Tag Archives: new game plus

To comprehend Fez is to comprehend one of life’s greatest mysteries

As you might’ve seen recently, I beat Fez. Just to clarify one thing–I did not beat Fez recently, only posted recently that I beat it. Clarity on that is important, as I’ve had plenty of time now to ponder and muse over the indie darling that demands scrutiny and dissecting tools to really get under its skin. Supposedly, that’s where things get interesting. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t really know.

Before I start, a note: since I’m not sure what is what in Fez‘s world of cubes and shapes and shapely cubes and how you interpret things, any of the below could be considered spoilerish. Read at your own risk.

So, I reached Fez‘s “kill screen” by using 25 cubes and 7 anti-cubes to open the final door. Thankfully, I was able to get enough regular cubes by finding my way into the sewers, which a high number of people seem to miss on their first run, and therein the connecting levels to them; otherwise, I would’ve really had to put my thinking cap on to obtain most of those anti-cubes in order to proceed. I had treasure maps and a sliver of an idea for a few of them–but my attempts ended all the same: spinning that room, checking that map, trying a few random button sequences, and moving along after too many uneventful minutes.

Anyways, here are the notes I took while playing Fez:

I think I got close on a few things, but, more or less, it all looks Greek to me. I did my best to avoid looking answers up online while I was playing Fez, but in the hazy days afterwards I did stumble across some clearer clues, and to be honest, despite being an editor for nearly eight years now and priding myself on knowing English and idioms and the way language works–well, I’d never have figured this out. I’m just not familiar enough with that phrase.

I skipped the bell. I skipped the clock. I skipped the pyramid sitting in water, which clearly had some kind of hidden door below it. I skipped that treasure chest just beneath the ground, the one where you could only see its silhouette. I skipped that room with all the doors. I skipped all those weird pillars that your floating glowthing guide would point out in wonderment. I skipped that weird door that only revealed itself when the sun set. I skipped a lot of parts that seemed important, but were undecipherable, and I’m okay with that. Fez really is two games in one, and I appreciate that there’s a crazy complicated child in it, but prefer the straightforward runthrough over it. The platforming is adequate and quite simple, but the experience of entering a door, finding a new level, and learning how to climb up it via spinning was quite relaxing…and rewarding. Mostly because when you collected a whole cube, glorious beams of light and sunshine shot out of little Gomez.

After the “kill screen” craziness is over, you can start a New Game+ to go and find those bereaved cubes and anti-cubes. I jumped in out of curiosity and played around with one of the new abilities you earn for finishing the game once. It’s neat, but I’m not sure how it’s really going to help unlock more cubes. And that said, I just don’t think I’m going to go after ’em. Fez was a great experience to play part in, learning and not learning and trudging through it stupidly, but now that I know a few things–not everything, mind you–it just seems less fantastical. I wish I could’ve figured it all out on my own, but I’m not terribly distraught that I didn’t.

What I disliked about Chrono Trigger

I know that the previous post to this one was a game review haiku and for Chrono Trigger itself, meaning that that was going to be it in terms of “reviewing,” but I do want to talk about this powerful RPG from the SNES heydays a little more at length. I mean, I finished it up in early January 2012 a few days after GiantBomb completed their Endurance Run and have been rather silent since then, letting my thoughts and feelings about Crono, his friends, time, and Lavos stir and grow inside my mind. And don’t worry. While in this one I will be moaning and groaning about the parts I found disappointing, there will be another post devoted to what Chrono Trigger did right and why it is, many years later, still an amazing game.

Okay, let’s break this down for easy peasy squawking.

The writing (at times)

Chrono Trigger, despite all the destruction and malice that Lavos brings to the table, is actually a lighthearted tale. It opens with a festival, there’s a lot of bouncy music, and characters exaggerate in large and loud ways to get home their personalities. The writing also reflects this with Ayla, Robo, and Frog speaking with heavy dialects, which is not fun to digest. The biggest problem with the writing is that, when it came to quests and where to go next, nothing was clear. There’s no quest log, and so you just have to talk to everyone, and sometimes they will say something important, but it’s hard to decipher what is worth following and what carrot is not. I had to look up the solution to the Rainbow Shell quest because there was no way I’d ever figure it out on my own; I just can’t think that abstractly.

The old man at the End of Time could’ve been a bigger help, too.

Unclear stats

You can obtain a variety of accessories to put on your pals, but I never really changed them out too much as it was never clear what a lot of these things did. A MuscleRing gives its bearer Vigor +6, but in no way is it made known what Vigor means. Is that the same as Power? Stamina? Strike? Tickle? Your guess is as good as mine. I did not do a ton of weapon/armor switching, focusing only on whatever pumped up my people’s Power and Defense the most. Sometimes that meant everyone wearing Nova Armors and being boring clones.

Overpowered

The point after this one might seem contradicting, but about halfway through the  time-traveling adventure, fights became super easy. Like, just mashing the attack command for all three party members and never even glancing at dual techs or higher skills.

The final battle

Boss fight after boss fight after boss fight after boss fight. I had plenty of Elixirs and Full Elixirs and all my dudes leveled up, but man…it was grueling. No breaks or chances between to save and breath meant it was tense, and on my first real attempt to end it all I died midway through due to not paying attention intensely. My fault, but still…

DS bonus stuff

Yes, that’s right. I did not find a creepy pawn shop, sift through countless boxes of moth-ridden clothes and old VHS tapes to find a dusty–yet still workable–copy of Chrono Trigger for the SNES. Instead, I picked up the Nintendo DS version, which contains a translated version of the 1995 gem rainbow shell, as well as some bonus content. Namely, this:

  • Anime cutscenes from the PlayStation 1 port
  • The Lost Sanctum
  • The Dimensional Vortex
  • Arena of the Ages
  • A new ending (bringing the total to…17, ugh)
None of it is stellar. The anime cutscenes are a weird and kinda jarring, especially when you see Crono and his goofy hair in motion. The bonus areas…well, I didn’t even find them. Unless they only pop up in New Game+. So, good job there. I tried Arena of the Ages for a pinch, but it’s basically Pokemon diet, and not even near as gripping. Otherwise, it’s easy to not miss it, but at least I was able to have a copy of the game for portable purposes.

Multiple endings

I only toss this under the bus because I really don’t have time to play this game more than once, and I definitely don’t want to do that final battle again just to see a new ending. Maybe I’ll YouTube some of ’em…

And that’s it. I basically enjoyed everything else about Chrono Trigger, but I’ll call those aspects out in a separate post down the road. If you’re a Chrono Trigger fan, did any of these above points ring true for you as well or is it perfection from beginning to end? Let me know below in the comments. And don’t hate me too hard; I loved Chrono Trigger, but I’m still able to see its faults. That’s just one of the problems stemming from me playing the game as a 28-year-old man versus a young boyconstantly high on Mode 7 and Super Mario World.

Games Completed in 2011, #32 – Bastion

It’s easy to feel like you’re floating when playing Bastion; in fact, due to the Calamity, a catastrophic and harrowing event, the world of Caelondia is now a set of floating islands, and it’s up to The Kid to recreate the Bastion, a safe haven where everyone can go for food, shelter, and answers. But that’s not the real reason for feeling suspended in the air; no, one floats through this colorful and amazing downloadable title because it’s just so freaking special. It begins and makes a home in your heart. It ends, but never leaves you.

Bastion is an action RPG, but it’s greatest strength is in its story, which is paced effectively thanks to the Narrator. Voiced by Logan Cunningham, Rucks the Narrator is both a storyteller and employee for Big Brother, remarking on your every move. Fall off the side of the level? He’ll make a quip. Slash like a maniac with your war machete, murdering a dozen squirts? Be prepared to be called wild and raging. It’s a solid hook, though at times it can be distracting or hard to even hear him over the frantic cries of on-screen enemies and spellbinding soundtrack. Because of this, I missed a few bits of commentary, but thanks to New Game+ got to hear them a second time around, as well as new dialogue made specifically for those on playthrough two.

The game is more action than RPG, but both elements mesh well with each other. The Kid can choose a weapons loadout before heading off to find Shards to complete the Bastion; these include tools of destruction like muskets, hammers, bows, and pistols, as well as a secret skill. All of these weapons can be upgraded with found items and gems, earning stats like 25% more damage or longer ranges/less spread. The Kid himself increases in levels too, with each new level letting you acquiring a new drink from the distillery; these do things like absorb stray fragments (Fetching Fizz), 33% speed while defending (Cinderbrick Stout), or automatically retaliates when injured (Stabsinthe). All of this makes a difference in staying alive and just rolling/slashing your way to an early grave. And be ready to roll a lot; combat can get fast and frantic, but if you know what you’re doing and remember to block now and then, it’s survivable. Of course, if you ever want to up the challenge, turn on some idols.

I won’t go into all of Bastion‘s story details, but it’s a hefty, emotional affair. There comes a time near the game’s end where The Kid will have to make two–not one–major decisions. These are presented blandly on a menu, with some modest flavor text, but they forced me to sit and ponder their individual outcomes more than anything else of late. Watching these choices play out is extremely satisfying; we all play videogames with the hope of completing them, but here, it was more than that. I needed to see what happened next, and not just to get to the credits. I never wanted the credits to scroll, in fact.

As an artist, I have to comment on Jen Zee‘s work in Bastion. Lush, colorful, hand-painted–these all work as adjectives for what makes the game’s visuals pop so much, but I’m sure there’s even better ways to describe. Initially, the look of the game is what bought me; everything from the way the world floated up in front of The Kid to the blurred yet still distinguishable underworlds had a sense of oneness. Even the darker levels let color shine. At times, I wished to zoom in more to get a better look at those crates or gasfellas.

Oh, and I unlocked all the Achievements in the game, which is pretty rare for me. Only a few required some work, but I’ll get to that in another post. Hopefully. Don’t let me forget.

I highly recommend Bastion. For 1200 Microsoft Points (or it’s now on Steam, too), you get an experience unlike anything else, one that continues to resonate long after you’ve completed every Proving Ground, survived every trip to Who Knows Where, and fully upgraded the Bastion itself. Get it, and get restoring the world. Hurry, before Rucks calls you a slacker!

Games Completed in 2011, #17 – Ratchet: Deadlocked

This isn’t the greatest analogy, but it’s all I got this early in the morning and with only one mediocre cup of coffee to keep my membranes ticking: Ratchet: Deadlocked is the adopted kid in Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank series. You can just tell that it’s not naturally comfortable around its older siblings, what with their love of platforming and exploring open planets. Instead, Deadlocked focuses on shooting and mission-based objectives, giving the game a quick sort of feel; there’s no wandering around, looking for hidden secrets; there’s just the more or less same-same missions on various planets, divided up by hilarious sports-like faux commentary and jesting cutscenes.

Initially, I was a little put off. The missions were so straightforward that I found myself annoyed that I couldn’t wander around as I pleased. Instead, I had to go from point A to point B, shooting all enemies, and so long as I lived to tell the story, that was good enough to make it to the next mission. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. These aren’t really missions…they’re events in a reality TV game show that…um, let me start at the beginning.

In Deadlocked, Ratchet and Clank get kidnapped by Gleeman Vox, the head-honcho behind Dreadzone, a reality TV game show that shares some links with our very own American Gladiators and The Running Man. In order to earn their freedom, Ratchet will have to fight his way to the top of the show’s leaderboards and prove himself worthy. Otherwise, his explosive collar will go ka-boomie. It’s not as interesting of a plot as previous titles, but it works well for the mission-based format, with each planet in Dreadzone acting as an arena filled with challenges to conquer. These range from tiered rounds of enemy swarms, to piloting a huge mech called the Landstalker or hovership, to fixing generators, to boss battles. With Clank on the sidelines, Ratchet gets some new help from two assistant fighter-bots; I can’t recall their names, but they make funny comments and can help with some objectives though I found myself repairing them more often than not.

When you’re not doing main story missions, you can complete challenges to earn more Dreadzone points and currency, which will help you buy upgrades and visit other locations. I ended up buying every mod and every weapon save for one: the Harbinger, which costs 2,000,000 bolts. Eep. I still love that weapons upgrade the more you use them, which is a nice way of getting me to try guns I’m not really interested in. Like the Holoshield Launcher. Still, my favorite weapon is the Miniturret Glove with just about any kind of crazy mod on it. Try it with the Morph mod for a laugh.

The cutscenes and voiceover work for the Ratchet and Clank series has always been top-notch, and there’s no exception here. The commentary during main story missions would usually get a snort out of me, and I still can’t get the way Dallas says Juuuuuanita out of my head. However, I was still surprised to hear Gleeman Vox curse–well, they bleeped it out, but the intent remained there–and it just goes to show how much darker this entry is than others. Kind of like how Jak II was drastically different than what came before it. Not necessary, if you asked me.

After you beat the game, the option for New Game+ opens up, which I both love and hate. I love it for the fact that I could play the game again with my weapons already kicking bolt butt and the chance to earn enough currency to buy the Harbinger, and I hate it for the fact that I don’t really have the time to play Ratchet: Deadlocked for a second time. Sorry, Insomniac. There’s too many other games demanding my love and praise (or wrath), but I had a great time on one playthrough, and that certainly counts for something.