Saturday, July 28, 2012

Storms and Fried Routers and Chrono Trigger DS Rants

So, as I warned might have happened on my Twitter the other night, the storm that we had was a rather nasty one.  It was pretty obvious that we were going to lose power and I unplugged things that I worried weren't safe, whereas things that I thought would be safe, I kept plugged in.  However, when the power went out and there was a rather loud 'Pop' noise, it was clear that when the power came back, something would reveal itself as a casualty.  The next day, when it came back, the problem ended up being the wireless router.  It was fried.  Like, plugging it in resulted in just the number "4" port lighting up as a light would come on during a horror movie - that practiced, tell-tale flickering that means something is either struggling to light, or simply struggling to -not- turn off.  On the cusp of life, you could say, but it was safe to also say that such a sign means the router is no longer going to work for its intended purpose; that of supplying internet.  So I have a new one set up (I won't be sharing what it is because I don't need the purchase criticized or praised; it's bought and set-up, not worrying about it anymore) and I presume it works, since before me is my Vita with a fully loaded up youtube video of Moto - BoA, but we shall see if it lasts, since it was almost -too- easy.

These outages are getting fairly taxing, as I'm sure you all realize, being as much affected by them as I am, but there's not a whole lot I can do against them.  The upside is that generally when they happen, either the downtime means that enough news is brought up in the meanwhile, or that I, without internet, am forced to do -something- that I can then talk about.  As you might infer from the above picture and the title, I am totally up for talking about Chrono Trigger DS which I picked up, much as I did the last time there was an outage and in my playings this time, I have made it to one of the two big things that was added to the DS port, and it is very clearly the single thing that pretty much everyone agrees shouldn't have been added in.  Or at least, I'm assuming everyone agrees because the Lost Sanctum, what I'm talking about, is unequivocally, universally terrible in design and execution and is a blight on gaming as a whole, not to mention the otherwise great game (and good, not great, port of it).  This is probably where you think I'm kidding.  The next few paragraphs is where I'm going to convince you otherwise.

As always, I'm going to blatantly talk about Chrono Trigger and Cross while throwing out plot points like candy in a parade, so if you're not into that, look away.  So, the Lost Sanctum is a place that exists not only in the Pre-Historic age (noted as 65,000,000 BC), but also in the Middle Ages (noted as 600 AD), denoting a 65,000,600 years worth of difference.  This is, unsurprisingly, important to remember since I specifically brought it up.  However, despite the two gates (they are gates, as in Time/Space gates on the map, so it's not like it's a finite, existing place in the world) being in those two eras (and no others, further denoting it as a non-finite place in the world of Chrono Trigger itself) it's only done so as a convenient excuse to have to time-traveling an excessive amount of times to accomplish goals, and Pre-History and the Middle Ages are pretty much the two places lacking the most reasons to visit.  (Antiquity, or 12,000 BC, should be on that list, but, well, the Kingdom of Zeal portion and the whole Lavos blowing errthang up kind of nixes any reason to consider the place for things.)

Regardless, as I have inferred, the time periods have little to do with it since I'm of a mind that the two Lost Sanctums aren't really 65,000,600 years apart.  There are various reasons for this, of which I will eventually cover, but the one prime among them is the fact that I am pretty sure that the Lost Sanctum is -supposed- to be Dinopolis in its early days (both times), which is pretty much based solely on the fact that Dinopolis is a place that existed where only Reptites lived (as they do in Lost Sanctum) and the port job just -loved- adding in superfluous things to tie it closer to Chrono Cross.  Having you do menial tasks for the folks who would end up getting transported into the proper timeline and trying to destroy the world with dragons sort of fits the bill.  And yes, that is a plot point from Chrono Cross:  'Time', in an attempt to bring balance to the world, brought in Dinopolis, a civilization of dinosaurs that never grew up technologically to counteract Humans using super-technology to accidentally time travel a super-advanced scientific facility that harbored FATE, a machine that controlled the world in Illuminatti-esque ways or something.  Because Dinopolis had Dragon Gods that stood absolutely no chance against FATE.  Try not to think of it too hard.

One of the strengths of Chrono Trigger is the fact that it uses on-screen monsters so that you can, in theory, skip most battles if that is your thing.  And when you're doing menial fetch quests, you generally like to just get from Point A to Point B with as little resistance as possible, since you just want to get it done.  Of course, one of the failings of the Lost Sanctum is that it takes this tenant and just kind of throws it out the window, in that the detection boxes or the forced battle boxes, cover entire paths.  In layman's terms, it simply means that the places surrounding the Lost Sanctum proper (as in, the cave where the Reptites live) all have at least a few forced battles per screen.  They're not even difficult battles, and some of them are simply insulting, like one of the Fetch Quest Mountain screens features a battle with an enemy called a Jadewing.  A single Jadewing.  You have to use magic to kill it.  It goes out with a single Dark Bomb if you're rockin' Magus, and likely goes out with a single magic attack from anyone else because it's a pissant enemy.  Those forced battles are both way, of course, since going up the mountain necessitates that you come back down it, obviously.

So honestly, if it were just a matter of getting requests from all the reptites, going out, doing them, suffering the forced battles and coming back to be done with them, it would be bad enough, right?  Some poor design decisions, assuredly, but nothing too dire.  That is why it doesn't end there.  Only one reptite thinks of a task for you at a time, meaning that you'll have to do them all pretty much in succession.  There is -some- overlap, as I have three requests, so to speak, open at the moment, but just to get to a place where I could technically do those three requests, I had to do another request that is an utter abomination in design and is pretty much what governs all of my anger at the port at this moment.  This, coincidentally, also reinforces my "This is not 65,000,600 years apart" theory, which kind of helps, but it also just makes everything another degree of stupid.  Simply because my position that it's not that far apart is -purely- conjecture, whereas one would assume that it is to be considered that otherwise.

One of the things that happens in the Pre-History Lost Sanctum is that one of the Reptites says "I need something from the top of the mountain, but a Nu is guarding the bottom of it".  So you go and beat the Nu and then go get the thing from the top of the mountain because the guardian was just -a- reason not to go, not -the- reason.  The Nu, after you beat it, says it's going to train for your next encounter, which I'm sure you can't guess where it happens.  So, for various reasons, you'll need to go to the 600 AD Lost Sanctum to go up the same mountain and when you do, the Nu is at the bottom because Nus live for several millions of years and challenges you to a fight if you make it to the top of the mountain.  You need to get to the top of the mountain anyway.  So he runs off and you head towards the top of the mountain.  There is a problem, however, as the first rope ladder you encounter has broken in the middle which is entirely a possible thing that has happened after sixty five million years.  Or, presumably, the Nu broke it because he is a dick.  You have to, of course, approach the ladder close enough so that your characters can stop and confirm that the ladder is indeed broken, instead of just turning around after seeing it is broken.

This is still sort of non-offensive at this point.  One of the reptites has gone on and on about ladders so you think he is an expert on them.  So you go to him and he's like "Well, there's some sturdy vines in the glade to the south."  The glade, in 600 AD, is what you have to pass through to get to Fetch Quest mountain.  In Pre-History, it's a swamp.  I'm sure this is how nature works.  So you get the sturdy vines which are in fact vines and know...something else.  Something that could presumably be more sturdy than vines which are just vegetation which is known to rot away and such.  Especially over the course of sixty-five million years, if that's what they really expect us to believe.  (By the way, if that's what we really are to believe, then that Nu has been training for that sixty five million years and yet you are expected to beat him?)  So you think "Well, I have these vines, so I need to take them to the ladder guy" right?  Wrong.  If you take them to him, he will not acknowledge them whatsoever.  And you will probably be confused.

What you have to do is go back to the broken ladder to confirm that it is, indeed, still broken and to realize that there is no way you can hang the new ladder vines, since if you could hang them, you wouldn't need them.  You -need- to trigger this event.  It's literally like two lines of dialogue if that, but it's one of those event flags.  So you have to take these vines, once again going through all the forced battles all through this entire journey of going to this point on the mountain, through the glade and swamp, and go back to pre-history to go through the swamp again to the point where the ladder is you can move a foot to the left and drop the vines which make a carbon copy rope ladder.  Which is supposed to survive the apparent Sixty Five Million years between events.  And of course, it -does-, since once you go back to 600 AD -again- and go through the glade -again- to get to the mountain -again-, there is the vine ladder that looks like a rope ladder right next to the broken rope ladder that actually is a rope ladder.  And to top it all off, when you go up the vine ladder that looks like a rope ladder absolutely nobody remarks on it.

I'm not sure I've effectively quantified just how poorly this all is executed and, indeed, designed, but I like to believe that I have.  Ten Trips to a single area in a mountain for what is honestly just one request (beating a Nu's ass twice over the span of, again, apparently Sixty Five Million years) with at least two forced battles each way, I think, hammers the point in a little more effectively than I could hope to do otherwise, but it still doesn't really cover the soul-crushing tedium that is generated by the Lost Sanctum.  This is just -one portion- of the entire thing that was apparently so good that Squeenix thought it was just a fabulous idea to throw into this otherwise half-baked port of a great game.  "Oh, but Mogs, it's purely optional!"  Yeah, so is like everything else at endgame which is when this unlocks.  Getting ultimate weapons, going through the Black Omen, reviving the main character of the fucking game is all optional.  They're not entirely banal, superfluous and terrible though.  Still, if a selling point of an enhanced port is the 'enhanced' portions of it, as in the stuff that was not there originally, or the stuff that is changed, I would suggest that it's a little less optional than those things, even, since this is supposed to be the stuff that makes veterans of the game want to buy it.  So that poses the question:  Who the -hell- would want this?

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