Post Deliveryyyyy!

Phwoaack, it’s been a li’l while since I last posted. The last time was back when I PERFECTED MATRYOSHKA ON SUPER HARD LOOK LOOK LOOK:

Matryoshka (Button, SH) Perfect, 443,207

WOW! LOOK AGAIN!

Matryoshka (Button, SH) Perfect, 443,207

Ahem. So, how’re thingz? 🙂

What’ve I done since I last posted? Well, I’ve mainly been working, aaand it’s basically making me lose the will to live. 😛 Our previous project was good, I mean, I didn’t really like the game as a whole, but it was interesting to work on, and the features we were implementing were well designed and interesting to play, even if the core game was pretty dull. That was about 2 years ago. Since then, we’ve been working on a new project. It was fairly decent when we began, but as it progressed and other people got involved, I slowly began to realise that this game we were making… I didn’t like it. Like, REALLY didn’t like it. I also slowly began to dislike the other people who were getting involved. Since then, it’s escalated into a huge tornado of fuckshit. The lack of communication is ultra-annoying, the organisation is so bad I actually think the teams I worked with at university did a better job, people have meetings when I’m pretty sure they don’t need one and they overrun literally every single time, and some of the decisions made by the project leader are so stupid they go beyond what I can comprehend… for example, our game is free-to-play with in-app purchases (IAPs) like 99% of mobile junk, but the difference between all that junk and this junk was that our IAP shop was constantly pushed back in favour of much less critical tasks… so our game cannot make money. When we go for a meeting to determine our next set of tasks, the project leader always seems to have picked more tasks than we can all possibly do, insisting all of them are critical for the next build, and then it usually turns out he’s actually just picked stuff he wants instead of stuff we need. And it’s not just him; a lot of the other people I have to work with are so stupid I can’t help but wonder how the hell they got into this industry, and I can’t believe some of them have been making games for way longer than I have. Several of them don’t even care about gaming! I worked my ass off and racked up a massive debt to get here and do what I love doing, and there are people like this?! ARGHH! AND it’s summer, my least favourite season, and there’s no goddamn air conditioning and the wind speed is less than 10 mph, and conveniently all of the fans in the room appear to be situated near the lead staff, but they were saying they were going to order more, maybe, at some point, or not, probably needs a meeting. Two weeks after they mentioned getting more fans, they still haven’t, so they obviously don’t care.

The result of all this pain? A game I really really hate which I would uninstall in less than five minutes. I actually hope it bombs harder than anything has ever bombed before. I hide my opinion of the game from the other staff because it doesn’t help anyone to complain and there’s nothing that can be done about it now, but also because I’ve recently found out the project leader has this fucked up mentality that anyone who has made negative comments about the game is an asshole and 100% wrong. I hate people who can’t take criticism.

Anyway, that’s FAR too much whining, sorry. This post wasn’t supposed to be about ruining your day by mimicking the average Facebook feed. 😛 So, other more better stuff I’ve done… well, I’ve been playing a few games, of course. 🙂 I quite enjoyed the Overwatch Beta, so I ended up getting it, but after about 20 hours of game time I realised it was getting pretty boring. Slowly, it stopped being fun and became more annoying, then I questioned why I was playing it, and then I stopped. I probably won’t play it again until they… I dunno, add a new map, or a more interesting mode, or something. It’s quite annoying and doesn’t fully make sense why I’m bored of it, because I’m still up for playing Rocket League now and again, but that’s even more repetitive, and I’m worse at it than Overwatch. I guess Rocket League is just more fun. 😛

I’ve also been playing Disgaea PC, a port of the first Disgaea, a crazy tactical RPG with hilarious dialogue and mechanics. I’ve played it before on PSP, but never finished it. This time, though, I finally completed it after 60 hours, but didn’t get the good ending. The condition for getting that is to get through the story without killing a unit on your team… which is pretty easy, and I actually don’t remember killing one of my own units. Must’ve been a badly targeted skill. 😛 Anyways, I want to go through the story again to get it. Then I need to play the bonus episodes and extra stages, and get most of the achievements. Lel, it cost a third of what Overwatch cost and I’ve played it at least twice as much, and it’s made me laugh a hell of a lot more. I never liked buying multiplayer-only games, and after this, I’m probably never gonna buy another one again. Unless… I dunno, unless it’s Quake that plays like Quake III and doesn’t suck, or something. Man, I’d love to play that again; I had so much friggin’ fun with Quake Live. AND I was getting pretty good at it. 😛

Speaking of tactical RPGs, I also got Project X Zone 2 for 3DS, which is massive fun. The story is crazy and almost throwaway, but it’s funny. The dialogue is hilarious, too, full of insanity, references, weird Japanese humour and just plain funny shit. 😀 Here, have some screenshots I saved to Miiverse:

Ooh WordPress decided to make them into a gallery for me. How nice. Probably doesn’t work, though. 😛

Strangely, the game itself is kinda meh. The tactical part of it is just laughably not tactical at all. Enemy attacks tend to do a negligible amount of damage; the only real threats are swarms of enemies (say, about 6 units), enemies that attack multiple units, or bosses when they have enough EP. That’s “Enemy Points”, shown like a super ability gauge. The player has one too, called XP, which is “Cross Points”, not eXperience Points. Experience is EXP in this game. 😛 Anyway, when the enemy team’s EP is at 100% or more, their boss-class units can spend it on special attacks which do some real damage. You basically only have three options to counter this: defend to reduce the damage by half, spend some XP and use Full Defend to reduce damage to zero, or take out the boss before they have a chance to use their special. Getting out of their movement range is kinda pointless because you have so many units that the enemy’s probably gonna get one of them, and enemy bosses tend to have a movement range equal or greater than all of your units, so… yeah, all I’ve been doing for the entire game is attacking and not really giving a toss about defensive play, and I’ve only ever had two units go down. 😛 Another reason why it’s not a very tactical TRPG is because of the sheer freedom you have with items and skills. Items can be used by any of your team mates on any other team mate, no matter how far away they are, and you can use basically as many as you want until you run out. It doesn’t even cost a unit its turn or anything. Same thing with skills; any unit that hasn’t already taken its turn can use as many skills as they can afford without losing a turn. Quite a lot of units have healing abilities, too. I mean, off the top of my head, I know Felicia has one which restores 100% of a unit’s HP. 100%. It’s like “oh no, that unit just got beat on by about half the enemy team and it’s pretty low on health… Felicia, Feline Grooming, problem solved.” No SP? Use an SP restoring item, because I have about 90 of them that I picked up along the way, then use Feline Grooming. Or just use someone else’s healing skill. Problem always solved. 😛

The way you attack is pretty fun, though. You go into a side-on battle screen where you can use three normal attacks, a “solo” attack, sometimes a “support” attack, and if you have 100% XP, you can finish with a special attack. The aim is to juggle the enemy and hit them as many times as possible to do as much damage as you can. Hitting them with a new attack when they’re about to touch the floor gives a Critical, which increases damage for all the hits in that attack. At the end of your attacks, you’re given bonus gold for every 10 successive hits and bonus EXP for every Critical you get. It’s a really cool idea, and it feels great when you time everything right and pull off a massive combo. 😀 It’s not often that you do, either. My max combo is 106, and I think that was the only time I exceeded 100. I’ll probably get stupidly and pointlessly excited if I manage to beat it. 😛

Probably the most notable thing about Project X Zone 2 is that the characters are all from a bunch of different things by Sega, Capcom, Bandai Namco and Nintendo. I’ve never seen anything like it. You’ve got characters from Resident Evil, Yakuza, Tekken, Darkstalkers, Ace Attorney, Shinobi, Space Channel 5, Street Fighter, Streets of Rage, Devil May Cry, Megaman X, .hack//, God Eater, Shenmue… and there’s original characters, and I’ve definitely missed some. Christ, it’s like… the biggest crossover game in the history of ever. No wonder the story is insane. Must’ve been super-difficult to think of something.

The soundtrack is so good, too. There’s music from each of the games involved, and a different one plays depending on the character you’re currently controlling. It’s awesome when the game plays a track for the first time and you recognise it… like for me, the “Objection!” and “Investigation: Cornered” tracks from the original Ace Attorney, Jin’s theme from Tekken, and “Go Straight” from Streets of Rage 2, for example. (On a side note, I can’t help but giggle every time the fully-voiced Axel does his attack and says “GRAND UPPAH” and “ARRRRRRGH” :P) The song that totally got stuck in my head, though, was a track from Yakuza that sometimes plays when Kiryu & Majima are selected, and always plays during their special attack… this one, “Funk Goes On”. That’s the original track; the one played in X Zone is slightly different. I’ve never played Yakuza, but that track is just epic. Makes me want to do special attacks with Kiryu & Majima just for that music, even though their special doesn’t feel as powerful as other pairs’ specials. 😀

Even though the “tactical” part of it is questionable, I’d totally recommend it for the humour, characters and the battle system. It’s a pretty big fan-service game, though, so it might not be as fun if you don’t know or like any of the characters. 😛 It’s long, though; I’m at 30-something hours and I feel like I’m only just getting close to the end.

Ah. Crap. I did it again, sorry. This post wasn’t supposed to be about Project X Zone 2, either; I went into yammering mode again. 😛 I don’t think there’s anything else that I’ve played, game-wise, anyhoo. Oh yeah, Starbound, the “finished” version, but it’s okay cuz I’m already bored of talking about it. So let’s move on! 😛

Now, back to the topic of whiney Facebook feeds. Why? Well, gizza minute, will ya?! 😛

My sister was slightly-but-not-really whining about me not posting for a while on Bookface. The last post I made there was about two months ago when I posted a picture of a OnePlus 3 that I’d just received, along with Pro Wrestler, the best action figure ever. 😛 I don’t post there much any more because Facebook’s just become the world’s biggest advertisement and a place where people just post photos of themselves and other things I just don’t give a shit about, and I’m pretty sure only 10% of my friends list actually has me unblocked because I’m sure they feel the same way about my posts. 😛 Oh, and every other post recently has just been about Pokémon Go and no I’m not saying ANYTHING about it other than I’ve started blocking everything from anyone who posts about it. 😛 It’s like the zombie sheep apocalypse made real.

