three boss battles with Dialga, Palkia and Rayquaza, back-to-back. My teammates must have fainted at least 15 times. If I didn’t have Ally Reviver, I’d’ve lost to Dialga within the first four or five turns, mainly because Dialga has a dumbass overpowered move called Roar of Time which hits everyone, and it always one-shots my teammates and can one-shot me if he gets a critical. But because I had Ally Reviver, I beat all three of them. RETARDED! It’s more overpowered than Awakening, which is supposed to be the über-ultimate mega-Emera, since that triggers Mega Evolution in Pokémon that can do so, and blocks all attacks from the front. But Awakening has a turn limit. Ally Reviver doesn’t. What’s more, if you have a Trap Immunity Emera at the same time, the last thing that you have to worry about (Emera Swap and Emera Crush traps) just… totally vanishes.

Oh, by the way, this plays during the boss battle with Dialga in Super. You might recognise it if you’ve played Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky. It’s that game’s final boss battle music, against Dialga at the top of Temporal Tower. I nearly blew up. You also get this one against Rayquaza; it’s the Legendary Pokémon battle music originally from Red/Blue, played during that game’s final boss battle against Rayquaza. Great throwbacks. 😀

But maybe those throwbacks show a bit of a problem. I’ve noticed that Super just refuses to let go of the previous games. When you meet a Pokémon that was in a previous game, there’s an extremely high chance that they’ll act like the same character. Kangaskhan’s not in charge of storage any more, but she speaks in pretty much the same way as in Red/Blue and Time/Darkness/Sky. Duskull says he used to run a bank; I think Persian mentions something like that, too. Chansey says she used to work as an Egg caretaker. Rampardos says he used to run a business called Box Buster, and wonders how Cinccino is doing. Victini says he didn’t bring the V-Wheel. Swanna specifically mentions that she’s from Post Town, even though you can’t go there. Hydreigon acts as if you’ve already met him, exclaiming “You don’t remember me? Oh no!”. Munna says she did horrible things in the past. Quagsire has his verbal tic, hmm? Pokémon that were part of teams from Time/Darkness/Sky (AWD, Skull, Charm, etc.) either mention this, or act in basically the same way (Eg: Zubat, Koffing and Skuntank still have their unique ways of laughing: “Heh-heh-heh!”, “Whoa-ho-ho!” and “Chaw-haw-haw!”). I don’t even want to meet Grovyle. And I bet Celebi will mention Grovyle and how she feels about him, even though she won’t be a shiny like the Celebi from Time/Darkness/Sky. I finally met Grovyle and Celebi. The Celebi is a shiny. Grovyle’s mission was to help him rescue Celebi from a really easy dungeon. She fainted there on purpose so that Grovyle would come and rescue her. It was pretty fun. 😀 But still… why can’t they just let them be new characters? It feels like they’re hopelessly stuck in the past. The only thing that appears to be different is that Wobbuffet doesn’t just say “That’s right!”; all he says now is “Wooobbbufffeeeettttt!!!” 😛 Or was that a reference to Red/Blue? No, of course… the Wobbuffet in Sky was female, and this one’s male…

Bah, I think I’m reading too much into this. 😛 They’re just some harmless references, and they’re great for fans of the previous games, but I can’t help but feel like they might’ve been too attached to the old games to concentrate on making a new one. I mean, the gameplay of Super is definitely the best in the series, I really enjoyed the story, and the endgame is pretty good, too, but that balance… sheesh. It’s like they weren’t paying attention. Oh, and the team system was annoying; sometimes you couldn’t use team members because of reasons. Also, some Pokémon (Rayquaza, for example) were marked as “Gigantic”. This was already a somewhat quiet feature in Sky; each Pokémon had a fixed “Body Size” stat, and the total Body Size of your team had to be 6 or lower, so this effectively meant you could only have a three-Pokémon team if you wanted to take most Legendaries with you. However, that was fine, because in Sky they didn’t take up four tiles instead of one! I want to use Rayquaza. I want to use Dialga. And if I find that Yveltal is playable, I’m damn sure I’ll want to use him. But I can’t bring myself to put up with it, because playing with them in the team makes everything a pain in the dick. Regardless of whether they’re the leader or not, gigantic Pokémon just get in the friggin’ way all the time, especially around the corners of corridors, and this causes the other team member to lose line of sight of their allies, which puts them into “I’m lost” mode and makes them start wandering around randomly, which is hyper dangerous! (Uh, well, unless you have Ally Reviver, heh. 😛 ) And it isn’t like gigantic Pokémon are immensely powerful or anything.

I’m pretty sure that this game is a send-off, too. Given the surprising success of the series, it might not be, and I really don’t want it to be, but since it’s touted as the “definitive” Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game, that makes me believe that it’s the end. But all these issues I’ve found with Super just make me feel like the series could’ve ended on a higher note than this. Rgh, I dunno. Maybe it’s Explorers of Sky’s fault. 😛

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky

“Um you’ve already played this twice why are you”

SHAHTAAAP!

Explorers of Sky was retardedly good. It’s one of my favourite RPGs. It has awesome characters everywhere, good yet admittedly repetitive dungeon-crawling, an epic soundtrack, and fuck ME, it has a masterfully-written story. The only thing wrong with the story is that it foreshadows events too obviously. When the player Pokémon exclaims (in his head, because he only speaks at the very end of the story) that he saw Dusknoir smile a little when he said he hadn’t heard of the player Pokémon, that, and the way the dialogue was presented, completely gave away that he was the bad guy. Things like that. Unlike the newer games, in Sky, you can see some things coming a mile away. But in my opinion, the story was about as close to perfect as you can make something. Interesting, mostly unpredictable, surprisingly mature, sometimes fun, sometimes moving, and it has a great ending. Honestly, when the ending theme began playing, I’d been so enthralled with the story that I actually cheered. And the attention to detail is so fine, it’s nearly impossible to notice. For example… like every game in the series, you pick a partner Pokémon. The difference in Sky? There are several slightly different sets of dialogue for your partner. Seriously. For example, when your partner sees the Krabby blowing bubbles near the start of the story, Torchic exclaims that it’s a “beautiful” sight. Bulbasaur exclaims that it’s a “pretty” sight. Totodile exclaims that it’s an “impressive” sight. And no, it isn’t just a one-off thing at the start; it continues throughout the entire story. I shit you not. It’s absolutely psycho! Almost no-one is going to notice this, and yet they did it anyway! Holy shit!

