Category Archives: update

A belated update about life and stuff

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Well, it’s been a couple of months. I last updated Grinding Down towards the end of June, right before my family and I took a big ol’ vacation to sunny-hot Florida and the happiest place on Earth. Yup, I’m talking about Walt Disney World, which was a ton of fun and a wee bit stressful and full of memories for sure and I really like Moscow Mules, even if they are made with moonshine. Anyways…

However, once I returned back to not-so-hot New Jersey, I found myself suffering from intense stomach pains and bathroom issues. Actually, those had been there long before the trip, but they got worse as the days went on. So bad that my girlfriend convinced me to go to the ER…where I got diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Yeah, that’s a bummer, to be quick about it.

I then spent 17 days in the hospital, getting X-rays and CT scans and surgery to remove masses from my colon. Got poked a whole bunch with needles too. I’m now undergoing chemotherapy to deal with the…ahem innumerable masses on my liver. Those are the doctors’ words, not mine, by the way.

Honestly, I’m doing well. I remain in good spirits and am strong and ready to battle on. Heck, I’m even drawing comics about the whole ordeal. Also, I’m continuing to play lots of games. Amazingly, one of them is Fortnite, which I never expected to get into, but I bought the battle pass for the current season and really love going after the challenges. Melanie helps too. Oh, also, she’s no longer my girlfriend…she’s my fiance! ❤

I don’t know how frequently I’ll be blogging. Certainly won’t be like the good ol’ days, but that’s just how life goes right now. I have other things to focus on, but writing is therapeutic, and I’m all about healing this disease. So I’ll be back. I know y’all are dying to know my thoughts on all these hot releases, like Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and Dragon Quest VIII on the 3DS.

Grinding Down’s 2017 gaming resolutions

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This is always dangerous, making promises. I’ve done it in the past here on Grinding Down, only to burn myself and those written words when it, for instance, ultimately, took many more years for me to beat Final Fantasy IX. Still, it’s always good to have goals, something to reach for and hopefully achieve after putting in the hard work, and, at the very least, these empty checkmark boxes give me direction, a place to go when I’m not sure what to do next. I’m not saying I’ll be successful on every account below, but I am willing to try. For all we know, 2017 could be the year of our very unmaking, and I might as well go down fighting for a cause, trivial as some of these may be.

Right. Allow me to highlight some future gaming goals…

Suikoden III

It’s always been my intention to play (and replay) the entire Suikoden series from start to finish to get to the games I’ve never touched yet, specifically Suikoden III, Suikoden IV, and Suikoden Tactics. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t believe I ever saw credits roll on Suikoden V, but I do have a memory card save…somewhere. I got through replaying the first two games rather quickly, but then moved on to other non-Konami adventures after that.

For 2017, I’d like to get back to collecting them 108 Stars of Destiny, especially after finally playing some Dragon Age: Inquisition last year and seeing a few strong connections between the two. The roadblock is that I want to finish up everything for Dragon Age: Inquisition first before moving on to another large, time-demanding RPG. I just became friends with Dorian and am looking to move things forward romantically with Blackwall before tackling many more side missions. It’s probably going to be awhile.

So, I did play a bit of Suikoden III a few years ago, but my PlayStation 2 copy seems scratched up and unreliable. Thankfully, during some past PSN flash sale, I purchased a digital copy for the PlayStation 3, which means I really have no excuse now. It’s installed, ready to go. The real question is, as always, what to name my castle once I acquire it.

Earthbound

I’m not sure what it’s going to take me to finally start playing EarthBound. I was hoping buying the game, for more or less zero dollars thanks to Nintendo Club’s closing back in May 2015, was a solid place to begin. Alas, nope. I haven’t loaded it up once. Honestly, having this game available on the Wii U gamepad and not actually a Super NES locked to a TV should make this process even easier, considering I can take the experience with me into bed (hey now) before the Sandman visits.

However, that would mean I’d have to put down my Nintendo 3DS for some time, and with Disney Magical World 2 taking up all my pre-sleep time and Pokemon Moon waiting in the wings–as well as the remake of Dragon Quest VIII waiting even further in the wings–this might not happen just yet. Maybe by Spring 2017. I mostly wrote that to both give myself some breathing room, but also a starting point to stick to. This one’s for you, Iwata.

