Monday, July 10, 2017

I Am Setsuna

I found out about this game from a post on /r/chronotrigger.  The game is completely separate from Chrono Trigger, but happens to take a fair amount of inspiration from it, hence it caught the subreddit's eye.

What's the story?  Spoiler-free, of course.  Well, a very wintry world is under constant threat from monsters.  To keep them at bay, every ten years, a sacrificial pilgrimage is done.  A powerful magic user journeys to a place called the Last Lands, protected by a guard.  Once in the Last Lands, the sacrificial rites must be performed for the monsters to be appeased.  This game follows the story of the currently chosen sacrifice, a girl named Setsuna, as she and the members of her guard undertake the sacrificial pilgrimage.

How exactly does the whole "inspired by Chrono Trigger" figure into it?  Most of the similarities are graphical in nature, but there are also tech names and late-game weapons that reference it.

I'm not counting the save system because so many other JRPGs work in the exact same manner.  You know the drill: you can save whenever on the world map, but in an actual explorable area where there's enemies and possibly bosses, you have to find a save point.  It lacks the auto-save of newer RPGs, which might catch some people off-guard, but it's not too big of a deal given that you can save anywhere on the world map.

It's very blatantly not a Chrono Trigger clone, though.  It contains extra mechanics that allow you to formulate completely different types of strategies.  Rather than gaining tech points and unlocking new techs every so often, you simply gain another slot where you can put a tech, and you can customize what your tech list looks like to suit your strategy.  You can also customize those techs slightly with the game's Flux system.  I'm not going to delve too much further into it here, since this is a review, not a tutorial.  The bottom line is: if you try to play this game as you would Chrono Trigger, you're doing it wrong.

I find the Flux system to be very interesting, because it addresses an issue that Chrono Trigger and a lot of other JRPGs have: generally speaking, you want to save your MP for boss fights and go through regular fights with just your regular attacks.  However, here, you actually want to be constantly using techs in order to get Fluxes to occur so you can power up.

One thing that the game very notably lacks: inns.  This is unusual, even for a JRPG.  You basically just have to use a Tent on the world map instead.  NPC dialogue in one town mentions that there used to be an inn there, but due to monster attacks the number of travellers decreased and it went out of business; perhaps this is the reason behind the worldwide inn shortage.

As much as I love the game's beautiful art style, I would really love to see a climate other than "constant snow" done in this same style.  That said, the snow in explorable areas is handled with a reasonable amount of attention to detail.  Namely, as you (and the enemies) move around, you leave a path of trampled snow behind you.  Since the game is constantly rendering snowfall, if you venture away from an area and back, you'll find your tracks have been covered by more snowfall.  It works.

The game's music is rather interesting: the soundtrack is almost entirely piano.  This is a neat stylistic choice that I feel complements the game's setting and story very well.  The piano is capable of expressing a wide range of different emotions, and the soundtrack handles that perfectly.

Enemies move around their "home" areas, and you can use this to your advantage: sneak up behind them and you start with full ATB meter.  If you're strong enough, you can easily use this to finish things in one turn while taking minimal damage and quickly move through an area.

Positioning of the enemies and your party matters greatly, and the game affords you have a fair number of options for adjusting positioning.  One example is the tech Demi, which pulls enemies closer together while dealing damage to them.  Another example is Cyclone, which knocks enemies back a fair distance while dealing damage to them.  Many techs will also reposition your characters in a reasonably intuitive manner: healing techs often have the character run away from enemies for a set distance before the actual casting animation happens, whereas offensive techs could leave a character surrounded if used improperly, or leave them too far away to take advantage of anything that affects close-by party members.

My end-game strategy just sort of fell into place.  I was using Flare, with a support item that restores some of the casting character's MP when they kill things, and then I got Luminaire.  With it, the Luminaire+Flare dual tech, Supernova, opened up.  Combined with a weapon for the character using Luminaire that restores some of their MP when they hit things, and the fact that most battles are against three or four things that Supernova can easily one-shot, and I was moving through areas spamming Supernova, one-shotting everything, and having the characters' MP get completely refilled in the process.  The remaining character was really only necessary for the occasional heal or use of a tech in case Supernova didn't actually kill something.

Overall, the game is really good and I would definitely recommend it.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Finer Points of Cheating

I recently obtained about the worst device ever to let me use cheat codes on my SNES: a Super UFO Pro 8.  I bought it for other reasons, and there's a post incoming about the device itself.  This post is about some interesting logic I noticed with the combination of cheat device and Chrono Trigger, while cheating my ass off.  It's applicable to basically any game when using a cheat device, though.

You can follow along in an emulator if you have a ROM of Chrono Trigger.  The cheat codes used in this post are RAM codes (address and value, not encoded in any manner), which also happens to be the format used by emulators, as well as both the X-Terminator and Pro Action Replay cheat devices.  If you have the ability to follow along on console, give it a shot.  That's what this post is written for, anyway.  If all you have is a Game Genie or Goldfinger, you won't be able to use it to follow along.  The Game Genie and Goldfinger use ROM codes.  You could still find codes that would work for these devices, but they would be very different.

First, load up the game with the following cheats, start a new game, get to the world map, enable the codes, and save your game.  If you're doing this on console and your cheat device doesn't let you enter all six at once, you'll have to split them up and do multiple saves.  For best results, enter them in pairs, based on the last digit of the address.

AddressValueEffect
7E2401CDOne Power Tab in inventory slot 2
7E250101
7E2402CEOne Magic Tab in inventory slot 3
7E250201
7E2403CFOne Speed Tab in inventory slot 4
7E250301

Note that inventory slot 1 is left empty, this is because the next code uses that slot.  If you haven't done so already, save your game.  Reset the SNES (power-cycling if necessary to get back to the code entry).  If using an emulator, just remove or disable the previously-entered codes, no need to reset or reload your ROM.  Enter the following cheat, load your save, and enable cheats.

AddressValueEffect
7E250063Inventory slot 1's quantity is always 99

You may not notice this code's effect right away, since the first three codes purposefully didn't put anything into the first inventory slot.  When moving items around your inventory, this code will let you duplicate them.  Go ahead and try it with the Tabs you got from the previous codes.  This is why those codes only give you one of each Tab.

Now, these items are of course meant to be used to increase your stats, so let's do that.  If you just use them, though, the quantity will decrease according to the number of them you use.  To stop that from happening, move the one you're using into the first inventory slot, which has its quantity set to 99 by the cheat we currently have active.  Now, when you use whichever Tabs you moved to this slot, you won't run out of them.

While using the tabs, though, you may notice something interesting: the displayed quantity decreases to 98 and stays there while you use them, as opposed to staying at 99.  Why is this?  Well, that's the subject of this post.

The reason behind this is due to how these cheat devices work: given an address and a value, they detect that the game is reading that specific memory address, and respond with the specified value instead of whatever value is actually at that address.  However, if you think I'd be satisfied leaving you with that explanation, you obviously haven't read very much of this blog.  We gonna get detailed, yo.  Well, not too detailed.  Everything is abstracted away from the fiddly technical specifics, to make it easier to follow.

In this first example, the game is running without a cheat device.

