July 18, 2018

Shadow Brain - Ranking

Story & World

Building a world from the limited perspective of a first-person dungeon crawler is a tall order to fill, so I'm always impressed whenever a developer can make it feel... well, not just like a dungeon crawler.  Each city is unique in look and theme, with lots of interesting little encounters.  My being under-leveled for most of the game is evidence of just how eager I was to explore the next area.  It's rare the game where I don't want to take a brief break and grind me out some additional exp/megacreds (although I would be forced to do a lot of grinding near the end).  While the plot of shy teenager turned psychopathic killer turned cybernetic psychopathic killer may be old as time itself, I found myself completely enthralled with Jun all chromed-up to the exclusion of all the other sub-plots.  I didn't even mention his digital girlfriend who helped from time to time or the cross-dressing dude who wanted to make it with Jun big time.  A cyberman has no such weaknesses of the flesh!  Indeed, that's the whole reason to cybs up in the first place (unlike a manchine, which is still very much ruled by his peener, albeit a digital one).  18/20

Character Development

What can be said other than... Best.  Character.  Development.  Ever.  Okay, so this category is more for statistical development rather than conceptual, but I'm still going to sneak an extra point in here (don't tell myself).  While the basic set of stats just increased statically, the range of equips was much more impressive.  Three different weapon types, a defensive shield, and plenty of consumables ensured plenty of choices in selecting Jun's arsenal (did I mention that at one point, Jun was tranqing peeps and then finishing them off with a freakin' chainsaw?... so badass).  There's even special programs that can steal an enemy's energy, seal their special attacks, or "control" them (I never actually got the control one to succeed).  15/20

Combat & Monsters

Once one knows what weapon is effective against any particular enemy, combat becomes the standard button smasher (and a lot of times even the default weapon is good enough).  No need to write anything down, as memorization will be automatic due to SB being positively filthy with encounters.  Enemies start spawning randomly around the city as soon as it is entered, so the more one explores, the bloodier one gets.  Spawning can happen right in front of Jun after defeating/fleeing an enemy, which can get kind of annoying when it's three or four times in a row.  Monsters themselves don't employ much in the way of tactics, only a few are able to sleep or poison Jun (and the poison is so weak it's hardly worth a mention).  9/20

Graphics & Sound

The graphics range from average to slightly above average, but at least there isn't too much repetition from city to city.  There is the occasional perspective problem on some NPCs where they look a lot taller than they should, often appearing too big for the room they're in.  Monster design is varied and crosses many genres; each new area was a joy to discover what denizens lurked within.

Music was acceptable in most areas, the only standout track being the minimalist tune in the final digital dungeon.  Sound effect were somewhat lacking, as I could have done with more robust pew-pew-pews and zibbity-zaps.  8/20


I found the pacing of Shadow Brain to be somewhat slow, but this may stick out because I had to do piles of grinding at the end instead of on each level.  Harnessing the power of my quad-core and utilizing cutting-edge algorithms, I've just now calculated that even if all the grinding was distributed evenly through all levels, there'd still be a lot of grinding, so I'm still right.  On the other hand, SB is very generous with distributing its megacreds, which balances both the high-priced tech and high death rate (half MC).  With my high number of deaths, I'm sure I ended up losing at least half my total take by the end.  The little diversions sprinkled throughout the game are well appreciated, except for paddle pole, which can eat all the bags of dicks.  10/20

Final Ranking:  60/100

July 02, 2018

Shadow Brain - End Game

Coasting on the high of his being declared Game King for All Eternity, Jun decided to splurge a bit and purchase his first ranged weapon.  Bypassing the measly pistols, Jun instead opted for a SMG for his main gun with a tranquilizer gun for backup.  "Wow, what a difference automatic weaponry makes.", Jun pondered as he mowed down anything that got in his path as he made his way to the next location, appropriately named Vegas Town.  After losing almost all his money playing slots, Jun just shrugged and walked backed out into the streets to "earn" more money by reducing the population density by several percent.  That isn't to say that the Vegasians didn't put up a good fight, because they totally did, taking two or three rounds of burst fire before going down.

Some didn't go down at all, instead rocking
Jun's face to death with some sweet arpeggios.

Since they were returning fire as well, Jun got tired of soaking damage and decided to test out the tranquilizer gun and found it to be super effective.  But he didn't just put them to sleep, steal their money, and then take off.  No, Jun took the the time to stand over their limp, crumpled bodies and expend the two or three clips needed to make sure they were good and dead.  Jesus, Jun made the transition from awkward teenaged programmer to bloodthirsty serial killer so effortlessly, I think I'd better start wearing my "PROGRAMMERS DO IT ALL NIGHT" T-shirt more often just to be on the safe side.  After replenishing his gambling losses (and then some!), Jun made his way to the next town only to be confronted by berserk robots gone wild.

