Category Archives: Nintendo 3DS

Two Note Wonder

So adorable in stills, so brutal in motion

After an additional five hours or so, I’ve completed all songs of Taiko no Tatsujin: Dokodon! Mystery Adventure on Normal. 59 of them with a full combo, 11 others in a less-stellar fashion. There might still be a few more hidden songs but I think I’ll let them remain hidden. The song selection was, once again, a delightful mixture of all sorts of stuff, even if nothing was exceptionally memorable. As for game songs, the Kirby and Ace Attorney medleys were nice, and some of the Namco original tracks were just as silly as they were awesome. The jpop and anime picks, however, came off surprisingly generic. Then again, we all have our own taste in music, so the game still deserves praise for its diversity.

On whole, Dokodon! Mystery Adventure is probably just as comfy and familiar to hardcore fans of the series as it remains slightly more unconventional for the rest of us. The video above sums it up quite nicely. If you truly want to excel in Taiko games, you need A) a flat surface, B) willingness to embrace the touch screen , C) two styluses, and D) the soul of a drummer. If you prefer the casual, traditional way of holding the console in your hands and using your thumbs and index fingers to hit the notes, it’s a perfectly viable style on Easy and Normal but not so much on the two harder difficulties. The series is simply designed to be experienced in a way that is eventually way too fast for finger reflexes alone.

That’s actually both the main strength and weakness of the whole series. Taiko games require a unique playstyle. Eventually mastering it is probably highly rewarding but unless you dream of becoming a drummer, or are willing to dedicate your life to master a single series, it’s not even remotely as exciting. Each to their own, of course, but I still prefer an everyday eight button Hatsune Miku experience to pure two note divinity, even if the latter is bloody impressive when showcased by a skilled professional. As such, this is a game that can easily provide hundreds of hours of entertainment but it’s also a game that can be experienced in a jiffy, still appreciating its songs, replaying at least some of them just because they’re fun, and finding nothing genuinely wrong with the gameplay, either. For the sake of diversity, though, I’ll now take my 17 hours and, having once again satisfied my hunger for rhythm, rush towards new experiences.

Hooray for physical!

The game flood of early 2017 is starting to recede but while I was busy with one, two others still managed to sneak their way in. Of those, The Silver Case is a remake of a PS1 adventure from 1999. The reason for its comeback is undoubtedly its delightfully strange writer and designer, Goichi Suda. The Silver Case was his debut into the gaming industry, so it’s rather interesting to see just how eccentric it is. If I had to wager, I’d say extremely. The other game, Stardew Valley, is more or less about a single person as well. Eric Barone developed this Harvest Moon -esque agriculture RPG all by himself, and it has received nothing but praise from multiple sources. Since it was finally deemed worthy of a physical release, too, I’m definitely excited to give it a go.

Let’s Try That One Part Again, Boys!

Me on the left: smile, sweat, and act like you understand

Bugger me! Taiko no Tatsujin: Dokodon! Mystery Adventure ended up being a surprisingly full-bodied JRPG. Whereas the previous (handheld) games in the series haven’t had a story mode at all, or it has been nothing more than a brief distraction lasting just a few hours, the story of this one took closer to 12 hours to complete. It probably would’ve taken even longer if I could understand what its characters were continuously blabbing about. Thankfully the language barrier never got hopelessly high. The dungeons were short and straightforward, and even if the story occasionally came to a standstill, wandering around towns and conversing with the residents usually kicked it back in motion.

The biggest hurdles were the countless, delightfully challenging boss fights, in which each of the baddies did their very best to hamper an otherwise rhythmical performance with plenty of FU-scale dirty tricks such as obstructing the note line, switching note colors at the last possible moment, flinging notes to the hit window in chaotic arcs, and scattering loads of damaging bombs among them. Despite all this, Don and Katsu have an ace up their sleeve, too. Each note successfully hit s-l-o-w-l-y raises a Taiko power meter which, once full, can be activated by tapping the 3DS’ touch screen. That’s when, for a woefully brief moment, the game takes over the song being played and hits every note perfectly. Even if I had trouble following the torrent of notes flowing in, at least I still got an aural clue of what kind of rhythm was required. I rarely ever beat a boss on my first try but the countless retries never felt cheap. Listen, learn, remember, try again. Harsh but fair.

I guess I could already toss this one to the pile of finished games but since it’s all about the music, I’ll instead head off to experience its complete song list. I doubt all of them even played during the adventure mode, and it’s all about principle and self-respect to complete everything on at least normal difficulty. In the meantime, the game already gets a cautious thumbs up. Even if Miku and her gang have already conquered the 3DS rhythm game genre with the Project Mirai games, the Taiko series is still a commendable alternative and of those, Dokodon! Mystery Adventure is definitely the most ambitious so far.

Drums Like John Bonham

Hit the notes, hope for the best (^^;)

Actually, no. Not in the slightest. I suppose it’s due time to dig into the recent haul from Japan, and I’m already deep into Taiko no Tatsujin: Dokodon! Mystery Adventure. The games in this series aren’t particularly interesting to write about as they’re essentially just A) an up-to-date summary of Japan’s pop, anime, and game music at any given time, and B) means to eventually barrage any gamer of any skill level with such ruthless note sequences that you probably have to be an innate rhythm virtuoso, then die, and then resurrect to have any chance of beating them.

Although the game’s selection of more than 70 songs is alluring, I first chose to experience its story mode. This time around, the ever-so-familiar taiko drums Don and Katsu end up helping out a priestess called Tia and her monkey sidekick against a coalition of villains headed by a whimsical pink-haired witch brat. Or something very roughly along those lines, as the language barrier in this one is nigh on insurmountable. Thankfully, this lightweight JRPG journey follows the standard town-dungeon-boss cycle, so I’m making headway without really understanding anything.

Despite the story mode, the game is still very much all about rhythm, and all random encounters in the dungeons are handled in a good old Taiko no Tatsujin style. A song starts playing, followed up by blue notes that you hit with shoulder buttons and red notes that you hit with pretty much any other button. Big notes require two buttons, and long notes are all about hitting buttons as fast as possible. Missed notes deal damage to your own party, and it also counts as a loss if you fail to beat the opposing party by the end of the song. After you win a battle, some adversaries might even plead to join your own party, which seems to hold up to nine members. They are then leveled up, improved via items, or nonchalantly chucked into an alchemy bin to turn a bunch of weaklings into one slightly more adept individual. Or, once again, something like that, as I honestly have very little clue about what is going on.

After about four hours, I’m now banging my head against a sturdy wall of an incredibly cranky boss dragon. Even if he keeps on wiping me out, at least every failed attempt is still rewarded with experience points, so thanks to the holy blessing of mindless grinding, he’ll eventually succumb. Ability to read might make things easier but what the heck, this isn’t entirely hopeless. Granted, rhythm games don’t really even need stories like these but as long as it’s there, I’m going to see it through, even if just as a weird little appetizer before the actual musical steak.

Fun Sans Sakura

This blog has been hibernating for yet another week but at least this time I have a vaguely defensible reason for that. I’ve spent the past seven days the same way it always seems to go around this time of year, i.e. enjoying the ever-so-lovely Japan. The past few years have always been either about Tokyo or Osaka. This year, I wanted a little variation and decided to check out what Nagoya has to offer. Some have described this manufacturing powerhouse of Japan as the country’s most boring city that isn’t even appreciated by its own denizens. Even if my trip wasn’t a complete success, the city’s hardly to blame. So, here’s a compact(-ish) travelogue of my ups and downs throughout the journey.

Getting there was an ordeal, as usual. Since I live in the backwoods, it took two and a half hours on train just to reach the airport. Then a flight of over nine hours with no real chances to get proper sleep, one more hour to reach downtown from Chubu airport, and then killing time until 3PM to be able to check in to the hotel. Since the flight was overbooked, two volunteers were bribed with 300 and 500 euro gift certificates to fly to Nagoya via Seoul. That would’ve “only” meant an extra three hours but the distance between Finland and Japan is bad enough as it is. Also, I’ve pretty much never had a good experience with connecting flights, so even if the offer was a generous one, I stuck to my original plan of a direct flight.

The arrival itself was most pleasant. There are considerably less foreigners arriving in Nagoya when compared to the bigger cities, so the immigration formalities were over in mere fifteen minutes. Chubu airport was delightfully easy to navigate and I had no problems finding my way downtown. For accommodation, I had chosen Nagoya B’s Hotel mostly because of its location and fair prices, but it turned out to be even better than I expected. Sure, the rooms were small even by Japanese standards but on the other hand they had free breakfast, Wi-Fi, gym, spa, vending machines, and even a separate room for us smokers who still prefer non-smoking rooms for themselves. All this was just a fifteen minute walk from Nagoya station, and a five minute walk to the nearest metro station of Fushimi, from where all central metro lines were easily within reach. 10/10, would book again!

Even if jetlag was severe enough to tempt going to bed right after checking in, past trips have proven that it’s better to get adjusted to the new timezone as soon as possible, no matter what it takes. Thus, after unpacking and a quick shower, I lurched my sleep-deprived zombie body outside and headed off to the nearby Kululu Meieki, a superb restaurant serving Nagoya’s famous Cochin breed chicken in all sorts of delectable ways. After a couple of tasty entrées, a kind older lady arrived to cook a lovely bowl of sukiyaki right in front me, and an equally kind bartender taught this baka gaijin to the art of dipping the wonders of that hot pot in whipped raw egg. All in all, it was perhaps my most tasty chicken dinner ever!

After that, I spotted a quaint little festival right next to the river near my hotel. Music was blaring and countless market stalls sold various snacks and, most importantly, sake. Even if the cherry trees on the river bank were not yet blooming, the locals were clearly ready to welcome this year’s hanami season. The atmosphere was pleasantly mellow, and in hindsight I regret not paying more attention to this event. My body was, however, keenly reminding me that I had missed an entire night of sleep.

Since the night was still young and a gamer is a gamer, I ventured a couple blocks further to pay respects to the gaming bar culture of Nagoya. And boy, was it worth it! Critical Hit, hidden downstairs in a secluded alley, instantly became a regular joint for the entire trip. Especially for those of us not speaking Japanese, it’s probably the best representative of its ilk in the entire country. Nice decor, retro music, bar counter with several SNES consoles, loads of games, and reasonable prices (500 yen or one drink per hour) all made me feel cozy the moment I stepped in. The owner of the place, Alex Fraioli, was a most attentive and wonderful host, and this really is a place where you’re free to be just as social or withdrawn as you like. Still, after only a couple of beers I had to admit that I had finally ran out of charge, so back to the hotel to sleep everything off. Whatever the case, this was the best arrival day ever!

The second day was when everything start to go downhill. Even if I managed to triumph over jetlag, it rained throughout the day and the temperature stayed below ten degrees. Granted, I had arrived a little too early this year but come on! The program for the day was mostly indoors, though, so it was up and away to test out the Nagoya subway network. My Pasmo IC card that I got from Tokyo six years ago was still working just fine, and traveling between the clearly marked stations was extremely easy and fast.

The first stop of the day was the aquarium in the harbor area of Nagoya. Of course, I should have known that if a tourist has come up with a nice way to spend a rainy day then about a million others have come to the same conclusion. The line to the ticket booth was almost an hour long and I began to worry if the visit would be as stressful and crowded as it was in Osaka. Thankfully the place was vast enough to cope with the huge number of visitors and it was quite possible to enjoy everything without a fuss. A mighty orca, seals, porpoises, penguins, gazillion sardines, jellyfish, giant tortoises… An aquarium might be just an aquarium but this was still a splendid way to spend the morning.

The quality of the nearby food court was poor. Still, a cheap portion of yakisoba and takoyaki gave me enough energy to keep on going. The second stop of the day was the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, and it sure was cool! They had more than twenty trains and carriages up for display, ranging from early wooden 20’s models that did a hundred kilometers per hour to the very latest Maglev that does 581 km/h. Winning a lottery would’ve given a chance to try out a virtual simulator of such trains but since the lines were long and it probably would’ve been a bit awkward thanks to the language barrier and all, I enjoyed the action from the sidelines. An authentic cabin and a massive widescreen made it look really neat, though.

Aside from just casual strolling here and there, that’s pretty much all this gray day had to offer. I ended up having a dinner at the local Outback but that one’s a habit I really should get rid off. A proper steak and grilled shrimps were decent, sure, but nothing more than that, and the quality/price ratio is woeful. An ordinary burger probably would’ve sufficed and only the after-dinner Baileys coffee is something that could be recommended.

This vacation had barely started when my hip began to shout loud objections towards plenty of walking. It was a small comfort that my hotel also had automatized massage chairs that sported so many servos, pneumatic cushions, and nodules that I almost expected a tentacle or two to shoot out from somewhere. Didn’t happen, but at least I felt a little better for a while. All in all, however, the day was just cold, wet, and painful, so I went to sleep not in the best of moods.

My third day was reserved for Osu, which is supposed to be the equivalent of Tokyo’s Akihabara and Osaka’s Den-Den Town. In other words, a nerdy day full of anime, manga, and game awsum. The skies were crystal clear once more but that was pretty much the only upside. Osu’s covered shopping streets were idyllic as such but as for gaming, there’s very little to be experienced. Sure, gamers’ local pilgrimage point, Super Potato, is there and a couple of other retro game stores reside in its instant vicinity but the overall feeling of Osu was decidedly “Oh, so this is it?” Taito only has one three-story arcade in the district and even that one mostly focuses on modern games that us westerners have no hope to comprehend. Thankfully the second floor of the massive Phoedra, right across the street, sports enough arcade cabinets both retro and new. Granted, Nagoya is smaller than Tokyo and Osaka but I still expected Osu to be much, much more. No can do; Akihabara is Akihabara and the others come waaaaaaaaay behind.

Not only were my hip and lower back screaming mercy throughout the day, I was further put down by my credit card allegedly not working. In Japan, cash is always king but no matter how big a budget you plan out ahead, there’s always so much enticing stuff to buy that a credit card would come in handy. It was quite mortifying to bring a bunch of games to the cashier only to find out that your card is bust and that most of your cash is (needlessly but just in case) back in the hotel. I begged the clerk to swipe the card a few more times but it just didn’t work. The only option was to apologize profusely and return back to home base to do some math of what is still affordable. No two ways about it, this was another shitty day.

After all this needless punishment, everything thankfully got loads better. The fourth day started with a stroll through the Nagoya castle, and it sure was impressive. The top floor offered nice views throughout the city and there were historical artifacts and dioramas aplenty. It was rather amusing that the castle also featured some weird Star Wars exhibition. Because Japan. Wonder if Ieyasu Tokugawa would have condoned such blatant frivolity…

From there, I headed to Nagoya City Science Museum, which turned out to be a bit of a letdown if you don’t understand Japanese. Children had dozens of interactive points of interest for some hands-down demonstration of physics but as heartwarming as it was to witness their excitement, the place wasn’t anything special. It had a neat mini-tornado and a cold room where you could experience what -30°C feels like but from a Finnish point of view, that’s hardly an experience.

After a quick bite of fried chicken, I paid a visit to the Nagoya station to check out the Midland Square observatory. Even at 250 meters, it was once again impressive how the metropolitan cities just keep on going no matter where you look. Very cool! As the evening fell, I headed to the ever-bustling Sakae to catch a few more glimpses of the city from the 180-meter-high Nagoya TV Tower. The city bathing in neon was truly a sight to behold.

After a pleasant (and budget friendly) day, I ended up in what might be the best steak joint in the city. Midtown BBQ (former Sienna) had received so much praise online that it was a stop on my original itinerary. What came as a most pleasant surprise was that just a week ago, the place had not only renamed but also moved from back of Sakae right to the same block as my hotel. Lucky! After an absolutely heavenly portion of Angus ribeye steak and the crunchiest fries ever, this traveler called it a day with the biggest of smiles on his face.

Day five, and it just kept on getting better. After breakfast, I decided to see if the nearby 7-Eleven ATM would recognize my credit card and, lo and behold, it did. Yay! With money woes behind me, I took a little side trip to the outskirts of Nagoya to visit Toyota Automobile Museum. It took half an hour of traveling but the place is well worth it. There are more than 160 cars on display, ranging from the very first times of automotive history to the very present. As a bonus, there’s even an amusing annex exhibit of a wide range of utility articles from the 60’s to the 80’s.

By the early afternoon, I finally located Nagoya’s only owl cafe, Fukuro no Iru Mori, which I had already hunted for a couple of days. Hidden in the fourth floor of a nondescript office building, it was a truly charming experience. For an hour, you get to admire and photograph over a dozen owls and once you’re done, you can pose with the one of your choice. Compared to other owl cafes in the country, this one was the most serene. Even if it’s questionable whether an urban environment is good for owls, the local residents seemed quite pleased with themselves.

From there, it was back to Osu to resume shopping before another enjoyable dinner at Midtown BBQ. For once in my life, I celebrated Japan with a proper 10oz steak of wagyu, the caviar of beef. As Vincent Vega might say, I don’t know if it’s worth its price but it was pretty effing good steak! I spent the rest of the night with more beer and video games back in Critical Hit and ended another day on a high note.

The final day went the exact same way it always goes when in Japan: ditching all modesty and burning through the remaining travel budget. As the temperature reached 18°C for the first time during the trip, I also visited the nearby Tsurumai park to see if there would already be even a hint of sakura. Unfortunately I had to admit that I was in Japan a little too early while the cherry blossoms were a little too late. The park certainly had plenty of market stalls and people enjoying a sunny day but the explosion of pink still hadn’t quite started. Oh well, I’ve experienced it before so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Lousy timing had its benefits, though. The return flight wasn’t even half full, and with no one sitting next to me, being able to lower the seat without annoying anyone sitting behind me, and not having to wait to use the loo all meant that the ten hour flight was a breeze. Aside from those couple of crappy days this year’s trip was definitely a success. Granted, it’s questionable whether Nagoya is worth an entire week but vacations are at their best when you never have a single day planned out hour by hour. I had a great, stress-free time just chilling and wandering about. Now that I’ve come to know the city, though, it could probably be squeezed into a compact 2-3 day side visit on some longer trip. After all, I have a feeling this still wasn’t my last trip to Japan, provided I get my back in better shape for future travels.

So what about the loot? It was a joyful pile striking balance between retro and new. My GBA collection grew with the quintet of Crayon Shin-chan: Densetsu o Yobu Omake no To Shukkugaan! (or something along those lines), Kuru Kuru Kururin, Gunstar Super Heroes, Klonoa G2: Dream Champ Tournament, and Rhythm Tengoku (I must be a masochist). After pondering it long and hard, I finally gave in and bought the ridiculously expensive but also really quite rare PS1 shooter Harmful Park. As for the more modern stuff, there’s Taiko no Tatsujin: Dokodon! Mystery Adventure for the 3DS, and a shameless PS4 quartet of pure fan service; Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash, SG/ZH: School Girl Zombie Hunter, The Idolm@ster: Platinum Stars, and Musou Stars. That one was delayed from early March but was luckily released on my final day of travel. There’s probably going to be more about these as soon as I get rid of jetlag and back pain.

*Gavel Sound*

A common feeling while playing

Seems like it took an entire month (well, a little over 38 hours) but I’ve finally beat Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice. After the gargantuan final case, I somewhat reluctantly have to admit that it’s by far the most massive but also the most disappointing entry in the series. On paper, everything probably looked mighty awesome. If pretty much all the main characters of the past five games make a comeback, if half the cases are solved in an exotic location abroad, and if all the murder mysteries are tweaked to be so tricky and surprising that it’ll take not just the usual 20-25 hours but 35-40 hours to solve, then surely all that will contribute to what will be the most stellar Ace Attorney experience ever! Right? Of course it will! It’s going to be huge! It’s going to be mindblowing!

Nope.

It feels like matricide to criticize a series which sports an original trilogy still ever close to my gaming heart. Still, there’s no two ways about it. Spirit of Justice is guilty of blatant overcompensation. Its pacing is all over the place and once it has exhausted the pool of cool logic, it nonchalantly dips into the pool of supernatural to explain any inconvenient contradiction. Granted, Ace Attorney cases have never been shy to teeter on the edge of credibility but Spirit of Justice takes it to another, awkward level.

The inclusive cast of the past wreaks havoc on an emotional level. Many of these characters are those we’ve come to know and love over a long period of time. Now everyone is merely a model quickly making their required turn on the catwalk, and it feels cheap. Stunts like making an assistant the attorney, or switching the positions of a prosecutor and a defense attorney are just desperate cries of a writer totally out of ideas. It’s the same with the script. It’s almost like it was written once but then given to an assistant who had to double its length by any means necessary. Visual novels tend to be text heavy, sure, but this one is blatantly drawn out. The final case in particular is so full of dot-only lines that it’s no longer a sign of drama but perhaps a sign of the writer getting a bit frustrated with excessive fat, too.

Spirit of Justice is still a potent courtroom drama(-comedy) but game by game, I can’t help but feel that it would’ve been better off as a trilogy. Since there’s no competition, even a poor Ace Attorney is still better than nothing but as it stands, it’s an uphill battle against the fans themselves.

Rhythm Change

– So, how goes it? – …

Lockstep. I’m certain Rhythm Paradise Megamix veterans already know where this is going. For the past few days, the game has already been not-quite-as-fun-as-before but now I’m quite content to toss it back to the backlog. The aforementioned minigame requires you to keep up a swift rhythm while switching to offbeat and back. I can’t even complete its tutorial. As expected, the internet folk consider it “a piece of cake once you get the hang of it” and they’re probably right. Still, for the life of me, I just can’t get my brain around it. I’m now at a point where just the thought of starting the game for one more go feels repulsive. To avoid a storm of the foulest of profanities, it’s probably best to take a break. At least there’s some consolation in knowing that it has been a major hurdle for others as well.

Idol power!

In order to finish at least something in February (and to lie to myself that I still have a perfectly valid sense of rhythm), I dug out the Jolly Olde PSP and played through a much shorter and more forgiving rhythm game. The Idolm@ster Shiny Festa: Groovy Tune is one of the three games that Bandai Namco ruthlessly used to raid the wallets of the most fervent Idolm@ster fans. Most Idolm@ster games are manager simulations that require fluency in Japanese. The Shiny Festa trilogy, however, represents pure rhythm gaming in which the language barrier is hardly an issue.

The Shiny Festa games comprise of 48 songs that have been deviously divided between three different games; Honey Sound, Funky Note, and Groovy Tune. Each of them has 14 unique songs and six that are common to all. The 13 teenage idols of the 765 Production talent agency have been separated as well, with Groovy Tune focusing on Miki Hoshii, Yukiho Hagiwara, Makoto Kikuchi, and Takane Shijou. You, as Producer-san, lead this group of four to a fabulous paradise island for a bit of R&R and competitive singing. The show kicks in with an impressive, full-length, 23-minute anime episode that does a decent job introducing the plot even for us linguistically handicapped players. After an equally hazy, yet intuitively achievable tutorial section it’s time to get to business.

The 20 song selection is a pleasing mix of mostly energetic girly pop seasoned with a couple of more relaxed ballads. Gameplay is deceptively simple. Notes flow in from both sides of the screen towards the hit zone in the middle, where they have to be struck with rhythmical precision using any button on their respective sides. Some notes require simultaneous presses or holding down a button for the duration of the note but all in all, success only requires distinction between left and right.

At first the system feels ridiculously unchallenging. On Debut level, the notes follow a straight line and it’s quite possible to score absolutely flawless performances even on the very first try. The hit window is generous and the notes have been placed exceptionally well. Still, the ostensible easiness is but a fleeting breath and all it takes to ramp up the challenge is to mix up these basically simple variations to breathtaking levels and above, laced with devilishly twisting note paths on top. Everything is still doable on Regular difficulty, but Pro is already rather panicky, and Master well beyond the reach of mere mortals.

Visually, Groovy Tune is most excellent, albeit by cheating a little. At least it looks like the music videos accompanying the songs would have been rendered on better hardware and then just transferred onto PSP as videos. Granted, the pace doesn’t give much time to ogle the cute girls and their massive wardrobe to begin with, but even with an occasional glance here and there, the overall appearance is rather pleasing. As for the music, it’s naturally down to each one’s taste but fans of lightweight jpop should nevertheless find the included selection most satisfying.

Content-wise, the game is pretty much just one third. The 20 songs can be completed in little over an hour, after which there’s the main story mode known as Star of Festa. It’s a five day (in-game) campaign during which you play 15 songs of your choice, aiming to amass 100,000 fan votes by the end of the festival. Every three songs you can also challenge another idol. Should you outperform them, you’re rewarded with their collectible character card. There are 50 cards in total but they, too, have been divided between the three games. In order to get the complete Shiny Festa experience, you pretty much have to own them all. Thankfully I managed to grab them used, as it would have been outrageously expensive otherwise. As fine as the Shiny Festa games look and play, they would’ve been better off as one. On their own, they’re just trifling snacks.

All Quiet on the Gaming Front

Breathtaking!

This week has been mostly same old, same old. My main project is still Yakuza 0, which has temporarily bid farewell to Kazuma Kiryu and his real estate woes. The focus is now on Osaka, where perhaps the most beloved maniac in the entire series, Goro “Mad Dog” Majima, is leading a most peculiarly serene life. He is the refined manager of the fanciest, most successful cabaret in town. Instead of indiscriminate acts of brutal violence, Majima spends his time entertaining his clientele and taking care of his staff. Still, for him such ostentatious high life is but a reluctant prison. Thanks to his youthful blunder, he lost both his left eye and his position in the yakuza. He’d like nothing more than a new chance, but that’s not even negotiable without a 500 million yen apology. Bubble economy or not, that’s a sum that will probably take quite some effort to raise.

Since I’m in charge, Majima has not been concentrating on earning money but enjoying the nightlife of Osaka. Just like in Kamurocho, amusing side stories and eccentric characters pop up almost everywhere. The most wonderful aspect of the game is still its good-natured jabbing at the 80’s. As Majima, you get to marvel at the emergence of cellphones, or even have your say on how the government should improve taxation in the coming decades. Osaka’s Sotonbori (Dotonbori in real life) is familiar from Yakuza 5 but it, too, has been given a lovely PS4 overhaul. The areas in Yakuza games have never been particularly large, but what they lose in size, they win back in attention to detail. Neon signs, street adverts, vending machines, convenience store shelves, even the pavement… Absolutely everything has been designed with extreme care and authenticity. It’s because of this impeccable pedantry that I’ve already played for 18 hours, yet the story is still in the bullpen. In these surroundings, just gawking around, doing nothing in particular, and breathing in pure Japan is the way to go!

Yes… Yes it does…

Over on 3DS, I’m still making progress in Rhythm Paradise Megamix, although awkwardly. As much fun as it was to go for perfection, I’ve now more or less given up and struggle through the challenges with minimal effort. For some reason, the game no longer feels entertaining. I’m not entirely sure why, but (inadvertent) discouraging might be it. Even if the challenges themselves are still spontaneous crazy comedy, the game takes its rhythm dead seriously. The required reaction times and hit windows are becoming so small that some beats seem to hit more by accident than skill. It’s frustrating when your head and your fingers convince you of your rhythm being right but the game begs to differ. It more or less requires you to reach a flow of some kind, but even if that would only take more practice and especially repetition, it’s starting to feel more like work than actual fun. Luckily the challenges are still less than a minute each, so the game is still tolerable in small bursts.

D’awwwwwwwww!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice is stumbling as well. Its third case was just as colossal and needlessly convoluted as the second. The fourth one, in turn, was weirdly short and remarkably detached from everything else. In other words, the pacing is off and the common thread lost. If Spirit of Justice was only about Phoenix and Maya adventuring in Khura’in, it might have risen to the excellence of the dreamy original trilogy. As it stands, it’s a disappointingly vague “something for everyone” experience. Despite all that, though, I must praise the holy priestess and princess of Khura’in, Rayfa Padma Khura’in. This condescending young woman resents lawyers with all her heart, but she has grown into a fantastic tsundere whose impetuous outbursts are a constant source of hearty laughs. I still have the final case to solve, too, so the game still has ample time to redeem itself. Besides, it’s not like Spirit of Justice is bad; it’s just not as good as us long-term fans of the series might’ve gotten used to.

Sidetracked to a Sidetrack

A wolf in a lumberjack’s clothing

After four hours and maybe a third into Rhythm Paradise Megamix, the game is slowly starting to bare its fangs. Tibby – a reserved pink afro bear-or-something – makes steady progress on his journey to reach Heaven World (yup, that’s the game’s story) but it’s getting challenging. That’s slightly odd, considering the game is still very much only about rhythm. Each mini challenge features a little practice session, and if you constantly fail that, the lower screen of the 3DS even goes the extra mile to show exactly what to do and when. In other words, the game is most eager to help. Still, in the actual challenges it occasionally seems nigh on impossible to nail the required timing. It isn’t, of course, but especially when trying to grab those elusive Skill Stars, dozens of retries are sometimes required. While I could play in a slightly more lackadaisical fashion, I’m still aiming for perfection just for the heck of it. Besides, as gruelling as it sporadically gets, I’m still smiling. It’s hard to be grumpy at a game that woos you with rhythmic calligraphy, flamingo prancing, rooster racing… There’s nothing quite as eccentric and unpredictable as a Japanese game developer unleashed!

Golden 80’s or futuristic 20’s? No contest.

Then again, if I was already sidetracked by Rhythm Paradise Megamix, it happens again. The postman was finally kind enough to deliver Yakuza 0, which personally is simply a release of such caliber that it ruthlessly shoves all the other games aside like a drunken oaf on a 4AM queue to a fast food stand. If that one won’t get coverage in this blog by the end of the week, it’s most likely due to it being so fantastic that there won’t be time left to sing its praises. I also grabbed Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. It’s certainly something that I probably should’ve picked up earlier but all the plump AAA releases seem to lose more than half of their original price in about six months or so. Just showing a little bit of patience saves me a pretty penny in the long run (although in reality it just means twice as many games bought…)

A Rhythmic Intermission

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Even if I usually aim to play through games one by one, I guess a little bit of variety to Phoenix Wright wouldn’t hurt. For a side project, I chose Nintendo’s extremely weird and absolutely hilarious 3DS music game, Rhythm Paradise Megamix. Vaguely resembling the WarioWare series, it’s a collection of over a hundred minigames in which all you have to do is stay in rhythm by pressing or holding one or two buttons. And boy, do these 10-20 second challenges get real bizarre real fast! Plucking bristles of an onion, performing synchronized swimming, hitting high notes in a chorus, translating the welcome speech of a Martian… It’s all utterly bonkers and highly entertaining in an ever capricious way.

Still, I was very close to skip this one altogether, thanks mostly to its Nintendo DS predecessor, Rhythm Paradise. In that one, all the minigames had to be completed by using the stylus to tap, hold, or swipe the console’s touchscreen. I’ve tried to complete that one twice, but both attempts ended in horrible swearing: “Yes, I’m SURE I flicked the stylus just the right way at just the right time! I’ve done so several times already but you accursed POS refuse to register it!!” I still hate that game with fiery passion. Thankfully, I happened to hear on Twitter (thanks, @RiepuP!) that Rhythm Paradise Megamix can, indeed, be played traditionally with just buttons. This makes a world of difference and I’m really pleased to see that I’m not as rhythmically challenged as Rhythm Paradise once led me to believe.

That’s not to say Rhythm Paradise Megamix would be a cakewalk. Merely keeping up a steady tempo, let alone handling slight rhythm changes, is surprisingly hard, and the window of a perfect hit is noticeably small. Thankfully, in each challenge that perfection is only required to nail a single note that houses a Skill Star. Even those seem to be nothing more than optional collectibles. Still, I’m going for them as the short stages are a breeze to retry, and as the controls are so precise that the game actually does feel like a rhythm paradise of sorts. Then again, I’m still only a couple of hours into it, so let’s see how it goes.

All Present and Accounted For

Oh, it looks like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice won’t be just about our man abroad. Somewhat surprisingly, its second murder case takes place back home, fixing the spotlight on almost all the other good guys from the past games; Phoenix’s adopted daughter Trucy Wright, his protege Apollo Justice, the criminal psychologist Athena Cykes, and the forensics team member Ema Skye. In a way, I’m kinda starting to miss the good old times, when all the cases of a single game were tackled by a compact crew of just two or three. Then again, this sort of all-star setup at least guarantees that fans of any character are likely to be pleasantly surprised by Spirit of Justice.

Still, a strong line of defence is hardly redundant. As I don’t want to venture into spoiler territory, let’s just say the second case is pretty bloaty. It takes about six hours to go through and contains so much investigating, cross-examining, scheming, and lies stacked upon lies that towards the end it almost began to feel like the final confrontations of the past games. Unfortunately a good recipe cannot always be improved simply by making things more convoluted. Every now and then – even if it was still an entertaining ride on whole – the case got a little too gimmicky for its own good.

Nevertheless, I’m still intrigued to see how the game will tie seemingly individual incidents together. For now, the only link is that because of a Miraculous Coincidence™, Apollo’s adversary in court was a prosecutor on loan from – yup, you guessed it – Khura’in. There just has to be another explanation than the local prosecutors no longer even daring to enter the courtroom if faced with a defendant backed up by an attorney from the Wright agency (^^;) Oh well, let the good times roll, I’m off to case number three!