Friday, February 26, 2016

First Impressions: Crimson Shroud (3DS)

Crimson Shroud is part of the "Guild01" series, which won't mean anything to most people outside of Japan so I won't go into the deeper details except to say that of the seven games released under the "Guild" series, I have three of the seven (Crimson Shroud, Weapon Shop de Omasse, and The Starship Damrey) and I am very interested at looking into the other four games.

So Crimson Shroud I purchased a while back when it was on sale (so I didn't pay the full $7.99, but I probably would have if I knew that I would be enjoying the game as much as I have been the last two hours).  The game plays like a traditional tabletop RPG with miniatures, Dwarven Forge environments and a full set of dice.  Crimson Shroud isn't Dungeons & Dragons though although it has many elements that make up that glorious game.  There is no voice acting, only written text, there is no (as of yet) character animations as all of the characters are represented by painted miniature figurines on square bases.  The only way that this game could be better is if it also incorporated a tactics approach to the battles instead of the more traditional video game RPG battles that you find in Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.

Apologies for the Youtube-quality Picture.
The dice mechanic is a very nice touch too.  They're not used in the traditional D&D style, in that you don't roll for initiative, damage or on a proficiency check,but instead when casting certain spells, or when you instigate a surprise attack or are ambushed in order to determine the number of individual turns the surprise lasts; you roll a 2d4.  The dice mechanic is one that didn't have to be included as the results of the die roll could be as determined as a random die generator, but the act of rolling a 1d10, 1d20, 1d6, 1d12 and a 1d4 to determine how many magic points a character gains is still pretty damn cool.

The music in the game is composed, primarily by Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII, Terra Battle) along with other composers from his own company, Basicscape.  Most the music so far has been very fitting, although one cue seemed a little out of place, but I understand why it was used.  I also decided to come upon the rest of the soundtrack and I am very pleased with what I will hear later in the game.

As far as the story goes, I'm a little confused, but then again, I've put in only just under two hours so I don't expect to understand all of the intrinsic workings of the world and overall story by this point.  There have been a number of instances where the game has asked if I wanted to reminisce on a characters backstory and honestly, why the hell wouldn't I want to?  I even had to re-explore a room that I had already been in because searching the room again wasn't an option the first time around.  It was like the game expected me to think, "I should probably check that room again" and provided me with what I had been looking for.

If the rest of the 10 hours this game is supposed to provide (providing I apparently go through it a second time), I will be very happy.

Nothing But All The Same

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

MIDI Week Singles: "Stage 16 Theme" - Lemmings (SNES)


"Stage 16 Theme"  - Lemmings on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Composers:  Tim Wright and Brian Johnston
Developer: DMA design 
Publishers:  Psychosis, Sunsoft

Lemmings is such a sleeper game.  So easy to forget, but so much fun.  I really love this game, I wonder if it's received any kind of update over the years.  The last time I tried to play the SNES version, I couldn't deal with the interface, and longed for a mouse and keyboard. 

Whenever I think of Lemmings, I think of this silly track.  Mostly a cheerful, brainless plodding, just like the Lemmings themselves, but the juxtaposition of the doom melody with the wedding melody is pure comic genius, in my mind. 


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pak Watch: A couple of RPGs

Cosmic Star Heroine
Cosmic Star Heroine is the latest from Zeboyd games, who brought you Cthulu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII.  Both of these games were style parodies of popular Role Playing Games of the 1990s, and it looks like Cosmic Star Heroine continues in that vein, drawing comparisons to Chrono Trigger and Lunar.  Heroine takes place in a future-world and will involve traveling to different planets.  Additionally, the combat system goes deep, "requiring you to plan your moves turns in advance". I am intrigued, and I always love a good RPG combat system.  I consider myself a fan of Zeboyd games, so I will be keeping my eyes and ears out for more info.  Cosmic Star Heroine is being released for the PS4 and Steam. 


Torment:  Tides of Numenera
This game is also a style tribute to a 90s RPG.  In this case, a critically acclaimed PC game called "Planescape: Torment."  This is one classic RPG that I have never played, but I have heard a lot of praise about it.  The game has reached beta status, and is predicted to be 50 hours long.  The plot has something to do with falling to earth in a body once occupied by the Changing God who has cheated death for Millennia.  And check out this image!  It doesn't all look like this, but I just had to share this gross hellscape.  Looks pretty cool to me.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Pak Watch: Tsioque

oh noo Studio
Tsioque is a point and click adventure about a young princess who is kidnapped, and has to use her wits to escape.  It is drawn and animated in a delightful and whimsical cartoon style.  I showed some animated gifs of Tsioque to Jane, and she said this was just the kind of game she wanted to play.  I really suggest you have a look at the animation at Screenshot Daily.

