Game Progress 5/5/19
May 05, 2019

RPGs take time to complete, and I don't always have a lot of time. That's why I decided to play five of them simultaneously and basically hamstring myself. Good idea, right?

Okay, so two of them were short and won't be mentioned here much: Undertale and Cat Quest. Both are done, and there isn't more I can say about them.

However, the three current time sinks I'm pushing through are meatier titles with completely different content in regards to quality among them. I've already pumped countless hours into two of them, and have only scratched the surface of the third....

Phantasy Star II had my undivided attention for the last couple of weeks. Most of that time was spent grinding levels or outfitting my party with freshly bought equipment.

PROGRESS THUS FAR: Finished. I took some time to get my party (Rolf, Rudo, Anna, Kain) up to level 35, got the last of the Nei equipment and headed to the final dungeon, Noah. It took me a couple of days to vanquish Dark Force, since that battle mostly boils down to luck and I'm not the luckiest person. Thankfully, I had the Visiphone, so I could save right before and after killing him. I found Mother Brain to be a little more difficult, but I didn't spend nearly as much time taking her out. From there, I got to watch the surprise ending play out as the credits rolled. I also took the time to load up Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom and played only the first few minutes. That'll be one of my future projects when I'm done with the other two games I'm playing...

WHAT WORKS BEST: Dungeons. Holy crap. The dungeons don't take up a whole lot of space, but they're so intricate. Whoever designed them knew how to make the most of a tiny area. They also don't rely entirely on gimmicks, and they're engaging regardless of whether you use a map online or not. If you don't use a map, you really need to rely on your wits or just generate a handmade chart. On the other hand, you still need to examine the finer points of someone else's map and discover the best route to take. That way you can nab all of the goodies and complete the dungeon without having to backtrack much.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK SO WELL: The menu system. To heal someone, I had to go through something like three or four different pop-up windows. Once that person receives their healing, all of the windows close and I had to restart. I rarely had to heal just one person once, too, so this became a royal pain. It was also annoying when I was in a shop and I accidentally select an item I didn't want. When I'd try to back out, I'd end up canceling the transaction altogether and leaving the shop. I'd need to reenter and remember not to accidentally touch the wrong item.

Blue Dragon has gotten some attention over the last few days, though I'm not enthused by it. As far as I'm concerned, it's basically a watered down Dragon Quest, but with a sweet boss theme.

PROGRESS THUS FAR: I've returned to the first village, only to find it overrun by undead. I have no idea what's going on. By this point, I've also recruited the fourth character, Marumaro, who's extremely annoying (as Overdrive indicated in a previous blog post). Oh my god, this kid drives me nuts.

WHAT WORKS BEST: Awesome visuals (aside from animation, which is choppy) provided by Akira Toriyama, and a great soundtrack by Nobuo Uetmatsu. There's even a boss theme with Ian Gillan on vocals. It gets stuck in my head often, even though it is a tad cheesy.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK SO WELL: This is a very flat, tedious RPG with almost nothing special about it. Battle are simple, enemies die easily, bosses are forgettable and require very little effort to defeat... But it's got great music, so this is basically the Mystic Quest of its time. Okay, so Mystic Quest did have tougher bosses, but still... Also, Marumaro has the worst voice of any character in almost any game I've played. He petulantly yell/whines every line.

Riviera: The Promised Land (PSP version) is a promising game. It's not your average RPG, as it plays more like a visual novel with battles. Every dungeon consists of areas, which are further divided into individual rooms. You can move to the next room and ignore everything around you, or spend points examining your surroundings. Doing this will produce a number of results, such as finding an item, battling an enemy (which results in more points to spend on examining your surroundings, and gives you an item), earning points, or potentially causing harm to yourself. Like, there's a batch of thorny plants you can examine in the first dungeon that permanently subtracts 5% of your max HP. Looking at it has no other effects. Yeah, sometimes stupid stuff like that.

Also, you don't build levels normally, by gaining experience from defeated enemies. Instead, you have to level up each character's proficiency with different weapons, armor and consumables. This not only gives you new skills, but also nets you some permanent stat increases.

PROGRESS THUS FAR: I'm not far into it. I'm only partway through the first real dungeon (not including the introductory stage, which was more like a tutorial). I defeated one boss there, and I think I'm about to hit another one soon. Either that or a major story event.

WHAT WORKS BEST: It's a refreshing take on the roleplaying genre. Most of the game operates via menu. You don't get to roam around at all, and only explore towns or dungeons by selecting paths to take and things to observe. You're also not limited to story battles. At just about any time, you can enter a "practice" battle that nets you all of the perks of a real fight, but doesn't consume your items when you use them. This is crucial, because most weapons break after so many uses.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK SO WELL: Two things. For one, I miss the free roaming. While this game's mechanics are fresh, they're also pretty limiting. The other thing is that you will reload your data a lot. Dungeons allow you to save between segments, which is nice. However, a lot of the interactive events put you in positions where you'll either permanently lose health or you have to go through multiple strings of QTEs that give you next to no time to complete them. I'd rather not lose max HP if I can help it, so I often end up resetting and reloading.

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