That… pretty much sums up Explorers of Sky. Probably Time/Darkness, too. That attention to detail, taking that much care over the dialogue to give some partners a slightly different voice even though most people will never notice, it shows that a hell of a lot of love and thought has been put into it. That’s why it’s so special. And that’s probably why I couldn’t find Sky for less than £18 second hand.

Yep, I bought it for realsies, and I’m playing through it for the third time. 🙂 I’m even experiencing things I didn’t before. Like… what the hell’s with my storage? I’m playing through like I normally do, or at least I think I am… but I had a massive issue with storage space. I was completely full for quite a long time. I kept recycling stuff I didn’t really need, then after a couple of adventures I was full again, then I recycled, and eventually reached this point where I couldn’t really bring myself to recycle anything, but I had to, because I had a full storage and a full bag. It was suffocating! I’m at the part just before Temporal Tower and I had to backtrack to town and rank up to Gold just to increase my storage space. Yes, even though the world’s basically about to end, I’m doing some missions to increase rank. 😛 I never had to do that in my previous two playthroughs!

But the game is as joyful as ever. I love it, I want to hug it, and I want Chunsoft to announce like 600 expansion packs for it. 😛 But you know what the fun thing about second hand games is? Seeing the previous owner’s data!

Before I wiped it for all eternity, I decided to compare it with the save I have on my emulator. If I hadn’t played this before, I would have just wiped it without looking to avoid spoilers, and besides, I probably wouldn’t have been able to judge because I wouldn’t have understood very much. 😛 Glad I’ve played it before, because this time I was… honestly, bewildered. Completely brainfucked. 😛 Why? Well, um… let me explain with some pictures:

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The one on the left is the physical copy before I wiped it, ie: the previous owner’s data. The one on the right is my data from the emulator. I believe the most interesting statistic there is “Fainted in dungeons”. I fainted once throughout the entire game, probably because I quit and reloaded my last save whenever I fainted, rather than saving my progress with all my money and most of my items gone, so it was never logged because it never technically happened. But this guy fainted 178 times. 178?!? WHAT THE CRAP?! That’s insane! It’s like he never thought “oh, shit, I lost loads of important items there, I’d better just reload and try again”. Christ, he’s fainted in more dungeons than he’s cleared! And he’s cleared more dungeons that me, yet he’s got less than half the Pokémon I do and has acquired 111 less types of items! What is this?!

(Next screenshot has a spoiler, and my Ultimate Text Blackening Strategy won’t work for obvious reasons; avert your virgin gaze if you haven’t played this but plan to play it in the future! 😛 ) (OH MY GOD MY SPOILER WARNING CONTAINS AN INOBVIOUS SPOILER)

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And it’s not like he didn’t clear the game, either! This doesn’t show it, but he finished the whole story. But finishing the whole story and only recycling ten times?! Maybe he didn’t get that selling items is kinda pointless unless it’s equipment or TMs, because you usually get 1p for it (literally)? Or, er… maybe he didn’t have many items? That sounds likely. 😛

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Here’s where shit gets really really odd. Check his stats. Now check mine. Mine’re better, yeah? Now check level. He’s ten levels ahead, yet he has worse stats in every area. WHAAAAAAAAAT! HOW YOU DO DIS?! And it’s not like he hasn’t been eating Gummis! Gummis give you IQ, sometimes stat boosts, and always stat boosts if you give it to Spinda and make it into a drink. But look at his IQ! It’s friggin’ two stars higher than mine, which is significant, but his stats are worse! HOW?!

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“Okay, let’s check the bank.” I said. I opened it and just started laughing in disbelief. You’ve finished the game and only have 1,077P?! Seriously?! How the hell do you even do that?! And one other thing I noticed from this pic? He’s playing as Blaziken. As far as I know… that’s impossible! Ignore that! I thought that it was impossible that he was playing Blaziken because… well, one: the personality test it gives you ends by asking if you’re male or female, and depending on your choice, this prevents you from being assigned certain Pokémon, and the borders of your chat windows are permanently coloured blue or pink for the duration of the game. And two: Torchic is marked as female in partner selection, and Torchic evolves to Combusken, who then evolves into Blaziken. Therefore, I assumed that he couldn’t have ever been a Blaziken because his chat windows are blue. I was totally wrong, though; Torchic can be assigned to either gender, but she’s always female if chosen to be the partner. As for player Pokémon, I looked it up and found that you can’t be Eevee, Skitty or Vulpix if you’re male, and you can’t be Riolu, Phanpy or Shinx if you’re female. Anyway no matter. The main point was that this guy had 0.6% of the money I had. 😛

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This one solidifies my thoughts that he may have had a bit of trouble playing this game. Well, more than a bit. 😛 He had a total of nine items in storage. Uh… the key’s useful, I guess? But no Exclusive Items… no equipment… not even any Reviver Seeds. His bag had more items, but most of it was utility stuff like seeds and semi-useful orbs. I think there was some equipment, but it wasn’t equipped. I don’t have a clue how he got through the story in this state. Massive respect to his tenacity! 😛

What makes his state even more difficult to comprehend is his rank. He can store 320 items, which means he’s Gold rank. In my current state (not the emulator), I’m Gold rank, and I haven’t even finished the primary story yet. He’s finished both parts of the story. How did he end with such a relatively low rank?! On my emulator state there, at the end of the story plus a bit of endgame, I’m Master 3 Star rank. I’d’ve expected him to be at least somewhat close to that! This is why second hand games are so fun! 😛 (In contrast, the data on my second hand copy of Advance Wars: Dual Strike was impressive. They nearly had half the medals!)

