Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I went full-on casual in Pokemon, and I loved every minute of it

As anyone who's ever checked a Pokédex can tell you, Pokemon is a game that you can enjoy in two totally different ways.

Play through the main story - what you might call easy mode - and you can play pretty much however you'd like, so long as you have a basic understanding of the Type Chart that governs the basics of Pokemon match-ups. Water over Fire, Fire over Grass... that sort of thing.

Outside of the main story, however, lies the world of competitive Pokemon play.

This grim realm is governed by hidden stats and complex equations, and there's no whimsy or joy to be found here. Players spend weeks hashing out ideal strategies, and invest even more time breeding the perfect, most eugenically pure 'mon possible. In this version of Pokemon, a single percentage point between two otherwise identical Pikachus can spell the difference between victory and defeat.

This is, inarguably, hard mode. This is where the "real" Pokemon players live. And this, oddly, is a side of the game that holds absolutely no appeal for me.

And that's not for a lack of patience or understanding of RPG mechanics. I spent roughly four years in Final Fantasy XI and was part of a pretty elite endgame Linkshell for the better part of my last year in game. I've sunk well over 150 hours into Fire Emblem: Awakening, soft-reset Shin Megami Tensei IV 125 times to fuse Jeanne d'Arc, and spent a solid week of theorycrafting on how to score the most damage with an ablinked attack in Bravely Default.

Suffice it to say that I'm no slouch when it comes to understanding the careful manipulation and exploitation of a game's finer points. And I came close - precipitously close - to falling into the world of Pokemon's hardcore competitive mode.

But I stayed strong, I embraced my inner casual, and I loved it.

And I owe it all to this sassy lady right here:

That's right, Gothitelle - a Pokemon that actually has some strong potential for tournament play.

But I didn't know that when I first found her.  My party lacked any sort of psychic-type Pokemon, her secondary form was kinda cutesy, and so I stuck her in a box with the intention of levelling her up at some point.

That point came about 120 hours in to Pokemon Y, long after I had stomped my way through the Champion's League and entered the endgame.

My party was, by the most charitable standards, casual - but even I realized it lacked a designated Psychic-type to cover rare situations where it was needed. After benching my level 98 starter (team Chestpin, ftw!) to make room for Gothitelle, I pulled out every trick, exploit, and rare candy I could find to level her up quickly.

Shortly into this madcap campaign, I quickly noticed that her Special Attack wasn't packing the punch it should have. Knowing, dimly, that a Pokemon's nature could affect its stats and stat growth, I went in to see what the problem might be and - sure enough - she was a Careful.

To Poké-nerd out for a second here: a nature gives each Pokemon a 10% bonus to one of their five stats while applying a 10% penalty to another. Thus, a nature that's lined up to help an Attack stat of, say, 200 would raise it to 220 while a nature aligned against the same Attack stat would effectively lower it to 180.

Natures are assigned to a Pokemon when they're found in-game, whether bred or captured, and once assigned they can't be changed. Natures, then, can be pretty important to a Pokemon's overall performance, and my Gothitelle's was one that inhibited her most important stat - Special Attack.

She was, in MMO parlance, gimp.  Perhaps even gimpsauce given the circumstances.

So I did what any dedicated RPG enthusiast would do - I went to the area where I first captured her and set about grinding through random encounters until I caught 10 or so more other Gothoritas in the hope of finding one with a better nature.

Gimpery, thy name is my Careful Gothitelle

My first round of 10 yielded slightly better natures, but none that enhanced their Special Attack. I spent roughly two hours capturing more Gothoritas in the area until I finally caught one that had a Quiet nature.

Not ideal - sure - but it was at least in the right ballpark of what I was looking for - and it was even a male (Gothorito?) which was a pretty rare find. After finding this one, I figured that I'd swap out my original, gimp Gothitelle for her substantially superior replacement.

But when I got to the Pokecenter, I just couldn't pull the trigger.

I knew I had caught a better Pokemon than the first Gothitelle - its hidden stats (Individual Values) even helped it learn a more useful fire-type move, and it was only 25 levels lower than the one I had in my current rotation. An hour or two of easy grinding, and they'd be on equal footing - only the replacement would actually be stronger in almost every way that mattered.

Plus, it'd have a fire type move.

Still, I couldn't bring myself to make the substitution because I knew on a deep level that the minute I started down this path I'd be opening up Pandora's Pokébox.

What would start with a simple swap of a weak-natured situational Pokemon for one of a more ideal nature would start me down a road of breeding, black market Ditto hackingobsessive shiny-hunting, and reducing otherwise cute critters to a tally sheet of raw figures. I've done that in countless of other games - games I profess to love - and it always wound up ruining my enjoyment of the game in the long run.

And that, I knew, would make Pikachu sad.

You can't say no to this feels face.

Pokemon, on the other hand, was a relatively new experience to me and I loved it for the light-hearted, low-investment playstyle that it encouraged.

Sure, I'd never be taken to the storied heights of the Pokemon World Championships by going casual and tossing out the better Gothorita - and I knew on some level that the teenage competitive players at the local mall would (rightfully) laugh at me behind my back - but I don't care.

I want, and need, an easy game to enjoy at face value - one which can distract me from the tedium of adulthood and one which I could pick up and play for the sheer enjoyment of it. Pokemon is that game for me, and my woefully subpar Gothitelle is a reminder of this simple fact.

But more than that, she's an affirmation to myself that I *could* have gone deeper with Pokemon but I consciously chose not to.

Someone else can catch 'em all. I'm happy as hell with my gimp Gothitelle.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Here are five great, geeky songs to add to your running playlist

Fun fact about your pal here at Kawaiian Punch - I've recently taken up running.  

Not running from the truth, the law, or even from love - mind you - just running for the sake of allowing myself to eat (and drink!) more without having to worry about the caloric consequences.

But as it turns out - running's also pretty damn fun.  

Anyway, I've noticed that most runners and workout facilities have fairly predictable (read: boringly mainstream) taste in music. And while that's fine for some people,  I've never once shut down a club - so songs dedicated to that rather specific pass-time don't really resonate with me. 

Instead, I want my running music to reflect who and what I am as a person. It should be as geeky as possible, and it should absolutely involve the words "Final" and "Fantasy" together at some point - preferably in that sequential order.

If you've ever found yourself in a similar situation of workout music discontent, then I've got you covered today with a selection of five songs vetted from my own personal playlist - all of which are 100% KP guaranteed to put you in a running mood while maintaining your unassailable geek cred.

Now without further ado, let's start with some chiptune...

I Quit - Chipocrite 
(bandcamp, free)

Outside of a good pair of shoes and a masochistic desire to push one's body to its breaking point, few things are as essential to modern-day runners as a song packed chock full of electronic 32nd notes. Chipocrite's "I Quit" is pretty much the perkiest, bubbliest, chip song you'll ever hear, and the amount of diversity he's able to coax out of his Game Boy's stock sound chip is pretty damned impressive.

As an added bonus, sliding this one into an average running playlist will help your long runs feel at least 22% more 8-bit.

Tokyo Teddy Bear - Neru f. Kagamine Rin

More than half of my running playlist is devoted to upbeat Vocaloid, so picking just one song to represent the whole genre was pretty hard. Or, at least it would've been if it wasn't for this cacophonous, 204 BPM wonder. I'm not usually a fan of Kagamine Rin's vocals, but once they're mixed in with the loose, twangy bassline and unabashedly cheesy electric organ of "Tokyo Teddy Bear", it's impossible not to rock out to this one.

You might find yourself belting out "I DON'T KNOW!" along with the chorus, and that's actually ok. Most race day runners will likely view this as a sign that you've completely lost your shit and give you more breathing room as a result. Everybody wins in this situation... especially you!

His Name Is? - Revo
(khinsider, free)

Video game music on a running playlist? Absolutely.

Even if you're not a fan of gaming as a hobby (shame on you!), there's a fantastic, cinematic quality to the best game soundtracks and Revo's incredible score for Bravely Default Flying Fairy is no exception.

Fast and relentless from start to finish, "His Name is?" will kick your ear's ass with its soaring violin melody and driving guitar work. You may want to put this toward the end of your playlist, however, as the breakdown at ~2:20 makes it kinda hard to maintain a moderate running pace.

Rainbow Road to the Moon - Battlecake
(Amazon, $1)

Speaking of driving guitar work, indie geek band Battlecake delivers some of the absolute best of it with its amazing interpretation of Mario Kart's most iconic theme.

Rainbow Road's the closest thing that Mario Kart's ever had to a boss fight stage, and its accompanying musical theme has always delivered fantastic audio to go along with the surreal visual experience of careening a go kart through the vast, technicolored emptiness of space. Battlecake's version may sound a bit too Top Gun-y here and there, but it's an easy song to set your tempo to all the same.

Robot Party - Supercommuter
(bandcamp, $1)

Just like Chipocrite's awesome chiptune work, "Robot Party" is a geeky, retro-inspired nerdcore anthem that belongs on any runner's playlist. I've got a bunch of Mega Ran / Random on my playlist as well, but there's just something about the thumping bass and silly kill all humans message of "Robot Party" that helps it stand out.

Also, I'm pretty sure some famous runner said it's easier to run if you imagine that you're being chased by an army of murderous robots.  I'm pretty sure it was that guy from Rudy or maybe Prefontaine.

Yeah, it was probably Prefontaine.

Liberi Fatali - Nobuo Uematsu
(iTunes $0.69)

A bonus sixth song!

...and another video game theme to boot. This one's not nearly as energetic as "His Name is?" is, but if it was good enough for Olympic synchronized swimmers Alison Bartosik and Anna Kozlova to use it as the music in their bronze-winning 2004 performance, it's certainly good enough for your running playlist.

What "Liberi Fatali" might lack in guitar work and bass drops it makes up for in sheer epic grandeur and a chorus of ominous, singing in Latin. The crescendo at ~1:40 builds up to one of the greatest climaxes Nobuo Uematsu's ever written, so quite dithering and download this one already.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dark Dungeons, the tongue-in-cheek D&D movie inspired by Jack Chick, is out now

So, that satirical D&D movie based on an evangelical Christian's hilariously misinformed mini-comic book is now officially a movie that you can own for less than the price of a craft beer.

Perhaps I should explain...

Way back in May of last year, an interesting Kickstarter found its way online courtesy of author JR Ralls.  The project intended to take the infamous, anti-RPG tract of right-wing hardliner Jack T. Chick - Dark Dungeons - and turn it into a feature film.  Chick's tract took an.... interesting... view of Dungeons & Dragons, claiming that the venerable game could sway people away from Jesus, lead them to devil worship, and - most hilariously - convince them to murder one another over disputes involving their characters.

Dark Dungeons became something of an in-joke with tabletop gamers in the years after Chick inked it up, but Ralls decided - rather intelligently - that he wouldn't aim to openly parody Dark Dungeons with his film.

Instead, he'd play it completely straight and bring the work of the original author to life exactly as it was portrayed in the comic with the help of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment - the company behind the truly excellent The Gamers trilogy.  The comedy, as you'll see, finds its way to the screen all on its own.

Unsurprisingly, Dark Dungeons created a fair bit of controversy leading up to its release because it didn't bill itself expressly as a parody piece.  As a result, some gamers were worried that it was going to be an anti-RPG smear piece by geek turncoats - but that is 100% not the case.

How do I know?  Ralls sent over an email with a link to the first 8 minutes of the film which he so generously put up for your viewing pleasure.  He also noted, with a bit of due pride, that Dark Dungeons debuted to a sold-out Gen Con audience... so, clearly, it's doing something right with its low key approach.

If a so-subtle-it-hurts parody of anti-gamer propaganda piece sounds like something you'd like to watch, you're in luck!  You can download the entire movie for $5.00 (with extras costing an additional $2.50)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

These Cave Story statues are cuter than 10,000 mimigas

Way back in 2004, Japanese indie developer Daisuke Amaya released the original version of Cave Story on an unsuspecting world as a freeware PC game.

Created as a love letter to classic 8-bit games like Metroid, Cave Story quickly built up its profile online and developed a rabid fan following both in Japan and the west. Inevitable ports, enhanced versions (Cave Story+), and 3D enhanced versions soon followed - but the simple adventure story of two robots trying to save a world full of adorably helpless creatures remained unchanged.

Now, thanks to a crafty soul on Etsy, you can own these two self-same robots.

...or, y'know, 15" high wood and acrylic replicas of the two.

What you're looking at are the handy work of The GothelfBrosStudios - a pair of handmade statuettes of intrepid robot heroes Quote and Curly Brace.  These non-movable marvels stand at a bit over a foot high and, like so much a teal platypus, they don't really do much.  What they do do, however, is look adorable - and it's kind of a shame that they're not smaller. They'd make for an awesome wedding cake topper.

Anyway, like Curly and Quote, these two robots are destined to remain apart and you must order them separately.  Each will set you back the not-inconsiderable sum of $119.95 (+$19.95 shipping), which means the matched pair will set you back about $280.00 when all's said and done.

Expensive?  Sure, but there are few better options out there for making your Cave Story-loving friends insanely jealous.

Monday, July 28, 2014

This Fire Emblem engagement ring box lets the whole world know who your S-Support is

Ever since it tore onto the 3DS last year, the truly excellent turn-based RPG Fire Emblem: Awakening has inspired hundreds of thousands of players around the world to sink hundreds of hours into its deep and immersive world.

Part of the draw to Awakening is its tactical combat component - which is incredibly awesome, by the by - but many players found that the fleshed out relationship system was the best part of the game. While earlier Fire Emblem titles had proto-relationships that allowed two characters to grow closer to one another and back each other up on the battlefield, Awakening pushed this a step further and let two characters get full-on married.

This, as you might imagine, spawned a great waifu debate on the internet, but it also spawned what could be the greatest, geekiest, multi-mediaist engagement yet to date.

This above creation is the work of redditor PrionBacon, who chatted about Fire Emblem during his first date with his now fiancée (geek love is a marvelous thing!) and it's a marvel of 3D-printed technology built to resemble the 3DS incarnation of the plot-pivotal Fire Emblem itself.

What really sets the box apart, however, is the amount of detail PrionBacon put on the inside.

The screen of the box is an old HTC Incredible which is displaying a custom photoshop of Awakening's relationship screen.  The two characters in question - mockup avatars of PrionBacon and his girlfriend - are sitting at the A-Rank of support, and are just one press of the A-button away from becoming S-Rank husband and wife.

Obviously, this box is a one-of-a-kind item... but if you're interested in seeing how it was made, you can check out the comprehensive gallery over at PrionBacon's imgur gallery.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Senran Kagura's producer thinks it'll look breast in augmented reality

First off, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth - nor have I forgotten about  Kawaiian Punch's new posting schedule.  Things got a bit wonky with Fourth of July festivities, then Germany had to go and win the World Cup and... well... here we are staring down the barrel of an amazing, breast-shaped augmented reality helmet.

Perhaps an explanation is in order....

What you're looking at is a still from a pitch-perfect parody video put together by the man behind the popular, boobacious beat 'em up Senran Kagura - Mr. Kenichiro Takaki himself.

For those unfamiliar with Senran Kagura, it's a fun - and completely fan servicey - take on the 'ol arcade style of brawler with rival schools of ninja girls fighting against one another. There's a surprisingly deep commentary on the problems with the traditional moral dichotomy of good and evil mixed into the games, but most people stop paying attention to any of that troublesome plot stuff once they realize the girls can literally knock each other's clothes off.

Anyway, in honor the release of Senran Kagura 2, Takaki-san and his team put together this amazing parody video that pokes fun at the Oculus Rift and PlayStation's Project Morpheus with a (fictional) piece of headgear dubbed the Pi Vision.

Pi, for those fortunate enough not to live on the parts of the internet that I do, is short for Oppai - which is basically the Japanese equivalent of "boobies".

What's really amazing about this video is the very fact that it exists in the first place.  Sure, it's a commercial for the upcoming 3DS brawler Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson - but it's fascinating to see how far Takaki's willing to go for a joke.

I had the honor of interviewing Kenichiro Takaki back at E3 and I was completely blown away at how incredibly grounded he was.  Sure, he worked about five Oppai-related puns into our interview (only one of which made it into the copy)... but that's just how dedicated he is to his life's purpose. He's like something of a modern day breast evangelist.

Legend has it that Takaki once tried making other games way back when, and he even found some modest success with them...but then something happened and he dedicated himself to the singular task of covering the world with boobs and nubile ninja girls.

No one's sure what exactly launched Takaki down this new path in life, but he emerged as a larger-than-life hero at the helm of the multi-million dollar Senran Kagura franchise with technology, dreams, and resources that the average man can only dream of.

He's kind of a Bruce Wayne in the first half of Batman Begins if you stop to think about it.... only, y'know, with boobs instead of bats.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Here's one Legend of Zelda hoodie you'll happily wear in public

Full disclosure: this isn't the first hoodie inspired by The Legend of Zelda that I've posted here, but I'm returning to the topic since many found the neon green hue and fun-sized plush sword of the first one to be a bit too cartoonish for their tastes.

It was fine to wear around a con, maybe, but it wasn't quite up to snuff for the sartorially minded.  Those Links-about-town looking for a more refined Zelda hoodie that was stylish enough to wear out to a bar, after-hours work function, or distant cousin's wedding were left wanting more.

Well now, they shall want no more!

What you're looking at is the side profile of Etsy crafter SixOnClothing's amazing Legend of Zelda (with SHIELD and BELTS) hoodie.  More Twilight Princess than Wind Waker in its appearance and inspiration, its subdued, forest-green hue and chocolate brown accents say, "I've rescued a princess or two in my time, but I've also got a 401K and some other boring adult things going on."

Even with its undeniable air of refinement, there are still those who might find the hoodie's shield a bit too ostentatious - so, happily, SixOnClothing offers a much more subtle plain version that still looks suitably Link-ish thanks to its windsock hood.

The downside is that the style of this Zelda hoodie comes at a price - $120 for the deluxe version (with shield and belts) and a much more modest $60 for the plain green, brown, and white version.  Both will only set you back $9.00 in shipping and require four weeks of lead time.

If you've got a few extra rupees lying around and don't mind waiting a month or so for your hoodie, this is definitely a hoodie for - and by - the discriminating Zelda fan.