What I'm Playing - No. 103
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Fair warning, there are final boss and ending spoilers for Luigi’s Mansion 3 this week. Watch out!
The Yakuza 0 and Shin Megami Tensei IV sections are spoiler-free.
Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
Yakuza 0 (PC)
I’m pretty sure I’m very close to the end of the main story. I’ve reached a part where you’re given a “point of no return” warning, and advised to create a new save file if you want to keep playing from this point later. So chances are very good that I’ll finish Yakuza 0 next week!
As expected, my time with Yakuza 0 last week was filled with goofy side quests, business mini-games, and intense battles.
I didn’t just get distracted by side content though, the main story also really pulled me in. It threw me some curveballs I was not at all expecting!
I’ll have more final thoughts on the game next week, presuming I’ve finished the main story by then at least. Stay tuned for that!
Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Switch)
I finished Luigi’s Mansion 3 last week! Overall, it was really fun. I enjoyed the 2nd to last boss battle against the hotel owner, Helen Gravely, more than the final boss battle. It required switching between both Luigi and Gooigi to keep Luigi out of danger while shutting off power to several lasers with Gooigi, and it was a fun balancing act.
The final boss is King Boo, of course. It starts off easy enough, King Boo has several different attack patterns he throws at you. I got hit by them a few times, but then I was able to dodge most of them pretty reliably. After a few types of attacks, he’ll spawn some bombs, and you have to shoot those at him to make him vulnerable. The first cycle like this was fine, but each time you damage him, he spawns another clone of himself. Then you have to dodge his same attack patterns, but with multiple King Boos launching them at once. I took a lot of damage during these phases, and I especially had a hard time with the 3rd and final phase, where there are 3 King Boos attacking you. Only one is real of course, and you have to shoot the bomb at that one, otherwise it’ll just vanish, forcing you to dodge another onslaught of attacks while waiting for the next bombs to spawn. I had to repeat this process a lot, because I kept panicking and missing King Boo or hitting one of the fakes. Eventually, I took him down, saving the day and destroying the hotel in the process.
During the credits, a nice photo montage shows everyone working with ghosts, who are now friendly since they’re no longer affected by King Boo’s influence, to construct a new building where the hotel used to stand. I can’t really explain why, but I really like credits montages like this one.
In the end, you get a ranking that is dependent on how much money you finished the game with, and the newly constructed mansion is more extravagant the higher your rank. I achieved a modest B Rank for my ending amount of $36,288, which I’m happy with. The game ends with Luigi and company driving away, waving goodbye to E. Gadd, Gooigi, and all the ghosts. There were a lot of fun puzzles throughout Luigi’s Mansion 3. Some definitely had me stumped for a while, but when you’re stuck you can pause and ask E. Gadd for help, and sometimes messages from him will pop up automatically. This is a Switch game I’d easily recommend, especially to anyone who enjoyed any of the other Luigi’s Mansion games! I don’t think it’s quite as good as the original, though it’s been a long time since I played that one. It might be a more consistent experience overall. Luigi’s Mansion 3 had a few low points, but I think the first might have had some lower points, or more frequent lows. I guess I ought to replay the original at some point to properly compare them!
Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS)
I’ve finally started a game in the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series: Shin Megami Tensei IV. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, since the Persona games began as a spin-off series to Shin Megami Tensei. So far, I’m really enjoying it! As is tradition, I named my character Worm in an opening sequence that I don’t yet understand. In it, the player character is inexplicably flying through the air while being addressed by a deep voice. I’ve written it off as a dream for now, but I imagine it might be explained in some way later on.
The player character is a commoner in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado. At an annual festival at the capital, they partake in the Gauntlet ritual, a rite wherein new Samurai are chosen by the mysterious Gauntlets, hi-tech devices worn on one’s forearm. The Gauntlets will accept only certain individuals as their new wearers, and those accepted begin new lives in the capital as Samurai, protectors of Mikado. Once inducted into the Samurai order, you meet a few other Samurai recruits: Walter, Jonathan, and Isabeau. Shortly after that, another revelation is dropped on you: the Samurai’s true purpose is to protect Mikado from demons.