Also, why do I have a Gold Ribbon in storage? Well, this is a fun fact! If you take a bunch of Gold Ribbons into a dungeon, along with either a Pure Seed or a Trawl Orb… when you find a Kecleon shop, what you do first is sell all your Gold Ribbons and any other high value items in your bag. Then, if you have a Pure Seed, you tell your team members to wait a distance from the shop (for safety reasons), then pick up all the items in the shop and use the Pure Seed. You’ll warp to the stairs, and the Hyper Fast Kecleon Army will then move to annihilate you because you stole from the shop. Simply walk onto the stairs, go to the next floor and poof. You’ve just generated several thousand Poké. 😀 Alternatively, with the Trawl Orb, walk to the stairs with your team, then use the Trawl Orb. It’ll attract all the items on the floor, including the ones in Kecleon’s shop. This is classed as stealing, so the Hyper Fast Kecleon Army will assemble. Pick up everything and get to the stairs before they reach your room and rape you. Poof, several thousand Poké. Terrible exploit! Probably why you can’t do it in Gates to Infinity and Super! 😛

I don’t have a picture of it, but his team was quite… interesting, too. Several of his team members were named after characters from Mortal Kombat. No idea why. None of the Pokémon he named had any particular resemblance to the character he named them after. 😛 He didn’t name his partner. The player Pokémon’s name (or at least the controllable Pokémon) was called “JACK”. All caps. Speaking to the partner Pokémon was entertaining for a second. “Let’s do our best as always, JACK!” 😛

UPDATE: Going back to what I said earlier, about the slightly different dialogue… I remember taking a screenshot on the emulator after selecting the negative option in one of the game’s many pointless choices, when your partner asks “Should we go into the nightmare?”. My partner was Totodile. This time, my partner is Bulbasaur. When I reached the same point in the game, I took a picture of the same bit of dialogue. Here’s the comparison:

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I know it’s such a minor thing, but that’s the point. This attention to detail was completely unnecessary. The vast majority of players would never notice, but they still did it. The only reason they did so was because they cared. If only more devs cared as much nowadays. Sigh.

Anyway… that’s that, methinks. 🙂 Speaking of second hand games, though…

Fire Emblem: Awakening

So, after playing Project X Zone 2 (still haven’t finished that, actually) and Advance Wars: Dual Strike, I remembered that other turn-based strategy game I hadn’t played yet: Fire Emblem. I dunno why, but it never really appealed to me. Maybe I was under the impression that it was too slow or too serious or too annoying. By “too annoying” I mean that if one of your characters dies in Fire Emblem, they’re gone for good. Unless it’s the main character. Then you just get Game Over. 😛 Maybe “annoying” is the wrong word. “Stressful” is slightly more appropriate. 😛

Anyway, I went through a bunch of demos recently. Most of them were junk (fucking Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Edition, fuck me, what is that bullshit, and what were Nintendo smoking to let that no-name fail mobile company shit all over the place and combine two IPs that had absolutely nothing in common, okay I’m done now), but Fire Emblem: Awakening was among them. I was… very impressed. The whole thing stank of quality. “Stank of quality”? Kind of a shit way to put it, but yeah, it felt like a quality game. There wasn’t much to the demo, some dialogue, a couple of maps and some stupidly good FMVs with some surprisingly good English voice acting. But I was impressed, so I had a look online to see if I could still get it second hand. It’s quite an old game, so I thought it was either gonna be unavailable or quite cheap.

Oh, it was available. But on Amazon at least, it was nearly as expensive as friggin’ Pokémon Sun and Moon! Even on eBay it was expensive. Not like I really buy anything off eBay auctions anyway because they’re always sniped and tend to go for way more than you can get the item elsewhere.

So I turned to Cex (heheheh cex shop), the place I bought Explorers of Sky from. No stock in any store near me, but I could get it delivered for £24.50, and that was pretty much the cheapest I could find. I bought it because I think it’ll be worth that, but Jesus, that’s really steep for a nearly three-year-old game. Rhythm Paradise Megamix cost about that when it was brand new. I figure it’s so expensive because Awakening was so well-received. After reading about it, it feels like this game’s a bit of a legend. It was basically the developers’ last shot at keeping the Fire Emblem series going. Nintendo told Intelligent Systems that if it didn’t sell 250,000 units, that was it; Fire Emblem would be cancelled. In the face of this pressure, they absolutely nailed it, got 90+ on Metacritic and sold like nearly a million copies in total. Awakening’s the only reason Fire Emblem still exists, so maybe that’s why it’s so expensive.

I haven’t got it yet; I only ordered it today (I only got back home from my parents’ yesterday 😛 ) but I’ll probably write about it. As a draft. Then find it again several months later and post it. 😛

Anyhoo, I think that’s all for now… okaaaay yes, that’s now 7407 words excluding the “word” “7407”, so let’s leave it there. 😛 Buh-byyyye!

ow my fingers

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DAZ’s sappin’ mah EXPOOL!

ERMAGERD ARGH GODDAMNIT! FERK YU IN DA BUMWHOLE!!

Er… I mean… hi. How are you? 🙂 Don’t worry, that was just me raging at DAZ Studio as per usual. 😛 But because the reason for that has been mentioned about 6000 times before, let’s start somewhere more interesting first. 🙂

Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon
Well, Amazon failed massively and said they weren’t going to have it in stock until after the weekend I’d been planning to play it. I bitchslapped them and cancelled the order (didn’t really bitchslap them but I did IN MY HEAD), and ordered it from ShopTo instead. It cost a tiny bit more but it arrived on release day, so GG to them. 🙂

How is it? Well, I’ll do my best not to throw any major spoilers. 😛 At first, I wasn’t really “feeling” it. The writing and the dialogue was great as usual, but the setting felt a bit wrong. You and your partner are actually children this time around, which felt strange for some reason. The first time my partner appeared, I thought “Oh God, please don’t tell me Chunsoft have made him an irritating little arse this time”, but after playing for a while, I feel like they introduced him in that way for a reason, so that’s okay. 🙂 There are a couple of other things that are still bugging me, though.

