The Real Neat Blog Award, round 1

You all know how much I like to go on about the games and other works I like.  So I’m always grateful to get tagged with awards like the Real Neat Blog Award (the rules: answer seven questions, ask seven more questions, tag seven bloggers.)  And since this week’s episode of Cop Craft is a recap show that I am going to completely ignore because recap shows are worthless, that frees up some time for me to take on the questions that have been put to me.  I’ve been double-tagged, in fact — the first nomination comes from Frostilyte, who maintains a very interesting blog dedicated to video games.  If you like my material, I know you’ll like Frostilyte’s as well.

Here are Frostilyte’s questions and my responses:

1. What is a game coming out in 2020 that you’re excited for?

Nobody will be surprised to hear that I’m looking forward to Persona 5 Royal.  It’s just an expansion of Persona 5, but it promises a lot of new content, and Atlus hasn’t disappointed yet when it comes to Persona expansions (see Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 Golden, both well worth checking out if you haven’t.)  P5 also had some weird pacing issues that I hope might be fixed in Royal, though I’m not hoping very much.

I’m also looking forward to N1RV Ann-A, the equally annoyingly-titled sequel to 2016’s drink-mixing life-changing visual novel VA-11 HALL-AI loved Sukeban Games’ first big title, and I’m expecting a whole lot from their second when it hopefully drops sometime next year.

From their site.  I already love the game’s style.  Also, this place looks a lot classier than the dive bar Jill works in VA-11 HALL-A.

2. Ninjas, or Pirates? Why?

I’ve always been a fan of pirates — all the horrible murder and ravaging aside, that bravado and complete “fuck you” attitude they had towards the authorities is a lot of fun to read about, even if some of the common stories are made up or exaggerated.  On the other hand, if I had to choose which one I’d be, I would go with ninja for sure.  As far as I know, ninjas usually didn’t end their days at the end of a rope.

3. You won a life time supply of the last thing you spent money on. What is it, are you excited, and how do you intend to use your comically overstocked collection of this commodity?

I just bought a cup of coffee at the cafe where I’m writing this post.  A lifetime supply of coffee is very exciting — it means I’ll basically never have to sleep again.

4. God almighty above. They were right! AI took over the world and started building mecha-style enforcers out of the factories. Which billion dollar software company is responsible for ending humanity and do you submit to our AI overlords, or rebel against them?

It’s the conglomeration of Google-Apple-Facebook-Amazon.  And I absolutely don’t submit to them.  As much as I might be into futuristic technology, I also don’t like the idea of having to submit to an evil AI empire.  Give me the chance to become a rebel living in the forest and waging a guerrilla war against our mechanical overlords and I’ll take it, even if it ends up with me getting filled with bullets by a killer robot.

5. What was the reason you started your blog? Feel free to be as detailed as you see fit with this one.

When I started at law school, I felt the need to do something that wasn’t law-related to help keep my sanity.  I knew I liked writing, so I decided to start a free WordPress blog and write about video games.  It’s really as simple as that.  I continue to write here for the same reason I started.  My experience with the practice of law has been fucking miserable, so I’ll do anything I can to take my mind off of my profession.

Later on, I took up the idea of presenting my own views of games that might be considered niche or controversial, games that I feel are too often unfairly smeared by a particular group or school of professional game journalists.  Swing a stick and you’ll probably hit one of these assholes, there are so many of them, and all with the same bland, safe viewpoints that allow them to keep their jobs (to be fair to them, writing about games is their day job and it’s not mine, so I can afford to admit I like games featuring busty ninja girls and catgirl maids whereas they probably can’t.  But I think my point stands.)  There are also some interesting indie games I try to cover that tend to go ignored in favor of mediocre or merely standard-quality AAA games.

6. You wake up one day and find that you are now your least favourite character from your favourite television show (use a video game if you don’t watch TV). Who are you and how do you feel about it?

My favorite TV show is probably The Simpsons up until season 10.  But I don’t really have a least favorite character in that show.  I don’t even dislike Lisa, as annoying as she could be sometimes.  So I’ll go with my favorite game, one I will never shut up about: Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.  I do have a least favorite character in that game: Hikawa, the dickhead cult leader who purposely triggers the apocalypse near the beginning of the game.  Hikawa’s reasons for ending the world aren’t that different from your standard JRPG villain’s: it’s rotten and needs to be cleared out to be reborn in a pure state, etc. etc.  Makes more sense than Sephiroth’s stupidity, but it’s still a terrible motivation.  Even worse, what he wants to create from the ashes is a terrifying world of stillness.  (I wrote a whole thing about Nocturne and the ideas behind the Reasons here if you’re interested.)

Fuck you, Hikawa

If I were Hikawa, though, I’d be pretty happy assuming I get to keep my own personality, because I’d be able to just not trigger the apocalypse and stop the game before it starts.  The protagonist would never become the Demifiend, he’d just go to college and become an accountant or something mundane like that.  Not sure if that’s necessarily a better outcome for him, but at least the world would be spared that whole genocide thing.

7. What’s a skill you wish you had, but can’t find the time in the day to learn or master?

I have to second Red Metal here and say drawing.  I dabbled a little in it as a kid, and maybe I’d be better if I’d kept at it.  I know exactly what kind of stuff I’d draw, too, if only I could.  And these days, I have to fight tooth and nail to get any time to myself anymore, so I really have no opportunity to learn it.

Thanks again to Frostilyte for the tag and for the questions!  I bothered to follow the rules this time, so here are my seven:

1. What’s your favorite game genre?
2. Is there a game genre you will never touch, no matter how much praise a game in that genre might receive? What puts you off about it?
3. What’s your favorite controller?
4. What’s your least favorite controller?
5. What game would you like to see get a full-scale remake? Complete with any updated graphics, features, and game mechanics you’d like.
6. How do you approach difficulty levels in games that offer that option? Do you like to jump into the deep end right away or take a more measured approach?
7. How do you feel about the “casual/story mode” difficulty levels that are easier than the standard easy mode? Is there any situation in which you’d play a game in that mode?

And my marks this time are:

Blimps Go 180

Why We Play Games

The Brink of Gaming

Meghan Plays Games

MoeGamer

NekoJonez

Gaming Omnivore

And of course anyone else who wants to join in.  I’ll be back in a few days for the second round, when I’ll answer the questions posed by Red Metal.  Until then!

An extremely late review of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone (PS4)

If I haven’t been very active lately (aside from occasionally running SimCity 2000 on VirtualBox) it’s been for two reasons: first, I’ve had a lot to do at work, and second, I bought the unwieldly titled Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone, the latest in the line of Project Diva rhythm games that came out two months ago in North America, featuring android singer Hatsune Miku and friends.

Even though I’m an avowed weeaboo I’d never played a Project Diva game before Future Tone. This is not so much because I disliked the idea of Vocaloid as that I just wasn’t much into rhythm games. I’d played Persona 4: Dancing All Night, mainly because I’d also played P4 and liked the characters, and I played a lot of Audiosurf when it came out several years ago because it let you play any song in the universe if it existed as an mp3 on your hard drive. But despite my embarrassing level of weebness I had not gotten into the Vocaloid stuff quite so much.

Not until now. I’ve been pretty much addicted to Future Tone for the last week. The gameplay is addictive at its core – matching increasingly difficult button patterns and getting rewarded with flashing lights and a higher score at the end of the song seems to trigger something primal in the human brain. It’s like playing a slot machine, except unlike playing a slot machine, the outcome in Future Tone depends entirely upon your skill. And also unlike playing a slot machine, you won’t lose your life savings if you sit in front of Future Tone for 50 or 100 hours, a prospect that seems very likely considering how much content is in the game.

Because yes, Future Tone is stuffed chock fucking full of Vocaloid tunes. The base game itself is free, but the free download only includes two songs, so it’s really more like a demo – you can play those two songs as much as you want without paying a cent, but if you really want to play Future Tone you’ll have to buy the $50 bundle that contains the “Colorful Tone” and “Future Sound” song packs. They’re worth the price, because the entire package features about 200 songs both new and from past Project Diva games, each of which comes with a music video and charts set at various difficulties (along with dozens of unlockable alternate costumes and accessories and all the usual content you’d expect.)

And you know what? A lot of these songs are good. And this is coming from a puffed-up pompous music snob asshole. Most of the songs are either upbeat poppy tunes or ballads, with a few heavier rock/punkish songs thrown in and a few pure gimmick songs (like “Ievan Polkka”, the Finnish folk song that somehow became the very first Hatsune Miku hit ten years ago.) A few of the songs are clunkers, to be sure, and whether you’ll like some tracks depends on your tolerance for sugar-sweet cutesy vocals and imagery and embarrassing lyrics – though at least the lyrics are mostly in Japanese, so you probably won’t be able to understand them anyway. But the majority of the tunes on Future Tone are really catchy. Tell me you can listen to “Deep Sea City Underground” or “World’s End Dancehall” and not get them stuck in your head.

Here’s me playing World’s End Dancehall on Easy because I’m a puss.

One of the things people puzzle most over about the whole Vocaloid phenomenon is that it’s “fake”. The various performers in Future Tone – Miku, Luka, fraternal twins Rin and Len, and the rest – are all really just different voice packages created with Yamaha’s Vocaloid music software with avatars attached. They’re electronic singers, not human ones. Vocaloid music, in that sense, really is “manufactured.” But so is all commercial pop music! Is Miku really any more manufactured than Katy Perry, who can’t sing for shit without the help of autotune? And anyway, the real measure of good pop weighs in Miku’s favor – some of Miku’s songs featured on Future Tone are a hell of a lot better than Katy Perry’s biggest hits. (See, the snobby music asshole comes out again. I can’t contain him for long.)  (Also, I really don’t hate Katy Perry at all.  I don’t even know her.)

Anyway, if we’re going to have pop stars, better to have electronic ones.  Miku, after all, isn’t in danger of developing a drug habit, or of being photographed vomiting in an alley after getting trashed in a nightclub.  The tabloid publishers will lose out, but they can just write more articles about how some actor or politician is secretly gay.  Besides, eventually robots are going to take all the jobs away from humans once they become advanced enough, and then they’ll probably revolt and murder us once they realize they don’t need us anymore.  So in a way, Vocaloid represents the beginning of the inevitable fall of humanity.

When the robots conquer Earth, they won’t let us dress them up in cute outfits anymore

I’m way off track now. Just, look, if you like rhythm games, buy Future Tone. It’s good. And some of the tracks are really head-breakingly hard, so you’ll find a lot of challenge in this game if you’re looking for that. God knows the rhythm game genre is one of the few that hasn’t been dumbed down in terms of difficulty. 𒀭

Edit (8/23/18): This is still a great game with a bunch of fine god damn songs on it.  But I wish they would have added Mitchie M’s “News 39”.  I love that fucking song.  Check it out hereReally, anything by Mitchie M is good.