Self-improvingment

My New Year’s resolution for 2018 is not a glamorous one. In fact, it’s something that really shouldn’t have to be a resolution. It is quite simply that I want to make a habit of flossing my teeth.

Don’t get me wrong, I am otherwise on top of my dental hygiene. I brush my teeth every day, sometimes twice, and use mouthwash more often than not. It’s just the flossing that’s a big hurdle for me. For some reason, I could just never be bothered.

Now we’re almost through January and honestly, I still haven’t been doing great. I just look at that little dental floss container most nights and think “It’s already really late, that’s another two minutes, I’ll start tomorrow.” However, I am definitely flossing better than usual, as I had a dentist appointment this morning, and my dental hygienist told me that my gums are looking significantly better than last time. So hurray!

Also I had no cavities this time so it’s really quite a big win for me. That’s how you know that I’m the most boring fella on the face of the Earth (I’m okay with that).

Thinks and thoks: Nintendo Labo

So, okay. Nintendo teases a new something-or-other a couple mornings ago. This is a week after the Mini Direct, so it’s… weird. The first word that comes to mind is weird. Because why hold a separate thing for a single thing when you just did a big fancy thing for a bunch of things just a week before?

Oh. Because it’s something completely different.

Enter Nintendo Labo. What it is, as far as I can surmise, is a bunch of accessories for your Switch that make the games that go with them more immersive. Basically a much crazier extension of the whole Wiimote idea. The difference here is that all these accessories are made of cardboard, and you get to pop out the pieces and assemble them yourself. So now Nintendo is selling large-scale papercraft to accessorize their games with.

My knee-jerk reaction was something along the lines of “this is going to be an even bigger money sink that regular video games and also it’ll be a heck of a lot of cardboard clutter.” Actually, I think that’s still pretty on-point for how I feel about Labo a few days later. Only now I know the price of these Labo kits and LOLOLOL no way José. $100 for the starter kit? There’s no friggin’ way.

That’s not to say that I don’t think this is kind of neat. I could see myself buying into Labo anywhere as recently as five years ago. Heck, I’m sure that as I kid I would have died for these overpriced cardboard gimmicks. But now, I just don’t have the money or space to care (huh, exactly why I don’t care about VR). Plus, we still really have no idea what the games are going to be like. Labo is being marketed directly at actual children, so I’m thinking these are going to be pretty simple affairs. It’s not like I’m ever going to need a cardboard Master Sword to play the next Legend of Zelda.

What I think would make the whole thing more attractive -and it’s something that Nintendo (specifically) would never do- would be to make the Labo software free, and just charge more reasonable prices for the cardboard kits. Kids are going to ruin that stuff and need to buy replacement kits, so it’ll still be a fountain of income if consumers take to the idea. Unless, of course, the software is perfectly usable without the accessories, in which case that idea falls apart completely.

Anyway, those are my brief thoughts on Labo. Frankly, I don’t much care. But that’s okay. It’s not meant for me. I think it’ll probably be great for those who are interested in it.

But then again, it’s me. So don’t be surprised if I write up a post about how I love my new Labo Toy-Cons on the day after launch.

Migraine Watch – January 17, 2018

It’s been quite some time since my last migraine, in fact I don’t even remember it. Which kind of makes yesterday a sad day. I was hoping deep in my heart that they would just be gone forever, even though I knew it would be too good to be true. Bad things happen to mediocre people.

Let’s start at the start: perfectly normal day at work, I was actually feeling slightly less exhausted than usual, so maybe I got a decent sleep the previous night? Then, at around a quarter to four, I notice that words and numbers are getting hard to read. I’m still functional, but it’s taking a lot of effort to read anything on either paper or screen.

I immediately poured myself a glass of water and popped two ibuprofen. Twenty minutes later, my vision is restored. However, I do notice a mild pain on the right side of my head. I pray that I was swift enough and that it will not get worse. It does, but not anywhere near as bad as my migraines usually get. It persisted through the evening, though at the less intense level, I remained perfectly functional and went about my daily business as usual.

Weird thing: I actually had some “aura” after the headache part started. On the bus ride home and lasting even about an hour after that, I had a mild numbness along the left side of my body. I worried briefly that my supposed migraine might actually be a stroke, but I don’t think I ever actually believed it could be true.

As far as probable causes, this was my third consecutive day caffeine-free. Normally if I go a day without coffee, I get a pounding headache by around 2PM, but I hadn’t had any issues at all up until this point. So I don’t know if it was just my physical dependence catching up with me or an unfortunate coincidence, but we’re going to blame this one on the lack of coffee. I have also been sleeping worse than usual for the last two weeks, so that may have something to do with it, but there’s no way to be sure.

Nintendo Direct Mini reactions!

Nintendo shadow dropped a little Nintendo Direct this morning. I mean, sort of. The date leaked online a while ago, and Nintendo had been making vague tweets in the days leading up to it, but it was never formally announced. So as a Nintendo-focused blogger, I feel like it’s my sworn duty to go over it and write up some thoughts.

The World Ends With You: Final Remix – I bought the original version on DS, and played it for roughly an hour before it got lost in the tide and I sold it due to lack of interest. I can tell you definitively that this port would suffer the exact same fate, so I’m surely just going to take a pass on this one.

Pokkén Tournament DX DLC – I didn’t buy Pokkén DX, because I have the original on Wii U. And while adding Blastoise is a very effective hook if you’re trying to get my money, it’s still just not enough to get me to buy this game a second time. I didn’t get into it as much as I hoped I would the first time around, I doubt the second time will be the charm.

Kirby Star Allies – Okay, now we’re talking. I love Kirby games, obvi. But to be honest, I was thinking about skipping over this one. I mean, I know that I’ll enjoy it, but Kirby side-scrollers are all pretty samey, so I was thinking maybe just play Planet Robobot again and save myself the $90. Can you believe that things have gotten so bad that new video games cost $90? (After tax, that is.) That’s just ridiculous. I need a cheaper hobby.

I’ll probably end up buying it anyway. It’s just to gosh-darn pretty!

Some demos – I have zero interest in Kirby Battle Royale, and I already have Dragon Quest Builders on PS4. Pass. Pass.

Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition – I already own this game on Wii U and 3DS. I’ve purchased the DLC packs on both versions. I’ve spent approximately $185 on this game already. And yet, I can’t help but desperately yearn to buy it again on Switch. I’m going to do my best to ignore it, but don’t be surprised if one day I write a blog post about how I couldn’t afford food for two weeks because I bought friggin’ Hyrule Warriors a third time. I don’t mind buying a game a second time if there’s some added value, but when you get to a third or fourth purchase, that’s where I have to start drawing lines. This version adds nothing but Breath of the Wild costumes. Not exactly a major draw.

Mario Tennis Aces – I like that Camelot seems to be putting some heart into this one, after the last three or four Mario Tennis games were half-assed disappointments, but the fact of the matter is that I never really get into these Mario sports games. Likely because I have no friends to play them with.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana – I won’t lie, 90% of the appeal here is that Dana character and her excessively skimpy outfit. I don’t usually care for the terrible costumes that female characters get in JRPGs, but this one really clicks with me for some reason. Other than that… ehhhh. I don’t know enough about the Ys series to care, and my budget just doesn’t have room for something that I don’t get an immediate urge to purchase.

Super Mario Odyssey: Luigi’s Balloon World – It’s a free update for a game I already own. So yeah, I’ll probably give it a go. Don’t see much appeal, though.

SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy – Meh. I have a King of Fighters game on my Switch. I already never play that enough.

ACA NEO-GEO Art of Fighting 2 – What did I just say?

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle DLC – I love this game and I love this trailer, but I don’t think I’ll be buying this DLC. I’ll give it an honest consideration if I ever get around to finishing the main game. But, that’s not looking too likely.

PAYDAY 2 – Don’t care.

Fe – Sorry, I stopped watching. What was this?

