Speedrunning is hard (Whimsical Weekend #24)

Honestly. On the Phoenotopia leaderboard, there are now 10 total categories: 3 main and 7 miscellaneous. I aim to get a satisfactory time in every established category (notwithstanding subcategories), and I wanted to get one in New Game + (more on that later) before the writing of this article, but the process is so painstaking that I ended up preferring to prioritize writing over grinding. So, here are some miscellaneous categories that I’ve established since the last time I reported:

Diamond Skin

Named after the medal of the same name, this category involves increasing maximum HP to 99—that is, collecting all 23 Heart Rubies and consuming five Chocolate Protein Shakes. I was initially reluctant about establishing this category because one of the Heart Rubies requires 40 moonstones, but later on I thought, “Ah, what the heck.” I mean, it’s a safer category, and the existing categories are not particularly minimalistic about Heart Ruby collecting.

I have not yet started routing this, and it will be at the bottom of my priority list.

Cheat%

For this category and the next two, kudos to fellow Flash game runner Jhynjhiruu for programming a command line tool to decrypt and modify save passwords (it’s on the Resources page of the leaderboard, under Tools, named Phoenomanager). Jhyn also did a Reddit post with a detailed explanation of the intricacies of the save password system. With this tool and information handy, I decided to establish categories revolving around files created by save passwords. (Admittedly, I took inspiration from the SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom leaderboard for the category names.)

Cheat% means getting to the final cutscene from any save file, any at all. The only thing you absolutely have to do to get there is view the cutscene before it, where Billy revives a Phoenix weapon. The simplest appropriate save password meets the following criteria (according to the aforementioned Reddit post):

  • Spawn in room 193 (the room where the cutscene begins)
  • Game time of 50 or so (this is needed for the cutscene trigger)
  • Spawn at point [x = 1100, y = 242] (roughly the location of the cutscene trigger)

The issue is: When you finish the cutscene and get to the escape sequence, you’ll notice immediately that the camera stays in one spot and does not follow Gale. This happens because, if Big Eye is not yet defeated, the camera is bound to a particular set of coordinates, which is…inconvenient, to be sure.

For this reason, and due to the fact that major glitches are not necessary for anything past or including Big Eye, I decided to use the No Major Glitches subcategory to split two types of Cheat% runs: those that involve defeating Big Eye (No Major Glitches), and those that don’t (Standard).

For runs involving Big Eye, it is ideal to spawn in room 192 (the Big Eye room) at point [x = 750, y = 236] (a ground location close enough to the leftmost of the mini eyes).

I did manage to get a decent run of Cheat% with No Major Glitches, clocking in at 3:15 RTA.

However, I don’t plan to do Standard any time soon, because learning the escape sequence blind seems like a huge pain. (It has potential to save 35 seconds over the NMG counterpart, though.)

Here is a Pastebin where I keep my cheat% save passwords: https://pastebin.com/1jqrc1ZJ

New Game Plus

Similar to any%, except starting from a mostly empty save file and with skipping the intro cutscene. By “mostly empty,” I mean: You start a new file, get the save password after the intro cutscene, and can only modify inventory (excluding keys), equipment, coins, and HP. This implies the following:

  • Spawn in room 5 (Gale’s bedroom)
  • Game time of 0
  • Starting point [x = 1724, y = 402] (where Gale starts off the first moment the player can control her)
  • General and Key arrays set completely false
  • Key codes unaltered

Anything I haven’t mentioned is insignificant and therefore will not be monitored in run validation.

As for skipping the intro cutscene, that’s something that I’ve always prohibited in the non-password categories, mostly because it provides unwelcome complication in starting a run. For password categories, however, the process of generating the appropriate save password is complicated enough per se that further complication is meaningless.

So, what part of New Game + is painstaking? Well, you could say that I have higher standards for it because it’s a shorter category than any% (by about 12 minutes). I mean, the only real thing that makes me want to reset per se is getting an extra cycle on any boss in the game. (Somehow, I’ve lost 3 runs to missing the one-cycle on Big Eye.) For other flubs, I add them up to determine whether to reset or keep going. Even so, they somehow quite often add up to an extent that aggravates me. (For example, there was a run where Harpy Skip took obscenely long and I failed the bomb puzzle after that.)

This is top priority, and the run is so close that I can almost taste it.

Resources

200% (renamed Hundo Plus as of May 24)

NG+ but with 100% collection rate. This is currently uncharted territory, but I’m looking forward to it. (There’s a whole lot to look into.)

Note: In spite of the name, you actually only have to add 90% to the collection rate, because you start off with 10% from having the Morning Star, Nebula Armlet, Lucky Belt, Blood Ring, and Ancient Armor from the get-go. The other 90% is Heart Rubies, moonstones, unlocking Mystery Bento, and restoring Aella’s memories.

 

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

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At a standstill 4 (Whimsical Weekend #22)

Somehow I feel like it’s been quite a long time since the last time I said I was at a standstill. At the very least, quite a bit has happened since then.

Again starting with Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2. Turns out I managed to complete absolutely everything (including 100 mil credits and Colosseum plans) except Stella’s Dungeon. I was thinking at first that it was rather tedious (and I don’t want to cheat my way through it), but I feel like, if I approach it as I did the Pokémon freemium 3DS games back before working full-time, it might not be so bad. Going beyond, as eager as I am to finish the trilogy with Re;Birth 3, I feel that perhaps it would be preferable to savor the fruits of the effort taken to complete Re;Birth 2. And also…

I recently started Doki Doki Literature Club, a free-to-play visual novel on Steam. It disguises itself as a cutesy, anime-inspired dating simulator, but it’s no secret that beneath this surface lies some disturbing content. Even so, at this point in time, I am prepared for anything, specifically a psychological thrill to throw off my attraction towards Japanese culture. With that in mind, I am putting off Re;Birth 3 until after completing DDLC, if nothing else.

Also since last time, I discovered all the remaining shrines of Breath of the Wild (including the new DLC ones) and increased my Korok seed count to 533 (admittedly mostly thanks to the Korok Mask from early DLC). I’ll be on and off searching for the remaining seeds, because the seeds are tedious to search for, but the game is still fun to play from time to time.

…And that’s about it to report.

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

More Phoenotopia on my mind (Whimsical Weekend #21)

The root cause of this sudden flash (no pun intended) of inspiration is that the Phoenotopia dev blog announced in December 2017 the existence of a dedicated Discord server. The community grew quite a fair bit in the first few months, and there was even enough interest in speedrunning the game for a #speedrunning channel to be created. This made me consider that perhaps there is more to be done for the speedrun.com leaderboard.

For starters, there was talk about doing any% without buying the Iron Hammer. Low% would be an inaccurate name for the category because Phoenotopia’s percentage counter is independent of the Iron Hammer, but when I thought back to the Most Dangerous Arsenal miscellaneous category idea, it dawned on me. That’s when I decided to stop saving additional categories until I do runs of them (and that’s kinda unfair in the first place) and establish two new miscellaneous categories:

  • Most Dangerous Arsenal – Based on a medal of the same name, this category involves completely filling all the TOOLS and MISC slots in the pause menu. (P.S.: The armor slot must contain Ancient Armor.)
  • Least Dangerous Arsenal – Based on the previous category, this category involves beating the game with minimal equipment. This means that only the following items may occupy the TOOLS and MISC slots:
    • Wooden Bat
    • Slingshot
    • Artifact
    • Rolling Technique Scroll
    • Bombs
    • Rocket Boots
    • Javelin
    • Floatation Donut
    • Green Bracelet / Bandit Boss / Golem Head

I also established a No Major Glitches subcategory that prohibits the use of Loot Duping, Pot Head Clipping, and Door Pushing.

On top of that, remember when I said that All Heart Rubies was a bad idea? Well, I considered the coexistence of All Moonstones and Most Dangerous Arsenal. They are more similar than you’d think (you have to get 25 moonstones (for one of the Asteroid Rocks for the Morning Star) to complete MDA), and perhaps 100% and All Heart Rubies are in the same boat (you have to have 40 moonstones to obtain the Heart Ruby at Hidden Village), so…yeah, now All Heart Rubies is also established as a miscellaneous category.

In light of the newly established categories, I wanted to do a Most Dangerous Arsenal run, but several attempts yielded nothing satisfactory. Then February came along, a telltale sign that Flash Marathon III was drawing near. Thus, I decided to put MDA on hold and focus on All Moonstones. At first I figured that the category could use a bit of rerouting, which later led me to wanting to PB before the marathon. (If I ended up not getting the PB over this weekend, I would have discarded the idea and focused on practicing the no-reset and commentary-related aspects of the marathon run.) Thankfully, I ended up doing so.

I’m honestly still kinda irritated about how Forgotten Forest pressure plate puzzle went, but everything else was totally acceptable.

So, next up is practicing for the marathon (and, obviously, running in said marathon). Afterwards, I’m considering transitioning to Any% No Major Glitches (which, if there ever happens to be a fourth Flash marathon, will probably be my next marathon category of choice).

 

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Radiant Historia (Whimsical Weekend #20)

Still a weekend thanks to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Radiant Historia is a DS game dating back to 2011 (in North America, at least), so it might seem strange that I’m reviewing it now of all times. Well, to tell the truth, I never knew about it until I received it as a present just last Christmas. That said, I managed to beat the game just last night (with 40+ hours of gameplay, level 61 Stocke and Marco, and level 60 Aht), and I ended up completing all but 40 nodes in the White Chronicle, which includes having missed:

  • 3 Marco scrolls
  • 2 Raynie scrolls
  • 2 Rosch cores
  • 2 Gafka books
  • 2 Stocke pacts
  • 2 Aht pacts
  • 1 Eruca pact

…which is a shame, because my two partners of choice ended up being Aht and Marco.

Why? In the initial stages, I only ever used Raynie and Marco, apart from scripted events and one super annoying miniboss fight (I’ll get to that later). But later on, when I got to the Cygnus part of the story, when Stocke finds Aht before any other of his allies, I came to really admire Aht’s fighting style. She places traps on the field that deal insane damage, and I’ve always liked being able to push enemies around, so…yeah.

So, that’s the reason for Aht. As for Marco: He, Rosch, and Gafka are the only characters with easy-to-acquire skills that pull enemies forward, and I figured that Marco would be the most beneficial due to his access to plenty of healing skills (not to mention Rosch and Gafka aren’t around as often).

And even if traps are out of the question (such as if the enemy takes up all 9 opposing tiles), Aht still proves to have decent damage output with Cross Star (especially if boosted by Marco), and the two partners are robust in the support skills that they possess. That is to say, not only are both very effective healers, but Marco can boost all allies’ Defense, while Aht can boost Magic Defense and, more importantly, ailment resistance. On another note, both have Weakness Scan.

So…yeah. Aht is a literal and figurative beast, and Marco is a robust supporter.

Other things I enjoyed about the game:

  • The timeline mechanic is a pleasant reminder of the Zero Escape series, but applied to an RPG instead of a visual novel / puzzle.
  • The combat places enemies on a 3*3 grid reminiscent of the MegaMan Battle Network series, and core mechanics include pushing enemies around and changing turn order. It may be turn-based, but all ally turns are executed before the next enemy turn, so combo execution can really feel good and look cool.
  • I like that the main character (Stocke) is laconic and antihero-ish but still has the basic social and combat skills to deal with most situations. Also brings into relief the side characters of the game.
  • Speaking of, I have an unhealthy obsession with Lippti.
  • The music is composed by Yoko Shimomura, who also composed for the Kingdom Hearts and Mario & Luigi series. So, naturally, it’s good music. Has emotional tunes, upbeat tunes, and everything in between. My personal favorite track is the miniboss music.

But, even the best of game experiences come with a few gripes.

  • Backtracking to a node in the timeline puts you at the beginning of the cutscene associated with that node, instead of the moment when you are first able to assume control of Stocke. Sure, you can speed through text boxes by holding the X button, but that’s just text boxes; the animations take the same amount of time every time. I find this particularly bothersome for the beginning node of Alternate History Chapter 1 (A New Mission), which has an exceptionally long cutscene for what it’s worth.
    1/16 edit: Well, it just came to my attention that you can skip cutscenes entirely using the Start button. Now I feel stupid for not trying that.
  • I can’t help wishing that Elm (Celestia’s military commander) had full art instead of just a sprite. She seems like she would look cute.
  • The miniboss battle in Alternate History Chapter 4, just past the Celestian War node, is honestly the most annoying fight I’ve had to deal with. At the time, the main three (Stocke, Raynie, Marco) were at level 40-ish, and Rosch was at around level 20. The battle starts off with a thaumachine (story term for an automaton) taking up the top and center tiles of the enemy grid, backed with four naval mine lookalike enemies called Clockwork Thunder taking up the corners. The Clockwork Thunder enemies cannot be pushed around, they’re difficult to one-shot with multi-target skills, and they only ever use a skill called Self-destruct that deals an easy 200 damage to whatever it targets (which, at the time, was at least half every character’s HP), only at the expense of disappearing from the field. What’s more is, when the Clockwork Thunder enemies are all gone, the thaumachine uses Floating Bomb to summon a row of three in the farthest available row in the back (unless it’s at low HP, in which case it can use Bull Crash, another painstakingly strong move). I ended up being able to survive with Rosch and Raynie as partners, and my general strategy was to keep the thaumachine in the back and use Rosch’s Gull Swing to take out the Clockwork Thunder enemies all at once (at the time, Gull Swing would barely fall short of KOing Clockwork Thunder in the back), all while using Raynie’s Thunder and Stocke’s Fire (well, in the few opportunities when Stocke didn’t have to heal anyone) to whittle away at the thaumachine. What a pain it was.
  • Another annoying part of the game is the second room of the final dungeon. The gimmick behind the room is that you defeat these floating block enemies and they become obstacles to push and create paths. It’s not a huge issue per se, but there are some crystal enemies along the path that respawn during the cutscene where the blocks become movable. It’s especially a pain for completionists (like me) who want to get the two chests at the beginning of the room (behind rocks that can only be exploded by hidden barrels at the end of the path). I mean, it’s really only the respawning thing that cheeses me off, but this is a prime example of that.

I think that’s all that needs to be said about Radiant Historia. There is a 3DS remake (titled Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology) slated for overseas release next month, but I’ll just settle for having played the original. As for the remaining 40 nodes and stuff, I will scoop them up using walkthroughs (such as this one) because I’d rather not go through the tedium of scouting them out on my own.

Overall rating: 9.3/10. Simple but fun.

 

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

I have been playing Pokémon Ultra Moon (Whimsical Weekend #19)

I’m sorry to say that I’ll be keeping this brief, because I’ve said plenty about Pokémon Sun in Whimsical Weekend #6 (which just so happens to be not much less than a year ago), and I don’t have much to add to that. I owe this mostly to the fact that I don’t have nearly as much time nowadays to spend on video games (let alone what the fanbase calls a “remake” of Sun/Moon) and therefore haven’t been through anywhere near as much postgame as in the case of Sun.

…Well, to be more accurate, the one thing above all else that inhibits me from going through Ultra Moon postgame is: the quest for a good Stakataka.

First off, I’m looking for a Lonely nature with a Defense IV of 15 or less, so that it will gain Attack from Beast Boost if fully trained in Attack. More importantly, I’m going for as little Speed as possible, which is simple for me to check, considering I just so happen to have a Vullaby with exactly 21 Speed. (The Speed value of a level 60 Stakataka with a neutral nature and 0 IV in Speed is 20.) Simple as it is, though, it’s not that easy. If it was any earlier year, I would have had much more patience in constantly resetting for this sort of thing than I do now. But hey, if talk like that isn’t convincing enough, how about some statistics?

  • Chance of Lonely Nature (with Synchronize Elgyem): 50%
  • Chance of Speed not being one of the three guaranteed perfect IVs: 50% (10/20)
  • Chance of Speed IV being 0: 3.125% (1/32)
    • Chance of Speed IV being 1 and losing a speed tie with Vullaby: 1.5625% (1/32 * 1/2)
    • Chance of either of the above: 4.6875%
  • Chance of Defense IV being 15 or below: 50% (16/32)

So…we’re looking at nearly a half-percent chance of an acceptable scenario. Not as daunting as the chance of encountering a shiny Pokémon with regular odds, but still quite a pain to go for.

 

Anyway, enough about that. Remember this snipped that I posted in Whimsical Weekend #6?

Well, I decided to use 4 of those 6 in the creation of my Ultra Moon team, and it turned out like this:

I don’t remember how they were when I beat the Pokémon League, but here’s their current status. (Yeah, I still play the game in French.)

Gaebora (Decidueye) [Archéduc] (M)
Ability: Overgrow [Engrais]
Level: 69
Mild Nature [Doux]
Stats: 197/171/105/169/163/147
– Leaf Blade [Lame-Feuille]
– Spirit Shackle [Tisse Ombre]
– U-turn [Demi-Tour]
– Nature Power [Force-Nature]

Blanc (Sandslash-Alola) [Sablaireau] (F) @ Focus Band [Bandeau]
Ability: Snow Cloak [Rideau Neige]
Level: 66
Lax Nature [Lâche]
Stats: 192/174/199/53/96/122
– Iron Head [Tête de Fer]
– Ice Punch [Poing Glace]
– Bulldoze [Piétisol]
– Metal Burst [Fulmifer]

Kirche (Salazzle) [Malamandre] @ BrightPowder [Poudre Claire]
Ability: Corrosion [Corrosion]
Level: 66
Naive Nature [Naïf]
Stats: 188/119/98/151/104/203
– Flamethrower [Lance-Flammes]
– Venoshock [Choc Venin]
– Toxic [Toxik]
– Dragon Pulse [Dracochoc]

Théo (Bewear) [Chelours] (M) @ Leftovers [Restes]
Ability: Fluffy [Boule de Poils]
Level: 66
Relaxed Nature [Relax]
Stats: 253/202/139/105/106/105
– Hammer Arm [Marto-Poing]
– Facade [Façade]
– Payback [Représailles]
– Thrash [Mania]

Asui (Araquanid) [Tarenbulle] (F) @ Quick Claw [Vive Griffe]
Ability: Water Bubble [Aquabulle]
Level: 66
Modest Nature [Modeste]
Stats: 187/116/135/92/192/100
– Liquidation [Aqua-Brèche]
– Scald [Ébullition]
– Leech Life [Vampirisme]
– Mirror Coat [Voile Miroir]

Courange (Lycanroc-Dusk) [Lougaroc] (M) @ Normalium Z [Normazélite]
Ability: Tough Claws [Griffe Dure]
Level: 66
Adamant Nature [Rigide]
Stats: 185/216/98/86/109/192
– Rock Slide [Éboulement]
– Drill Run [Tunnelier]
– Thunder Fang [Crocs Éclair]
– Happy Hour [Étrennes]

In terms of nicknames, Gaebora and Kirche are the only ones I really kept, while the others are arguably improved over what I had before. In particular, I figured based on Sandslash’s tanky stats that Blanc would be a far more fitting name for it than Hokuto, and Théo is far less generic than any other Bewear nickname I can think of. (Théo is named after Theodore Roosevelt, who is known as Teddy.)

Asui is admittedly kind of a stretch for Araquanid (considering its namesake), but I’m proud of Courange. Why? It was first intended to be a simple portmanteau of “coucher” (as in sunset) and “orange” (the color of Lycanroc-Dusk), but when I thought deeper, I realized that there are even more words that can be associated with the nickname:

  • “courir” (to run)
  • “courage”
  • “cou” (the neck, the sweet spot in Poké Refresh)
  • “range” (as in range of movement)
  • “ange” (angel)

…So I thought, but the more ideas I come up with, the more they seem…off. Oh well.

As for movesets, don’t worry about what I listed them as in Whimsical Weekend #6; the me back then was a bit naïve in some aspects, particularly when it comes to moves that can only be obtained post-game. *coughEarthquakeonAlolanSandslashcough*

And yes, I did soft-reset for Adamant Lycanroc-Dusk. It’s what I believe to be the ideal nature for a Z-Happy Hour user, which is precisely the role that I ended up assigning to Courange. Shame that it has absolutely no 100% accurate attacks (unless I were to teach it Accelerock, which I’m not down for).

By the way, now that I think about it, there was something that I wanted to mention about Ultra Sun/Moon that wasn’t in regular Sun/Moon. Four words: ROTOM. NEVER. SHUTS. UP. Really, does that stinking piece of scrap metal think that it’s a good idea to babble about silly tutorial things, regardless whether or not the player has already demonstrated knowledge of such things, 90% of the time after closing the pause menu or finishing a battle? Ugh, the nerve.

So, that’s my main complaint about Ultra SuMo. That said, there were a few pleasant surprises within the main story. Particularly:

  • Totem Wishiwashi and Salazzle being replaced by Araquanid and Alolan Marowak respectively
  • The entire Fairium Z trial (I actually had to soft-reset against Totem Ribombee)
  • Ultra Necrozma
  • New environment and timing for the fourth Grand Trial
  • A Steel-type dude taking Hala’s place in the Elite Four
  • Hau contending for the Champion title, instead of Kukui defending it

 

Pff, man, I said I’d be brief, but this still ended up being almost a thousand words. Not to mention it took a longer time than I thought. But, I think that’s all I have to say here.

À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Super Mario Odyssey! (Whimsical Weekend #18)

I bought this game on release date (October 28), but between having a full-time job, some unspoken second thing, and wanting to finish Breath of the Wild main quests first, I never had the pleasure of playing it until 2 days later. That said, I enjoyed the crap out of the game and managed to 100% complete it in roughly 45 hours overall. Now, don’t be deceived by quantities (namely that I’ve spent 125 total hours on Breath of the Wild as of now), because I have to say that Super Mario Odyssey has a better ratio of quality to time spent. But, comparing the two games is like comparing apples to oranges, so I’ll just discard any further notion of doing so.

First off, a synopsis. Bowser schemes to arrange a marriage with Peach, and Mario has no choice but to interfere. However, Mario starts off being kicked off Bowser’s airship and lost in some mysterious location, his hat torn to shreds. Fortunately, this mysterious location happens to be the hometown of a hat-like ghost named Cappy, who meets Mario and ends up becoming his sidekick by giving him special powers, notably the ability to control particular creatures. While Bowser is out wreaking havoc and stealing valuables from a multitude of kingdoms, Mario and Cappy give chase, hoping to eventually rescue Peach (and Cappy’s sister, Tiara, who accompanies Peach throughout the story).

Simply put, Odyssey has a rather standard plot, but you can’t expect much different from a main series Mario game, eh? I mean, what makes a Mario game good is the music, atmosphere, and gameplay.

Starting with the music, Odyssey has a great soundtrack all around, with both original compositions and blasts from the past. Here’s a list of my top 3 picks in ascending order: Bowser’s Castle 2, Steam Gardens, and Honeylune Ridge: Caves. (As a side note, I have to say: The Wooded Kingdom music always reminds me of Llama by Phish.)

In terms of atmosphere, I don’t have much to say on the matter, except regarding the quirky characters of the game. I mean, there’s not much that I can say about everything else, because I’m not the type to be easily moved by any sort of scenery or inspired by any sort of theme. Anyways, regarding the characters… I’ll start with minor notes regarding minor characters.

  • The residents of Shiveria are adorable. My favorite minor characters, hands down.
  • “OTEP” is a nonsensical word said by the human NPCs of the game, particularly the bassist of Metro Kingdom. It’s become a meme on Twitch, so don’t be surprised if you see the word thrown around every now and then (to say the least).
  • Not exactly a character, but darned if Burrbos aren’t the most annoying enemy in the game. They’re like Miniblins from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. They die in one hit, but they respawn constantly, make annoying noises, and are extremely pesky with their means of dealing damage.

Next up: talk about Cappy. His powers are irreplaceable, and he definitely tries his best to be a helpful sidekick. Although his help occasionally comes in handy (particularly when it comes to postgame moon/coin hunting), it’s mostly redundant to people (like me) who end up having learned more about the game than the developers would expect (specifically when it comes to gameplay techniques and normally self-explanatory moments). It also makes me curious that he and Tiara pronounce his name more like “Kyappy” than “Cappy”, presumably because the voice actors are Japanese. More importantly, his cries for help after being captured by Klepto are really annoying.

Now, last but definitely not least is the gameplay. I want to say there hasn’t been a Mario game with such satisfying movement since Sunshine or 64. Granted it kinda follows in the footsteps of 3D World, but the cat suit is not absolutely needed (in other words, taking damage does not absolutely negate the fastest form of movement). It’s no secret that Odyssey was developed at least somewhat with speedrunning in mind, considering the movement options, skippable cutscenes, Koopa Freerunning, and a few sequence breaks that Cappy comments on. Even so, it can just as easily be played casually by virtue of its design. What’s also cool is that there’s a multitude of 2D sections in the game despite it being 3D, and even with some throwbacks to age-old games such as Donkey Kong and SMB1.

And contrary to 3D World’s linearity in design, Odyssey has two types of collectibles: moons and purple coins. Some of the purple coins may be a major headache to get (read: Lake Kingdom underwater zipper and Bowser’s Kingdom lantern), but the concept of purple coins makes the game more of a collectathon like Sunshine. (3D World only had stars, stamps, and maybe flagpoles.) I mean, some of the moons were also a pain, namely:

  • Dark Side moons 3 and 4 (Breakdown Road: Hurry! and Breakdown Road: Final Challenge!) – This is the start of a series of challenges that are repeats of earlier moons except that you have to use Cappy to get in and therefore can’t use him within the rooms (like how Super Mario Sunshine secrets have Shadow Mario stealing FLUDD). Well, I didn’t know they were repeats at the time; most of them I did before the original moons. Anyway, it’s some tough crud, lemme tell ya. Although, admittedly I was a bit too search-happy with this particular challenge, but the long jump sequence is challenging regardless.
  • Dark Side moons 5 and 6 (Invisible Road: Rush! and Invisible Road: Secret!) – Honest to goodness, there were times when I felt like I was clearly stepping on the giant Poison Piranhas but ended up somehow getting hit instead. Deceitfully difficult stuff.
  • Dark Side moons 11 and 12 (Yoshi on the Sinking Island and Fruit Feast on the Sinking Island) – This is not part of the series mentioned above. I find it cool that you can directly control Yoshi in this game instead of riding on his back; it feels a bit more like symbiosis than the usual master-servant relationship. Even so, I didn’t know, nor did I think I needed to know, about Yoshi’s climbing technique, so my first playthrough of the challenge consisted of sideflip fluttering and a whole metric frick ton of deaths. I mean, at least the fruit counter doesn’t reset when you die, but it’s always agonizing when the lava catches up (usually no thanks to the spike ball cycles), especially at high HP.
  • Darker Side (a.k.a. Champion’s Road 0.5), although apparently some major skip was discovered for that level. This was actually the first place where I realized that you could control Glydon.
  • Moon Kingdom moon 16 (Found on the Moon, Good Dog!) – It wasn’t in any of the craters that the dog could access, so I had no clue where it could possibly be. I tried using Hint Toad, but the hint he gives only points to the dog, so I just had to keep trying. Turns out the moon is between the debris-filled crater and the straw dummy for moon 7 (Moon Kingdom Timer Challenge 1).
  • Moon Kingdom moon 28 (Mysterious Flying Object) – I went through so much trouble trying to figure out how to catch the UFO, not realizing that the solution was simply a homing cap throw.
  • Metro Kingdom moon 36 (Celebrating in the Streets!) – I missed this secret the first time, and it was such a pain to find it postgame, even with the help of Talkatoo and the Hint Toad.
  • Cap Kingdom moon 7 (Slipping Through the Poison Tide) – Somehow I didn’t notice the hole in the gate across from the entrance at first, and that was also the location of three of the purple coins that I was missing before I realized.
  • Cap Kingdom moon 13 (Taxi Flying Through Bonneton) – I was confused when Hint Toad led me to the binoculars, and that was when I figured out that there are certain moons that require looking at oddities in the sky. (Others include Cascade Kingdom moon 25, Metro Kingdom moon 59, and Bowser’s Kingdom moon 39.)
  • Cap Kingdom moon 17 (hint art) – I thought for so long that those were carpets like in Tostarena; I never imagined people on the moon. The blue circle in the background was the main giveaway, though.
  • Sand Kingdom moon 76 (On the Eastern Pillar) – This one was a pain—but possible—to get without motion controls. That is to say, I was on gamepad at the time, so I didn’t even think motion controls were possible, but I painstakingly found a way to get the moon anyway. What I did was I went to the Tostarena Ruins Sand Pillar location, went to the pillars closest to the east of the nearest Bullet Bill cannon, lured a Bullet Bill from the south pillar, took its hat off at the north pillar, and threw Cappy at the very northeast corner of the pillar while luring the Bullet Bill to where I threw him. This allowed me to reach the box without shaking at all, just holding Y.
  • Luncheon Kingdom moon 53 (Diving from the Big Pot!) – While capturing a Lava Bubble in the giant stew pot, do a rather precise jump to the smaller stew pot on top of the slots building in the plaza. The consequence of failing? Having to warp to the Top of the Peak Climb checkpoint and get back to the giant pot. This particular moon wasn’t a huge struggle, taking me only 2-3 tries, but it set forth a greater struggle that I had on moon 50.
  • Luncheon Kingdom moon 50 (The Rooftop Lantern) – I did this right after moon 53, so I did the exact same thing for this moon, and it was a whole lot more painstaking due to being slightly farther away and having a smaller hitbox. (It took me upwards of 10 tries.) That was before I realized that I could just take a Fire Bro. from beyond the Path to the Meat Plateau checkpoint back to the plaza.
  • Mushroom Kingdom moon 28 (Courtyard Chest Trap) – Aside from the Chest Trap in Seaside Kingdom that’s precisely like Super Mario 64, this was the first Chest Trap mission I had done. I had no idea what was going on, thinking that I had to kill all the zombies in the order specified, and I frustratingly died once or twice before realizing the truth behind it.
  • Mushroom Kingdom moon 33 (Knucklotec rematch) – Those zombies were so pesky.

And regarding 100% completion, I did almost everything on my own—”almost” as in, I tried not to look up anything (although I was tempted to look up Bowser’s Kingdom purple coin locations) except the best farming spot for coins (that being the secret stage of moon 37, the beanstalk at the west wing of the castle) and 2 of the required captures (specifically the Poison and Fire Piranha Plants).

At any rate, the gameplay of Super Mario Odyssey leads me to believe that it’s not entirely complex but not entirely mindless—that is, just the right balance between simple and clever for a Mario game. I find that the Bowser fights are particularly well done in that Bowser seems to have a surprise for every cycle. Even in the first fight in Cloud Kingdom, the last cycle has Bowser performing a counterattack instead of the usual fare of being pummeled while doing nothing back. Then the second fight has him throwing rocks that can’t be punched, more as the fight draws closer to the end. Another surprising thing to me was the third cycle of the third Bowser fight (unlocked after obtaining all 880 unique moons). Normally, Bowser throws a fixed number of rocks before bursting out in evil laughter and leaving himself vulnerable, but in the cycle in question, he never stops throwing rocks until you approach him and pummel him. (But you have to be quick, otherwise he’ll jump away.) You could always do that in all the other cycles of all the fights, but I never imagined until then that such a thing was possible. (Being able to control Bowser after the fight was also a pleasant surprise!)

And even though I’ve finished the game, I easily came to enjoy watching speedruns of it, primarily on account of how slick the movement is and how so many tricks are revealed that I never knew in my first playthrough.

Final verdict: There is no such thing as a perfect game, but Super Mario Odyssey comes very close.

 

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

At a standstill 3 (Whimsical Weekend #17)

First off, I’m still in the process of going for all the endings of Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2. As of last time, I took care of the Planeptune, Leanbox, Lastation, Lowee, Human, and Conquest endings in that order, so I only have the Holy Sword and True endings left.

The Land and Human endings are basically just the Normal ending with a bonus cutscene after the credits, so not much beyond the standard fare of cutesy aftermath. Conquest ending, on the other hand… I’m still reeling from that jank. It requires a complicated set of criteria to be done before the end of Chapter 5 (a.k.a. the Planeptune event after defeating three of the Four Felons), and I now realize that the developers were right to make it so.

I’ll try not to go into too much detail (for the sake of avoiding spoilers and saving the detailed talk until I finish the entire Re;Birth series), but I will say that Conquest ending has a fairly similar plot line to Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest (hence “Conquest” is in both names), only it’s smaller scale and with less painstakingly difficult battles, but with a greater touch of guilt and loneliness as the plot advances (granted I haven’t finished Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, but that’s the best comparison I can draw). And actually, seeing the more morbid events unfold made me think back to when I played through the Zero Escape series, which is a far cry from what I’d normally expect of a Neptunia game. That said, I’m guessing that the other two endings won’t be quite as intense (but probably at least more intense than the Normal, Land, or Human endings).

While I’m at it, I never really explained to what degree I play through the installments of the Re;Birth series before I consider myself “done” with them. Along with making sure that I’ve seen all the endings, I also strive to unlock all characters, complete all quests and colosseum battles, fill the image gallery (in other words, each ending done on a separate cycle of a single playthrough), and unlock all plans. Anything beyond that would be…excessive, I imagine.

Other than that, the only notable thing I’ve been up to is continuing my Breath of the Wild playthrough, in which I’m up to 108 shrines, 231 Korok seeds, 10 memories, 30 Shrine Quests, 44 Side Quests, 4 Great Fairies, and 231 Hyrule Compendium entries  (64 Creatures, 58 Monsters, 35 Materials, 70 Equipment, and 4 Treasure).

…Yeah, that’s really all I have to say for now.

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)