Whatcha Playing: May 2019
RPGamer’s recurring feature providing a look at what the staff is playing outside of games for review is back. This month there is lots of monster collecting going on with Pokémon: Let’s Go and Yo-kai Watch 2 vying for time in the staff’s consoles. South Park, RPG Maker, and Moreo Chronicle also are getting some attention from the staff.
With that introduction out of the way, whatcha playing?
May has been a busy month. I started a new job, I am having to get used to a new schedule, and trying to plan any bit of free time I have accordingly. I’ve been playing Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age on and off for the last few months, though May saw me getting hardcore back into the story. I spent the majority of the month working towards the end of Act 1 and collecting all the darn orbs. I have to say, the puns in this game may be more top-notch than some of the previous entries. I may have snot-giggled over Nhou Wat, which is a dungeon in Phnom Nohn, a city that the cast has to pass through.
I have to say, as much as I love the cast from Dragon Quest IV and V, I think XI‘s may, in fact, be more memorable than those previous games’. I am super intrigued by Veronica and Serena’s story, which, having just made it to the World Tree, I’m intrigued to see completed. I love Jade and I constantly have her in my party because she kicks so much ass. I love having the ability to swap through the cast at any point in battle, which is just so unheard of for this series. Then there is Sylvando, my precious bean who I just always have in my party because he says the best commentary ever from “Don’t worry, Sylv’s here” to “Lemme kiss that boo boo better!” WHO SAYS THIS STUFF? Right, the best character in the damn game.
— Sam Wachter (@merrygodown) May 4, 2019
I am pretty sure Act 1 is winding down at this point given I am at the World Tree. I’m definitely excited to see where Act 2 takes me. I haven’t decided if I want to jump into the post-game content given I have so many other games I want to play, but I am really enjoying the world-building, combat, and characters. The thirty hours I’ve put in actually feel as though they have flown by. Hopefully I complete the game by the end of the month, but we shall see! I keep thinking I need to go back to Final Fantasy X and Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel but neither game is pulling me the way Dragon Quest is.
Also I TALKED TO A SHARK! How cool is that? Well, he didn’t say anything back, but it was still cool!
After a long hiatus, I’ve returned to Yo-Kai Watch 2: Psychic Specters. I’ve been traveling lately, and it’s easy to pick up and play in short bursts. The plot is episodic, there are plenty of short quests, and several time-based mechanics like the daily Crank-a-kai prizes are less annoying when they fall naturally into my schedule.
I’m in the post-game now, which is markedly more challenging than the main story. To remain competitive with the bonus bosses, I’ve had to bench two of my longtime favorite yo-kai: Apelican, the line-dancing American pelican who shouts “Yes we pelican!” to encourage his allies, and Harry Barry, a simple country bear who wants to be just like Kumamon. I’m not planning on completing my Yo-Kai Medallium or getting anywhere near 100% completion, but I’m in no hurry to close this chapter of Jibanyan and Whisper’s excellent adventure.
When I do crank my last kai, I’ll be taking a short break from yo-kais and returning to something a little more small press. As much as I like the puns, enthusiasm, and sense of exploration in this series, the padding (riding the train, low yo-kai join rates) and mini-games (bike riding, Terror Time) are best as a sometimes food.
May is a bit of a strange month for me gaming-wise. I finally broke the Overwatch addiction I nursed all through April, which finally opened up time to play some other games. There was a sale in EB Games that had Pokémon stuff cheaper than I could find otherwise, so I picked up a new copy of Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee! and immediately jumped into it.
So, we all know how different Let’s Go is from the average game in the series, so I don’t really need to go too deeply into that other than to say that this one is set up to be extremely easy and I had to figure out a way to challenge myself to keep it interesting. This led to my first run being a Nuzlocke run. I caught one Pokémon per area and barely caught anything else for the experience. The game was a little more difficult and I did lose a lot of good ‘mons including my best friend Eevee. It took so long to get another at the same CP as him and no one else I could get was as flexible. It really hurt my team, but I stood by and benched him. A total of 16 Pokémon were lost.
I didn’t find that challenging enough, though. So I came up with an idea to really push things. I did a run in which you can only buy Balls and you can’t use any Pokémon centers to heal. You can revive but only until you run out of items, then it becomes much more difficult to progress if you’ve only been focusing on a set team. The other key element was not using any candy items on anything. I found that makes your team get way overpowered and I wanted none of it.
There was a loophole though. You sometimes get healed via the story or you can heal by talking to certain NPCs, which is allowed so long as you’re in that area for the story. No going back. I felt like this is a little help without breaking the challenge. It’s extremely hard unless you grind out lots of levels by catching stuff and even that doesn’t help that much. If you kill everything in one hit, you’re still down 1 PP each time and, with no Pokémon centers, PP is a finite resource. I found myself trying to push far enough forward that I could get to one of those heal spots, but they didn’t appear so often as to ruin the fun.
I’m sad to say that, after 15 hours, while halfway through the Silph Co. building, my whole team was wiped out and I was forced to go to the Pokémon center. In a way, this was a relief as it revived about 20 Pokémon including all my good ones, but I still feel like I failed my own challenge. Even my shiny Butterfree isn’t enough to comfort me at this point. I’m going to try again, but I still want to keep going in this file first to see how many times I get wiped out until I beat the Elite 4.
I’d love to hear stories of you trying this challenge. It’s about the only way to make the game hard and it is actually way more difficult than Nuzlocke. If you’re feeling particularly masochistic you could combine the two challenges, but I’m not there yet.
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been playing games as much as I would like to. Playing a game for review can take a lot out of you. I’ve mostly been finishing up Sword and Fairy 6 in order to review it, and I admit that I’ve had my share of difficulties attempting to write the review.
I can’t go into too much detail for the reasons stated above but long story short, it tells a really compelling story with complex, nuanced, and downright sympathetic characters. It’s also a complete disaster on a technical level as the game is unable to maintain a consistent frame rate, especially when things get too hectic in combat. Not to mention the several times the game ended up crashing on me. These issues will deter a lot of people from giving the game a chance, which is a shame because I’m ultimately glad I stuck with it, especially since I’m now curious to check out the rest of the games in the series. Of course, that depends on them getting translated and released over here in some capacity.
I’ve also been playing some Dragon’s Crown Pro, which is the PS4 re-release of a game that I missed the first time around. However, I had heard good things about it back when it originally came out and I loved Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir. I don’t have much to say about this one. It’s very pretty and plays well.
However, I feel like I’d enjoy it more if I had other people to play it with, as it’s clear that the game is very much meant to be played in multiplayer, especially after you go through the nine levels the first time around and unlock the ability to play online. Unfortunately, I don’t really have anyone to play offline mode with and due to a change in my financial situation, I had to cancel my PlayStation Plus subscription for the time being. Oh well, hopefully I’ll be able to play the game exactly how it was meant to be played soon enough.
Lucas Tahiruzzaman Syed
I’ve become enamored with the overwhelming opportunities for DIY and self-publishing that characterize the creative process in the digital era. This fascination is undoubtedly a symptom of the fact that my main artistic pursuit (writing musicals) inherently requires lots of funding and personnel. Having dabbled with producing and selling scratch music, print-on-demand book publishing, and indie video content, the next major itch to scratch is… making games. I’m a long way off from creating anything showable, let alone sellable, but dipping my toes in the water with RPG Maker MV has been satisfying enough to even, at times, replace the ritual of gaming itself.
My main question was whether or not, with focused but simple manipulation of the application’s basic features, I could create something that felt even a little unique and compelling. (No original assets yet. The road is a long one.) The core conceit of the experiment’s combat is avoiding RNG by having statistics interact as absolute values: an attack power of 2 against a defense of 1 yields 1 damage. I tried exploiting this with a two-character team that boils down to essentially a high-powered, single-hit knight and a low-powered, multi-hit gunner. (Yes, this has more or less been done before but I’ll find original twists on it eventually).
Once I got a few levels’ worth of their skills customized, I built up a set of combat scenarios — no random encounters and so far no enemy respawning — consisting of two types of foes whose traits demand use of both characters’ skills in concert. While play testing a 15-minute or so chunk of it, I was quite surprised that, in spite of the fact that I had built and planned everything myself, the moment-to-moment combat was fairly challenging and that the skills interlocked in some ways I did not anticipate. It was kind of… working? So I threw in a boss battle that was just a bit too miserably challenging when I first tested it. I mitigated that by adding a few semi-hidden items (one can find three pickable flowers that double attack value for three turns) that, if all are sought out and used in the boss encounter, made it satisfyingly tense but much more manageable.
Honestly, I was surprised at how relatively playable the little thing turned out to be. Now it’s time to experiment with plugins (the community is so generous…!) and — gulp — generating my own assets. I’m scared to even google the tutorials.
After finally finishing a game that felt like it would never end, I was in the mood for a game that would be a less time-consuming endeavor. After perusing my shelves, I settled on South Park: The Fractured but Whole, a sequel that reviewed well at the time, but got lost in the shuffle that was the crazy release schedule of 2017. With a quick confirmation of South Park‘s brevity from HowLongtoBeat, I was ready to dive into some farting action.
I really enjoyed The Stick of Truth, despite merely being a casual South Park fan. It has a fun combat system, lots of references that even I could catch onto, and it was well paced and didn’t overstay its welcome. So, despite the change in developers between games, I still had high expectations going into this one.
Unfortunately, The Fractured but Whole has fallen a little flat for me and I’m struggling to decipher exactly why. The changes to combat — which has gone in a more tactical direction with a grid that characters move around on — should be up my alley considering my love of SRPGs, but I think the changes have made combat slow without really adding a lot of tactical depth. Boss battles have also become incredibly frustrating as there are numerous impediments on the grid that players have to navigate around. It has gotten to the point where I’m avoiding any unnecessary encounters and that’s never a good sign for a game.
I think it also suffers from a “been there, done that” phenomenon. Part of what was so engrossing about The Stick of Truth was experiencing a fully fleshed out South Park world in video game form for the first time. The Fractured but Whole can’t help but be less exciting in that respect. In my personal case, the lack of interest I have in the comic book movie franchises the game is pillorying isn’t helping either.
I always feel bad when everything I write about a game sounds negative when I don’t actually feel that negatively about it. It’s one of those instances where The Fractured but Whole is an ok experience after an earlier amazing experience with The Stick of Truth. I’m still having fun with it and some of the sidequests have been a hoot — I especially loved unraveling the mystery of who was keying Randy’s car every night — it has just been a bit of a bummer that it hasn’t quite lived up to its predecessor.
Since the last time I reported on my progress in Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! I earned the Volcano and Earth Badges, beat the Elite Four and my rival to become Champion, captured Mewtwo, and am almost done filling the Pokédex. Notably, the Let’s Go games actually have 153 Pokémon as opposed to the original games’ 151. Meltan and Melmetal are odd in several ways: they’re technically seventh generation Pokémon, but there’s no way to get them into this current generation’s region, Alola. The only way to evolve Meltan is through the use of the mobile game Pokémon Go, and Let’s Go cannot connect to the Pokémon Bank. I’m still debating transferring my Mew from Go over to Let’s Go Pikachu for 100%, since I don’t want to shell out $50 when I technically have one readily available.
My hang-ups over completing Pokédexes aside, what I find very interesting is Mewtwo’s somewhat expanded and altered role. In the Pokémon Mansion on Cinnabar Island, the journal entries, which tell of how Mewtwo came to be, are different. In the original, and I believe the GBA remakes, a Mew gave birth to Mewtwo. Let’s Go Pikachu words the journal differently, stating “we obtained a new Pokémon from Mew.” Also, on the last floor of the mansion, five tanks can be found, including a large one. This suggests that Mewtwo in this game was created in a tank, like in the first Pokémon movie. Is this a retcon? Or is this yet another example of the Pokémon multiverse, with Red/Blue/Yellow taking place in a separate universe from Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee, thus the stories don’t have to line up? Perhaps it’s just reference, since the next Pokémon movie coming out this July is a CGI remake of the first film.
Capturing Mewtwo brought me all the way back to my first Red Version playthrough, when I tried to fight it because I wasted the Master Ball on an Abra. In Let’s Go, some Pokémon, mostly Legendaries, have to be defeated before balls can be thrown at them. I can’t just toss the Master Ball at the beginning of the match anymore. After three of my Pokémon lost to Mewtwo, I tried a different tactic. Pokémon: Let’s Go has Mega Evolution, and I have a Gyarados. Mega Gyarados not only has the stats to better match Mewtwo, it’s Water/Dark type, making the rematch much easier. For those who haven’t played this game and are wondering if it’s possible to miss with the Mater Ball, it isn’t.
