Monday, March 21, 2016

Landstalker - 13/20 hours

Confession time - for the last few hours, I've been shamelessly cheating at Landstalker.

It all started innocently enough. I was in the middle of a long dungeon, but I got called away before I could finish (and with not nearly enough time to get back to a save point) so I decided to use the Genesis emulator's save state function to suspend my game to a more convenient time. All perfectly legitimate.

Later, I started up the game again, fully intending to use the normal in-game save system, as the designers intended. Which was an easy enough promise to make . . . until I died. And then I was faced with a choice. Reload with my last "real" save, back at the town or reload my save state, in the middle of the dungeon. And, well, the dungeon was really long and a lot of the rooms were tricky puzzles and jumps that required precision timing and a lot of trial and error. And the save already existed . . .

So I strayed from the path of purity. But only a little. I didn't create any new save states to ratchet my progress through the dungeon. I stuck with just that one, and then for the next couple of hours used the regular save points exclusively.

And then I got to Destel cave. The bottom level of Destel cave is a pit. And out of the walls of the put come a swarm of ghost-like creatures, easily dispatched individually. but much faster than your character, and when they get a hit in on him, they stun him briefly. And they keep respawing. Also, the door out is really narrow and easily missed with Landstalker's half-assed controls. It's both deadly and annoying.

The reason it's relevant is that the upper levels of Destel cave are a series of platforming challenges, and if you miss any of the jumps, you fall into the pit to start the whole thing over again. In order to get through, you have to flawlessly pass three levels of jumps without making a single mistake.

Which would be a pain in the ass, but not outside the bounds of reason, if it weren't for the fact that many Landstalker jumps look like this:

Those wooden platforms in the middle of the circle will fall about a second after you stand on them. Knowing that, it seems pretty obvious what the challenge here is - run across the platforms in a straight line and drop onto the ledge with the treasure chest. Everyone who's ever played a Mario game before has done something similar about a hundred times.  Except that's not it at all. The chest platform is actually offset from the wooden platforms. To clear the gap, you actually have to turn while on the second square and jump towards the bottom-right corner of the screen.

Stare at the picture long enough, and you can just about force your eye to see the way the jump is supposed to be done. However, it's not so easy a feat when your heart is pounding with frustration because you just had to repeat the previous two levels of the dungeon a half-dozen times because the last three time you got this far, you managed to jump into empty air.

So I started using the quicksave function right before every jump that gave me trouble. Then, instead of laboriously making my way back through the entire dungeon every time I whiffed it, I'd just quickload as I was falling down the pit. I'm positive that I managed to shave at least three hours of playtime off Landstalker by doing this.

That may prove inconvenient in the long-term, but it will be absolutely worth it if I never have to see the bottom of that fucking pit again.

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