Category: Video Games

Three bug bites in

Ooh boy, time to write about my day as Democrats yell at each other in the background again.

Last night I mentioned going to swim in the pool today.

I made good on that promise, because how could I not?

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It’s a beaut.

The water was also perfect today. Just cool enough to counteract the heat without freezing my toes off.

Fun fact, while I was getting that picture of the pool I noticed all of these cute old pictures of my grandparents that made me smile:

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Also there’s a terrifying cat statue.

It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.

A return to the pool also meant a return to one of my favorite pastimes: Watching geckos climb all over the mesh fencing.

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Look at this little guy, he’s so sweet.

Yet in a jarring turn of events, I found it was easier to watch the geckos than ever because I’m officially too damn big for the pool.

The deep end is 6 feet. I’m 6’2 or so.

Last time I came to Florida I was definitely not tall enough to stand in the deep end with my head above the water, which means it has been longer since I’ve been here than I thought. That blew my mind.

But before going for a swim, wading in the existential dread of time and noticing my growing collection of bug bites, I helped Grandma throw together french toast.

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More vacation food photos. Sorry.

A nice, hearty breakfast. The kind of breakfast that I needed because part of my day was spent working out computer issues for both grandparents.

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Here’s Grandma being cute at the computer, though. Before I make you cringe.

For Grandpa I simply helped update their computer software and readjust his settings back to normal.

But for Grandma… Poor girl… I had to show her that she could scroll further down the website she was on to get to a link.

I finally understand what it’s like for my Dad to be technical support.

Luckily, after that technical supporting and writing the next portion of my Pokémon fanfiction (because that’s still a thing and you can read the first six chapters here), I reaped the reward of some BBQ from Lucille’s.

But if you’re like me and thinking about this Lucille’s, you’d be wrong.

We went to THIS Lucille’s, which also happens to be a BBQ restaurant chain.

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Except this Lucille’s is better because the staff wore shirts that said, “The Biggest Rack in the Business.”

It was a hilarious joke on the female employees, but even more hilarious on the male employees. Equal opportunity racks.

During the time in-between these events, today was a good day for video games.

Fire Emblem Heroes dropped a banner for the newest game’s loli dragon prophet:

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My only real issue is that her dragon form is just… Herself?

It’s very bizarre.

Also I spent some orbs and just got my fourth Legendary Lyn, so I’m salty and moving on.

Moving on to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which dropped its newest DLC fighter just last night!

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Hero is one of four protagonists from different games in the Dragon Quest series.

My personal favorite of the four choices is Eight from… Dragon Quest VIII, appropriately enough. He’s got a sweet bandana and a little mouse friend.

Plus he’s very photogenic. Check this out:

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I actually like the Dragon Quest additions a lot. The stage based on the tree of life Yggdrasil is cool, the music additions are solid and the character is fun to play as.

He’s got a mix of Link’s swordplay and Robin’s charging magic attacks. But then he also has a Metronome-style RNG wheel of magical spells that are insane.

Just look at this thread:

How Sakurai allowed this character to exist is beyond me.

Then again he also has the option to literally kamikaze himself, so 10/10 amazing character.

Now we wait for Banjo to show up. In the meantime, I’ll be in Florida for a bit longer.

Supposedly we’re hitting up a museum tomorrow. So stay tuned for that!

Not at all refreshing

Not at all refreshing

When the last summer banner came out, I was convinced it was the only one we’d see this year.

That 50-day period was incredibly deceiving, because here we are staring down a Binding/Blazing Blade summer banner. Featuring our sixth variant of Lyndis.

Sigh.

Let’s break my anti-Summer Initiative for the second time this week and talk Fire Emblem.


Summer Refreshes


I really should play Binding and Blazing Blade sometime soon to get personal connections with some of these characters…

But for now, a few of these units at least have impressive skills that it would be a shame not summon for them.

For instance: Lyn (despite her market saturation) has an impressive weapon in the Deep-Blue Bow, which gives her insane stats alongside Sturdy Impact.

Roy’s friend Wolt also has a special “win more” weapon in the Big-Catch Bow that buffs him when his opponent is weakened. Plus his Brazen Attack/Speed 4 is too good for any mortal to possess.

Ursula and Lilina stand out less because I’m not a huge dagger fan, even though Ursula’s Scallop Blade has the same “win more” effect.

So Lyn and Wolt are at the top of my list.

Which is good because one of them decided to give me a break after multiple disappointments trying to summon Laevatein.

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Look at this good +Attack archer boi.

