Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, Episode One, and Episode Two

This finishes my playthrough of the Half-Life series.  Technically I ragequit Half-Life: Opposing Force, so maybe I'll go back to that someday and try to see what I was doing wrong.  Anyway, here's my thoughts on the three games in this post's title.

Half-Life 2: Lost Coast

This is less of a game and more of a release-polished tech demo for HDR effects in the Source engine.  For the uninitiated, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and to put it simply, it deals with realism in lighting.  Having realistic lighting can make a game's atmosphere so much more believable, and in a game like Half-Life 2 which is supposed to have realistic graphics, getting the lighting right is crucial.

This game is a short mission where you work your way up a cliffside, to a church, so you can stop a gun from shelling a nearby village.  Once you've done that, you take out one last group of Combine including shooting down a helicopter, do some light platforming, and it ends.  However, you can play through it with the developer commentary on, and get an insight into Valve's design choices and the technical details, as well as any difficulties that arose.  It's pretty neat.  I recommend doing two playthroughs.  One serious, just to experience the content, and the second with sv_cheats 1 and god mode enabled, with the developer commentary.

So, if it's so short and playing through it twice is recommended, then why does Steam say I have 2.5 hours of play time?  Well, I was derping around with sk_max_rpg_rounds 100.

Half-Life 2: Episode One

Episode One is a direct continuation from the end of Half-Life 2 proper.  You see how the heck you and Alyx get out of the citadel, and then work to get away from the citadel after a brief trek back into it to get some crucial information, during which time you get the awesome version of the Gravity Gun.

In addition, I made it a bit more challenging on myself by going for, and obtaining, the achievement "The One Free Bullet", which requires you to complete Episode One while firing exactly one bullet.  Other ammunition types, such as grenades and rockets, are acceptable, as are the Gravity Gun and the crowbar.  Also, a big source of damage is Alyx, who follows you around through the vast majority of the game.  Where do you use that one bullet?  To break a lock, fairly early on.

The final area, a train station, is incredibly hectic as you have Combine trying to surround you, and a Strider in relatively close quarters taking potshots whenever it can.  It makes for quite the challenge, even if you aren't going for the one bullet achievement.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Episode Two is a bit more challenging, and a bit longer.  It houses the achievement for carrying a garden gnome from the beginning of the game to the end of the game.  It also makes a reference allllllllll the way back to the beginning of Half-Life 1, when you blow up Dr. Magnusson's lunch in the microwave.

This time around we get acquainted with a couple new Combine enemies: the Hunter, and the Advisor.  The Hunter has a ridiculous amount of firepower and only a few weapons are really effective against them.  The Advisor, well... it can telekinetically lift its prey up and kill it.  You only encounter one Advisor, ever, although more are shown in the ending.

Speaking of the ending, it's a huge cliffhanger.  Since Valve can't count to three, we'll never know how things go from here...

So, that garden gnome.  As my previous rant would tell, it's a bitch to transport in the car.  I did some poking around on the internet, though, and found that you can cheese the loading screen at the end of that segment to despawn the helicopter.  All of this would be so much better if the garden gnome would actually collide with the seats in the car, but no, it goes right through them.  So, your objective is to end up with a screenshot similar to this one.

However, since that's my screenshot, it happened, but I DIDN'T GET THE ACHIEVEMENT.  FIX YOUR GAME VALVE.

Overall Thoughts

Lost Coast is interesting.  Episode 1 is a nice addition to the story and is quite the challenge, even with Alyx backing you up.  Episode 2 is frustrating in parts and ends on a giant cliffhanger, but is still good.

Side note: ugh Valve y u no let us disable "Change weapon on pickup".

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chrono Trigger DS Stuff

So, over on the right, I've added a new little box thing in that column, titled "Chrono Trigger DS".  Right now, since I'm working on maxing out everyone's level (and getting Magus his techs, which will happen naturally once he's in the party), it's showing character levels and my current party.

It won't always show character levels, though.  It'll reflect what I'm currently doing in the game.

Once I'm done doing stuff, it'll disappear.

Since that doesn't get preserved historically very well, I'll do summary posts every now and then, such as the remainder of this post.

Geno Dome grinding is going on strong, and I've got Crono/Ayla/Robo up to level 96.  Getting Ayla to 96, of course, grants her the Bronze Fist, which makes her critical hits deal 9999 damage.

When I was doing this on the SNES cartridge, I wrote a PowerShell script to calculate how many more grinding runs are left until the next character level and tech, given the grinding location and XP/TP remaining.  It's fairly extensively documented, and I may release it here when I'm done with the XP/TP grinding.  It's aptly named ctgrind.ps1, and all of its directions use the item names and terminology from the SNES/PS1 versions of the game, which are the names and terminology that everyone's used to.  It does cater to the DS version wherever it's truly relevant, but it was written mostly for the SNES/PS1 versions.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

An Exercise in Tedium

I'm playing Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and trying to get the stupid achievement for keeping the fucking gnome from the beginning of the game until the end of the game.

All is going well, but then I get a car.

Surely, there's a spot in the car where I can put the gnome and have it reliably stay in the fucking car, right?



Well, no.  Valve, in all their infinite wisdom, gives you nowhere to put the gnome in the car.  This means that every time you go around a corner, over a hill, jump, or just whenever it feels like it, the gnome falls out of the fucking car.  So regardless of what's happening around you, you have to stop, go find the stupid thing, and put it back in the fucking car.

Then, after the bit with the first Advisor, of course the game spawns the Combine's car in my car, pushing my car forwards, and ejecting the gnome from the car.  So I get through the fight after the Advisor, I have to go find the damn thing and put it in the car, WHILE UNDER FIRE FROM A FUCKING HELICOPTER.  Had enough of stroking your dicks yet, Valve?  The challenge here is to keep the gnome until the end of the game.  The tedium is getting it to stay in the fucking car.  The extra source of tedium is the completely unnecessary helicopter that rains death down upon you if you stop to look for the damn gnome after it falls out of the fucking car.  Also, you don't have any weapons with which to take down the fucking helicopter, and it's an open area, so it gets all the angles on you that it wants.

Fuck you Valve.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Chrono Trigger DS: Geno Dome Time

That's right, having finished Lost Sanctum and gone around doing sidequests, I'm up to Geno Dome grinding.  On SNES/PS1, I always recommended having one character equip the Berserker while using the Rage and Fury Bands on the other two.  However, one of the additional items from Lost Sanctum is the Valor Crest, which raises a character's hit rate as well as giving them a 50% counterattack chance.  So, my recommendation on the DS version is to use that alongside the Rage and Fury Bands.

With everyone having a counterattack chance, it goes faster.  Ayla's up to level 72 and has the mostly useless Iron Fist.  I still think it'd be more useful if she got it at an earlier level, perhaps when she was still at the point where she could land the critical hit necessary to inflict Confuse without also killing the target.  Whatever, level 96 is what matters anyway, because it's all about dat 9999 damage critical hit.

Speaking of 9999 damage critical hits, I've read that one of the new items that I have yet to see is a weapon for Robo that enables him to do 9999 damage critical hits.  I don't know how useful it'll be since he doesn't land critical hits all that often, but it's interesting.

Since Robo has to be in the party the entire time we're in Geno Dome, I basically ignore him.  He'll max out eventually.  Thus, the first party is my mainstay: Crono, Ayla, and Robo.  Once they're maxed, the next party is Robo, Frog, and Magus.  When they're maxed, I switch back to Crono, Ayla, and Robo to max out Marle and Lucca from out-of-party XP, which, as I've mentioned in the past, is faster than having them in the party due to their low regular attack damage.

Once everyone's at 99, then I'll finish Geno Dome and get Robo's equipment, and then work my way through Black Omen and beat the game.  The thing with the extra equipment in the DS version is: the ultimate equipment everyone's used to from the SNES/PS1 is still the best, until you're in New Game + and have the Dimensional Vortex available.  Being that I haven't gotten to that point yet, I don't know precisely when Dimensional Vortex gets unlocked or what time period you have to go to in order to enter it.  Regardless, within is brand new ultimate equipment to play around with, as well as an extra ending.  Should be fun.

There is something new, though.  There's a sword called "Dinoblade" that you get from Lost Sanctum, that's better than Frog's Brave Sword.  So basically, when saving his penultimate sword for New Game + now, we have a slightly better option.  Also, Lost Sanctum has a successor to the Hero Badge: the Champion's Badge.  In addition to the standard Masamune critical hit rate up effect, it also halves Frog's MP costs.  I guess that would be useful if more of his magic was useful, but that's a separate rant.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Chrono Trigger DS: Thoughts on Lost Sanctum

Now that I've finished the first bit of extra content that was added in the DS version, here's some thoughts.

It would be apt to say that the Lost Sanctum feels tacked on, because, well, it was tacked on.  However, there's more to this than that.  It just doesn't feel like the rest of the game.  Even entering and leaving the place, the landing spot for Epoch is incredibly finnicky.  Particularly in 65,000,000 BC, where it looks like you have a giant area to land.

Going in and out of the area is also a pain.  You come in through a beam of light, then your characters slowly walk downwards a bit and bunch up before you gain control.  When leaving, you have to answer a confirmation prompt first.

However, it doesn't stop there.  The areas are full of unavoidable encounters.  I know, the rest of the game has plenty of unavoidable encounters, and it wouldn't be an RPG if you didn't fight things on occasion, but...  Lost Sanctum is basically a series of fetch quests, meaning you'll be going in and out of these areas repeatedly.  So you'll constantly have to deal with the same unavoidable encounters over and over again.  It's especially irritating since the rest of the game sets the example that if you avoid making contact with the enemy's sprite, you won't have to battle.

I have no problem with the fetch quests themselves, they're all fairly simple and straightforward, and make use of time travel in one manner or another.  However, you absolutely must talk to the NPCs.  It isn't like other areas of the game where if you know where to go and what to do, you can mostly avoid talking to NPCs, except when that itself gets you something.  Here, the NPCs have to hold your hand and tell you exactly what to do every step of the way.

The enemies in this area have an abnormally high number of counterattacks that trigger whenever you attack them.  Elsewhere in the game, if an enemy has a counterattack, it's a simple issue of being at proper range (Yakra), or a counterattack phase of the battle where you can just heal up instead of attacking (Heckran), or you can hit another part of the enemy to avoid it (Lavos Spawn).  But here, there's nothing to do except eat the counterattacks.

Also, this area is basically a giant plot hole.  The Reptites were wiped out of existence in 65,000,000 BC after you storm the Tyrano Lair and Lavos falls.  This is evidenced by the ending you get if you defeat Lavos before finishing the Tyrano Lair, where everyone's a Reptite.  After you finish the Tyrano Lair, defeating Lavos gives you the next ending, and everyone's human again.  The Reptites are clearly supposed to go extinct, yet this area is full of them, and they survive until at least 600 AD.  Within the realm of the story, it makes no sense for the Reptites to be here.

Last but not least, let's talk about Lumicite.  What is it?  Some sort of fictitious substance that you can turn in to an NPC and get a piece of armor for Lucca.  How do you get it?  By defeating a Wonder Rock, that's a palette swap of the other rock enemies you see throughout the game.  How do you find this Wonder Rock?  By getting extremely lucky.  Its spawn rate is ridiculously low, and it's the only thing that can ever be different about the enemy spawns in each area.  The sad thing is, on one of my first few trips through the forest area, I saw it.  I SAW IT.  But I was already tired of enemy encounters in the area, so I avoided it.  Had I known what it was, I would have definitely fought it.  I haven't seen it since.

Overall, Lost Sanctum gets you some neat loot that wasn't in the original game, and isn't too difficult even with the counterattack-happy bosses you have to fight.  It's kind of annoying to go through because of the unavoidable encounters, but the rewards are worth it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Changing the SSID in SpillPass-Pi

Why would you want to change the SSID you're using for HomePass?  Well, the Nintendo Zone system combines the SSID with the MAC address when choosing which StreetPasses to send to you, so using the same MAC with a different SSID will give you completely different StreetPasses.  This becomes important when you're desperately trying to finish a panel in Puzzle Swap and you're not getting anyone who has the pieces you need.  Changing your SSID can get you a better chance at the missing pieces.

Since SpillPass-Pi pretty much isn't documented at all, I'll make my best attempt at describing this process.  I'll even go so far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like.

I mean, make it simple enough that you don't really need any Linux knowledge to do it.

The hardest part of doing this is connecting to your Raspberry Pi so you can make the changes.  Here, you have two options:
  1. Connect a monitor and keyboard.
  2. Find its IP address, and use an SSH client such as PuTTY (for Windows) or the command-line ssh client (Mac OS X, Linux) to connect.
I personally connect via SSH, but that's because my router always gives the Raspberry Pi the same IP address whenever SpillPass-Pi rotates MAC addresses.  If yours doesn't, you'll get your connection interrupted every five minutes.  It's for this reason that I'll recommend connecting a monitor and keyboard instead.  There is a rather weird issue with connecting a monitor and keyboard, and that would be that the default keyboard layout isn't the standard US QWERTY layout.  It's still QWERTY, but some of the non-alphanumeric symbols are moved around.

To log in, the username and password are the same as the web interface:
  • Username: root
  • Password: SpillPassPi
If logging in via SSH, in PuTTY, type root@<IP of your Raspberry Pi> into the "Host Name (or IP address)" field and click "Open". Enter the password when prompted.

If logging in via SSH, with the command-line SSH client in Mac OS X or Linux, just type ssh root@<IP of your Raspberry Pi> and press Enter. Enter the password when prompted.

If connecting a monitor and keyboard, you'll have to press Ctrl+A and then D to get to the login prompt.  From there, you can just type both the username and the password.

Anyone with Linux knowledge can tell you how bad it is to be logging in as root, but apparently nobody told that to spillmonkey.  You'll need root privileges for this anyway, so just beware: you can seriously mess things up with root if you don't follow these instructions verbatim.  Also, Linux filesystems and commands are case-sensitive.

Now that you're connected and logged in, all you need to do is edit a text file and reboot.  For the purposes of this example, we'll be using this SSID: NZ@McD1
  1. At the prompt, type nano /etc/hostapd/nintendozone.sh and press Enter.
  2. Look for the line that says cat > $CONFIG_FILE <<EOF
  3. On a blank line just above that line, type SSID="NZ@McD1"
  4. Now press Ctrl+X, and then press Y to save the changes and exit.
  5. Finally, at the prompt, type shutdown -r now to reboot your Raspberry Pi.  When it comes back up, it will be using the new SSID.
The more Linux-savvy out there may realize that you don't really need to do a full reboot.  That's fine.  I just wanted to make things as simple as possible, so that anyone could do it.

What's that, you want to change back to the default?  Well, that's easy too.
  1. At the command prompt, type nano /etc/hostapd/nintendozone.sh and press Enter.
  2. Go down to the line you added in the above instructions, and insert a # before it.  Using our example above, the line will now read #SSID="NZ@McD1"
  3. Press Ctrl+X, then Y to save and exit.
  4. Type shutdown -r now at the prompt and press Enter to reboot.
The # character makes the line a comment, which prevents that one line from being executed.  In the future, if you want to change the SSID again, all you need to do is delete that character and then change the SSID.

Another trip around the sun

Edit: Well, fuck you, WMG.  Changed to a lyrics video instead.  Bonus: it's now the uncensored version of the song.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bravely Default: Strategy with my End-Game Team

I posted a rather lengthy documentation of my end-game team, preferring to say things in paragraphs instead of presenting bulleted lists.  However, I didn't really touch on how to use it, for the most part.  I pointed out specific parts of the game where you'd want to do specific things, but no general advice.  So here, we have general advice.  This will mostly be a guide to the Salve-Maker/Spiritmaster, because party support takes a lot more expertise than beating the crap out of things.

Every turn will begin with the Salve-Maker/Spiritmaster doing something.  What exactly this is, however, depends on the situation.  Generally speaking, there are some go-to actions that you'll want to pick one of to lead off, depending on your knowledge of the enemies and general gamer intuition.
  • Use Compounding and combine a Beast Liver and a Dragon Fang, in that order, to make a Giant's Draft.  Now do this four times, and hit everyone in the party with one.  Doubling max HP puts everyone that much farther away from death.  This is my bread-and-butter first move when I don't know what else to do.
  • Put up Enigma.  If the enemies have potent sources of elemental damage, this will allow you to sidestep it, in most cases.
  • Fairy Ward.  Only a few enemies are bothersome with the status conditions, so this may end up being an action you use either just before or just after removing a status condition from an ally.  Protip: if you're good on health, you can leave Poison on for a little bit before removing it.
  • Fairy's Aid on the Vampires.  Combined with their Monster Ability Up and Pierce M. Defense support abilities, this should be enough to hit the damage cap.
  • Stillness is to be kept around as a "fuck you" button.  Although, to use it properly, you need to anticipate whatever large source of incoming damage it is that you want to completely negate.  Regardless, it's useful because it buys you two turns to heal up and buff the party, should you need them.
There are several Compounding recipes that are of use, after your priorities (whatever they may be, remember this is entirely dependent on the enemies you're fighting) are in place.
  • Potion + Phoenix Down = Resurrect
    • When things are going south, this will get someone up and heal them in one go.  The heal is subject to Healing Lore, so they'll come up with a maximum of 9999 health.  You'd be wise to follow it up with a Giant's Draft if you were using them on the fight.
  • Hi-Potion + X-Potion = Font of Life
    • Some enemies, particularly bosses, can dish out death faster than you can react.  If you can't strategize your way around the damage, hit the entire party with these to induce the Reraise effect.  You'll have to claw your way back into the fight, so having to use these is a sign that you should be doing something else to avoid the damage.  Still, if you use one at just the right time, it can save you some headache.
  • Insect Antenna + (elemental item) = (element) Bane
    • If Monster Ability Up, Pierce M. Defense, and Fairy's Aid combined aren't enough to hit the damage cap, chuck this on the enemy.
  • Demon Tail + Dragon Fang = Shadowflare
    • Some enemies are weak to Dark.  While in most cases you'll use one of the (elemental) Bane items on these enemies so your Vampires will have a weak spot to hit, if you have spare turns with your Salve-Maker, you can throw this at them.  It deals 5000 dark damage, and with the weakness in play it becomes 7500 dark damage, which is pretty decent all things considered.
Then, of the "rarely used, but sometimes comes in handy" class, we have the following:
  • Resurrect
    • This is the Salve-Maker ability, not the compounding item.  It will resurrect everyone who's dead, which is useful if your Salve-Maker happens to be the only one alive.
  • Widen Area
    • Sometimes you'll get hit with a party-wide status condition before you can put Fairy Ward up, so widening a Remedy is one step back to the beatdown train.
    • Widening an X-Potion, with Healing Lore involved, is also of general usefulness, especially if you're having to claw your way back into a fight after taking a particularly bad hit.  3000 health to the entire party!
  • First Aid
    • This is a pretty decent heal, that defers until the end of the turn.  Even if you have other actions set before it, the Salve-Maker will let everyone else, including the enemies, do their actions before using First Aid.  Note: If you queue this up multiple times in the same turn, it will intelligently choose a target and continue to heal whoever needs it most.
I already touched on the strategy I use for the Vampires in the more drawn-out battles, but I'll reiterate it here.  On the first turn, both of them use Free Lunch followed by three of whichever spell you're casting.  On the second turn, however, one of them uses White Wind, follwed by three of whichever spell you're casting, and the other uses Free Lunch (again, intentionally, even though they're already under its effect), followed by three of whichever you're casting.  Now that you have their use of Free Lunch staggered, continue doing that.  Both Vampires will alternate using White Wind, which in the vast majority of cases, should keep your party topped off on health.

The fact that they can keep the party at full health while still being able to dish out large amounts of damage is what makes them so powerful.  In an MMO, such a situation would be deemed imbalanced and patched away in a hurry.  But wait, exactly how much damage are we talking about?  Assuming you're hitting the damage cap, in one turn, one Vampire can deal 29997 damage.  Two of them combined can deal 59994 damage in one turn.  Most of the bosses you encounter during the later chapters only have around 80000 health, so two turns and they're toast.  The final boss has 200000 health, and 9999 damage * 3 uses per Vampire * 2 Vampires in party * 4 turns is 239976, so that means that in four turns, with wiggle room to get Fairy's Aid and potentially an (elemental) Bane up, you can kill the final boss.  It's that powerful.

This party build is also useful against all those high-level Nemeses, with the right strategy and minimal tweaking.  As I've already posted about, it can kill Early Spring; Teddy in six turns, factoring in two turns of Stillness.  That level 25 Mammon that everyone is sending because of the Elixirs?  Once you've got one you keep protected to get money, the rest die to three spells.  Leviathan being annoying with its phase where its M.Def is 9999?  Not an issue, thanks to Pierce M. Defense.  Level 80 Belphegor gets stuck casting Sloth and Diffusion Ray over and over while you use Enigma over and over and your Vampires kill it and heal the party.

There might be more damaging builds out there, involving Dark Knights or whatever, but this one is definitely viable and easy to use.  No matter what's thrown at you, you've either got a counter for it, or a way to deal with it.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Chrono Trigger DS: Lost Sanctum

After you escape the Blackbird and get the upgraded Epoch, the game unlocks its new content.  I ventured over to 65,000,000 BC to see what was up, and after finding the incredibly finnicky landing spot, I inspected the Lost Sanctum.

Initially, it's empty.  If you explore around as I did, you'll eventually find a forest full of monsters.  Killing all the monsters liberates the reptite citizens of this village, and they give you a series of jobs that involve time travel from 65,000,000 BC to 600 AD, where the citizens of that village give you more jobs, and by virtue of time travel, things you start in 65,000,000 BC will be finished.

The jobs, as I've called them, are basically a series of fetch quests.  Doing them gets you money, equipment, power/magic/speed tabs, and more.

As far as the areas you'll be doing these fetch quests in, I have a complaint.  There are unavoidable battles, seemingly placed directly in any path you might actually want to take.  I get it, it's an RPG, I'm supposed to fight things.  At the same time, I just want to get the fetch quests done and it makes absolutely no sense why I can't run past things.  These unavoidable battles strike much more of a nerve than the unavoidable battles elsewhere in the game, simply because you experience these far more often.

Having seen what this is like, I think I'll hold off for just a little bit.  I need to go revive Crono...

Edit: as it turns out, I'm almost done with it.  So I guess I'll go finish it and then revive Crono.  Now to get that Wonder Rock to spawn so I can get the Lumicite so I can get the Elemental Aegis for Lucca...

Friday, November 7, 2014

StreetPass Games Done

That certainly took a while.  Having a HomePass setup definitely made it quicker.  Some people call HomePass cheating, but I don't.  It doesn't reduce the challenge of accomplishing everything, nor does it reduce the amount of work you have to do.  It simply lowers the barrier to entry.

So, everything ever:
  • Puzzle Swap: 1637/1637 pieces (for North America)
    • When I originally posted this, there were 1177 puzzle pieces.
    • When I got my New 3DS and system transferred to it, there were 1502 puzzle pieces.
  • Find Mii and Find Mii 2: All accomplishments (including "Clear Find Mii in 30 Miis or less") and hats/outfits.
  • Mii Force: All plaza tickets (this implies all lost treasures collected, all target scores beaten, and all stages beaten without losing a pod).
  • Flower Town: All plaza tickets, gold on all jobs, 80/80 breeds, 305/305 colors, gold watering can.
  • Warrior's Way: All plaza tickets, Castle rank 20, 9,999,999 troops (set up so that an army of 50k+ infantry, 50k+ cavalry, and a small group of archers can defeat it by spying twice, field conditions allowing).
  • Monster Manor: All plaza tickets, beat floor 50 and the true final boss for the hat.
  • Ultimate Angler: All plaza tickets (this implies 160/160 species caught)
  • Battleground Z: All plaza tickets, all rare zombies defeated
  • StreetPass Birthdays: All plaza tickets (this implies 366/366 birthdays)
  • Exchange Booth: All hats/outfits and speech balloons claimed, Exchange Booth closed once again
I'll have more work to do with each Puzzle Swap panel that Nintendo releases, and of course if they add any more games.  With each new panel I'll try and remember to keep the piece count updated, as well.  But until the next new panel or game, feels good man.

Side note: if Puzzle Swap and the Find Mii games can detect when there's nothing left for the player to do and decide to not show their exclamation points with each group of StreetPasses, why can't the DLC StreetPass games do the same?

Edit (2015-09-25): Added Ultimate Angler, Battleground Z, and StreetPass Birthdays, just to mark them off as complete.  Because I now have two 3DSes, this post is only representative of my original efforts, which I system transferred from my Old 3DS to my New 3DS.  Any new puzzles will be marked here until I finish everything on my Old 3DS once again, and then this post will be retired and a new one encompassing both systems will be created.

Resuming Chrono Trigger DS

With Bravely Default only having a few minor things left to do, relating to sending Rejuvenation and trying to get the most out of an inferior moneymaking build for the hell of it, I have a lot more time to play the DS port of Chrono Trigger.

It took me a bit to adjust from Bravely Default to Chrono Trigger.  I had to go through menus and remind myself that I did indeed have all the techs and was ready to continue the story by entering Magus' castle.  Magus himself was a pushover as always with my usual grindy playthrough.  I worked my way through Tyrano lair to 12000 BC, did everything I could do, then activated the pendant and got banned from the time period.  Went and grabbed Epoch so I could go back there and continue the story.

However, you know me.  If there's something on the side that I can do, I'll do it.  It's the main reason that Bravely Default took me so long.  One of the things I did in 12000 BC was telling the woman not to burn the sapling that she'd been given.  I knew that doing so was part of activating the Fiona's Villa sidequest, however, I didn't know that it in fact activated it right then and there.  So when I arrived in 600 AD to go prime some sealed chests, I saw the vortex in the desert.

I've never had any major issues with the Retinite, grindy playthrough or not.  For whatever reason people always say to try and leave the core alive, but it's always the first thing I kill.  If there's any adverse effects for killing it, either I don't notice them, or I'm so good at coping with them that I don't notice them.  My party for it this time was Crono/Frog/Robo, with Frog and Crono using Water 2 and Confuse (the DS version calls it Frenzy), respectively, and in that order.  Robo was strictly on standby for Cure Beam and Heal Beam.  Anyway, I went on and successfully stopped the machine from crippling Lara, and got my Green Dream.

All that is well and good, but I thought that even though you can activate the sidequest early, it didn't actually show up until you reached the endgame where the rest of the sidequests are available.

Also, while I was hopping back and forth between 600 AD and 1000 AD, I bought the Jerky and gave it to the Porre elder's family, so that the mayor would be nice to me later on when I'm doing the Sun Stone sidequest.

Anyway, it's great to be back playing this classic RPG.  Going from a modern classic in the making whose mere existence justifies dropping $200 on the console necessary to play it, to a classic that's stood the test of time (har har).  It's a bit different, yes, but it's all good gaming in the end.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bravely Default: Final Thoughts

So, now that I've finished Bravely Default, the game that I bought a 3DS to play, it's time for my final thoughts on the game.  No major spoilers, just some minor stuff relating to story pacing.

Bravely Default definitely did not disappoint.  The game's art and environmental design make excellent use of the stereoscopic 3D.  The music is fantastic.  The sheer range of options for setting up a party... incredible.

One thing that I kind of already touched on: a lot of people give Bravely Default flak for the second half of the game.  I like to think that those people are incredibly hasty to form an opinion, and then blindly stick to that opinion in the face of anything the game has to offer or that other people might say about it.  Acknowledging that, I rather enjoyed the second half of the game.  Whereas the first half of the game was the party's journey to save the world, the second half was where the party slowly begins to understand what's really going on and discovers what their true task is.

It does seem repetitive, but the game uses the repetition to gradually uncover parts of what's really going on.  Plus, the repetitive nature of the last half of the game makes the player realize that they'll have to formulate a party in order to have a fighting chance.  A randomly cobbled together team might be able to do well, but sitting back and thinking about how your characters complement each other, both in job composition and with regard to special abilities, is crucial.  I know for a fact that in the first four chapters I was just using a cobbled together team where each member was only really thinking about themselves, and only tangentially complementing the rest of the party.  Partway into chapter 5, though, while making a party build to farm Megalixirs, I happened upon a setup that I soon realized worked wonders elsewhere, with a few tweaks here and there.

The mere possibility of having any number of completely functional parties makes the game playable for a wide range of players with different play styles.  It also lends the game well to more playthroughs later on down the road.  "Let's play through the game with THIS setup!  Let's have the game show us where its strengths and weaknesses lie!".  The game goes as far as to have you select exactly what you want to carry over into a New Game +, which facilitates this.

Basically, the further and further I got into this game, the more I liked it.  I admit, at first I treated Brave Points like a gambling system where you hold back to unleash a mega-turn, or take that mega-turn in advance and hope you don't die before you can go again, but it really goes beyond that.  Given the range of abilities in the game that affect BP one way or another, you eventually realize that it's a resource you have to manage, and perhaps one that's more critical to your success than anything else.  As I made clear in the post where I described my end-game party build, I ended up going with a team that didn't use MP at all, and that used up to 4 BP per character per turn.  At the same time, there are a myriad of MP management options and had I not wanted to use the spells I was using, I might have gone with them instead.

One thing I didn't really make much use of were the social aspects of the game, that utilized Friend Codes and StreetPasses.  I really only fought Nemeses and used them to my advantage.  I never once used Abilink, dabbling in it a little right after the game told me about it, but ultimately deciding not to use it.  I used the friend summons a little bit early on, since you do get a steady source of them from the Update Data command at a save point.  I bothered to set up a move to send to other people in case they wanted to use it, though.  Also, I made very little use of Sleep Points.  Occasionally I'd Bravely Second just before the end of a battle to pop a Phoenix Down on someone so they'd get experience, and of course I used it to send moves that break the 9999 power limit, but that was it.  You can pretty much forget that Sleep Points and Bravely Second even exist, and the game won't be any harder.  It's simply an extra option for the player, to be used at their discretion.

I did find the placement of certain support abilities to be a bit odd, though.  Notably, you can get Dungeon Master within about the first 10 minutes of gameplay, and never have to deal with environmental damage for the entire game.  Conversely, you get Experience Up far too late in the game for it to be useful.

Overall, the game's flaws are incredibly minor.  If you like JRPGs, it's a game you shouldn't overlook.  If you don't have a 3DS, it justifies the purchase of one.  I put in almost 200 hours and enjoyed every minute.  I think at this point, getting the sequel, Bravely Second, is a given.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bravely Default: My End-Game Team

With the amount of boss fights in the last four chapters, you'll need a solid team to take them on.  This one fits the bill quite nicely.  It would be a "glass cannon" build were it not for the rock solid support it carries.

Because, as a friend of mine put it, I am a "power-player", this build requires mastered jobs across the board.  You want to have all your options open to you.

We deal lots of damage with this build, and that's accomplished by having two Vampires with Swordmaster as their job command.  The genome abilities White Wind, Firaja, Blizzaja, Thundaja, and Aeroja are what they'll be using most.  That's right, our damage dealers are also our healers.  White Wind is simply the best healing spell in the game, and it's too good to pass up.  These guys use the Swordmaster's Free Lunch to make all their spells free, so that 99 MP cost of Firaja, Blizzaja, Thundaja, and Aeroja (collectively, the -ja spells) is completely a non-issue.  In fact, this build uses zero MP whatsoever.  It uses BP, free abilities (including those which have become free via Free Lunch), and items.

As for support abilities, the only real requirement is Monster Ability Up, but a close second is Pierce M. Defense.  Other useful ones are Drain Attack Up (for BP-denying non-boss, non-undead enemies), Status Ailment Amp (a fair number of the genome abilities inflict status conditions), and both Absorb P. Damage and Absorb M. Damage.  Stop Immunity also comes in handy towards the end of the game...

Equipment is simple.  Boost that M.Atk as high as you can.  I have two Magic Knives on each, with a Circlet, Black Robe, and Heike Gloves.

To make this party build not a "glass cannon" build, it needs a lot of support to make it survivable, and we gain rather high survivability from a Salve-Maker whose job command is Spiritmaster.  Whether you're compounding things together, protecting the whole party from elemental damage or status conditions, or boosting the Vampires' elemental attacks, you'll want this character doing something every turn.  What exactly needs to be done is entirely dependent on the enemies you're facing.

Compounding up some Giant's Drafts is incredibly useful, both for increasing survivability, and boosting the heal from your Vampires' White Wind.  Inducing an elemental weakness on enemies adds extra damage.  Some enemies are weak to Dark, so making some Shadowflares would not be a bad use of your time.  One item you can make through Compounding is called Resurrect, and resurrects the target with 5000 HP.  This 5000 HP is subject to Healing Lore and Holy One, making it handy if someone gets knocked out.  Just remember to follow it up with a Giant's Draft if the battle necessitates them.  Last but not least, if you truly need them, Resurrect (the ability, not the Compounding item) and First Aid are great for recovering from an adverse situation.  Widen Area is of use as well.

As for the Spiritmaster side of things, Enigma, Fairy Ward, and Fairy's Aid are your go-to abilities.  Stillness comes in handy in the odd fight, like against anyone who uses Reflect.  Use it after Reflect goes up, and wait it out while buffing and healing the party.  Reflect usually only lasts three or four turns, sometimes five.

Support ability-wise, Holy One is useful because it stacks with Healing Lore, although your primary source of healing will be from the Vampires.  This character can make use of any amount of extra Speed you can afford to give them.  Also helpful against the Time Mage is Stop Immunity.

As far as equipment goes, speed is key.  You want this character to be able to set up something on each turn, before anything else happens.  Thus, I have two Falcon Knives, a Red Cap, a Kenpo Gi, and Hermes Shoes on this character.

Last but most certainly not least: This build is far more powerful if you can spend lots of BP.  Thus, I have a Performer with the Freelancer job command.  Basically, every turn, this character will use My Hero followed by Mimic, to give the rest of the party 2 BP.  In some cases, you'll want to Examine before starting things up proper, so having Freelancer around covers that as well.

One absolutely critical support ability for this character is Hasten World.  The My Hero + Mimic combination doesn't work without it.  Other than that, you can bring whatever you want.  I took the decidedly odd route of Shield Lore, Dual Shields, and then one slot that I rotate between things depending on what I need it to be.  If I don't need anything in particular, I slap on Speed 10% Up.  This is also a good place to put Dungeon Master to avoid environmental damage and traps.  Just remember to change it out before a boss fight.  The same note about Stop Immunity applies here as well.

Because I took the dual shields route, this character wields two shields.  I use a Bloody Shield alongside an Aegis Shield.  Keeping with the theme of defense, we round out the equipment with a Royal Crown, a Crystal Vest, and a Barrier Shroud.

With this setup fully in place, you'll be able to use 4 BP with all characters on every turn.  This equates to 28 uses of the -ja spells in two turns.  Assuming they all deal 9999 damage, that's 279972 damage, which pleases me greatly.  However, because of defenses and having to debuff the enemy and buff ourselves, we'll pretty much always not get that damage figure.  Still, it should be relatively high and well worth it.

The main weakness of this party is physical damage.  Even with the defense-oriented setup, the Performer/Freelancer will still eat damage.  Our only real recourse is to use Giant's Drafts to make the party be farther from death at any given point in time, and then use copious amounts of healing, which White Wind is quite proficient at doing.

Choosing a -ja spell to spam is fairly simple.  Look at the enemies.  Assuming you've been using Examine on everything the first time you encounter it, boss weaknesses should already be known by this point.  If there are no weaknesses, or the weaknesses are Light and/or Dark, pick the one you like best.  Otherwise, go with what exploits an already present weakness.  For Orthros, since one of its heads is weak to fire and the other is weak to water, you'll want to induce one of those weaknesses in the other head, and then spam the matching spell.

One of the best things I've been doing with the Vampires is staggering their use of Free Lunch in fights with physical damage that I have to worry about.  This way, on every turn after the first, one of them uses Free Lunch, while the other still has it active from the previous turn.  The Vampire with Free Lunch still active uses White Wind followed by three of whichever -ja spell you've chosen, and the Vampire using Free Lunch follows it up with three of whichever -ja spell you've chosen.  This builds a potent source of party healing into your actions on every turn, while still maintaining a high damage output.  The result is that enemies have to really try to get your health down low, and most of them aren't up to the challenge.

As far as what to lead off with on the Salve-Maker, it's entirely dependent on the battle.  If the enemy has lots of physical damage, one Giant's Draft per party member.  If they have elemental damage, Enigma.  If you're worried about status conditions, Fairy Ward.  On the second and third turns you should generally use one of the remaining ones that I've mentioned, unless you know for sure you can take the enemy down quickly.  You can use Fairy's Aid twice in one turn to boost both Vampires' damage output.  Try to induce an elemental weakness either just before or just after that.  Then, it's down to using what's right for the situation, refreshing buffs/debuffs as necessary.

One boss to watch out for is the Swordmaster.  If he uses Know Thine Enemy and he's by himself, your group-cast-only -ja spells will count as a single-target attack and he'll counter if he chose one of your Vampires.  To deal with the inevitable, throwing Reraise onto your Vampires would be prudent.

During the boss gauntlet of Chapter 8, two battles stand out among the rest.  The one with the Salve-Maker, Conjurer, Summoner, and Spell Fencer is tough because the Salve-Maker will use Fire Bane on your entire party just before the Summoner uses Promethean Fire, which can result in an instant party wipe.  The solution I found was to use Giant's Drafts on the first turn.  You'll be way down on health on turn 2, but use two White Winds from the same character (the second one will be twice the power of the first), and Enigma, and you'll claw your way back up in relatively little time.  Keep the damage output as high as possible and you'll prevail.

The second battle that stands out is with the Red Mage, Arcanist, Spell Fencer, and Vampire.  Your success here depends entirely upon using Fairy Ward on the first turn.  Do so, and you win.  Omit it, and you lose.  It's your call.

With support ability modifications and adapting your strategy to the situation, this build works for a good number of the nemeses as well.  The level 99 version of Mammon is a bit tricky since you have to use Stillness at the right time to avoid Death Claws, but assuming you manage that, it's possible.

Monday, November 3, 2014

srs bsns tiem

So, as you might infer from the sanity meter over on the right, I'm unemployed, and I need to change that.  However, as soon as I start the process of looking for jobs and actually going out and applying for them, I reach a brick wall.  Mostly a psychological one.  My "fight-or-flight" instinct seems to be hardwired to "flight", to the extent that I will go somewhere with the intent of applying and end up leaving without applying.

Even if all the circumstances are correct, i.e. I know they're hiring (which is a chore to figure out these days), I'm dressed for it (discrimination based on the clothing I'm wearing, go!), I have my resume, and a pen.  If I forget even the smallest thing, for instance, a pen, the whole thing's a bust and I have to leave.

Recently I've heard a disturbing term pop up, and that would be "overqualified".  The notion that you can get turned down for a job because you're "overqualified" makes absolutely zero sense to me.  Any employer who does this is flat-out ignoring the reason why the person applied to work for them in the first place: they actually wanted to work for them.  Regardless of that person's qualifications, if they have the desire to work for you, you should consider them.  Having to revise one's resume for each individual employer one might apply to is an exhaustive process that wastes time, money, paper, and printer ink.

Then there's the issue of references.  Apparently, you can't get a job these days without them.  Also contributing to this is the trend of not accepting personal references, and instead requiring professional references.  How does one get started in a system like this when they have no professional references?  Even the simplest of job categories, food and retail, wants references these days.  What are they going to get?  "Oh yeah, he can push buttons and read numbers from a monitor like nobody's business"?  "His receipt-tearing skills are second to none"?  Anyone who can read and has fingers can use a cash register.  The rest of a food/retail job's proficiencies belong entirely in the new-hire training process.

I've had a lot of bad experiences with employment, which certainly doesn't help.  I consider even the jobs that I've had as bad experiences because I've never once gotten a job through the "standard" application and interview process.  Either I've been hired on the spot when I turned in an application (Giant), or I got the job because of someone else putting in the good word and it was guaranteed that I'd be working there (Sperry, Batesville Broadband, Silverchair).  Every time I've tried to go through the "standard" application and interview process has resulted in me not getting a job.  Plow and Hearth, an outdoorsy-style retail store, turned me down despite one of my friends working there and putting in the good word for me, sending me a cheeky postcard that said I wasn't qualified.  Not qualified for retail, are you serious?  Barnes and Noble gave me a phone interview and an in-person interview before deciding that no, they didn't need that extra person in receiving and then eliminating the position.

My actual on-the-job experiences have been extremely varied.  Giant was bad, they constantly pressed me to get faster and faster regardless of the quality of service, going so far as to give me printouts showing how slow I was, while not offering any actual usable advice on how to solve the problem.  Sperry, both times I worked there, was bad, because they flat-out ignored my resume.  My resume basically says "hey, this guy is right at home with servers, networking, and web design, he'd probably make a great helpdesk guy or general IT guy", but no, they noticed that my dad was an engineer and stuck me in engineering, where I knew absolutely nothing about the things I was working on.  Batesville Broadband was just a horrible company.  It went under shortly after I left, and not because I left, but because it was flawed from the core.  Silverchair was a good experience, I got to work with the same people for most of a year, but because I was contracted, as soon as I finished what they hired me to do, I was out.  With zero warning and zero opportunity to say goodbye to any of the team members that I'd spent that "most of a year" working with.

Don't even get me started about online applications.  You'd think they would be right up my alley, being that I largely prefer communications via the internet to communications over the phone or in-person.  However, I've never once had a single online application get off the ground.  The processes are exhaustive and far more time-consuming than applying in person, especially if they use Unicru.  Then, assuming you persevere and finish the application process, they just don't respond.  At all.  I could have easily gotten a job at our local Best Buy since I was applying while they were still building the thing, but I sent in several applications, none of which were responded to.  Long story short: if you tell me your job application process is online-only, I'm gone.  Sorry, not going through the headache.

Job fairs are no better.  You'd think that if you were meeting representatives from lots of different employers in person, that you'd have a better shot because they can actually see that there's a human out there who needs a job and can do the kinds of things that they need done.  But nope, haven't heard back from a single one of those jobs I've applied for either.  The most recent job fair I went to was a total joke, nobody was taking resumes and everyone said "apply online".  If you're going to take the time to show up at a local job fair, why don't you also take the time to allow people to apply in-person?  It makes going to a job fair completely worthless if all you really need to do is look at the list of employers in attendance and go to their websites.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I really, really want a job.  A nice secure one, that pays enough that I can get a decent apartment and move out of my parents' house for a second time.  However, I have to force myself to go out and actually do anything about it, and if even one thing goes wrong or is out of place, I'm out of there.  That's precisely what happened today.  I noticed an ad from a few days ago on Craigslist saying that Bodo's was hiring at all three locations, and I figured "what the heck, I'll go apply".  However, walking towards the office where I'd have to talk to the guy and say "hey, can I apply to work here?" it felt like there was just a wall of pressure that got too great to allow me to go any closer, and since my nagging fight-or-flight instinct was already going "flight flight flight", I bailed.  It probably didn't help that the door was closed.  I got a bagel, hoping it would calm me down, but it didn't.  Also, I'd forgotten my pen, and I know that employers are incredibly fickle about things like that.  "Oh, he can't even remember to bring a pen when he's applying for a job, he can't be all that serious, we'll just ignore his application and anything he has to say", or something similar.

My brain is wired with so much logic that I get extremely disappointed when the world doesn't operate with any consideration to logic whatsoever.  Can some aliens please come and take me to a world where logic is actually a thing that governs the actions of people, businesses, and governments?