Thanksgiving Gaming & Such

Had a chance to play some more flash games over the long weekend. Took a break from Tower Defense for bit and did some RPGs, Shooters and RPG Shooters.

The biggies were, Wings of and Starwish.
Two of the three highlights of the weekend were from the same developer taking place in the same universe, though I accidentally played them out of order. and Wings of are a tactical RPG and shooter with RPG-esque elements respectively.

The art in the games are phenomenal, despite being slightly minimalist and streamlined. It’s anime-esque, but with a lot of surreal and chunky, for lack of a better term, elements that help establish the dreamland feel. The “chunky” art element comes into play a bit more with Wings, often-times giving is a paper-doll theatre aesthetic.

The characters are rather flat (haha! paper dolls, right?) but manage to be incredibly charming, especially Sisily who takes the bizarre dreamland she’s ended up in in perpetual pollyannaish stride. Sadly, I got stuck in the first game around 2/3s of the way through.

The first game is a fairly linear tactical rpg. All of the encounters are story-encounters, so there’s no grinding to it, but therein lies the problem. I got to a particularly tough fight where you have to fight against shadow versions of the party who are invulnerable against physical attacks. There are some neat ways around this, but one unlucky rounds, your characters will drop like flies, especially Sisily and Emi, who can be kinda glass cannons against certain damage types. Even if you can take out all of the minions, bosses, who can often one-hit-kill Sisily or Emi can send you into a TPK-death-spiral awfully quick, since lacks healing items & revives.  I’ll just have to be both really smart and really lucky if I’m going to win that fight.

Normally I hate square-based tactics games, because the square is terrible for when it comes to units blocking each other in and screwing up movement and attack ranges, but I’ll forgive for this because it still manages to be a fun experience, even if it is a bit of a puzzle. Sadly, the developer who made the RPG and the Shooter disappeared before completing the true sequel to the RPG. The numerous consumable and equipable items in the shooter would’ve found quite the welcome spot in a tactical RPG featuring the same lovable cast.

Starwish is a bit of a different animal than Wings of, even though it is a shooter with RPG elements. Wings of put the shooting aspect first and foremost, integrating in the rpg and item elements into the gameplay fairly well while letting the story be told more through the evocative art rather than dialogue, which was sparse and (admittedly, since I hadn’t played the RPG first) a bit confusing. Starwish places its story front and center, with a servicable shooter game tacked on to advance the narrative in a way that the player has ‘earned it’.

There’s a lot more depth to Starwish’s cast in terms of their backstories, though they’re still ultimately a troupe of tropers. The tough-but-really-a-sensitive-guy pilot hero. His Childhood-friend doctor lady. The alcoholic panda bear man who raised them as pirates when their parents died. The wise old captain lady. The quirky and possibly deformed sadistic science girl (who I think might also be a Skullgirl). The lecherous bartender with more depth and feeling than he likes to let on. The shy-but-hard-working mechanic girl. The cool quiet strong silent robot ace pilot who’s better than the main character and will maybe even be revealed to be a woman and possible love interest before the game is over. Still, it works in a way that’s enjoyable even though you could swear you’ve seen it all before.

A wide variety of weapons and subweapons help the fairly simple shmup play keep from getting too stale. The game relies more on upping the HP and damage-dealing of the small and unchanging handful of foes you fight, but I have found that there is a giant spike in difficulty come the 3rd sector.

Probably the best part of Starwish is the soundtrack of cool, low-key sci-fi electronica, the type that my band might have started making two albums down the road once we’d worked all of the Throbbing Gristle and early Cabaret Voltaire out of our systems had we kept on going.

I’d hope that a sequel would feature a bit more robust shooter experience to go along with the charming story elements, though I don’t know that one is in the works or ever will be. One thing i find is that a lot of the games on Kongregate that are even a few years old, their creators have, if not vanished, stopped putting out new creations.  There are donation-based unlockables, for example, in the games, but the creator has not been active on his own forum since 2011; another mod has helped a few folks who donated after he disappeared and got them fixed up, but I don’t think I’ll be taking any chances personally, though if he were to reappear with 2 in tow, I’d find a way to try to support him.  Not sure about the creator of Starwish.  I’ll look into him/her when I have some more time.

On a final note, I finally finished Valley of the Horses. Much like Clan of the Cave Bear, I saw the ending coming a mile away. Only Clan of the Cave Bear ended with the epic mystic doom of the Neanderthal tribe and Valley of the Horses ended with a blow job. I’ve given up on Earth’s Children and, since my girlfriend accidentally hid my biography of Tallyrand behind the framed puzzle of an alchemist at work (my house is clearly a Blueholme dungeon!), I started Peace on Earth by Stanislaw Lem, one of those authors I kept hearing about and meant to get around to reading. And wow. I’ll dribble out some inarticulate descriptions of that at a later time, but so far, color me impressed.


14 responses to “Thanksgiving Gaming & Such

    • Yeah. I just wish I still had fighting game buddies!

      ::also, I got one of the dozen endings of Starwish and I totally called it; (Night)Mare turned out to be some kind of elfy lady in a robotesque suit::

      • Our group is still working out some bugs since our moved “across town” (technically 2-3 cities over but still part of the “Greater Salt Lake area”).

        We’re planning on moving into a house next year, maybe create a solid gaming place/schedule. Lol, assuming we all survive the transition.

        The commute’s a killer. X_X


      • Yeah, commutes can be rough. I’m lucky that I live close enough to work that I can literally roll out of bed 20 minutes before I have to be there and still get to work in plenty of time.

        Also, i don’t know how much playtesting stuff I’d be able to get done, but I’d love to offer my services to help in any way possible with your game!

      • I’d love to have another set of eyes on the material, I swear sometimes it feels like I’m procrastinating but then I think, “I’m too busy to be procrastinating, so what is it?” Craziness, is what it is.


      • Yeah. Just like for the followup on City; the excuse I’m using is that I need to get to where i’m in the right headspace to write heroic fantasy, rather than simpering introspection. The character’s ambitions to go forth and become a heroic adventurer being dashed by the grim realities of death he faces when his home is burned to the ground may make a decent existentialist short story but not a very good branch in a choose your own adventure. In a way, though, it made me think about the ‘forced from home’ trope used in so many games, especially JRPGs. It doesn’t really affect the character in a particularly meaningful way in mechanical terms. They fight and level and get stronger. Partly because taking the role of a thoroughly shell-shocked character might not necessarily make for rewarding gameplay (though it would be an interesting avenue to explore in the arena of a more experimental game; a JRPG where “Run” is not an option that is always a probably-fatal mistake and “Fight” is not the optimal default action option).

      • Speaking of JRPGs and ‘Running’ from combat, I remembered recently that Chrono Cross allowed you to escape from every single fight in the game — up to and including the final boss.

        Sometimes that didn’t mean a whole lot, where fights were compulsory (especially in the case of boss fights), even then the freedom to be like, “EFF” and escape was very gratifying.

        I’ve been “feeling out” RPG Maker VX (and its upgraded-rerelease Ace) to find a structure for telling the kinds of stories that only a CRPG can tell — it helps that I can tinker without needing an Internet connection.


      • Yeah. The ability to run from impossible fights is a critical element of roleplay, and making it mathematically impossible to escape in almost all hopeless situations is kind of annoying. I can understand why for story reasons one would want to enforce a ‘no escape’ rule, but random encounters are not the story and it wasn’t a fight that the player chose. I think that was something I really liked about FFXII: 20 minutes into a protracted fight with a Tyrannosaurus Rex it because clear that I won’t be able to beat it, so I could run the hell away and try again later.

        It’s kind of interesting, because one of things that Night Mare is trying to teach the protagonist in Starwish while training him is that it’s foolish to try to go out in a blaze of glory when you’re up against hopeless odds; retreat IS a viable option, as it gives you a chance to regroup, reassess and recover. Now, as a side-scrolling Sh’mup, her advice has no real bearing on gameplay, but she made a valid point.

        Hero: I just can’t beat you!
        Mare: Then maybe you should try to escape.
        Hero: Never!
        Mare: ::brutally disables hero’s ship:: Maybe now you’ll understand the importance of tactical retreat?

      • I loved me some FF12. Funny that so many people hated it and derided it for being “MMO-like.” I mean, I get where they were coming from, but having the most basic functions like “mash button to attack” automated meant I could tune out while grinding and focus when strategy was (occasionally) called for — and I LIKED gambits. I was actually really annoyed to find out you had to collect them.

        My biggest complaints about the game were really that — despite the story being nearly “simplistic” by FF standards, the dungeons, grinds, and travel times were so long that I simply forgot where I was going or what I was supposed to be doing in the story — and that there wasn’t enough voice acting. The game felt “too quiet” in places you talked to lots of unvoiced NPCs and the PCs chatted in word balloons.

        Oh, and the clothes were stupid. And Vaan was unnecessary. And it was stupid to randomly kill the only female Judge. And the villain wasn’t in the story enough. Bounty hunting was stupid. The Judges weren’t in the story enough (for the license board to be justified). And “Instant Death Attacks + Moar HP” makes for shitty combat.


      • I can kind of get the complaint about the travel time, but having played and been a fan of games like Aiyden Chronicles and Elder Scrolls, I appreciated it for the feeling bigness it lent the world. The clothes were stupid, yeah, but I feel that’s just kind of how Final Fantasy is. I never got to finish it, though, so I have a hard time judging the story as a whole, because I know that a lot of JRPGs can be completely awesome until they crap all over themselves at the very end and kind of ruin whatever had been building up. IX was a good example… though I found the first 3 discs endearing enough that I could kinda forgive how clunky and unnecessary disc 4 was.

    • He’s definitely someone I’ll be adding more books from to my to-read list.

      Also, Nuromen is going to be coming back to haunt the party for failing to clear out his dungeon but stealing some of his neat stuff. Details in the next recap.

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