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[Game Journal] gimmegaming - 2022

25,502
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11
Years
Pokemon Legends: Arceus - Summary
Honestly, this game should probably have been posted in a few instalments, but we have a different section for that. Given that, I'll try to keep this brief.

I really liked this game. I haven't completely decided yet, but I think it may well be my favourite game in the franchise. The story is simple, as expected from Pokemon, but simple is not inherently bad. Essentially, Arceus isekais you - who is implied to be the same character as in DPPt/BDSP - into the past (or possibly another dimension that mirrors the past) and leaves you with the instruction to seek out all Pokemon. You find yourself joining the survey corps of the fledging Jubilife Village started by settlers from afar (I think it might be implied they're from Johto) and quickly get wrapped up in helping the native Diamond and Pearl clans with quelling the strange frenzies of the special noble Pokemon. Simple, but not uncompelling at all. It is a little odd how quickly getting back to your own time takes a backseat, but it seems like the post-game might have something to do with that still.

Anyway, throughout participating in this story, you get to experience some fantastic retroactive worldbuilding. Legends does wonders both establishing its own "world" in the timeline as well as retroactively adding a lot to the overall worldbuilding of Hisui/Sinnoh/the Pokemon World in general. You get to see first hand how the culture begins to evolve from "Pokemon are terrifying monsters that will fucking kill you" to "we live and work together and depend on each other." You see religions based around the mythos of Dialga and Palkia. You even get to see the origins of the ruins at Spear Pillar. Legends is simultaneously a love letter to Sinnoh and the Gen 4 and 7 games as well as a solidly-written and well fleshed-out game that can also stand easily on its own if you're less familiar.

Mechanically, the game is also a rewarding and fun experience. The re-imagined version of traditional turn-based Pokemon combat is really good. It reminds me a lot of FFX's battle mechanics, albeit greatly simplified. The addition off the agile and strong styles really spiced up the core gameplay without being too dramatic a shift. Then, on top of that, you have the action RPG-style elements added to the noble battles as the crafting mechanics that both add to the world's lore and worldbuilding and further build on the game mechanically? Oh, and a re-imagined Pokedex mechanic that makes filling the dex out much more interesting while also adding to the worldbuilding? Yes, mechanically this game is easily the best of the franchise. It's so much fun. Even the busy work missions are handled really well as they're completely optional but are generally short and engaging enough to make doing them fairly entertaining. Often they further aid in filling out the dex too.

There has been, as always, a lot of criticism of Legends' visuals too and, as always, these critiques are pedantic, overblown and largely ridiculous. While I wouldn't call it the peak of game visuals, it looks great. It is consistent to the style of the franchise while still making improvements on its predecessors. The environments look great and the Pokemon themselves are much more expressive and mobile than in previous 3D games. The battles still look much the same, but the animations are fine. They never bothered me anyway. The character designs are also really good for the most part. I particularly like Irida and Adaman's designs. I will admit though that the character customisation was a little lacking compared to Sword and Shield... but it was better than BDSP.

The music is also really good. It blends fluidly from one place to the next and is largely composed of old Sinnoh music reworked to fit the historical setting and it's really nice. So yeah, great game.

Story: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10
Soundtrack: 7/10
Gameplay: 10/10
Total Score: 33/40
 
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25,502
Posts
11
Years
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth - Part Sixteen
It's been a while, but it was time to pick this up again.

I started of small, easing my self back in by dealing with a weird Tentomon that had been screwing around writing subjective content into Not!Wikipedia. IT was extremely easy to sort out and it pretty quickly moved on to writing a blog instead. After that though, it was back to what seems to be the main plot. First off, investigating a sketchy-looking poster somewhere in Nakano. Just once, I wish Kyoko would just tell me exactly where in the building to go lmao. I found it soon enough though, the weird digital aura it was giving off made it fairly obvious thankfully. The poster in question was advertising a supposedly uncannily lifelike puppet. Checking this out triggered the next bit of story - it was time to meet with the occult club again. Yay. More random filler with them.

...well this was a disturbing case that's for sure. Not in the occult sense though. The member of the occult club with the job and a friend of hers had found that those weirdly accurate dolls were modelled on them and being sold to people for... reasons. What the fuck Digimon? Kyoko suggested it was tied to a weird "ideal girl" project thing and some disappearances too. This game is definitely not made with the same target audience in mind as the anime lmao. Anyway, the girls suggested that an arcade game that makes 3D scans of people to make figures they had used... for some reason (please tell me this doesn't actually exist) might be responsible for the data on them. Naturally, as an untrained male I was the perfect person to deal with this issue and took the job.

I went to Akihabara to investigate and was almost immediately accosted by a guy in a suit who thought I looked desperate enough to be interested in one of his creepy ass dolls... and he produced a doll that looked exactly like Nokia. Christ. He's not wrong about it being a pretty ugly design though lmao. To get weirder, he then explained that he was also involved with the aforementioned perfect girl project and that such a being could be shipped to my house as a living and breathing person... WHAT THE FUCK GAME?! Of course, there was a condition to this service, once you get your uh... product... you can never leave your home ever again. That would explain the disappearances I guess. This was so messed up :').

After that truly bizarre encounter, I found the suspicious game and jumped inside to investigate further. Inside I came across a mildly insane Infermon who was responsible for the data theft. I murdered that digital nutcase, theoretically stopping the main issue. I found a mysterious URL as a result of that which warranted checking out. First though, I jumped back out of the machine only to run into the creepy suit from before who realised he'd been made and booked it. From there, it was time to investigate the URL... which led me to a dude who was participating in the project. He had no idea he was actually in cyber space and not his room and had no intention of leaving. When I told this to Kyoko, she revealed that the comatose bodies of the project's (stupid) victims were being picked up and transported out of the country for people who could make use of a fresh body. So... it sounds like we've now moved into organ farming. What even?

Anyway, after that I met up with Arata who - acting very out-of-character - decided we should goof off and chill by entering a contest to get a rare comic instead of saving lives and investigating weird digital shit. I agreed t progress the plot but this is just... eeeeh. So yeah, I took the "job" and met Arata in EDEN. Unfortunately, Arata missed out on his comic. But, somehow, this was the thing that triggered the beginning of the next chapter... oh and also Kyoko lowkey implied she isn't human. Right. Well then.

It was (finally) time to plan the infiltration of Kamashiro with Yuuko. Sounds like the next segment should be fun, but that's all for now.
 
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11
Years
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth - Part Seventeen
Donning generic NPC disguises, Arata and I arrived at Kamashiro's online HQ for a special preview of the upcoming EDEN update. It wasn't long before we were treated to another strange flashback of two anonymous children. This lot definitely already knew each other in the past. I wonder what the deal is with that. Putting that aside, Arata caused a small distraction allowing me to Connect Jump deeper into Kamashiro's systems. Inside, I was unable to get an invitation URL out to Arata because of a block. Arata said he'd take care of it, so I started looking for security to break into.

This pretty quick led to a boss fight with a MetalMamomon and an Adromon. They took hits well but were ultimately no match for me. As an added bonus, taking them out also allowed Arata to get in and set up communications with Kyoko. Meanwhile, Yuuko was hard at work trying to get us the password so we could actually access the secret room. We puzzled our way through, fighting off enemies as we went until we reached the door to the room. Before we could approach it properly though, we were attacked by an Eater. We made short work of it though and soon after Yuuko gave us the entry password... and set off alarms. Well we didn't know about that so it was onwards into the secret room!

The inside looked like a violently pink dollhouse. This was not what I expected to find. We searched the room, but as we did so, a bunch of eaters attacked the update preview and Yuuko was confronted by Rie (who was revealed to be working with Suedo to the shock of none... granted he did see us and choose not to inform his boss). Yuuko got out fine and we also made our way out quickly. We couldn't risk dealing with the Eaters ourselves in case it corrupted the data we'd taken.

Back at the office, we decrypted the stolen data and learned a little bit. The digital shifts were the side effect of a Kamashiro project called the "Paradise Lose Plan" that was developed by Suedo, although it didn't detail what the plan was. It also revealed that EDEN syndrome had been first documented eight years prior when someone was struck with it during EDEN's closed beta. I don't know the timeframe of Yuuko's story, so it might have been too early. It could be her father but more likely he was silenced because he knew about it and wanted to go public.

The next step will be to find out who that first victim is. Sounds like we are finally getting into the meat of the plot.
 
25,502
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11
Years
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth - Part Eighteen
First up today was a trip to Kowloon to see what trouble Nokia had gotten herself into so far. Upon arrival, I was given a job by a hacker who knows her. Essentially, he wanted me to keep an eye on her. No big deal, I was there to do that already anyway. Mostly this entire quest line was an excuse to power up her partners. Such is life I guess :')

It did however trigger a job to meet Yuugo. Apparently he was concerned about Nokia's activities. Specifically, he talked about wanting to restore EDEN to the utopic vision its creators had for it and protect it, but felt that only himself and the dodgy hackers he was manipulating should be at risk in that endeavour. He also let slip that he and I (and I assume the others) did, in fact, previously know each other. Or at least implied as such to an extent. That was as far as that went to start though, one of Nokia's followers called me for emergency aid and I had to go help him out. Yuugo came with. Rescuing Nokia's guy was easy enough, and talking to him was enough to get Yuugo to retract his original request. He did warn we may be enemies in the future, but what else is new?

After that it was just a busy work job for Ryota, but that did bring me to the end of Chapter 9. It also gave me a cutscene of Yuugo starting to make his move, his plan being to break into a high security server called Valhalla to access the original EDEN and reshape the virtual world from there. At about the same time, I got a call to meet Nokia in EDEN... and Kyoko warned me there had been trouble there. Wonderful.

I really do wish this game was more streamlined. It's starting to get bothersome to have random mandatory busy work interfering with the plot. It hurts the pacing at this stage of the game. I'm still enjoying the game, but it could definitely be better.
 
25,502
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11
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Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth - Part Nineteen
Turns out, what Nokia wanted me for was to help train her team... so I spent some time pummelling them. At some point during that exercise, Yuugo showed up and politely asked Nokia not to get in his way. Honestly, he's a pretty chill guy. Unfortunately, a cutscene made it apparent Yuugo and Nokia were actually playing right into the hands of Rie and Suedo. Although they didn't reveal exactly what their plan is beyond starting a straight up war between the groups. Nokia wasn't making things any better in that regard, she decided she wanted to try and beat Yuugo's group to the Valhalla server to raise her Rebels group's profile. Naturally, this meant Arata and I got roped in as well.

I decided to do a little grinding here. Not because the game was getting hard or anything but I had a bunch of recently evolved party members I wanted to get back up to level - a mild annoyance in how the level system in this game works. That meant a fair bit of fighting through plebs to until I was satisfied.

After that, I met back up with Arata in EDEN. He explained that Nokia had already made good progress into Valhalla - so much so that it was too good to be true. We wouldn't be able to catch her normally, but conveniently Arata revealed he'd gotten in once before and new a shortcut so we'd be able to make up the lost ground. Taking Arata's shortcut, we entered Valhalla in pursuit. Honestly, it didn't look much different to Kowloon or Kamashiro - kinda a fusion of the two - but the colours, spacey background and music gave it a much nicer atmosphere than either. Unfortunately, like Kamashiro dungeons, it included a very easy but also very time consuming puzzle. So getting through it took way longer than I'd have liked.

We caught up to Nokia and managed to distract her and send her off in the wrong direction... but since we were there already... why not also take out Yuugo's group? I healed up and headed towards Yuugo, enjoying the change in music as I did so. Seriously, one of the best tracks in the game so far. Anyway, we confronted Yuugo and Fei, causing Arata to reveal that when they broke in before they were attacked by a terrifying creature and driven out with their accounts destroyed (I wonder if its the suspiciously familiar prism in front of us lmao). That was why Arata wanted to stop Yuugo, it was a dangerous endeavour. Yuugo would not be dissuaded though. Nokia arrived and it was boss fight time. While Nokia took on Fei and the two hacker teams clashes, Yuugo was left to Arata and I. IT was finally time to face down that scary-ass Machinedramon.

That thing didn't just look scary. It opened with an attack and accuracy boost and did not take much damage from our attacks either. Not to mention it hit like a truck. I dropped its defense and set up Groundramon's counter stance and after that it was just a slugfest.... that was going poorly for the most part. Stacking on buffs, debuffs and damage though, soon we were making headway. Eventually though, we prevailed and Yuugo was forced to back down. Unfortunately, Nokia's battle wasn't going quite as well. That was until, of all people, Nokia got a badass animated cutscene and treated us to our first fusion (and more kickass music). With her new Omnimon, she proceeded to absolutely wreck Fei (and by that I mean I did because I got to play as her for these fights lmao).

Sadly, there was no time for celebrating. With all her problems gathered in one place, Rie sicked a bunch of Eaters on everyone to turn them into human batteries or some shit (and soft confirmed that this Yuugo is actually a fake... probably Yuuko. I was pretty sure he - or at least the ghost version of him - is actually her EDEN Syndrome afflicted brother). We were left to fight the Eaters while Omnimon went to destroy the source luring them in. Unlike MachineDramon though, the Eaters were pushovers but they just kept coming. Luckily, the real Yuugo (in ghost form of course) appeared and scared them off. Yuuko - because I was right ayy - was pulled out and revealed to be being forced into being bait by Rie but I jumped after her. Rather disturbingly, this involved a lot of mind/memory fuckery from Rie. Yikes.

My rescue attempt failed and I was yeeted back out to the city, much the same as when I first got made half-digital. I regrouped with Kyoko who showed me that the events of Valhalla has caused a mass EDEN Syndrome outbreak - which was being pinned on the hackers by Rie. I was then contacted by Nokia who wanted me to meet her in Zaxon's forum so Omnimon could explain what the hell was going on, thus closing out Chapter 10. I'm in the end phase of the game now, so hopefully things stay this intense without too much random filler stuff taking up space. The plot finally coming together is pretty hype.
 
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11
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Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth - Part Twenty
I went to Zaxon to talk to Omnimon. He explained that his own world was also under attack by Eaters - his own world being entirely digital and therefor a plentiful feeding ground for them. He and his fellow Royal Knights traced this back to the source, discovering that the Eaters were caused by the outpouring of human emotion in EDEN. As a result, the Knight decided they would invade reality and wipe out humanity to stop the propagation of Eaters. Yikes. App0arently the digital shifts are escalating attempts to bridge the gap between the dimensions and that breaking down the barriers between them is what the Paradise Lost plan actually is. Seems like Rie (and maybe Suedo?) are being controlled by the knights or something. At the conclusion of that discussion, we were contacted by Kyoko to meet back at the agency and plan our counterattack.

The plan was actually kind of brilliant in its simplicity. Arata would instigate a large-scale hack that would shut off Kamashiro's access to power, preventing them from activating the machine that triggers Paradise Lost and while they were busy with that, I'd go and save Yuuko's ass with Nokia. But before doing that, I decided to do some work towards levelling some attributes up to ready for future evolutions. That meant a lot of random grinding while I waited 30 minutes for the farm to do stuff.

I couldn't do the evolutions I wanted to just yet, but I was much closer to that point. I was getting bored of just killing time while the farm did stuff though, so it was off to the mission. Part way through, Fei showed up and joined the squad. Honestly, so far this digital shift had been a cakewalk - and it gave out decent xp too. We finally got to Yuuko, but Rie - revealed to have been possessed by Crusadermon stood in our way and began activating Paradise Lost. We managed to drive her off, but it seemed like it was too late. In a suitably epic cutscene, the portal opened and digimon started coming through. Luckily, the damage was minimised by Arata successfully cutting power to the project. Less lucky, the royal knights were apparently already through.

It wasn't over yet though, an Eater showed up and took on an evolved form, trying to absorb Yuuko in... well let's just say I learned something about the creators of this game from this design choice. Anyway, we jumped in to fight the Eater - Eater Eve as it was called - and try to free Yuuko. Fei and I defeated Eater Eve, but it refused to loosen its grasp on Yuuko, so we tried something desperate and I connect jumped into the Eater to try and do something about that. I was able to drag Yuuko out, but just as everyone was reunited I was dragged into a weird portal myself. Inside I was treated to a strange flashback, further supporting the idea that all the protagonists once new each other. When I came too, I was in a strange but beautiful forest with Yuuga's spirit ahead in the distance and some gorgeous music playing. Everything is coming together really well now. I look forward to progressing more. That's enough for now though.
 
25,502
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11
Years
Night in the Woods - Part One
Night in the Woods sure has a unique and interesting opening. Before you even see the character, you read their narration describing the death of their grandfather and fill in the blanks yourself from some preselected options to determine exactly what happened. I have never seen anything quite like that before and I wonder how much it effects the tory going forward.

The story opened up after that with our protagonist Mae arriving back at her old home of Possum Springs, only to find that nobody was their to greet her or pick her up. After an amusing little tutorial segment of sorts, she was left to walk into town in the dark and cold. Lucky her. This became a platforming segment. Nothing too tricky, just a little bit of walking and jumping through the woods while Mae reminisced. Mae made it through, but attracted a local cop's attention since she had been in an off-limits area. Said cop took it upon herself to then drive her home.

Next I got distracted by a rhythm mini game in Mae's bedroom because the bass was catchy as fuck. After like ten minutes of fucking around with that though, it was time to head down stairs so the plot could happen. I will be back to conquer the Space Dragon later. A brief discussion with Mae's mum concluded the prologue and it was onwards to explore a changed town.

As Mae walked through the town, she was able to chat with people she recognised from before she moved. Through these interactions, I got to learn a lot about Possum Springs - a typical story of a small town that was growing into something bigger and more modern for better and for worse. I got to learn about Mae too. Seems she dropped out of an Astronomy course at her college or something similar, apparently she liked constellations but hated study. Other interactions implied she'd always been smart but a slacker. I feel like there's more to that story than just finding study disagreed with her. Looking at a news board also showed that a kid had gone missing - Mae talked to their siblings earlier (or maybe they were there and had been found?)

In other news, apparently Mae once put someone in hospital and people sometimes call her Killer to mock her for it. What the hell has been happening in this girl's life :'). Anyway, Mae eventually met up with Gregg an old friend of hers and he convinced her to hang out with her at band practice - Mae used to be a bass player with them, hence the earlier mini-game. There she also met with Angus, Gregg's boyfriend and Bea. They were also old friends of hers. They had a jam session, which meant the return of the rhythm game with another song... that went very poorly. Partly because I was simultaneously updating my computer to Windows 11 to stop it nagging me about it and that caused some unfortunate lagging. Whoops. Anyway, the gang gave Mae shit for her failures and then they all went out for pizza. Further discussion there revealed the missing person I learned about was not one of the young kids but actually a friend of Mae's - Casey. It can be a bit hard to tell sometimes in this game.

This discussion was short lived though, as the group stepped outside to find a severed arm in the street. It looks suspiciously like it could be Casey's but, again, it's a little hard to tell in this game. Mae prodded it with a stick, because of course she did, accidentally revealing a tattoo of a diamond. The cops noticed Mae fucking around with a crime scene/evidence and approached. They were warned not to travel alone, so Bea offered to drive Mae home. When Mae asked Bea about her parents training her to take over the family business though, Bea got rather pissy and kicked Mae out part way there. Lukily, nobody murdered Mae on the way home and she got their safe and sound. Mae went to bed soon after.

The next morning, Mae was suffering from internet withdrawal (understandable, Mae) but found her old computer was just filled to the brim with viruses. She resolved to take it to Angus since he was "computery" and could probably fix it. But first, I got distracted by the bass mini game again. So after fucking around on the bass for a while, Mae set out after Angus after another chat with her mum. She had barely gotten out the door when she ended up in a pretty rude conversation with a neighbour (that my dialogue selection definitely made worse lol) who decided to remind Mae of how awful she was before.

Mae went to check for Angus at his work, but there was no sign of him. Plan B was to go and find Gregg. Very helpfully, Gregg sent me back to the video store where Angus works. I guess I had to go to Gregg first to trigger the next bit of the plot. So Mae went to the store and... Angus still wasn't there. The clerk said he hadn't come in and she should try his home address. Angus was at home thankfully and provided Mae with a thumb drive to clear up the evidence of her less than savoury searching. With the laptop fixed, I got distracted by yet another minigame. Oh, also Gregg invited Mae to a party the next day. He also told her to get Bea to drive them. Since... you know... they're clearly such good friends.

The next morning came and Mae embarked on her mission to get a lift from Bea. Bea was as polite as ever, but agreed without much trouble. So Mae headed home to get ready, stopping briefly to get checked in on by Molly the cop (also Mae's aunt) after the severed limb thing. Mae didn't seem too bothered despite warnings to be careful. Mae had tacos with her parents (and now I want tacos) then went off to the party with Gregg, Angus and Bea. Much too Mae's horror, her ex was there. Sucks to be you Mae. Mae then got very drunk and caused a scene, meaning Bea had to drive her home... and they had a very awkward discussion about how Mae had forgotten that Bea's mum had died their senior year. Bea (rather fairly) went off after that but was still kind enough to help the crying Mae get her drunk ass out the car and into her bed. Mae then proceeded to have a fucking weird dream about destroying some a lot of property and a janky sculpture thing with a bat. Said statue sounds a lot like a statue Mae described her college as having while she was heavily intoxicated. So ends chapter one.

So far, I'm having fun. The gameplay is minimal excluding the minigames which are pretty much full games in and of themselves, but the game makes up for it in other ways. Between the minimalistic art and the well-written dialogue (including segments you can choose from), Night in the Woods has a lot of personality. It's doing a great job of mixing its surface-level comedy with this barely masked feeling of melancholy and commentary on stagnancy and change. Not to mention there's apparently a murder mystery going on. I look forward to digging up the mysteries of Possum Springs past and present as well as the secrets of Mae's own life.

Spoiler:
 
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25,502
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11
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Night in the Woods - Part Two
It was a new day and a quick check of Mae's computer (after some time being distracted by the mini games) revealed that Gregg and Bea wanted to meet with Mae to check on her (and that band practice was later). Mae had another talk with her mum about the events of the party and the cryptic warnings from Molly. No new information came of it though, so it was of to see Bea and Greg... via the powerlines Mae was told not to walk on. Such a rebel. Naturally, I got distracted by cool new astronomy mini game along the way, but soon enough I was arriving at Bea's.

Bea didn't have much to say beyond apologising for tearing Mae a new asshole the previous night - not that Mae didn't deserve it. Mae claims to barely remember any of it though... and is probably telling the truth. With that stop out the way, Gregg was next. Along the way though, there was another tragedy - the closing of local restaurant, Pastabilities. I feel your pain Mae. She also ran into another high school acquaintance, Jeremy "Germ Warfare." That was not a particularly meaningful interaction so Mae headed into Snack Falcon to see Gregg. There wasn't much discussion to be had there either so it was off to band practice. MINI. GAME. TIME.

The jam session went pretty well, way better than Mae's earlier attempt in her room and that's surprising cause this song was waaayyyy faster. Anyway, Mae didn't bother talking to the other band members after because she started with Bea and offered to hang out at a nearby shopping mall. I could have chosen to talk to the others first (and maybe do something with one of them instead?) but Bea is much more interesting so I didn't bother. So off to the Lucern Mall it was!

Mae and Bea had a much more pleasant car ride this time and were soon at the shops where Mae immediately found herself reminiscing much to Bea's mild annoyance/amusement. Tricky to say exactly which one. They visited a store called URevolution which I think is a Hot Topic parody (we don't have Hot Topic here that I know of but it sounds about right). Inside the nostalgia kicked in further for Mae and triggered another minigame. WOO! This game was plot-relevant though because it was all about shoplifting from the place. Mae's success here then triggered a follow-up game where she had to cover for Bea's attempt since she had gotten caught up in Mae's antics. Then my game froze! Woo! No idea how that happened since this has to be one of the least demanding games to ever exist. Thank fuck it autosaves. I didn't have to redo a thing.

Mae and Bea had a nice dinner coupled with some reminiscing about high school drama and discussing the existence or non-existence of a god. When Bea asked Mae why she left college though, Mae was quick to change the subject and go do something dumb (trying to touch the weird dangly art upstairs) instead of discussing it. Interesting. I do wonder what that's all about. I expect it will actually be something pretty mundane... but depressing. Anyway, Mae got to the sculptures hanging from the ceiling and touching very quickly became climbing on. Mae really does have a disturbing tendency to put herself in dangerous situations so she can feel adrenaline instead of her actual emotions. For a game with cute little cartoon animal people as the characters, this shit gets pretty real.

This triggered a mini game (fuck yeah!) where Mae got ahold of the power supply of the building, shut the lights of and started making the weird fish fountain squirt people who passed buy, to Bea's great amusement and slight bewilderment. Mae roleplayed god for a bit after that before they made their escape exit. Not before being good (and confusing) Samaritans and returning their stolen shit though. This is the sort of scene that is fucking obnoxious in reality but weirdly heart-warming for its stupidity in fiction. I am here for it. Anyway, it was bedtime for Mae after that... after one more shot at the hack-and-slash mini game. Beat the level this time ayyyy. And it was time for another weird neon fever dream! In this dream, Mae walked around a city finding ghost musicians. Normal stuff. I'm sure Mae herself being a musician has no relation to this. Speaking of though, the music was really pretty. The giant nightmare dog thing that appeared just before Mae woke up, not so much.

The next morning, Mae shook off the nightmare with some bass playing and then checked her DMs. Bea got sick from the crappy mall food and Gregg was lonely cause Angus was out of town. Deciding Gregg's need was greater, Mae headed over to see him. She did stop by to talk to Bea on the way though. So, Gregg and Mae destroyed a car, stole its battery and then used it to power an old animatronic they put together. Mae got electrocuted twice but she didn't die so no big deal. Other than that, the only thing of consequence to occur was Mae discovering Gregg and Angus had plans to move to a big city in the spring. That's why they were working so much. Mae didn't seem thrilled by this, but she had a good time otherwise. She headed home and went to bed to have another weird musician hunting dream. For a change of pace though, the nightmare creature was a squirrel this time.


The next morning, after the traditional minigames, Mae headed out and managed to meet the town's new pastor. She seemed nice. She asked Mae to go talk to a homeless guy named Bruce. Bruce was also pretty chill, but he talked about fires and ominous voices in the woods. I'm sure that's not foreshadowing at all. After that, Mae went to hang out with Bea again. It did not go well and I honestly don't know if any of the options I was given would have avoided this outcome. They had a very awkward dinner with Bea's dad and then, in Bea's room, got into an argument about Bea doing her dad's work for him for little reward (and some other shit) while Bea got defensive... kind of unreasonably and said some pretty harsh shit. It's easy to get why Bea reacted like that. Again, this game is surprisingly true to life despite its art style.

Mae left soon thereafter and was quick to return home to bed... and yet another musician dream. This time the murderbeast that descended towards Mae with its mouth gaping open was a crocodile or similar. Oof. Much more intimidating than a squirrel. Anyway, the next morning it was Halloween. May played some bass as usual then went downstairs and got into an argument with her mum about Mae dropping out. It was pretty yikes and scarily believable. Yay... Halloween...

Mae got the fuck out of there and smashed lightbubs with Gregg for a while before meeting back up with her friends that evening. By which I mean Bea coerced Mae into performing (badly) in the town's traditional play. After that catastrophe, Mae got wrapped up in another one. She split off from Bea and Gregg and, now alone, managed to witness an actual murder. Engaging in her trademark risk-taking behaviour and poor judgement, Mae gave chase as the killer fled. Mae did catch up to them, but before anything could happen her aunt Molly showed up and dragged her home.

Then some weird shit happened. I was taken to a red silhouetted out woodlands by the game. I have no idea if this was a legit thing or a dream sequence or what. I'm leaning dream sequence, but it lacked the neon of the others. Mae walked through the forest until suddenly the screen blacked out. Chapter two ended and three began with Mae waking up in bed, so it seems the dream sequence thing was confirmed.

I am very intrigued by this mystery and I continue to be impressed both by the addictiveness of the mini-games and by the very specific emotional tone this game manages to generate. A balance between comedy, melancholy and mystery is not easy to achieve but the game manages. It can be a bit jarring sometimes, but generally the tonal shifts are very smooth or they become jarring by design rather than failure.
 
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Night in the Woods - Part Three
Mae kicked the day off with some relaxing bass playing that didn't at all randomly lag in one place and ruin an otherwise perfect score. Nope. Not at all. NOPE. She then went downstairs and got pulled into another discussion with her mum. This discussion went a lot better. They apologised to each other and agreed to discuss Mae's weird night and her dropping out properly later. Yay! From there, it was time to visit Bea at her shop and then head over to Gregg's for band practice - AND ANOTHER NEW SONG FOR THE RHYTHM MINI WOO.

On the way to Bea's though, here was an important stop to make because the telescope minigame was available again. My personal favourite of today's constellations was Big. Snake.

Anyway, soon after, Mae arrived at Bea's. They had a small chat. Bea shat on Gregg's terrible work-ethic a bit and Mae told her she'd fill her in on what she saw later. Bea was really thankful about Mae stepping in to help with the play and they seem to be getting along again... kinda concerning neither is acknowledging their argument though. From there, Mae collected Gregg for band minigame time. I never want to do that song again. It was so much harder than all the others. Holy fuck. Why would you difficulty spike the god damn minigames like that :'). At least Mae has a good excuse for why she sucked ass that session.

After that abysmal practice, Mae explained the weird ghostly experiences she'd been having and the kidnapping (so not a murder, woo!) she had witnessed the previous night. Mae figured they were probably related. Her friends were less convinced, but Bea volunteered to take Mae to the library to look through old newspapers and figure shit out. They explored around the place for a bit and then delved into the newspaper minigame to search for answers. Although, calling dragging the focus around into a better view of some newspapers barely counts as a game. The stuff on said papers was interesting though, so no issues for me. Together they dug up some leads about local ghost stories, mostly about dead miner "Little Joe" who some kids mentioned casually back in the first chapter. With their leads sourced, Mae and Bea regrouped with Gregg and Angus. After filling them in on the leads and dividing up who would babysit Mae to each location, Mae headed home for another weird musician dream. This time the crazy beast was a crane.

Anyway, this chapter isn't over yet but I decided to leave it there because it was stupidly hot for this time of the year at my computer for some reason. Again, I have to say that while the gameplay is minimal, the game does a good job of blending in a bunch of different play types (platforming in the dreams, walking simulation during the day hours and various in games like the bass rhythm game sprinkled in) as well as tones. The game is focusing in on the mystery stuff again now with its usual comedic touch to the writing, but I suspect we'll be circling back around to melancholy soon.
 
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Night in the Woods - Part Four
Mae kicked off the day with some more bass, as usual and then headed out to meet up with Bea to go out to the graveyard. Once there, Mae went off to ghost hunt (unsuccessfully) while Bea visited her mum's grave. While at the grave, Bea heard music and voices and Mae decided to go check it out. Eventually, they came across three weird guys (teenagers apparently) who wouldn't let them pass without answering some largely inappropriate questions first. Mae and Bea answered regardless and were finally allowed through to what they called "the realm of the dead." This next segment involved a brief platforming stint to get past a big gate and then walking around to different interactions with tombstone until an accident with a small sink hole led to Mae and Bea falling into Joe's grave and opening his coffin. They didn't get much further than that though because Bea noticed they were being watched and they had to flee. Afterwards, Mae went home and right to bed...

...and right into another weird dream. This time there were no musicians though. She walked through a dark landscape until she came into contact with a giant cat thing. They then had a cryptic discussion about gods and the transient nature of time. What the hell is going on game? I get the point you're making there, but Jesus. Anyway, Mae woke up after that and then headed out to hang out with Bea some more because she's cooler than Gregg. They ended up going to a party that evening. There's an amusing mechanic built in to this between discussions where you decide how Mae dances and all the animations are amazing.

Unfortunately for them, it wasn't all fun and dancing. Mae accidentally outed Bea in the middle of a lie (claiming she was a college student). Bea ran off and Mae gave chase in another platforming section with some cool background music. Mae caught up to Bea and they had a long heart-to-heart about Bea's frustrations and why Mae kept irritating her. Although Mae didn't reveal as much as I'd have liked herself, it was a really nice moment. Best in the game so far.

The next day followed quickly after that and it was off to a park with Angus to do more investigating. I picked Angus next because Mae has talked to him the least so far. There wasn't a lot tot hi segment outside a constellation joining mini game. However, I really enjoyed the discussion Mae and Angus had towards the end. It was very poignant. This game continues to excel at eliciting a very specific melancholic vibe and making its world feel real and lived in. Near the end though, the ghostly figure was once again behind Mae and her friend. The plot marches on.

Mae and Angus ran for it and the ghostly figure gave chase, but it didn't catch them and they got out safely. With that wildness going down, Mae called an emergency meeting of the group and arrange to back into the woods to hunt this ghost. After a while the scenery took on the ominous, red danger hue and soon after the group stumbled upon a group scolding and threatening one of their own members - a guy called Lurv - over the incident with the arm beforehand. It looked like the group were about to kill off Lurv, but they noticed Mae and the others - and recognised Mae. A chase ensued. Then the screen went black and this chapter ended on the sound of a gunshot before opening on the next where I found myself playing as Bea. I doubt that Mae is dead just yet, but she must have ended up hurt or something. Personally, I think her aunt (the cop) was the shooter. The game made a point of talking about her gun in an earlier chapter.
 
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Night in the Woods - Part Five
The opening segment with Bea as the player character was pretty short. It opened on her, Angus, Gregg and some other guy holed up in Gregg and Angus' place having fled a man in a hat and coat. They realised at the end of the segment that there was someone listening to them at their door and then the game cut back to Mae wounded and in a forest. I'm honestly unsure if this was a dream sequence or not since Mae passed out and was then shown lying there in a church and later in a room that could have been a hospital while people around her talked. Eventually though, Mae woke up in bed - still in pretty messed up shape.

She headed in to town regardless, hoping to figure out what had happened. She managed to stumble over to Gregg and Angus' - much to the alarm of the assembled people - and passed out on their couch for a while. They hung out for a bit after that but nothing major happened and soon Jeremy was leaving and those in deep shit were heading to bed. Mae did stay up and talk to Bea for a bit though. She explained why she attacked that guy years back and why she couldn't handle college - it was some really heavy and deep stuff that mostly comes down to some sort of anxiety and depression, maybe even agoraphobia. God damn. Explained implicitly why she takes so many dumb risks too.

Mae couldn't get back to sleep after that so she left the apartment and went back to the woods... because of course she did. She encountered the ghostly figure - who is definitely not an actual ghost again - and ranted at him and was going to attack him. However, her friends arrived before she could get hurt and Gregg shot the guy with a crossbow. The group gave chase into a dark mine. Eventually they found the man they'd been chasing... and all of his friends.

Their leader - not who the gang chased - revealed that they were basically a cult. They had been feeding people (39 thus far to be exact) to a mysterious entity down a hole to preserve the prosperity of the dying Possum Springs. Instead of immediately attacking though, they invited Mae and her friends to join their cult. They even let them leave to think about it (so long as Gregg left his crossbow behind). Granted, there was also a threat involved since none of their identities had been revealed while they knew everyone in Mae's group.

It wasn't to be the safe exit they were hoping for though as most of the way up, one of the cultists appeared out of nowhere and grabbed Mae. In the ensuing struggle, Mae's attacker was killed by the mine lift and the mine caved in on itself. The attacker also lost their hood/hat/whatever. At this point, it was unclear if the group saw who it was... besides they had other troubles. Like being stuck in a caved in mine. They had airflow at least. Soon enough, they found a way that seemed to lead to an exit. During the walk, Mae had an out-of-body experience where she realised that a lot of her anger was actually sadness and fear and told the entity in her head (and in the hole) to pretty much kill her or fuck right off. It seemed to work because she came back to reality with her friends... and the exit just ahead. Mae, resident risk-taking climber, volunteered to climb out and get help and started the treacherous ascent despite her messed up state. Half-way up though some kickass emotional post rock came in for the background music and I knew she was home free. It was quite a moment. Soon enough, thanks to some help from Germ, they were home free. They even got Germ to agree to blow up the well they'd climbed out of to block off the exit behind them and probably trap the cult down behind them.

Eventually, Mae went to bed and the next morning came. Mae had a quick talk with her very reasonably concerned mum and agreed to explain why she'd left college when she was back at home that night. First though, she had to go see Bea, Gregg and Angus. Mae met up with Bea first and they had a long discussion about why she could empathise with the cultists and they decided to take a roadtrip in the future. Then Angus and Gregg arrived back and it was time for practice, pizza and the rolling of credits. Game over.

So, this is a good game. I admit, I didn't expect the mystery to end with actual legit cosmic horror. I figured the truth would actually be more mundane. But nope. It was a murder cult and a mysterious ancient entity down a hole. Weirdly though, this felt pretty fitting. Because ultimately this game is about time. It's a story about time's prescience, the inevitable change in relationships and life and the fear of the unknown. That was what unified Mae and the cult. Mae couldn't handle college because it was different and it scared her. Because the life she had known was over. The cultists sacrificed townsfolk to an entity they didn't understand because it seemed like it preserved the old status quo to them. But, the message of the game is clear: change is inevitable and time is always moving forward. You can't do anything about it, so you have to enjoy what you have while you have it. It's a beautiful message from a game with a dorky sense of humour and animal people for characters. Night in the Wood really excels in sending that message and creating a weirdly melancholic atmosphere even when things seem happy on the surface. Because that force of change is always there.

The actual gameplay is pretty lacking. It's a lot of walking around and talking to people. However, your choices in those discussions do influence how things play out to an extent and there's plenty of mini-games to keep you engaged. Honestly, the mini-games are really solid. Probably because they're basically legit full games stuffed inside Night in the Woods in the case of the rhythm mini and the hack-and-slash game on Mae's laptop. The little platforming segments are nice too, even if they are really easy.

The art style for the game is kind of quirky, but I like it. Things can get a bit weird sometimes though because everything is very flat and 2D, but characters sometimes move in three dimensions anyway. This can make some of the platforming, or even just moving around places, feel kind of weird and janky.

The music/background noise was solid. Mostly it didn't really add anything much but in Mae's dreams and a few more pertinent scenes, it does step up a notch to add something to the feeling.

Writing: 8/10
Visuals: 5/10
Soundtrack: 7/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Total Score: 26/40

Note: I changed "story" to "writing" because I'm usually talking about more than just the plot.
 
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25,502
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11
Years
Final Fantasy VII - Part One
After discovering the PC port crashes every time you tab out, I spent the next thirty minutes setting up an emulator to play that way. So I was off to a great start with this game. Once that was dealt with though, I went in through the unskippable opening cinematic I had already watched today and it was time to invade a Shinra facility and blow it up with Barret, Biggs, Wedge and Jessie. Cloud set the tone for his character pretty fast - by that I mean he's an asshole in it for the money. I can already tell he's going to have a solid character arc though because while he claims Shinra isn't his problem, he did leave them and side with Avalanche, even if it was under a financial pretence.

Anyway, they went through and slaughtered a bunch of mooks before setting up the bomb and fighting their first boss. Like most "tutorial" bosses, it was easy enough to kill. Especially because I knew machines in Final Fantasy are tyically weak to lightning magic - and Cloud comes set up with some. I still don't like the ATB, but with it set to wait it's not so bad. My main gripe with the combat so far is that it seems like you can't save Limit Breaks for later if you're using the base attack command. That's kind of a pain in the ass. So far so good though.

With ten minutes to escape, Avalanche made it out with plenty of time to spare and then split up to rendezvous later. On his way to meet back up with everyone, Cloud ran into Aerith (but we don't know she's Aerith yet, shhh) and bought a flower from her because even though he's an asshole, I'm a nice guy (really, I promise). After they parted ways, Cloud fought a small army of Shinra soldiers and then made a dramatic exit via train surfing to get back to the avalanche hideout.

Naturally, being the edgy boy he is, Cloud tried to take the money and bail from there. However, Tifa stepped in and played the "childhood friend" card, convincing him to stay for the next job... under the pretence of higher pay. The next day, I stocked up on some gear and equipped it to Barret and Tifa. From there, Cloud and co. set off and boarded the train to their next target. Unfortunately, thanks to the intervention of a pickpocket, the party was forced to jump out the train and continue on foot when they couldn't avoid a lockdown. It wasn't too hard for the party to fight their way through the underground tunnels to the next reactor though.

Upon reaching the reactor, Cloud had a weird vision showing Tifa morning her dead father, saying Sephiroth (who he apparently idolised) did it. Once he was recovered though, they set the bomb as per usual and made for the exit until the next boss appeared - courtesy of a trap set by Shinra's president. The boss was uh... not very impressive. It died before it even got to attack thanks to two limit breaks and a bolt spell. The following explosion was a problem though as it sent cloud plummeting through the resulting hole.

He woke up later in some church being tended to by Aerith. They talked for a while before some Shinra people showed up and they had to flee. I left it at that.

So far, I'm having fun but it's early days and I haven't seen anything spectacular yet. Sometimes the environments suck to navigate, but that's just how it is with the game being so old I suppose... granted other games of the era with less ambitious backdrops were no trouble. I look forward to seeing more.
 
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Final Fantasy VII - Part Two
With the Turks - part of Shinra - on their tails, Cloud and Aerith made their escape over the roof tops and eventually made it back to Aerith's house in the slums. Cloud met Aerith's mum and spent the evening at their place before heading out to go back to Sector 7 and Tifa's bar the next day. During the night, Cloud started hearing voices and seeing flashbacks for the third time, so that's weird. The voice in his head seems pretty chill though. Regardless, morning soon came and Cloud tried to make a stealth getaway without Aerith.

Naturally, this didn't go as planned. Somehow, Aerith actually beat Cloud there and made it pretty clear she was going to show him through Sector 6 to get to his destination. They stopped part way to hang out in a park and talk about stuff... only to see Tifa being quite literally carted off somewhere by a Chocobo pulling a carriage. Aerith decided for the two of them that they'd be going to see what the hell that was all about and they gave pursuit. They followed the cart through Wall Market to a mansion of sorts... where men were not allowed to enter. Naturally, this was the origin of the infamous cross-dressing Cloud as he disguised himself as a woman so he could get inside with Aerith. Soon thereafter they... yikes... recued Tifa from a torture chamber and then went to confront Don Corneo (the owner of the mansion) in his room. They used the chance to get some information - apparently some dude called Heidegger from Shinra was after Barrett. He also revealed a plan to quite literally crush Avalanche. As that plan began to get underway, Corneo set off a trap and dumped Cloud, Aerith and Tifa into the sewers where they were soon thrown into a boss fight against Aps.

The party escaped the sewer and rushed through the train graveyard to reach the Sector 7 slums tower where a battle was already underway. After watching Wedge plummet to his death, Tifa and Aerith go to take care of Marlene (Barret's daughter) while she and Cloud went to help Barret and the remaining Avalanche members. At the top of the tower the party fought Reno of the Turks and droe him off but failed to stop him from detonating the tower and destroying Sector 7... wiping out Avalanche and any innocents. Also, because he's truly a dick, he managed to kidnap Aerith - apparently "the last ancient" too.

While everyone rightfully freaked out, Cloud had another weird vision-thing and heard Sephiroth's voice. Seeking answers, the remaining part headed towards Aerith's house to question her mother about all this "ancients" stuff. Aerith's mother, Elmyra, explained that Aerith was actually adopted after she lost her birth mother and Elmyra herself lost her husband. Apparently Aerith and her bio-mum had been captives in a research facility and fled. Aerith often displayed mysterious abilities - like hearing strange voices that knew things they shouldn't - and was frequently pursued by Shinra for her Ancient abilities. She had agreed to be taken this time to ensure Marlene's safety, leaving the kid with Elmyra.

With Barret and his kid reunited - albeit briefly - the group rested up before leaving Elmyra and Marlene behind to mount a rescue mission at Shinra HQ. The party made a death-defying climb up to the HQ's level and then decided to take the stealthy approach in. While Barret's preferred strategy of shooting our way in sounded fun, it also did not sound like the best plan. So the party climbed up the world's longest flight of stairs and infiltrated at one of the higher floors. From there on, it was a series of looting, fighting and ascending. There was also a puzzle given by an irate mayor that I save-scummed through because I couldn't be bothered lmao.

Nearing the top, the party overheard a Shinra meeting that mentioned that an ancient like Aerith was needed for their experiments to "reach the promised land" or something like that. Their chief science guy, Hojo, said Aerith was inferior to her mother though so they would need a backup plan... like breeding her. Yikes. Naturally, the party were not standing for that shit. They followed after Hojo and overheard more of his experimenting. Here Cloud stumbled on the word "Jenova" which triggered more weird visions and talk of Sephiroth. There was more pressing things to deal with though.

On floor 68, the party found Hojo experimenting on Aerith and some animal. They broke the experimental container and freed Aerith as the creature broke out and mauled Hojo... and then it introduced itself as Red and agreed to help Barret and Cloud fight an incoming boss experiment while Tifa got Aerith to safety. The fight wasn't exactly hard, but it was annoying because it spammed poison at me. Soon enough though, it was defeated. Unfortunately, the subsequent escape attempt went poorly and everyone was captured and thrown in prison. The resulting meeting with Shinra's president did explain their motives though. The energy they're draining from the planet can be found in abundance in this rumoured fertile promised land that the Ancients, or Centra, can take them too. More Mako Energy, more money and power. God damn. These villains are a little too real sometimes lmao.

I'm really liking the themes present in FF7 and how grounded it feels despite its fantastical elements.
 
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Final Fantasy VII - Part Three
Breaking out of prison proved to not actually be difficult... sort of. Everyone went to sleep and woke up to the doors being open and everyone else in the building being dead. It was an absolute bloodbath. The party followed the trail of blood and corpses to the President's desk only to find he was dead too, impaled by a sword that was left behind. Cloud and Tifa both recognised the sword as being Sephiroth's. A survivor tried to bolt, but the party grabbed him and interrogated him. Apparently Sephiroth had said something about not letting Shinra have the Promised Land when he attacked. That was as far as things got before Rufus, the Shinra VP and son of the President showed up and the survivor made a break for it. With many questions in need of answering the party gave chase.

The plan then changed when Rufus announced his intent to take over from his father and rule with fear instead of money. Cloud and Tifa stayed behind to deal with him while Aerith, Barret and Red made a break for it fighting through a mini-boss gauntlet down the lifts to do so. Meanwhile, with Tifa downstairs, Cloud took on Rufus solo on the roof - declaring that he knew Sephiroth was an ancient like Aerith and that he'd let neither Shinra nor Sephiroth get the Promised Land. Cloud emerged victorious, but Rufus managed to make his getaway. Cloud met back up with Tifa and the two of them headed down to the others. Taking a truck and a motorcycle (because Cloud needs to be extra) the party made a break for it with Shinra forces in tow. They managed to deal with the bikers on their tail, but the big mech tank was more of an issue - turning into a boss fight. Cloud, Aerith and Red took it on, bombarding it with spells and limit breaks until there was nothing left. The party continued their escape, fleeing Midgar and heading into the world beyond to search for Sephiroth - and answers.

The next destination was set for a place called Kalm, with the group splitting into two factions (Cloud, Aerith and Tifa in one team and Barret and Red in the other) for safety. A short trek across the depressing grey overworld later, everyone got to the rare patch of greenery where the town was located and met back up in Kalm's inn. Not before I did a few overworld battles... including one where my fucking elixir got stolen. Once everyone was properly gathered and ready, Cloud explained his (and Tifa's) history with Sephiroth.

Essentially, on a mission to repair the Mako reactor near Cloud and Tifa's hometown (with Tifa as guide) back when Cloud was in Soldier under Sephiroth, Sephiroth learned that the planet had originally been "taken" from the Cetra by those who didn't wish to continue their way of life. Thousands of years later, Professor Gast of Shinra discovered a frozen Cetran, Jenova, and started using her for experiments. One such experiment was the creation of Sephiroth. Sephiroth went crazy after finding this all out and killed everyone in the town except for Cloud and Tifa who managed to survive somehow. Unfortunately, Cloud couldn't remember how they made it out.

While exploring Kalm and doing some shopping, the party heard rumours of a man matching Sephiroth's description being nearby. So next time it's off in pursuit of him.

Curious to see how things continue from here now that Shinra seem to be secondary and I'm out of Midgar. The environmental and capitalistic themes have been really great so far and I hope they don't take too much of a backseat to Sephiroth's insanity and the mysteries around him, Aerith and the Cetra - although that is all interesting too.
 
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Final Fantasy VII - Part Four
The party left Kalm and headed south, eventually coming across a rustic Chocobo Ranch. Unfortunately for them, none of the birds were for sale but they dd learn how to catch some of their own... and spent a small fortune on the required materials. After buying said goods, they headed out into the grasslands to nab some Chocobos so they could cross the marshes without getting eaten by a 30ft long serpent called the Midgar Zolom. Once the Chocobo had been captured, the party crossed the marshes with a Zolom in pursuit but unable to catch them. On the other end, they came out in an area where a second Zolom had been pretty brutally killed - assumedly by Sephiroth.

Beyond that, they entered a cave where they did a mini-grind session before running into the Turks who accidentally revealed Sephiroth was heading to a place called Junon Harbour. The party fought a few monsters and then followed the Turks out of the cave. Not too far out, I came across a place called Fort Condor where some people were preparing to defend themselves and a rare bird against a Shinra siege. I signed-up to help but they decided I was too poor to immediately help and had to go grind enemies for cash first. So I did that and... encountered Yuffie and recruited her to join the party. Didn't see that coming lmao. From there on, it as back to cash grinding and then the tower defence began.

