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Devil Survivor Overblogged: 1st day

December 21st, 2012 Posted by david brothers

An ongoing series about my time playing Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, divided up according to the stages of the game. Once a week, I think, I’m going to hit a few big topics that have stuck in my head and then a lot of little ones. Fridays. I’m still working out the format.

This is like a Let’s Play, but only I get to play and you’re required by law to read it and like it.

1st day

Story So Far: black power, his dumb nerd friend, and his dumb girly-girl friend (but not his girlfriend!) are trapped within the Yamanote Circle. Demons have begun invading, and black power’s cousin Naoya just ever-so-happened to not only give our threesome the devices they need to battle the demons, but also didn’t bother to let them know that Hell on Earth was coming. What a jerk, right?

The Defense Sciences Office spent the night in a park last night, lost and lonely.

Right now: Today is 1st day, the beginning of the end, and it’s time for the Demonic Schoolfriends Cipher to figure out exactly what’s going on, or maybe just escape. Escape is my main guess actually.

black power Status:
Level: 12
HP: 114
MP: 42
St: 9
Ma: 5
Vi: 7
Ag: 7
Move: 4
Speed: 50
Skills: Agi, Zan, Hero Aid, Mana Bonus, Leader Soul

Demon 1: Pixie (Fairy)
Level: 9
HP: 75
MP: 58
St: 4
Ma: 10
Vi: 6
Ag: 5
Skills: Dia, Zio, Charm

Demon 2: Waira (Wilder)
Level: 10
HP: 106
MP: 47
St: 9
Ma: 9
Vi: 5
Ag: 6
Skills: Zan, Dia, Hero Aid, Life Bonus, Devil Speed

Battle Anybody I Don’t Care: I was tricked! This is only barely a strategy RPG. It’s a meta-strategy RPG that is secretly actually an old, old, old school RPG.

Here’s the deal. You dont walk around on your own. You select locations from a menu. After selecting a location, a sub-menu pops up that gives you a chance to talk to your party members, gab with other people, or take a look around. In certain situations, you can get into a fight.

The fight certainly looks like a strategy RPG should. You have a grid you must follow when moving, your move stat determines how far you can move, and you have a selection of attacks you can use before or after going into battle. When you choose Attack, however, Dead Star Orion betrays you.

The actual battle system is the oldest of old school. The kind that existed before Final Fantasy 7, you know? RPGs with a hand crank and a muzzle loader. Enemy characters don’t animate at all. They just sit there, in all their sprite-based glory, and sometimes shake or turn colors as you battle them. You don’t see your squad at all. Selecting a command from a menu results in a minor animation that is overlaid onto the enemy sprite. After your turn is up, you return to the SRPG portion of things, ready to react again.

You could make a case for this giving you fine control over the details of SRPG battles, but I’m going to reject your case in favor of a different one: this is boring. The boringest. Questionable design choices aside — I want to make a “too much booby in the butt” joke here as a twist on Trina’s “too much booty in the butt” but I can’t make it work without sounding stupid — Dark Skies Onlimited is a pretty solid looking game. The sprites are cute, like Paul Robertson’s work on Scott Pilgrim, but RPGs are the absolute last genre that needs to be simplified visually. They’re already geared around math and intricate relationships between elements — why would you make that more boring? Where’s the flash?

Time: Part of David Stop Obscuring is managing your time. You get an email each morning with a list of horrible things that are going to happen to you or others. Since you’re plucky high schoolers, you’re going to go out and save people because… that is what children do? I’m not entirely clear on why we’re doing any of this instead of panicking, but I figure that’s just the plot.

Anyway, I’m curious to see if I can miss out on things. Will characters leave areas if you don’t visit them fast enough? It doesn’t seem like it thus far, but I’m sure it’ll happen eventually. Maybe I’ll have to choose between Yoohoo and Atsuwrong at the end of the game?

Devil Auction: There’s basically eBay for demons. After you fight them, you can bid on them. It works about as you’d expect.

At one point, though, I beat up a demon and he was all, “aughghg i guess i have to have a contract now.” That was weird, because why would he be surprised that humans and demons have contracts when the Devil Auction exists? Is it some kind of underground slavetrading ring? It doesn’t sound like it, though most of the demons are so dumb that it probably isn’t legal for them to enter into any contracts. I swear this tree-based demon I have is senile.

black power is a lie: This was the chapter where I realized that if you pick the “wrong” answer in a dialogue box, people will tell you what you already know and generally be a real jerk about things. So, while I’m still refining the character, I try to play black power as being the most honest and forthright guy in the team. He’ll tell the truth, even when it seems like a bad decision, just so that no one else will beat him to the punch and make me sit through dialogue that tells me things I already know. Call it antagonistic altruism.

It’s weird, though. It feels like admitting the truth in certain situations, and by that I specifically mean telling my friends that there is no exit from the Yamanote Circle, is a bad decision. There’s been nothing in the game to suggest that saying so would bring the team down, but it would, wouldn’t it? So black power lies, just a little, but always in the service of hope.

Yoohoo: Yuzu talks about her sweaty body like, all the time. I know this is a fetish thing in real life, dirty girls or whatever, but is this a nod to fetishists or some kind of weird attempt at verisimilitude? “All I want is a shower to wash all this sticky sweat off my body and now you’re imagining me naked,” says the teenager, ad nauseam. It’s not weird to want a shower when you can’t shower, but it is weird that she says it so often. Does that make sense? It feels significant, but it isn’t, I don’t think.

つづく: “Oh no! We’re in the exact same situation we were in last night! How will we get out of this one, Yoohoo?”

“I’m so sweatyyyyyy, and it’s just pouring in rivers and rivers down my supple–”

“NEXT TIME, on Devil Survivor Overblogged: Silent Heroes for Quiet Storms! We’re gonna survive this, I promise!”

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Devil Survivor Overblogged: day BEFORE

December 7th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I bought a Nintendo 3DS XL, Super Mario 3D Land, and Liberation Maiden. Since I’m me, I decided that two good games simply weren’t enough, so I asked Twitter to recommend me some games and googled around on my own for some recs. I eventually landed on Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked. I like the SMT series, though I’m terrible at actually completing them, and having an RPG to poke at every once and a while is nice.

I don’t really read game news (it feels like homework), so here’s a list of things I knew about this game after I ordered it:
-It is in Tokyo.
-It stars teenagers.
-Shigenori Soejima probably didn’t design the characters.
-It is some type of RPG, possibly strategy.
-It is called Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Overclocked.

So yeah, I went in this so cold that I didn’t even really know the title of the game, despite having paid cash money for it. Now that I’ve played it, I more or less know the title — Didn’t Something Obfuscate? — and the gimmick. I’m not sure how this is going to shake out in terms of longevity, but I’ve got a chance to talk about this game and RPGs in general now so I’m going to take it. I’m going to do a piece per “day” of the game. This one’s rough, since I just decided to do it in the middle of my playthrough, but I think you’ll get something out of it.

Heaven or Hell, let’s rock:

day BEFORE

Crew: I stole this from Wikipedia:
Designer: Shinjiro Takada
Artist: Suzuhito Yasuda, Kazuma Kaneko
Composer: Takami Asano

The only name I’m familiar with off the top of my head is Kazuma Kaneko. He’s been a designer for ages, and he’s done a few things I liked a lot, like the art for Maken X and a few other SMT games. I’m not sure why there’s no director or producer listed, and I don’t have the case for the game nearby.

Setting Up: One thing that kind of drives me crazy about these games is how long it takes to get going. I loved Persona 4, but there was about two hours of set-up, exposition, and world-building before you could do anything on your own. I vastly prefer games (and movies, and books, and and and) that throw you right into the middle of it. Hook me first, and then you can show me where I’m at in excruciating detail.

Devil Survivor Overclocked doesn’t take that long, but it does have a pretty long getting-to-know-you period. Twenty, thirty minutes, maybe? You meet your core cast, get a long-running gameplay tutorial that isn’t actually complete, and get to set out on your own at the end.

There’s no big hook early on, nothing that really wowed me and made me feel like I have to play more of this game. A lot of talking — well-acted, more on that later — and explaining, really. I feel like that’s a missed opportunity, especially for a portable game. But I’m used to it, and I figured that was the score going in.

I like that the game is split up into days. Catherine used a similar gimmick, and playing “day BEFORE” is actually kind of cool. There’s a sense of foreboding there that I hope they can follow-up on. I like games that start with apocalypses, and while DSO already missed that chance, they might make up for it when everyone dies on day one.

Idiotsyncratic: My go-to name for main characters in RPGs has been “black,” all lowercase, pretty much since Final Fantasy 7, my first real RPG outside of Zelda and Startropics. I don’t even remember why, but I’ve stuck with it. I think DSO is the first time I’ve actually had to include a last name for one of these dudes, and I swear it took me five entire minutes. I thought about doing something in Japanese, but didn’t want to google the main character’s canonical name in case. I didn’t have a lot of characters to work with, so I just bit the bullet, fulfilled an unspoken promise from 1997, and named my dude “black power.”

This is me, I guess. Live and direct in 2012. Get at me.

Visuals: The majority of the game is basically a visual novel, at least at this point. It’s not too different in approach from Persona 3 Portable, I don’t think, though not quite as hi-res. The non-combat sections are very visual novel in approach, but the combat is straight out of the Game Boy Advance visual library. It’s not bad, exactly, but it’s a curious choice. Surely the 3DS can do better?

Official art up above from Yasuda Suzuhito. That’s Yuzu, nicknamed Yoohoo (awesome), though she doesn’t wear that in the game. The character design is going to take some getting used to. It’s plainer, or maybe less fashionable, than Soejima’s stuff. There are other problems, too. Yuzu is distractingly busty. I don’t mean that in the “wow look at those boobs, those are great, I just can’t stop looking at those hypnotic things” sort of just-hit-puberty-and-saw-a-lady-in-a-lowcut-dress sorta way either. I mean Yuzu’s breasts are distractingly large, even when they’re hidden behind a text box. It doesn’t feel like good character design so much as “I bet we could make a grip off a few hug pillows and boobie-armrest mousepads.” It feels like cheap fan service. I’m all for sexy characters, but this is like… nah, son. Try again, kid. I’m sure the porn is grotesque.

I din’t understand the weird cables that black power (center) and Atsuro (top left) have, either.

Story So Far: Right, RPGs have stories. In this case, black power’s cousin Naoya gives the main cast three Nintendo DSes, called COMPs in-game, and is generally a myserious jerk about a coming demonic apocalypse. Your crew gets attacked by monsters and you realize that the world is much larger than you thought it was before. Naoya, however, continues being cryptic and weird.

I was kinda disappointed to see the cast break down like pretty much every other RPG’s cast. Yuzu’s the healer, black power can do anything, and Atsuro, the third member of the main cast thus far, is kind of in-between. Yuzu has the only sane response to the catastrophe (freaking out and wanting to go home), but when you compare Yuzu to black power and Atsuro, she looks shrill and very kind of stereotypically anime schoolgirlish. “Kyaaaa, this is all so dumb and scary and math is hard” sorta thing.

Atsuro, of course, takes everything in stride, and black power does whatever I want him to do. It’s nice that you have a chance to actually make decisions and talk to people in the visual novel portions. I assume that’s going to lead to some type of payoff toward the end of the game, but the choices thus far tend to be “I don’t know what’s going on, explain it to me” or “I know exactly what is going on, but explain it to me anyway.”

The writing is okay. The dialogue feels pretty natural and cool, but tends to lean on exposition a whole lot more than I’d like. Characters repeat things you read in an email or that you just heard, presumably for emphasis. It’s strange, but not insurmountable. I can see bursts of really solid writing peeking through, and I figure that feeling will only increase as I play more.

Spoilerwatch: I wanted to find images to illustrate this post, and in doing so, I tripped over the fact that a character I met on 1st day is going to try to kill herself soon. Thanks, internet!

Right now: I’m engaged and interested, but cautiously so. I trust Atlus and the SMT franchise, but it’s a little rocky to begin with. We’ll see where it goes.

つづく: More talk about boobs, a tighter focus on what I’m doing and how I talk about it, some actual gameplay talk, and a look at how time keeps on slipping, slipping.

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“You can leave or live with it.” [Catherine]

March 4th, 2011 Posted by david brothers


catherinethegame.com
07.26.11

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The Cipher 01/12/11

January 12th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

my mind warps and bends

created: Slow week!

-I took a look at ComiXology’s sales charts and Diamond’s sales charts, add in a bit of educated guesswork, and come up with something interesting about digital comics.

floats the wind

consumed:

-New blog from a friend! Sol, the lady behind the Greg Land gif that brought the internet to its knees, has launched Walking the Comic Book Runway, a fun examination of fashion in comics. This is something I talk about with her all the time, so it’s cool to see her putting these thoughts out there. There’s a few posts right now, but I’m sure if you visit and conversate a bit, she’ll keep on pushing. Go on, do that. She knows her stuff.

-Y’all heard Ye and Jay’s “HAM?” Yeah, it’s straight. The beat is Final Fantasy hot, but Kanye sounds sleepy and Jay needs to stop talking about Beanie Sigel without actually saying dude’s name. As is, though, I liked it better when it was Pill’s “Trap Goin’ Ham,” incredibly ignorant video and all.

-More P I Double: “OK Denn” and “Real Mutherfuckin’ Gs”, “Run Up to Me” with Freddie Gibbs, and one of my favorite songs from 2010, Yelawolf’s “I Wish” remix with Pill and CyHi da Prynce. Every verse on that remix is hot.

-Yelawolf: Woke up in the morning with a fucking pen and a pistol/ I put one to the paper, I put one in my fist/ Stuck up a shop with the pen then I shot up my notebook/ I’m reading bullet holes, I wish a fucker would

-CyHi: I been fly, my momma gave birth to me on a plane/ Nigga, so I guess you could say I’m airborne/ I’m running my city getting my mayor on/ Stay on my grizzly, you know I bear arms

-Pill: Born into poverty, heart torn, obviously/ Dad gone, so we trying to figure out how to eat/ Older brother hustling, momma working overtime/ Now I’m standing in the kitchen whipping baking soda time

-All three of these cats know that when you’re wrapping up a verse, you need to go in or else nobody’s gonna remember you. You can’t just peter out and fade, you gotta hit harder than the rest of your verse or keep rhyming til the beat’s gone, no matter what you’re saying.

-More Yela: “Pop the Trunk” goes so hard, man. It just bleeds menace, from the beat to the lyrics. That bridge at the end is nice, too. “I Just Wanna Party” with Gucci Mane is pretty okay, too. I don’t even really get down with Gucci like that, but he gets it going here. Look for Big Boi roundabout 2:45, too. And who can forget a hot song off one of the hottest albums of the year, Big Boi’s “You Ain’t No DJ”?

-“Yeah, I’m pale, but I’ll impale you with an Impala”

-Also, I bought Weezy’s “6 Foot 7 Foot” with Cory Gunz. Gunz can spit to an absurd degree, and it’s nice to hear Mixtape Weezy again. This song bangs, and Weezy’s punchlines are back to being next level. “Real Gs move in silence like lasagna”? “You niggas are gelatin, peanuts to an elephant/ I got through that sentence like a subject and a predicate”? Ayo.

-Gunner is the only dude who can use “pause” because he’s so rapidfire. It’s like “breath!” “Wayne, these niggas out they mind/ I done told these fuck niggas, so many times/ that I keep these bucks steady on my mind/ tuck these, I fuck these on your mind, pause”

-Dang, I guess the South still got something to say.

-Peer pressure works! Jamaal Thomas over at FBB is rounding up his top ten floppies of 2010. Go, read.

-Here’s an index of all of Spurgeon’s holiday interviews. There’s 20, and they’re great.

-Part 2 of Joe Q’s exit interview is up at CBR. Quesada really did a lot for Marvel, and I think for the comics industry overall. He stumbled, obviously, but if you compare Marvel now to Marvel then… gimme Marvel now any day of the week.

-Sean Murphy is great, but you knew that already.

-Periscope Studio is also full of great artists, and this week they’re drawing the Thunderbolts.

-This NY Times profile of Radical talks a lot about how they’re selling comics to Hollywood, and the only creator they bother to mention is Nick Simmons. How do I feel about that? I think this image says it all, and also shows that you should never run an auto-retweet script on Twitter.

-I buckled under and bought a Kindle. Looking forward to reading real books and newspapers again.

-The Kindle purchase is part of a hard push toward going mostly digital this year. Down the line will be an iPad for comics (once Dark Horse’s store launches and hopefully after Marvel pulls its digital head from its digital butt and fixes). I did some testing, though, and I can already go almost all VOD. I watched the Buckeyes game last week on ESPN3, which was mostly delightful. I use Netflix and Hulu to watch random movies and TV. And now, I can use iTunes to buy stuff I want to keep. I bought Archer and FLCL (iTunes link, but the first ep is free). Between Amazon and iTunes, I should be able to buy most of the stuff I want to keep and rewatch.

-My only issue is the price. It’ll tend to run slightly more than the Blu-rays after the Amazon discount, but less than the MSRP. At the same time… I have instant access forever with no physical media to worry about. This’ll force me to only buy things I really, really want, which is probably a good thing in the long run. I’m doing a lot of thinking about what I think is fair.

-Archer is incredible, though. “Karate? The Dane Cook of martial arts?”

-Judging by the box art and this blog post about their reasoning, Catherine is cruising directly to all of the Game of the Year awards. Gonna be crazy, and probably a story that ends with a good, wholesome message. “Don’t cheat on your girlfriend or else you’ll be damned forever and turned into a sheep dude by sheep cultists.” Here’s a subtitled trailer and a gameplay heavy trailer.

-The Persona games have done a generally good/weird/interesting job of playing with sex and sexuality. A game where the focal point is “You cheated on your girlfriend and now your life is ruined” should be pretty good. It’s sure to be unsettling in probably a Silent Hill sorta way.

-Shoji Meguro did the Persona 4 soundtrack, I’m pretty sure. Curious to see what he comes up with for Catherine.

-Also, whoa, Vincent is in Persona 3 Portable? Cool.

-How messed up is it to cheat on your girlfriend Katherine with a Catherine? What is that, some kind of screwy fetish? Bad luck?

count to ten

David: Heroes for Hire 2
Esther: Batman 17, Batman and Robin 19, Birds of Prey 8, Knight and Squire 4
Gavin: Batman And Robin 19, Booster Gold 40, Justice League Generation Lost 17, Knight & Squire 4, Secret Six 29, Chaos War Dead Avengers 3, Deadpool 31, Heroes For Hire 2, Incredible Hulks 620

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