Category Archives: RPGs

An outlandishly intriguing echo of Legendary Gary’s life

For many, videogames are not just a way to kill the hours, a delightful form of digital entertainment, but rather pure escapism. They are a doorway to elsewhere. I know that when I was going through my divorce a few years ago I leaped at the chance to lose myself in some other world than this, to worry instead about equipment, side quests, and skill points versus dividing up household items and signing papers full of legalese. I’m not ashamed to name some of them either, such as Remember Me, Transistor, Fantasy Life, and, uh, Disney Magical World. Sometimes avoidance is the easier path, though usually not the best one in retrospect.

Legendary Gary, made by Evan Rogers, who previously worked as a programmer on What Remains of Edith Finch and The Last of Us, is a literal take on escapism. It’s about a young man named Gary who lives in his mother’s basement and would never be described as legendary by those around him. He’s been recently fired from his job at the local supermarket, and he’s struggling to find motivation to do anything responsible-like. Thankfully, there’s Legend of the Spear, a turn-based strategy RPG that he can play on his computer, day and night. to keep adult-ing at bay. This game within the game stars Winkali, a heroic warrior who somewhat physically resembles our leading lad and must save his kingdom after his King mysteriously disappears during an attack. Eventually, Gary’s personal life and Winkali’s quest begin to share some similarities, and the line dividing them weakens, to the point where even Gary himself is questioning everything around him.

Gameplay in Legendary Gary is divided up into two beats. For normal, everyday slacker Gary, you’ll walk around small areas like his mom’s house and workplace, talk to friends, family, and co-workers, and tend to the garden, which basically involves planting some seeds and ensuring all the flowers are watered once a day. At first, I was worried I’d be falling deep into another farming-like simulator, but that was not the case; so long as the flowers are healthy and wet, you’ll gain extra abilities during fights. There’s also a “motivation” meter to be aware of, affected by Gary’s relationships and decisions and whether or not he gets a good night’s sleep, and this determines some dialogue choice options, but it never seemed to go further than that, so don’t get too upset as it climbs and dips as the story moves forward.

In Legend of the Spear, it’s all about the combat, with a couple of name-guessing puzzles to boot. Battles are predetermined and limited in number, taking place on a small hexagonal grid. Both the heroes and enemies attack in a turn-based fashion, except the wrinkle here is that everyone is technically moving on the same turn simultaneously. You kind of need to see it in action to grok it. This type of combat requires a different type of strategy and takes a few attempts before everything really begins clicking, but thankfully there are some helpful tools readily available from the start to get you up to speed. For instance, you can preview every single turn to see what your enemies are planning to do, determining your actions based on this bit of future sight. You can also rewind turns if things go sour quickly, and they will because if one character in your team dies, it’s over. If you’re successful, you’ll get to see an entire uncut replay of the fight, and it’s like watching a young child’s interpretation of a theatrical song and dance about good versus evil, sped up slightly.

So, the combat is probably the big seller for the game, the thing that makes this a narrative-driven RPG, and I found it initially underwhelming. However, with each fight, I felt like I was getting better and beginning to master how to move everyone around the field, conserving SP and using everyone’s abilities smartly. Your party, at most, is made up of three team members, but you’ll also have some solo fights to deal with. Still, some fights were absolutely brutal, like the one against Sintravos, which took me 70+ turns to see conclude. In retrospect, there were some abilities I never even used, and I found myself sticking to the same-old patterns and tricks to get the job done, such as having Winkali winding up for a stronger punch on the next turn. I initially assumed there would be grinding involved and leveling up via experience points, but each fight has been designed to teach and test you appropriately. In reality, they are more like combat puzzles.

Perhaps my favorite element of Legendary Gary is its soundtrack. It’s weird and weirdly mesmerizing. All the music is done by xXsickXx, and there’s a tribal, electronic pop tint to it all, like something you might imagine was born and bred in the 1980s, in a jungle, with a fever. Sometimes the disconnect between the songs and what is happening in the game is super strong–mostly because the soundtrack only veers its strange head during fights–but it never took me out of the experience completely. Also, you might be surprised to hear someone singing in a couple songs, as most soundtracks for games are instrumental only, but it does become an integral plot piece later in the game. The artwork in Legendary Gary is just as striking, reminding me of an illegal fusion of Squidbillies, Disney’s Pocahontas, and that 1982 Franco-Hungarian animated science fiction classic Time Masters, and it’s extra neat to see how people in Gary’s real life appear in Legend of the Spear. There’s a simplicity to the style and animations with bright, flat colors, but it works well and helps create a unified world.

Despite all that, I still had some issues with Legendary Gary. The Augur egg puzzles, which basically require you to input a specific name, are at first unclear and ultimately not fun to do because you have to click left or right a bunch of times to find the correct letter, and it just slows everything down to a snail-like crawl. I’d have preferred using my keyboard to type in the specific name; I’m a fast typer. Pathfinding is problematic too, especially in the supermarket. Gary’s friend Dave is a sour note, relying on way too many jokes about having sex with Gary’s mom who you come to realize is degrading in mental health, and his gross humor just didn’t sit well with me. Lastly, and this is a big point for me, considering my day job is editing the heck of out other people’s grammar, there were several spelling mistakes throughout Gary’s journey, such as using “effected” instead of “affected” and “weilding” instead of “wielding”, and each instance of these broke my copy-editing heart.

In the end, I wanted more from Legendary Gary. I really enjoyed its look and sounds and felt ready by its credits to take on some even tougher battles, but by then it was over, and the story was told. Still, if you enjoy turn-based combat and want something a bit different than the standard stuff, along with a soundtrack that will have you bobbin’ your head from the very first beat, give this a try. It’s available on Steam.

A copy of Legendary Gary was provided to me by Evan Rogers for review. It took me about four to five hours to complete over a couple of sittings. At one point, during a battle, I closed my eyes and drifted away on a gloriously fluffy soundtrack cloud, returning several minutes later to, y’know, play the game proper. I don’t know if I grew every flower in the garden, and I’m still pretty upset about Gary’s mom, who reminded me way too much of Ellen Burstyn’s character from Requiem for a Dream. Anyways, pay them bills.

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Conceivably rising to Risen’s challenge of becoming the ultimate legend

I’ve always been intrigued by the Risen games, knowing they were probably something I’d never touch, mostly because big, open-world RPGs on the PC were just always that–on the PC. I mean, I’ve had a personal computer of some sort since my college days, then playing things like Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The Sims, and Age of Empires, but mostly sticking to consoles for my gaming time and leaving the computer for activities like reading, writing, blogging, adulting, and using Photoshop Elements 3.0 to make killer journal comics. I think the closest I got to playing something Risen-like was trying out the demo for Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga way back when.

Anyways, at some point, from one of those numerous too-good-to-ignore bundles, because I know I did not purposefully seek out these two titles on my own, I got Risen and Risen 2: Dark Waters. It might have been a Deep Silver-themed bundle a couple years ago. Regardless, I have them, and I see them all the time in my Steam library as I scroll past them to play literally anything else, and I finally felt bad enough to give one of ’em a try, specifically the first entry in the series, which now has a total of three games not counting the potential tie-in ELEX. Unfortunately, first impressions are key, and the original game in the series about rising up as a nobody does not make a strong one…even if I do feel compelled to keep playing a bit more, to see where it ultimately goes. Or could go.

Risen‘s plot starts out somewhat generic. See, the gods have forsaken humanity, and from that titans have begun wrecking the world with all their might and rage; unfortunately, the ship you are currently sailing on is destroyed while at sea, sunk, torn to bits. Miraculously, you do not drown during this crazy storm, waking up on the island of Faranga. Alas, you are now stranded, penniless, and unarmed. Strangely, you are not alone, as Sara is another survivor looking to journey beside you. Her attire consists of a handkerchief around her neck, a bra, and a skirt; she’s all midriff in your face, like something out of the early 2000s. Anyways, you quickly begin to explore the area, meet locals, and fight off fantasy-esque monsters like giant vultures with…a stick.

After helping Sara find a safe and temporary house, the player moves deeper into the island and meets a resident named Jan who talks about the ruins and temples that have recently risen from the underground, bringing along strange monsters and animals. Still, these temples are also rumored to house mystical treasures. Because of this, humans from other lands have come in and started an inquisition, as well as instituting martial law, forbidding Faranga locals from moving out of the main town. Anybody caught outside is turned over to the monastery and recruited to the order. Alas, I wasn’t paying attention closely to this cutscene–had Netflix up on the television, duh–and so after it was over I walked a foot or two in the wrong direction, resulting in my character being taken. Either way, my character is now inside this monastery, doing miscellaneous tasks like sweeping up dirt and solving a murder mystery. Also, I can’t seem to leave.

At some point, I’ll need to decide if I’m with the bandits or inquisitors, though that is probably dependent on getting out of the monastery, and I suspect to do that means I’m becoming BFFs with the robe-wearing, -wielding inquisitors. Well, prior to getting kidnapped, I did get to experience some combat which…is underwhelming. Battles are not complicated, and enemies will move around and try to flank you, which makes groups especially dangerous, but I generally only fought one ugly-as-heck vulture at a time. I’m playing on a laptop with no mouse, and the mouse wheel is evidently what brings out your weapon, so to get that to happen I need press both buttons beneath the trackpad together, right in the middle…let’s just say that I hope there’s never a moment when I need to do this action super fast because oh boy. I also expect magic spells to show up eventually, but for now, all I’ve done is hit big birds and bugs with sticks and it is not all that thrilling.

Risen is almost ten years old, releasing back at the end of 2009. By today’s standards, it’s not the prettiest thing to crawl out of the swamp, but I’m not one to get hung up on graphics so long as there’s something to be enjoyed here. Remember, I’m the guy that recently played some Sonic Blast. Alas, I don’t know if there is anything fun here, but again, something about these games has me curious to see more. I need to at least get out of the monastery and give the game’s combat another look before deciding whether to see more of Faranga island or begin the long swim away towards Risen 2: Dark Waters.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Blood Knights

I’ve talked before about playing bad games previously here on Grinding Down and the importance of seeing them through and even finished one last year solely to get my first Platinum Trophy, but I won’t be completing Blood Knights. It’s just that poor. I mean I want to, because I like finishing things–whether that’s art projects, books, nicely cooked meals, laundry, whatever–but the amount of frustration this undead monstrosity is throwing in my face is not needed. Not in 2017, not in 2018, not ever. I’d rather eat a garlic bread sandwich and watch the sun rise. Thankfully, Deck13 Interactive’s hack-and-slash RPG from 2013 can now participate in my highly praised and much copied PlayStation Plus purge program.

For those that don’t know, like me when I got this thing for free for PlayStation Plus some many months back, Blood Knights is a downloadable action RPG for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. The game was developed by German studio Deck13 Interactive and published by Kalypso Media, also from Germany. You play as bland-as-bread Jeremy, a renowned vampire hunter who is trailing behind a priest in order to stop an army of blood-suckers who have stolen the Blood Seal, a magical artifact which…due to it being stolen, shattered the moon. I won’t fault you for not comprehending that sentence because I played the game for a couple hours and did not comprehend much altogether. Also, Jeremy has been “bonded” to a female vampire named Alysa for unclear reasons. Well, maybe videogamey reasons.

Blood Knights features both single player and local cooperative gameplay modes, but does not allow for online co-op, and so my short time with it was spent playing by my lonesome, mouth agape in disbelief at almost every step of the way. When playing solo, you can swap between Jeremy and Alysa with the touch of a button, which strangely has a short cool-down period, but the other character simply disappears from the level instead of hanging around, being controlled by AI and helping you fight the bad guys. Both share the same lifebar too. Which is strange for a game built on co-op and dropping in and out of play, but hey, I’m no videogame developer.

The main gameplay is linear dungeon crawling with sword swingin’, loosing arrows, magic spells, and picking up loot, kind of like Diablo 3, but far inferior. Far, far inferior. You gain experience points and pick up small piles of gold along the way as you battle back people who hate vampires, and all of that feeds into upgrading your character’s skills or buying new gear, but I found the menu UI and look to be so ugly that it was difficult to even navigate. I struggled to see the stat differences between the weapon on the ground and the weapon in Jeremy’s hands that I often left the sword where it lay. Same goes for each character’s respective skill tree and the controller layout, both of which are hard to grok. Attacking enemies is unsatisfying, even with Jeremy having a super-move clearly inspired by the likes of one Crash Bandicoot.

I feel like it is almost cruel to talk about the game’s graphics and voice acting–because they are atrocious, a heavy adjective for sure–but it’s a big part of what turned me almost immediately off of Blood Knights. Here is the game’s intro. Everything is so wooden and, excuse the wordplay, lifeless, from how the characters move to their speech to the attempt at creating a stirring moment from a dramatic score. I also experienced a good amount of jank, such as frequent slowdowns and popping and flickering shadows. This speaks to the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation as a whole, but there’s also a ton of light bloom happening in nearly every scene. Lastly, take notice of how Jeremy is dressed in a full set of armor, and Alysa is yet another highly sexualized female protagonist for the industry, forced to do battle against enemies with swords and spears in an outfit incapable of protecting her skin from getting poked.

Blood Knights isn’t even close to mediocre. Cue the sunrise.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Finally seeing Suikoden III from some different perspectives

Ugh, I’m not doing too well on those gaming resolutions for 2017 that I listed out at the beginning of the new year. Well, hold up, I did manage to cross the 80,000 Gamerscore mark, but other than that, my Steam backlog is either the same size as before or larger than ever, Earthbound is still untouched on my Wii U, and I don’t know what I was thinking when it came to musing about “creating something.” I mean, I’m already doing that with my art over at Death, Divorce, and Disney, slow as it may take, though perhaps one day I’ll do something with game design. I sure do have a bunch of ideas, but not the knowledge to put them into motion, and knowledge doesn’t come quick or easy.

Anyways, here is me equipping a mighty ice-pick of endurance+3 and chipping away at the legendary glacier boss that is Suikoden III. I played it for a couple of hours several years ago, eventually running into an issue with the game soft-locking on a loading screen due to scratches on my PlayStation 2 disc. That sucks, but I quickly moved past it and found a bazillion other games to occupy my time, including the original two games in the series. I then acquired a digital version for the PlayStation 3 about two years ago, easing my heart and mind somewhat with the knowledge that I could return to Konami’s third entry in the RPG series via a scratch-free experience. Still, it remained neglected once more…until now-ish. Dun dun dunnn.

This time around, I’ve decided to start Suikoden III from a new perspective, selecting someone different from my first go at the game. See, Suikoden III uses something called the Trinity Site System to tell its tale through three different POVs–namely, Hugo, the son of the Karaya Clan Chief Lucia, Chris Lightfellow, a Zexen Knight, and Geddoe, a mercenary from the Holy Kingdom of Harmonia. Phew, that was a mouthful. Last time, I went with Hugo, and this time I started the adventure off with Chris Lightfellow, who, by name alone, you might mistake as a man, but she’s actually the acting captain of the Zexen Knights, as well as the Tenbi Star, just like Kirkis was in the original game. Cool, cool. Basically, you get to play snippets from each of these characters’ storylines, with some overlapping others, and I suspect they will eventually meet up and form a single through-line to follow to the end. We’ll see.

It’s still a little early for me to say this, but I’m not a fan of the changes Konami made to combat in Suikoden III. Don’t worry, don’t worry, everything is still turn-based, but characters are now paired up during fights. This means you give a command to each pair rather than to them as individuals, which often makes the combat feel clunky and not highly strategic. For example, one person gets a specific action, such as casting a spell or using an item, while the other is forced into attacking by default. It’s not Miitopia random, but you are definitely not 100% in control of what everyone gets to do, and that’s a bummer. Also, I’ve put in about six to seven hours so far, seeing chapters from all three characters–Chris, Geddoe, and Hugo–and I’ve seen only one or two unite attack options during battle, which this JRPG series is famous for. Also, because we’re jumping around a lot, I’ve been reluctant to drop a lot of money on new armor and weapons or training because I don’t yet know who is going to be around for the bulk of Suikoden III, which is mildly frustrating.

So, clearly, it’s been slow going, but it has been refreshing to see some new characters and areas this second time starting Suikoden III. Also, evidently during my first time with Hugo I had missed an entire side quest involving bandits and Melville’s father, so that was great to see, content-wise, even if it did little to change what happened in his first chapter. I’m now playing as Geddoe and his Twelfth Unit from Harmonia as they embark from Vinay del Zexay…to do something. Not quite sure what their goal is yet. I’m eager to see a few more towns as Vinay del Zexay is not fun to explore and somewhat confusing and does not hold a candle to Gregminster, Greenhill City, or even Gordius. Then again, these games are all about building up a base. Speaking of that…

From the brief bit of research I’ve done, it sounds like once all three starting characters hit chapter three, I’ll have to make a major decision, one that will definitely affect how the story moves forward. It also sounds like, after Suikoden V, Suikoden III takes the longest for everyone to get inside a castle and start building up your army, which is one of the best parts of this series, and that’s a bummer because I want to go to there right now. Ugh. Here’s hoping I hit that milestone somewhere in 2018, the earlier the better. Because then I eventually need to try out Suikoden IV. And Suikoden Tactics. Oh, and I should probably re-play Suikoden V at some point because that is mostly a blur to me now.

Miitopia is two games in one and maybe never-ending

After 25-ish hours of battling monsters, eating food, leveling up, and taking down the Dark Lord Ron Swanson, I assumed I was closing in on Miitopia‘s end credits. Well, you know the dangers of assuming. Turns out that I wasn’t even close, having now poured an extra 20+ hours into the ordeal, because there was still more to do and see, and I’ll keep this mostly spoiler-free and say that someone takes the Dark Lord’s place to continue creating problems for your team of diversified heroes and heroines. That’s fine, really; the weird part though is that the game switches up its pace and flow and feel in a way that makes it seem like an entirely different game halfway through.

For the first, main chunk of my Miitopia time, I was just moving forward across the map, going to where the red exclamation point said to go to, fighting monsters, eating food, and building relationships all along the way. It’s a pretty linear affair. I focused on a few particular party members, upgrading their weapons and armor when able to and generally trying to keep everyone balanced, but eventually one team of four was more leveled up than another. Thankfully, as irritating as it seemed at the time, the game frequently decided to split my current party up, forcing me to use Miis I’d not put as much time into. I’d also occasionally grind out a few areas to ensure I collected every treasure chest and saw where all paths lead, but otherwise it was all steam ahead.

By the time you near taking on the final final boss, the game switches things up, mechanically and even with the UI. You have access to a flying dragon and the Travelers Hub, where Miis will give you specific quests to do. So instead of having a singular goal to follow, you suddenly now have multiple paths to go down, with room to grind and explore. Also, something to touch upon, but you can totally exploit the game tickets situation to your benefit. Here’s how–wait until you get a good roulette wheel with a large slice dedicated to a high-level weapon, then keep spinning, landing on the weapon, and selling it for lots of gold. I was able to make about 50,000 gold after just a few spins, which let me buy a ton of solid gear for my team.

Initially, I was heavily put off by Miitopia‘s combat system, which basically only lets you control the actions of your avatar. However, as time went on, I got used to many of the battles being on auto-run, and the introduction and upgrading of HP bananas, MP candy, and various sprinkle shakers did let me have some control in how the fights went. It was more interactive than I initially assumed, so shame on me, and now I’m curious to maybe go back and see if Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is as bad as I’ve built it up to be in my mind. The fights never got too tough or insurmountable, up to the final boss fight, which, as I suspected, required everyone you had collected in your posse at that point to bring the heat, and several peeps were underleveled and needed to be grinded up a bit. Not grinded up into bits. Pay attention now.

I’m usually really bad at keeping up with post-game content. Like, for Ever Oasis, I thought I’d love to continue bringing in people to my oasis, leveling up shops, and diving deeper into randomly-generated dungeons for valuable rewards…but I haven’t gone back to it once since I got Miitopia. The same sort of thing happened with Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, despite my logged hours count saying otherwise. Chrono Trigger also has a New Game+ mode after you put Lavos in its ugly alien parasite place, with even more endings and an exclusive Dimensional Vortex section only found in the Nintendo DS version, which, if you’ll remember, I both loved and disliked. All of that is to say–Miitopia‘s post-game content is great and keeps me coming back to it on a daily basis.

Quest-givers continuously show up in the Travelers Hub zone to demand you do something for them, usually deliver a gift to a friend in another area or defeat a tough monster, all of which offer great rewards for completing, such as rare foods, game tickets, or better gear. Also, there’s two brand new islands to explore, two additional character classes to unlock, and the ability to make dozens upon dozens more team members, if you want. For me, since my main character originally started out as a thief, then became an imp, and finished as a mad scientist, I never got to see many of the outfits and weapons for those first two classes, so I made Jennifer Aniston as my thief and haven’t decided yet on the imp, but someone‘s coming. The real draw for me continuing to play Miitopia is seeing all its content, because the weapons and armor are creative and fun, the music is astounding, and there’s plenty of strange food to eat and kooky monsters to battle still to go. Oh, and there are 250+ Achievement-like medals to earn, of which I’ve done only 50% so far.

I knew I was going to like Miitopia‘s style and tone long before the game came out, but was worried that its somewhat hands-off gameplay was not going to keep me engaged. I’m happy to have my initial reluctance turned completely on its head, with Nintendo’s pleasant, quirky turn-based RPG about people losing their faces resulting in one of my favorite releases in 2017.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #118 – Miitopia

Stop the Dark Lord’s plan
Build relationships, eat grub
Fight faces, some grind

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.

Miitopia is no utopia because of its battle system

Miitopia‘s been a long-time coming. I don’t say this from a place of knowledge, but rather observation. Naturally, it all began on the Nintendo Wii, with the company’s introduction of Miis, Nintendo’s take on customizable avatars. Miis are created using different body, facial, and clothing features. The options are somewhat limited, but still detailed enough to make a solid representation of yourself or your favorite celebrity. No, really, take a look. In fact, even after all these years, I still think my Mii avatar looks closest to what I look like in real life than my Xbox avatar or any character I’ve made in my likeness for an epic RPG, save maybe for my boss in Saints Row: The Third, just kiddin’.

Since then, the Miis have shown up in several RPG-esque titles, such as Pokémon Rumble World, Tomodachi Life, and, of course, the StreetPass Mii Plaza minigames, specifically Find Mii and Find Mii 2, where the seed of Miitopia was certainly planted. Though the quirkiness of Tomadachi Life is highly prevalent, as is also the randomness, to the game’s detriment, but more on that in just a bit. I’d apologize for all the hyperlinks in this paragraph, but those are all games I’ve played and have a bunch of thoughts on, so if you like reading, then click, click, click away.

So, in Miitopia, the citizens of a mighty eccentric kingdom need saving. Why? Well, the Dark Lord is ripping the faces off of Miitopians and attaching them to all kinds of monsters. This is naturally causing a lot of chaos and distress, and it is up to the player’s party to defeat these monstrosities, return the rightful faces, and bring back peace to this silly fantasy land. Here’s my cast of zany characters so far:

  • Party members
    • Pauly, thief class
    • Bitsy, a.k.a. my sister, pop star class
    • Morgan Freeman, cleric class
    • Snape, mage class
  • Dark Lord – Ron Swanson
  • Greenhorne citizens
    • Shrek, carefree guide
    • Nano, cheery granny
    • Jon Snow, sassy child
    • Jaehee, worried mother
    • Jafar, part of the lovey-dovey couple
    • Erza, part of the lovey-dovey couple
    • Diglett, sarcastic guy
    • E Gadd, dubious mayor
  • Royalty
    • King Santa
    • Princess Beyoncé
    • Prince Dan Ryckert
    • Prince Buzz Lightyear
  • Castle Guard
    • King Rhoam, serious soldier
    • Jake Paul, lax soldier
    • SuperSonic, royal support (right)
    • Bendy, royal support (left)
  • Great Sage – Satoru Iwata
  • Roaming Gourmet – SpongeBob
  • Nintendo Fan – Margaret

Whew. That’s a lot, I know, and there could be more people to cast in various roles to go. I’m hoping to get at least two more party members, as I need a chef and a warrior to balance everything out. Also, many of these roles were automatically filled in when I started Miitopia, but one can switch Miis out at any time. I’m okay with the selections so far, as I at least got to decide on who is and who is not royalty, as well as my main fighting crew. Strangely, the zany mix of people works out quite well and creates some fun, silly situations, such as Morgan Freeman comforting Snape after taking damage or my sister ending up in a love triangle between the two of them and causing jealousy and heartbreak to run wild.

Look, I love role-playing games. I’m pretty obsessive about them, and I enjoy, for the most part, all types. Action RPGs, JRPGs, Western RPGs, big RPGs, bite-sized RPGs, anime-heavy RPGs, and even some SRPGs. Naturally, the element that distinguishes most RPGs is the combat, the battle system, the whatever. The part where you attack an enemy opposition and gain experience points, money, and loot from them to help you grow in levels and defeat stronger progress-blocking walls. It’s what you do between cutscenes and exploring towns. Alas, so far, I’m not in love with Miitopia‘s combat system, which is a core part of its gameplay loop.

Battles in Miitopia are turn-based, but you can only control what your avatar does. The other members of your party act on their own, making their own decisions, for better or for worse. Not having control of my entire party is a strong design choice, one that saw me bounce hard off of games like Phantasy Star II and Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. It also rears its ugly head in Suikoden III, which I’m simultaneously noodling with, post on that game coming soon. From the world map, you select an area to explore, also not in your control, eventually triggering specific events or random battles. The action order is determined by each Mii and monster’s speed statistic, with everyone getting one action per turn, save for bosses because they like to break rules.

When creating your Mii party members, you must give each one a quirk, such as stubborn or kind, and these play out in how your character grows and performs in battle. For example, a stubborn Mii might cast a spell twice if they are unsatisfied with the results, and a kind Mii will occasionally take damage for a friend not paying attention. I went with laid-back for myself, if you were curious. Bonds are also built between Miis by having them share a room at the inn after a day of battling and opening treasure chest or interacting in battle. Each level of friendship between two Miis brings about even more random abilities you can’t control, such as showing off for friends or consoling them when necessary, all which provide boosts. It makes watching the battles a little more engaging, but also frustrating because you never know what anyone is going to do and, sometimes, they do the wrong thing.

Other strange elements to combat include the safe spot and sprinkles. The former is a single space behind your adventuring party where a wounded or afflicted Mii can recuperate faster or heal its HP/MP over time and not be a target for the enemy. Sprinkles, other than being the wrong name for those colorful sugar strands you put on ice cream, are additional boosts in the form of salt shakers. You have one for HP, one for MP, and one for reviving a downed Mii, of varying amounts, and these replenish between fights. They are also upgraded over time as you defeat more enemies. At least you have control of when you want to use these and how.

I don’t intend to come across as highly negative on the game, as there is a lot to Miitopia that is enjoyable, specifically its music. No, really–listen to the tune that plays on loop on the main menu. I promise you it’ll get your head bobbin’ in no time. There’s a bunch of other quirky tunes that play throughout your adventures, such as when eating stat-raising food or playing the mini-games or watching a scene where one Mii gives another Mii a special present. From an audio perspective, this thing is pure glee and delight.

Well, this post went long. My bad. Looks like I have some strong opinions already about Miitopia, and I’m only a couple hours in. I really do want to stick with it and see where things go, but I don’t know if I can handle another uncontrollable Mii losing a fight due to casting Sleep on my sister instead of Fire on the almost defeated boss. Yeah, Severus Snape, LV 9 mage, I’m talking about you.