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Devil Survivor Overblogged: 2nd day

February 15th, 2013 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.

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.

2nd day

Story So Far: I forget.

Right now: There’s demons, there’s kids, and the demons want to eat the kids? I don’t remember exactly.

black power Status:
Level: 20
HP: 162
MP: 64
St: 12
Ma: 8
Vi: 7
Ag: 9
Move: 4
Speed: 50
Skills: Agi, Zan, Hero Aid, Counter, Leader Soul, Marksman

Demon 1: Lilim (Femme)
Level: 18
HP: 137
MP: 79
St: 7
Ma: 11
Vi: 8
Ag: 8
Skills: Mute Eyes, Elec Dance, Zio, Mana Bonus, Anti-Elec, Devotion

Demon 2: Thor (Deity)
Level: 18
HP: 195
MP: 28
St: 19
Ma: 4
Vi: 12
Ag: 2
Skills: Elec Dance, Anger Hit, Agi, Counter, Knight Soul, Awakening

Voice Acting: I really dig the voice acting in this game, particularly the way they update a few specifically Japanese things. I mean, surely they didn’t call Atsuro Atsuwrong in the Japanese dub, you know? That’s the kind of thing I like to see in translated media. If you can’t directly translate the joke, go with something close and still funny. Don’t just leave it there like a fat dollop of “This would be funny if you spoke Japanese.”

Grinding: I barely play traditional RPGs any more. Not because I hate them, but more because the ratio of time played vs rewards received is so low. NBA 2k13‘s My Player is essentially an RPG, right? You create a character, you name him, and you take him on a quest to the Hall of Fame. You’re rewarded for your time and effort on a regular basis, whether via earning experience points to level up your guy, new endorsements, or being able to have an incredible game and feeling the warm glow of having accomplished something. I had a bad stretch of games and got demoted from starter to sixth man, but I’ve been focusing on improving the weak parts of my game and I’m playing better than ever. That feedback loop works and works really well. I had to take a break from playing it, honestly, because I was getting too into it.

It’s tougher in RPGs. Most of the rewards in RPGs are story-based. You find out what happens next as you complete things, but the work you put in to be able to complete those things usually isn’t rewarded very well. That’s why they call it “grinding.” You gotta do it to get the reward.

It’s a pacing problem. If a game is properly paced, you should be able to progress through a game without having to grind. Each accomplishment gives you the tools you need to complete the next accomplishment, on through to the end of the game. When improperly paced, you have to kill hours doing repetitive and boring tasks just to barely squeak by.

I haven’t had a reason to grind in Deandre’s Silly Overworld yet, but I have done half a dozen or so of those free battles. I’m wondering if this is me preparing for later grinding by trying to get a leg up. I know these games, and I basically play them on instinct at this point.

Shomonkai: They’re a weird cult and I don’t trust them at all. The girl I met is maybe reliable, but the rest seem like the type of dudes who would engineer a demon apocalypse to bring their undoubtedly Lovecraftian god to Earth.

I Quit: I wrote the above bits like… in December? Mid/late December, shortly before the holidays. I was doing a consulting gig that required an hour-long commute by train and then taxi, so why not play an RPG? So I wrote, took notes, and played for a few days in a row.

At some point in Day Two, I forget when exactly, I hit the exact point where I needed to grind. And wow was it a pain. I think it was the battle just before the battle where you have to start protecting humans, so maybe it was in the early afternoon? I don’t remember. I don’t care at this point.

I grinded. I ground it out. I leveled up, I beat the stages that were giving me trouble, and I haven’t touched the game since. I haven’t even really touched my 3DS, in fact, barring playing the Fire Emblem demo.

Grinding sucks. It sapped my enjoyment of the game. I’m grinding in Ni No Kuni right now, but that game at least hides the grind behind a mission-based questing system, so it never feels like a grind, even when you’re killing 10 bone dudes for some weird lady in Al Mamoon. In DSO, you grind and it’s blatant grinding. YUCK. Life’s too short.

Anyway, I quit. I’ll find some other game to blog about that isn’t Dumb Stupid Obnoxious. I was expecting to really dig it, but I didn’t, and when it started bugging me, I decided to bail out. Sorry :)

Unprocessed Notes:
2nd day:
-The team system is an interesting way to do things, and I like that you can swap them around pretty easily during a battle.
-Haru seems cool, but ha ha ha her top is constantly falling off. I like that she uses a musical instrument instead of a DS. Curious to see where her story goes, though I think that someone already spoiled that for me.
-It’s kinda crazy that you have to fight gangsters as well as monsters, but I’m glad it happened. It also explains why Race-O and Race-D (which decrease damage done by your race) are available for humans to equip.
-so far, it seems like the government knew this was coming, the gangsters have chosen to take advantage, and someone has seeded the Yamanote Circle with monsters for whatever reason. Where is this going? The gov’t has written off the circle and is going to purge everything when the situation goes fully south?
-Gin seems kinda dumb, though I like his name.
-grinding
-voice acting is actually pretty good? i like how they don’t say the protagonist’s name, too, though that’s a series staple

つづく: “NEXT TIME, on Devil Survivor Overblogged: David has to find another 3DS game to play! On top of that, he has several dozen joke titles for Devil Survivor Overclocked he has to figure out how to use!”

All jokes aside, I do need a new 3DS game, and I don’t want it to be Fire Emblem. I’m open to trying new things: what do you like and why? I’m tempted by MGS3 but I definitely own that on PS3 as well. Is it worth the purchase on 3DS?

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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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