Burning the Midnight Oil on #OmNoMonday

Welcome back, feeble carbon-based mouth breathers!  My, am I feeling productive this week – well, that or possibly I’m not sleeping enough.  But either way, you get more of my meandering musings, so you win either way.  You’re welcome!

So as anyone who read through my recent retrospective of the Dragon Quest series has probably figured out, I am a fan.  So I was eager to throw myself into the latest remake of a classic Dragon Quest game – the 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past.  DQVII, for those that missed my retrospective (and you had better go correct that poor life choice right…now) was originally released on the PS1…after the PS2 had released.  Poor timing, coupled with an abysmal translation, led to lackluster sales of the original release.  However, the game was immense – 100-200 hours per playthrough was required if you wanted to see everything the game had to offer.  And it’s gameplay systems were solid.  So I was hoping that this remake would correct the errors of the past while maintaining the classic elements – and for the most part, it did so.

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Graphics

First things first – and you’ll find that I’m going to say this about damn near every single game on the 3DS – slide the 3D setting down to “off.”  It adds absolutely nothing to this experience, and in fact can detract from it.  Not because it’s bad, but because it will cause unnecessary eye strain in a game that begs to be played in long stretches, and will drain your battery faster.  You’re going to be spending hundreds of hours with this game – and you don’t need 3D in any of them.

The graphics are a noticeable improvement over the PS1 originals.  The camera in the original had a tendency to obscure, well, everything when rotated – but that has been largely corrected in this upgrade.  The characters models are MUCH more detailed than in the original, although there is some hilarious incongruity in the sizes of the characters in comparison to their surroundings.  Seriously, Keifer is apparently this world’s version of King Kong, because he’s larger than a lot of buildings.

The graphical improvement extends into battle as well.  In the original, battles were first-person against static monsters.  In this edition, battles are third-person, with your party fully visible on screen, executing lively animated attacks and spells against equally animated monsters.  Akira Toriyama’s legendary character designs have always been associated with this series, and they are beautifully brought to life here.  Another change from the original graphics centers on the games robust vocation system – while in the original, a character’s vocation wasn’t evident by looking at them.  However, now each and every vocation results in a new appearance for the characters – a very welcome addition.

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Sound

Not much can be said here that hasn’t been said before.  Dragon Quest features charming and catchy melodies and sound effects that will definitely become repetitive long before the game comes to a conclusion.  This especially evident in this installment, which is without question the game with the longest required playtime – a standard playthrough is going to eclipse 100 hours easily.  If you like the music, be sure to play with headphones because the 3DS is not known for it’s stellar audio hardware.  Once you begin to tire of it, just take them off.

Gameplay

I’m not going to go too in-depth here, mostly because if you have ever played a Dragon Quest game or you have read any of my Dragon Quest retrospective, you already know how this plays – and if you haven’t, this probably isn’t the entry-level Dragon Quest game I’d recommend.  The original version had a notoriously SLOW beginning, with the player going several hours before encountering their first battle.  This has thankfully been reduced in the remake, but it is still a slow open – it will still be 30-60 minutes until that first slime gets whacked with a cyprus stick.

One of the biggest changes from the original is also one I initially welcomed but soon grew annoyed by – encounters.  In the original version, monster encounters would occur at random while wandering in the field or dungeons.  The encounter rate was on par with classic RPGs in general and Dragon Quest in particular.  The remake has seen the introduction of the system first introduced in Dragon Quest VIII on PS2, in which monsters appear on the world map and can be avoided or battled at the player’s choosing.  Now on paper, this sounds great.  Unfortunately, the spawn algorithm makes the encounter rate incredibly aggravating.  I lost count of the number of times I would be trying to work through a dungeon, finish a battle and take two steps only to have another monster spawn directly under my feet.  I was soon longing for the days of a random, but fairly steady and predictable encounter rate.  The real shame is that this same system was executed to perfection in DQ VIII – this felt like a significant step back.

Story

If you are looking for a strong main narrative running through the entire game, you are likely to be disappointed.  There is a central plot revolving around a demon king sealing off the various islands of the world from one another, and your efforts to bring them back and defeat the revival of the big bad.  But the true stars of the show are the smaller, self-contained narratives of each of the trapped islands.  Each region has its own quest that must be solved before it appears on the world map – and these mini-epics are phenomenal.  Some are lighthearted, others are tragic to the point of being tear-jerking, and they all feel very REAL – there are choices made and consequences that must be lived with, for better or worse.  These feel all the more at home in a portable format – each island only takes a few hours to complete, making it ideal for an evening gaming session to have a definite beginning and end.

