Spontaneous Saturday 3/28/15: Final thoughts on winter 2015 anime

Disclaimer: The following opinions are expressed by a casual anime viewer with enigmatic tastes. Please perceive with caution. Also, spoilers may or may not be present.

 

Today, I will be talking about the most recently completed series of anime that I have watched. The particular topics that I will discuss are:

  • Opening comments / Things that stood out to me the most
  • Three favorite characters listed in descending order
  • What anime I find to resemble it the closest
  • Overall rating/impression

Don’t recognize the name of an anime or character? Chances are you will be able to click on the first instance of the name and be directed to a relevant MAL (MyAnimeList) page.

So, without further ado, time to get started.

 

Absolute Duo

Opening: The vast majority seems to agree that this is a generic harem anime, and I can’t disagree with them. The main issue is that the title “Absolute Duo” and the genre “harem” directly contradict each other. Even still, I didn’t find it bad or really too generic, but at the same time, it wasn’t outstanding in any way. The main characters are definitely not the most appealing by any means, but some of the supporting characters were interesting. The concept is also interesting, but I think it was more so when I read the manga than when I watched the anime, although that might just be because of the freshness of both experiences…for lack of a better way to word it.

Favorite characters:

  1. Rito Tsukimi. Now, it’s not because of her provocative outfit or her peppy personality; no, it’s her dark side that makes her appealing. Whenever she gets irritated or what have you, her voice changes drastically (for the better if you ask me) and she suddenly shifts personality from a happy-go-lucky teacher to a rough ‘n’ tough fighter. The shift is so dramatic that, by her appearance in the second half of episode 3, I thought she had been possessed, or a spy, or something…but afterwards, she just came back to her peppy self as if nothing had ever happened. That said, her heroic act in defending the school with all her might was pretty much the best part of the finale. I also want to mention that her bunny-like appearance, provocative outfit, and ability to change at will remind me of Kuro Usagi from Mondaiji-tachi, only a more mercurial version.
  2. Sakuya Tsukumo. Much like Momoka Shijou from Mahou Sensou, Sakuya is supposedly the chairwoman of the academy in which the main characters are enrolled, but she looks and sounds so young… It’s mostly her looks and her voice that make her appealing, but I suppose her cheeky personality deserves points as well. Apart from those qualities, there is not much else worth noting about her.
  3. K. That’s right; he’s referred to as “K” (just like the character in Virtue’s Last Reward). He’s pretty much the main antagonist of the series, and he does darn well in opposing the protagonists. He always puts up a fight, no matter to whom, and under no matter what circumstances. It’s mostly because of that and his semi-decent voice that he takes 3rd on my list.

Similar anime: Machine-Doll wa Kizutsukanai. Both anime are set in a school (go figure), involve students working together and sometimes against each other to get stronger, and emphasize the importance of partners. Key differences: Absolute Duo is easier to follow (in terms of plot), Machine-Doll involves less of a harem than Absolute Duo, more of the partners are human in Absolute Duo than in Machine-Doll, and Raishin (Machine-Doll) is overall a better protagonist than Tooru (Absolute Duo). Also, Machine-Doll has a much catchier ending theme.

Overall rating: 8/10. Not stellar, but nothing worth bashing to the ground. Once again, I’m not a fan of the contradiction between the title “Absolute Duo” and the genre “harem”, and every time someone other than Julie tries to make an advance on Tooru, it kinda makes me cringe internally…but hey, the developers could have just as easily chosen Tora to be Tooru’s duo, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. That said, it definitely had its moments, especially the one where Tomoe tried her utmost to face a possessed Miyabi who was consumed by selfish desire.

 

Juuou Mujin no Fafnir

Opening: As I mentioned in Thought Dump 3 (Spontaneous Saturday 2/14), I didn’t think of this anime as any better than average…until episode 6, which, if you ask me, was pretty much the debut appearance of Kili Surtr Muspelheim.

Kili = bawse Kili

Honestly, I just can’t get over how amazing and alluring this character is. After episode 7, as the anime kept progressing until episode 11, I had a harder and harder time preventing myself from wondering, “When is Kili’s next appearance?” After episode 10, I could hardly contain myself. “If Kili doesn’t make a return appearance, I will be disappointed,” I literally said. Thankfully, she finally returned at the end of episode 11. By then, I could hardly wait for the finale. Upon watching it, I will definitely say that the conclusion was satisfactory. I don’t know how to feel about the whole kissing thing, though. Could it be that…she has something of a crush on Yuu (the main protagonist)? That being the case, why did she choose to lead a life of solitude? I mean, well, she was generally in solitude, but she did get to spend time with the protagonists thanks to her mild-mannered alter ego Honoka Tachikawa.

That leads me to question something: Kili’s MAL profile claims, “Her name is Honoka Tachikawa.” To me, this seems to contradict the anime canon. Towards the end of episode 11, Kili herself, in her Honoka guise, states: “I figured the easiest way to find Tear after she was taken by the NIFL would be to disguise myself as someone else and let her be sent to Midgar. With biological conversion, I can change my form as much as I like.” Her next line: “Honoka. I liked this name quite a bit. But I think I’d like you to call me by my real name.” These quotes put forth two key implications: 1) she and Honoka Tachikawa are not one, and 2) her real name is not Honoka Tachikawa. (You may think those implications are the same, but there is a subtle difference.) Well, one of three things could explain the situation: 1) she lied (which she had no real reason to), 2) her profile pertains to a different canon (i.e., the novel, which I haven’t read), or 3) there was some sort of miscommunication, be it through the translation or through whoever edited her profile.

Anyway, enough about Kili; I mean, she is 50% or more of the reason why I like the anime, but honestly, I’ve been going on too long about that one character…an antagonist, no less. Aside from her, though, there was nothing too outstanding about the anime. Iris and Tear are annoying characters, although not so much the former, but all of the other characters are okay. No complaints about the concept, and that final plan to defeat the Basilisk worked like a charm (although, to be honest, unsurprisingly).

Favorite characters:

  1. Kili Surtr Muspelheim. Not big surprise. Now, I’ll come out and say it: Kili is my favorite anime antagonist of all time. She’s beautiful, has a soothing voice, and has some neat super powers. Not only that, but as we discovered in episode 11, she’s quite the master of disguise. Hairstyle, uniform, eye color, even right down to the voice… Needless to say, the disguise was a dead ringer. I mean, there was a healthy bit of foreshadowing prior to when she removed her disguise, what with the snap of her fingers and the transition screen of episode 11, but it was still a pleasant surprise. I take it magic cannot be copied, but because Honoka Tachikawa was pretty much a blank slate of a character, no one could have been any the wiser. Anyway, my point is: Kili is awesome. Favorite anime antagonist, 6th favorite anime character, 3rd favorite female anime character.
  2. Yuu Mononobe. On the surface, he may seem like a generic harem protagonist, but at least he has some spine on the field of battle. While he seems to be under the discipline of Loki Jotunheimr, my concern is that they never seem to talk face-to-face, only through electronic means. I’ll also mention that he put up quite a fight against Kili, even though he couldn’t deal with her properly until the finale. Dang, though, that one moment when he used a fragment of his broken shield to put Kili in a checkmate position, that was astounding.
  3. Mitsuki Mononobe. It’s hard to decide among the pool of characters other than Kili and Yuu, but I would have to say Mitsuki stands out among all of them, if only due to her long dark hair and usually stern personality. Not to mention, she has a backstory full of feels, which becomes an important plot point in her initially tattered relationship with Lisa Highwalker. Most of all, though, she was the mastermind behind the final plan to defeat the Basilisk, even if just to mend relations between her and Lisa.

Similar anime: Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance. If you know the anime, you probably saw this coming. They both start the same way (lead male stumbles upon a naked girl), lead male has remarkable combat experience, both series involve magic and weapons, they both fit the harem genre, and there are some awesome antagonists between them (Kili in Fafnir, Restia and Jio in Blade Dance). Key differences: Blade Dance is more ecchi, characters differ somewhat, and the threats in Fafnir are dominantly colossal beasts.

Overall rating: 9/10. Maybe a low 9 like Black Bullet, but a 9 nonetheless. I had initially rated it 7, but when Kili made her appearance in the 6th episode, I started to pay better attention to the anime. Even though Kili is the prime reason why I like the anime, she’s not the only reason. The whole involvement with Mitsuki and Lisa gave me feels at times, and some of the combat is pretty interesting. I think around the 7th or 8th episode was when I bumped the series up to an 8, and because they concluded it so well, it then became a 9. I will say, though, the harem changed quite a bit at the end due to Kili’s odd behavior after her last fight with Yuu, and Mitsuki revealing that she “became” Yuu’s sister (implying that they’re not blood-related). Another season? I wouldn’t count on it, but you never know.

 

Log Horizon 2nd season

Opening: I’ve seen several reviews calling the second season “disappointing”, but I honestly don’t see much of a problem with it. I mean, right from the get-go, I noticed a difference in the art, but it hardly bothered me at all. Then again, it’s been an entire year since I watched the first season, so that’s really the only difference I noticed, outside of the introduction of new characters such as Tetra. I will admit, though, it is somewhat disappointing that they didn’t end up returning to the real world despite that being their overall goal, and there seems to be no prospect of a 3rd season (it explicitly said “The End” at the end of the finale). I suppose, though, that there’s not much for Shiroe and the gang to do outside of researching and potentially gathering resources for a way to “connect the two worlds”. Even still, one part of me just wants to know how. That’s the main reason why I stay interested in the anime: to know how.

