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Finished Code Vein (PS4)

Visual style: modern JRPG
Gameplay: Souls-like

The game takes place in a dystopic future where vampires were created to fight in a war against an evil force. Bad news #1 The government is trying to get ways to harvest blood to sustain the vampires, but it’s not going as smoothly as they hoped. Bad news #2 the evil force is not really gone.

One innovation they added is a ‘companion’ system where an AI-controlled NPC accompanies you basically at all times. The AI is competent and not a liability like in some games.

The game improves on Souls in some areas.
– Online matching system. Match with anyone! Your and their levels are scaled to match so it’s fair.
– The class system makes it so you can’t irreparably screw yourself through uninformed decisions.
– A map
– Healing item cooldown makes it harder to accidentally waste heals
– AI is ‘smart’, doesn’t randomly jump off ledges.

I was nervous they might have strategically put the best environment in the demo I played. But, no, the demo was representative. The environments were consistently good. Big complicated areas, detailed rooms without copypaste, interesting stuff to look at far into the horizon.

Although the game is not perfect (nothing is, right?), no one in the art team seems to care about CLIPPING, as far as I’m concerned it’s a ‘perfect score’ game. It doesn’t happen every day there something which takes so many interesting risks, turns, stylistic decisions.

Although I did 4 playthroughs I still want to do some more things. A bunch of the replay-ability comes from the multitude of classes (‘blood codes’) and multiple endings, which range from ‘uplifting’ to ‘stomp your heart into a zillion pieces’.

The game is a bit violent and sleazy so maybe not appropriate for all audiences. But it is really good. I hope there will be a sequel or DLC.

December 8th, 2019 at 10:15 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

A cool (and hot!) boss fight in Code Vein. Guest appearances from Louis and random internet person.

November 4th, 2019 at 10:40 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Total play time = 2 years, 156 days, 20 hours, 36 minutes, 39 seconds

Couple friends and I started playing back in April 2017. The progress isn’t deliberately slow, it’s just that we playing a half-hour or an hour here and there, once in a while and it’s a proper full-length RPG. Furthermore we made a best effort to play it spoiler-free with as minimal outside help as possible.

I never beat this game before. SoM is in the category of “played as a child by repeated rental, wanted to own, couldn’t get a copy”.

It is hard nowadays imagining “not being able to purchase something” but was the situation here. If no video or toy store in our city had it then out of luck. There were also toy catalogs where you can phone or mail in an order, but they weren’t a whole lot better in terms of the video game selection. The one place I could find that had Secret of Mana had it for rent. So I rented it repeatedly. I still had to take it back at certain intervals and some jerkface wiped my save. After that I became demoralized and moved on to playing something else (Uncharted Waters 2)

Fast-forward to today and I have every game in the world. This one has a lot of critical acclaim, and still has some love today (it got a remake last year), it deserves playthough to the end.

Originally I thought I’d move onto the remake after finishing this, but after reading some reviews, maybe not πŸ™ It’s just as well, initially I was kind of turned off by the graphics. When early gameplay came out I recall telling people it looked Bad. Like some free-to-play MMO from ~2006. It reminded me of Audition Online. I don’t know what’s up with the art direction. Apparently there are problems with the soundtrack and gameplay also… How did they mess this up? I may someday play it anyway but give it a while.

This game had a lot of positive qualities, it deserves to be on all those top-10 lists. 
– The soundtrack is very strong
– Large sprites with nice animations
– Many cool concepts for bosses, large enemy artworks
– Willingness to make a three-player SNES game represents a lot of technical initiative

The one thing that was almost a problem- it is borderline on the “turn based games disguised as action games” genre. 
You know. Practically very MMORPG does this. The combat works like: you and the enemy can both be freely positioned in the world, and can attach each other, but the attacks always land regardless of how you are positioned. Why have the positioning mechanic at all, then? Why not just have a menu? If they shoot an arrow or something it’s not like you can move out of the way. I know why they do it in MMOs, but I’m less on board in any locally-played action game.
I suppose this bothers me because it encourages you to waste brain cells in combat trying to move around the map when you might as well just stand there.
Fortunately, this game doesn’t 100% do that, it’s only for certain attacks. Some experimenting helped figure this out. For other ones, you can move out of the way, sometimes outside of a hitbox that seems rather big.

On a whole I loved playing this game, and getting the chance to play it co-operatively even though it’s long after the fact.

September 16th, 2019 at 11:30 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (SNES)

This is an action-RPG based on the book series, pre-Peter Jackson movie IP.

This game has some cool moments and good atmosphere and potential to be good. Still, it was held back by many technical problems. This game ended up being a rabbit hole into something else.

A couple weeks ago, I cleared the last boss, the Balrog using the full party (minus Gandalf, since having him in your party prevents you from beating the boss; also Boromir is E_NOTIMPL) and finished the game but didn’t get such a good ending because Merry and Pippin died in the boss fight. They die really easily.
So last Saturday, I booted up the game with the intention to resume at the boss fight, attempt it again and keep them alive.

However the password I had written down was rejected by the game. I swear to goodness I wrote it down correctly. I went upstairs to my computer, reproduced the situation with an emulator. It turns out, the game will indeed give you invalid passwords and that’s what happened here. So I went about trying to figure out how to “fix” my password.

The password system itself involves encoding a bunch of the game state in a certain way with a checksum. This game is a bit unusual in that there are no saves to the cartridge, it hashes together literally all the state into a 48-character-long password. It took a bit of effort, but I figured out how to derive the password. From there, how to un-glitch my password and preserve the progress I had (items, character stats, door open+close state) while letting it be accepted by the game. With this, I was able to re-attempt the boss fight and get the good ending!

After trying many different passwords looking for patterns, I cracked the password algorithm. It was not too much more work to put it into a program in case other people run into the same issues.

I posted the program to Github https://github.com/clandrew/lotrpwcheck/ .

As for the ending itself it was pretty cool, there is a scene where you meet Galadriel and she shows you the mirror. Although they never released a Vol II for SNES, I can see the next one picking up where this one left off.

September 5th, 2019 at 1:49 am | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Dark Souls III: The Ringed City DLC (PS4)

With a heavy heart, playing the supposed the last game in the series. From’s Hidetaka Miyazaki confirmed that the franchise was done.

Now I have played Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls 1+2+3. All DLCs. Play time on average 200 hours per game, on average 3 playthroughs per game. I intend to play some multiplayer on Ringed City while there is still life on online. Other than that, that’s it.

It has been a large part of my life since playing the Chinese pre-order of Demon’s Souls back in the summer 2009, on a CRT, when I was living in Santa Clara CA. Demon’s Souls was not well marketed. Found out about it through random word of mouth. At first I thought it would be a very typical character-driven fantasy ARPG. But, everything about this game was surprising. It was created in the golden age of quest markers and in-game explanations, of which there were none. It is a fantasy RPGs and those tend to be character based, but the focus was totally on gameplay and environment. It is Japanese, but plays like a WRPG.

I understand the game a bit better if it’s contextualized against King’s Field for the PSX, understood as a spiritual predecessor to the franchise. I didn’t play King’s Field until just a few years ago, but when it came out it would have been received much the same as Dark Souls today. It’s an RPG that is so finicky and brooding with barely any background music.

Ringed City was a good time. At the same time I think they have chosen a good place to end it.

November 12th, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

My first time playing this game on real hardware.

I treat the SHARP and 90s game consoles very differently.

The SNES I’ll carry it any which way. Power it off unsafely, leave it on for days, use the reset in an angry manner, be negligent with carts and so forth. Also, the fat PS2 has been taken apart and “repaired” (ask me in person if you want more details about this).

However, the SHARP is different. I move it very carefully and keep it upright. Touch nothing unless necessary. All disks must be either in the system, or in protective cases inside boxes. It must always be transported by me, in my car, in a cool temperature. And, minimize the number of FDD transactions.

That last one is the biggest one and it actively affects gameplay. I play in order to minimize the number of FDD reads and writes.

The death penalty in Lagoon is not high in terms of gameplay setbacks, but it is high in terms of disk switching. Dying will reset the game back into the starting area (disk 1), from which you will typically need to insert disk 2 or 3 to resume your save- that’s 2 disk swaps. And starting the game from boot requires 2 swaps across both FDD0 and FDD1. (boot + data1 –> user + data1–> user + data2). And then of course 1 save == 1 write.

Put it all together, and you want to have few, long playthroughs. Try not to save too much, but also really try not to die. Don’t unnecessarily venture into areas which are stored on a different disk.

Is all of this strictly necessary? Maybe, maybe not. Is this founded? I think so.

All the while playing through Lagoon there is this nagging feeling in the back of my head like my days playing it are numbered.

Like the raw number of FDD transactions it can do is finite. While this is true for any piece of computer hardware ever, there is reason to believe it’s much more imminent on this machine. With every seek, every read, every grinding noise that comes out of the FDD- that brings it closer to no longer working. I was especially nervous at the in-game disk switching prompts (besides the boot disk and saved game disk, the game is spanned across 3 data disks). Eventually, this machine will break down and then the only option will be an emulator compatible with contemporary PCs.

Indeed, this is my second copy of Lagoon. The first copy I obtained several years ago. When I tried to boot it, the boot disk showed CRC fail. The data disks couldn’t be read. While this was a disappointment, it was not altogether a surprise. This happens with old disks and FDDs from that time period. It’s not even uncommon now. Recently when I was playing with the TRS-80 with my coworker, we tried loading some games from the late 80s on 5-1/4″ floppies. We had about a 10% success rate and blew out one FDD.

Therefore, I’m extremely lucky for having acquired fully working games with fully working hardware. There are a bajillion things that can go wrong with 5 1/4″ disks stored away for 30 years shipped from the other side of the world. If I try and play this game again in 5 or 10 years, I might not be able to. I have a bad feeling about this computer. What I can do is try to be positive, reflect on the good times I had, on the experience playing games on this platform and it’s something I’ll remember fondly.

Boot and resume save at gold cave

Ending credits

August 26th, 2017 at 10:45 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

I loaded the system disk into my computer and started the game. First couple quests things in the town to unlock the starter equipment.

Graphics and sound are good.

It can load saved games (of which, the previous owner left a couple… whoa)

But, can it save games?
Yes. Yes, it can. Yeah, let me just load my game from this 30-year-old magnetic tape
Minimal grinding and churning !!

The gold cave is a maze but no worries I have my old strategy guide.

Can I join the PC gamer club now?

August 15th, 2017 at 10:36 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

June 24th, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Secret of Evermore for the SNES.

This was an action-RPG I had really wanted to play when I was little, but wasn’t able to obtain a copy. Nowadays the world is at your fingertips so I can finally play it. It plays very similarly to Secret of Mana.

The graphics and visual style really left an impression on me. Compared to most other RPGs from around the same time period, everything feels very ‘larger than life’, probably because it’s actually bigger in terms of pixel size- that is, if you compare it to say, FF5 or FF6. More frames of animation too. The design for the bosses “Thraxx”/”Coleoptera” was really cool. And as for the art style, it feels kind of realistic and gritty, none of the words seem too inviting, and it works for this game. Combined with ambient sound instead of background music for a lot of parts, the environments tend to feel kind of lonely and spooky.

It turns out it was developed by a North American division of Square which explains a lot. It is loaded with gags and pop culture references and in general feels way too western to be a JRPG. Although it does follow the cliche of having the obligatory Mode-7 airship type of thing toward the end. Overall, 10/10 would recommend.

January 29th, 2017 at 11:54 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

September 8th, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink