I've been playing Oreshika-Tainted Bloodlines, or OTB for short, for a good five hours. Those early stages were not exactly smooth, shall we say; in fact, they were so uncomfortable that I considered quitting the game entirely at some point. Fortunately, I soldiered on; and I'm glad I did, because things are slowly but surely getting better between me and OTB.
But I'm getting ahead of myself there. OTB initially confused me to no end with its outlandish gameplay mechanics — it still does, if I have to be totally honest; but we're getting there. The game's weird mix of hand-holding and free reining was especially bewildering for me: I initially mistook Kochin's monthly suggestions for a lengthy tutorial, before realizing that they were mere guidelines and that I still had to manage my time carefully to avoid missing on important events. Another perplexing thing are the actual tutorials, which tend to elaborate on obvious points that any seasoned RPG player should figure out by themselves yet leave other important features completely in the dark. So there's a tutorial to explain how to engage enemies, but none whatsoever to explain the mechanics of stat blending in the Rite of Union? The latter would have been a mite more useful than the former, methinks. And since I'm mentioning the rite of union, why are the gods' stats not expressed via numbers, and why do they flutter constantly? I get the feeling that you're trying to confuse me here, game. Just like when you omit to tell me if Heirlooms can be passed upon the next generation, leaving me agonizing about whether or not it's worth investing in them. Or when you don't bother telling me what Training and Bequeathing do, how and why I should use them. Or what all those fancy elemental stats stand for. Such little omissions are a dime a dozen in OTB, and they can make a player's life a misery.
Other things were bothering me, such as the rapid flow of time in dungeons and the stringent time management aspect: while I managed to progress, it didn't feel like I actually accomplished anything. I was on the wrong rails, and drastic measures were required if I wanted to enjoy that game. I resorted to my tried-and-tested trick in such circumstances, namely to start a fresh new run. That's when I discovered some things I had not suspected, such as the fact that a number of things are actually random: that includes dungeons and their inner layouts, inventory in stores, and the very title of the whole epopee. I could also figure out a number of things that had passed me by, as well as reinforce what I did know. However, we were not quite there yet; I had chosen different classes for that second run, and those classes didn't work well enough together for my taste. I still trouble managing my time, especially the Rite of Union and my first passing of the torch. That's when I decided not only to wipe the slate clean again and start another run, but also to experiment profusely with different settings until I managed to strike gold and get one that clicked with me. OTB's swift early stages nicely accommodate such dummy runs, and I'm currently busy with my fourth try. I'm not quite sure yet if it'll be the last; but I'll get there eventually.
As I'm wrapping my head around the gameplay mechanics more and more with each try, I'm pondering how I should play. My instinct would have me stubbornly sticking to the same gods as much as possible for the Rite of Union: since this is a game, inbreeding probably won't be factored in when it comes to character growth, will it? The (in)famous Nueko character is not there yet, but I'm preparing myself for her inevitable invasion of my family — and my party — by getting used to fighting with only three units. As a matter of fact, I'm definitely gonna stick to a run with no more than three active party members at any given time (bar Nueko). Each youth will be trained by their parent and take their stead in the party when the time is ripe; no idle and dejected family members losing loyalty at the heardquarters, everybody will get their fifteen minutes of fame on the battlefield. Like, literally.
Well, that's it for now! I'll see you soon with more tidings of fighting&breeding, dear fellow gamers. As always, thanks a lot for reading, and drop by anytime!
Gee, it's been a while since I last wrote a Coveted Games post! Now's a bit of a special time when it comes to my gaming purchases, because a) some systems are quietly taking their leave while another is taking the scene, and b) my list of planned purchases has shrunk to nearly nothing, making each game stand out all the more. Without further ado, dear fellow gamers, here are the games on my radar for 2019!
Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth - 3DS: Although Ninty are still supporting their ultimate dedicated handheld to an extent, new releases are drying up fast for the poor system. As I'm writing this, Persona Q2 is the one and only 3DS game I'm getting my paws on in 2019; and let's be honest, it may well be the last 3DS I ever purchase. I was hoping for a localization of Etrian Mystery Dungeon 2 or a remake of Etrian Odyssey 3 for the longest time, but I get they won't be happening now.
Code Realize - Wintertide Miracles: I played the original game and the first fandisc already, so I might as well dive even deeper and indulge in that third instalment. Heck, I'm such a huge sucker for all things winter that the title and theme alone would be enough to draw me in.
Penny-Punching Princess, The Longest Five Minutes, The Lost Child - Vita: A.k.a. the ultimate trilogy of physical Vita games released by NISA. Needless to say, I'm gonna snatch 'em all, if only to express my overflowing gratitude to NISA for those late, undreamt-of treats. Oh, and it sure doesn't hurt that all three are RPGs and that I absolutely adored The Lost Child.
Variable Barricade - Vita: I'm head over heels in love with the gorgeous, luscious art style of that Japan-exclusive otome, and I'm gonna get it no matter what. I probably won't understand half of what happens for the longest time, but I don't care as long as I can feast my eyes on the unbelievably stylish characters. Heck, the MC alone is already my favourite otome heroine ever, and I've not even played the game yet.
Asdivine Hearts 2, Alvastia Chronicles, Chronus Arc - Vita: There would be a lot to say about my uncanny passion for Kemco's budget retro-ish RPGs, but that post isn't the right place to do so. Suffice it to say that I'll get and play that trio with gusto. Limited Run Games is just about to unleash Chronus Arc on us collectors; and if they decide to release the other two, I'll sure stand in line to get my paws on them.
The House in Fata Morgana, Sharin no Kuni - Vita: A pair of visual novels that look original and promising. Needless to say, I'll get the Limited Run physical versions; they'll probably be the same price than the digital versions anyway, and Limited Run offerings are a solid investment for any game collector.
RemiLore: Lost Girl in the Lands of Lore - Switch: Now we're moving on to the Switch! I still stand by my pledge of not collecting for the system; however, that won't prevent me from purchasing and enjoying a couple of games — before pawning them, that is. RemiLore is a roguelike, and there are not nearly enough of these out there; I certainly won't miss the opportunity to play this one, be it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Princess Guide - Switch: I already own the Vita version of that RPG/strategy game, and that version is the true collector's item. Nevertheless, I'm still gonna purchase the Switch version for learning purposes, just like I did with Labyrinth of Refrain. It will certainly make my gamer's life easier to get the hang of that game in english before I ever replay it in japanese.
Super Neptunia RPG - Switch: As a die-hard fan of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, this game is a must-have. I'm a bit miffed that it's not coming to the Vita, as it would have been a nice addition to the large roster of HN games already released on the system. But at least, I'll get to play that one, unlike the PS4-exclusive Megadimension Neptunia VII (insert resentful eyes).
That's it for my To-Get-My-Paws-On List for 2019 so far, dear fellow gamers! Of course, other games can always pop up, so that list is by no means exhaustive; as a matter of fact, the second half of 2019 will probably bring more entries, on the Switch front at least — and hopefully, hopefully, on the Vita and 3DS ones as well. A handheld aficionado can always hope for late releases, can't they? Feel free to share your own coveted games for 2019, dear fellow gamers; and as usual, thanks a million for reading, and drop by anytime!
I just pawned my copy of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, seven months after clearing my run of it. The reason is simple: although I had tons of fun playing that game, I'm pretty confident that I'm never going to touch it again. This is partly due to how long and extensive my playthrough was: after 160 hours spent roaming and grinding, I feel like I've seen nearly all XC2 had to offer. However, there are other, more sinister reasons that make me want to steer clear from that game henceforth. The truth is that thinking back to my run makes me feel a mite nauseous. As entertaining as said run was, it left a sour aftertaste in my mouth; and I can't help but feel like most of it was a sheer waste of time. In the process, I came to acknowledge a couple of unsavoury things about XC2, things I had not realized earlier because of how smitten I was with the game.
