Friday, March 06, 2015

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears ... as well as your Vita game recommendations

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you've already heard this thrilling piece of news: I recently bought a Vita!

Actually, I bought it quite some time ago, but it took its sweet time getting to me. Plus, after it finally arrived in my neighborhood, it had to sit at the local "carrier annex" for a full week before I was able to come rescue it. (Which is what happens, I guess, when you go from being a full-time freelancer to having a full-time office job and thus no longer have the luxury of pretty much always being home when such packages arrive.)

Sadly, I haven't been able to do much more than charge its battery, start it up, set it up, download a couple of PSP games from my PSN account (Patchwork Heroes being one of them) and connect with a few pals between last weekend and today.

I'm planning to spend a lot more time with it late next week and the following weekend, though--right after I wrap up the class I mentioned in yesterday's post about my Solitiba and Katamari Damacy doodles, basically. 

As for what I'll be playing once I finally give my Vita the attention it deserves: well, I'll probably begin with Danganronpa, although it's possible I'll also download and play a bit of Magical BeatOreshika: Tainted Bloodlines or Pix the Cat.

Given that my gaming wish list is sorely lacking in Vita titles at the moment (it includes the ones I just mentioned, of course, as well as a handful of others), I thought I'd ask all of you who also have Sony's PSP follow-up to share with me any recommendations you may have for a Vita noob like myself. 

Should any must-play Vita games come to mind in the next few hours, days or even weeks, please share their names in the comments section of this post.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A couple of Katamari Damacy + Solitiba doodles for anyone who cares

So, I recently started doodling again.

Not that I ever meant to stop, mind you--or not that I made some sort of specific pact with myself to stop, at least.

In fact, I can't remember when my "doodling" trailed off, although I'm pretty sure it was more than a year ago.

As for why this happened, I can only guess at this point, but I have a feeling I simply ran out of ideas. 

My brain recently became flooded with ideas, though, thanks to a project I'm working on for the technical writing certificate program I'm taking through the Seattle branch of the University of Washington. 

Specifically, I'm working on a "quick-reference guide" for the weird Game Freak-developed and -published 3DS (and iOS) title that has gotten so much attention here in the last six months or so, Solitiba

Although the focus of this document is its text--which is supposed to help people understand and remember the nuances of the various "phases" associated with Solitiba's racing segments--I want to make it visually appealing, too, so I decided a couple of weekends ago to whip up a few drawings that could be snuggled within all of the letters and punctuation.

My first creation wasn't a total success. (Check it out here, if you're feeling adventurous.) Later efforts were a lot better, though, if I do say so myself.

I don't know if I'd say this is an example of the latter, but I also wouldn't call it a complete turd. Granted, it was a quick-and-dirty sketch produced as a sort of placeholder image for my guide's cover. (In the end, I decided to go with something else.)

I like the doodle, above, a lot more. Of course, what's not to like about a cute little horse with a sparkly mane and stubby legs that's attempting (not very successfully, mind you) to play solitaire?

This drawing, on the other hand, is supposed to depict a similarly stylized undulate teetering atop a house of cards (or, "Horse of Cards," which is the name I gave to this image when I published it on deviantart a couple of days ago).

Had enough of my Solitiba-inspired illustrations (if they can even be called that)? How about a Katamari Damacy-inspired illustration? I concocted it after one of my new colleagues wore a Katamari-branded t-shirt to work last Friday.

I have a feeling Katamari Damacy's denizens usually don't alter their antennae like this one has, but what can you do?

Anyway, if you like any or all of the doodles shared here, you may want to head over to my deviantart gallery and take a gander the handful of others I've generated in the last few years.

See also: previous posts about Solitiba

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

#ADecadeofDS: Chocobo Tales

Amount of time devoted to this game in the last week--Three hours, 46 minutes.

Most recent boss toppled, location reached or milestone achieved--It looks like I'm about to take on the evil "Bebuzzu" in another of the game's surprisingly dynamic "pop-up duels" (one-on-one card battles, basically).

Overall comments on the experience--I put a good amount of time into this 2007 DS game many years ago, shortly after it was first released, but so much time has passed since then that I decided to go back to it early last week.

Unsurprisingly, I'm enjoying this second playthrough just as much as my first. I say "unsurprisingly" because, as anyone who has played this game should be well aware, Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales does everything it can to bring a smile to your face--from the cute character designs, to the silly story, to the myriad mini-games that test your timing, reflexes and even your patience.

For me, the mini-games and the aforementioned "pop-up duels" are the main highlights here, although I have to admit I'm still coming to grips with the latter.

In terms of the former, though, there's only one mini-game that even somewhat aggrivates me at the moment (the very first one, "The Adamantoise and the Cactuar")--although, thankfully, I've already beaten it on its most challenging setting, so now I can ignore it. The rest, though, are a part of a lovely array of pick-up-and-play games that I wouldn't hesitate to buy for a buck or two if they were plopped onto the iOS App Store.

That said, Chocobo Tales' whimsical art style deserves to be pulled aside for praise, too, as it's nearly as responsible as its gameplay for maintaining my interest in this title.

So, is there anything I don't like about this effort so far--aside from the mini-game mentioned earlier? Not really. I mean, I guess some folks may find the story included here disappointingly light, but I actually like that all of the blather that tends to be crammed into most of Square Enix's titles isn't present this time around.

Another possible nitpick is that the mini-games don't always provide enough information for you to fully grasp what you're supposed to go to successfully complete them, but even then it's only taken me a few seconds to figure things out, so I wouldn't consider this to be too big of a niggle either.

Will I continue to play this game in the coming days, weeks and maybe even months?--For sure. In fact, I can see myself sticking with this one right to the end. It's pretty much the perfect kind of game for me at the moment--as in, it's easy to pick up, play for five, 10 or even 30 minutes and then put back down again until I have some more free time. Also, it offers a ton of variety, which thus far has done a bang-up job of keeping me from getting bored with it.

Do I recommend it to others?--Without question. It's one of those games anyone should like, I think--assuming you don't hate "cute" graphics in general or Square Enix's Chocobo character in particular. Plus, like I said above, there's a lot to do here, so even if you don't like the odd mini-game, you're sure to like a bunch of others.

Next up--Awatama (Soul Bubbles)

See also: previous 'A Decade of DS' posts

Monday, March 02, 2015

I will hug, and pet and squeeze my new Hobonichi Techo and call it Mother (or maybe Onett)

I've wanted a Hobonichi Techo ever since I first became aware of the existence of this popular Japanese daily planner--which is produced by Shigesato Itoi's company Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun, aka Hobonichi--some time ago.

The Itoi connection is of the main reasons for my interest in this product, of course--hello, the man gave the world three of best video games ever in Mother, Mother 2 (EarthBound) and Mother 3--but another is I love that a culture of creativity and customization (for lack of a better phrase) has built up around these planners in the last few years.

So, in early January, when the "Onett" (yes, the same Onett that's found in Mother 2 and EarthBound) cover once again became available for purchase--it was sold out for a while at the end of 2014--I nabbed one.

Although it was left on my doorstep a few weeks ago, it took me until this past weekend to take some photos of it.

Before we get to my snapshots of the snazzy Onett cover, let's check out the similarly snazzy packaging that protected my Techo and related products as they made their way across the pond.

As nice as Hobonichi's packaging is, there's little question that it pales in comparison to the Onett cover (and associated components) that I mentioned earlier.

For example, check out the Mr. Saturn-branded "pencil board" (above) that was stuck inside my Onett cover. (You can slide this accessory under the page you're currently writing or drawing on to keep from marking the ones below it.)

As for the Onett cover, well, it kind of speaks for itself, don't you think? (It's showcased in the photos above and below this text, in case anyone missed that fact.)

Unfortunately, I haven't actually started using my Techo, so I can't yet share with you any cute, crude or otherwise creative doodles. (That's mainly what I'll be including in my planner, in case you're curious.)

As soon as that happens, though--and it should be soon, as I did a bit of "practice doodling" on random pieces of paper over the weekend--I'll photograph or scan my favorite concoctions and then publish them here, on Instgram, on Twitter and maybe even on deviantart.