Thoughts on Alcohol

I had rather mixed feelings about alcohol in the past. Ironically, considering I work as a bartender, in the last few years I’ve found it hard to find any merit to the idea of drinking. When I was younger (by which I mean, about two-three years ago), I drank rather heavily (a side-effect of my living alone and unsupervised for the first time), and looking back all I can really remember getting out of it was an empty wallet and a hangover. Well, that and the consequences of the poor decisions I often made while inebriated.

As a result of my disillusionment with alcohol, I made it a resolution of sorts to “cut down” on drinking after my 20th birthday, and during 2014 it’s safe to say I succeeded. Subtracting birthdays and special occasions, I think I went out – for no other reason than going out – about four times in total, with only one of those being my idea. And honestly, looking back, it didn’t make me feel “better” in the way I expected it would.

In retrospect, I think I partly “demonized” alcohol in my mind, using it to take to blame for many of the poor decisions I made “back in the day”. I’ve never been one for purely empirical experiences, so the money I spent on alcohol always felt wasted the next day, as I never had anything physical to show for it (besides a host of blurry, unflattering photos). But, after going out for drinks over last weekend – and admittedly getting rather smashed – I’ve come to realize that sometimes the experience is worth the price of admission, so to speak.

So, while I have no intention of returning to my previous ways, I think 2015 is going to be the year I stop avoiding drink, and just start going with the flow again. I’m sure I’ll have bad experiences at some point, inappropriately-timed hangovers come to mind (amongst other things), but hopefully the good experiences will outweigh the bad. Given that I’m a little older – and a little more mature – I think now I’ll be in a better position to enjoy alcohol as opposed to just consuming it with intoxication in mind.

Gaming Diary – Phantasy Star Gaiden Pt. 06

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Console: Game Gear
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1992
ROM Translated by: “Magic Destiny”

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So, in lieu of level grinding, I decided to go through the forest the old fashioned way – by constantly running away from battles. This doesn’t negate the challenge, however, as I soon discover the forest is one of the “Lost Woods” variety – constantly warping you to a small hut at the center whenever you try to leave the wrong way. After a myriad of wrong turns, and the backtracking that ensued, we eventually come across Dirk – a dwarf, who seems to be just as lost as we are.


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Dirk: Hello! I… ah… er… seem to be lost!
Mina: Sir, we’re looking for Old Rob’s brother…a fellow called Dirk.
Dirk: Why… Hey, I’m Dirk!
Alec: We need to close the sluice.
Dirk: Hmm… Only if you help me get home.
I seem to have used up all of my magic!
My house is in the center of the forest.
Mina: Of course, we’ll help you get home.
-Dirk Joined-


Wait, what the hell just happened? When was it discussed that we were searching for Old Rob’s brother? And what the hell is a “sluice”? I’m going to assume there was some error in translation at some point down the line, because this is all completely new to me. Nonetheless, we now have a third party member… so, confusion aside, we can probably take this as a win.

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Somewhat unsurprisingly, with Dirk in our party – and our current goal now being to reach his home- leaving the forest no longer warps us directly to the cottage, but instead takes us back outside. It isn’t exactly difficult to find the center of the forest though, so taking Dirk back to his cottage is a rather simlpe task. How he managed to get lost in a forest he lives in, however, is beyond me…

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Dirk: I’m in your debt…
Let’s go close that sluice!
-Got Sluice Key-


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Trying to leave the forest proves… impossible, as the area of the overworld we arrive in leads nowhere but back into the forest… and the area of the forest we arrive in only leads back outside… Luckily, we brought a “Telepipe” with us, which allows us to teleport to the last town we visited, in this case it conveniently takes us back to the nearby town of Porum – where I’m pretty sure we needed to go anyway.

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In town, however, we can’t seem to find any hints as to whee this “sluice” is… so, in the end I decide to head north, seeing how it’s the only direction we haven’t been. It quickly becomes becomes apparent that Dirk is going to be more of a dead weight than  had anticipated though, as he has no equipment, and is almost 10 levels lower than Mina and Alec. This, of course, means that we’ll be ending this part here, so that I can do some level grinding, for Dirk’s benefit, and work out where I’m going next. So, see you all in Part Seven! 🙂

Gaming Diary – Phantasy Star Gaiden Pt. 05

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Console: Game Gear
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1992
ROM Translated by: “Magic Destiny”

So, in attempting to cross the desert it soon becomes apparent that we have some level grinding to do. While we have been killing every foe we’ve met recently with a single blow, the enemies here have a nasty habit of constantly evading our attacks (in other words, our attacks our doing zero damage), somewhat akin to Lao-tse. Speaking of that inexplicably powerful old man, however, seeing how we’re going to need to gain a few levels before progressing anyway  (and we’ve certainly gained a few since last facing him), we might as well return and see if we are strong enough to beat him yet.

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We are.

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Popo’s Teacher: You’ve done well.
I know all about your mission.
Take this item that Popo stole,
and good luck!
-Got a World Map!-


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After buying some better equipment, and levelling up a few more times, we manage to cross the desert in one piece, and enter a cave just south. Considering the relative difficulty of the enemies I fought in the desert, I was suprised to discover the enemies within to be those I had been fighting in the areas previous… in other words, this dungeon turned out to be incredibly easy.

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Inside, besides the endless of torrent of low-level enemies, we find four treasures; a Patriot Ring (a one-shot attack item), a Typhoon Bomb (another attack item), a Trimate (fully restores HP to one ally), and a Perseus Shield (the most instantly useful of the four, which grants a nifty defense upgrade when compared to the shields currently within my price range).

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With the cave thoroughly looted, we can now proceed to the town of Porum just a little to the east. The town is nothing special, but it does contain some better equipment/spells in it’s shops – so once again we’re going to have to start saving up for some better equipment.


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Thanks for the information Mr. Random NPC!

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Well, I guess we won’t be reaching Tarrytown this way…

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Dirk has an item and a name. Dirk must be important.


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Our next goal will be to traverse this forest to the south… but – shockingly – the enemies within are too strong for us to fight at the moment. Therefore, I’m going to end this part here, as I will need to do a moderate amount of grinding before attempting to get through here. Once I’ve gained a few levels, and upgraded my equipment accordingly, we will return… and see what lies beyond the forest! So, see you in Part Six!

Gaming Diary – Phantasy Star Gaiden Pt. 04

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Console: Game Gear
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1992
ROM Translated by: “Magic Destiny”

Research done, I now know that my main priority should be collecting the “ATV”, and with that in mind I travel south to the port town of Karkato.

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The citizens are, for the most part, all preoccupied with their town’s inability to travel the seas due to monsters – but their worries will just have to wait, as we have much more important things to think about. Mainly, the town’s reckless disregard for the age limit.

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After wading through the various self-pitying NPCs, preoccupied with petty issues like how they’re going to feed their families if they can’t go fishing, we find this chap – who takes it upon himself to recommend the town’s local sambucca-esque liqueur to a pair of traveling minors. In true RPG fashion, this “Ouzo” is clearly important now, so before traveling to the ruins to the east, we make a quick stop at the local item shop to pick up a bottle. Lucky for us, the guy doesn’t ask for ID.


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Ouzo at the ready, we travel to the eastern ruins.

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Well… isn’t that convenient!

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A quick trip to our inventory and…

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…he takes the bait!

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Clearly this man is being paid too much.



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The ruins prove to be surprisingly short, and we are able to reach the chest containing the ATV, and return to the exit, with only 1 Torch – which is lucky, as I forgot to purchase any more since the last dungeon. There are no random encounters here either, which feels rather odd… but does provide a welcome change from the encounter-every-two-steps we had to deal with in the northern cave. Nonetheless, I feel like a boss battle would have been nice, as so far – besides Lao-tse – we have yet to encounter anything even resembling a boss – meaning that once we’ve done an adequate amount of level-grinding, every area loses all semblance of challenge beyond the frustration of constant battle.

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The ATV is apparently some kind of car, and with it we can now cross the desert (something I wasn’t aware we couldn’t do). What dangers await us beyond the desert? Will we finally meet something akin to a boss? Will the plot finally develop beyond a giant fetch quest? Find out next time, in Part Five! 😛

Gaming Diary – Phantasy Star Gaiden Pt. 03

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Console: Game Gear
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1992
ROM Translated by: “Magic Destiny”

With no idea where to go, I decide to try my luck at the nearby gypsy encampment. Well, first I tried crossing the desert – but the monsters within proved much too powerful for my party at their current level. Luckily for me the gypsies inform me of a fortune teller in their camp – and who better to tell me where I should go next? So, after popping into numerous houses (which, considering this is a camp, look suspiciously similar to the futuristic houses of the original Phantasy Star – in stark contrast to the houses we’ve seen elsewhere), I find the fortune teller’s abode. After crossing her palm with 120 mesetas, she rewards me with the vague nugget of information below, in addition to a “Bracelet of Kura” – whatever that is.

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A wee enemy will join; a big one will guide.
A boat will appear when the Master is found. Take this…
-Got the Bracelet of Kura.-

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There’s nothing else “important” here – that I’m aware of at least – so with that out of the way, I think we’ll continue to the next town and see if any plot happens there. I’m not feeling particularly optimistic – given how so much of Phantasy Star’s “plot” happened in it’s dungeons – but you never know, we might meet an important NPC, or at least find someone who’ll give us an idea as to where we should be headed next…

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The town of Mektor is much larger than Tedo, but doesn’t feature anything particularly new. It has the usual item/weapon/magic shops (which each feature a more impressive selection than before), and an Inn (although Alec’s mother is still only a minute’s walk away… so this Inn probably won’t see any use). Besides this, the town is really just a more “padded out” variant of Tedo, without those pesky plot-important NPCs. The only thing worthy of note is an NPC who offers to give a “tour” of the town… although this is a rather pointless waste of your mesetas.


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This guy’s pimp hat made me think this was a very different offer at first.

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And yet here we are, and here you are… I call bullshit.

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And once again, a blonde-haired lady is bringin’ us the knowledge!


I’ve been to the not-so-aptly-named Tinyville once before, but as it was a mistake on my part, I glossed over it. Now, however, it seems that the search for a Map may be the closest thing we have to a current goal – besides Alec’s whole “my daddy’s been kidnapped” schtick. So, with nothing better to do (your daddy is just gonna have to wait Alec), I guess we should press on to Tinyville, in the hope that finding a Map may enlighten us as to where we should go next…

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Once we have arrived in Tinyville, tracking down the Map becomes our main priority – and finding it’s owner is a surprisingly easy task. Mr McSillyname (A.K.A – Popo) lives in one of houses nearest to the entrance.

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Speaking to him proves fruitless, however, as he merely boasts of the Map’s money-making potential. His next-door neighbour, however, proves to know a little more about the map than Popo is letting on…

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Guess Popo will have to put his get-rich-quick schemes on hold for now.

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This is Lao-tse. Lao-tse will knock you all down.

Visiting the cave to the north of Tinyville I discovered two things – 1. that this is in fact the same cave that I visited to get the Scroll of Truth – it is merely a seperate entrance, and 2. that fixed encounter that trounced me back then? Still just as impossible to beat now. In order to get the map, however, we’re going to have to beat him – but considering my party can’t even damage him yet, I’m guessing this is not the goal I thought it would be. If it is, Sega are really taking the piss with their level grinding expectations…

With that in mind, I might as well leave this part as is, and do some research as to what I should be doing next. So, when we return in Part Four, look forward to some honest-to-goodness progress!

Gaming Diary – Phantasy Star Gaiden Pt. 02

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Console: Game Gear
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1992
ROM Translated by: “Magic Destiny”

On to part two of the Gaming Diary, and it’s become clear to me that this Gaiden title has a lot in common with it’s predecessor. Mainly, it’s emphasis on grinding. In order to progress, I found myself having to spend well over an hour battling enemies until I managed to not only level up, but also replace my equipment with the strongest varieties available in shops. Just to put things in perspective, equipping one character with the strongest equipment available in the first town costs 520 mesetas – the in-game currency – so to fully equip both party members we have to fork out 1040 mesetas. Given that the enemies in the first area drop between 3-14 mesetas… this proved to be a rather tiresome effort.

Image26This is a screen I quickly became all too familiar with…

Nonetheless, I endured the monotony, and after killing a Scorpius for what felt like the billionth time, I finally managed to have my party fully equipped – and each armed with a basic healing and attacking spell (which set me back a further 90 mesetas, although in comparison to the prior costs that felt rather negligible). In retrospect, the thing that annoyed me most during this process was my inability to check how many mesetas I currently had, without going to a shop. This led to numerous pointless trips to the weapon store, where I would discover my wallet to be just shy of my target – forcing me to go out into the wilderness once more…

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So, after a bit of exploring – and a wander off in entirely the wrong direction – we finally come across the cave we were supposed to arrive at. I discover this rather begrudgingly, after having previously visited the dungeon across the river (as shown in the picture below), where I found myself being beaten rather thoroughly by a fixed encounter three steps in.

Image29Hey! Who turned out the lights??

Now that we’re on the right track, however, we can continue with our mission. Upon entering the dungeon, I find myself in a blackout. Luckily, thanks to having played Phantasy Star prior, I came prepared with a stock of Torch items – and thus, am able to light up the darkness, and progress onwards. While I’m sure it would be possible to progress onwards (unlike the game’s predecessor, which prevented the player from exploring areas in which they couldn’t see), I can’t really see any merit to the idea of doing so, considering Torches only cost about 30 mesetas a pop.

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One thing worth noting at this point, is that Torches don’t last forever – in fact they expire a lot quicker than one would expect. As such, it would be prudent to come with a hefty number of Torches in tow (I came with only 3).

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Luckily, with the aid of a map, I manage to make it to the chest containing our objective just as the first Torch begins to fade. So, with that in mind I suppose two Torches would be adequate assuming you know exactly where to go. If you’re playing without any form of aid, however, I would recommend bringing 3+ Torches, as the cave features numerous dead ends, which could leave you stuck in the middle of the cave without light, should you waste too much time going down them.

With the Scroll of Truth in our inventory, we can now return to Old Rob, and see what gems of wisdom he has to impart upon us now.

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Old Rob:
Ah!! An old parchment…
How odd… Mina’s name is written here…
What!? It also reads that Mina is of Alis
and Alec is her champion…
These Chosen shall seal the Evil…
Wow!! You’ll journey far… confront Cablon
and vanquish him!
Alec: Whoa! Not so fast, Sir…
My only concern is for my dad.
Mina: Either way, you’re not leaving me behind!

With that, we return to town… with literally no idea as to where our next destination is. On the plus side, at least Alec is back to acknowledging the fact that his father’s capture is actually a rather important issue – although why he agreed to wander off into a cave at the ramblings of a senile old man to begin with is still beyond me. Either way, this seems like as good a time as any to end Part Two – although I will leave you with this…


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I met this woman during my adventures on the wrong side of the river. She had this to say of the planet Alisland. Without getting into just how small this planet must be… I’ve already come across four towns during my journeys; Tedo (the first town), the Gypsy Encampment (set in a desert just South-East of Tedo), Mektor (a town just across the river), and “Tinyville” (a town right in front of the cave I accidentaly wandered into earlier… and ironically the largest town I’ve visited so far).

With that said, I can’t say I have high hopes in regards to the longevity of this game… but I could still be proven wrong at this point – though I assume the game’s longevity was most likely focused on grinding, as my experience so far tells me that my time grinding has only just begun. Anyway, see you in Part Three! =)

Gaming Diary – Phantasy Star Gaiden Pt. 01

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Console: Game Gear
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1992
ROM Translated by: “Magic Destiny”

As I mentioned a long time ago, I’ve been planning to do a series of “gaming diaries” for a while now. Well, the wait is over! I’ve finally managed to decide which game start with! Generally speaking these “diaries” are basically just going to summarize the plot, take note of gameplay, and maybe poke fun at any issues I find with the game. I’m planning on doing a series of these, all focusing on fan-translated games; such as Moon Crystal, Grandia: Parallel Trippers, and – of course – Phantasy Star Gaiden. In doing so, I’m hoping to shine a light on some hidden jewels of retro gaming, and maybe encourage a few people to look these “old” games up – or even look into other recently-translated games that never made it to our shores back in the good ol’ days.

So, without further ado, I present Part One (of god-knows how many) of my Phantasy Star Gaiden diary. This first part will mostly just feature the first 5-10 minutes of the game, as it is rather heavy on the text. Nonetheless, I’m playing the game as I write this… so we’ll see how far I decide to go for this first little slice of Gaiden goodness.


Prologue

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Long ago, the evil Cablon ravaged the Capto Planet
one light-year distant from the Algol System.
In defeat, Cablon was sealed on a colony planet
discovered by Alis, and named Alisland.
Now, it’s AW813… a time of growing unrest.
Alec and Mina are two youths from Tedo Village
who revere the legend of Alis and Odin
as told by the Elder who raised Mina, an orphan.
One day, Mina found an old artifact…

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Mina: Hey, Alec! Take a look at this…
Alec: Wow! That pendant looks old, but quite ornate.
Mina: I’ll let Morg examine it later.
Alec: Yep, Dad’s due back with the Laconia ore.
Mina: He’s been gone for weeks… I’m worried.
Alec: Me too… I’m also tired of running his shop.

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Tailor: Er… Excuse me… I- I need…
Mina: Oh, Alec! That poor man… He’s bleeding!
Alec: Whoa! What happened to you, Sir?
Tailor: Wa… Water… (Gasp!)
Mina: Here, Sir… Have a sip of this.
Tailor: Th-Thank you! I’m Tailor, a couturier.
Mountain bandits have been holding me captive.
This man, Morg… from Tedo… he was with me.

Both of us made a dash for it, but only I escaped.

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Alec: M-Morg… You mean my father!?
Mina: What!? How did this happen!?
Tailor: Ambushed… Looking for ore… Same as I…
Are you Alec?
Here, Son… Morg sent you this…
-Got Wisdom Mirror.-
Ooooh… …
-Tailor fell unconscious.-
Mina:
Wow! The Elder should here of this!
Alec: Indeed! I must act fast, too!

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Elder: Oh, Alec… Your face… What’s wrong!?
Mina: Morg fell into the clutches of bandits!
Elder: Oh my! I’ve heard that those Daedalus Bandits
control robots and a lot of strange monsters!
Alec: Doesn’t matter… I’m going after him!
Elder: (Sigh) Well, see Old Rob before you go.
You’ll need a few supplies outside of the village.
-Got Short Sword.-
-Got Wood Cane.-
-Got Leather Armor.-
-Got 50 Mesetas.-
Mina: Come Alec, let’s find Old Rob without delay!

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So, with that out of the way, we finally have control over Mina and Alec, and can start exploring Tedo Village in search of this “Old Rob” fellow. And I’ll just take this opportunity to say that these graphics really do not impress. I mean, even for the Game Gear, this seems a little underwhelming. But there’s more to a game than it’s graphics – so on we go! The adventure begins! Or, at least, it will after a few quick detours…


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I get the feeling that whoever built these roads was more than a little bit drunk…

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A missing husband is nothing compared to a mother’s concern for her sleepy son.

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A sentence that basically describes every RPG ever made. Clearly, this lady get’s it!

 


So, after visiting what felt like every single house in town, I figure this Old Rob geezer must live elsewhere – so I try to leave town. Only for Mina to scold Alec, telling him they need to visit Old Rob first. Now, correct me if I’m wrong Mina… but aren’t you the one in front?

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It turns out that Old Rob’s house was “hidden” (by which I mean, placed rather counter-intuitively) just north of the exit. By which I mean, the only way to have found him was to have gone to the exit first, because not only is his house surrounded by trees which separate it from the rest of the town, but it’s also the only building that doesn’t have a road leading to it… your only clue is a gap in the trees (which you can see in the screenshot above). So, once the pair finally stumble across Old Rob’s hidden abode, the plot can thicken – with the help of another, prettier, cutscene.

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Old Rob: I’ve already heard about Morg…
Oh…
Wow! Could that be the legendary Light Pendant!?
It surely looks like the one in the Old Tome!
How did you young whippersnappers get ahold of it?
Well, anyway… A prophecy reads that two souls
shall acquire the Pendant, then save our planet…
Whoa!! Could it be YOU mentioned in the prophecy!?
Go west…
Find the Scroll of Truth! Check the cave, then return here!
You’ll need this. Use it to warp back to town.
-Got a Telepipe.-

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Well, that escalated quickly. One second we’re on a mission to save Alec’s father… and now we’re the “chosen ones”, and we’re being sent on a completely unrelated mission to some random cave. Erm, that’s cool… I think? With that settled, Mina finally lets us leave town, and we reach the World Map – which we will explore in PART TWO!!

Will Alec find his father?
Will the game throw another random plot at us??
Will we get our ass handed to us by the first random we encounter???
Find out next week! =P