March 24, 2021

Shining in the Darkness - Ranking

 

Story & World

Most dungeon crawlers don't ever take home a lot of points for story, and SitD is no exception.  The few cutscenes that exist help define the character and NPC personalities but they are never expanded upon.  I don't necessarily mind this as it allows more room for my own personal brand of Nungness, but that means that I get the points instead.  I'll give additional credit for naming the villain Melvyl and no, I don't know why I found that so funny, but after re-reading my last post, it was apparently funny enough to be the driving force behind half of the jokes.

Although crawlers lack the immersion of exploring an overworld and all the points of interest it may contain, I still get off probing the depths of a dungeon as long as it's filled with a variety of stuff (not just a bunch of chests).  SitD did a decent job of keeping my interest piqued enough to always want to get back in there, from little scenes like the encounter with my dumbass father to teasing me by placing a tantalizing chest behind an immovable grate so that I'd have to find an alternative route to snag it.  In addition to the ease of being able to warp back to town with a super cheap spell or item, SitD also makes it easy to get back into whatever dungeon level one left off at, cutting down on tedious walking and near pointless battles.


Character Development

Nothing too fancy with five stats that each go up a few points upon level gain and in my playthrough I achieved close to 50 levels for each character.  The problem with such a system is that with so many levels, each with small stat increases, it never seems like a big deal when a level is gained.  The only remotely interesting part of leveling up is when a new spell is gained or an existing one gets upgraded.  Even then, the spell roster is just filled with the standard RPG fare, so even that's not particularily noteworthy.

Equipment manages to have a lot more impact on the killing floor as a new piece has a palatable effect on combat.  This is especially true of the cursed and mithril items; recall that the cursed Hex Whip changed Pyra from a simple mage to a badass warrior-mage.  I also liked that mithril was in limited supply and I couldn't just abuse that to make the best equipment for all three party members.

Combat & Monsters

Large group combats are always appreciated over singular enemies and boy, does SitD ever like to have big groups, so much so that monster sprites sometimes almost completely overlap each other.  As mentioned in the postings, this tendancy for large groups can be downright devastating if a monster type has a strong special ability.  This is not a bad thing as it makes delving very tense which, while sometimes annoying, is far better than being bored.  Plus, it's pretty badass when Pyra or that other spellcasting guy casts a big nuke spell and takes out ten baddies all at once.  Monster phenotypes run the typical fantasty gamut with some interesting additions, like the bouncing bowling ball mini-boss whom is burnt into my memory from all the ass-kickings I received from it.


Graphics & Sound

Decent marks all around here, with nothing too outstanding or too suckstanding.  Despite being a deep and dank dungeon, the place is pretty vibrant and vivid, and each monster species come in a variety of exciting colour variations.  The tunes lend well to the atmosphere and gets better and better as the game progresses.


Gameplay

I always like those big ticket items in my RPGs and tying a limited resource to their creation was even better.  If anything, it was knowing that there could potentionally be more mithril out there that drove me back into the dungeon.  It's so much better than just the vague notion of treasure being out there.  Still, once I couldn't find any more mithril (although I'm pretty sure I didn't get it all as there were a few places I couldn't figure out how to get into), the golds started accreting.  By the endgame, I had enough gold to do ten more mithrils I'm sure.

Dungeon crawlers have a tough job in setting a good pace without feeling like things are dragging.  Without a whole lot of non-combat distractions, it can get very repetitive very quick.  Thankfully, SitD sprinkles just enough variance to not make it seem like too much of a slog.



FINAL RANKING


January 25, 2021

Shining in the Darkness - End Game

In order to enter the labyrinth proper, we had to complete the four trials of Strength, Courage, Truth, and Wisdom.  Fancy names, but they were all pretty much the same; enter a 30x30 dungeon and find the exit and the occasional MacGuffin.  The Cave of Wisdom was notable only for its large amount of pit traps, but thankfully there was a map showing all the locations right near the entrance.

Which totally defeats the purpose of said
pits, but hey, I'm not going to complain
(I mean, of course I'll complain, I'm the
Shenster after all, just not about this).
 
Speaking of complaining, these trials also introduced the introduction of random mini-bosses, whom would show up to basically end that particular session by completely fucking up the entire group.

Okay, not the entire group. Even
this bowling ball mofo can't
handle Pyra's stronkness.
 