I appreciate you helping me save orbs, so we’ll see how I can put you to work.

In the meantime there’s no better way to recoup those orbs than a good old Paralogue.


Paralogue 36 — Summer Refreshes

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This paralogue follows right on the last paralogue’s heels. Anna has recovered from the psychosomatic illness that resulted from hiding her mercantile side and decides to…

Just kind of sell things again. Regardless of what the nobility thinks.

I guess that’s character development?

It doesn’t seem to matter however, as the Order of Heroes arrives at the beach to find all the heroes in fancy swimsuits:

Being “magically” forced to buy skimpy outfits seems like it would be a major plot point, but it’s thrown away by the second map because Lilina and Wolt just talk about protecting each other for the sake of Roy.

Riveting.

Once the summer heroes are all beaten down, it’s revealed that Anna was the one convincing heroes to buy new swimsuits.

Just not our version of Anna.

Thus, foiled again, our Anna vows to return next year with an even crazier scheme to sell more things.

The fact that this little story drops its most interesting element is pretty disappointing. Kind of makes this experience one of the weaker paralogues overall.

But at least it gives us one of the most unintentionally real things that has ever been written down in a gotcha game.

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I’m still upset that we were lied to and given another summer banner. Intelligent Systems be wasting our orbs all over the place!

Sure, thinking we wouldn’t have another banner was entirely speculation.

And I didn’t have to waste a lot of orbs to get Wolt.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to be upset! You can make it up to me by helping me get Laevatein, Intelligent Systems.

I’ll be expecting her.

Anyway though, let me know what you think about these new summer units. I’m a little salty if it wasn’t obvious, but I imagine some of you are very excited to see a few of these characters come around again.

Pretty sure this is the last blog thing I’ll have to worry about this week, so wish me luck on jumping back into my novel.

Sword and Shield news: Exclusive trainers and Gigantamaxing

Sword and Shield news: Exclusive trainers and Gigantamaxing

I can’t believe I’m going to break my self-imposed blogging restriction on account of Pokémon today and Fire Emblem tomorrow.

Here I was ready to sleep through the morning, but no. Apparently I have a problem.

Let’s just jump in so that I don’t spend a billion years writing this post — as I tend to do with these updates. I’ll keep it short and sweet by focusing on three things addressed in today’s trailer:

Version exclusives, new Pokémon and… Gigantamaxing.

Sigh.


Version Exclusives

Version differences are not new to Pokémon.

The series’ initial hook was monsters exclusive to Red and Blue version so kids would trade in order to “catch ’em all.” Every generation has had exclusives since.

Gold, Silver and Crystal started the trend of different versions having unique legendaries that changed details about an overall identical story (though Yellow technically led the way by making an anime-inspired version of Red/Blue/Green).

Arguably the first major game-to-game change was the Magma/Aqua split in Ruby and Sapphire, even if they were just different villains in the same circumstances.

It wouldn’t be until Emerald version that they truly stood out as different entities.

In Sword and Shield we will be getting version exclusive Gym Leaders. Sword will have the Fighting-type Bea, while Shield will have the Ghost-type Allister:

Images courtesy of Serebii

We haven’t seen differences in the Gym Leader roster since Black and White, where the eighth Gym could feature Iris or Drayden. Though Iris was clearly better since she went on to be the Unova Champion.

These newbies will have to battle for who is better. To me, it’s an even match so far.

Allister is a Mimikyu lover with a Shy Guy mask. Meanwhile, Bea is a Hitmontop lover who must be getting all the fan art on account of her exposed feet.

Both seem like great additions to the canon!

The trailer also introduced Rose, chairman of the Galar Pokémon League, and his assistant Oleana. As far as I’m aware they are not version exclusive, but there’s so little about them that I couldn’t figure out where else to slot this.

You’re welcome.


New Pokémon

Can’t have a Pokémon news update without new Pokémon, though one of the monsters revealed isn’t new:

Yamper

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Image courtesy of Serebii

Yamper was seen in Sword and Shields’ E3 demo, but now we know more about the adorable Corgi with the heart-shaped butt.

For instance, he charges electricity by chasing cars and has an ability that lets him catch one Pokéball. Literally playing fetch.

That’s really all we need to know.

Alcremie

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Image courtesy of Serebii

Alcremie is a foot-tall pile of whipped cream and strawberries that drugs its opponents with whipped cream that chefs also like to use on desserts.

Because if Game Freak wants us to know anything about Fairy-types, it’s that half of them are edible.

Also Alcremie becomes a giant cake when Gigantamaxing…

But we’ll get to that.

Rolycoly

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Image courtesy of Serebii

I’m all-in on Rolycoly for its name alone.

This new Rock-type is essentially a mobile ball of coal with a lamp that must have been a godsend during the Galar Industrial Revolution. It’s new Steam Engine ability increases the Pokémon’s speed when hit by Fire or Water-type moves.

So you know.

It has Overheat synergy?

Duraludon

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Image courtesy of Serebii

We’ve saved the weirdest for last.

Duraludon is our first Steel/Dragon-type since Dialga. But instead of being a wicked cool time dragon, he’s like…

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Image courtesy of the Sword and Shield website

I’m not even sure what he looks like. Some kind of weird gun? Or airplane part?

But hey, this weird airplane part goes head-to-head with Tyranitar apparently.

So it has that going for it.


Gigantamaxing

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Image courtesy of Serebii

I don’t have a lot to say about this.

I gave my thoughts on Dynamaxing last time, but the fact that there’s a special version of that mechanic only adds to my hesitation.

Gigantamaxing Pokémon are extra exclusive variants of Dynamaxed Pokémon that trainers can sometimes find during Max Raid Battles.

They look different, have better stats and a more powerful “G-Max Move.”

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Image courtesy of Serebii

Like… Is this something we’ll have to breed onto our Pokémon if we want competitive Gigantamaxing over Dynamaxing?

I don’t know, man. The official website only has so much information, so I can’t fully speak to the merits of this mechanic.

All I can say is I’m unfortunately still not into it.


And that’s that, ladies and gentlemen. New Pokémon information to salivate over.

While I’m not enamored by Gigantamaxing and the latest crop of monsters are more on the weird side, I’m still plenty excited overall. Especially by the prospect of having more unique trainers to meet on each journey through Galar!

So let me know what you think of this latest trailer.

While you do that, I’m going to make use of this closure and go back to sleep.

Late to the memorial

Late to the memorial

Naruto was probably my favorite anime growing up.

I first watched 1986’s Dragon Ball, and I distinctly remember doing silly things like watching an episode at my neighbor’s house when Mom wouldn’t let me at home.

Shout out to Norm and Sue, wherever they are now.

However, that show never stuck with me like Naruto. I had a particular love for Gaara as an antagonist-turned-ally, Kimimaro as a villain with incredible powers and Hinata.

Some might argue she was my first “cartoon crush,” but I believe she was more my introduction to a beloved character pairing in Hinata/Naruto. That was the start of my downward spiral toward shipping.

Yet I never watched Boruto, the sequel series where that love was vindicated by their marriage. I also never watched much Naruto Shippuden.

For whatever reason I stuck to the original series.

Though my fandom did live on in video games. Namely Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 on the PS2, Naruto Ninja Council 3 on the DS (which became the basis for my sprite animation magnum opus) and Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution on the Wii.

Also one non-official fan game that captured my imagination more than any other: Naruto-Arena.

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Image courtesy of the Naruto-Arena Fandom Wiki

Naruto-Arena was a browser-based strategy game with three-on-three battles using ninja from across Naruto’s expansive history.

Each ninja had four moves that required different amounts of colored “chakra” energy, some of which were physical, ranged or simply granted invulnerability.

A few colored energies were accrued every turn, which meant the game played out with turn-based thought games like early Final Fantasy. It was important to track cool downs and lingering effects.

It’s funny how much the system reminds me of the upcoming Pokémon Masters.

I played the game early on in its life. Conversations were had around my elementary school lunch table, and I specifically recall playing during one of my trips to Dad’s office at CBS/KCAL (sometime between 2006 and 2009).

Like Realm of the Mad God, the game meant a lot to me growing up. I even thought about revisiting it a year ago:

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Because I never did, I wanted to try and write something for July 4 this year. I looked up the website hoping to get some work in for a more fleshed out reflection.

And in its place I found this notice on reddit about the game having shut down.

That… Actually hit me pretty hard.

The game was a relic of my childhood. I’m not naive enough to think it could have lasted forever, but it’s sad that I wasn’t cognizant of its death for so long.

However, being a year late does put me in an interesting position.

The reddit dedicated to Naruto-Arena is alive and well because of fan projects looking to replicate that original fan project.

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Check it out here!

I signed up for this particular new Naruto-Arena to give it a fair shot. It’s in an early build where all characters are available to test, and some key elements like character unlock missions are being implemented.

