Tag Archives: Suikoden

Suikoden’s rock, paper, scissors take on war

Blog Suikoden Army Battle

All right, I know I teased you last time I covered Suikoden about forthcoming elves and kobolds, so let’s get right to it–I met some elves and kobolds.

After a mighty banquet and stealth ninja assassination attempt (how rude!), Pauly McDohl and his friends tried to leave Castle Castle in hopes of pursuing new recruits, but stumbled upon an elf, exhausted and drenched, right on their front doorstep. Evidently he was so desperate to speak with Lady Odessa that he swam all the way over. Hmm, well, Kirkis, we have some bad news for you, as does he for all of us. The pointy-eared fella who could probably pass for a rebellious teenager from Lothlorien based on his ginger hair says that the Great Imperial General Kwanda Rosman is planning to exterminate all the elves.

Well, we simply can’t allow that, and so the gang is off, first through the woods, which are unnavigable without Kirkis’ help, then through an empty kobold village, and off to visit the mighty elves, who live high up in the trees and just think the snootiest of thoughts when it comes to humans. Long story short, things go awry, and the gang is tossed into jail, though Kirkis’ girlfriend helps set everyone free shortly after. We then visit the home of the dwarves, where we learn that Kwanda Rosman was able to build a Burning Mirror after stealing the blueprint from one of their mines. The dwarven leader doesn’t believe this, so he tasks us with stealing something to prove such a feat is possible. I won’t go into more detail there as it is a pretty straightforward dungeon crawl, though I must comment on the “telephone puzzle” to open the boss door, another nugget of strangeness I forgot over time.

Upon returning to the village of the elves, we find it burnt to the ground. We were too late, and now Kwanda Rosman must pay, taking us into Suikoden‘s first large-scale army battle, which, much like the castle and 108 Stars of Destiny, is to become a trademark of the series. In these, it’s all about scope, with your army of tiny pixelated soldiers versus another, and the army count actually does reflect the number of people you’ve recruited, so even if Onil and Krin serve little purpose once in your castle, they at least participate in war. Basically, you select from four options: charge, bow, magic, and others. Your opponent is also making a choice, and the outcome is determined in a rocks, paper, scissors fashion that I’m sure Fire Emblem: Awakening could appreciate. Let me break it down:

  • Charge beats bow
  • Magic beats charge
  • Bow beats magic

If both players pick the same attack, the damage is reduced for both, but still accounted for. The “others” option allows thieves to sneak in to the opposing army’s camp and steal gold or get a hint as to what attack they’ll do next. It’s really just a guessing game, and I got creamed on my first two attempts, even ending up losing Eileen. See, for many of the non-vital story-related characters in your army, death can come quite easy during these army battles, and this is permadeath, so you best be careful with who you send out. Since I’m ultimately going for 108 total Stars of Destiny, this was an instant “reload my save” scenario, something I’m usually against. Finally, with a little luck and a good streak of my army casting magic against Kwanda’s charge attack, the fight was over. Now it was time to storm the stronghold.

Once you get through all the random encounters, open all the hidden treasure chests, and take care of that dragon miniboss, which was a bit hard since I still don’t have much in the “heal the entire party” option, you fight Kwanda, one on one. Mano-a-mano. And just like the army battle, it’s a game of choices. Here, let me break it down one more time:

  • Attack (damages opponent, even a little damage through defend)
  • Defend (blocks opponent, counters if against desperate attack)
  • Desperate attack (deals big damage, but can be countered)

Once again, it’s the whole rock, paper, scissors thing, but at least this time, so long as you read the dialogue carefully, your opponent’s attacks are televised. Like, when Kwanda is ready to do a desperate attack, he says something aggressive so you know to hit defend. I beat him on the first try, so it’s a much easier way to fight, going for something more cinematic than strategic. Anyways, because Pauly McDohl has an obsession with recruiting characters, he let Kwanda live and join the Liberation Army since he was clearly acting under a magic rune spell.

I’m hoping to progress further in the game and not need to stop and comment about every single section I encounter. However, when I last played this game, I wasn’t even a writer, just some mopey teenage kid who thought ska was the gratest music ever, that khakis were more comfortable than jeans, and that George Constanza had a way of looking at the world that I totally grokked. Yeaaah. I think, at this point, I’ve seen all the big component parts of Suikoden–if I remember right, that is–so all that should be left is story stuff and more turn-based fights, army battles, and one-on-one combat scenarios. Plus more recruiting. Gotta grow that castle, after all. As soon as the Kwanda stuff was done, I went right back out to grab a few more friends for the fight before seeing what Viktor and the recently returned Flik were talking about. I guess I’ll be back if something strange or interesting pops up and I’m compelled to write about it. Until then.

The great wheel of discovery turns again in Suikoden

suikoden lepant mansion wheel

Let’s see, let’s see. Where did I last leave off with my Suikoden progress?

Oh, right. Pauly McDohl and the gang had had their fill of playing Chinchirorin and were preparing to storm a gloomy castle in the middle of an ocean, one evidently guarded by fog, snails with long necks, and a mighty fire-spewing dragon. Don’t worry. We won, though Pauly and Gremio both fell unconscious during the fight and missed out on a largely sweet EXP boost, now a bit behind everyone else in terms of leveling. And so, with all the monsters cleared out of the castle, every treasure chest opened, and it given a proper name, the real meat of Suikoden can start. I’m talking about recruiting members into the Liberation Army and watching your castle expand as people move on in and call it home.

Before continuing on with the next story section, I immediately headed back out to all the towns I could visit to see who I could instantly recruit to the Liberation Army. Some Stars of Destiny are more eager or easily swayed than others; take for instance Onil, a gossip-monger living in Seika. She’s already heard about Pauly looking for recruits and is ready to go, and I think that’s the extent of Onil’s usefulness, but at least she can be ticked off of Luc’s recruit-tracking stone slabs. Other people you can recruit are more useful gameplay-wise, such as Marie–you remember her, the stuck-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place innkeeper from way back in Gregminster, yes?–who now operates a free inn inside your castle, as well as Sergei who puts in an elevator, which will grow in importance as your castle itself grows in importance. And then there are the fighters you recruit who you can actually add to your party’s formation and see what kind of neat runes they have or special unite attacks, such as Varkas and Sydonia.

After getting all that I could–sorry Lorelai, you’ll have to wait until I’m a higher level–I jumped back on the plot wagon and went to Kouan to speak with Lepant, a wealthy merchant, at Mathiu’s request. This took the gang inside a mansion brimming with robotic enemies, evidently created by Juppo the trickster. Fine, fine. I can fight mimic treasure chests all day long. However, I was once again completely surprised to enter a room featuring Juppo’s masterpiece: a giant roulette wheel of chance, backed by that jaunty, somewhat jarring banjo-lead tune previously heard during, I think, the cups game in Rockland. See above. Anyways, you step on the wheel, it spins you round and round, and you get what you land on. Strangely, there are slices for +10 EXP and -10 EXP, which is an amount so minor that you’d have to land on them five thousand times to really feel any kind of impact. It took me maybe seven or eights go-arounds to land safely on the other side. Again, a strange part of Suikoden that I completely forgot about, but one I have to imagine the developers were excited to see implemented at the time, in a JRPG of all things.

In the room after that, you meet Rock, a man eager to open up a warehouse in your castle. I recruited him as fast as I could hit the button because I’m beginning to struggle with Suikoden‘s old-school take on inventory slots. It’s quite limited, and with Rock’s warehouse, I can now at least store rune pieces, armor, and ? ornaments to my heart’s content until I’ve decided what to do with them. See, each party member can hold nine items, but this includes armor they are wearing, which can take up a maximum of five slots if you have something on from head to toes. I generally try to keep a Medicine 6 on everybody too, which leaves little room for much else, and when you are trying to share equipment with someone but they are full on inventory it can be quite maddening to shuffle things to and fro. It’s definitely an aspect I wish was stronger, but I don’t know if a shared inventory would work either, as sometimes deciding who to carry that Needle or Mega Medicine 3 is a strategic decision for sure.

Right, so, there are some big story moments in Lepant’s mansion. First, you learn that your old Gregminster boss Kraze is in control of Kouan and ends up kidnapping Eileen, Lepant’s wife. Secondly, there is the great return of Pahn, and Pauly McDohl’s previous bodyguard redeems himself, physically placing his body between Kraze and Eileen. Then there is a choice: kill or let Kraze go. All I could do is think of Ted, and so Pauly’s hands ran red that day. Digitally red. Well, no–not really. All that happens is the screen fades to black and you hear a “hitting” sound effect; when the scene comes back up, Kraze is gone, so we’ll never really know what happened there, just like we’ll never know what went down in the Tower of Joy unless Howland Reed decides to stand up and speak. Yup, I’m comparing Suikoden with A Song of Ice and Fire. Pony up.

I never intended for me to be covering my replay of Suikoden in a “let’s play” fashion, but I just keep finding interesting moments to talk about. Again, I haven’t touched this game in over a decade, so there’s a lot I’ve forgotten, as well as many memories tinted by nostalgia. Some of the mechanics are still extremely enjoyable–recruiting dudes–while others I’m finding frustrating–equipping dudes–but I’m glad to be back in this colorful 16-bit world, even if it feels a little less epic and more to the point than I previously remembered. Up next, I guess…elves and kobolds.

Chinchirorin tests Pauly McDohl’s patience in Suikoden

suikoden 1 tai ho chinchirorin dice game

So, Suikoden surprised me again. I completely remembered the cups game with the old lady in Rockland, though I don’t exactly remember how the exploit works to earn a bajillion bucks–er, sorry, I mean bits. Think it has to do with only playing one round over and over, and it’s always under the same cup the first time. However, I was not at all mentally prepared for the trial of patience when Pauly McDohl and friends arrived in Kaku, a small fishing village on the coast of Lake Toran, and a second mini-game came into the fold, one that got in the way of the actual plot advancing. It’s based entirely around luck, and luck, it seemed, was not on my side, but I guess it hasn’t been for some time since a certain someone began wielding a certain “soul-eating” True Rune.

Right. Well, since the last update, Pauly McDohl and friends are now considered rebels and on the run. They eventually meet up with Lady Odessa, the leader of the Liberation Army, which thrives underground and exists to fight back against the Empire. After helping to deliver some secret weapon plans to friends, they return to find Empire soldiers attacked the Liberation Army headquarters–which is simply a basement beneath an inn–and Lady Odessa critically wounds herself protecting a small child. As she dies, she gives two final requests: deliver an earring and to not let her death be known, otherwise support for the Liberation Army will fall. When you deliver this earring to a man called Mathiu Silverberg–her brother!–he sees great potential in Pauly and declares that the Liberation Army needs a new headquarters, one that could withstand an attack from the Empire. Mathiu suggests the castle in the middle of Lake Toran, and so the gang is off to Kaku, to find somebody willing to row them over to it. That’s when we meet Tai Ho, his bowl, and his magical dice-throwing skills.

Tai Ho is willing to give the gang a boat ride over to the castle, but only if Pauly can beat him at his own game. However, you have to put up all your money against him so make sure you spend a bit before doing so. The gambling game played with three six-sided dice is known as Chinchirorin, or more commonly called Cee-lo in the United States. Rolling a 4-5-6 is always treated as a winning combination for the first player who rolls it, and a 1-2-3 automatically loses. If you roll two dice of the same number, the third dice scores, so a 4-4-6 would mean a score of 6. If you miss the bowl or the dice fall out, it’s also an automatic loss. There is also something called Storm, which is when you get three of the same number, but a 1-1-1 means you lose and pay double while a 6-6-6 means you win and get paid double.

All of that means nothing when you realize the game is based entirely around luck, and it took me at least seven or eight attempts to beat Tai Ho. However, you can’t play against him unless you have at least 1,000 bits, so the rinse, shampoo, wash cycle went as follows: lose all money to Tai Ho, venture out to grind for money, use some of that money to heal up via a night at the inn, go back out to recuperate losses, and then return to the dice master to try again. Took me about an extra 20 to 30 minutes. I guess some people save right before this part and reload to try again, but that’s never been my style, as you’ll recall from my time with Fire Emblem: Awakening. If you’re curious, my game-winning throw was a 3-3-5 to Tai Ho’s 2-2-4. Suck it.

I suspect I’ll have to play Chinchirorin a few more times to actually recruit Tai Ho and his brother down the line, but for now we’re moving on. There’s a gloomy castle filled with monsters in the middle of a lake to investigate!

Suikoden’s opening hour is more goofy than I remembered

suikoden 1-Image00254

I’m going to be replaying both Suikoden and Suikoden IIfor reasons. You don’t need to know the reasons right now, and truth be told, I’d happily replay both of these games just because I can since I still own them as physical copies, but also to keep me in check, because I do like to tout them as some of my favorite games, if not my absolute favorite RPGs. That said, I’ve not touched them since my high school days, and I’m beginning to worry that maybe I’m relying a bit too much on nostalgia.

And with that, after completing another comic about Dan Ryckert’s food stories over at Giant Bomb, I popped in the disc for Suikoden, turned on my, as of late, dormant PlayStation 2, and sifted through my memory cards to find one with space for a save slot. I also discovered at this point that I’m missing Suikoden‘s instruction manual, ugh. Not sure where–and when–that thing vanished. Anyways, after checking all my PS1 memory cards to make sure I didn’t already have a game in progress, I selected “New Game”, rightfully named Tir McDohl to Pauly, and began old-school JRPGing.

Real quick: I’m going to be talking pretty specifically about mostly everything that unfolds in Suikoden‘s first hour, which is actually a lot of different events, so if you’ve not yet gotten to experience it and don’t want to be spoiled, I suggest y’all close this browser right now and move on to something else. All right, let’s go. Let’s show my nostalgia just where it is all truly at.

So, the main thing that surprised me about playing Suikoden again for the first time in over ten years is that…it’s actually quite goofy. Like, if the technology to include a studio audience laugh-track existed at the time for the PlayStation 1, Konami totally would’ve done it. Sure, sure, most people think about the heavy politics and twisted betrayals for both this game and later ones in the series, and they are right to do so. Besides the recruiting of 108 Stars of Destiny and upgrading your castle, the extremely adult tone and direction of the plot is where Suikoden stands miles above its competitors. However, almost right from the get-go, things are goofy and light-hearted and a bit juvenile, and maybe that is really only for now, before the shitstorm truly hits Teo McDohl’s son and friends.

Anyways, check this out. After returning home from meeting the Emperor and getting assigned to work with Commander Kraze Miles (just look at that name), Gremio announces that he’ll be serving dinner soon. You now get the freedom to explore the house and talk to everyone. If you go into the kitchen and try to talk to Gremio, you are given the selectable option to either A) scare him or B) tickle him, both of which result in a lot of stuttering. You can also scare Pahn, who is busy napping. Again, you can probably chalk this up to kids being kids, but I honestly didn’t remember any of this.

Your first mission sends you off to Lady Leknaat’s castle, to acquire some astral projections or something. To get there, you must meet with a spunky young Dragon Knight called Futch and get flown over on his dragon Black, which, I kid you not, sounds like an elephant. Oh, and speaking of sound, when you are in the menus and click on something you can’t interact with, it sounds a bit like a duck. Yeah, maybe Konami was limited for audio samples, but it’s pretty bizarre nonetheless.

On your way up to the castle, you’ll get a small taste of the combat system. It’s pretty standard turn-based action, with some characters able to unite for a joint attack or use magic spells/attacks via attached runes. The combat goes pretty fast, actually, and I like when multiple things happen at once. Strangely, there’s no fanfare when you level; you simply watch numbers increase. We’ve been spoiled over the years with games–both RPGs and not–making you glow, playing a tune, doing something special when you increase in level. I’ve also gone from level 1 to 7, gaining experience fast and not even coming close to falling in battle, save for the boss fight with the Ant Queen, where it’s mandatory, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

After speaking with Lady Leknaat, the next mission has you going to Rockland and then up a mountain path to beat up some bandits that are causing trouble for Rockland, a small town of impoverished and suffering smallfolk unable to pay the Emperor’s taxes. I spoke with one of the kids there and he flat out said that the guards hit him. Heavy stuff, not a lick of goofiness, so long as you ignore the cup minigame. Anyways, during an unbeatable battle with the Ant Queen, Pauly McDohl’s good friend Ted reveals he has some crazy dark magic up his sleeve to save the day. When you get back to Rockland, the mayor pays you, but then your helpless escort Kanaan takes the money, seeing as it belongs to Kraze; that small wah-wah-waaah jingle plays. Um. At least it wasn’t a dragonphant trumpeting.

Upon returning to Gregminster, Ted is requested to go to the castle while everyone else returns home to rest. A little later, just as it begins to storm, Ted shows up at the front door, beaten and nearly unconscious. Cleo suspects it might be “thugs,” a term I did not remember her saying or ever expected to come out of her mouth, but there it is. Turns out, the Emperor wants Ted’s magic rune and he risked everything to get away, so that he could pass the rune–one of the 27 True Runes, mind you–over to his good friend Pauly. We’re now hiding out in the local inn, looking for some way to sneak out of Gregminster without alerting the guards.

And that’s more or less the first hour of the game. I think my save slot says an hour and fourteen minutes. Some talk, some battle, some plot development, and a bunch of hard turns when it comes to tone and material. Either way, I’m excited to keep playing Suikoden, to remember what I remember, and to learn about the moments I clearly missed my first few times through it.

Ys I and its beautifully bodacious bump combat

ys 1 maxresdefault

Let’s all laugh at the great irony that I can’t actually confidently pronounce my favorite JRPG franchise out loud. I mean, is it SOO-ECK-AH-DIN? SOO-EEK-ADIN? SUE-EE-KO-DEN? I dunno. Luckily enough, I’ve not had to talk about Suikoden too many times in public, and when I do, it’s usually with people who have no idea how it is supposed to be said and probably assume I know what I’m doing since, y’know, I’ve been playing games for all my life. Spoiler: I don’t. And now we can add the Ys franchise to my collection of games I will never be sure of, but I’m going to pronounce it like EASE and move on.

I’ve always been curious about the Ys games, but never enough to take the plunge. Heck, I even have a copy of Ys: The Ark of Napishtim in my collection, which I guess I forgot about immediately after purchasing. Anyways, there was a good deal on Ys I & II on Steam over the holidays, and so I entered my credit card info, clicked purchase, and actually installed and played a game I bought instead of just collecting stuff forever. I know, crazy talk. A little researching shows that Ys I & II are pretty old JRPGs, first releasing back in 1989 and eventually coming to all the following platforms in some form or another: PC, PlayStation 2, Virtual Console, Nintendo DS, and PSP. Ys I & II are actually enhanced remakes of the respective Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished and Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter, meant to be played one after the other. So far, I’ve completed Ys I and started the second half only a wee bit.

In both games, you play as a red-haired swordsman named Adol Christin, who, from what I can tell, is the main protagonist for every Ys game. That dude either really gets around or something else is afoot. For the first adventure, he has to collect the six Books of Ys, which contain the history of the ancient, vanished land of Ys and will give Adol the vital knowledge he needs to defeat the caped evilness sweeping the land of Esteria. This means you go from town to town and dungeon to dungeon, talking with villagers and fighting enemies, respectively, gaining clues as to where to find the next book. The last chunk of the game takes place in the astronomically tall and somewhat tedious Darm Tower, which has you ascending floor after floor of bad guys and mazes to eventually fight…um, I think people in Minea called him Dark Cape and complete the first fifty percent of Ys I & II.

If that sounds like your typical JRPG adventure, you’re right. The story and its characters are nothing to write home about, and that’s because the real charm of the Ys franchise is in its combat system. It’s called bumping, and basically, when out in the field, Adol can run into enemies to deal damage directly to them. There’s no attack button. You bump, they take damage, they explode, you gain XP. Rinse, lather, repeat until you hit the level cap and have enough gold to buy all the best armor/weapons. And yet, there’s still strategy to this, as you don’t ever want to attack anything head-on, so you must come at enemies at an angle or from behind, making you feel very ninja-like. It was definitely one of the more unique combat systems I’ve come across lately, and it, along with regenerating health, made for speedy grinding, something I always appreciate.

Despite the gloriously joyful and smile-creating combat, I still ran into some problems. Like, there’s a specific boss that transforms into a swarm of bats and then back to human form for a split second, and you have even less time than that to hit him, which made for a very frustrating boss battle. Later on, there’s a room in Darm Tower filled with poison-like music that drains Adol’s health fast, and the only way to clear out the room is by exiting, finding a specific pillar outside, and hitting it with a hammer you found a few levels down; the game does not really make this clear, and I had to look up the solution online. And speaking of not making a lot clear, I wasn’t sure what a lot of the items in my inventory did, so I mostly refrained from ever equipping any of them.

Glancing at the Steam Achievements for Ys II, I get the impression that the second part of this series is…a little weirder. Also, looks like there’s magic spells to be cast. I’m down with that, as well as some more bumping. Maybe I should change my blog’s name is Bumping Down? Maybe.

Harle, wilt thou leave me thus?

chrono cross harle leaves the party

RPG party members–they come, and they go. Quite frequently, actually. That’s just how some tales twist, after all. Very recently, I lost Harle in Chrono Cross (sorry, uh…spoilers?), and the whole happening was quietly handled in such an undermining manner that I couldn’t believe she was no longer selectable as a part of my team, despite being there only minutes before a cutscene occurred. But I checked, and she was magically replaced in my merry band by Viper, and no one even asked me if that was okay. Grrr.

Now, to be more specific on Harle’s vanishing act, about three-fourths through the game, she asks FauxLynx a Serious™ question. I thought I picked the answer that would most please her, but she said I was lying, and the next scene is her crying on Fargo’s S.S. Zelbess, watching as the gang sets off to fight some dragon-god bosses. Starky tries to figure out what’s wrong, but Harle won’t give up the details…and then, that’s it. She’s no longer there, no longer in your party, no longer accessible. And I’m the only one that notices. I am holding out hope that she reappears down the line–don’t tell me!–maybe before the final battle, but I really liked having her in my party as a potent healer and damage-disher. She was all about zee moons.

Harle’s suddenly vanishing act reminded me a bit of when Gremio bites the flesh-eating spores bullet in Suikoden, as well as when Sephiroth decided to poke Aerith a bit too hard in Final Fantasy VII. It kind of comes out of nowhere, and suddenly you are short one constant face and voice. Worst of all…you don’t get any of your stuff back. Whatever items, armor, and elements you had equipped goes buys the farm along with its bearer. So long, multiple counts of HellBound, Gravitonne, RecoverAll. You will be missed. Not that I can’t afford to buy more, as money in Chrono Cross is and never will be an issue, but it hurts seeing your hard-earned stuff taken away.

I’m now in the home stretch, but it is a little daunting. Basically, you have to go fight six element-themed dragons to get them on your side or gain a thingy from them. If I have this right, you can fight them in just about any order you want. Think the White Dragon has to be last though. Regardless: the world(s) are your oyster(s). I took on the Water Dragon first, beating it relatively easily, but now I don’t know where I want to go next. This type of openness can be a real danger to me, as without any guidance I could just wander around on the overworld map for all eternity, basking in the game’s beautiful soundtrack. I also don’t know who I am going to replace Harle with, as Viper is just okay. Maybe Zappa or Zoah? I don’t know.

Time marches on, and I creep closer to finally completing Chrono Cross. Can’t let these dragons and their “come at me, bro, in any order” mentality deter me. I will save the world(s). I will. For Harle.

Suikoden IV has joined its brothers and sisters in my Suikoden collection

suik 4 now mine 6-s4-42-208

So yeah, the big news was that I bought a PlayStation 3 over the weekend, but there was another purchase that really, for me, hit it big, and I’ve been saving the reveal for its own post. Like this one. Uh yeah, onwards…

My local GameStop in Pennsylvania is probably one of the last to still sell PlayStation 2 games, and because of this, I’m constantly sifting through their standalone shelves for goodies before the store simply stops selling them, and then that’s that. In the past, I’ve found a number of gems, such as Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters and Suikoden III, as well as some real duds, like Monster Rancher EVO, but regardless, it’s helped me fill out my collection nonetheless. Over the weekend, before I asked the dude behind the counter for the “Classic White” PlayStation 3 bundle, I made my way over to the PS2 section and noticed that they were “buy-two-get-one-free” for the time being, a type of sale that I just can’t ignore. And I hadn’t even scanned more then five covers before I saw it, just sitting there all nonchalant, waiting for me to pick it up: Suikoden IV. I found Wild Arms 4 and Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny, thus snagging Suikoden IV for free. Whoop whoop!

I understand that, for many, it’s considered the worst in the series–or is that Suikoden Tierkries?–but this isn’t actually about the gameplay, but rather finding the game. A physical copy of it. See, Suikoden II is one of my favorite RPGs, with both the saddest scene and best story, and I find the series as a whole really enjoyable, especially once you get to your castle headquarters and can begin recruiting locals 108 Stars of Destiny to see how they affect everything. It’s a series that I’ve wanted to have as a whole, and once I got Suikoden V I was determined to eventually find the III and IV to round out the numbered entries in the series. That task…is now complete.

And here they all are, one happy family:

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Mmm. Love it. Now to figure out if I’m determined enough to pick up the non-numbered spinoffs in the Suikoden franchise and really call myself a diehard fan. Currently, there are three:

  • Suikoden Tactics (PS2)
  • Suikoden Tierkries (DS)
  • Suikoden: The Woven Web of a Century (PSP)

Well, the chances of me getting a PSP are 0.000002%, so there goes that, and I feel like Suikoden Tactics is the rarest of the PS2 bunch. Chances are high I can find a used copy of Suikoden Tierkries though it sounds like a far cry from a traditional experience. Still curious about it though.

Either way, this is exciting. I’m still working my way through Suikoden III and amazing myself over the hilarious dialogue, but I will test out IV some day soon. I wonder if my PlayStation 3 is backwards-compatible. Probably not…

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, a fantastic distortion of the senses

The demo for Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the Nintendo 3DS has its ups and downs, but it has nonetheless confirmed for me that I’ll be purchasing the cutesy side-scroller on Day One. As well as reading all of Scrooge McDuck’s lines out loud in my amazing Scottish accent.

It opens with gorgeous, hand-drawn art and text-based story blocks, and stays that way for some time. Maybe too long to be reading text, but whatever. There has to be setup somewhere. Power of Illusion takes place some time after the events of Epic Mickeywhich I never even came close to beating. A part of me wants to go back and try again, but then another part remembers how there were houses you went into that had absolutely nothing inside of them, and they made me furious because what’s the point of going in it then, why not just leave the door locked, ugggggh. Anyways, the evil witch Mizrabel and her Castle of Illusion have been accidentally transported to the Wasteland by the wizard Yen Sid. That’s Disney backwards for those not in the know. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit contacts Mickey Mouse to tell him about the castle and that Minnie Mouse has been spotted inside of it, which is not true at all. Ever the hero, Mickey then sets off to save Minnie and the “Illusions” of other Disney characters trapped in the castle.

Right. It’s a side-scroller of yesteryears, and it’s coming from Dreamrift. Y’know, the folks responsible for the charming Monster Tale. Some company alum also worked on the highly praised Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. So, we’re definitely in good hands here. Plus, several interviews with Peter Ong, co-founder and creative director, have remarked on his love for Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse for the Sega Genesis. And that love shows. Oh does it show. But thankfully there’s more to Power of Illusion than just nostalgia and one fan’s dream to bring it back.

After all the story intro stuff, the demo drops you into control of the one and only Mickey Mouse, with little to no abilities to his name. Hmm. Basically, you can jump, and his jumps are unfortunately very floaty, something I’m not digging. Later on, after acquiring the Pixie Dust sketch which allows you to float down when falling, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference. You go through a tutorial level, which shows you how to bounce off enemies, throw paint/thinner at them, draw in items or erase them completely, and rescue familiar Disney characters, like Beast and Rapunzel. The artwork is gorgeous and looks great in 3D, presenting depth of field over launching things at your face.

As for the paint/thinner aspect which carries over from Epic Mickey, it’s fairly perfunctory. When you need to create an item, you trace its outline, and depending how steady your work is, you’ll create a stronger item. Alas, this is no Theatrhythm, and it’s not exactly clear where you are being judged in terms of lineart. For thinner, you basically just smudge away the item with all you got. That’s all this demo showed, so I’m not sure if there’s more to this gimmick or not. When running around, you can throw paint or thinner at enemies, and depending on which type you use, they’ll drop health or money. Yeah, Disney Dollars.

Once you are done learning the ropes, you head back to your Fortress. And this is where Power of Illusion really won me over. Because the Fortress is the castle from Suikoden. Well…sort of. The Disney characters you rescue in levels will take up refuge in your Fortress, getting their own room and serving their own purpose. You can upgrade the room too, though I’m not clear on how that is accomplished. Some characters become shops–like Scrooge McDuck–who sell upgrades to Mickey’s health meter, how much paint/thinner he uses, and upping his ability to find hidden treasures, and other characters will dish out side quests. This, I like. Very, very much. And I spent most of the demo playing around here before going back into one more level, which was set on Captain Hook’s pirate ship. That then ends with a boss fight teaser, definitely leaving me wanting more.

My Nintendo 3DS is in for some hurting over the next few weeks. I’m still trying to finish up a single playthrough of Pokemon White 2–seven badges collected so far!–but this Sunday I’ll be picking up Paper Mario: Sticker Star. And then comes Power of Illusion, followed by the downloadable Crashmo. I also still mean to pick up the new Layton game too. Gah. And maybe Scribblenauts Unlimited. Triple gah. At least now that the weather is getting horribly frigid, I have something to do underneath the heated blanket: collect pocket monsters, collect stickers, collect Disney characters. My system might not be ready for it, but I definitely am.

Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion for the 3DS is a videogame I now want

Okay, I’m all in.

To start, I found Disney Epic Mickey on the Nintendo Wii to be severely flawed, with horrible camera jank, empty houses that made me angry, and a really slow pace. Charm and atmosphere was there, but that’s it. Which is a shame, as I love Mickey Mouse and animation of golden times and all things Disney–I mean, for our honeymoon, Tara and I geeked out in Disney World for a week, and it was sublime. There’s just something so charming about Disney’s universe, and we’ve had a couple of good games based off Ser Walt’s creations in the past, namely Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Kingdom Hearts.

And so, while wearing trepidation-laden armor, I am excited to see how Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two turns out, what with its focus on co-op and music, but the real reason to be overjoyed that Junction Point Studios is giving it another go is that there will be a retail release for the 3DS…and it’s totally different.

