Demon Gaze: Boss rush, solo style (3)

Here come the third part of my Boss rush, fellow crawlers! Once again, that's four new bosses for the road—including none other than the final boss of the main game. Yes folks, we're already there! Just like in my former post, there is a modicum of spoilers involved. Without further ado, here are the dishes of the day!

—Uranus: Light demon Uranus boasts excellent defense and stellar healing abilities, along with the ability to generate several rows of protective seeds at once. Regular hits from both Uranus and the seeds can Silence the party, so using buffs and any other spells in that fight is entirely out of the question—at least when playing solo. Winning this fight required four attempts and a fair bit of tinkering on my part. A first attempt with Chronos, Neptune and Mars as my open demon failed as Mars was taken down in a couple of turns. I then decided to exploit Uranus' weakness, namely the fact that just like Astro and Venus, she can only summon a given number of rows of seeds, after which she's left seedless and defenseless. My strategy was thus to cast Heal Shower 2 at the beginning of the fight and team with Chronos to get rid of all the seeds, after which I would open Mars and enrage her to get rid of Uranus quickly and neatly. Things started well, but unfortunately, the Demon Gauge emptied before I could get rid of the seeds, sending Chronos into Rage Mode and obliterating my strategy in the process, since enraged Chronos did not hit hard enough to counteract Uranus' abundant healing. I made a third attempt in which I tried to get rid of the seeds all by myself, and was pummeled to death despite the Heal Shower since every single blow from Uranus and the seeds was aimed at me. My fourth and last attempt reprised the strategy of my second attempt, only with a closer monitoring of the Demon Gauge. I closed Chronos as soon as the gauge reached the 30 mark and finished the seeds myself, then opened Mars and enraged her. Even with enraged Mars by my side, it took a fair amount of turns to get rid of Uranus because of her high defense and regular healing, but we finally managed it. This fight really forced me to devise a tailor-made strategy, and it ended up being all the more satisfying.

—Pluto: Darkness demon Pluto is all about spells, instant deaths and debuffs. She doesn't hit that hard, but she uses the Demon Gaze attack as well as the Demon Vase, which means that Heal Shower is basically useless in that fight. Knowing that, I went at her with Venus and Chronos to reduce spell damage and Mars as my open demon. We proceeded to get rid of the seeds as usual, which was done rather quickly since defense is not Pluto's strongest suit, after which I enraged Mars and we pummeled Pluto into submission in a couple of turns. This actually happened during my second try; on my first attempt, Pluto killed me on the spot by "exploiting my weakness", as the game puts it. Still, this was a rather easy and straightforward fight, preceeded by an incredibly small dungeon. After the enormousness of dungeons such as Grimodar Castle and Endless Road, finding a dungeon as tiny as King's Court was most refreshing and relaxing.

—Ether Mirage: Just like Astarte before her, Ether Mirage has the potential to be incredibly tedious despite not being a main demon. She has no seeds, she doesn't hit hard at all and she cannot use major debuffs, and yet she can be literally impossible to eliminate without the right strategy. The issue at work here is that Ether Mirage has stellar defense and amazing healing abilities and can use Divine Armor to boost her already high defense stats; this can lead to a situation where the damage dealt to her is not high enough to counteract her ridiculously good healing, making her de facto impossible to beat. My strategy to overcome that hurdle involved taking along both Uranus and Mars to boost my hit power as well as Chronos to take care of my defense. I opened Mars and enraged her from the very first turn, and then proceeded to use Concentrate and Jupiter Bane to dish out a maximum amount of damage, all the while using Demon Vases to counteract Ether Mirage's Divine Armour when necessary. This strategy paid off nicely, as I finally got rid of Ether Mirage after a couple of turns of intense fighting. 

