Remembering Pokémon Sun and Moon (Monthly Musing, Nov 2019)

On the first week of the month, the animated adaptation of Pokémon Sun and Moon saw its 146th and final episode, bringing the generation to a close and making way for the next. Therefore, there is no month like the current to recapitulate my pertinent posts and to offer up some final thoughts.

Poké Monday

  • Mimikyu (11/28/16) – Unique setup sweeper/stopper with typing to match
  • Fearow (12/19/16) – Drill Running and U-turning bird
  • Feraligatr (1/16/17) – Water-type Sheer Force user with Dragon Dance
  • Abomasnow (2/13/17) – Hail setter fallen from grace thanks to a certain winter fox
  • Chingling (3/13/17) – Some kind of Trick Room setter in Little Cup
  • Rapidash (4/10/17) – The one Z-Will-o-Wisp user (alternatively, a recoil-reliant offensive Fire-type that can heal itself)
  • Mudsdale (5/8/17) – New Ground-type physical tank
  • Archeops (6/5/17) – Airborne powerhouse held back by one of the worst Abilities in the game
  • Voltorb (7/3/17) – Rain lead, otherwise budget Elekid
  • Starmie (7/31/17) – Speedy but versatile Rapid Spin user
  • Pachirisu (8/28/17) – Hero to Trainers who use their favorite Pokémon in battle
  • Shroomish (9/25/17) – Grass-type staller with unconventional coverage in Drain Punch
  • Pelipper (10/30/17) – The new Rain setter in town
  • Pyroar (11/27/17) – Special attacker with unique typing but lacking in Ability usefulness
  • Regigigas (1/1/18) – BST titan severely held back by another of the worst Abilities in the game
  • Clauncher (1/29/18) – All-around Water-type pivot in Little Cup
  • Bronzong (2/26/18) – Levitating Steel-type Trick Room or Stealth Rock setter newly weak to buffed Knock Off
  • Bunnelby (3/26/18) – Huge Power user in Little Cup with Swords Dance, priority, and enough coverage to get by
  • Azumarill (4/23/18) – Huge Power Aqua Jet and/or Belly Drum user with extra Fairy typing
  • Tepig (5/21/18) – Fire-type physical attacker of sorts in Little Cup
  • Shiftry (6/18/18) – Part Dark Chlorophyll and/or Defog user with near-equal physical and special prowess
  • Charmeleon (7/16/18) – Lower-tier Z-Sunny Day attacker
  • Yanma (8/13/18) – Yanmega Lite but with Compound Eyes instead of Tinted Lens
  • Dodrio (9/10/18) – Lower-tier menace of a Flying-type attacker with new coverage in Jump Kick
  • Dwebble (10/8/18) – Hazard setter and/or Shell Smash user reliant on Sturdy and Berry Juice
  • Ducklett (11/5/18) – Water/Flying attacker or Defogger; a middle ground between Mantyke and the recently banned Wingull
  • Sentret (12/3/18) – Typical Normal-type in Little Cup with a colorful movepool but lacking in the stats to use it
  • Koffing (12/31/18) – Child of an infamous 1.5-weakness tank
  • Aron (1/14/19) – Notorious Head Smash user with Sturdeavor or Rock Head at its disposal
  • Drapion (2/11/19) – The second-best of three Poison/Dark Pokémon
  • Guzzlord (3/11/19) – Mixed attacker with superfluously high HP
  • Throh (4/15/19) – Outclassed Fighting-type tank
  • Piplup (5/13/19) – Water-type dual-purpose hazard setter and remover in Little Cup
  • Rhyhorn and Type: Null (6/10/19)
    • Rhyhorn – Non-Sturdy Stealth Rock setter in Little Cup
    • Type: Null – The newest Eviolite wall
  • Vikavolt (7/15/19) – Special tank/pivot
  • Teddiursa (8/12/19) – Quick Feet user blessed in coverage
  • Gorebyss and Hitmonlee (9/16/19)
    • Gorebyss – One of a handful of Shell Smash users, let alone with access to Baton Pass
    • Hitmonlee – Destructive Fighting-type with the choice to boost its power or speed
  • Prinplup (10/14/19) – Water-type dual-purpose hazard setter and remover in lower tiers
  • Tyranitar and Nidoqueen (11/11/19)
    • Tyranitar – Number one sand setter with a long history
    • Nidoqueen – Bulky-ish Sheer Force attacker

Other Posts

  • Pokémon Sun – My entry into the series, and probably the last time I’ll talk so much about a Pokémon game
  • Pokémon Ultra Moon – Less talk, more complaints (not to say that I prefer the first installment)
  • Brain Food #2 – A dumb idea I had once: a mega crossover fanfiction starring Lana
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon: the Animation – Speaking of Lana, she doesn’t get any better than in this medium

Final Thoughts

The Animation

My first post about the animation was prior to episode 120, so I wish to finalize my thoughts on the matter. And yes, just like before, they heavily involve Lana. What can I say? Perhaps my obsession with her is unhealthy.

Lana did lose brutally in the Pokémon League quarterfinals—her Primarina having suffered a merciless beating at the hands(?) of Guzma’s Golisopod and herself having been dismissed as “small fry” by Guzma—but she kept her cool through it all, whereas Mallow and Lillie got angry in her stead. The gist of her belief was this: “He didn’t break any rules. He was simply too strong.” And while my heart of hearts would have liked her to place higher (and face Ash in the League, or at least at some point), I can at least be content that she was the only girl to make top 8. (i.e. objectively best girl)

On another note, it’s no secret that Lana has a playful side, yet somehow she’s only ever made two puns in the entire series—both as a spectator of Ash’s League battles, and neither appreciated by her classmates. Personally, I love puns, especially when they’re made with such an adorable expression.

