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Messages - Grainofariver

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Single-Player RPGs / Re: A JRPG About BOOBS!
« on: July 13, 2018, 10:20:27 PM »
Why am I reminded of the guy who went to jail for teaching his dog the Hitler salute in terms of serious topics being brought up over the most silly things?

I hate censorship, but at the end of the day it feels like a pointless argument because the morality of the issue is irrelevant: it's just business. I'd argue that video game censorship never has anything to do with morals. In this case I'm convinced Sony doesn't care about the morality regarding the game's content, they just don't want the bad PR that might come with it.

I feel I should expand a bit. I've argued frequently about why I hate censorship, but after so many years it feels like such a futile debate. Even if I managed to convince someone on the internet (HAH), it won't change the minds of the people making the decisions. It feels like we're just a bunch of people bickering in an arena while the publishing overlords watch. Our arguments mean nothing to them as long as the game sells. And hey, if they feel that leaving the next game unchanged won't affect sales, why not boast about how it's uncensored so that you look like the good guy?

I'm not going to pretend like it's just video games. As I get older I look around and see the same controversies played out over and over. It's so exhausting, and ultimately feels completely meaningless. I just try my best to support the people/businesses/products that I think are doing a good job, and try (try, try, try, and many times fail) to ignore the rest.

This game is so hilarious. I have to share a sequence of scenes from the early game, because I just busted a gut. I'm less than five hours in, so nothing I'm about to say will be a spoiler.

Yuma and his team are fighting an ice dragon. Battle goes well, ice dragon drops like a brick, but in the next cutscene the Empress plays her flute lance (god bless Japan) and the dragon is fine. Despite being perfectly positioned to fight it again (and again and again), everyone in the party panics. Then a mysterious man with a katana shows up and hits the dragon multiple times for 9999 damage per-hit. The enemy flees, we flee, and everything is daijobu... until katana-man turns his sword on Yuma and demands that he show him the Shining Dragon. Yuma is too much of a coward, and is nearly killed until a random red-haired guy saves him. Next we fight katana-man, who by the magic of plot is now level 19 and barely hits harder than a standard enemy. I select Yuma, instantly turn into a dragon, and stomp his face in.

Queue several scenes of Yuma winging about not turning into a dragon when Katana-man attacked him.

I laughed. I laughed so hard. See, ludonarrative dissonance bothered me in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 because that game's story had a lot of potential. Even if they told the same story with a few tweaks, it could have been a really enjoyable -- if slightly predictable -- experience. But Shining Resonance? I'll be happy if the characters evolve beyond pandering arch-types. The same can be said of combat. I'm harsh on Tales because I think Tales not only tries to do more, but could reach that point if they really work at it. Shining Resonance's combat is... okay. It's so simplistic that I can't even criticise it.

I got this game expecting something mediocre, and I'm getting exactly that. Somehow, it just makes for a delightful experience, if not a particularly fulfilling one.

Single-Player RPGs / Re: Ys VIII
« on: July 12, 2018, 10:12:53 PM »
I can't do it anymore. After seven hours (irony) I'm so bored with Ys: Seven. Why did they replace the quickly-charging mana system with this? 90% of the game is just spamming standard attacks, where everything moves at a pace I can barely describe as 'clipped'. Most dungeons have just been circles and squares connected by walkways. Approach a circle, enemies spawn, select whoever counters them, spam attack and roll, move on.

I'm not saying this new way is without merits: some of the camera angles do a great job of showing off locations (the approach to the wind dungeon, for example, was neat). If the futility of the plot doesn't bother you, then there's probably something to be gained from giving it more room. The skill system isn't bad: had they mixed it with the old mana system or a hyper sped-up version of what they have now, it could've been pretty neat.

All in all I feel like I'm playing a faster-paced Diablo-clone, and it's just not for me.

Music is still pretty good. No Scarlet Tempest, but eh, I'm a simple man.

Maybe you're better than you think you are. No need for humility here friend: god knows I have none.

Excepting a few choice battles Tales has never been the most challenging of series, even on higher difficulties. I'm okay with that: just as a hard game shouldn't need to compromise its difficulty for the sake of accessibility, nor should every game need to demand my very best. I don't want Tales to be 'hard' in the sense that I die several times, but to be 'challenging' in the sense that I can feel some kind of satisfaction for winning battles.

