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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

Finished Cuphead (PC, Windows)

What was good
• It looks like one of those old timey cartoons!!!!
• Art direction
• This game is a literal work of art.
• Gameplay-wise, each level feels very fresh and different, where you have some standard shoot-y 2D bosses, some gravity-changing platforming, Gradius-style shooting, vertical scrolling boss fight. It has everything

What was not good
• There was this one part where ha ha just kidding it’s perfect

This game avoids having too many moves or power-ups which are “just good”; each weapon has its advantages and drawbacks, and your starting weapon– the peashooter– could very well be a good late-game choice. For example the second-to-last boss fight (King Dice) I used that one. This specials are not your musou in Dynasty Warriors. They are not “just good”, (with one exception) you are not invincible when you use them, they can and will get you killed versus if you didn’t use the special. From a gameplay perspective this makes you put a lot more thought into your actions.

This game was as challenging as everyone says it was. There were moments I thought I may not be able to make progress in it, however each boss’s moved are telegraphed one way or another so once you pick up on that it gets doable. I tend to be better that the reflex-based parts (like the bird feathers or robot missiles) while I had trouble with the weird parrying mechanic.

“Easiest” boss- the pirate. Everything in that fight is pretty killable or avoidable…
Hardest” boss- The bee. I don’t know exactly why I really had trouble with it. feels like Donkey Kong?
Favorite boss- the stageplay/actress one. There is this part where she is replaced by a cardboard cutout. It reminds me of the final fight with Kefka from FF6. It’s great.

November 4th, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Yoshi’s Island (SNES)

In this, ‘finished’ means 100 points on every stage of all worlds including the extra stages.

The extra stages include some Kaizo level nonsense. I’m thinking particularly of Hit That Switch. I did Hit that switch while streaming though. Darn, I should have recorded it…

This game is different from the usual format. In it, instead of Mario controlling Yoshi, Yoshi must escort the infant Mario around. If Mario becomes separated from Yoshi he makes a terrible noise, so there is a strong non-gameplay incentive to not let that happen.

This is the game where it is apparently revealed that Mario and Luigi are twins. Is this canon?

October 17th, 2017 at 10:26 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Fatty Bear’s Birthday Surprise (PC, DOS)

The Fatty Bear franchise is affiliated with the Putt-Putt franchise. Although Putt-Putt spanned many games, Fatty Bear was well liked and this game was re-released on Steam too.

A little girl named Kayla has a teddy bear named Fatty Bear and he and Kayla’s other toys come to life when no one is looking. Since tomorrow is Kayla’s birthday, the toys work together to make her surprise party a very special one. You need to help Fatty bake her a cake, decorate a sign, and ensure her present arrives intact.

Fatty can inspect things, and pick them up, and you navigate Fatty through the house to get cake ingredients, keys for doors, and other things that he needs. Clicking on objects makes them come to life and the animations are very entertaining and silly. Or, Fatty will have an animation with that object. Fatty is so cute!

October 7th, 2017 at 11:11 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Echo (PC, Windows)

This is a Danish indie game I first played at a demo booth at PAX last year. It made me really happy to find out that the full version was released.

This is a stealth-action game where you are pitted against copies of yourself, and there is a day-night cycle. During the day, the types of actions you perform are recorded. Come the next day, those copies will re-play an approximation of what you did. Therefore, you want to be very conscious of what you do during the day, and use the night-time wisely.

Examples of recorded behaviors: running, sneaking, yelling, eating grapes, playing musical instruments, bludgeoning, shooting a firearm.

There is something terrifying yet rewarding in going full Rambo in a stealth game

Story: The main character has been awoken after a deep sleep. Long ago, her friend Foster was about to be killed, so she put a digitized copy of him into a small red box. To be resurrected later, once the technology exists. She travels to a weird planet that appears to hold the secret to resurrecting him out of the box.

The visual style of this game is kind of ridiculous. Everything looks like a geometry instancing demo with all kinds of shiny things. But it works for this game. If nothing else it looks really unique and distinctive. It is not Mass Effect or Destiny or Dead Space. Would play an Echo 2.

October 6th, 2017 at 5:07 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Kirby Super Star (SNES)

Kirby Super Star consists of ‘9-games-in-one’. ‘Finished’ here means ‘100% completion’

The concept and envrionments of Kirby are so darn cute I want to hate it but I just can’t.

The game modes are different enough from each other to make things interesting:

Spring Breeze – Simple platformer
Dyna Blade – Slightly more challenging platformer
Great Cave Offensive – Treasure hunt! Look for secret passageways etc
Revenge of Meta Knight – Fast moving platformer
Milky Way Wishes – Metroidvania ish
Arena- Beat all 20 bosses in succession. 5 health refills available

And three small ‘coffee break’ games.

Why hello
http://e3.nintendo.com/…/kirby-for-nintendo-switch-working…/

Q: If Kirby ate you, what ability would he gain?

In before “debilitating depression” or “alcoholism”

September 24th, 2017 at 11:23 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

Finished Pilotwings (SNES)

Is it possible to make a game entirely in Mode 7? Yes

Pilotwings is very earlygen SNES. It showcases the capabilities of Mode 7 graphics (texture-mapped plane which can be scaled/rotated/perspective transformed) to get something of a faux 3D. There are six flight modes: small plane, skydiving, rocketbelt (like a jetpack), hang-glider, helicopter, and some thing like a wing suit.

Defeating the first four courses unlocks the ‘expert’ mode, where the courses have some difficult twist (ice and snow, night, strong winds, etc) plus other difficulty adjustments. Clearing all expert courses clears the game

Too bad flight simulators are a dead genre. (“something something Microsoft Flight Simulator”, Microsoft Flight Simulator is older than I am) (“something something indie games” . okay) Unfortunately I think that to make a flight simulator marketable nowadays, it needs to have combat elements incorporated. Thinking about it, the last-released flight sim I remember playing was Il-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey on Xbox 360 which had reasonable mainstream success. That one takes place in a war scenario obviously with the shooting mechanics you would expect.

Pilotwings did not make the cut for SNES classic but maybe the IP will get picked up for the Switch.

August 23rd, 2017 at 12:01 am | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Finished Professor Layton and the Last Specter (3DS),
and the bonus game that the USA version ships with, Professor Layton- Little London

This is the fourth installment in the Professor Layton series. The puzzles seem, on average, easier (maybe too easy?) compared to previous installments. But there is enough variety to keep it interesting, and the side puzzles like the model train set are fun and worthwhile.

Little London looks and plays a lot like Harvest Moon, if you isolate it down to all of the cutesy character interaction and none of the turnip farming.

I have a big problem with Little London.

The mechanics of the game are as follows: you have two stats, Wealth and Happiness, whereby Wealth is accrued from working at jobs and fulfilling requests from the various townspeople; Happiness is acquired also by fulfilling requests, however– when you buy anything that costs X, X/2 will be added to your Happiness. Therefore, after unlocking the highest Wealth-giving quests in the game (and also the train ticket job), it’s just a matter of buying expensive things over and over and until you reach the Happiness desired. Optionally, you can sell things (for less than was paid for) and buy them again to streamline this grind late-game.

Is this the kind of value system we want to be broadly promoting to people? Materialism??

Your character begins the game with a home and basic needs met. The Wealth is just for buying frivolous things. New furnishings, new clothes. Cosmetic accessories. These are great, sure, but to directly, numerically link the resulting happiness they provide with how much they cost feels totally unrealistic. Am I going to be ten times happier with a $200 curtains compared to $20? Should I really spend $5000 on a golden stuffed animal? There are some material things I’ve purchased which made me *less* happy, for example the Lion King for Super Nintendo.

 

 

August 18th, 2017 at 7:36 am | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink