Tag Archives: grinding

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Mugen Souls Z

For some reason, I thought Mugen Souls Z was an anime-based fighting game, something like Persona 4 Arena, which meant I could pop into it quickly, play a few matches, uninstall the beast, and write a few words related to the game as per my Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge feature. Alas, I was mistaken as this is a big-as-they-come JRPG, bursting with story, characters, more story, and some turn-based fighting, along with general elements of perverted skeeviness that I’m not down with. It’s not a hentai game, but it isn’t too far off in some aspects. More on that in a bit.

In Mugen Souls, the main protagonist Chou-Chou plans to conquer the universe by subjugating the seven worlds it comprises, as she thinks the planets look pretty. Traveling from world to world with her trusty companion Altis and loyal peon Ryuto, Chou-Chou aims to turn the heroes and demon lords of each world into her personal servants, saving the world from conflict in the process. That’s all fine and good, but none of that matters anymore because I’m playing Mugen Souls Z, which is the sequel to Mugen Souls, released in North America on May 20, 2014, for the PlayStation 3. The protagonist in this one is Syrma, a goddess aiming to stop an awkward ancient threat.

Mechanically and visually, as far as I can tell, Mugen Souls Z looks almost identical to its predecessor, but with some improved presentation bits. It’s got a cutesy look to it, with bright colors and bubbly personalities. You are not bogged down immediately with a hundred and one tutorials, as they are instead spread out over the first few hours, but even still, I found it to be a lot of concepts to juggle in my brain, from hitting crystals on the battlefield to turning enemies into peons and so on. The gameplay is also similar to the original; players will travel from one world to the next, finding spots on the map that will ask them to perform actions, such as handing over a certain item, using a certain fetish/affinity to flip their switch, or fighting a specific amount of monsters. Otherwise, you spend a good amount of time in G-Castle, which is both your flying spaceship that can transform into a big robot and your hub area full of shops and things to interact with.

Battles are somewhat tactical and turn-based. You can move around your party based on a circle, positioning them for maximum damage or even hitting multiple enemies at once. Each arena has a set of crystals, which, when activated, grant boosts or have negative repercussions. These allow for a certain level of cleverness on the player’s part, meaning that you can position yourself in such a way to literally cut damage in half while also boosting your own magic power. It’s a simple concept, but one that I still haven’t really figured out how to trigger. And no, I don’t want to go back and read the 15-page tutorial on it.

Ultimately, here are the things I liked:

  • That part where your G-Castle transforms and battles another large robot in the same style as the one-on-one duels in the Suikoden series, where you need to pay attention to the dialogue to prepare for the incoming attack.
  • The late title card that shows up, along with a music video, at the end of chapter 1.
  • That’s it.

Mugen Souls Z is way too talky for me. I’m not against a lot of dialogue, but much of it here feels unnecessary or repetitive. It took about two hours just to get to actual gameplay. Also, this is a very Japanese RPG, meaning that there’s a strong focus on fetishes, bouncy boobs, upskirt shots, and steamy bath scenes. Heck, the first piece of armor that you’ll unlock is underwear, and you’ll be able to accrue others as you play. I personally don’t know the ages of the main characters, but they look young to me, even as gods, and it’s extremely off-putting. I’m sure there’s an audience for this game, but I’m not part of it. And so it goes, uninstalled, never to know what ultimately happens to Chou-Chou, Syrma, and their friends. Maybe it is better not to know in the end.

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

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You don’t build a great castle just all at once, Suikoden III

Getting a castle in both Suikoden and Suikoden II remains some of my favorite gaming moments ever. No, really. There is so much to see in each castle, and, even if it is a bit empty at first, the possibility of filling it up with 108 Stars of Destiny is so exciting, especially once you begin to remember some of the people you saw earlier that could join up with you now. However, getting a castle under your wings in Suikoden III has been a serious letdown, and not just because it took me some 27 hours–many of which were spent grinding out levels–to finally see it.