|Nope, I won't be running through Alrest ever again.|
|Sorry, Dahlia — We'll never ever meet after all.|
It's rife with fake longevity: XC2 has to be one of the most bloated RPGs I've ever played, if not the most bloated. Everything in that game seems to have been designed to inflate play time, in the most artificial and irritating way. The sheer breadth of the game world is the most obvious display of fake longevity here, with those humongous distances that force you to spend dozens of minutes just running; however, that is far from being the only offender. An exhaustive list of said offenders would have to include the heavy gatcha/RNG element, which can lengthen the obtention of a full Rare Blade roster towards infinity and make salvaging rare items a real pain. It would also have to include that darn Tiger!Tiger! game, which is so impossibly grindy it's not even funny, as well as the requirements for unlocking most of the Rare Blades' affinity charts, which typically involve hours of grinding. Let's not forget the Skill animations, which are way longer than they should be, and the forced slowdown of running speed in battle. Take pretty much every feature in XC2, and you'll find fake longevity nested somewhere in it. Heck, I'm pretty sure Monolith Soft would have dispensed with quest markers and instant travel in the name of increased play time, if not for the fact that the game would have become virtually unplayable in the process.
|I'll kinda miss you, Pyra. So long, goodbye, hooray, Mythra.|
All in all, I feel that XC2 somewhat scammed me. It stole my precious time by making itself bigger than it needed to be, forced me to toil to understand gameplay mechanics that should have been made clear from the very beginning, duped me by posing as a fancier game than it actually is, and ultimately swindled me of my gamer's affections. I won't denying that I was utterly and totally hooked on that game; but with hindsight, that attachment had more to do with a case of mild addiction that with genuine, unadulterated love. Sure, there were some things I utterly and totally fancied when I played the game, such as the fighting system and the grandiose vistas; however, all those things ultimately failed to leave a lasting imprint on my gamer's soul. That whole experience confirms something I already surmised; namely that long, sprawling RPGs are not my cup of tea and that I favour compact offerings much more indeed. To quote an example rooted in the latest gaming news, I'd choose Link's Awakening over Breath of the Wild any day of the week. At any rate, XC2 has now left my game library, probably for all eternity; and let's face it, I'm relieved. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Seriously, that game is a complete joke. Even if you can somehow ignore the fact that it was artificially cut in two and initially required two bloody gaming systems to be enjoyed to the fullest (in every darn sense of the word), there is no ignoring the horrendous performances issues that plague its Vita half. Loading times that stretch towards infinity, slowdowns up the wazoo, jaggy animations, you name it — and suffer through it. Should you choose to grind and bear it and soldier on, the gameplay will probably give you the coup de grâce. To call that mess of a game an Action RPG is an resounding insult to the whole genre. Fallen Legion is a pared-down Beat 'em up-meets-ARPG that only lets you do the barest minimum on the battlefield, and sometimes not even that. You cannot jump, move vertically or behind enemies, nor perform a variety of attacks or target body parts like in any good Beat 'em up; and neither can you open menus, evade and retreat to regroup like in any decent ARPG. So the only thing left to do is mindlessly spam attacks until there's nothing left standing, right? NOPE! You can't even indulge in the joy of button-mashing, because the characters have ATB gauges. Are you serious, game? So the little, so very little you let me do has to be precisely timed? Why the heck did the developers choose to sneak in a Turn-based RPG feature in the first place, and one that so completely hampers real-time combat to boot? Were you trolling here, YummyYummyTummy? Gimme a break — and take back your crappy game while you're at it.
I'm pissed off that I purchased such a grossly incompetent game; on the other hand, I'm glad I did so on a PSN sale and gave the Limited Run edition a pass. Needless to say, I didn't finish the thing and gave up after an hour spent gritting my teeth, spitting at my Vita's screen and racking up Game Overs like it was going out of fashion. On a more general note, I have to admit that I'm not quite fond of that current trend of mixing gameplay elements from various genres when it comes to all things fighting. This used to be pretty rare back in the days, with only a precious few daring to cross boundaries; nowadays, it seems that every developer and their brother try their hand at it. But while venerable series such as Tales and Hyperdimension Neptunia managed to pull off the crossover thing in an elegant way, newer developers more often than not fail utterly at it, dumping half-unplayable RPGs on poor unsuspecting players. Dear developers, please don't try to be original just for the sake of it: a solid one-flavour RPG is still a million times better than a weak multi-flavoured one. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
After 50 hours of non-stop crawling, I'm finally done with TLC. That certainly took a bit longer than I expected; however, I regret nothing, as every single minute spent playing that game was pure delight. I could get myself even more crawling goodness by tackling R'lyeh Road, the game's 99-floor complimentary dungeon; however, experience have taught me that postgame dungeons in dungeon crawlers tend to be sadistic, overblown nuisances. On top of that, I get an inkling that roaming that particular dungeon would require top-notch gear and first-class Astrals, and I'm neither in the mood to farm nor to ditch my faithful trio of Astrals. I'm sure R'lyeh Road has some amazing puzzles in store, but I've had my fill for now.
