Collector's delight: Latest catch

A lot of special editions of high-profile Vita and 3ds games have been released lately and just as many are slated for release in the next months—to my utter delight. I have a couple of these appetizing packs pre-ordered already; but for now, let's concentrate on the ones that already graced my letterbox. Without further ado, here's my latest collection catch!

Let's start with the "Lionheart Edition" of Trails of Cold Steel. This special edition comes with a very reasonable price tag, and there's a reason for it: it is actually quite lacklustre. The case could have been beautiful, had it not been marred by a bunch of garish logos, and the Erebonian Empire pin is just a bauble that could as well not have been there for all the value it adds to this special edition. I was expecting the 140-pages artbook to be a work of art similar to the one included in the Silver Edition of Ys: Memories of Celceta, with strategies and a full description of the game world included. We're talking about the same developer and same publisher in both cases, so there were good reasons to hope, right? Alas, my hopes were dashed by the actual content of Trails on Cold Steel's artbook. That deceptively thick tome is all fluff and contains nothing more than mundane descriptions of the characters along with a few pages of concept art and tons of nondescript illustrations that bring strictly nothing to the gaming experience per se. In a nutshell, I'm disappointed, and I think Nihon Falcom and XSeed could have done better.

Then comes the special edition I couldn't have done without for the life of me, namely the one and only physical release of Atelier Escha and Logy Plus on Western shores. Despite having been released hardly ten days ago, this special edition is already quite hard to find and the prices will probably skyrocket before long, so I'm glad I managed to secure a copy on time. Collectors must be early birds to get their paws on coveted games, indeed! Putting aside the fact that this special edition is made valuable by the fact that it is the sole physical edition of the game available in the West, there is nothing too extraordinary to be found in this lovely paper box starring the titular characters. It's your run-of-the-mill special edition with soundtrack, poster and a small 38-pages artbook that certainly didn't require hours of work.

One last paragraph for my very first Japanese Vita game, the roguelike Omega Labyrinth. I decided not to wait for an hypothetical Western release, especially since that release may never happen given the risqué content of the game, and took instead my first steps into the vast world of Japanese Vita games. And blimey, didn't I discover a shocking truth whilst doing so: Japanese Vita games are insanely expensive. All the more so if they are loaded with fan-service. My copy of Omega Labyrinth cost me a whopping $60, and many Japanese Vita games boast similar prices. And unfortunately, there's no hope of witnessing a price drop once the Vita's tenure is over; if anything, it would probably be the opposite. Not that it matters, mind you: I was surprised by these steep prices, but they certainly won't stop me from purchasing more Japanese Vita games. There are so many inviting Japanese exclusives that it would be a shame not to get my collector's paws on them, really.

That's all for this post, fellow gamers; I'll see you soon with more mouth-watering special editions. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Moe Chronicles: Final thoughts

After 30 hours of intense Roaming 'n' Rubbing, I am officially done with Moe Chronicles.

Mind you, that doesn't mean that I actually finished the game. After having beaten a Final Boss of sorts, I am currently in the middle of a extra chapter called "Epilogue" that doesn't really know if it wants to be an epilogue or a full-blown postgame segment. I didn't witness any rolling of credits yet, so I guess this extra chapter qualifies as an epilogue after all, even though it could as well have been called: "Fake longevity on a silver platter". It involves revisiting the six dungeons of the game in order to explore previously sealed areas before fighting another Final Boss; and as though the prospect of somehow replaying the whole game a second time were not tedious enough, the difficulty has been ramped up to an unsufferable level. I had my first Game Overs during this chapter, and that was a hard wake-up call after the previous confortable easiness of the game. The random encounter rate is still just as high as before, if not higher, and all that makes for a very unpleasant roaming experience. The final nail in the coffin is the fact that the number of Monster Girls available for recruitment has dropped down while the planned obsolescence of Monster Girls is occurring much faster. My current line-up comprises Coco, Ranju, Gargoyle, Mocha and Griffin, and Gargoyle and Mocha are as good as useless despite the fact that I recruited them in the fifth and sixth dungeons of the game, i.e. just before starting the Epilogue chapter. And since my newest recruits—Coco and Griffin, who replaced Istasia and Kobold—are already in the party, my only option is to forge ahead until I encounter new Monster Girls, which I'm definitely not in the mood to do. So I'm calling it quits with a big smile of relief on my face.

