Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Announcing 31 Days, 31 Screams!

Hello! Goodness, the summer ended rather quickly this year! Already the sweltering sun rays have receded, leaving only the slow chill of fall. I love fall. It's my favorite season because so many good things happen during it! We have September, which is my birth month (it was actually my birthday yesterday, even, so hooray for entropy there), and then in November there's National Novel Writing Month, which has me writing 50,000 word novels in the space of a month. As for October? Well, October is kind of the fall month. September still has lingering summer warmth, and November has impending winter chill. October is the perfect mixture. October also has Halloween, which is a good excuse for everyone to dust off all sorts of spooky-themed media and indulge themselves in horrors and ghosts. (And goblins.) I like spooky media, and I also like writing shit and need to warm myself up for November. So, that's what this is!

31 Days, 31 Screams is going to (hopefully!) be a daily project throughout the month of October. Every day I will write a small blog post about some piece of spooky media. It could be an episode of a TV show, a horror movie, a video game, a book... Everything is fair game here. I have some things in mind, but I'm going to need to be creative to fill 31 days. That's where I can ask for your help! Please toss me some suggestions for spooky or Halloween themed things to experience. If it's something I was already going to do, you'll get to see it. If it wasn't, then I may just give it a go and have new things to say! Leave a comment here or tweet at me or something, whatever way you like to reach me.

See you in October, and try not to scream too much, now.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Dr. Strangenep Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Goddesses (Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3)

(Oh my god. This ended up being massive, huh? Also there's going to be spoilers for this game. I don't think that matters, because either you love this series and know the ground by now, or you're probably never going to play the thing and are wondering why I would do such a thing. Either way, this is your spoiler warning. There are spoilers. Now, let's meander on.)

Predicted audience reaction to the subject of this post.
I'm probably going to get judged for this by someone anyway, so let's just admit it outright. I'm writing about Hyperdimension Neptunia today because I bought one of the games for like, 8 bucks on a Vita PSN sale recently and spent the last two weeks playing the goddamn thing. After 32 hours I cleared it. Some modicum of fun and enjoyment was had by me. My "atonement", such as it is, will consist of burying myself in new and exciting games that drop later this month; namely the newest Ace Attorney and the Dragon Quest 7 remake, both on the 3DS. Hell, if I'm not swamped, I will attempt to finally juggle one of those Trails In The Sky RPGs that people seem to love so much. Oh, and then there's this. Another of my exorcisms, so to speak, in which I try to expel every given thought on a subject racing through my head by spiritually expunging esoteric ectoplasm about video games. I have an idea of where I want to end up, mostly as far as the ending of the game I beat is concerned, but how we get there is up in the air. A history tour might be best, as there are still no doubt some of you out there who have no earthly idea what Hyperdimension Neptunia is. Oh dear. Let's cast ourselves back in time, then, as we so often do. Woosh.

The best start is some nebulous point in 2009. News comes out from somewhere that a strange high-concept Japanese RPG is coming out for the Playstation 3, which retells the console wars and anthropomorphize each video game company involved as... cute anime girls. The trend is nothing new. Research tells me that "OS-Tans" date back to 2003. Those usually involved, well, operating systems. Or websites. Here we had the concept applied to console gaming. Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and even dear sweet Sega were set to get a new coat of paint and become cute anime girls. So it was that Hyperdimension Neptunia was brought to the world, and it inevitably crossed over. Speaking of inevitabilities, we are fortunate. Thanks to my maddening need to document most of my travels in video form, we have a date for my first fateful encounter with Hyperdimension Neptunia. Accounting a day earlier, because the video spans a two-day trip, here it is. May 18th, 2011. I am visiting an old high school friend, a big big anime fan, and chastizing him for purchasing a PS3 specifically to play Hyperdimension Neptunia. I didn't mention it, but that wasn't even his copy of the game! He borrowed it! What devotion to such a high concept! Surely there had to be something of merit to this game? Japan must have thought so, because sequels soon followed. Hyperdimension Neptunia, Mk2. Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. From conversations with my pal there, I gained more and more knowledge of what in the name of God Neptunia was like. I have to say, I wasn't impressed. Then, a way for me to actually experience it. A Let's Play on Something Awful that I could read! It was finally time to see what this series was all about.

