Month: June 2017

My night at the beach… Sort of.

My night at the beach… Sort of.

To be fair, this is beach-themed. It’s beach-themed and I am writing this in the late hours of the night (or morning if you want to get technical).

So… I’m going to count this as one of my trips to the beach this summer. Even though it’s really just me playing more video games. Because you can’t really video games at the beach, now can you?

Oh wait, I did do that last year… Never mind.

Anyway, dumb attempt at a clever opening monologue aside, welcome to my regularly scheduled big Fire Emblem Heroes update. I’ve actually been fairly busy the last few days doing some work for my internship (hopefully some Gladeo stuff should be coming around in the next couple of days for me to talk about), so I haven’t been able to update everything as I’ve been going.

Figured I would update it all in one fell swoop, all under the banner of this strange, strange special character addition.

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That’s right folks, if June was the month of the brides, July is the month of summer fun for the colorful cast of Fire Emblem characters… From Ylisse. Because apparently only the Ylissians get nice things like summer vacations.

Now, just who do we have filling out our roster of summer-themed heroes?

  • Robin (female): Seaside Tactician
    • Can’t have a collection of heroes from Fire Emblem Awakening without including Chrom, Lucina or Robin somewhere in the mix. Lucina’s gotten more than enough love in the time Heroes has existed, so I’m glad to see Robin finally getting some more time in the sun. And no, not because she’s scantily clad and running around spearing seafood. Not strictly, at least.
  • Frederick: Horizon Watcher
    • Never did I ever think I would see this great Ylissian knight don casual clothing, hit the beach with his friends and chuck seashells at people. Seriously. The guy that usually flattens enemies with his horse and impales those who do disservices to his lords chucks seashells at people. Easily the best character added solely for how strange he is, and that’s saying something considering…
  • Tiki: Summering Scion
    • Have you ever wanted to see an eons-old half-dragon of divinity with a pension for feeling heartbroken about the deaths of her friends in the hundreds of years she hibernated decide to smack a watermelon with a stick and use the combined items as an axe? No? Well have this anyway.
  • Gaius: Thief Exposed
    • Besides the fact that “Thief Exposed” is a ridiculous name to bestow upon anything in this context, I don’t have a lot of things to make fun of with old Gaius here. In fact, if there was anyone on this list I would want, it’s him. Not only does he get the skills Vantage AND Astra, but he also shoots the blue ice cream pops from Kingdom Hearts at people. It’s pretty dope.

I’m sure you know exactly what’s coming next at this point.

 

 

New heroes equals new paralogue. New paralogue equals three new missions. Three new missions equals nine new orbs, plus an extra three for included special missions. The return of two orbs daily. Rinse and repeat, as usual.

Oh, but this time they also included an extra event to get us some boosted Skill Points for playing over the weekends.

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So that’s pretty cool.

In case it wasn’t all that obvious, I don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of time on this like I usually do. As much as I love writing far too much about a relatively small amount of content with this game, it is already pretty late and I have some stuff going on tomorrow. However, the writing in this game never ceases to amaze me with how bizarre it is.

If you thought things got weird when the girls of the game were wandering around in wedding dresses… Well…

 

 

Surprisingly, talking about liberation from one’s clothing isn’t even the weirdest thing Anna talks about in this miniature storyline. It actually gets much, much creepier from there.

To sum it up really quick, you and the rest of your colleagues from the Order of Heroes decide to go to a beach in Ylisse to relax for the summer. However, Anna has ulterior motives with the casually dressed heroes under contract with Emblia to defend the beach.

 

 

 

She basically wants to take the four new special heroes and use them to make her own Playboy-esque pictures to sell so she can help fund the army.

I’ve had a couple of hours to stew it over and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about this plot point.

However, it just about goes how you would expect. You fight a few maps, Anna fails to get any of her pictures, she actually winds up losing money thanks to a letter from an alternative version of herself and everyone fills her in on the value of spending the summertime making friends and relaxing rather than dwelling over money.

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Seriously this game has more Hallmark card morals than Hallmark cards as far as I can tell.

The “lore” for this event doesn’t get much deeper than this, so that’s really all I have to say on that matter. Except that getting through this event makes me feel like like the writers for this game are trying to send a message that they could probably stand for a “liberating vacation” of their own.

The map environments are quite pretty however, I have to say:

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It’s obviously hard to tell with a still image, but the water flows back and forth with a little bit of froth. It’s really nice.

With the summer beach fun out of the way, let’s get into a little lightning round for all the other updates in my games I’ve neglected, big and small.


Clarisse Arrives

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My upset rantings from a couple of weeks ago were once again proven to be obsolete as we received the second boss character from the recent Mystery of the Emblem Paralogue  through a special map. I updated that post when the first character came through, so I figured I would update that post again with this little blurb here.

Otherwise, don’t have much to say about this. I like the character, she seems cool and I got a three star version of her. However, with my current collection of heroes, I’m not having much luck at the harder difficulties for her mission.


The latest Voting Gauntlet: Battle between the ladies of the cloth

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Admittedly I’m not super invested in this voting gauntlet. Because healers aren’t prominent or even necessarily good to battle with in this format, you don’t see the headlining characters strongly supported in the battles at hand with this gauntlet.

I suppose there’s an argument to be made for having a balanced cast to prevent any unfair match ups (experiences like Ephraim vs. Eirika one time do come to mind), but when people aren’t using the characters featured it makes it harder to feel invested in the team support. At least in my opinion.

However, I have been supporting my teams all the same. I started with Sakura, the best younger sister from Fates… But she swiftly got beat by Elise. Guess people didn’t agree with me, but at least I can take solace in the fact that people can have their own opinions… They just can’t make up their own facts. So my opinion still stands.

Anyway, now I’m supporting Lissa from Awakening in the fight against Priscilla from the Radiant series. Whether I win or not, at least I know… Everyone who plays gets tons of rewards at the end.

Rewards are good.


Champion of Valentia

 

In other non-Heroes related Fire Emblem news, I finally beat the main story in Fire Emblem Echoes over this last week! It was a long time coming, as I’d been putting it off for quite a while due to other things, but I certainly don’t regret a moment of it.

Seriously, Echoes has easily skyrocketed to being one of my favorite Fire Emblem titles over the time I’ve played it. The characters are wonderful, the story is engaging, the graphics are easily characteristic and exemplary of all the advancements made in the Fire Emblem series in recent years and dungeons are simply wonderful.

I sincerely hope that the popularity of this game encourages the return of similar first-person dungeon exploration in future titles. I would understand if they want to keep it unique to Gaiden and its remake, but in my opinion they would be remiss to not capitalize on how fun the mechanic is.

There are also a striking amount of similarities between this game and the Sacred Stones from my point of view. That added some extra investment personally, as it reminded me of my favorite game in the series. Plus, on top of that, I eventually realized that Valentia is the ancient equivalent of Valm from Fire Emblem Awakening, much like Archanea is the ancient equivalent of Ylisse. Seeing that kind of world building across generations is always phenomenal.

I do have my problems with the game, however. There’s a certain element of “keeping to tradition” with Echoes in terms of its character interactions that I can respect… But disagree with at heart. If you want to keep the original support system from Gaiden and keep the canonical relationships canonical, that’s fine. In fact, I quite enjoy most of the canon in-game relationships. Alm and Celica, Gray and Clair, Clive and Mathilda, Mae and Boey, so on and so forth. They’re great.

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But for this being a modern Fire Emblem game… They really aren’t enough.

Particularly on the coattails of Fire Emblem Fates, which gave you the chance to essentially learn about, befriend and create your own relationships between two complete armies and their children, Fire Emblem Echoes was sorely lacking.

All of the characters I would love to see have more development essentially don’t. This lack of development is almost uncomfortably disappointing, as many obvious options for connections to at least talk are simply missing. For example, many of the initial villagers from Alm’s route can’t talk with one another despite being childhood friends. Genny, the little sister surrogate from Celica’s route, can’t talk with Celica or any of the other people she starts the journey with. Or, in fact, anyone besides Sonya from later on in the story.

I could go on and on. Saber should be able to talk with Celica, Delthea should be able to talk with Clive, Silque should be able to talk with Jesse. Most of these names are just garbled nonsense to people who haven’t played the game, but trust me. They have hinted relationships through different outlets that get unfortunately ignored by the lack of support conversations.

Again, I can appreciate sticking to conventional things and keeping canonical relationships alive. But if you’re going to revamp a game, to the point where entire characters are added and given integral parts of the story (Editor’s Note: Love you Berkut <3), the least you could do is add extra conversations into the game that I would assume aren’t entirely too hard to implement.

But I digress, as I’ve already probably talked about this game far too much in this unconventional space as is. Time to move on, shall we?


Yami Bakura is a dick

 

Enough said.

In actually non-Fire Emblem related news… I love this character and I love the event he comes with in Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links. The blood red sky full of eyes and mouths are rad, and when I first started playing the game this event was happening the first time, so it comes with a certain amount of nostalgia as I see how much further I’ve come.

However, dueling him is way too god damn hard thanks to a mechanic he abuses that ends the match within five turns, so it’s a real pain in the neck to collect any points and prizes from him. It annoys me, but not enough to go into immense details about here.

Plus Yami Bakura is great, so I can’t really stay that mad with him. His theme music is still my favorite.

I also figured I would mention that Konami has impressed me recently with all the notices about updates that are coming and have come to the game. Tons of overpowered skill rebalancing, revamping some graphics, adding lots of new and cool cards and more. It’s actually really nice to see how much they seem to be listening to the community with this game.

Good on you, Konami.


2,000 words in and I’m finally done. Geez, I really need to stop doing this to myself. Every time I say I’m going to write short, get in early and get out fast, I always wind up going above and beyond the call of duty without intending to. I do enjoy the writing, but I always hate myself in the morning when I have to drag myself out of bed.

For now, however, that’s neither here nor there. It’s about time I let you all go on with your lives.

What do you think of the summer heroes? Which one of the four Ylissians are your favorite in their special getups? Also, because I’ve been considering it myself, are you interested in a more extended discussion on Fire Emblem Echoes? I thought about it when I finished the game initially, but I’ve been so busy that I didn’t think I was going to get anything official out. However, if the demand is high enough, I just might.

Maybe I should get a better way to capture images off my 3DS. That could encourage me to talk about those games more, since I know part of my interest in the mobile games comes from the ease of getting screenshots.

But once again I digress. For now it is time to sleep so I can stop rambling on and on like this.

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The old ball game

The old ball game

I may not be the biggest sports fan in the world, and that extends to my general lack of interest writing about sports for journalistic purposes…

But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good game of baseball. Hell, it’s hard not to enjoy America’s pastime, especially when you grow up going to games with your Dad, taking in all the clichés. The first pitches and national anthem. The seventh inning stretch. The acceptance of normalcy that comes with the potential of being hit in the back of the head by a rogue beach ball. The sheer scale of the stadium and mass of people all sharing the same experience you are.

And, of course…


The food.

Can’t go wrong with a dodger dog and a bag of peanuts. I’m also partial to having a frozen lemonade toward the latter half of the game, that’s something of a tradition for me.

It’s been some time since I’ve gone to a game, and I definitely have to thank our family friend, my uncle David Liebling for getting us in to this Dodgers/Mets showdown (with some pretty good seats at that).


Since it has been some time, and my interests have been developing continuously, I’m definitely noticing different things around the stadium this time around.

Namely, the interesting interplay between the sport and my area of focus, the media.


In all the times I’ve gone to ball games, I’ve never noticed the pre-game reporting being done on the field. It’s actually pretty hilarious to see the two anchors in a fancy suit and dress contrasting with the sea of jerseys and colloquial game-attending attire. Plus they set up and took down the desk and camera equipment real fast, so that was interesting to watch.

On top of that, if you’re really paying attention, you can catch some of the interesting shots that help make the game a media sensation but might not be so easy to understand the scope of from behind a screen.


Not sure why I thought this was so interesting, but something about the intertwining of being live and seeing media being created spoke to me today. Figured I would share that little observation.

However, I’m going to cut things short, because I am still in the middle of a game, and as much as I enjoy writing I probably look a little stupid. Plus, the Dodgers just caught a fly ball in the outfield and managed to throw it to home for a double play that ended the top of the second inning.

It was pretty hype, to be completely honest.

Mystery of the Emblem heroes arrive from Archanea – Updated

Mystery of the Emblem heroes arrive from Archanea – Updated

Don’t do this all too often, but Heroes updated again today and essentially invalidated large chunks of this post, so I figured I would address it in an update here as well.

When I talked about how I felt Legion and Clarisse should have been the heroes featured in the newest summoning focus, I apparently did not anticipate that the characters could and likely would show up in Grand Hero Battles.

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In hindsight it seems rather obvious (though I suppose you can say that for most things in hindsight). Characters like Xander who had been in the game through missions without being a summonable hero did wind up coming to the game later as Grand Hero Battles, where you unlock them by beating a particularly hard map.

Since Legion and Clarisse are boss characters from Mystery of the Emblem, I suppose it also makes sense for them to be unlocked through especially hard fights.

The Legion fight is particularly interesting, however, as it’s the first Grand Hero Battle that has an extra difficulty level: Infernal.

Dramatic letter coloring is dramatic.

Infernal is pretty much just a step up in difficulty that comes with an additional four star Legion and 2,000 feathers. Both are decent rewards to work to get, as duplicate characters can pass down skills and feathers are generally a rare (but highly useful) commodity.

I tried to beat the fight on Infernal but didn’t exactly get very far. Most of my best heroes aren’t well-equipped to tank heavy damage, which they have to be with a map that continuously spawns hard units to fight.

But… Oh well, at least I got this one:

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Anyway, that’s about all for this update. I figured it wouldn’t be a big enough thing for its own post, but I also didn’t want to just delete what I had on this post already. Keeping it around for posterity and timely remembrance and all that.

Just keep in mind as you read through the rest of this post, which I essentially tried to frame around the idea of there being a missed opportunity with these heroes, that even the greatest of thoughts can ultimately be wrong without all of the pieces at play.



E3 has just about come and gone for the year. While I’m planning on putting something out talking about some of my personal high points from the conference, I’m not quite prepared to do that right now.

So instead, here’s an update on the most recent update for Fire Emblem Heroes that came out last night. While not quite as expansive as the Tempest Trials release, we did get four new heroes to play around with:

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From Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem comes Katarina, an assassin who aspires to be a tactician, Athena, a foreigner from a town bordering Archanea who speaks with a accent, and best friend/rivals Roderick and Luke, two cavaliers serving under Marth in the Altean army alongside Katarina.

I personally have not played New Mystery of the Emblem, or the original Mystery of the Emblem for that matter, so I don’t have much experience with these four new heroes. Though, I was surprised during my research to find that Athena appeared in Shadow Dragon as well. I have played that game, but I honestly don’t remember seeing her.

One thing I can say about the four heroes that were chosen is that I feel like there was a missed opportunity somewhere along the lines. Let me explain.

 

The plot line of the new Paralogue that was added for this summoning focus feels more like a filler arc in an anime than just about any other Paralogue I’ve seen added into the game. Which, I might add, is really saying something considering the one before it focused on heroes randomly pulled together for wedding-based shenanigans.

In essence, it follows the primary members of the Order of Heroes (Alphonse, Sharena and Anna) entering into the new lands of Mystery of the Emblem hoping to free heroes that have made contracts with Veronica and, in Sharena’s case, make new friends.

 

Once you arrive, the first hero you encounter is Katarina, being aided by Roderick and Luke. When you defeat her, she bonds with Sharena and takes your team on a trip through the land to help free her other friends.

Arguably the most interesting thing about this series of Paralogue missions to me is the fact that heroes who aren’t a part of the summoning focus appear on top of the characters who are a part of the focus. As far as I can remember, this is the first time something like that has happened, which makes these missions stand out in their own right. For example, along the way you discover Athena being attacked by discount Gollum named Legion:

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Okay technically they’re on the same team in this mission, but that’s not what I’m looking to point out. What I’m looking to point out is that this is a seriously strange characterization for any character.

You also come across an archer named Clarisse, who arrives when you find out that (big shocker) Katarina was actually tricking Sharena the whole time and spent the previous missions leading your team into a trap.

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Considering every other mission thread in the past has had the heroes making a contract with Veronica stay under that influence until the final battle, the feigned friendship act is honestly pretty obvious the whole way through.

By the end, it is revealed that Katarina truly does appreciate the trust and friendship Sharena entrusts in her and hopes that they can work together again in the future… Despite the fact that she led the Order of Heroes into a deathtrap. It’s a sweet, if not hokey, moment that also results in Sharena having a moment with Alphonse talking about the value of her trusting nature compared to his more hesitant and cautious one.

The more separate nature of the narrative and moral-based conclusion to this Paralogue is what makes it feel like a filler episode of a show to me. Something about the writing gives me the same kind of impression.

I say everything about this setup feels like a missed opportunity because every hero besides Katarina that you can summon is pretty much utterly wasted. Roderick, Luke and Athena have no speaking lines at all across any of the three missions. Meanwhile, Legion and Clarisse not only have plenty of speaking lines but also seem like much more interesting characters. I understand it’s because the four heroes they chose go together at the beginning of the game’s story, but still.

Seriously, I’d use Clarisse, her design is great and I like her seemingly scalding attitude. Plus her Clarisse’s Bow inflicts -5 attack and speed on enemies within two spaces after each attack. Now that I’m more into serious battle strategies, it’s a pretty sweet sounding weapon.

Oh, also, the summoning focus comes with three additional missions.

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Figured I would just throw this in there. I’m not really sure what a smooth way to transition into it would be and it’s the last thing I have to talk about for this update. So… Yeah. That’s about that.

However, I’m not much of a fan of unceremonious endings, so I’ll add on an update for my progress in the Tempest Trials as well.

Because players of the game were able to amass a total of 2,639,517,292 points since the beginning of the event, everyone who participated gets a pretty nice reward for their trouble.

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Personally, I have been able to collect at least enough points to reach the main goal I’ve set out for:

 

The Trials as a whole are admittedly more of a slog than I expected they would be. Each round takes a long time to complete, so even though I have more than enough stamina bottles to be able to get all the rewards, I haven’t felt like sinking in enough time to repeat the same fights over and over again.

Nevertheless, I will continue the uphill climb so I can hopefully get the new seals and a five star variant of Masked Lucina. She’s a rather interesting character, all things considered. Besides getting access to Falchion as a five star unit, she gets no skills at all. As a result, it seems like Intelligent Systems planned the character out specifically to be a build-your-own blank slate. I can’t say I’m opposed to the idea, in fact I’m rather excited to figure out how I want my Lucina to fit into a team!

There, NOW that’s all I have to say about Fire Emblem Heroes for the day. Thus it’s time for the obligatory comment questions at the end of the post.

How do you feel about the new focus heroes? Do you feel they should have gone with different heroes to summon instead like I do? And, of course, who would you like to see arrive in the world of Fire Emblem Heroes in the future? By now I’m sure my own answer to that question should be obvious. I’ve been waiting for a Sacred Stones-based summoning focus for quite some time now.

Also don’t ask why I’m feeling so much more fourth wall breaking than usual as far as blathering on about my lack of knowing what to do, because I’m not sure.

The Tumultuous Tempest Trials hit Fire Emblem Heroes

Now here’s a special event I can really sink my teeth into.

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Today a special event called the Tempest Trials dropped in Fire Emblem Heroes. Like the text I screen captured above says, the event has introduced a new game mode in which you fight through a series of maps that bring to the table an element highly characteristic of Fire Emblem games as a whole: Permanent character death.

Or at least, permanent death in a certain sense.

Before I get into that, however, I figure I should hit this particular discussion in what I would consider a ‘chronological order.’ In this case, starting with a discussion of how the event fits into the game’s lore. After all, this more massive undertaking of an event does present an interesting addition to the continual plot of the game.

To explain the event in storied terms, one new Xenologue has been added:

The Xenologue only has one mission (with three difficulty levels that each give 3 orbs – leading to a net 9-orb profit as per convention at this point), and it isn’t a particularly hard mission. At least, it isn’t particularly hard for the units I have. However, there is quite a bit more plot surrounding this one mission than what a supplemental map usually receives.

Here’s the gist:

The ever-present antagonist of the game, Princess Veronica of the Emblian Empire, has teamed up with a mysterious new shape-shifting entity called Loki… Who for now apparently prefers to take the form of Anna.

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I’ll just leave the Marvel‘s The Avengers crossover joke here. There’s plenty I could do with it, but it doesn’t quite seem worth the energy right now.

Loki uses Veronica’s assistance to bring forth the Tempest, a magical vortex meant to bring about chaos by… Well… I’ll let Loki (in a different form – because shapeshifting) explain what it is.

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Yeah, essentially that. Tearing the worlds of Fire Emblem games apart, slamming them together in screwy, cacophonous ways. Cats and dogs living together. Mass hysteria. So on and so forth.

The mission ends with the Tempest opening and a new special hero, Masked Lucina (or Marth, as per her canonical cover when she arrives from the future in Fire Emblem Awakening – though that plot is also plenty complicated to explain so I’ll leave it there), coming forth to help fight off the despair and chaos brought about by the disaster.

And that, in a nutshell, is all you need to know. Worlds are colliding and heroes from all those worlds are coming together to fight against Veronica’s contracted heroes in a series of maps. Or at least, mostly worlds from Fire Emblem Awakening, since you’ll see in a second that the 3DS title is the focus of this particular iteration of the event.

Although the actual method of opening the Tempest is left vague at best, the overarching narrative is admittedly pretty engaging considering it’s mostly just supposed to outline a new challenging game mode in a mobile title.

After all, that’s exactly what all this plot has led up to: The Tempest Trials game mode.

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Coming to an increasingly overpacked menu screen near you…

Over the course of two weeks, players can enter the Tempest Trials and put their stamina on the line to take on a number of successive battles, the number being outlined by the difficulty level they choose.

For example, choosing the highest caliber Lunatic difficulty presents a series of seven battles to fight through. These battles, as I teased at before, implement permadeath for the teams chosen to take it on. The damage units take carry over from one battle to the next, and if a unit dies they don’t return to help you for the next stage.

“But Jason, expecting players to take on seven battles with just four heroes is ridiculous,” I hear you saying from behind the comfortably fluorescent screens through which you’re reading this text.

Well, you’re right, and that’s why the difficulty levels also outline the number of teams you’re permitted to use during the particular challenge you’re undertaking. Here’s how it works:

It’s battle number five. You enter the field battered and bruised, your units not quite strong enough to take on the challenge presented. After just a few hits, you lose. Game over. Those four units you started your journey with are permanently dead.

However… They were just Team 1.

Enter Team 2, freshly composed of units that aren’t quite in your A+ squad, but that just so happen to be a great combination in their own right. Now, it’s Team 2 versus the world.

But it would be unfair for the game to throw you back into a challenge without in some way acknowledging that you did your best with the fatigue of successive battling, now wouldn’t it?

Of course.

That’s why all enemy units start off with slightly less health when you begin to use a new team against them. It’s a small gesture, but an appreciated one. Your Minerva thanks the game developers for implementing such a system as her axe cleaves straight through the Gaius who has slain your first squad with much less trouble.

Maniacal laughter rings out, echoing across the darkened blue walls of your room, upsetting the silent stillness of the Super Mario Galaxy poster set up above your long unused desktop computer.

All is good.

In a fully hypothetical sense, of course.

In all seriousness, at the highest difficulty level, you get four chances. On top of that, the permadeath element only applies to your current run in the Tempest Trials. Once that challenge is over, you get all of your heroes back.

In a free-to-play title where the heroes you have are received through what is essentially a random chance game of color roulette, the merely pseudo-permanent nature of this inevitable death is greatly welcomed.

Personally, I only have enough units to make two good teams with one team of middling strength. So… For me, I basically have two chances to get to the end. Radical.

At the end, you come across Princess Veronica herself, fighting alongside her contracted heroes with all the same overpowered tendencies as she has had in the game’s story mode.

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Fun Fact: As my friend Jonathan pointed out to me, since I neglected to realize it when I first saw the map at about 1 a.m., the final map is based on the Dragon’s Table in it’s appearance in Fire Emblem Awakening, a game in which it is a pretty significant set piece. Pretty awesome stuff, honestly.

In my few attempts at the Tempest Trials thus far… I have yet to beat this final map. Luckily, the game still rewards you with points even for a loss, and there are two weeks or so for me to figure out the best way to win.

That provides me a nice Segway into the next leg of this journey: The rewards.

Obviously a big challenge event like this can not expect to gain traction without implementing a series of prizes players can receive. If you ask me, the prizes offered up for the Tempest Trials certainly seem to be worth going after.

After each victory or loss in the Tempest Trials, you receive a certain amount of points based on the factors outlined in the lefthand picture above. When you receive a predetermined amount you get a prize like orbs, as seen in the righthand picture above.

While there is a certain economy of scale in that the more points you accumulate the more saturated your prizes will be (more orbs, more crystals, more feathers, etc.), there are some prizes that are clearly what you’re meant to aim for. For example:

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A four-star Masked Lucina is the prize at 6,000 points, with a five-star Masked Lucina similarly available at 30,000 points. There are also two sacred seals available at 20,000 points and 50,000 points, with 15 additional orbs available between 50,000 and 99,999 points.

Currently I’m sitting at a solid 400 points based on my cumulative efforts. It’s certainly a long road to trek.

However, it will be all worth it for the new unit. Lucina wearing her Marth mask in Awakening is a pretty big source of my imagined personality preferences for her when I play through the game, so I’m looking forward to having the special, meaningful character in my roster.

But I digress.

Though that’s about all for my coverage of the Tempest Trials as a whole, it’s also worth mentioning that a new summoning focus has come with it.

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None of the heroes in this focus are new, but they are all popular characters from Awakening who provide point bonuses if you use them while fighting through the trials. I might not personally spend my accumulated orbs on this, but it is a nice addition.

Alongside starting to do work for my Internship and beating Fire Emblem Echoes, this event should help keep me rather busy for the next couple of weeks. Frankly, I’m looking forward to it. It’s only been out for a few hours, but I essentially stayed up until well past the witching hour to pull this post together, so clearly I quite enjoy the prospects of the event.

How do you feel about the Tempest Trials, if you play Fire Emblem Heroes? Are you excited about the challenge? What games and special characters would you be interested in seeing coming in as prizes in future iterations of the event – assuming they continue to release new versions in the future, of course.

Let me know in the comments below! Because for now, I’m off to get some sleep. The automatic scheduler will take care of putting this out at a more reasonable hour.

My thoughts on the June 6, 2017 Pokémon Direct

My thoughts on the June 6, 2017 Pokémon Direct

It’s that time once again, ladies and gentlemen. With a brand new Pokémon Direct this morning comes a brand new reason to get hyped up for the holiday season!

While the Direct itself is only about 8 minutes long, with half of that time filled up by a rather long trailer, there are still three main announcements to pull out: Pokkén Tournament DX for the Switch, Pokémon Gold and Silver coming out on the 3DS virtual console and (most importantly to me) Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon being announced for the 3DS, coming out later this year.

Oh yeah, that’s right. A new(ish) Pokémon game to look forward to again. What a time to be alive.

But I’ll get to that last, as it’ll likely be the longest thing I talk about. For now, let’s go in order and start off with Pokkén.

Pokkén Tournament DX

I’ll get this out of the way first – I have not personally had the chance to play the original Pokkén Tournament. Despite certainly being interested in the game, for some reason circumstances have led to it flying completely under my radar. I never bought the game and neither did any of my close friends, so we never got to experience it together either.

That being said, I won’t be able to judge whether or not I think the game will mesh well with the Nintendo Switch. However, I can say that based on my experiences playing Breath of the Wild and seeing the variety of play style options showcased on the trailer shown during the direct that it seems like the fighting game will work well on the home/mobile hybrid console.

Especially considering you can split the joy cons up to use as controllers for two people, making it pretty accessible to play with friends. That’s a nice looking addition.

Due to my lack of experience with the game, that’s all I can really say about it at the moment. I’m looking forward to hopefully making use of this second chance to try it out, and the additional fighters being added into the console version certainly help with encouragement. I’d main Decidueye all day, every day for… Well obvious reasons for anyone who has followed my blog for any stretch of time.

Alongside Decidueye, the addition of Darkrai, Scizor, Empoleon and Croagunk brings the playable roster up to 21 Pokémon, with a pretty diverse range considering all the options that are available.

The game is coming out on September 22, 2017, so look out for that. I know I will be.

Pokémon Gold and Silver

Okay to be honest, there isn’t a hell of a lot to say here – not from me personally, but just from what was announced in general. Pokémon Gold and Silver will be available on the 3DS virtual console on September 22, 2017, the same day as the new Pokkén Tournament is being released. According to Sun and Moon’s Producer Junichi Masuda in the Direct, the games will look as they did on the Gameboy Color and be compatible with Pokémon Bank, so everyone will get to take their Red Gyarados from the Lake of Rage with them into the Alola region. Pretty sweet.

While this announcement is cool, I’ll admit it seems a little bit underwhelming. Not only does it simply follow the announcement of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, but Gold and Silver also don’t tend to carry the same general nostalgic weight as Red, Blue and Yellow do (despite being infinitely better games in my opinion), so there doesn’t seem to be as much fanfare for them.

However, Pokémon Crystal was the first Pokémon game I ever played, so I’m honestly excited to take up any opportunity to jump back into the Johto region. In other words… Count me in for some virtual console action.

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon

Now here’s the real bread and butter of this little 8-minute Direct, the part where it seems Game Freak and Nintendo were intent on burying the lede of their story only to tease us with something on the horizon. When I say burying the lede, I mean they dropped the fact that these games exist and are coming soon in the last few seconds of the more than three minute trailer for Pokkén Tournament DX. Nice going guys, way to drop a bomb out of nowhere.

Before I get into talking about the games specifically, check out these logos:

Images courtesy of Serebii.net

These are some sleek-looking logos, if I do say so myself. Honestly, they remind me a lot of the logos for Black 2 and White 2:

Images courtesy of Serebii.net

Which, I might add, is a theme I’ll be returning to in a minute, so hang onto that thought.

Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon appear to be rehashes of Pokémon Sun and Moon with additional content. Specifically, we get to see a range of new cutscenes and are promised new Pokémon will appear in the Alola region than we saw during our last romp there. The only ones we get to see, however, are versions of Lunala and Solgaleo covered with black, crystalized parts similar in appearance to the Ultra Beast Necrozma.

From here on out, I will be referring to them as Necro-Mega Noivern and Necro-Mega Pyroar.

Okay probably not, those names are starting to get ridiculously long, but callback jokes are always appreciated in my own head at least.

Necro-Lunala and Necro-Solgaleo aren’t necessarily the most physically appealing special legendaries in my opinion, if I’m being completely honest about it. Solgaleo’s gear looks a bit cooler, especially with what appear to be metallic arms on his back, but Lunala’s face looks way more intense with the red-eyes-shining-through-black-crystal effect. I’ll probably stick with Moon, as Lunala is still my personal favorite of the two.

However, this is where the comparisons begin. The whole “main series legendaries fused with a third, less important legendary in a pair of sequels” thing has been done before. In fact, it was done in an eerily similar way for Black 2 and White 2, where Kyurem was fused with either Reshiram or Zekrom to form White and Black Kyurem. On top of that, Black 2 and White 2 have thus far been the only Pokémon game to come out with sequels for both versions of the game rather than just having a third game in a trilogy, whites exactly what Sun and Moon are now doing.

Granted, Pokémon X and Y did not even get a sequel version, so maybe it’s been Game Freaks plan to release two version sequels for every game starting in Generation 5… But who knows, really.

While the idea of dual sequels does not worry me necessarily, as Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 are arguably some of the most high up games in terms of my favorite Pokémon titles, what does worry me a little is the idea that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon seem to be rehashes, like I said, rather than full on sequels. The titles suggest just that: Black 2 and White 2 followed up on Black and White, while Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are just “ultra” versions of their first counterparts.

Also if that is the case, I do feel like better titles could have been used than just the same things with “ultra” added on. I’m an advocate for Kirby Super Star Ultra as much as he next guy, but for a Pokémon title I think it could’ve been cool to do more space-specific terminology to add onto Sun and Moon. That’s more of a personal qualm, however.

Naming conventions aside, the reason why this idea worries me is because the idea behind Black 2 and White 2 being set three years after Black and White was what really made those games special and unique, in my opinion. While they went through the same general region, new Pokémon, set pieces and roadblocks were implemented to show the passage of time had taken effect. On top of that, characters in the game had special moments and scenes that showed their own development over the years since the first games took place, which helped to rocket most of them past most other non-playable characters in the Pokémon World as far as personality and intrigue goes.

Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon don’t seem like they’re necessarily going to get the same kind of treatment. Junichi Masuda says right at the beginning of his explanation for the games that the titles will feature an “alternative story taking place in the same world.” This alternative story does appear to have potentially new protagonists (based on their clothes at least, since facial features appear to be the same), new graphical additions (such as the Wingull flying overhead when the protagonists run past their houses), new locations (like the Pikachu-based area the trailer shows) and new cutscenes featuring a variety of Alolan Pokémon (including my favorite, Mimikyu).

However, it is not fully addressed just how far these changes go. Are they mostly aesthetic differences with new cutscenes on top of the same basic game?

The main thing that tells me that this won’t be the case is Necro-Lunala and Necro-Solgaleo. Most of the events throughout Sun and Moon are driven a least partially by Lusamine’s ultimate plan. Team Skull works under her orders, the Aether Foundation works under her orders and the Ultra Beasts become the true area of focus as the story progresses.

Yet, this focus on Ultra Beasts leads to the main box art legendaries Lunala and Solgaleo seeming to almost take a backseat as far as importance to the plot. Yes, they’re referenced throughout the game and receive a good amount of lore, but this lore mostly comes through things like legends in the Malie City library. At the end of the day, you use these Legendary Pokémon primarily as a means of transportation to stop Lusamine’s plan, rather than them being the embodiment of her plan like most other legendaries have been in the past.

Because Necrozma was not even acknowledged during the main plot in Sun and Moon (it only appeared post-Looker missions in the post-game), the fact that it appears to have a more significant place in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon’s storylines does give me a lot of hope. It suggest that these games, rather than just being a simple rehash of Sun and Moon, will actually be something much bigger. The additions they talk about look to me like Sun and Moon were originally planned to be much bigger games, but development time led to there being a bunch of content to leave out. Either that or perhaps these sequels were in the initial planning stages, and Game Freak has secretly been holding back on us this whole time.

Either way, the long ramblings on such a short reveal trailer should be more than enough evidence that I’m hyped and ready to talk more about the games as we get closer to their release for the 3DS on November 17, 2017.

Just seeing the extra cutscenes with Pokémon like Lycanroc, Mimikyu and Togedemaru were more than enough to get me invested, however. Just saying.

What did you think of the Pokémon Direct? Are you excited for the upcoming titles? And how do you feel about Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon? Do you think the games will be too similar to their predecessors? Or will they tread enough new ground to be exciting additions to the Pokémon anthology? Let me know you thoughts in the comments below!

The sweet taste of success

I’ve been playing Duel Links even more obsessively than usual since the 2017 World Championship Qualifiers began last Wednesday, determined to hit Platinum Rank 1 so I could get the mysterious Super Rare card reward. It has been a long, hard road so far, as it seems like everyone has been bringing out their best decks for the competition.

However, thanks to hard work, plenty of determination and – most importantly – the reminder to believe in the Heart of the Cards from my buddy Aaron (a funny and great guy who is also a pretty phenomenal copy editor that I’m sure is going places now that he’s a Cal State Fullerton graduate, so check him out on twitter), I finally did it:

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Finally reaching this goal is especially exciting as it’s the first time I’ve ever made it to a rank this high! It was a fairly lofty goal I set for myself at the beginning of this event that I’m happy I was able to reach.

Granted, the last victory I got leading to it was from the rage quit of a guy I got a really solid opening hand against…

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But hey, a victory by default is still a victory, right? I’d say so, especially when that victory leads to the big prize.

One thing you might notice in that victory shot is the lack of Yami Bakura and the fiend deck I spent so much time talking about in my last post. Well… As it turned out, that deck was far less perfect in execution than it was on paper. I’m looking into some possibilities for making it better, but what I have at the moment didn’t take me that much further than the early Silver ranks. At the very least I need more powerful fiend monsters to fill out my ranks, which I’m working on now.

Luckily, I had a deck using Hammer Shark summoning tricks as Mako Tsunami and a very meta-saturated “Gravekeepers” archetype deck with Yami Yugi to carry me through.

Don’t worry, I won’t subject everyone to my long-winded discussions of the cards in each of those decks. Those can potentially be subjects for another day. Just wanted to say that those are what ultimately got me to my prize.

Now just what was the prize I was working up to in the end?

As it turned out, what I thought was the promise of a brand new and unrevealed Super Rare card was actually the opportunity to choose a Super Rare card for free out of a pre-determined list.

The list of cards to choose from came from the available pool of Legendary Duelist rewards and from the cards available to obtain via the Card Trader. Thus, they’re all theoretically able to be earned in other ways… But considering how difficult many of them can be to get, it’s still a welcome and much appreciated reward.

My only real problem with the prize was the sheer amount of choices to pick from. I counted it out, there were 115 possible cards. Seriously, you never truly come to see the problems with having an abundance of choices until you have to pick one out of 115 options.

Eventually I did come to a decision and chose my third copy of Enemy Controller, which is a Super Rare reward card you can receive from dueling Seto Kaiba.

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Enemy Controller is arguably the best, most versatile spell card in Duel Links. Both of the effects it can activate (at close to any time you want since it is a Quick-Play Spell) are useful in a variety of situations. The first, switching the battle position of an enemy monster, can save your side from attack or allow you access to their weaker stat spreads. The second, tributing your own monster to take control of an opponent’s monster, has a hugely diverse range of possible effects. Tributing your own monster can trigger a number of things in its own right, but then once you have the opponent’s monster in your possession you can activate any effects they can use, attack your opponent with their own power or tribute it off to summon a different powerful monster.

It’s a great card overall, and having three of them will give me plenty of usability going forward, even if it meant sacrificing quicker access to more Gravekeeper monsters or cards I don’t yet have like Sage’s Stone.

Now that I’ve hit that benchmark I’ve been desperately clawing my way toward, I’ll likely continue to see if I can get to King of Games… But the amazing decks everyone seems to own at this stage of competitive play certainly won’t make that easy.

For now I’m just happy I was able to make it to the personal goal I set. To celebrate, I even made myself some homemade burgers.

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These cooked slabs of ground beef, like my victory over a small army of duelists, taste oh so sweet.

New Opportunities with the Gladeo League

Today I had the pleasure of attending orientation for an internship I’m taking part of over the summer with Gladeo, a non-profit organization that is putting together a database of career profiles and highlights meant to help high school and college-age students figure out what they want to do for a living and what the path might be to get there. Got to spend the day in Little Tokyo over by the Japanese American National Museum, so I certainly can’t complain about that.

Beyond just getting to spend the day in a nice place, however, I also had quite a nice time at the orientation itself. I had the pleasure of hearing from Jo Kwon, who has worked doing just about everything one can do in the field of Journalism, including print writing, broadcast, radio, social media, podcasting and more. As she is one of the advisors for Gladeo, I’ll likely be working with her and others more going forward, which I believe will really help me improve my writing repertoire.

Speaking of, the opportunity isn’t just a way to spend my free time over the next couple of months (though not sitting around is quite the draw). As a reporter for the organization, I’ll have the chance to spread my wings a little further than the hard news I tend to focus on. Instead I’ll be focusing more on feature-y business profiles, though still with a more informative edge. I’m looking forward to it, and next Friday is about when we’re really going to start kicking things off.

Throughout the summer I’m going to try and update my blog here with the stories I’m going to write for Gladeo. I would probably expect some rearranging of menus and such in the next couple of weeks so I can post more about my experience outside of the Daily Titan as well, like how I added more when I updated this place with all of my articles from the High Tide back in January.

So, keep your eyes open for more coming down the pipeline in the near future. Between the internship and my extra free time to play games, I’m sure there should be plenty of things to write up.

Qualifiers begin: Will I have the Heart of the Cards?

Qualifiers begin: Will I have the Heart of the Cards?

I have been playing Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links since Spring Break, and in that time I would argue that I’ve gathered a good amount of cards and have become fairly competent at pulling decks together to play with.

Thus, I think it’s about time that I try my hand at a pretty serious event that just began, an event serious enough that I feel it’s worth talking about.

The qualifying rounds for the Duel Links division of the 2017 Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championships have begun, signified by the iconic Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon hanging out omnipresently across the Duel Links hub world:

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Thar she blows, cap’n.

More complete details of the World Championships can be found here (for the Duel Links division) and here (for the Trading Card Game division), but the part I’m interested in boils down to this.

Starting today, June 1, the usual ranked duels player-versus-player portion of the Duel Links multiplayer hub has been replaced with Qualifier Duels. Anyone who reaches the highest duelist ranking (King of Games) by June 9 will advance onto the Final Qualifiers, which last until June 11. Winning duels during the Final Qualifiers earns a player points, and at the end the top ranking players will get to attend the World Championships in London, England.

Only 12 players will get to go to the Championships in August, with usership divided by world region. Two players will get to go from North America, which means that out of the untold number of players on this continent, I’ll be competing for two spots.

To be completely honest, from everything I’ve seen from players who are way better than me… I’m not holding my breath. I’ve never made it to King of Games even without the added flare of competition this will obviously drudge up, so I would be surprised to get anywhere close.

But hey, a trip to London wouldn’t be so bad… So what the hell. I’ll do my darnedest.

Even if I don’t make it to the coveted Final Qualifiers, there will be prizes available for my troubles all the same. Every player who competes in even one Qualifier duel will receive a fancy Game Mat and Card Sleeves themed after the World Championships, and depending on what rank a player reaches they also receive a number of other prizes on the way up.

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For the uninitiated laypersons I’m sure are among you, the gems that are rewards for Bronze, Silver and Gold ranks are used to purchase card packs from a number of packs currently available in the game. Nothing special necessarily, but they are the building blocks of this free-to-play title and are highly coveted as a result.

Reaching Platinum earns players a Super Rare Card that, naturally, we aren’t being told about ahead of time. Total mystery, likely something super good. I haven’t made it to Platinum before, so that’s currently my main goal. I’m always ready to get new cards.

Reaching King of Games nets players an Ultra Rare Jewel, which can be used to buy Ultra Rare Cards from the game’s Card Trader (which cycles through new stock every 12 hours). Also, it allows advancement to the Final Qualifiers, like I said before.

That’s really about it to be honest. Nothing too complicated, it’s just an exciting chance at something big on the heels of the last big event, which was the arrival of a new Legendary Duelist (The Paradox Brothers, for anyone who has a nostalgic interest in the show like I do). So, it’s about time I quit writing about it and get busy pushing toward my goal of at least hitting Platinum Rank 1 for the first time in my history of playing.

Okay, so I still have some more I’d like to write about. Namely, I have a whole big display about the main deck I’m planning on using for the Qualifiers. However, I know that’s getting into the nitty gritty of things that a lot of people aren’t going to want to sit through, so I’m going to put it below a read more. That way, anyone interested can read on, and anyone who isn’t can just go on with their lives. A win-win, I’d say!

So, until next time, wish me luck on competing, and tell me all about what your favorite games based on things that are nostalgic to you in some way in the comments below! Duel Links definitely hits that itch for me, so I’m interested to hear what you all might have to say on the matter.

Continue reading “Qualifiers begin: Will I have the Heart of the Cards?”