Ni No Kuni Status: February 5, 2012

Feb 06 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

It’s been a while since I’ve played Ni No Kuni over the weekend: Rock Band is a higher priority and is taking more and more of my time, so if my weekend is at all busy, Ni No Kuni falls by the wayside. And, indeed, that happened this week, too, but I’m getting caught up enough on my blogging that I found time one evening in the middle of the week to play.

I was in a port, where I’d just learned how to combine items from recipes. Unfortunately, I didn’t have very many, but one local quest involved learning a few of them, so now I have a few. The ship there wouldn’t give me a ride, though, because I didn’t have permission from the queen, so I went back to the previous city. (I’d been wondering why I couldn’t get into the palace!)

The queen turned out to be a sort of giant or something, and she wanted food. She reminded me of somebody in the first world, so I went back there and found that that person was a cheese fan; returning to the second world, I cast a spell on the milk fountain and made cheese. That did half the trick, and then I gave her a perseverance heart piece, so now she’s better; she gave me permission to ride the boat, and taught me two spells.

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Rock Band Status: February 5, 2012

Feb 05 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Busy day on Saturday (we went to The Pitmen Painters in the afternoon and I went to 915 Cayuga in the evening), but I did get in a bit of guitar practice in the late morning. I gave the lessons one more try, and I managed to make it through the easier arpeggiation lesson: once I started paying attention a bit more, I realized I was moving my fingers off of the D chord a bit early. The other remaining arpeggiation lesson is still rather tough for me: not so much because of the arpeggiation but because it requires me to quickly and forcefully shift to an F chord, which I’m not great at. The other lesson I haven’t succeeded at yet is the tremolo lesson—I’ve gotten 98% a couple of times, so clearly one of these weeks I’ll luck out and get 100%, but not yet.

My list of songs to practice is getting longer and longer. Yoshimi continues to get better; the main area where I’m having trouble in it is quickly shifting to that same F chord I mentioned above, so clearly that’s one of my next hurdles to focus on, I should add that chord sequence to my nightly unplugged practice. Also, I managed 4 stars on Take on Me, so my barred C chord practice is paying off: I’m still not at all comfortable with that shift, but at least I can succeed at it some of the time.

As to the new songs I’ve done: my left hand hurt when playing Centerfold, but the chord sequences seem pretty reasonable, I should add them to my practice routine as well. 20th Century Boy had these fast single note/chord combos, and I wasn’t sure what weight of pick to use there; eventually, I decided to compromise on a medium pick, which turned out okay. It sounded surprisingly non-awful when plugged in, given how many notes I was missing; I think the point there, though, is that I simplified the piece rather than flailing around at random, so while the game didn’t like that so much, my ears were less unhappy.

London Calling got me worried, because my Xbox froze up several times while practicing that. But eventually I realized that it was freezing up in the same training segment, so now I think something in that segment is triggering a bug in the game and OS, rather than it being a sign of my third (fourth?) red ring of death being on the way. That training segment was, unfortunately, one I could use the help on, though actually it’s hard enough that I’m not sure that going through that segment more really would have helped; it didn’t sound too bad plugged in, but that was for the same reason as 20th Century Boy, namely that I didn’t try to play that part at all accurately. Other than that, it had some interesting chord variants where I had my hand in the same basic position on the top four strings but had to move my fingers around a little.

That was yesterday; today I played through some Pro Bass. Get Up, Stand Up was fun, with only one hand position transition providing a bit of challenge; no reason for me to miss any notes there, though I didn’t quite get that far. Humanoid was some interesting hopo practice and required periodically jumping to the 15th fret. King George was probably the toughest bass song so far: lots of fast notes, and getting the third star took both time and luck. And Been Caught Stealing also had fast notes, but they were in sets of three notes with space after them (and in fact I could have treated the third note as a hammer-on if I’d wanted), so they were more manageable.

And then Liesl and I sang together for probably a couple of hours? It’s been way too long since we did that, we should really try to do that every weekend. We finally got 100% on Expert Harmonies (on Outer Space, I guess my practicing that on guitar has rubbed off subconsciously); quite surprised to see us at #22 on the leaderboard for that song, but I won’t complain.

I practice piano a couple of times (and once or twice in the middle of the week): I’m now done with a first pass through the 6-Part Ricercar, but I’ll need a second pass before I feel like the notes are at all starting to get into my finger. And I’m still not thinking about the 3-Part Ricercar as much as I should. I’m thinking I might also do another run through the Ghibli book—I went through the Nausicaä songs on a lark, and they’re really pretty—though notes are sticking when I hold down the pedal, so I’ll probably want to have that looked into first.

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Ni No Kuni Status: January 15, 2012

Jan 17 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Even though it was a three day weekend, I didn’t play as much Ni No Kuni as I probably should have: I was in a more Rock Band mood instead. (And a little tired on Monday because I was on call for work this weekend.) At least I did play it some, unlike the previous weekend, though, but clearly I’m not going to really make progress through the game until I start playing mid-week. Which hopefully will happen soon: I’ve beaten back the worst of my blog writing backlog, so hopefully I’ll be able to carve out one evening a week to make progress?

Anyways: I spent a bit of time in the town I’d been in, seeing if there was anybody with a job that needed doing; I completed one job, but it looks like I’d found most of the jobs before going to the volcano. And then, as instructed, I went to the southern port. There, I got a crafting pot; that filled the last of the spots on the X-button menu, so I think I’ve got all of the game’s basic mechanics available to me now? (I don’t remember any more mechanics from the manual, though I haven’t gone back to confirm.) I can’t say that I’m super excited about crafting: I’m not in a micro-managing mood. But hopefully I won’t have to worry about it too much. (The game has been very generous about letting me run past monsters if I don’t feel like fighting them and still leaving me adequately powerful to fight bosses.)

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Ni No Kuni: January 1, 2012

Jan 02 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Weekends in December had been horribly busy; something had to go, and Ni No Kuni was it. But I finally got back to playing it this weekend.

I went through the volcano dungeon that I’d arrived at last time. Right before the top, there was a training grotto (“cave of trials”); it had a few non-combat puzzles, including a logic puzzle that I was proud of myself that I managed to puzzle out the Japanese well enough to get it right on the first try. For anybody else who is stuck there and googles this: on the outside of the statue/spell logic puzzle bit, the left statue wants fire and the right one wants ice. (Those are the paired statues with the writing from the back of the book on them.) And inside that room, first heal the dog, then talk to the bird, then cure poison on the bull, then unlock the dragon.

Once I was done with that, I learned how to capture Imagines. Which, honestly, I have mixed feeling about: I’m not actively excited about the combat in game, but I’m not sure adding a larger cast of characters for me to manage is the answer for that. Ah well; I’m done with that dungeon now, time to go back to the city to tidy up loose ends and then off to a southern port.

Though I imagine progress will be slow: I have a few more blog posts to write before I’ll feel comfortable playing instead of writing mid-week. Eventually I’ll find more time, I hope…

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Ni No Kuni: December 11, 2011

Dec 11 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I was busy this weekend, and I felt like spending my free time reading and playing music, so: no Ni No Kuni. Fortunately, I’d played a bit mid-week, so I have a little bit to report, but not much.

Specifically, at the end of last week, I’d just talked to a girl in the first world. I went and talked to her father next, who had gotten possessed somehow; I first fought the monster that was possessing him (the only battle I’ve done in the first world) and then, with the help of his wife, gave him a “kindness” heart piece.

After that, I went back to the girl, and gave her a “courage” heart piece. She’d been staying in the house, but I guess there was nothing physical wrong with her, just something mental wrong with both her and her father? At any rate, with that healed, I went back to the second world, and gave the girl there a courage heart piece as well. She got better, and decided to join my party (together with her Imagine). Her name is Maru, and she’s a healer.

Her father taught us some spells, and told us to go to a volcano. I wandered around town a bit, helping people, but then headed out of town to the volcano, saving right outside it.

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Ni No Kuni: December 4, 2011

Dec 05 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Very little to report this week. On Tuesday, I went through a dungeon on the way to the next city; I had to do more spells, including a few where I ended up trying several of the ones in the book before I happened across the correct one. (I think that wouldn’t have been necessary if I’d been more fluent in Japanese and/or had been paying more attention.) I got another Imagine in that dungeon; this one hatched from an egg.

And this weekend I was in a more Rock Band-y mood than a Ni No Kuni mood; I entered the city, and found the person I was supposed to talk to; he claimed not to know magic, but his assistant reminded me of somebody in the first world. So I went back there, and talked to her briefly, but I needed to cook dinner so I didn’t finish that task.

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Ni No Kuni: Finished the First City

Nov 27 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I increased the volume of my Ni No Kuni playtime this week: I’m trying to treat it as the current game I’m playing rather than as Japanese study, which means that I play it when I have (non-Ascension) gaming time in the middle of the week instead of segregating it to the weekend. I’ve actually been fairly busy with other projects this week, so I still only played it twice, but that’s more than in previous weeks, and the weekend play session was several hours long.

When I stopped last week, I’d just entered the first city, after giving somebody a heart piece: he was lacking in “やる気”, which means something like willpower or motivation. And, when I entered the city, I found other people with the same problem, including the king. (Who was a sort of cat person, as were many but not all people in the town.) Before they would let me talk to the king, I had to do some fetch quests, but eventually I got to talk to him, and had to figure out what was wrong; at somebody’s suggestion (I think it was a sort of wise woman person, but it might have been Shizuku?), I went back to the first world to find the king’s twin in that world, to see if I could get an idea of what was wrong.

There wasn’t much going on in the first world; I assume I’ll eventually drag back another party member from there, but not this time. The king’s twin turned out to be a cat, who liked having its ears groomed; when I went back to the second world, it turns out that the king’s “earpick” had gotten stolen. So I was supposed to go into an underground sewer system to get it back.

Outside the sewer, I ran into a boy who was planning to go in there. I told him he wasn’t up to it, but he showed me his Imagine; after realizing that I was a magic user, he decided to give me his Imagine instead. So I guess acquiring each Imagine is going to be a special event of some sort? When I fought my first battle, I still only had my old Imagine in my party (along with Shizuku and myself), but my old Imagine was vulnerable to a water attack that the first monster had, so the game showed me how to swap party members mid-battle. I think (but I could be wrong) that you’ll always have three people in your party: yourself, one Imagine, and one non-Imagine; I stuck with the other Imagine through this dungeon.

Which was noticeably longer than the first dungeon: more monsters, and the monsters weren’t as much pushovers. So I had to heal several times, use healing items (both for HP and MP, the in-game item description turns out to say what each item gives you even though the Magic Master is silent on that), and use some crystals in the environment that give you a one-time partial refill on one of those. Monsters respawned more frequently than I liked, and I ended up running past them some of the time. There were two very minor puzzles, and one chest that I wasn’t powerful enough to open; the boss didn’t present any particular difficulties.

After that, I gave the earpick back to the king; that helped, but he was still lacking in motivation, so I had to find another heart piece to give him. That put him back to normal, and he gave me his magic staff; I’d hoped it would let me open the chest in that dungeon, but no dice. I then wandered around town trying to find more people to help; one ghost gave me a bit more of a tutorial in using the Magic Master (including an artifical alphabet it uses in a couple of places), a few more people needed their will restored (and I couldn’t find a heart piece for one of them), and one person only talks to cats, so I’ll have to come back to help that person. I also unlocked the ability to use stores and change people’s weapons.

I think I’ve done everything I can in the city, though there are three loose ends; I’ve been told the next city to head off to, so that’s what I’ll do next week? It continues to be a pleasant enough game, with more of a mixture of different types of things to do than I’m used to in a JRPG. The Ghibli charm has worn off to some extent, however: still nice art (and the king from this city was very reminiscent of The Cat Returns), but it’s been a while since I’ve heard a piece of music that made me sit up and take notice, and the characters and plot aren’t giving me a strong Ghibli vibe. I’m still quite happy to be playing the game, for both aesthetic and didactic reasons, but I’m not quite as excited as I was when I started.

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Rock Band Status: November 20, 2011

Nov 21 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

On Saturday, I finished off some lose ends: I did the Expert Vocals hall of fame challenge, as well as a couple of other random challenges. (What a Diva! and the Rock Band 1 one.) The only hard bit in the hall of fame challenge was Good Vibrations, which manages to be both above and below my range, but there were more than enough other songs that fit into my range (though I did shift Rainbow in the Dark up an octave) to make up for that.

My throat was feeling pretty raw from drainage, so instead of singing with Liesl after that, I decided to switch over to Pro Guitar. And I felt like I’d run into a brick wall there, I just couldn’t do anything. Only when I was at dinner did it dawn on me: I’d probably left the difficulty at Expert, so no wonder I couldn’t play the songs!

And, indeed, when I came back the next day, that proved to be the case, and they were all much more tractable on Hard. Free Bird was quite a lot of fun, and could be good practice for scales; Rainbow in the Dark isn’t my type of music at all, but I enjoyed the repeated bit rather more than I expected. Caught in a Mosh is probably my least favorite song on disc—I’d been thinking that Du Hast had that honor, but now I’ve changed my mind. (Though even there I enjoyed the fingering challenges outside the solo.) And Crazy Train was interesting because it took me four tries to get the third star: there’s one repeated sequence with unusual chords where I kept on either missing the fingering or playing the wrong strings.

Satisfying week, and only four songs left to go: I’ll finish that over the long weekend with room to spare. Which means that it’s time to think about what to do once I finish Hard Pro Guitar.

As to making music outside of the game: my plan of record has been to try to practice alternating strumming, 風の丘, and the Three-Part Ricercar from the Musical Offering every day. I’ve been doing the alternating strumming rather reliably; it’s amazing how much a difference just putting in a couple of minutes a day makes. I haven’t been working on the Three-Part Ricercar every day, but more than enough to make a difference: in fact, now it’s getting to a state where my fingers generally do a quite good job of getting the notes right, so I need to switch from what to play over to how to play. Not so easy, for the first time in ages I wish I had a teacher to help me with that. Still, I’ll keep on working on it for a while, and then probably switch to something else on the piano.

風の丘, however, is not going so well. I enjoy playing it, but I’m finding it surprisingly hard to memorize; I could probably succeed at that, but I really would need to practice it every day to do so, and I’m not making the time for that. And, upon reflection, I’m happy enough with that decision: I’d rather spend that time focusing on improving my piano playing. Also, as I move up to Expert Pro Guitar, I’ll have many more opportunities to focus on really learning individual songs on the guitar. So: it’s been fun, but time to move on.

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Ni No Kuni: First Dungeon

Nov 20 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I went through the first dungeon in Ni No Kuni today. Which started off with a justification for the presence of chests littered around; I can’t remember the details (indeed, I’m not sure I figured out the details), but surprising to see. Monsters turn out to be visible, and somewhat hard to avoid; they weren’t too dense, though, and while battles occur on a separate screen, the transitions into and out of battles were mercifully fast. The battles were also quite short, and quite easy: by the end of the dungeon, I mostly stopped using magic, and that worked out just fine. (My Imagine turns out to be rather good with a sword, incidentally; Shizuku has some sort of special defensive technique, though I only used it on the boss battle.)

It also gave me a tutorial about using consumable items; at the time it gave me that tutorial, however, all my stats were full, so I didn’t actually try out the fluffy bread item. I know it’s some sort of restorative, but I don’t know if it restores HP, MP, or both; and the dungeon was so easy that I didn’t have any reason to use that (or any other) item during it, and while the magic master book talks about items, it doesn’t seem to go into more details than saying it’s a restorative.

I ran across a magic chest at some point that I had to use a new rune to open. For the first time, the game didn’t tell me which rune to use; fortunately, I didn’t have to go too far before running across “アンロック”, which I realized meant “unlock”.

Very short dungeon, despite which I leveled up all the way from level 2 to level 5 during it. And that was before the boss battle; for the boss, they made more of a deal about pointing out weaknesses (turned out to be weak to fire, which is of course my only offensive magic spell), and the boss had an attack where party positioning mattered, since party members who were behind somebody didn’t get hit. I got some sort of special item from the boss battle, I don’t know what’s up with that. And in general there’s clearly a generalized rock-paper-scissors mechanic here—the monsters were all labeled with some sort of type icon, though the game hasn’t yet emphasized that.

After the boss battle, I wandered around the overworld for a bit. I found a few chests, and monsters were thicker on the ground than I liked; eventually, though, I started running away and realized that I didn’t have to fight most of the monsters if I didn’t want to.

Then I went to the closest city (which Shizuku had told me to go to); but the gate was closed, the guards weren’t letting anybody in. I talked to one of them, and something was wrong with him; I forget the details, but there was some mental characteristic (concentration?) that he was lacking in. I was told to talk to the other guard, and then cast a new rune (“heart piece”); something appeared on the screen in my inventory corresponding to the thing that I’d gotten from the tree last week.

So I guess that wasn’t a potion: looking at it more closely, it’s a list of mental characteristics. Then I went back to the original guard, and cast a “heart cure” rune; he went back to normal and opened up the gate. The heart piece disappeared from my inventory, but I see a bunch of different slots there with different mental characteristics, so clearly there’s some sort of mechanic where I’m going to be restoring people to their mental health.

I saved when I entered the city; looking forward to exploring it next week!

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Ni No Kuni: Made it to the Second World

Nov 13 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Last week, I’d gotten to where it looked like the real story was about to kick off (and where the game was about to start looking like an RPG). Which proved to be mostly true, though there was a bit more work to be done in the first world: I had to be given the Magic Master book, wander around a bit, and cast my first rune, a gate to bring me to the second world.

Which, indeed, the game cartridge doesn’t tell you how to draw: you have to look it up in the book. (Though I imagine it’s not hard to find instructions online.) So yeah, the book does serve as a form of copy protection. Once you’ve drawn a rune, though, the game remembers that: so far, I’ve had to draw four runes, namely the gate, a fireball, a healing spell, and an Imagine-related rune, and the middle two are now selectable from within the combat menu without me having to draw anything. So Okami this is not.

Anyways: I made it to the second world, wandered with Shizuku through a forest for a while, and encountered a talking tree. There, I had my first couple of battles: standard turn-based RPG stuff, with a position system so the front row gives and receives more damage. I also got my first Imagine, and I don’t quite understand how those work: I’d assumed that I’d capture them, but when I cast the appropriate rune, the creature kind of teleported out of my heart somehow, and apparently was completely unconnected to the monster I’d just beaten. So now I have one Imagine, and I have no idea how I’ll get more; it also turns out that they fight alongside me in battle like regular party members, I don’t know how that’s going to end up playing out once I have a lot more options. (Judging from the Magic Master, there are 88 different Imagine types, each of which looks like it has three evolved forms; and the manual shows at least two non-Imagine party members to come.)

The tree also gave me some sort of potion; it made a big deal about it, and it’s important enough to have its own slot in the menu, I should figure out what’s going on there. There’s also a place in the menu to look after your Imagines; I went and petted mine, but that’s all I’ve done so far.

After leaving the tree, I went to the edge of the forest until I hit the next save spot; it looks like it was outside a dungeon, and I didn’t feel like doing that today. (It’s been more of a Rock Band-y weekend.) Still, I’m glad that the game is getting underway; and I’m also glad that the language is still not proving to be too much of a barrier.

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