…Okay, on to more general talk. After all these generations, Ash has finally become an official League Champion and even got extra credit by defeating Kukui and Tapu Koko. (I wonder what Kukui’s last Pokémon would have been otherwise. Maybe Palossand?) Mimikyu saw its own reflection, leading it to abandon its one-track hatred. Burnet got impregnated. It’s possible that the new animated series, Pokémon 2019, will revisit Alola. (Also, if said series comes out with an episode centered around Manaphy, it’s possible that Lana will be involved.)

The Manga

I have found opportunities to read the first five volumes. It is an interesting story, starring the penny-pinching delivery boy Sun and the sensible pharmacologist Moon. It presents Kiawe and Mallow as characters who can relate to Sun and Moon respectively, whereas Lana is a more unique sort—by which I mean she’s normally meek but becomes dead serious in battle. Granted, Moon changes personality in the same sort of way when she’s deep in thought. Speaking of Moon, she’s a charming character in her own right, surprisingly being skilled at archery and finding Poison-types to be cute. That’s all I have to comment, except that Kahili golfing with Poké Balls atop a Skarmory has to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

Afterword

The seventh generation of Pokémon was full of surprises: a change to the whole eight-Gym structure, Alolan forms, Z-Moves, a great cast of characters (especially Lana), a fair share of interesting Pokémon (like Bewear and Mimikyu), surprisingly good music, and—most importantly—the removal of HMs from the series.

However, at this point, I think of modern Pokémon games as experimental steps toward the future (or, to play devil’s advocate, the promise of a future that they abuse to make dough), hence Pokémon X and Y (their first release on the 3DS) ended up being forgettable, while the newest generation is deemed by some to be inexcusable for a triple-A game. In the case of Pokémon Sun and Moon, there was too much hand-holding, the new mechanics were too Kanto-centric, and they discarded the Triple and Rotation Battles that previously lasted from Black/White onward. (Less importantly, they introduced physically oriented Fairy-types bereft of physical Fairy STAB: freaking Koko and Bulu; what a tease.)

In terms of animated series, I actually enjoyed Sun and Moon more than X and Y—and not just because of Lana, but because the full cast of characters and the diversity of the Alola region made everything seem more fun and exciting than I remember how it was in the Kalos region. Thus, another surprise from the seventh generation: seeming to take a drop in visual quality, while instead improving overall.
(Note: I am unfamiliar with any part of the manga except the seventh generation (and vaguely the fifth), so I have no say on that front.)

In the end, even amidst the ebb and flow of the Pokémon series, I will not soon forget this particular generation. Its contributions in Pokémon, mechanics, and characters have at least outweighed those of its predecessor. In particular, Lana has become my new favorite Pokémon Trainer of all time.

 

À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Neptunia spinoffs: part 1 (Monthly Musing, October 2019)

I got nothing festive for Hallow’s Eve. Just weeb stuff.

Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed

A deviation from the standard fare of turn-based combat (as expected of a spinoff, I suppose), this hack-and-slash is considerably more active than the Re;Birth series. It features the CPU quartet, the Candidate quartet, and reporters Dengekiko and Famitsu. (The former is lovely, while the latter is average.) Most notably, it has even less restraint on erotica than the Re;Birth series, giving each of the characters a stripped form (even the Candidates—to which Uni makes a self-aware response regarding the criminal nature of such—and HDD forms).

I like the change of pace that Neptunia U offers compared to the turn-based entries of the series, and the game offers its fair share of hurdles, some of which I don’t see myself clearing in the near future: the level 99 missions featuring Neptune+Dengekiko and Blanc+Uni, Pro difficulty Gamindustri Gauntlet, and floor 50 of Neptral Tower. However, as perfection cannot be attained in game design, Neptunia U also has a couple of flaws:

  • The few cutscenes of the game tend to only show up as a black screen with audio. I’ve had them work properly a grand total of once, and I cannot diagnose what the frick is happening on that front.
  • The game uses different controller input code compared to the Re;Birth series, so if you want to use a Nintendo Switch wired controller as I do, you’ll have to use a program like X360CE.

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart

I’ve always been of the opinion that Noire is the least appealing CPU (except when I first watched the Neptunia anime, at which point I was less a fan of Peashy), but I’ve also always loved tactics games, and I must admit that this spinoff did not disappoint. Recognizable by its chibi 3D art style, it features the CPU quartet as they appear in the third main series game, along with eighteen exclusive characters known as generals.

Lee-Fi, Lid, Resta, Estelle, Ein Al, Poona, Moru, Ai Masujima, Ryuka, Blossom Aisen, Tsunemi, Wyn, Generia G, Lady Wac, Saori, Vio, Sango, Little Rain

The generals are based on other video game series. I know some of them and can guess a few of them, but most of them are over my head.

I know: Lid (Metal Gear Solid), Ein Al (Final Fantasy), Ai Masujima (the IDOLM@STER), Tsunemi (Project Diva ft. Hatsune Miku), Lady Wac (PACMAN)

I think: Lee-Fi (Virtua Fighter), Estelle (Dragon Quest), Moru (Monster Hunter), Ryuka (Yakuza), Saori (Dynasty Warriors)

No clue: Resta, Poona, Blossom Aisen, Wyn, Generia G, Saori, Vio, Little Rain

At any rate, they are such fun additions to the cast, I feel like laying out a top five.

