Monthly Archives: September 2011

Crono and the gang help Lavos with his “destroy the world” Kickstarter

My head absolutely hated me yesterday. I blame it on a combination of sitting in morning traffic as the sunrise burned out my eyes, a severe lack of substantial foodstuffs, a lot of staring and straining, and then another drive, this time into the blazing sunset. Either way, once home for the night, I was drained, and I’m not afraid to admit I was curled up in bed by like 8:30 PM, my 3DS in hand. I figured I had some time before Mr. Sandman came, and a recent reminder in Grinding Down‘s comments section nudged me to pop out the cartridge for Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Overclocked and drop in Chrono Trigger.

Now, I’ve not touched this game in almost a year. Shocking, sure, but unfortunately, sometimes I forget about games. Or, y’know, get distracted by…getting married around said time. Anyways, having no memory as to what I was supposed to do next, I took Greg Noe’s ancient advice and went under the ocean through a cave, popping up…kinda back where I started, with the Millennial Fair still happening and all the weird monster-people no longer running the shops and living in the houses. Hmm…all right.

I traveled around a bit more, fought some monsters back in dinosaur-time land, got Crono up a level, purchased a new sword for him and a new set of armor for Lucca, and then found myself unsure of where to go. Not feeling up to getting out of bed and abandoning my blankety cocoon of warmth and good feelings, I headed back to the hub known as the End of Time to see if anyone there could steer me in the right direction. Nope, but there was this one interactive section that asked if I’d like to go fight Lavos. Um, as in Lavos, the main villain of Chrono Trigger? Yeah, sure…why not. He’s the bad guy, we’re the good guys–I don’t see any reason to put this off for another dozen hours or so.

Crono, Robo, and Marle travel through time to…a desolate and wasteland-like scrap of ground. Looming before them is a giant, uh, tick monster, presumably Lavos. For some reason, Lavos made me think of a lava-based beast. Oh well. We do battle, and all seems fine for a while, with Lavos changing battle plans every now and then. But then our trio’s attacks begin to do less and less damage, and I missed an opportunity to have Marle combo-heal everyone back to full health. She quickly falls, then Crono, and then Robo. Curses. I figured that was it then, game over. Nope, instead it fades to a cutscene of some scientists monitoring the world map, now freaking out over the coming destruction. One man doesn’t escape the building in time, and a list of razed places are rattled off. Then the world faded with color, telling me this:

Dang. I guess that’s just one of the many endings in Chrono Trigger. Probably considered a bad one. Maybe I’m not meant to fight Lavos just yet (though a part of me feels like I still could’ve put up a decent fight if I hadn’t brainfarted out on keeping Marle ready for healing the team).

Well, that was that. Tara came upstairs and it was now time for more episodes of Cheers and then some good ol’ sleepy sleep. I promise to look up an online walkthrough later on and get our gang going in the right direction; I do like this game, especially its music and combat system and the way battles just happen on the same screen, and I don’t want it all to end with the destruction of Earth. I promise, I don’t.

Achievements of the Week – The Back to Business Edition

I missed doing Achievements of the Week last week. Tara and I were on the road for most of that Friday, heading down to Maryland for SPX 2011. Totally worth it, and I’m sorry if I had you on the edge of your seat waiting for an update that never came. That means this edition is covering two weeks’ time. Don’t worry. I didn’t unlock a ton, just a handful in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mafia II. But now that we finally got the Internet set up at Grimmauld Place, it means I’m back in business, ready to officially track Achievements as they pop. You may cheer if you want. I can’t hear you from the other side of your screen.

Okay, here we go!

From Mafia II…

I’ve unlocked seven Achievements so far, but I’ll only showcase a few here. Story-based ones like “completed Chapter One” are kind of uninteresting. Don’t even try to argue otherwise.


Back to Business (10G): Do your first job for Mike Bruski.

This involved stealing a car and bringing it back in good condition. I definitely did the first half of that equation, but can’t confidently say that the car looked good when I pulled it into his yard. Those street signs just come out of nowhere, I swear it.


He Who Pays the Barber (10G): Improve the dockworkers’ haircuts.

The Achievement text is a bit misleading. Vito did not actually take out a pair of scissors, clippers, and a comb, doing wonders to these workers’ hair and bringing about all new styles and trends, like the Rachel. He simply beat up those that did not want to chip in for the “get a haircut” fund, and that was that. However, a haircut minigame would’ve been more fun as the hand-to-hand combat in Mafia II leaves a lot to be desired.


Collector’s Item (10G): Find at least one collectible in the game.

Porn. I found a porno mag. Oh my. What is this, Shadow Hearts: Covenant?

From Deus Ex: Human Revolution…


The Bull (25G): You defeated Lawrence Barrett, elite member of a secret mercenary hit squad.

Already wrote about this doozy earlier today: click, click, click.


Yes Boss (15G): You had an argument with your boss, David Sarif, and won.

I love these secret Achievements in Deus Ex: Human Revolution; they remind of the dialogue-centered ones in L.A. Noire and are all so more rewarding when they pop because I did not even expect them. I was just roleplaying Jensen to my style, being honest and ethical, taking his boss to task for something I can’t go into yet for spoiler reasons, and there ya go.


Sentimental Value (10G): You kept Megan’s bracelet for yourself. Apparently, letting go really is the hardest part.

I actually meant to give this back to Megan’s mother at the end of the sidequest, but hit the wrong button. Oops. Also…muhahaha!

That’s it, folks. Have a great weekend gaming, and we’ll see what new Achievements pop up for next week. Hopefully some from the last story-based DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, Lonesome Road. Need more Fallout: New Vegas, now and for forever…

Tell me what you’ve unlocked recently in the comments below!

Lawrence Barrett is no more, and that’s no bull

“Bulls do not win bull fights. People do.” – Norman Ralph Augustine

That’s right, Grinding Down readers. I did it. I did this:


The Bull (25G): You defeated Lawrence Barrett, elite member of a secret mercenary hit squad.

After failing time after time after time–his grenades kill you instantly on the middle difficulty and are quite hard to avoid, considering he throws them in groups of three and the room is small, cramped, with few choice hiding spots–I decided to look up some walkthroughs online to see how others tackled this annoying fellow with a machine gun for a hand. No, not that one. That Barret cusses more. And he would be on my side to begin with, making this boss battle a non-necessity. Anyways, I found a video of someone beat him by tossing a gas canister at him, then an exploding barrel, and then did that twice more, all under sixty seconds. Whaaaaa. Not a single shot was fired, which means that this would be the best way for me to go about it, considering running into the room and trying to equip a lethal weapon was clunky and a waste of time.

Well, it took me three more attempts to figure out the best way to move around the room and toss these deadly items, but I did it. I got him caught in a gas cloud, choking, growling, saying something repeatedly about “playing dirty.” Whatever. You have a gun for a hand. I was so pleased to have finally gotten past this roadblock–and yes, for stealthy players, that’s exactly what he is–that I exclaimed loudly that I had conquered he who seemed unconquerable. Tara was upstairs watching Cheers, but she responded and even gave me some kudos love via Twitter:

According to forum grumblers, there’s a few more of these sorts of boss fights to look forward to. Great. Freaking superb. I can’t wait. However, I do like that this boss battle had two vidoegame references tied to it: Final Fantasy VII and the Metal Gear franchise in calling these elite soldiers The Something. I just didn’t like how it fit into the grand scheme of playing the game. For now, I’m off to China, I think. Well, not me. Jensen is. Place your bets below in the comments on what part I’ll get stuck at next.

Hack and slash through dungeons in Crimson Alliance, but don’t pick up loot

I gave up trying to beat Barrett in Deus Ex: Human Revolution last night well after my twenty-fifth save reload and decided to scour the Xbox Live games marketplace for anything else, to see what was new, to find an easier experience that would get me muttering or wringing controllers’ necks. And I found it relatively quickly with Crimson Alliance, a new downloadable game that gives off a Diablo/Torchlight vibe, but with a co-op slant.

And it is that. It’s totally a Diablo/Torchlight clone. Minus the great loot. There’s little loot to speak of. More on that in a moment.

Actually, the main reason I downloaded Crimson Alliance was not because it looked like a simple, mindless hack n’ slasher–one that would not get me even more worked up inside–but because it was FREE. That’s right. It’s a free game. Says so on the tin. Well, maybe. The lines between free game, trial, and demo are significantly blurred here, and I’m sure this is all just a big trick being played on consumers by Microsoft Studios and Certain Affinity to get folks in for an appetizer and then staying for dinner. To add even more words to the mix, if one purchased all Summer of Arcade games this year–Bastion, From Dust, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Fruit Ninja Kinect, and Toy Soldiers: Cold War–then one definitely got a free–and full–version of Crimson Alliance.

So, I downloaded this free game as a storm began brewing outside. Rain and lightning and rumbling thunder. Wonderfully atmospheric gaming sounds, so long as the power doesn’t cut out. Upon starting up, I was given the choice of one of three characters: the mercenary Gnox, the wizard Direwolf, and the assassin Moonshade. I went with her, and the game informed me that if I wanted access to all things Moonshade, I’d have to buy her. See, you can either buy the game completely, purchase classes individually, or, uh, play the free version with little to no fanfare to speak of. And it seems like you can play about the entire first level, a little bit of a shop, and a smidgen into the second level before being booted back to the main menu. The game constantly reminds you that, hey, you can unlock the full game if you want, just press here to do so. You want Achievements or better equipment or the nudity code? Unlock full version here.

Speaking of Achievements, for some reason, I now have Crimson Alliance added to my list of owned games. This means I can look at the list of 12 Achievements, something you don’t get to do with game demos, and see what there is to unlock. However, can’t unlock anything. Gotta upgrade for that sweetness. Which leaves me no choice but to delete the game from my hard-drive and hopefully permanently remove it from my owned games list. Cause I’m not interested in owning it, and that’s mainly because it’s more Gauntlet than Torchlight, and I’m all about the loot over social beatdowns. There’s less focus on loot and RPG elements here and more on slashing at waves of enemies and solving room puzzles with a partner.

That said, the game has some striking still art, strong narration, and an easy-to-get-into feel. Just a lack of crazy cool gear. Not for me, but your mileage may vary.

30 Days of Gaming, #27 – Most epic scene ever

Hey, remember this meme? Me too. Actually, I did forget about it for a bit, seeing as the last update to it was way back in early August 2011. My bad. I can’t wait to count up how long it’s taken me to blog about 30 days’ worth of topics. Probably in the triple digits by now. Grinding Down has truly earned its namesake. To be honest, these last few topics are a bit of a struggle, all of them seemingly heavy-hitters in terms of constant forum topics and debates. Hopefully I can do them justice, but truthfully–I’m a little worried about my choices.

This is Super Metroid‘s second time appearing in the 30 Days of Gaming meme. The first was for the topic of “a game I’ve played more than five times,” which you can read about by clicking this clickity part.

To start, the last Metroid is in captivity, the galaxy is at peace. Until it’s not. Super Metroid begins by tilting this utopian idea on its side, with the Metroid larvae Samus brought to the Ceres Space Colony for researching being stolen by her nemesis Ridley. As she hurries back, she finds all the scientists dead. And she’ll be soon too if she doesn’t escape before the planet explodes. Narrowly missing the chance to become space particles, Samus then tracks Ridley to the planet Zebes. Ridley is the second-to-last boss, and despite his involvement in this whole mess, he’s not the show-stealer. No, not by a mile. Leave that honor to Mother Brain.

Good job, bounty hunter. You’ve made it to Tourian. This is Mother Brain’s base of operations, and it’s been relocated and rebuilt. Tread carefully. As you make your way closer to the end, you’ll pass former victims of the life-sucking Metroids; they crumble and turn to dust as Samus hurries past, a haunting image. But that’s only the beginning. You find Mother Brain, all encased and hooked up to too many tubes, just like in Metroid, and you blow her to bits, watching with glee as the machinery around her explodes and drops her to the floor, defeated, nothing more than a brain without a body. And then she gets up.

Clearly, it makes no sense how a pinkish lump of brainstuffs is able to grow out an entire dinosaur-like body like that, but it took me by surprise the first time nonetheless. I remember my own brain squirming in my skull, trying to find its own “grow a T-Rex body” switch and make sure it was set to OFF. Frightened, you launch every single rocket and super missile you have in your arsenal, relentless in your attack. And Samus is putting up quite a fight, dodging mouth-fire and bombs–but then Mother Brain hits her with an eye beam of stunning. Down she goes, forced to endure Mother Brain’s attacks as her health depletes block by block. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to witness. Just before the end, when all seems hopeless and the final attack is being charged up, a Metroid swoops in to save Samus, sucking the life from Mother Brain. The Metroid then transfers her energy and powers to Samus, sacrificing herself in the cause. The remainder of the battle is a snap thanks to a kickass supercharged beam shot, and Mother Brain’s brain is disintegrating before you know it. No time to celebrate though; you have three minutes exactly to escape the planet before all is blown to bits.

What I love about this scene is how unexpected–and unpredicted–the Metroid’s saving swoop-in is. There’s no pausing, no jarring cutscene, no weird sounds like you’d get on a PlayStation when a FMV was readying to load; it’s all one fluid moment, filled with fluid movement, and the scene is nearly impossible to not watch. I remember thinking my controller was broken when I couldn’t get Samus to move after Mother Brain’s stun beam, and that sadness quickly turned to elation when I saw who had Samus’ back. One can only assume that this was the Metroid she had originally brought to the Ceres Space Colony.

This scene still resonates with me today, some fifteen-plus years later. That’s epic enough for me.

Two couriers to finally meet in Lonesome Road DLC

Are those…reskinned Trogs decorated with Christmas lights? Well, we’ll find out soon enough, as Lonesome Road, the final story-related DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, releases simultaneously on all platforms on September 20, 2011. This one has been building for quite some time now, with references to the original Courier that opted out of the Platinum Chip job appearing in the main game and then getting some more hints in Dead Money. The previous DLC, Old World Blues, also revealed more about Ulysses and was the best package yet, with amazing characters, hilarious dialogue, and a lot of neat weapons…hopefully this last hurrah can be even better.

Some leaked Achievements for Lonesome Road hint at the possibility of letting players–for the first time–bring companions with them, namely ED-E. If so, f*ck yes! If not, f*ck off. Curious to see how that works.

That said, check out the new trailer:

No sneaking past those boss fights in Deus Ex: Human Revolution

From the very beginning of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I neglected all lethal weapons. Sneered at them, in fact, as I crept on by. A tranquilizer rifle and close-quarters takedowns were my tools of destruction. And, if need be, a flash grenade to confuse and create chaos. Surely those guards that I knocked unconscious were a bit confused to find their shotguns and deadly assault rifles still by their sides when they came to, but that’s just how my Jensen rolls: secretively, silently, stealthy.

Unfortunately, you can’t sneak past everyone. Specifically, the game’s bosses, and the first one, Lawrence Barrett, that meathead with a machine gun for a hand, has proved extremely troublesome so far. Upon entering the door that starts the fight, I realized that my wholehearted dismissal of all lethal weapons was going to hurt me here. Hurt me hard. I tried hitting Barrett with a few tranq darts as he blew my cover to shreds. Nothing happened, and by that I mean he came up, grabbed Jensen, and punched half his health away. A few more shots later, and I was reloading my latest save. Which, sadly, is right before I go through the door that starts the boss fight. Sigh…

If I run over to the left, in a small side room is a pistol and some bullets. However, before I can pick it up, I need to rearrange my inventory to make room for such a murderous entity. And then comes the arduous task of trying to shoot somebody, with a gun made for shooting on repeat; see, with the tranq rifle, it was pop out, fire, pop back into hiding spot, wait for body to drop. That strategy doesn’t work here. Barrett has to reload his machine gun-hand thing, giving you precious seconds to either fire or move to safer cover. Staying in that room for too long isn’t wise as he eventually begins tossing grenades your way.

I’ve tried beating him now three times with no luck. Contemplating backtracking far enough to maybe pick up a better weapon. Or maybe giving up my dream of being a sneaky Jensen, restarting the game, and putting all my Praxis points into combat skills instead of hacking skills. That would be lame, but if I can’t get past Barrett soon, it’s my only option.

If the developers wanted this to be the next Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, maybe they should have played that game and saw how awesome boss battles should be crafted. Specifically, The End. One day I’ll talk about how I tackled that fight. One day.

Remember, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game that lets you play any way you like, except when it’s time to take down some cheesy super soldiers.

Mafia II is all about the money

I understand the concept of money as a motivator. It’s what fuels a majority of life, from food to gas to bills to pleasure. You can buy everything but love with it, if songs are to be trusted. But for me, within the context of videogames, it’s not enough to warrant doing horrible, atrocious acts of violence. I mean, it’s not like real money is being printed out of the Xbox 360’s disc tray; this is digital money to purchase digital things, and while I don’t mind doing miscellaneous tasks like writing fake blog posts or trimming Tara‘s bush in The Sims Social for some Simoleons, stealing cars and murdering those in wrong place at the wrong time for, um, $300 is not what I’d call justifiable. Unfortunately, all Mafia II has as a motivator is money.

Vito Scalleta is a war hero–that’s according to his childhood friend Joe, a crook and crooked man that eventually gets our young leading lad mixed up with the mafia. It starts out innocently enough, with Vito returning from World War II to snow and Christmas songs and the bad news that his sister and mother are still trying to pay off his father’s debt. Vito immediately wants to help, which shows off his good quality, but he’s willing to simply murder men trying to stop him from carjacking their ride, which shows off his videogamey quality.

I’ve only completed chapters one, two, and three so far, having started chapter four at this point. Vito is now tasked with sneaking into an office building and stealing gas stamps, and he’ll be rewarded better if he goes undetected. My kind of mission actually despite all my latest stealth failings with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. However, those first two chapters did not leave me excited about how Vito will grow as a character; basically, at this point, I’m writing him off as yet another Niko; oh hey, look at that, their names are similar too.

In chapter three, after meeting with the man that Vito’s father owes a ton of money, Vito was given the job to move some crates on to the back of a truck. For $10, which, I dunno, in the late 1940s, could probably get you a lot of thingies. Bread, milk, a porno mag. You go up to the crates, press X to pick one up, walk it over to the truck, press X to put it down, and repeat the process all over again. Mundane, but that’s how a lot of grunt work is, and while there were probably something like 4o to 50 crates, I was willing to carry them all back and forth because a job is a job, and I’ve always done whatever job I’ve been given. Vito, however, was not having it, complaining with each crate until he simply refused to carry any more; I was given the false decision to leave when he’d had enough, and with nothing else to do, I had to play into the role of Vito, who was not interested in doing what he dubbed “slave labor” for a measly $10. For shame, man. However, beating the crap out of warehouse employees not willing to chip in for a mandatory haircut collection is more wholesome work, mostly because it pays better. Sigh…

Fantastic tunes on the radio though. More games need this much Dean Martin love. And there’s a great attention to detail here, with the city looking very much alive, just like L.A. Noire. But at least that game had a likable main character, one with a soul, as flawed as it became. Here, with have Vito, who will do anything it takes to make money. Again, these sorts of people do exist, but they aren’t fun to roleplay as there is only one path to follow. Heed the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.”

FIRST HOUR REVIEW – Deus Ex: Human Revolution

A little later on this than I hoped to be, but my coverage of Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘s first hour is now yours for the reading over at The First Hour. Either click the previous sentence or the image above to get there. Go ahead. I’d rather you read my article than the toss-able two paragraphs below.

I struggled–and am still struggling–with the game’s difficulty, even on that middle difficulty choice, which I guess some folks would call “normal.” A lot has to do with the in-game radar and how troublesome it is to walk creep the stealthy route. I have to imagine that going into a room and popping everyone in the head with a pistol shot before an alarm can be sounded would make things a lot easier…but that’s not how I like to play. Hopefully I get better as the game goes on and Jensen gets crazily customized, but I’m not holding my breath. Currently stuck on the very first boss battle, which I’ll save all ranting about for another post.

But yeah, Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘s opening sixty minutes. I died five times. Top that!

A young boy, a forest, and a hero’s adventure

Adventures are the foundation of RPGs, the stuff to build upon and keep everything standing mighty and tall, especially those romps from fonder times when graphics alone could not carry a game. Think about titles like Chrono Trigger, Grandia, Mother, Secret of Evermore, and Breath of Fire II. Any similarities? All open up with a young boy off on an adventure, his parents strangely indifferent to such careless actions, wishing him all the best, but to be careful. Same thing goes with Hero’s Adventure.

Created by Terry Cavanagh of VVVVVV fame, Hero’s Adventure is actually not an adventure at all, especially one starring a hero of some sort. Instead, it’s about a boy who goes off into the shadowy forest, returning home after a hard day’s work. What happens in those woods, stays in those woods…but you can find out by playing the game itself. It’s about a minute long, cynical, and disturbing, with evocative music and really fast battles that, upon popping up, initially scared the crud out of me.

This is the second indie game I’ve played as of late that is short and sweet, but manages to leave a strong impact regardless. The other game was BATHOS, a neat little thing created in a single weekend. I highly recommend y’all checking both out; I know you have the minutes to spare.