Those 30 hours were quite lovely, I have to admit. Moe Chronicles may not be the best first-person dungeon crawler ever, but it's certainly solid enough to be entertaining. Here's a list of all the good and less good points of the game:

The good: 

—Not equipment galore. There are only four pieces of gear that can be worn by all the Monster Girls, so the best ones can pretty much be used during the whole game and passed up from one party member to the next.

—Leveling and powering up Monster Girls is quite easy. The high random encounter rate makes for a fast progression in terms of levels and stats can be considerably increased by wearing equipment. Inactive Monster Girls still gain 30% of the XP reaped in battle (and up to 70% if their rooms are refurbished maximally) and can thus be integrated in the party without too much hassle. Even better, the acquisition of the Skills specific to each Monster Girls is not tied to levels, but rather to the number of battles fought; this means that Skills can be gained quite fast by fighting easy battles in the first dungeons of the game.

—The story packs some unexpected depth (minor spoilers). Starting off as crappy, run-of-the-mill fan-servicy fare, it slowly morphs into an unexpected parable about the nature of sexual desire and its potential to be either a destructive or a constructive force depending on how it is approached and dealt with. Hero Io matures over the course of the game and learns to face and accept his own desires and to express them in a positive fashion, going from a shy, leering, harem-fantasizing teenager to a young adult who proudly claims his love for his childhood friend Lilia while being fully reconciled with the fact that he enjoys looking at females. It's nearly like the game is lecturing fan-service aficionados while gently poking fun at them, which is quite unexpected from the genre. This is basically a harem game saying that harem is not the solution and that horny teenage boys must master their desires and find their true soulmate to feel happy and fulfilled; and heck, that was quite the plot twist.

—The Monster Girls are quite distinctive in terms of abilities while being all potentially useful in battle; there are no worthless, nearly unusable party members with crappy abilities to be found in Moe Chronicles. Each Monster Girl is a unique combination of elemental affinity, skills and so-called "Moe Traits" that grant special benefits, and they can all shine when combined properly. Some combinations can even produce unexpected positive effects such as regeneration of HP and SP at the end of battles. (Which, for the record, is activated by the combination of the Moe Traits "Tiny tits" and "Lolita".)

The bad: 

—The planned obsolescence of the Monster Girls. Encouraging players to experiment with their party is one thing, but nearly forcing them to do so in another, and a much less pleasant one at that. This coercion of sorts is actually counter-productive and becomes restrictive on the long run, because it eliminates the oldest recruits from the roster of potential party members by making them nearly unusable. The player has no choice but to discard Monster Girls as the game goes on if they don't want to endure some insane level-grinding, which means that a good portion of the Girls will never reach their full potential—or be used at all, for that matter. Granted, I've seen some playthroughs of the game in which the oldest Monster Girls are battling the Final Boss, so it is feasible; but I'm pretty sure that such an endeavour implies a lot of extra grinding and/or buffing up with expensive gear. The option of resorting to newer and stronger Monster Girls is obviously more tempting, and yet it shouldn't be. The Girls should all have been granted the same global efficiency at a given level, period. Slowing down their progression was entirely unwarranted; I'm pretty sure that their irresistible cuteness and well-crafted uniqueness would have been more than enough to encourage players to swap them throughout the game.

—There is a modicum of fake longevity at work in Moe Chronicles. The absence of an instant save feature, the grueling random encounter rate and the forced revisiting of all the dungeons of the game in the Epilogue chapter are all guilty of artificially extending the game's lifespan. Be also prepared to pour a considerable amount of time into the game if you want to reach full harem completion and max out all the Girls' affections, refurbish their rooms to the highest level and obtain all their extra outfits. And talking about this...

—The extra outfits granted by the game are a total scam. Since they raise half of the stats while lowering the other half, you're as good with the original outfit. On top of that, these "outfits" are only swimsuits with various patterns. Really, game? Can't we have a bit of imagination here? Maybe not the overused maid costume, but what about cosplay outfits or even a bit of lingerie? Swimsuits only are boring, and Senran Kagura does them better than you anyway.

—Poor production values, which I already described in my first post about the game.

