Archive for the 'Video Games' Category

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Guide to the Injustice Roster: Explaining Comics to People Who Don’t Read Comics Part 5

April 10th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

SHAZAM

Alias: Captain Marvel, Billy Batson, Captain Thunder
First Appearance: Whiz Comics #2 (1940)
Powers: The wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury. Able to summon lightning by saying, “Shazam”
Other Media: Old-timey film adaptations, had his own live-action show in the 70’s, an animated series, was on Legend of the Superheroes, guest-starred on Justice League, Batman: the Brave and the Bold and Young Justice.

I might as well get the name thing out of the way because I’m sure it’s confusing as hell for people out of the Shazam loop. The magical wizard is Shazam. The superhero is Captain Marvel, only sometimes they call him Shazam, like in current comics and this game. It’s for silly legal reasons that I’ll get to, but for the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to call him Captain Marvel throughout this thing.

It’s a little sad that your average Joe doesn’t know who Captain Marvel is because during the 40’s, he was THE top superhero. Published by Fawcett Comics, his adventures sold more than Superman and Batman. He was the first superhero to get his own movie (which featured him taking out a bunch of enemy soldiers with a gatling gun. Times were different back then). Elvis Presley based his on-stage wardrobe on Captain Marvel’s sidekick Captain Marvel Jr. Captain Marvel was the man.

Only he really wasn’t a man, but a young boy named Billy Batson. Chosen by the wizard Shazam for his purity, orphan news reporter Billy was bestowed the power of becoming Captain Marvel upon saying the word, “Shazam!” Powered by the gods, Captain Marvel fought the likes of Dr. Sivana, Mr. Mind and many others. What made the character work was that he was just a kid. It was pure power fantasy. The idea that you could become this great superhero no matter your age.

So what made him so much better than Superman in the nation’s mind? Well, to be brutally honest about early Superman comics, Captain Marvel was interesting. Superman was a novelty act. He was in God Mode, going through the motions, taking out criminals who were no threat to him. Watching him beat up wife-beaters or throw around mobsters was fun in its own way, but even the mad scientist characters didn’t work all that well. It was usually, “Haha! Let’s see what happens when I pour molten lava over Superman! Nothing? Well, shit. What if I send my giant robot forces? Torn apart with ease? Damn it.”

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Guide to the Injustice Roster: Explaining Comics to People Who Don’t Read Comics Part 4

April 5th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

THE JOKER

Alias: Red Hood, Jack Napier, Joseph Kerr, Oberon Sexton
First Appearance: Batman #1 (1940)
Powers: Genius in both planning and improvisation, master chemist, completely unpredictable, unmatched tolerance for pain
Other Media: Yeah, pretty much.

“Frighteningly sick in the head… yet strangely compelling company.” – Lex Luthor when asked about the Joker

Despite all those above aliases, there’s never been a true name to go with the Joker’s pale face. His origin has always been up in the air and he rather likes it that way. The most famous non-movie take on the Joker’s backstory is the classic 80’s tale Killing Joke, where Joker spent time reminiscing about being a failed stand-up comedian who in one day senselessly lost his wife and unborn child and then got knocked into a vat of chemicals by Batman. Joker later admitted to Batman and the reader that he always remembered the actions that led up to him becoming the Joker differently every time and no longer truly knew who he was. All he could tell was that – much like Batman – he had one bad day and it caused him to snap. The difference was that while Batman had dedicated himself to making sense of the world, Joker dedicated himself to knocking down the whole house of cards and reveling in it.

Joker’s appearance was based on actor Conrad Veidt’s creepy portrayal of Gwynplaine from the 1928 film the Man Who Laughs. In his initial appearances, Joker was just as creepy and violent as he was in the movies. It wasn’t until the Comics Code Authority stepped in that he became more like Cesar Romero in the 60’s Batman TV show. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one time in the 50’s that Joker dedicated his time and energy to committing crimes based on colossal mistakes. That led to a comic where they mentioned the word “boner” like a hundred times and it STILL makes me laugh like an idiot.