So Should I Play It?

Have you been playing Dragon Quest games since the NES?  Do you lament that the Final Fantasy series moved away from turn-based battles and into whatever the hell this weird kind-of action shit is now?  Do you not mind wandering around for a while trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing?  Does the thought of grinding a character through a bunch of different classes to make them into a physical god make you giddy with excitement?

Then you should play this game.  It’s a love letter and a magnum opus to the game design of JRPGs from a different era.

Is the first Dragon Quest game you played VIII?  Is your favorite RPG series Final Fantasy, starting with VII or later?  Do you have a relatively short attention span if not much is going on during a gaming session?  Do you need a breathtaking main narrative to drive you onward?

This probably isn’t your game.  You’re going to feel like this game is boring and old.  It’s not, and you’re wrong – but I can understand your mistake based on your tastes, so I will allow you to live.  This time.

I played the original DQ VII on PS1.  I still have it.  I’ve played it more than once.  I still enjoyed my time with this 3DS remake even more than the original.  It still has flaws, but if you love old-school JRPGs, you should give this one a shot.  Since these seem to need some kind of arbitrary numerical score, I’m going to give it:

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Four Burning Villages…out of Five.

But that’s not all, kids!  No, because it is once again #OmNoMonday – and last time, I got a request for a chicken dish!  So I have scoured my Evil Recipes That Didn’t Kill Anyone, and I have found this delicious and healthy take on classic Chicken Cordon Bleu!

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Ingredients:

  1. 4 thin-sliced boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  2. 4 slices ham
  3. 6 slices swiss cheese
  4. Ground black pepper
  5. Crushed red pepper flakes
  6. Olive oil
  7. OPTIONAL – 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  8. A Ziploc bag
  9. Baking dish
  10. Toothpicks
  11. Tenderizing mallet
  12. OPTIONAL – a child that enjoys smashing things with a tenderizing mallet

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Use a small amount of olive oil to grease the baking dish.

Place the chicken in the Ziploc bag and use the tenderizing mallet (and, if available, the child) to pound the chicken to about 1/4 inch thick.  If using child, be sure to make sure they do not pound the chicken so hard that the Ziploc bag explodes.  It isn’t fun to clean up.

Place the chicken in the baking dish.  Season to taste with the black and red pepper.  Place a slice of ham and a slice of cheese on top of each piece of chicken.  Roll up and secure each piece of chicken with a toothpick.  If you want crunchy chicken, sprinkle bread crumbs over them.  For a healthier alternative, don’t use the bread crumbs.

Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.  Remove from oven, place 1/2 slice of cheese on top of each piece of chicken and bake an additional 3-5 minutes, or until cheese has melted.  Remove from oven, remove toothpicks, and enjoy!  Or, if you’re serving them to someone you don’t particularly care for, someone that may have wronged you, DON’T remove the toothpicks, serve, and enjoy watching!  Either way, I believe you will walk away satisfied. – EWE

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Dragon Quest Retrospective, Part 3 – Return to the West

When last we were here, brace adventurers and adventurettes, we were faced with the harsh reality of Dragon Quests V and VI for the SNES never making their way across the Pacific, until many years and a company merger later.  It was a dark time for fans of traditional, turn-based JRPGs.  Yet there was hope on the horizon, and that hope was in the form of the numeral VII.  Two numeral VIIs, actually – both released for Sony’s inaugural effort into the home gaming console realm, the PlayStation.  One was a small, niche title from some company called Squaresoft called Final Fantasy VII – you’ve probably never heard of it.  And the other was the final Dragon Quest to be developed and released by Enix on its own – Dragon Quest VII.

Released in Japan in 2000, Dragon Quest VII was notable for several reasons.  It was the first Dragon Quest game to be developed and released for a non-Nintendo platform, being released for the Sony PlayStation.  It also was the first Dragon Quest game to be released in CD format rather than on a cartridge.  And with its US release in 2001, it marked the return of Dragon Quest to Western shores.  Gameplay wise, most of the core fundamentals remained intact – turn-based combat, an expansive world, and the deepest class system yet in the series.  The sheer scope of VII made it stand out – a standard playthrough of the game would easily reach 100 hours, and delving deeply into the different classes could double that number.  However, the Western release was marred by two flaws – a poor, incomplete localization, and the gigantic shadow cast by Final Fantasy VII.  This led to limited sales in America, and the game quickly went out of production and became something of a collector’s item among JRPG fans.  This ended in 2016 when the game was remade for the 3DS, with improved visuals as well as an entirely new, much better translation.  This is definitely the way to experience this game.


Released in Japan in 2004 and in the US in 2005, Dragon Quest VIII saw the series jump to the PS2 and into full 3D.  It also was the first time in the series that encounters were not random – enemies appeared on the map and could be avoided (this feature would later be implemented into the 3DS remake of VII).  It was also the first game in the series not to be retitled “Dragon Warrior” when localized for the West, instead retaining its original Dragon Quest moniker.  Finally, VIII was the first title in the series to be developed by the combined might of the merged Square Enix, and as such included a demo of the much- anticipated Final Fantasy XII.  The title saw tremendous critical and commercial success in both Japan and the US, with many thinking that this was the mark of the Dragon Quest series finally “modernizing” by combining its classic turn-based combat with beautiful visuals and a unique character development system that eschewed set classes or roles in favor of developing individual skills for each character.  It also featured a robust alchemy system for the first time in the series.  With this, many expected the next Dragon Quest game to push the visual boundaries and epic storytelling even further – but Square Enix had a surprise in store.


Square Enix shocked many by developing Dragon Quest IX exclusively for Nintendos DS handheld system.  Following the success of the visually impressive DQ VIII and the breathtaking Final Fantasy XII, DQ IX’s release in Japan in 2009 and the US in 2010 left many fans scratching their heads.  In a way, IX represented something of a “concept album” for the series.  Rather than the party being comprised of specific story-based characters, it was comprised entirely of player-created members, something not seen since DQ III.  And for the first time in the series, and rarely seen in any JRPG, there was a multiplayer component to IX’s gameplay – other party members could be controlled by other players in combat.  Further, IX featured online content in the form of items and visiting characters from previous entries in the series, as well as downloadable quests that couldn’t be received any other way.  Gameplay still features turn based combat, again featuring a deep class system.  However, while there was again a central narrative driving the player forward, most of the time in the game was spent completing tasks in a robust quest system inspired by MMO RPGs.  While a tremendous critical success, IX failed to achieve quite the same commercial success as its predecessor, unfortunately leading SE to conclude that the West once again wasn’t a profitable market for the Dragon Quest brand, and leading to some titles not crossing the Pacific again.


Originally released in Japan in 2012, Dragon Quest X is a unique entry in the series.  As of this writing, it is the only main entry in the series that has solely been released in Japan, with no form being localized or announced for the Western market.  It also marked a departure from the series single-player roots – X was a full-fledged MMO RPG.  A class system that combines elements of classic Dragon Quest games and the MMO features of Final Fantasy XI, and a battle system that was a mashup of the legendary Active Time Battle system and real-time MMO combat allowed X to carve out its own niche in the crowded MMO market.  While critically praised and commercially popular in Japan, SE has cited prohibitive localization and development costs as the reason why they have no current plans to bring the title to the West.

And with that, we have reached the end of the current, main series entries in the venerable Dragon Quest franchise.  With the exception of the Japan-exclusive MMO DQ X, I have played every entry in the series and I can personally attest to both their level of craftsmanship as well as their place as a cornerstone of the JRPG genre through the years.  These games served as my gateway into the world of console gaming, and they have a warm spot in the abyss where you humans would keep your heart.  I eagerly await the development and release of Dragon Quest XI, as well as the continued success of the franchise as a whole.

While this retrospective has focused on the main entries in the series, it is no secret that there are a number of spin-offs and side-entries under the Dragon Quest banner.  Should any of you wish a look into those, please let me know in the comments section.  I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed my nostalgic trip down memory lane.  And if you haven’t then I sincerely hope you have your life insurance paid up before the meteor I just summoned lands on your roof.

So until next time kids, remember – no matter how you may want to try and spin your support for Trump as not being an indication of you being a hateful, horrific human, when the KKK holds a parade in celebration of your chosen candidate’s victory, you should probably take a long, hard look in the mirror…and then drive your face into it as hard as you possibly can. – EWE

Dragon Quest Retrospective, Part 2 – The Lost Super Famicom Era

An Evil Wizard draws near!  Command?  And who the fuck are you that you think you can command me?  Ahem – welcome back, questors and questettes, to my look back a one of the seminal JRPG series of all time, Dragon Quest.  In this part, we take a look at what for many, many years were the “lost” gems of the series, at least for those of us that neither live in Japan nor read Japanese.  You see, Dragon Quest IV, being the last NES title in the series, was subject to the at-the-time usual delays in translation and localization, and hence was one of the very last games released for the original NES, and actually was released AFTER the Super Nintendo in the US.  As a result of this poor timing, sales of Dragon Warrior IV in the US were a significant decline from those of Dragon Warrior III – and Enix took this as a sign that the series simply wasn’t worth continuing to bring across the Pacific.  As a result of this, for many, many years the following two entries – including what is widely considered to be the pinnacle of the entire Dragon Quest series – were available only for the Super Famicom in Japan.  Thankfully, this would not always be the case!

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Released in 1992 for the Super Famicom, Dragon Quest V is widely considered to be the greatest entry in the entire series, by fans and the developers alike.  The series debut on a 16-bit system managed to retain all of the classic hallmarks of the series turn-based, JRPG roots while also managing to be revolutionary as well.  For the first time in the series, rather than the player controlling an entire party of human characters, recruitable monsters would join the hero’s party in battle, leveling up and gaining new abilities in the same manner as their human allies.  Monsters had a chance of joining after being defeated in battle, and while the active battle party was limited to three in the original Super Famicom version (four in the later remakes), additional monsters and party members would ride along in the wagon and could be swapped out between battles.  The original release had around 40 recruitable monsters, while later remakes of the game would increase this count into the 70s.  Secondly, while Dragon Quest III and IV began to flesh out the bare-bones narratives of the first two games, Dragon Quest V featured a plot that was truly epic in scale and scope – a tale that followed the hero throughout the entirety of his life, beginning with his birth and continuing throughout his adulthood.  To say much more would be spoiling a tale that you really should experience for yourself – and thanks to Square Enix’s love of capitalizing on its back catalog and talent for producing extremely polished remakes, the West finally got its chance at experiencing Dragon Quest V on the 3DS in 2009.  This remake was then flawlessly ported to iOS and Android in 2015 – meaning that regardless of your portable gaming system of choice, there is no reason for any fan of JRPGs to not play this gem.

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Released for Super Famicom in 1995, Dragon Quest VI again retained the classic core gameplay of the Dragon Quest series as a whole, while adding its own wrinkles and variations.  It was a marked graphical improvement over V, as the developers had several years of additional experience with the Super Famicom hardware to leverage into the visuals.  Gameplay-wise, Dragon Quest VI saw the return of the class system first introduced in Dragon Quest III, with some changes and expansions.  In addition, VI marked the first time in the series that characters could learn skills and abilities – techniques that were separate from classic spells and cost no MP to use.  Later remakes of III, IV, and V would add these as well, but the Super Famicom version of VI marked their debut for the series.  The story once again saw a hero and his allies combating a threat to the world – as well as their own amnesia after a failed attempt to defeat the villain previously.  While Dragon Quest VI is sometimes regarded as a bit of a letdown on the heels of the revolutionary Dragon Quest V, it is still a finely crafted, deep, and engaging RPG that is well worth experiencing by fans of the genre.  While the original release never came to the West, in 2011 a 3DS remake of the game made its way to the US and Europe, much as with Dragon Quest V.  This release was also later brought to iOS and Android.  Once again, both of these games are now readily available in convenient, portable form – any fan of JRPGs and classic games in general should make an effort to find them and play them.

And with that, we reach the end of this second part in our look back at the Dragon Quest series.  Next up, we reach the PlayStation era, and the return of worldwide releases for the series.  Until then, go find these games, goddammit! – EWE

A Dragon Quest Retrospective – Part 1: The NES Era

Welcome back once again, questors and, uh…questettes?  Sure, why not.  Once again I welcome you to something a little different from me – while I have profiled various humans here in the past, as well as reviewed some games, I have never before given an overview of an entire video game series.  Quite honestly, I feel as if doing so is something that should be reserved for only the most important and influential series in the storied history of video games – otherwise it somewhat cheapens the endeavor.  I mean, you can do a profile of the “Destroy All Humans!” Series but that would only be two game that not many people have heard of.

So when I considered doing a retrospective look at an entire franchise, I knew it needed to be one of some import.  It also needed to be one that had some personal significance for me – because let’s be honest, this is my blog, and if I don’t give any fucks about a particular series, why the hell would I waste my time discussing it?  I’m evil, not stupid.  So I figured that I would go with a groundbreaking, landmark JRPG series of fantasy worlds, swords, magic, world threatening evils, and parties of colorful characters growing from relatively powerless youths into earth-shattering Demi-gods intent on saving the world.

What’s that?  Oh, no, not that one.  There are no rideable chickens or bat winged koala bears in this one.  That’s right – it’s time for a look at Dragon Quest / Dragon Warrior if you’re older than time itself (like me, goddammit).  And since this is not a small undertaking, I have decided to split it up into a few separate posts, each focusing on a different part of the overall series.  This time, we take a look at the origins of the series on the venerable NES.


If Square’s Final Fantasy is considered the father of the modern JRPG, then Enix’s Dragon Quest was the granddaddy of them all.  Originally released in Japan in 1986, and in the US in 1989 as Dragon Warrior, the original Dragon Quest was one of the first console role-playing games to take the venerable gameplay of tabletop Dungeons & Dragons and convert it into a streamline, user friendly video game by placing most of the dice rolling and number crunching under the hood and only displaying the results to the player.  The game saw a lone warrior embark on a quest to save the Kingdom of Alefgard’s princess from danger and defeat the evil Dragonlord to restore peace to the land.  Yeah, as stories go, they don’t come much more cookie cutter than this, but it was the 80s, dammit!  Anyway, the relatively simple turn-based battle system was made enchanting by the now-iconic monster designs of famed Dragonball manga creator Akira Toriyama.  The game was a smash hit in Japan, but Nintendo wasn’t sure about its chances in America, so they literally gave it away for free – a copy of the game, along with a substantial strategy guide, was given away to every person that subscribed to Nintendo Power magazine.   This brilliant exercise in marketing strategy enabled a younger, extremely poor, not-yet-esq. Evil Wizard to fall madly in love with the world of RPGS.


Following the success of Dragon Quest, Enix released the sequel, Dragon Quest II, in Japan in 1987 and in the US in 1990.  Everything about Dragon Quest II was an expansion on its predecessor, but in some ways Enix’s ambitions outstripped their abilities at that time.  The world of Dragon Quest II was huge – for comparison, the Kingdom of Alefgard featured in the original title was only one small portion of the entire map.   The story was also much more central than the barebones plot justification of the original.  Dragon Quest II featured the descendants of the Hero of the first game banding together to combat an evil wizard named Hargon.  The game featured a party of three unique playable characters, and a ship that could be used to travel between the many continents in the world – however, the combat was not as balanced as other party-based RPGS, and the necessity of grinding in order to keep your weaker characters alive reached levels of absurdity.  Still, for its time, Dragon Quest II was an incredibly ambitious sequel and pushed the series forward in every possible way.


Ah, Dragon Quest III.  Make no mistake about it – this is my absolute favorite entry in this entire series, and I love a number of these games.  In almost every conceivable way, Dragon Quest III is the absolute pinnacle of JRPG game design and execution for the entire 8-bit era, and it inspired nearly every convention of RPGs today.  Not just one gigantic world, but two, packed with colorful NPC characters, an epic, sweeping story, numerous towns, castles, towers, caves, dungeons – but the show stealer was the game’s class system.  At the beginning of the game, the Hero recruits three characters for a party of four.  These characters can be created from a number of different character classes, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses.  Later in the adventure, the player gains access to the ability for these party members to switch their current character class for a new one, beginning at level one but retaining all spells and abilities that they learned previously.  This incredibly well balanced system still holds up to this day, and has been copied by numerous other games through the years since.


Released in Japan in 1990 and in the US in 1992 as Dragon Warrior IV, Dragon Quest IV was the series NES swan song, and in many ways was something of a “concept album” for the series.   Eschewing the blank slate party building and open-ended class system of Dragon Quest III, Dragon Quest IV featured unique playable characters with their own set classes and abilities – but in a break from the past, rather than put the party together early in the game, IV instead broke the story up into individual “chapters” each focusing on a different party member.  Only n the last half of  game did all of the playable characters come together to face the common threat to their entire world.  The other main problem with IV was that it was released for the aging NES after the much more powerful SNES had come out – thus, despite being a critical hit, it failed to sell as well as its predecessors had.

Now, each of these games is more than worth a play through for fans of classic JRPG game design – and the GOOD NEWS for all of you is that each of these has been remade a number of times – most recently for iOS and Android devices.  Do yourself a favor – track down these classic gems and give them a look!

That’s all for this installment – as always, please give me any thoughts or suggestions on this topic or anything else in the blog.  I promise, even if they are critical or cruel, I probably won’t rain down terror upon you and all of your descendants for generations to come!  Next time I revisit this, we will take a look at the “lost” SNES entries in the series.  Until we meet again, kids, remember – not every Trump supporter you meet is necessarily a horrible person.  There is a chance that maybe they are JUST horrifically, criminally, incurably stupid.  Those ones can be forgiven, and then hopefully institutionalized before they can cause harm to themselves or others.  The rest are absolutely horrible people –  and this is coming from who LITERALLY wears his evil on his sleeve. – EWE

Why Dragon Quest VII is the Most Psychologically Scarring Horror Game of All Time

SPOILER ALERT!

The following contains plot spoilers for a portion of Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past.  Proceed at your own risk.

Excuse me a moment, intrepid readers, while I finish rinsing out this latest dose of brain bleach that I have been using to try and undo the horror that has been imprinted on my mind while playing through Dragon Quest VII.  Not because it’s bad – quite the opposite, it is a fantastic JRPG.  It just also happens to be one of the most depressing, distressing horror games of all time.  Don’t believe me?  Think a game about spiky-haired, plucky youths on a journey to discover lost islands and beat up cute monsters sounds downright cheery, almost childlike?  Yeah, well, then you haven’t really thought about it enough.

I submit to you, poor souls, the utter-fucking-horror show that is the village of Regenstein.

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For the love of all that’s good, turn around and jump right back into that portal!

So the primary motivation of our young, innocent band of travelers is to restore the world’s missing islands, one by one.  To accomplish this, they journey into the past of each island and “solve” some type of dilemma pertaining to the period.  Once resolved, the island then appears in the present day for our heroes to explore.  Sounds just peachy, right?

Well, what about when our three happy kids arrive in the past to find the village of Regenstein…population: 1 living person, and a bunch of very worn statues.  Well, this seems odd.  I mean, these stone statues seem incredibly lifelike…but time has not been kind to them, and the elements have caused significant damage to them.  It’s a real shame.  Anyway, where the hell are all the people?  I mean, there is just this grumpy old man by the well, and all he will say is that this place is a cursed hellhole and we should get the fuck out of here.

But instead, let’s take a nap at the inn until nightfall.  Because in every horror film/game/novel, that is ALWAYS a good idea.

So during the night, our plucky protagonist begins to hear voices and wailing outside the inn, and like any self-respecting heroic idiot, he decides to do the brain-dead thing of GOING ALONE TO SEE WHAT IT IS.  And just in case you think “fuck that shit, I am not going out there” you don’t have a choice.  Yes, even if you see the horrible fate awaiting you, you must comply with it in order to advance.  Let the scarring begin.

The young boy soon finds one of the statues emitting a light, and he is treated to a vision of the past, on a day when the sky turned dark and a grey rain TURNED EVERYONE IN THE VILLAGE TO STONE.  Yup, all those decrepit statues you’ve been seeing – those are the villagers.  And they’ve been like this for some time.  But just in case the fridge horror hasn’t set in yet, after seeing this terrible curse inflicted, the statue of the man CRUMBLES INTO DUST IN OUR HERO’S HANDS.  So, yeah…that’s gonna require some therapy.  And as our poor boy stumbles through the town, statue after statue gives him yet another heartbreaking glimpse into the lives that these souls led, cut short by some fate they neither foresaw nor deserved.  It culminates in him seeing a vision of a young knight and his fiance, as the knight prepares to leave the village to secure food for the villagers.  Upon his return, they will celebrate by announcing their betrothal.  Guess who never saw her love again?

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At least this one didn’t die DIRECTLY in our hero’s hands.

So now, our poor, likely scared shitless hero finds the only other waking soul in the village – the old man by the well.  Now that he has seen the specters of the past, the old man decides to just dump the whole load on him.  The old man is actually one and the same as the young knight.  Yes, he left, secured food for the village, and returned just in time to see the end of the cursed rain that turned everyone he ever loved into stone.  And then he maintained a vigil for DECADES, watching over them and trying to find a method by which to end their petrification.  Sound awful?  Oh, don’t worry – IT GETS WORSE.

You see, eventually, the knight did discover a cure for the village’s condition – the Angel’s Tears.  Not only did he discover its existence, but he actually managed to secure it.  But then he realized the horrible truth – the elements had worn away so much of the stone that even if he were to use the Tears to reverse the petrification, the villagers would never be able to survive as flesh and blood.  That’s right – he had the cure in his hands, but using it would KILL THEM ALL.

But…but perhaps all is not lost – for our brave band of children discover a secret passageway leading to a high pinnacle in the center of the village, from which they release the Angel’s Tears.  The sky clears, and sun shines down…and the only villager restored is a single young boy who was trapped underground and sheltered from the ravages of time.  He emerges with no idea that any time has passed, that everyone he has ever known and loved is long since dead.  So what do you do?  YOU TAKE HIM ON A FUCKING TOUR OF THE VILLAGE.

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Way to accomplish next to nothing, hero.

You speak to each and every statue, as the boy, with growing dread, begins to realize how much they look like his mother, father, and best friend.  Finally, you bring him to the old man.  Each then finds in the other a reason to go on – I suppose because they are in complete shock as they are the only two survivors of their entire way of life.  Nonetheless, they thank our travelers and pledge that they will find a way to restore the village of Regenstein, and continue to seek out a way to cure their friends and family as well.  With that they set off.

Having accomplished (I guess) their task in the past, our three poor victims now return to the present to find…that the old man and the boy utterly failed in their task.  The site where Regenstein once stood is an empty field, devoid of any sign of the village except for the lone stone pinnacle in the center.  In fact, the player is tasked with BUILDING A NEW VILLAGE ON THE SITE OF THE OLD.  If you don’t understand what a horrible fucking idea that is, go right now and watch Poltergeist, then come back.  I’ll wait right here.

What’s more, in the present day, nobody as any idea that Regenstein even existed.  An entire civilization essentially vanished, and the only three people to have any idea are the three shattered souls who were forced to witness it for themselves.  And they can’t even share that burden because they have nothing to prove it with.

So the next time you are playing through Silent Hill 2 and thinking how Pyramid Head may give you nightmares, stop and realize: Pyramid Head can only kill one person at a time.  Dragon Quest VII killed off an entire nation EXCEPT for one, and then spent a lifetime driving that one to the brink of insanity, only to dangle a false hope of redemption in front of him before snuffing that out as well, and wiping them all from history.  THAT will leave a mark on your soul. – EWE

Must…Keep…Playing…

Good evening, my little devils/angels/non-denominational supernatural beings!  I believe that I have neglected to mention that NIS America has recently announced that Disgaea 2 is coming to PC in January 2017!  The Disgaea series is an anime SRPG dream – tons of different classes, wacky stories full of memorable and insane demons, angels, and humans, a near-bottomless well of skills, items, and equipment, and the ability to level all of those things up to level 9999 (that is not a typo) then reincarnate them with higher stats and do it all over again.  But above all else – murderous, peg-legged, dual-machete toting penguins that end every sentence with “dood” and EXPLODE WHEN YOU THROW THEM.  If you aren’t pre-ordering this now, something is wrong with you.

So, you know that one book, or game, or TV series, or whatever that just grabs ALL of your attention?  Like, you kind of want to do other stuff too, but you must continue partaking of it?  Well, Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past for Nintendo 3DS is apparently that game for me.  I want to focus on writing a wonderfully witty, cutting, insightful entry for all of you out there – but I can’t stop.  I have to keep killing slimes.  I.  Have.  To.

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They all have to die.

 

But whilst I continue my slime death march, I can, in fact, bring a recommendation to any seasonal brew aficionados that may be out there.  I was in a local pub and discovered Breckenridge Nitro Pumpkin Spice Latte Stout.  Now, the name may be a mouthful, but the drink itself is absolutely superb – frankly the best seasonal pumpkin-themed beer I’ve had, and I’ve had more than a few.

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Find this, drink this, love this.

Finally, this is last call for any requests or recommendations for the next profile of a member of the gaming community!  Next one should go up soon!

Until next time friends, remember – when the best thing that can be said about you is “well, he hasn’t done anything OVERTLY racist, sexist, xenophobic, or bigoted in the last few days” then there is a better than good chance that you are both a terrible person and also not a good choice to be president.  #SorryNotSorry Trump fans. – EWE

RPG Madness; Profile Pondering

Salutations, my little whispers in the darkness (yeah, I’m running low on creativity).  It has been an incredibly busy week on the work front, which has led to a downturn in the amount of time I have had to spend here with you.  For that, I am sorry – I’m sure you have all missed me.  But on the bright side, after less than a full year practicing law, I am taking an issue before the Ohio Supreme Court.  Despite many, MANY character flaws (which if you’ve followed me this long should be readily apparent) I’m not normally one for bragging much – it feels uncomfortable.  But this is a pretty big career milestone, especially in this short of a time, so I am quite proud of it.  Given how extremely low my self-esteem has been for the past several months, it is gratifying to feel good at something.

But you didn’t come here to hear about me!  Or at least, not that bit.  I mean, this is all really about me and my thoughts.  So you kind of did come here to hear about me.  Huh.  I’ll be damned.  Again.  Anyway, another thing that has me quite excited is all of the recent happenings in the game industry, and particularly in the RPG space.  I’ll have more thoughts on some of the big announcements (PS4 Pro, etc.) in the coming days, but for now, this month is being extremely kind to my addiction to RPGs on handheld systems.

First off, we have The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II.  Yes, the name is a mouthful, but dear sweet mother of god, if you are a fan of turn-based, anime-inspired RPGs, this series is amazing.  Trails in the Sky FC and SC were two of the greatest RPGs I’ve ever played on the PSP, with amazing characterization and combat systems.  Cold Steel I took everything great about Sky and turned it up to 11.  Much like FC and SC, there is one continuous storyline across both games, and I’ve been waiting to play Cold Steel until I had access to both of them because I did not want to get to the end of I and be left hanging until II made it’s way across the Pacific.  Now it is here, and I am delighted.

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These kids will kick your ass.

Next up is one near and dear to my heart, Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past on the 3DS.  This is a remake of the original Dragon Quest VII released on the PS1 around 2000.  Dragon Quest is one of my most beloved series, in no small part due to nostalgia – I received the original Dragon Quest as a gift for subscribing to Nintendo Power as a kid.  It was the first RPG I ever played, and the second game I ever played after Super Mario Bros.  DQ VII is famous for it’s tremendous amount of content – finishing the PS1 original was easily a 100 hour undertaking.  I can’t wait to relive it all over again.

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I still think that hat looks fucking stupid, though.

Finally, there is Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse on 3DS.  A retelling of the story in the first SMT IV from a different perspective, the main character in Apocalypse bears a more than passing resemblance to the Demi-Fiend, the player character in the seminal SMT: Nocturne for PS2.  Nocturne is one of my favorite games of all time – I have always loved the dark subject matter and various religious themes explored by the SMT series as a whole, and Apocalypse looks to scratch that itch.

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I’m telling you right now that I’m siding with Lucifer if I can.

Before I go for now, I wanted to pose a question to anyone still with me – I am wanting to prepare another profile post of someone in the gaming industry.  I have a few ideas, but I am very curious to know if any of you have any preferences?  Let me know in the comments below.  I tend to do most of my research for the profiles from open sources, but I am in no way averse to reaching out to people to see if I can find any information that may not be easily searchable.  If nobody has a preference, I can always go with one of my own.

Fare you well this evening, boys and girls, for I must go and continue binging through Pokemon X/Y in preparation for Sun/Moon’s upcoming release as well, but remember – even if the nutjobs are right (they aren’t) and Hillary Clinton is secretly dying (she isn’t), it means that she is spending her last days and remaining strength trying to save the country from a Donald Trump presidency.  This doesn’t make her unfit to serve – it makes her a goddamn motherfucking hero.  Until next time! – EWE