Thursday, April 18, 2024

Elm Knight: Around and Around

Last time, Rick and Serena were in a mysterious village, asleep, but a strange noise woke them up. Uh...what am I looking at here? This is a cave? Eh? Serena says something about a light as I get the dialog on reloading. This, I note, is the first ground combat section I can actually use my weapons.

So my first foes are...floating black Buddhists? Eh? Why? Why is this game suddenly turning into one of those games with a weird enemy selection? We had shades of it last time with the giant frogs, but at least those were presumably the local wildlife. Are these the giant men? They don't take a lot of shots, but they shoot off homing shots themselves, which is just lovely. So another section of just running past things.
 
At the end of a semi-decent level is this altar. That random flippant remark wasn't too far off I see. I either missed taking some screenshots or that really is all they say and now I have to go back. Sigh. On their way out Serena wonders what that was all about, which is the first time I've felt like Serena as a character has had a reason to exist.

Outside, and more dialog, they talk about going back and then of enemies approaching. Then my mecha automatically moves and enemies appear. This isn't a rail shooting section, is it? Thankfully, no, instead I just can't turn, so I move sideways dodging enemy fire while shooting at two random mechs which popped up.

Rodia shows up, same mech as the last boss fight. She says that they won't be happy to see her...until it Serena makes her upset by wondering why they're still using an auntie like her as a pilot. Because Rodia is a vain character whose only character traits are evil and vain, this offends offends her worse than some political stances on social media. By internet rules of argument, she is as some might say, extremely butthurt. I die once, but I note after respawning that the game doesn't make me go through the dialog again. Blessed relief.

They go back in the caves again for some reason. Maybe I did miss some dialog at the end of the first time. The second time is exactly the same as the first time, except I didn't miss any dialog and they just said it's the same. My radar hasn't changed, either I need to shoot this or just walk around and hope something happens. My character seems to fall into a hole only for a cutscene to start.

They found something strange in the ground, they tripped over it. Rick wakes his foot over it and a strange sound that doesn't sound that strange to me happens.
It's a flying robot. Why this is in the weird Buddhist caves is probably not worth thinking about. Rick thinks that it didn't belong to the imperial army. Considering the cutesy design the thing has, I bet that's likely. It doesn't talk, which is good, so they just wonder about it before taking it back with them.

Teleporting back to the mech, we get a black screen and more dialog. I assume some glitch happened while taking screenshots, but it turns out this is how it's supposed to look. The conversation is Rick telling Sami that the machine they found will be riding with them as they head back to Roy and the others.
Now we get a pure black screen with nothing...and Roy sneezes. Roy and Sofia are wondering about Rick and Serena. The point it seems, is to make a joke about Roy and Rick sneezing at the same time, before switching over to the leader of the subjugation force. This leads to a scene where the evil leader is getting annoyed by a cute cat. I get the joke, but since you have to fight against the story to play the game, it's not funny enough to have to spend the time on.
Rick is in a desert now, and Sofia calls them up. You know, checking that they're still alive and all that, before informing them that there are more enemies. This area has some nice music, but it's just a big open area where it's not even clear that you can go past it for a moment. When it is, it's by far the easiest area yet.
This leads into an area that appears to be a boss arena at first, until it turns out to be a village. The village we're looking for or another one? Then three new mechs pop up. They're lead by someone named Kiruno, and because we can have violence without a conversation, he asks what Rick is doing here. Rick gives him the short version of the rebel army's history, which I hope is a joke. Kiruno is more concerned that Rick is in an imperial mech. Didn't realize that was important, but fair enough. Rick is knocked unconscious somehow.

Apparently Kiruno is debating over which of the two forces to support, as they seem to have already been working with the imperials. Because he was woken up to discuss this, with more dialog involving the whole thing, then sent back to sleep. Only for Sami to wake him up because a girl is in front of him. This seems to have ticked off Kiruno, who gets on Rick and Sami's case. Before the conversation ends, Rick notices that the girl, whose name is Mina, I guess, might have some kind of powers that would result in her getting killed by the empire.
Boss fight, the imperial guy who is at this base. There's a joke about them staring each other down, and him being dead silent. Then he was just dead. My comment about this battle is that it takes place in an open arena and so long as I sidestep and shoot bullets at him, he won't survive.
Kiruno is in front, Mina on the right, no idea who is on the left and in back.
As I approach the way out, Sami helpfully informs me that there's something interesting to the south. It's the same name that keeps popping up in this game. Rando Maba. I say name, but I've been ignoring it on the simple grounds that it seems like it's some mechanical thing I don't understand. Better go down there.

