#334: The Back Tattoo

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I’m pretty sure I’ve already written a blog post called “The Tattoo,” and in order to avoid repeating myself over and over again, I came up with a new title for this one, called “The Back Tattoo.” And I actually have pictures this time to match the description I’m giving it! So I’m excited about that.

Over this past weekend, Alex got a new tattoo, this time of our shared favorite character from the Persona 5 video game, Makoto Niijima. Makoto is the student council president of the game’s high school setting, and she joins the Phantom Thieves as their adviser and planner. She’s strong, smart, and deeply loyal and caring towards the people she loves. She’s also totally badass and comes up with brilliant plans that ultimately save people’s lives. As a character, I’m a huge fan of hers and so is Alex. When we were playing Persona 5 over the summer together, it was fun to talk about the characters and share elements of the story with each other. I used to text Alex pictures of their text conversations and general story happenings to keep her in the loop on things, and Makoto was one character that Alex seemed to take more of an interest in.

Having a smart character balance their maturity with their desire to fit in with others makes for a super relatable story. As you can see in the tattoo though, she’s definitely not the kind of character to pull punches. She enters the fray with nuclear magic, aikido training, and her overall intelligence to strategize and assess the situation. Now that she’s in tattoo form on Alex’s body, it’ll always be a reminder of the strength that’s required to survive and how powerful she really is. I’m super excited to see it finished in November when all is said and done.

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#326: The Claw

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Using the clutch claw in Monster Hunter: World is going to be subject of this latest blog post, because I’m running out of ideas! Here’s the first picture I saw that works for “monster” in the free photo library.

The clutch claw is one of the latest additions to the game with the Iceborne expansion, and it promises to make up for the changes Capcom made to flash pods in Master Rank missions. They nerfed flash pods so that they don’t down flying monsters any more, so the clutch claw was added as a way to compensate for the changes. It’s a fantastic mechanism that allows you to tenderize certain key parts of monsters while also forcing them to drop slinger ammo. Many weapons received new moves in Iceborne, and a lot of them involve using slinger ammo for the first time in an effective, strategic way. I like being able to use the slinger burst with my greatsword, for example. It’s an incredibly powerful move and it enables me to do lots of damage by sacrificing my slinger ammo in the process. Without the clutch claw, I’d often not have enough ammo to use to make the move work.

The clutch claw also has a move that allows you to slam a monster’s head into a wall or terrain, like a tree or something like that. I haven’t quite mastered that move because it’s a bit complicated and you need to be very careful with how you use it, and carefulness and caution aren’t exactly my strong suits. But I still try my best, and with the help of some guiding videos on the Internet I’ve been able to learn the ways of the clutch claw. Capcom really made this game difficult to compensate for its aura of epicness. And it works!

#324: The Legend

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Reaching legend rank in Hearthstone has been a dream of mine for awhile, though I’ve never quite achieved it yet. It’s still one of those few gamer achievements that’s eluded me, like getting above gold rank in Overwatch competitive league. At least in this case, this is a fairly achievable thing that I can imagine myself getting. It just involves a lot of grinding and working towards a goal, without stopping anywhere in the middle. If I actually put some effort into it, I’m sure I could reach legend some day with the right deck. And then I’d memorialize that deck forever, if it were to happen. I’d keep the deck in my collection as a standard and then wild deck, with the title “this is what got me to legend, I will never get this rid of this ever.” Although that’s probably too long a title to have at once. I think it only allows a few words at most!

I mention getting to legend because I’m currently playing Hearthstone, and it’s something I can maybe see myself achieving this season. It’s within my reach and I can almost taste it. Unfortunately for me, there are only a select few amount of days left in the season, as each season lasts a month and you’re given until the end of the month to reach legend before your rank is reset back down a bit and your progress is mostly lost. The rank reset has been more forgiving in recent months, after they updated it so that you didn’t lose all of your progress. Now that I’ve made it to rank 7 this season, I’ll probably drop down to about 13 or so when the season resets, unless I can manage to climb up the ladder higher before that happens. We’ll have to see!

#306: The Banjo

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This blog post won’t be about actual musical banjos, though I did have to look up whether the plural of banjo was banjos or banjoes in order to write this sentence.

My very first video game system was the Nintendo 64, which my uncle got for me on my fifth birthday (I think). I remember being incredibly engrossed in Super Mario 64. I still hold a certain nostalgia for 3d Mario platformers because of that era. And there were so many games like it that came after! Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo & Kazooie are the two that spring to my mind quickly, and they’re both modeled after the genre Super Mario 64 practically invented. Banjo in particular feels nostalgic to me because I used to love that game, even though I never beat it. The music, with its classic country twang, feels right at home in this type of game. It makes sense and it fits Banjo’s aesthetic. The people behind Rare Studios really took Super Mario 64’s mold and created their own colorful, energetic game out of it. I’m not saying that Banjo-Kazooie is a fantastic game, but it’s recognizable to me the same way Mario and his games are. The game is full of magic.

