Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Dragon Quest Monsters - Joker 3 Follow-Up

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Joker 3 (a monster collector game ala Pokemon, using Dragon Quest monsters and scenery), saying that I was fed up with all of the churn and that I was going to put the game away for a while. Well, the next day, I pulled the game back out, and tried fighting the boss that had beaten me before one more time.

A little more background. The universe consists of 7 large floating islands, which all start out being separated from each other by the vast gulf of space. Each one represents a different element (earth, fire, wind, light, darkness and water), and therefore has different types of monsters and landscape (the first island is pastoral, with fields and lots of trees. The second is a brightly lit technological ruins. The third starts with a town run by monsters and behind that is a graveyard with a vampire chapter boss. This is followed by an arctic village on an ice flow, a volcano with a mansion at the top, and finally the windswept Core.) The monster tribe  that adopts you sets up camp in the Central HQ building on the second island. In the first basement floor of the building is a computer holo deck setup that will run virtual world software you find on disks in the game. One of these disks is the Metal Monster Area, with metal slimes (1,000 exp. each), metal slime towers and metal angels (1,500 exp. each) and liquid metal slimes (10,000 exp. each). This area is great for leveling up, but it takes 50% of your energy bar to play for 15 minutes, you get 2% energy back on the bar every 10 minutes real time, and the metal monsters have an extremely high escape rate. You can pay money to recharge the energy bar faster, but that is expensive, and there's a 24-hour free-pass for 100,000 gp if you're feeling really flush. To use the metal monster area disk, it really helps to have a monster with the "attack first" skill (the one I used was a tuna-type monster picked up from the arctic world island). Even then, you can still miss on your attack and get 0 exp. for the battle.

Additionally, you learn pretty early on how to ride monsters. This gives the monster you're on a slight stat boost in battles, and you can kick enemies you encounter in the field to stun them momentarily before you engage them in battle. If you're not fighting, the ride monsters can help you reach areas in the field you couldn't otherwise get to (normal monsters can jump a little higher, winged monsters can go higher and glide for moderate distances (good for getting to the top of towers) and aquatic monsters can swim to the bottom of lakes). You can assign 3 ride monsters to the plus-key of the 3DS to quickly switch between them on the field as you like.

Ok, when you get to the last island, Core, you meet Dark Master and fight him for the first time. This is a fairly difficult battle, but not insurmountable. I had to breed monsters and bring them up to level 100 several times, though. After Dark Master is gone, you get a message to go to Point Zero, which is in space outside the islands. To do this, you are given a 3-slot winged monster that you can use in battles, but that you can only ride in space (to do this, you need to be in a field somewhere, and then select "Flight Signal" from your item inventory). You can then fly to the other islands, where you have to fight those chapter bosses again (they're powered-up now). After defeating the chapter bosses again, you reach a kind of space station called Point Zero. You're told you need to find three different accessories, and then fight three more "test" bosses (which will give you some items needed to create a "star seed", needed for later).

You now learn that there is a 3-codeword entry system for the holo deck computer in the basement of Central Building. Depending on the codes entered, you can try fighting new monsters, collect gold or exp., or get items or accessories. You can also specify the level you want to start at. Level 1 is only 20 gp to create, but your chances of getting what you want are between 0.01% and 0.1%. Creating the disk at a higher level costs a lot more money (level 50 can be 60,000 gp, depending on the codes you entered). Also, you use up the level's amount of energy (level 10 is 10% of the energy bar). Every time you complete the quest (escape, capture 6 faeries, beat a certain number of monsters, beat a monster scout master like yourself), the area level goes up by 2 to 4 levels. Generally, you can start expecting to win the prizes you want at level 50 for the area, (25%-30% success rate for clearing the quest at Rank S), but the monsters also start getting strong enough to wipe out your party. I never got past level 65 on any given area. But, I did manage to get the three accessories needed to enter Point Zero (you get to keep them, and they provide one monster each with one elemental protection - earth, wind and fire).

This is where I first gave up. The first Point Zero monster just completely trashed me like the final boss never had. But, I eventually came back to the game when I started wondering what would happen if I started focusing on 2-slot monsters. As mentioned in the first blog entry on the game, there are 4 primary slots for your monsters, and 4 secondary slots. The monsters in the primary slots do the fighting, and they get full experience at the end of the battle. You're also alerted when the monsters earn skill points, and you can immediately assign those to the skills the monsters know for stat boosts, and new attack and magic abilities. The secondary monsters get about half the exp., and you have to manually assign the skill points among them, which is easy to overlook if you're just starting out in the game. However, during the battle, if the primary monsters get killed, you can use the Y button to bring up a menu screen for switching between the primary and secondary monsters. Which means, it's just as important to build up your secondary line to be as good as the primary one.

Additionally, when you breed new monsters, you get the option of picking those that take up two slots (the bird you get for flying between islands in space takes up 3 slots). If a one-slot monster has a max. HP of 1600, the best two-slotter can have up to 2800 HP (your mileage may vary). The other stats (max magic, magic power, Atk and defense) will also be about 60% better than a single one-slotter. You may wonder why anyone would want a two-slot monster when every single stat is 40% less than two single-slot monsters of the same type. Turns out that it's less likely for a bigger monster to be killed by one attack from the enemy, the two-slotters usually attack twice per round, and if they also have healing or vampire skills, they can last a few rounds longer than two one-slotters can. This may be the difference between victory and defeat in the harder battles.

So, I went back, harvested a bunch of two-slot enemies and proceeded to churn my way through the metal monster area to bring my party up to SS-star level each (shows how much breeding you've done on them), and exp. level 100 each. When I had four of these, with serious combat, magic and HP recovery skills maxed out, I returned to Point Zero. I also ended up using some of the rarer all-party healing and revival items, but in the end I managed to beat all three Point Zero bosses.

This unlocked the Core island again, where I discovered that the final boss had come back as an over-powered mutant. Dark Master II kicked my butt, so I did more churning to bring the party up further. Even with all of my breeding efforts, I was never able to get a 2-slot monster with more than 2800 HP, and 700 defense (I did get attack and magic power up to 1000 on a couple of the monsters, though). After a couple days of this, I beat Dark Master II, and got the final ending of the game.

This unlocked a couple new things again. First, the holo deck energy bar can now go up to 200% (takes about 32 hours real time from 0%, although the game machine can be turned off during that. I assume you could change the calendar date in the 3DS if you wanted). Again, though, for 100,000 gp you can get an unlimited all-day free pass. Next, a second basement floor is added (below the holo deck floor) of the Central Building, with a combat arena. The arena gives you two options - an event fight, and a running challenge. With the running challenge, you pit your party (primary and secondary monsters) against an increasingly stronger set of random enemy monsters. You can't use items and you can't scout the enemy. You can ride one of your monsters, and switch monsters between the primary and secondary lines. If you win a battle, you automatically go to the next one. At 50 and 100 battles, you get a bonus monster, and there's a LOT of gp every 10 battles. After battle 100, every 10 battles or so, you get a Color Fondue monster. I went all the way up to battle 200, and all I got was more money, and Color Fondues.

The second arena battle type is the event battle, where you face off against an NPC master scout. You only get this event once every 24 hours real time, and you can only use your primary line, no items and no scouting the enemy. This was one of the hardest battles, period. The prize is the "shiny disk", which is the next level above the metal monster area. This is a golden outdoor field populated with liquid metal slimes, metal kings (35,000 exp each) and the extremely rare sun kings (300,000 exp each). The shiny disk uses up 100% of the energy bar, which is why the free day pass is a requirement. If you fight in the B2 arena, every 10 running challenge battles is worth around 100,000 gp. Just be careful to not let yourself hit the 999,999 gp cap. Go to the bank on the Central Building ground floor and deposit your cash before that. Anyway, you can only fight an event battle once every real-time 24 hours, and subsequent battles give you coins (3 copper, 2 silver and 1 gold) and items. I have yet to learn what the coins are for, and the one item I got may be used to synthesize an accessory I don't have a recipe for yet (maybe).

When you beat Dark Master the first time, you automatically return to the chapter 1 island, where a White Fondue (kind of like a pacman, covered in paint splotches) asks you to find his 5 brothers (you may have found a couple of them along the way already). They're hidden in "stealth boxes" which you can find with your visor, in secret locations on each of the islands (very reminiscent of the ammo stashes in Doom or Quake). Unfortunately, all that happens when you get all of the Fondues is that they let you change the color schemes of your monsters when you breed them. Getting Color Fondues from the arena challenge battles lets you use the Palette Paint option in the menus during the breeding process to customize the colors of the new monster. A huge waste of time, in my opinion. One fun side note, though, is that if you actually breed color fondues with another monster, when you add the baby monster to your collection, you get a free color fondue of the same rank as a freebie (it won't have any skill points, though). So, if you want lots of color fondues and don't want to fight for them in the arena, just breed them with each other to get free clones.

The last thing worth mentioning is the ability to create new areas in the holo deck with the three code system. There are maybe 30-40 phrases for each code word that you can mix and match. The first code seems to specify the types of monsters you'll get. The second code controls the field type (which island you'll emulate) and the third code controls what the prize will be (money, exp. items, monsters or accessories). You can then set the starting level from 1 to 100, but the bigger the number, the more gp it will cost to create, and the harder it will be to get to the finish line with all of the stronger incidental enemy in the way. You can choose to explore the area without the time limit, but you won't get the event prize. There are a variety of challenges in the timed race - hit a certain number of goal points before getting to the end, collect 6 faeries, defeat a certain number of hard-to-find monsters, locate 6 stealth boxes, and so on. At level 1, it's easy to get an S ranking for finishing the stage, but you'll only have between a 0.01% and 0.1% chance of winning the prize. Every stage clear will raise the area difficulty by 2 to 4 levels. At level 50, your chances of getting the prize reach about 25%, there's more extra enemy attacking you along the way so it takes longer to finish and your ranking goes down to A or below. If you lose one of your party members along the way, that impacts your ranking as well. The lower the ranking, the smaller the final percentage for getting your prize. A lot of the challenges are very frustrating, and the prizes for the area don't change as the stage level increases, from what I could tell. To be honest, I got bored with doing all that fighting and not getting better monsters for the party, so I just stopped trying.

Really, this is what bothered me the most about Joker 3. There aren't that many really good monsters you can scout in the game, and I couldn't get any of them to breed children with more than 1600-1700 HP for single-slot versions, or 2800-2900 hp for the two-slot monsters. Even the two three-slot monsters had less than 3000 HP when I was done with them. That leaves cheating and using breeding tables at the online walkthrough sites, or from the Japanese guide books. I found 2 used Japanese guides for 100 yen ($1 USD) each. Neither of them had good field maps, and while they had all the monsters listed, I couldn't find breeding instructions in them. The online FAQs are sketchy and hard to locate, and the English monster names don't align with the Japanese names sometimes. (I think the English version of Joker 3 online was just an unauthorized hack with amateur English text added.) Doesn't really matter, I am bored now, and the only reason for breeding purebred monsters is to do better in the B2 arena battles. But, if the running challenge only rewards you with gp and Color Fondues, I don't need them. And the once-a-day event challenge already gave me the shiny disk. Everything else seems to be items I can't use.

Bottom line, Joker 3 has great field scenery, lots of easter eggs and a fair amount of replay value. It's just that there's SO MUCH CHURN that all the life gets sucked out of the game, and collecting all 400 or whatever monsters there are just to look at the pictures in the library album isn't worth my time. Yeah, I'm done with this one, really. Recommended only if you can find it used cheap.

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