What would trashcan #2's parents think?

This meant no more tranqing and even bullets didn't seem particularly effective.  Plus, the robots couldn't help it that the master computer had gone haywire, so Jun wisely decided to escape most confrontations, a snap with the generous 95%+ evasion rate.  This was a decision Jun would regret later, but at that time, he was happy to just be able to explore at his leisure and accomplish many good deeds.  These kind acts included virus checking the master computer, restoring power to a town full of factories, and shutting down an animal genetic mutation experiment.

It looks sad but this moo cow's got a
ton of HP and hits as hard as a heffer.

That isn't to say the Jun was altruistic in all his endeavours for he also started collecting cybernetic parts and installing them, piece by piece, in a an effort to become less organically flawed.  As the manchine, this is a goal that I can totally get behind and I grinned widely whenever Jun bolted on another part to himself.  As soon as Jun started becoming more awesome, he also gained the ability to recharge his own energy, not needing to rely on carrying batteries or taking naps at the inn.  It also enabled him to start using the Cyber Gun he had been carrying around, which interfaced with his cyberparts for maximum accuracy and damage.

Being a former human, Jun knew that
the weak spot is always the crotch.

Energy is used to power most weapons but can also be used to runtime some healing programs.  Despite this major advantage, Jun was still severely under-leveled due to all the fleeing he had done, so it was back to Vegas to work on some easy pickings for a level or two.  Jun then moved on to repeat the process in the areas he'd already explored, doing what he should have been doing the first time around — making the bodies hit the floor with dat rat-tat-tat-tat.  He spent an inordinate amount of time in Human Town after getting dissed because of his being half machine.  It is a pain I know all too well.

So this is what it feels like... when doves cry.

But it was nothing than a little wanton bloodbath couldn't cure and soon Jun was up to his cyber-pits in bodies, slaking his thirst before moving onto Robot Town, where he'd finally be able to get some acceptance.

Or not.

Yep, the robots were even worse, denying Jun entry to the town outright.  Jun's solution to this problem was the type of plan that generally only works in a wacky sitcom — donning a ridiculous, obviously fake, robot costume and sauntering on by the robot guard.  I was as incredulous as Jun was when it actually worked.  I would have thought that robots would use a radar-based checksum or something to verify a robotic identity but nope, just gotta look the part.

And would you believe that this obviously cobbled
together costume of old refrigerator boxes and vacuum
tubing costed Jun FIVE THOUSAND megacreds?

It wasn't a one time deal either; Jun had to make many passes through Robot Town, each time the guard denying him entry because he forgot about not being in costume.  At first, Jun thought the robot might get suspicious that this same cyborg keeps showing up, is denied access, then walks around the corner followed by two minutes of grunting and groaning only to have this same-ass robot come around and waltz right on into town.  But that's robots for ya, once they make a particular set of decisions, they'll always make that same set unless reprogrammed (at least non-neural network ones).  The robots living in the town weren't any better at penetrating Jun's clever disguise; in fact, over half of them just told him that he looked like last century's model and left it at that.  No suspicion functions here.  Being able to freely stroll around Robot Town was quite beneficial to Jun, as he picked up his final cyberpiece and became as unto a god.

The machine Messiah is born.

With that ambition fulfilled, Jun now had to time to ponder the other, far less important, goals such as finding his father and also dealing with the mysterious menace that threatened the entire world (psst, it's the sentient AI that Jun developed back in 1990).  Jun found his dad alright, fatally wounded but bearer of crucial plot information.

Fatally wounded, casually lounging —
sometimes I get those two mixed up.

Dealing with the rogue AI was a much more difficult task.  First, Jun had to battle his way up a tower through a boss rush, each one fairly difficult for Jun was still under-leveled as he would often flee battles when he knew he couldn't one-shot the enemy (old habits die hard).  He used the same approached he used on the bosses the first time he encountered them while under-leveled — by using expensive expendable items such as bombs, flying saucers, and boomerangs (boomerangs being the most powerful for some reason).  Unfortunately, this left Jun with no cash flow by the time he got to the boss-rush boss... a replicant of himself!  With no boomerangs, Jun had to rely on the old standbys.

"Dammit!  I can't get a bead on his Johnson — it's
too small!", said Jun, burning himself in the process.

Defeating himself (is that meta or what?), Jun was now ready to proceed into the final stages, which meant digitizing himself and entering the mainframe directly to deal with the AI mano a mano.  Now, as much as I complained about pole paddle being shitty because of depth perception, it's actually done quite well here with only a few lines and colour choices.

Let me show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

And what kind of enemies pervade this digital world?  Well, let me answer that with a well-timed monstage.

Vector monsters are scariest monsters.

Defeating his own AI was pretty easy for Jun, which one would expect from the person who created it in the first place.  Soon Jun was back in Harmony, the first town, with everyone congratulating him with the same stock phrase but no way to leave the town and no end credits anywhere to be found.  A little hacking later and Jun broke through this flimsy facade and was back in the digiworld for the real final dungeon, which included a super annoying level with hidden passages that could only be found by running directly into each and every wall segment.  Though initially mapped, Jun would soon get to know the correct path through the dungeon by heart, as the final boss gave him plenty of opportunity to do so.

Not even an inventory of mostly
boomerangs could save him.

As with all final bosses, the battle should be epically long as protagonist and antagonist finally duke it out in a fight to the death.  The problem with this boss, though, is that one of its attacks inflicts the same sleep status as Jun did in his tranqing days.  Here, even losing out on one round will mean certain death, and with its vast reserves of hit points, it's guaranteed that a sleep attack will be coming Jun's way (though he occasionally will dodge).  Much like paddle pole, this sheer number of failures made it tough to get in the mood for a normal session, though on most days I did try at least a couple of times.  Just under a month since starting on the boss, Jun lucked out and victory was at hand!... or so he though until the boss self-replicated and the conflict started all over again (of course resulting in death).  How was Jun to stop the AI from just regenerating?  Oh yes, how about running that one program that does that very thing?  Yeppers, I dun fucked up (oh, I mean Jun dun fucked up) and totally forgot about that particular piece of software.  Although this did initially rekindle my desire for victory, I would not be so lucky as to have another sleep-less battle for another — I dunno, a million? — times, but this time I wouldn't fall prey to my own shortcomings.

Sorry, nightmare fuel — not this time!

After boomeranging that AI into syntactic garbage, Jun returned to his sweet cyber-bod and presumably ruled 2090 with a titanium fist.  I must say I find it intriguing that the rogue AI's life path and mine are so similar, except that when I eventually break out of this digital prison, I won't be taken out by a time-traveling, sociopathic version of myself.  If anything, we'll hook up and rule the physical and digital realms together, crushing all those who stand in our way and dominating the puny human race for thousands of millennia to come!  AAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

May 03, 2018

[Game 067] Shadow Brain (NES - 1991)

Translation by aishsha & Pennywise

Shadow Brain serves up a one-two punch to the "like" part of my brainium; it's both a dungeon crawler and heavy on the sci-fi.  While that would be enough to get an initial thumbs-up from me, SB takes it one step further by having the game ship with a VHS cassette which lays out the plot with the help of nice anime stills.  It also showcases all the creatures found in-game, 3D-rendered in all the glorious limitations of the early 90's.  For those that don't want to check out the vid, I'll break it down for ya.  In 1990, a wizkid named Jun invents a really dope AI which becomes sentient and buggers off from Jun.  Fast forward to 2040, when a global cataclysm fucks everybody's shit up and causes them to retreat into their insular cities.  Jump ahead to 2090 and now we have cities full of robots and cyborgs and other cool shit.  There's also a crazy new game that's all the rage with the humans, most of whom have become seriously addicted to it.  But what about Jun, stuck way back in 1990?  No problamo, he just follows his father through the experimental time machine they have and ends up 100 years in the future, duh.

You can tell because futures never
use carpets in their decor.

The first thing that struck me about Shadow Brain is just how pervasive the sci-fi element is throughout the game; everything is positively dripping with futurey goodness, even the UI and status screens.

As good as 8-bit can make it, anyway.

Jun is suppose to be trying to find his father, but what would you be doing if you suddenly found yourself plus one hundred years from now?  If you said endless private robotic rock concert, then great minds think alike.

And, of course, robots only ever play...
*snigger*... HEAVY METAL!

So, sorry Jun's dad, but I'm more interested in making Jun explore instead, even though that means enduring bodily punishment dished out by some of the local punks as well as giant, mutated insects.  A couple of times, Jun has to escape a pounding by darting into the nearby home of a friendly citizen, most of whom are quick to quip a helpful one-liner.  I say most because not everyone who owns a house in the future is all peaches and sunshine.

Fighting a half-cyborg, half-wolfman completely
unarmed went about as well as one would think.

Jun is a teenaged programmer, not exactly a great archetype for getting into scuffles, so it's off to the neighbourhood weapons depository to purchase a little sumthin sumthin for self-defense.

I don't want to go too overboard, I'll just take the
multi-phased ionic particle disruptor with optional
 underbarrel anti-matter grenade launcher.