Tsioque has been fully funded and will be available on Steam in September, 2016.  There is a demo, which I have yet to play, available on the game website.   


Thursday, February 18, 2016

MIDI Week Single: "Fever" from Dr. Mario (NES)

"Fever" from Dr. Mario on the Nintendo Entertainment System (1990)
Composer: Hirokazu Tanaka
Album: Famicom 20th Anniversary Original Soundtrack Vol. 3, Famicom Sound History Series "Mario the Music.", and NINTENDO Famicom Music.
Label: Scitron Digital Contents, Inc., and NIPPON Columbia.
Developer: Nintendo R&D 1

Whenever I think of Dr. Mario, "Fever" is the quintessential song that comes to mind.  Like "Korobeiniki" for Tetris on the Gameboy or "Dance of the Sugar Plumb Fairy" for Tetris on the NES.  "Fever," at least to me is Dr. Mario's theme.  The other option is the song "Chill," which is still quite an appropriate song, but it doesn't have that extra something that "Fever" has; but to each their own; although maybe I will cover "Chill" on a future date as it has plenty elements and themes that I like.

I also like that Hirokazu Tanaka (Donkey Kong, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Tetris) who wrote the music for Dr. Mario, not that I think that Koji Kondo would've done a bad job, but I just like seeing one of the other older composers for Nintendo.

So in this season of flues and colds and fevers and chills, stay healthy out there as I myself am finally recovering from roughly three weeks of flu turned sore throat turned cough turned recovery.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Game Review: Pokémon Picross (3DS)

I enjoy puzzle games, to a certain extent.  Well, I enjoy puzzle games that I understand and that I can figure out, at least on a rudimentary level.  I do not like sliding block puzzles, which I have mentioned in the past.  The puzzle mechanics of picross (aka Nonogram) I can get behind as it reminds of Sudoku but with a picture at the end.  Granted it's a pixelated picture, but it's still there.

Pokémon Picross is a "free to start" game developed by Jupiter and published by The Pokémon Company, and for a free to play game with the hint of microtransactions galore, Pokémon Picross is a great game with a surprising amount of content.  From what I can tell, the only microtransaction in the game is buying gems called Picrites which allow you to refill your energy, unlock new areas with new puzzles, unlock new and tougher puzzles, or use a Pokémon whose currently resting and depending on the specific Pokémon, the resting timer can run anywhere from one hour up to 29.  You are able to acquire Picrites by completing requirements for each puzzle, such as completing the puzzle under a set time, using only a certain type of Pokémon, or using a particular skill; more on Pokémon and their skills later.  You can also earn 7+ Picrites by completing a timed daily puzzle that are small and a lot of fun even though you do not create pictures so much as filling in where the puzzle tells you to; it's like a mental warm up. 

Pokémon Picross consists of 300 individual puzzles which you access by completing a puzzle which leads you along a predetermined path through zones/areas that have a number of puzzles.  Accessing these puzzles uses a certain amount of your energy (typically ~40 for a 10x10 puzzle and ~130 for a 20x15 puzzle), of which you start out with 200 and is slowly refilled by a timer, which refills at one energy per minute.

The point of adding Pokémon into the mix is an interesting one.  Once you complete a puzzle, you are able to capture that Pokémon and use them [you can use up to five after unlocking (using Picrites) additional slots] in subsequent puzzles.  Their abilities vary from fixing squares that you mislabeled, revealing an area for you, slowing down the timer by 10% (or more if you have additional "Slow Time" Pokémon in play), to letting you know which lines/columns could be figured out without additional blocks being filled in.  There are others of course, but no sense in listing them all hereOr, you don't have to use any of the Pokémon and solve the puzzles using your own skills, all of which are possible, but I admit that the 20x15 puzzles are pretty intimidating.

My one criticism of the game is with the larger 20x15 and 15x15 puzzles.  With puzzles of this size, the grid gets to be pretty small which makes filling in blocks occasionally difficult.  Sadly there is no way to zoom in on an area.  There have been a number of times where I tried to fill in a specific box only to remove my mark as I was a few pixels to the left and unmarked the box to the left.  Or by accidentally filling in a box I knew that wasn't supposed to contain a filled in mark, which becomes frustrating when you have a Pokémon slotted who has the ability to fix a limited number of mistakes and one of those passes is eliminated because the boxes are small in size on the screen. 

Basically, Pokémon Picross is a fun if you're looking for a puzzle game that you can pick up a couple of times a day to play for 10 - 30 minutes.  The fact that it's a free game that doesn't inundate you with asking you to buy an upgrade or purchase additional Picrites only makes the game more attractive.  So if you have any iteration of the 3DS (3DSXL, New 3DS, 2DS), I would highly recommend getting Pokémon Picross, even if you're not familiar with the Pokémon universe, I would recommend at least trying the game.  However, if you're the kind of person who needs/wants to do all of the puzzles as fast as possible and be able to access every area without waiting or paying for microtransactions, then this probably isn't the game for you.


P.S.  I think that a Super Smash Bros. Picross game would be pretty fun too, and not because I like the Super Smash Bros. franchise, but because it's a great conglomeration of famous and classic Nintendo characters.  Even more so if they use the original 14x14 or 14x28 NES sprites from their respective games.  Or maybe unlock picross puzzles using amiibos?  That would be a perfect use of that technology!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

MIDI Week Single: "Stage Theme 1" - Rush'n Attack (NES)

"Stage Theme 1" from Rush'n Attack on the Nintendo Entertainment System (1985)
Composer: Shinya Sakamoto, Iku Iku Mizatani, Hevimeta Satoe, Nanda Adachi
Album: No Official Soundtrack Release
Developer: Konami

Rush'n Attack, not to be confused with a Russian Attack, is a game that I oddly remember fondly from my early years.  I never beat the game, and I think I could get to Stage 2 about 50% of the time.  People beat this game in about 15 minutes (and then there's this guy).  I guess it's no wonder then that I landed on Stage Theme 1" as the song that I wanted to use from this game.

As far as who the composer is, all I was able to find were members of the sound design department, and I'm not schnazzy enough to be able to tell who wrote the music based on how it sounds.  I'll leave that to musicologists and people who have a better ear than I coupled with 1980s video game composer knowledge.  The point is, one of those people up there wrote this song here and I like it enough to share it with the rest of the world. . .all 10 of you (not including the 6-7 twitter-bots who apparently really like us).

But the music, it has that galloping drum beat that does a great job of motivating the player to move forward towards their goal of disarming the enemy's secret weapon.  The melody, to me, invokes a bit of an 80's era solo-army guy on an impossible mission vibe to it (still haven't seen Rambo by the way) without being melodramatic about the soldier's lack of hardware.  It's just a good old fashion run-and-gun music.  Oddly enough, the music is entirely absent from the arcade game of Rush'n Attack of which so many NES games back in the day were simply arcade ports.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Monthly Update: February 2016

Happy February everyone!  Happy Year of the Monkey too.  According to the great Wikipedia, we're intelligent, dignified, optimistic, and sociable (when I have to be, but that's not my strongest characteristic), but we're also apparently vain (I do like my hair), arrogant, reckless, and snobbish.  Although I feel like it nailed the health problems with possibly being prone to social anxiety disorder (of which I'm sure that I exhibit a number of symptoms during various social interactions).  But anyway. . .

Let's see, what was I up to last month?  I started the winter quarter (with only one more to go and then I can be an official number cruncher) which means that I haven't been as gameable as I might normally be otherwise.  It also means that I'm still not reading as much as I would like to be as I will typically get in a few pages before I fall asleep for the night.

But gamewise is why I'm here today.  I feel like January could be characterized by both The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard (which I have briefly talked about) and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.  I've presently put in just under 25 hours into Redguard and I actually wish that there was more talking and investigating in this game than running around and fighting (partly because I'm bad at the fighting mechanic in this game), because this game is chalk full of Elder Scrolls lore from the 2nd Era. . .sorry, I just got lost reading again getting that link set up.  I think I'm about 2/3rds of the way through the game, but I before a current quest I'm on, I thought I was at the end of the game and I recently found out a way to talk to a character whose dialogue responses sound as if I was supposed to have talked to him within the first few hours of the game.  It's still a great (and dated) game that I look forward to finishing and hopefully get around to writing about.  Regarding Shadow of Mordor, that's another beast all together.

Oh, and just last night, I started up Dead Space 3 since I had been listening to the soundtrack and wondered why I hadn't played this apparent very black and not too horror-y (and last) game in a series that I love (although the second game not as much as the first).  Presently I am liking it, even though it is more action-y than the first game, but how much horror can a single protagonist take before they're just used to killing necromorphs?  I see it as like Ash from Army of Darkness compared to Ash from The Evil Dead.  Plus I'm getting some serious At the Mountains of Madness vibes from the past lore of the series taking place in an icy wasteland.  More Lovecraft appropriately placed into stories is never a bad thing.

Also, probably on Friday, I will put up an article about an alpha for a game called Clustertruck that's been a lot of fun (with a large helping of frustration).

January also marked the one year anniversary of our D&D group, or at least most of them since Conklederp (Dagnar Ungart) and Tula Tealeaf have been with us since the beginning and Xob and Lark (Chreekat) joined in later at various points; The Notorious CRC was killed off, but that was her request when she took classes back east last summer, and Lululeevaloolalay the High Elven wizard has been taken over by Conklederp since she's also a magic user and who doesn't like casting magic missile?  If the group keeps up the pace they maintained in the last session, I feel like they'll finish the quest when we meet again later in the month.  I have a couple of ideas lined up, either a quest I wrote last year or an official quest. . .and now that I think about it, I think I'll do the quest I wrote since it's written to be a short-ish-type quest rather than a long campaign.  I might even work in some elements from my quest into the official quest if those events inspire me to do so.

And holy damn, how had I almost forgotten to mention the X-Files season 9!?!!?  While I feel that the first episode has been the most alien-lore heavy and the weakest of the three episodes (the fourth will be airing tonight), I like what the Chris Carter has done with the story so far.  Here's hoping that this will lead to a 10-13 episode Season 10, since that seems to be the formula for high production TV shows these days; I'm not complaining though.

Well, it's been lovely chatting with y'all today, but I've got another test to do for a class in particular (this'll be the fourth test in a week), so I should probably get on that.

Tells Me What To Say

Friday, February 5, 2016

Monthly Update - February

Monthly Update, coming at you, a little late.   I've decided to give topic headings to this one, for some reason.

  • Watching:
X files lately, following a suggested guide for mythology episodes at the website Skippable. I do miss out on some particularly good monster of the week episodes.  If and when I go back and watch it again, I'll only watch monster of the week episodes, I think.  Or maybe I'll break down halfway through. I remember being very frustrated by the mythology after the movie came out, between season 5 and 6.  I wonder what it will be like this time.  I'm currently finishing up season 3. So far, I really love it.

Also, Scrubs.  Season 1 was excellent.  Funny, cheerful, but actually pretty effective when it gets dramatic.  I work in a medical office, so I kind of feel a stronger connection to this show.  It's nice to have a light comedy to watch, since I'm usually attracted to brooding serials.  Brooklyn 9-9 is another great comedy, but it's only in the mid 3rd season.  Really very funny workplace/police comedy.  Can't recommend it enough. 

  • Playing:
Playing lots of Dominion and Carcassone.  One is a card game, the other a map-building board game.  Both for 2-5 players.  Both are great.  Of course, still playing Magic, the game that keeps on giving.   I have regular Thursday games of Magic with one group of friends, and alternating Saturday games with another. 

Video game world has me working my way through the pacifist ending in Undertale, finishing the last game of the Blackwell series and, of course, playing Mario Kart with Jane.   I've been cool on Mario Maker lately, but I think I'm ready to give it another round.  I've got a list of ideas, and I've had a couple new ones lately that I'd like to try out.  Thinking of levels is a great way to daydream when I should be doing work.  It's fun to have creative outlets.

  • Reading:
Read a book called Windup Girl.  Interesting Dystopia with some really despicable characters.  Reads kind of like Game of Thrones in near-future Thailand.  Genetic Engineering has giant mastadons pulling machinery, and plague resistant crops are the peak of the economy. 

Reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  It's nice.  Harry Potter is a great thing to read when experiencing the down-time in-between books.  I have a weird relationship with the Harry Potter books, I've read 1, 6 and 7.  So I figure I'll work my way slowly through the rest whenever I'm between books.  

  • Writing:
Just the blog, really.  And lists, long lists of things to get to later.  I suppose that making Magic decks is a creative outlet.  Do retweets count?  Probably not.  I've got my time split up in so many ways; I'm really unfocused.  I like to imagine that one day my life will come together, and I'll assemble all my various creative interests into one spectacular fantasmagoric machine of wonder, in a beautiful hand-drawn animated sequence.  Probably won't happen though.

  • Eating:
Jane took me out for fancy Sushi for my birthday!  We ate about a hundred bucks worth and it was SO good.  So, so good.  Would eat again.  Yum!

Alright, I'm done with this posting thing.  I hope I haven't left anything out.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

MIDI Week Singles: "Bergentrückung-ASGORE" - Undertale Final Battle (PC)

"Bergentruckung-ASGORE" from Undertale on the PC
Composer: Toby Fox
Record Label: Self Released
Developer: Toby Fox

I've been listening to the Undertale Soundtrack a lot lately, both through playing and direct listening.  The soundtrack has so many great highlights, that I want to share them all. 

With that in mind, here is my second MIDI week single from Undertale. I chose this track because this is a final boss battle theme, and Jaconian has run two other songs that are final boss battles.  I like this track, I think it is a good representation of the dramatic battle themes in Undertale.  Just a little bit too repetitive, perhaps, but still very exciting, with fun overlays.  Enjoy!


Monday, February 1, 2016

Mario Kart 8 review (Wii U)

super cool 8 item weapon!
Mario Kart 8 has been out for about two years, so, as far as new games go, it's right in my wheelhouse.  Jane and I play this all the time now.  It's really fun!  Good old fashioned fun, I guess.  This game has a pick up and play on the couch kind of fun that I haven't had in a log time.  

Mario Kart 8 has a pretty high challenge curve-- 150 ccs is tough!  I can't even imagine 200ccs. You start with 8 cups.  4 have original tracks and 4 have classic tracks* from previous games.  Lots of good ones.  I haven't played a lot of the intervening Mario Kart games much, so it's almost all new to me. 

There are lots of little details I enjoy.  Most tracks have hidden shortcuts. When you do tricks, your characters do funny poses which vary from character to character.  The levels are very bright and colorful, and generally very cool looking.  On the Legend of Zelda level, all the coins are rupees, and the track hazards have Zelda skins. I'm still finding new things.  

The controls are intuitive and easy.  You can do little tricks when you hit ramps by pressing the jump/slide button.  They give you a little speed boost. Power slides are still around from previous games, and they're very important to my game.  That said, Jane doesn't power slide at all, but she does just fine.  She also likes to use the Wii U controller like a steering wheel which... I just can't handle.  I run into walls endlessly when I do that.

It's nice that we both have our own individual preferences taken care of.  There are also many many different kinds of vehicle options.  I'm not sure how much of a difference most of them make, however, I know that I prefer motorcycles, as does Jane.  Additionally, I like to sometimes pick the really silly vehicles, like the Biddy Buggy or Mr. Scooty plastic toy bike, and give it roller wheels, because I think that's funny.  I usually pick a silly vehicle when I pick a silly character, like Shy Guy or Iggy Koopa.  

I switch up characters a lot, but Jane prefers to be the princesses.   There are three princesses, Daisy, Rosalina and Peach -- baby versions of each, and then two more versions of Peach.   That might sound like a lot, but it ends up not being much.  The base versions of the Princesses are all pretty much generic and the same.  Peach's extra costumes include Cat Peach, who is hilariously adorable and Pink/Gold peach who is like Metal Mario, but pink gold.  And Peach.

My favorite characters are:  Koopa Troopa, Lakitu, WaLuigi and Ludwig Von Koopa.  I also like to play as Shy Guy, Iggy Koopa and Luigi.  Suffice it to say, it's tough for Jane to remember who I am sometimes when we play Grand Prix together.  I think Jane would switch characters more if the princesses had more variation, rather than being different versions of the same princesses.  That is just one very minor complaint, though.  In general, we love the game and have a ton of fun playing it.  It's become a real past time for Jane and I. 


*In addition, there are 4 more cups available as downloadable content.  This initially annoyed me, as any pay-for DLC annoys automatically.  However, Mario Kart 8 was packaged with my Wii U console, so I was able to justify the purchase by saying it isn't additional money.  Also, honestly, Jane and I love playing the unlocked courses, so I think they are paying for themselves in play time.

Lakitu in a biddybuggy