While I've certainly been busy with other things, I just thought I'd note that the lack of streaming from me has partially been because my Magewell, a very nice little HDMI capture box that works well in Linux, has been flaky for a while and finally outright broke today while I was trying to determine the nature of its flakiness.
I'm trying to fix it, though. For whatever reason, the damn thing's USB connector seemed to be mostly held to the board by either the pins themselves or by pixies, and has now entirely separated. Holding the connector at just the right point allows it to work — you can see it here with the power and data pins lit up — so I am trying to glue it into place and seeing how well that works.
Worst case, I seem to have found a way to keep the connector making contact with some alligator clips, so I might be able to do some PS4/PS3/Vita TV streaming again once I see how this holds and try putting the adapter back in the full streaming setup.
In the interim, I did a bit of Four Job Fiesta streaming, and enabled a bunch of VODs I hadn't gotten around to yet, so there is some stuff, if you like watching me play video games.
The super pretty-looking IA/VT Colorful's Crystal Box comes with a pouch, Vita skin, sticker set, cleaning cloth, strap, charm strap, card case, and fancy collector's box.
I've only had this on preorder for two years or something, looking forward to finally playing it.
I'm going to be customizing my Persona 4 Arena Ultimax TE2 fightstick soon, and thought I should probably take a before picture, for posterity's sake.
Though, this isn't actually the stick in its original form. Unmodified, it actually looks a bit more like... this. Before Evo 2015, I decided to swap the buttons around a bit to mirror my preferred button layout, so I got some more Sanwas (most of the ones I tried removing snapped, apparently the tabs on the stock buttons in TE2 sticks have some issues for whatever reason) and popped them in. Nothing special.
The next set of changes, though, will be much more substantial. I have a bunch of parts broken out to order once I get the first element done, which is some custom artwork. I randomly found someone who seems like they'll do a really awesome job with some custom illustrations, so it will definitely be a one-of-a-kind stick, and I'm really looking forward to that.
Anyway, there's a lot to get done once I get the piece, I'm going to try to update at least once more with my progress or final stick. Until then, enjoy the (mostly) original P4AU stick.
Of all the emotions I expected to find at Evo 2015, the last one I thought I'd find among the crowd I was new to was love. Love for games, love for competition, love for the event itself, but most of all love for the community. The people I bumped into — once just personalities to me, now people — were always happy and cordial. Each player who beat me in the tournament was friendly before and after. Each random person, each vendor, each top 8 finalist and champion, just bursting with energy.
I don't quite know what I expected to encounter at my first Evo, but the community outdid whatever it was I thought. It was amazing to just wander the floor and see what people were excited about, to see the crowds gathering (in the purest FGC fashion) around a console station to watch an interesting game or two marquee players go head to head. Beyond the games themselves being amazing, Sunday night's energy among the crowds before and after the games was infectious. I could have chanted "EVO" for hours, but we were all set free.
Frankly, this is the best I've felt after a convention vacation in a long time. It's going to be hard to go back to normal life, and it's going to be hard to wait a year for the next Evo. I want to do better in games, and I want to do better in the community. Thankfully, in all this, new fans are born and new interests sparked. I want next year's Evo to be the best for everyone. Join me!
Been playing a bunch of games, haven't had the time to write up anything on any of them, but I'm hoping to get to it eventually. In any event, games:
Lots of fun, certainly one of my favorite action games on Vita to this point. Wandering around in virtual Akihabara is a treat. Platinumed.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
Even more rad than the first one. The plot's as insane, the characters pretty cool (but not as cool as the first game's, unfortunately), gameplay quite improved. Really hoping we get Another Episode and that a third game happens. Platinumed.
Alright. Would have liked it a lot more had it used traditional controls rather than touch controls. The style of it, though, so great, and having an Akira Yamaoka end theme is awesome.
