November 01, 2017

Castle of Ayakashi - Ranking

Story & World

The almost non-existent story sucked and the world sucked.  It was fun to map, though, and had this element to it where one comes back through most of the castles after the midpoint to "fill in" the areas that had been previously inaccessible.  1/20

Character Development

The character development sucked.  I'm pretty sure every level is 100% static, as I saw screenshots of another late game character who had the exact same HP and SP as I did.  My final character stats also had some nice, round numbers (100 & 200) in addition to the hexadecimal integer maximums mentioned last post.  Finding a new piece of equipment automatically overwrites the previous one and none of them had special abilities.  Items all duplicated existing character abilities, of course at a much weaker power level.  1/20

Combat & Monsters

The combat sucked.  The mid to late game was the most non-sucky, as the player has all the spells available and they do work on regular enemies at least.  One cool thing about the spells is that they upgraded as the game progressed, but the lower power levels were still selectable should one want to conserve some magic points.

The monsters were heavily based on Japanese mythology and they definitely did not suck as they consistently kicked my ass.  I feel that they were the true heroes of this stupid tale.  6/20

Graphics & Sound

Graphics only sucked sometimes.  All the castles looked identical, just room after room and corridor after corridor of cold, grey, rocky walls.  Monster depiction was much better with decent size, details and variety.  The one tune that played throughout, though, certainly sucked the big one.  There wasn't even a nice sound effect when a chest was found, something I didn't realize that I missed until it was gone.  7/20

Gameplay

Well, what can be said about the gameplay?  Hrmm... oh!  I knoes!  It fucking blew and it fucking sucked.  At least it was a short game, if only because of dat sweet, sweet emulator turbo option that make games like CoA slightly more bearable.  1/20

Final Ranking:  16/100

October 26, 2017

Castle of Ayakashi - End Game

My theory ended up being only partially correct; while there was an appreciable amount of castle levels (10), progress was swift due to lack of anything interesting.  Combat took up the majority of time, or it would have if I hadn't turbo'ed through almost every single one.  Single character dungeon crawls generally suck (roguelikes are an exception), especially if they are turn-based.  Not helping matters were the multitude of dreadful design choices made by the developers.  Normally in a RPG, the character(s) start off weak and gradually gain power over the course of the entire game.  Sure the challenge level should increase as the player progresses, but I usually never feel as weak and helpless as at the very beginning of a game.  Once I've gotten a feel for any particular game, my developed strategies and character builds are usually enough to handle the higher difficulty.  In the ah... *ahem*, rare cases where I still get my ass handed to me, it's ordinarily due to a failure on my part; I then adapt and carry on.  I'm also quite aware that in a lot of these early, simple games, that it's merely a case of player numbers vs. AI numbers, but a well-designed game will mask that, at least somewhat.  CoA was absolutely blatant about where its threshold points were.  At the start of each new area, the thrashings would begin anew, despite just having received a blade upgrade from the previous area's boss.  Levelling up normally would help, except that CoA saw it fit to increase the potential maximum number of monsters per battle, up to five.  Then, upon reaching the predetermined level that CoA demanded the player to reach, the number of monsters per encounter dropped to one and only one, making all battles trivially easy.  Well, at least with being shoehorned into a set level, the boss fights were appropriately intense, right?  WRONG!  You know how a boss fight is the perfect opportunity to play with all your spells and abilities?  They're all disabled here, including character buffs, so the only option is to wail on it with the basic attack, which is just as well since all the bosses take two hits to kill.

Gasha skull is definitely ready to par-tay.

Oddly enough, the most interesting aspect of CoA didn't even come from the game itself.  Due to an incompatibility between the emulator and translation patch, I had crazy glitches happening all over the place.  At first it was just the occasional small, square bit of some random sprite showing up near the corners, but this soon evolved into multiple chunks all over the screen, sometimes traveling down the screen in a glorious cascade of crap.  Next to go was the music, resulting in an inharmonious cacophony of bloops and beeps which was actually a refreshing change from the singular shitty tune that always plays whilst in the castle (menus have no music of sound effects).  Things then got kicked up a notch as opening treasure chests gave me the dreaded white screen of death.  After monster encounters joined the party, I knew I was well and truly fucked.  A lesser manchine might have given up right then and there, and I certainly toyed with the notion.  After all, it's not like there were going to be any big surprises between mid and endgame.  The completionist part of my programming, however, forced me to load up an alternative emulator.  Unfortunately, savestates are not compatible across emus.  Fortunately, Shen is a master of backups, and I had also been periodically writing out to the native "battery" save, which is compatible.  Using this secret Shaolin technique, I managed to overcome the glitch gremlin and made it to the final castle of Doman, a demon king who I guess needed a murderin'.

Meh, it was just copying a file from
one directory to another, no biggie.

The level included a gauntlet run of all the previous bosses, which now died in just one hit instead of two.  The two final bosses, Snow Princess and Doman, both had to be taken down in a similar manner.  Each could kill the Shenster in exactly three hits, no variable.  They also never missed and almost always went first.  This meant that after the first round, in which I had about a 50% chance of dishing out a hit myself, I would have to heal (the only spell that does work) or face death on round three.  Success was only possible if the RNG felt like giving me some successive hits.  Death meant having to go through the entire gauntlet again for just another chance to roll the dice.  There was nothing else remaining to increase the odds either; I had reached max level and had all the best equipment.

255 and 65535 are computer-speak
for "Thou shalt not pass."

