Octopath Traveler: My life as a merchant

With only two full-blown games played in one year, my Switch is not exactly risking a burnout. And mind you, that second game might not even have come to pass: for indeed, my first steps with Octopath Traveler's were not exactly stellar. I went for the safe and classic choice of character and started playing with good ole warrior Olberic, only to get more and more disheartened as time went on: Olberic's battle skills were limited and boring, his Path Action was borderline useless, his Talent was hardly noticeable and, last but not least, his story left me completely cold. I just couldn't imagine handling such a lacklustre character for 60-or-more hours; I needed a trump card if I wanted to keep playing OT, and quick. That's when I decided to play each character's intro sequence, and see which one of these appetizers proved palatable enough to warrant more bites.

The result of those mini trial runs pretty much stands in this post's title: all hail happy winner Tressa, a.k.a. OT's very own Torneko! Damn, that lass completely and utterly stole my heart with her high levels of sass, her cheeky battle dialogue and her story. My Landstalker days in the '90s left me with a soft spot for treasure-hunting stories, so Tressa's own personal tale of discovering the world and amassing riches while doing so was right up my alley. And pray tell, how could I resist her miraculous Path Action that lets her purchase wares from NPCs at a discount price, and her magnificent Talent that lets her find lost money lying on the ground every time she enters an area? Tressa was purely and simply made for me, that's how utterly awesome she is.

Still, my run was not out of the woods yet, oooh no precious. I had the hardest time finding my stride in battle, and the sheer slowness of all things fighting was doing a serious number on my RPG morale. Why did even the meanest trash mob put up such a fight before kicking the bucket, dang it? Having HP bags as bosses is one thing, and a fully normal one as far as RPGs go; but having regular field foes boast mountains of HP was another animal entirely, and one I was not sure I wanted to humour. I also suspected the game of being guilty of level scaling, which could have constituted a surefire dealbreaker given that I despise the very existence of level scaling. The five hour-mark was a particularly tricky point that saw me very close to giving up indeed; however, I decided to soldier on a mite longer, just to be sure I was not missing out on something. This turned out to be the right decision, as things subtly improved during the next couple of hours. My strategies got better, fights got faster and, last but not least, my sneaking suspicion of level scaling was dispeled; and lo and behold, I started enjoying the game in earnest around the ten hour-mark, and my love for it has grown stronger and bolder ever since.

I'm now done recruiting all eight characters and polishing off the first round of chapters for all of them, and my winning party is pretty much set. Tressa's battle prowess as my main is neatly supplemented by Cyrus' and Ophilia's; together, they make a well-assorted and formidably efficient triad. The fourth slot is reserved for the character whose story I'm currently toiling on, and I make sure I switch them on a regular basis to keep everybody evenly leveled up. I'd have Alfyn as a permanent party member if I could have my way, because he's as sturdy as heck and his battlefield-sweeping Axe abilities are just too awesome; however, since I want to polish off all eight stories and level up in the process, a compromise has to be reached. He's still definitely in my top four — but more on that later, as I'm planning to write my own personal ranking of OT's cast.

I'm planning to write many more things about OT indeed, so better not overdo it for the time being. I'm going to wrap up that post by saying that although I still have reservations about a couple of things, I am, on the other hand, utterly and desperately in love with OT's aesthetics and atmosphere. That game is so deliciously quaint it hurts, and it routinely sends me into the most painfully exquisite bouts of gaming fernweh. I want to be immersed into that world, to roam those picturesque landscapes and drink in those scenic vistas until my head swoon with elation and my eyes get teary at the beauty of what I'm seeing. I thought Squeenix went overboard with the blur effect at first, but I'm used to it now and wouldn't want it any other way. I cannot wait to discover all the lovely locations OT still has in store for me — and since, I'm mentioning this, my Switch is done charging, which means that the time is ripe for a well-deserved playing session. I'll see you very soon with more OT tidings, dear fellow gamers; as usual, thanks a lot for stopping by!


Code Realize - Wintertide Miracles: Wearing thin

True to its wintery inspiration, Wintertide Miracles is like a snowflake: kinda sparkly and lovely, but leaving absolutely no trace whatsoever once melted. Maybe that's none too surprising: not only are we talking about a fandisc, i.e. a type of media that's a bit too close to officially sanctioned fanfiction for comfort, but we're also talking about the second Code Realize fandisc. The first was already pretty light on content and treading a mite too much on fanfiction territory; but that was nothing compared to WM, which proudly roams said territory and makes no effort to hide its sheer fanficness. I'll be blunt: the content here is so thinly spread that there's not even enough material to write a decent route report, forcing me to resort instead to a good ol' Pros and Cons List. (Spoilers ahead!)


Going all Legend of Zelda: WM proudly cements the existence of two distinct timelines in the Code Realize lore: the original one presented in the first game, in which Finis dies, and the alternative one introduced in Future Blessings, in which Finis survives. The game weaves these two timelines in a clumsy and unfulfilling fashion, leaving us with two somewhat weak stories instead of a single solid one — and a sour taste of fanfiction in the mouth. Amateur storytelling aside, the very existence of that second timeline basically means that I was totally not the only one who was miffed to see Finis die in the original story, which begs the question: why was Finis not saved in said original story to start with? His relationship with Cardia could have been explored in the fandiscs all the same, and that would have spared us that utterly inelegant recourse to an alternative timeline. We could then have enjoyed the better of two worlds, instead of having to choose between bro and beaus.

Christmas food, yes please!

Cardia's Too Good: Even though Cardia is bound to have all the beaus fawning over her simply by virtue of being an otome heroine, and even though she does deserve the attention by virtue of being an interesting otome heroine, there can indeed be too much of a good thing. The original game and Future Blessings made sure that only one guy at a time was in love with Cardia, while the others rooted for the lovebirds from the sidelines; WM, on the other hand, goes harem full force with its Double Date feature, which stars two beaus simultaneously trying to gain Cardia's favours. Not only does this call forth mental images of the hentai variety, but it's also over-the-top and tacky. Most of us struggle to gain the love of one decent person, yet Cardia has a whole posse of handsome and honorable men at her feet? Heck, this hits a little too far from home for comfort. Cardia comes across as stiff and unconfortable in those segments, and it doesn't help that she has to friendzone like her life depends on it; the whole thing makes her less relatable and likeable, and that's quite unfortunate. 

Still a sexy b*tch, though.

Victor's Assassination: To my utter horror, my favourite romance material in CR is getting more defiled by the fandisc. After having suffered through an unfulfilling sequel route that basically ruined all the wholesomeness of Victor's original route, I had to endure the pain of seeing him reduced to a giant fanfic trope at the hands of WM. It's harrowing enough to see him confess his undying love for Cardia under the influence of a (eyes rolling) truth serum in one of the Double Dates; however, the torture doesn't stop here, as the darn game serves us a dedicated route in which Victor begs Cardia to pretend to be his fiancée to get him out of a bind. Not only is this fanfic porn at its purest, but it's not even consistent with Victor's established character. Victor was the most heart-wrenchingly, hauntingly sincere of all the beaus in the original game — not over-the-top like Impey, not ice cold like Van Helsing, not full of flourishes like Lupin, not conflicted like Saint-Germain. Why would such a beautifully honest character resort to that kind of stratageme, knowing that he could hurt himself and Cardia in the process? Heck, the Victor I know would have confessed his feelings eons before even dreaming of asking Cardia to play lovers. 

Isaac Beckford For The Win: The way WM rambles on and on about Cardia's late father's contributions to science, London and England, you'd think this guy was a saint and not the original game's main villain. Trying to make him more nuanced and to show his human side is one thing; trying to rehabilitate him entirely and make us forget his horrendous deeds and devious mind is another, and the game should have wisely abstained from the latter. The number of side stories featuring a forgotten or lost Isaac Beckford contraption is also getting properly ridiculous — I swear, it's turning into a gimmick at that point. Are we dealing with an insane genius or with Inspector Gadget here? One more CR fandisc, and Isaac Beckford will probably be saving the day à la MacGyver from beyond the grave.


Cantarella, a.k.a. The Dark Horse: I didn't expect much from the resident "Cardia's New BFF" story; however, the songstress' tale took me by surprise and touched my heart. Cantarella's story succeeds better than Shirley's in showing a fulfilling father-daughter relationship that Cardia can build upon and draw inspiration from to reconcile herself with her past. In fact, I daresay that Cantarella and Miles' relationship is one of the best in the entire series. Their constant dead-pan banter is hilarious; yet behind the ribbing hides a deep and strong love, mixed with a desperate desire to protect each other and be worthy of the other's affections. Some of their scenes made me laugh, others made me tear up — but none left me indifferent, and I was left deeply sated by the unfolding of their tumultuous relationship.

