Closure of the Wild

It’s become something of a tradition for me, that when March rolls around, I get absorbed into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for a while. As sort of a way to celebrate the Switch’s birthday, you see. And because Breath of the Wild is just super fun to play and I’ll take any excuse to dive back in.

In the year 2020, three years after release, I’ve finally “finished” the game, so to speak. Oh, I beat it back in 2017, but there was so much left undone, and DLC released in the interim that I purchased but barely explored. Breath of the Wild is a massive, massive game, and even now that I’ve seen everything that I wanted to, there’s still much more in there to discover in future playthroughs.

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Legendary Finale

When I first started playing Mega Man Legends 2, I was shocked by how long the opening cutscene was, and then impressed by the first couple hours of gameplay. It was clearly focusing on building up a more epic plot than the first game, and it seemed pretty solid for a while.

Then things turned around, and I started to find myself less engrossed in the game. Namely due to some tedious gameplay elements and a world that felt fractured and less fun to explore. Also some other little things here and there. But the fact remains that I was spending more time feeling frustrated by MML2 than I was having fun with it. And that only got worse before it got better.

In the first Mega Man Legends, you gain better “digger licenses” as you progress through the story, allowing you to access new dungeons and explore more of the gigantic maze below Kattleox Island. MML2 has a similar feature, except it’s only used to access optional dungeons. And also all of the enemies in the game “level up” in a way, making them tougher, but also increasing how much money they drop. This is all fine. I’m on board. Also, instead of just getting them at certain points, you must take a test for each. It’s nice, because you can take all the tests right away to max out the difficulty and your earnings right at the start of the game.

The problem is that the S-Class test (the last one) is unbelievably hard. You need to make it through a half-dozen rooms and defeat every enemy in each in under 5 minutes. You’re also restricted to the default equipment set, so no buster power-ups or special weapons can be used. This makes it hard because every enemy is an unforgiving bullet sponge, and some of them can inflict a status effect that prevents you from shooting. Needles to say, if you get hit by that it’s essentially a forced retry. I could go into further detail, but the point is that I absolutely could not pass this test. I tried at least 25 times, and that’s a conservative estimate. It depends too much on perfect execution, and MML2’s control just aren’t tight enough for that. So I gave up, and whatever was in that final optional dungeon, I’ll never know.

Also, losing out on that last money boost hurt a lot. It seems like everything in Mega Man Legends 2 costs about twice what it should, with many of the later weapon upgrades coming in at a million zenny. For reference, the most any single enemy can drop at A-Class is 7,000 zenny. So that’s a lot of grinding if you’re a completionist. I, fortunately, am not. I focused most of my cash into powering up one of the cheaper weapons (which was still damn effective), but still needed to grind a whole bunch to afford some of the other upgrades. There’s also a whole sub-quest about buying furniture and junk for the Flutter to make Roll happy, but as much as I want Roll to be happy, it costs so much and just wasn’t worth the time.

To catch up from where I left off last time, the fourth dungeon was ice-themed, and you know how that goes. I was very upset that there was no boot upgrade that stopped Mega Man from slipping on the ice. Though maybe there is and it was just lost in the S-Class dungeon for all time.

The final dungeon was where it all turned around, though. It’s a pretty sweet space-station with a gravity-manipulating gimmick. There are also multiple areas, and there are some really cool visual shifts throughout. It ends in a boss rush, as is Mega Man tradition. I’m normally not overly excited for endgame boss rushes, but it was really satisfying to get a rematch with that damned frog boss now that I was sufficiently powered-up and was able to curb stomp it. Very theraputic.

Now, back in the day when I played MML2 for the very first time, the final boss completely stymied me and rendered me unable to finish the game. So I was a little apprehensive about the final showdown once I made it there. And my fears were vindicated! Her attack patterns are very difficult to dodge, she does a buttload of damage, and there aren’t a lot of openings to shoot back. But after only a couple tries, I was able to finally eke out a victory, with only a sliver of life left.

