Friday, May 11, 2012

Five things I don't love about Xenoblade Chronicles (thus far)

So, yesterday I yammered on about the five things that make me clap like a seal (that's a good thing, for those of you who aren't schooled in the ways of these fin-footed mammals) whenever I play Xenoblade Chronicles. Today, as promised, I'm going to yammer on about five aspects of this game that make me a sad panda. (Don't worry, that's the last of my zoologically-themed bon mots--in this post, at least.)

1. Too much information--And by "too much information," I don't mean that I'm finding myself turned off by Shulk's constant comments about that time he mistook Sharla's soup pot for a bedpan (or was it the other way around?). No, what I mean is that, at the moment anyway, this game is throwing way too details in my general direction. There are "arts," gems, quests, maps, floating blue orbs ... ack!  Granted, some of this is sure to be less stress-inducing after I've spent a bit more time with the game, but right now I'm feeling overwhelmed.

2. Just say no to wonky cameras--Xenoblade Chronicles' camera is fine--more than fine, really--while you're sneaking through Tephra Cave or skipping (if only!) amongst the tall grass that covers Gaur Plain. Engage in battle with a number of monsters--or even a single one, if it's large enough--though, and you'll see why I'm calling it "wonky." Thankfully, it's only mildly irritated--and inconvenienced--me thus far. And who knows? Maybe I'll eventually become so adept at the game's controls that readjusting the camera during especially heated moments won't be such a challenge.

3. Why does it look like everyone's melting?--Anyone who has heard anything about this game likely has heard that, at times, it is a sight to behold. Sadly, those times do not extend to Xenoblade Chronicles' cut scenes. That's because the folks at Monolith Soft often choose to zoom in on their in-game models during said cut scenes--and, well, let's just say that the models in question, which look fine from afar, shouldn't plan on winning any beauty pageants.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Five things I love about Xenoblade Chronicles (thus far)

Now that I've spent some time--not as much as I'd have liked, mind you, but surely more than enough--with Xenoblade Chronicles, I thought I'd share a few thoughts about my experiences with this long-in-coming Wii release thus far.

Sp, in this post, as I'm sure you've already gathered from the headline above, I'll talk about the five things I'm currently loving about this Monolith Soft-developed RPG. Tomorrow's post, on the other hand, will detail five things I'm not loving about the game at the moment.

With that said, here are the things that have me grinning ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat whenever I play Xenoblade Chronicles:

1. Its vast, open world--Of all the things that Xenoblade Chronicles' makers promised to gamers, this is the one that excited me the most before I got my hands on a copy. And now that I've not only accomplished that task but taken the game for a spin, so to speak, as well? I'm even more excited--mainly because there's so much to explore.

2. Being able to jump, instantly, to any place you've visited before--Sure, such a feature isn't the most realistic--especially in a game that doesn't try to explain it away with some made-up, sci-fi mumbo jumbo--but, boy, is it ever appreciated by yours truly. I mean, I love running through Xenoblade Chronicles' fields and ruins as much as the next guy or gal, but sometimes I just want to twitch my nose like Samantha on Bewitched and magically appear at my intended destination, you know? Thank you, folks at Monolith Soft, for making that happen in this game.

3. The seemingly-never-ending number of side quests--You can't take a step in Xenoblade Chronicles without someone asking you to find or fetch something for them. Such "fetch quests" usually involve killing a specific beast, or a specific set of beasts, but not always. (Some simply require you to nab a few of those floating blue orbs that are seemingly everywhere.) I'm guessing that annoys some gamers, but I adore it. It helps, of course, that each completed quest earns you some sort of swag, but I'd probably do a lot of them even if that weren't the case.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A somewhat gay review of Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom (PSP)

Game: Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom
Genre: Otome/Visual Novel
Developer: Idea Factory
Publisher: Aksys Games
System: PSP
Release date: 2012

Please forgive me for being a bit crass, but I consider Aksys' Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom to be the gaming equivalent of "a grower, not a shower." What I mean is that, for me at least, it wasn't all that appealing at first. I think that's because I expected ... well, something other than what greeted me during the first hour or two of my playthrough of this PSP title.

You see, rather than being the kind of action-packed game most of us in the western world are used to playing, Hakuoki is a visual novel. As such, you can expect to spend a lot of time reading text and hitting your PSP's "X" button over and over again in order to advance the game's story--which follows a young woman, Chizuru Yukimura, as she and the Shinsengumi, a group of samurai who protect the citizens of Kyoto, search for Chizuru's missing father during Japan's Bakumatsu period (1853-1867).

Although you spend a lot of time reading while playing Hakuoki, that's not all you do. Sometimes, for instance, you're able to influence the story's direction a la the Choose Your Own Adventure books that many Americans devoured as kids. At the same time, you're able to influence Chizuru's future, as each decision brings her another step closer to (or takes her a step further away from) one of the game's eligible bachelors, romantically speaking.

Sadly, these moments of interactivity are all too rare. Not only that, but they're more than a bit confusing--especially if you're like me and you've never before played a visual novel or otome game--since it's often difficult to decipher how a particular decision is going to alter Chizuru's path. That said, the interactivity, even if it's a bit ham-fisted, is more than welcome amid Hakuoki's endlessly streaming lines of text.

The good news here is that those endlessly streaming lines of text are both well-written and, for the most part, quite engaging and compelling. Similarly compelling are the game's characters, each of whom are imbued with personality, and its graphics, despite the fact that they're static and more than a little repetitive. Although the word repetitive also could be used to describe Hakuoki's soundtrack, it never really becomes grating thanks to its relaxed nature.

Given all of the above, would I recommend Hakuoki to your average PSP owner? Yes, although with a few reservations. In my opinion, this title is most likely to appeal to those who are OK with playing as a girl, who don't mind games that include a dating component, who enjoy a good page-turner and who have at least a smidge of patience.

See also: Previous 'somewhat gay' reviews

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Now every day can be an Animal Crossing (or Dōbutsu no Mori) kind of day

Do you ever wish real life were a bit more like Animal Crossing (Dōbutsu no Mori, if you're Japanese)? You know, instead than toiling away in a cubicle--if you're lucky--for 40-plus hours a week you could spend that time catching fish, designing clothes, digging up fossils and picking fruit?

Well, I do. Sure, living next to a bunch of anthropomorphic cats, dogs, horses and other animals is likely to be an odd (read: kind of creepy) experience, but I think I'd give it the old college try--as long as the hubs agreed to join me--if I were offered the opportunity.

Thankfully, I don't have to waste too much of my time daydreaming about any part of the above-mentioned scenario coming true. That's because I just discovered, via, the real-time Animal Crossing music player that can be found at and that makes pretty much any mundane chore or job a bit more enjoyable.

Note: You can switch between listening to the GameCube version's soundtrack and the DS/Wii versions' soundtracks (were the latter two soundtracks the same? I've never noticed...) by clicking the "ww/cf" button found in the lower-left corner of the site.

I'd buy this game for its cover art alone if I actually owned a PS Vita

Did a feeling of déjà vu wash over you when you first glanced at the following piece of box art?

That wouldn't surprise me given that an edited version of the illustration that takes up the majority of said box art's acreage was included in this recent post about the same game.

Anyway, although I've heard that Dokuro, a platformer-puzzler made by the folks at Gamearts, will see the light of day in North America, I've yet to hear when that will happen. (It'll hit the streets of Japan--and PSN, too--on July 5, according to

Thankfully, it's doubtful the US version will receive a physical release like its Japanese counterpart--which means I can hold off on picking up a PS Vita for at least a few more months.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Sonic Game Gear

I really shouldn't be allowed to have a credit card.

I say that because if I weren't in possession of a credit card, I wouldn't be able to buy any of the games and systems that, like so many shiny objects, catch my attention (seemingly out of the blue), blossom into full-blown obsessions and then quickly dissipate as soon as another compelling game or system comes into view.

The last such "shiny object" to grab my eye, you may remember, was the WonderSwan. Although I'm still keen on picking up one of these Bandai-made handhelds (especially since I've already bought a few WonderSwan games--more on that soon), I'd be lying if I said I was as interested in it as I was when I wrote this post.

As for what prompted my interest in this peculiar, Japan-only portable to wane a bit (just a bit): Sega's Game Gear.

I'm not entirely sure why I've currently got Game Gear on the brain, but I have a feeling it can be blamed on this recent review over at Red Parsley and this one over at VG Junk.

Regardless, I'm spending way too much time thinking about the Game Gear right now. I even spent some time searching Flickr for images of Sega's brick-like handheld over the weekend. That's when I came across the Sonic the Hedgehog-branded Game Gear seen below:

Said system was created by none other than the artist who calls himself OSKUNK, of course.

I think my favorite part of this OSKUNK creation is how the reflections on Dr. Robotnick's (or Dr. Eggman's, if that's how you roll) sunglass lenses double as labels for the portable's I and II buttons.

As much as I love this expertly customized piece of tech, I'd chuck it to the curb like a piece of stale bread if OSKUNK offered up a Game Gear with Pengo characters painted on it. And that system would be tossed out in favor of one branded with characters from the coolest GG title ever created (according to moi): Magical Puzzle Popils.

Anyway, should you want to see more of OSKUNK's work (and why wouldn't you?), feel free to head over to his blog, Custom Art, or his Flickr photostream at your earliest convenience.

See also: Previous OSKUNK-centric posts

Kirby in process

Since I haven't injected this blog with a massive dose of cuteness in a while, I thought I'd do so today by posting the work-in-progress hoop-thing (can you tell I'm an embroidery expert?) below that's being made by fiber artist Michelle Coffee.

Apparently the final product is going to be a part of the "20 Days of Kirby" series that's taking over 4 color rebellion for the next week or so. (It started on April 27. Check out the Kirby-inspired creations that have been published already here.)

To see more examples of Coffee's abilities (including the most adorable plushes you're ever likely to lay eyes on), head on over to her Flickr photostream and her etsy shop, Deadly Sweet.

See also: Previous posts about Michelle Coffee (aka misscoffee) and her creations