Wednesday, January 29, 2020

How Was I Supposed to Know THAT!? ~ Obtuse Things in Games - Volume Four

Today is National Puzzle Day, and it's a day for celebration of all things that twist, melt, bust, or otherwise perplex your brain puzzle-wise. It seems like a fantastic day to bring back an old favorite article series that hasn't seen much action recently. It's "How Was I Supposed to Know THAT!?", where we take a look at those frustratingly obtuse parts of games, whether for progression purposes or just plain ol' devious puzzles that one would have to be an absolute genius of a specialized field to solve. These following five games each have a particularly perplexing part or puzzle in them that possess some kind of masterful amount of outside information or knowledge to get past or solve them.

Before you delve into these newest five dubious entries, feel free to take a look at SuperPhillip Central's past volumes with these convenient links:

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three

My Kingdom (and Sanity) for a Sword - Final Fantasy IX (PS1)

We begin this volume of obtuse game secrets and hidden knowledge with Final Fantasy IX. Some secrets are such because they're hidden well. Sometimes they're secrets because they're hidden in such a ridiculously silly way that it's any wonder anyone came across them. Final Fantasy IX's ultimate sword, the Excalibur II, is one of the latter secrets.

In order to wield this omnipotent blade, players must reach a particular room in the final dungeon of the game within 12 hours. If you make it to the room and 12 hours have passed, the weapon will not be made available ever again in that save data. Considering we're talking about a three-disc game, that's no small feat. In fact, discs one and two are no short romps whatsoever. There's a lot of ground to cover within a dozen of hours.

Now, Excalibur II isn't mentioned or hinted at in the entirety of Final Fantasy IX's enormous adventure, and even with the knowledge of this legendary sword existing, actually completing the prerequisites necessary of the player is challenging enough. The original PlayStation version at least allowed skipping cutscenes through a clever trick, but no such trick exists in the recent re-releases of Final Fantasy IX, making this obtuse challenge even more, well, challenging.

"A" for A LOT of Effort - Valkyrie Profile (PS1, PSP)

We move from one Square Enix RPG from the PS1 era to another with Valkyrie Profile from Tri-Ace. While Final Fantasy IX's obtuse challenge required some outside knowledge and a mix of luck and skill to acquire an ultimate weapon, Valkyrie Profile ups the ante with an absurd level of knowledge and luck needed to reach the best ending in the game.

"Ending A" in Valkyrie Profile, also know as "the Golden Ending", has a heap of tasks required to achieve it. This ending requires specific information in order to get it, such as watching specific cutscenes in a specific order at specific times during the story, and the removal of a character of utmost importance to Valkyrie Profile's overall plot. The latter seems counter-intuitive in order to get a "golden" ending, but yes, it must be done.

How someone would know ahead of time that 1) there's a "better" ending to Valkyrie Profile than the one generally provided in the game, and 2) much less how to reach that ending considering the ridiculous set of rules and variables involved, makes this task of obtaining the best ending to Valkyrie Profile one that I'm amazed some players managed to figure out on their own.

An Obtuse Secret? Ah, Cork It! - Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom (Multi)

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom was one of my favorite games of 2018, and it was a classic take on the Metroid-style formula with some modern sensibilities thrown in to make for a less aggravating game without diluting the experience too much.

Though, if you want aggravating, then I have it for you. There's a well that's plugged up by a giant cork within the central hub village of the game, and there's no hints whatsoever within the world how to unplug the well. The solution is to find five switches located within the village, some completely invisible to the player, and then solving a bit of a puzzle that can only be completed with some outside knowledge of Morse code. There's also a section that results in a fabricated error message that seems unsightly at first, but it's actually part of the sequence as well. So, what you have is a cork and subsequent puzzle that require outside knowledge from somewhere and are the definition of obtuse puzzles.

The saving grace of this "How Was I Supposed to Know THAT!?" moment is that it's purely optional and doesn't need to be completed for 100%. It's an added bonus to the game, but one that's so mired and mucked up in mysterious moves in order to solve it that it's no wonder that most turned to the Internet and written or video guides to solve it.

The Chocolate Code - Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)

Moving on from an optional puzzle to a necessary one, we have The Chocolate Code, Puzzle 067 from Professor Layton and the Curious Village. The Professor Layton series features a general mystery for Professor Layton and his supporting cast to solve as they explore areas and talk with various NPCs. Usually, NPCs have puzzles for Professor Layton to solve through the player in order to get much needed information and a means to continue the story.

The Chocolate Code is one of the more infamous puzzles in Professor Layton series history, and it requires a little outside knowledge to ascertain its solution. It also certainly puts those Hint Coins that players were hoarding to good use as well. The puzzle clue is as follows:
On Valentine's Day, your gadget-loving, technophile girlfriend gave you a most unusual slab of chocolate. While the jumble of letters looks like nonsense, if you manage to decode the letters written on the chocolate, a message from your sweetheart will appear.
What is she trying to tell you?
Starting out, looking at the letters on the bar of chocolate does indeed look like nonsense, but if you pay attention to the bite marks by each letter... well, the answer may still elude you. That's because without a token of outside knowledge (and perhaps a computer keyboard in front of you), you might remain clueless on what the puzzle wants from you.

What is needed is to look at the letters and their adjacent bite marks and designate each letter to a key on a computer keyboard. The direction of the bite mark in relation to a given letter designates the key on a traditional "QWERTY" keyboard that is next to that letter in that specific direction. Thus, this is the solution "TEXT ME".

Personally, I can't stand chocolate to begin with, so this puzzle not only made me feel stupid in not possessing enough smarts to solve it without outside help, but it also continued my distaste for the cocoa bean-based confectionery.

Dumb Lum Location - Rayman 2: The Great Escape (PS1, N64)

We conclude volume four of "How Was I Supposed to Know THAT!?" with a quick but dirty secret for players trying to aim for 100% completion in Rayman 2's PlayStation 1 and Nintendo 64 versions. The main collectible in Rayman 2 is that of Lums. Lots of these Lums are located in difficult areas to access, requiring some hardcore exploration of levels and adequate platforming ability. There's one in particular, however, that is just downright unfair to find.

The Lum in question is found within the level called "Tomb of the Ancients." Every other Lum in the game can be discovered through ample checking of the environment, some clever movement of the camera to gauge your surroundings, and a keen eye. This Lum from the "Tomb of the Ancients" level throws all of that out of the proverbial window. In order to get this particular Lum in the PS1 and N64 versions, one must jump through an otherwise unassuming wall to discover and collect it. This is the only Lum in the game that requires such a trick.

Perhaps understanding how silly it was to place this Lum in its initial location, future versions of Rayman 2 completely altered the area where you find this Lum, placing it in a treasure chest at the end of the level instead. From everyone who has ever played a Rayman 2 port since, I say "Thank you!"

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