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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Extend(初音ミク -Project DIVA Extend-)

Since Project DIVA Extend is essentially the same game as DIVA 2nd but with different songs, this is going to be a pretty short post. The only noteworthy improvement in terms of the user interface is the △ button option to play PVs right from the main song list. DIVA 2nd for some reason had this very awkward interface where you had to go to the Diva room to open PV mode. From there, you had to choose your song and modules from a list with no preview. It was a total step backward from the first game and so it's good that they fixed it in extend.

Other than that, as the name suggests, given that this is really an extension of the previous game, the only thing to discuss is the quality of the song list. I have to say in terms of volume, it's a bit of a disappointment especially since they reuse songs from previous games AGAIN. Some songs from the first game didn't have any video and was just a slideshow of images so it's fine that they redid those with a proper video. However, the songs from 2nd are the same so I'm not sure what the point is unless I guess you skipped 2nd? Maybe the extreme difficulty key patterns are more challenging. I'm not sure as I don't have those memorized.

This song AGAIN? Sigh...

The highlight of extend perhaps is the sheer number of modules as you can once again import all the unlocked modules from the previous game. Essentially, you're getting modules from all THREE games. They even created modules just for a specific song. You may think, oh so maybe that's why they included the repeat songs from 2nd but no, you can actually download an extend module pack for 2nd from PSN so it goes both ways. (At least if you're not a filthy pirate, you can download it.)

Free... my favorite price!
However, putting aside my gripes about the lack of content, I still enjoyed this game for what it was. After all, the very first song has Miku acting like a cat in probably one of the cutest videos I've seen.

I normally wouldn't want to own a cat but I can make an exception in this case.
In addition, I have to give props to Sega for deciding to do their version of the song: 結んで開いて羅刹と骸 even going as far to include a module complete with eyes painted on her hands. It's an abridged version but I believe the shorter length is better gameplay wise. If they wanted to censor it, they wouldn't have included the most risque line: 「子作りしようか」(sorry non-jhipsters).

Definitely one of the highlights of the game


Game is not as creepy as this OG ver but still cool nonetheless


Score: 3 HOLY SHIT! WHAT'S UP WITH THE EYE IN THE CLOSET?!!! out of 5.

Overall, while there's no new features from 2nd and the amount of new content is pretty lacking, the movies themselves are more interesting. Quite a few songs tell some kind of story that made me actually want to watch the PVs and read the lyrics. To confess, I don't normally read the lyrics because they usually don't make much sense; NOT because I can't understand the words (Hello? Jhipster here!) but because it's all lyrical... and stuff.

Best song so far in entire series in terms of choreography fo sure

While I wouldn't have been too happy if I paid full retail for this "extend" title, I definitely enjoyed it for the $25 or so it cost to find a used copy. It's a worthy addition to the PSP collection for sure. As this concludes the Project Diva series on the PSP platform, I also want to comment on the charm of the PSP graphics. While the Vita entries are great and I'm pretty sure you can get all these songs on high-def PS4 Future Sound or something, I feel like the latest models look kind of plastic and not as cute as the PSP version. I guess I'll see if the latest and greatest grows on me when I get to it. For now, I'm going to see if I can dig out my 3DS copy of Project Mirai buried somewhere in one of the boxes in my closet of shame.



PS. Is it just me or the camera angles a lot "safer" once they started localized these games to English? SJW WINS AGAIN???

Scale
0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memories Off

So I decided to check out the Memories Off series once 5pb. was kind enough to put a bunch of their PSP titles on a 100 yen PSN sale. Not to mention the fact that I have a stack of these games that I might want to get rid of once I finish them. (I'm running out of room in the shame closet.) There's like a bazillion titles in this series so it must mean they're good right? I mean every Call of Duty I've ever played has been like one masterpiece after another.

Yeah ok fine, COD jokes are getting old. SORRY
Apparently this game was super popular(?) because there's like a bazillion ports and on every possible type of media: manga, anime, novel, and drama CD. The PSP version I played contains the prequel Memories Off Pure and a new! exclusive!! After Story which as the amazingly clever title suggests is a story that takes place after the main game. By the way, I am NOT planning on playing the ponjan spinoff Festa.

2 down... umm 7 more to go?? I'm so confused.
I'm up to my 5th galge (6 if you count Never 7 which kinda is but not really), and I've started to notice that the more recent titles are a lot lazier in the branching path territory. Harvest OverRay has like a total of 3 dialogue choices and bitter smile. even kept a score to show you exactly which girl's branch you were heading for. '&' has a bunch of new choices that pop up as you unlocked certain endings that have nothing to do with the girl it leads to. The common theme I've found is that you have one main branch that you only really play once, then you go back and pick one branch per girl.

Memories Off on the other hand recalled some of the fun of those choose-your-own adventure books back from the day. There's tons of dialogue choices and branching paths all over the main scenario before you enter a girl's route. Even once you enter a certain route, there's plenty of opportunities to derail into the bad ending. However, the game makes navigation simple by showing you an avatar of the girl approving or disapproving of each dialogue option. I enjoyed trying to keep track of the various paths and finding the tiny bits of dialogue that would change just to make the narrative consistent.

31,971 messages... hmm, that's a lot of dialogue but how's the battle system?
Interestingly enough, I happened to get to the True ending on my first blind playthrough in about 9 hours. It's not hard thanks to those avatar hints but usually, the true ending is something you unlock at the very end and I guess the PS version is a lot more difficult to get the true ending. Combined with Pure Story and After Story, I was able to unlock 11 of the 13 endings blind and still spent a bit more time exploring some of the other paths.

I thought the VA was pretty good, except for Ayaka. All the girls were cute and unlike the hentai censored consumer port games I've played till now, they weren't all up in your business for absolutely no reason. (I know it's not actually hentai, I'm just trying to the make it easier for the non-jhipster philistines to understand.) In fact, as crazy as this sounds, it was kinda nice to play a pure game with no obligatory pool or hot spring fan service scenes. I don't think there's a shred of fan service to find in this game.

Almost like a real girl, if you were like umm... 2D n shit. Darn!
As for the additional added content, while the prequel was a nice side-story to fill out some of the details of the main character's past, After Story was pretty meh. Maybe too much time had past to get the original voice actors but there's no VA and no branching paths and the story was a bit silly to boot. I did find it interesting to see the reinterpretation of the character design with a more "modern" look.

Welp, another fine work from the post moepocalypse era

Score: 3 pre-moepocalypse nostalgia out of 5 (34.5 hours to beat)

Overall, I enjoyed Memories Off (I spent over 30 hours on it after all). I thought all the characters were charming, and the illustrations pretty good. The true ending was touching and all the girls definitely had their own story to tell. In particular, Minamo's route was pretty messed up especially since in this version, she doesn't open her eyes at the end unlike some of the other ports.

Looks damn good for a Neo Geo Pocket Color port!
While After Story wasn't much to write home about, the PSP port didn't have any technical issues and had all the necessary features in terms of sound options, etc. Certainly worth the 100 yen I paid on PSN. I'm not sure yet how After Rain fits into the series but I guess I'll figure it out when I get to the pile of PS2 games in my closet. If you're looking for a nice pure story about dealing with loss while getting to know some cute girls, I would say give this one a shot.

The music was just the regular ol' visual novel stuff.

Scale
0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Thursday, May 25, 2017

MOTHER3

In my post about MOTHER2, I couldn't help but ramble on about how it fixed all the shitty parts of MOTHER to upgrade it from a bag of poo all the way to a fairly decent game. At this rate, MOTHER3 should be one of the greatest games of all time. At the very least, it addressed my only one major complaint: the complete lack of character development making it very difficult to feel invested in the story. BOY OH BOY, did they add a lot of story this time around, almost TOO MUCH (here comes entitled gamer complaining about getting exactly what I asked for). Within the first few hours of the game, the story get HEAVY AS FUCK (in more ways than one).

Heavy as a plate of chicken fried steak with biscuits AND gravy YEEHAW!!
If you thought MOTHER2 was doomed in the US market, MOTHER3 would have been like trying to sell bubonic plague. The graphic style combined with all the heavy dialogue and reading would have been like kryptonite to American gamers, gasping in shock as they vainly tried to reach for a bag of Doritos and dew with their weakened, fat hands. (Disclaimer: I'm American so I'm allowed to make fun of them, err I mean us.)

In terms of the gameplay and battle system, it's pretty much the same as MOTHER2, a standard multi-task hold down 'A' affair. Fortunately, you can hold down the convenient 'L' button for one-handed play and it goes really fast. In fact, TOO fast, one time I had to reset because I got an item from a battle, the game said my inventory was full, and I ended up throwing away my equip item instead by accident. OOPS!

Your first battle is with an okera, some sort of bug? He thinks he's tough.
Again, I really dug the way your HP gradually rolls up and down, giving you a chance to heal yourself before you die if you're quick (ATB?). It's great at keeping you on your toes for boss battles. It also helped me not care when the men's bathroom sign used PK Starstorm cause I could quickly end the battle before it really hurt me (you'll understand when you play game). There's nothing new really from the previous game in terms of game mechanics except for the dash. OH THANK GOD FOR THE DASH. I loved it so much I was super annoyed when you couldn't dash cause one of your characters was trying to learn a new PSI ability. UGH.

What really stands out in this game is the story and the large cast of quirky and memorable characters. In addition, the OST has TONS of songs and is probably one of the best VG OSTs I've heard in terms of variety.

GAH! DEM FEEEEEEEEELS


Warning: some very minor spoilers ahead.


Starting out, I thought maybe it took place many years before MOTHER2, maybe in Texas or something? Cause your dad looks like a cowboy and it looked like some sort of western setting but with dinosaurs? Hmm I dunno, maybe a completely different universe from the previous 2 games? That's what I thought going into the game at least and wasn't a big fan of the western setting at first.

Without getting into too much detail, let me just say that the story does NOT disappoint. Even though both Ness and Lucas are silent protagonists, the level of character development and emotional attachment is on a totally different level from the previous game, which is interesting considering Lucas doesn't say a single word in the entire game. I also liked that your dog in this game isn't a total useless, good-for-nothing like the last game. Sadly, my dog Chewy passed away after I started this game so it was a bit sad to continue playing with Chewy (チュイ) in my party.

Sigh....
As for the overall plot, while MOTHER2 had some great surprises and frankly disturbing plot points, MOTHER3 has dem FEEEEELS. There were definitely some great themes as well, such as how the bad guy used "Shiawase" (happiness) boxes to corrupt the town. My cynical self enjoyed the irony of exploring the bad influence of TV in a video game. It also did a great job of being a grand finale for the entire series. I don't know if it was Itoi's grand scheme for the series but it finally did live up to the title "MOTHER". It would have been cool if I wrote this post for Mother's Day but I'm a bit late for that.

Too bad my real mother is a krazy lady.

Score: 4 No seriously, I'm not fucking exaggerating about dem FEEEEELS out of 5 (29 hours to beat)

I was going to give this game an above-average score of 3.5 as I normally wouldn't give a multitask battle system game a 4. I didn't get that super hooked right away either as it took me over a year to finish. The underwater oxygen part was kind of tedious and I probably put it down for over 6 months at that point. Another issue was that this game didn't work on my PSP emulator as they must have used some crazy GBA tricks. It wasn't really an issue since I'm not a filthy pirate and I own the actual game but I don't carry my DS with me normally so it took me longer to finish.

However, after finishing the game, considering the great OST and my preference for a good story over gameplay, I decided that it deserves a 4 as a great end to a influential video game series. It obviously was intended to be THE END so I'm not really into these English (bleh) fan projects to make a "sequel". Just call it something else, geesh.

Just one of the many great tracks, check out the 8-bit version too

Also, it's STILL not localized for obvious reasons. For a game with graphics that look like it's some sort of edutainment kid's title, I'm sure parents wouldn't be so happy about the themes of animal abuse, nor you playing as a kid, making out with trans-gender mermaids and hallucinating on some shrooms. Considering the fact that we're apparently too sensitive to hear some wacky sound effect for punishing children, localizing MOTHER3 would have required more censorship than a boobie Compile Heart game even IF Earthbound had sold well (yeah not exactly oodles of Earthbound floating around on ebay). I mean, seriously Cero A rating?? Sure, if you want to tramitize some poor kid about mortality but c'mon really.

But Daren, aren't shrooms just vegetables? Doesn't count right??
Those Earthbound fans clamoring for an official English localization probably have never played this game. (Well duh, if they did, why would they still care?) While I wouldn't totally write off a possible digital English release, given the fake kid friendly image NOA is trying to maintain, I feel pretty safe putting this one on the official Jhipster smugness approved list. It's only been 11 years though, maybe they'll localize next year?

Jhipster smugness approved!
Scale
0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dead Zone (デッドゾーン)

Yeah, don't think so.
I'm going to make this post a quick one because I really don't have much to say about Dead Zone, a Family Disk System ADV game from Sunsoft. Typical of console games from this period, the cover art is kind of deceptive as the actual graphics are pretty crude. I know this isn't PC88 Master race but still, it's 1986. Compared to Wingman from 2 years prior, this just goes to show how inferior consoles were back in the day.

Thankfully, at least cause FDS, you don't have to type anything. Even so, there's so many commands and possibilities, I would say this is another game that's almost impossible without a guide. It doesn't help that you can barely tell what you're looking at cause of the lame graphics.