Finis Rules: Forget about the beaus and Cardia herself, Finis is the true star of WM. He's present in every single story, and he shines like crazy. His budding relationship with Cardia is a delight to watch, and his sharp tongue makes for deliciously hilarious dialogue. Otomate could have gone the easy way and made him a pure tsundere or an total ice queen; instead, they went for subtlety and made him exactly what he is, i.e. a formerly sheltered boy who's slowly but surely learning to love and show affection. Cardia and Finis' ever-growing bond is absolutely the best relationship in the entire series, trampling all the romantic routes in its wake. Special mention to that splendid moment in which a flustered Finis manages to say aloud that he loves Cardia — only to have emotionally tone-deaf Cardia dismiss his prowess entirely; that scene manages to be all at once incredibly moving and ridiculously funny, i.e. pretty much Cardia and Finis' relationship in a nutshell.

Secondary Character Galore: Every single CR character gets their fifteen minutes of fame and screen time in WM — including such unlikely entries as Aleister, Nemo and Sisi. The Gordon Mafia trio from Future Blessings makes a couple of cameos, and so does the Idea triad. It's lovely to see the whole CR crew come together in a single game, all the more so as this well may be the first and last time it happens.

Fashion Madness: We're kinda scrapping the bottom of the barrel here; however, seeing the whole crew decked up in brand-new outfits and all pimped up for the winter definitely adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the game. I would have loved to see those warbrobes changes happen sooner, maybe as early as in the original game — but hey, better late than ever.

A beach scene in a winter-themed game, now that's real edgy.

Let's be honest, I'll probably have forgotten all about WM by next week; however, I had a decently pleasant time playing it. Still, I hope there won't be anymore CR fandiscs with themes I'm a sucker for, because I'm starting to suffer from serious CR fatigue at that point. Thanks for reading and drop by anytime, dear fellow gamers!


Steins;Gate 0: The better game

After my less-than-stellar experience with Steins;Gate — The Original, I was hell-bent on avoiding the series at all costs. That's why I gave Steins;Gate 0 a resounding pass, despite the fact that it was branded as excellent and had the potential to solve narrative issues I had with its predecessor. Things would have remained that way, if not for a recent perfect storm that saw me ravenous for VNs just as the PSN was offering outrageous discounts on the whole genre; before I knew it, SG0 was in my digital collection, and there was no turning back. Like, literally.

That impulse purchase could have been a most ill-inspired one; but to my utter surprise, I found myself genuinely enjoying SG0. I certainly wouldn't deem it the VN of the century, but I definitely liked it much more than the original game. One might quip that it wasn't so hard, given how much I despised said original game; and while I'm keen to admit that my total lack of expectations may have played a role in my ultimately positive opinion of SG0, I also think that this game is genuinely better than its predecessor and fixes a good number of issues that ran rampant in said predecessor. (SPOILERS ahead!)

Better plot: One of SG's biggest flaws for yours truly was its unwelcome focus on romance, which weakened the overall story on top of introducing uncalled-for diversions. It was just aggravating to be force-fed all that fluff and fan-service, when the fate of the world itself hung in the balance and characters should have been focusing on something — anything — else than romance. In SG0, romance is all but forgotten, and the grim future awaiting the world in the Beta world line takes center stage: Okabe gets to feast his horrified eyes on the famed Third World War, which definitely knocks some (much-needed) sense into him. Needless to say, I lapped up that newfound, unwavering focus on the dangers looming ahead; and while I absolutely despised SG's dumb, immature, horny-when-he-shouldn't-be Okabe, I found SG0's subdued, thoughtful, spanked-hard-by-life Okabe much more likeable — and relatable. And since I'm mentioning Okabe, it's worth noting that he's not the main focus of the story anymore: while he was part of pretty much every scene in SG, SG0 treats us to plenty of scenes starring other members of the crew — sans Okabe. Last but not least, the ad hoc epidemy that plagued SG is blissfully absent from SG0 — as shown by that single telling example: while Faris is granted Reading Steiner out of the blue to solve a narrative bind in SG, several characters gain it gradually as part of an overarching plot development in SG0.

