Leon's Microblog – October 2023

Germ (https://www.shortboxcomicsfair.com/shop/p/germ-by-liz-chee) – Fascinatingly structured psychological horror short with simple but very effective imagery and symbolism.
Ocean (https://www.shortboxcomicsfair.com/shop/p/ocean-by-lucie-bryon) – Initially rather silly slice-of-life comic that eases into a more down-to-earth, likeable stride. Has a nice full-circle ending.
*makes myself a cup of tea, Earl Grey, hot* This is the Trek version of Neo Kobe Pizza
It took me awhile to understand this, but the flavour text on the left card explains the abilities of the right card, making the latter much more sinister. (In Netrunner, you lose the game if you ever have "-1 cards" in hand.)
I like it when Netrunner card combos can get darkly hilarious.
Pearl Hunting (https://www.shortboxcomicsfair.com/shop/p/pearl-hunting-by-hana-chatani) – A very slow-burning story that does manage to build up to a satisfying, ironic conclusion. A solid work from a comics veteran.
It All Ends With Me (https://www.shortboxcomicsfair.com/shop/p/3s20hekys42i0gddv2evzskqfbuubx) – A cold, tense fairytale comic with great linework and character design, juxtaposing sumptuous architecture and dress with the gruesomeness of meat.
It's agreed that Kirby, from videogames, has no concrete gender. We all accept this. However, Kirby/Prince Fluff in Kirby's Epic Yarn *IS* yaoi.
Pinball Wizard (https://www.shortboxcomicsfair.com/shop/p/pinball-wizard-by-pavina) – A wacky and quite expressive dark comedy with some legitimately hilarious moments. The hyper-anxious, constantly hyperventilating protagonist is a great foil for the schemers all around her.
Synthetic Snow (https://www.shortboxcomicsfair.com/shop/p/synthetic-snow-by-madeline-mcgrane) – Despite an unpromising opening, this eventually blossoms into a surprisingly vivid and abstract tale, referencing a certain classic.
When are we getting an Ico-like videogame where both characters are blind. Now that's a relationship I wanna play.
So I coooooould pay the Kagi company $10 a month to get better search engine results… OR I could pay the Pixiv corporation $6 a month to be able to block fanart of every show I don't like… Hmm… Which would be better… The trajectory of my whole life may hinge on this…
I just LOVE it when I go to some Japanese webcomic serialising site and discover that after the first 3 episodes I have to spend 20 shiny emeralds to read each of the remaining 5.
Calling all Void Stranger voidheads… So I was thinking, the reason this song is called "Lax Lullaby" has GOT to be because of its similarities to this Nintendo ditty, right? It lines up with a relevant character name, too……
*sees something spellbinding* Interesting, very interesting. Unfortunately, such frivolity won't protect you from my spells, which I shall finish casting in just a few–– now what in the dingdang heck
Marrow (https://www.shortboxcomicsfair.com/shop/p/marrow-by-sloane-hong) – Cute little body-horror scenario. The ending is maybe a little too dramatic for its own good, but the main characters are pretty likeable and keep the story warm.
Morana Until Death (https://www.shortboxcomicsfair.com/shop/p/morana-until-death-by-les-piggies-kari-lynch-bailie-rosenlund) – Interestingly tense horror vignette… Despite an outwardly simple story, tries hard not to be obvious or to play familiar tropes, keeping the reader as distrusting as the protagonist to the very end.
Miss Mouse and the Crumbling Catacombs (https://www.shortboxcomicsfair.com/shop/p/miss-mouse-and-the-crumbling-catacombs-by-rachel-cherry) – Rather standard 25-page fantasy story held up by above-average dialogue. Artwork is kind of sketchy, but composition and posing is good.
Galatean Girlfriend (https://www.shortboxcomicsfair.com/shop/p/galatean-girlfriend-by-imogen-mangle) – Nice little bad-relationship horror story that plays with the physicality of the two main characters a lot.
And now, I review some limited-edition 2023 Shortbox comics (https://www.shortboxcomicsfair.com/) which are on sale for only a few more days.
Just watched this year's Netrunner world tourney… Damn, those grand finals (https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1951574246?t=9h4m3s) really were pretty wild.
Thinking about how Outer Wilds's tutorial included a museum area letting you examine all the platforming elements – purple crystals, ghost matter, etc. – fully confident the player would still be thoroughly amazed when confronted with actual puzzles involving them 4 hours later.
