Neptunia 10th Anniversary Month

Hello and welcome to all you beautiful dragons, today I have a very special announcement. August 19th is the 10th anniversary for the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. To celebrate, this August we’re going to spend the whole month talking about this great series.

There are so many entries within the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, including the main games, spin off games, a 2013 anime and a manga. Hyperdimension Neptunia is a mix between RPG and visual novel. During main story events most of the visual novel sections are fully voiced, in the English version.

Each game has its own story but the story structure for the main games can be generalized, sort of. Hyperdimension Neptunia takes place in a world where major gaming companies have been reimagined as nations ruled by goddesses. The goddesses, in true anime form, are a human girl anthropomorphism of their nation’s console. Our protagonist Neptune and her nation are based upon Sega, if were still a competing company in the console war, with Neptune being based on the unreleased Sega Neptune. In every game there is always a threat that arises which the goddesses must unite against to protect the land of the series, Gamindustri. Sometimes they end up going to different dimensions and help protect that world before finding a way home. The spin off games vary dramatically on what you might get.

This is a brief introduction to the series. There is so much to cover over the next month why rush with sharing all the information now. Hopefully you’ll discover a new series or a game to try out. Maybe you’re already a fan and just happy to celebrate with some fellow fans.

After what happened in June, having a project will be good. At the least keeping focus will be easier. As part of the celebration we’re doing a 30 day challenge. Go to teatimewithdragons on Instagram to take part. Thank you all for reading and we’ll see you all in the next post.

-Your Hostess-

Thought Corner: The Last Of Us Part 2

Hello and welcome to all you beautiful people. The time has come at last. It’s time to talk about The Last Of Us: Part 2. A game that has greatly divided the community. Today we’re going to look at the many different aspects of the game and touch on the parts that have sparked rage in many fans. So without further ado let’s get into it.

Spoiler Warning!

For any non Playstation players or those who might not know, The Last Of Us: Part 2 is the long awaited sequel to, you guessed it, The Last Of Us. Fans have eagerly awaited this sequel since the initial release of the first game back in 2013. Well maybe not all of them; some think a sequel was unnecessary. That might be true but Joel and Ellie’s story touched so many hearts that people wanted more, I certainly did. In June 2020 developers Naughty Dog and writer and director Neil Drunkmen released what fans had been waiting for. The reception was… mixed. A number of critics and fans praised the game, whilst a good dose of players felt disappointed.

Visuals

The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. Granted graphics don’t make or break a game but they certainly help. Loyal fans look back on The Last Of Us and remember the incredible locations and stunning views. 7 years later this post-apocalyptic world looks more beautiful than ever. An example of how much the graphics have improved can be seen right from the off set with the scene of Joel saving Ellie in Salt Lake City. The 2020 version displays huge improvements: sharper visuals, the lighting and shading and the characters looking even closer to real people. We’re verging on an era where video games look so real they just become playable movies. Making it difficult to tell whether it’s computer generated or live action. With some games already achieving this feat.

There are so many stunning views it’d be hard to pick a favourite. Near the top world be at the beginning; Jackson with and without snow. Gorgeous. Most of the sights to see are within a beautifully destroyed Seattle. Stunning in it’s own way.

https://www.ign.com/articles/the-last-of-us-2-walkthrough-chapter-1-jackson-patrol

With the large buildings and spaces to admire it’s easy to get swept away looking around, missing all the intricate tiny details. This game is full of details. The team behind The Last Of Us Part 2 clearly put a lot of work into it. Some examples include leaving footprints in the snow, Ellie squinting when zooming in, clothes and hair when in contact with water, blood seeping through bandages, Ellie physically puts things in her backpack. There is so much more. Things that take multiple playthroughs to notice.

Gamplay

The gameplay skeleton is still there, the way you learnt to play in The Last Of Us. Building on that skeleton, the developers added some things and altered others. A major change is the ability to go prone. Instead of just crouching you can also go prone letting you crawl around in tall grass, making it harder for you to be seen. You can also shoot whilst prone. Play your cards right and you can clear out an area by being on your stomach. If you’re forced into hand to hand combat with infected or other survivors it’s made easier with the ability to dodge attacks. You can even dodge Clickers from grabbing you. A detail that should’ve been there from the beginning.

You play as two different characters which, of course, have different play You play as two different characters which, of course, have different play styles, weapons and craftables. Ellie is built for stealth and hiding. She still has her unbreakable knife, perfect for stealth takedowns. She can craft trip mines, place them and lure unsuspecting enemies to them. In addition Ellie can craft smoke bombs used for either escaping, hiding or running in for an attack. The standout Ellie specific guns are the bow and hunting rifle. Bow is the obvious choice for stealth, arrows are easily crafted. The hunting rifle is powerful and easy to aim. Finally Ellie can swim now. Is it bad they took away one of her weaknesses? No. Not only would it be a bit frustrating for the player to maneuver around a flooding city as a character who can’t swim but living in a post-apocalypse world knowing how to swim would increase your survivability. Also Joel would’ve been a terrible dad if he didn’t teach her. He gets flashbacks to manueving her around on a pallet and that one time she almost drowned. Ellie feels like a more developed version of her setup in the first game. It’s good that she isn’t a carbon copy of Joel. The developers made her her own character.

Abby is the one that feels closer to Joel in her set up. She’s built for aggressive play. She has to craft shivs which means you have to use them Abby is the one that feels closer to Joel in her set up. She’s built for aggressive play. She has to craft shivs which means you have to use them carefully. Pretty much need to save them for Clickers similarly to the first game. Her craftable throwable is a pipe bomb, a very direct explosive. Some Abby exclusive weapons are the flamethrower, a double barrel shotgun and a crossbow. Unlike Ellie’s bow, ammo for the crossbow can’t be crafted. So aim for those headshots. The double barrel shotgun is powerful and good to have if been swarmed. The flamethrower is the best weapon to use against Bloaters, a luxury Ellie doesn’t get. Abby has a fear of heights, not quite crippling but it’s extreme. Her phobia is seen several times throughout the game.

