February 08, 2005

A tale of two GameBoy Advance cartridges

The latest Zelda game, Minish Cap, is the rightful successor to the SNES game, Link to the Past. In Link to the Past, the level design really stood out as you'd hop back and forth in the Hyrulean timeline: "Wait! I think time has crumbled that roof!"

There's a similar coolness to the exploration in Minish Cap as you shrink down to bug-size with the aid of your non-titular cap (actually a wizard who's been transmogrified into a bonnet) in order to complete your quest and, sometimes, crawl up into enemies to defeat them from the inside!

(Incidentally, did you know that there's porn based on that concept? Well, not so much the bit about the cap. I'm just saying if you happen to stumble upon insertion porn, it's not what you think.)

On the return trip from the Google ski trip, I finished Minish Cap. On the Bay Bridge, to be precise, which gave a certain extra heroicness to my already incredibly heroic deeds. And the game was such a great diversion on the bus ride that I rushed out to get another GBA cartridge to occupy me on my daily commute. To wit, Golden Sun.

Golden Sun is widely regarded as the latter-day perfection of the 2D japanese RPG. And as the quintessence of the genre it would boarder on parody were it not for the fact that it is more japanese than vending machine panties and Japan don't do irony (or at least not in a way recognizable to this roundeye).

So when the youth with special powers needs to leave home with his blue-haired galpal and androgynous boyfriend to seek the 4 mystic whatnots before they're snagged by an evil brother-sister team who's also inexplicably animalistic (and probably doing it) ... that shit's for real, yo.

On the plus side you can summon stuff at higher-levels that will wipe clean the surface of the planet with the force of the Earth elemental ... and do 300+ damage to your opponents.

In addition to rad-looking spells, the magic mechanics are pretty neat. In the course of your journey, you capture djinn (arabic for Pokemon) that can be set to your characters to give them enhanced abilities and spells. There are 28 total djinn of 4 different elemental types - so each character in your 4-party team can have 7 djinn set.

Here's the trouble: do you know how many ways 7 things can be chosen from among 4 types when duplication is allowed and order doesn't matter. One hundred and twenty. For each character.

Now, not each unique combo produces unique results, but I wasn't into figuring out what the right combos were. In fact, I wasn't even into reading the FAQ on that topic which was hyper-intense for a game with Pokemon. (The Pokemon were another problem as, it turns out, I really did wanna catch 'em all.)

So rather than play the game by-the-FAQ, I gave up. Which is a shame 'cause those elemental lighthouses really aren't going to save themselves.

Exercise 1.1: I couldn't find the combinatorics formula for choosing n things from k types where multiples of each type per set is allowed and n > k. I ... sorta ... worked it out by hand. Anyone got some non-brute force action? (Again, not to be confused with porn.)


Pete said...

I got all the way to the final battle in Golden Sun, but after failing a few times I gave up. I really hate when games have a long dialog sequence that you have to sit through before trying to beat the boss again.

Minish Cap sounds cool, but I know that if I put down Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for too long I'll have to start over (again) because I'll forget what the hell I was doing.

Jason Goldman said...

The dialogue in Golden Sun is fairly tedious at times. In addition to being generic, it's not helped by the fact that the characters have to emote before speaking. And by emote, I mean shudder. Everyone has a little shaking fit before speaking in the game ... which is a stylistic choice, I guess.

I've got a lead on the answer to the math problem. My man's afraid of posting the answer for fear of looking too dorky. Which is understandable given the hip nature of my blog.

Steve Jenson said...

Ok, so it seems like type is irrelevant. Also, please clarify: I can have all 7 of my djinn be the same?

Jason Goldman said...

Yup - all 7 can be alike. Which you might think is the best strategy since each character has a default elemental alignment. For example, Isaac - the hero - is aligned with Earth, so you might think that he should take all 7 Earth elementals.

You might think that.

dgcopter said...

I did play Golden well as the sequel. And by sequel, I mean continuation. See, Golden Sun 1 doesn't actually have much of an ending. Nor does Golden Sun 2.

So, yer not missing much.

The game is friggin' long. It makes Final Fantasy VII look like Super Mario Brothers.

Jason Goldman said...

Yeah ... you've always been special, bro'.

When I went to get the game, I accidentally picked up the sequel instead. The sequel starts with basically no context whatsoever - just "Go, run, fight!"

I was confused.

Looks like about 80 hours for both games combined? That's pretty crazy.

dgcopter said...

And by "special", do you mean "bordering on OCD"? You know how I always play through games, like, 20 times? Even the linear ones like FF7? Well, once thru Golden Sun was enough for me. Especially given that it ends with a big fat "to be continued".

That's the one thing Square got right -- an RPG is only as good as its ending.

Jason Goldman said...

Yeah, well, it's probably hard to do a 30min FMV on a GBA cartridge. But still, I've been disappointed in "To be continued" since seeing Back to the Future for the first time.

Speaking of OCD, the answer to Exercise 1.1 is (n+k-1)!/n!(k-1)!

It's called multichoose and you can read all about it on Mathworld.

Thanks Luiza (assist from Misha) for the help!

demiser said...

in the first game there aren't many djinn combo's, but the second has many more. also, they are not at ALL like *shudder* pokemon. i HATE those damn things. i would rather shoot them than catch them, and then roast them over a fire while their fat runs into the fire. djinn are quite a bit different. i LIKE them. for one, they dont go dancing around going anga, anga, anga!! but i cant write that here. however, one of the best combos is samurai, and then ronin. thats isaac, with 3 fire, 3 wind, and 3 water. has this awesome attack that does at LEAST 700 each time. iv seen it one hit posidon. awesome.