Better routes and endings: One of my main beefs with SG was the arcane quality of most endings, especially the True one. Route triggers were frustratingly unclear, and the game had the sheer audacity of requiring not one, but several flags for the True Ending. I can safely claim that I would never have witnessed said True Ending if not for FAQs, and I'm confident I'm not the only one. Fortunately, progression flows much more smoothly in SG0: triggers are delightfully obvious, and there is but a single flag required for the True Ending — a flag that you just cannot miss, given that it's part of another ending required to gain access to the true one. Not only are endings much easier to attain this time around, but they are also much more cohesive and constructive. While SG delivered mostly filler, 'cul-de-sac' endings that left characters stranded and didn't connect to the bigger picture, every single of SG0's endings contributes to the building of the plot. This time around, our experience as players mirrors the characters' experience in the game. Just like them, we travel through world lines, experiment with triggers and accumulate the necessary knowledge to ultimately reach Steins;Gate — with Reading Steiner being akin to us remembering former routes, and time travel to us replaying the game and avoiding pitfalls.

Better characters: Everybody gets a new lease on life, with established characters gaining a welcome depth and new ones being thoroughly developed. Okabe acts like an adult this time around and not like a horny teenager, and Daru's pervy quips come across as welcome attempts to lighten the mood. Maho is awesome and probably the most interesting and nuanced new addition, and her amazingly deep and complex relationship with Kurisu goes way beyond usual VN standards in the matter. Daru and Suzuha's ever-growing father-daughter bond is totally believable and incredibly touching, and one of the sweetest developement in SG0 — I swear I was nearly brought to tears by some of their interactions. Suzuha herself cements her status as one of the most haunting characters in the series and gets some truly iconic and striking moments, and crazy b*tch Moeka gets her character ever-so-slightly redeemed. Even Kurisu, who is absent for most of the game, manages to shine and leave an deep imprint — in fact, I daresay that she's even more memorable than in SG. The only important character that gets put on the back burner somewhat is, ironically enough, Mayuri; however, that kinda makes sense in the context of the story. Not only is she not privy to Okabe's angsty world line endeavours in SG0, but it also makes sense that after choosing the Beta world line to save Mayuri, Okabe would then focus more on what he lost in the process — namely Kurisu.

Of course, I would lie if I deemed SG0 perfect. We're still dealing with a flawed game: the story is a mite unclear and confusing at times, it's still too packed with eye-rolling fan-service, and it still dabbles too much in narrative conveniences and emotional porn. (Pray tell, why does Kagari look so much like Kurisu? I expected some juicy filiation to come up at some point, but it seems that her unlikely looks are really just there to tug at Okabe's heartstrings and make his predicament even harder.) The True Ending should have been more fleshed-out, and not just a mere chapter at the end of an already played route. The game should have solely used new character art, instead of clumsily blending old and new character models.

But when all is said and done, I liked that game despite its flaws. It really should have been the template for the original game; and as it is, it fixes said original game and the series' lore as a whole an awful lot. Sure, there are casualties involved, as SG's True Ending is made the one and only valid outcome and all other endings are deemed null and void in the process; but since those endings sucked anyway, it's really not that big of a deal. I actually like to think that SG's True Ending, complete with the SG0 intermission, is the ultimate canon in the SG universe; and I would even be inclined to replay both games successively to enjoy the full experience, if not for the fact that I pawned my copy of SG long ago. And with that, dear fellow gamers, I'm done with my praise of SG0, a.k.a. The Game That Reconciled Me With The Series. Thanks for reading as usual, and drop by anytime!


Seven years of gaming happiness: Collecting 'em games

One year ago, I told you everything about my Second Coming of Gaming, dear fellow gamers. This was a story of hope lost and found, the tale of a gamer coming back home after years of forced exile from the gaming industry; it was moving, it was striking, and it felt like destiny. The story of how I became a collector, on the other hand, is pretty subdued. It's a tale of stealth, the story of a hobby taking a life of its own and expanding beyond my wildest expectations. If gaming was Metal Slug's Marco Rossi, making a bold and triumphant return into my life, then collecting was Metal Gear's Solid Snake, sneaking in and becoming a thing before I even realized it. Make yourselves comfortable and bring in the pop-corn, dear fellow gamers: here comes the story of how I became a Game Collector.

Collecting was never on my radar during my formative gaming years, due to a multitude of reasons. The sheer lack of funds and games to collect was obviously a major obstacle; but had my bank account overflowed with money and Europe with localized games, I don't think I would have indulged in stacking up cartridges nonetheless. See, I was not exactly concerned with perennity and replayability as a youngster: the best was yet to come, and the next game in line was always more exciting than the current one. Mind you, this carefree consumerism was far from being exclusive to yours truly: gamers at large, as well as the gaming industry itself, proudly exhibited that same careless attitude. The truth is that pretty much everybody back in the days saw gaming as a hobby for idle youngsters and consoles as mere toys, bound to be discarded as soon as the newer and flashier piece of kit stormed into the market. We were all ruthless, latching onto new gaming systems and fads with an enthusiasm only rivaled by our eagerness to get rid of formerly beloved games and consoles; as a matter of fact, the only thing more shameful that not owning the current hot console was to be caught enjoying an game from the former console generation.

With such a background, suffice it to say that I had no plans whatsoever of becoming a collector when I got back into gaming in early 2012. Sure, I was slightly more concerned with perennity than in the '90s, as I wanted to hold onto my precious cartridges this time around; however, I was only planning to purchase a couple of games and leave it at that. Heck, other handhelds were not even on my radar yet, let alone backup units: as far as 2012's me was concerned, the DS my beloved sister gave me was going to be my one and only system. Oh boy, how things have changed since; and how I laugh at my own past naivety and candor now, sitting on piles of dozens of games and pieces of kit.

So how did I become a collector, exactly? Well, that unexpected development is to blame on several things, the first one being Amazon's fiendishly devious yet highly enjoyable suggestion system — you know, that falsely innocent "Customers who viewed this item also viewed" section, choke-full with games irresistibly similar to the one you're just checking. I kid you not: this section alone is responsible for dozens of purchases, and can account for a massive chunk of my precious collection. Not that it's a bad thing at all, mind you; I was more than glad to cave in, and that suggestion system allowed me to discover the full extent of all my systems' RPG libraries, which would probably have remained unknown to me otherwise.

The question is, why was I so glad to cave in indeed? What made me purchase games so ravenously, despite boasting neither a strong collecting background nor any intention to ever become a full-blown collector? I could chalk it all up to pure greed, but there is actually more to it. In mid-2013, I owned roughly 50 DS games; a respectable number, granted, but one that certainly wouldn't have warranted a featuring in Retro Gamer's Collector's Corner. My collecting fully took flight in late 2013, reaching its peak in 2014 and soaring high until mid-2015; and that two-year bout of intense and frantic collecting matched a troublesome period in my life. To sum it up, this was the time when I rented a matchbox-sized flat in a shitty industrial neighbourhood, slaving away in a job that I only marginally enjoyed in order to save money to purchase my very own piece of real estate; and although I fully chose that situation and owned it, there's no denying that it was a teeny-tiny bit trying and taxing. A fair bit of escapism was in order; and lo and behold, collecting games gave me exactly that. (And so did playing games and writing about them — it's no coincidence indeed that I started this very blog in late 2013, a couple of months after moving into my pint-sized dump.)

With hindsight, it kinda boggles my mind to see how much I accomplished on the collecting front in those mere two years. Not only did I build up a full roster of handhelds, with the PSP, the Vita, the 3DS and the GBA joining my precious DS; but I also bought dozens of games, primarily DS and PSP ones. Those games were so dirt cheap that I could literally purchase several of them every week while still saving dough like a squirrel on steroids. By the time I finally left my tiny dumpster in mid-2015, my precious collection had cracked the three-digit limit and I had become a full-blown collector. In the meantime, concerns regarding perennity had also kicked in, along with a growing desire to compensate for my frustrating meagre gaming years (more on that in this post); the latter only added fuel to the raging fire of my collecting, and the former prompted me to purchase backup units, supplementary cables and extra batteries for all my systems. Better safe than sorry, indeed.

I slowed down ever-so-slightly in late 2015, and my collecting reached its cruising speed. The next two years saw me collect at a steady yet more relaxed pace, focusing more on the Vita and the 3DS and the Game Boy line — without forgetting the occasional DS or PSP hidden gem that had passed me by until then. 2018 saw a noticeable slowdown in all things collecting: with Vita and 3DS releases slowing down to a trickle, only a handful of new games joined my precious collection, along with a couple of Japanese exclusives that had been lounging on my To-Get-My-Paws-On List for years. 2019 is shaping up to be even more indolent, as Sony is about to stop the production of Vita cartridges in the West and Nintendo is slowly but surely abandoning the 3DS to focus on the Switch. Although I predicted the complete halt of my collecting endeavours several times already on that very blog, that probably won't happen any time soon: not only will Vita games still be released in Japan, but I'll also have the random overlooked gem from older console generations to keep me occupied. I'm actually looking forward to that more relaxed purchasing pace, with only the odd acquisition here and there to remind me of my halcyon days of collecting.