“And I’m worried about the boner he’s readying for YOU!” – Commissioner Gordon to Batman

Remarkably enough, Joker appears to be the one character who was never affected by any of the DC reboots. He always just kept being the Joker and any different depictions fell into the idea that he’s just a versatile nutjob who is as likely to poison a troop of boyscouts as he is to steal a child’s straight A report card and call it a day. Even Batman scribe Grant Morrison explained that his boner crime days were just another step in the psycho’s evolution.

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Guide to the Injustice Roster: Explaining Comics to People Who Don’t Read Comics Part 3

April 3rd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

THE FLASH

Alias: Barry Allen?
First Appearance: Showcase #4 (1956)
Powers: Fastest dude ever, heals quickly, can vibrate himself through matter, can vibrate into different realities, with the assistance of the Cosmic Treadmill he can travel through time, is able to lend his powers to others
Other Media: Appeared on many cartoons, had his own live-action TV series in the 90’s, appeared on Legend of the Superheroes (a failed Justice League spinoff of the 60’s Batman show) and the live-action Justice League of America TV movie, was kind of a big deal in Daddy Day Care

Warning: the history of the Flashes involves some time travel fuckery and in a lot of these cases, I’m just as confused as you are.

The Golden Age Flash was Jay Garrick. Maybe five people care about him and they’re all mad I just said this. Moving on.

Barry Allen (you know, from Catch Me If You Can) became the Flash in the 50’s. He was a forensic scientist who got splashed with chemicals while being shocked by lightning. That gave him the powers to run super fast and he decided to be altruistic with it, naming himself the Flash after his favorite comic book hero. He garnered one of the best rogues galleries in comics, got himself a sidekick in Kid Flash (his nephew Wally West, who got his powers in a similar way) and a fiancé in Iris West.

One of his villains was Professor Zoom, who looked identical to Flash except for having a reverse color scheme. Zoom was from the future and had powers and an appearance that were just like Barry’s because he was a huge Flash fanboy who went insane. Jealous of Flash’s relationship with Iris, Zoom killed her by vibrating his hand through her head. Barry tried to move on and later got engaged to another woman, but when Zoom attempted to meddle in that, a threatened Flash ended up breaking his neck and killing him. Flash was put on trial for murder and it got really weird because it turns out Iris was really from the same future era as Zoom and she was alive there somehow, so he ran to the future and spent some time with her.

Flash returned to the present during the big Crisis on Infinite Earths event. It’s there that he faced down the villain Anti-Monitor and ran circles around his big world-destroying master weapon, destroying it via vortex. The stress on running faster than he had ever run and being unable to let up tore Flash apart and caused him to painfully decay as he powered on, screaming that he had to save the world one last time. He ruined Anti-Monitor’s plans, but at the cost of his own life. Kid Flash discovered the empty red tights – the only thing that remained of Barry – and swore that he would take up the mantle and make him proud.

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Guide to the Injustice Roster: Explaining Comics to People Who Don’t Read Comics Part 2

April 1st, 2013 Posted by Gavok

BLACK ADAM

Alias: Teth Adam, Theo Adam
First Appearance: Marvel Family #1 (1945)
Powers: The stamina of Shu, the swiftness of Heru, the strength of Amon, the wisdom of Zehuti, the power of Aton and the courage of Mehen. Can also summon lightning by shouting his trigger word
Other Media: Appeared in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Young Justice, the Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam and Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam.

I’m not sure if Black Adam is the very first “dark shadow of an existing hero” supervillain in comics, but he’s got to be up there. Thousands of years ago, the wizard Shazam decided on empowering a champion to do acts of heroism. He saw a prince who he deemed pure-hearted and granted him the powers of the gods upon speaking the wizard’s name. Teth/Mighty Adam was an unbeatable force for good, but the power soon corrupted him and he felt the need to rule the world. Shazam couldn’t depower him, so he just banished him across the universe.

It took 5,000 years of non-stop, pissed-off flying for Black Adam to reach Earth (referenced in his Injustice intro) and by that time, he had been replaced with the team of Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. He fought them to a standstill until being tricked into saying “Shazam”. The years caught up to him at once and he decayed into a skeleton in an instance. He wasn’t brought back for another 30 years, resurrected by mad scientist Dr. Sivana. During the rest of the pre-Crisis years, he just showed up every now and then to be Evil Captain Marvel.

