Tom here again, for more fanboy gushing over Zwei: The Arges Adventure!
I’ve already touched on the game’s amazing script, and I’ll definitely go more into that in my next blog entry (there’s a lot to talk about there, as this is easily the strangest script I’ve ever worked with, on multiple levels!), but I figured I’d take this opportunity now to instead discuss some of the new and updated features that our amazing programmer was able to cram into this release. I’d rank most of these under the “quality-of-life improvements” category, though some are more along the lines of old but notable features from the original 2001 PC version which have been adapted to run more readily on modern systems and integrated more thoroughly into the game proper.
Note that in all cases (except where otherwise noted), the original functionality from the 2001 Japanese release still applies – there are just additional options now as well. Also note that while the additional options described all reference making use of controller buttons, allowances have been made for keyboard shortcuts that fulfill the same functions when applicable, so you keyboard-and-mouse gamers should reap some benefits of Matt’s coding prowess as well.
Anyway, let’s dive right in, shall we?
Feature: Quick-using food items in the heat of battle.
How it works in the 2001 Japanese release: In order to use an item, you first have to make sure it’s located on your hotbar (which has 12 available slots). Then, during gameplay, you have to either right-click the item with your mouse, or press the item’s corresponding function key (F1-F12) to use it. If you don’t want to drop your controller to use the mouse or keyboard for this task, no problem: there’s a button you can press that moves control of the game down to the hotbar, at which point you can press left and right to cycle through to the item you want, then press another button to use it. Afterward, you can press another combination of buttons to deselect the hotbar and return to regular gameplay. Time does NOT stop while you do this, however, so good luck surviving the enemy onslaught as you attempt to perform all these tasks!
How it works now: Just press one controller button to instantly use the left-most consumable healing item on your hotbar. After doing so, all other consumable healing items contained therein will shift left as far as they can go, ensuring that the slot you just freed up by using that one item is now located along the right side of the hotbar rather than the left. The reason for this? Well, when you pick up new items, they get sent to your hotbar first, as long as there’s space for them there. And if the blank slot on your hotbar happens to be all the way on the left, then whatever item you just picked up will end up being the first one you use next time you press the item button. But if the blank slot is on the right, whatever item you just picked up will be the LAST one in line for use – meaning, you can customize your own personal “eat list” that determines exactly what items you use on the fly, in exactly what order. Bit of an improvement, wouldn’t you say?
Feature: Switching magic/tools in the heat of battle.
How it works in the 2001 Japanese release: Your hotbar doubles as your equipment slots, so the only way to equip a magic jewel (which determines Pokkle and Pipiro’s attack type) or specialty tool (which allows for various puzzle-solving special abilities) is to add it to your hotbar, then “use” it (via one of the methods listed in my previous feature description), which places the Japanese equivalent of an “Eqp.” symbol over it, signifying that it is now equipped and ready to use. If you “use” that same hotbar slot again, you’ll unequip that item. And if you want to switch to a different magic jewel or tool… well, you either need to open your inventory, drag the new item onto the hotbar in place of the old one, then right-click it to equip it and close your inventory, or – alternately – just keep every equippable magic or tool you think you might be using in the near future on your hotbar (never mind all the food items this is preventing you from prepping!), and press the corresponding function key on your keyboard to equip it whenever the need arises. Siiiimple, right?
How it works now: Whatever your controller’s equivalent of the L1 and R1 buttons happen to be can now be used to cycle through all of your available magic and tools via a single hotbar slot. If you have no such item in your hotbar, but you’ve got one in your inventory, no problem: pressing L1 or R1 will automatically equip whatever you’ve got available into the first available hotbar slot. And from then on, you can just press L1 or R1 to instantly swap it out for whatever the previous or next equippable item in your inventory happens to be. Even unequipping your magic is part of the cycle, for those rare times when you’re attacking enemies who have resistance to all elementals, or when you’re attempting to solve puzzles that call for the use of Pipiro’s base magic.
