What I'm Playing - No. 41
Image source: XXSS IS BACK

What I'm Playing - No. 41

Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!

I finished Earthbound this week, and my writeup on that outstanding experience contains late game and final boss spoilers. If you want to go into the end of the game and/or final boss battle unspoiled, you should stop reading! Don’t even click into this post or scroll down in it, because there’s final boss screenshot spoilers! You’ve been warned!

Games contained within this post:

  • Earthbound (SNES)
  • Valkyria Chronicles (PC)

Earthbound (SNES)

I finished Earthbound this week. Boy, what a game. It’s a great journey with a unique feel. Having finished it, I’m now pretty excited to try Mother 3 someday!

finished Earthbound a great journey

Sort of late in the playthrough, final party member Poo joins the group. After eating some “Magic Cake,” Ness has a vivid dream in which he sees Poo in his home country, far away. You play as Poo during a brief sequence in which he completes his training. Once his training is complete, Poo uses PSI Teleport and teleports to Ness and company in Summers, pledging to help Ness defeat the evil Giygas.

has a vivid dream he completes his training pledging to help Ness

The 5th and 6th Your Sanctuary spots were very close together. Right after I got Poo, I teleported back to Fourside and investigated the sewers beneath the museum. You’re subtly directed to this when speaking to an NPC in the Summers museum. I didn’t know what would be down in the sewers, but it turns out it was the 5th Your Sanctuary. Then immediately after that, I teleported back to Poo’s home country to use a newly acquired key item from the 5th Sanctuary, and the location that unlocked turned out to be the 6th Sanctuary. And the 6th one was quite short! Completing those two Sanctuaries so close together was pretty exciting actually, because they were the first ones I completed with the full party of 4, and also because there were only 2 remaining afterward!

5th Your Sanctuary Completing those two Sanctuaries

The journey then took us across a perilous sea on a small boat, fighting the Kraken along the way. After the voyage, we reached the desert town, Scaraba.

perilous sea on a small boat Kraken Scaraba

From there, the adventure took so many wild turns. We explored a pyramid. Then we explored the inside of Dungeon Man. Then we got into a submarine, travelled in it to the swampy Deep Darkness, and made contact with the shy Tenda tribe. After helping them overcome their shyness, we were able to reach the 7th Your Sanctuary. Afterward, we travelled to the Underworld, which is filled with dinosaurs. Next to them, Ness and company are tiny. The 8th and final Your Sanctuary awaited there.

the swampy Deep Darkness the shy Tenda tribe the Underworld Your Sanctuary

As soon as you complete the final Your Sanctuary, Ness passes out. You then must brave the Magicant dungeon inside his mind, without your other party members. This was a really cool section of the game. You see enemies and allies you encountered on the way. A few of them remark how they’re in pain, possibly in reference to how Ness regrets having to fight them. In the end, Ness faces the enemy “Ness’s Nightmare,” confronting his fears and doubts. By overcoming this obstacle, he is able to unlock his true potential. He immediately gains several stat boosts, learns upgraded PSI abilities, and gains a big chunk of experience. This was such a cool way to use the game mechanics to show that this was a big turning point for Ness. After completing this trial, he actually does get significantly stronger!

Magicant confronting his fears and doubts unlock his true potential

I don’t want to drone on too long about the rest of the game, but it’s just chock full of cool stuff. You travel back to Onett, and it’s now overrun with powerful minions of Giygas. I happened to talk to Ness’s dog during this point, and he makes a neat remark about how Ness and his friends are probably the strongest force in the world now. Thanks, dog!

travel back to Onett powerful minions of Giygas he makes a neat remark

Of course the journey culminates with the battle against Giygas, and he is something. He is so terrifying and powerful that he and his attacks are beyond human comprehension. This is represented by his lack of a proper enemy sprite. He’s instead depicted using various distorted backgrounds that bend and warp. As the battle goes on, the background gets more and more distorted, and Giygas says some cryptic dialogue lines as well. Upon his defeat, the battle II disappears, and the background morphs to static, just like the static shown during the intro when booting up the game.

he is something distorted backgrounds the background gets more and more distorted some cryptic dialogue lines

