Category Archives: RPGs

Sadly, Crimson Shroud’s too difficult to grok and master

crimson shroud gd finished with the game

At long last, after years of grinding, following along with a spoiler-heavy walkthrough, then switching to a spoiler-free walkthrough, and grinding some more to defeat the final boss, I rolled a critical hit on Crimson Shroud. It is a complicated victory, one that I basically had to force myself to see because I am my father’s son and do not like to waste things, especially things I’ve bought with hard-earned digital cash, without experiencing them fully–or, to this point, mostly fully–but I am glad to have the large, 1,965 blocks-big application removed from my Nintendo 3DS. For many reasons, which I’ll get into later.

Allow me, one more time, to tell the tale of Crimson Shroud, as best as I can remember it because, for me, the last third of my progress on this game has been nothing but turn-based battle against goblins, one after the other. There was a short scene before the finally boss fight that was probably supposed to be revealing and satisfactory, but I had lost the narrative thread long before then for it to matter. Anyways, you control a party of three people as they make their way through the palace of Rahab. Giauque is a money-driven mercenary hired to retrieve the Crimson Shroud, the game’s titular McGuffin. He is joined by Frea, a Qish-descended mage, and Lippi, a stellar archer despite only having one eye. You might as well forget their names and know them by their classes: Tank, Healer, and Range.

It’s perhaps telling that I’ve actually never played any of Crimson Shroud‘s writer and director Yasumi Matsuno’s work, namely Ogre Battle 64, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Vagrant Story. After Crimson Shroud, I’m not sure if I would or will like them. The systems in this one really do sound great, on paper, such as creating combos through similar spells or rolling to clear away some accuracy-reducing fog, but I found their implementation confusing and clunky. For instance, you want to find gear you like and then grind out for more of those same items, feeding them into the one you have equipped so it can grow stronger. Fine, fine. I’m all about feeding. However, finding those same items is–excuse me for the saying–a roll of the dice, because the loot is random, and the fights take a very long time to get through, even when you seemingly have the upper hand. The way stats are shown is also difficult to decipher, and I eventually gave up trying to compare weapons and armor and stuck with what seemed okay, leveling it up as much as possible.

Crimson Shroud has been described as a bite-sized RPG. Perhaps it is too small. Not in scale, but in screen. All the combat action takes place on the top screen of the Nintendo 3DS, with menu selection and dice rolling on the bottom, where touching matters. Still, cramming all the fight details and characters in just the one screen above with a lot of text on top made it extremely difficult to follow who was doing what and the turn order. I often simply waited until the enemy finished attacking to see who was next in line for commands and went from there. I also never really understood why, if you killed all the enemies before they got a turn, the fight would be over, but if you didn’t then replacement goons would show up, making the whole ordeal last even longer.

Yes, the combat is strategic, but it is also immensely slow, as well as occasionally random. There’s also an unseen element of luck–obviously not just when rolling dice to use spells–that gives off the feeling that you are never truly in control of things. By the end of it all, I still did not have a strong grasp on what weapons and skills and spells worked against what type of enemy, or how new spells and skills were getting added to each character despite there being no XP won after each fight. Instead, you pick through a list of loot to take back to your inventory, but are limited in what you can take by some number cap.

After taking down the final boss and watching the credits do their thing, I was prompted to start everything all over again in New Game+. Curious, I tried to look up if anything greatly changed on a second playthrough, and enemies seemed tougher. No thanks. Anyways, I really do hope this is the last time I have to search for a usable screenshot of Crimson Shroud that can be manipulated to meet Grinding Down‘s strict standards because it is slim pickings out there, if you ask me.

With Crimson Shroud removed, I was finally able to download updates for Pokémon Shuffle, Nintendo Badge Arcade, and Mii Plaza, as well as the freemium Pokémon Picross puzzler, so there’s a plus in all of this. I even have room to spare for more stuff. See you never again, big, blocky game that, I guess, in the end, I really didn’t like all that much. I’ll think of you the next time I roll some dice.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #54 – Crimson Shroud

2016-gd-games-completed-crimson-shroud-3ds

Grind for better gear
In this cramped, crowded dungeon
Table-top tribute

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #51 – Final Fantasy IX

2016 gd games completed final fantasy IX

Princess kidnapping
Turns to saving source of life
First two discs better

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

To live in Final Fantasy IX is to give life meaning

gd update on ff9 end of disc three pandemonium

Bet you thought I gave up on Final Fantasy IX, seeing that the last time I spoke of it was back in January 2016 when I was stuck endlessly grinding my knees into the dirt against the Earth Guardian boss. I wouldn’t say I gave up, but rather stepped away for a bit. Well, several months. The idea of grinding with a two-party team made up solely of Zidane (cool) and Quina Quen (less cool) was really off-putting. I have good news though–I soldiered through it and was able to take down the Earth Guardian and get back to a much more substantial adventuring company of four. Speaking of four, I’ve also moved on to the last disc, which hopefully means that the end credits are in sight.