Ooooooh, the actual intended topic of the post is approaching fast!! 😛 So, in response to my sister’s complaint that I haven’t posted in a while, and because I haven’t posted here in a while either, I decided to cook up a little render all about POSTING! BAM:

Maw Mail (2K)

A post of a dragon postie delivering some post that you COULD print and use as a poster, for posterity! Letter me tell ya, it’d be a postitively unique poster. Hm, what’s mailing you? Am I not getting your stamp of approval OKAY ENOUGH good GOD that’s enough, that was a near-toxic level of crap puns just now. 😛

So, whaddya think? 🙂 This is my first proper attempt at using Iray, a renderer by NVIDIA which’s been in DAZ Studio since 4.8. I didn’t have much of a desire to use it until now because I never really understood it. And I still don’t. 😛

There’re a couple of flaws, methinks… Iray has a built-in bloom filter, which is great if you just bin the default settings first. 😛 It’s worked well, but it’s gone a bit rogue on his horns. It’s because the light is hitting his horns at an angle which makes them shine basically pure white. And no matter how high I put the bloom threshold, it probably won’t disappear from his horns, and even if it did, the effect would probably disappear from the sky, the place I actually want the bloom. Maybe it’s best to do bloom myself in post-processing after all… 😛 Also, that white stucco around the green door… the texture is friggin’ awful. 😛 I tried to tweak the material settings and improve it as much as possible, but there’s only so much you can do before you have to mess with the texture, and I’m not an artist. 😛 Kinda weird, though. That’s a 4096×4096 texture, which is pretty standard, so… I’m not sure why it looks so stretched and poopy. :S Ah well.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it came out, especially since I didn’t actually spend much time on it; the scene only took about 2 hours to assemble. I also didn’t need to make many tweaks; I only rendered the full scene three times before I was satisfied. For comparison, I have 25 preliminary renders stored for Dueling Dragons. Some of those were because my PC was being a dick, but still… 😛

So, Iray’s great? Neh. Not really. It’s a bit rough. It friggin’ loooooves to leave grainy bullshite in your renders in weird areas, usually outside of focus. I had to do some noise removal on that brass letterbox because it was absolutely ridiculous. Dark areas also tend to come out crappy. I also feel like I have no control over lighting. You can use a HDRI, basically a 360° image which the render engine looks at and magically generates scene lighting from that using MAFFS. “Maths”. Not an acronym. 😛 HDRIs are cool, but that requires that I have an HDRI image that roughly matches my scene. And it gives no control. You can go to the next level of control and use the built-in generic Sun-Sky environment mode, but the complexity is just OTT, and despite the stupid complexity, I really don’t feel like it’s that accurate. I mean, you can specify a latitude, longitude, time of day, date and UTC offset. The first time I used it, I gave it a test by putting in the latitude and longitude of my location, setting the UTC offset to 1 because daylight savings, setting the date to today and setting the time to about 6pm. Apparently NVIDIA thinks that England at 7pm UTC in summer is PITCH BLACK! 😛 So, all this complexity is wasted because I just don’t bother to touch the date, latitude or longitude any more; I just change the time of day, then rotate the dome to get the correct direction. As for custom lighting, like what I do easily in DAZ’s default renderer, 3Delight? Hahaha, forget it. Lights need completely dumbass settings like 50 THOUSAND lumen just for a dim light, AND it looks terrible.

But it’s fast, right? Well, no, actually. It’s really speedy at getting something rough you can use to gauge how the final render will look, but that final render took two GTX 970s… 3 hours 41 minutes 20.95 seconds to finish, and it’s not even that complex. And when I say it’s speedy at getting something rough… sure, setting a viewport to the Iray mode is useful because it gives you a live preview of your render, but eventually it starts making DAZ Studio pretty much unusable. It uses all of your GPU’s power and leaves nothing for anything else, including DAZ Studio. It also re-calculates every time anything changes. “Did you just move your perspective camera one inch to the left? Ooop, gotta recalculate! Whaddya mean the perspective camera’s position is irrelevant since I’m not rendering it or even using it to render?!” And if you change the scene enough while enduring the workspace slowdown with every change? Boom! DAZ Studio crashes either by itself or by crashing your graphics driver. Probably a memory leak! Oh, oh, speaking of memory? Iray EATS the HELL out of it. I can’t even render some scenes in Iray because it obliterates ALL 12GB of my unused memory before going “uhgh don’t have nuff memory bye now”.

I’ll probably end up going back to 3Delight with this scene to see if I can make it look better using my traditional methods. Iray seems to make stuff that looks more realistic, sure, but realism doesn’t always make things prettier, right? 😛 I’ll update this post with a 3Delight render at some point. 🙂 Even if it’s worse. 😛

Anyway… I guess I’d better post this on Bookface for my sister now, then get to bedz. 😛 Nighty night!

UPDATE!!

Someone on Facebook responded in an entertaining manner with a picture of his own, and I thought I’d share it with you here:

Maw Mail Response.jpg

😀

Also, I added a link to a video of my best match in Quake Live around the part where I mention it, because why not. 😛 The quality’s terrible because I was testing out settings for streaming and didn’t realise I’d set the bitrate way too low, but man, I was having loads of fun, calling out “DOUBLE KILL” in stupid ways, nodding my character’s head when something ace happens, and yelling “QUAD” when getting kills with Quad Damage. 😀 And a net of +34, awwwwww yiss. 😀

UPDATE 2!!

Basically nothing at all to do with the rest of this article but OH MY GOD I JUST GOT A PERFECT ON ROMEO & CINDERELLA ON SUPER HARD

HNI_0014.JPG

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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パーフェクト!!

Aside

Hi, how’re you?
Good! Or “oh no!” if you said you’re not good. 😛
Soooo… what have I been up to recently?
Not much!
Apart from what happened today at lunch.
I nearly had a nervous breakdown.
And a heart attack!
Why?
Because I was playing Project Mirai DX (yes i still play it)
And I was just doing some songs and stuff
Grabbing a few Perfects on easy charts that I haven’t played yet
And then I went and played something a bit harder
By “a bit harder” I mean “Matryoshka on Super Hard”

And then
 I got a Perfect on it
A Perfect on Matryoshka on Super Hard
A PERFECT ON MATRYOSHKA ON SUPER HARD
A!
FUCKING!
PERFECT!

You want evidence, Mr. Edgeworth?!
TAKE THAT!!

Matryoshka (Button, SH) Perfect, 443,207.JPG

NINETY-NINE PERCENT!!!
YEEAAAAHHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!
I WANTED TO YELL SO MUCH IN THE OFFICE!
BUT I COULDN’T BECAUSE THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN WEIRD!
SO I’M LETTING IT ALL OUT HERE!
OOOOOOOHHHHH YEEEEEEAAHHH!!!

HAHAAhahahaaa okay… okay okay, I’m okay. I’m okay, really. Really!

When I hit the last note knowing I hadn’t made a mistake, I nearly dropped the 3DS. It was just… unrealistic. 😛 I’ve had an SP All on Matryoshka on Super Hard before, and I’d been going for a Perfect every now and then, but I never thought I’d actually be able to do it. See, the longer my perfect streak goes on, the more I freak out, and on extremely hard songs, I almost always get bitten by my nerves and mess up before the song ends. It happens in all music games I play. But this time I somehow kept hitting notes even though I was basically crapping myself at how close I was, and actually friggin’ managed it! 😀

NO, I meant “managed to get a Perfect” not “managed to crap myself”. 😛

Matryoshka on Super Hard is probably the… second hardest chart in the game. In fact, no… third. Gaikotsu Gakudan to Riria is second. That note chart is crazy, and it’s even more insane it’s that hard even though the note chart is only classed as Hard. But Invisible on Super Hard? That’s just… impossible. IMPOSSIBLE.

Well… let’s see if I can do Invisible next, eh? 😀

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:

IMAG0613

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. 😛 The Fairy type was added to some existing Pokémon as well as some new ones, and I believe it was introduced to balance the fairly overpowered Dragon type, because ever since Generation II, out of the 17 Pokémon types, Dragon was only offensively weak against Steel and defensively weak against Ice and Dragon, while being offensively strong against Dragon and defensively strong against four other types. So now, Fairy is super-effective against Dragon, and Dragon does shit-all to Fairy. Because of course, fairies are infinitely more powerful than dragons, mmhmm. 😛 As for Mega Evolution, that’s 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

チョコレートバスタブ!!

(That means “chocolate bathtub”. I’ll get to it. 😛 )

So, I got a few new games for the 3DS recently. Well, when I say “recently”, I mean “within the last three months or so”. 😛  I got Paper Mario: Sticker Star for my birthday. I friggin’ love the Paper Mario series, and I’d been wanting to get Sticker Star for a while now.

Before I headed up to my parents’ place for my birthday, though (before I had Sticker Star), I was wondering what to play on the journey. I’d stopped playing Monster Hunter because all of a sudden, the difficulty pretty much doubled and the item grinding got utterly stupid, a combination which slowly made the game more frustrating than fun. I mean, come on; a 3×1% chance of finding a Monoblos Heart? So, with those odds, if I had exactly average luck, and with my skill level and equipment, I would have to fight the same monster repeatedly for 8 1/4 hours. And I hadn’t even reached G level yet, where I imagine it gets even more retarded! So no, fuck that shit! 😛

I’d finished Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, too, and I didn’t really feel like playing that on Hard mode. Buuuuut, the night before my trip, I found a game on the eShop that I’d never even heard of before: Project Mirai DX. It had a demo, so I gave it a try because “why the hell not, it’s free”. It went beyond my expectations and I friggin’ loved it, so I went ahead and bought it for the journey.

So, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, a game I’d been really looking forward to, and Project Mirai DX, a strange game I’d never even heard of. Which one have I been playing the most?

Sticker Star, of course!

Just kidding. Project Mirai. By a LONG shot. 😛

So… what is it, exactly? Well… it’s a rhythm game… mainly. 😛 It’s centred around Japanese “vocaloids”, which are… kinda difficult to explain. The best description I can think of is that they’re “virtual singers”; computerised “instruments” that can “sing” whatever you want, however you want. I don’t know much about them, but it appears Hatsune Miku is the “original” vocaloid, or at least Sega’s original vocaloid. It’s pretty amazing, actually; they’re effectively specialised text-to-speech engines, but they sound really, REALLY good. 😀 Japan seems to agree; Miku is apparently like a superstar over there, and she doesn’t even exist. I mean, she’s just a piece of software. 😛

The “core” of the game is the Rhythm Game. It’s fairly simplistic; you have a ring which follows a line automatically. Notes appear on the line, and all you need to do is hit the correct button when the circle lines up with the note. There are a few extra gimmicks thrown in to make things interesting, such as double lines, where you have to use the D-Pad to hit the notes on the other line, and long notes (which require you to release the button with good timing, too). Long notes can also be rainbow-coloured; in that case, you can spin the Circle Pad for bonus Mirai Points (the game’s currency). Also, you’ll come across strings of notes which are sat on a on a gold line. These are “SP Sequences”, and hitting all of the notes in the sequence with good accuracy scores you a bonus. Each song also has a “Tap Mode” note chart, where you have to use the touch screen to tap on the colour that matches the note, and Tap Mode also features slide notes, where you have to slide/flick the stylus in the given direction. Sure, the controls and mechanics may be fairly simplistic, but… somehow, I find it REALLY fun to play. 😀

Your accuracy is rated with a series of interestingly-selected descriptive words: Cool, Fine, Safe, Sad, Miss and Awful. “Awful” is especially interesting; it’s technically “Miss”, but it’s seemingly only there to rub in the fact that you didn’t even bother trying to hit the note and just let it sail past. 😛 Hitting a note with an accuracy below “Fine” breaks your combo, despite the fact that “Safe” sounds like it would keep your combo… safe. 😛 If you make it to the end without ever breaking your combo, you’ll get a Perfect. If you don’t do that, but manage to hit every SP Sequence, you get an SP All rating. Along with your score, you also get given a percentage; breaking certain percentage barriers increases your grade, from C to S+. The percentage will probably never reach 100%, unless you’re unrealistically good, or unless you’re playing Tap Mode, in which case, your final percentage can end up being quite… peculiar, like… like this one, for example:

Finder (Tap, Normal), 138,609, 101.81%

I think I can explain why you can get percentages like this, actually. The game drops you a hint after you play enough Tap Mode, telling you that you can get more points if you hit several slide notes in a row without removing the stylus from the screen. However, I’m pretty sure there’s a bug where if you tap a normal note before a slide note but don’t remove the stylus from the screen before you hit the slide note, it counts it as a 1-Chain, but it shouldn’t count a 1-Chain until you hit two slide notes in a row. This makes the game give you more points than it should, and if you do it enough times during a song, you can break 100%, sometimes even if you didn’t get a Cool rating on all your notes! Yay bugs! 😀

Since the game’s characters are all vocaloids, every song contains vocals sung by up to three of the seven vocaloids featured in the game. And holy SHIT I’ve just realised, you can switch the vocaloid(s) in some of the songs. 😛 There are quite a lot of songs, about 44, I think. Each of these songs has a Tap Mode and a Button Mode, so that’s 88 note charts… if you just play on Easy. 😛 If you include Normal and Hard difficulties, there’re a total of 264 note charts. Nice! 😀

Similar to DJ Max, Beatmania and DDR, each of the difficulty levels has a rating. Project Mirai uses a rating from 1-9, 1 being pretty easy and 9 being HOOOOOOOOLLY FUCK THIS IS CRAZY. There’re only a handful of songs with a rating of 9. First one I played was “Matryoshka” on Hard, which is 205BPM, and boosts up to 295 near the end. Second was “Invisible” on Hard, which is “only” 192BPM, but you often find two notes right next to each other, so I end up using the D-Pad for one of them. 😛 Further down the list, there’s Kimi no Taion at 220BPM, but that only feels like a 9 for a small part of the song. But personally, the most painful one has got to be “Gaikotsu Gakudan to Riria”. It’s 130BPM, but the rhythm is so crazy it plays like 260BPM, and it FREQUENTLY puts notes right next to each other and I failed it five times in a row when I first played it and I still can’t get an S+. 😛

About the difficulty range, though…? Actually, I lied. 😛 See, I wrote part of this post while I was still midway through the game, but now that I’ve cleared every song on at least one difficulty… the game told me that some songs contain Super Hard note charts, much to my disbelief. But oh yes, they do. Super Hard songs have a difficulty of “MAX”. And they are all completely psycho. Romeo and Cinderella on Hard (difficulty 7) has enough notes already (788 to be exact; I nearly exploded when I perfected it), but it has a Super Hard chart with EVEN MORE notes. Matryoshka has a Super Hard chart and it should really have a health warning on it. But Invisible? That also has a Super Hard chart, and it should be friggin’ illegal. I reckon I’m at my peak skill level, and I can’t even get an S on it. 😛 Strangely though, Gaikotsu Gakudan to Riria doesn’t have a Super Hard chart. Maybe that’s because it’s hard enough as it is. 😛 Anyway, songs with difficulty 9 or MAX all make me cry inside because I know I’ll never get a Perfect on them. 😛

That’s the core of the game. Thankfully. You see, the core is good. The rest of it is… pretty odd. 😛

When you start the game for the first time, you get to pick a “partner” out of six vocaloids, and a place to live. Hrmmm. After that, you’re treated to a two-page menu with all sorts of stuff in it. If you want to play the Rhythm Game, the core game, the game… you select the darkest, smallest option on the first screen: a piece of paper with “Rhythm Game” written on it stuck to the wall with a drawing pin. It’s like they don’t want you to do it, or something. 😛

IMAG0570

(Yes, that is a Dress-Up option you see there.)

When you complete songs, you get MP, Mirai Points. What can they be used for? Upgrades? Stuff for the Rhythm Game like maybe new note skins, new button sounds, that sort of thing? Nope. Hey, maybe you can buy some boosts or assists or something, kinda like DJ MAX? Nope, you buy those items with Play Coins, and the only slightly useful one is Do or Die (which gives you an instant Game Over if you break your combo (you also get double MP if you clear the song, but that’s just gravy)), although Role Model (which makes the note chart play itself perfectly, doesn’t count as clearing it, obviously) might be good if you can’t seem to get the timing on really hard songs down and you want a demonstration. No no, you use MP to buy furniture for your home which does nothing, outfits for your partner which do nothing (you can use them in the Rhythm Game but the default outfits match the theme of the song anyway), and food/drink to give to your partner, which is not only pointless, it’s also weird. I mean, when you give them cake, you watch them eating said cake for nearly a minute. Sorry, did I say watch? No, you staaaaaaare at them eating cake. And then you find out you can even take pictures of them doing this.

Miku SHORTACAKEY

Want some tea? LET ME TAKE A PICTURE OF YOU DRINKING IT

Miku TEA

It’s so creepy, it makes me laugh. But then you start to realise… it’s a Japanese game with cute anime girls in it. Of course it’s gonna have weird content like this. 😛

That picture taking function is available basically everywhere outside of the Rhythm Game. If you leave the game hanging for long enough in the home screen, your partner might do something other than walk around aimlessly, and you can take pictures of whatever it is they do. Look, here’s a picture of Miku sitting down in a strange way:

Miku Sitting WEIRDLY

Here’s a picture of her lying down on the floor to use her super-high-tech-transparent-tablet-of-the-future instead of sitting on the sofa I paid for:

Miku NOT USING THE SOFA

If you buy a fortune box and set it in your room, your partner uses it to get your “fortune” every day. Yes you can take a picture. Funny thing is…

Miku NO IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS

It’s not localised, and as much as I’d like to be able to understand Japanese, I don’t, so I have no idea what that means. From the way she’s smiling massively, I’m guessing it’s good. 😛 (UPDATE: I’ve learned that it says “daikichi”, meaning “great luck/fortune”. So yeah, it’s good. 🙂 )

Then there’s the ultimate picture. If you spend 100,000 MP on a plane ticket you can go to the Villa for a week. It’s no different from the standard houses, apart from being able to set every type of item. Oh, and the beach. If you give Miku a swimsuit and leave the game alone long enough, OOSH:

Miku OK THAT'S PERVERTED

Oh, Japan, you so predictable. 😛

You can also give MP to your partner. They seem to like you when you do this, especially if you give them the maximum amount. Yes you can still take pictures while they celebrate:

Miku YAY MONEY

They then use the MP on STUFF, keeping it in a log for you to perv over. 😛 They might buy room items or outfits on their own volition, or waste it on shit that does nothing apart from maybe giving you a chuckle when you read the log. You can’t actually take a picture of this cuz it’s on the bottom screen, so here’s a picture I took with my PHONE:

IMAG0571

I feel that the developers wanted to make some form of metagame, something for the player to come back to and chill with after playing some songs, but couldn’t really think of anything other than this. At least… that’s what I guessed several weeks ago when writing this post. But today, I booted up the game to see this:

IMAG0588

Yes. Seriously. My virtual girl was pissed off because I hadn’t played the game in about 3 days. I was asked to use the microphone and say “I’m sorry”, but this was my lunchtime at work, so I opted for the infinitely less embarrassing option of pressing a button labelled “I’m sorry…” about 50 times before she got over her period. 😛  I now feel that the developers wanted to make a romance simulation but weren’t really allowed to. 😛 Maybe the Eastern audience can see the point, but I can’t. This whole metagame might as well just not be there. 😛 Although… heh, well, maybe it does have a point in the West. It’s a bit of a laugh, a distraction, maybe even a welcome break for your 3DS’ buttons. 😛 It’s the kinda thing you might share for a laugh, on a blog, for example, saying “hurhurhur look how pervy and stupid this is, but actually it’s a really friggin’ good music game at its core”. 😀

As for the post title, that’s actually a line in the song “LOL -lots of laugh-“. The song has a fair amount of English in it, and this is funny to me because Miku sounds like a proper upper-class Japanese person who’s lived around the south of England for years but hasn’t lost her Japanese accent. 😀  The lyrics appear on the bottom screen so I had to use my phoneage for this one too:

IMAG0507

Yes, in Gallery mode you can do all sorts of pointless stuff like leave microscopic comments, which I think is shared through StreetPass. No idea, because I’ve only had one StreetPass hit for this game, and even that was surprising. 😛

That’s Project Mirai DX. Demo’s on the eShop. 🙂 If you’ve got a 3DS and like music games, I massively recommend it. Just ignore the metagame. Unless you’re… I dunno, Japanese, or something. 😛

“Oh, but wait, what about Paper Mario: Sticker Star?” Hmm, it’s… well, I wouldn’t recommend it, sadly. It’s super-disappointing. I got near the end of the second world and just haven’t had much of an urge to play it again. It’s really annoying, because I’ve loved all the Paper Mario games up until now. :/

The battle system is weird. It’s not an action RPG like Super Paper Mario; it’s gone back to a turn-based system, but there’s no levelling or badges or abilities or secondary party members or anything. To attack, you use stickers you find in the field, which have different effects. Sounds unique and interesting, but it just doesn’t work. The battle system is so watered down that you can’t manually choose your target, and sometimes you don’t have a sticker suitable for the situation. It’s okay if you get hit, though; the game is so goddamn easy that I eventually stopped bothering to carry stickers that recover HP. Oh, and normally you can only use one sticker per turn, but you can use up to three… if you pay coins to spin a friggin’ roulette and use epic timing to get three-of-a-kind. Yaaaaawn.

It’s not just the battle system. It’s the story, and the characters… and the dialogue. Those things are basically half the point of an RPG, and the old Paper Mario games nailed every one of them. The Thousand Year Door (my favourite Paper Mario game) contained all sorts of awesomeness. Hooktail, for example! She’s a dragon boss who you can weaken with a badge that makes the sound of a cricket (she hates crickets). Then, when she’s low on HP, she tries to bribe you with coins (more than you can actually carry, lel), a badge (Really Ultra Rare!) and her feet (no, seriously), and after all that, she suddenly eats the audience to regain HP. It’s so good! 😀 Oh, and the moment where a character suddenly breaks the fourth wall out of nowhere (YOU, IN FRONT OF THE TV!), and that bit near the start with the contact lens, and that part where you can get an instant Game Over by reading a diary. 😀 In Sticker Star? Pfft. Your helper character is boring and a bit irritating. And… well, because there’s so little story, that’s basically all I can think of. Maybe I haven’t played it enough to find some good dialogue, but that’s ridiculous. Meh, oh well, never mind. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros. is great so far, so at least Alphadream’s still got it. 😀

Man, the 3DS is so great. I’ve got Paper Jam to finish, along with Elite Beat Agents which someone at work recommended to me (he mainly recommended the original game, “Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!”, but Elite Beat Agents was wayyyyyyy easier to get hold of for a good price). There’s also Project X Zone 2, a tactical RPG which I’d never heard of but is apparently quite popular; I played a demo of it and found it pretty fun, so I might consider getting that too. But most importantly, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon finally lands over here in mid-February!! I really can’t wait to play that one! 😀

Right, enough shite from me. I’mma see if I can perfect Matryoshka on Hard. Heheheh, yeah right. 😛

UPDATE!!

WOW GG WORDPRESS, it actually just posted this in the PAST, in October 2015. I copied it and deleted the old one so it would show up that I posted it TODAY, not THREE MONTHS AGO. HERPADERPDERPDERP

And OH MY GOD THIS NEW CRAP EDITOR THINKS UNDERLINE IS AN ADVANCED OPTION

This swan song made my ears bleed.

Call me retarded (I am), but I have… practically a paranoia when it comes to buying games nowadays. 😛 I think it all began with Starbound, a game I decided to back because it looked amazing and the devs really looked like they knew what they were doing. It turned out to be a huge turd, flying wayyyyyyyy past its planned release date and still flying. “Stable” updates are released randomly (once every six months if you’re lucky), and the incompetent devs act like it’s no big deal, probably while rolling around in their money. I haven’t played it since the first patch which completely changed the damage system (the original system was so idiotic I couldn’t comprehend that someone actually thought of it). It’s especially embarrassing and frustrating because I got others to back it with me, so they got screwed as well. I also backed Carmageddon: Reincarnation, which looked really promising but turned out to be quite disappointing. It was funny, but idiotically easy even on hard, and it didn’t really introduce anything new. And then there was the optimization which… well, it sucked. Framerate starts out okay and slowly gets worse as you play. These games (mainly Starbound For The Recycle Bin) put me off Early Access so much that nowadays, I just say “Not Interested” to almost every single game in Early Access. One exception was Crypt of the Necrodancer, which was actually pretty good, but… they kinda ruined it in the last burst towards release. They added some random announcer voiceovers before boss battles and when unlocking characters, and they sounded completely idiotic. That, and the final area wasn’t really that interesting. It feels like they rushed it.

Sounds like I only hate Early Access, but it isn’t just that. There was Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, a game that just… didn’t really move me. The new oxygen mechanic was interesting and it was fun to jump around, boost and butt-stomp in low gravity, but the story made almost no sense, and it just threw so many horrendous jokes and references around. By the end of the game, it felt like they were so desperate to get laughs that it made me think the writers were total morons. 😛 The only reason I had fun with it is because I played it co-op, and although we finished it, we never really wanted to do the second playthrough. Also, there was Shadow Warrior, the new one. It was entertaining for a short while, but… it just completely lacked the charm of the original. That, and the map design was awful; sometimes I could barely figure out where I was supposed to go. Oh, and Bit Trip Runner 2. I picked that up again recently, but I can see why I stopped playing. I was expecting a rhythm game, but it’s not, it’s just… pfft. It’s like they only made it because they somehow got Charles Martinet (who most famously voices Mario and Luigi) to do some voicework for it. He sounds completely out of place, maybe even a bit bored. After hiring him, it feels like they didn’t have enough money left to make something interesting. 😛

But hey, on a positive note, Freedom Planet is the best platformer I’ve played in a hell of a long time. Probably the best platformer I’ve ever played, but that’s a pretty huge claim and I’d need to think long and hard before making it official. 😛

Anyway, now, the actual reason for the post! 😛 Metal Gear Solid V was released a few days ago and, predictably, pretty much everyone says it’s amazing. But thanks to my “paranoia”, I didn’t believe them for a second. I no longer listen to anyone’s opinion, because I’ve realised: there’s no point. Everyone contradicts each other and everyone forgives (or totally overlooks) different problems, usually without mentioning them. I read through the Steam reviews (the 5% of reviews that are actually reviews, not fucking anecdotes or unfunny jokes) and found one positive review said the AI was great. Two minutes later I find a negative review which completely nullifies both reviews’ validity by saying the AI is stupid. Didn’t take long for me to stop looking for other reviews. There’s hype, as well; people who get too excited for a game generally don’t notice how bad it is. I used to get affected like that. I mean, I was so excited for Spore way back, and when it came out, I said it was the greatest game I’d ever played. Lol? No it wasn’t. It was nowhere near. 😛 Most unique, yes, probably. Greatest? No, that crown is still held by Diablo II, and probably always will be.

Still, I’d always liked Metal Gear Solid (not Rising, Jesus Christ fuck no get the hell out). The original is legendary and MGS2 was really good, too. MGS3 wasn’t so great but the remastered version was seriously good, and it was all due to them fixing the biggest problem with the game: the friggin’ camera. 😛 I actually enjoyed Metal Gear Acid but I could understand why others wouldn’t. MGS Peace Walker was the best game on the PSP (just edging out Patapon 3), and I hate the fact I could never play MGS4 because it was on a console I think totally sucked. A pretty damn good history then, eh? Why not give them a shot and just go for it?

Hahahaha! What, you think I’m going to throw away £35 on a game I’ve never played? £35 on a game that offers no demo? No! Fuck that shit. Not these days. I don’t care how good the previous games have been or who developed the game in question, my trust in developers is totally shot nowadays. Take Metal Gear Rising. That hateful game was made by largely the same people that made God Hand, a totally awesome game of the same genre. 😛 I have to try a game before I buy it. Videos, reviews, whatever, nothing helps. The only way to know if I’ll enjoy something is by trying it.

Usually, my first port of call is the game demo. If there isn’t one, if possible, I torrent the game. If I enjoy it, I delete the pirated version and buy a legit copy right away. If I don’t enjoy it, I delete the pirated version and forget all about it. The only person that can possibly lose out is me, by wasting my time. 😛 Sadly, heh… Metal Gear Solid V is protected with an apparently very tricky anti-crack technology, meaning a crack will take quite a while to develop.

So, I’m out of options, right? Well… not really.

Steam now allows refunds within 14 days of purchase for any reason if you buy a game directly through Steam and play it for less than two hours. I was originally planning to avoid buying directly through Steam because for some retarded reason, this specific game costs £11 more. So, my plan was to buy the game through Steam, make absolutely sure I didn’t play it for more than two hours, and refund it immediately afterwards, regardless of whether I liked it or not. If I liked it, I would repurchase it from somewhere else for £11 less. 😛

So, the plan began. It hurt my common sense when I hit the purchase button but I shrugged it off knowing it wasn’t actually going to cost anything. 😛 As the game downloaded, I set up PlayClaw to overlay a timer on top of the game so I knew exactly how much time I had used, and also recorded the game footage with it. I’m going to talk through my experience with some screenshots from the video. 🙂

Note that this spoils pretty much most of the first two hours, so you’ll wanna skip it if you’re planning on buying the game and want to experience it yourself. HERE WE GO, YA SPANNER!

(First time using a WordPress gallery. It kinda sucks as expected, so here’s some instructions. 😛 Click on an image for the full gallery view. You can scroll through the gallery with the arrows. To exit the gallery click the tiny X button in the top-left corner. Why is it in the top left corner? Cuz WordPress sucks. 😛 )

And that’s that. A 65-minute-long cutscene with five instances of deus ex machina, followed by barely enough time to get used to anything. Ten minutes of the cutscene were interesting because they had a point and explained what had happened to Snake. The remaining 55 minutes consisted of Snake running away and repeatedly getting blown up by a firey man. And then, from what little gameplay I managed to experience, it felt watered down and dull. Looking back, it feels as if it was trying to make itself seem really complex when in fact it… wasn’t. I mean, I was going so slowly, trying to be stealthy when I could’ve just… popped them all in the head real quick. The overload of information just made it seem really difficult. But above all else, it didn’t feel like a Metal Gear game. At all. Hideo said that Metal Gear was a game about running away, hiding and avoiding conflict, but in this, I don’t feel like I need to, or even want to. There’s no life and no stamina. Camo Index is gone. You can get serious wounds like in MGS3 but healing them is way easier. All you do is get into cover… ah wait, heh, the cover system’s broken. 😛

Oh, there’s one other thing. It doesn’t really affect the game, but it’s still pretty major. Wanna take a guess at how many lines Snake, Big Boss, the main protagonist of Metal Gear said in those two hours? Three. Three. They were (vaguely) “What happened?”, “Who the hell are you?” and “Afghanistan?”. Not kidding. Oh, and he’s no longer voiced by David Hayter, the one who voiced Snake in every game previously and basically shares Solid Snake’s real name. He’s now voiced by… er… oh, I can’t friggin’ remember. I actually can’t. He’s supposed to be famous, I think. Maybe he’s so famous they couldn’t actually afford more than one line per 40 minutes. 😛

Soooo… would I recommend it? I’d say no, not right now… but… this is the annoying thing. I can’t possibly come to a definite conclusion. This is clearly a huge game, and I don’t think two hours was enough time to fully evaluate it, especially since most of it was a cutscene. Maybe it gets better. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know. I can tell you one thing, though: no way is it worth £46. Other games that cost a quarter of that managed to entertain me within the first 15 minutes, yet this failed after two hours. If it takes that long to get going, like hell is it worth £11 more than the standard PC game retail price. You can get it cheaper elsewhere, but keep in mind that if you do, you don’t get the ability to refund it on Steam.

For now, I’m going to forget about it, and just wait patiently for a crack. If one ever does appear, I’ll give it another try to see when, or if, the game hits its stride. And I’ll let you know. 🙂

Of course, you shouldn’t really listen to me. My opinion is probably different to yours. 😛

UPDATE!!

That anti-crack tech bought Konami about a week. MGSV has already been cracked. 😛 Thanks 3DMGAME. Now I can evaluate the game properly before what I consider a major purchase, cuz for some people, £40 is pretty expensive for a game, especially if it has a risk of being dog shit. 😛

I skipped the prologue because there’s currently a problem with the crack where the game simply hangs about 70% of the way through the prologue. Besides, I’ve played it already and it was shit. 😛 I continued from the start of the first chapter, and played through for 4 hours, completing a bunch of missions and a Side Op. So, what do I think now?

…eh. Just… eh.

So yes, it’s an improvement from “I think it’s a bit shit but I’m not sure”. But not really a big improvement. My main gripe is… that it just doesn’t feel like Metal Gear. It just… it doesn’t have that same feel. There’s some tension, but it’s not as strong. You feel powerful, and the only reason I didn’t just start shooting everything is because there’s a 10,000 point bonus if you don’t. And it’s super-serious almost all the time. The only time it isn’t is when you try to shoot Ocelot in the face with tranquilisers or punch your staff members. Oh, and the first time you use the Fulton Recovery device, but I was pretty much used to that because of Peace Walker. I mean, even Metal Gear Solid 3 started with a joke that trolled players who hated Raiden, and you soon started finding plastic frogs that you could shoot (which unlocked a game-breaking item if you shot them all). 😛 Even the characters sound… wrong. Apart from Kaz, he sounds fine, because his voice actor is the same guy. But Snake doesn’t sound anything like Snake, and Ocelot doesn’t sound anything like Ocelot. When they’ve had the same voice in every game I’ve played, and then they suddenly CHANGE… I dunno why, but it kinda breaks the experience a bit.

The open world setting ruins a lot, though. Enemies are sometimes around where you don’t expect them, and they end up seeing you before you can react. I’d gone through an entire mission without being seen, and made a stylish exit by nicking a car. Felt cool! I was just about to get out of the hotzone and complete the mission totally unseen when I passed by a guard post I barely noticed and got seen, which damaged my mission score and just pissed me off. That’s a problem as well, the rating system. In a game like Geometry Wars 3 where the aim is to get as many points as you can, it’s perfect. I didn’t actually mind it in Peace Walker, mainly because the missions were fairly short, so I never really paid attention to my rating. In MGSV, missions can last about half an hour, so… that’s a large amount of time required to fix a one second sort-of-mistake. Another one was similar: 26 minutes of perfect stealth ruined by a single second where a freak patrol sees me as I was running away on my horse. Bad luck = -11,000 points! Rank B! 26 minutes of wasted time! Too bad! Fuck off…

Escaping enemies is super-easy when it’s a free-roam world as well. Never feels like you’re being chased. And because missions have “mission areas” (and you lose if you move outside the area for too long), it clearly didn’t have to be free-roam. And the open world setting makes you wait for longer as well. Gotta wait for extraction, gotta get far away from the base to finish a mission, gotta wait for supply drops, gotta wait for the chopper to take off… all of this artificially extends the gameplay. There aren’t really any indoor areas, either. And the whole world is just… boring and samey.

I dunno. The whole thing just feels more like Call of Duty or Gears of War, or Battlefield, or some weird amalgamation of the three, not like Metal Gear. I mean, I’d say there’s a lot of gameplay in it. Some rough estimates suggest you’ll probably get about 40 hours out of the main missions, 80 hours if you go for all the mission goals and Side-Ops, and maybe even more if you go on a super-dull collection spree for 100% completion. But will you have enough fun to hit any of those three goals? Sheesh, I dunno. Maybe not. If the game kept up the way it was going, I’d probably end up just doing the main missions and about… half the Side-Ops? Maybe not even that. I mean, the core thing that was bugging me is that this feels like a generic war game with a bit of stealth, not Metal Gear. Hell… no. No, the main problem is that the game is just… average. It’s one of these friggin’ games that is so average that I’d probably have to play about half the game to make a decision. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Skate 3, Batman: Arkham Origins, Saints Row IV… all of these were the same deal. Couldn’t decide until the moment the game’s averageness started to bore me.

So, again… would I recommend it? £46, fuck no. £40, no. £35, sort of maybe, if you’re a fanboy? £30, eh, yeah, might be worth that if gameplay videos and stuff make you interested. £25, hmm, yeah, I’d probably pay that. £20, yes, even if it’s just a timekiller you don’t finish, it’s worth that. If it was less than that I’d probably buy it now. Yeah, go ahead, call me cheap, but the game hasn’t moved me yet. I don’t know how long it’ll take before it does. 😛

Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention this: I heard from several sources that the final mission was cut from the game, so the game has no ending. I feel that spending money on an unfinished-yet-released product is like backing an Early Access game, which is why I can’t bring myself to buy it until someone confirms this is a lie. 😛

FINALLY, they got this monster right.

Well, I’ve had a 3DS for a couple months now. Not regretting it even slightly. Even if I’d bought it for full price I wouldn’t be regretting it. 🙂 It’s so nice to have a portable console with more than 4 games on it. 😛

I got a few extra games since I last posted. The first one was Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity. I bought that because of Explorers of Sky, its predecessor, that I played on an emulator. Twice over! I quite liked the gameplay; it was a pretty simple dungeon crawler, but occasionally, it got quite brutal, and you had to stop and think about what you were gonna do next or you’d get hammered. It almost felt like a roguelike at times. Almost. 😛 Its strongest point by far was its story, though. Explorers of Sky had such a great story and such good characters that I can’t actually think of a game that surpasses it. It’s almost embarassing to admit that, and I feel like there has to be a game with a better storyline or better characters, but I don’t know why I can’t think of it. 😛

The new one, Gates to Infinity, didn’t disappoint either. The gameplay is almost the same, but a bit easier; they disabled the hunger system in all dungeons apart from the uber 99-floor endgame dungeons, they removed lookalike items (dangerous items that had very similar names to helpful items, eg: Oran Berries heal you, whereas Oren Berries cause damage), and Monster Houses (random rooms that contain more items inside than usual might turn out to be almost completely rammed with enemies) seem less frequent since I managed to get through more than half the game before I stumbled upon my first one. I mean, I only wiped out twice throughout the whole storyline, and one of those was due to insanely bad luck; an enemy used Peck which steals and uses a random item if it hits, and it just so happened to pick a Blast Seed I had lying around in there which does big damage to anyone in front of the item user. 😛 But despite the lower challenge, the story and characters were the highlights once again. I just found the characters so great that I actually ended up caring what happened to them. And okay, I’ll say it; I was that close to losing it at the end of the main story. 😛  Why? Why can this spin-off do it and pretty much no other game can?! I mean, even my most favouritest game of all time, Diablo II… the story was goodish, and some of the characters were good but I never really cared about them. It’s weird, especially when you consider I don’t actually like the vast majority of Pokémon, so it’s nothing to do with the fact that they were Pokémon or anything. I guess the Japanese are just better at making heartfelt stuff. 😛 The game time in Gates to Infinity was a little shorter than Explorers of Sky; I clocked 50 hours on the storyline compared to EoS’s 61 hours, but that’s not exactly something to snort at, especially when EoS has a much longer secondary storyline. I really hope they make another Mystery Dungeon, but judging by the sales and general reception of GtI (even in Japan), that really doesn’t look likely. Interest in it looks like it just divebombed from Explorers of Sky. 😦 No idea why, I mean, Victini could sell it on his own:

V-WHEEEEEEEEEEEL!!

I also got Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies. It took me friggin’ ages to realise it was a download-only title. 😛 I was a bit wary of it for some reason, but it turned out to be really fun as usual; completely ridiculously convoluted cases, over-exaggerated speech, a guy who is allowed to throw shurikens at you in a courtroom, the same overworked judge presiding just like almost every previous case, it pretty much has it all. 😛 Although, I dunno if it was just me, but it felt like there was much less interaction this time. Like… there was much more reading and less actual thinking and cross-examination than usual. And the end of the final case was kinda strange and felt kinda unfulfilling. That, and I never really got stuck. Made some mistakes, but I never got stuck like I did with some of the previous games. Still, I reckon it was pretty good. Lasted quite a while, too. 🙂 The one thing that pissed me off about it the most, though? The sheer. Amount. Of spelling errors. I cringed the first time I noticed one. “Nggggggg, a spelling error in a visual novel?! Noooohohohooooo, that’s bad.” But then they just kept appearing again and again. And again. It eventually went beyond human error and beyond a joke. It was just flat-out careless. I started taking pictures after the fourth mistake; here’s a few samples:

The truth will always WIN*...You cannot POSSIBLY* overturn my claims...In which WE* live...To OVERLOOK* critical symptoms...

Since I have about 15 more, I’ll just leave it there before I post way too many. 😛

Despite the immense spelling errors in that one game, I have no regret for buying the console. But that’s just because of the games, not because the system is any good. The 3DS itself is pretty average. Well, no, I’d say below average, actually. There are a bunch of issues that just annoy me. Take the ergonomics. I’ve already mentioned how uncomfortable the system is to hold before, but it’s really annoying now. If you’re not playing an action game, it’s fine. However, if you are, you tend to grip the console a bit harder than normal, and it starts to hurt pretty quickly. This brick of a console presses into the bottom right of my right palm really firmly, and the bottom left of my left palm too. Whatever you call those locations. 😛 After it presses too much, it gets quite uncomfortable. :/

Another annoying thing is the 3D effect. I’ve gotten used to it enough now that I can have it on max. But eventually, I noticed something was wrong. Certain objects, usually objects that stand out amongst their surroundings, seem to appear appear “ghosted” quite strongly to the left and right. At first I thought it was my eyes, and tried turning down the effect. Then, after noticing the issue on the setting I used to use, I started to think it was a calibration issue. I’ve recalibrated about 4 times and messed with the manual calibration (whatever that’s supposed to do) to no avail, so it can only be the crappiness of the effect itself. I still like the effect and think it makes a pretty significant difference, but this ghosting issue ruins it almost completely. Faulty device, maybe? I doubt that; it seems like this kinda thing would be a software bug.

Other gripes include the stupidly low pixel density yet significant frame drop when using the 3D effect which, in combination, demonstrates the device’s idiotically low power. And despite this low power, the battery life is fairly short, meaning that the battery is probably cheap and low-capacity. Nintendo can’t seem to let go of the past, either. In this age where it’s common for a 6-year-old kid to know what kilobytes and megabytes are, Nintendo still insists on using blocks as a unit of measurement. Fucking blocks! What the hell is a block?! The last non-Nintendo console I know of that used blocks as a unit of measurement was the Xbox, and I’m pretty sure even they don’t know why they used it. I mean, Sony had already dropped it and switched to KB after the PS1! One other thing? Nintendo sucks at the Internet. I mentioned in a previous post that you can only save three sets of wireless access point information, which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. But the amount of time it takes to connect to various online things is amazing. No, I can assure you it’s not my connection. 😛 Connecting to the server to browse DLC for a single game takes about 40 seconds, which isn’t much less than the amount of time it takes to open the entire eShop! Oh, and about the eShop? It can either download one file at a time while the console is open as long as it’s not interrupted, or it can queue a bunch of stuff to download, but only if the console is put into sleep mode! What the hell? Why can’t it download while I’m doing something else with the system?! Christ. Even the new C-Stick is pretty shoddy. It’s weird and completely devoid of feeling, and because it’s so small, it has a microscopic range.

Hah, YES. Finally. Been waiting to find the right place to mention the C-Stick for ages. 😛 Since I’ve mentioned the C-Stick, that means I’ve got a game where I’ve been able to use it, and that game was supposed to be the focus of this entry but I DO THIS ALL THE TIME SOMETIMES. 😛

This game has pretty much been my nemesis ever since I played it way back when. The reason why it’s my nemesis isn’t really because of the gameplay or challenge or because the game was crap. It’s because it’s the only game I seriously wanted to like, that I couldn’t like. It had an awesome concept, but it’s like they made the game without thinking about anything important at all. It was a great game hidden behind layers and layers of artificial challenge, a terrible learning curve, stupid choices and tons of catch-22s.

Monster Hunter.

Fuck you Kut-Ku. And fuck you Kushala Daora. 😛

So from my words, obviously, my experience with Monster Hunter has been pretty rocky. The first one I played was the original on the PS2, but I can’t remember it that much. All I remember is that I gave it a try out of curiosity, but it pounded me into the ground somehow and I gave up. Some time later, after I managed to get custom firmware installed on my PSP, I thought I’d try out Monster Hunter Freedom 2, which I’ve actually posted about a couple of times before. I went through the tutorial quests and did pretty well, and started to think they’d greatly improved their game’s difficulty curve from the original. Nope. 😛 After I left the tutorials and started on the quests, I immediately noticed something. The weapons provided in the tutorial were different from the ones you start with. “Different” as in “WAY more powerful”. I had serious problems with the Velocidrome, which is a… well, guess. It’s a velociraptor. 😛 Wait, was it the Velocidrome? Nonono, it was a Giadrome; that’s it. Although it’s pretty much the same thing, just a texture swap and possibly different spit. 😛 Anyway, it’s the first large monster. It took me 20 minutes to beat it. And no, I didn’t complete it first time.

I didn’t really understand why I was having such a hard time. I mean, it was the first quest. I didn’t have the materials to upgrade my weapons or craft any armour. Eventually, I made some headway by switching to the Light Bowgun and suddenly ended up destroying the Giadrome. I start riding the wave, clearing quest after quest, but then all of a sudden, the Yian Kut-Ku turns up and wipes me out. It’s the first wyvern you come across, a quite-scrawny-definitely-looks-kinda-like-a-chicken wyvern, but a wyvern nonetheless. 😛 It nuked me. Absolutely nuked me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t beat it. Because you don’t know exactly how much health your target has left, I was convinced the AI was cheating by switching areas and recovering most of its health when I wasn’t looking. This was the monster that made me give up.

It wasn’t just the Kut-Ku. It was that absolute spastic learning curve that gets you used to the power of weapons you don’t own before suddenly dropping you against the same monsters with dramatically weaker weapons at your disposal. There was the complete inaccessibility of multiplayer, too. To play with your friends, or anyone, you need to be in the same room at the same time, which isn’t really possible when you live so far away from each other. Not many of my friends owned a PSP, and none of them really seemed interested in Monster Hunter anyway, but I reckon it would’ve been way easier with a team-mate, even some other random nooblet like me. 😛 I believed that having two targets would make the AI lose the plot completely. 😛  My biggest problem with the game, though? The controls. On the PSP, they didn’t make any sense at all. There’s no lock-on, and I can’t really see why not, because lock-on eliminates the “camera wrangling” layer of Fake Difficulty; making the camera impossible to control makes the game more difficult for no good reason. In Monster Hunter, you can make the camera look in the direction your character is facing by tapping L, but if you wanted to move the camera to look at the monster you’re targeting, well, the camera controls are bound to the d-pad. Which, on the PSP, is above the analog stick. So to control your character and move the camera at the same time while still having access to the rest of the controls, you needed 2 left hands. -.-

Or, well… so it seemed. But I’ll get onto that in a bit. 😉

About a year after dropping Monster Hunter Freedom 2, I was playing Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker when I discovered to my complete surprise that it contained secret missions based on Monster Hunter. 😀 After I made Snake cook a Well-Done Ration and shoot a Rathalos about 30 times in the face with a rocket launcher, I thought I’d give Monster Hunter yet another chance. Why? I dunno. MGS Peace Walker may have had Monster Hunter missions but it played completely differently and I only just hesitate to say that I reckon it was the best PSP game ever (I only just hesitate because Patapon 3 was also immense 😀 ). I mean, I found it possible to use the camera while moving for one thing. 😛

MHFU annoyed me when I started it up because it looked exactly like MHF2. 😛 It turned out that it was an expanded version of MHF2, meaning it was exactly the same apart from at least two things: G-Rank endgame quests against stupid monsters no-one in reality could ever kill short of using many many anti-tank missiles and/or a nuke, and when playing solo, a Felyne companion (they’re epic anthropomorphic kitties 😀 ) who was completely useless at dealing damage but amazing at taking hits by distracting stuff away from me. 😛 But no, soon, I noticed something else. I cleared most of the quests to the end of 2* and only fainted twice. One of those faints was “uber-cheap”, as I explain here:

Fighting Velociprey, took two of them out. As I was gathering from them, the camera screwed up and got stuck near the wall, and the sound of the Felyne throwing bombs at the other Velociprey drowned out the sound of Tigrex entering the area. I heard the danger music start, thought “What the fu…?”, spun my camera around, and saw Tigrex’s grill right up in my grill. He fired an ice blast, which knocked me down and took out a massive chunk of my health bar. Got up again… but the Random Number God said “you’re stunned”. Couldn’t do shit. Tigrex then bit my head off. Screwed by the gayness that is the RNG.

Yep. Sounds pretty cheap. 😛 But despite this… I was doing alright. And it didn’t make any sense, since it was exactly the same game as MHF2. Either they had dropped the difficulty dramatically, or I had improved by not playing it for about a year. 😛 I kept piledriving through the quests all the way up to 4*, and ended up switching to the Long Sword midway through. I also ended up mastering a technique I later found out to be called “the claw”, allowing you to both move and control the camera. Basically, while you have your thumb on the analog stick, you bend your index finger back and curl it forward like a claw. This is generally incredibly uncomfortable, but it places your index finger on the d-pad, so you can control the camera. 😀 Hell, I was doing so good, I even ended up making a complete mockery of my old rival, the Yian Kut-Ku, by accidentally killing one with a kick. 😛

But then, just as I thought I was really “getting” it, SPLAAAT! I ran into a difficulty cliff.

There were two quests that stopped me from breaking past 4*. One was to beat a White Monoblos, which is a sort-of-wyvern that frequently burrows underground and just moves around aimlessly with its fin poking out of the sand, and there’s no point in running after it because it can move about three times faster than you. The standard Monoblos took 25 minutes for me to beat, and apart from rendering the quest as cleared, it was actually detrimental because I used a lot of items but didn’t get any materials I needed. The other one that stopped me? Kushala Daora, the first actual dragon you encounter. Er… “actual dragon” as in “not a wyvern”. Even though wyverns are dragons. Oh whatever, what I meant was that Kushala’s a Western dragon, not a wyvern like nigh on everything else in Monster Hunter. 😛

Kushala Daora was Fake Difficulty personified. Or… well, dragonified, if you prefer. 😛 He has a wind shield that makes you stumble if you go anywhere near him, making close combat insanely difficult. But since insanely difficult isn’t hard enough, he’s ultra-fast, and his scales are so hard that the very few attacks I managed to land using a weapon with green sharpness usually ended up bouncing. I couldn’t GET anything higher than green at the time! I didn’t actually understand what the game wanted me to do about it!

But wait, there’s more! I haven’t told you about the catch-22’s! Apparently, if you attack Kushala’s head and break his horns, the wind shield completely disappears. However, you can’t, because the wind shield knocks you back if you get too close! In the event you DO land a hit, it bounces, because the sharpness required to cause meaningful damage is higher than is available at that point in the game! Now, you can poison him to stop the wind shield temporarily, but I hit him with five poison throwing knives and nine poison smoke bombs and didn’t poison him once, so I’m pretty sure he’s IMMUNE to poison. The only way I can imagine beating him is by being a distraction while a team-mate with a bowgun/bow shoots the crap out of him.

I even tried looking for some kind of guide. Just a few hints on how to deal with the wind shield, what weapon and armour people recommend, how to go about attacking, any tell information, whatever. Best recommendations? Use a weapon made from unobtainable Rathalos materials, and a full set of armour made from unobtainable Tigrex materials. WHAT. THE FUCK. They were monsters that appeared in THE NEXT TIER UP, or maybe even higher! That made me feel like the game really was impossible, because they’d obviously had to hack that equipment into their game just to beat it. Either that, or I was playing some broken version of the game or something. What’s more, because Capcom are stupid as hell, you only unlock arena missions against specific monsters for practice and bonus materials until AFTER you beat the monster for the first time. DURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

I deleted it and swore I’d never play another game from the series. Monster Hunter 3 came and went, and I laughed at it because it came out on the Wii, an even less suitable console for it.

I’m crap at keeping my word, though. 😛

Ever since I got the 3DS, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has been breathing down my neck. I kept seeing it on the eShop store, kept seeing it in the recommended list on Amazon because it probably knew I had a 3DS, kept seeing it advertised by Amazon in the sidebar on Facebook because Facebook is fucking creepy and spies on my browsing habits, and I kept seeing it in newsletters from GAME and ShopTo. It was all over the place probably because it’s basically The Game That Sells The 3DS. 😛 I kept thinking “No, I’m not playing it. It’s screwed me over way too many times.”

I can’t remember when I did it or why, but I eventually buckled and downloaded the demo from the eShop. 😛 It was a pretty bespoke demo. The first thing it asked was whether you were new to Monster Hunter or not. The first time I played the demo, I said I was a beginner. That option makes you stronger than normal and gives you two missions, one to fight a Great Jaggi (a bigass dinosaur), and another to fight a Tetsucabra (a bigass frog but it’s quite a badass bigass frog 😛 ). I did them in order using the weapon I remember the most from MHFU; the Dual Blades. The fight with Great Jaggi showed off the new mounting system, and the fight with Tetsucabra showed off the insane vertically-inclined environments and your protagonist’s legs of steel. 😛 Great Jaggi was beaten in a blink and Tetsucabra wasn’t too hard either. So, I switched to experienced, and not at all to my surprise, a third mission appeared; one to take down Gore Magala, a completely badass black dragon who definitely hates you. 😛 I got him using the Dual Blades on my third try, which was way faster than I expected. I actually kinda enjoyed the demo, but I was still super-wary. I mean, you were given preset equipment and items. I wasn’t convinced that the equipment the demo gave you would be obtainable at that point in the real game. Still… Monster Hunter was back on my radar. I thought “Well, I’ll consider it if I find it cheap somewhere, but £35 is way too steep to take a chance on it.”

Guess what was on sale recently? 😛

I picked it up for £20 a couple weeks ago now. And I can barely believe how much I am BULLDOZING everything.

Seriously, I’m at the end of 4*, where I was blocked in MHFU. I’m about to fight the Gore Magala that I fought in the demo and I am completely confident that I’m gonna win. On my way here, I’ve fainted ONCE, and that was because I couldn’t fucking MOVE. It was during a mission where Gore Magala appears for the first time, shows off, and attacks your boat. Since the dragon takes about 60% of the space on the boat when he’s landed, there’s pretty much nowhere to move when he does. I got pinned against a corner underneath Magala while he did some attacks that I couldn’t really see as I desperately tried to run or roll THROUGH him somehow, and eventually I just gave up and let him drain my health. But that’s literally the only time I’ve fainted. What the hell? Have I just gotten better at games or something, or is MH4U just easier?

I think the main reason why is because I did some proper weapon tests and found a new favourite. I went through the majority of the weapon training, getting used to each of the weapons before entering the arena with a Great Jaggi, timing myself from that point. I logged 4 minutes 16 seconds with the familiar Dual Blades, and finally proved to myself that I’ve been wasting my time with that mediocre weapon all along by posting a time of 2 minutes 56 seconds with the Long Sword. Then something unexpected happened. I picked the Insect Glaive, one of the two new weapons. Without fully understanding what I was doing, I FLATTENED the Great Jaggi in 2 minutes 17 seconds. What. Thinking it was a fluke, I tried again. 1 MINUTE 53 SECONDS. Holy crap!

Understandably, the Insect Glaive became my new weapon of choice. This overpowered-as-hell I-can-do-literally-everything-except-block-but-why-would-you-waste-your-time-with-blocking weapon has nuked every single anything that’s gotten in my way so far. Was that my problem from the very beginning? I’d been using the wrong weapon? It must’ve been at least part of it. 😛

But anyway, now that I can actually play the game properly without being butt-raped by the weakest monsters in the game, I can progress through the game and attempt to enjoy it for once. And as for the biggest, most immense improvement MH4U has over the previous games aside from the more reasonable difficulty? Wanna know? Go on, guess.

It haaas… A NARRATIVE.

Top lel, yes! It actually has an additional sense of progression outside of the number of stars shown by the name of the quest. There’s a STORY. It only took them THIS many years to realise Monster Hunter didn’t have one despite the fact it’s a role playing game and could easily have had one from the very start. 😛

It’s not the best story in the world, but because it has one and it’s interesting enough, I want to know what happens next, and it’s cool to make the story unfold. “Hey mate fuck up this Gypceros because we need its stuff to make a boat!” Ooh, where’re we going? What’s the boat gonna look like? Ahh, I’m not gonna know until I help out the village by splattering this bigass Nerscylla first! OHHHH SNAP I’M ON A BOAT, take a good hard look at the motherfuckin’ boat, yeaaaaaaah! OH SHIT, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING OH GOD IT’S A DRAGON WITH AN EYE FOR CRAFTSMANSHIP AND IT HATES THE BOAT A 13-YEAR-OLD-GIRL DESIGNED, BOOOOSH SMASH WHAAAAM oh damn we barely made it to land. Gore Magala, I’m totally gonna smash your face for messing up my boat BIIOOOOTCH!

*ahem* Yep. So because of the things I madly wrote down in the previous paragraph (if it even qualifies as that) without re-reading them yet, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is actually a good game for once. 😛 It has a story, a unique vibe and good sense of humour, a camera that can be controlled properly, a deepish combat system with a large selection of weapons that feel unique, and a realistic difficulty curve. Finally, I can enjoy the game I’ve always wanted to enjoy.

Obviously, there are some flaws. The most obvious one is the weapon balance. I can’t believe that the Insect Glaive is that powerful. It’s overpowered. Hell, even the Charge Blade is overpowered, because I still don’t understand what I was doing with it when I managed to rank it second fastest at mullering a Great Jaggi on my second attempt. Hell, it was faster than the Long Sword which I know how to use already. I’m gonna have to go back through the weapon training at some point and post a list of my best times with each weapon.

Another flaw is their inability to teach new players properly. Going through the weapon “tutorials” feels like trying to cram for an exam; it gives you ALL of the information while the game is paused. You can’t move around while the dialogue appears in the corner and try out the weapon as he explains the controls. -.-  Also, some of the tutorial messages only appear when you do what the tutorial message teaches you. I ran off a ledge and was immediately interrupted by some dialogue that said that you can run off a ledge (or evade off a ledge if you have your weapon drawn) and attack for a mid-air attack that has a chance of knocking down monsters and opens up a mounting attempt. I’m pretty sure I could’ve figured that out for myself eventually. 😛 Thankfully, you mount your first monster automatically in a cutscene, so I learned how to do that before I did it for myself. However, it still felt like a cramming session, because the game was paused while it explained what buttons to press while mounted.

