Tag Archives: Tombstones

Minigames that deserved more of my time

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It’s bad enough that there are somewhere in the upward hundreds of games in my never not growing collection that I haven’t touched and probably won’t for a good while, but then there are more than a handful of videogames with smaller games inside them that I have only skimmed the surface of, unable to devote more time to them, with my core focus on seeing the bigger picture draw to a close. I just hit this very moment in Night in the Woods with the game’s small yet mighty pixelated dungeon crawler Demontower, which is clearly taking cues from Dark Souls and requires a lot of focus to be successful in.

These are commonly called minigames, and some of them certainly dance on the edge of mini and major. I’m not here to argue semantics, nor am I referencing those slivers of gameplay in the Mario Party series. I’m here to dream a little dream, one where I get to dive oh-so-deep into these things, as many of them are definitely large enough to lose a good chunk of life and time into.

So here’s a bunch of minigames that truly deserved more of my precious hours, and I don’t know if they’ll ultimately ever get that pleasure. Spoilers and no surprises from me on this reveal: two of them are card-based.

“XENOCard” from Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht

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Sometimes I think I want to write about Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht simply so I can use its full title. It really is a beautiful thing. The sequels, which I alas do not own and probably never will due to their steep prices on Amazon, up the ante immensely. Really, look now: Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse and Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra. My oh my oh my.

Anyways, in Xenosaga Episode I, besides getting hot e-mails and a robot lady to battle by your turn-based side, you can play a card game called, as far as I can tell, Xenocard. The goal is to achieve victory by forcing your opponent to run through his or her entire deck, leaving them with no remaining cards. You can attack your opponent’s deck in a number of ways, forcing him to lose cards. At the same time, you must take protective measures for guarding your own deck from quick depletion.

It’s surprisingly complex–I mean, just look at the interface layout above–and not too different from things like Magic: The Gathering though I never got too far into the game to play a whole bunch because, for those that don’t know, there’s a lot of long cutscenes to sit and watch and not interact with, and so I most likely put this aside for something a little more engaging. Maybe one day I’ll return to the world of…Lost Jerusalem (Earth). Maybe.

“Insectron” from Rogue Galaxy

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Man, did I love Rogue Galaxy. That’s a statement, not a question. It’s a Level-5 JRPG from the PlayStation 2 days that does all the Level-5 things you now come to expect of the company, and it’s a fun, often silly, sometimes serious, take on all things Star Wars. However, I spent far more time feeding items and weapons to a magical frog-thing to make better gear and creating Rube Goldberg machines in the factory than I did with the game’s “Insectron” minigame. Insectors are small insects that you can catch at various places throughout the galaxy. Basically, this universe’s version of Pokemon, but buggier. The purpose for catching them is to make a team that can win battles against other opponents at the Insectron Stadium.

There are two parts to this massive sinkhole. First, you have to collect the insects. Unfortunately, the probability of catching an Insector is random. You have to find a good location, place traps or cages, fill them with bait, and then wait until you hear a specific sound indicating something’s happening. If you want even better Insectors, you’ll need to invest serious time into breeding. Next, you can begin to raise your collection, upping their ranks and feeding them special items to grow specific attributes. You can see the seeds of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch‘s familiars here.

Once you are satisfied with your team of Insectors, you can start battling. The battles at the Insectron Championship are done tournament-style. Win five matches to advance through one rank, then rinse and repeat. Insectron matches are 5-on-5 battles, and one of your team’s five Insectors is labeled the King. If you defeat your opponent’s King, you win. However, the Insector designated as the King is limited to only moving one space at a time. I think I attempted a few battles, but, having only used a sliver of the untrained Insectors I did manage to catch, did not get very far in the tournament and left the whole thing behind to see Jasper Rogue’s story draw to conclusion.

“Triple Triad” from Final Fantasy VIII

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2016 was the year that I finally saw Final Fantasy IX from beginning to end. To do this, I had to sacrifice the desire to go after every side quest, as well as the dream of being the legendary best Tetra Master player in the world. This meant I mostly just collected the cards and moved on with the adventure. I also ignored other minigames in Final Fantasy IX, such as Chocobo Hot and Cold and finding all those medallion coins. It’s fine; I’m fine. That all said, of the handful of Final Fantasy games I’ve played, I think I’d prefer to go back to Final Fantasy VIII and study up on all things Triple Triad, if given the time.

In Final Fantasy VIII, you could go up to a random NPC, press the square button, and maybe find yourself in a card game. As always, the goal is simple: capture as many of your opponent’s cards as possible by making sure you place higher-ranked cards adjacent to an enemy card. Easy enough, but the rules are what make this game deceptively tough and addicting, especially considering those rules can change depending where you are geographically in the game. More or less, it’s a modified version of Tic-Tac-Toe, played on a 3×3 grid. Players take turns placing a card down, and each card contains a “compass rose” of four different numbers (1-9, with “A” representing 10). Higher levels contain higher numbers, and these stats determine whether you’ll take the adjacent enemy card as your own or lose to its strength.

I remember wanting to simply collect all the character-specific cards, but then realizing I’d have to risk a lot of my collection to get them. Big ol’ boo to that. Also, the fact remains that disc 3 from my PlayStation 1 retail copy is still gone, given to a “friend” to borrow and then move away with, so I’ll never acquire that full digital collection of friendly faces like Selphie Tilmitt and…well, really, there’s only room for Selphie in my heart. Maybe Quistis Trepe. Evidently, you can play Triple Traid on some smartphones, but probably shouldn’t.

“Spheda” from Dark Cloud 2

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I think about this fact from time to time: despite getting to the last chapter, I have not yet beaten Dark Cloud 2. This probably needs to be remedied at some point, but I don’t know what is more daunting–loading up my years-old save and having a forgetful go at it or starting over fresh. I mean, yeah, I did miss a few photo opportunities early on during some boss battles. Well, I’m not here to talk about that, though it is just one of a few minigames or side activities you can take on in Dark Cloud 2, brushing shoulders with fishing and rebuilding towns, as well as Spheda.

What is Spheda? Glad you asked. It’s basically playing golf to repair time distortions. Mmm-hmm. You read that correctly. In short, the only way to fix these time distortions is to get a colored sphere back into the distortion hole, and you do that by whacking it around a cleared-out dungeon like you are playing mini-golf at the boardwalk during the summer. Except you do want to go off the main path and bounce the ball around corners. Each time a distortion is successfully closed, you’ll get a treasure chest containing valuable items. In addition, the player receives a medal, which can be traded to Mayor Need for, you guessed it, other items. Yay for items.

I’d have to load up my save to confirm this, but I think I was successful on one–and only one–round of Spheda. It’s hard. You only have so many shots to get it into the time distortion, and the dungeons are long and windy, with many sharp turns. I remember hitting the ball to be no easy task either, considering this is a JRPG and not a golf simulator. I wonder if I’d have more patience now to learn the ins and outs of this or if the loot is even worth all the effort.

“Cops and Robbers” from Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves

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I believe I played “Cops and Robbers” exactly once, with an ex, while waiting for my father to arrive for a visit. Because I used to document my life extensively, I can tell you it was around the time of this comic strip. The objective of this minigame in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is simple: get five points. One player controls Inspector Carmelita Fox, and the other steers that sneaky devil Sly Cooper. There’s only one map to play on, in Venice. Basically, Carmelita gets a single point every time she takes out Sly, and Sly gets one point every time he takes out Carmelita, as well as one point for every piece of loot he retrieves and takes to a designated drop-off area. Clearly, Sly has more options, but all Carmelita has to focus on is zapping him with her shock pistol.

To mix up the fleeing and pursuing, floating stars are sprinkled around the main section of the city. These provide either character with a power-up that can be used one to five times before a meter depletes. Each player has access to a compass that reveals where your opponent is. I remember it working well, though I have stronger memories tied to the mode where you are flying biplanes around. Oh well.

There’s also a whole treasure map aspect to eat up, which allows Sly to utilize clues, such as “stand before the statue’s gaze, to begin your walk along the treasure’s maze,” that eventually lead to the objective, which in most occasions is treasure. It’s fun and gives me confidence that I could probably star in a remake of The Goonies if asked. No one’s going to ask.

Well, that’s all I can come up with at the moment though I guarantee I’m missing other standout examples. Like “Feitas” from Suikoden V. And “Tombstones” and “Rage Frenzy” from Rage. Grrr. See, told you there’s plenty more.

Anyways, what minigames did you only barely touch and regret not fully experiencing? Well, maybe regret is too strong a word. Either way, tell me about them in the comments below. I want to know.

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30,000 Gamerscore, and I feel fine

I never really planned to hit 10,000 Gamerscore on the mark, but it happened, and I thought that was kind of a neat milestone. Then came the time for 20,000, and I actually went out of my way to figure out the best combo of Achievements to hit that nice ol’ rounded number on the dot. It became very meta, and that’s okay, as doing some math and using these fickle things called Achievements for an actual purpose was certainly refreshing. Also, as someone in the comments mentioned, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas played a crucial part in both sets of fireworks, and there’s no beating that. Now, here we are again, a year and change later, some 10,0o0 Gamerscore richer, with a total paperweight of…30,000. Take a look:


Yowza.

Alas, I didn’t get there with the help of Fallout: New Vegas, instead using the recently acquired Jurassic Park: The Game to up the ante and then two planned Achievements from Rage to seal the deal. Unfortunately, the last Achievement to tip the scale was based on luck: in Rage, there’s a mini-game called Tombstones, and if you roll four attacks on your very first turn, you get an Achievement. Since rolling is random, it just required sitting on the couch, petting my kitty cat, and hitting A over and over until the dang thing popped. When it did, I shouted in jubilation to Tara that I was successful and immediately shut off the Xbox 360, worried that I might accidentally unlock something else and ruin such a pretty, pretty number.

And I know–I mean, I kn0w–none of this matters. Some of you have probably already pre-judged me as an Achievement whore, but I think there is most definitely a difference between someone playing Rapala Tournament Fishing! just to get more Gamerscore points and somebody who looks at the whole process as a mini-game in itself, going after the ones worth going after, and celebrating little milestones along the way. I have to wonder if I’ll hit 40,000 in about one year or so as well. Maybe not as there just does not seem to be too much coming out this year on my “must buy” list, other than The Witcher 2 and A Game of Thrones: The Game. Keep following Grinding Down to find out how my turtle race to the top continues on…

Slowly making progress in Rage

I knew going in that I wasn’t going to love Rage, seeing that its focus is mostly on precise shooting and excessive driving, but I figured it would find a way into my heart through its barren, bandit-infested wasteland, crazy character designs, and handful of minigames. Alas, that has not been the case. Though I do totally dig some of these characters, like race announcer Jackie Weeks and the humming, hat-wearing Coffer. Talking to NPCs and watching their unique animations has been, surprisingly, the best part of coming out of that Ark so far.

Instead, it’s been a game I’ve picked up to play only three or four times since buying it post-Christmas, with a large span of at least a month between one of those sessions. Just hasn’t grabbed me like other games have. I know one reason why is because I’m more reluctant to actual do any story missions seeing as how the last time I ran out of ammo early on due to me lacking them shootin’ skillz, and that made completely that mission above and beyond the call of duty. For some, that’s probably enjoyable, but I just wanted to get to a town, talk to folk, buy some stuff, pick up miscellaneous jobs, and do some side minigames. Eventually, I got there, but meh. Two of the three games are annoying.

In Tombstones, you play a holographic sheriff surrounded by four holographic mutants who advance over the course of three turns. Each turn you roll four dice; crosshairs mean you make a kill, and skulls mean the mutants get one step closer to the sheriff. If you kill all four mutants, you win, and depending on what turn you kill them all, you will win higher amounts of money. It’s easy to comprehend, but all based around luck. There’s an Achievement for killing all four mutants on the first roll, which I’ve tried getting an uncountable number of times now. Grrr. Luck.

In Five Finger Fillet, you place your hand on a table and stab at the spaces between your fingers with a knife. Hit your digits three times, and you lose. The first four rounds are scripted and easy to get into the rhythm of, but the final round is random and fast and is driving me nuts. Especially since, when you cut one too many fingers, you have to start all over again from round one. Grrr. Fingers. 

Rage Frenzy, the minigame that got me over the curiosity line for Rage, is a turn-based card combat thing against an opponent’s deck. I’m still collecting cards for my deck, but this is the most fun minigame of the bunch (I think there’s a fourth I’ve not yet unearthed), requiring strategy and reminding me of the good ol’ Magic: The Gathering days.

At some point, I stopped playing silly fluff fillers with fellow Wellspring neighbors and went out into the wild to shoot some nasties.

Here’s what I’ve unlocked Achievements-wise since my last spurt of activity, which mainly stemmed from online multiplayer action:


Open Minded (15G): Get 10 Headshot kills with the Sniper Rifle


Gladiator (10G): Complete Mutant Bash TV in the Campaign


Arts and Crafts (10G): Construct 10 Engineering Items

Oh, and I found a Vault Boy bobble-head on the mayor’s desk in Wellspring, but there’s no Achievement for that even though there totally should be. Ahem.

Right now, I’m inside some bunker using speedy bomb-laden RC cars to blow up caches of…something. Man, I wish I paid more attention to what these characters were saying sometimes, but all I can do is pay attention to the way they move their arms or head while doling out a new mission objective. Hopefully it won’t be another month until I play again…