Episode 204: Resident Evil

When too many people go missing, it's time to call in the experts.  When the experts go missing, it's time to call in... S.T.A.R.S. ... !  Join Jill and Chris as they explore a mansion infested with badness.  A sort of evil, one might say, in residence at said mansion.  Fight through undead abominations, tricky puzzles, and pre-rendered backgrounds resulting in clunky camera angles to save your friends... and yourself!  Though, there's less fighting and more puzzle solving, so maybe you'll want to bring some quick quips so you can keep up with Guybrush.

Here's a download.  It might be handy if you, a master of downloading, take it with ya.

Show Notes

(01:00) Thanks Audience!  This Podcast was almost a Jill Sandwich!

(18:15) The Super NES Mini, next to a copy of Persona 5 and a Nintendo 3DS for scale.

(22:00) Happy Death Day!  It's genuinely good!

(27:45) Run Like Hell is an Xbox/PS2 title similar to Resident Evil.  Old enough nobody remembers it but not quite old enough to be of interest to this podcast.

(28:45) The awkward-ass opening cut scene of the original Resident Evil, almost as awkward as us trying to transition into talking about it!

(30:00) Chris Redfield: Boulder Puncher

(47:15) Ranking Evil

Next time on Last Time, Alex Kidd in Shinobi World!

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Episode 195: The Least Dangerous Game [Landstalker]

Some treasure hunters are legendary.  Some steal phoenix feathers to try to resurrect their long-dead girlfriends.  Others think that all artifacts belong in museums.  Some... use all their money to pursue a vague hint of some nebulously defined treasure.  And hop awkwardly to get there.  Summon an eagle (components: 5000 gold pieces) and fly to adventure!  Or mostly just falling down holes a lot and trying to get over that danged pit.

All downloads make the same noise when you hit them.

Show Notes

(04:35) Layton Mystery Journal! Now on IOS and 3DS!

(05:45) The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human

(10:25) Shock and Surprise, Zach’s playing League Of Legends

(12:45) More Stories of Players Unknown Battlegrounds

(22:15) Persona 5! Major Spoilers. Like, the entire ending of the game.

(25:30) Persona 5: Clearly The Greatest Valentine's Day Option. Mild Spoilers

(29:45) The article Tyler cited saying running like Naruto makes you run faster appears to be farcical. Other great articles on the site include: That one website that streamed One Punch Man is shutting down.

(33:45) The assignment Land… wait more Persona 5 spoilers.

(37:00) For real, the assignment, Landstalker

(46:45) Ranking the Land

Next time on Last Time, Final Fantasy II!

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Episode 192: Cool Ferrari Physics [Another World]

One night, a terrible particle accelerator-based accident occurs!  Leaving his Ferrari behind, incredibly cool guy Lester Chaykin ends up, presumably in a galaxy far, far away.  Taking after the Indiana Jones school of Ph.D.s, he set out on a grand adventure to find out where he is and where he should be.  Unfortunately, he's not nearly as good at it as ol' Indy, and he dies... a lot.  Then gets captured.  Then almost dies, but eventually there's a space dragon, so it all works out.  Fun!(?)

Downloads are your Buddies.

Show Notes

(04:00) JRPGs and New Game +, which Chrono Trigger apparently named.

(12:30) Fire breath me like one of your French girls.

(17:30) Indigo Prophecy looks pretty spiffing.  Also, time for Another World.

(34:30) Transported to a sorted list of rankings?

Next time on Last Time, Cho Aniki!

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Zach's "Mostly" full thoughts on Breath of the Wild

    So this week on the Podcast we talked Breath of the Wild and I went on what could only be charitably called a Semi-coherent rant on the game. Rather obviously the whole of my personal feelings on the game didn't come through so I'd like to take this time to go more into depth as to why I think it is the single most overrated game I've ever played.

    First off the game is designed around the open-world letting the player decide what they want to go experience and when they want to go take on the final boss. There's nothing inherently wrong with this idea. Honestly the way Zelda is built its a great idea the very first Zelda was probably one of the first open-worldish games that were released. However the game doesn't do anything to actively engage and encourage the player to explore. Enemies killing the player in one shot and one of the first likely events to happen is to get one shot by an enemy you didn't even know was there is not good for exploration. But more critically there is nothing in the world to find. All the micro-dungeons I delved into looked and felt the same. While other games like Oblivion and Skyrim can have that issue they make up for it by providing loot. You can find cool things in the dungeons which can buff up your character with new armor and weaponry. By contrast Breath of the Wild's dungeons are all small and neon with basically nothing in them. With this being the case they begin to feel like a slog and just ticking a checkbox to increase Link's stats. Which leads to the next issue.

    The means to travel the world are great, being able to swim, climb and glide makes the world open up in  a way that even Fallout and Skyrim can't match. That said Link's starting stamina is less than an Obese asthmatic smoker with his sprint being so short it is pointless to even bother and being unable to swim across a tiny pond ruins the experience. However even this could have been OK and upgrading things are always a normal thing in these kinds of games but the real killer in the game is its god-awful combat.

    The real killer for the game is its combat. The combat is probably the worst one I've ever had the unpleasant experience of interacting with. I was told on the podcast that there is a dodge mechanic but since the game doesn't bother with a tutorial, like every game does, I never found it. If you didn't die in a single hit from basically every enemy you could get used to the combat before it started beating you down. A great example of this done right would be the newer Xcom games. There is a tutorial to get you used to the controls but after that you, the player, must figure out how to win. I said on the podcast that I felt better losing multiple hours of gameplay in Xcom than I did dying once in Breath of the Wild. The main rub is that whenever I died in Zelda it never felt like my fault while in Xcom when I lost characters I knew it was my mistake even if it was a low chance to work I, the player, made the decisions that led to the problem. In Zelda dying is less lost progress but it always felt unfair. That is more important if it doesn't feel fair, which without providing the player with the information to use the tools they are given, you can't really accomplish.

