Tag Archive: retro


The entrance to the final world: Click Clock Wood!

Click-Clock Wood is pretty unique, in that it’s one level with four different ‘seasonal’ forms.  The beginning of the level functions as a hub to the various seasons, and let’s you move between them.  It’s a lot of cause-and-effect gameplay, with some areas and things only accessible in certain seasons, but for now we only have access to Spring, so here we go!

Again, I started by exploring the perimeter of the level, checking landings and platforms thoroughly.  We collected a bunch of Notes, but no sign of Jiggys or Jinjos anywhere.  There is, however, a Mumbo Hut, where we’re turned into a fairly ridiculous-looking bee.  Luckily, the bee can bumble-fly indefinitely, and give us access to a few higher areas that we couldn’t get to before.  We found a squirrel inside the main tree who seems to want more acorns, a Jinjo trapped in a plant, and even a Jiggy at the very top of the tree!  I also found the switch to open the Summer aspect of the level, but being a bee, I can’t pound the switch.


A very pleased looking me… I mean ‘bee’

There’s a large beehive attached to the main tree that we couldn’t get inside as a bear, so we try again as a bee.  We managed to get in and see a Jiggy sitting there, but it looks like it’s encased in something and we have no way to get it out.  We do collect another Jinjo, though, and then head back to Mumbo to get changed back.  Now that I have an idea of the layout of the level, we do some double-jumping back to the Summer switch and pound it, opening the way to the next part of the level.  Continuing up, we pound a large egg that we saw earlier and release a baby eagle from inside, and at the very top of the tree, find a doorway which leads to another Jiggy!

I feel that’s it for here, so it’s back to the hub and we head through the Summer door.  A Jinjo makes itself known right near the entrance, so we snag that and set about collecting caterpillars for the eagle from earlier, as well as hunting for new Notes and Jiggys.  We help a beaver, Gnawty, get back inside his home, but can’t make it past the doorway as there’s a steep slope stopping us from continuing.  Hmm…


I don’t know how to get this Jiggy!

 The Autumn switch is easy to find, and after some more running around we discover a new path that wasn’t available in Spring, leading to another Jiggy.  We’re still a few caterpillars short, though, so we press onwards and grab another one, while finding another Jiggy hidden inside the treehouse which is getting more complete with each passing season. We’re able to get inside the beehive as a bear this time, but we still can’t get the Jiggy and the guard-bees are vicious and pursue you until you leave the hive, so we’ll hold off on that one again.  We manage to feed our collected caterpillars to the eagle chick who thanks us and goes back to sleep, but doesn’t hand out any collectibles, and the top of the tree has nothing new to off, either.  I guess it’s over to Autumn to see what’s in store over there.


These guard-birds are extremely annoying

Autumn seems heavy on the Notes, but that’s a good thing.  The eagle wants a bunch more caterpillars as well, so while we’re already looking everywhere in the level, we might as well collect what we can.  We picked up another Jinjo on top of a pile of leaves, and noted that Mumbo is still closed for business in this season.  Looks like we’ll have to take some risks to get the rest of these Notes.  We climb the tree again, grabbing what caterpillars we can find, and the squirrel ropes us into collecting acorns for him, as well.  Man, Banjo’s delivery service.  We dropped off the caterpillars with the eagle (still for no reward) and hit the Winter switch before we went back to collect the acorns.  Luckily, they were all pretty close to the squirrel, except for one which I’ll probably have to be in Bee form to grab.


Soooooo treacherous.

Winter’s last on the list, and we’ll give it a thorough look-over before we start bouncing between areas.  It’s probably the area that allows the most freedom, since there are Flight Pads scattered around the level for us to use, and use them we do.  First it’s straight up to the eagle, who finally gives us a Jiggy for feeding him all this time.  During the flight, I also notice the last Jinjo on top of Mumbo’s Hut, so we grab him and get our Jiggy for collecting them all.  There are notes scattered all over the place as well, so we grab as many as we can, which leaves us only 5 short of having them all.  There’s not much else in Winter besides a Grunty Switch for a Jiggy in the hub world, so it’s time to hoof it back to Spring, switch back to Bee mode, and then explore the others worlds in the insect state.


Lazy squirrel is too lazy to collect his own nuts.

But first, we head back to Summer, smash the rock preventing the beaver from getting back into his cave, and then head to the same place in Autumn.  We can finally swim up the area and claim a couple of Notes and another Jiggy!  Only a couple more to go!  It seems like we can’t take our Bee form to the other seasons, so I have to rethink my strategy a bit.  We finish collecting acorns for the squirrel, and that gives us the 8th Jiggy, and one’s in the beehive.  I decided to investigate the one other suspicious area in the level, and after planting some eggs and watering it throughout the seasons, the plant blossomed and gave me the 9th Jiggy!


This huge flower had to be watered through each season, and took me forever to figure out.

Just the one in the beehive left!  And Jiggy was actually easy, once I realized I just had to kill all the attacking bees in the hive.  I was just so sure it had something to do with being a Bee, or that giant flower.  Looking in all the wrong places, I guess. Well, that’s it for Click Clock Wood.

I grabbed the last Jiggy from the Grunty Switch outside the level (had to stay in Bee form to fly up to it), and headed to the finale!  I opened a Note Door earlier in the same area as Click Clock Wood, so I figured that should be the next area.  It only needed 760 or something, but it feels good to have all 900.  I don’t know why I do these things to myself.


The final world has more in common with Mario Party than Donkey Kong Country.

It’s… a quiz show/board game?  Yea.  That’s exactly what it is.  What is this place?  It plays like a board game, forcing you to complete a challenge on each square as you make your path towards the end.  Squares have various challenges, like questions about visuals or audio from the game, little trivia bits about levels, questions about Grunty (to which her sister was providing answers throughout the game), or boss-rushes and mini-game challenges.  It’s totally nuts, and infuriating, but kinda awesome!  Also, Grunty is now a star player, and her poorly and hilariously-wrought rhymes pervade the whole thing.  It’s pretty trying, since it’s such an odd mixture of gameplay and obscure observation skills, but eventually we make it to the end… and don’t fight Grunty?  We just rescue Tooty, and Grunty says she’ll escape while we’re forced to sit through the credits.  That’s brilliant.


This crazy witch took a few tries, but we prevailed in the end!

In any case, once the credits are over, I decided to go check it out one more time.  This time, the board was wide open, and there was a passage into another area off to one side.  A Note Door barred our way, or would have if we didn’t already have all 800 Notes.  Through the pasageway up to a final area where we’re able to face down with Grunty and put and end to her mischief.  She’s a pretty intense boss with a number of forms, so it takes some time to finally kill her off, as I memorize each pattern and counter it.  She finally loses though, and we blast her out of the mountain and run off for a final credits sequence!  That’s it for Banjo-Kazooie, finally off the list!


Where’s Grunty? You see that rock on the bottom of the screen? Somewhere under there.



Sweet, now that we’re done Mad Monster Mansion, it’s off to… oh no.  RUSTY BUCKET BAY!!  Noooooooooooo!


This will lead us to the next world… eventually…

Rusty Bucket Bay is probably one of the more infuriating worlds I’ve ever played in a platform game.  It’s just mean.  And of course, before I can willingly subject myself to it, I’ve gotta figure out how to open it up.  I manage to open the gate behind Mad Monster Mansion and found a small house in behind it.  Banjo can’t get in though, so it’s back to Mumbo in the Mansion, and Pumpkin-Banjo lives again!  After sneaking into the house through a crack, I find a switch in a coffin in the shack.  Hitting it raises the water level in a previous area, and starts a search for the next switches.  After finding the rest of them to raise the water level the rest of the way, and activating another Cauldron for quick access, we head into the level.  God help us.


Pleasant, right? Almost picturesque.

One of the big reasons that Rusty Bucket Bay is such a pain is because the oily water uses up your air twice as fast when you’re swimming, and of course, a lot of switches and items are underwater.  You even lose breath from swimming on the surface of the water, and don’t regain any of your Breath points until you’ve been out of the water on dry land for several seconds.  We hopped around and collected some Notes and our first Jinjo of the lot, hidden underwater beneath a grate near the beginning of the level.  We continued to explore the perimeter, found a couple more Notes, and made the dumb mistake of jumping into a caged area to rescue another Jinjo.  We got the little guy, but there’s a shark prowling in the caged area, and we don’t have much time in the water before he snacks us down.

There was a hole in the wall that led to a secret area with a Honeycomb Piece, so that’s awesome, but still no exit.  The shark ended up lunching us to death once we came back out, so I guess that’s one way to escape that are?  Argh.  On the way back to where we were, though, I saw a window that looked out of place, so we smashed it and dropped to another area… with a Jiggy!  That’s one down!  Another few Notes, plus a 1-Up, and we exited through the water and swam to dry land.


How did that guy get over there?

As we continued circling the level from the outside, we found a toxic waste pit with another Jinjo trapped at the edge.  How do these little guys get themselves into these messes?  We grabbed him, despite crappy camera angles costing us some damage, and headed into a nearby storage container to grab some more Notes.  Other containers had another Jinjo and another 1-Up, so none of it was for waste, but at that point we hit a wall and had to go back.


Totally not-suspicious switch.

Back to the beginning of the level, we headed up the ramp onto the boat.  We have a few Jinjos, one Jiggy, and about a third of the Notes in the level already, so this is probably where the meat of the level lies.  I explored the upper decks first, grabbing some more Notes and finding a pipe to jump down.  Inside, there was a switch to change the speed of the rotors in another room, so I’m glad I hit this first.  We found a Jiggy at the very top of the ship, then jumped down the rest of the pipes on deck to see if there was anything below.  A few more Notes and a Jinjo later, and we’ve explored all the pipes, too.  I seem to be running out of places to look, but I notice a door in the bottom of one of the smoke stacks, and Beak Bash it open to find some more unexplored territory.


The guts of the ship. Oh, and did I mention that’s a bottomless pit beneath us?

Inside is the engine of the ship, and the reason I hit that propeller switch earlier.  Several sets of rotors and spinning platforms are all over this area, but I navigate through them an score my third Jiggy, along with another bunch of Notes.  Over 80 Notes now, but not even half the Jiggys.  Another switch reveals a Jiggy outside the ship on the other side of the engine (which will be a gigantic pain to get to), and I’m pretty sure a dolphin that we saw earlier, trapped by the anchor, has one.  We hit another propeller switch, and the engine stops completely… for a set time period.  Luckily, we have everything in this area, so we boot it out of the engine room and to the back of the boat, grabbing the Jiggy with seconds to spare.


I wonder if there’s an area that tells you what switches to hit? I just guessed and got lucky.

Trail and error net me my fifth Jiggy at the top of the ship, with a code-entry puzzle involving steam horns.  Every mistake costs a life point, but a few lucky guesses net me the proper combination and we claim the prize.  The angle also affords me a new view of a crane from earlier, and I see how I can use the ladder on it’s side to claim grab another Jiggy that’s been sitting in front of me for a while.  There’s still one area that I can’t seem to get to, but I’ll look for a way to move the anchor in the interim.

Some more poking around revealed that some of the portholes on the side of the ship were also breakable, so we explored another couple of rooms, nabbed ourselves another Jiggy and a Stop’n’Swap Egg, as well as some of the last of the Notes kicking around the level.  Some random exploring sticks me to a rope near the top of the ship, which I climb up to access the crane I’ve been missing.  From here, I can access the last Jinjo and it’s Jiggy, as well as a few more Notes, and I can open up the last area of the level.  Woot!


It’s a boss-in-a-box. Well, a bunch of them, I guess.

It’s a boss! Luckily, this box is kind of a pushover.  Three hits is all he takes before he splinters into two smaller boxes, which split into smaller boxes, etc.  It’s a little frantic, but we clear out all of the bits, and claim our ninth Jiggy!  But where’s the last one?  How do I help that dolphin?  And where are the four Notes that I’m still missing?  We continue to poke around the level, and although I think I’m looking for a Flight Pad, we end up finding the Grunty Switch for the level, so we’ll collect that Jiggy when we get back to the hub world.

I swam around the dolphin for a bit, and finally found that we could go inside the ship through the anchor hole.  Inside were a couple enemies, the last four Notes (that’s all 100 of them!), and a switch to bring up the anchor.  The dolphin leaves behind the last Jiggy, so we grab it and exit out of this awful level!  Finally!

We pick up the Jiggy from the Grunty Switch is Rusty Bucket Bay, and with the 33 Pieces we still have, we should have no problem unlocking another level… if we can find the platform.  Luckily, I unlocked a Note Door earlier right near here, but didn’t explore it too deeply.  Guess it’s time to do so!  It leads into a meadowed area, with the entrance to Click Clock Wood at the top.  We hit a switch to activate the Puzzle Platform needed to unlock the level, but it’s back at the beginning of the hub world.  Ugh.  Well, a couple of Cauldron teleports take us back to the beginning and we push the pieces into place, before teleporting back to the same room we were just in, now housing the entrance to the final(?) world.



YEA, one of the premier platformers of the generation!

Since I seem to be on a Rare(ware) kick, and still need to clear one more thing off of my backlog, I’m gonna pick Banjo-Kazooie back up and finish it off.  It’s been a while since I’ve played, but I know I’m already fairly far.  The game states I have 63 Jigsaws and 600 Notes, and tells me I’ve maxed out 5 of the 6 Worlds I have access to, missing 1 Jigsaw in Freezeezy Peak.  Let’s head there first and grab the one we’re missing!

Since I can’t remember any of the moves, or where to go, I ran around the overworld for a while getting my bearings, and figuring out why my Jigsaw total is wrong.  I forgot that you spend Jigsaw Pieces to unlock worlds, so 31 is my Jigsaw total, minus the ones I’ve spent to unlock various worlds.  It’s all making sense now, but I’m still missing a few!  I managed to find Grunty’s sister again, and confirmed the following about our evil hag opponent:

  • She wears a Flea Circus under her girdle
  • She brushes her teeth with Moudly Cheese-flavoured toothpaste
  • She washes her hair with rancid milk
  • She gets her clothes from Saggy Maggie’s Boutique
  • She was called Jelly Belly at school
  • Her favourite sport is Belly Barging
  • She attended St. Dungballs’s School
  • Her party trick is blowing up balloons with her butt
  • She sleeps in a dumpster
  • She won the biggest butt competition
  • She posed in her longjohns of the cover of Fat Hag Monthly
  • Her bedroom has smelly socks hanging from the ceiling
  • She has a loogie bush growing in a pot beside her bed
  • She has enormous streaky brown undies
  • She keeps a Dragon’s Foot in her pocket for luck
  • She cuddles her dirty undies in bed at night
  • Her broom is a Lardmaster 2000
  • She has rat bagels for breakfast
  • And dog dung burgers for dinner
  • Finishing with cockroaches and cream for desert
  • Her favourite pastime is flying radio-controlled bats
  • Greasy Grant was her first and only boyfriend
  • She used to have a greasy warthog for a pet

These will all factor in to a mini-game later, but for now they’re just fun lore.  I also found the Picture for Click Clock Wood, but no Jigsaw Platform to use in order to unlock it.  What the hell, Rare?  I eventually found my way to Freezeezy Peak, and searched around for the missing Jiggy.  It wasn’t too long before I found the Walrus at the start of the race section again.  He wanted another race, and it looked like I needed the Running Shoes ability in order to beat him.  Luckily, I picked that up in the last level, so after grabbing the Running Shoes we handily beat him in a race and collected the final Jiggy for this level.  Now I guess it’s back to figuring out where to go next?


Freezeezy Peak is COLD!

After pressing on past Freezeezy Peak, we ended up inside a volcano which contained the Puzzle for Gobi’s Valley.  I’ve already unlocked and beaten that one, so I guess we keep going?  I found a suspicious-looking graveyard area just beyond the Puzzle, but no open doors, so we headed back into the volcano and headed deeper into it, looking for the next Puzzle.  I hit a dead end, blocked by a tunnel that was too small for Banjo to fit through, so we headed back.  In the area prior to the volcano, I found a couple teleport cauldrons that hadn’t been activated yet and activated them, and also found a Note Door, asking for 450 Notes.  Luckily, I’ve got 600, so we pass through the door and head through a few small areas connected by underwater tunnels.  At the end, we finally find the Puzzle for Mad Monster Mansion, and throw some Jiggies at it to activate it.


Alright, next world unlocked!

We head back to the suspicious graveyard, which holds the entrance to the latest world, Mad Monster Mansion.  We’re greeted by a large, dilapidated house as we arrive in the level.  Some initial recon around the house give us a bunch of Notes, and upon inspection I find that we can break lit-up windows and enter rooms in the house.  After plundering the various rooms for a number of Notes, and a couple of Jinjos, we head through the Chimney and are confronted by a large green ghost… who’s sleeping on a Jiggy and a Flight pad.  We take care to maneuver to not touch the floor as we head to him, and we’re rewarded with our first Jiggy of the level, and a third of the notes already.

There was big hedge maze to our left as we entered the world, but I also remember seeing a cellar behind the house.  Leave no stone unturned and all that, so we head around back into the cellar.  There’s a ghost and a few Notes, but we also find another Stop’n’Swap Egg, a Jinjo, and another Jiggy hiding inside various barrels once we crack them open.  In a courtyard to the right of the haunted house, there a few Notes and another Jinjo, and behind the house there’s a strange shack with light coming out of it.  We collect the Notes from on top, then bash in the door and head inside.


Video Game Rule #3: Always check inside barrels

Inside, there’s a picture of Banjo and Kazooie on the floor, and a Jiggy in the center with what looks like an upside-down shot glass over top of it.  Around the border of the picture are a number of tiles, some with Grunty’s face, others with letters.  The shot glass talks to us and tells us it’s a puzzle, and when we jump on top of it a ghost appears.  At this point, we can surf around with the shot glass, and it looks like there’s enough letters on the tiles to spell BANJO KAZOOIE, so we surf around and light up the tiles to spell it out, avoiding the ghost.  We claim another Jiggy, and exit this shed.


Whatever drinking game this is modeled after, I like it!

Heading past the shed, we note another locked gate on our way and eventually end up at a well.  We grab the Notes and powerups from around the well before jumping in.  We collect another Jiggy and a bunch of Notes from inside before jumping out and heading back to the hedge maze from the beginning of the level.  Inside the maze, we find the last Jinjo (and the resulting Jiggy), as well as a few Notes and powerups, although we’re again blocked by a gate preventing us from exiting into another area.  Need to figure out how to unlock these.


Those ghosts are damn hard to avoid, too.

The maze is still kind of a dead end, with another gate blocking us from getting into another area with a large church and graveyard.  We find another way across from the roof of the haunted house, and collect the Notes on the roof of the church, as well as the Jiggy from the spire on top.  There are a bunch of pots in the graveyard, too, and once we drop some eggs into them, flowers bloom.  Of course, once we get flowers in all the pots we’re given another Jiggy.

There’s also access to one of Mumbo’s huts, so we jump in there and have him turn us into the new animal for this level.  It costs us 20 tokens, but he turns us into a… pumpkin?  The pumpkin form allows us to fit through tiny passages, and I think we’re supposed to use it inside of the haunted house… except that I lost a life somewhere, and all of the windows aren’t broken anymore.  Grr.  We do find a small drainpipe that we can fit down on the roof’s gutters, though, and it drops us onto another Jiggy and a few Notes in a small area I noticed.


Cutest pumpkin EVAR!

So we’re down to our last Jiggy, and I know exactly where it is.  It’s inside the church, but I’m not sure how to get in.  There’s a switch that opens the door for a limited time, and a pair of Running Shoes to get me there, but these gates are still in my way, and I’m stuck on getting rid of them.  That’s until, cursing myself for a fool, I try attacking one and knock it open.  Turns out there’s a lock on one side of the door, and if you attack the locked side it’ll open.  I’ve been doing this level the long way all along.  Kill me now.  In any case, I hit the switch, grab the Shoes, and dash into the church.


Seriously, worst organ player ever. Have some enthusiasm!

Inside, it was a giant-sized church, with ghosts haunting and a disembodied hand playing a tone-deaf organ.  After collecting the notes ,we talked to the hand and had to follow him along the keyboard, stomping the keys he played.  This was no game of Simon, though, we just followed him along and stomped the keys right after he finished playing.  We’re rewarded with our final Jiggy for the level, and after grabbing the last 4 Notes, we were clear and moving on!


Still in World 6, we hit up Misty Mine.  Again, I’m filled with trepidation that it’s a mine cart level, but it to be just another platforming run, and it falls with ease.  The next level however, Loopy Lights, almost gives me an aneurysm.  It’s using the lights-out gimmick again, but this time you have to hit switches to turn the lights back on.  With switch placement, deliberate stretches with no light, and enemies ready to kill you the first misstep, I lose more lives to this level than any before it.  Such rage…  Platform Perils isn’t bad, a level using moving platforms that fade out after a short period.  A few tight spots, but nothing that we can’t get through.  Necky’s Revenge is the boss, and it’s just an amped up re-hash of the earlier Necky boss.


Loopy Lights, you are infuriating. Thank god levels like you exist.

The final world, Gang Plank Galleon, is… oh, wait.  It’s just King K. Rool?  But he’s the last boss!  I thought there was a world to go with him!  Huh.  Well, I guess not!  He’s actually not that difficult either, and after sitting through his fake ending, designed to lure us into a false sense of security, we beat the last few hits out of him and clear the game.  That was… anti-climactic?  Oh whatever, it’s a 1994 platform game.  What am I expecting, Shakespeare?




Continuing into the snow-covered fourth world, we hit Slipslide Ride, which proved the first genuine challenge of the game.  Quite a few lives were lost to the slippery slopes and self-climbing ropes of the second level, which served as a reminder of how the difficulty in the game ratchets up as you hit the fourth world.  Ice Age Alley proved less of a challenge as a more traditional platform level, populated by tight jumping challenges and carefully placed enemies.  Croctopus Chase! ended up being an underwater chase level, and the slightly slower pace helped me blaze through it in one go, despite a few rough spots.  Torchlight Trouble, despite being the introduction of Animal Buddy Squarks the Parrot, was a piece of cake, so it was off to Rope Bridge Rumble.  It turned out to be a treetop level populated by jumping tires and BuzzBees, with a few Kremlings thrown in to mess you up.  A life or two claimed to jumping puzzles, but not as bad as the first level.  The boss, Really Gnawty Rampage, ended up being an amped-up version of the first world boss, and despite his new moves, his predictable patterns led to his downfall.


Those ropes proved tricker than most of the bosses in this game.

The fifth world, Kremkroc Industries Inc., fills me with fear.  I have a slight memory of this place being balls-difficult compared to earlier levels, but I guess we’ll jump in and see what’s happening.  Oil Drum Alley introduces it’s namesake, a flaming oil drum, with a fiendish series of jumping puzzles which end up getting the better of me a couple times.  Trick Track Trek ended up being a moving platform level, with a number of obstacles and enemies being dumped onto the platform with you.  Elevator Antics, despite it’s name, was only hanging rope puzzles for the first half of the level before the elevators came in.  I’m noticing an ongoing trend with vertical platforming in this world as well, which I’m not as good at.  Poison Pond was a step forward for the underwater levels as well, a tip-toe careful maze of enemies and buzzing blades ready to kill you the second you stray off-course.  Mine Cart Madness, the name of which sends a slight shiver of terror down my spine, surprisingly falls in one attempt!  I even accidentally jumped and missed the Checkpoint Barrel, so the last half of the level was sheer luck and nerves getting me through it.  Blackout Basement would be a fairly generic level, if it didn’t black out the screen for two seconds every two seconds.  The addition of limited visibility again turns this level into a creep-forward piece, filled with tight jumps and platforming guesswork.  Boss Dumb Drum was super-easy, just a gauntlet of regular enemies to kill with no twists.


Y’see that level? Neither can I. Welcome to Blackout Basement.

World six is Chimp Caverns.  I have a distinct memory in my head of a mine cart level that almost drove me to drink during this game.  I’m not sure if I’ve already passed it, but every time I see a ‘cave’ name level, I tense up.  Maybe it was Mine Cart Madness, and I already beat it through fluke?  The first level, Tanked Up Trouble, was a moving platform level with a twist, needing me to collect fuel power-ups to keep the platform moving.  The power-ups, of course, are in highly dangerous areas, but I manage to get through on my second time.  I’m seriously running low on lives now, too.  Manic Mincers uses more buzzsaws to create some tricky jumps, and they give you Rambi right at the beginning of the level.  He’s pretty useful in keeping ground enemies from killing you while you’re avoiding saws.


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!


This blew up the eyeballs of every kid who booted it up in their SNES

Because I don’t know what’s good for me, I’m picking up Donkey Kong Country to play as a time-killer.  I just love me some platforming, and I’ve been getting this urge to play a DKC game.  I’ve beaten the first two with friends, but come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever actually beaten them by myself.  Now’s as good a time as any, I suppose.  Also, as the first 32-bit game for the SNES, it’s a little piece of history, and proved that the system still had some kick left in her.  Other 32-bit games would follow suit, and they were just one of the several technical marvels of it’s time the SNES was host to: true 3D implementation in StarFox, 32-bit games in Donkey Kong Country, and even fully voiced sections in later SA-1 chip games.

I’m always a little blown away by the graphics on this one.  I mean, this was Super Nintendo!  It didn’t have 3D graphics!  Those are sprites?  But they look like models!  This game was such an awesome technical achievement for it’s time, and the fact that it’s a kick-ass platformer with excellent level design only makes it better.  Also, the slightly irreverent sense of humour and attitude towards video gaming and the Donkey Kong franchise as a whole is a cherry on top, and Rare proves for the first time that they’re capable of taking a franchise, populating it with rich, fun characters, and pushing it out to a new generation.


3D sprites, weather effects, awesome level design… what’s not to love?

The first world, Kongo Jungle, falls with no problem at all.  That’s probably because I’ve started this game a dozen times only to have it fall by the wayside before the third world.  Still, it’s fun to play through, and see how many of the secrets I remember from previous runs.  The colors and sprites remain lush and fluid, and the soundtrack continues to kick ass, so the first bunch of levels are a romping jive of speedrun as I whip through them.  No deaths though, and I took the opportunity to stock up on lives for later areas.  We also meet Rambi and Enguarde for the first time, and do an Expresso bonus level for a bunch of lives.


Some of the best underwater levels EVER

The second world, Monkey Mines, starts to offer a few challenges, pushing some minecart levels that basically require memorization.  I died once on Mine Cart Carnage!, but recovered handily and finished the rest of the level without issue.  The next level went down easy, but it’s the Stop & Go Station that always throws me.  Like the Eel in Jolly Roger Bay in Mario 64, I seem to have a deep-seated fear of this level.  I don’t know what it is, maybe the mindless rampage of the enemies, or their indestructible nature, but this level gives me the willies.  We burn through it, but I’m screaming inside the whole time.  Millstone Mayhem is much easier, and we manage to pick up a third Enguarde token and grab another 10 lives from his bonus stage.  The world boss, Necky, is a giant buzzard that spits nuts at us.  He kills us once before I cotton to his pattern, but the next time we burn him without getting hit.


Millstone Mayhem gets a little hairy towards the end, but Winky’s there to help us!

The third world, Vine Valley, is where the difficult starts to ratchet up.  Now that we’re getting into the meat of the game, it’s fair to start throwing some tricky levels at us, and force us to think our way around them.  Vulture Culture chucks a bunch of blast barrel puzzles our way, but we manage to get around them and even score the KONG letters, some of which are hidden in secret areas.  Tree Top Town gives more blast barrels, but we miss getting both the complete KONG letters and Winky!  How did we miss Winky?  Forest Frenzy uses rope as it’s primary mechanic, making us scoot up and down a rope that’s constantly moving forward to avoid various flying enemies, and Diddy, being faster, is way better at it then DK.  Temple Tempest brings us back to Millstone Mayhem from World 2, but these millstones are after you!  We burn through the level, losing a life, but making it to the end without too much trouble.  Orang-utan Gang heads back to the treetops, and introduces some mean barrel-throwing monkeys, but not before it gives us the keys to the Ostrich!  Expresso rules this level, and once on his back it’s a quick run to the end of the level.  Clam City! is a typical water level, but with a lot more focus on avoiding attacks from enemies.  We managed to score a third Winky token, though, and grab a bunch of lives in his bonus stage.  The world’s boss, Bumble B Rumble, is a giant bee that we have take out.  Luckily, the level provides us with barrels to throw, but we still have to avoid it’s erratic attack patterns long enough to kill it.  We manage it one go, though, so it’s off to the next world!


Please don’t cut this rope…

Gorilla Glacier is the fourth world, and surprise surprise, it’s all snow and ice.  Despite the whole mechanic of ice messing with mobility being a little bit tired, it trains your platforming to be more precise by necessity  getting you ready for the later worlds.  Snow Barrel Blast starts us off on the wrong foot immediately, killing us three times with between sliding on ice and barrel blasting into enemies.  Guess we’ve gotta take this one a bit slower… what was I saying about precision platforming?  It takes a few tries to get through the blast barrel section at the end, with the fast barrel rotation and quick enemies heightening the tension, but we manage to make it through in the end.



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.




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!


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?