May 07, 2017

The Summer of Shen

Taking a break from the blog for the next few months.  I'd like to be able to say that it's due to some real life issue, like a kid or a job promotion, but no, it's vidja related.  Playing Morrowind for the first time ever (only played Arena and Daggerfall before) and I'm completely enthralled with it and especially with all the mods available.  Hopefully immersing myself in a really good game will refresh me enough to have endure the good odds that I'll be playing another crappy one for Inconsolable.  I also plan to buy a chunk of cheese the size of a car battery and just... just bite into it like it's an apple.  So have a good summer, y'all, and remember to keep your stick on the ice.

March 30, 2017

Last Armageddon - Ranking

Story & World

The horrendous translation does more damage than just blur the finer details of the story, it makes every line seem like a joke and really destroys the overall serious tone.  A proper translation would see more points here, but I can only work with what I've given.  In the future, if a translation is this abysmal, the game will be skipped.  Exploring was still quite enjoyable and I appreciated the addition of first-person dungeons in addition to the standard overhead view.  Though finding text was nearly pointless, at least there were a good number of cutscenes to gawk at.  5/20

Character Development

It's all about character options in LA; I was actually a bit surprised by how many.  Controlled stat growth, magic, special abilities, equipment, and consumables all give one a plethora of choices, although there is some redundancy.  I would have liked to seen more of a difference between the different parties as well, in regard to available spells and abilities.  The biggest innovation here was the on-demand item creation system.  No more waiting until the "next town" and then just upgrading to equipment that just happens to be slightly more powerful.  Right from the start, one has a choice to purchase basic weapons/armour or save up for a bit ticket item.  Although the metamorphosis of demons didn't really change the character too much, it was still cool to see what kind of abominations would arise from the demons getting their freak on.  Having the parties switch based on a timer was another sweet innovation, although LA dropped the ball having the third party function so much differently from the other two.  17/20

Combat & Monsters

Party-based combat is always nice to have and the way that it's tied to increasing character stats behooves the player to be mindful in all battles.  Demons that can't augment their attack or defense with equipment have to be given special consideration as to their role in combat.  The biggest drawback is the ease of developing characters too far ahead of the curve, making battles incredibly boring.  There really should have been a point where weak foes stopped increasing stats.

The enemy robots and "bio-creatures" were both imaginative and numerous in design, and the translation's complete hack job on their names actually made them seem even more alien and incomprehensible.  While they were able to inflict just the two standard status effects (sleep and poison), more impressively they actually had some semblance of artificial intelligence.  Rather than just attack at random all the time, they would often gang up on a single character, a devastating tactic when they had a full eight members.  At least, it would have been devastating if they didn't miss 100% of the time.  9/20

Graphics & Sound

Lots of nicely done cutscenes and a very creative bestiary keep the peepers stimulated whilst enduring the eternal grinding.  The bosses could have been larger and more detailed — it's not like there was a background or something taking up room.  The first-person dungeons likewise lacked any real distinguishing features; the occasional door being the only landmark worth noting.  The tunes were nothing too special on their own, but they did seem appropriate to the setting, at least to my ears.  12/20

Gameplay

The robust economy does an excellent job keeping the parties poor; it would have taken even more grinding for me to purchase the best equipment for everybody.  Knowing the cost of all the equipment also makes for additional considerations when purchasing.  I initially purchased the cheapest equipment early, because the characters actually needed it then.  I then planned to upgrade only if it seemed the characters needed it.  Of course, that never happened, which brings me to my final point.

As much as I enjoyed many of the aspects of Last Armageddon, it ultimately fails by making it way too easy to become overpowered.  A game with absolutely no challenge isn't something I enjoy at all — it really makes the game feel like a chore.  However, once one knows what to do and avoids the grinding time sinks, I think LA would become quite playable as long as the parties are pushed as hard as possible.  In a somewhat ironic way, the challenge would come from not letting the characters get too powerful.  Since the translation is partially to blame for the grinding, I'll be a little lenient here and not just smash a zero into the score, as tempting as that is.  However, I'm still holding LA completely responsible for the potential month-long wait for the sylvan team — that shit's mad dumb.  5/20

Final Ranking:  48/100

March 27, 2017

Last Armageddon - End Game

The piss-poor translation, while charming at first, really began to tick me off as I progressed, mostly because there seemed to be a decent story buried in there.  My "demons" learnt a little more about the history of the humans through books and CDs found in the ruins of their civilization.  As a fan of post-apocalyptic settings, this was a nice switch from the regular usage of NPCs.  There was even a mechanic in place to simulate the fact that the demons wouldn't be able to immediately read the human language — using items raised a character's intelligence until it was high enough to decipher.

I couldn't help but picture the cyclops
breaking out his monocle here.

At this point, things took a turn for the worse and kept turning for the remainder of the game.  I got stuck on entering the "Return Tower", the only location I hadn't been able to explore.  I wandered around and even went into the dungeons again, but it was all for naught.  During this journey, both parties kept gaining in power; they were now at the point where they could kill anything in one hit and never be hit themselves.

Cyke proving depth perception ain't all that.

Surprisingly, at the end of the month, a third selection of monsters showed up, all at level one.  They called themselves the sylvans and only stuck around for one day, but used time at a slower pace than the other two groups, getting the equivalent about around five "normal" days.  I thought maybe only this group could access the tower, but nope, so I tried entering the dungeons again and hitting up the key locations.  But nope.  I relented and FAQed myself the solution, which was I had to visit every single tombstone in the world.  All 108 of them.  Well, since they don't really contain any useful information, I had stopped visiting them ages ago and I couldn't remember which ones I had been to, so I had to do 'em all.  It was then I realized that if the translation had been better, I would have known what to do.

Sage advice.

I was hoping entering the tower would bring a stronger class of enemies but all my demons were overpowered, even the ones unable to benefit from equipping weapons or armour.  Each of the seven levels consisted of finding two key locations before being able to move on.  Lots of cutscenes happened here, giving insight into the downfall of the human race.

Puny humans get what they deserve.

Exiting the tower led to another world map with more dungeons and another major quest.  If I thought having to visit 108 slates in the previous world was bad, LA had an even bigger surprise for me here.  This time the key locations were artifacts found amidst the ruins of a department store, a church, a police station, and a hospital.

I didn't say it was a very good hospital. ;)

Finding said artifacts would trigger a response in one of the party members, unlocking a suppressed emotion and a memory cutscene.  Each artifact is tied to a specific demon; having the wrong party active results in nothing happening.  And yes, this includes the sylvan party as well.  It was funny because, as I was marking down artifact locations, it never occurred to me that the sylvans would be included, because it was just too absurd a notion for my mind to comprehend.  It wasn't until I hit an artifact on my to-do list and nothing happened that I had to pause for a second and just process.  No... there's no way.  I had to be missing something.  Another FAQ check confirmed the presence of rising bile in my throat — I would indeed have to wait for the sylvan party, who hadn't left all that long ago.  After fully unlocking the other two parties, I checked the calendar and noted that I only had to wait 21 days for the sylvans to show up.  What followed was around two hours of the worst kind of grinding — pointless and long.  Pointless because the party was still way overpowered and long because the battles themselves can be quite lengthy.  Bear in mind that that's two hours of turbo-grinding; at the original speed, this entire ordeal would have taken over seven hours (and that's me starting a third of the way through the month already).  Dammit Japan, we already know you've got the highest density of ultra-nerds on the planet.  We get it — you win.  Thankfully, I was able to get all the sylvan artifacts in one pass and ready to finish off this turd.  This travesty of a design choice made me lose any respect I might have had for LA, so I just looked up the last few dungeons to save me another couple hours.  Filling up all the demons with emotions granted them access to Fantasyland, a city built to fulfill the human dream and keep them in a perpetual state of bliss.  With no actual humans around, the city's computer mastermind created robotic fabrications in order to satisfy its programming.  When confronted by the party, it spewed off what I assumed was some deep philosophical shit and then unleashed its eight attacks per round against the party.

With the expected results.

Defeating the computer opened up the final dungeon and a climatic battle with some dude named Shadow, who existed solely to be a final boss.

He was actually able to damage one
guy a little bit, so mad props to him.

After the demise of Shadow, all the demons morphed into humans, in all their naked glory.  The alien mastermind showed up and revealed that the reason the human race fell was because they lost touch with their feelings.  This entire ordeal was an alien project created in order for the next generation of humans to find and restore their lost emotions, such as mercy and compassion.

Probably should have dedicated
some time to linguistics.

Final Armageddon also invoked a wide range of emotions within myself as well.  Emotions such as anger, fury, and rage were commonplace for the last half of the game.  After watching the end credits, I turned around in surprise to see an alien mastermind right in front of me.  He explained that this was all just a project in order to get me to unlock my suppressed emotions and then I morphed into a demon.  Since I'm the manchine though, I wasn't just a regular demon, but a badass cyber-demon, with chainsaw limbs and a head that is also a chainsaw.  I then reminded the alien that, if he had read my blog, he'd know that anger, fury, and rage are a Shen Nung staple.  He then admitted that he'd never read my blog, said it probably sux and teleported off.  I tried to forget about the whole incident and went to make some dinner, but I was unable to make anything due to 70% of me being chainsaw so I died of starvation.  THE END

Not the best story I've come up with to end a post, but hey, at least it's in understandable English.