I'm currently playing (among others) Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1, and Freedom Wars, trying to make some ground before the next big thing I'm looking forward to, Tales of Hearts R. GAMES
There is a bizarre unease when you've done something you know is both absolutely right and wholly irrational, a sense that while you may forget the act, you will never forget the meta-act, your choice to damn all sensibility and indulge. This is a short story about how I bought E.V.O.: Search for Eden, a SNES game from 20 years ago that I basically already owned, for $150. It's probably a story everyone relates to.
This post was actually supposed to just be about restoring the absolutely shitty cart I bought, obsessing even further about this ridiculous lark of mine, but in the end it came to be about why this apparently made sense.
In 1990, a Japanese game developer by the name of Almanic Corporation (eventually Givro Corporation, now nonexistent) released 46 Okunen Monogatari ~The Shinka Ron~ (literally, "4.6 Billion Year Story: The Theory of Evolution"), a game I never played for a system I never owned. Two years later Enix published Almanic's follow-up, 46 Okunen Monogatari: Harukanaru Eden e ("4.6 Billion Year Story: To Distant Eden"), for the Super Famicom, the game eventually reaching the West as E.V.O.: Search for Eden. It's a silly game, a fantastical mix of evolution and biology, platforming and RPG. You play as one life-form, traveling through the ages under the guidance of Gaia, evolving from a fish to potential bird or mammal combinations, along the way making decisions like "I need a better horn, so I'm going grind for a bit and eat these baby lizards until I get enough Evolution Points to buy a better horn. And then maybe I'll grow a longer neck and get some sweet-ass wings." In the end, you prove your genetic worth and herald a new age for the planet, and also become Gaia's mate or something? It's a bit strange.
It's a pretty good game, and certainly distinctive, a shining example of the weird, magnificent stuff we got during the SNES era.
Anyway, E.V.O. is a game my mom must have rented for me a dozen times, my young self never good or dedicated enough to beat it, but always enamored enough to marvel at all the combinations of bodies and jaws and fins and horns and legs and so on that I wanted to play through it again. The game is a bizarre, near-surreal experience that even as a kid I appreciated like all novel and inexplicable things I'd managed to find. I imagine I begged her to buy it for me, and if the present day is any indication, she probably tried and couldn't find it. If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have demanded we find it one way or another.
You see, I didn't want to pay $150 for a SNES game — just the cartridge, specifically — that was pretty good but not exactly the shining paragon of its era. I had to. The game, bizarre and niche, had a smaller run, and is the kind of game idiot collectors (like myself) hang on to once they own it, the conversation piece they drag out when talking about video game madness, the thick, gooey nectar of nostalgia that one plays at least once a year, reminiscing on a childhood lost.
This is of course not unusual. I imagine most veterans of Media have their tangible items — fancy movie editions, first edition books of the classics, voluminous art collections or movie posters or vinyl records or whatever. Other games commonly exist in this realm too — Earthbound, for example, is another game I've lost and will one day own again. "This, The Legend of Zelda, is the first Nintendo game I ever owned, and it changed my life," and so on.
Reclaiming these symbols, these trophies, is hard to justify. What have I bought, really, other than an antiquated plastic and silicon delivery mechanism for a couple megabytes of data? It's ridiculous, honestly, an element of ridicule, to think of everything I could spend time acquiring — physical or mental or spiritual — instead of silly games about out-evolving a shark.
Memory is a strange thing. I believe heavily in subjective interpretations of the world, and following from that is an admission that one's recollection (or lack thereof) changes their truth. There are beautiful, magnificent memories I have surely forgotten, people lost to my mind, experiences never recallable but that can never be truly novel, either. Is there much else to identity than this stuff, being able to conjure up again one's roots? This, honestly, is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night, wondering if ephemeral memory changes me when it escapes.
I guess this isn't really foreign to anyone. This is why we photograph, we journal, we film. Why we keep trinkets around.
That brings us back to 46 Okunen Monogatari: Harukanaru Eden e. This quest of mine has been chewing at my mind for over a year, and last year I caved to my base nostalgia and game collecting craves, and bought the Japanese version of E.V.O., the otherwise identical 46 Okunen Monogatari: Harukanaru Eden e. I wanted to play the game on a real SNES again, with real hardware and a real controller in my hand, so I picked up this foreign facsimile of what I wanted to recall. I played it, said "yes, this is definitely the game I played with different language," conquered the gameplay for the first time (in Japanese!) and then put it away. It wasn't the same. E.V.O. represented something for me beyond a game, lacking it still felt like a hole, something I could only rely on my unreliable memory to keep as part of my identity.
And that's the story of how I spent multiple new games' worth of money on a stickered-up, etched-into, grody-as-hell 21+ year old game, a couple lunches more on a replacement label, junk games to use as replacement shells, and security screw tools to crack this bounty open. The story of spending an hour scraping a NFL Quarterback Club '96 label off a donor cart and gouging gunk out of the gross E.V.O. shell's screw holes just to have a nice cartridge to look at.
The story of rejecting the ephemeral.
Rui Komatsuzaki needs to collaborate on more stuff I find cool.
Mind Zero is, in the end, a game done in by its own averageness, which is a shame because it had some pretty interesting ideas buried in it. Too much of the game reminds you of its overall drabness, especially the actual dungeon crawling and encounters, which is probably the most damning part, because it is thick with random encounters.
The game isn't all bad. The general premise and aesthetic are derivative at first glance, but the theme of Mind Zero manages to be basically engaging, even if it's underdeveloped. The skill card mechanism of upgrading skills and spells is fairly interesting, using random skill drops to level up the ones you care about, but it sucks having to leave the dungeon to upgrade them, since it's a pretty major disruption to the game to trek back out to Yokohama when you fill up on skills.
The most redeeming feature of the game is that it has an interesting meter system. There are three meters, Life Points, Mind Points, and Tech Points — Tech Points power your skills, and Life Points and Mind Points fall into a kind of balance where LP is the health of your character and MP the health of your MIND, a Jojo's Stand-esque entity that you can have fight for you. Take damage in one form, and just switch modes and heal up. It sets an interesting kind of rhythm to some fights where you have to be careful with the meter management.
Unfortunately, the complicated balancing act of the meters makes the many, many random encounters feel all the more tedious, and it isn't really compelling enough on its own to make all the fights feel engaging. The game has some balance issues, as a mob of the right enemies can quickly drain your meters and leave you with rounds of recovering before you can get back to addressing the fight.
Additionally, the same meter system also makes solo enemies, including many of the later bosses, extremely trivial if you have a good party dialed in — the boss's damage output, even with the occasional special or two attacks per round, just can't crack through both meters fast enough to really be a threat. The last few bosses, including the two-phase final boss, were nothing but battles of attrition, chipping away at huge health bars while never really being worried about occasionally healing.
Otherwise, the game is an average gridder. You talk to your friends in the overworld, then dive into the dungeon, which has fairly average environments, mostly unmemorable music, and a disappointingly underdeveloped graphics engine. And maybe that's the hardest part of the game to stomach — compared to the wonderful Demon Gaze that came out just months ago, Mind Zero, by itself, offers so little, even if it has plenty of potential good ideas that never fully pay off.
The game pretty shamelessly ends with a setup for a sequel, which may or may not ever come as it was considered kusoge in Japan (an overblown label, in my opinion) and didn't do much better here in the West, but I do kind of hope they try another game, if they improve on it — the core idea is pretty good, and I do think they have the beginnings of some interesting mechanics to work with.
Ultimately though, I wouldn't really recommend for or against Mind Zero. Check it out if you feel interested, skip it if you don't. Not bad or not great, I kinda liked it, but it's a difficult thing to like.
(I'm testing some Unicode, don't mind me.)