Oh dear, I’ve been neglectful again. :( Been keeping busy most of the month with work, family, and Twitch stuff, not doing as much actual drawing as I’d like, but I think I’ve cooked up an idea for a livestream routine that’ll let me get my groove back a bit: basically, picking a theme and working off of it for a few hours as practice and chat casual like, so I have something arty to work on that doesn’t fall under ‘work’ in my brain. Tonight I kicked it off with WayForward, I may see if anyone wants to join me on the Discord voice chat for a little topical discussion in other sessions. I have a major remodel idea in mind for around here in the future, so if you wanna run around and save some stuff just in case something go awry.. hey.
Been pretty busy the past few weeks between settling into the new place and participating in RGL stuff, but still setting aside time to draw where I can and am not spazzing out. Luckily the things I was stressing most about didn’t come to pass (owing money for repairs and junk on the old place since it was a little junky since day one and four years of single guy dwelling didn’t help it out much, and some dickery involving the utility company0 and I’ve been back in a much more productive kind of headspace. My own channel and work are doing pretty decent right now, I’m now among the first bunch of streamers invited to Affiliate status, so if anyone catches me streaming and feels like, feel free to toss a Bit tip my way. I need to do some work updating this site to better show off my projects since WordPress was originally just adopted as an easy, more streamlined way to get text posts and articles online. It’s a bit trickier to get comic page layouts and gallery updates up and going.
So, on the subject of projects, I’m still planning to do the card game and set up a proper page for it to give an overview of the rules and general setting for the sake of gathering some interest, though the thing that I’m about to start seriously picking away at is, of all things, a re-imagining of Revolver Knight! It’s a drastic overhaul, but it should be a pretty massive improvement as a story too. I could gripe about the old one for hours (though I still don’t hate it enough to just pull the whole thing down) but the chief problem with RK, IMO was I just tried to jam too many ‘cool things’ into it. It was kind of intended to be a pastiche or mashup of stuff I thought was cool in various games and anime at the time, which probably should have been a warning sign from the get-go, but it was received decently in the beginning so I ran with it. Over time though, I kind of ran out of steam and the later chapters are rushed in an effort to show off more of the world but not really afford time to flesh them out by much. One of the biggest things I think will help is focusing more on the small-level story, sticking with the characters and their homeland and how things are affecting THEM and not forcing an ‘epic’ cross country trek. I’ve been roughing out the first chapter already and may release it as a stand alone .pdf or something to see how people enjoy it to see whether to continue it or focus on something else.
On another topic, I’ve been pretty interested in game randomizers lately, though the only one I’m really playing is The Guardian Legend one, TGL Worlds. It doesn’t have a very robust set of features compared to the Zelda ones where you can toggle some features for the seed, you just insert a rom and it spits out a randomized version of it. It also doesn’t really seem to check very thoroughly that it will give you a completable version of the game. But it does do the chief thing I want and actually alter maps, vs. just shuffling item placement between chests. It does some pretty wacky stuff and tends to cluster items and rooms of a same type together, making it easy to get overpowered (and overly costly) weapons early on… or create chains of 3-4 save chambers end to end. Still, it’s a pretty cool way to breathe new life into an old game I already like, just like trying to adopt some of the tricks speedrunners use to make some of the more aggravating bosses and stuff go down all the faster.
I’ve been streaming Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;birth (I don’t know why they add the semicolon either) on Twitch lately and am nearing the end of the game, so I thought I’d give a little heads up to that and also toss out some thoughts about the game itself while I’m here. Until I figure out a lazy way to automate posting more places, I’ve mostly been keeping my stream notifications to Twitter and Tumblr, so feel free to follow @thethreetwo on the one and third-half at the other. There. Plugging done.
I have a little bit of history with Neptunia in that it was actually going to be the subject of the never-finished [+/-] animated pilot. That is to say, the original release for the PS3 was. It was pretty mediocre all around, but I went into it lured by a weakness for Anime Girls in Armor and the concept of an RPG based on the gaming industry. The lukewarm reception seemed to reach back to the company, though, and they tweaked things over the next couple sequels, steadily improving it. Eventually, they got Neptunia 1 and mk.2 ported to the Vita plus some new bonus material like characters from later games as unlockables and DLC as the Re;birth series, followed soon a Re;birth version of the third game, V.
So what we have in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;birth is basically the ultimate edition of a game constructed out of almost pure fluff. As a friend put it, it’s chock full of ideas that would be great in other games. On a technical level, it’s been really fun other than a tendency to put a sharply difficult boss at the end of a dungeon that otherwise felt like a cakewalk. As such, I don’t feel especially bad about using broken DLC equipment to power level my party in the Colosseum and steamrolling the latter half of the game.
