Underneath my yellow skin

Author Archives: Minna Hong

Dark Souls II, electric boogaloo

Post three about Dark Souls II versus Elden Ring. Well, mostly about DS II/Scholar of the First Sin (SotFS). Here is the second post about it; it includes a link to the first. I really do think FromSoft had a thankless task in making the sequel, but I must admit, post-Elden Ring, the game suffers in comparison.

I don’t know if it’s because I had the medical trauma in between, but the negatives of the game are really popping out this time. Remember that I have played it dozens of times, though not as many as I’ve played DS III, and I prefer to play it (the sequel) over the original. Mainly because you can fast-travel from the start, tbh. Yes, the first half of the original game is objectively better than this game, but that doesn’t make this game bad. And, for as much as people want to faff about how great the first game is, we all know that the second half is, well, trash. Miyazaki didn’t have enough time to finish it because the big wigs at…Namco? I think? were pushing him to finish it. So, he half-assed areas like Lost Izalith (for which he publicly apologized) and could not do his true vision on the later-game bosses.

It’s funny because when Ian finished the game for the first time recently, he talked about the second half because he had never played it before. He had made it up to Ornstein and Smough before quitting. So listening to him talk about the second half of the game as he played it was very interesting. He didn’t have the preconceived notions about it even though he had heard the second half was shit, so he was able to see more of ethe wacky beauty of it than other people. He appreciated the different aesthetics of the different areas, which actually made sense. Those of us who have played the game dozens of times are inured to the first look at it because, well, we’ve played it dozens of times.

Seeing it through his eyes made it new again. And, yes, baby skeletons day care (Nito-land), spooky ghost town (New Londo Ruins), Seath’s whole deal (Duke’s Archives and Crystal Cave), and lava-land (Lost Izalith) are very distinct and you can instantly tell in which area you are in a glance.

And to be fair, he crushed the second half of the game, rarely getting stuck for very long. He did have trouble with the DLC, but that was to be expected. As is the FromSoft tradition, The DLC is ten times harder than the base game. It’s for the true fans, which makes me interested to see what they’ll do with Elden Ring DLC. Sekiro DLC wasn’t really DLC. I mean, it was, but it was just making the bosses harder already, like they needed that, and a few other things I didn’t care about. Then again, Sekiro is my least-favorite From game of all time. Not the worst From game, but my least-favorite.

It’s funny because everyone says you can’t beat Sekiro if you don’t get the combat system down. Incorrect! You most certainly can, but you’re not going to have fun doing it. I am living proof of that. I hear about people gushing over the game, saying it’s like a rhythm game once you get the hang of it. Yeah, well, I suck at those as well, so there you go. It’s a spatial issue and a reflex issue. I cannot get the timing right for the life of me. I spent hours practicing parrying on the Silver Knights in Anor Londo in the first game. By the end, I was able to parry them 75% of the time. Which wasn’t amazing, let me tell you.

I try every game to master the system. I honestly do. I have practiced the parrying to mostly no avail. I cannot riposte in Bloodborne for the life of me, but I found a workaround–using the Augur of Ebritas will stun an enemy, allowing me to get the visceral with a much more generous window.

Then, Sekiro, I still have nightmares about trying to master the deflect in that game. I tried so hard, but I could not do it except by accident. Of course I kept trying throughout the game because it really makes the game easier, but I just could not do it. I had to whittle away at the health of every boss, which made for grim times. Doing Demon of Hatred and Isshin, the Sword Saint through attrition was a test of my patience. Beating Isshin was the best feeling I’ve ever had in a video game, truly transcendent, but I knew that it was a once in a lifetime feeling. It’s funny because Luke from Outside Xtra made a quip about how it wasn’t fair that he could fight a boss a million times, die every time but one, and the one time you beat the boss, that’s the last time you fight. He pointed out that it wasn’t really fair because if you went back, the boss could probably kick your ass again.

I did not enjoy my trip back to Sekiro. I tried to do Father (Owl) again, and he thoroughly kicked my ass. Many times. Not only was he kicking my ass (on NG+), but I wasn’t even making a dent in his first health bar. I had some thought in the back of my mind about getting the plat, but if I was going to do that, I had to kill Father (Owl) again, which seemed impossible. Plus Isshin, which, ha, no. I gave up on it and never went back.

I really wish Bloodborne would come to PC. I don’t know if it ever will, but if it did, then I would actually consider platting it. Except for the dreaded Chalice Dungeons. I hate them. A lot. First of all, they are so samesy that it’s boring. Much like the catacombs/caves in Elden Ring, but worse because they seemed designed to be the same. At least in Elden Ring, there’s a different gimmick to each one. In Bloodborne, they’re all the fucking same. And I get hopelessly lost wandering around in them.

I didn’t even bother with the parry in DS II or III. Even though they are slightly different in each game, they’re just not for me. I much prefer the combat in Elden Ring because of the guard counter and the jump attack. You can still parry in the game, but it’s much less necessary because of the wide variety of options.

In comparison to Elden Ring, Dark Souls II loses much luster. Dark Souls III can hold its own, but Dark Souls II (SotFS) pales in comparison.



The fury is overwhelming

I can’t today (the actual day of writing, not the day of posting). Not with the news from the Supreme Court. Expected, but still enraging. I did not come back form the dead–twice–for this. I need to let the fury simmer. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Dark Souls II/SotFS tries too hard

I wrote about Dark Souls II/Scholar of the First Sin (SotFS) yesterday, and I have more to say about it. I don’t think FromSoft could win when it came to making the sequel because the original was so beloved. It only came out on consoles at first and took some serious campaigning on the part of PC players before it was ported to the PC. And the port was shit. Utter and complete shit. It took a mod named Durante to offer dsfix to make the game playable. In fact, if you were thinking of playing the game on PC, you were counseled to not even think of it if you didn’t include dsfix with the specific specs he recommended.

There was a love for the first game that was unparalleled. Yes, there was an appreciation for Demon’s Souls, but it was definitely not as loud as was the fanfare for Dark Souls. Because of it, expectations for the sequel were at an all-time high. Simultaneously, Miyazaki was working on Bloodborne with what is known in the community as the A team. Or at least that’s what the community started calling it after the two games came out. Implying, of course ,that Dark Souls II was made by the B team (or flat-out saying it).

Here’s the thing. There are many things wrong with Dark Souls II/SotFS. I’m not going to deny it. Playing it after playing Elden Ring makes me see all the flaws in high relief. I absolutely hate the unfairness of the mobs where there’s usually an enemy hidden somewhere who jumps out at you or is located in an area that is juuuuuust out of reach. I did No-Man’s Wharf yesterday, and all the hatred for this area came flooding back.

Not because it’s hard, per se. I expect FromSoft games to be hard, obviously. The mantra of ‘hard, but fair’ is very uneven in this game. And this area is a prime example of From trying too hard to be difficult.

First, let me say, I forget how fragile I am at the beginning of every From game. This one especially as I play as a Sorcerer because there is no Pyromancer. Why? To be different, I think. You can get Pyromancy later in the game, but you cannot start out with it–which still irks me to this day.

It’s a really weak class. I don’t care what anyone says. It starts with puny stats for everything except Intelligence, and you don’t even get a real weapon or a shield to start with. You get a staff and a puny dagger. 30 Soul Arrows, which is not a lot in the grand scheme of things. I can’t tell you how fragile I felt the first time I played. It was agonizing and felt artificially hard.

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SotFS compared to Elden Ring

I started a character in Dark Souls II (Scholar of the First Sin) because I’m crazy like that. It’s not enough to play Elden Ring and Dark Souls III, oh no! I had to delve back into SotFS for the first time since I platted it. And, unfortunately, that playthrough is thoroughly fucked because I had to sequence-break to get what I needed for the plat. By the way, it’s balls that you cannot cloud save for the From games on Steam. Yes, you can with Dark Souls Remastered, but that’s because it’s not FromSoft who did that version. And, there’s a bug in that version that makes it impossible to play with others for some people. Which doesn’t matter now, but in general, is a big drawback.

For the plat in Dark Souls II/SotFS, I had to make it to NG++, which is the same in the original game and in DS III. And I had to make it to Drangleic Castle, which is roughly 2/3rds through the game. But, you can get there early if you have a million souls (total) per NG. Which means I needed 3,000,000 souls. I think I had over 2,000,000 at that point. The easiest way to get that amount of souls is to kill one of the Great Souls over and over again, using Bonfire Ascetics. (I am not explaining every little thing in this process. Sorry.) The easiest Great Soul boss to reach is the Rotten, who isn’t that difficult to kill. At least not on NG. On NG+++++ whatever I reached, however, he’s not fun. But I managed to get him and enough souls to open the castle early.

As a result , that game is trashed. I mean, I could keep playing, but it’s hard to get back into it after I sequence-broke the game. Oh, and the reason I decided to start another character in SotFS is because I watched RKG’s inaugural season, which was SotFS with Mama Finchy. I love that all their characters for the FromSoft games are named Finchy with a descriptor before the name. So Dark Souls is Chimpy Finchy; Dark Souls III is Froggy Finchy; Bloodborne is Posh Finchy; Dark Souls II/SotFS is Mama Finchy; Sekiro is….well Sekiro. He’s an outlier, obviously, as you can’t make your own character in that game. Demon’s Souls is Papa Finchy. I have no idea who’s going to be their protag in Elden Ring. There’s also Dumbledore Finchy for the ‘can we finish the original Dark Souls on a livestream?’. He’s a distant cousin of the  Dark Souls Finchies.

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Elden Ring v. Dark Souls III: cage match

I went back to my beloved Dark Souls III to see how it held up. First up: I really hope FromSoft gets it back online soon. Roughly at the same time that Elden Ring was released, it was discovered that there was a vulnerability in the servers (Bandai, not From, sorry) that made BamNam shut them down completely. They’re still not up, though supposedly, they are in the process of going live again. I don’t know why they can’t just be migrated to the other servers–oh, right. Elden Ring is not Bandai–oh wait, yes it is. So do it already, BanCo!

I played both DS III and Elden Ring yesterday. This was not easy to do, I’ll tell you what. The day before, I only played DS III. Because for whatever reason, you cannot cloud-share for DS III, I had to start a new character on my desktop. I was up to Farron Keep with one torch to extinguish. I am now up to Aldrich, the last of the Lord of Cinders needed to trigger the Dancer. Who I rarely have trouble with, but I like to summon for, anyway. And there are no NPC summons for her.

Anyway. I traipsed through the game with my usual character. Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring combo (with Lingering Dragoncrest Ring to extend the Hidden Body) with the Executioner Greatsword to regain FP with every kill, plus Chaos Bed Vestiges from the soul of the Old Demon King. I normally don’t have much trouble with him, but I was running lean this time. I wanted to use Pestilent Mist, which takes 30 Int. Therefore, I skimped on Vigor and Endurance, which is a no-no.

By the way, let’s talk about spell slots. In Dark Souls III, it’s connected to Attunement. You have to level up your Attunement to get more spell slots. I need five spell slots to get my shit done. Two for Chaos Bed Vestiges, one for Hidden Body and two for Tears of Denial. I use a ring that gives me one extra spell slot, so I only need to buy four. As a Pyro, I started with one Attunement slot (I’m pretty sure). I had 12 Attunement at the beginning, and I needed 12 more to get the 24 needed for 4 Attunement slots.

That’s not cheap at all. And, yes, Attunement also gives you more FP (mana), but it’s mainly so I can get more Attunement slots. As a result. I don’t experiment much with spells because I don’t have the slots for it. I may change it up a bit when I face a boss, but for 90% of the game, I have one set-up. And, it does me fine. It’s my comfort zone; it gets the job done.

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The heat is on

It’s hot. It’s 87 ‘feels like’ 94 before 10 a.m. hot. Tarzan couldn’t take this kind of hot. A slight paraphrase, but factual. It’s so hot, it hurts my feelings. It’s so hot, I have the air on, which I try not to use*. Normally, I use the air a few times in a season. This year, however, it’s been really hot in the house, even when it’s not that hot outside. I don’t feel that bad about using air because I don’t use any heat in the winter.

I have been tagged as the elite of the elite when it comes to being eco-friendly with the furnace/aircon, which pleases me. My brother and I have had discussions about this because environmentalism is his passion. So he’ll sometimes point out ways I can save more, but he doesn’t push it. Why? Because I’m bare bones already.

I have my air at 78 and my furnace at 62 (day)/60 (night). I have one light in the kitchen on most of the time and then the light in my living room when I’m in it (which is most of the time). I’ll turn the light on in my computer room when I’m there, but that’s an LED. So is the one in my kitchen. I have a hybrid car that before the pandemic, I filled the gas every three months or so. Now, it’s every six months or longer.

I do have a cat who has a carbon pawprint, but I have no kids. That’s the biggest thing. I do laundry once a month or so. I do eat meat. I’m trying to cut down on that, but it’s slow-going. The more I do Taiji weapons, the more meat I want to eat. I noticed several years ago that my meat intake was increasing. I mentioned it to my Taiji teacher; she explained that it was probably because I was upping my Taiji routine.

