Tag Archives: Fire Emblem: Awakening

Wargroove brings brain-teasing tactics to consoles

Evidently, I am attracted to a very specific type of strategy game, and it is Wargroove. Which, as far as I can tell, is trying to be a modern take on the Advance Wars series, but I never got to play any of them, woe is me. In fact, the only strategy games I have any experience with are Fire Emblem: Awakening, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, among other smaller titles that I surely can’t remember at this moment. In short, I’ve never been a big fan of SRPGs or tactical games, but the genre is growing on me, especially if it is turn-based and not action-driven, like the Command & Conquer series. Give me time to think, people.

Anyways, Wargroove is a turn-based tactics video game in which players explore maps and battle foes, which is pretty typical stuff. Players can choose to take control of one of thirteen commanders, each with their own campaign, motivations, and personality, as well as special ability, referred to as a Groove. The game supports local and online multiplayer, including player versus player and cooperative play. There’s also a bunch of campaign-editing tools to allow players to create their own maps, which I promise here and now to never do though I’m not opposed to downloading some others have created. For me, it’s all about the main campaign.

Let’s dig in further. When war breaks out in the Kingdom of Cherrystone, the young Queen Mercia–who I occasionally misread as Merica–must flee her home. Pursued by her foes, which includes vampires, the only way to save her kingdom is to travel to new lands in search of allies. So far, I’ve only completing all the missions in Act 1 so…this is kind of all I really know story-wise at the moment. I’m sure things will get more dramatic later, but Wargroove does a great job with its storytelling, using in-game graphics to present bits of dialogue. I am always a fan of when a character grunts or just speaks one word from an entire sentence, and that’s how things go here, but you still get an idea about these people and what they sound like.

The first few missions do a good job of slowly easing you into Wargroove‘s groove. Your goal is generally to either defeat the opposing army’s commander or take their fortress. Capturing unallied buildings on the map or taking them from your opponent earns you money, which you can then spend on new units or health. The campaign introduces the units one after another and gives you hints as to their use, as well as how to use their respective critical hits. The first time you’re up against airborne fiends, for example, you also gain ballistas and mages, both excellent against that particular type of enemy. These missions give you time to get to know units and their strengths and weaknesses without being overbearing. Knowing what type of soldier fares best against what enemy is vitally crucial to keeping your troops standing.

So far, Wargroove’s weaknesses are a bit of a bummer and do detract from its general goodness. These include its occasional spike of crushing difficulty and tendency to drag on, turn after turn after turn. Positioning characters in the right spots for attacks and critical hits is already difficult enough, but Wargroove’s maps are relatively large, which means you can spend round after round simply traveling to meet the enemy or setting up your troops in the most optimal location possible. Maps often have chokepoints, such as bridges, that can be difficult to circumvent, quickly leading to your soldiers literally lining up to meet their maker. Flanking enemies is really important, as your damage to rival troops goes up greatly, but generating an army large enough to do so takes time, even if you load a bunch of them into wagons.

That all said, I am enjoying Wargroove and am excited to hop back into it after taking a bit of break once I got through Act 1’s missions. Seems like a big patch just hit for the game too, with many things being updated, such as adding mid-mission checkpoints and such. That’s cool. If it can make some of the more difficult missions easier and forgiving, I’m all for it, because it stinks to waste thirty minutes doing battle only to have your commander get wiped somewhat unfairly.

Lastly, I’m just going to leave this here, because it is all anyone needs to see to know that Wargroove is super special:

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My five favorite games in 2013

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Well, it’s here. The end of the year. That special time when one sits and thinks about all the months that came before, and the interactive media that helped pass the hours, enjoyably or not. This post is about the stars, the winners, the smile-makers–not the clunkers, many of which I managed to avoid thanks to keen eyes and a tightened wallet.

As Grinding Down readers are most likely to know already, I’m not always able to play a lot of the big AAA titles that come out in over the swoosh of the past three hundred and sixty-five days, though I try now and then to at least sample a few of them. Click this very sentence for the full list of games I went through in 2013. For instance, this year, I did experience both BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V, but the truth of the matter is that those two titles are, unfortunately, pretty mediocre–to me. Remember, this is my list, my favorite games that I have greatly enjoyed playing and am still playing, and I’d completely understand if you’d want to fight me tooth and nail in defense of why the combat in Infinite is more than just a means to pad out the story or why Los Santos is the most sandboxy sandbox that ever sandboxed, but your cries fall upon deaf ears. I like what I like, and there’s nothing you can do to make me swing the other way.

Fine. Let’s not dress this up any more than necessary. Without further wandering, these are my five favorite games from 2013.