  1. Poona – She’s like non-HDD Plutia, all sadism aside. She’s the range master, the only character whose attack range is radial instead of linear. Most importantly, Armage-Bon-Bon is comedy gold. (Although I took a while to realize that it’s a pun on Armageddon.)
  2. Wyn – So adorable. Her voice (particularly the line “Dribble!”), her idle animation, and the way she lifts boxes are really cute. Based on her character, she has an obscene Toss stat of 7. (For reference, the second-highest is 4 (shared by Noire, Moru, and Ryuka), and the norm is 1.)
  3. Lid – Calm, collected, and stealthy, just like the main character of the series she’s based off of. Also one of the original generals and the first ranged attacker after Vert (by virtue of Blade Clip). Cutely, she has a tendency to get her tongue tied when she speaks.
  4. Tsunemi – Based on Miku Hatsune, a veritable icon of modern Japanese culture, she’s a mild-mannered sort of character with a lovely outfit and a support skill that increases movement.
  5. Lady Wac – While a late-game character, she floats, having the highest Jump (99) and being one of only two with a Jump higher than 1 (the other being Lee-Fi with 2). She also has high movement and a support skill that boosts both. She’s based on the oldest game among the generals, so she’s the butt of myriad age-related jokes. Most importantly, like Pac-Man, she has a monster appetite.

Honorable mentions to Ein Al, Moru, and Vio.

Generals aside, Hdev Noire also introduced a first-person character of sorts—initially called Player but renamed Secretary when Noire hires him—based on the average demographic of the series as a whole: young adult male. The game also has an interesting core mechanic where units use skills while adjacent to other units in order to reduce SP use, power up, and boost Lily Rank. So far, I’m up to the part near the end where all the characters reunite, having completed every simulation and every side mission below A rank. I’ve noticed some flaws here too:

  • Like Neptunia U, this game does not natively support Switch controller use.
  • The music does not loop properly. Every audio loop jumps to the very beginning, even though the songs have intros that don’t belong in the second and subsequent loops.
  • The battle menu has a Retreat option, but the preparation menu has no equivalent. This constitutes unnecessary complication in backing out of a mission.

 

À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Game Shows (Monthly Musing, Sep 2019)

Over the summer, I have had the pleasure of being able to take care of business on my home computer with my setup to the immediate right of a TV with Game Show Network. This meant that I could watch game shows while having an extra monitor’s worth of space for computer recreation, including full-screen games such as Hyperdimension Neptunia U.

I enjoy game shows because they possess a sort of simulated interactivity and can sometimes be informative. Listed below, in no particular order, are a few that stuck out to me.

Family Feud

The single most aired show on Game Show Network: 6:30-9 and 10:30-1 on weekdays (two 2.5-hour segments), and 5:30-1 on weekends (7.5 hours). I first watched Family Feud when it was hosted by Richard Karn, and it’s been can’t-go-wrong fun ever since, especially with Steve Harvey having taken charge. To summarize how it works, two five-contestant teams are challenged to enter the minds of 100 people in answering hypothetical questions.

Cash Cab

Weekend fun from noon to 5. Taxi driver Ben Bailey seems to blend in with the crowd until he shows off his special lights and takes contestants around New York City, asking general knowledge questions until he reaches their destination or has to kick them to the curb. Game Show Network started off airing an older season and transitioned to a more recent season, which led me to find it humorous that the newer contestants recognize the Cash Cab by its special effects.

The Chase

My favorite game show of all time. Shame that it had to air during my work hours, meaning I would have to either come home early (rare case) or have the day off in order to watch it. (I didn’t want to record anything on a DVR that wasn’t mine, so I preferred to watch everything live.) Three contestants are challenged to take on a 155-IQ trivia master (“The Beast”) in a risk-filled battle of wits. I just love the fast-paced trivia, the close calls, and the Beast having a personality to be expected of the UK-based TV star he is.

Catch 21

Trivia meets blackjack in a three-entrant showdown for the magic number. This would air right before The Chase for an hour straight, so I could only ever watch it on my days off. (Of course a new season would be slated for after I changed location, no less at a time that would otherwise be manageable; what a tease.) This game show encourages fast pacing of the trivia aspect, and it more heavily involves playing smart with dealt cards.

Wheel of Fortune

A classic that would air at noon on weekdays, and perhaps the main inspiration of HQ Words on mobile. Can’t go wrong with it; it’s fun trying to guess the phrase before the contestants do. It used to air at noon on weekdays, making it even more elusive to me than the above two shows.

Chain Reaction

Chain
Reaction
Time
Skip
Rope
Burn
Bright

That’s what Chain Reaction is all about: figuring out word pairs. They normally start off with two words and go one letter at a time for subsequent words; the above is an example of what a completed chain looks like. Oddly, the bonus round is much different: Two of the three contestants of the winning team are to describe terms by alternating words, and the third teammate is to guess the term. (For instance, say the term is “soap.” The describing contestants might say, “What” “do” “you” “use” “to” “wash” “your” “hands?”) I first watched it when it aired at 4 PM on weekdays (I was on paid leave back then), but now I know it better for airing before 10 AM on weekends.

Idiotest

Remember the Flash game called the Impossible Quiz? Idiotest is basically the game show version of that. Two two-contestant teams are asked time-limited trick questions to be answered by touch screen. The questions are so clever and so fun to play along with (and the host really livens up the experience with his snarky attitude), sometimes it’s worth staying up past 1 AM (on weekends, fortunately) to watch. In fact, I would consider it to be my second favorite game show.

Emogenius

If I stay up through all of Idiotest, I might feel inclined to watch this show right after. Don’t take the “Emo” part of the title the wrong way; it’s simply based on emoji. The concept of the game is understanding messages written purely in emoji, whether provided by the host or communicated between contestants of the same pair.

America Says

The show that’s all about guessing how America filled in the blanks. I like to think of this as a spinoff of Family Feud, being similar in concept but time-based and with hints instead of accuracy-based. It’s the second-most aired on Game Show Network; I don’t know offhand the exact periods it airs, so I’ll have to estimate 3 hours a day. This, along with the new episodes being regularly contributed to the show, does have the benefit of extra freshness compared to Family Feud.

Common Knowledge

The show that asks those practical, everyday questions that everyone *should* know. Hosted by former NSYNC member Joey Fatone (I didn’t know that at first), it’s a special variety of trivia show where the term “common” refers to the nature of the questions as well as how the contestants may answer them. (Two three-contestant teams answer individually A, B, or C in the first two rounds. Some of the answers may be in common, or they could all completely differ.) I rank this third just because of how informative the questions are, like it’s the most educational game show I’ve seen.

Best Ever Trivia Show

It is meta, I’ll give it that. Otherwise, it’s a toned down version of The Chase with a more diverse cast of trivia experts and gameplay reminiscent of Common Knowledge (right down to the sound effects, even). The most interesting part about it? The cast of trivia experts is not only diverse; it’s even malleable in the promise that any contestant can win the grand prize three times in a row to join the cast.

Caroline & Friends

I only watched one episode when it started airing weekends at 9 AM. It is based on viral videos and what the audience thinks of them, influenced by two of the host’s friends (one of whom was notably Jaleel White in the episode I watched) and evaluated by two contestants. The bonus round is a thrill, making the lucky contestant rank every presented viral video from most to least popular, making revisions if needed and if time allows.

 

I would have liked to give Winsanity a try, but 3 AM on a weeknight is later than I’ll ever dare. Regardless, I will miss the days of having a TV at my disposal, but not sorely enough to make me want to challenge my fate. (At the end of the day, it was a mere convenience.)

À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Loaded Month (Monthly Musing, August 2019)

Hey, look. It’s the end of the month, and I have nothing specific in mind to write about. In the past, I’ve used many different names for moments like this—Thought Dump, Potpourri, At a standstill—but with my posting schedule being finalized at this point, I’ll also finalize the name that I use for posts like this: Loaded Month.

First and foremost, I have been quite enjoying the latest Fire Emblem game: Three Houses. I was enticed by how high-end the graphics were compared to those of the 3DS installments, so I went and bought the game at my earliest convenience. Needless to say, it has not disappointed, keeping me in for 100 hours of play with the Golden Deer, at which point I’m surprised to have not yet completed the game. (At the time of writing, I’m at Chapter 22.) I chose the Golden Deer in particular because, of the three potential deuteragonists, Claude appealed most to me by the uniqueness of his mindset and personality. (He makes me think of Raven from Tales of Vesperia.) I also came to like Raphael the simple-minded, Lysithea the prodigy, and Marianne the meek. Everyone of the Golden Deer is an oddball, and that’s what I like about them. I did manage to recruit students from other houses before the time skip, but only Caspar and (surprisingly to me) Dorothea of the Black Eagles. (I would have liked Bernadetta, Mercedes, Felix, and/or Sylvain, but you can’t win ’em all.) At any rate, Three Houses is a sort of series addition like Breath of the Wild that throws in a plethora of new mechanics to keep it fresh while maintaining the selling points of the series.

Besides that, I have in mind a Pokémon ROM hack concept that may or may not come to fruition. I call it Elemontalism, and the gist of it is integrating concepts of Cinq du Soleil as replacement mechanics. Notably, in a similar vein to Pokémon Picross, the types are translated to elements:

  • Normal ==> Matter (new addition, not explicitly in CdS)
  • Fire (unchanged)
  • Ice ==> Water (otherwise unchanged)
  • Flying ==> Wind
  • Bug, Rock, Ground ==> Earth
  • Steel ==> Metal
  • Fighting, Dragon ==> Fauna
  • Grass ==> Flora
  • Electric ==> Energy
  • Psychic, Ghost, Fairy ==> Spirit
  • Poison, Dark ==> Nether

More intricately, a good portion of the moves are replaced with more in-line counterparts with slightly altered base power and accuracy according to the elements involved. At this point, I plan to establish the movepools of the 649 Pokémon spanning across generations 1-5, along with 3 later-gen Pokémon (Sylveon, Meltan, Melmetal) and 20 Fakemon included for balancing purposes. My progress? Slow but sure.

I’ve also been getting into the Neptunia spin-offs. I completed a good portion of Neptunia U and am pretty far into the main story of Hyperdevotion Noire, although the latter is on hold until after FE3H. That’s about it, aside from very gradual progress on the various stories that I’ve brought up now and again.

À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Persona Q2 Labyrinths (Monthly Musing, July 2019)

Back when Top Three Thursday was a thing, I did an installment on Persona Q labyrinths. As such, since I naturally played Persona Q2 recently (not only because I enjoyed the first, but also because the second is more or less at the end of the 3DS’s lifespan), I will do a similar thing for that game. I say “similar” because it won’t be a tier list like the previous; it will just describe the labyrinths in story order and evaluate them based on particular categories.

It also has a little preface here. To start, unlike its predecessor, Persona Q2 does not have an English dub, nor are its exclusive characters playable like Zen and Rei. It only has one story centered around the Persona 5 cast, yet it features the female protagonist of Persona 3 Portable and presents its one story in a much more elegant manner. It’s not as rich in puzzles, yet it’s less abundant in horror elements, and it introduced multiple improvements to the battle mechanics. While they added a bunch more map icons, the newly introduced ones all clog up the same menu that shortcuts and treasure chests do. The final dungeon is shorter than Clock Tower, yet the early game is significantly more difficult, and the late game has a boss rush of sorts. The music, while arguably not as good overall, had its moments (and Laser Beam, the previous boss fight theme, was thrown into a side quest). As a whole, it showed improvement.

Anyway, past a fair warning that spoilers are inbound…

Kamoshidaman

Justice always wins! …Or does it? Kamoshidaman is the superhero movie labyrinth, explored only by the Persona 5 cast (until they meet the female protagonist, henceforth Ui because I named her Ui Nakano as an homage to the K-On series) and starring a superhero version of a former teacher at their school (Mr. Kamoshida) with a corrupted sense of justice that brands himself as the absolute authority and the Phantom Thieves as villains to be executed. In turn, the Phantom Thieves must alter the public’s perception of Kamoshidaman in order to put an end to the movie.

This is the tutorial labyrinth, which demonstrates the teamwork of the Phantom Thieves and contains minimal puzzles with basic Shadows. With that in mind, one would think that the boss is just as welcoming, but reality says that Super Kamoshidaman is brutal for a first boss—even on freaking Normal, the middle difficulty of the game. He is a threefold foe with dual carrot weapons capable of collectively dealing 200 damage per turn to a non-ground party (“ground” being the past participle of “grind” in this context). It sure doesn’t help that the man himself (who is more like a bunny man in Super form) can inflict Sleep roughly 50% of the time. I did manage to get through him after three tries using Joker, Skull, Crow, Ui, and Mona. Frustratingly, however, I couldn’t keep Joker and Mona above 0 HP at the end.

Junessic Land

Democracy has been an influential system for centuries, but it’s not always right. The gang meets the cast of Persona 4 in their search for Yosuke Hanamura, and they find a lookalike dinosaur among a group of herbivores running for their lives from carnivores in search of paradise. The lookalike, Yosukesaurus, makes a risky decision to save an herbivore who lagged behind while the group was being chased by a carnivore, only to be cast out of the group without any mercy from even the one he saved. In turn, the gang must rectify the herbivores’ mess of a democracy in order to put an end to the movie.

The Shadows step up their game for this labyrinth, and so too do the puzzles. At the same time, the introduction of Kanji Tatsumi ushered in the possible strategy of having one character take all the hits (namely using Machismo Wall) while everyone else supports. But guess what? The boss, Yosukesaurus in his strongest form, uses Kanji’s one weakness: Wind. Depending how you fight the boss, he can be just as brutal as Super Kamoshidaman or unnaturally easy; he starts off solo, and at certain ranges of HP, herbivores among three join in one by one. (You can’t defeat Yosukesaurus himself; the fight ends when the other herbivores are defeated.) Personally, on my third try of the boss, I used poison and hyper offense to reduce Yosukesaurus to an HP value so low that I unintentionally skipped the first herbivore. It straight-up blew my mind and allowed me to easily keep the team (Joker, Noir, Kanji, Ui, Mona) alive, but it also left a blank in my Enepedia and—I think—denied me of the experience that the fight was supposed to provide. Also gotta say, the carnivore fight afterwards was stressful, despite being half the FOE.

A.I.G.I.S.

Imagine a post-apocalyptic sci-fi world inhabited almost entirely by robots, in which the golden standard is the only standard. The gang sets foot in such a world and finds a peculiar specimen: a single robot differing from the crowd. This robot, called “Ribbon” and resembling Aigis, has a knack for beauty preservation that is considered “defective” in its world. While ensuring the safety of Ribbon, the gang encounters the Persona 3 cast, although not the sort from Ui’s timeline, but from that of the original Persona 3 protagonist. The gang must rebel against the totalitarian system within the movie in order to put an end to it.

Starting here, it is needless to say that the encounter rate does not screw around, as it can also be said of the Shadows and boss. Well, surprisingly, the boss of this labyrinth is easier for its place in the game than the previous two; I beat this one first try with a fully intact team of Joker, Kanji, Shinjiro Aragaki, Ui, and Mona. (This became my main team until the end of the game.) It was a bit stressful, though, considering all the SP and items I had used by the end. The main beef I had was with the nonsensical randomness behind Denial and Synchronicity: the former sealing a random skill of each party member, and the latter dealing random damage to characters (absolutely destroying those who try to guard the party). On the bright side, the labyrinth as a whole had arguably the best puzzles in the game, especially the GROW warp miscellany and the nature of the boss fight. It also introduced the mini-boss music, arguably the best original tune in the game.

Side note about deciding on the team. I wanted to use Joker, Ui, and Mona. I didn’t want to use any of the characters that I had used in the previous installment, those being the male Persona 3 protagonist (whom I had named Chibi Buruu back then and now named Neku Bito after The World Ends with You), the Persona 4 protagonist (whom I had named Gary Oak back then and now named Luke Layton after the Professor Layton series), Chie Satonaka, and Aigis. (I did also use Zen back then, but obviously he’s not in Q2. Also, for interest, I gave Joker the name Izayoi Kudou after the Mondaiji series.) I wanted to feature at least one character from each Persona game, excluding navigators (Fuuka Yamagishi for labyrinth, Futaba Sakura for battle). Most importantly, ever since the first installment, I’ve always liked the lightning rod style of fighting (Gary Oak with Pain Eater was my designated tank back then)—and Shinjiro’s All Guard (better Machismo Wall), passive regeneration, and lack of weaknesses (but also lack of resistances, hence Kanji is better for abundances of lightning) make the job easier. Going by those criteria, there’s no better team than the aforementioned. But of course, if some other characters are motivated (new mechanic, woo!) at any occasion other than a major fight, I will attempt to find spots for said characters, notwithstanding the aforementioned criteria.

???? (Hikari)

The red thread that ties together the previous three labyrinths. Hikari, to be known henceforth if nothing else as the deuteragonist of the game (like Zen in the previous installment), receives a grim reminder that the movies up to now have been staged after her worst experiences in elementary, middle, and high school respectively. Not only that, but within this cursed musical lies yet a darker truth about why she wound up in a mysterious movie theater to begin with. As such, the gang must save Hikari by helping her face the fears born of her past trauma.

To elaborate: Kamoshidaman is a dramatization of Hikari’s elementary school teacher feeding her rabbit the wrong food and Hikari intervening only to be called out by her teacher and, consequently, classmates. Junessic Land is based on middle school Hikari helping out a bullied classmate, only to be bullied herself and therefore ostracized by the rest of the class, including the classmate whom she helped. A.I.G.I.S. originates from when Hikari lived with her uncle and aunt in high school and was teased for wanting to become a film director instead of pursuing a more normal or high-paying profession. As for the darker truth, Hikari shut herself away from the world and was asked by her father, “Why do you have to be like that?” That is ultimately what brought about the existence of the movie theater and of Doe, Hikari’s perception of her father at the time.

Now, going back to the point that Q2 is less abundant in horror elements, this labyrinth is where what little of the horror lies. The music is disturbing, the background is creepy, the FOEs are uncanny, and the boss is a mess. When I say a mess, I mean both physically and in terms of combat style; his body makes him look like a giant slug, and I had to use two mulligans to make sure I was fully prepared. The main problem with the boss is his use of status conditions, along with the phase where he fully binds every character and you can only cure one bound character at a time. Yet, arguably worse than the main boss fight are the mini-boss fights that precede it, which are presented without warning and a bit grueling to the unprepared. At least the stage lifts are a cool mechanic, and Hikari’s backstory really speaks to me. (Don’t take that out of context.)

Theater District

After all of the previous labyrinths are cleared, Nagi, who had been accompanying Hikari since the beginning, turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing whose true identity is Enlil, a world-scale being who holds regretful outcasts like Hikari captive in movie theaters that essentially put their painful memories on repeat. The clearing of the labyrinths unlocked the door out of Hikari’s theater, so Enlil permits the gang to leave immediately, but the gang refuses and instead sets out to free the enslaved masses.

At this point, the encounter rate is so obscene that I felt strongly inclined about halfway through to get Repulse Pipes for every visit. Fortunately, the puzzles of the labyrinth are complex to a healthy degree—featuring fans, debris, and heavy involvement with FOEs. The golden samurai Shadows are oddly redundant and sometimes annoying. The boss rush stands as one of the most interesting parts of the game, possessing straightforward re-fights of (non-Super) Kamoshidaman, (defeatable) Yosukesaurus, (non-scripted) Mother Computer, and (gimmickless) Doe (oddly ordered counterclockwise from the bottom-left). The final boss I somehow managed on my first try, despite how grueling and befitting of a final boss it was.

Afterword

This is where the evaluation comes in. Presenting the criteria:

  • Music: Junessic Land > A.I.G.I.S. > Theater District > Kamoshidaman > Hikari
  • Atmosphere: A.I.G.I.S. > Junessic Land > Kamoshidaman > Theater District > Hikari
  • Puzzles: Theater District > Hikari > A.I.G.I.S. > Junessic Land > Kamoshidaman
  • Shadows: A.I.G.I.S. > Junessic Land > Kamoshidaman > Hikari > Theater District
  • Bosses: A.I.G.I.S. > Theater District > Hikari > Kamoshidaman > Junessic Land
  • Story: Hikari > A.I.G.I.S. > Theater District > Kamoshidaman > Junessic Land
  • Overall: A.I.G.I.S. > Hikari > Theater District > Junessic Land > Kamoshidaman

That’s about it. I unfortunately don’t remember enough about the labyrinths of the previous game to integrate them into the evaluation.

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

Hyperdimension Neptunia: the Animation and the Re;Birth series (Monthly Musing, June 2019)

Nowi Wins I have had this planned for months on end, and now it’s finally time to make it a reality. The topic is Hyperdimension Neptunia, a video game series about video games and cute girls. It also has an animated adaptation, which is actually the starting point of this review because it was my first experience with the series.

The Animation

It all started one Spring Break when I was in college. I had the wild idea of watching the first episodes of seven anime series, one per day of the week. This gave me a glimpse of series with which I was at first unfamiliar, such as Squid Girl, GJ-bu, and the one in question. In this case, I was drawn in by the cute girls (yeah, typical) and ended up intrigued by the interactions among them; thus, needless to say, I continued all the way to the end of the series.

That time was six years ago, enough for me to have forgotten all but a few bits and pieces. So, naturally, I took two consecutive days of this month (of this week, even) to binge rewatch the animation in order to understand it better now that I’ve completed the Re;Birth games. It worked out, although surprisingly the animation takes place in a separate canon from the games despite being chock-full of inspired elements. (Not just the characters and settings, but even elements as intricate as poses.) That is to say, it’s not so much an animated adaptation as it is an alternative story (kinda like Unlimited Fafnir but even more improvised).

The first time I watched the anime was with subtitles, so I decided this time to try out the English dub, also partly because I’m more accustomed to the English voices on account of my experience with the games (and, call it a surprise, but I prefer the English voices to the Japanese voices). About it…well, first off, it’s definitely not suited for folk with a low tolerance for jokes. Jokes as in memes (arrow to the knee, do a barrel roll), name drops (e.g. Gears of War, Punch Out, The Last of Us, Uncharted), and basic gags (such as chest-related quips and Neptune messing up Arfoire’s name). On the bright side, Blanc’s emotionless voice was done better in the anime than in the games (strictly talking English dubs, of course), although hearing it from her HDD form (which happened at least twice) just didn’t seem right.