Even utilizing savestates, it still took me over fifteen tries on Doman since that sob can also heal himself.  After killing him, the game decided now was the time to start storytelling — something about Doman masterminding the rebellion that ended Oda Nobunaga's chance to unite all of Japan.  Yeah, whatevs.  For all my griping though, it was all worth it to be able to get a glimpse of the most epic ending screen of any game on any platform in the entire history of gaming.

October 03, 2017

[Game 065] Castle of Ayakashi (GB - 1990)

Translation by KingMike

Games like Castle of Ayakashi are twofold in their terribleness.  First off, it's a bland, run-of-the-mill JRPG that's a tedious chore to play right off the bat.  That on its own isn't too bad, I've already played plenty of such games.  However, most of those have story elements and characters that I can rip on when it comes time to post a scathing and cathartic entry.  CoA won't even give me that.

Okay, I'm not being fair; here's part of an NPC.

It's also a dungeon crawler, which generally don't do so well in the story department.  I've played other pure crawlers that suffered in that area as well, but at least those had gameplay that was both fun to participate in and write about.  Here it's just one dude, running around a bunch of 20x20 castles, probably to rescue a princess or something.

And dying lots, let's not forget the dying.

At least I'll get a little enjoyment breaking out the graph paper and making my own ma...

Aw fiddlesticks.

Well, nuts to that!  There's no way in hell I'm going to use the in-game map, unless I get lost or feel like looking at it.  I'm just starting on the third castle, and so far it has been a case of finding a key, unlocking a door, fighting a miniboss, and onto the next castle.  It's GameBoy, so I'm hoping that its 64 KB can't possibly hold too many castles, but since there's little else other than castle, I'm probably wrong on this one.

September 22, 2017

Light of Indra - Ranking

Story & World

Exploring the world of Ibal was loads of fun, at least for the brief times I was solo.  Shoving rocks for loot was kinda cool, even if I found myself humming the Zelda reveal hidden tune most of the time.  The location of most boulder entrances were fairly obvious, which is both good and bad; bad in that it takes away from the thrill of finding something well-hidden, but good in that I didn't have to spend as much time playing this tripe.  The ability to dodge enemies in real-time in the overworld was enjoyable, even though this is suppose to be a turn-based blog.  It was a nice change of pace over the usual unavoidable random encounters.  Here's a tip for those stupid enough to play this slop: keep to the edge of the screen and you'll avoid most of the evil monsters.  Also, stay in school and don't use drugs (unless they're really good).  Making a map of the world was pretty much a necessity as there was plenty of backtracking as well as hidden shops and spell-teaching wizards.  I also have much love for any game which forces me to break out ye olde quill and parchment.

The story was pretty meh all throughout, except for finding out that Byrn was a super-computer and the all the possible implications of that.  The difficulty in just talking to NPCs was made worse that most of them had nothing of value to say, not even a decent flavour text to flesh out the setting.  There were a few notable interactions, however, including a man who pickpocketed me for 1,000 (!) golds and a woman who infected me with AIDS after I confirmed my desire to "play" with her.  Not to worry though, AIDS only does 10 HP damage which can easily be cured by eating a loaf of bread or just having a solid nap.  8/20

Character Development 

Three stat system (Attack, Defense, Agility) with leveling only increasing HP and MP.  Not a whole lot of equipment and certainly none with any kind of special ability.  Only a handful of spells are available with the utility and healing spells having the only real value.  Like a lot of these old games, attack spells don't succeed as often as a regular attack and don't do considerably more damage or exploit some kind of elemental weakness, so why bother with them?  Items were overwhelming various types of healing and restoring magic (for healing).  I did buy a boomerang at one point, but it not only missed when it was first thrown, but it most assuredly did not undergo denominalization and was, instead, lost forever.

Swapping members as the story progresses is usually a welcome switch but here it's trading one member for another who functions almost exactly the same, so all that happens is a bunch of items are lost.  3/20

Combat & Monsters

While trying to avoid enemies is fun and all, once combat actually begins, it's time to button mash until it's over and hope that the female doesn't take an errant hit and die instantaneously.  The mini-bosses were just as easy to kill as a regular creature, as long as their special defense was negated by some MacGuffin.

Most of the monsters are based heavily on existing creatures and they all do basic melee damage, sometimes attacking all the character in one round.  A very special few are able to perform the same blinding attack that the final guardian did, but that's it for monster special attacks.  2/20

Graphics & Sound

The graphics get one point for evoking nostalgic memories of Legend of Zelda, minus one point for ripping off Legend of Zelda.  On their own merit, they come in somewhat below average, which coincidentally is the same feeling I have about the music (actually, somewhat below average could be applied to the entire experience).  All monsters pop up in a completely blank background so as allow one to focus more on how ugly they are.  5/20

Gameplay

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the economy was solid throughout the whole ordeal.  As long as one stayed on top of shoving large slabs of granite around, gold deficit was never a problem.  The only grinding I ever did was at the very end for Sho's fire sword, which end up mattering anyway since their was no proper end boss battle.

There was some non-linearity during the game in that one would have to complete a character's story arc (i.e. get rid of them) before a new character could join.  The game is thankfully quite short which, as I'm sure I've done with previous crappy games, actually nets it some pointage.  Overall, LoI's unique shortcomings overshadow any mild amusements one might have garnered from the rest of the bog standard gameplay.  7/20

Final Ranking:  25/100

September 18, 2017

Light of Indra - End Game

Crossing the bridge to the other side brought with it the expected increase in difficulty, which Saba and I handled fairly easily (avoiding the desert areas which contained the toughest monsters).  Coming across Kolste Castle, I wasted no time spending our hard earned golds on better equipment and healing items, then it was off to meet the king.  To my surprise, it turned out that Saba was the prince of this fair kingdom and he promptly left the group, items and all.