After changing a few areas, Sami helpfully informs me that my radar is useless down here. I advance a little bit further and suddenly Rick says they should use silent mode. I'm guessing this is supposed to work, but I guess there are mines so the whole thing seems completely pointless. You walk a few steps, get hurt, Sami screams, I walk again, repeat until I finally make it through to a town. Which still has a mine there.

This is the leader of the subjugation force, whose name is Katsu apparently. He does the usual villain talk, I'll kill you and similar sentiments. Only, he has a flying platform, which is what the "town" I saw earlier was. Why this was needed is beyond me.
This fight is boring, he just charges at you and stabs you. I don't even know if I won it or not, but you just run backwards and shoot at him. He's so fast there's not that much point to running away, and turning at the moment is garbage, it isn't registering half my turn commands, which is just great. Eventually, explosions happen and I'm not sure who died.
The story indicates this might not mean much. Because Rick's mech is pretty badly damaged and Katsu's isn't. (I guess Serena got off the mech, not that I care what happens to her one way or another) Suddenly, something explodes on Rick's mech, and the reaction both have mean this wasn't supposed to happen. Sami is apparently going to activate the self-destruct to destroy Katsu's mech too now that he's disabled it, and the platform is going back down to the ground.

I'm wondering how this will advance. Elf says something about a magic user in the valley...and then suddenly the little droid they picked up earlier activates. It calls itself Nero. It's a very cheerful robot, responding with blissful ignorance to all of Rick's confusion and seeming distaste for the machine. I get this is supposed to add in comic relief, but it's just annoying me. It offers to fly Rick there, which isn't shown, but it is implied it's scary.
Another cave. This one is filled with baby ghosts. They aren't hurting me. Rather than reading into this, since I highly doubt a Japanese game would have this kind of symbolism, I'm just going to take advantage of this niceness. Oh, they have me trapped. Oh, crap. I guess I'll have to knife...and I'm dead.

Now I'm in another forest. Sami is still alive? What is going on here? They're all the same as Katsu, and they don't seem to die. So this is just what the game is going with? Fair enough, it's not like the game ever cared about being a game and I wasn't expecting it.
The screen has a weird effect going on, showing the console like when you point a camera at the screen it's recording to. Then a hand pops in...and it resets to the start of the cave. Okay, don't fight the baby ghosts. I feel like if this were supposed to be anti-abortion imagery it wouldn't be like this. Anyway, just avoid them, hardly unusual for this game.

And now things shift to Sofia, Serena and Roy. Kiruno has told them that Rick saved them and is now dead/missing thanks to Katsu's trap. At least in this area, it seems that the imperial power is failing. So, they're going to go after Rick since he's missing. The game makes a big deal about how Serena wants to go, as if there was ever any doubt of that.
After a longer time than I would have liked, I reach the other side, a forest in the valley. Basically the same as previous levels, only this time the enemy are trees. Some which have no leaves and can be killed, and others with leaves that can't be killed, but you have to knife to get to move. It's really lame. Eventually, I reach a building and another cutscene starts.
It's a really old building according to the cutscene, I think there's a joke I don't get, which is true of the entire game, really, but it seems more obvious here. The cutscene continues with Roy and Kiruno finding Rick's damaged mech. They wonder what could do such a thing until Sami speaks. Yes, Sami isn't dead, in as much as robots can be dead. Also, he introduces himself as still being alive by saying "excuse me", which I find hilarious. Sami sort of explains where Rick went, and the three are going to go after him, but not before telling Serena that Rick is alive.

Will next time be the end? I hope so. Parts of this were actually clever, but I wouldn't read too much into that. Gameplay is getting quite predictable. In the rare event I need to fight, it just involves sidestepping and holding the fire button down. Story is less predictable, but not worth going into depth on. How this has been just 8 hours is beyond me.

This Session
: 2 hours 00 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours 05 minutes

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Elm Knight: Nightmare Street

Upon loading up this session I get this message. Just this message, nothing before or after. It doesn't tell me where to go, it just tells me to go somewhere for his older brother's interview. I forget if there was anything at the end of the last session, though where I have to go is probably to Sofia. It's nice that they included a recap mechanic, but shouldn't said recap mechanic tell you what it is you're doing rather than just hoping you can infer it?

