August 31, 2011

Phantasy Star - Hitting the Wall of Ice (0/7)

We didn't spend much more time on Motavia.  Gained access to one cave which ended up being too difficult for now.  As foretold by a cheery townsfolk, we found a patch of miasmic wastelands that took off far more HP than the lava did on Motavia.  We had been warned about needing protection but we were feeling fairly mighty after frolicking through that lava.  Most likely it's in that difficult cave and since there's nowhere else to explore, it's off to the icy giant Dezoris to the town of Skure.

The harsh climatic conditions of Dezoris have forced the residents to bury down past the thick ice into the frozen earth.  The passageway leading to the town is monster infested and must be traversed both coming and going from Skure.  The area surrounding Skure is very constricted with just one cave nearby.  This cave contains a small dungeon and exits into another small area with another cave.  After one more sequence like this, a much larger area opened up and we had several choices of caves and a facility to explore.  A kick up in monster difficulty means the facility is off limits for now.  Now, after getting our HPs and MPs reduced from that jump, we have to warp back to Skure for a rest.  To get back to where we were so we can explore the caves instead means walking all the way back through the Skure access tunnel and through the entire cave system again.  With even more cave systems to follow, it makes doing deeper exploring that much more difficult.  Myau has the only good healing spell (Alis has a cheaper one that is about a quarter as effective as Myau's) and similar items don't stack so the lame healing agents (Colas (10HP) and Burgers (40HP)) are in short supply.  Throw in certain foes that have the area affect spell Thunder (does ~30HP to each party member) and a few unlucky encounters means a trip back to Skure before we've even reached where we were before.  From a roleplaying perspective, I do appreciate this as it does make these places seem more unattainable and isolated but it has slowed down the overall progress of the party.  Mesetas and experience still have value however so it's not a total loss.

One of the cave systems leads to a town (with its own, even longer, monstery access tunnel) of native Dezorians with the town split into two with each side claiming that other side has liars.  Whatevs, we just picked up a handy Ice Digger for a whopping 12,000 Mesetas (which we just barely had) and made our way back (not complaining about fights now since we need Mesetas).

I think you were all equally boring. LOL!

Even though we now held the ability to smash through Ice Mountains, the party voted on going back to Motavia for a bit of a thaw out.  We figured we were now hardy enough to tackle that cave with the wasteland protection in it.  Only it didn't have any protection in it.  Instead, we found an old mage who turned out to be Noah's mentor.  Challenged to a wizard's bout, Noah wiped the floor with the old man who gave him a much needed boost in defence with a Frad Mantle.

So did I pass, master? .... Master?
.... *backs away slowly*

With heavy hearts, the party decides to go back to Dezoris and try out the Ice Digger.  The mountains don't have any distinguishing features to show where one can bust through them so it's a process of trying every single mountain icon.  Once a patch of "soft" ice is found though, it is quite satisfying to annihilate vast swaths of them.

That's what you get for being less
dense in your solid state, freak.

Slowly, but surely, headway is being made in these icy caverns.  The extra resources pouring in from encounters is helping in getting up the defenses of members so that they're losing less HP in battles and therefore extending the range of a single outing.  In fact, we're not even scared of these anymore:

Ok, maybe a little scared.

August 23, 2011

Phantasy Star - Keep On Chooglin'

Things have been going pretty steady so far.  With the addition of Noah and his attack spells, the party is full and ready to track down Dr. Luveno.  Noah starts at level one (just like everyone else when they joined) but by this point the others are all around level 12.  This is good news as (as long as he doesn't die) Noah gains a lot of experience for each encounter and flies up to the double digits fairly quickly.  His spells are still kinda ass but hopefully he'll follow the spellcaster's code and get more powerful in later levels.

At the town of Gothic, we learn that the good Doctor is in the prison just aways off.  After letting him out (as well as many others since we unlocked all the doors), he waltzes back to Gothic.  Where are the guards in this jail?  The robot at the front took one look at our Roadpass and I guess decided we could do whatever the heck we wanted.  Anyhow, back at Gothic we look up the Doc and (for a one time investment of 1200 Mesetas) he builds us a friggin' starship!  After the party died down and the champagne became a fuzzy memory, Luveno gives us one below the belt.  Apparently, only some robot named Hapsby can fly this sweet bitch.