Then she transformed and I got wrecked. Because of course there’s a second phase.

So I went back down to Earth to upgrade my health canteen, which is the Legends stand-in for E-tanks. And this is where MML2 finally gives the player an advantage: it seems like you can just keep upgrading that health canteen as long as you can afford it. I got mine up to 40 units (4 full heals) and I could have kept going if I’d had the cash. I don’t know how far it goes, but that’s already more than enough to cheese your way past basically anything the game will throw at you.

And so it was, that I battled that final boss again, and won. I used up every drop in the health canteen to do it and still just scraped by, but I won. It was finally over. The shadow that had been looming over me for the last twenty years was finally dispelled, and I am free to move on with my life. Given the text above and published previously, I don’t think I’ll ever play Mega Man Legends 2 again. It’s just so… I want to use a softer word, but I think it might be bad. There’s a solid base there, but there are too many parts that are designed in such a way that they’re just frustrating to overcome. If the controls were tightened up and the money requirements eased up? I think that would go a long way. But it’s just not that much fun as-is.

Fortunately, the first game is still perfectly good, and I will happily go back to that one time and time again. The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, a mini-game focused spin-off, was also a lot of fun, so there are ways to get my MML fix. Just not this one. With the benefit of this hindsight, maybe it’s a good thing that Mega Man Legends 3 got canned before it ever really got off the ground. But I guess that’s something we’ll just never know.

Report on the RE3

It’s common knowledge that I’m really friggin’ into the Resident Evil series, right? Okay, good. What might be less obvious is that Resident Evil 3: Nemesis never really clicked with me. I’ve played it through, but only like once, ages and ages ago. All that said, I am having an absolute blast with the remake that released just a week ago.

Released a week ago, and I’ve already finished it four times. It’s basically all I’ve been doing between work and sleep. If not actually playing the game, then watching speedruns to try to learn some sweet strats. Of course, I’ve been absorbing as much of RE3 as I can this week because it’s sure to be forgotten whenever my copy of Final Fantasy VII Remake arrives.

Having not been a big fan of the original game, I guess I can’t really weigh in on whether the changes made to RE3 are for better or for worse. All I can really say is that there are a lot of them. For as close as Resident Evil 2‘s remake tried to stick to the source material, RE3’s remake goes way off the rails. It’s kind of nice to not have the anchor that is nostalgia weighing me down, so that I can purely appreciate this product for what it is.

I mean, I’d try to do that anyway. I take pride in not being the kind of nerd that gets all butthurt when a remake doesn’t adhere strictly to the original.

Something that I’d heard reviewers complain about before release is that RE3 is too linear. And you know what, they’re correct in that it is pretty linear. You do get to run around freely and explore each area, but there’s definitely a visible track that you should be following, and there are lots of “hallway”-style segments between the larger areas. I actually kind of like this design, though, since I have to spend less time finding keys and then remembering which doors each one opens. I think that kind of design is great – but only on the first run. It’s more of a hassle on replays. the more linear style that RE3 adopts is perfect for replays, because it keeps the momentum going and allows you to focus on execution, which is a lot more more fun to me than zig-zagging through a giant maze of locked doors.

I’m also a really big fan of the shop system in this game. There are so many bonus items to unlock, and you can use them all without any penalty to your rank. I’ve heard at least one speedrunner grouse that this is bad design, but most people don’t play that obsessively and develop that kind of skill. Allowing players to use shop items to help them through the game just makes RE3 accessible to more people, which is a very good thing. This is already a game that doesn’t pull any punches and you have to beat the game once to unlock the shop in the first place, so it’s nice that Capcom put in a feature that gives the 99% a fighting chance.

So yes, I’m really into the new Resident Evil 3. I think it’s a super fun game to play, and I like to imagine that I’ll be going back to it fairly regularly. After all, a successful run takes under two hours. That’s shorter than most movies. There’s really no reason not to try to squeeze in a quick replay here and there.