Can I at least have back the "World's Best Sidekick"
mug that I bought special... *sob* for you.

Prince Backstabber did not give any refunds, but I did receive a Strength ring so I could now move boulders without him.  Normally, I would have donned the ring and then proceeded to choke a ho, but truthfully, I was just happy to be solo again, even if it meant more difficult battles.  Of course, this was not meant to last long and soon I had a new, female companion named Lan, who was so badass that she more a mere dress into combat.  Of course, just like almost all females who try to act tough and aren't protected by societal conventions, she proceeded to die in the very first fight one step outside the town.  It's here that the interesting death mechanic reared its head.  Instead of following around as a ghost or whatever, she stayed dead in the location where she perished.  To resurrect her, I would have to go find a town chaplain, have him recall her soul, then go back to wherever she was buried and cast a Relaf spell.  Obviously, I had to take this opportunity to get more solo exploring in.

I'm sure she'll keep.

Eventually though, she needed to be brought back and we also added a woman-hating man named Gils to the party.

Well, the good ones do.

Now, your main man, the real Shen #1, is nothing short of a consummate ladies' man, so I could not abide this outdated sexist attitude and soon replaced him with the powerful Loki, one of my final companions.  I think we replaced Lan with a different girl, but I can't be sure because they all look the same to me.  At any rate, if I thought having one companion was a pain in the ass, then having two was more like having a cactus colonoscopy.  Having someone in the third slot exasperated the screen movement issues by a significant factor, pushing it to over two thirds of the time — and it didn't matter if it was in a dungeon, town, or a completely open plain.  Making matters even worse was that the female, who turned out to be named Sara, moved much slower than Loki, ensuring she'd get all of us embroiled in combat whether we wanted to or not.

Sara also wears a dress as her main form of
protection — AND SHE NEVER UPGRADES IT.

It's this one — utterly baffling — mechanic that takes this otherwise mediocre RPG and makes it fit for the pit.  I just don't understand what the developers were going for with this design decision.  In a dungeon it kinda makes sense but anywhere else it's just dumb.  Occasionally there'd be glitches as well, where the non-Shen characters would just disappear or end up on the opposite side of the screen and would only return after I went back and forth a few times.  These were minor annoyances, but it sets the stage for a major one.  So, I had just entered a new area and one of the first screens was split by an unsurpassable river.  On the other side, a dude could be seen wandering around.  Now, most of the areas in LoI consist of a fairly well-connected inner core surrounded by a long single-screen path of coast line.  On my way to talk with the obviously important dude, the glitch gremlin decided to have some fun and send the others across the river.  No problem though, because I can just cast Ahmed and warp them back to me, right?  Well, that would be the cast if they hadn't immediately been attacked, sending me over to their side.  The wife even had to poke her cute little head into the man cave and see if I was really pissed or just practicing my impersonation of Goku going Super Saiyan.  Oh, and when I finally reached the dude on the second attempt, all the while feverishly trying to keep Sara alive, my reward was this single line of dialogue.

Welp, looks like I'm going SSJ3.

I guess I can't blame him too much though, at least he manages to cobble a full sentence together, unlike most of his kin.

A small sampling of the local waste of sprites.

Well, since I've got the editor already opened, I might as well do up a monstage now.

Gotta use up those screenshots somehow.

Certain townsfolk didn't bother with any pleasantries at all, rather going straight to insulting the heavily armed, battle-scarred veteran of countless conflicts who was, might I remind, trying to awaken their god so that all the killing of townsfolk and whatnot would stop.

Oh yeah? Well... you-your mom... sh-shut up!

Awakening Mr. Byrn was easier than I expected.  Things starting coming together after we finally got rid of Sara and replaced her with the last companion, Sho.  All three of us are melee powerhouses and we each have a theme for our equipment; Loki is heaven, Sho is fire, and I'm earth.  Loki had a full set of gear for quite some time and Sho only needed one more item that we couldn't yet afford.  I was still stuck without my expected Earth Shield, so I figured I must have missed it for sale in one of the previous towns.  I needed to grind for Sho's last item anyway, so I went back and visiting every single town, enduring the screen transitions which didn't get any better now that Loki was in the third slot.  I couldn't find it so, fairly annoyed and mildly pissed, I went back to purchase the fire armour aaaannd it was the sword I wanted, not the armour which I already had.  I just purchased another fifteen minutes of grinding.  Well, at least I could sell the armour back for half price aaaannd the merchant only gave me 800 golds for a suit that cost 30,000 and which I had purchased literally ten seconds ago.  The funny thing about rage is that it doesn't matter if it's the game's fault or my own damn fault, the rage remains the same.  Okay, so after even more grinding, I was finally ready to head to the final temple, just a few screens away from the last town.  On the way, I found the Earth Shield in a cave because of course that's where it is.  The final cave was heavy on the maze elements which actually helped a bit as it made it more likely that monsters would spawn in an unreachable area.  The guardian to the final boss could not be touched by weapons, but when all three of us brandished our respective themed statue, the guardian disappeared into the ether.

It spent most of the time trying to blind us, which
does not prevent brandishing of statues.

With the guardian out of the way, the ultimate confrontation was about to begin.  We were fully stocked with a large quantity of the best healing item in the game and ready to beat down the final boss, all of us resplendent in our completed sets of equipment, aaaannd there was no final boss, just Byrn, who's a super computer and the Light of Indra its power source or something.  I dunno, it was a lot for our simple, medieval minds to take in.