Doritos Crash Course 2

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I bet you’re scratching your collective heads over this one. Number five on my list is a sponsored free-to-play sequel with microtransactions to a sponsored free-to-play side-scrolling platformer that was solid fun, but limited in variety, and you probably think that sounds absolutely terrible. Maybe in writing it does, but I can’t get over how fun running, jumping, sliding, and climbing to the end of every obstacle course is in Doritos Crash Course 2. I continue to play it and earn stars, always striving for a better time on some levels or that occasionally elusive gold medal. The game is also constantly comparing your score with those on your friends list, giving you extra incentive to do better.

Thankfully, the microtransactions are completely ignorable, though earning more stars to unlock new levels or alternate paths might feel like a grind to some, but I enjoy both racing through a course to be first and going back a second time to slowly find all the collectibles. The level designs are pretty imaginative–there’s a tropical jungle and ancient Egypt and so on–and the music that plays when you cross the finish line is catchy and forever burned in my brain. If you have an Xbox 360, this is the free game to download and devote yourself to, not Happy Wars or Ascend: Hand of Kul.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

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So far, I’ve only played Fire Emblem: Awakening once, and I suspect I will never go back to it, since I played the game with permadeath on and those that fell in battle truly fell in battle for me. That’s how my story went. Just like how I play Telltale’s The Walking Dead. In fact, I documented every death that happened–21 in total, I believe was the final count–and you can read about each sad story by sifting through this tag. I can understand why many chose not to play with permadeath on or would constantly reload a previous save if things went awry, because I ended up missing out on a lot of content by losing a good number of men and women. Mostly marriage and future kid stuff, but that element of the game is fascinating and fun, thanks to really quirky, fantastic writing. I’d have loved to see more pairings.

Strategy RPGs are very hit or miss with me, but something about the rock, paper, scissors nature of the battle system was easy to grasp, even if it could lethally bite you in the ass if you moved a flier too close to an archer. Leveling up and selecting new roles added just the perfect amount of customization that I’m always looking for, and Fire Emblem: Awakening‘s presentation, cutscenes, sound, and voice acting was beyond amazing. Really superb stuff. Just ignore the fact that nobody has feet.

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale

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Like playing a Hayao Miyazaki film. Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale is a small, quiet game, which ironically tells the story of giant monsters that eventually fight each other just above a rather quaint village. It’s a love letter to a childhood I imagine I had, even if I didn’t because I grew up in South Jersey, not rural Japan. There’s not a lot of game here save for collecting sparkly glims and battling friends in a card-based minigame, but, as Sohta, you’ll come to know the town and its streets rather intimately, as well as the relaxing drone of cicadas. Exploration, learning, and being a kid are the key themes here, and even when things get weird, they remain charming as heck. Absolutely the standout when it comes to Level-5’s Guild series, even if the digital dice-rolling in Crimson Shroud is freakishly satisfying. It’s not a long gaming experience, but rather a lasting one.

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time

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I just finished this up over the weekend, and I’m not even mad that it ends with a clunky, finger-tiring QTE. I’m not even mad, bro. Thieves in Time will stand the test of time as another great entry in the Sly Cooper series, and that’s saying a lot since it was not developed by the original creators at Sucker Punch Productions.

Sanzaru Games clearly saw what were the best elements from the original trilogy–open world, a variety of missions, fun-to-get collectibles–and added their own fancy ingredients, like ancestors with unique powers, to make a solid, time-hopping adventure. The cutesy, goofy characters and Saturday morning cartoon vibe is retained, as are Sly’s ability to climb up nearly everything and make a swift trip from rooftop to rooftop. Love it so very much. I have to still go back for some hidden treasures, but I’m kind of waiting for Giant Bomb‘s 2013 GOTY podcasts to go up, as I can do that while I listen to them argue with each other. This came out early in 2013 at a budget price, with cross-buy too for the PS Vita. However, it was unfortunately easy to miss. Glad I got to it this year.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

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Hmm. Where do I begin? I guess at the beginning. I’ve been playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf every day–or just about every day–since it came out. Sometimes it is only for ten minutes, which is just enough time to find fossils, hit the money rock, say hi to my favorite resident Sylvia, and visit the shop, and other times it can be around 45 minutes to an hour, where I’ll spend more time fishing or maybe visiting the summer island or just goofing off with Tara. There’s both always things to do and emergent gameplay to be found. My house is barely paid off, as I have enjoyed expanding Arni more with public projects, like building the police station, the cafe, and, most recently, the Dream Suite.

The improvements over Wild World are both extremely noticeable and great. You can now stack fruit in your inventory, select multiple fossils for Blathers to assess in one gulp, switch between tools with the d-pad, and so on. Plus, you can take screenshots and share them online on all the usual social media hotspots, which I love doing, even if they probably drive my 3DS-less sister mad with jealousy. There’s just something so amazing about a game that is more interested in constantly rewarding you for your hard work than berating you to constantly do better. With holiday events, visiting guests, and fishing/bug collecting tournaments, you’re never without something to look forward to. In fact, every Saturday night, I turn on Animal Crossing: New Leaf and go watch K.K. Slider perform to earn a new song for my astro CD player to blast out. This game is very much part of my life again, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

And there’s my list. I’m pretty pleased with it, though I do wish I had gotten to a couple other big name games–or big name indie games, if that’s a thing–in 2013. Stay tuned for that list maybe later this week. Anyways, that’s my five. What were some of your favorite games this year?

Survive three different planes of platforming in Mutant Mudds

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Don’t let Mutant Mudds‘ colorful sprites, cute critters, and bouncy tunes fool you; this is one tough cookie. Well, technically it’s a platformer. And a serious test of one’s patience and ability to soldier on. Also, don’t be surprised to know there’s a story behind all that jumping, hovering, and shooting: Max, the blonde-haired, glasses-wearing main protagonist, is sitting in his living room playing videogames when a large meteor suddenly hits the planet. A TV news station then reports that there’s been a “Muddy” invasion. Equipped with only his water gun and jetpack, Max takes it upon himself to stop these Mutant Mudds…by collecting, um…y’know, end-of-level Water Sprites and gold diamonds. The stuff mutant piles of mud(d) hate the most.

Originally, I played a bit of Mutant Mudds on my laptop, using an Xbox 360 controller, as I find platformers extremely difficult with mouse and keyboard. I did not get very far though, maybe only earning 10 to 15 Water Sprites. But then, thanks to a swell promotion from Nintendo for purchasing both Fire Emblem: Awakening and Shin Megami Tensei IV with a set time period, I came into $30 worth of eShop money, just begging to be spent. I purchased Attack of the Friday Monsters! and Super Mario Bros. 2 some time back, but stopped there, unsure of what else to get. Then, without warning, I realized I needed two very difficult puzzle platformers for on-the-go gaming, and so I bought Mutant Mudds and VVVVVV; I’ll write about the latter later.

Anyways, I’ve actually done much better playing on the handheld than the PC, completing all the main levels in Mutant Mudds and collecting 20 Water Sprites and all the gold diamonds. The game actually uses 3D smartly, and I turned it on in several spots to help differentiate between the three planes of platforming. After completing the main-ish levels, I opened up four more levels dubbed “In Space No One Can Hear You Screaming In Frustration After Getting Hit By That Mud Monster That Spits.” At least that’s what I’ve been calling them. I’ve actually completed the first of the four new levels, but after many, many attempts, I just don’t see myself beating the rest. Timing is so essential, both in landing your jumps and moving fast to beat the ticking clock, and Max can only take three hits before its lights out; I thought level 4-4 was masochistically tough, but these space levels are that and then some.

While I avoid dying in space–and no, I’m not talking about Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity–there are a couple other ways to distract myself in Mutant Mudds. Within each level, there are two alternative exits. One takes you to a mini-level stylized after the Virtual Boy and another goes to a place paying love and homage to the Game Boy. There are no gold diamonds in these, but if you complete them you can still acquire a Water Sprite at the end. These are nifty, and I’ve done a few, but finding the alt exits in the main level seems to require a specific power-up equipped, and I refuse to use anything other than the extended hover item. That’s right. I refuse.

I might try the lingering, menacingly taunting three space levels a few more times here and there, but don’t expect a “just beat” haiku any time soon. Which stinks, as I’m pretty close to the end.

Lastly: vanishing platforms can burn in Hell.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #19 – Fire Emblem: Awakening

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The trials of Chrom
Cost many their lives, too bad
Permadeath is tough

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Nowi and Norne are no more as Fire Emblem: Awakening marches on

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In actuality, Fire Emblem: Awakening‘s Chapter 23 “Invisible Ties” could have ended with several other deaths, but only Nowi and Norne fell down, never to get back up. That now brings the total to…21 dead characters in this permadeath playthrough. I am unstoppable.

One of those two that kicked the bucket is a main story character, who I recently married to Kellam and saw have a half-mime, half-dragon child with, and the other came from the Bonus Box, which means she is, alas, nonessential. But she was pretty special to me, seeing that I had leveled Norne up to 20, then reclassed her to a Sniper, and had her hit the level cap for a second time. She was wicked killer with all kinds of bows and had excellent range, so seeing her struck swiftly down was not easy to endure. Nowi, as a Manakete, which is the Fire Emblem way of saying dragon, was not very active in battle, having only the ability to breath a fireball now and then via Dragonstones. I used her enough to form a relationship with Kellam and bring forth her future kid, but that was about it. She “retired” at the ripe age of over 1,000 years old.

::pours one out for the bow and the beast::

However, as I’ve come to experience in Fire Emblem: Awakening, everything balances out. So while I lost two members of the Shepherds, I also gained two new ones. Alas, for extremely story-related reasons, I can’t say who I got, and hopefully I can keep them alive long enough to not have to spoil y’all over their reveal. I like them flavor-wise, but neither seem to be anything great in terms of weapons and skills, and seeing how late they are joining my team, I won’t have many more chances to grind them up in levels and relationships. I wonder if I can get a future child from them though…

Anyways, based on what happens in Chapter 23 and how it relates to the opening level of the game, I kind of thought it was the final battle, but it looks like there are a few more to go. Despite all my losses, I think I can do it. The Shepherds will  be victorious. I know, famous last words.

Had to kill off Cordelia in Fire Emblem: Awakening to make room for future kids

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All right, another one down and out–by that I mean “retired” this time, not dead dead–in Fire Emblem: Awakening. No surprise, really: it’s Cordelia, a member of Ylisse’s Pegasus Knight Squad. And that means a single thrown stone can take her out, and since the enemy AI loves to attack the most vulnerable character at any given chance, even if it makes no sense strategy-wise, she fell fast after I accidentally moved her too close to a horseback archer’s range. A shame, really, as things were turning around for the Shepherds. Well, in my eyes, at least; everyone totally understands that, at this point, I’ve now killed 20 of my loyal friends, which irrefutably means I’m a terrible tactician. But we were growing closer, like a family.

Speaking of that, I got myself married. Woo! Well, for a second time. Don’t tell Tara. Her name is Say’ri, an old-fashioned princess if there ever was one, and we’re pretty pleased as punch to become one. From that, we were able to create our future kid Morgan. Kellam and Nowi also hooked up, producing a future dragon baby with the best name ever: Nah. Unfortunately, I flubbed up; long before these two marriages came and happened, with me learning how the future kid paralogues worked, I had Stahl and Panne unite in true love. However, during their kid’s paralogue battle, I accidentally picked the wrong side, and the only other rabbit beast thing left the realm for good, slain by what could have been her new companions and parents. My bad. I didn’t know…though I totally should have known.

So, lost one, but gained two. I also managed to complete both Chapter 19 and Chapter 20 with everyone safe and sound. Alas, at this point, I can’t really make many more kids because most of the story-related characters needed for pairing up with those that still remain and are kidless…are dead. See, I knew there would be drastic consequences to this whole permadeath thing. Poor Frederick must now cut off his genitals and become a eunuch.

Two more deaths and a confession for Fire Emblem: Awakening

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I have a confession to make: I reloaded a previous save in Fire Emblem: Awakening last night after losing too many–in my opinion–key characters during Chapter 19 “The Conquerer,” which felt like a slaughtering in all definitions of the word. And by key, here is who died during that one battle: Kellam, Nowi, and Norne. Two main storyline characters and one downloadable archer from the Bonus Box section, but I was mostly annoyed with losing Kellam, as at this point in the game I’ve reclassed him to be a Great Knight, making him an efficient killing machine. So yeah, I felt a conflicting twist in my chest the entire time, watched the cutscene after the battle, and decided restart my 3DS before I got too far in and accidentally saved away my digital friends.

The irony is that after reloading my previous save, I lost two other characters afterwards while grinding in better preparation for a second stab at Chapter 19. I figured that this was the game’s way of punishing me for going against my promise of permadeath all the way through. I’m not the only one feeling that hurt; see ya, Olivia and Mycen–it’s been real.

Right. I was using Reeking Boxes in some of the later parts of the map–depending where you use the item, the stronger the enemies will be, which of course means more XP to be gained–and this map was inside a castle, which meant tight halls and limited movement. Unfortunately, I moved Olivia too close to Serra, my healer, who was too close to an enemy unit. Once it was the enemy’s turn, they immediately made a bee-line for Olivia, striking her down in two axe swings. A shame she couldn’t sexy dance herself out of that fight. As for Mycen, a magic user toasted his Fire Emblem Gaiden butt, and I had only recently downloaded, fought, and recruited him to the Shepherds a chapter ago.

So now I’m down two more characters, which means I’m not fighting with a full company of characters in Chapter 19. And I need as many peeps as possible to survive that ordeal, considering how many enemy units there are and how often the reinforcements get called in. I was able to get Stahl to propose to Panne, and they got married. I’m not sure how to go about getting them to breed and make kids yet, and I’d love to have their child in the fight. I’m also trying to pair up myself (the Avatar) with Say’ri in hopes of stronger stats and a child. But it looks like if I’m to get past Chapter 19 any time soon, with all my friends save and sound, I will need to dip back into the Bonus Box for some extra characters. Any suggestions on who to recruit would be appreciated, and for all intents and purposes, I won’t be bringing back dead downloaded characters again, even though you totally can.

Onwards, I struggle. I mean…march.