Category Archives: RPGs

I wish to be kidnapped right away by Final Fantasy IX

final fantasy ix square in alexandria

Over the weekend, as we creep closer to finishing off the first two months of 2015–two absolutely frigid and skin-cracking cold months at that–I realized I needed to start doing something about my promise to finally play, with the intent to complete too, Final Fantasy IX, Radiant Historia, and Silent Hill 3. Now, I’m naturally not crazy enough to juggle all of those at once, and so I picked the one that called to me most, that has always called to me, fifteen years after its release in November 2000, and that’s how we’re here now, with a save entry in Final Fantasy IX around the six-hour mark. Six hours, ten minutes, and thirty-five seconds, with 3,181 Gil to spend if I’m to be exact.

I’m not going to wax nostalgia too much, but Final Fantasy IX, despite me only ever getting as far as the second disc (of four discs in total) made a big impression on me as a sixteen-year-old gamer kid. Much more than Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII ever did–sorry, Cloud and Squall, respectively. There are a number of elements here that I think about constantly, such as Active Time Events, Triple Triad, how the plot bounces between a Game of Thrones-esque cast of characters, the jaunty pacing, that orchestral soundtrack, kupos and the noises they make when receiving mail, and more. Truly, I’ve never understood why I haven’t completed it sooner, but I feel like a part of me always got distracted by something else, especially on disc two, when things slow down, but much like previous goals wherein I remained on the path to complete games like Chrono Cross and Metal Gear, I’m hopeful this is my chance.

Let me share with y’all Final Fantasy IX‘s concomitantly light and heavy plot, at least for the opening hours of the game. The adventure begins with Zidane and the Tantalus Theater Troupe kidnapping Princess Garnet during her sixteenth birthday celebration. As it turns out, Garnet actually wanted to be kidnapped, not knowing what to do over Queen Brahne’s increasingly erratic behavior. Along the way, Zidane and Garnet are joined by Vivi, a black mage who is troubled by the idea that soulless black mages are being sweatshop created for nefarious purposes, and Steiner, a soldier sworn to protect the princess. The group travels to Lindblum to speak with Regent Cid over what to do next. Things go from there, but I won’t go into every detail; just know that the group is being pursued, Mist is a problem, Garnet is discovering everyone is holding her back, and Zidane is not quite the ladies monkey he believes himself to be.

I suspect I’ll go into other elements in separate posts later, so for now I’ll write a bit about the combat and combat-related mechanics. Battles are active and turn-based, coined as Active Time Battles, meaning you get to select an action for whoever once their meter fills up, but the enemy’s turn meter is also filling up simultaneously. Depending on party members, your commands are pretty standard: attack, steal, black magic, skills, items, flee, and so on. After taking enough hits, characters can enter a “Trance” mode, which is activated for a short duration and not too far off from Final Fantasy VII‘s Limit Breaks used in Final Fantasy VII. Trance grants special attack commands; I’m actually not a huge fan as one often enters Trance during non-boss battles, making them anticlimactic and not very useful, unless you time your Trance meter “pop” just right.

Here’s one of my favorite things about Final Fantasy IX‘s relatively straightforward combat. Weapons and armor include special character abilities, which can be equipped so long as the ability matches their class. For instance, Vivi should focus on items that come packaged with spells. Anyways, through battles, ability points are applied to all items currently equipped by a character, and once each item has been maximized, the character no longer needs to wear that gear to use that ability. It is much clearer in the game than how I just wrote it, but basically, it makes grinding purposeful, as you are always working towards filling up an item’s ability meter. I’m so crazy about this stuff that, right now, Zidane is equipped with a less powerful dagger so that he can learn an ability to up his thieving skills, despite a stronger dagger sitting unused in my inventory.

