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Month: June 2010

Some Last-Minute Dungeon Crawling

This afternoon, I’ll be boarding a plane to California for a personal trip. What this means is that, for the past week or so, I’ve been tying up some loose ends beforehand, so I wouldn’t have to deal with them when I got back. The usual errands notwithstanding, this has meant returning to the final, postgame stratum of Etrian Odyssey.

One of the monsters I didn't fight.

I had originally begun tackling it last year, immediately after beating the main quest. Unfortunately, the most advantageous stat boosts required me to restart with new characters at Level 1, and thus, a lot of grinding was required. I took up the grind again earlier this month, and eventually maxed out the five stat-enhanced characters I had created way back when at Level 70. When my party was strong enough to venture into that last stratum again, around Level 60 or so, I began mapping it out thoroughly, finding it an even more devious bastard than the snippets I had seen last year. In the end, I never got through the whole thing due to some insanely tough bosses that I would’ve had to have defeated. Still, I’m glad that I got as far as I did, even though I had to spam the items and abilities that cut down on random encounters after maxing out my party and building up my cash hoard, as fighting monsters was a waste of time by that point.

In general, the plan was to be “done” with Etrian Odyssey so I wouldn’t have to take it along with me, but I also wanted something new to play on this trip, since Pokemon Platinum by itself would get a little boring after awhile. Thus, I ordered Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, which I’ve had an eye on ever since its release. (It’s also, I believe, the first Ubisoft-published title I’ve bought since Grandia II for the Dreamcast, which says more about my tastes than the company’s games.) Yeah, another RPG, but with more of a strategy and puzzle bent from what I understand. I’m looking forward to playing it.

I also picked up the issue of Edge that’s currently on the US newsstands, because that’s what I do nowadays before a long trip. It’s the June issue with Little Big Planet 2 on the cover. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have every Edge cover appearance of LBP by this point, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if I’m missing one or two. Something interesting I’ve heard about LBP2 is that the gravity is adjustable, which might mitigate my one major turn off from the first game: the floaty animation. You can bet I got sick of seeing all those Edge covers (and stories) real fast after seeing the original LBP in motion for the first time…

Anyway, that’s all for now. See you again in a little over a week!

The Best of E3 2010… eBay Auctions

As someone who doesn’t/can’t/won’t attend E3, one of the best parts of the annual event is the swag auctions that crop up on eBay. The tchotchkes placed on sale are neat little windows onto the expo, inherently different from the avalanche of news reports, written impressions, screenshots, trailers, and press conference livestreams that are available to anyone and everyone with a decent internet connection. They are trinkets that were actually there, instant collectables that show how an industry markets itself to itself, and to the world at large, in physical form.

The E3 goodies on eBay traditionally take many different forms. Every year, without fail, there’s at least one auction for the daily magazines/guides for the event itself. There are also always auctions for t-shirts, as well as lots containing a variety of items; the latter listings are very hard to find after E3 has come and gone. Other common items that appear year after year include lanyards, magazines, keychains, and, for some reason, Square Enix catalogs.

Other items are more on the quirky side. One of my favorites this year—and not just because I love the character and the franchise—are the patches that were given away to promote Kirby’s Epic Yarn. How better to promote a fabric-themed Kirby game than with a fabric Kirby? Several of these patches, with a Buy it Now (BIN) of $9.95, sold quickly, and at least one that has gone up since then as a regular auction is hitting an even higher price. I thought the initial $9.95 BIN listing was a bit high, but I’m a born cheapskate, and now I’m wondering if I should’ve bit before that same seller doubled their price.

Another item of note this year is the Epic Mickey cloisonne pin. Not only is there a huge Disneyana collecting scene, but there is a subset of Disneyana collecting that specializes in pins. Throw in video game memorabilia collectors on top of that, and you wind up with BIN asking prices as high as $24.99 for these pins. A search of completed listings has revealed that only three of these pins has sold so far, which makes me think that the highest of these BINs are too optimistic.

Two bits of Natsume swag have caught my attention. First is the Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar plush horse. Since Natsume typically gives away plushes as preorder bonuses, I think we’ll be seeing this specific item again, on a wider scale, in the future. More unusual is this catalog for Natsume’s games. Again, I believe this to be an overly optimistic BIN. Meanwhile, one enterprising auctioneer has combined the two into one lot.

Some things which could become scarce in the years ahead are the Sonic Colors plush and the two Portal 2 t-shirts. There haven’t been many posted, which is always an interesting sign. The Dreamcast shirts are a little bit more common, but seem to be quite popular. And then there’s the Zelda shirts, of which there are a ton, but might also become nice collector’s pieces, given the size of fanbase and the popularity of past Zelda-related swag of all kinds.

Some general shopping tips: swag traditionally starts hitting eBay on the first day of E3, and BINs, if utilized, trend toward the high end. Both starting prices and selection generally improve toward the end of the event and in the days afterward, but bidding can be fierce. Even so, during and after E3 is the absolute best time to get one’s hands on a piece of swag that might be rare down the line. Please note that it’s sometimes hard to know what will be valuable, even for the most seasoned collector; as with any other type of collecting, it is always best to go after the pieces you personally like the most.

In the months and years following an E3, it will, naturally, be harder to track down many items on eBay or other auction sites. However, when older E3 stuff does pop up, it can sometimes be had at a relative bargain, since there isn’t nearly as much competition. Here are the results I got for “E3 2009” in the Entertainment Memorabilia category, which contained the most number of relevant results. Slim pickings, to be sure, but I bet that Left 4 Dead 2 poster was going for a lot more last summer. It should be interesting to see what an “E3 2010” search brings up a year from now.

The Big Three E3 Press Conference Progress Report

Company: Microsoft
Unofficial Motto: Great, cutting-edge ideas ganked from other companies, without all that fussy “style” and “ease of use” nonsense.
Typical E3 Press Conference Methodology: Throwing lots of money around, making whatever’s on stage look slick and made-for-TV presentable by any means possible.
This Year’s Event Details: Kinect event with Cirque du Soleil, 06/13/10; press conference, 10:30am PST, 06/14/10
Did it Start on Time?: Yes
This Year’s Players: At the press conference specifically, there was Mark Lamia (Treyarch); Don Mattrick; Hideo Kojima and Shigenobu Matsuyama (Kojima Productions); Phil Spencer; Cliff Bleszinski (Epic); Peter Molyneux (Microsoft/Lionhead); Marcus Lehto (Bungie); Mark Whitten; Laura and her friend; Josh Elliott and Trey Wingo, the hosts of ESPN SportsCenter; Kudo Tsunoda; a little girl and Skittles the tiger; “Shin from Rare Studios”; Felicia Williams (Ubisoft); celebrity trainer Michael George; Naoko Takamoto, Alex Rigopulos, and Kasson Crooker (Harmonix); and Dan Greenwalt and Bill Giese (Turn 10). Whew!

CliffyB makes everything better.

Featured Hardware: Kinect, formerly known as Project Natal; a smaller, slimmer, shinier Xbox 360
Featured Games: Call of Duty: Black Ops; Metal Gear Solid: Rising; Gears of War 3; Fable III; a mysterious Crytek game called Codename: Kingdoms; Halo: Reach; several Kinect games with Wii, DS, and EyeToy analogues; a Kinect Star Wars game; and a version of Forza running with Kinect, now with more lifelike car porn!
Featured Features: Kinect’s features covered, including Minority Report menu navigation, video chat a la Skype, and voice control; Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7; ESPN on Xbox Live; the new 360 finally has built-in wi-fi.
Biggest Difference Compared to Last Year: Less of a reliance on mainstream celebrities.

Additional Notes: The structure of the press conference was pretty much unchanged from last year: open with a big, multiplatform title and follow it up with some Xbox-exclusive DLC-related announcement for it. Then, show something else multiplatform before going into the exclusive hardcore stuff before finally setting into Casual Land. Noticeably absent this time around were XBLA games, which is a shame considering that there are some interesting things coming down the pipe, but I suppose that that’s more of a hardcore thing, and since E3’s something of a mainstream showcase, not as important in Microsoft’s eyes.

As for Kinect: first off, it’s going to take awhile to get used to the new name, but at least it’s better than “Natal”; secondly, the launch lineup is about what I expected, coming from Microsoft. The Kinect hardware looks like a solid product, but that’s about all it looks like. So far, the software doesn’t transform it into anything special. If Just Dance hadn’t already existed, Dance Central might’ve been Kinect’s killer app. As it stands… we’ll see. Especially since Microsoft is being so cagey about Kinect’s price; so much so that one wasn’t mentioned during the press conference, even while a release date was.


Company: Nintendo
Unofficial Motto: Simultaneously surprising and baffling people, simultaneously lifting the hearts of and infuriating fanboys, printing money, and just generally doing our own damn thing the best we know how for over a hundred years.
Typical E3 Press Conference Methodology: Sincere confidence mixed with the hope of acceptance, executives playing games on stage.
This Year’s Event Details: Press conference, 9am PST, 06/15/10
Did it Start on Time?: Yes
This Year’s Players: Reggie Fils-Aime, Shigeru Miyamoto, Bill Trinen, Warren Spector (Junction Point), Satoru Iwata, and dozens of women with 3DSes attached to them. About that last bit: if ever we needed absolute proof of the return of the “old E3″…

Featured Hardware: Nintendo 3DS
Featured Games: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Mario Sports Mix, Just Dance 2, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, GoldenEye, Epic Mickey, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Dragon Quest IX, Metroid: Other M, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kid Icarus Uprising, and a slew of big franchise name-drops for future 3DS titles, including Kingdom Hearts and Metal Gear Solid.
Featured Features: For the 3DS, an adjustment scale for the 3D effect, the two cameras on the outer case for taking 3D pictures, and the availability of 3D movies on the system, which seemed to me to be a rather pointed jab at Apple, specifically.
Biggest Difference Compared to Last Year: Reggie served as the ringmaster, instead of Cammie Dunaway.

Additional Notes: First off, I’m glad to have Reggie back in the driver’s seat. Cammie probably does a great job in her day-to-day work at Nintendo, but Reggie has a much better stage presence. Secondly, Nintendo was… impressive this year; so much so that all over the internet, hardcore gamers and press types are singing many praises about the 3DS, Zelda, and certain other things they showed. There are the usual spate of whiners complaining about the sole analog nub on the 3DS, just like they did with the original PSP, but such is to be expected.

As for my own thoughts? Zelda looked beautiful and interesting, though the glitchy stage demo was worrying; GoldenEye brought back memories, but I thought the graphics could’ve been better (yes, even “for the Wii”; look at what Capcom and Square Enix have managed to wring out of the system); I am sold on Epic Mickey; Kirby‘s style and very announcement filled me with joy; Reggie’s saying that DQIX comes out in “26 days” had me thinking, “Wow, that soon?!”; the trailer music for Metroid sent chills up my spine even though I’ve never played a game in that series; Donkey Kong Country Returns looks good on the surface, but I’m skeptical about its core; and I don’t have any strong opinions or feelings about the rest. Oh, and like many people, I’m looking forward to learning more about the 3DS, and eventually trying one out for myself.

Funniest bit about the Nintendo press conference: the Vitality Sensor that was introduced last year to much confusion was nowhere to be seen this time around… that is, if you don’t count the devices it inspired from EA and Ubisoft.


Company: Sony
Unofficial Motto: You may hate 90% of our proprietary formats, but at least we make some awesome entertainment!
Typical E3 Press Conference Methodology: Montages, lots and lots of talking.
This Year’s Event Details: Press conference, 12pm PST, 06/15/10
Did it Start on Time?: Yes
This Year’s Players: Jack Tretton, Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai, hundreds of 3D glasses, Kevin Butler, new PSP pitchman Marcus, Alex Evans (Media Molecule), John Schappert and Greg Goodrich (EA), Gabe Newell (Valve), and David Jaffe and Scott Campbell (Eat Sleep Play).

I would've liked to have seen more of echochrome ii at Sony's press conference. Have a trailer instead.

Featured Hardware: PlayStation Move
Featured Games: Killzone 3; the Move-ready Sorcery, Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’11 (uhh…), and Heroes on the Move; InviZimals; God of War: Ghost of Sparta; Little Big Planet 2; Medal of Honor; Dead Space 2; Portal 2; Final Fantasy XIV; Mafia 2; Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood; Gran Turismo 5; Twisted Metal; and many, many more in the montages.
Featured Features: 3D gaming, via Killzone 3, and Move’s “1:1 movement”. A new, premium subscriber service for PSN called “PlayStation Plus”. The PS3 version of Portal 2 will have Steam integration, something which I was curious to hear more about, but not much else was said at the event.
Biggest Difference Compared to Last Year: Sony formally announced most all of their biggest stuff before the press conference, instead of risking leaks. (And even though Twisted Metal wasn’t one of these, rumors still abounded pre-show.)

Additional Notes: Sony conferences are… problematic for me. Two years ago, it was fascinating (in the same way a trainwreck is) because Final Fantasy XIII had just slipped from their exclusivity grasp. Last year came the much-anticipated Final Fantasy VII-on-PSN announcement, and my preoccupation with that tidbit, both on the FFVII Citadel site and in conversation with Citadel denizens, caused me to miss a lot. This year, a cousin called about three-quarters of the way in, and I was far too polite to ask them to call back later. The call went on until roughly the end of the press conference, and I had to catch up on Gran Turismo 5 and Twisted Metal details elsewhere.

This year’s press conference was kind of dull, as Sony’s tend to be. Sony lacks the Hollywood flash of Microsoft and the warm fuzzy nostalgia of Nintendo, and Tretton likes to drone on and on sometimes. Last year, charts made in LittleBigPlanet broke things up nicely. This year’s similar moments came courtesy of Sony spokesman Kevin Butler, and, in the most authentic moment from any of the three conferences, Gabe Newell, introduced with some help from GLaDOS.

One of the biggest surprises of Sony’s presser was the absence of a game: The Last Guardian. I was also half-expecting/hoping to see a Sly 4 announcement, what with The Sly Collection having been revealed the day before. Oh well, perhaps next year.

The Life and Times of a Hero

As I did with Earthbound last year, I’m compelled to go in-depth with my Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride review, so I’m splitting this into two sections. The first will discuss the game overall, spoiler-free. The second will go heavily into spoiler territory and talk about things I both liked and didn’t like with how the game progressed. Spoilers will be under a cut and clearly marked (at least, better marked than they were in the Earthbound review, cut notwithstanding). So, here we go.

Dragon Quest V is wonderful. There isn’t really much more to say about it than that. It takes the refined formula that characterizes the series and stitches to it a story that outshines and outclasses most other JRPG tales, along with a handful of unique features and engaging diversions. The Dragon Quest formula, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a certain style of first-person turn-based fighting, combined with interesting dungeons, lively towns and castles, casino minigames, and a reasonable amount of grinding, all presented in a brightly-colored Akira Toriyama world set to a serene Koichi Sugiyama soundtrack. It’s a world with blue slimes with round eyes and goofy smiles, lamps that can turn day into night, and mini-medals sought after by an eccentric king. If you’re at all familiar with Dragon Quest, then you know what I’m talking about and should feel right at home.

One of the major features specific to Dragon Quest V is the ability to recruit monsters as party members. This isn’t as clear-cut as it sounds. Unlike in monster-collecting RPGs like Pokemon, the player doesn’t have any control over the recruiting process; there’s no special spells or items that can be used to convince them to join your side. Rather, at the end of battles, a monster might randomly show up and ask to join your party. This happens pretty rarely and, as one learns after obtaining the Big Book of Beasts, not all monsters are recruitable, and some are harder to enlist than others. All told, I don’t think I recruited much more than a dozen monsters, but that was okay, as I wound up with a pretty solid all-monster backup team by the time the final dungeon came around, including a Slime Knight that had been with me for a good majority of the game.

"Yo dawg I herd you like Dragon Quest..."
Another way in which Dragon Quest V differentiates itself is with its diversions. The usual casino games (slots, roulette, etc.) are present, as is the sidequest wherein mini-medals, which are scattered all over the world, can be exchanged for rare goodies, but there are some new things to do as well. One of my favorites is Treasures and Trapdoors, or T’n’T for short. T’n’T is a giant, life-size board game played with a die and a set number of turns; the spaces along the board contain anything from an additional turn or three to a random battle, a treasure chest to an inn, a dungeon entrance to a stat boost. It’s sort of like playing a scaled-down version of Dragon Quest within Dragon Quest. The prizes for winning a round of T’n’T are good, and later on, playing certain boards can be a great way to amass a lot of cash without having to dungeon-crawl in the traditional sense. Another I liked is the Knick-Knackatory, a museum where the “knick-knacks” that the hero collects on his journey can be displayed. I never did get all of the knickknacks, but I came pretty close, and it was neat to see the museum slowly fill up over time, both with exhibits and with visitors.
As for Dragon Quest V‘s story, like I said, I really do believe it is one of the best ever in a JRPG, and in large part, this is due to its structure and approach. For instance, while there is backstory, and a fair amount of it—this being the second part of the Zenithian Trilogy, the events of Dragon Quest IV are very vaguely alluded to, but there are other bits of history, specific to DQV, that factor in as well—there is no need for flashbacks on the part of the hero, as we see every important thing that happens in his life right then and there, in whatever the present happens to be at the time. From hereon in, I’ll call the “hero” Kiyoshi, as that’s what I named mine; like all Dragon Quest heroes, he is nameless until the player intervenes.

The game starts with Kiyoshi’s birth, and quickly jumps forward six years when he is wandering the world with his father, Pankraz. Who Pankraz and Kiyoshi are and what the former’s quest is are major plot points in the game, and ones that follow our hero through the years. We follow the six year-old on his adventures, and after another timeskip, see him again as a teenager, growing into a young man. He has more adventures, learns more about himself, and chooses a bride. The quest he embarks with his wife continues on from there, and his life, as all our lives do, grows larger and larger.

Major spoilers from this point on.

My Fan Translation Wishlist

Yuna Kagurazaka, Guardian of the Light. Forgot where I originally got this image from.Remember that huge stack of game soundtracks I bought awhile ago? I’m still working my way through them. Have managed to listen to most of them, but one I haven’t touched at all is Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~ Original Soundtrack. A big part of this is because, as I said before, I haven’t played the actual game. Although this sort of thing hasn’t stopped me before, this is Front Mission, and therefore, special in my eyes.

Front Mission 5 was, apparently, briefly considered for an official stateside release. However, this never panned out, and thus, fans took it upon themselves to do what very few (if any) had done before: an amateur translation of a PlayStation 2 game. Thus was born the Front Mission 5 Translation Project, which has since become the Front Mission Series Translation Project, as they are now working on patches for Front Mission 2 and Front Mission Alternative.

The group completed the beta translation patch of Front Mission 5 in December of last year, so all I would need to do is to hunt down a copy of the game and the necessary PS2 modding tools to get it to run. However, this brings me to the one criticism I have of the project. If the group’s goal is to draw Square Enix’s attention to English-speaking Front Mission 5 fans, then why make it so the patch works only on the non-Ultimate Hits verion of the game, which has long been out of print? I think a spike in sales of new copies of FM5, rather than secondhand ones, would push Square to consider an official release even more. For historical evidence, I point to Capcom, who localized the DS port of Gyakuten Saiban in North America (as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney) after noticing all the sales of the bilingual game that were coming from outside of Japan. Anyway, I know the fan translation team is well aware of this issue, and I hope they make an Ultimate Hits version of the FM5 patch a priority for future releases.

With FM5 on my mind lately, I got to thinking about what other Japanese games never made it over here that I would like to see complete translations of. There are some games that are “import friendly” in that you don’t have to know a lot of Japanese—if any—to be able to enjoy them, so those aren’t a problem. There are also those like Tales of Graces, Front Mission 2089: Border of Madness, and Game Center CX: Arino’s Challenge 2 that are still recent enough to have a chance of localization, slim though they may be. What’s left are the text-heavy titles which are on dead systems and have small cult followings, if they’re lucky. What’s left, in other words, are games like those on my wishlist.

Ys V: Lost Kefin, Kingdom of Sand, Super Famicom – I’m cheating a little bit here with a couple of them, including this first one. You see, a fan translation of Ys V was started several years ago, but the patch is currently incomplete. This leaves Ys V as the only main-series Ys storyline whose translation has never been made available. Rather frustrating if you’re interested in the Ys canon and don’t read Japanese, but even after all these years, the patching project is not dead, so there’s still hope.

Galaxy Fraulein Yuna and Galaxy Fraulein Yuna 2, PC Engine – And now for something completely different: visual novels! My initial exposure to Galaxy Fraulein Yuna came in the form of the first OVA series; later, I saw the much more coherent second series, Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Returns. Each storyline follows the adventures of teenage Yuna Kagurazaka, who is the savior of the universe, a popular celebrity, and a regular girl all at the same time. It’s a pretty wacky series, with some amazingly good character designs, all courtesy of mecha designer and Gundam Girl artist Mika Akitaka.

Some years ago, I learned that these anime were based on a “digital comic” game series, which gave me a better perspective on the character-stuffed OVAs. However, aside from the Sega Saturn’s Galaxy Fraulein Yuna 3 these games have never been translated into English, by anyone. The Yuna games have shown up on several systems, but the first two in the series are on the PC Engine, thus, my wishlist request. A PSP collection of the first two Yuna games as well as a related title, Galaxy Policewoman Sapphire, was published only a couple of years ago, so it seems there’s still interest in these oldies, at least in Japan.

Chocobo Stallion, PlayStation – Unlike the others on this list, I actually own this game. If I recall, I first learned about Chocobo Stallion while reading some information about a different Squaresoft-related thing. The idea of a chocobo sim racer intrigued me, and I later picked up a cheap copy on eBay, only to find that this was not an import-friendly game in the least. There are no English-language guides of any sort on GameFAQs or anywhere, and, naturally, no translation patches. I’ve long had the idea to make a rudimentary guide of my own, but have yet to get around to putting something together.

Segagaga, Dreamcast – A translation of this navel-gazing RPG/sim is the dream of every English-speaking Sega fan ever, and as with Ys V, is an actual project that has been ongoing, with occasional updates. Started in 2006, the project lead is still pushing forward with it as of September 2009. Will it ever see the light of day? Let’s hope it does!

Las Islas de los Presidentes

It was time to come down from the space station. The lack of natural, Earth gravity wasn’t good for my body, and one could only take so much of Arona’s wheeling and dealing after awhile. I had to return to familiar territory. Fortunately, a budget flight to a Caribbean island grouping known as Tropico came upon my radar. Having grown up in Miami and its environs—as entrenched in the world of Carribean and Central and South American politics as it is its cultures—I had some minor reservations, given the borderline-snarky brochure about Tropico, but I was also eager to see palm trees and soak in streets filled with sunshine and Spanish again. Yes, there would be a lot of Spanish; none of the English patois of my own West Indian side of the family, no Hatian Creole, no Brazilian Portuguese. Still, I suppose this simplified things a bit.

"My subjects love me because I am sooo beautiful."My return to Earth involved a bit of time travel, and I was thrust back into the 1950s, in the thick of the Cold War. I took on the alias of “Carmina Salazar” and found myself alarmed at both the limited wardrobe options she/I was presented with compared with the men’s closet, as well as the fact that her/my advisor, throughout our administrations, seemed to assume that the presidente was, in fact, a man the entire time. Even Carmina’s musings to herself about her own beauty as she walked the streets and countrysides seemed not to be enough to convey her femininity. Did the presidential advisor, Penultimo, not get out much?

Perhaps Penultimo simply wasn’t a very good listener. There was one administration where I was advised to build up a nice nest egg for myself in my Swiss bank account. However, after my first specific order through Penultimo, which netted me a cool three thou, subsequent ones wouldn’t go through for some reason. I finally mucked my way through things and amassed the required balance, but it took the more routine measure of money laundering through a bank I had built myself to make most of that ill-gotten cash. This was not the only technical problem I faced, though it was the only one that involved miscommunication with my advisor; the others were minor, of the sort the computer back on the space station might term “glitches”, and simply stepping away for a bit and coming back seemed to right things. Then there were the less technical ones, the typos in the memos that Penultimo would present to me during a few specific administrations. In one instance, the name of a country was spelled both correctly and incorrectly within the same note!

There were other frustrating moments, though some of these came out of my own moral quandries. For the most part, I refused to grow tobacco and erect cigar factories, which severely hampered me during an administration on an island on which tobacco was practically the only thing that would grow. Then there were the offshore oil deposits. Considering the indescribably disgusting mess going on in the present-day Gulf of Mexico, I stayed away from offshore rigs until the very end, when the need to amass an incredible amount of money presented itself.

This was one of the trickier maps in Tropico 3, as far as urban development went.Still, despite the tough work, long hours, and little annoyances, the islands of Tropico were beautiful places to manage. Palm trees swayed gently on landscapes of rolling hills, flat, sandy beaches, and steep cliffsides. The terrain was oftentimes tricky to navigate, but the well-worn footpaths, probably made by natives from a more agrarian past, were a great help. Laying roads straight was another fussy bit of business, but I got the hang of it after awhile, and would even sometimes go back and repave the old crooked roads that I had been presented with at the start of my term of an island. The buildings for the islands inhabitants all proved to be useful in one way or another. Those for the tourists—them being a picky bunch—not so much. When land becomes flattened to place a building, sometimes it’s a crapshoot as to whether or not it looks okay, or just silly. Meanwhile, the people had their problems and demands, as people everywhere do, but that’s life, yeah? At least I could silence the radio announcer, Juanito, when his interruptions got too distracting.

My time running the islands of Tropico has ended, at least for now. It was a interesting and engrossing series of terms, but not enough to make me forget about that spinning metal bicycle tyre some light years away from here. That place will likely remain my first choice should I be torn between a gig as Administrator, and one as El Presidente. Still, I wouldn’t mind dipping my toes into that clear blue water again in the future, lively Latin music playing on the radio. It’d be hard to say no to such a beautiful place.