I hated it. Holy hell, this looked bad. Just dreadful. The original game's ridiculous combat system aside, Neptunia seemed designed to be my anti-matter. At its core, it hit two of my pet peeve buttons. No. Not "hit". Mashed repeatedly. The first of those being reference humor. I trust I don't need to go over this territory again. Neptunia, being a game about anime personifications of console girls living in the magical world of "Gamindustri" (THIS IS ACTUALLY THE NAME OF THE UNIVERSE IN NEPTUNIA), saw fit to put in constant little winks and nods to other games, to light up that part of a player's lizardbrain that remembers things. Stuff like, say, a nameless NPC who is a member of a task force called R.A.T.S. complaining about zombies and shit. IT'S A RESIDENT EVIL REFERENCE, I KNOW WHAT R.A.T.S. IS SUPPOSED TO BE A RIFF ON, HAR DE HAR. If you clicked that hyperlink from a few sentences ago, or remember those words, you know just how goddamned insufferable I find "humor" like that. To Neptunia's credit, at least, that's not the only note it takes. No, the second note is fanservice. At the risk of coming off as a prude (which, some of my closer friends reading this will know is a goddamned lie), I'm not a fan of fanservice. The analogy I've used for video game references is that it's like jangling keys in front of my face instead of saying something intelligent. Fanservice, then, to my 2012/2013 self, felt like jiggling breasts in front of my face. When combined, the two were a lethal combination. Take, for instance, Vert and Blanc. Vert is supposed to represent Microsoft and the Xbox, and she looks like this. Blanc represents Nintendo and the Wii, and she looks like this. The "joke", so expertly spelled out within the first few minutes of the original game, is that the processing power of consoles in our world equates to cup size in Gamindustri. The Xbox is a more powerful console than the Wii, so the Xbox girl has big breasts and the Wii girl is flat-chested. Not only that, but after getting through some opening cutscene stuff where our protagonist, Neptune (the Sega girl) falls to the world below, we see her being nursed back to health by a nurse in training named Compa. Who has bandaged her up. What follows is something that I'm hiding behind a link. It's Neptune, naked and all bandaged up and alarmed at her sudden nudity. That was it. Putting the whole "Big boobs= more power" thing up front, plus THAT, just poisoned the well for me in regards to Neptunia. I continued reading the Let's Plays, of course. All three games. It got more ridiculous and somehow managed to offend me in more ways. Take a villain from the second game, for example. CFW Trick is a big dinosaur thing with a big tongue who takes a particular liking to two new characters introduced in that game, Rom and Ram. Twin little girls who represent the DS. The undertones kind of disgust me, to be honest. So, that's Neptunia with a black mark against it. Yikes.

This is indefensible.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2013. My friend has made a wager with me. He knows how much I don't like Neptunia. He also knows that a 12-episode anime based on the games is coming out. He bets me that I can't sit through the thing. Challenge accepted. Well, right from the opening to Episode 1, every character is wearing fancy dresses and there's tons of jiggling breasts. Then I think there's a scene where slimes attack them and it's every bit as fanservicey as it sounds. Not only that, but in Episode 2 fucking CFW TRICK SHOWS UP and is just as creepy towards Rom and Ram as ever! Oh my god! Within the belly of this beast, however, is something interesting. Episode 2's air date of July 19th coincides with my friend visiting me, and me recieving terrible and potentially life-altering financial news. Episode 6 airs on August 16th, 2013. That was the day I started this blog. Here, in the middle of my personal despair and my own self-inflicted displeasure at watching a Neptunia show, is where I revive the Nintendo Project. Did Neptunia have any part of it? In a mad way, this intersection is inevitable. The video game about pretend video game goddesses, being posted about on a blog in which I invented some pretend video game goddesses to waffle esoteric about the high and lows of obscure NES games. From here, the anime takes turns that are taken straight out of Hyperdimension Victory. We'll come back to those and what they might represent. For now, we focus on a funny thing that happened. Neptunia's creators decided to look to the past before going to the future, and this led to the Re;Birth games. Remakes of the three PS3 Neptunia games, for the Vita. Streamlined battle systems that weren't obtuse and odd, new goodies and whatnot, new DLC, the whole package. Fine and good, but now we jump to 2015. Out of nowhere, the Rebirth games started getting ports to Steam. The games were accessible in a way that they weren't before, on account of the Vita being a bit of a niche system. Friends of mine started playing the games and loving them. Friends whose opinions I quite respected! Well now, that's different! Before it was just one anime fan I knew who liked these games. Now EVERYONE is enjoying them! Was I somehow incorrect in my harsh condemnation of the games as reference porn with boobs? Then, the temptation. Rebirth 1 went on sale on the Vita PSN store for like, 8 dollars or something. I had to know. I had to know! So it was that, after half a decade of making fun of Neptunia and deriding it, I paid money for one and started playing it.

At least, that's what I would have written months ago, had I gotten around to it. I made it two hours in. I really was going to write a screed, much like the one I've just written, about how I totally wrote off Neptunia and then got to play it and found that it was not completely without merit. Chalk it up to laziness, I suppose. What I found was... well, I'll let myself speak for... myself. My friend got the Steam version for himself, and we have Steam sharing so I had access to it. Therefore, I made him a birthday video of playing 20 minutes of it. I did my best to be positive, and one comment I made in particular summed up my feelings best; Neptunia is a Frankenstein's monster of RPG mechanics. Running around the overworld feels very Chrono Trigger-esque, hitting monsters and getting initiative is straight out of Earthbound (or Persona), grabbing materials to make items for the shops to sell to you is right out of Etrian Odyssey, and so forth. I was actually having fun. Then came Black Heart. Two boss fights in a row, one against a giant phoenix enemy and one against Black Heart, the "powered up" form of Noire, the Sony goddess. The phoenix was an enemy I barely won against. Black Heart wiped the floor with my weakened party. Upon realizing that I would probably have to level grind to defeat Black Heart, the spell was broken. I couldn't be assed to do it, but I had found some merit in Neptunia. The experiment was a somewhat success, and I could now see the appeal of Neptunia and why people liked it so much. I ended up having my friend level grind for me, and one day while I was visiting him and waiting for him to wake up, I flipped on the Vita and defeated Black Heart thanks to his level grinding. That was satisfying enough, and later I uninstalled the game to make room for something else. So, this is right about where the original article I had planned on my Rebirth 1 experience would have ended. Granted, if it was JUST Rebirth 1, I'd have fleshed out things a bit more than "two hours in, Black Heart, can't be bothered" but those are the breaks.

It's worth noting that, at this point, Neptunia kind of fucking exploded. I once bothered to write down the releases of Neptunia games by month in 2015. Counting North American releases, new original Japanese releases, and Steam ports? There were TEN Neptunia games that came out in 2015. Let's list them, if only because this long article needs to be longer and because I want to emphasize just how much Neptunia has grown since being a niche PS3 RPG in 2010. January saw Rebirth 2 hit Vita in North America, and Rebirth 1 hit Steam. February had a spinoff on the Vita, Hyperdevotion Noire, which is a strategy RPG. April had a big one; the fourth main series Neptunia game! On PS4, even! But only in Japan for now. May saw another spinoff for North America, Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, which is more of an action game. Rebirth 2 also hit Steam at this point, which shows you how fast they port these things. June saw Rebirth 3 on the Vita. That's six months between remakes. Summer 2015 is quiet after that, but a double whammy hits in October. Blanc vs. Zombies, a Neptunia U-like with... zombies, comes out in Japan. Also Rebirth 3 hits Steam. Finally, November sees yet ANOTHER spinoff Neptunia game, Neptunia vs. Sega Hard Girls, hit Japan. Good christ. If you gaze too long into the abyss, it gazes right back at you. I haven't looked up what's come out in 2016 so far, but I can tell you that Hyperdevotion Noire hit Steam. Oh, and we got that fourth Neptunia main series game. Megadimension Neptunia V-II. Both a sequel to Victory, and the seventh main series Neptunia game if you count the Rebirth games. Also that Blanc vs. Zombies game came out. I actually own it because I was gifted it by my friend. I never touched it. Whoops. Alright, so, 2000 words or so in and now we get to the present-ish. Three weeks ago my friend was visiting here once more. While he was here, I noticed another PSN sale and I checked it. Uh oh. Rebirth 3 was on sale for Vita. Another 8 dollar game. The temptation was there again. Alright. This was the last ditch effort. I really, properly, had to understand. I only half-got it during my Rebirth 1 experience. I was assured that this was one of the better ones, and so bang zoom there goes another 8 bucks. Rebirth 3 was mine. This is the game I was actually talking about in the intro to this post. 32 hours. True Ending obtained. I had some fun with it, gripes aside. It's like a 6.5/10, maybe a 7 if I'm generous, but I don't give a shit about number scores so we'll leave it at "by God I actually had some fun". I don't intend to dive headfirst into any of the like, 15 other Neptunia games any time soon, to be clear. Still, this is the moment when I cry gin-soaked tears and win the war against myself. Actually more of a slap fight, but fuck it. I liked Rebirth 3. Now let's dig deeper into that and find something magical hidden inside it.