After the final battle, there’s an epilogue sequence where Paula asks Ness to escort her home. At this point, you’re free to travel wherever you want. Many NPCs have unique dialogue referring to how Ness and his friends saved the world, or something like that. This is a wonderful addition to the game, as you can see how the world has changed now that Giygas is no more.

epilogue sequence something like that

Eventually, you need to return home. You can actually return home without dropping Paula off first. I made a save state beforehand to be able to see both endings. They’re only slightly different, with Ness’s mom having slightly different dialogue if Paula is still with you when you return home. In the end, with their journey at its end, Ness and his friends return to their lives as normal kids, and that’s the end.

you need to return home return to their lives as normal kids the end

Before the credits, there’s a really cool “Cast” credits crawl. Basically all the characters you met in the game scroll past. I loved this, and it gave me another chance to appreciate the not-so-hidden puns in several characters names!

Cast scroll past puns

The actual credits were a neat sequence as well. Throughout the game, a strange photographer man would descend from the sky at several points to take a picture of Ness and company. These photos are shown during the credits sequence, and I think they actually take into account my party’s state when the photograph was taken, because Jeff was KO’d during one of the photos!

actual credits photos Jeff was KO'd during one of the photos

Well, I think I’ve rambled long enough about Earthbound, for now. I loved this game! It aged remarkably well, although certain aspects or design choices seem a little dated. The pace can be kind of slow at times, so I was glad to be playing it on an emulator where I can use the fast forward feature from time to time. Overall though, it was a great RPG, and I haven’t played another game quite like it! There’s probably a whole slew of modern games inspired by it. I know Undertale, for example, is said to be heavily influenced by Earthbound. But I haven’t played that yet, so Earthbound was a brand new kind of experience in gaming for me, and I’m super glad I finally played through the whole thing!

Valkyria Chronicles (PC)

I only just started this at the very end of the week, but it seems like it will be right up my alley so far!

right up my alley

Originally a PS3 game, it was later brought to a ton of different platforms, including PC with a release on Steam. I’ve had it in my Steam backlog for a while. It’s a tactical turn-based game with anime characters and a sort of watercolor, cel-shaded art style.

anime watercolor, cel-shaded

The game takes place in a fictional world reminiscent of World War II Europe. I mean, it’s even called Europa. Being modeled after World War II era, battle is fought with guns, tanks, and probably some sorts of aircraft too but I haven’t gotten that far yet! The basic premise is that there are 2 big superpowers in the world, The Empire, and the Atlantic Federation. The Empire takes over the Atlantic Federation in Europa’s equivalent of WWII, and then sets its sights on the neutral and peaceful country, Gallia. Though out numbered, the Gallians fight back to protect their home, and the player follows and controls them on their way! The way this is presented is really interesting, it’s all portrayed as happening in the pages of a history book. It’s pretty neat!

The Empire Gallia Gallians fight back

Combat is turn-based but not played on a grid. Instead, you can move freely when controlling a character, and they have a meter that depletes as they move so they can only move a certain amount. While in movement mode, enemies will fire at you if you’re close enough to them. From movement mode, you can enter targeting mode. The character you’re controlling them takes aim. Enemies don’t fire on you during targeting mode, so you have time to plan and line up your shot. Once you’ve committed to a target, your character fires a set amount of shots automatically, and they land somewhere within the targeting reticle that was shown. The enemy can return fire after your attack, so it’s wise to have your character safely behind cover before launching an attack! Controlling a character on your turn uses up 1 CP. In the first mission I played, I had 3 total CP per turn - just enough to control each of the characters under my command once. After you’ve used all your CP, or manually ended your turn, it’s the opponents turn, and the all the same mechanics apply to them.

Combat movement mode targeting mode

Valkyria Chronicles seems like it will be a super fun game for me. The setting seems really interesting, thematically it reminds me of Advance Wars in a way, but more serious. And the combat system is really cool. I’m excited to really get into it!

Valkyria Chronicles excited

Ben

(bsinky)
Ben
The self-proclaimed "Guy with the Backlog", as of this writing his Steam backlog is slowly growing to the point of consuming him. Meanwhile, he spends most of his time trying to catch up on the retro classics he missed, as well as replaying the games he grew up with.

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