Where’s the Vita love? (This is mostly about Soul Sacrifice and Toro’s Friend Network~)

Note: Screenshots may appear somewhat blurry. They can be enlarged if clicked on.

I’ve been ignoring E3 news and pretty much only going by what I read on my Twitter feed. However, a quick Google search led me to this article where it states roughly 85 new titles will be released on the Vita by the end of the year.

Why did it take so goddamn long?

For the uninitiated, here’s the problem with the Vita:  It has dreadful catch-22 situation surrounding it. Consumers gave it a lukewarm welcome upon launch and they continue to do so today which means that developers don’t see it as a system where they can profit off of. This in turn means that there aren’t many games for the handheld. Of course, with next to no games of interest, consumers are staying away from it. =___=;

In my eyes, the PS Vita is a great little portable console. It’s pretty light in weight, the colours are vivid, the display is large & stunning, and the touch screen and touch pad on the back can be fun to use if games make use of them well. (The only example I can think of is DJMax Technika Tune since that’s the only one I own where it is solely focused on touch gameplay.) It also has dual analogue nubs; something Nintendo has yet to clue in on.

However, aside from the look and feel, there are some notable drawbacks. The primary culprit are the idiotic proprietary memory cards that are far too expensive. Hopefully, with the push of new titles, more people will get the system and we’ll see a price drop for the cards. A secondary issue is the necessity of an Internet connection for some titles. I’m not talking about online multiplayer. It’s more about the software that comes with the Vita called near which is quite spiffy in theory; it allows people to exchange game goods and make new friends with players within a certain radius around your current location. The problem is that, unlike the 3DS’ StreetPass feature which functions even without being connected to the Internet, near requires the Vita to be online in order to find fellow users nearby as well as the game freebies.

Edit: It seems like you can receive game gifts your friends on the PlayStation Network too so it’s not just limited to people around your vicinity.

Naturally, there are carriers that offer 3G, 4G, etc. plans for the Vita but unless you like to use the Internet or watch videos on Netflix or YouTube away from home, there’s almost next to no point in getting an exclusive data plan for the handheld.

(Random aside: near could stand to have some trophies. :B)

Finally, there’s the joy of switching country accounts. Most owners probably don’t have multiple PlayStation Network accounts for stores in different parts of the world but for us that do, we have to go through a painstaking process of backing up and formatting the system just to be able to access the PS Store from another country to check out demos and shop. On top of this, unless you want to format the memory card as well, you’ll have to invest in a second memory card solely dedicated for that other account. Why? It’s because the Vita can only be registered to one account at a time AND you will be locked out of any save data from games played while logged into another account. Tidbit: Once upon a time, data from multiple PSN accounts could be saved onto one memory card. Simply formatting the system was enough to switch between them. But as of firmware 1.80, Sony took out that functionality. :\

Even with these little hiccups, I still like my Vita. The reason I bought was it for 2 games. ^^ But! Other titles of interest have been released since!

Soul Sacrifice

I can’t even recall when I caught wind of this game. But after playing the Japanese demo, I was all for buying it. I even pre-ordered on Amazon Canada. Sadly, that store didn’t have any pre-order bonuses like the US counterpart did. >:/ I wrote a tiny post about my experience with the JP demo at AdeptGamer. Check out the official website for more info.

I’ve been enjoying the game far too much. I probably suck too much to finish it though since 3-star and 4-star difficulty archfiend — think of it as a mini boss — battles can be tough to complete even with me “being at level 53”. I use quotes because your level isn’t really viewed at as a whole; the total level is comprised of the amount of levels you put into strengthening your defense & recovery and your attack. In the screenshot below, it shows that I’m working on beefing up my offense (red) over defense (blue) … which probably isn’t the best thing to do considering I have the uncanny ability to get hit. A lot. Still, I’m mostly surviving battles although I did fail/die early on in the archfiend battles quite a bit. ^^ My goal is to be able to hit hard quickly instead of dragging on battles with weak attacks. I will still probably bring the life/defense up to level 30 though since I want to unlock the Holy Supper Sigil although I may reduce the level again but we’ll see how strong level 70 Magic is. :B

My biggest fear is that, even when I’m maxed out at level 100, I still won’t be able to do the last stages. ^^ It may be ideal to invest somde time in online multiplayer so that I can get through them since any progress made there counts toward solo/offline play but I think I would most likely be cannon fodder in those fights. 😛

Soul Sacrifice - Beating on the Griffin
From Avalon Pacts: IV: Atonement – Fly, Die, Birdie
I believe this marks the first time I ever managed to destroy all Cursed Parts on an archfiend. Might be the last one for a while since I’m terrible at aiming with the Irondrake Egg. If I could get a really strong throw attack for auto-targeting, I’d use that instead but as of now, the eggs are the most powerful and handy offerings I have.

One thing about Soul Sacrifice is that, if you’re a sad player with mediocre skills like me, you have to rely on grinding for offerings as well as levels to help you through the game. Offerings are basically your weapons and methods of attack. They can be offensive, defensive, or recovery-based. There are also lure-types which work well to gather enemies or force a flying foe to come to the ground. In order for offerings to be of much use, you have to boost them by fusing identical ones together. Doing so will usually increases their strength as well as the usage limit. Yes, offerings have finite uses. I think the only exception are the blood-type attacks which are weak and draw on hitpoints as a source. The limit only kicks in while playing a stage and can be “renewed” at certain spots in the stage map as well as by sacrificing monsters. If a player uses an offering to the point that it breaks, it can be repaired by Lacrima (which can be viewed as the currency in the game). It should be noted that the usage count resets once a stage is finished.

While Soul Sacrifice is ultimately a fun grindfest, it is not without annoying shortcomings! For one thing, the ally AI could use some work! They’ll spend precious time attacking obstacles if an enemy is on the other side of it. >_> There IS a way around this though by whistling at them which will make them run to your location. Still, they shouldn’t be so stupid in the first place. Another issue  is friendly-fire. It seems that you don’t take damage from such attacks but you WILL get knocked off your feet which completely disrupts your current attack. It may also jeopardize your position since there’s every chance you’ll get hit while recovering. >:E Finally, was it really necessary to include a billion allies? I’m almost tempted to check forums and any online guides that may point me to the “best” companion. Each of them start off with only 3 offerings but their arsenal will increase as their affinity with your character develops. This means that you have to spend A LOT of quality time with each of them to see them to their full potential. On top of this, every ally can possess either have a neutral, dark, or divine arm. This determines their reactions to your decisions during archfiend battles. For example, if you constantly opt to save them, a dark arm sorcerer that accompanied you on the mission may leave. Conversely, if you simply enjoy murdering every archfiend you come across and happen to bring an ally with a divine arm for those stages, he or she will no longer wish to continue journeying with you. It’s easy to bring them back though! All you need is to spend a bit of Lacrima. :3

Soul Sacrifice - Good riddance, Carnatux!
I hate this guy so I left him for dead. I never bring him on Avalon Pact missions so I think he most likely died in chapter 3 against the slime. My problem with Carnatux is his stupid rolling attack. It usually ends up knocking me back. I’ve since learned to simply not attack the same enemy he does but if it’s an archfiend, like in chapter 3, I end up having to do ranged attacks while he plows into the thing. >_>
Unfortunately, if story characters die, you won’t be able to replay any of their missions until you revive them. Sigh. I had to bring Carnatux back so I could grind on chapter 1 for the Cremation Clod offering. 😛

I can write a bit more about this game but I’ll stop here. ^^ I may eventually do a separate post devoted solely to it though. 😀 Lord knows I tweet enough about the game to warrant a blog write-up about it.

Toro’s Friend Network

This is Sony’s version of Nintendo’s StreetPass Mii Plaza except you can purchase as well as win outfits and name cards from dungeon battles that affect your defense and attack respectively; buy premium currency with real money; and you can purchase areas (with regular in-game currency) to renovate. Oh, and you have to be online to even play the game. 9__9

Toro's Friend Network
Let’s make 100 “friends”!?

According to the little description at the bottom of the info area before launching the title, the goal of the game is to befriend 100 people. What happens after that? Apparently, the title character, Toro, will become human. (He’s a cat. And probably will always be a cat despite the objective. 😛 Either that or he’ll just get a “human body” with a square head like everyone’s avatars.)

