Category Archives: life

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap really makes you shrink

gd early impressions The-Legend-of-Zelda The Minish Cap

Don’t ask me why, but I often like to begin playing a new game–well, new to me, that is–during the Thanksgiving holiday break, with me digging into Metroid II: Return of Samus and Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters in the past. Well, this year, I only had my Nintendo 3DS with me as I traveled down to South Jersey for turkey, Christmas tree decorating, and too much Black Friday shopping even during “regular” hours, and while I dabbled in my daily staples of Pokémon Shuffle and Nintendo Badge Arcade…I wanted something fresher. You know, from 2005, the era of the Game Boy Advance. Enter The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.

This is also one of those freebie 3Ds Ambassador titles given to all us early investors, of which I’ve played just about all of them for various lengths of time. You can read some words on things like Kirby and The Amazing Mirror, Metroid Fusion, and Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 by clicking this very sentence. I think the only one left for me to really try, and maybe write about some day, is Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.

The Minish Cap‘s quest begins when Link, who I renamed Pauly, is chosen by the king of Hyrule to seek the help of the Picori after Vaati destroyed the Picori Blade and petrified Princess Zelda. Also, evil monsters are now running rampant in Hyrule, with Vaati creating as much chaos as possible in his search for the Light Force. Link was selected for this journey because he’s able to see and interact with the Minish, a race of small, elf-like people. Along the way, Link rescues Ezlo, a strange being resembling a green cap with a bird-like head, who joins him and is able to shrink the leading adventurer to the size of the Minish.

The basic gameplay is nearly identical to previous games in the series, with Link acquiring items, exploring dungeons, and defeating bosses for extra hearts and story-vital trinkets. The two stand-out elements that make this GBA adventure unique, as far as I can tell, involve Link shrinking down to the size of an ant and fusing kinstones. The former is used to open up new areas to explore, but also provides some stunning visuals, with plants now as large as trees and shoes on a tabletop a major roadblock. You see tiny doors everywhere, but you can only shrink in specific areas, which means you have to either figure out how to get there or come back later on when, I assume, you kill and roast Ezlo, gaining his powers by piercing his duck-like flesh with your cartoony chompers.

Fusing kinstones, is really addicting, mostly because it is really rewarding, and I hope the loop of finding a kinstone, fusing it with someone, going out for that revealed treasure, and finding more kinstones never fades. Basically, kinstones are items you collect as you cut grass and attack enemies, and back in town, if a person has a bubble over their head, you can take your half of a kinstone and match it with theirs. If they complete each other, something will reveal itself on the Hyrule map. So far, it’s been rupees, entrances to hidden areas, and more difficult enemies that drop a lot of money.

Look, I’m playing The Minish Cap with a guide open next to me on my laptop; however, I am not following the guide line by line. In the past, I’ve struggled to get through many quests involving Link, Princess Zelda, and the Tri-Force because I either get lost or forget where I need to go next or simply walk away from the journey for too long. There’s a reason why I still haven’t gotten through The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and it’s because every random chance I hop back into it…I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, what world I’m supposed to explore. Anyways, at any time, you can press “select” to get a clue as to where to go next from Ezlo, but even that is not always crystal clear. My greatest fear is returning to a dungeon I already completed and spending a chunk of time in it before realizing I’m supposed to be elsewhere, using that boomerang. So I’m only using the guide to keep me on the main path; I will not let The Minish Cap suffer the same fate as Link’s Awakening.

I’m really enjoying it, and, through glancing at the guide, The Minish Cap doesn’t seem to be the longest of Link’s adventures. That’s fine by me. There’s only a month left for 2015, and I have a number of other conquests to see done before 2016 comes crashing into my face. Cue panic face.

All actions in The Sims FreePlay take time

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Life is strange, and I’m not actually referring to the episodic adventure game about angst-fueled teens and time rewinding from Remember Me developer Dontnod Entertainment, which is definitely somewhere on my mental really-must-play list. Life is Strange, that is–I’ve already enjoyed the heck out of Remember Me. Anyways, when I started playing The Sims FreePlay, I was a married man. In fact, I named my first Sim’s dog after my then wife’s family’s dog. Still with me? At some point, I probably had intentions to recreate my true-to-life family, giving everybody their own house and fashion style. By the time I got back to it, all that had changed. Now I just hit the randomize button and go from there, though I did create and name one woman to resemble Joan Cusack.