Report on the ‘Rona

I wrote a couple weeks ago that I was someone worried about the state of the world, due to the looming threat of the novel coronavirus. That threat is no longer looming, but rather is completely wrecking human society. With over 14.million people infected and 80 thousand dead (that have been reported), it’s not been a good time. That and life as we know it has been so radically altered by the need for social distancing. I can’t help but be concerned about what the fallout is going to look like.

But there’s no way to control how any of this madness is going to play out, and the only thing you can do is try not to get too upset about it, and keep on dealing with each day as it comes. Also, trying to look on the bright side helps a little, so today I’m going to make a short list of all the ways my life has improved thanks to COVID-19.

  • Gas is now ridiculously cheap. Kind of moot, because I don’t really have anywhere to go, but it’s nice to be able to have a consistently full tank without feeling a financial sting.
  • My workplace is locked down, meaning no outsiders can enter, and I’m stuck on my floor. So I can’t get away from my desk for lunch, but that’s offset by every day being casual day! Being able to dress comfortably makes going to work every day that much easier, and I don’t have to worry about making sure all my stupid dress clothes are clean and wrinkle-free.
  • So many people are working from home (or unemployed) now, the busses are basically empty. It’s not a huge save for the ride to work, but the ride home was often standing room only. Now I’m one of maybe six or seven people on the bus, and it is glorious. Roads are also significantly less busy, but like I said before, I’m not driving anywhere anyway.
  • I’ve finally started to warm up to the idea of pre-ordering fast food via apps. I would still prefer to go in and order my food from a person, but I can’t deny that mobile ordering is darned convenient. Definitely not something I should be getting used to.

And, well, that’s about it for now. I’m sure I’ll start cursing COVID-19 as soon as people I know start getting sick or losing their jobs, but for now I’m just going to make the most of it. Life isn’t going to go back to the way it was for a long, long time, so you’ve really gotta appreciate those little things that much more.

Wherein I can stream, live

Did you know that you can stream gameplay from your PS4 to your YouTube or Twitch? I did, but I had never bothered to try it until now. And, it was a bit of a rough start, since getting the audio from the game and microphone to mix properly is unnecessarily complicated. But I got it sorted out finally, and now you can watch me play the middle of Resident Evil 4, one chapter at a time!

Here’s the first video where I’m actually audible. The Chapter 4-1 follow-up is also decent. The four videos that came before are rife with growing pains, and I’m mostly impossible to hear because the game drowns me out. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll leave to you, dear reader/viewer.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: March 2020

~ Game Over ~

Murder by Numbers (Switch) – I was sold on this as a mash up of detectivin’ and picrossin’. It only really delivered on the nonograms, and all the detective work was done by the story. That said, the story was charming and the dialogue was generally very well-written. I still think I’d rather just have the puzzles without all the text boxes in-between.

Mega Man Zero (GBA) – Via the Zero/ZX Legacy Collection. Still adore it all these years later. Played the vanilla mode because I like it rough. Busted my butt to get an A rank on every mission, even though it means nothing, just makes me feel like a big man. Not the biggest man, because S ranks are a thing, but they’re basically impossible for an old fart like me to achieve. Besides, I already did a perfect S run back in high school when I was stubborn enough to do something like that.

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A jorb well done

I don’ t type much about work here, mostly because I like to keep work life and blog life separate. But also because my job isn’t especially exciting, at least from a “stories to tell on the internet” perspective.

But today I want to write a very small blurb about work, because I had a really great day today. I completed two smallish (half-day each) analysis projects that earned big kudos from my bosses, so I’m really, really happy right now.

I usually think of myself as the kind of person who doesn’t really need or want recognition. I prefer to keep behind the scenes. But damned if it doesn’t feel really nice to be told that you’ve done a good job. Especially since I also suffer from crazy-low self esteem, so I’m always very concerned when I turn in work that I’m going to have completely missed the mark and wasted a buttload of time. I actually get super bad anxiety about it and it causes me all sorts of issues.

But today, I did good! Hooray me! Take this moment to feel a little pride, Ryan. You’ve earned it.

Live reactions! – Nintendo Direct Mini 3.26.20

Hey so Nintendo dropped a Nintendo Direct this morning out of nowhere. I don’t know, maybe they said it was coming and I’ve just been so far up my own ass lately that I didn’t notice. Nevertheless! They called it a “Mini” but it’s still almost half an hour long. Time for me to type up my knee-jerk reactions to all the announcements as I try to eat lunch at the same time! Here’s an embed so you can watch along!

Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition – Release date is May 29. I am PUMPED. That is perfect timing, leading right into summer and vacation season. Looks like I know how I’m going to be spending at least a couple of my weeks off this year. Not sure how I feel about the idea of re-recorded music, as Xenoblade has maybe my favourite video game soundtrack of all time. But I’m choosing to be optimistic about it! And of course, I cannot wait to dive into the new epilogue, as more Xenoblade is only a good thing.

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Migraine Watch: Mar 16, 2020

You know, my last recorded migraine was in September 2018. That’s really good! A year and a half free of horrible cranium pain? I’ll take it!

But the good times never last. Monday was just another day at work. I was doing my thing, and had just come back from a lunch hour study sesh. I sat down at my workstation, intending to get at ‘er, and then suddenly I noticed that the letters and numbers on the screen were becoming hard to read.

“Oh dammit. I remember this.”

A fun twist to this particular migraine is that I tried to sit through a conversation with my boss as the auras were coming on, and I almost wish that I could have recorded myself trying to explain what was happening to me. I could tell that the words coming out of my mouth weren’t quite right, and so we ended up wrapping up and I went to sit at my desk until it was time to go home.

It was about 2:30 when the auras started to appear, and I think maybe about 4:30 once they had dissipated enough to become functional again. So I got in a solid half-hour of work that afternoon. Not that I could do much about it. I’ll have to refer to my previous notes, but I seem to recall that the aura, in whatever shape it takes, generally hasn’t persisted for two hours. I thought they went away faster, but it’s been so long that I’m not sure.

On the other side of the coin, the actual headache portion wasn’t nearly as bad as I’m used to. I was actually up and functional throughout the rest of the evening, as opposed to getting home and going straight to bed for the night. I made dinner, I played video games, I watched TV. I didn’t dare try to work out, because jostling my head was still a source of major pain.

As for causes? I’m going to pin this one squarely on COVID-19. Mostly because I’ve been uncharacteristically stressed out and worried about it. It’s just… kind of a huge deal. I’ve already detailed many of my thoughts on the pandemic panic, and they haven’t changed appreciably since last week. I did wake up at 1:30 AM on Wednesday morning to a single cough, and then proceeded to freak out for the next two hours over possibly having caught the virus. Mostly because the idea of unintentionally missing two weeks of work gives me serious anxiety. I’m not the kind of person who would typically prescribe myself a chill pill, but these are trying times. Oh and I have a tough final coming up on Monday so that’s not helping any.

I don’t think there’s much else to note here. Aura was aphasia with blurred vision and a little bit of travelling tingliness. Cause was stress almost without a doubt. Aura was extended, but the headache afterward was mild and was mostly gone by the next morning. Overall, not a bad migraine. A little embarrassing, but not bad.

Nonograms for Days

I’ve been playing two picross games lately. Well, I guess that’s a lie because Pixel Puzzle Collection is still a thing.

I’ve been playing two picross games on my Switch lately. One, PICROSS: LORD OF THE NAZARICK is by nonogram verterans Jupiter, and is based on an obscure anime. An obscure anime that they never once name in this game. The other is Murder by Numbers, which is by Mediatonic, a video games company that I’ve never heard of. This one blends puzzle solving with story about solving murders and robot amnesia.

Both of these games have one major trait in common: they both mash a whole lot of text boxes into a puzzle game, which is the last place where a whole lot of text boxes should be. And maybe you can tell by my glib descriptions in the paragraph above, but only one manages to do so with any measure of success.

Picross: Lord of the Nazarick (I refuse to bend to the all-caps nonsense) is one of very few video games in which I’ve mashed past most of the text on my first playthrough. I tried to be courteous and listen to the story that they wanted to tell, but it was complete gibberish to me. And while it’s true that this particular edition of Picross was not intended for me, I still think that Jupiter failed utterly, because they should have made it somewhat accessible to non-fans. The first problem here is that, as I mentioned above, they never once use the name of the anime that this game is based on. It’s Overlord, by the way. I shouldn’t have had to do research to know that.

The other big problem is that it just assumes that you, the player, have a strong working knowledge of the plot and characters of Overlord. There are no introductions of any sort, and I found myself completely lost at every turn. It was baffling, and do nothing to make me want to learn more about this franchise. I never came to care about any of the characters, what their motivations were or what trials they’d been through, despite the fact that Jupiter so obviously wanted me to. Lastly, I’m working on an assumption that the story scenes in Picross: LotN are structured to sort of recap some highlights of Overlord’s story. Like a clip show, but told entirely through text. Which is a terrible way to do a clip show. ‘Nuff said.

So Picross: Lord of the Nazarick flops completely for someone like me, who has absolutely zero knowledge about its theme. Which is really too bad, because it’s another solid Jupiter-made Picross game, and they do the best nonograms in town. I just got so lost in the anime nonsense that I gave up on even trying to understand what all the text boxes wanted to tell me, and took it entirely as a puzzle game with a bunch of weird fantasy goobers and anime characters as puzzle solutions. And you know what, that’s exactly how one should play Picross. Intrusive text boxes have no place here. At least, that’s what I thought until I played Murder By Numbers…

Now this – this is how you make a puzzle game besieged by text boxes. Assuming you think that such a thing is necessary. Murder By Numbers splits the difference between visual novel and nonogram puzzles, and the two are interwoven in a way that creates a fun, unique product. This is the story of a young lady and her robot pal solving murders with the power of picross. How could it lose?

That is not to say that Murder By Numbers necessarily excels at either of its component genres. The nonogram puzzles, at least for an addict like me, are far too easy and lack any sort of alternate modes. It’s all stock-standard puzzles, and it’s exceedingly rare that they reach past 15×15 grids. The story part is actually really engaging, and I thought that most, if not all of the characters were really well-developed. However, the mystery part isn’t all that mysterious, as I had figured the killer within the first five minutes of three of the four cases. There is another big issue, but this one may be more on me…

See, when I saw the promotional material for Murder By Numbers, I got the impression that you’d get to do some actual sleuthing as you try to solve these crimes. People kept presumptively calling it “Ace Attorney meets Picross.” But no, it’s not like that at all. It’s just a straight visual novel and you have exactly zero input on how it unfolds. You don’t really get to search for clues, there are no red herrings, and there are certainly no courtroom scenes. The few decisions you do get to make are just window dressing, and will just say “nah, try another option” if you don’t choose correctly. While being completely removed from the plot was a bit of a bummer, I got over it because again, it’s a really good story! Of course it ends with a sequel hook, and I can’t wait to see the further adventures of this wacky crew.

And, you know, the picross was still fun. Even if it could have used a little more challenge or variety.

I suppose the lesson here is that you shouldn’t just ham-fistedly try to mash plot into a game where it doesn’t belong. If you’re going to try to shake up a genre, make sure that you’re designing the game from the ground up to make the best use of all the components. At least get them to a place where they harmonize with each other well enough to make the final product greater than the sum of its parts.