Unboxing Some Plastic

“This might look bad, but it’s alchemy! It’ll be fine.”

I used to collect a lot of anime figures. I just like collecting things that look nice, and anime stuff is just one of those things. This is the same reason I try to buy physical, at least with console games – they look nice on the shelf, after all. (Rarely bought pre-owned games at Gamestop unless they had the original case, because of that.) About three or so years ago, I stopped. Don’t know why, just lost interest. That was OK, because I had gacha games that could use those funds instead.

And so it went, until last weekend. I was browsing Twitter, and saw someone with a Breath of the Wild Zelda figure (the Nendoroid one). I just had to get one. So I go to the usual places, and look for her. Eventually I did, but not before seeing some other stuff I just had to have. Again, Nendos, so they’re relatively cheap, especially pre-owned (“used” just sounds so wrong in this context). Only trouble, these came from Japan. And with the corona going around scaring everyone, planes aren’t flying near so much. But DHL ships internationally still, and, while expensive, they are wicked-fast – shipped out Thursday morning, got to my door Friday afternoon. So, let’s take a look:

You always get an Amichan picture when you order from Amiami, which changes every month.
They always use so much packaging – sometimes these things can be rather fragile.

And there they are. You’ll notice there isn’t a Zelda – she’s sold out from Amiami, and the other Japanese sites I looked at.

They think it don’t be like this, but it do.

So I tried something I wouldn’t normally do: went to an American site. Turns out Tokyo Otaku Mode actually had some. The usual problem with American sites is that they are more expensive, and they have limited stock with big delays. To illustrate: the Zelda nendo I wanted came out in January, but TOM is only getting it this month. But because of that, they still had a few preorders open. So hurray for me.

Anyhow, these aren’t meant to be mint-in-box. They’re meant to be looked at! In the open air! (In fact, keeping them in the box long-term is generally bad.) I have a shelf for this stuff, and they’re going up on it.

Even the individual pieces on the already-put-together figure have plastic protection.
She must really like you to offer her burger like that…
I’m no photographer, especially with a phone camera.
The greater context…all blurry-like.

And thus ends Blapril 2020. Missed the last few days, but that’s OK, because I got all of April. And, I didn’t feel like it. It feels good to have accomplished something, even if it is something minor like writing a stupid blog post every day. I didn’t have the excuse of lockdown, but I did have a bunch of time, regardless. And I was able to break out into doing some different things.

Atelier Ayesha: Initial Impressions

Yesterday the Dusk trilogy of the Atelier series came out. While I’m not the type that generally gets games day 1, especially if I have any question about the quality, or how much I’d like a game, I figured by this point I know what I’m getting into. Plus, they’d have a discount, being new (but not really new – they’re PS3 games), and Koei games, especially those by Gust, don’t often go on sale, let alone get deep discounts. And, the whole Atelier series was on sale, so I picked up the Arland series (at over 50% off, which is about as good as it gets), and Nelke as well, because at this point why not? So now I have all the Atelier games that are on PC, on PC.

And I’ve been in a bit of a gaming funk recently. The mobage I play I’ve all but burned out on from all the free rolls at Christmas/New Year. I’ve finished Elsewyr and Dragonguard for ESO (right in time for the announcement tomorrow). I don’t want to get into Crusader Kings II without more of the DLC. And Cities Skylines is fun and all, but it really doesn’t provide a narrative I want. I started Blue Reflection a few weeks ago, and got to the first boss; I liked what I played, but I’m not really in the mood for that sort of story right now.

Good thing Atelier Ayesha came out. I got to play it a bit last night, and have…a few impressions. Only a few, though, since even the 90 minutes or so I was playing barely got me out of the tutorial. I guess that’s not so bad – a lot of jrpgs have longer tutorials than that. But regardless of how long said tutorial/intro was…it wasn’t quite thorough enough. If I wasn’t quite familiar with the conventions of the series, I’d probably be lost. You get the barest tutorial of the systems, while going through the intro (most of the time is actually just story intro), and then you’re on your own. I do appreciate not being babied, but it does seem a bit lacking, if I didn’t already know what was going on.

As far as that story goes, I think it does all right. There’s clearly something going wrong in the world, at least locally. Water is drying up, the ground is getting increasingly infertile, and resources are becoming scarce. Even the simple, not-that-great medicine that our protagonist makes (before even learning what alchemy is) is a money-maker for the merchants she sells to. There are ruins all over the place of a past, more advanced, civilization, that modern people don’t even understand. Monsters run rampant in the less civilized areas. Oh, and sometimes people just randomly disappear.

Which is what happened to Ayesha’s younger sister. But, at the beginning of the game, Ayesha sees her sister, who seems like a ghost or something. Luckily, an actual alchemist just happened to be around, and seems to know what’s going on. But he’s a huge jerk, and won’t tell Ayesha anything – his philosophy is that knowledge given is knowledge unearned. But, he tells Ayesha that she has about three years to get her sister back (this is your ultimate time limit, obviously).

And that’s the call to adventure. Unfortunately, Ayesha is a complete airhead, so just goes off with no idea where she’s going. Fortunately, she has a friend who’s willing to take care of her. Off they both go, to the big city (which I presume is the main hub), and from there you actually start the game.

So far so good. But it’s not really enough to know if I’ll like it much. It has the main time limit, but I’m not sure if any incremental ones will show up, like they do in the other pre-Shalie games that I’ve played. I don’t really like the time limits, but I think it’ll be fine. The main thing I don’t like (which is just part of the series at this point) is that various actions take such a long time, in relation to the time limit. Even the most basic crafting takes at least a day (and remember, there are only three years’ worth of days), and gathering ingredients from even a single node takes a significant portion of a day. (And I’m sure battles do, too.) That, in addition to the travel times (which seem excessive), makes things not quite as fun, for me. But, as I said, so far, so good.

Atelier Ryza: First Impressions

It was a day earlier than Steam said, but a day later than Google said. But I started last night. Played for a few hours (5.3 according to Steam), and it still feels like the tutorial. There’s something to be said about that, but obviously I can’t give a full review at this point.

Game starts as these sorts of games often do: the protagonist (Ryza in this case) is bored of their little farm town, and wants to go on an adventure. If you’ve ever seen The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Ryza is basically Haruhi, but without the crazy. She drags her two friends along into all sorts of trouble (with the subsequent getting in trouble after getting caught); one goes quite willingly (basic meathead/future warrior type), while the other hates all the danger and such, but he’s every 80’s nerd stereotype, so of course has no actual spine to resist Ryza’s force of personality (plus, if he stayed behind, he’d have no protection from the town bullies, also straight 80’s stereotypes). And, as usually happens, the kiddos get in over their heads, only to be saved by someone more experienced: in this case, an alchemist and his assistant/bodyguard.

If the above sounded kinda vague, it’s because I don’t remember any names. Not entirely a bad thing: the friends are their own guys, who have their own interests besides being dragged along with Ryza’s whims. But that also means they’re not quite in the forefront when stuff happens. So far, this is just a slice-of-life adventure for a girl, who’s life just happens to include killing monsters to take their parts to make stuff with. I’m sure we’ll get into a grander adventure in time, but for now it still feels like the training wheels are on. Appropriate, because Ryza et al are still noobs, but a five-hour tutorial seems a bit much.

Mechanicaly, however, this is a big departure from previous Atelier games. The battle system is ATB, like FFVII and the like. This really changes things up. Everything is very fast-paced, especially since you can’t queue up commands (yet, at least). So, while you’re trying to figure out what to do on your turn (you only command one person at a time, though you can switch at any moment at all), everything else is advancing as well. Also, items don’t get used up – you have a certain amount of points, which get used up as you use items. You can “spend” items to refill those points, which leaves said spent items unavailable to be used until you return home from base. I’m not sure how I feel about all this, yet, so I won’t make a verdict.

Also, alchemy is different from the past. Here, you fill in a grid with items, which replaces the block puzzles of the Mysterious games. Adding different items in can unlock other places in the gird, which enables unlocking different bonuses to the item. Some grid spaces require certain items, while others only require certain categories. I’m not sure what things are actually required, though, to make the base item. Unlike previous games, there are no set recipes, because you can fill in the grid mostly how you want. Again, not really sure how I feel about this, but I’m becoming more used to it.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed what I played of it. Unfortunately, this is Halloween season in various games, and ESO in particular requires some actual participation for the dailies (the event is a huge grind if you want to actually get anywhere, because of the huge RNG component to it). That will limit my playtime substantially, but still, I’m looking forward to what time I do get with the game.

Tokyo Game Show: What I Actually Care About

Lots of stuff happening at the Tokyo Game Show…mostly stuff I don’t give a darn about. Like FFVII remake? Don’t care. Death Stranding? Nope. I’m sure there’s other stuff, but as I said, I don’t really care. I’ve been too caught up in the MMO scene to give much of a crap about things like new games. That, and the old games going on sale keep building in my backlog…

Much of a crap, though. There are some things I do care about (thus the title). One of those is Granblue Fantasy Versus. I wasn’t expecting much more than a character reveal with another gameplay demo, and I wasn’t disappointed. And of course it was Metera.

Looks like she’s an aerial/ranged fighter. Might be cool. Kinda sad they censored her maximum booty shorts to just regular booty shorts, but that’s CalSony for you. Not that I care too much about Metera – she’s cute when she’s not being a terrible person, but that whole thing isn’t my type (her sister Sutera is much more my speed). But you know, it’s the principle of the thing.

But even bigger news: the Dusk trilogy of the Atelier series is coming out for modern platforms. I’ll actually be able to play them now. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this series: Arland fans hate it, some people think it’s the best trilogy of the modern games; some people think Ayesha is good, but the other two aren’t; others think Shallie is the low point of the series as a whole, while others like it. So yah, I’m totally getting this. I didn’t get the Arland series when it came out: 90 burgers is a lot to pay for some computer games that I’ve already bought (Rorona twice already!). But (likely) the same price, for games I don’t have? And games which don’t get deep discounts? Yah, I’m game.

No release date yet, that I can see, though preorders go up in Japan on the 26th of this month. Also no confirmation of the English version, but this is the Tokyo Game Show, so I’ll expect we’ll hear more at a later date.

Also Atelier related, we got Atelier Ryza’s story trailer:

Looks like the typical “Man, this place is boring; let’s go on an adventure!” seen in many RPG’s. Slightly less used in Atelier games, though: usually adventure comes to them, not the other way around. Might be cool. Of course, I’m getting this ASAP. Or at least as soon as practical. Which, considering my progress in Elder Scrolls Online, might not be right when the game comes out.

So yah, that’s what I care about so far. There might be some more interesting things coming out later this weekend. We’ll see. It’s just so hard for me to care about games that come out on systems I don’t own (which, for modern games is all but PC – maybe Black Friday that will change).

Impressions So Far: Atelier Lulua

I was planing on playing Atelier Lulua last night , after not being able to play for a week (vacation, then catching up after vacation; maybe next time I’ll just take my PC with me). But a new event had dropped in Granblue Fantasy, and a new weekend raid in Dragalia Lost, so my play time for ‘real’ games evaporated. (Also got the summer ship in Star Trek Online; so do I log in again?) But I will save that stuff for tomorrow; today, I’ll post about the game I wanted to play.

Like all the other Atelier-series games, this is an RPG that is very crafting-focused. There’s the titular alchemist, Lulua, who, along with her plucky friends, goes around gathering crafting materials, making items, then using those items to beat up monsters, to get the materials they drop. A smart alchemist would just get someone else to do that kind of stuff, but the alchemists in these games tend to start out on the bottom rung, and do all of that for themselves. Indeed, Lulua here is but an apprentice, barely able to to basic stuff at first.

Bombs are, like, the basic of basics, like everyone knows.

This, despite the fact that Lulua’s mother is none other than Rorona, the most famous alchemist in all the land (and the star of her own game back in the PS3 era). An aside – this game is pretty unique, in that it’s the direct sequel to a trilogy of games. The mainline Atelier games, at least for the past decade and more, have tended to come out in a series of three games, with a new heroine, but the same setting; often the previous heroine will be a mentor or teacher to the new one. Atelier Rorona was the start of the Arland trilogy, and Atelier Lulua is a sequel to that, despite two trilogies coming between them (Dusk and Mysterious). And the next game will start a new trilogy. Anyways, it seems to have been around 20 years since Atelier Meruru, the last game in the Arland series, as Lulua was presumably not around at that point (or Rorona is a seriously bad mother!). And no father to be found…

Anywho, Lulua goes around, makes some friends (some in high places), and goes on her adventure. She gets the help of some mysterious book, that only she can read, which gives her ideas to solve whatever problem is in front of her. Of course there’s some work involved (it’s a game, after all), but the book is a great catalyst to her alchemy skill. Also, there are weird times where it seems she might chicken out of some thing, but then *RECORD SCRATCH* she chooses adventure instead. There’s definitely something to this, but where I’m at (according to GameFAQ’s I’m 1/2-2/3 through the story) it’s a mystery. Might have something to do with time travel schenanigans – there’s one part where Lulua is regretting something she’s done, wishing she could go back and change it, but she’s told in no uncertain terms that changing the past is impossible; that in itself is a pretty common heroic growth plot point, but the way it’s explained (that trying to correct the past merely creates another reality – good for that reality, but still sucks for you) was so jarring that it must be a plot point.

I don’t think that follows…

I have to say, I’m really digging that they’ve finally figured out how to create good pacing without the time limits of the older games. It’s a heresy to some, but I really dislike the time limits, as they are so contrary to the general relaxed feel to the games. But without any time limits, the game designers were floundering for a while with the games’ pacing. Atelier Sophie was a mess in this regard: there’s no threat, or really a plot at all, until suddenly there is, but don’t worry about it, it’s super urgent and the world’s dying and all, but don’t let that stop you from leveling up your friendship with the fatty. Atelier Firis brought back a timer, but it was so generous it really didn’t matter; even I, who go about things rather lackadaisically, still had to just fill time with stuff before that timer ran out. And it was only for the first part of the game: after that, you’re free entirely to go your own pace. But there were still some issues with filler time and such. Atelier Lydie and Sue was even better with pacing, and almost completely ditching the timer (there is one chapter with a generous timer), by having so many things going on that you don’t lack for things to drive you forward. However, progress slows considerably in late game, and honestly I just lost interest and didn’t finish it. Lulua seems to have finally gotten it right – story progression is based on skill progress, which drives events. You have to do stuff to beef up your skills, which gives you things to do. Then you advance in the story, have more things to do, have to build up your skills more, etc.

To advance your skills, the mysterious book gives you hints on what to do. Sometimes those hints are a little too vague, though. For example, one time it says something along the lines of “find someone who uses a lot of medicine.” That sounds like “go locate a certain NPC,” or “do a certain side quest.” But no, what it really means is “use x in battle y times.” I really don’t like basic progression like that being forced into using the internet to figure it out. It might be a translation error though, so I don’t know whose fault that is.

One of the criticisms of the game that I’ve heard is that the various returning characters don’t act their age, or that they don’t act like they’ve grown since the last time they’ve appeared. I don’t know how valid that is. The entire point of this game is fanservice and nostalgia – there was no reason to return to Arland, yet here we are. And adults aren’t suddenly going to change, just because they’ve gotten somewhat older. Yet, sometimes these characters seem almost childish. And it certainly doesn’t help that all the same voice actors are used, with the same voices as their original incarnation (when the characters were teenagers).

Speaking of fanservice, and the exploitation thereof, there’s the DLC. If you weren’t a slow casual like me, I don’t see the point. $30 “season pass” packs for a few outfits (including swimsuits), and a single playable character? If you’ve already played the game, why load it up again and buy these? There’s nothing in it for anyone. I know I’m not the target demo for the outfits (I’m all about fanservice, but none of that is servicing this fan), but I just don’t understand, not this late in the game. If you were a huge fan of Arland, you bought the game and played it already. Just being able to play the Arland heroines that aren’t in the base game, even if they get a whole series of vignettes with them, doesn’t seem reasonable, for the price of a whole newish game (or several older games) on sale.

All that, just to say that I like the game so far, and hope it keeps it up.