October 25, 2013

Mouryou Senki Madara - Cybernetic Destruction

Restoring the Rain Tree in Mitama was simply a matter of destroying a moki that was living in a pyramid close by.  Doing so netted Madara the Mark of Cain needed to access the rebel base.  Inside the base, the party learns that Kaos is now the leader of the rebels and that he has summoned two huge mobile statues, Soen and Gufu, that are currently charging their power.  First we have a cyberman protagonist, then a high-tech ark airship, and now giant mecha are being introduced?

Dammit, game, my erection can only get so hard.

The hideout commander implores Madara to rescue some of his captured men from the castle of Choryo Bakko, one of the moki generals.  Well, since the general is certain to have a Madara body part on his person, I'm guessing the party would be heading there anyway.  Madara had actually found out about the castle previously from a villager who also conveniently had the key to it.

It sounds like a setup to a trap but
this guy was actually on the level.

The castle proved to have some difficult moments.  In addition to many twisted corridors and multiple staircases, two of the creatures met in random encounters have the ability to inflict status ailments, poison and lure respectively.  Poison works like one would think and lure is essentially a confusion effect; it causes characters to attack their friends.  Both of these effects last until cured and there is no spell yet that is effective against them.  That leaves having to use potions, each of which is a single use and takes up a valuable item slot.  To make things even worse, Goriki does not protect against these maladies and they can be delivered to the characters with a ranged attack.  Not having a proper potion means having to warp out (also only can be done with an item) and walking back to a town to get healed.  Potions (called somas) are differentiated by colours: red is for hit points, blue for magic, and yellow for poison.  Red is the cheapest with the prices increasing for each next available soma.  After the yellow soma, the next one listed is green, which should cure lure.  But guess what?  There are no green somas for sale in any of the villages here.  This meant I had to backtrack all the way to Madara's hometown in order to buy a bunch of them, all the way through (and back) the Wall of Sand dungeon again (no town warping items).  Here's the kicker — green somas are found on the second level of Choryo's castle.  Not enough for ya?  Here's another one — green somas don't cure lure.  I took a look at the manual and they apparently cure the Numb effect, which I haven't encountered yet.  No, I needed purple somas which, of course, are not sold anywhere nearby.  So yet again I had to go through that damn sand wall dungeon, this time all the way to the kingdom of Soma (and through its connecting dungeon) to get some damn purples.  Finally, though, the party was able to overcome my anger and weave their way through Choryo's castle and release the imprisoned rebels.  Further weaving led the gang to Choryo's throne room where one of the recently released rebels, Seishinja, was confronting Choryo by himself.

Too good to hang with the Madara crew, eh?  Pfft.

However, as soon as Seishinja unsheathes his sword, Choryo vanishes, taking whatever body part he has with him.  Way to spook 'im, Seishinja.  A disappointed Madara and company head back to the village of Kugutsu only to find it destroyed.  Apparently Soen and Gufu were stolen by Choryo and he's wreaking a path of destruction.  Bastard!  I never even got to pilot one!  Even worse, Kugutsu was just his first stop on the way to the rebel base at Rasen Castle.

That's the understatement of the year.

After some running around in the castle, Madara finally found Kaos tending to Jamira, who was wounded at some point.  As the twin mechas beat on the castle, Jamira wondered why Choryo would be attacking when he knows that she's being held prisoner there.  Kaos used this opportunity to explain that the emperor has no regard for any of his underlings and she should totally bail on him.  It's then that Kaos noticed Madara and his posse and asked for help in defeating the two giant mechanized machines capable of inflicting complete and utter wanton destruction.

"Give us a hand"?  Dude, this isn't exactly like
helping you move some furniture around.

Madara is not one to back down from a challenge, so he entered one of the mechs through its foot hatch and proceeded to climb up through the monster-infested machinery.  As luck would have it, Madara picked the correct mech and found Choryo at the top.  He had escaped once before but Madara was determined to end this now and also get back whatever body part Choryo had.  Choryo was an imposing foe but the keen-eyed Madara quickly found a weak point.