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Guide to the Injustice Roster: Explaining Comics to People Who Don’t Read Comics Part 1

March 28th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Lately on the Something Awful forum, there’s been a thread about the upcoming Injustice: Gods Among Us game. A good percentage of the people who read and write in that thread aren’t comic fans, but are simply interested in the new game. That leads to a lot of questions based on various discussions. Questions like, “Who is Black Adam and why is everyone excited about him being in the game?” “Wait, what happened to the Green Lantern with the funny crab mask?” “What’s the deal with Flash, again?” “Hold on, Black Adam gets his powers from saying ‘chocolate egg cream’?” and mainly, “What the hell are any of you even talking about?”

For the hell of it, I started writing up profiles for each of the 24 announced characters. A guide that explains what each guy is about in a way that gives their backstories and notable moments, while spotlighting the stupid and cool aspects of their histories. I did a couple and it went over really well, so I’ve been trekking on. It’s actually been a complete blast to write.

So I figured, what the hell, I might as well repost them here. Send your non-comic reading friends and be edutained.

INTRODUCTION

Before I get to the game’s cast, let’s take a quick look at the DC universe itself.

DC’s continuity is a complicated mess. Originally, back in the 30’s and 40’s, DC hit the scene with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash and other Golden Age heroes. Popularity died down a bit except for the first three (early Wonder Woman sold a lot through the years due to being a thinly-veiled fetish comic) and during the late 50’s/early 60’s, DC reintroduced a lot of their ideas. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were more or less the same concepts, but Green Lantern went from being a magical dude in a cape to a space cop in spandex and the Flash went from being a dude dressed as Mercury to a masked man with lightning bolt ears. Eventually, they figured out a storyline reason for this. The Golden Age of DC takes place on Earth-2 while the “modern” stuff takes place on Earth-1. This is discovered when 60’s Flash teleports himself to Earth-2 to meet the original Flash. This also meant that Earth-2 Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were all about 20 years older than their modern counterparts.

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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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Don’t Check Your Bags [Ni No Kuni]

February 7th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

Studio Ghibli and Level-5’s Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a type of game I don’t play very often: a family-oriented big budget title. It’s heartwarming and kind, to the point where even its violence is positioned as being a temporary evil that will lead directly to greater good. I had one thought just after the game really got going that forever shifted the experience for me: what if this isn’t real, and it’s just Oliver’s way of coping with the death of his mother?

It sounds stupid and cynical, doesn’t it? We have a habit of attempting to ruin or taint everything that reminds us of our own lost innocence, and you can definitely look at that thought as being part of that trend. At the same time, it’s a hard idea to let go of, particularly when you start to consider a few things in the game itself with less of a blindly trusting eye.

The death of Allie, Oliver’s mother, is what really gets the game started, with her revival being the end point of Oliver’s quest. To bring her back, Oliver is going to go up against Shadar, the Dark Djinn, with the help of Drippy, his fairy friend.

Drippy enters the narrative just after the death of Allie. Drippy was a doll that Allie gave to Oliver, and represents Allie’s love for her son. As Oliver cries while holding his doll, his tears fall onto the doll, causing it to come to life. Upon waking up, Drippy explains that he is not just from another world, but was locked away by an evil entity who may hold Allie’s life in his hands.

Drippy spins a tale full of wonder, but the heart of it is one idea: Oliver can get his mother back. Oliver accepts Drippy’s reality because he’s guaranteed the power to change things if he goes along with Drippy. He can return to point when he was happy. On the one hand, this is a standard hero’s journey. On the other, it’s incredibly convenient, isn’t it?

The cracks in Drippy’s narrative become even more obvious when you consider his behavior. He’s hiding things from Oliver. Oliver knows that he’s meant to save this world from the Dark Djinn, but Drippy spends more time reiterating how capable he is than actually giving him advice. Drippy emphasizes Oliver’s potential, not his reality, whenever they meet another character.

Drippy downplays the danger, and that makes me wonder if I can trust him. His explanations of how this new world works don’t quite make sense. He shows Oliver how to transfer emotions from one person to another, but that process somehow leaves the giver feeling even more of the emotion they gave away. Later, he assures Oliver that they aren’t really killing the creatures they fight. They simply go somewhere else after being chastised and will soon return as loving creatures. Where do they go after you hit them with fireballs and swords? Um. Somewhere?

