Goodbye, 3DS — Now Playing: Monster Hunter Stories; Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I liked the touch controls for the DS Zelda games, for the most part. I especially liked things like drawing the path of the boomerang. But I hated driving the ship and train around. I wouldn't mind revisiting the idea of a touch-driven Zelda game, but not those two.

I agree, for the most part they aren't bad. Other than driving the ship and train around (which I also didn't love), the touch controls bothered me most with mini-games that required a lot of precision. In Spirit Tracks, that would especially include the whip race and the race through Disorientation Station (I think) where you had to make sharp turns on the ice, and dash-roll in a specific way, to beat the target times. In the final battle, I didn't like that certain segments of it relied on some quick weapon work while also forcing me to dodge quickly and control Zelda. Three things to control with the stylus was a little rough.

It's a while since I last played Spirit Tracks, but the thing that I remember the most now is that I enjoyed seeing Link and Zelda working together as a team, with that teamwork being an important feature of the entire game (not just tagged on at the end). I'd like if they did that again in the future.

I'm coming up on the end of Xenoblade Chronicles. I just crested 70 hours, and I expect to put another 5 to 10 into it before I'm done. I'm really going to miss this game.

If you haven't played it before and you're considering it, there's one thing I wish I had done differently in my playthrough: I should have changed characters a lot more often. It wasn't until near the end of the game that I swapped out my playable character, and I wish I had done it sooner.

One of the biggest complaints about Xenoblade is that combat doesn't change much over the course of the game, and if you stick with the early party build of Shulk, Reyn, and Sharla, that's true. But all of the characters are playable, and they all play pretty differently. Not only that, but how you build your party will vary based on who you have in it. Some of the abilities that seem useless will become quite useful if you change up who you have with you.

I don't know that I'll ever go through the game again. Not because it's bad (I actually really love it) but because it's massive. If I finish up the game at 80 hours, there will easily be more for me to do that I've left untouched.

Oh, you'll play it in all its aliased glory again. Cause it's such a special game.

haha I'm pretty sure that after playing this game on 3DS that I am immune to aliasing. My eyes have been cut on every jaggy, and I have come back stronger.

Not just jaggy, but them textures...

I really need to get back to it. I'm wishing for a Switch port only so it can be easier for me to sink the required time into. I got myself one o' them arms or whatnot that connects to your bed and can hold a tablet while you lay down, only I use it for my Switch and Octopath Traveler right now. It was a great decision, and I pondered how I'd put my 3DS in there, but that would require holding onto the controls still and my arms would just hurt.

Gah. Too many games!

After a marathon late night gaming session that I'm not exactly proud of, Xenoblade Chronicles is done. It's been one of my white whale games that I've wanted to play through for years but couldn't manage it, and I'm glad I finally did it.

I'll gather some thoughts on the game generally and the 3DS port specifically in the next couple days.

I'm going to cheat and just copy/paste what I wrote in the finished games thread.

It took six months and 80 hours of gameplay, but I finished Xenoblade Chronicles on the 3DS. This was my fourth or fifth go at it; I tried to get into it multiple times previously on the Wii and on the 3DS, but I never managed to stick with it until this time. Call me Ahab, and behold this dead white whale.

I'll always love handheld gaming for the intimacy of it all. You have these worlds in your pocket, and you can take them out at any time, and sink into them on a tiny screen that only you can see with tiny speakers pitched for your ears only. By virtue of the hardware involved and the typically lower costs of development, those pocket worlds tend to be on the smaller side. There are RPGs that take up a lot of time, but they tend to be fairly small worlds broken down into individual floors. Not so Xenoblade. By any standard, Xenoblade Chronicles is huge; by handheld standards, it's in a class all by itself.

No other series plays with scale quite as well as the Xenoblade series, and none of them as well as the first Xenoblade Chronicles. It begins with the premise: the entire world exists on the bodies of two dead titans in the middle of a vast ocean, connected to one another by the sword that landed the killing blow. So tiny are you and your companions by comparison that when you get to that sword, it's an entire game zone, a sprawling series of valleys with settlements and bases. Turn one way or the other, and you see the faces of the titans far, far away in the sky.

It's utterly enchanting. As someone who plays games for the spaces built within them, the world of Xenoblade Chronicles is one of my favorites. Vast, open spaces are built on the bodies of the titans: a leg becomes a giant plain; a severed hand becomes an archipelago, the fingers curled like skyscrapers around you. That the game's narrative ultimately becomes about that contrast in scale makes it even better.

As a port, the 3DS version exists in the narrow overlap of a curious Venn diagram of game and hardware. Shrink Xenoblade much further—drop the resolution, muddy the textures, pinch the draw distance—and it would become incomprehensible and would lose so much of what makes it special. At the same time, make it much bigger, and the 3DS simply couldn't handle it. It's a delicate balance of hardware and software that somehow, impossibly, gets such a gigantic game running on such dinky hardware.

It feels a bit like a stunt, like Nintendo ported the game just to show that they could, but in a way, Xenoblade Chronicles always felt like a stunt: it's not like the Wii was a natural fit for an MMO-sized RPG. In hectic combat sequences, the 3DS can't quite keep up, and I cannot emphasize enough how aliased every edge is and how muddy every texture. But the game nevertheless shines through.

Good review, Clocky. This is one I planned to return to someday. In part because of the idea of a huge world intimately held in my pocket. Thanks for writing that.

DSGamer wrote:

Good review, Clocky. This is one I planned to return to someday. In part because of the idea of a huge world intimately held in my pocket. Thanks for writing that.

It wasn't until I was writing that that I realized that the intimacy and pocket worlds thing is what I've been missing from the Switch and never got with the Vita. They're both just too large and too fragile for me to feel like I can tuck into them anywhere at any time. Even if it's a minor physical barrier, there's a psychological barrier for me in fiddling with and carrying around cases. My 3DS and my PSP, though, are tiny tanks. I feel like I can take them wherever and pop into them at any time.

I'm half-way there with missing the 3DS. There are times when I wish I could snap the Switch shut and shove it down the side of my sofa, or into my back pocket, but the novelty of the Switch hasn't worn off enough for me to go back to the 3DS yet.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
DSGamer wrote:

Good review, Clocky. This is one I planned to return to someday. In part because of the idea of a huge world intimately held in my pocket. Thanks for writing that.

It wasn't until I was writing that that I realized that the intimacy and pocket worlds thing is what I've been missing from the Switch and never got with the Vita. They're both just too large and too fragile for me to feel like I can tuck into them anywhere at any time. Even if it's a minor physical barrier, there's a psychological barrier for me in fiddling with and carrying around cases. My 3DS and my PSP, though, are tiny tanks. I feel like I can take them wherever and pop into them at any time.

Right. I'm still having trouble with the Switch in this respect. The Vita wasn't as bad, but I largely agree, otherwise. Both are very large and fairly fragile.

I've never played a game with as expansive a 3D world as Xenoblade Chronicles. Mostly 2D stuff like Final Fantasy, Pokemon, Golden Sun in terms of contiguous worlds. Otherwise I've mostly played strategy games portably. I need to give Xenoblade Chronicles an honest shot.

I'm assuming you're mostly talking about contiguous game worlds and not "worlds" in the sense that Fire Emblem is a world.

This might come as a surprise, but Dragon Quest VII and Etrian Odyssey Untold are really long. I'm plugging away at both, although most of my comments on Dragon Quest have ended up in the JRPG Club thread for it instead of in here.

Etrian Odyssey Untold is a really interesting game. If you're not familiar with the Etrian series, they're a prolific line of first-person dungeon crawlers that's probably best known for requiring players to draw their own maps of each area on the 3DS's touch screen. It's also known for being quite difficult and a bit inscrutable: you build your own party (or parties) from scratch and try to synergistically hone each party member to compliment each other. There's a narrative, but it's just one more thing to tease out and discover as you go along.

The first Etrian Odyssey debuted on the DS in 2007; Etrian Odyssey Untold is a remake of that game for the 3DS that released in 2013. It includes fancied-up graphics and (controversially) some accessibility features like limited auto-mapping and fast travel, as well as (very controversially) a new story mode with a pre-made party and fleshed-out story sequences. I've been playing the story mode. I haven't played the original DS release, but I've put some time into the somewhat similar Etrian Odyssey IV on the 3DS.

The argument goes that these additions take away some of what made Etrian Odyssey so special and instead moves it closer to typical JRPG territory. And to an extent, I can see that. The characters are pretty tropey—the silent protagonist who believes in justice; the amnesiac; the quiet scientist; the immature loudmouth; the girl who eats a lot—and foregrounding the narrative certainly makes some of its twists and turns less surprising (even if they are, let's be honest, not all that remarkable to begin with).

At the same time, the story mode gives players a good "in" for the series as a whole. I certainly feel like I'd be better equipped to play a proper Etrian release at this point (or this game's classic mode, which is similar to the original release), and that's largely thanks to the more gentle onramp that the story mode provides. And while the story mode does take away some of the mystery and the discovery of party building, some of the core building blocks that define the series are still there: gathering resources, dodging the wandering boss-like FOEs, and learning how to make your characters' abilities interact to your advantage are all still there. Story mode is still tuned to be a difficult experience, and there's still a lot that's left for you to discover.

In any case, it's gotten me to redownload Etrian Odyssey IV to take another swing at it, and I'll likely spend more time with other entries in the series in the future. Without Untold's story mode, I probably wouldn't have done that.

I managed to capitalize on eShop sales the last couple weeks to pick up Lord of Magna and Rune Factory 4. I also cashed in My Nintendo discounts on Metroid: Samus Returns, Monster Hunter Stories, and Ever Oasis. I'm very close to making my 3DS wishlist into an actual backlog.

I was thinking of mentioning the Rune Factory 4 sale in the 3DS thread, it's been quite a while since it was on sale. My #2 GOTY from a while back. There's also Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns which is very good if you like that kind of thing.

Dragon Quest 7 is finished. I wrote plenty about it in the JRPG Club thread, so I won't rehash it here. Of the two Dragon Quest games on the 3DS, I prefer 7 to 8, so long as there's an understanding that both are very much old school JRPGs.

For a change of pace, I think I'll take on Metroid: Samus Returns next.

For less of a change of pace, I'm currently playing Xenoblade: Chronicles. That looks like it could be a slog.

How far along are you? I feel like that one takes a bit of time to get its feet under it.

I've now finished Etrian Odyssey Untold!

All told, I think it gains a fair amount mechanically from story mode in terms of easing players into the game. A prerolled party is nice, as is the secondary dungeon and other side opportunities to gain XP that ease the difficulty spikes between strata. I don't think they really stick the landing with the additional story beats, and while story mode gives you a nice onramp for the game, but the end it feels pretty limiting. I'd have liked an option to respec or reclass or something. The grimoire stone system they include for expanding class options is somehow both confusing and simplistic.

I'm really glad I played it, and I feel like it's given me a love of the Etrian series that I wouldn't have otherwise had. I've gone from disinterest in the rest of the series to now wish listing the rest. But I don't know about my level of interest in a story mode again, and I can see why someone who already loved the series would be put off by it and not see the point of it.

According to the 3DS activity log, I've been playing it since 2015, and it took me 65 hours to get through, 40 of which were this year. Glad to have that one off the pile.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

How far along are you? I feel like that one takes a bit of time to get its feet under it.

About 20+ hours in and just unlocked the Colony 6 restoration side quest. I'm finding it pretty meditative but I can see myself possibly becoming bored with it. The premise is interesting for the moment. It is a technical masterpiece but I wish they could have tightened up the close-ups a bit, they are a blurry mess. The long range stuff looks pretty nice (considering the obvious technical limitations). Having trouble with the gem crafting, can't seem to create anything particularly amazing compared to the quest rewards.

Also, the way it handles the levels is a bit strange to me. It took me a long time to work out that red enemies you can't even hit. On the other hand, enemies a certain number of levels below you won't aggro you and can't hit you. Which is good when you're just walking around. However, for certain story segments and enemy areas, it just seems odd when sentries are just standing there watching you walk past. And, the first Colony attack, everyone is freaking out but the mechs couldn't land a hit on my party. I killed a bazillion of them until I realised there was no particular benefit to doing so. I feel like there's something they could have tweaked there.

Another thing comes to mind, they introduce this relationship mechanic where you can have interactions between party members at certain points on the map. However, since the tutorial, out of the 20+ spots I've run into, not one has been available for use, mostly due to not having the appropriate party makeup and a couple due to not having levelled up the relationship enough. That's kind of odd.

I mostly agree with your points about Untold with regard to my experience with Untold II but, despite the extra story dungeon, I hit a wall about 20 hours in where my party just wasn't cutting it and I needed to do some serious grinding. I mean, I thought I'd been grinding up to that point but apparently not!

I'm just going to ask a question here, Clocky. Of all the games you've played on the 3DS, which had the best "mood"? Sorry if that's a weird question. I'll explain.

In 2018 I seriously discovered Studio Ghibli movies in earnest. I saw a couple prior to that, but in 2018 I saw about 7 for the first time ever.

That's had me contemplating playing games with "better" stories or at least with it's made me thinking I want to play more games with a contemplative mood. Obviously that's very subjective and could be prompted by everything from a good story to good music, but since you've played a ton of 3DS games I thought I'd ask you what games stuck with you the most as having a world you wanted to settle into.

Hopefully that makes sense.

Sorting through my backlog for the 2019 pile thread and looking to grab pile highlights I'd like to get to this year for each platform, if not to complete (because I rarely do) but to at least give a run out and a chance to have as much fun as I can with each game.

First up, the 3DS. Am thinking...

Yo-kai Watch: Psychic Specters
Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns
Ever Oasis
Monster Hunter Stories
Ace Attorney Trilogy
Pocket Card Jockey
Attack of Friday Monsters

Some of these I'll be returning to after spending a little time with them, not enough to call done by a long shot though, just distracted by other things as usual.

There are still 3DS games I'd like to add to the pile, Samus Returns a prime example, but am resisting!

Trio of Towns could be 200 hours if you let it. I think I pulled the plug at 20-30 hrs.

It's been on the pile for a while, since it first released probably. Put an hour or two in as soon as purchased but then something else caught my eye. I should go back as enjoyed the first game.

DSGamer wrote:

I'm just going to ask a question here, Clocky. Of all the games you've played on the 3DS, which had the best "mood"? Sorry if that's a weird question. I'll explain.

What an interesting question!

I'm not sure if it's quite what you're after, but the first thing that comes to mind is Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale. I guess it depends on which kind of Studio Ghibli mood you're looking for: the epic, melancholic grandeur of something like Castle in the Sky or Nausicaa or Princess Mononoke; or the quiet, nostalgic ephemera of My Neighbor Totoro or Kiki's Delivery Service or Whisper of the Heart. Attack of the Friday Monsters falls into the latter category.

It's a very sweet, very quiet game. It has a smallness to it that's very unusual for gaming; the scope of the game is a small space over a small time where not a lot happens, but it's acutely observed and remembered. The game apparently drew heavily on the creators' childhood memories of Tokyo, and you can feel that warm reminiscence throughout the game. I don't honestly remember much about the gameplay except that it's mostly talking to people with a breezy little collectible card game on the side, but the atmosphere and feeling of the game have lingered with me years after I played it.

It's one of the console's real hidden gems.

I also have a decent amout of good 3DS game that I own and wish to play

Sometimes I wish there was a quiet nook at work that I could just bring my 3DS in and zone out.

As a sequel to Other M, Samus Returns is really interesting.

It also seems to be drawing on Samus as she's depicted in Smash Bros. to expand her moveset into melee counters and takedowns and to generally make her feel more like the galaxy's most dangerous bounty hunter. Samus feels downright lethal in Samus Returns.

Similarly, Samus Returns eschews the large, interconnected map of Super Metroid in favor of more compartmentalized areas. There's still a lot of that layered lock and key exploration, but it's per area instead of everywhere. (The paths between areas aren't one-way like they are in Other M, but they might as well be.)

But unlike Other M, Samus Returns makes no effort whatsoever to tell any kind of story, an approach the series hasn't taken since Super Metroid itself. After an opening crawl, there's nothing: no logs, no narrative, no cutscenes, no diary. Nada.

I miss some of the elements of Other M that they dropped, like the non-side scrolling areas, but as a halfway point between that game and Super Metroid, it's really solid. Reminds me a bit of Link Between Worlds or NSMB 2 as a revisit to a classic in light of both subsequent entries and subsequent criticism.