Tag: Social Media

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

alcremie
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

rolycoly
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.

The… Anti-Summer 2018 Initiative?

The… Anti-Summer 2018 Initiative?

Greetings and salutations.

As you may have noticed, things have been a little different around here recently. A little more barren.

Don’t worry, it’s not a symptom of finally running out of ideas. I did that about a year ago and wrote about my pencil set.

Nor is it some delusion that my Naruto-Arena post is the peak of my creativity (though I like that post and you should read it if you haven’t).

There has actually been plenty of exciting blog fodder over the last week.

I attended Alyson’s fourth 4th of July parade and survived the concurrent earthquake.

I also survived the subsequent 7.1 earthquake that struck California.

Though to be fair I was far out of the range of both, and you should follow my old Daily Titan colleague Lauren Jennings to see more of the damage in Ridgecrest.

My Bachelor’s degree was finally shipped.

Over the last few weeks my family has also sat down and binged a few shows:

Good Omens on Amazon Prime Video (which has a phenomenal underlying controversy) and Stranger Things season 3 on Netflix. Both of which are extremely well-constructed and receive honest recommendations.

Even if part of my interest in Stranger Things comes from our long-time investment.

Beyond all that, I’ve also been playing a lot of Fire Emblem Warriors.

The game has been far more fun than I expected, and incorporates a number of intriguing elements in a novel gameplay style for my prior experiences. Interesting elements that might make for a perfect post.

Yet I haven’t written about any of those things.

You see, let’s go back to my Summer Initiative. It was a sort of challenge to myself:

“You’re not working on the Daily Titan right now,” I said. “So why not try writing something every day to keep your skills sharp?”

The drive to write more led to an increase in site traffic and a subsequent sense of pride that has extended my near-daily posts for about a year.

So much so that I used its existence as a part of a freelancing pitch.

With all that said, you might be wondering why I haven’t written in six days.

It turns out I might have conditioned myself to care about blogging a little too much. For some time now, what I’m blogging every day has been the focal point of all my writer’s stress.

Which is kind of a problem when you have a book you want to finish.

Thus I decided to scale back as a test. Would I be more productive on my book if I stopped focusing on daily blog posts?

As it turns out, I have been.

Over the last week I’ve gotten myself to nearly 300 pages, and I believe that’s as good a sign as any that I should scale back my blog stuff until I get through the novel.

Currently my anti-Summer Initiative is shaping up to be blog posts over the weekend while keeping my weekdays free to write the book. I’d like to finish my first draft before Mom and Aly get back from New York at the end of July.

The weekend will probably have at least one week-in-review and quicker one-offs like a piece on Spider-Man: Far From Home that I’ll write after seeing the film tomorrow.

And I’ll leave myself open to the occasional weekday post. Because I’m a Fire Emblem Heroes addict and Intelligent Systems lied about fewer summer banners.

But otherwise I’m trying more life updates through Twitter and Instagram during the week — as you can see throughout this post.

So if you’re interested in keeping up, go ahead and follow me there!

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.


EliwoodBlazing Knight


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:

Tingle
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.

 

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.

A-sample-nonogram-puzzle-The-objective-of-nonograms-is-starting-with-a-blank-board-see.png
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.

Summer returns in Fire Emblem Heroes

Summer returns in Fire Emblem Heroes

Hard to believe it has been two years since I joked about using Fire Emblem Heroes as a surrogate for not going to the beach despite living in Southern California.

Even harder to believe I still don’t go to the beach nearly as often as I should.

But at least Fire Emblem is still here to let me live vicariously through anime jpegs.


Summer Returns


The recent Awakening children banner drained a whole bunch of orbs, so I was hoping this summer banner would be low-key. Something I wouldn’t feel pressured to invest a lot into.

A revival banner with Lute is coming, and my recent foray into Sacred Stones has left me eager to finish my collection of its characters.

Luckily I’m not enamored with the summer units.

Mostly.

Gunnthrá and Helbindi aren’t my favorite original characters from Book II. Plus her ability to disarm Aether Raids traps and his ability to excel in the Arena don’t inspire me to open my wallet.

Laegjarn does stand out thanks to Swift Sparrow 3.

Yet… Despite the Internet fawning over her, I can’t get over how fucked up her idle pose looks. It’s like she has no armpit, and that leaves her with one monstrous arm.

I can’t unsee it.

Thus Laevatein is really the only character I’d say I’m very interested in summoning. She’s my favorite Book II character, has cute artwork and packs a great 1-2 punch against other mages with Mirror Impact.

Seriously Intelligent Systems? +6 Attack, +10 Resistance and no counterattacks?

You can’t just make these characters that broken.

I used the Paralogue orbs to get a few extra shots at her, but I haven’t pulled anything special and I’m not going to rush it.

The banner will be here for 50 days.

Which I’m assuming means we won’t get a second set of summer units this year. Something that’s totally fine by me considering last year’s was disappointingly non-Sacred Stones and I’ll need the orbs later.

Speaking of that Paralogue… Let’s talk about it.


Paralogue 35 — Summer Returns

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Once again we cut away from dramatic story progression to bring you the latest in Anna’s attempts to make money off of some softcore pornography.

Or… Do we?

Anna is feeling self-reflective this year and promises not to do anything that can give her a bad reputation at risk of being fired by the royal family.

Which means the entire Paralogue is going to be focused on trying to avoid money-making schemes, isn’t it?

Yep.

Well to be fair the first two battles completely disregard this plot point and focus on the reunion of the Múspell sisters.

Then the reunion of Ylgr (future Tempest Trials reward) and Helbindi.

They’re both cute interactions. But that doesn’t stop them from being pure filler in an admittedly great dusk luau-themed environment.

Don’t worry, though. We return to the exploits of Anna soon after.

By which I mean Anna buckles under the pressure of trying to repress her desire for cash and falls ill. She passes out on the beach, leading to the Order of Heroes realizing just how integral money is to her character.

To a ridiculous degree.


So that’s Fire Emblem Heroes’ 2019 summer banner. Probably the only one we’re getting this year.

I’m a little lukewarm because of my orb stinginess, but I will absolutely try to building my Laevatein squad.

Let me know what you think of the banner down in the comments! How does it compare to previous summer banners? Do you agree that Laegjarn’s arm looks fucked up?

Seriously, do you? I need to know that I’m not alone here.

Thanks.

A family tradition

A family tradition

Many years ago, my Mom helped Alyson and I create a special gift for Dad.

We went to Color Me Mine, a chain of shops for the commercial buying and painting of porcelain goods ranging from dinnerware to sculptures of robots and dragons that are put through a kiln on-site.

In my experience it’s a popular suburban activity for kids with vague creative aspirations and too much energy to burn. The Rochlin family has made its fair share of goods there, which is another subject I may have to circle back to one day.

All those years ago, Aly and I made Dad a mug with our little baby handprints on it.

The gift was very well received and used for years. But… That mug in the Featured Image isn’t the original piece.

That first mug actually broke through a heartbreaking turn of events.

So in 2005, we made him a replacement mug:

The 2005 mug continues to be used and has held together relatively well over nearly 15 years.

But now it’s starting to crack.

That mortality was the subject of a recent joke from Dad which got our gears turning. We figured it would be as good a time as any to continue this family tradition by making him a new handprint mug for Father’s Day.

Here we are last Wednesday getting our hands all dirty.

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Unfortunately the idea was a bit spur of the moment, so the mug wasn’t finished in time for us to hand it off before all the Grandpa Joe and pasta-making stuff happened.

I was able to pivot our time out into a fun little Tweet about Jamba Juice. It was meant to simply cover our tracks, but a few days later grew into something more.

Yeah.

Shout out to that social media person for having a bit of fun with us. I’m usually cynical about that kind of brand interaction, but it’s kind of cool to actually see it happen.

Today we were finally able to pick up the mug — and a little more Jamba Juice, but I didn’t want to push my luck by grasping desperately for further social media clout.

Here are the fruits of our labor:

The end product is perhaps messier overall, but that’s what happens when you decide to color everything instead of leaving a large portion of the body white.

Personally I think the brushstrokes are indicative of the energy we put in.

Even if I’m less enamored with my handprint, because at this point it’s big enough that I struggled to fit the whole thing.

But that said I hope Dad will be happy with the gift.

Because you know. He’s not home from work at the time that I’m writing this. So I don’t actually know how he’s going to react. And I’ll be telling him not to read this until he gets home later.

It’s like you all get to be in on a little secret. Hopefully you enjoyed the brief glimpse at part of my family history!