December 28, 2015

[Game 055] Dragon Ball Z: Assault of the Saiyans (NES - 1990)

Translation by Twilight Translations

It's been so long since the first Dragon Ball RPG, I had almost forgotten that there are a good number of them in my list.  This one enters the 'Z' era of Dragon Ball, where precocious scamp Goku is now all grown up, having advanced greatly in all areas (except intelligence).  The odd card system from the first game is used again here but to greater effect.  In fact, everything has been improved upon.  The fight scenes are more animated and varied.  The linear path of the first game has been replaced with an open grid system.  The plot has followed the show without any glaring deviations (so far).  One of my prime complaints about the first game was that it was way too short.  Well, that has definitely been taken care of, though perhaps this game overcompensated somewhat (but I'll get into that).  A lengthy opening scene has Goku and his son, Gohan, visiting Master Roshi when they are suddenly confronted with a powerful opponent called Raditz.  Raditz informs Goku of his Saiyan heritage and that he was suppose to have conquered the Earth by now.  Goku, of course, has no idea what Raditz is talking about.

Hey!  He resembles that remark!

Raditz proceeds to take Gohan and issues Goku a challenge to come find him.  My main man, Piccolo, joins Goku and soon they are dealt five cards in which to get their quest on.  Each character moves independently and if they are adjacent to each other when a random encounter starts, they both participate in the battle.  Here in the early game, this is crucial as there is no way a single Z fighter can take on any foe by himself.

Much less one wearing battle armour.

Observe those cards.  The card power is determined by the ball in the upper-left corner; this number also drives movement (the Roman numeral in the lower-right is defense).  If Goku and Piccolo want to be able to handle themselves in combat and be able to stick together, then they'll have to burn low-powered cards for movement.  But this means that there are far more opportunities for random encounters.  One of them could risk being exposed for a turn using high movement while the other catches up, but then benefit from a much faster exploration rate.  I've been playing it pretty conservative due to the hefty amount of grinding that needs to be done.

Shit... hang tight, Gohan, we've still
got about 50 fights left to do.

I had already been playing for awhile before finding Raditz in his little hidey hole and figured I'd at least try to take him on, though I suspected that we'd probably lose.  What I really wanted to do was use a Scouter card I had to determine his power level.  The Scouter is one of the special cards that can be found after battles or won in mini-games.  The cards are all based off characters/items from the show and function like the consumables found in other games (e.g. healing potions).  Before engaging Raditz, Goku donned the Scouter and analyzed Raditz, who just stood there smirking.

Cue cartoonish jaw dropping to the ground.

Frame of reference: both Goku and Piccolo started at around 300 BP and get, on average, around 10 BP per fight.  I had both of them at around 700 BP and thought perhaps their combined might be able to handle him.

I thought wrong.

It wasn't even close either.  Raditz was hitting for ~50 damage per hit and my two guys were lucky to get even 5 points in a single hit.  I'm not blaming the game either; that's how I always thought it worked in the show as well.  Ten fighters at 100 BP each still won't be able to do much to a single 500 BP fighter (barring some special move or other plot device).  Speaking of which, I am very impressed with how true to its roots this game is so far, in all aspects.  The first game had odd side stories but this one is keeping the plot on the real tip.  Not only that, but every character has a selection of special moves faithful to the show, accurately animated as well.

Could have gone with Goku's Kamehameha,
but I like Pickles more.

The animations are one of the best features of the game and I'm not just talking about the special moves.  Even a regular attack shows the combatants flying about, dodging and feinting one another, before settling into some good ol' slugfest action.  I'm sure it'll get boring at some point, but hey, that's what the turbo button is for.  I'm just pleased as punch that a game based on a franchise has incorporated so many concepts from its source material, for good or bad.  Now for some bad.  Dragon Ball Z has a reputation for having episodes that are ridiculously long and drawn-out.  I whined about the first game being too short and that they should have padded it out with more fights to emulate the show better.  Welp, this game somehow heard my complaint and made sure to go waaaayyyy in the other direction.  Did any of you readers do the BP math when I scouted Raditz above?  For those that didn't, it works out to about 100 fights in order to get Goku and Piccolo to Raditz's level.  One hundred fights for the first chapter.