What's a spaceship?  Also, what's a computer?

Must admit, I did not see that one coming.  Throughout the game, there was never even so much as a hint of any kind of futuristic theme.  I suppose credit is due to Byrn for making such a believable world for his simpleton passengers, but it raises all kinds of questions.  Does Byrn come from a planet where computer overlords rule over their human slaves?  Do they purposefully keep the humans in a relatively primitive mindset so as to better manage them?  Is Ibal just another planet being colonized by a superior metal god race, or was Byrn a rebel upset at the treatment of the chattel and so it abducted a bunch and fled into the cosmos to create its own version of utopia for them?  Such musings quickly faded as the end credits rolled and revealed that the first one hundred people to finish the game could send in a screenshot to Kemco and get a fantabulous prize, which was hopefully a full refund for this turd.  For me, just knowing that I'll never have to play Light of Indra again is reward enough.

August 17, 2017

[Game 064] Light of Indra (NES - 1987)

Translation by KingMike

Welp, it doesn't look like I'm going to be done with Morrowind anytime soon, so I'd better get Inconsolable back into the mix before it becomes completely defunct.  I also kinda miss having something to riff on, as MW is a nearly flawless game (thanks to fan patches and mods).  There's also been three more translations and they were all originally released prior to the date I'm currently at, which means I'll have to complete them first before carrying on.  And don't think that I'm completely unaware that translations done at this point have had a low priority for a good, goddamn reason.  At least I shouldn't have to worry about finding stuff to bitch about.  So let's take it back to the class of '87 with the Light of Indra, which gave me a major grievance before I even left the first town.

Oh sure, I've heard this line before.

Despite buddy's assurance to the contrary, most townsfolk couldn't even be bothered to acknowledge my existence, much less tell me something that "may" help me.  The town has about twenty residents and fully 4/5ths of them wouldn't react at all to my constant humping.  Since this wasn't the first time I've come across NPCs that are functionally equivalent to furniture, I paid it no heed and continued on my way.  Well, it wasn't until the third town or so (all with ~20 peeps) that I realized that I had to be talking directly to a NPC's face before parlaying could begin.  So of course I had to revisit the other two towns and see what nuggets of wisdom I might had missed.

The payoff was so worth it.

Months of not playing crap had given me the patience of a saint, so even this odd approach to interaction didn't bother me ("Quirky", I thought.).  As I backtracked it, however, a pattern began to emerge that took all of my available patience and rubbed it all over its sweaty, hairy ballsack.  Considering that about 80% of the townsfolk are mobile, one would think that they'd move in a simply programmed random fashion, yeah?  Well, that one would be wrong.  Wrong and stupid (and ugly).  No, the developers thought it wise to take the extra steps necessary to make sure all the NPCs will never face me on their own accord.  This means that to interact with one of these colossal jackasses, one has to dash in front of them before they have a chance to turn away.  Even worse, sometimes a townsfolk will outright stop moving if they are facing a wall and I'm directly behind them, waiting for them to move into one of the other two cardinal directions.  You know what happens to NPCs that pull that kind of shit in Morrowind?...  They die.  They die in the raging blaze of a 100-point fireball.  Alas, I can get no such satisfaction here.

Narrow corridors too?  Why you dirty, son-of-a...

But I digress.  So, how's the rest of the game so far?  Unsurprisingly, it's a Dragon Quest clone but it also has some inspiration from the first Legend of Zelda.  Not only does the overworld have the same look and feel as LoZ, it also has visible enemies moving around in real-time, initiating standard, turn-based combat upon touching.  But wait!  There's more!  It also incorporates LoZ's hidden staircases which must be uncovered via objection interaction.  Here it's just shoving boulders around, which is a far cry from LoZ's blowing shit up and setting shit on fire, but it's serviceable.

Man, what I wouldn't give for a
10-pack of bombs right about now.

All of LoI's treasure chests are hidden in this manner, at least in the overworld (dungeons have the staircases already visible).  It's imperative that most of these are found, as they contain the lion's share of the available gold.  It's not always gold that's found in these locations, either, sometimes a wizard lives there who will babble nonsense at me until I leave (see third screenshot for example of a town wizard).  At first I maybe it was some kind of word puzzle, but it turned out I just needed to learn their language from an instructor (only took a second).  The nonsense now sounded like magic spells being taught.  I only had the aptitude to learn some of them, however, and Saba couldn't learn any.  Oh?  What's that?  I haven't mentioned my good buddy Saba yet?  Yeah, this ain't no solo adventure; Saba joined me early on for a tidy sum of gold.  He's a strong man who can push heavier boulders than I can and he can also swing a mean sword.  He also gets his own sprite on the overworld, endlessly following in my footsteps, albeit at a much slower pace.  Sabs doesn't bother to dodge enemies either, resulting in much more combat than necessary.  Sometimes he'll get lost/stuck on a previous screen (especially in dungeons), and I can either quickly backtrack to get him or spend MP on the first spell I received, Ahmed, which supposedly warps him to my side.  I say supposedly because I've never actually used it because of the principle of the thing.  Why the hell should I have to spend MP for a code routine that should be automatically run whenever a screen change occurs?  Don't punish me for your incompetent pathing routines, game.  I'll just spend the two seconds it takes to jog back and pick his sorry ass up.

On second thought, Saba, you need a time out anyway.

Well, it's taken this long to even mention what my primary quest is, so you know it's totally not going to be derivative in any way, shape, or form.

Whoa, what a twist!

Actually, that is just the intro quest for the first area.  The main quest involves retrieving the titular light which was stolen by dark creatures from the god, Byrn, who promptly took a nap, allowing all these evil monsters to infest the land.  Nice job, Byrn, you remind me of another jackass god I know.  For now though, I've got a princess to worry about, who needs a dragon fang to cure her poisoned body.

Will a red one do?  We also
have them in green and blue.

Killing the red dragon was embarrassingly easy.  Apparently the dragon has an invulnerable shield, but I never got to see it in action since the first thing I did was fire a silver arrow from my golden bow which I knew would do something (thanks actually useful townsfolk!).  Saba followed with a single attack which finished the poor booger off.  One cured princess later, an ecstatic king gave his permission to allow me to cross a bridge into the next area.  I'll be back, though, as half the wizards I talked to told me I couldn't learn their stupid spell, which undoubtedly means that a third member will be joining soon.  I'm also mentally preparing myself for the inevitable jump in encounters that will happen with two morons blundering around the screen.

May 07, 2017

The Summer of Shen

Taking a break from the blog for the next few months.  I'd like to be able to say that it's due to some real life issue, like a kid or a job promotion, but no, it's vidja related.  Playing Morrowind for the first time ever (only played Arena and Daggerfall before) and I'm completely enthralled with it and especially with all the mods available.  Hopefully immersing myself in a really good game will refresh me enough to have endure the good odds that I'll be playing another crappy one for Inconsolable.  I also plan to buy a chunk of cheese the size of a car battery and just... just bite into it like it's an apple.  So have a good summer, y'all, and remember to keep your stick on the ice.

March 30, 2017

Last Armageddon - Ranking

Story & World

The horrendous translation does more damage than just blur the finer details of the story, it makes every line seem like a joke and really destroys the overall serious tone.  A proper translation would see more points here, but I can only work with what I've given.  In the future, if a translation is this abysmal, the game will be skipped.  Exploring was still quite enjoyable and I appreciated the addition of first-person dungeons in addition to the standard overhead view.  Though finding text was nearly pointless, at least there were a good number of cutscenes to gawk at.  5/20

Character Development

It's all about character options in LA; I was actually a bit surprised by how many.  Controlled stat growth, magic, special abilities, equipment, and consumables all give one a plethora of choices, although there is some redundancy.  I would have liked to seen more of a difference between the different parties as well, in regard to available spells and abilities.  The biggest innovation here was the on-demand item creation system.  No more waiting until the "next town" and then just upgrading to equipment that just happens to be slightly more powerful.  Right from the start, one has a choice to purchase basic weapons/armour or save up for a bit ticket item.  Although the metamorphosis of demons didn't really change the character too much, it was still cool to see what kind of abominations would arise from the demons getting their freak on.  Having the parties switch based on a timer was another sweet innovation, although LA dropped the ball having the third party function so much differently from the other two.  17/20

Combat & Monsters

Party-based combat is always nice to have and the way that it's tied to increasing character stats behooves the player to be mindful in all battles.  Demons that can't augment their attack or defense with equipment have to be given special consideration as to their role in combat.  The biggest drawback is the ease of developing characters too far ahead of the curve, making battles incredibly boring.  There really should have been a point where weak foes stopped increasing stats.

The enemy robots and "bio-creatures" were both imaginative and numerous in design, and the translation's complete hack job on their names actually made them seem even more alien and incomprehensible.  While they were able to inflict just the two standard status effects (sleep and poison), more impressively they actually had some semblance of artificial intelligence.  Rather than just attack at random all the time, they would often gang up on a single character, a devastating tactic when they had a full eight members.  At least, it would have been devastating if they didn't miss 100% of the time.  9/20

Graphics & Sound

Lots of nicely done cutscenes and a very creative bestiary keep the peepers stimulated whilst enduring the eternal grinding.  The bosses could have been larger and more detailed — it's not like there was a background or something taking up room.  The first-person dungeons likewise lacked any real distinguishing features; the occasional door being the only landmark worth noting.  The tunes were nothing too special on their own, but they did seem appropriate to the setting, at least to my ears.  12/20

Gameplay

The robust economy does an excellent job keeping the parties poor; it would have taken even more grinding for me to purchase the best equipment for everybody.  Knowing the cost of all the equipment also makes for additional considerations when purchasing.  I initially purchased the cheapest equipment early, because the characters actually needed it then.  I then planned to upgrade only if it seemed the characters needed it.  Of course, that never happened, which brings me to my final point.

As much as I enjoyed many of the aspects of Last Armageddon, it ultimately fails by making it way too easy to become overpowered.  A game with absolutely no challenge isn't something I enjoy at all — it really makes the game feel like a chore.  However, once one knows what to do and avoids the grinding time sinks, I think LA would become quite playable as long as the parties are pushed as hard as possible.  In a somewhat ironic way, the challenge would come from not letting the characters get too powerful.  Since the translation is partially to blame for the grinding, I'll be a little lenient here and not just smash a zero into the score, as tempting as that is.  However, I'm still holding LA completely responsible for the potential month-long wait for the sylvan team — that shit's mad dumb.  5/20

Final Ranking:  48/100

March 27, 2017

Last Armageddon - End Game

The piss-poor translation, while charming at first, really began to tick me off as I progressed, mostly because there seemed to be a decent story buried in there.  My "demons" learnt a little more about the history of the humans through books and CDs found in the ruins of their civilization.  As a fan of post-apocalyptic settings, this was a nice switch from the regular usage of NPCs.  There was even a mechanic in place to simulate the fact that the demons wouldn't be able to immediately read the human language — using items raised a character's intelligence until it was high enough to decipher.

I couldn't help but picture the cyclops
breaking out his monocle here.

At this point, things took a turn for the worse and kept turning for the remainder of the game.  I got stuck on entering the "Return Tower", the only location I hadn't been able to explore.  I wandered around and even went into the dungeons again, but it was all for naught.  During this journey, both parties kept gaining in power; they were now at the point where they could kill anything in one hit and never be hit themselves.

Cyke proving depth perception ain't all that.

Surprisingly, at the end of the month, a third selection of monsters showed up, all at level one.  They called themselves the sylvans and only stuck around for one day, but used time at a slower pace than the other two groups, getting the equivalent about around five "normal" days.  I thought maybe only this group could access the tower, but nope, so I tried entering the dungeons again and hitting up the key locations.  But nope.  I relented and FAQed myself the solution, which was I had to visit every single tombstone in the world.  All 108 of them.  Well, since they don't really contain any useful information, I had stopped visiting them ages ago and I couldn't remember which ones I had been to, so I had to do 'em all.  It was then I realized that if the translation had been better, I would have known what to do.

Sage advice.

I was hoping entering the tower would bring a stronger class of enemies but all my demons were overpowered, even the ones unable to benefit from equipping weapons or armour.  Each of the seven levels consisted of finding two key locations before being able to move on.  Lots of cutscenes happened here, giving insight into the downfall of the human race.

Puny humans get what they deserve.

Exiting the tower led to another world map with more dungeons and another major quest.  If I thought having to visit 108 slates in the previous world was bad, LA had an even bigger surprise for me here.  This time the key locations were artifacts found amidst the ruins of a department store, a church, a police station, and a hospital.

I didn't say it was a very good hospital. ;)

Finding said artifacts would trigger a response in one of the party members, unlocking a suppressed emotion and a memory cutscene.  Each artifact is tied to a specific demon; having the wrong party active results in nothing happening.  And yes, this includes the sylvan party as well.  It was funny because, as I was marking down artifact locations, it never occurred to me that the sylvans would be included, because it was just too absurd a notion for my mind to comprehend.  It wasn't until I hit an artifact on my to-do list and nothing happened that I had to pause for a second and just process.  No... there's no way.  I had to be missing something.  Another FAQ check confirmed the presence of rising bile in my throat — I would indeed have to wait for the sylvan party, who hadn't left all that long ago.  After fully unlocking the other two parties, I checked the calendar and noted that I only had to wait 21 days for the sylvans to show up.  What followed was around two hours of the worst kind of grinding — pointless and long.  Pointless because the party was still way overpowered and long because the battles themselves can be quite lengthy.  Bear in mind that that's two hours of turbo-grinding; at the original speed, this entire ordeal would have taken over seven hours (and that's me starting a third of the way through the month already).  Dammit Japan, we already know you've got the highest density of ultra-nerds on the planet.  We get it — you win.  Thankfully, I was able to get all the sylvan artifacts in one pass and ready to finish off this turd.  This travesty of a design choice made me lose any respect I might have had for LA, so I just looked up the last few dungeons to save me another couple hours.  Filling up all the demons with emotions granted them access to Fantasyland, a city built to fulfill the human dream and keep them in a perpetual state of bliss.  With no actual humans around, the city's computer mastermind created robotic fabrications in order to satisfy its programming.  When confronted by the party, it spewed off what I assumed was some deep philosophical shit and then unleashed its eight attacks per round against the party.

With the expected results.

Defeating the computer opened up the final dungeon and a climatic battle with some dude named Shadow, who existed solely to be a final boss.

He was actually able to damage one
guy a little bit, so mad props to him.

After the demise of Shadow, all the demons morphed into humans, in all their naked glory.  The alien mastermind showed up and revealed that the reason the human race fell was because they lost touch with their feelings.  This entire ordeal was an alien project created in order for the next generation of humans to find and restore their lost emotions, such as mercy and compassion.

Probably should have dedicated
some time to linguistics.

Final Armageddon also invoked a wide range of emotions within myself as well.  Emotions such as anger, fury, and rage were commonplace for the last half of the game.  After watching the end credits, I turned around in surprise to see an alien mastermind right in front of me.  He explained that this was all just a project in order to get me to unlock my suppressed emotions and then I morphed into a demon.  Since I'm the manchine though, I wasn't just a regular demon, but a badass cyber-demon, with chainsaw limbs and a head that is also a chainsaw.  I then reminded the alien that, if he had read my blog, he'd know that anger, fury, and rage are a Shen Nung staple.  He then admitted that he'd never read my blog, said it probably sux and teleported off.  I tried to forget about the whole incident and went to make some dinner, but I was unable to make anything due to 70% of me being chainsaw so I died of starvation.  THE END

Not the best story I've come up with to end a post, but hey, at least it's in understandable English.

February 23, 2017

[Game 063] Last Armageddon (NES - 1990)

Translation by Chably

Way back when I was in college, I knew this other CPU who went by the handle Japotoeigo and whose dream was to become an on-demand translator for one of the many streaming video sites, such as Youtube or Youtube Red.  It's too bad he spent most of the time partying it up, injecting himself with benign trojans or programming himself into an infinite loop, until one of us in the dorm would Ctrl-Brk his sad ass out of it.  He never made it past the first semester and I never heard from him again.  I'm glad he was able to find work, even if it's just translating old Famicom ROM dumps.  The intro to Final Armageddon is a masterpiece of pure machine translation and plays out like a good bad B-movie.

Umm... what you say?

