Monthly Archives: April 2013

2013 Game Review Haiku, #14 – Patchwork

2013 games completed patchwork

Lin wants a demon
David wants to get back home
Point, click, summon rain

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Chrom’s childhood friend Sully is no more

rip sully fire emblem awakening

Siiigh. I’m definitely now getting to the point in Fire Emblem: Awakening where these deaths sting. As is the case with losing Sully last night to a bunch of sneaky Wyvern Riders. I managed to get through Chapter 8 “The Grimleal” just fine, recruiting dragon-turning Nowi and Irish accenting-Gregor with no problems, as well as alerting two of three villages of incoming attacks; that third one by the boss seemed trickier, and I put all of Chrom’s and Stahl’s energy on kicking the big baddy’s butt. I feel like I can brag, as I need to lift my spirits somewhat right now–no one really came close to Death’s kiss.

The next chapter, however, is a real pain. In Chapter 9 “Emmeryn,” the desert landscape severely hampers how fast and far your units can move, limiting you to only a few spaces each turn. I did not have Cordelia, my only flyer, in my team, and so this was more of a problem than the actual enemies on screen. Most of them went down fast and did zero to little damage if they did get an attack in. However, I kept Sully, Kellam, and Lissa back, as they weren’t needed with Chrom and company slashing everything to pieces. Including Tharja, who I guess is recruitable if you speak to her, which I didn’t by accident. Anyways, at a specific point in the battle, Wyvern Rider reinforcements show up at the top of the map, exactly where I was keeping some of my weakest units; well, not Kellam or Norne, but Lissa and Sully are extremely fragile. Two consecutive attacks from Wyvern Riders brought Sully to her knees, forcing her to “retire.”

Man, I really liked her, too. She’s Brienne of Tarth, all warrior and loyalty. She didn’t take crap from anyone, spoke her mind, and cared not that she was the worst chef in the Shepherds. I had even begun building a relationship between her and Frederick, much to his now dismay. Grrr. But the chapter ended, and I clicked “Save,” as I still plan to see this game through with who remains standing come the end.

So, in short, in one night I gained Nowi and Gregor, lost Sully, killed Tharja, and recruited Libra. Life and death, balancing out–the perfect summary for Fire Emblem: Awakening as of late.

Fire Emblem: Awakening has claimed three villagers and a dude named Edward

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Despite some very early losses in Fire Emblem: Awakening, I’ve begun to turn things around with Chrom’s quest to…well, keep the kingdom safe from all things evil. And figure out who Marth honestly is. I’m on chapter 8 currently if that means anything to you, but I’ve actually been focusing mostly on side quests, such as Paralogues, and general grinding battles to keep those in my team healthy, strong, and, most of all, alive.

Because I’ve lost several key units, like Virion the archer and sword extraordinaire Lon’qu, I’ve had to dip into the Bonus Box feature and recruit some new members from other Fire Emblem games to keep me at a full roster for some fights. Nyna, a sage from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, has been doing phenomenal with her Elwind spells. Got Norne now on my side, a deadly archer also from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. Lastly, I managed to trick the myrmidon Edward from Radiant Dawn to join my galavanting troupe. Since money doesn’t come easy in the Halidom of Ylisse and buying new individual members is crazy expensive, I was able to get all three of these folks to join my team by fighting them and then winning the match. The fights aren’t terribly difficult, and so I’m not only gaining a new fighter, but also leveling up along the way. It’s a pretty good tactic, if I don’t mind saying so.

Anyways, down went Edward and three “ally” villagers during the Paralogue 3 “A Strangled Peace” mission. May they rest in peace…a strangled peace, that is! Edward I saw coming as I let him venture too far out all by his lonesome, but it’s not like I knew the guy personally; this was his first battle, as well as his last. Also, since he comes from the Bonus Box and not the mainline story, his profile doesn’t appear in the Roster list, which leads me to believe that I could totally re-summon him again. Might have to try that some day, but not with him, as he obviously wasn’t a keeper. Probably will do so with Nyna, if ever comes the day.

This mission is pretty similar to an earlier Paralogue, wherein you have to do three things: make contact with the village, protect any roaming villagers, and still rout the enemy. The problem is that your army is spawned at the top of the map, and the villagers are in the middle area, and if you don’t get to them pronto–and I basically mean within one or two enemy turns–they will die fast and screaming. Looked like one attack from an enemy unit was enough to wipe a villager. I did not realize this initially, and so by the time I even had enough troops towards the middle of the map, all three villagers were dead. I did manage to get Sully over to the village though and protect it from further attacks. So, y’know, the greater good and all that.

I looked up what rewards you get if you do manage to save the three villagers, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Look at this pile of whackadoo: a Seraph Robe, a log, and a spoon. Ooh boy. Granted, I don’t know the stats for the Seraph Robe, but the other two items are just astounding in their simpleness. A log? A spoon? Sorry, villagers, but you’re gonna have to offer more to Chrom and his compadres if you want to get saved next time. Until then, my fellow Shepherds!

Joe Danger 2, a colorful crash course in prodigious puns

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To my honest surprise, I enjoyed Trials Evolution despite having no appreciation or interest in all things motorcycle riders traversing over obstacles. In my youth, I did do some light biking with friends, but it was mostly bunny hops over curbs or riding on the back pegs for a period of time. Nothing crazy or life-threatening. I could also ride handless down a hill, but those skills have certainly vanished since that lifetime. If Trials Evolution is all broken necks and flailing limbs, then Joe Danger 2: The Movie is bouncy castles and winky faces. That’s not a bad thing.

Joe Danger 2: The Movie was recently given out to PlayStation Plus subscribers for free, and so I immediately downloaded and then forgot about it. No time, people. I have no time for racing platformers. Well, maybe I do, considering this write-up. Anyways, the plot, which should really just be called “its reason for existence,” is as follows: Joe has gained favor with a movie director in Hollywood and has been hired to perform all the stunts on set. The movie consists entirely of cliché action stunts, such as chase scenes on mini carts, skis, and police bikes, and obstacle courses with jetpacks and tricycles and other crazy things. And so you go through a number of movie scenarios, each with their own specific missions, trying to earn stars and complete tasks to move on to the next theatrical adventure. Pretty straightforward stuff.

For some reason, I was not expecting puns. At least not this many. Joe Danger 2: The Movie is crazy in love with puns, as they should be. As we all should be.  Here’s a sampling of some movie level names: Lord of the Springs, Gulp Fiction, Das Boost, Temple of Boom, Dr. Snow, A View to Chill, Coldfinger, Doom Raider, Indiana Bones, and so on. I love them. I genuinely do, and for me, they help transform a rather by-the-books racing platforming game–collect items like stars/bananas/the letters to spell DANGER, do specific tasks like 100% combos, finish the level, and move on–into something quite endearing.

Getting through the levels is rather easy. In truth, I could blow through this game in one or two sittings, but I’m instead taking my time and trying to complete some of the side missions within each level. This is where the game can become a bit more like Trials Evolution, close to the point of frustrating. Physics and time limits and hidden paths/items are all constraints that make finishing a level and doing other stuff a struggle. Thankfully, the puns, colorful commentary from the director, and bright look to the game keep things from becoming too dark.

The next movie level Joe Danger must perform in is called Eggstinction, set in prehistoric times. I fully expect to drown in dinosaur-based puns.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: SaGa Frontier

games I regret saga frontier

Much like the Nintendo DS, the original PlayStation played home to a swarm of strange and untraditional RPGS, such as The Legend of Dragoon and Brave Fencer Musashi. As well as SaGa Frontier, today’s topic for Grinding Down‘s games I regret parting with thing that I do from time to time. It was an era of chance and experimentation, and that’s something that I miss, because it’s notably missing from the industry today, seeing that Bravely Default: Flying Fairy has not yet been confirmed for U.S. shores (though, thankfully, Fantasy Life has).

One of the earliest posts on Grinding Down was about a PlayStation 2 game called Unlimited SaGa, which I’m positive I purchased more because it might have a connection, however slight, to SaGa Frontier than it being relatively inexpensive and a pretty looking JRPG. I tried several times to get into it, but it’s a beast of a game, snarling and growling and constantly chasing me away. I mean really–that combat wheel, the way you “navigate” through towns. Pffft. I’m sure I’ll pop it back in yet again some day, just as I will with Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, because there will always be a part of me that needs to understand why.

Thankfully, SaGa Frontier was a lot better than Unlimited SaGa, though it definitely had its own unique pitfalls. The aspect I remember the most about it is that you had seven different characters to pick to play, some with interweaving storylines, some all on their own. And you could pick and play them as you choose. Granted, I went with Red first each and every time, as he appeared to have the most action-driven plot of the bunch, given that he basically becomes a secret superhero within minutes of the opening cutscene. The other peeps–Emelia, Blue, Asellus, T260G, Riki, and Lute–could wait.

Coming out in the states a year or so after Final Fantasy VII, the sprites on pre-rendered backgrounds in SaGa Frontier did not look as sharp as polygonal Cloud did (at the time), but they made for interesting visuals. Especially when on the region ship “Cygnus” or in the magically dark and purple Facinaturu with Asellus. There are some really pretty vistas here, and that made exploring each character’s story a joy, as even though saw some overlapping spots, many were self-contained elsewhere. Many boss fights were your tiny sprite characters versus large suckers, which often had an insane number of Health Points.

Combat is probably the oddest part of SaGa Frontier, as a lot of it is based around randomness. Before I get to that, let’s begin with a staple of fantasy-based RPGs: Health Points (MP) and Magic Points (MP). These are bound found here, but instead of just straight MP, you now have three sub-classes of it: Waza Points (WP), which is magic points but only for weapon skills; Life Points (LP), used when a character is knocked unconscious; and Jutsu Points (JP), which is used for actual magic spells not tied to weapon skills. Whew. Got all that? Right, well, battles are turn-based, and many character skills are learned mid-battle, something I remember as being both exhilarating and confusing.

According to this lengthy GameFAQ, the SaGa series uses a rather unique leveling up system, similar to that of Final Fantasy II (Japan) in that you’ll gain what you use during combat instead of a certain amount of experience points. In SaGa Frontier, experience points are in the form of stat boosts and can either gain you a direct stat boost, such as an increase in strength, or a proficiency level. You might gain stats after every fight, but you might gain hardly anything at all. Basically, you just had to try different skills from different characters, and hope that something clicked.

To me, this was genre-shattering, and certainly nothing I had experienced so far in a roleplaying game. It’s certainly not a game for everyone, but it was more than unique, unafraid to try new ideas. Plus, with the freedom to see the game through in a number of ways, with who you wanted and at your own pace, it really felt like your own version of the plot, especially if you started with Riki or T260G. And for all that, SaGa Frontier is a game I deeply regret trading in as a young, dumb teenager.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #13 – BioShock Infinite

2013 games completed bioshock infinite

Steal Elizabeth
Constants and variables
Wipe away the debt

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

A videogames rundown in honor of Barristan the Bold

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Right now, I don’t have any particular thoughts on a particular game, so I figured I could use a post to sum up what’s going on with the games I’m playing currently. As usual, I am juggling several, which does not bode well for efficiency and completing many of ’em, but it does allow me to see a wee bit of each thing. Let me break this out into a little list:

  • BioShock Infinite – I am really close to the end on this even though I only just posted my impressions about it recently. Its pacing is such that you keep playing, unaware of how much time has passed. A part of me wanted to just soldier through it last night, but it was getting late, and I suspect there’s an hour or two left to unfold. Regardless, I’ll finish it up tonight and then probably lock myself in a small room, crying over what brain-twisting revelations are revealed. Or spoiling myself via the Internet on all the stuff I missed.
  • Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Just managed to beat the first mansion’s boss, a particularly crafty ghost-controlled spider, which has now opened up the multiplayer aspect, as well as the next mansion. Have not moved on to either of those yet, but I will soon. Seems you can also hop back into the mansion levels to track down hidden Boos. Where you at, Boos?
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening – No one has died since my last post about losing Miriel. Granted, I haven’t played since then, but I’ll take my accomplishments with this brutal SRPG where I can.
  • PhantasmaburbiaHaven’t touched it since my last post, but I do plan to get back to it, especially since I know I just need to do some light grinding to get the two boys strong enough to take down the progress-blocking boss.
  • Kingdom RushI play this during my lunchbreak as I slowly sip down vegetable juice as part of my 10-day juicing fast. I got stuck on the first snowly level and had to drop the difficulty to easy to make it through with a pitiful two-star rating.
  • Patchwork – Cannot figure out how to appease the fire spirit (wants something to eat), and since this game is so small and indie and unknown, any online guide or clues are nowhere to be found. Curses, as I really like its art style and music a lot.
  • Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – Stuck fighting Moltaan, the Lord of Lava, at the top of Old Smokey. Probably gotta grind more, especially since I evolved a few familiars, which drops them back down to level 1. Basically, my party is now a tad unbalanced. Oops.
  • El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron – Umm, I don’t know. Stopped at Chapter Two. Ha.

Since my last musings on PlayStation Plus, I’ve gone and downloaded several more games I won’t ever have the time to eat up, like The Cave and Demon’s Souls. Unless I clear a few of the above off my plate. Which may or may not happen soon. But hey, with me, you never know, as something entirely new (or old) will grab my attention. Looking ahead, I can’t really see anything that looks enticing, but that’s the magic of the videogames industry; there are always a few well-kept secrets.

The sky’s the superpatriotic limit in BioShock Infinite

bioshock infinite impressions woo

The way my brain works, I can literally come up with any excuse to buy a new videogame. The latest? Well, I’m trying this juicing fast thing for a few days, and the worst days are generally the worst, which I planned ahead for and made sure were on the weekend where I could hide out at home and crawl into bed if the hunger troubles growled too loud. I figured I could also use something new to play on either the Xbox 360 or PS3 as a way to distract myself for several hours. And so, on my way home from picking up more green groceries, I snagged a copy of BioShock Infinite and immediately flipped the cover art from macho-man-centric to art deco. I kinda wish all game boxes came with reversible cover art.

Anyways, before I get into Infinite, let me talk a bit about the original BioShock, a game I came to late that I can appreciate, but had a lot of trouble playing. I found Rapture and its inhabitants to be frightening; no, really. The creaking of floorboards, everything wrapped in shadow, the way voices of enemies would find me in any corner–gah, I can’t. It made for slow playing, as I was continuously anxious about moving to the next location, especially once I got the ability to turn invisible when standing still. But I did eventually soldier on, comprehend what the Internet had been talking about, and finished the game. Never even picked up BioShock 2.

However, the look of BioShock Infinite is too good to ignore. We are no longer deep underwater; in fact, just the opposite. The city of Columbia, which separated itself from the United States for reasons, floats high in the sky among the clouds. Buildings bob up and down, and zeppelins move to and fro, with streets disconnecting as sections of the city move around. Mechanical skylines allow for speedy travel, too, if you’re into high-soaring sensations. You do go inside places as well, but nothing so far has been as stunning as throwing open a door and walking over to a balcony and just sitting the world below, opaqued by a layer of clouds.

You play as Booker DeWitt, a less-than-good man who is tasked with stealing a girl from a locked tower in Columbia to wipe away his past crimes. What his past is all about is a mystery, as is the girl who he is off to steal; her name is Elizabeth, and she has the power to open “tears” to other realities. Stealing her from the tower happens relatively early in the game, and the plot only becomes more complicated from there. In honor of spoilers, I won’t say much more about it just yet though the racial themes presented throughout make me very uncomfortable, much more than the religious elements.

Story aside, BioShock Infinite is a videogame, and just like in the original game, you have magic spells in the left hand and guns in the right hand. At this point, I have four spells unlocked–now called Vigors instead of Plasmids–and my favorite is naturally Shock Jockey, which sends lightning into an enemy, temporarily stunning them just long enough to get popped in the face with a gun. Weaponry is rather standard, with pistols and shotguns and RPGs, and I’ve been most comfortable with smaller guns, relying more on Vigor powers to take dudes down. The Possession one is also great for turrets or the larger-than-life Patriots, letting others do Booker’s dirty work.

I’m enjoying the game despite the turmoil it puts in my non-superpatriotic heart, and a part of that has to do with the fact that, thank Comstock, it’s not very scary. The old-fashioned music and art style puts me at ease, as does being out in the beautiful videogame air, swinging wildly on the skylines. I am definitely taking my time as there is a lot to grok in Columbia, from posters to shop windows to audio logs and those movie things that I can’t recall the name of. It all exists for a reason, to make a world whole. Most fights so far often take place in well-lit areas, and I’ve done absolutely zero crouching, just confidently tossing open doors and seeing what’s on the other side. However, sometimes the movement of the vendor robots freaks me out if I turn around and don’t remember they are there. That said, nothing to keep me at bay here.

I’ll be back later to talk more about BioShock Infinite. Especially that lottery scene.