Category Archives: second playthrough

Dragon Quest VIII’s photography sidequest is pretty goo


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.


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.


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


Since, y’know, YOU ARE PRISONER.


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


Maybe Nanami meant an Estate spy?


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




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


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


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


“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!!!


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




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.

Proteus is a mesmerizing and powerful getaway

life in proteus gd thoughts

On one hand alone, I can count the number of islands I’ve been to in real life. Ignoring that less-than-stellar fact, here’s a bunch of fictional islands I’d love to visit and explore for a day, just a day:

  • The island from LOST, specifically Dharmaville and far from wherever the Smoke Monster dwells
  • Amity Island, from Jaws
  • The El Nido Archipelago, from Chrono Cross
  • Gilligan’s Island
  • Isla Nublar, home to Jurassic Park‘s dinosaurs
  • Yoshi’s Island

Well, let’s add one more to that list with Ed Key and David Kanaga’s Proteus, which is actually difficult to describe, though I’m sure all the Gone Home haters would describe it as “not a game” or a “walking simulator.” Phooey on them. Sadly, I just discovered a new term, “anti-game,” while doing some quick research, and that really bums me out. I think anything that creates an experience can be called a game, whether it is highly interactive or not. That time you stabbed a pencil around your fingers and sped up each go? A game. Connecting dots to other dots with lines to reveal some kind of image? A game. Traveling to a foreign, digital world and taking it all in visually? A game. Really now, people.

I guess you could say Proteus is a stark adventure of exploration and discovery in a musical wilderness environment. There are no challenges and set goals, no Achievements to pop (well, on the PC version, at least), no text anywhere on the screen to tell you anything or provide lore. You can’t even really pause the game, only close your eyes to take a snapshot or exit back out to the main menu. As you explore the island, a reactive audio mixing system modifies your soundtrack, with frogs, tombstones, flowers, and birds each acting as individual notes that sound as you draw nearer.

There’s plenty to see on the island, as well as plenty to not touch. All the animals scurry away as you draw near, and you will eventually stumble across a cabin and small circle of statues, but all you can do is look at them and wonder. There’s no “Press X to Pay Respects” button, and that’s more than fine. You can, however, press a button to sit down on the ground and absorb all the sounds. I also found a giant tree-thing that teleported me to the other side of the island. Otherwise, it’s a lot of walking, looking, listening, and learning. Sounds simple, but it’s beyond effective.

I explored Proteus‘ island once on Steam during my Extra Life stream and then a second time on PlayStation 3 just the other evening. Each trip takes about twenty or so minutes, and each island is randomly generated, though you will see a few familiar pieces and critters with each playthrough, as well as summon the swirling vortex of floating white lights that fast-forward the seasons from spring to summer to fall to, lastly, winter. I have not tried simply standing next to the vortex and not causing this shift to happen, though I think that’s possible too. Both of those games ended differently; the first time, I flew into the sky, chasing after the aurora in the night sky, and the second time I got lost in a bleak, snowy winterland, heading for the moon.

So, there are Trophies to unlock on the PlayStation 3 version of Proteus. I got one, and I have to assume I got it for beating the game once. I don’t know. They are overtly obtuse, and I’m looking forward to unlocking a few more–hopefully by accident–though their inclusion does break a bit of immersion and uniqueness. Oh well. Not the worst thing ever, though trying to read all their descriptions in one sitting gave me a headache.

Ultimately, Proteus is about time, about mortality. The experience is all at once deeply relaxing and terribly unnerving. The music will warm you, fill you with hope; then it will drain you, drain from you, and remind you that hope is fleeting. Life goes round and round, until it stops. There’s more than a vicious cycle to experience here, and it’s certainly a walk to remember.

Borderlands 2’s True Vault Hunter Mode is truly challenging

I beat Borderlands 2 a couple weeks back, finished up a few other sidequests I left hanging before taking on the Warrior,  and then even started over with a new character. I boosted Gaige the Mechromancer up to Level 5, just enough to see her robot in action. She seems like fun, but I couldn’t simply forget about my Siren. Not after all we’d been through. Not after I finally figured out how to spec her skill tree to my style of playing, which is based around stealing large amounts of health back and keeping enemies at bay with Phaselock to suffer from corrosive, burn, and slag damage.

And so I selected her to journey once more across Pandora in what the Gearbox folks have dubbed True Vault Hunter Mode. Basically, it’s New Game+ with some alterations. Most of those ramp up the difficulty, but with great challenges comes great rewards. Unfortunately, sometimes three Super Badass Maniacs stand in the way, and for the solo player, that’s just death–over and over and over again. You start the game over completely, but get to keep your level, weapons, equipment, skins, and Badass ranks. Enemies are scaled to your level the first time you enter  an area, which means I was taking on Bullymongs ranging from LV 35 to 37 right from the start, and all it takes is one leap-hit from them to deplete a shield. Yeah, I was mostly getting by on Second Winds for those first few encounters.

The original Borderlands had this feature as well, and it was great for speeding up the leveling process. My Soldier got to Level 61 speedily thanks to playing storyline missions a second time on a raised difficulty, but I really don’t remember them being nearly impossible to do. Tough, sure. But not like what Borderlands 2 has been throwing at my Level 35 Siren now. Well, except for some missions in The Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC. Those Badass Crimson Lance Shock Troopers were tough buggers.

So, in short, it’s tough. Really tough, especially for solo players. And from some over-read Internet grumbling, I am not looking forward to running into any of the following by myself: Rabid Stalkers, Blood Varkids, Badass Wormhole Threshers, and Badass Constructors. This might be a case of where I swap between playthrough 1 and 2 to level up though that’s a much slower way to advance. And besides, all the best gear is in playthrough 2, especially as you creep closer to the current level cap of 50. Though the first DLC for Borderlands 2 looks somewhat uninteresting story-wise and mission-wise, it might be just what I need to level up a few levels quickly. We’ll see. But either way, all Vault Hunters should take this post as a healthy dose of warning: playthrough 2 is no joke. If you’d like to help me get through it, I’ll be crawling along the ground, fighting for my life, a Super Badass Maniac standing over me. Approach at your own discretion…

Wreaking havoc with unique Mojave Wasteland weapons in Fallout: New Vegas

Last week, I received some bad news. Which I misinterpreted greatly. The bad news remained bad news, but now I was all conflicted and confused and mad and angry and depressed with myself as a person, as a Pauly. I felt disgusted and in fear of a public shaming. So, desperate for some kind of comfort, I opened the disc tray for my Xbox 360, removed whatever game was currently in there, and quickly replaced it with Fallout: New Vegas. I needed a little time in the shadow of the valley, so to speak. Tara literally gasped with excitement when she came out to the living room and discovered I was back in the Mojave Wasteland.

At first, I just meandered around, no quests tagged as current, trying to remember who my character was and what he was trying to do. It slowly came back to me: a Mr. House run. But before that could happen, I took care of Boone’s personal sidequest to get him his new armor and such, and then headed back to the strip to begin the lengthy affair that is known as  The House Always Wins quests. I did most of these before during my first playthrough, but switched sides to Yes Man at the very end. You can’t tell from reading a blog post, but I got them shifty eyes. For The House Always Wins, II, the Courier needs to enter a secret bunker within Caesar’s Legion’s main base to turn some Securitrons to the dark side. Easy peasy, really, even with all the radiation creeping in.

Well, after shooting some guard robots in their metallic faces with That Gun, I finally earned this little zinger:

Curios and Relics (15G): Cause 10,000 damage with unique Mojave Wasteland weapons.

Don’t get the above confused with the Master of the Arsenal Achievement, which I popped way back in October 2011. Oh, and I also ticked off a one-star challenge. Woo, progress. Small progress, but still–it’s there.

At this point, now that I’ve unlocked Curios and Relics, I can hop back to using whatever weapon I desire, as I was constantly making a conscious effort to use only unique Mojave Wasteland weapons for as much as possible. That’s not to say I won’t use That Gun again–I will, as it packs a pretty (bullet) punch. But there’s some really nice rifles and shotguns in my inventory collecting digital dust. For The House Always Wins, III, I need to gain the help of the Boomers, which requires a number of mini-quests to earn their loyalty. Can’t wait to use some new weaponry to blow up a bunch of mutated ants.

