Journals, Miscellaneous

Kwarentina: 5th month of Staying at home

00Titles 2020

Oh my golly! Can you believe that it’s already been 4 months since my last blog post? Look at how time flies! In this “new normal” that is quarantine, time seems to be both going by so quickly and yet, so very slowly. Anyway, I just wanted to let you guys know that this site isn’t dead. I have been more active on other platforms and I’ll be explaining that stuff below. So, let’s get to it!

As expected, I haven’t done anything fitness related in about half a year. Can you believe that? After almost 5 years of continuous movement, who would’ve thought that a global pandemic would be the thing to cut short my fitness lifestyle? Well, with no big fitness events to look forward to, I have found the need to be extremely fit to be a nuisance. “Less movement, less laundry” is my new motto. With the outside world being potentially fatal, it’s better to get locked in a la Oldboy style (minus the working out part) and focus on other things.

Not a far-off portrayal of the author’s state right now.

Games

Video gaming has been a big part of these past few months. I have given up on Stardew Valley as maintaining a farm has gotten quite too hectic for my taste. I guess it was more of nostalgia for the Harvest Moon games that made me play it. Now, I’m playing more action games and with them becoming dirt cheap on Steam, I bit the bullet and have completed some big titles.

Yakuza 0

I promise, you are missing out if you haven’t played this game.

Here’s a pro-tip: Do not play Yakuza 0 as your first ever game after a long time. Because from that point on, no other game will ever compare. I don’t know how I haven’t heard of the Yakuza franchise earlier. It’s a shame I didn’t buy all the games that were available while they were discounted on Steam.

If you are a fan of Japan’s craziness, then this is a must play. Don’t get fooled when people tell you it’s “like a Japanese GTA” because that isn’t even close to the truth. This title barely passes as an open-world game, being set in only 2 locations the size of a couple of city blocks. However, don’t let the small map deter you because where Yakuza gives up in map size, it makes up for in map density.

There is a lot to do in the two fictional cities based on real life Kabukicho and Dohtonbori. Aside from the multitude of side-stories, you can play billiards, bowling, baseball, mahjong, blackjack, darts, and even toy car racing! I promise you that you will never get bored in this game. If you’re looking for more mature activities, you can bet on scantily-clad women wrestling, pick-up girls through a phone call service, or beat up prisoners in an underground fighting tournament.

Win a very smart chicken from bowling.

But you can also simply play through the main story which follows the two protagonists, Kiryu and Majima. This is a prequel, hence the title, to the entire Yakuza series (Yakuza 1 to 7 as of this writing). You will see how these two massively popular characters started out and how they gain their reputation in the succeeding games. The story is good and if you really invest in the characters, you will be rewarded with an adventure, which will pay off even more once you decide to play the other games.

This is precisely my problem. The only other games available on PC are Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2 (which are remakes of Yakuza 1 and 2 respectively). Yakuza 3 to 7 aren’t on steam as of now so I don’t want to get blue-balled even more. But if there will be another sale soon, you can bet that I will be picking up all the available games so I can step into the Yakuza world of Kamurocho again.

I almost forgot to tell you what kind of game this is. Aside from the mini-games (which are their own genres), Yakuza 0 is a 3rd person beat ’em up game. The combat system is really good and you have a very wide arsenal of moves to destroy your opponents. Just don’t forget to use a gamepad when playing because it is so much more convenient. Just like the game says:

I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.

Oh, and if you aren’t convinced yet, just know that the real Yakuza have played this series and that they approve.

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition

I think you can follow my thought process here. After finishing Yakuza 0, I immediately searched for another game just like it. When I heard that Sleeping Dogs was an open-world game about the Chinese Triad, you can practically hear bells ringing in my head. Not to mention that I bought this game for incredibly cheap on Steam, I was excited to start on this adventure. But, oh no.

Let me start off by saying that in no way is Sleeping Dogs a bad game. It just had the misfortune of being stacked up against Yakuza 0 by my expectations. Aside from the organized crime setting, these games couldn’t be further apart. Where Yakuza only has a few city blocks, Sleeping Dogs gives you an entire island based on Hong Kong with four subdivisions to explore. Of course, the map has to be big in order to accommodate the car races and car chases that take place in the story. You are an undercover cop posing as a Tried member, after all.

Look at all that space for activities!

But like they say, “it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it.” Sleeping Dogs gives you a lot of ground to cover, but not enough motivation to actually do it. Aside from collecting all the security boxes (which give you cash or cosmetics) and the shrines (which increase your life), there aren’t any incentives to straying from the pre-determined path. There are side-stories called favors, but they are few and far between, given out in small chunks based on how far along the main story you are.

Speaking of the story, it is engaging but not to the level of Yakuza 0. The characters aren’t particularly charismatic and sometimes the dialogue comes somewhere out of left field which is pretty jarring. But these situations can sometimes be funny and endearing, like a hardcore Triad killer suddenly bemoaning how his best friend is now his worst enemy. My only gripe is that the side characters are killed off so quickly before you can even get invested in them. They can be introduced in one cutscene and dead in the next. I don’t know if the intention of the developers was to send the message that in this game, life isn’t important, but that’s what I got.

Mrs. Chu ready to make some Triad soup.

Walking (and running) around the city is a chore and when you find yourself in a place with very few cars, good luck! The combat system is just one button to attack and one button to counter. You can get some variety with grabs and environmental attacks, but the striking can get quite repetitive as the only way to vary your moves is to choose when you hold the button instead of just pressing it.

My favorite parts of the game are definitely the races and chases. These side missions are a joy to do and even when I have to keep repeating them because I suck, my enjoyment outweighs the frustration. But just like the story, they are over quickly. There are maybe around 10 races throughout the game and around the same number of missions where you are in a car. The vehicles are amazing, with each model having a different speed and turning ratio. You can experiment and find (or steal) your favorite car. Personally, I really like the police motorcycle because it gives a balance of speed and handling.

Guns are a rarity in the map, except in missions where they are required. Run and gun missions are also fun. Collecting headshots are a joy. Another tip, use your keyboard and mouse for these missions. Aiming with a joystick is hell. There are also other mini-games such as hacking security cameras, clearing away drug busts, lockpicking (ugh), calibrating surveillance bugs (double ugh), and chasing thieves. You won’t really get bored of the missions but once you finish the game, there’s really not much to do left.

You can also flirt with girls from the story. Sandra is my pick.

The definitive edition is a good buy because you get 3 DLCs for some post-game content. One is the Zodiac Island DLC which is an in-game event where you can face off with other fighters in a private island which is based entirely off the premise of Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon. This one was fun but just like the main story, it’s very short. The other 2 DLCs are played outside your main game which sucks. This means that they aren’t connected to your main playthrough. All your upgrades and materials are reset into whatever the DLC deems okay. One DLC is you working as a cop trying to stop a cult from blowing up Hong Kong for New Year’s eve. The other DLC is you fighting a bunch of ghosts. Yup.

It might have come off as me just complaining, but Sleeping Dogs isn’t a bad game as I make it seem. It’s a decent game (considering it was released in 2012) and it’s definitely worth the price I paid for it. If you search online for reviews on this game, a lot of people really like it. It’s not fair that it got compared to Yakuza 0 by me, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. It’s too bad that the game developers closed down before they can make a sequel. RIP United Front Games.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Now here’s a game that I entered into without any expectations. The last time I played an Assassin’s Creed game was with Bloodlines on the PSP. That was when I was still in college, 10 years ago. Once again, I must thank Steam Sale for this purchase. I actually had to choose whether I wanted to be a Greek Assassin (AC Odyssey), an Egyptian Assassin (AC Origins), or a pirate Assassin (this one). Searching for booty won and I found myself in the shoes of Edward Kenway, a pirate-turned-assassin.

I forgot how annoying tailing missions were, but aside from that and chasing shanties, I had a blast playing this game. The story of Edward Kenway was interesting as he wasn’t originally planned to have a part in the conflict between Assassins and Templars. It was his craving for gold and glory that led him to this path. Playing along with his memories, we see how his view was changed by discovering the secrets of the old civilization, and how losing his pirate friends along the way hardened his choice in working towards the good of all.

You get to fight beside Blackbeard. THE Blackbeard.

Aside from doing the usual assassin stuff, I really enjoyed the naval battles. Destroying enemy ships and boarding them made me remember the time in my youth where I was in awe of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Pirates are fucking cool, my dudes, and a pirate assassin, even more! I also particularly liked the whaling mini-game and destroying forts. These are some amazing progress from the old AC games and they are a very welcome addition.

In direct combat, it is similar to Sleeping Dogs in that there is one button to attack and one button to counter, but I actually prefer this one as there is more variety depending on the weapon you have equipped. Plus, direct combat is rarely a requirement and you can dispose of your enemies in multiple ways. You can shoot a sleeping dart and stomp on them when they’re snoozing. You can shoot them with a berserker dart and watch them attack their allies before they are friendly-fired. You can shoot them with your single-shot pistol. You can have hired goons attack them. There are a lot of ways to approach (and avoid) conflict in the game.

The only downside to this game would be the crappy movement controls. Sometimes, Edward just goes and climbs somewhere you don’t want him to. Sometimes he jumps off a tree and lands right in front of a guard, getting killed or failing the mission immediately. Sometimes he oversteps on a ledge, plunging into the rocks below. Sometimes he just hangs on a scaffolding and refuses to move. However, this gripe is unavoidable as this is the downside of the game’s parkour feature. It just takes a little more patience than other games.

The visuals in this game are stunning. Synchronizing and seeing the nearby islands and ships passing by doesn’t get old. And when your ship reaches travel speed and it goes into that cinematic POV, damn. I want that as my screensaver. The open ocean is so beautiful even in this video game simulation. The game map is full of discoverables and you will actually spend a lot of time going around islands, collecting chests and animus fragments. The completionist in me really enjoyed these moments because the map starts out being clouded and you have to really explore to unlock more of the world.

Trust me, this game is gorgeous.

The AC fandom is really divided with regards to their opinion on the newer games (i.e. post-Ezio games), saying that they are no longer AC games in essence. But for me, Black Flag is still an enjoyable AC game that let me enjoy the best parts of being a Pirate Assassin. You don’t even need to know the background lore of the AC universe to enjoy it. This game is another must play if you want to experience an AC game that feels modern and stands the test of time.

Youtube

One thing I’ve been busy on is actually my Youtube channel! I decided to try making videos and livestreaming my games. I only have a little content so far, but I’m hoping I can expand it just as I did with this blog. They’ll be working in tandem to let those interested know what I’m currently into. Please subscribe if you want. Also feel free to suggest about things that you want me to try. I will consider all suggestions as long as they are reasonable.

So far, I’ve been making game highlights as well as going live while playing so I can chat with people who have the time. It’s been fun and seeing the channel have more things in it makes my reptilian brain light up.

Kpop

This isn’t a channel, but I’ve been spending most of my time on Youtube watching Kpop videos. To be specific, videos of Kpop girl groups in variety shows. This is the best method for me to get to know each individual member. Without these variety shows, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish these ladies from each other! I’m not good with faces so it takes a long time for me to identify who is who. Variety shows get around this by attaching a certain trait or talent to one member and that makes them stand out from the others. This way, I can identify the members one by one.

I’ve also been binging on their music videos to show my support. There are so many girl groups nowadays and I can’t really listen to and support them all, but there are those that I really enjoy watching. Here are some of the girl groups I support:

GFriend • Yuju, Yerin, Sowon, Umji, SinB, Eunha

GFriend / 여자친구 (Yeoja Chingu) is my ultimate bias girl group. All of their songs that I’ve listened to are so good. There’s something about their songs that feel so comforting and welcoming. I listen to their songs on the afternoons to de-stress and even fall asleep to them. They experiment with different sounds but what I like the most about their songs is that they sound like anime songs! Either as an anime OP or anime ED, their songs fit so well to the anime aesthetic and maybe that’s why they appeal so hard to my weeb senses.

But not only are they great singers and dancers (watch their choreography, it’s deceivingly complex), they are also variety queens. And they really love their fans even to the point of recognizing the most loyal ones. I watch every video with them because it most likely becomes chaotic plus I’m a sucker for Yerin’s laugh. They just had their comeback recently so please support them as well.

ITZY • Yeji, Ryujin, Chaeryeong, Lia, Yuna

ITZY were last year’s super rookies. They’re still new, only having released a handful of songs, but they are all so good. Their latest song “Wannabe” is my top contender for Song of the Year and I doubt that would change. These five girls are so talented. You can hardly find any other girl group with choreography as complicated as theirs. They definitely have the strongest dance line with Chaeryeong, Ryujin, and Yeji. They’ll be having another comeback with “Not Shy” and I’m already looking forward to it.

There’s just something about these girls that are so attractive. They cover all the bases from being cute, to having girlcrush potential, to being funny and chaotic at the same time. I am always waiting for the latest update from them because I am looking forward to the heights that they will reach.

Apink • Namjoo, Chorong, Bomi, Hayoung, Eunji, Naeun

Apink is probably the oldest active girl group I’m supporting. The best part is that aside from having variety shows together as a group, half of the members already have their own channel on Youtube!

Hayoung plays games and talks about football on her channel, which is frequently updated. Namjoo has her mukbang channel which is sadly not yet subbed for English speakers (please, Namjoooooooo). And their veteran Youtuber is Bomi, who is already a superstar on the platform. Her videos are always fun and focus on different things, from her daily life activities to doing mukbang challenges with other Hallyu stars. Eunji is also visible on Youtube because she hosts a daily radio program which has guests from all over the Kpop community. She recently had GFriend as guests so you can imagine my fanboy levels overloading

Apink is a very wholesome group and you can tell they they really love being together. Of course, they say that their bond is the most important factor as to why they have stayed together almost 9 years after debut.

Weeekly • Soeun, Zoa, Jaehee, Soojin, Jihan, Jiyoon, Monday

Weeekly (with 3 e’s) is the rookie group that is shaking the Kpop industry. At the very least, they are my choice for Rookies of the Year. They just debuted a little over a month ago and they have already captured my heart. “Tag Me“is such an earworm that I find myself randomly singing it daily. Then a few weeks later, they followed it up with “Hello“, another song that feels very nice to listen to. They are under the same agency as Apink, so I know that they are in good hands.

These young girls are so fresh and yet it hardly feels like they are rookies when you see them on variety shows. They have either been trained well, or they’re personalities are just so good. Jiyoon and Monday are hilarious when they have their time to shine. The way they bully their leader, Soojin, is so entertaining to see, especially if the youngest, Zoa, does it. Their chemistry with each other is *chef’s kiss* and I can’t wait to see what these girls have to offer in the future.

Mijoo • Yuri • Yeri

While not with their group, these idols also have their own youtube shows that I subscribe to. Mijoo from Lovelyz has her own small show called Mijoo Pickchu where she advertises the most random things. To be honest, she can advertise anything and still make it entertaining as hell. Mijoo has unlimited energy and shamelessness that provides a very entertaining episode each time. You can’t help but admire her brashness but also be captivated by her charisma. She really is a rare specimen.

Next is one of my oldest biases, Yuri from SNSD. It’s a bit sad that we are no longer getting any content from them as a whole group, but Yuri is here to share her passion for cooking with us. I’m a big fan of cooking shows so this isn’t a step into unfamiliar territory, plus having the beautiful Yuri be the one teaching us is such a blessing. Recently, she did an episode with most of the other members and what a feels trip that was. Yuri’s Winning Kitchen has episodes every Wednesdays and Fridays.

And lastly, we have Yeri from Red Velvet, who also has her own show. Yeri’s Room is a place where she interviews different Kpop idols and makes them drink bitter medicinal tea. My favorite episodes are of course the ones with guests I’m familiar with. So far, she’s had Twice’s Nayeon, SNSD’s Yuri, and her fellow members Irene and Seulgi.

Of course, these aren’t the only ones I watch, but there is a lot of content and I rarely find myself getting bored. There are tons of episodes from Weekly Idol and Knowing Bros. that feature my favorite girl groups. More choices, more power. This quarantine has been quite a good excuse to wade through the backlog of all the Kpop content I missed for years. 🤣


And that’s about it for my update. See you guys again in a few months? I’m hoping to post more frequently here, but there’s been a drought in terms of content. There’s a limit to the things one can think up of when one can’t even go out of the house. Stay indoors, stay safe, and stay healthy. Just like what I said 4 months ago, let’s survive this.

Wash your hands and wear a mask!

-jgzn

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