NaNoWriMo Update

The first draft of Book 1 has been completed, and I am now moving over to Book 2 of my story. The site will continue to remain quiet while I work on my novels for NaNoWriMo. But feel free to stick around, because when I get back, we’re going to be talking a lot about Video Games!

-Randy Marr

NaNoWriMo Break.

The Midnight Roost will be on hiatus for the month of November as I participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). My apologies for not regularly updating the site during this time.

To learn more about NaNoWriMo click here!

To watch my progress, click here!

To read the rough draft of my current novel, click here! Please keep in mind that it is super rough draft. We’re talking pre-alpha. I’m just stream-of-conscious putting stuff down into a halfway competent narrative to meet my 1600 words-a-day goal. So be kind!

Thanks!

-Randy

Video Games Live: Level 4 Now Up On Kickstarter

Quadruple Value Offered For Every Pledge Level.

It appears that Tommy Tallarico is trying to make lightning strike again as he’s using Kickstarter to fund the fourth full-length album featuring your favorite video game music performed by live orchestras from around the world.

The Video Games Live concert series has existed for over a decade, now, and has yet to show any signs of slowing down. It’s been all over the world, seen by millions live, and shown on PBS. Now, three full albums later, the great minds behind Video Games Live need your support to keep this train rolling.

“The music industry has changed a lot over the past 13 years since we started Video Games Live, and no record company was willing to take a chance on risking the money needed to create the project to the high quality and standards that it needed to be.  The traditional record companies didn’t believe in the concept and they thought we were crazy… but the outpouring of fan support from around the world was incredible and inspirational.  We proved to the world that people DO care about video game music and we believe that lightning can strike twice,” said creator Tommy Tallarico.

You can see rewards and details on the Kickstarter page yourself, so I’m not going to sweat the small stuff. But I do happen to know that some of the video games that will be featured on this album include Earthworm Jim, Donkey Kong Country, World of WarCraft: Warlords of Draenor, League of Legends, Cave Story, and more! This looks to be Video Games Live’s biggest and best album yet.

What do you think? Will you be supporting this new album? Have you ever been to a Video Games Live concert before? Leave your stories in the comments.

 

Review: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

The P-1 Grand Prix comes to a very worthy climax.

I want to clarify one thing before we get into this review: I’m terrible at fighting games, but I’m great at Persona. Ergo, I’m coming at this beast as a person who isn’t capable of getting too heavy into the technical side of the fighting game. If that’s what you’re looking for in a review, I’m afraid I cannot help you. However, if you want to know how this package is for what I imagine is the average Persona fan, then I’m the guy you want to talk to.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is the sequel to Persona 4 Arena, where the concept was to bring together cast members of Persona 4 and Persona 3 and bring them into a fighting game scenario. Like it’s predecessor, Ultimax manages to deliver in every way on that concept, and does so by running down a checklist of improvements and nailing every single one.

The core gameplay, developed by Arc System Works (BlazBlue, Guilty Gear) is as typical a fighting game as you can get. Each character has unique movesets, there are super bars that you build up by beating on your opponent, and the first person to lose all their stamina loses the match. It’s all fairly cut and dry, and anybody who’s picked up any fighting game should be able to get the basics. What makes the Persona 4 Arena series unique is that there’s a low barrier of entry. Moves are relatively easy to pull off without any super complex button and joystick maneuvering, and even the most novice of player can feel special just by hitting X a bunch of times and watching the auto-combo’s fly. This may seem cheap, and on a certain level, it kind of is, but any advanced player that really digs into the meat and potatoes of this game can easily overcome those auto-combos and lay down the law. I know this because I’ve played online and the X button did nothing to save me.

The big draw to this series for me is the story mode. If you haven’t played the original Persona 4 Arena, you’re going to feel quite lost as this is a direct sequel in every way. (Fortunately, you can buy the story mode to the original game as DLC to this game and play it first! It’s cheaper than buying the whole first game if you don’t need to.) Without getting into a whole lot of detail, it’s better in both presentation and quality. A strange red fog rolls into the real world, causing all technology to shut down like a mixture of the Midnight Channel and the Dark Hour, leaving our Persona-summoning protagonists befuddled. Their confusion doesn’t last long, however, as General Teddie shows up to inform them that they have one hour to reach the mysterious tower that has appeared over Yasogami High to save their captured comrades before the world ends.

