Gaming summer!

I’ve played/am playing a couple of really good games that I just haven’t gotten round to writing about. I go through phases like that where I just play, play, play and then forget to review entirely because I was having too much fun. Here’s most of them:

  • Stella Deus – Started slow, but I really got into the bonus dungeon so I rate it highly.
  • Harvest Moon: Futago no Mura – I don’t know what to say about this. I didn’t really like it, but on the other hand I played 5 in-game years, which is the longest I’ve ever given an HM game before. I’ll have to write about this in more detail later.
  • Tokimeki Memorial GS3 – Oosako’s route is terribly, terribly boring and I’m not sure the ending will be worth it. I’m thinking of going for Ruka’s route instead.
  • Sands of Destruction – I blitzed through this about two weeks ago. I really liked the anime, but the game… well, I’ll write about it later.
  • Suikoden III – Almost done, and I’ve got that RPG-laziness you get when you spend too much time grinding near the end. I’ll have to finish this soon or not at all.
  • Suikoden Tierkreis – What I’m giving most of my attention to right now. It has its slow moments and its downsides (esp. the backtracking and the high encounter rates), but I’m having a great time. Hope it ends well!

And that’s about it. This is my ideal kind of holiday!

Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side 3 – Shitara GET!

Got my fourth ending last night. If I had to rate all the character routes I’ve gotten so far, it’d be Konno > Kouichi > Shitara > Arashi.

I wasn’t moved by Shitara’s route half as much as I thought he’d be. He’s not a bad person by any means, and he warms up to you very quickly, but apart from that there’s not much to him. Okay, so he’s a genius pianist. That’s nice. He’s from a rich family. That’s nice. He’s…got nothing else but piano. That’s nice. He likes tea. That’s nice. And? That’s…IT? Geez, how dull.

For every plus about him, there’s a minus somewhere. Some people have praised his “tsundere” attitude, but as far as I can see he’s more “dere” than “tsun” once you get past his first stage. After that he’s pretty much all over you, with a few prickly moments. I enjoyed some of the funny answers you get when you ask him questions (Like when you ask if he likes classical music and he answers “Do you like food?”), but I was so looking forward to softening him up slowly and surely over time. Kouichi was a much tougher prospect than him.

Second plus, he looks nice on the normal screen, but in my opinion he looks ordinary, weird or outright bad in most CGs. On a related note, his route is stingy with the CGs, and the few ones you get are very boring. Oh look, it’s Shitara standing by the piano…Okay? Oh look, it’s Shitara playing the piano…Okay? Oh look, it’s Shitara standing there with his hand outstretched…Okay?

Third plus, he’s from a wealthy family. He’s got the snooty, childish attitude to match, but that’s still a plus in my eyes because I’ve never dated a rich kid in any of these games before (Amano-pervert doesn’t count). He’s got a fancy house and a bedroom so big it’s got a grand piano in it and you can’t even see the bed. Thanks to that he’s able to take you to formal dance event (once) and invite you to join him in Paris at the end which you waffle on because you’re an idiot.

The flip side of that, though, is that dating him is pretty much like dating all the other guys. There’s no difference between dating Kouichi, who lives in an abandoned restaurant, and dating Seiji Shitara with all his money. Where are the fine restaurants? Where’s the hobnobbing with the rich and famous? The cool clothes instead of wearing the same shirt three dates in a row? How about he takes you shopping and buys you something? Where are the cool presents?  Not even a Christmas present?! The wine? The trips? The roses? More wine?  What’s the point of dating a rich guy if he’s just like everybody else?! “Love”? What is this “love” you speak of, is it tasty?

I kid, I kid…sorta. It doesn’t really matter whether he’s rich or not, Seiji’s a decent guy. But it’s true I had expectations that Shitara’s route would be “special” somehow so in that respect it fell way short. As a perfectly normal route to try, thought, it’s worth a playthrough.

And now, since I deliberately failed my first exam and got remedials, it’s time to try for Oosako-sensei’s ending! Who knows, it might surprise me.

Livly Garden review

First off, what is Livly Garden all about? A livly, according to this game, is a special mini-creature developed by a mysterious bearded Professor. They come in many different types, live in tiny gardens, eat bugs and poop tiny jewels called “doo doo”, which also function as money in this game.

The whole point of this game is to adopt a livly, plop him down in a barren garden and then try to turn this garden into a lush, blooming paradise. Livlies have special powers, one of which is fertility, so that just letting the livly walks around makes the garden healthier. The player buys seeds from a shop (paying with doo doo) and plants all kinds of flowers and trees to raise the “greenness” of the garden.

Every kind of plant you grow attracts a kind of bug: beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, butterflies, etc. By catching and feeding these bugs to your livly, you can teach it new and useful abilities. For example you can make it water the whole garden in one go, or give your plants extra sun so they grow faster, or drive the occasional monster away with rocks, etc.