Made by DreamRift, the fine beings behind 2011’s underrated Monster Tale, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a 2D platformer that harkens back to the previously mentioned Castle of Illusion. In fact, some are straight up calling it a sequel. Nothing’s been formally announced, but the Internet has provided a number of game details and a single screenshot scan, and from all that…I’m in. It sounds amazing, and might very well be the third 3DS game I buy in 2012 (the first was Super Mario 3D Land, and the second will be Animal Crossing 3DS). Here’s a couple of bullet points supposedly from the newest issue of Nintendo Power:

  • Use stylus to tap item icons
  • “Paint” (trace) those items into existence to create cliffs, cannons, and floating platforms
  • Use thinner to erase objects
  • Scrolling parallax backgrounds
  • Every level in the game is based on an animated Disney adventure, which includes Sleeping Beauty to Tangled
  • Every character that Mickey saves will take up residence in the fortress that Mickey uses as his home base
  • The witch from Snow White is the main villain
  • Scrooge McDuck, Minnie, and Oswald also make appearances

Did you see the bullet point I highlighted in red font? Check again. I did so because that basically confirms that Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is part Suikoden. Oh em gee. Give me a base, let me recruit people, and I will play that game, no matter what it ultimately is. I can’t wait to see how the fortress evolves with each cartoony pal that Mickey brings back. People are guessing Fall 2012 for a release date, and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more delicious-looking screenshots.

Team members in Mass Effect 2 are more like check marks

Over the weekend, I made a brown dwarf-size dent in Mass Effect 2, and now all I want to do is play Dragon Age: Origins all over again. Or maybe redo some cases in L.A. Noire. Or go through The Blackwell Deception one more time in commentary mode. I’m closing in on the “suicide mission” part, and all I want to do is walk away. It has nothing to do with fear. Rather, disappointment. Who cares about surviving a suicide mission if you don’t care about anyone by your side? Let me explain.

Mass Effect 2 is all about building a team. The Illusive Man hands over a number of dossiers to Commander Shepard, which show you the who and where to go parts, and then you’re off to recruit this person deemed vital for your team’s survival in taking on the Collectors. Fine, I’m cool with that. After all, I got every 108 Stars of Destiny in Suikoden and Suikoden II (missed a few in Suikoden V), so I know all about getting people to join one’s cause, no matter how insane it sounds. Recruiting a team member for Mission Impossible generally requires a quest where you go down a hallway through a series of similar-looking rooms, hide behind stuff, shoot enemies, and then chat for a bit with your target. I kid, but only slightly. A few have mixed things up like avoiding sunlight or toxic gas while going down those hallways and rooms. After that, you’ll more or less repeat this process to earn said team member’s loyalty.

I think I’ve already said this, but if I haven’t, well, here it is again: I dislike the shooting aspect of Mass Effect 2. The game’s appeal has and always will be from its lore and characters and the way these alien races interact with one another. And these characters, these people I’ve gone out of my way to get on my team, they do little when actually on a mission besides a side-handed comment here or there, unless they are pivotal to the mission at hand. See, in Dragon Age: Origins, companions talked all the time, about the world at large and how the Chantry sucks and thoughts on dwarven history or the Taint and so on. When you made Big Boy decisions, everyone around you made sure you knew how they felt, which only served to enhance their personalities and my desire to see them happy (or unhappy). The same does not apply in Mass Effect 2; there is no sense of “we’re all quite different, but we have to stick together.”

So far, nobody has reacted in a big enough way to some of Shepard’s choices, most which were along the Paragon path, but I did slip a Renegade action in there once or twice. On each mission, whether it is a recruiting one or just a side quest, I switch out one of my party members constantly, keeping Miranda always for her Warp and Heavy Overload skills. Grunt, Jack, Jacob, Mordin–I’ve tried each one at Shepard’s side. And I’ve come to the realization that I could’ve swapped out any team member for a paper bag, and nothing would’ve changed–so long as that paper bag shot a gun and had a few abilities to select. Harsh, maybe. But I expected more.

Case in point: the Ghost Ship. Oh, and there be spoilers starting in the next sentence. Basically, the Illusive Man backstabs the team and sends them into a trap, but the only people vocal about it are Joker and the ship’s AI. You’d think that, given her relationship to Cerberus, that Miranda would have some strong words–more than a handful–but no, not really.


Ghost Ship (25G): Complete the investigation of a derelict alien vessel

I don’t know. Commander Shepard has now been prompted that we can go through the Omega 4 relay, but I said something along the stupid lines of “gotta build up the team some more.” Just because I want to get everybody for the sake of being a completionist. Given all the hype and worriment that a suicide mission carries, I have to say that I am really not invested in most of my side-mates. And I’ve tried. I talk to them between missions, exhaust dialogue choices, and so on. I try, dang it. But they don’t want to represent themselves as more than check marks–the warrior, the thief, the techie, the cheerleader–and so they seem artificial in nature, and inanimate objects can’t die because they never were alive to begin with.