Tag Archives: grinding

I’m floating in a most peculiar way in Jetpac’s space

Y’all should know by now that I’d  do nearly anything for a free game. Some things I won’t do include swimming with sharks, eating an entire jar of mayonnaise, or going on one of those roller-coasters where you are dangling in the air from shoulder straps, your feet inches away from smacking into something solid and breaking into a thousand pieces. Otherwise, so long as I don’t end up in a lot of physical pain, I’m game.

And so, during this past week of E3 2017 shenanigans, there was a chance to earn Rare Replay, No Time to Explain, The Final Station, and a bunch of other digital rewards for zero dollars by simply watching Microsoft’s press conference live through Mixer, its streaming service formally known as Beam. Alas, I was too late to catch the conference, but there were other chances to participate throughout the week.

Of all those goodies, Rare Replay is the “game” I was most excited to receive; it’s a big collection of Rare’s history, a company that, after reviewing its portfolio, I have actually had little contact with, but appreciate their humor and love of colorful graphics from afar. I think I have only ever played one Rare game found in the collection, and that was Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Outside the collection, I’ve enjoyed Marble Madness, Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (sorry, not you, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!), and that opening level repeatedly on an emulated copy of GoldenEye 007 (please don’t arrest me). So there’s a lot to try out for the first time in this collection, and I have no intentions of playing through it in chronological order, but I did start it all off with Rare’s first game Jetpac, back when the company was called Ultimate Play the Game.

Jetman’s plight in Jetpac is one that pre-dates Groundhog Day, the film, by about ten years, but surely was an inspiration to anyone thinking about what it meant to be stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day and tasks again and again. Jetman must assemble his rocket (which spawns in installments scattered around the map) and fill it with a select amount of fuel before taking off to the next planet. This procedure is then repeated, over and over, with no end seemingly in sight. In addition to this, Jetman has to defend himself from the planet’s native aliens, which a varied and have different attack patterns. Some move diagonally, and others lock on to the tiny astronaut and follow him around the screen. He’s got a ray gun that shoots horizontal lasers for defense, and things like gems can be collected for bonus points.

By and far, my favorite thing about Jetpac is its wraparound world. You go to one edge of the screen, cross over, and appear on the other side. This is extremely handy when trying to avoid a group of enemies or make a shortcut to the rocketship. I’m sure this wasn’t the first game to do this, but I’m too tired to look up when Mario Bros. came out versus this game. Regardless, it works, and I have to say that, some 34 years later, the game plays pretty great. Jetman is pretty quick to move around, and the only problem I had was with collision on the platforms, which made him bounce back, often right into an alien enemy I was trying to avoid. The repetitious gameplay gets old, but one has to remember that this came from an era of high scores and bragging.

Thankfully, Rare Replay throws in some additional things to do, both in their milestone quests and snapshot features. Milestones are things like “kill X number of aliens” or “fill your rocketship up with fuel X times” while snapshots make things a little more tricky. One took away Jetman’s laser gun, forcing you to maneuver on your own quick wits, and another tasked him with completing five wraparounds in a row without dying. I happily completed all of these and popped every Achievement related to the title.

There are other games in the Jetpac series left to try out in Rare Replay, but I don’t know what I will tackle next. I suspect I’ll save some of the collectathons for later in life, when I have the time and am in a find shiny things kind of mood. Either way, I highly recommend you check out Jetpac and to not be put off by its age or graphics, of which I think the latter is pretty cool. The sound effects department is lacking, but I absolutely love the bright, crisp colors–the blurry screenshot above doesn’t do it justice, I know–and there’s a surprising amount of strategy and skill involved in bringing canisters of fuel to and fro. Certainly more than I expected when first launching it, and it’s always great to see where a company started. Here’s hoping Sea of Thieves incorporates some elements from Jetpac, like bringing bits of grog back to your ship one glass at a time until there’s enough to get the entire crew wasted and off to some other island.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #57 – BrowserQuest

Young, innocent dude
Grinds his way across the realm
For loot and levels

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #42 – Paisley Princess

Search 5 by 5 grid
For princess, if she wants help
Grind out equipment

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #39 – The Evil With Us

Monsters left and right
Grind out gold, better your knife
Only upgrade knife

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Dragon Quest VIII’s photography sidequest is pretty goo

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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.

Final Fantasy’s Light Warriors refuse to leave Cornelia

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First off, I’m not sure which version of Final Fantasy the above screenshot of Cornelia is from. Certainly not the original NES title, nor is it from the one I’m playing via the Final Fantasy Origins compilation, which came out for the PlayStation back in 2002, but I’m playing it on a PlayStation 3 many, many years later. Perplexing, right? It’s a compilation of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II , and these are re-releases of the remastered versions of the original classics–phew, a mouthful–enhanced to look like Super NES-era graphics, so they feel right at home with their siblings Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, and Final Fantasy VI. However, the above shot looks way too crisp and colorful; maybe it is from a PC port or fan re-imagining. If you know, let me know.

Anyways, Final Fantasy. I figured after finally beating Final Fantasy IX in 2016, I should give another one in the series a go. Well, there’s probably no better place to start then at the very beginning, with the game many of its developers believed would be their last project. Cue prerequisite link to Final Fantasy XV gameplay video with boisterous laugh track. Funny enough, I did try to play Final Fantasy once before, and it was on my mega-old Verizon Reality cell phone, the same one that I tried playing The Sims 3 on poorly. Cost me a few bucks, and my time saving the princess and crystals wasn’t all that thrilling. I don’t even think I managed to get the bridge above Cornelia repaired. Yikes.

For those that don’t know, Final Fantasy begins with the appearance of the legendary four Light Warriors, each holding an orb that corresponds to the four elementals; alas, the orbs have lost their shine. At the same time, Princess Sara is kidnapped by the evil knight Garland, and the King of Cornelia asks the Light Warriors to rescue her. After doing just that, the king restores the bridge above Cornelia so that the Light Warriors can continue on their quest. To do what, exactly? I’m not sure. Make their orbs glow again. Talk to people in ALL CAPITALS. Your guess is as good as mine because, with this one, I’m not all that attached to the plot details. I’m here for the turn-based battling, the music.

Actually, before any of that can happen, Final Fantasy begins by asking the player to select the character classes and names of each Light Warrior (the player characters) in their party. Here’s what I went with:

  • Georg – Warrior, currently rocking a rapier and chain mail
  • Vex – Thief, also using a rapier, but lighter leather armor
  • Arwen – White Mage, dressed to the nines in a shirt and wielding a staff
  • Erda – Black Mage, inspired by Arwen and wearing the same gear

It’s a decent group. The first three names are obviously references to things I like–guess away–but I have no idea where Erda came from. The party has two characters that can deal some big damage with weapons, one that is good for healing and providing buffs, and one to cast spells that set everything aflame or bring down lightning bolts from a crystal-clear sky. Also, the title for this blog post isn’t one hundred percent accurate, seeing as how I’ve totally left Cornelia behind and even managed to acquire a ship, which allowed me to find a town full of elves, obviously called Elfheim. I only said what I said at the top because, certainly for the first couple hours, I hung around Cornelia and its outskirts to gain some money and experience points before moving forward into more dangerous territory. Yup, grinding is a thing. Grinding will always be a thing.

I’m happy I’m playing this version of Final Fantasy as it has a few bells and whistles that enhance the overall experience. There’s the enhanced graphics I previously mentioned, remixed soundtracks, full-motion CGI cutscenes, and added content that includes art galleries of Yoshitaka Amano’s illustrations. There’s also a bestiary, which I will always appreciate, that tells you a bit about the monsters you’ve encountered, but I have no idea if it was originally there to begin with. I’ll be moving on to some cave soon, but only after I’ve earned enough cash-money to purchase all the best weapons, pieces of armor, and available magic spells. After all, Erda and friends deserves the finest.

In the end, Earthlock: Festival of Magic is amicably middling

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Well, I was dead wrong with my assumption that Earthlock: Festival of Magic was like Costume Quest 2 and Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness in terms of its length. I was expecting an eight- to ten-hour adventure, but ended up seeing credits roll after something like nearly twenty-six hours. Eep. I mean, yeah, part of me is to blame, as I simply had to see everything and pop all the “rare” Achievements, considering I saw them all as potentially achievable, but much blame can go to the developers as well, as some of their decisions unnecessarily padded out content. Like giving you two under-leveled party members late into the adventure or locking garden recipes behind difficult side bosses. More on that in a bit.

I beat Earthlock: Festival of Magic the other night, and I still really don’t know what the plot was or why this diverse range of colorful characters were working together. It’s real simple to say they were trying to save their planet Umbra, but things get more murky beyond that goal. From who? Not sure. Why? Well, because. It begins plainly enough with a journey to rescue desert scavenger Amon’s uncle from an ancient cult that is after some even ancienter gizmo. Basically, there’s a magical doodad that evil-minded people want for evil-minded means, and us, the good guys, which consists of a mythical hogbunny called Gnart and Ive, the daughter of a famous general from the House of the Great Wave, and a few others, must do everything to stop this. Because we’re the heroes, dang it.

Look, I didn’t come here for the story. I was initially intrigued by the game’s art style and heavy influence from classic RPGs from the late 1990s, such as Final Fantasy VII and Wild Arms. I’m a real sucker for turn-based combat, though I prefer it when taking turns becomes more than just that, with extra mechanics tossed in to liven things up. Like button prompts in Paper Mario: Sticker Star or enemy location manipulation in Radiant Historia. There’s some of that here, though not enough to get me gushing. Actually, let’s dive into the combat, since a major chunk of the game is spent with you commanding your party to attack, heal, buff, and wait against enemies.

I already told you it is turn-based. The turn is order affected by individual character speed stats, as well as whether or not you have initiative when entering the fight. Your party of four battles in two pairs. For me, my go-to pairing was Amon with Gnart and Ive with Taika. You might find other pairings better to your liking. Basically, each pair gets special stats and buffs as their bond together grows. When damaged by enemies, they accumulate support points, which can be used to activate special moves once the bar fills up. These include healing your entire party or attacking every enemy with a magic spell for big damage. Other than that, each character has two stances, which affects their attacks (range versus melee, healer versus soldier, etc). I think I maybe switched stances less than five times total; my suggestion is to find a style that works for you, and double down on it. You’ll be fine. There’s some fun to be had early on with the combat as you begin learning who can do what, but it quickly grows mundane and repetitive when you have to grind later to get all your party members up to level 20. Thankfully, you can kite more enemies into a single fight because the more you battle at once, the bigger the XP gains.

Other than that, I spent a lot of time gardening in Earthlock: Festival of Magic. Not like I do in Stardew Valley or Disney Magical World 2, but enough to see my thumbs turn green. This is because, as mentioned earlier, I mained Ive and Amon, two characters that use ranged weapons, and those need a bunch of different element-based ammo to get through all them repetitive fights. Gardening isn’t tough, and you can easily fall into a hypnotic rhythm of harvesting, watering, harvesting, watering, and so on. I still feel like Plumpet Island was severely underused; there are areas that seem like they’d be accessible or eventually open up to offer more things to do, but that never happens. Basically, you have a garden, a place to craft ammo, a place to craft talents, a shop, and an inn to rest for free. Considering the amount of time you spend there and the fact that towns are few and uninteresting, I was hoping for more interaction. Something like from Dragon Age: Origins, where you can chat with your party members.

Even if I had finished Earthlock: Festival of Magic back in December, it would not have made my top five games list. It’s not a terrible RPG, nor is it going to blow you away. It hits the average mark and does not waver. The ideas are there and staples of the genre, but that alone does not make an astounding adventure.