—Sol: This is the last fight of the main game, the epic showdown we've been waiting for since first setting foot in the Inn. And it was also by far the cheapest, most infuriating fight of the whole game as far as I my run was concerned. How come, you may ask? Well, unlike the fights that preceded it, this ultimate fight against Sol is all based on strength and luck. Forget about perfect demon settings and fine-tuned strategies: the only thing that matters against Sol is to inflict a maximum amount of damage, preferably in a minimum amount of time. Sol is basically all the demons rolled up together in one nasty package, and instead of summoning seeds, she summons copies of the demons—which means that you can find yourself literally fighting two bosses at once, if not three or four. The game pits you first against Luna as an introductory fight, and getting rid of her is easy enough with enraged Mars and Concentrate; however, things get nastier after that, when the game introduces you to Sol without any complimentary healing or refilling of the Demon Gauge. After twelve failed attempts to beat Sol, I had to admit that I was simply not strong enough to perform the deed. I kept being killed on the spot, knocked out and pummeled to death, or Sol summoned demons faster than Mars and me could eliminate them, or whatever else, but there was always something preventing me from winning. I retreated, grinded for two hours with Mars, Chronos and Venus—who were my demons of choice for that fight, en passant—and came back with a handful of extra levels for both my demon foils and myself and a longer Demon Gauge. The third try of that second assault finally brought me the long-awaited victory against Sol and an immense relief to be done with that fight at long last.

I was none too pleased with that last fight, honestly. On one hand, it makes perfect sense that Sol was stronger and nastier than the rest of the demons, and I admit that I would have been disappointed if she had yielded as fast as, say, Venus or Pluto; on the other hand, making her so massively overpowered, to the point where level-grinding was mandatory to beat her, was a bit of a cheap trick. The importance given to the luck factor in that fight was also quite infuriating. Although luck plays a part in all boss fights in Demon Gaze and can help the player secure a faster victory, the fight against Sol required luck to be won at all, even with the adequate level of strength. It was a meaty and thrilling fight against a formidable opponent all right, but it was also cheap and underhand. Oh, well.

This post marks the end of my boss rush, as well as the end of my run for the time being. I was firmly set on exploring every single post-game dungeon and started roaming the Black Cage as soon as the credits were over, but I stumbled on a massive roadblock that stopped my progression dead as surely as empty batteries. That roadblock is none other than demon Aries, who I cannot beat for the life of me. I tried to do so seven times so far, and she insta-killed me every single time by exploiting my weakness. Every single time. And we're talking about the first encounter with her in a circle, not the real boss fight against her! I guess I could keep trying until I get a stroke of luck, or I could get some better gear and artifacts, or even grind to raise my pitiful Luck stats—and maybe I will indeed do all that after a while; but for the time being, I've stopped playing Demon Gaze. I cleared the main game and thus feel that I have done my gaming duty; and although exploring post-game dungeons is undoubtedly tempting, I have to admit that I lost my drive ever-so-slightly after seeing the credits roll. Oh, well. I still want to explore dungeons though, probably more than ever. Fortunately, Moe Chronicles and Dungeon Travelers 2 are right at hand to satisfy my roaming urges, and one of them will become my next first-person dungeon crawler very soon. I'm not done with Demon Gaze though, at least in writing: I will craft a last post to sum up my feelings about the game, and hopefully more if I pick it up again and make my way through postgame territory. Until then, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime! 


Collector's delight: A most divine edition

In the wake of my recent purchase of the FFCC: Echoes of Time DSi, I started hunting for other interesting editions of the system. To my surprise, there are actually not so many of them, and it seems that the DSi cannot hold a candle to the New 3ds when it comes to swarming the market with countless special editions—judging whether this is a good or a bad thing is left to everyone's discretion. At any rate, it turned out that only one edition of the system was gorgeous enough to capture my eye, namely the SaGa 2 special edition that had already been on my radar for quite some time. The Kingdom Hearts edition turned out to be too Disney-ish for my taste upon close inspection, and the Ace Attorney edition looks plain weird and doesn't please my retinas in the slightest. I already own the Pokemon White edition, so this SaGa 2 DSi that I snatched for a very fair price may well be the last special edition of the DSi that I purchase. Anyway, behold the gorgeousness of that piece of kit!

It comes packed with the game, which I would have LOVED to see localized. Not that this will stop me from playing it sooner or later, mind you; I loved the Gameboy version so much that not playing this remake is simply unthinkable. The console itself looks amazing with its hamonious colour palette and its blend of matte and glossy textures.

While I'm at it, I may as well mention two other collecting-oriented purchases I've made lately, starting with the limited physical edition of Ar Nosurge Plus. I was patiently waiting for a discount on that game on the PSN store when I learnt that limited physical copies of the game had been pressed for the North-American market. I knew right away that I needed one of these, and a couple of days later, a brand-new copy had joined my collection.

Although I'm delighted to own a physical copy of such a major release (Vita-wise, that is), I'm none too pleased with the goodies that came packed with the game. We're talking about a pin badge, a cleaning cloth, a poster and a sticker sheet, all things entirely useless that won't bring a thing to the gameplay experience and are nothing but cheap items to boot. This is the typical example of a half-hearted attempt at putting together a special edition: instead of going for it full force and crafting a valuable package with useful and gorgeous feelies that could enhance the whole gameplay experience and strengthen the player's love for the game, the publisher threw in a handful of trinkets sporting the game's colours to justify a higher price tag and make it look like they were selling something more valuable than the game and its box alone. Well, the trick didn't work with me, and I would have preferred either the game alone with no bibelots or a full-blown special edition with strategy guide, soundtrack and the like. Oh, well.

Last but not least, here is my brand-new Asian copy of Moe Chronicle! I had written this kinky first-person dungeon crawler off as a distant dream that could never be played, until I learnt about Asian editions sporting english and the possibility to order such editions from Play-Asia. Next thing I knew, the game had joined my precious collection, ready to be played and enjoyed to the fullest.

This was my first purchase ever from Play-Asia, but it certainly won't be the last—all the more so as these excellent sellers were kind enough to include a discount coupon in the parcel, despite the fact that I was a brand-new customer. Now that's what I called stellar business practices! I was already planning to buy more games from them, but this unexpected kind gesture motivates me to do so even more.

That's all for the time being! Since I love Demon Gaze so much, I was just that close to ordering the special edition of that game, but I managed to restrain myself. I already own a physical copy of the game, after all, and the goodies are not that great anyway. There are enough games waiting to be purchased not to waste my money on purchasing games that I already own! As for future purchases, there is not much on my radar right now. The special editions of the New 3ds slated for release until Christmas could have interested me if not for my dwindling love for the system, so the only 'special' I'm looking forward to getting my paws on is the Lionheart Edition of Trails of Cold Steel, which packs a yummy-looking artbook for a price hardly higher than the price of game alone. I am so getting it, I am! Until then, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Demon Gaze: Boss rush, solo style (2)

Here's the sequel to my boss rush, fellow gamers! (Spoilers are included, so reader discretion is advised.) That's four new boss fights for the road, fights that were mostly cinches but interesting and entertaining nonetheless. Things are getting a trifle more complex, to my utter delight: it is now mandatory to consider carefully which demons must be taken along in battles, and I found myself using a buff for the first time in my playthrough. Without further ado, enjoy the plats du jour

—Venus: Beauty demon Venus is the undisputed queen of status effect spells, as well as an excellent healer with sky-high agility that allows her to escape blows more often than not. She is also the first demon that summons several rows of protective seeds at once, so actually landing a hit on her is a rare and elusive feat. Despite these hindrances, I managed to beat her on my first try, and quite promptly at that. I had determined during my first encounter with her that her physical attacks only slightly dented my HP bar; my strategy was thus to cast Heal Shower 2 at the beginning of the fight to take care of healing matters, and then to open Mars and to use my newly gained Slash 2 skill to dispose of the numerous rows of seeds. However, things didn't go exactly as planned: Venus repeteadly Confused and Poisoned me, preventing me from attacking the seeds—or herself, for that matter. Mars was left shouldering the important task of disposing of the seeds, and although she was doing a great job at it, she was also suffering a lot of damage in the process, and I feared that she would pass out before the end of the fight. That wasn't meant to be, though. What happened instead was that the Demon Gauge fell down to zero, sending Mars into Rage Mode with a refilled HP bar. I feared this would seal the end of the fight if Mars ever hit me, which she obviously did; but to my utter surprise, blows from enraged Mars only ate a fraction of my HP—nothing that the Heal Shower couldn't take care of. Mars then turned her ire towards Venus, who was fortunately left seedless at that very moment, and proceeded to pummel her into oblivion with massive blows that took away up to 3000 HP. Poor Venus didn't stand a chance and passed out before she could even heal or summon a row of seeds. The process took no more than two or three turns, leaving me gaping at the screen in sheer incredulity—like, is it over already? Although I'm not too proud of my minor involvement in this fight—Mars basically did all the job while I was frenetically gobbling Antidotes—at least it was a sleek and smooth affair that hardly made me sweat.

