Whoah, a ton of cool stuff to discuss this week! First, as always, what I’ve been…
Jojo ep. 28: Oooh, this was nifty. After Risotto gets shot up, Abbachio prepares to use his Stand to play back time from 15 years ago in the area, to see who took the picture of Trish’s mom–that is to say, Doppio/The Boss. But before he does, the rest of the team wants to check out the battle that just happened. Risotto isn’t dead, and he sneakily lures Narancia’s airplane stand to attack Doppio–but Doppio’s been taken over by the Boss’s personality, so he uses King Crimson’s full power to erase the segment of time in which he would have been shot. Thus, Risotto just dies without taking the Boss with him.
The Boss is still very severely wounded, though, and might well die from his wounds, especially since King Crimson can only manipulate the future, and he was wounded in the past. Bucciarati and Narancia try to find Doppio, but since he’s so hurt, his breathing is too shallow to distinguish from other people and animals in the area. He thinks he’s found Doppio, but…
Oh, NO! It’s a random tourist kid Doppio ran into, drained of blood and with his mouth sown shut! Doppio apparently drained his blood to heal his wounds, or at least restore the iron in his body. Healed up, Doppio went down to the beach, blending in with some other tourist kids there, then, before Abbachio could use his stand’s replay power, the Boss’s King Crimson punches a hole straight through him and kills him in one strike! Oh, damn…I wasn’t expecting that! Abbachio…;_;
As he dies, Abbachio sees a vision of his partner…;_; The team rushes back to him, but it’s too late to save him, as Giorno can’t revive someone who’s already dead. Narancia is heartbroken and has to be held back from punching Giorno, but Abbachio left his friends one last gift–it turns out that his Stand finished the replay at the very moment he died, and left an imprint of Doppio’s face on a nearby stone pillar, allowing the team an idea of what their foe looks like! At least that’s something…
Oof…dang. Overall, now this was a good ep! The stand powers are still a little confusing–like, how could Doppio heal himself just by eating blood, and how did he sew up the kid’s mouth with the kid’s own shoelaces–but it seems like Araki (the original writer of the Jojo manga) is not afraid to kill even a main character in the most sudden and unexpected of ways, and the creators of the anime are staying true to that vision. Very cool!
One Punch Man Season 2 Episode 3: It starts off with the old martial artist dude from the first season, Bang, expelling one of his students (Charanko) for getting his butt kicked by training too easily. But then the kid wanders over to Saitama’s place (where King and Fubuki are just chilling too), saying Bang was acting strange, and it’s revealed that Garo used to be one of Bang’s disciples. Seems like Bang wanted to keep his disciple out of the way of a conflict.
So then Charanko tries to find Garo, who’s fighting with a bunch of muscledudes, and actually has trouble with one of them, but still has the upper hand (using the martial arts he learned from Bang) and then beats the crap out of them all, including Mumen Rider, who showed up to help! At least none of them are dead, though, since Saitama visits Mumen and another tanktop dude in the hospital later. There, Saitama learns more about Garo’s fighting style, and also gets an offer to replace the heavily injured Charanko in a martial arts tourney.
Bang and an older brother we haven’t seen before, Bomb, try to find Garo and stop his rampage, but not before he hunts down a lot of other heroes too. Though it seems Garo might have a soft side…he spends some time hanging around a little kid who’s reading a “hero guide” and talks nicely to the lad.
We see a bit more of Garo’s personality when he starts telling the kid monsters are cooler than heroes. The kid doesn’t agree, so he just tells him off, which Garo takes with surprisingly good humor. Then, while wandering around looking for more heroes to fight, Garo runs right into Saitama! He tries to take out our ultimate hero, but Saitama disables him with just one karate chop–in fact, Saitama doesn’t even realize he’s met the notorious Garo! The episode ends with the seemingly unstoppable villain losing consciousness, just like that. Not the funniest episode, as it doesn’t spend as much time poking fun at various hero tropes and stereotypes, but the fights were pretty cool, so I give this a yes 😀
Grr, Star had a little setback with some other things she’s working on (her PC got turned off while it was busy downloading something), so that caused a bit of delay. Guess the next ep will be out in May ;-;
Ooof…Bloodstained got a bit of bad news on Thursday 😦 It seems the Switch version is gonna be locked at 30 frames per second, not 60…that’s unfortunate ;_; They say we’ll have a bigger update next week, which will hopefully bring some better news, but even so, this is somewhat discouraging. Ah, well, no choice but to soldier on, at least from their perspective I suppose.
In better times, though, Dark Devotion came out! It’s essentially another “Dark Souls” like 2d sprite platformer, similar to Blasphemous, but with more customization at the cost of somewhat worse (or at least simpler) graphics. I only donated like 20 dollars, but that was enough to get me the game 😀 But overall…eh, Dark Devotion has some very good spritework, but the ideas behind it and their implementation are absolutely amateurish–you can tell these guys aren’t professionals, which it pains me a little to say as I was very enthusiastic about the game before its release.
Dark Devotion wears its Dark Souls influences on its sleeve–the statistics track how often you die and it takes place in a grim, bloody fantasy world where you dodge and attack with the same stamina bar, just as in the Souls/Bloodborne series of games. The problem is, the developers of Dark Devotion seem to have taken everything that made those games frustrating while removing much of what made them rewarding.
See, one of the elements contributing to the famous difficulty (and frustration factor) of the Soulsborne game is the penalty for death. In these games, souls (or blood echoes) are the resource you use to power up your character and buy equipment, gained from killing enemies. However, when you die, you lose all your souls, and usually have to regain them at the spot you died, which entails some risk (if you die again you lose them permanently). Thus, what you want to do is spend all your souls, whether on equipment or your character’s statistics, rather than hoard souls, which risks them. But the nice thing is, your equipment will remain in your inventory forever (with some exceptions), so there’s a sense in which progressing through the game poses no risk and can only improve your character–even if you lose souls when you die, you’ll keep all the cool weapons and armor you happen to find on your journey (or pilfer from dead enemies).
In Dark Devotion, however, character progression is almost the opposite. You gain a rough equivalent of souls from various foes you can use to give your protagonist buffs, and find permanent stat boosts in the form of magical monoliths in some of the levels, but your main strength comes from equipment. And most of the time, when you find a cool set of weapons or armor (the latter is particularly important, as unlike the Souls games, there’s no way to improve your HP aside from getting better armor), when you die, you lose it permanently!
Naturally, this makes the game a great deal less fun. In the Soulsborne games, the fact that you could never lose nice equipment meant that you had an incentive to keep playing no matter how tough things got or how risky the areas became. In Dark Devotion, on the other hand, losing all your nifty loot without any way to even store it safely after you die makes deaths considerably more discouraging, which is not an ideal trait for a “tee-hee, look how difficult our game is :3” type project. Now, to make this bearable, there are exceptions to this. You see, you change your equipment at the forge, located in the central hub of the game. Sometimes, enemies will drop glowing green armor or weapons, which gets stored at the Forge and which you can pick up easily after you die, as dying always sends you back to the main hub. Sounds good, right?
Well, that ties into the second annoyance with this game. Every time you not only die, but restart the game, you end up back at the hub, without your equipment, and need to visit the Forge, where the guy there will play a little animation giving you your stuff. And you need to do this EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. See, in the Soulsborne series, since your equipment stayed with you after your deaths (or after you shut the game off), you didn’t need to go back to the central hub or safe area every time you died or started playing again. You’d have all your equipment on you, so you could get straight back to adventuring IMMEDIATELY. But in Dark Devotion, you have to constantly select your loadout with the guy at the forge EVERY SINGLE TIME (to repeat myself). This is time-consuming, repetitive, annoying, and illustrates why the developers of this game would have been much better served to take the Souls approach (losing “money” when you die, but not equipment). What makes it even more annoying is how this happens even when you turn off the game. If you’re in the middle of a level and you’ve looted some nice stuff from enemies, but then you get a call or something and you need to stop, there’s no way to save your equipment–once you restart the game, you end up at the central hub/safezone again. You can teleport back to where you were, but you still have to talk to the Forge guy and watch him play his little animation. After the first 10 times it just gets tiresome as all hell, especially when you haven’t even died.
Second, there’s an element of RNG that makes Dark Devotion absolutely infuriating to play. One of the nice things about the Soulsborne games was that randomness didn’t play a huge role. Yes, enemies would have random chances to drop items, so you’d have to “grind” for a while to get good ones, but the combat itself wasn’t random at all. Every swing of your weapon would do the exact same damage on the same body part every time, and you would only gain status afflictions if you were hit by an enemy, trap, or used a cursed magic item. In Dark Devotion, however, there’s RPG style randomness when you’re actually fighting. Unless you have specific loadouts and get specific buffs, all of your attacks have a chance to miss and do virtually no damage. This wouldn’t be bad in a classic RPG where you can attack at a constant pace, but since Dark Devotion has a Souls-style stamina bar, you can leave yourself vulnerable at worst, or spend a lot of time recovering stamina at best, simply because your attacks kept missing (i.e you got unlucky). Even worse, sometimes you can get “diseases” or other afflictions simply by traveling room to room. There’s a particularly annoying one, “Frightened,” you get if you don’t kill all the monsters in a room before traveling to the next one. This makes it so you lose items randomly when you dodge. The really ridiculous thing about this is that avoiding enemies is a tried and true strategy in the Souls games which makes navigating the levels much easier once you know the placement of the foes and how to avoid them. In Dark Devotion, on the other hand, unless you want to lose your items you have to waste time fighting enemies whenever you encounter them, which is incredibly tiresome if you just want to get past the levels.
Third, the map is pretty bare-bones, which makes it nearly useless. For a game like this, a Symphony of the Night style map would have been very good, but as it is, you just receive a sort of vague outline of a room with symbols detailing whether or not it has teleporters, stat boost shrines, etc. Thus, it’s much much harder to navigate.
On that note, the level layout in general is pretty annoying. See, in Dark Devotion, much like the Souls games and Bloodborne, your character can’t jump up and down (the closest thing she has is a dodge across gaps, which sort of serves as a horizontal jump). This is very different from Blasphemous, where your character can jump around. What this means is that whenever you drop from a ledge or high area, you’re essentially locked in to your path and can’t get back up. Additionally, whenever you find a doorway to enter a new room, the door closes behind you and you can’t get back. There’s no backtracking, essentially. This is, as I implied, somewhat similar to Soulsborne games, but the thing is, the soulsborne games are 3d. Even if you progress through their areas in a somewhat linear fashion (i.e dropping off a ledge means you can’t get back up), the 3d environments are varied and engaging enough that it doesn’t feel so bad, and in any case, there are almost always things like elevators, shortcuts, etc. you can use to get back to a previous part of an area without returning to the hub entirely. But Dark Devotion is a 2d platformer, and its environments (though nice) just aren’t as compelling as a fully 3d world. And it doesn’t even have any of the backtracking options (elevators, shortcuts, etc.) the Soulsborne series has. Thus, if you want to explore alternate paths throughout the levels, you have to return to the main hub EVERY SINGLE TIME. Again, this becomes very repetitive, irritating, and boring.
There are a bunch of other minor things that make this game a chore to play. I’m all for “difficulty,” but every weapon, including heavy ones like greatswords and cudgels, has an extremely long windup period when you press the attack button (several frames worth), so even “fast” weapons like knives and small blades are so slow as to be useless. There are thankfully many checkpoints throughout the game, but you can’t teleport from one to one–only one teleporter can be active at a time, and to use that you need to go back to the hub; the sheer amount of time you have to spend backtracking is absolutely unforgivable in a game that takes inspiration from the Souls series, where coming back to explore different parts of the map you previously encountered is both encouraged and easy to do. Navigating the forge is also annoying. Whenever you get one of the aforementioned green item drops, you get a notification that “a new item has appeared in the Forge,” but if it’s a weapon or item it can be difficult to find. There are only 6 armors you can store at the forge, but 43 weapons and nearly 20 items, each in a single row–you have to scroll right for some time to get to all your shields and weapons, which is tiresome.
There are some good aspects of the game. The sprites, as I mentioned, are generally nice looking, though not nearly as good as those of Blasphemous. The controls are tight and there’s a pretty wide variety of weapons to equip, which is fun. But, unfortunately, the flaws I described above mean I have to give this game a negative review, despite how much I wanted to like it and how much I supported the devs on the Kickstarter comments. 😦 I’m not unhappy I backed this–given the tight controls, smoothness of the gameplay, and some legitimately good ideas that come from making a 2d sidescroller in a Soulsborne setting, but I can’t really recommend buying this now. Perhaps with the following suggestions:
Suggestions for the devs: Since you can’t change the “equipment is lost upon death” aspect of the game at the moment, and I don’t think you can add a jump functionality or improved map at this point, there are a few things that might make it less frustrating. Saving equipment loadouts on death so you respawn at the central hub with what you initially set out with could end up saving a lot of time for players. We’d only have to visit the Forge whenever we wanted to change our loadout instead of necessarily every time we died. Removing the ‘Frightened’ disease would also be nice. Adding some more organization to the Forge would also be really nice–maybe instead of having all the weapons, shields, and spellbooks in one row, separate them into their own little rows you could toggle with one of the trigger buttons.
BERSERK CHAPTER 358 IS OUT! W00000TTTT!!!! There seems to be a rough translation out already. Not much action in this chapter, for the most part its Griffith talking with his finance ministers about the military situation (his army is performing well against all sorts of crazy fantasy beasts) and the financial situation (since his kingdom has accepted so many refugees from all over the world, crime is starting to increase and the kingdom’s revenue may be strained). Ooof, similar to real-world concerns, but Griffith has a far-sighted plan: He supports his queen’s idea for orphanages, and indeed, believes instituting a strong schooling system along with a system of military service for newcomers will assimilate them and integrate them into the kingdom, which ensures their loyalty and increase financial revenue in the long run. Now that’s a nifty idea, though since we know how evil Griffith is in reality, he may have some sneaky ulterior motive ;o But the real shock comes at the end of the chapter–during the night of the full moon, Griffith’s normally white hair starts turning black, implying he might be the Moonlight Boy that Guts and Casca keep seeing around! Or maybe it’s something else…I dunno what, exactly, but this manga keeps delivering! It won’t be around in May, though…maybe another hiatus, or maybe Miura will put out another chappy in June. I hope so! ;_;
Nothin much this week, busy with games and Berserk 😀
On to next week! Hope there’s as much fun in the next as there is for this one…