Progress Report: Persona 4 Golden and Social Links

Ever since starting over on Very Easy, I’ve been flying through this game. I’m about 45 hours in, and it feels like I’m already heading into its final act. The funny thing is, I really do prefer playing it this way, even though it doesn’t provide much of a challenge. You get more money than you can spend, and most of your characters will be hitting level 99 by November. Additionally, if your party gets wiped out in battle, you can just continue from where you left off with full health and magic, making almost all recovery skills and items unnecessary.

So, why do I think this is fun? It’s because P4G is at its best when you’re not in dungeons. I mean, the dungeons here are good, and they’re more varied than Tartarus in Persona 3, but I still find them repetitive, especially if you go back for the harder bosses and the numerous fetch quests.

I’m definitely more in my element with the Social Link system, which fleshes out the stories between the main protagonist, his friends, and his family. I remember falling in love with this aspect of Japanese simulation games on the Sega Saturn when I played Sakura Taisen back in 1996. Its grid-based strategy parts were fun, but the interactions with the other characters was what made it a classic for me. And what an intro, right?

The Social Links in Persona 3 were excellent, and they’re great here as well. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters that you can build Social Links with, and even at this late point in the game, I’m gaining and working on new ones. This keeps things pretty fresh and your options open, especially if you’re like me and clear out dungeons right away, giving yourself weeks of free time in the game.

The scenario writers have done a really nice job not only making the main character story arcs interesting and meaningful, but giving the supporting cast three dimensions as well. There are times where I will find myself skipping over opportunities to advance my party member links in order to see where the story will go for people out on the fringes. Their struggles and personalities are warm, honest, and emotionally rewarding.

As I head towards P4G‘s finale, I’m already thinking about the links I will not have maxed out, the quests left undone, and trophies uncollected. Yes, there’s always New Game+, but a part of me wishes I could see everything in one shot.


Backlog Blitz: The games of January 2014

Earlier this month, I shared the Backlog Blitz process that I’ve been using to track what games I’m buying and playing. While it gave a very basic overview of what it is and why I do it, I thought it’d be more interesting to dive into what actually makes up those numbers, my brief thoughts on each game, and some other statistics. I plan on doing this for each month of the year, so I should hopefully be caught up by the time mid or late May comes around.

Anyway, here we go with January. Format is Game Title (Platform, Purchase Price, Play Time).

Games purchased (-1):

  1. The Humble Indie Bundle X (PC, $6)
    I love Humble Bundles for their value and high quality. There are lots of indie bundle sites out there, but none of them come close to the ones offered here. This one included BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, HOARD, Joe Danger 2: The Movie, Papa & Yo, Rues, Strike Suit Zero, Surgeon Simulator 2013, To the Moon, and Toki Tori 2+.

Games finished (+13):

  1. Super Mario 3D World (Wii U, $60, 30 hrs.)
    This game was just pure joy to play through. I’d say it’s the equal to the Super Mario Galaxy games on the Wii. It’s wonderfully varied, stars/stamps are fun to collect, and it runs smoothly at 60fps in 720p. It’s also full of inspired level design and perfectly responsive controls. It’s definitely my favorite game on the system, and is as good as platforming gets. Overall: A+
  2. Drill Dozer (GBA, $30, 20 hrs.)
    A 2006 side-scrolling platformer by Game Freak, makers of all things Pokemon. After playing the fun but uneven HarmoKnight last year (also from Game Freak), I decided to play this, and I’m glad I did! It’s extremely deep, and the treasure hunting in it was very addictive. Flying and swimming controls tarnish it a bit, but otherwise, it’s easy to recommend this. Overall: A-
  3. You Must Escape (Android, Free, 1 hr.)
    This is a pretty standard “escape the room” puzzle game. It contains a good number of rooms to solve, and most of the puzzles are intuitive. Some are a bit obscure, and the game itself isn’t anything special, but it’s still OK and worth checking out for free, especially if you enjoy the genre. Overall: C-
  4. The Last of Us (PS3, $60, 55 hrs.)
    My favorite PS3 game to date. It truly grabbed me and didn’t let go. It’s one of the rare times I’ve ever felt compelled to go through a game for every trophy, and although I skipped the multiplayer ones, I successfully collected the rest. It’s the most powerful gaming experience in recent memory, with solid gameplay that, while not extremely deep or revolutionary, supports the narrative perfectly. The world Naughty Dog has crafted here is just amazing to look at and explore, the soundtrack is haunting, and the acting is superbly top-shelf. Not to be missed. Overall: A+
  5. Forza Motorsport 4 (360, $37, 20 hrs.)
    This is my current favorite racing game series. It provides a good balance between arcade and simulation style racing, gives rewards to the player often, is graphically polished, and has powerful audio. The Top Gear contributions are fun, and the car selection is very good. Photo mode isn’t as good as Gran Turismo‘s, and I hate that it requires you to have Xbox Live Gold just to upload and save your own pictures. Still, it’s an excellent game with an abundance of content. Overall: A
  6. Crashmo (3DS, $9, 10 hrs.)
    The follow-up to Intelligent Systems’ Pushmo, this takes the familiar formula of that game and changes things up significantly by allowing you to now slide blocks sideways. It doesn’t sound major, but even early puzzles were giving me trouble due to preconditioning! Things really clicked later, and while I haven’t finished them all (I’m about 67% through it), I’m considering this one done. I’ll surely go back to it for months — if not years — into the future. Overall: A-
  7. The Beatles Rock Band (360, $60, 5 hrs.)
    My wife and I played this quite a bit back in 2009 (her on vocals and me on drums), but I decided to play Story Mode to see what it was like. I was pleasantly surprised by its quality, with great bits of Beatles history and trivia tucked away inside an excellently produced campaign. Very nice for a music game, and you can tell that the team that worked on this truly cared about the subject matter and source material. Overall: A
  8. Quell Memento (Android, Free, 5 hrs.)
    I made it about 70% into it, but I lost my progress as a result of my phone having to be replaced, so I stopped. It’s a well-produced puzzle game with good graphics and smooth, familiar gameplay. Hidden items and puzzles add an exploratory element to it. Perhaps after the sting of losing all my progress fades, I’ll give it another go. Overall: B
  9. Ridiculous Fishing (Android, $1, 5 hrs.)
    This is a fun game that puts tablet and phone tilt controls to great use. It’s pretty simple (and as the title suggests, ridiculous) in concept as you not just fish, but fling said fish up into the air to be shot out of the sky! I didn’t expect much from it, but it’s surprisingly deep with lots of upgrades, responsive controls, a funny story, and beautifully stylized graphics. Overall: B+
  10. Pet Rescue Saga (Android, Free, 2 hrs.)
    These types of puzzle games are usually OK, but this one doesn’t do anything particularly interesting, and lacks the smooth feel of Bejeweled Blitz or King’s own Candy Crush Saga. The animal designs are also not very good, and thus, I lost interest before too long. Overall: C-
  11. Bravely Default Demo (3DS, Free, 20 hrs.)
    It’s been called a better Final Fantasy than Final Fantasy, and after playing through this, I have to agree. It has a great combat system, lots of jobs to master, adjustable encounter and difficulty settings, a nice aesthetic, and an excellent soundtrack. It rewards players who put more into it with extremely powerful skill combinations that make the game almost too easy. It’s so fun though, so I figure most players will end up doing that. Overall: A
  12. Candy Crush Saga (Android, Free, 15 hrs.)
    King put some time into making this nice to look at, and its popularity isn’t a mistake. I stopped after 50 stages, since I’m not a fan of games that make you wait up to a full 24 hours before you can keep playing. You can pay to get through these, but I would rather these companies simply offer premium versions that do away with these annoying roadblocks. Overall: C+
  13. NES Remix (Wii U, $15, 5 hrs.)
    This has some good ideas, and there are challenges here that really do make you approach these old Nintendo titles differently, but the game selection itself is what hurts it. The developer Indieszero has put together a nice title that is smooth and polished, but there are better games out there to revisit. I had to support this, though, since they also made the excellent Retro Game Challenge for the Nintendo DS. Seek that out if you don’t have it yet. Overall: B-

In summary, January was a productive month, with some truly standout games on a wide range of systems. I barely spent anything, which is always a good thing when you’re trying to stay focused on games you already own. February ended up being a rougher month on the wallet, but it definitely didn’t skimp on overall quality.

To be continued!


Testing the Vita Portable Charger

20140427_vita_chargerI’ll be out of town tomorrow with a lot of time to kill, so it will be a great opportunity to test out the Vita Portable Charger while I continue playing through Persona 4 Golden. It claims to provide 4-7 additional hours of gaming time, so in theory, it should be more than enough to get me through my adventures in Inaba and the TV World.

