Category Archives: RPGs

The end has arrived for Suikoden’s cruel Imperial regime

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Well, I did it. I beat Suikodenagain. I suspect this is probably my third time through as I most likely beat the game back around when my neighbor helped buy it for me from Kay Bee Toys in 1996, stumbling through it blind as Morgan, the eyeless slave swordsman from Falena, and only recruiting two-thirds of the 108 Stars of Destiny. Then a copy of PSM hit my parents’ mailbox, hinting that a certain character called Gremio could be revived before the end fight if you gathered everybody possible first. Well, I just had to try again, and so I did, successful in my endeavors, but never really returning to the troubled political strugglings of the Scarlet Moon Empire since then.

I decided to go back to Suikoden–and hopefully Suikoden II soonish–for a variety of reasons, one of which I’m still not ready to talk about. However, back when I played these games, I was not a writer. Or even an aspiring writer. I was just a goofy kid that listened to way too much ska music and rode his bike around the neighborhood after dark and liked games that seemed to last forever, mostly JRPG juggernauts, like Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Cross. Nowadays, a lot of what I play sits in my brain, swirling this way and that until I put it down here on Grinding Down, really thinking about mechanics and pacing and how effective or non-effective a transition was, etc. I often make the claim that Suikoden and its much more loved sequel are my favorite games, but I always worried that nostalgia played a big part behind that, and so it is healthy and informative to replay your old favorites every now and then, that way you can truly see if they stand the test of time.

Overall, I’d say that Suikoden is still an immensely enjoyable JRPG, if a little kooky and surprisingly easy. The first hour is very slow in terms of action and challenge, though once you get your castle headquarters and can begin traipsing from town to town looking for recruits, the pace picks up tremendously. Almost too fast. My save slot just before the end battle with Emperor Barbarossa is a nick over twenty-two hours, but please remember that at least two of those hours were spent simply grinding for a nameless urn. Once you get the castle, you kind of go from one big story event to another, with no push to take things slow and go do your own thing for a bit. I mean, you totally can, and I did, but many might not realize the importance of growing your army and just charge through every story beat. All you have to do is keep returning to Mathiu and he’ll always have some plan in the works.

Suikoden might be one of the easiest JRPGs out there. There is no difficulty setting, so it is what it is, and you can, more or less, simply press attack on every character in battle without seeing much resistance from the enemy. In truth, you don’t have many options during the turn-based combat: attack, rune (magic spells), and, depending on who is in your six-member party, unite. There are not as many unite attacks as I originally thought, and many force you to use some less than ideal characters to pull them off–no thanks, every blacksmith ever. Eventually, I ended up using “free will” a lot, especially when grinding, and there were only a few moments when things would go really poorly. So long as you are on top of healing, boss fights are straightforward. I can say that I only saw one “game over” screen, and that was during the second fight with Neclord up in his castle, and it was my fault for not having enough “heal all” spells or mega medicines. Not even Emperor Barbarossa in his true three-headed dragon form proved troublesome.

Recruiting men and women for the Liberation Army barely requires any extra legwork, not counting the two you need to grind for an item for. Most will immediately join up after you speak to them once. A few ask you to be a certain level or, such as in the case of Rubi and Kirkis, another character to be higher up before they’ll throw their bag in the fight. Occasionally, you need to bring a specific character with you to convince someone else to join. I’m looking forward to seeing if the requirements in Suikoden II are a bit more trickier. Gathering recruits is twofold: one, it is fun watching them move into the castle and claim a space for themselves, and two, it ups your army count during the larger-scaled battles, so it does have an effect on gameplay.

I ended up using the following characters as my main mission-goers: Cleo, Victor, Pahn, Valeria, Kirkis, Flik, Stallion, and Ronnie Bell, exchanging them when the situation dictated so. While there are 108 Stars of Destiny to recruit, not all of them are able to fight in the turn-based battles. Like pointless, nose-upturned Onil. Not many of the characters end up playing differently from others despite visible stat differences. They all have different weapons, but you can attach any rune you want to them, turning that martial artist into a healer or that pacifist farmer a wielder of fire spells. I made a mild attempt at trying a few peeps out that I normally ignored, but still found that they lacked personality, especially when you consider that Cleo and Victor are involved in story moments and others, like Lotte and Lester, just aren’t.

All right, here are a couple of other small Suikoden points I’d like to comment on. Just like as in Chrono Cross, you can collect new window frames, but all of them are disgusting and hard to actually look at, though I did end up at least changing the color of the transparency part of the text box to a light brown. The music, when not sampling elephant noises and strange banjo-plucking tunes for mini-games, is memorable and moving, especially that one scene at night when Odessa and Tir McDohl are having a little heart-to-heart moment. Here, have a listen. I ended up spending all my bits on sharpening weapons, rarely purchasing armor or items; you gain so many as you scour dungeons anyways, and the armor is not reflected on the character sprites, so whatever.

So yeah, Suikoden. Still a charming, enjoyable adventure of a boy who unknowingly takes up the call to fight back against an evil empire with the help of an assortment of characters of all different relationships, colors, and races. I wonder what George Lucas thinks of it. It’s perhaps a bit too easy of a game from beginning to end, making things like Costume Quest seem like a hardcore gamer’s nightmare, and the story is not as epic or deep as I remember–or grammatically correct–but it plants all the right seeds for the series to grow from, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Suikoden II plays in 2014. All I remember from it is the cooking mini-game.

My demon hunter Whisper in Diablo III is one to fear

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Here’s the thing: I’m a sucker for “complete package” versions of videogames, especially in this era of post-game DLC and pre-order bonus bull-doody items and unlocks. This gels well with my high patience stat, meaning I can wait the many months–and sometimes even up to a year or so later–for the games’ developers to realize they need another quick burst of cash-money, thus releasing some kind of Game of the Year edition which packs all the extra bits and bobs in with the main game for one, more often than not, easy-to-swallow price. That said, I’ve still not picked up the latest GOTY versions for Borderlands 2 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but my heart rests easy knowing they are out there; truthfully, it’s all about preservation because, one day, you might not be able to purchase that slice of DLC separately off Xbox Live or PSN if–and I dearly hope not–they no longer exist.

All of those words were written so that I could totally tell you that I picked up Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition over the fine Labor Day weekend, and it was priced nicely at just under $40. Mmm mm good. This package includes the original Diablo III campaign, its expansion Reaper of Souls, and some other new goodies, all of which I’ve never touched up to this point. The PC mouse-driven action RPG has been updated for consoles and console controls, just like how Torchlight was, and I have to say, besides a bit of clumsiness when sifting through inventory menus, it all feels really good and intuitive. Especially the combat, where it matters most. But more on all that in a hot cooldown.

Before you can even begin killing and looting legendary gear in Diablo III, you have to pick from one of six available character classes: the witch doctor, the barbarian, the wizard, the monk, the demon hunter, and the crusader. What is appreciated is that you can play all of these classes as either a man or a woman. I went with a female demon hunter as I’m big on crossbows and rolling away from enemies in these kind of games, and the random name generator eventually came up with Whisper, which I think is the most badass name a demon hunter can claim. In truth, all the other classes seem like a lot of fun (the monk was a close second), but like with Borderlands 2 and Dead Island, I need to just pick one and focus on it all the way to the end.

Well, let’s quickly cover the weakest and easiest to ignore aspect of Diablo III: its story. The game takes place in Sanctuary about twenty years after the events of Diablo II, a game I played a bunch of, but never really got far in, though organizing your inventory was a masochistic joy. Deckard Cain and his niece Leah are in Tristram’s cathedral, investigating a bunch of loose pages from ancient texts regarding yet another ominous prophecy. Then, without warning, a mysterious star falls from the sky and crashes through the Cathedral, creating a deep crater and sucking Deckard Cain down. Evil monsters quickly reveal themselves, and your character is on his or her way to Tristram to see how you can help. It’s good versus evil and pretty generic at best, but at least the voice acting is enjoyable; I’m proud that I rightly recognized Jennifer Hale’s voice for Leah after a minute or two.

But one doesn’t play Diablo III for its novel stab at videogame literature, right? You play to click on things, lot of things. Well, in my case, hit the A button on things, lots of things. And the right trigger a lot, too. The left analog stick moves your character, and the right analog stick is a dodge move for whatever direction you push it in. The face buttons all relate to a skill move, and right now Whisper can drop a handful of caltrops to slow enemies, as well as get herself out of a mob of enemies with some swift gymnastic flips. Right trigger is for my favorite active skill so far–Rapid Fire. This uses up Hatred–regenerating mana for demon hunters, basically–but is able to take out a ton of enemies in one gulp, often revealing a yellow orb for killing at least ten of them and doubling Whisper’s damage for a short window of time. Even though she is using a bow for it, the attack sounds like she’s wielding a machine gun.

I’m still fairly early in Act I, and all I want to do is go home right now and play some more. Yeah, it’s that kind of game, where you’re always close to leveling up or you just found a new weapon or piece of gear and want to see it in action, and before you know what is what, you’re five levels deep in some dank crypt, killing zombies and ghosts and having a blast. Given that this is both Diablo III and its expansion, which offers up Adventure Mode and more, I’ve got plenty of road still to travel with Whisper. Also, I’m using followers, and unlike in Skyrim, I am not 100% hating them, though I still think they could be a bit more proactive in battle and a whole lot less whiny.

Stay tuned for further updates about Whisper and the many denizens of Hell that she’ll be slaughtering…

Grammar is not Suikoden’s greatest joy in life

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During my recent replaying time with Suikoden, I noticed that the translation work, well…it needed some work. Meaning that there were a constant number of grammar and punctuation mistakes across my logged twenty-two hours of grinding and recruiting, enough that I eventually began snapping crappy photos via my cell phone–when I could. For documentation’s sake, of course. I mean, it might be another ten-plus years before I touch this RPG again, and maybe the world won’t even care a lick about good grammar by then–the horror!

I’d love to tell you that I noticed all of these errors back when I was a freckly, green-haired teenager with ska patches covering my backpack, but that probably wouldn’t be true. I don’t think my editing skills really blossomed until college, until I was told to stop pursuing art. Nonetheless, the spelling mistakes and grammar errors don’t detract one bit from Suikoden‘s fun gameplay, then and now; they’re just easier to spot in 2014 when playing on a larger TV screen, and once you spy one, you’ll be constantly looking for more.

Anyways, below are only four examples, but trust me when I say there were many others that I accidentally button-pressed through too fast or the text on the screen disappeared before I could ready my phone. This was especially the case during the final montage before the credits, where every single 108 Star of Destiny you recruited before the final battle with Barbarossa gets a tiny sentence about what they did after the war was over. Unfortunately, these little blips of text don’t stay on the screen for very long, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Or, y’know, you could play Suikoden all the way through. Or just watch here. The most common problem I spotted was subject-verb agreement, such as “Become the Commander-in-Chief and protect the border” for Kasim and “Embark on a journey to improve his imperfect self” for Pahn. They also end up spelling Barbarossa as Barbarosa on several accounts.

Right. Check these goofs out:

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The lengthy grind for an urn without a name

nameless urn suikoden blog

I find it both bizarre and amusing that Suikoden gives the player two extremely similar recruit requirements at nearly the exact time in the plot, and both ask that a specific creature be killed in hopes that it drops a certain item. Nothing too out of the ordinary in a JRPG. However, from what I can gather, the drop rates for both of these monsters range dramatically from one player to another, and some people find the item after the first battle and others, like me, end up grinding for two hours just to see its name pop up. As the Brits say, that’s a bunch of bollocks.

Okay, details. The first side recruit involves killing Nightmares, which are floating casino-card like enemies, in the Soniere Prison; one will eventually leave behind an opal, which you can then give to Esmeralda to get her to sign up with the Liberation Army. The second recruit quest has you murdering Holly Fairies for a nameless urn, which will most likely stump even Jabba, a wizened appraiser from Rikon. The objective couldn’t be clearer: kill X until X drops Y. The problem is, there is no way to tell when you’ll see that item. Might be within minutes, hours, or–the horror!–days.

In fact, I had almost left Soniere Prison entirely and started that really tough Gremio scene, but I purposefully back-tracked for a bit to get into a few more fights starring Nightmares. I would wager it only took four or five more rounds until an opal hit my inventory, so that was nice and had me thinking optimistic thoughts about future grinding quests even though I knew what story beat was coming, but hey, at least I didn’t have to grind for two hours first.

So after gathering up a few more recruits for Castle Castle, I double-checked my list to see who I could still get on the non-Imperial side before serving Milich his just desserts, and I noticed that Jabba the appraiser was still calling Rikon home. So off I went, to grind outside on the world map for a bit, searching for that nameless urn. I skipped all battles not involving Holly Fairies and, given how well the opal hunt went, figured I’d maybe spend fifteen minutes at most doing this before getting the urn and moving on with the game. Nope. I grinded Holly Fairy fight after Holly Fairy fight for at least an hour and a half, having to even mute the game’s sound and listen to a podcast so that I didn’t lose my mind. Eventually, I gave up for the night. Upon returning to Suikoden in the morning, it took another thirty minutes or so of fighting the same fights before those magical words appeared on screen: Obtained Nameless urn. My heart swelled, I shoved it right under Jabba’s whiskery nose, and saved my game twice because I was so ecstatic and distracted that I immediately forgot if I had saved or not after just choosing to save. Oh man.

I don’t remember if there are any further “grind for item” quests in Suikoden, but I certainly hope not. Two hours is much too long to devote to such a mundane and trivial quest. My logged playtime is now in the twelve-hour range, and I think this is one of those early JRPGs that you can probably complete in under twenty hours. We’ll see. I am a bit obsessive about getting all 108 Stars of Destiny, no matter what it takes. If any good came out of this, it’s that Pauly McDohl got mega-rich and sharpened all his friends’ weapons, and it wasn’t even any of their birthdays. What a nice, army-raising boy he is…

Suikoden’s rock, paper, scissors take on war

Blog Suikoden Army Battle

All right, I know I teased you last time I covered Suikoden about forthcoming elves and kobolds, so let’s get right to it–I met some elves and kobolds.

After a mighty banquet and stealth ninja assassination attempt (how rude!), Pauly McDohl and his friends tried to leave Castle Castle in hopes of pursuing new recruits, but stumbled upon an elf, exhausted and drenched, right on their front doorstep. Evidently he was so desperate to speak with Lady Odessa that he swam all the way over. Hmm, well, Kirkis, we have some bad news for you, as does he for all of us. The pointy-eared fella who could probably pass for a rebellious teenager from Lothlorien based on his ginger hair says that the Great Imperial General Kwanda Rosman is planning to exterminate all the elves.

Well, we simply can’t allow that, and so the gang is off, first through the woods, which are unnavigable without Kirkis’ help, then through an empty kobold village, and off to visit the mighty elves, who live high up in the trees and just think the snootiest of thoughts when it comes to humans. Long story short, things go awry, and the gang is tossed into jail, though Kirkis’ girlfriend helps set everyone free shortly after. We then visit the home of the dwarves, where we learn that Kwanda Rosman was able to build a Burning Mirror after stealing the blueprint from one of their mines. The dwarven leader doesn’t believe this, so he tasks us with stealing something to prove such a feat is possible. I won’t go into more detail there as it is a pretty straightforward dungeon crawl, though I must comment on the “telephone puzzle” to open the boss door, another nugget of strangeness I forgot over time.

Upon returning to the village of the elves, we find it burnt to the ground. We were too late, and now Kwanda Rosman must pay, taking us into Suikoden‘s first large-scale army battle, which, much like the castle and 108 Stars of Destiny, is to become a trademark of the series. In these, it’s all about scope, with your army of tiny pixelated soldiers versus another, and the army count actually does reflect the number of people you’ve recruited, so even if Onil and Krin serve little purpose once in your castle, they at least participate in war. Basically, you select from four options: charge, bow, magic, and others. Your opponent is also making a choice, and the outcome is determined in a rocks, paper, scissors fashion that I’m sure Fire Emblem: Awakening could appreciate. Let me break it down:

  • Charge beats bow
  • Magic beats charge
  • Bow beats magic

If both players pick the same attack, the damage is reduced for both, but still accounted for. The “others” option allows thieves to sneak in to the opposing army’s camp and steal gold or get a hint as to what attack they’ll do next. It’s really just a guessing game, and I got creamed on my first two attempts, even ending up losing Eileen. See, for many of the non-vital story-related characters in your army, death can come quite easy during these army battles, and this is permadeath, so you best be careful with who you send out. Since I’m ultimately going for 108 total Stars of Destiny, this was an instant “reload my save” scenario, something I’m usually against. Finally, with a little luck and a good streak of my army casting magic against Kwanda’s charge attack, the fight was over. Now it was time to storm the stronghold.

Once you get through all the random encounters, open all the hidden treasure chests, and take care of that dragon miniboss, which was a bit hard since I still don’t have much in the “heal the entire party” option, you fight Kwanda, one on one. Mano-a-mano. And just like the army battle, it’s a game of choices. Here, let me break it down one more time:

  • Attack (damages opponent, even a little damage through defend)
  • Defend (blocks opponent, counters if against desperate attack)
  • Desperate attack (deals big damage, but can be countered)

Once again, it’s the whole rock, paper, scissors thing, but at least this time, so long as you read the dialogue carefully, your opponent’s attacks are televised. Like, when Kwanda is ready to do a desperate attack, he says something aggressive so you know to hit defend. I beat him on the first try, so it’s a much easier way to fight, going for something more cinematic than strategic. Anyways, because Pauly McDohl has an obsession with recruiting characters, he let Kwanda live and join the Liberation Army since he was clearly acting under a magic rune spell.

I’m hoping to progress further in the game and not need to stop and comment about every single section I encounter. However, when I last played this game, I wasn’t even a writer, just some mopey teenage kid who thought ska was the gratest music ever, that khakis were more comfortable than jeans, and that George Constanza had a way of looking at the world that I totally grokked. Yeaaah. I think, at this point, I’ve seen all the big component parts of Suikoden–if I remember right, that is–so all that should be left is story stuff and more turn-based fights, army battles, and one-on-one combat scenarios. Plus more recruiting. Gotta grow that castle, after all. As soon as the Kwanda stuff was done, I went right back out to grab a few more friends for the fight before seeing what Viktor and the recently returned Flik were talking about. I guess I’ll be back if something strange or interesting pops up and I’m compelled to write about it. Until then.

The great wheel of discovery turns again in Suikoden

suikoden lepant mansion wheel

Let’s see, let’s see. Where did I last leave off with my Suikoden progress?

Oh, right. Pauly McDohl and the gang had had their fill of playing Chinchirorin and were preparing to storm a gloomy castle in the middle of an ocean, one evidently guarded by fog, snails with long necks, and a mighty fire-spewing dragon. Don’t worry. We won, though Pauly and Gremio both fell unconscious during the fight and missed out on a largely sweet EXP boost, now a bit behind everyone else in terms of leveling. And so, with all the monsters cleared out of the castle, every treasure chest opened, and it given a proper name, the real meat of Suikoden can start. I’m talking about recruiting members into the Liberation Army and watching your castle expand as people move on in and call it home.

Before continuing on with the next story section, I immediately headed back out to all the towns I could visit to see who I could instantly recruit to the Liberation Army. Some Stars of Destiny are more eager or easily swayed than others; take for instance Onil, a gossip-monger living in Seika. She’s already heard about Pauly looking for recruits and is ready to go, and I think that’s the extent of Onil’s usefulness, but at least she can be ticked off of Luc’s recruit-tracking stone slabs. Other people you can recruit are more useful gameplay-wise, such as Marie–you remember her, the stuck-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place innkeeper from way back in Gregminster, yes?–who now operates a free inn inside your castle, as well as Sergei who puts in an elevator, which will grow in importance as your castle itself grows in importance. And then there are the fighters you recruit who you can actually add to your party’s formation and see what kind of neat runes they have or special unite attacks, such as Varkas and Sydonia.

After getting all that I could–sorry Lorelai, you’ll have to wait until I’m a higher level–I jumped back on the plot wagon and went to Kouan to speak with Lepant, a wealthy merchant, at Mathiu’s request. This took the gang inside a mansion brimming with robotic enemies, evidently created by Juppo the trickster. Fine, fine. I can fight mimic treasure chests all day long. However, I was once again completely surprised to enter a room featuring Juppo’s masterpiece: a giant roulette wheel of chance, backed by that jaunty, somewhat jarring banjo-lead tune previously heard during, I think, the cups game in Rockland. See above. Anyways, you step on the wheel, it spins you round and round, and you get what you land on. Strangely, there are slices for +10 EXP and -10 EXP, which is an amount so minor that you’d have to land on them five thousand times to really feel any kind of impact. It took me maybe seven or eights go-arounds to land safely on the other side. Again, a strange part of Suikoden that I completely forgot about, but one I have to imagine the developers were excited to see implemented at the time, in a JRPG of all things.

In the room after that, you meet Rock, a man eager to open up a warehouse in your castle. I recruited him as fast as I could hit the button because I’m beginning to struggle with Suikoden‘s old-school take on inventory slots. It’s quite limited, and with Rock’s warehouse, I can now at least store rune pieces, armor, and ? ornaments to my heart’s content until I’ve decided what to do with them. See, each party member can hold nine items, but this includes armor they are wearing, which can take up a maximum of five slots if you have something on from head to toes. I generally try to keep a Medicine 6 on everybody too, which leaves little room for much else, and when you are trying to share equipment with someone but they are full on inventory it can be quite maddening to shuffle things to and fro. It’s definitely an aspect I wish was stronger, but I don’t know if a shared inventory would work either, as sometimes deciding who to carry that Needle or Mega Medicine 3 is a strategic decision for sure.

Right, so, there are some big story moments in Lepant’s mansion. First, you learn that your old Gregminster boss Kraze is in control of Kouan and ends up kidnapping Eileen, Lepant’s wife. Secondly, there is the great return of Pahn, and Pauly McDohl’s previous bodyguard redeems himself, physically placing his body between Kraze and Eileen. Then there is a choice: kill or let Kraze go. All I could do is think of Ted, and so Pauly’s hands ran red that day. Digitally red. Well, no–not really. All that happens is the screen fades to black and you hear a “hitting” sound effect; when the scene comes back up, Kraze is gone, so we’ll never really know what happened there, just like we’ll never know what went down in the Tower of Joy unless Howland Reed decides to stand up and speak. Yup, I’m comparing Suikoden with A Song of Ice and Fire. Pony up.

I never intended for me to be covering my replay of Suikoden in a “let’s play” fashion, but I just keep finding interesting moments to talk about. Again, I haven’t touched this game in over a decade, so there’s a lot I’ve forgotten, as well as many memories tinted by nostalgia. Some of the mechanics are still extremely enjoyable–recruiting dudes–while others I’m finding frustrating–equipping dudes–but I’m glad to be back in this colorful 16-bit world, even if it feels a little less epic and more to the point than I previously remembered. Up next, I guess…elves and kobolds.

Chinchirorin tests Pauly McDohl’s patience in Suikoden

suikoden 1 tai ho chinchirorin dice game

So, Suikoden surprised me again. I completely remembered the cups game with the old lady in Rockland, though I don’t exactly remember how the exploit works to earn a bajillion bucks–er, sorry, I mean bits. Think it has to do with only playing one round over and over, and it’s always under the same cup the first time. However, I was not at all mentally prepared for the trial of patience when Pauly McDohl and friends arrived in Kaku, a small fishing village on the coast of Lake Toran, and a second mini-game came into the fold, one that got in the way of the actual plot advancing. It’s based entirely around luck, and luck, it seemed, was not on my side, but I guess it hasn’t been for some time since a certain someone began wielding a certain “soul-eating” True Rune.

Right. Well, since the last update, Pauly McDohl and friends are now considered rebels and on the run. They eventually meet up with Lady Odessa, the leader of the Liberation Army, which thrives underground and exists to fight back against the Empire. After helping to deliver some secret weapon plans to friends, they return to find Empire soldiers attacked the Liberation Army headquarters–which is simply a basement beneath an inn–and Lady Odessa critically wounds herself protecting a small child. As she dies, she gives two final requests: deliver an earring and to not let her death be known, otherwise support for the Liberation Army will fall. When you deliver this earring to a man called Mathiu Silverberg–her brother!–he sees great potential in Pauly and declares that the Liberation Army needs a new headquarters, one that could withstand an attack from the Empire. Mathiu suggests the castle in the middle of Lake Toran, and so the gang is off to Kaku, to find somebody willing to row them over to it. That’s when we meet Tai Ho, his bowl, and his magical dice-throwing skills.

Tai Ho is willing to give the gang a boat ride over to the castle, but only if Pauly can beat him at his own game. However, you have to put up all your money against him so make sure you spend a bit before doing so. The gambling game played with three six-sided dice is known as Chinchirorin, or more commonly called Cee-lo in the United States. Rolling a 4-5-6 is always treated as a winning combination for the first player who rolls it, and a 1-2-3 automatically loses. If you roll two dice of the same number, the third dice scores, so a 4-4-6 would mean a score of 6. If you miss the bowl or the dice fall out, it’s also an automatic loss. There is also something called Storm, which is when you get three of the same number, but a 1-1-1 means you lose and pay double while a 6-6-6 means you win and get paid double.

All of that means nothing when you realize the game is based entirely around luck, and it took me at least seven or eight attempts to beat Tai Ho. However, you can’t play against him unless you have at least 1,000 bits, so the rinse, shampoo, wash cycle went as follows: lose all money to Tai Ho, venture out to grind for money, use some of that money to heal up via a night at the inn, go back out to recuperate losses, and then return to the dice master to try again. Took me about an extra 20 to 30 minutes. I guess some people save right before this part and reload to try again, but that’s never been my style, as you’ll recall from my time with Fire Emblem: Awakening. If you’re curious, my game-winning throw was a 3-3-5 to Tai Ho’s 2-2-4. Suck it.

I suspect I’ll have to play Chinchirorin a few more times to actually recruit Tai Ho and his brother down the line, but for now we’re moving on. There’s a gloomy castle filled with monsters in the middle of a lake to investigate!