Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Rescue Team DX: Smooth sailing (as expected)

15 hours in; my run so far is placid and uneventful, in the nicest possible way. I mean, I knew exactly what to expect from RTDX: I knew I was going to have a blast crawling, I knew I was going to lose myself in rescue missions, and I knew I was going to love that game. The report's over; see ya soon!

Nah, just joking. I resumed my demo save and went crawling with my little Sakura and Pika-Cute; and while I was fully happy with that duo during the demo, I started to have second thoughts as I entered the main game. Not only was the pair identical to the one I used in my run of Explorers of Sky, but Skitty was embarrassingly weak and delicate. However, I've made peace with that choice since — if only because Sakura grew exponentially stronger over the last hours, like any good Skitty should.

I made little change to my crawling ways since the beginning. XP is not divided between team members; so I tried accepting all new recrues at first to give me a hand on the battlefield, letting them go when the mission was over. However, leading many 'Mons made battles so slow and tedious that I quickly stopped, preferring to stick with my kawaii duo instead. They currently lounge at lv. 25 and boast efficient Move pools: Thunder, Blizzard, Ice Beam and Double Slap for Sakura and Thunder, Iron Tail, Spark and Fake Out for Pika-Cute. All improvements on Thunder benefit both Sakura and Pika-Cute; I made the most of that feature and boosted Thunder like crazy. Needless to say, that Move is going nowhere and will stay in my arsenal until the end. My duo also boasts two amazing Rare Qualities: Rapid Bull's-Eyes, which makes multiple-hit Moves hit all the time, and Steamroll, which make non-effective and not very effective Moves deal substantial damage. Those Qualities, which also benefit my whole team, single-handedly turned the highly imprecise Double Slap into a tool of 'Mon destruction and virtually erase all Type dynamics — in my favour.

This doesn't mean that RTDX is a cakewalk, though. I used to gorge on it and rush forward recklessly at first; alas, that ingenuous enthusiasm cooled somewhat after the utter defeat I endured in the Sky Tower two days ago. My party was wiped out, along with all my money and my hard-earned items; and I now find myself totally bereft of Apples, Ethers, Berries and other crawling necessities. I have to stockpile them again by tackling Rescue Missions, and level up my team while I'm at it; this is probably going to be a tad boring, and thus I've decided to take it slower and clear just a couple of missions every day to avoid farming burnout.

And thus, by an ironic twist of fate, my planned gaming schedule now finds itself reversed: I'm playing Sophie like it's going out of fashion, and taking just small bites of RTDX. But I'm not giving up on it, dear fellow gamers; I'll see you soon with a fresh run report!


Atelier Sophie: Getting to the heart of things


Despite my claims that I would focus on Rescue Team DX, my love for Sophie clearly didn't abate, and neither did my playtime; that's how I now find myself with all Growth recipes under my belt and a good 50% of the game polished off. I reached a major narrative and alchemic milestone, and was rewarded by a lovely celebratory cutscene. This brought me a fuzzy, happy-endingy feeling of completion yet again — a feeling so satisfying that I could nearly drop the game right now. This begets the question: should I indeed quit, or should I keep playing?

The "Drop it" arguments:

— I've been playing for 25 hours already, and thus inching perilously closer to my default playing limit of 30 hours per RPG run. Granted, I still don't feel the slightest bit of gaming fatigue; yet gaming wisdom dictates that I should stop right now, while I still love the game and can come back to it later with enthusiasm and eagerness.

— As far as I'm concerned (spoilers!), giving Plachta a human body was the game's main — if not ultimate — goal. I'm just done doing that; and thus, the game is kinda over in my mind, even though the credits didn't roll yet. As a matter of fact, I couldn't help but smell a whiff of postgame when I started exploring the third batch of recipes. (end of spoilers)

The "Stick with it" arguments:

— I still love the game to pieces. Not only am I never out of things to do — and never bored thanks to the variety of those things to do — but the game also regularly brings in new gameplay features — such as giving gifts to allies, merchants and artisans. It would be a pity to stop now that I have the opportunity to give Sophie a full harem, now wouldn't it?

— I currently have a number of appetizing grindy goals to reach. Those include farming money thanks to that excellent tip, and using that money to enhance my current gear to the max. Then I can challenge that stupid giant fish at Prospector's Strand again, wipe the (sea)floor with it at long last, and get my revenge for the last two times when he annihilated my party.

— I still get that delicious frisson when I forage gold quality items and unearth new materials. Surely this is a indisputable sign that I'm not blasé yet, isn't it? Also, the best seems to be yet to come as far as combat skills are concerned.

There are valid arguments on both sides; so as usual, I'll let my faithful gaming instinct run the show. See you soon with another run report — or a half-run wrap-up post!


Atelier Sophie: On to the next step

After 11 hours of smooth play, I unlocked the Friendly Persona, i.e. the last of the Beginner Recipes. Doing that gave me a pleasant completion feeling, almost as if I had just finished the game; in fact, I feel so good about myself and my accomplishments in Sophie that I could nearly stop playing it right now. I won't, of course; I'm not bored of that game yet, and there's still a lot to discover and achieve.

Call me Darth Maul.

That being said, I will play in a more casual, relaxed way from now on. Sophie was the only thing I played these last ten days, and I didn't complain; but to avoid alchemy fatigue, and because other games are begging for my attention now, I'm going to space my Sophie sessions out. I don't worry too much about losing the thread, because story in that game is little more than an paper-thin excuse to move the player forward; and neither do I worry about not getting my fill, because even short playing bouts usually make me feel nicely sated.

There's little novelty since my last post, apart from the fact that everything is getting better. Combat is snappier and more thrilling since I gained a fourth party member and extra skills with badass animations, I have enough areas unlocked to forage without ever being bored, and I manage to snatch rare materials on a regular basis thanks to a clever use of rain and Rumors. My only gripe so far is the limited size of my basket, which often forces me to exit areas just when materials start getting valuable and abundant. To avoid that, I run around, fight a bit, and only start foraging when I reach Gathering Level 3 or 4. Thanks to that carefully controlled recklessness, I managed to obtain high-quality materials with interesting Traits much earlier than in other Atelier games. High-quality materials mean more productive synthesis, more efficient crafting, a better gameplay experience overall, and a happier little me.

Did someone say Castlevania?

My plan for the next days is simple: to keep running around, foraging, fighting and synthesizing until I clear the whole batch of Growth Recipes. After that, we'll see if I keep going or take a small break. I'll see you soon with a fresh run report, dear fellow gamers Stop the presses! I just received my copy of PMD: Rescue Team DX, and that game takes absolute precedence over everything else. The next Sophie run report might come later than expected; still, I won't drop the game. Stay tuned! 


Pokemon Let's Go Eevee: A digest

I was initially planning to write a list of all the things I loved in LGE; but I quickly realized that such a list would quite be massive and indigestible indeed, and that it would be much faster to list the teeny-tiny number of things I kinda disliked. To sum it up: I loved absolutely everything about LGE, apart from the things below.

No Bike! I recently started to use the Bike in my runs for faster roaming; and just when I learn to appreciate that tool's virtues, GameFreak takes it away from me? That's not fair! I know that rideable 'Mons are supposed to replace the Bike in LGE, but they're not nearly as convenient. For one thing, you must have them in your active team to ride them; for another, they're all huge and kinda hard to manoeuvre.

The total absence of Breeding: No compensation mechanism this time, Breeding cannot be performed in any way, shape or form in LGE. I understand the rationale behind that exclusion: Let's Go was designed as a return to form, a celebration of everything Gen I stood for; and thus it makes total sense to have things exactly as in Yellow and not offer Breeding. I do understand; but I'm sad still, because Breeding would have made that game absolutely perfect as far as I'm concerned. Not being able to Breed will dramatically reduce the number of solo runs I can tackle, making LGE a mere Eevee solo run simulator instead of the grand Gen I revisitation it could have been.

Fly is too hard to find: I missed Fly entirely despite making a habit of talking to every single NPC. That's a shame, especially since LGE went above and beyond the call of duty to make HMs accessible and get rid of all the Gen I travel roadblocks. Not having Fly in my arsenal needlessly lengthened my run; so next time, I'm gonna cheat shamelessly and snatch Fly with a little help from internet wisdom.

That's pretty much the full extent of my issues with LGE; needless to say, I can totally live with that. I'll wrap up that post by saying that this game is everything a remake should be. It feels new and fresh yet lovingly familiar, and it retains the best of the original while improving on it tremendously. My brother-in-law, who's a dyed-in-the-wool genwunner, is consumed by LGE right now — and getting the same kind of Game Boy vibes from it as I did, which makes me say that this game totally managed to capture the purest, brightest essence of Gen I. Gee, could it be that I kinda became a genwunner? At any rate, my love for Kanto has never been more vibrant!

Oh, and a last-minute reveal before I take French leave: my sister, who dropped Platinum after five minutes of play because it was too grindy for her taste, has been playing LGE for 12 hours and counting. If that ain't a proof of LGE's quality and wholesomeness, I don't know what is. And now, on to the next Poke-adventure!


Atelier Sophie: Yeah, I bought it

I finally caved in and secured the whole Mysterious trilogy, despite swearing up and down that I wouldn't. But let's be honest, dear fellow gamers: you know me enough to know that I just cannot resist RPGs — and heck, I know myself enough to know that I just shouldn't make such lofty non-purchase claims.

Anyway, I expected the worst from Sophie after reading a couple of scathing reviews, starting with my fellow blogger Kina's run report; but my gaming instinct was unswayed and compelled me not only to purchase that game, but also to play it right after said purchase. And heck, it was right on the mark as usual: I've been playing Sophie for a good 8 hours, and enjoying it for just as long.

 The things I dig:

Pint-sized harvesting areas. I have a thing for teeny-tiny dungeons since I played Hyperdimension Neptunia; so Sophie's zones, which are several notches smaller than Lydie&Suelle's, are a blessing in disguise as far as I'm concerned. Sure, there's no exploration whatsoever; but I'd gladly trade the discovery thrill for harvesting ease.

