Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 8.56.06 PM(Image: Zerochan.net)

[[ Spoilers for both games; you’ve been warned! ]]

[[ Especially if you have not awakened all the crystals in Bravely Default! ]]

Braev(Lee) Bravely Default

I’m stuck in a loop with Bravely Default. (Hurr, get it?) As in I start playing for an hour on weekends, then a couple hours, then I put it down to do chores and eat and/or head outside, and then I pick it up again the moment I’m home. I’m extremely curious in where the story is heading, and where it will end.

I should be absolutely livid at the amount of time the game teases out in having you traverse the same old stomping grounds and watch your party unthinkingly catapult into slightly varied, yet always heated exchanges about Crystalism. But I’m not. I watch every insipid Party Chat, pore over every page of whomever’s diary, and leave no sidequest unturned. As someone who often glosses over game lore, I have no idea why I feel compelled to do so. Perfect storm of complex characters and compelling mechanics (so many strategies to try! Do you play it safe and default often; or do you brave and blitz like crazy? Do you feel lucky, punk? Do you? [Well hopefully not, since Luck isn’t a stat in Bravely Default, iirc!]).

It’s strangely rewarding to see growth — even if it’s extremely orchestrated, nonbranching story — in your characters and the cast of NPCs, and not just the numbers behind them. The differences in each world iteration propels my curiosity to a point where I feel like I need to know more and want all the answers. Some characters become more repulsive, others more likeable, and a few confound entirely. A merry-go-round of JRPG stereotypes you thought you knew but shift slightly with each turn.

But why wouldn’t you want to interact with the asterisk-holders again? They typically have something of interest to add, and while they’re not too challenging (with a few obvious exceptions — DeRosso!). And when Alternis’ loses his helmet for the first time, how can you not return to the journal?

The least interesting aspect is the required quests: awakening the crystals. After all the intricate planning in the battle system and character development, we’re just going to button-mash the crystals back to life? I guess that’s better than something gimmicky like having to blow into the 3DS microphone and perform some sort of embarrassing electronics CPR when playing in public or on the subway. The core of the game seems hollow but the rest is so vibrant.

Which makes me wonder how others experience Bravely Default. Surely, not everyone is an OCD-level completionist as I. Don’t the unturned stones bug you? Do you find Bravely Default engaging still after forgoing the extra story? I bet it saves a lot of time to skimp on sidequests (especially the third time through!). Or is it more of a rote grind-fest to the end of the world?

This is probably overthinking it, but Bravely Default seems to happily poke fun at other JRPGs — yay, we saved the world, isn’t that swell, now let’s travel onward to more adventures, again and again and oops we screwed up, better get back to it, again and again and again. The world always needs saving. Or does it?

/// SIDENOTE ///

Bravely Default has some clever wordplay in many character names, but I think the Lee family names are my favorite: Braev (bravely), Mahzer (motherly), and Edea (ideally). Now only if they could get along.

Favorite part of the journal entries:

“It’s our fault. We were tasked with banding together and protecting it, but we lost the concert. Bridge. Whatever.”

/// END SIDENOTE ///

The Walking Dead: Season 2 (finished)

the-walking-dead-game-season-2-episode-2-screenshot

You’re terribly alone, despite being surrounded by people (who will relegate all the fun tasks like attacking zombies with a hammer or checking out abandoned buildings to you). (Image: Videogameblogger.com)

It’s not like season 2 has been without its memorable moments and surprises (omg that dog in episode 1! Or sewing yourself back together! Or they didn’t kill Kenny! Or holy crap, Matt is definitely not coming back!), but I’m not connecting with it the same way I did in season 1. Maybe it’s because most of the mystery is gone — it’s a downright terrifying world out there, and everyone and anyone will stab you in the back. Oh, and everything will always go wrong.

Maybe it’s because I’m no longer protecting one person in particular? Focusing on keeping Clem safe by playing as her feels much different from when I made decisions for her as Lee, directly or indirectly. Do not misunderstand — I love that Clem is such a strong character with grit to spare. (Almost too strong, right? Hardly phased by the atrocities around her. It’s just terrifying trying to keep an 11 year old safe by myself, with no one other character so invested in protecting her. I feel alone and uneasy the entire time. But that’s why we play this series, isn’t it?

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Either I fall in love with a JRPG and see it through until the very bitter, final-final ending (I mean, how could you be satisfied with just the “good” ending of a game instead of the “ultimate final ending” after logging 50+ hours) or immediately lose interest and invest less than a couple hours.

For example, I meant to simply investigate Persona 3 and 4: The Golden last year, only to find myself 100 hours later and deep into Monad or chasing the “true ending,” respectively. (I even researched whether some spoiler-ific plot twists were unavoidable or not, some of which have insane answers that require another play-through in new game+.) Then on the other hand, there’s the widely acclaimed Tales of the Abyss on 3DS that I failed to connect with after several contrived dialogue scenes, uninteresting battle tutorials, and JRPG stereotypes later.

Bravely Default
Bravely Default
falls squarely into the Persona category, where even though I just started with the goals of merely completing it, I now find myself mired in a grind-fest to party perfection, leaving no Asterisk unturned or job path unfinished. The battle mechanics require you to reinvent your strategies often, and the story is surprisingly interesting too. Instead of racing through, I’m going to relax and enjoy a long play-through, well past the 55 hours I’ve already clocked.

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 6.14.50 PM

Not everything can be all experience- and job-point farming, so I’m playing through some less time-intensive works too.

Oquonie (iOS)

I’m not even going to pretend that I understand this game (yet?). I think there’s one sentence (which in Oquonie is a series of three detailed hieroglyphics) that I comprehend, and I’m not sure what I’m trying to achieve aside from exploring and gathering three matching symbols from the world’s increasingly odd inhabitants. Feels like a monochromatic hand-drawn version of Fez taking place in an M.C. Escher painting. Although after reading the game’s site, I feel like I have to side with them in that Oquonie is best described as “Animal Crossing in a K-Hole”.

Mangia (web browser)

A well-written and very expressive Twine on what it’s like to live with an eating disorder. Having recently weathered a big health shake-up that immensely altered my lifestyle and diet, I found this resonated with me on many levels. You should also try the developer’s other games because they’re super great.

The Walking Dead: Season 2 (halfway through Episode 2)

Almost every exchange so far:

NPC: This sounds totally crazy, but here’s how we should approach the situation.

Me: This doesn’t seem like a good idea. Can I get another option?

NPC: Nah, it’ll be fine.

Me: I’m not comfortable with this.

NPC: No, no, this is how we should approach this problem.

Me: I still disagree but ok…

NPC: How could that have gone so badly?! Aw, things are all messed up now! How are we going to get out alive?!

Me: :|

I made my first game this weekend! I’m proud of myself for finishing a Twine project all by myself in one day for IGDA DC‘s Text Game Jam. The game itself? Not so much.

Twine 1.3.6 or bust
Anyway, I was floundering for the first few hours of the jam, which mostly scratches up to me being a complete novice and not having the correct version of Twine and going through an arduous process of trial-and-error. (p.s., when you see a patch for something, do not immediately think, ah, I probably won’t need that. It’s probably a bad move.) I needed the <textinput> macro to work, and it took me a little to long to confirm that yes, 1.3.5 for Mac does not offer this support.

So if you’re working from a Mac OS, do not even waste time with Twine 1.3.5. Sure, download it, but patch it up ASAP to make the most of the macros. Just copy the /targets folder from the 1.3.6 Alpha version to your 1.3.5. There’s also this patch for 1.3.5 that also involves copying and pasting over the /targets folder, but And if you’re using Windows, that 1.3.6 Alpha version is quite nice — I worked on my first build on my netbook!

After I patched 1.3.5 and my macros would actually work — and when I say my macros, I mean the one’s I took from Glorious Trainwrecks’ resources — it was smooth sailing.

Helpful Links
So, in my misadventures of breaking absolutely everything in Twine before I fixed it, I found lots of good Twine resources. While they’re all helpful, I’ve winnowed these down to the ones that were most immediately accessible as a beginner as far as covering the bases.

Anyway, Twine is totally friendly to coding neophytes. I’m interested in implementing the timer feature into one of my games next.

As I get links from the Text Game Jam, I’ll post them in the list below. Here’s what we have so far:

The Box (Sam Levine)
•Trelos [link incoming?]
•Princess Escape [link incoming?]
•Tribunal of the Cave [link incoming?]