But it aesthetically nails the old look:

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Right down to the statistical layout on the right side of the scroll.

It didn’t take me very long to come into a quick game. Though the transition into battle was rough, battling itself hit my nostalgia hard.

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This remake replicates the way lingering technique effects stack beside each character, and the way your overall ranking changes their portrait’s accessories.

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I also have to give this remake props for proving to me that over 10-year-old muscle memory is just as potent as ever:

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I just did a quick game, but this new Naruto-Arena has a fairly fleshed out leaderboard to make up for features that are being implemented.

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If I start to tackle ranked battles, who knows where I could get?

Though… I’m not sure how much time I’ll spend on this version of Naruto-Arena. It needs a little more time to gestate, and has received updates as recently as June 10.

I’d like to at least have the satisfaction of unlocking characters before diving in.

Yet I really can’t complain. It may have hit me hard to find out a childhood favorite closed without my knowing, but that loss clearly affected a host of other people too. Enough that some of them went on to try and revitalize it.

That’s the truly powerful thing about fandom: A strong sense of community forged in the small, unofficial details.

I’m glad I got to be a part of that for a time.

RIP Naruto-Arena. Sorry I couldn’t be there for your swan song.


Featured Image courtesy of Afnecors via Wikimedia Commons

Eliwood rides again

Eliwood rides again

We already have a Legendary alt for Lyndis and Hector, so it only makes sense that we’d be filling out the Blazing Blade’s lordly roster with the father of the Lion:

It’s Eliwood’s time to shine.


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I rolled my eyes when first watching this video.

“ANOTHER Legendary sword cavalier?” I thought, lamenting the fact that Eliwood would be lost in a sea of Eirikas and Hríds.

Swords in general are a very overplayed weapon type in the Legendary Hero listings. Though that’s a symptom of many main characters being cool sword bois.

Yet Eliwood stands out due to his insane buffing potential.

The gimmick of his skill set is granting one ally +6 Attack and Defense if (for example) Ninian is also deployed, then doubling that buff through his weapon’s Bonus Doubler effect.

Those buffs are applied to the ally with the highest attack stat on his team, which is clearly intended to be Eliwood thanks to Death Blow 4. But I could just as easily see a team being built up so a specific unit can get the +12 stats.

Congratulations Intelligent Systems, you made me care at least a little about a hero I figured I would completely pass on.

Unfortunately, only one other hero on his banner truly entices me despite it including:

I already own a vast majority of the characters here. Selkie, Yune, Hinoka and Sakura are the only missing links in my catalog.

But of those four… Sakura is the only unit I regret missing back when her special banner happened. Selkie would count if she was a unique summon in special banners.

Thus, I’ll probably be skipping out on spending a lot here. I’d still maybe like to get summer Laevatein, and Lute continues to be an upcoming object of my affection.

At least I can build up some extra orbs with this Legendary Battle Map.

Look at this god damn boy scout. I can’t believe you made me care about him, Intelligent Systems.

Can’t wait to finally play Blazing Blade at some point and experience his boy scout nature for myself.


Shout out to Eliwood’s banner being unveiled a few days ago so I could write this before having to host a party.

Though it’s not unusual for me to have Heroes posts rolling through my blog, doing this has actually been a nice break from my intense Fire Emblem Warriors binge.

I’ve been enjoying it a lot more than I expected to, and I considered writing about its interesting treatment of Fates characters in a blog post yesterday if I hadn’t spent all afternoon cleaning the house.

So hey, I’ll probably have that coming soon. Look forward to it.

In the meantime, let me know what you think of Eliwood down in the comments!

Gotta read ’em all!

Gotta read ’em all!

The Unova Region has enveloped a lot of my life over the last few days.

First there was the start of my fanfiction.

Then the locale of Pokémon Black & White came up again when I was wandering Barnes & Noble with my sister and discovered a book of Santa Harukaze comics, put out by Viz Media.

I put off buying it because money, but figured if I saw the book again I might give it another thought.

Then we went to a different bookstore and the fateful book was there too.

I’m not one to tempt fate.

So here I am, reading through 300+ pages of comedic manga-style comic strips about Unova Pokémon, ready to teach you the gospel.

Just consider this my equivalent of Brian David Gilbert’s Skyrim Book Report.

The first thing you need to know is these are “comedic” comics. Like Family Circus or any other traditional funny page staple, some of these one-off jokes are funnier than others.

It’s telling that the Stunfisk comic was my favorite of the bunch.

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That’s peak comedy.

