Tag Archives: SRPG

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Vandal Hearts

At first, I couldn’t remember the name of this game. Was it Valiant Hearts? No, that was the dramatic Great War take starring a cool dog from a few years back. Was it Vigilante Hearts? No, though something under that title does appear to exist. At last, after some light Googling, I figured it out and everything came rushing back…Vandal Hearts, one of my first stabs at a strategy RPG, as well as the title that helped pave the way for future classics like Final Fantasy Tactics and the Ogre Battle series. Too bad this one didn’t really go anywhere. Also, don’t expect it to show up on the forthcoming PlayStation Classic…though I’m surprised that both a sequel and a prequel were later made.

Anyways, this Vandal Hearts is a turn-based tactical role-playing video game developed by my once favorite companies Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo for the original PlayStation back in 1997. It’s got a lot of what many modern, staple SRPGs have these days, such as Fire Emblem and its ilk: a grid-based map, a variety of abilities to employ, and rock/paper/scissors combat. Y’know, warriors with swords kill archers, archers kill hawknights, and hawknights kill swordsmen. There’s also healers, mages, heavy armor warriors, and monks to contend with–who later can turn into ninja, y’know like all monks eventually do. Your enemies for each mission is comprised of similar classes, and it’s your responsibility to exploit their weaknesses, and not every mission is about destroying all the enemies as other objectives are in play.

Vandal Hearts‘ story, as far as I can remember and dig up info on, revolves around one Ash Lambert, a young warrior tormented by the traitorous legacy of his father. Ash and his wonderfully named cast of allies have dedicated themselves to stopping a power-mad dictator named Hel Spites–what a name–from rising to power. It’s a bit traditional, but I liked a lot of the characters and dialogues, and there are some early twists to deal with that make their progress slow and, at times, a little dull.

I definitely did not ever beat Vandal Hearts. I probably didn’t even get too far into the whole affair as I knew early on that SRPGs just weren’t my cup of tea. Though many years later some titles would change my mind momentarily. I do remember being confused why archers were not able to shoot diagonally. Also, moving a cursor around with a PlayStation console was a chore and never felt fluid. Still, it’s a game I think about from time to time, maybe because I dig its aesthetic so much, or because I spent so much of my lonely teenager years hanging out with my best friend the gray videogame console adorned with PSM lid stickers, and the music is super solid.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

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

2013 games completed fe awakening

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

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

Fire Emblem: Awakening has claimed three villagers and a dude named Edward

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Despite some very early losses in Fire Emblem: Awakening, I’ve begun to turn things around with Chrom’s quest to…well, keep the kingdom safe from all things evil. And figure out who Marth honestly is. I’m on chapter 8 currently if that means anything to you, but I’ve actually been focusing mostly on side quests, such as Paralogues, and general grinding battles to keep those in my team healthy, strong, and, most of all, alive.

Because I’ve lost several key units, like Virion the archer and sword extraordinaire Lon’qu, I’ve had to dip into the Bonus Box feature and recruit some new members from other Fire Emblem games to keep me at a full roster for some fights. Nyna, a sage from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, has been doing phenomenal with her Elwind spells. Got Norne now on my side, a deadly archer also from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. Lastly, I managed to trick the myrmidon Edward from Radiant Dawn to join my galavanting troupe. Since money doesn’t come easy in the Halidom of Ylisse and buying new individual members is crazy expensive, I was able to get all three of these folks to join my team by fighting them and then winning the match. The fights aren’t terribly difficult, and so I’m not only gaining a new fighter, but also leveling up along the way. It’s a pretty good tactic, if I don’t mind saying so.

Anyways, down went Edward and three “ally” villagers during the Paralogue 3 “A Strangled Peace” mission. May they rest in peace…a strangled peace, that is! Edward I saw coming as I let him venture too far out all by his lonesome, but it’s not like I knew the guy personally; this was his first battle, as well as his last. Also, since he comes from the Bonus Box and not the mainline story, his profile doesn’t appear in the Roster list, which leads me to believe that I could totally re-summon him again. Might have to try that some day, but not with him, as he obviously wasn’t a keeper. Probably will do so with Nyna, if ever comes the day.

This mission is pretty similar to an earlier Paralogue, wherein you have to do three things: make contact with the village, protect any roaming villagers, and still rout the enemy. The problem is that your army is spawned at the top of the map, and the villagers are in the middle area, and if you don’t get to them pronto–and I basically mean within one or two enemy turns–they will die fast and screaming. Looked like one attack from an enemy unit was enough to wipe a villager. I did not realize this initially, and so by the time I even had enough troops towards the middle of the map, all three villagers were dead. I did manage to get Sully over to the village though and protect it from further attacks. So, y’know, the greater good and all that.

I looked up what rewards you get if you do manage to save the three villagers, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Look at this pile of whackadoo: a Seraph Robe, a log, and a spoon. Ooh boy. Granted, I don’t know the stats for the Seraph Robe, but the other two items are just astounding in their simpleness. A log? A spoon? Sorry, villagers, but you’re gonna have to offer more to Chrom and his compadres if you want to get saved next time. Until then, my fellow Shepherds!

Vaike, the first of many permanent deaths in Fire Emblem: Awakening

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Shortly before heading off to MegaCon, I found a retail copy of Fire Emblem: Awakening. That may sound like a rather simple statement, but this 3DS game quickly became rare after dropping in early February in sort of the same fashion as Radiant Historia, with only so many copies shipped to individual retailers. The three GameStops I visited did not have any in stock, nor did the local Target or Best Buy. At last, I found it behind protective glass walls at Walmart. So, y’know, always.

Regardless, I’m glad I got a copy before they all poofed and disappeared, though sadly that’s probably the main reason I purchased Awakening. Not because I have a love for all things SRPG or even any deep experience with the franchise, but because it’s a game that will soon be hard to find, and I’d rather get it now then not and moan and groan later over how difficult it is to obtain, just like I did for Suikoden III and Katamari Damacy for many years. Yes, I’ve become quite a neurotic collector over the past few years, and I’d rather have than have not.

As evident from my bipolar time with Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Overclocked, I’m not very good at strategy-based RPGs. I don’t really understand why that is, as I’d like to think myself pretty decent at action RPGs and just fine with regular RPGs, knowing how to level and equip better armor and grind for XP before the next boss fight. But as soon as I’m tossed onto a grid-like battlefield with a number of units to control, I fall apart. Maybe there’s too much info to absorb and understand, and from what I’ve seen so far of Awakening, there is a lot of data to grok.

Where to begin? Well, I guess with the plot: Chrom, the prince of the Halidom of Ylisse, and his companions, must join together during a turbulent era. The neighboring nation of Plegia has been acting suspiciously as of late, and in response Chrom commands a band of soldiers–called the Shepherds–to keep his country at peace. He encounters an unholy force called the Risen plaguing the lands and a masked swordsman claiming to be Marth, the Hero-King of legend. You end up controlling a character with amnesia who joins the Shepherds by chance. It’s kind of both typical medieval fantasy fare and non-typicalness, with hints of time travel. I’ve only gotten up to the start of Chapter 4, so that’s all I know currently.

And yes, I’m playing Awakening on Normal difficulty…in Classic mode. That means dealing with the permanent death aspect the franchise is known for. When a character’s health is depleted, that’s it–they are dead. No amount of Phoenix Down feathers could possibly bring them back. So you best be prepared for each and every battle, for every minute change to the enemy’s tactics, for every possible scenario and decision. Matt Mason over at Obtain Potion has some strong thoughts on defending casual mode, and I agree that people playing Awakening on Classic, but reloading a save after losing a beloved squad member are doing it wrong. If you care that much, switch to Casual and go about your adventuring, knowing every one is safe and sound in their big boy/girl beds after each battle.

For me, I’m embracing perma-death fully and plan to make it a point to share each and every loss I suffer here on Grinding Down, no matter how grand or small. I’m not trying to play the game as best as possible, following a guide and keeping all the best characters alive and paired perfectly. This is war, and war never changes. There will be deaths, and many more to come, knowing my skills. First up, however, is Vaike, an axe-wielding soldier with fun hair, which is a shame, as he seemed like quite a funny guy. But as quickly as he was introduced in Chapter 3, he was chopped to bits by enemy soldiers. My fault for not paying attention to weapon types.

I played a little more into Chapter 4 last night, losing Sully and Lissa, but also then having my own character die, which brings up the GAME OVER screen. So I kind of get a mulligan on that one, and hope that I can mix up my strategy better to keep everyone, including myself, up and moving. But if I can’t, well…them’s the breaks.

If you have any Awakening tips, please, please share them here. I still don’t understand a lot of it, and only just opened up all the Wireless functionality, which seems to offer side quest maps, new items, other teams to use, and so on. Also noticed that you can forge new items in shops. Oh boy.

An angelic army enslaves the world thanks to Overclocked’s early bad ending

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Well, after battling both demons and angels for a little over forty-five minutes, after losing every single team save for P-san’s, after constant spamming of gun-run-heal tactics, I finally did it. Victory was mine, earned with sweat, devotion, new strategies, the use of the Drain skill, and various sacrifices. I beat that mission in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Overclocked that has repeatedly kicked my ass these last few days, constructing a roadblock of sorts. With the angels and demons defeated, P-san and his friends Atsuro, Yuzu, and Midori escaped the lockdown, bringing Honda and his frantic buddies along with us for good measure. Y’all welcome.

However, immediately upon exiting, a strange lighting storm appears over the lockdown. The angels, who P-san was beginning to side with, declared that the lockdown was a failure and decided to kill everyone inside it with lightning. Pew pew pew. For those outside the lockdown–namely, P-san and friends and remaining family members–the angels have declared humanity to be in default of their responsibilities as children of God, and an angelic army appears to enslave the world. Anyone who is not immediately subservient is killed outright, and the remainder are stripped of their free will. This is all told via text on the screen, which is then promptly followed by the words “Mission Failed,” sending you back to the main menu to load from a previous save.

It’s heart-wrenching, and not necessarily from a storyline perspective, but the suddenness of a GAME OVER screen after all that story and choice and time spent battling monsters and trying to survive to live another half hour really does leave something to be desired. I mean, this whole time, we’re trying to escape the lockdown, and now you get the chance to, and if you do it YOU LOSE. The logic behind is severely flawed. Evidently, you are supposed to the fight demons and angels and then attack the humans to break their COMPs while also protecting them from the previously mentioned angels and demons who can, in one hit, take them out, and any civilian dying is a mission fail status. So the easiest option of kill everything and run for it results in death, despair, and dropping you back to the start screen.

Evidently, there are six endings in Devil Summoner Overclocked, and of them, one is literally called “the Early Bad Ending,” which is obtained by breaking through the barricades of the Lockdown on Day 6 and escaping after defeating both the angels and demons in your way. I had no idea about this as I played; I was just playing, making the choices that seemed right and logical, like escaping the demon-filled lockdown at first chance. For that, I felt like I should have been rewarded, but instead I was punished.

When the “Mission Failed” text came up, I literally started at it for over a minute, mouth agape and heart-rate increasing. I just couldn’t believe it. This game loves to waste your time and test your patience, and despite how patient I actually am, I’m over it. I took Devil Summoner Overclocked out of my 3DS and tossed it back into my cartridge bag; now, if I was truly over it, I would have put the cartridge back in its case and then on the shelf to sit untouched for the remainder of days. But there’s a sick part of me. It’s hungry and demanding and greedy and covered in dirt. There’s a sickness within me, and this side still wants to see how things are supposed to go down (or one of five possibilities) before deeming the experience over. I mean, after thirty-seven hours am I just suppose to accept an early bad ending as the final say in this story? Especially now that I know what I’m supposed to do to “beat” the mission correctly.

I’ll try again, I will. Devil Summoner Overclocked and I just need some space, the kind you build after everything breaks down. I’ll end this fail-driven blog post by quoting Nick Hornby’s fail-driven High Fidelity, which I think does a good job of summing up this Day 6 battle set on the fringe of the lockdown that literally tore me apart: “What went wrong? Nothing and everything.”