I’m currently in chapter two of Chris Lightfellow’s campaign and, at the beginning of the chapter, before heading back to Brass Castle, you can explore the surrounding area a bit. This is where Chris sort of stumbles into Budehuc Castle on the world map, which, as far as I can tell, is where your army will call home in Suikoden III. How do I know this? Well, upon visiting it, you can instantly begin recruiting 108 Stars of Destiny; however, in Suikoden and Suikoden II, you often had to clear the castle out of monsters before establishing it as your base. Here, it’s like you just walked into an open house showing and said, “I’ll take it.” No big battle, no hard-earned castle. It was a bit of a shock, to be honest, and exploring the thing with no map is a bit confusing, but I’m sure I’ll learn its layout soon enough.

Here’s some history about Budehuc Castle, in case you were curious. Basically, it’s an old, dilapidated castle that sits on the borders of Zexen and the Grasslands. It was an important meeting place for Zexen and the Grasslands back when they used to be on more friendly terms. Since then, it has become a traditional custom for rich nobles to send their second-born sons to become masters there, such as Thomas, who was appointed as the new castle master by his father, Councilor Lowma. However, Thomas discovers that the castle has fallen on hard times and is in danger of becoming obsolete. To keep it from going bankrupt, Thomas leases out parts of the castle’s land to merchants and eventually encounters Hugo, Chris, and Geddoe, who fill up the castle with Stars of Destiny.

Funnily enough, the first person I recruited as part of the 108 Stars of Destiny was…Jeane. For those that don’t know her, she’s been in every single entry in the Suikoden series, despite them taking place centuries apart. Guess she’s just immortal, but that could make sense since she often has the job of selling and attaching magical runes to your party members. She also wields a Charm rune herself, so you never know what is ultimately going on. Either way, the three main protagonists still haven’t truly connected with each other to join up against a larger evil, so I find it odd that all three of them can send new recruits home to Budehuc Castle despite not even talking this process through with each other.

Whatever. Clearly, Suikoden III is a different beast than the previous two games, what with it going all 3D with the graphics and switching up how combat works; I was just hoping for a bit of familiarity here, and it sounds like I won’t truly get it, with the castle only upgrading itself once you get more shops and shopkeepers to stay there. At this point, I’d rather call one of the larger towns, such as Vinay del Zexay or Caleria, home. Just give me a small inn to update, that’s more than fine.

The dark side of the Force is a pathway to LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars

So far, my track record with the LEGO Star Wars games has been downhill ever since, well, the very first one, LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game, which came out in 2005. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga has its share of issues, and LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens was fine if a bit forgettable…though controlling BB-8 was a pure blast of delight. In fact, I’ve been having more and more issues with the latest LEGO games, and I think I’m starting to become no longer a fan of their structure and demand of grinding out studs to purchase everything from here to the moon.

The nitty-gritty is upon us: LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is another action-adventure videogame based on The Clone Wars animated series, of which I’ve never seen a single episode though I know a lot people like it greatly, developed by Traveller’s Tales and published by LucasArts. It was originally released in March 2011 for the PlayStation 3, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS, Microsoft Windows, and Nintendo 3DS consoles, and I ended up playing it via backwards-compatibility on my Xbox One. It features missions and characters from The Clone Wars television series, as well as everyone’s favorite characters from the original Star Wars saga, and there are both single-player and multiplayer gameplay modes to engage in.

The game engine used by previous LEGO Star Wars games has been upgraded to now hold more than 200 moving units or objects on-screen. That’s cool and all…and yet, I hated having swarms of constantly respawning enemies attack me as I tried to figure out what to do next. It didn’t add anything but frustration, especially as you see your stud count dropping with each and every death. Another dent in the hood is the fact that a majority of missions feel aimless, and the game doesn’t help you know where to go or what to do, especially the large levels where you need to take control of a number of enemy areas; for instance, some structures can only be destroyed by using a commander-like Stormtrooper to have a bunch of other Stormtroopers shoot at it in unison while other structures can simply be taken down by a lightsaber or tank. Getting around in these large areas is also a slog, and having vehicles that blow up after one or two hits doesn’t help.