—Astro: The 'magical maijin' and second male demon of the game is basically the king of all things spells. He also has stellar healing abilities, and just like Venus, he can generate several rows of seeds to protect himself. Worse, these seeds can heal themselves and heal him as well. And yet, Astro was even easier to beat than Venus, despite the fact that I had virtually no abilities at hand to protect myself from his spells. My only option to reduce spell damage was to set Venus as a passive demon, along with Chronos, and hope for the best. Mars was my open demon of choice for this battle, and together we did a great job getting rid of the seeds. Then, as soon as Astro was left seedless, I decided to reproduce the trick that had proved so successful during my fight with Venus, only in a more controlled way. I thus unleashed the Demon Rage skill to send Mars into rage mode, after which she basically pummeled Astro to death in a couple of turns. Neat and easy fight, in which everything went according to plan. Next please!

—Lord Shark: As I foreboded, I had to dispose of the misnamed Lord Shark, who turned out to be a replica on steroids of the Skull Lord in terms of fighting tactics. He churned out a new row of minions nearly every turn, so I decided to focus solely on him while letting my demon foil doing whatever they saw fit. Emboldened by my easy fight with Astro, I decided to experiment a little bit and summoned Venus to fight alongside me; unfortunately, she passed out after a couple of turns, pummeled into oblivion by the many rows of rays. I then summoned Mars, who did a great job at eliminating these pests while I was focusing on Lord Shark. He passed out eventually, leaving us free to dispose of the remaining rows of minions. That was another easy fight, despite the small mishap with Venus, and I didn't even have to use the Demon Rage skill.

—Luna: The Clock Tower fight with Luna, that is. My first brawl with her in Red City was hardly memorable, since it was over in two turns; however, this second encounter stung a bit harder. My first two tries were massive failures: I went into battle with Chronos and Venus as passive demons and Mars as my open demon, only to get wiped out after a mere couple of turns, pummeled into oblivion by the massive blows of Luna and her seeds. Luna hit like a BEAST, and so did her seeds, while my own attacks dealt little damage, taking no more than 80-100 HP from them. Since newly enrolled Astro can boost spell power, I started fearing that maybe Luna was nearly immune to physical attacks and could only be taken down with spells, which would have put me in a serious bind. But before jumping to conclusions and starting to despair, I made a third attempt at beating her, with Neptune as a passive demon instead of Venus. I cast Heal Shower 2 as soon as the fight started, then Multi-hit on myself and Mars; then, as soon as Luna was seedless, I unleashed the Demon Rage skill once again. This was too much for Luna, who admitted defeat and retreated after two turns—or was it one?—spent enduring Mars' hugely damaging blows. I'm not done with Luna, of course, and I guess I will have to dispose of her for good later. On a more general note, I don't know what to think of that fight. My first two tries and the third one were so drastically different that I have a hard time figuring out if Luna was a tough cookie or not. Could there actually be some kind of perfect strategy for each and every boss fight, a flawless combination of passive and active demons, buffs, gear and attack patterns that would ensure an easy victory? That would explain why some players struggle with some bosses while other players have it easy. I'm even more smitten with Demon Gaze's boss fights now that their deeply strategic quality is slowly revealing itself, and this gives me a lot of confidence for the fights to come.

My boss rush stops here for now, as I have only two more demons to enroll and a handful of dungeons left to explore. The Dungeon—Venus' hideout, that it—was rather refreshing, while Endless Road was a bit of a hassle due to all the backtracking involved and the fact that some parts of the dungeon had to be accessed through hidden doors located in nondescript areas. I think I will start having Comet with me while exploring dungeons for the first time, because re-examining every wall to find hidden doors is a huge pain in the butt, especially since dungeons keep getting larger. I wish the game would stop being stingy and grant me a fourth Demon slot; I'm at Lv. 51 now, and I feel that I deserve a more substantial reward for my dutiful leveling-up than the regular stats and HP increase. And since I'm mentioning this, I discovered lately that increasing the Vitality stat when gaining a level gives much more HP than increasing any of the other stats. Lovely! The story is taking a more sinister turn, as Lulu implied that something nasty would happen to me after I enroll all the demons and that Fran knew about it. That pint-sized traitor may be lying, but she may be telling the truth. I'm getting wary of Fran—who indeed turned out to be a dragon!—since she steadily refuses to answer my questions regarding Lulu's claims and deviously pretends to be angry at me and sulking to avoid talking to me. Oh, well; I'll find out the truth sooner or later, I guess. And now... On to the next dungeon! Brace yourselves, Uranus and Pluto—and whoever else dare standing in my way! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Demon Gaze: Boss rush, solo style (1)

Let's have a nice little Boss Rush, fellow gamers! Whilst the boss fights in Demon Gaze are not wildly original and don't really revolutionize the exercise, they are still interesting enough to make me want to write about them. They present an gripping variety of challenges that call for different strategies, and they keep things interesting by offering various difficulty levels throughout the game: instead of getting steadily harder and harder, bosses go from tough-as-nails to piece-of-cake to tough-as-nails again and so on, in an endless wave of difficulty fluctuation. I hadn't had that much fun fighting bosses since Criminal Girls, and I'm lapping up every single fight, even the toughest ones. Especially the toughest ones.

Since I'm playing solo, it is pretty much mandatory to fight bosses with an open demon by my side—so you can expect a major focus on the demonic side of boss-killing strategy, so to speak. I'll skip the first fight with Comet, since she is basically a warm-up boss, and jump straight to the main courses. Bon appĂ©tit!

—Mars: Despite being only the first real boss of the game, fire demon Mars is quite a tough cookie. She has incredibly high attack, which put me in serious trouble given my weak level at this early point in the game, and I had to endure a solid amount of level-grinding to even stand a chance against her. Once I reached a decent level, beating her mostly boiled down to luck and good timing. With Comet healing me at the right moment and my attacks landing successfully, I finally managed to pummel her into submission after a couple of infructuous tries.

—Chronos: Earth demon Chronos is the polar opposite of Mars: while Mars is all about high attack, Chronos boasts sky-high defense and a vertiginous amount of HP. On the other hand, she is quite slow and she doesn't strike hard enough to require regular healing from Comet, so my winning strategy was to invoke Mars and to attack Chronos relentlessly while enduring her not-too-threatening blows and healing when necessary. This is actually a rather easy fight that provides a welcome respite after the red-hot struggle against Mars.

—Hermes: The first male demon of the roster ramped up the difficulty again. As the resident wind demon, he boasts high speed and agility that allow him to attack first, strike twice every turn and evade your blows with an irritating regularity. He is quite weak, both in terms of attack and defense, but has great accuracy and debuffs than reduce agility and evasion. The biggest risk during that fight is to see your blows go down the drain while Hermes and his seeds pummel you to death. The best way to deal with that slippery demon is to dispose of the seeds swiftly in order to land as many hits as possible on Hermes himself—the more powerful the hits, the better. After failing to beat him with both Comet and Chronos, I finally managed to take him down neatly with Mars by my side.

—The Mimic: Beating that boss is a matter of levels over strategy. Although he's available early on, the story requires him to be defeated only after Hermes is added to the roster, and his levels are in keeping with that timeline. I tried to tackle him before his time was due and failed miserably, but took him down without breaking a sweat after I captured Hermes. I teamed up with Mars to get rid of the Mimic's hindering veins (yes, veins) faster and took him down switftly and neatly.

—Neptune: Water demon Neptune is not much when it comes to attack and defense, but she has stellar healing abilities as well as a good range of status effect attacks. Still, she's significantly easier to beat than Hermes—that is, if you don't make the fatal mistake of fighting her with Mars by your side like I did at first. Since fire is weak against water, Neptune and her seeds can take Mars down in two turns—literally—while not suffering any sort of significant damage. For my second try, I teamed up with Hermes and things became much smoother, and it wasn't long before Neptune was added to my roster of demons.

—Astarte: My, this was a wake-up call boss if there ever was one. Astarte looked innocuous at first, with her sprite hardly bigger than a regular foe sprite and the absence of any minor foe to fight alongside her, but she was one nasty, hellish proposition. For one thing, you must have a demon by your side at all times, because Astarte has an attack that will ultimately kill you if there is no demon to intercept it. Astarte can also modify the party's formation, cast debuffs and status effect spells and hit rather hard as a whole—not to mention that she gets to move twice every turn and can land several blows with each attack. As though this were not enough, she has sky-high evasion as well as excellent healing abilities. In a nutshell, she's HARD. I needed no less than five tries to beat her, and managed to do so only by focusing heavily on healing. On top of having Neptune by my side, I stocked a couple of Full Healers that proved very useful when I was dangerously close to death and not sure Neptune could heal me in time and enough to keep going. It's also worth noting that Astarte is the first boss that forced me to pay close attention to the passive stats bonuses granted by demons and to choose very carefully whom I was taking into battle with me, as I quickly found out that I didn't even stand a chance without the attack and defense boosts provided by Mars and Chronos. After that, it was a matter of keeping an eye on my health while attacking relentlessly. Neptune did an amazing job at healing me and curing me of status effects when I needed it; and since she can also heal herself, she managed to maintain her HP at its fullest and to stand by my side throughout the whole fight. Even with this winning battle configuration, defeating Astarte was a long and arduous affair: it took me a good ten to fifteen minutes to eradicate her, which is much longer than the other boss fights—all that in order to defeat a minion that didn't even join my roster of demons. Wake-up call boss in all its glory, folks.

—Skull Lord: Strategy is crucial with this one. Although the Skull Lord cannot hold a candle to Astarte when it comes to sheer difficulty and nastiness, I found out the hard way that a bad start in this fight can smother any chance of winning it in the long run. Having a good stock of Dolls to endure attacks in your place as well as weapons with an anti-undead effect is highly recommended, as well as having Neptune by your side and a couple of Full Healers in your bag. Once the fight starts, it is vital to ignore the rows of minor foes and to concentrate on the Skull Lord in order to take it down as fast as possible. Left alive too long, the Skull Lord will generate rows upon rows of minions that will attack relentlessly and eat away the party's HP. My winning strategy was to use a powerful two-handed Lance of the Dead +10 found in Grimodar Castle on the Skull Lord, ditching a portion of my defense in the process, and to switch back to my usual one-handed weapon+shield set to get rid of the rest of the minions once their master was disposed of. With Neptune's diligent ministrations to keep me perked up, the second-hardest boss fight of Grimodar Castle was soon done with neatly and swiftly.

—Jupiter: For all her taunting and graphic death threats, Jupiter was by far the easiest boss in Grimodar Castle. The hardest part of the fight was actually to chase after her, first in the Treasury and then in the Clock Tower; once I had her cornered, she hardly opposed any resistance and yielded much faster than Astarte or even the Skull Lord. Did I mention that I managed to defeat her on my very first try? That's how much of a breather she is, and a most welcome one after the odiousness of her two predecessors. Jupiter has average stats except for her high accuracy, and her healing ability is so pitiful that it's hardly worth mentioning; as a result, I'm pretty confident that she could be taken down with any demon without too much hassle, although I didn't get the opportunity to tinker much with strategy against her. I teamed up with Neptune and the whole fight went quite smoothly; the only real issue I encountered was the complete depletion of the Demon Gauge at some point in the fight. That was the first time this ever happened, and since I was not closely monitoring the gauge, I have no clue about why or how it did happen. I remember being vaguely aware that Neptune was regularly using several moves in a row during that fight, so my best guess is that she simply emptied the gauge faster than it could refill. Anyway, enraged Neptune was kind enough to mostly abstain from hitting me and to maintain her ministrations to some extent, and I managed to wrap up the fight without too much hassle.

My boss run stops here for the time being. Next in line should be Venus, unless another minor boss stands in my way. We'll see! Grimodar Castle was quite the wake-up call, although I took up the gauntlet and pretty much own the place now. The atmosphere is slowly getting grittier and heavier as dungeons become darker, more enclosed and considerably bigger, and I expect other nasty difficulty spikes along the way. I have a foreboding feeling that I will be forced to fight the misnamed Lord Shark at some point and a growing hunch that Fran is a dragon in disguise and probably the exiled daughter of some Dragon King living in a faraway land. To be continued! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Lord of Magna: Done and dusted

After roughly 68 hours of play, I am finally done with Lord of Magna. I cleared nine playthroughs in a row, whose durations ranged from 16 hours for the first one to a little more than three hours for the last one, each playthrough being shorter than the one preceeding it. My whole crew boasts levels above 95, which will make any subsequent playthrough a complete walk in the park. If there is one, that is.

Despite the fact that I spent an uncanny amount of time on that game and cleared an ridiculously high number of playthroughs, I definitely wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I had tons of fun with it, but this is in no part due to the game itself being good, because Lord of Magna is a shallow and unfinished game bristling with flaws. The truth is that despite recognizing the crapiness of that game, I desperately wanted to love it. I wanted to love it because I imported a physical copy, with shipping and toll fees involved, and I always try to recoup my investment in such situations; and I also wanted to love it because my last endeavours with the 3ds were disappointing, and my relationship with the handheld—and with Nintendo in general—is growing tense. I thus needed a positive 3ds gaming experience, lest my love for the system become precarious or even grow cold.

Loving that game was no easy feat, mind you. I managed to wring some fun out of it only by trying my hardest to break the game, which was done by choosing the lowest difficulty setting and by grinding like crazy to make the whole crew overlevelled. For me, this was the only way to make battles enjoyable at all. These fight that were primarily designed to be long, drawn-out engagements, with minions respawning as you kill them and bosses taking 20 or more hits to die, suddenly became flowing displays of power and swiftness in which I could give in to the exhilaration of destroying foes en masse and slicing bosses dead with one neat hit. The enjoyment I derived from these battles was immense, and well worth every hour spent grinding for it.

That being said, my hard-earned love for Lord of Magna didn't extend much farther than the red-hot, thrilling battles provided by my breaking of the game. Granted, I was also very fond of the graphics and the soundtrack, but the rest left me with feelings ranging from mild annoyance to open dislike:

—The narrative is weak overall and the pacing is terrible. It takes far too long to get the first three girls in your party, yet the last four girls come way too fast and with little pause between them. There are way too many cutscenes and the characters speak incredibly slowly, even with the fastest text speed selected. It's so horrendous that had the fast-forwarding option not been available, I wouldn't have replayed the game even once.

—There is literally no gameplay apart from the fighting. The crafting mechanics are a pitiful joke, because the game doesn't provide you with any sort of recipes and lets you figure out everything through trial-and-error. The "romance" is only another dose of fighting with cutscenes added, and the rest... Well, there is no rest. This game is nothing more than an endless stream of battles intercut with cutscenes, period. And although I deeply loved these battles, the absence of other gameplay elements was seriously stinging.

—The fan-service is cringing. I have a massive issue with the fact that the game tries to present a squeaky clean image yet sneaks in some fan-service elements. Having to witness displays of maid uniform fetishism, sexual innuendos and that bath scene after beind fed all that talk about the girls being family and the inn being a shelter for them made me feel seriously unclean. What sort of family is that, seriously? I'd rather have a game that is upfront about its titillating content and goes for it full force than an hypocritical proposition such as Lord of Magna, because the latter makes me feel ten times more uncomfortable than the former.

—The characters are quite unlikeable as a whole. The Artemisias are charming, granted—albeit a trifle clichĂ©—but the rest of the cast is less than stellar. Luchs is painfully transparent, Amelia is your token annoying goody-two-shoes, and Bart... The less said about this perverted moron, the better. He is easily the worse character of the bunch, and I would have killed him with my own hands if I could. As for the rest of the cast, they are either too transparent to be memorable or totally unlikeable. And playing the game nine times in a row certainly didn't help alleviate my dislike for them.

I have to admit that despite all my efforts to love it and squeeze some enjoyment out of it, Lord of Magna left a sour taste in my mouth. My ultimate celebratory playthrough with the whole overpowered cast was curiously anticlimatic and not nearly as fulfilling as I had hoped, which may deter me from replaying the game in the future. My relationship with the 3ds is still strained, and the next 3ds game I play had better be really excellent to mend the growing gap between me and the system. Until then, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!