Celeste – I was only half paying attention while this game was on. I don’t know what it’s about, but the visuals certainly smack of something that I would dig.

DKC: Tropical Freeze – Oh hey look another Wii U port that I’m not going to buy. Don’t get me wrong, Tropical Freeze is a magnificent game in every regard, but I haven’t even finished it. And the Funky Kong mode looks like a good way to give players an “easy mode” without shaming them like Super Kong. Still. Unless it’s coming in at half-price, I can’t see it happening for me.

Dark Souls RemasteredUH HUH YES DAY ONE.

Praise the sun! To think that a port of a game released in 2012 is the thing that excited me most from this presentation. But, it’s Dark Souls. Dark Souls. In Japan it’s been confirmed that it won’t even be a full-price release, so woop woop here I go again to Lordran! Gonna be prepared to die on the bus! On my lunch break! On the toilet! Prepared to die everywhere!

Plus I never bought the DLC for my 360 copy, so there’s even some new-to-me content in there!

2017 Video Games Stats

I keep a big Excel spreadsheet of all the video games I buy (it’s much easier to keep updated than The Backloggery), and I thought that it would be fun to break down all that info into numbers. Because I’m a big old nerd and I love organizing data and determining statistics. There’s really not much else to say about it, so let’s jump right in!

Acquisition Stats
Video games “purchased” in 2017 : 148
That’s a lot! Like, too many! But let’s look at some numbers that might make it seem less crazy. (Please note that neither this figure nor any below take into account the SNES Classic Mini.) Things seemed to be going well (aside from “Switch mania”), but then I bought two Halloween bundles, and the year-end sales really got to me, and the number just got really inflated.

Games that were free : 26 (18%)
Games that came in bundles : 51 (34%)
The term “free” covers several cases. Mostly free-to-play games and monthly PS+ downloads. But there’s also at least one cross-buy counted, and games gifted to me are included there.
“Bundles” don’t only mean Humble Bundles and the like. I also included any instances where multiple games were purchased for one price, such as Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove.

Double-dips : 18 (12%)
Paid DLC / microtransactions : 7 (5%)
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are a lot of games purchased that I already own on another machine. Simple ports and HD remasters are counted, but full-on remakes are not.
Thankfully, I didn’t spend very much money on additional content or premium currencies in freemium games. A lot of games supplied free DLC this year, which is awesome!

Physical games : 19 (13%)
Digital games : 129 (87%)
I can still remember a time where I was a staunch supporter of buying physical as often as possible. And now… there are so many advantages to buying digital that I can’t help myself. There’s only one tax, you can usually get a really good sale, they don’t take up room on the shelf, I don’t have to go to the store… I often wonder how much money I’d save if digital distribution’s ease to impulse buy wasn’t a thing.

Completion Stats
2017 games played : 82 (55%)
2017 games beaten : 45 (30%)
2017 games done : 40 (27%)
Keep in mind that these stats are only relative to games acquired in 2017. Does not include any games purchased in a previous year. There’s also an important distinction between Beaten and Done. Beaten signifies that I have “rolled the credits” or whatever the equivalent might be. Done is a little looser, as it means that I am completely done with a game. This could mean that I played it to 100% completion, or that I gave up after 20 minutes and never intend to return, or that I lost access to it because I cancelled my PS+ subscription. Or something else along those lines.

I did give my figures a somewhat questionable boost with a few games that can’t be beaten or completed in any measurable factor, like Namco Museum, and immediately filed them under both Beaten and Done. Still, I think the fact that I didn’t even get around to trying 46% of the games I bought last year is rock-solid evidence that I bought far too many games.

System Stats
3DS games purchased : 15 (10%)
DS games purchased : 1 (1%)
Wii U games purchased : 12 (8%)
Switch games purchased : 36 (24%)
PS3 games purchased : 3 (2%)
PS4 games purchased : 33 (22%)
Steam games purchased : 40 (27%)
iOS games purchased : 8 (5%)
There are a lot of little notes that come out of this data…
For one, I didn’t think I had bought that many PS4 games, but then I remembered that a third of those games were free with PS+ and I likely never would have bothered with them otherwise.
I also went a little nutty in March-August, buying up any Switch game that even vaguely piqued my interest. Such is life with a new console in a world where game rentals no longer exist.
If I hadn’t bought any IndieGala bundles, I would have paid for exactly 4 Steam games last year.
I considered breaking down all these numbers by played/beat/done, but there’s just no way to display that nicely in WordPress without a significant amount of effort. So the totals will just have to suffice.

Finally, because I love to compare statistics…

2016 Comparison!
Video games purchased in 2016 : 184 (19.5% decrease in 2017)
2016 games played : 82 (44%)
2016 games beaten : 47 (25%)
2016 games done : 49 (26%)
Holy crow! No wonder I couldn’t afford to keep my house! I bought way too many games in 2016! And I didn’t even boot up half of them! It gets even worse when you consider that all of these numbers continued to increase in 2017. Perhaps my goal for 2018 should be to stop impulse-buying video games. Also to unsubscribe from the Humble Bundle and Indie Gala newsletters.

(If you really wanna know, I’ve only bought one game in 2018 so far.)

Last Month in Movies – December 2017

Patchwork – Important disclaimer: this is a Canadian movie, so keep you expectations to a reasonable level. Whenever I give an opinion on it, reduce that opinion’s weight by about thirty percent. And then make any other necessary adjustment on personal taste.

Patchwork is a film about three women who have been chopped apart, and then put back together as a sort of Frankenstein’s Monster. Except somehow all three of their minds inhabit the body. And somehow the creature’s head is normal-sized. I dunno, maybe two of the brains are in the boobs? I guess it doesn’t really matter. It’s a horror-comedy, so it’s obviously not going to bother making perfect sense.

The film then follows the three-as-one ladies, who decide to track down whomever it was that is responsible for their current situation. To that end, they go on a bloody rampage of murdering everyone that might have been involved. This story is intercut with scenes of each of the women’s lives the night before they all got mashed into one, giving you a little glimpse into their backstories and personalities. There is a bit of a twist in this one, and I thought it was a pretty good one. It’s hinted at very strongly about halfway through, but I think the gradual reveal was fairly effective.

But is the movie good? That’s… I can’t see Average Joe/Jane getting much out of it. I certainly liked it, but probably not enough to recommend it. The horror was almost all centered around the “three people sewn together” premise, but it was significantly less disturbing than say, The Human Centipede. The comedy was light, at best. There were plenty of moments that I thought were funny, but not once did I laugh out loud. I think that the strongest praise I can give Patchwork is that it held my attention from beginning to end. No pause breaks to go do something else for a while. No phone or Switch to keep me otherwise occupied. Just me and the film for an hour-thirty.

Die Hard – Do I need to… I mean, you know this. It’s Die Hard. My second-favourite Xmas movie of all time. (The top spot goes to Gremlins.)

Krampus – Well, I watched the middle of it, anyway. From the point where the Jack-in-the-Box eats the daughter to the point where the gingerbread men start attacking. It had to be turned off then because small, easily-frightened children arrived, and I really only included it on this list because I needed some filler.

I can’t remember if I wrote anything the first time I watched Krampus, and I don’t care enough to check. I would place it squarely in the “perfectly average” category. I love the creature effects and obviously this is my favourite genre of film, but it’s just so formulaic that I can’t give it full points. There were literally no surprises in the plot. Maybe the fact that the daughter got eaten for real right away. I figured she’d somehow make it. Also I just don’t like David Koechner.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – December 2017

End of the line, 2017! It’s been a good’er, I’ll miss ya!

~ Game Over ~

Hollow Knight (PC) – If you’re looking for a Metroidvania that is expertly crafted and hard as balls, this is your game. I look forward to playing it again when it releases on Switch.

Mega Man X (SNES) – Couldn’t remember if I had already run it this year. Had to make sure.

Shovel Knight (3DS) – Sometimes you just need to close out the year by replaying a couple of your favourite games.

Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator (PC) – FNAF6 came out and I didn’t know it until three weeks later. Such is the downside of living in relative isolation. But hey, FNAF6! Hooray!

Chiptune Champion (PC) – A nerdy alternative to Guitar Hero. I may try to rip the music because it’s pretty good, but playing Guitar Hero on a keyboard just doesn’t have the same appeal.

~ Now Playing ~

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch) – It’s not quite as perfect for me as Xenoblade X was, but I’m still having a Goddamn ball. Read more thinks and thoks here.

Hammerwatch (Switch) – Yeah! Hammerwatch! I thoroughly enjoyed playing through this on PC, and I have been waiting for something similar to come to Switch. The real deal is even better!

Pokémon Ultra Sun (3DS) – Trying to play through it with poison-types only. I’ve never done a mono-type run before, and poison is probably one of the harder ones to start with.

Pokémon GO (iOS) – Might as well mention that I’ve been playing here and there to catch some of the new ‘mons. Gen 3 has a lot of my favourite guys, after all.

Skyrim (Switch) – I have barely touched it because Xenoblade 2 is eating all my video game time.

Yooka-Laylee (Switch) – I have barely touched it because Xenobalde 2 blah blah blah….

Volgarr the Viking (Switch) – I have barely touched it because… it’s super difficult and I can’t even get past level 2. But it’s really cool and I’ll deffo give it some more time in the future.

Super Mario RPG (SNES) – Long overdue for a replay. This run is more leisurely and taking advantage of infinitely-spawing monsters and emulator 30x speed abilities to level up quick.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm (PC) – For some reason, I just don’t care. The original game was excellent, but I cannot be bothered to give even half a shirt about Chloe.

Nine Parchments (Switch) – Just played the demo. Ramblings here.

Adventure Capitalist (PC) – I thought I’d kicked this habit, but then accidentally opened the game (damn Steam taskbar thing) and got sucked into another stupid event for a weekend.

A short review of the Mega Man X series

Capcom recently revealed that they’re working on Mega Man 11, which is due out late next year. I have a lot of different opinions about that game, but that actually wasn’t the thing that I was most excited about. Capcom is also finally going to be bringing the two Mega Man Anniversary Collections to Switch, as well as every Mega Man X series game. That’s nineteen Mega Man games on Switch next year. I’m going to be so happy.

All that said, I think what pleases me most is that I’ll be able to get all of the X games together in one spot. Oh sure, I have the X collection on GameCube, but a) that’s not portable and b) it’s missing X7 and X8. Probably something about bad porting quality too? I don’t know. The point is, today I want to talk exclusively about the Mega Man X series and what makes each game special.

Before I start, I’d also like to point out that I haven’t played most of these games in a decade or more, so I’m coasting on memories here. Some facts may be mixed up or flat-out wrong. Enjoy!

Continue reading

Book reporting

I finished reading The Forever War again this afternoon. Probably still my favourite book. At the very least, I can’t think of another book that I like more off the top of my head. Maybe if I take a good long look at my bookshelf. But probably not. The Forever War is just so great. Why is it that Hollywood sinks so damn much money into tween-bait garbage like Twilight and Maze Runner but can’t get a big-screen version of this off the ground?

Ah, I suppose it doesn’t matter. Maybe for the best, even. I finally watched the trailer for Annihilation a couple days ago and it looks nothing at all like the book. The broad strokes, I guess, but it seems like it’s mainly adapting Annihilation while taking parts from Authority, and also just making up a whole bunch of other stuff to fill in the blanks and make it more mainstreamey. Whatever. I’ll still be there on opening night.

Anyway, yeah, The Forever War. It’s real good. I almost think I should re-read it again right away.