This is more an ethical matter for me than an environmentalism one. Meat comes from animals. They are living and breathing creatures. Factory farming is brutal and not animal-friendly (to vastly understate it). It’s hard for me to sit comfortably with that. I would prefer to eat non-meat protein, but there is something just so satisfying about meat.

My brother and I have this ongoing conversation about environmentalism. He does EV car shows and has a passion for EV cars. I do not begrudge him this, but he has a hard time seeing how niche it is. And how far out of the norm it is. A few years ago, he stated he thought that maybe 50% of cars on the road were EV. Well, maybe not that high. I can’t remember exactly, but it was a high enough percentage that even I knew he was out of line–and I know nothing about cars. Nor do I care. I’m going to say he said 25%. That seems like a reasonably high number.

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Living a charmed life

I was reading the weekend thread on Ask A Manager. Someone asked for the happiest memory you have. It was an interesting question and my mind went immediately to dying. Not because it was a happy memory, per se, but because it’s my strongest memory. Not the dying part because I don’t remember that. And I probably never will, sadly.

Side Note (is this the quickest detour I’ve taken in a post?): It’s the oddest thing–having a week and a few days missing from my  memory, I mean. My brother has told me everything he knows; K and Ian have filled in the blanks as best as possible. My Taiji teacher has added what she knows, and there are still gaps.

I remember sending an email to my Taiji teacher the Tuesday before I collapsed, saying I was exhausted and would not be in class. I remember messaging Ian the Thursday before about the Nioh 2 (Team Ninja) boss we had both just beaten. I do not remember the Wednesday between.

Then, I was unconscious for the week after I collapsed. I remember waking up, scared, angry, and ready to fight whomever needed fighting. I had a breathing tube in my nose and was pumped full of drugs.

I remember one minute not being and then the next moment, being. That was a shock to my system, I can tell you that much. That will be my most memorable memory for the rest of my life, I’m sure. But. Until reading this thread, I had forgotten about another time I had almost died.

I was in Taiwan with a group from my college–we were studying Buddhism in the Far East. About four of us women (how I identified at the time), decided to swim in the Hualien River. The current was strong, and I was not a good swimmer (still am not). The tide caught me and started carrying me away. One of the other women grabbed me and pulled me to safety. I was shaken because I knew that if she hadn’t grabbed me, I’d be dead.

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Objecting to objectification

There was an interesting discussion between Jessica and Rich on How to Do It about objectification and how to do it in a meaningful and thoughtful way. My immediate reaction was that you can’t. I was pretty adamant about it and upset by the concept. Even with Rich’s caveat about sapiosexuals, I still thought they were being too flip about it.

Then I calmed the fuck down and read it with a more tempered eye. I had my own objections to objectification, but I think Jessica and Rich are two of the most thoughtful columnists on the net. Rich a little less so than Jessica, but they are both heads and shoulders above many of the other advice columnists.

Here’s the thing. I get objectified all the time. All. The. Time. The further out from the norm you are, the more objectified you are by society. Being Asian growing up was a whole traumatic thing. That’s the one Rich mentions in passing, that objectifying someone who might be very sensitive about race would make the sex not great. Which, while he’s right, I think really undersold how undermining it can be.

When I was a teenager, no one wanted to date me. There were many reasons for it, but a big one was being Asian in a white Minnesotan suburb. Then, I hit my twenties when Asian women started becoming exotic. This was….not great. I had an argument with my bestie in our late twenties when I declared that I was done with white guys. Every single one who wanted to date me had an Asian fetish, which fucking sucked. She argued that I was being discriminatory and I should give the white dudes a chance. Not because they were white dudes, per se, but because no one should be discriminated against.

Which, nope. When it comes to dating, I am all about discrimination. Or rather, I would not want someone to date me because they feel obligated to or because they fetishize me. My argument was this. In that time of nascent Asian fetishization, most people in Minnesota did not consider Asian women datable. Therefore, those who were attracted to Asian women, had to overcome the societal indoctrination that only white women were worthy of dating. In other words, they had to be predisposed to dating Asian women, which quickly turned into fetishization. And, every single white dude I dated in my twenties had an Asian fetish. I did not want to waste my time, emotional bandwidth, and energy on someone who had a 90+% chance of only being attracted to my race.

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Never normal, always a freak

Reading Ask A Manager, there’s a call for simple potluck dishes. Homemade, not bought. I sigh because I know what is coming. I love reading about food and different recipes, but I make a bet with myself how many of them I would be able to eat. I have an odd list of things that I can’t eat. Gluten and dairy, which aren’t that weird, but it’s difficult to find dishes that are both gluten and dairy-free. Add to that cauliflower, onion and garlic, and cilantro.

Side Note about the cilantro: I realized many years ago that I hated cilantro. I didn’t know why, but it tasted like shit to me. Not like literal shit, but something unpleasant. Any time I mentioned it to anyone, they could not believe that I did not like it.

When the NYT article about cilantro came out, I felt vindicated. Before that, my mom dismissed my feelings about cilantro, saying I must be imagining it. Imagining what, I don’t know. The bad taste? Not liking it? No idea. But she shook her head every time I mentioned not liking it. When I showed her the NYT article, she exclaimed, “Oh, so it is a thing!”

That’s her in a nutshell. Me plainly stating my displeasure with cilantro was waved aside and dismissed. An article by NYT is taken as sacrosanct. At any rate, she never bugged me about cilantro again. It gets tiring, though, all the people who just can’t understand why someone would not like cilantro.

This is how I feel in general about all the things I’m allergic  to. I rarely mention it because the list is long and boring. But, I get a bit impatient when people express incredulity about what people are allergic to/don’t like what they like. There was a thread on AAM about what to give your employees for Christmas (or any other gift-giving occasions). Some people mentioned that it’s best to just give money because of all the things people are allergic to/can’t have. One person said dismissively that those people could just give away the thing or throw it away.

But some people are allergic to being in the same room as something. Peanuts is a big example of that. I am violently allergic to poinsettias (which I found out in a very memorable way). So getting rid of something I’m allergic to could include a violent reaction.

And, more to the point, why the fuck not give money? Everyone loves money! If the point is to make the employees feel valued, then giving them something that they are allergic to/cannot use will not accomplish that goal. I don’t know how this is even a question. And it’s discouraging that once again, people are like, “Fuck the people with allergies. Who cares about them?”

AAM is a blog with very liberal readers, mostly women, and they’re always trying to be aware of diversity. This is a good thing, but the above comment (from a man, btw), shows that there are still areas in which they’re weak–and this is one of them. So many people were dismissive of allergies or more benignly, don’t think anything of it. Not that they should. It’s really not on anyone but the allergic person (or they’re family).

But it’s alienating.

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Elden Ring and going in raw

I talked about spoilers yesterday and today I want to talk about something similar–looking things up in a wiki. I tried to play the first Dark Souls by myself, but gave in roughly halfway into playing it, probably to find out where I needed to go next. The turning point was, as it often is, Ornstein and Smough. I could not beat them no matter how hard I tried.

So I looked up what I should do and followed the guidelines, such as making sure my weapon was upgraded as high as it could go. I was using the Furysword, so that took special upgrade material. I looked at what they were weak to and what tactics I should employ. I also found out that you could get the Rite of Kindling by beating Pinwheel in the Catacomb, which would give me 20 heals. So I left Anor Londo, went back to Firelink Shrine (all the way, painfully, down through Sen’s Fortress), and I made my way to Pinwheel.

It was painful getting to him. But Pinwheel himself is a cakewalk with buffed up Pyro. I made my way back to Anor Londo and kindled Solaire’s bonfire to 20 Estus Flasks. That helped a great deal in the fight, and I would never have figured it out on my own.

When I hit the DLC, I started using the wikis for everything because it was so fucking hard. Well, the Sanctuary Guardian wasn’t that hard, but everything after it was. The enemies smacked me like a Mack Truck, and every new area was grueling. The bosses were over-the-top hard, and I nearly lost my mind in Oolacile.

I start every game with the intention of not reading wikis, but something pushes me to it. In the third Dark Souls game, it was when I cured the Dark Sigil by having the Firekeeper take it from me. It was a new mechanic, so I had to try it, right? Well, that made Yuria mad at me and she disappeared from my playthrough forever. As I was doing a dark magic run, I was furious. I thought she was the vendor for dark magic, which, turned out not to be the case. She doesn’t sell anything fundamental and is only needed for one certain ending (my favorite ending).

Still. I was furious and I contemplated starting over. I didn’t want to do that, though, so I unhappily accepted my fate and went on with the game. It really soured my experience, even though I knew it was part of the FromSoft brand. Byzantine NPC questlines that can be easily fucked up, I mean. Of course, I bounced back and finished the playthrough (and dozens more), but it taught me that you can’t have a pure playthrough and do all the questlines at the same time.

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