Respawning materials and foes. Oh, the joy! The absence of respawning was one of my biggest regrets in L&S, as it forced me to exit areas once I was done looting them; but this time, I can forage and fight to my heart's content, as everything respawns at the speed of light. I often find it hard to stop myself from plundering zones in an endless grinding loop, which should surprise absolutely no one.

The simpler quality values. Item quality is expressed by a letter from S to E and a word (average, worthless, etc), instead of a combination of a number from 1 to 999 and a letter from S to F like in L&S. This might seem infuriatingly simple to Atelier veterans, but it's just perfect for a noob like me.

Clearer synthesis grid. I already loved L&S' grid, but I love Sophie's even more. Everything is based on matching item colours with grid colours; squares that reduce or raise colour values, which played a huge role in L&S, are nowhere to be found in Sophie. Maybe they'll pop up later; but for now, I relish the simplicity and straightforwardness of synthesis in Sophie.

The former reservations that were swept aside: 

 — The fighting system. The consensus seems to be that Sophie's fighting system is too slow and complex for its own good — and for an Atelier game; but after selecting the Easy mode upon starting and toggling the Skip feature to speed up battle animations, I found combat to be perfectly bearable, and even entertaining. It probably helps that I hardly ever change stances and don't bother targeting foes with a Warning once I'm strong enough to endure their attacks.

 — The graphics. They looked ugly on screenshots, and they look just as ugly in motion: dark subdued colours and blocky shapes, i.e. everything I hate in video games. This was clearly my biggest reservation, especially after emerging from L&S' dazzling colourful world; but fortunately, I manage to forget the graphics entirely as I play. I also find myself unexpectedly drawn to the skies, which are some of the most gorgeous I've encountered in an Atelier game. I'm especially starstruck (indeed) when gazing at the sunset and starry night skies.

In brief: so far, so good! I have no trouble at all unlocking recipes, to my utter relief and delight; and since I'm focusing on recovering Plachta's memories instead of clearing side quests, I'm progressing much faster than in L&S. Stay tuned for fresh run reports, dear fellow gamers!


RemiLore: Now we're talking (and loving it)

So, this is one of those games; one of those games in which the first playthrough is the hardest and the most tedious by far, and exists solely to pave the way for further and more pleasant ones. RemiLore suddenly became oodles of fun after the credits rolled for the first time, and I've been on a roll (indeed) ever since. My first run was seven hours long, and full to the brim with untimely deaths; the half-dozen runs I polished off after that, on the other hand, never lasted more than one hour and didn't see me kick the bucket once. Talk about a serious change of fortune!

Of course, this is totally due to the many New Game + playing options, which allow the diligent player to toggle difficulty at will. After struggling like crazy during my first run, I wanted to have an easy ride, i.e. what I signed for in the first place; and lucky me, I finally got it thanks to the awesome Custom Load option, which lets you choose the weapon and Ultimate Spell of your choice and change them at any moment. I settled for Remi's Golden Broom, i.e. the most powerful weapon in the whole game, and the Flame spell, i.e. the best way to wipe a room clean in a matter of seconds. I conveniently switch to Bullet Onslaught for boss fights, just to be able to deal damage from a distance. I know that's cheap, but I just love it.

My vision — and experience — of RemiLore radically improved after I finished it; and had I known what I know now, I would probably had played my first run differently and spared myself a lot of hassle. And because I'm really just a kind soul, I'm gonna give you my personal advice for a comfortable first run, dear fellow gamers:

— Avoid what I dubbed 'Unreliable Random Rolls' like the plague. They look like floating papers, and they'll randomly grant you upgrades as readily as downgrades. You should avoid them entirely during your first run, because you cannot alleviate the bad consequences of downgrades during said first run. After I got an excellent weapon/Ultimate Spell switched to a lamer one and my MP and HP reduced a couple of times, I learnt my lesson. Painfully.

— Stick to a weapon that grants improved critical rate if you can: it really makes a HUGE difference on the battlefield. Also, stick to the three main offensive Ultimate Spells, namely Flame, Bullet Onslaught and Spiral Onslaught: they'll come in handy both during regular fights and boss fights.

— Your faithful book Lore shoots self-aiming bullets at regular intervals; that ability can be used to deal damage to bosses while taking the time to study their attack patterns. In fact, it can even be used to eliminate them entirely: I managed to finish off one boss that way, running and dashing around it while Lore did his thing. Perfect when your HP bar is nearly depleted.

— Dashing can be a lifesaver — literally. I usually charge like a bull and don't bother parrying or dodging in ARPGs; but this time, I used the B button like my life depended on it — which was actually the case. You just won't make it through that game in one piece if you don't Dash; so better get used to it right away. 

Overall, just keep in mind that your main goal during the first run is to make it alive. Fun will come afterwards! Once you get through the hassle of the first run, RemiLore becomes the perfect game for a gaming quickie, offering pint-sized yet fulfilling playthroughs. Such games are painfully rare these days, so I'll definitely cherish RemiLore and hold onto my save data like my life depends on it!