Steam backlog

At the time of writing, I have 362 games in my Steam library. Yeowza. Granted, many are not installed, and not all of them are huge, triple A titles that can’t even run well on my struggling-to-breathe ASUS laptop. Many have not been played at all, in fact. See, I have a bad habit of downloading just about every free thing released on the platform, as well as gobbling up indie bundles for real cheap to bloat this thing out even more. It’s gotten to the point that, when I do finally occasionally scroll through the list, I can barely remember where some of these titles came from, and then I freeze in fear, unable to decide what to try next, eventually settling on something safe, like AdVenture Capitalist or another unsuccessful run in Runestone Keeper. This is a problem.

I’m not here to make any kind of crazy schedule, like trying to play X number of games every week. That’s not going to gel with life. I am, however, here to make an effort, and make that effort known. I’m going to start small, using HowLongToBeat to help identify the not-so-big-timesinks and start whittling away from there. My problem, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, is that I always want to experience as much of a game as possible, that I can’t remove it simply after beating it if there are, for instance, collectibles remaining to find or extra challenges that could be accomplished. I need to work on that. I need to accept that not every game needs to be squeezed dry, leaving nothing behind but a colorless husk. For 2017, I need to let go more often.

80,000 Gamerscore

This seems more than doable, especially considering that I jumped 10,000 Achievement points in the matter of six months last year. This goal also feeds into the constant sub-goal of clearing up hard-drive space on my consoles and removing finished games, as I continue to download those freebies every month, but not do much else with them except wonder when I’ll find the time. I’m looking to polish off Earthlock: Festival of Magic real soon, as well as a number of those single introductory episodes from Telltale’s numerous adventure gaming series, which will probably help make a good step forward towards this next milestone.

Create something one might call a game or experience or waste of time

Now, I know nothing about programming and code and how to submit something for certification with the big console-makers. It takes me upwards of three minutes to remember how to hyperlink something using HTML when the button doesn’t work here on WordPress. That’s fine. I’m not looking to do all that and beyond. This can obviously be argued, but: I can draw, I can write, and I have ideas.

And so, I want to create something. An experience, with emotions and mood and meaning and jokes, maybe stuff to click on, a puzzle or two or twist you never saw coming. Something interactive. Which leads me to think that a piece of interactive fiction is a good starting area. I plan playing a few pieces of interactive fiction soon, which will hopefully help bring the inspiration juices to a boil (ew gross). The trickier part would be deciding what story to tell, y’know, from the hundreds bouncing around in my brain every day.

Well, there you have it. Five things make a post. Two named games to finally dive into, a whole bunch of things within my Steam library, a larger Gamerscore, and something creative. We’ll stop there, as any more goals will just tip the boat over.

That said, how about y’all? What are you looking forward to accomplishing in 2017? It need not be related to videogames. Perhaps you are finally ready to start cleaning up that garage full of clutter (hi, Dad!) or want to exercise more or get into knitting. Either way, let me know in the comments. I like knowing.

Buy low, sell high, and make bank with Market Crashers

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Remember when I beat Crimson Shroud some time back and opened up a ton of free space on my Nintendo 3DS? No? Well, click here to read more about that and then come back so, sequentially, you are following along with this story. It might help. Right. Well, with all that free space prime for the filling, I went and downloaded a bunch of other things, such as updates to Pokémon Shuffle and that freemium Pokémon Picross thing, which I’ve kind of only touched twice since and not for very long. Aside from those, I also grabbed a free new StreetPass mini-game from Nintendo as part of their promotion of a whole bunch of new StreetPass mini-games, deciding between Slot Car Rivals, a racing game, and Market Crashers, a business simulation game. You can figure out which one I picked.

Ultimately, Market Crashers is a fast-paced decision-making game. You know how in those Telltale games like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones you only have so long to reply to someone before the scene moves forward? It’s all that. Except money is at stake instead of someone’s friendship or, as it often happens, their life. Anyways, you are a new day trader to the market scene, and so you’ll need the help of analysts to ensure you are making the best estimations of the market. This is where the StreetPassing comes in, as each person you connect with will help show a stronger forecast of how the market will play out. That way you know when to buy low and sell high or hold back. Or, if you are like me, buy one share and then immediately freeze up from a panic attack over not wanting to mess up, ironically messing up nonetheless.

You can buy up to ten shares at a time from fictitious companies like Piece-By-Piece Deliveries and Kingfinder Studios. Purchasing a share is as easy as hitting a button; in fact, that’s what you do–the A button buys shares and the Y button sells. As time trudges forward, an analyst might say that there is big news, and this could either be a big drop or rise. The short goal for Market Crashers is to do well and earn money, using those StreetPassed Miis to the best of their ability, and the longer goal is to earn a massive amount of money, with the first flag being $10 million. Hmm. In the two sessions I played, I earned money, and then I lost money, so that longer goal might forever be a longer goal for me.

Stocks are definitely not my thing, both in real life and, now I can confirm, in videogame form. Watching line graphs grow and change isn’t all that exciting, and knowing that an investment is behind those ups and downs is more than enough to stress me out greatly. Then there’s also the requirement of making rapid-fire decisions to get things done. Um, no. I’m not good at that. I’m a thinker, a muller (not to be confused with a mullet), a man of wonder, and I’m always one hundred percent too afraid to instantly commit to something in the matter of a few seconds. Chances are, that never works out great for me. I’d rather assess the scenario, really study it, and then dive in. In the end, I’d make a better analyst than day trader.

I don’t know. Maybe I should have gone with that little car racing game. It’s too late now to go back, and I don’t expect to hit many more areas with lots of people carrying their Nintendo 3DS around–thanks, MICE 2016!–so I’ll just stick with collecting puzzle pieces and earning new hats via multiple playthroughs of Find Mii 2.

You’ll never take this 60,000 Gamerscore away from me

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It was only a couple of months ago that I was touting my latest small victory, of hitting a Gamerscore of 55,555 perfectly on the dot. Now, over my years of gaming since gaining an Xbox 360 and loving the quest of popping many Achievements, I’ve normally only gone after the, in my zany and hairy mind, seemingly milestone-esque amounts, such as 10,000, 20,000, and so on. The big numbers. You can find posts on these ::ahem:: achievements by clicking here. However, I saw an opportunity then to do something silly, and I rounded out that post speculating that I’d hit 60,000 by the end of the summer or 2016. Looks like I second-guessed my ability to do numerous tasks and receive digital rewards for them. Shame on me.

Well, here, enjoy the photographic proof. You’ll notice that I finally upgraded my user pic–I think this colorful dude looks pretty close to me, or, at the very least, close to how I imagine people in the real world view me–as well as gained a couple more friends/followers:

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Speech time. I’d like to personally thank the following games for helping me along the way, in whatever ways possible, since mid-March, because, without them, I wouldn’t be here today talking about 60,000 Gamerscore:

  • Tom Clancy’s The Division – Thanks for having so many collectibles to collect, even if all I got in the end was a rosy pink jacket. Just kidding. Got a ton of Achievements from running around an empty map of New York City in search of cell phones and abandoned laptops while friends did actual missions.
  • Gears of War 2 – Thanks for a fairly okay solo campaign and multiplayer modes that allow me to play against the AI instead of thirteen-year-old kids that like to curse. At some point, I’ll be back to get all them dog tags.
  • Saints Row IV – Thanks for just kickin’ back and saying, “Have at it!” I’m still working towards a few goals in Steelport, but the fact that there’s a menu keeping track of all your stats, such as how many kills you’ve gotten with a specific weapon, is extremely useful.
  • Hitman Absolution – Thanks for being the sort of game that lets you be sneaky sneaky and then all-out action hero when things go wrong. I hope to write about you soon, as I’m having a much better time in your world than I did in Blood Money.
  • Tekken Tag Tournament 2 – Thanks really goes to Bandai Namco for making Tekken 7, as well as giving this one out for free during E3! Tekken has always been one of my favorite fighting game series, though I strangely never got to play any of the Tag games. Until now. So far, I pretty much only use Jun Kazama.
  • Microsoft Treasure Hunt – Thanks for providing that 10G Achievement of revealing a trap on the first level, which helped me nail the 60,000 mark perfectly. You’re a blessing. Also, I promise to come back and play you at some point, as you seem like a mix of Minesweeper and a rogue-like, which…yeah, sure.

::a round of roaring applause while some bouncy exit-stage-left music plays and I’m ushered away behind the curtains::

So, is 70,000 Gamerscore possible in 2016? Hey, anything‘s possible. It’s the doing that takes work. Believe in me, dear readers, and I’ll see you when I get there.

The instructional quest of three tutorials for four Achievements

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It all began with doing half of Terraria‘s tutorial, which put me at a perfect Gamerscore of 55,555, which, to number-obsessive nerds like myself, is an amusing triumph. Loyal readers of Grinding Down should already know that I have a penchant for going after perfect scores, like 10,000, 20,000, and so on, but when I saw that I was sitting humbly at 55,550 after playing some Tom Clancy’s The Division…I just knew I needed to make it something special. I assumed it wouldn’t be tough to do, and, for once, I assumed correctly.

And so I scanned my list of games, searching for a 5-point Achievement that could slide me into the sweet spot. I found a couple, but none of them screamed easy to me, and I couldn’t risk going after something like this only to pop an Achievement for 10 or 15 points and completely blow the plan. Thus, I settled on Terraria, which I got for free back in April 2015, downloaded, and then didn’t touch. There’s also a copy on my laptop that I never got into; I’ve always viewed it as a more complex 2D Minecraft, and the thought of maneuvering its UI via a controller is beyond off-putting. Still, there’s an Achievement for 5 points for starting the tutorial, as well as one for 5 points upon completing it, which lead to me loading the event up, beginning it, and then shutting my console down. Y’know, like a boss.

Anyways, since I’ve now already leapfrogged past this 55,555 mark and am on my way to the coveted 60,000 check-box, here’s photographic proof from a few days ago for preservation’s sake:

55555 gamerscore

Aw yeah to the heck yeah. Also, maybe I need to update my user pic so that it fills in that whole gray circle. Maybe.

Anyways, sticking with the tutorial theme of this post, I also then played the tutorial levels for Gears of War 2 and Supreme Commander 2, both of which have been added to the free games list for Gaming with Gold. I like that, for these two games, as well as Terraria, the tutorial sections are optional or skippable. Most games work them into the opening level, which can sometimes feel forced and too hand-holdy. The Gears of War 2 tutorial has you teaching a rookie how to be a super soldier like yourself, which at least makes sense from a narrative perspective since you already know how to actively reload from the previous game, whereas Supreme Commander 2 explains every step of how to play an RTS game on a console, in two lengthy parts. It brought back all those reasons why I don’t love this genre, unfortunately.

Hands down, my favorite tutorial level to date is the one from Deus Ex. Here’s a convenient visual walkthrough of it. Anyways, again, it’s separate from the main campaign, but does a good job of teaching you a number of important mechanics without overwhelming you. Plus, there’s room to be goofy and explore, and there’s even a secret area you can access if you search hard enough. I feel like I’ve played the tutorial more times than the actual game at this point.

In the end, here are all of my digitally sweet and easy e-peen rewards:

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Terraria Student (5G): Begin the tutorial!

Achievement_Terraria_Expert
Terraria Expert (5G): You have completed the tutorial!

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Green as Grass (10G): Train the rook (any difficulty)

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Start Here (10G): Complete both parts of the tutorial

I wonder what weird side mission I’ll undergo to nail 60,000 Gamerscore on the dot, which, at this rate, is either by summer or end of 2016. Hmm. Either way, I’m sure it’ll be weirdly fun to write about. Until then, I guess.

Never want to go back to Final Fantasy IX’s Oeilvert

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Last time I wrote about Final Fantasy IX, I expressed my concern over the fact that I just couldn’t help myself wasting hours and hours on grinding for permanent abilities for all potential party members. The siren’s call to fight Zemzelett over and over simply so both Garnet and Eiko had all potential summons at their disposal was too hard to resit. Well, all I can say is that, despite wanting to do more ability grinding, I moved the plot forward after my summoners stocked up on epic, screen-defying magical beings from beyond. I mean, it’s scary–2015 is nearly over, and I simply cannot let another year go by where I don’t see this adventure through.

Unfortunately, I was watching Giant Bomb‘s Drew and Alexis Extra Life 2015 stream–for the kids!–while playing, and missed an important piece of dialogue before selecting which party of members I wanted to bring to Oeilvert. Other than the name of a place that is deviously tough to spell, it’s also home to some mystical maguffin called the Gulug Stone that Kuja wants, but is afraid to gather for himself. So he kidnaps Zidane and his friends, and in order to save some of them from dropping to their death, tasks Zidane and three other people with traveling there and obtaining the thingy for him. The important part of dialogue I missed though was that Oeilvert is a no magic zone; naturally, because I missed this, I brought Vivi, Eiko, and Garnet with me, all three of which are heavy on magic casting and not so much on hitting enemies with sticks. This made Oeilvert much harder than it needed to be, but by then I had already committed to the task, plus saved my progress.

After you complete Oeilvert, you switch back over to Cid, now a frog instead of a oglop, as he helps free the other party members. How? Through a time-based stealth puzzle section where you have to also place certain weights on scales…naturally. It’s goofy and tricky, and I’m not going to hide the fact that I looked up a solution to the weights puzzle as I was running low on time and worried about losing a good chunk of progress. It’s certainly not the best part of Final Fantasy IX, that’s for sure. With everyone else freed, you get to search the Desert Palace, light candles, and fight monsters. However, now my party was made up of Freya, Steiner, Quina, and Amarant, none of which I look to for magic stuff.

See, in this area, you fight Grimlocks, which have different strengths and weaknesses based on what colored head is on the top. The red head deals out high physical damage dealer, but has a low defense to magic. On the flip, the blue head casts status-inducing spells and has low physical defense. Basically, it boils down to this–when the red head is on top, cast magic, and when the blue is on top, attack with weapons. Basically, I had to constantly wait for these beasts to don their blue heads and then attack with everyone, though Quina did have a water spell in his/her/its inventory. This made these fights extra long, and when you get into a random encounter every few steps, it can begin to feel a bit maddening.

Somehow, I got through it all and am now on my way to the Last Continent. It might not have been the clearest cut path–and that’s my fault for not selecting better balanced parties–but I’m right behind Kuja and his army of questioning black mages as they cross through Esto Gaza. Progress, people. Progress.

Look, I don’t know how Final Fantasy IX concludes, nor do I want to just yet, so please refrain from spoilers in the comments section. Somehow, I’ve remained blissfully ignorant when it comes to plot details for the end of this story, as well as Final Fantasy VIII, but I really do feel like we’re dragging our feet now. The conclusion to disc two felt more like a finale than anything else, but I guess then that would be too short for a JRPG from the mammoth Squaresoft. I’m not as invested in Kuja as a villain as I was with Garnet’s mother, and so I am simply following after the effeminate man because the game is telling me to. Also, I hope I get an airship like soon.

Newly joined Henry quickly becomes one for the books

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Given the lapse of updates since I lost Sully, you might’ve assumed I haven’t played much more Fire Emblem: Awakening, but you’d be totally wrong. In fact, I’ve played a lot more, an hour almost every night. Granted, that one hour is generally a single chapter, boiled down to one long battle, but it’s forward progress nonetheless.

Basically, I’ve gone from chapter 9 to chapter 13 “Of Sacred Blood,” though I can’t really speak too much about what happened during those four chapters story-wise as things certainly do happen. One of them even caught me unawares. I can tell you, however, that nobody in the Shepherds died during four of the five latest battles, until last night, when dark mage newb Henry strolled on in and, just as fast, strolled on out. Dang it.

Although Henry hails from Plegia, he happily joins Chrom’s army because…well, he loves war. He’s like Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son; looks like a nice, innocent little lad, but then you find out he’s into blood and mayhem and decidedly evil things. Yeah, don’t let him babysit your kids. Anyways, he joins at the beginning of the fight, swooping in as a swarm of ravens, but I wasn’t really paying attention to him during the majority of the fight, as I knew where the advancing soldiers were and how best to handle them with friendly units I’ve come to know very well. Like Frederick and Norne and Stahl. So when enemy troops spawned at unguarded fortresses at the bottom of the map and Henry was all by himself, there weren’t enough Hex spells in the realm to keep him safe. Oh well. I already have my avatar and Nyna for excellent magic spells.

Okay, so Henry’s gone. I also missed out on recruiting a woman named Tharja in an earlier chapter, but I did get a few other newbies to join and remain safely in the Shepherds: Libra, Olivia, Cherche, and [name redacted for spoilery reasons]. Onwards we march, for peace and the Ylissean people…