We should start with the concept, I suppose. The whole "video game goddess" thing with the personifications of different consoles and companies. An hour into the game sees protagonist Neptune forcibly banished into an alternate reality called the "Ultradimension" in which the anime video game world is explicitly based on the console wars of the early 90's, rather than the mid-2000's battle between PS3/360/Wii. This world has no Neptune, and instead the Sega goddess is a pleasant little ball of anime adorability named Plutia. There's something interesting here with the naming scheme. The other goddesses are just French words for colors. Noire, Blanc, and Vert. Neither of Planeptune's (oh yeah, the Sega "nation" in this game is called Planeptune. Forgot that) goddesses are named Violet. Neptune and Plutia at first appear to invoke the names of planets for whatever reason. That's not it. They are indeed Sega references, but to abandoned consoles and prototypes. The Sega Neptune, which was to be a standalone version of what eventually became the Sega 32X. The Sega Pluto, a prototype variant of the Sega Saturn. What we have here is a lack of reference. An anti-reference, if you will. It is not something that can light up your lizardbrain and make you go I GET IT because it never existed in the first place. It's a lost history! Granted, Plutia does get a subtle nod to the original Genesis model when she transforms (more on the transformation aspect in a moment), and Neptune's younger sister, Nepgear, breaks the chain by having a name that is a reference to a Sega machine that actually came out. Still, we're in the realm of erased history. With the Ultradimension as an analogue to the old console wars, here we have a familiar stomping ground for me. So, that's all it took to get me into Neptunia; I had to play the 80's one. Blanc, living in her isolated pagoda in the land of Lowee, may as well not exist. Noire, an up-and-comer, plots to form her own nationstate and rule over it benevolently. Vert, ever a plotter, sees the triad and thinks of how to sneak in.

Goddesses these are, in name. Names have power, and the power they hold is that of Console Patron Units, CPUs. In this world, there exist rare and powerful crystals called CPU Memories that allow one to become a CPU by consuming them... but the risk of turning into a monster is there. Neptune must undertake the ritual again, and Noire is determined to do so as well. The rarity of these memories is soon undercut, though. They just keep popping up all over the place. Plutia's origin, in particular, is ridiculous. While others presumably travelled in search of the enlightenment that becoming a video game goddess would grant, Plutia literally found this rare artifact while having a picnic and ate it. Becoming a CPU grants one power to transform into an "HDD Form". It's like becoming a Super Saiyan or something, it's anime and the girls change appearance and gain weird armor that still shows off all kinds of skin and cleavage and shit more often than not. Because fanservice. We'll come back to that, but let's focus on Plutia and Neptune again. Pretty much every other video game goddess in this game retains most of their personality when transformed. Exaggerated somewhat, but they still have the same quirks. Neptune and Plutia are the only ones who alter. Neptune changes from a lazy, goof-off, fourth wall breaker into a somewhat serious-minded goddess in the form of Purple Heart. Plutia... well... there's no easy way to say it. Plutia becomes a domme. Iris Heart, dark goddess, is unleashed in the direst of situations and straight-up terrifies everyone around her. She'll whip both friend and foe into submission, and it was her lines that I found screenshotting the most in a "I can't believe this" sort of way. A sampling.

Without giving too much of the game away, I'll just say that having a character who loves cute things and is lazy and laid-back become a sadistic dark goddess who lets her true self run rampant is something I can actually relate to, in a sense. Though, and this is a critique that can apply to many other character traits in the game, it did get a bit stale after 30-odd hours of it. Yes, once Iris comes out she's going to step on you. I kind of get it. Still, even though it was likely created to give that little edge of fanservice... there's something oddly progressive about it. It's the same mentality that led me to finding Dangan Ronpa 2 so important in 2014. That was also an anime game filled with fanservice that made me roll my eyes, but it also presented us with a world in which the "Ultimate" Gamer, one of the very best video game players in this universe who was specifically scouted by a school which recruits only the best of the best at things, was a girl. By God, did I need that power in 2014. In 2016, we still need it. It's a give and take. They may have jokes about big boobs, they may have scenes where the characters take showers and you see it except there's bubbles covering the naughty bits, and it might have a domme stepping on a villainess off screen and traumatizing a 12 year-old in the process... but it's also a world in which the entities that hold the most power over the alchemy of video games are all women. It's also a world in which their personal connections to each other make them grow stronger. (This is an actual system in the game, called the "Lily Rank".) As a man who thought up his own mythology of pretend video game goddesses to explain away the good and bad of things, there's something here for me. Sometimes the goddesses need to kick up their feet, eat cake, and relax. While we're at it, I have to give some props to Neptunia for being a reference-filled game that's also... a game. There's more meat to it than just "REMEMBER THE VIDEO GAME THING". It actually has a plot, and a lot of shit to do in it. Rather than jumping through a masocore game on Steam for two hours. That helped ease my distaste, and it's not like the game is firing video game jokes at you every line like... other shit I've complained about. It actually has its own identity, and I can respect that.