So, when news dropped a couple months ago that Banjo & Kazooie were coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I was totally excited. Banjo was my biggest pick for Smash for a long time, and I knew it was unlikely because Rare Studios was traded over to Microsoft years ago. Microsoft is of course a rival gaming company to Nintendo, but to see them cooperate to allow this to happen shows that these video game companies are willing to put aside their (financial) differences to make great moments like this happen. I’m grateful for that, and I wish others would take their example.

#290: The Rotten Vale

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In Monster Hunter: World, there are about five different biomes you can explore: Wildspire Wastes, Coral Highlands, Elder’s Recess, Ancient Forest, and Rotten Vale. Each biome is home to different monsters, so if you’re interested in farming an Anjanath for its plates, you’d likely find one in the Ancient Forest (although one does pop up in the Wastes in a story mission, but… forget about that.) If you’re fighting a Jyuratodos for Aqua Sacs, you’re going to find one in the river area of the Wastes. Certain monsters have certain zones within these biomes that they frequent, such as the Jyuratodos and the lake/river area, and the Pukei-Pukei and the poisonous forest crossing in Ancient Forest.

I decided to write more specifically about the Rotten Vale because the music for it is currently playing from my computer speakers. It’s like the Takeover post I made, which was inspired by the new battle music for Persona 5 Royale. Music inspires writing more than you might think on this blog.

The Rotten Vale is a steamy, poisonous mess. It’s partly jungle, partly cavernous, partly boneyard and infested wasteland. Odogaron, Girros, Great Girros, Radobaan, and Vaal Hazak make their home here, feeding off of the effluvium vanes and the corpses of dead monsters. The vale is one of my favorite biomes in the game, despite the tendency to get electrocuted or poisoned in some way by the monsters that inhabit it. Everything causes a status effect or heightens an existing effect, such as Vaal Hazak’s effluvium health reduction which requires Nulberries to nullify. It’s a true test of preparedness and coming into things with a clear goal and mindset. If you don’t come prepared into the Rotten Vale, things will go south pretty quickly. It features one of the things I love so much about Monster Hunter; you are a tracker just as much as you are a fighter.

#289: The Shadowbringer

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Shadowbringers? It’s kind of a generic name, but that’s fine. “Bringer of shadows” could mean anything in the world of fantasy. It could mean that you’re a wielder of dark magic, like a necromancer or warlock, or it could mean that your morals lean toward the evil and corrupt. In this case, it’s referring to the newest expansion for Final Fantasy XIV, which released earlier this year. The earlier expansions set the stage for this one, and they’re also bundled into the same package, which makes it a worthwhile investment for me. I’ve been playing a lot of Final Fantasy XIV recently, even though I’m a ride-or-die WoW expert, because I needed a change of pace from all the monotony of world quests and exploration through WoW. I think having new scenarios and scenery opens up my imagination again, compelling me to continue playing and immerse myself in the game’s deep, complicated systems. Being that I’ve had a lot of time recently to play the game, I’ve been able to invest myself through the initial campaign. There’s nothing like diving into a new, massively huge game and being able to explore it for the first time. It makes me happy to see.

I read this great article from Kotaku recently, titled “How To Get Into Final Fantasy XIV In 2019,” and it helped me get my footing when I was first starting out in the game. It’s important to pay attention to the game’s story, believe it or not, as it reaches “fantastic heights.” I’m interested in what that includes, as the story hasn’t been super engaging thus far. I might even invest in a “story skip” so I don’t have to worry about completing content I’ve already completed a ton of, and whose story I already have a fairly decent handle on.

#286: The Queue

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Role queue is a new feature recently added to the game Overwatch, and it’s changed everything. Previously, you were able to choose heroes freely, without having to worry about what role they filled. You could have an entire team of damage dealers, or supports, or tanks, and the game would do nothing to stop you from trying that hilarious (but probably ineffectual and frustrating after awhile) strategy. Role queue is meant to fix that problem, among other problems present in the game’s social side of things, by forcing a 2-2-2 team composition on every team that plays in Quick Play or Competitive Play from here on. While initially I was hesitant to accept the limitations towards creative freedom that role lock posed, I became more in favor of the idea the more I heard from people on the PTR who said it drastically improved their playing experiences. They were able to queue for whatever role they wanted, and it didn’t matter what other hero people picked. They knew that their team would be good from the outset, at the very least because it was 2-2-2.

Previously, there was always the lurching fear that your team would descend into total chaos because one of your healers switched to a damage dealer, or your only tank swapped to a healer when you already had three healers. There have been innumerable instances of playing Overwatch where the other team wins over us just because they have a better team composition than we do, and now the field is a bit more level. There can still be times where your two damage dealers are Bastion and Symmetra on Offense on a 2CP map (*cough* *cough*), but at least the odds of that happening are less and less. Eventually, role queue will be coming to Quick Play, and I’m looking forward to that so I don’t have to do Competitive as much!

#282: The Squad, Part 2

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This post is a continuation from my previous post about Monster Hunter and forming a squad online.

Initially, as a fan of the Monster Hunter series, I presumed that the game was primarily solo, with some online multiplayer if you wanted to. But realistically, the entire game’s campaign can be completed online, and that’s what I ended up doing with one of my friends over the past few nights. We’ve been hammering through the campaign at lightning speed, mostly because I have some overpowered weapons and gear right now. It makes for interesting times, and the completions are at record speeds for us. That being said, when I spoke with some of the other members of the squad, they said they’ve been playing long enough that they have kills on some of the late-game monsters in under five minutes. That’s insane for me to even think about, but congrats to them. The person I was speaking with said that if I perfected my builds and practiced, I could do it, too, which left me feeling a bit hopeful about everything. That even a noob like me can one day reach those incredible heights in a game. If you can dream it, you can do it, and all that sappy stuff.

What’s also interesting about having a squad is the feeling of belonging that’s associated with it. It’s so easy to hop right in that I don’t have to worry about feeling left out. Because it’s still currently summer vacation for me, I have the ability to stay up late at night with some extra coffee to play some Monster Hunter with my online friends. Sometimes way late into the night, even though I probably shouldn’t be messing with my sleep schedule so much right before school season begins again. The time is almost coming.

#281: The Squad, Part 1

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Playing Monster Hunter: World has been brought to a completely new level: I can now play with multiple friends at a time. Previously, I had played with one of my friends who recently bought a PS4 specifically to play with me, and that’s been a blast so far, but now the experience has been upgraded. I can’t say I’ve had an experience like this on an online game since my days of playing World of Warcraft in a guild. A sense of camaraderie between teammates while fighting for a unified objective, while also playing online with friends who you care for and who care for you.

When I used to raid in WoW, I don’t know how close I ever got to my teammates. I know I eventually told them my age and all that, and I know that at some point I went on voice chat with them and broke through that whole barrier. Back in the day, we used Ventrillo which was a computer application you had to pay for. Discord nowadays is so much more convenient, considering you can do whatever you want from there and for free. You can set up a server for just your friends, and you don’t need to pay for it, most importantly!

Forming a squad on Monster Hunter, though, has been a wonderful experience. I love meeting and befriending new people online, and I love perpetually closing the social gap that I have with other people. There’s satisfaction in slowly overcoming obstacles that have persisted through time, from a young age to an adult age. Having a squad means no one is out of place, everyone’s here for a reason, and everyone in the squad is welcome whenever. All you have to do is just log in to Monster Hunter: World and see if anyone else is playing, too. It makes the game so much more multiplayer based than I ever thought it would be.

#278: The Plot Twist

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What do you remember the most from the plot of the most recent piece of media you consumed? Probably the climax. It’s the pivotal moment of the story, what all the narrative has been hinging upon. A story with a middling climax leaves people feeling dissatisfied and, in worst cases, betrayed. Look at how people have reacted to the most recent Game of Thrones season. There was an uproar, almost deservedly so, over the decaying writing quality over the course of the series. Seasons 7 and 8 were seen as low points for the series, whereas the beginning and middle seasons appeared to people as hallmarks of the good old days. It’s almost a shame how the climax left so many people wanting more and expecting higher, though the story was bound to disappoint at least some section of its audience regardless.

But the point here is that people will cling to the story’s end, whatever left the most recent large impression on them. To me, a recent game that had this effect was Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I spent the majority of the story slowly understanding it, but not making too much of an effort to pay attention. When the plot twist came along near the story’s climax, I felt totally unprepared for it because I wasn’t expecting such a major, narrative-shattering moment to appear. I won’t spoil it for people who are reading this but haven’t played the game, but I recommend picking it up for yourself so you can see what I mean. It might have the same effect on you! It definitely has the potential to. The game itself is completely worth picking up, especially if you’re new to the series, as I think it’ll astonish you. A plot twist like the one coming up in this game might leave your mouth agape, waiting to be picked back up from the floor.