Given the following:
  • We're using Power Tabs on Crono
  • stored_quantity is the number of Power Tabs in our inventory
  • displayed_quantity is the number of Power Tabs that gets shown on screen
  • crono_power is Crono's power stat
This (or something functionally identical) will happen every time we use a Power Tab on Crono:
  1. SET displayed_quantity TO stored_quantity
  2. DECREMENT displayed_quantity BY ONE
  3. SET stored_quantity TO displayed_quantity
  4. INCREMENT crono_power BY ONE
  5. UPDATE DISPLAY
Let's run through that, shall we?  Let's say we have 10 Power Tabs.  When we use one on Crono, stored_quantity is read into displayed_quantitydisplayed_quantity is then decremented by one.  The result, 9, is stored back to stored_quantitycrono_power goes up by one, and the display updates (using displayed_quantity to provide the quantity) to show that we now have 9 Power Tabs.  Using another Power Tab will start this over again and result in that 9 being decremented to 8, as you might expect.

When we're using a cheat device, though, something different happens.

Given the following:
  • We're using Power Tabs on Crono
  • stored_quantity is the number of Power Tabs in our inventory
  • displayed_quantity is the number of Power Tabs that gets shown on screen
  • crono_power is Crono's power stat
  • We have a cheat device that tells the game that stored_quantity is 99 whenever the game asks for its value
The same process as before will happen every time we use a Power Tab on Crono:
  1. SET displayed_quantity TO stored_quantity
  2. DECREMENT displayed_quantity BY ONE
  3. SET stored_quantity TO displayed_quantity
  4. INCREMENT crono_power BY ONE
  5. UPDATE DISPLAY
Let's run through it again.  When the process starts, it reads the number of Power Tabs, just like normal.  The cheat device, being configured to provide the value 99 when stored_quantity is read, does its thing, resulting in displayed_quantity becoming 99.  The game decrements displayed_quantity by one, resulting in displayed_quantity being 98.  It stores displayed_quantity back to stored_quantity and crono_power goes up by one.  Finally, the display is updated (using displayed_quantity to provide the quantity) to say there are 98 Power Tabs.

However, the displayed_quantity doesn't immediately go back up to 99, even though our cheat device will tell the game we have 99 of the item in this slot if it asks.  This is because the game believes it already knows the quantity of this item, and hasn't asked for it again.  This means that game doesn't continually re-read the necessary data to show you what you're currently looking at in the inventory.  You can observe this if you make a change in an emulator, scroll the inventory down far enough that the slot is offscreen, then scroll back up.  The game will then re-read the value, and by doing so, it will show the updated value.

Let's go through the process again, so that what's happening becomes apparent.  The game is currently showing us that there are 98 Power Tabs in our inventory.  However, it reads the value again, which means the cheat device once again provides it with the value 99.  This 99 is decremented to 98 and the display is updated.  As far as the displayed values are concerned, we still have 98 Power Tabs.

"Aha!" you say.  Yeah, you understand now.  It's no longer "for some reason it goes down to 98 and stays there", it's "the cheat device always provides it with a 99 that gets decremented and then displayed".

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer of RPGs 2017

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I have an RPG backlog that I need to get through.  So basically, this summer, I'm gonna do just that.

The plan is to get through as many of the games as possible.  To make this a bit easier, I'm not counting games that I want to buy, but haven't yet.  The list is thus pared down to the following:
  • I Am Setsuna (PC)
  • Chrono Cross (PS1)
  • Final Fantasy 4 (PS1)
  • Dark Cloud 1 (PS2)
  • Fossil Fighters Frontier (3DS)
  • Etrian Odyssey 4 (3DS)
Currently, I'm playing through I Am Setsuna, and plan to proceed down that list from top to bottom.

To make things go faster, I'm trying very hard to not be my usual self.  This means saving my typical completionism and as much other grindy activity as possible for later.  I already know that Chrono Cross will be made a lot harder by not grinding, due to how it hands out random stat boosts periodically in lieu of traditional level-ups.

Some of the titles in that list are in the situation where I started playing them a long time ago, but forget the story, where I was, and where I was going; thus in those games I'll be starting over from the beginning.

The more observant of you may notice that this gaming project also involves finishing two of my most procrastinated gaming projects: Chrono Fever and Project 'Bout Fuckin' Time.  Gotta get it done.

Unlike what I did with Rogue Galaxy, there won't be session posts for these games.  In fact, if I post anything, it's generally going to be a tweet or two.  I do plan on doing overarching summary posts, though, so stay tuned for those.

Also, the end of the summer doesn't necessarily mean I'm just going to stop playing.  I'll likely still continue, the whole "Summer of RPGs" label is just a nice way for me to try and remain focused on the task at hand.

Because I've gotten a fair distance into I Am Setsuna, there will probably be one of those "overarching summary posts" coming up soon, so stay tuned.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Day of Racing 2017

Let's get to it, shall we?

Breakfast: Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco

I'll be honest: my interest in Formula 1 is waning.  It's just not entertaining to watch a two hour parade.  Monaco is perhaps the worst example of this: if you don't qualify on the front row, you have an absolutely terrible chance of winning.  It should come as no surprise, then, that the winner of the Monaco Grand Prix qualified on the front row.

I know, I know, it was a Ferrari front row lockout and it's been forever since they've done that, and it was a Ferrari one-two finish and it's been forever since they've done that, and whatnot.  I don't care.  The only way you can pass at Monaco is via pit strategy, or during the chaos of a race start/restart.  Any other time and you're likely to crash, as Jenson Button found out when he tried to pass Pascal Wehrlein.  The resulting crash put Wehrlein on his side up against the wall and took both of them out of the race.

In other words, the F1 race was rather uneventful.

In typical F1 bureaucracy, Jenson Button was given a three grid spot penalty for the failed overtaking maneuver.  For anyone unfamiliar with it, the F1 race stewards are a bunch of old chaps in suits sitting around a room looking at monitors and saying "you could've done that differently" on occasion, which I equate to your average YouTube commenter who engages in a healthy dose of backseat gaming.  This penalty is to be served on his next qualifying result in this season.  Since this was just a one-off thing, he'll never be able to serve that penalty, and thus penalizing him was pointless.

Lunch: Indianapolis 500

Did I mention Jenson Button up there?  Didn't he retire from Formula 1?  Why yes.  Yes he did.  Why was he back in the car for the Monaco race, then?

Because Fernando Alonso was at Indianapolis.

This move turned a lot of heads and gathered a lot of interest, as well as a lot of bunched panties from butthurt Europeans who consider American auto racing to be a wholly plebeian activity.  I for one don't understand why all the commentators were so surprised that Alonso adapted so quickly.  They spent plenty of time giving him praise for having won two F1 world championships and having raced against the best of the best there (i.e. Michael Schumacher), and then see him having no trouble picking up a slightly different race discipline and fail to add one and one.

I can't say for certain because I've never driven a race car professionally, but for a professional race car driver such as Fernando Alonso, switching disciplines must be fairly similar to a computer programmer learning a new programming language.  The form may be slightly different, but all the core concepts are the same.  It came as no surprise to me that he qualified well and was a factor for the entire race, up until his Honda done blow'd up.  What I took from his interview after his engine let go was that he had way more fun not finishing the Indianapolis 500 than he's had in the past few years in Formula 1.

Other than Alonso, there were a few noteworthy events, namely the crash that took out Scott Dixon in epic fashion as he sailed through the air (and Helio Castroneves drove under him).  Later on, a five-car pileup took out a couple Penske drivers, including Will Power.

At the end, though, it came down to two drivers: Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves.  Sato was going for his first win after coming so close in years past, and Castroneves was going for his fourth.  Sato is aligned with one faction of the light side of the force, Andretti Autosport; and Castroneves is aligned with the dark side of the force, Penske.  Thankfully Sato held off Castroneves and claimed his first Indy 500 victory.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway may only have four corners, but it produces a far more entertaining race than Monaco.

Dinner: Coca-Cola 600

Because my local Buffalo Wild Wings committed suicide by closing their old location while they're waiting for their new location to be built in an as-of-yet unspecified location, A friend and I had to look for another place to watch this race.  To be honest, I don't really have much of a vested interest in NASCAR, especially this season with the idiotic "stages" thing they're doing, but nevertheless, this day is an important day in auto racing and I'm gonna watch it all.

Partway through there was a red flag for rain.  Fox decided to run a classic NASCAR race to fill the time, and chose the 1987 Winston 500 from Talladega, which happened to have a crash that destroyed the catch fence and brought out a red flag.  So just to reiterate, we were watching a race that had been red-flagged, and the race that had been put on to fill the time was also red-flagged.

They did eventually get going again and the rain stayed away.  It was tough to watch this race, not because of anything that was happening, but because the TV was muted and the captions were off, but I did my best.  With a few laps to go, we were worried that it was going to be JOHNSONWINSLOL, but then I noticed that the gap back to second was gradually going down and people were un-lapping themselves like crazy.  I guess he was trying to save fuel or something, but it didn't work because he ran out with about three laps to go and Austin Dillon inherited both the race lead and the victory, which happened to be his first NASCAR race victory.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

boot9strapped in!

With the 33c3 public disclosure of sighax (headphone warning: very loud audio) and the recent BootROM dumping efforts, the public implementation of sighax, known as boot9strap (hereafter, B9S), is finally a thing.  I've updated my 3DSes to it and am now going to proceed to an explanation of sorts.

What does it do?  Almost the exact same thing as arm9loaderhax (hereafter, A9LH).  It just does it earlier in the boot process and is unpatchable by Nintendo since it uses a vulnerability that's permanently baked into the console's BootROM.

Why bother updating to it if I already have A9LH on all three of my 3DS family consoles?  It's simple, really.  Luma3DS has already dropped support for A9LH, meaning I need to be on it to get updates to my CFW and ARM9 payloads in the future.  I also needed to update Luma as a part of updating to B9S, since older versions of Luma can't be booted with B9S and newer versions can't be booted with A9LH, and there is no version of Luma that works with both.

Also, this gives me the chance to get used to using GodMode9, having done The Guide™ on my systems before it was included (I used Decrypt9/Hourglass9, and am still a bit more comfortable with their simpler interface).  I have the B9S-compatible version of Hourglass9 on standby if I absolutely need it, but GodMode9 seems to be fairly intuitive, just a bit weird and different.  I'm going to try and get used to it now in an amicable manner instead of eventually being dragged kicking and screaming into getting used to it later on.

Thankfully, the update process from A9LH to B9S is very quick, easy, and smooth.  Moving the necessary files around (and making a compulsory NAND backup after the fact) takes longer than the update itself, which has several checks it does beforehand and an "OH SHIT" recovery mode that will kick in afterwards, in the very unlikely chance that something goes wrong.  It's a far cry from the old days when people used unstable exploits to downgrade their systems one system title at a time, which could randomly fail and leave you with either a partial downgrade or a brick.

But wait, what even is sighax, anyway?  Well, I'm by no means authoritative on the subject, but my understanding of it is that the 3DS' ARM9 BootROM has a flaw in its checking of the firmware signature that allows a specially crafted (but invalid) firmware signature to result in the BootROM comparing the calculated hash of the firmware to itself.  This means that with said specially crafted signature, the signature check will always succeed and we can load whatever code we want.  Which is pretty fuckin' cool.

In other news, my buttcheeks are clenched since there's a ban wave going around that seems to be targeted at users of hacked 3DSes.  No ban yet, but it ain't over yet.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wii Fit U: One Year of Fitness

Hard to believe that a year ago, I was 253 pounds and running out of breath going up the stairs in my house.

It's also hard to believe that eight months after that, I was 153 pounds.

Its a bit easier to believe that in the last four months, I've kept my weight in the ballpark I set for myself, because Wii Fit U is too shortsighted to give you the option.

Now, let's consider what I've done in these past four months, food-wise.
  • I went to the Highland County Maple Festival, where I ate buckwheat pancakes with butter and 100% Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup, with a side of sausage and sausage gravy.  Ate a single maple donut.  For lunch, missed the maple chicken but had a kind of underwhelming "consolation" hamburger.
  • I've been to Cook Out, Five Guys, Wendy's, Brixx (which is a total shit pizza place, get a real crust instead of serving pizza on a cracker), and a few other restaurants
  • I've been having various desserts after dinner, including M&M's Ice Cream Sandwiches (the ones I compared to premature ejaculation in a review a long time ago), and the Reese's ice cream bars; but also toast with apple butter, which is fucking amazing
  • Snacking with walnuts and 60% bittersweet chocolate chips maybe once or twice a day, usually while watching YouTube videos
  • Drinking a fair amount of alcohol, both beer and liquor, and noticing the odd reality that the beer affects me far more than the liquor despite the liquor being higher ABV
Pretty good?  Well, on the surface, yes, but mentally, it's a struggle.

Anyway, after a year of caring about my physical fitness, what do I think about the future?

Well, I definitely need to figure out with a bit more certainty how much leeway I have for the things I can eat.  I still feel like it's a giant guessing game and I hate feeling like I have to pay attention to the numbers.  I feel guilty whenever any one given meal is larger than normal and the "now I gotta work this off" thought very quickly enters my head and stays there.  It leaves me completely uncertain as to whether or not I can maintain the weight that I've gotten myself down to, especially if I want to have a job or maybe not have to exercise every single day for the rest of my life.

Restaurants are a huge problem, because they almost universally don't care about nutrition.  I feel like there's only two restaurants I can ever go to and not have to worry, they're Bodo's and Sticks.  All the other establishments just cover everything in oil, throw in tons of sugar and fat, coat it with salt, and deep fry it all.  It's like chefs and corporate test kitchens need to be bitchslapped back to reality.

It's no wonder America has an obesity epidemic.  Our restaurants are serving up nutritional nightmares, and people grow up on "traditional" food that's absolutely terrible for them.  Anyone who wants to live a healthy lifestyle is the odd person out, and nine times out of ten, gets treated as such.  We're the nutjobs that don't want fried chicken in our salads.  We're the crazies that don't want our cornbread to be sweet.  We're the radicals that prefer the natural taste of food to when that food is covered with fat, salt, oil, and sugar.

Anyway, it's been a year of fixing what was likely two full decades of nutritional missteps, and while I feel like I can maintain it, I also feel like I'm way too restricted on what I can enjoy, and like I'll be tethered to one or another form of tracking my weight for the rest of my life.  I'll never be able to relax, and I'll always have a mental anxiety that causes me to act and eat very differently in the 24 hours before I weigh in.  The weight loss part is done, but life ain't easy.  Fuck my life.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Brave Dungeon: "Do Your Best" Playing Level

The Playing Level you get for clearing the Godshill dungeon with no party member above level 20 takes a bit of strategizing, and given that I just did it, I'm here to share what I did.  It's not possible without being on New Game +, because you need a few specific effects from the Syega Shop, and being able to include Zizou in your party will make the boss fights go a bit more smoothly.

Syega Shop Effects

Inherit 1% of Tres: If you start this New Game + from a save that has a lot of Tres, you could potentially buy a lot of stat boosts from the Power Up menu, making everything easier.  I didn't carry over a heck of a lot of Tres, but I did pour basically every Tres I got into stat boosts.  Having higher stats (particularly Attack) helps greatly for the Floor 2 boss, Papa Mudman, who can stalemate you if you aren't dealing enough damage.

Inherit Maps: While this isn't 100% necessary, it's very useful to be able to plan your route through each floor of Godshill.  You absolutely need to avoid as many battles as possible.

Inherit Accessories: A Through Pendant is absolutely required, and given that the materials necessary to craft it require you to visit dungeons other than Godshill, you'll need to carry one over from another save.  Other than that, you can bring over whatever you want.  You'll only have access to two accessory slots per character, so your choice is fairly important.  I carried over three Quadruple Strikers, two Magic Earrings, one Ultimate, and the Through Pendant.  I wholly recommend carrying over six accessories in addition to the Through Pendant, so you can equip and unequip the Through Pendant as necessary.

Inherit Magic Items: At the minimum, you need Escape and a good number of the healing items.  If you've already got a save that has all of the magic items purchased, this is a no-brainer.

Increase Revenge Power: Revenge Magic as a whole is kind of underwhelming in this game, at least when you have Quadruple Strikers around, but one character's Revenge Magic is very, very useful: Stoj's Come On Minions.  It's a heal for the entire party that costs zero Capacity.  With this effect, she only needs to be hit twice to be able to use it, and three times for full power.

Half Tres: Tres rewards from battles are directly tied to the amount of experience you get, and without Half Tres, you'll level up to 21 before reaching Bajel.  To get an idea of how close it gets even with Half Tres, I levelled up to 20 on the Floor 5 boss of Godshill.

Life +500 and Life +1500: These combine to give you 2000 extra HP.  Given that you'll just be rushing through Godshill at a low level, ignoring all the other dungeons, the extra HP is necessary to ensure survivability.

Attack +20, Defense +20, Mind +40, and Agility +10: It's simple, really.  Would you rather have lower stats, or higher stats?  Obviously, you want higher stats.  There's no sense in deriving some sort of false pride from making things more tedious than they absolutely need to be.

Party and Game Setup

First things first, use an Escape to bypass the opening scene where Al runs into Godshill by herself.

Hold L + R when selecting Change Party, and set your party as Al, Zizou, and Stoj.

Press X and set the difficulty to Easy.  Set any other options you want.

Equip the accessories you carried over, ignoring the Through Pendant for now.  I equipped a Quadruple Striker on everyone, Magic Earrings on Zizou and Al, and the Ultimate on Stoj.

Once you're ready, head off to Godshill.

Godshill Route

In general, you'll want to fight as few battles as possible.  To do this, the rhythm of each floor is:
  1. Enter floor.
  2. If necessary, swap out the Through Pendant for whatever other accessory you brought.
  3. Take the path to the boss that results in the least number of battles.
  4. Defeat boss, then equip Through Pendant.  I personally equipped it in place of Stoj's Ultimate, but it doesn't really matter.
  5. Make sure the doors on the floor have been opened.  Not all doors need to be open, just the ones on the shortest route between the entrance and exit.
  6. Use an Escape to heal and replenish Magic Items.
  7. Re-enter Godshill and run to the next floor.
The only exceptions are just before Papa Mudman on Floor 2, once you reach level 10, and once you reach level 20.  Just before Papa Mudman, you'll want to fight a few extra fights to get yourself to level 10.  In this regard, your initial route through the floor should prioritize opening the door that lets you get to Papa Mudman more quickly when you re-enter the floor later.  Depending on what your stats are, the level 10 Class Change stat boosts could make the difference between the fight becoming a stalemate, and actually defeating Papa Mudman.  At a certain point in the fight, he uses Bodybuilding to gain Attack Up, Defense Up, Speed Up, and Regen.  The Regen combined with the Defense Up is what's capable of making the fight a stalemate.  None of the other bosses have to be worried about in this manner, including Bajel.

Once you hit level 10, and again when you hit level 20, you'll need to use an Escape to go back to Newport and Class Change everyone.  Your choices matter a bit more here, given that you only get two Class Changes per character.  For Al, I took Cold Block (for the stat boosts, I never actually used Cold Block) and Power Up All.  For Zizou, I took Express and Disruptive.  For Stoj, I took Funny Delusion and Rescue.

Once you start encountering the Metal Blubbers, the battle strategy changes a bit.  Since they can run from the battle, you basically want them to do this.  Kill off everything else and then just pass turns by pressing Y until it happens, making sure to keep yourself alive in the meantime.

In Conclusion

As long as you exercise a certain amount of intelligence in keeping your party alive, this setup should get you the Playing Level reasonably easily.  I did have to have Stoj use Rescue a fair number of times on the second phase of the Bajel fight, because Double Hell Claw is a one-hit kill, but at no point did I ever really panic.  Just have Al and Zizou keep attacking, have Stoj keep healing and reviving as necessary, and the fight will be over before too long.  If Come On Minions isn't available, just use one of the Magic Items that heals the whole party.

Also, there may be images added to the Godshill Route section in the future, showing each floor's map and annotated with the route you should take.  I'll have to do another playthrough of Godshill to make the screenshots, so it'll be a bit.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Chrono Trigger DS: Cheated in the Mirrors

Yeah, I gave up trying to get them to drop legitimately, and cheated them in.  If you've been around this blog for a while, what's coming up next will be of no surprise to you.  Here's a how-to on hacking them into your own game!  It's a bit long-winded, but hey, you're hacking.  Get used to it.

Tools necessary:
  • A cartridge of Chrono Trigger DS
  • A 3DS with A9LH and Luma3DS installed
  • TWLSaveTool (install through the TitleDB menu in FBI)
  • DeSmuME
  • A ROM of Chrono Trigger DS (Since you already have a cartridge, you can just use Decrypt9/Hourglass9 to dump it.  Select Gamecart Dumper, then Dump Cart (trim).)
1. Getting the save off of your CTDS cartridge:
  1. If you're doing this with a fresh cartridge of CTDS that doesn't have save data, you'll need to start the game once so that it will initialize its save data.  Once it's going through logos and whatnot, you can exit back to your 3DS' home menu.
  2. With your CTDS cartridge in your 3DS, start TWLSaveTool.  Don't remove your CTDS cartridge until after you finish this process.
  3. Press B to back up the save file, keeping the default name (CHRONO_T.0.sav).  It will end up in /TWLSaveTool/ on your SD card.
  4. When TWLSaveTool says it's done, press Start to exit it.
  5. Transfer CHRONO_T.0.sav from your SD card to your computer however you're used to transferring stuff to and from your SD card (microSD Management, an FTP server, SD card reader, whatever).
2. Importing the save data into DeSmuME:
  1. If this is your first time using DeSmuME, create three folders inside the folder you extracted it to.  Name one Roms, name the second Lua, and name the other Battery.  Obviously, if this isn't your first time using DeSmuME, simply verify that you have those three folders and create any that you don't have.
  2. Put the ROM of Chrono Trigger DS into the Roms subfolder, and put CHRONO_T.0.sav in the Battery subfolder.
  3. Start DeSmuME and load the ROM of CTDS.  Let it initialize save data and start going through logos and whatnot before continuing.
  4. In DeSmuME's menu, go to FileImport Backup Memory...
  5. Select CHRONO_T.0.sav and click Open.
  6. On the next dialog that appears, select EEPROM 512kbit.  Even if you have to use the manual selection dropdown.
  7. DeSmuME will reset and pause emulation, unpause the emulation.  If the game still says "Initializing Save Data", you selected the wrong save size, and need to do it correctly this time.  If it just goes straight to the logos, you're good to continue.
3. Cheating in the items:
  1. Go to this pastebin link.
  2. Download ctmirrors.lua directly into the Lua subfolder you possibly created earlier.
  3. Get to Chrono Trigger's main menu and load your save.
  4. In DeSmuME's menu, go to ToolsLua ScriptingNew Lua Script Window...
  5. Click Browse and open ctmirrors.lua.
  6. The script will do its stuff, this is very fast.  If you get errors, let me know, because you shouldn't get errors.
  7. Close the Lua script window.
  8. Save your game.
4. Verifying you got the items:
  1. Go to your inventory and look at your accessories.
  2. You should see the Nu Arcana and the mirrors in the list.  If not, press Select to sort the list, they should now appear at the bottom of the list.
  3. You should have seven Nu Arcana, one Uranian Mirror, two Pontic Mirrors, one Promethean Mirror, one Hadean Mirror, and two Aresian Mirrors.
  4. Save (you know, again, because why not) and reset to the main menu of CTDS.
  5. Go into Extras, load your save, then go into Item Encyclopedia.
  6. Tap the Key Items icon, then scroll up.
  7. You should see that the Item Encyclopedia entries for the Nu Arcana and the mirrors have been filled in.
5. Getting the modified save back onto your cartridge:
  1. In DeSmuME's menu, go to FileExport Backup Memory....  Type CHRONO_T.1.sav for the file name, and save.  This way you still have a backup of the original (CHRONO_T.0.sav) should anything go wrong.
  2. Transfer your newly generated CHRONO_T.1.sav to /TWLSaveTool/ on your 3DS' SD card.
  3. On your 3DS, start up TWLSaveTool.  Use the d-pad to change the filename to CHRONO_T.1.sav, and press A to restore the save data.
  4. When TWLSaveTool says it's done, press Start to exit it.
  5. Start Chrono Trigger and inspect all the relevant menus to doubly confirm that you have the mirrors and the Item Encyclopedia entries for them.
  6. You're done!
By the way, don't get into writing Lua scripts, the language is horrendously bad.

Edit (2017-03-29): Acknowledgement of my awareness that the original process I posted was pretty bad and could be made better, plus a promise to make it better.

Edit (2017-04-13): After a bit of poking around, I've figured out how to use DeSmuME's tools more better.  Cheats will no longer be required, we can just edit the memory in-place and save as usual.  Also, I did some slight revisions to the steps in this update, including splitting up the steps into their overarching tasks to hopefully make the process easier to follow.

Edit: (2017-04-26): Steps revamped using a Lua script, which is an even easier thing for people to use than DeSmuME's memory viewer.  Also, I totally found the Item Encyclopedia in memory and documented the crap out of it, which is why this Lua script is able to give you the Item Encyclopedia entries for the items.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wegmans

Today, I did my usual "assist my mom with the weekly shopping" thing, but this time we thought we'd try doing so at the new Wegmans that opened here recently.  I was going to tweet my thoughts about The Whole Wegmans Experience™ from within the store, but I quickly realized that Twitter's pitiful 140-character maximum message length is not adequate to explain my thoughts.  So instead, I wrote this blog post that will get far less exposure, because even though I tweet links to my posts, millennials don't click links.  I can see all the engagement data, none of my traffic comes from Twitter.  It all comes from Google searches.

For the record, today's shopping trip was actually the third time I've been to this specific Wegmans, or any Wegmans, period.  The first two times I was there with my parents for geocaching events (essentially meet and greets) that they care about far more than I do.  On the second visit I perused their buffet and had a pretty nice dinner.  For the curious, it consisted of roasted red potatoes with various spices, something that basically amounted to jalapeño cornbread and was thankfully sugar-free, what was labelled as "garlicky greens" which was basically just kale and garlic, and cilantro lime chicken with salsa verde.

Today, while actually browsing the store and looking for things we needed, one thing became readily apparent.  Wegmans very heavily pushes their store brand products.  Their store brand products take up roughly half of all their shelf space, which is far more than in any other store I've ever been to.  The remaining shelf space contains a very small and specific selection of name-brand products.  This name-brand selection looks decent at first, but omits some surprising things such as Puffs facial tissues and Tai Pei frozen meals.

This wouldn't be a problem if Wegmans had an equivalent product for everything name-brand that they don't have on their shelves.  Except they don't, as previously suggested.  Or at least, not that we were able to find.  Which brings me to my next issue.

The store layout is very confusing.  Now, of course, it was our first time shopping there, so it's reasonable to have some level of confusion since neither of us knew where everything was.  However, the decisions they make with how they distribute products around their store only serve to confuse and mislead customers about the products they carry.  For example, you can find slightly different selections of peanut butter in at least two different places.  The regular, non-organic, non-overpriced skim milk is down at foot level, while the organic overpriced skim milk is right in front of your face.  Also, the Kefir that my mom drinks was in two different places, but the specific variety she wanted was only in one of those places.  Their hummus selection is fairly limited and again exists in multiple places, and they apparently haven't heard of taboule, or nuts that aren't for snacking.

Their staff are friendly and will assist you with finding products, yes, but that step could be avoided entirely if the store wasn't intentionally laid out in the most confusing manner possible.  They also tout their smartphone application, which apparently can help you find things, but if I have to use my phone to find a product in your store instead of the signage you have posted within it, there's a problem.

Wegmans is certainly an interesting store, and will be handy to have around just by virtue of it being a different store with a different selection of products, but it will by no means replace Giant as our regular store of choice.  It also happens to be farther away from our house by a significant margin, which is also a factor to consider, even though the decision was made entirely in the product selection.  I did discover two more brands of unsalted chips while I was there (one was corn chips and the other was potato chips), but I'm still in the same unfortunate situation of "every store that carries unsalted chips would require me to drive specifically to that store to get unsalted chips, which means I won't be doing so very often".  Aggravatingly, both brands are stocked at Giant, but Giant just doesn't carry the product™.  Also aggravating: Garden Fresh Gourmet's salsa is available at basically every store in the area, but their chips are only available at Kroger.

If you do shop at Wegmans regularly, it appears as though you will be going there for the Wegmans store brand because it's the only brand in which you can find a decent selection of products.  I dunno about you, but personally I wouldn't want to look in my pantry or fridge and see forty or fifty of the exact same brand logo staring back at me.  I'm all for getting a store brand if it fills a need and the quality is there, but I don't want to be a paying shill for a company.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sliding through Slot Car Rivals

Slot Car Rivals is definitely the most skill-based game of the third bundle, and that's saying something since all you do is hold a button and occasionally release and re-press it.  Manipulation potential is fairly low, so here come the gameplay tips.
  1. You absolutely want as many people as possible for this game.  After each race, the people you've StreetPassed will make you a new booster that you'll use for the next race, and having more people working on it means it'll have higher stats.  Make use of the Plaza Update 5.0's new "Send to Line" feature if you're at a convention or in Japan or something to make sure you've got ten, and if you just can't get to ten, top off with Play Coins.
  2. The stats of the boosters you get are dependent, somehow, on the properties of the Miis that make it.  All I've been able to notice so far is that short Miis affect its Speed stat, which is arguably the most important stat later on in the game.
  3. Speaking of later on in the game, as you progress, you'll notice that some of the objectives that you need to complete are "Finish in X seconds.".  These times get a lot more challenging to beat towards the end of the game, and it can be very frustrating to keep getting boosters that raise your Control or Performance when all you want is Speed.
  4. Getting Excellents on all the corners is your number one priority.  It's key to getting fast laps and fast completion times.  It should make sense, too, if you're not cornering as well as you could be, you're not going to be going very fast.  It should go without saying that crashing is to be avoided at all costs, though some corners are notoriously difficult to avoid crashing on, and the camera can exacerbate this, regardless of which setting you use.
  5. Make heavy use of the ability to practice a track before actually racing your rivals.  This will help you get the timing down on those speed boosts and corners.  If you're having trouble beating a time objective, do Ghost Races, otherwise, just turn laps on the track to learn it.
  6. Don't worry about the point requirements for each license level, there are far more points available.  You can always replay any track, any time you want, and get more points.  This effectively makes there be infinite points.  Once you beat the game, the post-game enables extra numbered license ranks for you to obtain, all the way up to S 99, as well as a "Random Track" selection that gives an experience bonus.
  7. There's honestly not much else I can say.  It's all in how well you've learned each track.  Since the actual vehicle you're using doesn't matter at all, I can't suggest anything track-specific.  The game suggests specific booster stats for specific tracks, but you have no control over what you're going to get, so I just ignore it and race whichever track I want.
I hope this post helps you leadfoots keep the pedal to the metal.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Monopolizing Market Crashers

Market Crashers is easily the shortest of the third bundle of games, and both the concept and gameplay are simple enough to reduce the amount of manipulation to basically nonexistent levels.  So instead, here's some gameplay tips.
  1. You absolutely want as many people as you can get for this game.  Having more analysts available will give you more accurate information about what each stock is going to do, both before trading and while trading.  Make use of the Plaza Update 5.0's new "Send to Line" feature if you're at a convention or in Japan or something to make sure you've got ten, and if you just can't get to ten, top off with Play Coins.
  2. The mantra to remember while trading is indeed "buy low, sell high".  It's the only way to actually make money.
  3. While you can do longer-term investments in this game, I don't recommend it.  Keep your portfolio empty between sessions and just do Day Trading.  The stocks fluctuate way too much for long-term investments to be worth anything at all.
  4. The ability to buy outside of Day Trading can still be useful though.  If your analysts say a stock's value is going to rise, you can get a bit of extra cash by having shares of multiple stocks purchased while you actively trade one company.  You can also buy some shares of the company you intend to trade during Day Trading, so that you have something to sell on that first peak.
  5. Buy the new products as they come out, but make sure to leave yourself enough money to continue trading stocks when doing so.
  6. Never ever sell the products.  Just keep them.  They still count towards your total assets, but they represent assets you can never lose, except voluntarily if you're absolutely strapped for cash and have no other choice.
  7. While the ultimate goal of this game is to become as rich as the guy they tell you about in the beginning, you get the second hat much, much earlier than that point.  If you don't really find this game to be fun, then keep in mind that it doesn't take very long to get the hat.
  8. Ace Trader can be difficult to obtain for a given company, as it doesn't seem to be dependent on a specific threshold that I've been able to notice.  All I can say is that if you do the "buy low, sell high" thing very aggressively, you stand a really good chance of getting Ace Trader.
  9. The more you trade a specific company's stock, the more of it you'll be able to buy or sell in one press of a button.  This amount is entirely company-specific, so if you neglect one, you'll be buying a smaller number of shares of it the next time you trade it.  This can actually be useful if you run low on money, since that smaller number of shares will cost you less.
  10. Don't ask me about the weird graph with the boxes and lines, I don't understand it either.  Just use the simpler one, it hasn't failed me yet.
I hope this post helps all of you aspiring investors make some money.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Marauding in Mii Trek

The exploration game of the third bundle, Mii Trek has plenty of secrets to uncover.  For instance, you don't actually need to explore everywhere or leave no stone unturned in order to complete the game.

The first thing you'll probably notice is that you can accomplish precisely nothing in this game by touching the touchscreen.  I don't know why this design choice was made, but we've all got to live with it.

The distance you get to cover is determined by the step counts of the Miis you StreetPass, however, there's a minimum of 500 steps.  Special Miis will give you a hefty 30000 steps to work with.  You absolutely want as many people as possible, to maximize the amount you'll be able to get done.  Make use of the Plaza Update 5.0's new "Send to Line" feature if you're at a convention or in Japan or something to make sure you've got ten, and if you just can't get to ten, top off with Play Coins.

Due to having a limited distance that you can possibly cover in each play session, that changes wildly between play sessions, this game can take a while.  It's a toss-up between this and Feed Mii as to which is actually longer.

Whenever going into a new area, your first priority is finding the Ancient Compass.  This will give you an arrow that always points at the red X that marks the location of the chest containing the artifact you're looking for.  The Ancient Compass can be found in one of the backpacks in the area, so go to them before anything else.  If you end up at a chest, just choose to not open it.  The game's nice like that.

Next priority is getting all of the backpacks.  Among other things, backpacks can contain Tranquilizer Darts, which are necessary to pacify various wild beasts you'll come across.  If you're out of them, a couple of the Miis in your party will get scared off and you won't be able to explore as far in this session.  Since most of the animal locations are marked on the map, just try your best to avoid them in order to conserve darts.

Another item you can get from the backpacks is a vial of water.  It can either be stagnant water, which makes your steps count down faster, or water from the fountain of youth, which makes your steps count down slower.  It's a 50/50 shot, and I always take it.  There's always more StreetPasses and Play Coins to be had, so why not?

Next priority is the camera icons.  At these locations, a shadow will pass by.  Press A when it's in the middle of the screen to take a picture.  Hopefully, if you're lucky, you'll get a picture you haven't already gotten before.  I tried to go for completionism here, but I ended up giving up in favor of just getting through the game.  The RNG on the pictures is almost as frustratingly bad as Ultimate Angler's RNG.

Occasionally you'll encounter an obstacle that requires a specific input to pass.  Some of these are labelled on the map, others aren't.  Pay attention to the top screen, as it tells you what to press.  Doing it right means you lose no steps or explorers in the process.  Get it wrong and you get penalized.

Once you've gotten all the backpacks and pictures, head to the red X that the Ancient Compass is pointing to and get your artifact.  Congratulations, the rest of the steps you had for that session are effectively wasted.  But next time, you get to explore an entirely new area!

I hope this post helps all you intrepid explorers out there have fulfilling expeditions!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

NOPE-ing out of Ninja Launcher

Ninja Launcher is definitely the turd of the bunch in the third bundle of StreetPass Plaza games, and while manipulation potential is as low as the game's average session length, there are some gameplay tips to be had.

I'll keep this quick, you know, like a ninja:
  1. You absolutely want as many people as possible.  The number of people you have is directly related to your result attack power, as well as the amount of time you have to set up your powerups.  Make use of the Plaza Update 5.0's new "Send to Line" feature if you're at a convention or in Japan or something to make sure you've got ten, and if you just can't get to ten, top off with Play Coins.
  2. Do a test shot immediately.  Sometimes one or two of the Miis will start out very close to the correct position, or even already in the correct position.  This will label them so you know where you need to turn your attention to first.
  3. Don't do test shots too often.  The clock still ticks down during the test shot.
  4. Get everything to silver stars before concentrating on gold stars.  This will keep your scroll combo up and ensure you get the critical strike at the end, which doubles your attack power.
  5. You only have to clear Novice difficulty once.  You get the Fox Hat at that point.  If you dislike the game as much as I dislike the game, you're done with it at this point and you never have to touch it again.
  6. You can move a bunch of Miis at the same time, as the one you're currently moving will push any others it comes into contact with.  This comes in handy if all of their items are around the same altitude.
  7. If you can momentarily divert your attention to the lower screen, you can switch to a Mii that's several Miis away much faster than by pressing L or R repeatedly.  Since you have so little time to work with, you need all the speed you can get.
Hope this helps you grind this one out so you can get your hat and never touch it ever again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Finagling Feed Mii

My second favorite of the third bundle of StreetPass Plaza games, Feed Mii has some possible manipulation and useful things you can do to make the game easier.

You want as many Miis as possible for this game.  Make use of the Plaza Update 5.0's new "Send to Line" feature if you're at a convention or in Japan or something to make sure you've got ten, and if you just can't get to ten, top off with Play Coins.

Also, a word to the wise:  If you've hacked your StreetPass Mii to make it a Special Mii, you'll need to switch it to another Mii that isn't a Special Mii before starting this game.  It will crash if your StreetPass Mii is a Special Mii.

This game is probably the longest of the bunch.  Either it or Mii Trek.  Here, the heroes will go through both Find Mii 1 and Find Mii 2 before you get your hat, and while Find Mii 1 is relatively short, Find Mii 2 is much longer.

The ingredients you get are dependent on the shirt colors of the Miis you receive.  It is entirely possible for the Miis you receive to request a dish for which you don't have all the ingredients.  Because of this, if you have the recipe, you should always check it before you start cooking, to make sure you've got everything.  When this happens, you want to change the recipe.  This will lower the quality of the dish to three stars, but you will be guaranteed to have the ingredients for the new recipe.  Also, the review in the Legendary Herald will say "Why'd they change my order?" when you change the recipe.  If you have all the ingredients, there's absolutely no reason to change the recipe.

If the Miis request something you don't have the recipe for, search for the name of the dish on Google.  Not even joking here.  All of the dishes in this game are real dishes, just with the recipes simplified.  Looking it up should give you a good idea of what to select.  Also, if it seems like it would make sense, add Onion.  Onion is in a lot of the recipes in this game.  In fact, there's only one recipe in the game that will fail if you include it, and that's Flan.

If you have multiple systems and a lot of patience, you can make Miis with all the various shirt colors and StreetPass them all over one by one to have full control of the ingredients you receive, but this is incredibly tedious and takes a very long time.  It's generally a lot faster to just throw Play Coins at the game, or find a nice comfortable place to sit at a convention that's near a high-traffic area and cook for the other attendees as the StreetPasses roll in.

When exiting the game, or before dumping your next load of Play Coins into it, go into the Fridge (press X on the main menu) and make sure your fridge contains five unique ingredients.  This will give you the best possible chance of having an ingredient that the Miis don't give you.

Next up, and possibly the best thing you can do for yourself, is to use this Google spreadsheet and a ton of play coins (I hope you've got homebrew... The Nintendo 3DS Sound entrypoint, called soundhax, is free and easy to set up; then after dropping the homebrew starter kit on your SD card, just grab and use MrCheeze's play coin setter!  Alternatively, if you have JKSM, you can select Extras from the main menu to get Play Coins) to completely fill out your recipe book using the Culinary Research mode.  Doing this will mean you'll always have the complete recipe available to check when playing the game, which is incredibly useful since the ingredients for things aren't always obvious.  Going completionist and getting everything Jumbo is completely optional, but if you do it, you can toggle the picture of any given complete dish back and forth between the Artisan and Jumbo versions when looking at it in the Recipe Book.  Every recipe that gives four stars or more can be made Jumbo, which happens to be the vast majority of them, so you have a fair amount of work ahead of you should you be a completionist like me.

There is one issue you'll encounter in filling out your recipe book, namely, some of the recipes require the exact same set of ingredients.  When you encounter this, inspect the two recipes in the spreadsheet carefully.  In the case of Flan and Egg Tarts, there is an additional ingredient that will work with one recipe but cause the other to fail.  Well, in Culinary Research mode, you can't fail, so adding that extra ingredient will force the game to cough up the recipe you're going for.  This luxury isn't available with Onion Rings and Onion Bread, though, so it's just a crapshoot as to which one it'll give you.  All I can say is to keep trying until it gives in.  You don't have to worry about this when cooking a request, as the game will always give you the requested dish if you combine the correct ingredients.

Last but not least, to make sure you get optimum progress, you'll want to make Jumbo versions of dishes whenever possible.  This is very simple to do, just add one extra of any ingredient that's required for the recipe.  For instance, let's say the Miis request Chicken Curry, which requires Chicken, Rice, Potato, and Onion, and for simplicity's sake, you've got all the ingredients.  Adding all four required ingredients and then one additional Chicken, Rice, Potato, or Onion will make it Jumbo.  Jumbo dishes allow the Miis to deal more damage or explore farther, and will decrease the number of meals you'll have to make to get through the game.

I hope this post helps you out.  This game is really fun, but I can see the intended method of trial and error getting frustrating quickly, unless you enjoy trial and error in your video games.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Wii Fit U, eight months in

Fuck yeah, 100 pounds down and at my Scientifically Determined Ideal Weight™, which is 153 pounds.  In other words, I'm at my goal weight.  Since reaching this weight, which totally happened at MAGFest, I've been content to stay in the ballpark of it.  Ideally I'd like that ballpark to be a bit under 100 pounds down, just so I can always truthfully say that I've lost 100 pounds, but if I can be this weight 20-30 years from now, I'll take it.


As always, more after the break.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

MAGFest 15

This MAGFest, like many before it, was preceded by some anxiety on my part.  I can't quite explain why it happens.  I enjoy MAGFest, but the closer it gets, the less I want to actually go to it.  Something about packing up and travelling there just feels wrong, and I can't put my finger on it.  In the beginning, this started with the feeling that going to MAGFest was some sort of impulse thing that I did.  You know, like that day was just like any other and I decided "you know what?  I'm gonna drive 150-200 miles north now!".

The unusual part was that the anxiety was still there after getting to MAGFest.  Usually it disappears instantly, but it took a day this time.  Not sure why.

Anyway, with that out of the way, the usual daily summary is after the break.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

StreetPass Mii Plaza: Bundle 3

I'm late to this, because reasons.  Not going to go into them, they're mostly irrelevant anyway.  Let's get going, shall we?

Along with StreetPass Mii Plaza Version 5.0 is a third bundle of five games, this time with a unique opportunity: two of them are part of a special deal where you can pick one of them to get for free!  The remaining four games are $3, with a special bundle price of $9.  No discount for owning either of the other two bundles, sadly.

Each game has two hats and a speech bubble, but the Plaza update adds no other outfits or speech bubbles, which is actually kind of nice since it eliminates Plaza Tickets and a lot of mostly pointless busywork entirely.  The hats and speech bubble are given out in a consistent manner with the rest of the paid Plaza games: speech bubble and one hat for buying the game, and the second hat upon beating the game.

The titles this time are Slot Car Rivals, Market Crashers, Feed Mii, Ninja Launcher, and Mii Trek.  Rather than reviewing them in order, I'm going to tier them and review them that way.  The two you get to choose between for your free game are Slot Car Rivals and Market Crashers.

Good Tier

Slot Car Rivals

This is a racing game, but made incredibly simple so anyone can play it.  You can make any type of car you want, at any time, at no in-game cost, and customize its look to suit your tastes, again for no in-game cost.  The type of vehicle you're driving has no bearing on its performance, so go nuts.  The people you StreetPass are your competitors.  To race, your slot car needs a "booster", and you get a fairly basic one to start out.  However, each booster is only good for one race.  After each race, the people you StreetPass all get together and make a new booster for you.  Special Miis make the resulting booster's stats higher.

During each race, there are features on the course to pay attention to, perhaps most notably red corners.  You'll have to release the accelerator during these to avoid crashing, but if you press it again at the right time, you get a boost out of the corner.  There are also green charge areas followed by a rainbow area that let you boost over a jump if you keep the accelerator down in the green area and release it in the rainbow area, and blue boost areas that rocket you forwards ridiculously quickly.

You can also practice on any course you've raced on before, which is simultaneously nice and a small bit annoying.  The annoying bit is that you have to race on a course without ever having seen it before, thus using your booster, before you're able to practice that course.  It's not a hamstring on the game at all, just a minor complaint.

There are plenty of courses to unlock and choose from, with conditions to be met in order to progress through the game.  It all seems to be fair and genuine challenge.  Also, you'll unlock various special cars as you progress, these have all sorts of designs ranging from serious to silly.  Again, your choice of car does not matter at all, so go right ahead and make the most ridiculous thing you can think of.

This is my personal recommendation for your choice of free game.  It's fun and it actually makes me want to dump tons of play coins into continuing to play it.  If you end up getting Market Crashers as your free game instead, this one is definitely worth the purchase.

Feed Mii

Remember Find Mii, where the people you StreetPass are heroes, rescuing their king (your Mii) from monsters?  Well, heroes gotta eat, and in this game, you're the chef at the restaurant where they eat before they go fight.  How well they do depends on your cooking, so cook up a good mess of food!

Basically, everyone gives you an ingredient, and the game suggests a recipe.  Combine things together that you think would go in that recipe (or cheat and look it up on Google) and cook it up.  You'll get a rating depending on how good your result was, and then you'll get news on the heroes' progress.

However, you're not done there.  Your restaurant's fridge has limited space, you see.  It can only store five ingredients, and you're likely to have more than five.  After cooking for the heroes, you can now do culinary research.  This lets you refine recipes you've discovered, make them better, or come up with new recipes.  You can even use play coins to buy more ingredients.

This one is pretty fun, and I could spend a lot of time and play coins in the culinary research portion just cooking random things and unlocking all the recipes.  Worth the purchase?  Absolutely.

Surprisingly-better-than-I-thought-it-would-be Tier

Market Crashers

"A stock trading game?  Oooookaaaaaay..." was my exact thought going into this one.  I thought for sure that it'd be the shoe-in for the "Dud of this Bundle" award.  However, I was wrong.

In Market Crashers, you are indeed trading stocks.  The people you StreetPass are your analysts, and having more of them means you get more accurate information about what the stock's price is about to do.  The only thing you ever need to worry about is "buy low, sell high".  That's it.  It's that simple.

As you make money, you can buy products from the companies whose stocks you're trading.  Doing this has two benefits: One, the cost of the item is still counted towards your total assets (and thus your game progress), but can never be lost without you selling the item.  Two, it makes that company more likely to have good news during trading, which makes their stock do better, and if you play your cards right, you can make a ton of money.

The goal is just that: make a ton of money.  The game actually has a semi-decent glossary of terms in it, and it tries its hardest to explain one of the graphs it uses, but I'm still lost when I look at it.

I would still recommend picking Slot Car Rivals over this as your free game.  However, don't overlook this one, it's surprisingly good, and definitely worth purchasing.

Okay Tier

Mii Trek

Explore a jungle, find artifacts, take wildlife pictures.  The people you StreetPass are your explorers, and their combined step counts decide how far you get to travel.  Luckily, there seems to be a minimum number of steps that a Mii will give you, so you'll always have at least 500 steps from anyone you get.

There are some things you'll need to be aware of, though.  Sometimes you'll come across a rock or a thicket that will need to be dealt with.  You deal with this by mashing A within a short time frame.  If you're not ready for this, you won't be able to do it in time and will lose out on progress.

Also, when you find wildlife to take pictures of, the game is kind of vague on how it works.  It just says "Press A!" and expects you to know what to do.  Basically, you have to wait for a shadow to fly across the screen, and press A while it's on screen.  Then you get your picture.  Too early or too late, and you fail.

Along your journey, you'll occasionally encounter wildlife that needs to be dealt with using tranquilizer darts.  This isn't too difficult, just move the crosshair over the wildlife in question until you've got it positioned over the red dot, and press A to fire.  It doesn't move, so as long as you position your shot correctly, everything works as intended.

Lastly, and this is a big negative for a game about exploring: Once you find the main artifact that you're looking for in an area, that's it, you're done.  All the rest of the steps you'd gotten are wasted.  You don't get to go to any of the photo-op areas or any of the places where you can recover items from packs you find on the ground.  You don't get to use the rest of the steps in the next location.  It's kind of a letdown for a game that's about exploration.  Why cut off my exploration before I've fully explored the area?  Why can't I go back to an area and explore it further to get things I missed?

Once you've exhausted your steps, your Mii sets up camp and you get a summary of what you found, including a second chance to check out any artifacts you found or pictures you took.

It's a neat game, but if you're not just buying all of them, you may wish to divert your funds towards one of the titles higher up on this list before buying this one.

Shit Tier

Ninja Launcher

The premise of this one is hilarious, which is unfortunate given that the actual game falls flat on its ass.  Your Mii is a ninja, who needs to defeat a monster on the other side of the screen.  To get to it, you're shooting your Mii out of a cannon.  During your Mii's flight, you can grab powerups to your weapon, helm, or armor to let you do things better.  The people you StreetPass will fly kites with these powerups attached, and before firing the cannon, you have to position them along the path your Mii will travel.  If it's done right, you get an awesome cutscene of your Mii powering up and then taking down the foe.

See those words?  "If it's done right"?  Yeah.  Let me talk about that, because there's the aforementioned critical problem that makes this game fall flat on its ass.

You don't get enough time to position the powerups.  Even though you get extra time for each Mii you StreetPassed, it's still not enough.  For the first two stages, you get a flight path guide that's immensely helpful, but then it goes away and the nightmare begins.  Good luck getting more than about five powerups on each cannon shot after that.  To make things worse, some locations are windy and will take valuable time making sure you can't position anyone just so they can have gusts of wind.  It's super annoying, and doesn't add to the gameplay one bit.

You know what else?  Once you fire your shot and get whatever result you get, that's it.  It's over.  The three games at the top of this list have some sort of extra content you can access and extend the gameplay beyond the "let's do things with the Miis you StreetPassed!" portion of the game, but the two down at this end of the list just end and that's it.  Mii Trek "just ending" when you run out of steps is reasonable, because you make camp at that point, which is completely plausible for an explorer to do.  But this one?  Let me buy longer cannon fuses, allow me to use play coins to get the shot path guide past the FIRST TWO STAGES OF THE GAME, maybe also an upgrade to make the Miis start out closer to having their kites in the shot's path?  I dunno.  It needs something to extend the gameplay, or just to make it better.

If you're buying the games from this bundle one by one, you may wish to give this one a miss.  It's definitely the turd of the bunch, which I guess makes sense given the tier name.

Overall

Three (or four) out of five ain't bad, right?  Plus, you can get one of those three (or four) for free.  Also, the Plaza 5.0 update has other features I haven't covered that are definitely worth updating for, so, there's that.