Over the years, I’ve dabbled with a few games in The Sims franchise. My favorite was probably The Sims Social, which you experienced via Facebook and had all the annoying hooks of a social media site-driven gaming experience by pestering friends for stuff, but still let you do whacky things like plants full-grown trees inside your house. I have not yet tried planting an entire forest inside my home in The Sims FreePlay, but I suspect it can get just as zany, considering it doesn’t mind that I send both parents off to work for eight hours straight and leave a baby alone in its crib, unsupervised.

The Sims FreePlay, which is not the greatest of names, is yet another strategic life simulation game in the franchise, developed by EA Mobile and Firemonkeys Studios. Basically, it’s a freemium version of the The Sims for mobile devices, with some restrictions and other differences. You begin adding people to your town, decorating their houses, finding them jobs and hobbies, and building relationships. It’s up to you to develop them and create stories, like the one I’m slowing working towards where it is just a single woman living in a drab, non-decorated house full of cats. There’s also a Sim called Oscar Skinner who may or may not be a serial killer from a Criminal Minds episode.

Unlike console or PC versions of The Sims, your actions aren’t roadblocked by simple concepts like money. Instead, everything in The Sims FreePlay takes time. Real-life time, as the games follows the clock á la Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which means you can’t send somebody to their day job at ten at night. Trust me, I’ve tried. Actually, other than that, it’s not terribly restricting. However, this sort of mechanic is perfect for a mobile game–I’m playing on my legendary Windows 8 phone–wherein I can log in, give everybody a task to do for the next seven or eight hours, and then check back later to receive experience points and money, which we all know is stupidly called Simoleons. As you add more Sims and level up, extra houses and construction jobs cost more to perform.

There’s some other currencies to keep in mind as this naturally is a free-to-play game. Say hi to Life Points and Social Points. Both of these currencies go up much slower and in more specific intervals–like through leveling up–and you can use Life Points to help complete tasks instantly that one might feel are taking too long. Personally, I’ve only used them to bake a birthday cake to help an infant become a toddler. Life Points can be earned by completing goals, hobbies, driving around town, or can be dug up in your lawn by pets, and I don’t know exactly their purpose yet, but I have a few saved up.

I am enjoying the actions in real time element of The Sims FreePlay except for when it comes to a bunch of small tasks, like grabbing a snack, using the toilet, washing your hands, and then calling a friend for a quick chat. All of these tasks take about seven to thirty seconds each to complete and help keep your Sim’s attributes high and healthy. However, you can’t stack these actions up to happen one after another; instead, you have to hang around or remember to check in to assign the next task, which can be tedious, especially once your number of Sims begins to grow higher than four. Currently, the majority of my Sims are at work, so I don’t need to check back for several hours, though a good tip is to always leave one Sim available for miscellaneous tasks.

Besides Achievements to unlock (I’ve gotten 10 out of 20), there are a bunch of in-game goals to complete. Actually, there’s an Achievement for finishing 1,000 goals, so everything is circular. Many are easy, like “bake some cookies” or “be romantic with another Sim.” Right now, there’s even a Halloween-themed quest line involving ghosts and purple monsters, though it is timed, which is unfortunate as I doubt I’ll get it all done. These at least give you something to focus on when you can’t decide what to do with an adult Sim or it is too late to send them to work. The Sims FreePlay does allow you to spend real money on Simoleons and other thingies, but it’s not pushy about it nor have I felt constricted for not dropping some cold cash. I hope that never changes; if it does, I always have my disc copy of the original The Sims coupled with a print-out of cheat codes to sate my appetite.

Also, I’ll report back if I’m successful with my crazy cat woman mission. Don’t want to leave y’all hanging.

Hitting reset repeatedly in Skipping Stones to Lonely Homes

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Once, when I was younger and spending the early hours of the morning crabbing off a pier overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with my father, I took a walk while the traps soaked, found a small, isolated cut of shore, and started skipping stones. At first, I was rubbish, getting only two skips or ker-plunking the rock on the first toss, but after enough practice and searching for the smoothest, most flat rocks this side of New Jersey, I was hitting bounce streaks of five or more. Which, if you didn’t know, is extremely satisfying. There’s something magical about seeing such a heavy thing dance across the water like it’s flying with the wind before it loses steam and descends into the watery unknown.

Skipping Stones to Lonely Homes is not actually a stone-skipping simulator, though somebody out there should totally make that game. Actually, I think there was one mini-game in Wii Sports Resort that had you side-slicing rocks (or discs?) across a lake or through rings for points, but even with the updated Wii MotionPlus controller it was still tricky, and I had to constantly remind myself to not let go of the controller when performing the throwing motion. Instead, Alan Hazelden‘s on-the-surface simple puzzle game is about a sailor who has washed ashore and needs materials to fix his ship. In order to find these essentials, you’ll need to skip stones (or push rocks as I saw it) across the water to manipulate lily pads and reach other chunks of land. Sounds easy, but let me assure you it is not; I got no further than the fourth screen before my brain hurt.

Skipping Stones to Lonely Homes did not magically appear out of thin air. Hazelden appears to be a rather prolific independent developer, and an earlier game of his called Mirror Isles looks nearly identical to his latest creation. Except there’s a hypnotic looping soundtrack and has you swapping places with a second character via teleporting mirrors to maneuver around the various islands. It seems just as deceptively difficult. The minimalist graphics vibe is fine, as it is really the puzzles that stand out as the things to pay attention to. You can hit “Z” to undo your last step or “R” to reset to the last checkpoint, and I hit these keys a great number of times.

Give it a go. Maybe you’ll get farther then the fourth screen. Perhaps the fifth screen is the last and where all the ship materials are, or maybe it just gets more punishing from there. At the very least, open Skipping Stones to Lonely Homes in your browser and tab away to do whatever it is you actually do during your time in front of the computer, that way you can work, but listen to the soothing, calming tones of ocean waves lapping at sandy shores. I’ve had it going the entire time I wrote this blog post.

Grinding Down’s new year gaming resolutions for 2015

gd new year gaming resolutions

I’m strange. Sometimes I like to openly talk about a challenge or new goal, such as when I decided to draw 365 bad comics over the course of an entire year, while other endeavors are handled more privately without anyone being the wiser. In fact, I’ve already started on a few over the last several months, and some of those plans will never be brought to light. I’m okay with that. I’m the shyest man yearning for recognition, afraid to be recognized. Again, I’m strange.

As far as I’ve seen over the last few days, game resolutions generally boil down to the same idea: play that game. Whether I do or not is the real challenge, and I’ve had some ups and downs over the last few years when it came to this, but I’m willing to put it out there again, a list of games I own, want to play, and then put away (in my mind).

In 2013, I wanted to beat five specific games I had previously played but never saw credits roll. I ended up beating three of the five, and though my math skills leave a lot to desire, I thought that was pretty good, especially when you consider that Chrono Cross is no short romp through an alternate dimension.

For 2014, I naturally wanted to beat those other two names I missed out on, but that never happened. Then I started playing Suikoden and Suikoden II, with the (laughable) idea I’d get through the rest of the series in short order now that I own all of them. Well, all except for Suikoden Tierkreis. Cue wet fart sound effect? I also had illusions of grandeur for the Metal Gear series, completing the first five games, with plenty more to go. Not “swings and a miss,” but more like “swings and good job, you’re on second base,” now waiting for another player to hit you home. I’ll get through both series in due time, hopefully before Gameageddon actually happens.

With that, here are my gaming resolutions for two thousand fifteen (that’s how all the cool kids are writing it this year). Trumpet blast a-hoy:

1. Stay one step ahead of Giant Bomb for its Metal Gear Scanlon feature. That means I’m not rushing through Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater just yet, which is also the last of the bunch that I’ve actually played. Peace Walker, Guns of the Patriots, and Ground Zeroes will be totally new experiences to me, and I’m looking forward to them greatly, but I don’t want to burn out either on too much too fast. I enjoy watching Dan and Drew react to the wackiness that is Hideo Kojima’s mindset, but only after I’ve swallowed the crazy sugar first.

2. Since I didn’t get to them in 2013 or last year–double shame on me!–both Final Fantasy IX and Radiant Historia are first on the list of must-see-all-the-way-through items. I really don’t want to arrive into 2016 knowing those cute, cuddly critters are still clawing at my ankles, desperate for attention.

3. Silent Hill 3. There, I said it. Or rather, I wrote it. Even though I’m still not over my harrowing time with Silent Hill 2, I must persevere. I’m not ready to explore why.

4. Come up with another new feature at Grinding Down for the year. Games I Regret Parting With seems to be a big fav, but I’ll eventually run out of those to dissect. I used to do Achievements of the Week and Half-hour Hitbox, but those lost steam after awhile, mostly because I lost steam. If you have any ideas or niches you’d like to see my cover, y’know, other than all these unheard of freeware joints or obscure point-and-click adventure games, let me know. I’m interested if you’re interested.

5. Get proper equipment like a microphone and learn how to stream better in preparation for  the next Extra Life event. I want to do it again and have friends over and raise lots of money for those that need it more than me. I’m even hoping to hold out on several games still in hopes of playing them live that during those twenty-four hours.

All right, we’ll stop there. Resolutions are tricky because you can just keep stacking them, and like I said, for gaming stuff, it often ends up being a list of games you want to play. I have too many to even start counting, and most of them are long, lengthy JRPGs, like Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny and Xenosaga. Cue mad scientist laugh? Yeah, cue it hard.

What are some of your new year’s resolutions, gaming-related or not?

Participating in Extra Life for the very first time

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Hi, everyone! It’s me, your Grinding Down creator, author, and somewhat steady maintainer–Paul Abbamondi! I made a big decision recently, and that is to participate in Extra Life this upcoming Saturday, October 25. What’s Extra Life, you ask not knowing? Well, in their words, it’s “an online grassroots movement working to save local kids through the power of play.” Basically, people stay up for 24 hours straight playing games and asking for donations. Over the years I’ve watched others put in the time and raise money for children in need, and now, nervous as I am, I’m gonna do it too. First, some important links to click on:

My donations page: http://tinyurl.com/pabbamondiEL2014

My Twitch page, where hopefully you’ll be able to watch me stream: http://www.twitch.tv/paulwise

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here’s what I’m thinking. My goal is set at $100 (and we’re already halfway there!), but of course I’d love to raise a whole lot more for PennState Hershey’s Children’s Hospital. I plan to make a big dent in my Steam catalog, though I have to be careful in what I play as my laptop can’t really handle anything too strenuous and stream at the same time, thus the above list of indie/older titles. If I somehow run out of things to play there, I can always hit up the consoles or handhelds (I’ll most likely be getting Fantasy Life the day before), though I can’t really stream from them.

Tentatively, I’ll start streaming at 9:00 AM Saturday and won’t stop playing vidya gamez until 9:00 Sunday. I will be maintaining a “live” blog post here on Grinding Down, updating it hopefully once an hour or so, though these’ll be short, quick updates. Truthfully, I’m excited about finally finding the time to eat up some Deus Ex: GOTY more than anything. I am part of Team Giant Bomb, and I appreciate any support you can offer me–this is my first time doing anything like this, and I’ll be running at it solo (well, my cats will be around), so please, give me strength. And donations, too. FOR THE KIDS.

Eat bread, make friends, belt out a ballad, and more in Tomodachi Life

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Since its announcement, I’ve been pretty excited for Tomodachi Life. Watching the gang over at Giant Bomb play through some of its silliness and strangeness during one of the latest Unprofessional Fridays really helped seal the deal, and so I went right out the next day to snag a retail copy of the game. True, this is the sort of game one might want a digital version of so they can pop into it any time they want, but I’m a physical collector at heart. Truthfully, I was surprised to see it priced at $40.00 and initially balked, but decided it is ultimately better to support the quirky titles from Nintendo in hopes of more quirky titles from Nintendo. Paying it forward, y’know.

Anyways, you start out by creating an avatar to be your first island inhabitant. Naturally, narcissistic tendencies took over, and I selected the Mii modeled after me from my Mii Plaza. They refer to this dude as a “Pauly look-alike,” which is pretty cute and, at the same time, alarming. The clones will overtake us all. You can then fill an apartment with more Miis; some I downloaded off the Internet, a few more came over from the Mii Plaza, and I made one or two new ones from scratch. If you want a taste of what my islanders amount to, then here: Shaq, April Ludgate, Ron Swanson, Matt Mason, Minerva McGonagall, Satoru Iwata, and more. Plus, I have about six-seven more empty apartments to fill, but I’m in no rush to see those rooms occupied.

Tomodachi Life is a game best played in small bursts, and slowly at that. You navigate the island, which is more or less a collection of different button prompts, via the touchscreen and stylus. You can go to the food store and see what the daily specials are, you can visit the town fountain and watch as your Miis donate some coin, and you visit event spots like the beach or park to see if anything neat is going down. The main meat of the island is the apartment building, and here you can check in on your Miis. Some may be sleeping, some may be out at their day job, and some may be in someone else’s pad, schmoozing and boozing. Here, you can loosely interact with the Miis, giving them food, clothing, and accessories, and they’ll occasionally want to play a mini-game with you. Some are real simple, like grab an item as it falls, and others are more fun, like guessing what a pixelated item ultimately is. As you interact with these Miis, they level up and can gain additional items, songs, and catchphrases, as well as grow to like–I mean that romantically–other Miis.

I love how Tomodachi Life looks and sounds. Let’s start with visuals. We’re all pretty familiar with how Miis look at this point in Nintendo’s history, and despite just how little customization there actually is around them, they always end up looking strikingly similar to their inspirations. Like, my Ron Swanson…it’s uncanny. Speaking of looking like real-life stuff, the pictures of the food you can buy–as well as the hilarious flavor text–really help sell the entries as digital representations that I actually want to purchase. Just ignore that fact that the shopkeeper is a man with a block of wood for a head…

Audio plays a big part, too. There’s not a ton of background music, but what is there is fine. However, it really does all come down to listening to the Miis talk, whether they have a super high pitch or deeply deep growl. And they say whatever you want them to say, granted you can’t get too crass or pervy as Nintendo is wont to censor that kind of stuff. I love hearing the game refer to them by their actual names out loud. In the past, when you get to name a character, like in an RPG, it was always disappointing to never hear other characters audibly call him or her out in a cutscene. Whenever you win or lose a mini-game, an unseen studio audience cheers or boos, respectively, and you can also have Miis perform some karaoke or write your own songs; I’ve not really delved too deep into that stuff, but it seems ripe for silliness.

I’m enjoying my sporadic sessions with Tomodachi Life, though I do find it easy to burn through just about everything it offers in a single session, leaving me to just sit and stare at an apartment building’s windows, waiting for something, anything, to happen. This quirky title is not long for the world, but that’s okay. It’s a great piece of strange and unpredictable side content for Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and it should help fill in the blank days while we all wait–yes, you should be waiting, too–for Fantasy Life this autumn. I don’t know if I’ll write any further on Tomodachi Life, but you never know–it’s so unpredictable, like that time I gave Minerva a bowl of fried rice and she sky-rocketed into space, so delighted in tasting her favorite food. Yeah, it’s bizarre Nintendo at its best.

Oh, and if you want to add me to your island, by all means, show me a great time:

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Not eliminating the memories of loss in Eternally Us

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Grief is natural; we’ve all experienced the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone truly cherished is taken away, and if for some reason you haven’t, bless your lucky, cold-as-steel soul. No, really. I hope you never have to feel the lingering twist of a broken heart, but I kind of doubt you’ll avoid it in one form or another. It’s dark subject matter, sure, but worth exploring just as much as any other adventure game plot based around escapism, making a name for yourself, and standing up against persecution.

Eternally Us is about grieving. I didn’t know this immediately going into it, but by the end, all is made explicitly clear. It’s self-described as a tale of love, life, and friendship. Created for the April 2010 MAGS competition by Infinite Grace Games, this somber story from Steven Poulton (writer, programmer, scorer) and Ben Chandler (designer, artist) starts innocently enough, with two young girls sitting on a park bench. Amber and Fio, short for Fionna, are feeding the pigeons, enjoying the nice weather as friends are wont to do. Alas, just as Fio is about to hit her childhood best friend with some very bad news, a magical door appears and opens, revealing some monstrous zombie-like being. And then, just like that…Fio is gone.

Amber now has to travel across five strikingly different locations in search of her stolen friend, solving puzzles and speaking her mind to any that will listen. The scenes are diverse, with one set in a dark, marshy swamp and another in the quiet snow and the final one in the middle of some tranquil, autumnal woods. Chandler’s colorful art makes each place highly expressive and detailed, with the supernatural mixing with the natural in a fairy tale way that had me immediately thinking of The Neverending Story. It’s amazing what adding glowing eyes can do to personalizing bark and branches, but it’s extremely effective here. There’s also a weather effect on top of the painted backgrounds in every scene, with my favorites being the rain and falling leaves. Small details, but they matter. They help you–and maybe even Amber too–forget that this place is not real, that you are traveling through portals and doorways, trapped in the otherworld, looking for someone you actually lost long ago.

Sound-wise, there’s falling rain and peaceful bird-chirping, as well as some surprisingly strong voice acting. Naturally, Amber is the one voice we hear the most, and her voice actress Miranda Gauvin does a fine job of playing someone that is unable to cope, that is begging for answers, but would also rather not hear them. The more inhuman characters dance the line between creepy and ridiculous, but again, I like them talkative trees. A soft, unobtrusive melody plays on a few of the scenes, too.

It’s a point-and-click game, and fairly limited in what you can actually do. The left mouse button lets Amber use items, and the right button examines things, which is the standard we’ve all come to know these days. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Two of a Kind. Found items immediately go to her inventory, which can be accessed by moving the mouse cursor to the top of the screen. Any items you find relate to that scene only and vanish when you move on to the next area, so if you get stuck, just keep trying every possible combination/tactic. I only ran into problems with the squirrel at the end, and that was more of technical issues than not understanding what I was supposed to do. I did not see a strong connection in some of the puzzles to what was happening in Amber’s mind, but maybe others will.

Eternally Us is ultimately a downer, but a fantastic way to fall. The puzzles are not terribly difficult and contained to a single scene to make things easier, but it’s the dialogue that you want to hear and the way Amber grows over the course of the short game. There’s also some cleverness afoot, such as how Amber “sinks” through the swamp to the depression area. Basically, you should play this short adventure game to put her and her friend at peace–and maybe find some solace yourself. It’s free and can be downloaded here.

Newly joined Henry quickly becomes one for the books

rip henry fire emblem awakening oh well

Given the lapse of updates since I lost Sully, you might’ve assumed I haven’t played much more Fire Emblem: Awakening, but you’d be totally wrong. In fact, I’ve played a lot more, an hour almost every night. Granted, that one hour is generally a single chapter, boiled down to one long battle, but it’s forward progress nonetheless.

Basically, I’ve gone from chapter 9 to chapter 13 “Of Sacred Blood,” though I can’t really speak too much about what happened during those four chapters story-wise as things certainly do happen. One of them even caught me unawares. I can tell you, however, that nobody in the Shepherds died during four of the five latest battles, until last night, when dark mage newb Henry strolled on in and, just as fast, strolled on out. Dang it.

Although Henry hails from Plegia, he happily joins Chrom’s army because…well, he loves war. He’s like Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son; looks like a nice, innocent little lad, but then you find out he’s into blood and mayhem and decidedly evil things. Yeah, don’t let him babysit your kids. Anyways, he joins at the beginning of the fight, swooping in as a swarm of ravens, but I wasn’t really paying attention to him during the majority of the fight, as I knew where the advancing soldiers were and how best to handle them with friendly units I’ve come to know very well. Like Frederick and Norne and Stahl. So when enemy troops spawned at unguarded fortresses at the bottom of the map and Henry was all by himself, there weren’t enough Hex spells in the realm to keep him safe. Oh well. I already have my avatar and Nyna for excellent magic spells.

Okay, so Henry’s gone. I also missed out on recruiting a woman named Tharja in an earlier chapter, but I did get a few other newbies to join and remain safely in the Shepherds: Libra, Olivia, Cherche, and [name redacted for spoilery reasons]. Onwards we march, for peace and the Ylissean people…

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!