May 31, 2016

Centurion - Ranking

Story & World

It's sorta ironic that in a lot of RPGs, I'm the hero trying to stop some guy from taking over the world, but here I'm attempting to do that very thing.  Normally, when I reach a new village or town, I'm greeted with open arms and/or accosted with requests to do something heroic.  Here, every new nation visited regarded Rome with either open hostility or barely restrained hostility.  It's kinda fun to play the villain for once and I played it with all the arrogance and douchebaggery of a real Roman.  Since the game is based on real life and not fantasy, the villains can (and often will) win, regardless of whether or not some plucky teenager has quested for some magic sword.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much detail went into the diplomacy of each nation.  Each had its own distinct picture and its own set of branching dialogue.  The bonus scene with Cleopatra wins the award in the category of Most Engaging Female NPC in a Strategy or Simulation Game.  However, these are merely a few gems lying amidst the lack of engaging story and explorable world that would expect from a not-RPG.  8/20

Character Development

As one rises in rank, they are able to command more legions as well as larger.  Having only two unit types (infantry and cavalry) is embarrassing enough as is, but is made even worse in that the ratio of the two types is static, with cavalry being about 10% the size of infantry.  So, no pure cavalry units are available to Rome, even though enemy nations managed to do it.  And yes, I'm still pretty pissed that I was denied war elephants after getting myself super stoked for them.  Individual legions can gain experience but I'm not exactly sure what that does for them and, more importantly, I don't fucking care.  I just wanted to witness a legion of my own battle 'phants stamping some hapless barbarians into a bloody paste or throw them up into the air in a comedic fashion.  Instead, what I got was bupkis, so that's exactly what you get, game.  Taste it.  0/20

Combat & Monsters

After finishing the game, I went back and re-ran a few battles, trying out each of the tactics and just letting the idiot computer do its thing.  None of the tactics seemed to make a huge difference except for Scipio's Defense, which is sweet because that's what I used most of the time since I couldn't be bothered trying to command troops directly due to the retarded shouting ranges the generals had.  The ship battle mini-"game" is just as clunky as it is stupid and pointless (and ugly).  The chariot race is the one saving grace of the whole game.  Don't get me wrong, it's a little unwieldy and awkward as well (though not as bad as the other two), but I can't be upset with something that still makes me smile whenever I think of that poor centurion bleeding out in front of hundreds of his fellow Romans.  To be clear, all the points in this category are solely due to the chariot race.  5/20

Graphics & Sound

The graphics get the job done, I suppose, but there's not a whole lot of graphics going on either.  The only two outstanding examples are the splash screens just before a chariot race or naval battle begins.  Okay, okay, I'll admit the war elephants are super cute too.

C:DoR kicks off with an epic, period-appropriate piece of music that so impressed me the first time that I didn't start the game until giving it a thorough listening to.  Once in the game proper, a less bombastic version of the song permeates the world map only to be replaced by dead silence when entering any territory to do actual game stuff.  10/20

Gameplay

Normally, a strategy game can make up for points lost from the first three categories, since the nebulous term gameplay can be applied to any game.  I love me muh strategy games and would have done a whole blog about them except for the fact that RPGs are far more suitable for the light-hearted tone of Inconsolable.  Plus, RPGs have a set start and finish whilst strategy games heavily encourage multiple replays and never really end, so the decision for blogging RPGs was also a matter of reasonable pacing as well.

Centurion's failing is that its strategy components is too simplistic and lacks depth.  The previous Koei strategy games I've done are simple as well, but they have some depth to them, at least enough to make me want to replay them.  Centurion didn't hit that switch for me.  Perhaps it should have spent more of its resources on actual strategy instead of crappy mini-games and trying to be funny.  Or perhaps I'm just jealous that some obscure Genesis game managed to be more humorous than my entire blog.  Either way, I can't recommend Centurion: Defender of Rome for anything other than the chariot race, which I highly recommend.  3/20

