Saturday, December 30, 2017


It makes sense to close out the year with a tribute to Miiverse. Nintendo's social media service came to an end in November after a brief five year run, and while there have been attempts to rekindle that fire with copycats, none of these sites have been as easy to use as Miiverse, or have inspired the same strong sense of community. Like downloading Genesis games from the Sega Channel in 1994, or logging onto a server for Phantasy Star Online during the Dreamcast's peak in 2000, Miiverse was one of those special moments in gaming history... daringly experimental, easily missed, and impossible to relive once it's gone.

Here now are my observations about the death of Miiverse, drawn on the 3DS during its final week of service. It's a little melodramatic and the art's not going to win any awards, but I think it makes its point.

Turns out the second panel was right on the money... I find myself using my 3DS less and less without Miiverse, and the overall experience has become emptier; lonelier. Miiverse quickly became an essential component of the 3DS, and without it, the system feels incomplete and its potential unrealized. Sure, you can still play its games, but without a convenient way to share that experience, why bother? 

Honestly, there's a lot I miss about Miiverse. I miss the promising young artists who will probably find greater fame elsewhere now that they're not chained to the limitations of the Miiverse drawing tool. I miss the sharp-tongued comments about the latest 3DS titles, ranging from Nintendo's big-budget hits to whatever turd RCMADIAX fished out of the shovelware sewer that week. But most of all, I miss mocking that stupid pink rabbit from the Badge Arcade.

I mean, who's going to keep the little dink humble now that I'm not there to heap abuse on him? Give him a few weeks without put downs and he'll think he owns the place.

Monday, December 25, 2017

I'm Dreaming of a Big Christmas

So yeah... I'm just about over my flu from last week, but now I've got another problem. Some neighbors of ours wondered if they could give us their old television set, and I said yes, because who's going to say no to an offer like that? But it turns out that my mother doesn't want it in her room, and there is no other room for this thing in the house. It's fifty inches diagonally, and I'm already quite happy with the 42" set in the living room... you know, the one I resuscitated earlier this year.

So now I've got to make practical use of this massive plasma television set. In any other situation I'd be thrilled to have it, but with space at a premium, I'll have to get creative to keep it from going to waste. (Sure, I could give this television away, but I get the feeling that I should keep a spare set handy in case the other one croaks on me.)

image from Bandai-Namco
Here's what I've come up with so far. You've heard about the "World's Largest Pac-Man" arcade game, right? These machines pop up from time to time in mall movie theaters, and they're exactly what it says on the tin... an unreasonably large version of Pac-Man, displayed on a six foot long screen and played from a nearby podium. Some tweaks have been made to the gameplay to add surprises to the thirty-seven year old formula and accommodate two players, but past that, it's Pac-Man... just bigger. Big enough that Pac-Man could probably eat your hand in three bites.

I can't literally put the world's largest Pac-Man in my house, but through the magic of tate, I could come pretty close! I could hang the television from a wall using a VESA mount, connect a Playstation TV or an Android TV to the back, then flip the whole thing sideways, giving me a gargantuan vertical display for not only Pac-Man, but Donkey Kong, Dodonpachi, and everything else which uses a portrait orientation. Better yet, being stuck on a wall should save a lot of space that would otherwise be gobbled up by a stand. It's ostentatious, hedonistic, and completely unnecessary, but hey, first world problems deserve first world solutions. 

EDIT: Well, it works! Here are a few images of Ms. Pac-Man running sideways on this television set, using a Playstation TV and pFBA. I don't have the set hanging from a wall yet, but this is a promising start.

I've taken the liberty of flipping the second picture, to give you an idea of how it would look in a vertical orientation. It's big, all right, but having to lay down on the floor with a tilted controller to play it is... less than ideal. Stay tuned for more news as it happens.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Ho ho flu, boys and girls! I picked up a bug last Friday while watching the latest Star Wars film (advice: don't do either of these things), and although I feel better than I had over the weekend, it still feels like my sinuses are filled with sand. I'm talking about the hardcore sand you'd use to blast rust off metal, not the sand you'd find on your feet during a long, romantic walk on the beach. But if a crappy little spaceship like Zanoni can do it, I'll surely revive as well...

(See, I can make obscure video game references too! I'll be eagerly awaiting that contract, book publishers.)

