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Game Progress: Challenges, Chivalry, and Cannibalism

I beat Pokemon Ruby last night, after some dinnertime frustration forced me to abandon a Startopia session. I hadn’t intended to beat it, but that’s how things ended up. Pokemon Ruby has one of the toughest endgames I had ever encountered, and I’d lost track of how many times I’d attempted it, only to fail. With my trainer battle options dwindling, I used up some good-looking TMs (items that teach Pokemon specific moves), stocked up on healables, and took another crack at the challenge. Failure again. I dove back in, more mindful of certain elemental factors, and got further than I had ever been before, and I went even further than that. Thanks to some fantastic and hard-working pokemon (pictured at right with my trainer), I ended the game as the Best Trainer in Hoenn, and I watched, satisfied, as the credits rolled. My total time was 98:57, putting Pokemon Ruby in that tiny club of RPGs that I’ve spent over ninety hours on, sharing space with Dragon Quest VIII, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and Disgaea, aka the only RPG I’ve ever cracked the 100-hour mark on.

Pokemon Ruby isn’t the only game I’ve beaten recently. This past Saturday, I wrapped up Samurai Legend Musashi, sending the titular hero on his final quest for the Mystics. The last dungeon was long, and although there were enough checkpoints so as to ensure as little frustration as possible, the only savepoint in the entire game is in Musashi’s living quarters, and this was a no-going-back type of mission. Anyway, after one botched, and prematurely aborted, attempt, I managed to get through it with plenty of healing items left over. A certain final boss scene notwithstanding, there wasn’t much to the ending. Actually, it’s probably the shortest, most succinct RPG ending I’ve ever seen. All in all, despite some minor fiddly imperfections, I liked this game. Sure, it was short and there wasn’t much to the story, and the battle system lacked the depth of that of, say, Kingdom Hearts, but it was decent enough. I understand that there’s some Brave Fencer Musashi fans who didn’t really like this sequel, but I never played that game, so I’ve no immediate frame of reference to draw from.

After Musashi, I took a break for a little while before starting up Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga on Tuesday. It’s one of several Megaten games in my already JRPG-bloated backlog, and was the one namatamiku recommended I start first. I’m not more than two hours into it, and am already seeing where the series gets its reputation. Set in a post-apocalyptic world more than a little reminiscent of Battle Angel Alita and heavy on Hindu iconography, it centers on a group of fighters who discover a Mysterious Girl™ and also gain the power to turn into freaky-looking, people-eating demons. As one can imagine, it’s pretty grim. So far, the battle system is very traditional, but not in an engaging way; it certainly has none of the rousing music and little of the visual panache of Pokemon Ruby, and it’s not Dragon Quest or Skies of Arcadia, either (to name a couple). It could ultimately be the lack of difficulty (the game’s been easy so far), but in general battles feel like they’re missing a little extra something. Unrelated, but I found it odd that the characters start battle in their demon form; one would think they would begin as humans and turn into demons. Either way, the human forms are pretty useless, so there’s no point in changing them back once a fight’s underway.

With the grim, disturbing nature of DDS, I thought about starting another game to counterbalance it, and will probably most likely do so now that Ruby has been beaten. I tried to start Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter that same afternoon, but whether due to my exhaustion or something about the game itself, I wasn’t feeling it and turned it off. Before that, I briefly considered Etrian Odyssey, as this would give me both a simpler and a more difficult game; however, I’d rather save it for the next time I’m on a trip. As of now, I’m leaning toward Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon. It’s supposed to have some depth and challenge to it, and besides, those cute yellow birds make everything better.

Source sprites from The Shyguy Kingdom (