*starts typing "does Kera-Ma-Go have enough made-up nonsense words in it to make Moon Remix RPG Adventure qualify as a NieR-like" into Chatroulette*
One nice thing about Netrunner is that when extremely predominant cards are rotated and replaced with nerfed or rebalanced versions with different names, it makes sense given that the same thing happens to programming tools every few years as well.
Look, you can't call Void Stranger "the NieR of sokoban-like games" unless it has conlang song lyrics. *someone points out that the song in the game with English lyrics sounds like that if you're not an Anglophone* ……You know what, I'll take it
4:99 AM… The shopping hour…
New 1CC!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8c0G_1JXNg Ironically, I think Hardest is possibly easier than the other difficulties because the gravity speed-ups (which are EXTREMELY sudden and jarring) happen much earlier in the stages instead of "just when you least expect it".
They're adding a CSS value called "pretty"? That's the best name they could come up with? The text wrapping is "pretty"?? Why not give up the pretense and call it "good" or "epic" or "awesomesauce" or something
The characters in this game are so charismatic
Sigh… it's almost the year 2100… why can't humanity invent the SinusBuster Tenthousand and put sinusitis to an end… I was promised the SinusBuster Tenthousand in Blade Runner and The Fifth Element…
*thinking of something relatable to tweet* That quasi-religious ceremony which the Barkley 2 unfinished demo uses to explain its corny overcomplicated HUD bar is actually extremely clever
Godlike MOD instrument comments
*Arle voice* MIOENS Who is this tweet even for
The voice-actor fell down a trapdoor part 2
So I just looked up what the kanji in "Kotsujin" actually mean, and​ wouldn't you know it… more Buddhism in the shmups!!
The voice-actor fell down a trapdoor
Void Stranger, also known as "OFF for lesbians",
Roushinshi building the essentially guaranteed Platinum Structure in that one Hiryuu stage with the exact same listless lack of enthusiasm as an office worker ordering a drive-through coffee
Getting pelted with red, blue and yellow Land Maker tiles for saying "Snowgrave" every time I win with Soumei
Land Maker feels so much like… "what if Puzzle Bobble was actually good". "So you mean they got rid of the awful colour RNG?" Oh, absolutely not. But now, losing to RNG is entirely your fault instead of the game's.
https://archive.org/details/moonofficialbookstrategyguidescanjp/page/n79/mode/2up – The official strategy guide for Moon Remix RPG Adventure has the entire Youshamen comic in full resolution???
They quickly drop a solid rec for some PC98 game called Flame Zapper Kotsujin, so I went and booted it up… Damn, how come I've heard of ChoRenSha but not this??
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1wyPN4DaJE – Listening to this interview with system_erasure about ZeroRanger and going on an emotional catapult ride once they mentioned they started development in 2009 in Game Maker 6.
What the Metroidvania elements add to Void Stranger function like that – they change the meaning and relevance of individual puzzles, encouraging the player to look "beyond" them and start seeing them as just paths to a goal, against the traditions of the genre.
The addition of the map screen isn't just to contextualise the levels and add a sense of place and progression – it also wordlessly reveals to the player ideas like "you can just skip specific levels" and "this level opens a shortcut you can use after a Game Over".
I'm reminded, funnily enough, of Super Mario Bros. 3, and how its one "big thing" (which it probably didn't invent but did popularise) was taking the arcade-like platformer and adding an RPG-like map screen with "inventory" and multiple paths, becoming an "adventure-platformer".
Something a few people have noted about Void Stranger is that one of its most striking features is simply presenting a familiar genre in an unfamiliar framework – putting the sokoban-like puzzle genre in a Metroidvania-like framework with powerups and "backtracking".
Thinking about what makes Land Maker engaging despite its pieces being only monominos (contrast with "domino" pieces in Puyo Puyo or Dr. Mario)… I think the mechanic where pieces paint where they land means that they /situationally/ behave as dominos or triominos.
Aifa (from Land Maker) whenever the opponent gets a Silver Structure, she looks over to check if it's yellow, and it's yellow
More saliently: having a certain density of missable interactions or secrets, or hidden alternative ways to manipulate the game, is really not the domain of any one title, but something any game could potentially aspire to.
OK, sure, there are some very specific Undertale-like ways the different routes' plots "make sense" that even I would point out, but other stuff like the way NPCs work, the NPCs' personalities, and how "runs" work, reminds me a lot more of a Souls-like game or a dungeon RPG.
People keep loosely comparing Void Stranger to Undertale and I don't quite get it. Like, yes, there's missable NPCs and bosses, Easter eggs and multiple endings with fairly obscure routes… …but, y'know what I think Void Stranger resembles more in those aspects? Elden Ring.
Void Stranger (2023)
I will say… maybe the most shocking thing about ZeroRanger is how much of Void Stranger you CAN'T see in it. Like, there are dozens of obvious surface-level features, but the two games' philosophies about narrative design, tone, genre, and player agency are still worlds apart.
3) The understated pun that the mechas are "ZeroRangers" because they are melee-only (i.e. "zero range") is just barely tolerable enough that I can live with it. *I am informed via Blackberry (in keeping with the fruit theme) that this isn't really a compliment at all* Well,
OK, time to say something good about this game. 1) I like that the main shot manages to still be the optimal choice for large parts of the later stages. 2) The little "beginner QOL" things, like not having terrain damage, or letting you survive collisions with enemies, do add up.
Well, I eventually managed to get the end of ZeroRanger. Final verdict: "Those are definitely some games I remember playing before this one."
Thinking about Void Stranger makes me a little frustrated because it does so much right storytelling-wise that if the actual plot and characters were, like, even just 30% more interesting, then it would be absolutely transcendentally good… So close yet far from perfection…
OK, I didn't flunk the bonus stage this time. This 1CC is now officially "legit". …Maybe some of those end stages were a little mashy, though… …maybe… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_5oPYzCi88
Twinkle Star Sprites is a shmup with chains… so when are we getting the falling-block game with graze
I GOT A LAND MAKER 1CC BUT I FLUNKED THE BONUS STAGE SO IT'S OFFICIALLY "GRODY" AS A RESULT Still, not bad considering I'm mostly still learning the nitty-gritty of the mechanics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIL-yYIKKtY
Land Maker (1998)
Some of you may have missed the big #PetalCrash2 announcement, so here's my breakdown of all the observed gameplay changes: • Cheating is now legal • Penny & Deony have two cursors that you control twinstick-style • Petals can now be "castled" like in Chess (not clear why)
I just did a 1CC up to and including loop 2 stage 3, and I /still/ got the bad ending >:( …Guess I'm gonna have to think my way out of this conundr*closes the game and opens a Touhou stream instead*
Welcome to my Mezase! Senkyu-ou frag vid
There's references, there's gratuitous references, and then there's "What if we just put the Treasure Co., Ltd. logo on this wall. You love that, don't you"
Gonna start calling Touhou 12.3 "Touhou twelve-and-three-tenths"
ZeroRanger's later stages' music uses that one famously cheesy MIDI synth choir sample that's common in mid-00's PC shmups such as Genetos. Unfortunately, hearing it simply makes me wish I was playing Genetos instead.
ZeroRanger review: ☑️Gradius references ☑R-Type references ☑️Radiant Silvergun references ☑️Gunstar Heroes references ☑RayForce references ☑Recca references ☑Xevious references ☑Undertale references 🔳Darius references RESULT: 1/10
Feeling like something cool might happen if I get to the final stage without collecting any powerups… which sounds like an interesting and provocative design decision, but falls flat due to one small detail: i dunt wunna
I'm absolutely convinced there's a fashion design line that goes from the Void Stranger lords ← Asriel Dreemurr ← Ran Yakumo. It's as clear as day.
It is with deep regret that I must announce that I have now fought Sans in ZeroRanger.
OK, fine. I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to just follow another image trend, but you know what? It actually turned out pretty fun, laying all my heartfelt favs out like this 'w' So, here's my "25 Games To Get To Know Me" chart.
I love that you can pinpoint multiple features of Void Stranger as evidence that it was made by shmup devs. Like, you can say, here is your lives, here is "using a continue" and the resulting "bad end", here is "loop 2", here is the ChoRenSha turn-one-item-into-three thing…
ZeroRanger currently mostly feels like "what if Guxt was released before Cave Story instead of after".
The emulator's online stopped working so they had to switch to Mario Bros. arcade score attack for finals >_> Now that I think about it, it is pretty funky that this arcade game's co-op mode and score attack mode are just… the same mode.
*notices no one is talking about Void Stranger* God I wish Void Stranger was more popular *realises this means my mentions would be full of people who found more Easter eggs than me* God I'm glad Void Stranger isn't more popular *notices no one is talking about Void Stranger* God
Online tournament for the Super Mario All Stars versus mode https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1946848659 (starts 47:33)
*after innocently trying something out in Void Stranger* Wow, I can't believe Void Stranger is a software program built exclusively to ruthlessly troll me, the only person on the Internet who has ever purchased it (plus the people who recc'd it to me ig)
First human to die of Void Stranger easter egg FOMO
God I HAAAAAAATE being exactly the target audience for this game
This absolutely smells like the kind of shmup where you have to fly into the core of a boss immediately after you destroy it to warp to a secret area, just like in Nemesis 2 for MSX… or something equivalent.
So I downloaded ZeroRanger – just to "see what all the fuss was about" – and, uh, the references are definitely flying thicker and faster than the other __ranger game. They named a BGM file after the boss theme from Salamander that got used in like 2,000 Gradius games since.
Void Stranger is… how do I put this… a videogame with every single positive AND negative association in the word "kamige".
Void Stranger also has a tiny fraction of the number of cause-and-effect puzzles of a La Mulana 1 or 2. You know what a more fitting comparison would be? Cave Story's Sacred Grounds. And even then, Void Stranger's puzzles are much clearer than what that game asked for.
Void Stranger's cause-and-effect puzzles are dramatically more tamed in comparison: the objects that are capable of hidden or edge-case manipulation are limited in number and (usually) visually obvious. Only one or two true "leaps of faith" are ever really asked of you.
The latter category is the true meat of La Mulana: basically every memorably difficult puzzle involves an obscured or invisible cause-and-effect. The game teaches you to scrutinise everything, to consider that any inert object in any room could be revealed as manipulable somehow.
La Mulana puzzles to me fall in two overlapping categories: code puzzles (gather the code, then input it) and cause-and-effect puzzles, where the puzzle is realising, or being told, a relationship between disconnected objects, or an edge case in how an object can be manipulated.
……OK, look, let's extract the elephant from the room here: I think everyone saying Void Stranger is "like La Mulana" is doing it a significant disservice, even though it has plenty of obvious references. Its puzzle design is significantly different and more "regular" than that.
Music opinion: I remain unchanged that the first area's music is the floating cream of the crop, but the 6-minute-long(!) dark jazz music for area six is a decently close second place. Everything else is far below those two.
The Void Stranger soundtrack isn't available to download online, so I used an asset extractor tool to extract the music files.
*leaning back in rocking chair* Feels like the Void is getting Stranger every day…
OK everyone, I got the sixth and most conclusive-feeling ending. Hmm……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………good videogame.
…………FIFTH ENDING………… ……I can't freaking believe the game really did make you the exact same stuff all over again except with basically one thing different……
FORTUNATELY, this time I actually wrote down solves for an extremely large amount of rooms using a series of arcane diagrams, so the sting isn't too harsh. Still… current motivation to continue is pretty close to rock bottom.
FINALLY!!! FOURTH ENDING (or possibly the fifth, sixth or seventh) obtained. Unfortunately… seems like there's at least one more ending that'll require doing a good portion of that stuff all over again :(((((((
By the way… I ACCEPT ALL CHALLENGERS (for specifically Pochi & Nyaa, the exact-opposite-of-a-hit 2003 falling block game by Puyo Puyo designer Moo Niitani, and no other game) !!
I played Pochi & Nyaa on Fightcade today and my mind decided the nyan blocks looked like Void Stranger statues >:((((((((
🌚Playing Tokimeki Memorial to fully enjoy a well-written, well-designed classic sim 🌓Playing Tokimeki Memorial to fully enjoy the Taisen Puzzle-Dama spinoff of it 🌞Playing Tokimeki Memorial to fully enjoy the secret Easter egg version of it in La Mulana 1
Going to start thinking positively and referring to brainworms as "brain fauna".
This game (Void Stranger) has a LOT of very obvious 90s Nintendo visual references, but unlike most such games, it has enough pride and maturity to keep them barely below the line of "cloying". It doesn't make you see them or wait for your applause.
Putting it out here for all to see: if it turns out there's a puzzle where the solution hinges, pun intended, on the fact that opening a chest causes you to face south without moving, I'm gonna be ready for it.
Reaching the point where I'm considering just brute-force-entering things into the name entry screen to see if something will happen : (
Really curious as to whether – as one of my initial presumptions upon seeing this game's main mechanic – the devs really did play specifically Anodyne 1 before designing this game.
*thinks about how spiders die, THEN curl up* Wow, wonder if any sphinxes thought of that one yet
Volcanically sighting as I finally give up all pretense of dignity and open the Wikipedia page for "Dante's Inferno" in search of ideas
Feeling very disheartened right now… a huge number of my leads have turned out to not have enough information, or just become seeming dead ends (sometimes literally Game Overs). That said, I'm still liking the game, and am very astonished it isn't WAY more popular than it is.
Having 72 grasshoppers and still refusing to burn one unnecessarily is this game's 99 Megalixers.
When you retweet yourself
I dunno, I think there's just something inherently dorky about Ars Goetia, even more so than, say, Norse mythology in La Mulana 2 et al. At least mythology has some implicit, often tragic narrative to play off of, whereas Ars Goetia is mostly just a bunch of names and vibes.
I don't know how I feel about this game making its backstory turn out to be more Ars Goetia stuff… I definitely had a "we're doing this again, huh", reaction, but they do vaguely try to make it a bit unique.
The old gen 1 Pokémon joke that the Juggler trainer class constantly switches out their Pokémon was definitely way too subtle for me back in the day.
THIRD ending found… I also found a fourth """ending""" which doesn't have credits but does return you to the "name entry screen" when you get it, but it's probably just an Easter egg (←clueless)
I managed to get another, different ending!!……… but… it seems The True Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove begins here…
That being said… I will add that the sheer amount of unique one-off cutscene music (along with other aspects of the cutscenes) makes me wonder what on Earth this $10 game's budget really was (compliment).
Music opinions… First area's theme is breathtakingly good, about as great at instilling reverence and awe as both La Mulanas or both Deltarune chapters. However, the subsequent area themes only range from mildly interesting to slightly annoying.
The one big feeling I'm taking away from the story is that, despite all its surprisingly varied cutscenes, it would basically be garbage if the protagonist was a man. "Leon, I notice that sentence doesn't actually state that it isn't garbage" OK, look right here, YOU,
Adding to the problem (insofar as I can call it that) is that the powerups are extremely inconsistent at how well they make past puzzles easier. In particular, by far the most tedious puzzle type (switches) is usually mostly unaffected by the powerups.
I mean, am I really supposed to just screen-record every solution as I make it, and punch it back in every time?? This goes a bit above and beyond typical puzzle game notetaking.
Really big pain point identified: for a game with a decent amount of backtracking and returning to the start, having to constantly re-solve the late-game rooms is extremely tedious. Like, some of the rooms' solutions are like 40 moves deep, or otherwise extremely dense.
Rapidly developing a new and never-before-seen game design theory that difficult Metroidvanias like this and La Mulana are "hurt/comfort fic", instantly incinerating all my intellectual credibility.
A bone has been thrown in my direction.
I kind of hate to knock a game that does so much that I like, but the individual room puzzle difficulty is SOOOO all over the place. It feels almost random how long any individual room will take to beat, even long after the normal route's areas.
It is a little funny that this heavily references the classic Zelda animation of fairies restoring you to full health, but because the protagonist is so down-on-their-luck, they have to resort to using grasshoppers instead.
Well, time for some more Void Stranger. *opens Paint Dot Net and starts dragging screenshot after screenshot into it*
Managed to get the normal (??) ending despite having like 15 different leads still unfinished… So much for the low-hanging fruit >_>'''
Damn… Can't believe it's the 2-year anniversary of the very last time any human played through Dark Souls 1 in the expected order, instead of doing the fricking Master Key route for the zillionth time… The years really do just seep away, taking health and happiness with them…
Found a dungeon area with the ghost from Bubble Bobble. (Thought I was going to say "The ghost from Spelunky"? Hahaha… Make your next move with a scant more hesitation, I think.)
Examining the game's opening a bit more… I do like that the way you choose between the permadeath "difficulty" and the easy "difficulty" (they're not really that, but bear with me) is to simply die to select the latter.
The boss fights are reminding me a lot of the original "MSX" La Mulana… mainly because of how step-by-step the animations are, and, in contrast, how elaborate the sprites are.
I like how, after you get to each of the Shovel Knight-esque dream cutscenes, the game unceremoniously saves and quits, subtly inviting you to end the session there and play again tomorrow. Feels like a very "mindful" thing you'd normally see in a life-sim, or Sword & Sworcery.
https://system-erasure.itch.io/void-stranger – Void Stranger first playthrough thread!!! Ten minutes in and I'm already hungry to see where this is going.
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