Monday, August 24, 2015

The hardcore world of Animal Crossing or, how I traded my dignity for a snooty cat

This was drawn by me (a grown-ass man), and yes - I am proud of it.

I'll begin this post by admitting that I completely underestimated the draw of Animal Crossing.

Two years ago, I covered the launch event for the 3DS mega-hit life simulator Animal Crossing: New Leaf at the Nintendo World Store. I took the usual pictures of the line of fans wrapped around the block, did a few vox populi interviews for good measure, and snapped pictures of some pretty awesome Mr. Resetti cosplay. And...I didn't really understand the allure of it.

I wrote up the article on the event and then hopped on a plane to E3 a day later, more or less forgetting about the game and the rabid fanbase it commanded.

To my surprise, the overwhelming majority of people I StreetPassed with in the LA Convention center were playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf. These two encounters should've told me the game was big, but I still couldn't understand why. It didn't actually seem like a game to me.

Fast forward a year and I picked it up after watching my wife fall under its spell.

I wasn't far behind her. it didn't take long for Animal Crossing to become a daily habit in our household and I soon began talking with villagers, harvesting fruit, and digging up fossils every day over breakfast. It's a soothing game that lulls you into a happy state with a gentle rhythm of watching your town grow from a small settlement to a personalized escape from the real world.

It was all good fun, and soon added up to 350 hours total playtime. It's surprising how compelling a game becomes when you're the one running a town populated by lazy blue squirrels, cranky pink teddy bears, and peppy white tigers with grand plans of becoming a musical idol.

Holy fish sticks, indeed

After a year of this gloriously routine insanity, I finally decided it was time to dive into the end game of Animal Crossing that I kept hearing about.

A friend mentioned she had coordinated villager trades online, and with her help I soon found entire sub-reddits dedicated to AC trades. It's like a shadow market set up on the dark corners of the internet where you could trade turnips, art, and even some of your town's 10 villager inhabitants from for money, hard-to-find items (many "imported" from Japan), and - yes - even other villagers. And it is all frightfully well organized. At the center of it all is r/ratemymayor: a peer-based feedback community where users rank other players they've traded with on the other boards, with the overall goal of earning better flair and, thus, better trustworthiness in the community.

I had no fucking idea what I was getting into. The community on these boards is Hardcore with a big, bold capital H.

Each sub-reddit has its own shared language and posts look completely alien to those on the outside and villagers are arranged into carefully vetted tier-lists with the most expensive, a sulky squirrel named Marshal, commanding prices upwards of 25 million bells.

My overall goal for diving into Animal Crossing's end game was to trade for a villager that I really wanted. This seemed like a simple enough goal and it'd be gratifying in the short term, unlike the dream of chasing down a maxed out bank account by selling turnips.

After taking a look at the extensive list of the over 300 villagers available in New Leaf over the past year, I found my heart was set on Ankha - a snooty cat who appeared to be some sort of reincarnated pharaoh with a doomsayer's frown permanently plastered on her face.

If she sounds awesome to you too, you're not alone - Ankha is currently the sixth most popular villager on the r/adoptmyvillager subreddit and can command upward of 25 million bells herself... assuming she's original (unaltered by previous owners) on open auction.

It didn't take long to realize I, and the 2 million bells I had saved up in the bank, had my work cut out for me.

I like you Fauna, but I don't 10 million bells like you...

Thankfully, one of the villagers who already lived in my town, Fauna, was #8 on the villager tier list... but I'd grown rather fond of her over the past year and couldn't think of parting with her. Unfortunately, that's exactly what I had to do since everyone else in my town - all of whom I've had for months and found immensely endearing and entertaining - would be lucky to sell for 500,000 bells.

It was clear that Fauna had to go to make room for Ankha.

It was also clear that I had shit taste in villagers.

I spent about a week figuring out trade rules and etiquette on the various subreddits and conducted a test trade or two with villagers I didn't care too much about. The moderators of these boards (all volunteers) are extremely dedicated souls and are tasked with enforcing the many rules of the community - and they regularly hand out warnings and strikes (the latter of which might ruin a user's ability to trade with the thriving community) for what many outsiders might consider minor rule infractions. While this initially seemed unduly harsh to me as a newcomer, I quickly realized it's necessary to keep the community functioning smoothly: so long as you followed their rules, you could trade whatever virtual goods you wanted.

After becoming comfortable in the community and able to tell the difference between [MO] posts and [FFA]s, I decided to look for a buyer for Fauna. A few days later, I packed my beloved deer up and shipped her off for a 9 million bell "let's get Ankha now!" warchest.

Unfortunately, my luck in finding someone willing to sell Ankha wasn't good. I put out a general interest post and got no responses. I missed an auction and a freebie give away for her while out on a work assignment and I kicked myself for my inattentiveness.

My regret for Fauna bubbled to the fore, and I even tried the community superstition of using my birthday wish to wish for a specific villager (Ankha) in the hopes that she'd randomly move in.

Of course the wish didn't work, but it did lead to this confusing exchange a week or so later

Then one night while waiting on a Splatoon lobby to fill up, I checked in on the sub on my phone and saw "[MO]-G Ankha" with no comments. I knew that [MO] meant "Moving Out" and was a free adoption - there were no comments, so I figured I had a shot at getting my dream villager for free.

Unfortunately, the -G part of the post complicated things. Signifying a contest of sorts specified by the topic creator, I knew it wasn't going to be as easy as being the first person to comment, so I read the post and saw the following:

I have all the artistic talent of a toddler (as the picture at the top of this post attests), but the "quick and crude" part gave me hope. Forgetting about Splatoon, I tossed the Wii U gamepad into my wife's lap, grabbed a piece of paper, and started furiously scribbling at the kitchen table with a gel pen.

My pulse actually quickened as I drew my so-bad-it's-still-really-bad-and-not-at-all-good Ankha, snapped a picture with my phone, and uploaded it to Imgur. The seconds it took to upload seemed like an eternity and I grabbed my Macbook to start composing a reply to the thread that - holy shit - still didn't have any entries!

Normal people would call this incident and my reaction to it a "wake up call" but to me, someone who had installed an auto-refresh extension in Chrome and set up Google alerts to monitor the sub for Ankha auctions - it was serious business. I wanted that damn cat.

* * * * *

In the end, I wound up getting Ankha and all it cost me was my dignity.  No imaginary currency was exchanged, I didn't need to participate in any trades of virtual flesh (I still miss Fauna!), I just needed the willingness to upload a crappy picture I drew to the internet.

As I was traveling over to the other player's town to pick up my new favorite villager, it dawned on me that I wasn't done with Animal Crossing's end game now that I'd achieved the goal I set. I was only just starting to figure it out.

And now that I have, there's no turning back.

I intend to take things at a slower pace from hereon out, and might set a few more goals to knock out in the future. Until then, my shitty drawing of Ankha is taped to my refrigerator as a constant and omnipresent reminder of the hardcore world that lurks just outside the borders of my idyllic little Animal Crossing town.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have public works projects to coordinate.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Game of Hyrule takes an awesome, Zelda-inspired angle to the Game of Thrones opening sequence

Yes, you're reading this correctly - I haven't died or forgotten the login information to this site. Kawaiian Punch is finally back!

And what better day to return to the internet than the one following the premiere of Game of Throne's fifth season on HBO. Regardless of whether you've binge-watched the leaked episodes or are waiting patiently for the next installation, you're probably just glad that Tyrion & company are back for another 10 episodes of snarking, stabbing, and fucking their way across George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic.

Unless, of course, you always wished Game of Thrones put all that the Westeros business aside for a few episodes and gave Link and Zelda their time on the stage.  That will never happen, of course, and even if it did it probably wouldn't end too well for some of the characters in Hyrule (I'm so, so sorry Epona).

...but what if, for a moment, it did?  What would the lands of The Legend of Zelda look like if they were given the Game of Thrones treatment?

The end result - or at least the opening sequence - would look a little something like this.

YouTuber Megasteakman put this marvelous masterpiece together and was even kind enough to provide links to a wallpaper of the Game of Thrones-ified map of Hyrule.  Unfortunately, there's no download available of the incredible background music created by composer Mattia Cupelli - but hey, we can't have everything.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch this on loop for the rest of the morning.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nobuo Uematsu's Final Symphony orchestral album is the best $10 you'll spend on video game music this week

So, remember that totally awesome symphonic poem "Born with the Gift of Magic"?  Y'know, the 18-minute-long opus that seamlessly blended some of Final Fantasy VI's best-known themes with some of its more esoteric b-sides?

Well, you can officially buy it now from iTunes and it is glorious.

The downside is that "Born with the Gift of Magic" is an album-only purchase of the latest Final Fantasy symphonic album that's appropriately - if unimaginatively - titled Final Symphony, so if you want to legitimately purchase "Born with the Gift of Magic" you'll have to part with $9.99 (plus tax).

But!  That's something you absolutely should do if you love the music from Final Fantasy VI, VII, and X since Final Symphony is chock full of new arrangements of the greatest hits from those three amazing games.  Fans of the Distant Worlds concert series can breathe a collective sigh of relief here - yes, the arrangements on Final Symphony are new and wonderful... which means you won't need to listen to the excellent (and overused...) piano arrangement of FFVII's "Those who Fight".

Better yet, Final Symphony offers over an hour and a half of music, which makes it a relative bargain at the price.  Although why you need anything more than the 18-minute-long tour de force that is "Born with the Gift of Magic" is beyond me.

Seriously, it's $10. Get over to iTunes and download it now - you'll class up your ear holes with all that culture *and* you'll have a chance to indulge your inner FF fanboy/fangirl.

Stop reading this. Go!  Make with the listening already!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Say 'I love you!' with these Dragon Age: Inquisition Valentine's

Valentine's Day is here once again - and chances are good that you're in need of a last-minute gift, what with the new wave of amiibo releasing today alongside the new 3DS XL *and* Majora's Mask 3D.

While I can't help you find any last-minute deals on chocolates, flowers, or other such customary gifts of compulsory affections, I can continue the long-standing tradition of years past by offering a new set of digital notes to let the one you love know that you spent a few minutes googling a perfect image to post to their Facebook wall.

In the past I've turned to anime, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and emerging memes from Japan for inspiration, but this year I've decided to turn to a more traditional source of love and romance... a Bioware game!  Namely, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

These will resonate most with those of you who've shared a sex cutscene with a dashing Tervinter mage or dusky diplomat, but - like most Bioware fare - their appeal is all but universal.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

It's all about honesty and sex cutscenes - how to deal with NPCs in an RPG

It's a good thing my New Year's resolution wasn't to keep up with this site more often because, jeebus would I have failed *hard*.

Thankfully, the majority of what's been eating my time away from Kawaiian Punch has been (mostly) good stuff - almost all of it going by the name Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is what today's post is sort of about.

The truly excellent folk over at the equally excellent YouTube channel Saving Throw put out a brilliant short this week that shows what would happen if RPG characters were 100% honest with one another. While most of the humor resonates the hardest with anyone who's ever played a Bioware game, there's plenty of PC vs NPC schtick to appeal to fans of other RPGs (tabletop or otherwise) in the two and a half minutes below.

Ok so maybe they hit the joke about the sex cutscene a little too hard... but this pretty much sums up 80% of my NPC interactions thus far in Inquisition.

...with everyone but Solas, because - seriously - fuck that guy.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dragon Age: Inquisition's awesome Tavern Songs are being given away for free

Christmas was more than a month ago (!!!!) but Bioware decided to give its fans a late gift to unwrap in the form of incredible, free music from Dragon Age: Inquisition. And better yet, the songs being given away are the 10 "tavern songs" missing from the official soundtrack.

That's right, Inquisitor, you can download these amazing songs English and French - along with copies of the lyrics and sheet music for the musically inclined out there - for absolutely free.

Why download the 10 songs for free in French, you might ask, when you can already download them in English? The French version of "Nightingale's Eyes" should pretty much be all the justification you need.

Just listen to the "r" in that Rossignol roll...

It seemed like a pretty huge oversight of EA / Bioware to not include these 10 tracks in the already excellent soundtrack - but it's great to see the oversight corrected for the time being.

Oh yeah, about that - if you want to download these 10 tracks for free, you need to do so before February 9th. After that point, they'll be available for purchase on "many popular digital platforms" which is Bioware speak for, y'know, iTunes or Amazon.

These songs are absolute necessities for anyone who's already spend a hundred hours or so playing Inquisitor in the gorgeously rendered lands of Dragon Age - but they're also easy listening for anyone who likes medieval-sounding music - which should be just about everyone thanks to Game of Thrones.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go listen to "Sera was Never" on loop for the next 20 hours or so to see if I can finally get that damn song out of my head.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sega's bringing Hatsune Miku Project Mirai DX to the 3DS in North America this May

If you own a 3DS and know how to spin a leek in time to Ievan Polka, then this is your lucky week.

Sega's announced that the remastered nendoroid rhythm game Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX will come to North America on May 26 with a European release coming three days later on May 29.

Project Mirai DX is an updated version of 2013's Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai 2 and will feature 40 songs for you to tap along to - using either the buttons or the stylus - along with all sorts of goodies like voice swapping (for certain songs), a dance studio, and a My Tune module that lets fans compose their own songs.

Also, the game will look something like this. And that's a good thing.

(ok, so this is the opening movie of the first Project Mirai game... but you get the idea)

If a 3DS localization of Project Mirai seems like it's a long time coming, that's because Sega of America's approach to localizing Hatsune Miku rhythm games can best be described as somewhere between cautious and really fucking cautious.

Way back in April 2012, it released Miku Flick for iOS (followed by its sequel, Miku Flick /02 in August of the same year). Those apparently did well enough to convince Sega that there's an army of faithful Miku fans here in the states waiting to fling their cash at anything with teal twintails and so the next year Sega finally got around to bringing Project Diva F to the PS3.

***It's worth noting here that the first Project Diva game launched in Japan in 2009 for the PSP. Anyway!***

A Vita version of Project Diva f and the truly excellent Project Diva F 2nd followed in 2014 - but 3DS owners were left out in the cold as Sega apparently had no concrete plans to localize Hatsune Miku & Future Stars Project Mirai for Nintendo handhelds outside of Japan.

It still (probably) doesn't... but hey, at least we'll get our hands on the remastered sequel!