In terms of characters, I found Plutia to be the best in the anime the first time I watched it, and I stand by that even now, despite that Blanc is my favorite in the games; that’s just how different the two media are. I like Plutia because her human form is charmingly absentminded while her HDD form is stunningly dominant, and she uses those traits to play devil’s advocate in situations that are tough to comprehend. On another note, the animation doesn’t feature quite as many characters as the games, having relegated a few to cameo roles (MAGES. and every Oracle but Histoire) and nixed many more. (The only minor character of note is 5pb.) This, for one, leaves an odd cast of villains: Abnes, Underling, CFW Trick (of all characters), Arfoire, Warechu, Anonydeath, and Rei Ryghts.

Re;Birth series

Come early 2017, after I had assembled a Windows machine and acquired Re;Birth 1 on sale, I wanted to give the game a try. It has the same sort of charm as the animation, but with more immersion and less restraint on the erotica (e.g. you can see up the girls’ skirts). As a video game, it’s kinda like a Tales game but simplified—the combat is turn-based (instead of real-time) and involves attack ranges reminiscent of a tactics game, while the cutscenes are dominantly 2D. (Well, 2.5D if you count the effects that make the characters look like they’re breathing.)

I mentioned Blanc being my favorite in the games, and now to provide reasoning. She is relatable in being emotionless yet short-tempered, she symbolizes Nintendo, she has the best Rush attack in the series (Satellabute), and most importantly she takes hits like nobody else. (She also somewhat resembles Yō Kasukabe from the Mondaiji series.) (Plutia is decent with her magical prowess and healing skills, but her main issue is her frailty.) I also like Broccoli due to her cuteness (especially when she jumps around like “Jump, nyu!” and “Boingy, nyu!”), sharp tongue, and fun set of skills (particularly “Mekara Beam?”, which is comedic and heals a whopping 80% of a close-range target’s HP). And, on an unrelated note, Purple Heart has always reminded me of Yami Yugi.

Other aspects have the right to be organized specifically by installment.

Re;Birth 1

  • Only has three party slots, each containing up to two characters
  • Has the most difficult main story
    • The Hraesvelgr + Black Heart tag team battle is notoriously punishing towards reckless SP use (the only place I’ve gotten a Game Over in the main story)
    • Fake CPU fights are also tough, especially Fake Green Heart (pulls no punches) and Fake White Heart (tedious)
  • Features a vast multitude of characters who only appear as simple portraits in cutscenes (e.g., Financier, Yvoire, Ran-Ran)
  • One Two Three, the music that plays when you fight a dangerous enemy, is surprisingly good
  • Has a Normal Ending and a True Ending, which are dependent on Shares and no different until after the True Arfoire fight
  • The only installment for which I didn’t bother unlocking all achievements (100 million credits without Symbol Attack Gains…nah)
  • Speaking of being without Symbol Attack Gains, Clione is a nasty post-game enemy.

Re;Birth 2

  • I was considering skipping this installment, but I was persuaded otherwise, and I’m glad for that
  • Formally introduced the Candidates, the Oracles, and some of the villains
    • Also sheds the most light on the human characters (IF, Compa, Broccoli, and the rest)
  • Is the only Re;Birth game to feature Nepgear as a protagonist
    • While not as comedy-oriented as Neptune, she partly makes up for that with the phrase “What the goodness”
    • She starts off wishy-washy and is left in a situation where she must take charge, making her more relatable to young adults
  • Convinced me that Uni is a better Noire…somehow
  • Added the fourth party slot
  • Has the best dungeon music but the worst audio balancing
    • Magmatic Magnetics and History of Collapse are particularly good dungeon themes, especially the former
    • world map music is too loud, especially compared to the better tunes
    • also the only installment that lacks One Two Three
  • The only installment with cutscene triggers that block off certain parts of dungeons (bleh)
  • Has a whopping nine endings, of which a few have their share of similarities and most are dependent not only on Shares but also Lily Rank
    ReBirth 2 ending alignment

    • Normal Ending: Since there are so many endings in the game, this one might feel cheaply earned compared to the rest, further complemented by the fact that it’s the only one without an accompanying image (I used the background of the final cutscene). It’s also the basis of the Planeptune, Lastation, Lowee, Leanbox, and Human Endings.
    • Planeptune Ending: Centered around Planeptune’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Neptune. Lawful Evil = Nepgear hoarding Shares for her own nation
    • Lastation Ending: Centered around Lastation’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Noire and Uni. Chaotic Neutral = heated rivals in perfect harmony
    • Lowee Ending: Centered around Lowee’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Blanc, Rom, and Ram. Lawful Neutral = partners in the civilized activity of reading
    • Leanbox Ending: Centered around Leanbox’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Vert. Neutral Good = giving Vert a new sister
    • Human Ending: Centered around recruiting human characters and bonding with them. Neutral Evil = forgoing the other Candidates/CPUs in favor of a pyjama party
    • Conquest Ending: Hands down, the highlight of Re;Birth 2 as a whole. Mind-numbing in unlock criteria and plot alike. Contains unexpectedly morbid events reminiscent of the Zero Escape series and Of Mice and Men. Makes elegant use of the Decisive Battle and Tear Drop music tracks. Chaotic Evil = sacrificing as much as possible to “save the world”
    • Holy Sword Ending: With a difference of only one recruited character from Conquest Ending, this takes the murder weapon thereof and rectifies it. More importantly, contains a boss rush featuring the Four Felons and the Deity of Sin. Chaotic Good = turning a nasty rumor on its head
    • True Ending: Centered around balancing Shares, keeping them away from Arfoire, and recruiting everyone possible. Goes down similarly to Holy Sword Ending, except with a bath scene, the boss rush split into three extra dungeons, an extra bit with Underling and Warechu, the true form of the Deity of Sin, and no nasty rumor. (Kinda drab if done after Holy Sword.) Lawful Good should be obvious
  • Introduced the Symbol Attack Gains plan, making grinding and post-game content significantly easier
  • Introduced Menu Voices, an improvement towards immersion and humor
  • Introduced Stella’s Dungeon, a mobile-esque minigame that advances in real time
    • I cleared every single floor sequentially without computer time manipulation, and it took me about a year and a half overall
  • Has the toughest Colosseum fights (especially Gamer Legend and Goddess of Calamity)
  • Introduced DLC bundled with the Steam release (mostly equipment in this case)

In the prime of my time playing through this installment, I had issues with crashes relating to entering dungeons affected by Dungeon Change. The troubleshooting step recommended by most Steam users is to use CFF Explorer; load the executable, locate Nt Headers ==> File Header, click the cell intersected by the “Characteristics” row and “Meaning” column, and check “App can handle >2gb address space”. That helped a bit, but the game continued crashing later on, and what I did to stop that for good is make sure to always reboot my PC before starting the game. (Thankfully, thanks to the newer patches, I don’t have to do that anymore.)

Re;Birth 3

  • Suddenly the “Hyperdimension” part of the series name makes more sense
  • Introduced the rest of the villains, along with Plutia and Peashy
    • Speaking of Plutia, I like it when she says “It’s my best!” when using Plutie Attack and “You’re a meanie!” when getting hit
  • Relegated the human characters and Oracles to DLC
  • Introduced Nepstation, which presents special varieties of per-chapter cutscenes inspired by television programs
  • Introduced Challenges, an internal achievement system of mundane tasks
    • The new source of Menu Voices (split among characters)
    • Not worth grinding for, considering the obscene requirements for Marathon Runner (I mean, freaking 5,000,000 meters with every character? I’ve only hit the 300,000 benchmark with one character!)
  • Has possibly the best cutscene in the series: the interaction between Plutia and Blanc when they’re imprisoned in Lowee
  • Fused together EXE Drive and SP
  • Made extra layers of the overworld: G.C.2012, Plutia’s dimension, and the lands within Plutia’s dimension
  • Has the best music overall (featuring Nobuo Uematsu, even)
  • Simplified Stella’s Dungeon, but also made Symbol Attack Gains exclusive to it
    • Also includes punny unlockables such as “95 Broken Windows”
  • Has three endings (Normal, Good, and True), which go back to the basics of building up from least to most progress
  • Steam release includes level 999 DLC
    • Speaking of which, Gacrux is the toughest enemy in the game
  • Too many freaking plans require the Deployment Shard, an item that can only be obtained from an enemy that only appears once after every True Ending (I’ve had to procure the drop three times total, i.e. clear True Ending two extra times)

Conclusion

I would rate the series 9/10, based on my overall experience so far. It is certainly what I would call fun, and that’s all that matters in the end.

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

Just Another Progress Report (Monthly Musing, May 2019)

My month has been hectic and largely work-focused, so my thoughts have been all over the place. You know what that means…

First things first, ever since I completed Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 in early 2017, I’ve set up for myself a tradition of sorts that I call NepJune. The simplicity of the pun equates to that of the concept: I start a new Neptunia game every June. Since I started Re;Birth 2 in 2017 and Re;Birth 3 in 2018, I’ll start the next installment (Neptunia U: Action Unleashed) this June. (Then will be Mega VII, Sega, and 4GO. I plan to do Hyperdevotion Noire and MegaTagmension Blanc at my leisure before and after Mega VII, since those are evidently spin-offs. All games mentioned are ones that I got on sale.) Re;Birth 3 was a doozy to complete as far as Quests, level 999 grinding, Plans, and Colosseum battles, yet I was considering grinding Challenges until I realized how short my time was (and how tedious some of the Challenges are, especially Marathon Runner). Anyway, here’s the take-away: Next Monthly Musing will be dedicated to the Re;Birth 1-3 mass review that I’ve been planning for months on end. (This also includes the animated adaptation, so I’ll have to watch through that again.)

Second, I have found the inspiration to complete Part 1 of LUMP (Lana’s Unprecedented Mashup Pilgrimage), which I kinda foreshadowed last month. It entails the events of Melemele Island and can be viewed here. (For the record, I did intend for the prologue to be integrated in there.) I owe the inspiration mostly to Isekai Quartet airing this season while the Sun/Moon anime is still ongoing.

Other things…

  • Persona Q2 is coming out in a few days (i.e. June 4), so odds are I’ll be playing through it starting then.
  • Phoenotopia: I want to complete a Most Dangerous Arsenal run one of these days (because it’s the only category that currently has no runs under it), and the thought occurred to me earlier this week when I was thinking about what to do with the paid leave that I had put in for the week (which I decided based on my workload this month and the next). I recently got a run up to Dread Lands, where I had forgotten so much of the route and flubbed enough that I got fed up with the run.
  • Cinq du Soleil: Even though I have inspiration in spades to write LUMP (partly because I’m excited to write out what I have planned for Akala Island), I can’t say the same of Cinq du Soleil. In the midst of writing Chapter 14, with all the ideas running through my head about planned and written chapters alike, I figured I’d want to write a prequel to the story. It will be called Cinq du Passé (“passé” meaning “past” and rhyming with “soleil”), and it will entail the lives of the five female protagonists before they became part of the team. Thing is, I’ve written a decent chunk from Yue’s perspective, but that’s where the news ends, i.e. there’s no telling what will happen from there.

 

À la prochaine! (Until next time!)