What I'm Playing - No. 9
Image source: Tom Swinnen

What I'm Playing - No. 9

Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!

Be warned, minor spoilers may be contained within. Generally, I do try to keep things spoiler-free but this isn’t always possible/practical! If you want to totally avoid all potential spoilers so you can play these games yourself in a blind run, you shouldn’t continue reading! Games contained within this post:

  • Pokémon Ultra Moon (3DS)
  • The Sims 4 (PC)
  • Persona 3 Portable (PSP)

Pokémon Ultra Moon (3DS)

I picked up Ultra Moon a bit this week again, just starting the post-game content. Some NPCs seem to reference my status as Champion now, like with this comment the Poké Center attendant made!

This comment the Poké Center attendant made
This comment the Poké Center attendant made

Anyway, it seems the rest of Poni Island is now unlocked to me. Or at least, 2 new areas are. I haven’t tried to explore further than that yet. On my way there, I got a free Type: Null. It’s like a rare sort-of-legendary-but-not-really Pokémon…getting it for free just kinda makes it seem “meh,” it’d feel better if you actually had to catch it or something. But oh well, free Pokémon.

Got a free Type: Null
Got a free Type: Null

After that I started hunting one of the species of Ultra Beasts that have found their way into Alola since I became Champion, Stakataka. Its name is a mouthful. It didn’t put up too much of a fight, only broke about 2 Beast Balls, the special type of Poké Ball that apparently has a higher catch rate for Ultra Beasts. So now the Rock Steel Stakataka is in my Pokédex.

The Rock Steel Stakataka is in my Pokédex
The Rock Steel Stakataka is in my Pokédex!

Team Rocket

The game then holds your hand again for a little bit, and you’re quickly spirited away to Festival Plaza, which has been taken over by Team Rocket! Or should I say, Team Rainbow Rocket.

That situation is quickly resolved and just serves as an introduction to a Festival Plaza feature where you battles using other trainers Pokémon from the Internet. The mode seemed kind of interesting but I probably won’t use it much, I’m more about the single-player Pokémon experience. Afterward, there’s a cutscene, and “Episode RR”, for Rainbow Rocket, is introduced.

Episode RR, for Rainbow Rocket, is introduced
"Episode RR", for Rainbow Rocket, is introduced

I think that’s Ultra Sun/Moon exclusive post-game content. Haven’t started it yet, but hopefully it’s fun! It is cool to see Team Rocket members in Alola, brings me back to the classic Pokémon days a bit.

Next I went to one of Alola’s shrines on a whim to try and catch one of the Tapus. Tapu Fini appeared before me, and catching this beast proved to be my biggest challenge so far in this entire game. I got it down to 1 HP with False Swipe, but it kept healing with Aqua Ring so it never stayed there. I threw Ultra Ball after Ultra Ball at it, probably like 15 Ultra Balls in I was like “okay, this is ridiculous,” and used one of the Rotom Dex powers I had in my inventory to boost the Catch Rate. It still took me like 10 more Ultra Balls after that, but I finally caught Tapu Fini.

Tapu Fini I finally caught Tapu Fini

I looked up its catch rate on Bulbapedia, it has a horrifically low catch rate of “3”, which apparently means like 0.4% when it’s at full health and you throw a regular Poké Ball. Most legendary Pokémon have a catch rate of 3 actually (except for the main story ones in recent games, Necrozma’s catch rate in the Ultra games is also way higher), but this one just felt especially difficult. Anyway, I know now that catching the Tapus will be quite an endeavor, and will be sure to better prepare next time with Pokémon that can inflict status effects like paralyze or sleep.

Then, I returned to the Altar of the Moone and went riding through Ultra Space, just to see what kind of rare Pokémon I could find. I found a decent looking wormhole. Inside, I found and caught a shiny Hippowdon! This is the first shiny I’ve encountered personally in several generations of Pokémon games, so it was pretty cool to see! Although I’m pretty sure Ultra Space probably raises the shiny encounter rate quick a bit…either that or I just got super lucky on this one.

Caught a shiny Hippowdon
Caught a shiny Hippowdon

I’m looking forward to logging some time on Ultra Moon on and off casually from now on, I’ll have to see what Episode Rainbow Rocket is all about!

The Sims 4 (PC)

A new Game Pack for The Sims 4 came out in the middle of the week, “The Sims 4: Strangerville.” The Game Packs are basically mini-expansion packs, that add new gameplay and items, but not as much so as the full Expansion Packs. Strangerville is both the name of the pack and the name of the new town. The biggest thing it adds is the Strangerville Mystery, for which there is a new aspiration focused on solving it.

