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Senseless Reviews
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Senseless Reviews
Isaac
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#31
03-22-2014, 02:28 PM (This post was last modified: 08-22-2014, 11:26 AM by Isaac.)
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Title: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Platform: Nintendo DS
Release Date: July 2010
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: RPG

This review was written in memory of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection expiring in the middle of May, and with it will come the loss of some of the greatest DLC ever made - that of this game, Dragon Quest IX.

Many of you are familiar with Dragon Quest (originally known as Dragon Warrior) - it was one of the games that perpetuated the popularity of the JRPG genre, even overseas - it predates Final Fantasy by 1 year (DW1 was released on NES in 1986, compared to FF1's 1987), and while Final Fantasy has gone off on its own to experiment with other things, Dragon Quest has essentially stayed true to its roots - and that's what I like about it.

While I myself am no longer a fan of JRPGs, Dragon Quest is 1 of the 2 JRPG series that still holds a special place in my heart (Golden Sun obviously being the other one), and I'm of the opinion that Dragon Quest IX is the best one yet, or at least one of the best. Though DQ9 takes bits and pieces from all the older DQ games, it most closely follows 3 and 8, which are also considered high points of the series. The plot starts out like this - you play as an angel (Celestrian, technically) who was knocked out of the sky and fell to Earth. You are found by a girl named Erinn, and the two of you become good friends. After you escort her to the nearby city of Corneria Stornway, you speak to the king and get set up with a band of adventurers much like yourself, and go off on fantastic adventures the likes of which you would have never dreamed of!

Character creation is actually a big part of this game. When you create your character, you get to choose hair color, skin color, eye color, build, gender, and a bunch of other features - the result is you get a character that looks distinctly like you! When acquiring new members for your party (max 4), you do the same with them, with the added bonus of choosing their class. (Your own class is pre-set at the start of the game, but when you reach a certain point, everyone can change classes as wished.)

The game also features skill trees and skill points, a feature that was a large part of the game in Dragon Quest VIII (don't know if it originated there). You can choose to advance your character's skills with a weapon, OR work on gaining skills unique to that class. There are 26 different skill trees in the game (one for each of the 12 classes, 1 for shields, and one for each of the 13 weapon types), and each class gets 5 - one unique to the class, and the other 4 are for equippable weapons/shields (obviously there will be some overlap). Unlike spells, skills are retained across all classes, which is incredibly useful - I have found that the Sword and Spear skill trees give great things very early in the game and just keep getting better! Then again, they're all like that, and it's your choice to customize your characters how you choose!

The game also features quests you can undertake on behalf of NPCs - some repeatable, others not, but you always get a reward for clearing it. You can only take on 8 quests at a time, so you can't inundate yourself with requests - take them as they come. This game also introduces treasure maps - grottoes hidden all across the world, filled with monsters and treasure, and always end in a boss, who will drop yet another treasure map for you - the treasure map you get is dependent on your hero's level, so the higher level you are, the better maps you'll get. There are also Legacy Maps that only have a single floor, and it's just the boss - who is a returning boss from an older Dragon Quest game, and much MUCH harder! The returning bosses are Dragonlord, Malroth, Baramos, Zoma, Estark, Psaro, Nimzo, Murdaw, Mortamor, Nokturnus, Orgodemir, Dhoulmagus, and Rhapthorne, all of which have remastered versions of their original themes - Zoma's theme gives me the chills (pun intended)!

DQ9 is predominantly single-player, but the DLC is simply to die for. There's a shop that changes once per week (I think it changes on Sunday 12.00AM, Eastern Time, though that's just for the US - I believe it changes 12.00AM GMT for Europe) that includes items that are either unattainable in the main game or very hard to find. Connecting to Wi-Fi Connection in this way will also unlock several characters in the Quester's Rest (the big inn in Stornway, which is essentially the DLC/multiplayer hub) from older Dragon Quest games who will give you their gear, plus an array of 64 new quests that are much harder than the 120 you can originally take - and you get Legacy Maps from some of these quests, plus some other rewards as well. Essentially, it makes your single-player experience that much better. The multiplayer is local wireless and I've yet to test it out, but from what I've heard, it recruits other people into your inn and lets you explore your friends' treasure maps.

So what's my overall opinion of this game? Well, despite all that I have said, it does suffer from a weakness that all Dragon Quest games seem to have - you have to exp.grind for all the post-game goodies, and you have to do a lot of it. Granted, the metal slimes (the exp farms) in this game have a lesser propensity to run as they do in prior titles, but it's still pretty dang time-consuming - I was very fortunate to find a treasure map with metal king slimes in it, which are near-impossible to find without one. Yet, the game is enjoyable in short bursts, mostly because DQ localizations do their best to be charming - the repeatable quests, the funny dialogue, the pretty overworld, and the there's-never-a-shortage-of-things-to-do is enough to keep me busy, entertained, and engaged. Granted, if you are not into JRPGs, I will not recommend this game, but if you are, give it a whirl.

Just don't wait until after May 20th to play this game, or you'll miss out on all the glorious DLC!

(I will admit: when I heard that WFC was going to cease to exist soon, I picked up my DQ9 game, which I hadn't touched in years. It's still as wonderful to me then as it is now.)

Edit: I have neglected to mention a particular part of the game. My favorite NPC of this game, and even of all time, is one of the NPCs in DQ9 who offers to save your game. He's a rapping priest. Let that sink in for a bit.

I have disappeared from here. As apology, please accept this cheery picture.

[Image: 314qek6.png]
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Isaac
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04-11-2014, 12:50 AM (This post was last modified: 08-22-2014, 11:27 AM by Isaac.)
I'm going to momentarily take over this topic. If you guys want something senselessly reviewed, hit me up and I'll see what I can do. (My library doesn't extend beyond handhelds, sadly, but if I've played it, I can write for it.)

For now I shall continue my Golden Sun-related thought with Golden Sun: The Lost Age (Book Two). After that, Golden Sun 3.

~~~~~

[Image: the_lost_age_logo.png]

Title: Golden Sun: The Lost Age
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Release Date: April 2003
Developer: Camelot
Genre: RPG

The Lost Age is the 2nd title that was released in the Golden Sun series, having come out 2 years after the original. It is intended to be a continuation of the first game, picking up exactly where the first one left off. The world is definitely larger and there is more to do in this game than the first one, yet despite that there is a strong connection between the two. To get the best experience out of this game, it's recommended you play the original Golden Sun beforehand.

Plot and gameplay are very much the same as the first one. The main difference is, whereas you played as Isaac with his friends in Golden Sun 1, instead you play as his childhood friend, Felix, with his party, for this, Golden Sun 2. Other than that...

Spoiler:
Golden Sun is, at its very core, an RPG. It's just that simple. You, your party, and your opponents each take turns, attacking, defending, or healing - which is the base definition of an RPG. To be technical, it's a JRPG, which is what most people think of when they hear about RPG video games, and Golden Sun was one of the first, if not the first, JRPG to hit the GBA.

The plot is you control a 17-year-old boy by the name of Isaac, and you with your similarly young friends go out into the world and stop the bad guys who would otherwise potentially destroy the world and everything in it. Don't want to say too much due to spoilers, but that's the gist. The battle system is where you see one of Golden Sun's two major gimmicks take place. You have a party of 4 (it starts at 2 or 3 but eventually rises to 4), each of which is called an "Adept", someone who is skilled at Psynergy (which is this world's equivalent of magic), a quality blessed only to a select few. Each of your party members gets a set of 6 commands to choose from:

~Attack: Your basic attack with your weapon. Your aim while in battle will be to deplete the opponent's HP to 0, and this is the cheapest (least expensive) way to do it.
~Psynergy: Cast a spell that your character has learned. These range from attacking to supporting to debuffing to healing spells; using one costs Psynergy Points (PP), which are slowly regenerated as you walk around the overworld. Psynergy may be 1 of 4 elements: Venus (Earth), Mercury (Water), Mars (Fire), or Jupiter (Wind). Based on the natural alignment of the caster (Adept), it will be either more or less powerful - for example, a Venus Adept will have their Venus-aligned Psynergy be noticeably more powerful.
~Djinn: Your characters will also have Djinn on their person, and you steadily collect them throughout the game. There's 28 in all in this game - 7 of each element. Djinn are in 1 of 3 states: Set, Standby, or Recovery. In battle, you may unleash the power of a Set Djinn, or put a Standby Djinn back to Set with this option; unleashing the power of a Set Djinn will produce a battle effect (different for each Djinn) and place that Djinn on Standby. While Djinn are still Set, they give small stat boosts to the Adept they're Set to, and (depending on the combination of Djinn that are Set) will influence what class they're currently in. Standby Djinn are used for...
~Summon: ...invoking the powers of great and powerful creatures. The more Djinn you have on Standby, the stronger a creature you may summon. There are a total of 16 summons in this game: each element (V/Mc/M/J) has 4 summons, and they are summoned by having either 1, 2, 3, or 4 Djinn of that element on Standby in your party (they don't have to be all on the same person either). All summons deal damage proportional to the targets' HP, and hit all opponents, so against bosses you will be cranking out a lot of damage. Once you use a summon, the Standby Djinn you used to initiate it will go into Recovery. While Djinn are in Recovery, they and their effects cannot be used, and they are placed on a queue where the Recovery Djinn will automatically be set again, at the rate of 1 Djinn per character per round of combat.
~Item: Use an item the character has in the inventory (max 15 slots; armor takes up 1 slot, whereas consumables can occupy 1 slot up to 30 copies).
~Defend: Brace yourself against enemy attacks. If you're defending this turn, you take 50% damage from all attacks.

On the overworld, you and your party walk around to various towns, dungeons, forests, and the like, trying to get to the end of a dungeon or accomplish a certain goal while you're in town, and so on. Most puzzles are solved via the use of Psynergy - depending on the type of Psynergy, it can be used only in battle (battle Psynergy), only outside of battle (utility Psynergy), or both (healing Psynergy). A lot of the time you'll be using utility Psynergy to get through dungeons.

Like I said earlier, this game has two main gimmicks to it. First off is the Djinn and class system; Djinn go through a cycle of Set, Standby, Recovery, and then back to Set again. While Djinn are Set, they determine what class the equipped Adept is in. Generally it's recommended that you match Adept with Djinn of their element - doing so makes them very strong in that element (it's also their default class), but restricts them to Psynergy of that element. While that is an effective strategy, you may want to mix-and-match the Djinn in your party; doing so lets your characters use Psynergy from 2 different elements (3 different elements is possible, but only in the late-game since you need 3 Djinn of 2 different elements, and each character can in this game equip at most 7), but on the flip-side the Psynergy won't be as strong as if you took the mono-element path. I have tried both methods in my numerous playthroughs of the game and both are quite effective - in fact, putting 2 Mercury Djinn on Isaac as soon as you can will make one of the bosses a whole lot easier (you'll see what I mean when you play the game). Also, with Djinn, they need to be distributed evenly throughout the party, much like building houses in Monopoly - you can't dump all the Djinn onto 1 character; you have to spread them out evenly.

...pretty much this entire section still applies. But now I have to go over the differences that distinguish it from Golden Sun 1.

First of all, dungeon-crawling. There is a lot of it. Expect to spend most of your time either running around the overworld looking for a dungeon, or running around the dungeon trying to find the way forward. I know I don't want to spoil too much, but one such dungeon, by the name of Air's Rock, is found extremely early in the game and is considered one of the most difficult dungeons in video game history - it's definitely the most difficult dungeon in this entire game, mostly because of all the backtracking that is involved.

The dungeons are fun, and they can be challenging, but they are fun. But mostly challenging. And unlike the first game, where the plot does give you hints on where you should go and what you should be doing, this game doesn't give nearly as many hints. You are basically spat out on this continent that is miles away from the continent you traveled on in the original Golden Sun, and left to fend for yourself. In fact, the plot doesn't really become apparent or even worth mentioning until halfway through the game. Up until then you're basically looting everything and occasionally playing the Good Samaritan. Not like you didn't do some of that in the first game, but this time you can't say you're doing it "in the name of Vale". Now it's mostly "in the name of loot and lulz".

The universe is much larger than the first game, however, and there are a lot more places you can go and explore all around the world, so there will never be a shortage of stuff to do. There's always a suggestion of some kind over where you should go next, and if you're not sure where you should go next, just look around and consult your overworld map. I'll give you a hint: sailing around is a big part of this game. This is hinted at near the very start of the game, actually, as part of the motivation to pursue the plot. And, near the close of the game (or post-game, if you'd rather), there are 4 - yes, count them, 4 - superbosses that can be fought.

As a note: you will not be able to access any place that you originally went to in the first game. Kinda sad, I know. You'll be able to see some of their icons on the world map, but none of them can be accessed.

Djinn collection is still abundant and sometimes frustrating as ever, now with a grand total of 72 Djinn to collect - 18 of each element! In the first game, it was only 28, and...get this...to get them all, you will need to transfer a save file over! In addition to all the new kinds of Djinn you can collect, the Summon system has been changed slightly. In addition to the normal elemental summons you get - the mono-elemental ones that go up to 4 Djinn of any 1 element - there are also 'summon tablets' dispersed throughout the world of Weyard, usually hidden in caves that are somewhat difficult to find, and they usually have nothing in them except for that tablet. These tablets contain new summons, each of which are dual-elemental, requiring at least 1 Djinn from two different elements to use, and many of them have nice side effects as well, in addition to damage. You can't use any of these summons until you find the tablets, but they are worth collecting - they tend to have a lot more power and utility than their mono-elemental counterparts. The strongest summon tablets are guarded by the game's 4 superbosses, and 2 of the tablets cannot be acquired until you have all 72 Djinn.

Like Golden Sun 1, after you beat the final boss of Golden Sun 2, you have the option to save Clear Data. Unlike in GS1, this data is not meant to be transferred to GS3 - rather, it's used for something else, which I'll explain now. (But you still can't select Continue from a Clear Data file!) After you beat the game once, you are allowed to choose your difficulty when you start a new game - you play on Normal first, but after beating the game once, you unlock Easy and Hard mode.
Easy Mode lets you replay the game over again from the start, but with the stats and levels (but not the equipment) of your Clear Data save. This is so you can better enjoy the plot and/or just sweep the game with a level 60+ party. You'll need to gather all the equipment and Djinn and such all over again, but it'll be easier.
Hard Mode makes you start at the normal starting level, but all enemies have 50% more Attack and Defense. This is to give you more of a challenge in battles. It is not that much harder than Normal Mode, but it is worth a try, just to see how it is. Bosses become more strenuous and you will rely on healing Psynergy more, so be warned.
And obviously, Normal Mode is just play through as usual.

Before I close this review I must mention one final thing: transferring over your Clear Data from Golden Sun 1. This not only helps you enjoy the game more, but also unlocks a lot of extra sidequests and such in Golden Sun 2. To do this, do the following:

~Open up your Golden Sun 1 game. Get to the title screen as normal.
~Hold down the R and Left buttons at the same time, and then hit Start.
~A "Send" option (it looks like an envelope) will appear on the menu. Select it.
~You will be prompted to select one of your Clear Data files on Golden Sun 1.
~Once you do that, you can send the data in 1 of 2 ways: either via a Link Cable, or via a Password.
~Passwords have 3 levels: Bronze, Silver, and Gold, with more data being transferred each time from your original save file:

Bronze will transfer over your character team (Isaac & co.) from your original save file at the levels they were at, as well as any Djinn in their possession, plus any Utility Psynergy items they own (such as the Catch Beads or the Frost Jewel). This will also unlock any NPC encounters that you are eligible for, if you performed them. (More on that later). Their equipment will be generic, however. The password is 16 characters long.
Silver transfers everything the Bronze password does, but it also transfers their exact stats over as well (so you don't lose bonuses from something like Power Bread or Lucky Pepper). Equipment and items are still generic, though. The password is about 100 characters long.
Gold transfers everything the Silver password does, and also the coins you earned in your past save file, plus every item your original party had as well. The password is a whopping 260 characters long, and although it does take a long time to input it all and make sure you have it right, it is well worth it if you want to keep all your goodies.

The Link option requires you to have 2 GBA systems and a GBA Link Cable to connect your 2 games. It does everything the Gold password does, BUT it also equips the character's weapons, armor, and Djinn, just as they were in your previous file. (The password will give you all the Djinn, but on Standby, and randomly assorted. Weapons will also not be equipped.) If you are able to do the Link option, do so, as it is the fastest method (even faster than the Bronze password) and will retain everything you earned.

~You will be prompted to transfer your Clear Data over from Golden Sun 1 every time you begin a new game. Doing so is optional, however, but it is recommended. If you don't want to do it yet (or you can't), or simply wish to do it later, you may do this any time for your save file, by selecting the Update option on Golden Sun 2's title screen menu. You can Update a save file any time with Clear Data, any time before Isaac joins up with you in Golden Sun 2.

(If you do not transfer any save data, Isaac's party will have generic equipment, be at level 28 with 5 Djinn apiece, and possess only the Psynergy-bestowing items that are necessary to complete the game.)

Here is a list of the things you can do with a transferred Clear Data in Golden Sun 2:
(Be warned, there are some spoilers in here.)

Spoiler:
~If you beat Deadbeard: There will be a small cutscene in Alhafra's inn with 2 sailors remarking that Isaac defeated the ancient pirate king, and thus became king of the pirates. This has no effect on gameplay. It's just fun to see.
~If you returned to Vault after you arrested the thieves, and heard from the mayor they escaped from jail: After you return to Madra after reclaiming Piers' Black Crystal, when you leave town you will be ambushed by the three thieves. Their stats are only minorly improved and defeating them is no big deal. Defeating them earns you the Golden Boots, an item worn in the foot slot (an extra slot from the basic 4) that greatly increases stats.
~If you rescued Hsu from the rockslide near Altin by lifting the rock off him: When you visit Champa and are about to leave, Feizhi will appear looking for Isaac, to give him a gift. She gives the gift to you to give to him. It's a Golden Ring. It's equipped in the ring slot (an extra slot from the basic 4) and using it in battle will make it cast the Resist Psynergy. It is possible for this item to break and if it does so you will need to repair it to use it again.
~If you won Colosso: After Isaac rejoins your party, if you head back to Shaman Village, the 3 gladiators from Colosso will approach you and demand a rematch. Of course, since you have your full party of 8 by this time and their stats are basically unchanged, this will be easy. Defeating them earns you the Golden Shirt, an item worn in the undershirt slot (an extra slot from the basic 4) that greatly increases stats.
~If you rescued Hammet from Dodonpa: When you acquire the flying ship in The Lost Age, after lighting the beacon at Jupiter Lighthouse, two of Hammet's servants will appear with a gift for Isaac; it is an Orihalcon, a material that can be forged at the blacksmith. Though you can acquire Orihalcon other ways (such as in chests or a rare monster drop), this is the earliest one that can be attained, and thus can give you a head start on forging a phenomenal weapon or piece of armor.
~Djinn collection: There are 7 Djinn of each element in Golden Sun 1. If you missed any of them, there is 1 Djinn of each element (Venus, Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter) somewhere in the world of Golden Sun 2 to collect. The only circumstance under which these Djinn do not appear is if you found all 7 Djinn of that respective element in Golden Sun 1 and you transferred your save file over. They will appear if you collected 6 or less Djinn of that element and transferred your save, OR if you did not transfer your save at all. The Djinni in each case will be a random Djinni you didn't collect in GS1. (If there's only 1 Djinni you missed of that element, it won't be random - it'll be that exact one you missed.)
~Anemos Inner Sanctum: The last extra dungeon in Golden Sun 2 is called Anemos Inner Sanctum, and in addition to the Teleport Psynergy (among other things), to enter it you must have collected all 72 Djinn. This is only possible if you transferred your save file over from GS1, and that save file had at least 6 Djinn of each element in it - there's 7 of each in GS1, but as I just said, you can pick up 1 of each that you missed in GS2. This dungeon contains the two final summon tablets, as well as the game's hardest of the 4 superbosses, Dullahan. The first tablet is at the entrance, and the second tablet is guarded by Dullahan.

I think that's everything. If you found an event triggered by GS1 that I missed or didn't mention, inform me!

Golden Sun: The Lost Age is the end of Isaac and Felix's story, and what a story it was. Though I don't find The Lost Age as good as The Broken Seal, the two games are meant to be played as a pair, and I find them absolutely fantastic. I hope you end up enjoying them as much as I do, and maybe even find a new favorite game to add to your repertoire. Happy gaming!

I have disappeared from here. As apology, please accept this cheery picture.

[Image: 314qek6.png]
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Isaac
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08-06-2014, 11:32 AM (This post was last modified: 08-22-2014, 11:29 AM by Isaac.)
I meant to do Bowser's Inside Story but I totally forgot about it. Upon request, though, I'm reviewing a different game for now. BIS can come later.

[Image: 61-dmTeI8xL._SX300_.jpg]

Title: Sonic Lost World
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: October 2013
Developer: Sega
Genre: Platformer

(Please note, this is for the 3DS version of Sonic Lost World. For the Wii U version's review, check here.
Additionally, I may refer back to the Wii U review a few times, because since the games are mostly similar, some details from this review may be omitted.)

Sonic Lost World is the first handheld Sonic title to feature Sonic to be able to move about in a full 3D environment, much like the console games have for years - strangely enough, the handheld version of Sonic Generations, also on 3DS, still is entirely 2D, but that's neither here nor there.

First off, the story. It's the same. The cutscenes are also the same, though they're in poorer quality due to the 3DS' limitations, and some (I believe two) are strangely absent from the game itself - which can be rather strange.
(For example, the cutscene where Sonic first meets Zeena is absent in the 3DS version, which makes the subsequent one, which starts off with the line "The last time we met..." very confusing. But I digress.)

The names of the zones are also the same (Windy Hill, Desert Ruins, Tropical Coast, Frozen Factory, Silent Forest, Sky Road, and finally Lava Mountain), and the names of the bosses you fight are also the same - though the boss fights themselves are obviously different.

Wisps from Sonic Colors return in this as well, and like Colors, the handheld has a different Wisp line-up than the console. The Wisps here are:
  • Asteroid is the first Wisp you encounter. It has the same effect in both games - Sonic turns into a planetoid that absorbs all matter he touches, turning it into a ring that orbits around him (think Saturn's rings, which is what Asteroid looks like). At full strength, he'll be able to absorb giant objects and some enemies - you can tell because there's a black hole visual around him.
  • Drill returns in both games again, and the controls are the same - he can move underwater or underground by moving around like a drill, using the analog stick to move around.
  • Lightning is exclusive to the 3DS version. With this Sonic turns into a miniature lightning bolt, and by pressing either X or Y, his lock-on becomes nearly instantaneous, nor does he bounce while doing so. He can also lock-on to specific objects that only the Lightning can use, and it's definitely my favorite of the Wisp musics in this game. My only complaint is that it's a little unwieldy.
  • Quake is exclusive to the 3DS version as well, though it controls similarly to the bomb. Sonic turns into a big grey boulder that breaks things that you roll around by tilting - yes, tilting - the system itself. The more you tilt, the faster he goes, and he can even perform a groundpound that destroys all enemies nearby him. You might think it's unwieldy, but if you're moving slowly, Quake controls rather well.
  • Laser returns again, featured in both games. Unlike Colors, where you only have a 1-second window to choose your direction before careening everywhere, you can press Up or Down to control Sonic's eventual trajectory, up to 45 degrees in either direction, before pressing A to confirm - and the game even gives you a line of where Laser will end up traveling!
  • Burst is the final Wisp type you will encounter, and like in Colors, this is only in the handheld game. It controls exactly like it did in Colors DS - pressing the jump button will make Sonic jump with a small explosion. He can jump an infinite number of times, and holding down and releasing the jump button creates a flashbang and a screen nuke. Burst mostly appears in boss fights, however, so sadly you will not be using this very often.

Oh, and yes, obtaining the respective Wisp in each boss stage makes the boss an absolute joke. The exceptions are Drill vs Master Ziz (where exploiting his window of weakness is a bit trickier, though he CAN be OHKO'd by it) and Lightning vs Zeena (where it's mandatory to victory, much like the Drill boss in Sonic Colors). Laser and Quake are the most humorous, as you can take off two-thirds or more of Zavok's HP with a well-timed one, and Quake will OHKO Zor if you activate it when standing on him.

Other than that, the bosses are quite tricky and actually rather innovative, so it's not like Colors where the wisp turns the boss from a joke into a bigger joke.

Enough about the bosses; let's move on to the controls. Let me begin by saying that it took me quite a while to get used to the controls - having been used to handheld Sonic games all my life, transitioning to Lost World was a challenge! Thankfully, the first two levels (the ones you get in the tutorial) let you get a feel for the game. Here's a brief rundown:

A or B: Jump
A in midair: Homing attack 1 enemy
B in midair: Homing attack multiple enemies in a chain
A or B while running across a wall: Jump off of it (usually onto the opposite wall)
*Yes, if you run fast enough, Sonic can run along walls, either horizontally or vertically. There's 1 segment like this in the very first level, so you will have to get used to it. Fortunately, they put an extra life and a save point right before it in case you mess up.

X in midair: Razor Kick 1 enemy, stunning it (necessary for defeating some badniks)
Y in midair: I think this is the groundpound? I don't remember
*Note, when standing still on the ground, Sonic will lock-on to a single enemy multiple times. This is necessary for defeating some larger badniks.

Y on the ground: Boost! At least, I think it's Y. Works off the Boost Gauge as usual.
R: Hold this down to make Sonic run - otherwise, his default speed is walking. (I recommend you ease your way into using R; if you aren't used to it, it can be unwieldy.)
Touch the stored Wisp or power-up on the bottom screen: Activate it
*When you collect a power-up and you already have one, you'll get the new one, but the old one will be shunted to the bottom screen to use later as desired, similar to the backup item in Super Mario World and other games.

This will take you a while to get used to, especially on the 3DS, which isn't the most pleasant of systems to work with for concentrated tasks like Sonic games. (This problem is less obvious on the 2DS and 3DS XL, but the original 3DS can handle like crap. But that's a system gripe so I digress.)

In Sonic Lost World 3DS, there are both 3D and 2D levels, just like on the console version. Most of them are 3D, though, but the 2D ones are a nice change of pace. The 3D ones feel like console levels, and the 2D ones feel like classic handheld levels. I personally prefer the 2D levels since I'm more used to them, but the 3D levels are usually nice.

All of the levels are basically like what you'd expect in a Sonic game, honestly, though Lost World focuses more on the puzzle aspect than the speed aspect. It's not quite as slow-paced as Sonic 1, but believe me, you will spend time usually defeating badniks or solving puzzles - or manoeuvring obstacles.

Unlike the Wii U version, which doesn't really have any super problematic levels or things to drive you insane, there are 3 levels in this game that will drive you up the wall. I'm not kidding; you will probably go mad after you lose about the 10th life on these things. Those levels are Frozen Factory Act 3, Silent Forest Act 2, and Sky Road Act 2. Tropical Coast Act 3 is another one, though it is not quite as aggravating as the prior three. In fact, of those three levels, I have not revisited any of them once after clearing them.

Frozen Factory Act 3 is basically a gigantic puzzle gauntlet and moves very slow, and while puzzle gauntlets are usually not a problem, there are very few checkpoints on this level, and the last third of it or so has you chased by a large slow-moving female snowball who I swore was one of the Deadly Six in disguise but in reality it's just a snowball that wants to get with the blue hero. And you have to be REALLY careful, since some of the puzzles involve you placing smaller snowballs on switches, which she will destroy if she rolls over them. Even more confusing still, to progress at some points, she has to grow to a large size, then you have to attack her - turning her into a lifeless lump for about 15 seconds - and jump up and over her to reach the next area. This was one of two levels in the game where I timed out (losing a life, but it kept me at the checkpoint), and the time limit for this level is a whopping 25 minutes. That should tell you how evil this level is. It's definitely the worst one in the whole game.

Silent Road Act 2 is a level in which you will die, a lot, and were it not for the Aircraft of Forgiveness that I got after reaching certain sections, I'd probably never finish that. (Oh, yeah, this game has aircraft, which it calls RCs. I'll get to that later.) I probably lost about 30 lives on this stage. The whole level is basically a sliding section, followed up by defeating a squadron of badniks, some of which - like the cannon turtle - are large and difficult to defeat, especially in multiples. And this repeats about 8 times or so (I honestly lost count) so you will be spending a while here.

Sky Road Act 2 isn't quite as bad as the others, but the entire zone is one gigantic Asteroid puzzle. For someone not used to the Asteroid controls (like its ability to double jump and float down), or if you miss the platforms or whatever - compounded with the screen crunch on the Nintendo 3DS - this level will take a very long time, especially if you mess up. This was also a level I timed out on, though I think the time limit was only 15 minutes, and it wasn't nearly as long as Frozen Factory Act 3 - it's just a lot easier to mess up and have to repeat your progress. The camera doesn't move with you in certain sections, meaning you'll have to guess which way to go next (this is evident in the first section where you have to start absorbing clouds, some of which you can't reach unless Sonic is at maximum Asteroid power). This isn't quite as bad on the final section of the level (the one with the birds flying around everywhere), but it's still pretty hard to see where you're supposed to go to leave the stage.

Tropical Coast Act 3 (which is earlier on than the aforementioned three) is a gigantic Drill puzzle. There are sections where you will be perpetually placed in an upward-moving spiral, and you have to find a way out. I'll tell you now: there are fans at the top of the stage and you have to get out by destroying the center of one of them. That took me about 5 lives to figure out.

Thankfully, the game is extremely generous with extra lives, especially on Hard Mode. Okay, so I have to talk about RCs and Hard Mode and then I'm done. Oh, and Special Stage. Plus an overall opinion.

Actually, wait, Red Rings. They're back in this game. As before, there are 5 to a stage, and collecting them once means they're yours to keep. Collecting all 15 red rings in a world unlocks a special "Extra" stage for that world. I have yet to collect all 15 red rings for any one world (the 15th one for Windy Hill continually eludes me), but it's a project for a rainy day. Is there a reward for getting all 120? I don't know.

Tails' Lab is one section of the game you unlock from the start. It functions as the Options Menu, a way to rewatch cutscenes you've seen before, it contains the Sound Room (after you have beaten the final boss), and it contains a way to build things. See, each time you clear a stage, you get 'materials' - the better your score, the more you get (you can usually get 15+3 on an S-rank, 15 for that world, and 3 bronze/silver/gold, depending on what the world is). There are 10 kinds in all (one for each of the 7 worlds in various colors, plus bronze, silver, and gold). Having these materials on hand allows you to go into Tails' Lab and either buy power-ups from him (such as speedshoes, extra lives, invincibility, and - oh, the elemental shields are in this game too!) or aircraft. When you're in possession of either, they appear on the bottom screen. You can touch it to activate its effect. The aircraft have varying effects (one makes Sonic invisible, one grabs rings, one kills everything on screen, but most just carry him over the stage like hovercraft), so try them out when you get a chance. The ability to build stronger aircraft necessitates you upgrade Tails' Lab, again, with collected materials. I'm only up to LV4 (of 5) because the materials for the final upgrade take forever to get.

A note, if you die in a stage and respawn at the same checkpoint 5 or more times, the game will take pity on you and leave you an aircraft that you can use right then for free - it'll be in a pink canister. This aircraft will help Sonic get through that portion of the stage so he can move along and get on with his day. ...This was the only way I was able to get past Silent Forest Act 2, I'll be honest. Forgiveness aircraft are not present in Hard Mode.

Hard Mode is an option you can choose when on the overworld by pressing Y, and is unique to the 3DS version. Everything becomes dark purple. The Hard Mode stages are designed to be a challenge and will really push you. At first you can only access Windy Hill's Hard Mode, but once you complete all 4 act in a world, you can unlock the Hard Mode of the following world. You may tackle the 4 acts in any order you wish. (I've only unlocked up to Frozen Factory Hard Mode, because [CENSORED] ACT 3 WITH A SHOVEL.)

Here are the differences:
  • The visual motif. The sky is dark and everything is purple. It's Hard Mode, bro.
  • You automatically start the stage with 1 ring. (This also applies if you lose a life and respawn.) However, there are NO rings to pick up, with one exception: any place there would be a Red Ring in a stage, there is instead 5 rings.
  • More enemies to deal with.
  • All the power-ups are replaced with extra lives. So, no extra rings, no invincibility, no shields. On the plus side, this is a great way to grind for extra lives.
  • Other than that, the stage is exactly the same as in Normal Mode.

Special Stages are unique to the 3DS version as well. You can access a special stage by finishing an act with 50 or more rings in your possession. Special Stages may be accessed from any stage at all (I got into SS7 from Windy Hill Act 1), though you cannot access a different Special Stage from an act you found one already. Once you successfully clear a Special Stage, you can replay it as often as desired on the overworld.

Similar to Colors, you must collect all the colored Orbs in the area within the time limit. However, you control Sonic in space, with full 3D manoeuvring, and you do this by...moving the system around, as it utilizes the camera to determine your position. (Have you ever played Face Raiders? It works kinda like that.) Sonic will move in whatever direction he's facing, and holding down the R button will make him move faster, plus increase the range at which Sonic draws in objects. Those are the only controls. (You can press 1 of 3 buttons to make Sonic move faster, but I prefer the R button because it's easier to reach.) In the stages there are orange boxes that increase your remaining time (which in Special Stage 5 and up are absolutely necessary), blue boxes that reduce it, and balls of lightning that further increases Sonic's draw-in range.

My advice? First, stand up in a place where you can fully rotate your body about. Second, do not do more than 2 in a single sitting. Your neck will start to hurt.

Having all 7 Chaos Emeralds in your possession allows you to turn into Super Sonic. As in the prior titles, Super Sonic moves at top speed, all of his qualities such as jump are increased, he's completely invincible save to bottomless pits and drowning, and he loses 1 ring per second (and is knocked out of the transformation at 0 rings). There aren't nearly as many opportunities to abuse Super Sonic as there are in other games, but those moments are easily relished.

Okay, I think that's everything. Overall opinion? This game would be good, were it not for all the things wrong with it, and in my opinion, there are a little too many things wrong with it. I have absolutely no gripes with the Wii U version; it's essentially great, but the 3DS one has its moments that will really aggravate you. If you think you can get past those moments and enjoy the game for what it's worth, then go ahead, try it out.

(I highly HIGHLY recommend you download the demo from the 3DS E-Shop before you go to get this game. It only contains a tutorial and Windy Hill Act 1, but it covers all the basic mechanics of the game. If you don't like the demo, you will not like the game. The demo also allows you to start the game off from your demo's savepoint when you buy it.)

I liked SLW 3DS, but only to a point. There are things to really like about it, and things to really hate about it. I've presented all the information I believe you need to make a decision about it. The rest I leave up to you. Were I to give this game a numerical rating? I'll give it a 7 out of 10.

Next time I'll probably review Bowser's Inside Story, one of my favorite games. Happy gaming!

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Isaac
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#34
08-07-2014, 07:45 PM (This post was last modified: 08-22-2014, 11:30 AM by Isaac.)
I am very bored.

[Image: mario-and-luigi-3.png]

Title: Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
Platform: Nintendo DS
Release Date: September 2009
Developer: AlphaDream
Genre: RPG

For those familiar with the name, you might be confused as to why I'm reviewing the 3rd installment in the M&L RPG series before the others. The answer is that I finished replaying it fairly recently. I'm in the middle of Superstar Saga right now, and will probably do that one next.

Bowser's Inside Story features something present nowhere else in the M&L RPG series, and very rarely seen even outside that: you get to play as Bowser. Does that not appeal to you? It certainly does to me.

First, I'd like to go over the basic gist of the game mechanics and such, which are actually common to all 4 installments in the series - for those curious, the installments are Superstar Saga, Partners in Time, Bowser's Inside Story, and Dream Team. They can be seen as the handheld equivalents to the Paper Mario series, and its spiritual predecessor, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.

Overworld play is relatively simple. You control both Mario and Luigi together (or, in some instances, Bowser) walking around and solving various puzzles that come up in dungeons or new areas or what-have-you - essentially your standard role-playing game experience, though there is more a focus on puzzles and using the special moves you gradually unlock during the course of the game, such as the Spin Jump, which has Mario stand on Luigi's shoulders while the two of them spin through the air - useful for crossing large gaps or riding whirlwinds! Playing as Bowser is quite similar, except there's only 1 of him, and you fight separately from Mario & Luigi.

The Mario & Luigi segments are quite different from the Bowser segments, actually. During the first 15 minutes or so of the game, Bowser will end up inhaling everyone in Peach's Castle, including Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toadsworth, and several of the Toadfolk - resulting in most of Mario & Luigi's adventures being inside Bowser's body (though, unlike Superstar Saga, this experience is much more benign). Usually M&L will play the part of looking for something in Bowser's body (such as a misplaced memory) or even messing with his joints in odd ways, making him capable of superhuman feats and/or locking new moves - for example, Bowser can't breathe fire unless M&L go and knock out a bug that Bowser inhaled that's clogging his flame pipe. The list goes on.

Battles are fairly straightforward. Each character has 6 stats - HP (Hit Points), SP (Skill Points, returning from being absent in Partners in Time), Attack, Defense, Speed, and Stache (or Horn in Bowser's case - either way, the equivalent of Luck). SP are equivalent to Magic Points in other games and are used by M&L and Bowser to perform their various special moves. Stat-wise, Mario has slightly higher Attack, Speed, and Stache, Luigi has slightly higher HP, SP, and Defense, and Bowser is quite literally a one-man army, with stats to boot (only his Speed is rather low, but he'll be outspeeding most enemies anyway) - it's very VERY hard to lose as Bowser.

During your turn you can attack the enemy with either your basic attack (a jump or hammer for M&L, or a punch or flame for Bowser) with varying properties, use a special attack (you unlock more over the course of your journey), use an item, or run away (which causes you to drop coins as you flee). Battles are turn-based, but when the enemy's turn comes around, you can control your characters and, if your timing is right, you will completely dodge (and sometimes punish) your opponent's attacks.

The game rewards you for good timing, in both attacking or defending, and just as all of your attacks have precise timing in button presses to execute with the highest possible damage, so too do your opponent's attacks have precise timing to dodge/punish theirs. It's mastered with practice, but the patterns are relatively easy to memorize so you won't be struggling too often.

