Category: RPG

Chrono Trigger (1-4) [SNES]


Need I say more?

Holy fuck we’re playing Chrono Trigger!  We kinda picked this one up the other day, and have been burning through it whenever we get the time.  As a result, I haven’t been very good at blogging our progress.  I considered skipping it entirely, but hey, why wouldn’t I want the chance to quickly chat up one of the greatest games of all time?

Ed’s never played Chrono Cross, my favourite game of all time, even though he hears me rave about it all the time.  I’d like him to play Chrono Trigger first, to get a sense for the series and enough backstory that he understands some of the subtler plot points of Cross.  I gave him the DS re-release some time ago, but he never got past the first time-jump.  He said it just didn’t appeal to him, and I say that’s because he didn’t even make it to the beginning of the game.  After cracking off Lunar: Silver Star, his favourite RPG of all time, I decided to press for turnabout, and we started playing Chrono Trigger together.  I was hoping we could play the DS verison, but I couldn’t get an emulator to look good enough to play together.  I grabbed the PSX version too, but had completely forgotten about the horrendous loading times for everything.  After a few minutes it was more than I could stand, so we whipped out a SNES emulator and decided to go for the classic version.  It’s superior to the PSX version, in any case.

Oh, and Ed’s addicted now.  We’re both loving it, and we’re using every spare minute to rip through it, so we’re… pretty far.  Apologies for the lack of screenshots, I just figured out how to use the function effectively today, so most of this is just me summarizing Chrono Trigger in a wall of text, for reasons I myself don’t entirely understand.

Recap time!



Thanks for rubbing it in, jerkface.

We’re in Miribia, waking up after Ghaleon kicked our asses.  Nall says that the White Dragon Wings started to glow, and teleported everyone out of the Grindery.  The rest of the party have been up for days, but Alex has been in bed for almost a week, and they weren’t sure he was gonna make it.  Wouldn’t that be a weird end to this game?  Jessica and Mia are fine, running Miribia out of Mel’s office and planning our assault on the Azure City.  They tell us that Kyle’s been on a bender, and even Nash is acting strangely.


That’s how everyone talks about us.

We head out to the city bar to see what’s up with Kyle, and find Nash there too.  Both are stuck pretty deep in depression and whining, a fairly anime state of affairs.  They’ve pretty much given up any hope of coming out of this alive and are both ready to spend the rest of their lives in hiding. Nothing Nall or Alex can say will convince them otherwise, but once we report back to the girls, they figure a way to change their minds.  Jessica drags everyone back to the pub and slaps some sense into Kyle by calling him a wuss to his face.  Kyle mans up in response, and he’s back in the party.  Man, this is the most dysfunctional relationship I’ve ever seen in a video game.  Conversely, Mia builds Nash up and praises his bravery in order to get him to man up, and he’s back in the party as well.  Soooooo dysfunctional.  Straight people, go figure.

Laike shows up as we’re leaving, and asks us if we’re really ready to fight Ghaleon.  Of course we are!  He says we have to head back to Burg, and the White Dragon will take us there.  Nall starts to glow, and we’re all teleported off to the same cliff, Dyne’s Monument, from the beginning of the game.  Nall isn’t sure how he did that, but Laike pushes aside those concerns for a minute to tell a story.


Your objection has been noted, Ghaleon.

He (finally) explains what happened 15 years ago, when Althena and Dyne disappeared.  Althena had decided that it was time for mankind to make their own destiny, and was getting ready to release her magic into the world and be reborn as a human.  Dyne believe this was the best course of action as well, but Ghaleon thought that humans were incapable of being masters of their own fate.  He thought that humanity needed a God to shepherd it along, and vehemently opposed what Althena was doing.  Once Althena was reborn, he stalked away and vowed to undo what they had done, while Dyne entrusted the baby girl to a couple in a small town, Alex’s parents.

Back in the present, Laike finally reveals that he’s Dyne.  There have been a couple overt hints so far, so it’s not really surprising, but nice that we’re finally getting the backstory from someone who was there.  The whole game has kinda been a big mystery in terms of motivation and background, so the reveal seems a little overdue.  Then again, the fact that the story has been so personal all along has really helped to keep it grounded, instead of a generic save-the-world quest.  Dyne tells Alex to pull Althena’s Blade from his monument, and claim his mantle as the world’s protector, the Dragonmaster!  Alex does so, and in a flash of power reminiscent of He-Man, he regains the power and outfit of the Dragonmaster, along with a sweet new sword!


Can Nall stay this size for battle? That would be awesome.

The group isn’t sure how we’re going to get to the Azure City, with the airship out of commission, but Laike says that Alex’s dragon has been beside him all along, and that he can carry them.  Right, Nall?  Nall goes through an equally bad-ass transformation, and becomes a kick-ass White Dragon!  Yee-haw!  Everyone hops on, and with Laike’s wish for luck at their heels.

As Nall flies us into the Azure City we see the magic of the world being pulled into the city, making the whole world look like the desolate Frontier.  Once we land, Nall switches back to kitty form and we head into the dungeon.  They’re pulling out the big guns, and we’re getting some serious XP from the battles, most of which are forced.  Althena’s Blade is making a serious difference on Alex’s attack too, but best of all, we figure out that Alex’s Black Dragon Lament ability will instantly kill everything in this dungeon.  AND it costs less MP to use than another of his spells, which just hits everyone.  We may have abused it a teensy bit, but mostly we used it as an out if we were hurting in a battle.


So much backtracking…

The dungeon itself is more maze-like than previous areas, and packed with rooms that seal themselves unless you kill enemies.  There is clearly a focused effort on making the player battle and gain the necessary XP for the final boss, and because this style of grinding is relatively organic, it avoids feeling as monotonous as some other last dungeons do.  Also, there is loot everywhere, and it’s the good stuff,  the strongest armour/weapons for various characters. It gives a great sense of your characters powering up as you approach the final areas, with dual whammies of Level Ups and Stronger Equipment.

After a while, a Luna impostor jumps us and tries to get us to leave the city.  After some ideological differences, ‘Luna’ throws a spell at us, and reveals herself as Royce.  She lets know she’s thrown a nasty little curse on us, and she’ll be waiting a few floors above for us to challenge her before porting out.  The curse turns out to be that random characters will start each battle asleep, so it’s a handicap with no advantage.


Big enemies abound, but most have a weakness of some kind.