This comic is emblematic of what 70 percent of the collection is: Jokes about a design element or Pokédex entry.

The appearance bits are usually blasé, like Galvantula having too many eyes to cover in case of a surprise.

But I quite like seeing aspects of these Pokémon that I’d always disregarded as innocuous details:

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Another repeat detail throughout these comics are Pokémon being treated meanly, often for no reason.

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Apparently everyone in Unova is a mischievous trickster like Scraggy or in the wrong place at the wrong time like Oshawott.

Though these are Pokémon, so it’s not very surprising that they battle and act aggressively. What is surprising is the way we playing with continuity.

The creatures spend a lot of time playing with or referencing human technology:

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Their confusion suggests these guys are still animals.

But… They sure do spend a lot of time talking and having personalities like in the Mystery Dungeon games.

So maybe these comics take place in that universe?

Except then this page comes along and ruins everything.

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Of course Nimbasa City exists here. Thanks, comic.

But then there’s the weird stuff.

Oh boy is there a whole lot of weird stuff in these comics. And it’s the best part.

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Some of these are far better out of context. Trust me.

One thing I don’t fully understand about the collection is how nonsensically ordered it is. Though the individual comics are segmented by focusing on different Pokémon, they don’t proceed through the book in number or alphabetical order.

It seems entirely random, and that’s compounded by the fact that two-part comics can appear pages apart.

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There’s a particular comic about Woobat and Yamask that’s referenced more than 50 pages later and has a disclaimer telling readers to go back.

Twice.

Why not just order the pages to avoid that kind of problem if there’s no sensible ordering scheme in the book?

Though there’s a much more important question buried in these pages.

Why is Throh the only Pokémon with a two-part comic in which he is the named focus on both parts?

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The. Only. One.

Why Throh of all Pokémon?

Like I’m glad the collection has cool tidbits and quizzes on the sides of each page where I can learn things…

But I’m not sure I can forgive Santa Harukaze for making me feel this tumultuous about Throh.

So, in summary:

Is it worth reading through every Pokémon Black & White Pocket Comic in an afternoon?

Honestly… Not really.

The world of Unova comics has highs are pretty high, but the lows are very, very low. So much so that I don’t think I’d recommend reading through all of them except that you can only find the true gems that way.

I suppose I’d still recommend the book as something of a coffee table read to put out if you have Pokémon-loving guests. But as a Pokémon fan, I’m not sure I would buy the Kalos edition after this one.

That’s a real downer note to end a Pokémon-related post, so here’s a picture of Alyson ruining my attempt to get a Featured Image.

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You’re welcome.

The highs and lows of recomposing Zelda

The highs and lows of recomposing Zelda

I never played Crypt of the NecroDancer.

When the roguelike rhythm-based dungeon crawler was released by Vancouver game studio Brace Yourself Games in 2015, it got a lot of good press for being a unique Indie game that blended disparate genres seamlessly.

I’m not sure why I didn’t try Crypt, so I’ll just say I assumed a lack of rhythm as a suburban white boy.

It would take something special to pique my interest in Crypt’s unique gameplay style. Like a special crossover announced at 2019’s Game Development Conference.

Of course I’m talking about Cadence of Hyrule.

I forgot about the game until Nintendo’s 2019 E3 Direct, where we found out it was $25.

Cadence is a fascinating beast in concept. Nintendo let an Independent studio with a bizarre gameplay hook handle one of their most popular franchises. Hopefully it succeeds and encourages more experimentation!

There’s a good chance it will, because if Zelda is known for anything, it’s solid music. Why not use it in a rhythm-action game?

That’s where Cadence shines brightest: Homaging and using elements from Zelda’s history.

The game’s story is as simple a vehicle as they come. Cadence (the hero from Crypt of the NecroDancer) is transported to Hyrule and must help defeat the wizard Octavio before he puts the world to sleep with musical magic.

That framework is all you need to just run into a world of classic Zelda locations with a new rhythmic twist:

 

 

The map is primarily based on A Link to the Past. Tools like the Cane of Somaria return, as do recognizable sound bites like that of a portal to the Dark World.

 

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The Dark World is arguably a spoiler, but it’s only about an hour at the end of a 15-20 hour game that thrives more on its experience than the plot. It also features the best remix in the game.

Other bits of Zelda canon play into Cadence’s world too. Much of the music is from Ocarina of Time, as are places like Gerudo Town and people like Dark Link.

Dark Link

I know he’s technically from Zelda 2. But this is a very OOT design.

There are also overt references to characters like Tingle, who the player must awaken to clear the Lost Woods:

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You had to play Saria’s Song and it ruled.

Then there are subtle touches which might not be references, but feel like clear inspirations.

For instance, the Lost Woods is full of poisonous water that felt visually similar to Twilight Princess’ Faron Woods.

Hidden caves are on nearly every map square like in the original Legend of Zelda, and the final area has elements of the Four Swords games.

I’d also say that the art direction feels more reminiscent of Minish Cap than A Link to the Past.

And let’s not forget the bosses. Zelda classics mixed with instruments:

 

 

The victory chime from A Link to the Past plays in that instrument when you beat them. Very good stuff.

Brace Yourself Games were also willing to add new things to the canon:

Bomb Cones
He’s my child and I love him.

With all that said, you’d think Cadence of Hyrule is a perfect 10/10 game for me.

But… Here’s the rub.

I kind of dislike the gameplay?

Don’t get me wrong, Crypt of the NecroDancer has strong bones. The gameplay is functional and works well. I just personally don’t enjoy it very much.

This rhythm game requires movement and attacking to the beat, and the only way you can use your weapon is by running into opponents.

Like the NES game Hydlide.

In the 20 hours it took me to beat the final boss and collect every item, I never quite acclimated to running into enemies and avoiding telegraphed attacks on-beat.

There’s only one screen that really requires an expertise in the mechanics, but I’m not sure I’m excited to go back to the original Crypt having heard it’s much harder.

Now to be fair, I like the use of different weapons with different patterns, from three-square wide broadsword slashes to two-square long spear stabs — especially for unique weapons like Zelda’s rapier.

Speaking of, how amazing is it that this is a Legend of Zelda game where you can play a Smash Bros.-inspired Zelda, who utilizes Din’s Fire and Nayru’s Love, for the entire runtime?

Some items like the bow are also solid, but others like the Rito Feather are incredibly underwhelming. Also, why not use the Zelda-staple Roc’s Cape?

But to be completely honest, those complaints are somewhat negligible.

After all, Cadence of Hyrule is a two-player co-operative game.

Co-op

Being able to fully complete a game with my sister, who is both a musician and a Zelda fan, is an experience I don’t get very often.

And that, alongside the incredible attention to detail, makes Cadence of Hyrule an experience I’ll not soon forget.

Even if I’m still iffy about Crypt of the NecroDancer.

 

More fanfiction: Pokémon edition

More fanfiction: Pokémon edition

Creating myself a fanfiction.net account truly opened a Pandora’s Box I’ll never be able to close.

Last time on “The Adventures of Jason Ruining his Credibility on the Internet,” I had a bizarre reaction to Stardew Valley that drove me to write a fanfiction about the budding relationship with my farmer character.

I spent a whole lot of hours writing and editing that instead of writing the book that I’m in the middle of.

Because, as I said, you sometimes just need to strike when the iron is hot.

In just over a week that story has been viewed 23 times and received one ‘favorite’ by a user named madcat3200.

Shout out to them.

Those analytics for a brand new platform are almost immediately better than the traffic per-post on my blog, so maybe it will be worth dumping the occasional story over there.

Which of course means now I’m thinking about all the fanfictions I want to write instead of my novel.

Though I think I’ve come up with a decent compromise.

The next major idea that came to mind is based on something I’ve been enamored with since… Around 2012. Resurfaced by hype for incoming titles.

Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 are some of my favorite Pokémon games. They have the most optimized 2D aesthetics and fantastic world building thanks to a two-year time jump from the original games.

And they have fantastic music bolstered by a little post-game event called the Pokémon World Tournament (PWT).

The PWT had Gym Leaders and Champions from all five regions currently available gathered in one place to battle with a remix of their games’ original music.

It’s easily my favorite Pokémon post-game, and personal headcanons make the event even better.

For instance, I always loved the idea that Unova Poison-type Gym Leader Roxie performed the music for the PWT, as she’s the head of a punk-rock band.

I like Roxie enough as a result that I got this at Anime Expo some years ago:

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Beautiful, isn’t it? I wish I took note of who the artist was so I could promote them… Past me was so insensitive.

Another character added in Black/White 2 was Yancy. To this day, she serves as my favorite almost-canonical relationship in Pokémon history due to a side-quest that involves your character building a bond with her. Very underrated ship.

Yancy also happens to moonlight as a superstar named Nancy — creative, I know.

So… Now that I have an outlet for fanfiction stories… I decided to do something incorporating a few of these characters in the setting I love.

I’ve written two chapters of my Pokémon World Tournament story, which in many ways is a similar dramatization to the Stardew piece. However I have some ideas for bigger developments should I keep the story going.

Thus, where Stardew a one-off, I’m now going to try and write a serialized piece with regular uploads.

Right now I’m imagining a chapter per-week every Monday.

That should be manageable for the first few expository chapters I’m well into writing. From there we’ll see how popular it becomes.

There are a decent amount of stories tackling the same subject matter, and in just a half-hour my story has almost 20 views — though many of them seem linked to warning me about an abstract danger I’m getting myself into by writing about Pokés.

The first chapter is mostly setting a scene. Electric-type Gym Leader Elesa and Ground-type Gym Leader Clay are finalizing some set-up for the tournament.

Plus a brief disclaimer. Because why not?

From here on I’m delving into the history of the PWT in my imagining of the story, then having match commentators introduce the preceding.

After that the sky’s the limit! Though there will probably be a lot of simulated Pokémon battles between various leaders from different regions.

Should be fun, right?

If you think so maybe you can follow along. If a few people I know from real life know about this goal, perhaps I’ll be more accountable for publishing once a week.

Let me know how you feel about the idea! It’s probably silly to start another writing project but…

What can I say? I have a lot to get out to the world.


Featured Image courtesy of Gnsin via Wikimedia Commons

Commitment to unexpected storytelling

Commitment to unexpected storytelling

I was planning on writing a different blog post today, but this caught me so off-guard that I had to talk about it.

Since the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in December, I’ve become a fan of YouTuber Alpharad thanks to his Ultimate Level 9 CPU Tournament video.

The premise was simple: Throw a bunch of computers onto a tournament bracket and watch them fight. Alpharad and a few friends commentated the matches, providing insights into actual competitive strategies and general comedy.

It was fun and apparently so popular that he would have been a fool not to do more.

From there I got into a few more series. Mostly other Smash-related videos like ranking all of X elements or “Stage Builder was a Mistake.”

The guy is also a fan of Mudkips and Shantae, so it’s hard not to like him!

However, the CPU tournaments were clearly Alpharad’s bread and butter.

Over time they grew into more than just a showcase of computer intelligence. Jokes about certain fighters repeated to the point of giving them distinct personalities. Then came clever brand integrations by having his video sponsors “sponsor” the winners of previous tournaments like they were sport stars proving themselves.

Sure some of those deals were a little cheeky, like having an Incineroar sponsored by the eSports team Panda Global where he serves as creative director

But still a clever idea.

Then the series grew further. Original characters were added via Mii Fighters that developed entire plot threads cleverly delivered by commentators on the spot.

I’m not sure how much was pre-planned or improvised based on genuine tournament results, but either way it was impressive to see a cohesive narrative emerge that culminated in an “Endgame” duel between light and dark.

Released two days after the newest Avengers movie.

Perfect SEO.

After a few months hiatus, the series returned with noticeable differences.

In the lore, two years had passed. Thus, much of the first episode was spent doling out exposition about what had changed — from new Mii Fighters to the off-screen reigns of joke characters like Rosalina.

What stood out most about this structured direction is how much more planning and effort clearly went into the season’s pre-production. Everything down to anime-inspired intros that are just cringe enough to be great.

Whereas the first era of the CPUCS emerged from completely different roots and had to develop into something more, the second era is immediately running with the aftermath and presenting more foreshadowing for underlying story bits.

That was exhibited magnificently for me in the episode uploaded just today.

After the time skip, a Mii Fighter called “The Agent” appeared. She was understated because she didn’t make it very far, but in the second episode she came back.

Again she lost, but this time Alpharad ended the match by suggesting she would be writing about this on her blog. Then he quickly read off a url.

I was willing to wave that off as a joke, but part of me was curious to know whether it was real.

Agent Naomi Winters’ blog is absolutely 100 percent real.

And probably made with Squarespace. Because sponsorship.

We live in a world of digital marketing, so creating websites or social media accounts to help promote a fictional story isn’t anything new.

In fact, Ryan Hollinger has a great video about the effective use of external marketing sources by Cloverfield (and not Snakes on a Plane).

Yet I felt like this guy when I discovered that the blog not only exists, but has been used since May to create a more lived-in environment:

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I too am now a big fan of Agent Naomi.

For what many would write off as a silly YouTube series about Smash Ultimate where cashing in is easy because no human interactions are needed for gameplay, this is an awesome bit of committed world building.

