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Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Smoke 'em if you got 'em, bitches. It's Sparky's Update!

Today, I'll be shootin' the shit about only a couple of games. Gaming on the 360 was a bit light as I waited on a new controller (which is cool, by the way - I bought a corded one which won't require anything to also play on the PC). And since I'm feeling a bit over-Tomb Raided, I decided to hop back into some games that really hit the spot for me - namely, Disgaea 4.

By the Power of Desco.... I Have the Power!

It's been a couple of months since I last popped in Disgaea 4, and I've gotta tell you, playing it solely for fun and not for the purpose of this blog has made it incredibly refreshing. When I last left off, I had just finished my second playthrough, with Valvatorez at level 330 and most of the party sitting at or around level 90.

My first order of business was to check out all the new DLC available for the game. NIS's DLC for Disgaea 3 & 4 is borderline shady. With D3, they released a handful of bonus characters, all of whome were priced at about $2-3 apiece. Disgaea 4 offers much of the same, with even more DLC characters. However, they've also released some extra post-game content, such as an entirely new chapter featuring Valvatorez and Fenrich's origins as a team. While the DLC characters might seem a little overpriced, I decided to splurge on some of the other stuff, such as that extra chapter. And you know what? I'm pretty glad I did. For the money (about $6), you get a challenging set of missions, one of the better told chapters in the game, and none of it is at all necessary or makes the game complete (as in Asura's Wrath). That said, I don't think it's anything that anyone but the most die-hard of Disgaea 4 fans should buy. It's brief, and some people might feel ripped off by it. Me, I enjoyed it immensely, and wound up replaying the chapter's early levels several times, as they provide extraordinary loot.

I've yet to really explore the rest of the game-enhancing DLC. I'd be lying if I said I ignored the character DLC packs entirely - I did purchase a couple - but I recognize that they're a rip-off at the price. Really, they should have been released at a buck apiece. I know I'm contributing to the problem, but damn it, I really do adore this game. I ended up buying Mao and the ninja servants of Raspberyl from Disgaea 3. Mao's a great compliment to Emizel. Emizel is an area-of-effect type character, with some light generic spells and some character specific ranged abilities. Mao is a mixture of a mage and a warrior, with some decent ranged abilities in his Star magic, but he really shines with his special abilities. They go together like peanut butter and chocolate. The two ninjas (forgive me, I forget their names off-hand and it doesn't really matter) work amazing well together, as expected, but will really shine when I unlock Raspberyl later in the game. Right now, they've both got a tremendous SPD attribute, which makes them hard to hit by most mobs up to double their level.

I spent a good chunk of the last week or so power leveling Desco and Valvatorez. When Desco hits about level 100 or so, she becomes really easy to level, as she develops a special attack called Yog Sogoth. It has the best range for an attack (so far - apparently Big Bang might be better, but I haven't unlocked that ability yet in any of my characters), and when she's combined wtih a Nekomata (an animal class in Disgaea 4, kind of a cat-like female), that range extends even further and she can wipe out an entire map (9-4, if you're interested) in one turn. The strategy therefore is simple. With the harder enemy level set at 1, 9-4's enemies become level 99. Due to a "glitch" in the Disgaea games, level 99 enemies grant the same experience as level 320 enemies. Therefore, I just set up the extra EXP and Mana blocks, fuse Desco with a Nekomata, have her hit up the enemies with Yog Sogoth, and hit execute (NOT end turn). Within a few hours, she'll be sailing north of level 600.

At this point, I'm working on finding a sweet spot for her to eliminate enemies in one turn and still gain massive EXP. I've got the Stronger Enemies bill up to about 18 or so. At this rate, I'll be able to level her to about level 1000 before reducing the Stronger Enemy bill back to zero and finding a better map to level her in. But before that happens, I'd like to unlock more of the post-game characters and explore the game a bit more. It's a nice balance.


-I played a bit of Mario Kart DS this week. Sadly, when playing DS games, the 3DS reverts back to the DS's wireless settings, meaning that I still can't connect my DS games to my wireless Internet. Oh well. This iteration was fun, but nowhere near as polished as Mario Kart Wii. I say all this to point out one big flaw with the 3DS. Nintendo needs to research a different shape for the handheld. Gripping it for long periods of time becomes severely uncomfortable and often leads to hand cramps, as opposed to the PSP. I know handhelds aren't meant to be held that long, but it is a big problem and needs to be addressed in any future handhelds Nintendo uses. The square, boxy approach doesn't lend to a natural grip.

-I may start the RPG retrospective as early as next week. I've started playing Vagrant Story, but it's early on in the game. If I do start next week, it will likely be with that game, depending on how much progress I've made. It's my first time playing it, so I'm going to take my time and write down some thoughts as I go.

And that's it for this week. What's everyone looking forward to in the months ahead, gaming or otherwise? I'm already getting stoked for E3, despite the fact that we're months out.

