Category Archives: RPGs

Marvel Heroes Omega’s squirrelly performance on consoles

I’ve long wanted to play Marvel Heroes since it came out in 2013, but after seeing just how large the download file was from Steam–somewhere over the 30 GB mark–I decided to hold off. Then I completely forgot about the optic blasted thing, even after its double renaming to Marvel Heroes 2015 and Marvel Heroes 2016, until Gazillion Entertainment announced that it was coming to consoles this year, still as a free-to-play beast (not to be confused with Beast, the NPC you need to speak to during one of the main story missions). Anyways, it is here, it is rebranded once more as Marvel Heroes Omega, and it is a good amount of mindless fun, with some technical issues peppered throughout the experience. Let me and my army of squirrels explain.

To start, this is Diablo starring superheroes, that you play with a controller. At least that’s how I’ve described it to others. I’ll go more into the gameplay mechanics in a bit, but let me sum up the story, written by Brian Michael Bendis and which would be right at home for a long-running Saturday morning cartoon series arc. Legendary no-gooder Doctor Doom obtains the Cosmic Cube, which is capable of transforming any wish into reality, irrespective of the consequences. He uses this device to incinerate the Watcher. On the flip side of things, Madame Hydra and HYDRA have facilitated a breakout, freeing several super-powered inmates. You, the player, whether you are everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Captain “The Captain” America, or berzerker claws-only Wolverine, must go on a series of quests to take these villains down and put a stop to whatever Doctor Doom’s end-game plan is. Total domination, I’m assuming. The story is told via text in mission logs and dialogue with other peeps, as well as stylized, hand-drawn cutscenes that make you feel like you’re right inside a comic book. One problem: so far, I haven’t see a single brown hair of Squirrel Girl, despite her being my main hero and almost level 40.

Marvel Heroes Omega is without a doubt an action role-playing game, or ARPG for those that like to keep things short. You can tell immediately by looking at it and seeing the camera perspective, as well as the UI that puts a number of spells that once called numbers on a keyboard home now associated with the A, B, X, and Y buttons. It’s also a free-to-play game, but unlike Candy Crush Saga and Final Fantasy: All The Bravest, there’s no energy system that restricts how long you can play for, nor do the microtransactions seem to get in the way or block people from playing most of the game. Many of the superheroes cost a high amount of real money bucks or special currency, but you can grind out the latter as you play through the single player content and other modes. I think all the alternative costumes are in loot boxes, but I’m not certain of that.

Here’s what you do in Marvel Heroes Omega: beat up baddies and gain levels. In short, kick butts and eat nuts (only if you are Squirrel Girl, which, thankfully, I am). As characters gain levels, they gain passive stat increases and power points, allowing the player to further define the abilities of that character, and each character has three power trees in which they can spend points. These focus on a certain mechanic or play style, such as melee, guns, explosives, ranged, or special ranged. Currently, I’ve unlocked an ally for Squirrel Girl named Tippy Toe, who wears a pink bow and does some series damage. Also, I can shoot a squirrel like a machine gun. Without paying any money, you can play every single character in the game up to level 10. Then you must unlock the character to continue gaining levels and powers, which I did for Squirrel Girl, and I’m currently saving up special currency to buy Iron Man for Melanie so we can continue playing this together.

It’s not a perfect launch, which is somewhat disappointing, considering they’ve had years to work on at the very least the foundation of this game. The concrete floor, the support beams, the installation–that stuff. I’ve had Marvel Heroes Omega crash a handful of times already, dumping me right back to the start menu with little explanation. There’s insane slowdown when things get crazy with a bunch of superheroes all unloading on a single group of enemies at once. Also, if you try to move ahead in the level before it has finished loading, you hit an invisible wall until the game catches up with you. Not total deal-breakers, but irksome issues regardless.

