Gotta catch them all.

So, I’ve gotten back into Pokemon recently. Probably as a result of the fact that I have a 3DS now, and therefore the ability to play the most recent games. Whilst I wait for the best opportunity to purchase a newer title, I’ve started playing Pokemon Platinum – mainly to refresh my memory, but also to catch more of my favorite Pokemon, in the hopes of transferring them to my next game. Going back to it, I was actually surprised to see how little I had done.

I mean, I’ve defeated the Elite Four… but haven’t actually progressed much further than that, having been side-tracked the last time I played (trying to catch all my favorite water Pokemon once I got the Super Rod). So, right now my party is basically all water Pokemon. Because strategy and type effectiveness means nothing to me.

Well, that’s putting my Pokemon down a little. I have put some thought into my party, with only one pure water type (Azumarill, who I’ve recently discovered is now a Water/Fairy type). My other Pokemon right now are Starmie, Lombre, Lanturn, Pelipper and Quagsire… and they all have moves of at least 3 different types, so my coverage is actually pretty good.

I think a lot of the reason I drift out of playing Pokemon so often is the fact that it’s so much harder to find real-life people to battle against. I never really feel a desire to create a stronger team than is necessary to defeat the Elite Four, which means I often tend to cap a few at Level 60 and then get bored. However, I’ve learned a little bit about EV training and the complexities of breeding recently, which has given be a bit of motivation to go back and “reboot” my party.

Oblivion.

Randomly started playing Oblivion yesterday. I thought I had played it semi-recently, but it turns out I haven’t played it since I got my current Xbox 360 (which was years ago). I was kinda bummed at first, because this meant that not only did I have to start from the beginning, but I had also lost access the character I had put so many weeks (months) into on my old save. Over it now though.

It’s been surprisingly enjoyable starting from scratch, actually. There’s something quite motivating about being able to get achievements for everything – which is an experience I don’t get too often with Skyrim these days. It’s also interesting because it’s been long enough since I last played that I’ve forgotten a lot of things – meaning most of the quests feel quite fresh.

I was always a little bit critical of the Elder Scrolls series’ “realistic” (read: brown) visuals and generic fantasy setting, preferring to play JRPGs like Grandia, Final Fantasy and the Tales series. Recently, however, I’ve come to respect Western RPGs a lot more, as while their character development and visual creativity are often lacking, their immersive qualities are far superior. It also helps that I’m a bit of a Dungeons & Dragons fan – and am slowly beginning to see the increased similarities these games have to traditional tabletop role playing games, when compared to their eastern counterparts.

Contrary to what my game collection might suggest, I’m not actually a huge fan of action/hack & slash games. So, whilst I adored the Action RPG genre for creating a more streamlined role playing experience, I was a little annoyed at how the subgenre basically stuffed all the non-combat elements in the fridge. Games like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (lets remember, I’m a console gamer here) tried to emulate the Dungeons & Dragons experience as much as they could, but important (to me, at least) elements such as stealth and diplomacy, were nowhere to be found.

The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series contained some of the first games I’ve played that could allow, and encourage, a brains over brawn aspect to problem-solving; with skills such as lock-picking and smithing allowing players to approach their objectives in a greater variety of ways. And that, combined with the expansive settings and mythologies of the two series, has allowed me to look past their lack of flash and spectacle, and enjoy them for what they are.

Come to think of it, I think I play these games partially to make up for the lack of actual Dungeons & Dragons in my life. Because they can kind of feel like a single player tabletop rpg… just one with a very detailed GUI. And a controller.

Anyhoo… I’m playing like a thief-mage hybrid kinda character. Which is pretty revolutionary for me, considering I usually play a mage-thief kinda character  in games of this type. Or, y’know, whatever keeps me as far from melee combat as possible.

No One Has To Die

So, I’ve been making an effort to play more games recently. Or different games, at least. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I’ve managed to come across a wide range of incredibly memorable games, which really do show the potential of individuals – and small groups – in the world of game design.

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No One Has To Die is an interesting title I came across while browsing Game Jolt. Designed by Stuart Madafiglio, with Art by Cindy Xu and Music by Jesse Valentine, it is – to put it simply – a game of decisions. The player is placed in the role of “Visitor”, and tasked with aiding the survival of four individuals caught in a burning building. On each floor, the player must sacrifice one person so that another can survive, and each choice reveals more about the story – Who started the fire? Why did they do it? The player can “re-do” each floor, in order to do things a different way, and in doing so they can glean more answers from the characters, as well as more questions, until the bigger picture is finally revealed.

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The gameplay itself is incredibly simple, I don’t deny it – the plot is the main attraction here. What you see in the image above is about as complicated as it gets. What I appreciate, however, is the potential. While it does go untapped, I did get a sense while playing of how the concept could be expanded upon, and how it could be used to create more involved puzzles. For the sake of the plot I can understand why each of the “levels” were kept so simple, but it would have been nice to have an “Arcade Mode”-esque feature, to fully take advantage of the programming. Without it, the game is still enjoyable, but more as a 15 minute distraction than anything else.

Nonetheless I recommend you take those 15 minutes to play the game. It’s a short experience, but due to its brief nature it doesn’t risk outstaying it’s welcome, and manages to stay interesting from start to finish. Give it a chance, and feel free to comment and let me know what you thought of it. 🙂

A link to the game –> http://gamejolt.com/games/other/no-one-has-to-die/14133/

Super Mario Bros. 3

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So, in honor of Super Mario 3’s anniversary (or at least, the anniversary of it’s American release), I figured I would do a small article on the game, which is widely considered to be one of the best 2D platformers ever made – being the 32nd best-selling game of all time, and the 6th best-selling platformer of all time (with the the remaining 5 being other games from the Mario series).

While the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was a relative departure from the formula established in the original Super Mario game (due to it’s status as a conversion of the Japanese game Doki Doki Panic), and the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was nothing but a glorified expansion pack of the original game (being released as “The Lost Levels” in America and Europe, as part of Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES), Super Mario Bros. 3 acted as definitive proof of the series – and genres – potential, improving the gameplay in every aspect, and adding a wide range of additional features.

Super Mario Bros. 3 added numerous elements which would become mainstays to the Mario series – such as it’s first heavy use of Mario’s costume power-ups (adding the Tanooki Suit, Frog Suit and Hammer Suit to the mix), and a world map, which would return in it’s sequel, 1990’s Super Mario World, and then again much later in 2006’s New Super Mario Bros. Another notable thing the game established was the now-iconic appearance of Bowser – with his tail and fiery red mane appearing for the first time here. Bowser’s “children”, the Koopalings, would also go on to make many more appearances, albeit with a 19-year gap (from the main series, at least), after their appearance in the game’s sequel.

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The game was not without it’s flaws, however, and it’s lack of a save feature proved almost unanimously unpopular – requiring the game’s 90 levels to be beaten in one seating if you wanted to complete the game. Also, by the time of it’s American release the Super Nintendo – with it’s superior sound and graphics – was just around the corner, meaning that the game was quickly outshone by the release of Super Mario World. Luckily, it’s appearance in Super Mario All-Stars gave it the lick of paint it needed to once again stand on equal footing with it’s peers.

Personally, I think that SMB3 stands as a perfect example of Shigeru Miyamoto’s ability to put together ideas which don’t seem like an obvious match (I mean, who would have thought of putting a top-down map in a side-scrolling game?), and make them work. And the wide array of creative enemies and obstacles shows that the development team really put their heart and soul into the game, with a variety of foes that could put the original title to shame, and the different styles of level (action, fortresses, airships, etc) helped keep each world fresh in a way that the simple aesthetic changes of the previous games simply couldn’t.

All in all, I have a lot of love for Super Mario Bros. 3, although I will admit my first experience of it came as part of the All-Stars compilation, and I didn’t play the original for a long time after that. Nonetheless, it was one of my favorite 2D platformers as a child (with Sonic 3 & Knuckles being it’s only unwavering superior), and I still play it occasionally to this day. If you haven’t played this masterpiece yet, then I highly recommend you rectify that at your nearest convenience. Super Mario Bros. 3 is, in my humble opinion, truly the best game released for the NES. It’s the perfect blend of simple, yet challenging. Easy enough for anyone to pick up and play, but difficult for anyone to beat without practice.

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! 😛