This is one of the free DLC characters and
she was pretty great.
There's one aspect of this that I'm not quite so comfy with, however, and it deals with our villains and their scheme. The "Seven Sages" are a group of seven nebulous folks who meet up to bicker at each other and plot about how to get rid of those goddamned CPUs. Why? There's no real motive for six of the seven that I gleaned. It's telling, though, that two of the seven are a duo from previous Neptunia games; Arfoire and her talking rat pal, Warechu. If you didn't get the joke, it's the R4 flash card for DS and "warez". Plus Pikachu because adorable rat mascot. They're software pirates. The rest of the sages don't really have any interest in pirated software, so this is out of place. Well, I know Arfoire and Warechu were part of a group in Mk2/Rebirth 2/whatever the holy hell called ASIC, dedicated to spreading pirated software. Of which that awful awful CFW Trick was a member. The CFW standing for Custom Firm Ware. Arfoire might even have been their goddess. I haven't played that one, so I'm going on old Let's Play knowledge. Anyway, the first half of the game is just the Seven Sages harassing the CPUs in their own ways. Notably, partway through that we get a three year time skip in which the Sages have actually done jack and shit to undermine the CPUs. These things usually end with a big boss fight where you beat the Sage's face in and then Iris Heart shows up and steps on them and calls them a peasant or whatever. Then there's the second half of the game, which deals with the Sages founding their own nation, called Eden, with their own CPU. See, they've been taking orphaned children and forcibly feeding them CPU Memories, trying to create their own CPU that they have control of. Eventually they succeed using a child that Neptune and Plutia have been taking care of named Peashy, creating the CPU Yellow Heart. This is... odd. She's obviously a reference to the PC Engine, aka Turbografx-16. Yet, for ten years Eden and Yellow Heart reign supreme. The three boss fights with her are actually quite tense; Yellow Heart hits like a goddamned truck. This is so far at odds with the console war it's referencing that it baffles me. The PC Engine wasn't god-king of anything, really; it was chilling in the background while Nintendo and Sega clashed with swords and hammers in the sky. Here we are, though, in a world where HuCards have turned into a large-chested blonde anime goddess doing 8000 damage a hit with her Wolverine claw special attacks. That's where I get disturbed and have to call Rebirth 3 out, I'm afraid. As much fun as I'm having... Yellow Heart is still Peashy, and Peashy is still a child. She has the mentality of a child, saying things like "ouchies" and whatnot. Yet, here she is in her intro scene, jiggling all over the place. Ech. That's not okay and I disapprove. At least the other CPUs are adult women. Anyway, the ideology here still confuses me. If the Sages are so against CPUs, why do they then found a nation with their own CPU? The game never hints as to what Eden does different from the other nations. What is the endgame for Eden and the Sages? They eliminate the CPUs, and then what? There's nothing here to grasp on to. Well, there's one motive held by the leader, but we don't learn that until the very end... and it's the most interesting reading so far. It makes no sense with the Yellow Heart plot the Sages have, but let's dive in.

Our final boss and main antagonist is the "leader" of the Seven Sages, a woman named Rei Ryghts. Rei has a double in Neptune's original universe, and both are nervous stammering wrecks who are against CPUs for whatever reason. Eventually, if one jumps through a shitload of convoluted hoops to unlock the True Ending route of the game, one learns Rei's secret. She, too, is a CPU. She gained her power long, long ago, and it drove her to become a despot and tyrant. When the people protested, she wiped them out... unaware that it is a nation's faith in a CPU that makes a CPU powerful. She lost her strength then, and her memory of who she was, until a meddling fairy helped "remind" her with some power. In the climax, Ultradimension's Rei awakens to her CPU form and is easily defeated by Neptune and friends... only for that defeat to make the Rei from "there" stronger, and threaten both Neptune's world and the Ultradimension with total destruction. Rei's belief is that, since she went power-mad and ended up wiping out everything, it is only a matter of time before the other CPUs do the same. Therefore, she intends to end this entire flawed system and "reset" everything, a motive which our protagonists poke through.

The interesting bit, though, comes when you realize what land Rei was ruler over in the days of long ago. We've had goddesses for Sega, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft... but Rei's long-dead land that was struck down in a calamity? Tari. Hyperdimension Neptunia has invoked and weaponized the Great Video Game Crash of the early 80's, and turned it into an azure-haired anime goddess with boob armor. Holy shit. Rei's own tyranny and greed led to her nation's downfall, and now she no longer believes in the power of CPUs to do anything right. Thus, her intention to reset everything. And, of course, being Neptunia, the reference is explicit.

Have YOU played Tari today?
What we have here is nothing less than the video game industry being put on trial by its past failures. Granted, it's wearing an anime costume and it's all a bit silly with references and boob jokes, but that's the power we have here. Not just the CPUs, but the world itself has to prove itself in the face of its legendary fuck-up. After 31 hours, the player has to prove themselves capable of besting this ghost. It's here, at last, that I'll mention the battle system. Enemies have an HP bar and a guard meter. One can customize combos to string together while attacking that either do multiple weak hits (for refilling SP, this game's magic system), powerful hits that do HP damage but little guard damage, or break hits that do the opposite. My ideal strategy for boss fights amounting to depleting the break meter with repeated attacks, healing up HP damage or status debuffs when needed, and then timing things just right to unleash a torrent of super attacks, called EXE Drives, to do a flashy attack animation that also did tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of points of damage that would make even Knights Of The Round blush. In both battles with Rei, I had Neptune unleash her most powerful EXE Drive, which involved her turning into a fighter jet and raining down a missile strike on the hapless goddess. Both times, I wiped her out in a single hit after spending a few minutes depleting the guard meter. Here, at the end of all things, we realize Neptune's true power. Unlike Blanc, Vert, or Noire, Neptune is a piece of absent history. The Sega Neptune never happened. Sega, like Atari, had its own failure... but Sega still exists in its own form as a developer. Neptune is an anti-reference, and it's this status as a renegade that enables her to be the one to show Rei her folly. In similar form, Iris Heart is a prototype that never was. She is also an equal to Rei, and she and Rei eventually manage to contain and nullify the dark power that was fueling Rei's anger. As for Iris Heart's power... well, I forgot to mention that one of Rei's schemes upon awakening was to create evil clones of the CPUs and send them out to destroy in her name. Most of them are not too difficult, even the fake Neptune... but the fake Iris Heart who guards access to Rei's rampage was, by far, the most difficult boss fight I faced. That was the power of anti-reference; it nearly destroyed me. It nearly destroyed all things. I prevailed, though. A happy ending was had, and Rei even became sort of friendly to us, doing her part to repair the damage caused. The other Rei went back to leading the Seven Sages, her power having given her a bit of a backbone.

And so, here we end the longest screed yet. An utter exorcism of my enjoyment of Neptunia Rebirth 3, and even finding some gleaming bits of esoteric nonsense hidden within. A goddess's blessing, I suppose. I'm sure everyone who likes these games has their reasons. Maybe you enjoy the combat and the customization options. Maybe you like the characters and their quirks and think they're cute. Hell, maybe you just like anime boobs. I spent 32 hours on this, I am in no position to judge any longer. Not really. Yeah, the plot is pretty meandering at times. No, the Seven Sages don't make any sense. Especially Rei, whose desire to reset all CPUs doesn't gel at all with helping to create Yellow Heart. Yet, it's a game where all but like, three named characters are women. Two of those are a talking mouse and a non-binary person in a mech suit, so... Huh. Why did I like this so much? I don't know. It didn't play completely terribly, mechanically, and I liked Iris Heart a bit. Granted, this game's flagrant re-use of the same dungeon maps over and over as a cost-saving measure got annoying too. As did the arcane crafting; to get one of the dungeons I needed to visit for the True Ending, I needed to daisy chain at least three material drops. There's no way I could have done it without a guide, and I had to kill a boss-class tanky enemy eight times before the little fucker dropped the one part I needed. As I said, if given a number, it's between 6.5 and 7. Not a masterpiece, but I got my 8 bucks out of it and I got to write 5000 god damned words about this series to get it out of my head. That's fine enough by me.

Also, Plutia's kinda cute, for an anime girl.

"I can transform, right?"