Shining in the Darkness
(Why does all this seem a little... off?) Hey friends. Being the beloved moon monarch of this site seems like it's all fun and games (as many as two per week, you might even say) but actual video game kings rarely have it as easy. Take King Drake of the Kingdom of Thornwood: His ancestors thought it would be best to set up their Kingdom yards away from a foreboding ancient labyrinth full of monsters. A lack of forethought you might think, but Kings can do whatever they wish and frequently do. What good is hubris if it only engenders sensible decisions that ensure a prosperous and safe future for your progeny? No good at all is the answer to that. Trust me, I'm a King.
So in comes the hero, who is as bereft of a name as he is of a personality (no seriously, if he has any opinion about anything, we don't get to hear about it). We'll go with Sexywald Bus- oh, there's only room for five letters? Might as well stick with "Mento". It's nothing special as names go, but somehow it fits for a brutish fighter with more Weapon Points than sense. This now-named hero is brought before the King and told to spelunk the aforementioned hole in the ground full of evil to rescue his wayward daughter Princess Jessa. Sounds simple enough. Oh, except for all the monsters. Fortunately, the King's loyal Minister gives the hero enough cash to fill his inventory with only the shiniest of... wait, 200 gold? Let me check the conversion for gold pieces to moon dollars... carry the one... the moon dollar's strong right now, so... Ah.
And from that auspicious start, when the region's governance accidentally gives the hero knight less money than what is contained in the castle's apprentice janitor's weekly paycheck (to be fair, when Dark Lords are crashing through the ceiling every five minutes, he's definitely earning his stripes after clearing all that rubble so quickly) to take out an entire den of evil, we begin Shining in the Darkness, SEGA's answer to Wizardry and the various old-school dungeon crawlers that PC gamers in the West never seemed to be in short supply of in the early 90s.
Does it hold up? Absolutely, provided you have a high tolerance for obfuscating dungeon crawls and a random encounter rate only slightly less malicious than Skies of Arcadia's. Sega's oddly whimsical world of Shining, generally better represented by the Shining Force strategy games, has a sort of guileless and timeless fairytale quality to it. It's also not like this genre ever became particularly prevalent on consoles, at least not in the West, which sets it apart somewhat from what most NES RPGs were doing at the time. There is an element of "no passage until you've increased your numbers to be similar to the numbers of the monsters" stymieing going on that can be a little aggrieving, but generally it's an intelligent - in terms of puzzles, at least. Narratively it's about as complex as these early RPGs inevitably tend to be, which is to say not very - and surprisingly well-preserved RPG. Considering Etrian Odyssey 4 just came out this week thereby proving that someone somewhere must surely still care about these first-person dungeon delvers, it might be worth visiting if you've never done so before now. Just be in the mood for some grinding. And a bad case of crabs. No, I won't elaborate. Let's move on.
- Did I mention the grinding? Get to level 3 before you even try to venture beyond the first few corridors of the dungeon. Trust me, it'll save you a lot of heartbreak.
- The hero can never learn magic, in contrast to his two best friends Pyra and Milo, making him one of the few RPG protagonists less complex than his followers. Wait, what am I saying? They're all less complex than their followers. Most protagonists don't even speak, do they?
- It's a handful of loose change on Steam right now. In fact, it costs so little that the hero might've been able to afford it with that hand-out from the minister. So yeah, hardly anything.
Oh Hell, where does that VGK fellow find his marvellous YouTubes? I mean, beyond sticking some mixture of "vocaloid", "video games", "abominations against nature" and "SpongeBob" into a search engine. Hopefully this ought to suffice:
(I don't even know if he covers browser games. I'm the worst parodier ever) Our own Brad Shoemaker is currently deep in his tireless quest for more iOS games to cover (the first iOS Quick Look should be here any day now!) as some sort of penance for the many lost years in which he roundly ignored that much vaunted bastion of video gaming excellence that is the smart phone. He mentioned (or Patrick did, I'm having trouble telling them apart in this regard) a game named Dungelot, said to be a "cross between Minesweeper and a Dungeon Crawler". Well, I've played Dungelot, and it falls way short on delivering a fulfilling experience of either. But you know what free browser game (perhaps the only medium that garners even less respect than mobile phone games) totally does bring the minesweeper monster-bashing goodness? Mamono Sweeper from Hojomaka Games.
It's easy enough to pick up the basics: Enemies each have their own level, and the player can only safely defeat enemies of his own level or lower. Use logic to decipher which of the hidden enemies are safe enough to engage and which are too tough, marking those which fall into the latter group for later so you can deal with them after you've levelled a bit. The numbers on each square tell you the total levels of all the monsters that surround it, and you can use it to extrapolate the locations of said foes and their respective strength levels, so it requires a minor bit of mental arithmetic on top of everything else. I know, I know, no game was ever made better with math. Except perhaps Donkey Kong Jr. (but not Frog Fractions - I'll save my nonconforming disappointment with that game for a future blog).
There's not much more to it than that. It has a few modes, including a rather terrifying mode where the player character doesn't level up and all you can do is mark where all the enemies are hidden without engaging a single one. On the whole it's considerably more addictive and involving than Minesweeper, but at the same time very much follows a similar cadence of cautious exploration, logical deduction and a minimalist yet effective presentation. Also - it's a free game, dammit. Go click that link, try it out and see if it doesn't become a fixture whenever you have a moment to spare.
- It's free and available on any browser, including the one you're presumably using to read this. I don't think it requires any of this usual pros and cons hemming-and-hawing.
- Instead, I'll use this space to apologise profusely to @Video_Game_King, whose blog format I've purloined here for reasons I'll go into in the next bullet point. Just... wait until then, okay? Only a little bit longer to go.
- OK, so here it is: The duder just posted his 300th blog. It's quite a milestone, to put it mildly, and I figured the least I could do to celebrate it was to parody the heck out of the guy. I have so many people skills it's crazy.