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2/11/2016

Spoony Plays Dark Cloud, Part 6

Rebuilding the seaside town.



As mentioned, the game-changer in Queens is that you can buy the dungeon back-floor keys (Flapping Fish) from Ruty's shop. In fact, it's much more efficient to sell any bait you find, buy some Flapping Fish and Ice, and hit the back floor of B16 than it is to go fishing now, so take advantage of that.  You'll usually get 1-2 gems per trip.

(The only down-side is that you have no control over which gems you get, but this isn't much of a problem - you can always sell any extras or just store them away for later.  The latter's probably a better idea as the top-tier weapons take a lot of points to upgrade.)


We start by getting Toan's sword upgraded to the Lamb's Sword, which has the odd property of doing lower damage when at high WHP.  When it gets low, however, it becomes the "Wolf's Sword" and its damage skyrockets (enough to one-shot most enemies in the Sunken Ship).


Xiao's Double Impact was upgraded to the Divine Beast Title.  Not much to say about it, but she does more damage now and that's never a bad thing.  Plus it's one step closer to her ultimate weapon!


I upgraded the Trial Hammer to +5 and Synthsphered it, which got folded into the Big Bucks Hammer, which in turn was folded into my Turtle Hammer and gave it the boost it needed to turn into the Battle Axe.  This also lets me carry over a few choice attributes of those weapons as well; namely Big Bucks, Durable and Abs Up.  The last of the three is especially important as it will reduce the amount of grinding I will have to do with him later!  Of course, getting more gold and having to use less repair powders is no bad thing either.


I did the same thing with Ruby, upgrading her Bandit's Ring to +5, Synthing it and attaching it to her Platinum Ring to put her over the top for the Crystal Ring.  Said ring also inherited the Bandit Ring's Steal ability, which means I can swipe items from enemies as well to provide a steady flow of cash.  Very useful indeed.


Something else I didn't note at the time is that Suzy's shop name change actually affects her inventory.  The best option to pick is "Freshen Up", as she will begin stocking Attack, Endurance, Speed and MP +1 items.  The latter two can't be bought anywhere else, save for the shop just before the final dungeon, so it's definitely worth picking option 1 just for that!


In the course of all this leveling up, I also collected plenty of cash and salable items.  Which means I've got a solid hoard of gold for later!

Spoony's Top Games of 2014

8. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

A step forward for the series in that it's remarkably well-balanced, provides immensely fun gameplay for both casual and serious play, and plenty of playable characters, stages and new weapons to play with.  A step back in that in order to bring us that, they seem to have completely sacrificed the single player experience.  The single player modes are now either tedious luck-based exercises (Target Blast, Smash Tour, Crazy Orders) and the computer is made downright cheap by giving them that obnoxious Mortal Kombat AI that is able to react to your moves with split-second timing, making completing the game a matter of exploiting AI loopholes rather than building up any actual skill that can be translated into versus battles.  The much-touted online play also returns once again, though the netcode is still extremely bad and laggy and there's no option to play with only people in your general geographic area to try and offset that.  Still, Smash 4 is an incredible multiplayer experience for local brawls; I just wish they'd put as much thought into that as they did every other aspect!

7. Shadowgate

A high quality remake of the classic point-and-click adventure title that not only features a redone soundtrack and visuals, but remixed puzzles, multiple difficulty settings and even quite a few hidden secrets to find; some in the form of hidden death scenes, others in the form of easter eggs and some extra bonuses included with the Halloween update.  A blast for any fans of the old ICOM adventure games.  I eagerly await the remake of Beyond Shadowgate in 2016!


6. Mario Kart 8


Mario Kart has been one of Nintendo's most popular and prevalent franchises, appearing on just about every platform they've released since the mid-90s.  They've varied pretty heavily in quality over that long lifespan, but Mario Kart 8 is doubtlessly among the best of them with its inspired track designs, gorgeous HD visuals and blistering-fast gameplay with a surprisingly well-balanced mix of weapons and stage hazards.  Heavyweights even have a distinct advantage on some courses thanks to the addition of the new anti-gravity mechanic, so even the cast is surprisingly well-rounded as well.  The only downside is that they flubbed up the versus mode by setting it on normal tracks instead of in specially-designed arenas...

5. Shovel Knight


Too often these days we see low-budget games try to hide their mediocre gameplay behind 8-bit visuals and chiptune music to pander to the "retro" crowd.  However, I'm glad to say that Shovel Knight is very much an exception to that rule, as the game is all-around a well designed, fluid and fun experience that combines elements of Mega Man, Ducktales and Mario whilst also having enough original ideas to stand on its own as well.  Yacht Club games really did set out to make a high-quality NES game in the modern era, not just a mediocre title that looks like one.

4. Freedom Planet


Like Shovel Knight, Freedom Planet is a throwback to an earlier era of gaming - specifically, the era of colorful mascot platformers on the Sega Genesis.  Also like Shovel Knight, it nails it to a T, capturing the best elements of games like Rocket Knight Adventures, Gunstar Heroes and the classic Sonic games in one solid package.  The fact that the game also gives you three playable characters, each with very distinct gameplay styles, also lends it some considerable replay value as well.  Freedom Planet is a very worthy homage to a niche of gaming which goes largely overlooked these days.

3. Shadowrun: Dragonfall


Quality CRPGs built on the model of games like classic Fallout are becoming increasingly rare these days, but Harebrained Schemes keeps the tradition alive with their excellent reboot of Shadowrun.  Dragonfall is particularly great, thrusting the player and a small group of their comrades into an anarchic Germany on a quest to avenge the death of a friend, with every step they take digging them deeper into a grand conspiracy and every choice they make earning them new friends and enemies alike.  There are no easy choices in Dragonfall, which makes for some very compelling storytelling throughout.

2. Danganronpa 1/2


I may catch some heat for putting two visual novels this high on my top list, but I stand by the choice anyway as the Danganronpa games are an unforgettable experience.  Both games star a group of high school kids in a twisted game where they compete for their freedom (and lives), accentuated throughout by a surreal atmosphere, bizarre sense of humor and some amazingly well-realized characters throughout.  Not to mention some surprisingly twisted murder mysteries and the gravity of the situation as it slowly dawns on you just what kind of situation you're really in.  Lots of fun all around.

1. Bayonetta 2


How does one top a strong contender for the finest action title ever made?  I'm not sure, but Yusuke Hashimoto found a way with Bayonetta 2, taking the over-the-top, frenetic action of Bayonetta and pushing it even further into delightful insanity.  Huge boss battles, new combos and transformations, a wide variety of new weapons to play with, gorgeous visuals with fluid animation that never misses a beat, and of course the same utterly hilarious protagonist the first game brought us.  Bayonetta remains not just the queen of the action genre, but one of my favorite franchises of all time.

2/10/2016

Cold Gaming: Consortium, Bard's Tale, Betrayal at Krondor

One doesn't work, one ain't so great and one is a bit of an enigma to me.

Spoony's Top Games of 2012

9. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

A remake of the original PC cult classic UFO: Enemy Unknown (also known as X-Com: UFO Defense), and quite a worthy one at that.  The game is definitely a much more streamlined experience, with much faster pacing to the combat and bureaucratic elements, but losing none of its iconic depth in the process.  You're still fighting aliens, reverse-engineering their technology and trying to keep ahead of a constant influx of new threats as they launch their calculated invasion of Earth.  Good stuff.  Just a shame that the PC port is rather buggy and seems to crash a lot, especially during the base infiltration missions.

8. Noitu Love 2: Devolution

The first Noitu Love game was a fairly lackluster clone of Mega Man, but the sequel is an entirely different beast, seemingly drawing heavy inspiration from high-speed action titles on the Sega Genesis from the likes of Treasure and Konami.  The end result is phenomenal, delivering some fast-paced beat-em-up action while also throwing in some clever action setpieces, over-the-top boss battles and surprisingly fluid animation and catchy tunes.  It may be a $5 game, but it's easily on par with any of the great Genesis classics.



7. Ys Origin

The only game in the Ys series that still hasn't gotten a release on a console or handheld, but that doesn't mean it's any less worthwhile.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  It's also a nice throwback to the earlier games, being a single-character game that retains the series' incredible sense of speed in combat and colossal boss battles that require finely honed reflexes.  There is also some considerable replay value thanks to the game including three playable characters, numerous game modes and several difficulties.  The definitive "Arcade RPG" experience.

6. Torchlight 2

The original Torchlight was a solid action-RPG experience for the PC (later released on a few consoles as well), but its major achilles heel was that it lacked co-op.  The sequel fixes that right out of the gate, but also adds in a greater variety of player classes, enemies, weapons and even support for player mods that enable all sorts of new functionality.  Hell, you can even play online with said mods, though it can be a bit difficult to set up (every player must have the exact same set of mods installed or it won't work) and a bit prone to crashing or dropping connections.  Still, Torchlight 2 is an incredibly fun experience throughout.

5. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

Platformers have been in a bit of a slump lately, with most either being uninspired "retro throwback" games that hide their mediocre gameplay behind pandering visuals, or just uninspired retreads of earlier franchises so that Nintendo can make a few more easy bucks. However, Twisted Dreams breaks the mold by being fresh and fun.  Throughout the game you swap between two modes - Cute and Punk - and your environments change to match, with Cute mode putting you in a darker, creepier and more dangerous environment and Punk mode putting you in a colorful fairytale world.  You must swap back and forth throughout to uncover secrets, traverse obstacles and cause subtle changes to the stage layout in order to proceed.  A clever idea with a great execution.

4. Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

A visual novel game that, at first, appears to be little more than a twisted version of those "room escape" puzzle games.  Which it is, but beneath the surface lies a surprisingly strong science fiction storyline with some clever mechanics and themes.  As well as some fun characters, surprisingly funny dialog and just the right amount of mystery and horror to keep things riveting, of course.  I don't want to say too much for fear of giving things away; just that you should play this game.  And its prequel, 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors on the DS.

3. Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed

For a long time, I considered Mario Kart to be the king of arcade-styled racing games.  Well, you can definitely color me surprised that not only would someone surpass it, but it would be a game in the Sonic franchise, of all things.  But that's exactly what Sumo Digital did, creating an incredible game that combines a fantastic sense of speed, a wide roster of characters, some excellent visuals and music and some creative mechanics.  My favorite being the titular "transformations", where the track dynamically shifts mid-race and your vehicles transform into planes, hovercrafts and cars to match.  Really cool stuff and a great concept for a racer.

2. Dust: An Elysian Tail

A gorgeously-animated 2D action title that combines elements of Symphony of the Night and action-driven beat-em-ups like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, which would be more than enough to win me over in itself.  But then you add in some great characters with surprisingly strong voice acting, and consider that this entire game was designed, programmed and animated entirely by one guy, and you've got a downright incredible game.  The last great title for the Xbox 360, and one which any fan of the classics should experience.

1. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 Golden

Persona 4 Golden had a daunting task before it - taking a beloved Playstation 2 RPG (one which many consider one of the best JRPGs of all time, no less) and making it even better.  Thankfully the ever-talented Atlus is definitely up to the task, adding numerous new quests, storyline elements, and even some new characters to come along for the ride.  I can safely say that the end result is not only a stellar experience, but one of my favorite games of all time.  This was the game that singlehandedly sold me a PSVita.

Spoony's Top Ten Games of 2013

10. Deadly Premonition: Director's Cut

A highly divisive cult classic on the Xbox 360, with some chastising it for its low production values and somewhat lackluster gameplay, with others loving it for its surreal atmosphere and surprisingly charming cast of characters.  Not much has changed in the Director's Cut, though the gameplay has been rebalanced a bit and the story has been expanded upon slightly.  Still, those who didn't get a chance to experience the game in its original release should definitely give this one a whirl; love it or hate it, there's nothing else out there quite like Deadly Premonition.

9. Shadowrun Returns

A continuation of the cult-classic SNES RPG "Shadowrun", which is in turn based on the tabletop game of the same name, Shadowrun Returns brings the franchise back with style.  With a wry sense of humor and an interesting setting that combines elements of fantasy and cyberpunk, the game definitely has charm to spare.  It did have some weird bugs upon its initial launch, but once those got patched up fans of classic-styled CRPGs definitely had a lot to enjoy with Shadowrun Returns.

8. Disgaea D2

Disgaea marches on once more, bringing the game somewhat back to basics by doing away with the Magichange mechanics of 3 and 4 and returning to the original game's protagonists to expand upon their story.  The game's story is still off-kilter and silly, but the gameplay beneath is as deep as ever, with a huge amount of customization for your characters, weapons and overall party.  Not to mention some optional bosses that require a very hefty time investment and impeccable strategy to overcome.  This is easily my favorite Disgaea since the second one.

7. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs

The original Amnesia was a triumph in the horror game genre in that it was one of the few games I consider legitimately scary, setting up a heavy and oppressive atmosphere and also managing to convey a sense of ever-present menace without relying on hacky jumpscares or cheap, overblown gore.  Amnesia 2, however, may just surpass it, if only for its themes of mad science and technological progress gone wrong that lend it a more plausible edge.  The absence of combat in the game is also a plus, forcing you to rely on staying hidden or, in a pinch, just running like hell and hoping you can get away.  A perfect blend of puzzle solving and unease.

6. Path of Exile

A stellar Diablo clone from several former Blizzard alumni, Path of Exile is perhaps the best free-to-play game experience I've ever encountered.  Not only is does it resist the temptation to nickel-and-dime you every step of the way (with paid upgrades mostly being cosmetic), but it also implements many ill-advised mechanics from other games and executes them well.  The Final Fantasy X sphere grid is here, but it lends itself to actual, meaningful character customization.  Skills are also attached to weapons and armor a la Materia, which allows for considerable character customization without feeling unbalanced or gimmicky.  But beneath it all lies a fantastic action-RPG experience that should not be missed.

5. Ys: Memories of Celceta

Ys was always a pretty overlooked action-RPG series ever since its debut in the '80s, but I'm glad that with the advent of the PSP and the PSVita, it's starting to get some recognition.  Memories of Celceta is a remake of the fourth game in the franchise, which famously saw two distinct versions developed by two different companies and released on different platforms.  Of course, the one developed by the company that developed the series ended up being the definitive version, being a fantastic party-driven RPG with a fun cast of characters and some clever mechanics, not to mention a surprisingly captivating story.

4. Super Mario 3D World

It may not be the most original of franchises, much less in light of the dull retreads known as the New Super Mario Bros. series, but compared to those 3D World feels downright inspired by comparison.  Taking more of the "classic Mario in 3D" feel of 3D land, the game also sports four-player simultaneous play, new powerups like the Cherry (which creates a double of your character) and the Cat Suit (allows wall-climbing), and cleverly-designed levels laden with plenty of clever secrets.  Oh, and five playable characters, each with their own attributes a la Super Mario Bros 2.  Pair that up with gorgeous HD graphics and a surprising amount of challenge, and you have one fun platformer.

3. Earth Defense Force 2025

Sandlot's budget franchise comes back with a vengeance after a not-so-great American developed entry, and like 2017 before it, it's an incredible experience.  It's essentially Smash TV, just in a city-sized arena - mowing down waves of giant ants, bees, spiders, robots and other assorted mobs with a wide variety of weapons, ridable vehicles and even four selectable classes.  From the flying Wing Divers (very mobile but with relatively low health and weak weapons), the Air Raider (a support unit for multiplayer teams) and the Fencer (a slow but powerful character who can dual wield units), EDF2025 is immensely fun whether single player or as part of a group.  Oh, and it has online play too.

2. Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Very much a throwback Zelda, moreso than any other released in perhaps the past decade.  The world map, gameplay design and general aesthetic is highly reminiscent of Link to the Past, and the gameplay is very open-ended and nonlinear a la the original Legend of Zelda.  Neither of which is a bad thing in my book.  And of course, the series definitely doesn't skimp on what it does best - clever puzzles, giant boss battles and the feel of a grand, captivating fantasy adventure with a pretty clever plot twist or two along the way.  I definitely approve.

1. DmC: Devil May Cry

Ah, DmC.  I don't think I've ever seen a game be so heavily panned by gamers before it was even released.  I can see where they're coming from to a degree, as the game's aesthetic, atmosphere story have been entirely rebooted into something completely unlike the series norm, taking on much more of a punk vibe.  However, I think that actually works in the game's favor, in part because of the way it's executed.  Not only are you fighting demonic forces running Limbo City from the shadows, but the city itself is an active enemy much of the time, rearranging itself into hazardous obstacles that you must traverse both in and out of combat (and can occasionally even use to your advantage in the latter).  The malleable cityscape also lends itself to a very stylish, surreal game environment rather than the rather bland environments of the earlier DMC games.  Plus, I actually rather like the whole demon-run dystopia element; it definitely lends a lot more gravity to the story and characters when you see just how outmatched they really are, and it lends itself to a bit of an arc for many of the characters, whereas in the previous games they were mostly over-the-top, arrogant and a bit difficult to take seriously.  The changes the series underwent are definitely strange, but those who give DmC a chance to stand on its own merits will find a title of considerable worth.

2/09/2016

Spoony Plays Thief Gold, Part 6

I'm pretty bored of caves. Let's rob an opera house!

(Twitch ate the first minute or so of my stream again for no reason...)