Final Ranking:  26/100

May 25, 2016

Centurion - End Game

Perhaps I should have had more than three chariot wins in a row before declaring mastery of said event.  There's also a bet limit of 100 talents (golds), so I wasn't able to just double my coffers whenever I wanted (although my odds would sometimes go as high as 3 to 1, ensuring a sizable pot should I manage to win).  Success in the race hinged on getting ahead of the pack as soon as possible and getting into the sweet spot of the track, where the horses could run safely at maximum speed without requiring whipping.  Opponents have their fair share of cheats, however, and getting into the groove can be quite irksome.  I've had guys completely shred my chariot within seconds of the race starting, noticed that they can whip their horses continually without repercussions, and they can push me around the track without actually touching me.  But all of that's alright, because I have cheats of my own.  No, not save states, but in-game cheats under the menu option appropriately, and awesomely, titled skulduggery.  There's bribing of opponents, purchasing of performance-enhancing drugs, and bribing of the gods.

Skulduggery? would be a great band name, except
they'd have to spell it Skullduggery? of course,
just to make sure you get it.
(edit:  As I was finalizing this post, I did a search for "Skulduggery band" and, of course, there's already a band named Skullduggery (no question mark though).  They're fellow Canucks hailing from Calgary and while I was expecting metal, instead what I got was Celtic folk.  What a country!)

With chariot racing being a decent source of additional income, I had no problem financing additional legions (max number of legions determined by current rank) and sent them off to gain new territory, either through diplomacy or force.  Nations that respond well to diplomacy do so in each new game, right down to picking the same choices in the branching dialogue.  Once the correct "path" is known, the nation can quickly be romanized when a new game is started, adding more income as well as more manpower to be converted into troops.  Of course, there are some nations who don't respond to diplomacy at all, such as Narbonensis, whose citizens sound like they were taught grammar by the Incredible Hulk.

No one stronger than Narbonensis... NO ONE!

The only option is war, which brings us to the field of battle, where an overall tactic for the army is chosen from a list of twenty (though many are very similar).  Once the battle has begun, it can be paused at any time and individual units can be given specific orders.  Well, they can be pointed in one of four directions if one can manage the incredibly clunky interface.  I don't know how you fuck up just being able to pick a direction but I had a hell of a time getting units to respond.  It doesn't help that you can only order units that are within shouting range of the general, which varies between generals but never covers the entire battlefield.  It wouldn't matter much if the units themselves just took a night course in basic tactics because they are stupid as fuck.  For example, once I got some cavalry units I thought I'd be able to get some sweet flanking action up in this piece, as the cavalry are placed on each end of the front line.  But nope, instead of flanking when an enemy unit is right beside them, they just keep charging forward.  Sure, I could order them to flank at the appropriate time, but, wouldn't ya know it, they're out of range of the general.  At most, I could perhaps get the general close enough to get one of them to flank.  So most times I just go defensive until the enemy has been decently deadified and then I choose the melee option, which puts the entire field into a clusterfuck free-for-all.

I guess no tactics are really needed when going
up against a bunch of shirtless barbarians.

In addition to infantry and cavalry, there are also elephant units which are met fairly early on in the game.  I was super pumped to get some raging elephants of my own but would have to wait until later on to get them.  At the beginning, the only legion type one can raise is infantry.  Once your rank is high enough, cavalry legions become available.  The final type of legion is consular, where I expected to get some 'phants but just got more cavalry and infantry instead.  I didn't even get a chance to bellow out the phrase I'd be saving up.

Cry havoc!  Let slip the pachyderms of war!

After around half the nations were under Roman control, I started investing in some ships.  I didn't bother with wussy triremes and went straight for the massive galleons.  I sunk 80 talents into building four galleons, loaded them with some trained fighting men, and set off to deal with the Carthaginian fleet that was too close to mother Italia for my liking.

For the glory of Rome, I hereby do christen this
flagship Boaty McBoatface, because we have
an actual democracy dammit! *pst**pst**pst*
Oh, we're a republic? Nevermind then, my bad.

Engaging the Carthaginians led to shitty mini-game that had none of the humour or appeal of the chariot race.  The two flagships of each fleet go stem to stem and awkwardly try to catapult each other before closing in for a volley of arrows and then a nice ramming.  Victory is mainly determined by number of soldiers remaining, making the "action" part kinda unnecessary.  While the flagship battle is happening, the rest of the fleet fights as well; this outcome is also mainly determined by just numbers.  During the first battle, I was so involved in trying to steer and aim my cumbersome lummox of a ship that I didn't pay attention to the numbers at the bottom of the screen.  When I sunk the enemy's flagship, I thought victory was mine but that proved to be false as the rest of the fleet was polished off by the remaining Carthaginian ships, which outnumbered us eleven to one.

Oh whoops, I guess the Romans forgot
that reconnaissance is a thing.

Well shucks, building a fleet of 45 ships wasn't going to happen anytime soon, even with me winning the majority of the chariot races.  Focusing on acquiring more territory (and therefore taxes), things went pretty smoothly, with some nations allying with Rome and some requiring a not-so-gentle prodding with a pointy spear.  Resisting nations could generally be dealt with by a single legion, the tougher nuts (such as Parthia) requiring another legion to follow up.  I wasn't expecting anything new before endgame, but then I entered Aegyptus and was surprised when Cleopatra gave some extra dialogue options — some extra sexy dialogue options.  Shen knows how to handle the wimmens so it was pretty obvious how I was going to win Cleo over.

Well, the Sphinx doesn't put out, so here I am.

Naw, I'm just joking, I'm not that oblivious when it comes to the ladies, especially queens (of which I've had several).  I actually went all Eygptian Lover on dat ass and hit 'er with some slick shit that instantly vaporized those ancient panties and left the door open for me to lay some serious pipe.  This was all done in full view of some dude watching with a spear, probably some bodyguard who harbours a secret crush on Cleo, and Cleo knows it so she purposefully bones her manwhores only when he's on shift just to mess with him.  It's not some muffled sounds behind a door either, it's done in a room with a huge opening where some doors should be.  Whatever their deal was, I probably didn't help matters by spending more time smiling at the guard than at Cleo.

Even though it's only about a pixel wide, that is
easily the biggest shit-eating grin I've ever seen.

After my dual conquest of Aegyptus, it was a simple matter to take out the final nation, the powerful but ultimately doomed Carthage.  As I ascended to Caesar, I looked back on my rise to power and saw that it was jawesome.  I had never plundered any of my acquisitions and only had a handful of rebellions from a few troublemaker states; most places were easily mollified with displays of physical prowess and blood.  I'm sure that, under my rule, Rome will reach even greater heights of glory, perhaps even global domination.  Oh yes, YES!  I like the sound of that... Shen Nung... KING OF THE WORLD!!!  ow, hey, what's that stinging sensation coming from my back?  Feels knivey.

Centurion threw quite a few curveballs at me and for that, I am grateful.  It's always nice to not have to scrounge up something to talk about, and this is doubly true for strategy games.  The final quirk came unexpectedly at the end screen, where the game gives a shout-out to "The Father of American Karate", who had recently passed away.  Let it not be said that Centurion: Defender of Rome is without heart.

May 16, 2016

[Game 059] Centurion: Defender of Rome (GEN - 1991)


A few years back, the master games list got overhauled and a large chunk of strategy games were removed, but some were missed due to lack of name recognition.  The reason why they were removed is a delicious two-layered cake of reasoning.  The first is that doing a ranking system based on RPGs but applying it to strategy games makes no dang sense.  You could even make a case/argument that a regular ranking makes little sense because of my irreverent nungness, and I would tend to agree with you.  But if I do a posting of a game, regardless of genre, it has to be ranked cuz my OCD overlord commands me to.  What, am I just suppose to leave a gaping hole in the spreadsheet where beautiful data should be?  Sickening.  The second reason is that strategy games are generally missing the two most teasable components that RPGs have: character and story.  I think I did an okay job in making fun of previous strategy games, but it can be quite a challenge.

Here's the game world — all of it.

I thought I'd be in for just such a challenge with Centurion and it certainly started out that way.  My first few turns I spent sending my one legion to invade the Alpes to the north and then pacifying its rebellious populace by distracting them with violent and bloody gladiatorial games.  I could only command one legion at my current rank and was waiting for a promotion so I could get more before going on the warpath again.  While waiting in Rome, I got bored and decided to hold a chariot race for my own citizens (who were not rebellious, just angry).  This wasn't just some idle event that increased the overall happiness of everyone, no!  I would actually be competing in the race itself!  As my chariot shattered into a million pieces on the very first turn, my humour-related concerns vanished into thin air.

Whew, it comes pre-installed with slapstick.

After such an ignominious defeat, my career as an up-and-coming centurion was dashed.  In my bravado, I had also bet all the money I had on myself and was now broke as a joke.  After a restart, I immediately held another race in order to practice but fared about the same.  This went on for quite some time but at least I wasn't the only one eating the dust.

Synchronized fail.

I think this is the first racing game I've ever played where I don't mind it when I fail.  It never gets old.  The five seconds it takes for the pulverized chariot to cross the length of the track, the centurion's body being thrashed about as he desperately clings on in hopes of saving face.  The brief moment where the centurion is just lying there, face down in the dirt, arms stretched hopelessly forward as what remains of his career gallops off into the distance.  The part when his wounds catch up with him and he shatters two limbs and bleeds out all at the same time.  It's solid gold but initially I didn't think the developers were doing this to try to be funny — that changed after my fifth failed race.  Normally, medics will come out, place the battered carcass on a stretcher, and exit stage right.  This particular time, though, they decided to forever throw away the notion that this game is a serious historical simulation of ancient Rome.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Oh my goodness.  My sides.  The orbit.  It didn't stop here, though, there's attempts at humour in other areas as well.  I can honestly say I was not expecting this from this type of game and I'm confused as to whether I should hate or love C:DoR for it.

Umm, yeah, this never happened.

K, I'll talk more about the game mechanics next post, I just wanted to get this out of the way while it's still fresh in my mind.  I have since mastered the chariot race and can double my money whenever I feel the need.  I've got control of about a third of the nations and hopefully can keep the momentum going to endgame.

May 09, 2016

Adventures of Musashi - Ranking

Story & World

It's a DQ clone, one of the cloniest I've ever come across.  The only major difference is AoM is set in feudal Japan instead of medieval Europe.  Most quests have very little to do with Kojiro; his presence is barely felt throughout the game.  The world layout is straightforward, although there is one time where Musasi has to backtrack to an early tower to free some old dude for a MacGuffin.  This wasn't made any easier due to an error in the translation naming the wrong tower the old man is in (this is why you remember to take notes, kiddies).  Exploration wouldn't have been so bad if I had just stayed in the local waters after receiving the ship, as all the late game stuff is there.  but no, I had to go explore the whole damn world, not really gaining much other than huge piles of deceased sea critters.  5/20

Character Development

Two of the three main stats, might and speed, feed into attack and defense, which themselves are further augmented by equipment.  Might and speed seem to increase a random amount, between 1 and 9, so there's some nice variation there.  Equipment, of which there are five slots (one sword, four armour), plays less of a role, as each upgrade generally only adds a few points (sometimes one).  The last batch of swords are all famous Japanese swords and can be invoked in battle for various buffs.  The third stat, magic, increases the effectiveness of spells, making the basic Cure spell the single major workhorse throughout the game.  Damage-dealing spells never seemed to be able to do more harm than the good ol' sword, and went unused for most of the game.

Inventory management becomes a pain during the midgame, as there are only 14 slots and everything goes in there, leaving little room for consumable items.  It's not too bad until Musashi starts locating the three famous blades, as they'll soak up a slot until they're finally combined together for the final weapon.  6/20

Combat & Monsters

You like mashing the A button, right?  Because that's what you'll be doing 99% of the time in combat, with the occasional break to Cure — you, know, just to keep things interesting.  The mid-boss fights were stellar, though, requiring at least a little strategy for a successful outcome.  Some monsters have access to some of the same spells Musashi has, in addition to stunning and poison abilities.  poison is pretty harmless, being handled with either an item or a spell, but stun attacks can be devastating when they last for many rounds.  Thankfully Tanuki would often slap Musashi awake and it seems he got better at it as he increased in level.  Tanuki's levels are gained by finding an item called Kappa in a treasure pot.  He doesn't have any stats, as he is not targetable in combat, but rather he'll deploy a random ability every so often; a new ability being gained each level.  These abilities range from attacks that do hardly any damage to buffs that increase defense by an inconsequential amount to Curing at completely inappropriate times.  He also says "Tanu!" after saying anything, like he thinks he's a Pokemon or something, and it got real old, real quick.  Searching that lazy elder's house was a nightmare because every damn tile Tanuki would inform me that he couldn't find anything, TANU!  Yeah guy, how about you just tell me when you DO find something?  For this reason, and this reason alone, Tanuki is being included in the monsters category instead of character development.  4/20

Graphics & Sound

Finally I can lavish a little praise on this game, though I just realized that maybe I focus more on the sweet graphics because the rest of the game is so bland.  Oh well, I'm sure AoM isn't going to complain about getting more points.  Any game that makes me want to whip up some hot monstage action is scoring big for visuals.

The music is anything particularly grand, but it is period appropriate, which is just as important (if not more) in my book.  I'm glad the didn't rip the music from Dragon Quest, though I can't say the same thing about some of the sound effects.  14/20

Gameplay

Even with the ryo I lost purchasing that spankable picture of the mermaid queen, I still generally always had enough to get by (even with a bunch of deaths that cut my ryo in half (no banks)).  Purchasing new equipment was never a high priority anyway since the points they gave were so low.  The only big ticket item was the mandala (at 20,000 ryo) of which I had three of by the endgame.

A necessity of this type of game, the overall length is quite short, padded with heavy amounts of grinding.  After I got my stupid ass off the high seas, back on land and back on track, dat comfy feeling settled back in for most of the rest of the game.  If you enjoyed the original Dragon Quest, with all its linearity and grindiness, then you'll probably enjoy this unofficial expansion campaign as well.  10/20

Final Ranking:  39/100

May 04, 2016

Adventures of Musashi - End Game

Well, so much for comfiness; the late game obviously read the first entry and decided to take a big ol' dump right in my face.  Things were going swimmingly until I got the obligatory sailing ship.  I wasn't even going to bitch about the high encounter rate while on land, because, honestly, I've built up a partial immunity to that at this point in the Inconsolable journey.  Like so many others of its ilk, the encounter rate stays the same whilst sailing the seas, which makes for grindy exploration.  The initial set of ocean creatures aren't so bad, but the next set of watery jerks saw a huge jump in difficulty.

Arrrr, I hate the sea... and everything in it.

Monstage: Special Sea Slag Edition

A single battle with any one of these bad boys could see me casting Cure several times (thank goodness it's pretty cheap).  Oh, how they love to quickly dodge my feeble attacks while still getting double attacks on me.  The worst was trying to explore Yougetsu Tower, hidden away on a remote island.  It's a lengthy sea voyage from the nearest town and the monsters in the tower are even harder than the sea dinks.  I had to make over ten trips to that dang tower and a quarter of the time I'd have to abort due to being whittled down en route.

Sh... shut up, game!

At least the mini-bosses guarding the good loot in the tower were fun.  Of course, in my initial encounter with each of them, they handed my ass to me since I could barely handle the regular minions.  However, by utilizing a secret technique called running away like a little bitch, I managed to conserve enough MP to actually have a chance against the bosses.  Success hinged on how quickly I could seal their magic with a spell of my own (appropriately called Seal).  Then perhaps a Weaken spell to soften 'em up a bit before gittin' in the groove of trading blows and hoping I had enough to fuel the all-important Cures.

My cowardice will be your downfall, Genbu!

Most of the game is fairly predictable and bland, so I'm gonna gloss over that and just give a few highlights before dealing with the endgame and the promised monstage.  My first snippet takes place while I was travelling to an undersea mermaid cave to cure the queen of some malady.  I was in auto mode due to a long play session and bong hits, so I was breezing through talking with townsfolk, barely paying attention to what they were saying unless I saw some keywords (like names or directions).  Before I knew it, I had paid some mermaid ALL of my ryo (13,000+ golds) just for some picture of the queen.

Worth every ryo.

Two odd design choices showed up at the final town of Tatsuno.  The first was when talking with Ioki, who gives some info about the final weapon.  Instead of using one of the many oft-used sprites that filled every town and village up to this point, the developers went with the one sprite that usually is unique in RPGs.

I'm seein' double — four Musashis!

The other choice was more of a pisser.  So, all along this journey, I've been collecting scroll MacGuffins and, from the way people talk about them, they're pretty damn important.  The elder of Tatsuno, however, lost it and needed me to retrieve it.  So it's obviously in some hard to reach location, necessitating a brave and stalwart hero, right?  Nope, the elder just misplaced it somewhere in his house and couldn't be bothered to find it himself.  Or get the other two people in his house to help look.  The scroll isn't in some place that looks obvious due to the layout of the graphics either; every tile has to be examined.  Making matters worse is that, when searching, either Musashi or Tanuki can be selected to search, so the whole ordeal takes twice as long (though I did realize later that Musashi only ever searches pots (treasure chests), so I could have saved myself some work here).

For those going to play the game
themselves — you're welcome.

The final island also stumped me with its impassable mountain range running down the middle of the island, effectively splitting it into two.  I couldn't find any obvious way through so I thought this was yet another case of searching every tile.  I did so and found nothing.  I thought maybe I still needed an item or something so I went back to the last few towns and talked with everyone again.  Still nothing.  Well, I suppose I could try using some of the items I do have, although I already know what each is suppose to do.  But who knows?  Perhaps one of these items is pulling double duty.  It was during this futile waste of time that I accidentally pushed west against a mountain tile when I was trying to go north.  All of a sudden I found myself in the mountain tile and there I stayed until I could fully process what had just happened.

You can't just change the rules like that, game!

As I navigated the hidden path in the mountains, I was at least pumped for a new battle background but it turned out to be the same as the craggy hills.  Hope was renewed as the other side of the island had a new tile of leafless, dead trees, no doubt due to the nearby presence of poison swamps.  But nope, the background for that is the normal forest one, foliage and all.  By the time I reached the final castle, I had no expectations and figured it'd be the same as every other castle I'd been in.  Now AoM redeemed itself with a fresh backdrop, suitable for an end dungeon.

Monster wardrobe even matches the decor... so kewl.

K, monstage time and then end boss wrap up.

One Mega monstage coming right up.

The final battle with ol' what's-his-name was less fun than the previous mini-bosses, due to none of the status ailment spells working.  It does make sense, though; the fight would be pretty boring if I could just seal all his magic for the entire battle.  So it's still boring anyway; I just pound on him while healing myself occasionally.

Oh right, it's Kojiro, my archenemy.

Kojiro also had access to the Cure spell, so the fight took quite a long time.  My own MP reserves started to dip low, but I wasn't worried as I had three Mandalas on hand.  Mandalas boost MP, generally can be used a few times, are incredibly expensive, and can only be bought from a secret vendor hidden away on a small island (it pays to thoroughly explore, high encounter rate be damned).  They are also sometimes dropped by certain enemies, but this is quite rare.  At any rate, since this is a DQ clone, I knew the REAL final boss would show up after Kojiro was defeated.

Aww, I like how he's pawing at the text.
He really wants me to know that he's appeared.

The fight with DemonKo went exactly the same as the one with Kojiro.  While it does seem lame having some unknown, random, second end boss in so many of these games, from a story standpoint it makes perfect sense.  These are the shadow overlords, pulling the strings from behind the scenes, and they're so good at what they do that nobody in the world even knows about their existence.  However, from a gameplay standpoint, it's just an opportunity to draw another big-ass sprite and pad the game a little bit more.  After beating DemonKo, I got to wander around Tatsuno a bit before the end credits arrived.  I got a ♥KISS♥ from some chick on the street, then I got another one from Otsu (my supposed girlfriend from the first town whom I hadn't seen since the beginning).

Don't hate tha playa, hate tha game.