It shows how much Alpharad genuinely cares, and I can respect the hell out of that.

So if I haven’t convinced you yet, go watch the CPUCS.

I swear it’s more than just your average Smash Bros. series if you stick by it.

Puzzling

Puzzling

Have you ever had the desire to play a puzzle game?

There are many varieties to get hooked on. Some of the most popular are grid-based matching games like Bejeweled or Candy Crush; fast-paced luck and skill games like Tetris or Puyo Puyo; and logic-driven games like Sudoku or crossword puzzles.

I like myself some Tetris and played Pokémon Shuffle for a long time, but my puzzle game crack is undoubtedly Picross.

Or Nonogram. Or Griddlers. Or whatever other term exists for the game.

Picross is similar to Sudoku, but moves its numbers outside of the grid so that each puzzle is filled with colored squares.

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Via Research Gate

The numbers indicate how many squares are filled in and in what order, with blanks required between each separate number’s filled squares.

It’s somewhat complicated to explain without playing. If you’re interested in trying the game, there are plenty of free online versions available.

I personally discovered Picross years ago with:

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Because I’m nothing if not a shill for Pokémon spin-off games.

In the 3DS’s Pokémon Picross, every puzzle creates a different Pokémon.

There were only about 300, and the game had a number of other restrictions including a stamina bar that depleted for each square filled and the requirement for an obscene amount of in-game currency (calls Picrites) to buy upgrades and access new areas.

Both of which were obvious ways to “encourage” spending money.

Even so I fully completed all of the Pokémon puzzles.

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And the Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire tie-in Primal Reversion murals.

The game featured a daily challenge to gain meager amounts of Picrites for players who did not want to spend money, and I opened that sucked up every day for months to get enough.

It was worth it for me. Not only was Picross incredibly relaxing, but I wanted to see all of the Pokémon — including Mega Evolutions and Legendaries.

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They had different skills based on their typing to help players complete puzzles faster. A neat idea that kept me coming back.

At the end I gave up on Pokémon Picross when it wanted me to enter the “Alt-World,” which cost 300 Picrites and used a weird mechanic I could never understand.

Didn’t think much of Picross for a couple years after.

Then I watched SpikeVegeta‘s 2018 run of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for GDQx. He played Picross during some technical difficulties and gave me a strong urge to join in.

But I didn’t want to buy a game for the Switch. Or bother with Alt-World stuff in Pokémon Picross.

So I turned to the iPhone app store.

My first attempt was a game simply called Nonogram.

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This version is good for quick games. You pick a difficulty level and solve one puzzle. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The puzzles themselves were fine, but the game had issues. First, it gives you three incorrect moves before prematurely ending the session. Second, you cannot re-examine the puzzles you complete or use them in any significant way.

That second point sounds like a nitpick born out of high expectations from Pokémon Picross… And it is.

But the second game I found did fill that niche.

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Picture Cross is a Picross game with amazingly worthwhile art direction. The sprites used for menus and worlds are insanely detailed and charmingly reminiscent of the Habbo social networking site.

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Each world has a large amount of puzzles that cover up an image you slowly reveal.

Puzzles will often depict the objects they are covering up and can be re-completed, giving them a bit more value in my book.

So far I’m about 50 puzzles into the first of 12 maps, fueled by a combination of my feverish Picross addiction and other completion-driving elements like achievements.

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It also helps that the puzzles look pretty good while varying in difficulty.

I really only have a few problems with Picture Cross.

First, the fact that it’s absolutely chock full of advertisements. The game’s free so I can’t complain, but they are long and show up after every puzzle. They’re also often necessary to view if you want to collect more tokens.

Speaking of: Tokens (the game’s main microtransactions) are required to unlock new puzzles. Players can hold 10 tokens that individually recharge every five minutes as a baseline, and more can be gathered via advertisements or awarded after a puzzle.

So far I haven’t run into any problems collecting tokens, but I can foresee Pokémon Picross levels of daily grinding in my future.

Picture Cross also falls behind Nonogram in at least one major category. Nonogram crosses out each individual number in a row or column as they are placed:

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See the six on the fourth column.

Only entire rows are blacked out in Picture Cross, which can make things harder to track on a number-by-number level.

Frankly all of those are relatively minor complains to me. I enjoy the game a lot, and I can see it being a nice brain-teasing time-killer.

Plus… Downloading the game gave me stickers in iMessage based on its cute sprites.

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So I’d wager it’s worth every cent I didn’t pay.