The tower defence game that followed was... slow... and long. I made it out with 900ish Gil left and a Magic Comb for Red to use as a weapon. The party left Fort Condor behind and continued their journey towards Junon Harbour. The party was surprised to find the place was extremely run-down, but there wasn't much time to ponder that because they immediately ended up in a fight with a giant sea-serpent to save a girl's life. I had to do a CPR mini-game too, so that happened. The party were rewarded for their efforts though, gaining access to the Shiva summon materia. Shortly after, the party learned that Rufus would soon be arriving and that Sephiroth had probably crossed the ocean already. Cloud headed up the airport and the city above to see what could be done about that situation, disguising himself as a Shinra soldier to do so.

This was frankly an awful segment of the game. It was a lot of meandering around and really dull and annoying mini-games. The loot and shops were pretty solid, but it just went on and on and on. Finally, after all that bullshit, Cloud managed to sneak everyone onto a cargo ship. Once everyone was reunited, there was a sudden alarm call on the ship. Sephiroth appeared and sicked Jenova on the part before fucking off somewhere. Theparty dealt with this early Jenova form with ease but judging by what it was doing, the next time they see it might be a bit tougher. With that out the way though, the part arrived in Costa del Sol on the next continent over.

I'm pleased that the themes around Shinra are still fairly prevalent, but god I wish that middle segment of todays play session hadn't come with them. The Jenova fight was cool though. So far my party is:

Cloud lv 19
Aerith lv 18
Red XIII lv 18
Tifa lv 17
Yuffie lv 17
Barret lv 16

Right now, Red is by far the strongest - especially cause he's equipped with the Enemy Skill materia making him a Blue Mage right now but Cloud and Aerith are close behind. I haven't used Yuffie much yet but she seems pretty solid and she has Throw which is always powerful. Tifa is good too, she went from having the worst Limit Break to the best damaging one lol. Barrett... yeah. He's the weakest. His attack is technically higher than Cloud's but he never seems to do as much damage regardless and his magic stats are awful so he doesn't get much in the way of cool Materia right now. He's also just kinda... boring as a character. He dropped off so much after Midgar.

I look forward to exploring this new continent.
 
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11
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Final Fantasy VII - Part Five
The party did some exploring and shopping around Costa del Sol before hitting the beach... where they ran into someone on the phone to Hojo. I didn't see that coming, but it did my next destination. It was onwards to Mt. Corel. There the party simply followed a long and winding path past a Mako Reactor and over some railway tracks to eventually reach the town (ish) of North Corel. The locals there did not seem fond of Barret at all, blaming him for the abysmal wreck the place had become. At first it seemed like some sort of accident ruined the place and Barret took the fall for it. The truth of the matter was that there was an explosion at their (at the time) new Mako reactor and Shinra troops burned the town down and killed almost everyone within to cover it up. Barret was blamed by many because he had been pro-reactor at the time since it would make it easier to provide for his family. This was a very well-timed development given how much his character had been dropping off - he's better in battle right now too after picking up a new gun along the tracks.

After that, it was onwards to the cyberpunk Vegas on steroids that is the Gold Saucer. The blinding casino lights will have to wait for next time though.

I didn't end up getting much done today, but progress is progress and compared to the previous segment I played, I have no real complaints about today. Barret got a much needed boost character and power wise, some Shinra-Yuffie history was implied by her harshness towards Barret and I'll hopefully be able to make some money at the Gold Saucer tomorrow before continuing the hunt for Sephiroth.
 
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Final Fantasy VII - Part Six
Cloud and Tifa went off in pursuit of Barrett, running into this weird thing called Cait Sith who... joined the party because they had nothing better to do apparently. Of course, not before giving a fortune that foreshadows that unfortunate thing that happens later that we probably all already know about given that this game came out in the 90s. Anyway, with Cait Sith now in tow, the party continued exploring the Gold Saucer. Shortly after, Cloud and co met the owner of the establishment, Dio, who told them he'd seen Sephiroth around. He couldn't be more specific though... naturally.

Still looking for Barret, Cloud gave the casino a try and... Christ it is so not worth it. I get that it's meant to be a casino and therefore a scam, but from a gameplay perspective the mini-games here are just not worth the effort. I'm not playing thousands of rounds for one item. Fuck that. FF7 really does have the worst chocobo mini game too, holy shit.

Anyway, with it becoming quickly apparent that the mini games were a waste of time, the party continued their search for Barret. Upon reaching the arena part of the casino though, they found something altogether more alarming. This part of the Gold Saucer was just littered with dead guards. Assuming Sephiroth was behind it, the party investigated further into the area. They quickly came to the realisation that Sephiroth wasn't the killer though as the victims had been shot not attacked with spells or a blade. A survivor implied Barrett had been the killer and before the party could follow up on this, more security arrived and arrested everyone.

Thrown in prison once again, the party soon encountered Barrett. Barrett decided not to explain anything and be edgy instead, running off to handle the problem on his own. This went as it usually does with the party giving chase. The party caught up to him quickly and he revealed that the killer was probably Dyne, who had a gun arm just like his. With that sorted, the team split into two groups again with Cloud, Barret and Tifa going after Dyne. The not-so-shocking reveal that Dyne is Marlene's real father came out in a tense confrontation... and then Dyne decided he had to 1v1 Barret... because he'd completely lost his mind and wanted to kill his daughter to reunite her with her mother. Barrett defeated Dyne, who came to his senses but killed himself because he couldn't handle his guilt.

With that resolved, the party was still left with the issue of escaping... with only one option to get out... entering one of the awful fucking chocobo races. There was just a little tonal dissonance on that one but at least the race was pretty easy to win. For my troubles I got a buggy for crossing rough terrain and, more importantly, details about the direction Sephiroth was heading. At said location, Goganga, there was no sign of Sephiroth himself but the party did run into the Turks... who were summarily dispatched earning the party some loot and the unnerving thought that there was possibly a spy among them given how easily they had been found. The party entered Goganga itself soon after. There they watched Scarlet of Shinra observe a destroyed Mako reactor (and looted her Titan materia ayyy). The party did some shopping in the village itself, heard about a guy named Zack who was apparently in Soldier (I'm sure that won't ever be relevant) and then continued on their way.

The next place the party reached was Red's home with the best music in the game so far. Coolest location too. There Red - known as Nanaki to his people - introduced the party to his grandfather who showed them his planetarium and explained that souls returned to the planet the same as biological matter did. These souls flowed around the planet as something called the Lifestream. Those souls would eventually reincarnate, die and re-join the Lifestream in a cycle. This was the true nature of Mako energy and explained why its use was quickly killing the planet. Soon thereafter, while sitting around a bonfire, Red said his father had left his mother for dead during an attack by some people called the Gi tribe. Apparently the truth was more complicated though, so Red's grandfather took Red, Cloud and Aerith into a cave system to show them.

The cave system was long, winding and sprawling which meant that Cloud, Red and Aerith did a lot of levelling and the rest of the party has some catching up to do. They did eventually reach the end though where they were thrown into a boss fight. After we won, we learned that Red's father (to the shock of none) was not a coward but a certified badass who defended their home single handedly against the Gi tribe even as he was stabbed, poisoned and turned to stone. More amazing music played here too.

Anyway, Red resolved to remain with the team, do his father proud and save the planet. The party headed off towards their next destination.

This has been my favourite segment thus far. The best visuals, the best fights (and also the worst... fucking frogs), the best music and the best character development. The twists might have been obvious, but it didn't lessen their impact.
 
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Final Fantasy VII - Part Seven
I started off with a little grinding and then the party was off to their next destination, which turned out to be Cloud and Tifa's hometown of Nibbelheim. What was weird was that despite being meant to be a burned out husk, the place seemed completely fine. The party explored a bit, seeing no sign of the expected destruction. The weird numbered people in capes were... well weird. But they gave no indication as to what was going on. To try and figure out what was going on, the party headed to the Shinra mansion. Inside, the party learned that a former Turk had been locked up in the basement and set about rescuing him. First they had to get a key out a safe though... which triggered a boss fight though and this one was actually pretty rough. It hit like a truck. After the pain in the ass that was opening the safe to begin with, that felt kind of unfair ngl. Soon enough though, they had the key and some other good loot too.

Actually down in the basement, things got a bit intense. There was no fight, but the group did encounter Sephiroth. He talked about resummoning Jenova and raining calamity from the skies in what he called "the reunion" and invited the party to follow him past Mt. Nibel to see what he meant for themselves. Then he yeeted a materia at Cloud's head and flew off. The party then rescued edgy boy Vincent from the coffin he was locked in... but he was reluctant to join the party. With some prodding though, he revealed that he had once been a Turk and that he had loved the woman who gave birth to Sephiroth - a former researcher for Shinra. He had failed to stop her from taking part in the experiment and blamed himself for the results. After a little more poking, he joined the party at last and everyone headed out in pursuit of Sephiroth. Along the way the party fought a huge bug-like boss thing but kinda trounced it and stole all its shit before heading out.

From there, I did a little grinding and then the party visited Rocket Town. There they did some looting and some shopping - hearing Rufus would be in town soon in the process - before climbing up the eponymous rocket to meet this game's Cid. He explained he was set to be the first astronaut before Shinra axed the space program to focus on Mako. The party then went back to Cid's house and he shouted at his wife (assistant?) and them for no good reason before going out the back to work on his crappy old plane. Meanwhile, Shera (the person in question) explained that she had put her life at risk and Cid had cancelled the launch (which turned out to be his last chance) to save her life - resulting in his shitty attitude. Shortly after, Rufus and one of his followers, Palmer, arrived, Cid went out to see Rufus and the party followed. Rufus was not there to restart the space program like Cid had been led to believe, but to take his plane. While Cid and Rufus argued, the party went to stop Palmer grabbing the plane. Palmer was easily defeated and summarily run over by a truck. In the aftermath, the Party (now with Cid as a member) made their escape on the plane... which was rendered a boat in the process. After they "landed," Cid told everyone Rufus had mentioned Sephiroth was headed towards the Temple of the Ancients across the ocean. That made that the next major destination.
 
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Final Fantasy VII - Part Eight
The party visited a place called Bone Village where they heard Sephiroth had passed by and also got the location of the Temple of the Ancients to the south. As an added bonus, they heard that they needed a keystone to enter, a keystone in the possession of "some rich guy." Figuring that might have been why Sephiroth was seen at the Golden Saucer, since Dio is the richest guy they knew, the party headed back that way. What followed was... a tedious mess. I cannot decide if it was my fault or the fact the game tells you fuck all about how to get to your destination lmao. I made the error of trying to go directly to the saucer - having to back through Mt. Nibel and Nibelheim to reclaim the buggy and cross the desert. Unfortunately, the desert is an endless loop and you can never get back to the saucer that way. So I went back through the fucking mountain again and reclaimed my planeboat, circled back around to outside the saucer and eventually found that the way in was to go via the cable car in Corel like your first visit. Good job me.

At the Saucer, Dio told Cloud that if he entertained him in the arena solo, he could take the keystone. Cloud obliged and made it three rounds through some absolutely bullshit restrictions before he got fucked over by Stop shenanigans. Apparently that was enough though because Dio let him take the stone. Unfortunately, they couldn't leave the Saucer just yet because the tram out was out of order and wouldn't be repaired for a while. Cait Sith suggested they stay at the Saucer's hotel in the meantime and the party, with no other real option, obliged.

Everyone hung out for a bit and then retired to their rooms. That night, Cloud and Aerith took the reprieve to spend some quality time together around the Saucer (which for some reason involved getting roped into a play). Why yes, I did set myself up for maximum pain just to get the most authentic ff7 experience. Aerith said some real interesting things during date night, some foreshadowing things you might even say. But there was other shit to worry about because on the way back they caught Cait Sith in the act of running off with the keystone and, after chasing them around the Saucer, caught up to him just in time to see them give the stone to Tseng of the Turks. Tseng got away with the stone and Cait Sith revealed they were remote operating the cat body from Shinra. What's more, they had captured Marlene and (probably) Aerith's mother and used their safety to blackmail the party into... keeping them around because they were curious about them. Well, Cait Sith just got much more interesting lmao. This was a twist I didn't know about in advance either.

The next morning, Cait Sith made good on a promise made the previous night and gave the party directions to the Temple. The party boarded the Tiny Bronco and set off. That's all for today though.
 
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Final Fantasy VII - Part Nine
The party entered the Temple's antechamber to find Tseng laying there severely wounded. Evidently, it was Sephiroth who got him because he revealed to the party that Sephiroth was searching for something other than the Promised Land and gave the party the keystone so they could go after him. They activated the keystone and were transported into the MC Escher nightmare world of the temple's interior to begin their pursuit. The party made their way through Escher hell and into a place that was actually unpleasant - a hallway where they had to duck under falling rocks with perfect timing - barely making it through all with the spirits of the Ancients talking to Aerith all the while. The spirits showed the party what happened when Sephiroth attacked Tseng - including his monologue about using the temple to straight up merge with the planet itself. The party continued on, more resolute that ever that they had to stop Sephiroth.

The next obstacle they had to fight through was a clock-themed puzzle and just... so many enemies. Another puzzle followed too. Eventually though, the party reached the area where they had seen Sephiroth in the vision earlier. There they found Sephiroth still in the room. Sephiroth explained he was going to use the Meteor spell to damage the planet so severely that it would start absorbing loads of spirit energy to heal itself, and that he would place himself at the centre of the wound to absorb that power, merge with the planet and become a god. Yikes.

Sephiroth then flew off and Cloud started getting weird and glitchy and talking about a black materia - the meteor materia. Cloud came to his senses soon thereafter... just in time for the party to get jumped by a big fuck off red dragon. This was alarming but not actually that hard to beat. Aerith paralyzed it immediately with her Seal Evil limit break and then Yuffie and Cloud both dropped their damaging limit breaks on it. It didn't take much more after that to down it and it barely got a handful of attacks off. Soon after, the party learned that the black materia was the temple itself, or rather, it was contained in the centre of the temple in such a way that they were effectively linked. Trying to take the materia would involve solving a puzzle that gradually shrank the temple as you progressed to reach the materia at the centre... crushing you in the process. Cloud decided they still couldn't leave the materia there though, which was a problem. Until Cait Sith chimed in, pointing out their real body was miles away so they could afford to be the sacrifice. Reluctantly, the party agreed to trust them.

Cloud, Aerith and Yuffie made their way to the exit so the plan could be put into action... but the door turned out to be another boss fight. This thing hit way harder than the dragon, but Hasting the whole party made it much easier to deal with. Aerith easily kept Cloud and Yuffie up and they were able to bombard it with Limit Breaks thanks to all the damage it was dealing out. Cait Sith was let in and obtained the black materia but things got problematic thereafter. Even as a backup Cait Sith was arriving, Sephiroth appeared and brought out the weird glitch Cloud again - the voice he'd been hearing - and the glitch gave the materia to Sephiroth before going mad and passing out.

Cloud proceeded to have a vision where he was in the Sleeping Forest near the Bone Village with Aerith, who claimed the City of the Ancients was beyond it and she was leaving for there to go stop Sephiroth - because only she could as the last Cetra. Sephiroth also appeared soon after, saying that they would have to stop her soon as she was becoming a problem. Cloud woke up in bed after with Tifa and Barret nearby. They were quick to inform Cloud that Aerith had truly left. Cloud was seriously shaken after that but a... pep talk(?) from Barret was a rude enough awakening to snap him out of it and the party headed towards the City of the Ancients to catch up with Aerith.

The party (with Cloud, Red and Vincent active) headed through the forest and the valley beyond to reach what was now called the Forgotten City and began their search. The party scoped out the city and found nothing, being forced to rest for the night. Later that evening though, Cloud sensed the presences of both Aerith and Sephiroth. The party rushed to begin their search anew, following Aerith's voice into a strange structure by a lake at the back of the city, entering and traversing down a path that led beneath the lake. They soon found her seemingly in prayer or meditation. Cloud approached... but started getting weird again. He drew his sword and prepared to attack her... but he couldn't. He shook off Sephiroth's influence and pulled back... only for the moment we all know happens to happen. Sephiroth descended out of nowhere, killed Aerith and then set Jenova loose against the party. With no time to mourn yet, the party went into battle. Fortuitiously, I had picked up on the strong hints (loads of water absorbing item drops) that a water boss was coming up and equipped said items to this Jenova was a push over. In its defeat though, it mocked Cloud, saying his feelings were false since he was merely a puppet.

The party put Aerith to rest and Cloud resolved to finish what she started, defeating Sephiroth and keeping the black materia out of his hands. He asked the party to continue along with him, realising that there was a separate entity within him interfering with his actions and asking them to prevent him doing anything terrible. The party continued north across the snow and ice to reach a small town but that's where I called it for today.

So, I finally reached the (in)famous perma-death. Honestly, this is the first FF death I've experienced since the end of FFX that felt like it had real impact. It was a solid gut punch for the characters and the player and was executed really well. The boss fight immediately after, keeping the sad music going was a nice touch.
 
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