Tag Archives: Giant Bomb

Miitopia is no utopia because of its battle system

Miitopia‘s been a long-time coming. I don’t say this from a place of knowledge, but rather observation. Naturally, it all began on the Nintendo Wii, with the company’s introduction of Miis, Nintendo’s take on customizable avatars. Miis are created using different body, facial, and clothing features. The options are somewhat limited, but still detailed enough to make a solid representation of yourself or your favorite celebrity. No, really, take a look. In fact, even after all these years, I still think my Mii avatar looks closest to what I look like in real life than my Xbox avatar or any character I’ve made in my likeness for an epic RPG, save maybe for my boss in Saints Row: The Third, just kiddin’.

Since then, the Miis have shown up in several RPG-esque titles, such as Pokémon Rumble World, Tomodachi Life, and, of course, the StreetPass Mii Plaza minigames, specifically Find Mii and Find Mii 2, where the seed of Miitopia was certainly planted. Though the quirkiness of Tomadachi Life is highly prevalent, as is also the randomness, to the game’s detriment, but more on that in just a bit. I’d apologize for all the hyperlinks in this paragraph, but those are all games I’ve played and have a bunch of thoughts on, so if you like reading, then click, click, click away.

So, in Miitopia, the citizens of a mighty eccentric kingdom need saving. Why? Well, the Dark Lord is ripping the faces off of Miitopians and attaching them to all kinds of monsters. This is naturally causing a lot of chaos and distress, and it is up to the player’s party to defeat these monstrosities, return the rightful faces, and bring back peace to this silly fantasy land. Here’s my cast of zany characters so far:

  • Party members
    • Pauly, thief class
    • Bitsy, a.k.a. my sister, pop star class
    • Morgan Freeman, cleric class
    • Snape, mage class
  • Dark Lord – Ron Swanson
  • Greenhorne citizens
    • Shrek, carefree guide
    • Nano, cheery granny
    • Jon Snow, sassy child
    • Jaehee, worried mother
    • Jafar, part of the lovey-dovey couple
    • Erza, part of the lovey-dovey couple
    • Diglett, sarcastic guy
    • E Gadd, dubious mayor
  • Royalty
    • King Santa
    • Princess Beyoncé
    • Prince Dan Ryckert
    • Prince Buzz Lightyear
  • Castle Guard
    • King Rhoam, serious soldier
    • Jake Paul, lax soldier
    • SuperSonic, royal support (right)
    • Bendy, royal support (left)
  • Great Sage – Satoru Iwata
  • Roaming Gourmet – SpongeBob
  • Nintendo Fan – Margaret

Whew. That’s a lot, I know, and there could be more people to cast in various roles to go. I’m hoping to get at least two more party members, as I need a chef and a warrior to balance everything out. Also, many of these roles were automatically filled in when I started Miitopia, but one can switch Miis out at any time. I’m okay with the selections so far, as I at least got to decide on who is and who is not royalty, as well as my main fighting crew. Strangely, the zany mix of people works out quite well and creates some fun, silly situations, such as Morgan Freeman comforting Snape after taking damage or my sister ending up in a love triangle between the two of them and causing jealousy and heartbreak to run wild.

Look, I love role-playing games. I’m pretty obsessive about them, and I enjoy, for the most part, all types. Action RPGs, JRPGs, Western RPGs, big RPGs, bite-sized RPGs, anime-heavy RPGs, and even some SRPGs. Naturally, the element that distinguishes most RPGs is the combat, the battle system, the whatever. The part where you attack an enemy opposition and gain experience points, money, and loot from them to help you grow in levels and defeat stronger progress-blocking walls. It’s what you do between cutscenes and exploring towns. Alas, so far, I’m not in love with Miitopia‘s combat system, which is a core part of its gameplay loop.

