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Review: Monster Tale (DS) ~ Are You Ready, Chomp?

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Wikipedia entry

Last week when I was writing about Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, I wanted to reference Monster Tale. To my surprise, I haven’t written a review or talked about this game in full on my blog. So, that’s why I’m going to fix that right now. Let’s tell the tale on one of the best Nintendo DS games ever made. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game. For now, let’s ready, set, go!

Are you ready, Chomp?

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In this game, you take the role of Ellie. A young girl that gets dragged into a world filled with monsters. It doesn’t take long before she meets a monster that hatches right in front of her and follows her around as if she was the mother. She decides to name the monster Chomp.

Then, Jinx, a shopkeeper explains what the world is.  There are other humans in the Monster World and they are king of their own domain.

Now, Ellie and Chomp go on a quest to try and defeat these evil Kid-Kings and try to get them all home.

The reason I stay pretty vague about the story is simple. This game is a very nicely written plot and talking about it more would spoil it. The characters might be cliche here and there, but I really liked the chemistry between the characters. To this day, I still remember the characters and their role in the story by just looking at screenshots or hearing their theme.

The story is a blast to experience from start to finish. All 10 hours of it. Yes, all 10 hours of it. This game is criminally short. You can squeeze a few more hours out of the game when you want to fully complete it.

There is voice acting in this game, but no full lines are voice acted. Some of the major characters have some spoken phrases or noises but nothing really more. Which is a darn shame since the whole voice cast is extremely talented amine dub voice actors. On the other hand, it helps with the charm that this game has quite a lot.

I especially love the grunts of Ellie and the noises Chomp make. They are so adorable and made me fall in love with this game. It’s still a mystery how the adorable and cute game can tackle serious subject matter like what’s presented in this game. So, I hope that you are ready since you and Chomp are going on an adventure.

Metroidvania

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Back when I first played this game, I hadn’t really played a lot of Metroid or Castlevania games. I had heard about both series but I haven’t played them. That all changed when I started to play this game.

The gameplay is your typical Metroidvania game. You explore this world and fight monsters on your way. Don’t be fooled by the visuals, this game isn’t easy at all.

This game is unforgiving sometimes and you really have to learn how each move works and how to use the special items provided to you.

This game has a lot of depth as well. There are three enemy types; fire, water, and earth. These work on a rock, paper scissors theme. So, you will have to keep in mind which version of Chomp you level up and bring with you. Yes, you can level up Chomp. While it’s not 100% needed to unlock all versions of Chomp to defeat the final boss of the game, it’s highly recommended that you level up at least one form quite a lot.

During combat, enemies can drop various items like footballs, books, slingshots, ice cream, camera’s… to help Chomp level up. Some dropped items even have additional benefits, like the football bounces around on the top screen.

Now is a good time to address the top and bottom screen, since it’s used in this game to its full potential. On the top, you have the Monster World that Ellie is exploring. You can have Chomp with you for a limited amount of time. That’s what the yellow bar on the 2nd screen is for. This bar drains as soon as Chomp is in the Monster World.

You can let the bar recharge when Chomp is resting in his den, which is the bottom screen. Once there, the bar recharges and he can experiment and learn about the various items that enemies drop. There is also another catch, each version of Chomp has different attributes, abilities and special powers to play around with.

Now, I love the risk and reward system of the combat. There are a lot of ways to handle a situation. One possible option is to let Chomp handle the enemies. Another possible situation is to shoot the enemies down and another is to melee combat. Now, you would argue that the melee combat sounds useless. Well, I would agree with you there but there is a limit to your shooting ability. When the 2nd bar on the 2nd screen, the blue one, depletes; you can’t shoot anymore. You can recharge this bar at save points or by finding rare blue orbs in the world or as drops. But the easiest way is to melee defeat enemies.

Now, there is a lot more done with the mechanics of the two screens and I have to tell that I really liked it. The combat is extremely challenging to do but in a fun way. Also, no playthrough feels and plays the same since you have so many different ways to tackle the situation.

In addition to that, you never get lost on what to do next since the next spot you need to go to is always indicated on the map. I have no idea if there is an option to disable this, but I think it’s a very useful feature.

Gameplay-wise, this game is extremely addictive. There are a lot of power-ups for Ellie and various forms for Chomp. So, this game quickly becomes a balancing act on who to power up with your hard earned cash. Do invest in both, since otherwise, you will regret it later.

Control-wise, this game is solid. While in very few occasions, the ground pound move was a bit tricky to pull off, but that was a minor annoyance. Since, when you die in this game, you get quickly put back to the latest checkpoint. Now, if there is one thing I really disliked in this game is the lack of teleports.

There is a lot of backtracking in this game. That’s the biggest problem I have with this game. The Castlevania have teleport stones, but Monster Tale doesn’t have that. That’s the biggest flaw this game has. Besides being criminally short that is.

