Welcome to the #JRPGJuly Week Three update! Staff have been working very diligently to work through their JRPGs of choice, some of us starting new titles and others making more significant progress. Let's see where folks are at!
Scott: I have successfully robbed a bank. Rather than escalate the game pivots to something more personal by having someone volunteer to be robbed.
There's some dead mom feels and all the voices might be leading to some hints about the internet and the collective unconscious. Or maybe this is just an easy 'get out of psychosis' card.
Sam keeps bugging me who my girlfriend will be. I have seven points with the doctor and older woman plus vis-key babe does scratch a couple of my itches... but then there's Becky and a hard-drinking reporter to hit on too.
Either way, Egypt and some Lovecraft references are always a win.
Mike: I spent a good portion of my third week with Paper Jam stuck on a boss. This particular boss was a pair of cactus enemies, one paper, one regular. It took me a while to get used to dodging the boss attacks, probably partially due to how long it’s been since I've played the series properly. Though it took a few attempts, it was quite satisfying to finally take it down. This was followed by another one of the goofy papercraft battles, which was more satisfying and interesting than the first.
Still, I can't help but feel like this silly crossover really dropped the ball in many ways. I am enjoying the writing and the level of silliness to things, but there was so much potential for this. Why just use Paper Bowser and Regular Bowser and none of the villains original to either series? Where are Paper Mario's fun original companions? Where is the highly entertaining Paper Luigi? What I've liked most about many of the Mario RPGs is the fact that they don't usually do the typical Mario story, just presented as an RPG. Bowser has even been helpful or a party member on multiple occasions.
A lot of this is nitpicking, and perhaps being disappointed they didn't make my ideal crossover, but the Mario RPGs are rich with original characters at this point, and to not see them used for this is a waste. All said, the writing is top notch and funny, so it’s hard to stay mad, and I keep hoping I'll be surprised. I did just get another trio ability to use while exploring, so hopefully there will be some fun puzzle solving soon enough in the dungeony areas.
Combat is still fun and I'm enjoying the trio abilities the most so far. I love how combat keeps you on your toes, and I'd love to see more turn based RPGs like this where attacking and defending are more interactive. The difficulty has been fine so far, but as always mostly on the easier side. I'm fine with this as long as the boss encounters remain challenging.
A fun game for sure, but it does make me want to spend more time with the new Paper Mario, which I may have to do for the final week of #JRPGJuly, in addition to delving further into Paper Jam.
Sam: After completing Persona 5, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to play next. I could have started a new game, or revisit something I meant to finish. I decided in the end to go back to Okage: The Shadow King, which I started during last year’s #JRPGJuly. I remember enjoying the game a lot, though I had left off on a very long dungeon. Thankfully I completed the dungeon, kicked Erpos’ butt, and made it all the way to the final chapter.
Chapter Six, though impeccably short, had a very frustrating section with the camera, where it was very difficult to tell where Ari could go on the map. Regardless, it looks like the World Library, the game’s final dungeon, is going to take me a bit as it has quite the steep difficulty curve! Hopefully I’ll have it finished before the month is through.
Pascal: This week, a little side trip turned into a full-blown week-long obsession. After some You Tube inspiration, I went back to Dark Souls to (maybe? possibly?) make some long-due progress after abandoning it about a year ago. At least I had a good reason to quit. One word: Blighttown.
Getting past the first series of scaffolds had been the real issue. Groups of enemies, poison, narrow walkways over lethal drops, and those cursed fire-breathing demon dogs made short work of every attempt to delve into Blighttown's depths. It was probably more luck than skill when I finally found the first bonfire in the area, after getting close to it a few times and making wrong turns into death at the last moment. I likely would have quit the game again in short order, had I not found that bonfire. But once I reached it, Dark Souls gained a new lease on life for me, and it's filled most of my gaming time since.
Surprisingly, it was only the initial descent into Blighttown that proved absolutely frustrating. Not that I didn't still die a lot, along with losing countless souls. But I had a renewed sense of progress, and so eventually I reached the swamp in Blighttown's depths. In several "genius" moves, I totally missed that second bonfire during my first descent, dying soon after, then eventually exited the area without defeating its boss, Chaos Witch Quelaag. It's a little frustrating that Blighttown's exit to the Valley of Drakes actually comes before the boss area, making her very missable, despite being a key boss for game progression.
Eventually, and with a little bit of guidance, I found my way back to Quelaag, bested her, and rang the second Bell of Awakening, granting access to Sen's Fortress. Over the next few gaming sessions, everything was chugging along quite nicely. This included jaunts to the Ruins of New Londo, Darkroot Garden, and Darkroot Basin, as well as taking out the Iron Golem, Moonlight Butterfly, and Havel the Rock. But now I've hit an all-new roadblock, and one that threatens to make me quit all over again. Three words: Ornstein and Smough.
Robert: This last week has been rough on me. For some reason, I decided that playing for sixteen hours straight one day, and then twenty hours straight the next, was a good idea. I didn't accomplish nearly as much as you would expect from having played so much. I did some Palace of the Dead with my brother and got to floor thirty, I also did fate grinding and got my dark knight job up to forty-five. I've also been doing beast quests like crazy and have the Ixal up to rank five, which is one higher than I was expecting. I have no idea how many more levels it has left.
I really should just continue with the story, but I want to play as a dark knight instead of a warrior. I still have a few more days of grinding ahead of me, but I think I'll not play for sixteen-plus hours a day at a time. Just doesn't feel good in my thirties.
Cassandra: I considered participating in this month's WiFi Pokémon competition, the Weakness Cup. I haven't participated in any WiFI tournaments since the fifth generation. Since I looked into it too late, I do not quite have the Pokémon I need to build a good team (I mostly wanted a Togekiss that knew the move Follow Me). Besides, I doubt raising 'mons and team-building would make for interesting reading for #JRPGJuly.
So of course it's more Ever Oasis for me. I ended up spending a lot of time upgrading Bloom Booths and finishing Seedlings' quests. Each Bloom Booth (shop) can upgrade twice and offer three goods for sale. Some time later, the Seedling asks for a last request. This usually wraps up a small story line. For instance, Hosni is a girl that runs a soup Bloom Booth. She gets an admirer and the two don't hit if off at first. Most of these scenarios are kind of simple and silly, though there's a few like Cyrus. He runs the Belt Bloom Booth and his background involves a rebellion and him running away like a coward. I'm definitely interested in finishing up that storyline. These things are minor, but it does give a tiny bit of personality to every character in this game.
One thing I want to gripe about is papyrus and other rare items needed for Bloom Booths. To get papyri, you have to go through the Hieroglyph Labyrinths and get lucky. These dungeons aren't necessarily hard, but papyri are found randomly in chests. Even better, in a room with three chests, one of them is a fake and if you pick it, the other two real chests will disappear. I managed to get four sheets of Elder Papyrus in one run, but plenty of other times I couldn't get any, even with soft-resetting. There are also two other types of papyrus to collect. These are needed for Isaac's book store and for his final good, the History Book. Fortunately, it seems every item doesn't have to be in stock for the Bloom Booth to keep building, but I imagine it helps. That, and Isaac and other characters with goods that are never in stock subtly complain about it. Can't I just trade in my over seventy thousand Dewadems to purchase these rare items? I keep getting more money and I don't do much with it!
That aside, I'm still enjoying this game, even if I've basically been doing side quests for over a week. I have reached the Sanctuary of Light, and I think I don't have much more of the game left to go after this. Perhaps I'll actually complete this game for the last and final update. We shall see!
Michael: I'm about thirty-three hours into The Alliance Alive at this point, and that initial comparison to the Final Fantasy series is really holding up. The story in particular is going whole hog with the surprises and revelations, and if it's implying what I think it's implying, then quite possibly the entire backstory it's been feeding me so far is an elaborate falsehood.
I've also picked up two optional characters. One comes as a by-product of a majorly spoileriffic encounter, and the other is a penguin. Yes, a penguin. Robbins is about two feet tall and looks like a conquistador helmet on top of a tuxedo. I don't really consider this a spoiler because the side quest to get him is completely unconnected to the rest of the story, and he does not appear to play a major part in any scene that comes after that point in the game. Instead, he'll make random side comments about how awesome he is, volunteer to be the official team leader, or complain about being hungry. Then, while the main characters are having the actual conversation, he wanders off to raid the kitchen.
What's more hilarious is that the developers actually gave Robbins his own penguin-specific martial arts skills to use. His Happy Feet ability raises party stats. Rocket Headbutt sends him sliding across the field of battle, helmet-first. Machine Gun Flipper whacks the enemy silly. And then there's Penguin Madness, which bears a resemblance to SaGa Frontier's Dream Super Combo.
FuRyu has stated that the initial delay for this game's release was so that the developers could put even more fun and interesting stuff in. If that is the case, then I have to thank them for Robbins.
Note: There will be spoilers for Episode Prompto. You have been warned.
Sarah: I finally got some time on the PS4 for Final Fantasy XV: Episode Prompto. Now, I loved Episode Gladio, so I've been looking forward to this. However, the controls were a bit wonky. It took a second to aim, but in that time magitek soldiers are shooting me, which bumps my aiming, so I would have to re-aim, and shoot quickly. Either that, or just duck behind something while my HP regenned to avoid dying.
If I waited for the soldiers to reload, then aim and shoot, I could avoid the "being shot while trying to aim" problem. I was happy that my gun had unlimited ammo at the beginning, but then I really didn't use it the rest of the time. The gun didn't do a lot of damage, why it was better to steal other guns.
The sniper rifle is great - if you get the green circle - it's a one-hit kill. The sniper rifle was a one-hit kill - if you get the green circle. I just wish I could hold more than one stolen gun.
The backstory of Prompto is really good. I enjoyed this more than Episode Gladio, precisely because it had a lot more substance. It takes place between the time he falls off the train, to when he's on his way back to the group. We learn a lot about his past, his childhood, and who he really is. My favorite thing was escaping on the snowmobile, because you're racing down this mountainside with magitek soldiers chasing you and you have to steer while also firing at them, jumping, etc. It was pretty fun. My second favorite part was at the end. A giant magitek weapon is chasing you through the snowscape while you're trying to destroy it with a machine gun on the back of a moving snowmobile.
Episode Prompto was meaty in story, and I liked it a lot. They didn't take you all the way up to where he was captured, which is what I wanted to know, so that was a bit irritating. Prompto just.. wakes up in a prison during the end credits. Thanks, Square Enix. I just wish the controls were better. It was not very intuitive and a bit confusing.
Anna Marie Privitere
Anna Marie: With Ever Oasis in the bag, I turned my attention back to my Vita. Tackling a huge backlog of games on the system is my goal for this year. Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is my 18th Vita title this year, and one of many dungeon crawlers I've experimented with. The game opens with a frenetic pace; you're being rescued after being kidnapped by
zombies goblins. Immediately tossed into a military unit where only teenagers possess the needed powers, you're expected to explore ruins infested with lots of zombies cultists.
The dungeon crawling really shines in Operation Abyss, with the ability to leave/read notes its biggest strength; these often include coordinates or well-timed warnings, with the occasional boob joke. Operation Abyss is also a game that throws you into the deep end and expects you to learn how to swim in a hurry. For example, after each battle your team earns GP, which is used in a variety of ways: you need it to craft (sensible) but also to recover your characters' HP/MP AND level up. It's just a weird thing to make you balance. You can either make a new sword, OR you can have your extremely limited number of spells back. You can upgrade your armour, OR you can level up a character, who won't actually ding until rested. I also somehow completely missed how to access optional side missions at first, meaning I rather mindlessly grinded for a boss when I could have spent that time more productively doing side missions instead.
In the end, I decided Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy wasn't the game for me; the game isn't hard per se, but does demand a significant time investment in terms of grinding, and I just wasn't having enough fun to continue with the game after six hours. It's not that it's a bad game, with a great localization and a smooth battle system – it's just not the right game for me.
From dark and dingy Tokyo to fluffy and colourful Tokio (not a misspelling), I launched into Monster Monpiece for the Vita (#TeamHandheld!). Set in a world where humans were cursed by monsters, then rescued when the monsters were placed inside cards, you begin as an unassuming student learning how to manage monster cards and set off on an adventure to rescue your best friend from her own folly.
The main battlefield is three lanes, with seven tiles per lane, for 21 tiles total; nine (a 3x3 pattern) are your home area, nine are the opponent's home area in a similar 3x3 pattern, with a strip of neutral ground between them. Each turn you can summon one monster girl from your hand to place onto the board, and so can your opponent. They walk down a lane until they meet a foe and duke it out. Each monster girl (represented by a card) has a colour and unit type. Summoning multiples of the same colour grants you board-wide bonuses such as increased mana to summon more powerful cards; you can also combine like unit types for single boosts. Cards can be one of four unit types: melee (powerful attackers), ranged (fragile but attacks from a larger distance), healer (they…heal!) and buffers (they will increase the attack of the unit directly in front of them).
In practice, this means you are typically playing either cards of the same colour consecutively to buff all allies on the board, or merging together individual cards for a more powerful boost to an individual unit, and there's important strategy in deciding when to play a monster, what order to play them in, and when to fuse monsters together. You can also pass your turn to reserve your mana to play a powerful card in the future. Most monster girls also have special abilities ranging from increasing your mana, decreasing your enemy's mana, doing damage to a certain enemy type or colour, being able to act immediately, regenerating health, and more.
Each monster girl's card can also be leveled up to increase her stats and give her special abilities, which is done via the rubbing mini-game. You turn your Vita sideways and..well..rub the girls in various places. As their stats improve, they shed more and more clothing. In other words, please do not play this game in public.
If you can tolerate the silly, pervy mini-game and an inconsistent localization, Monster Monpiece is a lighthearted tale of a girl's journey with her monster girl friends with surprisingly deep tactical gameplay. It took me about 26 hours to finish the game, though there's a ton of optional content in the final chapter that can be skipped, so it could potentially be finished in the 15-20 hour range.
That's a wrap on Week Three! Tune in next week when we share our final thoughts on the month, ending our #JRPGJuly adventures.