What I'm Playing - No. 59
Image source: Pixabay

What I'm Playing - No. 59

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! Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore (Switch)

I finished chapters 3 and 4 this week, and did a whole slew of side quests as well!

a whole slew of side quests

The chapter boss of chapter 3 gave me a bit of trouble. My characters were probably underleveled, but I didn’t want to go back and grind so I just kept trying despite getting a few Game Overs in a row. Eventually, my team took down the boss and just barely survived! Immediately afterward, our newest party member joined: Mamori, the axe-wielding knight of the group.

The chapter boss of chapter 3 Game Overs Mamori

Once again, I completed a number of side quests between chapters. One involved hunting down some donuts that Tiki wanted, only to find out she can’t eat them since she can’t interact with the human world. Another had Tsubasa learning how to flirt from a cat, and in the first side quest for Mamori, Itsuki helped her gain confidence so she could perform better on her cooking show, Microwavin’ with Mamorin.

some donuts Tsubasa learning how to flirt from a cat Microwavin' with Mamorin

After that, I made my way onward to chapter 4, which naturally meant another Mirage-related incident and a new Idolasphere dungeon to explore. The first mini-boss of the dungeon didn’t result in any Game Overs for me, but it did require some careful strategy. The catch here was you had to defeat all three enemies before they had a chance to revive themselves. When one of their turns rolls around, they’ll always use their turn to revive their fallen allies if you’ve taken one or two down. I used a balance of area-of-effect attacks like Mazio and SP Skills, and managed to defeat them all at the same time.

a new Idolasphere dungeon to explore mini-boss of the dungeon

A few new crafting mechanics were also introduced during my playtime this week. I can now craft stronger versions of previous weapons, provided the character has mastered all the weapon skills and I have the required crafting ingredients. The main benefit of this that I can see is that the character will re-learn all the same skills from the weapon, allowing you to power up your favorite skills further.

stronger versions the weapon

The other new mechanic is Class Change for the main cast’s Mirages. This requires a Master Seal, which you get from bosses or treasure chests, and just like in the Fire Emblem series it allows you to change into the Advanced Classes that the game has to offer. I used a few of these, and first changed Chrom into the Conqueror class. I could have chosen the Great Lord class instead, but I went with Conqueror because I liked the higher HP, attack, and defense stats it granted. After I got more Master Seals, Tharja class changed to Sorcerer, Caeda class changed to Falcon Knight, Virion class changed to Sniper, and Cain class changed to Paladin.

Class Changes Conqueror Tharja class changed to Sorcerer Caeda class changed to Falcon Knight

Another big advancement I made this week was having several of my team members learn the Radiant Skill “Open Audition”, which allows them to perform Session attacks even when they’re not in the active party during battle. Now that a few of my party members have this skill, I can get long Session combos that I couldn’t get before! Getting these long Session combos really whittles down regular enemies’ HP quickly, and it definitely helps against bosses too!

Open Audition long Session combos

chapter 4 boss

The remainder of chapter 4 wasn’t too difficult, though after my first Game Over to the second mini-boss I did spend some time grinding in the bonus EXP dungeon to level up my party by a few levels. This made a big difference, and my next attempt at the mini-boss went much better. Plus, when I reached the chapter boss I was able to beat them on my first attempt!

At the end of chapter 4, Yashiro joins the team to less than enthusiastic reception. He’s pretty good in battle though. He’s basically a Myrmidon from Fire Emblem, and he’s got a Counter skill which baits the enemy into attacking him to prevent damage and counterattack their physical attacks. With Yashiro on the team, I’m pretty sure I’ve got a full party. At least, it doesn’t seem like there’s any more room for characters on the menu screen!

the end of chapter 4 less than enthusiastic reception it doesn't seem like there's any more room for characters on the menu screen

Now that I’ve completed 4 chapters, I believe I’m a little over halfway through the game. I’m still enjoying it a lot! I love the quirkiness of it, the fun characters, and the incredibly fun battle mechanics continue to hold my interest.

Advance Wars (GBA)

I finished the remainder of the Campaign. One of the late game maps took me a long time to overcome, but eventually I was victorious! The rank I got for that one was low, as expected, but hey, a victory is a victory.

a long time low

The end of Campaign sees you finally confronting the true enemy: Sturm. This mission was pretty cool, in that it’s a 3-on-1 fight against Sturm. You control Andy, Grit, and Sami. You basically get 3 turns in a row, controlling each of their armies sequentially.

Sturm Grit

Sturm is no slouch though, and he put up a fierce opposition, even outnumbered like this. His CO Power, Meteor Strike, is also super powerful. It hits an area of the map and reduces the units it hits down to 2 HP. Despite these challenges, I eventually gained the upper hand and claimed victory. Sturm escapes after the battle though, and vows that he will return…which is exactly what he does in Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising. Anyway, with that the campaign is over. Overall, I did alright on it, earning a B Rank.

Meteor Strike claimed victory B Rank

After beating the regular Campaign, you can unlock the Advance Campaign by purchasing it from the Battle Maps store. It consists of the same missions and story as the original Campaign, but with more difficult maps. I’m not planning on trying it out though, I’m fine with the vanilla Campaign experience personally! I really enjoyed playing through Advance Wars’ campaign, it was a nice blast from the past for me seeing how much time I put into Advance Wars Dual Strike so many years ago.

The Sims 4 (PC)

After a long time away from it, I returned to my save in The Sims 4 to continue the adventures of my vampiric global superstar sim, Kaleigh Covarrubias!

global superstar Kaleigh Covarrubias

First off, a new Stuff Pack has released since the last time I played. Tiny Living Stuff adds a number of new items to help you build fully featured homes that are extremely small. You can get various bonuses depending on just how small your home is. It sounds like an interesting concept, but it’s one I didn’t explore at all this week. I was still focused on finishing up the journey Kaleigh started with the release of the previous Expansion Pack: attending university.

Tiny Living Stuff various bonuses

Kaleigh was still in her first term at university when I began, so she had a long way to go. She was pursuing a degree in the culinary arts, because I thought the idea of a vampire studying to be a chef was hilarious. I still think it’s pretty amusing! She lived in the dorms during her first term, with a bunch of other sims, but this got old really quickly for me. The other sims at university seem to leave trash all over the place and always smell bad, and with so many of them living in the dorm, things got out of hand quickly. The only good memory I have of that dorm is the time I had Kaleigh use the “Pretend to Bite” interaction on her roommate. It was a fun bonding experience for both of them, I’m sure!

Pretend to Bite fun bonding experience

For her second term, which began immediately after the first, I moved Kaleigh out of the dorms and into a different university housing building. This one wasn’t a dormitory, and had only 2 bedrooms with 2 beds each. It’s a lot I downloaded from the Gallery that PatronusLight had recommended, and it was really nice! It had plenty of computers and tables for all the students to do their coursework.

different university housing building beds it was really nice

Living in a smaller space with fewer roommates meant it was easier for me to get to know the other sims Kaleigh was living with. I never learned any of their names, but I didn’t get sort of attached to them while they lived there. They were definitely an interesting bunch. For starters, there was the one belonged to some sort of cult and always looked like she was up to something. Then there was Kaleigh’s roommate, who always seemed to be sleeping. One guy was eating food all the time. Lastly, they actually wound up with a 5th roommate that term, since I added a coffin for Kaleigh to hibernate in, but still had her claim a bed. That poor 5th sim was forced to sleep on the couches since there wasn’t a bed for him to use!

the one belonged to some sort of cult and always looked like she was up to something who always seemed to be sleeping One guy was eating food all the time forced to sleep on the couches

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t take long before disaster struck. Prior to enrolling in university, Kaleigh had a hired maid that came everyday to clean her house. Well, apparently when she left for university, the maid came along with her to clean the dorm each day. The maid was an elderly gentleman. That’s important, because on one of the first days of Kaleigh’s 2nd term, he died of old age in the living room. Kaleigh and her roommate mourned for a bit, and then I put his urn on a nearby desk and forgot about him. A few days passed without incident, but then his ghost came out one night to cause some mischief. He broke both sinks in the bathroom and 2 of the 3 showers. His ghost wasn’t all bad though, sometimes he just chilled on the couch.

he died of old age I put his urn on a nearby desk and forgot about him He broke both sinks in the bathroom sometimes he just chilled on the couch

Aside from completing homework and writing papers, I also had Kaleigh join the Debate Guild on campus. It was sort of cool to have her be involved in a university organization, but the highlight of it for me were the Debate Showdowns that occurred once per term. Kaleigh changed into her club outfit each time, and won debates like a champ. It was a cool little event, and though I’m not sure if it has any long term benefit, I’m glad she participated. Plus, they also had scheduled team hangout times where they all bonded over juice pong.

won debates glad she participated juice pong

Eventually, Kaleigh reached the end of the 4th and final term, and it was time for graduation. The graduation ceremony is pretty anticlimactic, your sim just disappears inside the building where they go for classes for a while. But they change into graduation cap and gown for it, so that’s pretty cool. Kaleigh ended with a 4.0 GPA, which was pretty easy to get actually, but I suspect that’s largely due to the fact that Kaleigh didn’t need to sleep since she’s a vampire, and I could have her work on coursework all night with no negative repercussions. Leaving university, I moved Kaleigh back in with Celeste and Bret, the roommates she’d lived with prior to beginning the path of higher education. Now that she’s obtained her degree in culinary arts, I think it’s time to get her started in a career as a 5 star chef!

graduation GPA Celeste and Bret

Hollow Knight (PC)

I began my Hallownest adventures this week by exploring The White Palace. This area was focused on platforming, and demanded some intense precision. Many of the rooms were filled with spinning saw blades that quickly moved back and forth, so I had to time my jumps around those. It would have been very difficult to complete this area if not for the Hiveblood charm. This charm allows you to regenerate 1 HP if you avoid taking damage for a few seconds after being hurt. Since all the damage here is dealt by spikes and you reset on safe ground after touching them, Hiveblood basically guaranteed that I would never run out of HP during the platforming challenges as long as I was patient and let my health regenerate. After getting damaged by spikes and saw blades many times, I eventually made it to the end of the White Palace to claim my prize: the Kingsoul.

The White Palace spinning saw blades the Kingsoul

The Kingsoul is a powerful Charm in its own right, but I was interested in it mainly because it unlocks a new hidden area of the Abyss. Having the Kingsoul let me reach the Knight’s birthplace, deep in the Abyss. After a flashback, you unlock Void Heart. This replaces the Kingsoul charm, and having it in your possession unlocks new endings.

birthplace Void Heart

After getting the Void Heart, Hornet appears outside the Black Egg Temple. Now when you enter the battle against the Hollow Knight, after you’ve damaged it enough Hornet will appear and restrain it. This allows the Knight to strike with the Dream Nail, and confront the source of the Infection inside the Hollow Knight.

Hornet appears outside the Black Egg Temple Hornet will appear and restrain it

The source of that Infection is The Radiance. The Radiance is the real enemy behind the Hollow Knight’s actions, and the true threat to Hallownest. It’s also another challenging boss battle! The Radiance attacks with spikes, rays of light, and fireballs that chase you, all of which deal 2 damage per hit. I died rather quickly on my first two attempts, and as a result had to re-fight the Hollow Knight to get back to The Radiance battle.

The Radiance challenging boss battle

Luckily, by then I could breeze through the battle with the Hollow Knight easily. My third try fighting Radiance, I was successful, and was treated to an incredible scene where the Knight’s body splits open, revealing the Void inside. Meanwhile, the Void from within the Hollow Knight tears open the Radiance’s face, and you get to mash the attack button to have the Knight repeatedly attack their now helpless foe. The Radiance is then pulled down into the Void, and destroyed. The cutscene for this ending shows Hornet waking up in the Temple of the Black Egg alone, with the Knight’s mask lying broken nearby.

revealing the Void inside Hornet waking up in the Temple of the Black Egg alone the Knight's mask lying broken

return to the Void

It’s another very powerful ending. I’m amazed with how much story and lore this game can convey with such little text. There’s some room for interpretation in the ending. Whether or not the Knight is dead isn’t completely clear. I’m of the belief that in this ending the Knight has simply changed form, losing their physical form to return to the Void.

my completion rate

When I got this ending, I was at 93% completion. In most metroidvanias, I would be very happy with this amount, and leave it at that. There are very few games I chase 100% completion for, and I’ve never done it for a metroidvania. But Hollow Knight is different for me, because I just don’t want to stop playing! Using the wiki for information on what I had missed, I quickly brought my completion rate up to 100%! Even though I leaned on the wiki heavily to do it, I’m pretty proud I managed to get 100% completion and beat the game in under 20 hours, because that netted me the Speed Completion Steam achievement! 100% completion doesn’t mean I’ve done everything Hollow Knight has to offer though. The full completion rate is actually 112%, as I believe the extra 12% comes from the free DLC updates that were released after the game’s launch, all of which were installed by default when I downloaded the game.

I don’t think I’ll be going for full 112% completion though. That would require me to beat the all the Pantheons, which are boss rush modes introduced by one of the aforementioned free DLCs. I did the first two to see what they were like, and to my surprise found them very doable. But these were the easiest of the Pantheons, and I’m sure the others offer a much higher challenge. It seems like I’m reaching the end of my Hollow Knight experience. There’s definitely more I could do, but while I respect challenges like the Pantheons and Nightmare King Grimm, I don’t feel the need to overcome them myself. Growing more skilled at the movement and combat in this game has been so rewarding though, I love it!

I did the first two very doable Nightmare King Grimm

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.

What I'm Playing - No. 65

Whittled away at more short Steam games on my backlog, played more New Horizons, and finished Breath of the Wild! Continue reading

What I'm Playing - No. 64

Published on March 23, 2020