sabato 13 agosto 2016

The Walking Dead - Season 2

Yes, it's time for another post nobody will care about.

And yes, I mean the game. I have no idea about the comic nor the TV series.

So, I bought this ages ago, yet I only finished it now (or rather, I had just finished it when I wrote this. Then I forgot to publish it 'til now). I was quite busy with Bloodorne actually what the hell I didn't write about that what's wrong with me and I had to play this on my PS3 since Season 2 uses the old saves of Season 1 for something.

I've talked to some people who don't know anything about TWD these past few days, and what they think to know is wrong. So let me get this straight: The Walking Dead is not about zombies. Yes, there are "walkers" that are... well, zombies, basically; and yes, it's set in a post-apocalyptic world where there are just a bunch survivors left.

Yet TWD is not about zombies.
In fact it's about humans. Or better yet, it's about humans' relationships.

I mean, just try to imagine the situation for a moment: you're left alone in a world where surviving isn't a given, but you have to actually earn it. You fight dead corpses that move around and are extremely tough and numerous (though also very stupid). You have to find food, water, shelter and weapons.
Then suppose one day you meet another survivor.
Who's this guy? How did he manage to survive? What does he want?
Imagine he asks for your help. He says he's injured and asks you for some medicine.
Would you be willing to spare some? What if he's been bitten and he's already done for? What if it's a trap and he just wants to rob you?
And what if he's actually fine and sincerely in need of your help?

That's not even all. Because in a hostile world such as this you wouldn't last much by yourself, so usually survivors hang out in groups.
Say you join one. Someone will maybe like you, some other won't probably share that feeling. What if you can't keep up with the others and you're dead weight who's slowing everyone down? Some will probably point that out and say you have to leave, even though that'd mean certain death for you.

Or maybe you're good. You actually manage to be useful. You're nice to the others too, so nobody complains. As if.
Then eventually someone is bitten, or left behind, or dies for whatever reason. Maybe you had to kill them because you had no option left.
Maybe they had a family. They obviously will get very angry at you, because you technically killed their loved ones. So seeds of distrust begin to take root, and eventually someone will do something stupid and someone else will die.

There, that's TWD in a nutshell. Hopefully these weird examples will make you understand why I said that TWD isn't about zombies.

Oh, I should probably mention that it's a game from Telltale, and like every other game of theirs (I think?), TWD is an interactive story. This means the gameplay is barely there, and the biggest actions of the player will be pressing a botton to pick an answer during the dialogues. There are also a handful of action scene, but again, all you have to do is move the left stick (if you're playing with a pad) within a second or two or continuing to press the X button like a madman. So yeah, gameplay is not really the reason to play this.

And speaking of choices, maybe you're wondering if they actually change the outcome of the story. Let me spoiler you this, they don't.
Or well, the vast majority of the choices affect your relations with the other characters, but all the major events will still happen. The only exception to this is the ending.
Still, does it feel like you actually affect the story? Hell yes. Kudos to Telltale for that.

Anyway, as always I ended up writing far more than expected. At the very least I hope I persuaded some of you to at least take a look at this (and of course to Season 1). I can consider myself satisfied if I managed.

lunedì 28 marzo 2016

Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica

Listening to: Click me and do yourself a favour

(Warning: the following post doesn't try too hard even try to explain some things to the layman, so while I'll avoid spoilers as always, if you don't know already the series, you can just skip this and go play Ar Tonelico I)

So, after more or less forever I finally played and finished AT2 as well as the first one.
Considering how much I liked the latter, I have to say I was pretty hyped up for this. But as it's often the case, the hype backfired at me.
There are some things I want to consider so I'm just gonna make a hopefully short list of good and bad things:

Better game balance
In the AT1 post I pointed out how its biggest problem is that the game's too easy. Although AT2 still kinda is - the only fights where I had problems were a few level 9 I.P.D.s, battles that are definitely optional anyway - bosses at least put up a decent fight.
Speaking of which, another good thing was...

Akiko Shikata performs in it
Wait no, I didn't want to say this. Although this is probably the most valid point.

Better battle system
The other reason I didn't mind fights as much as in AT1 is because the battles were ultimately fun. Not perfect, mind you: things like being able to cure yourself at the start of the battle just to run away (with a 100% success rate) right after that, effectively making healing items almost useless, probably make it broken and definitely a bit worse than the system in AT1. Still, overall I'd consider this as a good thing seeing how I enjoyed battles.

Soundtrack is as good as AT1
Which means it's exceptionally good. Not much more to say. 

Akiko Shikata performs in it
This is just one of the reasons of the point above. But I wanted to make it clear and give it the importante it deserves.

And I think that's actually it. Now for the funnier part of commenting what was bad (or worse than in AT1 anyway):

The new synthesis system sucks hard compared to Grathmeld
In AT1 you traveled across the world, found recipe cards in dungeon and cities, then you enjoyed your stay at an inn where you had fun staying in the girls' room 'til late to talk and making new shiny things with Grathmeld.
Now this doesn't happen anymore. You don't find recipe cards during your travels, nor you can make shiny things at every savepoint/inn. Now you have to progress the plot a little, then go back to every freakin' shop, where you'll have unlocked one or two cutscenes which will result in the shopkeeper giving you a recipe card.
Come again?
This is just stupid. Things like cutscenes for every recipe card given to you and the fact that you can craft more than one kind of item from every recipe card (since it depends on the girl you choose to help you out) might be entertaining and make some sense, but the fact that I have to go back at every shop after every dungeon to craft items of dubious usefulness is just a huge fail.
Gimme back muh Grathmeld.

No more crystals for weapons/armors
This is another case of "fixing what ain't broken". In AT1 I had lots of fun searching for and using the best crystals to put in weapons and armors. So why the hell did they have to remove them altogether in here?
At first I thought it was a failed attempt to make the game a little harder, but then they put things like Replekia (unlocked quite early in the game too) that basically throw the game's balance out of the window. Also if increased difficulty was the reason, they could have just made the enemies more powerful in the first place, so it's not probably that.
So it's just a stupid thing to do.

Plot is meh~ish
To be honest I'm not 100% sure the problem here is the plot or the characters, but I can't say I enjoyed the story that much, that's for sure. And speaking of which...

Characters are incosistent with themselves
Now this is a problem you don't want in your (J)RPG. Especially in the first parts of the game, characters sometimes don't really make sense (yes Luca I'm looking at you most of all).
It might be due to NISA's acknowledged bad localization rather than the screenwriters' fault, but unless you understand Japanese this is a moot point.

Story "phases" don't really make sense
This is probably not very important for most people, but I liked how in AT1 every phase was almost a story of its own. You could take a (long) break at the end of each of them, resume some time afterward, and it'd almost feel like what nowadays would be a DLC. It was nice.
In AT2 this doesn't apply. Every phase is strictly related to the previous one, and they're probably there just to give you an idea of how much you've progressed into the game. 

Voice acting is almost non-existent
In AT2, as in its predecessor, you can select between Japanese and English voice acting. It's kinda useless though, since the voiced scenes in both languages are very, very few, especially considering the amount of text the game has.

Phase 2
No seriously what was that. It felt like the game devs woke up a morning and decided to put random mini-games for whatever reason, only to resume normal game mechanics in the next 3 phases. Just... no.

As you can see, ultimately the downsides weight way more than the upsides. Or well, at least they do for me. Which makes it hard for me to suggest an approach to the Ar Tonelico series.
I'm tempted to say to play AT2 first, so that the first one won't ruin it for you, but going back to AT1 battle system after AT2's might feel awkward, and you'd miss some cameos and references too, so you're kinda screwed in any case.

But maybe it's just me. Maybe for some reason I didn't enjoy this very much but others did/would. I guess the only way to be sure is to give it a shot yourself.

lunedì 5 ottobre 2015

~ What a beautiful ~ series

Listening to: Last Exile OST

This post will be very short. Bullshit.
This post is about two VNs of this series - namely, Seiken no Inganock and Shikkoku no Sharnoth.
I don't remember exactly how I came to know these, but most likely I searched for high-rated (translated) VNs and these two titles showed up, among others. Hence, I knew absolutely nothing about these when I started them, except that they should have been good.

Apparently Seiken no Inganock was the one written before the other, so I started with that. It's not like I knew that until after I finished it, but those are details. I guess I just was lucky. Or not.
So, describing this is actually pretty hard. It's definitely not your average VN, that's for sure. Aside from that, well...
You see, this series features some peculiarities, and because of them this is one of those you-love-them-or-hate-them thing. The first two, obvious things that come to mind are the beautiful art style (I don't think I read any complaint about that by anyone), and the abuse of copy-paste repetition of certain scenes. And no, I don't mean some scenes are similar to some others, but they're literally the same, except for a few lines at most.
(Oh, I don't know if it counts as another feature, but I'll throw it here in any case - the BGMs are quite good.)

With that in mind, I have to say I didn't mind it much, if at all, while playing Inganock. I was a bit baffled at first, sure, but I grew used to it quite soon, and eventually I learnt to actually appreciate the thing. 
Because every repeated scene is like a ritual, in which you have to follow certain steps.
Because every little difference there was implied something important. 
The characters are great, so I didn't even mind the fact that most of them are fundamentally just a filler. 
Because just watching their interactions was fun. 
Because just playing every chapter to find out more about the mysteries of Inganock was enough to keep me hooked.
The ending is pretty decent too, but beware, because if you like clear explanations, you'll probably be let down. 
Because if you just want everything thrown at your face, you'll probably be left with a bitter taste.

Okay I'm done with this thing. Too bad I suck at it.

So yeah, all in all I kinda enjoyed Inganock. I wouldn't say it's great, but it's a nice change of pace.
Knowing more of what to expect, I started Shikkoku no Sharnoth.

Let's just say this: Sharnoth is first VN ever in which I skipped unread text.
A lot of it, in fact.
I myself ain't 100% sure of the reason. Though if I had to point out something, I do have a couple a few some possible reasons in mind:
- The main character is annoying. Seriously annoying. Mind you, this is probably just a thought of mine, but in certain scenes I just hoped she'd die already. Ugh. Most of the scenes I skipped were ones where she was present, yes;

Yes, she's rather cute, but don't let that fool you.

- The repetition thing that I liked in Inganock is completely useless in Sharnoth. I don't know if the author kept it just because of consistency/style, but seriously, I don't think most of them have a point at all;
- Not only the overall plot was less intriguing than in Inganock, but the answers... actually, this deserves a point of its own;
- The answers to the mysteries are just too slow. You spend something like 6 chapters running like a clueless idiot (see point below), then one of the characters "who knows" tells you something kinda obvious, then the main characters suffers a psychological crisis, but that's nothing new to her anyway, then you have to spend still another 4 chapters to run, and when you finally reach the final chapter... most of the mysteries don't even get mentioned at all (who is Funnel? Why and what does she know about Inganock and David?!), and the answers to the ones that do lack proper justification and seem kinda weak in general;
- The fucking minigame.

Art/Style and music are great though, and some of the characters are good too. But overall that's not enough to make me think the time I spent on this wasn't wasted.

There is one weird thing though, which tbh is the real reason I wrote this post. All of the (few) reviews I found of Shikkoku no Sharnoth actually praised it. 

Mfw I read "8/10" or even more.

At least, Inganock does seem like the most appreciated of the two. But yeah, basically I wrote all of this to be somewhat of a hipster and tell the world Sharnoth is shit.

tl;dr if you enjoy VNs and you want to try something new, give Seiken no Inganock a chance. Forget about Sharnoth if you ask me, or if you really want to, give it a chance but lower your expectations a lot, wherever they're set.

sabato 12 settembre 2015

Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia

Listening to: Do I really need to say it?

So, another random revival it is.
This alone should speak by itself.

I finally had the chance to play this title myself. I already watched a series of Let's Play of this and Ar Tonelico II some years ago, before playing Ar Tonelico Qoga (i.e. Ar Tonelico III), so - unfortunately - I already knew of the story and the plot twists. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it a lot.

Let me just say this: Ar Tonelico is a phenomenal game. Sure, it's a bit old and a few parts of the gameplay kinda aged bad (yes, backtracking, I'm looking at you), but it's nowhere near enough to ruin the overall enjoyment.

Let's start with the obvious best: the music is absolutely great. And I'm not talking only of the hymmnos, but also of the actual soundtrack. Every single track is perfect for the scene it's used in, and most of them are great even when you just listen to them outside of the game.

The plot is not inferior in any way. AT conveys a lot of messages and ideas to the player, and does so in a great way. I won't say more on this, because you need to play it to fully understand it.

Longevity is quite good too. I finished the game in about 30h, and I never got tired of it. That's also because the gameplay itself is great, aside from one or two little things.
One of those is the already-mentioned backtracking, which is a bit annoying at times, but considering you can escape from battles with a 100% success rate it's not that bad. The other thing I wished it was different is the difficulty. Especially in most of Phase 2 the game's really easy, and it's hard to get hyped for battles when even bosses are defeated in 2 minutes or so. I mean, I didn't even farm so that was unexpected.
It might be because I started fleeing more often, but Phase 3 was a bit harder, though still kinda easy.

So, what now? I'll play AT2 as well of course, but I guess I'll take a short break before that.

Even considering my huge Steam library and my almost-as-big PS3 one, not only I don't regret playing this one bit, but if you call yourself a JRPG fan, I strongly encourage you to play this as well. I guarantee you won't regret it.

domenica 12 aprile 2015

Super Danganronpa 2

Currently listening to: Super Danganronpa 2 OST (Yeah no shit Sherlock)

SDR2 is everything a sequel should be: it borrows the ideas from the first game, it adds some of its own and combines everything with a lot of self-irony to create a mix that is always entertaining.
I could end the post here and make everyone happy but I guess it wouldn't make clear how much I enjoyed this game, so I'll just write everything I can think of and show you how it's all good:
  • Story: SDR2 could be seen as a visual novel (with lots of gameplay), so of course the plot is a primary concern. Well, fear not, because the only downside I can think of is actually related to the game's mechanics. And with that I mean how every chapter is basically the same as far as structure is regarded: Daily life -> Deadly life -> Trial -> Repeat. Basically you know from the start that someone's going to die over and over again, but hey, there's little the developers could have done for that, if anything at all. The things they could do right, they did, because the plot twists and the crimes very rarely let you down.
  • Style: As I kinda mentioned above, SDR2 is full of self-irony and references, both to its own brand and to other famous stuff. Not only this, the concept of "breaking the fourth wall" is redefined, especially in the last chapter of the game (which, by the way, is pure genius). This is especially - but not only - Monokuma's merit. The guy's a nasty bastard but from the point of view of the gamer he's simply brilliant. Bravo to the developers.
  • Graphics: Who even cares about this, let's go on.
  • Music: While not being phenomenal it's pretty good, especially in-game, so this passes too.
  • Longevity: If you're crazy like me you'll spend every day of the week to clear a chapter and you'll still want more.
  • Gameplay: Simply catchy. The daily life is probably the weakest part, but it lets you know the characters better and they deserve it; the investigation and trial parts are simply awesome and you'll have serious troubles putting down the console when playing those.
That's all I can think of. I already said it but I will mention again how the last chapter is simply brilliant and something that all those who write stories should play/read.
tl;dr Play it.

mercoledì 25 marzo 2015

The Witch and the Hundred Knight

Currently listening to: Basically all of this

Here's another game that received the shitstorm treatment.
I remember I was pretty excited about this when it first came out. Not only it was from NISA, but most of the people who matter staff who worked on it are from the Disgaea team (I think?). And it was something new, on top of that! How to not be excited?

Metallica herself is quite charming too, ain't she?
But then the reviews begun.
Well, they're all pretty similar, and I think they can be summed up with this:

The Witch and the Hundred Knight has an incredibly dark sense of humor, at times borderline morbid [...]. Not to mention [Metallica is] incredibly foul-mouthed.
 (From Siliconera)
Oh, they also all said that the gameplay was quite average and there were no particular strong points.

After reading all this, how could I resist?
So after a year and some months I decided to buy it at a very convenient price to finally check it out.

The first problem I encountered was like 3 minutes into the game. No, that's not because it's that bad, but because the following choice is always rather difficult for me:
" Select voice language:
> English
> Japanese "

What I usually do is select English, watch the first scene of the game, then go back to the start screen, select Japanese, and stick with it until the end of the game.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight was no exception to that.
Although I have to admit that the English dub was quite decent from what I've heard.

Now, why did I just spend almost 10 lines to say an apparently useless thing? You'll have to wait a bit more, but if you're smelling a Checkhov's Gun, then your nose is pretty good.
The next thing that hit me, as it sometimes happen, was the soundtrack. Pretty much all the tracks in the game scream "Tenpei Sato", and that's undoubtedly a good thing for me.

Saeval, that's nice and all, but this is becoming a wall of text and you really didn't say anything significant what you think of the game still.
I know, my impatient friend, but don't worry, the main part starts now.
So, as far as the gameplay is regarded, I have to say the reviews are unfortunately correct. It is quite average, being kind of a fast-paced-Diablo clone. There are some other, different things, but they really aren't that necessary to understand since you get lots of EXP just wondering around, which makes you overleveled for the most part of the game. 
About the whole dark humor thing, first of all, I have to say that I clearly don't speak Japanese, but thanks to all the time wasted watching anime I do have some (extremely low) level of comprehension of the language. As I said above, I played the game with Japanese dub and (obviously) English text. Doing so, I kinda had the impression that it was NISA's localization to make things more vulgar than they are natively. In a lot of dialogues Metallica's words on screen didn't quite match the translation I had in mind, being the former always meaner. Yeah, I'm aware I might be completely off with this, but blogs are about personal opinions, aren't they?

All of that said, mostly also thanks to Tenpei Sato's work it's not really a problem to clear the game, even though it is quite long. But I do have a few big complains:
  1. The trophies don't make sense. Well, the reason for me saying this is mainly because of the ridiculous amount of time I spent 100%-ing almost all the maps, just to find out later on that between all the secret trophies (which are, like, all of them or so) there is none related to map exploring completion.
    Think of the kanjis as censorship of my curses.
    That's how I felt.
  2. The ending. There's probably no need to be this cautious, but I will avoid spoilers anyway.
    Basically there are 3 endings. The normal one, which... well, isn't really worth more than a mention. Then there's the true ending, which is the one I got when I didn't even know all this. Finally there's the bad ending. My complain here is that the normal ending does kinda-sorta fit the game, but it just sucks. Hard. It's definitely not the kind of ending you want to see after 40+ hours, and it just makes you want to throw the pad against the screen.
  3. So, the normal ending isn't really a thing, the true one sucks. What about the bad one?
    Heh, I wish I could answer you, dear reader, but the fact is that to unlock the bad ending you have to go through chapters 12 and 13.
    Saeval, what's the problem with that?
    Do you remember when I said the game is kinda easy because EXP basically rains from the sky?
    That still applies. You get a shitload of EXP during chapters 12 and (I think, since I never got there) 13 too.
    Too bad it doesn't matter. The enemies are always at your same level regardless of whatever it is. As if that weren't enough, the equipment you get up to chapter 11 is extremely underpowered considering the enemies you have to face.
    The result of all of this is that you need several hits to defeat any of the common enemies while most of them one-shot you, or at best, two-shot you. And if two-shotting ain't a verb, I don't care.
    I did try to ganbatte and not give up; I even defeated two of the (at least) five bosses of the chapter, but the third I tried to take on is simply crazy and the only advice I can find on the internet* is "go farm". Yeah right, as if that were useful.
    But man, the true ending sucks. I guess this is the part where Youtube comes in handy.

    *: Speaking of which, this game must have sold terribly bad, because you can barely find anything about it. Most of the times I got stuck (which didn't really occur much often) I found just one or two gamefaqs threads, if anything at all.

    And that's all.
    tl;dr : Is The Witch and the Hundred Knight as bad as reviews depict it? Probably not. I can see why it got such poor votes, but if you're used a bit to the Japanese style you'll probably end up liking it, or at least not minding it. If you're not though, stay away from it. But maybe do give the soundtrack a chance.

lunedì 19 gennaio 2015

Winter 2014-15

(...since, well, it covers both years.)

Currently listening to: Shingeki no Kyojin OST 
(i.e. seriously good stuff)

So, this time around I'm actually watching weekly shows, after an eternity of watching only already-completed stuff. But as usual, let's get down to business already; this is what I've currently watched, though do keep in mind that I've only seen the first episode.

Kantai Collection (a.k.a. KanColle)
Simply... no. Video-wise is probably the best show of the season, too bad even that isn't enough to give me the necessary motivation to get through it. Maybe who's familiar with the game will enjoy it more.

Absolute Duo
This is the only series I've watched up to episode 2. First one made me almost believe it could be ever-so-slightly better than average ecchi/fantasy anime, but episode 2 promptly made me change my mind. I guess I'll give it another chance before dropping it though.

Oh hey, she tripped over him.

I sure wasn't expecting such a huge cliffhanger.

Shinmai Maou no Testament
This was kinda a pleasant surprise, because the first 5 minutes made me want to kill myself, but then it got better. I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out bad afterwards though (see AD above).

This is the moment where the show turned from "meh~" to "not so bad".

Death Parade
Now, a few people know I was really looking forward to this. And although I got exactly what I expected - i.e. something very similar to the already-available OVA - I didn't mind it at all. In fact, I actually liked the touch of feelings and the message the director wanted to pass on.

I believe the real plot-twist of the show is the OP.
Oh, and unlike everybody else - and I mean everybody - I ain't worried about "future episodes being more of the same", because it's pretty clear that there are characters that have yet to appear, plus the series could say a lot of things even using the same format for every single episode.

No, she's not being punched, it's just good ol' MadHouse.
Overall, I'd say the show is pretty sick. If that's a good thing or not, it probably depends on you.

Junketsu no Maria
At first I actually had no intention to watch this, but it's set in Medieval times and it's about virgin witches, so how could I resist?

Yes, this means exactly what you're thinking.
Turns out I did the right thing - at least jugding from the first ep - as the show seems pretty funny and definitely not your average animu.

Koufuku Graffiti
All I read about this show (even before it aired) was "it's about food porn". Again, I couldn't simply ignore this.
And damn, were they right.
So yeah, it's just a story of a girl who has an orgasm whenever she eats something good and how can you blame her. And it's Shaft. So I'm fairly confident this will be at least decent.

Assassination Classroom (a.k.a. AssClass)
This was another one I was kinda looking forward to. It's probably one of the weirdest out of all the shows I'm mentioning, but I really don't mind. Check out the synopsis - or better yet, the first episode - to understand why's that.

One thing I didn't quite get was why they made
the main character like that, and called him Nagisa too.
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata
Finally, the real surprise. I don't even know why I checked this one out, but the first 8 minutes of the show were enough to make me fall in love with its sense of humor. As of now, I don't know if I should watch it every week or just wait for the BDs...
One thing I sure wouldn't enjoy is encoding this.

Okay, that was the last one.
Wow, I didn't realise I watched so many shows. Though I suppose that means this season is not bad at all, so yay.

New post about good stuff soon™.