The more traditional levels in LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars are fine, if the standard formula affair. It’s when the developers try to do something outside of it that things become wearisome. Such as the spaceship flying levels that have you going to and fro, landing on various ships to pull a lever or hit a doo-hickie or something like that. Or the big battlefield levels where you have to destroy enemy strongholds and build your own on top of them, all while dealing with an unending wave of enemies out for blood. Using the Force to move objects around still requires a great deal of patience; don’t expect perfection when trying to build a climbable tower. The hub zone is tiresome to navigate through and confusing, and many areas are blocked off until you have a specific amount of gold bricks; also, say you need R2-D2 to open a door, but you aren’t currently running around as it…you need to travel back to a menu desk, select it from the character list, and then travel back to where the door was and pray, pray, you don’t need another character to do something else, otherwise it is a lot of retreading.

Here’s a first: I used cheat codes to unlock a bulk of the red bricks in LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. I’ve never done this before, but the idea of replaying all these levels again just seems so taxing on my mind, and the cheats don’t seem to affect unlocking Achievements. This will also be the first LEGO game that I don’t complete to 100%, and I’m actually okay with that. I’m going to finish the things I want to do, like getting True Jedi in every level and buying all the characters, but other than that…I’m ready to say goodbye to this brickish world. Also, I may very well do the same thing with LEGO City Undercover, another title that seems to require a ton of grinding and replaying to fully finish; at least that one had a fun story to follow.

2019 Game Review Haiku, #23 – LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars

Aimless adventure
Lightsabers, blasters–Star Wars
Used cheat codes, first time

And we’re back with these little haikus of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

Final Fantasy Explorers forces the player to endure

At the beginning of 2018, I was real close to getting Monster Hunter: World. In fact, it’s now the beginning of 2019, and I’m still thinking about biting the bullet. It’s a genre I’ve always been intrigued by, but terrified to get into due to what seems like a massive amount of complexity and menus and history to learn. However, this newest iteration, which jumps from the realm of handhelds to big boy consoles, seems to be somewhat more friendly to people like me. Or what kids back in the day referred to as n00bz. Side note: if you know what kids refer to people like me nowadays, please let me know ASAP. However, instead of getting this, I dug through my Nintendo 3DS collection and found something similar called Final Fantasy Explorers. It both compares and does not compare.

Final Fantasy Explorers is an MMO-lite that revolves around the titular group of explorers from the rural town of Libertas who hunt the world for crystals, objects which are the source of life and civilization for the world. The most major source of crystals is the new island of Amostra, but they are guarded by fearsome beasts that the explorers must fight. So yeah, surprise, surprise–it’s another Final Fantasy game dealing with crystals as the magical MacGuffin, but then again I wasn’t expecting much in terms of story from a Monster Hunter-like game. They generally are about fighting big monsters and crafting cool gear from their dead, shredded body parts. Also: cats cooking.

For the most part, the combat, which is the bulk of what you do in Final Fantasy Explorers other than stare in horror at confusing menu after confusing menu, is pretty solid, even though one of the shoulder buttons on my Nintendo 3DS is not working properly. It’s a bit hack and slash, with some spells and special abilities thrown in for good measure. To start with, Final Fantasy’s signature job system is here, which adds variety to the battles by letting you equip a mishmash of weapons and abilities tied to your chosen profession while in town. Spells and skills can be tweaked and tailored however you want using special mutations learned in battle, which can make them much more effective, so there is plenty of customization to work with. Personally, from my three-ish hours so far, I’ve been sticking with the Freelancer job, which is kind of your all-around job, capable of both casting basic spells and also wielding decent weapons for physical attacks. Alas, I’m currently stuck trying to beat the legendary flame djinn known as Ifrit.

Let me get more detailed. By default, you have a simple, quick attack that you can mash; however, squeezing the left or right bumpers grants you access to one of eight hand-picked abilities–some magical, some physical, and some related to your current job and weapon. The best strategy is to chain all these abilities together to begin building up something called Resonance. Once you have enough, you can squeeze both bumpers simultaneously and select one of four crystal surges, which supercharge all your abilities for a limited time. This is wisest done during boss battles, as most of the generic enemies you fight along the way are easily dispatched with simpler attacks.

Like Monster Hunter, Final Fantasy Explorers is probably meant to be played with other real-life people in your party. I don’t have access to those kinds of friends; I’ve only ever played online on my Nintendo 3DS with Animal Crossing: New Leaf and some cooperative multiplayer thingy for Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Thankfully, solo players get the ability to gather essence from some downed monsters and create your own monstrous allies, who will wander after you and join you in combat. Unfortunately, their path-finding is terrible, but you can fuse them other monsters and materials to up their level or unlock perks. I currently only have one monster following me, a level 8 goblin that carries a large cleaver. What’s nice about this is that you can basically recruit your favorite Final Fantasy monsters, such as Cactuar, TonBerry, or Chocobo, like they are Pokemon. Fine by me.

Look, I haven’t played a whole ton of Final Fantasy Explorers yet, and I plan to give it a few more hours, but I can already begin to see the grind here. The real hook for me is seeing all the things from various Final Fantasy games on display, such as summons, characters, spell names, etc., plus the option to basically dress up your avatar as, say, Sephiroth or Tina. If this ultimately doesn’t do it for me though…there’s always Monster Hunter: World.

Just grinded for seven hours in Suikoden III, ask me anything

When last I left off about my progress on Suikoden III, I was starting the game over, but this time I went with Chris Lightfellow instead of Hugo, thus seeing the game from a different perspective. I’ve completed all chapter ones for Hugo, Chris, and Geddoe, along with optional side story stuff, and was now ready to move into someone’s chapter two. Since I ended up finishing Geddoe last of the three and liked a lot of the characters I saw there, namely Queen, Jacques, and Joker, I decided to pick his chapter two to begin first…and oh boy was that a mistake. Allow me to tell you why.

The crew is currently holed up in Caleria, but wants to go to Le Buque in pursuit of…well, I don’t really know. Some boy-priest and a bunch of soldiers are hunting after the Flame Champion, and I guess this is something that interests our eclectic group. To be honest, the story in Suikoden III hasn’t been as gripping or memorable as previous games. Anyways, to get to Le Buque, the party must travel across the Mountain Path, which I did just fine, avoiding the optional Rock Golem boss and heading right for the next location…only to immediately walk into a boss fight that completely destroyed everyone in a matter of a few turns. So…I had some grinding to do, grr. At least seven hours worth, if my calculations are correct.

Everyone in the party–that’s Geddoe, Ace, Joker, Queen, Jacques, and Aila, if you didn’t know–was, at this point, around levels 30-31. By the time I was done doing my thing, they were all levels 37-38. Here’s how I did it, as unexciting as it sounds. I continued to wander the first section of the Mountain Path, back and forth, getting into a few fights; after my party had too much and I ran out of healing, I headed back to Caleria to sharpen weapons, upgrade armor, learn lessons, and then sleep and save at the inn. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Grinding is never fun, and I’ve even had to do some in EarthBound to get tough enough to beat the Titanic Ant and his Antoid goonies. But alas, here, it felt inevitable.

My true goal was not to immediately head back to Le Buque, but to defeat the Rock Golem and with ease, even though it was an optional boss fight. I wanted whatever goodies it held within the treasure chest it was guarding. The Rock Golem is slow, but it has heavy armor and packs a lot of physical power. When it charges up its fist for a special attack, it can hit up to four party members if they’re surrounding the beast, which is not good. My strategy was to immediately use Aila’s Clay Guardian when the battle starts to up everyone’s magic and defense. I then relied heavily on Queen, who has a Wind rune, to heal those that needed healing, and made sure everybody stayed above 150 HP. Victory came quite easy actually, and the treasure chest was full of goodies that should hopefully help in the beginning fight at Le Buque. Here’s hoping no more grinding is required, at least for this chapter.

I’m still not 100% in love with the combat in Suikoden III, which groups people into pairs. This means if you select “attack” for Geddoe, his partner Ace also will attack, even if you wanted him to use a healing item or rune power. It’s one or the other, and that locks you out of a lot of choices. This isn’t a huge deal in many of the minor battles, but boss fights require a little more strategy to keep everyone’s head above water. It’s also not really clear who can team up with each other for united attacks, but maybe I’m just not seeing it somewhere in the menus.

Lastly, my save data for Suikoden III currently says around 19 hours and change–though remember that at least seven hours was spent solely on grinding out levels and experience points–and I have still yet to acquire a castle headquarters. Sigh. Hopefully sometime soon!

The time to chat up every NPC in EarthBound has arrived

We are finally here, and by we I of course mean just me, but here it is: it’s 2019, and I’m playing EarthBound for the very first time. Y’all might remember me getting a digital copy of this game for the Wii U back in, oh, May 2015. Well, now that I plan to get a Nintendo Switch and put my Wii U away into storage, I’m forcing myself to see as many of the games I have on it before the inevitable takes hold and all I do with my free time is play whatever this new Animal Crossing is going to be. Until then, uh…fuzzy pickles? Yeah, fuzzy pickles!

I’m sure I’m just rehashing what everyone else out there already knows and has known for years upon years, or at least 1995, but here we go. EarthBound takes place about a decade after the events of Mother, in the fictional country of Eagleland, which doesn’t mean a whole lot to me seeing as I haven’t played anything else in this legendary series. You start off as a young boy named Ness–get it?–as he investigates a nearby meteorite crash with his neighbor, Pokey, to find his brother, appropriately named Picky. There, they stumble upon an alien life-force known as Giygas, which has enveloped and consumed the world in hatred and, consequently, turned animals, humans, and mundane objects into malicious creatures. However, Buzz-Buzz, a small, bee-like creature from the future, instructs Ness to collect melodies in a Sound Stone to preemptively stop Giygas, and so the grand adventure begins.

Well, when I say begin, I really mean…wander around Onett for hours on my own quest to talk to every single person and try to go through every single door before moving forward with the plot. There are a ton of NPCs, and many of them offer good advice or tips, and some just say really strange things to Ness or provoke him into a battle. I think at one point someone, or something, tasked me with answering a specific Beatles-related trivia question (FYI, the answer was “Yesterday”). It’s all a little strange, and the strangeness is strange because, looking at EarthBound, it appears to not be your typical JRPG. For one thing, it is set in a somewhat modern-looking time period, with drug stores, burger joints, and town halls to explore instead of fantasy-like villages and mountain caves as seen in games like Illusion of Gaia and Secret of Mana at the time.

I’m also doing a bit of grinding, both in terms of combat and getting money from my phone-father deposited into my bank account. Since Ness is by himself at the start, some enemies, mainly the Sharks when they double or triple team him, can be too much to handle. So I’m fighting dogs, crows, and snakes on repeat, but Ness is now around level 8 and has better gear, which means he takes less damage. Also, when battling against truly weaker enemies, combat is handled automatically without having to go into the whole transition thing, which is nice; I liked it in Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies where enemies ran away from you, and I like it a lot here too. It means less mashin’.

Let’s talk about the combat in EarthBound, which is turn-based and does not feature random encounters. Ya-hoo. You see the enemies on screen and can try to approach them from behind for a potential bonus attack, or, if they get the jump on you, they get first dibs on moving. In combat, characters and enemies possess a certain amount of HP, and attacks to an enemy obviously reduce their HP. Once an enemy’s HP reaches zero, it is defeated…or, to use the game’s language, tamed. Sometimes you will receive an item after the battle, like a Cookie. As far as I know, you only control what Ness does, but maybe that will change once I get more peeps in the party.

So far, since I only really have Ness in my party, the battles are a bit one-note. I simply spam the attack button each turn and occasionally have to stop to eat a HP-refilling item or use a spell, called PSI attacks, which use up your PP. It often feels like luck or the roll of a die when attacking; sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss, and sometimes you land a critical blow, but there’s really no guarantee to what will happen, which can be a little frustrating early on. I did lose in battle to a couple of Sharks, which dropped me back at home with half my money gone; I had tried to “run away” from the fight twice to no avail. Again, it might be all about that luck stat, who knows.

I’m only a couple of hours into EarthBound and still haven’t visited Giant Step. Trust me, I’ll get there. However, I’m sure there is a lot more to see and do before this adventure concludes, but I’m definitely intrigued enough to keep going. There are a couple of things I don’t immediately like, such as a limited amount of inventory space and how expensive sandwiches are, but I can get over that thanks to the game’s colorful aesthetic and bouncy soundtrack that borders on pop and general weirdness. Seriously, the music makes some hard, dramatic swings from wandering around town, to entering shops, to engaging in battles, and it’s all kooky and catchy.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back with more thoughts on EarthBound. Until then, answer me this–can Ness get run over by cars in Onett? I’ve been avoiding them, afraid to find out the truth.