I don’t like this looming feeling of needing to grind for equipment, either. Well, I say “looming”, but it already happened, actually. I spent about 4 hours a day for the past three days trying to get TWO friggin’ materials I needed to complete a set of armour that I wanted before taking on Gore Magala. I needed two Gypceros Heads to trade for Basarios Scalps. Now, if this game made any sense at all, this would be no problem. I mean, you just kill two Gypceros and take their heads, right? Noooooo! You see, item drop chances and conditions are hidden from the eyes of normal players. After killing about 12 Gypceros and capturing another four without a single one dropping a Gypceros Head, I had to turn to the Internet where people somehow have this kind of information. You know what the drop chance of a Gypceros Head is when you carve its body? One percent! ONE!! Despite the fact that I can see its head riiiiiight there! Goddamn it, no fucking WONDER I never found one! It turned out that the best way to get one was to go for the much more realistic 30% chance when you break the crystal on its head and then complete the quest, because breaking its crystal means you can cut its head off, obviously. 😛 Anyway, this was kind of a good learning experience because I decided to try the Hammer after finding it does big damage to Gypceros when you hit it in the head but reduced damage everywhere else. I thought that would reduce the chance of accidentally killing the monster before breaking its crystal. After breaking one of their crystals but failing to kill either of them and almost running out of potions and antidotes after 25 minutes, I gave it up to recover my items, registering my first ever failed/abandoned quest in MH4U, and concluding that while the Hammer may have a massive damage value, it’s actually a steaming pile of shit and I will never touch it again outside of training. 😛

I got the two heads in four kills after switching back to the Insect Glaive and being more precise. 🙂 So, with this armour, I’m pretty much ready to kick Gore Magala’s badass tushie and bitchslap that “Ace Commander” after he says “WHOOOOAOOAOAOAOAAHHHAHHAHH”. 😛 If I do that, I’ll reach 5* for the first time. 😀

Well, fuck. 5000+ words. Sorry, I’ve written waaaaaaaay too much. I’ll shut the hell up now. 😛 But I’ll probably be back tomorrow at some point to update this monster of an entry to tell you about how I smooshed Gore Magala which will make it EVEN LOOOOOONGER! 😛

Problem rectified!

I got a 3DS charger last Saturday. Nope, it wasn’t the one I ordered from ShopTo. Had to settle for a GAMEware one which cost more than an official one because high street and lack of logic. That, and the fact that there were about 700 trillion people walking around Brighton at the same time basically explains why I never go into town. 😛 Funnily enough, the one I ordered from ShopTo arrived on Tuesday, but it’s just sat at the post office because I don’t need it. Just waiting for them to return it to sender and get a refund. And inevitably I’ll have to send ShopTo an e-mail when they don’t refund me. And then counter their inevitable “no refunds after 7 days of receipt” argument with “I never took receipt of the goods because they were late so fuck you”. 😛  That’s how it’s playing out in my head, anyway. 😛

RIGHT, YES, the console. I’ve played… three games on it now, excluding the AR games I had a go at. My thoughts so far? It’s… almost awesome.

First let me confirm that there has been absolutely zero problems with it despite the fact that it’s an Australian-region 3DS. It acts in exactly the same way as a European 3DS. All the games I bought from the UK work perfectly, the Nintendo Store says it’s for Europe and Australia when you open it for the first time, and StreetPass works, too. 🙂

The only real problem I have with the console is the ergonomics, but it’s such a big problem it almost ruins it. I’ve never had anything that I’ve been unable to play for more than a few hours because of how uncomfortable it is to hold. I played a time attack on Space Invaders Extreme 2, and my hand was starting to go numb by the time I reached the final stage. It only took about 13 minutes. 😛 It’s essentially just a large, unfoldable brick, and the corners of the unfolded brick dig into my palms quite firmly as I’m holding it. It’s fine for a short while, but it starts to hurt eventually.

Another issue is the shortish battery life. I’ve barely played it today, maybe about 3 hours, but it’s already gone through half its battery. So about… 6 hours of battery life? It’s reasonable, it’d definitely last me if I went back home on the train/bus and took it with me. Not like my hands would last that long holding it. 😛

Apart from those things, it’s really good. The 3D effect is still fun yet weird; it’s like peering through a window into a room that isn’t there. 😀 I’ve also gotten to understand the firmware a bit more. It comes bundled with a step counter which awards these “Play Coins” every 100 steps you take in a day, but doesn’t give more than 10 a day. Apparently today I’ve taken 2756 steps, which is pretty eye-opening. I had no idea it takes that many steps to get to work and back. 😀 Of course, I can imagine it’s pretty inaccurate, especially since it’s in my bag. 😛 The Play Coins can be used to unlock AR games or to make progress in StreetPass games. I think that’s all they’re for.

StreetPass is really cool. It’s like the PlayStation Vita’s “near”. Well, apart from StreetPass absolutely obliterates the living turd out of Near. Near only works through WiFi or 3G if you bought that version of the Vita for some reason, and it takes people who were within several miles of your location at some point and tells you what they’ve been playing. As if you care. 😛 StreetPass runs all the time while your device is sleeping (when the cover’s closed) and attempts to communicate with any other 3DS that comes into range.

The firmware has a game which uses StreetPass already built-in, called StreetPass Mii Plaza. The devices exchange Miis and information such as your greeting and where you’re from. When you check your 3DS and open up Mii Plaza, all the Miis belonging to people you passed on the street show up in your plaza. You can then use them in a couple of free mini-games. Puzzle Swap lets you take pieces of an image from Miis you met, with the aim of completing all the images. StreetPass Quest is a mini-RPG where the Miis you met fight through dungeons in a simplistic turn-based RPG, with the aim of rescuing your Mii (who happens to be the king). It’s actually a really fun feature. 😀 The only problem is… finding people is surprisingly hard. I’ve only had 9 StreetPass hits so far, despite the fact I live in a fairly big city. The first day I got no hits at all, and wondered if it was region-locked or something. I actually changed my route to work the next day in an attempt to get more hits, and suddenly got 4 on the way to work. I kept on the same route the next day and got zero. Today I got 5 on the way back from work. Same route, but all completely different people. I have no idea where I’m picking these people up. I have a feeling it’s because I go over a bridge that passes over a train station now. Maybe I picked up some commuters with 3DSs. 😛 If that’s the case, holy crap, not a single one of the ~100 houses I pass twice has a 3DS in there? Not a single person I pass on the street has one, either? Eh, maybe everyone around here is so obsessed with running around and desperately trying not to get fat overnight that treadmills are more popular than video games, or something. Everyone seems to vote Green around here, after all. But the 3DS has a STEP COUNTER! That’s healthy living, right?! 😛

I played the built-in AR games, too. I’m pretty sure AR is already dead in gaming, but these games shit all over the Vita’s offerings. 😛 There’s a target game, which presents a bunch of different interesting arrangements of targets to shoot, and you really have to move the DS around to get some of them. For some reason it culminates with a boss fight against a dragon. 😛 There’s a mini-golf style game, too. That also culminates with a boss fight against a dragon. There’s fishing too. Guess what? It culminates in a YES, boss fight against a dragon! It was pretty funny. I didn’t really expect it in the first and second games, but by the time I got to the third game I was like “Yep, time’s up, where’s the dragon?” 😀

The main problem with these games, though, is that the DS keeps losing track of the AR card as you try to reposition yourself, and it’s insanely intolerant. It wants you to be at a distance of about 30cm. It’s impossible to do that all the time, but getting just a bit too close or moving a bit too far away messes up the AR and/or the 3D. I don’t know exactly what kind of surface it expects you to use. A coffee table is too low, the floor is far too low and it’s super-difficult to move around the card, and a desk or dining table is too large so you can’t manoeuvre around the card very easily. For AR, though, it was pretty fun. Good demo for the 3D, too. 😀

As for the full games, well, the only one I’ve played specifically for the 3DS so far is Super Mario 3D Land. It’s pretty fun, but it’s a bit simplistic and far too easy right now. You start with 4 lives, and I ended up with about 40 by the time I entered World 3. 😛 Haven’t played any levels in World 3 yet. I’ve heard it gets harder, though. 😀

The only other games I’ve played are standard DS games. Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call, and Space Invaders Extreme 2. This Professor Layton is pretty much like all the others, including my opinion of it. Great story with a bunch of cool mysteries, and nice FMVs with good voicework, too. The puzzles are a mixed bag, yet again. Some are genuinely good, whereas others aren’t explained well enough, are completely subjective or require you to use stupidly obscure methods to get the answer. Like one puzzle where it asks “which key fits in the door” and the answer is a key that definitely doesn’t look like it would fit, but it so happens to be a special key that you have to insert, turn partway, insert further and turn it the rest of the way. It’s not really a puzzle, because I’ve never seen a key like that ever, so I would never get the answer by myself! It’s still a good game, but I’m hoping the newer games at least have some better puzzles.

I’ve played Space Invaders Extreme 2 on DeSmuME (a DS emulator) before. It was so good I just had to have it if I was going to get a real DS. It’s difficult for me to explain why it’s so good in detail. It’s just a combination of the different scoring methods and features, how it uses both screens so effectively, and the epic music, along with how almost every sound is synchronized to the rhythm, and just the energy and feel of the game. And holy shit, that announcer is a god. 😀 It’s just so much fun. It almost feels like an epic game show! 😀 It’s probably best if you see it for yourself. I did record a video of it a long time ago when I played it on DeSmuME, here it is. Just me trying to amass as many points as I could on Stage 1. “YOU MADE IT OUT THIS TIME, BUT THIS ISN’T THE END! IT’S FEVER TIME!!” 😀

All in all, yep, it’s a really good console. Especially for the price I paid. 😀 And hell, it actually has GAMES on it! 😛 Got plenty more games on my list that I need to get, but I’ll play through the ones I’ve got first! 😉