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Posted by ArbitraryWater

Ah Disgaea. The crack treadmill of watching a number slowly increase in the framework of a strategy RPG baffles me, as I figure that grinding such kind of makes the strategy part irrelevant. Then again I got kind of obsessive about Achievements for a while so I guess I can relate. Whatever, different tastes and all that. If I want that kind of game (but not exactly that kind of game) I tend to just play Fire Emblem, and I've already written far more extensively on that series than the public really ever demanded. It's not like I'm ever going to go back to the English speaking fan community. Those guys are fucking crazy.

If we're talking about other games of that sort however, I did get Grotesque Tactics off steam a while ago... and it seemed kind of bad. Not just in the "thinking it's funnier than it actually is" part, but also the gameplay, which as far as I can tell from the hour or so that I spent doesn't seem so much strategic as it does trial and error. I'd go into more detail, but at the risk of sounding ignorant I won't. Still... probably not going to touch it again unless I hear positive word from someone I take credibly. I mention this because steam says you have it too, so I'd like to hear your opinion, if you have one.

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Posted by dankempster

Is it really Update time again already? Where is my life going? The weeks are passing by so quickly...

As I think we've discussed before, I've never played Disgaea 4 (or, indeed, any other Disgaea game), but reading everything you've written about it here has made me realise just how much I'm hankering for a strategy RPG right now. I have a wealth of titles to choose from (Final Fantasy Tactics, its two Advance spin-offs, Tactics Ogre), but right now I'm reluctant to get invested in another massive RPG on top of the two I'm already currently playing. I think as soon as I'm done with Final Fantasy XIII-2, I'm going to pick up one of those games and get my much-needed fix.

I agree with you completely about the ergonomics (or lack thereof) of the DS and 3DS. It's a problem that I think all Nintendo handhelds have suffered from, with the possible exception of the original GameBoy Advance design. I remember sinking lots of hours into games over short spaces of time on my DS last year (Pokémon White and Dragon Quest IV being the main offenders), and like you, I suffered with hand cramps as a result. As you say, I appreciate that handhelds aren't intended for extended periods of play, but that's still no excuse for poor ergonomic design.

I'll be awaiting your impressions of Vagrant Story with great anticipation. It's definitely one of my favourite games ever, and it'll be interesting to see if the experience holds up now for someone going into it completely fresh. Best of luck journeying through Lea Monde, Sparky!

As for stuff I'm looking forward to in the coming months, there are a few things on that list, although most of it isn't related to gaming. My new band continues to come on leaps and bounds, so hopefully within the next couple of months we'll be able to start booking gigs and clearing out some local pubs with our raucous covers of Kiss, Metallica and Danzig. I also might have a job, which will be a huge development if it comes off. Admittedly it's only a short-term contract with a local GP surgery, but it'll give me the opportunity to start earning my way back out of my overdraft and also grant me the customer-facing experience that my CV has been so sorely lacking these last eight months. The darts season seems to have fizzled out prematurely, but if the organisers do ever get around to organising the cup games and competitions that usually follow the winter league, I'll look forward to playing in those. Games-wise, there's not a lot I'm excited for - in terms of upcoming releases, only Max Payne 3 and Darksiders 2 jump out. Like you, I'm starting to get pretty stoked about E3, which is unusual for me as the last two years I've let it pass with disinterest. Maybe it's the thought that we might finally see the promise of some new hardware that's doing it.

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Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@dankempster: Every week, I think the same thing. "It can't possibly be Wednesday, there've only been a couple of days in between!" I didn't even know that this Update would have anything but short thoughts on games, because up until Monday, I really hadn't made a whole lot of progress in anything. But Disgaea 4 called my name. I'm glad, too. The post-game stuff is really the guts of the series. I feel like no matter far I dig into it, there's always gonna be something just beyond the periphery, which makes me want to play even more.

I love the Final Fantasy Tactics series and genuinely hope the rumors about Tactics 2 are true. I have Tactics Ogre for the PSP, but haven't dug into it yet. That'll probably be the next disc-based game I play after Star Ocean: First Departure. Good luck with the job! Even a short-term contract gets you a chance to get your foot in the door. And break a leg with the band, too.

@ArbitraryWater: I've played about an hour and a half of Grotesque Tactics, and yeah, it's pretty awful. I only picked up for about a buck or so, but that's a buck that could have bought me a Coke or something. Hell, just about anything for a dollar would have been better. I had the feeling playing the thing that a sixth-grader designed, programmed, and wrote it. The combat is bland, the controls are often counterintuitive, and on every conceivable level, it's juvenile without being amusing. Mind you, I like juvenile games - hell, Bulletstorm's one of my all time favorite shooters - but there has to be some spark there, something that draws it out further than just being stupid. Grotesque Tactics never once does that.

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Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Yeah, I figured it didn't get better in the... half hour more that you played. They tricked me into buying it by name dropping Fire Emblem and Heroes of Might and Magic, but it honestly doesn't reflect either of those games. Apparently the sequel is worse, if 7 reviews are to be taken seriously. Oh well. I hope The Banner Saga is a good kind of those games, and if not at least I can admire the art style.