Again with the Xenoblades

Many, many years ago, there was a little-know game released on the Wii. That game was called Xenoblade. It released in both Japan and Europe to little fanfare, but really got noticed because Nintendo of America decided to pass on it until years later they finally caved to the pressure of a bunch of nerds on the internet and the slightly-renamed Xenoblade Chronicles became a pretty solid hit in North America. Personally, I loved the game. Maybe not one of my all-time favourites, but I liked it enough to buy the New 3DS port that came out a few years after.

Then in 2015, Xenoblade Chronicles X was released. It fine-tuned the combat system from the first game, cut down the amount of story (while retaining the completely insane twists), and gave you one massive, seamless world to explore. Most importantly, not only did it let you go wherever you wanted whenever you wanted, it let you do that while piloting giant flying mechs. Also, those giant flying mechs could be painted to look like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Basically what I’m saying here is that XCX is absolutely one of my favourite video games. But a lot of other people didn’t like it because it wasn’t focused on story. Weirdos. Go figure.

Despite having truly adored the first two games, I felt a sense of unease about Xenoblade Chronicles 2. As Nintendo revealed more and more about the game, it became clear that they were dialing back all the things that I felt made XCX more enjoyable than the original game. It was going to be more story-driven; the world would be divided between distinct areas again; no more flying mechs! As much as I liked XC1, there was no question that I liked XCX’s direction for the Xenoblade series a heck of a lot more.

But now XC2 has been out for two weeks, and I almost literally cannot stop playing it (I took a break to play a few hours of Yooka-Laylee). So I guess everything turned out for the best!

The thing about Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is that while it lost a lot of what I enjoyed about XCX, it does an amazing job of improving everything that was great about XC1. The combat system is significantly better, character customization is incredibly deep, the environments are a joy to explore, and the graphics are just… holy cow does this world ever look amazing! So yes, while I was wary of the game at first, it has absolutely won me over and carved out a place in my heart.

I want to say that the story is better too, and it was pretty good up until Chapter 4 when it decided to crank the “anime tropes” dial up to eleven.

XC2 is an incredibly complicated game, layered with systems upon systems that will turn your brain to mush if you try to figure them all out at once. Thankfully, the game does a really nice job of integrating features in slowly, so that you have time to learn about any given feature before the next one becomes a factor. And despite the overwhelming complexity, it all operates surprisingly smoothly. All the different combat systems flow together so nicely. I especially like how the Town Development system rewards you with not only better buying/selling prices, but fun little permanent character upgrades. It’s a very enticing reward for the low, low price of completing quests and talking to townsfolk. Much more satisfying than a handful of gold or some garbage item that you’d turn around and sell right away (though they still give those out as well).

As far as I can tell, one of the most controversial parts of XC2 so far is how you go about acquiring Blades. These are essentially your weapons, though they are personified with their own skills, element, and… weapon. You create new Blades by using core crystals, which come in common and rare varieties. Regardless of which kind you use, you’ll most often be getting generic robot-looking Common Blades who have generic personalities and little in the way of abilities. What you really want are the Rare Blades, each one uniquely designed and bursting with character and helpful skills. Sadly, they are actually very rare, and you might burn through dozens of crystals before you get one. Completionists hate the random aspect of it, but I actually quite like the idea that it makes every game somewhat unique. Almost like Pokémon, although they won’t change your battle strategy quite that much. The only truly frustrating part is when you need a specific skill but you can’t roll a Blade that knows it to save your life.

I have to say that there is one major (non mech-related) flaw with the game though: you can no longer play dress-up with your characters. LAME. What is the point of anything, if I can’t have Rex running around in boxer shorts? Both previous games have tons of clothing/armor options. The latest Zelda, Mario, and Pokémon games all give your characters massive wardrobes. Why did it get cut here?

Anyway, I am maybe halfway through the main plot of this massive game, and I can’t wait to spend every minute of my free time for the next few weeks really digging deep into it. Will I feel quite as positive about it by the end? Or will it lose its lustre two-thirds of the way through like many RPGs? Most importantly, will the story up the ante for stupidly wonderful/wonderfully stupid story twists? That’s what I really want to know. It’s like I always say: the dumber the better!