Is this game kidding me? Roy and Sofia are having a fiery argument...and the game is playing the goofy music. They're arguing about the goal of the rebel army. Sofia says something about Roy being her father's enemy and that's about as far as I got before the walls of text I don't feel like translating started up. What happened to Rondo? Nothing, he's still there, and Rick even knows he's a spy. Right, who else should I check?

Cook? Nothing. Serena? She threatens Rick with a shotgun and they have a conversation. Nothing terribly interesting, she just questions if Rick is truly part of the rebels, as if he wasn't. Playing around with the game's movement is more interesting. It isn't truly free as I thought, but movement is done in half-steps, which comes off as a nice compromise to me. More talking and a realization as Rick talks to Cam over some strange.
The more you look at this, the worse it gets, probably why it only appears on-screen for 15 seconds or so.
These slice of life sections, in addition to feeling odd to the game in general, feel like they're so completely alien to everything I understand about mecha media that this has to be an intentional artistic choice. If you take live-action, anime or manga, the limiting factor with mecha is money and man hours. You want to have as much action as you can, but you're limited in that, since animating or drawing mecha requires more time than people. So you draw more talking to save the budget for the nicer scenes.

But games have no such restriction. In fact, it's easier to have more combat than it is to make a dialog scene. In fact, the reverse is true, once a mecha is drawn or animated, that's it, you can have one or a trillion, it doesn't matter. Every time you add in a new talking sequence, however, you need to code in a new one, and while you can reuse old sprites, I'm not seeing that at all here. A lot of characters have new animations in their dialog scenes. They are literally spending effort doing the opposite of what most other medias would do as a last ditch effort to save money.

I go around to talking to people a second time, noting that this will possibly result in a completely random conversation in a completely random location. Serena has something interesting to say, apparently the rebels dislike magic users, in context of Roy being a magic user. But the usual conversation continues. I don't care about this at all. Even in the game context that exposing the real spy might be a bad idea, or even with the possibility of Rick actually being a spy, it's not like I care what happens one way or another. Third time, nothing. Fourth time. Oh, good, something's wrong. And I'm not just talking about getting trapped by three NPCs, nothing is happening.

Once again the cook turns out to be the answer. Why must I continually return to this chef despite no indication of anything of value coming from her? Is it just because she's likely the last place anyone would go, thus ensuring they aren't missing anything? Immediately after exiting the cook's place am I greeted by a cutscene. I'm going to point out again that I'm only reading what's happening in this long dialog after the fact.

Another briefing. It's a mission for Rick. Rick is surprised. Cam wants to go to his village and the rebel army will accompany him there. Rick doesn't like this plan, he thinks they'll be eaten. Sofia basically ignores this and explains how Rando intends to get us there. (Probably through the deepest and largest concentration of enemies on the planet) Rick is anxious about something and Sofia's continued attempts at dismissing them are annoying him. He even tries to bring in his brother in his favor. Roy understands, but thinks the risks are worth the potential reward.

This doesn't convince Rick, and he's even trying to get Doug on his side, but he doesn't care that much. Sofia implies that this is an act on Doug's part, he's a bit scared too. This seems to convince Rick. He does ask to speak to Roy after the breathing. Apparently on the subject of Rondo. I guess I understand why they aren't trying to expose him right away, but I doubt there's ever going to be a good time to do so. It's just more pondering of things. Now, the battlefield, but first more talking, to Sofia on a car with Cam in the back. I can see now this is basically explaining the troubles up ahead, but man, this game overplays it's hand when it comes to building up enemies.
Now, to play things again. I don't know what the contents of the cutscene were exactly, but judging by what I picked up quickly glancing over it, something is wrong with Cam. (Which is technically right, I guess) The enemy here is a floating blimp mine, get next to them then run away and they harmlessly explode. A few rounds also works well. Tricky, but interesting. I like the autumnal vibe this area has.
Next area, and...giant frog men? They're slow and only ever really a threat if they get close, which is becoming a problem thanks to me running low on ammo. At least I'm saving up the missiles for the serious foes. It's all entertaining, but I can't help but wonder if that's just because it's in comparison to how much story there is that anything feels great.
I reach a river and a cutscene starts. Lots of more talking. Then they decide that this place is safe and to just sit down. More talking, between Rick and Sofia. I'm not putting in that much effort, but they say it's an unbelievable place a lot. Then Sofia suddenly spots something.
It's a strange giant amoeba attacks. Boss fight? It's something of a lame PvP battle, both of us are strafing and just spamming attacks at the other. Or it would be if the first time I get attacked I don't get another wall of text. Seriously? After killing it, I've had my fun, time for fifty more minutes of dialog.
Back to regular mechas. I found something of an exploit, use afterburner mode, jump around a lot and wow, they can't hit you that much. It feels like something I shouldn't be able to do. Yet it is. This leads to another long and tedious conversation. Or a warning about an enemy, a pterodactyl named Maunto. A talking pterodactyl or "dragon" as the game keeps insisting. Apparently he hates humans because they use him as a machine, so he'll fight against them. Trying isn't worth it anymore, Rick is introducing himself to a talking pterodactyl who introduces himself back.
Now I'm fighting him. Ooookay. This guy's tough because he has the simple trick of jumping up and down, so you can't hit him all the time and you have to shoot missiles in such a way that they hit him without tracking. I'm getting a nasty feeling about this. Anyway, more dialog, from the talking pterodactyl. The dying talking pterodactyl. There seems to be something about a promise to the pterodactyl to do something once they reach the giant village.

Another fighting section? I'm glad the game remembered it was supposed to be a game. Oh, that thing I thought was an exploit? Required to survive this section. I think it was Sofia here, and Serena. I skipped getting any pictures of the fighting here, I was mostly just bored with it all. Now there's a cutscene of a woman showering? WHY!? The game is kind enough to introduce us to her, Rodia Bahamu. She's the second in command of the subjugation force. Also, really vain apparently.

Okay, so Rodia is talking to Katsu, the leader of the subjugation force. He basically tells her where they were detected and to go after them. Their relationship is not a happy one, the two of them are at odds for reasons I don't know about.

That was random. I can explore again...and more dialog. More or less just saying the empire has shown up. So they'll be splitting up, but I guess Serena got lost or something, because we're worried about Serena. Yippee. No enemies or anything in this area. Just a long walk. I eventually reach another area, this time filled with snow. Incidentally, ammo is recharging between stages for some reason. More dialog.

Serena is just here. I'm just walking around to advance the plot, not even fighting. Serena's butthurt because other people think she's a weak girl. Rick comforts her and she more or less recovers from it. I'm glad we had this conversation.

Back to my control. I've just now realized I'm going to be staring at snow. Yippee. I can barely see the target on the mini-map. Why am I not surprised? Bullets, even missiles bounce off the walls and the enemies are what I wanna call VTOLs, but are probably just helicopters with the rotors in the back. The whole respawning mechanic isn't as generous as a first assumed, but between that and the brilliant strategy of running away, I'm still coming out ahead easily.

At the end, they arrive at what I assume is a boss fight, because my view turns to fire, but is instead a village. Okay. Guess this is the giant village. Rick zooms in on a cave, but I'm not sure if that's something they'll be dealing with tomorrow or not, because the next scene is in a building, asleep in their own beds.
I'm stopping here. It's not logical, but it's where I'm stopping. I don't know how much more of this I'm willing to take. The gameplay is losing its luster, while the story is so bland that it's continued importance is bordering on the offensive. Though I note at least, according to the in-game save system, since I started this I've jumped from 6 to 13, which should be good. (It's not a indicator of how many saves I've made, I'm primarily using save states)

This Session: 2 hours 15 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours 05 minutes

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Ancipital (1984)

Name:Ancipital
Number:211
Year:1984
Publisher:Llamasoft
Developer:Llamasoft
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Difficulty:5/5
Time:1 hour 50 minutes
Won:No (85W/68L)

I can't believe I haven't actually covered a Llamasoft game before, but I guess there just hasn't been much for me to talk about. Back when I did the one Intellivision Star Wars game I did, I'm sure I mentioned Attack of the Mutant Camels as a counterpoint for the utterly awful design of that game. Llamasoft is Jeff Minter, unsung hero of the early years of gaming, he made the best home computer knock-offs of arcade games, something we don't appreciate all that much today.

