Monday, April 29, 2024

Elm Knight (1992)

Name:Elm Knight
Publisher:Micro Cabin
Developer:Micro Cabin
Time:11 hours
Won:Yes (86W/69L)

The proper ratio of story in games is always something that will be argued. Many, not unreasonably, think that story is pointless in a GAME, and there are other mediums that focus on story. Others think that story is something that should be focused on, since video games can do stories not seen in other mediums. Elm Knight presents a silver bullet for the former, a competent game completely ruined by an excessive spotlight on a mediocre story.

This is pretty much how the game felt for me, two characters arguing while I gaze on sadly.

Irrespective of one's thoughts on the debate, it's pretty clear that one aspect, even if it overwhelms the other, should not ruin the other half. Game mechanics should not make the story feel completely pointless. Story should not ruin a good gameplay section just because a story is being told, the game can be damned. Unlike with a game ruining the point of it's own story, the story ruining the game cannot be salvaged. No amount of good story is going to result if the game grinds to a dead halt in the middle of a battle, leaving you in whatever position you were before the game paused. I.E., shooting at or getting shot at.

The story in this game isn't that good. It's basically downhill of other, better science fiction and space opera, especially Star Wars. You play as Rick, an imperial cadet who leaves because he finds out he has magic powers and those are illegal in the empire. So he steals a magic mech and ends up joining the rebel forces. Lead by the beautiful Princess Sofia and her sister, the tsundere Princess Serena. Over the course of the game you take out the elite force sent to take out the rebel forces, culminating in the finding of a super mech and taking out the emperor's aide. It's basically Star Wars, but some aspects are bigger stretches than others.

You get to see him flip switches! That's rare even for today!

As an experiment this game is interesting, because it has a ton of animation and at least at first, gives you the impression you're playing an anime. If that were the case, it wouldn't matter that the story is mediocre, it's 1992, an action game, and it has like anime-level animation between battles. It's cool. Except that the game part of this is extremely lopsided towards the story. I think it's something like 8 hours story, 2 hours game. (The other hour was testing) By the time I finished it I didn't really get much chance to actually enjoy any of my weapons.

Gameplay is a lot of this.
You see, what hurts about this game having a story that makes the rest of the game bad is that this game actually had potential. The equipment and weapons this game gives you is incredible. Various missiles, guns, mines, defense measures and movement modes, a variation that at this point is unsurpassed. But you never get to use any of it. It's just...there, being ignored because getting into combat with regular enemies drains your resources and the strategy for most bosses is sidestep and shoot.
And the end is a lot of this.
The one fight that really changes this is the final boss. But by this time you're in a mech that doesn't have all that equipment, and instead just has a single weird weapon. Rather than ever allowing you to use those tools, every fight discourages you to be clever. So that final boss is about dodging him, which at this point is something you should already know how to do.

For instance, laying mines, it basically functions like in any first-person shooter with them. Instead of laying a trap, you're baiting an enemy into going to a mine. And it's not like a game where you might do this to save ammo for your good guns, running past is easier and ammo preservation isn't important anyway, you get more at certain points and even so, if you die you just get it all back at that point or as near makes no difference anyway. Then there are stun mines, which feel very questionable.
The difference between playing as Rick and playing as the super mech is that you don't get a knife as the super mech.
Sometimes there are on-foot sections, and these give you a little more reason to actually shoot enemies for once, because often the spaces you're in justify it. The massive arsenal you get would be far more justified here than anywhere else, instead you just exchange shots with enemies or run past them. Ironically enough, here you can afford to just exchange fire with the enemy instead of dodging.

Many of these issues could have easily been fixed. In battles where you deal with multiple phases maybe make the transitions between phases smoother than suddenly stopping and starting. How about say, dialog appearing on the map screen? Not like I need that against a boss. Or how about voiced dialog instead of walls and walls of unskippable, unstoppable text? This isn't some witchcraft, you could easily do something like this at the time. Pretty sure there are several PC Engine games with voiced dialog. If some crappy DOS game can do it with PC Speaker, you can do it on a CD.
There are more lines of text than are dreamt of in many philosophies.
And that said, some of this is less impressive than it seems at first glance. A lot of these animations are of people standing around and talking. Which is basically what you expect any good artist to be able to do. While this is of course, to be expected when any actual combat takes place in-game, after the opening cutscene there is a noticeable lack of cutscenes where actions happen, as opposed to people talking.