First off, the story doesn’t actually go anywhere for ages. Sure, a story is there, but it’s just a series of unrelated events and doesn’t really mean anything. Something happens, the thing is resolved, normality resumes for a while. Every so often, there were hints at this giant, overarching plot, but you never seem to get involved in it. It feels like the writers got stuck in first gear. When you get past a certain point, though, it really starts to open up. When you battle a Legendary Pokémon for the second time, shit gets REAL, with sparkliness and henshin all over the place. 😀 That was one of the few times that battles in Mystery Dungeon games were genuinely exciting.

The excitement probably came from the difficulty… the noticeably increased difficulty. In that battle, the boss loved to use ranged attacks which did a lot of damage, and I was forced to think between almost every turn, adjust tactics, consider item usage and decide on a move. It felt tense, like a true roguelike. 😀 Overall, it feels significantly harder than all its predecessors. That’s both a good thing… but kind of a bad thing as well, because I’ve found that the difficulty curve is totally erratic. Very early on in the game, I accepted a job to beat a Salamence, which had a rating of one star, the lowest possible. When entering the floor where Salamence was, he wiped my team so quickly that I thought I’d made a mistake when picking a mission or something. Oh, no, I hadn’t. His stats were just friggin’ stupid. I could only do single-digit damage to him, even with my strongest moves, and he could one-shot me. I had to resort to dirty evil tricks to beat him. I brought along a wand item which causes an enemy to fall asleep, and kept using it on him every time he woke up, spamming Alliance Attacks while he was asleep. Even that wasn’t enough, so I used a Blast Seed to compensate for my lack of attack power, which is cheap, since it always does 100 damage (quite a lot, especially in the early game). After beating him, I actually had the option of using him on future missions. I checked his level and found out he was Level 50. I wasn’t even Level 20 yet. 😛

You see… instead of recruiting Pokémon by beating them in a dungeon, this time around you “recruit” them when you complete a job that involves them. It treats each Pokémon as an entirely different character, and that’s nice, but the problem with this that they’re not necessarily close to your level, and that massive lack of balance is my biggest gripe with the game so far. If the job involves beating them, and they’re say, Level 50, it’s impossible without using cheap tactics and overpowered items. And then, when you DO win, you have an overpowered team member you can use at any time! And it’s not like all the jobs require you to beat an overpowered enemy, either; one job was just “take me to this Pokémon”, and after completing it, I got the ability to put a high-level Dragonite on my team! I mean, if I really wanted, I could easily make a team consisting of a Level 56 Alakazam, a Level 55 Dragonite and a Level 50 Salamence and steamroll the shit out of everything. But that’d be like playing with God Mode on, and that would make the game pointless! Why does it even let me do that? It’s not fun!

Other than it having basically the worst balance I’ve ever seen in gaming, Super Mystery Dungeon is pretty good so far. Its strong points are the dialogue, the story and the characters as usual, but the actual gameplay is probably better than its ever been thanks to the return of hunger (which now does triple damage, so you can’t even try to ignore it any more) and the introduction of the Looplet/Emera system. Equipment items have all changed to Looplets, which have similar effects to the old equipment items (they can increase Attack, Sp. Attack, Defence, etc.), but Looplets have sockets into which you can place Emeras (basically gems), which have various effects. You can also use Emeras you don’t want/can’t use on party members to increase their stats until the end of the adventure. The Emeras disappear when you leave the dungeon, so you only have the Emeras you find in the dungeon at your disposal. It just makes equipment way more interesting. The dungeon crawling can still be repetitive, so I understand why some may not enjoy it as much, but because it’s more difficult than Gates to Infinity, it revives that sense of tension from Time/Darkness/Sky. It’s difficult to compare it to the other games overall since I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the story yet, but because it had a slow, almost uninteresting start, I doubt it’ll be better than Explorers of Sky. The writing in that game was unbelievably good. 😀

OH, OH OH, a couple things I forgot to mention. One: the most disappointing, saddest moment of this game so far:

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NOOOOOOOO!! I wanted to spin the V-Wheeeeeeeel!! 😦 Yes, the V-Wave system isn’t in Super Mystery Dungeon, which is a shame, since I quite liked it; it encouraged you to take different team members along all the time. This game tries to encourage that in a… less good way. Basically, at random points, it picks three random team members who become “motivated”, and they gain triple XP from enemies. No Victini or any spinning of wheels or anything. Yawn.

Anyway, second… you know the boss battle theme? Maybe not. 😛 Anyway, it’s been the same melody in every Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game. It sounds like this in Super; it’s quite a “playful” version, which is apt. 😀 Now… unless you’ve reached Chapter 12, the next link is a spoiler… but at a certain point in the game, it gives you the the boss theme as you’d expect, but it’s an alternate version that came pretty much out of nowhere. And it nearly made me explode. I had to reload my save data and redo the boss battle just so I could hear that track again. 😛

Okay, next topic! Well, as we’re on the subject of Pokémon…

 

Pokémon Omega Ruby
“Wait wait wait wait wait what the fuck who now WHAT?!”

No, I don’t get it either. 😛

I don’t particularly know what it was. Maybe it was my hype from Super Mystery Dungeon. I tend not to get hyped about games any more, so it’s quite special when it happens. Or, maybe it was because of the demo I played. Or maybe it was the constant exposure to Pokémon-related games on the 3DS, because basically every not-actually-free-to-play game Nintendo makes seems to be Pokemon themed. Pokémon Shuffle, Pokémon Picross, Pokémon Rumble World… it’s like Nintendo are using one of the most famous game franchises of all time as a guinea pig for their annoying interest in not-actually-free-to-play mobile gaming, simultaneously promoting the series and ruining it. 😛

Whatever it was, a few weeks before Super Mystery Dungeon came out, I decided to buy Pokémon Omega Ruby.

So… why don’t I get it? Well, my only real interest in the Pokémon franchise has only ever been Mystery Dungeon; a spin-off. I’ve never liked the core Pokémon games. Ever. I had either Red or Blue on a very illegal multicart way back when I had a Game Boy (way back when I was young enough not to know it was illegal :P). Almost everyone else I knew was into Pokémon; the games, and the anime, and the cards… but I got really bored of the game, I hated the shit out of the anime and didn’t really understand the appeal of the cards. I guess that was early evidence of my “fuck the flock; I’m going my own way” nature. 😀

Someone I know had Colosseum on GameCube, and I remember borrowing it for a while. I remember liking the Double Battles but thought the game was even more boring than usual, and it had a stupid difficulty curve, and it had awful production quality. Some number of years later, I played SoulSilver on an emulator, and referred to it in this very blog as “Poké-Way-Too-Tedious-Brain-Numbingly-Boring-And-Repetitive Soul-I-Don’t-Know-WTF-To-Do-Or-Where-To-Go-Next-Silver”, which… basically sums up my experience with the game. 😛 I also played White, and I SWEAR I wrote about it to some degree in this blog but I can’t friggin’ find it at all. I’m pretty sure I said it played exactly the same only it was in Almost-3D and the Pokémon were animated. And by “animated” I mean “they twitched slightly”. 😛

The annoying thing is, I like the Pokémon. Not as much as Digimon, because Digimon tend to be 120% fucking cool, hardcore, unrestrained badasses, like turtles with massive hammers or werewolves that kick your face off or dinosaurs with rocket launchers GIGA CANNONS which turn into bipedal dinosaurs that throw suns at you, but I still like a lot of Pokémon. 😛 I can remember a fair few species and their types, mainly from playing Mystery Dungeon, and I mostly know what types beat what, so by memorising this stuff, I’m obviously interested. If I didn’t give a shite, I wouldn’t have a clue that Flying beats Fighting, Grass beats Water and Dragon beats itself. 😛

So… well, seeing as how I have a 3DS, and because (real) Pokémon games are exclusive to Nintendo systems, I decided to download the *deep breath* Omega Ruby slash Alpha Sapphire Special Demo Version *whew* and give it a chance, even though core Pokémon games have failed to interest me on four previous occasions. 😛 I don’t really understand why, since the demo was basically devoid of content, but there was something about it that made me think “Hmmm, yeah, this is good… I kinda like this”. So I decided on Omega Ruby, and bought a copy. It’s funny… Pokémon’s basically the only game that you need to research which version to buy beforehand, since there are 22 Pokémon that become incredibly difficult to get if you get one version over the other. 😛

Soooooo? Did I do something stupid? No, actually. Somehow, against all odds, it’s made me a fan.

I don’t really understand why, because it’s basically the same shizzle as the previous games. It’s a cockfighting simulation where you play as an evil kid that forces monsters to beat up other monsters to the point of fainting before you capture them in a tiny ball. 😛 Okay, no, without trying to apply the laws of the real world to the Pokémon world (because then the Pokémon world would seem royally messed up), you’re a Pokémon trainer that goes on a journey with Pokémon, catching new ones and raising them (and being nice to them! really!) to challenge Gym Leaders all over the region with the hope of getting all the Gym badges, then beating the piss out of everyone in the Pokémon League and becoming the ultimate winner of everything.

The battle system is the same. Choose a Pokémon, beat your opponent in one move, receive a microscopic amount of experience. 😛 Okay, maybe not, although to be honest that is pretty much what I remember from the Game Boy games, but I imagine I was doing it wrong and battling Pokémon that were too weak. The battle system is fine, although it’s fairly luck-based and memory assists you more than skill. If you know what type beats your opponent, switch to a Pokémon with moves of that type and you’ll win. If you don’t have that kind of Pokémon, switch to one that resists the moves you think your opponent has but ensure you can still do standard damage with your own moves, and you’ll win. 😛 The two biggest differences are the addition of a new type, Fairy, and Mega Evolution… although both of those were actually introduced in Pokémon X & Y. 😛 Mega Evolution is like a dramatic-looking power boost you can trigger for specific Pokémon, but you can only do it if the Pokémon is holding the required Mega Stone, and you can only use Mega Evolution once per battle.

Even though the battle system is mostly the same, the graphics are a lot… lot prettier. The Pokémon are 3D instead of using 2D sprites, with a cel-shaded anime-like art style. They look great; it’s probably the prettiest game I’ve seen on the 3DS. 😀 The animation’s great, too, and so are most of the special effects. All of this makes battles way more interesting to watch. I never got tired of seeing my Torchic use Scratch; watching him run back after attacking was funny and pretty cute. 😀 Unfortunately, the graphics might be too great. The game limits stereoscopic 3D to Single Battles, some cutscenes and a few other areas… and the reason it does this is pretty obvious. The 3DS just can’t handle it. 😛 The framerate in Single Battles with 3D on is just… wow. It chugs like hell at certain camera angles, usually when both Pokémon are visible or during certain attacks. When only one Pokémon is being rendered, it tends to be fine. I don’t know what the poly count of the models are, but I reckon they’re a bit too high for the 3DS, or maybe the post-processing is too expensive. This is even worse when you keep in mind that I have a New 3DS, which has a bit more power than the standard one! You can massively boost the FPS to about 60 simply by turning off stereoscopy, but… then… then everything looks flat. 😛

Exploration is mostly the same; if you walk in tall grass which covers a large amount of the land, you get attacked by monsters at a rate that makes you wonder how anyone gets anywhere without dying. 😛 It’s slightly better now, though… the encounter rate isn’t quite as bad as I remember, plus in most areas you have full analogue movement, so you can sometimes avoid patches of grass when you don’t want to battle by going diagonally (WOW DIAGONALS). Of course, you can still use Repels to stop ’em from jumping you, and you can also sneak to reduce the encounter rate, apparently. Another difference is a feature called DexNav, which puts sneaking to further use. It’s useful normally because it tells you if there are any Pokémon you haven’t caught in the current area. But sometimes the game will randomly pick patches of tall grass and place a Pokémon there, rummaging in the grass, usually with its arse sticking in the air. 😛 When this happens, you can use the DexNav to scan it, which, when you get close enough, gives you a silhouette of the Pokémon and some info about it. Sometimes it generates interesting Pokémon with unusual moves or abilities, or unusually high levels. The more Pokémon of that type you fight, the better the info becomes, eventually even telling you a summary of the generated Pokémon’s potential. If you want to battle that Pokémon, you just sneak over to the patch of tall grass it’s hiding in and make contact with it.

Catching Pokémon is business as usual, too. You hit it until its HP gets low to increase the catch chance. You can also cause status conditions to increase the chance further. When you’re feeling lucky punk, you chuck Poké Balls at it until the Random Number God smiles upon you. Sometimes this is easy and happens in one attempt, other times it’s annoying as fuck. Like recently, when trying to catch some Pokémon quite some distance from the home town. Sheesh, Skarmory was a bugger. 😛 After about 5 attempts I thought “this is weird”, and looked up the catch chance, finding out that the base chance (with the Pokémon at full health and using a standard Poke Ball) is… 3.3%. I decided not to give up, though. Lobbing basically every ball I had at it while trying to keep my team alive was somehow both frustrating and exciting at the same time. I caught it eventually, just when I was getting low on balls. Heheheheh shut up. 😛

Since this is technically a remake, the story is apparently very similar to Ruby/Sapphire’s story. Makes no difference to me because I never played Ruby/Sapphire. 😛 Anyway, the story is incredibly stupid. There are two Super Evil Teams, Team Magma and Team Aqua. Both came out of nowhere, both have seemingly infinite members, both utterly suck at Pokémon battles, and both want to do something retarded that makes no sense and is impossible. Magma wants to expand the land, and Aqua wants to expand the ocean. So both want to do something they think will be of benefit, but they’re blind to the fact that by succeeding, they’ll probably mess up the planet and kill everyone. 😛

Some of the dialogue is funny, but the script is annoying as fuck, as usual. Everything’s decided with Pokémon battles. So if you want to get something back from Team Magma or Team Aqua, who are basically terrorists and extremists, you challenge them to a Pokémon battle. If you win, they’re all like “OHMIGAWD YOU’RE SO STRONG FINE HERE HAVE THIS THING WE REALLY NEEDED TO DO OUR EVIL DEEDS” instead of “lol you won, so what, Falcon Kick, Mongz blacked out”. Especially, it’s really frustrating when the Evil Team Of Terrorists have just acquired The Plot Coupon To End All Plot Coupons right in front of you, and you just let them laugh at you and walk past. ARGHH! STOP THEM WITH A DICK PUNCH FFS!!

And where the fuck are the police?!

Aside from all that, though, it’s actually an interesting game to play. The world is pretty big, and there are quite a lot of things to do other than battles. There are Contest Spectaculars, which kinda work like a battle, but the tactics are different. You’ve basically gotta get as many hearts as possible in five turns while trying to reduce your opponents’ hearts. There’s Pokémon-Amie, too, which lets you play with your Pokémon to a certain extent; you can feed them, pet them and play a few minigames with them. The minigames are weird and feel like they were made in about two days, and the facial recognition is completely dire. The crap facial recognition ruins a somewhat interesting game you can play where your Pokémon asks you to make a certain face. It’s cool until it asks you to make a huge smile or open your mouth wide, because the camera cannot see me doing it. Then it times out and the Pokémon gets all sad and I’m like “hey sorry, but the facial recognition is total bullshit!” and that’s bad because then I’m teaching my Pokémon bad words. 😛 You can also do this thing called Super Training, which lets you increase your Pokémon’s EVs, or “Effort Values”, officially known as “base stats”. The Super Training minigame is really weird and I don’t get it at all; you throw balls at a puppet in a 3D environment and try to get the 3D balls into 2D nets while avoiding balls thrown at you. If you get enough balls into nets… you, er… you win. And your Pokémon’s base stats increase. There’s also a different kind of training where you give them a training bag and have them break it to get various effects, usually more base stats. They hit it once a minute automatically, but waiting for them to break the bag themselves is utterly stupid and pointless because you can get the effects of the bag much, much faster by tapping the bag yourself. It’s nice that they’ve exposed EVs like this and it’s great that you can increase them more easily, but it’s just a really weirdly themed, badly designed minigame that makes me think they ran out of ideas.

But yeah, overall, I’m enjoying it! Wow. Feels weird, suddenly finding out I like something I didn’t like before. 😛 Hell, I even bothered to go into Brighton (and walking around Brighton is one of my top ten most hated things) and go into an actual GAME store for the first time in years to ask for a code for a Mew during the distribution event they were having in February. That felt like it was gonna be the most embarrassing moment of my life until the cashier asked me how many I’d like, to which I responded “er, just the one, I think” in a confused manner. He then mentioned that the current record was ten. That made me feel much better. 😛 I mean, ten? Why? I thought you could only redeem one code of a kind per save file. Unless you’ve got X, Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire and have 6 friends who can’t be bothered to go to GAME? 😛 Or maybe they were giving them out to people in other countries who couldn’t participate? Maybe that’s it.