In order to unlock new skill trees you have to find training manuels shattered throughout the game. A cool way of doing it. Ellie’s skill trees are more stealth focused where as Abby’s is fighting and weapons based. Refelecting the set ups the developers made for each character.

The gameplay in The Last Of Us always felt a bit repetitive, Part 2 is similar in that regard. Some enemies have been added that change the dynamic a bit but ultimately it’s still the same. You go from one group of enemies, whether infected or survivor, to another; killing them either in stealth or head on. It must be difficult to play The Last Of Us 2 with a pacifist approach, especially since some enemies you have to kill. Between enemy encounters is either story progression and/or supply gathering. There are some very minor bits of puzzle solving. Restarting a generator or getting to an area for supplies and collectables.

The improvements to the gameplay in Part 2 did make enemy encounters more enjoyable. Going prone being a big help. Two things there should’ve been more of are areas where water is used as cover and having the ability/choice to send infected after enemy survivors. Overall like most people I don’t play this series for the gameplay. The story and characters are what most people want.

Enemies

Let’s talk about the enemies. First the survivors; we have the WLF, Let’s talk about the enemies. First the survivors; we have the WLF, Seraphites (Scars) and Rattlers. All have both male and female soldiers. Yes there is gender equality in the groups of enemies you slaughter. Progress. The developers have also named all of these survivors across all factions. No longer can gamers go on guilt free killing sprees of nameless fodder. Although fighting them isn’t all that different, each faction has their own personalities and way of survival.

The WLF don’t live all that differently to Jackson. They have agriculture and power. Unlike Jackson they are fighting a civil war. They’ve formed an The WLF don’t live all that differently to Jackson. They have agriculture and power. Unlike Jackson they are fighting a civil war. They’ve formed an army/melicia to protect their people against the infected and the Seraphites. The WLF are the first to introduce dogs as an enemy. Dogs can follow your scent trail, allowing them to quickly find your hiding spot. Really you want to take them out as quickly as possible. At first I felt bad about killing the dogs but swiftly got over that when they became annoying. Use explosive arrows to take out both the dog and they’re handler. No longer a problem.

The Seraphites are a religious group at war with the WLF. They verge on cult territory. All follow the teachings of a woman who believed she was a prophet. Their primary weapons are melee and bows and arrows. They have a few guns but it goes against their rules to not use anything from the ‘old world’. During combat they communicate using whistles. Getting hit with an arrow slows you down and you have to pull it out. Seraphites have a unique enemy. A bigger person with a sledgehammer. They’re a little bit harder to take down. Ellie can’t engage them in melee combat so best to shoot them. Abby however can and faces off with one on Seraphite island that just does not want to die.

The last faction are at the tail end of the game, the Rattlers. At first I thought these people were cannibals but now I’m not so sure. They take people they find in Santa Barbara prisoner but I don’t know what they do with them. Abby and Lev were there for a few days before they left them to die. The Rattlers didn’t seem like good people. Getting enjoyment out of hurting people and teasing the infected aren’t good signs. They might have kept infected as pets. This group didn’t have any new enemies, too late in the game, but they had dogs. Plus they had infected chained up, giving you the option to release them upon the survivors during encounters.

Speaking of infected, there have been some very good additions and changes. Runners and Clickers are pretty much the same as the first game. Stalkers are now harder to detect and act like stealthy predators. No longer are you left wondering what’s the difference between Stalkers and Runners. A new type of infected has been added called Shambler. Shamblers are individuals who have been infected for several years and dwell around areas with water. They expel large spore clouds that can cause acidic burns. Upon death the spores explode. Best kept at a distance. I don’t know if I’m the only one who thought this but I never saw Bloaters as a boss enemy in the first game. I just thought they were a rare tougher enemy, similar to the sledgehammer Seraphites in this game. My mind changed when Part 2 gave Bloaters arenas like areas when fighting them. Definitely a boss fight, no doubt about that now. Their charging is also a lot scarier now. Finally, one more new infected was added: The Rat King. That thing is a beast. It’s a Clicker and Bloater fused together to make this giant behemoth. During the Rat King boss fight I was either screaming or yelling. I did not want to fight that thing. I didn’t like it. Truly a fantastic enemy.

Collectables

It’s a small thing but let’s not forget about the collectables. Besides the training manuals Ellie and Abby have their own unique collectable items. Ellie collects superhero trading cards, which are awesome. I’m nowhere near having all of them but I did find an interdimensional whale. Enough said. Abby collects coins, specifically she’s after coins from each state. A hobby she uses to feel connected to her dad.

Characters

Let’s start with our main girl: Ellie. Ellie goes on a significant external and internal journey. She’s experienced loss before but nothing on the same level as losing Joel. After that moment Ellie’s only want is revenge. She arrives in the anger stage of grief and refuses to move. Like with most characters experiencing grief, what Ellie really needs is to accept his death. Accept and move forward. Thankfully she gets there, eventually. She’s not the same person on the other side though. With all the death that she causes it would be concerning if she didn’t change. She kills a lot of people over both games but there’s a difference between the intimite one on one kills and torture Ellie does and the random groups of enemies she has to get through. A major turning point is when Ellie tortures Nina to find out where Abby is. The camera angle, the red lighting, the fact the player has to push a button for each swing of her crowbar highlights that Ellie is crossing a line. She’s going to kill Abby and nothing will stop her. She will do whatever it takes.

Seeing Ellie in flashbacks and on the farm show just how consumed by anger and grief she is throughout her time in Seattle. In those moments we see her goofy pun loving self again. There’s nothing better than her excitement and wonder at the Wyoming museum.