My first impression is that it’s a very nice, compact, and well-built device. The multicolored power indicator tells you everything you need to know about its charge level, although it does require the AC charger and USB cable included with the Vita. It doesn’t come with anything else besides the charger itself and instructions, so picking up an additional Vita USB cable for this is recommended.

Hope everyone had a great weekend, and I’ll report back later on how this performs.

4/28/14 Update: The Vita lasted all day! I played for about 4 or 5 hours throughout the day, and it still has about a quarter battery left, so I didn’t need the charger after all. I’m not going to charge the system tonight, and will see how it fares running on the portable charger tomorrow.

4/29/14 Update: I used the charger last night while I was playing P4G, and by the time I was done, the battery was fully charged and the charger light was red. I’m going to get the Vita’s battery down to about the same 25% level as it was yesterday, and see how much juice is left in the charger. So far, I’m pretty impressed with how quickly this charged the system, even while playing.

4/30/14 Update: Another day, another fully charged battery. I haven’t had to plug the portable charger or the Vita into an AC outlet for 2+ days now, and that’s with a good amount of play time throughout the day. Even though the indicator light was red yesterday, it still fully charged my Vita from 50%. This is turning out to be a very handy and surprisingly powerful little device.


Enjoying Japan in Persona 4 Golden

While dungeon crawling is an essential part of P4G, the things I’ve liked the most have been the events and activities that happen outside the TV World in its small, fictional town of Inaba.

My ancestors are from Japan, but the last generation of my family who lived there was that of my great-grandparents. Both my grandparents and parents were born and raised in Hawaii, and me in California. Culturally, traditional Japanese wasn’t a big part of my upbringing, and what remained was filtered through the blended lens of Hawaiian culture. I can make you a mean spam musubi, but I couldn’t tell you the first thing about cooking a chawanmushi!

2014-04-24-161250Back in high school, two things happened: First, while taking an art history class, we learned about Milan Cathedral in Italy. I remember getting goosebumps because of its striking beauty, and my emotions were stirred imagining the generations it took to complete. It gave me a new appreciation for history itself, and architecture in particular.

Second, I got into manga and anime, with Akira being one of the first major influences on me. I love the manga, and to this day, it remains one of the best, with artistic detail that boggles the mind. However, when I finally saw the movie, even though it was a poor VHS copy and I barely understood a thing, it changed my life. It made me not only want to learn more about Japan and its history, but it influenced my art, interests, and my desire to go there someday.

2014-04-24-150354I was fortunate enough to visit Japan several times later in life, which were all amazing experiences. As a result, I found myself drawn to games that treat Japan and its everyday life as essential components to their stories. They take me back to those trips, rekindling old memories.

In that sense, P4G is one of the best.

It really captures the small town/big city dichotomy well, with characters oftentimes wanting to evolve, but worried about losing their historical identity and the simplicity of rural life. The distinctive locations reflect this, and the date-specific events that break up the normal day-to-day exploration and Social Link building are fun, giving great insight into Japanese culture.

I’m at my happiest in P4G just walking around town, looking at the small details of the old buildings, their interiors, traditional clothing designs, or taking a moment to appreciate the satisfying sound of a sliding wood door closing.

These elements truly make the outside world of P4G a convincing and comfortable one. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to live there and give the Mega Beef Bowl Challenge a shot!


Review: Batman: Arkham Origins: Cold, Cold Heart DLC (PC)

20140424_cch1DLC season passes are a touchy subject. I’m not really a fan of DLC in general, particularly the locked-on-disc variety, or finished content that has been held back to be sold later. While I fully understand that development costs are high, the trend that started last generation of nickel and diming consumers to squeeze out upfront profits is one that just doesn’t sit well with me. Despite all this, I recently purchased the Arkham Origins season pass for $5, and while its other offerings have been forgettable, Cold, Cold Heart redeems it as an example of good, story-driven DLC that makes the purchase worth it.

I happened to like Arkham Origins, awarding it an A- in my review, but one of the standout characters from the earlier games was Mr. Freeze. I didn’t know much about him prior to Arkham City, but he was such an interesting, tragic, and charismatic player. After experiencing his story, I definitely wanted to learn more about him. Hearing that Cold, Cold Heart would focus on Mr. Freeze was exciting news, and I wasted no time hopping back into the Batsuit.

20140424_cch3From the very beginning, I was enjoying this. While it provides the familiar world of Origins to explore (albeit smaller), you get a genuine sense that WB Games Montreal took their time to create some nice, new interiors. They also ensured that the outside world itself stayed consistent with the storyline. It looks great, with subtle changes that fans of Origins will appreciate.

There’s a new addition to the existing enemy types, as well as tweaks to and new functionality for Batman’s array of gadgets. My favorite new device by far is the Thermal Gloves. They address one of my pet peeves of this series, allowing the removal of wall grates by just holding down the A button instead of hitting it repeatedly. It’s a small change that I hope carries over to Arkham Knight because it’s quick, painless, and eliminates an unnecessary game mechanic that got very annoying for me over the course of three games.

20140424_cch2There are several sets of collectibles, similar to the ones found in Origins, and these unlock additional abilities for Batman. I liked that certain ones were relatively easy to locate and marked on your map automatically for later retrieval, but some still require thorough exploration. This helps extend the life of the DLC for completionists who want to get everything, but they mostly feel like busywork, like they did in Origins.

In terms of length, it felt pretty good to me. Not too short and not too long. The story itself has some great moments, with cameos from series regulars thrown in to help mix things up. Most importantly, it provides insight into Mr. Freeze’s backstory, underscoring why he is such a popular and compelling character.

20140424_cch4Finally, the Extreme Environment (XE) Suit is pretty cool. It’s nicely designed, suitably intimidating, and fits well into the context of the story. It looks bulky, but thankfully doesn’t affect Batman’s movement.

I enjoyed my time with Cold, Cold Heart. It’s a nice package that extends the life of Arkham Origins by several hours, focusing on one of my favorite characters of the Batman universe.

Graphics: B+
Audio: A-
Gameplay & Controls: B+
Presentation: B+
Value: B
Overall: B+

PC Notes: Reviewed using an Intel i7-920 CPU (4GHz overclock) and Gigabyte GTX-670 Windforce OC video card (GPU: +126MHz, RAM: +775MHz overclock). Resolution: 2560×1440 @ 60Hz. Graphic settings: Anti-aliasing and DX11 features turned off to maintain 60fps.


My start in the videogame industry

Note: This is a revised version of an email I had sent to my Quality Assurance (QA) team while working at THQ in 2010. I was a Sr. Manager in Phoenix, Arizona at the time, and these were meant to be a regular, ongoing series about my experiences in the industry. Although I only managed to get a few of these written, I’m happy to be bringing them back to life here at GHG.

20140423_pacmanA question I receive on a regular basis is, “How did you get your start?”

This can be a tough question to answer, especially when people ask it in the context of why I managed QA at a publisher instead of working as a Producer or at a game development studio. As with most things in life, it was not planned this way, and there were many decisions — both good and bad — that factored into and affected my career path. Before I actually began working in this industry — and even several years into it — I really did believe my future was in game design.

But first, I have to rewind to the beginning, circa 1980, when my love of all things videogames started. I was fascinated by arcade games, and clearly remember “playing” Asteroids for the first time. I utterly failed at it, since my still-developing brain had trouble understanding the concept of button controls instead of a joystick. I’m sure it would still intimidate me if I ran into it today!

20140423_dkIt didn’t matter, though. Games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong had already sealed the deal, and it was in 1982 when my dad bought the family an Atari 2600, a console whose success Atari was never able to duplicate. It’s popular to hate on 2600 games like Pac-Man and E.T., but I liked them. Did I know they were poorly made games? Sure, but by the same token, playing the bad games made me appreciate the great ones like Yar’s Revenge, Space Invaders, and River Raid.

Several years later in 1984, our first computer arrived: The Apple //e. I remember my dad saying it would be a good educational and home business tool, but let’s face it, it was all about the games and programming in BASIC and assembly! A very fond memory of the time was the plethora of magazines and books chock-full of programs, and I remember transcribing nearly all of them and saving them on disk. They were also ridden with syntax and logic errors, so this taught me how to troubleshoot code before the days of more advanced debuggers and compilers. While it annoyed me when programs wouldn’t work correctly the first time, I was later thankful since they helped me improve at general problem solving and how to improvise and create my own code.

20140423_archonI loved game design at an early age as well. Around 1986, my best friend and I worked on a prototype design for Archon III in our spare time. We were huge fans of Archon and Archon II: Adept, and I’m not sure what our naive minds were thinking, but we actually thought that if we submitted this to Electronic Arts (EA), we would somehow get jobs working for them creating this game ourselves!

Imagine our disappointment after having spent months working on graphics, gameplay, stories, and maps, and not even receive so much as a thank you letter? We were crushed, but it taught us to keep idealistic wishes in check with reality.

In the end, it was still a fun experience, and coincidentally, we used one of EA’s own programs at the time, Adventure Construction Set, to create the sprites and map layouts for our design. It was extremely time-consuming, but this gave us a deep appreciation for the work artists and animators put into all the games we loved to play.

20140423_btBesides the Archon series, Interplay’s The Bard’s Tale was a huge influence on me, and I still remember the day I loaded it up for the very first time. I had borrowed it from my neighbor across the street after having played some street football after school, and even on the Apple //e, with its 280×192 resolution and 7 colors, I was blown away. The graphics and animation had a unique style I had never seen before, and the battles were fast, fun, and descriptive. A desire to work on games like this for a living began to materialize in my head once again.

I remember reading an article in an old magazine (I believe it was K Power), which described the rubber band gun battles that Richard Garriott, better known as Lord British, would have with his team while working on the Ultima games. It sounded like such a fun place to work, and it would turn out that this fun spirit in the industry was actually quite accurate.

Fast-forward to 1995. My love for all things Interplay was still going strong, and that summer, my friend who worked there asked if I wanted “a cool job playing games”, wording that I know makes QA professionals twitch uncontrollably.

Unsurprisingly, though, I took the job.

I spent my first day there testing a final version of Castles II for the Mac. I had no idea what I was doing, there was no such thing as training, I was staring at printouts full of abbreviations like NF, PF, and NB, and I was surrounded by strangers. I almost quit after my first day.

I always thought back on that when I saw new Testers quit before they were through their first week. I wondered if they did so because they felt the same way I did?

Anyway, I stuck with it, and after a few weeks, everything clicked. However, I quickly learned the difference between what I played and liked as a consumer and what I was required to test. Just because I really liked Descent and Virtual Pool didn’t mean that I’d be assigned to games like that all the time. Early on, I tested a CD-ROM musical documentary and a sluggish Myst-like adventure game, both of which sat on buggy middleware. Needless to say, this didn’t exactly align with my plans to work on the next Bard’s Tale!

So that’s what initially got my foot in the door: lots of passion for gaming, a little bit of luck in terms of timing, and an open mind.


I’m loving South Park: The Stick of Truth

It was 1997 when I first saw the original Spirit of Christmas video clip circulating around the office at Interplay. I, like so many of my coworkers, sat there laughing hysterically at these cute little foul-mouthed kids. South Park was gaining some considerable buzz as the TV show was getting ready to premiere later that same year. The rest, as they say, is history.

Throughout its ongoing 17-year run, it has remained popular, and still provides some great laughs and its trademark biting social commentary on world events, celebrities, movies, race, videogames, sports, disabilities, you name it. They are equal opportunity offenders — offending everyone equally — but I usually find myself agreeing with the underlying message of each episode. That’s been a key quality of the show: They know what we’re all thinking, but they’re bold enough to say it. Loudly.

My interest was through the roof in 1999 when Bigger, Longer & Uncut was released, which I just loved (it was a great year for movies in general). The episode Chinpokomon also first aired that year, which is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I haven’t been able to look at anything Pokemon-related in quite the same way ever since!

I started playing The Stick of Truth last week, and it’s been a fantastic game so far. Even though there are characters I’m unfamiliar with and surely references that are going over my head, the core components of what make South Park great are all here. The important qualities that make a successful RPG are also here, courtesy of Obsidian, a developer who knows a thing or two about the genre.

I’m very impressed by the look of the game, which is so convincing that you could swear you’re watching an episode of the show. Controls are crisp, objects you can interact with are clear, and there is a nice variety of activities and quests to complete. Combat requires attention and very good timing, which is similar to the excellent Paper Mario series.

Although I’ll be 40 in less than 4 weeks, this game’s reaffirming the fact that I still love lowbrow, childish humor, and probably always will. It also makes me want to go back and watch the show again, but for now, it’s time to continue my quest as Douchebag.


Persona 4 Golden on Very Easy

I have a general rule that I will always play a game on its default difficulty first (if a choice is offered). It’s been my experience that when games are designed and tested, Normal is the one that’s been tweaked, balanced, and played the most.

In today’s terms, Normal usually skews a little easier, which is fine, because if I really enjoy a game, I’ll go back and give the harder difficulties a whirl. If there are additional trophies or achievements to be acquired, that adds a nice incentive. The Last of Us is a great example of a game I was happy to play through multiple times.

Last week, however, after having been destroyed by one of P4G’s bosses 5 times in a row (you can read about that here), I ultimately decided to throw in the towel and start over. I was no longer having fun. That was 40 hours down the drain, which stung a little, but I’m finding that it’s been a lot more fun and eye-opening on the Very Easy setting.

One thing I hate is missing out on things in games, and I knew that I’d missed a lot on my Normal playthrough. I decided to use a guide this time to track Social Links, Quests, date-specific events, and other activities, and at only around mid-May, it’s shocking how much I’ve overlooked. I know that the game is designed so that it’s impossible to see everything on a single playthrough, but even then, this approach has been valuable in making me rethink how I spend each day in Inaba.

Something else I tried for the first time is P4G’s SOS system, which is an online component allowing you to send out requests for help in dungeons and provide aid to others in need. I’m not sure why I never tried this until now, but I’m finding it to be a fun way to interact with other players.

I don’t like that sending out an SOS request takes as long as it does, but other than that, getting the minor HP/SP bump in battle from other players makes me smile. Even though the game has been out since November of 2012, I’ve been encouraged to see almost all of my requests fulfilled. Other players in the TV World have proven to be a generous group, so if you are out there right now, then thank you for your help!

Effort-reward balance on Very Easy has been the best part. It doesn’t necessarily mean less effort, since the game still takes a lot of time, smart decision-making, good planning, and organization to get the most out of it. What it does mean, though, is you’ll get to see your characters and Personas grow and evolve quickly.

It’s not uncommon to see one or more level advancements after a battle or two, and taking out Wealth Hands (which are the equivalent of Dragon Quest’s Metal Slime family) require less time and provide amazing returns. This new pace provides a steady stream of positive feedback to the player, which I just love.

It might not be my proudest moment as a gamer, but at this point in my life, I’m perfectly OK with that.


Weekends at Gray-Haired Gamer

When I started GHG a week ago, one of the promises I made to myself was that I would write something here at least once a day. I want to treat it as seriously as I would any job that I love. However, over the years, I have also come to appreciate the importance of a healthy work/life balance. Not just to prevent burnout, but to spend time with my wife, family, friends, and to enjoy the vast world outside of gaming.

That’s why weekend updates here will be rare, or they may be of a more random, off-topic nature. They might also be quick recaps and reflections on what I’ve written during the week.

As the saying goes from the incomparable Calvin and Hobbes, “It’s a magical world … let’s go exploring!”



I’m getting too old for this…

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.

Shadow MitsuoSo I’ve been playing Persona 4 Portable (P4G) this week, and am in the Void Quest dungeon. Up to this point, the game hasn’t been all that difficult, and actually, most mob battles are too easy since you can gain advantage every time and Rise will tell you the weaknesses of most enemies. As a result, they rarely get a chance to take their turn.

But this guy, Shadow Mitsuo, is a different story. The difficulty spike almost seems like a mistake. I’ve now been wiped out by him 5 times using different party setups, and each of those battles has lasted approximately 30-60 minutes. Looking online yields a couple suggestions: Grind more or fuse the Black Frost Persona. Well, grinding’s out since it’s terrible here. Battles aren’t fast and painless like they are in Bravely Default or Dragon Quest. As for fusing Black Frost, I don’t have the money to buy back the 5 Personas required for this, so that brings me back to grinding, or getting lucky with Shuffle Time. Talk about a lose-lose situation.

I don’t mind difficult games, and in fact, some of the hardest games I’ve ever played rank among my favorites. I did everything in Super Meat Boy, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Rayman Origins, Super Hexagon, and others. The thing is, a game needs to be fun. This? It makes me want to throw my Vita out the window.

p4g_difficultyAs the great Bill Cosby once said about getting older, “After a while, you learn what you want to burn your energy on.” That’s so true when it comes to games. If it ceases being fun, you either have to find a way to make it enjoyable again or move on. The thing is, I’m not ready to leave. I really like the game’s story, characters, world, and music, and want to see it through to its end.

Being close to 40 hours in, do I put in the work to get my party battle-ready, or just start over on Very Easy to focus on the more personal simulation aspects of the game?

A tough decision draws near. Command?