Rundown (8/22-8/28) Credit Warry

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Wherein I discuss the pros of credit cards, Saints Row VI: Sandhole, the Korean video game adaptation of Cool: How a Kid Should Live, a brave retreat to the evergreen storefront, and a foundational JRPG making its way to PC after 24 years.

Something that my two closest friends have in common is this notion that credit cards are in some way a bad thing. That responsible people should not have or use credit cards, and that credit cards represent a major financial risk. Which… while true, kind of ignores the point and the benefits of credit cards. So for this Rundown preamble, let’s do a bootleg alleyway consumer education session about why credit cards are good.

Credit History: By using a credit card, one establishes a credit history, which is how lenders and financial institutions determine if they are eligible for a loan, what your interest rate should be, and how much they are willing to lend. This is important if someone ever wants to buy a car, home, fund a business venture, or simply needs to get a loan. And while you might think that “oh, I’ll never need to borrow money, because I am responsible.” You don’t actually know that, and a solid credit history can help you when you least expect it.

Organization: Credit Cards are a great tool for someone to catalog and analyze their spending habits, as most credit card transactions come with categories and most credit card providers offer analytic tools for one to view how much they are spending on groceries, restaurants, utilities, and so forth. This is a useful tool for people who lack the conviction or know-how to maintain a financial spreadsheet, and for people who maintain a spreadsheet, credit cards make it easier to keep track of what one spends, how they spend it, and where they spend it.

Payment Delay: When using a debit card, you need to be mindful of your current account balance or overdraft fees. But with a credit card, you have a set credit limit you cannot exceed and you do not need to make any payments immediately. Transactions are lumped up into month-long periods and, once the period is over, the card holder needs to pay off the balance by a set date, usually in a little under a month. Meaning that if you use a credit card, you have a cushy delay before you actually need to pay your bills, which is helpful for all sorts of people.

Cashback: Nowadays, most major credit cards offer some sort of cashback program. A program where, by using the credit card, users get cashback points that can be used to pay off their balance or get discounted gift cards. Typically, credit cards offer 1% on all transactions, but also have boosted cashback rates from specific retailers or from specific industries during promotional periods. For example, I am currently getting 5% cashback on my Discover card for restaurants and PayPal. This is technically not exclusive to credit cards, as there are cashback debit cards, but cashback is far more common among credit cards. And to the end user, cashback is basically free money.

Now, these benefits can easily be offset by the nightmarish scenario that many people wander into, where they wind up amassing credit card debt with high interest rates that, due to the magic of compound interest, people struggle to pay off. While this is indeed a risk, one never needs to worry about credit card interest so long as they pay off their balance in full every month. This should be fairly simple, but some people simply cannot grasp the basics of finance for whatever reason, and are subjected to the destructive power of compounding debt with high interest rates, which has been known to utterly ruin lives.

So, yes, credit cards can be destructive if used improperly… but so are stoves. If you leave a stove on for hours upon hours, you will die from a gas leak. And if you touch a hot stove, you will burn yourself. But most people still use stoves because they provide a life-bettering utility that is great so long as you express a modicum of restraint and care.

Last week, Deep Silver and Volition teased that the long awaited next installment in the Saints Row series was going to be announced soon, and that this next installment was going to be a reboot of sorts. I was not entirely sure what that meant at the time, but this past week the next entry in the series was announced as Saints Row

This title does away with the established cast of Saints Row staples in exchange for a gaggle of new faces. Takes the setting to Santo Ileso, a southwestern metropolis with a grungy lowlife and a decadent high life. And evokes a level of irreverence similar to that found in Saints Row: The Third, with its LED motorcycle helmets, soft-sci-fi military weapon, and wackier character proportions. All of which was revealed via a pre-rendered CG cinematic trailer, which I think was a mistake, as this game may as well just be a new IP as, beyond flashes or purple and promises of zany gang street wars, there really is nothing about this that screams Saints Row to me.

The Saints Row series is something I had come to love nearly and dearly over the years. I consider Saints Row 2 to be one of my top ten favorite games of all time. I think Saints Row IV is a positively rousing time. And I have made it a point to give every title in this series a shake, even if they aren’t particularly good. However, if you asked me what my favorite thing about the Saints Row series was, I would say that it is the sense of escalation and legacy. 

This series went from a grungy urban sandbox that glorified gang culture to a wackadoo sci-fi action game where the president of the United States of America gets super powers and fights aliens in virtual reality, but it never felt totally out of place in making that transition. Simply because the series never forgot its roots or origins, and paid tribute to them on more than one occasion, especially in Saints Row IV.

Without that legacy, I find it hard to hold much interest in this new installment even if, based on the dev interview trailer, the title retains the rock solid shooting and driving mechanics, a discernible style, and seems like it is different because the creative team wants it to be different. While this is admirable, and the core gameplay roots of the series look to be the same as they always were, I really don’t like this change of setting. I get that some people enjoy the American southwest as both a place and an aesthetic, but I just view it as a hot and humid hellhole where things are constantly doused in harsh yellows and oranges. And I hate orange!

Also, the devs did too good of a job making the default character look appealing to me, so much that I cannot help but look at the other three main characters as these uninteresting schlubs by comparison. You’ve got this fly black guy who is making the most of his business degree to take over this city— cool chap, has some nice ambition, but his choice of suit is a bit too trendy for my liking. A woman who I think is supposed to be Hispanic, but I cannot help but view her as ‘the hot white girl who does cars real good’ from any 2000s action movie. And a guy who does not wear a shirt and wants to be a chef, but for some reason is involved in gang warfare.

That all being said, I will not pass a firm judgement based on a first impression, and will keep a tab on the new Saints Row as it leads up to its release. Saints Row is set to launch on February 25, 2022 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and Epic Games Store. Which I guess means that Deep Silver wants people to call this game Saints Row (2022). Personally, I would have vouched for Saints Row: Santo Ileso after the name of the new setting, but I’m not part of a multi-billion-dollar corporation, so what do I know? 

Moving from something old but new to something that’s new to me, one of the major standout titles from Gamescom was the re-reveal of DokeV, a game that blends two things that I absolutely love. Cruising through an idyllic yet densely packed city with a litany of mobility options, ranging from cars to bikes to flying umbrellas and even magical grappling hooks that connect to nothing. And real-time party-based combat where your humanoid player character and their monster buddies wreck shop against bigger or more imposing monsters using zany weapons.

That alone is enough to grab my attention, but the game is also one of the most visually stunning titles I have seen in a while, boasting a gorgeous level of detail in its world, an aggressive rainbow of flashy effects and plenty of quality animations. It is one of those titles that really hammers home what the next generation might be capable of (even though it is a PC title). But despite such visual prowess, I genuinely don’t like looking at this game because of its art style. 

While I enjoy the collectible creatures seen in this trailer, I find the humans to look just… wildly uncomfortable. The adult NPCs look off to me, as they all have giant heads, weird baby faces, and look considerably shorter than they realistically should be. While the child characters, including the protagonist, all look like they are supposed to be about 7-years-old with their pudgy proportions and baby faces. Something about just watching them traverse through the environment, battle monsters, and wear such casual, fashionable, or light clothing… It makes me feel like a pedophile just looking at this game for more than a few seconds.

I think I would be okay with this if the art style were more anime and less modern CG children’s film, or if the characters were aged up about 12-years-old, like most child-aged anime characters. But in its current form… no, this hits squarely in the uncanny valley for me. I thought this would make the game a clean write-off for me, as initial reports revealed DokeV as an MMO. But shortly after this reintroduction, the official Twitter account revealed that DokeV is not an MMO and will instead be an open world action adventure game. Which means this game will probably be a beautiful flurry of everything I like or want to see… but it has this art style that I simply cannot vibe with.

Speaking of games with art styles that I can’t get behind, Bravely Default II came out earlier this year, flaunting its porcelain-doll-looking character models and enemies that look like they were developed by a different team in a different country. It was an… odd looking game, and one that was not especially well received. However, much like Daemon X Machina, Octopath Traveler, and Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, it turns out that this supposed Switch exclusive was merely a timed exclusive, and it making its way to PC via Steam on September 2, 2021.

While I am sure that some people are genuinely excited and happy about this, I truly struggle to see much of an appeal with this game, both based on my experience with the demo, and based on the flurry of snippets shown throughout the horribly edited announcement trailer. It all feels like such a trite and generic RPG. Something without many ideas to call its own and with a polygonal art style that does a complete disservice to the gorgeous concept art.

However, that is not the only Switch ‘exclusive’ hopping over to Steam, as the Switch port of the 1997 classic JRPG, Moon: Remix RPG Adventure, is heading to PC via Steam. For those unfamiliar with the title, Moon is something of the grand daddy for deconstructive RPGs that poke away at genre conventions and shy away from the plentiful combat and world saving, and instead offers a more somber and social experience. It is a pretty big deal in the RPG genre, and served as a title where many prolific creators got their start, before they eventually disbanded to form their own companies like Skip, ltd., Vanpool, Punchline, and Onion Games. Though I guess I would get more of a reaction if I cited Moon as a key inspiration for the contemporary classic, Undertale.

Either way, Moon has a reputation as being this obtuse, cumbersome, but nevertheless distinct and artistically driven experience that I have been wanting to check out for a while. However, the Switch version… kinda looks like crap. 

Moon was originally a PS1 game with pre-rendered backgrounds and an eclectic approach to sprite art, but the Switch release blurred everything slightly so the sprites look more like blurry illustrations and the backgrounds look less pixilated. I can see what they were trying to do here, but I would much rather play the game at 4 times its native resolution in a windowed display, with no filtering. Because in my book, that is how older games are displayed, and… I think that’s the best opinion.

The header image, barring the custom text and recoloring, comes from Mahou Shoujo La Valliere by Kouji. Now, I have talked about Kouji in the past during these Rundown post-script sections, praising him for his commitment to storytelling, excellent expressions, and masterful understanding of the TSF genre. He is one of my favorite hentai artists, and I treat each new release of his like an event. However, Mahou Shoujo La Valliere is super special compared to most of his other work, as it is a non-H, non-ecchi, 12 chapter story that digs into the premise of a masked rider hero who gets turned into a magical girl.

I have been wanting to read this comic for… at least 3 years or so, since I found Kouji’s Pixiv. I thought it was forever out of my grasp, until this past week when I found that the first 5 chapters translated and uploaded to Mangadex. So I downloaded them using good old HakuNeko, upscaled the tiny PNGs I downloaded with Waifu2x Snowshell, and loaded them up with luejerry’s MangaReader— as is my manga reading ritual. What I was met with was… everything I can realistically hope for when reading a TSF comic. 

Gorgeous expressive artwork, fun characters with striking designs, and a story that, while about the TSF, has several layers to it, tells a good story first and foremost, and does something interesting with its premise. What exactly was so interesting about it? …Read it for yourself, ya dope! Do that, and then give Kouji some money. I would link to his DLSite page, but I have a strict ‘no-linking-to-porn’ policy.

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