The gameplay is simple enough~! There are three main areas: the friend lobby, all the sites you buy for Toro, and the friend dungeon. The first thing to do in Toro’s Friend Network is to look for “friends” in the lobby. These are all players that have accounts on the PlayStation Network and are obviously also playing Toro’s Friend Network. You can exchange the name card that you created at you start the game with other people as a means to send a friend request or you can go straight into their system profile and request that way. 😛 If you opt to use the name card method, you are limited to exchanging 10 of them per day.

The card contains basic information like your in-game nickname, an intro message, PSN nickname, level, number of friends, and personality type. In the screencap below, there’s a little brush in the bottom right corner indicating that I’m an artist type. There are 3 in total: Muscle, Brain, and Artist. All types bring different bonuses to the the dungeon~! Additionally, there are only certain types that can do renovation assignments in the locations you purchase.

Toro's Friend Network - A Name Card
This was my name card after beating level 10 in the Friend Dungeon.

You can also link your Facebook and Twitter accounts too for whatever reason. The description for both social network lobby areas reads something like “you can see your followers here too”. The thing is, they’d still need a PSN account and the game to show up, I believe. The only neat thing that I can see is that with the Twitter integration, you will see people’s most recent tweets regardless of whether or not you follow them. Worry not though, if your “friend” is a serial tweeter like yours truly, every single tweet won’t pop up since Toro’s Friend Network uses some sort of buffer to reduce frequency. At least that’s what it seems to me. ^^; Then again, I’m not sure anyone that I befriended is a serial tweeter. 😛 As for Facebook, I suppose linking to that would show status updates?

Toro's Friend Network - Tweet~!
My friend tweeting me after I tell him to get this game on Twitter. 😛 Sadly, he remains naked and low-levelled till this day. (Any character that has the generic greenish body and black limbs are in their “birthday suit”.)

Since I can be rather long-winded, I’ll explain a bit more about Toro’s Friend Network through pictures:

Toro's Friend Network - Too many naked people in the lobby
One thing about being high level is that it gets harder to find friends that could do well/survive dungeons. Sure, you can spend money to heal and resurrect but I’d rather not do that on a regular basis. Anyway, most of these folks in the Friend Lobby are in their birthday suits! Who knows how long they’re willing to commit to the game? :/
Toro's Friend Network - Let's Work!
Assigning work. This is totally a freemium gimmick! You have to wait between 5 minutes to several hours for money and experience. There doesn’t seem to be any way to reduce the wait times unless the friend “hustles”. Conveniently, that’s dependent on whether they’re around to see the work notice at their end before a job is completed.
Toro's Friend Network - Cha-ching!
More freemium gimmicks! Gold items can only be purchased with Coins. Coins must be bought through the PS Store. I have no idea if they can be earned in dungeon levels later on though. And yes, I bought some Coins. ^^ Since I like going into the dungeon, I wanted a higher attack stat so I bought the Toro Jun Name Card. You can see it in a screenshot below. Yeah, I’m a hypocrite when it comes to freemium games. TT But hey, not all of them are equal! Toro’s Friend Network seems kind of decent in terms of how much they charge for premium currency versus how much things cost.
Toro's Friend Network - A dungeon battle in session
In the friend dungeon, random players show up as giants — well, monsters — to fight your group. ^^ You can befriend them after you defeat them … assuming they allow friend requests.
Toro's Friend Network - My current group of visitors
Still got a ways to go until 100. Kind of annoying that there are 20+ friend requests pending. :/ But hey, not everyone wants to be “friends” with strangers; especially those who don’t have the same tastes as you. I seriously need more Muscle types. They grant attack bonuses in the dungeon. :\
Toro's Friend Network - People milling around my garden
I forgot to check the game for a few hours which resulted in a bunch of “!!”. Whoops. The speech balloons can indicate a variety of things such as whether work you or your friend assigned has been completed, if they got a new name card, if you went on an adventure into the Friend Dungeon with them or not, or if someone “hustled” (which reduces wait times for work completion or adventuring). There are also little balloons with hearts or ellipses which mean someone’s patted you on the head or there’s an incoming tweet respectively.

There are some fun times to be had but there are simply far too many things Sony could have done to make it better. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • It’d be fun to be able to do dungeon levels and assign jobs while offline but we can’t. Oh well.

    Toro's Friend Network - No Internet Connection notice
    This cute image shows up if you’re not online. 😡
  • Friend is a misnomer. Maybe some new friendships will come out of this game but I have a feeling most of us will rename as clueless and unknown to one another as before we became “friends”.
    .
  • No trophies! It’s kind of bizarre that it wouldn’t have any! I can think of so many milestones that could be achievements! It’ll also be more incentive for people to play. Maybe.
    .
  • Too few locales. As far as I know, there are only 5 sites to unlock. It’s extremely easy to meet all the conditions to get all of them within the span of 1 – 2 days. Maybe there’ll be DLC for new places eventually? Anyway, once you get all of them, it’ll then be a matter of getting each construction spot to 100%.
    .
  • Not enough levels and type variety on construction spots. Early on, there were some spots that could only be worked on by certain types of players. Obviously, this encouraged me to seek out those particular types. However, after working in the same spot for a bit, it basically converts to “anyone could work here” which negates any incentive for looking for specific personalities. In the end, the whole Muscle, Artist, or Brain bit only matters in the dungeon which is a shame. :\ What’s more is that it’s so easy to complete every spot. >_<
    .
  • More name card designs! It’s far too easy to max out on cards that can be purchased with MP and there are too few cards that can be bought with Coins. :/ Again, maybe this will be reserved for upcoming additions with DLC???? Tip: buying name cards permanently ups attack so if you have MP to spare, buy them all! It’s the same for outfits too~! (Obviously, they’ll increase defense.)
    .
  • There should be a one-tap or one-button solution to see all notifications in a window. (Maybe one notice window for each location?) It’s so time-consuming to have to tap each speech balloon individually. I usually spend several minutes clearing them all out. It’d be nice to have a little notice somewhere on the screen that’ll pop up and then list everything in one place. Maybe if I were more obsessive and checked in every hour I wouldn’t have to go through this hassle?
    .
  • More uses for MP. After buying up every outfit and name card, MP will probably be spent on buffs and potions that will become useless when HP goes beyond 2000. 9__9 Actually, since the MP ones only recover 100 HP, they get useless quickly. At least you can spam several in one turn. I propose that the 500 HP recovery be changed to an MP item. …. But that might become obsolete as well once players get really deep into the dungeon.
    .
  • Up the HP increase limit per day~! Hitpoints can increase if you pat someone on the head, get patted on the head yourself, and I think hustling does it too. So far, it’s extremely easy to hit the +20 HP limit per 24 hours in just an hour. 9_9
    .
  • Some sort of “NO REQUESTS” indication on avatars. One thing I hate a lot about Toro’s Friend Network is that there is no way to see who has their privacy settings set to, well, private. You find someone that seems potentially cool and then shoot off a friend request only to discover that you can’t send them one because they don’t allow it. 😦 You pretty much have to be cool enough for them. >:/
    .
  • No way to send messages in-game and I sort of wish that the avatars would display the PSN username instead of the in-game pseudonym because I tend to give assignments to people that frequent the game or have characters that are useful in battles.
    .
  • No intelligent sorting when it comes to handing out jobs or selecting party members for adventures. Everything is lumped into one list! It would be nice to sort by time for the dungeon. I know the people at the end are usually the most recently friended ones so their wait time will be longer but people may hustle and stuff! Oh, and attack and defense from highest to lowest or something. For jobs, there should be tabs for levels and/or how recently the user played the game.
    .
  • No way to earn Coins. The only other free-to-play games I have for the Vita are Jetpack Joyride and the Treasures of Montezuma Blitz and they both allow for some way to earn premium currency. Perhaps I’m just not at that point yet?
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  • Monotonous. Due to the lack of activities you can actually do, Toro’s Friend Network can get old fast. :/
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  • It’d be nice to have the ability to manually move people around in the lobby! So much overlapping happens so you have to wait until characters move around until you can actually select the one you want. 9__9
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