Find Mii 2 really ups the ante

I thoroughly enjoyed the first Find Mii. It’s one of two minigames found within the StreetPass Mii Plaza for the Nintendo 3DS, and the quickest and easiest way to sum it up is a bare-bones RPG that rewards players with new hats for their Mii. Your Mii is captured, and you have to recruit other Miis via connecting with 3DS systems or purchasing cat/dog soldiers to fight off ghosts and save your Mii. Which turns out to be the king/queen of this unnamed fantasy realm. Options for combat boil down to attacking three times with a sword or using magic; there are one or two moments where strategy is vital for progress, but otherwise, so long as you can boost your heroes’ levels or connect multiple times with other Miis, it’s easy sailing. But at least it’s something to do with the Miis you collect other than, y’know, grabbing a random puzzle piece–and sometimes not even that.

I made a huge dent in Find Mii back in September thanks to attending SPX 2011, where a good number of other 3DS champions attended, too. I basically plowed through my second playthrough of the minigame up to the point of the final two or three battles thanks to other comics-loving Mii avatars, especially Madéleine Flores. Then I kinda stopped carrying my 3DS around all the time to collect Play Coins and hopefully tag other people, and so I was a little miffed to discover that the minigame’s sequel, Find Mii II, newly acquired with the latest software update for the system, is only accessible to those that had collected all the hats already. Meaning, I had to blow a bunch of Play Coins just to complete the first adventure and begin to see how the second one shaped up.

So I did that, and now Find Mii II is in progress, and while it is the same minigame as before, it’s also not. It’s Find Mii, but updated to the max. Beyond eleven. It throws in so much new stuff that it’s actually hard to remember it all, but I guess that’s why I blog, to make words permanent and visible and possibly interesting.

Story-wise, your Mii’s children, wig-wearing pieces of epic royalty, have been kidnapped, and you must rescue them. I think your own Mii is taken, too, but I can’t remember. I was a bit hypnotized by seeing my kid represented as a blonde wig-wearing version of myself. Players can now take multiple paths through a dungeon, resulting in different challenges and acquired hats.

Combat used to involve two strategies: melee attacks or magic. Both had their uses, but other than that, there weren’t many other options. Now Mii soldiers can used combo attacks based on the color of their shirts or fuse into one leveled up soldier. Here’s what is known so far:

Team Combo Special Effects
Black + White Break Shadowlight Shields
Red + Pink ???
Blue + Light Blue ???
Yellow + Yellow Clear Poisonous Room

Did I mention that you can also use Play Coins to hire a Mii in your plaza to fight for you? Well, you can. It’s pricey, but worth it when you got some level 4 Miis standing around collecting e-dust. And also comes in handy when you reach a room that requires a certain colored shirt Mii to progress. Some enemies require strategy too, since I’ve come across a ghost that makes a mirage copy version and a slime that heals itself if you’re not effective enough.

Potions are new, too. You purchase them with Play Coins during combat, and here’s the ones I’ve seen so far:

  • Vial of Valor (8 Play Coins) – Calls back up to three heroes who have left
  • Power Potion (20 Play Coins) – Boosts your heroes’ levels

Whew. See? A lot of shtuff.

Considering there’s an Accomplishment for completing Find Mii five times and multiple paths to take, I suspect I’ll be plugging away at this for some time now. Looking forward to the 2012 comics con scene for more tags so that I can show everyone my sweet Laytonesque Top Hat. I’m sure there’s a lot of other cool hats, but for me, that’s all my Mii needs.

One-punch Pauly takes down Jaron Namir with ease

I hated the fight against Lawrence Barrett; I loathed the battle against Yelena Fedorova; and yet, to the surprise of me and all of y’all, I have no rage-inspired emotional response to the third boss battle against Jaron Namir. It was over too fast. I snuck up behind Namir as he was hopping over a wall, triggered the stealth punch button, and…punched his lights out. One hit, ten seconds…boss fight done. I have no idea if this is a glitch or if I’m a gaming god or ultimately if I was doing it wrong–whatever the case, I don’t care. The less time I spend on boss fights in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the more I like the game.

Mmm-mmm good. I can hear Colonel Campbell screaming his name now:

The Snake (25G): You defeated Jaron Namir, Leader of Belltower’s Elite Special Operations Unit.

And here I was, all prepared and ready to spew hate upon hate upon hate over this third boss fight. Nope, not today. However, the game’s not over yet. Jensen still has one last mission to do. You know, save the world and all that. I’m excited to see the credits roll, and I think if you’ve been reading all my rants about this game lately you’ll know why. However, even on a second, shooty playthrough, I’m still going to one-punch Namir to death…unless it is a glitch and gets patched before that chance pops up again.

One-punch Pauly. He only swings once, but he makes it count. POW!