Valkyrie Drive - Bhikkhuni: Not what I wanted, but just what I needed

Or maybe the opposite, actually. Here's the story in a nutshell: I wanted to play something, but I couldn't decide what, because my ever-reliable gaming instinct seemingly decided to go on holiday out of the blue. To shake myself out of that rut, I decided to blindly pick up a game in my precious collection and dive senselessly into it — whatever 'it' happened to be. You already know which game was the lucky winner, dear fellow gamers; and let's be honest, I was actually a tad crestfallen when I saw what I had unearthed. Cuz even if I didn't know what I wanted to play, I sure knew that I didn't especially want to play a Beat'em Up. The thing is, I feel the need to play Beat'em Ups like, once in a blue moon; the genre is getting harder and harder on my fingers with age, and a quick fix is usually enough to satisfy whatever beating cravings I may harbour for a very long time. As it is, I played a rerun of Streets of Rage with my sister last Christmas, which should definitely have been enough to sate my appetite for punching until next Christmas. I was certainly not in the mood to play another Beat'em Up so soon; however, I had pledged myself to play whichever game I'd pick up, and that was the game the Universe threw in my probing hands. There was no choice but to relent and dive head first into that peachy — in more ways than one — punching fest.

Three hours later, I regret nothing. I kinda didn't want to play a Beat'em Up, and I still kinda don't want it; but heck, that game is awesome! See, I'm not really the most sophisticated Beat'em Up player out there, dear fellow gamers. When I indulge in the genre, I'm not looking for flashy animations, gorgeous graphics, charismatic characters or uber-fancy combos; the only thing I'm asking for are kickass, stellar physics. I want to feel the weight of my punches, and I want to see my adversaries feel it too. I want impact noises, groans of pain and recoil; I want to feel the sheer physicality of the fight, in my fingers as well as in my gamer's soul. And of course, I want to have full control over the whole thing: the MC must be a total extension of my fingertips, ready to pounce at the tiniest of my inputs. And lucky me, VDB delivered all that in spades! It took me a mere ten seconds to get hold of my character and slide into the groove of battle; and then I was on a roll, punching every living thing into oblivion and jumping, dashing and gliding all around like I owned the place.

And the goodness doesn't stop there, because VDB also offers all of those things I'm not actually looking for in a Beat'em Up! Okay, maybe not all of them. Charismatic characters are unfortunately nowhere to be found here: the girls are cute and lovely, but they all feel a bit vanilla and lack the distinctive flavours and overall zaniness sported by, say, the Senran Kagura roster. The graphics are easy on the eye, with bright colours and lovely vistas; but they're not nearly unique enough to set the game apart from the army of fan-servicey games starring buxom 3D vixens out there. On the other hand, the sparkly, fancy animations are a constant feast for the retinas; and the combos... Oh dear, the combos! This is a really deep and intricate fighting system we're dealing with here, with tons of complex techniques and combinations to pull off. Heck, the fighting tutorial alone lasts a good half-hour, and it's packed with an insanely high number of moves. I'll be honest: I've already forgotten half of those moves, because of my utter lack of sophistication in all things Beat'em Up. But the beauty of it all is that I don't actually need to master all these insanely subtle tricks, because the game also totally accommodates much simpler and barer fighting styles such as mine. Now that's the mark of a truly excellent Beat'em Up: to let you punch it your way, be it with two buttons or with twelve.

So, I totally love VDB; but still, I can't promise I'll finish it in one go. Heck, I can't even promise I'll pick it up again once I'm done writing that post; I feel like this three-hour session has sated all my Beat'em Up cravings — cravings I didn't even have in the first place. But no matter what happens now, I know that VDB is a darn good game, and I know that it stands at the ready to satisfy any punching urge I may harbour in the future. See you later — or not — for more fighting tidings, dear fellow gamers; and as usual, thanks for reading, and drop by anytime!


Octopath Traveler: Final thoughts (for the time being)

Let's face it: although my Switch is no longer around, I still want to play OT. Very much so, actually. Not only that, but I'd love to have this game in my collection, treasure it and replay it at will. That won't happen any time soon, unfortunately: OT is a Switch exclusive, and since I have neither a Switch (anymore) nor the intention to collect for it (ever), I'll have to make do with my warm memories of that game — and maybe a second run in a couple of years, when I get my paws on a second-hand Switch for game library exploration purposes.

We're actually touching OT's main issue in my opinion: namely, the fact that this game somehow feel too small, too homely for the Switch. I cannot shake that feeling that Squeenix' choral offering should have been developed for the 3DS and the Vita first and foremost and released on those systems. (The Vita and its cinematic screen in particular would have been a perfect home for OT.) This game feels like a portable RPG at heart; not just a portable RPG, but a portable RPG that should have unfolded on a small screen, in the intimate cosyness of one's own two hands. Of course, maybe that's just the handheld aficionado in me speaking; however, I cannot help that a bit of OT's magic was scattered and irremediably lost on the Switch's mammoth screen.

Anyway, a 3DS/Vita port of OT won't be happening any time soon; so I might as well focus on my brief, fleeting experience with it on the Switch. Although 'brief' and 'fleeting' may not be the most appropriate terms, given that I spent a hefty 50 hours roaming Orsterra. And my, what a fine 50 hours those were! Apart from the rocky early stages and the mild tendinitis case, my run was pure pleasure from start to finish. I was about to finish the third round of chapters when I bid my Switch adieu, and RPG fatigue was still nowhere in sight; I'm pretty sure I could have racked up 20 more hours without breaking a sweat and with tons of enjoyment. Oh well; we'll do that next time, won't we?

I was initially planning to wrap up my OT ramblings with a good ol' Pros and cons list; but now, a couple of days after selling my Switch, I cannot think of a single negative thing to say about that gem of a game and my delightful run of it. I just love everything about OT, and it left me with plenty of sweet, fluffy, heartwarming memories. Oh, the glittering snow in Flamegrace! Oh, those perfect fights where I Broke the opposition in one swift, neat turn! Oh, the outstanding alchemy of my Fab Three! It really pains me to think that I cannot get my greedy collecting paws on OT; but I guess it will only make my memories of it more precious. And with that, dear fellow gamers, my OT odyssey comes to an end — for the time being. Will I ever come back to that great game, only time will tell; but as I'm writing this, I'd love nothing more indeed. Thanks a million for reading as usual, and drop by anytime!


Nintendo Switch: See you around

It's official, dear fellow gamers: my Switch days are over. I just sold my Switch on an impulse, which is beautifully ironic given that this was an impulse purchase to start with — we've come full circle, so to speak.

As for the reasons behind that most unexpected move, they are aplenty. There's the fact that I hardly touched my Switch in the last year, which made me think that I wouldn't miss the thing too much indeed. Also, I cannot deny that I was in serious danger of being overwhelmed: it seems that I can safely deal with five consoles, but six consoles is one too much. Well, at least I know my collecting limits now, don't I? I'm sure my bank account will appreciate the respite, oh yes precious.

Not only that, but the more I play the Switch, the more my aversion for it grows. I dislike the Switch's weight, its size, its shape, the very feel of it in my hands. No matter how hard I try to convince myself that I'm dealing with a portable console, that darn piece of kit fails to give me that snuggly, cosy and intimate vibe I get from my other (genuine) handhelds. To make matters worse, my Octopath Traveler sessions left me with a mild case of tendinitis that I'm currently trying to recover from, and my right hand just cannot take anymore the heat that routinely flows from the right side of the system. 

With my Switch gone, my OT playthrough comes to an abrupt end; I apologize if you were waiting eagerly for my run reports, dear fellow gamers. (There will be a final post about the game, I promise). This also means no Pokemon Sword & Shield for me, nor any of the games I had my eye on — at least, not for the time being. I've reverted to my original plan, i.e. to wait a couple of years — and hopefully a lighter, smaller model — before purchasing a second-hand Switch and making a rampage through its library.

