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Talraen, June 8, 2009 2:28 AM (edited 6/7/09 10:28 PM)

A Very Final Fantasy Week

Mood: Frustrated
Tags: Gaming, Final Fantasy XI, Punch-Out!!, NHL 09, Rock Band 2, Rock Band Unplugged Demo, Final Fantasy XII
This week should have been the week of Final Fantasy. E3 not only showed FFXIII (which looks great), but also revealed FFXIV, the follow-up to FFXI. But for me, this was the week of the internet connection from hell. For two weeks now my connection has been on the fritz, and (as you'll see) it has finally gotten to the point where it is really killing my online play. The only solution was to find a single-player game to play, and in the spirit of the E3 announcements, I just added one, and played FFXII.

Final Fantasy XI
Final Fantasy XI
There were two distinct periods of FFXI play this week: back when my connection worked, and when it started sucking. They can be identified easily: when it didn't work, I didn't do anything that required my undivided attention. This meant mostly leveling my NPC, with a bit of soloing on the side. But I got a few things done beforehand.

Uninvited Guests: The Epic
Every week, Draethor and I run Uninvited Guests, a fairly straightforward quest that involves traveling to a battlefield and fighting an NM. The only tricky part is that to get to the battlefield, you need a drop from wyverns in the area. Generally we get it within the first three kills. Well, not this week. Our window was closing, as we were doing the quest on Saturday night (the week changes Sunday at midnight Japan time, which is 11 AM here), and luck was not on our side. We killed at least a dozen wyverns, maybe as many as 15, until we were both ready to fall asleep, and no drop in sight. We agreed to try a morning run, but I think we both knew we wouldn't be up in time.

Indeed when we started, around 10, we assumed we would be doing the quest for next week. But we got the drop quickly this time, and made short work of the Mammet NM, actually handing in the quest with time to spare. Turns out we didn't really need to bother, though, because we didn't actually run it this past week at all. I'm figuring, like me, Draethor had bad memories of the last run. And my crappy connection could have been potentially fatal as well.

Black Mage
The first signs of connection trouble were early in the week, but I figured a duo with Debonair would not be especially risky. Fortunately only one disconnect affected us, and no one died, so it was OK. We tried out a new camp, Bibiki Bay, killing high level bunnies (which may make Penny Arcade fans chuckle). Things were going fairly well (I even played a little Punch-Out!! during the downtime) until one pull went horribly wrong for me. I ended up dead, while Debonair got the kill. Theoretically, this should have been fine, since I had come BLM/WHM for reraise just in case something like this happened (he was BLM/NIN for pulling). Except apparently my reraise had recently worn and I didn't notice. With my brother home, I decided to call it a day there.

I hadn't finished off my XP ring, though, so later on I decided to finish it up on black mage in Pso'Xja, in the super easy camp I've mentioned before. The good news was I hit level 57. The bad news was, either I was off my game or my bad luck streak was continuing, because I actually got aggro three times (and died twice). Fortunately with a camp that easy, death is a minor setback.

Leveling With Amerita
My primary goal for the week was to get Amerita, my adventuring fellow, to the level cap of 70. She hit 69 fairly early, duoing with Draethor in the Boyahda Tree, but getting 70 was an epic. It actually took much longer than the wiki walkthrough can account for to do. I spent a lot of time soloing bat pets in Newton Movalpolos, though I managed to die once after a mere 3 kills and gave up for the day. (She eventually hit 70 there, ironically on the third kill into a new summon.) But for the most part my plan was to recruit my friends to help me level her. I miscalculated a bit, forgetting that my friends are lame, and that didn't actually happen beyond initially hitting 69.

So instead, I spent most of the week logged out in the Boyahda Tree, logging in periodically and begging my way into skillup parties. I actually had a lot of fun, as skillup parties are low-stress and a lot of the people are happy to talk about whatever. I saw parts of the tree I didn't even know about, and I got my divine magic skill up to 255, only a point behind the Light Arts cap. It even passed my healing magic, which is funny but a bit embarrassing (it now sits at 251). And I finally tried out Retribution - I was not impressed.

Bastok On Top!
When I got up on Sunday, shortly before hitting the level cap with Amerita, I wasn't expecting much. I joked that it would be nice if Bastok was finally in first, but the crazy thing is that we were. I finally got my Bastokan Ring, completing the starter ring set, and got my two most-wanted remaining outposts (Tavnazia and Fauregandi) to boot. I learned from Airclair earlier that the Aketon I like to get for each nation after hitting rank 10 is only available when that nation is in first, so I'm making it my goal this week to finish the last two missions and get me one. Though, come to think of it, I may be a little short on conquest points. Guess I'll have to level some jobs in conquest areas...

Blue Mage
With Amerita at the level cap, I wasn't really sure what else I could safely do with my crappy connection. I settled on leveling blue mage, which was less than 1k from level 33. I went to Qufim Island, hit my emperor band (still full from last week), and started doing training regimes. In the interests of efficiency, I decided to log out after each until the next was available (playing FFXII in the interim), which worked quite nicely as I am now halfway to level 35. Afterwards I briefly tried to recruit people to help with Bastok mission 9-1, to no avail. So I wrote this blog instead.

While I was playing FFXI, my brother was playing the versus mode of Punch-Out!! with his wife. Being the kind of person he is, he was kicking ass and being mean about it. So I decided it was for the good of all involved if I took a short break to school his ass. And that I did. He wanted more, and I obliged, embarrassing him again. See, the cool part about Punch-Out!!'s multiplayer is that it starts off split-screen, but when you build up a special meter, you turn into a hulking giant and it reverts to the traditional view. At this point it basically plays like a single-player fight, with the other player controlling the boss. I had killed Kevin with this form the first time, but the second fight he managed to attain it as well. Boy was he surprised when I dodged and countered the majority of his punches. And he was even more surprised when he tried to do the same and failed because I know a.) how predictable he is and b.) exactly what dodges work against which types of punches. Sorry Kev, I guess you won't like this game. Tee hee.

Anyway, after they left, I did pick up the game again and tried to beat Super Macho Man. Draethor was on the phone, actually. I am happy to report that he doesn't get any more crazy special moves besides the ones I knew about, so eventually I was able to TKO him. And then I was in for my own rude awakening, as the last boss - Mr. Sandman - is a beast. He's fast, powerful, has some nasty fake tells, and just generally had his way with me. Really great character design and fight, but shit is it hard. I don't even think I got out of the first round in a dozen tries.

NHL 09
NHL 09
Connection problems had pretty much killed any hope of playing NHL online since, unlike FFXI, it would disconnect at the slightest loss of signal. But with Kevin out for the weekend, we did get to play a bit offline. The first game we played was actually three of us (including my sister-in-law) against the computer, and we kicked ass to the tune of a 4-1 victory. Kevin was insufferable, though, because he had scored all four goals. But three were on rebounds, so really he was just cherry-picking and not actually setting up plays. Big whoop, I say. So I challenged him to a little one-on-one.

Things started poorly, as he beat me easily by a score of 3-1 in the first game. So much for my winning streak! But I was able to hold on 2-1 in game 2, sending us to the rubber match. I mentioned last week that very rarely do either of us come back from a two-goal deficit. Well, I was up 3-1 with 21 seconds left, and I was on the power play (though he had pulled his goalie, so the skaters were even). You might have guessed how this will end, given the way I phrased it, and you'd be right. He scored a short-handed goal with 20 seconds to go, but I didn't panic. After all, I was on the power play, and no one had ever scored two goals in the last minute of a game, in any version of NHL, at least that I could remember. I got the puck and decided to flip it out of the zone to kill time. Unfortunately my aim was off and I flipped it into the stands, which resulted in a penalty due to a relatively new rule. (Quick aside: I also got a delay of game penalty on my goalie for handling the puck in the corners, which I had previously doubted was even possible to do. It was a weird game.) Now it was 4-4, but with his goalie pulled he outnumbered me. But there were only 12 seconds left, right? He only needed two. Right off the faceoff he banged one in the top corner to tie it. I couldn't believe it - and I pretty much knew at that point that I was going to lose.

I was, of course, correct. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps. But that silly delay-of-game penalty is what ended up killing me, as he scored on the resulting powerplay a minute and a half into OT. With Ovechkin, no less. A 5-on-4 power play is bad enough, but 4-on-3 was too much. Naturally, Kevin was giddy as a schoolgirl and even joked about "retiring on a high note." We haven't played a game since, but we did try a shootout (figuring maybe the connection could last 10 minutes). It ended after four shots, due to lost connection. But I was winning 1-0, so that's something.

Rock Band 2
Rock Band 2
Not much to say on the Rock Band 2 front. I played last week's Ministry songs, and between the insane difficulty, screaming death metal, and "9/11 was an inside job" lyrics, I probably won't be playing them much more! This week saw a number of interesting songs released, but the only ones I got around to playing were two new Coheed and Cambria songs. They were good choices, too, and I am really glad they didn't censor "hell" in The Running Free like they did on the Madden soundtrack. That totally ruins the chorus, and makes me wonder why they didn't just use another song. But even if RB2 got little love, the Rock Band franchise did OK in my book...

Rock Band Unplugged Demo
Rock Band Unplugged Demo
E3 was a reminder to me that Rock Band Unplugged was due out soon (this Tuesday, to be exact). I probably wouldn't have grabbed the demo anyway, but the announcement that FF7 was on the PSN store made me at least go look, and while I was there I figured what the hell. See, RBU is basically Amplitude, but with inverted controls. The PSP only has two shoulder buttons, and they're used to switch tracks. There are four notes to hit, played with left and up on the D-pad as well as the triangle and circle buttons. Realizing that the face buttons are for chumps was what really made me fall in love with Frequency, so I was highly skeptical of this setup, and was prepped for major disappointment.

I was wrong. Oh, so wrong. Yeah, the shoulder buttons are faster, but the devs (who aren't Harmonix, I don't think) took this into account in the game design. It just feels great. There are only three songs, and one of them is my old RB2 nemesis, Everlong. But I must have played each a dozen times. The main game mode is a lot like Amplitude, but there are two other modes that are new and totally awesome. "Warmup Mode" leaves all four tracks open and you can just play whatever track you like, for as long as you like, and switch at your leisure (it doesn't even break the song down into phrases). You can still lose (unless you turn on no fail mode), so this is a training mode as well as a "I just love playing X track" mode. For the more courageous, there is band survival mode. It's basically the exact same thing, except the three tracks you're not playing are losing power for each note they miss. In other words, you need to frantically move around to a.) keep everyone alive and b.) optimally, play the toughest track at any given time since they will be dying fastest. It's intense. I'm not even sure how much I like it, but it is an excellent change of pace and should be a very interesting "challenge" mode once I master the game. Which I plan to do by, oh, Wednesday. Wink

Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy XII
With doing anything challenging in FFXI removed as an option, I needed an offline game to play. I considered starting Majora's Mask or Ultima: Savage Empire, and I considered continuing with one of the games I left off after the initial clear (including GTA4 and Mario Galaxy). But, excited by the FFXIII announcement and the FFXIV trailer, I went with FFXII. I actually don't have a whole lot left to do, just a few hunts and sidequests, but they're hard. And the only halfway decent weapon I have is the Zodiac Spear, meaning I basically have all my damage coming from one source. So I decided to play around a bit, starting with some side quests.

Naturally the first side quest I decided to do, since it was near where I had saved (Balfonheim), was the Wyrm Philosopher quest. The name should have clued me in. Anyway, I just had to talk to some guy, get a key, and fight a boss. A boss which, the guy assured me, anyone who had beaten the boss needed to trigger this cutscene could take easily. So I fought the Hell Wyrm. A few things stuck out at me right away. The first was that I have no idea what he looks like, because he is ridiculously huge and all I can see are like, his feet. And second, he has something like 30 life bars. 30 life bars! Yeah, turns out he has 10 million hit points. Who knew? I actually got him down to 1/3 in a protracted battle, which was really fun. But by that point his attacks were getting so rapid that I really had to re-equip, re-strategize, and set up some gambits to beat him. And I'm lazy. But, like with Yiazmat, you can leave and he will have the same HP when you come back, so I did just that.

Instead, I decided to do some random busywork: completing bazaar purchases I had missed, and filling out the bestiary. Analyzing the bazaar system after the fact, I realize how it's supposed to work. You go into an area, hunt down all the right mobs for the right materials, get your items, and move on. There's only one problem with this: there is no indication (outside of a guide or FAQ) what materials you actually need. FFXII made a lot of poor decisions, but not having a bazaar "to get" list was a big one. The system could have potentially made wandering around each area killing random mobs significantly more fun, but no. They wanted to sell strategy guides. Which aren't written in a convenient enough way for this to be useful anyway. /sigh. Stupid Square-Enix.

Anyway, that went pretty well, but I'm far from any of the really cool bazaar stuff. The bestiary completion has gone a bit better. I've had to Google for the locations of a few monsters, but generally it's pretty easy, and killing random low-level mobs has finally helped me finish everyone's license board. Yay! Plus I've made a lot of money, and bought a lot of gear I was missing (I'm collecting at least 1 of everything in the game). And, although some people dislike FFXII's purple prose, I absolutely love it, and unlocking random encyclopedia entries for filling out the bestiary is reward enough for me. I cannot get enough of FFXII's writing. So to hell with Draethor. He's just a hater!
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