Ancipital is a weird game. If there's a story to it, it doesn't matter. You're a goat man controlled by the joystick. You move along a wall as you wish, and if you press the "up" direction on the joystick, you change the orientation of gravity. Hold down the fire button and then "left" or "right" and you switch to those walls. This changes depending on where you are on the screen. In theory, you can be on any side of the screen you wish. In practice, if you land "sideways" the wrong way you die. The fire button shoots "up" as well, but if you move left or right it goes at an angle. Each screen is on a time limit, if it runs out, you die, but so long as you have lives you continue on.

From this simple but weird concept, you'd imagine the game would be quite mundane and boring. It isn't, at least at first. It's another one of those games where the gimmick is there's always a gimmick on one screen. To start off with, you get a room filled with fruit. There are green apples you're probably not supposed to touch and eaten apples you definitely shouldn't touch. The objective seems to be to take a jumping diamond, then shoot all the green apples into eaten ones. Finishing an objective, which you at least know, causes one of the walls to turn into a caution tape wall, crash into it and change rooms. Hope you change rooms, anyway.

No, this isn't some strange anti-piracy measure...I think, it's another screen. Now you shoot cassettes out at floppy disks shot out by floating skulls. I think you're supposed to grab the floppies after shooting them once, but I can't be too sure. This isn't a game you understand, it's a game where you're along for the ride and hope you got it right.

Every single room changes, including down to how many shots you can get off at once. Though this seems tied into how many objects are on-screen. Sometimes you avoid certain enemies and shoot others, sometimes it's pure luck where you have to shoot. Then I get stuck in a room involving bombs. As in I manage to fulfill the conditions to move rooms, but not to open another room. How unfortunate that this is a thing. As a result it's easy to accidentally screw yourself over by allowing yourself to move to another room before you activate any exit out of the room.
I reach another room after restarting. Good. Floating heads shoot out jeans you have to burn with giant lighters. This one's difficult to deal with, because there are a ton of enemy objects on-screen. It's at this point that the game loses a bit of its magic, because the tricks become somewhat obvious. You shoot the enemy shots, which causes one of the two objects to shift into something you need, or you wait for the enemy shot to turn into something you need. Repeat a couple of different ways to unlock all the doors you need.

Okay, I'm not winning this even in the sense that it's possible to win this. Time to cheat. This isn't necessarily the boon you think it is. The true difficulty lies in making it through all the stages. Since being able to leave a stage is more common than opening up a new pathway, and the second you leave a stage you can't open any more pathways there.

But as I go through further areas, I can't help but feel like I understand what I'm doing any better. Nor does looking at a video reveal anything more to me. Every time I advance or see someone else advancing, I don't understand it more, it just seems like it was something that happened. There's certainly something there, but it's far too esoteric and strange for even me to comprehend.
One particular stage sticks out at this point. Inca 1. You shoot llamas into nothing. What you're supposed to do, as far as I can tell, is shoot a couple out, wait for this to turn into a weird ball. Then wait for it to turn into a purple ball and then shoot it, which should activate a passageway on the other side. At least that worked for the one passageway I opened, I'll never know if that's true of the others.

I can't imagine how a walkthrough of this would work, because to get anywhere you'd need to make yourself a walkthrough. You'd get stuff like "Shoot left wall" with "Shoot green enemy (Maybe?)" and you'd never know after multiple attempts if that's right or just a bizarre coincidence. And by the point you have to do it this way it's just not that fun to me.

Weapons:
Technically impressive, considering on some stages you have instead of a regular weird weapon, you get an exploding weird weapon. But this is just part of the every stage is a puzzle bit. 1/10

Enemies:
What amounts to infinitely respawning enemies which shoot other enemies infinitely...I think. 2/10

Non-Enemies:
None?

Levels:
Basically 100 variations of shooting at infinitely respawning enemies. Interesting, but I found it long in the tooth. 4/10

Player Agency:
Mostly fine for what it's trying to do, shooting up from the ground is something I dislike on principle to begin with. I do dislike how touching the "walls", that is "left" or "right" from where you're standing on kills you, when you can leave a stage this makes getting on a wall that can be left annoying, especially since you almost always can leave the room before the fourth or third exit is unlocked. 4/10

Interactivity:
It kind of does and kind of doesn't have any. 1/10

Atmosphere:
It's weird, bordering on non-sensical. Weird should invoke a place that doesn't seem right, not someone throwing things at a wall until they stick. 2/10

Graphics:
A selection of simple objects and walls. 1/10

Story:
None.

Sound/Music:
Simple sound effects and a basic background drumming track. 1/10

And that's 16.

This was never really going to rate highly, considering this is a weird piece of psychedelia masquerading as a game. To a certain degree this is playing the card of "lol, random", but enough of this seems competent that this is merely a consequence of having to fill 100 rooms. Whether anyone is willing to see those 100 rooms is another question entirely.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Elm Knight: Brevity is the Soul of Wit

Starting off this session, Rick is on foot, with slightly different controls. Instead of all the complex mecha controls from earlier, Rick gets a gun and a knife, Z/X respectively. I can't help but feel like Rick's combat abilities are mimicking Chirico Cuvie from Armored Trooper VOTOMS, but that doesn't make sense. People wander around the area, and they talk to Rick if he touches them. First guy asks if Rick is a spy.

These scenes are all animated, but no voice.
Doors function much the same way. Here's Doug again. He says something about riding on a "landmover" which I saw last time, but I assumed meant random. I assume by context that it means the mecha. Apparently he thought that Rick was a scouting party. And then I hit upon a problem. Some of the more complex characters are so scrunched up in this game's tiny font as to be unreadable. They formally introduce themselves to each other and Doug suggests he repaints his, as it's painted in the imperial colors.
Another door, someone else to kind of talk to. Cam, I think. Not talk as much as Rick comments on his massive size and Cam comments on Rick's tiny size. Rick leaves and wonders what kind of people they're raising. Something curious about this. The game was setting itself up as a RPG/FPS game, but there is zero RPG to this. This base camp is basically a straight shot with optional talking to NPCs.
Sofia's in the third door. Rick, the paragon of intelligence, asks her about the dangerous giant man they're keeping. She says that's Cam, he's not dangerous, he's a friend. Rick asks if she's sure he isn't going to eat people, might even be something about how he heard they do that. Evil empire says alien life forms are dangerous, film at eleven. Sofia talks about how they found him on the street when he was a baby and protected him. He might very well still be a baby, since they talk of him being a good playmate and a child.
More talking to people. This time it's a guy named Rondo Aima, who I mentioned before as being a possible pun. He's in a building that looks like a hanger, according to Rick. They all have the exact same graphics. He's the information officer, and Rick infers he was in the imperial army at one point. Rando found it too strict. The room is said to be a correspondence room, but he seems to be jamming MPS here, which means it's some sort of sci-fi radio room. And that also answers something about MPS, it's something you can jam. The jammer only works in a short distance, which seems to me like something an enemy could easily exploit. Rick also asks what does he do if the magic user isn't human. The answer is Doug gets sent out.
This is Riru, which is supposed to translate as "Lill". She's a doctor, probably magical doctor, who can heal you so you're a-okay. Rick finds something offputting about her. So either she's the type of doctor who seems like she'd violate medical ethics with her patients or she's going to turn out to be a traitor later. There's also a cook, Moradi. I don't care about Moradi at all.

After some wandering around, thanks to the radar on the GUI being confusing, I meet Bea. He's not happy to see Rick. I guess he's a radio operator, because he's more concerned with the rumor that Rick is a spy. I just can't bring myself to care about this little subplot. We're missing the part of the game where it's explained why Rick betrayed the imperial army or even the part where he was in the imperial army.

At this point, I'm lost as to what I can do. My radar seems to point to a location down a "door" path, which in theory should change rooms. The problem is I can't go down it. And people can box you in, though you can unblock them by talking to them, which isn't annoying at all. At least it seems like I can talk to people again, even if they have nothing of value to say the second time around, or I can't talk to them at all. Elf, which I'm just going to ahead and assume is a magical elf in Rick's head, seems concerned about one room for some reason. Though as you'll see in a moment, seems quite useless.

At this point, I'm getting ready to file this away under Japanese obtuseness and play another game, but I check Youtube, and oh, look, I missed a door. Considering that a ton of these doors aren't enterable, that's annoying. It's Serena, and oh, look, Rick just accidentally peeked at her changing, it's PG-13 at least. It is of course, the most elegant dialog ever made, and if I translate it, you will die weeping tears of joy. More wandering, until I hit a random tile.
If you feel this all is excessive, reminder, this is the 130th screenshot I took this session out of some 400.
More dialog, this time involving an old lady. She sells food to the rebels. Apparently she does it because she won't forget what Sofia did for the "Sarian King's daughter". Presumably her, and now she gives them food. I like her, Rick doesn't, because she called him boy. She goes off and Rick muses about Serena, calling her a princess sarcastically. It must be out loud, because she hits him in the back of the head. They argue, trying to get to some sort of understanding. I don't care about this relationship whatsoever.

He asks about the old lady, and she says that in older times people believed that magical powers were the result of people consorting with demons, even if they know this is superstition now. Not believing her, Rick asks Elf, who seems to just say that they didn't go halfway. Serena, it seems, can't hear Elf like Rick. Rick ticks her off by saying something like "halfway time. Hungry." And then we get a glamour shot of her because...Rick is hungry for her?

Night. Rick muses about how strange this all is for him and how it would be if he were back at school now. Guess that confirms my one theory. He decides to take a walk. Yes...because what we needed was another hour walking around this camp. Oh, a scene transition happens without any input from me.
Cam approaches, the giant man. His dialog is interesting, since it's done differently and is simple. Rick asks him to answer him honestly about a question...do you think we're tasty? He answers with, "eat, not, flavor, not understand." Rick doesn't understand his answer and asks him about it. He answers with the similarly understood "unlike, human, eat, not." This seems to get through to Rick. Cam follows up by saying Sofia would get angry. This seems to convince Rick, who then asks if someday they could become friends. Cam agrees. Rick says he'll go off the bathhouse. Oh, good.
The bathhouse is also the cafeteria, at least the building I thought as the cafeteria. Apparently Cam was following him around, as he leaves as Rick approaches. Only, I can't enter it. It turns out I'm supposed to go to Rondo's place. I didn't realize it at first because Rick sneaks a peek...through a freaking sliding door. What the heck? Turns out Rondo is probably a spy. Wait, they weren't just suspicious of Rick just because he was an outsider, there's an actual spy? I should probably tell this to someone, shouldn't I? But most of the doors are unenterable. Bea is asleep and while Serena is in the hanger, the conversation is pointless.
Another scene transition happens without any input, this time it's Doug. He basically just tells Rick to go to sleep because otherwise there'll be rumors. Then Rick has either a strange briefing or a dream. It's confusing, apparently they recived information that a special vehicle is heading towards the base. Find out how likely it is that it'll approach. Rick and Doug will deal with it. Rondo tells them this despite the spy? And tells them it might be the precursor to a larger force. Then it's the game again, only there's more dialog. So much dialog between Rick and Doug that Sofia yells at them.
Combat, holy crap gameplay again. Reminder, since I started this entry this has been the first time I've gotten actual gameplay. That's well over an hour of nothing. As far as playing the game goes, this might genuinely be a problem because I'm rusty at the actual shooting part. But gosh, when I can actually play this, it's fun. There's just something about ducking through trees shooting missiles at enemies that's a solid game loop. It's just not so good that it can help hours of downtime.

The basic idea is unchanged from the first encounter, there are more enemies than you have reasonable firepower to deal with. At least in theory. I did not use my missiles very effectively. I think they can only make one or two turns, with some of my missiles just dying off. Also, there are trees you can smash, so indicated by a different color block on the minimap. Great design.

More dialog. More dialog. Let me play your stupid game! Sami, the robot's voice, informs me that the point we're heading towards is nearby. Rick says I have to cut it down since it's a MPS jammer. Then there's a cutscene. Apparently Roy, Rick's brother, is there or something, because Rick starts musing about him. Sami says something about a launch, and Doug calls in saying it's a trap. There are too many of them, we have to escape. More dialog, if this were a trap they would be pummeling my corpse now. I don't really care anymore. Another cutscene, Doug is yelling at Rondo, as Rondo is accusing Rick of being a spy.

Different area, more dialog. Elf suggests that Rondo is the traitor. A very shocking implication that matters a great deal since he's done four things in this game and two of them are suspicious to me, the player. We should hurry, says Rick before talking more. Finally, combat again. This area is suspiciously clear of enemies...and oh, damn it, more dialog.

Someone's attacking me? Who's attacking me? Ah, damn it, I'm dead and it wasn't a plot loss. I don't need to worry about saving apparently, dying puts you back at the beginning of the stage with full health and ammo. Which does diffuse the tension considerably. Stealth mode? Stealth mode. Holy crap, there's just some massive missile spam going on in certain sections. If I was reading the dialog at the time I would have known that though, so that's my fault for making sure I could read this crap later.

I find the path leading towards a pillar, and now there's more dialog. Rick meets a Donaku Ramon, the leader of the rebel army subjugation force. He's captured Rick, somehow. Now Rick is in a jail. Donaku is the interrogator. It's novel seeing these words (relating to an interrogation) in this context, but they're not especially interesting. Rick says he won't tell them anything, so you'll have to kill him. I believe him, his character archetype wouldn't let him do that. Donaku says if he tells him one thing he wants to know, he'll help him die. Wow...I have slightly underestimated the writing here.
This dialog's weird. Right after that Rick says money cannot help, which confuses me, but Donaku asks what he means and then asks if he won't think about the rebels' base. Is he playing mind games? Is Rick? Or is this just some complex Japanese-ism I don't understand? He then says he expects something good from him in the morning. Well, Rick then goes to bed, but stares at the ceiling...
And his brother shows up. It's been a while, and they get a long greeting. And then he says he's going to help Rick escape. Roy's going to die horrible, isn't he? Rick doesn't quite understand at first, thinking he means the rebel army is going to try to get him out in 2 or 3 days, but no, Roy says the rebels are going to make a surprise attack tomorrow. The imperial intelligence network underrated them. It takes Rick asking him if he joined the rebel army to figure it out that Roy's on his side. Then Rick asks something like "the rebel army's leader, the Sarian king's daughter". Which I guess might mean Sofia, judging by past context. Then Roy mentions Bloom, which is Sofia and Serena's last name, and then it clicks for me.

A realization that I had earlier but dismissed in favor of a vague Votoms allusion I wasn't sure of. This is a Star Wars knock-off. Rick is Luke Skywalker, Serena/Sofia is Leia divided into two people, one containing the polite upper societal aspect, the other containing the rough and tumble tomboy. Doug is Han Solo. Cam is Chewbacca. Rondo is Lando. Elf is Obi-Wan. Sami is probably one of the droids, maybe both assuming no other droid candidate comes up. Some of these feel like stretches to me, but enough of this comes off as right that it's no coincidence.

Anyway, Rick mentions a "Neeku ruler", which is just more stuff I don't recognize. Roy just says they'll see. The next day there's more talking, and Roy does his little breakout. He's coming with, guess his position was compromised. Seems that the Neeku ruler is someone the rebel army should be aware of. Judging by the way they talk, it might be that Sofia or Serena should be the Neeku ruler. Talking about how they'll escape, Elf talks to Rick but inside his head so Roy wonders what's going on.

Rick says he'll explain later, and then Sami tears open the cell. I guess the robot is sentient? Neither is exactly interesting. Roy then reveals that it was all Rando's fault, by himself he made the action. Now we're outside, in the mech, and there's still more dialog. Roy has his own mech. They talk about how they're going to get out and then Rick notices a jewel under his seat. Roy admonishes him for the delay, gotta stop Rondo, but first Sami needs to say a wall of text just telling us that Rondo was the spy. Roy says something about how strange his computer is, before saying they need to put down Rondo.
But before we can escape we need to take out Donaku, after the long dialog. In a boss fight since he has a truly giant mecha. There's a boss fight. It's okay, you basically just try to avoid being in the direct line of sight of a 2x2 size mech. While this is interesting in theory, since you should be drained from the previous fight, in practice if you're lacking for missiles you'll probably just die anyway and the resurrection system will kick in.

More text after the fight. Rick is concerned about Roy, but he's fine, guess his mech was damaged. By how concerned Roy is with Rick's computer, I assume there's something special about Sami, but we can't worry about that now because of how many enemies there are. I sure am glad that this is being shown via text box. Doug shows up, I guess he killed enough. Doug's been looking for him, something about him being stupid and a spy, possibly a stupid spy, possibly he's been stupid about the spy thing. Roy's introduction is quite casual. He just casually brings himself up and says he'll be coming with, when Doug realizes he's here, he asks who he is and Rick tells him he's his older brother. They argue of course, but they arrive there at base camp.

This game is shaping up to be incredibly tedious. The game itself is fine, there's just so much talking. I wouldn't care for the amount of dialog and the speed if this were in English. I hope this changes soon, otherwise I might cut this short. My time-period standard for this sort of presentation and story over gameplay, Traffic Department 2142, was not this wordy to my memory, especially not in-level. I also figured out how to save in-game, but who knows if that'll prove necessary?

This Session: 1 hour 50 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes