Successors of the Queen

Of which we may be one.

Code Vein is a delightfully engaging post-apocalyptic JRPG that offers a fresh perspective on the genre. It has extensive character development mechanics which afford surprising freedom when building your character, and an impressive selection of (both Light and Dark) Gifts to make use of each weapon class and each style of Blood Veil. Character classes take the form of Blood Codes, and each Blood Code represents a particular concept. Atlas, for instance, is a heavily defensive Blood Code which has impressive damage resistance and utilises two-handed swords to deal ridiculous damage.

However, if you prefer, you can utilise polearms instead.

You’ll be unable to use Tormenting Blast (as that requires a two-handed sword or hammer), but you’ll be able to benefit from the weight allowance and scaling offered by the Blood Code. You could then further customise Atlas with a Blood Veil to cast Light Gifts despite a lack of inherent proficiency.

It’s slightly confusing at first glance, but once you understand how each of the mechanics contributes to the build it becomes an incredibly satisfying experience. My only (minor) criticism of Blood Codes is that they’re unlocked as you progress through the story. While you would expect this, certain Blood Codes, like Dark Knight, are so flexible and interesting that you wish they were available earlier. Very few Blood Codes that specialise in physical damage are inherently proficient at casting Gifts, and fewer still have good (base) Strength scaling. Both Mind and Willpower have reasonably high scaling, too. So it could utilise either Light or Dark Gifts with the appropriate Blood Veil. I’ll admit that I might be slightly biased towards Dark Knight, as I greatly appreciated Polearm Mastery and enjoyed obliterating enemies with Chariot Rush.

The scorching heat of the Crown of Sand.

Thankfully, due to an abundance of upgrade materials, you can easily adjust your equipment if you do decide to pursue a different Blood Code. You’ll also find upgraded equipment in chests as you progress through the story. Inheriting Gifts may become difficult if you’re constantly shuffling Blood Codes, but you can always visit the Depths to farm the necessary materials or defeat countless enemies. You can also acquire a selection of transformed equipment down there. Not that I found many of the transformations to be useful for my build, besides Fortification were I to block damage.

But I can certainly see the appeal of the transformations.

My only other criticism of Code Vein is the boss encounters. I’ve written about them before, but I’m not particularly fond of the excessive health that bosses have. Were they to have slightly less health they’d be more fun to fight. Especially if you’re not employing the use of a companion.

I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect from Code Vein, but I was pleasantly surprised by how innovative the character development felt. There were several mechanics which meaningfully contributed to your build. While the variety of equipment expanded the character development by enabling the use of many diverse builds, all of which could draw from myriad Blood Codes. The levelling mechanics are perfectly suited to shuffling Blood Codes, too. You’re never committing to a specific approach. You can quite easily adapt to a new weapon class or a new Blood Veil, and that allows you to freely exercise the unique benefits of a particular Blood Code. Code Vein is not a traditional JRPG, but it’s an excellent example of when developers deliver a truly unique experience. For that reason I’d highly recommend it to JRPG enthusiasts!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

An Unrelenting Onslaught

Savagery raging unabated.

I’m not really that surprised by the hostility, as I’ve been wielding a sizeable polearm for the majority of this adventure and I’ve not been shy about using it. Before that I was wielding a ridiculously huge two-handed sword. But, despite the impressive damage potential, it was simply too slow for me to feel comfortable fighting with it. It was rather effective at blocking damage, though. Not that I’d intended this build to be proficient at blocking. Despite my preferred Blood Codes being Berserker, Hermes, Atlas, and Fionn which are all suited to blocking with their inherent damage resistance.

But I preferred dealing damage to tanking it.

Then I unlocked Chariot Rush and decided that I’d never desire anything but the exhilarating thrill of rolling away from lethal damage. Not that I was always successful in that endeavour. But that’s the fault of the bosses and their ridiculous damage potential, and not the fault of my reflexes.

In all seriousness, I’m not particularly fond of how bosses can kill you instantly with a handful of their attacks. It wouldn’t be as frustrating if they didn’t have an abundance of health. But they do. The majority of bosses are not necessarily difficult, but the encounters quickly become tedious as you slowly chip away at their health knowing that one mistake could end that attempt. It’s certainly a way to make things more difficult, but it’s not entirely fun. If the bosses had slightly less health the encounters would feel better. They’d be fun. You wouldn’t even mind the possibility of being instantly killed. But instead (the majority) feel like they’re being artificially extended by the ridiculous health that bosses have. With the considerable damage polearms (or two-handed swords) do, I can’t imagine how tedious they would be with a bayonet.

As dangerous as it is beautiful.

That’s my only significant criticism of Code Vein, though. Otherwise the world is vast and enjoyable to explore, while the bosses are rather delightfully tailored to the locations that they’re fought in. Care and attention definitely went into designing the different areas as well, as each poses specific challenges and feels wonderfully unique. You’ll need to adjust your Gifts as you explore to counter various environmental hazards, too. It’s a refreshing approach that makes locations memorable. Even if those memories are ones you’d rather not recall, as you were suffering throughout.

Then again, they’re still the best memories of being on vacation that I have.

Of the other mechanics present in Code Vein, I’m enthused by the Blood Codes. I adore how much flexibility they afford when building characters. There are very few Gifts that can’t be inherited, and being able to draw from multiple Blood Codes to form your build is a satisfying experience.

I’ve greatly appreciated how the developers have attempted to be innovative through (surprisingly) coherent mechanics, and I’ve found the overall experience to be a pleasant one so far. It’s been fun, too. Which I wish I could say more often than I do. Unfortunately, it would seem that longevity outweighs enjoyment in (the majority of) video games nowadays. But Code Vein is an excellent example of when developers choose to prioritise engaging mechanics over never-ending content, and it delivers a rather unique post-apocalyptic JRPG as a result of it. I’m hoping that the developers will consider a sequel as it certainly deserves one. I’d be interested to see what they do next. Whether it would be more of the same, or whether they would diversify with something entirely new set in the same (or a similar) universe.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Chrono Trigger: To Far Away Times (Pt. 6)

The first festival of the stars.

We travelled back to 1000 A.D. to begin our first assault on the Black Omen. A foreboding structure looming overhead fuelled by Lavos’ limitless power and as threatening as that notion would suggest, as we would need to face countless fiends and defeat several bosses to reach Queen Zeal. I wasn’t aware that you could clear the Black Omen multiple times, either. If you first assault it in 1000 A.D., then 600 A.D., and finally 12,000 B.C. you’re able to amass considerable rewards. Especially if Ayla uses Charm on Queen Zeal as she can acquire a Prismatic Helm and a Prismatic Dress.

Allowing you to effectively skip four New Game+ attempts.

With these I was able to equip every character (besides Magus who has unique equipment) with a Prismatic Helm, and each appropriate character with a Prismatic Dress. Meaning that I have no use for the Rainbow Shell in New Game+ besides acquiring additional pairs of Prism Spectacles.

That this is even a possibility is why I feel that Chrono Trigger is the greatest JRPG of all time. There are few video games with meaningful time travel mechanics, but Chrono Trigger finds multiple ways to make them meaningful. From accessing sealed chests in 600 A.D. to acquire better rewards in 1000 A.D., to being able to grow an entirely new forest in 1000 A.D., to being able to clear the Black Omen multiple times. There are so many ways in which the developers didn’t just consider time travel mechanics, but made them viable and interesting with unique results each time. I’m also inclined to believe that the developers intended for you to be able to obtain multiple Prismatic Helms and Prismatic Dresses, as Queen Zeal is the only boss that you can fight multiple times in the Black Omen. The rest stay defeated.

No longer will this continue.

Clearing the Black Omen (in 1000 A.D.) was easier than it should have been having brought Chrono, Frog, and Ayla along. It’s a good party. They’ve got excellent physical damage potential, reasonably good healing potential, and they’re not terrible with magical damage. It relies mostly on Chrono casting Luminaire to deal the majority of their magical damage, but Frog can also cast Water or Water II. For the aforementioned reasons I felt that they’d be suited to the final confrontation with Lavos. I’m also wondering whether Chrono and Marle could defeat Lavos at the Millennial Fair.

Chrono may even be able to solo Lavos.

I’d probably swap his Prism Spectacles for the Silver Stud, though. Being able to cast Luminaire (and Raise if we bring Marle along) more often would be useful, but his damage potential via the critical hits afforded by Rainbow is substantial and we would be sacrificing that. So I’m not entirely sure.

Chrono, Frog, and Ayla met with few difficulties in the final confrontation with Lavos. I was mostly using Chrono for physical damage with the occasional Luminaire, while Frog and Ayla alternated between physical damage or healing. I wasn’t really using that many Techs, as I was holding back in case I needed them for later phases. It turns out that (like many others) it was a shorter encounter than I remember it to be. But I’ll have the opportunity to fight Lavos many more times, and with many different party compositions as I work towards unlocking all of the endings. In any case, this post concludes the time I’ve spent with Chrono Trigger on Moggie’s Proclamations. Chrono Trigger is still one of the greatest JRPGs I’ve ever played (even after twenty years) and I highly recommend it to JRPG enthusiasts!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Chrono Trigger: To Far Away Times (Pt. 5)

Treasures unlike those we’ve seen before.

Now that the Epoch is capable of flight we can finally begin to explore the world in search of side quests and legendary equipment. Being able to open sealed chests and doors helps, too. As there are many unique accessories in 2300 A.D. that were previously inaccessible but are now easily acquired. Among those is the Golden Stud. An exceptionally useful accessory that significantly reduces the MP cost of Techs. We were also able to acquire the Red Plate (in 1000 A.D.) and the Red Vest (in 600 A.D.) from Guardia Castle, both of which will be useful when acquiring the Sun Stone.

The Northern Ruins is another priority.

Not only are there a few sealed chests which contain unique equipment, but by rebuilding and fully exploring the Northern Ruins you can unlock the true Masamune. This will require visits to both 600 A.D. and 1000 A.D. but it’s worth it. As Frog’s damage potential will increase incalculably.

After this it’s advisable to begin searching for the Rainbow Shell and the Sun Stone. One of which is buried deep in 600 A.D. amongst familiar enemies, while the other is to be unearthed in 2300 A.D. following a rather challenging boss battle. The Rainbow Shell is one of the few reasons to repeatedly finish New Game+, as many of the rewards are available in limited quantity. The Sun Stone is initially used to create the Wondershot (arguably Lucca’s best weapon) along with the Sunglasses. When both the Rainbow Shell and Sun Stone are acquired you’ll gain access to Rainbow (Chrono’s best weapon) and the Prism Spectacles. Many of the choices made will depend on the equipment you currently possess, and if you’re playing New Game+ you may already have some of the rewards.

True strength comes when hesitation is lost.

I feel as though I’ve made the best choices for my party as they currently are. Having found the Zodiac Cape and crafted three Prismatic Helmets, I’ve now got multiple characters with the highest resistance to magical damage that they can have. While Chrono now lands critical hits absurdly often. Marle has the Golden Stud and Magus has the Silver Stud, which drastically improves their potential to use Techs. I’ve also kept the Hero’s Badge on Frog to improve his critical hit chance. Ayla is boosting her Charm proficiency with the Alluring Top, and Robo temporarily has the Flea Bustier.

I’ll find something better suited to Robo later.

I may have also discovered a new favourite team. Chrono, Frog, and Ayla are a force to be reckoned with. Slurp Kiss (a Dual Tech between Frog and Ayla) recovers health to the party more substantially than Aura Whirl does, while each member of the party has incredible physical damage potential.

I’ll be taking this party into the Black Omen. I think they’ll do just fine. I’m slightly concerned that I may require magical damage for certain enemies or bosses, but I’ve always got Chrono and Frog to rely on for that. I’m also beginning to wonder if it’s possible to defeat the bosses of the Black Omen in 1000 A.D., 600 A.D., and 12,000 B.C. as the rewards would be substantial. It’ll take a little longer but I think it’ll be worth it. Once we’ve successfully cleared the Black Omen we’ll be drawing close to the final confrontation with Lavos. I’ll need to decide on which party will best counter his considerable strength, and then begin to think about what I’ll be aiming to do with New Game+ besides unlock new endings. Let’s not be too hasty, though. We’ve yet to secure this future let alone any others.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Chrono Trigger: To Far Away Times (Pt. 4)

Hope for the future.

Having successfully conquered the Mountain of Woe, we returned to the harsh frozen islands below the Kingdom of Zeal. It was there that we were offered the chance to destroy the Mammon Machine. Not only would this allow us to defeat the corrupted Queen Zeal, but it could potentially prevent Lavos from destroying the world. The only problem with this plan is gaining access to the Ocean Palace. Dalton would be the first to try and stop us, but his failure merely opened the door to the undersea fortress. It’s hilarious to think that he’s most useful when he’s not intending to be.

Especially when he modifies the Epoch.

He thinks that the theft is an inconvenience but it’s really the greatest favour he could have done for us. With his modifications I’ll finally have access to the remaining side quests and the legendary equipment, which is where utilising the time travel mechanics correctly yields even greater rewards.

But before we can consider such bountiful endeavours we must explore the labyrinthine halls of the Ocean Palace. Wherein great treasures can be found and even greater opposition can be encountered. Having a fresh save file means that I’ll need to pay careful attention to both enemies and bosses, as they can retaliate with devastating damage if you’re not careful. It wasn’t as challenging as I would’ve expected it to be, though. But that seems to be a recurring theme at the moment. I can remember most details vividly, but it seems that I can’t recall how long or complicated certain areas are. As they always seem shorter and less complex than prior experience would suggest. Then again, I haven’t actually finished Chrono Trigger for many years. So it’s to expected that some details would be hazy.

Myriad magical beasts infest the Ocean Palace.

Unable to stop the resurrection of Lavos we suffered an immeasurable loss when foolishly challenging its colossal power. When speaking to the remnants of a civilisation crippled by an otherworldly entity, we realised that the world below had mostly sunk into the sea. Then Dalton arrived and captured us to hold us prisoner on the Blackbird. Anyone with any sense would’ve executed us. We’ve slain countless foes and even defeated Dalton himself before. But he is rather kindly upgrading the Epoch for us, which means I’ll enjoy his hospitality and climb around in the vents on his ship.

Reacquiring our equipment one chest a time.

Before ultimately taking the Epoch with its enhanced flight capabilities all the way to the End of Time. Then onto 2300 A.D. as we are finally ready to climb Death Peak, but before we do we’ll need to pay a visit to the Keeper’s Dome. As the howling wind can be treacherous on that icy mountain.

Successfully climbing to the summit of Death Peak concludes one of the greatest (and most ambitious) quests that I’ve had the pleasure to experience. It was a bold move to introduce the quest as they did, but to allow you to reverse the events and bring the party back together was truly something special. I’ve seen few other video games willing to utilise such mechanics. Which is unfortunate, as the events surrounding Death Peak are one of the reasons that I consider Chrono Trigger to be the greatest JRPG I’ve ever played. It’s also entirely optional. You’ve no obligation to actually do this quest, and can instead head straight towards the final dungeon and the eventual confrontation with Lavos. Which makes it even more ambitious. As you make the choice whether it’s worth doing or not.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Chrono Trigger: To Far Away Times (Pt. 3)

The heart of the cataclysm.

Having successfully infiltrated the Fiendlord’s Keep we were met with increasingly powerful opposition. We had to defeat hordes of magical fiends, solve numerous puzzles, and fight through three different boss encounters just to be able to reach Magus. Not that reaching Magus ensures victory. Not only is his health considerable, but his countless spells can deal devastating damage. Especially in the second phase when he repeatedly and relentlessly unleashes everything that he has. Which can easily defeat an inexperienced or unprepared party, as he casts Dark Matter often.

His barrier switching mechanics can hinder you, too.

Mostly because you need to adequately prepare multiple types of magical damage. Having only lightning and water (from Chrono and Frog) will limit the number of times you can deal damage to Magus, thus making it harder to survive as the encounter continues to drain what little MP you have.

After a few fleeting moments of respite, we were once again hurled to the harsh prehistoric lands of 65,000,000 B.C. to secure our natural evolution. As natural as Lavos burrowing into the heart of the planet and causing untold destruction is considered to be. Given that Lavos is still alive in 1999 A.D. and few are even aware of its existence, I think that the reptilian creatures were the better evolutionary choice. At least we can cast Lightning on those. Lavos has an armoured outer shell like a soft truffle encased in chocolate and hazelnuts. Yet it’s nowhere near as delicious or as fragile as that analogy would suggest. Regardless, it’s clear that Magus didn’t create Lavos and was merely summoning it. But we still don’t know why. If only he could have fully revealed his true intentions before being lost in time.

I was wondering about that…

Exploring the smouldering remains of the Tyranno Lair leads to the discovery of another Gate. This one transports us to 12,000 B.C. and the wondrous Kingdom of Zeal, which seems to be harnessing the limitless energy of Lavos to sustain their technologically advanced society. This is gravely concerning, but at least the unusual energy of the Mammon Machine will allow us to open sealed chests and doors. One door in particular will lead to a rather fortuitous discovery. So we travelled back to 2300 A.D. and returned to the Keeper’s Dome, as this is where we’ll find the Wings of Time.

Affectionately known as Epoch.

I’ll admit that it’s a slightly odd name as the Wings of Time doesn’t actually have wings when we first find it. We’ll be acquiring the wings during our adventures in 12,000 B.C., though. Until we do it’s basically fulfilling the same role as the Gates at the End of Time, as we can’t fly to new locations.

However, our current objective is to climb the (aptly named) Mountain of Woe to rescue an old friend. Had we the wings for Epoch we’d simply be able to fly to the summit and skip the boss fight, but instead we have to climb this mystical hunk of rock that’s being precariously held together with chains. Then fight to the death with a powerful creature whose arms grow back every other turn. But that’s why we have Triple Techs. Chrono, Marle, and Frog were able to destroy each arm as it recovered to prevent taking significant damage. But I was worried for a moment there, as it was pretty easily decimating my party prior to me remembering its weakness. Then I repeatedly (and mercilessly) unleashed the most powerful Tech we had and it ceased to exist.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Chrono Trigger: To Far Away Times (Pt. 2)

The legendary hero.

Believing that a child is capable of defeating Magus is not as absurd as it might seem. Especially when he’s carrying the Hero’s Badge, because it’s entirely reasonable to assume that the badge will protect him. Worry not of the Masamune. That is but a legendary weapon of untold power. He’ll find some other way to cleave a mountain in twain to gain access to the Magic Cave. Which is a really odd way to try to prevent anyone from reaching your castle. Given that they could just sail to the island. But let’s concern ourselves less with trivial details and instead with recovering the Masamune.

Unfortunately the blade has been shattered.

Holding the remaining pieces will do little to further our efforts unless it can be reforged. Thankfully, we can just return to 1000 A.D. and ask Melchior for help. Which he’d be willing to offer were he able to reforge the blade, but the material it was created from hasn’t existed for millions of years.

But that’s also fine as we can just return to 65,000,000 B.C. to retrieve a sample of the Dreamstone. Which would’ve worked perfectly had we not decided to engage in a drinking contest and have our Gate Key stolen. We kind of need that to return to the End of Time. So I guess we’re going to wage war on reptilian creatures to secure our evolution, but also to recover the Gate Key and maybe get a chunk of the Dreamstone for our trouble. I immediately switched Robo for Ayla as both occupy a similar role in the party. I decided to try equipping Ayla with the Rage Band and she (rather hilariously) punched everything we saw, which significantly improved her damage output. She can also recover health with Kiss. However, neither her nor Robo’s Techs can be utilised as a Dual Tech with Chrono to recover health for the entire party.

You wouldn’t believe how far (into the past) we had to go to obtain it.

Frog can use Heal to slightly recover health for the entire party, but Aura Whirl tends to be more effective. It does require both Chrono and Marle, though. So that’s something to consider. As Chrono is usually able to deal significant physical damage and lands critical hits surprisingly often, but I’d always argue that keeping everyone alive is worth lower damage per turn. I’ve also been wondering if he’ll be as effective (if not more so) with the Rage Band. But Chrono is an interesting character as he’s got a variety of uses. Like casting Lightning on dinosaurs as they’re apparently weak to that.

It’s a good weakness to have as Chrono can’t leave the party.

Having recovered a chunk of Dreamstone we were able to return to 1000 A.D. and ask Melchior to reforge the Masamune. We then returned the blade to Frog in 600 A.D., who proceeded to use it to slice open a mountain as that was the most logical way to reach the Fiendlord’s Keep and Magus.

It was then that I discovered my new favourite party. Chrono, Marle, and Frog can be surprisingly effective and devastating when brought together. Chrono can deal impressive physical damage and can utilise Aura Whirl, while Frog lands an incalculable amount of critical hits with the Hero’s Badge, and Marle can utilise Ice Water (a Dual Tech with Frog) to hit every enemy with magical damage. I’m sure it’ll only get better as they learn new Techs, too. My only concern is whether the Hero’s Badge will still function as it does with the true Masamune. If it does Frog would likely have the highest damage potential of any party member. Besides Chrono with Rainbow and either the Prism Spectacles or Sunglasses. But these are things that I’ll need to consider we as draw closer to facing Lavos.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie