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4/27/2015 Slow weekend

Nothing too exciting to talk about this weekend. I did some shopping and checked out the sweet onion festival at a nearby farm (mostly for kids, but I got some cheap vegetables), but most of my time has been divided between reading and working on various things. For now, here's a restaurant review.

Restaurant Review: Kaka'ako Kitchen
Restaurant Type: Hawaiian
Location: Ward Center
Kaka'ako Kitchen has been on my list of restaurants to try for ages, ever since I read some favorable reviews in the paper, but for months I never got around to going. Finally, it all worked out so I dropped in. First off, it's a very casual plate lunch type of place (though they're also open for dinner most days). Paper plates, plastic utensils, and most of the seating is outside. So don't go looking for something fancy or atmospheric. The prices aren't bad though and the menu is a diverse mix of Hawaiian, Japanese, and a little Italian. I had the combo plate with mahi mahi and shoyu chicken. Both the fish and the chicken were well cooked (the mahi mahi especially had a much better texture than I expected) and the sauces had quite a nice flavor to them.
All in all, I'd say Kaka'ako Kitchen is one of the better plate lunch restaurants I've tried here on the island. Add in the diverse menu, and it's a good choice if you need a quick meal while at Ward.


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4/24/2015 Mobile RPGs

This week's bonus comic is up! Vote with the TWC button and check it out.

While it never has, and will most likely never be, one of my primary gaming platforms, there's always some game I'm working through on my phone. Mainly to kill time when I get stuck waiting in line or some such (if I know I'm going to have a long wait coming up, I'll bring my 3DS or Vita). I've tried out various phone games but I usually end up playing either one of Kairosoft's simulation games or a Japanese style RPG (mostly from Kemco). Now those RPGs could pretty much be mistaken for lost SNES games, though none of the ones I've played so far come close to the level of that era's classics. Anyway, recently I've tried a couple of mobile RPGs that were designed more heavily with mobile phones in mind (for better or worse) and I figured I'd write a little bit about them.

The first is Final Fantasy Record Keeper. While Square Enix's record with mobile games has been spotty, I decided to give it a try. It relies rather heavily on the nostalgia factor but, if you're a FF fan, it's really not a bad game. Basically, you get to assemble a team consisting of characters and job classes from various FF games, give them some equipment and abilities, and fight your way through "dungeons" (a series of battles, culminating with a boss fight) based on a dungeon from one of the FF games. It's all very simplified compared to the original games, but kinda fun.
The other game is Terra Battle, which was created by Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the Final Fantasy series) and Mistwalker (the studio he formed after leaving Square Enix). It also involves assembling a team of characters in various job classes and fighting though multiple series of battles to clear "dungeons". While I'd prefer Sakaguchi spent his time on another AAA console RPG instead, it has a rather clever sliding tile based battle system with a surprising amount of depth. Add in music by Nobuo Uematsu and you have a pretty great mobile RPG.
So am I just giving the two a shout out? Not so much. One thing that really stuck out about the two games was how similar they were in many ways. In both cases you create a team of characters and advance by clearing "dungeons" which are essentially several series of battles, getting money, EXP, and items. Doing each set of battles costs stamina. When your stamina runs out, you need to wait for a while in real time while it recharges (one set of battles seems to average 15 - 50 minutes worth of stamina, with a dungeon consisting of several sets). Alternately, you can spend a second set of currency (mythril in FFRK and energy in TB) for an instant recharge.
Both games also rely heavily on a gatchapon (UFO catcher) element to strengthen your party. In FFRK, most of the better weapons and armor can only be gotten through a random draw. Similarly, in TB you recruit new (and hopefully stronger) characters via a random draw. Those random draws cost mythril/energy, as well.
Small amounts of mythril/energy can be gained by clearing dungeons. Or you can pay real money for them. So, you can get everything there is in both games without spending a thing, which is great. Though before too long you're going to hit a wall where your party just isn't strong enough to continue through the story mode and you have to spend a lot of time grinding or spend some money in hopes of getting better items/characters through the random draw (which is in no way guaranteed due to randomness). And, while you'll start out with more than enough stamina to breeze through the early dungeons, soon you'll find yourself alternating between several minutes of play time and several hours of waiting for your stamina to recharge. While the battle systems themselves are different, both games clearly took their basic design straight from another title (probably Puzzle & Dragons).
On the one hand, both games are well made and fairly fun. On the other hand, I really hate the system of "time gating" the game with stamina, something that started with social networking games to force players to keep coming back every day (it works, but it's extremely annoying and will drive some players away entirely). And while I'm not opposed to the option of paying for better items/characters, at least not as long as they can also be earned through regular gameplay, I dislike the randomness of the systems. It's really annoying when you cash in your hard earned (or expensively purchased) mythril/energy and don't get anything good from it. Not to mention that I think the prices are higher than they should be. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for financially supporting games I like (free or not) and I'll happily spend a few dollars if I'm having fun. But time gates and random draws rub me the wrong way. I wish the teams behind FFRK and TB had looked to more player friendly freemium games (like Plants vs. Zombies 2) for inspiration when deciding how to handle monetization.


4/22/2015 Nothing to see here...

Well, not nothing. There's today's comic strip, of course. But not much of a news post. Been a pretty ordinary couple of days and, while I was thinking of writing about some video games I've been playing lately, I'm just too tired today. So have a great mid-week and I'll see you all on Friday.


Pokémon and all related images and trademarks are copyrighted by Nintendo, one of my favorite games companies who would certainly never waste their time by trying to sue me. Especially since I'm protected under the Fair Use Rule of the United States Copyright Act of 1976. Aside from that the actual site content is copyrighted by me, Josiah Lebowitz 2003.