Tag Archives: London Life

At last, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy comes full circle

pl6015look

I wanted to see Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy end many times since picking it up and putting it down for the last two-plus years, but it seemingly refused to do so. It kept pushing its closing moments and credits further away. The game continued warning me that there was no turning back only to then reveal that, yeah, you can totally turn back to find those hint coins and last remaining puzzles or just meander aimlessly from region to region. I will freely admit that I didn’t help thrust this story to its resolution after I discovered what the whole World Times side quest was all about–don’t worry, I’ll explain more a few paragraphs down–but man, this was all a little drawn out.

First, a refresher on the story. Trust me, I needed one after frequently walking away from Layton’s sixth adventure, and the game even provides you a short summary each time you return, to get you back to speed. Right. The mysterious organization called Targent wishes to use the ancient civilization of the Azran’s mystical power for itself. Targent’s rival and everyone’s favorite mask-wearing, self-proclaimed scientist Jean Descole also wants to harness this power. Neither should wield it, naturally. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy begins with Layton, Luke, and Emmy boarding the airship Bostonius and heading for a place called Froenberg. The three of them received a letter from Professor Desmond Sycamore, an eminent archaeologist, who believes he has found a so-called living “mummy.” Upon arrival, they meet their mummy–Aurora, a girl frozen in ice, closely connected to the Azran civilization.

The story has its moments. I particularly liked searching after the five Azran eggs and seeing where each egg was hidden and how to get it in our meaty paws. For instance, in the jungle village of Phong Gi, the chief of the tribe is only willing to give up his egg to the gang if they can make him laugh. Contrary to that tone, in the windy village of Hoogland, the group learns of a tradition where young women must be sacrificed in order to appease a wind god; thankfully, they discover this is not actually happening and that an Azran machine was creating the stormy winds. Each egg-acquiring section are good, interesting accounts, with many memorable characters taking center stage when Layton isn’t solving a puzzle or two. I will quickly say and not get into spoilers, but the last act of Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is one twist after another, to the point of ridiculousness. It was the closest the game has come to basically being a TV soap opera’s series finale, and no, not in a good way. Sorry, the Emmy thing was too much. I understand this is the last game to star the top hat-wearing gentleman and they probably wanted to go out on a bang, but there was too much bang.

Okay, now let’s chat puzzles. Mmm. If you’ve played a Professor Layton game before, then none of what is here will surprise you. There are mazes, math equations, general deducing, and some guess-work. I hated the ones where you have to recreate a picture using colored blocks and layering them on top of each other, but those are few and unessential. Of all the entries I’ve touched, which include The Curious Village, The Last Specter, and The Miracle Mask, I have to say that this one had the least exciting mini-games to engage with, and that’s saying a lot because one of those mini-games is basically playing dress up, the only thing I cared about in Grand Theft Auto V and one of the main driving forces behind my time with Disney Magical World 2 now. Anyways, there’s Nutty Roller, Bloom Burst, and Dress Up–I completed none of them, but came the closest on the last item. As always, there’s plenty of hint coins in the environment to pick up and use at your discretion; I haven’t felt shame using them for many years now.

So, this whole time, as I’ve been playing Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, one of the sections in Layton’s trunk continued to update with new details–World Times. These are newspaper clips, often popping up after you finished visiting an area, telling some strange side story of an event or character. I swore I thought they were merely cosmetic, there to make the world feel realer, bigger. Nope. They are basically side quests, which lead to more puzzles and unlockable clothing for the dress-up minigame. See, the problem is that I never went back to any of the story locations after completing them, assuming they were good and done, drained of every hidden object, hint coin, and character interaction. Well, I was wrong, and so a large part of my going back to this game involved tracking down every single World Times quest and completing it, which added to its length for sure.

The animated cutscenes continue to be beautifully done. Every time one came up, I’d get real excited and hold the Nintendo 3DS firmly in my hands and slightly closer to my face. They are heavy on action and scenery, which is a great break from the more stilted, and sometimes overdrawn, dialogue-heavy sequences where Layton is trying to get Luke or Emmy to figure out what he already knows. I really should, at some point, track down Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva simply to marvel in these moments for longer than a few minutes. I mean, if truth be told, the puzzles sometimes are just the means to another gorgeous cutscene.

Well, that’s that. I played the very first game in the series, and then the entire trilogy of prequels. Which is rather fitting, as the end of Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy goes right into Professor Layton and the Curious Village, bringing everything full circle. That connective tissue between the two games feels really special, and makes me think about that first adventure differently, knowing what I now know about Layton, Luke, and even Emmy, though she’s obviously not there for their trip to St. Mystere. I have no immediate plans to find copies of Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box and Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, especially since a GameStop employee rudely spoiled how the final chronological game in the series concludes. Still, obviously, the best game in the franchise is London Life, and that’s a hill I’m willing to die on.

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One Fantasy Life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it

fantasy life pauly the alchemist

I never thought this day would arrive, but, yeah, I’m totally playing Fantasy Life. It’s not some fever dream; I’m actually running around Castele, raising skills, unlocking Bliss, gaining Dosh, earning XP, doing quests, and having a really grand, relaxing time. As of this writing, I’ve logged just about 12 hours in the game, which is akin to maybe gaining your first dragon shout in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’m not exaggerating.

If you are wondering why I would open on such disbelief and/or are new to Grinding Down…well, Fantasy Life is a game I’ve been pining after and trumpeting for a good long while now. Let’s see, let’s see–boy, am I thankful for the “search” function on this ol’ blog of mine. I first wrote about it in August 2009, back when it was originally geared for the Nintendo DS and was all about them sprites. After that, not much word surfaced until July 2012, when the game took a big visual shift to be more accessible for the Nintendo 3DS. And then time marched on some more, though gamers in Japan got to see it released while everyone else waited with collectively held breaths. With zero to even zero-er fanfare, a North American release was announced during this year’s E3 after Nintendo finished announcing all the things they felt were cooler and more worthy of air time than a multi-job cartoony life sim. Well, let’s put all that behind us, because the game is out, the game is mine, and the game is good.

For those that really ate up Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, you’ll immediately notice a lot in common here. Let’s first touch upon the story, or rather the overarching story. See, each Life has its own set of main characters, problems, and resolutions, but the main path is different. One day, the ever-peaceful Reveria is shaken when a meteorite falls into your character’s house, setting off a chain of events foretold in an ancient prophecy involving the land’s goddess and the moon Lunares. Castele’s King Erik asks the main player to investigate these strange occurrences, and he or she is joined in this quest by Flutter, a strange glowing butterfly that has the ability to speak. Later on, you learn that the butterfly is really the daughter of Celestia, the goddess of Reveria, and she fell from heaven to help people. Not exactly Stella–but it does sound a little familiar, yes?

At the beginning of Fantasy Life, you get to customize your character a bit and then must select what Life you’d like to start on. I picked Alchemist as I’ve always been a big fan of alchemy pots in previous Level-5 games, and I wanted to see how addicting it would be here. There are twelve Life types in total. The Alchemist is a mix of gathering items and some light combat out in the field, though I actually can’t remember many story details from the early Alchemist-only quests. After eleven hours of this, I finally decided to switch over to a new Life–you can freely switch between Lives when not on a main path mission and learn universal skills–but I made the mistake of picking Cook, a Life that is perhaps too similar to Alchemist to feel different. I mean, they both use the very same mini-game for creating items. I suspect I’ll try for a Woodsman or Paladin next to get out into the wild more.

So far, at least for Alchemists, combat is real simple. You have a three-hit combo by mashing the attack button, but no dodge or twirl away from danger like in Disney Magical Castle‘s dungeons, which often leads to getting stuck in the combo animation and taking a few hits from enemies. I found it works well enough to hit twice, back off, and repeat, though it doesn’t make for exciting combat. However, many quests are of the MMORPG ilk, meaning kill X wolves or X bandit leaders, and your list will eventually fill fast just like that miscellaneous quests tab in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that you have to get out there and kick some monster butt. In addition to these side quests, you also have Life challenges to complete and Bliss objectives to move the story forward. There is always something to do or work towards in Fantasy Life.

Great news–the writing is funny. Very amusing, but then again, just about everyone in the game is speaking my language. Even when it isn’t diving into puns like a fiend, it handles everything else lightly, but still in an entertaining fashion. Even the quiet moments that Flutter has to herself are soft and poignant, with a pinch of fun. I’m not deeply invested in the world or its characters yet, but just about everything they say is interesting. Oh, and animals talk and say the silliest of things, so make sure you speak to each and every cow, chicken, and cat you come across.

I don’t doubt I’ll be back to write more about Fantasy Life, but probably not until I’ve tried out a few more Lives and figured out which is my true calling. Alchemy is good fun, but I need a little more adventuring under my belt.

More like Professor Layton and the Unceasing Daily Download Puzzles

prof layton miracle mask daily download puzzles

I think I’m nearly ready to take the cartridge for Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask out of my Nintendo 3DS. It’s been in there for…at least over a month, possibly a month and a half. I know that as soon as I finished off Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion I popped that piece of gunk out and dropped in the professor’s latest adventure, and that was some time early in December 2012.  So yeah, a month and a half going by the time of writing. The kicker is that I beat the main game just before the new year hit–so why have I not taken it out of my portable gaming system? Let me tell you, dear readers: daily download puzzles.

That’s right. More puzzles.

Every day since the game’s release, you can connect to WiFi and download a new puzzle. Simple as that. I believe the plan is to do this for one whole year, ending on October 28, 2013. There are twenty puzzle categories, and it seems like you’ll get multiple puzzles within each to ultimately hit a year’s worth. Here’s a list of all the puzzle types and my thoughts for each:

  • The Alchemist’s Lair – Connect different colored flasks a specific number of times without overloading the system. Pretty fun, and the later variants get pretty tricky.
  • Tile – Match four distinctly different tiles to clear the board. Gravity factors in, with tiles falling into place if you clear ones below them. Not terribly difficult.
  • Ghouls and Guards – Similar to The Alchemist’s Lair puzzles, you have to connect light with guards to kill ghosts. Use mirrors to bounce the light around the area. Gets really overwhelming in later difficulty levels.
  • Big Block Box – Have to fit a bunch of Tetris-like blocks into a single area, with special rules and limitations in place. A lot of fun though pretty easy to figure out.
  • Pen Pals – Have to pen in a bunch of giraffes in a non-breaking fence by moving blocks around in different directions. Can easily solve these through constant trial and error.
  • Food Chain – Guide a rabbit to collect all the carrots without getting eaten by the wolf behind it. These are pretty tricky. I used the “undo” button a whole bunch.
  • Bewitching Night – Turn on the correct number of lights to guide the witch’s way. With the memo feature, this one is fairly easy to get through.
  • Kingdoms – Section of a castle and its grounds from other neighboring castles. Simple and easy, but still enjoyable to solve.
  • Vault of the Ancients – Connect one rune to another with a single line, as well as other runes to their respective matches. The larger puzzles are trickier to manage with so many lines everywhere, but one will eventually solve them.
  • Perilous Voyage – Guide a boat from start to finish in one single path. Absolutely hate these puzzles, as the inclusion of “invisible” rocks means a lot of guesswork for guiding the boat around obstacles. Have not solved the last four yet.
  • Whose Tile Is It Anyway – Place tiles on a board in a specific way to reveal the answer. A bit like Big Block Box, but with new rules to abide by.
  • Sweet Truth – Rows and columns of candy must contain only one of each candy type, but no empty spaces next to each other. Nothing terribly mind-breaking to solve.
  • A Dish Too Far – Unstack dishes with touching other stacks you’ve cleared out. Just managing space in the end.
  • Little Lost Ducklings – Strangely, this puzzle type is nearly exactly like A Dish Too Far, only with ducks and obstacles added on the board.
  • St Bronto’s – Lead baby dinosaurs back to mommy dinosaurs. Pretty easy so far, but I suspect later versions will become cluttered and harder to manage.
  • Aerial View – Create a runway for the plane to use for takeoff by rotating tiles. Kind of like Pen Pals, but with a few new rules to mix things up.
  • Trains and Train Spotters – Direct a train as well as a photographer around a map. Really dislike this as it is not explained very well, and I never much liked that train minigame from The Last Specter to begin with.
  • Sun, Sand and Turtles – This one is weird. You have to place water between facing turtles and then also fill in the gaps so the entire board is covered. Not sure if I’m into it or not despite adorable turtles.
  • The Barking Beat – Guide a cop along a single path to arrest…animals. It’s okay, but at this point I’ve only gotten to play one puzzle from this category.
  • Pipework Patch-up – Connect pipe sections with the exact number of pipes to get the fountain working properly. It’s like The Alchemist’s Lair and Vault of the Ancients, but with water and numbers. Not bad.

Whew. I hope you can see why I’ve struggled with taking Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask out. The content–it just never ends. I don’t remember if there were additional downloadable puzzles in Professor Layton and the Last Specter, but the bonus mini-game London Life kept me more than busy. However, I remember there being additional puzzles for Layton’s first adventure in Professor Layton and the Curious Village, as well as some huff-and-puff over the fact that these puzzles were technically already on the cart and were only being “unlocked” by connecting to the Internet. Also, these were not daily puzzles, but rather one a week, and I got through a few of them, but they were not very exciting. Remember several matchsticks puzzles in there, and nothing more.

Alas, I don’t love every puzzle category, and the second set of categories from Whose Tile Is It Anyway to  Pipework Patch-up feel strangely similar. Most use a small nine-by-nine square grid as their play place, which is a bit boring one after the other. Really, the duck and plate puzzles are nearly identical, and maybe that’s showing that the developers have stretched themselves a little too thin and overshot with promises. And since these categories are the ones to get subsequent puzzles for the next few months, I think I can do without my daily fix and just download them all later on when we return to more enjoyable ones, like Kingdoms.

Now, a choice: what to put into my 3DS after Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask has been removed. I have a few candidates. Such as Pokemon White 2, which I’m pretty far along in, but haven’t played since I bought like three 3DS games all at once back in November 2012. Think I’m on my way to the sixth or seventh gym. Also, there’s Paper Mario: Sticker Star still to eat up, especially since I glanced at a walkthrough guide last time I was in GameStop and kind of have a better idea how to knock down those bowling pins. Lastly, there’s Radiant Historia, one of my five games I want to beat in 2013. Decisions, decisions, so stick around and see what game I’m blogging about next for my answer.

Level-5’s Fantasy Life surfaces after too much silence

At long last, some news about Level-5’s Fantasy Life.

Don’t worry if you forgot that a game of this name even existed, as it’s been some time. Years, in fact, when you consider this blog post of mine from August 2009, in which I am excited and jumpy and full of anticipation for what looked like a great life simulator with a retro look to it from Level-5, a company that I hold in high beams of holy light. That Mother 3-esque visual style eventually got scraped, as did the idea of putting the dang thing on the bereaved Nintendo DS, but the game has still been in the works, now brimming with polygons and a plan to hit the Nintendo 3DS. From a gameplay standpoint, everything still looks the same: create an avatar, select one of twenty jobs, and then do whatever you want.

Some new news is that Fantasy Life will mainly take place in a single city called Kulburk, which will serve as a hub. The city is divided into three sections: the main street, the craftsman’s ward, and a downtown area. The main street houses Kulburk Castle, the library, barracks, and various shops. The craftsman’s ward contains different workshops and will likely be a regular location for players with crafting jobs. The downtown area serves as an entertainment district, with a bustling marketplace and hotspot for social gatherings.

But it’s not just all about running fetch quests for neighbors and decking out your sweet abode with green-themed furniture. This YouTube video clearly reveals moments of combat in what looks like a dungeon. So yeah, that’s cool. Doesn’t seem turn-based either. Hmm…I wonder if only certain jobs get to fight though.

And so we got a bunch of Japanese text-laden screenshots this morning, as well as the promise of a release date by early next week. Here’s hoping this slides on in before holiday 2012 is dead and done as I need some kind of life sim–any life, but my own, really–for my 3DS now that I am totally finished with Professor Layton’s London Life, and it definitely doesn’t seem like Animal Crossing is coming out in the states any time soon. Sigh.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #17 – Professor Layton’s London Life

Start in Humble Homes
Stop comet from killing all
Crumm wants more Swinefish

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.

Back into the wild to remember which Pokemon I liked

I haven’t posted my haiku review of it yet, but I “beat” Professor Layton’s London Life the other night. And, of course, in an Animal Crossing-esque mini-game made up of fetch quests only, beating the thing is not a terribly difficult mountain climb, but rather a nice walk around the park until the sun goes down and it is time to head home lest a shadowcat eviscerate you. And I sure did take my time, as I’ve been chipping away at fixing Little London’s problems since November 2011. But it’s over. Surprisingly major crisis averted, minute problems of every townsperson resolved, happiness earned, and credits scrolled. The actual main plot through and through is a bit silly and confusing, but I’ll save that for another post. Dangerously, after the credits are done and some ineffectual text plays, I am dropped back into London Life to continue doing all the tiny tasks again and again and again, which is fine, really. But I wanted to play something else for a change.

All of this is to say I took out the Professor Layton and the Last Specter cartridge from my Nintendo 3DS…and replaced it with Pokemon White, a game I haven’t touched in over a year. Shocking, I know. I basically got all the way up to the final fight (or series of fights) and couldn’t beat a certain tier, which meant blatant amounts of grinding, something I wasn’t interested in at the time. And I then put the game aside and forgot about it. Obviously.

But I’m back, and boy was my first few minutes disorienting. First of all, I guess I last saved my progress within some shopping mall, but one that also contained trainers ready to fight. Y’know, not exactly a safe zone, like a health center or neighborhood house. Not knowing this, I immediately went to chat with a young woman nearby. Her name was…Waitress Flo, and she wanted to kick my butt; I guess I had forgotten to previously leave her a nice tip. Alas, many of my Pokemon were weak and low on health, so I had to scrape by. As soon as the fight ended, I got the bleep out of there and took some time to re-learn the menus and what items I had, as well as familiarize myself with my team of pocket monsters.

Only three stood out as memorable, the ones I’ve used since the dawn of time, and the other three felt immediately like space-fillers. But anyways, yeah. My trio of attackers included the following:

The problem is that these are my only heavy hitters, and after they fall, I don’t have anyone else strong enough to take their places. So now I am looking around my storage box for three worthy contenders, and then I guess I will grind them up to the mid-forties or low fifties via Victory Road and hope that I can take down the Ferocious Four (or whatever they are called) in one fell swoop. If anything, the time spent grinding will help me get back into the groove of the game, as well as continue to grow Trashy into the biggest, baddest pile of punching trash you ever did see. I told the world I’d beat Pokemon White with garbage, and I plan to see that promise come to fruition.

When the timing is right, a fetch quest is pure delight

Sometimes, I need a little direction. Clear yet brief instructions, a visible path to and from, a small purpose, and a jingle to indicate conclusion. A short spurt of work and reward. All of these elements wrapped up together and tied shut with forest green string equals a wonderful present in my eyes, but one that I only want when I want it. I can handle open-ended, freedom, and robust ambiguity just fine, but again, sometimes, I need a little hand-holding. I require it. And I find it in…fetch quests.

Fetch quests come in two forms: hated and accepted. To start, let’s try and define exactly what a fetch quest is: a short quest, which involves sending the player out to collect a certain number of items and return them to complete the quest. That’s kind of it. Think of it as almost an errand. Like, go deliver this cup of sugar to your neighbor down the street. Or, Joe Shmoe needs some new shoes from the store, gives you some money, and then you are off. Fetch quests are a staple of RPGs or videogames with RPG elements, though they do occasionally pop up elsewhere. They are meant to be short tasks to do between major quests, ones that are certainly more involved than “tell Tucker his friend hid some money in a bush down by the river” kind of thing. Quick bits of work for small bits of money or treasure or maybe nothing at all save for the feeling of completion pulsing in your chest.

Now, there are a few games where the fetch quests become unbearable, a real grind, and those are worthy of their heaps of hatred. Off the top of my hairy head, I can think of the Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution DLC from Borderlands, which has you going back and forth, collecting countless claptrap parts–actually, I did count ’em up. I also had some problems with the fetch quests in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening in that it was rather difficult to figure out who needed what to progress the story–and then find said item. I think I stopped playing after I couldn’t figure out how to get the walrus guarding the entrance to Desert Lanmola to move. Again, give it to me straight.

But lately, anxiety and stress have been creeping in, and so I have not been able to concentrate a whole ton on large and long quests in RPGs, making a bee-line towards fetch quests. Granted, I did just finish the Companions questline in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim–which I plan to write about soon–but I wouldn’t really call that large or long. Instead, while playing and enjoying the latest patch that adds kill cams for ranged weapons, I’ve decided it was high time I took a whacking to the miscellaneous quests list. I delivered a sword to some dude in Whiterun, I collected bear skin pelts for some lady, I killed a bandit leader in a cave, and I continued to look for Nirn roots and flawless sapphires. You can argue whether some of those are “fetch” quests, but you will just be arguing with yourself on the Internet, so I don’t recommend it. Overall, it was a nice time, with each task taking only a short while to complete. I expect I’ll keep meandering and doing small tasks until bigger DLC is announced.

And so, a game like Professor Layton’s London Life from Professor Layton and the Last Specter, has been pure bliss for me these last few weeks. More or less, it’s all fetch quests, with a pinch of room decorating to boot. I’ve done enough going and returning to earn a new apartment, which is much bigger. But there’s something really special about waking up every day in-game, reading the newspaper, and acquiring a list of quests. None are especially hard, except for when someone wants a fish, but that’s only because the fishing minigame is the absolute worst, and five or six can be easily completed in under ten minutes. But I don’t do that. I pace myself, or think of ways that I can do two back-to-back or how if I am going to go the museum I should buy that piece of candy that someone at the college wants since they are right next to each other. The quests remain small, but I build them up in my head to be more than that. At some point, London Life will run out of new fetch quests, with only repeats available, and then I’ll be sad and pretty much done with the minigame. Until then, I’ll keep at it, one straight-faced mission after another.

Sometimes, I need a little direction, and it doesn’t hurt to know where you’re going. Thank you, fetch quests.