Rather than picking every character from a select screen and replaying essentially the same scenarios again and again, you’re given a set of story threads that you can bounce between. It’s a large cast, so it makes sense that people are split up, but not having to see the same cutscenes and stories play themselves out like they did in the first Arena is a welcome change. There’s still the gratuitous amount of event recapping to keep you up-to-date on the scenarios, but even that isn’t as egregious a problem as it was in the first game. The events hanging over the giant “To Be Continued!” of the first Arena are neatly tied up in this one, but that isn’t to say there aren’t a bunch of new mysteries drummed up first. Overall it’s as engaging a plot as ever, and more well presented.

There are a few new modes this time around, and most of them are kind of throw-away fighting game modes like Score Attack and training challenges. However, one new feature might be interesting to some; it’s called Golden Arena Mode. In this, players pick a character and start going through “dungeons,” fighting CPU opponents and actually gaining experience. Experience grants levels, which in turn grant special abilities and stat boosts. Anybody who has played Persona 3 or 4 will immediately recognize the layout and concepts behind this, and it’s a pretty interesting way to spend some time playing the game. Ultimately, though, there’s no real hooks other than just maxing out your character’s stats, so I found that while this mode was interesting, it didn’t add a whole lot to the experience. It may have been better tied into the story mode, which itself lacked a great deal of fighting, but then that would have been dragged on for perhaps too long. It’s difficult to say, but it is a neat experiment regardless.

The DLC in this game is a bit harsh, especially considering how much of it was day one. On one good hand, anything you bought from the previous game carries over, so if you have the voice packs, alternate color packs, or glasses packs, those all carry over for the existing characters. However, you’ll still need to buy new packs to add colors and eyewear for all the new characters. You can also buy the story to the original Persona 4 Arena, as I mentioned earlier, which is kinda handy. But from there there’s also a ton of new voiceover DLC, music DLC, and character DLC. The characters are, in my opinion, the most terrible DLC in terms of game content for a number of reasons, namely setting up tournament play potential behind a secondary “paywall.” That said, the characters they offer are really good, so I’d have to advise getting them. Just know that’s going to be extra money you’re going to spend on an already full-priced game. It’s a bit much, and I can’t help feel like a lot of it is unnecessarily held out to make a few extra bucks. If DLC like this is something that turns you off, I have to think that you’ll be soured by the smattering of offers they have in this game. However, if you like DLC to extend your content, then perhaps you’ll be bellying up to this all-you-can-download buffet.

In the end, Arc System Works took a checklist of everything that makes a better sequel to a game, and made sure to hit every box. They cleaned up the visuals, they added more music, they added more stages, they added more characters, and they improved on their previous modes while adding new ones. In short, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is everything I loved about the original, and then some. The gratuitous amount of DLC for a full priced game can be a bit off-putting, especially when characters are involved, but everything else about this game is exactly what it needed to be to make a better sequel.

Unplugged: Pandánte

 Pandas plus poker equals party.

If you’re anything like me, you like the ideas of good ol’ fashioned Texas Hold’em, but wish it had more of a twist. Well, friend, have I got a game that puts more than a few twists on it: Pandánte.

In this game, the players each have a board with one of 10 possible hand combinations on it. They’re given a stack of chips, and then everybody is dealt two cards. Everybody ante’s one “gold” into the pot, then three more cards are dealt into what is normally known as the flop, but what Pandánte calls The Splash. After that comes a betting round, where players place two gold on their board corresponding to the hand they are claiming to have based on their cards and the splash. This is the crux of the game: you don’t actually have to have anything! You just have to convince other people you do. Of course they’ll be able to call you out later after more cards have been dealt, but at great financial risk to themselves if you happen to be telling the truth.

One of the other big differences between this and Texas Hold’em is that you can exchange cards during parts of the game known as “Snacks.” Here, you can pay a certain amount of gold to trade one of your cards for something in the hopes of getting a better hand, or at least telling a better lie. Mix in the Ability Round into each hand and you can create some really great chaos. One ability lets you add a sixth card to the community cards, while another allows you to fold and take back your last bet if things are getting too heated for you.

An aspect of this game that I really love is that it’s innately built to keep players playing the game and less about elimination. One way Sirlin Games does this is by adding a Magic Gold Fairy that will refill you back to 20 gold at the end of a hand where you’re below that amount. Not only does that keep players playing the game, but it helps feed more gold into the game to help other players reach the gold cap for victory. Of course, you can play more like classic poker and go for elimination, or even play for real money. It’s that kind of flexibility in a game that I really respect.

From a presentation standpoint, I’m absolutely in love with this game. I purchased the deluxe set, so I received the elegantly designed poker chips, the minimalist card set, and the sturdy player boards, all wrapped up in a very posh case. It’s a sturdy investment, retailing at $99, but if you have the cash I highly recommend it. Otherwise, Sirlin Games’ website offers cheaper versions of the games if you already have your own favorite poker chip set, and even a printer-friendly version of the game, if you really want to play on the cheap.

Pandánte is a game that should appeal to a wide audience. Most folks will appreciate the Texas Hold’em trappings, geeks will love the addition of powers and tricks, and everybody loves pandas.

Nintendo Treehouse Live 9/12 Breakdown

Nintendo shows off Smash Bros. and more.

The Nintendo Treehouse team has been doing a stellar job showing off games this year. They started at E3 with presentations that lasted all day showing off all sorts of new games for fans of Nintendo products. They also showed up at New York Comic-Con to run challenges using these new games and to host a Smash Bros. for 3DS tournament. Today they returned to show off a bunch of updates to those E3 titles, and to show off the final build of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS.

The first thing they showed this morning was Captain Toad. The adorable little title stars the titular Captain Toad and his adventures to find stars and diamonds in these miniature levels. Folks who played Super Mario 3D World on Wii U Will remember the occasional level featuring a similar premise. This game is those levels blown up into a full fledged title. Captain Toad is set to release later this year.

Next, they showed off NES Remix on the 3DS. NES Remix was a great title on the Wii U, and it looks just as fun on the 3DS. This time, the game features much needed online leaderboards. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I recommend looking forward to the 3DS release.

Mega Man 7 was played for a little while, showing off some of the Virtual Console service. It’s Mega Man 7 so there’s not much to say, other than it’s a good game and it’s available now on the Wii U Virtual Console.

After spending too much time on that, the Treehouse gang showed off some Hyrule Warriors. That game still looks bonkers. Watching Ghirahim cut through entire chunks of armies with that cool looking magic is awesome. It’s that ability to play as my favorite Zelda villains that really is selling me on the game.

The game appears to be an enormous power fantasy, but I worry it gets more repetitive than power happy. I’ve never played one of these newfangled Dynasty Warriors titles, so I really have no idea what I’m in for. I will say that the couch co-op will allow me to play with my husband, which will help me get through any game. *cue sappy music*

There are a lot of modes, including Adventure Mode, and a new Challenge Mode, which will come to the US version of the game care of a day one patch. Adventure Mode has players using the original NES Zelda map to select various challenges that they must then complete in Hyrule Warriors. Challenge Mode is like that, but with the challenges amped up and without the NES Map.

Bayonetta 2 was next, and oh what a delight that game is going to be. It’s all the action of Bayonetta with a brand new adventure and set of weapons. I’m currently in love with the Nintendo costumes adding more variety to the gameplay and weapons. I’m not going to go into too much detail because we just had a Bayonetta Direct, so go watch that if you want to know more.

They showed off the Multi-player mode as well. The online-only feature has two players playing to defeat challenges and competing to get a better score than your other player. It’s all about co-op with a versus twist, and allows players to show off for each other and bet halos against each other.

Next, the Treehouse gang showed off Fantasy Life, which was made by Level 5 (the fine team behind Professor LaytonNi No Kuni, and more). This game looks to have that typical charm you would expect from them. It’s bright, cheerful, and looks to be simplistic while hiding a certain depth. I don’t know that I”ll have time to pick it up, but it looks cute enough to check it out for a co-op experience.

Then came the Smash Bros.

It looks like they’re not going to reveal anything here so I’m going to call this article here. It’s Smash Bros. footage that you’re welcome to watch on their stream for the rest of the day.

What do you think of the games Nintendo showed? Excited for anything in particular?

