What I'm Playing - No. 15
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Be warned, minor spoilers may be contained within. Generally, I do try to keep things spoiler-free but this isn’t always possible/practical! If you want to totally avoid all potential spoilers so you can play these games yourself in a blind run, you shouldn’t continue reading! Games contained within this post:
- Jeanne d’Arc (PSP)
- Pathway (PC)
- Pokémon Ultra Moon (3DS)
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch)
Jeanne d’Arc (PSP)
I finished Jeanne d’Arc over the weekend, and what an incredible experience it was! The interweaving of an original storyline and French/English history worked really well, and I’d love to see more games do this kind of thing. I’ll probably get a full review of Jeanne d’Arc written sometime in the coming weeks.
On the road to the end of the game, I got a new ability for archers that I gave to Marcel. The Sky Dart ability. It allows the user to attack anywhere on the map, and the MP cost is fairly reasonable! Sky Dart does regular damage, but the fact that I could just put Marcel in a far corner of the map and have him rain down damage on any enemy I want was pretty awesome. I used this to beat one of the later stages in just a few turns. The clear condition was just to defeat the boss, but they were hidden behind a maze of pathways and teleport platforms. It was far easier to just spam Sky Dart, and luckily the boss didn’t have any HP Regeneration skills, so they calmly stood still while my archer killed them from across the map.
The last 2 stages proved quite a challenge for my team. From what I read online, my units were a little under leveled going into the final stretch, since I didn’t do any more Free Battles or optional stages. So strategy was especially important, but I also found myself just pouring consumable items into/onto my characters so they could survive the final stage. Namely because the final boss has a ton of HP, and also has a number of other minions. Many of these can use attacks that damage everyone a fair amount at once, so my lower HP units were wiped out pretty quickly.
The secret to winning this final boss battle lies in the fact that the boss takes up multiple tiles. You see a handful of enemies like this prior to the final battle, but what I didn’t realize about these enemies is that many area of effects skills do damage per tile. I only learned all this after doing a little online research after I failed the stage 3 times though. Once I went in with that strategy, it was amazing how much damage my under leveled could deal, especially I pumped them up by using stat boosting potions on them that I’d been hoarding throughout my playthrough.
After the final battle, you’re treated to several animated cutscenes, one after another, tying up all the story elements. I really liked the ending, it is quite satisfying. I’ve been vague here because I’m really trying to avoid spoilers about the last half of the game, because I really liked seeing what Level 5 did with it myself, and don’t want to ruin anyone else’s experience!
Once the animated cutscenes are done, the credits roll. I was a little surprised to see that the character Roger was voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, who I’ve heard before as Yosuke in Persona 4 and Spider-Man in the PS4 Spider-Man. I hadn’t been able to recognize his voice, maybe because the voice acting is limited to animated cutscenes, which are generally quite short. Jeanne d’Arc pulls a fast one after the credits, and includes one final animated cutscene, which I won’t be spoiling here, save that it ends with Fin.
After all that, you can actually keep playing on your save file if you want! I loaded up my saved clear data and saw that there’s a new world map location, Cemetery, unlocked after beating the game. So that’s presumably some post-game content, but I don’t intend to get into it. Seeing the completion of the main story was satisfying, and I don’t feel the need to play any more of Jeanne d’Arc at the moment, but it is cool that it seems to include some post-game content. I’ll keep my save files somewhere safe though, in the event that someday I want to come back and see what the post-game has to offer.
Pathway is a new indie strategy RPG from publisher Chucklefish, of Stardew Valley fame, developed by the small indie studio Robotality. I don’t know if “strategy RPG” really does it justice, because Pathway also seems to take inspiration from other genres, like roguelikes, and blends some of those ideas in to create an even more entertaining experience.
Basically, playing Pathway is kind of like playing a pixel art Indiana Jones game, with strategic, turn-based combat featuring guns and a cover system. The whole time, you also run into random events and need to make decisions while traversing the map. This may end up costing you if you choose poorly. It’s kind of like how The Banner Saga works, or maybe The Oregon Trail.
I’ve said this and more in the launch day article I wrote about Pathway, check it out if you’re interested!
Pokémon Ultra Moon (3DS)
I played just a tiny bit of Pokémon over the weekend. Finally battled my through the last stretch of Poni Island and reached the Battle Tree. Right before you enter, there’s a Pokémon Trainer duo that challenges you, and their team gave me a surprising amount of trouble! Between getting Sunny Day in place so they can spam Solar Beam on a single turn and also having this crazy looking lava moth Pokémon I hadn’t seen before called Volcarona, they were actually pretty tough.
Inside the Battle Tree, I met Red and Blue! They’re player character and his rival from the first generation of Pokémon games, and I love this kind of thing! Red doesn’t say anything either, referencing how the player never speaks to anyone in Red/Blue/Yellow (except maybe that one time with the Copycat). They (well, really Blue is doing all the talking) ask if you are up for a battle, and you get to choose which one to challenge. I chose Red, and the battle was on! Red’s team was so cool, it’s full of Gen 1 Pokémon, including all the final evolutions of all 3 starters, and he lead with a Pikachu. That Pikachu was like the toughest one for me, I didn’t have any Ground type moves at my disposal! Pikachu KO’d one of my team, but after that I didn’t have any problems with Red. My Leavanny finished off his final Pokémon, Lapras, and I won.
Afterward, Blue says that we’ll battle again if I make it through the Battle Tree. Well, I haven’t started the Battle Tree yet, and I really don’t know what it is. So, I’m not actually sure if I’ll battle them again! One last thing to note, looks like the Battle Tree is where you can get Mega Evolution Stones for, like, every single Pokémon that can Mega Evolve, so that’s pretty cool! You trade BP for them, which you can get by doing Mantine Surfing, and presumably by fighting in the Battle Tree as well. I guess I might need to check it out after all!
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch)
PatronusLight and I picked up Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at the beginning of the week, and it is so fun! The roster for this game is huge, and notably contains every fighter to have ever appeared in a Smash Bros. game, plus some new additions as well. That fact on its own is pretty incredible, this game definitely earns the “Ultimate” in its title!
Initially though, you only have a few characters unlocked. In fact, the starting roster is the same as in the original Super Smash Bros. on N64, which really warms my heart. I sort of feel like a kid again, starting with those characters and unlocking new fighters from there. As mentioned earlier, there’s a ton of fighters in the game, which means there’s a huge number to unlock. Unlocking characters isn’t a chore either, it seems you can unlock them by doing just about anything. PatronusLight and I have spent most of our time fighting double battles against 2 CPU characters, and it seems like every 2 to 4 battles a new challenger approaches! I’ve always enjoyed how Smash Bros. just gives you the silhouette of the character before the challenger battle starts, and I’ve been showing off my video game knowledge to PatronusLight by telling her who the character is before it’s revealed, in “Who’s that Pokémon?” style. I think I’ve recognized all the silhouettes so far, but it’s probably only a matter of time before I guess one wrong, forever bringing shame upon my family.
Speaking of shame, I’ve also lost several of the challenger battles. Some of them have really caught me by surprise, the AI in Ultimate is no slouch! Luckily, if you lose a battle you can rematch the character after a while, which I’m pretty sure is how past Smash Bros. games worked as well.
Fighters are far from the only unlockable. “Spirits” are Ultimate’s analogue to Melee’s trophies and Brawl’s stickers, but they also function as more than just a collectible, as they provide stat boosts and buffs in the Adventure modes. I’ll get more into that in a future post though. At the very least, there’s a ton of spirits to collect in the game.
Aside from the main Smash mode, the single-player Classic mode in Ultimate is cool too. You battle through several stages, and at the end fight a boss character. The boss changes depending on who you’re playing as too, like Mario fights Bowser and then Giga Bowser, while Link and Young Link both fight Ganon. For some characters, probably quite a few in the roster I would imagine, you just fight Master Hand/Crazy Hand though. I think the roster’s way too big to include series-specific final bosses for every game represented here, but it’s interesting to see which characters get a special final battle. I’m also fully expecting all these bosses to show up in World of Light at some point, since I imagine the developers would try to reuse those assets. The opponents each character faces in their route are also themed. For instance, Ike’s path is called “The Black-Clad Warriors,” referencing the antagonistic Black Knight in Fire Emblem Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn. So all the enemies Ike faces are those whose color palettes are either predominantly black, or they have an alternate costume that is.
There’s other single-player modes, but of them I’ve probably played the most Classic Mode so far. You can adjust the intensity to make it more difficult, but I usually leave it pretty close to 2.0, the default. It increases automatically if you perform well in fights anyway. You can see my current roster below, as the characters marked with little emblems indicate, I’ve completed Classic Mode as 12 characters currently. I just really enjoy the Classic Super Smash Bros. mode, and I’ll say again, it reminds me of playing the single-player mode on Super Smash Bros. on the N64, which might be why it’s so fun to me. Nostalgia is a powerful thing! Aside from that though, Ultimate is really just a fantastic game. I haven’t really played a Super Smash Bros. game since Brawl, since I played such a small amount of Smash for 3DS. I’m blown away by all the enhancements and new characters!
The main “Story Mode” in Ultimate is World of Light, which I’ve started but haven’t played a huge amount of yet. One cool thing right off the bat, you can have up to 3 different save files for it. It does seem pretty fun, if maybe a little light on the “story” part compared to what I remember from Brawl’s story mode. World of Light has its own fighter roster. You start with just Kirby available, and have to unlock every other fighter before they’re added to the roster, which is kind of cool. I’ll get into World of Light more next week probably, I might need to refresh myself on Brawl’s Story Mode, Subspace Emissary, as well, to properly compare the two.