And when I say random, I do mean random.  We could go an entire session without meeting one of these dicks, or we could get two or three, sometimes within a few steps of each other.  There was no fighting them either at our current power level, just the hope that we could run away before taking too much damage/deaths.  Eventually though, we completed all the trials and were finally able to enter the labyrinth proper.  I could tell we were at some next level shit because the music and decor changed completely.

Hmm, looks like they started constructing the
walls out of... *snigger* LIMESTONE!
 
New monster types showed up as well, with new offensive abilities.  One monster in particular, the Reaper, had an insta-kill spell called Desoul which we could resist only sometimes.  These were dangerous enough when up against just one, but absolutely lethal when encountered in packs.  They also seemed to target me the vast majority of the time, probably realizing that as the big, dumb fighter, I had the lowest magic resistance.
 
You don't even want to know how
many similar screenshots I have.
 
By this point, Milo did have a Revive spell, which would bring me back to life with around a third of my max HP, requiring even more MP to get me back to full health.  It was almost pointless to revive me during the combat, since I'd often just get Desouled again, so Milo and Pyra would usually have to cast their big, group-damaging spells to end the combat quickly.  And if Milo himself got Desouled, well then it was an automatic warp back to the town.  Fleeing wasn't much of an option due to the low success rate, oh so typical of these older RPGs.  Reapers weren't the only creatures to cause such havoc; any monsie capable of group-damaging spells could absolutely devastate us if they had sufficient numbers.
 
Look at these assholes all getting their bolt spells
ready for some party-crushing cocksuckery.

Needless to say, we spent a lot of time returning to the town for healing/revives and I made sure we'd always stop by the tavern so I could drown my sorrows in sweet lady liquor.  Usually the waterin' hole was filled with the same set of sad sack patrons but on one occasion I actually got to meet Milo's dad and Pyra's mother.  Milo's father was a lot like Milo, he just kinda stood there... existing.  Pyra's mother, Mrs. Myst, was also a lot like Pyra — short-tempered, mean, and aggressive.  Apparently, Pyra didn't bother to tell her own mother that she was going on a dangerous, life-threatening quest for the past... oh, it'd been well over a month by that point.  I smiled (internally though, lest Pyra saw my smirk) when Mrs. Myst gave Pyra a similar raging diatribe to the ones we'd been subjected to for the past... oh, it'd been well over a month by that point.  However, I was quite surprised when Momma Myst took Pyra, put her over her knee, and started whaling on dat ass.
 
Umm... I have the strangest boner right now.

Despite the blood coursing away from my brain, I realized that, goddamn it, we were all just teenagers here, weren't we?  Wassamatta, SitD, you trying to be a JRPG or sumthan?  At any rate, after getting spanked in front of her two best friends, Pyra never once berated or raised her voice to us for the remainder of the journey, so my hat's off to you, Mrs. Myst.  After putting some soothing ointment on Pyra's cheeks (with my tongue), we decided to stop by the castle, just in time to witness another scene with Dark Sol teleporting in and swaggering about, boasting about his braggadocio.  He got into a scuffle with Xern, the court's high mage and Dark Sol's former teacher and mentor, which resulted in a draw, but we learnt some valuable information about Dark Sol, like his *snicker* real name.
 
Oh no.  No no no.  We'll be calling him
Melvyl for the rest of the quest, natch.

As we continued to delve deeper and deeper into the labyrinth, it started to become apparent that I was the weakest link of the trio.  As a non-spellcasting fighter, I hit harder than the other two, as expected, but I was way slower than either of them as well as the monsters and attacked last nearly every round.  This ended up being a huge liability when most battles took just two or three rounds and ensured that Milo and Pyra's MP was mostly spent on healing.  But hey, I was still the strongest of the batch, right?  Well, that only lasted until we got a weapon crafted for Pyra out some DARK BLOCK that we found, the totally bad-ass Hex Whip, which hit every foe in a particular enemy group for big damage.  The downside was that the whip was cursed and Pyra would often get entangled in it and lose one or two turns in combat.  However, her first attack would always succeed and her high speed guaranteed that she'd strike first in every combat.  Couple that with multiple chances for critical hits and soon Pyra had earned the title of "Flayer of Flesh" (which she enjoyed immensely).
 
Yes, cursed to be, by far, the best fighter
in the group.  Wish I was "cursed".
 