    The tools given as I already stated break if you look at them funny but even that could be OK. After all the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games incorporate weapon degradation and the player will usually be carrying multiple different ones in that eventuality. The difference lays in the fact that in these games weapons degrade in effectiveness. They don't just break out of left field. The other thing these games do that this Zelda doesn't is provide armor. the player is given the tools to succeed in combat. Even after leaving the starting area the player has a couple of weapons, knowledge of the combat system, and armor. Breath of the Wild seems to not believe in armor and because of this it makes combat something that was avoided as much as possible which again breaks the exploration vibe. I don't advocate the enemies being pushovers but one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had was the first time I encountered a dragon while exploring in Skyrim. It was a dangerous and tense fight but since I had all the tools to fight back it was fun. However a better example to use would likely be Fallout 4. This is due to the large preponderance of Fat Man launchers in the wasteland. These instant-kill weapons float around but the player has methods of hitting back and killing the person carrying the weapon gives the player the weapon. This adds a risk-reward to the encounter. Killing an instant death enemy in Zelda doesn't even give me a sword. All it does is cost resources without providing any of same.
    The surface layer of Zelda Breath of the Wild isn't a terrible concept but digging deeper into the core mechanics and gameplay absolutely kill the game. I can ignore a terrible story, I played Fallout 4, for the sake of fun exploration and combat. Unfortunately Breath of the Wild has neither. At the end of the day it sold and will sell thousands of copies because Nintendo but if you want a better exploration game so long as the Bethesda games are available that's where you should look. Better combat, better world, better game.

Zach out.

Episode 185: Monster Bro [Wonder Boy in Monster Land]

There comes a time in every young, skateboarding cave-boy's life to pick up the sword and shield of his ancestors and deliver a beatdown on some monsters.  Saving princesses is already second nature to young Wonder Lad, and it's time for the lad to become a boy!  Explore a surprisingly metroidvania landscape before it was really known as a thing, and try to figure out how ceramic armor works so well against swords.

Ceramic Download!

Show Notes

(02:00) This is what blast processing was. Very technical.

(06:00) Scrooge Vs Shovel Knight

(10:00) The Assignment: The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. That came out in 1987 right? Potential spoilers.

(53:00) The actual assignment, Wonder Boy in Monster Land

(1:03:30) Geremy lied; Aladdin and the King of Thieves was not theatrically released, but Robin Williams did return to play Genie.

(1:04:00) Ranking Time

Next time on Last Time,  Postal 2!

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Episode 168: @#^! Off, Flipper [Ecco The Dolphin]

The dolphin: sleek, majestic, and one of the most popular animals in the mid-90s.  It's hard to think of another animal that rivaled the popularity of our aquatic mammalian friends, and that's probably the reason this game exists.  Also, extraterrestrials, because why not?  Too bad all these keys make a door.

Echolocate right over to our download.

Show Notes

(02:30) Yeah, the Genesis sure was a system, guys.

(05:30) Everyone's favorite Mega Sauyan, Gurko.

(07:10) Drifters actually looks pretty sweet, but it's obviously the same animation team as Hellsing.

(11:00) Really quickly, this is the opening we got.  The travesty!

(14:20) Yay mechs.

(17:00) Not the game we thought it was, but there are a lot of adorable rabbit people.

(19:00) There have apparently been a couple ShinTen anime.

(21:30) Talking about some things we want to see in Sun/Moon (they largely came true!).

(23:00) A better dolphin world.

(25:00) Dr. Stranger.  Also, more ridiculous doctoring.

(28:00) So, dolphin time.  This game has a really weird plot.

(41:00) Here's a speedrun.  It's more amusing than the game was intended to be.

(44:00) Pay attention to the games used as arguments for the Genesis.

(45:30) Turns out dolphins don't survive at great depths, which is where this one fell.

Next time on Last Time, Donkey Kong!  The other one.

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Episode 113: Let's Go on Vacation! [StarTropics]

Follow us on a magical seafaring adventure!  Sadly, it's not Wind Waker.  Mike, hero of Americola, has come to rescue his uncle based on information from a weird pack-in letter that came with the game!  Using his mighty weapon, he will conquer the undead - for some reason? - and save his uncle from aliens!

Use the download to beat your enemies like a yo-yo, yo!

Show Notes

(01:10) Mega Man, shootin' lemons.

(01:30) Kira "Jesus" Yamato.

(12:00) Bad strategy: the game!

(18:00) I was going to post something about Allenby, but here's the Burning Finger Speech instead.

(20:45) Crazy Dishonored shenanigans.

(21:40) The StarTropics overview.  No game is an island?

(29:45) Mike is a robot!  Jumping and general maneuvering.

(34:30) The bullshit ghost village dungeon and its relation to IWBTG.  We further discuss some resource problems this game has.  At least you can save the game.

(40:00) The negative feedback yo-yo.  Enemies are actually pretty good, though.

(43:00) Rankings, yo-yo.  Finishing first, Super Mario Kart.  Taking the silver is Star Wars: Dark Forces.  A solid bronze: Star Soldier.

Next time on Last Time, Alien Storm!

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Episode 87: Wake Up! [Link's Awakening]

The chain chomps and goombas are invading! Despite that, we're actually playing a Zelda game. In fact, it's the first that gives you an apparently mystical and well guarded secret in the LoZ universe: the power to jump! Travel with us as Link discovers an island of NPCs worth having dialogue boxes and the first of many trading sequences.