Well, I’ll be back to write more. Currently, Zidane, Viva, and Freya–real quick side note, I decided to be an adult and leave all their original names as is when prompted–are working their way through Gizamaluke’s Grotto, in pursuit of a runaway Garnet. Unfortunately, remember when I mentioned earlier about always getting distracted by shinier thingswell, it seems like Giant Bomb‘s Dan and Drew are heading back into Metal Gear Scanlon soon, and I like to be one step ahead of them before watching, so I might run into a snag where I have to juggle this and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Hmm.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Grandia II

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At this point, I’ve covered twenty-five games I’ve regretted parting with. Of them, the ones that hurt the most are of the RPG ilk. I’m sure you’re super surprised by that. Looking through what I’ve already talked about, that means seven open, still bleeding, albeit slowly, bullet holes: Beyond the Beyond, Star Ocean: The Second Story, Brave Fencer Musashi, SaGa Frontier, Breath of Fire III, Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, and The Granstream Saga. By their nature, RPGs are massive beasts, and I know that younger me did not see everything they had to offer, especially when you consider I barely started the Faerie Village mini-game in Breath of Fire III before trading it in for something else. Might as well pile on more hurt by adding another RPG to the list then.

Grandia II makes no attempt to stray from the traditional Japanese RPG story: Ryudo the Geohound, a mercenary of sorts, along with his bird, Skye, accepts a mission to accompany a songstress of Granas named Elena as she ventures towards Garmia Tower. Naturally, things go awry quickly, and an accident at the tower requires the two to work together to stop a greater evil. I’m a sucker for forced, unlikely team-ups, which is why I immediately think of Dark Cloud 2 and Wild Arms when I read that plot summary and remind myself. Though the naive nun with a demon inside of her does make this adventure a little different. Plus, there’s a lot more cursing than you’d ever expect; imagine if Final Fantasy VII‘s Barret Wallace was the star of his own game, able to freely speak his mind at every scenario. Yeah, like that.

Grandia II‘s battle system is both simple and sophisticated. At the bottom right corner of the screen is a bar with icons representing the characters in your party and the enemies you’re battling. It’s sort of like the Active Time Battle system, but not quite. The bar is divided into two parts: a long waiting period, followed by an arrow indicating when commands may be entered, and a then another waiting period, followed by a second arrow at the end indicating when the entered commands will happen. That second waiting period is where you hope to often get in an extra attack to kill a monster or interrupt whatever command the enemy punched in. Theoretically, if you wanted to, you could devote your characters to executing consecutive canceling moves to repeatedly knock a boss or generic enemy lower on the action bar, basically preventing them from making any moves in that fight. Other standard options include using items, casting magic, evading, which you do by moving to a new pre-picked location on the battlefield, running away, or letting the computer auto-determine your choices.

Something else that I really liked about Grandia II–and this was before my time with any of the Elder Scrolls games–is that characters learned new skills through…reading. They had to read books to learn magic and additional techniques. Clearly, I had found a game that spoke directly to me. The books and skills within even grow in level as your party battles and gains experience points.

From the sounds of it, Grandia II is not terribly long, somewhere are the 30 hours completion mark. I don’t think I ever hit double digits though, as I remember picking up the title for fairly cheap along with a few other big RPGs, like Dark Cloud 2 and Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, meaning my attention was easily taken away from me, more for the former than the latter, of course. Looking over the rest of the series on good ol’ Wikipedia, I have this strange, flimsy feeling that I also either played or owned Grandia Xtreme at some time in my life, but it no longer sits in my collection today. That could be my mind just trying to come up with an excuse to write about the game’s hero, Evann, a young ranger, voiced by none other than Superman himself–Dean Cain. Lisa Loeb is also in it. Hmm, we’ll see.

Grandia II originally came out on the Sega Dreamcast, but my copy was a port for the PlayStation 2. I don’t recall it looking amazing, though it was certainly colorful, like a bigger, better Star Ocean: The Second Story, bursting with polygons, but it was more the battle system and kooky characters that had me hooked. I wish I can remember when and for what I traded this in for. Hopefully not for that copy of Godai: Elemental Force. Gah. The shame.

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

My five favorite games in 2014

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Hello, end of 2014. Boy am I looking forward to seeing you come to a close. To help with that process, here’s my five favorite games from the past three hundred and sixty-five days. I know such a list is a strange thing to see this time of year and that I’m the only one doing it, but please, stick with me. If you wanna know what topped my list in 2013–and really now, why wouldn’t you–clicky click here.

If you take a look at my actual list of games played and beaten this year, you’ll notice there are not many current releases within it. That’s just how I roll, often getting to the big, new games much later in life–mine and theirs–and so I don’t have too fine of a list to pick from, but I’ll make the effort nonetheless and try to come up with some good arguments why I picked X over Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which, if you’re a good little follower, you’ll already know I haven’t touched yet.

Let me mention some of the 2014 releases that don’t get the full thumbs up below. Transistorman. I really, really wanted to love this game, especially after how Bastion mesmerized me. In the end, I just liked it, favoring the complex and constantly changing combat way more over the muddled story, though I loved elements of how the story was told, such as the terminals and polls Red participated in. And there’s also episodes two through five for season two of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which did not end up delivering well on the promise of following your Clem, y’know, the one you meticulously constructed via Lee in the previous season, through her next set of struggles. Plus, it stopped being an adventure game early on in the season and turned into a dialogue wheel selector. Boo to that. For season three, I will instead wait to see how it all pans out. As for Dragon Age: Inquisition, just insert a bunch of wet farts here.

All right, here they are, my five favorite videogames from 2014…

Luftrausers

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I’ve played Luftrausers on both Steam and the PlayStation 3, ending up stuck at the same spot for each version. I can’t get the blimp to spawn. Here’s the rub; I don’t care. I keep playing, keep dying, keep respawning and trying out new ship builds and listening in fascination as the soundtrack mutates this way and that, and I expect to keep playing Luftrausers deep into 2015. I don’t know if I’ll ever beat it or do well enough to get that blimp to spawn, which would then unlock a bunch of new missions to go after, but it doesn’t matter. The retro look, the killer soundtrack, the feel of launching up off the sub and into the sky, primo target #1 for every object loaded with a gun…it’s pure exhilaration. I’m not great, but it’s great.

Broken Age (Act One)

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Ahh. Old-school point-and-click adventure games with a modern look might be my new hot jam. Broken Age (Act One) is a whirlwind of imagination, bright colors, and, alas, pretty simple puzzles. On the surface, its story is cute and fuzzy, but quickly turns dark and upsetting once you begin to see how Shay and Vella are really living their lives. There’s also a fantastic cliffhanger that, if you didn’t know this game was divided into two acts due to financial, timing, and work issues, you’d believe it was planned. While I wish we could’ve seen the conclusion to these two kids’ journeys this year, I expect it to unfold early in 2015. Hopefully the next documentary video will shed some light on that. Oh, and Double Fine was kind enough to include a comic of mine in their weekly gathering of fanart. Obviously, I’m biased.

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

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My history with the Diablo franchise has been like so: played the first one on my ol’ PlayStation one, using a controller to manipulate a mouse cursor, got into Diablo II a bit on PC during my college days for all the wrong reasons, and then never touched Diablo III. But then the news hit it was coming to consoles and being re-designed for controllers. I was jazzed. However, by the time I got around to thinking of it, an even newer version of the console was released, offering more content than you can shake a stick at, if you’re the shady type that carries sticks around. Anyways, I ran through the campaign once so far with Whisper, my bow-wielding, backflipping assassin, and enjoyed the heck out of slaughtering monsters, picking up loot, and upgrading her skills. I’m not even close to the level cap, and there’s a bunch of new content to try out still. Really worth the then $40 price tag.

Jazzpunk

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Here’s a wish I wish: I want to erase all memories of playing Jazzpunk. That way, in a few months, next week, or even after I’m done posting this blog entry, I can play Jazzpunk and experience everything it offers once again, with innocent eyes. The game is only a couple hours long, but it is non-stop gags and goofiness along the way; if you’re a fan of Airplane! you’ll absolutely understand what its going for. I don’t want a Jazzpunk 2, just a chance to eat it all up again, especially the Wedding Qake section.

Disney Magical World

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I was hoping to, at this point, already have written a blog post about what Disney Magical World meant to me this year. Still means to me. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the words for that yet, but let’s just say this little Nintendo 3DS title out from left field provided comfort, control, something to focus on when everything else was chaotic and spinning away. Its arrival was timely. I played it every night for a few hours for months straight over the summer and fall, putting it behind Dragon Quest IX and Animal Crossing: New Leaf in terms of hours played. It’s special, an unexpected mix of item collecting and difficult dungeon grinding, of saving up a single ingredient to make a specific recipe to give you that perfect café theme to get a new Disney character to show up and give you special collectible cards or gems to make new wands. It’s full of cycles and things to check in on, and it was a go-to when I needed a distraction. Truthfully, I could still be playing it now, today, but had to put it aside to give some other handheld games their due.

And there you go. My five favorites, with words to boot, and I expect to play Luftrausers, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, and the conclusion of Broken Age in 2015, so that makes these games even stronger cases for me.

Here’s the real question though–did you play any of my five favs this year, and, if you did, are we on the same page? Let me know in the comments below.

Jowy and Hodor were both aiming for the same thing in Suikoden II

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Here’s something rather amusing: I was playing Suikoden II as it was announced over the weekend at Sony’s PlayStation Experience event that it was finally, at long last, coming to North America via the PlayStation Network. Take that, outrageously high eBay prices. Instead of dropping over $100, you can now download the epic JRPG for a sliver of that. I’ve read two different reported prices so far: $10.00 and $6.99. Either is a fantastic price for Konami’s sparkly, well-kept gem, one that many might not have gotten to play due to its rareness, as well as it being out-shadowed during its release by Final Fantasy VIII. Yeah, the one with the floating garden school and Junction/Draw system.

That said, after a logged forty-nine hours and change and with my main party of characters all just under level 60, I can safely say that I have played Suikoden II. Again. The last time was definitely back in the 1990s. Hot off the heels of replaying Suikoden, I found my revisit to Suikoden II even more enjoyable, as well as at least seventy-five percent less goofy. This is a game about darkness and dark things, like betrayal, wavering confidence, murder, sacrifice, and rape. Sure, there’s still a good amount of silliness to balance out the grim, but all in all, this is a serious adventure in the same vein as current mega-RPGs like Dragon Age: Inquisition and Diablo III, with conflicting opinions and difficult choices all around.

Here, let me sum up the plot once more. Suikoden II‘s protagonist, who I named Hodor, goes from being a member of a youth brigade in the Highland Kingdom to being the leader of its opposition. Hodor and his best friend Jowy Atreides each end up acquiring one half of the Rune of the Beginning, both destined to become leaders. Luca Blight is heir to the throne of Highland, as well as a bloodthirsty madman who developed a strong hatred for Jowston early on after witnessing his mother’s rape by thugs hired by City-State capital Muse. Hodor will eventually find himself fighting against Luca and his best friend, for safety, for civility.

The six-party, turn-based combat from the first game returns, with visual upgrades for rune spells, but not many mechanical changes. Yup, there are more Unite attacks to use, as well as the ability to switch between rows during a fight, but I found using “auto” attack to work out well enough in most situations save for boss fights. Since the point is to recruit a bunch of different people for the war, the Suikoden series is one of the few–Chrono Cross is another–that really does encourage you to mix things up and try out new team members. You can’t go wrong with who you select so long as you have a good S/M/L range mix, keep them armored, sharpen their weapons, and give them strong runes. My mainstays throughout the campaign were Flik, Viktor, Nanami, Millie, Futch, Georg Prime, and Valeria, with Hodor acting more as a healer than anything else since his speed allowed him to act first in most fights.

Massive battles and duels are thankfully kept to a minimum, which is fine considering they still require a lot of guesswork or well-hardened knowledge of how rock, paper, scissors works. The massive battles are a little different in that you have to move units around for better positioning like in a strategy RPG, but it’s still a matter of attacking horses with bow and arrows and knowing when to charge with soldiers. If you want, Apple can take over your actions on autopilot. For every duel, I ended up using a wiki guide because, more often than not, these pixelated duels take place after a big boss fight, and I didn’t want to lose any progress. It’s just a matter of selecting the correct choice of defend, attack, or wild attack based on what your enemy says.

By Suikoden II‘s close, I did end up recruiting all 108 Stars of Destiny, but not in time to get the “good” ending, though I still like the ending I saw. Many refer to it as the “tragic” ending, but seeing as I myself recently went through a tragic ending this year, it is rather apropos. Plus, it does that thing from A Link to the Past, where you check in with everyone after the war’s over to see what they are up to. Well, not everyone. Sorry, [redacted] and [redacted]. I missed/skipped out on a few other elements, like Clive’s timed side quest, recruiting the additional squirrel warriors, doing every Richmond investigation, unlocking the hidden bath scenes, and so on. There’s so much small, side stuff in Suikoden II that it can feel very overwhelming; most of it has no effect on the plot, but provides cool little moments or bits of backstory to a game already oozing story from every orifice. Still, after nearly fifty hours, I saw plenty.

If you thought the castle headquarters in Suikoden was neat and fulfilling to explore, just wait until you begin seeing it grow in Suikoden II. I mean, you could spend a good hour just running around the place, examining things, talking to people, seeing where they go when the place upgrades. There’s also mini-games to tackle, like fishing, cooking, and even whacking moles, but I might touch upon those more in a separate post. My regiment was that, every time I popped back to HQ, I’d check the suggestion box for new notes, start/complete an investigation with Richmond, make a pitstop at the warehouse, and then run over to the cafe to do the latest cook-off challenge before using Viki to teleport wherever I needed to go to next. There is legitimate excitement in my heart after recruiting a new member for the group and then scouring the castle for where they reside.

Right. Fun times. I’m going to take a wee breather before moving on to (and starting over) Suikoden III, but I think closing out a less-than-stellar year with one of my absolute favorite gaming experiences next to A Link to the Past is a good thing. Very good. Now, in the wise words of Viktor: “Oi!!!!! Let’s end this damn thing!!!”

Dragon Age: Inquisition is concerned with the fate of the world, not text size

Dragon Age Inquisition GD early thoughts 2

Like many, the millisecond I saw that one of Amazon’s major Cyber Monday bargains was for $15.00 off the very still new Dragon Age: Inquisition, I dropped whatever I was holding/doing and purchased a copy…for the PlayStation 3. It arrived a few days later and sat on my kitchen table, waiting patiently for me to finish up some artwork projects, as well as Suikoden II. Here’s a quick life lesson for y’all that I’ve learned over my thirty-one years of doing this grind called living: don’t start one massive RPG before completing another.

Anyways, over the weekend, I put about an hour and a half into Dragon Age: Inquisition, and all I got to show for it is this t-shirt that says “Leave the Hinterlands” in big, bold, bloody lettering. Nah, that’s not true. What I actually got is a female dwarven warrior named Girgna, who likes to charge right into the thick of things and even taunt enemies as she swings a sword into their necks. This style of fighting is very much the opposite of my usual path, but my friend Tom is also playing the game, walking the good, wholesome path of a nice wizard lady named Dandelion, and I wanted us to have different experiences to talk about.

Dragon Age: Inquisition evidently picks up immediately the events of Dragon Age II, where mages and Templars are finally at ends with each other. However, there are talks of a peace treaty in the works, but those deals and promises are interrupted by a magical explosion, leaving a single survivor. Yup, that’s you, the one with the green-colored hand. Some believe you caused this explosion, while others think you’re a blessing from the prophet Andraste. Either way, demons are now emerging from the rift in the sky, and you are the only one who can do anything about it. Get ready to age a dragon or something.

So far, I’m finding my return to Ferelden…a bit underwhelming. Granted, I’ve not touched the series seriously since Dragon Age: Origins, deciding after trying the demo and listening to the Internet that Dragon Age II was not for me. Now, I really really liked Dragon Age: Origins; it had characters and scope and deeply integrated lore and tough, but rewarding combat. It also had some problems, such as tiny text, glitched Achievements because I know I killed at least 500 darkspawn (though not 1,000), clunky inventory menus, and that whole side quest surrounding the Fade. Still, the good outweighed the bad, and that banter while wandering around towns or the forest really gave me the warmest of warm feelings.

However, in just an hour and a half with Dragon Age: Inquisition, I’m experiencing a ton of issues. The graphics on the PlayStation 3 version are sub-par; I mean, it looks like the first game, which came out four years ago, and I know we can have nicer visuals at this point thanks to Grand Theft Auto V and even Destiny. Many textures are garbled and flat or late to load in when a cutscene starts. Again, graphics are certainly not everything to me, but working graphics is a whole different issue. Audio sync is also off, and there was one moment where characters left the scene, but the camera remained fixed on the forest for a few extra seconds, while nothing happened. And this all brings me to the thorniest of roadblocks: the tiny text. I cannot sit on the couch and read most of the text, which is, y’know, frustrating for a roleplaying game where you make important decisions. I cannot read weapon descriptions or newly added lore blurbs. I cannot see the numbers for my character’s experience bar. Sounds like it doesn’t matter if you have an SD or HD television either, and I’m not the only one upset about this.

I’ll hold out hope (but not much) for a future patch to increase the font size. Until then, I’m relying on other elements to tell me what’s going on. When you examine an item, you’ll see some bars below your character go up in green or down in red, thus telling you if it is helpful or not. That said, I don’t know exactly what each bar is measuring. Some dialogue choices are accompanied by a small graphic, indicating what kind of response you are about to give, even if you can’t read it. Girgna has now finished the prologue section and been told about the Hinterlands, but I’m still hanging around the opening area, trying to find some crafting items to make weapons and armor before I move ahead to the zone everyone says to not linger in. Plus, there’s plenty of hairless nugs running around, begging to be target practice.

Not the best start for Dragon Age: Inquisition. Call me crazy, but I like reading the text in my videogames, even if it is badly translated.

Suikoden II is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar

Suikoden is a great JRPG with lousy translation work; that said, Suikoden II is an even greater JRPG with lousier translation work. The proof is in the published work. This is the PlayStation 1 era, meaning there’s no way to patch the game and cover up caught mistakes. I did this for Suikoden after I beat it and figured I might as well snap some slanted cell phone shots of poor grammar or translating problems as I went through Suikoden II all over again. I did not expect to take so many photos. Truth be told, I grew lenient as I played, and so the following is not every bit of wonky wordsmithing I saw.

All right, let’s do this my fellow grammar geeks.

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The joke here is that the true Hodor would never say such a thing. Simply “Hodor.”

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Since, y’know, YOU ARE PRISONER.

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I immediately found it strange that, for every shop in Suikoden II, the words “buy” and “sell” are lowercased while everything else is not.

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Maybe Nanami meant an Estate spy?

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You really don’t see many people using the form Its’ these days…

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Um…what?

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At this point, not even the makers of Suikoden II can remember how to spell their main villain’s name.

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Maybe you’re too quick at writing these pre-cook off blurbs.

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Wrong. I know not that name. There is only McDohl. There can be only one.

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“This is home I make my living” sounds like something you’d want to shout angrily. THIS IS HOME, I MAKE MY LIVING!!!1!1!!!

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Remember when they got Luca Blight’s and McDohl’s names wrong? Well, let’s add Jowy to the list.

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YOU ARE EYES.

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Some time after defeating Neclord, things got weird. Any time I ran away from a fight, the game replaced Hodor’s name with one of the enemy’s names. Thus…ZombieSlug.

I’ll probably restart Suikoden III early next year. Here’s hoping the translation work got better once the series hit a new console platform. Here’s hoping.

The Young Master and Dunan Unification Army leader join forces

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When you start Suikoden II for the first time, the game checks to see if you’ve previously played Suikoden. If you’re a good l’il gamer and still got save data on your PlayStation 1 memory card, you’re in luck. Well, maybe. Not that Konami tells you why, but there are plenty of bonuses to reap from already playing the previous game, the greatest being that you can actually get Tir McDohl’s son to join your side and fight along Hodor, Nanami, and friends. It’s a little tricky and troublesome, but totally worth the effort, as well as the short stroll down memory lane.

First off, here’s a really good breakdown about what changes can happen for characters from the first game that do appear in Suikoden II. It all depends on how far you leveled them up during your time fighting Barbarossa, but only if they were level 60 or above. There are other perks for starting equipment, runes, and weapons, too. Hmm. Given that I ran through Suikoden in twenty-ish hours and focused on only a small, select bunch of fighters, I really don’t think anyone got that high up. Sure, I could check, but that would mean removing Suikoden II‘s disc from my PlayStation 2, something I’m not yet ready to do.

Those stat bonuses aside, the real reason to let Konami know you played Suikoden is for the chance to “recruit” Tir McDohl’s son, aka the Young Master, aka Pauly (as I named him). And I say “recruit” in quotation marks because he does not actually count as a Star of Destiny, nor does he take up residence in your castle headquarters, but more on that shortly.

So, the soonest you can find McDohl is right after the big, multi-tiered battle with Luca Blight. In Banner Village, you can speak to a young kid called Ko who is dressed to the nines like some doe-eyed Hodor cosplayer, and this kid will inform the gang that someone named “McDohl” is staying at the inn, spending most of the day fishing. Well, except, in my case, McDohl is called PcDohl due to Konami’s extremely poor translation job. Basically, for each capital letter you have in your original McDohl’s name, those capital letters will be transferred into McDohl’s name in Suikoden II, replacing the original letters one by one. Much like I did with Suikoden‘s bad grammar, I’ve been taking a lot of pictures of wonky writing and translation problems for a big post after I’ve beaten Suikoden II. Stay tuned, grammar gurus.

Anyways, since I recruited all 107 Stars of Destiny before Suikoden‘s final battle and got Gremio revived (spoilerz!!!1!1!), both Pauly McDohl and Gremio appear in Banner Village. You then go on a short side quest to save Ko who got kidnapped by bandits, eventually ending back up in Gregminster and Tir McDohl’s household for supper. Now, I’ve written about what Gregminster means to me before, so returning to it was such a delight, as well as a swirl of emotions and desires. You’ll find Gregminster has changed, though not too much, and many familiar characters pop up, though it saddened me that former stars like Cleo and Pahn did not get new portrait artwork–or any portrait artwork, for that matter. The birds remain as skittish as ever.

From this point forward, you can add McDohl to your team for turn-based battling purposes. But only him; sorry Gremio, you drew the short straw once again. And you should add him. His unite attack with Suikoden II‘s main hero is impressively deadly, able to hit all enemies in one go, not causing either to become unbalanced either. It’s essential for survival in some of the tougher parts where monsters roam. But here’s the rub–if McDohl is removed from your party, you have to travel all the way back to Gregminster to ask him to rejoin you. It’s not a simple fast travel hop with the Blinking Mirror; first you travel to Banner Village, then have to go through the forest, then get to Gregminster, then back to through the forest, Banner Village, take a boat to Radat, and lastly fast travel back to HQ. It’s lengthy and annoying, and the game automatically removes party members at various points during the plot, so you can’t rely on McDohl being there all the time, when you need him most.

Still, it’s a special slice of the game, one to pursue when not waging war and very rewarding for those that put in the time and effort to get the best results in the original Suikoden. Since Suikoden III is on the PlayStation 2, and memory cards only work for their respective consoles, I don’t think any data or secrets from Suikoden II will carry over, but we’ll see. Imagine if they eventually make Suikoden VI (unlikely, I know) and you can have a six-character team made up entirely of the series’ heroes? Imagine that!