On a side note, difficulty settings that do more than just give enemies more health would be neat. Lower difficulties make for slower enemies and longer hit-stun. The more you up the difficulty, the more aggressive enemies get and the shorter they remain stunned. And while I'm dreaming, throw a turbo mode that speeds everything up by 20%, because none of this will happen anyway.

I'll just say that I'm terrible at reading opponents moves, getting proper timing and countering enemy moves. Its why I suck at fighting games and avoid them so I'm quite happy to see tales games move away from that. Yeah, Beseria is quite a button masher but theres still depth to the gameplay on higher difficulty. The less I have to worry about proper timing the better.
Thing is, on harder difficulties you kinda HAVE to be able to side-step and dodge. Healing is so reliant on break souls that you're gonna get annihilated if you don't avoid a healthy number of attacks. Given Graces' and Berseria's popularity I don't think this is the direction they're moving away from, but rather something we're gonna be seeing a lot more of. Personally I don't care: I like JRPGs and action games, so I'm fine either way. What bothers me is this in-between where neither aspect feels rewarding.

For example, party composition in Berseria was a complete joke. Since every character was designed to be competent on their own (a good trait from an action perspective!), it also means that the only character that matters is the one you chose. I played Berseria cycling party members out with each dungeon just to see different post-battle skits, and never noticed a difference in combat. Combined with the reduced significance of levels and skills/stats being tied to a god-awful equipment system (nevermind the RNG of random skills, why the HELL do I want to invest in upgrading a weapon a bunch of times when I know I'll find a new one in the next friggin' town!), it just felt really lame as an RPG

Unfortunately it didn't fare much better as an action game. All the environments are empty squares and circles, combos are limited by a stupid resource system, teammates can distract half the enemies in a battle, and this system of 'comboing' turns most enemies into sand-bags. Action-games are all about finding unique ways of challenging the player, but these elements -- inherited from older games -- keeps Berseria from providing the kind of engaging encounters I've come to expect from the best in the genre.

I don't care if they go back to the older style or not: I just want them to create something that can make combat feel rewarding again. Nier: Automata, Ys, Dark Souls 1... each of these games took a different approach to balancing their action elements and RPG elements, and in my opinion each one did so in a much, much better way than modern Tales.

The big downside for me with Beseria is the Dungeon design. Very bland with too many enemies, I don't bother to fight everything. Theres not much reward in doing so either. Its just a waste of time.
With you 100% there. This is my single biggest problem with the post-Xillia games. I complain about the combat, but I'd much rather see this fixed. Contrary to what I've typed up here, Berseria really is my third favourite in the series due mostly to the characters, but it might be higher if not for the terrible environments. The thing I enjoy most about Tales is the adventure, so when that takes you through bland field and bland cave, it's a bit of a damper on the overall experience.

General Discussions / Re: Completion List 2018
« on: July 11, 2018, 03:06:15 AM »
I'll never understand the apparent disdain a lot of people seem to have for the 360. I bought mine new, and it lasted me roughly 10 years, with absolutely zero issues.
Well lucky you. I personally had bought mine new, and had to get it either replaced or fixed more times than any other console.
Right there with you. $400 for the console, $300 for repairs because the stupid thing always broke within weeks of the warranty expiring. I remember the last time it happened was right when they announced the slim. "No really guys, this one won't break!"


Then the thing they sent me back must have an extra fan in it or something, because it's so freaking loud it literally -- lit-er-a-lly -- drowns out the sounds of most games on my default volume. I had to borrow (and eventually just wound up keeping, since he didn't want it back) my friend's when I re-played Vesperia last year.

I'm glad you've never had any trouble Frost: I would never wish this crap on anyone. That said, unless Sony really screws it up, PC/Playstation (and I guess Nintendo when they release a not-stupid console) are it for me. Who knows though, Sony has gotten a really fat head the past few months.

Also I guess I should add that I beat DMC3 again on PC this time. I re-bought the HD collection during the Steam sale because my poor PS3 controller is on its last legs. New PS3 controllers are surprisingly expensive at this point, so while I can't afford that, I can drop 20 bucks to spare it more suffering.

- edit -
Adding a few games:

Radiant Histoira: How the hell did I forget this? I guess I just wrote it as an instant classic in my mind despite playing it for the first time with Perfect Chronology. Sod all the new stuff they added: it's Atlus' general approach to re-releases by adding a bunch of inane crap to utterly cock up the original feel and tone. The core game is effing brilliant though, and the type that reminds me why I love JRPGs to begin with.

Shovel Knight: I don't usually go for Mega Man -- nothing against it, just not really my thing. It's a testament to Shovel Knight that I actually finished it, though I'd say a lot of that can be chalked up to frequent check-points and playing it on my 3DS. It wasn't as hard as I was expecting, though the last 3 stages count for over half of my deaths. Good game.

Hotline Miami: Oh my god this was so much fun. I'm so glad I'm an 'anything goes' type of guy, because the violence in this game borders on being so senseless that it'd be hard to justify any other way. The gameplay is just a blast, and surprisingly feels more like a puzzle game than anything else. Already going through it again, just for the thrill.

Shining Resonance: See post.

Kingdom Hearts: This started as something I was doing with a friend, but after the first 5 hours I just let him keep the controller while I played Shovel Knight. 'Dated' is probably the most fair way to describe the gameplay. On the story front, two things really surprise me: First, there's actually very little plot it in the first game, and second, the original characters are far-and-away the best part, both ironically and unironically. I know a huge part of the premise is getting to explore Disney worlds, but since the Disney characters can't grow, develop, change, or do anything to subvert or challenge what you already know from the movies, they wind up incredibly boring. In the end, it's the original characters that do anything relevant or interesting, so their general absence beyond the first and final few hours makes the bulk of the game feel like padding.

We embarked on this adventure to understand the hype this series generates, and after completing the first game, neither of us are any the wiser. Supposedly 2 is a huge improvement, so final judgement remains on hold.

Single-Player RPGs / Re: Ys VIII
« on: July 09, 2018, 06:26:22 AM »
Is it weird if I'm coming to the conclusion that Ys: Seven plays more like a Seiken Densetsu game than a Ys game? I've only played SD 1, 2 and 3, but I get more vibes from those games than I do Ys vibes.

Okay Kevadu, I think I had a massive revelation, so hear me out.

I don't mean to suggest that all action games should be combo-centric, but for Tales combos are the bread-and-butter of your offense. They are really the only way to deal damage to an enemy, so the longer the combo, the more damage is done. This especially true in Graces, Zestiria and Berseria, where the damage bonuses for hitting weaknesses becomes a necessity on higher difficulties. If you can't string together a decent combo that hits all of those weaknesses, you're gonna have a bad time.

But here's the thing I realised -- the thing I kinda kept hinting at, but doing so clumsily because I didn't fully understand it: a 'combo' in Tales and a 'combo' in most action games are not the same thing. In most action games, a 'combo' only ends if you stop attacking for an extended period of time or you take damage. In Tales, a combo is defined exclusively by whether or not an enemy is stunned.

I think this is because the limited mobility in older games meant that the player needed more time to react to enemies. Since there was no intended way to cancel out of attack animations, sending a clear message to the player that the enemy was able to attack became really important. Stunned, keep attacking. Not stunned, attack at your own risk.

But with side-stepping, mobility has greatly improved. This sharp contrast between attack and defense is, in my opinion, no longer necessary. Some hit-stun is expected, but an enemy should be able to break out of it and retaliate. If the player reads this and side-steps at the right time, they can avoid damage and position themselves to resume their 'combo' (a.k.a. offense).

 CC/SC/SG (and other limits) exist because Tales is so reliant on hit-stun to define 'combos' (and thus the player's offense), but this way you don't need them: the better you can read and react to enemies, the longer you can maintain your combo. The precision you talk about still exists, and the player is still rewarded for skilled defensive play. It seems to me a much more natural way of merging the defensive/offensive sides of battle.

General Discussions / Re: Completion List 2018
« on: July 07, 2018, 04:17:49 AM »
10) Tales of Vesperia - 360 - 57 hours. Great game, 2nd best tales after Eternia. But the real story is that I finally get to chuck my old and busted Xbox 360.

YES, I am RIGHT there with you! Vesperia and Dead Rising are the only reason I keep the thing, and blessed heavens, I can finally, FINALLY get rid of it! Cost me $700 between initial costs and all the repairs... never again Microsoft: NEVER AGAIN.

I don't really wanna do this, it's gonna raise a LOT of questions... buuuuut for 2018 so far I've got...

1) Persona 5 playthrough 2
2) Xenoblade Chronicles 2
3) Trails of Cold Steel 1 playthrough 2
4) Turok 1 playthrough 3
5) Baldur's Gate 1
6) Dragon Age: Origins playthrough 2
7) Pillars of Eternity 1
8) Pillars of Eternity 2
9) Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow playthrough seven-thousand
10) Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow playthrough 12-ish
11) Castlevania: Symphony of the night playthrough 3
12) Castlevania: Circle of the Moon playthrough 2
13/14) Dark Souls: Remastered twice (once alone, once co-op, never again)
15) Devil May Cry 3
16) Bayonetta 1
17) DmC: Devil May Cry (trading off per-level with a friend, DLC included)
18) Devil May Cry 4
19/20) Bayonetta 2 (twice, once on normal, once on hard)
21) Tales of Berseria co-op run
22) Tales of the Abyss co-op run
23) Ys I
24) Ys II
25) Kirby's Return to Dreamland 2nd co-op on hard

And I'm sure there's some other things I'm forgetting or lying to myself about...

Single-Player RPGs / Re: Ys VIII
« on: July 06, 2018, 12:32:15 AM »
The rules say not to necro, but also that it's pretty laid back. Considering I tend to be cynical, sarcastic, and hyper-critical, I'm guessing I'm not exactly a popular person (*cough* overly-long, overly-sarcastic Xenoblade 2 post *cough*) (I regret nothing), so I generally try to be a good boy.

Thanks for clearing that up. From what I gathered little seems to have changed between Seven, Celceta and VIII, but I wanted a direct confirmation. Seven is a good game, but it's not really fulfilling what I enjoyed about the older ones. The greater focus on story falls flat for me due to the knowledge that, come the end of the game, Adol will sail-away completely unchanged (which is why the lack of Adol made Origin pretty engaging imo). The combat may lack the same frenetic fun, but it's still pretty enjoyable. I'm just not really sure what the party system adds aside from the need to hit circle a few times to kill certain enemies.

These are nit-picks and I don't want to sound down on Seven. Falcom is changing up the formula (not a bad thing), and from the sounds of it VIII did pretty well critically. No idea how it did commercially, but that's on NISA...

Single-Player RPGs / Re: Ys VIII
« on: July 05, 2018, 06:12:35 PM »
I'm hoping that necroing this thread for a question is preferable to creating an entirely new thread. If I'm wrong about that, I apologise.

After years of reluctance I've finally gotten around to Ys: Seven. I've avoided it because the things I enjoy most about Oath and Origin are the fast gameplay and short length. They're wonderfuly focused action games with very little 'fluff' -- the perfect type of thing to play between longer, slower paced games. Thus when they transitioned towards longer, slower paced games, I can't say I was all that excited. But everything deserves a fair shot at some point!

Which brings me to my question: do party members ever do much in combat, either in this game or later entries? After a few hours I've noticed they rarely attack, only have passive support abilities, and can't take damage, which results in 98% of the fighting falling on whomever you are currently controlling. While this isn't a negative for an action-heavy game, it makes me wonder what is gained by their presence (outside of the story). If Adol could equip three different weapon types, each with its own set of skills, passive buffs, and properties, would it not be a mostly identical experience?

Oh hey, its the TP or not TP debate again.
Noooooooooooooo! I specifically mentioned that it was not this because I don't want this to devolve into another TS v TD argument! I mention Abyss and Vesperia ONLY as references to how the series was once more reliant on stats and traditional JRPG mechanics, not as comparisons of their resource systems. You can look at past TD games for more RPG heavy systems too, but as none of them were translated, I haven't been able to play them (aside from about 5 hours of Rebirth), and therefor am not able to include them in this analysis.

FWIW I genuinely miss the old-school fighting-game styled camera more than the resource associated with it, but I think that's another thing that we'll never see again.

(I'm not really upset, I just greatly fear this would get turned into a TS v TD debate when that's absolutely not what I'm trying to say)

But let's get back to Tales of Graces.  Yes it has combos (and they could actually be rather long combos if you did it right) but it also has some of the elements I appreciated in a game like Virtual On.  Not a lot of faking out an opponent when you're fighting an AI I'm afraid but there still was a good amount of trying to read their moves and counter and punish them. 
The more I read this and think about it, the less I see it as a counter to my point. My post was never against the defensive half of Graces (or Zesteria/Berseria), but rather how the reactive-based defensive half didn't mesh with the RPG-based offensive one. I wasn't suggesting that they go back to the old way. In fact, I made no suggestions whatsoever other than the removal of stamina and to prop up Nier: Automata as an example of a better mesh of this type of hybrid gameplay.

If they DO opt to continue with this reactive-style defense, they absolutely should keep these elements -- in fact they should improve on them, because I feel enemy AI is severely lacking. However it needs to be accompanied by a complementary offensive system which isn't so rigidly limited by RPG mechanics.

I take issue with the very premise of your argument that stringing together long combos is somehow the defining characteristic of what makes a good action game, or that they are somehow necessary for the player to dictate the flow of the game.
I never said that. I said that Tales was moving toward a combo-heavy styled action game. The emphasis on combos in Tales has grown ever since Symphonia (excluding Rebirth). This is obvious not only by the addition of mechanics which allow more freedom for comboing (Team Symphonia's gradual combo-extension skills, Xillia's free-chaining, etc.), but also the fact that the game literally gives you bonus experience based on your combo. Even grade rewards you for bigger combos.

Also I also never said that combos are necessary to dictating the flow of the game, only that a stamina meter inhibits it, which it inevitably does. Run out of CC/SC/SG and you are forced to go on the defensive. No amount of skill or technique will ever allow you to permanently remain on the offense. Ergo the flow of battle is not dictated by the player, but by the stamina bar.
BS.  One of my favorite 'fighting games' (using that term loosely) of all time, Virtual On, didn't even have combos.  Seriously, if your oponent takes more than a minor hit they would be knocked down and made temporarily invulnerable.  There was literally no way to pull off combos in that game.  Must be hard to dictate the flow of battle, right?  Far from it, that game was entirely about battle flow.  Being able to herd your opponent, anticipate their moves, feints, etc.  It was actually quite intense even when not a single hit was landing.
So it's not a combo heavy action game. That's fine. There are tons of games like that. Heck, Dark Souls is like that, and I love that game. But again, this is Tales, and Tales has been pushing more combo-heavy play for the past several games.
But let's get back to Tales of Graces.  Yes it has combos (and they could actually be rather long combos if you did it right) but it also has some of the elements I appreciated in a game like Virtual On.  Not a lot of faking out an opponent when you're fighting an AI I'm afraid but there still was a good amount of trying to read their moves and counter and punish them.  Sorry but the Tales games you praise such as Vesperia just felt like button mashers to me.  Graces was much more precise and technical.
But that's the problem: only the defensive aspect is more precise and technical. If you dodge every single attack perfectly, you can be literally invincible. In other words, the only limit to your defensive capabilities is your skill (as I said).  Your offensive capability, on the other hand, is not equally rewarded. Rather, no matter how well you play offensively, you will inevitably run out of stamina , ending your combo and putting you on the defensive. No amount of skill can prevent this.
And the CC meter fits nicely into that.  It was never difficult to recover CC and if you played the game correctly it really didn't slow things down.  But it did force you to have to play the game correctly.  Dodging, countering, exploiting weaknesses, etc.  If you did things right you got your CC back almost immediately.  If you screwed up...well, then you had to wait a bit for it to recharge.  But I think that's a fair penalty for screwing up.
This is where I call BS. No matter how well you played, you inevitably had to wait for CC to recharge. It was not a penalty, it was forced on the player regardless of what they did, which is my overall problem. I think if there was a system by which skilled OFFENSIVE play COULD consistently and reliably regenerate stamina, I might not take so much issue with it (though I'd definitely question why you'd even bother with stamina at this point).

I've always had a problem with CC ever since I first played Graces back in the day, and I have never, ever been able to articulate why. Lately I've been playing a bunch of action games, I think finally I can articulate (after literal years) why this resource system bothers me so much. After writing it down and running through it a few times, I want to post it here and get some feedback. Apologies for the length.

Stamina in Tales is indicative of the conflict between returning RPG elements and the greater emphasis that newer games place on action. Having not played Destiny DC, I'm approaching this from the perspective of Graces, Zestiria and Berseria, all played on higher difficulties. Please note that I'm not saying, implying, or in any way giving a single care as to whether or not TP is the superior resource: this is solely a look at stamina.

So before we really get into stamina, it's important to first look at what is arguably the biggest change to the series since free-run: side-stepping. Side-stepping is so noteworthy for how it heavily angles the gameplay more towards a pure action game by relying on a your physical reaction rather than a stat. Where once the focus was on damage mitigation through defence-stats and blocking, the series now emphasises perfectly timed dodging. Where once you could have a dedicated healer playing support, the effectiveness of healing spells has diminished significantly with each new release.

This is where the contradiction arises: Tales is clearly pushing the player towards a more combo-heavy action-game style of play, yet restricts it through the inclusion of a number of RPG elements. It allows your defensive capabilities to be limited only by physical skill and reaction, yet your offensive capabilities are limited by an RPG-styled resource system: stamina (CC/SC/SG). As if having stamina wasn't bad enough, extending your stamina requires dabbling in micro-management heavy equipment systems like Graces' dualising or Berseria's upgrading. Ultimately my defensive capacity reflective of (and rewarded by) my physical ability, but my offensive capacity is so heavily tied to (and rewarded by) my management of equipment.

Why is this bad? Well any action game worth its salt allows the player to dictate the flow of battle through their skill. The better one understands their own abilities and those of the enemies, the more aggressive they can be. Games like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta -- the peak of the combo-heavy action game -- exemplify this. With enough skill, bosses can be downed in a single ceaseless assault. By contrast, no matter how skilled a Tales player is (or how well they manage their equipment), they will inevitably run out of stamina.

The interesting thing is, it's not like the two must be mutually exclusive. Nier: Automata is a combo-heavy ARPG, yet it combined the action game elements and RPG elements very well. The player's physical skill is always rewarded, yet it featured levels, stats, and the chip system which affected the way you play the game. Best of all, the flow of combat is always controlled by the player, thanks to the lack of a stamina meter.

Now I'm not suggesting that Tales needs to copy Platinum Games. There are a dozen different approaches they could take. For years Tales has been a solid JRPG, but as it moves more fully into the realm of the ARPG (with an emphasis on action), I hope it can draw inspiration from other games which have tread this path before. I enjoy Abyss and Vesperia as RPGs, but for me Graces, Zestiria and Berseria feel like sub-par action games. A big first step to fixing this is to get rid of that stamina meter.

I mean, at the end of the day it seems a bit pointless since most of these games warp you back to the last possible save-state anyway (i.e. the Poke Centre or church), so it's really a question of whether or not you think the XP earned from the trip is worth half of your money, because otherwise you'll just reload the game. This is made even sillier in games like SMT4 and Pokemon where you can save anywhere, rendering the whole thing moot. SMT4:A even got rid of the monetary penalty, and since 4 WOULD just plop you back where you died, death became meaningless beyond boss encounters.

The only way it really carries any weight is if you are able to return to the spot where you died OR the game auto-saves, forcing you to live with it. Dark Souls auto-saves, so most people think of the punishment as the lost of your souls. Personally I could give a toss: I just hate having to start back at the bonfire. I'd trade permanently losing my souls on death for not having to run to the boss room between every single attempt. In my eyes it's enough of a punishment that I cannot progress the game until I beat the boss, so making me waste a few minutes between each attempt is just that: a waste of time.

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