As an afterthought, I’ll leave a quote from Spontaneous Saturday 10/11, which still rings true in this case: “I really like Log Horizon; it was my favorite Fall 2013 anime and the first virtual world anime I’d ever watched (I’ve never watched Sword Art Online, and I don’t feel like getting into it because I’ve seen plenty of criticism about it). Although the pacing is slow and the anime is more talk than action, the action is pretty darn cool and some of the aspects of the virtual world are interesting to learn about (for instance, the thing about on-the-spot food versus cooked food).”

Favorite characters:

  1. Akatsuki. 4th favorite anime character of all time, 2nd favorite female anime character. It’s really cool how she can move around at high speeds, behaves much like a ninja, and always tries her hardest despite her shortcomings (no pun intended). I also enjoy her quarrels with Naotsugu, which eventually started a sort of phenomenon known as the “Akatsuki curse”, in which Naotsugu gets punished for attempting to say perverted things, despite Akatsuki not being around. I will say, though, that it’s unsettling how she and Minori are rivals in love; I say Akatsuki is more likely to come out on top. Also, I will admit she’s quite cute. Memorable quote: “Our memories weren’t stolen. We offered them up and made them into the power to rise again.”
  2. Nyanta. He’s a cat-man who is agile, employs close combat similar to that of Akatsuki, and is pretty much the cook of Log Horizon (both the guild and the anime itself). The fact that he’s an anthropomorphic cat already strikes some appeal, and his voice and overall coolness add to the appeal, in such a manner that he easily takes the second position.
  3. Shiroe. I mentioned him in Top Three Thursday 12/11 as the second character to whom I can relate the most. This is mostly due to his glasses, his awkwardness in social situations, and his tendency to strategize. The way he strategizes is inspiring, and even though he started getting frantic during episode 24, by the time Henrietta slapped him to his senses, he got back to thinking straight and formulating a series of strategies that ended up working just right. All in all, an interesting main character whose experiences are quite something to behold.

Similar anime: Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei. I mentioned in a recommendation on MAL: “These anime series focus mostly on thought processes and the inner workings of their seemingly magical worlds, but they also contain action-packed fights and bits of humor. Additionally, the protagonists are similar—they work to keep their chaotic environments in check, they show prowess in strategy and in combat, and they have the affection of women but are too dense to realize it.” Key differences: MKnR is not set in a virtual world, other characters vary (obviously), and MKnR has no anthropomorphic animals (or any at all for that matter, excluding humans of course).

Overall rating: 9/10, 4th favorite anime of all time. Log Horizon is really enjoyable, and the second season does not change my opinion of it for the worse. Past that, I have not much else left to say.

 

That about covers it for anime I have watched this season. It was definitely quite an experience, and I never thought I could like one antagonist (Kili) this much. Looking at the Spring 2015 preview (http://myanimelist.net/forum/?topicid=1362597), I’ll be honest: nothing really interests me but Nisekoi and Kiniro Mosaic second seasons, and I still have yet to watch any more than three episodes of the first season of Kiniro Mosaic. My plan, then, is to get caught up once the college semester is over (which won’t be too long; only around 5 episodes of the second season will have aired, give or take a few) and intercept the Nisekoi episodes as they come out. At any rate, that’s all for now.

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

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Poké Monday 3/23/15: Staraptor

RNG (Staraptor) 

Smogon official tier: BL
Type: Normal/Flying
Base Stats: 85 HP, 120 Atk, 70 Def, 50 Sp.Atk, 60 Sp.Def, 100 Speed
Abilities: Intimidate, Reckless (HA)

Usable moves: Aerial Ace, Agility, Brave Bird, Close Combat, Detect, Double-Edge, Endeavor, Façade, Frustration, Heat Wave, Hidden Power (Electric, Fighting, Fire, Grass, Ice), Protect, Pursuit, Quick Attack, Rain Dance, Rest, Return, Roost, Sleep Talk, Substitute, Sunny Day, Tailwind, Toxic, U-turn, Whirlwind, Work Up

Overview

Imagine yourself in Sinnoh, a budding adventurer on a quest to defeat the Pokémon League. The first thing you encounter, even before getting a Pokémon of your own, is a Starly. You may reject it, thinking, “Man, it’s just a Pidgey clone.” You may accept it, thinking, “Hey, this might complement my starter well.” Whether you accept or reject the bird, it will come back to haunt you eventually; it turns out your rival has one! You may think, “I’ll just keep a Rock or Steel type around.” This is all well and good, but when the bird reaches its final stage and becomes a Staraptor, expect to suffer some major damage from a Close Combat, especially if that “Rock or Steel type” you were considering happened to be a Bastiodon. So, next time you encounter a Starly, think not about what it is, but what it will become (unless you happen to be a Little Cup player).