I'm going to be generous and say that two halves of a game that were designed pretty well on their own, but together no thought was put as to how they work. I don't really know that they were in the completed product, the game never got a chance to shine and the story got on my nerves for most of the length. Maybe I'm giving too much credit. When push came to shove the controls would lock up on me; The story might be as boring as I give it credit, just because I don't get the humor doesn't make it good.

Nevertheless, the game is an honest misstep, and one that had to happen. This game does something that 10 years in the future would be commonplace. It's not entirely true that this game does something no other game at the time did, Terminator 2029 had briefings, and Star Cruiser was a full-blown RPG. For better or worse, this one was built around the story in a way those weren't. In much the same way, those games are more playable today, whereas this is merely an oddity.
I have mixed feelings. There is an incredibly arsenal here, but I never really got to use it. It was always straight-forward violence. Subtle force was far less effective than the gold standard of "run away from everything you can, shoot what you can't". 3/10

The Japanese have not yet really figured out enemy design. Every stage has it's own unique-looking enemy which invariable has a not unique set of abilities. I think there are maybe 6 real variations, two of which are bosses. Not very interesting. 2/10


Very few feel like they were designed as much as stuff was put down and then the player could go through it. There are general ideas, but it doesn't come off as much thought as put into it. 2/10

Player Agency:
The GUI is nice, but the game makes weird choices for what buttons should go where. Rather than controlling weapons via the number keys, instead they're via the function keys. There are two groups to pick from, when honestly, there was enough GUI space for them all at once, if you cut down a few seemingly unnecessary choices. 5/10

You basically just walk into things and sometimes they activate. It's always plot important and sometimes obtusely done. 0/10

It certainly feels like an anime, albeit one I'm not terribly interested in. 3/10

I'm not going to deny that the cutscenes have incredible effort put in...but outside of this the game is a bit lacking. Very little animation, very little environmental variation. It looks nice, but it's not very hard to make a singular sprite look good. 4/10

This was never going to get very high on my scale thanks to my thoughts on it, but considering how it frequently ruins the other aspects of the game, it's much worse than that. 2/10

The sound is okay. Combat feels fitting, but dialog sounds got on my nerves. The strange thing is, whenever music was activated you couldn't even hear it. The music, on the other hand, is nice. Despite being CD audio it's just high quality game music. Outside of a few wearysome tracks it was nice, albeit somewhat generic. 5/10

That's 26, but I'm going to remove 2 points, making it 24.

I ragged on this a lot for something that's ultimately a mixed bag. A lot of effort was done into making this game, it clearly wasn't just a throwaway. I just wish some of that effort was redirected towards something other than the cutscenes.

In comparison to the two titles I mentioned and linked to earlier; Star Cruiser is more unfocused as a result of being born from basically nothing. Considering the technological limitations that game had, I cut it more slack, not cutting down the score. Terminator, meanwhile, well, that game's flaws were more related to Bethesda being Bethesda.

The only western review I could find is just unanimously glowing about the game. I strongly suspect the reviewer did not get very far, because of the way they describe the gameplay. It describes a level of smoothness and competency to it that I frankly just haven't seen for hours. Even today the niceness of some aspects fool one into liking the rest of the game.

This is the only FPS from the two key members of the staff, Hideyuki Yanagishima and Fujio Yamakawa, who designed the game and the scenario. Before this, the two worked on other Microcabin games, mostly Action RPGs. No idea if those are games that I'll actually play, since Japanese computer ARPGs of this era tended to be simple bordering on torture, at least to me anyway. Which is a lovely thought after beating this game.

Next up, Advanced Galactic Empire, but first Commander Keen 5. I've been looking forward to both. Then again, I was looking forward to Elm Knight...

Post note, while thinking up a counterpoint to how this game's story overwhelms the gameplay, I note that even with my example of game mechanics ruining a story, it isn't as bad as vice versa. Just because you can resurrect someone in normal gameplay and then they die a permanent plot death doesn't ruin everything, it's just goofy. I think even a game with a story deliberately designed to completely countermine everything in gameplay and do it awfully would still have redeeming qualities if the game was fun. If you're going to make an elaborately crafted story but the game is nothing but endless mazes with obtuse enemies, people aren't going to give a toss about your story.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Elm Knight: Won

Loading up this session, I get a conversation with Nero talking about how he has a bad premonition...wait...that's a bad feeling about this, isn't it? Then again, I have a bad feeling about this. Nero is floating in the game world. That means either he helps me or this is an escort mission...nevermind he's just floating there. Time to go to my next destination.

I spot a floating robot in the distance, so I line up to take a screenshot and another sneaks up from behind and teleports me...back to the start. Is this seriously going to be a mechanic in this game? It was clever the first time, now it's just tedious. Once I finally spot one, it turns out that they're the same robot as Nero, only evil. You can tell because their eyes are different. The funny thing is, this is entirely annoying, not difficult. You don't even take damage, it's just a question of shooting them before they can reach you and you get unlimited tries. Basically no consequences.

The mech is that ancient? Wait, does that mean the mech's name is Randomuba? I get it, this is a joke I wasn't getting because I'm having trouble figuring out what the game's made-up terms are supposed to be referring to. Anyway, the mech Rick was piloting was the Elm Knight of the title. Elf is explaining this, I'm guessing it is just translating something rather than deliberately withholding information. I chose to believe that. There's something about someone carrying unhappiness, unsure if that's Elf or the Elm Knight.
I'm back in the desert now. Kiruno is talking to...Roy? I'm playing as Roy now? Yeah, this game is going to have character reunion without making a big production of it. Kiruno's mocking Roy, probably because he hasn't driven a mech in a while, but Roy's taking it in stride. Something I do find amusing, Serena wants to talk to Roy, but they're sure to have a bit of a conversation before letting Serena in. Apparently even in-game people find her annoying. Time to find Rick. Judging by later conversation, Roy is in Rick's mech, having repaired it.
The desert stage was never very good to begin with, but having to navigate through a stage where you're required to use the map to navigate with looking at the actual viewport being secondary is wearing on me. And...I went to the place this area starts instead of trying to find Rick. Whelp. Perhaps it's just that the game isn't tracking the actual locations of things for once.

Back with Rick, there's more talking over the stone mech relief. Something (Probably the mech) was born from a particular dimension, in which it had a form of energy, but here it had a body...once it did so, it could believe and think. Elf seems to be saying that Randomaba is the Elm Knight which is the mech that Rick was using and now Roy probably is.

And now Rick is in another mech. One which has a much less helpful GUI if this screen is any indication. Elf says something about this being born and moving. I'm not clear on what that exactly means since the words are very strange the way they're put together. It gets very beyond me. Something about protection and the power to be born again. Something strange approaches.

Now Roy is talking to Rondo. Roy apparently knows that there's going to be a surprise attack tomorrow. Apparently, Rick memorized them before disappearing. I thought this sounded like a fake answer, and so does Rondo. Roy has had correspondence with Rick. Yeah, sure. Roy then says that only a spy in the imperial army would be suspicious of this information.

Outside in the desert. It's Rick, guess his fancy new mech is real. He's looking for something. Whatever it is, he's in a hurry. Apparently he's concerned about getting it before the rebel army arrives. Back to Roy, he's conversing with Sofia. Sofia thinks the end is near and Rick agrees. I hope so. I hope so. They're headed towards some kind of meeting point and...oh, Rondo is in a mech (?) and he's wishing Roy good luck. Rondo's gonna die soon, I can feel it. (This is wrong, this is his last major contribution to the story, apparently he was legit)

It's another forest stage, and I have to say, this is INCREDIBLY easy. There are barely any enemies and they're the kind that goes down quickly. I don't have any regular machine gun ammo, but that's hardly a problem. The level is bizarrely designed but that's it. This section ends when Roy reaches the target point, but there's no enemy there immediately. A cutscene starts with a strange eye and we see Rondo back at base.
Oh, no, the enemy is out in force now. Rondo says...he'll go out to try to fight them as escape is impossible. Wait...was him being a spy a red herring? If so, that's pretty clever for this game. Except, Serena already went out. We see a mysterious and crazy goblin-looking man named Data before we see Serena get on her bike again.
OH CRAP. Now I get to play as my least liked member of the cast...on a hoverbike. Yes, it is a rail shooter section and yes it is terrible, but at least it's easy. The next cutscene is Serena in the hand of the mecha controlled by Data. That sounds about right. Data does the usual villain monologuing, nothing worth translating. And then a mysterious thing crashes onto his mech, destroying his arm but keeping Serena safe. If you guessed it's Rick in the super mech, you'd be right.
Now I get to use the super mech. If you thought it would be more powerful, you would be wrong. Maybe. This is like the fight against the mech you couldn't outright, except I'm just fast enough to do so. Only I have one attack, weird sword slash. It's slow and it doesn't seem powerful since you need to hit him a lot, my final count was 53 ammo left from 100. The real boon this mech has is that it regenerates. But it's a slow regeneration, not a good regeneration.

Cutscene, everyone is shocked that Rick is in the weird super mech. Their surprise is ruined by what seems to be some giant city. Rick and Serena stare at each other, before Rick has her join him on his mech. Okay. Now we're treated to a in-game view of the mech going up to the sky...and then flying forward. It's not another rail shooter section, it's just a cutscene. They talk, Serena seems to be thinking that Rick isn't quite who he was. Perhaps she's right.
There's another pterodactyl. I guess I'm glad the game isn't trying to build up these villains anymore, because this would have been really annoying with warning. Oh, wait, it's the same one, I guess it didn't die. They talk and he eventually goes off. I guess he's on our side now.
Now we're inside the floating city. Looks a lot like Corridor 7. Despite the fact that I'm not exactly a fan of this game, kudos for realizing this look isn't going to be very good for long, that game looked hideous. At first, this section is fun, enemies go down in a few hits, I can now actually enjoy the regeneration of the mech, and despite the door shooting at you, they're not too troublesome. Then this level turns into a complete maze. Oh, running out of ammo doesn't prevent you from attacking, you just don't shoot a sword slash.

Two area transitions later and I'm in a red hallway. I have ammo again. This must be a boss arena. Funny, the area doesn't look any different as far as the map is concerned. Long hallway to start or not. Then there's another mech. This must be the boss, because the game is trying to tell me this guy is big trouble by having a non-verbal introduce to him. That or the design is supposed to be familiar to me. (This game's mech designs all blend together) It's...Neku Sapento, the Sarian's Emperor's aide. So this is a very big deal.

The dialog implies that Neku is the leader of the imperial forces in this sector and that Elf has been protecting Rick from something Neku can do. Then Katsu reappears because why not? Now, we fight. Wait, I can't attack? I can't say that's too surprising, whatever, more dialog. I don't know what the details of this is, because I don't really care, but the cutscene shows Katsu getting teleported to some woman named Riru who looks like Sofia and I don't care either way.

This fight is, frankly, absolutely terrible. This guy only ever gets off you if you move around the columns in such a way that prevents him from hitting you, in a straight line he's way faster than you. 50 shots is no where near enough ammo to take him out, which means more dodging him waiting for the power of friendship to grant you the super gun.

This goes extremely poorly the first time. In a shocking bit of poor game design, constantly stopping the player to have paragraphs of dialog is a bad idea in a fight, it ruins my momentum and I didn't have much momentum the first time. I die. I have to do the whole thing over again, including the cutscenes. This is extremely annoying because it wasn't fun the first time around. The super gun is just a case of holding down the Z button to unleash a more powerful attack.

The second time is even worse than the first time. In the past the game was generous enough to bypass cutscenes, but because they're important to the flow of the battle, we gotta have them. So I do what any rational human being would do and cheat, because the game isn't being difficult, it's being a pain to control. Remember, you can't really turn and move at the same time very well. And this fight is awful anyway. Because it's doing what a 2000s game would do, but as a stopped text cutscene instead of having it be voiced in the middle of battle.

I take a video when I think I have invulnerability, but it turns out I didn't I manage to protect myself, but I manage to survive the encounter somehow. I get a new cutscene, and it seems like I won...only for me to get hit by more missiles. Is it the base exploding? No, he's invisible now. It's a two-phase boss and the second phase is invisible. This game is rapidly turning from a decent idea that didn't have the technology to execute it properly, to sheer WTF is wrong with you. (Side note, in the first video I took, there was about 3-4 minutes of gameplay in an 11 and a half minute video, it's worse in the second, this is about the gameplay ratio the whole game has)
Rather than talk about the end to the story, I'll just show you the video I took. (This cutscene is way to long for me to want to summarize, seriously) You can get the gist of it even if you don't speak the language. It's not that complex a story. I'll note my issues. I wasn't paying that much attention, but I think that the emperor's aide was implying that Elf lied to Rick, but the rest of it shows that's not true. Secondly, holy crap that final boss is cruel. Outside of bosses enemies in this game are a joke, and even the previous bosses don't prepare you for this one. It would have been bad if the game tried to prepare you for it, but out of nowhere it's just awful design.

Still, I'm the first English speaker I know of who has said he beat Elm Knight. I'm sure others have, especially Japanese players, but I'm the first one who seems to have documented it. I really wouldn't wish this upon someone else, this was a terrible experience.

This Session: 2 hours 55 minutes

Final Time: 11 hours

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