The first objective you get in the game is to grow a golden beanstalk in the corner of your garden, so if you see any promotional material with a beanstalk in it (it’s right there on the front cover, in fact), that’s what it’s about. Once you do that, the game opens up and you get to adopt more livlies and get more gardens. By eating the right kind of bugs, your livlies learn to transform the terrain of your garden so you can have jungle terrain, for example, to grow coconuts and corn on, or a pond for waterlilies and mangroves, or a swamp for bamboo, etc. I quit after my third garden and third livly, but apparently there are about 12 different kinds of terrain you can get and over a hundred bugs to catch and crops to grow.

The other thing you can do, and this wasn’t very interesting to me because I’m not a collection-freak, is to harvest items from your garden and turn them into items. You could make lavender flowers into potpourri, for starters, but that’s just the beginning. Before too long you’ll be able to make a stunning array of items from the things you grow: plushies, cakes, gates, furniture, etc. As you can see in the picture, you can use them (along with buyable decorations) to give your garden a nice, homey feel. …Or that’s the theory anyway, but I found that the gardens looked busy and colorful enough on their own so I restricted myself to a few tasteful items per garden. As a side note, I hear your livly can interact with certain items, and react to them with fright or delight, etc. Mine just ignored them and ran around, though.

So anyway… all this stuff I’ve talked about: feeding your livly, catching bugs, harvesting crops, etc, all only takes a few minutes of time each day. The game works with the real-world clock just like Animal Crossing does, so when it’s night-time here, it’s night-time in game. This affects the bugs that show up, but not much else. So what I did was turn the DS on in the mornings, feed my livly and do whatever there was to do, then turn it off. Same thing at night before I went to bed.

Livly Garden is a low-commitment, low-guilt (your livlies are very hardy) kind of game that anyone can play without feeling the same pressure you’d get from, say, a Tamagotchi. That lack of pressure makes it possible to play for months on inertia alone. But on the other hand, it also makes the game very slow and dull once you achieve your first few objectives. After a while, new crops stop showing up unless you play the scratchcard mini-game, new bugs stop appearing and the whole game just sloooows down to an unbearable crawl, which is your sign that it’s time to get out. But I can see someone keeping this game for years and just playing for a few minutes every day, it’s that kind of game.

Since some of the livlies are pretty cute, if I had a younger sister or cousin or something under 12, this is the kind of game I’d get for them in front of their parents (while slipping Tokimeki Memorial or something cooler under the table, heheh).

Summon Night 2 DS review

I played and finished this long ago, right after I finished Summon Night, but I jumped right into several other games, so I never got round to writing about it. Well, there wasn’t much to write because Summon Night 2 is very much a direct sequel to Summon Night 1. The storyline is different, but a lot of the characters show up again, the battle system is exactly the same, almost all the summon creatures are carried over from the previous ones, the music sounds the same, etc.

The first thing I noticed when Summon Night 2 started was the improved character designs. Not vastly improved, they’re still rather ugly, but much, much, much better than the horrible things in SN1DS. It’s especially noticeable when you see characters like Mimoza and Gibson from the previous game (they play a big role in this one too but aren’t playable), and even the newer characters are cuter to look at, particularly the girls.

The other thing different, obviously, is the story and the main characters. I chose the girl named Triss. She’s a member of the Blue-something Summoning Guild [I keep forgetting the name, but it’s the same thing Gibson & co. belong to] but they treat her like trash for no good reason. The story starts with Triss qualifying as a full-fledged summoner and then immediately being cast out of the guild to “make a name for herself”, i.e. “GTFO and don’t come back.”

On her way out of town, she gets involved in an attempt to heal a girl with amnesia and finds herself in a village with a girl who can supposedly work miracles. This village is immediately attacked by mysterious Black Knights, and the story begins: Who are they? What do they want? Why does this girl have special powers? Why do Triss & co. throw everything away to protect a girl they only met five seconds ago? And will the girl with amnesia ever get her memory back?! (Shockingly enough, the answer is no.)

And…that was about it. It was pretty boring, to be honest. Fight random people, fight black knights, fight random people, fight black knights, long talking sequence, meet new characters and immediately bench them, etc. I bench every character after the first 8 or so because after every level up you get points to assign to stats. That means your homegrown characters are almost always stronger then new, pre-leveled ones, even if they’re the same level. While we’re at it, I should warn you not to bother trying to boost your MC’s magic. If she’s anything like my Triss, she will always be a crappy summoner in a party with three other better, stronger magicians. Her physical stats will be great through, so if I had to do it again, I’d make her a mighty warrior and call it a day.

The nice thing about Summon Night 2 is that the shops are slightly less expensive than those in SN1, or maybe you get more money from battles, I forget which. Either way it was easier to outfit your party properly without too much fuss as long as you didn’t get greedy. I still had to go for every other upgrade in order not to break the bank, but I managed quite well. The new mini-games are also more fun than those in the first one, especially the cake delivery and scratch card games, which I could play all day.

Since I was used to the system already, I blazed through the game with ease. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t really stick in my mind all that much. It’s not a bad game at all, in fact in many ways it’s much better than SN1. So I don’t know why I felt so bleh after finishing it, but somehow it’s put a damper on my Summon Night fever for now. Just for now. One day I’ll get Summon Night 3 and 4 for the PS2, and then we’ll talk again.