All in all, I'm glad I played Moe Chronicles, and I even have plans for a future run in which I will experiment more profusely with party combinations. That being said, I have to admit that after playing three first-person dungeon crawlers in close succession, I am suffering from a serious case of dungeon crawler fatigue. What I'm really craving right now is a meaty story-driven RPG, preferably with retro-looking aesthetics, a ridiculously convoluted storyline and a lot of relationship drama. I'm probably going to regret having ever nursed that thought before being done with said story-driven RPG, but it doesn't matter. The gaming instinct wants what it wants! And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to dig for that compensating meaty story-driven RPG in my vast gaming collection. (Suggestions are welcome!) Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Moe Chronicles: Gotta rub 'em all!

The untimely interruption of my playthrough of Dungeon Travelers 2 left a giant first-person dungeon crawler-shaped hole in my heart. In order to fill that hole, I dove straight into Moe Chronicles as soon as my DT2 cartridge was back in its box. 15 hours later, I'm still deep down there and enjoying to trip to the fullest.

Although I'm glued to the game now, the early stages were rather inauspicious. Far from succumbing to the kind of instant crush I experienced with games like Demon Gaze and DT2, I was left unimpressed and even vaguely grossed out by MC, to the point of nearly considering quitting. I'll expand later on the reasons why I felt that way; for now, suffice it to say that I overcame these mixed feelings and learnt to love the game in earnest, to the point where nothing could be further from my mind than quitting.

I compared Criminal Girls to the Pokemon series before, but Moe Chronicles is the game that would genuinely deserve the appelation of "Pokemon: Pervy Version". Here is a game that has been designed purposefully as a collecting feast, with alluring monster girls in lieu of cute animals. And let's be honest: whoever was in charge of the character design did an amazing job. The Monster Girls are incredibly cute, each one having her own unique style and being instantly recognizable. Despite the fact that I'm too old to succumb to the lure of moe, I find all the girls absolutely adorable and always feel a thrill of excitement when encountering a new one.

Mind you, recruiting Monster Girls is significantly easier than recruiting Pokemons. There is only one Monster Girl of each type, and recruiting them doesn't imply pacing back and forth to trigger random encounters. Instead, each Monster Girl roams a small designated area and will do so until she is recruited. How convenient! Since we're talking about a Pokemon rip-off, it should make perfect sense that the recruitment process involves fighting the cornered Monster Girl in order to make her more... amenable, shall we say. Then comes the rubbing part, which is the equivalent of tossing a Pokeball at a weakened 'Mon and crossing your fingers while hoping for success—except that in that case, you do not keep your fingers crossed. Securing the recruitment of a Monster Girl involves poking the Vita screen in order to discover the girl's sensitive points; and while this may sound like pure fan-servicy fare, these phases are more complicated than one may think. For one thing, each Monster Girl has three sensitive points that must be rubbed in a given order; for another, these points are more often than not located on random body parts such as the ankle, the tip of the nose or the forearm, so going straight for bottoms or bosoms won't do the trick; and last but not least, the whole process is timed, and very unforgivingly at that. This strict time limit is what makes these rubbing phases compelling, transforming them into a full-blown challenge instead of the complacent fan-service display that they seem to be at first sight. Fail to pinpoint all sensitive areas and the involved Monster Girl will escape, forcing you to restart the whole recruiting process. I've currently reached a stage in the game where the time limit during the rubbing phases is so strict that there is virtually no chance of capturing a Monster Girl on the first try unless I'm lucky enough to put my finger right on her sensitive spots—literally.

It doesn't take long to realize than Moe Chronicles is hell-bent on forcing the player to go harem and to play with as many Monster Girls as possible, switching them at will and trying all sorts of party combinations. And truth must be told, this is actually the game's strongest point: the Monster Girls' abilities are so incredibly varied and so perfectly complementary that combining them is a joy rather than a chore and produces more often than not parties with a stellar alchemy. And stellar it should be, because this is a game that forbids solo runs—or any run involving less than a five-member party, for that matter. I was a bit crestfallen when discovering that, but quickly got over my disappointment when I realized that XP was attributed equally to all party members and not divided between them. (For instance, if a fight yields 10XP, each of the five party members will get 10XP and not just 2XP like in most RPGs.) To make switching between party members even smoother, newly recruited Monster Girls don't start at Lv.1 but rather at a level similar to the one of your party members, and the Monster Girls that are part of your roster yet not in the party still gain a modicum of XP—and that amount can be increased by refurbishing their rooms. But the game goes even further in its dedication to introduce the player to the joys of party-switching: should you decide to stick with the same party from beginning to end, this is made impossible by the implementation of what can only be described as planned obsolescence in the Monster Girls.

Here's how it works: as the game goes on, the progression of the Monster Girls slows down. They keep gaining levels, but their stats increase slower, up to the unavoidable moment when they become too weak to be efficient in battle and have to be replaced by newer and fresher Monster Girls—as a matter of fact, this downgrading of sorts usually happens around the time a Monster Girl with similar abilities is available for recruitment. I learnt about this cruel hidden rule the hard way: by the end of the first dungeon, my party comprised Lilia, Latte, Killer Bee, Goblin and Kobold and their alchemy was so perfect that I was firmly planning to cruise around with these Fab Five until the end. Alas, that was not meant to be: as I explored the fourth dungeon, I noticed that Lilia was starting to show alarming signs of weakness. She was taking more damage and her formely powerful hits were now hardly scratching foes, to the point where she become more a liability than an asset in battle. Although I didn't want to part with her, I had no other choice but to replace her by a newer Monster Girl with similar abilities, namely the powerful Dragon. I though this would be the end of it, but shortly after, the other girls in my team started showing the exact same symptoms, to my utter dismay. This led to a complete overhaul of my party, as I grudgingly replaced Latte, Killer Bee and Goblin by Jack-o'-Lantern, Kamaitachi and Minotaur respectively. The only original member I maintained was Kobold, because her turf is Healing and she's still stellar at it and because there are no other Monster Girls with skills similars to hers. I have yet to get used to the dynamic of that new party, but I've mostly gotten over my disappointment at losing my initial Fab Five. As a matter of fact, I've even developed a genuine relish for experimenting with party members, and I may well try a couple of other combinations before I'm done with the game.

The only downside of that otherwise great dungeon crawler, and the reason why I was not impressed by it at first, are the miserable production values. It's pretty obvious that a huge chunk of the game's budget went into designing the Monster Girls and that everything else got the short end of the stick. The designs of regular enemies are ugly, the soundtrack is mediocre, moving around feels painfully slow and clunky (although I ultimately got used to it) and, last but not least, the dungeon layouts are lustreless and pitifully basic, with none of the creativity at work in Dungeon Travelers 2 or Demon Gaze. There are no traps, no hidden rooms, no clever design tricks to be found; only empty corridors, dead ends and the occasional damage floor or one-way door, which seem to have been thrown there as an afterthought. To dissimulate somewhat that design poverty and prevent players from clearing dungeons too fast, the random encounter rate has been cranked up to Dragon Quest levels. This is by far the highest random encounter rate I've encountered so far in a first-person dungeon crawler, much higher than the rates at work in DT2 or Demon Gaze. These nearly constant encounters often get in the way of roaming and exploration, and despite my love for grinding, I find myself occasionally irritated by the fact that it's virtually impossible to take three steps without triggering a fight. Another point that rubbed me the wrong way is the absence of an instant save feature, combined with the fact that save points in dungeons are few and far between. Granted, the game is not excruciatingly hard and I've never lost a shred of my progression because of an unexpected Game Over so far, but the impossibility of instant-saving introduces a modicum of unease in my roaming that I could have done without.

All in all, while Moe Chronicles' grindy brand of dungeon crawling may not be as solid and engrossing as the crawling experiences offered by DT2 and Demon Gaze, it is still perfectly palatable and amply justifies playing the game. Expect at least another post about Moe Chronicles, maybe more if I'm inspired enough. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some Roaming 'n' Rubbing to perform! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!  


Coveted Games: Early 2016, a.k.a. Games aplenty

Happy New Year, fellow gamers! I hope your Christmas holidays were as fun as mine, with plenty of delicious food and gaming involved. Now comes a new year, along with a new list of coveted games! The first months of 2016 look promising indeed, with lots of exciting physical and digital releases for both the 3ds and the Vita. And when I say "lots", I mean lots. There will be spending! Without further ado, here's my (long) list of coveted games for early 2016! Enjoy, and don't hesitate to share your own coveted games in the comments!

Atelier Escha and Logy Plus (Vita): My heart skipped a beat when I learnt that NISA would release limited physical copies of that game, just like they did with Ar Nosurge Plus. I promptly secured myself a copy—for a small fortune, since I'm not lucky enough to live in North-America and be able to order directly from NISA. But as they say, when it comes to love, you don't count the (shipping) cost!

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (Vita): I'm still hesitating about this one. On one hand, I very much want to discover the series, and I've read only good things about that particular game; on the other hand, this is a digital-only release, and I decided to avoid these as much as possible since my unpleasant discovery regarding the PSN and digital games. A good compromise would be to buy the European digital version on a sale, play it and then purchase the Japanese physical version for collecting purposes if it turns out that I like the game. Let's wait and see! Edit: I just discovered that Play Asia have pre-orders opened for a physical Asian version of the game, supposedly with english text and/or dialogues. Now that would solve the issue!

The Legend of Legacy (3ds): This game is already out in North-America, and reviews from both critics and gamers are not exactly stellar. I still want to play it though, if only because I've loved poorly reviewed games often enough to give me hope that I will love this one. I toyed with the idea of importing the gorgeous North-American launch edition for a while, but the cursed region lock and the prospective custom taxes deterred me from taking the plunge. Instead, I'll just patiently wait for february like the rest of Europe.

Stella Glow (3ds): Another game that has been released in North-America some time ago, but this time to critical acclaim. It also has a beautiful North-American launch edition that I won't buy because of the cursed region lock. Different game, same annoying story! Anyway, this game has already gone down in history as Imageepoch's swan song; and in an ironic twist of fate, it may turn out to be the very first Imageepoch game I'll ever play. I own several other games from that company, but they are still untouched and I highly doubt that my gaming instinct will prompt me to play them before Stella Glow, which I very much want to play as soon as possible.

Stranger of Sword City (Vita): I read about this first-person dungeon crawler extensively on Kina's blog, with many a wistful sigh at the though that I would probably never touch that great-looking game. Then, lo and behold, it's being released on the Vita! In Europe!! Boxed!!! To say that I'm elated about this unexpected turn of events would definitely be an understatement. (Insert starry eyes.)

Odin Sphere Leifþrasir (Vita): This Vanillaware RPG soaked with references to Norse mythology looks just as good as Dragon's Crown, which amply justifies a purchase. I was rather surprised to learn that it is actually a remake of a PS2 game, because I had absolutely never heard of the original. (Not that I'm a PS2 expert by any means, mind you.) Although I'm not too fond of port and remakes, porting or remaking unknown games is perfectly fine in my book, since it can give them an opportunity to shine and perform better than during their first release. It's still unclear whether Europe will get a physical version, but yours truly will get one no matter what. Bless the Vita and its absence of region lock!

Trillion God of Destruction (Vita): Any dungeon crawler with roguelike elements is a must-have as far as I'm concerned, so I'm going to purchase this game with my eyes closed. It has a touch of harem to boot, and I hope the romancing parts will be well handled and engrossing. After the tepid romances I've endured in Lord of Magna, Conception 2 and Criminal Girls, I could use a bit of thrill in that departement, thank you very much.

Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon (3ds): Another dungeon crawler with roguelike elements that I must absolutely purchase, all the more so as I loved the first 3ds entry of the series. This new instalment is supposed to take its cues from Explorers of Sky rather than from Gates to Infinity, which would delight me since I loved the former even more than the latter. The only thing that saddens me is the absence of an evocative subtitle such as the two mentioned above—not to mention that slapping "super" in the middle of the title is a cheap throwback to the '90s that I could have done without. Oh, well. 

Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight (3ds): Although I have yet to play any Etrian Odyssey game, this won't stop me from purchasing this remake of the series' second instalment. We're talking about first-person dungeon crawlers here, so it's absolutely sure that I will adore this game—and its predecessors. And since I own the whole series already, it only makes sense that I buy The Fafnir Knight as well. Collection consistency, folks!

Final Fantasy Explorers (3ds): I'm not expecting any kind of gaming greatness from Square Enix in general and from this game in particular. FFE seems to be an shameless attempt to capitalize on the success of monster-slaughtering franchises like Monster Hunter, peppered with a heavy dose of Final Fantasy fan service to boot, and that's a mix that is hardly bound to excite me. So why is that game on the list, you may ask? Well, first because it's a Action-RPG, and these little darlings of mine are getting pretty rare nowadays; and second, because I'm an eternal optimist and I may be pleasantly surprised by this game after all—all the more so if I expect nothing amazing from it in the first place.