Battles in Miitopia are turn-based, but you can only control what your avatar does. The other members of your party act on their own, making their own decisions, for better or for worse. Not having control of my entire party is a strong design choice, one that saw me bounce hard off of games like Phantasy Star II and Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. It also rears its ugly head in Suikoden III, which I’m simultaneously noodling with, post on that game coming soon. From the world map, you select an area to explore, also not in your control, eventually triggering specific events or random battles. The action order is determined by each Mii and monster’s speed statistic, with everyone getting one action per turn, save for bosses because they like to break rules.

When creating your Mii party members, you must give each one a quirk, such as stubborn or kind, and these play out in how your character grows and performs in battle. For example, a stubborn Mii might cast a spell twice if they are unsatisfied with the results, and a kind Mii will occasionally take damage for a friend not paying attention. I went with laid-back for myself, if you were curious. Bonds are also built between Miis by having them share a room at the inn after a day of battling and opening treasure chest or interacting in battle. Each level of friendship between two Miis brings about even more random abilities you can’t control, such as showing off for friends or consoling them when necessary, all which provide boosts. It makes watching the battles a little more engaging, but also frustrating because you never know what anyone is going to do and, sometimes, they do the wrong thing.

Other strange elements to combat include the safe spot and sprinkles. The former is a single space behind your adventuring party where a wounded or afflicted Mii can recuperate faster or heal its HP/MP over time and not be a target for the enemy. Sprinkles, other than being the wrong name for those colorful sugar strands you put on ice cream, are additional boosts in the form of salt shakers. You have one for HP, one for MP, and one for reviving a downed Mii, of varying amounts, and these replenish between fights. They are also upgraded over time as you defeat more enemies. At least you have control of when you want to use these and how.

I don’t intend to come across as highly negative on the game, as there is a lot to Miitopia that is enjoyable, specifically its music. No, really–listen to the tune that plays on loop on the main menu. I promise you it’ll get your head bobbin’ in no time. There’s a bunch of other quirky tunes that play throughout your adventures, such as when eating stat-raising food or playing the mini-games or watching a scene where one Mii gives another Mii a special present. From an audio perspective, this thing is pure glee and delight.

Well, this post went long. My bad. Looks like I have some strong opinions already about Miitopia, and I’m only a couple hours in. I really do want to stick with it and see where things go, but I don’t know if I can handle another uncontrollable Mii losing a fight due to casting Sleep on my sister instead of Fire on the almost defeated boss. Yeah, Severus Snape, LV 9 mage, I’m talking about you.

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Time Clickers and the idle quest to destroy colored cubes

time clickers gd early impressions

Well, here we are. After listening to Jeff Gerstmann speak feverishly and passionately about an idle clicking game called Time Clickers on the Giant Bombcast for the past two weeks, I decided to see what was what. The blasted thing is free on Steam, and I dabbled in things like AdVenture Capitalist and that strange monster-driven mini-game during this past Steam Summer Sale to grok the concept. Little did I know that watching colored cubes explode would be so gratifying, even when I barely contributed to their demise.

Made by Proton Studio Inc., Time Clickers is…a clicking game with guns. For those that don’t know what that means, a clicking game basically revolves around on you, the player, clicking on different elements to eventually get to the point where actions are happening automatically and you can just sit back, eyes dilated, absorbing the delicious, dopamine-triggering rewards. A few examples that I’ve not played but heard of include Cookie Clicker and Clicker Heroes. In this one, you collect gold by blasting apart colored cubes, upgrade your click pistol, hire a team of elite soldiers to fire additional weapons at the cubes, and take down bosses as quickly as you can. You do this ad infinitum, constantly leveling everything up and “advancing” further through the game.

For a game that demands such little interaction, I can’t stop thinking about it. See, even when you are not running Time Clickers, you are continuing to earn gold. It’s like in Fable II, when you’d purchase houses and rent them out to villages. You could turn the game off, come back a few days later, and be much more richer, as the pay-rent-to-landlord system kept turning even while you were away. A part of me wonders how much money I’d get now if I turned Fable II on and loaded up my save from 2009-ish. Anyways, Time Clickers does that, which means it is always luring me back, with the completed promise of more gold to spend on DPS upgrades.

Steam says I’ve logged about two hours or so already in Time Clickers. Ugh. Here, let me let you in on a dark secret; the other night, while on the phone with my sister, I let the game run, watching cubes explode and Achievements pop, all without my hand even hovering over the mouse. Yes, it’s that kind of experience. It’s as if you had a fish tank full of bright, vibrant sea life, and every now and then you got a reward just for looking at it. Or not looking at it. Nothing can stop the clicks.

I’m sure there’s plenty to probe here. It all boils down to this: clicking games are a horrifying examination of human psychological weakness. They take hold of us and never let go. Even now, while I’m far away from my gaming laptop where Time Clickers is installed, it’s calling out to me, a siren on the shore, lulling me into a haze, one where the numbers keep going up and the cubes explode faster and arena bosses grow in size. I wonder if I’ll ever escape its grasp.

Grinding Down’s new year gaming resolutions for 2015

gd new year gaming resolutions

I’m strange. Sometimes I like to openly talk about a challenge or new goal, such as when I decided to draw 365 bad comics over the course of an entire year, while other endeavors are handled more privately without anyone being the wiser. In fact, I’ve already started on a few over the last several months, and some of those plans will never be brought to light. I’m okay with that. I’m the shyest man yearning for recognition, afraid to be recognized. Again, I’m strange.

As far as I’ve seen over the last few days, game resolutions generally boil down to the same idea: play that game. Whether I do or not is the real challenge, and I’ve had some ups and downs over the last few years when it came to this, but I’m willing to put it out there again, a list of games I own, want to play, and then put away (in my mind).

In 2013, I wanted to beat five specific games I had previously played but never saw credits roll. I ended up beating three of the five, and though my math skills leave a lot to desire, I thought that was pretty good, especially when you consider that Chrono Cross is no short romp through an alternate dimension.

For 2014, I naturally wanted to beat those other two names I missed out on, but that never happened. Then I started playing Suikoden and Suikoden II, with the (laughable) idea I’d get through the rest of the series in short order now that I own all of them. Well, all except for Suikoden Tierkreis. Cue wet fart sound effect? I also had illusions of grandeur for the Metal Gear series, completing the first five games, with plenty more to go. Not “swings and a miss,” but more like “swings and good job, you’re on second base,” now waiting for another player to hit you home. I’ll get through both series in due time, hopefully before Gameageddon actually happens.

With that, here are my gaming resolutions for two thousand fifteen (that’s how all the cool kids are writing it this year). Trumpet blast a-hoy:

1. Stay one step ahead of Giant Bomb for its Metal Gear Scanlon feature. That means I’m not rushing through Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater just yet, which is also the last of the bunch that I’ve actually played. Peace Walker, Guns of the Patriots, and Ground Zeroes will be totally new experiences to me, and I’m looking forward to them greatly, but I don’t want to burn out either on too much too fast. I enjoy watching Dan and Drew react to the wackiness that is Hideo Kojima’s mindset, but only after I’ve swallowed the crazy sugar first.

2. Since I didn’t get to them in 2013 or last year–double shame on me!–both Final Fantasy IX and Radiant Historia are first on the list of must-see-all-the-way-through items. I really don’t want to arrive into 2016 knowing those cute, cuddly critters are still clawing at my ankles, desperate for attention.

3. Silent Hill 3. There, I said it. Or rather, I wrote it. Even though I’m still not over my harrowing time with Silent Hill 2, I must persevere. I’m not ready to explore why.

4. Come up with another new feature at Grinding Down for the year. Games I Regret Parting With seems to be a big fav, but I’ll eventually run out of those to dissect. I used to do Achievements of the Week and Half-hour Hitbox, but those lost steam after awhile, mostly because I lost steam. If you have any ideas or niches you’d like to see my cover, y’know, other than all these unheard of freeware joints or obscure point-and-click adventure games, let me know. I’m interested if you’re interested.

5. Get proper equipment like a microphone and learn how to stream better in preparation for  the next Extra Life event. I want to do it again and have friends over and raise lots of money for those that need it more than me. I’m even hoping to hold out on several games still in hopes of playing them live that during those twenty-four hours.

All right, we’ll stop there. Resolutions are tricky because you can just keep stacking them, and like I said, for gaming stuff, it often ends up being a list of games you want to play. I have too many to even start counting, and most of them are long, lengthy JRPGs, like Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny and Xenosaga. Cue mad scientist laugh? Yeah, cue it hard.

What are some of your new year’s resolutions, gaming-related or not?

Solid Snake struggles with investigating the development of a new Metal Gear

Metal Gear Solid 2 initial thoughts

Well, with Suikoden done, I’m moving on to my next target for 2014, which is coincidentally another Konami title–replaying Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. You might’ve assumed I’d go right into Suikoden II, but there is a wee time-crunch hanging over my head. See, Dan Ryckert and Drew Scanlon are playing through the original Metal Gear Solid over at Giant Bomb, with hints that they’ll be tackling more tactical espionage action titles in the series afterwards. And they’re moving forward swiftly. Personally, I’d love to watch them replay Solid Snake’s first outing on the PlayStation 2 after I get to re-experience it myself. Call me selfish, but I don’t want my replay to be tainted by their actions or thoughts in any way whatsoever. Thus, I loaded up Metal Gear Solid 2 the other night via my disc copy of Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection 1987 – 2012.

To open, it didn’t go well, and I’m going to call my first hour or so with the game a complete wash. I didn’t even bother saving it once, knowing I’d like to try again and not immediately goof up and get spotted every few steps. I’m not sure exactly where everything went wrong, but the controls are a huge change from the–well, what now seems rudimentary–controls from Metal Gear Solid. The biggest addition is a useful first-person POV, one where you can aim your gun in and strafe. Before, you merely used it to look around the environment, but this new angle becomes vital when using the M9 tranquilizer gun because guards will fall asleep faster based on where you hit them with darts (go for the heads, Snake, not the knees). However, every time I went to use it, I kept trying to hit the Triangle button instead of the now used R1 button, causing Snake to stand still out in the open a few seconds longer than I’d like. I also found it harder to stick to surfaces using the analog stick, with Snake often slipping off cover and getting spotted. Ugh.

Wait, wait, wait. I guess I should actually try to some up the story before getting into the trials and triumphs of my replay. Metal Gear Solid 2 opens with a flashback in 2007, two years after the Shadow Moses incident that went down in the original Metal Gear Solid. Solid Snake and Otacon, now members of the non-governmental organization Philanthropy, are investigating the development of a new Metal Gear by American marines. To do this, Snake sneaks on to the tanker transporting the weapon and must produce legitimate pictures of it.

Of course, as many fans of the series already knows, this was a bait and switch tactic by Konami, and the tanker section is only a prologue, with the main meat of the game starring FOXHOUND’s newest recruit Raiden two years later. His objectives are to infiltrate the Big Shell clean-up facility to rescue hostages, including the U.S. president, from the terrorist group Sons of Liberty. This terrorist group is purported to be lead by Solid Snake and backed up by Dead Cell, a rogue anti-terror training unit. They are also threatening to destroy the facility they have seized.

So, I had trouble on the tanker. I played for an hour, got spotted a lot, tried to fight my way out of alert mode, died, and so on. At one point, because I didn’t remember how hanging worked, I dropped Snake right into the cold, unrelenting mistress known as the ocean. Thinking back to my VR days, I decided to try a few training sessions out and see if they helped any. Once I felt ready, I went back in to Metal Gear Solid 2 with the following repeating loudly and clearly in my mind: getting caught is not the end. See, games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mark of the Ninja really pushed for non-lethal playthroughs, the perfect kind, where you don’t even get spotted once. Well, that seems really hard and also not fun, so I’m not going to worry too much if things go awry rather fast because I darted by some guard’s vision cone too soon. Plus, I’ve found it is easier to simply let Raiden die than try to take out five or six guards or, even more impossible, hide from them; the game does a good job of auto-saving when you enter a new area.

Metal Gear Solid and its earlier brethren spoiled me by providing the radar from the get-go. Here, you have to first find a terminal and download a radar for each new area, which means when you first arrive somewhere, you can only see what you can see, and have to use the AP sensor as much as possible. This makes each new area tougher to initially run through, but also more exciting. There’s some strange new items, like pornographic magazines and coolant sprays, to use, and I am still horrible at holding up soldiers and getting them to shake dog tags free. Well, that’s only partially true; I can consistently sneak up behind a guard and get them to freeze, but then trying to reposition Raiden to take advantage of this always leads to mayhem.

If there is one thing I forgot about Metal Gear Solid 2, it’s that its color scheme, specifically once you get to Big Shell, is phenomenal. I know teal and orange is a bit overdone, but maybe it is used over and over for a reason–it works. I love traveling from one strut to another and being outside on the bridges with the sea gulls and blue sky. The music is intense and stirring, and while there is the occasional bit of still awkward and robotic dialogue (ironically from the Colonel), the voice acting still draws you in despite the ridiculous characters and situations. I particularly like the Rosemary and Jack stuff, which I somehow forgot entirely since I last played this back in college.

Right now, I’ve infiltrated Raiden’s way into Shell 1’s core by wearing an enemy’s disguise and carrying an assault rifle. Now I need to figure out how to work around a retinal scan in hopes of learning the location of the captured U.S. president from a man or woman named Ames, who apparently has a pacemaker. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the rest of this zany plot unravels as I really only remember the most zany moments–naked cartwheels–and not the quiet stuff, like Fortune’s affection for Vamp and the silly detail of Fatman drinking a fruity drink before starting the boss fight.

The Sony PlayStation 4, my hopes and fears

SONY DSC

Well, it’s coming down to the wire, but here it is, a blog post on Grinding Down about the forthcoming Sony PlayStation 4. Later today, Sony is hosting a meeting which many believe exists to announce its newest console, the next in its line of PlayStations. Given that I just bought a PlayStation 3 only a few weeks ago and have barely found time to both play with it and explore its non-gaming functions, like Netflix and PlayStation Home, I’m not at all interested in owning Sony’s newest system any time soon, but I am curious to see what it’s going to be all about. As always, I remain cautious, but let me share with y’all some hopes I have, as well as my biggest fears, many of which can apply with whatever Microsoft’s new console is gonna be, too.

Here we go.

Hopes

New games in established franchises

From the look of things, Naughty Dog is done with the Jak and Daxter franchise, but I think they should open it up for a new trilogy. That kooky platforming series really did wonders for the PS2, and a new Jak game could easily sway me, especially if it is more Jak II than anything else. Let’s also get a new true Ratchet & Clank game, one that focuses solely on platforming and crazy-ass guns. Some steps have already been made, with Sly Cooper 4 coming out and surprising everyone, mostly because it came out with little promotion from Sony, but whatever–it exists. New IPs are exciting for their newness, but offering up a new experience in familiar territory can be quite comforting. Hopefully I’m not alone in that.

Bring back the forgotten

I want a new Jumping Flash! I want the rebirth of Crash Bandicoot. I want whatever might come after Chrono Cross. Remember how awesome, G-Police was? Yeah, me too. Now’s the time, as those franchises are old enough to hit the nostalgia funny bones and unknown enough that the younger generation might just think of them as new IPs, sad as that might be. A return to the glory days, ya know.

Enhancing PlayStation Plus

My only complaint so far about getting a free year of PlayStation Plus is that I don’t have enough time to play all the free games they give out. I’d love to see this service carry over to the new system, as it offers a ton of great content and discounts for a reasonable price. Granted, my first year is free, but I can see myself signing up for it once that runs dry.

Fears

No backwards compatibility

When the PlayStation 2 was revealed, the concept of “backwards compatible” was entirely new. You could buy the new console, but still play all the games from the previous one. Sah-weet. It’s a concept that is fantastic for gamers, but it seems that head honchos don’t love it, eventually snipping it as a feature from later remodels or iterations. I believe the PS4 will allow you to play (or at least download) Ps3 games, but maybe they won’t for a guaranteed amount of time. Which would stink considering how many great games are still coming out for the PS3, like Ni no Kuni and The Last of Us. But the times, they are a-changing.

Always online

Granted, with Wifi, always being online is easier to accomplish, but something about the restriction rubs me wrong. There are certainly situations that might cause for your Internet to be off, but your power still on, and the fact that you then couldn’t play the videogame you paid for on the system you paid for seems really offensive. Yes, I have Steam and use it frequently, but haven’t really run into any problems with always being connected. But Steam is on a computer, and a videogame console should really be treated as a separate entity.

Online no longer free

I’m really close on cancelling my Gold membership for the Xbox 360, since the only time I really use it is to play Borderlands 2 online, which is happening less and less these days. You don’t have to pay to play online with the PS3, something I’d love to see going forward. If that gets put behind a paywall…well, dang. Just yet another thing to pay for that should be part of the whole package. It’s the first step to charging players to save their game progress.

Gimmicky controller

I’m sure you’ve seen that image of a supposed PS4 controller, which has some kind of touchpad on the front of it. Whether this operates as a sort of main menu hub is yet to be determined. I just hope I don’t have to look down while playing to do something else; that only works on the DS/3DS, where the screens are very close together to begin with.

Hopefully we’ll know a lot more by tonight! Are you going to watch Sony’s presentation live or wait for reports to go online? Me, I’ll be watching Giant Bomb watch it live, as I need some kind of humorous filter to get through all the pomp that these events harness.

Another flipping day at the Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory

sugar cube indie game impressions

I fell down another bundle hole some days back, buying in to the Evolved Bundle from Indie Royale–which is no longer available, replaced by the current Valentines Bundle, a collection of games that really don’t interest me at all. The Evolved Bundle consisted of six games. Here, let me list them for you:

  • Unmechanical
  • The Path
  • Krater
  • Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory
  • OIO
  • St. Chicken

Right. Some puzzle platformers, a puzzle-swimmer-platformer, an RPG, and whatever The Path cares to call itself. An experience? Anyways, I remember watching a Quick Look over at Giant Bomb for Krater and thinking it looked pretty neat (and Swedish), and that was enough to get me in for this bundle, with the other games considered as mere tag-alongs. Though Krater looks like it needs some time to get into and see how its systems work, which is not something I have oodles of these days. Instead, I was just randomly clicking around on Steam over the weekend for something quick to play, and I decided to see what Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory was all about besides looking adorable.

Believe it or not, there’s a story. Granted, it can be told in a single sentence, but it’s more than other 2D indie platformers give off sometimes. Yeah, I’m looking at you. In short, a cube of sugar escapes from a bunch of themed factories to avoid the fate of becoming a cookie. You play as that cube. Safe travels, sugary soldier. May you never turn into a cookie and crumble. Okay, I need to move on, because, if you truly know me, I could play with food-based puns all day long. And besides, I can do much batter than that.

Basically, you are trying to get your little sugar cube from point A to the closed door somewhere else on the map, which will take you to the next level. There are five worlds with…um, well, a bunch of levels in there; I didn’t count ’em. But it’s not a simple walk over from the starting point to the portal-like doorway. See, the background tiles of the game have two sides: a front and a back. These tiles can be flipped. Sometimes they turn into ledges and sometimes ledges with spikes or icy floors. It’s up to you, little sugar cube guider, to figure out what tiles to flip and then how to get to the door. You can also hold down a button to prevent tiles from flipping. And thus, you now know everything there is to know about both elements to this puzzle platformer.

So far, I’ve gotten through all of the first factory and about halfway through the second one, which is based around…chocolate. I’ve found that the difficulty in Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory varies greatly, with me breezing through two to three levels with ease and then coming to a complete halt with the next level. That’s actually okay as it gives reason to pause and evaluate your skills, as well as the level’s design itself. Still, it does everything an indie puzzle platformer should. And the game keeps hinting that if I pick up all the collectibles, the true ending will be revealed. Ooooh. Will our adorable little sugar cube escape the nefarious factories, but later return with a pitchfork-wielding mob to burn it all down and then erect a recreational park? Maybe. Who knows what sugar cubes think. I don’t, but now I must.

I’d rather watch Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 than play it

If it’s not terribly obvious, I’m a big fan of the Giant Bomb website. It’s a place that prefers to present things within the videogames industry raw and honestly, as well as welcomes everyone to contribute to its ever-growing wiki. For myself, I’ve done some decent wiki work on Game of Thrones: The Game, The Sword of Hope II, and Musashi: Samurai Legend. I go there every day to read and watch and interact sporadically on the forums.

But I’ve only recently taken it upon myself to experience one of the biggest things the website is known for–their lengthy tackle of playing Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, the critically acclaimed event where the term Endurance Run got dubbed. It’s 155 episodes of varying length, with Vinny playing and Jeff constantly adding colorful commentary, and I’m just under halfway through it on episode 71. Strangely, I’m hooked, and it has a lot to do with the ridiculousness of the game itself, as well as the GB duo’s reactions to these moments. Otherwise, it looks like the kind of JRPG I used to play, but no longer have the time and dedication to handle now.

Persona 4 is an odd story, and I can only imagine it gets more odd later on. Nay, I predict it. The main character and his friends from school form an investigation team to unearth the answers to recent murders in Inaba, Japan. There’s a strange connection between these murders and a TV-world they can enter to fight shadow demons. During the time you are not fighting monsters, you can work on increasing relationships with your friends and family by doing social activities, such as getting jobs, attempting beef bowl challenges, and going to camp. Also, since you’re in school, you have to study occasionally for midterms and finals. And, when certain stars align, you can pursue romantic relationships. Oh man, that’s a lot of systems to juggle.

The First Hour‘s Greg Noe absolutely hated Persona 3, and I have to suspect he’d not like Persona 4 much more, considering that they share the whole “grind in a dungeon and then spend a lot of time socializing with friends and foes” thing; one big difference between the two is that, during battle, you can control everyone’s actions. But yeah, grinding and socializing–that doesn’t sound delicious to me either. But from a watching perspective, hey…it’s quite engrossing despite its slow gameplay. A lot of menu manipulation and a constant pausing when a list of decisions pop up; the greatest part is that it’s not me making these choices or dealing with items and switching Personas in battle and so on. That’s up to Vinny and Jeff, and they can make some silly mistakes, which might normally be frustrating on my own playthrough, but are now hilarious to witness. No, really…keep casting Bufu on enemies that heal from ice spells.

A bonus from watching this Endurance Run inspired me to pick up my bereaved copy of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Surviver Overclocked again for the 3DS–with triumphant success, too. Though these both come from the same franchise, they are not entirely alike. The Social Linking stuff is gone or mostly diluted in Overclocked, as I have had to make a few relationshippy decisions, but otherwise you just watch a few different plot-driving scenes before going into a battle. Fights are more RTS-based than RPG-based, with character placement and the available number of moves vital to how a battle begins and ends. Individual battles are turn-based, with an importance placed on using the correct elemental spell to earn extra turns; I’m still learning the ins and outs of this, but I’m getting there, I swear. Just finishing up Day 3 after a whomping from the immortal demon Beldr…

So, while I’m not playing Overclocked, I’m watching Persona 4. It’s a nice way to stay within the game’s solar system, even if they aren’t exactly similar. All right. About seventy-plus more episodes to go until I see how Persona 4 ends. I’m contemplating adding it to my 2012 Games Completed list once I’m finished watching because…well, by that point, I will have invested a whole bunch of hours, and that should count for something.