This game is sometimes described as “open world” but I don’t know if it really is. There are a lot of events, locations, and bosses that you have to do in order to finish the game, and the order of them is fixed because you can’t open new locations otherwise. There is some freedom and a lot of optional content, so perhaps that’s what pushes it more towards “open world.” But from what I gather the final bosses are very difficult, meaning that you may have to do a lot of the optional content just to be strong enough to make it to the end.
|The full world map|
I’ve been using a walkthrough more than I have been for other games — perhaps I’m still stinging over my Romancing SaGa experience. I haven’t literally been following a walkthrough step by step, but I’ve found a bunch of optional things I wouldn’t have known about. When I was a kid I used Nintendo Power as much as I could to play games, so I guess this does capture how I played the games when they first came out. The designers also wanted fans to buy their hint guides, of course.
Anyway, last time I had gotten the dog and a second tank. I’m not sure exactly what causes this to trigger, but at some point Bitoh the digger will finish his hole through to a new area (with a little help from our tanks). In this new area, the townspeople tell us the story of the Brad Museum, which they seem scared of, but sounds like a good next destination.
|Bitoh’s tunnel digging|
The Brad Museum has a tour led by a speaking AI that shows you all the technological wonders that the Brad Corporation produced. The tour itself doesn’t get you anything; what you want to do is go on foot into the restricted areas. This requires fighting some pretty tough defense systems (they take little damage and do a lot, but fortunately they stay defeated even if you leave). By making my way through these restricted areas I was able to find a password to the basement warehouses, letting me steal a new tank (Wolf) and some accessories.
|The museum needs more donations for upkeep|
The tank was hard to use, though, and I should describe the tank upgrade system a bit more. The base of every tank is the chassis. But the most important piece is the engine, which determines the total weight the tank can handle. The Wolf’s chassis is so heavy that the engines you can access at this point in the game can barely handle it, and once you add on weapons there’s almost no space for armor tiles (the SP that protect the tank). As soon as the armor tiles are gone parts of the tank start getting disabled or destroyed, so you really need a high SP to make using a tank viable. So instead I took the engine from the Wolf and put it on the buggy, which let me keep using that for a while. Actually I still haven’t used the Wolf.
|The tough security systems|
Now I went back to fight another wanted monster, a rhino thing called Saigon. He wasn’t too bad and fortunately didn’t run before I could fight him.
Now it’s time to reach a new area by going through the Grappler Tower. The first thing that happens is a dead body lands near our feet. Taking the body back to Mado, it turns out to be the woman soldier, the 4th companion — unfortunately she doesn’t join yet.
|Please don’t throw dead bodies at me|
The Tower itself is a long dungeon, and through several visits I finally made it to Skunks, the first of the “four main generals” of the Grapplers. He wasn’t too hard, and with his defeat, a bridge opened up to a new area of the world.
The first city in this new area is Del Rio. You can actually get here via ship earlier in the game but you can’t leave the immediate area so there’s not much point. Now we can explore the whole area and learn about the captain Bhab, hunting the U-Shark who killed his family (Bhab, get it? He has a dead brother C-hab.) Also the woman soldier (Kei) reappears, and dies again. After resurrecting her the second time she finally joins the party, and our party is complete.
|The full party|
Now it’s time to go out with Bhab to hunt the U-shark. It seems like it’s random when he finally appears. Some of the enemies on the ocean are quite annoying but at least they give lots of gold, so I was able to make a bunch of tank upgrades before U-shark. Bhab himself uses a big harpoon gun doing a lot of damage, so U-shark goes down fairly quickly. Now with his vengeance satisfied he gives us the ship, and we can travel freely.
|Bhab vs. U-Shark|
The next task I did was get the next tank type. There are “wild buses” roaming around in the north that fight you if you encounter them. But by digging up a bus stop sign with the help of a metal detector, they can be captured.
Now back at Mado, someone has sent us a challenge letter. It’s a guy named Garcia who fights one-on-one at this “swan” town. He’s annoyingly difficult because his critical hit rate is so high, so even if you have good armor his two attacks around can break you pretty quickly. This also reveals one of the flaws with the game system — since there isn’t any magic or skill system, all the people can do during battle is attack or use items. Thanks to the walkthrough I found a powerful weapon for Kei near Bhab’s house with the metal detector, and this let me beat him after a couple of lucky tries. From him we get the universal unlocker, which can open the various safes and locked warehouses that have been scattered throughout the world so far.
|Kei vs. Garcia on top of the swan|
After recovering some of these, I went to the “Love Club”. This place is looking for various IC chips with letters (L, O, V, or E) on them. There are 12 (I think) throughout the game and once you get them you can spell LOVE in various combinations to do things like raise your fire defense or get other bonuses. Apparently this is vital to defeating the final bosses because they’re so difficult. I don’t have enough chips to do anything yet.
|B-hab says hi to his dead family|
The last thing I did was go to the far NE to Taishar city, where there are some nice tank upgrades (including a great engine that can be upgraded to support a lot of weight, which lets you upgrade the tanks’ armor a lot). There’s also a new tank, which was being worshipped as a god but which we can apparently just go up and take — I guess they’re OK with it.
|A tank god|
Also at Taishar we finally hear a legend of what happened to the world; the humans essentially destroyed the world’s ecology, eventually making the computers rise up against them, but somehow the subsequent looting and destruction ruined the world further (e.g. there’s no Skynet or Matrix situation).
I think I can finish the game by next week but it depends a bit on just how hard to remaining stuff is. I may have to grind for gold too much, but that’s what conference championship playoff games are for.