That wasn't part of the deal, Luveno! That
wasn't part of the DEEEEAAAALLLL!!!

Fine.  But you can forget getting a Christmas card this year, Luveno.  Heading for the town of Bortevo, we had to cross a field of lava (which I had been warned about).  We didn't have any special protective boots or anything, so Alis gave a shrug and a "Fuck it" look and went traipsing over it.  As we only took two damage for each step, it was actually a pleasant little stroll.

We're still not stopping for a picnic, Myau.

Bortevo ended up being a shabby little shantytown filled with junk piles.  Somewhere in these piles lay that pilot robot but no amount of searching brought anything to fruition.  After a very long journey around the coastline, we arrived in the town of Albion which had some Polymaterial for sale (we knew this from some scrubby dude in a cave).  Taking it all the way back to Bortevo and using it on a junk pile melted all the crummy metal away and revealed our new chauffeur, Hapsby.

We'll pick you up a cap on the way back.

Unfortunately, Haps can can only take us to one city on each of the three planets so there will still be lots of trekking around.  It is a pretty swank ride but needs some guns or something.

Not a lot of room either.  Myau'll
have to ride in the engines.

Though being denied the freedom of movement I was expecting (like the airship has in Final Fantasy), it did take us to a new area on Motavia to the town of Uzo.  We received a tip from a townsfolk that there was another town to the south but first we decided to explore around a bit.  The game allows for a bit of freedom for wandering around locations but the monster difficulty can jump up suddenly.  No problem.  It's just an area we'll come check out later.  We'll just go back the way we came.  The problem comes with the very sporadic encounter rate.  At times the party can go 20-25 steps without one and other times it'll be an encounter every one or two steps five times in a row.  What this means is that we could end up very deep in some difficult monster areas and not even realize it until the first fight.  Then we get hit with the high encounter rate on the way back.  The game is trying to set us up for a big fall but we've got our cowardly run away spells to fall back on.

Should of just gone south
like the nice man said.

That's what I get for wandering off.  Now what was I doing again?  Righto!  Finding that town.  The town itself is surrounded by mountains on three sides and has a lake on the last side.  A cave entrance nearby is surely the way in.  Though we were wary of dragons residing in this cave as the rumours said, we still stumbled upon a massive Blue Dragon.  We barely managed to kill the beast; the spellcasters having drained their essence in attacking and healing magicks.  Due to the intensity of the fight I forgot to screenshot it, but believe me when I say it was frickin' boss.  We got an Amber Eye gem for our troubles.  The well fortified town of Casba had a Land Rover for sale which we just had to buy (for about four times more than the spaceship cost).  It didn't stop us from hitting encounters but it does allow us to go over some of the more unsavory parts of the map.

Eat my shread.

With the Land Rover at our disposal, we should really be able to explore the rest of Motavia now.  Before that though, we've just been asked to attend a fab new dance club by a couple of groovy ghouls who really know how to party.

♪ Won't you take me to ... Funky Town ♫

August 17, 2011

[Game 003] Phantasy Star (SMS - 1987)


Even though this is the only entry from the Sega Master System (update: It isn't anymore), it is the start of what would become a beloved series of RPGs for the Sega Genesis.  Set in a world where magic and technology coexist equally, the story begins with the protagonist, Alis, witnessing her rebel brother, Nero, being killed by the evil King Lassic.  Alis takes up her brother's revolting mantle and vows revenge.  It is not a task she can do alone so first we must seek out Odin, another rebel whom Nero told us about with his dying breath.  The lands outside of the safety of the dome are perilous.  Exceedingly perilous as is evident from the first encounter.

Ugh. Didn't even get a swing in.

A nice batch of deaths later, Alis finally managed to gain and maintain a few levels, at least enough to keep her alive for now.  After every fight or two, Alis would have to run back to Camineet to stay at her friend's place for a free "inn" stay. 

You'll end up regretting that.

A few dungeons located around Camineet proved too harsh for Alis to handle herself though she did manage to find a stone statue of a warrior.  Most likely this was Odin, who we found out from some townsfolk that he was hunting down the Medusa.  Well, he failed terribly in that so of course we should try to recruit him.  Lacking any SOFT potions in this world, we'll have to keep looking for others and hopefully come back later and cure him.  We did get a lead telling us about a "speaking beast" on Motavia that knew Odin.  Alis bought a passport to leave tropical Palma and head for the arid Motavia.

"Welcome, passengers, to lovely Motavia —
where 75% of the ground will eat you."
After purchasing the beast with a MacGuffin we got in Carmineet, we discover that this creature, named Myau, not only knows Odin but knows how to cure him.  Myau also decides to join Alis in her fight against Lassic.  Surely this Myau beast is a capable skirmisher, endowed with a primal strength and bristling with fangs and claws.

I'll tear your fucking face off.  MEEM!

Myau has a potion hanging around its neck that will cure Odin so after picking up some Friskies, we head back to Palma and into the Medusa's Cave where we last saw Odin.  With the powerhouse that is Myau, it is a total cakewalk through the dungeons to I'M BEING SARCASTIC MYAU WON'T STOP DYING.  Why couldn't Myau have been a goldfish in a bowl or a dead gerbil of some kind?  Myau can stay dead for now, Alis can just snap the potion off its neck.  Odin arise!  Arise Odin!

Oh my.  Look at those pecs... uhhhhhhhh.

After rescuing Muscles and purchasing some decent equipment for him, Alis and crew are looking to gain an audience with the governor of Motavia.  Rumour has it that he has a taste for sweet baked goods.  Apparently the only shop that sells such rare items as cupcakes lies in a dungeon filled with monsters.  I don't want to judge too harshly on the choice for location; perhaps monsters have big sweet tooths and disposable income.

Or, you know, you could invest in
a Tim Horton's or something.

After acquiring the overpriced cake, we head to the governor's palace where the guards take one look at our Triple Layer Chocolate Black Forest cake and give us the nod to get inside.  After talking with the governor about our mutual interest in Lassic killing, he gives the party a letter of introduction for an Esper (wizard) named Noah.

Was it the cat with three
tails that impressed you?

Noah is currently working on his spell mastery.  Now where do you think an aspiring Esper would go to do his training?  If you guessed the bottom of a dungeon, you win!  Noah joins readily enough and suggests that we head to the Gothic Forest on Palma to try to find the lab of Dr. Luveno.

Nice pad, Noah.  I'll just sit on the floor then?

August 11, 2011

Final Fantasy - Ranking

Story & World

Right from the onset of Final Fantasy, there is no doubt that these four Warriors of Light are the world's only hope against the destructive forces of the Elementals.  Everyone seems to know who we are and we got props in every town.  The lands have a variety of terrain though I'm not sure if these affected anything other than the battle background image.  Dungeons were relatively short and not too maze like (didn't need to bother with making maps).  While restricted to the land and seas, the world seemed very vast and had a feeling that there was always going to be some other place to discover.  The airship made short work of that though (totally worth it).  The whole place was a joy to explore even with it being fairly linear.

Interaction is standard for a game from this era.  Most people mention useful information, such as hints for an upcoming quest or just adding to the world lore.  A good number also have pointless flavour text.  One nice touch, especially for its time, is that after destroying an Element, the nearby town would have a few folk saying new things (usually just to acknowledge my awesomeness).

The main branch of the plot was prominant throughout the game.  There were tiny single branches along the way but always returned to the main quest immediately after completion.  These weren't quite side quests because they had to be done in order to continue the main plot.  They were side quests storywise as they didn't relate directly to the main plot.  They broke up the story just enough to get a sense that, even though we're on a major quest to save the world, there still is a world beyond what the Warriors of Light perceive.  15/20

Character Development

A very basic creation system with six classes to choose from but no way to alter any stats.  It is fortunate that each class is pretty distinctive and with no restrictions on party recruitment, the possible combinations are endless (well, 126).  Most character builds will be same for each class as there is not much in the way of being able to customize an individual.  The class upgrade that can optionally be done around midgame adds more magic punch for most classes (regular punch for the others) but otherwise doesn't affect anything too much.

The variety of weaponry in Final Fanasty is grand in comparison with other RPGs from its day.  In the early game, it is a basic matter of more expensive equals better offense / defense.  Once items with special abilities start being found, the choices get harder when and where to equip a certain item.  This is especially true for any class that uses swords as there is a ton of them in this game.  Each character can carry four different weapons so there is lots of room to swap between weapons (can only equip one weapon at a time).  However, the four slot restiction also applies to armour which most characters will be using 3 or 4 slots for their equipped armours.  There is no way to tell how powerful an item is or its abilities just by looking at it.  The stats have to be looked at and then compared when the items are swapped in and out.  I don't mind teasing out the special abilities for myself but the stats of the weapon should be easier to find out.  11/20

Combat & Monsters

Combat is the basic turn-based affair with the order of attacks randomized but affected by Agility.  One quirk of the battle system that is not present in modern RPGs is if a character has a monster targeted and it dies before the character's attack, the attack is wasted.  Most RPGs will have it automatically target the next available baddie.  I know I'm in the minority here but I don't mind this "feature" at all.  It requires you to constantly be monitoring and approximating the Hit Points of your foes while remembering how much approximate damage your own characters do.  Makes it a little more interesting than just smashing the A button at least.

The magic system is such that a good number of spells never really get used (common in most RPGs).  The party buffing spells (which can affect things like evading and weapon damage) don't do enough to make them worthwhile.  The enemy status effect spells (putting to sleep or silencing a spellcaster for example) don't work often enough to make them a reliable choice.  The remaining spells (mostly damage and healing types) will be worked hard throughout the game.  The pure spellcasters are so weak that they will be relying on their own juice until some magical items with spell abilities become available.  Proper spell usage is critical in defeating monsters that have high resistances.

A big beastiary with a good mix of classical and unique monsters.  Most monsters are strictly melee based with a handful able to perform magic.  A lot of creatures have vulnerabilities and resistances that must be figured out via experimentation.  If you are running a fighter heavy party, a group of monsters with melee resistance will be your worst nightmare.  The boss battles were appropriately built up and the feeling of tension was palpable until the fight started and they were K.O.ed in round two.  Knew I should have done a run with a more difficult party.  13/20

Graphics & Sound

The sprites used to represent monsters were very impressive for how early in the NES's lifespan this game was.  Big and detailed (especially Elementals) and without going nuts on the palette swapping like so many games had to do.  Battle animations are also sweet with a icon representation for each weapon in the game being shown as it is swung.  The outstanding music in the game has been pretty well established as being worthy of the title of classic.  A lot of the musical themes that pervade the Final Fantasy series got started right here.  Favourites would have to be the opening theme, Matoya's Cave, and the battle music.  The rest of the score is very strong and most pieces are very appropriate to the atmosphere of where the party is (town theme is particularily relaxing).  18/20

Gameplay

Gaining gold in the early game can be a small problem.  When a new town is visited, most magic spells will be too pricey initially.  Equipment is more affordable.  Once the party starts finding magic items in dungeons and selling off the less useful ones, gold starts to become obsolete.  Most fights give good gold amounts with certain foes giving tremendous amounts.  Lots of gold also to be found in dungeons in addition to magic items.  Other than in the beginning, characters will soon start finding better (or the same) items that are available at the shops and most money will be channelled into Heal Potions and purchasing spells.

This playthrough that I thought was going to be more difficult because of restricting level grinding still ended up being pretty easy.  A big part of it is that I've played it many times before (the last being about a decade ago) and a lot of information was retained.  It was still an enjoyable easy.  One of the advantages of an easy RPG is that the storyline is continually progressing.  There is a greater sense of urgency to quickly defeat the Fiends that I think would fade should the party slow down due to an ultra hard boss or unable to find a key artifact.  While I quite like this approach for linear RPGs, I would conversely find it unsavoury for a more sandbox-oriented game.  Final Fantasy plays out very much like a fantasy novel (though lacking understandably in dialogue) that gets more intriguing as the characters gain power and the plot unfolds.  14/20

Final Ranking:  71/100

August 10, 2011

Final Fantasy - End Game

*sigh*... Fine.  I guess we'll stop flying around and save the world.  Two more Fiends remain to be dispatched, Kraken (Water) and Tiamat (Air).  Both have a fetch quest to do before entering their base, just like the previous Elements.  First though is a side quest to upgrade our character classes.  The Dragon King Bahamut lives on an island which is only accessible with the (super sweet) airship.  He sends us on another fetch quest to the Castle of Ordeals to get what ends up being a rat's tail.  After he chows down (?) on that, we get digivolved to the higher classes.  In addition to sprite changes, the spellcasters get access to more powerful spells, the fighter (now a knight) gets access to some low level white spells (which I never used), and while the black belt (now grand master) didn't get magic, he started hitting for lots more damage.

We's all growed up.

Around this time, the party started accumulating flavour items.  These are weapons and armours that have a special ability that can be invoked in combat.  Most of the items duplicate one of the white or black spell effects.  Since the items have infinite charges in them, they made the White and Black Mages a lot more useful in the minor combats where we don't want to waste Magic Points.  This is something that was sorely missing from Ultima: Exodus.  It really adds to the pleasure of seeking out all the nooks and crannies in the dungeons to find every last chest.  Diving down to the Kraken's lair was made all the easier due to these items.

Calamari coming up in two turns.

By far the item that was worked the most was the Healing staff wielded by Luna.  This casts a low level Heal spell which cures a few Hit Points for each member of the group.  It was critical in saving on using Heal Potions as we descended into the depths.  The tower in which Tiamat sits and broods was a piece of cake as was Tiamat herself.

The first Element to last more than two rounds.

Now that all the orbs are a-shinin', it's time to go back to Garland's castle and go 2000 years into the past to stop Chaos.  End Boss Chaos is all the Elements combined in a whirling maelstrom of raw elemental energy.  It totally lasted more than three rounds so I was quite proud of it even after I Masamune'd it right in its stupid face.

Luna's flippin' the bird.

After Chaos crumbles into a billion pixels, the flow of time loops every 2000 years was restored or balanced or something.  I dunno.  They kinda lost me when the time traveling was thrown in at the end.  Final Fantasy is certainly deserving of the praise it receives and has aged fairly well.  It set the gold standard in so many aspects of RPGs which I'm sure I'll be gushing over when the ranking is completed.




August 07, 2011

Final Fantasy - Two Down. Two To Go.

It turns out that Astos had been in disguise and sent us to retrieve the Crown from the Marsh Cave.  He was tickled pink when we brought it back to him.  Showing his true colours, he quickly engaged us in combat.  Perhaps it was the levels and items we gained while in the Marsh Cave or maybe it was that the Crown didn't have any special powers but Astos didn't last long.  Maybe if, instead of sitting on his ass in an empty castle (oh, sorry, there are bats), he did a push up or three, he would have had a chance.

The party prepares for his pummeling.

After reducing Astos to a grease stain, we got Matoya's Crystal for her and she gave us Herb and then kicked us out.  The Elf Prince was awoken with Herb and gave us the Mystic Key.  I liked how, even though the prince had been laying there for five years, he was still cool with just chillin' on his bed.

Don't want to stretch your legs or something?

Getting this key meant some backtracking to open up doors that were previously inaccessible.  Just a few places, both in towns and dungeons.  If the Mystic Key would have been found later in the game, it would have been more annoying, but Final Fantasy places it at a perfect time in the overall game.  All the areas still have the same monster difficultly, so checking all the places doesn't take much time.  Giving some dwarf the TNT I found in Coneria Castle opened us up to the vast stretches of the ocean.  We could now access any of the islands or continents on the map.  Of course we sail about twenty tiles west and dock in the port that's there.

After a couple more find the MacGuffin quests, we were finally ready to tackle the Element of Earth, Lich.  Finding our way down wasn't a problem.  We do plenty of fleeing and we're carrying 99 Potions of Heal around somehow.  The battle with Lich was a letdown.  I don't think he made to the end of round two.  Now, when I used to play this as a teen my regular M.O. on rpgs was to level grind in an area until I could buy all the weapons, armour, and spells the area had to offer.  I expected most battles to be easy since my party was always so far ahead of the curve.  Playing under these new rules, I was hoping that by avoiding purposely level grinding that the old classics would give the challenge my non-teen mind craves now.  Eh, maybe I'm just exploring too much.

What happened, Lich?  You used to be cool.

Going after the second Element, the fiery Kary, proved to be a little tougher as I ran out of Heal Potions just before reaching her (was exploring on the way) and had to walk all the way back out.  The second assault we went straight for her and she fell as quickly as Lichie did.

What happened, Kary?  You
used to be coo...err.. hot.

After her demise, we catch rumours of a Floater stone being held in an ice cave conveniently nearby.  After missing the chance to screenshot for a "You've found a floater!" joke, we used the stone to raise the sweetest ride the Final Fantasy universe has to offer, the Airship.  No monsters.  Just kickin' back with the wind rushing past and sippin' on a 40 of Heal Potion.  Funk it, as far as I'm concerned, we've already won.

Shen seeing his true love for the first time.

August 03, 2011

[Game 002] Final Fantasy (NES - 1987)


This quintessential console RPG set the bar quite high for others to reach.  With a four member party structure and six very distinct classes, this gave FF a high degree of replayability.  Difficulty of the game can be adjusted with different party combinations.  A party with two Fighters, a White and a Black Mage will have a much easier time than a party of four White Mages.  Some have had the balls to do solo runs which cranks the difficulty to new heights.  For this run however, it'll be a standard party (Fighter, Black Belt, White Mage, Black Mage) to ensure a more comprehensive play through.

The game starts off with a typical "save the princess" quest.  After purchasing weapons and armour and few spells for the mages, it was off to face Garland, who lives just a few blocks away.  The few fights on the way were easy enough and when we arrived at Garland's castle, we rushed him in his bat-infested throne room.

Uhhh.. I'll be back in a few levels.

In the second attempt, the gang explored the rest of his (quite small) castle.  The treasures and fights within gave the few levels needed to eventually beat Garland down.  The King is quite pleased at the return of the princess and in gratitude he builds a bridge to the lands of the north.

Our reward is infrastructure for your
kingdom?  Screw you, King.

When the party goes to cross the bridge, the game stops and gives a nice little sequence with the overall story line and credits (see opening screenshot).  This "official" beginning of the game is something I really like.  It makes it feel more like the beginning of an epic movie.  We stumble across Matoya's Cave and she indirectly gives us our second quest.

You should be more concerned with
who just emptied those 3 chests.

With no leads on where said CRYSTAL is, heading east seems to be the only viable option.  We come across the town of Pravoka which is currently being bullied by pirates.  Since we Warriors of Light are the pinnacle of all that is right and just, we beat the bullies down and stole their boat.

A boat this early?  Gear!

Sailing around a bit gave Nung a chance to work out some of the kinks in his LIT spell but was an otherwise uneventful cruise to ... *sigh* Elfland.  The elves have much better spells and equipment available than back in Humanland.  We paid a visit to the Elven Castle and, big shock, they got problems which no one else can possibly solve.

Maybe he's asleep because
he's already had some herb?

Stocking up on Heal and Pure potions, the party gets ready to make its way to the Castle of Astos.  We'll need those Pures since quite a few creatures around here like to poison.  Poison is workable as long as there is enough extra gold around to purchase Pures.  The most annoying part of getting poisoned is that after the battle, the game puts the poisoned character to the bottom position in the party order.  After I purify the character immediately after the combat, I have to spend valuable seconds rearranging the order back to the proper setting.  I hate it when programs try to help you out.  Anyhow, here's some skin to tide everyone over while we search for Astos.

I'll be in my bunk.