Angelique Special 2 – how to win

Well, actually I haven’t won yet, but I’m getting there. I found a very good Japanese strategy site on Angelique Special 2, the URL of which I have sadly forgotten, and I used it to ensure that I now have 6 hearts to Rachel’s 4, and two guardians (Julius and Randy) at my beck and call. Right now they love me so much they’re building the universe for me on their own, while I focus on raising stability at the academy. I’m going to chat up Oscar, Victor and Olivier as well in case I ever need them to vouch for me at the monthly review (doubt it will be necessary at this rate) and before too long the universe will be mine! *evil cackle*

Anyway, for the benefit of anyone who’s been playing this game and getting whupped by Rachel, here’s how to do it.

1. At the beginning, ask her to go easy on you. This is only necessary for the first playthrough, after that you can play it hard mode. It’s the first option on the third question she asks at the start, but if you don’t understand enough Japanese to know that much, you should probably stop now.

2. Pick a good zodiac sign and blood type. Check Marfisa’s compatibility guide to know what the best ones are.

3. Find out who the hardworking guardians are. “Hardworking?” you ask? Yeah. In this game, not all guardians work equally hard. If you ask two different guardians to put energy into your planet, they might put in different amounts. This ranges from 2 all the way to even 7 for “a lot” of energy. Each stat needs 10 energy to form a planet. If you ask a hardworking (7 energy) guardian for “a lot” of energy, you’ll get 2 planets in 3 days. By contrast a lazy (2 energy) guardian will take 10 days to give you the same results. You have a limited number of hearts and days to work with, so naturally you need to maximize your results.

So how do you find out who works hard and who doesn’t? Well, as soon as you’ve set everything up in the game, save at the table in your room. Then for the next couple of days, visit all of the guardians in turn and ask them to put in a lot of energy. One day, one guardian, until you’ve visited all 9. Then go to your planet and check the new chart. You’ll see who put in more energy, and who put in less. Note it down somewhere. By the way 6 and 7 energy guardians are rare, and you’ll most likely have only one or two 4-5 energy guardians per game, most of them will be 2-3. That’s okay, but you need at least one hard worker.

Also note down which elements the universe needs most of. at this early stage it’ll probably range from between 7 to 15. Any element (and accompanying guardian) which requires less than 10 energy should be ignored. Because no matter how much energy you pour in, it’ll never grow your egg (shining ball of energy) so don’t bother. If those are the guardians you like, consider restarting because it’s completely random. Strictly speaking you can still go ahead and use that element if the guardian is hardworking, but I believe you get better results with the elements you need more of. What I really need is more research on this matter.

4. Before you reset after finding out who works hard, visit the fortune-teller and check who you’re most compatible with. With any luck you’ll be most compatible with the ones who work hardest AND your planet will require >10 of their energy. But even if you’re not, don’t re-start unless they’re completely lazy (2) and/or the planet requires less than 10 energy from the hardest working ones. I mean, you can go for it, but you’ll be fighting uphill all the way. Anyway, reset now and start afresh from day one, focusing only on those worth your time.

5. Your next task is to grow your egg twice, using your hardest working guardian(s). It should only take a few days if you’re doing it right. Just grow it twice, because apparently if you go up to three Rachel starts hurting you. So grow it to two.

6. Next ask two guardians for energy until you reach 9 for each one. You might have to use “small” infusions of energy for it. No problem. Just make sure that you can maximize both in one night, two at most.

7. Good, now hang in there while Rachel goes ahead and raises the egg as well. She should contribute her lot too. Let her get about two growths for now.

8. While this is going on, start charming one or two of your most compatible guardians. Your days will go like this – talk to them about yourself, then visit the fortune-teller to raise compatibility until it’s at 100. If it’s at 100, raise compatibility for the next guardian. Date them on weekends. If you’re using an emulator and can reset easily, take them to the park and try to answer their questions. Otherwise stick to your room or the lake for a safe date.

9. A day or two after Rachel gets 2 growths (make sure she doesn’t get 3), step in immediately and raise those last 2 growths (the ones at 9, remember?). Ta-daa, you’ve got 4 to her 2, and the queen will instantly award you with your first extra heart.

10. After that, play the game as normal. Keep raising your guardians’ love till it’s at 175+, at which point they’ll start helping you on their own. Occasionally ask them to pour in energy for you, but keep the focus on raising stability at the academy. If you outstrip Rachel too far she’ll try and hold you back, so just stay a little ahead of her, maybe 3 or 4 planets, not too many. Be sure to keep up the guardians’ love, and to keep studying.

And that’s it! Not so hard, so long as you don’t let her get that first heart, and make sure you get the second heart too. Here’s a tip if she’s got a guardian on her side: visit him and ask him to work for you. Either to hurt her (not recommended ‘cos she can take revenge), or to help you. If he’s working for you that day, he won’t give her any bonuses.

Have fun!