 

The 5 Best Music Tracks So Far in Smash Bros. for 3DS

Smashing your eardrums with awesome.

Smash Bros. for 3DS is out of the bag. Some folks in Japan got their hands on a copy of it early and have been streaming all sorts of features and reveals, and it’s nuts. I’m doing my very best to avoid it, but it’s all over the internet right now. I just want to hang out until tomorrow during the live stream Nintendo is holding to kind of get an “official” release on any last minute things. Then I think I’ll be satisfied without needing to dive into the rest. Maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see.

In any case, I’m saving that stuff for a write-up tomorrow. Tonight, let’s bask in the glory of one more list. Let’s talk about the best music they’ve shown off so far for Smash Bros. on the 3DS.

Continue reading

Smash Bros Hype: The 5 Newcomers I’m Excited For

The first five I’ll probably check out

 

Finally, I was able to put down streams of the Japanese Smash Bros. for 3DS demo long enough to write another article. Here’s a look at the 5 new characters I’m most excited to investigate! Please note that I’m only drawing from confirmed characters, so certain leaky types are going to have to wait until later to be praised.

5. Mii Fighters (Brawler, specifically)

In any fighting game that offers it, I always go with the Create-a-Character. No matter how limited it may be, I’m much more interested in creating my own characters than using preset ones. Smash is the exception to this, but I’m still very excited to investigate customizing my Mii to be a Brawler. I also tend to pick characters with an up-close and personal fighting style, so unless he turns out to be a Captain Falcon clone, I’ll be enjoying the fisticuffs Mii Fighter has to offer.

4. Mega Man

I didn’t grow up playing Mega Man games like a lot of people. I didn’t pop in until the X series on SNES, and Legends is my favorite off-shoot. But I still appreciate the Blue Bomber in all his forms, and this one looks to be handcrafted for maximum fan service. He also appears to be a super unique fighter with a lot of tools at his disposal, so I’m interested to check him out.

3. Wii Fit Trainer

Before, she was just going to be a fun character that came out of nowhere, but when I learned she’s also a charge character I became much more interested. For those who don’t know, she uses the Deep Breathing technique to charge the power of her attacks. It goes in combination with her Sun Salutation charge-up shot, making for a dangerous combination. I enjoyed playing Lucas in Project M, who had a similar mechanic, and I’m hoping that the Wii Fit Trainer works in a similar manner. I look forward to finding out soon!

2. Robin the Tactician

Ever since I played Fire Emblem: Awakening, I’ve wanted The Tactician, or Robin, as a Smash character. It turns out that Mr. Sakurai and I were on the same wavelength with his design, too, because Robin does everything I imagined he would. He throws out spells and fights with the Levin Sword, creating a mix-up that makes him wholly unique from other sword fighters. I’m hoping he has a “Hood up” alternate appearance, but I somehow doubt it at this point. Oh well!

1. Villager

I’ve been an Animal Crossing fan for years now, and I’ve always wanted the Villager to make an appearance. In my head, he utilized his tools a bit more to do his work, like recovering with the fishing rod as a whip/grapple mechanic, but Mr. Sakurai’s realization of him is even better. The way he moves, the weapons he uses, and his Final Smash are all brilliant. I look forward to weeding out my opponents one at a time in the near future.

What Newcomers are you excited to play as? Anybody in particular catch your eye? Feel free to drop a comment and keep the discussion going!

Smash Bros. Hype: The 5 Veterans I’m Most Excited to Play

Basically, my main characters.

For me, it’s just as much fun seeing an old favorite get redesigned and refit for the upcoming Smash as it is to see a new face enter the fray. That was the thought behind creating this list. Maybe it’s just a new costume, or maybe they were my main and I’m excited to see their changes (and new custom movesets!). Either way, these are the five veterans I’m most excited to see return.

5. Toon Link

I didn’t like the way Toon Link looked in Smash Bros. Brawl. The sort of Twilight Princess art style that all the characters had didn’t fit him. He looked drab and dreary compared to his trophies that used his Wind Waker model. I’m glad to see him in this new engine where he’s much more colorful and expressive. That alone is all I need to know about him to want to keep him as one of my main characters.

4. Bowser

Bowser was always a character I wanted to love but couldn’t. He just didn’t hold up well enough for me. I normally play as big, slow characters as it is, but something about him was -too- big and slow. That, and his move set just didn’t appeal to me. However, we’ve seen Bowser get a huge moveset makeover, and now he looks primed for combat. The most recent 3DS tournament at Comic-Con came down to a Bowser on Bowser fight, so you know he’s picking up playability. I’m excited to see where that new moveset takes him.

3. Pit

Similar to Bowser, I really wanted to learn Pit in Brawl, but couldn’t find anything about him I really liked. He was annoying, he felt cheap, and he didn’t have a whole lot of fun tricks. Most of that seems to have changed for the new game, and I’m hoping that’ll bring me around on Ol’ Pitty-Pat. From his better voice actor, to his revamped moveset, it seems like they’ve done a lot to make Pit more in line with what I wanted when I first picked him up.

2. King DeDeDe

He was probably my first love in Brawl. Everything was perfect as a long time fan of the Kirby franchise. Nothing was more satisfying to me than lining up that perfect hammer blow and KOing somebody at a relatively low percentage, just because I could. In the new Smash, King DeDeDe appears to be more expressive, and, hopefully, more fine tuned like Bowser. I’m interested to see what custom moves he’s going to mix up his arsenal with.

1. Ike

Ike was a character I couldn’t figure out for the longest time. Then one day, fairly recently, he just sort of clicked, and he’s been my main since. His outrageous knockback and damage potential, combined with his hefty weight, has made him a big favorite of mine. His new redesign makes him look like somebody actually capable of wielding a bodacious broadsword like his, and I really appreciate that. Like all of the previous characters, I’m very interested to see how he’s changed in the new game.

So those are my five faves, but what about yours? Do you have any returning characters you’re excited to see? Even if they haven’t been confirmed, who would you love to see return? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Smash Bros. Hype: My 5 Most Wanted Alternate Costumes

Playing Dress-Up with Nintendo Characters

Fighting games these days love alternate costumes. It’s a great way to have unlockable aspects of a game without necessary hiding your roster, or even a great way to make some extra cash post release of a game. We’ve seen some instances of alternate costumes in the upcoming Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS like a male alternative to the Wii Fit Trainer and multiple different Animal Crossing Villagers. I’ve decided to think a little more on the topic. Basically, these are costumes I’d probably pay money in the future to have if they’re not already in the game.

5. Majora’s Mask for Mii Fighters

Majora’s Mask is still one of my favorite Zelda games. It may not have held up as well in terms of raw gameplay, but the story and atmosphere still rank among the best in the industry. It’s not a secret that the mask itself remains an important icon in my life, and I always love finding it in games like Guacamelee, Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Animal Crossing. So it should be no surprise that I want it to be one of the costume options for my Mii to don in the upcoming Smash Bros. games.

4. Cosmic Spirit for Rosalina

I’m very hyped for Rosalina. She’s easily one of my favorite Mario characters, and I always seem to enjoy what they do with her in any game they put her in. You may recall that she appeared in Super Mario Galaxy 2 to assist players on their journey in the form of the Cosmic Spirit. If not, there it is above! For obvious reasons, this would make an awesome alternate costume for Rosalina.

3. Rupee Armor for Link

It looks like somebody has already modeled this idea in Brawl, so that makes imagining it a little easier. The Rupee Armor was an awesome little armor set you could get in Zelda: Twilight Princess that made you invincible as long as you had rupees for it to consume. I think it goes without saying that we would remove that little caveat and just leave it a nice armor to put Link in, but just in case, I just said it.

2. Lobster Shirt for Toon Link

This idea was implemented into Project M, and I think it should be used in a more official capacity. The more casual outfit is my preferred way to play Zelda: Wind Waker, and I believe it’s just more visually interesting. Plus there’s a lobster on it.

1. Meowser for Bowser

My number one most wanted costume was the biggest surprise of Super Mario 3D World: Meowser. Bowser donning the cat bell and turning into the ferocious-yet-fuzzy villain was a highlight for that game. It was easily one of the best boss fights in Mario history. I think it would only be fair to bring this costume back for Bowser to terrorize his foes with in Smash Bros.

Those are just some of my costume ideas. What are yours? Sound off in the comments section so I can see what creative ideas you have!