October 03, 2017

[Game 065] Castle of Ayakashi (GB - 1990)

Translation by KingMike

Games like Castle of Ayakashi are twofold in their terribleness.  First off, it's a bland, run-of-the-mill JRPG that's a tedious chore to play right off the bat.  That on its own isn't too bad, I've already played plenty of such games.  However, most of those have story elements and characters that I can rip on when it comes time to post a scathing and cathartic entry.  CoA won't even give me that.

Okay, I'm not being fair; here's part of an NPC.

It's also a dungeon crawler, which generally don't do so well in the story department.  I've played other pure crawlers that suffered in that area as well, but at least those had gameplay that was both fun to participate in and write about.  Here it's just one dude, running around a bunch of 20x20 castles, probably to rescue a princess or something.

And dying lots, let's not forget the dying.

At least I'll get a little enjoyment breaking out the graph paper and making my own ma...

Aw fiddlesticks.

Well, nuts to that!  There's no way in hell I'm going to use the in-game map, unless I get lost or feel like looking at it.  I'm just starting on the third castle, and so far it has been a case of finding a key, unlocking a door, fighting a miniboss, and onto the next castle.  It's GameBoy, so I'm hoping that its 64 KB can't possibly hold too many castles, but since there's little else other than castle, I'm probably wrong on this one.

September 22, 2017

Light of Indra - Ranking

Story & World

Exploring the world of Ibal was loads of fun, at least for the brief times I was solo.  Shoving rocks for loot was kinda cool, even if I found myself humming the Zelda reveal hidden tune most of the time.  The location of most boulder entrances were fairly obvious, which is both good and bad; bad in that it takes away from the thrill of finding something well-hidden, but good in that I didn't have to spend as much time playing this tripe.  The ability to dodge enemies in real-time in the overworld was enjoyable, even though this is suppose to be a turn-based blog.  It was a nice change of pace over the usual unavoidable random encounters.  Here's a tip for those stupid enough to play this slop: keep to the edge of the screen and you'll avoid most of the evil monsters.  Also, stay in school and don't use drugs (unless they're really good).  Making a map of the world was pretty much a necessity as there was plenty of backtracking as well as hidden shops and spell-teaching wizards.  I also have much love for any game which forces me to break out ye olde quill and parchment.

The story was pretty meh all throughout, except for finding out that Byrn was a super-computer and the all the possible implications of that.  The difficulty in just talking to NPCs was made worse that most of them had nothing of value to say, not even a decent flavour text to flesh out the setting.  There were a few notable interactions, however, including a man who pickpocketed me for 1,000 (!) golds and a woman who infected me with AIDS after I confirmed my desire to "play" with her.  Not to worry though, AIDS only does 10 HP damage which can easily be cured by eating a loaf of bread or just having a solid nap.  8/20

Character Development 

Three stat system (Attack, Defense, Agility) with leveling only increasing HP and MP.  Not a whole lot of equipment and certainly none with any kind of special ability.  Only a handful of spells are available with the utility and healing spells having the only real value.  Like a lot of these old games, attack spells don't succeed as often as a regular attack and don't do considerably more damage or exploit some kind of elemental weakness, so why bother with them?  Items were overwhelming various types of healing and restoring magic (for healing).  I did buy a boomerang at one point, but it not only missed when it was first thrown, but it most assuredly did not undergo denominalization and was, instead, lost forever.

Swapping members as the story progresses is usually a welcome switch but here it's trading one member for another who functions almost exactly the same, so all that happens is a bunch of items are lost.  3/20

Combat & Monsters

While trying to avoid enemies is fun and all, once combat actually begins, it's time to button mash until it's over and hope that the female doesn't take an errant hit and die instantaneously.  The mini-bosses were just as easy to kill as a regular creature, as long as their special defense was negated by some MacGuffin.

Most of the monsters are based heavily on existing creatures and they all do basic melee damage, sometimes attacking all the character in one round.  A very special few are able to perform the same blinding attack that the final guardian did, but that's it for monster special attacks.  2/20

Graphics & Music

The graphics get one point for evoking nostalgic memories of Legend of Zelda, minus one point for ripping off Legend of Zelda.  On their own merit, they come in somewhat below average, which coincidentally is the same feeling I have about the music (actually, somewhat below average could be applied to the entire experience).  All monsters pop up in a completely blank background so as allow one to focus more on how ugly they are.  5/20

Gameplay

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the economy was solid throughout the whole ordeal.  As long as one stayed on top of shoving large slabs of granite around, gold deficit was never a problem.  The only grinding I ever did was at the very end for Sho's fire sword, which end up mattering anyway since their was no proper end boss battle.

There was some non-linearity during the game in that one would have to complete a character's story arc (i.e. get rid of them) before a new character could join.  The game is thankfully quite short which, as I'm sure I've done with previous crappy games, actually nets it some pointage.  Overall, LoI's unique shortcomings overshadow any mild amusements one might have garnered from the rest of the bog standard gameplay.  7/20

Final Ranking:  25/100

September 18, 2017

Light of Indra - End Game

Crossing the bridge to the other side brought with it the expected increase in difficulty, which Saba and I handled fairly easily (avoiding the desert areas which contained the toughest monsters).  Coming across Kolste Castle, I wasted no time spending our hard earned golds on better equipment and healing items, then it was off to meet the king.  To my surprise, it turned out that Saba was the prince of this fair kingdom and he promptly left the group, items and all.

Can I at least have back the "World's Best Sidekick"
mug that I bought special... *sob* for you.

Prince Backstabber did not give any refunds, but I did receive a Strength ring so I could now move boulders without him.  Normally, I would have donned the ring and then proceeded to choke a ho, but truthfully, I was just happy to be solo again, even if it meant more difficult battles.  Of course, this was not meant to last long and soon I had a new, female companion named Lan, who was so badass that she more a mere dress into combat.  Of course, just like almost all females who try to act tough and aren't protected by societal conventions, she proceeded to die in the very first fight one step outside the town.  It's here that the interesting death mechanic reared its head.  Instead of following around as a ghost or whatever, she stayed dead in the location where she perished.  To resurrect her, I would have to go find a town chaplain, have him recall her soul, then go back to wherever she was buried and cast a Relaf spell.  Obviously, I had to take this opportunity to get more solo exploring in.

I'm sure she'll keep.

Eventually though, she needed to be brought back and we also added a woman-hating man named Gils to the party.

Well, the good ones do.

Now, your main man, the real Shen #1, is nothing short of a consummate ladies' man, so I could not abide this outdated sexist attitude and soon replaced him with the powerful Loki, one of my final companions.  I think we replaced Lan with a different girl, but I can't be sure because they all look the same to me.  At any rate, if I thought having one companion was a pain in the ass, then having two was more like having a cactus colonoscopy.  Having someone in the third slot exasperated the screen movement issues by a significant factor, pushing it to over two thirds of the time — and it didn't matter if it was in a dungeon, town, or a completely open plain.  Making matters even worse was that the female, who turned out to be named Sara, moved much slower than Loki, ensuring she'd get all of us embroiled in combat whether we wanted to or not.

Sara also wears a dress as her main form of
protection — AND SHE NEVER UPGRADES IT.

It's this one — utterly baffling — mechanic that takes this otherwise mediocre RPG and makes it fit for the pit.  I just don't understand what the developers were going for with this design decision.  In a dungeon it kinda makes sense but anywhere else it's just dumb.  Occasionally there'd be glitches as well, where the non-Shen characters would just disappear or end up on the opposite side of the screen and would only return after I went back and forth a few times.  These were minor annoyances, but it sets the stage for a major one.  So, I had just entered a new area and one of the first screens was split by an unsurpassable river.  On the other side, a dude could be seen wandering around.  Now, most of the areas in LoI consist of a fairly well-connected inner core surrounded by a long single-screen path of coast line.  On my way to talk with the obviously important dude, the glitch gremlin decided to have some fun and send the others across the river.  No problem though, because I can just cast Ahmed and warp them back to me, right?  Well, that would be the cast if they hadn't immediately been attacked, sending me over to their side.  The wife even had to poke her cute little head into the man cave and see if I was really pissed or just practicing my impersonation of Goku going Super Saiyan.  Oh, and when I finally reached the dude on the second attempt, all the while feverishly trying to keep Sara alive, my reward was this single line of dialogue.

Welp, looks like I'm going SSJ3.

I guess I can't blame him too much though, at least he manages to cobble a full sentence together, unlike most of his kin.

A small sampling of the local waste of sprites.

Well, since I've got the editor already opened, I might as well do up a monstage now.

Gotta use up those screenshots somehow.

Certain townsfolk didn't bother with any pleasantries at all, rather going straight to insulting the heavily armed, battle-scarred veteran of countless conflicts who was, might I remind, trying to awaken their god so that all the killing of townsfolk and whatnot would stop.

Oh yeah? Well... you-your mom... sh-shut up!

Awakening Mr. Byrn was easier than I expected.  Things starting coming together after we finally got rid of Sara and replaced her with the last companion, Sho.  All three of us are melee powerhouses and we each have a theme for our equipment; Loki is heaven, Sho is fire, and I'm earth.  Loki had a full set of gear for quite some time and Sho only needed one more item that we couldn't yet afford.  I was still stuck without my expected Earth Shield, so I figured I must have missed it for sale in one of the previous towns.  I needed to grind for Sho's last item anyway, so I went back and visiting every single town, enduring the screen transitions which didn't get any better now that Loki was in the third slot.  I couldn't find it so, fairly annoyed and mildly pissed, I went back to purchase the fire armour aaaannd it was the sword I wanted, not the armour which I already had.  I just purchased another fifteen minutes of grinding.  Well, at least I could sell the armour back for half price aaaannd the merchant only gave me 800 golds for a suit that cost 30,000 and which I had purchased literally ten seconds ago.  The funny thing about rage is that it doesn't matter if it's the game's fault or my own damn fault, the rage remains the same.  Okay, so after even more grinding, I was finally ready to head to the final temple, just a few screens away from the last town.  On the way, I found the Earth Shield in a cave because of course that's where it is.  The final cave was heavy on the maze elements which actually helped a bit as it made it more likely that monsters would spawn in an unreachable area.  The guardian to the final boss could not be touched by weapons, but when all three of us brandished our respective themed statue, the guardian disappeared into the ether.

It spent most of the time trying to blind us, which
does not prevent brandishing of statues.

With the guardian out of the way, the ultimate confrontation was about to begin.  We were fully stocked with a large quantity of the best healing item in the game and ready to beat down the final boss, all of us resplendent in our completed sets of equipment, aaaannd there was no final boss, just Byrn, who's a super computer and the Light of Indra its power source or something.  I dunno, it was a lot for our simple, medieval minds to take in.

What's a spaceship?  Also, what's a computer?

Must admit, I did not see that one coming.  Throughout the game, there was never even so much as a hint of any kind of futuristic theme.  I suppose credit is due to Byrn for making such a believable world for his simpleton passengers, but it raises all kinds of questions.  Does Byrn come from a planet where computer overlords rule over their human slaves?  Do they purposefully keep the humans in a relatively primitive mindset so as to better manage them?  Is Ibal just another planet being colonized by a superior metal god race, or was Byrn a rebel upset at the treatment of the chattel and so it abducted a bunch and fled into the cosmos to create its own version of utopia for them?  Such musings quickly faded as the end credits rolled and revealed that the first one hundred people to finish the game could send in a screenshot to Kemco and get a fantabulous prize, which was hopefully a full refund for this turd.  For me, just knowing that I'll never have to play Light of Indra again is reward enough.