Summer Gaming Challenge 2017 #2 – Digital Devil Saga

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Quick Info on Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga:
Console  – PS2 (re-released digitally on PS3, unchanged)
Release Year – 2005
Metacritic Score – 78

I have trouble finding the words to say about Digital Devil Saga.  It’s not a bad game, not by any means, but now that I’m a few days removed from beating it, I find trouble singing its praises, as well.  It’s a good, but flawed experience… but it’s gotten me quite excited to play Digital Devil Saga 2, which I’ll probably get to after I’m done with the challenge.  But, let’s talk about the first game, and hopefully I won’t be rambling.

Digital Devil Saga takes place in The Junkyard, a place where war is constantly waged in order to reach Nirvana and a better life.  Essentially, it’s very much similar to Purgatory, to put Western religious beliefs to it all.  However, the tide of the war shifts when a mysterious object appears, giving the residents of the Junkyard the ability to transform into demons, and a fiendish hunger to devour their enemies.

The story to the first Digital Devil Saga is a bit back heavy, though it makes sense due to the plot.  The residents of the Junkyard (including our characters) did not care about such things as motives, emotions, or their world before awakening to their demonic powers, but as the game goes on and more things are revealed (“how do we know what the color of the sky is if all we see are clouds and rain?”), the characters come to care more about these inconsistencies and what the Junkyard really is.

What’s interesting, though, is that by the end of the first game, not much is really explained.  This can really irk some people, but this also makes sense in the grand scheme of  the game, and the duology.  The entirety of the game takes place in the Junkyard, and every single person in there has no clue what’s going on and is trying to piece together their emotions and small fragments of memories.  One character does eventually regain his full memories, but it drives him damn near insane and he’s killed shortly after giving some vague foreshadowing.  It’s clear that hard answers will be given in 2, though the teaser at the end of 1 really raises more questions than anything else.

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Man this guy was a dick.

Gameplay is pretty similar to most Shin Megami Tensei titles.  It’s turn-based and features the One More Turn system that rewards you for hitting weaknesses and scoring critical hits.  Encounters are random, as well.  What’s different about Digital Devil Saga are Mantras.  Mantras allow you to build your party members as you wish, as anyone can equip any Mantra, and mastering the Mantra using Atma Points will give them new skills and passive abilities.

The Mantra system is kind of a blessing and a curse at the same time.  Since you can teach anyone anything (provided they’re far enough along on that particular line), you can build your party how you wish.  However, everyone other than the main character has preset stat ups and weaknesses, making it so that you really shouldn’t stray too much from the normal builds for the characters.  But, oftentimes important skills are locked behind Mantra lines that you normally wouldn’t persue with specific characters, so you’ll have to waste Karma (money), Atma Points, and time teaching characters skills that will find no use in their skillset, to eventually learn skills that will help.

I’ll use Heat as an example here, as he’s the most extreme of the party members when it comes  to this.  Heat’s basically the character that punches things and they fall… all of his stats go into Strength and Vitality.  Heat casting a magic spell beyond the first dungeon or two means you’re playing the game wrong.  So naturally, you’re going to want him to learn the physical Mantras, to learn physical moves that take advantage of his strength and large HP pool.  You’d also preferably teach someone else the fire Mantras, so you never have to make him cast Agi and exploit that weakness again.  You want him punching stuff, after all.

But, here’s the problem.  As, well, the fire demon and the story’s foil to the main character, Heat has a crippling weakness to Ice moves.  Coupled with his low Magic (which determines both magic attack AND defense), two Bufudyne attacks could easily wipe him out from near max HP, and that would give the enemy more attacks to whittle down everyone else’s health.  Thankfully, there is a skill you can equip that can resist Ice, cancelling out his weakness.  But, you know where you get that Resist Ice skill?  The very final Mantra in the ice line of spells.  So instead of teaching Heat those physical skills that are so good for him, you have to waste a ton of time and money to have him learn up to MABUFUDYNE, a skill that he will never, ever use when I dumped all of Serph’s (main character and resident ice demon) stat points into Magic.  The time it takes to accumulate the AP for the final elemental Mantras is pretty excessive too, making the whole task tedious… if you can even afford it.  Considering that four of the five characters is weak to some elemental, unless you want to have to cast a Void spell in every battle against a weakness, you’ll have to do it for all four of them.  Oh, and Cielo is weak to EVERY SINGLE STATUS EFFECT in the game, making him nigh useless in every battle after you get him, since equipping all the Null status skills would leave him no room to actually have any skills.

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Look at this!  It’s ridiculous!  And you can’t check skills in the next part of the line until you master the Mantra before it.

This problem, coupled with later bosses needing some high-end skills to not be massive pains, makes the game a bit imbalanced.  I got through about half the game pretty easily, but suddenly hit a wall a few dungeons before the end where I had to stop constantly and just grind… not for levels, but for Mantras and skills to just survive.  Oh, and Heat never got to learn Ice Resist, nor did Serph learn Fire Resist.  Those really should be a little earlier in the line…

But, it’s a pretty decent game… its difficulty was uneven and even sometimes felt a little bit forced (oh you don’t have Dekaja? Well good luck!), but it’s necessary to get through to understand 2, and it’s really not that bad to get through.  I do recommend looking up a Mantra guide for building characters… and do make sure to pick one that helps you through the WHOLE game, the guide I picked stopped about 2/3rds through saying “Oh, you know how to build your characters now!” when… obviously I didn’t, because how would I know I suddenly needed Null Panic on everyone for a boss battle.  Or multiple elements mastered.  Or Dekaja… I’m not bitter about the guide I used at all, no siree!

Summer Gaming Challenge 2017 #1 – Super Mario Galaxy 2

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Quick Info on Super Mario Galaxy 2:
Console  – Wii (re-released digitally on Wii U, unchanged)
Release Year – 2010
Metacritic Score – 97
Time it took to beat – 10h32m

How fitting that the first game with this year’s Summer Gaming Challenge is actually the sequel to the first game I beat last year.  I hadn’t planned on it being that way, but considering that right before the challenge begun I went through two RPGs (one being the long as heck Persona 5), I needed a bit of a break from the RPGs and settled on Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Ever since beating the first game last year, I’ve been excited to delve into Galaxy 2 and see what it had to offer.  I found that the gaming community tended to be split on which one they liked more, despite both being lauded as incredible games, so of course I was expecting more great gameplay from 1 returning to 2.  I mean, they even both got the same Metacritic score!

Now that I’ve beaten Galaxy 2, I can say without the shadow of a doubt… that I liked the original way more.

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I did enjoy the stages where you ran fast as Yoshi… until they started throwing lame wall scenarios at you

Don’t get me wrong, Galaxy 2 is great.  The addition of Yoshi made it so there’s a greater variety of level types to help keep levels from getting stale.  Also, since it doesn’t have to waste time/levels introducing the basic mechanics (like planet hopping and star bits and whatnot), it felt like Galaxy 2 was able to get into more original level designs quicker.  It’s largely the same as Galaxy 1, but with a few new mechanics and a slew of whole new levels… which makes sense as the game originally started as an expansion/level pack.

But on the whole, Galaxy 2 started to frustrate me.  While the Yoshi stages were fun at first, they quickly became tedious affairs, with the controlling of Yoshi during boss battles specifically  sticking out like a sore thumb to me.  Also, the motion control gimmick levels are back, and they aren’t that much better in 2… Rolling balls and gliding birds with the always finicky Wiimote aren’t my idea of a fun time.  Oh, and the spring powerup.  Why, why did that have to make a comeback?  Does anyone like the spring powerup?

A lot of the things I was able to forgive in Galaxy 1 I find harder to forgive in 2, simply because it’s a sequel and it should improve upon the original.  Its less ambitious origins asides, it feels like Galaxy 2 just wears on my patience, especially considering the upped star cost to get to the final level (requiring me to do a bunch of comet stars, which aren’t always fun) and generally annoying levels (again, the spring one).  I just wish, deep down that 2 would have fixed some of the (admittedly small) issues from 1, but the fact that they didn’t feel like they did is just… disappointing.

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I will say I like the return of the world map, though.  Being able to jump in a stage quickly is pretty important to me, and Galaxy 1 made that a bit… difficult at times.  Also I feel as though Comet Stars are handled a lot better in 2 than 1, but I’m really struggling to remember how precisely those worked in 1.  I don’t think 1 let me queue up like seven of those suckers in a row, though!  And while these improvements are important to me, I just wish the gameplay related issues might have been looked at a bit more.

To wrap it up, I like Galaxy 2, it’s a pretty good Mario game.  I just like Galaxy 1 more, despite them being largely the same.  I’d easily recommend both to someone looking for Wii games to play… and since both got re-released on the Wii U digitally, I’d recommend it even more.

Summer Gaming Challenge, 2017 edition

It’s that time of the year again… the time where I try and play 10 ‘classic’ games over the summer!  I won’t go over the rules again, I posted them here and am too lazy to retype the thing.  My start date will be somewhere around June 1st, but I may start a little earlier or later depending on how efficiently I can clear out the current backlog skeletons in the closet.

My ten games for this year are:

Earthbound (SNES via Wii U VC)
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (3DS)
Monkey Island 2 Special Edition (Steam)
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga (PS2 via PS2 Classics)
Suikoden II (PS1 via PS1 Classics)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland (Wii)
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past (3DS)
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (Steam)
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)

I’m also doing something a little different this year.  If I flat out end up hating a game, or if console availability is kind of bad for me for whichever reason, I have a few backup games just in case.  This is mainly because a lot of my list originally were PS3 titles, which is an issue because it’s in a busy living room and working through four or five RPGs down there probably wouldn’t work.

The tentative backups are:

The Last of Us Remastered (PS4)
Breath of Fire IV (PS1 via PS1 Classics)
Deadly Premonition (PS3)

As per every year before, once I finish a game I will write a piece on it, so look forward to more posts!  I wonder which game I’ll finish first…

Weekly Gaming Update #19 – Let’s Not Do That Today

Look Morgana, yes I went to go see a movie yesterday… no, I waited until the afternoon, but I have plenty of time before bed to write this blog post!  Dude, a two hour movie isn’t THAT tiring.  I can stay up past 7PM, I promise I won’t throw a tantrum when I have to get up early the next day.

Annoying cat.

New Games Started

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga – In Progress

Games Beaten

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare
It’s short.  It’s okay.  I’m glad it finishes up the storyline from the first game at least.  It’s so short that I can’t really recommend against playing it, but I wouldn’t say it really wowed me or anything either.  It’s just kind of there.

In Progress

Persona 5
I’m back to this again.  Was I back to this last week?  I can’t really remember.  Oh well.  I’m really determined to beat this before I start the Summer Gaming Challenge (more on that in a bit), so I’m focusing mainly on this for the rest of the month.  I’m 60 hours in, on the sixth Palace, and I see that I’m ramping towards the conclusion.  I’ve been working on some random achievements and social stat building instead of Confidants so that the second playthrough I can max out all the Confidants instead of having to do tedious book reading or take baths or whatever.  I wish I could freaking find Mishima though and FINALLY finish that off, he’s been at Rank 9 for ages.

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
I have limited access to my PS3 since it’s downstairs at the moment, but I had some time on Sunday to play it and so I started this.  I’m only a couple hours in, and I’m really liking this… The Mantra setups (I think they’re called) are fun to mess with, and thank goodness the battle continues if the main character is down.  Excited to play more of this one when I can!

Goals for Next Week

Alright, so, as yearly tradition I’m participating in the Summer Gaming Challenge, in which I play 10 games considered ‘classics’ and such.  I’ll go more into detail when I make the blog post itself.  I had planned on starting on May 14th, but on second thought I decided it would be better to get the time sucking behemoth that is Persona 5 out of the way first, as it’ll definitely cut into my Summer Gaming time otherwise.  So, I’m starting around June 1st this year.  Of course, I want to get Persona 5 out of the way (if I concentrate on it, I *might* be able to beat it this week), but also hopefully Tomb Raider and any other recent backlog stragglers standing in my way.  So that’s my game plan for the rest of the month!

See you next week!

Weekly Gaming Update #18 – *slightly louder than average scream*

*speechless, continued*

New Games Bought

Yoshi’s Wooly World
It’s the final Wii U game that I wanted, and I turned in some other games for Amazon credit… and I decided to get it!

Catherine
The PSN Golden Week sale had a lot of great things to get, but I mainly rebought stuff.  Catherine, however, is a new grab.  I was always wary of picking it up because of the difficulty, but a friend told me about Easy Mode and how cool the plot is so I decided to grab it on the cheap.

New Games Started

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition – In Progress

Games Beaten

Puyo Puyo Tetris
I had a ton of fun with this, more than I thought I would.  I had a few trouble points (I needed my boyfriend to beat a few of the harder Tetris stages), but it’s all great fun, with a lot more single player content than I ever expected.  I’m still working through the post game content… it would be cool if I could platinum this game, but given that there’s a few online trophies, I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to (either because I’m not good enough, or the servers will die).  We’ll see!

In Progress

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
Honestly, this has kind of bored me so far.  I’m not too interested in the plot… the characters aren’t really that interesting, and how is it that everyone but Lara is susceptible to the injuries they get in cutscenes?  I think I’m a little under halfway through, so I’ll probably just finish it off and sell it.  It’s not bad, just… so by the numbers that it’s not interesting to play at all.

Goals for Next Week

I spent most of my week play Puyo Puyo Tetris and not actually playing many games.  I hope to play a few more games… probably not Tomb Raider, as my cat chewed through my headset and I was streaming that for the hell of it.  I’d like the whole playthrough on Twitch if possible!  Maybe I’ll try to get farther in Pikmin 3… I have to keep restarting days so progress is a little slow.

See you next week!

Weekly Gaming Update #17 – A Day Late, A Dollar Short

Whoops, a little late on this again.  April was such a bleh month for me for whatever reason–I had trouble doing much of anything productive, let alone make these posts.  I’m sure May will be better.

Games Started

Pikmin 3 – In Progress
Puyo Puyo Tetris – In Progress

Games Beaten

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment
Probably my favorite of the three Shovel Knight campaigns.  Specter Knight is a little hard to control at first, but once you get the hang of midair slashes and the like it’s really fun to play.  I’m really thankful for the cloak that has you not auto-die if you hit spikes or fall in a bottomless pit though… sometimes landing those jumps are incredibly difficult.

Backstage Pass
I wanted to like this, but my god is it so simultaneously dull and infuriating.  Like I was trying to work towards a specific character’s romance ending, but suddenly the hearts just stopped… filling up, which is the indication for the romance ending.  I dunno why.  And two other characters’ (who I only talked to from time to time) stars started filling up (friendship endings), despite me not talking to them.  Then the ending I actually saw was the fourth of these characters, who I almost never talked to, and of course that path ended terribly because I never talked to him!  And I have no clue how any of this happened.  Any of it.  And, there was a bunch of stat raising and I don’t really know the point of it other than me having to click more and sometimes get a random conversation and how am I talking to John again my god I don’t remember wanting to talk to you ever how did I get this ending!  Despite all this I really want to play through again just to get a semi-satisfying ending (with a guide, of course) and since the damn game likes John so much I guess I’ll just do his path because why would I want to date Adam, fine game you win

Kirby Planet Robobot
Definitely my favorite Kirby game.  I really like the robot and how the powers work with it, and I enjoyed the new powers too (at least new for me, it’s been a bit since I played a modern Kirby game).  It’s not too long, and doesn’t really force any stringent requirements on the play to beat (I’m looking at you and those Rainbow Coins, Mass Attack).  If you’re playing the levels even somewhat like you should and being a little observant, you can easily get the number of Code Cubes you need to reach the bosses.  I really like how they balanced it!

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
I guess I could some this up in a word, that word being ‘meh’, but I’ll say more.  I sort of wish that the Special Edition gave the game more than a facelift… maybe including a hint system for what to do next if you get stuck would be nice.  Monkey Island is a pretty old game, so I can’t fault it too much for its archaic and obtuse nature, but they could have tried to modernize it at least a little.  Also, in my opinion, trying to play the thing with a keyboard and mouse was really more difficult than it should have been… it’s a point and click adventure game!  I eventually switched to a 360 controller.  and why doesn’t the Steam version have the 360 achievements on it?  Oh, and the art style was kinda… meh.  Honestly I probably should have just played the original version…

In Progress

Puyo Puyo Tetris
Adventure Mode is hard, I suck at Tetris, and am only passable at Puyo Puyo.  That about sums it up.

Pikmin 3
Gotten through a few days, this is a lot of fun!  The time limit stresses me out a tiny bit, but it seems less overbearing than the first game’s limit, at least.  Still only have Red and Rock Pikmin at the moment, but I assume I’ll get more types soon, as I’m still unlocking new areas.

Goals for Next Week

I’d like to start working on my Steam games.  It’s my highest collection of unbeaten games, and I’d like to get it below 10 unbeaten ones before the Summer Sale comes along to ruin any progress.  Also I’m trying to get through a few more games (Pikmin 3 being one of them), so maybe work on them, too.  I’m taking a little break from Persona 5, as great as it is I’m a little burned out by so much playtime in such a short period…

See you next week!