On a whim today I put the PS2 version of The Bard's Tale into the player and started a new game. It's a silly adventure with a few good laughs in it. To make things interesting, I chose the hardest setting - labeled in the game as "ye olde school". The Bard started with very low stats (all 4's), and I was given only 10 to distribute on top, so I put all 10 on the creature summoning talent, then chose "two-handed combat" as my skill.
The first three chapters went quickly. I summoned a creature and lurked in the back waiting for someone to attack it, then came dashing in from the side and skewered my victim in the ribs with the sword and the dirk. Just the way a dastardly Bard should play it. As I gained stat points I dumped them into "health", so if any of the monsters wised up and started beating on me instead of my pet, I'd survive long enough to run away.
This worked well. Then I found the "healer" song, and began summoning the healer. Now the healer stood in the back, and I ran up front stabbing around erratically with edged weapons. Each hit was absurdly weak but I hit so often that the enemy was always knocked off balance and couldn't retaliate. If you're going to play this game, I recommend this tactic. Not just because it works well, but because it's quite funny watching the Bard spin around like a tai-chi initiate with a pair of knives while random monsters bounce off him and scream "Awk! Oof! Urgh!".
I worked my way around the forest like this, using a walkthrough to refresh my memory. After chapter three the shortcut to chapter nine opened up on the map, so I decided to skip way ahead to keep things interesting. Besides, the loot would come in handy.
About this time I noticed that my feet were very cold. "Wouldn't it be great if I had a bucket of hot water I could stick my feet in?" I thought... So I asked La where I could find one. We didn't have any buckets large enough, but I did find an old plastic drawer from the organizer upstairs that was watertight, so I filled that at the bathroom sink. Thus, I began chapter 9, in the living room, in the rolly chair, wearing a hoodie, with my bare feet stuck in a plastic drawer.
Chapter 9 begins by dumping the Bard onto a hillside teeming with very angry archers firing very painful burning arrows at him from behind barricades. The idea here is to scare the player back to the regular chapters, by convincing him or her that Chapter 9 is just too hard. But nothing's too hard if you're willing to fight really dirty at it.
So I summoned the healer and the crossbow-weilding huntress, and ran zig-zagging through the gauntlet of archers until I reached the cliffs on the far side of the map. I caught my breath and let the healer patch me up (since I took a few flaming arrows in the back on the way over), then took out my longbow, and turned on the mini-map view.
Using the mini-map, I could see the enemy archers as red dots, standing around off the edge of the screen. They were too far away to consider me a threat ... but not too far away to be shot at. So I nocked an arrow and aimed in the general direction of a red dot. Released the arrow - listened - there it was - a faint "ARRGH!" sound. Score one for the Bard.
So I shot all the archers from several screens away, letting the huntress nail any that blundered closer. Whoops; good job, programmers. Five minutes of playtesting should have revealed this. Your angry archers become slack-jawed drooling morons at 40 yards.
So then I broke into the main city, which was crawling with viking warriors. The king did a little song-and-dance in my honor, but I decided to double-cross him and loot his armory. First I had to take down the guards at the door. So I summoned the light bug and the healer, and let three of the guards hack endlessly away at the light bug (whose armor is a zillion and is basically indestructible) while I did my tai-chi dance of whirling cutlery at the fourth.
I swear, I had to hit the guy at least five hundred times. He was a level 30 viking badass, and I was a level 3 Bard. He never landed a single blow - raised his sword a few times, but never all the way - because I was poking him over and over with my sword and dirk, driving him back half a step each time. In this fashion I danced him two complete circles all the way around the courtyard in front of the armory ... Whackitta whackitta whack-whack-poke-whack whackitta (oof! urk! oof! urk! oof! urk!). Somewhere along the third circle he finally pitched over and dropped his "treasure", a hunk of meat and 8 lousy silver coins. One down, three to go...
Finally I killed the four outside guards and the two inside guards, looted the armory, and released the townsfolk. These heroic deeds scored me an excellent musical instrument for summoning, and some armor so good that the healer spent most of her time just standing around, as I plowed unstoppably through chapter four and made mince pies out of the no-longer-impressive boss monster at the end.
I took a break from playing to help La arrange some boxes in her office. "I need to borrow your strongs and your talls!" she chirped. Later on in the evening she served up a coconut pie with chocolate topping, which had been chilling in the freezer for most of the day. We also hung the knife rack (the screws stuck through the cabinet wall, so we poked styrofoam bits onto the ends for safety), and hung La's Strawberry Shortcake coat rack on the inside of the closet door.
I hung a picture of a piano (taken by Alison) above a bookshelf in the study by standing on one of the chairs we'd brought up from Los Angeles. Then I photographed some 8-track cassettes that La laid out on another chair, so we could give them away (and get them out of the house). I don't know why, but everyone I've known who had a collection of 8-tracks had at least one release by The 5th Dimension in it. I think that after enough time, if you have more than half a dozen 8-tracks, one of them automatically transforms into a 5th Dimension 8-track, and that one becomes the leader of the clan.
Hrmm. Time for some sleep.