The biggest warning sign, the moment that gave me pause more than any other moment, came when Oliver returned to the real world for the first time. At this point in the game, he’s fully accepted his quest and acquired clothes that fit the magical realm. We’d laugh at him if we saw Oliver in real life, with his cape, Little Lord Fauntleroy getup, and ridiculous boots. In the game, from what I saw, everyone simply takes it in stride. It barely rates a mention, and that bothered me.

The townspeople care about Oliver and how he’s coping, but they rarely remark on his clothes and avoid speaking to him at length about his mother. I got the feeling that they don’t know how to take the situation or Oliver himself. A child loses his mother and walks into your store wearing a ridiculous outfit. How do you react to that? Apparently the answer is “you ignore it and pretend like everything is mostly okay.”

The idea that Oliver is out of his depth with his grief a dark twist born from a dark thought, but the more of Ni No Kuni I play, the more the puzzle pieces seem to fit together. If I took Ni No Kuni entirely on its own terms as a lovable game about loving and being loved, I would probably lose interest pretty quickly. But my own baggage, my interests and tastes, gives me a greater — or probably just “different” — appreciation of the story.

I feel like what you bring to a work of art is about as important as the art itself. No work of art is a monologue. It’s a conversation between you and the creator of the work. You are a large part of the reason why a fantastic work of art clicks with you so hard and why some other fantastic work of art falls flat. Sometimes your mind is perfectly shaped to take a certain story. Sometimes it isn’t. In the case of Ni No Kuni, my own baggage and interests changed the game for me.

Instead of bailing out of the game early on with a “Good, but not for me,” I’m playing a lot of Ni No Kuni in an attempt to prove this thought wrong. I don’t want Oliver to have to face up to his own impotence and grief. I don’t want his mother to be dead. I don’t want Drippy to be a guide with dark intentions. I want Oliver to win.

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The Ghost of Christmas Past Comes Back to Bite Me

December 24th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

First off, merry Christmas. Hope you’re having a great holiday. I myself have been blessed with some nice gifts like a Superman bathrobe, a broken Mr. T boxing puppet, a Duff Beer wallet and a La Parka mask.

Look at that style. Is it just me or does this look like it was taken in the 70’s?

Anyway, that’s not why I’m posting.

I’ve been hanging around the internet for many years. David and I have known each other for, what, 12 years at this point? Fact is, I’ve been around and I’ve moved around. Like back in the day, I was a writer on a site called Higher Voltage that’s long gone. It was a middle-ranking but funny site about fighting games, which were everywhere during the late 90’s/early 2000’s. On the forums, I wrote up a poem as a goof of a writing exercise where I retold the story of the Grinch with Akuma from Street Fighter. Under the gag name “Vokter Seuss”, I entitled it “How Akuma Kicked Christmas’ Ass”.

Some people liked the poem and it got reposted onto the forum of Shoryuken.com, the top fighting game community site, which, unlike Higher Voltage, hasn’t fallen into internet obscurity so many years later. I don’t recall when I wrote it, but it’s about ten or eleven years ago. Definitely college time. It got brought up again every few years and it’s even been retold through some really impressive animated gifs, which I sadly cannot find a link to at this moment.

As the years continued, it was pretty much forgotten. I, for one, had forgotten I wrote it. A brief Google search shows that some forums still repost it every couple years, which is really nice. The real shock came when an old internet acquaintance from the Higher Voltage days NeoChaosX found me on Twitter to tell me that the story has been revitalized once more. This time by Maximilian, a big name in the fighting game community who is known as a pretty good mind when it comes to the game genre.

Renamed “How Akuma Stole Christmas”, the thing absolutely made my day.

For a little context, I was really big into obscure Capcom game Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure at this time and there are a handful of references to it in here. From Iggi the dog in the Max role to the head-shaking namedrop of Death 13 (just pretend he says “Freddy Krueger” and it’ll make more sense). The knowledge that only three people will know what I’m talking about there is pretty embarrassing, but that’s not on Maximilian. Everything else is wonderful and I can’t thank him enough. That was a great Christmas gift.

I feel like Honey in that old Tiny Toon Adventures episode where Babs Bunny is showing those old Bosko and Honey cartoons and– see, there I go again. None of you have any idea what I’m talking about.

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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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