Mario & Luigi use the A and B buttons and their specials are all performed with button commands, while Bowser uses the X and Y buttons and his specials are all performed with touch screen commands. M&L's specials are unlocked by collecting Attack Pieces, of which there are 10 to an area, while Bowser unlocks his by rescuing his captured minions in the overworld. There's also a special section in the Pause menu where you can practice your special attacks on dummy opponents before putting them to use in real battles - it debuts in this game, and I highly recommend you practice a special attack right after you receive them! The computer also gives you a dummy performance as well so you can see how it's done, which I find absolutely amazing.

Similarly, on the overworld, you can press X or Y to switch command to Bowser, or A or B to switch command to Mario & Luigi inside Bowser's body. There are a few places where the two of them will have to work in tandem to get things done!

Major things new to this game are the Vacuum ability, a place to fully restore your HP and SP, Giant Battles, two special kinds of minigames, and the badge system. The 2nd one is self-explanatory and is basically this game's equivalent of an inn, and is new to the M&L series - before, HP (and BP, in Superstar Saga) would only fully heal after a boss fight; in BIS and DT, it no longer does so, but there are places where you can restore your HP/SP for only 10 coins, and they're easy to reach too - so you don't need to worry too much.

The Vacuum ability is a new ability Bowser can learn, and does so very early in the game. During battle, one of the choices Bowser may choose is Vacuum, and the block will be blinking if it has an in-battle effect. By mashing X after choosing it, Bowser will start inhaling rapidly, which affects some enemies, such as eating honey from a honeycomb enemy, blowing all the petals off of a flower enemy, or - most humorous of all - eating the false teeth of a crocodile enemy. It can also inhale certain small enemies into Bowser's body, where Mario & Luigi can carry on from there and fight the inhaled enemies - this most commonly happens during boss fights. The Vacuum ability is also required to use to unlock Bowser's final Special Attack, by using inhale on 15 different enemy types - you will only unlock this by the end of the game, but it's definitely worth it!

Giant Battles are also totally new to the series, and definitely my favorite part of this entire game. During the course of the plot, Bowser will run into life-threatening situations and be squished, usually by a large building. You will then be required to play a short minigame with Mario & Luigi to give Bowser a powerful adrenaline shot, causing Bowser to grow to gargantuan proportions - to put it in perspective, Giant Bowser is over 50 times the size of Bowser normally. Below is a screenshot of part of the first Giant Battle in the game - if you don't mind spoilers.

Spoiler:
[Image: Giant++Bowser%27s+Inside+Story.jpg]

Yes, that's Bowser's Castle. Yes, that's Bowser on the left. Yes, you have to fight it.

Giant Battles are always boss fights, and are controlled entirely with the touch screen - this is also the only part of the game where you will be using the mic. You will turn and hold your DS 90 degrees to your right, so that Bowser remains on your touch-screen (now the left screen) and your boss opponent (now the right screen). Giant Bowser only has 2 attacks: punch (slide your stylus right at the proper moment) and flame (blow into the mic continuously for about 3 seconds). Sometimes opponents will drop Giant Mushrooms for Bowser, which he may eat during his own turn to restore 50% of his HP. Dodging your opponent's attacks is also done entirely with the touch screen, and the dodge command will be different each time - so think quick on your feet so you can do what the game asks of you. After defeating a Giant Battle, you will receive experience as normal, and then Bowser will revert back to normal size so you can go on your merry way. There are only 5 Giant Battles in the entire game, but they are incredibly fun. My only complaint is that the flame can be rather bothersome and the mic might not take your input - this is especially apparent on one of the Giant Battles, where the boss is immune to the punch.

And now for the two new types of minigames I mentioned earlier. The first one lets Mario, Luigi, or Bowser use Special Attacks in a special 'endless mode' - that is, keep using your special attack against a dummy opponent, with it gradually getting harder to perform, until you mess up a certain amount of times. Each time you execute 1 hit on an enemy, 1 point is added to your score. You can earn a C, B, or A rank on each minigame, and reaching the A rank grants you a special piece of gear that can't be received otherwise, so it is worth it to try. Only some of the special attacks have minigames - not all of them.

The other new kind of minigame features re-fightable bosses - though only for Mario & Luigi (sorry Bowser, bro). There are 6 bosses you can re-fight in all, and each of them is called "_________ X", having higher stats overall than their previous version. Each boss is also fought under a time limit, you may only take in a specific number of items (they give you a special bag beforehand with the items you may use), and your Badge Meters reset to 0 (I'll discuss badges shortly). There's also a 7th part where you fight the previous 6 X Bosses all in a row, so that gives you an even bigger challenge! (On this mode I recommend using Mighty Meteor on the earlier bosses, as it will always drop a good item for you if you get it perfect.)

Finally, there are Badges. Mario & Luigi receive these about a third of the way through the game. By performing successful attacks, this will fill up the Badge Meter for the brother who performed the attack. Technically they share a meter, because when Mario's meter meets Luigi's, it becomes full, and you can tap their badges to unleash their combined effects, after which the meter resets. You start out with some basic badges, but more can be bought throughout the game, and the strongest badge is automatically given to Luigi when he reaches level 40.

Here are some pictures, if you want to see them:

Spoiler:
[Image: marioluigibowsersstory_0000b.jpg]
Here's a picture of the Bros. having just used their badges to heal their own HP. Note the now-empty meter in the bottom right of the screen.

[Image: DS_marioluigi3_battle_UK_badges_CMM_big.png]
Here's a picture of the Badge Equip screen - Luigi's badge controls what attacks will fill the gauge and by how much (for example, Good or higher will fill the gauge, but not by very much - the Great or higher badge would fill it even more), while Mario's badge controls the nature of the complete effect. Come to think of it, Luigi's badge also controls the strength of the effect too. This screen only shows the badges you are given at first, but the others can be bought later.

I don't want to go into detail with the plot of BIS, because I think that's something you would rather find out for yourself - however, for those who have played Superstar Saga, you will find the plot very endearing. Speaking of which, that game is next on my review list, and I'm almost finished with my current playthrough of it. It'll go well with this review, because most things that the M&L RPG series came to be known for was through its first title. I may do a review of Dream Team later, though it's very similar to Bowser's Inside Story in mechanics that I may not. To give Bowser's Inside Story a number rating, I will give it an 8.5 out of 10. This is mostly because the game itself isn't very long, and you could probably finish the game in about a few days if you have a lot of time to burn. I don't recommend that, though, as this game is definitely something to be savored, like all the other titles in the series.

Happy gaming!

I have disappeared from here. As apology, please accept this cheery picture.

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CyChill
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#35
08-09-2014, 04:37 AM
Title: Kirby Triple Deluxe
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: January 2014/May 2014
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Genre: Platformer

So on my 2014 wish list and in my list of games to try out for the heck of it, I've gone and bought Kirby Triple Deluxe.

For those not in the know, Kirby is this cute little pink....thing (A Kirby?) and he spends his day fishing, reading....eating....and more eating... until he goes to bed in his cute little nightcap. But one night an object falls and grows into the Dreamstalk, lifting Kirby's own house and King Dedede's castle into the sky, into the land of Floralia. Here we meet Taranga, who steals Dedede and Kirby gives chase.

That's all of the story I'm going to give. Once you beat the game you get Dedede mode, which has a different ending which leads to the True Arena which has the absolute final final final boss and a boss rush against the harder forms of bosses. This game has a lot of stuff.

In addition there is the regular arena, for boss refights, Kirby Fighters (For some Smash Bros fun.) and Dedede Drumming, where King Dedede plays a rhythm game. This game has a lot of content.

But there is more! There are also keychains to collect of EVERY character, enemy and object in the series, and in story mode, you can also collect 100 Sun Stones not just for extra stages and plot progression, but for a super rare keychain.

This game has a lot to do, and I paid £35 for it!


Kirby plays like you expect. Run, jump, fly and inhale. Pressing down with something in his...mouth? lets you swallow it, destroying it or giving you one of a range of powers. New to this game are Bell, Circus, Beetle and Archer, with Archer being my favourite due to it working like the Mega Buster, but there are around 21 other powers from previous titles to use, like Hammer, Bomb and Whip to name a few. Each has a series of moves and gives Kirby a new way to fight, adding replay value for our cute pink...thing.

The game isn't too long, only 6 worlds in all, but the game does get harder and offers puzzles along the way. Puzzles often involve using something in the foreground, like a cannon, to shoot into the background to clear a path for you later, or using a beam to destroy things on one side of the field to affect yours, and even enemies can jump between plains. This adds a new layer of fun for Kirby, and is a bit more puzzle heavy in some areas, and the stages are all nicely varied with their own challenges, even if, as it's Kirby, the stages aren't too terribly hard.

The bosses however range from understandably pathetic to mildly frustrating. While nothing is hair pulling anguish, some can catch you off guard, especially the upgraded versions.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous and easily one of the best looking 3DS games, beating out a lot of titles from last year, including Pokémon and Mario. Due to being simplistic and cartoony, the art style pops, especially in 3D, which helps with all the layering of the stages and enemies.

Musically it is good too. Some tunes stick in my head but others don't. It's a taste thing. It's nice to see a mix of styles such as Rock and Orchestral though.

Now one thing I will warn you about, is how cute this game is. Yes, Kirby is known for being a little adorable thing and his antics usually involve some form of nightmare fuel at the end (In a lesser note this time), but Kirby is....pretty mean this time.

Using his new Hypernova power you get at certain points, Kirby can eat anything in his way with no effort. Trees, buildings, missiles, tanks, bosses and their health bars... but this, while fun, is pretty damn graphic.

One instance has Kirby eating the houses of Waddle Dees, and another has him sucking air through a tube, creating a vortex that pulls things, including innocent Waddle Dees as they try to hold on for their little lives. There are even giant Eels, that Kirby swallows the tongues of, followed by the rest of them, which is pretty gross considering how long these are, and you get to see them struggle at the end too. This game has actually made me a little disturbed with this new power. While fun, you might want to put the game down after.

Oh, and those are mandatory.

Overall though, while not too hard, the game is damn fun, ignoring the parts where it decides to make you feel grossed out, and the cute Kirby charm is here for all to enjoy.

This game was rated 7 in the UK for a reason




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-KqDVNowKU

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Isaac
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#36
08-22-2014, 12:08 PM
Wow, I totally forgot I promised a Dark Dawn review. I got side-tracked with Mario & Luigi.

However, I haven't started the Dark Dawn playthrough yet, but I did finish Superstar Saga a few weeks ago, so let's put that up before I forget.

~~~

[Image: 1227452-mario_luigi.jpg]

Title: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Release Date: November 2003
Developer: AlphaDream
Genre: RPG

This game is amazing. Seriously, amazing. And while I rank it on par with Dream Team in the litany of the 4 M&L RPG games, Dream Team does have its fair share of issues when it comes to controls and such. Superstar Saga has no such issues. If you're fond of RPGs, even as goofy as this game may be (it's probably one of the most light-hearted games you'll ever play), this game should be in your library.

It's also out on the Wii U Virtual Console recently too, so that's even better! Seriously, if you're into RPGs, try it out. And even if you're not, it's a good entry title into the genre. (I believe I had this game before I started playing Golden Sun, though not by much - I think I was playing both of these in early 2004 or so.)

Anyway, on to the game itself! I'm going to kinda break my own rule here and give you a teaser about the plot - and by that, I mean only how the game begins. Unlike most (if not all) of the other Mario games, RPG or otherwise, Superstar Saga takes place in a land known as the Beanbean Kingdom, a country that borders the Mushroom Kingdom. A witch from there stole Princess Peach's voice and ran back off to the Beanbean Kingdom. It is up to Mario & Luigi to go together to the Beanbean Kingdom to recover Princess Peach's voice.

Hilarity and misadventures ensue. Lots and lots and lots of them.

Many times through the game I forgot what the plot was because I was so enthralled by the game script, the areas you had to go through, and the puzzles you had to solve. The game's areas are extremely bright and vibrant as far as color goes, and the obstacles that you have to pass are so intricately weaved into the scenery that you don't notice them right away until you're up next to them. They aren't particularly hard to find either, so the game likes to reward you with a sense of satisfaction and of wonder. I've played through this game countless times (at least 20, probably much more) and it never ever gets old.

Controls. While this game was the first in the M&L RPG series and thus was definitive as far as the controls go, it had a lot of things that didn't make a return in future games in the series - or at least not right away, though Dream Team brought back the well-loved High and Spin Jumps this game is well-known for.

In the overworld, you control Mario & Luigi with one walking behind the other. You control the front brother with A and the rear brother with B, and you can make them switch places with Start. (All the other games default to having Mario in the front and you can't switch, which I really missed about this game.) Initially you'll just be able to jump, but as you learn more and more abilities, you'll be able to cycle through the actions the brothers can do in the overworld. The front brother cycles through with R, and the rear brother cycles with L. Pressing L and R simultaneously resets both brothers' icons to Jump.

At several points in the game, Mario & Luigi will gain new items and abilities to use...but I just said that. The best part, though, is that the abilities they learn always correlate to their battle performance, and soon after you learn something, you learn a co-op move with it. For example, M&L both have the ability to jump. Not long after the game starts, they are taught 2 new jump abilities - the High Jump, which allows them to reach higher platforms that jumps 3 times higher than a normal jump, and the Spin Jump, which allows them to cross large gaps that a normal jump couldn't clear. And when they learn that, they also gain a corresponding Bros Attack to use in battle.

Oh, yeah, I haven't gotten to that. Enemies are visible in the overworld - they aren't random encounters. Some enemies you can get the jump on - literally - by jumping on them in the overworld to initiate a battle, and scoring bonus damage. (This is true of all games in the series.) Just don't jump on spiky enemies, as then you'll just hurt your foot.

In battle, you control Mario with A and Luigi with B. They have 4 action types available to them: Solo Attack, where they use their basic Jump (more are unlocked throughout the story, up to 3); Bros Attack, where the two Bros team up to use an attack for large amounts of damage (each bro has different Bros Attacks, and more are unlocked throughout the story, up to 4 each); Item, where you use an item you've collected; and Run, where you ditch coins to flee the fight.

During battle, precise button timing is key, during both the Solo and Bros Attacks, but don't worry - the game will actually help teach you the button timings for both the Solo and Bros Attacks (for Bros Attacks, the game will slow down for you, giving you a larger window to hit the buttons). In addition, if you perform a Bros Attack perfectly a certain amount of times, you will unlock an Advanced version of it, where the button deviates very slightly but creates an entirely different attack - for example, with Bounce Bros., pressing A first instead of B creates an entirely different button chain, and it results in M&L each hitting 1 enemy, rather than them both hitting the same one. The number of times it takes to unlock an Advanced move ranges from 10 to 30 perfect performances or so (I don't have exact figures, though if you're like me and only use Bros Attacks in boss fights, it will take longer).

Simple, right? Well...yes, actually.

Strangely enough, while being a simple game, it's actually longer in length than most of the other M&L RPGs - as far as main story is concerned, Superstar Saga is surpassed only in length by Dream Team, and Bowser's Inside Story is the shortest. At least, that's definitely what it feels like. There's actually quite a lot to do in SS, and while it doesn't have post-game things to do like BIS or DT, there are a lot of hidden nooks and crannies to explore, and by the time you finish the game, you will have explored all of them - there are even some places that are inaccessible the first time you pass by, that you'll have to come back later (keep note of any big dumb stupid Koopa you'll find - you'll get a chance to knock them all over later).

And that's really all I have to say about this game. It's rather simplistic in its approach but it manages to remain charming, and it's aged extremely well. I could tell you about all the silly things you'll see in the game, but that would make the review extremely long and I'd rather you see them all for yourself first-hand. Just make sure that 1) you are at least slightly interested, and 2) when you get the Beanstone side quest, make sure you complete it before you're near the end of the game - and that sidequest takes FOREVER!

Superstar Saga remains an old favorite of mine and still does. I find it an excellent way to just unwind and watch M&L being silly - especially Luigi, he's the star of this game but I'll let you see why - and all in all it's a pretty solid game. I recommend it highly. I'll give it a 9.5 out of 10.

Happy gaming!

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#37
08-31-2014, 05:11 PM
So I've been playing this game...

[Image: professor-layton-vs-phoenix-wright-ace-a...hrough.jpg]

...about non-stop since Saturday.

It's now Sunday afternoon and I have the feeling I will have finished it before I go to sleep tonight.
To get to the point, this is the next game I will be senselessly reviewing.

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09-01-2014, 10:24 AM (This post was last modified: 09-08-2014, 03:49 PM by Isaac.)
[Image: professor-layton-vs-phoenix-wright-ace-a...hrough.jpg]

Title: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: August 2014
Developer: Capcom, Level-5
Genre: Visual novel/Puzzle game

So, for anyone who was paying attention, I have been playing this game nearly non-stop since Saturday morning. I have finished it (well, the main plot at least) on Sunday night. In so doing, I ended up playing a real treat of a game. I'm surprised it took this long to reach North America, as Japan got it in mid-2012, and Europe and Australia got it March of 2014. These are weird time gaps that I cannot fully explain.

Be warned, this is going to come primarily from an Ace Attorney player's perspective, as I have never played a Professor Lego game before this one (and still currently have no plans to). In any case, let's fire away.

First of all, be aware that this is not like your standard Ace Attorney game, where you can play the game in segments (cases) and pick up/leave off where you please. On the contrary, actually. This game feels, and even looks, like you are in a story, watching it all play out (and assisting it too). It's broken up into chapters, and you're prompted to save between chapters of a story or between major segments of a chapter. (Of course, you can save during the game itself at pretty much any time.) I don't want to spoil any of the game's plot, but I will say that when playing through L vs W (Layton vs Wright), I felt a great deal of immersion in regards to the game's story, to an amount I've never felt with any other game before. And while the plot is somewhat similar to what you might expect in an Ace Attorney game, there are a lot of surprises and differences present - the nature of which I'll let you find out on your own. For me, I honestly think it's the plot and immersion that sell this game.

Next, you have gameplay. This is where you can start to see each franchise's respective element. First, there's Investigation Mode, where you go about the overworld and talk to people, investigate places, and locate Hint Coins (currency you can use if you ever get stuck somewhere, which I find handy). But, most of all, what you will be doing is solving puzzles, either ones you find lying around or (most often) ones you get from talking to people, usually in regards to solving their problems. Puzzles (Professor Layton's contribution to the series) are what you'll probably be doing the most often. The puzzles can range from easy to very tricky, but they're almost always fun. None of the puzzles are particularly hard, but the solution may not always be obvious. There are a total of 70 puzzles in the game, and all puzzles you don't find or miss out on during the course of a chapter will be sent to an NPC for you to finish later - except for puzzles of number 61 51 and higher, which are encountered only as part of the game's ending and lead-up to it.

Ah, speaking of puzzles, for those of you who have seen the trailer, you will remember it mentioned that some of the puzzles have contradictions in them (thus blending the two franchises in one place)? Well...
Spoiler:
There is actually only 1 puzzle in the main plot (#57) that does this. All of the other puzzles are fairly straight-forward.

Then you have Trial Mode, which was the most familiar to me - obviously. In this, you control Phoenix Wright defending your client and clearing his/her name of any wrongdoing. This is done most the same as any other Ace Attorney game - you will hear witness testimony and press/present evidence during the cross-examination and other bits to proceed through the trial. You're only allowed 5 mistakes, though, so tread lightly. Fortunately, you are allowed to use Hint Coins during the trial, if you get stuck - which can easily happen if it's your first time through the game. There are a few new tricks to trials in this game, and while I won't say what they are (for the sake of plot and surprise), I will say that a lot of the terminology is different (though they mean the same thing). Also, you can save at any point during a trial, but reloading the file will only make you start at specific invisible 'checkpoints' during the trial itself, not exactly where you left off from. While this could be seen as a weakness and makes you spend more time if you hard-reset the game because you made a mistake, I honestly didn't mind it all that much as the checkpoints are fairly frequent (for example, there's one each time you force a cross-examination statement to be added or changed).

Okay, we've gone over the more familiar aspects of the game, but what's actually new? Well, this might not be new to some people, but there are certain portions of the game where the lines that people speak are voice-acted, usually when a new character is introduced or when the beginning/end of an important plot point is reached. There are cut-scenes as well in the game, where you have audio and video just for that segment, but Dual Destinies had those so they aren't exactly new.

Ah, and one thing comes to mind about the characters present in the game, particularly those you'll be around the most often. This might be considered a spoiler, though it doesn't really affect the plot. However, I'll hide it in tags, so as to not spoil the surprise for those who don't want it:
Spoiler:
There are only 4 characters that do not debut in this game - Professor Layton, Phoenix Wright, and their respective assistants Luke Triton and Maya Fey. All other characters of note you will see are unique and original to this game, though Miles Edgeworth does make a cameo in the game's credits.

When you clear the game for the first time, you are given access to a sound room, an art room, a movie room, a voice-clip room, and post-game episodes/content (this last one downloads extra stuff to your SD card). This gives you more things to do after the main game is done. I would assume the post-game episodes, as they are called, are played much like the main game. There's allegedly more features you can unlock based on the number of picarats (your score, basically) you get during a game (according to the game's manual), but I don't know where those would be, as it's not really hinted at. Maybe I got all of the extra goodies?

During the course of the game, you can acquire a maximum of 5000 picarats in a single playthrough - you have to do this by solving every puzzle without submitting a wrong answer or using any hints, and progress through every trial without making a mistake that damages credibility. You can also acquire a maximum of 200 hint coins as well (assuming you don't use any).
*Edit: Confirmed that 5000 picarats and 200 hint coins are the maximum attainable.

As for a number rating, let's give this a 9 out of 10. While puzzle-solving and trial-clearing is the main factor of gameplay in the game, I believe what really sells this is the masterful story. As I said near the start of the review, the plot and story here gave me an immersion factor I have not felt with any other game, and to me, I think that is expert evidence (har har har) of a well-done tale. The game only just came out on Friday in North America so it might be a bit tricky to find if you prefer hard copies like me (not entirely, though - I went to Gamestop on Friday afternoon and they had 5 non-preordered copies left, so there's hope), but if you're willing to pay the $30 for this game, I'd totally go for it.

Happy gaming!

In regards to post-game stuff, I haven't done it yet, but if I find anything new of note or that really warrants sharing, after I have played it, I will edit it in below this line.

Other than the galleries and such I mentioned earlier, they seem to be a series of free DLC, including 1 free puzzle and a glimpse beyond the 4th wall. I think there are 12 scheduled in all.

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#39
10-03-2014, 05:30 PM
Let's see, what game will I review next, once I finish it for the first time?

Isaac is delving back into the RPG universe, upon a few recommendations from acquaintances.
And this time it's with...

Spoiler:
[Image: 140.jpg?1398808787]

I might put another review up before this one, as this is a really lengthy game.

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10-13-2014, 01:14 AM (This post was last modified: 10-13-2014, 06:21 PM by Isaac.)
[Image: etrian-odyssey-untold-the-millenium-girl-box.jpg]

Title: Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: October 2013
Developer: Atlus
Genre: Dungeon-crawler, JRPG

Been playing this game nearly non-stop for 2 weeks since I got it on a Saturday - due to a Nintendo E-Shop detail, I was able to get soft copies of both this game and Etrian Odyssey IV for $15 each (you can probably guess what game I'll review next, if it isn't Golden Sun 3). And, while I haven't explored absolutely everything this game has to offer, I've explored enough for a review that I can extrapolate the rest.

Do note that this review will contain some minor spoilers about the game. There's nothing major so I won't ruin the plot for you or anything, so you need not worry. Any spoiler content will be either hidden in spoiler tags OR in a text color that blends into the webpage (highlight it to see).

Etrian Odyssey Untold (abbreviated EOU from here on out) is a remake of the first Etrian Odyssey game, originally released on the Nintendo DS in May of 2007. The game features you as a player character who comes to the town of Etria, tasked with exploring the labyrinth of Yggdrasil, a sprawling and intricate forest. The town's economy thrives on adventurers such as yourself to battle monsters in the labyrinth and bring back spoils (read: body parts of corpses) to craft weapons and such. Yet, as the plot of the game will ultimately tell you, there is a lot more to Yggdrasil than initially meets the eye. ...That's basically your plot with very little spoilers.

Etrian Odyssey games standardly have you create your own party members, where you get to pick their name, appearance, and starting class (similar to Dragon Quest IX). This mode is featured in EOU as "Classic Mode" and can be chosen upon starting a new game. The other mode, "Story Mode", will take you through the same adventure, but with a few differences:

~The natural plot of this game is expanded upon, with details not shown in Classic Mode.
~The party characters are all pre-made for you in terms of appearance, names, and classes. (You as the PC can name yourself as you choose, but your class is pre-set.) You can change the classes around later (I'll get to that) but they start pre-made.
~There are certain features, areas, enemies, items, and bosses that are not present in Classic Mode.

I have only played the game through the Story Mode, since the game only permits you 1 save file. You can select a New Game(*) after beating the main game once, with some stuff carried over, but I don't know the details of that and I don't want to lose all the stuff I've worked hard for. (If any of you have played through Classic Mode, or know the bonuses of New Game*, please let me know so I can add it in here.)

Anyway, gameplay itself!

Most of the game will keep you occupied with exploring the Yggdrasil labyrinth. The labyrinth is grid-based, and there is a huge emphasis given to drawing your own map of the maze. You can draw walls, mark areas traversed, set markers, leave notes, and so on. There's actually a lot of options left to you for map-making, so you can customize your map how you see fit. There are suggested icons to use, sure (for example, a pickax to mark mining spots), but you can mark your map pretty much how you choose.

Since the labyrinth is grid-based, you will move through it 1 tile at a time. Random encounters do exist in this game, and will attack you after walking a certain number of steps, which depends on the area; a circle at the bottom right of your screen will start at dark blue and gradually change to dark red - the closer it is to dark red, the closer you are to a random encounter.

Here are the controls in the labyrinth:
Up or Down = Move 1 tile forwards or backwards, in the direction you're facing
Left or Right = Rotate your field of vision 90 degrees left or right, without moving. Does not consume a 'turn' of movement.
Analog stick = While held, you can look around the area and see things from a different angle. It will also move around the map on the bottom screen, when zoomed in.
A = Analyze the area (when prompted)
B = In the labyrinth, does nothing
X = Zooms in (or zooms out) the map on the bottom screen
Y = Opens the menu
L or R = Strafe 1 tile to your left or right, without changing the direction you're facing

There are also FOEs - visible enemies - on the map. (FOE does stand for something, but it's Dog Latin, so it's not worth repeating.) FOEs have a set pattern how they move about on the map - some will move back and forth, others will rotate around and stay in place, and so on. Some FOEs are also hostile, and will chase you down if they see you - FOE icons on the world map are normally purple, but turn to red when hostile, and grey when inactive. As you can guess, FOEs are much more powerful than normal enemies in the area, so engage at your own risk. The first time you get to an area you will probably want to stay clear of FOEs, only fighting them on subsequent visits when you are truly ready. FOEs will respawn when defeated after a certain number of days (I haven't counted but it's something like 5), so you can refight them to collect their drops. (The only FOEs that don't respawn are certain boss fights, which are few.)

In some monster encounters, you may run into a "rare breed", which is shown by the monster having a glittering gold tint. They are much stronger statistically than their normal counterparts, always go first, get stronger each turn they're in the fight, and may try to flee if you take too long in slaying it. It's well worth it, though - rare breeds give 5 times as much experience as their normal counterparts. A note - FOEs can also be shiny (except for bosses), and follow the same rules - except they don't flee, so you could be in for a very hard time!

Once you have mapped out the majority of the floor, and reach the staircase to the next floor, a feature called "Floor Jump" becomes available; a golden staircase icon will appear on your map where the staircase is. On any floor where you have unlocked Floor Jump, you can simply tap a golden staircase icon to instantly teleport to that location. It is not required to unlock Floor Jump to proceed to the next floor of the labyrinth, but it's highly recommended, so you can switch between (and escape from) floors on the fly, whenever necessary. There are also many other features on a floor to explore - small crevices that allow you to backtrack, places where you can gather materials, objects that let you move between large sections of a floor - the list goes on. Make the most accurate map you can to ensure your journeys through the labyrinth go smoothly!

The labyrinth Yggdrasil itself is subdivided into layers called strata (stratum, singular). The first strata is relatively simple - just your generic everyday forest - but the deeper you descend, the more varied the climes will become, such as a jungle, a water level, even a desert. There are a few more details on the strata in here, for those who want specifics (don't open if you want to be surprised):

Spoiler:
Each stratum has a total of 5 floors, and there are a total of 6 strata in this game, 1 of which cannot be accessed until you have cleared the main game/defeated the final boss. At the end of each stratum is the stratum's main boss, and after it's defeated, there is a Geomagnetic Pole (which I'll get to soon). They are considered to be FOEs, so bosses will eventually respawn, but they are not normally hostile.

During the course of the game, if you're playing Story Mode, you will find objects in the labyrinth called Geomagnetic Poles. These have 3 purposes: to save your game (your game can only otherwise be saved in town at the inn), to return to Etria immediately, or (most importantly) to gain access to Gladsheim, an old futuristic-style ruin exclusive to Story Mode. You will visit Gladsheim several times throughout the story to complete various objectives. Unlike in the labyrinth, the areas of Gladsheim are not connected, and you will need to find a different Geomagnetic Pole to visit each area of Gladsheim. (You will find them throughout the course of the game, while exploring the labyrinth. There is 1 new one found with each new stratum you reach.) There is one point in which you will visit Gladsheim before finding one of these Poles, and that's the part where you will meet the rest of your party members.

...Moving on to the characters next. As in a traditional JRPG, you will have characters (5 in total) that will travel with you. In combat, there is both a front and a back line; those on the front line will deal and take more damage, while those on the back line are protected (melee attacks from the back line also can't reach the opponent's back line). You can have at most 3 on either line, so it'll be either 2-front 3-back or 3-front 2-back. (Funnily, Final Fantasy IV does this as well. The principle is very similar.)

When your character goes up a level, s/he gains a Skill Point. Skill Points are the game's way of how you learn skills - rather than by levels, each class has its very own skill tree. There are requirements for which skills can be accessed when, of course (it will show the exact requirements on the skill tree), but it allows you a great deal of flexibility and planning when it comes to what skills you can learn. Each skill has a total of 10 levels to it; if you spend a Skill Point in that skill, it goes up a level, and becomes stronger/more effective etc the higher its level. The skill tree will tell you what will happen when you level up the skill, including any changes to power, range, and TP cost it might have. (TP is the equivalent of magic. The other stats are HP, ATK - physical attack, TEC - magic ability, VIT - defense, AGI - agility, and LUC - luck.)

A character's skill point total at any given point, by default, is equal to his/her level, plus 2. However, with re-classing (which I'll get to shortly), you can have even more skill points naturally, up to your level plus 10. Under normal conditions, the level cap in this game is 70, as opposed to other more common figures like 50, 99, or 100. But experience is, thankfully, very easy to earn in this game, since you can get it not only from slaying monsters, but also from completing quests. It's possible to go beyond, apparently, but I don't know how to do that. I'm assuming re-classing is involved in some way.

Re-classing can be done by any character once the character reaches level 30. When this happens, the character's level is halved (rounding up), and their stats are lowered, though they have higher stats than one would normally have at that level (I think it just simply halves the base stats as well). However, when re-classing, you cannot finish at a level higher than 30 (even if you were level 61+). You can re-class into any other class in the game, even the one you were just in (with some exceptions). When you do, your skill point tree will be reset (skills aren't carried over between classes) and you will start with skill points equal to your new level +2, plus more skill points equal to your old level divided by 8. This means if you reclass when at level 70, you will wind up at level 30, but with 40 skill points - leveling up to 70 again would mean you would have 80 skill points total instead of 72. It's a small difference, but it is nice!

Alternatively, when you are at any level, you can 'rest'. Resting reduces your level by 2, but makes all of your skill points unallocated, letting you start again. (You still have the normal amount of skill points you'd have at that level, though - you can't cheat the system!)

And this should probably tell you that it's totally impossible to max out (get all skills to level 10) on any skill tree. You will have to pick and choose, but that's not necessarily a bad thing - especially given how you can rest, thus re-doing your skillset.

The classes in the game are:

Highlander - The signature class of your player character. His skills revolve around paying his own HP for powerful and devastating effects, as well as effects that trigger when he loses his own HP, plus ways to get it back again. Definitely my favorite class in this game, and is not found in any other Etrian Odyssey game. His weapon of choice is the spear, and he fights best on the front line. Equipment-wise he can equip most armor, except for breastplates. In Story Mode, only you (as the PC) can have this class, but after clearing the main story, any character may re-class into it freely. It is not available in Classic Mode.

Gunner - The signature class of the titular Millennium Girl, Frederica Irving. As you might expect, her weapon of the choice is the gun, and she fights best on the back lines. The Gunner class is one of the more versatile classes in the game, being able to heal HP and ailments from allies, induce binds on enemies, fire elemental attacks, and even perform dangerous combos with normal attacks, such as attacking twice and piercing to the back lines. Behind the Highlander, this is my 2nd favorite class in the game so far. In Story Mode, only Frederica can have this class, but after clearing the main story, any character may re-class into it freely. It is not available in Classic Mode.

Highlander and Gunner are the only classes with restrictions on who can take them and when. The other 9 have no such restrictions.

Alchemist - This is basically your (black) mage class. Stat-wise, his HP and defense are quite squishy (so keep him on the back line), but his TP, speed, and especially his TEC are extremely high. This is definitely the go-to elemental class; though other classes in the game can utilize the elements of fire, ice, and volt, none can do so quite as effectively, or as deadly, as the alchemist. In Story Mode, it's the starting class of Arthur. Like other mage-style classes, it can't equip the more powerful gear, but it's not totally out of the running (most staff weapons boost TP or HP when equipped).

Medic - Not surprisingly, this is the white mage/cleric class. His HP and ATK are a bit lower than those of other classes, but he has above-average DEF and similar stats to boot. The class is based upon recovering HP, status ailments, binds, and so forth; it can also (to a degree) cause status ailments upon enemies, and even bolster the party's elemental resistance. In Story Mode, it's the starting class of Simon, and is highly recommended to have 1 in any exploring party. Its equipment restrictions are similar to the Alchemist, and it should be kept on the back line.

Protector - This is one of two 'warrior-style' classes in the game, the other one being the Landsknecht (which I'll cover next). The Protector is more defensive (essentially the 'paladin' archetype), using its very large shield to keep enemies at bay and the party protected. While not as powerful as other classes, it is definitely the most durable, and will keep you going for long excursions. In addition to raising the party's defenses in battle, it can also learn some healing spells, and has this nifty little skill called Prayer that will heal the party's HP and TP after every fight (which I abused a lot in the endgame and post-game). This could theoretically make an excursion go on forever, or at least much longer than it normally would without having to turn back. In Story Mode, it's the starting class of Raquna. It can equip most armor, including breastplates, and is best suited to combat on the front line.

The other 6 classes in this game I've never actually tried; I've only looked at their skill trees, but I am including them for completeness.

Landsknecht - This class with a funny-sounding name is your stereotypical warrior class. Its stats are remarkably well-balanced and its class tree is about as versatile as Gunner's, so it can be customized to do almost whatever you want with it (it, like Gunner, also gets Double Strike, which is very handy). It's more offensive than Protector, so most of the time it will be attacking opponents while on the front line, and it does so quite well. Its weapons of choice are the sword and axe - it's natively the only class without aid that can equip axes - and its equipment options are superb.

Survivalist - Allegedly, this class is built for surviving long excursions in the labyrinth (I really don't know; I think the protector does a fine job of that). It's similar to the Gunner in what kinds of skills it gets, as well as its preferred weapon - the bow. Most of its abilities involve use of the bow and getting various shots off with it, and they can perform equally well on either line. What I find most notable about it is that it gets Chop, Mine, AND Take - the only class to get more than 1 skill useful to gathering resources.

Troubadour - The troubadour is a weird cross between the alchemist and the medic, and his deal is singing to perform persisting effects on the party (or enemies). It's not strictly a magic class, but the effects it creates are very similar, and for those who prefer playing the slow-and-steady game, the troubadour is a great option. It can equip bows like the survivalist, so it can deal a fair bit of damage when needed. It also has access to some accessories that only troubadours can equip, which they used to raise their maximum TP - though, there is an accessory you can get around the middle of the game as a drop from a rare enemy that can be equipped by anyone and vastly outperforms all of the trouby accessories, but that's neither here nor there.

Hexer - Here we have the last of the mage-style classes, the hexer. The hexer is odd in that it's very harmful to enemies, but doesn't actually damage them - it will dump status conditions on them by the truckload, and then manipulate them however it wishes. I'm not a fan of status conditions myself so it's not something I could pick up easily, but it has no shortage of abilities to make its opponents' lives miserable. In Story Mode, a hexer temporarily joins your party, so you can test it out for yourself if you want, to see how you like it. Like the other mage units, its gear options and such are the same, and they should be kept in the back - however, there is a special equipment available late-game that only hexers can equip, which may make it worth looking into.

Dark Hunter - The Dark Hunter is essentially the physical, damage-dealing equivalent of the Hexer. Its skill tree can be rather complicated and even demanding at times (some skills require LV7 in three different pre-requisites), but the harm they can inflict upon enemies, in terms of damage, binds, and ailments, has little match. In fact, they have attacks that gain power with each ailment/bind its target has, which can make them invaluable in some encounters - especially boss fights, who usually can only have a status for 2 turns at most. Their weapon of choice is the whip, and pretty much every bit of flavor text you'll see about whips or Dark Hunter abilities is kinky to some degree or another.

Ronin - This class here is similar to the Highlander and Dark Hunter in terms of equipment - it is a warrior-archetype class, and can equip most armor, with only breastplates being off-limits. However, it balances this out by being the most powerful physical class in the game; it will ready itself into a fighting stance before unleashing a powerful attack. Like the Gunner, it can use these stances to chain very powerful combos against the opponent for great effect, and it has the versatility and presence of a landsknecht. On top of which, the most powerful weapon in the game is a katana (the ronin's weapon), which should tell you something. In Story Mode, a ronin temporarily joins your party, so feel free to try it out.

I swear I'm almost done here

The only thing I really have left to cover is what you can do in town.

~Shilleka's Goods - Your item shop, selling weapons, armor, and everything in between. Shilleka's stock upgrades whenever you sell her materials you collected from monsters you've defeated (ental, this game's money, is not dropped by monsters, but is gained by selling items or finishing some quests), and she'll use those materials to make new items/weapons/armor for you. As you may have guessed, the deeper you get into the labyrinth, the more valuable materials you'll collect, and the more things will be available to you.

~Golden Deer Pub - As the name suggests, it's a pub. You can talk to people here, as well as accept and report results of quests. It's a social gathering, essentially.

~Radha Hall - The first place you'll visit during the game. Like the pub, you will accept quests (called missions) from them every so often, but these are the plot-important ones, so they're much rarer. You will only be here really if the plot demands it.

~Explorer's Guild - The place where you can recruit new adventurers, as well as change classes and rest. In Classic Mode, this is also where you'll create new party members, adding or removing them from your party, and so forth. This place is a lot more important in Classic Mode; in Story Mode, the functions are reduced, since your 5 party members are pre-determined (though they can still re-class and rest like anyone else).

~Guild Headquarters - Eventually you get a place to live. Here, you can prepare for your adventures with various beneficial effects (healing HP every turn, blocking status ailments once per fight, stuff like that), as well as store/retrieve items, manage your Guild Card (sent to others via StreetPass), and take on requests on behalf of your housekeeper. I'm actually not sure if this place is in Classic Mode, though I believe it is.

~Rooster Inn - The place where you can rest to heal HP/TP, cure status ailments such as death and petrification, and, most notably, save your game. You can rest here until morning (7am) or evening (7pm) with the same effect; time of day will just influence monster encounters.

And there you have it! Before I forget, I give this a number score of 9.5/10.

While I'd fallen out of the RPG circle, no thanks to the Final Fantasy franchise, I was recommended Etrian Odyssey by a few people. Between the class trees, the labyrinth mapping, and the absolutely beautiful music and visuals, this one was definitely a keeper. Even if I had gotten this game for $40 instead of $15, it would still have been worth every penny. My advice? See if you can get it on the cheap and/or wait for another sale to come up!

Music is always something I keep my ears open for in a game, and EOU did not disappoint. There are tons of good ones, but my favorite track is called "A Tragic Struggle", which you can listen to here. I like it not just because of the beat, but because of the atmosphere surrounding the track itself (which you'll find out when you get to that bit).

I've heard that a remake of Etrian Odyssey II is making its way to the 3DS as well, eventually, so I might be getting that too. However, I do own a soft copy of Etrian Odyssey IV (which started on the 3DS), so I'll probably be playing that next and see how it stacks up.

Happy gaming!

I have disappeared from here. As apology, please accept this cheery picture.

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