That was all well and good for her and the livelihood of the party, but really made me feel like more of a burden on the group.  This was compounded later when we got an axe crafted from mithril for Milo and then HE started outperforming me as well.  It didn't help that he was almost as fast as Pyra and would often go second in combat.  So most combats went Pyra, Milo, all the monsters, loser Shen.  At least with my high defence, I could still tank some hits, right?  Well... eventually my self-esteem plummeted so low that, even after we found more mithril, it mostly went to crafting armours for Milo and Pyra.  Pyra, especially, took advantage of my lull in confidence and soon she had so much mithril crap on her that she rivaled me in defensive power.  Nothing could break me out of my despondency, not even rescuing the princess or beating up my father who had had his will broken by Dark Sol.
 
Oh right, I mean *chuckle* Melvyl.  Okay,
so I guess I still know how to smile.

I didn't feel bad about killing my dad since he was obviously a dipshit to accept a gift from a person with DARK in their name AND in the gift itself.  Conversely, I began finding equipment with LIGHT in its name, which only I could use and functioned pretty well, even though they weren't cursed.  With my spirits lifted, we tackled the final level of the labyrinth with much aplomb, only to be served both ass cheeks on a silver platter by the tough monsters dwelling therein.  Luckily, most of the monsters were so massive and came in such high numbers that fleeing became a more reasonable alternative to combat as they stumbled over each other attempting to give chase.
 
And SitD wins the award for most hilarious
fleeing icon in an RPG or strategy game.

Amidst all our sneaking and running around, we managed to find Dark Sol's inner sanctum and paused briefly at the entrance.  Now, normally when I find a final boss lair, I'll warp to town, heal and stock up on consumables, then beeline it right back the last confrontation.  The party was down to about half our total MP, but I really didn't feel like walking all the way back so I said funk it and entered like I was the cock of the walk.  Dark Sol gave us his nice little villain speech and then we proceeded to beat the stuffing out of him quite handily.
 
Because, Melvyl, you need a stronger,
more manly name, like Max Power,
Chad Thundercock, or Shen Nung.

Of course, Mellie had a second, more monstrous, form and it was here I thought we'd meet our demise but at least we'd get a sneak peek at some of the powers he had.  Unfortunately for Mel, all the angst I had built up from before boiled to the surface and I was critting like a mutha on that horrible abomination.
 
It's only too bad that I couldn't
manage to *chortle* disarm him.

Soon we had an unexpected victory on our hands and there was much rejoicing when we returned to the castle, with the king doling out accolades and rewards for all.  With my confidence restored, I asked Pyra to marry me and I promised I wouldn't spank her quite as hard as her mum.  As for Milo... well, no one gives a shit what happened to him.
 

October 27, 2020

[Game 071] Shining in the Darkness (GEN - 1991)

 
Yes!  Yes!  Finally, a non-translated, non-JRPG for poor me to endure.  I've never played Shining in the Darkness before, although I have played its successors, Shining Force 1 and 2.  Those games are quite a bit different from SitD, being closer to a strategy RPG, like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics.  The inaugural entry in the Shining series, however, is a straight-up dungeon crawler, which means (squeee!) breaking out the graph paper and mechanical pencil.  I knew I was in for something different when the game decided to not have a title screen at all.  I had to screencap something though, so you get an old man letting one rip instead.  The plot is nothing to write home about — kidnapped princess, kingdom in peril due to foozle, only this small band of plucky, young adventurers can possibly save us all, etc.  I do like the antagonist, Dark Sol, here as he's not content to just sit at the end of the game, waiting to be revealed when the party gets around to destroying him at the peak of their power.  No, D.S. gets all up into the king's grill, appearing in the throne room, bragging about his princess-kidnapping prowess, and then buggering off before anybody has the foresight to start drawing their weapons.  I was immediately enlisted to start investigating the whereabouts of said princess, but where to start?  Well, luckily the king himself had already done a deep and thorough reconnaissance and he shared with me the results of his intel.

Yeah, thanks for narrowing it down, king.

Well, I don't need a whole lot of convincing to get my ass into a gridded dungeon, so I headed into the nearby town to get some equipment and provisions and maybe stop by the tavern for a little drinkie-poo.  The tavern was bumpin' and I heard some stuff about some friends I guess I have that I'm sure to meet up with later.  I also had to put up with some passive insults from some of the more surly denizens of the bar, but don't you worry, I made sure that they checked their privilege by the end of the conversation.

Listen here, pole, I don't care how erect you
are, that ageist buuuullshit is illegit.  Quit
triggering my micro-aggressions, bitch.

Tired of being oppressed by the poletriarchy, I sauntered over to the weapon shop to start gearing up for the quest.  I was completely surprised to find that the shop was run by none other than the dwarf from the Golden Axe arcade game!  He's even got a smiling portrait of one of the gnomes that he kicks the crap out of for potions, which raises all kinds of questions.

Are... are they actually friends?
Mutually beneficial relationship?
Hardcore master-slave BDSM?

Anyway, after getting my EQ settled, it was back to the palace to get the key to the labyrinth.  Time was of the essence, as who knows what the princess might be enduring right now, as we speak!  I burst into the throne room and announced my readiness to the minister in charge of the investigation but apparently that breached protocol and I was supposed to talk to the moron king first.  

Wait... have you been waiting for me?

Then the king — this fucking king, I tell ya — immediately just passed it over to the minister anyway.

Do you even care that your daughter is
probably in a hardcore master-slave BDSM
relationship with Dark Sol right now?

Well, someone needed to take charge, so I grabbed the key and headed next-door to get this show on the road.

Wha?
You don't keep your monster-infested
labyrinths right 'round yonder?
What an idiot you are.

Aahhh!  I eased back into dungeon crawling as smoothly as an old man lowering himself into a nice, hot bath.  Soon I was up to my knees in monster entrails and lovin' every minute of it.  No denizen of the maze was spared my wrath as I sliced and diced my way into some needed loot and levels.

C'mere ya little squirt.  Yeah, I see you there.

Eventually I had to head back to town, if only to wipe the obscene amounts of gore off of me.  Of course, I was also going to frequent the tavern for a little top me up and it was here that I met the first of my friends, the sorcerous super-bitch Pyra.  She was laying into the barkeep big time over who knows what and then, when she saw me, she immediately started ragging out on me too.

If we're not in a relationship, some dumb
bint.  If we are, the love of my life.

On the way out of the tavern, Pyra bumped into a lizardman warrior named Gila and then, he too, was subjected to a tremendous tongue-lashing, blaming him for what was clearly her fault.  He handled the situation very smoothly; I'll give him credit for not drawing his sword on her.  Gila excused himself and informed us that he was just on his way to the labyrinth and was in a rush.  As he walked away from us, Pyra then decided to cast a slow spell on him to help increase his chances of being murdered.  Damn, that be cold.

She doesn't even wait for him to be
out of earshot before announcing it.
Pyra is hard as fuck.

We then headed to the temple to pick up our little dweeby cleric bud, Milo, who doesn't get a screenshot apparently.  Sorry, Milo, but maybe you should have tried killing at least a few of your fellow citizens before leaving town.  At any rate, now with a full party and plenty of healing magic, the dungeon was ready for maximal exploration and murder.  Monster group sizes increased dramatically, having upwards of six participants in a single battle, but even so, most fights were easily dealt with.  The only close battles were the ones where the monsters decided to focus on the weakly armoured Pyra, but Milo usually managed to bust off a heal before she perished.  This happened a few times and soon both Milo and I were getting earfuls about how we're not protecting her enough, and we're taking too long killing the monsters, and why did I forget her birthday four years ago.  In order to get it to stop, I decided to purchase some new armour for her and entered the menu screen to equip her new gear.  SitD's equipment screen has cute icons for every slot on a character, including when there is nothing equipped at all.  Even better, each character has their own personal "empty" slot, like the head slot which shows each character's hair style.  At first, I thought it was just the head slot that had a unique icon, but learnt I was wrong after removing Pyra's default robe and being treated to an icon of the perfect woman.

I also kept pushing the button in an attempt
to remove even more but it didn't work.

Padding Pyra up helped a lot in keeping her complaints down and we were back on track to continue the delve.  Things were going swimmingly until we ran into our old friend, Gila.  He'd been getting his ass handed to him FOR SOME REASON and now needed our help to get back to the town.

It's the least we can do since apparently we're not
offering any healing spells and also because we're
directly responsible for your profuse bleeding.


Gila was a bro though, occasionally getting in a hit from the back ranks for some bonus damage, but he left as soon as we hit the town.  I was waiting for Pyra to do something to him, but she's actually been pretty quiet lately.  Maybe all she needed was some new clothes to get her to shut up, but if I know women (and I don't), the novelty will soon be wearing off and Milo and I will be back up to our armpits in belittlements and denigrations.  Our only hope is to grind out some coin and make sure we have enough to upgrade her armour when she starts getting crusty again.