Thursday, July 24, 2008

Roguelikes are Effing Awesome Part 2

So I have continued to play Shiren the Wanderer, and have discovered some interesting things. First, I reached floor 27, which had an enemy that could do something I hadn't experienced - it could knock off my equipped weapons and once knocked off, they couldn't be picked back up and used. This enemy is the worst enemy ever created. Thank god I wasn't using my newly upgraded Master Sword +60 (which is incapable of getting rusty, does extra damage to ghost enemies, and each attack is three squares wide) or Armor Ward +39 (which is incapable of getting rusty, slows my hunger down and prevents items and money from being stolen). Although, I'm wondering if that Armor Ward wouldn't protect against that particular enemy... if so, that would be great. (After looking up the enemy, I found out that it was because there was water to my back that I lost my items. Still, though - what a bastard.)

I should explain how my prized items came to be so enchanted. You see, after completing some side missions, a shop became available in Mountaintop Town (located between floors 7 and 8) that sold Jars. Once in a while, a Melding Jar becomes available there. The interesting thing about Melding Jars is that when you put a weapon inside, followed by another weapon, all of the attributes (good or bad) of the second weapon are melded onto the first. So, for example, to get my Master Sword to attack three squares wide, I placed my Master Sword and a Razor Wind in the Jar, so the Master Sword took on the Razor Wind's qualities. So I really enjoy that. It also will add any modifiers on as well, so that's how I upgraded both of those items so fast too.

With as much work as I've done to my weapons, they still aren't complete. I have yet to find a Pickaxe of any kind (even breakable ones) so I can't make my weapons dig yet. I would also like to add a few more enchantments to them, like the one that upgrades my evasion rate and lowers damage from explosions, etc. so I still have plenty of work to do, mostly to find the items I need to do that.

So, I've played for about 15 hours I believe, and that's actually quite a bit longer than I thought this game would take, seeing as how there's only 30 floors in the main dungeon. It's probably because I'm being as careful as I possibly can be, though. Either way, I'm having a blast so far.

I would also like to brag that I got a copy of Dragon Warrior II for the NES for 9 bucks with shipping two days ago on eBay. From what I gather, I got it for a steal. I am also seriously considering buying an FC Twin to play my NES games more reliably as well (Ironically enough, Dragon Warrior II is one of like 7 games that aren't playable on it - irony! No biggie though - I really just want to play Crytalis and some of the other games I've gotten at the resale shop on the cheap.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Crystal Chronicles and Mario Tennis

(Note: This post was typed in a text file on my laptop while the power was out last night, so it is incomplete in places, because I couldn't look up information on the Net to supplement it, but I've decided to post it here as is anyway.)

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon looks to be another fantastic mystery dungeon game, of which I will probably purchase when I get the cash. I played it with a friend today, who I also played Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles for the first time with.

It is Crystal Chronicles that I'd like to take a look at today. It is an odd game, one which we probably may not see the likes of again – as you may be aware, to actually play this game multiplayer (really the only way to play it), you must have a Gamecube (or a Wii), a Game Boy Advance for every player, and a Gamecube to Game Boy Advance adapter for every player as well. That's quite expensive, really.

But it's worth it. It's an experience I've not quite been able to think of a comparison for. Phantasy Star Online was similar, but not quite as fun as Crystal Chronicles. Having your own menu for item management and whatnot is pretty fantastic. My character is a Black Mage, and while he is weird looking, he is fun as hell to play. We only played for maybe two hours or so (we have completed the first year and a mission from the second year) and since my power has been out since about ten minutes after we shut the game off, I have some questions about it that haven't been able to look up the answers to online.

For example: is there a way to keep a spell after a mission? My buddy's character can keep his weapons, but I can't keep my Fire/Blizzard/Thunder? I may just be misunderstanding how the game works, though.

Same thing with items: I have quite a few that I have no idea what to do with. Iron shards, Iron, etc. all seem to go towards making custom items at the Blacksmith in the town, but apparently I don't need the iron shards yet? I guess I don't have any items that require it yet.

Regardless, I had a blast playing it today. Hopefully I'll be able to play more of it soon. In the meantime, there's always Shiren, and another game I've had laying around for a couple weeks – Mario Tennis for the Game Boy Color.

I forgot how good Mario Tennis was. I know I liked it quite a bit in like ninth grade (eight years ago – damn!), but I had somehow forgotten how deep the gameplay really goes. What you do in this game is actually create your own character and try to play your way through a tennis academy to become the top tennis player there, to eventually challenge the champions of the world (Mario and friends, of course). You do this by playing tennis matches against other players and leveling up your character (by choosing, at each level up, whether to upgrade Spin, Speed, Power, or Control). Since the power went out, I've been playing it for three hours now, and I'm halfway through the senior class, at like level 19 or so.

I also have Mario Golf for the Game Boy Color. And I'm having trouble putting. I can drive and chip fantastically, but I just can't read the goddamn greens in this game for shit, which of course kills my game. I haven't even made it through a course yet (mostly because I get six or seven holes into it before my shitty putting skills get me a double or triple bogey and I get pissed and shut the game off). If I could learn how to putt, I bet this game would be just as good as Mario Tennis.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Roguelikes Are Effing Awesome

Holy shit, it's been a month since I last posted here. I guess that's what I get for working a lot and not playing too many games.

