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A Trip Through the SNES Classic: A Link to the Past

From what I’ve seen in fandom circles, A Link to the Past is one of the most beloved games in the Legend of Zelda series, right up there with the all-time classic, Ocarina of Time.  By weird chance, I actually own three copies of the game: one for the GBA Advance, one for the SNES, and the one that came included with the SNES Classic. Yet I’m only just playing it now.

No, I don’t know why either.

A Link to the Past starts off with a bang, in a way that its fellow Zelda games typically haven’t.  Other entries, like Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, and Skyward Sword, ease you into the adventure, as Link interacts with the people in his home village just before the Inciting Incident happens.  A Link to the Past begins with Link receiving a telepathic message from Princess Zelda, begging for help.  So your first job is to break into Hyrule Castle, just in time for Link to find his dying uncle, who also tried to help the princess.  You get his sword, infiltrate the dungeon, and rescue Zelda before she can be used as a human sacrifice for an evil wizard’s scheme.

Once Zelda is safe, Link receives his next objective: find the three pendants that will allow him to gain access to the hidden Master Sword.  Only then will he be able to defeat the evil wizard Agahnim and restore peace to the kingdom of Hyrule.

But, of course, it isn’t that easy.

A Link to the Past fascinates me as a newer Zelda fan because it’s clear from the get-go how much it influenced the rest of the series, particularly Ocarina of Time. The story beats feel familiar: Inciting Incident, Find the Three Sacred Plot Devices, Big Twist Where the Villain Gains the Upper Hand, and Find More Sacred Plot Devices to Defeat Him for Real This Time.  Other elements that feel familiar include certain locations throughout the kingdom of Hyrule and musical cues.  It felt weird visiting Death Mountain without running into any Gorons, but they didn’t show up until Ocarina.

Link also suffers the death of his uncle early in the game, so he has a more personal reason to be involved in the conflict than before.  (Well, in theory.  His little pixelated self didn’t seem too broken up by it.)  Likewise, future Zelda games gave Link more of a backstory, with family members, friends, and neighbors that care about him.

I started playing A Link to the Past earlier this year, right after Kingdom Hearts III, and I’ve been playing it on and off ever since.  It’s not the first time that I’ve played a Zelda game right after a Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy playthrough, and there’s always a learning curve that comes with it.  You can’t really level grind with Zelda the way that you would with a JRPG.  When playing any video game, I have a kneejerk tendency to hunt down every last enemy in a given area so that I can gain more experience points, which translates to better health, stats, etc.  But that doesn’t work with a non-JRPG.

Instead, A Link to the Past forced me to experiment and try new strategies when I died over and over again.  I’d experiment with using different weapons, or figure out ways to avoid enemies altogether.  In a way, I was still “gaining experience,” except that I was the one gaining it, not Link.  That’s not to say that either Zelda or Final Fantasy is superior to the other in terms of gameplay.  They’re just different.

One thing that I do find frustrating- and this is something that applies more to the Zelda series as a whole and not Link to the Past specifically- is saving the game and starting over after dying.  Every time you die during a boss fight, you have to start over at the beginning of the dungeon and navigate through some of the minor enemies just to get back to the fight.  I’d rather just jump right back into the fight and try again.

But, all in all, I’ve found A Link to the Past to be a game that lives up to the hype.  The story is exciting and the world is fun to explore.  And now it’s available on the Switch for Nintendo’s online service subscribers.  So if you haven’t played it yet, now’s your chance!

Games Created by Women: Mystery House

mystery house Some of the best inspiration for games can come from outside sources. Sometimes it is murder mysteries. Imagine a game where you are simply trying to get out of a house with some jewels but instead you start finding bodies instead.

Well that is the very basic plot for the game Mystery House.  This is an early video game whose concept was created by none other then Roberta Williams. Together she and her husband created what is now known as Sierra Online. Roberta decided to work on creating her own graphic adventure game. That game became the first ever graphic adventure game. It had six parts in total that were released from 1980-1982. roberta williams

The first game in the series is called Mystery House. When the player ends up trapped in an abandoned Victorian mansion is when the fun really starts. The player then starts to explore the mansion in a quest to find some jewels. What they find instead are other people who are staff there. Then people start dying. By using typing commands the player advances in this murder mystery game. Kind of like Clue but with earlier computer graphics. 

In comparison to today’s games the graphics are not much to write home about. However I think this game needs to be looked at with the knowledge of its time period. It was revolutionary for when it was made and we won’t have the game we have today without it. Because of that I think we can give it a pass from the judgement of music and graphics. The concept itself is great. There is a story behind the game with your objectives which makes it fun. 

Mystery House is an extraordinary game just in the fact that it was made. Not only by a woman mind you, but by an early indie company. This was a company that a married couple started together. Together they created a space for the kind of continent that they wanted to make. By doing so a space for Roberta and other female creators has been carved into the world of gaming. 

So thank you to Mystery House for being the first of its kind. Thankfully now we have many kinds of games and creators because of the work put into this game. 

mh00

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!!!

Dungeon Crawling: Making It All Up

Lords, ladies, lads, and lasses, I am Vinni the Troll and I am a Dungeon Master. I have always loved to create, and that is what I enjoy about being a DM. As a player, I was always happy to have a character die off, as it meant I could then create a new one.

As a DM, that means that I have a sizable retinue of NPCs waiting in the wings. Sometimes, they are ghosts of my own creations, and other times they are stolen from my youthful memories. Recently, on our Sunday night stream of Malhaven, I introduced the real names of the hacker Oracle, and his brother, Captain Happy. They are Pete and Bobby. If Ash had asked about other siblings, I would have gone on to list one other brother and 3 sisters. Quite the bunch.

Sunday nights, I run Malhaven on our Twitch channel. Perhaps you’ve watched an episode or two? I hope you’ve enjoyed the zombies and weird science that I’ve thrown together. On Sunday mornings, I run a D&D game for Crymson, Fluffy, Aiks, Vanri (sometimes), and my lovely Dragon wife. Still I find that is not enough. This new world I’ve created has many places to explore, so I’ve started another weekend game on Saturdays using Discord and playing theater-of-the-mind.

We started with barely anything. Two players and a loosely described city. The Monk was new to town and really playing up the fish out of water. He’d been told that he would find either work, or a fighting circuit at a certain tavern. The Bard, who worked the tavern, came up with the name “The Slaughterhouse.” I’ve already come up with rules and notes for this world, and during a one-shot, one player played a Minotaur. The proprietor had to be a Minotaur. Somehow, in my head, I started with heifer and twisted it into Festus, and he had a name.

Starting in a tavern is an old trope, but cliches are there for reasons. Another is low levels fight Undead, or rats (but I had that twist on my Sunday morning group already). There is a website called Kobold Fight Club; it’s a wonderful tool to help a DM build an encounter based on the level and size of the party. I set it to Undead, then 2 players of level 1. The lowest creature that came up was a Crawling Claw. I have never heard of or seen this type of Undead before, but they seemed really easy and tiny and I knew I’d found my start.

A comical scene unfolded in my head of the Bard and the Monk fighting a cluster of Undead hands straight out of a cartoon, or Sam Raimi movie. I only needed to set the trap.

With over 3 decades of gaming under my belt, I had an advantage. I knew a lot of quest hooks and styles. I decided on “The Milk Run.” It’s an apparently easy task of carrying an object from point A to point B, but it never goes smoothly. They never do.

With a large metropolitan city, I decided that the quest board on the tavern wall would direct the party to the College Arcanum, where a certain Professor Weir (I have no clue where I pulled that name from) had a crate that needed to be delivered. Weir worked in a sub basement of the College called the Dead Wizard’s Library. The hallways of skulls chatted with each other on all manner of topics, serving as reference tools.

The professor gave the crate to the party, along with a shipping strap that would help levitate the crate. His instructions were to take it to The Inner Ring, where all the wealthy estates were, and deliver it to a Lord Krocerian (a name resurrected from my gaming past) for disposal.

I only need to find a moment for the contents to escape. Sometimes while you plot, your players provide the means. As they cross the campus with the floating crate, the Monk wanted to see how much weight the strap would hold. To the chagrin of the Bard, the Monk lept onto the crate and I decided that was the perfect moment.

As the crate cracked, and the contents began clawing their way out, our heroes tried to put it back together again. With a failed attempt at reactivating the belt, the claws emerged.

When the combat had finished, the goods were put back into the crate, and a helpful student fixed the belt. Our heroes were on their way once more.

So far, all of this had been off the cuff. I wanted to finish with a big baddie, but an Ogre Zombie was bit much for the duo. Looking at the page in the Monster Manual, I saw that a regular zombie was probably more suitable.

The Estate of Lord Krocerian was quiet, the gates unlocked, and the guard dead and hidden in the bushes. Turning to call for help, the heroes were interrupted by a hooded figure with a glowing circlet charging from the house.

They won the day and called for the Watch. Statements were taken and then they returned to The Slaughterhouse for payment as the Watch assured them, and signed off on it, that the claws would be destroyed.

Now I look forward to the next game, and the mystery I have seeded. Who was behind the controlled zombie? Why did they want the Krocerian family dead? Would our heroes give a rats ass? We shall see.

Triggers: Mental Health & Gaming

I love Horror. I don’t think that’s a shock to anyone. I’ve avoided a lot of horror games for various reasons, mainly because I’m a bit high strung and anxious. Reason for that? I live with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (c-PTSD), it comes with anxiety.

When I started my stream with The Blair Witch game, everything was fine. I was a bit anxious because I was going in a little bit blind. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything important. I explored and got confused, but as I roamed the woods the main character loses sight of his dog and begins to have a PTSD episode.

Most people won’t think anything of it. It’s just a stressed moment for a video game character. However, to me, it’s much more than that. I was unaware that he had PTSD and if I were aware I wouldn’t have started playing it. I confirmed with the chat that he did indeed have PTSD and apologized to everyone and switched the game. Had it not been for Vanri sitting in voice chat with me (to help ease my anxiety) suggesting that I stop playing, I may have tried to force my way through the game.

That would have been a terrible idea. My anxiety was high from watching him have this episode and as I continued on to look for the dog, it was getting worse. The visual effects were wonderful because his panic attack looks and sounded like mine. If I had continued further I probably would have been triggered into a panic attack or worse. So I jumped over to State of Decay 2 for the rest of my stream. 

The next night I decided to try Alien: Isolation. I was trying to get back into horror games and I’ve heard amazing things. About 2 hours in, I was overwhelmed by the atmospheric noise. I could feel a panic attack rising and I had to stop playing. Was there anything wrong with the game? No! The problem lies with my mental illness. I stopped playing the game and went back to State of Decay 2

You see, I like to think that I can do anything, but I have limitations. We found one when I played through Layers of Fear, an amazing game that I will always recommend. The subject matter was a lot more closely related to my own trauma than I realized. I wasn’t even aware that my attitude had changed toward everyone around me, but they pointed out that I was extremely agitated and my anxiety was high until I finished playing the game. So from that point forward, we had to look for specific elements in my horror games. If it wasn’t a first-person game, Vanri would play the game first to make sure that there wasn’t anything triggering in the storyline.

I assumed that it was the only thing I had to worry about, but to be honest, I didn’t even check to see if that was present in Blair Witch. Now, watching let’s plays or streams of these games are fine, but playing them is different. It’s the difference between watching and experiencing. It’s more immersive. I’d watched Layers of Fear on YouTube and Vanri’s playthroughs of it. I knew the story, but experiencing it was hard. I am lucky it didn’t bring up anything worse, like flashbacks. 

So a little extra medication this week and a hard lesson learned. There is a reason I don’t play horror games in which I can’t fight back. I’m not invincible and I have very real limitations. I need to research these games more before I jump right into them because I don’t want to trigger myself, whether I’m on stream or not. I have to make sure that there isn’t abuse, the characters don’t have PTSD or other mental disorders that could trigger mine, there isn’t abundant (though very well done) noise triggering anxiety.

More than that, I need to be okay with stepping away. I need to be okay with setting down the controller (figuratively) and putting myself first, putting my mental state first. To drop the tough act every now and then to ensure better mental wellness for myself and those around me. At the end of the day, that is my responsibility. I never know if something could trigger me, but how I handle those situations speaks volumes about the progress I’ve made and my self-awareness. I’m also thankful to have such amazing support that helps me make these decisions.

Again, and I cannot stress this enough, I am not upset at any of these games. It is not their fault that I was triggered. I am 100% responsible for my mental health in this regard. I view it the same way as a food allergy. Ask before you eat, just in case. Does this have nuts in it? Does this have abuse in it? 

So from now on, I will look into my horror games more. If everything seems okay, then I will play it, but if I am triggered I will allow myself to step back and stop playing. My community and viewers will understand and at the end of the day, I am more important. 

Are there any amazing games out there that have triggered you or things you should watch out for? Better yet, have a horror game to recommend that is void of my triggers? Let me know in the comments, but for now, back to Prey!

Review: Little Witch Academia (2017)

little witch

Sometimes you need an anime that is a little bit more innocent. One might even say that it has a more childlike vibe. Where the music, animation and the story is just a little bit lighter. 

Yoh Yoshinari created a manga called Little Witch Academia that became a fan favorite in 2013. This, like with so many other animes, was able to help the story be told through a different medium. Little Witch Academia has been able to evolve into an anime. The show made its debut in January of 2017. Megumi Han and Erica Mendez are the voice actresses that help bring the protagonist to life.  

When she was a little girl, Akko Kagari saw a witch named Shiny Chariot perform at a magical show. Chariot inspired her to become a witch herself so that she could do magic and bring others joy. Akko is accepted into a prestigious girls magic school called Luna Nova Academy. It won’t be easy, though. Akko is the only girl who doesn’t come from a magical family. Also, it turns out that magic is, well, difficult. However, with her new friends, her can do attitude, and inspiration from her role model, Akko is sure she can become a witch. 

The animation is really interesting for Little Witch Academia. It is a mix of a few styles that give the anime its own look. The character designs are well done, particularly how the animators have tweaked the uniforms for each student. The music is fun and helps to set the mood for different scenes. The sets, particularly for the Academy, are really beautifully animated. The overall look of the anime is really well done. It easily gives the viewers a peek into a world where magic lives in the midst of the “real world.”

I enjoyed Little Witch Academia. I think it has a fun and fanciful feel. It also shows the power of sticking to your dreams. This anime also tells a story about how one action inspires one child to become something more, and how it gives them the courage to continue through adversary. I would recommend it to everyone. 

little witch 2

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Crymson’s Top 10 Mobile Games

Let’s talk about mobile games a bit.

I’ve played a TON (and I mean a TON) of mobile games. Typically, for my mental health. They help my brain by distracting it. The whole using the tools we have thing. However, they are also a TON of fun. Gaming on your mobile device has evolved to epic levels, you can now play Fortnite, PUBG, Don’t Starve and so many others. So, here are a few of the ones I play.

10. Pokemon Go/The Walking Dead: Our World/Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

I know a few of you are confused. Follow me. These are games made by Niantic and they are all “on the go” games, meaning you walk, find things and interact with them. So they are similar (not the same) games, but it depends on what you prefer. Want a game that helps you get out of the house? Something to do on your walks? These are the games for you! I’ve played all three because I love Pokemon, zombies and the world of Harry Potter.

9. Food Fantasy

This game is IN DEPTH and not a quick-play-while-you-are-in-line kinda game. You are a chef in a fantasy land and have food souls that help you with your dream to have the best restaurant in the land.

This game has it all. There is a story, as well as side stories, missions, battles, guilds, catacombs, a restaurant to decorate, collecting, leveling… You know… I can’t even list everything that it has. With a very anime feel to it, this game offers you so much to do, all in one amazing place.

8. Gardenscapes/Homescapes

Everyone has their “match three” game and this is mine. Gardenscapes was the first. You inherit a large estate and, along with your butler Austin, you decide to bring the gardens back to their former glory. In Homescapes, you follow Austin back to his parents’ house and help them fix up their deteriorating property. These are great games when you are stuck waiting somewhere. On top of that, you get to make choices about the look of things, which is all I really want.

7. Hole.io

Ah yes, remember when all the .io games came out and it was the craze for… maybe 3 months? Well hole.io is my favorite and looks nothing like the other .io games. You are a hole in the ground that moves and must eat everything (reminds me of a webtoon I recently read). You have three game modes and three maps. You can compete (and eat) other players in this two minute match to become the biggest hole there is (there is a joke there).

You can play alone and try to eat everything on the map in two minutes (I have yet to get 100%) OR you can go head to head and be the last hole standing. Really, these jokes write themselves. Also you have your city map, pirate map and future map. PLUS your hole (stifle laugh) has different skins. I glide around as a flaming bat. *laughs way to hard*

6. Cooking Diary

Remember way back in the CD-Rom days, when Diner Dash was all the rage and you scooted around delivering food? Well this is the more advanced version. Your character wants to be an amazing chef just like their grandfather and make it in the chef world! You open different restaurants for different types of food. A burger joint as pictured above, a bakery for cakes, sushi/ramen, steak, pasta, and even an English breakfast place. You change some scenery options, upgrade your ingredients, add things to relax your customers and rush your way through the levels. This one has lasted the longest on my phone.

5. Merge Dragons

We all have a game about Dragons on our phones, right? I’ve had millions it feels like but THIS ONE has stood the test of time. It’s a plethora of different dragons, of course there is the element of merging three of the same type together it evolving to the next tier item. This counts for eggs, dragons, tress, flowers, you name it. They have frequent events for special dragons and regularly release new content to keep me interested. However, I don’t feel the need to log in every day so if I miss a day, no big deal.

4. Survival

It’s no secret that I love survival games. This is one of the few games that actually works on mobile and I’ve played many. It’s simple yet complicated and I’ve beaten it on all but the hardest mode. You are stuck in the woods and need to find your way through to survive. You will need to find food, shelter, warmth and all while you continue moving to find help. I may uninstall it from my phone but this is frequently downloaded again. If you are remotely interested in survival games, I suggest you try this free game.

3. The Witch’s Isle

This is a wonderful point and click type adventure on mobile. I did pay for the full version of this game. I adore the story, the pixel graphics, the multiple endings and even the character details. There is even a second story in the game. I really don’t want to reveal much but… you are part of a community that is trapped on an island by a powerful witch and you must break her spell before your lose your life.

2. BTS World

Don’t even act surprised. I love BTS, I love K-Pop and their game is like an amazing visual novel. You are thrown back to 2012 and it’s your job to get the group together and make them the amazing band that we know and love in present day. Not only do you get adorable cards of the members, but you take part in a visual novel style telling of being their manager. You level up cards, take place in events, make friends, play side stories for each member and learn more about the members. Win/Win!

1. Love Nikki

I have played this game every single day for well over a year now. Love Nikki is a visual novel style dress up game. Because you cringe at the words ‘Dress Up Game’ hear me out, because I used to think the same thing. They cater to just about every style. Want to be a Ninja? How about a Goth in Lolita dresses? Join the Navy? Traditional Chinese? Androgynous? Vampire? Ghost? Fairy? Princess? Pirate? They have them all. Your own house to decorate, a story to read, regular events, outfits to make from other outfits. You have Associations (think guild), friends, style competitions and so much more. This game is far past the simple dress up game and is full of fun things to do. I should know, I’ve played every day for years.

Do you play any of these games? Is there a game that you are SHOCKED isn’t on this list? Maybe a game you’d like me to try to add to a list in the future? Let me know in the comments below!

Review: Moonflight (Tabletop Game)

Developer: Man o’ Kent Games
Kickstarter launch: 9/18/2019

What is it?

Moonflight is a tabletop deck building game with an interesting twist. While you spend a good amount of the game building your deck, the winner comes down to the person who can unbuild their deck as well.

Moonflight takes place in a mythical fay land called Moonflight. Moonflight only exists under the waxing of the Hunter’s Moon. Players take on the role of the leaders of Moonflight, a Jack, and must have the most powerful deck by the end of the night.

What did I think?

Moonflight has all the amazing qualities of a deck building game. You gain resources in order to buy playable cards. You try to build the most powerful deck you possibly can. I also really enjoy the twist of unbuilding your deck, which adds an extra layer to strategizing. Not only do you have to build the most powerful deck, but you have to weed out the cards that aren’t useful to you in order to win.

There’s also the concept of “the Turn,” which helps in unbuilding your deck. Each card has 2 sides, the black side and the white side. You start the game by using the black side. Once your marketplace is dried up, “the Turn” happens, flipping each card to the white side and changing their abilities. While the black side has deck building abilities, the white side has deck unbuilding abilities.

Another aspect of this game that I love is the fact that you can play by yourself. Not everyone has the ability to play with friends all the time, but you can still get that itch to play a tabletop game. There are two options for solo play: Score More or AI Mode.

In Score Mode, you attempt to get the highest score you possibly can, which can hone your deck unbuilding skills. In AI Mode, you can choose AI player cards to play against. You take the turns for these AI players based on what the card tells you to do. This gives you a more competitive feel for the game, while still playing by yourself.

The artwork is absolutely stunning. It really gives you the feeling of being in a fay land. Considering I’m obsessed with faeries, I am obviously in love with this artwork. The prototype cards were sturdy and comfortable to hold. They reminded me of my favorite tarot deck, which was extremely pleasing.

The instructions were easy to understand and broken up into manageable parts. They have a section for the more experienced players, but most of the rule book is for non-experienced players. The terms are clearly defined and the rules are laid out in a way that really helps new players to understand the game.

Do I recommend it?

I do! Moonflight is a fun, fantastic, and fascinating deck building/unbuilding game that will keep you entertained. Consider supporting Man o’ Kent’s Kickstarter for this game, it will be live tomorrow, Wednesday, September 18th, 2019.

You can print and play Moonflight now here. You can also play via Tabletop Simulator here.