After capturing Mewtwo, there is an interesting encounter to be had in the Unknown Dungeon. After leaving the cave, I met a girl named Green, based on the girl player character in FireRed/LeafGreen and someone in the Pokémon Adventures manga. She was annoyed that I captured Mewtwo and battled me. She also tried to capture my trainer character in a Pokéball, but it just bounced off. She said she tried it because if she can’t capture Mewtwo, she’ll just capture me instead. She’s an odd one to say the least. What is Green’s connection to Mewtwo? I have no idea, but I have to wonder if she may play a role in the upcoming movie.
Anyway, my time is nearly done with Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu!, as I likely won’t be pursuing those master trainers that popped up all over the Kanto region. The game is a well-made trip down memory lane. I feel that I’m satisfied, though, and I do have other games I want to play before I dive into Pokémon Sword/Shield later in the year. It’s great to see some of what the Nintendo Switch can do with my most beloved video game franchise. It gave me a newfound fondness for Pikachu, too.
I didn’t get a chance to play more Super Paper Mario, but I did start a new game, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. I’m still very early in the game, so I don’t have too much to say. It acts as a sort of sequel/midquel for Shin Megami Tensei IV, but as I understand it, their connection is complicated. It’s off to an interesting start, with the hero from the earlier game, Flynn, having become a sort of celebrity with the people of Tokyo for fighting against the forces of chaos and law. This seems to be in line with a neutral path, but not having played through that ending in SMT IV, I can’t say for sure. I had fun with it, but not so much fun that I want to revisit the game anytime soon. Anyway, the player character this time is named Nanashi, a 15-year-old hunter cadet who gets killed, then brought back to life by the Celtic god Dagda. He makes Nanashi a godslayer, though I only have a faint idea of what he means by that. All in good time, I suppose.
The battle system and other game mechanics seem to be largely unchanged. I can switch between two AI-controlled partners thus far, a girl named Asashi and Navarre from the first game as a green blobby ghost. In the original, an AI character would join sometimes, but there was no way to switch. As I tend to do in MegaTen games, I am recruiting and fusing as many demons as I can, waiting until I have a high enough level and more leeway to get my favorite demons, and maybe a few new ones as well. I’ll have more to report on this game later. For now, though, it has my interest.
I’ve spent my May playing arguably two of the best RPGs of the past two years in Persona 5 and Octopath Traveler. Persona 5 is the game that I wrote about back in January as my gaming resolution for 2019: I’m finally going to beat it! I bought this late in 2017, but honestly didn’t even take it out of the shrink wrap until this year. I absolutely loved Persona 4 Golden on my Vita, but shiny new games and far too few hours available for gaming on my PS4 have derailed my attempts to get going with Persona 5 until now. With the RPG Backtrack covering Persona 5 this month, I figured I needed to finally get going. So far I’m about 12 hours into the game and starting to enjoy it as much as Persona 4 Golden. While the size and layout of the city is a little more complicated than this 2D-gamer is used to, I’m enjoying getting to know the neighborhood, the characters, and fusing some demons!
The stylistic choices Persona 5 makes are something that is really getting to me so far. I’m unabashedly enjoying the music style that recent Persona games have adopted and am cranking up the volume while playing each night. Typically I play my RPGs on mute as I game primarily while my kids and wife are sleeping, and I’m too lazy to find headphones, but for Persona 5 I’m making every effort to hear every note, song, and spoken line of dialogue. Speaking of dialogue, it’s refreshingly wonderful! I find myself laughing and nodding along when characters curse and just go off about certain events, because honestly if some of this stuff was happening to me and my friends, I’d be dropping f-bombs left and right too! The final thing that’s hooked me so far are the visuals both in dungeons and the battle system. I’m a huge fan of dungeon-crawlers, so procedurally-generated dungeons have never been an issue for me, but seeing the effort in design that went into the planned dungeons in Persona 5 has really caught my attention. There’s an attention to detail there that really shows through. The battles are simply amazing because I feel like I’m playing a comic book while fighting. Battles move fast and the way the graphics jump out and the color pallete choices remind me of times as a child reading the POWs and WHAMs and BOOMs in a Batman or Superman comic. Even with only about 10% done, I’m 100% a fan of Persona 5.
The second major game I’ve been playing this month, and admittedly far more often than Persona 5, is Octopath Traveler. Currently I’m about 40 hours into the game and halfway through with all the characters’ third chapters. I’ve taken a somewhat different approach to this game than I usually do. I’ve been trying to exploit the heck out of this game to really have an easier experience since I’ve been told over and over again it can get quite grindy. I’ve enlisted some help online and found spots to power-level my characters at certain points so that most chapters only take 1.5-2 hours to complete when I actually start them. I also started as Therion, the thief character, and before I started up Chapter 2 with any character, I visited every town in the game and every dungeon I could reach and plundered all the special treasures that only he could obtain, as well as stealing from any NPC that was careless enough to look the other way. I can’t imagine how much time and effort this has saved me because I haven’t once thought my 40 hours have been grindy. I’ve found myself staying up to 2 or 3 am some nights just working on completely “breaking” this awesome battle system by taking an unconventional approach and just having a ball with it. This hits all the right Bravely Default and Bravely Second vibes while offering a battle system that I find to be an excellent evolution of its predecessors.
A second thing I read in a lot of reviews and heard from a lot of friends is how segmented and how little story there is to Octopath Traveler. This has perhaps put a silver lining around the cloud of this game from the start for me: I’ve mentally approached this game as a series of short stories, and as such am absolutely loving it. I was absolutely floored by what went on in Ophelia’s third chapter and just picked my jaw up off the ground when I got into Primrose’s third chapter only to be floored at the end of that one too. Octopath Traveler may not have an interconnected story in the first 40 hours, but what it’s telling character by character has me absolutely hooked. I suppose it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s been refreshingly wonderful as something different enough to stand out.
Are my days of playing games on mute coming to an end, or are these just two really well-done game soundtracks and voice acting? In fact, one of the few complaints I’m developing with Octopath Traveler is how little voice acting there is. I want more than the couple dozen lines spoken in each chapter. I want to hear the dialogue between characters when they do interact with each other at certain points.
Just like in Persona 5, the art style is speaking to me. Visually, Octopath Traveler has that unique blend of 2D and 3D going for it and I really am enjoying all the sprite-based artwork. One thing I can’t get enough of are the visual effects of moving water and the lighting in overworld environments. They’re stunningly well done and unfortunately highlight one of the weaker visual choices made in Octopath Traveler: enemy design. Coming from a Dragon Quest-heavy gaming background, I’m used to monster recolors popping up throughout the game as new enemies. What I’m not used to, and not enjoying, is walking into an area in Octopath Traveler and fighting three or four variations of the same monster at the same time. I’ve found myself in a battle with Frogman I and Frogman IV only to fight the next encounter against Frogman II and Frogman III, where the only difference in monsters is a couple of different resistances and their sprites holding a different weapon. It feels a little bit lazy and it’s all over the place, inflating the bestiary and making the enemy designs and encounters less memorable than I’d like.
Other than the big two games listed above I’ve spent some time with SteamWorld Dig and am having a fun time with something a little different than hundred-hour turn-based RPGs. Image & Form Games definitely caught my attention with SteamWorld Quest last month and I’m excited to dive into their catalog of games. Also I’m grinding my way through a new Steam release: Swag and Sorcery. What started out as a small town-building game with some crafting and RPG heroes thrown in has quickly devolved into a slog. Long before I hit my second hour of gameplay, progress on my town ground to a halt due to a dearth of raw materials and a gameplay system far better suited for playing on mobile. Having countdown timers on nearly everything and sidequests that easily look like multi-hour fetch quests isn’t a good design choice for a type of game one wouldn’t expect to sit down and play for more than 20-30 minutes at a time. I’ll give it a little more time before I write up an impression, but at this point “impress” isn’t the correct verb for what this game is doing for me.
My line of work usually results in a lot of games getting played, with little progress made on most of them. This month has been an odd mix, primarily working on Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark, which is a blatant homage to Final Fantasy Tactics. Everything you’d expect is there — tons of classes, growth on level-up based on current class, multiple ability trees to master, and even a primary/subclass system that allows you to mix the abilities of classes together. It’s got a lot of depth, which is likely to keep me busy for a while, plus you can customize units fairly well, which is always a plus. The only downsides so far are the art style, which just isn’t as charming (understandably so) as the iconic units from Final Fantasy Tactics, and the animation is rather primitive even for the genre.
Writing about games can get exhausting, however, so it’s always wise to keep a “chill out” game or two (or three) on the side. Since the hullabaloo over Borderlands 3, one of my co-workers has been pushing me back into those games, starting with the Borderlands GOTY port recently released. Being something of a trophy… ah… aficionado, I’ve also picked up the PS3 version and played through that (sweet, sweet platinum, inject it right into my VEINS).
Borderlands is a game I played with my girlfriend back in the day on the Xbox 360, and somehow I forgot almost everything about it in the intervening years. On a second playthrough, it’s far shorter than I remember, and the narrative quality is quite poor compared to the sequel. You don’t realize how much you miss Handsome Jack until he’s gone. That said, the characters and gameplay are simple and crisp, and the legendary drops are easy to run for on the Trash Coast or simply buy out of vending machines, which made it a quick and enjoyable platinum run, one I’m not going to mind doing a second time on the PS4.
That’s not the only blast from the past I’ve been spending some well-earned downtime with, however, as the Switch has become something of a haven for developers trying to make a quick buck off of nostalgic rubes. As such a rube, when Saints Row: The Third was announced for the Switch, I took notice, and when it got some physical swag via an exclusive Deluxe Edition, my wallet popped open and emptied quite of its own volition. Pun intended. While somewhat maligned critically, I haven’t had too many technical issues with the Switch port, although the lack of comprehensive subtitles and aim assist is downright archaic by modern standards. Still, it feels good to slip back into the less contentious days of 2011, when you could pummel a horde of furries outside of a costume shop with a giant dildo-bat and view it as pure, stupid fun instead of some thinly-veiled political statement.
Finally, there’s the other project I’ve been working on, and ironically the oldest game on the list – Final Fantasy VIII. Since I just got done with the terrible orphanage scene near the end of disc two, the less I say about this game, the better. Some old games didn’t age all that well, and some storylines were cringe-inducing even twenty years ago. This is a mix of both.
Anna Marie Privitere
Moero Chronicle Hyper
First, let’s get this out of the way: Moero Chronicle Hyper is a game intended for a mature audience. You probably won’t want to play this in public. That being said, despite the nude girls and the silly script, Moero is a solid dungeon-crawler with plenty of content.
As a human that lives with monster girls, Io has struggled with his perverted desires, but finally manages to cast them off — just as his village elder casts him into the world to make something of himself! Joined by his cheerful childhood companion Lilia (a monster girl, naturally), the duo quickly discovers that all is not well outside their peaceful village and they must rescue wild monster girls from negative energy.
Io and his party accomplish this by stripping the girls of their clothing, then rubbing them until they’ve been cured of negative energy — so this game won’t be for everyone! Once these monster girls join the party, they can be equipped not only with the standard armour, but also with new costumes unlocked by collecting panties.
If none of that has scared you off, fantastic! Moero is a first-person dungeon-crawler with a great variety of environments. Combat is turn-based, with Io in charge of motivating the girls and using items, while the monsters each have a variety of physical and magical attacks to wield against their foes. All enemies have an elemental weakness, and each girl is aligned with a certain element — fire, water, earth, and wind. Mastering which enemies, or which piece of monster girl clothing, is weak to what element is key to victory. Oh, and don’t mind the fact the enemies all look like sexual organs or sex puns.
Despite the ridiculous premise, the game can provide plenty of challenge with a variety of difficulty options. There are so many ways to build your party that you can take your favourites, as opposed to trying to minnow down to “the best” — and seeing the girls interact with each other as new party members join and you increase each one’s affection levels is surprisingly satisfying. Good luck on your quest to find the panties.
That’s all for this edition of Whatcha Playing. Please join the discussion in the comments about the staff’s selections and what games you’re currently playing.