Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chrono Trigger DS: Spoiler-Filled Post About the New Ending

As both my previous post and the title of this post suggest, spoilers ahead.  There is one non-spoiler that I can put here, though.

The method of accessing this ending is via the bucket in the End of Time.  Once you've completed all three Dimensional Vortices, using the bucket will show a menu allowing you to go to The Day of Lavos, as well as the new boss fight, called "Time's Eclipse".

I'll give you a jump break to hide the spoilers.  'Cause I'm nice.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year in Review

Uh, so.  My 2014 kinda sucked.  MAGFest, and then buying a 3DS and Bravely Default were literally the only things that kept me going.  I'm going to have to exert some effort on the "getting a job" front in 2015, methinks.  The story of why 2014 sucked actually starts at the end of 2013, so here we go.

I mean, my contract at Silverchair ended abruptly, five minutes before close-of-business, on the week of my birthday in 2013.  I was basically just shoved out the door, not even given a chance to say goodbye to the team members I'd spent the majority of the year working with.

Then I got myself a health insurance plan from yonder and had to cope with their extremely clunky website and insistence on having a credit report for "identity verification".  Having no credit card and no desire or need for one, I don't have a credit report.  As it turns out, there's an alternate method of "identity verification" that's far easier, you just photocopy a valid photo ID (say, your drivers' license) and mail it to a specific address.  So whatever, all that headache was over with.

I trusted my dad.  I did.  But he let me down.  He was handling the selection of the plan and the subsidy amount, and didn't give me the full subsidy.  He claims "it's better that way because you can get a tax credit the next time you file taxes", but...  I dunno about you, but I'd rather spend less money now than pay more now and get refunded later.

Anyway, MAGFest happened, where I went crazy and bought a SNES and some games, including Chrono Trigger.  A few months later came the 3DS and Bravely Default, which as I previously mentioned, would carry me through the majority of the year.  This entire time I was feeling pretty horrible because of shenanigans with roommates, specifically a roommate's girlfriend who may very well have not had a place of her own and as far as I'm aware, wasn't paying a share of our rent.  She probably should have, given the amount of time she spent in our apartment.  Then the lease ended and another headache began.

That headache would be convincing my parents to let me move back into their house.  They've got this horrible habit of trying to completely dismiss me when I'm asking a tough question.  In this case, the tough question was "would you rather have me be homeless than move back in with you?"  They refused to answer.  Not even kidding.  If someone's accusing you of preferring your son to be homeless over having him move back in with you and you don't immediately say you'd do what it takes to prevent him from being homeless, you're a bad person.

Anyway, so I've been back here at my parents' place feeling incredibly weird ever since about mid-August.  I went to a job fair where nobody was taking resumes and defeating the point by telling everyone to apply online.  I'm going through the headache again too.  I wanted to apply for a different plan in 2015, to see if I could get a lower premium since I don't have any fucking money, but their site said "lol I see this perfectly good 2015 application that you've fully finished filling out, but I'm going to insist you haven't finished it and extend your 2014 plan instead".  So basically, this death trap of a website is going to cost me a lot of money having to basically wait until February to be able to pay a lower premium.

I don't even know how I'm going to afford parking at MAGFest.  Maybe I can try to reactivate my NEET gene and get ~$100 from my mom to cover parking and hopefully some small amount of merchandise.

Speaking of MAGFest, that's another headache that I haven't ever really brought up before now.  For the last several years, I've worked teardown.  The internal system that keeps track of everything, including staffing hours, goes down a few hours after closing ceremonies, during which I've always been hard at work helping pack shit up and get it to trucks at the loading dock.  So I never got to turn in my shift sheet until after the system had been taken down so that it too could be packed into a truck.  Operating solely on the promise of someone in registration that my shifts would get entered, I've always thought I'd been good at that point.

Except I've never been good at that point.  The person who promises they'll enter my shifts never does, and thus I have to bash some heads to get back into the system every year.  This year, I'm finally tired of it.  Not only have I not signed up for teardown, but if I don't end up in the system for 2016's MAGFest, I'm completely done with MAGFest.  Not even going as an attendee.  Staffing Operations knows this, because I emailed the department head directly.  As a staffer doing at least 30 weighted hours, I get a comped hotel room to share with three other staffers.  Also part of the deal is that I also qualify for the staff food room thanks to an earlier weighted hours goal.  If I'm not on staff, I can't afford the hotel room, much less the food I'd need to keep myself alive while I'm there.  Parking is also expensive, and I've only been able to cover that in previous years because staffers get a discount.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

So, usual "loot" post.

My aunt and uncle always give me a variety of food.  In the bag this year was two different mustards (cranberry mustard and sweet hot mustard), three cheeses (cheddar, a smoked cheddar/swiss blend, and a jalapeƱo cheddar), two summer sausages (one beef, one turkey), and some crackers.  Also in the bag were a few of those strawberry candies with the wrapping that looks like a strawberry.

Up next, my mom got me a shirt with some geeky stuff on it (not posting a picture, you'll have to see me wearing it in real life to see what it says!) and a couple volumes of manga (UQ Holder and World War Blue).

My dad got me two different kinds of jerky.  One was a sweet chipotle beef jerky, and the other was a basil citrus turkey jerkey.  They didn't make it past noon.

And finally, the grandparents pretty much always get me gift cards, and this year was no exception.  I now have a gift card for Buffalo Wild Wings, and a gift card for Wal-Mart.

Overall, pretty good stuff.  I never ask for a lot, anyway.

Tomorrow is the annual gathering to eat lots of wings and drink lots of beer, this time taking place at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Chrono Trigger DS: 2300AD Dimensional Vortex

Same thing as before.  Dimensional Vortex already sufficiently covered in a general manner, so we'll break on through to the specifics.

Ha ha.  "Break".  And I'm using a jump break.  Ooooookay.

Chrono Trigger DS: 1000AD Dimensional Vortex

I feel like I summarized the Dimensional Vortex areas pretty well in my last post,  so in this one I'm just going to jump straight to explaining what you get out of this Vortex.

Did I say "jump"?  Tee hee...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chrono Trigger DS: 12000BC Dimensional Vortex

The three Dimensional Vortex areas open up once you beat the game the first time.  You don't actually have to start a New Game + and get back to the end-game to get to them, however, you can just reload your save and have at it.  Two of the three locations require the upgraded Epoch to reach them anyway.

The Dimensional Vortices take you through a few random areas when you first go in.  Most of the areas you go through are recognizable locations from around the game, but included in the mix are completely new areas that have hidden chests with some new loot.  Once you get through this random sequence, you get to that vortex's area proper, and can run around fighting things and looting chests until you've done everything it has to offer.

Each Vortex also has an end area where you fight a boss, and the game will force certain characters into your party for these fights.  After beating that boss, the character that was forced into your party will get permanent stat boosts to Speed, Hit (Ted Woolsey translation master race), and Stamina.

After completing all three Vortices, you can go to The End of Time and select the bucket to trigger the new final boss battle and see the new ending.  It pops up a menu, so you can still go to The Day of Lavos if you so desire.

More details after the break.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dungeon Siege Singleplayer Annoyances

So for a long time, all I'd ever played of the original Dungeon Siege was its multiplayer.  It was fun playing it with friends, or even soloing, and so my impression of the game was based off of that.

However, it's got a perfectly good singleplayer campaign sitting right there asking to be played, and I'm currently partway through it.  The party system is unlike anything else I've ever used, and carries a number of annoyances within, which I will attempt to enumerate here.
  1. Switching weapons and spells is awkward.  This is because you press 1, 2, 3, or 4 to select melee, ranged, and your two spells, respectively.  However, pressing those keys switches everybody, even if you only wanted to change one character's selection.
  2. In battle, the characters you have selected matter.  Only the characters you've selected will attack or perform whatever action you've set forth, and in the heat of battle, changing your selection to order individuals around and then selecting the group for later group orders is incredibly awkward.  The ability to select party members by clicking on their character models also means you'll be accidentally switching your selection around all the time.
  3. You can't dump aggro, or really modify it in any way.  This is especially annoying when everything decides to aggro on your backline instead of the melee guys who can actually take a hit.  This is compounded by this next issue.
  4. You have to distribute health potions (and mana potions) to everyone who needs them, in advance.  It's tough to know how much you're going to need to heal during battle, and some characters naturally need more potions than others.  I'd use healing spells more regularly, but...
  5. You have to manually switch each spell caster between their two spells.  You also have to shuffle spells around their spell book(s) to make sure you can select what you want.  In addition, when you change spells, it stops them from acting for a brief but tense moment.  When I toggle to my healing spell, I want it casted now, not three seconds from now.
  6. There's no AI for your party.  You have to control everyone yourself.  Considering that you can have up to eight party members, this gets very complicated, very quickly.  A mage with a damage spell in one slot and a healing spell in the other won't do anything other than what they're currently set to do.
  7. Characters automatically equip items they pick up if there's an empty slot for it.  This means, as you're using the auto-loot key to grab everything that's dropped, you have to manually go through and remove all the bows off of your melee characters and casters.  This is all so you can press 2 and have only your ranged characters pull out their bows.
  8. The resurrection spells require you to level up their respective spell types first.  To hold you over until then, there are one-time-use scrolls of resurrection that anyone can use, but what if you don't have any?  You're screwed.  This alone makes it very important to keep a spell book full of resurrection scrolls in all your characters' inventories.
  9. Merchants are few and far between.  I have a mod installed that doubles the size of my characters' inventories, and I'm still running low on inventory space, annoyingly far away from town.  There are zero random merchants in designated "safe spots" around the game.  Especially considering everyone in the second town is dead, except for one recruitable guy, and he's not a merchant.  This means if you run out of space in the second dungeon, you have to run all the way back to the first town.  And there's no fast travel, town portal scroll, etc. to speed things up.
  10. Having multiple party members actually makes the game harder.  You'd think it would make it easier, since more characters = more sources of damage.  However, due to how the game hands out experience, per-character-per-hit rather than per-kill for the entire party, a character that gets in more hits is going to get more experience.  If you're only playing one character, that character then gets all the experience and levels up much faster than if they had anyone fighting alongside them.
  11. Having packmules doesn't completely alleviate inventory space issues.  Again, I have a mod that doubles my characters' inventory space.  I also have both of the packmules that you can purchase from the first town, and I'm still running low on space uncomfortably far away from a merchant.  Also, in battle, if you don't set the packmules correctly, they'll run around and aggro more stuff onto your party.
  12. Inventory space issues are further compounded by the fact that items can take up multiple inventory slots.  I've never liked this in an inventory system (see: Diablo, Diablo 2), because you quite easily run into a situation where you have enough open slots for the item, but because they're not the right shape or orientation, you can't put the item into your inventory.  These types of systems hardly ever have a way to re-orient an item to fit it into your inventory, but there is at least one mainstream example of being able to re-orient an item (see: Deus Ex: Human Revolution).
  13. Enemies will chase you ridiculously far from where you originally encountered them.  This hurts a lot, especially given how the game likes to throw huge battles at you and the aforementioned fact that you have to micromanage each individual character in your party during battle.  I've had to lead an obnoxiously large group of spiders a very long distance away from where we were fighting so that I could juke them and get back to the area to revive my dead party member.
  14. Reviving an unconscious party member doesn't heal them enough.  This makes mid-battle revivings almost impossible, as enemies will beat on an unconscious party member with the hopes of killing them, so you heal them and they begin to get up, then they get hit and fall over again.  It's not fun.
  15. The singleplayer is basically the multiplayer, but with only one player.  You have to manage all the characters in the party yourself.  Due to everything above, this task is vastly different from other games where you have multiple party members in singleplayer.  It's even different from dungeon crawlers like Eye of the Beholder and Legend of Grimrock.
It's still a good game, but I still recommend the multiplayer over the singleplayer.  It just makes more sense.  Heck, you can even play the singleplayer campaign in multiplayer.  Multiplayer does forfeit a lot of things, like the cutscenes, voice acting, and ability to hire party members and packmules, but it's still the way to go as far as Dungeon Siege is concerned.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Project FINISH HIM!: BattleBlock Theater

So the first game I've completed out of the FINISH HIM! category I have on Steam is BattleBlock Theater.

For anyone who doesn't know, it's a platformer with lots of death, humor, and cats from The Behemoth, who also brought us Castle Crashers.  To be honest, I bought it just because doing so unlocks Hatty Hattington in Castle Crashers, but to my credit, it looked like a fun game to begin with and I probably would've bought it anyway.

It is indeed fun, though it gets kind of frustrating in the later levels.  It's a "how the heck do I do this?" kind of frustration, not a "there's absolutely zero room for error" kind of frustrating.  In other words, it's frustration that lasts 20-30 deaths and then suddenly something clicks in your brain and you figure out the completely insane thing they want you to do.

There's more gameplay to it than the singleplayer story mode, though.  You can play the story mode co-op, and there's some versus modes, bonus levels, and then community created levels courtesy of Steam Workshop.  I've only played the singleplayer, because reasons.

I did, however, cheese a bit of local multiplayer in the versus mode.  Doing so gets you gems, out of an infinite supply.  With gems, you can unlock more player heads.  It kind of sucks, it's a grand total of five gems per match, each player head costs 15 gems, and there's a shitton of player heads.  Someone at The Behemoth really, really thinks players like to grind.  Some players might enjoy it, but in a platformer?  Probably not.

The game's story is fairly simple, but the narration is hilarious.  You can re-watch each chapter's cutscene as many times as you like from a menu that's kind of buried.  The narrator also commentates your gameplay, or to be more precise, your deaths, with such lines as "that was good, but...  do gooder." and "you're doing it wrong, do it right!".

The graphics are simple and effective.  If a block has a special purpose, it looks different from the rest.  Secrets are hinted at with differently-colored blocks that you can walk through, or something in the environment being slightly different from its surroundings.  The art style is basically what you could expect if you'd played any of The Behemoth's other games.

The music is great, and the ending song is incredibly quirky and catchy.  I had to adjust the balance of the various sound volume sliders so I could hear it better.  That and sound effects that get layered multiply in volume, so you'll want to turn that SFX dial down, especially if you use headphones.  There's a few levels that really offend in that department, much moreso than the others.  For the majority of the game it's not an issue.

The controls work well.  It's the standard Behemoth "we recommend a controller to play!" with a picture of a 360 controller, but there's also keyboard controls.  My only complaint is that the cooldown on switching weapons is way too long.

Worth noting, the Windows system requirements listed on Steam are completely ridiculous.  I'm running the game on a 2GHz single core CPU with DirectX 9, and it runs beautifully.  Minimum requirements are definitely below what they claim.

Overall, I'd recommend getting the game, but wait for a sale because it's $15.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Chrono Trigger: Beating Lavos With Just Crono

Disclaimer: SNES/PS1 item names used here.  DS-only players can deal with it.

So by now, it should be reasonably well-known that on a New Game +, if you use the sparkle on the right telepod at the Millenial Fair, you can fight Lavos at the earliest possible point in the game and get the developers' ending.  At this point, you only have access to Crono and Marle, so most people just go in there with them and don't consider trying to solo Lavos.

To be fair, they may not even know it's possible.  During the scene with the telepod, Marle actually leaves the party once you talk to Lucca.  You can then use the sparkle to go to the Lavos fight.  Don't talk to Marle after talking to Lucca, doing so will trigger the next part where she gets sent to 600 AD, and it'll be too late to trigger the Lavos fight.  You can verify that she's left the party by bringing up the menu, it'll just show Crono in your party.

Because I can, the rest of this is after the break.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chrono Trigger DS: First Round of Tabs Done

So apparently Ayla had an item equipped that was giving her +10 Magic and I didn't notice when I made the table.  Whatever.

I beat Black Omen twice, so I could charm PrismDresses off of Queen Zeal.  Not getting a third PrismDress because hopefully I'll get that Elemental Aegis for Lucca...  Anyway.  Dumped all the tabs that I had into people (intelligently, of course).  First priority was getting my Spekkio party ready to go.  Maxed speed on Crono, Robo, and Lucca, then tossed on all three Haste Helms and beat Spekkio right then and there.

I'll have Marle's speed maxed on the next playthrough.  Marle and Lucca will take nine Spekkio fights to max their power, and maxing Magic on everyone will happen whenever.  Implying that doing Spekkio runs isn't about getting Magic Tabs.

I guess I could mess around with getting tabs out of Arena of the Ages, but that's not really necessary.  I've done the multitude of Spekkio runs twice before, I can certainly do it one more time.

You know what this means, right?  It's time to take Lavos down and progress on to New Game +.

Edit: I started New Game +, and got the first two endings: the developers' ending, and the one you get for beating Lavos immediately after coming back from 600 AD.  This isn't going to be an ending-grabbing playthrough, though.  I'm just grabbing all the endings up to and including the End of Time, and then going into Spekkio runs.  That way, once I have the tabs done, I don't have to worry about those first few endings.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chrono Trigger DS: Going Through Black Omen

I know I said last time that I wouldn't swap in the table until I had progress to report, and even though I didn't say what I considered that progress to be, I originally intended that progress to be when I actually started using tabs on people.

However, I'm partway through Black Omen, at the room with the Nu shop and the fast travel out of Black Omen.  I've gotten the Haste Helm from the chest, I charmed more Gold Studs than I really need, and I've charmed every Panel I've fought thus far to grab Speed Tabs.

To be honest, I just want to get this table up, so I'm putting it up now.  It shows the number of tabs that each character still needs to max out each stat.  It doesn't take my current inventory of tabs into account.  It also ignores stat boosts from equipment, including the +1 Speed that Magus' Gloom Helm gives him despite it not being listed in the item's effects.

Side note: if the table doesn't render properly, it's because your browser sucks.  I haven't actually bothered to check compatibility on the CSS pseudo-elements I'm using to style it.  This is part of my "design stuff only for standards-compliant browsers" initiative.  That's really the only sane baseline for web design.  Browser-detection code/hacks and code to cater to those noncompliant browsers is ugly and inefficient.

Tangentially related: I fired up Chrono Trigger on my SNES and beat Lavos with just Crono, just for the hell of it.  I took the Gold Stud instead of the PrismSpecs this time.  Doing so makes it harder.  Even after the damage boost from the PrismSpecs, the fact that Luminaire is consuming 20 MP per cast instead of 5 means that you have to use recovery items that much more often.  The perfect recovery item to use is an Elixir, to top off both HP and MP.  With MP depleting faster, use of an Elixir to get MP back keeps you alive as an ancillary benefit.  However, with a Gold Stud, you now have to consider the amount of damage that each of Lavos' attacks carries, and intelligently decide when to heal (and recover MP as an ancillary benefit).  Also, without the PrismSpecs, the left bit in the third form won't die to one Confuse.  It takes two, slowing you down by a turn and giving Lavos more opportunity to throw things at you or use Time Warp.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bravely Default: Secret Adventurer Boss

Reading around on the internet, I found that there's a secret passage behind the locked chest at the end of Dimension's Hasp - B10, that leads to the Adventurer and the fox that you see throughout the game.  Here, in this secret room, you can challenge them to a fight.  If you see this and go "ooh, me want", then turn encounters off so you can just run down to them without having to deal with enemies on the way.  You may also want to equip Dungeon Master for the trip, because Dimension's Hasp does contain environmental hazards and traps.

Jump break?  Jump break.  Read all about the battle after the break.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Chrono Trigger DS: Done with Geno Dome

Got everyone to level 99.  I already tweeted this screenshot, but here it is again, for posterity.

Yeah, I know.  Pointing my phone's potato camera at my 3DS' screen produces a pretty bad picture.  Whatever.  More after the break, because I don't use jump breaks enough.