Mitrasphere Adventurers Guild

Just a minor note, the latest update to Mitrasphere has added an Adventurer's Guild, as seen in every cliché but amusing fantasy anime & game. So much better than just face-grinding mobs, there's a task board of mobs to face-grind (and other tasks sometimes, probably not including walking dogs).

I don't necessarily play a lot every day, but it's definitely building into a longer-term game.

What I'm Playing: Mitrasphere

Another of Crunchyroll's translated gachapon games. This one's: All PVE, mostly co-op but you can solo most things, casual/free-to-play friendly (no PVP rankings to keep up with!). The art's very cute anime paper-doll style (like Another Eden, or Crunchyroll's previous, DanMachi Memoria Freese), the music's lovely. You run a single character, the gacha is just for equipment. You use a lot of equipment.

Most of the gameplay loop is:

  • Go to the next quest zone, click on whoever has (!) over their head (mostly Matilda), go thru a series of Normal (easy) story & fight stages. You can pretty much faceroll or hit Auto on these if you even slightly try to keep up your gear. If you see someone with (?) over their head, you haven't unlocked their quest yet.
  • Go to Events, there's currently (until 07-11) Canary Eggs (basic mid-tier armor), Pehn (progressively harder werewolf boss fight), Job Coaching (you can switch jobs any time), Skill Training ("impossible" target dummies, for seeing how your build works). At any time there may also be Guerilla (1 hour, 3x a day, progress thru a short boss grind to get gear & upgrade gems), and a Weekly mission (same thing, different gear & upgrades). WHEW!
  • Menu brings up your char, check the "Panel Missions" which are long-term goals, "Missions" which are daily and progression completion rewards, and treasure chest.
  • Now look at your Equipment & Upgrades. Limit break duplicates, upgrade gear levels (uses seeds/gems you'll be spending the rest of your life grinding), slot anything that's better than current, auto-slot "support" gear (just adds stats, but your old levelled gear isn't useless!). The game will instruct you once, so pay attention. I'm constantly fiddling with new gear to add another few points to Power.
  • Repeat forever. And ever. Uh, Screen Time reports I've now played 28h55m, and it's only been out 3 days. Some of that's idle-grinding, but uh, yeah. This ate my free time, sleep, and probably cut into useful work time.

Once you've finished the main quest, which currently ends at a bit of a downer cliffhanger (beachcomber) on Edol Outskirts Night (huh, very much like Another Eden dumping you alone on a beach mid-game…), go back to the start and do Hard mode. This requires you to grind a lot and get your "Power" (total gear & stat scores) up, so I'm currently only about halfway thru Hard mode. Once you get thru Hard mode in a zone, you can do Expert… and currently these just demolish me even in a good co-op group. Another week and I should be capable of clearing Expert.

The boss fights are fun, all but expert are tough but doable with a smart group, or a clusterfuck with a bad group. For fuck's sake, when you're in Wave 1/2 of a boss fight, sitting at the "lobby" (10 HP monster that doesn't attack), WAIT FOR FIVE PLAYERS! Half the time, some jackass pokes the lobby as soon as they get in, and then me and them get murdered by the boss before anyone else can join. OH SWEET CTHULHU I've never been so angry at some people. But for every one of those, there's a group where everyone does their job, the healer heals, the tank holds aggro, the rest of us murder the boss, and there's that sense of "this is a really good game!" It's like every MMO wants to be in hours, but this does it in minutes. Even some of the almost-clusterfucks are fun, where there's 1 or 2 of us last-man-standing, the boss nearly dead, and we flick between heal, attack, and just barely squeak out a victory.

Side tasks:

  • Searching: See at the bottom of the screen if you have 0 to 5/5 sparklies you can collect, they're scattered in various overworld levels, they give you currency for the in-world shop (no gold here, they trade in pearls and souls!). There's not much more point to exploring the small levels, jumping and walking up the side pathways is pointless, but they're pretty.
  • Essence of Battle: Complete each of the jobs in Job Training and you unlock this, a leaderboard where you grind bosses to get trivial stat upgrades (they do add up to something, but not much). It's mostly meters you can move to 100%, which we all love to do!
  • Social: World chat's like any MMO public chat. Sometimes informative, sometimes nonsense memes. You can make private rooms, join pre-made groups for taking on hard bosses.
  • Fashion: You keep the appearance of every gear you've ever taken, and can use it as a cosmetic item over whatever you're actually wearing. There's only 2 genders (but you can switch if you don't like your first choice), the face & hair options aren't that much initially, but you can buy new options from the in-world merchant! By rank 10 or so everyone looks pretty distinct, instead of just random pickup gear.
  • Spreadsheets: I'm currently working on a big zone spreadsheet just so I can figure out where to go next, where to grind what I need. Will update this link as I finish Hard mode: Mitrasphere

Almost all of this is perfect for me. I can stat-wonk and grind all day on slightly different gear, but I like having my own unique protagonist. I would like more NPCs for personal stories; this has about 6 NPCs who matter, and they have only a couple small side-quests or personal stories to tell. Another Eden was crazy with hundreds of characters you have to level, find the one spot in the world where their personal quests trigger, etc., I'm paralyzed by choice in it; DanMachi was much more playable where the story-mode only has about two dozen characters, but there's equally hundreds of in-game character variants you have to level, so that was annoying. A couple dozen NPCs with stories, please. No more.

There's a big content update coming on 07-05, so now is a good time to get started, then see the update as soon as you finish main quest.

What I'm Watching: Godzilla Singular Point

Netflix animation mashing up Godzilla, Jet Jaguar (!), Scooby Doo (Mei is such a Velma it's… whoo; and Barbell is Freddy, and if the other nerd isn't Shaggy I dunno who is). "Haunted" house, weird signals that sure sound a lot like the Mothra fairies, renegade electricians, giant flying monsters, and it gets more so every episode. I might do an episode analysis later, but if you like what I like, just watch it right now.

What I'm Watching: Yuru Camp △ S2, Kuma3 Bear

  • Yuru Camp △ S2: Following up on S1, S2 goes more into Shimarin's backstory, Nadeshiko does some solo camping, the original club try a cold winter camp and endanger themselves, and then there's a very long arc of a road trip, not entirely "camping". The first parts held my interest and were the kind of relaxing with a few "Ooh, is there danger? There is not!" climaxes that I liked in S1.

The road trip got tedious very quickly, nothing happened except shopping, sightseeing. The background art is lovely, but there's nothing developed or done in any of it. Edit that trip down to 2 eps and wrap some more casual camping at the end, and it'd be a much better season.

★★★★☆

  • Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear: Was recommended as another light, low-conflict show. Isekai but that's almost totally irrelevant to the story. A 15-year-old girl financial wizard Yuna gets sucked into VR MMORPG, with the most ridiculously banal name possible: "World Fantasy Online". That is some grade-A horseshit naming. The claim that this is the "first VR MMORPG" is arrogant, it should be accepted that this is like #25 and they all kill or suck in some players, standard disclaimer in TOS.

Doesn't matter, she gets picked (doesn't even die, or get "hacked" or anything) by Kami-Sama to go to a real fantasy world… with some uber-powerful "bear set" gear, bear pajamas like Lain's but she can shoot fireballs, summon giant bear mounts/combat pets, and gets more and more powers by just grinding low-level "wolf" & "goblin" enemies. In most real MMOs that won't get you past Level 10.

FWO has the totally generic "adventurer's guild" setup, we rarely see what adventurers are capable of but none are on her power level, so it's like Overlord without the goth, pathos, and complex plots. The aristocrats are all vaguely honest; Yuna at first thinks they're going to be tyrants (like anyone who inherits power is IRL), but no. Most monsters are dispatched with a single blast, the few big bad monsters do require a little problem-solving and fight, but there's only a few minutes of that. The few adversaries who show up are never given any backstory, you never see them do any evil work before (there's like one dream-like sequence about one villain… it doesn't matter), you're just told "this is the bad guy!" and it's usually a short fat dude with a moustache. They're then rounded up without any effort.

All Yuna cares about is finding ways to recreate Earth's food, instead of enjoying what they make; making silly bear-shaped houses; and picking up younger girls to mack on. The younger girls squeal at a pitch designed to make me and dogs howl, do not like.

The art's often nice, background music & characters when it's not a small squealing girl. They could have made a good show, instead it's the blandest formula possible.

★★☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Yuru Camp△

Yuru Camp△ (aka Laid-Back Camp) is peaceful, calm, and friendly, the complete opposite of what I normally watch, and therefore it's very nearly the best thing I've ever watched, especially as comfort watching in this most terrible year yet.

A very small but very competent girl (Shimarin) goes solo camping in winter, and meets a hyperactive genki pink-haired girl (Nadeshiko) who is utterly unprepared for her day-trip to see Mt Fuji. More or less against her will, they become friends. Nadeshiko finds the school camping club, which is based in an unused hallway to nowhere, and not much more competent. But everyone's willing to learn, and they work side jobs and buy better and better gear. The cooking goes from "heat water to make cup noodles" to giant feasts of meat on charcoal and hot-pots.

The music's beautiful, the camping scenery is beautiful, there's no stress and the only tension is "OMG I overslept at this hot spring, I might be late for camp check-in!" (don't freak out, they make it OK).

Currently there's a season (12 x 24-minute episodes) of the main show (and make sure to watch credit to credit, they do interesting things in the credits and after), 4 x 12-minute "specials", and 12 x 3-minute "Heya Camp" stamp-collecting episodes. The second season is coming next year, and there's 9 volumes of manga which I'm likely going to get, though much of what I love is the music & scenery, the story & characters are merely there to show it to me.

I'm on my second watch-through, and likely will watch it again before S2.

★★★★★

What I'm Playing: Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe (Saga RS)

Yet another gachapon game based on a classic GameBoy and later Square Enix franchise (SaGa Frontier, etc). To a large extent, this is as basic, standard, zero innovation of a gacha phone game as I've ever seen.

The characters are very pretty, there's some great character art, and then it goes into 16-bit sprite art for the game. Nice retro tone. Repetitive music's getting a little annoying, but it has sliders for BGM, SFX, and voice, unlike so many other games.

Gameplay has a 5-character party, with various formations possible, and turn-based combat, with increasingly powerful skills, multi-character combos, and passives; it's not a real "FIGHT CAST ITEM DODGE FLEE" menu, so all your tactical choices really are in party setup. Right now my main party only has a few melee fighters and one caster, and I just summoned an S rank healer, just need a better AOE caster. I keep trying to use Sif as a main DPS, her stats & damage are amazing… and she dies in every hard fight despite having high HP, I don't know why. I've tried moving her position, giving her best armor, nothing works.

There's a weird distinction in this between characters and "styles" who are the specific instances by rank (A, S, SS, like Lake Woebegone everyone's children are above average, there's no N or lower ranks, no trash chars but A's aren't really useful). You don't gain experience instantly, you have to return to town, hit Dojo, and level up. And increasing level cap/rank is possible, but it costs a lot of gold and "character parts".

There's a shop with random gear and character parts, and will be a forge but I haven't unlocked it yet.

This could be any gacha game—if I really cared, I'd play more Another Eden, Last Cloudia, or get back into DanMachi now there's been new episodes—but it's competently done, I'm having fun grinding these chars up for the moment, and advancing a quest where some Robin-like waif is looking for his sister in "Graves", giant dungeon towers that appear across the land every 300 years.

I don't know if Squenix is going to make any money out of me, there's so far been no paywall where I needed more gems, so it's just a free game.

Serial Experiments: Lain

You know how so much of anime has a naïve teenage protagonist with a lot of school drama, who gets powers, and saves the world? Well, Lain starts there and then veers wildly off, into Internet Protocols, simulationism, UFO/Gaea/psionics conjectures, secret societies, radical home computer upgrades, and not only doesn't save the world but there may never have been a world to save. There's also a lot of really great music; the OST and Cyberia mixes are big parts of my Coding Soundtracks playlist.

What I'm Watching: BLAME!

BLAME! was a manga by Tsutomu Nihei from the late '90s/early '00s, like the result of listening to the Terminator soundtrack and Front Line Assembly and drawing that. A weird loner named Killy with an overpowered gravity gun, wanders an infinitely large ruined city, infested with Exterminators that want to kill all the unauthorized Humans, as he searches for someone with the Net Terminal Gene which would allow Humans to connect to the city again. It's bitter and mostly silent, harsh industrial lines and weird kabuki-masked spidery bots and fake people.

It's not quite "cyberpunk", because it's not the street finding new uses for (military-corporate) technology, but techno-savages trying to survive the street killing them. Cyber-apocalyptic, like Terminator's future, Screamers, or Hardware.

What I didn't know is there was a movie made, available on Netflix!

And, uh, it's the manga. The point of view characters are Human survivors in a village, and why they were mostly safe (but dying out) until Killy shows up is the main plot. The city is as brutal and unliveable as the manga, and the technical scenes are fantastic. Killy is quiet and blank, because he knows they're screwed and they don't have what he wants, but he'll help as long as it's practical and he might get some advantage over Safeguard. Very slight nitpicks: There's only a couple of bot designs instead of the rampant cyberization of Human and near-Human and the whole environment of the manga. There's a plot twist I didn't see any clues for, but I might've spaced out at some run-and-scream bit. There's a lack of discussion of the nature and motives of Cibo, that I think was also needed. Maybe the Man in Black Rides Off Into the Sunset ending and denouement is a little trite for the manga which is so harsh and unforgiving. But for anime adaptation of an impossibly harsh and inhuman source material, I've never seen better.

★★★★★

What I'm Watching: What Did Jack Do?, Isekai Quartet, Overlord

What Did Jack Do?: David Lynch sits in a barren room and interviews a monkey (with terrible Conan O'Brien quality fake mouth dubbing). What eventually comes out is a broken heart sob story, a mediocre lounge song, and an arrest on motive but no evidence. Jack won't be serving hard time on this. Dialogue's pretty erratic, long pauses and non-sequiturs, so I suspect Lynch was either on something or doing a cut-up or some other non-rational writing process. The setting is supposed to be a train station, but it looks like a disused back room with a white light panel, which is what it is; there isn't even any foley to suggest location. The waitress with their coffee is the only other actor, and has barely two lines, and neither touch their coffee. If it wasn't Lynch, nobody would watch this.
★☆☆☆☆

I've been pretty bummed out by recent anime and Crunchyroll in particular for the last couple years, there just isn't much new except slice-of-life-kiddies-with-powers shows. Anime can draw and be anything, but in practice much of it is garbage for teenagers so dull-witted they can't picture anything except themselves.

Isekai Quartet is a mockery of that. Chibi versions of characters of four isekai (Narnia type secondary worlds) shows, KonoSuba and RE:Zero (which are all but indistinguishable), Saga of Tanya the Evil (a good but very grim show), and Overlord (which I had not previously been aware of), all find a shiny red button with no label. Idiots push buttons. And they find themselves in… something like our world, but not. With a creepy harlequin teacher who says they must "experience school life" and "it'll be fuuuuuun".

However inappropriate for the characters, the classroom is a good structure for making these weird dumb characters interact. Tanya is paranoid but smart, Ainz Ooal Gown is a creepy lich but actually quite reasonable, and the idiots of the two dumb isekai wreak havoc and fail to play nicely with their classmates. I loathed Aqua in KonuSuba, and she's the whipping boy (however much the paladin would prefer to be).

As a dozen 12-minute episodes a season, there's no room for sitting around whining or complex arcs, only A-plot and parody of each show's tropes. Light and stupid entertainment, but less stupid than some of the source material. I'm less impressed with the first 2 eps of S2, with almost straight, "sincere" takes on some kiddie videogame anime.
★★★½☆

Overlord: Based on the previous, I gave this a shot, and it's going well. The guildmaster of a VR MMO guild for monster players, formerly dozens but now there's just this one lich, plays with the artifacts and NPCs of their fortress on the final night before shutdown. I know the feeling, I always ride servers down if I'm playing on maintenance nights, and join the final night parties when servers are shut off.

And then… it doesn't log him out. The game world is real. And the NPCs are real, and so very needy.

There's some fantasy adventuring business, but pleasantly different being the antiheroes, which I prefer. And the psychological profile of a man slowly going nuts in a new body with different needs than Human. When he abandons his Human name, Momonga, and takes the name of his magic artifact Ainz Ooal Gown, he steps over a line.

★★★½☆ Early to say, but enjoyable.

A Little More Magia Record

The JP site has little weekly update comics, which have mostly been translated by fans:

Mostly just gags about bad pulls and events after they're over (in JP timeline; the EN timeline should be following the same pattern eventually), but a few honestly great jokes about Madoka like the one above. (in case you didn't know, read right to left)

Two pulls got me a better tree AOE DPS ★★☆☆ (Hinano is a monster in combat, everything dies in explosions), a fire DPS ★★☆☆, a light support ★★☆☆ (totally useless because main is light support), and… dark vampire DPS ★★★★! Hooray! Not the one I want, but an acceptable start.

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Figured out where the equipment is, you get "Memoria" cards which give boosts and skills, assign them on the team screen, and eventually you can unlock up to 4 slots for these. I got a few ★★★★ cards from a free support pull (forgot to screenshot it) and they make a huge difference in killing shit above my level. Before, I near TPKd once, had a few HP left on one girl when I finished a fight, everyone else was dead (well, KO; you can't kill magical girls without SPOILER). Now nobody goes below half HP even fighting twice my level.

Tactically it's getting pretty interesting. I wish I had more combat layouts. The T-shaped one is more powerful, but gets me hammered by any AOE mobs. The X-shaped default only buffs one girl, and the main needs DEF UP to survive, but ATK UP is wasted on her. But I'm not willing to pay real money for the one I see in the shop, so it's grind grind time.

They really got the witch art style from the series into the game:

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The one complaint I have is there's not a lot of Energy. So it's back to playing for half an hour, putting it down for 12 hours. Which is good discipline but normally mobage give you a huge burst of Energy at the start of the game to draw you in, before hitting you with the hard reality of the money-or-time economy. I'm not buying Energy potions or whatever they're called. I miss DanMachi's near-endless supply of "potato snacks" to restore Energy, from just doing dailies. You could run out, but it took grinding all day to do that.