Itai no wa Iya nano de Bougyoryoku… This Title Is Too Damn Long So I’ll Just Call It Shield Heroine Ep. 2

Why am I blogging this show? It’s just an excuse to talk about MMOs. Once I get bored with this, I’ll more than likely get bored of this anime as well. After all, it doesn’t really have much of a plot…

— We start off by watching Kaede grind against cute animals in a forest in order to earn even more skills and resistances. I didn’t play Skyrim, but I did play a teensy tiny bit of both Oblivion and Morrowind. If I remember correctly, in those games you had to do stuff in order to develop your characters. Jumping a lot made you better at jumping. Running a lot makes you better at running. New World Online kinda works the same way. We see the girl bite into an explosive insect just to acquire explosion resistance.

Personally, I don’t enjoy this sort of player development, because I’d rather be going on quests, clearing dungeons, fighting big bosses (like the ones you find in Final Fantasy XIV), etc. But I’m sure there are plenty of folks who would prefer this more naturalistic style approach to developing their player character. After all, it’s a great way to make players unique. Everyone plays differently, so it stands to reason that everyone’s player character will develop differently. And apparently, no one else in this game is jacking their defense up like Kaede.

My quibble with this sort of mechanic is that it’s very, very difficult to balance as we’ll see a little later in the episode. The more variables you add to a system, the harder it will be to make sure that those variables are both 1) sufficiently different from each other and 2) sufficiently well-balanced. In FFXIV, every level 80 red mage is essentially the same. The only difference between them is, like, 20% player skill and 80% gear. That sounds boring on paper, but at least I don’t have to worry that my character is hopelessly weak because I didn’t… oh, I dunno, cast Verfire a billion times to max out my fast cast skill or something.

— Also, Kaede got her special set of equipment at the end of last week’s episode. Judging by the OP — and what we can expect from anime in general — she’ll probably be wearing the same gear into every battle. In any RPG — MMO or otherwise — I enjoy questing first and foremost. But the second thing I enjoy is acquiring new gear and seeing how they look on my player character. So it always kinda bugs me when MMO characters usually look exactly the same from start to finish in anime. Of course, more character designs equal more work for the animators, so I totally understand why they don’t vary it up. But still…

Man, I wish I could do the same…

— In the real world, Kaede tells her best friend Risa that she’s going to participate in a battle royale just for a limited edition item. I feel it. Well, I used to feel it. These days, I can easily resist the urge to go for those super rare items. Is it because I’ve matured? Or is it because I’ve lost a  bit of passion for gaming? Eh, it’s a little of column A and a little of column B. Ten years ago, I loved endgame content in MMOs. I was one of those losers who would stay up till 3 am just to kill a pretty pony in FFXI. These days? Blah. Rather than spending days to get a rare drop, I could just play one of the games on my backlog instead.

— It’s the same way with all those achievements or trophies. If I can’t get the platinum trophy within five hours of beating the game normally, then I won’t bother. I’ve only made an exception for Persona 5. I was going to new game plus that game over and over so I figured I might as well shoot for the plat.

— As I mentioned, the first event is a battle royale. Since Kaede’s character has no speed whatsoever, she decides to just sit in one place and let other players come to her. Well, it works.

— People literally kill themselves on her shield.

That’s what I’m saying!

— What’s interesting about New World Online’s player base is that, well, they’re not constantly complaining. That’s what MMO players do. They’re a miserable bunch. Sure, there are casuals posting about how they’ve made friends for life in dungeons. Then there are the other casuals posting fan art of their half-naked elves or cat girls. But the no-lifers lurking beneath the veneer of cordiality are always bitching about game balance. In New World Online, people treat Kaede almost like an idol. “Oh, she’s so cute. She’s so awesome. I wonder if she is the best PvPer!” No one is bitching at all about the fact that some level 20 newb can just stack defense and steamroll everyone. To add insult to injury, she’s doing it without even breaking a sweat.

— Case in point, when an army of mages take aim at our shield heroine, she simply summons forth a purple jelly hydra and destroys all of them.

— But just to make things semi-fair, Kaede doesn’t actually take first place in the event. Because she can’t move, she can’t seek out as many targets as she can. As a result, she finishes third presumably behind folks who can move. That’s a strange battle royale to me. I had assumed originally that the battlefield would become progressively smaller and smaller, thereby forcing the remaining players to duke it out. But I guess not…

— The next day, after hearing about Kaede’s exploits, Risa decides to build an all agility character. Whereas Kaede can withstand anything you throw at her, Risa will dodge everything that you throw at her. They’re the two girls at the club curving all the thirsty dudes.

— This reminds me of FFXI, which started off with just meat tanks like Kaede. Except, of course, there were vast amounts of diminishing returns if you tried to stack any particular stat. After all, you wouldn’t want players to have it too easy, right? That’s when people took a closer look at the ninja job and its high evasion. Again, there are diminishing returns, so you can’t just stack evasion and get away with it… but ninjas had the ability to cast shadows. Even if the enemy lands a hit, you don’t take damage. Instead, one of your shadows will eat the damage and disappear. You have two left. What happens if you run out of shadows? It’s okay, because the cooldown for recasting shadows isn’t that bad. You just have to dodge enough attacks so that your shadows last you until the next recast. As a result, the evasion tank was born much to Square’s chagrin. Hell, even meat tanks (i.e. warriors and paladins) would choose ninja as their subclass just for the benefits of shadows. I think things have changed in recent years, but that’s how it was for a long time. What does this have to do with the anime? Absolutely nothing! I just wanted to geek out about MMOs like I said I would at the top of the post.

— Risa reasons that she won’t need any HP or defense, because she’ll be able to evade all damage. It’s an absolute free-for-all in this game.

— Likewise, she says she won’t need strength, because a good weapon will make up for it. In a game like Dark Souls, you might need a certain amount of strength to even wield a good strength weapon. A heavy looking weapon should probably require strength to wield, right? Well, this probably won’t be the case here… even though we have semi-realistic stuff like how Kaede can’t run fast because she has no agility. Shrug.

— With a buddy, Kaede can get around the slow mobility issue. Risa will just give her a piggy-back ride. I guess carrying someone doesn’t require either strength or stamina. It’s cute, at least.

— Then we get to watch the girls fish, because Kaede needs materials to craft a new shield. Why a new shield? ‘Cause her shield is too OP. You can’t develop new resistances if nothing hits you.

— At this point, it kinda sinks in that the anime doesn’t really have a plot. It’s just two friends doing whatever they feel like in an MMO. It’s very classic in that sort of way. These days, popular MMOs are considered theme parks, because it’s one guided experience from start to finish. You have a quest to save the world, and here’s how you’re gonna do it. Older MMOs (or the niche ones that still exist nowadays) are more likely to embody that spirit of adventure. Your fun is in your own hands. Do whatever you want! Again, this freedom sounds nice on paper… but it doesn’t always translate well to profits. Depending on how you define success within the MMO market, I think Eve Online is the only outlier.

— Well, Kaede has fancy gear, so Risa needs fancy gear too. So we get to see her fight an underwater monster all by her lonesome. But why use a knife when you can just eat the fish?

As Risa is running out of air, I kept playing the Sonic drowning music in my head. I think if you drown enough, you should just evolve into a fish or something.

— And like her best friend, Risa succeeds marvelously. The game then teases the next “level” to the world. End episode.

— For me, these stories are kinda boring because nothing is at stake. The characters just do whatever. But a lot of people love to sit back and let the slice-of-life endorphins wash over them. Shield Heroine should be right up their alley if the last two episodes are anything to go by. But like I said, I’ll keep watching if only to continue geeking out about MMOs.

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