18/10/2017

Touhou Genso Wanderer: Lovely little roguelike


Touhou Genso Wanderer for the Vita is a strange beast. It's ridiculously expensive, has no physical release even in Japan and is, if the total absence of walkthroughs on the internet is any indication, played by virtually no one. PS4 owners were graced with a physical release of that game while Vita owners were completely ignored and had to make do with a digital-only version, which makes absolutely no sense given that the Vita is the abode of niche gaming. On top of that, it's a clunky Shiren the Wanderer clone with a pregnant low-fi, budget feel, which makes its overinflated price tag all the more ludicrous. And yet, I craved that game and wanted it in my collection; my gaming instinct told me I would have a blast playing TGW, and a blast I had indeed. 

Just like Shiren, TGW features a really short main story dungeon followed by some enormous post-game dungeons, the former feeling like a mere appetizer for the latter. Not for me, though: once I was done polishing off the 38 floors of the main story dungeon, I was more than content to turn off my Vita and call it a day. I wanted to indulge in a short, sweet and reasonably challenging bout of rogueliking, and that's exactly what I got with TGW. That game lounges at the easy end of the Roguelike spectrum and is much more forgiving than games like Shiren or Sorcery Saga. For instance, TGW doesn't send you back to the very beginning of the game empty-handed when you perish: you keep all your items, the only thing lost forever being your money. Traps are seldom — if ever — deadly and often fail to trigger, the item that lets you return to base is abundant and foes' behaviour is easily predictable.

Since TGW offers no cheated items such as Shiren's Mamel Meat to take care of powerful foes, main character Reimu has to be genuinely strong to survive the last floors of the main dungeon and the last boss. That mandatory strength is obtained primarily through leveling up gear and adding useful seals to it, and to a (much) lesser extent by leveling up Reimu herself. The sense of progression is much more palpable than in Shiren, as you find yourself able to go a bit further with every bout of equipment buffing-up. That makes TGW the perfect game for short bouts of rogueliking: with a bit of toiling, luck and clever gear management, you're guaranteed to see the credits roll in 15 hours or less. The game is full of lovely little surprises, such as a sakura flower dungeon, scrumptious-looking Japanese food items and pieces of gear that change form as they level up or get fused with other pieces of gear. Like, look at my awesome ghost sword and crystal shield in the picture above! They didn't look like that at first, and I nearly squealed with delight when they transformed under my very eyes. Little moments like this alone make the game worth playing as far as I'm concerned.

That being said, TGW is still a totally overpriced game that lacks ergonomy and is mostly derivative. I'd like to recommend it to beginners because of its shortness, if not for the fact that there are nearly no tutorials and that the menu sytem is really clunky and confusing, not to mention the rules of the game itself. Sorcery Saga is a much better deal for a beginner: it's more accessible, has a more distinctive atmosphere and can be found boxed for one-fourth of TGW's price. But despite TGW's shortcomings, I really loved it and could perfectly imagine myself replaying it. If only Limited Run could release a boxed version of that game, I'm be a very happy roguelike aficionado indeed. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!

11/10/2017

The Avian Solo Runs, Episode 3: Starly in Pokemon Platinum


Welcome to the third episode of my Avian Solo Runs feature, dear fellows gamers! Here we are, back to the generation that started it all for me; and boy, was it delectable to go back to my Pokemon roots. On top of being treated to sweet waves of nostalgia (kinda ironic knowing that I played the gen IV games only a mere three years ago), I got to appreciate much more how splendid a game Platinum is. Exquisite graphics, perfect pacing, lovely atmosphere, that game has it all and improves on Diamond and Pearl on all fronts. Sure, Sinnoh still could be a trifle more varied and offer more types of landscape, and the design of local 'Mons could still be a tad more inspired; but overall, Platinum is such a fulfilling game that I'm not sure I can ever go back to Diamond and Pearl and their crudeness. And since I'm mentioning all three games in the same sentence, there's one thing that bugs me: why are these games' names so inconsistent? We have a gemstone, an animal by-product and a metal, all things that are seemingly unrelated. According to the prevailing version logic, Pokemon Crystal should be titled Platinum, while Platinum itself should be titled something else entirely, just like Diamond and Pearl themselves. What's the logic behind this triad of names? Are they related to jewelry somehow? Or did GameFreak run out of inspiration at the time? These incohesive names don't diminish the games' merits in any way, mind you; but they sure are puzzling, all the more so are they are the only true case of nominal incoherency in the whole series.

Ramblings about versions and names aside, the regional bird du jour is none other than online meta darling and OU tier permanent resident Starly. This is no mere Fly slave we have here, oh nooo: Starly is, as one Jubilife TV anchor neatly put it, a "mighty fine" 'Mon, blessed with such impossibly high Attack and Speed that it might as well have been tailor-made for solo runs. With that tuxedo bird, GameFreak kept slowly but surely expanding the Move pool of their regional avian 'Mons: the Starly family has access to more Move Types than the Taillow family, which itself was an visible improvement on the Pidgey family on the Move pool front. Granted, the stinginess inherent to older entries when it comes to handing out Moves prevented me from gaining access to a genuinely wide Move pool; nonetheless, I managed to put together a pool of Moves belonging to four different Types over the course of my run, and that's the first time this happens since I started tackling the Avian Runs. On top of never-missing Aerial Ace and solo run little darling Return, my Starly expertly wielded Steel Wing, the Steel Move that had proved so refreshing and useful in my Taillow Run of Emerald, as well as newcomer Close Combat, a Fighting move with few PP yet great potential. That Move involved some lowering of the user's Defense and Sp. Defense Stats, yet packed an insane 120 power, which made it the perfect finishing Move to take down a buff Legendary or a Gym Leader's overpowered ultimate 'Mon. I used it regularly to wrap up tough engagements in a neat and orderly fashion, knowing fully that the defensive Stats reduction would have virtually no effect.

Mind you, my Starly solo run would have unfolded just as fine without Close Combat: the tuxedo bird is so insanely powerful that I encountered virtually no obstructions over the course of my run. With Platinum having a Rock Gym as its very first Gym just like Emerald, I fully expected to struggle as much as I did in my Taillow run; yet low and behold, Starly's Attack is so impossibly high that I managed to take down Roark's collection of rocky roadbloacks without too much damage nor fainting. I didn't use a single Battle Item over the course of my run, and the Elite Four was a complete walk in the park. I mean, what could a Bug Trainer and a Ground Trainer possibly do against a Flying 'Mon that's immune to Ground Moves and wields a kick-ass Flying Move? Starly&evos is stellar solo run material, a 'Mon utterly perfect on all fronts. Or nearly all fronts: in my opinion, GameFreak somewhat dropped the ball when it comes to Staraptor's design. Starly's final evolution looks a bit off, with a head that's too small compared to its body size, feather tufts that look like cat ears and eyes that are disturbingly tiny and devoid of expression. The worst part is that GameFreak actually changed the Staraptor sprite for Platinum, making the poor bird visibly uglier in the process; his Diamond/Pearl sprite looked much better, with a more natural stance and a sharper eye. Had I known about this sprite change beforehand, I swear I would have picked Diamond or Pearl for my Starly run despite the fact that Platinum is the superior game.

All in all, the Starly family amply deserves its fame and permanent spot in the OU tier. That bird is much more versatile than his gen II and III predecessors thanks to his more varied Move Pool, and ends up being much more entertaining and pleasant to use, especially in a solo run. My Starly solo run was overall an incredibly smooth, mellow and soothing ride — much like Sinnoh and the gen IV games themselves, really. And with that run under my belt, I now have only two avian runs left before I achieve full Regional Bird coverage. See you soon for more thrilling feathery action, dear fellow gamers! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!

04/10/2017

Rainbow Moon: That's a wrap


Roughly one year after I took a break from my beloved Rainbow Moon, I went back to it and polished it off in one clean, swift go. I defeated my archenemy in a fight that was mostly a matter of patience over tactics, said archenemy being a massive HP bag whose blows hardly made a dent on my little Baldren's enormous HP bar. I could then at long last go back to my homeland, only to be kindly invited to go back to Rainbow Moon — the land, not the game — to tackle a flurry of sidequests involving massively overlevelled enemies. I passed on that, though: after 75 hours spent playing Rainbow Moon, I definitely had my fill of grinding, drawn-out battles and quests sending me all over the world to pick random items. More of this would spoil the pleasure, and I certainly don't want to ruin the memory of those amazing and fulfilling 75 hours of roaming, exploring and grinding. I used to think that I would play that game for hundred of hours, taking my sweet time and enjoying the ride; but then the credits rolled and, well... You know the drill: my drive to play plummeted and crashed down, never to rise again.


To wrap up that Rainbow Moon epic, I'll make a quick, non-exhaustive list of the things I loved in that amazing gem of a game. I was initially (read: last year, when my obsession with the game was at its peak) planning to write an exhaustive list of said things I loved; but now, one year later, I don't really feel like doing that — not to mention that it would probably be an exhausting (no pun intended) read. So I'll just stick to the features that really stick out (sheesh, enough crappy puns already):

  • All randoms encounters can be avoided, fleeing never fails and the game lets you kindly know which foes you'll be fighting and how many of them. Perfect for micromanaging your level-grinding and your farming.
  • Should you die in battle, you'll respawn at the exact same spot with 1 HP. No progression lost, no backtracking, no hassle. 
  • Healers, merchants and the like can be found virtually everywhere, including in the deepest recesses of dungeons. Exploring those cutthroat places suddenly feels much more relaxing once you know you can rest and refurbish on the spot.
  • Instant save anytime, anywhere. 'Nuff said. 
  • You always get the opportunity to save and prepare before boss battles, even after you've engaged with said boss. This is the RPG equivalent of anime foes politely waiting for heroes to have achieved their transformations and delivered their introductory speeches before attacking them, and it's both hilarious and very handy.
  • Tons and tons of loot ready for the taking. On top of the obligatory monster drops, the game world is overflowing with safes and money bags begging to be pilfered. Oh, and they glow. With a golden shimmer. You'll feel like Uncle Scrooge when you see them, I swear. 


Then you have more subjective points, such as the lush graphics that caress and soothe the retina, the pint-sized game world that does away with useless roaming (always a plus for a gamer who grew up on 8 and 16-bits offerings), the whole enchanting atmosphere of the game that reminds me of RPGs of old and fills me with nostalgia and wanderlust, the tight gameplay that features metric tons of grinding, and so on. I just ADORE that game, period. It's a perfect retro grindy treat with a heavy coating of modern player-friendliness, and this is a mix I'll undoubtedly come back to in the future. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!

28/09/2017

The Avian Solo Runs, Episode 2: Taillow in Pokemon Emerald


Welcome again, dear fellow gamers, for the second instalment of my Avian Solo Run feature! Our lone flyier this time is Taillow, a bird that can be described as the polar opposite of Pidgey: not only does it don a sleek, aerodynamic frame and cold-toned plumage where Pidgey was all ruffled feathers and warm shades, but it's also as gloriously unknown and ignored by fans as Pidgey is recognized and celebrated. As a matter of fact, I don't remember having encountered any mention or even picture of Taillow anywhere before playing Emerald. Sure, it's the regional bird of Hoenn, so it makes sense that it won't be seen anywhere beyond the region's frontiers; but heck, I sure knew about Pidgeot before playing the generation I and II games. Taillow, on the other hand, is hardly ever featured in fan art, is never mentioned again after generation III and certainly didn't benefit from a cool update in later generations such as a flashy Mega-Evolution. Is it because of its sober looks? Is it because it has only two stages of evolution? Is it because it looks way to much like its real-life inspiration? Is it because its final form looks ridiculously smug? Whatever the reason, I find this lack of fame mostly unwarranted given how amazingly that lithe bird performed in my Emerald solo run.

As you obviously noticed already, I went for the original Emerald rather than for the ORAS remakes. There were two reasons for that: first, I prefered the Taillow and Swellow sprites from the generation III games; and secondly, I wanted to experience said generation III as it was originally meant to be before diving full force into the remakes. I've only been dabbling briefly in Alpha Sapphire a couple of years ago, but gave up quickly on my playthrough for fear of spoiling my experience with Emerald. It seemed more logical and righter to play the original before the remakes, although I sure let a lot of time pass before finally tackling that Emerald playthrough. But better late than never, as they say; I now have a run of Emerald under my belt, and my, what a fine run it was. I know that the gen III games were the black sheep of the series for the longest time (until the gen V games snatched that dubious honour away from them); but that sure wasn't due to their pacing, storyline or to the Hoenn region in itself, because all these aspects are quite stellar. I found myself embroiled in a delirious and hectic adventure, rushing from mountain tops to ocean floors through what can only be described as one of the most varied and interesting Pokemon region ever created; I faced two incredibly touching and riveting Pokemon rivals and found myself squeezed between two rival vilain teams at loggerheads with each other; I got to meet and fight my dad for the first time ever in a Pokemon game and I Surfed so much I could hear the Beach Boys in the background, and I enjoyed the whole ride tremendously.

I also enjoyed Taillow quite a lot. Despite its lack of fame, this is a stellar bird 'Mon that can do a stellar job on the battlefield with enough training and dedication. Sure, we were off to an incredibly rough start, with the very first Gym being choke-full with Rock 'Mons. This was a serious roadblock that I managed to overcome only with an awful amount of preparations. First thing first, I level-grinded until my beloved Taillow reached lv.20, knowing fully well that this alone wouldn't do the trick; Taillow's main strength is his sky-high Speed Stat, but the bird is not especially stellar on the Attack front. So I made good use of a particularity of Emerald, i.e. the presence of Battle Items in Rustboro's shop — which, en passant, seriously challenges the notion that Pokemon entries only got easier with time. I bought all the X-Atk and X-Defend I could with my meagre funds, which didn't amount to much at that early point in the game; but I needed the edge they would provide to make my Gym strategy work. Said strategy involved stuffing my Taillow with Battle Items at the very beginning of the fight and spamming Double Team until the game told me it had no effect anymore in order to reduce damage; then, I would unleash my Taillow's not-so-destructive blows while praying for Double Team to work its magic and keeping an eye on the health gauge. This was a bit of an ordeal, but it worked finely in the end, and it gave me the (too) rare opportunity to strategize a Gym showdown from beginning to end.

After that mother of all Typing roadblocks, I pretty much spent the whole game one-shooting everything that moved. Sure, the Electric Gym that followed stung a bit (no pun intended), but it was still easy-peasy compared to its Rock counterpart. Over the course of my run, I put together a nifty Move roster made of normal moves Return (a beloved classic!) and Double-Edge (a move quite handy to wipe out 'Mons my Taillow was weak to before they could move a toe, knowing that being hit by said 'Mons would hurt more than the damage dealt by Double-Edge itself), flying move Aerial Ace (a bit weak on the long run, but never missing its aim) and steel move Steel Wing (a welcome breath of fresh Typing air despite its unperfect accuracy). I'm quite glad I got to use a different Move set and thus different strategies than in my Pidgey solo run, despite the fact that both Taillow and Pidgey are Normal/Flying 'Mons with tons of Moves in common; I was fearing that my Avian Runs would all play the same, but reality is proving otherwise — and much more interesting. I was also fearing that the lack of Physical/Special split for move would hamper my Taillow's performances, but I noticed virtually not difference on that front compared with newer entries. Guess these aging mechanics were really crippling only for a couple of unlucky 'Mons, such as Dark-Type Absol and his Stats that were often at odds with his Moves' assigned damage category.

In a nutshell, I loved everything about my Taillow Solo run, from the distinct GBA graphical touch to the swift pacing, without forgetting my gorgeous Taillow-turned-Swellow himself. But wait, you may ask, what did you think about Emerald's and Hoenn's most enduring legacy, the one that ultimately gave birth to the infamous "Too much water" meme? Well, I'll be blunt: I absolutely adored Emerald's overwhelming aquatic terrain. I loved the Surfing and the Diving to pieces, the latter even making shivers run up and down my spine: I used to be terrified of depths when I was a kid and that fear lingers still a bit in me, and my inner bathophobic found Emerald's representation of deep seabeds pretty convincing. That being said, I have a gripe about the water Routes featured in the second half of the game, i.e. 124 to 130; and that gripe is how wide and confusing they are overall. I got repeatedly lost on these Routes and it took me way more time than necessary to reach my goals, be they above or under water. That's pretty much a pet peeve, but I sure hope that the 3DS remakes improved on that aspect and made the maritime routes easier to navigate — no pun intended.

With that said, dear fellow gamers, I'll see you again for the third episode of my Avian Solo Runs feature, which also marks the halfway point of this whole ride. With that third episode, I'm going to dive back into the games that started it all for me as far as my love for Pokemon is concerned; games that, coincidently, I haven't played for the longest time. Hopefully the reunion will be fulfilling and heart-warming! Until then, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!

23/09/2017

Fairune: Cute but flawed


Indie games and I are not a good match overall; so when I stumble on an indie game I like, which happens one in a blue moon, I try to milk the darn thing as much as I can. That's why I've been polishing off three runs of Fairune, a cute little indie game that's an unashamed homage to 8-bit action RPG. Fairune is basically Hydlide sprinkled with a bit of Ys and Legend of Zelda: it boasts graphics that scream 8-bit, a really catchy chiptune soundtrack that has a way of getting stuck in one's head and a basic yet relaxing and satisfying gameplay based on puzzle-solving and enemy-stomping — complete with a very unexpected bout of space-shooting during the final boss fight. I had lots of fun playing that simple little retro treat, and yet... I'm not sure I would recommend it to anyone; because as cute and refreshing as it is, it's also quite flawed — and we're talking about a game-breaking flaw here, not a mere cosmetic issue.

If you write off Fairune's shortness, simplistic graphics and barebone gameplay as aesthetics choices that must be loved or left, the game's single major flaw is the inconsistency of its logic. Solving Fairune's endless string of puzzles is a cinch most of the time, especially when one figures out said puzzles' patterns; yet once in a while, the game throws in a puzzle that boasts confusing and/or never used before logic or even downright makes no sense at all unless the player knows exactly what they're supposed to do. Here are the three insults to logic that irritated me the most:

  • The Warrior Statue: This is an item that you obtain early on and that's used many times over the course of the game; however, figuring out how to use it can be tricky at first, because its design is kinda counter-intuitive. As the name suggests, this is a statue of the game's heroine; and as the shape suggests not, it must be used as a mere weight to hold down switches and the like. Why not go with something a bit more obvious and straightforward, like a stone or a brick? By all RPG logic, a statue should rather be used as a key of sorts to open a locked door, not as a mere dead weight. Were you trying to be fancy or just confusing, game? I'm so not impressed.
  • The Infinite Warp: An homage to 8-bit RPG wouldn't be complete without a good ol' screen that warps lest you choose the right set of directions. Fairune's warping screen can be found in the Administrator Tower; and as you may expect, there's a clue nearby to help you figure out the right directions, and that clue is none other than six statues conveniently facing the directions you're supposed to take. But wait, there's a catch: those statues only indicate the directions you have to take, not the order in which you're supposed to take them. Are you kidding me, game? Do you know how many options that leaves? If you assume that the last direction has to be left for layout reasons, that leaves 120 different combinations! I assure you I have better things to do than test 120 bloody permutations just to cross a screen, game. Such a cumbersome puzzle is entirely pointless, especially in the age of the internet. But wait, there's worse...
  • The Mamono Slayer: This puzzle is the worst offender of the bunch, because there is virtually nothing that indicates that it must be tackled or even that it exists at all. The Mamono Slayer is a sword that's necessary to slay the final boss; and how do you get that sword you're never told about? Why, by upgrading your regular sword in a hardly discernible split on the first floor of the Administrator Tower, of course! Seriously, game? Why can't I have a single functional clue to figure out what I'm supposed to do? Do you maybe expect me to try every single item on every single pixel until I hypothetically stumble upon the solution? This is pure obnoxiousness, that's what it is. There is nothing worse that a random puzzle that cannot be solved through logic just because you don't even know it's there

I honestly can't figure out why these shitty puzzles were allowed to soil Fairune. Was it a vibrant homage to the fake difficulty-riddled '80s adventure games? Was is an attempt to make the game last longer than the mere hour it takes to beat it once you know the ropes? Were the puzzles created by two different teams? Whatever the reason, that uneven logic serves no purpose and only detracts from the game's quality by forcing the player to run to a walkthrough on a regular basis.

Anyway, that's one less indie on my to-play list. I've been able to cross a couple more lately, including the two Hotline Miami games and Titan Souls: those three games combine a gameplay requiring diabolical precision with a sloppy and unprecise set of controls, and that's a deadly combo that made me scurry away faster than I could scream "shit, a game that requires motor skills!". So all in all, Fairune is the best indie I've played these last months despite its game-breaking flaw; and that, dear fellow gamers, is a testament to how indie games and me are not meant to cross paths. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!

17/09/2017

The Avian Solo Runs, Episode 1: Pidgey in Pokemon HeartGold


Welcome, dear fellow gamers, for the first episode of my Avian Solo Runs feature! We're dealing with star material here, since our lone ranger du jour is none other than Pidgey, an absolute fan favourite and one of the most ubiquitous 'Mons of the first two generations. Did that famous opener live up to his reputation? Well, we'll see that very soon.

I cruised Johto and revamped Kanto on my DS, since I don't own the original games; and things will probably remain that way since these games are notorious for being unplayable these days lest one regularly replaces their batteries. Fun fact: my copies of HeartGold and SoulSilver, which are boxed and mint and which I snatched for a very fair price back in the days, are Canadian ones. More specifically, french Canadian ones, which sport only the language of love and are uncompatible with english copies. Now, this honestly boggles my mind: why release an exclusive french version in a country with two official languages? Was it a Québec exclusive? Anyway, this messed up with my Poke-references quite a fair bit — just think of all the translation work I had to go through just to be able to deliver that post — but owning the games in perfect condition was definitely worth the hassle.

This time around, I polished off Kanto right after Johto, taking my Pidgey-turned-Pidgeot all the way to the summit where Red was lounging around, seemingly staring at nothing with snow piling up around his ankles (Spoiler: Pidgeot wiped the floor with him and his 'Mons). And boy, what an epic, mindblowing and fulfilling run that was! It was all at once deliciously grindy, heart-warmingly cosy and brimming with thrilling exploration and roaming, and I loved every minute of the 22 hours I spent cruising the original two Pokemon regions. Well, nearly every minute: I could have done without the 100.000 times my Pidgey was paralyzed by Electric 'Mons (could it be due to her weakness to that particular Type?), without Whitney's bloody sturdy Milktank (good thing my Pidgey was female, or things would have been even worse because of Milktank's Attraction) and without Lt. Surge's ridiculously annoying Magneton, which I needed to postpone over and over to be able to beat it (Pidgey towered literally 45 levels over it when she took it down yet still struggled to do so).

The rest, however, was a cakewalk; and the fact that I even managed to reach Red at all despite my Pigdeot's occasional lack of punch — the poor thing has a base Attack of only 80, which is even lower than Liepard — was in no small part due to smart Move management. Flying 'Mons have very few weaknesses to start with, and most of the work consisted in working around these weaknesses. I unfortunately didn't manage to alleviate issues with Electric 'Mons, and they remained a thorn in my side until the very end. Rock 'Mons, on the other hand, were easy to dispose of thanks to an ingenious hack: I reprised the trick of wielding one Special Move and one Physical Move of the same Type — in that case Air Slash and Wing Attack respectively — to target each foe's defensive weaknesses. It turns out that Rock 'Mons often have shitty Sp. Defense, which allowed my Pidgey to dispose of them without breaking a sweat thanks to the combination of Air Slash, decent Sp.Attack and overleveling. I had an Electric-typed Hidden Power that allowed me to take care confortably of the many Water 'Mons littering Johto and Kanto, and Quick Attack retained its power for so long that I hold unto it until the late stages of the game before replacing it with my beloved Return, a.k.a. the Perfect Solo Run Move. As for my Pidgey's last glaring weakness, i.e. Ice 'Mons, they were so few and far between that dealing with them was hardly a hassle. I only had to delay Mahogany Town's Gym until my Pidgey was overleveled enough to take down Pryce's Pilowswine without passing out in the process.

This leads me to one of HeartGold's highlights, namely its non-linearity. I had written off this feature as crappy old-school game design during my first run of the game, but I realize now that this enthusing opening of the game world after Ecruteak City was entirely intentional on GameFreak's part. And boy, is it a thrill to get to explore the wilderness at your own pace and tackle the three next Gyms in the order you want! As it turned out, I started with Mahogany's Gym, failed to clear it and then followed the more traditional order of Cianwood and Olivine before returning to Mahogany with a vengeance and a good number of extra levels under my belt. Kanto was even better, allowing me to roam around as though I owned the place. I kinda did, in a way; despite having played through the first generation only once, I remembered nearly all locations. Now that I can appreciate better non-linearity and roving in Pokemon games, maybe I'll replay Generation I entries with a more open mind at some point. Hey, I own a copy of Yellow that is just begging to be played before its batteries die on me.

You get the picture, dear fellow gamers: this first official Avian Solo Run was a total and complete blast. It was thrilling, uplifting, heartwarming and a delightful adventure from beginning to end. Never before did I undertake 16 Gyms, a whole Pokemon League (twice) and a legendary Champion with a single 'Mon, and this exploit created the most enduring and amazing bond between me and my beloved Pidgey. This most breathtaking run also gives me good hopes for the following Avian Runs; although I already suspected that bird 'Mons were stellar solo run material, successfully tackling two regions and a regiment of Gyms Leaders with a single bird really drives the point home in the most flamboyant way. See you soon for my next Avian Solo Run, dear fellow gamers! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!

13/09/2017

Fire Emblem Awakening: A glorious end (spoilers!)


True love all the way.
After 20 exhilarating hours of play, my run of Awakening has come to an end. The final showdown was suitably epic, with my force making a beeline for Grima while weathering the relentless attacks of her minions. I let my strongest units gang up on her and the whole engagement was over after a mere couple of attacks, with Noire delivery the final blow. I then let my avatar nobly sacrifice herself for the greater good, only to have herself revived in the last seconds of the ending sequence — and let's be honest, I totally expected that outcome. I mean, that's the least karma could grant me after I spent hours toiling to save the world from complete annihilation. Last but not least, Ricken got the gold medal, Miriel got the silver one and my avatar the bronze one. I really, really meant it when I said that Ricken was my absolute favourite unit.

What more can I say? Awakening was an amazing game, a game I only enjoyed more and more as I played it. I really lapped up the no-frills yet deep gameplay, I grew to love the characters more and more as the game went on, and I absolutely adored the whole atmosphere of that game; and let's be honest, I currently have to fight strong urges to replay the whole thing all over again with a male avatar. One thing I didn't like much, on the other hand, is the storyline. Or, to be more precise, I didn't like the whole time travel shebang, which I deem superfluous and pretty much uncalled-for in the context of Awakening. Time travel never works properly as a narrative device; yet for some unfathomable reason, it pops up time and time again in manga, anime and games. From Dragon Ball to Sailor Moon to Steins;Gate, countless series have reprised the trope of the heroes' progeny hailing from a supposedly apocalyptic future and travelling back to the past to prevent said apocalyptic future from happening, armed with a grim sense of purpose and a truckload of unsolvable time paradoxes and plotholes. In a nutshell, Awakening dabbles in a theme that's all at once totally cliché and pitifully inefficient, and there was virtually no chance it would come unscathed out of it.

My main problem with the time travel theme in Awakening is not so much the fact that it's bursting at the seams with plotholes — although it certainly doesn't help matters — but rather the fact that it's nothing more than a very transparent plot device whose sole purpose is to justify the presence of the characters' offspring as well as to make the double ending possible. The story would have been much more striking and efficient without that whole time travel mess: just let Validar be the vessel for Grima and find another explanation for my avatar's amnesia — like, she got a couple of fuses burnt after she tried to stop her evil father or something like that. Then, drop that crap about Grima being impossible to annihilate except by his own hand and let the crew slaughter him for good — all the more so as it doesn't make sense at all that Grima cannot be killed but can commit suicide. What is that, selective death? As for the offspring, well... How about going the sensible way and let the characters age for real? If the apocalyptic future theme is removed, then there is no need to rush things and the story can perfectly take place over the course of two decades. I think the story would actually work out better with a slower pacing and over a longer time period; it doesn't make much sense than my force can scour two continents and fight hundreds of foes over a mere one or two years as implied by the game. Then we could also dispense with the silly fan-service and not have Lucina pose as a boy and call herself Marth. Seriously, the girl deserved better than that cheap cross-dressing act.

But enough with negative musings about Awakening's story; let's rather focus on the many excellent lessons I derived from that game. I'm now more confident about my ability to play Fire Emblem games my own way, and I'm definitely going to change a couple of things during my next incursion into the series:
  • I'll use the best weapons as soon as they appear instead of shelving them and making do with low-class stuff. There is always better gear appearing as the game goes on anyway, so there's really no need to spare anything. I had tons of excellent weapons left in my inventory by the time I finished the game, weapons that could have been put to much better use. This won't happen again, I swear.
  • I'll focus on my absolute favourite units, the ones I really have a crush on, and totally ignore the rest. Once again, the game consistently delivers new units over the course of a playthrough, so I can rest assured that I will find good recrues for my force no matter what.
  • I'll wait until my units have reached Lv.20 before Master Sealing them. I was way too eager to promote them this time around, slapping Master Seals on them as soon as they reached Lv.10, and I lost a couple of yummy stats increases in the process.
  • I'll sell right away the items I don't plan to use in order to buy items I do plan to use. During my playthrough, I kept Gaius Confects and Vulneraries in my inventory for hours "just in case", before finally admitting that this stuff didn't square with my playing style and that I would never touch it. No more.

With that said, dear fellow gamers, I'm bidding Awakening adieu for the time being. Or am I? The game is still tugging at me, to be honest; and if it keeps obsessing me that way, then maybe I'll just cave in and polish off a second playthrough with a male avatar. As usual, I'll let my ever-dependable, all-powerful gaming instinct run the show! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!