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Celebrating ten years of video games and other things.

Precision vs. Improvisation

Time to talk about brushes. Well, more like one brush in particular, and the frustrations I had with it. Please note that this post contains spoilers, primarily for Tsuta Ruins.

Up until this point, I didn’t have much trouble with the brushes. Sure, using them with an analog stick is a bit fiddly and very much imperfect, but so long as basic requirements were fulfilled, all was well. For example, a successful use of Restore simply relied on your filling in all of the areas that needed fixing. The circular brushes in particular, such as Sun and Bloom, were especially forgiving. The completed shape could resemble an oval or even a generic blob more than a circle, but so long as the shape was sealed, the magic would work. The ends of the line could even be outside of the finished shape. It was with this attitude toward the brushes and their allowance of such leeway that I went into Tsuta Ruins, where I acquired Vine.

My first task in using Vine was to use it to connect Amaterasu with a pink flower hanging in midair. Up until now, I had only seen these flowers as buds, but after getting this new brush, they would blossom whenever Ammy was in the area. Anyway, the way I was to do this was by drawing a line from a flower to Ammy, creating a vine which would pull Ammy up to the flower. No problem. I use this technique to climb to the top of the dome I was in, then go out to the exterior of the dome, where four flowers float before four large hooks sticking out from the dome’s roof.

Here’s where things start to get interesting. For some reason thinking that the connection between Ammy and the flowers is the key to all of this, I positioned Ammy so that the hook was right between her and the flower, then drew the vine—not from the flower to the hook, but from the flower to Ammy, with the hook in between them. With some trial and error, all of the flowers were soon connected to the hooks, and the roof raised up, revealing a hidden room. I had Ammy jump into this haniwa-filled room, where I saved my game at a conveniently placed mirror.

After saving, I move on, coming upon a special gate in the process. It appears that this is some sort of quick-save gate; after passing through it, if I die, I will be restored at this same point. I am also asked if I am absolutely sure I want to continue on. It was obvious to me by all this concern over my well-being that a big battle awaited beyond the gate. I pressed on.

Indeed, something was awaiting me: a giant evil spider whose abdomen was a giant flower bud, with hooks sticking out of it. Ringing the Boss Battle Arena were a number of those pink flowers, all of them pointing downward, indicating that they were not to be used as platforms for Ammy. The goal seemed clear: snag the Spider Queen’s hooks with vines, get her flower bud abdomen to open up, and attack away. However, I had one major problem that prevented me from even doing a smidge of damage on that first attempt, namely, I still didn’t know exactly how Vine worked.

Despite my misguided attempt to “trick” the vines into aiming for Ammy but snagging onto the hooks instead, I only ever managed to get one vine connected at a time, which was not good enough. In addition, I found it very tricky to have the hanging flowers, hooks, and Ammy visible in painting mode at the the same time. I complained about this in our group chat (see previous post) and put Okami aside for awhile, not coming back to it again until last week. After some more trial and error, I finally figured out that Ammy needn’t be a factor at all: since the flowers and hooks both emanate green smoke when in the brush’s vicinity, they can be directly connected to each other. I made progress, but something else still wasn’t working.

It was my husband, who had been watching me and dropping small hints on and off, who told me why: I was overshooting with the brush strokes. The lines for Vine have to be connected directly from the flower to the hook (or Ammy), sure, but also, I couldn’t continue the line much further than that. It was much closer to connect the dots than actual drawing and, considering the leeway I had been allowed with all of the other brushes thus far, this restriction didn’t make sense to me.

I suppose part of it has to do with my way of thinking, which is much less analytical than that of my programmer husband, who recently couldn’t understand why Dance Dance Revolution doesn’t penalize for extra steps. I’m an artist and tend to take a more organic approach to gameplay, if that makes sense. In a game such as this, perhaps I expected too much from a painterly (or sumi-e, rather) approach to gameplay. Still, I think again of the other brushes, and their quirks and flexibilities, and wonder why, if I was passing the brush through the right points, did the end of the line matter when it came to Vine’s successful execution.

Perhaps that’ll be answered later, I don’t know.