In the competitive scene, Staraptor falls under the category BL (Borderline) which means, while it’s not OU by usage, it is deemed too unbalanced for any tier other than OU. Unfortunately, it faces competition from other Flying-type attackers, e.g. Talonflame, Mega Pinsir, and Hawlucha. To elaborate further, here are some comparisons:

Talonflame
+ Gale Wings
+ better secondary STAB
+ greater Speed
+ Swords Dance / Bulk Up
– much less raw power
– no solid option against Rock-types (Tyranitar, for instance)
– greater Stealth Rock weakness

Mega Pinsir
+ higher base Attack and Speed
+ more powerful (and Flying-type) Quick Attack
+ Swords Dance
+ gets Earthquake, a less risky coverage move than Close Combat
+ has Hyper Cutter in base form, preventing it from being Intimidated pre-Mega
– takes up a Mega slot
– cannot hold an item other than Pinsirite
– after Mega Evolving, takes more damage from Stealth Rock
– Reckless Brave Bird = 144; Aerilate Return ≈ 132 (although the latter is recoil-free)
– no U-turn

Hawlucha
+ much better secondary STAB
+ higher base Speed, which is further complemented by Unburden
+ Swords Dance
+ no Stealth Rock weakness
+ resistant to Sucker Punch
– less raw power
– Acrobatics is its only useful Flying STAB which, even then, relies on item consumption

To summarize, the main reason to use Staraptor would be as a powerful wallbreaker with the freedom to hold an item while not taking up a Mega slot. Because it has no setup moves apart from Work Up and is relatively frail, it is best off running a Choice item, be it Band or Scarf. Either way, it is a force to be reckoned with.

Set 1: Choice Band

Staraptor @ Choice Band
Ability: Reckless
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Double-Edge
– Brave Bird
– U-turn
– Close Combat

The Choice Banded variant of Staraptor rips apart anything lacking resistance with its base 120 Attack and its Reckless-boosted dual STABs. Ferrothorn, no matter its spread, cannot withstand two Brave Birds. Physically defensive Zapdos cannot switch in on a Double-Edge (and the chance of OHKOing with Stealth Rock on the field is really high; 252 Atk Choice Band Reckless Staraptor Double-Edge vs. 248 HP / 176+ Def Zapdos: 286-337 (74.6 – 87.9%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO after Stealth Rock). Use U-turn to predict a switch or escape from anything problematic, or just for scouting. Use Close Combat to deal a heavy hit to types that resist its dual STABs (e.g., Tyranitar, Bisharp). EVs are put into offensive stats for obvious reasons, but keep in mind that the remaining 4 EVs should not be put into HP. Doing so sets its HP to 312 instead of 311, making it so that it can only switch into Stealth Rock four times instead of five if it keeps going for U-turn.

Set 2: Choice Scarf

Staraptor @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Reckless
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Double-Edge
– Brave Bird
– U-turn
– Final Gambit

This is the second variant of Staraptor: the Scarf set. The Choice Scarf patches up its average base 100 Speed and makes it a revenge killer with plenty of muscle (thanks to its dual STABs). One key difference you’ll notice here is Final Gambit. It is not listed under usable moves, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless; not very many offensive Pokémon in OU have HP at or below the 85 mark. At the very least, it’s the most damage that Staraptor can deal to Skarmory or defensive Landorus-T with any move.

Other Options

Return/Frustration can be used over Double-Edge in order to not risk recoil, although why bother running Reckless only for Brave Bird? Quick Attack can be used for priority on the Choice Band set, but there is much better priority out there (e.g., Azumarill’s Aqua Jet, Mega Metagross’ Bullet Punch, Breloom’s Mach Punch, Bisharp’s Sucker Punch, Talonflame’s Brave Bird). That should about cover it for what few other options it has; it gets Agility and Work Up for setup, but clearly it is inferior as a setup sweeper to its other fellow avians.

Sample Team

http://pastebin.com/DxGnPcYG – This team uses Choice Band Staraptor. Also, it lost its first battle.

Top Three Thursday 3/19/15: Favorite Twitch streamers: Redux

Being an active viewer on twitch.tv, on September 4 last year, I decided to make a top 3 list of my favorite Twitch streamers, which included DarkSpinesSonic, 360chrism, and Cirno_TV. Because the times change and people change, I decided to do another one, this time slightly differently from then.

 

3. witwix

Streamer of I Wanna Be the Boshy, Super Mario 64, and apparently Guitar Hero 3 PC. Boshy and SM64 are his main speedgames, Boshy primary and SM64 secondary. Obviously, he doesn’t speedrun Guitar Hero, but he is really good at it (has every FC on GH3 except One and TTFAF, which already proves he’s better than me, and also has GH2 FGFC). I mainly watch him for his Boshy speedruns, but I’ll definitely stop by if he’s streaming Guitar Hero (even if his chat is pure cancer, like that one day when he had upwards of 5k viewers) and sometimes even when he’s streaming SM64 70 star. I must also add that he is an entertaining guy.

Subscriber emotes:  (wixSanic),  (wixMerio),  (wixDankey),  (wixDude),  (wixBowsey),  (wixHassanCop),  (wixZaldo),  (wixSnack),  (wixMagoo),  (wixGold),  (wixPooch),  (wixBrix),  (wixNis),  (wixWerio),  (wixSkerp),  (wixClaude), and of course:

  (wix1, wix2)
  (wix3, wix4)

 

2. 2dos

Mainly runs Donkey Kong 64, but also plays a number of other speedgames like Crazy Taxi and Billy Hatcher. It is always good to be a viewer of the stream; Donkey Kong 64 is a fun speedgame to watch, however excruciating it is for the runners (notably thanks to Lanky Kong), and the streamer and viewers complete the experience. One viewer in particular, who goes by the name papoose123, visits the stream from time to time to grace the chat with his deliberate and sarcastic trolling. I don’t 100% approve of it, and by no means do I hail papoose123 as a god, but the chat goes crazy when he’s around, which sometimes gets a chuckle out of me, not to mention the streamer approves of it (which led to the creation of the subscriber emote dosPapoosed), so I honestly have no complaints whatsoever. I would also like to mention how I appreciate the numerous opportunities to spam ~!~ OH BANANA ~!~ (or some variant of the message) in the chat while the streamer turns in his accumulated blueprints to Snide en masse. The streamer and chat also like the global FrankerFaceZ emote CatBag (), and the streamer dislikes Lanky to the point where “Lanky” is the only banned word in his chat. (A banned word on a Twitch channel appears as *** to all users except the one who sent the message.)

Subscriber emotes:  (dosWink),  (dosLankyHate),  (dosDang),  (dosPapoosed)

FrankerFaceZ:  (BillyApproved),  (DiglettZ),  (FreeDaLlama),  (HowHigh),  (MoonKick),  (TaurosLOL),  (WellDone),  (XPand),  (Ya!)

 

1. 360chrism

A Germany-based speedrunner, most notable for his skill at 3D Mario games. It remains that he has completed Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy 2, in that order, in one sitting, at least three times. However, more recently, he’s devised a new, more compact form of speedrunning all of these games in one sitting, which is called a 247. It consists of SM64 70 star, Galaxy any% (61 stars), Sunshine any% (45 shines), and Galaxy 2 any% (71 stars), and Chrism’s average time is around eight-and-a-half hours. Chrism’s stream is not strictly limited to Mario, though; he occasionally runs Pikmin and, in more recent happenings, has made it a routine to stream casual games on Friday. In the past, he’s played Portal, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Zelda Wind Waker HD, and Zelda Majora’s Mask 3D; and currently, he is playing through Pokémon Alpha Sapphire.

I should also mention that 360chrism has an awesome bot in his chat named Quoteconut, which has a number of fun commands to play around with (full list on http://catbag.frankerfacez.com:8000/360chrism#commands). Obviously, the most notable command is the !quote command, which extracts a random quote or, if a numerical index is specified, a quote of that numerical index. Note, however, that it has a cooldown of 60 seconds for regular chatters and 15 seconds for channel subscribers. These quotes, the additional commands, and the chat’s reactions to them are a significant part of what makes 360chrism a channel definitely worth visiting, in my honest opinion.

Also, the streamer is chill and can definitely be entertaining at times, especially with the help of the chat.

Subscriber emotes:  (chrisFrankersaur),  (chrisKiss),  (chrisCookie),  (chrisWOW),  (chrisRIP),  (chrisHi),  (chrisEpic),  (chrisPantsu),  (chrisWTF),  (chrisBoo)

FrankerFaceZ (had to use screenshots because the FrankerFaceZ website won’t show 360chrism’s channel data for some reason): Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 6.01.04 PM (chrisMagic, chrisRNG, chrisDoor, chrisDolla, chrisHeya, chrisBattery) and the hidden emote Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 6.01.25 PM (chrisAyeh)

 

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Spontaneous Saturday 3/14/15: Cross-a-Pix (new Conceptis puzzle!)

In 2014, I wrote a number of Spontaneous Saturday articles about Conceptis Puzzles (June 14, August 12, and August 30). Recently (i.e., two weeks ago), contrary to my expectations, Conceptis came out with a new type of puzzle: Cross-a-Pix.

Cross-a-Pix is a picture logic puzzle (like Fill-a-Pix and Pic-a-Pix) which, while it looks like another form of B/W Pic-a-Pix, is actually radically different from any other puzzle of its kind. In this particular type of puzzle, you have multiple regions of differing shapes and sizes that you either fill in or mark blank, depending on the clues. Cross-a-Pix comes in two forms: Single Clue and Double Clue.

 

Single Clue

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.24.09 AM

Like the name implies, Single Clue Cross-a-Pix puzzles have only one number as a clue to a row or column. For these types of puzzles, you have to consider the following:

  1. Small and large numbers. For large numbers, if you have a region (or a tile set) of a length greater than N – n, where N is the number of tiles left in the row or column and n is the number represented by the clue, the region must be highlighted. Similarly, for small numbers, if you have a region of length greater than n, where n is the number represented by the clue, the region must be marked blank (although this goes without saying). In our example, the 8 and 2 (both on rows) are the clues of interest. 4 > (10 – 8) and 3 > 2, so:
    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.36.57 AM
  2. The number of tiles remaining in a row or column. As you work through the puzzle, consider the regions you have and haven’t highlighted. In this case, look at the row marked with a 7. Because the L-shaped region has been marked blank thanks to our previous rule, the row now has 9 spaces left. This means the 3-space region can be marked like so:
    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.43.30 AM
  3. Completed rows and columns. I know this goes without saying, but pay attention to rows and columns that have already been completed, like the column marked with a 2. As you can see, that one already has 2 marked tiles, so we can mark the rest blank, like so:
    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.45.27 AM
  4. The patterns of a row or column. This factor is where a bit more thinking is involved. Look at the fifth column from the left, the one marked with a 6, the rightmost of two adjacent 6s. If you look closely, there’s no way to complete the column without highlighting any of the 2-space regions. This seems more like a complex version of factor 2, but nonetheless, it is something to note. Our example can now become:
    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.50.54 AM

Taking all of the following into consideration, if you complete the example correctly, it should look like this: http://i.gyazo.com/46cacf0465705a382e181a1a1556b0ad.png (posted as a link for fear of spoilers)

 

Double Clue

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.01.06 AM

In Double Clue Cross-a-Pix, the clues are marked with two numbers instead of one. The first number (leftmost in a row, uppermost in a column) represents the number of squares to be filled, while the second number (rightmost in a row, lowermost in a column) represents the number of groups into which the filled-in squares must be divided. Thus, the criteria to consider while completing these puzzles are quite a bit different:

  1. Clue numbers that are close to each other. In a row or column, if a region takes up a number of spaces greater than (a – b + 1), where “a” is the first clue and “b” is the second clue, it must be marked blank. Knowing this, our example can be marked as follows:
    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 3.26.55 AM
    Using the formula, the 2 2 column and row, as well as the 3 3 row, cannot contain any regions that take up any more than 1 space (2 – 2 + 1 = 1; 3 – 3 + 1 = 1); and the 4 3 column cannot contain any regions that take up more than 2 spaces (4 – 3 + 1 = 2).
  2. Rows and columns with a second clue number equal to 1. In this case, you have to think about the patterns, similarly to how you’d consider factor 4 of Single Clue. Specifically, start from the beginning and/or the ending tile, and count as many tiles as the first clue. If you happen to end on a tile that is within the region rather than on the end, you must mark blank whatever tile you started on (beginning or ending tile). For instance, if you start on the end of the 6 1 column and go six tiles up, you end up on a tile that is not the end of the region, so you would have to mark blank the last tile in that column, like so:
    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 3.36.43 AM
    (the red circle is there to make it easier to tell)
    If you keep going through this process, you may just end up whittling a row or column down to the point where there are only just enough tiles in the row or column to support the first clue. (This just so happens to be the case in this example, you see?)
    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 3.40.28 AM
  3. Unifying and breaking groups of blackened tiles. Here is something to keep in mind when solving Dual Clue Cross-a-Pix: the number of groups in a row or column does NOT constantly increase. For instance, in the 7 3 column, if I were to blacken the 6th tile down, the current number of groups would decrease from 3 to 2 (a concept to which I refer as “unifying”). Now, if I were to do that, there would be no way to increase the number of groups, so that’s a no-no. Instead, you have to mark that tile blank so that the groups are broken rather than unified. Similarly, the black tile in the 2 2 row should be “broken” as well. The result:
    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 3.46.49 AM
    The tiles marked blank are circled above. Note that marking blank the tile in the 7 3 column leaves just enough tiles to satisfy the first clue, so I decided to go ahead and fill up the column accordingly. Note also that the converse process is also true; if you find that you have too many groups in a row or column, you might have to blacken a region to unify a set of groups. However, I cannot think of an instance of this scenario in our example, so just take my word for it.
  4. Once again, the patterns of a row or column, particularly one that already has one or several blackened regions. Let’s skip ahead a little…
    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 4.03.46 AM
    Now, look at the lower of the two 4 3 rows. If you were to fill in the 2-space region taking up the middle two tiles, you would have 3 blackened tiles in 1 group, making it impossible to have 4 blackened tiles in 3 groups; therefore, that region must be marked blank, like so:
    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 4.10.46 AM
    If you look closely, you’ll also notice by factor 4 of Single Clue that there is no way to complete the 4 3 row without blackening the 4th tile from the left. (If so, good eye!)

Once completed, the example puzzle should look like this: http://i.gyazo.com/ae6de6bdf1abe224f9a591af04f5000f.png (again, posted as a link for fear of spoilers)

 

Nowi Wins Final note: Factors to consider in Single Clue will definitely help in Dual Clue, but not vice versa. I somehow found Dual Clue easier to pick up, but Single Clue is subjectively easier overall. I hope this post has been of use somehow, and y’all have fun solving puzzles!

Poké Monday 3/9/15: Watchog

Rejected numbers: 583 (Vanillish)…again

583 r(ng)ejected 

Smogon official tier: NU
Type: Normal
Base Stats: 60 HP, 85 Atk, 69 Def, 60 Sp.Atk, 69 Sp.Def, 77 Speed
Abilities: Illuminate, Keen Eye, Analytic (HA)

Usable moves: Aqua Tail, Baton Pass, Confuse Ray, Crunch, Detect, Endeavor, Façade, Fire Punch, Flail, Flamethrower, Focus Blast, Focus Punch, Frustration, Grass Knot, Gunk Shot, Hidden Power (Electric, Fighting, Fire, Grass, Ice), Hypnosis, Ice Punch, Iron Tail, Knock Off, Light Screen, Low Kick, Mean Look, Protect, Pursuit, Rain Dance, Rest, Return, Seed Bomb, Shadow Ball, Signal Beam, Sleep Talk, Substitute, Sunny Day, Super Fang, Swords Dance, Thunder, Thunder Punch, Thunder Wave, Thunderbolt, Toxic, Work Up, Zen Headbutt

Overview

First and foremost, do not expect anything stellar to come out of Watchog. Its bulk is poor, its Speed tier is subpar at best (also the same Speed tier as Heatran, fun fact), and its Attack stat is nothing to gawk at. It doesn’t even have the bulk or typing (Normal is okay, but…meh) to abuse its ability, Analytic. I suppose the best use for it is either as a half-baked Choice Scarf user or a SubPuncher. As an attacker, it is outclassed by Kangaskhan in NU and Purugly and Raticate in PU, and even though Swords Dance and Baton Pass may seem like a niche among Normal-types, there are bigger fish in the sea (e.g., Ninjask). Hypnosis? We don’t talk about Hypnosis. That accuracy is way too shaky to be viable.

Set 1

Watchog @ Leftovers
Ability: Analytic
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Substitute
– Focus Punch
– Return
– Knock Off

This was the set that I originally had in mind when analyzing Watchog. Just try and get up a Substitute in something’s face (perhaps something Choice locked into a Ghost move, or some sort of lead) and you have an effective base 195 Focus Punch to fire at whatever opponent is willing to bite the bullet. (Note that Focus Punch, if uninterrupted, is usually boosted by Analytic; that is, unless the opponent is using a lower priority move like Whirlwind or Trick Room.) Or, if the opponent wants to switch into a Fighting resist, Return is base 198 with STAB and Analytic. Ghost-types cannot come in safely on a Knock Off, lest they have to suffer base 169 with Analytic and assuming super-effective damage (253 if they still have their item). Alternatively, Knock Off can be replaced with Baton Pass in order to pass a Sub and/or get out of a messy situation like being up against Weezing or Tangela. To be honest, max Speed is just to speed tie with other Watchog, but you can modify the EVs however you want; for instance, 48 HP / 252 Atk / 208 Speed Jolly gives it slightly more Leftovers recovery while maintaining its ability to outspeed base 70s.

Set 2

Watchog @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Analytic
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Return
– Knock Off
– Super Fang
– Baton Pass

With Choice Scarf, Watchog hits a Speed tier at which it can outspeed unboosted Electrode by exactly 1 point, making it faster than pretty much the entire unboosted tier (standard Ninjask doesn’t run absolute max Speed). Alternatively, it could run Adamant with 40 HP / 252 Atk / 216 Spe to give it more power at the expense of being slower than Swellow, while still being able to outpace the next-fastest unboosted Pokémon in the tier: Zebstrika.

Return is its most powerful move, Knock Off is Knock Off, Super Fang is for things like Weezing and Tangela that can take its other hits for days, and Baton Pass is for momentum. As an alternative for the last slot (or the last two slots for that matter), you could run Seed Bomb to make it easier to revenge Shell Smash Carracosta (although don’t expect anything better than a 2HKO), Endeavor if you can somehow survive at low HP, or Low Kick to ruin the likes of Probopass and Bastiodon.

Other Options

All other options have already been mentioned: Baton Pass, Seed Bomb, Super Fang, Endeavor… As a final warning, let me offer one piece of advice: don’t use Watchog unless for fun.

Sample Team

To be honest, I haven’t had time to do much testing due to an important assignment for college, so the only team I have is this horrible one: http://pastebin.com/5SXTtdDi

(note that this doesn’t even have any of the sets I mentioned, but a dumb Swords Dance+Baton Pass set)

Top Three Thursday 3/5/15: Favorite Mega Evolutions

This is late because it took me freaking hours to come up with a topic. True story.

3. Mega Sceptile

Upon Mega Evolving, Sceptile gains an additional Dragon typing and Lightning Rod, as well as a nice offensive boost. So many people have thought, “Grass/Dragon with Lightning Rod? That’s so stupid; it already 4x resists Electric, so why bother giving it an Electric immunity? I want my Sap Sipper Swampert!” …Or at least something along those lines. Really, though, it’s not that useless; do keep in mind that Lightning Rod also makes Sceptile immune to Thunder Wave, the most commonly used paralyzing move in the game. I also enjoyed using it in my Omega Ruby playthrough, although it isn’t that stellar in-game due to its frailty and its questionable level-up movepool. Really, the only thing I question is this: why does Sceptile only get its two most useful STABs, Giga Drain and Dragon Pulse, by tutor? Not even by breeding; by tutor exclusively. It’s stupid if you ask me. I will say, though, I created a Maison Triples team based on Whimsicott and Terrakion, and this member was a perfect fit. It stops priority with Quick Guard, it breaks anyone’s Sturdy/Sash with Dragon Pulse (hits across the field), it destroys Ground-types with Giga Drain, and it makes a joke of unsuspecting Thunder Wave users anywhere on the opponent’s right that try to paralyze Terrakion. More details on the triples team: http://pastebin.com/GWBa1PXa

2. Mega Beedrill

The fact that Beedrill got a Mega Evolution is kind of a farce, honestly, but at least it got a good Mega Evolution. I mean, ridiculous offensive stats and Adaptability? Sounds awesome! Unfortunately, it has to resort to Protect to jump from its base form’s measly base 75 Speed to its Mega form’s ridiculous base 145 Speed. (Fun fact: Mega Beedrill is faster than Scarf Beedrill.) It’s also worth mentioning that Bug and Poison aren’t the best offensive types; Bug is resisted by 7 types and super-effective against 3 types, while Poison is resisted by 4 types, immunified by 1 type, and super-effective against 2 types. Heck, one of those types (Grass) is weak to both Bug and Poison. In fact, the only reasons to run Poison STAB alongside Bug STAB are 1) because of Adaptability, and 2) for Fairy-types and whatever other types resist Bug but not Poison. Part of the problem with Mega Beedrill also lies in four-moveslot syndrome, which forces it to either give up a STAB or give up coverage (its main coverage options are Knock Off and Drill Run, the former for utility and Flying-types resistant to Poison, and the latter for really bulky Steel-types). It just goes to show that things are not always ideal, even when getting a ridiculous buff. Still, Mega Beedrill looks pretty cool, and at least GameFreak showed some form of love for it.

1. Mega Gallade

As if Gallade wasn’t awesome enough already, it got a Mega Evolution for ORAS. It gets a well-needed boost in Defense and Speed, and its already decent Attack is boosted to a fearsome level. It also looks cooler and makes a neat animation when swinging its arm (which, in turn, blazes a trail of red). The only real downside to Mega Evolving is getting a worse ability in Inner Focus, which serves little purpose outside of preventing Fake Out alone from stopping its sweep. Also, much like Beedrill, its base form’s Speed tier is lackluster compared to that of its Mega form (although the difference is not as extreme in Gallade’s case, so Protect is not as essential). Still, Gallade has a neat movepool for its Mega Evolution, boasting options like Close Combat (or the more reliable Drain Punch), Zen Headbutt (or the more reliable Psycho Cut), Knock Off, the elemental punches, Swords Dance, and Taunt. I did mention that things are not always ideal, what with Mega Gallade getting a worse ability and losing an item to be what it is, but Mega Gallade is still pretty darn awesome.