Tag Archives: Steam

To live in Final Fantasy IX is to give life meaning

gd update on ff9 end of disc three pandemonium

Bet you thought I gave up on Final Fantasy IX, seeing that the last time I spoke of it was back in January 2016 when I was stuck endlessly grinding my knees into the dirt against the Earth Guardian boss. I wouldn’t say I gave up, but rather stepped away for a bit. Well, several months. The idea of grinding with a two-party team made up solely of Zidane (cool) and Quina Quen (less cool) was really off-putting. I have good news though–I soldiered through it and was able to take down the Earth Guardian and get back to a much more substantial adventuring company of four. Speaking of four, I’ve also moved on to the last disc, which hopefully means that the end credits are in sight.

Look, I’ve had my copy of Final Fantasy IX for about half my life. Loyal readers should know that I’ve been trying to see this game to completion for a long while, and my track pattern used to be playing a good way into the second disc of the game and then abandoning the quest for…well, something else. I still believe that everything involving Kuja that happens after Dagger’s mother buys the farm feels like sequel material, but whatever. Here’s what I’m getting at. 2016 is the year that I, for the very first time, took disc four out of its place in the game’s jewel case and into my PlayStation 2. There are some light scratches on disc two from wear and tear, but disc four is as smooth and pristine as compact discs get. I found this to be somewhat surreal, but then again, if one was to take a look at my physical collection of games, there are a lot that I haven’t taken out of the case yet. Hmm.

Anyways, the areas after defeating the Earth Guardian weren’t difficult in terms of fights thanks to all that earlier grinding, but are story-heavy, and I’m not interested in spilling all the spoiler beans here. Also, not going to lie, a lot of what happened in Terra and Bran Bal went over my head. This is the part of Final Fantasy IX–and to some degree Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII–that I lose interest in. When lengthy conversations about life and death and souls and the universe and everything being connected take center stage. Please, no. Not again. I just want to watch the boy with the monkey tail fumble his way into telling a girl he loves her, as well as Vivi deal with self-identity.

I did end up referencing an online walkthrough as parts of Pandemonium are very maze-like, and there was even a frustrating stealth-driven puzzle section that I couldn’t get through despite all my obvious stealth skills. I continue to rely on a team makeup of Zidane (high damage and stealing), Dagger (summons and healing), Vivi (black magic and boosting Steiner), and Steiner (good damage, versatile abilities). The last part of disc three requires you to deal with three boss fights, one after the other, with no chance to save or heal up in between. I didn’t know this going in, but like I mentioned before…all that extra grinding from before paid off

Zidane and company are supposed to head to the Iifa Tree for the final confrontation with Kuja. Naturally, I’m not making a bee-line right there. I want to upgrade everyone’s gear and see if there are any side quests worth going after, as it sounds like there is really just one big dungeon left to get through. Now, a part of me suspects that I’m going to be using a mix and match of my party members in the fight to come, but some of them, such as Freya, Eiko, and Amarant, are severely under-leveled compared to others. I probably should devote some time to grinding them up. Sigh. I don’t want to do it, but I know this is probably better in the long run, and I don’t want to get all the way to the end and be unable to finish the fight, like how things went down in Final Fantasy VIII all them years ago.

I’ll be back after I complete Final Fantasy IX for the very first time. And no, I have no plans to start over now that the game has been ported to Steam with glorious, progress-rewarding Achievements. I’m too far in.

Antenna’s quadrupedal machine searches for answers to loneliness

gd final impressions antenna game

The really dangerous part of playing numerous short, free indie games is that, if I don’t get to writing about them immediately, I forget a lot of details. They lose that initial woah impact, and my memory is not all that it is cracked up to be these days, and I blame knowing too many Game of Thrones family trees on that. For example, I completed Antenna a couple weeks ago and, other than a tricky puzzle involving matching rhythmic audio tones, I’m having trouble remembering much of what unfolded. Or maybe that’s exactly what LWNA’s Antenna is supposed to be–a mysterious adventure into the unknown, where the darkness hides the light, where you are just as lost as the quadrupedal machine you control.

In terms of story, it’s more of a question–am I alone? This is what our leading robot ponders and then sets out to answer. It scans the radio spectrum for answers, hoping to be heard, while also wondering if it is meant to be heard. There’s a lot of ambiguity to Antenna, and this is especially clear in some of the radio chatter you pick up, which hints at life elsewhere, but never stays long enough to prove the theory true. I’m okay with there not being a whole lot here, as it is, in this case, more fun to wonder than it is to know.