Look, I’ve had my copy of Final Fantasy IX for about half my life. Loyal readers should know that I’ve been trying to see this game to completion for a long while, and my track pattern used to be playing a good way into the second disc of the game and then abandoning the quest for…well, something else. I still believe that everything involving Kuja that happens after Dagger’s mother buys the farm feels like sequel material, but whatever. Here’s what I’m getting at. 2016 is the year that I, for the very first time, took disc four out of its place in the game’s jewel case and into my PlayStation 2. There are some light scratches on disc two from wear and tear, but disc four is as smooth and pristine as compact discs get. I found this to be somewhat surreal, but then again, if one was to take a look at my physical collection of games, there are a lot that I haven’t taken out of the case yet. Hmm.

Anyways, the areas after defeating the Earth Guardian weren’t difficult in terms of fights thanks to all that earlier grinding, but are story-heavy, and I’m not interested in spilling all the spoiler beans here. Also, not going to lie, a lot of what happened in Terra and Bran Bal went over my head. This is the part of Final Fantasy IX–and to some degree Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII–that I lose interest in. When lengthy conversations about life and death and souls and the universe and everything being connected take center stage. Please, no. Not again. I just want to watch the boy with the monkey tail fumble his way into telling a girl he loves her, as well as Vivi deal with self-identity.

I did end up referencing an online walkthrough as parts of Pandemonium are very maze-like, and there was even a frustrating stealth-driven puzzle section that I couldn’t get through despite all my obvious stealth skills. I continue to rely on a team makeup of Zidane (high damage and stealing), Dagger (summons and healing), Vivi (black magic and boosting Steiner), and Steiner (good damage, versatile abilities). The last part of disc three requires you to deal with three boss fights, one after the other, with no chance to save or heal up in between. I didn’t know this going in, but like I mentioned before…all that extra grinding from before paid off

Zidane and company are supposed to head to the Iifa Tree for the final confrontation with Kuja. Naturally, I’m not making a bee-line right there. I want to upgrade everyone’s gear and see if there are any side quests worth going after, as it sounds like there is really just one big dungeon left to get through. Now, a part of me suspects that I’m going to be using a mix and match of my party members in the fight to come, but some of them, such as Freya, Eiko, and Amarant, are severely under-leveled compared to others. I probably should devote some time to grinding them up. Sigh. I don’t want to do it, but I know this is probably better in the long run, and I don’t want to get all the way to the end and be unable to finish the fight, like how things went down in Final Fantasy VIII all them years ago.

I’ll be back after I complete Final Fantasy IX for the very first time. And no, I have no plans to start over now that the game has been ported to Steam with glorious, progress-rewarding Achievements. I’m too far in.

Drowning in random drops in Crimson Shroud’s Gerseym Waterway

crimson shroud waterway random drop gd bs

I have a problem. Well, more specifically, my Nintendo 3DS has a problem. See, there are updates to both Pokémon Shuffle and Nintendo Badge Arcade that I desperately want to install, but I can’t download them. I also have a code for Retro City Rampage: DX thanks to the latest Humble Friends of Nintendo Bundle that I can’t do anything with yet. Why? Well, of course, after many years of downloading things like games, DLC, themes, and StreetPass data, the system’s memory is just about full.

Upon reviewing everything that is installed, I noticed that Crimson Shroud is extremely large, coming in at 1,965 blocks. Yowza-bo-bowza. However, me being me, I can’t simply just delete this outright, and so I’ve gone back in to this magical land of figurines and digital dice, to figure out how to progress in hopes that I can complete the game and then feel justified in removing from my handheld. I did this with Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale, though there is a part of me that wants to revisit that game relatively soon down the road, especially with summer creeping on in.

See, last I played Crimson Shroud, which I sheepishly admit was back in January 2013, I had just defeated the Zombie Minotaur boss and was looking forward to exploring the area more. Unfortunately, to progress forward, you have to work through one of the most obscure puzzles I’ve come across in all my years gaming. Which is over twenty-five. Anyways, after dealing with the Zombie Minotaur, our trio of adventuring table-top figurines–Giauque, Lippi, and Frea–make their way to the Gerseym Waterway. There, you need to recall something Frea previously said:

“If you’re going to continue to search this way, you’ll need something to dispel the darkness–a gift. Anything with a gift like that would be an enemy to any mage. More of a curse than a gift, really.”

Right. Evidently, from that, you’re suppose to know that in order to move forward and not perpetually explore the limited number of spaces over and over and over again you need to obtain a single item called Obsidian Daphne. However, you won’t find this in a treasure chest or somewhere on the map. It needs to drop from a battle encounter, one specifically involving a Skeleton Mage. Your best bet for finding Skeleton Mages to battle against them in the Gerseym Waterway, but it’s not as simple as just getting into a battle, taking them down, and walking away with their sweet, puzzle-solving loot, and this is probably why I eventually put Crimson Shroud down despite loving rolling digital dice to regain MP.

Okay, every time you move away from and back to the space for the Gerseym Waterway, you get some muddled text and the chance to fight some monsters. A choice, really. Here’s the rub. There are four types of encounters you can…well, encounter. Not all of them contain Skeleton Mages as enemies, and the only way to know is to first take out an enemy and see what it gets replaced by. I think there’s a higher chance of a Skeleton Mage showing up if you destroy the Skeleton Archers first, but that’s just me guessing. Regardless, if you get the wrong encounter, you’re out of luck, but must still finish the fight, which takes several minutes as the enemies have a lot of HP and do not go down swiftly. Then you have to rinse and repeat your actions from before and pray to the skies above that you walked into the correct encounter. Remember, each of the four types of encounters have the same initial set of forces, so it’s all a crap-shoot from the get-go. For me, this took about an hour to do, and I almost missed grabbing the Obsidian Daphne at the end from the list of available loot. Eek.

Alas, that’s all the progress I’ve made so far in Crimson Shroud. Granted, it’s big, and hopefully there isn’t another section just like it up ahead, but I found the whole thing unnecessarily frustrating. I’m only on chapter two and already looking up online walkthroughs. Also, I’m beginning to remember another major issue I had with Crimson Shroud, and that comes down to screen real estate. With three party members and upwards of four enemies on the top screen, plus other information, it can be a bit hard to see what is even going on. I’m all about portable RPGs, but this one might make the case for being on one of those fancier Nintendo 3DS systems with the larger screens.

Oh, and once you find the Obsidian Daphne, it is used up immediately to further the story along. I didn’t even get a chance to hug and kiss it–after all that.

Meet me in the Dark Zone in Tom Clancy’s The Division

gd impressions TOM CLANCY THE DIVISION BETA

You can’t see my face, but my eyes are both blurry and extra droopy today, and that’s because I put about four hours straight into Tom Clancy’s The Division last night, only stopping once to grab a glass of water. Specifically, it’s free, open beta thingy, happening from February 18 through the weekend. Xbox One owners got to get in a day early, which is better for me, since I’ll be traveling and visiting family over the weekend. Either way, this is actually my first experience with a beta/early access kind of game, and I’m coming away from it with a better understanding of what The Division is about, and maybe what it might become down the line. All in all, I think I’m in.

Story details are not the focus of the open beta, but here’s what I know so far about The Division. A smallpox pandemic, transmitted by a virus planted onto banknotes, spreads on Black Friday, throwing the United States into mayhem and panic. The U.S. government swiftly collapses in five days, and basic services follow after that. Without access to food or water, the country quickly descends into chaos. You play as an agent of the Strategic Homeland Division (SHD), or “The Division” for short, which is a classified stay-behind force of self-supported tactical agents under direct orders from POTUS to prevent the fall of society.

The Division‘s core mechanics are similar to other action-based third person-shooters of the last generation or so, like Gears of War and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, in which the player character can carry multiple firearms, grenades, and equippable skills that create effects on the playing field, like dropping a mini turret or pinging the area to highlight enemies from allies. Players can take cover behind objects during firefights, like cars and barriers, to avoid taking damage from enemies and provide a tactical advantage when attacking. Or you can do what I do often, which is forget to hide behind cover and stand right in the lines of enemy fire, taking shot after shot to the chest and wondering why I’m bleeding out so fast.

There’s also loot, which is where this begins to be more of an RPG like Diablo than a straightforward corridor crawl of just shooting fleshbags and moving on without a care to their corpse. First, there’s customizeable gear for your person, like new coats, shoes, breathing masks, and such, which are cosmetic only. Then there’s actually new pieces of armor and backpacks, as well as different types of weapons. You can carry two larger weapons, as well as a pistol-sized gun, switching between them with the press of a button. Naturally, there’s also a ton of mods to loot or purchase, which provide new grips, scopes, and muzzles. I’ve been focusing on using the pistol and Ballistic Shield ability, hanging back to heal myself and others via the First Aid ability.

Lastly, let me talk about the Dark Zone, since there were only two story-based missions in The Division‘s open beta, one of which was a surprising amount of fun, but they are over rather quickly. Basically, the Dark Zone, besides being the name of my forthcoming new wave death-metal band, is a player-versus-player competitive multiplayer mode, where a lot of high-end weapons are left behind when the military retreats in the game. It is separate from the main campaign and even has its own progression system, represented as a purple experience bar that fills up as you do stuff. Basically, players can discover contaminated loot inside a Dark Zone area, and these valuable items can be stolen by other players in the zone; the only way to permanently add this gear to your inventory is to extract them via a helicopter, which arrives after a timer countdowns. Other players can join you in hopes of extracting their loot, but both A.I.-controlled enemies and agents gone rogue will attack in hopes of performing a successful robbery. This means that every new non-lethal agent that pops up in the area has the potential to be a threat, which raises the tension of extracting higher.

Visually, The Division is extremely sharp, with dynamic weather effects and time of day changing somewhat unnoticeable…until you notice it is dark out. I’ve only been in NYC a few times, but the recognizable areas are there, and the map seems to correlate directly to real life, which is both cool and staggering. I played with a buddy of mine, and that definitely made for a more enjoyable–and learned–experience as he taught me some of the systems and lead the way. I do worry that if I can’t team up with people that The Division will be less fun to grind through solo, and even more tough to survive out in the Dark Zone.

Either way, I’m looking forward to playing a bit more during the open beta, and then we’ll see if I’m committed or not to The Division next month when it actually releases to all. This could be addicting, or it could be like Diablo III: Reaper of Souls was for me, addicting for sure, but only for a little bit.

Final Fantasy IX’s Earth Guardian says slow down

ff9 Earth Guardian gd progress halt

Here’s some unsolicited advice: if you’re going to boast and hold high your mighty conquests, the very least you can do is acknowledge when you fail. You don’t need to linger on it and live your life around such defeats with a gray rain cloud hanging overhead, but coming to terms with where things went wrong will, in time, help you come to terms. That said, despite giving it a good-not-great effort, I did not complete Final Fantasy IX in 2015, which was a goal of mine after, yup, failing to not complete it the year prior. As well as the year prior to the year prior. Grr.

Look, I’m still on disc three. The last time I wrote about Final Fantasy IX, I was dealing with the consequences of sending an all-magic team to a place where no magic could be used. Since then, I’ve hit a wall, and I was hoping it wouldn’t happen, but seeing as the same thing happened to my party of heroes and heroines in Final Fantasy VIII way back in the day…I should have expected it. They always do this. Basically, to better search for the Elemental Shrines, which I believe will offer further clues on Kuja and how to take him down to the ground, your group is divided up into small parties of two: Dagger and Eiko, Freya and Amarant, Steiner and Vivi, and Zidane and Quina. Yes, Quina–that strange foodporn fanatic who battles with forks and surprise surprise I’ve barely used in my 40+ hours chipping away at Final Fantasy IX. Your party will be investigating–and battling–each shrine’s boss simultaneously, but you are only actually involved in the fight against the Earth Guardian using Zidane and Quina. Grr.

Going into this boss battle with only a party of two is scary enough to begin with, but things become dire when you realize that Zidane is around level 43 and Quina is far behind at level 28. That means Quina dies in one hit from the boss, which results in burning a turn with Zidane to revive him only to have Quina die right away from another hit. Basically, it’s not doable. You need two strong party members that can at least take a few hits before having to heal up one another–otherwise, you might as well as be swinging a sword against the base of a tall building that hits back. I have to wonder if I’d be at all successful if the other duos actually asked you to command their actions in their respective Elemental Shrine fights; certainly Steiner and Vivi are a deadly combination not to be messed with.

Unfortunately, I already saved the game on my one save slot right before entering the Earth Guardian’s shrine, with some 34 hours logged in total. Thankfully, you can retreat and either get back on the airship or wander around the area, but even grinding random battles with a party of two is a slower affair because you can’t dish out as much damage each turn, which means every fight takes longer than with a strong party of four. Alas, this is my only solution–Quina needs to be a much higher level to survive this fight and help Zidane deal out the big damage.

Knowing this fact is keeping me at bay because, at this stage of Final Fantasy IX, grinding is not as enjoyable as it was when I was permanently learning abilities for multiple characters. There are no more Active Time Events to witness either until I hit the next series of story beats. I am stuck in this one spot, with the only way out being burning several hours and items/MP-restoring items on fighting monster after monster after monster in hopes of getting one character to a decent starting place. So far, I’ve gotten Quina up to LV 36 now and taught him/her/it permanently Auto-Float and Auto-Haste, which is still not good enough. Grr.

Trust me, I’m not giving up. Final Fantasy IX‘s credits will roll, eventually. Strangely, in 2016, it’s also coming to PC and phones, but that’s not where I want to see this adventure end. Ideally, it would’ve ended where it started, on the bedroom floor of the house I grew up in, some 15 years back, on an original PlayStation 1, which featured a PSM smiley face sticker on its tray lid. At least I’m still using my PSM sticker-adorned memory card to save my slowly increasing progress. I’ll let you know when I’ve crossed this hump.