It's probably his EXPOSED BRAIN.

Choryo's defeat not only stops both of the giant bots but also gave Madara his real legs back.  He's almost a real boy!  Back at Rasen Castle, Madara found a letter from Jamira recanting her evil ways and saying that she's decided to become a rebel guerilla.  Good for her.  With order restored, the group took a little breather and headed to the inn.  There were now more allies available to choose from: Shamon (the first ally Madara and Kirin had), Kaos, and Seishinja.  Madara decided it was time to give someone else a chance and so he gave Loki his walking papers and recruited Kaos.

Your attempt at a guilt trip holds no sway over
a man who doesn't have a real heart.

While he was in a fiery mood, Madara also showed Hakutaku the door and brought in Seishinja, just to see what he had to offer.  This turned out to be a prudent move as Seishinja is a strong fighter who has access to one just one spell but that spell is Goriki (the main reason Madara was keeping Hakutaku on board).  Well, now I understand why Choryo fled from Seishinja when they met.  With the new crew, Madara headed north from Rasen Castle and soon came upon the town of Xifang.  All that was learnt here was that there is another village that was recently wrecked by sandstorms and has a special tree in it (hey, didn't I already do this quest in Mitama?).  Surprisingly, Jamira is already in this town and available to join the group.  Well, so long Kaos, sorry for stringing you along.  Jamira is also a fighter but has healing and attack spells, putting her leagues ahead of Kaos.  Before hitting up the sandstormed village though, Madara and pals got sidetracked yet again by the twin villages of Guaro and Buro.  The citizens of each village all hate the opposite village and this, of course, leads to a classic Romeo & Juliet love story between two young'uns.  They've gone missing and are to be found secretly meeting in an island cave between the two villages.  For whatever reason, the two lovebirds were taken prisoner by one of Jato's fearsome Shadow Warriors.

What the hell is wrong with you?

After rescuing the young couple, the villages celebrate and decide to put aside their differences and unite into a single town, now called Uto.  Madara's reward for completing this task is some Blessed Salt, in case he decides to start a career in the culinary arts.  Leaving Uto, yet another village was found called Shinra which had a haunted house problem.  Blah blah blah, quest complete.  Crystal Powder item get.  Exiting the haunted house's basement found the party at the base of a huge tree.  A lone figure in front of the tree introduced himself as Kageo Madara and that he had been waiting there for regular Madara to show up.


Kageo challenged all four of the heroes and what looked like was going to be an easy fight quickly got out of hand.  Not even Goriki could stop what happened next.  Kageo somehow caused Madara to lose control of his chakra (the internal power source that keeps him alive) and Madara literally explodes, destroying everything in the vicinity except his friends.


He also destroyed the massive tree, which is important for some reason, but using the Blessed Salt and Crystal Powder on the stump causes it to instantly regenerate (can someone check the science on that?).  With Madara gone, the remaining party felt quite shocked and the only decision that could be reached was to head back to town to think things over and get a replacement for Madara.  As I watched them heading back, I relinquished my power of influence over them somewhat, reclined back in my throne made completely of solid gold motherboards, and pondered the recent events.  If I couldn't even protect the main character from his own doom, then what kind of shadow overlord was I?  Was I even worthy of the title?  I brushed aside such negative thoughts and instead focused on manipulating a different character into the spotlight.  But who to choose?  As Kirin and the others settled down for the night, rife with questions of their own, I ruminated over each character's pros and cons.  Perhaps when they awake I will have chosen, but for now I have a long night's processing ahead of me.

October 21, 2013

Mouryou Senki Madara - Cybernetic Deconstruction

True to the villager's word, the cave did indeed have a friendly friend in it, although he was guarded by a moki peon (not for long).  The new partner for Madara and Kirin was the kindly, yet somewhat senile, Hakutaku, whose name is very fun to say.

Depends on how many naps you'll need.

Before leaving the little hamlet, the party popped into the local wind palace to unmask the moki that was masquerading as the Wind Princess.  I don't know if this was mentioned by the townsfolk when the group first arrived, but I was more intent on getting them another party member.  The disguised moki turned out to be one of the generals, who, just like the previous one, had a fully terrifying animated intro.  I was too paralyzed in revulsion to get proper screencaps but, rest assured, it was totally scary and completely sweet.

Or you could just play the game
yourselves, you lazy bones.

After defeating this cousin of a beholder, Madara gets his real eyes back, replacing the two rocks that had been crammed into his sockets.  I suppose the eye replacements could also have been made of wood, but I think Tatara had more originality than that.  The Wind Princess also grants a major boost to Madara's weapon power by merging two swords together.  Heading north, the trio came upon the town of Seirin, which also has some problems that need handling.  This time there's a moki fortress near the town that keeps pestering the townsfolk, what with all the murderin' and pillagin'.  At the local bar, a man named Loki spills his plan about infiltrating the fortress.  He's furious since his brothers were killed by the fearsome Shadow Warriors of Shumi who are stationed there.  As the group leaves the bar, who shows up but public arsehole #1, Jato, who brags about how he eavesdropped and is going to set a trap for poor Loki.

Ugh, even his laugh ticks me off.

Of course Jato doesn't stick around and instead sends one Shadow Warrior to attempt to kill Madara and friends.  While the fight could have been fairly tough, it was here that Hakutaku unveiled his incredibly useful spell, Goriki.  This spell gives temporary invulnerability to the recipient, although using the word temporary might be a little misleading.  The shield lasts until it brought down by an enemy attack; tougher enemies can bring it down quicker.  This is the only way to bring down the shield.  If it's not down by the end of combat, it carries over to the next, and the next, and the next, until something gets a strong enough hit in.  Needless to say, this is a huge advantage and I made sure they lost no time in exploiting it.  This also helped Hakutaku's rep a lot since, up until then, he was kinda sucking in combat (wandering off and what have you).  In addition to finding out Hakutaku's inner strength, the group also picked up another member, a fighter named Kaos who hates Jato as much as I do.  Kaos serves Emperor Miroku but hates moki even more.

He even comes with his own equipment!

Now this is a proper group.  Two fighters defending the flanks while the spellcasters attack from the middle with their bows.  With confidence in every stride, the party approached the guards at the entrance, then were captured and put into the dungeon.  Good job, guys.  Luckily, Kaos has some connection with the leader of the fortress, Jamira, who also hates Jato.  She arranges for Kaos to escape so that he can deal with the furry little bastard.  Though released, that still doesn't mean that there won't be random encounters as the fortress is explored, giving Kaos an opportunity to show me what he's made of.

Fight's over there, Kaos... ah,
never mind, Madara's got it.

Jato is found but, to no one's surprise, he throws another Shadow Warrior at the group and hightails it out of there.  Loki is found in the next room, down but not out.  Kaos decides to leave as he still feels loyalty to the emperor, conveniently leaving room for Loki to join up.  Heading north seems to be the order of the day, and the party quickly stumbles across an old temple.  There's a ghost to talk to inside but before that can happen, there are more Shadow Warriors to deal with.

How could one respond to this?
Does a response even exist?

And it's not just this Shadow either, the rest of them talk in a similar manner.  Kinda makes the whole clan less intimidating when all I can do is picture them prancing about, delivering their lines with over-the-top sarcasm.  Anyway, the ghost informs Madara that the only way to get across the Great Wall of Sand to the north is to retrieve the Orb of the Orochi Tribe.  The orb is being held in the kingdom of Soma, which lies on an island to the south.  Soma is rumoured as to not having any moki on it, due to its connecting underground tunnel being blocked off.  The cave entrance is right next to the village of Ikaruga but before heading out, the party decided to take a year off and soak up the idyllic scenery before progressing.