LOL, that's quite a fancy plug there. Is this DirectX 12???
The puzzles are pretty intense and if you like that kind of thing, might be something that's even enjoyable. You start out in a garbage dump Star Wars style and have to make your escape by causing the walls to come closing in. You can then use the walls to climb up to the ceiling vent before it crushes you.

The game is filled with those kind of challenging puzzles if you're a masochist I guess. As for me, of course, I have no patience for that kind of thing so cheat time it is (AGAIN). Similar to Suisho no Dragon, the other FDS adventure game I've played so far, the story is pretty minimal and all is revealed in like 5 lines of dialogue at the end. I guess I was supposed to buy the game with manual if I wanted to get the whole backstory... SORRY.

Oh, well that explains why the game has no back story...
However, I have to give credit to this game for its interesting puzzles at least. The gnarliest is the final password, which Carry, your robot companion claims is 1215225. The real password is 1311825 and the reason I found was on a random Japanese blog.

数字はアルファベットの並び順。キャリーが言っているのは「12=L、15=O、22=V、5=E」で「LOVE」となり、正しい方は「13=M、1=A、18=R、25=Y」で「MARY」である。

Lies, just like the cake. Damn robots.
Also, there's a weird mini-game intermission kinda thing in the middle where you have to catch onigiri being thrown by an old guy. Weird.

Is there some mythos I don't know about that explains this?
Score: 1.5 well at least the title screen and box art looked good out of 5.

There's nothing exactly wrong with this game besides the ho-hum graphics and lackluster story. It could be a good game to try if you like nigh impossible puzzles solved strictly by selecting menu options. Oh well, at least the title and ending looked cool.


Oh man, this game is going to be SO COOL.

Well, at least the ending was cool...

Scale
0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wingman (ウイングマン)

Oh man, the things I do in the name of Jhipsterdom. While Wingman was on my list of Enix games to check out for 1984, I've been loathe to go through it even with a guide because it required kana input. You have no idea what a pain it is to type はめる ぶれすれっと in kana mode.

Unfortunately, I later found out that it's impossible to type ろ without a 106-key keyboard. Now, I do have an old Japanese laptop laying around the house but was too lazy to get it out so I figured out how to use the onscreen keyboard to type with keys I didn't have. Unfortunately, this changed some other things such requiring typing shift+7 for a single quote. You have no idea what a pain that is for typing in English.

UGH. Seriously, the shit I do for Jhipster-dom
So you can see why I skipped Zarth but Wingman is like a series on the PC88 with Wingman 2 and Wingman Special. Also, this game has far more illustrations than Zarth and seems much more fleshed out. According to some random Japanese website, apparently they enlisted the help of the guy who did that one good pixel art in Zarth for this game as well. He's definitely got some MS Paint skills fo' sure.

Alright fuck it, let's do this
This game is based on the manga of the same name and takes place a few volumes into the story. Now, I wasn't about to go fly to Japan to buy up the manga to get caught up on the backstory but I did brush myself up on the main plot and characters via you know online resources.

Shockingly, the anime was NOT available on Netflix

As a command line based ADV game, you're basically expected to just type shit until something works. Now, there's a helpful list of commands/locations at the bottom of the screen you can choose using the function keys but you still need to type shit that's not on the list.

Function keys? It's been a while my good friends.
For example, you're supposed to type "talk" and "cute" to get an item from the teacher. I'm not sure how you're supposed to figure out to say "cute" when the entire Japanese language is at your disposal. Even the early Sierra On-line games were not that brutal. Now, part of the fun in these games is trying to type shit like "fuck you" to see if the game has a clever response but given the fact that it takes me like 2 minutes to type a single word, fuck it, guide time.

You're supposed to talk about じゅもん. How did I know? I cheated, sorry (NOT!)
What's kinda cool about this game is you can transform by typing "chaing" which is a combination of the words "change" and "wing" (amazing that didn't catch on). When you transform into Wingman, you can battle the villain in the area at the bottom of the screen. You have two attacks via the F1 and F2 keys: "Contini Punch" and "Wingle Crash". The wingle crash always resulted in me losing health as well so I stuck with punching but I guess it doesn't really matter whether you win or lose. The screen is upside down because it's a separate dimension for battling or whatever (just read the manga).


Score: 2 wingle contini chaings out of 5

I would say this is a pretty high quality adventure game for its time at least visually and a much better offering from Enix compared to Zarth. It helps that there's a whole manga/anime to fill in the settings since there's very little dialogue in the game itself. In fact, you kinda HAVE to read up on the story (unless you're cheating like me) to know your vehicle is called "winner" to chase after the villian (I thought it was "weiner" this whole time).