New aspiration focused on solving Strangerville's Mystery
New aspiration focused on solving Strangerville's Mystery

I moved my Sim Kayleigh Covarrubias to Strangerville, and started my investigation. Immediately you know something is off when your neighbors visit to welcome you to town. They walk strangely and spasmodically and they also planted some strange fruit in my garden, which I was sad to see never bloomed because I knew what they were doing and thought it was a cool detail that the “infected” Sims would try to plant the strange plants like that.

Your neighbors visit to welcome you to town They walk strangely and spasmodically

Another new thing the pack adds to help you in your investigation is the ability to purchase and plant listening device “bugs” on other Sims, in order to eavesdrop on them. Doing this nets you Evidence, which you need 15 of at one point to progress the investigation, and you can also use this blackmail Sims if you so choose.

In order to eavesdrop on them
Listening station to eavesdrop on bugged Sims

Part of my Sim’s investigation took her to the local bar, where things got weird in totally non-Strangerville related ways, and I seem to have visited on Bear Night. So there were 4 Sims wearing full bear costumes at the bar, which I guess is just par for the course in The Sims. It was pretty amusing to see.

There were 4 Sims wearing full bear costumes at the bar
There were 4 Sims wearing full bear costumes at the bar

Eventually, my Sim gained entrance to the lower level of The Secret Lab in town, but was exposed to some mysterious spores and passed out…when she woke up, she was Possessed and wore the same wide eyes, forced smile, and jerky walk as the other infected Sims! Oh no! …But it only lasted about 15 seconds real-time, then she snapped out of it and returned to normal.

Was exposed to some mysterious spores and passed out When she woke up, she was Possessed

Unfortunately, my foray into the Secret Lab did a real number on the town, releasing spores out into the wider world.

Did a real number on the town, releasing spores out into the wider world
Did a real number on the town, releasing spores out into the wider world

That’s about as far as I got, according to PatronusLight I’m most of the way done with the investigation at this point, and I don’t have much left to go. I’m enjoying Strangerville, it’s a fun change of pace with its linear investigation and Possessed Sims.

Persona 3 Portable (PSP)

I finished my playthrough this week! Persona 3 Portable was as remarkable an experience as Persona 3 FES, but each has its own strengths and weaknesses. I’ll probably write a more thorough review/reflection/comparison another time. For now, I’m just excited I finished the game this week!

I finished my playthrough this week
I finished my playthrough this week

I began the week by realizing I was wrong in last week’s “What I’m Playing.” In that post, I’d said the only Social Links I hadn’t formed yet were Mitsuru (Empress) and Aigis (Aeon)…but I’d completely forgotten about the Fortune and Judgment arcana Social Links!

Ryoji Mochizuki

The Fortune arcana Social Link is with Ryoji Mochizuki. He’s a transfer student who transfers into your class on November 9th, and the Social Link is formed with him automatically when you’re introduced.

The Judgment Social Link forms when you begin to pursue the True Ending of the game, and ranks up automatically as you progress in the main story thereafter, so maxing it out is guaranteed.

Maxing out Judgment is guaranteed
Maxing out Judgment is guaranteed on the True Ending path

The school trip happened while I played this week. Both the junior and senior classes head to Kyoto. How convenient that the group of students going on the trip includes most of your teammates, huh? With the exception of Ken and Koromaru, everyone else on the team is either a junior or senior.

wears a yukata

The trip to Kyoto is a nice little change of pace, similar to the trip to Yakushima earlier in the game. The player character wears a yukata in the evening here, as do most other characters including your teammates. Mostly, you just explore the floors or your hotel and talk to your party members and NPCs if you want. It’s pretty chill, which is nice.

Persona 3 uses this time to include a classic JRPG trope, a hot springs scene.

A hot springs scene
A hot springs scene

What was interesting to me as a player of P3FES, where you play as a male character, is how the roles are reversed. The girls go to use the hot spring, making comments about their figures, etc., while the boys attempt to peep on them. So they’re both in the hot springs at the same time, and in P3FES you have to run around and avoid detection. In P3P, as the female character, you all hear noises and go to investigate whether someone else is in there with you. I don’t know if I chose the wrong dialogue options, but we did not find any intruders, even though I’m pretty positive they were there and they got a peek, as much of the dialogue the following few days from the boys indicates as much. Contrast this this to P3FES where I was caught in the hot springs, and it’s implied that Mitsuru beats the guys up. In any case, the Kyoto trip is fun, and makes the experience feel more fleshed out by providing more slice of life content.

I'm pretty positive they were there and they got a peek much of the dialogue the following few days from the boys indicates as much

I also played through Christmas and New Year’s in-game. Not much happens around Christmas, as the female protagonist you spend time hanging out with Yukari and Fuuka at the mall and the dorm on Christmas Eve. I guess Christmas Eve is celebrated more than Christmas Day in Japan?

Christmas Eve is celebrated more than Christmas Day in Japan hanging out with Yukari and Fuuka at the mall and the dorm

On New Year’s a lot more happens, you all go to the shrine and the girls wear kimonos. Junpei is creepin’ again, he says Mitsuru looks hot. I mean, he’s not wrong, but… Aigis also dons a kimono for this, as does the female protagonist! It was another nice change of pace.

the girls wear kimonos Junpei is creepin' again Aigis also dons a kimono female protagonist

Other than that, things return to the old routine for the rest of the game, and you mostly just explore Tartarus. By this point, the story has already taken the dramatic turns I mentioned in the last post, but it’s not quite done evolving. There’s a few more plot developments that took place, and again, I’m not doing into detail to avoid spoiling them. Characters’ motivations change and evolve, and we gain new information about several of them as well.

After all this goes down, you can form the Aeon Social Link with Aigis. I made maxing that one out my top priority, since there’s not a lot of game left at that point. You may even need to spend time with Aigis every time she is available in order to max it out in time, I’m not entirely sure. In any case, my diligence in spending time with Aigis paid off, and I was able to max the Aeon Arcana Social Link.

Aeon Social Link I was able to max the Aeon Arcana Social Link

I finally got all my character’s Social Skills maxed out, including getting my Academics to Genius level.

Academics increased to Genius level
Academics increased to Genius level

Then I was finally able to start the Empress Social Link with Mitsuru, although she wasn’t available for a long stretch of in-game days so I had to wait a while. You can also have a Social Link with Mitsuru in P3FES as the male protagonist, but I never maxed it out in that playthrough either. The start of the Social Link seemed familiar, you accompany Mitsuru to some common locations, and find she has lead a sheltered life but seems to be seeking to broaden her horizons. I mean, she’d never tried ramen before.

I was finally able to start the Empress Social Link she'd never tried ramen before

Thor

On the Tartarus front, the enemies grow ever more powerful as you ascend, but so did my teammates and I, and the Personas I was able to summon! One example of this was Thor, who I gained the ability to fuse earlier when I maxed out the Chariot Social Link, but I didn’t reach the requisite level to be able to fuse him until the middle of this week. He did have a weakness to Wind, but with his Evade Wind passive skill that I think he inherited during the fusion, his chance to dodge Wind attacks tripled! He was one of the stronger Personas I available for a while, but there are many in the game stronger than he is, and when by the time I reached the end he had been replaced with higher level Personas. It is pretty wild how many high level Personas are available, and how many levels you’d have to grind to be able to fuse them. When I finished P3P, I was level 76, but there are Personas you need to be in the 80’s to fuse.

One new feature and cameo I wasn’t expecting was when Margaret from Persona 4 showed up, and introduced the optional Vision Quest Hall area. There, you can re-fight many of the previous bosses, who are now much stronger. However, you need to fight them with the same party members you originally used. For me, this was a total deal breaker for me because for the very first boss fight you have to use Yukari…and I probably haven’t really used her since then almost. So she was level 18. I’m not sure what the reward is for completing Vision Quest Hall, but it was cool to see content like that added for P3P.

Margaret Vision Quest Hall

In the end, I managed to max out all but 3 of my Social Links. The Emperor, Empress (Mitsuru), and Lovers (Yukari) were the ones I couldn’t quite max out. It’s probably possible to max out everyone in a single non-New-Game+ playthrough, but doing so would require pretty exact time management throughout the game I imagine.

I had a lot of fun with this playthrough, returning to the world of Persona 3 was wonderful! Seeing it from the perspective of a female protagonist also brought some interesting changes, but one of the biggest changes was just the fact that the female character has many different Social Links. In particular, she can form a Social Link with each of the team members you recruit, which I loved! Persona 3 FES only lets you have Social Links with the female teammates because you end up dating them at the end of the Social Link I think. Persona 4 and 5 also let you form Social Links with all your teammates, and it’s really cool seeing the protagonist growing closer to their friends in the Social Link scenes. That’s definitely something P3P did better than Persona 3 FES, at least when you’re playing as the female character.

There’s so much more I could say about Persona 3 Portable, but like I said at the beginning, I’m saving that for a post all its own!

Ben

(bsinky)
Ben
The self-proclaimed "Guy with the Backlog", as of this writing his Steam backlog is slowly growing to the point of consuming him. Meanwhile, he spends most of his time trying to catch up on the retro classics he missed, as well as replaying the games he grew up with.

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