Random gaming thoughts

Jeez, has it already been twelve days since my last post? Oh, how time flies. I'm both super-duper busy and really tired these days, a combination that's hardly conducive to long and productive gaming sessions. At times like these, I would normally take it easy and fall back on Visual Novels; but alas, I have none to play these days. I'm so desperate for a VN that I tried playing Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom on the PSP, despite the fact that my first brush with the series on the Vita ended up with an aborted playthrough after mere minutes of play. There was no miracle this time around either: I gave up after an excruciating hour of plodding through what was probably the most boring dialogue I've ever endured in an otome. I kid you not: that game totally sucked my life energy. Then I tried Muv-Luv, despite knowing a good portion of the plot; but the ugly character design and dumb immature dialogue were too much to bear, and I gave up. I'll try it later, I promise; but right now, this is definitely not what I need. Replaying old VNs is out of the question, because I remember all of them way too well; and I simply don't have enough mental energy to dive into Point and Clicks à la Danganronpa or 999.

So here I am, stuck in virtual (non)gaming limbo, in a period where I'm making drastic changes to my life. What better time, then, to take stock of my gaming accomplishments and ponder what direction I want to sail towards in the next years? None, indeed! Gaming per se will undoubtedly follow me wherever I go, so there's nothing to ponder there; collecting, on the other hand... Now that's a whole other can of worms.

Let's face it: I've grown increasingly bored of collecting in the past two years. My Collector's Delight and Coveted Games posts have gotten scarcer and scarcer until disappearing entirely, along with my purchases of collector treats such as Special Editions. Collecting, which used to be an immense source of joy, has slowly but surely turned into a chore of sorts. My current dissatisfaction with all things collecting stems from two main reasons:

  • Being a game collector just takes up way too much space — like, physical space. I hate cluttering and item overabundance; and thus the mammoth number of games currently lounging on my shelves makes me feel seriously restless. So much useless plastic, so much room taken! 
  • Most importantly, I've gotten over the fetishist side of collecting — the whole 'sniffing booklets and gazing at box art' shebang. I used to be the most hardcore game manual aficionado, prizing those booklets like they were holy scriptures; nowadays, not only are there no more gaming manuals to cherish in brand-new physical games, but I know RPG mechanics so darn well that I don't even need manuals. In fact, the last times I tried to read the booklet before playing a game, I grew bored and dropped it after two pages. As for box art, it's always the same anime-ish crap anyway — so much so that my sister, who doesn't play RPGs at all, can identify the games I covet in a display rack solely by looking at boxes. Totally true story. 

In a nutshell: I've become blasé about the useless fluff that surrounds game cartridges. I was always in for the gameplay, for the games themselves; and I bought them physical first and foremost for the sake of perennity. Whatever pleasure I derived from satellite elements such as booklets and box art is long gone, and there's no telling if it will ever come back. And thus I've taken a momentous decision: I'm going to throw away all boxes and booklets, and hold solely onto cartridges and UMDs.

Rest assured, dear fellow gamers, that this is by no means a rash and sudden decision. In fact, I've been pondering that move for months now. I want to simplify things, to go back to the sheer pleasure of the gameplay experience, without any interference. And I already have a preview of what a cartridge-only collection might feel like, which is none other than my GBA/Game Boy library. That library is solely composed of bare cartridges without the slightest trace of a booklet or an original box; and yet, I love and enjoy those games no less than my boxed ones. I'm ready for that major step, and I'm gonna take it, one game at a time.

Then, there's the matter of the Switch Lite and Pokemon Sword&Shield. I'm getting seriously hyped up about those games — there, I said it. A limited Pokedex was never an issue for the serial Pokemon solo runner I am, and I totally dig the idea of a Pokemon region inspired by England. And then you have Galar Ponyta, who's tugging at my heartstrings like crazy. See, I'm kind of a closeted Brony: I owned a couple of Little Ponies as a kid and have the fondest memories of crafting all sorts of adventurous stories around them. And Galar Ponyta looks insanely like a '90s Little Pony, which triggers all sorts of nostalgia attacks in me. I want to run solo with him! I have to!

And since I'm mentioning Pokemon solo runs, I'm currently wrapping up one of these — because when you're low on gaming juice and want to play something low-maintenance, Pokemon is the next best thing to a VN indeed. I'll see you soon for the inevitable run report, dear fellow gamers!


Persona Q2 - New Cinema Labyrinth: Final thoughts

This time, I'm done for good! And with hindsight, I might as well have abstained from going all the way to the final boss. Sure, crawling the last labyrinth was oddles of fun, especially after I snatched those SP and HP replenishing skills I mentioned in my last post; however, the final showdown was a major pain in the arse that left me with a sour taste in the mouth. Being forced to polish off a preliminary boss rush before I could even engage the final boss was already galling enough; but that was nothing compared to the final boss itself, which was such a massive overpowered HP bag it was not even funny. With the Safety setting firmly in place, that ultimate fight was a mere battle of attrition as far as I was concerned; but being able to rise from the dead after my whole party was slaughtered — which happened twice during the fight — didn't make the whole thing less unpleasant. That fight was a bore and a chore, with battle animations lasting forever and no strategic challenge apart from trying to wrap up the fight in less than one hour. Not that I would have wanted to change the difficulty setting to make things more challenging, mind you: that boss is so utterly OP that I cannot even begin to fathom how to beat it on regular difficulty — nor do I ever want to try. But let's see the positive side of things: I now have a Clear Game save that will grant me New Game + benefits if I play PQ2 again! And before I part with that game, let's go for a good ol' Pros&Cons list, shall we?

The Good:

  • The fighting system — or, to be more precise, the Boost and All-out Attack features. So deliciously OP, so ridiculously satisfying! Being able to wrap up fights in a single turn with a glorious animation as the finishing touch is just the stuff dazzling RPG combat dreams are made of. Fun fact: it took me several hours of play to notice that All-out Attacks were linked to Boost — but you can bet your arse that once I noticed it, I indulged in triggering All-outs like it was going out of fashion. Heck, I didn't even bother fighting and simply ran away when All-outing was not possible — that's how hooked on the whole thing I was. 
  • The Persona 5 cast: I though I could not love them more, but that was before learning that Joker's design was inspired by a black panther. Seriously? Now you're really tugging at my heartstrings, Atlus. Long story short: I adore that crew, I want to handle them again, and I already made arrangements to borrow my brother-in-law's PS3 to play the original Persona 5. Oh, and I'm sure as heck buying the upcoming Persona 5 remake-slash-reinterpretation for my future Switch.

The Bad:

  • Labyrinths were frigging hideous. They didn't even have the barren charm of old-fashioned budget FPDCs à la The Lost Child; you could feel that the developers put some effort into trying to make them look good yet failed entirely. The fourth labyrinth was a particularly low point, with its garish colours and ugly contraptions — I swear I nearly gave up to spare my poor retinas. Seriously, the labyrinths from the first Etrian Odyssey were prettier, lusher and more evocative, and that was twelve years and one console generation ago. Granted, the fifth labyrinth was much more palatable; but alas, it was pretty much a case of 'too little, too late' at that point.
  • Too much Persona megaverse-ish fan service. I know that's the entire point of the Persona Q series, but still... The whole thing could have been handled better, methinks. There were too many cutscenes that existed for the sole purpose of making cast members from different entries bond or butt heads, and the game tried way too hard to draw parallels between said cast members. The last thing I need to have planted in my head before I dive in the canon Persona series is the notion that each entry shamelessly recycles the same character tropes, thank you very much. 

The Ugly:

  • The fifth labyrinth and final showdown are entirely pointless. Not only do they feel like some sort of bastardized postgame butting in before its time, but they also somewhat undermine the impact of the preceding epopee. (Spoilers!) Helping Hikari overcome her psychological hurdles was deeply satisfying, and Doe would have been a perfect final boss to wrap up the game. Having to beat HP bag Nagi to rescue a whole posse of faceless lost souls I didn't even get to interact with was complete overkill: there was no more mystery to uncover, and no attachment whatsoever to these people I was supposedly fighting for. (End of spoilers) If I ever replay PQ2, I'll definitely stop at the end of the fourth labyrinth like I initially planned. 

 All in all, it was a darn good game. It made me want to play both the canon Persona series and some genuine FPDC — the kind that leaves you alone with (and in) the dungeons, with no interruption, handholding or cutscenes whatsoever. Should I play one of the two right now? My gaming instinct will run the show, as always!