Emerald Monthly Update – May 2017

Oh man, I’m really slipping up. I’m two hours late in publishing this. That’s okay, I’ve got some variety for you folks today – and best of all, I don’t have to deal with school being a thorn in my side! On the docket today is Princess Maker 2, ICEY, Final Fantasy 1 for the PSP, and a revisit of God Eater: Resurrection from back in March!


Princess Maker 2 for DOS

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I was hanging out with a couple of good friends of mine when they joked about playing some game called “Princess Maker”. Initially, I dismissed it as some silly joke that he was making. Princess Maker? There’s really a game out there called that? Yeah, right, I thought to myself, it’s probably some trash my friend dug up to laugh at from the darker, crap corner of Steam or some obscure browser game that was just virtual dress-up. Slightly inebriated and extremely exhausted from an afternoon of sparring with foam swords, my sentiments were essentially, “Screw it, let’s pop in this Princess Maker thing and laugh at it for a while.” My friends both seemed pretty ecstatic at my suggestion, which intrigued me.

Then the title screen appeared after booting it on DOS, stating it was made by Gainax. The Gainax, like, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, FLCL, Panty and Stocking – THAT Gainax. In 1993, of all years – pre-Evangelion. What the hell had I gotten into?

And then, what I had once dismissed as some shovelware-level laughable title of a game, instead became a surprisingly in-depth middle-ages-asteroid-kid-raising simulator.

Princess Maker 2’s plot is pretty simple in the beginning – you play as a mighty wandering middle-ages warrior who happened to wander into a war between a nation and an army of demons from hell, and as explained in the prologue, you’re so badass that you basically drove all the hordes back and saved the kingdom single-handedly. You’re hailed as a hero, and pretty much have it easy until one of twelve space gods fastballs a ten-year old girl into your neck of the woods, and tasks you to raise her. From there, gameplay is choosing what you want her to do, listening to her, putting her through school and/or work and/or adventuring, and making sure she doesn’t die or hate you too much by the time she’s 18 years old.

Each line of work and school changes her stats by a certain amount, and replay value becomes a larger factor when hidden personality values are incorporated into each separate kid you raise per playthrough, and that’s not even mentioning the 74 different endings holy frijoli that’s a lot of endings whoa.

I wouldn’t call it a perfect game, however (then again, I’m not sure I’d call any game perfect). See, after a few playthroughs, I began to realize that despite hidden values, I could pretty much steer my kid wherever I wanted with a little effort. The biggest variable factor seemed to be how well she handled stress, affecting how many times in a row I could put her through work and school. And, unfortunately, you need to put her through work so she can earn money to go to school and raise her stats accordingly, possibly so that she’s better at a different kind of work. It has a tendency to fall into a bit of a cycle that tends to get repetitive after a while – get work to earn money to go to school to get stats to get better at work to get more money to go to school – and so on.

Hey, you’re a big hero, dad. Why don’t you go out and do some work at the farm? Why are you making your preteen kid go do such hard work? And for that matter, why is the king only giving you 500 bucks a year after you fended off an entire hell horde and saved the kingdom by yourself? This girl should be getting prime treatment and schooling by default.

This confirmed, the king is a stingy bastard.

Also, once you realize it’s not that easy to get your kid killed, tension dips a fair amount. Getting KOed while adventuring doesn’t result in death, or any hard consequence other than losing a few days really, and getting wrecked in the combat tournament doesn’t yield any hard negative effects either. No assassination attempts are made, no poisoned chocolate, no other nations deciding to wage war on you, nothing like that. It’s all pretty safe, especially compared to Long Live The Queen, a game that I now realize clearly took a lot of inspiration from Princess Maker. Really, it seems like the only way for your kid to get killed is illness, and as long as you let her rest well, she’ll pretty much get over it 100% of the time in my experience.

By the end, the stats you have built up with whatever you decided to focus on with your kid, combined with the events, actions and scenes she participated in and people she talked to most, will give you one of a mind-boggling 74 different endings. There’s also other characters, like a fussy butler that won’t stop trying to parent for you sometimes and it gets very annoying when he changes something without your say-so, and some characters that you probably won’t even encounter in your first couple of playthroughs, like a perverted old dragon that gives you money for…pretty much your mere presence. Or the devil himself, which I still haven’t managed to encounter in my four playthroughs.

I found my first playthrough to be extremely engrossing, and I found myself personally invested in my kid, trying to prepare my kid for the hard life out there as well as I could, toughening her up while also trying (and failing a lot) to remember to chat with her when I could. My emotional responses were surprisingly potent my first way through – I genuinely wanted my daughter to live her love life herself and my policy was that if they wanted to get with her, they’d have to get her approval, not mine. It’s her life, after all. I also got real pissy when a cooking rival showed up and was totally rude to my daughter out of nowhere, and we proceeded to stomp the ever-loving spices out of her in the cooking contest time and time again just to rub it in her face. And when some guy challenged her to a duel out of nowhere and beat her up, we worked together to prepare herself for that sort of situation (she mentioned being self-conscious about how physically weak she felt, too, so I figured I’d help), and when the time arose again, she absolutely clobbered him mercilessly.

Look, I hate kids. I don’t ever want to have kids. I’ve never, ever wanted to have kids. I think they’re the most annoying, vicious things in the world, completely devoid of empathy and utterly inept at holding an interesting conversation. But let me make one thing perfectly clear – if you mess with my daughter, I’m not going to come for you. Instead, I’ll give her the tools and abilities, train her up, and she’ll come for you. And trust me, by the end of it, you’ll probably be so humiliated that you’ll wish I’d have come for you instead. 

I make it a point to avoid using hard expletives often in these in these updates – just a personal preference, I like to be able to be okay with it if my mom or other family members happens to wander over here and start reading, but I’ll make a deliberate exception here to say this:

Do. Not. Fuck. With. My. Daughter.

…well, figuratively, anyways. Literally, she can be with whoever she wants as far as I’m concerned, as long as she’s at least somewhat safe about it at least.

Yeah, I like this game a lot. Really good for its time too, very in depth for a game made in 1993 for DOS. I remember my friend commenting that, despite the widespread knowledge of my loathing of being around children, I ironically was “Acting like such a dad,” as I played.

Hell, any game that can illicit that sort of genuine feeling and reaction from me gets a recommendation.


ICEY for PC

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I’d heard about ICEY from a a video one of my favorite Let’s Play channels did, and was immediately intrigued. A sidescrolling action game that had more under the surface than it first seemed? A narrator that could be messed with à la The Stanley Parable? Interesting, seems worth investigating, especially since it seems to be the only game by a Chinese developer with the unwieldy name Shanghai FantaBlade Network Technology Co., Ltd.

I’ve had a good few run-ins with meta-game concepts and fourth-wall-breaking games that at this point, the most interesting thing to do for me is to do exactly what the game wants me to do first, resisting the multiple temptations to try and go my own way to get a rise out of a narrator figure. And, surprisingly, on its own, as an action game I quite enjoyed ICEY’s combat. It looks nice and fluid, with a sort of easy-to-learn, moderately-difficult-to-master speedy-dodgy playstyle, and impacts are nice and…impactful. I probably would have enjoyed this game just fine if it happened to be a simple, sincere, short slice of swordplay action, and once you get the powerup of five rechargeable dashes that can be directed in any of the eight main directions, things start to get pretty crazy and awesome. Half the time I felt like a low-tier DragonBall character.

Then, after my first run, which only took a maximum of an hour and a half, it was time to start really dinking around, taking alternate routes that the narrator clearly didn’t want me to go to, messing with him because I had powerups I wasn’t supposed to have so early on, and just experimenting and having fun. Each ending, however, revealed a little bit about the larger story, giving what were once mindless bosses a bit more character, hinting at a larger force at work known as the Yellow King, and what was once simply getting on my narrator’s nerves for fun soon became a collect-all-the-endings-to-get-the-true-ending affair.

In the midst of collecting endings, the meta narrative goes deeper and deeper, exploring the personal life and psyche of a narrator that seems to unhinge little by little as time and exploration goes on, not helped by your own rule-breaking actions. Interestingly, this is the first time that I can think of where netting the “true” ending involves getting all the achievements, and encourages using those achievements as hints on how to get them in the game itself. While I won’t spoil any of the endings, including the ending-ending, I’ll say that I managed to obtain all of them in five hours, consequently netting all the achievements in the game as a side benefit rather than having to go out and get them for the sole sake of achievement hunting.

Honestly, I wish more games would incorporate achievements as hints to complete the game proper. It’s a nice idea that strays away from the monotony of 100% completion of a game for the sake of 100% completion. I also really like the idea of completing a game when you’ve…well, completed the game, rather than completing a game when you’ve done X amount of tasks Y times that hold little relevance to the game itself.

It’s a nice, fresh motivator, is all I’m saying. The industry could use more games like this that use achievements in more interesting ways.

The DLC is disappointing though. Don’t bother, it’s just basically horde mode. I hear it adds a little more to the story eventually, but I couldn’t be bothered to find out because it just got so monotonous, and more story didn’t really seem necessary after all that happened.

As a final point, while it’s your call, I found the English dub of the narrator to…not quite capture the tone of the original Chinese dub. It wasn’t awful, however – give both a shot and see what you like more, but I think the Chinese dub sounded a little more believable.

I quite enjoyed this game. Honestly, more so than Pony Island, which is a fine game in its own right, and probably the most direct comparison I can think of.


Final Fantasy I for PlayStation Portable

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Final Fantasy I is among my very first gaming experiences in my entire life. Back when I was…damn, 4 or 5, maybe younger, my Nana had an original NES complete with a slew of games, ranging from Super Mario Bros 1 and 3 (2 was missing, peculiarly), Castlevania, Metroid, Battletoads, and of course among them was the real, original, first turn-based JRPG I ever played, Final Fantasy, made by Square as a hailmary move for their company who, at the time in 1987, was in dire financial straits.

As a kid, I remember the original Final Fantasy being very hard to follow, often times getting lost and having no idea how to proceed. I also remember that about midway through the game there was a massive difficulty spike that required a fair amount of grinding to get through even for adults around me, and the first real big-boy dungeon, the Marsh Cave, being a definitive game-ender for pre-10-year-old me.

Well, now I’m grown up. And so has Final Fantasy. I’m an aduuuullllllt. And now, it’s time to see how well the remake for the PSP back in 2007 translated such an old and venerated title to a more modern era.

First off, the graphics are updated, and they look quite nice while staying relatively faithful to its source material. That’s…really all I have to say about that, pretty straightfoward. The same could be said for the music, now fully composed with proper instrumentation and executed very well. Magic has been changed – instead of going by the original’s limited charges per magic level, now it’s just a more modern Magic Point system. Back in the old one, if you killed an enemy that you also set another one of your party to target, that next party member would swing at nothing and waste their turn, and, well, they’ve done away with that in the remake, instead letting party members hit the next guy on the list automatically. Also, I only knew about this from ProJared’s recent video, but it turns out this fixes a lot of bugs from the original game I didn’t even know existed in the first place, so that’s a major plus. There have been new dungeons added with bonus bosses from other, later entries in the series too!

The dancer in the first town now helpfully reminds you of what to do next if you’re stuck…that is, until she just…stops doing that about 1/4th of the way through the game, for some reason.

Yeah, that bothered me a little. Especially since I really could have used her help halfway through. Once I got access to the airship, I was having to look at guides left and right to find out where I was supposed to go. I even had to rely on guides to get the airship in the first place. In my attempts to find out what to do next by wandering around by myself and talking to people, I found myself shockingly overleveled, and truth be told, I’ve been mopping the floor with this game’s bosses with a mere three or four hits.

It’s like they thought to themselves, “Well, the old one was too hard and grindy, so let’s overcorrect twice as hard and make this game’s battles for babies, but let’s keep the player guessing as to where to go next still, and have encounters every five steps or so anyways.”

If it wasn’t obvious, I don’t like the encounter rate in this game. This poses a particular problem in dungeons, which can be difficult to navigate while not having a map and simultaneously being attacked by the 17th friggin cockatrice in this multi-layered, meandering, long-ass dungeon, and sometimes after an encounter I get turned around and have to find my way again only to be hit by another encounter merely ten seconds later and losing my place all over again.

It really feels to me like lowering the encounter rate would have helped a lot, not only to make the game more balanced and less easy to overlevel one’s self and gather stupid amounts of money, but also for the benefit of dungeon navigation which is already difficult to begin with in this particular game. Not to mention it’d help me to remember what I’m supposed to be doing next in the long run as well.

If there’s one takeaway from this particular writeup, I want it to be that – lowering the encounter rate would have seriously helped.

Aaaaah, but I can’t help it. I still think this game is fine enough. There’s no shame on relying on a guide here, especially with dungeon maps and especially-especially halfway through the game where you have to do some pretty obtuse stuff to proceed, so as long as you’re okay with that, and you’re patient with the encounter rate, I feel like there’s a lot of good stuff to be had here, particularly the ability to set up your party classes from the get-go however you want, for a unique sort of replay value not seen in any subsequent Final Fantasy mainline entries. Want to build a party with four white mages? You can!

Well…I mean, you can, but…good luck if you do. Just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should.


God Eater: Resurrection for PC (Revisit)

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So, in the almost year and a half of writing this series, only once have I ever had to revisit a game in a later entry, and that was because I found a different, superior version to the one I was previously playing. This is the first time I’ve ever revisited a game solely because of a change in opinion over time. Granted, these aren’t full fledged reviews, they’re just updates, so many times I’ve written a piece on them here without having played the game all the way through, and I’ve always kept the possibility of going back and revisiting a game open if necessary, it’s just that I’ve never felt the need to. All the opinions I’ve written in these main pieces have either held up or just gone further in the same direction.

Time to do something unprecedented for this series, then.

A few more months of playing this game has revealed certain flaws I’m not okay with. I beat the campaign, rolled the credits, and everything seemed fine until…the game just…kept going afterwards anyways. Why did you roll the credits if there was still an entire half of the game to be played? It’d be one thing if you pulled a clever thing like Symphony of the Night and added lots of variety while turning certain conventions in the game on its head, or like Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal where there’s a whole host of new places to go to, but God Eater didn’t really do anything like that. It just…kind of lied about being over. There was no good reason to put the credits in there at all when there’s still half the game left.

The game continues, a few new characters are introduced, and now you’re put in a position similar to one of the previous characters as a sort of mentor figure to newbies. The main newbie in particular just…has a voice that grates on me. It really contrasts with the rest of the cast, who are fairly believably acted, or at the very least, don’t sound like a robot Mokuba Kaiba. There might be a reason for that, but I’m probably not going to get to see that reason becaaaaaaause…

…the game’s just getting too boring and repetitive now.

It’s not fun anymore. I’m finding myself fighting mostly powered up colorswaps of the same monsters, the fights are dragging on for longer now because of it, there are more fights in general to do, and it’s almost required now to do the side missions or else get wrecked by the story because I don’t have good enough equipment, which means getting to the story bits is becoming far too long a process for me to care about anyone anymore.

Especially since the plot faux-resolved itself like three chapters ago, and probably should have ended there.

I mentioned I couldn’t really get into Monster Hunter when I tried it, and the more time that goes on, the more I feel like this is having the same main issue as Monster hunter. Too long of battles, too repetitive, and not enough story expedience to keep me interested. It’s become more of a grinding game now than ever, and it seems to be going further in that trajectory the more missions I play and the further I get into it.

I might come back to it to try and beat it – looking it up, I seem to only be two or three chapters from the actual end, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. I’ll give a final summation later if I do decide to go back to it.

That said, I also tried the multiplayer with my girlfriend, and that proved to be pretty fun, I’ll admit.


Other Quick Updates

Dark Souls III for PC

It’s finally happened, a sale cutting DSIII to half price happened and I snatched it up as fast as I could! I’m currently playing it alongside a friend and making it a point to not go ahead by myself, so it’ll probably be a hot minute before I get around to giving this the monthly update treatment. That said, this process is also allowing me to more thoroughly go back and explore areas we already went through, finding little things here and there that help and grinding some to get giant. I never mind grinding in Dark Souls, it’s kinda relaxing really, and each encounter is engaging.

Final Fantasy X (International) for PS2

Why is Blitzball so disappointing, yet still so addicting? Also, I have no goddamn idea what I’m doing with the Expert Sphere Grid. I think I’m failing hard with it.

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