I’ll probably end up getting either Pokémon Sun or Moon when they come out, and if Omega Ruby dries up in the meantime I might even get Pokémon X/Y. Heh… this is mental. I’m actually spending more time playing on the 3DS than on the PC recently. 😛 I now have 3 RPGs to finish, and I bought Mega Man Legacy Collection too. 😀

What’s next…? Ah yes, here comes the thing I was going to talk about originally; a BIG wall of text about a problem that was stupidly hard to debug! 😛

 

Digital ASS Zone POOdio and the Chronicles of the Corruption of the Extended Memory POOl
I’ve had these really annoying problems with DAZ Studio for some time now. Problems where during a render, DAZ Studio would crash the graphics driver (the effect of which crashes DAZ Studio if a viewport is visible), or problems where I would get a DRIVER_CORRUPTED_EXPOOL bluescreen without warning. Recently, it got to a point where I was absolutely friggin’ sick of it. It was making most renders impossible. I had to know what it was, and I had to fix it, otherwise I would explode in a fit of rage, and doctors tend to say that exploding isn’t good for your health. 😛

It literally took weeks to figure it out. At first, I poked around and did all sorts of shit in an attempt to debug the problem, and quickly came to at least one conclusion. And it was a very funny conclusion.

I was certain that this error wasn’t caused by DAZ Studio. Heheheh, oops! 😛

How did I come to this conclusion? Well… I did a stress test on my CPU for the first time in ages using IntelBurnTest. It’s one of those programs which are designed to hammer the balls out of your CPU by asking it to compute something stupidly complicated. If you can run the test for a prolonged period of time without your PC crashing or the CPU making a mistake, you can consider your CPU and its current overclock stable. I ran IntelBurnTest on my then-current overclock, and it crashed the system in basically the same way as DAZ Studio does. I disabled my overclock and ran it again. It succeeded. Easy! Obviously my overclock was unstable. Case closed. The next day, DAZ Studio crashed the PC again, so I ran IntelBurnTest again, and it, er… it produced an inconsistent result. That basically rang every alarm bell. 😛

I disabled Turbo Boost, an Intel feature which auto-overclocks your processor when it’s being strained. Test failed. I disabled EIST, aka: Intel SpeedStep, another processor feature which dynamically clocks your processor depending on its current load, mainly to save energy. Test failed. Disabled XMP, a feature that lets my memory run at the speed it was designed to run using parameters specified by the memory manufacturer. Test failed. Then, I uninstalled my graphics drivers, both dedicated and integrated, and tried again. Test failed!

It was failing at stock speeds with absolutely no overclocking or underclocking at all, manual or automatic, and even though although Windows was blaming the drivers (and according to reports I got from analysing memory dumps with WinDbg, various programs such as Logitech Gaming Software, TeamViewer and System (lel)), it appeared that they were only messing up because the CPU made a mistake. I didn’t want to believe it, but it was looking like a hardware issue. I was hoping it was just bad cooling, but my temps rarely went above 80C at full load, which, in my previous experience, is totally fine.

But then… I ran the test in Safe Mode. It succeeded. Believing it was a fluke, I ran it in Safe Mode again for an extremely long period of time while I went off and played some Super Mystery Dungeon. I checked on the PC before going to bed and it had passed about 150 times in a row.

I decided to stop it, exit Safe Mode and run the same test overnight. Found out this morning that it had failed on the third test, less than five minutes after I left it to run overnight. I left it to run again in the morning. I checked it while I was at work, and it had failed on the 33rd test.

After all that, I didn’t think it was a hardware issue. It must have been a software issue, either a driver or some other program that runs at startup was somehow messing up the CPU, causing it to mess up the GPU drivers and cause a crash. But what could possibly be messing up the CPU?!

Then I realised there was a vague pattern. In Safe Mode, you don’t have networking unless you ask for it. So, I decided to unplug my Internet connection. I ran the test for a while. It passed. I installed my display drivers again. It passed the test. I then plugged in my network cable, restarted the PC, and started the test again. It failed on the 11th test. I unplugged my network cable, restarted and did a massive test overnight. Checked it this morning. It had friggin’ passed all 200 tests.

WHAAAAT!

That basically told me that the problem could have only been one of two things. It was either my network drivers, or my firewall. I was hoping that it was my firewall, so I disabled the firewall by not letting it run at startup, and did a test. I checked after an hour or so at work… the test wasn’t running, so the PC had clearly crashed. I tried again, and checked at lunch. It hasn’t crashed, but it had failed on the 6th test. This… is not good, because that indicates the problem lies with the network drivers, and I need these network drivers. No driver, no Internets; simple as.

The only obvious thing that came to mind was the possibility that the drivers were faulty or out of date. I mean, I was having strange problems with them during the Windows 10 Tech Preview… and by “strange problems” I mean “they didn’t work at all past a certain build”. 😛 Of course, my deduction could have been way off too, but… no, it couldn’t have been that far off. It had to be something to do with a thing that accesses the Internet, because when I cut my connection to the Internet, the problem didn’t occur.

I went on Killer’s site and got their latest drivers, which had actually been updated just a couple of weeks ago. Through some miracle I actually managed to install them through TeamViewer without losing connection. I then restarted the PC, and ran another IntelBurnTest, firewall still not running. It passed all of the 100 tests I set. I re-enabled my firewall on startup, restarted, and ran the test again, basically expecting it to pass all the tests so I could finally put this shit to rest. It CRASHED THE PC!

“What the fuck” is all I could think of. I was beginning to believe that I was way off, or that this problem was pretty much beyond my comprehension. Maybe the network drivers were fundamentally broken on Windows 10? Maybe the problem was partially caused by the network drivers and partially caused by the firewall? Maybe I’d been led to believe that it was a network issue when it wasn’t? ARGGGH!

I did the test again thinking it was a freak accident that would never happen again, and TeamViewer lost connection after about 5 minutes: crash! Despite previous tests showing that the firewall had made no difference to the stability whether it was on or off, I disabled the firewall, restarted and ran the test again. Of course it still crashed. I decided to uninstall the firewall ENTIRELY, restarted, and tried the test one more time. Yes, it crashed. And oh-so amazingly and conveniently, the PC didn’t restart after that crash.

So, it couldn’t have been the firewall. But just… all of a sudden, for some impossible reason, it had entered this pattern where the CPU wasn’t failing the burn test by producing incorrect results… it was failing by crashing the PC. The ONLY thing it could possibly have been was the network drivers, but why the fuck would some network drivers screw up the CPU to such an extent that would cause it to make a calculation error?!