Yet here’s what I do know. The game has a simplistic, but stunning look, one that continues to impress me since the hey-days of 2010’s LIMBO. The forefront is all dark silhouettes and white pupils, and the backgrounds are misty, murky swaths of muted color. Just enough to make you believe there is more in the distance, even if you’ll never get there. Antenna‘s in-game world is not massive or that diverse, but you’ll move your four-legged tank beast across empty plains where radio towers grow, as well as underground, and your imagination will fill in the necessary gaps. I imagined this place as some failed project to build a station on another planet that all got left behind, with our little WALL-E wannabe left to keep things going.

Naturally, a large part of Antenna‘s world and mechanics revolve around sound, which comes from…Arddhu. Not sure if that is a person or company or magical lost city in space. Either way, make sure you have the volume turned up, though I did find a few parts of the radio static hard to listen to or just a wee bit too sharp for my delicate man ears. When not solving puzzles based around specific sounds, there’s a good amount of atmospheric, ambient sound, like drips of water on metal pipes or the cling-clang of the robot’s legs as it walks.

Interestingly enough, the game requires extensive use of a keyboard, as well as the mouse wheel, to be played. No controllers allowed whatsoever. Originally, I tried playing this in bed on my laptop, with no mouse, not realizing how essential it was to even begin the game. You’ll do a lot of holding in keys and pressing other keys simultaneously, and at one point it felt like a game of finger Twister as you tried to keep everything in place, but still do one more action. There’s also some puzzles to be solved, but they most involve finding a particular pitch or tone and matching it with another to turn on some machinery or move to the next scene. Alas, the game didn’t run great on my ASUS laptop, stuttering from moment to moment and dropping audio occasionally, but I was able to see the whole thing through regardless.

I don’t know. Antenna‘s a neat thing from newcomer studio LWNA, and it’s free, so I can’t not recommend you at least give it a try and see if the sensation of uprooting a tower piece by piece using the powers of your fingers and keyboard gets your senses all thingy. I mean, it did for me, but to each their own. I might not have picked up on the game’s meaning or subtleties, but I like its look and courage the developers have for dropping something like this out into the wild with not much behind it in terms of description. May we never be alone, surfing the airwaves, praying that someone else is out there doing the same exact thing. Though I’d be totally okay with being a spider-esque, tower-building robot.

Samantha Browne’s everyday adventures are all too familiar

gd samantha browne game final thoughts

Social anxiety is one of my better and constant companions these days, but something I only really noticed hanging around my unshapely body in college, when I struggled with simply walking across a crowded campus or through the halls of the art building, especially after I decided that art, at least in terms of study, wasn’t the path for me. Still, I continued to work a few hours a week in the art gallery, which is naturally located in the college’s one and only art building, forcing me to interact frequently with former students and professors that, in my mind, viewed me as a failure. Every now and then, I’d be tasked with having to deliver something to a professor’s office, and the getting up and going was actually the hardest part, hindered by panic and uncertainty and an increased heart rate and a feeling that everything is madly spinning away from me. So, I completely understand Samantha Browne’s struggle to go make oatmeal.

I’ve had my eye on The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne for a few days now. I don’t recall exactly what brought Lemonsucker Games’ choice-driven adventure game to my attention, but I immediately added it to my wishlist on Steam. The game released just the other day and for free. It won’t take you long to get through it, and there are multiple ways it can all unfold, but I’m content with just having played it once and living with the choices that forced the game’s main protagonist, one highly introverted and nervous Samantha Browne, out of her comfort zone and into the unknown.

This is basically a lightly interactive story about a college student and the overwhelmingly large dilemma she deals with in her quest to make some oatmeal in her dorm’s communal kitchen. You never see Samantha’s face, which makes her an easy host to embody, and some of your choices are seemingly inconsequential, like what type to make (I picked apples and cinnamon, obviously) and how much to stir the oatmeal after adding hot water, and others are large enough to give you pause. Like in a Telltale Games story, when the moment hits where you have to decide to betray a close friend for everyone’s safety or side with the villain in hopes that nothing further goes wrong. Except these moments for Samantha are whether she should greet the other girls in the communal kitchen or not. Whether she should ask on how to properly use the kettle. For an introvert, while there are often choices, they always all feel wrong. The phrase “between a rock and a hard place” kept coming to mind as I clicked, as it constantly felt like deciding between two terrible scenarios, none better than the other.

So, The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne is a game of unfair decisions. All of these affect Samantha’s hunger/stress meter. I assume there is a “game over” state if it fills up, but I never got to that point. Every decision you make affects the meter in different amounts, meaning there is no ultimately safe path, and I completed the game with Samantha feeling somewhere around 75% mentally overwhelmed, but at least she had a mug of decently cooked oatmeal (two packs!) to eat back in the safety of her room. We’ll count that as a small victory.

The game is clearly quite personal, written and produced by Andrea Ayres Deets, and features original artwork and animations by comic book artist Reimena Yee, along with a soundtrack by Adrianna Krikl. Some scenes are highly detailed and others minimalist, reminding me of the early seasons of Home Movies, minus the squiggly lines, but the art style is both colorful and interesting without being wholly distracting.

Something I’m not sure of, but the game opens with Samantha instant messaging a friend online while a TV show plays in the background. You get slices and pieces of the dialogue as you read their chat log, but it was hard to truly make out what the show was about. I do recall it being somewhat vulgar, with a line related to ripping someone’s nuts off. Hmm. I don’t know if that’s an inside joke or something, but, after seeing everything else in The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne, it feels a bit out of place tone-wise. Granted, there’s some super silly stuff here too, like picking the right spoon, so maybe it all balances out. Also, there were a few sentences that read awkwardly, which could be cleaned up with a quick editing pass.

Look, The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne is important. Many might not see what the big deal is with going down the hall and making some food, but that scenario can be and is just as daunting as performing live on stage for a large audience or asking a stranger for directions or so on. Sure, you expect those situations to bring about a lot of anxiety, even in people not suffering it daily. It is meaningful to understand that not everyone experiences everything in the same way. This is about anxiety, and if you don’t know what that personally feels like, then this is about empathy. Please take the time to see which you relate to more.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #34 – The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne

2016 gd games completed average adventures of samantha browne

The fear of leaving
Your safe space, for food, contact
Crippling, all too real

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #32 – Antenna

2016 gd games completed antenna

A machine ponders
Searches dark for sound, signals
Mouse wheel required

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Autumn, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, has arrived in Stardew Valley

sv fall year 1

I want to play Stardew Valley all the time, but I don’t have all the time to play Stardew Valley. Yup, it’s a double-edged sword. Or perhaps a tilling grub hoe would work better in this instance. Anyways, I’ll do my best to explain.

Stardew Valley is capable of devouring hours of your life. In your mind, you might think that this is the sort of game you can sit down and play for a little bit and then stop. That is false. Oh so wrong. It is amazingly difficult, at least for me, to not continue into a new day after the rooster crows and I check the TV for the weather report, my fortune, and if any new kitchen recipes are available to learn. I don’t even have a kitchen yet. If I step outside my house, it is inevitable that I’ll see something that needs my attention, whether there is a letter in the mailbox or crops to harvest or just the fact that my kitty cat’s bowl is empty. Unlike Animal Crossing: New Leaf, where a day in-game was identical time-wise to a day of real life, one could play a number of in-game Stardew Valley days over the course of a few hours. With so many things to do, it’s easy to lose yourself in your pixelated farm.

I won’t go into much detail about how Stardew Valley plays, as I think I covered most of it in my last post. In terms of progress on Perdido Farm, I just finished the summer season of my first year in Pelican Town, and autumn is now working its magic spell on me. Falling leaves and swirls of reds, oranges, and yellows–it really is the best season, and I’ll hear no other argument about it. I’m excited to grow some fall-only crops, which will help in my progress to upgrade the community center. Bring on all the gourds and stalks of corn and weird, other worldly mushrooms. I should also begin preparing for the winter, which is most likely a season where you can’t grow a ton of crops. Hmm.

However, I’d really like to talk layouts today. I’m terrible at them, as well as terrible about planning ahead. This is definitely the case in Stardew Valley, but I’ve also run into the same problem in games like Terraria, Minecraft, and Fallout 4. You’re given all these elaborate and open-ended tools to create things–farms, houses, settlements, etc.–and then it is up to you to either get creative or smartly efficient. In fact, my favorite update to Minecraft was when they added in NPC-occupied villages, so that I never had to worry about constructing a functional house for myself. The answer is always squatting, I guess. I mean, I’m okay on the creative side of things, and if you don’t believe me please come over to my house in Fallout 4‘s Diamond City to see how many paintings of cats I was able to hang up on the walls.

Unfortunately, went it comes to farms, efficiency is key. Sure, there’s merit in being creative and laying everything out in an eye-pleasing, organized manner, but you need to place a greater emphasis on ensuring your crops grow and can be cared for with ease. For Perdido Farm, this is not the case. I just sort of dug up the ground directly in front of my house, built some stone paths around it, and threw scarecrows and sprinklers in probably not the best spots because…well, I got the items and wanted to immediately place them into action without pausing to think for a split second where they could best be used. And now I feel somewhat stuck in what I’ve started, as it can be dangerous to unearth some of the items you placed and replace them. If I was better at all this, I’d have planned out my farm from day one and created something much more effective. I mean, look at some of these things.

Perhaps this is something I can focus on in the winter, in preparation for an even better spring harvest. Y’know, when I’m, at the same time, trying to worm my way into Maru‘s heart, of which, I am currently rocking four hearts with her. Also, if you are curious where that nifty turn of phrase in this blog’s title came from, check out the poem “Ode to Autumn” by John Keats.

So many mushrooms to click on in The Sea Will Claim Everything

the sea will claim everything island

Sometimes I just want to read. Other times, I want to play, or, more to the point, interact. With people and animals and things. Cause and reaction is what I’m looking for, but the safe, casual kind. Don’t shoot me in the stomach and force me to find medicine to stop the bleeding. Instead, let me find some fish food for a hungry fishie that will make it smile. Well, after a panic-inducing, unpredictable weekend, I wanted to do both: read and interact harmlessly. Thankfully, there’s The Sea Will Claim Everything, a game which I’ve danced around revisiting lately. Well, the straw that finally broke the camel’s back is that it has now been released on Steam, and Jonas Kyratzes was kind enough to provide me with a free key since I already purchased the game back in 2012 from the Bundle in a Box promotion.

Allow me to quickly summarize what’s going on in The Sea Will Claim Everything. If I can, that is. You visit the Lands of Dream through a special window which allows you, the person reading this and playing the game, to see, travel, and interact with the various strange and fantastical elements of the Fortunate Isles. You begin in the Underhome, a biotechnological house unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Unfortunately, Underhome has been badly damaged by goons threatening to foreclose on it; they are so rude that they even cut up a nice rug. Your job is to help The Mysterious-Druid, who likes to simply be called The, get Underhome back to its healthy former self. However, along the way, you’ll end up on a larger quest to free the citizens of the Fortunate Isles from Lord Urizen’s political and economic oppression.

Strangely, when it comes to me and point-and-click adventure games, it’s always about getting to the next scene to see where things go. Brute-forcing through the puzzles to see what new characters pop up and grab more items for my ever-growing inventory. However, with The Sea Will Claim Everything and other works in the Lands of Dream, I prefer to linger, to absorb. Every screen is packed with flavor and things to click on, with my personal favorite being all the little mushrooms sprouting up in the Underhome. Verena Kyratzes’ artwork is colorful and pleasant, perfect for a storybook-like tale, and you should not take anything for granted–each individual flower has its own flavor text, as does every book and drawer and item at a merchant’s stall. Also, there’s evidently 700 collectibles to gather, so click, click, click.

Gameplay is mostly clicking and reading, and it doesn’t take long to realize that The Sea Will Claim Everything is roughly just fetch quest after fetch quest after fetch quest. Occasionally, you’ll have to find a recipe and create the item someone needs instead of simply finding it elsewhere in the world and bringing it back. I’m okay with fetch quests, as sometimes it is all I want, but I do wish that the quest log, represented as a single-page scroll, did a better job of showing your progress. For example, I need to make a special soup that will help heal the Underhome, and this requires gathering a number of items, but the quest log doesn’t show what I have and don’t have; instead, I need to pop back into my inventory, scan the list, and then figure out what is missing. Also, with so many people and strange names, it’d be helpful to list where the person is in the quest so that I can turn it in without having to scan every single screen in Port Darragh over and over again.

Since you’ll be doing a lot of sitting on a single screen/area and reading flavor text, dialogue text, recipe text, and dialogue text, a good soundtrack is a must. The music needs to not overpower your brain and get in way of the nifty characters and stories, but at the same time ground everything together, enhance it. Make you believe that this talking spider is part of the world. That this town of anthropomorphic creatures live lives and exist beyond your window view. I’m happy to report that Chris Christodoulou’s soundtrack is nearly perfect. Inspiring and mystifying, the songs fit the adventure. I do wish some were a little longer or looped more instead of repeating after a two minutes or so, especially when you are in a room for longer than that. I think my favorite is the piano-driven, calming “Plingpling Fairydust,” but the dark, beyond unnerving “Swamp Thing” is also quite special…for reasons.

The Sea Will Claim Everything is really the most charming oddball, and I’m looking forward to helping everyone I can on the Fortunate Isles, whether it is by solving a mysterious murder or giving them a cookie. It just might take a few more sessions. That’s okay. Those mushrooms aren’t going anywhere.