At the final confrontation I was so proud of Ellie for letting Abby and Lev go. She was so close to what she wanted but didn’t go through with it in the end. Even if she had it wouldn’t have made her feel better. It wouldn’t have brought Joel back.

Ashley Johnson, Ellie’s voice actor, is incredible. She does such a good job which is highlighted even more by the use of motion capture. She puts her all into this performance, right down to the facial expressions.

Now for our other main character: Abby. Abby is a bit similar to Ellie. Not in termNow for our other main character: Abby. Abby is a bit similar to Ellie. Not in terms of personality, they’re quite the opposite in that regard. No Abby is also easily consumed by her want for revenge. 5 years Abby focused on getting revenge on her father’s killer. She throws herself into training with that goal in mind. Finally she does get that revenge but at a cost. Torturing and killing Joel haunts her long after she’s left Jackson. That might explain some of her actions when she’s back in Seattle. She’s one of Issac’s, the WLF leader, most trusted soldiers but goes awol to make sure Owen is safe. Everything else kind of spirals out from there. After she finds Owen she does something she never would’ve done before, she goes back to save two runaway Seraphites that she runs into. Unexpectedly for her she bonds with them and those relationships change her. Meanwhile across Seattle she’s losing all of her other friends. I do believe if Dina hadn’t been pregnant Abby would’ve killed both her and Ellie.

Abby is not my favourite character, not just because she murdered Joel. I just didn’t bond or connect with her. Sure you see her side of the story but that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to be okay with her actions. She’s very goal orientated, seen with her obsession for revenge, hunting down Owen and in a flashback insisting they return to training. None of that free spirit goofiness that Ellie normally possesses. I like her more when she’s with Lev but that’s probably because I like Lev.

Whether you like Abby or not we can all agree that Laura Bailey, Abby’s voice actor, did an amazing job. Just light Ashley she gave her all in that performance. It’s heartbreaking to hear that she has been receiving death threats. She is one of the nicest human beings on the planet. A beacon of light who doesn’t deserve this abuse. Actors are not the characters.

The only other characters I want to talk in depth about are Joel, Dina and Lev. I like Jesse but there wasn’t really much to him. I loved Tommy in the first game but he wasn’t around much in this one. In fact his actions were reckless and nearly got him killed. The only one of Abby’s friends I liked was Manny, he was entertaining and I was a little sad when he died. Not enough to shed a tear though. And finally Yara. I liked her too, just not as much as Lev. Honestly she went through so much I didn’t think she had to die. In the end she did sacrifice herself to protect Lev, her driving character force.

I’m happy with what we see of Joel, him being best dad. That’s all I want, all I could’ve asked for. Fair enough he deserved better and I would’ve preferred he was in the whole game, like most people. Some have touched on the subject of why Joel wasn’t cautious/suspicious of Abby. It’s because he saw a girl the same age as Ellie, why would he be suspicious. That comes back to one of the stand out lines of the game, “I’m just a girl. I’m not a threat.” You can see Joel’s attitude change when he sees the rest of Abby’s crew. It’s too late then, Joel’s fate is sealed. No amount of him showing kindness to Abby will quiet her burning desire for revenge. Maybe it would’ve been different if he was pregnant. I’m kidding.

I really liked Dina. Her and Ellie just clicked. I would even say Dina is a perfect match for Ellie. She’s smart, can look after herself and most importantly has good banter. My gripe with Dina reveals she’s pregnant and from then on is basically out of the game. Don’t let me explore a destroyed city with my ship and then have the upbeat half stay behind at the theatre. I wanted more travels with Dina, that’s all I’m saying.

Finally let’s talk about Lev. I adore Lev. He needs to be protected from this world, especially a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies and cannibalistic survivors. Amongst all the anger and hate about the story people are forgetting about Lev. Lev is another step up in the LGBT representation in The Last Of Us series. I’m so happy that I haven’t seen articles popping up left and right questioning if the inclusion of a tansgender character is necessary. Lev is an amazing character and good representation. Just because the apocalypse happened doesn’t mean there aren’t transgender people, similarly to there still being homosexual people. Lev’s story even resonates with our modern day. Lev’s treatment from his religious society is something still seen in our own reality. Shocking really. I hope there are those who feel seen through Lev. Beyond that Lev is incredibly brave. Still a bit naive but he stays true to himself. I’ll say it again, I adore Lev. His bond with Abby is lovely and that is the main reason I enjoyed Abby’s half of the story.

Story

Alright, the time has come. Let’s get into the story. You start in a semi good place. Jackson is thriving, you can pet a dog and absolutely destroy some children in a snowball fight. Ellie’s ordinary world is perfectly established. The only problem is her and Joel’s relationship is strained, something you don’t know the full picture of until later. Then we switch to Abby, a character you’ve never seen before. We know she’s looking for someone. My first thoughts were this is our villain and she’s looking for Joel. I was correct.

So our inciting incident of Joel’s death happens. The event that has caused many people to hate this game, send death threats and what not. I’ll be honest I didn’t cry at Joel’s death. I was sad, don’t get me wrong but shock overwhelmed the feelings of sadness. Shock that it happened and how. Let’s think about why that is. Joel and Ellie were happy and safe in Jackson. They have no reason to leave. Something extreme had to happen for there to be a story. Unfortunately the character who had to die was Joel. His character arc was complete. He’d accepted the death of Sarah and moved forward. Now Ellie has to experience a similar pain. Could a different story path have been taken? Yes, but we can think about those later.

After the traumatic inciting incident Tommy leaves for Seattle and Ellie goes after him with Dina. Then you have 3 days in Seattle and between each day you have a flashback section with Joel.