TLC regaled me over and over with its eight dungeons, each one being more challenging and exciting than the last and less than the next; I found myself repeatedly beaming and giggling with delight when discovering the new puzzles, and I can firmly claim that I was not bored a single second when crawling. TLC's progression and difficulty curve is a glorious display of balance and smoothness, culminating in the amazing final dungeon. Oh boy, that final dungeon! It's a pure masterpiece, and it's hands down one of the best final dungeons I've roamed in any RPG, ever. Not only is it easy on the eye, but it delivers the best puzzles in the entire game, along with delighfully clever layouts. It's also a vibrant homage to FPDC that offers a perfect potpourri of all the staples of the genre: hidden passageways, pits, damage floors, one-way doors, switches, slides — you name it. Sure, it's quite long and meaty, and it can probably single-handedly account for a solid fifth of my playing time; however, it provides such a engrossing piece of crawling that I totally didn't mind spending hours engulfed in those eight floors.
What I do mind, on the other hand, is the disappointing final showdown. Boss fights were never TLC's strongest suit, with most of them being a tad too placid and offering no strategic challenge beyond your usual elemental complementarities; however, the final boss fight takes the cake when it come to flaccid boss fights. TLC's big baddie is a massive HP bag that boasts four different forms, with virtually no difference between said forms when it comes to attack patterns; taking him down is a test of patience and a matter of high levels and stats over strategy. By the time I faced him, Hayato and Lua had hit Lv.51 and Enoch and Pandora were comfortably lounging at Lv.95; and it turned out that I was seriously overleveled. I actually went in just to test the waters, with Pandora's and Enoch's MP bars half-depleted; I certainly didn't expect to survive long, let alone win the whole thing with relative ease. I only struggled ever-so-slightly during the fourth phase, when Lua bit the dust and Hayato was left with a puny 27 HP; however, a Balucia Tear got me out of that pinch, and it was smooth sailing from there. Well, guess that's what you get when you stick to the same Astrals for a whole run, never run from random encounters and backtrack to the save point every five minutes for fear of intempestive crashes.
As for the story, well... It sucked, period. Heck, I honestly can't make heads or tails of it even after playing the whole game. That sorry state of affairs is party due to the fact that I spent a lot of time crawling and forgot the latest narrative developments in the process, and mostly due to the fact that the story is poorly told and mixes too many sources of inspiration to be intelligible. (Spoilers!) So you have Cthulhu & the gang, but also angels, fallen angels, demons and egyptian deities? How do they all relate to each other? Ra is a god, but he's not the God? Hayato and Lua are Adam and Eve, yet not really? Who wanted to destroy the mortal world, and who wanted to save it? And who exactly was that titular lost child? Heck, you totally lost me here, game. Good thing I didn't give a crap about the story in the first place. (End of spoilers.)
But make no mistakes, dear fellow gamers: TLC is an awesome game, and I loved it from beginning to end. I can even say that my love for it only grew more intense as hours and dungeons went on, and it's now sitting comfortably in my Top 5 Favourites Vita FPDCs. That's a lovely development I certainly didn't expect, and it proves once again that I must ignore reviews, be they laudatory or scathing, and let my ever-reliable gaming instinct run the show. I'm so definitely adding the upcoming physical version to my collection, yes precious. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Let's carry on with the presentation of my perfect TLC party, dear fellow gamers! As I mentioned in my last post, I initially toyed with the idea of doing away with Astrals entirely; however, it didn't take me long to realize that enlisting Astrals yielded nothing but benefits and to start hunting for suitable candidates in earnest. I'll admit it: shallow little me went for looks first and foremost. However, that approach ultimately paid off, as I recruited genuinely excellent Astrals in the process and managed to put together a well-assorted team that could pull off a well-oiled group strategy. Without further ado, here come my very own awesome Astrals!