We tore through the next few floors, using every dirty trick we have to end battles quickly and make it to Royce.  It was actually a long-ass way, but eventually we got to her.  She shows us a glimpse into our ‘future’ with all of us lying dead, but we’re not falling for her illusions again.  Everyone calls bullshit, and she pulls us into a battle.

She’s tough, but we’ve been fighting bosses in the game for a while now.  She was nothing special, and after a few rounds of buffs we turned her around and killed her ass.  She doesn’t even get a good ending, just a snide remark and a fading out.  Good riddance though, she was the worst.

Once we get by her, we enter… ah.  The final final dungeon, the Goddess Tower.  The tower seems to be a giant puzzle, big enemies non-withstanding, and after starting with warping puzzle based on color, we’re introduced to the guts of the tower.  It’s a giant teleport maze, my least favourite kind.  Luckily, Ed loves this stuff, and gladly takes care of most of it.  Dragon Lament also remains an instant kill on all enemies, and it’s a small price in MP to be rid of a battle quickly and not lose your place in the maze.

Finally, we hit a large ornate gate, and Xenobia guarding it.  She’s obviously not going to let us pass nicely, so after some threats and monologuing she throws a spell at us and forces us to face… OUR FEARS!  Seriously, it’s pretty cliche, but we get to have this last bit of character development, where everyone realizes their inner strength.  Maybe we’ll get some kind of bonus out of it, too? (MIA EARNED THE POWER OF SELF-RESPECT! +100 GUTS!)


The voice of dragon-reason.

After a bunch of dialogue with red-eyed, darkly cynical reflections of ourselves, Nall tells everyone to snap out of it and route the darkness.  Chasing away their individual shadows, everyone witnesses the return of Alex, defeating his personal doubts about both himself and Luna.  Xenobia, of course, drags us into a battle once we’ve beaten her spell, and it’s boss time again.  We treat this one the same as Royce, with a little more emphasis on defense through Mia’s Mist Barrier Super Attack, and before long she falls.  No big dying speech for her, either, she just confesses her love and respect for Ghaleon and passes on.

Through the gate, we’re at the altar of Althena, and it’s last boss time!  Ghaleon and Evil Althena are there, and Ghaleon’s still calling the shots.  I would’ve expected her, as Goddess, to have turned those tables by now, but I guess not?  Apparently that’s the point of the Azure City, to draw in all the magic of the world and bring her to true Godhood… at which point she’ll sacrifice herself and transfer the essence of Godhood to Ghaleon.  Well, you ain’t the first would-be deity I’ve taken down in a career of videogaming, so have at thee!  Well, after everyone finishes talking it out, and trying to convince him to stop.  Don’t they know these guys never stop?  There’s only one way.


He can, uh, do some damage.

It’s final boss time!  Unless he has a second form, which would not be surprising, but we decide to go all out anyway instead of holding back for another one.  What could possibly go wrong?  Defenses and buffs are thrown around liberally, and we somehow manage to survive his initial onslaught.  Jessica is on strictly healing, Mia’s on buffs, and everyone else is pushing as much damage as we possibly can, as fast as we can.  We had to stop for an item break every so often, but it carried us through the battle without too much trouble, although it was frackin’ LONG!

Once Ghaleon’s down (but doesn’t disappear), Alex approaches the altar to rescue Luna but is cast back by Althena.  She has no memory of Dyne, Alex, or any of her time as a human, and threatens to destroy us for impudence (As a side note, does that mean Althena was a total bitch before her adventures with the Four Heroes?  Something to think about.). Ghaleon laughs that he’s won now that the world has a God again, and finally dies.


If this doesn’t work, we’re boned.

Alex decides to climb the staircase to her alter by himself, even leaving Nall behind.  As we climb the staircase, it’s bolts of lighting and threats from the Goddess, every step of the way, until she finally remembers at the end.  Once she remembers, she reveals that she’s going to sacrifice herself to destroy the Azure City and release the magic back into the world.  Alex tells her she can save the world and stay alive, and the power of love will protect them.  Of course it will.

As the Azure City crumbles around them, the rest of the party hops on Nall and flees the doomed city.  Watching the city fall into the wasteland and explode, the party mourns the loss of Alex and Luna who died while saving the world.  Except no, they didn’t!  A ball of light explodes in the center of the Frontier and sends out a wave, turning the earth green and clearing the skies.  Alex and Luna appear in front of them in a messianic fashion, and the every celebrates their final victory!


See? Strangely dysfunctional relationship!

Back in Miribia, the party splits up as Jessica and Kyle go visit Mel, while Mia and Nash go meet with Lemia in the Magic Quarter.  Alex and Luna go check on Ramus, and he’s overjoyed to see Luna alright.  He’s still not ready to return home, but he wants us to say hi to his parents when we get back to Burg.  At Mel’s Mansion, Kyle’s terrified of Jessica’s dad but lets the two of them have a touching reunion… from behind a human shield.  But once Mel notices him, everyone’s true feelings come to play, and Mel happily approves Jessica and Kyle’s marriage.

On the way to the Magic Quarter, we’re stopped in the main square by Phacia.  Not only is she alive, she’s leading the Vile Tribe to find a place in the world that they can settle down.  Now that the Frontier is green like the rest of the planet, they’re off to find someplace with nothing, and hopefully turn it into something.  She understands there’s bad blood between Vile Tribe and Humans, but she also understands that it’s their own damn fault, and that they need to work to make things right again.  After some good wishes, she ‘ports back out.

In the Magic Quarter, things are a little more tense between Lemia and Nash.  She’s still not happy about his betrayal, but is all ready to hand leadership of the Guild over to Mia.  Nash vows to help her rebuild it with all his heart, and makes a confession of his feelings before choking and being ignored by daughter and mother alike.

Finally, we stop in the pub and catch Tempest and Fresca on their way back to the plains.  After some awkward child-bearing talk, they take their leave, and we meet Laike out on the pier.  He gives us his blessings and says his goodbyes, telling us that he’s going on another long journey. Maybe we’ll meet again in the future, yea?  And after the credits finish rolling, Alex and Luna are back on the cliff where they started, showing that every journey is a circle.




Because I can’t separate myself from the hours of mind-numbing boredom and agony this game/series has been, I’m changing this format.  Since I’m not trying to be totally neutral and rule out my biases, and because I’m not going for pure objectivity, I’ve decided to refrain from using the expression ‘Review’.  It sounds professional, and this is not.  This supposed to be personal, a gaming diary, and while I’ll still recap good and bad, I don’t want to feel limited in what I’m going to say and I want to be able to go at length on any facet I choose.  Therefore, I’m adjusting the title to “Rant’n’Rave”, which in the most literal sense is what I’m doing, talking up the good and down the bad.  This change will also be retroactive, ’cause I like organizing things.

So… Dot Hack.  What can I say about you that I haven’t already whined about out loud to people over the course of the last 6 years I’ve been playing you?  Since the second game, when I realized there wasn’t going to be any changes from game to game, just more of the same, and I was tucked in for a 100+ hour grindfest?  How about I start with a reason why?  Why play this game (series) if it’s such torture?  Why whine and bitch and play this thing when there’s other stuff, other fantastic games, that I could be discovering and playing and loving?

Because it builds character.

Because sometimes you’ve just gotta see something through to the end, even if you hate every minute of it.

Because at one point, my naive self was so excited to be playing you.

I’m sorry, Dot Hack.  It just didn’t work out, and now we need to go our separate ways.  And it’s not me.  It’s you.



Ruid, the fortress in the center of the Frontier

We’re heading into Ruid, which is also the Grindery?  I’m so confused by parts of this game, but here’s a dungeon, so let’s get cracking!  I figure we’ll give this a couple hours and have it beat, this area looks pretty ‘last dungeon’-y.

We get into the fortress via the code word that Phacia gave us, and hit the ground running.  Enemies are tough, but we’re tougher!  Also, we have healing spells, and we’re gonna use them!  We start out in Ruid’s outer courtyard, which looks a lot like a town that happens to be populated by demons and giant killing machines.  When in Rome, I guess…

After clearing out the monsters and stealing the loot from inside the ‘houses’, we headed into the main castle-like building.  Inside, we’re greeted by another Vile Tribe guy, albeit a human-looking one like the Xenobia, Royce, and Phacia.  His name is Taben, and he invents weapons for killing humans.  Great.  He introduces us to his Mobile Magic Masher, which is actually Nash in a giant suit of armor (that kind makes him look like a chicken?).  Nash spouts off a bunch of stuff about how powerful he is now, and how we might as well just give up.  He zaps the party but avoids hurting Mia, who takes the opportunity to walk over to him, look deep into his eyes, and haul off a slap that’ll leave a mark for days.  YES!


That’s a ridiculous outfit…

She manages to talk some sense into him, and he decides to join back up with us.  Unfortunately, Taben still has the suit under remote control, so we get dragged into a boss fight against it.  He’s not too difficult, but his spells certainly are packing more of a punch now.  Could we actually keep the suit and have him come back onto our team?  No?  Okay, fine.  We take out Nash’s silly outfit and Taben dashes off, talking about “the main event”.  Nash apologizes for being a humongous douche, and explains that The Grindery is a giant mobile fortress tucked inside Ruid!  We have to stop it before it takes off, so we hurry to the launch bay.


Talk talk talk, blah blah blah… just jump over there and stab him!

Ghaleon and Taben greet us, and despite much posturing on both sides, set the Grindery into motion.  It tears apart Ruid as it heads off into the world, and we can’t warp out, so we fight our way back out of the city and head to the airship to follow it.  It’s a giant fortress on tank treads, so at least it’s leaving a pretty clear trail to follow.  We catch up with it in the airship before it leaves the Frontier, but it looks like there’s a magical field around it, and we can’t penetrate it.  Mia deduces that Ghaleon is headed to the Goddess Tower to challenge Althena, so we kick the airship into gear and head for Vane!

Once we arrive, Mia explains to her mother (Lemia, the leader of the Magic Guild of Vane, in case y’all forgot) that they have to use ‘the true power of Vane’ to stop Ghaleon.  Lemia agrees, and after we collect the party, it’s off to the Silver Spire in the Guild headquarters.  Nash explains that Mia’s going to take all the magic in Vane and use it against The Grindery, and even though he doesn’t like the idea, he supports her.  Once we port to the top of the tower, Mia gathers the collective magic of Vane via FMV and trades blasts with the Grindery.  The Grindery blows Vane out of the sky, sending us crashing to earth, but Vane’s blast knocked out the Grindery’s shield, so now we can get in there and attack!


That’s twice this guy has saved our ass… he wasn’t that powerful when he was in the party.

We head over to the Grindery, and without so much as a knock, a door in the side opens… to throw enemies at us.  Tough enemies.  The difficulty curve in this game has taken a sharp uptick every since we hit the Frontier, but that’s okay; it’s been pretty easy up until now.  We beat a bunch of them, but the enemies are overwhelming us.. until Tempest and Fresca show up with the Prairie Tribe to rescue us.  They hold off the monsters, and we dive into the Grindery’s guts.  Let’s finish this!

The Grindery is more steampunk than even Myght’s Tower, with enemies everywhere.  We do some grinding so that we’re not struggling for victory in each battle, and make sure to pick up all the loot we can, including what’s looking to be some of the best gear in the game.  Sweet.  After some climbing, we get to a set of foreboding-looking doors that are sealed shut with magic.  We can’t get through them, but Phacia shows up and unseals the doors for us, even after Royce and Xenobia show up and bust her chops for it.  Phacia defends her decision and tells us to hurry, and holds off the other two while we attack Ghaleon.


Yea, it’s the last boss, baby!

Finally, we meet the big guy.  He says that Luna is in the room behind him, but we have to defeat him first.  Well, he asked for it!  We unload everything we can, boosting and shielding all of our characters before unleashing all our AG attacks.  He’s a tough boss, but we have plenty of healing items and MP, and despite a couple slip-ups we manage to kill the bastard!  All right!  We head through the doors at the back to get Luna, and after everyone in the party talks about how awesome it is that we won, we finally get to take our steps towards her.  This all seems a little too drawn-out and perfect, though…


Warning: Not the damsel in distress

Yea, she’s still under a spell.  And she give a hell of a villain speech before transforming to evil-looking dominatrix chick-villain mode.  The podium raises up and Luna(?) takes center stage, using the evil song that hurt the Prairie Tribe to raise a huge city from beneath the Goddess Tower.  This thing is big.  Like, really big.  And Ghaleon reappears, of course.  He tells us that the thing we’ve been fighting all this time was just a puppet, that Luna is actually the reborn Althena (I knew that part!), and that the Azure City of Althena that’s just been raised will allow him to ascend to godhood, before he challenges us to try and stop him.

Alright, last battle time!  We pull out all the stops again, and hold our own for quite a while, before he eventually beats us all and teleports away with Luna.  Dammit, it was a battle we were supposed to lose!  I hate those!  And we used so much time and items fighting him… Argh.  I really thought we had him.  Alas, ’tis not to be, and with the whole place collapsing, Nall somehow manages to teleport us out of the Grindery.  We wake up in Jessica’s room in Miribia, and that’s it for the night.  I thought we were gonna beat it tonight, wahhh!  Next time, I swear it!


We picked up where we left off by hacking into Rotting Countless Sacrifice and heading straight for the bottom of the dungeon.  This area is Lv.85, so I’m kinda glad I got all those extra levels, the game’s catching up to me now.  We plowed through the dungeon and took down the last boss without any further problems, so afterwards it was back to the servers and it looks like there’s only one place left to go.  On the Board earlier, someone mentioned seeing a wandering AI of Harald (the creator of The World, and Aura’s ‘father’) on Delta Server in Reincarnated Purgatorial Altar.  It’s a Lv.90 area, and it needs the four Virus Cores we’ve just picked up in order to open.  We’ve lost our level advantage too, so I’m pretty glad we abused it while we did.  That’s a lot of grinding we skipped.  We load out and hack our way in.


So much Data Drain…

We skip the field completely and head right into the dungeon, to be greeted by a Data Bug, a boss monster.  Apparently they’re regular enemies here.  Great.  And they give 1 XP for a kill.  Ugh!  DOT HACK!!  Anyways, due to the Data Bug nature of the enemies, I again decided to skip unnecessary battles.  Seeing as we get little-to-no XP for them, they’re not worth the effort to fight.  Still, by the time we hit B5 I was pretty sick of Data Bugs and was ready to take down a real boss.  By B7, I was starting to question how long this dungeon was.  By B9 I was becoming pretty concerned, as my Infection Level was now very high after Data Draining all those enemies.  I’m trying my best to take the last hit and lower it, but the Infection is creeping in.  Luckily, by B10, I see that we’re out of map, so I’m pretty sure that’s the end.


Seriously, tons

It’s a Cubia boss, and looks to be the final one!  The tree motif remains, but this boss is a bit different.  We’re basically running up the ‘branches’ of Cubia, running into three separate Cubia Core bosses and their posses.  Each one switches between physical and magical immunity, has goons who attack or heal, and are generally a pain in the butt to beat.  We tossed on as many buffs as we could, and pushed forward aggressively, taking down all three Cores in (relatively) quick succession.  Once we got to the main Cubia head we had to smack him down for another 3000 HP, and when we brought him to 0 he recharged back to 9999.  Ugh!  DOT HACK!!  Anyway, it took some time, but we finally beat him… only for him to recharge back to full again.  WHY!?  Kite remembers what Aura said about the Bracelet and Cubia being two sides of the same coin, and convinces BlackRose to smash the Bracelet.  Once she does, Cubia falls to pieces, defeated.  Helba says the final Wave is approaching, and we’re meeting back in Lia Fail to finish this.


It’s the last Cubia, time to prune his branches!

Once back in Lia Fail, we sell and restock before talking to BlackRose, who invites us to the meeting before the final battle.  The final battle, you say?  Count me in!  And she asks to confirm!  It looks like this is it, I’m all a-flutter!  After a cutscene where everyone takes some old adages to heart, the boss saves us the trouble of finding it by coming to us.  Awesome!  It’s the final Phase boss, Corbenik.  He has a Data Bug health bar, but it seems like we can just hammer him into submission.  He’s quite powerful, but we play it safe and zero his HP.  This prompts his transformation into a second form, Corbenik 2.  Same rules, just new attacks, so we’ll keep the same tactics and crack at his life.

Once we get him down to a sliver of life, though, he pulls out a Supreme Defense.  We can’t do anything to get past it, so I just ran in circles for a bit hoping it would wear off.  Took the opportunity to rebuff my party, and after it became clear that time wasn’t the issue, we continued to pound away at him.  After some time, Aura appeared with all of the people who were stuck in comas, and together they destroyed Corbenik 2’s shield.  He moved to a third form after this, a floating eye thing that’s decidedly different from the last two forms.


Last Boss! First form, but you know how it goes…

This one has a real climactic battle feels to it, so I think it’s the last one.  His patterns and attacks have all changed, and he’s gotten more powerful again, so that’s fun.  We’re running low on buff items, but we keep using them.  I mean, if we’re at the end of the game, who cares how many items we use?  I also use most of the magic Scrolls I have in my inventory to do damage from a distance, and after a while, he’s defeated.  It’s cutscene time, and in the end Aura is able to overpower the Wave and turn it’s Data Drain back on itself.  The servers reboot and the infection is clear, but Aura has been born in the real world and has passed from the digital one.

Once the credits are over, there’s a bunch of emails and some post-game missions as well.  I picked up the very first one with Orca, just because it seems fitting to have that as closure (the first game opened by having you quest with Orca, for those of you who haven’t played it).  We head into Bursting Passed Over Aqua Field on Delta Server, where an email from Aura said that she wanted to meet.  Once we meet up with her, she re-activates Kite’s Bracelet, so we can Data Drain again.  We also get Member Addresses of characters from the .hack//SIGN anime and the ability to use them as party members, but I think I’m gonna cap this one.  Lots of post-game content, but I just don’t feel like it.  Good night, Dot Hack.  It’s been a long, arduous ride, but I’m glad we finished it.


As a quick side note, we’ve been playing this game on PSP through my PC using RemoteJoyLite, a program that uses the USB connection in the PSP to output the video to a PC.  Just video, no audio, but I run a 1/8″ phono jack from the PSP to the Line In on my computer to get sound as well.  Once both the audio and video are being pushed into the PC, I fullscreen the program and output it to my surround system and TV via HDMI, and use a PS3 controller (also hooked to the PC with USB) to control the game.  It was a little complex to set up the first time, but it’s pretty easy to run.

One problem that I’ve had for a while though is that Lunar really slows down when there’s too much happening on the screen.  The entire game lags, and while that’s not a huge problem in a turn-based RPG, it is a little frustrating and could be a problem in future endeavors.  Yesterday while doing some Googling, I stumbled came across a little trick in a forum.  Because I’m playing on a CFW PSP (which is how I can use RemoteJoy in the first place), I can actually amp up the clock speed of the PSP’s processor.  The system apparently runs most games at 222 but we can ramp it up to 333 in a setup menu, and doing so completely solved our slowdown problem!  WOOT!



Dark, right? Black Dragon keeps some bad company.

In game, we headed inside the Black Dragon Fort with our reduced party, killing enemies and making some headway.  The going’s a bit tougher than normal without Mia’s magic or Jessica’s healing, but we plow on through with brute strength.  In the second area, we find Tempest and he joins our party, adding some more attack power to the party, and it’s a welcome addition.  The dungeon itself is all black rock and demonic monsters, really going hard on the dark and forbidding.

We run into a large area where a glowing sphere is talking to us, and it reveals that it’s the spirit of the Black Dragon.  Apparently Ghaleon has already captured it’s body and is controlling it through the Dark Songstress.  It grants Alex the Black Dragon Armor, and bids him go and kill it’s body before Ghaleon can use it to wreak havoc.  He says that the power of his Armor will last even after his body is dead, and once Alex finds the purity inside his heart, he’ll pass the Dragon’s Trial and unlock the power of the Armor.


The Black Dragon is FUZZY! And kinda ugly.

Once we get to the top of the Fort, we find the Black Dragon (his body, at least) and… Luna!?  She’s the Dark Songstress, of course, under the control of Ghaleon. Tempest and Kyle, not knowing Luna, encourage Alex to kill her and end it, and Nash seems frozen with indecision.  Tempest gives us one chance to bring her back to her senses, but Ghaleon warps in and has Luna trash us with her voice and the Black Dragon kicks us around for a while.  Alex pulls out his Ocarina and erases Ghaleon’s mind control with a song (of LOVE!) and reveals his pure heart, causing a magical-girl transformation into the Dragonmaster!  Ciomplete with ridiculous hat!  Woot!


In the name of the Dragons, I’ll punish you!

Ghaleon sends the Black Dragon after us, and it’s a knock-down, drag-out, wonder-tussle of a fight.  This guy is tough.  He gets two attacks per round, and besides dealing some impressive all-allies damage, he can also blow us to the edge of the screen.  This helps him keep us at a distance where we can’t attack, and groups us together for his zone attacks.  We manage to beat him, using quite a few resurrect items in the process, and claim victory and a huge helping of XP as a reward.  Ghaleon is impressed with our tenacity, but he recalls the Black Dragon, grabs Luna, and flies away, calling that he looks forward to seeing us at The Grindery.

We warp out of the dungeon and head back to Tempest’s tent, where everyone is feeling fine now.  Good thing, too.  We tell them what happened with Luna and Ghaleon, and our party is reformed to bring the fight to the Frontier, where the Vile Tribe live.  The Grindery, also, seems to be a large structure that they’re building, though to what nefarious purpose we don’t know.  Laike shows up and lets us know that the flying machine is ready to go.  We head over to Myght’s Tower to check in with the master.


Kyle and Jessica in a nutshell.

Once we hit the Tower, Myght tells us there’s some last-minute adjustments to make, so we camp out in the Tower for the night.  We snoop in on various inter-personal drama, but it’s the same stuff.  Kyle is tough, Jessica is spiky, Mia is sensitive, and Nash is a whiny coward.  Who’s becoming more cowardly and assured of our destruction the closer we get to the Frontier.  Seize thy courage, Nash!  You gots a Dragonmaster, that’s gotta count for something.  Also, a gem from Myght: “Patience, boy!  Delays are temporary, but mediocrity is forever!”

Come morning, Myght is still making some last-minute adjustments, but we’re ready to head out and kick some tail.  Unfortunately, Nash isn’t in agreement, arguing that we’ll all die if we set out.  (SPOILER ALERT!!!)  He then reveals that he’s been reporting to Ghaleon all this time, and refuses to let us head to the Frontier for our own protection.  He zaps our airship, totals the engine, and then gets teleported out by Royce.


Nall and I are in agreement

Now that the engine’s toast, we’re pretty much stuck until Jessica and Kyle suggest using the engine from Shira’s balloon from earlier.  Myght’s not keen on the idea, but it’s the only thing we’ve got, so we head back to Reza’s Thieve’s Guild and pony up some serious cash for the engine.  Once we bring it back to Myght he takes another day to get it ready, leaving the party to muse over Nash’s betrayal (and in Jessica’s case, plot horrible revenge).

In the morning, after some serious hinting that Laike is actually Dyne, we set off in our new airship for the Frontier.  We can’t get in with the airship, as there’s a force field surrounding the whole thing, but it’s ugly!  Like, moonscape barren wasteland.  Apparently the whole world was like this before Althena infused it with magic and made it into the Green Earth, but she left the Frontier untouched as punishment for the Vile Tribe’s evil deeds.  We can’t get in by air, so we land the ship near Talon, a small mining town on the outskirts.

Talon’s populated by monsters, but the upright walking talking kind (Vile Tribe), not the mon-scrubs we’ve been beating up this whole game.  Talon’s mine stretches across the whole Frontier and although the Vile Tribe members have a real hate-on for humans, they don’t even think for a moment that any of us are real humans.  It looks like all the Tribesmen are here for forced labour, and Xenobia’s soldiers are there to make sure they keep working until they die.  Not pleasant.  We get some info from various people, and then head into the mine to try and find a way into The Grindery.


Hey, now that you mention it…

The dungeon itself is much nicer without slowdown, so we burn through it and collect some nice XP, grabbing up loot and killing monsters.  We passed several Tribesmen digging in the mines, and after a rockslide, even went back to help dig one out and save his life.  We trash some guards who are harassing the workers too, once they blow our cover, and then get out of there.  Phacia of the Bitches Three notes our humanity, for lack of a better word, towards the hurt miner and then vanishes, and the group congratulates themselves on being responsible and awesome people.

After some more dungeon, we came across a graveyard inside the mine, with a statue of Althena erected at the center.  I thought the Vile Tribe hated Althena?  They do, but they still need her magical essence to survive in this wasteland.  What a cruel irony.  The same miner that we rescued shows up and lets us know that we have to be extra quick and quiet, since the rest of the Vile Tribe doesn’t know what humans are really like, only the lies they’ve been told by Xenobia, and they’ll be only too ready to kill us.


We’re gonna execute your face!

In the next area, Xenobia herself attacks us and captures Mia and Jessica, forcing Alex and Kyle to fight each other for sport.  Kyle manages to get Jessica angry enough to shake off the spell, though, and Xenobia disappears after sending another boss after us.  This one’s pretty easy compared to the Black Dragon, and we manage to beat the Shadow without breaking a sweat.  After that, it’s basically cake to exit the mines and check out the rest of The Grindery.

Ruid is just up the way, but it looks like a gigantic fortress, and basically screams last dungeon, so we head to the other area on the map first, Cadin.  It’s basically a hive, where members of the Vile Tribe go to bask in the magical energy that keeps them alive, albeit barely.  In the back, there’s another shrine to Althena, and that miner that we saved is there again.  This time, she reveals herself as Phacia, and although we don’t trust her, she tells us that she hates what her sisters are doing, and feels that the Tribe should be able to leave the Frontier simply by asking for forgiveness, not by storming the gates, as it were.  She gives us the password and method of entry into Ruid, and cautions us to be careful of Ghaleon.  No kidding, right?


We ran back to Sigma Server, grabbed a Virus Core I (just one, that’s all I need, I refuse to do any more), jumped back to Omega Server and hacked into Splendid Emerald Nobleman, one of the areas we were given by the inhabitants of Net Slum.  It’s only a Lv.80 against my Lv.82 party, so hopefully we’ll be able to breeze through it.  We cleared the field without even meaning to, and headed down into the dungeon.

Met a new enemy, The Guardian, who looks more like an amoeba/computer/digital being than most of the fantasy-style monsters in the game.  I’m not sure if he’s supposed to give a sense of foreshadowing or not.  He has a lot of life, but no imuunities, and he only gives 80-40 XP.  He’s nothing special… until you Data Drain him.  I usually don’t bother Data Draining since it de-levels the enemy to Lv.0 and you only get 1 XP for the kill, but these guys were getting Protect Break status 2 or 3 times during a normal battle.  On a whim, I Data Drained one and got an awesome sword for BlackRose, but now it’s Lv.0 form (The Bracelet) was kicking my ass!  What?  Unlike every other enemy in the game, this guy turns into a powerhouse when you Data Drain him, so we switched to boss tactics and took him down in a few seconds to the tune of 520 XP.  WHAT?!  Totally going to abuse this later.


This is the easy form, pre-Data-Drain.

We pushed for the bottom of the dungeon, only avoiding enemies who are way out of the way because we’re still getting some decent experience.  We even find a Virus Core I in a treasure room.  Ugh!  DOT HACK!!  Enemies are pretty routine, and no real rough spots throughout.  Even the dungeon boss was fairly easy, Protect Broken in less than a minute and killed in one hit after that.  We headed back upstairs and abused the XP boost from The Bracelet until Lv.90 or so.  That puts us at a distinct advantage, even if leveling up in this game never seems to make you stronger (pet peeve).  At least we all have more HP!

Once we unloaded our equipment and re-stocked, it was off to the next area, Dreaming Moonlit Gravestone.  Now that we’re really over-leveled, I’m just going to take the opportunity to plow through these areas as fast as I can.  We skipped the field, headed straight to the bottom of the dungeon and beat the boss, Draining it’s virus core.  Back to Lia Fail, sell, restock, and save, and it’s off to the next area… or it would be, if I had two more Virus Core J’s.  Here we go again.


I can’t help but giggle at the name.

We head to Hidden Passed Over Sea of Sand since we’ve farmed J Cores here before.  We managed to find two Cores from enemies on the field, so we didn’t have to go mucking around in the dungeon, thank god.  With cores in hand, we hacked into Muted Starving Dry Sea, and again went straight for the bottom floor of the dungeon.  Managed to get my whole party to Lv.91, courtesy of a couple more Bracelets we ran into.  They only give us 480 XP now, but it’s a big enough bump.  The data bug was fairly typical, and after we Data Drained it for it’s Virus Core, we managed to Protect Break it again.  I guess we’ll probably run into a few more of them later?  After we collected the Gott Statue, we warped back to Lia Fail to prepare for the last of the four missions.  And again, I’m missing Virus Cores.  Ugh!  DOT HACK!!


The Data Bugs look kinda pretty in HD

We had to swing back to Sigma Server and Dolorous Promised Clavicle in order to get the Virus Core H we were missing, but we managed to pick up 5 in the field and avoid dungeon trolling, so then it’s back to Sigma and Hidden Passed Over Sea of Sand.  At least I know exactly where to go for J Cores.  We managed to find the requisite 3 on the field, so it’s back to Lia Fail for a final sell n’ save, but it’s pretty late, so I’ll just call it a night and finish this quest later.



That seems unlikely, but there’s magic involved, so who am I to say?

We’re in the Blue Dragon’s Lair, which is a water-themed dungeon with a series of teleport spots.  We’re not in any real rush, so we take the time to explore each area, catch all of the loot, and kill all of the enemies.  It’s not a long dungeon once you factor out the inevitable time the battles take, and before too long we’re at a large cavern at the back of the cave.  The Blue Dragon, who is very pretty, appears to us and repeats what the last Dragons have told us, that a song of great power woke him(her?) up.  This one is way more talkative than the previous Dragons though, and mentions hints and snippets of what happened to Althena and Dyne 15 years ago.  It’s a mystery that hasn’t really been addressed yet, so I’m looking for some meaning in the backstory, while Ed just smirks at me.

We try to warn the Blue Dragon about Ghaleon and the Vile Tribe, but he just hushes us and reminds us that the world has always been in danger before directing us to head into the cave at the back and retrieve the Blue Dragon Helmet.  After grabbing it, we heard a loud crash back in the lair and hurried to see what the problem was!  Phacia was there, and gave us a sob story about how the Vile Tribe were cast out of the world by Althena.  Apparently this whole scheme is just to let them back into the world that they feel they deserve, instead of scraping out a living at the edge of the Frontier.  She seems to be the most level-headed, and actually apologizes for kidnapping Luna and the other songstresses.  She won’t give them back, but she implores us to go home not endanger Luna’s life by interfering with the Magic Emperor, before warping out.


You know this one’s vain. Look at those wings.

The Blue Dragon’s spirit comes back and expresses disbelief that Ghaleon would betray Althena and Dyne, but I guess it’s hard to be skeptical when he’s just been captured.  Some more snippets about how awakening Althena will lead to Lunar’s destruction.  Is Lunar the name of the planet we’re on?  I’m not sure that’s been established yet, but I guess that would make sense for it to be the ‘Silver Star’.  Finally, the Dragon hints that 15 years ago, Althena gave up all of her power… possibly to be reborn inside the body of a normal girl like Luna, hmm?  I think that’s pretty clear right now, but we still don’t know why, or the circumstances leading up to it.

The Elder of Lyton suggests that we head to Tamur, so it’s off to Tamur Pass (despite Ed’s complaining that we haven’t explored or looted the Lost Forest near the bottom of the map).  We head through some enemies and grab some chests, but it’s not long before Xenobia shows up and starts throwing enemies at us.  We initially treated them like bosses, but they’re just regular enemies, so we take them down using normal strategies.  Unfortunately, for every wave we take out she throws another wave at us.  Jessica (and Kyle, by proxy) are foaming at the mouth for a chance to get at her in revenge for turning Mel to stone, but she just keeps tossing monsters at us until a fleet of arrows kills her entourage and she warps out. A dude on horseback looks to be the source of the arrows, but he just rides off when we see him.  Ah well, looks like we’re at the end of the Pass.

We exit into the town of Tamur, and after some brief exploration head into the village green where Laike is waiting for us.  Mia remembers her mother telling her that the Black Dragon’s Fortress was in the Frontier, guarded by the Vile Tribe, and the only way to get there was by flying.  Laike doesn’t know where the Black Dragon is, but he elects to bring Alex along to meet Myght, an inventor who lives at the top of a challenge dungeon nearby (of course).  Myght should be able to build us a flying machine, but he doesn’t like people, so it’s just Laike and Alex to push though this dungeon.


Hey Cid, er… Myght! We need an airship!

The dungeon itself is a steampunk dream, with pipes and valves and levers everywhere.  We had to solve a simple maze puzzle to begin, and after that it was pretty much smooth sailing.  Some tough-ish enemies floating around, but Laike’s still Lv. 99, and powers through everything the dungeon can throw at us.  Poor Alex can’t even kill an enemy in one turn, and Laike’s doing it in one hit.  Sure knows how to make a guy feel insufficient.

Once we get to the top, we meet Myght, who apparently stinks.  Badly.  I dunno, smell-o-vision hasn’t been invented yet.  He’s a grouchy old codger, but it doesn’t take much until he agrees to build us a flying machine so we can get to the Black Dragon.  Laike sends us back to Tamur to gather info on the Black Dragon, and he says that he’s heard it can be found on the plains to the south.  So Mia says it’s on the Frontier, Laike says it’s to the south, and we still don’t know where the Frontier is.  Sigh.  We hop into a chute that takes us out of the tower, and it’s back to Tamur.

Most of the party is chillin’ in the local tavern, and Kyle has managed to get Jessica sloshed, too.  Mia’s not sure where Nash is, but we tell everyone about the airship and Nash shows up to tell us that something’s going down in the town square.  We head over to investigate, and find the guy who helped us in Tamur Pass in the process of hanging (!!) another dude.  We break up the lynching, but the arrow-guy, who introduces himself as Tempest, doesn’t take kindly to our interference.  It’s just the justice of the plains, punishing evil men and liars, but Alex thinks there should be a trial.  Tempest thinks Alex is a wuss, and challenges him to defend his honor in battle, and of course we accept this one-on-one boss fight.


Despite his ridiculous pigtails, he’s pretty badass.

He’s pretty bad-ass, but we beat him without too much trouble.  Afterwards, he hails our prowess and offers his help if we ever need it.  He and his wife Fresca are searching for the songstress of their tribe, whom the Vile Tribe kidnapped.  We’re pretty much working on the same thing, and he gives us the amulet of his tribe before departing.  Nall mentions that it looks like a black dragon head, and we all decide to head after Tempest.  He said he’d help us, right?

From Tamur we head south to the Lost Woods, and therein become lost.  It’s one of those loopy forests, which a bunch of paths branching off from the main section, and all the paths end up leading to each other. You end up just looping through the same map over and over, collecting treasure and killing monsters, but just trying to find the one exit path.  Normally it’s not so bad, but it’s infuriating to watch the monsters just respawn every time we zone.  I suppose the other option is random encounters, which would have the same problem, but at least it wouldn’t look so futile.  There’s a clearing up top that Kyle points out, and near the bottom of the map we find a suspicious area that looks like it should let us out but refuses to budge.  Everyone finally wants to rest for the night, and we head back to the clearing to camp for the night.  Some interpersonal stuff plays out between the respective couples during the night, and Alex has the dream of Luna being taken by darkness again.  Drama!


Luna’s not here, man.

In the morning we’re ambushed by some guys from the Plains Tribe, but after we show them the amulet we got from Tempest, they lead us to their village, Pao.  Inside, Tempest lets us know that his village guard the entrance to the Black Dragon Fort and he’d be happy to help us, but it seems like there’s big problems in Pao. Everyone is getting sick from the song of the Dark Songstress, including all of the girls in our party!  Fresca was able to find that the song is coming from the Black Dragon Fort before she succumbs to the song’s illness as well, and Tempest runs off after it.  We quickly go see the Elder of Pao and tell him what’s happened, and he allows us to follow Tempest into the Black Dragon Fort.


Okay, I’ve been deliberately avoiding this and playing everything else I can.  Even, in a weird case of meta,  actual MMO RPG’s to avoid playing this fake/offline MMO RPG.  I swear to god I will finish this series.

Okay, third time to head to Cruel Vindictive Scars and let’s see if we can’t make it stick this time!  It took a Phase and a Cubia to stop us the last two times so I only dread what’s coming.  I took BlackRose and Wiseman as usual, and we hit the field, headed straight to the dungeon, and basically followed the left wall.  This takes us back to the lowest level and Lios advises that we’re ready to try this one more time!  It’s Phase 7 this time, Tarvos the Avenger!  He’s pretty typical: crazy HP, no weaknesses, and toggles back and forth between physical and magical immunity.  Fun stuff.  It’s not the difficulty, it’s just how damn long it takes.  After 10 minutes, he actually caught me off-guard after DataDraining Kite and wiped my party in the 3 seconds it would’ve taken them to heal me.  Ugh! DOT HACK!! Round two was successful though, despite taking forever.  I think I’m gonna start carrying buff items with me to bosses.


He thinks he’s so bad-ass with his martyr shtick…

We got back to the Lia Fail just in time for all of the residents to leave, and found a slew of new locations through email and the board.  Alright, let’s clock ’em.  First we’re heading back to Lamba Server and (hopefully) quickly taking down the Lv.70 Pulsating Sea of Cloud Whale area.  We’re supposed to be looking to solve the mystery of the Floating Creature (which has caps for some reason) but the story reasons don’t matter anymore.  We’re way over-leveled for it, so we just rush through the dungeon and head straight to the bottom level… which is a boss.  Unexpected, but we’re over-leveled.  Black Death falls with little problem; he’s immune to magic, so Wiseman stays on First Aid, and BlackRose and Kite unload on this guy.  It’s not long before he’s toast, and he unlocks a bunch of images to the desktop.   That’s taken care of, so now it’s back to Omega Server.


I don’t even know why I”m in this dungeon, fighting this boss…

We swapped BlackRose for Marlo and headed to his invited area, Collapsed Traveler’s Fort.  It’s a level match but we skipped the field and headed into the dungeon proper.  Inside, the enemies gave us some trouble but we managed to get a level up and claim the prize at the bottom, a bunch of super-items Marlo had been hiding away.  Mine now!

Back to Sigma Server where we dropped off Marlo and grabbed Rachel for her mission, Nameless Pseudo Sea of Sand.  It’s a Lv.80, so we should pick up some good exp and bump up another level.  I hate having to re-outfit these characters that I never use, though.  Ugh!  DOT HACK!!  We have to go rescue some guy on the lowest level of the dungeon but I genuinely don’t feel like mucking around.  We head straight to the depths, tag the dude, and after a ‘hilarious misunderstanding’, receive 5000 GP and get warped back to Fort Ouph.


Why not Wiseman? He’s right there!

Finally, it’s back to Omega Server and the old party is back again.  We’re heading to Obedient Someone’s Knights to see if Subaru (from the .hack//SIGN anime) will show herself, and maybe get something out of the deal?  We get some okay exp because we’re at par for level again, and it looks like there’s treasure all over the place but we’re ignoring it.  We troll through the top two levels, squeak through a couple battles, and meet up with Crim, who is also from .hack//SIGN… I think.  He hands over a weapon for a Long Arm, which will be useful if I have to use one in the future.  But it’s back to Lia Fail since all the side-questy stuff is done!  Now for the real missions… except that I’m missing some virus cores.  Ugh!  DOT HACK!!


There's one!  And one over there!

There’s one! And one over there!

We bounced around in the Iluk Fields for a while hunting the Fluffy Bug.  Every time we thought we had it the damn thing ran away, so we ended up chasing in into the very back of the field area.  And then once we caught it, we had to fight our way back out, of course.  But in the end, we made a couple levels, and got what we needed to get the balloon working.

Once we brought the Bug back to the Shira the inventor, he managed to install it and get the balloon inflated.  How a Bug would help inflate a balloon with lighter-than-air gas is beyond me, but if it gets us to our next destination, I can play suspension-of-disbelief.  We get a semi-dark dream about Luna, during the night, but the next morning we’re up and away to the Red Dragon’s volcano.

Yay, we're not the only flamers inside this volcano.

Yay, we’re not the only flamers inside this volcano.

The inside of the volcano isn’t hot at all, so all of the volcanic activity is just an illusion that the Red Dragon keeps up.  We end up crawling through the volcano, which true to form, is littered with fire-based enemies.  Luckily, Mia has a number of ice spells, and we all loaded up on ice-based equipment before we came here, so it’s not too difficult to blast through the monsters.  Unfortunately, Royce was waiting for us at the end of the dungeon, and sent a couple of magic guardians after us.  Now that we’re in boss mode, the gloves come off, and we manage to take them down without much trouble.  Royce cuts and runs after that, and we head into the Red Dragon’s chamber.


The female dragons are much nicer-looking

There’s no Red Dragon in the chamber, which means that Ghaleon must have made it here first.  We’re too late, but it seems like a small part of the Dragon’s soul still exists here.  He lets us know that he was awakened recently by a song of powerful magic, but Ghaleon stole his body.  He gives us the Red Dragon Shield to help Alex become the Dragonmaster before fading into oblivion.  We warp back to the beginning of the dungeon, and board our balloon to head back… or we would, if we had any air left in it.

We crash into Reza, and a couple of guys steal the wreak of the balloon before any of us gain consciousness.  Laike finds us crashed out in the middle of town, and after filling him in on the situation, he advises us that the bridge we destroyed (accidentally!) in Maryod has been repaired, so we can cross into a new region of the world, and go after the Blue Dragon.

This is not nice music...

This is not nice music…

Once over the bridge, we headed north to the town of Lyton.  This place loves music, but apparently the Songs of Wind and Earth that normally play in the background all the time are horribly out of tune.  We hear from the Elder that they’ve been waiting for the Green-Eyed Boy (that’s Alex, for those of you keeping track) to come and talk to the Blue Dragon.  Unfortunately, the terrible music playing has thrown everyone in the city off-key, and they can’t summon the Blue Dragon without singing.  Monsters have taken over the Wind Shrine, and have messed with the song coming from the depths.  Luckily, we’re pretty good at monster extermination at this point.


So many paths…

We head into the Wind Shrine, which might be the most labyrinthine dungeon we’ve faced so far.  Lots of dead ends and twisty tunnels, and lots of floor traps that send us back to the beginning of the dungeon.  Well, I guess it’s process of elimination time, and see if we can’t find some loot while we’re in here.  The enemies have taken another bump in difficulty, but it’s not too much trouble to wipe them out.  It’s more grating on the patience, since the enemies respawn every time we’re sent back to the beginning, but I guess if the grinding is built in, we don’t have to do it later.  We eventually find the room that’s making the music, and after pushing some rocks around, we fix the song and head back to the Elder.

The Elder tells us that the Blue Dragon’s shrine is found in the lake at the north end of the village, and that the song of two lovers are needed to bring it to the surface.  Despite Kyle and Jessica giving it their best shot, they suck, and Mia and Nash don’t do much better.  Alex finally plays on his Ocarina and we’re treated to a short scene of Luna and the rest of the kidnapped girls singing along to the song.  The three bitches warp in and do some dialogue about the power of the song, and Ghaleon comes in time to realize that Luna is the one he’s been looking for.  Back at the lake, the Blue Dragon’s shrine rises out of the water, and we head in for another dungeon!