You're riding weiner... err winner here (not shown)
As you can tell, for its time, this is probably the most visually stunning game I've seen so far. It's just a darn shame I have to suffer through kana input for it. But I'm kinda starting to get the hang of it so I guess I can put that skill to use for the next text based retro PC game. Ugh, but then again, probably NOT.

Ugh, do I HAVE to save Miku-chan? How much more typing is involved??
Dang, look at those shadows, is that DirectX 12??
Scale
0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Monday, May 1, 2017

Senran Kagura Burst: Guren no Shoujotachi (閃乱カグラ Burst -紅蓮の少女達-)

Senran Kagura Burst is an expansion of the first Senran Kagura game that includes both games. I didn't know this at the time so I ended up buying both copies. But you know what? The first game came out in the glory days when publishers included REAL manuals instead of the single page foldout contained in the "enhanced" upgrade. So I'm going to keep it in my closed, sealed off collection of boxes cause it's "collectible".

3DS manual, they sure don't make'em like they used to (or at all really T_T)
The first game has the characters from the "good" Hanzo Gakuen ninja school, while Burst added the option of playing as the characters from the "evil" ninja school: Hebi Joshi Gakuen. You can either view this as a very nice package that essentially doubles the content or a necessary upgrade to a game originally woefully lacking in content (hey, at least it comes with a full manual, remember?).

I expected the expanded scenario to take place after the events of the first game. Instead, it covers the same timeline of the first game except from the viewpoint of the other side. What was interesting was the fact that it doesn't try to stay consistent to the events of the first game. It kinda reminded me of a game version of Rashomon. Oh right, gamer philistines. Um, Rashomon is a classic Japanese film where multiple people witnessed the same event yet all have completely different stories of what transpired. I don't know if this ninja story has some sort of deeper theme like the movie (um, probably NOT) but I did think it was a bit odd.

FORTY THREE PAGES, sigh those were the good ol' days
Anyways, who cares about the story, it's all about the boobs, right?!! Well, let's talk about boobs, shall we? While I wouldn't call myself a boobie sommelier, I'm far past the immature, juvenile stage of "the bigger the better" mentality. I have a far richer variety of tastes in terms of sizes and more importantly, boob shapes. Unfortunately, almost all the boobs in this game are the same, round, American porn silicone shape except for Mirai. While I've never seen a girl's boobs in real life, at this point, I have very high standards for digital melons and while it's commendable to put boobs on Nintendo's sacred platform, it hasn't held up to the test of time.
Mirai: just wait till you see her hiden ninpou
As for the gameplay, I definitely thought it was stupid, repetitive garbage when I first played it. But that was BEFORE I beat Drag-on Dragoon aka "they weren't fucking kidding about the dragging on part" and revisiting this game after that, well, it's still repetitive but also, very fast and satisfactory. It's like eating KFC. You know it's bad yet somehow you can't stop yourself even though you still remember the last KFC diarrhea-fest. I would say if you like side-scrolling beat-em-ups, you're probably still not gonna like this. However, with a bit of patience, if you level up your characters and unlock all the moves, it gets almost kinda... fun. Crazy.

3 years ago, I probably had a life and better things to do
Score: 3 meh, what the hey, more boobies on Nintendo the better out of 5

Overall, I thought the story was so-so, the gameplay simplistic yet strangely addictive, and the boobies... one dimensional. However, the occasional panchira was not bad especially with the various costumes you can unlock. I have a few more images to unlock but it's a massive grind. I collected all the costumes and accessories and that's good enough for me.

26 hours and 10,708 enemies later... This game SUCKS guys. Fan service is SO LAME
I have to give credit though for an early 3DS game, it brought a lot of things to the table. I mean, what else was there to play on the 3DS in 2012, fucking nintendogs? There's nothing fundamentally flawed about the game except for the occasional floating enemy glitch so I would have to give this one a solid average score of 3.

Yeah yeah, breast physics and clothing destruction is so... 2012
Senran Kagura has obviously become a very successful franchise over the years. However, I find it interesting how well executed the cross-media marketing strategy was from the get-go. From the manga Senran Kagura Spark that started the franchise to the radio show, drama CD, and then the anime, the franchise had a lot of marketing muscle over the years. While this game and the rest of the franchise is localized, us Jhipsters can also enjoy the various side products such as the radio shows and drama CD.

揉んでいいのかな?LOL (Sorry non-jhipsters)

So yeah, sorry non-jhipsters, it's too bad but hey, at least you got all the games localized, right?

If you understand Japanese, this is actually a deep social commentary monologue

Scale
0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely