What I'm Playing: Echoes of Mana

Click thru Pre-Registration at the bottom for App Store/Google Play links, you should still get pre-reg bonuses for this first week, but I don't know when it ends.

It's by Squenix and developed by Wright Flyer Studios, who previously did Another Eden and DanMachi, both of which got years-long runs on my devices, and I love the Secrets of Mana series, so I'm willing to give this a try.

The art and music are beautiful as usual. It's just nice to wander around and look at.

Gameplay, it's a mix of good and disappointing. The main game hub is a crappy^W beloved peasant village initially overrun by patchwork goblins, standard click-on-all-the-menus to collect coins/gems/whatever to pump up your party, summon from a gacha pool, combine duplicates to upgrade characters. The game so far is fairly generous with general-purpose "dolls" for upgrading anyone. Once you get thru chapter 2, you can "ascend" the dumb one-star main character and start upgrading them. Apparently every character can be upgraded to 6-star, maxed out, so there's no wrong choices, just faster or slower ones.

The quest system is very linear, click on the next box and do a visual-novel-like story or a fight scene, collect rewards, repeat forever. There's a big set of training/resource "dungeons" (just 1-2 rooms so far) for levelling and getting upgrade materials. The game forces a tutorial down your throat, so every so often you just have to do whatever obvious process it's teaching you.

I very much miss Another Eden's open world, wander as a cloud, random fights or giant world bosses in each area. That was a great game, this is merely good. DanMachi started great, but it had only linear combat quests, and then added dozens of alternate costumes to the chars (mostly girls) which all had to be collected and levelled up, which was a pain in the ass, and the PVP in it was very "get the new meta char and win". Let's hope this doesn't go down that money-making hole.

Characters from the gacha are a mix of new to this installment, and classic Mana characters, and some are guaranteed drops, you're not going to be pulling forever to get that one rare char. Your party is 3 main characters and 3 backups who take their place if someone is KO.

The fights are the good part. You control one of three in your party, drag around to move, there's several attack/skill buttons: base attack, powerup attack, group combo attack, and 3 skills. You can switch who you control at any time, the others work on very dumb AI, so make sure they're tanky and probably melee, because they'll walk up and melee anyway; there is a battle strategy control on each char, but it doesn't change much, so I leave it on Balanced or Damage Dealer for the front-liners, and I mostly run Popoi, the fireball-throwing sprite from Secret of Mana.

There doesn't seem to be any overly complex mechanics so far, the elemental mana board system is a stat powerup grid but it's pretty simple. One thing to be aware of is each character uses a different elemental "coin", so spread the elements out in your party. I currently have:

  • Popoi (Salamanda = Fire)
    • Quilto (Lumina = Light)
  • Duran (Gnome = Earth)
    • Hawkeye (Shade = Dark)
  • Serafina (Undine = Water)
    • Raxa (Sylphid = Wind)

I also have Primm (Sylphid = Water) who I like, but she'd conflict with Serafina, and isn't as damaging.

The backups are really only riding along for experience right now, I rarely die. I did have a few deaths, and then I used the mana boards to bump up HP, CON (phys def), and SPI (mag def). Almost everyone can use every stat, except STR is for physical attack, INT is for magical. Gonna be a lot of grinding in the resource dungeons to improve these, but gives you a clear goal to work on every day.

You can buy a few healing/powerup items from the shopkeeper every day, currently 3 candy & 3 chocolate (S & M heals), and assign them on your party Items to keep you alive a little longer.

The cash shop is pretty expensive ($20, $30, $40 packages!), and as usual I start Free-to-Play and only pay in if I'm still playing after a few weeks. We'll see, my patience with gacha games is limited.

I didn't record a fight, it's too chaotic to really show in screenshots. The demo video on the official site is pretty representative.

There's apparently a co-op feature, and friends, which I'll look at later. I don't think there's PVP.

On Reddit and elsewhere, I see people complaining about load times, and I don't see it on iPad. There's a 1-3 second load screen to get back to the game hub from any feature, otherwise everything is instant. I think this is an artifact of using emulators or really slow old Android devices. Get a device not in your box of Cracker Jacks, and it'll be fine.

MysticDungeonClub returns

I've been neglecting server maintenance for, uh, like a year now? Because <waves hand at everything>.

So anyway after much effort this week I got the MysticDungeonClub back up.

It's a bunch of web tech toys, but I plan to get back to posting more of these, I have a couple of "new"/old ones never published, and I'll be putting the long-neglected vrmicro there. I think I can get archive.org's emulators there, too, and then I can just put my ATR files and an emulator in a page! There's web-based Scheme interpreters, and they can go there, too.

The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe

One of my favorite videogames(?) of all time. It's literally wandering hallways of an abandoned office. And then not. And then there's some narrative about what games are. There's no point, because nothing has any point, life is meaningless and we just tell ourselves stories to stop/slow down going crazy.

Will I buy it again? Will I relaunch "Stanley Parable Classic" on Steam to get that 5-year cheev?! Maybe! Probably!

[immediate update: I can't run the 32-bit Steam version on my Big Sur Mac anymore! Guess I could unpack the old MacBook.]

I may get the Switch version, it's funny to have a Half-Life mod game on a portable device, so I could go wander hallways anywhere I am.

Nintendo Direct 2022-02-09

  • Nintendo Direct is all Switch games today, which is good, that's the only console I care about anymore.

What's annoying is, since Nintendo have stated Animal Crossing New Horizons has had its last update (tho they keep doing minor patches so far; and anyway I only check in once a week or so now), there's not really a strong reason to watch these. But maybe I'll find a new crack addiction?

  • Fire Emblem Warriors: So, Fire Emblem Heroes (iPhone/Android) is a gacha game with very simplified tac-RPG combat. Bored the hell out of me, tries to extract money by making you click on a bunch of things to get coins. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a semi-open-world-y RPG with a tactical combat system, but a lot of detail to it; I haven't played, but it looks competent. Fire Emblem Warriors is a dumb action beat-em-up in the same setting, with pompous stage-acting voiceovers that I don't think I could take seriously long enough to reach the next fight. Pass, but looks competent for the kind of junk game it is.
  • Advance Wars, Splatoon, Front Mission: Remake/sequels of lame games. Front Mission in particular A) Calls the mecha "wanzers", B) is all about aiming at a guy's nuts. No.
  • No Man's Sky: Yeah, sure. Been a little jealous of other devices that can run it, but not enough to get one, for years now. Gnome Anne's Ky is finally on a usable device. My experience with Quake, Skyrim, etc. on it is that FPS things can work on Switch, but they're awkward, but Nermanski is slow and awkward anyway so it should be fine. Summer.
  • Mario Strikers Battle League: Weirdly Soccer-like, but not: A) Soccer doesn't allow use of hands, Bowser is disqualified. B) Why are they wearing helmets? There's no helmets in Soccer and they're cartoon characters anyway, head injuries aren't a problem. C) They actually score goals and don't just fall down and whine like babies to con the Ref, so how is this Soccer in any way?! Anyway, least interesting thing you could make.
  • Disney Speedstorm: Racing with Disney characters. Very conflicted. On the one hand, I love Asphalt (tho mostly the earlier entries), and this game is made by them, and it looks really good. On the other hand, Disney is the enemy of mankind and I'd really rather not support them. On the gripping hand, this is free-to-play? So I'll at least get it and feel bad about playing Donald Duck or some other corporate-owned character stolen from the public domain by decades of bribing Congress. Fuck Sonny Bono forever, there should be a line to use his grave as a public toilet. But I'll see you in the game lobby.
  • Star Wars Force Unleashed: Remember when Star Wars Expanded Universe & videogames was the good stuff, and Lucas had mostly fucked off, Disney hadn't bought them yet? Well. Already played this but I surely didn't finish.
  • Assassin's Creed The Ezio Collection, Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud (no relation), Klonoa Fantasy Reverie, Portal Companion Collection, Cuphead: Shovel shovel shovelware your old games onto the Switch. Extra credit to Klonoa for literally being a Mario 64 clone that says it's a clone, and is now a reanimated corpse on Mario's system. Portal was great 15 years ago, but dude, the gag's as dead as the Companion Cube. Stop.
  • SD Gundam Battle Alliance: Almost a proper mecha game, except it's the shitty "super-deformed" fantasy setting instead of the hard SF main Gundam setting. Hard pass with annoyance.
  • Chrono Cross Radical Dreamers Edition: Remaster, sure, but a fantastic game originally, and I'm willing to put up with a 3D remaster. Also, there's a text adventure in it! BUY ON RELEASE DAY, APRIL 7.
  • Kirby and the Forgotten Land: Kirby wanders post-apocalypse, overgrown city and eats everything. Level up a town of primitive mutants to shop for powerups. Horrific glimpse of our grim future. Probably good times, will at least grab a demo if they have one. March 25.
  • MLB The Show, Wii Sports: No. Watching the tired middle-aged Japanese executives doing the bare minimum to unenthusiastically play "volleyball" is so sad. Please do not.
  • Live A Live: Unreleased (in US) JRPG in a bunch of time settings? But I've already played Another Eden. Solid maybe.
  • Taiko no Tatsujin: No, and also requires a subscription service.
  • Triangle Strategy: As previously noted, NO. Actually looks worse now that it's closer to release.
  • Earthbound: It's an N64 game in the emulator, so you could already get this. But it's a great game, a little conga line of children take on horrible monsters in malls. You'll love it. I guess this is a reason to get a Switch Online Plus sub.
  • Demon Slayer: Looks like a cute jump-and-slash. Since it's in the quick no-comment section, I assume it's cheap.
  • Mario Kart: Let's take all the old levels and charge you more in DLC for them. No, and you are a sucker if you buy these.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: And now, Zamfir! Master of the pan flute! Lot of overwrought dialogue about friends and fighting and fighting your friends. I dunno. I go back and forth on these. Xenogears & Xenosaga I were fantastic, then they fired the entire team and fucked up Xenosaga II. Xenoblade Chronicles was meh, and I haven't played the sequels/remakes/expansions, confusingly numbered X, 2, 2: Torna, Future Connected, and now 3. Odds are I'm not playing this one, either.

What I'm Watching: G4TV!

It's 2005 again!

So back in the day, TechTV was kind of super-nerdy, and then it and a much lamer show G4 were bought by Comcast and digested and spat out as G4/TechTV, and they kind of hit their stride there, found a way to be nerd gamers but also flashy and dumb enough for the hoi-polloi. Tail end of me watching cable, but on holidays I'd see it and it amused me. Ah, Morgan Webb, how I miss you. Then in 2013 they got shafted by corporate network politics and buyouts.

For 8 long years we've had no G4. Well, today they've relaunched, on g4tv.com and twitch/g4tv. No more cable.

For some reason the launch stream was MC'd by some dumb "pro" wrestler; well, there was a lot of WWE (not the World Wildlife Fund, FYI) shit in old G4, too, especially towards the end. Adam Sessler is back, but he doesn't look good. He's turned from slightly balding nerd to schlubby last-season rock-collecting Hank Schrader. Morgan Webb's off doing PR for some game company. Olivia Munn's off being a movie star; there was a rumor she might do some cameos, but not so far. Kevin Pereira has been living in a rusted-out van under the train tracks, shooting up, don't ask what he's done to buy that smack, so he's come back and will do literally anything to stay on the show. I've never seen so much desperation waft off a dude.

The rest of the "new G4 talent" (and it gets funnier every time they say that on stream) are meh. The Black Hokage is OK, maybe. Once they said who he is, I recognized him from youtubes. He's a sometimes funny dude. I dunno Froskurinn at all, apparently she's a LoL (lol) ex-player/groupie/some bullshit. But 90% of the LoL fanbase hate her, so maybe she won't be too bad. Ovilee May is a noob with no skills but seems game for their dumb stunts, so maybe she'll improve. The rest are absolutely zero rep or talent so far.

Most of the launch stream was "what are we going to do" rather than doing, but A) The Space Cat DJ is the greatest prop they've ever had. B) The motorized stuffed squirrel is still very very sad and creepy. C) The "play Tetris on a giant Nintendo controller" segment was actually fun, like the good old days. Maybe they've got something in them this time around.

★★★½☆

Animal Crossing Feeding Frenzy

So, lessons learned so far:

Harv's island has an ABD terminal, so you don't need to bring 800,000 bells along. Anyway, it doesn't matter, because while you can donate partway to all of the shops, when you finish one it's done for the day, you have to wait for tomorrow. And this is why I have Katrina the fortune-teller first, and nothing that I want. "It's fine, I think." as Booker used to say.

You get Brewster on the first Kapp'n island, and it's very normal, boring. The next island is very unlike this, and here I got tomatoes! I assume all the veg have to be discovered on islands, which I'll be running every day. I'll probably post my garden when it's all productive.

None of the Kapp'n islands I've seen yet (one per day, so: 2) have wasps in the trees. Weird. I'll still check every one with a net out, of course, I'm scarred for life.

So anyway now I can make some of the food. Any "kitchen" will do for making food; I've long had a diner modelled on Johnny Rockets in my side room, so the system kitchen in there is fine, or the gas ranges. Sadly campfires don't seem to be kitchens.

Trouble is, I only really use food on the islands, to break rocks. And normally I just carry a stack of apples with me. Oh good grief, I drank "Tomato Puree" to get it out of my inv, and it was worth 5 meals. Just guzzled down a six-pack of katsup, as one does. Well, happily I have a couple toilets in scenic poopin' spots around my island… yes, before the Rick & Morty episode. In case you didn't know, using a toilet removes all your "meals" so you don't break rocks & dig up trees you didn't mean to. UUUURP! But now this means I have to do all the non-breaking work on an island (hitting rocks!), then eat the food I brought, then finally break all the things.

The iPhone NintendoSwitchOnline app has a "Nook Link" section, which has been generally useless, but they've added a bunch of new rewards (toilet paper! After 2 years since the start of pandemic, finally Nook gets some TP in!) and utilities, the Newsletter is pretty interesting, even tracks your turnip prices.

New Animal Crossing New Horizons

The big 2.0 update is finally out! Takes a while to download & install, had to leave it on the charger and keep waking it up so I could see any progress.

First thing up, Isabelle gives a short talk about the ordinances, and island tours. Then Tom Nook spammed my mailbox with new services. Will get to those in a minute.

But then while putting away my junk, changing clothes to be minty-fresh, Eugene comes in, and challenges me to a game of Hi-Lo cards. The villagers can come over to visit now! That wasn't mentioned in any news about the update! Maybe they always could, but my house is on the far side of the river, with no way to reach it from the village center.

Also, it's now the start of mushroom season, so the ground is cluttered with X spots to dig, and little treasures everywhere. It's a nice time to refresh the game.

Turns out Brewster doesn't just appear, you have a quest to find him. Talk to Blathers to find out how…

Get to the Town Hall, and still Tom Nook can't take a check on my ABD account, I have to half-empty my inventory to hold 700,000 bells to pay for more storage. Worth it, but annoying. Isabelle's prices on town ordinances are much more reasonable, a mere 20,000. Meanwhile, make sure to check the Nook Shopping, both for seasonal lanterns, and for new KK Slider records!

And there's a bunch of Nook Miles things to buy, which is fine, I have 479,000 Nook Miles. Yes, that's an insane amount. I see people scrabbling for 1000 in their reset islands, and I just laugh and Scrooge McDuck into my pile of miles… I don't know how that metaphor works.

I'm not sure what the point of the "Island Life 101" app is, it has no tips at present.

"Pro Camera App" is great, almost first-person 3D graphics in this year 2021! But you still can't rotate in most areas, because the models are completely false-front.

The "Wooden Storage Shed" may be a massive game-changer! It's just access to your home storage anywhere. I have crafting stations all over, each one has 1 or 2 tables with wood, stone, iron, sticks… I can replace most of those with a shed.

The "Donation Box" is semi-useless? You can put bells in it, 1000 at a time, or take them out. Tips for visiting another island are usually like a whole bag of bells or more? So this is kind of silly. Unless the villagers deposit in it. I've left it in my outdoor café and will see if anything happens. Given how useless they are at funding bridges, I don't expect much.

There's an "ABD" furnishing (but no recipe) so you can get cash anywhere. I'll put one of those by my house.

I've of course chosen the Nite Owl ordinance, but it won't affect anything until tomorrow, so will see how that works out, too. If I can just shop and see KK Slider, that'd be a nice change.

Catching fish can teach new recipes, so far I've found Dab and Horse Mackerel. More fishing is definitely needed.

That's about all for today, I'll do the island tour & Harv's island tomorrow. Probably have weeks or months of finding new stuff.

Nintendo's said this is the last major update, and the first/last/only paid DLC for the Happy Home Designer thing. But it's a good way to go out, if so. Earlier games on cartridge never got updates, of course, so we're just spoiled.

Haunted Dungeon early beta

Hey, it's a new and slightly more usable build (still Mac only) of the Haunted Dungeon! You can now use all the weapons & armor, eat & drink food & potions, might even make it down to floor 2 or 3!

Up in the next few days:

  • Tossing out items. I need to write a new event mode for selecting it, so I didn't feel like it today.
  • Levelling up. Right now you're doomed because you can't heal except by food & potions; or improve, except by very rare (and a long ways down) stat potions.
  • Start getting the actual story into the game. But only the first hints will be in the upper levels, since you can't get far anyway.
  • Main release on Halloween!

Probably next month:

  • Backpack for storing more items. One of the premises of this game is every item's a singleton, there's no stacking. So every item must be useful by itself, and item slot management is hard.
  • Ranged weapons have range.
  • Magic spells.
  • Elemental effects. It's already true that hitting some monsters with sharp or blunt weapons is better, but there's many more interactions when magic gets involved.
  • Much more dungeon dressing, I'm using Vexed's Demonic Dungeon art for that late-'80s, hi-res but low color count effect.

I'd love to get some feedback if it actually works on everyone's machine, because I'm doing some weird tricks to make it launch. As noted on itch, if it doesn't launch, or crashes, try looking at ~/Documents/haunted-dungeon.log, email me with that file.

The game's written in Scheme, running on Chez Scheme, with SDL2 from Thunderchez. Then I have an excessively complex Scheme script that compiles it, and builds a .app structure for Mac, and should also make Linux & Windows builds on those platforms (or in a VM, which is how I do it); been a while since I tried those, but once this is solid I'll include those.

I normally discuss ongoing projects on fediverse, @mdhughes@appdot.net

Animal Crossing Direct 2021

I haven't been playing as much, typically I'll get in on Fri-Sun if there's an event, or check for birthdays. I've had to time-travel cheat a couple times now, just a few days off, to catch something, and I hate doing it, but it's better than waiting a year? There's just nothing new each day to bring me in. I am trying to stockpile candy for Halloween, but I can get enough candy on the day to not need to do this, it's just easier.

But now there's reasons to come back more often! As of Nov 5:

  • Brewster's café in the museum looks charming, and I have a few Amiibo cards which can be used there. They didn't say if KK Slider would move his shows there? In Wild World (which I mainly played) you had to know KK was playing there to find him; the courtyard is a much more obvious place, but not as comfy.
  • Kapp'n! Boat tours to really non-standard islands. I rarely bother with the Nook Miles islands because I have everything I need at home.
  • Aerobics is back from GameCube. Not at an impossibly early scheduled time now, but just whenever you want?
  • A bunch of Town Hall stuff. And you can expand your storage more! I'm constantly fighting my storage, and have an assistant/mule character who just holds extra junk.
  • Gyroids will grow in the ground again! Fun fact, they're actually ancient Japanese funerary statues Haniwa.
  • More construction content with Harv, who I find creepy but the scene studio's amusing.
  • But also Lottie, who I hate, largely because the Pocket Camp furnishing minigame was absolutely terrible, with no choices or creativity, just a prompt to pay real money for gacha. Maybe it won't be as bad in New Horizons. Maybe. But I want all the construction tools for my own home, not another "Happy Home Designer" minigame. Apparently this is only available if you pay for Online Plus?

Also announced is the Online Plus subscription, mo' money, for Lottie's thing, and:

  • N64 & SEGA Genesis emulators. This is like Coke+ giving you Pepsi as well. That there's a Nintendo-branded Genesis controller is so weird and cursed I don't even know. I think the controller won't work on my Switch Lite, so I'm not too tempted.

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.