Feature: Dropping bombs or dynamite to blow up enemy artillery or large rocks.
How it works in the 2001 Japanese release: Oh, this one is really fun. Or rather, “fun.” In quotes. See, bombs and dynamite don’t work the same way as any other items. You can’t “use” either of them – attempting to do so will simply do nothing at all. Instead, you have to “discard” them. Using a mouse, this is accomplished via drag-and-drop; assuming there’s a bomb or piece of dynamite on your hotbar, you’ll need to click it and hold the mouse button, then drag it onto the main game screen somewhere and let go to drop it at that spot and set its 3-second fuse. This is made considerably tougher if you’re using a keyboard or controller, since you’ll have to press the button that transfers game control over to the hotbar, scroll over to the bomb or dynamite, press and hold the item-move button, then use the D-pad or arrow keys to move that item onto the main game screen, and finally let go of the button to drop the bomb/dynamite and set its 3-second fuse. But even after that, you’ll need to use the previously mentioned button combo to transfer control back over to your characters before you’re able to move out of the way of the explosion, which… doesn’t always happen in time. And worst of all, if you use any of these methods to attempt to drop a bomb or piece of dynamite, but the location you’re trying to drop it is considered invalid (maybe it’s a little too close to a wall, for example)… well, it’ll just cancel the whole operation and force you to do it all over again. There’s no mincing words here: using bombs and dynamite in the original version of this game suuuuuuuucks…
How it works now: Erm… you press the SELECT button. Basically, if you have at least one bomb or piece of dynamite on your hotbar, pressing the SELECT button will automatically drop it (or drop the left-most bomb or piece of dynamite, if you have multiples on your hotbar) at the closest valid location. That’s literally all there is to it!
Feature: Switching characters on the fly.
How it works in the 2001 Japanese release: There are three options. (1) You can click the character portrait on the bottom-left of the screen. (2) You can press the button to transfer control of the game to your hotbar, then move the cursor over to the portrait on the bottom-left of the screen and “click” it with the item-use button. (3) You can press the Esc key twice, though only if you’re standing still and… really, only if the game feels like honoring those keystrokes (it gets temperamental sometimes). Those are your options.
How it works now: …Yeah, uh, there’s a button for this now. In fact, since Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection allows for two different control schemes (one button to attack, one button to switch characters; or, one button to switch to Ragna and perform a melee attack, one button to switch to Alwen and perform a magic attack), we decided to mirror that functionality in Zwei: The Arges Adventure with protagonists Pokkle and Pipiro. So whichever option you liked better in the other Zwei game, that option will be available to you here as well!
Feature: Playing the “Typing of Ys” and “Mona, Mona” minigames.
How it works in the 2001 Japanese release: These two minigames consist of an Ys-themed typing tutor and a reverse block puzzler (your goal is to avoid making combos at all costs, since you’re trying to build a sturdy block ladder so an infatuated bunny can climb to the top of the level and rendezvous with his true love). They’re pretty awesome. But they’re also a little… unusual in how they’re played. Basically, you have to unlock them in-game through special means, after which point you’re told that “something seems to have happened on the desktop.” Now you can play them whenever you want… from the launcher. You know, the window that pops up when you first boot the game, which allows you to adjust config settings and such? Yeah. You have to exit Zwei in order to play either of these minigames, because they’re only executable from that. They’re part of a small collection of what I’ve come to call “desktop apps,” which also include the likes of a clock, a calendar, and a calculator – all of which are usable ONLY from the launcher.
How it works now: First off, I should note that there is no launcher anymore in our English version of the game. At all. Matt doesn’t believe in launchers, and intends for every configuration option to be accessible and adjustable solely from within the game. So running these minigames from the launcher is simply no longer possible. But that’s okay! It’s kind of beside the point, in fact. The thing you really need to know here is that there’s a third notable minigame as well, called “Zwei Shooting.” It’s a classically styled shoot-em-up (also known as a “shmup,” if you’re rad), and it’s playable (in all Japanese versions of Zwei!! and in Zwei: The Arges Adventure alike) via an arcade cabinet in one specific town. This town has three other arcade cabinets right next to Zwei Shooting’s, but none of them actually have any games attached to them: one just shows you the instructions for Zwei Shooting, and the other two are literally just there for decoration. So we decided, why not assign the “Typing of Ys” and “Mona, Mona” minigames to two of the unused arcade cabinets? And while we were at it, we decided to make them playable right from the start, so as soon as you get to this town, you can play either (or both) of these minigames to your heart’s content! (Which means the conditions for unlocking them in the Japanese version now net you something else entirely, of course…)
Feature: Guiding your pet through dungeons and collecting items via the “Pet Monitor” app.
How it works in the 2001 Japanese release: Once again, this is a “desktop app” that you can run only via the game’s launcher, though this one is available anytime after you’ve acquired a pet in-game. This particular app, however, is largely passive, as your pet meanders through town and into dungeon areas, only occasionally reaching a crossroads or being forced to make some other binary decision (Go left, or go right? Fight the wildcat, or run away? Enter this new dungeon area, or go back home?). When the time comes to make one of these decisions, the pet will turn to face the camera, and you’ll be given the two possible options to select from. Mouse over the one you want (or wait a few seconds and let your pet make up its own mind), and then just keep on watching as the adventure unfolds. Your pet’s exploits can ultimately net it level-ups that will help it be a more effective AI companion during battle in the main game, or perhaps it can net you some extra food items to be used in your own adventures (which are transferred to the storage chest in Pokkle and Pipiro’s house next time you load a save-game).
How it works now: Once again, since there’s no launcher anymore, there’s no more Pet Monitor desktop app. What there is, however (and I’m going somewhere with this, I swear!), is the ability to leave your pet behind at Pokkle and Pipiro’s house as you go off on your journey. This option exists in the original Japanese version too, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason to ever make use of it – there’s never a time when leaving your pet at home would be more beneficial than bringing it with you. But now, it all makes sense! If you leave your pet behind, the Pet Monitor app will automatically appear as part of the HUD when you leave Puck Village, and it will remain on display (with the option to minimize it) the entire time you continue your adventure. So while you’re off fighting monsters and winning back your stolen macguffins, your pet is out somewhere in the same set of dungeons at the same time, finding treasure and fighting wildcats! And any time one of the Pet Monitor’s binary decisions appears on the screen, you may either mouse over the desired option to select it as before, or – if you’re in the heat of battle and can’t put your controller down, for instance – press the L2 or R2 button to select one of the two options without ever having to disrupt your flow. Finally, when you return to Puck Village, the Pet Monitor will automatically minimize as your pet hurries home to pretend like nothing ever happened. It’s the very model of efficiency, and adds a whole new level of meta-gaming to your journey!
There’s plenty more to discuss, as there have been a bevy of other adjustments made as well (not just mainstays of PC production like widescreen support and achievements, but also simple yet welcome tweaks like the addition of a single button to open the inventory screen, or the streamlining of the game’s formerly rather cumbersome shop functionality). But this blog entry is already quite long, and some of the additions we’ve got on tap are directly tied to the game’s text in some manner… so those are stories best saved for next time around!
Until then, take care, and remember: if you tweeted about this blog entry on behalf of XSEED Games, chances are you Arges.*
…What can I say? When it comes to puns, I’m all about the low-hanging fruit, because it’s just so Ysy. So try not to Mona Mona too loud about it, and just keep on Monitoring this Tumblr for future updates!
*Note: This is actually not the case, as the person who Isges is currently off becoming a Mother 2.0. But the pun was deemed worthy of standing on its own merits, and has thus been left intact for your groaning enjoyment!