Enoch: A.k.a. the Damager. I didn't exactly choose that hunky blond, as he was kindly given to me by Lucifel; however, since I was short on Astrals at the time, I gladly gave him a spot in my party. And blimey, he's been there ever since! He slowly but surely grew into a formidable offensive powerhouse, wielding physical Skills by the dozen (I have yet to try most of them, seriously) and delivering criticals like it's going out of fashion. He provides physical Wind coverage on regular blows and most Skills, but he also has access to a couple of non-elemental physical Skills that can come in handy when Wind is at disavantage. Add to this a neat HP-absorbing blow and a couple of buffs, and you get a perfectly well-rounded physical damage dealer that has a Skill at the ready for every situation. Enoch's only noticeable flaw is his pitiful defense; however, this kinda comes with the territory, and it remains perfectly manageable as long as one keeps an eye on his HP gauge.
Cait Sith: A.k.a. the Healer. I recruited that cute creature fairly early on and gave him a spot in my party instantly — because, you know, cat. Little did I know that this unassuming feline would still be strutting his stuff on the battlefield thirty hours later, and would do a great job at it to boot. He's my dedicated Healer, and his awesome Healing Wind group spell saved my party's arse more times than I care to count. His Territory of the Feeble debuff also comes in handy during boss fights, as well as his one-unit buffs, which are more effective and specialized than Lua's ones. Cherry on the cake, he's blessed with gargantuan amounts of MP, which allows me to spam Healing Wind and lengthen my roaming sessions without a care in the world. And surprisingly enough, he can deliver pretty decent Fire-infused blows as well and thus hold his own on the battlefield when he's not healing! That little kitty is a true hidden gem that, unlike other early recrues, managed to maintain his shine and his edge as time and dungeons went on.
Pandora: A.k.a. the Elementalist/Secondary Damager. That fiery elf is one of the game's rarest catch, appearing solely (and fittingly) in treasure chests, and quite seldom at that. By all monster-collecting RPG logic, she had to be a stellar recrue; I granted her the last available spot in my party to verify that hunch, and it turned out quite right indeed. Pandora is by far my party's strongest unit, delivering mighty blows like there's no tomorrow — and there is often none indeed for the foes that have the misfortune of being on the receiving end of her wrath. She herself doesn't have to worry about fatal blows, as she has the highest HP of all my party members and boasts excellent defense to boot. She's the perfect mixed attacker, with both physical and elemental Skills at her disposal; and whilst she's not blessed with as much MP as Cait Sith's, she still has more than enough to fire mighty Skills at bosses without running out.
Honorable mentions: Here's a word for the Astrals that joined my party for a while, yet didn't stick around for various reasons — many are called, but few are chosen indeed! First, we have Will-o'-the-Wisp, whose elemental Skills came in handy in the early stages of my run yet had to go because it peaked too quickly, and Echidna, who showed potential yet sadly had to vacate the premises to make room for Cait Sith. We also have Baphomet, who was a fixture during the middle stages of my run and would still be there if not for his regrettable plateauing and lack of Skills. Last but not least, we have Tamamo-no-Mae, who showed promise on the elemental front yet had to go because of her frailty and her unfortunate tendency to get KOed in battle. They still lounge in my back party just in case, but my main crew is so magnificent that they virtually never get to step in.
My mighty quintet's winning strategies are pretty much set by now. For random battles, I let them dispose of foes with regular blows, with a pinch of Enoch's Slice to get rid of full rows and a sprinkle of Cait Sith's Healing Wind if necessary. For boss battles, I start with Lua's Frontline Fortress for extra HP, followed by Healing Wind to fill up said extra HP and a Burst for good measure. Then, I let Enoch and Pandora wreak havoc on the boss' HP bar, whilst Cait Sith works his (de)buffing and healing skills, Hayato keeps himself poised for the next Burst and Lua does whatever fits the situation — heal, buff or deliver Lightning attacks. Granted, my elemental coverage could use a bit of polishing: two Fire Astrals are probably one too much, and whilst my party is pretty much covered on the Wind, Fire, Wood and Lightning fronts, it's still entirely lacking on the Water one. Still, I'm none too worried about this — all the less so as I actually had full coverage for a while, with Hayato wielding a Water weapon; however, it didn't change my battle fortunes that much. Guess I've reached a point where raw power matters more than elemental complementarities.
As I'm writing this, Cait Sith gloriously towers over the party at Lv.99, whilst Enoch and Pandora proudly flaunt their Lv.85 — needless to say, they're all fully EVILved. Hayato and Lua boast a more modest Lv.45, which is still pretty decent considering their much slower leveling-up rate. I'm on my way to the final boss' lair, and I'm fully determined to clear TLC with my awesome, beloved Dream Team. I'll see you again when the deed is done, dear fellow gamers! Until then, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
As I'm inching closer to the final boss' lair, the time is ripe to unveil my ultimate — in every sense of the word — party. I firmly intent to take down the final boss with that close-knit quintet or die trying: not only am I too attached to them now to let any of them go, but I invested so much Karma in them that I basically backed myself into a corner. Any new addition to my team at that point would require grinding for Karma, which I'm totally not in the mood to do.
It should surprise no one that I dutifully stuck with the same Astrals for most of my run — a strategy that's pretty much the next best thing to a solo run in TLC. I actually toyed with the idea of crawling solely with Hayato and Lua at the very beginning; however, I quickly gave up when I realize that a) my hard-earned Karma would be wasted in the process, and b) the whole thing might well be darn near impossible. See, Hayato and Lua are actually quite weak: not only do they level up really slowly, but their stats are nothing to brag about, especially compared to those of a well-developed Astral. Their HP in particular is pitifully low, and certainly wouldn't allow them to survive most random battles, let alone dispose of bosses. They definitely fare much better in a full-party setting, as we'll see right now. Dear fellow gamers, let's kick off that presentation of my TLC Dream Team with its two mandatory fixtures, namely Hayato and Lua.
Hayato: A.k.a. the Finisher. You'd think that being the resident Chosen One, Hayato would kick ass on the battlefied; however, it's not quite the case — at least at first. Even with his Attack on steroids and pimped-up weaponry, he does only marginally more damage than a well-raised Astral. His defense and HP are none too glorious either; and as he has 0 MP, he cannot learn nor wield Skills at all. He's more or less condemned to single hits for most of the main game due to his type of weaponry and lack of Skills, and it's pretty common to see him do pitifully little in boss battles compared to the rest of the crew. However, Hayato has a niche of its own as the sole wielder of the Gangour. Apart from capturing Astrals, the Gangour can be used to deliver mighty blows during fights — blows that can give you a seriously good edge, if not terminate the fight entirely. Hayato is very much a slow burner: it takes time and dedication to hunt for Bursts and bring him to his full potential, but it's totally worth the effort.
Lua: A.k.a. the Jack-of-all-trades. And potentially master of none, indeed. Lua can fill different roles in a serviceable way; however, her versatility takes some time to fully reveal itself, and it must be wisely exploited if one wants to make the most of it. Lua learns Electric attacks, group buffs and healing spells; and whilst all those Skills can come in handy, it's pretty much mandatory to cherry-pick the ones you'll use in any given situation. The main issue stems from Lua's low MP, which prevents her from being all at once a Buffer, a Spellcaster and a Healer. Having Lua as the party's main Healer is an especially poor choice, because you can bet that she'll run out of MP before the end of the dungeon — or the boss fight, for that matter. I find that her limited MP is best used in group buffs and occasional status effect healing and resurrection, and thus focused primarily on raising her Attack — all the more so as, unlike Hayato, she can wield weaponry that target whole rows of enemies.
Although Hayato and Lua are the titular MCs, they are definitely not the main stars in all things fighting. Instead, they are here to add the finishing touches and perfect the strategy du jour, whilst the Astrals are the ones who truly get to shine and wreak havoc on the battlefield. I'll see you soon for the second part on that post, where I'll gleefully expand on the sheer awesomeness of my very own trio of Astrals. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!