I’m perfectly happy with day one. You have a bit of puzzle solving. There’s a slightly open world section that you explore on horseback with Dina. Why isn’t there more of that in this game? Ellie’s 15th birthday is also a great section from start to finish. Heartwarming and magical. After that it gets repetitive. Day 2 and 3 is Ellie going to different locations looking for Tommy, actually she’s hunting Abby/looking for someone that knows where she is. I like the use of pathetic fallacy leading up to and on day 3. This storm is hitting for the climax. You find out that Ellie discovers the truth about what happened with the Fireflies in Salt Lake City. Something that could’ve been handled better. Ellie’s part of the story is very much her seeking revenge and grieving Joel with a bit of guilt thrown in. Ellie doesn’t find Abby in the end but she does leave a trail of her friends’ bodies in her wake. So Abby finds her at the theatre. She shoots Jesse in the eye and holds Ellie and Tommy at gunpoint. At this point we switch to Abby’s half of the story.

Unlike Ellie, Abby has a different goal for each day. Day 1: Find Owen. Day 2: Help Yara. Day 3: Save Lev from Seraphite island. A nice change of pace. Between her days we see she’s still dealing with her dad’s death and moments from her past. Mostly her relationship with Owen. Abby’s sections where she has to face her fear of heights instead of fighting enemies is refreshing. Short lived but refreshing. Finally the boss fight with Ellie is great. Different but I found it great. Facing off in different areas of the theatre with Ellie cycling through all her specific weapons is fantastic. A step up from David’s boss fight. Of course I wasn’t comfortable fighting my girl but that might be part of the point. In the end Abby let’s Ellie and Dina go.

Seeing Abby’s side of the story is a way to get the audience to understand her motivations and empathise with her but I don’t think that’s the whole picture. The goal is not to paint Ellie as the bad guy. It’s showing you that in this devastated world there are no good guys or bad guys. Both protagonists thought they were doing the right thing. They were seeking justice. They are the heroes of their own story and the other one is the villain in their eyes.

The story isn’t over yet. Ellie, Dina and JJ become a happy family on the farm Dina dreamed of. Unfortunately Ellie is still processing her grief and guilt. With a push from Tommy she leaves for Santa Barbara in search of Abby. The time on the farm is special. It’s happy and beautiful. A place both Dina and Ellie can live happily ever after.

In Santa Barbara Abby and Lev learn the Fireflies are regrouping on Catalina Island but are quickly captured by the local faction before they can leave. Lucky for them Ellie arrives just in time to save them. The harmony is short lived because she still wants to kill Abby. Our final fight is two exhausted, dying women punching each other to death. Not the most climatic end but a fitting one. Ellie wins but decides to let Abby and Lev go. Our final scene is Ellie returning to the now empty farm. Here you see her acceptance. The right way for the story to end.

Overall not a bad story. It’s nowhere near as good as the first game but that would’ve been a hard feat to accomplish. I would’ve liked to have the days grouped together rather than the character’s sides of the story. See if that would have affected the emotional impact of character deaths. Different stories they could’ve told range from an attack on Jackson forcing the town to relocate to another immune person showing up. The only limit is the creators imagination and apparently it stopped at revenge story. One aspect I missed was seeing all over the country but I’m just fine with one city. Sometimes it’s good to focus on the impact on one location.

Something else to touch on across both games is the vaccine plot point. Even with our technology today we don’t have vaccines for fungal infections and deceases. How do a group of doctors, who didn’t finish their studies, expect to make one with post-apocalypse resources? Their rush to cut out Ellie’s brain to make this “vaccine” doesn’t make sense either. Surely they’d want to run more tests, think about this more. As far as they know they only have one shot. Why risk their only immune person? Why did no one wake Ellie and let her make a decision? She’s 14, she’s old enough to make a decision about her own life. Why are all these adults making it for her? On another note, why is everyone acting like Abby’s dad is the only doctor that can make this vaccine? There must be other more experienced doctors still alive. Plus all the vaccine’s going to do is protect all the people that haven’t been infected. What about the millions of already infected people? You’d need a cure to help them. A cure that would be impossible to synthesise. 

In conclusion I enjoyed The Last Of Us Part 2. There  were many improvements from the first game. It’s just such a shame the story wasn’t one of them. I would still recommend this game to people, just make sure you also play the first one. The Last Of Us Part 2 gets a Sapphire dragon from me. Not all the way up there but still a fantastic game.

Huge congratulations to anyone who made it this far! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my longest post so far. I’ll see you all in the next one.

-Your Hostess-

Image Source: https://www.techradar.com/reviews/the-last-of-us-2-review

https://www.ign.com/articles/the-last-of-us-2-walkthrough-chapter-1-jackson-patrol

Time to Meet the Spring Troupe

Hello and welcome to all you beautiful people, today we’re continuing our quest to save a theatre and it’s company from destruction. Of course I can only be talking about A3! So without further ado let’s get into it.

The Spring troupe is the first of the four troupes to be formed. Spring brings new beginnings and this is most definitely a new beginning for the Mankai Company. I can see what you did there developers.

Already I can spot the formula for each story section. Tachibana finds five guys to form a troupe. They start rehearsals. Some of the boys are good or have good instincts. The others have a lot of work to do. The play is written. Rehearsals start with read throughs that are a bit rocky. Tachibana has a scene with each of the boys, encouraging them or discovering something about them. Rehearsals improve. Tickets aren’t selling well. The troupe comes together and manages to sell every ticket, closing night being the most important day. Finally they perform the show. I promise there’s more substance than what I’ve laid out here but that’s the basic outline.

The Spring troupe’s first show is Romeo and Julius, a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet about friendship and not romance. Although honestly I still get a romantic vibe from the dialogue and acting. Whether it’s a romance or not there’s enough there to fuel the shippers’ imaginations. Through the Spring troupe’s story the group suffers from a lack of teamwork. They’re all stuck in their own heads. A mindset that can be detrimental to a play, believe me. That all changes when the troupe decides to spend a night on the theatre’s stage. From then on in rehearsals all the actors noticeably improve. As I’ve already stated, at the end of the troupe’s story they perform to a full house on closing night, receiving a standing ovation.

So now I should probably talk about the boys. I mean they are the main characters in the story. And the reason why we’re here.

Sakuya Sakuma

Sakuya is the first member of the new Mankai Company and the Spring Troupe. He’s like a puppy, full of energy and always optimistic. Ever since he was young he’s been in love with acting and the theatre. Now he wants to give it a go himself. He’s got a lot of training to do but he puts his all into every rehearsal. His upbeat personality and position as lead in their first show is what leads to Sakuya being chosen as leader of the Spring Troupe. He’s a ball of sunshine that you can’t help but like. He’s a little naive but eager to learn. Sakuya tries his best to stop any fighting and keep the group together. He’s the best choice as leader. I like Sakuya but he’s not really my type when it comes to these types of stories, i.e. otomes and dating sims.

Masumi Usui

Masumi joined the Mankai Company after seeing Tachibana doing a street act with Sakuya and Matsukawa. It’s love at first sight and Tachibana becomes his whole world. So he’s an obsessive stalker, kind of. He’s harmless really. He doesn’t force himself on her but also doesn’t understand that Tachibana isn’t interested in him. Or rather she can’t be because there aren’t specific routes. There’s also the fact he’s 16 and Tachibana is in her twenties, gonna have to wait a few years there. I believe Masumi falls under the cool aloof type. He’s a good actor, despite having no experience, that could do with thinking about other things besides Tachibana. Oh wait, he’s a teenager so that’s unlikely. Although I think his upbringing factors into why he becomes so attached to Tachibana. Again I like him but he’s still not my type when I play these games and nothing has really grabbed me yet with his story/personality.

Tsuzuru Minagi

Tsuzuru is the third member to join the Spring Troupe. He was on the hunt for a troupe with a dorm, Mankai Company perfectly fits his needs. He wants to be a playwright and uses his talents to write plays for all the troupes to perform. He prefers to write characters specifically for each actor. He’s a hard worker. To help look after his 7 little brothers Tsuzuru worked many different part time jobs, picking up many different skills. When it comes to acting however he has no prior experience. He is a sweet guy who continues to fill the big brother role despite trying to strike out on his own. Tsuzuru is someone I could see myself dating if he was real. A nice guy who also loves writing and likes spending time in libraries reading. He even looks up to a slightly older actor, a 3rd year at his university, who is such a genuine guy, wanting to be more like him. Thinking about self improvement. But Tsuzuru is not my favourite.

Itaru Chigasaki

Itaru is another young man looking for a place to stay so he joins the Mankai Company. On the surface he’s a heartthrob that has his life together. Mature, kind and sociable. But his real personality is a far cry from the mask he wears. Itaru is a serious gaming addict. Everything he does is so that he can quickly return to his games. In my opinion he’s the one that goes through the most character development. At first he’s lazy, thinks acting is easy and spends all of his freetime in his room alone playing games. He goes from this solitary, single minded person to becoming part of a team, making friends and gaining a passion for acting. Itaru is my favourite of the Spring Troupe boys. I know gaming addiction is serious and should be treated as such. Games are fun but when they start taking over your life it’s time to get some help. But of course I’m attracted to a fellow gamer. I’d be right there playing games alongside him. We’re both competitive people which can be either a good or bad thing, good thing this is fiction. His character design is very attractive, I find it even more attractive when he ties his floofy fringe up when he needs to concentrate. I very much stand Itaru.

Citron

Citron is the last member to join the Spring Troupe. He’s a foreign exchange student shrouded in mystery. He’s still learning japanese, funny thing to say since I’m reading the story in english, so he gets his words mixed up sometimes. He’s always in a cheerful mood and is there to cheer up the group when they need it. Citron is disheartened at his lack of lines in the first show but quickly switches his attitude to wanting to do his best. I find Citron a great source of comic relief, you know a scenes gonna be good when Citron’s involved. I don’t like him in a romantic way but he’s one of my favourite characters. The Spring Troupe wouldn’t be the same without him.

In conclusion, the Spring Troupe story might be an insight into the skeleton of what the other season’s stories hold but that doesn’t mean they’re all painted the same. The characters determine what challenges the troupe will face and how they’ll deal with them. The Spring Troupe are all likeable guys who provide an entertaining first quarter for the overall story. Thank you all for reading and I’ll see you in the next post.

-Your Hostess-

Image Source: All photos are screenshots taken on my phone directly on the app.

Time to Save the Mankai Company

Hello and welcome to all you beautiful people. For those who have read my post looking at the spring anime for this year it will come as no surprise that I’ve started playing A3! I’m still playing through it so what I’m going to do is talk about the different sections of the story as I go, starting with the prologue. So without further ado let’s get into it.

A3! Act! Addict! Actor! Is a mobile character/card collecting otome game. Developed and published by LIBER Entertainment, creators of primarily mobile games. The game was first released in Japan January 27th 2017 for both Iphone and Android. The English translated version was released October 23rd 2019. The main story is fully voiced, apart from the heroine, like most otome games. As you already know the game has already received an anime adaptation but there is also a manga available to read. Other material I’ve found are CDs. What I’ve played so far hasn’t had a focus on musicals but  I’m happy to see they’ve released songs. I quite like the OP and I want to listen to more.

Now before I get into the story I want to talk about the “gameplay” if you can call it that. It makes sense to look at these elements first since this is a character/card collecting game. Though unlike other character/card collecting games I’ve played this one’s primary focus is the story. Story parts are unlocked by levelling up. To level up you do practise sessions with the boys. During the session you can either tap to cycle through the lessons or enable the auto feature. For something like this I think the auto feature is useful. By doing practises small scenes with the character you are doing the session with are unlocked. These are cute little scenes between the character and heroine related to rehearsals. It’s details like this that have kept me coming back to play the game.

