Sunday, April 18, 2021

CR 330 -- World of Flashpoint releases in DCUO

DCUO has released Episode 40 and it's all about Flashpoint, a comic series from 2011. The same Flashpoint that played out in Season 3 of CW's Flash (It was after season 3 that I stopped watching myself).  Things are all upside down in flashpoint, where Cyborg is the main hero while Superman is locked away in a government facility. Flash messed up the timeline and now it's going to take a lot of work to restore it.

Apparently you can read Flashpoint #1 for free on the DC Comic Subscription service if you sign up for it. I may have to do that. Apparently you can also watch the animated Flashpoint movie on HBOMax . . . also something I may have to do. (But I may have to finish watching the Stargirl series first though.)

Chillin' with the boss in Flashpoint

For players, this means we get a new duo event, a new 4-player event, 2 new raid events, and ye' old standard fare of open world daily missions. In other words, it's exactly what you'd expect from new content in DCUO.  

For me, it means my CR needle can move once again! The last time I posted a CR update on my character was way back at the beginning of January. So far my gains have only been through the standard boxes you get from completing missions and the duo. On Thursday when the new content released, I was lucky enough to find my buddy, Teal Lantern, online and we crashed through the duo without problems.

Batman . . . or rather Batman's Dad in Flashpoint . . . backed us up to take down Amazo.

The open world raids are interesting and involve taking down a couple of super villains and fighting a 100 enemies.  One of the villains you get to fight is Doomsday.

Laying the smackdown on Subject Doomsday

It's a pretty standard fight, but I do like how he ends up grabbing a gigantic chunk of metal towards the end and starts smacking people around with it.

I'm pretty sure Team Spode will shift back to playing through this content for a little while, at least to do the new 4-player event and raids. It'll be fun to play through this new world with my buddies once again.

Happy Dueling!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

DK Country Tropical Freeze -- That last boss though!

My right thumb . . . HURTS!  Hours later, it still feels like all the blood has been squished out of it repeatedly. I hate to admit this, but, I can't beat that last boss in Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. I'm out of money in game and I can't afford to buy more invincibility potions. I've played the level at least 40-50 times so far. I . . . can't . . . beat . . . it.  WHAT?!

Blow your evil horn, Walrus King . . . you are victorious . . . for the moment

I know what I need to do to overcome this level, but I really really don't want to do it.  sigh.  Funky Kong has a shop and he sells items in exchange for coins that you collect while playing.  For Boss fights, the best item you'll want to buy is the invincibility potion. I believe it might be the most expensive item in the shop at 15 coins for one.

Delicious Banana Juice!  Why do you have to be so expensive?

I fully believe the designers made this last fight so difficult because they knew you'd need these potions to beat it.  It's an absolutely unforgiving fight where you have very small hitboxes to deal with. I've beat all the other bosses, but this guy is wayyyyyy tougher than all the others, and I mean, he should be, but WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?! Why can't I kill this guy?!

I've battled through an underwater nightmare with a angry octopus.

He was really really angry! I've survived a myriad of maze-like minecart tracks. 

So maze-like! I've even punched a purple popsicle loving polar bear in the face.

. . . and boy did it it feel good! But this final boss is absolutely the stuff of nightmares for me.  I think it's going to drive me crazy until I beat it. Up to this point, most levels I could figure out and get past in 15-20 minutes. It's a seriously great game (as I've already said in my previous posts). BUT THIS?!?!

I just need to beat that final boss. *cries*

Can I get some well wishes?  Also, can I get some ice for my thumb?

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze -- Punching Bosses in the Face!

I played a good couple of hours of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze tonight, and it did not disappoint. It honestly feels like I've been starved waiting for a good platformer to come around and DK was here to save the day for me.

When I started the game play session I was sitting on stage 2-3. The first thing I noticed was, as soon as I logged in, the game said happily, hey! I see you're low on lives . . . how about we just give you 4 more because we're nice.  Thank you, game!

Only 12% completion!? Nice!

Now that's the way it should be . . . my son at one time must have paid good money to buy you, dear game, and it's only right that you don't let me suffer when I log on with a measly one life. I mean, if I die this level, you're just going to give me four more anyway.

After besting "Horn Top Hop" (which featured a lot of bellowing horns that floated you up into the air), the next level was "Sawmill Thrill."  That one took a lot of doing. Man, I love these minecart levels so much. It was an absolutely blast of a level that eventually had me jumping my cart over obstacles that were being thrown out as the level progressed and a giant Saw Blade chased me from behind.

Eventually the second world came to an end and once again I faced an unforgiving boss fight, This time against Skowl the Startling. Skowl is a giant owl who commands an army of owls that he rains down upon you.  The fight works in three phases: on the ground, up higher in the trees, and finally up in the clouds. It took me quite a while to figure out that I needed to pick up one of the owls he threw at me and chuck it back at him when he dive-bombed me.  Once I figured that out, it was just a matter of time till Donkey Kong punched him in the face and I could move on to the third world.

The third world is all about being in a Savannah Grasslands, and it is so cute. I mean, when the baobab trees started swaying to the music and you started swinging on large puppeteer giraffe necks . . . that was it. I was dead from cuteness overload. There's so much charm to the Grassland Groove level, I honestly cannot stand it. YOU'VE GONE TO FAR, NINTENDO! . . . and I love you for it.

World 3 didn't seem to pose as much of a problem as World 2 for some reason, which was fine with me. The Rhino mount made a return in the "Frantic Fields" level. The "Scorch and Torch" level featured a lot of burning trees and mechanics that involved not standing on one place too long. Twilight Terror featured vampires . . . just kidding . . . it featured a rocket that you had to keep in the air by continually tapping the jump button. 

Eventually I was facing off against the boss for World 3. Dubbed "Triple Trouble" on the World Map, this boss involved three devious Viking Monkeys that would swoop down at you . . . sometimes wielding hammers . . . sometimes exposing their butt to be stomped on. Again this fight had three phases to it where eventually the monkeys would throw spikey fruit bombs down at you until finally they'd throw a watermelon bomb instead, and you could throw that one back at them.  Again, I got to give the boss a satisfying punch in the face, and soon I was on to World 4.

World 4 seems to be all about the Underwater swimming just from looking at the map, and I do believe I see some scary kraken tentacles peeking up from the water. Oh boy, this one is gonna be fun!

Time to buy some blue balloons from Funky. I think I'll be holding my breath a lot here.

Thanks again to Angela ShadowGarden for the great game suggestion. I'm having a blast with this one!

Happy Dueling!

Monday, April 12, 2021

Now Presenting -- Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze!

I stole my son's Nintendo Switch and re-downloaded a game that he had purchased but uninstalled, and that game is none other than Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze!

What is this high resolution world of Donkey Kong?

I mean, I was even impressed over the logo splash screen here! After playing the original Donkey Kong Country the other day, this was pretty mind-blowing how crystal clear and smooth the characters and animations were.  Not to mention that the front of the game had a simply amazing cut-scene animation to really set the story and stage.

Beware the mighty bellows of the Viking penguins!

The Viking penguins approached the happy home of Donkey Kong's Island, led by a terrifying shadowy Viking over-lord. With a mighty blow of their Viking horn, a frosty wind blew across the ocean causing fierce ice to immediately form in their path and punting poor Donkey Kong and friends miles into the air like they were team rocket blasting off again. So high quality. So high budget. I loved it.

The first level of the game alone showed just how much evolution has happened with platformers over the past 20 years. Immersive things like music shifts when you swim underwater . . . heck, just having an underwater portion of a platformer in the same level . . . heck, having an insane 3D barrel shooting ride in the same level. I mean, this game really puts its best foot forward (as it should) right away.

It seems simple, but camera movement coupled with Barrel shooting adds so much depth

The same familiar mechanics are there from the original DK Country game, namely roll attack and jump attack, but now they've also added ground pounding, rope pulling, vine hanging, ducking, and double jumping as standard features. There are a lot more buttons to keep track of, and because of this, they have a super intuitive background character that pops out exactly when you need him.  What I mean by that is there's a little pig that sticks his head out of the background and says what buttons you should press to overcome this obstacle in front of you, and then it seamlessly fades back into the background. Unobtrusive tutorial moments like that (especially at the start of the game) are absolute genius. They also reused the pig character as the NPC that grants you a mid-level waypoint for when you need to restart.

Yesterday when I played this game, I ended up on level 2-3, and that was the spot where I first ran out of lives. I was actually excited to see if they were going to punt me all the way back to level 2-1 to make me start over like they used to do in the old Donkey Kong Country, thankfully no -- this is yet another huge difference between old school torture and new school thinking. Nobody likes feeling like they lost progress. Well done, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. Well done.

There was also an old familiar Barrel ride level during the first set of levels that hailed back to the original Donkey Kong.  This thing was amazing. You were going in loops as giant obstacles fell down at you. There were cut-scenes mid-level! The ground was crumbling from out underneath you, and the excitement was 100 percent there.

The first boss fight was also super impressive. In the original Donkey Kong Country, you fought against a giant badger and really all you needed to do was bonk him on the head five times and you were done.  This boss fight had a huge cut scene before it and felt more like a boss fight from Cuphead than a simple Donkey Kong Country fight. Basically you were stuck in a half-pipe as a Viking seal swooped down on you . . . yes, you'd bonk him on the head, but then he'd sit off to the side and throw fish at you or command his viking penguin hoard to dive bomb you. After about 15 hits and a variety of side attacks, you'd finally get to punch his lights out and grab your prize.

All in all, I have to say (and it must be obvious since I've been gushing here), Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is a really solid game. I wish I would have played it seven years ago when it was originally released on the Wii U. 

I'll be playing through the game a bit more and reporting my progress here as I can. Again, thank you to Angela ShadowGarden for the awesome game suggestion.

Happy Dueling! 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Gettin Kooky with the Donkey Kong Country

I've got a new game suggestion to write about from none other than Angela ShadowGarden from the Legends of the Spiral website fame! She mentioned a certain obsession she has with the Donkey Kong Country series, and wondered if I'd be interested in giving it a look. 

Yup . . . taking a good look!

It was funny because as soon as she mentioned Donkey Kong Country, that old familiar happy tune from the game crept into my head like the earworm it is! YES! I LOVE ME SOME DONKEY KONG COUNTRY!!

After finishing Pokémon Red, one of the first things I did was hook up the old Super Nintendo upstairs and plopped in the Donkey Kong Country cartridge and started hitting those old familiar platformer levels from "the good ol' days."

To me, Donkey Kong country will always be side-related to being newly married to my wife.  Right around the release of DK Country, we had another young married couple that we started hanging out with on the regular: Dan and Melissa.  A couple of nights we took our Super Nintendo over to their apartment, hooked it up, and we all played DK Country the whole night.  Those are really happy memories. Donkey Kong Country with Dan and Melissa was epic. 

The game itself was pretty revolutionary at the time for platformers. The characters looked 3D in a 2D platformer world, the jungle-themed levels started out easy enough, but eventually you were taking on all kinds of different challenges from riding swordfish under the water, to minecart tracks that defy the laws of physics, and then back on over to a nuclear power plant. Not to mention you were introduced to a whole crew of new Donkey Kong characters like Candy Kong and (in typical 90's fashion) Funky Kong.

Oh man! That vernacular! That funky pink cap! That surfboard! That name!

And . . . this little platforming game even spawned a strange little animated cartoon series that lasted 2 seasons. The stranger thing is that supposedly this little 1997 cartoon was the "first all CG TV show made using magnetic motion capture."

I actually remember watching a couple episodes of this on Fox. 

Anyway, playing this game yesterday kind of made all these memories flood back to me, and remembering all the difficulty I had with the minecart levels came rushing back to me as well. The really interesting gate in this game centers around lives and save points. The game liberally gives you new lives in the form of bananas, red balloons, and special animal collection levels, and you're going to need them as there are some really unforgiving jumps and timing involved to get through all these levels. If you don't make it to the next save point, you'll have to start the whole chain of levels over again from the last save point. Brutal! I love it! I could hear my old super Nintendo controller's plastic stressing under my firm and panicked grip running through these old levels. 

I audibly was groaning in pain a few times when I was so close to beating a level and failed at the last moment.  IT WAS GREAT! No, seriously, it's nice when a game still manages to entertain and give you a challenge.

The Stop & Go Station level stopped me -- game over

I took a break from the painfully delightful gameplay and called my local GameStop and also the GameOver Videogame Store (super cool local used game store) to see if they had copies of Donkey Kong Country 2 or 3 . . . or even the Donkey Kong Country 3DS game, but alas . . . they did not.  Then I checked Ebay -- man I really don't like getting into bidding wars with people, but there are two copies with bids on them that would go for about 20-25 dollars right now and arrive here in a couple weeks.

The happiest discovery I made in my hunt is that . . . my son already purchased the Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze game for the Nintendo Switch a year or so ago! I've yet to find some free time to try out this newest Donkey Kong Country game, but it sounds like my review of this series hasn't come to a complete halt just yet.

Happy Dueling!

Friday, April 9, 2021

Pokémon Red -- The End Comes 44 Hours Later

Whew . . . as I type, I feel a distinct pain coming from my right hand, but I have to sit down right now and type some of this out while it's still fresh in my mind.  I just barely hit the final credits of Pokémon Red.

So satisfying . . . even with a dirty screen . . .

The game shifted big time since the last time I posted. The maze puzzles found in the game doubled down, and the sheer amount of enemies you have to wade through (figuratively and literally once you get the Surf skill) was the stuff of nightmares, but at the end of the day, really two main Pokémon carried me through the game.

1- Rafael, my starter Squirtle buddy ended up evolving into a level 64 Blastoise that was an absolute beast. His final four abilities were Fissure, Bubblebeam, Ice beam, and Hydro Pump, which actually ended up being a very weird combination of powerful hits that made his stamina a bit short-lived. By the end of the horrific final four and rival battle sequence, he was absolutely . . . out of power.

Whew . . . 258313 experience . . . that's a lot of clicking on the A button

2- That Oddish that I named Beatdrop from the other post?  Yeah, it evolved into a level 56 Vileplume wielding the powers of Mega Drain, Acid, Cut, and Double-edge.  The Double-edge/Mega Drain combo was a thing of beauty to be honest.  Its stamina won the day at the very end. I was barely scraping out a win using its acid ability, which btw . . . after using the Acid Music software to create music for so many years, I had to laugh every time I saw, "Beatdrop uses Acid."

My Beatdrop hit a little Rat at tat tat with some Acid music jams

Can I just say how cool that final four and rival battle sequence was at the end. It's really no wonder this game did so well and spawned an entire Pokémon empire. That feeling of desperation when you finally beat Lance, thinking you're done, and then realizing it's not over . . . OH MY WORD . . . so good.  I was sweating so hard in that final battle with John, my rival.  Glad I beat that guy even though I felt genuinely bad for him afterwards when Professor Oak was laying into him.

Stupid John!

Also, just a side comment about my lack of patience, I really did not have the patience for some of the maze puzzles found in the mid-game and had to look up the strategy guide to save myself a bit of time. Team Rocket's Hideout? Finding the Warden's Teeth in the Safari Zone? The Silph Company's Maze of Teleporters? Some of those were super confusing . . . especially when there was a part where you had to jump off a balcony to the next floor down, but the balcony looked like a wall! WHAT? I had absolutely no idea I could jump off of that!

Now the only question that remains is . . . do I keep going? You know it's not over after the end credits, right? heh. I honestly don't know if I have it  me to do the post-game activities, but it is pretty tempting to use that Master Ball I picked up from the Silph Building Boss to capture the level 70 Mew-two Pokémon hiding down in the Cerulean Cave. It also would be pretty great to get that Pikachu I was working up as a third to evolve into a Raichu . . . hmmm.

When I told my son that the end credits were rolling, the first thing he said was, "So are you going to do a nuzlocke for it now?"  The thought made me shudder . . . nah . . . if anything what I'd love to do next with Pokémon is shift my sights to the modern day and have a playthrough of Pokémon Sword or Shield.

Thanks again to @Jetsers for the wonderful game suggestion. It was $10 well spent and gave me new eyes for looking at an old gaming franchise. I wish I could come up with a game idea as genius as Pokemon. Maybe someday!

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Pokémon Red -- A great time in greyscale!

I'm continuing to play through Pokémon Red per @jetsers suggestion and having a great time in greyscale!  (I should trademark that tagline.) 

The only setbacks so far have been issues caused by me not physically saving my game (I forget auto-save used to not be commonplace) and my sore thumb from mashing the button over and over to try and save time when I get into fights.  I'm not used to holding a 3DS . . . I've done everything from accidentally turn off the 3DS to accidentally amping the volume while my wife was sleeping next to me. Whoops.

The game itself is exactly as I remember the experience, but I can't help myself thinking about how much has come from this relatively simple game while playing it.  It's genius.  You wander a very simple map, you run into people, get some dialog, and fight with your collection of Pokémon.  That's it.  . . . and yet you can't help but wonder what the real story is behind the gentleman with two Growliths in the economy section of the cruise ship . . . what's his real deal? . . . and that's where the cartoon filling in the gaps in dialog is also genius!  

There's another "g" word to describe this game besides "Genius" and that's "Grindy."  Wandering the grindy grass to level up your Pokémon is so, so, 1998.  As long as you're having fun though, right? Right!

As for my progress so far, I'm 6+ hours in and my Squirtle has evolved into a Wartortle, I have two gym badges, and a little herd of baby Pokémon that mostly stay sidelined while Wartortle eats all the experience.

What a strapping young Wartortle he is!

As I was playing I remembered that the real trick was to have your first Pokémon be one that you wanted to level, and then as soon as you started the fight, switch to your main Pokémon.  I've been doing that a touch here the past hour with my new Oddish Pokémon. I love his little tuft of leaves that poke up when he does battle, and he's actually really good against water types, which I'm fighting a lot of these days.

Get him Beatdrop!

Currently I'm exploring the good ol' S.S. Anne.  All the sailors aboard want a piece of me.

He's strong to the finich 'cause he eats his spinach!

I figure I'm just a few cabins away from finding the Cut HM, and also my third Gym Battle in Vermillion while I'm at it.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, April 5, 2021

Searching for that old Pokémon Feeling

Earlier today my old coworker @Jetsers threw out the suggestion to write a blog post about Pokémon Red and Blue, the original Game Boy Editions.  I loved that suggestion, so I promptly ran upstairs and asked the kids if we had that game since they'd be the ones to know for sure.  The answer was no, but hey dad, look at all these other great old Game Boy games I own!

How about some Frogger with a side of Donkey Kong and Dr. Mario?

Yes, my dear son, for I was the one that bought those particular games for myself and you stole them all. ;)

Alas, the oldest Pokémon Game we own is Pokémon Channel for the Game Cube, which I played with all of my kids when they were super little. For them that was probably their first exposure to Pokémon.

Outside of this we own . . . 

5 Nintendo DS Pokemon Games:

  • Pokémon Conquest
  • Pokémon Soulsilver
  • Pokémon White (we also had Black, but it was given away as a gift)
  • Pokémon Black 2 (we might also have White 2? I can't find it)
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Explorers of Sky
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Explorers of Darkness

6 Nintendo 3DS Games:

  • Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon
  • Pokémon Y (we also had X, dunno where it is)
  • Pokémon Moon
  • Pokémon Sun
  • Pokémon Alpha Sapphire
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Gates to Infinity

3 Wii Games:

  • Pokémon Battle Revolution
  • Pokepark Pikachu's Adventure
  • Pokepark 2 Wonders Beyond

3 Nintendo Switch Games:

  • Pokémon Sword
  • Pokémon Shield
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon DX

Of those, I can confidently say I have only played Pokémon Channel, Pokémon Diamond, and Pokepark Pikachu's Adventure. (I'm not even counting Pokémon Go because, really, who DIDN'T play Pokémon Go?)

But wait! Diamond wasn't even on your list! Yup. We've lost a couple games along the way as well . . . there was a particular season in our lives where Pokémon Diamond was lost, and we tore the house upside down looking for it since the kids were heartbroken when it went missing.  We never did find that game.  Oh well. It happens with those small little black cartridges.

So, anyway, I did a little searching and reading about the old Pokémon games and found the original cartridges for sale USED on Amazon for premium prices . . . like 30 to 50 bucks. Now, as much as it would be great to slap those in my Gameboy color, it just doesn't seem feasible. On the flipside, however, it is totally possible to buy Pokemon Red or Blue on the 3DS in the Nintendo eShop for $10. Now THAT I can handle.

So then the next question was, which one of these bad boys do I want to play! Do I want to play Red with the stylings of  Ekans, Arbok, Oddish, Gloom, Vileplume, Mankey, Primeape, Growlithe, Arcanine, Scyther, and Electabuzz? OR do I want to play with the stylings of Blue with Sandshrew, Sandslash, Vulpix, Ninetales, Meowth, Persian, Bellsprout, Weepinbell, Victreebell, Magmar, and Pinsir?

I leaned Red for the Electabuzz . . . it's the closest to a "stingite" pokemon out of the bunch . . . $10 later I was playing that super old school Pokémon game like it was 1998.

Red Version on a Red 3DS . . . BAM!

I chose Squirtle as my starter Pokémon and my mortal enemy John chose Bulbasaur. He whined so hard when I beat him . . . outta here, John!

I really liked how the game made you talk to everyone in the starting area because you just couldn't seem to find Professor Oak until you tried to actually leave the town -- that was a nice touch. What I didn't like was how I couldn't make my name Stingite because it was one letter too long . . . "Stingit" it is. At least I could give my Squirtle a proper turtle name.

Yow know what I'm talking about, TMNT fans, right?

So it looks like I'll be wandering the tall grass for a bit. Wish me luck!

Thanks again to Joel for the great game suggestion, and if you have a game suggestion you'd like to give me, drop a hello on this Twitter thread here. I was quite surprised at how many of my followers were interested in classic gaming titles!  Good stuff.

Happy Dueling!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Tomb of Annihilation pt3 -- The end!

 Well . . . I did it!  I turned the map purple and completed every challenge on Horrific mode.

All done! Woot!

At the beginning of the week, I was totally stuck a little higher up on the map.

Those bosses though!

The problem really came down to gear. Those bosses in those campaign map nodes were super tough and the defeats were really demotivating, so my plan was to grind a node called "Treasure Hunt" on Horrific mode over and over until I had the gear I needed. As it turns out that posed a couple of problems.

1- That node doesn't give many Legendary Tier reagents needed to craft the gear.

2- Winning definitely isn't guaranteed because of these freaking spell-warded skeletons.

The absolute worst thing you can wander into in any Tomb of Annihilation Map

If there is one thing I genuinely hate about this game, it's warded skeletons. Every time you kill one, it launched a spell that pretty much one-shots any of your heroes.  If you run into two before you finish your objective, either you're running away from them or it's a hard restart on the level. I hate them with a passion.

. . . and that's when I found a map node called "An Overwhelming Presence" that solved every problem in every way . . . 

You are the best map in the game

Basically, and I don't know how the developers let this through, all you have to do is pass for 18 rounds . . . that's it. After you pass for 18 rounds, you get a good chunk of gold and x3 legendary loot items. When I started my adventure in passing over and over, I was level 20.  When I finished, I had downloaded a macro program that would spam the spacebar key every 4 seconds, and I was level 90. 

Boom! Did it feel cheap? Yup. It did, but the alternative felt even worse

After this I purchased every legendary item for every hero and finished out the game on horrific mode and earned the end game Steam achievements for doing so. Even with a full set of legendary gear, a few of the maps were terrifying, but I got the job done and Acererak fell to my heroes once and for all.

Keep up the threats bone boy

Feels good to put this one to bed. To be honest, I only picked it up and started playing again because Valheim won't let me connect to our dedicated server for some reason . . . sigh. It was good to hear Tipa and Calrain downed the final boss over there too.

Happy Dueling!