The other thing I think really hurts the game is its defiant stance to never be succinct in any situation, ever. A large portion of whether or not this game is going to appeal to anybody is how they feel about the concept of cutesy personifications of games industry entities going on quests and getting into other hi-jinks. Speaking as someone who *is* into that, even I kind of have my limits when they halt progress through a dungeon to have a little comedy bit play out about how tedious it is to have to find a thing in a dungeon. Calling attention to a cliche doesn’t exactly excuse you if you’re still going ahead and doing the thing, especially not for the length of an SNL bit. But at least you can fast forward cutscenes whenever you want and skip the longer attack animations. I think they could have pared the dialogue down a ton and still kept the characters’ personalities pretty clear, and I *know* they could have probably cut the script significantly if they cut out every instance of a character butting in to say something like “Yes, I agree!” to remind us they’re in the scene.
But seriously, if you can get past the veneer of cotton candy fluff, there’s plenty to enjoy. I particularly like the way the Remake System works, letting you craft alterations to the game at large like opening up new dungeons, increasing your jump height (not as useful as it sounds, btw) and permanent boosts to EXP and status resistance. It sort of assimilates the item discovery and scouting sub systems from the other games. The market sharing mechanic is kind of interesting in that you can’t simply grind up your desired nation without lowering the Shares of another one. There are also plenty of cosmetic upgrades to decorate the characters with, which is almost to be expected with the overall aesthetic of the game and characters. All the game references are pretty fun too, especially the ending credit sequences that mimic the styles of a bunch of old games and make me wish instead they’d do like a Wario Ware style spinoff in the future.
I’d loaded up and messed with StarTropics 2 early in my messing with NES emulators, but didn’t play very far into it. It’d been a long time, so me being me, I just kind of assumed my old self stopped playing because they had gotten bored of it and moved on to pirating something zanier. Turns out I probably ran out of patience!
To properly describe my beefs with StarTropics 2, I have to lay out a bit about the mechanics of the original. StarTropics has a very strict tile-based movement system, and making your way through the game means mastering that particular quirk. While restrictive; the game is designed with it in mind- enemies aren’t usually super aggressive, those that are are typically slow… in general, there’s a lot more of a feel that each room is a puzzle to solve beyond ‘kill all the enemies and the door opens.’ Even when you do get a room like that, it’s usually done to make sure you know how to deal with a certain type of enemy or that you know your way around a special weapon. (In particular, the Asterisk, a.k.a. throwing star is given to you then you pass through several rooms where using its splitting ability is needed to take out paired enemies in tricky locations.) It certainly has its share of dick moves in later stages (as anyone who was watching my Twitch stream of the game can attest to) and rather unforgiving general design choices (if you die in a dungeon, you always start your next life with a meager 3 hearts, and some checkpoints are placed in a way that makes it impossible to refill your health to a decent level before the boss.)
What I’m getting at is StarTropics is awkward and fairly hard, but it checks a lot of the ‘good game design’ boxes. StarTropics 2 attempts to be more of a standard isometric action game, and it feels like a case of something that’s not broken being ‘fixed.’ Mike can move and attack diagonally, and isn’t restricted to full tile movement. You also seem (oddly) to be able to jump farther diagonally than straight across gaps, as well as alter your airborne course a little.
This is actually kind of a problem! Particularly coming straight off of the first one. Jumps across tile-wide gaps was easy the first time around, as your movement was ‘locked’ to a grid, but in more intense platforming segments like the three-lane boulder dash in the Wild West mine section, I find myself falling to my death way more often than I would have under the old system. In fact, the same basic obstacle was IN the first game before the fight with the ostrich mech. The challenge was about timing there, and more of a standard placement issue in the sequel.
So, at least part of my problem is that I’m used to the first game’s controls. That’s on me. But Mike retains just enough of his old movement habits that he’s not quite as responsive as he could be either. You can still kind of spin in place if you rotate the pad fast enough, trying to walk him in a circle around the room, however, you can feel that he still hangs a bit when changing direction. You still have more freedom of movement to be sure, but it feels less precise and measured.
Let’s talk about what it does well, though! It’s more deliberately funny than the first one. The graphics are definitely nice, more detailed. Dungeons now have multiple elevation levels, which is used to interesting effect in parts. Leaping from higher levels adds an extra ’tile’ to your jump length, and the height of yourself and enemies factors into who can hit who. It’s also kind of neat how you’re giving a telekinetic shot as a permanent secondary weapon, and your two main weapons receive upgrades throughout the story.
I’ll keep picking at the game off and on- my Twitter (@thethreetwo) and Twitch widget should say when. Currently picking at the card stuff again though.