That's a helluva lot of groin kicks.

Thankfully, there are training mini-games to help break this monotony up.  Unthankfully, they are stingy with the BP rewards and certain ones will even take some if failed.  The games are based off the cards and success relies on luck although one can stack the deck in their favour, so to speak.  For example, one training game requires the player's current deck to successively beat five random cards, based off either the offensive or defensive values of the card (chosen by the player at the start).  Another one requires matching up either ball value or the middle symbol and can be completed easier if the current deck has a nice mix of cards.

Piccolo, being the (way) smarter of the two Z fighters,
has maximized his chances for success here.

The first chapter's map is pretty generous with the amount of training grounds it has, going so far as to have an entire 3x3 block of them with a rest spot in the middle.

Goku's in a state of pure bliss.

There's not eight unique games, mind you, a lot of them are just repeated, but there is one training game here that is actually kinda worth doing (20 BP reward).  It splits the character's HP and BP in half and creates a clone to battle against.  Since the fight always starts with the combatants being equal, the participant better be sure to have a lot of powerful cards on hand before attempting it.

This incredibly close match will be
won by whomever wins initiative.

In the end, the training exercises are a nice distraction but not a reliable enough source of BP, so the bulk of fighting experience was done through regular battles.  Once Goku and Piccolo got up to around 1500 BP, they had a much easier time with Raditz.  Defeating Raditz and rescuing Gohan closes the first chapter and the second opens with Goku heading to the spirit world to train with King Kai while the rest of the Z fighters look for some Dragon Balls.  The cool part here is that I had to make three teams of two out of the six characters available; each team going after a different ball.  I kept the teams true to the show and matched them in default order.

Just seems wrong to match Piccolo with, say, Chiaotzu.

Before the Z fighters go and do their individual quests, Goku needs my attention first as I help him travel through Snake Way, a million kilometre stretch of road that leads to King Kai's place.  There are no battles, just burning off cards for forward progress and doing some mini-games.  Failing a mini-game adds to the total time it'll take Goku to reach the end — if he ever does.

Ugh.  This is, like, 20 episodes worth.
I may be here awhile.

December 07, 2015

Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II - Ranking

Story & World

A welcome expansion from the first game, with a devastated, yet beautiful, overworld in which to wander in addition to a multitude of traditional dungeons.  The story was better as well; I really liked the progression from playing a video game to dealing with the Pazuzu/Bael feud to facepunching God.  The Gumdrop/Gob dynamic was interesting as well, even if I had already made my decision who I preferred before starting the game.  The rest of the more minor aspects are similar to MTI.  14/20

Character Development

Same as MTI, except more slots available for weapons and armour as well as greater equipment variety overall.  I'm also throwing a few points here due to the improved fusion system.  17/20

Combat & Monsters

Same as MTI.  10/20

Graphics & Sound

Same as MTI, except the overworld graphics add another layer of gorgeous onto an already beautiful game.  The Demon World was particularly stunning, heavy with cycling animations representing fire, mists, etc.  18/20

Gameplay

Same as MTI, except for a slightly stronger late game economy, due to many expensive equipment options.  16/20

Final Ranking:  75/100

December 04, 2015

Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II - End Game

Wow, did I ever spend way too much time breeding demons, but an unforeseen, lucrative side business involving videos of demons "going wild" kept me quite busy.  I had multiple instances where I needed to go back to the earliest stages just to get creatures weak enough to breed the basic elemental slimes.  Slimes are the catalyst that allow a high level creature, which cannot be bred any tougher, to push beyond that limit and go Super Saiyan.

Shenlong's brother here doesn't
come with with any wishes, though.

In addition to this, there were times I needed to breed a specific kind of non-slime element in order to unlock a barrier.  All of this meant I spent a lot of time running around, trying to find creatures that were not only of the same type (for elemental fusion), but an appropriate power level as well (end result is an average of the original two).  I thought the demon limit of ten was quite generous, especially after getting upgraded from seven midgame.  Four spots were devoted to the demons in the current party which left a roomy six in which to play.  The crunch began when I started wanting to keep more than four demons, due to their difficult creation path.  Even though it appeared that they couldn't evolve any further, I never knew if I just hadn't found that one correct element.

Though — come on Shen —
how do you go up from this?

Wasting even more time, I got it in my head to try to create a demonic party based on a theme.  First I wanted to make an all-dragon team but was only ever able to make two.  After getting Odin, I started having delusions of a super all-star team consisting entirely of deities, but, again, I only ever got two.

I suppose I coulda used this try-hard,
what with his ridiculous six wings and all.

Okay, enough demonic eye candy; let's back it up a bit here.  After finishing the picnic, I used my infallible perceptive and investigative skills to correctly deduce that I just had to run around the statue again to get off the island.  From there, Gumdrop and I went about exploring a new area and talking with some of the residents, though it didn't always go so well.

Even if this wasn't Japan, I'd
still go with a "Hell no".

We did learn that Pazuzu is currently in a power struggle over the control of Tokyo with another demon named Bael.  It wasn't hard to figure out that Pazuzu just wanted us to eliminate his rival for him and had made up the whole story about Gob and I being messiahs.  I suspected Pazuzu right from day one, so I opted to try to find him and call him on his bullshit.  Getting to him was an uphill battle, as we had to encounter some of the darkest nightmares plucked right from the depths of our souls.

Gumdrop's got the right idea here.

Far worse that those vile beings were the heavy rockers who would always appear in large groups, each individual having the ability to put multiple characters to sleep.

How metal are we if these guys make us drowsy?

Although they don't do too much damage, it was infuriating to just sit there, round after round, getting pounded on by greasy headbangers.  My solution to this problem was to have two demons with the ability to roar and stun the entire motley crew (who seemed particularly susceptible to it).  I went with two demons because they only roar when they feel like it (I can only order them to cast spells, not use innate abilities).  This changed the dynamics of the battles from me yelling at the rockers to yelling at my dumbass demons when they decided not to roar for multiple rounds.  At any rate, the line change enabled us to penetrate all the way to Pazuzu, where we found Gob guarding him like the chump that he is, going on about being the one true Messiah.

I will, just let me take this Forget-Me-Now pill.

In true Gob fashion, he made a huge mistake by attacking all six of us by himself.  After rending him unconscious almost immediately, we carried on to confront Pazuzu, who was still pathetically trying to keep his flimsy cover story afloat.  He even had the audacity to strip me of the title which I never cared to have in the first place.

You mean that pile of bruised meat in the
other room?  Way to pick a real champ, guy.

No surprise, Pazuzu also was unable to defend himself against six assailants and fell rather quickly.  I must have been in a surly mood because the option arose to straight up decapitate Pazuzu and lug his head around, just for kicks.  I thought perhaps Gob's head would also look nice up on my mantle, but he was already gone.  With Pazuzu's death, the power struggle for Tokyo would now be over and Bael could rule over the city entirely.  At least, that's what would have happened if I hadn't got a little slice of that power and decided that I wanted the whole pie.  I guess Gob had the same idea because I found him getting smashed to a pulp by Bael.

I like Bael.