So, I'm back to my beloved last generation handhelds, and my little blog is about to become a retro gaming haven. I'm glad and a tad relieved, I must admit; I've always been a retro gamer at heart, and there's something strangely relaxing and comfortable in taking a step back and watching the gaming industry's evolution from the sidelines. Thanks for dropping as usual, dear fellow gamers; and see you soon for more exciting retro handheld tidings!


Octopath Traveler: Meet the crew

Here we are, dear fellow gamers: my own personal ranking of OT's eight characters, from my least favourite to my uttermost favourite — because we want to keep le meilleur pour la fin, don't we? I'll judge them based on their personalities (if such a word can be used to describe bunches of pixels), stories and, last but not least, on their class and abilities — because heck, we're role-playing here after all. Without further ado, let's get down to it!

H'aanit: I fully expected to adore OT's fierce huntress, I really did; and yet there she stands, at the bottom of my personal ranking. So what went wrong, pray tell? I wish I could claim that her voice and dialogue get on my nerve; but alas, her stiff middle english is the least of my concerns. I'm much more aggravated by her atrocious aiming, which sees her miss half of her hits as a rule and makes her multi-targeting abilities utterly pointless. So you're supposed to be a top-tier huntress, and yet you cannot fire a bow without missing? I wanted Robin Hood and I got Baby's First Archery Lesson — thanks for nothing, Squeenix. And my, are her Pokemon-ish abilities way too complicated and unwieldy for my taste: nearly all foes are Legendaries to her, and the only creatures she can capture with any degree of certainty are weaklings that are good for little to nothing on the battlefield. Granted, her passive skills are awesome; but alas, it's not enough to make me dig her battle prowess.

Primrose: Let's be clear: I don't actually dislike Primrose. In fact, there are plenty of things I like about her, from the sheer grimness of her own personal tale to her husky, low-pitched voice. But alas, the RPG player in me simply cannot be satisfied with her near-uselessness in battle and on the field. Not only is she painfully weak on both physical and elemental fronts, making her exclusive mastery of Dark kinda pointless, but she has the nerve of wielding a mere single weapon, making her virtually useless as far as weapon coverage go. Her Action Path is bound to come in handy only a measly couple of times over a full run, and her Talent... Heck, what's her Talent, already? Oh yeah, summoning NPCs in battle. Like Tressa, basically — only more tedious, because Prim has to charm those NPCs first. Sure, she has good buffing abilities; but serial buffing has never been my playing style, and thus I have little to no use for Primrose in my party setting.

Olberic: I'm usually a sucker for the brave ole Warrior in RPGs, and I love myself a good story of honour, bravery and knighthood. That should have made Olberic a surefire hit; but if you read my first post about OT, you know already that it's not the case. His voice and signature lines grate on my ears, his bulky and poorly dressed sprite stings my retinas and, last but not least, his fighting abilities leave me cold. Sure, he's strong as all heck, and he boasts a couple of neat and deadly moves; but that is definitely not enough to make him a true battle asset. Being the only character wielding no elemental skill at all doesn't do him any favour, and I cannot help but think that he should have been a bit more powerful on the physical front to compensate for that absence. He should also have been more notably sturdy to function properly as the tank he's supposed to be.

Therion: I like and despise the resident thief, all at once and in turn. I love him to pieces when I trot down the streets, swiftly getting my paws on NPCs' possessions as I go. I bow to his awesomeness when I'm unleashing his devastating Divine Skill on the battlefield. I delight in his tale of broken trust and wandering and his lone wolf quality during the story segments. But oh gosh, do I want to slap him hard every time he opens his crude mouth — and never more than when he spits "Come on, I've got better things to do" or "Where's the nearest tavern" with that cocky accent of his. And never, ever do I despise him more intensely than when I roam a dungeon and encounter yet another bloody safe that he alone can break open. I truly hate how Squeenix tried to make him indispensable by peppering the whole darn game with those cursed safes, and I now feel a pang of anger every time I spot a flash of purple around IRL.

Alfyn: We're reaching the upper half of my ranking, and thus the characters I really want to stick with — and very much do stick with, actually. Alfyn's Apothecary talents are a mite too random for me, and I've never managed to craft any remotely useful — let alone outstanding — salve on the fly; on the other hand, I'm totally sold on his strength and his mastery of the axe. It certainly doesn't hurt either that he's the only character with innate status effect healing abilities, and that his Divine Skill gives him access to the only instance of status effect multi-healing. I'm also quite fond of his Inquiring talents, which are more pleasantly diplomatic than Cyrus' Scrutinizing ones and allow me to get my paws on hidden items, discounts, new gear and other niceties. Cherry on the cake, his shonen-ish personal pursuit of mastery of his craft really resonates with me, and his mountainous, pine-studded homeland completely stole my heart.

Ophilia: Aaah, dear Ophilia. How I love your prime and proper demeanour, your quiet and unassuming badassery, the crystalline snowy lands your hail from. But as enticing as all this is, it certainly wouldn't be have been enough to grant you the third spot in my ranking. You gained said third spot because of how utterly indispensable you are on the battlefield. You're a natural born Healer, and a stellar one at that. Even the meanest of your healing spells can put a full party back on their feet, and you saved the day and my arse in battle more often than I care to count. That would already be more than enough to make you awesome; but you also reign alone over Light skills and you wield a Divine Skill tailor-made for boss fights, and that makes you even more impossibly awesome. You're the holy RPG party member par excellence, and even your useful-once-in-a-blue-moon Path Action cannot tarnish your light.

Cyrus: I'll be honest: I have a near-tie between the resident scholar and Tressa. Cyrus didn't impress me much at first, I must say; but it wasn't long before I learnt to appreciate his talents and became truly infatuated with him. He can Break foes and wipe the battlefield clean like no other OT character with his double-hit elemental skills, and his Divine Skill can wreak havoc on bosses' HP bars — add Ophilia's Divine Skill on top, and you get a true warhorse and a harbinger of doom for everything standing on the wrong side of the battlefield. His ridiculously stylish sprite and deliciously snobbish tone and signature lines make him even more endearing to me; and I'm not even talking about his cluelessness in romantic matters, his insatiable curiosity and his ability to get lost in nerdy conversations — all things I can totally and completely relate to. Cyrus Albright, you're the sh*t.

Tressa: All hail my MC and absolute favourite OT character! Heck, I've not encountered such an endearing and irresistible riches-obsessed character since I became a diehard fan of Scrooge McDuck as a kid. Funnily enough, I expected to somewhat dislike her before playing the game; and oh boy, how utterly wrong I was. I adore everything about her, from her cheeky demeanour to her saucy signature quips, from her kickass Action Path to her dope Talent, from her simple-yet-charming story to her stellar battle prowess. She's the most delightfully versatile OT character, both on the battlefield and out of it: strong physical hits, elemental skills, self-healing, stealing, buffing, filling in the coffers — she can do it all, and she can do it like a boss. Heck, she's the sole reason my party is currently swimming in money and able to pimp themselves with the very best gear available. She literally saved my run, and I definitely wouldn't love OT as much if she weren't around. Tressa Colzione, you're my spirit animal.

There you have it, dear fellow gamers: my very own personal ranking of the OT cast. This is a pleasantly diverse crew, and I can safely claim that there is not a single rotten apple to find here: I like them all to various degree, and I'm interested in all of their stories — if only remotely. Feel free to share your own ranking in the comments; and as usual, thanks a lot for stopping by!


Collecting: The state of affairs

As the Vita and 3DS are inexorably inching towards retirement, I'm about to enter a new phase in my collector's life; a more relaxed, less extravagant phase, where gaming purchases will become the happy exception rather than the overindulgent norm. It's thus the perfect time to take stock of my collecting achievements and assess whatever unfinished business I may have in that department.

DS: Aaah, DS dear, how I love you. That awesome piece of kit is the first handheld I started collecting for; it should thus make perfect sense that my DS library is the largest of all my game libraries, with a massive 156 games so far. I scoured every corner of the DS RPG pool, and I can safely claim that I own a good 95% of all DS RPGs released on our shores, if not more. There is still some potential for growth, though: I could complete my DS RPG library by snatching a couple of obscure RPGs I've not bothered with until now, such as Glory of Heracles. Also, several franchise with numerous DS entries remained unexplored by yours truly, such as Harvest Moon, Inazuma Eleven, Style Boutique or Lost in Blue. I own an instalment of each of these franchises; and should I happen to love said instalment, it could lead to late purchasing sprees.

PSP: The second handheld I started collecting for, and one I love no less than the DS. Despite boasting a hefty 109 games, my PSP collection is actually the most incomplete of all my game libraries, so to speak. There are still a good number of PSP RPGs out there, Japanese as well as localized, that might be worth a purchase. Titles like the Tales of the World sequels, Airou Village, Sol Trigger and Mimana: Iyar Chronicles have gone on and off my PSP Wish List for years, and they may well join the fray in the end. Still, I'm quite proud of my PSP library: not only is it nearly entirely comprised of RPGs, but it also hits the pitch-perfect size in my book neither trivially small nor overwhelmingly large.

3DS: With 70 games, my 3DS library is my third smallest game library; yet it's also the most diverse, with games belonging to a wide array of genres from Beat 'em ups à la Senran Kagura to Rhythm games à la Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX, without forgetting (perish the thought!) good ol' RPGs. That relatively limited library still required huge investments, as I went to the trouble of purchasing Japanese and North-American 3DS models in order to enjoy all the system had to offer. Apart from the few 2019 Western releases on the horizon, I can safely say that any future 3DS purchase will most likely target Japanese-only titles. Not that I have any such game on my radar right now, mind you; this is all purely hypothetical, which makes me think that my 3DS library might be very close to completion indeed.

Vita: This is a collection that truly took a life of its own: started as a mere afterthough, it wound up being one of my most glorious RPG pools, with 113 games and counting. It's also without a doubt my nichest collection, with fan-servicey and budget RPGs aplenty. Of all my game libraries, this is undoubtedly the one whose overall value has the most potential to skyrocket over time, as the Vita goes from the ugly duckling of the handheld scene to legacy piece of kit. Not only are most of my regular Vita RPGs fairly rare to begin with, but I ramped up the Collector's Item factor by purchasing a couple of Limited Run Games exclusives think 2000-3000 copies available worldwide. (Heck, those games alone could be worth my my whole Vita collection's initial price in 20 years for all I know!) Although it's fairly replete, my Vita library still have some potential for growth: apart for the few Vita games slated for release in 2019 on our shores, the Japanese front remains wide open. And given how Japanese gamers love their Vitas, I'd bet that my Vita collecting endeavours won't be over any time soon.

GBA/Game Boy: I'm lumping those two together, as I play them on the same machine. With 36 and 16 cartridges respectively, my GBA and Game Boy libraries are the least impressive of all my game libraries, both in terms of sheer number of games and scope of said games. That's not to say that they don't boast mighty fine RPGs that have become cult classics over time, though. This is especially true of the GBA side, which features luminaries such as Pokemon, Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy and Breath of Fire. The Game Boy side is more modest, and focus more on little Proust madeleines of mine such as Ducktales, Link's Awakening and Kirby's Dream Land with the occasional late RPG discovery à la Final Fantasy Legend II. I deem those two libraries pretty much complete, although you can never rule out a future addition: little hidden gems such as Warlocked and Survival Kids are darn tantalizing, and I may well cave in and snatch them in the end.

After six-or-so years of intensive game hunting, I've also come to reassess some aspects of my collecting. Things have changed an awful lot in those six years, and developments that were unthinkable a couple of years ago have now become perfectly viable options both in my collecting and in my life in general. Which leads us to the following musings:

Should I start selling some of my games? Although each and every game in my collection has a unique story behind it and is tied to heart-warming memories, there's no denying that some games are a tad less precious to me than others. A typical example of this would be Luminous Arc: whilst I genuinely enjoyed my run of it, I can't really imagine touching it ever again now that the deed is done. Wouldn't it be better, then, to let another collector get their paws on it? I have to admit that those impulses to sell average games are getting stronger by the year: why hold onto such games, when there are so many games I'm madly in love with and want to replay over and over again? Why not just stick with the crème de la crème?

Should I get rid of the boxes and manuals and hold onto cartridges/ discs only? I wouldn't have dreamt of such a move a mere two years ago, as I was too afraid of missing valuable gameplay information if I let go of booklets; however, I warmed up to the idea after realizing that most games from the last two consoles generations offer in-game tutorials not to mention that my GBA/Game Boy collections solely comprise cartridges, and I'm fine with that. Still, this remains a huge bone of contention between the hoardy, collecting-hungry side of me and the practical, non-nonsense one. My inner collector fully realizes that my collection could instantly lose a good two-third of its value if I ditched boxes and manuals; yet my inner Marie Kondo already grumbles at the thought of needing to carry all that plastic around if I move somewhere else. Ironically enough, keeping only cartridges could be seen as an act of true faith in my gaming future, as it would imply that I don't ever plan to sell my precious collection or would it? I could sure still sell it, only at a much lower price. Or maybe not: as years roll by, collectors would probably warm up to the idea of purchasing cartridges alone, like they did for '80s and early '90s consoles. Or would they? After all, many collectors make do with cartridges because boxes were so crappy at the time. But then again, doesn't the largest price gap lie between new and second-hand games, rather than between complete and cartridge-only games? Aaah, this is such a pain! To throw or not to throw, that is the (torturous) question. 

And with that, this round-up of my collection endeavours is pretty much done. Only time will tell how my precious collection evolves from there. Will it keep inflating, or deflate a bit? Will I keep some games complete and other as cartridges only? I'll just let my gaming instinct run the show, as always. A million thanks for reading as usual, dear fellow gamers, and drop by anytime!


Octopath Traveler: The most epic fighting fest of them all

An awful lot has been said about OT's unsatisfying narrative structure, about the clumsiness of its disjointed storytelling, about the asinine quality of its writing. And, well, most of it is true: this is poor storytelling we're dealing with indeed, and OT couldn't hold a candle to its forebearers of Square and Enix fame even if its life depended on it. But on the other hand, I daresay that it needn't hold a candle to said forebearers in the narrative department, because it crushes them down when it comes to all things fighting. Let's face it: OT's tentacular story is nothing more than a pretense, a multipronged excuse to move your party around — and engage in thousands of battles along the way. At its core, this game is all about the fighting — nothing but the fighting. And boy, does it excel at it indeed. OT simply boasts one of the best turn-based fighting systems I've ever had the pleasure of handling, a system blessed with a depth I could never, ever have suspected when I started playing. It takes a long time to reveal its full potential — maybe a mite too long, actually; but if you can soldier on until said potential unfolds, you're in for a real treat.

I'll admit it: I intensely disliked OT's fighting system at first. This is a pretty grindy game we're dealing with; and as far as my RPG expectations and experience are concerned, grindy games should go together with swift, easy, promptly-polished-up random encounters. Which, oh dear, is so not the case in OT. This is a game that makes you go all out and pull out the stops in every single battle. Forget about spamming regular attacks and mashing the A button to win: you'll need to think, strategize and, last but not least, use skills like it's going out of fashion. Forget about brute-forcing your way through with sheer overleveling: foes will remain a menace and a challenge even when crawling fifteen levels below you. That's a very good thing, of course; but I certainly didn't see it that way at first. Heck, I didn't fancy at all being forced to give my full attention to every battle; I nearly took it as a personal insult, and an undue attack on my precious time. How dared that game make me toil on trash mobs like they were the local boss, darn it? Also, thrifty little me balked at the thought of using SP-consuming skills during random encounters, after a whole lifetime spent saving such resources for boss fights. I very nearly quit right after recruiting my fourth character, when a particularly buffed-up bunch of trash mobs wiped the floor with my poor party. This is it, I thought; that's not what I signed for, count me out.

Of course, I didn't sign out, as you know already; I soldiered on, and soon learnt to make the most of OT's fighting system. I learnt to use the Break system to my advantage, swiftly and neatly erasing foes' turns to give myself more leeway and opportunities to strike. I learnt to spend my SP wisely, using fitting weapons and single-hit skills to Break the opposition first and then pummeling my defenseless foes to death with multi-hit skills. I learnt to study my opponents carefully instead of going straight for the attack command, and I discovered the giddy joy of Breaking a round of foes in one turn through the thought-out use of weapons and skills. I learnt to make the most of the characters' natural complementarities, and to supplement them neatly with added ones through the clever use of Secondary Jobs. I learnt all that and more, and I enjoyed myself tremendously doing so. And then it dawned on me that OT's fighting system is truly the stuff role-playing dreams are made off, with its heavy emphasis on character complementarity and pitch-perfect use of weapons and skills. That game elevates combat to an art form, daring you to wipe the battlefield clean in the most efficient and elegant way with every single battle.

I've been certainly doing my fair share of that in the last hours, especially since I started dabbling in Secondary Jobs. I made Tressa a Thief, Cyrus an Apothecary and Ophilia a Scholar, getting nearly full weapon and elemental coverage in the process; the only attack type I'm still missing is Dark, but I can make do without it. My calculations led me to the conclusion that there is simply no way to get full weapon and elemental coverage with three party members, no matter how you arrange Secondary Jobs. The game was obviously designed with a party of four in mind — a party of four whose members are switched on a regular basis to boot. I could totally ride fighting complementarities much more than I currently do and design a tailor-made team for every single area through job-switching; but I'm not sure I'll ever have the courage to do that, all the less so as I've grown quite attached to my Trio of Awesomeness already. On top of that, they are ridiculously oveleveled compared to the rest of the crew, which doesn't make for slick fighting dynamics; smoothing out those unbalances would require level-grinding, and I'd rather eat my Switch than level-grind in OT. Guess I made my bed by stubbornly sticking to the same three characters, and now I'll have to lie in it — which I do kinda joyfully, given how much I love said three characters. But more on that very soon.

Here ends my ode to OT''s sheer brilliance and awesomeness in all things fighting, dear fellow gamers. I'll see you soon with more tidings from Orsterra; I'm nowhere near done with that game indeed, oh no precious. Thanks a million for reading as usual, and drop by anytime!


RPG Wisdom

I've never been one to vehemently defend my passion for gaming, claiming that it helps keep the brain active and trained, that it's a great way to make friends or that it's a piece of culture waiting to be fully acknowledged. As a lone gamer who started performing the deed in the early '90s when consoles were mere disposable toys, I smile somewhat mockingly at the last two assumptions; as for the first one, while I actually deem it fully valid, this is not something I would ever bandy around to justify my gaming habits. Not that I really need to, mind you: most of the time, I just follow my merry gaming way in the shadows, dodging nosy questions and avoiding justifications of any sort. But I digress, dear fellow gamers: what I wanted to say is that while I don't go around making lofty claims about gaming's supposed merits, I still got pretty nifty life lessons out of it — without ever really wanting to or trying, which makes the process even more glorious. The Holy Realm of RPG in particular has been exceedingly prodigal with teachings, showing me through telltale examples the wholesomeness of a number of virtues.

Diligence and Patience: Let's roll all the way back to 2012: I had just started my solo run of Dragon Quest IX, and I was poring over forums to garner useful tips. That's where I learnt about King Metal Slimes, those near-mythical creatures that could grant you XP by the truckload and lounged deep in post-games dungeons. Having barely cleared the first dungeon at the time, I despaired of ever reaching such impossibly powerful beasts; and yet, 150 hours later, I was roaming Grottos and one-shooting those silvery royals like it was going out of fashion. That particular case taught me in the most striking way that no matter how lofty and unreachable a goal seems at first sight, it can always be achieved if one takes the necessary time to do so. Since then, countless RPGs have confirmed that defining lesson in various ways. That Lv.99 frontier that seems so faraway when the MC is a puny Lv.1? Gimme hundreds of random battles, and I'll sure get there. Those thousand square meters of dungeons that must be cleared before reaching the final boss? Gimme a few dozens of hours, and I'll sure do the deed.

Endurance and Fortitude: We can all agree that RPGs are sometimes a royal pain in the arse: insanely high random encounter rates, nasty cheated bosses, fake difficulty up the wazoo, obnoxious dungeon design — you name it. I sometimes find myself disheartened by all those obstructions and despairing of ever reaching the final boss, let alone beating it; yet somehow, I always manage to do so in the end. RPG hurdles teach me time and time again me to be perseverant: if I dutifully soldier through them, I'll reach my goal eventually and succeed. I had countless masters in that department, too many to count actually; however, two of them stands out amongst others. The first is Astonishia Story, a game that made my crew weak by design and threw at me an insanely hard final boss; the second is The Legend of Legacy, a game loaded with spike difficulties and unscrutables rules. Those two made me toil like crazy; and yet, I ultimately triumphed and conquered them, learning the value of endurance and fortitude in the most satisfying and rewarding way as I did so.

Thriftiness and Good Resource Management: To be fair, I was thrifty long before I started playing RPGs in earnest; however, there's no denying that the genre drove the point home in the smartest and most efficient way. Whether it be skill points or good ol' monies, resources must be managed cleverly if one wants to get by in an RPG; and saving, sparing and compromising are part and parcel of such good resource management. Should I get that skill or the other? Should I save money for that awesome piece of gear, or use my current funds to buy several inferior ones? Should I grind for currency to get everything I want, or renounce some things? Should I use my MP for one devastating attack or several small ones? And we all know about that awesome multi-healing item that begs to be saved for boss battles. All RPGs offer such dilemmas; however, Final Fantasy Legend II boasts one of the most stringent resource management out there, with its limited inventory space, limited weapon use, limited currency, limited pretty much everything; when you've survived such a giant frugality fest, you can pretty much adapt smoothly to any budget limitation IRL.

Adaptability and resiliency: We all know about that Wake-up Call Boss; the one that made our best-honed strategies null and void in a matter of turns and send us scurrying away in shame — if it doesn't one-shoot our whole party, that is. Yet we also know that with the right combination of grinding, strategies, items, gear and luck, that seemingly impassable boss will ultimately bow to us and let us progress unhindered. I always try to remember such Wake-up Call bosses when the going gets rough and I'm tempted to give up a bit too fast in real life; and instead of doing so, I try to find a new approach and I go back at it with a vengeance, until I finally triumph. Heck, I would never ever have finished a single RPG if I ran away with my tail between my legs every time I encountered a tough nasty; and I sure won't achieve anything worthwhile if I allow myself to do so IRL. Now obviously, sometimes I still ultimately give up on arduous tasks for various reasons; but in that case, I have no regrets, because I know in my heart of hearts that I did try my hardest. Just like when I tried to complete those postgame dungeons in Shiren, Explorers of Sky and Dungeon Travelers 2 and finally gave up because the effort/reward ratio was way too skewed in favour of the former.

Independence and Autonomy: Last but not least, RPGs taught me to play it my way. Whether you rely on brute force or refined strategies, whether you're a hoarder or a serial seller when it comes to inventory, whether you're all about physical attacks or elemental spells, whether you're in for the grinding or the sightseeing, the vast majority of RPGs out there will give you enough leeway to indulge in your very own penchants and fetishes — and so does life as a whole. The most glorious display of such autonomy as far as my gaming career is concerned are obviously my many Pokemon solo runs. Such runs are so at odds with the series' core concept that it hurts; yet they function beautifully nonetheless, and that alone is enough to convince me that most real-life situations can be approached from original angles and bent to my iron will. 

There you have it, dear fellow gamers: the lessons I got from my favourite genre under the gaming sun, and the virtues countless RPGs taught me to cultivate. Feel free to share your own personal lessons from games in the comment section; and as usual, thanks a million for reading, and drop by anytime!