Save often!

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So, this game doesn’t have an autosave. At certain locations, you come across a book where you can save. There, you can recharge every meter to it’s fullest potential. These rooms are highly needed since the lower your hearts, the more tricky this game can become.

Something I will never get tired of with this game is the presentation. This game looks amazing. It’s clear that a lot of love has been put in the creation of this game. The backgrounds of each zone look stunning, vibrant and have a lot of detail.

The colors pop and they build an amazing atmosphere. I especially love the beach zone since it has a lot of memories for me. As a kid, I took a lot of trips to the seaside with my family and I love to sit on the beach and watch the sea do its thing.

Besides that, the monster design is adorable. In some cases, I didn’t even want to hurt the enemies. They all have unique designs and patterns, it’s tricky to kill them. Both since they look so good and some have very unique killing patterns.

Now, the soundtrack of this game is good. While there are some tracks that I find mediocre, the overall package is a blast to listen to. It really pumps you up to continue. You won’t regret hearing these tunes during gameplay and even outside. I played the soundtrack in the background while I was writing this article and I actually heard the various enemy noises and the various other sounds in my head.

This proves that this game has an amazing audio design. To this day, I still remember sound effects and music from the game. And that’s what I mean with that this game will leave a visual impression on you. The game is not only pretty but also sounds pretty.

The animations are fluid and the game runs at a very stable frame rate. I actually don’t remember the game ever dropping frames. Also, I really like how there are two save slots. This way you have tried for two very different runs.

In terms of the UI, there is one minor thing I have to complain about. It’s actually extremely nitpicky but I really find the use of the start and select buttons to switch between the menu’s a bit too much. The start and select buttons on the DS Lite are extremely small. Besides, I wished they merged the map screen and the other menu into one option. Maybe an ability to select from the pause screen if you wanted to see the map screen or the evolution screen of Chomp.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I left a few things unexplained for when you are interested in giving this game a chance. You will be surprised. But, it’s time for the section of the review of the people who need a tl;dr. Time for the conclusion!

Conclusion

The bad:

-The pause menu could be reorganised a bit better.

-The harsh difficulty could be a turn off for some people.

-The game is really short.

-No teleporting in the game.

The good:

+ Amazing Metroidvania game.

+ Great story.

+ Amazing visual and sound presentation.

+ This game oozes charm.

+ Great controls.

+ …

Final thoughts:

If you highly enjoy the 2D Castlevania games, the Metroid games or any other Metroidvania game and you are looking for something more light-hearted, then Monster Tale is your game. This game looks and sounds amazing.

Besides a few minor flaws, this game comes highly recommended. It’s a big shame that the remake for 3DS actually fell through and that the original developers of this game went bankrupt.

If you see this game for sale, pick it up and play it. It’s one of the best games on the DS. I wish more people knew about it so another developer could pick up the IP and make a sequel to it.

On the other hand, the ending wraps up things extremely nicely and makes for an amazing package. Due to the various possible playstyles, this game is highly replayable. But, it’s the complete experience that will stay with you. And that’s what makes this game so memorable and unique.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 99/100

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Gaming History: The Legend Of Zelda – Oracle Of Seasons ~ A Look Back

The_Legend_of_Zelda_Oracle_of_Seasons_and_Oracle_of_Ages_Game_CoverMy review of the game

So, today we take a look at the history that the game The Legend Of Zelda – Oracle of Seasons has. The Oracle games are my favorite Zelda games. I’m only going to write about Seasons. If you are interested in the article about Ages, you should go to AdventureRules, since it’s there. For this article, I took out my Hyrule Encyclopedia and started reading all over the internet. So, I can tell you about this game that originally started as a trilogy but got split into two games. Let’s go to Holodrum again, together and let’s take a look at how this game got created. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article and/or if I have missed anything interesting.

First third party Zelda games.

I remember the time I first booted up this game quite well. This game got released in late 2001 here in Europe. I was introduced to the Zelda series, two years later. When the Gameboy Advance SP dropped. At first, I picked up an “NES Classics: The Legend of Zelda I” from my local video game store. When I played that game, I fell in love with the Zelda series. A month after that, I went to the seaside with my family.

presentation2There, I went to a garage sale and saw “The Legend Of Zelda – Oracle of Ages”. I didn’t think twice and I picked the game up. I finished the game a month later. That’s when I saw the “TO BE CONTINUED IN SEASONS”-screen. It took me several garage sales, but I could hunt my own copy of Seasons down in 2004. Sadly, it was a fake cartridge. But in 2005, a friend of mine sold his boxed copy of the game for 10€ to me and I had the original cartridge boxed. Now, I own both the cartridge and the 3DS eShop version.

That’s how I acquired my very own copy of the game. I don’t own the fake cartridge anymore since I sold it on a garage sale after I got the real copy. During my playthrough of the game, I always felt that this game could be part of a trilogy. I mean, how two Goddesses are represented in the Oracle games. So, I went digging.

I was right, this game was, in fact, going to be part of the trilogy. In fact, back in 1999, this game was called “The Mystical Seed of Courage”. Capcom made a demo for the Space World Expo. Wait, what? Capcom? Is this a mistake? No, actually it isn’t. Capcom created this game. The Oracle games are actually the first third party Zelda games planned to be externally created. The Zelda CDi games might be developed and published a few years earlier, but those weren’t planned by Nintendo.

Development Hell

I could talk a bit more about the development history of this game, but I think that the Zelda Wiki has covered it quite well. You can read about it here. So, if you want to know more about the development of this game, read that article. It has sources too. But here is a summary of what’s said on that page:

Capcom proposed to Nintendo to re-create the original The Legend Of Zelda I NES game. Yoshiki Okamoto pitched his idea to Shigeru Miyamoto. Yet, the development team said “NO!” to Okamoto’s ideas and started to create a new title in the series.

ZeldacourageThe subsidiary Flagship was tasked to write the story. This didn’t prove successful since they prioritized story over gameplay. Thankfully, Miyamoto’s help came to the rescue. Miyamoto had the idea to create the “Triforce Series”. The Zelda formula as we know and love would be split into three.

So, in 1999 the more action-based game was presented to the public. The subtitle the game got was “Mystical Seed of Power” and on the 1999 Space World Expo, it even had a different subtitle “Chapter of Power” or “Tale of Power”. The demo started with Ganon kidnapping Princess Zelda and the Rod of Seasons.  The demo itself has a lot of elements that made it into the final version of the game. There are some major differences though.

The first difference is that in the final game, Onox is introduced as the big villain who kidnaps the Oracle of Seasons, Din. The second difference is that the game doesn’t take place in Hyrule but in Holodrum. And the 3rd difference is that it’s not Hyrule Castle that sinks into the underworld, but it’s the castle of Holodrum.

So, why did we get two games instead of three? The reason for that is the game-linking system. You could interact with the other games via codes. But, this proved too difficult to develop, so only two games were to be developed. Everything from “The Mystical Seed of Power” got into the game we now know as “The Legend of Zelda – Oracle of Seasons”.

Yet, you can still see signs of the first Zelda game in this title. Remember, this game first started out as a remake of the original Zelda game back on the NES. Take the old men, several recurring bosses and the Gnarled Root Dungeon.

The Goddess that didn’t get her own game, the “Mystical Seed of Courage” which got canceled, appears in both Oracle titles. She is in the Hall of Secrets.

My personal memories

I said it before and I’ll say it again, the Oracle games are my favorite Zelda games. I have beaten them repeatedly. I enjoy them so much. I especially love the mechanic where you can transfer over some progress from one game to the other. I can’t choose my favorite game between both Oracle games.

To finish my article, I want to give 5 memories I have with this game. So, here we go.

  1. There is one dungeon boss I always have trouble beating. That’s the boss Manhandla in the 6th dungeon called Ancient Ruins. This boss is so difficult since you need to hit his head with the boomerang and getting to the boss door is such an ordeal. It’s highly recommended to get the LVL2 shield and sword to defeat this boss. I remember one time when I finally had beaten that boss, I shouted in excitement. But, I had forgotten that it was past my bed time. My parents weren’t too pleased when they caught me. My Gameboy was taken from me for a month.
  2. When I was 12, I used to make maps and write guides for all my games. I also wrote each level code I had down on a list. All these guides and such were bundles in a folder that set on my shelf. I still remember writing a complete step-by-step guide how to get the LVL2 sword. But, I did the quest so much, I can now do it in the game. Apart from the maze bit at the end, I always forget the sequence.
  3. To get access to a dungeon, you need to collect a certain number of gems. I found two of them before I knew what they were for. I was so proud of myself.
  4. I seriously love how the Natzu area differs from the animal buddy you get. But, I feel that Dimitri’s one is a bit useless. Since not too long after that, you get the flippers which make the unique ability of Dimitri useless. Since you can swim in the water now. The only thing you can still use him for is to eat enemies while you are in the water.
  5. I have beaten Veran, Oracle of Ages main villain, multiple times. But, I have only beaten Onox twice. I always have trouble in his boss battle. But, I have beaten Ganon on my cartridge of Seasons… but, disaster struck. The internal battery died and I lost my save file.

In any case, thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog, but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day!

One final thing, if you enjoyed reading this look back on the development and my personal memories of this game and you would love to read more articles like this from other games in the Zelda series? Well, don’t think twice of reading the hub article! Since this article is part of a big collaboration I did with various other bloggers! You can check that out here.