hgh
Vintage computing, old video games

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 🙁 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 story mode of Crypt of the NecroDancer (PC)

This game is “rhythm” genre mixed with “roguelike” genre.

When I first played it I thought they took a dart board full of video game types, threw two darts and made that game. The “disco floor” mechanic was trippy and strange, and it looked like a somewhat decent roguelike with an unfitting rhythm mechanic shoehorned in. Background: I do like roguelike games (Mystery Dungeon, Dungeon Crawler) and rhythm games (DDR, Stepmania, FF Theatrhythm) always just separate.

After a few levels I got into it and saw it was built from the ground up to be a rhythm game. Even the controls, all set as combinations of arrow keys, are geared so that they can be played with a dance pad. The gameplay and story are tightly integrated around the music themes. The rhythm game-ness adds an action mechanic where there wouldn’t ordinarily be one, and there are gameplay elements (“multipliers”) built around this mechanic. Every other roguelike I’ve played has been strictly turn based and I have to slow myself down because I’m freaking out at one thing or another. For this, it’s the opposite problem where you have to make quick decisions and develop the right reflexes and it ends up being really rewarding.

(do not watch if you have epilepsy)
https://youtu.be/TH08jpNNcFg

The graphics use that usual pseudo-old-school-not-really resolution mixing to a level that is pretty offensive. I’ve come to just tune it out. I seem to be the only person who cares about this so at this point I’m tuning it out for my own personal wellness. #selfcare

The end of the game is involves a pretty tough zone with a combination of two bosses. I attached the replay of my run of the zone!
Comments
– Using Cadence the main character.
– Starting eq: normal broadsword + apple, purchased at Diamond Dealer
– The start was pretty rough. Made a bunch of mistakes, in one part I fell into a trap with no way of getting out except bombing myself.
– Wasted a bit of time on shop purchase, item indecision
– Dead Ringer went well.
– Necrodancer did me a solid and killed an ogre for me
– I always kill my multiplier for black skeletons.

Time: 11:33 Score: 432

Besides Cadence I finished zones 1+2+3+4 with Dove, I’m looking forward to playing a few of the other characters also 🙂

*there is an option in the game’s menu to turn off the “Disco floor” if there is a chance of it causing problems

June 23rd, 2019 at 9:23 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Brain Lord (SNES)

This is a SNES RPG, a top-down action RPG with some puzzle elements.

Like every great? RPG there are two towns. Here called “Arcs” and “Toronto”. As this is a medieval-themed game, they would end up settling on town names that were something mystical-sounding

I don’t think the phrase “Brain Lord” is ever mentioned in any part of the game.

The game incorporates some puzzle elements which were actually pretty cool. For example, a room where some text on the wall says:
“12 – 52 – Although greater in size, its equivalent is the same in time.”
the answer is a three digit number. Maybe too easy?

Unique qualities:

  1. Levelless system
  2. AI pokemon fairy things that follow you and are a game mechanic
  3. AI pokemon fairy things that follow you and are a game mechanic
  4. Fast travel
  5. No love interest

Some people are quick with the comparisons to Zelda. Zelda doesn’t have a monopoly on the puzzle-ARPG does it? It definitely is a puzzle-ARPG though.

June 12th, 2019 at 1:59 am | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Final Fantasy Legend (GB)

This is a spin-off to the Final Fantasy series and related to the Sa-Ga series made by Square Enix.

The whole thing with Legend is it’s “a lot more epic than it seems like it should be”. See the games I remember Game Boy original were fairly light in subject matter, emotional power and how the story is delivered. But, this game:
• Levels with a scary unkillable monster
• Real actual character death
• An ending sequence where you fight the creator of the universe
Confirmed the creator of the universe is wearing a top hat
It turns out the composer for this game is also Nobuo Uematsu the same as mainline Final Fantasy series except for XIII. If you listen carefully you can hear similarities to the rest of the series’ music.

For the gameplay, you have the flexibility of choosing all characters in your party and their type (Human, Mutant, Monster). The game suffers from some balancing issues which make certain bossfights far, far disproportionally harder than others.

There is apparently an homage to Legend in Final Fantasy XIII where (spoiler) Orphan can be killed instantly by Vanille’s Death spell. It is not 100% guarantee but there is a chance particularly if staggered. In the Final Fantasy XIII Scenario Ultimania book it says outright this was an intentional reference to Legend.

November 22nd, 2018 at 9:24 am | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Gundam Wing: Endless Duel (SNES)
Story Mode with Vayeate

This is a Gundam-inspired fighting game released in Japan only. You can play as several of the Gundams from the show. Gosh this game has so much graphical polish and the soundtrack is A++++. For this I played through the story mode and recorded it on my capture card.

I got this replica cart to play it

From playthrough (recorded with my awesome new capture card)–

Deathscythe and Epyon if unlocked are very over-powered in this game. In general the mechs are not very balanced. Still, my regular tends to be Vayeate because it is my favorite from the show. Life would be boring if everyone playing Street Fighter was Zangief, right?? Vayeate has a couple good features- this huge space rifle-like thing that can be used as a bludgeoning weapon, plus a few attacks that go diagonally.

August 12th, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Wonder Project J (SNES)

What it is- Pinocchio: the anime game

The scientist Geppetto has constructed a robot named Pino, part of a special family of robots called Gijin. In a tragic and sudden surprise, Geppetto was captured by the evil rulers of the kingdom before he was able to finish Pino’s programming. You play as Tinker, a magical fairy who guides Pino toward being able to rescue the kingdom and his creator Geppetto.

You don’t control Pino directly, but Tinker. Tinker can direct Pino left or right, or tell him to stop; signal to him “right!” or “wrong!” She can tell him to interact with an object, she can pick up and move objects.

Interactions with Tinker comprise the building blocks with which Pino learns language, combat, good manners, sports, musical instruments. And how not to eat the cat. (In my 1st playthrough he hoisted the cat up into the air and into his mouth and it disappeared. I think it’s a glitch, but he gained a bunch of health from it, so… I dunno…)

Another game never released in the west. It turns out there is not much of a market for these sorts of simulators. It was tantalizing reading about this in Nintendo Power magazine but there was no typical way to play it.

Playing it in the late 90s / early 2000s was difficult because it was only available in Japanese and there didn’t yet exist any English-language guides. Fortunately the gameplay is very all-ages friendly and visually explanatory, so it worked well as a learning tool for some words and vocabulary at that time.

Graphically it was all about really layered, complicated backgrounds and big smoothly-animated characters. Oh, and voice acting. In an SNES game. When Pino learns something, he actually says “Wakatte wa!” (Got it! / I understand it). There’s a poignant moment where he says “Arigatou… minna”. There were maybe 5 or 6 voice clips like that. I really want to know what percent of the cartridge was dedicated to storing wave file sound. Voice acting in SNES games exists but it’s very rare.

Today there is a 100% complete fan translation. A really good one at that, it’s been worth the wait.

February 23rd, 2018 at 12:07 am | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts (SNES)

This one, I streamed it live on Twitch. Thanks to those who joined in! The playthrough consisted of going through all levels of the game, beating the last boss, then doing all levels AGAIN and beating the new final boss to get the “real” ending. Completion time: about 2 hours 16 minutes.

This game was released by Capcom in ’91, making it very early-gen. It is notorious for being a finicky oldschool 2D platformer. It is all about double-jumping and its unique flavor of double-jumping is hard to get used to. It is easy to take damage and taking two damages kills you.

Something I like about this game is how it’s easy to just dive in and play without much time commitment. No long, annoying cutscenes, no tutorial, you just sort of blast right through. I practiced this game a bit while listening to an audio-book and it was a nice way to keep myself occupied. As some telegraphing is sound-based it’s not super mute friendly but you can do it.

It has some things going for it: the art direction is good for the time at which it came out, and the early and midgame levels are creatively designed.

The game is severely held back by the amount of content recycling. Enemies, bosses, level progression. The hardest-to-forgive is how it forces you to effectively play through the same content twice to get to the ending.

I don’t recommend this game. If you want a sense of what its art direction has to offer, play a different but related game Demon’s Crest.

February 14th, 2018 at 1:11 am | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Minion (PC)

This is an indie game developed by a friend of mine. This game follows the visual novel genre, where gameplay consists of dialogue choices that branch out into many story possibilities.

For all games of this genre, sometimes the story outcomes and narrative flow are predictable based on your decisions; sometimes they aren’t. Seeing how it unfolds is a lot of what makes it fun, though.

In this game you play the role of a minion, the title character- the lowly servant to the sorcerer-queen Althea who rules over a medieval fantasy-type kingdom. Althea is powerful but so is her ego and her potential for cruelty. She doesn’t, as a default, consider the needs of her subjects. As her minion, you have the opportunity to step in and help the subjects of her kingdom! Or not. There are a lot of different choices.

The game doesn’t transparently show its statistics to you and it keeps things interesting. You draw conclusions about what actions cause what chages if any. For example, the ‘Exercise’ action appears to improve your combat ability. Also, ‘Reading’ will improve how sensitive or artistically inclined your character is. You don’t readily see the effects of your stats, but they will affect certain events such as the annual harvest festival competitions.

Playthrough #1: A neutral-good, middle-of-the-road strategy for all my decisions. BAD IDEA. I ended up battling the dragon and getting annihilated. Since I hadn’t developed my combat skill enough, I couldn’t fight the dragon. Since I hadn’t done anything selfish, I didn’t have combat items. Since I hadn’t unlocked the relevant events, I couldn’t enlist another’s help to fight the dragon for me. This game does NOT favor the ‘balanced build’.

Playthrough #2: Be completely useless. Do nothing all the time, read books if I have no other option. Don’t help Althea. Don’t help the townspeople. Don’t go to festivals or do much of anything. Althea ended up killing me for my insolence. I don’t know what I expected!

Playthrough #3: Kiss up to Althea. She is a sorceress-queen, so this should be a valuable relationship, right? I got her gifts, went to events with her, and chose dialogue options that made her happy. I *think* this unlocked some options where she can fight battles instead of me. This mostly worked out well, except for the battle at the end against the wizard. Whatever I did, I wasn’t able to ensure she or I or the kingdom’s army were powerful enough. I have a feeling there is a special ending involving Althea but I wasn’t able to get past this part.

Playthrough #4: Lawful-good warrior. Choose decisions that benefit the townsfolk, AND exercise all the time, AND get magic items (sword, armor, shield) even if it means hiding them from Althea and getting her mad at me. This ended up working out well. I was able to kill the dragon, AND the Wichaea guards, AND the wizard himself, and get a good ending!

Overall, I loved playing this game particularly because of the writing. The culmination of how your decisions affect later outcomes was interesting to discover and the writing was the vehicle for that. Dialogue was at times serious, and silly, and breaking the 4th wall and involving pop culture references. There is considerable depth you may or may not even get to see, depending on what story branch you take.

Still need to find out what happens if you don’t throw the One Ring into the volcano. Or how to improve my dancing ability. So many unanswered questions!

February 7th, 2018 at 1:39 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