I don't blame Bael for thinking that I'd be as easy to beat as Gob, but, on the other hand, there are six of us.  Are the demons that I travel with just so beneath the notice of the boss demons that they don't even register as a threat?  Come to think of it, bosses never address any of the other demons before a fight; they're treated like they don't even exist.  Burn, no wonder demons are always pissed off and shit.  After defeating Bael, he turned into a frog which I could either crush or capture.  I elected for the latter as I couldn't bring myself to destroy the creature who had recently brought me so much happiness.  Now was the time I needed to find seven pillars in order to open a gateway to hell and — bad news — I had four.  An earlier set of MacGuffins based of the four elements had led me to believe that the pillars would also come in a similarly numbered set.  This meant a lot of backtracking and trying to trigger events.  This took awhile as I, once again in my eternal wisdom, neglected to make any maps, not even the lazy screenshot method I used during the first.  Eventually, I gathered the pillars and planted them in the center of Ground Zero, where the first nuke hit Tokyo during the Great Cataclysm decades ago.  Doing so opened up a portal into the demon world, where I was to hunt down Lucifer, lord of the demons, and put an end to the stream of demons invading the earthly realm.

A little PR campaign wouldn't have hurt either.

Here is where I spent the bulk of my time experimenting with demons as previously stated.  I would only push forward into a new area after getting bored with the current batch of recruitable demons.  Two notable events happened whilst I goofed around in hell.  The first was Gumdrop being abducted right from under my nose, leaving me without a renewable source of healing and warping (and love).  Some of my demons had healing spells, but they function at such a weak level that they're almost useless.  So I had to rely on my limited stash of items while I scoured the castle where she was held.  After having a relatively easy time so far in hell, this quest was intense; if I didn't find her on the first attempt, I'm not sure I would have had enough precious healing Jewels (which cannot be bought) to do a second run.  Thankfully, I had brought my 'A' game and soon enough Gummy was back in my arms with me whispering into her beautiful ears how much I missed her.

And it wasn't just the sex, it
was also the food preparation.

The second major event happened when I came across the demon boss Beelzebub and was fully expecting yet another combat to occur.  Suddenly, still in his captive frog form, Bael lept towards Beelzebub and requested my permission for them join together, as they had been sundered by The One True God.  After telling them to doowhutchyalike, they merged together and became Baal and joined my ranks.

Welcome aboob, breasts.  I'm sure you cans
with all those tits. *sweats profusely*

I didn't utilize Baal all that much since Gumdrop would always give me the ol' stink eye whenever I summoned her.  Regardless, I kept Baal safely in the confines of my computer deck, just in case Gumdrop should ever get captured again (oww! I just got slapped!).  Eventually, I got around to doing what I was suppose to and confronted Lucifer.  Due to having Baal with me, I got slapped with another surprise; Lucifer wanted us to join forces and take on The One True God.  Luc gave a very convincing speech and I found myself giving into temptation.

Mmm, I dunno... don't you have
anything a little more ambitious?

Lucifer owned those six wings so hard that I became an immediate fan.  Sorry, Michael, but some demons can pull off having six wings and some can't.  With Lucifer's help, getting to The One True God was easy enough, although we had to get by his bodyguard first and you'll never guess who it is.  Go on... guess.  It's the absolute last person you'd think it would be.

*audience gasps* Why, it's Lucifer's evil twin brother
from another dimension!  He must have come out

of his simultaneous coma/amnesia that he went into
after we sabotaged his car to go off that cliff
because he was blackmailing MY evil twin
brother from another dimension!

Normally, I'd scream continuity error, but this game is from Japan, so I understand that they were just ripping their source material from another culture's mythology and perhaps didn't have the keenest eye for details.  Plus, I absolutely adore Satan's smaller head on top of his regular head.  Oh, the conversations they must have! (screenplay in progress)  After reaching The One True God, he did the predictable thing and tried to bribe us with a kingdom or some shit.  Not only did I count exactly zero wings on this guy, he's just some floating bald head — colour me unimpressed.

No vowels for this guy cause he's old skool.

Lord put up a good fight but even the being that created the whole universe by mere force of will couldn't handle six dudes.  After his defeat, he bragged about being just a fraction of the essence that controls the entire multiverse and that he'd manifest again sometime soon and return to be a big jerk.  Lucifer did me a solid and returned to his world, taking all the demons with him.  Peace returned to the world — but — for how long?... oh yeah, until the big giant head comes back.