The download, 'tis but a dream.

Show Notes

(03:00) Final LCS tales!

(03:45) Feng Shui 2 sounds pretty cool.

(13:00) Abyss Odyssey is a game about Spanish/French mythology and also killing things... by Atlus, because of course.

(16:00) Just gonna throw this out there: Payday 2: A Payday for Pigs.  Smooth, John.  They've fixed that bug by now, so ya'll know.

(23:00) AC4 continues to sound awesome.

(31:10) Tribunals in games.

(36:45) Cosmetic changes that greatly affect performance.

(45:00) No sword?  No problem!

(50:30) Roc's Feather.

Next Time on Last Time, it's NIGHTS Into Dreams!

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Episode 86: Why Is the Second Game Always the Worst? [Metroid II]

Join us for our second foray into sci-fi spelunking with everyone's alien bird hybrid bounty hunter! Although, she may be the only one. Come explore caves, remnants of an ancient culture, and more caves with us as Samus attempts to commit genocide. Also, she can roll on ceilings!

The download is a little sticky from the spider ball...

Show Notes

(04:30) Gamergate.  Seriously, people, is some class too much to ask?

(13:30) Deicide and you.

(16:10) Zach's League tales and edifying Tyler about lane mechanics.

(24:00) I'm announcing an announcement about an announcement.

(28:30) Some discussion on what qualifies as a "free" game.

(32:35) Innocent Life looks mildly amusing.

(38:00) Metroid II could have had better music.  I shouldn't feel like I'm in Subrosia in a Metroid game.  Or maybe I should?  It looks good, though.

Next Time on Last Time, it's Link's Awakening!

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Episode 68: Duh Duh Duh Duuuh! You Got the Podcast! [The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past]

Join us on an epic adventure to save the princess and find a bunch of neat tools in the process! Find the MacGuffins, talk to fairies in caves, and, most importantly, use the Pegasus Boots to go everywhere because walking's for chumps. Also, don't forget your vanity mirror. It's dangerous to go alone!

This dungeon's item is a download!

(00:50) Thanks, Ranger Danger!

(03:15) Pikmin 3 is a bit short, but pretty great.

(06:50) Zach finally beat FTL.

(17:45) The past has links and deities!

(21:00) Training simulator!

(26:00) That's totally a maiden vanishing right there.

(27:30) Legend of Zelda: Tale of Yardwork.

(28:15) Combat in LttP.

(34:00) Boss run!... down.

(42:00) Comparing this game to Skyrim.

Next time on Last Time, Wild Guns!

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Episode 56: Magic Mutants and Tanks [Blaster Master]

In a world, where frogs can find mutant lairs that RADAR somehow can't, one man/boy will somehow know how to pilot a super tank and have a gun. Are you a bad enough dude to ignore the excuse plot and save the planet?

You might have to get out of your vehicle to download this.

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Episode 50: We Apologize for the Audio Quality... And Also the Game Quality [Prince of Persia]

This week, we play our first rotoscoped game.  A daring adventure through dungeons and against undead, sure to excite!  Now, if only the controls weren't so obtuse.  At least we have Ed with us this episode to help make the game somewhat bearable.

Also, there are a lot of bump noises on this one because we had Ed on our makeshift mic stand that Alex rigged up for our Animal Crossing episode.  That stand is actually a "bottle of alcohol and shot glass" holder, so it's not super steady.  Sorry 'bout that.

You can't download halfway through taking a step.

(00:50) We introduce Ed, while Tyler, who blames a temporal anomaly, forgot to introduce himself.

(03:00) Ed talks about Wolf Among Us.

(07:00) We talk about Pokémon for a while, because it's us.

(18:00) Some LoL talk.  (Editors Note: Still us.)

(21:30) SCP, guys.  It's pretty distracting, and not as useful for connecting to other computers as one would think.

(24:00) Fire Emblem: Awakening shipping.

(30:00) Story of the most recent Eve catastrophe.

(45:00) We start off this week's game with it's mechanics.

(49:00) Sands of Time!

(53:30) This game was going to be an Apple exclusive.  Yes, early Apple computers were top tier gaming machines.

(55:30) Prince of Persia is pretty bad.  Pretty unanimous "skip."

Next time on Last Time, it's X-Com: Enemy Unknown!  The original, in case you were curious.

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Episode 44: The Secret is Killing Things [Secret of Mana]

Considered to be one of the greatest SNES games ever, this week we're tackling the story of a hero who must save the world... for Reasons!  Grab a ton of different, but mechanically similar, weapons and bash some baddies to victory!

The real secret is the download!

(05:00) Synchro Summoning makes no sense.  Geremy talks Hearthstone for a bit.

(09:00) Stupid electric gloves.  Also, creepy girl!

(15:00) The wonders of Zach's new computer.  It makes Ghosts want to die!

(18:30) Despite lukewarm critical response, MechWarrior Online sounds pretty good.

(21:30) Somehow, people took Tyler's standard screenname in the login engine for Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, which is a pretty fun game.

(22:30) Secret of Mana trivia!  Related to Enix, if you want to start a journey into madness, start here.

(27:30) You pulled the sword, so now you're the guy.

(33:30) Santa manages to beat Darkseid every year.

(38:30) Is the menu noise of the Wii annoying?  Let us know!  Also, we talk about the novelty of key mapping.

(44:00) Magic!  The ring menu is interesting, but not a great idea.

(51:00) Final thoughts: probably skip this one.

Next time on Last Time, Operation Wolf!

Grenade chickens!  With no obvious segue, you can contact us at,,,
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Episode 32: Apparently the Chozo were Flightless [Super Metroid]

This week, we return to Zebes, and take on Metroid II: The Return of... wait, no we skip that game, and play Super Metroid instead!  How does Tyler's favorite child hood video game stack up?  Listen and find out!

Is that a download behind that bombable wall?

(00:40) We get side tracked right away and talk about some movies.

(2:00) What we've been playing!  Zach's still playing Shin Ten, with leads us to game length and content vs grinding.

(4:40) Geremy is playing Cloudberry Kingdom in addition to his normal games.

(9:30) Also Fire Emblem Awakening, Zach and Geremy discuss the characters and their outlandishness.

(18:00) Super Metroid! 

(19:30) The beginning, feelings of isolation.  Can atmosphere of a game make you feel things?

(23:00) New powerups and features.

(24:50) Color pallets and different areas.

(28:00) Game play!  It's like Metroid.  Go figure.

(30:00) Sequence breaking.

(32:00) Is it ok for a game to make you look around and try to find its content?  Or is it on the game to present itself to you immediately.  Obviously a game needs to do something to grab your attention, but does Super Metroid do enough?

(35:00) Exploration in video games, 2d vs 3d.

(37:15) Games with mechanics that help you find hidden items.  Are they good, or do they defy the point of having hidden items in the first place?  Are you entitled to all the secret items/achievements in a game without work?  Achievement Hunter would say so.

(41:20) Compared to Symphony of the Night.  Videogames stopping and slowing your progress, is it a problem?

(47:45) The pacing of video games.  Are modern games faster paced than older ones?  Is this a bad thing?  Also, the Pomodoro Technique.

(51:00) Final thoughts, and some giggling about Metroid Prime.

Next week, we jump a little further into the gaming present than normal for this podcast, and play Animal Crossing.   If you're interested, New Leaf is available on the 3DS, but as its a full cost game, you may wish to skip this one and just listen in!

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Episode 29: Somebody Call Me a Belmont [Castlevania: Symphony of the Night]

This week, we tread where no man dare to tread.  No man except a vampire!  And most people who own a PSX way back when.  It's a terrible night to not know how to backdash!

Let us download tonight for pleasure.  The bandwidth is still great.

(01:00) A brief alcoholic interlude, followed by what we've been playing.  Geremy and Zach played some SC2.  Nocturne, for the uninitiated, is a game about demons n' stuff.  Wonderful 101 is super weird, but kinda fun!  Bat nipples...  Tyler talks a bit about Thomas Was Alone.

(10:30) In Showdown Effect, katanas are the default.  Also, Burnout: Paradise is a pretty cool game that doesn't afraid of crashing.

(13:15) Videogame treadmill.  It's a thing that needed to be.

(14:10) When to get a new console.  Bungie continues to lend its mighty aid to Microsoft.  The PS2 may have been a thing.

(18:30) Why buy a console over a computer.

(21:40) What game would you play for the rest of ever if you only had one?

(23:00) Castlevania: SotN is pretty sweet.  CD loading roomsAmazing.  Zach and Tyler briefly debate the merits of 2D games and whether they should exist.

(28:15) WHY?!

(29:30) Cross-douken!

(30:30) Just a list of things this game does...

(31:30) What Zach was talking about.  Also, Alucard definitely gets vengeance.  Nooo!  My powerups!

(35:20) Sweet opening music. The rest of that video has the full soundtrack; it's killer.

(39:45) Pointlessness of sub-weapons.  They may help you get it all done.

(43:30) What is a man?  Die you monster!

(45:30) Just text is worth exploring.

(47:30) Play it!  It's worth the price.

Next week, you'll be cool enough to play Mega Man X!

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Episode 12: Really, It's Not a Secret To Anyone Anymore [The Legend of Zelda]

In this episode, we take a look at the first in a series very near and dear to at least two of the hosts.  Zach returns, probably to stay, and forms a coalition with Tyler against Geremy about the overall opinion of this game.  Bombs, laser swords, and Octoroks, oh, my!

This Download's not a secret

(01:30) What we've been playing.  It's mostly different stuff!

(6:40) We finally get to Zelda, starting to our entries to the series.

(10:00) The actual game and how it starts.

 (12:30) Darknuts! A terrible name for a crazy enemy.

(15:30) Exploration as a focal point in this game and whether the game enables it.

(19:00) Combat in Zelda.  It's... tricky.

(22:15) Death trackers: they sound like they should be awesome.  They're mostly extant instead.

(26:25) How to make Zelda better.  Remembering the existence of the whistle helps.

(32:40) Zelda as the inspiration for sandbox games?

Next week, it's Phantasy Star!  There will be sword slashing and stuff!

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Last Rant on Videogames: Slightly More Modern than Orthodox Steampunk [Steambot Chronicles]

I swear, people, I will, one hallowed day, write an entry less than five pages.  It might even be this one.

Also, I've retroactively come up with a title for these little essays.  They're officially part of a series I'm now calling my Last Rant on Videogames.  It's a play on the show's title.  It's a little obtuse, I know, but I'm told I have a knack for coming up with obtuse sayings.

One convenient segue later, you might recall in my last Last Rant that I espoused, not too briefly, the virtues of a game publisher that goes by the monicker of Atlus.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go read about the first five paragraphs, or hit up the Wikipedia page.  I also briefly alluded to a game they published that fell short of the image I have of them.  I guess they can't all be winners.

The game to which I refer, which might be more obvious if you followed that last link, is Steambot Chronicles.  I'm going to spend a little bit here talking this game up; I only do so that I might tear it down when I've finished, so don't go getting your hopes up.  If you want to cut to the chase, you can skip to the summary of all this.   Steambot Chronicles is an action adventure style RPG, in a similar style, at least in navigation, to the Zelda games for the N64, except it's on the PS2.  In fact, it looks pretty nice.  If you're interested now, there's more.  The setting for this game is in a post steampunky universe similar to 1920s U.S.A. except the immediate improvement upon cars was to put them on modular locomotion systems, ranging from traditional wheels, to treads, and bipedal leg systems.  Additionally, the main chassis for each model was eventually designed to have slots for various appendages.  Essentially, you have a modifiable vehicular monstrosity, similar to a Mr. Transformer Head.  I wish that was a thing.

So far, this game sounds pretty cool, right?  It gets better.  Not only do you get to assemble your machine, you get to fight other similarly constructed machines in actual combat wherein you have complete control over the movements of your mechanized death dealer.  There is, in fact, an arena should you wish to pit your skills against opponents more threatening than highway bandits.  Had I mentioned the bandits?  Apparently, because the vehicles are so prevalent and parts are everywhere, lots of organized gangs have sprung up and use the Trotmobiles, as these modified motorized carriages are called, to enforce their will wherever the police do not have the forces to combat them.  Needless to say, part of the plot involves fighting them.

Or joining them.  As if customizable Trotmobile shenanigans weren't enough, this is also an open RPG where your decisions influence the course of events and you can choose to impose your will upon the weak.  In addition to all of this, this is also a dating sim of sorts.  A dating sim whose potential prospects are members of your band.  Did I mention that you're in a band?  You can choose to play basically any instrument you can lay your grubby Trotter mitts on, which is actually a wide variety of instruments.  If you're feeling short on cash, you can even set up a stage arm on your ride and give an impromptu concert from the side of the streets.  Also, there are a number of fairly large and mildly diverse cities to explore, countryside to see between them, which may be skipped by means of a train if you're bored of traversing the pastures, and a substantial number of side quests to engage in, such as trying to build a flying Trotmobile.  Also, you can buy and sell real estate (which you may also live in and acquire all sorts of goods for), and there's ostensibly a cooking minigame or something that I never found.  Additionally, for those of you who enjoy this kind of silliness, every main character in the game is named after some sort of spice or seasoning.  For the record, you play as a kid named Vanilla.   All of this, also framed by young Vanilla suffering from mysterious past syndrome for some potentially juicy plot hooks.

To quickly summarize this before moving on, Steambot Chronicles is an open world action RPG about being in a band, finding love, and fighting giant car robots.  Simply amazing.

Unfortunately, burdened by such a wonderful premise, this game was doomed to disappoint from inception.  Let's start tearing the gilded facade down, shall we?

First, this game suffers from a lot of lazy writing.  Things just happen to the character by chance, which while believable, gets old after the tenth time device is presented.  You, through Vanilla, never actively cause events, and simply drift like some sort of new age vagabond upon your metallic steed, sometimes aimlessly because the game refuses to tell you where to go to drive the plot forward.  The entirety of Vanilla's mystery background, which is resolved in a somewhat satisfactory manner, is caused by amnesia, rather than having some important character traits prevent Vanilla from disclosing his past in large doses.  I assume this is primarily to keep Vanilla as a blank slate so that the player might more easily assume the protagonist's role, but it's a pretty tired plot device.  Additionally, you're allowed to make a number of choices throughout the game, but it seems very few of them actually influence the world in any manner, despite the game's assertions to the contrary.  Admittedly, the game tells you some decisions do not matter, but this appears to apply to the vast majority of them.  The plot itself is pretty formulaic, and the big bad behind everything is either a huge plot twist, or so obvious you called it when you met him depending on your exposure to this sort of thing.  It seems that there are a few plot events which must always happen and that the only real thing your decisions influence is which side of the conflict you're on.  I don't mind this as much, as branched story telling is certainly no easy task, but it's played up as a big part of the game and never really bears fruit, at least not any so shriveled and sour that I don't even want to make a pie of them.

Well, if the story isn't so great, how about the interpersonal relationships?  Well, I'm sorry to say that there's not a whole lot going on there.  There are two, possibly three, girls you may court.  One is substantially older than you, and the other is your age, obviously infatuated, has an ailing mother and could use some help caring for her, and saved your life when you washed up in a shipwreck while she was picking flowers.  The plot seems to be nudging you in a certain direction, but I can't quite tell which.  Honestly, the advances of the older girl are a little creepy, considering how much older she acts than the rest of the band.  At any rate, wooing your chosen partner is more tedious than fulfilling, as it does not serve to further develop their characters.  Most of their respective personality traits and past events that inform the people they are come to you by following the main plot and a bit of city exploration rather than actually interacting with them.  As for the other members of the band, they're pretty useless, and don't develop much past the first couple hours of the game.  Alongside the promise of an open and malleable world, this flaunted aspect of the game falls quite short.

Being in the band doesn't offer much in the way of gratification either, though it is a pretty interesting mechanic.  There are only a small handful of songs.  My rather shadowy memory informs me that it's five, but they're all pretty similar and share a huge flaw; they're directly translated from Japanese.  While I don't normally have a problem with this, the composition was changed to help the flow, the backup vocals are pretty awful (played by the older love interest, Sage, methinks), and the lyrics range from nonsensical to mediocre.

How playing a song works, provided you're actually performing a concert, is fairly interesting.  First, you choose a song from the list your band has worked on.  This means you'll be hearing the first few of them A LOT.  Everyone in the band performs a couple of instruments, and will be automatically assigned one for the song.  If you wish to play one and their backup instrument is being played by another member, you may do so.  There are quite a few instruments to play, and they all handle at least somewhat differently.  What we're left with is basically a series of timing minigames while you listen to the voice actors wail away.  My personal favorite for comedic value is the accordion, which involves moving the two analog sticks left and right as if you were squeezing the box.  While not particularly poorly implemented, the monotonous musical menageries your must master may make you mildly miffed as you struggle to play to the best of your ability and find that some instruments do not reward your effort at all.  Also, I believe I mentioned you have to listen to the same poorly executed songs again and AGAIN and...  You may be seeing my point about this.

At least there's still robot battles.  Everyone loves a good robot battle.  Sadly, these are either impossible, or incredibly boring.  There's not much middle ground.  Controlling the robot, while a little tricky, is actually a neat concept.  The left analog stick controls the movements of the left half of your chosen locomotion system, while the right stick performs its appropriate complementary action.  This can be confusing for a while, but I found that I accustomed quickly.  The left and right triggers activate your left and right weapons.  You can perform a quick rush by pushing in the analog sticks, block with one back shoulder button, and lift things with the other.  There's a variety of tactics available, which seems like it would be a good thing.

Sadly, there is an optimal strategy for most situations.  It usually boils down to "strafe and then hit with something" or, for arena matches and duels, "pick up, lob, and hit with something."  The machines don't move quite quickly enough to perform more dextrous maneuvers, and most enemies either run away from you to bombard you from a range or immediately attempt to close with you.  The variation on the weapons is limited as well; you're stuck with melee weapons that all act extremely similarly, or ranged weapons that are nearly identical that differ only by their damage to monetary cost ratio.  Combat quickly degrades to the same boring fight repeated with slight differences in enemy appearances.  The exception to this is bosses.  I was considering a new paragraph for this, but it can be condensed to jumping upon the behemoth, which the boss always is, and hitting it until you're knocked off.  Repeat ad nauseam.  Possibly literally if you're easily sickened by motion.

I mentioned a variety of side quests, but the game didn't really hold my interest enough for me to want to finish most of them.  They largely involve carrying things between two points, usually using a specially designed body attachment for your trusty Trotter.  Sometimes it's carrying a fossil to the museum, sometimes it's delivering carpet, occasionally you can sell water to people.  I neglected to mention that the game also claimed you could become a merchant king by buying and selling goods between towns.  Apparently what they meant by that is giving water to people in the desert.  Fun times.  Travel through towns is mostly automated while you're on your vehicle, as you swim through traffic with light systems.  That's right, you wait at traffic lights.  Enthralling.  Sadly, if your destination is pretty far away, this is the fastest way to travel.  No GTA style irreverence for traffic laws.  You are obligated to follow the guy in front of you until he turns; you actually have no control of your movement while doing this.  You just pick a spot and wait.  Go make a sandwich.  Read a couple pages from a book.  Maybe listen to a podcast.  You can get a bicycle, mitigating this problem somewhat, but the town's are pretty large and you'll find yourself wandering across them quite a bit.  I feel this game would have benefited substantially from a quick travel system of the point and teleport nature, but that might have detracted from the feel of the world a bit.

One thing this game does well is setting.  While many of the buildings are useless and generally visually indistinct, the entirety of the game really does feel like a setting I want to be in.  I can't help but wonder whether a videogame with tighter focus or possibly a tabletop game could take this setting and make something more engaging out of it.

Speaking of tighter focus, that brings me to my overall criticism with this game.  Like ActRaiser, and quite a few other games, this particular attempt at entertainment tries too much and succeeds at none of it.  That said, despite what, for me, was a rather scathing review of this thing, it does not fail spectacularly.  This whole thing lands squarely in the realm of mediocre.  I feel that another year or two in development or a few more months in preproduction narrowing scope could have made this game truly great, but all we received was lost potential.  I really would like to see a sequel to this game that improved upon the lessons taught by it, but I don't think it will ever come from the software studio that made it.

That studio, by the way, is Irem, the company behind R-Type and a few other things.  Apparently they were making a sequel before the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan a while back.  Wikipedia tells me that they're no longer in the videogame business and are currently focusing on their first love: gambling machines.  Looking at their list of endeavors, I'm sad that a company so multifaceted as this is no longer producing, but I suppose future mediocrity in overly ambitious endeavors is a pitfall they will have avoided.

My conclusion is that if you think this game sounded awesome before I laid waste to the glittering appearances it presented, you might want to pick it up.  I found it at a used games store for $15, so I don't think it would be too hard to track down a copy if you're really interested.  For me, it was roughly a week's worth of evenings spent trying to find something more in a game that had already offered me everything it had to give.

Now, where's my Gundam action adventure RPG?

Last Rant on Videogames: About Farming Chore Simulators: Rune Factory 2

Hey, folks! This one's all text. I know, in this ridiculously media saturated age, that text is usually a bit too cumbersome of a form of media to ingest, but I'm writing a small reflection on the first few hours or so of a game. I actually plan on doing this fairly regularly as I plow through the games I'm playing that have nothing to do with the podcast. This is technically a blog, after all.

 So, a couple of weeks ago, we published our podcast episode about Harvest Moon.  While obviously a flawed game, concealed beneath its murky exterior are some priceless gems; such treasures are rare now, and I don't think we really emphasized how intriguing this game is.  If you listened to the premise and found yourself strangely attracted to the idea, don't feel ashamed.  It's a perfectly natural part of your development.

