February 23, 2017

[Game 063] Last Armageddon (NES - 1990)

Translation by Chably

Way back when I was in college, I knew this other CPU who went by the handle Japotoeigo and whose dream was to become an on-demand translator for one of the many streaming video sites, such as Youtube or Youtube Red.  It's too bad he spent most of the time partying it up, injecting himself with benign trojans or programming himself into an infinite loop, until one of us in the dorm would Ctrl-Brk his sad ass out of it.  He never made it past the first semester and I never heard from him again.  I'm glad he was able to find work, even if it's just translating old Famicom ROM dumps.  The intro to Final Armageddon is a masterpiece of pure machine translation and plays out like a good bad B-movie.

Umm... what you say?

That's not the whole intro either, it goes on for some time but all you need to know is humans died, demons appeared, and aliens and robots are trying to take over the world.  Unfortunately, the bad translation carries over to the game's spell list as well, with words seemingly picked at random, though some of them are pretty obvious.

I couldn't even begin to tell you the number
of times I used turkey to cure poison.

A party of four demons are sent out to stop the aliens by any means necessary, probably via punching.  The "demons" all come from classic Terran lore, with cyclops and orcs freely mixing it up with minotaurs and goblins.  The overworld is strewn with stone slabs, which replace the NPCs usually found, and whose hints and story building are completely ruined by the translation process. At least that's what I thought until I realized that the slates actually contained the lyrics to an awesome 80s rock ballad!

♪ Wicked guitar solo with sweet arpeggios ♫

As bad as the translation is, the guts of the game are quite meaty and delicious.  Each character has five base stats, each of which increase with usage — a system I prefer over static or random increases.  My demons have great fun when there's a single opponent and they just sit there, defending away and laughing most evilly, while the hapless foe misses every attack.  In addition to magic, most demons have special attacks as well, which do more damage than normal.  There doesn't appear to be a limit on how often one can utilize these specials, so I'm assuming that they do not count as experience towards raising stats.  As if all of this wasn't enough already, certain demons can do jobs outside of combat, including clairvoyance to display a world map, and creation of weapons, armour, and items.  Yes, that's right, there are no stores in LA, just a trusty ol' goblin building stuff and fueled entirely by gold.  From time to time, demons will also merge with some other creature.  Sometimes it's some random creature I've never seen before, other times it's another member of the party.  Whatever the source, it always ends in a frenzied orgy of flailing limbs and tentacles so vile and disgusting that I can barely masterbate to it.

Well, perhaps barely is too strong a word.

The mating results in the first demon changing into a sweet new sprite.  It doesn't seem to affect the stats at all, but it does sometimes alter the creature's special attacks.  The most unique aspect of party management took me totally by surprise.  When the sun rises each day, the regular demonic group of "DarkOnes" swap out for a party of daytime demons.  Since the swap operates on a timer, this adds a whole new dimension to managing the party.  Properly implemented, this can be a huge boon, with a fresh party coming in to replace the exhausted one.  On the other hand, it can also work against the player if they've forgotten to make sure that the secondary group is near the main demon cave in order to heal the hurt group when the swap occurs (like I have twice already).  The only downside is that both groups are almost statistically identical to each other but have differing sprites.

Say hi to the "good" guys.

My merry band of demons have just completed their first quest, involving raiding four alien camps and acquiring their ID Chips in order to gain access to a mothership.  The last pleasant surprise that Final Armageddon tossed my way here was switching to a first-person dungeon crawler and giving me a little mapping exercise.  It's tough going, though, as the fights are hella hard (especially when they outnumber us two to one and have surprise) and healing is hard to come by.  Only one member on each team has a healing spell (obviously called Shelout), it's MP expensive, and it heals like shit.  Granted, I haven't played with the item creation yet (been focusing on armour), so I'll probably be bitching about how there's too much healing by next post.

February 10, 2017

Out Live - Ranking

Story & World

Endless corridors leading to nothing is no way to get someone immersed into your world, son.  I'm not sure why the developers decided to make a dungeon crawler and then not stock it with stuff — is that not the entire point of crawling?  Out Live also has an annoying habit of having a long, straight corridor appear to have a junction which just leads to a single tile "alcove".  It then repeats the alcove every other step for around six times and these are found about a hundred times between each city.  At the beginning, I would step into each alcove, thinking that I might trigger something.  What a stupid idiot I was.  My absolute favourite part, though, was right at the end when OL didn't even bother with that anymore and just had a straight corridor of several hundred thousand steps that would occasionally turn right.  It's like the developers had extra space at the end and just filled it up with as much corridor as possible.  Oh, and BTW player, that HuCard stores up to 8 Mbits, so fuck you.  The more the game progressed, the more I felt like I was being trolled.  Man, I'm getting surly enough in my old age without games like this adding a multiplier bonus.

I will give the story some credit, though, there was a good attempt here.  Every character has their own portrait and some are even reoccurring.  The trash talk during combats was great too; I had great fun trying to out-sarcasm my foes, even though I always lost to the pros.  The biggest flub of the story was the stone quest of the midgame — come on, guys, make it access cards or at least space crystals or something.  4/20

Character Development

The replenishable options system is a nifty idea, it encourages playing with the others after the sweet missiles are depleted.   Half of the options are useful, with purchase price being an extremely accurate measure of quality (thousands for the good stuff, 200 for the crap).

The mech has two main stats, attack and defense, which interestingly increases by usage instead of by a static or random amount.  Defense goes up with each and every hit taken and attack increase by dishing it out.  Just in case the player gets too good at destroying enemies in one hit or dodging their attacks, OL has a system in place to make sure you'll have to take damage at some point.  The odd thing was that raising attack level increased the total shields; I'm guessing defense figured into dodging, which almost never happened during the late game (must not have hit the "magic" number).  I guess it could also absorb pre-shield damage, who knows?  And more importantly, who the fuck cares?  4/20

Combat & Monsters

While a lot of combat is just a straight-up damage exchange, there's also some kind of elemental system going as well, with fire, ice, and magnetic.  These types apply to corridors and enemies, as well as the mech's guns and an option to temporarily disable a corridor's type (which powers up enemies of the same type).  I fiddled around with the system a bit, but it never seemed worth it to spend a round not attacking.  Even the gun types don't do all that much more damage; it rarely makes a difference when most mechs die in one or two hits.  The enemy mechs, while super cool looking bad ass, just do damage or sometimes they have a secondary weapon which does more damage.  Some enemies can inflict a curable acid (poison) status, but it only happened to me three times (all early on) and I had totally forgotten about it until just now.  4/20

Graphics & Sound

Mechs are sweet and there are some real creative designs going on in OL; I only wish they were a bit bigger or stayed in their larger sprite during the battles.  The huge cockpit overlay is double sweet and I even developed a taste for the sleek minimalist style of the corridors.  Visually, it was quite enjoyable to be in, too bad that nasty game got in the way.  The music rocks pretty well, which is good since 98% of the game is the dungeon and battle tunes.  17/20

Gameplay

The space bucks stay tight until just past midgame and there's little to purchase in the late.  Healing is cheap and plentiful, enabling the player to have extended forays in getting their ass kicked.  The whole experience took me just over 12 hours but it felt way longer than that, no doubt due to the plethora of sessions where I only managed to last a mere 10 minutes (ha, my wife only wishes).  If anything, Out Live has at least taught me to lower my expectations for any future mech games, and maybe even just always to expect the worst.  Thanks for crushing my innocent childhood fascination with giant robots, OL.  Thanks.  2/20

Final Ranking:  31/100

February 06, 2017

Out Live - End Game

It had been only one day since I beat Out Live and I'd already received in the mail, my honourary degree in cartography.  It was, I recall, in the form of a scroll, with gold leaf adorned, and it went straight into the trash where the game itself already was.  The mapping just got brutal in the late game, and, as previously mentioned, there's nothing in the dungeon other than a small handful of boss fights.  Most times, I just wanted to find the quickest path to the next city and set of duelists, to engage in some deep characterization.

Them's duelin' words!

The duels are easily the best part of Out Live, but that's also like saying a handjob with 600 grit sandpaper is better than one with 40 grit.  Technically, yeah, but it's still a bloody mess at the end.  Any special options (with the exception of missiles) installed on the mech are disabled during the match, making it little more than a brute force slugfest.  The opponents talked during the battles but said the same line in the same round regardless of one's performance.  This made them sound quite sarcastic when they said things like "Keep up the good work!" or "Argh!  I can't take much more of this!", even though I had missed them several rounds in a row.

I'm trying!  Dammit, I'm trying!

Missing the enemy was a common theme, perhaps even the central theme, to Out Live.  It didn't matter if it was a duelist, boss, or wandering mech, the targeting system on my mech sucked and got worse as the game progressed.  Even a mech stunned and temporarily offline due to my "Net Bomb" option still could be easily missed.  As I progressed through the midgame, on a quest to acquire three stones (but stones... from the fuuuuture!), enemies started not only attacking twice a round, but were guaranteed to strike first.  The only thing keeping my poor battered mech going was all the healing potions I had, which I guess everyone else in the game didn't know about.  As I entered into the late game, Out Live started caring about its own narrative about as much as I did by that point.

Oh, you mean these fuuuuture rocks?

My main mission was to find Braudix, which turned out to be a mech and not a pilot, so you can see how invested I was in the gripping storyline.  Just when I was getting extra bored with OL, I acquired the Braudix and was rewarded with a new cockpit view as well as a "Smart Gun", which replaced all my previous main weapons.

Very nice and Giger-esque, but I prefer
my mecha to be mecha-nical.

I thought the days of missing and sucking in general were over, but instead it got ten times worse.  Now I had finally found the true central theme of Out Live — to never, EVER, let the player feel like a hero.  My new mech and weapon missed everything 100% of the time and I'm not using hyperbole here; in the dungeon between the last two cities, I could not score a single hit on anything.  Wow, this gun is so smart!  Even my stunning and insta-kill options stopped working on the random encounters.  The one thing I could do was attempt to flee from every fight.

Attempt being the operative word here.

Every time I got dunned blowed up and warped back to the hangar, OL just twisted that knife even deeper into my anguish with more of its sarcastic, asshole NPCs.

"You're putting my kid through
college!  Ha ha ha ha!"

With a lucky streak of a low number of battles, I managed to find the final city, which lead right into the final boss.  I still hadn't been able to defeat the duelist from the previous city, but I had a complete stock of full heals, so I stuck around to see if I could maybe get one hit in.  After over around fifty failed attacks, I died and was left contemplating what kind of crap game I was "playing".  So there was obviously a hard limit on what level I needed to be before I could score a hit, which completely infuriates me as a gamer.  A core part of any game is challenge and that element should be scaled throughout the game.  I should be able to attempt to defeat the final boss at any level, no matter how underpowered I am.  Oh, I'm soooo sorry that you expected me to be more powerful by this point — I guess I didn't spend enough time exploring your COMPLETELY EMPTY DUNGEON.  Even if you want it to be a 0% chance, game, at least give the illusion that I might succeed, so that the inevitable grinding that follows is at least my choice.  So, Out Live wanted me to grind, did it?  With turbo function pressed to the M-A-X, I proceeded to grind out 25% of my overall levels right then and there; this several hundred step journey would damn well be my last.  The final boss is some bezerking system which destroyed the city and maybe aliens?  At any rate, it was an easy kill since the stun option worked here for a thankfully quick, if somewhat lackluster, final battle.

I'm so glad I was able to achieve the
level you wanted me to, mein Fuhrer.

There's not much variety in the graphics, so 75% of my screencaps are just enemy mechs, making a mechastage all but unavoidable.  Easily the best part of the game, it's a lot more fun looking at the mechs than actually interacting with them (kinda like women, amirite, fellas? :0 ).