Reminding, indeed: because apart from precious, solid physical games, that whole collecting epic will leave me with heartwarming, wholesome memories. Oh, those thrilling hours spent hunting for games on the internet whilst listening to uplifting music! That giddy joy I felt every time I unearthed a new game worthy of joining the fray! That sheer delight that washed over me every time I pored over my collection! From the wonder and elation of the early stages to the contentment and sated gratefulness of recent years, without forgetting the eagerness and ardour of the 'escapism wanted' era, every phase of my collecting career was truly magical — and very much worth remembering indeed. Heck, I even look fondly on all the missteps that occurred along the way. Paying too much for North-American games on Amazon.co.uk because I didn't know yet that Amazon.com and Amazon.ca offered cheaper prices, ordering a Japanese game only to learn a couple of weeks later that it was going to be localized, landing a filthy GBA bootleg: that sure didn't amuse me at the time, but the seasoned collector I've become cannot help but smile at those antics.

And that, dear fellow gamers, was the story of how I became a proud and happy Game Collector. Those seven years of collecting were a most amazing ride indeed, and I'm firmly planning to enjoy that ride's ultimate stages to the fullest. Feel free to share your own collecting tales in the comment section, dear fellow gamers; and as usual, thanks a million for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Oreshika-Tainted Bloodlines: I'm full, thanks

Somehow, I knew this would happen. I took me so long to figure out OTB's many systems and find my stride that there was indeed a high probability that I would find myself sated before reaching the final boss; and that high probability has now become reality. I still love that game with a passion, but I've also had my fill of it for the time being.

Mind you, I did everything I mentioned in my last post. I roamed dungeons, racked up skills, had fun with breeding, acquired Heirlooms and, last but certainly not least, I cleared my fourth Feast of All Demons; and I had tons of fun doing all that. It was so utterly fulfilling, in fact, that I feel like the game should end right here and now. On top of that, my inner clock tells me that I've been playing for 60 hours at the very least, and that's more than enough for an RPG playthrough. So I'm gonna call it quits for now, and bid adieu to my clan while I'm at it: because let's be honest, when I feel the itch to play OTB again, I'll certainly start anew and roll with a fresh new family. Sayonara, Ebisu Clan: we had great times together, and I regret nothing.

Since I'm done for now, I might as well deliver some final thoughts on OTB. That game's official subtitle might as well have been 'Player vs. Randomness', because that's exactly what the whole thing is about. That game is nothing but a giant random fest: from dungeon layouts to boss hideouts, from stats gains to monster drops, from units' looks to their gene pools, everything is subject to variations — some minute, some wild. Will you, the player, take up the gauntlet and make the most of what you're allotted in any given run? Will you get lucky, or will you have a hard ride? This randomness is actually one of my favourite features in OTB: although it can be taxing to wrap one's head around it at first, it also guarantees that no two runs of the game will ever be the same, which makes for great replay value.

I guess I should also comment on the Nueko situation, i.e. OTB's most controversial feature. Nueko's forced inclusion in my party was nowhere near as vexatious as I had feared from reading online comments on the matter; however, I also sincerely feel that said inclusion adds absolutely nothing to the game. In fact, Nueko as a whole adds absolutely nothing to the game. It was nearly laughable to hear the gods describe her as that irresistible femme fatale who wrapped everybody around her finger, when she was actually behaving like a sullen, boring teenager everytime I got to interact with her. Why was she even there at all, may I ask? Was she supposed to be OTB's official waifu, dragging in the otaku crew in her wake? Or was she supposed to act as a story beacon, reminding the player of the narrative issues at stake? I don't know, and I honestly don't care. All I saw in Nueko was an free extra party member for boss fights; and while I certainly didn't need her to do the deed, I still made the most of her occasional presence. Still, I would have preferred OTB's story to be solely about my clan; because as it was, I couldn't bring myself to follow it, let alone care about it. Why should I give a crap about the family matters of complete strangers, when I have my own family to tend to? What do I care about a god's mommy complex, when my own clan's fast-dying members fight an uphill battle against fate itself? Letting the player be privy to that little family drama between immortals was tacky and tactless at best, and a big fat instance of trolling at worst.

What else? I was planning to write a list of the game's good and bad points, but I'll shelve it until my next run — and until I clear the game for good. Not only do I feel too sated to write another full post about OTB right now, but I've fought enough cheated final bosses and witnessed enough lame story resolutions to know that endgames can indeed provide plenty of material for such lists. And so, dear fellow gamers, I'll take my leave of OTB for the time being. It's an fantastic game, and I love it to pieces; and I sure am darn glad I invested in the japanese special edition two years ago. You can bet I'll replay it someday, be it in japanese or in english. Thanks for reading, and drop by anytime!


Oreshika - Tainted Bloodlines: Reaching cruise speed

My love for OTB has escalated into an ungodly obsession: I find myself gorging on it more and more and trying to sneak in playing sessions everywhere I can. Generations wax and wane, dungeons are conquered and bosses are vanquished as in-game years and real-life hours go by, and I'm inching ever closer to the final showdown.

"Inching" is the right word indeed. Even after an undisclosed by the game yet probably ludicrously high number of playing hours, I still have a hard time dealing with, well, time management. Bloody time management, which coerces me into a given course of action when I'd rather be doing something else. So you want to vanquish an Oni boss? Oops, they haven't reappeared yet — better luck next time!  You want to explore the depths of a dungeon? Nope, you have to breed and train your kids — come back in three months! You want to tackle a Feast? Too bad, you didn't transmigrate Nueko early enough — try again next year! You want to do anything that requires a couple of months at a time? Crap, your clan leader is about to bite the dust, and you have to prepare succession — come back in one bloody generation! It took me forever to clear the third Feast, because I could never find that sweet spot where everybody was prepped up and with enough life expectancy to pull it off. My family members were too young or too old, or there was not enough time to transmigrate and train Nueko, or some mandatory breeding was standing in the way; I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the planets finally aligned and I got my opportunity to strike, let me tell you that.

After being done with that third Feast at long last, I took myself some time to breath, regroup and map out my objectives for the next couple of generations. Waiting for that perfect blink of an eye to fight Seimei took a toll on my gaming morale, and I feel the need to forget about that cursed immortal for a while and unwind through other pursuits. Here's my plan for the next in-game decade:

1-Explore dungeons at leisure and to my heart's content. I finally saved enough money to get my paws on that famed wooden tag, the one that grants you access to a room containing all the game's keys in the Garden of Purrfection; all said keys are now in my possession, and no dungeon can resist me anymore. This is actually both a blessing and a curse: while it's great not to worry about keys anymore, this also means that the game's natural difficulty curve is destroyed, leaving me free to bump into foes far too strong for my clan's current level. (Of course, that makes for good power-leveling as well — before I scurry away after three battles to lick my gaping wounds, that is.) Anyway, since the game was kind enough to offer me brand-new dungeons after the third Feast, I'm definitely going to explore them, and thoroughly at that. We don't want to be called ungrateful, now do we?

2-Get my paws on Heirlooms. Now that I don't have to save one million ryōs anymore, I can treat my clan to those insanely expensive pieces of gear. The town's development level has a direct influence on the quality of the Heirlooms, so I'll start by raising my Weapon and Armour shops' levels. A bit of careful observation conveniently revealed that Heirloom stats vary between clan members, but also from month to month; so I'm gonna bide my time in the shadows and pounce when an Heirloom with stellar stats appear.

3-Follow my breeding instinct. I focused primarily on gods with good Fire genes during the early stages of my run, and it worked nicely for me. Lately though, I've been following Kochin's advice more often, just to see if the little weasel was indeed breeding-wise; but alas, it didn't work too great. I can tell that Kochin suggested gods whose gene pools would rectify the huge Fire imbalance in my clan and make my gene pool more harmonious; and while I can see the merits of such an approach, the result doesn't suit my playing style at all. I ended up with weaklings that cannot one-slice rows of foes without breaking a sweat like their ancestors did, and that's not what I signed for. Starting next generation, I'm ignoring Kochin's advice and following my mating instinct again.

4-Expand my Skill pool. While my clan's Fire expertise is nicely developed, they are stuck at the very first Skill level in all other elements despite owning scrolls for high-level Skills. I'm going to remedy that sorry state of affairs by making good use of the Mind and Heart-raising accessories. I've experimented a bit with them and noticed that if you equip them and let a month pass, your clan members will learn Skills if their boosted Mind/Heart is high enough to hit requirements. That's already pretty nifty, but there's something even niftier: take away the accessory, and the newly acquired Skills remain! Needless to say, I'm going to use and abuse that feature without a second thought. It's built into the game, so it's not cheating, is it? If I'm lucky, I may also learn a couple of Secret Arts in the process.

In other words, I'm gonna roam&grind like there's no tomorrow, because that's exactly what the aforementioned pursuits imply. Seimei can wait until I'm in the mood to confront him again; a couple of years sure don't mean anything for an immortal prick like him, do they? See you soon for the next chapter of my OTB epopee, dear fellow gamers; and as usual, thanks a lot for stopping by!


Oreshika - Tainted Bloodlines: I'm on a roll

How do you know you're hooked on a game? Well, if you cannot wait to get your fix and if said game's music keeps looping in your head all day long, that's a pretty good sign that you're hooked indeed. I'm still playing the fourth attempt I mentioned in my last post; and at that point, said fourth attempt has been promoted to my official OTB run.

This means that I can now dive into the specifics of said official run! My four starting dungeons are the Ash of Heavens, the Temple of the Dragon, the Heptacolour Hot Springs and the Garden of Purrfection. Based on what I've infered from OTB wisdom on the internet, this is a pretty good combination indeed, with the two latter dungeons hosting a number of nifty items. That's not to say that my run became any easier in the process; in fact, I suspect it's the opposite indeed. Heptacolour and Purrfection are a pain to navigate to start with, and navigation was made even harder by the fact that I was nearly bereft of Keys at first. I got my paws on the 'ro' wooden tag and the Yellow Key in Heptacolour pretty early on; however, the 'ro' tag was useless because I couldn't access the matching door yet, and the Yellow Key could only do so much for my progression. This left me kinda stuck: while polishing off my first Feast of All Demons was but a mere formality, I couldn't access the second one because it was located too deep in Purrfection, with an Oni Boss blocking the way. Heck, Oni bosses were actually blocking the way in every single dungeon, and there was little hope I could eradicate them with my puny first generations of clan members.

So, how do you think I got out of that bind, dear fellow gamers? Why, through good ol' grinding, of course! I started dutifully racking up Devotion; and before long, through the magic of breeding and genetics, my family had become strong enough to wipe out Oni obstructions. (I'm actually a tad overleveled, if I have to be totally honest; but that will make the upcoming difficulty spikes easier, so I'm not complaining.) I could then progress at long last, and I got hold of two more Keys and the 'i' wooden tag. I'm currently in the process of tying loose ends and roaming the few parts still unexplored in dungeons, just to make sure that I'm not missing on yet another Key; and after that, I'll tackle my second Feast of All Demons and move onwards. I still have to find that fabled room with all Keys in Purrfection, which I suspect is hiding behind the 'ha' door located at the entrance of the dungeon. The corresponding tag is currently available in my town's General Store for an outrageous one-or-so million ryōs. That has to be one of the most expensive RPG item I've seen in a long time; however, I'm pretty confident I can get my cheating-hungry paws on it in a matter if hours. They don't call me thrifty for nothing, after all.

After several tries with speed settings, I finally found the balance I was looking for: I roll with Serious when I want to crawl, and with Fortunate when I want to grind. Finding the right balance in all things fighting was a tad trickier: no matter how hard I tried, I always ended up with one idle party member that didn't get to strike in 99% of random encounters. That wouldn't have been a problem, if not for the fact that said idle party member was sucking precious XP and devotion. I was certainly not going to keep a family member fed, clothed and leveled-up only for boss fights, thank you very much; and after a bit of pondering, I decided to play it daring and roll with a mere two units. I was a tad febrile, as you might expect; however, my fears were unfounded, as this setting works beautifully indeed. My Fab Two are a Halberdier and a Dancer, a combination that can pretty much clean a random encounter battlefield in a single turn; and to my relief, that duo also does a great job at vanquishing bosses so far.

Having two units only also makes party management much smoother, allowing me to settle into a comfortable routine: once my units are done studying, I crawl relentlessly with them until the older one reaches their peak, right before decay starts. I breed said older unit and let them train their offspring, while my younger unit grinds solo; then, I send the offspring in dungeons with my younger unit for a bout of levelling-up, while my older unit stays at home until bitting the dust. Once my younger unit hits their peak, I breed them and let them train their offspring, while the older offspring grinds solo; once the younger unit bites the dust as well, the cycle is over and can start again. This is so soothing and satisfying, I could go on like that forever. It's the circle of liiiiife...

With that said, I'm done with the current OTB tidings, dear fellow gamers! But I'll see you very soon for more indeed. Thanks for reading, and drop by anytime!