Because that crash took out the PC seemingly entirely, I didn’t have a way to confirm whether the network drivers really were causing the problem until I got home. When I did get home, it turned out to be an entirely new type of crash; one that locked up everything. I tried the test again and the same thing happened. So the crash had changed styles again… great.

I uninstalled the network drivers. Ran the test again. And against everything I was expecting… it crashed. This basically ruined the days of debugging I’d done. It was as if the times it passed the test were just unbelievable flukes. Even running it in Safe Mode with Networking with the network drivers uninstalled was crashing. Uninstalling my graphics drivers again didn’t help; it didn’t crash the PC, but it still failed the test.

I noticed something else, though. When running an IntelBurnTest using a small amount of memory, say, 1GB, it didn’t fail. That suddenly made me think it was a memory issue, so I decided to run Windows’ memory checker tool thing. Amazingly, it actually found a memory issue. It was totally unhelpful and just said “oh there’s a problem contact the PC manufacturer”. Uh… I built the thing, so technically I’m the PC manufacturer. 😛

But that test finally made me think “shiiit, that’s gotta be it!” I started to shuffle my DIMMs around to test whether there was a problem with one or both of them, or if it was a motherboard problem. After finding out that the memory test failed with both DIMMs in regardless of the slots they were in, I tried putting one DIMM into a specific slot. The memory test failed, so I replaced it with the other DIMM. The memory test was successful. I left that DIMM in and did a huge burn test using the same memory setting as usual.

And it failed. Crashed the PC after about half an hour.

So… to sum up so far. My PC was not overclocked in any way and my CPU never exceeded 85C even at full load. Despite this, and only when the CPU ran at full load, the PC would crash in one of three unique ways when my network cable was plugged in, but when it wasn’t, it never crashed, but uninstalling my network drivers or firewall made no difference, and it didn’t matter whether I was in Safe Mode w/ Networking or not, but it never crashed in basic Safe Mode. There was apparently a memory issue, but when I resolved the memory issue by removing the allegedly faulty DIMM, it made no difference to whether the crash happened or not.

What the fuck. WHAT. THE. FUCK.

I totally lost my patience after this and didn’t bother trying to debug the problem for a few days. It became an annoying weight on my mind, so when I came back to it, I tried a couple of other things. I updated my BIOS and every driver that came with the motherboard. No effect. I re-experimented with my DIMMs and confirmed that one of them was faulty, and removed the one I was absolutely sure was faulty. Still no effect.

I collected my thoughts on the state of my hardware. I assumed it wasn’t a CPU issue, because if it was, the PC would crash all the time, not just at full load. It wasn’t a heat issue because the same test passed all the time in Safe Mode when the CPU was running at the same heat. It wasn’t a memory issue anymore because I’d removed the faulty DIMM, and memory tests were passing all the time with the current working DIMM. It wasn’t a power issue because the stated max power drain of all my components didn’t even come close to 850W. It wasn’t a GPU issue because the GPUs weren’t in use during the CPU test and the crash occurred when the drivers for my GPUs weren’t even installed. It wasn’t a drive issue because this bug had nothing to do with the SSD or hard drive. And although I didn’t have enough info to clear my motherboard of suspicion, I didn’t believe it was that.

Thinking it through, I was 100% convinced it was a software issue, but it definitely wasn’t the GPU drivers. Because I had no clue besides that, I went into yob mode and decided to disable or uninstall all suspect drivers and programs. I’d uninstall a thing, restart the PC and then do the test. So… I uninstalled Virtual Audio Cable, a driver that always felt really intrusive to me. It had no effect on the test result. I went through my startup programs list, disabling them one at a time. No effect, even when they were all disabled.

Then I realised PlayClaw wasn’t in the startup list. That’s because I have it as a task in Task Scheduler instead of a startup program, because it’s really annoying and asks you for admin rights when the PC starts if you have it as a traditional startup program; by setting it in Task Scheduler you can give it admin permission there so it doesn’t bug you. I disabled this task, restarted, and did the test.

The test passed. It was obviously a fluke, so I did it again. And it passed. And again, this time for 10x longer. Passed.

“Fuck off, stop screwing with me” is what I said. I decided to give it the test it would fail without a doubt; rendering my newest scene in DAZ Studio. In that scene, I use the preset lighting supplied with the environment I’m using. It’s pretty, but like the majority of preset things in DAZ Studio, it’s so expensive and idiotic that it takes my PC around 5 hours to render it out at max quality, and because it takes that long, it has never completed successfully. I set it to render overnight.

It succeeded. IT SUCCEEDED.

I’m not gonna show you the render because there’s so much wrong with it (mainly lighting issues, heh, why the hell did I bother with that preset crap), but what the hell… how?! How could PlayClaw, a game recorder, cause this problem? It’s never caused any problems like this when I actually use it! Christ, it’s not even in use when the problem happens! It’s just that the CPU is maxed!

At first, I thought that the problem might not have been PlayClaw alone. I thought it was a combination of PlayClaw and that faulty DIMM I removed, but… well, for fun, I put my faulty DIMM back in and it still hasn’t crashed, even after several successful burn tests and another render. So maybe it was just PlayClaw. But… argh, HOW CAN A GAME RECORDER MESS UP THE CPU?!

I’ll have to see how it goes. But DAZ Studio is working perfectly now! Er… well, no. It was working perfectly the entire time. Well, okay, not perfectly, because DAZ Studio still has a bunch of bugs, but at least it can do what it’s designed to do now. 😛

As for that render, I’ll have it soon enough. As I mentioned, the render time is utterly insane, even on draft quality. But I have a pretty good feeling about it. 😀

RIGHT, that’s enough. That’s definitely enough. 😛 I’ll leave my PC to render this out and hope it doesn’t crash while I faceplant on my bed. NIIIIGHT