While not burning through cough drops and hankies, I've been... enjoying?... Nioh. I'm still not sure, really. Like Demon's Souls, there's a lot of give and take in this game. Specifically, it takes your pride and dignity, then gives you doubts about the existence of a fair and just god. I've spent hours with Nioh, getting my hero up to level fifty one, but progress has nevertheless been constipated, with ludicrously overpowered bosses and the developers' vexatious habit of hanging the better abilities just out of reach halting my advance. You need the Sloth Talisman that makes boss fights less of a chore? It's over there on the next island! Not so fast... now you've got to finish this mission as well, and a training mission, too! Jump, boy! Jump! Good doggie! Now get in the cage and we'll take you to the vet for your "special" visit.

Eh, close enough.
Nioh's so difficult that some players have tapped out on Onryoki, the second boss. Personally, I may have reached my capacity for the game's bullshit with Umi-Bozu, the boat-chucking blob at the end of The Ocean Roars Again. It's not just that Umi-Bastard can vaporize you with one shot of his screen-engulfing laser beam, or that he may elect to do this two seconds after the fight starts. It's that as he leaps from one end of the playfield to the other, doing the world's most disgusting Free Willy imitation, he breaks off pieces of the pier where you're standing. After he leaps onto the pier for round two, you won't have much room to move around, and it's entirely too easy to roll out of the way of one of his attacks... and off the pier, into the waiting embrace of Davy Jones' Locker.

This is where boss fights start.
Right here, not three blocks away.
That "it's supposed to be hard" crap
doesn't feed the Irish setter... so
was Mega Man, but it still practiced
good game design.
After twelve fruitless attempts to take down the Blob Who Ate Nioh York, I whipped out a Himorogi Branch and made a hasty exit, all while wishing that I could take the branch, strip off the leaves, and spank executive producer Kou Shimasawa raw with it. You can "git gud" me until you're blue in the face, but the fact remains that this is not good boss design. I've got two choices in a 3D game like this... either I can see the boss I'm fighting, or the surrounding stage. I can't do both at once, because human eyes don't work that way! And what the hell is the deal with putting save points a hop, skip, and a five mile hike away from each boss? That other sadistic villain Dr. Wily would be happy to sell you some slightly used metal chamber doors. After ten games I'm sure he's got plenty to spare.

I had my fill of this game for the day, but it wasn't done with me. After turning off my Playstation 4 and crawling into bed, I switched on my alarm clock's white noise generator. You know, calm blue ocean, gentle afternoon rains, the kind of thing that makes slumber come more easily. I swear that hidden in the simulated whirring of box fan blades, I heard the twinkling and the squeaky, abrasive horns of the Kodama at a Nioh shrine. I really, really need to take a break from this one, don't I?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ajit Pai Sucks, and Other Things You Already Knew

I'm softening a little on Nioh, now that I've adapted to the gameplay. Only a little, though... the bosses are still way too aggressive and the designers love to pull surprises from their bag of dirty tricks when you least expect them. The end of Kanbei and the Overlord traps you in a cramped room with skeletal samurai, bloodthirsty ogres, and flaming skulls, served up in rapid succession. That battle quickly turned into a Benny Hill sketch, with William frantically running from the horde of monsters nipping at his heels. Kill one pack of yokai and another appears to take its place, until the game finally relents and opens the door to the end of the mission. That's a side mission, by the way... the story missions are even more brutal. Some players crave this kind of challenge, but personally, I'd prefer something less stressful. Like air traffic control or brain surgery, perhaps.

Having said that, there are things about Nioh I do honestly appreciate. Some of the mooks in a stage handle their weapons with confidence, while others stumble after every swing, making it clear which enemies can be easily dispatched and which will make you earn your victory. The Guardian Spirits grant you temporary invincibility, occasionally relieving the pressure in the game's many tough fights. The combat is deep yet brisk, without the sluggishness of the Dark Souls series. There's a lot I would have done differently (what's the point of burying all the useful skills so deep in the game? I could have used the sneak attack and more arrows NOW), but I can't really say I regret the time I've spent with Nioh. You might not know that from all the swearing, though.

Switching gears from Nioh to Nook, I got a replacement battery for the e-reader I bought last week, and have been using it ever since. This is the first e-reader I've ever owned (not including this crappy thing, and let's never speak of it again), and the experience has been something of an education for me. Lesson one: the Nook is a very specialized device, and there's a lot it can't do. Even graphics-heavy PDF files are a poor fit, because the screen is too small for comfortable reading and there's no convenient way to zoom in on specific details.