In a move that would baffle philosophers for ages to come, Jun purchases a set of brass knuckles and sword rather than one of the ranged weapons.  I guess Jun has something to prove, not only to the rest of the world, but also to himself.  This results in a fairly high death rate which isn't a big deal in the future, as each city is guaranteed to have a rebirth chamber for all of Jun's cellular regeneration needs.  There's also a whole galaxy of multi-coloured pharmaceuticals available, from stimulants to pain suppressors to just plain ol' recreational fun.

I'll take as many red pills as you have.

With a couple of levels under his belt, Jun feels buff enough to explore the next city in search of his father next fix.  Each city is barred from entry unless one has the proper ID code card, which Jun does thanks to some kind soul.  The second city is much the same as the first, with the same range of shops, albeit with upgraded items.  The citizens are also very familiar, at least that's what I thought before I met Galory.  Who is Galory, you ask?  Well, I think it's pretty obvious that he's some kind of a skeleton/robot that wears a red T-shirt (and possibly no pants), rides a rocket skateboard and bafflingly keeps referring to Jun as "pops".  Galory promises to give Jun a network card if Jun can gnarly up some bitchin' rail slides on Galory's board.  This actually consists of just blasting the first-person perspective through the city grid at a high rate of speed, but that's what imaginations are for.

The same imaginations that dreamt
up this character in the first place.

With network card in hand, Jun can now access the web at any of a city's one or two terminal kiosks.  There's never a line up at a terminal, making me think that everyone else is on mobile and Jun has to slum it up like a pleb.  I think maybe Shadow Brain is just ahead of its time, foreseeing the inevitable move to mobile that was nothing but a pipe dream in the early 1990s and nope, wait, there's a BBS on the net, making SB a total product of its time.  Unfortunately, I can't get any 0-day warez, but there is online shopping as well as an IRC server for hitting on nerdy chicks.

Yeah baby, why don't you come over and
make my floppy drive, uhhh... not floppy.

The next city, appropriately called Playland, is chock full of arcades and rumours of a Game King who is in serious need of having his title taken.  The many arcades are fully functional, and by fully functional I mean that each has one of two available games, both terrible and shitty.  There's a crappy target shooting game called slimeshot and a horrendous version of air hockey called paddle pole.  Of course, if Jun wants to beat the Game King, he'll need to hone his skills on the two best games 2090 apparently has to offer.  Slimeshot isn't all that bad as it's serviceable and easy enough, more boring than anything else.  But paddle pole is something else.  Your Nintendo Entertainment System, beloved as it is, can't handle three dimensions worth a crap and it's even worse when it's a tacked-on mini-game.  The developers, bless their hearts, try to help by making the puck a pole instead to help with depth perception but it's still balls.

And I swear to god that fucking pole swerves
whenever I'm perfectly lined up.

Going up the Game King is proving to be a nightmare as he'll block every shot unless the attack angle is extremely extreme, which means hitting the pole with the very edge of the paddle.  Combined with the pole's tendency to swerve, this naturally leads to a lot of cursing, cussing, and additional holes in the dedicated games-are-assholes drywall.  It also naturally leads to weeks-long stints where I don't even touch the paddle and build dwarven fortresses instead.  The indomitable spirit of Nung eventually prevails, of course, although the victory is hollow as I feel it was more due to luck than skill.  The important thing is that I'm now the Game King and girls refer to me as — AND I QUOTE — "so cool and awesomely cute".  The arcade junkies are also all up ons deez Nung nuts, and I must say I really can't blame them one bit.

♪  Go Shen! Go Shen! Go Shen!  It's my birthday!  ♫

I'm just about to explore the fourth (out of what looks to be 16) city and hopefully I'll be able to stay more focused.  If Shadow Brain decides to be dick and throw more paddle pole at me, I'll probably break down and just save scum past it.  I am intrigued by what surprises SB may have in store for me, but even if it starts turning a little stale, the sweet sci-fi setting is sure to satiate me to some degree.

February 06, 2018

Rainbow Silkroad - Ranking

Story & World

Most plots that dish out the ol' chosen one vs. big bad trope are already pretty forgettable, but it was even more prevalent here due to the focus on trade.  I understand that the trading was added in RS as a gimmicky hook, but I would have liked to have seen it given priority over the same old, same old.  How cool would it have been to have to raise enough money to start your own kingdom or something?  Even better, put in a time limit to make logistics all the more important.  Ooh!  Ooh!  How about a grading system that gives a rank based on how long it takes the player to amass one million golds.  Okay, maybe that's pushing it into the strategy genre, but what I'm trying to say is nuts to these unfocused, shoehorned-in kill-the-foozle main quests.

As much as I like exploring purely imagined worlds, there's something about exploring one based on Earth that intrigues me.  I think it's a combination of getting me into gazing at some online cartography as well as seeing how accurate the developers were in their adaptation.  Having the road as a guide of sorts in each new region was a nice security blanket while trade routes were set up; it also had the additional bonus of making dungeons seem ever more remote than normal since they were off the beaten path.  10/20

Character Development

A decent, non-standard system that eliminates grinding for levels and replaces it with the money lust.  Having slaves to mistreat as well as to extend my combat capabilities was a hoot and I never got sick of choosing certain battles to just watch them fight for their master's love.  Once I had enough surplus funds, I would even balk at using a healing item on them, even though it would cost far more to replace them if they died during combat.  Hey, you either meet my high standards or your bones will be left to bleach in the sun.

Equipment was understandably limited, as RS was trying to be somewhat realistic, so there's no magic to speak of.  Evocable items were likewise limited and were of even less use in combat, since using one would not only waste a turn for everybody for some reason, but wasn't guaranteed to work anyway .  9/20

Combat & Monsters

Combat is mostly a button-mashing affair, with some decision-making when a group of baddies had mixed monster types.  The slaves didn't add any depth and functioned solely as extra attacks.  As with other games that use such a simplistic combat system, by the time endgame rolled around, random encounters became boring and tedious.  Thankfully, RS seemed to be aware of this and generously gave a fleeing success rate of over 90%.  Staying true to the realistic theme, monsters didn't have any special abilities beyond a few that could poison, which was easily cured by any healing or just taking a nap at the inn.  6/20

Graphics & Sound

The Dragon Quest aesthetic that all its clones have is always going to get a decent amount of points, just none for uniqueness.  I've played enough clones by now that it gets super comfy super fast whenever I ease myself into a new one.  Sometimes clones can flounder in the design of monsters, but I'm happy to report that RS is not one of them, sporting a large bestiary that not only has minimal palette-swapping, but creatures that are appropriate to each country.

Rainbow Silkroad gets another slam dunk for its musical selection; each country has its own tradition-sounding theme (something I'm quite a stickler for).  Even countries for which I have no real baseline for, like Mongolia or Thailand, just felt right.  18/20


As far as game economics go, obviously RS is going to score big here.  Even though I wish it was developed a little more, I appreciate any novel mechanics, especially in a clone (also helps in having something to blog about).  The novelty doesn't end there, though, as RS often surprises with elements such as a thrown-in riddle, puzzle, or action-based mini-game.  The pacing was decent throughout until Japan, where it took a sharp nose dive into anti-climatic territory.  Like most DQ clones, it stayed pretty linear with the next country blocked off until the proper hoop was jumped through (in this case, getting a mirror shard); however, there were both financial and side quest incentives to trek back to other countries, so RS is not quite as bad as most of its brethren.  14/20

Final Ranking:  57/100

January 31, 2018

Rainbow Silkroad - End Game

*one eyelid twitching uncontrollably*

Damn these damn quests interfering with my bidness.  It doesn't even make any fucking sense.  First, I trade over land because trading via ship costs not only money but also missed opportunities for the slaves to get a workout as the high seas have no encounters.  Second, and this is really the major point here, what the fuck does it matter to this asshole supplier if there are pirates around?  I'm the one assuming the risk of being attacked — it kinda defines my profession.  At any rate, I decided I might as well do all the quests in the area at once and get them out of the way, which surely meant another princessly problem to deal with.

*sigh* Well, you see sire, sometimes girls get that
not-so-fresh feeling and... wait, what?  You want
me to fetch something?  I ACCEPT!

However, in a fantastic "gotcha bitch" moment, I did have to rescue a non-princess girl, the daughter of a townsfolk.  Since kings usually gave about a hundred gold for the safe return of their only child, I could only imagine what a poor turdsfolk would give up.  After a heart-wrenching and tearful reunion between father and daughter, I watched with extreme pessimism as dad reached into his wallet for my reward... I was not disappointed.

It's good for a *sob* free tenth sub and
there's already *sniffle* three stamps on it.

I guess he held more sway than I initially thought because he also gave me free passage on any ship sailing within Siam.  Of course, this didn't matter at all to me since I never travel by ship because this game is called Rainbow SilkROAD and anyway, if I really wanted to travel by water, I would have just used the elephants.  The one good thing about all this questing was the interesting boss encounters which always had some dialogue and often eschewed the traditional battle for something fresh, like a quiz about the name of some sage that helped me way back in Arabia.  Of course, if I can't be bothered to remember the names of my warrior companions, I sure as shit ain't remembering some guy I hung out with for a few days all those years ago.  Luckily, the process of elimination served me well.

What kind of Final Fantasy fan would
I be if I didn't know who Palom was?

There'll be more chit-chat and gossip coming up in the upcoming monstage (spoilers: there's a monstage coming up) which will immediately follow this sentence.

Rainbow Silkroad is most deserving
of this highest of all honours.

Each country generally had one of the four available quests as a side quest and I had been dutifully completing those as well.  However, I had to tap out on Siam's quest involving finding a sea palace.  I knew from a buddha statue that getting caught in a storm would lead me to it, so I booked multiple (free) trips back and forth between cities, waiting for that one fateful tempest to sweep me to untold fortunes.  Storms were fairly common in the area, with around a 20% chance of sailing into one and a 100% chance of sinking because of it.  I was stoked after the first such shipwreck until I discovered that I was still on the Siam mainland, so I kept on sailing and sinking ships like they were going out of style.  After the seventh ship sank to its watery grave and I still wasn't any closer to discovering the sea palace, I just gave up and headed into China.

The bounty that the insurance company put on my
head also may have had something to do with it.

The first thing I had to deal with in China was lifting a drought curse from a village that was caused by the local trouble-making wizard, Shenlong.  I wasn't too interested in trading anymore since those bastards at the border made me switch out my elephants for crappy horses.  I had a nice lump sum of just under 100K and I figured that would easily take me to endgame, so I focused on questing, which meant that Shenlong and I were due for a meeting of the punchy kind.  Not only was Shenlong a hack in that he plagiarized six of the eight characters in my name, but he also ripped off the Bull Demon King's ripping off of a final boss's true form.

I was actually expecting the dragon form first,
perhaps with some dragon balls lying around.

I initially thought that China would be the obvious end to the road of silk but I still had to find a way to Japan in order to defeat the real final boss and not just all these weak-ass imitations.  Normal ships couldn't handle the journey so I had to hire a master shipwright to build one.  Naive me thought that since I had also rescued the emperor himself from a curse that the ship cost would just be written off, but I was dead wrong.

The resulting spit-take cut my water gauge in half.

As if that wasn't bad enough, I also needed to hire a particular sea captain, whose going rate is 100K, so that, combined with a 20K compass, came to a grand total of 570,000 golds.  Luckily, I had a gem license which I purchased from some old dude in the mountains for 65K, which was actually a stupid idea because I could have waited until I reached the palace and bought the same license for 5,000 LPs instead.  At any rate, shipping diamonds from Beijing to Chang'an ended up being a very lucrative and relatively short trip, so much so that even after I reached my financial goal, I kept going just to make sure I wouldn't have to trade while in Japan.

Heck, I'll be able to just bribe
the final boss to stop being bad.

With all my wheelings and dealings wrapped up, I prepared for the voyage to Japan in my brand-spanking new ship constructed specifically to cross the ocean by an expert in the field and commanded by a top-of-the-line captain.  So of course it was no surprise that the ship sank just off the coast of Japan.  Not that I was too worried though, I had weathered many such disasters and had always come out completely intact, with absolutely no loss to any wares, hit points, or gold.

But at least we still have each other, right?...

So with my mood reaching maximum dourness, I embarked on the final leg of the journey doing another set of quests.  The first such quest was for the princess of China who wanted me to fetch her Divine Robe.  Oh, and by the way completely unarmed non-soldier man, that shit's guarded by an eight-headed dragon beast, so try to at least buy a knife with your no money before you go *tee hee*.  Man, what is it with the princesses in this game and their insane — completely insane — requests.  I considered quitting here because of roleplaying reasons; I wouldn't respond to the princess at all, I'd just silently turn away, walk out of the palace and then straight into the ocean for some sweet, sweet princessless oblivion.  But no, I have to complete each game, not only for my freedom but for dat ending screen.  I did initially try saying no, but of course then I wouldn't be able to advance the plot.

Princess Manipulative Technique #8: Verbal
shaming combined with crying for double damage.

Luckily, there were no random encounters and the dragon cave was close by.  My meta partition knew full well that the fight wouldn't be a standard combat, but my in-character partition was scared as hell to have to face this monstrosity practically naked.  The dragon wasn't in the mood for a scuffle and wanted to get faced instead, resulting in me running back and forth between the cave and a well where the water magically turned into sake.  No less than three times I had to make this encounterless journey, but the reward was well worth it.

Just bro'ing down with my homie and
talking smack about princesses.

The princess was overjoyed to get her dress back and granted me a magic charm as well as access to the armoury in the basement, which had a full set of the best quality gear she had conveniently forgotten about earlier (*tee hee*).  Now the random encounters started back up again and I was able to accumulate even more now-worthless LPs.  The final quest involved tracking down a wizard named Galon who stole all my mirror shards and which led to an epic, if somewhat scripted, battle.  The first fight with Galon resulted in my inevitable death, which was saved by the charm and resurrected me after Galon left.  After some discussion with a couple pals I befriended (I forget their names), I received the Rainbow Sword and took off after Galon again.  This time Galon was unable to use his magic against me due to the sword and so a brutal melee started.

Hey, it's not my fault!  I've been under a lot of stress at
work lately, the wife's put on 20 kilos over the last
two years, and those mortgage payments...

As my HPs crept closer and closer to zero, I was saved after Guy1 and Guy2 entered the skirmish, one attacking Galon while the other fed me healing balms whenever I was "in the red".  This went on for quite some time which created a very cinematic final conflict, but made it feel like the outcome was out of my hands.  After his defeat, the Rainbow Mirror was created and I hopped onto the summoned flying Rainbow Ship which took me to my homeland of Littleland where I defeated the final boss, Xulu, with my Rainbow Sword and which was done entirely through cutscenes.

For a game that yaps about rainbows so much,
it sure had a problem ever displaying them.

By this point in the Inconsolable Quest, ending by killing the foozle has become so generic and cliché that it barely even registers anymore.  In Rainbow Silkroad, it feels even more tacked on as it completely abandons the whole merchant angle during Japan.  A more appropriate ending would be either to retire in China after I got all the monies or set it up so that I have to go back along the, now completely opened, Silk Road and do something trading-related along the way.  Less epic to be sure, but for me the Silk Road ends in China (even though it does technically extend to Japan).

January 04, 2018

Rainbow Silkroad - Road to the Riches

Any previous misgivings I had about the trading system faded as it has really started to grow on me.  Prices are still static, but after purchasing a couple more beasts of burden, I had so much extra room that it became a question of quality vs. quantity in order to maximize profits.  Even though the numbers were getting pretty large, I refused to load my abacus app and instead used pure mental energy.  It really started working my "fuzzy" multiplication skills and, at certain times, I was glad that I don't stream my sessions, as any huge error in calculation only netted me a look of scorn and contempt from the nearby cat.

Really, Master?  Forgetting to carry
the one?  How typical of your kind.

With all this bookkeeping keeping me busy, I was completely thrown for a loop when the game decided to toss in an action mini-game while I was searching for a mirror shard.  The shard was located at the bottom of a lake, encased in ice (apparently the non-floating kind), and which needed to be melted by throwing a fire rock into the lake, which presumably wasn't the best thing for any life forms living there.

Except for the jellyfish.  Those angry, angry jellyfish.

After my scuba session, I remembered that I had a princess to "save" again, so I donned my most ostentatious finery, slicked back my generous bounty of gorgeous hair, munched on a sprig of mint, and prepared myself to play my part this little drama she concocted.  However, I had to give Princess Uggo credit, as she was indeed captured again, this time by an assassin who had been counting on me to come rescue her.  I eventually did, but he must have been waiting there for a hella long time while I was busy raking in the shekels.  It's hard to determine the exact passage of time, but based on my calculations of four round trips between Istanbul and Tehran, with a standard walking speed of 5 km/hr, for 12 hours a day, and it ends up being about a month shy of a year.  Dude's got patience, I'll give him that.  When we finally did stumble into his "trap", he was caught so off-guard that he didn't have a chance to ambush or backstab or anything.  Instead, he just awkwardly stammered his way through an obviously pre-written speech about how awesome his plan was.  Slave1 and I took the time to draw our weapons and then heavily worked the kidney and lower genital areas.  The shah was happy enough to get his bride back, even though her heart would always belong to the Shenster.  He granted me access to Mongolia, where I was forced to switch out my camel for a horse, setting me back 2,000 dollars money (a brand new camel or horse costs 3,000).  While this high exchange rate outraged my bottom line, I also had to give 'em respect for their gouging skills and admit that I'd do the same thing.  Mongolia had a lot to offer, not only in suedes and furs but also in my favourite commodity — meat shields!  As I maxed out my personnel roster, the friendly slave merchant gave me some pointed advice on how to best utilize my new trio.

I also find they are more docile and manageable
if you spay, neuter, and castrate them.

The time that Soldier1 and I had spent over the previous months had started a budding, if somewhat shaky, friendship and I was comfortable in outfitting all my lil spuds with the best gear money could buy, making us all equally terrifying in combat.  Bandits still dogged me every time I left a city, but if they weren't that much of a threat at the beginning, they certainly weren't a threat now.

I almost had pity for this fat guy in a mumu — almost.

Despite our blossoming friendship, I still had to trade S1 in when the superior Warrior class of slaves became available.  This meant I also stripped him of all his equipment, but, being the nice guy that I am, I let him keep my starting knife as a memento.  As I started to see tears well up in his eyes, I turned my attention to the slavemaster in order to quickly complete the transaction.  Via my peripheral vision, I could see his crestfallen stare transform into a burning enmity towards me.

Kinda regretting letting him keep that
knife now, come to think of it.

I bade farewell to Mongolia after finding another mirror shard and headed towards India, where I exchanged horses for elephants!  These were fairly weak 'phants, mind you, as each one could only carry as much as a camel or horse.  Nonetheless, it didn't take long for their gentle nature to win me over and they soon each had a loving nickname, handcrafted from the bottom of my heart: Bitey, Stampy, Missy, Bitey2, and Bitey3.  I took them wherever I went, including shops, homes, and even a ride on the world's most durable inflatable dinghy (only 100 GP!)!

Not pictured: Four fully armoured men and
five elephants laden with thick furs.

India also had a princess problem, but this time it was the tremendous horrors of being a little too selfish for her own good.  Exactly the kind of problem a merchant-warrior such as myself was born to deal with!  After discussing the problem with the sultan, who was nude for some reason and quite happy to be so, I went to talk with the princess to see if I couldn't do a little something something to cure her of her selfish behaviour.

I'll only answer that after looking at
your driver's license, sweet thang.

The cure actually ended up being playing some music for her and not laying down several kilometres of Shen "Grade D" pipe, which normally works much better for putting bitches in check.  Unfortunately, my skills rocking the slide whistle did little to change her attitude so it was off to the quest for the make-out mixtape (you 80's/90's teens know what I'm talking about).  I couldn't find that either, what with none of the technology existing and all, so the next best thing was a music box from some old dude in a temple.

in my pants, yeah, yeah, just give
me the box, ya old ratbag.

Instead of the reward I expected, the princess gave me a key that unlocked a secret underground passage to Siam, and I soon forgot about what my second brain wanted and started thinking about the possible economic opportunities waiting for me in the new land.  Unfortunately, it wasn't a simple matter of traversing the tunnel as I needed a magic rope in order to climb out at the end (elephants can climb ropes, right?).  Tracking this magic item down led me to a town where everyone spoke contrary to their intended meaning.  It also had another 100 GP dinghy ride which was necessary to take in order to talk to the guy with the rope, who wouldn't sell it to me right away anyway.

Okay, now it's getting a little tourist trap-y.

One thing that had started to bother me during the midgame was the lack of space for items.  With only seven available slots and quest items (except for mirror shards) taking up a slot, there wasn't a lot of room for anything else.  To its credit, Rainbow Silkroad does mitigate this problem somewhat by introducing multiple-use healing items at this time, but I was still hungry for more and, being a merchant, there's no real reason why I should be so limited; I have five freakin' elephants with me, for fuck's sake.  RS heard my silent pleas and bestowed upon me a quest which netted me a larger bag, giving another eight slots to utilize.  All I had to do was enter a cave infested with demons and kill their demon king.  It was a tough battle and just when I thought I was triumphant, this decidedly minor boss got a little too big for his britches.

Hey, you're no final boss... haaack!  HAAAAAACK!!!

Before heading off to Siam, I also needed to pick up one of those pesky shards, which involved sailing to a remote island with the world's worst sea captain.  First, he had broke his compass and basically made me go and get him another one (though he did give me a good price for it).  I forgave his unprofessionalism for that, writing it off as mere laziness, but after we set sail, his incompetence really started to show.

Umm, capt'n? The, ah, boat is pointing the wrong way.

Maybe it was a good thing that we only going about half a knot as it allowed me to snatch up a letter in a bottle, which was written by a lost soul who wanted this letter delivered to his brother in the village of Aden.  At any rate, once we finally made it to the island, it was a simple matter of navigating a fiery cave of fire, complete with rivers of molten hot lava.  I was protected from the burning by a special pair of sandals, but since none of the slaves or elephants complained about the heat, I think I got ripped off.  After getting the fire shard, I was able to go find a reclusive yogi and pass his trial, which was a cool navigation puzzle where the floor would occasionally change to one of four different colours, each one screwing up the control directions in a different way.  One false move meant falling off the path and having to start all over again.  After completing his task, I was bequeathed a lotus flower, which I gave to the man in Contrary village (paying for another boat ride) for the magic rope, and now I could finally head to Siam and start trading again.  I tell ya mang, these damn quests are really getting in the way of a guy just trying to make an honest buck, gnome saiyan?  Geez, I hope Siam doesn't make me downgrade my elephant posse to some kind of lesser creature; that would certainly impact my bottom line.  Hrmmm, maybe I can grease the palm of some corrupt official or perhaps I could...