Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Bonus Post

Sekiro: the thinnest of thin lines

*BONUS POST*

Ed. Note: There will be spoilers. Not many, but some end game ones, including bosses. Be forewarned. 

lone vilehand, i believe? or not.
One of the countless Lone ninja dudes. Don’t really know or care which.

I have already declared that I think Sekiro is probably the best of the FromSoft games, even if I never play it again. It’s brilliant and amazing, and a bunch of other superlatives. With that all said, it’s not a perfect game by far, and there are several things that annoy me about it. Some are evergreen FromSoft issues and some are specific to this game. Some are minor, and more than one are major. I’ve talked about some of them before, but I want to get them in one place. This place.

Here they are in no particular order.

1. Hitting through walls. This is an old-time favorite in the FromSoft games. Enemies and bosses that can hit you through walls. You can’t always do the same to them, and it’s not clear when you can and when you can’t. It’s irritating, but it’s something that just makes me think, “Ah, FromSoft. Never change.” Unless it’s against a boss and I’m about to win, and then I get killed, in which case, it’s “OH MY FUCKING GOD FROMSOFT WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TO ME?” I tend to swear when I fight bosses, but weirdly, many times in Sekiro, I’m silent. That’s usually my M.O. for right before killing a boss, but this time, it’s more often than not.

2. Too many mini-bosses and too many replicas. Look. I know the FromSoft games are all about the bosses. I get it. It’s what put their name on the map so to speak, and it’s something they probably take justifiable pride in. The thing is, they have been increasing the number of bosses in each game*, and in this game, it’s a bit much. Well, I have to amend that. At first I wasn’t sure what was a boss and what was a mini-boss. I soon learned the big bosses are the ones who give you battle memories (one per victory). The mini-bosses give you prayer beads and/or other rewards. At least that’s how I figured it out.

Anyway.

Let’s chat about the mini-bosses I have met so far and how many copies there are of each, shall we? We shall because it’s my party and I can write whatever I want to. The first mini-boss I encountered was General Naomori Kawarada, and I had to let him be for quite some time (More on that later). Later on, I ran into another general who looked a lot like him. General–wait, let me look it up–ok. Apparently, not a general. Name of Seven Ashina Spears Shikibu Toshikatsu Yamauchi. I link them together in my mind, regardless of whether I should or not. Then there’s the Chained Ogre who shows up again much later. I’m trying to do it in order, but some of it is a blur. Actually, a lot of it is a blur. So I’m going to try to recount as best as possible without too much research.

Next up, Shichimen Warrior who also shows up again (and I read show up yet another time. Added note: Saw him. Did not take him the fuck on yet). Fuck that fucker. Seriously. Fuck the whole Terror bullshit. It is by far the worst status affliction of them all. I will even take Toxic over it. Well, no, maybe not. Actually, yes, but only by a hair. We’ll talk more about that later as well.

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Sekiro: Dancing with the devil

*BONUS POST*

Ed. Note: More boss talk. More spoilers. All gold.

not again!
I win! Yeah, no.

The last we met, I was dancing with the devil, otherwise known as the Guardian Ape, phase two. In this phase, it felt as if I were dancing with the boss rather than fighting him. In fact, he reminded me of a combination of the Dancer of the Boreal Valley from Dark Souls III and Mytha, the Baneful Queen from Dark Souls II. It didn’t make it easier for me to deal with him, but it was an interesting observation.

I will fully admit that I was not into this fight. At all. I was tired of the multiphase bosses, especially when the first phase took so much out of me. As I said, the first stage wasn’t hard, per se, but it was grueling. If I made any mistake, I’d have to waste one or two Healing Gourds. I would have loved to have five of my eight left for the second phase, but I usually went into the second phase with one or two Healing Gourds and my three Pellets. That was not nearly enough healing.