In no time at all, your own demon-fighting training begins, and you enter the demon-infested caverns beneath the city: Naraku. This serves as the game’s first dungeon. Dungeon exploration uses a 3rd-person camera, where you can see enemies and attempt to slice them with your sword to perform a preemptive strike when battle begins. Once you come in contact with an enemy, battle begins, and oh what a wonderful turn-based battle system it is! In battle, indicators at the top-right of the top screen show you how many actions you may perform before it is the enemies turn. Normally, you get one action per party member, but if you hit the enemy’s weakness or land a critical hit, you’ll get an extra action. There is a limit to how many extra actions you can receive, but by taking advantage of this system you can gain as many as double your usual number of actions. But the same is true for the enemy as well - if they hit your weakness, they gain another action. They’re not shy about hitting you where it hurts either. I’ve lost a few encounters to common enemies simply because they got the advantage and wiped me out in a single turn. It really keeps you on your toes! Luckily you can save anyway outside of battle, and losing all your HP doesn’t have to lead to a game over. Instead, you can pay Charon, the ferryman of the underworld, some Macca (the game’s currency) or Play Coins, and he’ll return you to the point outside of battle just before you died. His fees are pretty steep though. I keep frequent saves, so I find I’m more inclined to reload my last save than pay Charon Macca.
One of the most notable Shin Megami Tensei features is demon recruitment. Persona 5 has a similar feature, but it’s a bit different in Shin Megami Tensei IV. Here, you can choose to talk with your enemies to use one of the player character’s actions in battle. Doing so initiates demon conversation, where the demon will ask you questions and make several demands of you. If you negotiate successfully, they’ll join your party and fight alongside you in battle. These can be anywhere from multiple choice answers to wanting to have some of your HP. It’s not always clear what the right answer to the questions is. Choosing the wrong answer can either irritate the demon, eliminating any remaining player actions and making it the enemy’s turn, or scare them into running away. Also, demons aren’t always trustworthy. Some negotiations might seem to be going well. You might meet several demands the demon makes, only to have them turn tail and run afterward instead of joining you.
Once you’ve recruited demons, they’ll gain experience and level up as they fight alongside you. They’re not your lifelong companions though. You could, in theory, use the same demons for the whole game, but it’s much more effective to recruit many demons and use them to create stronger ones through Fusion. Fusion allows you to combine 2 demons in your party into a new demon. They’re not always stronger, but I usually only fuse the ones that are, or ones that have compelling skills or resistances. You can only fuse demons whose level is equal or less than your own, however. Occasionally, mistakes will occur during fusion, and you’ll end up with a totally different demon than you intended. This has only happened to me once so far, and I was actually fairly happy with the result!
Those are all the main systems of Shin Megami Tensei IV. At least, so far - there might be more waiting for me to discover next week, it wouldn’t be unheard of for an RPG to introduce new mechanics even after the player is 20 hours into the game! The gameplay loop is super fun here. Recruiting and levelling up demons for your party is akin to Pokémon (daily reminder that Shin Megami Tensei released first), and I really like it. I’ve enjoyed the battle systems and demon designs in Persona before, so it’s no surprise I’d enjoy SMT’s similar systems. It’s also really cool seeing demons that I recognize from the Persona series, and a lot more that I’ve never seen before! The narrative and setting is really interesting too, but it takes a backseat to the gameplay and lets the player explore freely. Not that it’s non-linear, but it definitely doesn’t hold your hand and instead offers you broad goals and leaves it up to you to gather information and figure out how to achieve them. In that regard, it reminds me a lot of retro RPGs, but that’s fine by me! I’m really interested in where the story will go. There have been a few twists already, but I’ll get more into those next time. No spoilers, for now!