Vivaldi would be proud.

The same blockage that was keeping moki out of Soma gets removed after a battle (not directly by the party, but certainly because of the party) and this causes a problem when the group asks for the Orochi Orb.  When the princess of Soma, Romi, goes to retrieve the orb, she gets princess-napped by moki and needs to be rescued.  It is here that Madara finds out that Jamira is Romi's sister and, therefore, also a princess.  Apparently when the tunnel was initially sealed, the king didn't realize that Jamira was on the other side and so she felt betrayed and joined forces with the emperor.  At any rate, Romi was an easy rescue and soon the orb was in Madara's birchy little hands.  After entering the Great Wall of Sand, Madara learnt that a moki general was currently residing here.  It came as a surprise to find that there were actually two generals, each having one of Madara's real hands.

With Goriki in full effect, they were defeated
quite handily (h'yuck yuck yuck).

Before continuing north of the wall, the party did a little backtracking to investigate a strange, dilapidated pod that lay just south of the wall.  Inside held a lamia who said that the pod is actually an ark built by the ancient Agarthians to protect against a flood that happened ages ago.  Didn't Tatara mention something about using Agarthian technology?  I was pumped that they were possibly getting an airship but it just turned out to be a time machine instead.

Dr. Whodara and companions enter the Arkdis.

After sliding a few eons back, the party arrives just before the big flood is about to happen.  They discover that the flood is being caused by a giant star coming close to the planet.  I would think that this would cause more problems than just tidal flooding, but what do I know?  Anyway, the captain of the ark needed Madara's help to evacuate a sickly lady named Nayuta from her temple so they all climbed down the high-tech rope to the surface of the planet.

Sweet, it's an ark AND an airship!

The temple is guarded by a man named Garuman who the party lets know that, since Nayuta is ill, she must be be placed into a stasis pod and brought aboard the ark.  After seeing him leave with the capsule, Madara discovers that Garuman actually took a different capsule which held a golden statue he wanted for himself.  The captain is so upset with Garuman that he curses him to have to watch over Lady Nayuta until she is revived (also included was immortality so he can't get out of it by dying).  Knowing that Madara is from the future, he entrusts to him the Silver Staff, which is the only item that can revive Nayuta from her slumber.

Yes, would you like me to go back to it?

3500 years later in an instant and the party was back in their own time and they wasted no time freeing Nayuta and breaking Garuman's curse (he then immediately died).  Making their way back through the Wall of Sand and who should the party come across but their old friend Jato, who is hanging out with Kaos.  Just when I thought we'd be facing off against Kaos, the ghost of his sister appears and pleads with him to quit fighting for the emperor.  The appearance of his sister's ghost understandably upsets Kaos; he had agreed to serve the emperor only if his sister's life was spared.  Kaos turns on Jato and Jato does what Jato does best and disappears.  Exiting the other side of the wall led the party into a vast desert.  At the nearby village of Kugutsu, Madara pencils in two new quests.  The first is to gain access to the rebel hideout by receiving the Mark of Cain and the other is to investigate the withering of the Rain Tree (save point) located in Mitama village, far to the east.  Also of note is that Madara can now choose to swap out an ally at the inn (excluding Kirin).  Lady Nayuta is the only one listed but she's probably a shaman like Kirin and I don't need two healers.  Having another fighter in addition to Madara and a source of Goriki is making the battles very easy; it more than compensates for the times during combat when the characters act like morons.  I'm expecting Kaos to be available at some point, so I may switch out Loki for him.  Until then, we'll see what adventures await our stalwart heroes as they explore the gritty expanse of the sea of sand.