I beat Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness, and for my birthday last week I got Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer for the DS. Since I didn't post anything about either game yet, I will compare and contrast them both.

I will start by saying this: I'm glad I played the Pokemon version first. I enjoyed it, quite a bit in fact, and will probably get Blue Rescue Team soon, but Shiren is better.

Anyway, so Pokemon Mystery Dungeon and Shiren the Wanderer are both RPGs based on the ancient computer based game called Rogue (which makes them roguelikes). When your character moves, your allies and everything else on the floor of the dungeon your on moves as well. In other words, its not necessarily real time because nothing else will act until you do. Basically, each time you move, attack, use an item, or cast a spell or whatever, you spend your turn, and then the enemies will all do the same: either they will move towards you, run away from you, attack, cast a spell, etc. and so on. And from what I gather on the ol' Internets, roguelikes aren't very popular here in America.

I can sort of see why not, because they are balls hard and sometimes can seem unfair. Shiren in particular is brutal, because when you die (which will happen, quite a bit), you lose all of your items, money, and (here's the kicker) experience points. That's right. All of them. Back to level 1 for you. However, you can store items and (in Pokemons case) money in warehouses in between dungeon runs.

I guess now is a good time to point out the differences between the two games, since I've already begun to. In Pokemon, when you die, you lose all your items and money, but retain your experience. In Shiren, you lose everything. In Pokemon, you can save money in between missions, but when you die in Shiren, you lose all of it, because you can't store it anywhere. In Pokemon, you can store hundreds of items (eventually) in your warehouse, but in Shiren, you can store probably no more than 15 items in each warehouse (they vary in size). In Pokemon, there are like 40 different dungeons with various numbers of floors in them (usually between 10 and 25), whereas Shiren's entire game is a single, 30ish floor dungeon. Did I mention that when you die in Shiren, you go all the way back to the town before the first floor? In Pokemon, when you die, you only need to restart the particular dungeon you were on over. Also, in Pokemon, you can keep earning extra carrying space for items (I had six pages worth of storage when I stopped playing, and I think you can get more), whereas in Shiren, you get two pages max. (Although the game has Jars, which let you pack more items inside them, so you aren't completely fucked). Also, in Shiren, you don't always know what item you pick up, because it could be anything from a Katana +5 to a cursed (which means you can't unequip it) Cudgel -7. Pokemon doesn't do that, however.

You are probably thinking that Shiren sounds extremely restrictive and difficult, while Pokemon is more balanced and easy, and you are partially correct. As you may recall from the beginning of this post, I said that Shiren is the better game. (Again, though, they are both fun as hell.) The main reason why is that when I finally do beat Shiren, I will feel like I accomplished something a hell of a lot more impressive then when I beat Pokemon, since Shiren is so much harder. I've read reviews of both games, and in a post on Jeremy Parish's website GameSpite, he put it perfectly: " never once feel like you've been screwed over by the game. When you die in Shiren, it's your own fault: you didn't play it right, you could have avoided failure. But no. You blew it." This is probably the truest statement about the game: every time I have ever died has been the result of me being too greedy, too ambitious, or just plain stupid. (The only possible exception to this rule is Monster Houses, which are basically rooms packed full of viciously powerful monsters, but really, you should be prepared for those with a Scroll of Sleep or Scroll of Confusion, anyway.)

In Pokemon, you get stronger by leveling your characters up, but you always have to worry about type advantages (like any good Pokemon game does). For example, my starting character was Torchic, a fire Pokemon. So anytime I saw a water Pokemon, I would let my partner, Bulbasaur (a grass type), take care of it, since he had type advantage over them. Conversely, when I saw grass type, bug type, or steel type Pokemon, I would send a quick Flamethrower their way, and watch as they died (usually) instantly.

In Shiren, you can level up by gaining experience, but since you can always lose that, you should level up your weapons. Right now, I am leveling up a Master Sword (no relation to Zelda, of course) and a Armor Ward. I found them both with no bonus attributes, and now, they are Master Sword +36 and Armor Ward +23, and also both cannot be rusted by enemies or traps (when a monster or trap tries to rust a weapon, it takes a couple of bonus attribute points off, and those are fucking precious, so I used a Plating Scroll on these weapons ASAP). They aren't complete yet, but boy, are they precious. If I died with these weapons, I would probably be pissed off for days.

...Thank god for a feature present in both games: the ability to rescue other Pokemon/Wanderers. Since Chunsoft made both games, they share the ability to let people go out and save other people who have died in dungeons who don't want to lose their precious items. I never used the feature in Pokemon, but I've used it once in Shiren, and although I had to wait a day and a half before someone finally rescued me, it was worth it: I was able to save my Happy Armband, which gives you experience points while simply walking (as you could guess, this is a pretty goddamn awesome item). So you better believe that if I die while toting my precious Master Sword +36 and Armor Ward +23, that I will be sending out a request and waiting as long as it takes to get those items back.

Shit. I should explain how you level up your weapons in Shiren. You can either pay a blacksmith 1000 gitans (the money in Shiren) to level up your weapon, or use items called Air Bless Scrolls and Earth Bless Scrolls, which level up weapons and shields, respectively. For my two items, I've used both. Both of my weapons are sitting in a warehouse in Mountaintop Town, though, so I don't risk losing them because I'm not paying attention or something.

Jesus, I'll have to cut this post off. I haven't even discussed half of the things I want to talk about yet, and it's already like ten pages long. More to come.