Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Cure (not the band)

From one of my electro-video games, as ever. Bear with me, perhaps - this requires a little bit of explanation, but it's worthwhile.

Video-game: The Last Remnant, a JRPG, or game in which dudes with swords run around hacking at monsters for 80 hours. Or possibly ladies with swords. The difference is often slim, in the JRPG.

That established. The Last Remnant's key new-thing is "Unions"; a rather poorly-named innovation, but still an innovation. In most JRPGs, you manage each character individually; from the 4 you had in Final Fantasy 1 to the - what - two-dozen (?) you have in most recent JRPGs? (I only dabble in the field.) This can become rather cumbersome! So The Last Remnant simultaneously scales things up - midway through the game, I have ~20 characters in my party, 15 of which are in every battle - and scales things down. Because you don't control characters individually - with 15 characters in a battle, that'd take forever! No. You control them by group, by union - before battle, you set up your unions, configuring formations and groupings of characters and what-not, and then in-battle, you assign commands, each turn, to each union. (I currently have 3, with a maximum of 5; not sure how many you can get as the game goes on.)

Owing to the fact that all of your units have different abilities, the commands you give your 'unions' are rather vague - ranging from 'Attack!', 'Attack with mystic arts!', and 'Attack with combat arts!' - these being both bread-like and strongly resembling butter - to 'I know you can hear me... unbind yourself!', 'Bring them back!', and 'Save them, no matter what!'. (Thankfully, they have short descriptions that appear when you select them, which usually help disambiguate them to some extent.) Many of the commands are context-sensitive, and can appear and disappear at seemingly arbitrary times - even rather key commands, like the ones that let you heal your party members - and so new ones are always appearing as you progress through the game. Like the one I saw just recently, the inspiration for this post.

Back up again. There's a very annoying monster called the Spiritlord - great big bird, big as a house, roughly as tough as one - that has a very annoying tendency. On the first round of a battle, it will use its special ability on any attackers that approach - "Curse". This has the lovely side effect of, for the next few rounds, giving each character afflicted with the Curse a significant chance (20%?) of dropping dead.

This is rather inconvenient.

In the past, I had great difficulty when fighting these creatures, but now I came back for revenge. On I came, with my much-more-powerful characters, going to Teach Those Spiritlords A Lesson (Or Two). First round, most of my 'unions' stay back, while one group goes forward to engage the Spiritlord. The Spiritlord, of course, curses the poor attacking union, and they all get purple skulls floating over their heads...

And in the next turn, both of my other unions have a new command available: "Cure them even if it kills them!" This has a description reading something like the following: "Kills the targeted union to remove the curse on it."

Back up one last time.

In this game, as in many JRPGs, there are items and abilities that will bring characters back from the dead* - the only one that I currently have available being termed the Vivification Herb. (It's green.) Owing to The Last Remnant's union-system, though, you can't revive individual characters - you can only revive an entire dead union. Meaning that if individual characters in a union drop dead from a curse, the union's firepower will naturally drop, but even if you have any super-herbs handy, you'll be unable to do anything about it. (Plus there are leadership issues if the leader of the union dies...)

Unless, of course, you kill the afflicted union and then immediately bring them back - which, of course, removes the curse, along with any other afflictions they have.

It's insane!

But it totally works - and more than that, the game designers specifically put the option in the game to let the players do it.

The heck, guys.

The heck.

*"Revive" them from a "KOed state". Splitting hairs.

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