However, if you'll recall, we were only a few dozen grams of caffeine away from earnestly ranting about how boring it was.  When was the last time you got emotional about boredom?  The main complaint was that, as a game, it lacked a certain level of engagement.  The tasks you are supposed to spend most of your time with quickly dulls into routine mundanity, but it's generally better than the other things that are available.  Harvest Moon, despite its odd allure, wears out its welcome before it's done staying at your place.  I feel this is the necessary conclusion of simulation games of this nature; unlike something akin to Sim City, however, you don't get to finish your experience in the resplendence of fifteen natural disasters simultaneously ending your empire.

Somehow, though, Natsume is still in business and still making farming simulators.  Perhaps for a while, they survived off the hope of seeing what lay beneath the tedium, that horrible yet beautiful something nagging at the edges of our thoughts.  Perhaps it's simply that dating simulators, which these games tend to be, are a poorly represented genre in the U.S.  Geremy has, on occasion, raved about the excellence of Harvest Moon 64, so the company must have done something right.  At any rate, the initial success of Harvest Moon and its sequels enabled Natsume license to experiment with the basic formula.  There now exists a small pile of spinoffs, most of which now have sequels of their own.

This brings me to the eponymous game of this post: Rune Factory 2.  There are, at the time of this writing and according to the sum of all human knowledge that is Wikipedia, six games in this series.  Six games about farming.  That's already impressive, even if you don't consider the actual Harvest Moon series and the myriad other things Natsume has produced under similar guise.  What did they get right with this take on the premise?

Let me preface my following comments by saying that I do not know that I will finish this game.  I'm already having trouble thinking of picking back up after stopping for a few hours.  However, my first impression of this game is strongly positive.  Simply put, it's been pretty fun thus far.  So, what is this thing that I've spent so long talking around?  Well, succinctly, it's Harvest Moon with swords.  Also, fireballs and axes, but the prior sentence pretty much sums it up.  The main character wanders into town with amnesia, under what I can only assume to be some form of magical compulsion.  The plot wiggles a bit to land you a farm, and you're off to cultivate your adventure.

This game succeeds in a few vital areas that Harvest Moon didn't.  Primarily, I believe the characters around town have more substance to them, no longer the ephemeral impressions of personality with which we were originally treated.  Most of them spend a good portion of the early game telling you their favorite food, but their development is aided by a second aspect that was sorely lacking from the first game.  A necessary, but not sufficient, trait for the proper enjoyment of Harvest Moon is the ability for the player to set their own goals.  The game doesn't give you anything concrete to do, nothing to merit the growing of endless crops; if you are to succeed, you must introduce some tasks of your own invention.

While Rune Factory doesn't do a whole lot more for this, it does give you some quests to perform.  The artifice for this is that all the people in town post their problems on a board in the town square and hope that some generous soul will come and aid them.  Given that you are a farmer, which is an inexplicably easy task in this facet of reality, you have plenty of free time to be that person.  Accepting the quests allows you to both find something to kill time in the game until the next tending of the crops and gives you a small insight into the character you're playing errand boy for.  Sometimes it's something trivial, such as a small boy causes mischief and doesn't want to be caught, and sometimes it's amusing and rather telling of the character the writers wanted to portray, such as the local self professed badass being a lover of books.

While these two aspects may well be the meat of the game, they are certainly not the meat of the mechanics.  This is, disregarding the title, a Harvest Moon game, so there should be farming.  You'll be glad(?) to know that farming is a key element to this game.  I'll get to the twist that makes the premise so amusing in a moment to talk briefly about digital agriculture.  The farming in this works very similarly to the original Harvest Moon.  That being the only game in the franchise I've played for more than about 5 minutes, that is what I'm using for comparison.  Thus far, the major improvements I've seen are thus:

1) You can walk through your crops.  No more awkward lines cut out, meaning maximum value for your seeds.

2) Crops are worth quite a bit, which is both satisfying and useful to the "with a sword" portion of the game.

3) Your tools can, with few exceptions, be charged to affect a larger area, reducing the time you spend actually farming.

That last point is pretty important.  I actually only spend about 1 or 2 in game hours actually tending to the farm each day.  It occurs to me that I've neglected to mention that this game is on the Nintendo DS, which is mildly important.  You can queue up actions quickly on the touch screen, making the harvesting of numerous crops a breeze.  This means that you have plenty of time to do things that aren't farming.  Certain crops require a bit more attention than others, but most just require you to make sure that everything is watered at the end of the day.

Since you don't spend a whole lot of time farming, what are you doing?  Well, other than performing menial tasks for villagers, you're exploring dungeons.  I use that term loosely.  One of the dungeons is, in fact, just a forest.  It's not even densely wooded.  Anywho, using, at first, your farming equipment and later some more sensible tools, you can delve into dungeons and slay beasts, gather resources for crafting new equipment, and getting goodies to give to the villagers.  Like all Harvest Moon games, you largely improve your standing with individuals by giving them things.  Talking to them regularly reveals what varieties of objects they prefer.  Thus, much of your time, and energy, is spent hitting things with a suitable club surrogate.

Since the adventuring is a huge aspect of the game, let me regale you a bit with my thoughts on it.  First, it's fun.  Second, it handles only marginally better than a jellyfish on skates.  How are these things coincident?  Well, the enemies, at least as far as I've gotten, have mile wide tells before each of their attacks.  While you may have trouble positioning yourself for an attack of your own, you certainly have an abundance of time in which to do so.  Most go down after a few good combos (from the weapons that combo; not all weapons are capable of this), and you can pretty easily run circles around them.  However, they will continue to spawn unless you destroy the rather obvious swirling ball of energy that is the spawner.  That means farming a particular enemy for whatever items it happens to drop is not much of a chore, at least not compared to some other games.