Senran Kagura: Estival Versus (Vita): After SK2 on the 3ds, we are getting another Senran Kagura entry on the Vita. I fully commend Tamsoft's dedication to craft SK instalments for both systems as well as Marvelous' dedication to offer all sorts of yummy special editions, and I think the two are doing an amazing job with the franchise. I have not yet decided which edition I will pre-order, but I will definitely get myself that new instalment and indulge into more campy, busty fighting. Bring it on!

MegaTagdimension Blanc+Neptune vs Zombies (Vita): The title is a hot mess, and the concept of the game even more so. Some Hack'n'Slash involving zombies laced with a bit of dressing up, if I understood well. Not that it matters so much, mind you: I love the series and I love its amazing fighting physics, and that's amply enough to justify a purchase. Plus, I already own all the Vita entries, so I might as well keep on purchasing every HN instalment that comes my way. Collection consistency again!

Summon Night 5 (PSP): A PSP game, of all things! What a pleasant surprise! I knew right away that I needed the limited physical edition of that game, and I pre-ordered a copy a couple of weeks ago. I'm now crossing my fingers and hoping that everything will work fine and that my pre-order will not be cancelled because of a lack of stocks. (Unlikely though, since we're not talking about Nintendo merchandise.) Anyway, the release of a PSP RPG in 2016 is incredibly refreshing, and I can only hope that we will see more of these late RPG releases in the years to come—starting with Class of Heroes 3, also brought to us by Gaijinworks. Better late than never, indeed!

That's a whole lot of games, and this list is only covering the first four months of 2016—and that's without even counting the random digital indie RPG à la Bastion that pops up unannounced. 2016 promises to be a glorious gaming year indeed, and I cannot wait to get myself all these mouth-watering games. This most auspicious start should help to make up for the end of 2015, which looked promising but turned out to be a trifle disappointing. Some of my coveted games of that time were delayed, such as Return to Popolocrois and Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice, and the unanimous criticism regarding Tri Force Heroes' poorly implemented and frustrating single player mode deterred me from purchasing the game. After these snubs of fate, I am more eager than ever to gorge on gaming purchases, and 2016 seems more than ready to indulge me. To a glorious gaming year to come! Happy 2016 again, fellow gamers; may your gaming wish lists be bursting at the seams and your consoles be stuffed with great games! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Dungeon Travelers 2: The unsavoury bits + Final thoughts

Back for my ultimate post about DT2! I want to enumerate the few points that rubbed me the wrong way and routinely annoyed me during my otherwise fantastic playthrough of the game—which I will sum up once I'm done with said points. No game is ever perfect, indeed, and although DT2 did an amazingly high number of things right, it also did a couple of things wrong. Here are the joykillers in all their annoying glory:

  • DT2 is heavily skewed toward elemental magic spells and status effect-inducing attacks. Sure, this is not at all uncommon in RPGs, and it makes even more sense in that particular game because of the Chanting Time: since casting spells is a long process that can fail before being completed, it feels only fair that the payoff for succeeding should be hugely rewarding. Still, the game took the reward a trifle too far. Making spells inflict literally fifty to one hundred times more damage than regular physical attacks is completely exaggerated, just like making regular enemy attacks cause status effects. From a certain point in the game, it is simply impossible to emerge from random battles without being afflicted with a status effect—or a couple of them, for that matter. Sure, they wear off after some time—bar the dreaded Petrification—but it's still incredibly annoying. As for the damage ratio, here's a telling example: even when I was towering a good fifty levels above my foes during the late stages of the game, said foes' elemental spells still dealt 150 to 450 points of damage while their physical attacks hardly ever dealt more than 3 to 20 points of damage. And that was while wearing some equipment raising my elemental defense, thank you very much. Although this discrepancy didn't stop my progression by any means, it is completely outrageous and definitely qualifies as a flaw in my book.

  • The financial balance in the early stages of the game is absolutely horrendous. Everything costs an arm and a leg while random battles and sold items only yield a ridiculously tiny amount of money, meaning that it's hardly possible to buy anything without copious amount of grinding. Since I was running solo, I managed to avoid grinding specifically for money; but my finances were more than tight during the first half of the game, leaving me with hardly enough money to purchase healing items for boss fights. If maintaining a financial balance was hard for me as a solo runner, I don't even want to imagine how excruciating it could be to keep a full party furbished with the little money granted by that stingy game. Although things fortunately get better as the game goes on, it's hard to look past the financial hardships of its early stages.

  • The capacity of the inventory is way too limited. Thirty slots that can each accommodate nine copies of a given item may seem like a lot of inventory space, but in practice, the limitations show up very quickly. Monster drops are so incredibly abundant that it only takes a couple of battles to fill up the inventory, after which gained items are discarded. That wouldn't be such a huge issue if not for the precarious money balance that I mentioned above, which makes every item a unmissable commodity that can be either used or sold and has to be salvaged at all costs. By "all costs", I mean escaping the dungeon with an Emergency Exit every time my bag was full, selling or storing my loot and going back into the dungeon to have my bag filled up again after a couple of battles—rinse and repeat. My inventory finally expanded by five slots after I cleared enough side quests, which gave me a welcome latitude; but honestly, I had to exit from dungeons to empty my choke-full inventory a couple too many times for my taste and comfort. 

  • The difficulty level is often ill-balanced. Don't get me wrong: DT2 is overall a tough and challenging game for all the good reasons, and far from resenting that toughness, I'm lapping it up and relishing the challenge to the fullest. What I'm not lapping up and relishing, however, are the wild and uncanny difficulty fluctuations that occur both in random battles and boss battles. Battles with similar enemies can result in vastly different outcomes, from the finest to the direst: depending on which attacks your foes of the moment decide to unleash, your party can either escape unscathed with hardly a shred of damage or be wiped out after two turns—or anything in between. This can obviously lead to some progress loss when you suddenly hit a hardcore battle and get beaten into a pulp, and it prompted me to save literally every three steps during the first half of the game. This issue receded and became but a distant memory as I progressed and gained a overwhelming edge over foes, but it definitely tainted the first twenty hours of my playthrough.

  • Last come a couple of minor annoyances that I was rather surprised to encounter in a 2015 RPG. For instance, when you browse items in the Library's shop, the game doesn't let you know how many copies of a given item you already own; to know that, you have to select "Sell" to check your inventory. Also, the menu cannot be opened while in the Library and the only way to access the menu options is through the "Guild" section. It is also impossible to try on new equipment if your bag is full: there must be at least one empty slot to remove the piece of gear you want to change. Small details allright, but nevertheless annoying on the long run.  

Now that I'm done with the unsavoury bits, here's a digest of the second half of my playthrough. The game got easier by the dungeon thanks to the massive amounts of XP that I stockpiled, and by the time I reached the last dungeon, I was so overleveled that no random battle could take me down. The Final Boss Battle was a mere formality, and the only reason why I needed three tries instead of one to wrap up that battle was that said Final Boss wields a formidable attack that can inflict up to 2000 points of damage. I succumbed twice to this pest, to my utter annoyance. Fortunately for me, my HP was somewhere around the 2200 mark by that point; so during my third try, I dutifully kept my HP above 2000 and managed to stay alive and to beat the final boss to a pulp. Sweet, sweet victory! After that, I threw myself enthusiastically into the postgame dungeons with the firm intention of clearing them all. Alas, that glorious plan was not meant to be, as all my drive evaporated when I learnt that levels didn't go beyond 99. That dreadful fact meant that I would be overpowered by foes sooner or later—sooner rather than later, since I had reached Lv.93 at that point—and knowing that annihilated on the spot any desire to explore the postgame dungeons. Sure, I could have reset my levels in order to gain some stat increases à la Dragon Quest IX, if not for one tiny detail: unlike DQIX, Dungeon Travelers 2 packs no Metal Slimes to allow for some power-grinding—along with convenient spots to hunt for them. That meant regular level-grinding, which I was definitely not in the mood for; and that's how I finally gave up on DT2 with a deep sigh of regret and a heavy heart after 45 hours of intense roaming, exploring and rampaging.

Despite that postgame fiasco, my feelings for DT2 remain unashamedly positive. I absolutely adored that game from beginning to end and I would have played much more of it if not for that level issue. As a matter of fact, I am definitely planning to play more of it no matter what: there will be another playthrough for sure, and that time around, I may go as far as to play with a three-ladies party—maybe even with a full party, if I have the guts to put up with all the micromanagement involved. I want to discover more characters and more classes, not to mention explore the vast postgame territory, and all that involves a bigger party and a longer playthrough. I don't know when this second playthrough will happen, but it will definitely happen at some point. Last but not least, to all my fellow dungeon-crawler aficionados out there: play that amazing gem of a game, you won't regret it! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!