Side Note: I like the way the Pellets are meted out in this game. In Dark Souls II, the Life Cems were plentiful and cheap, and I could carry 99 on me at any given time. Therefore, my usual MO was to use the Life Gems to make my way through the level, saving my Estus for the bosses. Or, use the Estus and top off with Life Gems whenever necessary if I was just running through an environment with no boss in sight. If I got low on Life Gems, I just bought more from the hag and didn’t think about it. In this game, Pellets drop randomly from enemies, and you can buy a limited amount from vendors. There is no limitless supply, so it makes me have to be more careful about when I use them. What I usually do is use my Healing Gourds for the level (and eight is usually plenty for this purpose), and I save my Pellets for a boss fight.

Side Note II: This is a side note to the side note. I fucking love that accessing the inventory means pausing the gameplay in this game. It hasn’t in the past, and I was never good enough to add things to my quick item bar during combat. I’m sure there are some Souls fans who are bitching about this change, but I like it. It means if I realize I need a certain item in a boss fight, I can pause and add it to the quick select. Back to the first side note.

I abused the Life Gem system in Dark Souls II, but I never felt good about it. It took away the tension of running out of Estus during a level, and the sight of a bonfire wasn’t as much a relief as it is in the other games (plus, way too many bonfires in DS II). In this game, the fact that Pellets are not unlimited and that I can only carry three at a time means I still have to think about healing judiciously. I can hoard the Pellets (which I do) until I really need them, and then, I can use them, but only until they run out. I can’t replenish them without significant grinding, which, while frustrating, is fair. I think Miyazaki struck the perfect balance with the Pellets in this game.

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This is why I play FromSoft games–Sekiro edition

*BONUS POST*

Ed. Note: This post is going to be focused on one boss, so it will be absolutely littered with spoilers. Not just vague spoilers, but very specific spoilers. Be forewarned that if you read this, story beats will be spoiled along with a major boss–and, incidentally, an earlier boss. Here ends your warning. 

i am not ready for genichiro.
I’ve been through some shit, yo.

Let’s talk more about Sekiro. The last time we met, I was saying what I liked and didn’t like about the game. Since then (was it really only two days ago?), I have played more of the game, and I have more to share. Buckle in, folks. It’s going to be a long ride.

There is a rhythm to FromSoft games and there is also a rhythm to my reaction at different points playing the game. I’ve said before that I tend to gorge on the games when I play, which means that I can be glutted well before I’m through. When I’m playing a FromSoft game, it’s the biggest thing on my mind at any given time. I think about it even when I’m not playing, It’s an obsession, both in a positive and a negative way.

When I was writing the last post, I was in the middle of the phase I call, “I’m sick of the bullshit, but I can’t stop playing.” The night before (or that night. I can’t remember which), I ended the day having three bosses/mini-bosses on my plate, with two of them thoroughly kicking my ass. That would be the two MINI-BOSSES. The third one, a real boss, I faced once and then noped the hell out of there. I ended that session feeling really shitty about the game and myself, and I didn’t know if I wanted to continue playing. I knew I had to do a bit of a mind-shift in order to continue playing, and I did. One thing I needed to do was use the prosthetics more often and more efficiently. I also looked up each of the mini-bosses just to see if I was missing anything. I wasn’t really, although I did learn of a way to cheese one of them. I didn’t want to do that, though, unless I absolutely had to.

Side Note: All the mini-bosses have to be killed with two Deathblows. Briefly, you have to break an enemy’s Posture and when you completely break it, you can do a Deathblow as a finisher. For bosses, you have to end each phase with a Deathblow. Some of them, you can cheese by creeping up on them and doing a Deathblow without having to break their Posture by dropping on them or ganking them from behind. I don’t understand why they have two Deathblows if you can always do a stealth one first. It seems like a needless addition, but I guess it’s not something to be really fussed about.

Anyway, I went into each of the mini-bosses with a different attitude, and I killed them both on the first try. I felt pretty good about that, and I decided to tackle the main boss again. Remember I talked in the last post about the tutorial boss who kicked the shit out of me? Keep that in mind as I describe how I stumbled over this boss.