A3! App

The cards you collect unlock backstage scenes as you level them up. I feel these backstage stories are where the real otome elements come in. They’re short, what I would call, romantic scenes between the boy and heroine. Not to mention scenes of the boys interacting with each other can also be unlocked. Being able to unlock these stories gives players a reason to continue playing beyond that main story. It also encourages you to collect more cards and to level them up. Another way to gain experience for levelling up is by putting on shows. Both shows and practise sessions require energy to do. Shows use a different energy type to practises so when you can’t do anymore of one you can move onto the other. Using premiare tickets you can even watch the shows in the theatre. They’re a cute a five minute show that you can watch. You can see the characters act out the play in chibi form. It is adorable.

A3! App

Other features include the boys doing street theatre to earn cash for increasing the actors card stats. Along with cash you also need to collect items to be able to do that. Finally you can add friends and give each other flowers to earn friendship points. Friendship points are used for tryouts, which is how you collect cards. I think the way this system is setup has kept me interested in the game. Story and characters are why I play these types of things and if it’s relatively easy to unlock new story parts I can put up with the other aspects of the game. 

I think most people would describe the art style as generic or nothing special. That might be true. To me it looks like what you’d typically see from anime and I like that style. It’s familiar and I’ve always thought it was pretty. I like the backgrounds and character designs. The CGs have a different look. They feel brighter and animated, breathing life into the characters. If you’re a fan of the typical anime style then you’ll like the art for A3 as much as I do.

I’ve already mentioned that the main story is fully voiced and I think it’s done well. I’ve found that I tend to like the japanese casting. The voices generally suit the characters and the emotion comes through. Whether it sounds like that to me because I don’t speak Japanese I don’t know. The important thing for me is whether my immersion is being broken or not. For all the characters I’ve encountered so far the voice direction has been good. I feel that’s the same with all the characters. I’m interested to hear the casting for the heroine in the anime.

Now it’s storytime. You, the player, can choose the first name for Miss Tachibana. Or you can use her default name Izumi. At the very beginning of the prologue we get a glimpse of the future. Here we see the Spring troupe about to go on stage. It’s closing night and it’s a full house. Cut to the present. On Veluda Way Tachibana is looking for a particular theatre. While wandering around she spots someone in trouble and rushes to help. A young man also passing by does the same. But all is well. This is a street act, a regular occurrence on Veluda Way. The actors performing are from the God troupe, one of the best troupes in the district. The young man who stopped to help asks them about joining. Ultimately he decides against joining because they don’t provide accomodation. This is a great introduction to the way Veluda Way works and what is normal in this world of theatres. The rules of this world are being established for the player. Witnessing the God troupe actors also introduces competition and generally shows off the standard of acting within the district.

A3! App

Tachibana moves on and finds the theatre she’s been looking for. The Mankai Theatre. But it’s about to be torn down by a yakuza looking guy. Tachibana’s words, not mine. Before anything can happen Tachibana intervenes. She manages to get them to stop long enough so she can watch what might be the Mankai Company’s last performance. It doesn’t go well. The play is short, the writing is terrible and the only human actor has a serious case of stage fright. The other actor being a cockatoo named Kamekichi. Whilst the yakuza is still set on tearing the theatre down, Tachibana sees potential. She even learns that her father used to be the Mankai Company’s director before he disappeared. Yakuza guy decides to give her a chance and tasks her with finding new actors before sunset. Tachibana, the manager and lone actor quickly put on a street act and recruit two new actors. One of them is the young man seen earlier. The group return to the theatre in time. Seeing this yakuza guy decides to give the Mankai Company one more chance to pay off their debt. With two conditions: they must put on four shows within the year with four different troupes and Tachibana has to be the director. Tachibana accepts the challenge. Now she only has one month to put on the first show and have a full house on closing night.

That’s pretty much where the prologue ends. I like the story. There’s a clear conflict and right off the bat the main characters are at a disadvantage. I wanted to be an actor at one point so of course I want to see these young aspiring actors succeed. Even if we might have already seen a glimpse at what’s to come I want to see the journey. Meet all the characters and watch them grow. I know I should have an issue with these being all male troupes but this is an otome. I’m not here for equality, I’m here for the boys. Hot boys with engaging stories.

I like Tachibana as the heroine. She has two clear wounds. Her father is missing,  plot point that may or may not be explored later, and she gave up on her dream of being an actor. Something that she was probably only pushed into because of her past directors telling her she can’t act. But now she’s going to use her knowledge to help save the Mankai Company. She really steps into the role of a leader, helping each actor to improve. She even has the ability to recognise the areas that she needs to improve. She has her doubts sometimes but she doesn’t let it get her down. Ultimately Tachibana has a big heart, is a great leader and has some funny lines/thoughts. Making her a great character to play as.

A3! App

One other character I want to talk about is Matsukawa Isuke, the useless manager. I’m not calling him useless to be mean but it’s a fact. While it’s just been him running the Mankai Company everything has fallen to pieces. They’re in so much debt to the yakuza that the theatre is at risk of being demolished. All that’s left of what was once four acting troupes is a lone newbie actor. They only put on terrible mini plays written by Matsukawa. He also can’t cook. Meals being provided is supposed to be a perk for living in the dorm but that’s not the case with Matukawa cooking them. Even his website setup is terrible. But despite all that, his shabby appearance and cowardice, he has heart. Somehow he always appears cheerful. He believes and loves the Mankai Company and it’s theatre. That’s why he finally tried to seek out Tachibana’s father. So he might be a bit useless but you can’t hate him. He brings comedy to the story. On some occasions he even serves as an ear for Tachibana. 

In conclusion, this is just the beginning. I love A3! so far. It’s not the typical otome I like to play. It doesn’t have specific routes for each boy but it doesn’t have to. I love the story, where it’s set and the characters, including the protagonist. If you’re interested why not download it? Read through the prologue and see what you think. Anyone want to add me as a friend? Alternatively you can give the anime a look, something I will be doing in the future. Look out for that.

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you all in the next post.

-Your Hostess- 

All images were screenshoted from the A3! app

Time To Be A Legend

Hello and welcome all you beautiful people. Today I want to talk about Apex Legends, an online battle royale developed by Respawn Entertainment that I regularly play with my brother. The legends you can choose from are diverse in many ways, each with their own unique abilities. Once in a game you play in squads of three, there being twenty squads in total, with the aim of becoming the Apex champion. All you have to do is be the last squad standing. Easier said than done. Believe me.  

There’s a lot I could talk about with Apex Legends, particularly the characters, but today I want to focus on the new season. Season 4: Assimilation started about a month ago with some significant changes. 

Source: www.gameslaught.com

Sniper weapons have been made into their own weapon type similar to shotguns. It’s an easy change to get used to but it does mean that you have to carry around two different types of ammo rather than stocking up on one. Maybe this was done in an attempt to make sniper ammo harder to find. Who knows. I do think one of the reasons  the developers did this was because they added the Sentinel. That’s right! We have a new gun. The Sentinel: a bolt action sniper rifle. It is a powerful weapon. You can even increase the power further by using shield batteries to charge it. With all that being said it’s not really a gun for me. I’m not the best with sniper rifles in the first place so I don’t really choose to use them unless there’s nothing else around. Just because it’s not my favourite doesn’t mean it isn’t a good choice to use. If you play the game why not try it yourself.

In the customization department they’ve added charms that you can put on your guns. It doesn’t change anything except there’s now a charm dangling on your gun but I love this. I hope they add more. My favourite is the origami dragon for obvious reasons.

The developers added the option on the main menu to go to the firing range. I would say it’s not entirely necessary since I hardly use it. It’s a great place to practise aiming at stationary targets, something you rarely find players being in the main game. You can try using all the guns. Understanding how they work and finding which ones you prefer using before jumping into the arena. If you’re waiting for a friend to join it can also be a good place to pass some time.

One of the biggest changes to happen this season is to the map. Gone are most of the ice covered buildings, green landscapes and bright midday sun. World’s Edge is now blanketed in the red hue of lava and a rising or setting sun, I can’t quite tell. Lying at the heart of the map is the Planet Harvester which has created multiple lave fissures throughout the landscape, splitting Capital city in two. Thankfully you don’t die if you fall into one of the fissures. However you do take 25 damage and are slowly lifted back onto the map. Another feature added to the map is Mirage’s party bus, actually called Mirage’s voyage. It’s exactly how it sounds: an airship with a party on it. And hundreds of Mirage holograms. Well what feels like hundreds of them. Mirage also has some ‘tasteful’ paintings. If there was any doubt in your mind about how narcissistic Mirage is then that airship puts his personality into perspective. I do think the party bus is in celebration of the games anniversary. But when you have no idea they added this thing and stumble upon it whilst playing it’s kind of like a shock to the system. I found it so funny and completely out there. On the games website there’s an explanation on the changes to the map and it’s really interesting reading about the goals the developers were aiming for. It’s clear their intent was to make a map that players had become accustomed to feel new. Give them new points of interest to explore and move away from repeating strategies every game. There are still times when I miss playing the original map, King’s Canyon. It would be nice if the option was always available to play on that map still.

Source: www.rockpapershotgun.com

Finally it’s time to discuss the new character: Revenant. I know mostly everyone has been waiting for another robot to be added but I don’t think this was the friend Pathfinder was expecting. Revenant was once human. He was the top hitman within the Mercenary Syndicate. He would go about his day witnessing his human face whenever he looked in the mirror. Until one day his programming failed and he saw what he had become. What the Mercenary Syndicate and Hammond Robotics had turned him into. Once he realised the truth he went on a quest for revenge. I believe that moment is what we see in his character introduction trailer, if you’ve seen it. I do know that people are theorising that the next legend to be added is the little girl in the trailer. Those events are set  twenty years in the past so it’s possible. That girl, now a young woman, seeking vengeance for her parents death enters the games in pursuit of the very being that killed them makes complete sense. I look forward to seeing her if she is our next legend, especially with all the wolf imagery surrounding her. 

Source: www.gamesradar.com

Anyway back to Revenant. He doesn’t have the best personality. An extremely cynical, all around bully who enjoys killing. What’s not to like? He even calls humans the derogatory name Skinbags. Despite his rubbish personality I like playing as this legend. When playing him it’s probably best to take an aggressive approach, something I’m not very good at. Or willing to do. I know I prefer to be on the defensive rather than the attack so maybe not the best character for me to play in order to win but you can’t win them all. His ability is called Silence. An orb that deals damage and disables enemies abilities for ten seconds. With his ultimate ability, Death Totem, a totem is deployed which protects members of the squad who have touched it from death. Instead of dying or being knocked down you’re returned to the totem. It is only for a certain amount of time and the totems influence can only reach a certain distance so use this ult wisely. Revenant’s passive ability allows him to move faster whilst crouching and to climb higher. Ideal for sneaking up on people and traversing the terrain. Like I’ve already stated, I like playing this character. Now I understand what he can do I can start working towards using him to his full potential. The other legends I prefer playing are Lifeline, Pathfinder and Crypto. 

That’s just about everything on Season 4. There is a lot more that I could talk about regarding Apex Legends but I’m going to end here for now. I find Apex Legends a fun game to play with friends and siblings or on your own. But I don’t really play on my own. The one major problem is that one more game can quickly turn into ten games or more. Not really something you can completely blame on the game. But that’s a psychological discussion for another time. I hope all you beautiful people have a wonderful day. I’ll see you in the next post.

-Your Hostess-

Image Source:

https://wccftech.com

https://www.gameslaught.com/2020/01/apex-legends-season-4-launch-trailer.html

https://www.rockpapershotgun.com

https://www.gamesradar.com/uk/apex-legends-season-4-trailer/

Time To Be A Pokemon

Hello and welcome to all you beautiful people. I’m sure you’ve all heard about it and probably played it by now. I mean the full release is this Friday. But today I’m going to talk about Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX Demo. The upcoming game was announced during Pokemon Direct on 9th January and the full release is set for 6th March this year. For now the demo is available on the Switch store. No spoiler warning this time since it’s a demo and nothing big storywise happens.

I’ll tell you a bit about the series for any non Pokemon fans out there. Mystery Dungeon is a spin-off game series that started way back in 2005. Whilst working on this post I discovered that the developers are Spike Chunsoft who also developed Danganronpa, another favourite game series of mine. Rescue Team DX is a reimagining of the first two games: Mystery Dungeon Red Rescue Team and Mystery Dungeon Blue Rescue Team. The story centres around you waking up to find that you’ve been turned into a pokemon. Teaming up with your partner you must help find and stop the source of the mysterious natural disasters and strange behaviour of some of the locals. Along the way you make many friends and find your place in this new world you wake up in.

As a kid I put a lot of hours into the original. I had Blue Rescue Team on the DS and absolutely loved it. Jumping into the demo for Rescue Team DX I was immediately taken back to those childhood days. A big part of that is due to the music. Sound is really a powerful memory trigger. Hearing the theme song I felt like I was transported back to sitting in the back of the car whilst we drove somewhere. I love that they’ve brought the music back from the original pretty much the same as it was. Music isn’t my forte but it does sound like it’s been given a new coat of paint. It’s sharper and clearer. I really do adore the music, especially the opening titles. It gives the feeling of adventure and epicness.

The first thing to do when you start a new game is the personality quiz that determines which Pokemon you are. Unlike in the original you can choose who you want to play as if you don’t like what the quiz gives you. This was a great feature to add because it means you don’t have to spend hours retaking the quiz till you eventually get the pokemon you want to be. My first result was Torchic which I don’t mind. There’s nothing wrong with Torchic but I wanted to be Eevee. Eevee is one of my favourite pokemon and the one I got the first time when I played the original. For my partner I chose Cyndaquil and named her Cinder. Now I was ready for my journey to begin.

Source: www.rpgsite.net

The story is pretty much a carbon company of the original but what do expect? It is a reimagining of it after all. You meet your partner, save a caterpie and form a rescue team. Then you save some magnemite and meet a young diglett before doing some more rescue missions. Interspersed between each day you experience a dream that draws you closer to the answer as to why you were turned into a pokemon. Then a dugtrio, whose mother of the diglett you met on an earlier day, asks for your help. This is where the demo ends. You can still explore the square but that’s it. There really isn’t much else to do when you get to that point. One thing they should’ve done is let you go on more rescue missions. Actually that might get boring too since there’s only two dungeons to explore. Oh well, it is only a demo. If you want more you can always go play another Mystery Dungeon game if you’ve got one. 

Source: www.slashgear.com

So the story might not be all that different, the art style on the other hand certainly is. All the pokemon are 3D models now, similar to the main Pokemon games but with a parchment feel to them. The reaction stills are back accompanying the speak boxes, looking pretty much the same as they always did. The movement of the models is fluid and for some reason more entertaining to watch than their predecessors. When in the dungeons you no longer immediately switch places with your partner, or whoever is behind you, when you want to go backwards. Instead you push them in that direction. It is quite funny watching them spin around in circles as you push them. I should point out is possible to switch with them, it’s just funny pushing them around. I must say the background art is beautiful. It looks as if it’s been hand drawn. The colours give this dreamlike quality to the background, making the characters appear sharper. The colouring makes me think of water colours. It’s just so vibrant. 

I think it’s important to point out how easy it is to delete your save file, when you want to I mean. I always remember having to look up how to do it when I want to start a new game with the main series. With this Mystery Dungeon there is a very clearly labeled option on the main menu. It may have been there in past games but this is the first I’ve noticed it. Maybe to some this isn’t a big deal but to someone who likes to replay things it is.

Source: www.capsulecomputers.com.au

Lastly I want to talk about the controls. One new feature they’ve added is auto mode. You press the button and your team ventures through the dungeon on their own, picking up items as they go. Coming across an enemy stops auto mode and you have to fight them manually. I don’t like this feature. Surely this is just the game playing itself. Why would I use that when I bought the thing for me to play it? Answer is I wouldn’t. I feel the attack controls have changed since I last played one of these games. The quick attack button no longer just has you jumping on your opponent, instead it uses one of your known moves at random. And now it’s a lot easier to choose which move you want to use. You just push L2 and choose the corresponding button for the move you want to use. I swear in the original you had to go into the menus to do that stuff. But I may be remembering that wrong. Or they changed it up in later games. I wouldn’t know since the two Mystery Dungeons I’ve played are Blue and Sky.

That’s it. There really isn’t much else to say since this is only a demo. I know I’m looking forward to the full release of an updated version of a game I loved as a child. I’m sure this will appeal to people like myself and to children that get to experience this story for the first time. I hope all you beautiful people have a wonderful day. I’ll see you in the next post.

-Your Hostess-

Image Source:

https://www.slashgear.com/pokemon-mystery-dungeon-rescue-team-dx-remake-announced-for-switch-09606394/

https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch/Pokemon-Mystery-Dungeon-Rescue-Team-DX-1695693.html

https://www.rpgsite.net/feature/9409-pokemon-mystery-dungeon-rescue-team-dx-starters-test-answers-for-the-personality-quiz-and-starter-pokemon-listed

http://www.capsulecomputers.com.au/2020/02/pokemon-mystery-dungeon-rescue-team