However, the Nook handles text files, including its own EPUB format, with aplomb, letting you adjust the font size to your preference and displaying every page on a monochrome screen that rarely needs refreshing. The benefit to this design is that the Nook doesn't need to be powerful (and it's not, clocking in at a lightweight 667MHz), and requires only weekly recharges. So it's convenient, if only for its very specific purpose.

I just need to use it for that very specific purpose. I spend a lot of time on the internet (or at least did, before Reese's Peanut Butthole Cup sold it to the highest bidder), but I'm not a dedicated reader. It's rare for me to finish a book, unless it appeals to a specific interest or I'm obligated to do it. Maybe the Nook will finally give me a reason to sit down and read everything I downloaded from past Storybook Bundles, and all the orphaned literature generously supplied by You know, classic works like Jane Austen's Pride and Pre- no stupid, of COURSE they're all video game books.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

My Capcom Cup Runneth Over

Hello, what's all this, then?

Capcom's releasing a Street Fighter collection for all major formats. This is a welcome development, as it's been a while since we've gotten one, and there's not an ideal way to play Street Fighter Alpha 3 on a more recent system. Yeah, I could play the PSOne game (with its tons and tons of access time) on my Playstation 3, or risk my thumbs and eyesight on the PSP version, but this seems a lot more convenient. There's no word yet on whether the additional characters from the older console versions will be included, and I'm confident that Capcom won't be including the versus mode from Street Fighter Alpha Anniversary, which gave the cast their moves from the Marvel vs. series. Having said all that, I'm still eagerly awaiting this release. Horizon Zero Dawn has lost a bit of its flavor after sixty hours, and it'd be nice to have another reason to fire up my Playstation 4. 

I was hoping that Nioh would provide that motivation, but alas, the game isn't really doing it for me. Right from the start, you're presented with an insurmountable challenge... the lead character is forced to burst out of a prison cell and battle a fully armed and armored captor... while in his underpants. Gee, using the WHOLE hand, Tecmo?

Things don't get any easier when William (...William?) washes ashore on a Japanese village. From there, Nioh becomes a struggle to reach each new save point, and progress comes at a glacial pace... you'll cut down three soldiers, lose to the fourth, and get dragged all the way back to the last shrine you found, no matter how far away it was or how close you were to the next one. You'll need a lot of patience to play this game, I'll say that. 

I'll also say that you're going to need a Rosetta Stone to make sense of the dense gameplay. There are multiple stances, and a "ki burst" which refills your constantly dwindling stamina, and ninjutsu, and a half dozen different kinds of skill points to earn (prestige points?!), and a Guardian Spirit with its own abilities, and... damn, it's exhausting just thinking about it. Nioh was spearheaded by Koei's Kou Shibusawa, the creator of Nobunaga's Ambition, and his obsession with historical events and complex-beyond-reason play mechanics is painfully evident in this release.

I'll go out on a limb here and say that the industry's current fascination with the Dark Souls style of gameplay is getting tiresome. We've had four games in the series counting Demon's Souls, the more aggressively paced Bloodborne, and at least a dozen mercilessly difficult knock-offs from other companies. Can we move past this trend already? I don't want to "git gud" anymore. I want to get something that's fun.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

You Can't Always Get What You Want...

...and sometimes, you'll wonder why you wanted it in the first place. This happened to me a few days ago, when I found a set of three broken PSPs on the Shopgoodwill web site. One of the systems was an E1000, the European exclusive known informally as the PSP Street. It's got an unfortunate combination of added girth and trimmed down features that make it one of the least desired models of Sony's handheld. On the other hand, it's said to have a better screen than the PSP-3000, and it's got an indescribable appeal to a fan like myself who won't have many opportunities to find this particular version... a je ne sais crap, if you will.

I wanted a PSP Street badly enough that I was willing to take a chance on this junker... you know, win the auction for a modest price and fix whatever problems it had. At least, that was the plan, until the bidding shot up to fifty six dollars, dumping a bucket of cold water on my burning desire for the system. I could buy lots of things for that price... things that work right out of the box! Besides, I've already got two working PSPs, and those grapes were probably sour anyway. So I let this opportunity slip by me, in the hope that another would eventually present itself.

My latest in a long line of white whales.
Which is actually black, but you get the idea.
(image from
In the meantime, I've got plenty of things I can use to occupy my time. Like the old Nook I found at a brick and mortar Goodwill (some assembly required), or the Moto I bought to replace my aging phone, or any one of a number of game consoles I hacked and subsequently abandoned. I swear, if my attention span were any shorter, I'd- SQUIRREL!