Smash Ultimate in brief (Whimsical Weekend #32)

Super Smash Brothers Ultimate is the latest installment of its reasonably popular franchise. As a long-time fan of the franchise since its debut on the Nintendo 64, of course I would play the crap out of Ultimate for at least a week after its release. But, uh…this sort of game is hard to explain with words, let alone mine, so I’ll endeavor to keep myself brief.

The best starting point of Smash Ultimate is the World of Light (in the Spirits menu). It’s like Brawl’s Subspace Emissary except not as linear but more mundane. It heavily involves Spirits, which are essentially a cross between Brawl’s Stickers and the recurring Trophies, and the way to progress is by fighting gimmick battles that are clever references to the source material of the Spirits involved. This mode allows for the unlocking of every fighter in the roster (and you can occasionally scoop them up early by backing out of the mode after having played it for a while), and it also contains ten different bosses: Giga Bowser, Galleom, Rathalos, Master Hand, Galeem, Ganon, Dracula, Marx, Crazy Hand, and Dharkon. (I personally found Ganon and Marx to be the two most annoying.) Speaking from experience, 100% completing World of Light is no easy feat. Chrom and Richter have very unconventional access criteria (Chrom by jumping into an open treasure chest and Richter by eliminating all the phantoms in the Castlevania area), and some of the higher-tier challenges have succeeded in driving me insane before I finally ended up completing them. (Having to view all endings in a single file to get 100% is also irritating.) By the way, part of the true ending allows you to legitimately play as Master Hand!

Going beyond World of Light, the next frontier would be Challenges (in the Vault menu). They’re supposed to give you a tour of the other game modes, but with two notable flaws:

  1. As a whole, they just aren’t as rewarding as in the Wii U version. (And ironically, despite being called “Challenges,” most of them are not actually challenging.) But I guess it’s natural for challenges to get easier when most of the legacy single-player game modes (such as Home Run Contest) have dwindled since Brawl. (After all, Smash wasn’t made for mere single-player experiences.)
  2. More importantly, there’s an Online section with 13 challenges that are behind a paywall.

I did manage to complete the other 111 challenges, and the one I found to be the hardest was the one where you have to clear Century Smash as Ken, alone and using only special moves. (From experience, I believe get-up attacks are also prohibited, even if executed with the special button.) 10 Legends in Spirit Board and 3 KOs in Cruel Smash were also painful to complete.

Aside from that, all I can note is that Classic Mode is better than it’s ever been (with opponents being thematic instead of random and with the incremental difficulty), that the newcomers are hype, how triggered I am over Snake only having old codec conversations despite Pit having new telepathy conversations, and that All-Star Smash is super challenging. (I tried it as Wolf, having misread a couple of the “Games and Other” Challenges, and I couldn’t get past 39.) And since Ultimate is on the Switch, it will probably grow to be my next “chill” game (which formerly was Octopath Traveler).

Overall rating: 9.8/10. You can’t go wrong with Smash, but some aspects of this particular installment are a bit pesky. The lack of touch controls in the menus (think Puyo Puyo Tetris) is another thing, but Octopath didn’t have them either, so I’m not entirely bothered.

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

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Brain Food #2 (Whimsical Weekend #31)

 The space between this Brain Food and the first should give an idea of how spaced out the series entries are going to be.

To reiterate, the premise of Brain Food is that I will ask myself a silly question on my mind and, of course, answer it.

The question of the weekend is…

What is the most ambitious crossover in the expanse of my imagination?

(I did say the questions were silly.)

Regarding that. From my experience, I must hypothesize that Pokémon is the video game series most rich in crossover-worthy content, so the core of the crossover should be no surprise whatsoever.

The crossover in question shall take the form of a fanfiction that I call LUMP: Lana’s Unprecedented Mashup Pilgrimage. The plot is based on the events of Pokémon (Ultra) Sun and Moon, except Lana is the protagonist (on account of being best girl) and must face a slew of characters from other series that have caught my fancy. Series involved primarily include Unlimited Fafnir, Mondaiji, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Phoenotopia, and Hyperdimension Neptunia.

For the time being, only Part 0 (prologue) and Part 0.5 (outline) are available for public viewing. It’s not much, but I trust that it serves as a sufficient teaser of this WIP.

(Disclaimer: Depending on the whimsy of the future, progress may be impeded and/or outright stopped.)

June 2019 edit: Part 1 (Melemele) is now available.

 

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Same Game, Different Experience (Whimsical Weekend #30)

Very rarely, especially nowadays, do I play through a game to the very end and wish to experience it in a different manner. Then I did so with Octopath Traveler, and that is precisely what happened. Even after defeating Galdera, I ended up wanting to play around even further.

The way it started: From beginning to end of my first playthrough, I had eight extra files lying around: one for each traveler, having progressed to the point where the game asks you to find the other travelers. (I used the ninth file slot for the playthrough in question.) After finishing off, I saved the data in the Ophilia slot and figured that it’d be a waste to leave the other seven just sitting there with no purpose. That was when I decided to associate each other traveler with some sort of gimmick.

  • Cyrus: Offstat Traveler
  • Tressa: single story speedrun route
  • Olberic: males only
  • Primrose: females only
  • Alfyn: alternative playthrough
  • Therion: Octopath Challenger
  • H’aanit: Nuzlocke

Of course, these gimmicks shall not go without explanation.

Alternative playthrough

After looking over the statistics of the characters and jobs, I wanted to come up with stat optimizations without doubling up on what I already had (notably Sorcerer Cyrus, Starseer Tressa, and Thief Primrose). This is what I came up with:

  • Runelord Alfyn (main): best overall bulk (Warrior first)
  • Dancer Therion: best evasion; potentially best speed
  • Thief H’aanit: best accuracy; high critical
  • Sorcerer Ophilia: best SP and Elem. Def (Merchant first)
  • Starseer Cyrus: filler (Apothecary first)
  • Cleric Tressa: filler
  • Warmaster Olberic: best Phys. Atk and Phys. Def (Hunter first)
  • Scholar Primrose: high Elem. Atk

I started on this just recently, and I simply got through all the Chapter 1s.

Nuzlocke

Inspired by a Pokémon challenge of the same name. Planned rules are as follows:

  • Goal: complete H’aanit’s Chapter 4
  • Death is permanent
  • H’aanit dead = end of Nuzlocke
  • When doing a chapter, save before starting it and not until ending it; if a character other than H’aanit dies in the midst of his or her chapter, reload the save and, if needed, dispose of the character
  • Per location on the map, only one NPC can only once be guided by Ophilia or allured by Primrose
  • The monsters that H’aanit can capture are limited to the first encounter of each location

This is honestly the challenge I’m looking forward to the most, but…you know, one thing at a time.

Offstat Traveler

Again going off of statistics, I was thinking it would be interesting to choose the travelers’ secondary jobs based on their less proficient stats.

  • Warmaster Cyrus (main): Phys. Atk (Warrior first)
  • Hunter Tressa: Accuracy, Speed, Critical, and Evasion
  • Sorcerer Olberic: SP, Elem. Atk, and Elem. Def (Scholar first)
  • Runelord Primrose: Phys. Atk, bulk, and accuracy (Apothecary first)
  • Dancer Alfyn: Elem. Atk and Speed
  • Merchant Therion: SP, Elem. Atk, and bulk
  • Starseer H’aanit: same as above (Cleric first)
  • Thief Ophilia: Phys. Atk, Accuracy, Speed, Critical, and Evasion

Octopath Challenger

My own brand of challenge playthrough, which I devised before the Nuzlocke idea. The goal is to complete every Chapter 4, with the following restrictions:

  • In Chapter 1, after the first three recruited allies, each subsequent ally replaces the most seasoned ally in the party
  • Allies are to be recruited in clockwise order, no exceptions
  • Beyond Chapter 1, each combination of three allies is limited to one chapter up to and including the main character’s Chapter 4 (which is to be the first Chapter 4 done)
  • After the main character’s Chapter 4, he or she is to be replaced with another traveler; from there, every party formation must differ by at least one traveler
  • Party changes must be done upon completing the chapter prior to when they are required, never in between
  • Always take the scenic route from chapter to chapter; no side quests, no miscellaneous dungeons, no backtracking with out-of-place travelers (non-dungeon shrines are okay, but only if they are on the scenic route)

(Fe)males only

Females are Primrose, H’aanit, Ophilia, and Tressa. Males are Olberic, Alfyn, Therion, and Cyrus. The goal for each playthrough is to complete all four of their stories without bothering any characters of other genders.

Single story speedrun route

I’ve gotten a good taste of what single story speedruns are like, notably thanks to Werster. They’re all very fast-paced (naturally) and have interesting routing to match. Because Tressa’s is the most popular on the leaderboard, I figured I’d use that as a sort of entry point. (That said, I won’t be able to record until I get a capture card, and I don’t know when that will happen.)

 

I shudder to imagine having to defeat Galdera again, so for the time being, my Alfyn and Cyrus playthroughs will only go as far as the Chapter 4s…and that’s assuming I’ll even have the time to get there to begin with. Ah well, you never know.

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

The Follow-Up of the Octopath (Whimsical Weekend #29.5)

Long story short, I finally found a use for Dohter’s Charity,
and it was all that I needed.

Last time on Whimsical Weekend #29, I expressed a bit of frustration over not being able to beat Galdera, the de facto final boss of Octopath Traveler. Four attempts since then, I finally managed to succeed, as evidenced in the screenshot above. This made me so excited, especially considering I really didn’t have to do any more grinding like I thought I would, that I felt like deviating from my normal schedule to write a follow-up about the method behind the madness.

Galdera is the sort of boss that can screw you over in the blink of an eye, and you have to have the right sort of team formula to even stand a chance, especially against the second part of the fight. And to make matters worse, it’s not the sort of fight that you can grind easily; there is an eightfold boss rush between the nearest save point and the beginning of the fight.

The bosses specifically are more difficult versions (fortunately not too difficult, but rather tedious) of various boss fights within the travelers’ stories, namely:

  • Mattias (from Ophilia’s Chapter 4)
  • Yvon (from Cyrus’s Chapter 3)
  • Venomtooth Tiger (from Tressa’s Chapter 3)
  • Werner (from Olberic’s Chapter 4)
  • Simian Simeon (from Primrose’s Chapter 4)
  • Miguel (from Alfyn’s Chapter 3)
  • Darius (from Therion’s Chapter 4)
  • Dragon (from H’aanit’s Chapter 3)

And each boss leaves behind a little note that sheds light on the backstory behind how the travelers came to experience the boss fights and how they are connected to things like Lyblac, the Crossford family, and Galdera. Fortunately, you are able to change the party formation between bosses, which allows you to test strategies right before the main event.

Speaking of, the full Galdera fight does indeed come in two parts. Uniquely, the game has you split the travelers into two different teams, one for each part. And considering each part on its own is exponentially more difficult than any other fight in the game (except maybe Steorra, Dreisang, Balogar, Winnehild, and the direwolf in the Scaredy Sheep sidequest), you’d be hard-pressed to have any semblance of a deadweight traveler lying around. It also doesn’t help that the “Secondary Party” is used to combat the hardest part of the fight.

The parts of the Galdera fight are radically different in nature. Part 1 involves a central foe (Omniscient Eye) that summons reinforcements at a quasi indefinite rate. Part 2, on the other hand, has a central foe (Galdera itself) with three allies that disappear for good when KO’d, but the remaining parts get stronger the fewer there are on the field. And another thing: The central foe cannot be affected by any moves if any of its allies are on the field (except Omniscient Eye below half HP). It’s not like some of the boss battles where the enemy simply has its weaknesses guarded; no, it’s a complete invulnerability.

So. Now begins the story of forming the ideal party formation. In the spirit of every other bit of my playthrough, I started out with Apothecary Ophilia (82), Dancer Therion (77), Sorcerer Cyrus (76), and Warmaster H’aanit (73). I’ve always been able to get past the boss rush without a hitch, but I’ve only been past the Eye once, and Galdera itself had no trouble annihilating my secondary party of Runelord Olberic, Starseer Tressa, Merchant Alfyn, and Cleric Primrose (all 70). I did try swapping the parties, but then the Eye battle was a war of attrition that I could not win.

Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that something had to change, and the easiest thing to change was the party formation. After trying out a number of adjustments, I ended up with…

Primary Party: Apothecary Ophilia, Sorcerer Cyrus, Starseer Tressa, Runelord Olberic
Secondary Party: Thief Primrose, Merchant Alfyn, Hunter Therion, Warmaster H’aanit

Yeah, my best formation just so happened to be a perfect Octopath formation. (I love how the travelers’ names spell the title.) Details are laid out on a two-page spreadsheet document linked above. (Disclaimer: The stats factor in the experience gained from the save point to the end.)

First off, it was obvious that Primrose’s secondary job had to change. I had her as a Cleric to provide buffs of all varieties, as a backup healer, and for a tiny pinch of elemental offense, but that means jack diddly squat against Galdera. So, since I have long known the sheer power of Aeber’s Reckoning and came to discover how speedy Primrose is, I figured she would make a phenomenal other user. Having Panther Dance on top of that is also helpful.

As for Therion, the Enchanted Sword is essential for Dancer-Thieves (the speediest possible job combo, therefore the strongest Aeber’s Reckoning users) to be worth their salt in elemental prowess (because the dagger must boost Speed for optimal damage), and since Therion’s elemental prowess is underwhelming anyway, Primrose had to be the one to wield it. So, I figured Therion would be better off as a Hunter for an alternative Speed boost, more diverse weapon choices (including the Bow, which is his go-to element-boosting weapon), and also having a backup Leghold Trap user. This and more will be explained later, when I get to talking about Team PATH in detail.

But first, Team OCTO. The main attraction here is the triumvirate of Olberic, Ophilia, and Cyrus. Olberic spends 2 turns going for Transfer Rune and a rune of choice (usually Light). This may seem tedious, and Olberic himself doesn’t deal that much damage with runes (15k at best, factoring in Surpassing Power, Rune Glaive, and a target with lowered Elem. Def), but bear with me; the result is well worth it. (Plus the runes last especially long between The Show Goes On and Persistence.) Runes trigger when the affected ally uses an Attack or a weapon-based skill, right? Well, Sorcerers, like Cyrus, have a physical skill called Elemental Break that lowers the target’s Elem. Def upon dealing damage, amplifying the damage of the rune that follows it. And that’s not all! If Ophilia uses Aelfric’s Auspices on Cyrus, then Elemental Break triggers twice, with each hit triggering a separate rune! And the runes in question deal 32k to targets with broken guards, so that’s a whopping 64k damage right there, with not a single BP used. (And even without the runes, Cyrus has a decent damage output and unparalleled guard breaking prowess with the more orthodox Sorcerer spells.) Besides that, Ophilia also serves well as the alpha healer, Apothecary primarily for cleansing status conditions, and does backup rune damage with especially powerful Light Runes thanks to her Bishop’s Staff. As for Tressa, she deals stronger backup rune damage (mostly thanks to Elemental Edge, but also due to Tradewinds Spear, which makes her Wind Runes especially powerful), and she can boost the BP of Ophilia and occasionally Cyrus. Plus, Starsong can come in clutch for manipulating turn order. (By the way, Hired Help sadly does not trigger runes.)

And now, while Team OCTO wreaks havoc with elements, Team PATH is more physically oriented. Against smaller fry like the boss rush fights, they take the first turn to reduce the target’s guard, the second turn to break the guard and set up, and the third turn to destroy lives with their Divine Skills. Alfyn’s Ruinous Seeds (and Ruinous Dust for Yvon’s skeleton minions), Primrose’s and Therion’s Steal SP (and Primrose’s Night Ode for the aforementioned skulltans), and H’aanit’s occasional Second Serving are super helpful for guard reduction. If the turn order looks sketchy, both Therion and H’aanit have Leghold Trap to insure that nothing goes awry. The setup phase consists of Primrose using Panther Dance to boost the damage output of her Aeber’s Reckoning, Therion using Armor Corrosive (or Alfyn using Ruinous Seed + Essence of Grape, or perhaps H’aanit attacking with her bow) to lower the boss’s Defense and augment all their damage outputs. (Even Alfyn is pretty impressive with his Death Cleaver.) For Galdera, however, I had to change strategy to using Alfyn to boost BP and the others to spam Divine Skills. (More on that later.)

I also wish to explain the Support Skills. Ophilia and Cyrus have Second Wind (Dancer SS 3) to keep their SP up and keep cranking out spells. (I also put it on Olberic as a last-minute decision, because the Runes are kinda costly.) Everyone but Alfyn has Surpassing Power (Warrior SS 4) to maximize their damage outputs. Both Ophilia and Alfyn have Divine Aura (Starseer SS 4) for survivability and Patience (Hunter SS 4) to potentially grant more opportunities for their support/attack methods. Cyrus and Tressa have Elemental Edge (Runelord SS 4) to augment their elemental attack power, as well as SP Saver (Merchant SS 4) to make their Sorcerer and Starseer spells (respectively) not cost so much. On Olberic, Persistence (Cleric SS 1) and The Show Goes On (Dancer SS 1) are indispensable for making runes last. Primrose and Therion have literally the same skills: BP Eater (Starseer SS 3), Fleetfoot (Thief SS 2), and Physical Prowess (Warmaster SS 4), all for augmenting the already sheer destructive power of Aeber’s Reckoning (at least I think BP Eater does). H’aanit has a similar build, with BP Eater and Fleetfoot replaced with Inspiration (Apothecary SS 1) and Second Serving (Hunter SS 3) in order to keep her SP up during the boss rush. Tressa also has BP Eater, kind of as a backup source of elemental attacks like Tradewinds and Shooting Stars. Finally, Alfyn’s Endless Items (Merchant SS 1) works exceptionally well with Concoct, and Hang Tough (Merchant SS 3) is another boon to survivability. (I was also curious how Hang Tough would combo with Last Stand.)

Now for more detail on my boss strategies. For the boss rush, I first had the idea of defeating the half closer to the entrance (Simeon, Miguel, Darius, and Dragon) with Team OCTO and the other half with Team PATH. Then, later on, I came up with a plan of attack that plays more to the team’s strengths. Specifically, I use Team PATH to defeat the following four bosses, and Team OCTO to defeat the rest.

  • Yvon: Team PATH has more AoE options, which are indispensable for his skeleton minions.
  • Venomtooth Tiger: Alfyn is second to none in healing status conditions, which are all too present in this fight.
  • Werner: Same as above, but Alfyn needs Soothing Dust + Curious Bloom to cure the party’s dread en masse. (Small issue: Werner lowers all allies’ Phys. Atk and Def on his first turn.)
  • Simeon: His only exploitable weakness is daggers, and Team PATH has a lot more of that than Team OCTO. (Among the members of Team OCTO, only Tressa can attack with daggers.)

(Side note: Pitting Alfyn against Darius is a bad idea because he disables items on his first attack and until his guard is broken.)

As mentioned when I described Team PATH, boss rush fights generally take three turns: the first two for setup and guard breaking, and the third for attacking. In the case of Team OCTO, the consistent part is using Transfer Rune and (one of the opponent’s weaknesses, preferably Light or Wind) Rune on Olberic’s turn 1 and 2 respectively. In the meantime, I use various forms of guard breaking, support with Tressa, heal with Ophilia, and/or use a preparatory Elemental Break with Cyrus, depending on the situation. On turn 3, I want Ophilia to act before Cyrus so that she can use Aelfric’s Auspices before he wreaks havoc. Thus, if Ophilia’s action looks to be way after Cyrus’s on turn 3, I want Ophilia to Defend. (If it’s just a little, I can use Tressa’s Starsong.) That’s about it, really.

Moving on to the Galdera fight, starting with Omniscient Eye. The Eye has a multitude of phases:

  1. It starts off summoning a single minion to its right. After this minion is defeated, the Eye takes its literal next action to summon minions above it and to its left. If one of them is defeated, it may respawn again. If the top minion is at low HP, a message comes up saying it will prepare to execute a move; the move is Self-Immolation, which does obscene damage at the cost of the minion’s life. (I have lost an attempt to this before.)
  2. At about 3/4 HP, the Eye summons all three minions, except their weaknesses are revealed instantly, as every element except darkness, and all but one are locked. (The top starts off weak to light, the left weak to lightning, and the right weak to fire.) Every time a minion is hit, its unlocked weakness changes: fire => ice => lightning => wind => light => fire. Here, I make sure to align the elements so that every minion has the same weakness, then I drop a Sorcerer spell as Cyrus, using soulstones as other characters if I feel so inclined.
  3. At about half HP, the Eye summons the usual three minions, this time with the usual weaknesses, and they each have a counter on them that will take out one ally when it hits 0. At this point, the Eye is unguarded, so you can transition straight from this phase to the next.
  4. At about 1/4 HP, the Eye summons minions if there are none, and it uses Consume Soul to make them disappear and boost its stats.

The Eye and its minions throw out attacks, mostly elemental, that deal some pretty nasty damage. Definitely be on the lookout for when the Eye uses Galdera’s Temptation, which is Aelfric’s Auspices with a different name, on the minion to its right; that minion has Rend Flesh, a move that deals hefty physical damage. The top minion has Delayed Incantation (prepares a devastating elemental attack for next turn) and a move that inflicts a bunch of status ailments on one target. Another annoying thing about the Eye is two of the field effects that it can activate: noxious fumes that make poison drain SP and BP, and a blinding effect that makes physical attacks less accurate. (The latter isn’t so bad, just that Elemental Break is harder to land.) What makes the noxious fumes especially irritating is that the left minion has Debilitate, which poisons all allies. That’s when I think, “Welp, better have Cyrus and Olberic use Healing Herbs, while Ophilia uses Rehabilitate and Tressa uses Rest.”

The second part of the fight, on the other hand, just goes crazy from the get-go. The three allies summoned are:

  • Lyblac, on Galdera’s right, supports the other parts.
  • The head, in the middle, casts spells and has only physical weaknesses.
  • The blade, on Galdera’s left, uses physical attacks and has only elemental weaknesses.

I tend to go for Lyblac first because she is dedicated to support and happens to be weak to Steal SP. In the attempt where I had Galdera itself left at half HP, I found the blade difficult to take down due to its lack of physical weaknesses, so I figured I’d use Armor Corrosive on it before spamming Divine Skills. (Then it died before the head did.)

Finally, the story behind the ultimate strategy. One attempt between the almost victory and the actual victory, I ended up in a desperate spot where I had to spam Revitalizing Jam and Olives of Life to keep the party alive. (In that attempt, only Galdera remained, but above half HP.) That’s when it dawned on me: What if I took Alfyn’s BP and used it for Dohter’s Charity? And that ended up being just the spark I needed. The victory ended up being a bit rough, especially considering everyone but Alfyn ended up dead by turn 2 (I had to revive them with Purifying Dust + Olive Bloom), but it ended up working out. There was even a point where I had to bank on Patience; the entire party was severely weakened when I decided it was time for Dohter’s Charity. But I was fortunate enough to pull through in that situation, and then I was set to spam Revitalizing Jam and become able to constantly pump out Divine Skills while keeping the entire party perfectly healthy. From there, I had to use Leghold Trap to allow the party to break the guard of the core before it could act. But to my surprise, when the guard broke, it only took one more 53k-damage Aeber’s Reckoning from Therion to finish off the enemy. (No, there was no Panther Dance involved.)

Thus concludes my war story about the obscene final boss known as Galdera. Possibly the most long-winded post I’ve made on this blog in years, but that just shows what a wild ride it was. Now I’m done with the game until I decide to do a challenge playthrough or something to that effect.

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

The Travelers of the Octopath (Whimsical Weekend #29)

So, this is the Octopath Traveler post that I promised last time. Since I still haven’t had much time to spend on constructing it, it will simply be a very bare-bones overview of the eight protagonists, also known as the travelers.

But before that, I want to share an anecdote about my experience with the game. I bought it late July 2018 and have been gradually hacking away at it ever since, having so far put in 140 hours total. I started off not exactly knowing what I was doing, having decided to create eight new files, each progressing to the tutorial message to find other travelers. When I realized that I should probably pick a main traveler to go with, I ultimately settled upon Ophilia, for two main reasons:

  1. Her Chapter 1 seemed more…beginning-like than that of the other travelers.
  2. How could I pass up having such an effective healer in my party at all times?

By this point, I have completed every traveler’s Chapter 4 and almost every side quest, having also conquered the extra four shrines. My current goal is to defeat Galdera, the de facto final boss of the game, without any outside information or excessive grinding. (I currently have level 82 Ophilia, level 77 Therion, level 76 Cyrus, level 73 H’aanit, and level 70 everyone else.) Frustratingly, the closest I’ve gotten is reducing the final target below half HP. I might do a bit more grinding, but no higher than level 75 for those who aren’t yet. (It may be an issue that I usually only bring a particular four travelers—Ophilia, Therion, Cyrus, and H’aanit—and swap out one of them at a time for the stories of the other travelers. The one would replace Cyrus or H’aanit, depending whether magically or physically oriented.)

With that rambling out of the way, here is the protagonist overview, laying out the advantages and disadvantages of each traveler. Anything statistics-related is based on information stored here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/11KE2BScx-kQlF1sl00eHemgYBBlPsJTw93XpI1aEudw/edit?usp=sharing

Ophilia

Advantages:

  • Has AoE healing from the get-go, making her a valuable early-game asset
  • Has the highest initial SP and Elemental Defense, and tied for second in Physical Defense
  • Also a considerable spellcaster, sporting (later AoE) light-based spells
  • Is guaranteed to bring along adequately leveled NPCs to fight alongside her, some of whom have indispensable firepower and/or utility

Disadvantages:

  • No status cleansing (needs items or Apothecary skills)
  • Sometimes has difficulty occupying herself with anything but healing (Patience, the 4630 JP Hunter Support Skill, helps this a bit)
  • One of the two slowest and least evasive travelers, one of the five least accurate, and the least likely to crit
  • Tied for second-last in HP and Physical Attack

Cyrus

Advantages:

  • Easily the strongest magician
  • Has the second-highest SP and Elemental Defense
  • Study Foe and later Analyze are indispensable for finding enemy weaknesses
  • Has easy access to a diverse selection of elemental attacks that target all foes
  • Later elemental attacks hit twice

Disadvantages:

  • Has the lowest HP and third-lowest Physical Defense
  • Lowest Physical Attack, second-least likely to crit, tied for least accurate and second-lowest Speed
  • Scrutinize is, more often than not, a worse Inquire

Tressa

Advantages:

  • An all-arounder in terms of stats
  • Eye for Money is a nice extra source of income
  • Has easily accessible AoE in Tradewinds and Hired Help
  • Hired Help, although resource-reliant, is helpful for exploiting physical weaknesses (and may come with helpful side-effects, such as Mercenary boosting allies’ Defense)
  • Rest, an unlockable skill, is good for recovery and status healing (unfortunately, it only affects the user)

Disadvantages:

  • No outstanding stats, and tied for least accurate
  • Has no physical skills for her base class weapons (at least not from the get-go)
  • Purchase, while having the advantage of 0% failure chance, is resource-dependent, so Steal is better for mid through late game

Olberic

Advantages:

  • Best physical tank in the game
  • Starts out with reliable AoE in Level Slash
  • Has decent accuracy, speed, and crit rate
  • Challenge allows you to use items and does not exhaust any other resources
  • (Arguably) best candidate for the late-game Runelord job

Disadvantages:

  • Lowest in SP, elemental stats, and evasion
  • Bolster Defense is not the most handy of talents

Primrose

Advantages:

  • Fastest traveler
  • Decent crit rate, evasion, SP, and elemental attack
  • Has easy-to-access AoE in Night Ode
  • Chock full of buffs

Disadvantages:

  • Statistically the most frail traveler
  • Tied for second-lowest physical attack and lowest accuracy
  • Buffs only target one ally at a time (unless Sealticge’s Seduction is in effect)
  • Allure is nowhere near as reliable as Guide

Alfyn

Advantages:

  • Statistically the bulkiest traveler
  • Has a nice physical attack and crit rate to back that up
  • First Aid may only target one ally at a time, but its healing effect is particularly potent
  • Easy-to-access status healing in Rehabilitate
  • Concoct is a nifty way to exploit elemental weaknesses and provide special forms of healing to allies
  • Inquire does what it does best

Disadvantages:

  • Low elemental attack, accuracy, and speed
  • Only has Last Stand for AoE

Therion

Advantages:

  • Completionists will never not want to have Therion around, thanks to his Path Action and Talent, for mid to late game NPC item acquisition and opening purple chests respectively
  • Highest evasion; second-highest speed, physical attack, accuracy, and crit rate
  • HP Thief and Steal SP, easy-to-access offensive skills, are great for breaking guards and keeping HP and SP up
  • Aeber’s Reckoning, his Divine Skill, is a weapon of mass destruction

Disadvantages:

  • Tied for lowest SP and elemental defense; tied for second-lowest elemental attack and physical defense
  • No reliable AoE in base class

H’aanit

Advantages:

  • Similar stat line to Therion, but with highest physical attack (tied), accuracy, and crit rate; with third-highest speed and second-highest evasion
  • Leghold Trap is surprisingly good for endgame strategies
  • Provoke can come in handy for NPCs for whom Olberic does not meet the level requirement

Disadvantages:

  • Talent is literally Pokémon; fun, but gimmicky
  • AoE is not particularly reliable, limited to Arrowstorm and summoning Linde

 

So…with that, it should be certain that I find Octopath Traveler to be a wonderful RPG title for the Nintendo Switch. Still frustrated about that Galdera upset, but I’ll be back in full force before long.

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

At a standstill 5 (Whimsical Weekend #28)

Yeah, um…I feel like I didn’t manage my time very wisely over the past few weeks. The core of it: I wanted to complete all eight main stories of Octopath Traveler before embarking on my first company travel (and, in fact, my first time traveling out of state without family, not to mention my first time traveling by plane since my infancy). I didn’t break the news of the planned travel to my parents until dinner hour of the day before (Monday through Friday is the exact duration of the trip), which was mistake number one because the implications of it were more complicated than I had envisioned.

I wanted to do a brief overview of the Octopath characters before I left, but it’s too late now because I have to get up way early in the morning. And between the emotional music/events of the Octopath endgame (particularly the Chapter 4 boss theme) and the anxiety of traveling with such a series of firsts, I just felt too many emotions for the writing to be on the forefront of my mind. That said, I am tired of doing things like this and leaving nothing but teasers to the humble audience of this blog, so there is a chance that I will later come out with something more elaborate than what I had envisioned for this weekend’s post. As for how later…that’s part of the whimsy.

(In other news, I’m up to floor 60 of Neptral Tower in Re;Birth 2 and 2/3 through the Korok seeds in Breath of the Wild.)

 

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Puyo Puyo Tetris (Whimsical Weekend #27)

Okay… After 80+ hours of playing Puyo Puyo Tetris, I must conclude that it is far more fun and addicting than I had envisioned. In fact, I feel strongly enough about it to write a blog post. What I hope to do in the process is briefly explain the game, give some gameplay advice, and mention a few miscellaneous aspects.

Overview

Puyo Puyo Tetris (henceforth PPT) is a mashup of two dynamic puzzle games: Tetris and Puyo Puyo. The former is very familiar to the general public, but I’ll explain it anyway. Various pieces of 4 blocks rain down endlessly in a grid-like field, and your job is to keep the field clean by making full horizontal lines of the blocks.

As for Puyo Puyo, it’s not nearly as popular outside of Japan, but if you’re familiar with Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and/or Kirby’s Avalanche, those are reskins of Puyo Puyo. This variety of dynamic puzzle involves pieces of two colored blobs (each called a Puyo) also raining down endlessly in a grid-like field (smaller than that of Tetris), and the goal this time is to pop the Puyos by linking them so that at least four of the same color are adjacent to each other.

PPT was first released on a multitude of consoles in Japan in 2014. It saw release overseas in 2017 on Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch, and most recently on Steam in February 2018. For the record, I have only played the Switch version, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gameplay

PPT features a multitude of game modes:

  • Adventure Mode – A story-driven single-player mode that gives a tour through the other game modes, starting with Tetris and gradually integrating Puyo. Incidentally, it’s the main way to speedrun this game.
  • Versus – The simplest form of multiplayer. It can be a straight Puyo battle, a straight Tetris battle, or even Puyo vs. Tetris. Regardless, the goal is essentially to play better than your opponent. In Puyo, this means to pop one set of Puyos and end up with as many separate, consecutive pops before the next piece comes down. (This concept is called chaining.) In Tetris, there are two main methods of attack: consecutive line clears, and back-to-back Tetrises and T-Spins. (More on that later.) When you play well, garbage blocks/Puyos get sent over to the opponent’s side, making it more difficult for them to keep their field clean.
  • Swap – A special form of Versus involving Tetris and Puyo in alternation. The initial puzzle is determined by the random number generator, and the alternation happens every 25 seconds. When this happens, the puzzle swapped from is put to the side, but if a piece is falling in that puzzle, then it will continue to fall and can potentially trigger a line clear or Puyo pop. If such is the case, and the opposite happens in the puzzle swapped to, it builds up a Swap Combo, the most optimal form of racking up points and sending garbage to the opponent’s side.
  • Big Bang – Tetris players are given preset fields of specific colors with gaps where the pieces of such colors are to fit for line clear combos. Puyo players have preset chain setups where one color Puyo can be dropped to trigger a particularly long chain. Popping more Puyos or clearing more blocks than the opponent results in dealing damage. Victory goes to the survivor. (Note: In Puyo, if you fail to get the highest possible chain, then you may get demoted and given a lesser chain setup.)
  • Party – Similar-ish to Guitar Hero 3 Battle Mode, where you play well and obtain power-ups to sabotage your opponent. Unlike other modes, Party Mode is purely score-based, and what would normally cost the match simply costs points.
  • Fusion – When Puyo Puyo and Tetris cross with maximum fluidity. It’s played in a field with a size between those of the two individual puzzles. For that reason, there are more Puyos than Tetris blocks, although there are special Puyo pieces that morph into Tetris blocks and back (swapping every second) until dropped. In a similar vein to Swap Combos, if you clear line(s) and pop Puyos in a single combo, you get a Mix Chain, the best form of scoring high and dealing damage.
  • Challenges – Single-player modes for practicing Tetris (first 3) and Puyo Puyo (last 3). Note that the Puyo modes have handicaps that can be changed in Settings: Sweet, Medium, and Spicy. They are listed from lowest to highest; the higher the handicap, the less generous the game is in giving chains. (While Sweet and Medium have 3 Puyo colors, Spicy has 4.)
    • Sprint – Clear 40 lines as fast as possible. The most efficient way to do this is to keep going for Tetris, which is clearing 4 lines in a row.
    • Ultra – Score as many points as possible in 3 minutes. This and Marathon are where T-Spins are preferable.
    • Marathon – Score as many points as possible before clearing 150 lines. In the Settings of this mode, you can toggle Endless to remove the line limit.
    • Endless Puyo – Score as much as possible while avoiding placing a Puyo on the red X.
    • Endless Fever – Single-player counterpart of Puyo Big Bang. You have a time limit that gets bumped up depending how well you clear the chains.
    • Tiny Puyo – A special form of Endless Puyo where the field is bigger and the Puyo pieces sometimes come in groups of 3 or 4 Puyos instead of just 2. (This happens in Puyo Party and Fusion as well.) This mode facilitates the Prismatic Popper achievement.

With all the basics explained, time for some specifics.

Puyo Puyo

Now, I can’t claim to be a Puyo expert by any means. In fact, I was struggling to get three stars on stage 6-5 of Adventure Mode, but I was enlightened to a few basics that lessened the struggle and helped to prevent any further struggles.

First off, I learned of this shape:

It’s the core of a Great Tanaka Rensa, or GTR for short. It’s used by expert players, but it’s also very beginner-friendly. From my experience, if you just learn this shape (and the mirrored version, which I use for Party Mode) and group as many Puyos as possible without accumulating too much or popping anything prematurely, you at least have enough to get by and fully complete Adventure Mode as I have.

But a more professional piece of advice when chaining is to think in reverse. You build from the tail end of the chain and make sure to create solid links. Easier said than done, take it from me, but that’s what I’ve heard from a video tutorial.

Speaking of professional advice, the place to be for more of it is the Puyo Nexus Wiki, which is essentially what taught me what I know.

And another thing: Endless Fever is the best way to accumulate credits and buy out the in-game store, primarily because it makes All Clears relatively easy compared to other modes.

Tetris

A basic technique to earn points and/or defeat opponents in Tetris is to fill all but a certain number of columns in the field with stacks and stacks of blocks. Notable numbers are 1, 2, 3, and 4, ranging from easiest to hardest to set up. On the flip side, the higher column numbers allow for greater combos, which have heightened point values and attack power. This technique is adequate for Swap Combos and Mix Chains in Swap and Fusion respectively. Plus 1-wide is another way of saying “constantly going for Tetris,” which is the basic of the basic.

But there is a more efficient way to attain objectives in PPT Tetris, and that is to set up T-Spins. What that means is taking T-shaped blocks and rotating them into gaps that they can’t reach just by falling straight down. The setups are admittedly complicated, but the payoff is well worth it. T-Spin payoffs specifically depend on the number of lines that they clear. Single, from 1 line, is worth as much as a Tetris. Double, 2 lines, 1.5*. Triple, 3 lines, 2*. Additionally, doing back-to-back Tetrises and T-Spins grants a 1.5* value multiplier.

Recommended setups? I only needed Albatross and Infinite TST to get by.

This is the Albatross Special, an efficient T-Spin Double into T-Spin Triple opener that uses as few as 14 pieces and has plenty of contingencies that make it work for every situation except when S and Z come before O. Shown above is the normal way to do it, but mirroring it is simple.

An important thing to keep in mind when setting up the Albatross is O placement. Here’s a mnemonic for it: Look at which of L and J comes first. If it’s L, then move the O block 1 to the left before placing it. L, left. Simple. (Otherwise, place O 1 to the right.) Also note that the I piece goes to the wall of the other side.

Another lovely thing about the Albatross is the hook-shaped bit of residue left over from the T-Spin Triple, which can be used to set up a 4-wide or Infinite TST.

And here is the Infinite TST, invented by Massi4h. It is very methodical and rather inefficient, not to mention it requires 6-column stacking on the side; however, as the name implies, it allows for indefinite back-to-back T-Spin Triples if used correctly.

In Tetris Party Mode stages of Adventure Mode, I like to do a mirrored version of this setup (because the power-up gets in the way of the standard setup) to quickly reach the score requirement and only have to survive thereafter. In stage 10-10, provided Tee doesn’t lose after the first set of TSTs, it will take four back-to-back TSTs to reach the score requirement.

Even just the first part of the setup is good for attack. You do the first two T-Spins, and you end up with residue that allows you to follow up with a T-Spin Double. Not only that, but the TSD leaves 4-wide residue for an extra combo attack.

I like to practice this setup in Marathon, hoping to improve how long I can keep it up. I currently have 188k score-wise, which…isn’t much, especially considering not all of it was from the TSTs. (In fact, I’d say easily fewer than half of the points were.)

For more professional situations, I know of the Perfect Clear opener and a bit about DT Cannon (which I used to get a score of 18,718 on 10-7). For these and more, the Hard Drop Tetris Wiki is the place to be.

Also worth noting: In Party and Fusion, it is possible to clear more than four lines at a time. This is known as Tetris Plus, and it can be done with an I-shaped pentamino (Party) or a double I being stalled by Puyos (Fusion). Tetris Plus in Fusion is inefficient compared to pure Mix Chains, but it’s good for swag points if nothing else.

Miscellaneous

Gameplay aside, I find the music and characters to be strong aspects of PPT. (I might be a bit late saying this, but if you’re not a fan of Japanese animation, you will most likely think otherwise.) They’re mostly Puyo-related, although with a few Tetris-related aspects tied in—specifically the Tetris remixes and the eight Puyo-styled original characters (Tee, Ess, O, Ai, Jay, Elle, Zed, and Ex—all but the last of which are named and designed after the Tetris blocks).

In terms of music, I specifically like tracks 19 (Tectonic Tetro at War), 8 (PuyoTetromix), and 21 (Dimension Stage ~ Decisive Battle). Incidentally, if you find yourself missing music tracks (most likely not the three mentioned), just do Versus matches or Endless Puyo with random music.

In terms of characters, here are a few that stood out to me:

  • Sig – I’ve mentioned through and through that I find appeal in emotionless characters, and Sig is definitely one of them. He also looks cool with his heterochromia and left arm.
  • Amitie – Through watching speedruns of the English version of PPT, I ended up infatuated with Amitie’s happy-go-lucky cheeriness. Kind of a strange character preference of mine, but that’s how it is.
  • Ai – Engineer, glasses, byootiful. Need I say more? (I’m more of a cat person, but this is a good doggo.)
  • Ecolo – A mischievous little character with a goofy voice and a personality to match.
  • Lemres – He’s chill, and he’s a sweets fanatic.
  • O – Pi pipi-pi pi pipi-pipi pi pipipi. (Talks all cute-like and doesn’t afraid of anything.)
  • Schezo – The walking innuendo. Contributes heavily to the humor of Adventure Mode.

Alternate voices are also a thing, but the only ones I really care about are classy Maguro, calm Klug, smooth Suketoudara, caffeinated Ecolo, monotone Zed, and emotionless Jay & Elle. (Angry O is kind of funny, but not quite up to snuff.) Other voices either ruin the character (particularly those of Sig and Amitie) or don’t quite measure up.

I do have to wonder, though… Where’s the Tetris counterpart of Endless Fever? Where’s the single-player Fusion mode? And I feel for the characters who were unplayable (only opponents) in Adventure Mode: Sig, Ai, Ecolo, Klug, Zed, Jay & Elle, Rulue, Feli, Raffina, and Dark Prince (called Satan in the original version, not that I care).

 

Overall rating: 9/10. Fun and addicting. Controls really well on the Switch. (Worth buying for the Switch, but not worth buying a Switch for. Worth noting, however, that most of the online community is on PC.) Also cheaper than the average game, and…well, it’s multiplayer.

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)