While we're talking about the actual mechanics, I want to mention the energy system.  Similar to Harvest Moon, almost every action you perform in the game uses energy.  You have two types of energy here, though: RP and HP.  I can't remember exactly what these stand for, but you've probably played enough games to know what HP is.  You take a hit, it goes down.  RP is an arbitrary measure of your stamina.  As you swing your sword or water your crops, your stamina is consumed.  Better equipment uses more stamina, though you can increase your skill level in most actions to reduce the amount consumed.  Once you run out of RP, your HP is consumed instead.  This can lead to problems if you delve unprepared into dungeons.  There are a wide variety of  items available to recover either measure, so running out isn't really an issue unless you get surrounded by enemies.  However, unlike Harvest Moon, the night is not without end.  There are many maladies you may contract, mostly in the form of standard fantasy/RPG status ailments.  Additionally, you can catch a cold, and you are more likely to do so if you forgo sleep regularly.

Now, back to farming related things, since this subject ties neatly into that from dungeoneering, you may recall that we mentioned that in Harvest Moon you accrue most of your wealth through harvesting animal products.  The same appears to be true in this game.  However, there is no place to buy animals or equipment.  You get most of your farm supplies by completing preliminary quests for the townsfolk.  Among the essentials is the Pet Glove.  In the dungeons, when beset by monsters, you may attempt to pet them into submission.  I like to imagine is like trying to scratch the belly of an aggressive dog and eventually getting it to roll onto its back to afford you a better vantage.

At any rate, you may acquire cow and chicken monsters, in addition to basically anything else you encounter.  While many monsters do not produce valuable products like milk and eggs, you can shave most monsters and sell their fur.  That raises some questions about who would want goblin hair, but I digress.  The real purpose in catching anything other than a cash cow is that you can take monsters with you when adventuring, making your expeditions a bit less harrowing.  Eventually, you get the ability to tell them to perform special attacks, making their aid even more welcome.  I haven't gotten very far, but I just picked up a dire wolf of some sort, which I've creatively named "Lobo," and he appears to enjoy feasting furiously upon the flesh of my foes.  I've always enjoyed ending my foes through status effects, watching them perish from a safe distance.  To that end, it's rather amusing watching my wolf do all the work for me.

The dungeons themselves are... alright.  There are four main areas, one each corresponding to a season.  There are areas in each where you may plant crops of the appropriate season should you run out of space in your field or it is not the season for potatoes or something else you may desire, usually as a gift for a villager.  The dungeons are appropriately themed, although there are two forests mostly differentiated by color palette.  My one complaint thus far is that, aside from layout and enemies, they're basically all the same.  This may be more a problem with the enemies than the levels in which they reside, but it gets to be that exploring the initially cool ice cave is roughly the same as wandering the tropical island.

According to your world map, these two features exist within a couple miles of each other, by the way.

There's some promise for more, and potentially interesting, things around the corner if I continue playing, which I intend to for now.  Each dungeon has areas blocked off by arbitrary obstacles.  They currently come in two flavors, and I feel that the plot will explain to me what they are later.  There appears to be something of an actual plot, and the game has reasonable pacing when introducing new concepts.  It does, however, leave a lot up to experimentation.  I'm not sure how I feel about this; I normally like it, but some of the mechanics might be esoteric enough that I won't discover them without a guide.

So, you have farming funding dungeon delving funding more farming.  It's a positive feedback cycle, and this particular one is fairly satisfying.  I like most of the characters, and the town's a pretty colorful place, despite being made up of seven or so screen.  In addition, the game takes places over multiple generations, which is a gimmick I've always enjoyed.  If you're wondering what I mean by that, I shall explain.  When you marry the girl of your choice, you move in together and, as is the usual course of these things, have a child.  That child then becomes the new main character.  Yeah.  I really like that idea, but have no recollection of playing a game with this mechanic.  I don't know how many generations the game lasts, however.

My final thoughts on this game, at least for the purpose of this entry, are pretty positive.  As I mentioned, I don't know whether it will hold my interest for the entire length of the game unless it introduces some larger plot hooks.  I don't think this necessarily reflects poorly on the game so much as the type of game I'm in the mood for.  I've been playing a lot of fairly narrative and character heavy RPGs lately, so this may have to wait for a better day.  If you're intrigued by the idea of a farming game and like fantasy settings, this is pretty much the arcane relic of imagined lore.  It's quirky and a little corny, but worth a play if it sounds at all interesting to you.  It's available only on the DS as far as I'm aware, but it's a solid entry in a franchise brimming with posibility I'm probably going to revisit several times now that I've tested the waters.


Epsiode 4: Do the Metroid [Metroid]

It's that time again:  new episode time!  This time, we talk about about the progenitor of one of my favorite series, Metroid!  This time around, we talk about themes of exploration and stuff, and see what Metroid did and didn't do well.  Does it stand the test of time?  Does the Ice Beam kill things?  Will I ask a standard third question?  Find out in this episode!

As a side note, I think this is our best episode thus far.  Let us know what you think!


(2:17) Wanting something Vs. Having it.

(4:45) Metroid the series.

(8:30) Metroid’s game play.

(13:00) Powerups.

(18:50) The Password system.

(20:50) The goals of Metroid.

(24:30) The Bosses, Ridely and Kraid, why both are not good Boss Fights.

(29:00) Themes and Aesthetics.

(29:30) And the Final Boss, Mother Brain.

(31:30) Multiple Endings.

Oh, my, we managed to stay on topic, and we have decent audio quality.  How will we one up that?  Well, despite what we say in the podcast, Double Dragon only has alternating Co-Op, not simultaneous, so in our first double feature we play Double Dragon and Double Dragon II: The Revenge.  Don’t miss it!

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