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There is No Happy Ending

I’m not a brave woman.

I am rabidly conflict-avoidant, and I’m always fearful. So, to see all the protests and people talking about resistance is very gratifying to me, but it also makes me feel ashamed.

I am always afraid. It’s a matter of extent, and it’s faded in time, but there’s always a nugget of fear in the back of my mind. I have to know the closest exit at all times, I will freak the fuck out if you touch me unexpectedly, and any time I’m in a tense situation, my PTSD kicks in.

I’ve heard more than one survivor of sexual assault talking about flashbacks and trigger warnings. Not about anything they read or see, but about the result of the election.

We talk about rape culture, and many people pooh-pooh that it exists. This is the clearest example that many people just don’t give a shit about sexual assault. Trump can be caught on tape saying he can grab any pussy he wants because he’s a star, and after the initial outrage, a collective yawn. “It’s just locker talk.” “He didn’t really mean it.” “All guys talk like that.”
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I Beat Dark Souls III: A Fitting Goodbye

boo-yah!
I. Win.

I beat Dark Souls III today.

That could be a post in and of itself, but of course, it isn’t going to be. Pardon me if I’m a bit more incoherent than usual because I still have adrenaline coursing through my veins from beating the Soul of Cinder, the last boss of the game, and a fitting end to the series. Oh, I know there will be DLC with tough bosses aplenty, but this was the end of the main game of the final installment* of the trilogy** that is Dark Souls. Once I killed the final boss, I just stood for a minute, savoring the feeling. It was mostly jubilation, but it was mingled with relief and sadness. Relief because I had finally done it and sadness because my journey through Lordran, Drangleic, and Lothtric is over. It’s bittersweet, and I’m not quite able to process it yet. I’ve poured so much time into these games; it’s hard for me to believe that there will not be another one. I’ll play this game again at some point because I’ve finished each game twice and because I accidentally chose the ‘dark’ ending (the non-main ending, in other words), but it may not be before the first DLC. Which, by the way, is slated to come out October 25th, 2016. There’s leaked gameplay footage, which means I have to studiously avoid spoilers again. I saw the trailer which made me squeal like a little kid, and the announcement of ice spells made me deliriously happy. I love ice, and the idea of alternating ice and fire spells makes me smile in gleeful anticipation.

I haven’t started NG+ because I’m hoping that I can play the DLC with my current character. One thing I don’t like about the Souls series is that the DLC is hidden in the main game and accessing it is always a chore. It’s one time when I have no guilt in using the wikis because I would never discover that shit on myself. At least with the first two games, there were wikis for it. If I want to do that with this game, then I have to wait a few weeks after release to play it. At least in this game, I wasn’t automatically sent to NG+ as I was in DS I and as you are in Bloodborne. That way, if the DLC is accessible somewhere in the game, I don’t have to start another character to find it. Yes, I’ll probably play this game again, but I don’t want to feel like I *have* to do it in order to play the DLC for which I paid. Rather, for which my friend, Ian, paid and gifted to me (along with the base game). It’s a pretty common complaint in the community–just let me play the goddamn DLC I paid for, but FromSoft continues to do it, not giving a damn about their fans’ feelings about it. Seriously, Google how to access the DLC from the first two games and tell me you would have figured it out yourself.

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Dark Souls III: I Got Gud, Part Two

Ed. Note: This is the second of two posts about how I got good at Dark Souls III*, beating three bosses in one session. The first post is here. All the videos in this post of are players who are better than I am, but I tried to find the fights that were the closest to mine. 

Dancer was a tough boss for me because she was fairly fast and dual-wielded two wicked swords. She had a move in which she danced across the room in circles, looping her swords around her as she went. If she caught me with it, she stun-locked me and killed me rather handily. What I normally do the first few times I meet a boss is watch her as best I can, trying to observe her patterns. Of course, that’s not easy to do with the boss attacking me, but it’s helpful in the long run. I died several times to her, so I put down my soapstone sign and battled her with someone a few times. I know I’ve said this many times, but this is a part of the game I never thought I’d enjoy as much as I do. Since I’m playing the game fairly close to release, I’m usually able to be summoned when I put my sign down within a minute or two. My minor complaint about the system is that you only get half your potions as a phantom, but it makes sense. It would make the host ridiculously OP if his phantoms had full healing powers as well. Yes, the boss gets an increase in health, but adding an extra attacker or two really makes a difference.

I like Dancer, even though she was a pain in the ass to beat. Still. I never felt completely overwhelmed as I did with Aldrich. Him, I felt as if I would never beat him. With Dancer, I felt as if it were a matter of time. It’s hard to explain what makes the difference between a boss that feels unbeatable and one that I think is manageable. Quickness is difficult for me to counter because of my slow reflexes. Really hard-hitting foes who can two-shot me frustrate me because then I have to waste a health potion after one fucking hit. By the way, I really hate that the enemies are scaled such that they always have one hit point after you blast them with either a spell or a few whacks. It’s been that way in all the Souls games, and it frustrates me every time. Speaking of frustrating things, big shout out to me not being able to hit an enemy with my pyromancy/spells when that same fucking enemy can hit me with her spells/pyromancy. I am a big fan of this. BIG fan. While we’re at it, I LOVE inconsistent AI in an enemy. Look. I know Souls game are hard. I accept that. It’s part of the reason I play them. But one thing I depend on is that the enemies path correctly and stay within their tethers. If they suddenly break free from that, I get mad.

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Dark Souls III: I Got Gud, Part One

burn, baby, burn!
Meet Karla, my new pyromancy trainer.

I’m in the middle part of Dark Souls III, and I have to admit, I was starting to drag a little. This happened to me while playing the first two games, too, as the games are long, and I tend to gorge on them. The first time I played the original Dark Souls, I hated the game by the end of it. I just wanted it to be over, and I couldn’t be happier once I put it in the done folder. I thought I’d never touch it again, but I did, and now, it’s one of my favorite games ever, if not my most favorite game ever. Part of the problem is that I mainline these games, gulping down chunks of them at a time. It would probably be better if I parceled out the experience a bit more judiciously, but I can’t. When I sit down to play a Souls game, I don’t emerge until several hours later. Sometimes, I’m not even sure how much time I’ve been playing. The games really feed into my OCD traits, so it’s not really that surprising that I would experience fatigue while playing them.

A few days ago, I was saying to Ian that maybe I should take a break. Ever since I reached Irithyll of the Boreal Valley, I’ve felt under-leveled and not strong enough to take on the area. I felt all badass after easily dispensing of High Lord Wolnir, only to have my ass handed to me by the common  enemies of IotBV. I’ve complained more than once that I think FromSoft* hates casters, and it really felt that way during this section. It felt very Bloodborne-y (meaning faster action), which reinforced my belief that while I love watching other people play Bloodborne, I might not be as into playing it myself because my reactions are just too slow for that shit. I co-oped the boss of the area, though I hadn’t really meant to. I co-oped with someone else and helped them beat the boss, so I had my ember restored, which gave me almost twice as much HP. I decided to make a run at the boss so as to not waste the ember, and I summoned Anri of Astoria and a human phantom to help me out. I honestly didn’t think we’d beat the boss because the boss gets more HP in direct proportion to how many phantoms you summon. To my surprise, we beat the boss, much to my relief and slight disappointment because I like to beat bosses solo on my first playthrough. Relief because I was frustrated by how much I hated this section of the game. I went back recently just to see if I could kick some ass, and I could. That’s one of the best parts of Souls games–returning to a previous area that completely wrecked your shit and getting your revenge.

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7 Things About Me You May Not Know

whoa, oh, oh, I'm on fire
Rocking my lotus blossom on fire tattoo.

Today is my off-day for blogging, but I want to keep the momentum going. So, I thought I’d do something light today–a list of seven things you may not know about me in no particular order.

  1. I have four tattoos. I’ve been fascinated with tattoos for over twenty years. I thought hard about getting one when I was in my early twenties, then rushed out to get one at midnight with my best friend. Big mistake. The only place open was being manned by the nephew of the owner–who was still in the training process. In addition, I’m keloid, which means I scar twice as badly as most people do. Needless to say, the result was terrible, and I spent a year or two being ashamed of my scarred, puffy, faded yin-yang in a sun tattoo. It was on my left breast, so it wasn’t always easy to hide. The next time I got the urged to get inked, I did my research and ended up with a fantastic tattooist–Ben. He did a small tattoo of Kali (a representation of her, made of flames) right above my belly, and it made me happy every time I saw it. I returned to him to see if he could cover up the mistake on my boob. I wanted a woman in the tree of life, and he drew it, but said it wouldn’t really work. We talked it out, and came up with a lotus blossom  engulfed in fire. My first tattoo was a tattoo; this was a piece. It took four hours for him to do, and I was ecstatic once he was done. I had my third tattoo done by someone else while I was living in the East Bay, and it’s a bracelet of flames on my left forearm. My fourth tattoo was done by Ben, and it’s a ring of waves/flames on my upper right arm with a yin-yang pendant in the middle of it. I got all these done before tattoos became a thing,* and I had more than one person asking me if I wasn’t worried that I’d regret them when I got older. It’s been a decade and a half since I got my last one, and I don’t regret it one bit.
  2. I love ’80s hair metal bands, especially their power ballads. Skid Row, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Winger, Europe, White Lion, Warrant, Poison, etc., that was my fucking jam. I joke that this is my guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel that guilty about it. I know I have terrible taste in music, and it’s something I long ago decided to embrace. I saw Bon Jovi and Cinderella in concert, which was fucking amazing, and I’d go see them again in a heartbeat if they toured together again.

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Dark Souls III: A Souls Game, For Better AND Worse, Part Two

Ed. Note: This is part two of my current feelings about Dark Souls III. You can read the first post here. The first post was about things I don’t like about DS III or am neutral about. This post is going to be a love letter to Hidetaka Miyazaki (the creator of the series) and the game. Now, keep in mind that even if you love something, you can criticize it, so there might be some vinegar with the honey. But, it’s mostly going to be sweet, I promise you. A warning, there will be spoilers. 

set it all on fire
Irithyll of the Boreal Valley, me, and my Pyromancy Glove.

I know my previous post makes it seem like I hate Dark Souls III, but nothing could be further from the truth. All of my criticisms are precisely because I love the Souls series so much. I cannot call the games fun, per se, so if that’s the reason you play video games, you’ll want to pass these games by. I can say they are engrossing, engaging, and give me an enormous sense of satisfaction when I conquer an enemy/area/boss who I’ve previously considered unbeatable. In fact, my shining moment in my brief, but intense gaming history is when I finally beat Ornstein & Smough on the last attempt before I was going to give up the original game for good. My sense of accomplishment was ridiculous, and you couldn’t tell me shit for several minutes after*. In my next playthrough, I handled them fairly handily, and they weren’t that much harder on NG+. It really underscores the point that once you learn a boss’s pattern, that boss is no longer much of a threat. Plus, summoning helps, too. Also. Still, the first time I faced them, I felt as if I would never beat them. That is the brilliance of Souls games. They have very steep learning curves, but once you learn them, you never forget.

I know, I know. They’re just video games. Who cares? I do. I am a perfectionist, and if I’m not immediately good at something, I give up. I’m old and my reflexes are crap, so Dark Souls should have tested my patience to the point of breaking. In fact, it has on several occasions, but the other thing I am is stubborn, and I was NOT going to let this enemy, this area, this boss, this fucking game beat me. So, pardon me if I give myself a little pat on the back for hanging in there with these games. Part of the reason is I’m stubborn, yes, but the bigger part is because of the games. Let’s get on with what I like in Dark Souls III.

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