I’m a couple chapters short of finishing the main campaign for Marvel Heroes Omega, but that doesn’t mean this adventure is over. Far from it. After that, I’m curious to see how my Squirrel Girl will grow as a character via other modes, and I do want to see how other heroes play, such as Gambit or Kitty Pryde, but probably only to level 10. I don’t think I myself have enough superpowers to grind out special currency for another character unlock after Iron Man. I’ll never say never, but I also won’t say likely. Also, at some point, I need to give at least one of the following three titles–Marvel Ultimate Alliance, X-Men: Legends, and X-Men: Legends II – Rise of Apocalypse–a shot, all of which entered my gaming collection some years back and remain untouched, cases on a shelf.

Ultimately, Dragon Age: Inquisition is a whole lot of nonsense

Sigh. Well, here we are. Some nearly 80+ hours later–and I’m not including the time I put into the PlayStation 3 version, which was all kinds of borked–and I’m just about done with Dragon Age: Inquisition. I want to be done-done, but there are a few things left to see and try, such as the fact that this game has an online multiplayer component to it, and after putting this much time into the bloated beast I feel compelled to see it all…because I never want to go through this again. Ever. Y’all heard me. Sorry, Achievements for beating the story on higher difficulties–ain’t gonna happen.

Anyways, I have a lot to say about Dragon Age: Inquisition. Probably too much. As mentioned above, I’ve put a good number of hours into this thing, almost on par with Disney Magical World 2. In the end, the latter is the much better game of tasks and rewards, dressing your avatar up in various outfits, and engaging combat. Yes, those are fighting words, and I’m ready to fight. That said, there’s a good chance I’ll forget something and that this post will be somewhat frantic and unorganized. I apologize in advance, but if you continue on and read through this whole dang thing, grinding out each and every word, I promise you a reward at the end: a weapon, named something like M’ahlbrogger Gur’s Justice or Stormstrangler and in purple font, but several levels lower than the weapon you are currently equipped with. Sorry. You can immediately mark it as junk and sell it to the nearest vendor. Or destroy when your inventory becomes full. I understand. After all, that’s how the game is played.

Let’s talk about story first, however, since this is a massive roleplaying game set in a fantasy land full of magic and magical beings. That means story is big, larger than life, and it definitely is just that. I found it daunting early on, less as time progressed. Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s story follows you, known as the Inquisitor, on his or her journey to settle the civil unrest on the continent of Thedas and close a mysterious tear in the sky called the Breach, which is, unfortunately for all that live in this world, unleashing demons. The Inquisitor is viewed by some as the “Chosen One” and because of this forms the titular Inquisition in an attempt to stop Corypheus, an ancient darkspawn, who opened the breach to conquer Thedas all by himself. Phew. Got that? Basically, good versus evil, with some shades of gray sprinkled throughout.

The narrative was somewhat simple to follow…early on, when you only had a small base in Haven and a limited number of areas to explore and side quests to deal with. However, once Haven bites the bullet and you are forced to move into a so-not-like-Suikoden abandoned castle in Skyhold, the story stops feeling important. Sure, to everyone in this world, it is of the upmost importance that this Breach is closed, but the game doesn’t really hammer this home; instead, you are given plenty of breathing room, as well as meaningless quest after quest after quest to do because…well, I guess people like doing a lot of different things in RPGs. I do too–I just prefer that there’s meaning, a reason. In every big area the Inquisition can run around in, you can do lots of things, such as: go discover every region, establish a number of camps, complete requisition recipes, claim a bunch of historical sites as yours or at the very least under your protection, scan for shards, scrounge up all the shards, complete a select amount of Astrarium puzzles to unlock a hidden cave, figure out illustrated treasure maps, close Breach rifts, harvest plants and minerals, ping the area for hidden items, loot dead enemies, recruit agents, and more. All of that is of course mixed in with normal combat and main quests that often have you fighting tough bosses or doing specific things, like impressing royalty while simultaneously investigating something mischievous.

Hey, while we’re at it, please help fill out this timely and totally relevant poll of mine:

 

Right. I’ll also say that about fifty hours into the game…I started skipping cutscenes and mashing my way through dialogue trees to get through them as fast as possible. I knew that, if I wanted to maintain good relationships with everyone and be mostly neutral to a lot of situations, I had to select the dialogue option to the top right most of the time. You know that’s a bad sign for me if I’m just trying to rush through it all. Several years ago, I remember being shocked to discover a buddy of mine doing this for Fallout: New Vegas, a game I loved to listen to and ate up every conversation, but maybe that felt to him like Dragon Age: Inquisition did to me after so many hours in: just wasting my time. Also, I’m evidently not alone on this matter.

Okay, let’s switch over to combat, as that is a big part of all of this, and I might even go as far as to say it gets in the way nine times out of ten. In Dragon Age: Origins, combat was something you paused the action for and planned out, to ensure your survival. I skipped Dragon Age II so I don’t know how it was there, but here, in this one…there’s barely any strategy involved. I’ll present to you how I tackled every single encounter in this game and did more than fine. It went like this:

  1. Enter combat.
  2. Hold RT to attack targeted enemy from a distance with bow and arrow.
  3. Use three specific powers, generally in this order–Explosive Shot, Long Shot, Leaping Shot.
  4. Continue holding RT and wait for cooldowns to cool down.
  5. Rinse and repeat.
  6. (Sometimes I’d poison my weapon or use Full Draw, but these were rare moments in time and only when I noticed the icon for them was ready.)

I only occasionally switched to other members of my party to give them a health potion, but never bothered to control them individually or give them specific tasks to do. They seemed fine on their own. Again, about halfway through my journey, I gave up caring and just used the “auto level up” button on Dorian, Varric, and Blackwall, the only three dudes I stuck with for the long haul. Considering we took down 10 dragons, over 75 Breach rifts, Great Bears, and the final boss rather quickly, I guess it all worked out fine. However, when it came to trying to run to a specific area or get a bunch of shards, combat just got in the way and slowed progress down. There’s no easy way to duck out of an encounter, so you might as well finish it, otherwise it feels like running through molasses if you try to leave the area.

Romance was a big part of Dragon Age: Origins, and it is not the main focus here. Gone are the days of giving a woman shoes and watching a meter go up. That’s actually a good thing because that’s simply not how a relationship works. However, you still earn likes and dislikes from party members based on actions you take in the story and conversations, most of which you can enter a romantic relationship with–I went with that bearded beauty Blackwall. This romance option was probably the most interesting part of Dragon Age: Inquisition all in all, as I found his character intriguing and mysterious, and there’s a quest chain to follow after you and he do the dirty deed, which really goes places and changes his future involvement in the campaign. However, I never felt compelled to dig into anyone else’s backstory. There were too many people to pick from, and because of that I went with one only and dug deep. Sorry, Sera, I’m sure you had a zany bunch of quests to do.

The crafting system is terrible. There, I said it. I struggled to figure out how to do most of it, though tinting armor and weapons to be a certain color was fun. Basically, you have a recipe to make a weapon, and depending on what materials you put into it, you’ll get different results. Obviously if you use higher-rated materials like dragon scales, you’ll make a stronger thing. That said, there was no easy way to compare this weapon-in-progress with one you had equipped, so you had to remember the stats and hope for the best. A majority of the time I ended up wasting dragon-related materials on a weapon that still turned out to be weaker than the unique bow or staff I got from beating a story mission’s boss. In fact, the entire UI for equipping weapons and armor is frustratingly slow to slog through, and I found myself storing my unique, purple-font weapons away without so much of a glance. What did it matter? I was taking down everything in my Inquisitor’s path without a struggle.

Let’s see. What else, what else. Oh yeah, Dragon Age: Inquisition is broken or always on the edge of breaking. Like an ice cream truck on a thin sheet of ice. It’s a game that asks players to do some platforming even though it was clearly not designed to be that kind of experience. Here’s me trying to collect a shard. Speaking to people can be problematic too, with the dialogue wheel sometimes not activating or activating in the middle of nowhere. Here’s me talking to a dude and then suddenly entering combat. And sometimes you just want to sand surf. Several times, the game crashed to the Xbox One dashboard without warning. Thankfully, it autosaves frequently, and I got used to making hard saves.

DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition has been weird. This version that I bought last year during the Black Friday sale came with everything: Jaws of Hakkon, Dragonslayer, Spoils of the Avvar, The Descent, and Trespasser. Since I wasn’t playing the game from release day with an eye to the sky for more, I didn’t know what was what and what order things should be played in. I also got a whole bunch of special armor recipes, mounts, and things like that right from the get-go. I did know that one piece of DLC was only accessible after completing the main quests. I’ve now completed all the DLC, but finishing Jaws of Hakkon and The Descent very late into the game, with the former being finished after I beat the main campaign and Trespasser, sure felt like a waste of time and energy. There was no point to even looting any enemies or chests because I wasn’t going to play any further after I finished them off.

And now I’m just going to cop this style from The A.V. Club and leave everyone with some…

Stray observations

  • Clicking in the left analog stick to ping the environment for interactive items is officially one of my least favorite things in modern game design
  • I rode a mount two times total, one for a story mission in the Hinterlands and the other when messing around in a menu and accidentally hitting the button
  • I’m the Inquisitor, the Chosen One, leader of a great army, and I have to pick all these flowers and rocks myself?
  • I killed a bunch of nugs near the end of my time with Dragon Age: Inquisition to help pop the Trial of the Emperor Achievement, and I feel like a monster
  • Anthem better not be Dragon Age IV, but sci-fi, or I’ll cry on my controller and break it
  • My character’s name is Felena, but now I wish I had named her Felicia, so I could say that thing all the kids are these days

2017 Game Review Haiku, #64 – Dragon Age: Inquisition

Close breach, after quests
Many, many quests–please stop
I’m still playing this

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #57 – BrowserQuest

Young, innocent dude
Grinds his way across the realm
For loot and levels

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #42 – Paisley Princess

Search 5 by 5 grid
For princess, if she wants help
Grind out equipment

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Minigames that deserved more of my time

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It’s bad enough that there are somewhere in the upward hundreds of games in my never not growing collection that I haven’t touched and probably won’t for a good while, but then there are more than a handful of videogames with smaller games inside them that I have only skimmed the surface of, unable to devote more time to them, with my core focus on seeing the bigger picture draw to a close. I just hit this very moment in Night in the Woods with the game’s small yet mighty pixelated dungeon crawler Demontower, which is clearly taking cues from Dark Souls and requires a lot of focus to be successful in.

These are commonly called minigames, and some of them certainly dance on the edge of mini and major. I’m not here to argue semantics, nor am I referencing those slivers of gameplay in the Mario Party series. I’m here to dream a little dream, one where I get to dive oh-so-deep into these things, as many of them are definitely large enough to lose a good chunk of life and time into.

So here’s a bunch of minigames that truly deserved more of my precious hours, and I don’t know if they’ll ultimately ever get that pleasure. Spoilers and no surprises from me on this reveal: two of them are card-based.

“XENOCard” from Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht

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Sometimes I think I want to write about Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht simply so I can use its full title. It really is a beautiful thing. The sequels, which I alas do not own and probably never will due to their steep prices on Amazon, up the ante immensely. Really, look now: Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse and Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra. My oh my oh my.

Anyways, in Xenosaga Episode I, besides getting hot e-mails and a robot lady to battle by your turn-based side, you can play a card game called, as far as I can tell, Xenocard. The goal is to achieve victory by forcing your opponent to run through his or her entire deck, leaving them with no remaining cards. You can attack your opponent’s deck in a number of ways, forcing him to lose cards. At the same time, you must take protective measures for guarding your own deck from quick depletion.

It’s surprisingly complex–I mean, just look at the interface layout above–and not too different from things like Magic: The Gathering though I never got too far into the game to play a whole bunch because, for those that don’t know, there’s a lot of long cutscenes to sit and watch and not interact with, and so I most likely put this aside for something a little more engaging. Maybe one day I’ll return to the world of…Lost Jerusalem (Earth). Maybe.

“Insectron” from Rogue Galaxy

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Man, did I love Rogue Galaxy. That’s a statement, not a question. It’s a Level-5 JRPG from the PlayStation 2 days that does all the Level-5 things you now come to expect of the company, and it’s a fun, often silly, sometimes serious, take on all things Star Wars. However, I spent far more time feeding items and weapons to a magical frog-thing to make better gear and creating Rube Goldberg machines in the factory than I did with the game’s “Insectron” minigame. Insectors are small insects that you can catch at various places throughout the galaxy. Basically, this universe’s version of Pokemon, but buggier. The purpose for catching them is to make a team that can win battles against other opponents at the Insectron Stadium.

There are two parts to this massive sinkhole. First, you have to collect the insects. Unfortunately, the probability of catching an Insector is random. You have to find a good location, place traps or cages, fill them with bait, and then wait until you hear a specific sound indicating something’s happening. If you want even better Insectors, you’ll need to invest serious time into breeding. Next, you can begin to raise your collection, upping their ranks and feeding them special items to grow specific attributes. You can see the seeds of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch‘s familiars here.

Once you are satisfied with your team of Insectors, you can start battling. The battles at the Insectron Championship are done tournament-style. Win five matches to advance through one rank, then rinse and repeat. Insectron matches are 5-on-5 battles, and one of your team’s five Insectors is labeled the King. If you defeat your opponent’s King, you win. However, the Insector designated as the King is limited to only moving one space at a time. I think I attempted a few battles, but, having only used a sliver of the untrained Insectors I did manage to catch, did not get very far in the tournament and left the whole thing behind to see Jasper Rogue’s story draw to conclusion.

“Triple Triad” from Final Fantasy VIII

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2016 was the year that I finally saw Final Fantasy IX from beginning to end. To do this, I had to sacrifice the desire to go after every side quest, as well as the dream of being the legendary best Tetra Master player in the world. This meant I mostly just collected the cards and moved on with the adventure. I also ignored other minigames in Final Fantasy IX, such as Chocobo Hot and Cold and finding all those medallion coins. It’s fine; I’m fine. That all said, of the handful of Final Fantasy games I’ve played, I think I’d prefer to go back to Final Fantasy VIII and study up on all things Triple Triad, if given the time.

In Final Fantasy VIII, you could go up to a random NPC, press the square button, and maybe find yourself in a card game. As always, the goal is simple: capture as many of your opponent’s cards as possible by making sure you place higher-ranked cards adjacent to an enemy card. Easy enough, but the rules are what make this game deceptively tough and addicting, especially considering those rules can change depending where you are geographically in the game. More or less, it’s a modified version of Tic-Tac-Toe, played on a 3×3 grid. Players take turns placing a card down, and each card contains a “compass rose” of four different numbers (1-9, with “A” representing 10). Higher levels contain higher numbers, and these stats determine whether you’ll take the adjacent enemy card as your own or lose to its strength.

I remember wanting to simply collect all the character-specific cards, but then realizing I’d have to risk a lot of my collection to get them. Big ol’ boo to that. Also, the fact remains that disc 3 from my PlayStation 1 retail copy is still gone, given to a “friend” to borrow and then move away with, so I’ll never acquire that full digital collection of friendly faces like Selphie Tilmitt and…well, really, there’s only room for Selphie in my heart. Maybe Quistis Trepe. Evidently, you can play Triple Traid on some smartphones, but probably shouldn’t.

“Spheda” from Dark Cloud 2

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I think about this fact from time to time: despite getting to the last chapter, I have not yet beaten Dark Cloud 2. This probably needs to be remedied at some point, but I don’t know what is more daunting–loading up my years-old save and having a forgetful go at it or starting over fresh. I mean, yeah, I did miss a few photo opportunities early on during some boss battles. Well, I’m not here to talk about that, though it is just one of a few minigames or side activities you can take on in Dark Cloud 2, brushing shoulders with fishing and rebuilding towns, as well as Spheda.

What is Spheda? Glad you asked. It’s basically playing golf to repair time distortions. Mmm-hmm. You read that correctly. In short, the only way to fix these time distortions is to get a colored sphere back into the distortion hole, and you do that by whacking it around a cleared-out dungeon like you are playing mini-golf at the boardwalk during the summer. Except you do want to go off the main path and bounce the ball around corners. Each time a distortion is successfully closed, you’ll get a treasure chest containing valuable items. In addition, the player receives a medal, which can be traded to Mayor Need for, you guessed it, other items. Yay for items.

I’d have to load up my save to confirm this, but I think I was successful on one–and only one–round of Spheda. It’s hard. You only have so many shots to get it into the time distortion, and the dungeons are long and windy, with many sharp turns. I remember hitting the ball to be no easy task either, considering this is a JRPG and not a golf simulator. I wonder if I’d have more patience now to learn the ins and outs of this or if the loot is even worth all the effort.

“Cops and Robbers” from Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves

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I believe I played “Cops and Robbers” exactly once, with an ex, while waiting for my father to arrive for a visit. Because I used to document my life extensively, I can tell you it was around the time of this comic strip. The objective of this minigame in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is simple: get five points. One player controls Inspector Carmelita Fox, and the other steers that sneaky devil Sly Cooper. There’s only one map to play on, in Venice. Basically, Carmelita gets a single point every time she takes out Sly, and Sly gets one point every time he takes out Carmelita, as well as one point for every piece of loot he retrieves and takes to a designated drop-off area. Clearly, Sly has more options, but all Carmelita has to focus on is zapping him with her shock pistol.

To mix up the fleeing and pursuing, floating stars are sprinkled around the main section of the city. These provide either character with a power-up that can be used one to five times before a meter depletes. Each player has access to a compass that reveals where your opponent is. I remember it working well, though I have stronger memories tied to the mode where you are flying biplanes around. Oh well.

There’s also a whole treasure map aspect to eat up, which allows Sly to utilize clues, such as “stand before the statue’s gaze, to begin your walk along the treasure’s maze,” that eventually lead to the objective, which in most occasions is treasure. It’s fun and gives me confidence that I could probably star in a remake of The Goonies if asked. No one’s going to ask.

Well, that’s all I can come up with at the moment though I guarantee I’m missing other standout examples. Like “Feitas” from Suikoden V. And “Tombstones” and “Rage Frenzy” from Rage. Grrr. See, told you there’s plenty more.

Anyways, what minigames did you only barely touch and regret not fully experiencing? Well, maybe regret is too strong a word. Either way, tell me about them in the comments below. I want to know.

Dragon Quest VIII’s photography sidequest is pretty goo

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I’m not fooling when I say that it beyond insane that, in 2017, I am playing Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King…on my Nintendo 3DS. Like, we’ve always known that Nintendo’s portable game console could run games from the PlayStation 2 era, such as Tales of the Abyss and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but I never thought we’d get something as great and massive as Level-5’s magnificent showpiece. In my opinion, Dragon Quest VIII was a shining, blinding star in the JRPG night sky from 2004-2005, and the handheld version is mostly on par with that definitive claim, with some additions that I like and subtractions I dislike.

You’ll surely remember that I tried to go back to my Dragon Quest VIII PS2 save some years back. My return to the kingdom of Trodain didn’t last long. I had already put in over 80 hours because, at the time that I got the game, in my first studio apartment in Clifton, NJ, I declined getting Internet/TV services for a few months to save money. Thus, I was left with entertaining myself in the evenings, and that ended up being a lot of reading, some drawing, and, well, Dragon Questing. It was hard going back and remembering where I left off and what to do next. I certainly never beat the game, but couldn’t find the main path again to focus on, instead spending a few hours in the casino or chasing after monsters to capture for the fighting arena. I’m hoping to make a more direct run to the credits in the 3DS version and save some of the bonus side stuff for later, if possible.

A plot reminder, because these games have plots, even if they are somewhat convoluted: the game begins with Dhoulmagus, the court jester of the kingdom of Trodain, stealing an ancient scepter. He then casts a spell on Trodain castle, which turns King Trode into a tiny troll-like thing and Princess Medea into a horse. Unfortunately, everyone else in the castle becomes plants. That is, except you. Yup, the nameless, voiceless Trodain guard–lucky devil. Together, the three of you set out on a quest to find Dhoulmagus and reverse his spell. Along the way, you join up with some colorful characters: Yangus, a bandit who owes his life to the protagonist (I named him Pauly this time instead of Taurust_), Jessica, a scantily clad mage looking to avenge her murdered brother, and Angelo, a Templar Knight that likes to flirt and gamble.

Let’s just get to it and talk about the differences in the 3DS version of Dragon Quest VIII, as there are several. All right, in we go.

Evidently, you get two new playable characters–Red the bandit queen and Morrie, the owner and operator of the monster battling arena–but I’ve read you don’t gain access to them until late in the game, both entering your party at level 35. Not sure how I feel about that, as there’s a comfort and familiarity to the initial team of four, especially after you figure out how each character works best and spec them in that way (Angelo = healing, Yangus = tank, etc.). Being able to see monsters on the world map and avoid them at your discretion is great and something I look for in nearly every new RPG. The alchemy pot–always a staple in Level-5 joints–is no longer on an unseen timer and simply creates what you want when you want it, as well as provides suggestions for items you can mix with one another. Lastly, at least for small changes, as you gain skill points and upgrade your party members, you can now see when each one will unlock a new ability or buff; before, it was all guesswork unless you had a walkthrough guide at your side.

Cameron Obscura’s photography challenge is one of the larger additions and is quite enjoyable. You encounter this man fairly early in the game, at Port Prospect. He requests that you take some specific photos, each one earning you a different number of stamps. As you complete stamp boards, you earn special items. Simple enough…yet extremely addicting. Some photo requests require you to capture an enemy in the wild doing something silly or find a hidden golden slime statue in town. They vary in difficulty. Taking a picture is as easy as pressing start to enter photo mode; from there, you can zoom in, add or take away party members, and switch the main hero’s pose. Looks like there are over 140 challenges to complete, but you are limited to only 100 photos in your album, which means deleting some later down the road–not a huge inconvenience, but seems unnecessary. However, I wish getting to Cameron’s Codex–this is where you find the list of potential challenges that updates as you progress in the story–wasn’t hidden away in the “Misc” option menu; I’d have liked it to be in the drop-down menu on the touchscreen, where you can quickly access other constantly used things like “Zoom” and “Alchemy”.

Okay, now on to the issues I’m not a fan of. None of these are deal-breakers as Dragon Quest VIII remains a strong classic JRPG that does stray from its successful mold of yore, but I’m still bummed.

First, there’s the soundtrack or lack thereof–the original orchestrated soundtrack was removed for the 3DS version. What’s there is fine, but no longer as sweeping. The game’s cel-shaded cartoon visuals still look pretty good, but there’s a lot of draw-in when wandering around, which can make it look like nothing is at the end of some monster-ridden hallway, but there’s actually a red treasure chest there and the only way you’d know that is to walk closer towards it. Speaking of visuals, the menus, once full of icons, tabs, and visual indicators, and looking like this, have been replaced with perfunctory text that, yes, still gets the job done, but loses a lot of personality. The in-game camera continues to be an issue, especially in tight spots, and I have to use the shoulder buttons to swing it around for a better view as I, like many, prefer seeing where I’m going.

Lastly, there’s Jessica, who uses her sexuality to charm monsters into not attacking. I remember being weirded out by this some twelve years back, and it hasn’t gotten better with age. Initially, she’s dressed quite conservatively, but the minute she joins your party her attire changes to be extremely less so, and there’s even some needless boob bouncing. Sorry, Akira Toriyama, but it’s gross. I’m currently trying to specialize her in the opposite direction so as to never see the puff-puff spell in action. Maybe Red will replace her, but who knows.

All right, that’s enough Dragon Quest VIII talk for now. Evidently I can really go on about this game, as well as Dragon Quest IX. I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I see both the later game content and stuff that pops up after credits roll. Until next slime, everyone.