October 10, 2013

[Game 041] Mouryou Senki Madara (NES - 1990)

Translation by Aeon Genesis

As long as Madara wasn't another dungeon crawler, I was going to be happy with whatever it had to throw at me.  Right off the bat, it starts off with an awesome story about a dismembered and disemboweled baby floating down a river into a villager where a kindly old man, Tatara, promptly replaces the baby's limbs and internal organs with mechanical gizmos.

It's what any of us would have
done in the same situation.

And this isn't set in a futuristic setting or anything — cyberbaby's parts are most likely comprised of wood and bamboo gears and powered by good intentions.  The kindly old man names the abomination Madara and raises it alongside his granddaughter, Kirin.  While Madara is growing up, demons called Moki have steadily been pouring out of Mount Shumi and destroying more and more human villages and towns.  Madara is just coming of age when the Moki make their presence known by poisoning Tatara.

In other words, it's Saturday night.

Only a White Soma will cure him but the only known location of one is at Garden Point, far to the east.  With Moki wandering all over the lands, the journey will be very dangerous so Madara and Kirin hook up with Shamon, the only other warrior in the village.  Madara and Kirin may feel a little safer with the experienced Shamon on their side, but the unique battle system has something else in mind.  This isn't your standard menu-driven, turn-based combat.  Here, everyone automatically fends for themselves on the battlefield.  All the player can do is issue general tactics (Fight, Stop, Defend, and Run) or instruct a character to use a spell or an item.  The majority of the time everyone will be set to Fight which means just sitting back and watching the battle play out.

Dance, puppets, dance!

Anyone who has spent any time playing NES strategy games knows that the computer just barely earns the I in AI in most cases.  It's no different here.  Kirin, the weakest member of the group, will often get stuck in melee and take a pounding.  There is an option to rearrange the initial positions of the characters, such as putting the fighters in front of Kirin to protect her, but this usually doesn't work out since so many encounters begin with enemies on all sides.  Running is a joke as well since the character rarely listens, instead running only after first engaging in melee (which means the enemy can just follow each round and get a hit in).  The entire lower area of the battlefield could be open and Kirin will still try to flee by running between two enemies.  This terrible AI isn't too annoying right now, as most fights are doable, but I can see this potentially being a huge pain in the ass later if the difficulty goes up.

During the exploration of the tiny Garden Point, Madara and Co. come across Jato, the main antagonist who does a great job of antagonizing.  He's an insulting demon rabbit who has tons of lackeys to throw at the party while he buggers off, completely confident in his minion's ability to vanquish the group.

Jato keeping morale high by treating
one of his minions to a picnic.

The lackey put up minimal resistance and soon the White Soma was in the party's possession to be taken back to Tatara.  It was a cold winter's day when the trio made it back to Tatara and crammed the White Soma down his gullet.  I'm not just using my imagination here either; the game keeps track of the seasons while out in the world map.  That's four different tiles for each and every terrain type.  So far, the only impact of the changing seasons is that travelling merchants will set up shop in certain towns during a specific season.  The merchants offer training courses to boost stats, so knowing when and where they are going to show up is quite important.  At any rate, the seasonal shifts kinda force one to keep track of how many years have passed and I'm ashamed to say that Tatara spent many years poisoned and bedridden.

"It's a little hard for me to remember since
it happened over FOUR YEARS AGO

Shamon takes his leave of the group just before the village is attacked by a bunch of moki led by a minion named Bosho Roga.  He's looking for the fabled Kusanagi blade which, unfortunately for him, is now in the very capable cyberhands of Madara.  Even with Shamon gone, Madara had no problems in dispatching Bosho.  The disembodied voice of Jato is heard as he denounces the two minions that were just beaten and he swears that the next one will finish the job (this time for sure!).  He's more confident because he's sending a moki general named Kajura but Madara doesn't even flinch because, to Madara, all demons are the same and all will meet a grisly demise at the edge of his blade.  Tatara, who has made a full recovery, joins the group and releases the barrier just north of the village that was protecting the Rain Tree.  Tat's got quite a few levels and also access to all the spells that his class offers, just like Minh from Final Fantasy II.

Oh, we's about to have some fun now.

Since he had no items, Madara decked him out in all the latest gear and then made their way to the Rain Tree.  On the way there, Tatara gives a little history lesson about how, 15 years ago, Emperor Miroku gathered together and slaughtered all the children.  All the children except for Madara, that is.  Try as he might, baby Madara would not die so Miroku disassembled him and entrusted one part to each of his eight generals, which is pretty gross.  Tatara goes on to explain that Madara must find all of his original body parts as well as some ancient Agarthian treasures that will help defeat the moki.  His long-windedness must have put Madara and Kirin partially to sleep and off-guard because all of a sudden Jato shows up and stabs Tatara in the back, killing him.

Bye bye spell list that I never got to use even once.
So long hundreds of gold that I spent on equipment.

Tatara's not gone for good though; his spirit resides in the Rain Trees where saving the game is done.  With him out of the party, it's just Madara and Kirin left to take on Kajura, the first of the eight moki generals.  His palace isn't very big and the encounters were swiftly dealt with by an increasingly badass Madara while Kirin stayed safe with missile support.  It also helped that with only two of them on the field, they rarely got in each other's way.  Both of them were feeling fairly confident as they approached Kajura's throne room but neither them, nor I, were prepared for the ocular assault that was about to take place.

Oh man, I just took a core dump right in my pants.

Sweet zombie Jesus, that's the most terrifying mid-boss I've ever seen and there's seven more of these monstrosities.  The fight was tough as well; Kirin pretty much spent most of her time casting Soma (healing) spells while Madara desperately tried to prevent any of those godforsaken mouths from touching him (and I bet all of them are simultaneously screaming as well).  Kirin ran out of magic points (and that includes using the MP-restoring potions she had) but Madara thankfully put Kajura down soon after.  His reward?

Are these two decades-old lumps of
rotting flesh suppose to be superior
to the finely honed spruce implants?

After replenishing all the group's restorative items, they were free to continue travelling north and cross a raging river guarded by one of Jato's henchman lieutenants, who obviously didn't hear about how Madara just killed one of their generals.

Ha!  Joke's on you, jack. Some
moki general has them.

The encounters across the river spike up in difficulty and only having two members in the party is more of a liability now.  Most of the encounters are against three or four creatures which means that Kirin inevitably gets wailed on.  Thankfully, they found a town from which to make excursions.  The town had a slight infestation of moki that was easily taken care of and a resident has hinted that we should check out a nearby cave where our next companion almost certainly is.  Hopefully someone buff enough to protect Kirin's right flank.

October 04, 2013

Deep Dungeon III - Ranking

Story & World

The opening starts well enough with an interesting quest to reunite three towns that have mysteriously been separated by giant walls.  Once in the dungeon, little mention is made of it again.  Even worse, a generic princess rescue quest is just thrown in right near the end.  There's little to no buildup to any of the bosses, especially the final boss, Deathmaster, who I become aware about only after first meeting (and then killing) him.  I was glad to see Ruu again and was doubly glad to see they used the exact same graphic again (albeit just for his upper torso).  4/20

Character Development

Quadrupling the number of character slots from the previous installments is always going to be a big bonus.  The main character is restricted to being a fighter (the only fighter) and the other three classes are quite distinctive from one another.  Just remember that mages are teh sux.  I never really bothered to check out most of the potential party members found in the dungeon but the one I did look at was just a weaker version of the priest I already had.  Since the character system is so simple, I'm assuming that none of the dungeon characters had anything unique about them.  Would make for a cool challenge though where you start off not generating any allies.  But since I'm never playing this game again (ever), it won't be me.

Having a standard magic system in place works so much better than the item-based one used in DD's predecessors.  One interesting note about the magic system is that the translation patch also altered the healing spells to work 100% of the time.  Apparently the original DDIII would have the heals possibly fail just like offensive spells.  I guess the characters are making their saving throws versus beneficial magic?  I'm not certain as to whether the original fail rate also applies to casting attempts made outside of combat.  If not, then I think this aspect didn't need to be changed; it would have made combat more tense and represent how spellcasters get their shit disrupted all the time in the middle of battle.  If the healing failure also happened outside combat, then I think this was a good fix.  Either way, it probably saved me from accumulating more Rage Points™ and I already had plenty of those from the other aspects of the game.  8/20

Combat & Monsters

Having four characters and a (very simple) tactical battlefield is, of course, an improvement over the hack n' slash fest of the previous two games.  I wish the failure rate on spells wasn't so high as I wouldn't have minded playing around with them a little more.  Breaking off from the norm of having spread spells affecting all enemies, here the spells can only target one row on the 3x3 field.  An interesting mechanic, though a little unfair as spell-casting monsters can hit all four characters.

Monsters are generally all melee fighters though a lot have palette-swapped versions that have additional abilities.  There's a good variety, too; some monsters show up on just a single level and then never appear again (not even palette-swapped).  7/20

Graphics & Sound

This category may be skewed a little due to the graphics mod I applied but funk it, it'll only make a difference of a point or two.  It was worth it to have caves looking like caves and castles looking like castles.  And, is it just me or did most of the monsters seem to be more well drawn than in DD 1 and 2?  Eh, maybe the previous games just lowered my standards.

Music was crap, once again.  I did get a laugh when the ending tune abruptly stopped halfway through the credits.  Like so many other aspects of DDIII, it just kinda gave up, probably happy that the game was finally over so it could go home to its family.  7/20


Making a surprising comeback is the presence of a robust economy.  Equipment and spells are expensive and there's no opportunity to exploit the sale of item drops as they are so rare.  I had the best of everything by the end of the game but was just barely able to fund it.

Out of all my complaints about the previous games, I noted that at least they were at least quite short little outings.  That doesn't apply here.  It took me about 50% longer to complete this game than the other two combined.  That's a lot of bloody mapping and it's going to count against it.  Again, I started off being quite meticulous in mapping but leaving many areas unexplored by the end.  I can pretty much guarantee that I didn't miss anything important or fun.  4/20

Final Ranking:  30/100

October 03, 2013

Deep Dungeon III - End Game

Much like that drunk uncle that shows up during the holidays, DDIII is amusing at first but becomes extremely annoying before the visit is even half over.  Since this game was on cartridge this time instead of disks, there's lots of space for more levels and more empty rooms.  It just keeps going and going.  At one point, the corridors-and-room layout is set aside for a vast cavern with broken, asymmetrical walls.  While it was a nice change from the ordinary, it also made mapping a whole lot slower and that's not what this game needs; fifty percent of the gameplay is already just making maps.  Even the encounter rate seemed to slow down on these levels, like even the monsters knew there was little reason to be down there.  The rare weapon drops I mentioned last time also stopped.  It's like the game just kinda gave up, which I can sympathize with since I also felt like doing the same.  But I'm getting ahead of myself here.  Let's pick up from where I left off last time, which was around the halfway point.  The ball of light gained from Barzas had granted me access to the next set of dungeons but the fights were too hard so I had to grind for awhile.

Hey, YOU try taking on giant-riding
vampires and see how well you do.

Grinding is a must since the difficulty of the fights are so strongly tied to the actual numerical value of the character's level.  What I mean by this is that the Attack, Armor, Strength, Agility and Luck stats that one would expect to drive combat results are far less important than the number of the character's level.  A single level gain can make previously impossible fights completely manageable.  I noticed this in the other two DDs as well but it is much more pronounced here in part three.  Maybe I'm just completely out to lunch here but I think that's unlikely since I don't even eat lunches (I'm more of a brunch kinda guy).  Anywho, to grind efficiently I needed to climb back up to the top of tower where I had faced Barzas.  This could have been more of a pain except that, for all its emptiness, the dungeon levels are very well designed.  There is always a shortcut of some type to allow the characters quick and hassle-free access to previous levels.  Since random encounters on particular levels stop after the characters get too powerful, I could only grind on the static encounters (static not only in location but also monster type).  The level I chose had a nice arrangement of densely packed statics arranged in a circular manner so that I could quickly change levels when I needed to repopulate the statics.  All of these fights were with the same two types of monsters, Lizardmen and Death Eyes.  Death Eyes have a habit of paralyzing a character which is no big deal since my one and only priest, Boloz, is more than capable of curing it.

Shen will take a deep breath, roll his eyes, and
consider having a party with three hunters.

While the other characters would rarely make eye contact with the Death Eyes, Boloz had more paralyzers than a bar skank on ladies night.  This meant climbing all the way back down to the town to sleep it off.  More than once Boloz got zapped in the very first fight and never was I more thankful for the shortcut.  Of course, in true Nung fashion, I later discovered that one of the items I could buy would cured paralysis.  After buying a couple of said items, I never encountered another paralyzing creature again.  Of course.  "Why didn't I just pick a different level with a different set of monsters?", you may be asking.  That's a very good question and deserves a proper answer.

But here's a pic of a baboon-riding vampire instead.

The game then hit me with something I wasn't expecting — an item combination quest.  DDIII had evolved past the point of having single use items that were then doomed to slowly tumble down to the lowest point in our travelling sacks.  The quest itself was the classic combining a useless sword with some rare metal ore to create a new mega-weapon.  In DDIII's case, this just meant an extra ten points of Attack over the other weapon I was wielding.  Still, I was happy to just be able to use it since I'd been carrying the crappy sword around for quite awhile.

Dammit, Tigra, I don't care if it's a rusty
ol' sword, I'm keeping EVERYTHING
I find in this void of a dungeon.

Things remained pretty uneventful until the final level.  There was some stuff with a king wanting his daughter rescued and curing some dude's madness with holy water but these were nothing more than quest item checkpoints.  Before moving on to the final boss encounter, let's enjoy another monster montage since these are what constitute 90% of my screenshots.

Bonus game: See if you can find the mid-boss!

The final level was a large, square room with multiple doors on each wall, each of which led to another similar room.  It could had been a long road of trial and error but an old friend shows up and gives a valuable hint.

Ruu has become a force for good since he
was so incredibly terrible at being evil.

With Ruu's help, it didn't take long to find the final boss's chamber.  The random encounter rate was very high but that didn't matter too much as I successfully fled from most of the fights (I'm sure everyone's high Agility was to thank for that).  As such, the entire party was near full strength when we took on the mastermind behind erecting those inconvenient walls between the towns.

Your sinister trade blockade ends here,
Deathmaster! Viva la free market!

DM had all the best magic tricks up his sleeve.  In addition to being able to cast the most powerful heal spell, sleep incantations kept at least one party member always napping while fireballs slowly ate away at the party's HP.  What neither I nor the Deathmaster could have foresaw was the incredible amount of critical hits that the group bestowed upon DM's punk ass.  I hadn't sunk a single point into the Luck stat but yet every other hit seemed to be a crit.  It didn't take too long for the Deathmaster to die and then be sealed away with some other item I had been carrying around forever.  As the end credits rolled, I sat back and realized the true appeal of playing all the way through such a tedious slog of a game.  In contrast to games like Dragon Quest III, which was disheartening when it had to inevitably end, reaching the end of DDIII and knowing that I'll never have to play it again released such a massive dopamine hit that I'm almost excited to play Deep Dungeon IV in... *checks list*... ugh, just two games.  K, maybe I'm not as excited as I thought.