Dragon Quest Heroes 2

Oh god, why do I do these things to myself.

It’s no secret that the shitty, shitty Warriors games are a guilty pleasure of mine. If you’ve never played any of Tecmo-Koei’s crappy one-versus-army beat-em-ups, suffice to say that they’ve basically released the same game approximately 25 times over the past 17 years or so. You control a lone military hero–in their flagship series, Dynasty Warriors, you choose from among ancient China’s Three Kingdoms; in the spinoff Samurai Warriors, you get to pick from feudal Japan’s Warring States–and you go up against literal armies, mashing buttons to the tune of square, square, square, triangle over and over again until thine enemies art smited. (Smitten?) They even changed things up in the Warriors Orochi series, which combines both Dynasty and Samurai into a single, equally stupid and equally satisfying mashfest. (Zhou Tai and Ginchiyo Tachibana ftw.)

(Incidentally, Tecmo-Koei also owns my favorite game series.)

They’ve pasted skins from major franchises onto the Warriors skeleton before, as they did with The Legend of Zelda in Hyrule Warriors (which I didn’t play). In Dragon Quest Heroes 2, they’ve done the same with the second-fiddle RPG series to Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy franchise. (Ancient history now, but it still seems ironic to me that the two greats of the JRPG subgenre, Enix’s Dragon Quest and Square’s Final Fantasy, are now owned by a single company, Square-Enix. It’s like if Russia and the US became a single hybrid entity. On which topic, stay tuned!) I never played the first DQ Heroes, as I didn’t have the appropriate console until just recently. But I’m enjoying DQH2 very much. Which is to say, it’s a stupid, stupid, mindless, repetitive button-masher wherein one is privileged to decimate hordes of enemies in a generic cutesy-poo fantasy anime setting and I fucking love it holy shit.

The plot is stupid and who cares. You get to control a party of four as they run around a generic fantasy world full of Akira Toriyama-designed monsters, slay said monsters, and then do it again forever because slaying monsters is the only thing that matters. Characters have unique weapons and attack patterns, though they really do–in true Warriors fashion–come down to square, square, square, triangle. Again, and again, and again…

I still think it’s fucking adorable that these games have a block button. A BLOCK BUTTON. HAHAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Here’s my girl Maya, who despite the impractical metal bikini is unarguably like the best at taking out big crowds of stupid monsters:

Pay no attention to the fact that her head is approximately the same length as her torso. It’s Akira Toriyama, dawg.

So yeah, okay. It’s a Japanese game, and there’s a fair amount of fanservice going on, which in this context is more than a little ridiculous and even worrying. But I don’t care because square square square triangle DEATH.

(For whatever it’s worth, Maya also turns into a dragon. As if that makes it better.)

AKIRAAAAAAAAA TORIYAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

I’m not saying you should buy this game. It’s kind of crap. But I’m also not not saying it.

Til Morning’s Light

I wrote most of this post about a year ago, before I moved to Japan. Thought I’d postpone it until I’d beaten the game, but I forgot about it in the craziness. I still haven’t beaten it, but it’s about time I posted this, because the maddeningly grammatically-incorrect Til Morning’s Light (it should be till, dammit) is, despite my righteous grammar fury, an unexpected success. The mobile game is available on Amazon Fire, Android tablets and through the iTunes store. On Amazon it’s $3.99 as of this (updated) writing, and thankfully there’s enough good here to merit the price.

Developed by WayForward, Til Morning’s Light is a cartoony horror-lite romp in the style of family films like ParaNorman and Monster House. You play as teenager Erica Page, a timid, slightly nerdy girl who is pressured into visiting a haunted house by two of her “friends.” No sooner has Erica entered the house than her frenemies board up the front door behind her, stranding her in the house where–GET THIS–spooky stuff starts happening. A sinister voice makes it clear that Erica isn’t welcome here, but she also won’t be allowed to leave because villainy. Then a monster appears, and you have to beat it into gooey oblivion (cartoony, sparkly goo, of course).

As far as the narrative goes, that’s about all we know at first, though of course as she explores the haunted mansion Erica learns more about its supernatural denizens and what she must do to escape. Interestingly enough, Amazon also released a free audiobook tie-in, which fleshes out the story and lends Erica’s character a little extra depth. It’s actually pretty fun, if you don’t mind YA fare, but be warned: the teenisms are overwhelming. “Breve” is not a word that should be uttered by mortal mouths. (That’s /breev/, short for abbreviation, not the super-thick espresso/heavy cream concoction that I feel sure at least one of you will now order the next time you make a coffee run.)

TilMorningsLight1

WAIT I’M JUST HERE TO TELL YOU TO ALWAYS BE YOURSELF AND *SPLORSH*

The game involves a lot of exploration, frantically tapping on objects to discover clues and tools and solving puzzles to proceed. That’s a good two-thirds of it. The other third is combat, which involves tapping or sliding your finger on on-screen prompts that appear during fights with monsters. You get various weapons throughout the game, beginning with your trusty flashlight, and they do increasing amounts of damage to the baddies. The developers introduce several touch patterns–dragging your finger along arrows; tapping shrinking circles just as they line up with, er, other circles; frantically smashing a swarm of, uh, circles–to add a little variety to fights, but the combat does get pretty stale after a while.

While the game is clearly aimed at younger audiences and has a pleasantly cartoonish aesthetic that makes it hard to find it frightening, it deserves some credit for actually generating some creepy atmosphere in a few places. Some of the long, dimly-lit corridors, where there’s no background music and weird will-o’-the-wisp-like lights drifting through the shadows, are spooky in a very pleasing, goofy way. There’s also this:

TilMorningsLight2

Inadequate, yes. Hm. Can I- can I just eat you? What’s this game rated again?

I’ve mentioned a couple of times how I love this cartoonish horror with lots of glowing greens and purples and things which are conceptually frightening (that’s a reanimated dessicated corpse with glowing eyes up there, after all) but in practice are just kind of fun. Til Morning’s Light captures this atmosphere admirably well, and where it fails in game design (the combat gets really old really quick) it more than succeeds in (lighthearted) storytelling and atmosphere.

3andaHalfScoops

Edit: Originally I mistakenly suggested this title was available on Steam. Don’t know where I got that idea–seems it’s only on mobile platforms.