That's not the whole intro either, it goes on for some time but all you need to know is humans died, demons appeared, and aliens and robots are trying to take over the world.  Unfortunately, the bad translation carries over to the game's spell list as well, with words seemingly picked at random, though some of them are pretty obvious.

I couldn't even begin to tell you the number
of times I used turkey to cure poison.

A party of four demons are sent out to stop the aliens by any means necessary, probably via punching.  The "demons" all come from classic Terran lore, with cyclops and orcs freely mixing it up with minotaurs and goblins.  The overworld is strewn with stone slabs, which replace the NPCs usually found, and whose hints and story building are completely ruined by the translation process. At least that's what I thought until I realized that the slates actually contained the lyrics to an awesome 80s rock ballad!

♪ Wicked guitar solo with sweet arpeggios ♫

As bad as the translation is, the guts of the game are quite meaty and delicious.  Each character has five base stats, each of which increase with usage — a system I prefer over static or random increases.  My demons have great fun when there's a single opponent and they just sit there, defending away and laughing most evilly, while the hapless foe misses every attack.  In addition to magic, most demons have special attacks as well, which do more damage than normal.  There doesn't appear to be a limit on how often one can utilize these specials, so I'm assuming that they do not count as experience towards raising stats.  As if all of this wasn't enough already, certain demons can do jobs outside of combat, including clairvoyance to display a world map, and creation of weapons, armour, and items.  Yes, that's right, there are no stores in LA, just a trusty ol' goblin building stuff and fueled entirely by gold.  From time to time, demons will also merge with some other creature.  Sometimes it's some random creature I've never seen before, other times it's another member of the party.  Whatever the source, it always ends in a frenzied orgy of flailing limbs and tentacles so vile and disgusting that I can barely masterbate to it.

Well, perhaps barely is too strong a word.

The mating results in the first demon changing into a sweet new sprite.  It doesn't seem to affect the stats at all, but it does sometimes alter the creature's special attacks.  The most unique aspect of party management took me totally by surprise.  When the sun rises each day, the regular demonic group of "DarkOnes" swap out for a party of daytime demons.  Since the swap operates on a timer, this adds a whole new dimension to managing the party.  Properly implemented, this can be a huge boon, with a fresh party coming in to replace the exhausted one.  On the other hand, it can also work against the player if they've forgotten to make sure that the secondary group is near the main demon cave in order to heal the hurt group when the swap occurs (like I have twice already).  The only downside is that both groups are almost statistically identical to each other but have differing sprites.

Say hi to the "good" guys.

My merry band of demons have just completed their first quest, involving raiding four alien camps and acquiring their ID Chips in order to gain access to a mothership.  The last pleasant surprise that Final Armageddon tossed my way here was switching to a first-person dungeon crawler and giving me a little mapping exercise.  It's tough going, though, as the fights are hella hard (especially when they outnumber us two to one and have surprise) and healing is hard to come by.  Only one member on each team has a healing spell (obviously called Shelout), it's MP expensive, and it heals like shit.  Granted, I haven't played with the item creation yet (been focusing on armour), so I'll probably be bitching about how there's too much healing by next post.

February 10, 2017

Out Live - Ranking

Story & World

Endless corridors leading to nothing is no way to get someone immersed into your world, son.  I'm not sure why the developers decided to make a dungeon crawler and then not stock it with stuff — is that not the entire point of crawling?  Out Live also has an annoying habit of having a long, straight corridor appear to have a junction which just leads to a single tile "alcove".  It then repeats the alcove every other step for around six times and these are found about a hundred times between each city.  At the beginning, I would step into each alcove, thinking that I might trigger something.  What a stupid idiot I was.  My absolute favourite part, though, was right at the end when OL didn't even bother with that anymore and just had a straight corridor of several hundred thousand steps that would occasionally turn right.  It's like the developers had extra space at the end and just filled it up with as much corridor as possible.  Oh, and BTW player, that HuCard stores up to 8 Mbits, so fuck you.  The more the game progressed, the more I felt like I was being trolled.  Man, I'm getting surly enough in my old age without games like this adding a multiplier bonus.

I will give the story some credit, though, there was a good attempt here.  Every character has their own portrait and some are even reoccurring.  The trash talk during combats was great too; I had great fun trying to out-sarcasm my foes, even though I always lost to the pros.  The biggest flub of the story was the stone quest of the midgame — come on, guys, make it access cards or at least space crystals or something.  4/20

Character Development

The replenishable options system is a nifty idea, it encourages playing with the others after the sweet missiles are depleted.   Half of the options are useful, with purchase price being an extremely accurate measure of quality (thousands for the good stuff, 200 for the crap).

The mech has two main stats, attack and defense, which interestingly increases by usage instead of by a static or random amount.  Defense goes up with each and every hit taken and attack increase by dishing it out.  Just in case the player gets too good at destroying enemies in one hit or dodging their attacks, OL has a system in place to make sure you'll have to take damage at some point.  The odd thing was that raising attack level increased the total shields; I'm guessing defense figured into dodging, which almost never happened during the late game (must not have hit the "magic" number).  I guess it could also absorb pre-shield damage, who knows?  And more importantly, who the fuck cares?  4/20

Combat & Monsters

While a lot of combat is just a straight-up damage exchange, there's also some kind of elemental system going as well, with fire, ice, and magnetic.  These types apply to corridors and enemies, as well as the mech's guns and an option to temporarily disable a corridor's type (which powers up enemies of the same type).  I fiddled around with the system a bit, but it never seemed worth it to spend a round not attacking.  Even the gun types don't do all that much more damage; it rarely makes a difference when most mechs die in one or two hits.  The enemy mechs, while super cool looking bad ass, just do damage or sometimes they have a secondary weapon which does more damage.  Some enemies can inflict a curable acid (poison) status, but it only happened to me three times (all early on) and I had totally forgotten about it until just now.  4/20

Graphics & Sound

Mechs are sweet and there are some real creative designs going on in OL; I only wish they were a bit bigger or stayed in their larger sprite during the battles.  The huge cockpit overlay is double sweet and I even developed a taste for the sleek minimalist style of the corridors.  Visually, it was quite enjoyable to be in, too bad that nasty game got in the way.  The music rocks pretty well, which is good since 98% of the game is the dungeon and battle tunes.  17/20

Gameplay

The space bucks stay tight until just past midgame and there's little to purchase in the late.  Healing is cheap and plentiful, enabling the player to have extended forays in getting their ass kicked.  The whole experience took me just over 12 hours but it felt way longer than that, no doubt due to the plethora of sessions where I only managed to last a mere 10 minutes (ha, my wife only wishes).  If anything, Out Live has at least taught me to lower my expectations for any future mech games, and maybe even just always to expect the worst.  Thanks for crushing my innocent childhood fascination with giant robots, OL.  Thanks.  2/20

Final Ranking:  31/100

February 06, 2017

Out Live - End Game

It had been only one day since I beat Out Live and I'd already received in the mail, my honourary degree in cartography.  It was, I recall, in the form of a scroll, with gold leaf adorned, and it went straight into the trash where the game itself already was.  The mapping just got brutal in the late game, and, as previously mentioned, there's nothing in the dungeon other than a small handful of boss fights.  Most times, I just wanted to find the quickest path to the next city and set of duelists, to engage in some deep characterization.

Them's duelin' words!

The duels are easily the best part of Out Live, but that's also like saying a handjob with 600 grit sandpaper is better than one with 40 grit.  Technically, yeah, but it's still a bloody mess at the end.  Any special options (with the exception of missiles) installed on the mech are disabled during the match, making it little more than a brute force slugfest.  The opponents talked during the battles but said the same line in the same round regardless of one's performance.  This made them sound quite sarcastic when they said things like "Keep up the good work!" or "Argh!  I can't take much more of this!", even though I had missed them several rounds in a row.

I'm trying!  Dammit, I'm trying!

Missing the enemy was a common theme, perhaps even the central theme, to Out Live.  It didn't matter if it was a duelist, boss, or wandering mech, the targeting system on my mech sucked and got worse as the game progressed.  Even a mech stunned and temporarily offline due to my "Net Bomb" option still could be easily missed.  As I progressed through the midgame, on a quest to acquire three stones (but stones... from the fuuuuture!), enemies started not only attacking twice a round, but were guaranteed to strike first.  The only thing keeping my poor battered mech going was all the healing potions I had, which I guess everyone else in the game didn't know about.  As I entered into the late game, Out Live started caring about its own narrative about as much as I did by that point.

Oh, you mean these fuuuuture rocks?

My main mission was to find Braudix, which turned out to be a mech and not a pilot, so you can see how invested I was in the gripping storyline.  Just when I was getting extra bored with OL, I acquired the Braudix and was rewarded with a new cockpit view as well as a "Smart Gun", which replaced all my previous main weapons.

Very nice and Giger-esque, but I prefer
my mecha to be mecha-nical.

I thought the days of missing and sucking in general were over, but instead it got ten times worse.  Now I had finally found the true central theme of Out Live — to never, EVER, let the player feel like a hero.  My new mech and weapon missed everything 100% of the time and I'm not using hyperbole here; in the dungeon between the last two cities, I could not score a single hit on anything.  Wow, this gun is so smart!  Even my stunning and insta-kill options stopped working on the random encounters.  The one thing I could do was attempt to flee from every fight.

Attempt being the operative word here.

Every time I got dunned blowed up and warped back to the hangar, OL just twisted that knife even deeper into my anguish with more of its sarcastic, asshole NPCs.

"You're putting my kid through
college!  Ha ha ha ha!"

With a lucky streak of a low number of battles, I managed to find the final city, which lead right into the final boss.  I still hadn't been able to defeat the duelist from the previous city, but I had a complete stock of full heals, so I stuck around to see if I could maybe get one hit in.  After over around fifty failed attacks, I died and was left contemplating what kind of crap game I was "playing".  So there was obviously a hard limit on what level I needed to be before I could score a hit, which completely infuriates me as a gamer.  A core part of any game is challenge and that element should be scaled throughout the game.  I should be able to attempt to defeat the final boss at any level, no matter how underpowered I am.  Oh, I'm soooo sorry that you expected me to be more powerful by this point — I guess I didn't spend enough time exploring your COMPLETELY EMPTY DUNGEON.  Even if you want it to be a 0% chance, game, at least give the illusion that I might succeed, so that the inevitable grinding that follows is at least my choice.  So, Out Live wanted me to grind, did it?  With turbo function pressed to the M-A-X, I proceeded to grind out 25% of my overall levels right then and there; this several hundred step journey would damn well be my last.  The final boss is some bezerking system which destroyed the city and maybe aliens?  At any rate, it was an easy kill since the stun option worked here for a thankfully quick, if somewhat lackluster, final battle.

I'm so glad I was able to achieve the
level you wanted me to, mein Fuhrer.

There's not much variety in the graphics, so 75% of my screencaps are just enemy mechs, making a mechastage all but unavoidable.  Easily the best part of the game, it's a lot more fun looking at the mechs than actually interacting with them (kinda like women, amirite, fellas? :0 ).